War Of Casualty
War of Casualty, casualty of war
War of insanity, insanity of war
War of reality, reality of war
Take them down
Down they take
Cuts won’t heal
Heals wont hurt
Sound of war
Bum! Bum! Bum!
Sound of war
it's like the roaring of a lion
I the jungle.
Sound of war
It's like flash of the lightening
Sound of war
It make people lose their strength
Sound of war
It make people to run to and fro
Sound of war
Sound of war
make people hopeless
when there is hope
Sound of war is cruel
Because it make people shudder
It make people suffer, shudder shiver, cringe
And due before they die
Sound of war
War In you
Everywhere you go theres a war near you,
Ehough you can't see it,
It's happening inside you,
No one can stop it,
Only you can when you decides to take that step in life,
This is my war not yours,
My day my life is over,
Fighting everyday losing myself in it,
My war may never end,
But yours may,
It's a fight to the death,
You or them your life you war,
Here I am to say dont let your war control you,
If you do life as you know it,
May be over for you.
Let’s Have War!
Let’s have war! You are unique,
Indeed, the limits are set but you even have laws,
Dictated by the environment,
Just like a chain of narrators,
Obeying creatures and phenomena.
Let’s have war! The city has become a prison,
An enormous expanse remains outside,
It is the centre of civilisation,
They cry for a new species
To replace the humane man.
The war is on, one of the executors of us,
It is the highest status, and one considers
The child and the adult in harmony
After the work is done,
When the war is over and won.
- quotes about environment
- quotes about height
- quotes about city
- quotes about television
- quotes about childhood
- quotes about work
- quotes about school
- quotes about men
A War About God And A War About Land
A war about God and a war about Land
The tragic loss of lives I do not understand
A just war in truth is a damnable lie
For in modern day conflicts many civilians do die
Old hatreds they live on for centuries of years
And gives rise to suffering and bloodshed and tears
And every day of conflicts and wars we do hear of and read
And despite what some say war to peace never lead
The war supposed to end all wars was fought decades ago
But that is a fallacy as we do know
But with them it is never let bygones be gone
Old hatreds in mistrust in them living on
Another old hatred in conflict is raging today
Where many innocents die in a Land far away.
What Is War
The little boy on his fathers lap
asked with expression sore
I know i am small but i want to be told
daddy what is war?
war my son is where people die,
where old men suffer and women sigh,
where children hunger, where babies cry,
where trees won't grow please don't ask why.
The little boy got down and said,
why does it happen it sounds so bad?
Iv'e never seen a war before,
please daddy tell me more.
My son you are small but must be told,
a war is destruction it hurts us all,
war is the reason fields can't be sown,
war is the reason your brother's gone.
look at me my son and nevermore ask,
what is a war behind it's mask.
you had to be told so you would learn
to love everybody nobody to spurn.
Mission High School 1972
Easily to shed the snow,
And the untaught Spring is wise
In cowslips and anemones.
Nature, hating art and pains,
Baulks and baffles plotting brains;
Casualty and Surprise
Are the apples of her eyes;
But she dearly loves the poor,
And, by marvel of her own,
Strikes the loud pretender down.
For Nature listens in the rose,
And hearkens in the berry's bell,
To help her friends, to plague her foes,
And like wise God she judges well.
Yet doth much her love excel
To the souls that never fell,
To swains that live in happiness,
And do well because they please,
Who walk in ways that are unfamed,
And feats achieve before they're named.
She is gamesome and good,
But of mutable mood,--
No dreary repeater now and again,
She will be all things to all men.
She who is old, but nowise feeble,
Pours her power into the people,
Merry and manifold without bar,
Makes and moulds them what they are,
And what they call their city way
Is not their way, but hers,
And what they say they made to-day,
They learned of the oaks and firs.
She spawneth men as mallows fresh,
Hero and maiden, flesh of her flesh;
She drugs her water and her wheat
With the flavours she finds meet,
And gives them what to drink and eat;
And having thus their bread and growth,
They do her bidding, nothing loath.
What's most theirs is not their own,
But borrowed in atoms from iron and stone,
And in their vaunted works of Art
The master-stroke is still her part.
Enough Of This Ongoing War, I Will Write Something Obscene
i am tired of the ongoing war,
red alert on this district, and no classes today and curfew hours implemented
strictly and check points,
i hope there is no hand grenade hidden in your car
or some ingredients of an explosive
you will be arrested and you cannot take your flight to Kuwait
let us not about war,
let us talk about love, silly, let us talk about sex, obscene sex,
do you remember the sound of the squeaking bed?
do you hear the bed bug letting its last juicy cry because both of you
are too heavy
pressing its body
against that piece of steel
flesh to flesh like steel, yes too rough and strong and rigid,
i like to remember these things, the sounds of the moans, and the
sliding hands and firm breasts and the magical sound of the
ejaculation of out intellects in bed as we study Kant and
Sartre and Marx (have fear) and Mao (we were arrested,
do you remember at the university?)
you are bragging, you are a fake revolutionary, you were hiding while the rest of them were tortured and
yes, some of them were not even buried on decent graves
this is obscene. You are taking about something that did not happen
to you. It happened to them
and they are dead and they are your brothers
you did not visit them in their prison camps
you were watching the latest movie in that rubbish city
while they all carried their guns in the mountains
and crossed the rivers without food and water
and without their hopes of a new home
indeed, this is obscene. now stop it.
start with the white thighs again. now.please.
- quotes about intellect
- quotes about sex
- quotes about revolution
- quotes about universities
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about students
- quotes about humor
- quotes about science-fiction
In The Midst Of War
in the midst of war with bodies lying on the ground
walks a band of children-their families can't be found
searching through the rubble of homes that used to be
looking for food and clothes just to survive
because of their elders who choose to live a lie.
as i look through their eyes-all i can see
is death and destruction staring at me.
these children are not to blame for what is all around
but! if its not stopped they'll be laying on the ground.
they search thru this destruction in hopes that
they'll find-others to join them.
as they walk down the streets-the elders stop their fighting
to let them pass.
but this is just temporary- they know it will not last.
other children see them marching down the streets
they dropp what they are doing to join this band
knowing in their hearts it's time to take a stand.
this band is getting larger and the children start to shout..
what is this war? whats it all about?
can't you see the lives that have been taken?
because of this war the ground is still shaking.
the elders stop their fighting as the children all sit down.
they scream'we are not moving until this fight is through.
if this is what you want we will die with you.
you think only of yourselves and not what we're going through.
and when we die-what are you going to do.
there will be no one to carry on your name
there will be no heritage to be found
it will be burned to the ground.
look at our faces and you know what you will see
death and destruction surrounding me.
so we ask you from our hearts-it's time to change.
it is not something which is hard to do
it's all up to every one of you.
0354 Not Quite War
Too young to know the horrors of a war I've fought,
too young to know war's fear, or yearn for heroism,
but old enough to have lived through;
boys but one year older than myself
lived and fought and died; and younger, some,
who fought in Malaya, Kenya, Korea, to the death...
Slit trenches in Hyde Park were the first photos in 1938,
apart from the official ones to stir our patriotism;
then cycling home from town as radios in every house
spread Chamberlain's sad patrician voice
telling us with regret that from Herr Hitler
'no such reassurance has been received' -
and consequently Britain was at war...
Leaving the house which Mother had designed and Father built
a bare few yards from the barbed-wired beach and sea
where unbeknownst to us, the Germans planned to land
their first invasion of support troops and supplies...
Herded one day unwarned into the basement changing room at school;
the first invasion scare; accompanied by - was it serious
or not? - the story that our wicked enemy
was to parachute its advance troops disguised as nuns,
but you could spot them as they descended
by their boots...
The Junior Training Corps turned out as firewatchers and Home Guard
with the Lee Enfield rifles, the wind-round puttees,
the smell of cordite and of rifle oil
of equipment - oh supreme irony - kept from World War One,
the 'war to end all wars', to be continued;
our Sergeant Major's face
a scary pattern like a camouflage, part white, part livid skin
from mustard gas in that first bloody war...
Days of vapour trails in the sky, as we cheered
the sky-high calligraphy of aerial dogfights;
the nights spent in the thump of bombs;
the prickly uniforms for us raw cadets; the battle drill;
the kick of grown-up rifle butt in shoulder,
the assembly of the machine-gun; the naming of its parts;
all this in far-off teenage memory;
not quite war.
But war enough.
Repression of War Experience
Now light the candles; one; two; there’s a moth;
What silly beggars they are to blunder in
And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame—
No, no, not that,—it’s bad to think of war,
When thoughts you’ve gagged all day come back to scare you;
And it’s been proved that soldiers don’t go mad
Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts
That drive them out to jabber among the trees.
Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand.
Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen,
And you’re as right as rain...
Why won’t it rain?...
I wish there’d be a thunder-storm to-night,
With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark,
And make the roses hang their dripping heads.
Books; what a jolly company they are,
Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves,
Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green,
And every kind of colour. Which will you read?
Come on; O do read something; they’re so wise.
I tell you all the wisdom of the world
Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet
You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out,
And listen to the silence: on the ceiling
There’s one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters;
And in the breathless air outside the house
The garden waits for something that delays.
There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,—
Not people killed in battle,—they’re in France,—
But horrible shapes in shrouds—old men who died
Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls,
Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.
. . . .
You’re quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home;
You’d never think there was a bloody war on!...
O yes, you would ... why, you can hear the guns.
Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft ... they never cease—
Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out
And screech at them to stop—I’m going crazy;
I’m going stark, staring mad because of the guns.
An Island War Tragedy!
Their hero is no more but then,
He is alive in every heart
And mind, for whom he fought so well,
Until he ultimately fell
To bullets sprayed from ruthless guns,
That brought the valiant man to earth.
The land is freed from ‘tigers’ now?
A mighty myth was rendered false;
The landscape lies in ruins much;
‘The people are refugees, ’ ‘Oh! ’
They died by thousands, all in vain;
Most families in tents just live.
Denied of equal rights for long,
The people hum a plaintive song
Of sufferings and unfairness,
Unleashed upon them by brethren.
Their trauma is too great to tell;
Their island life is now like hell.
They razed all buildings to the ground;
Their ravished women look like ghosts;
The mutilated ones too die,
For want of proper treatment fast.
Has God abandoned them also?
They have been victims of all crimes!
The war is over but so what?
Their fate lies hanging in peril;
Their shattered dreams of wealth and health
Have gone awaste in dogged lives;
Their families are dejected;
They wonder why they are alive!
The world stayed watching them suffer!
Their neighbors were insensitive;
A rosy world has turned blood-red!
Their future is in smithereens!
Where is the God who had made them?
Should wars cause wounds that cannot heal?
What tragedy had struck their isle!
Their land was like a paradise;
But things have gone all awry now;
They have no water, food to take;
Like cattle driven to their pens,
Their victors treat them worse than beasts!
Could not the genocide been stopped?
Is there not ways to avoid wars?
Innocent men, women, children,
Fall prey to perpetrators’ guns!
The world is silent while more die
Of diseases and lack of care!
The people need a soothing touch!
Let nations rush to help these souls;
They had not slept for days on end;
Their ears are deaf by blasts of bombs!
If human love is supreme, then,
Let nations hurry up to help!
Copyright by Dr John Celes 20-5-09
Written by jay kay and toby smith
Oh yeah what were living in (let me tell ya)
It a wonder man can eat at all
When things are big
That should be small
Who can tell what magic spells well be doing for us.
And Im giving all my love to this world
Only to be told
I cant see, I cant breathe
No more will we be
And nothings gonna change the way we live
Cos we can always take and never give
And now that things are changing for the worse,
See, its a crazy world were living in
And I just cant see that half of us immersed in sin
Is all we have to give these
Futures made of virtual insanity
Now always seem, to be governed by this love we have
For useless, twisting of our new technology
Oh now theres no sound for we all live underground
And Im thinking in what a mess were in
Hard to know when to begin
If I could slip the sicly ties that earthly man has made
And now every mother can choose the color of her child
Thats not natures way
Well thats what they said yesterday
Theres nothing left to do but pray
I think its time I found a new religion
Waoh its so insane to synthesize another strain
Theres something in these futures that we have to be told.
Futures made of virtual insanity
Now always seem, to be governed by this love we have
For useless, twisting of our new technology
Oh now theres no sound for we all live underground
Now theres no sound if we all live underground
And now its virtual insanity
Forget your virtual reality
Oh, theres nothing so bad, I know yeah
Oh, this virtual insanity, were living in,
Has got to change, yeah
Things will never be the same
And I cant go on
While were living in oh, oh virtual insanity
Oh, this world has got to change
Cos I just, I just cant keep going on, it was virtual,
Virtual insanity that were living in, that were living in
That virtual insanity is what it is
Futures made of virtual insanity
Now always seem, to be governed by this love we have
For useless, twisting of our new technology
Oh theres no sound for we all live underground
Living - virtual insanity
Living - virtual insanity
Living - virtual insanity
Living - virtual insanity
Virtual insanity is what were living in
All's Fair In Love and War
Who said war is civilized,
What idiot made these rules,
It was probably politicians,
That bunch of sad old fools.
Our enemies wear no uniforms,
We are dressed and on display,
While we advertise who we are,
They just go on their merry way.
We train them in the art of war,
Treat them as our friends,
Then they turn round and murder us,
Their evil then transcends.
They blow us up without a thought,
We're told, oh that's allowed,
But if we dare retaliate,
The enemy cry out loud.
There needs to be an inquiry,
Killing us is so unjust,
If you're allowed to fire back,
You won't see us for dust.
Terrorists are all around us,
They could even be you or me,
It's time our so called leaders,
Were brought out here to see,
Our enemies send in children,
We are not allowed to shoot,
We know they're going to kill us,
But our enemies are so astute.
When we kill our aggressors,
The world is in a fury,
We're then charged with murder,
Then put in front of a jury.
If they murder our brave forces,
It's just another dead,
Then when we defend ourselves,
The world goes off its head.
They can murder us for fun,
Yet no one says a word,
No courts or cries for justice,
It really is quite absurd.
If we could fight the same as them,
These conflicts would never last,
The enemy would cry foul,
Then get the hell out fast.
But we must fight a ‘'civilized war'',
We must ask before we kill,
We must follow Geneva convention rules,
While our enemies do what they will.
We must be given equality,
To fight this brutal foe,
If we can fight the same as them,
Then very soon they'll know.
We are not an easy target,
Now we can fight the same as you,
There are no rules of war now,
We can kill just as you do.
You'll no longer know your enemy,
So you'd better watch your back,
For when you least expect it,
That's when we'll attack.
Then soon you'll hear them crying,
This war's no longer fair,
We don't know who our enemies are,
Because of what they wear.
When they see there are no rules,
No restrictions on how we can fight,
They won't know what hit them,
That's when they'll see the light.
They'll then shout out that's not allowed,
Your tactics we abhor,
But we'll just say we're copying you,
‘' All's Fair In Love And War''.
Yo ease lets do this..
I am a nightmare walking psychopath talking
King of my jungle just a gangster stalking
Living life like a firecracker quick is my fuse
Then dead as a deathpack the colors I choose
Red or blue cause a blood it just dont matta
Sucker die for your life whith my shotgun scatters
We gangs of l.a. will never die....just multiply
You see they hit us then we hit them
Then we hit them and they hit us, man
Its like a war, ya know what Im sayin
People dont even understand
They dont even know what they dealing with
You wanna get ridda the gangs its gonna take alot of work
But people dont understand the size of this
This is no joke man this is real
You dont know me, fool
You disown me, cool
I dont need your assistance, social persistance
Any problem I got I just put my fist in
My life is violent, but violent is life
Peace is a dream, reality is a knife
My colors my honour my colors my all
With my colors upon me one soldier stands tall
Tell me what have you left me, what have I got
Last night in cold blood my young brother got shot
My home got jacked
My mothers on crack
My sister cant work cause her arms show trax
Madness insanity live in profanity
Then some punk claimin they understandin me
Give me a break, what world do you live in
Death is my sect, guess my religion
Yo my brother was a gang banger
And all my homeboys bang
I dont know why I do it man, I just do it
I never had much of nuffin man
Look at you man, youve got everything going for yourself
And I aint got nuffin man, Ive got nuffin
Im living in the ghetto man
Just look at me man, look at me
My pants are saggin braided hair
Suckers stare but I dont care
My game aint knowelgde my games fear
Ive no remorse so squares beware
But my true mission is just revenge
You aint in my sect, you aint my friend
Wear the wrong color your life could end
Homocides my favorite venge
Listen to me man
No matter whatcha do dont ever join a gang
You dont wanna be in it man,
Youre just gonna end up in a mix of dead freinds and time in jail i
I had a chance like you,
I would never be in a gang man
But I didnt have a chance
You know I wish I did
Ill just walk like a giant police defiant
Youll say to stop but Ill say that I cant
My gangs my family its all that I have
Im a star, on the walls is my autograph
You dont like it, so you know where you can go
Cause the streets are my stage and terrors my show
Phsyco-analize tried diognising me wise
It was a joke brother the brutally died
But it was mine, so let me define
My territory dont cross the line
Dont try to act crazy
Cause the bitch dont thank me
You can be read like a punk
It wouldnta made me
Cause my colors death
Thou we all want peace
But our war wont end,
Theyll always see
See the wars of the street gangs will always get to me man
But I dont wanna be down with this situation man
But Im in here, if I had something betta to do I think Id do it but
Now Im just down here boye
Im trying to get money cause Im smart
Im gunna get paid while Im out here
Im gunna get that paper, ya know what Im saying
If I had a chance like you,
Maybe I would be in school
But Im not, Im out here living day to day surviving
And Im willing to die for my colors
Yoll please stop, cause I want ya all to live.
This is ice-t, peace...
This Could Not Be The War We Fought In (Cavatina)
The new government talks down; they deceive
against us, the war in which we did fight;
of this deceit is at primary school
and by sinning
they rewrite history to suit their lies,
to look brave in their supporters eyes.
We did destroy a Soviet controlled
never lost any battle nor the war,
given to their imprisoned leaders,
they are now free
to say whatever nonsense they want to,
in their actions atrocities to do.
Citizens did pay the ultimate price,
and went to war,
some died from cowardly terrorist acts,
as was in store;
some women and children were slaughtered
in blood and gore
by planted bombs, some in church mowed down,
in these things this government finds renown.
[References: 'The battle at Cuito Cuanavale: 'The results of the campaign up to April 1988 were 4,785 killed on the Cuban/Faplan side, with 94 tanks and hundreds of combat vehicles destroyed, against 31 South Africans killed in action,3 tanks destroyed (SADF tanks entered the war after the Lomba River campaign) and 11 SADF armoured cars and troop carriers lost. A total of 9 Migs were destroyed and only 1 SAAF Mirage shot down.' (General) Jannie Geldenhuys. (1994) : At the front. Jonathan Ball Publishers. P240.
'The South African force, under the command of Colonel Deon Ferreira, was tasked with carrying out three operations (1) Operation Modular - The aim of which was to halt and reverse the FAPLA / Cuban advance on the UNITA strongholds of Mavinga and Jamba, (2) Operation Hooper - The aim of which was to inflict maximum casualties on the retreating FAPLA / Cuban forces after they had been halted and (3) Operation Packer - The aim of which was to force the FAPLA / Cuban forces to retreat to the west of the Cuito River.' Nortje, Piet (2003) .32 Battalion. Zebra Press.
'In early October the Soviet-Fapla offensive was smashed at the Lomba River near Mavinga. It turned into a headlong retreat over the 120 miles back to the primary launching point at Cuito Cuanavale. In some of the bloodiest battles of the entire civil war, a combined force of some 8,000 UNITA fighters and 4,000 SADF troops destroyed one Fapla brigade and mauled several others out of a total Fapla force of some 18,000 engaged in the three-pronged offensive. Estimates of Fapla losses ranged upward of 4,000 killed and wounded. This offensive had been a Soviet conception from start to finish. Senior Soviet officers played a central role in its execution.... Huge quantities of Soviet equipment were destroyed or fell into UNITA and SADF hands when Fapla broke into a disorganized retreat... The 1987 military campaign represented a stunning humiliation for the Soviet Union, its arms and its strategy.... As of mid-November, the UNITA/SADF force had destroyed the Cuito Cuanavale airfield and pinned down thousands of FAPLA's best remaining units clinging onto the town's defensive perimeters.' Crocker, Chester A. (1992) High Noon in Southern Africa: Making Peace in a Rough Neighbourhood. (Crocker was U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the Reagan Administration.)
John Turner claims that: 'following their losses, the Cubans were convinced that further military confrontation with the SADF would not succeed.' Turner, John W. (1998) . Continent Ablaze; The Insurgency Wars in Africa,1960 to the Present. Cassell Plc.
Comments made by a Soviet adviser to the Cubans in Angola: 'The people's armed forces for the liberation of Angola have not been able either, even with the help of the Cubans, to decisively defeat the enemy and drive him out of the territory or the country.' M. Ponomariov, Krasnaya Zvezda Magazine; 20 May 1988.]
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
RINTRAH roars and shakes his
fires in the burdenM air,
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.
Once meek, and in a perilous path
The just man kept his course along
The Vale of Death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.
Then the perilous path was planted,
And a river and a spring
On every cliff and tomb;
THE MARRIAGE OF
And on the bleached bones
Red clay brought forth:
Till the villain left the paths of ease
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.
Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility ;
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where Uons roam.
Rintrah roars and shakes his fires in
the burdened air,
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.
As a new heaven is begun, and it is
now thirty-three years since its advent,
the Eternal Hell revives. And lo!
Swedenborg is the angel sitting at
the tomb: his writings are the Unen
clothes folded up. Now is the domin-
ion of Edom, and the return of Adam
into Paradise. — See Isaiah xxxiv. and
HEAVEN AND HELL
Without contraries is no progres-
sion. Attraction and repulsion, rea-
son and energy, love and hate, are
necessary to human existence.
From these contraries spring what
the religious call Good and Evil.
Good is the passive that obeys reason;
Evil is the active springing from
Good is heaven. Evil is hell.
THE MARRIAGE OF
THE VOICE OF THE DEVIL
All Bibles or sacred codes have been
the cause of the following errors : —
1. That man has two real existing
principles, viz., a Body and a Soul.
2. That Energy, called Evil, is alone
from the Body ; and that Reason, called
Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment man in
Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following contraries to
these are true : —
1 . Man has no Body distinct from his
Soul. For that called Body is a por-
tion of Soul discerned by the five senses,
the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2 . Energy is the only life , and is from
the Body; and Reason is the bound
or outward circumference of Energy.
HEAVEN AND HELL
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.
Those who restrain desire, do so
because theirs is weak enough to be
restrained; and the restrainer or
reason usurps its place and governs
And being restrained, it by degrees
becomes passive, till it is only the
shadow of desire.
The history of this is written in
Paradise Lost, and the Governor or
Reason is called Messiah.
And the original Archangel or pos-
sessor of the command of the heavenly
host is called the Devil, or Satan, and
his children are called Sin and Death.
But in the book of Job, Milton's
Messiah is called Satan.
For this history has been adopted by
It indeed appeared to Reason as if
THE MARRIAGE OF
desire was cast out, but the Devil's
account is, that the Messiah fell, and
formed a heaven of what he stole from
This is shown in the Gospel, where
he prays to the Father to send the
Comforter or desire that Reason may
have ideas to build on, the Jehovah
of the Bible being no other than he
who dwells in flaming fire. Know
that after Christ's death he became
But in Milton, the Father is Destiny,
the Son a ratio of the five senses, and
the Holy Ghost vacuum !
Note. — The reason Milton wrote
in fetters when he wrote of Angels
and God, and at Uberty when of
Devils and Hell, is because he was
a true poet, and of the Devil's party
without knowing it.
HEAVEN AND HELL
A MEMORABLE FANCY
As I was walking among the fires
of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments
of Genius, which to Angels look like
torment and insanity, I collected some
of their proverbs, thinking that as the
sayings used in a nation mark its
character, so the proverbs of Hell show
the nature of infernal wisdom better
than any description of buildings or
When I came home, on the abyss
of the five senses, where a flat-sided
steep frowns over the present world, I
saw a mighty Devil folded in black
clouds hovering on the sides of the
rock; with corroding fires he wrote
the following sentence now perceived
by the minds of men, and read by
them on earth : —
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'How do you know but every bird
that cuts the airy way
Is an immense world of delight,
closed by your senses five?'
HEAVEN AND HELL
PROVERBS OF HELL
In seed-time learn, in harvest teach,
in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plough
over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the
palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid
courted by Incapacity.
He who desires, but acts not, breeds
The cut worm forgives the plough.
Dip him in the river who loves
A fool sees not the same tree that a
wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light shall
never become a star.
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Eternity is in love with the produc-
tions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sor-
The hours of folly are measured by
the clock, but of wisdom no clock can
All wholesome food is caught with-
out a net or a trap.
Bring out number, weight, and
measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high if he soars
with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set an-
other before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly
he would become wise.
Folly is the cloak of knavery.
Shame is Pride's cloak.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Prisons are built with stones of law,
brothels with bricks of religion.
The pride of the peacock is the
glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom
The nakedness of woman is the
work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs, excess of
The roaring of lions, the howling of
wolves, the raging of the stormy sea,
and the destructive sword, are por-
tions of Eternity too great for the eye
The fox condemns the trap, not
Joys impregnate, sorrows bring
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Let man wear the fell of the lion,
woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web,
The selfish smiling fool and the
sullen frowning fool shall be both
thought wise that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the
rabbit watch the roots; the Hon, the
tiger, the horse, the elephant watch
The cistern contains, the fountain
One thought fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your
mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Everything possible to be believed
is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time
HEAVEN AND HELL
as when he submitted to learn of the
The fox provides for himself, but
God provides for the lion.
Think in the morning, act in the
noon, eat in the evening, sleep in the
He who has suffered you to impose
on him knows you.
As the plough follows words, so
God rewards prayers.
The tigers of wrath are wiser than
the horses of instruction.
Expect poison from the standing
You never know what is enough
unless you know what is more than
Listen to the fool's reproach; it is a
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air,
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the mouth of water, the beard of
The weak in courage is strong in
The apple tree never asks the beech
how he shall grow, nor the lion the
horse how he shall take his prey.
The thankful receiver bears a plenti-
If others had not been foolish we
should have been so.
The soul of sweet delight can never
When thou seest an eagle, thou
seest a portion of Genius. Lift up thy
As the caterpillar chooses the fairest
leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest
lays his curse on the fairest joys.
To create a little flower is the labour
HEAVEN AND HELL
Damn braces; bless relaxes.
The best wine is the oldest, the best
water the newest.
Prayers plough not; praises reap
not; joys laugh not; sorrows weep
The head Sublime, the heart Pathos,
the genitals Beauty, the hands and
As the air to a bird, or the sea
to a fish, so is contempt to the con-
The crow wished everything was
black; the owl that everything was
Exuberance is Beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox,
he would be cunning.
Improvement makes straight roads,
but the crooked roads without Improve-
ment are roads of Genius.
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Sooner murder an infant in its
cradle than nurse unacted desires.
Where man is not, nature is barren.
Truth can never be told so as to be
understood and not to be believed.
Enough! or Too much.
The ancient poets animated all sen-
sible objects with Gods or Geniuses,
calling them by the names and adorn-
ing them with properties of woods,
rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, na-
tions, and whatever their enlarged
and numerous senses could perceive.
And particularly they studied the
Genius of each city and country,
placing it under its mental deity. Till
a system was formed, which some
took advantage of and enslaved the
vulgar by attempting to realize or
abstract the mental deities from their
objects. Thus began Priesthood.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Choosing forms of worship from
poetic tales. And at length they pro-
nounced that the Gods had ordered
such things. Thus men forgot that
all deities reside in the human breast.
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A MEMORABLE FANCY
The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel
dined with me, and I asked them how
they dared so roundly to assert that
God spoke to them, and whether they
did not think at the time that they
would be misunderstood, and so be
the cause of imposition.
Isaiah answered: 'I saw no God,
nor heard any, in a finite organical
perception: but my senses discovered
the infinite in everything; and as I
was then persuaded, and remained
confirmed, that the voice of honest
indignation is the voice of God, I cared
not for consequences, but wrote.'*
Then I asked: 'Does a firm per-
suasion that a thing is so, make it
He replied: 'All poets believe that
HEAVEN AND HELL
it does, and in ages of imagination
this firm persuasion removed moun-
tains; but many are not capable of a
firm persuasion of anything.'
Then Ezekiel said : ' The philosophy
of the East taught the first principles
of human perception; some nations
held one principle for the origin, and
some another. We of Israel taught
that the Poetic Genius (as you now
call it) was the first principle, and all
the others merely derivative, which
was the cause of our despising the
Priests and Philosophers of other
countries, and prophesying that all
Gods would at last be proved to origi-
nate in ours, and to be the tributaries
of the Poetic Genius. It was this that
our great poet King David desired so
fervently, and invokes so pathetically,
saying by this he conquers enemies
and governs kingdoms; and we so
loved our Ggd that we cursed in His
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name all the deities of surrounding
nations, and asserted that they had
rebelled. From these opinions the
vulgar came to think that all nations
would at last be subject to the Jews.
'This,' said he, 'like all firm per-
suasions, is come to pass, for all
nations believe the Jews' code, and
worship the Jews' God; and what
greater subjection can be?'
I heard this with some wonder, and
must confess my own conviction.
After dinner I asked Isaiah to favour
the world with his lost works; he said
none of equal value was lost. Ezekiel
said the same of his.
I also asked Isaiah what made him
go naked and barefoot three years.
He answered: 'The same that made
our friend Diogenes the Grecian.'
I then asked Ezekiel why he ate
dung, and lay so long on his right and
HEAVEN AND HELL
left side. He answered: 'The desire
of raising other men into a perception
of the infinite. This the North Ameri-
can tribes practise. And is he honest
who resists his genius or conscience,
only for the sake of present ease or
The ancient tradition that the world
will be consumed in fire at the end of
six thousand years is true, as I have
heard from Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming
sword is hereby commanded to leave
his guard at [the] tree of life, and
when he does, the whole creation will
be consumed and appear infinite and
holy, whereas it now appears finite
This will come to pass by an im-
provement of sensual enjoyment.
But first the notion that man has
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a body distinct from his soul is to be
expunged; this I shall do by printing
in the infernal method by corrosives,
which in Hell are salutary and medici-
nal, melting apparent surfaces away,
and displaying the infinite which was
If the doors of perception were
cleansed everything would appear to
man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till
he sees all things through narrow
chinks of his cavern.
HEAVEN AND HELL
A MEMORABLE FANCY
I was in a printing-house in Hell,
and saw the method in which knowl-
edge is transmitted from generation
In the first chamber was a dragon-
man, clearing away the rubbish from
a cave's mouth; within, a number of
dragons were hollowing the cave.
In the second chamber was a viper
folding round the rock and the cave,
and others adorning it with gold, silver,
and precious stones.
In the third chamber was an eagle
with wings and feathers of air; he
caused the inside of the cave to be
infinite; around were numbers of
eagle-like men, who built palaces in
the immense cliffs.
In the fourth chamber were lions
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of flaming fire raging around and
melting the metals into living fluids.
In the fifth chamber were unnamed
forms, which cast the metals into the
There they were received by men
who occupied the sixth chamber, and
took the forms of books, and were
arranged in libraries.
The Giants who formed this world
into its sensual existence and now
seem to live in it in chains are in
truth the causes of its life and the
sources of all activity, but the chains
are the cunning of weak and tame
minds, which have power to resist
energy, according to the proverb,
'The weak in courage is strong in
Thus one portion of being is the
HEAVEN AND HELL
Prolific, the other the Devouring. To
the devourer it seems as if the pro-
ducer was in his chains; but it is not
so, he only takes portions of existence,
and fancies that the whole.
But the Prolific would cease to be
prolific unless the Devourer as a sea
received the excess of his delights.
Some will say, 'Is not God alone
the Prolific?' I answer: 'God only
acts and is in existing beings or
These two classes of men are always
upon earth, and they should be ene-
mies: whoever tries to reconcile them
seeks to destroy existence.
Religion is an endeavour to recon-
cile the two.
Note. — Jesus Christ did not wish
to unite but to separate them, as in
the parable of sheep and goats; and
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He says : ' I came not to send peace,
but a sword.'
Messiah, or Satan, or Tempter, was
formerly thought to be one of the
antediluvians who are our Energies.
HEAVEN AND HELL
A MEMORABLE FANCY
An Angel came to me and said: '0
pitiable foolish young man! hor-
rible, dreadful state! Consider the
hot burning dungeon thou art prepar-
ing for thyself to all Eternity, to which
thou art going in such career.'
I said : ' Perhaps you will be willing
to show me my eternal lot, and we
will contemplate together upon it, and
see whether your lot or mine is most
So he took me through a stable, and
through a church, and down into the
church vault, at the end of v/hich was
a mill; through the mill we went, and
came to a cave; down the winding
cavern we groped our tedious way,
till a void boundless as a nether sky
appeared beneath us, and we held by
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the roots of trees, and hung over this
immensity; but I said: 'If you please,
we will commit ourselves to this void,
and see whether Providence is here
also; if you will not, I will.' But he
answered : ' Do not presume, young
man; but as we here remain, behold
thy lot, which will soon appear when
the darkness passes away.'
So I remained with him sitting in
the twisted root of an oak; he was
suspended in a fungus, which hung
with the head downward into the
By degrees we beheld the infinite
abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning
city; beneath us at an immense dis-
tance was the sun, black but shining;
round it were fiery tracks on which
revolved vast spiders, crawling after
their prey, which flew, or rather
swum, in the infinite deep, in the most
HEAVEN AND HELL
terrific shapes of animals sprung from
corruption; and the air was full of
them, and seemed composed of them.
These are Devils, and are called powers
of the air. I now asked my com-
panion which was my eternal lot.
He said: 'Between the black and
But now, from between the black
and white spiders, a cloud and fire
burst and rolled through the deep,
blackening all beneath so that the
nether deep grew black as a sea, and
rolled with a terrible noise. Beneath
us was nothing now to be seen but a
black tempest, till looking East be-
tween the clouds and the waves, we
saw a cataract of blood mixed with
fire, and not many stones' throw from
us appeared and sunk again the scaly
fold of a monstrous serpent. At last
to the East, distant about three degrees,
appeared a fiery crest above the waves ;
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slowly it reared like a ridge of golden
rocks, till we discovered two globes
of crimson fire, from which the sea
fled away in clouds of smoke; and
now we saw it was the head of Le-
viathan. His forehead was divided
into streaks of green and purple, like
those on a tiger's forehead; soon we
saw his mouth and red gills hang just
above the raging foam, tinging the
black deeps with beams of blood, ad-
vancing toward us with all the fury
of a spiritual existence.
My friend the Angel climbed up
from his station into the mill. I
remained alone, and then this ap-
pearance was no more; but I found
myself sitting on a pleasant bank beside
a river by moonlight, hearing a harper
who sung to the harp; and his theme
was: 'The man who never alters his
opinion is like standing water, and
breeds reptiles of the mind.'
HEAVEN AND HELL
But I arose, and sought for the
mill, and there I found my Angel,
who, surprised, asked me how I
I answered: 'All that we saw was
owing to your metaphysics; for when
you ran away, I found myself on a
bank by moonlight, hearing a harper.
But now we have seen my eternal
lot, shall I show you yours?' He
laughed at my proposal; but I by
force suddenly caught him in my
arms, and flew Westerly through the
night, till we were elevated above the
earth's shadow; then I flung myself
with him directly into the body of the
sun; here I clothed myself in white,
and taking in my hand Swedenborg*s
volumes, sunk from the glorious clime,
and passed all the planets till we came
to Saturn. Here I stayed to rest, and
then leaped into the void between
Saturn and the fixed stars.
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'Here,' said I, 'is your lot; in this
space, if space it may be called.'
Soon we saw the stable and the church,
and I took him to the altar and opened
the Bible, and lo! it was a deep pit,
into which I descended, driving the
Angel before me. Soon we saw seven
houses of brick. One we entered. In
it were a number of monkeys, baboons,
and all of that species, chained by the
middle, grinning and snatching at one
another, but withheld by the shortness
of their chains. However, I saw that
they sometimes grew numerous, and
then the weak were caught by the
strong, and with a grinning aspect,
first coupled with and then devoured
by plucking off first one Umb and then
another till the body was left a help-
less trunk; this, after grinning and
kissing it with seeming fondness, they
devoured too. And here and there I
saw one savourily picking the fiesh off
HEAVEN AND HELL
his own tail. As the stench terribly
annoyed us both, we went into the
mill; and I in my hand brought the
skeleton of a body, which in the mill
was Aristotle's Analytics.
So the Angel said; 'Thy phantasy
has imposed upon me, and thou ought-
est to be ashamed.'
I answered: 'We impose on one
another, and it is but lost time to con-
verse with you whose works are only
'I have always found that Angels
have the vanity to speak of them-
selves as the only wise; this they do
with a confident insolence sprouting
from systematic reasoning.
'Thus Swedenborg boasts that what
he writes is new ; though it is only the
contents or index of already published
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'A man carried a monkey about
for a show, and because he was a Uttle
wiser than the monkey, grew vain,
and conceived himself as much wiser
than seven men. It is so with
Swedenborg; he shows the folly of
churches, and exposes hypocrites, till
he imagines that all are religious, and
himself the single one on earth that
ever broke a net.
'Now hear a plain fact: Sweden-
borg has not written one new truth.
Now hear another: he has written all
the old falsehoods.
'And now hear the reason: he con-
versed with Angels who are all re-
ligious, and conversed not with Devils
who all hate reUgion, for he was
incapable through his conceited no-
'Thus Swedenborg's writings are
a recapitulation of all superficial
HEAVEN AND HELL
opinions, and an analysis of the more
sublime, but no further.
'Have now another plain fact: any
man of mechanical talents may from
the writings of Paracelsus or Jacob
Behmen produce ten thousand volumes
of equal value with Swedenborg's, and
from those of Dante or Shakespeare an
'But when he has done this, let
him not say that he knows better than
his master, for he only holds a candle
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A MEMORABLE FANCY
Once I saw a Devil in a flame of
fire, who arose before an Angel that
sat on a cloud, and the Devil uttered
these words: 'The worship of God is,
honouring His gifts in other men each
according to his genius, and loving
the greatest men best. Those who
envy or calumniate great men hate
God, for there is no other God.'
The Angel hearing this became
almost blue, but mastering himself he
grew yellow, and at last white-pink
and smiling, and then replied: 'Thou
idolater, is not God One? and is not
He visible in Jesus Christ? and has
not Jesus Christ given His sanction to
the law of ten commandments? and
are not all other men fools, sinners,
HEAVEN AND HELL
The Devil answered: 'Bray a fool
in a mortar with wheat, yet shall not
his folly be beaten out of him. If
Jesus Christ is the greatest man, you
ought to love Him in the greatest
degree. Now hear how He has given
His sanction to the law of ten com-
mandments. Did He not mock at the
Sabbath, and so mock the Sabbath's
God? murder those who were mur-
dered because of Him? turn away the
law from the woman taken in adultery,
steal the labour of others to support
Him? bear false witness when He
omitted making a defence before
Pilate? covet when He prayed for His
disciples, and when He bid them
shake off the dust of their feet against
such as refused to lodge them? I tell
you, no virtue can exist without break-
ing these ten commandments. Jesus
was all virtue, and acted from im-
pulse, not from rules.'
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When he had so spoken, I beheld
the Angel, who stretched out his arms
embracing the flame of fire, and he
was consumed, and arose as Elijah.
Note. — This Angel, who is now
become a Devil, is my particular
friend; we often read the Bible to-
gether in its infernal or diabolical
sense, which the world shall have if
they behave well.
I have also the Bible of Hell, which
the world shall have whether they
will or no.
One law for the lion and ox is Op-
HEAVEN AND HELL
A SONG OF LIBERTY
1. The Eternal Female groan'd; it
was heard over all the earth:
2. Albion's coast is sick silent; the
American meadows faint.
3. Shadows of prophecy shiver
along by the lakes and the rivers, and
mutter across the ocean. France,
rend down thy dungeon!
4. Golden Spain, burst the barriers
of old Rome !
5. Cast thy keys, Rome, into
the deep — down falling, even to
eternity down falling;
6. And weep!
7. In her trembling hands she took
the new-born terror, howling.
8. On those infinite mountains
of light now barr'd out by the Atlantic
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sea, the new-born fire stood before the
9. Flagg'd with grey-browM snows
and thunderous visages, the jealous
wings wavM over the deep.
10. The speary hand burn'd aloft;
unbuckled was the shield; forth went
the hand of jealousy among the flam-
ing hair, and hurl'd the new-born
wonder through the starry night.
11. The fire, the fire is falling !
12. Look up! look up! citizen
of London, enlarge thy countenance!
O Jew, leave counting gold; return to
thy oil and wine! African, black
African! (Go, winged thought, widen
13. The fiery limbs, the flaming hair
shot like the sinking sun into the
14. WakM from his eternal sleep,
the hoary element roaring fled away.
HEAVEN AND HELL
15. Down rush'd, beating his wings
in vain, the jealous king, his grey-
brow'd councillors, thunderous war-
riors, curl'd veterans, among helms
and shields, and chariots, horses, ele-
phants, banners, castles, slings, and
16. Falling, rushing, ruining;
buried in the ruins, on Urthona's
17. All night beneath the ruins;
then their sullen flames, faded, emerge
round the gloomy king.
18. With thunder and fire, leading
his starry hosts through the waste
wilderness, he promulgates his ten
commandments, glancing his beamy
eyelids over the deep in dark dismay.
19. Where the Son of Fire in his
Eastern cloud, while the Morning
plumes her golden breast,
20. Spuming the clouds written
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with curses, stamps the stony law to
dust, loosing the eternal horses from
the dens of night, crying: 'Empire is
no more! and now the lion and wolf
HEAVEN AND HELL
Let the Priests of the Raven of
Dawn, no longer in deadly black, with
hoarse note curse the Sons of Joy.
Nor his accepted brethren whom,
tyrant, he calls free, lay the bound or
build the roof. Nor pale religious
lechery call that virginity that wishes,
but acts not !
For everything that lives is holy.
Pharsalia - Book IV: Caesar In Spain. War In The Adriatic Sea. Death Of Curio.
But in the distant regions of the earth
Fierce Caesar warring, though in fight he dealt
No baneful slaughter, hastened on the doom
To swift fulfillment. There on Magnus' side
Afranius and Petreius held command,
Who ruled alternate, and the rampart guard
Obeyed the standard of each chief in turn.
There with the Romans in the camp were joined
Asturians swift, and Vettons lightly armed,
And Celts who, exiled from their ancient home,
Had joined 'Iberus' to their former name.
Where the rich soil in gentle slope ascends
And forms a modest hill, Ilerda stands,
Founded in ancient days; beside her glides
Not least of western rivers, Sicoris
Of placid current, by a mighty arch
Of stone o'erspanned, which not the winter floods
Shall overwhelm. Upon a rock hard by
Was Magnus' camp; but Caesar's on a hill,
Rivalling the first; and in the midst a stream.
Here boundless plains are spread beyond the range
Of human vision; Cinga girds them in
With greedy waves; forbidden to contend
With tides of ocean; for that larger flood
Who names the land, Iberus, sweeps along
The lesser stream commingled with his own.
Guiltless of war, the first day saw the hosts
In long array confronted; standard rose
Opposing standard, numberless; yet none
Essayed attack, in shame of impious strife.
One day they gave their country and her laws.
But Caesar, when from heaven fell the night,
Drew round a hasty trench; his foremost rank
With close array concealing those who wrought.
Then with the morn he bids them seize the hill
Which parted from the camp Ilerda's walls,
And gave them safety. But in fear and shame
On rushed the foe and seized the vantage ground,
First in the onset. From the height they held
Their hopes of conquest; but to Caesar's men
Their hearts by courage stirred, and their good swords
Promised the victory. Burdened up the ridge
The soldier climbed, and from the opposing steep
But for his comrade's shield had fallen back;
None had the space to hurl the quivering lance
Upon the foeman: spear and pike made sure
The failing foothold, and the falchion's edge
Hewed out their upward path. But Caesar saw
Ruin impending, and he bade his horse
By circuit to the left, with shielded flank,
Hold back the foe. Thus gained his troops retreat,
For none pressed on them; and the victor chiefs,
Forced to withdrawal, gained the day in vain.
Henceforth the fitful changes of the year
Governed the fates and fashioned out the war.
For stubborn frost still lay upon the land,
And northern winds, controlling all the sky,
Prisoned the rain in clouds; the hills were nipped
With snow unmelted, and the lower plains
By frosts that fled before the rising sun;
And all the lands that stretched towards the sky
Which whelms the sinking stars, 'neath wintry heavens
Were parched and arid. But when Titan neared
The Ram, who, backward gazing on the stars,
Bore perished Helle, and the hours were held
In juster balance, and the day prevailed,
The earliest faded moon which in the vault
Hung with uncertain horn, from eastern winds
Received a fiery radiance; whose blasts
Forced Boreas back: and breaking on the mists
Within his regions, to the Occident
Drave all that shroud Arabia and the land
Of Ganges; all that or by Caurus borne
Bedim the Orient sky, or rising suns
Permit to gather; pitiless flamed the day
Behind them, while in front the wide expanse
Was driven; nor on mid earth sank the clouds
Though weighed with vapour. North and south alike
Were showerless, for on Calpe's rock alone
All moisture gathered; here at last, forbidden
To pass that sea by Zephyr's bounds contained,
And by the furthest belt of heaven, they pause,
In masses huge convolved; the widest breadth
Of murky air scarce holds them, which divides
Earth from the heavens; till pressed by weight of sky
In densest volume to the earth they pour
Their cataracts; no lightning could endure
Such storm unquenched: though oft athwart the gloom
Gleamed its pale fire. Meanwhile a watery arch
Scarce touched with colour, in imperfect shape
Embraced the sky and drank the ocean waves,
So rendering to the clouds their flood outpoured.
And now were thawed the Pyrenaean snows
Which Titan had not conquered; all the rocks
Were wet with melting ice; accustomed springs
Found not discharge; and from the very banks
Each stream received a torrent. Caesar's arms
Are shipwrecked on the field, his tottering camp
Swims on the rising flood; the trench is filled
With whirling waters; and the plain no more
Yields corn or kine; for those who forage seek,
Err from the hidden furrow. Famine knocks
(First herald of o'erwhelming ills to come),
Fierce at the door; and while no foe blockades
The soldier hungers; fortunes buy not now
The meanest measure; yet, alas! is found
The fasting peasant, who, in gain of gold,
Will sell his little all! And now the hills
Are seen no more; and rivers whelmed in one;
Beasts with their homes sweep downwards; and the tide
Repels the foaming torrent. Nor did night
Acknowledge Phoebus' rise, for all the sky
Felt her dominion and obscured its face,
And darkness joined with darkness. Thus doth lie
The lowest earth beneath the snowy zone
And never-ending winters, where the sky
Is starless ever, and no growth of herb
Sprouts from the frozen earth; but standing ice
Tempers the stars which in the middle zone
Kindle their flames. Thus, Father of the world,
And thou, trident-god who rul'st the sea
Second in place, Neptunus, load the air
With clouds continual; forbid the tide,
Once risen, to return: forced by thy waves
Let rivers backward run in different course,
Thy shores no longer reaching; and the earth,
Shaken, make way for floods. Let Rhine o'erflow
And Rhone their banks; let torrents spread afield
Unmeasured waters: melt Rhipaean snows:
Spread lakes upon the land, and seas profound,
And snatch the groaning world from civil war.
Thus for a little moment Fortune tried
Her darling son; then smiling to his part
Returned; and gained her pardon for the past
By greater gifts to come. For now the air
Had grown more clear, and Phoebus' warmer rays
Coped with the flood and scattered all the clouds
In fleecy masses; and the reddening east
Proclaimed the coming day; the land resumed
Its ancient marks; no more in middle air
The moisture hung, but from about the stars
Sank to the depths; the forest glad upreared
Its foliage; hills again emerged to view
And 'neath the warmth of day the plains grew firm.
When Sicoris kept his banks, the shallop light
Of hoary willow bark they build, which bent
On hides of oxen, bore the weight of man
And swam the torrent. Thus on sluggish Po
Venetians float; and on th' encircling sea
Are borne Britannia's nations; and when Nile
Fills all the land, are Memphis' thirsty reeds
Shaped into fragile boats that swim his waves.
The further bank thus gained, they haste to curve
The fallen forest, and to form the arch
By which imperious Sicoris shall be spanned.
Yet fearing he might rise in wrath anew,
Not on the nearest marge they placed the beams,
But in mid-field. Thus the presumptuous stream
They tame with chastisement, parting his flood
In devious channels out; and curb his pride.
Petreius, when he saw that Caesar's fates
Swept all before them, left Ilerda's steep,
His trust no longer in the Roman world;
And sought for strength amid those distant tribes,
Who, loving death, rush in upon the foe,
And win their conquests at the point of sword.
But in the dawn, when Caesar saw the camp
Stand empty on the hill, 'To arms!' he cried:
'Seek not the bridge nor ford: plunge in the stream
And breast the foaming torrent.' Then did hope
Of coming battle find for them a way
Which they had shunned in flight.
Their arms regained,
Their streaming limbs they cherished till the blood
Coursed in their veins; until the shadows fell
Short on the sward, and day was at the height.
Then dashed the horsemen on, and held the foe
'Twixt flight and battle. In the plain arose
Two rocky heights: from each a loftier ridge
Of hills ranged onwards, sheltering in their midst
A hollow vale, whose deep and winding paths
Were safe from warfare; which, when Caesar saw:
That if Petreius held, the war must pass
To lands remote by savage tribes possessed;
'Speed on,' he cried, 'and meet their flight in front;
Fierce be your frown and battle in your glance:
No coward's death be theirs; but as they flee
Plunge in their breasts the sword.' They seize the pass
And place their camp. Short was the span between
Th' opposing sentinels; with eager eyes
Undimmed by space, they gazed on brothers, sons,
Or friends and fathers; and within their souls
They grasped the impious horror of the war.
Yet for a little while no voice was heard,
For fear restrained; by waving blade alone
Or gesture, spake they; but their passion grew,
And broke all discipline; and soon they leaped
The hostile rampart; every hand outstretched
Embraced the hand of foeman, palm in palm;
One calls by name his neighhour, one his host,
Another with his schoolmate talks again
Of olden studies: he who in the camp
Found not a comrade, was no son of Rome.
Wet are their arms with tears, and sobs break in
Upon their kisses; each, unstained by blood,
Dreads what he might have done. Why beat thy breast?
Why, madman, weep? The guilt is thine alone
To do or to abstain. Dost fear the man
Who takes his title to be feared from thee?
When Caesar's trumpets sound the call to arms
Heed not the summons; when thou seest advance
His standards, halt. The civil Fury thus
Shall fold her wings; and in a private robe
Caesar shall love his kinsman.
That sway'st the world; thou whose eternal bands
Sustain the order of material things,
Come, gentle Concord! these our times do now
For good or evil destiny control
The coming centuries! Ah, cruel fate!
Now have the people lost their cloak for crime:
Their hope of pardon. They have known their kin.
Woe for the respite given by the gods
Making more black the hideous guilt to come!
Now all was peaceful, and in either camp
Sweet converse held the soldiers; on the grass
They place the meal; on altars built of turf
Pour out libations from the mingled cup;
On mutual couch with stories of their fights,
They wile the sleepless hours in talk away;
'Where stood the ranks arrayed, from whose right hand
The quivering lance was sped:' and while they boast
Or challenge, deeds of prowess in the war,
Faith was renewed and trust. Thus made the fates
Their doom complete, and all the crimes to be;
Grew with their love.
For when Petreius knew
The treaties made; himself and all his camp
Sold to the foe; he stirs his guard to work
An impious slaughter: the defenceless foe
Flings headlong forth: and parts the fond embrace
By stroke of weapon and in streams of blood.
And thus in words of wrath, to stir the war:
'Of Rome forgetful, to your faith forsworn!
And could ye not with victory gained return,
Restorers of her liberty, to Rome?
Lose then! but losing call not Caesar lord.
While still your swords are yours, with blood to shed
In doubtful battle, while the fates are hid,
Will you like cravens to your master bear
Doomed eagles? Will you ask upon your knees
That Caesar deign to treat his slaves alike,
And spare, forsooth, like yours, your leaders' lives?
Nay! never shall our safety be the price
Of base betrayal! Not for boon of life
We wage a civil war. This name of peace
Drags us to slavery. Ne'er from depths of earth,
Fain to withdraw her wealth, should toiling men
Draw store of iron; ne'er entrench a town;
Ne'er should the war-horse dash into the fray
Nor fleet with turret bulwarks breast the main,
If freedom for dishonourable peace
Could thus be bought. The foe are pledged to fight
By their own guilt. But you, who still might hope
For pardon if defeated -- what can match
Your deep dishonour? Shame upon your peace.
Thou callest, Magnus, ignorant of fate,
From all the world thy powers, and dost entreat
Monarchs of distant realms, while haply here
We in our treaties bargain for thy life!'
Thus did he stir their minds and rouse anew
The love of impious battle. So when beasts
Grown strange to forests, long confined in dens,
Their fierceness lose, and learn to bear with man;
Once should they taste of blood, their thirsty jaws
Swell at the touch, and all the ancient rage
Comes back upon them till they hardly spare
Their keeper. Thus they rush on every crime:
And blows which dealt at chance, and in the night
Of battle, had brought hatred on the gods,
Though blindly struck, their recent vows of love
Made monstrous, horrid. Where they lately spread
The mutual couch and banquet, and embraced
Some new-found friend, now falls the fatal blow
Upon the self-same breast; and though at first
Groaning at the fell chance, they drew the sword;
Hate rises as they strike, the murderous arm
Confirms the doubtful will: with monstrous joy
Through the wild camp they smite their kinsmen down;
And carnage raged unchecked; and each man strove,
Proud of his crime, before his leader's face
To prove his shamelessness of guilt.
Caesar, though losing of thy best, dost know
The gods do favour thee. Thessalian fields
Gave thee no better fortune, nor the waves
That lave Massilia; nor on Pharos' main
Didst thou so triumph. By this crime alone
Thou from this moment of the better cause
Shalt be the Captain.
Since the troops were stained
With foulest slaughter thus, their leaders shunned
All camps with Caesar's joined, and sought again
Ilerda's lofty walls; but Caesar's horse
Seized on the plain and forced them to the hills
Reluctant. There by steepest trench shut in,
He cuts them from the river, nor permits
Their circling ramparts to enclose a spring.
By this dread path Death trapped his captive prey.
Which when they knew, fierce anger filled their souls,
And took the place of fear. They slew the steeds
Now useless grown, and rushed upon their fate;
Hopeless of life and flight. But Caesar cried:
'Hold back your weapons, soldiers, from the foe,
Strike not the breast advancing; let the war
Cost me no blood; he falls not without price
Who with his life-blood challenges the fray.
Scorning their own base lives and hating light,
To Caesar's loss they rush upon their death,
Nor heed our blows. But let this frenzy pass,
This madman onset; let the wish for death
Die in their souls.' Thus to its embers shrank
The fire within when battle was denied,
And fainter grew their rage until the night
Drew down her starry veil and sank the sun.
Thus keener fights the gladiator whose wound
Is recent, while the blood within the veins
Still gives the sinews motion, ere the skin
Shrinks on the bones: but as the victor stands
His fatal thrust achieved, and points the blade
Unfaltering, watching for the end, there creeps
Torpor upon the limbs, the blood congeals
About the gash, more faintly throbs the heart,
And slowly fading, ebbs the life away.
Raving for water now they dig the plains
Seeking for hidden fountains, not with spade
And mattock only searching out the depths,
But with the sword; they hack the stony heights,
In shafts that reach the level of the plain.
No further flees from light the pallid wretch
Who tears the bowels of the earth for gold.
Yet neither riven stones revealed a spring,
Nor streamlet whispered from its hidden source;
To water trickled on the gravel bed,
Nor dripped within the cavern. Worn at length
With labour huge, they crawl to light again,
After such toil to fall to thirst and heat
The readier victims: this was all they won.
All food they loathe; and 'gainst their deadly thirst
Call famine to their aid. Damp clods of earth
They squeeze upon their mouths with straining hands.
Where'er on foulest mud some stagnant slime
Or moisture lies, though doomed to die they lap
With greedy tongues the draught their lips had loathed
Had life been theirs to choose. Beast-like they drain
The swollen udder, and where milk was not,
They sucked the life-blood forth. From herbs and boughs
Dripping with dew, from tender shoots they pressed,
Say, from the pith of trees, the juice within.
Happy the host that onward marching finds
Its savage enemy has fouled the wells
With murderous venom; had'st thou, Caesar, cast
The reeking filth of shambles in the stream,
And henbane dire and all the poisonous herbs
That lurk on Cretan slopes, still had they drunk
The fatal waters, rather than endure
Such lingering agony. Their bowels racked
With torments as of flame; the swollen tongue
And jaws now parched and rigid, and the veins;
Each laboured breath with anguish from the lungs
Enfeebled, moistureless, was scarcely drawn,
And scarce again returned; and yet agape,
Their panting mouths sucked in the nightly dew;
They watch for showers from heaven, and in despair
Gaze on the clouds, whence lately poured a flood.
Nor were their tortures less that Meroe
Saw not their sufferings, nor Cancer's zone,
Nor where the Garamantian turns the soil;
But Sicoris and Iberus at their feet,
Two mighty floods, but far beyond their reach,
Rolled down in measureless volume to the main.
But now their leaders yield; Afranius,
Vanquished, throws down his arms, and leads his troops,
Now hardly living, to the hostile camp
Before the victor's feet, and sues for peace.
Proud was his bearing, and despite of ills,
His mien majestic, of his triumphs past
Still mindful in disaster -- thus he stood,
Though suppliant for grace, a leader yet;
From fearless heart thus speaking: 'Had the fates
Thrown me before some base ignoble foe,
Not, Caesar, thee; still had this arm fought on
And snatched my death. Now if I suppliant ask,
'Tis that I value still the boon of life
Given by a worthy hand. No party ties
Roused us to arms against thee; when the war,
This civil war, broke out, it found us chiefs;
And with our former cause we kept the faith,
So long as brave men should. The fates' decree
No longer we withstand. Unto thy will
We yield the western tribes: the east is thine
And all the world lies open to thy march.
Be generous! blood nor sword nor wearied arm
Thy conquests bought. Thou hast not to forgive
Aught but thy victory won. Nor ask we much.
Give us repose; to lead in peace the life
Thou shalt bestow; suppose these armed lines
Are corpses prostrate on the field of war
Ne'er were it meet that thy victorious ranks
Should mix with ours, the vanquished. Destiny
Has run for us its course: one boon I beg;
Bid not the conquered conquer in thy train.'
Such were his words, and Caesar's gracious smile
Granted his prayer, remitting rights that war
Gives to the victor. To th' unguarded stream
The soldiers speed: prone on the bank they lie
And lap the flood or foul the crowded waves.
In many a burning throat the sudden draught
Poured in too copious, filled the empty veins
And choked the breath within: yet left unquenched
The burning pest which though their frames were full
Craved water for itself. Then, nerved once more,
Their strength returned. Oh, lavish luxury,
Contented never with the frugal meal!
Oh greed that searchest over land and sea
To furnish forth the banquet! Pride that joy'st
In sumptuous tables! learn what life requires,
How little nature needs! No ruddy juice
Pressed from the vintage in some famous year,
Whose consuls are forgotten, served in cups
With gold and jewels wrought restores the spark,
The failing spark, of life; but water pure
And simplest fruits of earth. The flood, the field
Suffice for nature. Ah! the weary lot
Of those who war! But these, their amour laid
Low at the victor's feet, with lightened breast,
Secure themselves, no longer dealing death,
Beset by care no more, seek out their homes.
What priceless gift in peace had they secured!
How grieved it now their souls to have poised the dart
With arm outstretched; to have felt their raving thirst;
And prayed the gods for victory in vain!
Nay, hard they think the victor's lot, for whom
A thousand risks and battles still remain;
If fortune never is to leave his side,
How often must he triumph! and how oft
Pour out his blood where'er great Caesar leads!
Happy, thrice happy, he who, when the world
Is nodding to its ruin, knows the spot
Where he himself shall, though in ruin, lie!
No trumpet call shall break his sleep again:
But in his humble home with faithful spouse
And sons unlettered Fortune leaves him free
From rage of party; for if life he owes
To Caesar, Magnus sometime was his lord.
Thus happy they alone live on apart,
Nor hope nor dread the event of civil war.
Not thus did Fortune upon Caesar smile
In all the parts of earth; but 'gainst his arms
Dared somewhat, where Salona's lengthy waste
Opposes Hadria, and Iadar warm
Meets with his waves the breezes of the west.
There brave Curectae dwell, whose island home
Is girded by the main; on whom relied
Antonius; and beleaguered by the foe,
Upon the furthest margin of the shore,
(Safe from all ills but famine) placed his camp.
But for his steeds the earth no forage gave,
Nor golden Ceres harvest; but his troops
Gnawed the dry herbage of the scanty turf
Within their rampart lines. But when they knew
That Baslus was on th' opposing shore
With friendly force, by novel mode of flight
They aim to reach him. Not the accustomed keel
They lay, nor build the ship, but shapeless rafts
Of timbers knit together, strong to bear
All ponderous weight; on empty casks beneath
By tightened chains made firm, in double rows
Supported; nor upon the deck were placed
The oarsmen, to the hostile dart exposed,
But in a hidden space, by beams concealed.
And thus the eye amazed beheld the mass
Move silent on its path across the sea,
By neither sail nor stalwart arm propelled.
They watch the main until the refluent waves
Ebb from the growing sands; then, on the tide
Receding, launch their vessel; thus she floats
With twin companions: over each uprose
With quivering battlements a lofty tower.
Octavius, guardian of Illyrian seas,
Restrained his swifter keels, and left the rafts
Free from attack, in hope of larger spoil
From fresh adventures; for the peaceful sea
May tempt them, and their goal in safety reached,
To dare a second voyage. Round the stag
Thus will the cunning hunter draw a line
Of tainted feathers poisoning the air;
Or spread the mesh, and muzzle in his grasp
The straining jaws of the Molossian hound,
And leash the Spartan pack; nor is the brake
Trusted to any dog but such as tracks
The scent with lowered nostrils, and refrains
From giving tongue the while; content to mark
By shaking leash the covert of the prey.
Ere long they manned the rafts in eager wish
To quit the island, when the latest glow
Still parted day from night. But Magnus' troops,
Cilician once, taught by their ancient art,
In fraudulent deceit had left the sea
To view unguarded; but with chains unseen
Fast to Illyrian shores, and hanging loose,
They blocked the outlet in the waves beneath.
The leading rafts passed safely, but the third
Hung in mid passage, and by ropes was hauled
Below o'ershadowing rocks. These hollowed out
In ponderous masses overhung the main,
And nodding seemed to fall: shadowed by trees
Dark lay the waves beneath. Hither the tide
Brings wreck and corpse, and, burying with the flow,
Restores them with the ebb: and when the caves
Belch forth the ocean, swirling billows fall
In boisterous surges back, as boils the tide
In that famed whirlpool on Sicilian shores.
Here, with Venetian settlers for its load,
Stood motionless the raft. Octavius' ships
Gathered around, while foemen on the land
Filled all the shore. But well the captain knew,
Volteius, how the secret fraud was planned,
And tried in vain with sword and steel to burst
The bands that held them; without hope he fights,
Uncertain where to avoid or front the foe.
Caught in this strait they strove as brave men should
Against opposing hosts; nor long the fight,
For fallen darkness brought a truce to arms.
Then to his men disheartened and in fear
Of coming fate Volteius, great of soul,
Thus spake in tones commanding: 'Free no more,
Save for this little night, consult ye now
In this last moment, soldiers, how to face
Your final fortunes. No man's life is short
Who can take thought for death, nor is your fame
Less than a conqueror's, if with breast advanced
Ye meet your destined doom. None know how long
The life that waits them. Summon your own fate,
And equal is your praise, whether the hand
Quench the last flicker of departing light,
Or shear the hope of years. But choice to die
Is thrust not on the mind -- we cannot flee;
See at our throats, e'en now, our kinsmen's swords.
Then choose for death; desire what fate decrees.
At least in war's blind cloud we shall not fall;
Nor when the flying weapons hide the day,
And slaughtered heaps of foemen load the field,
And death is common, and the brave man sinks
Unknown, inglorious. Us within this ship,
Seen of both friends and foes, the gods have placed;
Both land and sea and island cliffs shall bear,
From either shore, their witness to our death,
In which some great and memorable fame
Thou, Fortune, dost prepare. What glorious deeds
Of warlike heroism, of noble faith,
Time's annals show! All these shall we surpass.
True, Caesar, that to fall upon our swords
For thee is little; yet beleaguered thus,
With neither sons nor parents at our sides,
Shorn of the glory that we might have earned,
We give thee here the only pledge we may.
Yet let these hostile thousands fear the souls
That rage for battle and that welcome death,
And know us for invincible, and joy
That no more rafts were stayed. They'll offer terms
And tempt us with a base unhonoured life.
Would that, to give that death which shall be ours
The greater glory, they may bid us hope
For pardon and for life! lest when our swords
Are reeking with our hearts'-blood, they may say
This was despair of living. Great must be
The prowess of our end, if in the hosts
That fight his battles, Caesar is to mourn
This little handful lost. For me, should fate
Grant us retreat, -- myself would scorn to shun
The coming onset. Life I cast away,
The frenzy of the death that comes apace
Controls my being. Those alone whose end
Inspires them, know the happiness of death,
Which the high gods, that men may bear to live,
Keep hid from others.' Thus his noble words
Warmed his brave comrades' hearts; and who with fear
And tearful eyes had looked upon the Wain,
Turning his nightly course, now hoped for day,
Such precepts deep within them. Nor delayed
The sky to dip the stars below the main;
For Phoebus in the Twins his chariot drave
At noon near Cancer; and the hours of night
Were shortened by the Archer.
When day broke,
Lo! on the rocks the Istrians; while the sea
Swarmed with the galleys and their Grecian fleet
All armed for fight: but first the war was stayed
And terms proposed: life to the foe they thought
Would seem the sweeter, by delay of death
Thus granted. But the band devoted stood,
Proud of their promised end, and life forsworn,
And careless of the battle: no debate
Could shake their high resolve. In numbers few
'Gainst foemen numberless by land and sea,
They wage the desperate fight; then satiate
Turn from the foe. And first demanding death
Volteius bared his throat. 'What youth,' he cries,
'Dares strike me down, and through his captain's wounds
Attest his love for death?' Then through his side
Plunge blades uncounted on the moment drawn.
He praises all: but him who struck the first
Grateful, with dying strength, he does to death.
They rush together, and without a foe
Work all the guilt of battle. Thus of yore,
Rose up the glittering Dircaean band
From seed by Cadmus sown, and fought and died,
Dire omen for the brother kings of Thebes.
And so in Phasis' fields the sons of earth,
Born of the sleepless dragon, all inflamed
By magic incantations, with their blood
Deluged the monstrous furrow, while the Queen
Feared at the spells she wrought. Devoted thus
To death, they fall, yet in their death itself
Less valour show than in the fatal wounds
They take and give; for e'en the dying hand
Missed not a blow -- nor did the stroke alone
Inflict the wound, but rushing on the sword
Their throat or breast received it to the hilt;
And when by fatal chance or sire with son,
Or brothers met, yet with unfaltering weight
Down flashed the pitiless sword: this proved their love,
To give no second blow. Half living now
They dragged their mangled bodies to the side,
Whence flowed into the sea a crimson stream
Of slaughter. 'Twas their pleasure yet to see
The light they scorned; with haughty looks to scan
The faces of their victors, and to feel
The death approaching. But the raft was now
Piled up with dead; which, when the foemen saw,
Wondering at such a chief and such a deed,
They gave them burial. Never through the world
Of any brave achievement was the fame
More widely blazed. Yet meaner men, untaught
By such examples, see not that the hand
Which frees from slavery needs no valiant mind
To guide the stroke. But tyranny is feared
As dealing death; and Freedom's self is galled
By ruthless arms; and knows not that the sword
Was given for this, that none need live a slave.
Ah Death! would'st thou but let the coward live
And grant the brave alone the prize to die!
Nor less were Libyan fields ablaze with war.
For Curio rash from Lilybaean coast
Sailed with his fleet, and borne by gentle winds
Betwixt half-ruined Carthage, mighty once,
And Clupea's cliff, upon the well-known shore
His anchors dropped. First from the hoary sea
Remote, where Bagra slowly ploughs the sand,
He placed his camp: then sought the further hills
And mazy passages of cavernous rocks,
Antaeus' kingdom called. From ancient days
This name was given; and thus a swain retold
The story handed down from sire to son:
'Not yet exhausted by the giant brood,
Earth still another monster brought to birth,
In Libya's caverns: huger far was he,
More justly far her pride, than Briareus
With all his hundred hands, or Typhon fierce,
Or Tityos: 'twas in mercy to the gods
That not in Phlegra's fields Antaeus grew,
But here in Libya; to her offspring's strength,
Unmeasured, vast, she added yet this boon,
That when in weariness and labour spent
He touched his parent, fresh from her embrace
Renewed in rigour he should rise again.
In yonder cave he dwelt, 'neath yonder rock
He made his feast on lions slain in chase:
There slept he; not on skins of beasts, or leaves,
But fed his strength upon the naked earth.
Perished the Libyan hinds and those who came,
Brought here in ships, until he scorned at length
The earth that gave him strength, and on his feet
Invincible and with unaided might
Made all his victims. Last to Afric shores,
Drawn by the rumour of such carnage, came
Magnanimous Alcides, he who freed
Both land and sea of monsters. Down on earth
He threw his mantle of the lion's skin
Slain in Cleone; nor Antaeus less
Cast down the hide he wore. With shining oil,
As one who wrestles at Olympia's feast,
The hero rubs his limbs: the giant feared
Lest standing only on his parent earth
His strength might fail; and cast o'er all his bulk
Hot sand in handfuls. Thus with arms entwined
And grappling hands each seizes on his foe;
With hardened muscles straining at the neck
Long time in vain; for firm the sinewy throat
Stood column-like, nor yielded; so that each
Wondered to find his peer. Nor at the first
Divine Alcides put forth all his strength,
By lengthy struggle wearing out his foe,
Till chilly drops stood on Antaeas' limbs,
And toppled to its fall the stately throat,
And smitten by the hero's blows, the legs
Began to totter. Breast to breast they strive
To gain the vantage, till the victor's arms
Gird in the giant's yielding back and sides,
And squeeze his middle part: next 'twixt the thighs
He puts his feet, and forcing them apart,
Lays low the mighty monster limb by limb.
The dry earth drank his sweat, while in his veins
Warm ran the life-blood, and with strength refreshed,
The muscle swelled and all the joints grew firm,
And with his might restored, he breaks his bonds
And rives the arms of Hercules away.
Amazed the hero stood at such a strength.
Not thus he feared, though then unused to war,
That hydra fierce, which smitten in the marsh
Of Inachus, renewed its severed heads.
Again they join in fight, one with the powers
Which earth bestowed, the other with his own:
Nor did the hatred of his step-dame find
In all his conflicts greater room for hope.
She sees bedewed in sweat the neck and limbs
Which once had borne the mountain of the gods
Nor knew the toil: and when Antaeus felt
His foeman's arms close round him once again,
He flung his wearying limbs upon the sand
To rise with strength renewed; all that the earth,
Though labouring sore, could breathe into her son
She gave his frame. But Hercules at last
Saw how his parent gave the giant strength.
`Stand thou,' he cried; `no more upon the ground
Thou liest at thy will -- here must thou stay
Within mine arms constrained; against this breast,
Antaeus, shalt thou fall.' He lifted up
And held by middle girth the giant form,
Still struggling for the earth: but she no more
Could give her offspring rigour. Slowly came
The chill of death upon him, and 'twas long
Before the hero, of his victory sure,
Trusted the earth and laid the giant down.
Hence hoar antiquity that loves to prate
And wonders at herself, this region called
Antaeus' kingdom. But a greater name
It gained from Scipio, when he recalled
From Roman citadels the Punic chief.
Here was his camp; here can'st thou see the trace
Of that most famous rampart whence at length
Issued the Eagles of triumphant Rome.'
But Curio rejoiced, as though for him
The fortunes of the spot must hold in store
The fates of former chiefs: and on the place
Of happy augury placed his tents ill-starred,
Took from the hills their omens; and with force
Unequal, challenged his barbarian foe.
All Africa that bore the Roman yoke
Then lay 'neath Varus. He, though placing first
Trust in his Latian troops, from every side
And furthest regions, summons to his aid
The nations who confessed King Juba's rule.
Not any monarch over wider tracts
Held the dominion. From the western belt
Near Gades, Atlas parts their furthest bounds;
But from the southern, Hammon girds them in
Hard by the whirlpools; and their burning plains
Stretch forth unending 'neath the torrid zone,
In breadth its equal, till they reach at length
The shore of ocean upon either hand.
From all these regions tribes unnumbered flock
To Juba's standard: Moors of swarthy hue
As though from Ind; Numidian nomads there
And Nasamon's needy hordes; and those whose darts
Equal the flying arrows of the Mede:
Dark Garamantians leave their fervid home;
And those whose coursers unrestrained by bit
Or saddle, yet obey the rider's hand
Which wields the guiding switch: the hunter, too,
Who wanders forth, his home a fragile hut,
And blinds with flowing robe (if spear should fail)
The angry lion, monarch of the steppe.
Not eagerness alone to save the state
Stirred Juba's spirit: private hatred too
Roused him to war. For in the former year,
When Curio all things human and the gods
Polluted, he by tribune law essayed
To ravish Libya from the tyrant's sway,
And drive the monarch from his father's throne,
While giving Rome a king. To Juba thus,
Still smarting at the insult, came the war,
A welcome harvest for his crown retained.
These rumours Curio feared: nor had his troops
(Ta'en in Corfinium's hold) in waves of Rhine
Been tested, nor to Caesar in the wars
Had learned devotion: wavering in their faith,
Their second chief they doubt, their first betrayed.
Yet when the general saw the spirit of fear
Creep through his camp, and discipline to fail,
And sentinels desert their guard at night,
Thus in his fear he spake: 'By daring much
Fear is disguised; let me be first in arms,
And bid my soldiers to the plain descend,
While still my soldiers. Idle days breed doubt.
By fight forestall the plot. Soon as the thirst
Of bloodshed fills the mind, and eager hands
Grip firm the sword, and pressed upon the brow
The helm brings valour to the failing heart --
Who cares to measure leaders' merits then?
Who weighs the cause? With whom the soldier stands,
For him he fights; as at the fatal show
No ancient grudge the gladiator's arm
Nerves for the combat, yet as he shall strike
He hates his rival.' Thinking thus he leads
His troops in battle order to the plain.
Then victory on his arms deceptive shone
Hiding the ills to come: for from the field
Driving the hostile host with sword and spear,
He smote them till their camp opposed his way.
But after Varus' rout, unseen till then,
All eager for the glory to be his,
By stealth came Juba: silent was his march;
His only fear lest rumour should forestall
His coming victory. In pretended war
He sends Sabura forth with scanty force
To tempt the enemy, while in hollow vale
He holds the armies of his realm unseen.
Thus doth the sly ichneumon with his tail
Waving, allure the serpent of the Nile
Drawn to the moving shadow: he, with head
Turned sideways, watches till the victim glides
Within his reach, then seizes by the throat
Behind the deadly fangs: forth from its seat
Balked of its purpose, through the brimming jaws
Gushes a tide of poison. Fortune smiled
On Juba's stratagem; for Curio
(The hidden forces of the foe unknown)
Sent forth his horse by night without the camp
To scour more distant regions. He himself
At earliest peep of dawn bids carry forth
His standards; heeding not his captains' prayer
Urged on his ears: 'Beware of Punic fraud,
The craft that taints a Carthaginian war.'
Hung over him the doom of coming death
And gave the youth to fate; and civil strife
Dragged down its author.
On the lofty tops
Where broke the hills abruptly to their fall
He ranks his troops and sees the foe afar:
Who still deceiving, simulated flight,
Till from the height in loose unordered lines
The Roman forces streamed upon the plain,
In thought that Juba fled. Then first was known
The treacherous fraud: for swift Numidian horse
On every side surround them: leader, men --
All see their fate in one dread moment come.
No coward flees, no warrior bravely strides
To meet the battle: nay, the trumpet call
Stirs not the charger with resounding hoof
To spurn the rock, nor galling bit compels
To champ in eagerness; nor toss his mane
And prick the ear, nor prancing with his feet
To claim his share of combat. Tired, the neck
Droops downwards: smoking sweat bedews the limbs:
Dry from the squalid mouth protrudes the tongue,
Hoarse, raucous panting issues from their chests;
Their flanks distend: and every curb is dry
With bloody foam; the ruthless sword alone
Could move them onward, powerless even then
To charge; but giving to the hostile dart
A nearer victim. But when the Afric horse
First made their onset, loud beneath their hoofs
Rang the wide plain, and rose the dust in air
As by some Thracian whirlwind stirred; and veiled
The heavens in darkness. When on Curio's host
The tempest burst, each footman in the rank
Stood there to meet his fate -- no doubtful end
Hung in the balance: destiny proclaimed
Death to them all. No conflict hand to hand
Was granted them, by lances thrown from far
And sidelong sword-thrusts slain: nor wounds alone,
But clouds of weapons falling from the air
By weight of iron o'erwhelmed them. Still drew in
The straightening circle, for the first pressed back
On those behind; did any shun the foe,
Seeking the inner safety of the ring,
He needs must perish by his comrades' swords.
And as the front rank fell, still narrower grew
The close crushed phalanx, till to raise their swords
Space was denied. Still close and closer forced
The armed breasts against each other driven
Pressed out the life. Thus not upon a scene
Such as their fortune promised, gazed the foe.
No tide of blood was there to glut their eyes,
No members lopped asunder, though the earth so
Was piled with corpses; for each Roman stood
In death upright against his comrade dead.
Let cruel Carthage rouse her hated ghosts
By this fell offering; let the Punic shades,
And bloody Hannibal, from this defeat
Receive atonement: yet 'twas shame, ye gods,
That Libya gained not for herself the day;
And that our Romans on that field should die
To save Pompeius and the Senate's cause.
Now was the dust laid low by streams of blood,
And Curio, knowing that his host was slain.
Chose not to live; and, as a brave man should.
He rushed upon the heap, and fighting fell.
In vain with turbid speech hast thou profaned
The pulpit of the forum: waved in vain
From that proud citadel the tribune flag:
And armed the people, and the Senate's rights
Betraying, hast compelled this impious war
Betwixt the rival kinsmen. Low thou liest
Before Pharsalus' fight, and from thine eyes
Is hid the war. 'Tis thus to suffering Rome,
For arms seditious and for civil strife
Ye mighty make atonement with your blood.
Happy were Rome and all her sons indeed,
Did but the gods as rigidly protect
As they avenge, her violated laws!
There Curio lies; untombed his noble corpse,
Torn by the vultures of the Libyan wastes.
Yet shall we, since such merit, though unsung,
Lives by its own imperishable fame,
Give thee thy meed of praise. Rome never bore
Another son, who, had he right pursued,
Had so adorned her laws; but soon the times,
Their luxury, corruption, and the curse
Of too abundant wealth, in transverse stream
Swept o'er his wavering mind: and Curio changed,
Turned with his change the scale of human things.
True, mighty Sulla, cruel Marius,
And bloody Cinna, and the long descent
Of Caesar and of Caesar's house became
Lords of our lives. But who had power like him?
All others bought the state: he sold alone.
Canto the Eighth
Oh blood and thunder! and oh blood and wounds!
These are but vulgar oaths, as you may deem,
Too gentle reader! and most shocking sounds:
And so they are; yet thus is Glory's dream
Unriddled, and as my true Muse expounds
At present such things, since they are her theme,
So be they her inspirers! Call them Mars,
Bellona, what you will -- they mean but wars.
All was prepared -- the fire, the sword, the men
To wield them in their terrible array.
The army, like a lion from his den,
March'd forth with nerve and sinews bent to slay, --
A human Hydra, issuing from its fen
To breathe destruction on its winding way,
Whose heads were heroes, which cut off in vain
Immediately in others grew again.
History can only take things in the gross;
But could we know them in detail, perchance
In balancing the profit and the loss,
War's merit it by no means might enhance,
To waste so much gold for a little dross,
As hath been done, mere conquest to advance.
The drying up a single tear has more
Of honest fame, than shedding seas of gore.
And why? -- because it brings self-approbation;
Whereas the other, after all its glare,
Shouts, bridges, arches, pensions from a nation,
Which (it may be) has not much left to spare,
A higher title, or a loftier station,
Though they may make Corruption gape or stare,
Yet, in the end, except in Freedom's battles,
Are nothing but a child of Murder's rattles.
And such they are -- and such they will be found:
Not so Leonidas and Washington,
Whose every battle-field is holy ground,
Which breathes of nations saved, not worlds undone.
How sweetly on the ear such echoes sound!
While the mere victor's may appal or stun
The servile and the vain, such names will be
A watchword till the future shall be free.
The night was dark, and the thick mist allow'd
Nought to be seen save the artillery's flame,
Which arch'd the horizon like a fiery cloud,
And in the Danube's waters shone the same --
A mirror'd hell! the volleying roar, and loud
Long booming of each peal on peal, o'ercame
The ear far more than thunder; for Heaven's flashes
Spare, or smite rarely -- man's make millions ashes!
The column order'd on the assault scarce pass'd
Beyond the Russian batteries a few toises,
When up the bristling Moslem rose at last,
Answering the Christian thunders with like voices:
Then one vast fire, air, earth, and stream embraced,
Which rock'd as 't were beneath the mighty noises;
While the whole rampart blazed like Etna, when
The restless Titan hiccups in his den.
And one enormous shout of "Allah!" rose
In the same moment, loud as even the roar
Of war's most mortal engines, to their foes
Hurling defiance: city, stream, and shore
Resounded "Allah!" and the clouds which close
With thick'ning canopy the conflict o'er,
Vibrate to the Eternal name. Hark! through
All sounds it pierceth "Allah! Allah Hu!"
The columns were in movement one and all,
But of the portion which attack'd by water,
Thicker than leaves the lives began to fall,
Though led by Arseniew, that great son of slaughter,
As brave as ever faced both bomb and ball.
"Carnage" (so Wordsworth tells you) "is God's daughter:"
If he speak truth, she is Christ's sister, and
Just now behaved as in the Holy Land.
The Prince de Ligne was wounded in the knee;
Count Chapeau-Bras, too, had a ball between
His cap and head, which proves the head to be
Aristocratic as was ever seen,
Because it then received no injury
More than the cap; in fact, the ball could mean
No harm unto a right legitimate head:
"Ashes to ashes" -- why not lead to lead?
Also the General Markow, Brigadier,
Insisting on removal of the Prince
Amidst some groaning thousands dying near, --
All common fellows, who might writhe and wince,
And shriek for water into a deaf ear, --
The General Markow, who could thus evince
His sympathy for rank, by the same token,
To teach him greater, had his own leg broken.
Three hundred cannon threw up their emetic,
And thirty thousand muskets flung their pills
Like hail, to make a bloody diuretic.
Mortality! thou hast thy monthly bills;
Thy plagues, thy famines, thy physicians, yet tick,
Like the death-watch, within our ears the ills
Past, present, and to come; -- but all may yield
To the true portrait of one battle-field;
There the still varying pangs, which multiply
Until their very number makes men hard
By the infinities of agony,
Which meet the gaze whate'er it may regard --
The groan, the roll in dust, the all-white eye
Turn'd back within its socket, -- these reward
Your rank and file by thousands, while the rest
May win perhaps a riband at the breast!
Yet I love glory; -- glory's a great thing: --
Think what it is to be in your old age
Maintain'd at the expense of your good king:
A moderate pension shakes full many a sage,
And heroes are but made for bards to sing,
Which is still better; thus in verse to wage
Your wars eternally, besides enjoying
Half-pay for life, make mankind worth destroying.
The troops, already disembark'd, push'd on
To take a battery on the right; the others,
Who landed lower down, their landing done,
Had set to work as briskly as their brothers:
Being grenadiers, they mounted one by one,
Cheerful as children climb the breasts of mothers,
O'er the entrenchment and the palisade,
Quite orderly, as if upon parade.
And this was admirable; for so hot
The fire was, that were red Vesuvius loaded,
Besides its lava, with all sorts of shot
And shells or hells, it could not more have goaded.
Of officers a third fell on the spot,
A thing which victory by no means boded
To gentlemen engaged in the assault:
Hounds, when the huntsman tumbles, are at fault.
But here I leave the general concern,
To track our hero on his path of fame:
He must his laurels separately earn;
For fifty thousand heroes, name by name,
Though all deserving equally to turn
A couplet, or an elegy to claim,
Would form a lengthy lexicon of glory,
And what is worse still, a much longer story:
And therefore we must give the greater number
To the Gazette -- which doubtless fairly dealt
By the deceased, who lie in famous slumber
In ditches, fields, or wheresoe'er they felt
Their clay for the last time their souls encumber; --
Thrice happy he whose name has been well spelt
In the despatch: I knew a man whose loss
Was printed Grove, although his name was Grose.
Juan and Johnson join'd a certain corps,
And fought away with might and main, not knowing
The way which they had never trod before,
And still less guessing where they might be going;
But on they march'd, dead bodies trampling o'er,
Firing, and thrusting, slashing, sweating, glowing,
But fighting thoughtlessly enough to win,
To their two selves, one whole bright bulletin.
Thus on they wallow'd in the bloody mire
Of dead and dying thousands, -- sometimes gaining
A yard or two of ground, which brought them nigher
To some odd angle for which all were straining;
At other times, repulsed by the close fire,
Which really pour'd as if all hell were raining
Instead of heaven, they stumbled backwards o'er
A wounded comrade, sprawling in his gore.
Though 't was Don Juan's first of fields, and though
The nightly muster and the silent march
In the chill dark, when courage does not glow
So much as under a triumphal arch,
Perhaps might make him shiver, yawn, or throw
A glance on the dull clouds (as thick as starch,
Which stiffen'd heaven) as if he wish'd for day; --
Yet for all this he did not run away.
Indeed he could not. But what if he had?
There have been and are heroes who begun
With something not much better, or as bad:
Frederic the Great from Molwitz deign'd to run,
For the first and last time; for, like a pad,
Or hawk, or bride, most mortals after one
Warm bout are broken into their new tricks,
And fight like fiends for pay or politics.
He was what Erin calls, in her sublime
Old Erse or Irish, or it may be Punic
(The antiquarians who can settle time,
Which settles all things, Roman, Greek, or Runic,
Swear that Pat's language sprung from the same clime
With Hannibal, and wears the Tyrian tunic
Of Dido's alphabet; and this is rational
As any other notion, and not national); --
But Juan was quite "a broth of a boy,"
A thing of impulse and a child of song;
Now swimming in the sentiment of joy,
Or the sensation (if that phrase seem wrong),
And afterward, if he must needs destroy,
In such good company as always throng
To battles, sieges, and that kind of pleasure,
No less delighted to employ his leisure;
But always without malice: if he warr'd
Or loved, it was with what we call "the best
Intentions," which form all mankind's trump card,
To be produced when brought up to the test.
The statesman, hero, harlot, lawyer -- ward
Off each attack, when people are in quest
Of their designs, by saying they meant well;
'T is pity "that such meaning should pave hell."
I almost lately have begun to doubt
Whether hell's pavement -- if it be so paved --
Must not have latterly been quite worn out,
Not by the numbers good intent hath saved,
But by the mass who go below without
Those ancient good intentions, which once shaved
And smooth'd the brimstone of that street of hell
Which bears the greatest likeness to Pall Mall.
Juan, by some strange chance, which oft divides
Warrior from warrior in their grim career,
Like chastest wives from constant husbands' sides
Just at the close of the first bridal year,
By one of those odd turns of Fortune's tides,
Was on a sudden rather puzzled here,
When, after a good deal of heavy firing,
He found himself alone, and friends retiring.
I don't know how the thing occurr'd -- it might
Be that the greater part were kill'd or wounded,
And that the rest had faced unto the right
About; a circumstance which has confounded
Caesar himself, who, in the very sight
Of his whole army, which so much abounded
In courage, was obliged to snatch a shield,
And rally back his Romans to the field.
Juan, who had no shield to snatch, and was
No Caesar, but a fine young lad, who fought
He knew not why, arriving at this pass,
Stopp'd for a minute, as perhaps he ought
For a much longer time; then, like an as
(Start not, kind reader; since great Homer thought
This simile enough for Ajax, Juan
Perhaps may find it better than a new one) --
Then, like an ass, he went upon his way,
And, what was stranger, never look'd behind;
But seeing, flashing forward, like the day
Over the hills, a fire enough to blind
Those who dislike to look upon a fray,
He stumbled on, to try if he could find
A path, to add his own slight arm and forces
To corps, the greater part of which were corses.
Perceiving then no more the commandant
Of his own corps, nor even the corps, which had
Quite disappear'd -- the gods know howl (I can't
Account for every thing which may look bad
In history; but we at least may grant
It was not marvellous that a mere lad,
In search of glory, should look on before,
Nor care a pinch of snuff about his corps): --
Perceiving nor commander nor commanded,
And left at large, like a young heir, to make
His way to -- where he knew not -- single handed;
As travellers follow over bog and brake
An "ignis fatuus;" or as sailors stranded
Unto the nearest hut themselves betake;
So Juan, following honour and his nose,
Rush'd where the thickest fire announced most foes.
He knew not where he was, nor greatly cared,
For he was dizzy, busy, and his veins
Fill'd as with lightning -- for his spirit shared
The hour, as is the case with lively brains;
And where the hottest fire was seen and heard,
And the loud cannon peal'd his hoarsest strains,
He rush'd, while earth and air were sadly shaken
By thy humane discovery, Friar Bacon!
And as he rush'd along, it came to pass he
Fell in with what was late the second column,
Under the orders of the General Lascy,
But now reduced, as is a bulky volume
Into an elegant extract (much less massy)
Of heroism, and took his place with solemn
Air 'midst the rest, who kept their valiant faces
And levell'd weapons still against the glacis.
Just at this crisis up came Johnson too,
Who had "retreated," as the phrase is when
Men run away much rather than go through
Destruction's jaws into the devil's den;
But Johnson was a clever fellow, who
Knew when and how "to cut and come again,"
And never ran away, except when running
Was nothing but a valorous kind of cunning.
And so, when all his corps were dead or dying,
Except Don Juan, a mere novice, whose
More virgin valour never dreamt of flying
From ignorance of danger, which indues
Its votaries, like innocence relying
On its own strength, with careless nerves and thews, --
Johnson retired a little, just to rally
Those who catch cold in "shadows of Death's valley."
And there, a little shelter'd from the shot,
Which rain'd from bastion, battery, parapet,
Rampart, wall, casement, house, -- for there was not
In this extensive city, sore beset
By Christian soldiery, a single spot
Which did not combat like the devil, as yet,
He found a number of Chasseurs, all scatter'd
By the resistance of the chase they batter'd.
And these he call'd on; and, what's strange, they came
Unto his call, unlike "the spirits from
The vasty deep," to whom you may exclaim,
Says Hotspur, long ere they will leave their home.
Their reasons were uncertainty, or shame
At shrinking from a bullet or a bomb,
And that odd impulse, which in wars or creeds
Makes men, like cattle, follow him who leads.
By Jove! he was a noble fellow, Johnson,
And though his name, than Ajax or Achilles,
Sounds less harmonious, underneath the sun soon
We shall not see his likeness: he could kill his
Man quite as quietly as blows the monsoon
Her steady breath (which some months the same still is):
Seldom he varied feature, hue, or muscle,
And could be very busy without bustle;
And therefore, when he ran away, he did so
Upon reflection, knowing that behind
He would find others who would fain be rid so
Of idle apprehensions, which like wind
Trouble heroic stomachs. Though their lids so
Oft are soon closed, all heroes are not blind,
But when they light upon immediate death,
Retire a little, merely to take breath.
But Johnson only ran off, to return
With many other warriors, as we said,
Unto that rather somewhat misty bourn,
Which Hamlet tells us is a pass of dread.
To Jack howe'er this gave but slight concern:
His soul (like galvanism upon the dead)
Acted upon the living as on wire,
And led them back into the heaviest fire.
Egad! they found the second time what they
The first time thought quite terrible enough
To fly from, malgré all which people say
Of glory, and all that immortal stuff
Which fills a regiment (besides their pay,
That daily shilling which makes warriors tough) --
They found on their return the self-same welcome,
Which made some think, and others know, a hell come.
They fell as thick as harvests beneath hail,
Grass before scythes, or corn below the sickle,
Proving that trite old truth, that life's as frail
As any other boon for which men stickle.
The Turkish batteries thrash'd them like a flail,
Or a good boxer, into a sad pickle
Putting the very bravest, who were knock'd
Upon the head, before their guns were cock'd.
The Turks, behind the traverses and flanks
Of the next bastion, fired away like devils,
And swept, as gales sweep foam away, whole ranks:
However, Heaven knows how, the Fate who levels
Towns, nations, worlds, in her revolving pranks,
So order'd it, amidst these sulphury revels,
That Johnson and some few who had not scamper'd,
Reach'd the interior "talus" of the rampart.
First one or two, then five, six, and a dozen,
Came mounting quickly up, for it was now
All neck or nothing, as, like pitch or rosin,
Flame was shower'd forth above, as well 's below,
So that you scarce could say who best had chosen,
The gentlemen that were the first to show
Their martial faces on the parapet,
Or those who thought it brave to wait as yet.
But those who scaled, found out that their advance
Was favour'd by an accident or blunder:
The Greek or Turkish Cohorn's ignorance
Had palisado'd in a way you'd wonder
To see in forts of Netherlands or France
(Though these to our Gibraltar must knock under) --
Right in the middle of the parapet
Just named, these palisades were primly set:
So that on either side some nine or ten
Paces were left, whereon you could contrive
To march; a great convenience to our men,
At least to all those who were left alive,
Who thus could form a line and fight again;
And that which farther aided them to strive
Was, that they could kick down the palisades,
Which scarcely rose much higher than grass blades.
Among the first, -- I will not say the first,
For such precedence upon such occasions
Will oftentimes make deadly quarrels burst
Out between friends as well as allied nations:
The Briton must be bold who really durst
Put to such trial John Bull's partial patience,
As say that Wellington at Waterloo
Was beaten -- though the Prussians say so too; --
And that if Blucher, Bulow, Gneisenau,
And God knows who besides in "au" and "ow,"
Had not come up in time to cast an awe
Into the hearts of those who fought till now
As tigers combat with an empty craw,
The Duke of Wellington had ceased to show
His orders, also to receive his pensions,
Which are the heaviest that our history mentions.
But never mind; -- "God save the King!" and Kings!
For if he don't, I doubt if men will longer --
I think I hear a little bird, who sings
The people by and by will be the stronger:
The veriest jade will wince whose harness wrings
So much into the raw as quite to wrong her
Beyond the rules of posting, -- and the mob
At last fall sick of imitating Job.
At first it grumbles, then it swears, and then,
Like David, flings smooth pebbles 'gainst a giant;
At last it takes to weapons such as men
Snatch when despair makes human hearts less pliant.
Then comes "the tug of war;" -- 't will come again,
I rather doubt; and I would fain say "fie on 't,"
If I had not perceived that revolution
Alone can save the earth from hell's pollution.
But to continue: -- I say not the first,
But of the first, our little friend Don Juan
Walk'd o'er the walls of Ismail, as if nursed
Amidst such scenes -- though this was quite a new one
To him, and I should hope to most. The thirst
Of glory, which so pierces through and through one,
Pervaded him -- although a generous creature,
As warm in heart as feminine in feature.
And here he was -- who upon woman's breast,
Even from a child, felt like a child; howe'er
The man in all the rest might be confest,
To him it was Elysium to be there;
And he could even withstand that awkward test
Which Rousseau points out to the dubious fair,
"Observe your lover when he leaves your arms;"
But Juan never left them, while they had charms,
Unless compell'd by fate, or wave, or wind,
Or near relations, who are much the same.
But here he was! -- where each tie that can bind
Humanity must yield to steel and flame:
And he whose very body was all mind,
Flung here by fate or circumstance, which tame
The loftiest, hurried by the time and place,
Dash'd on like a spurr'd blood-horse in a race.
So was his blood stirr'd while he found resistance,
As is the hunter's at the five-bar gate,
Or double post and rail, where the existence
Of Britain's youth depends upon their weight,
The lightest being the safest: at a distance
He hated cruelty, as all men hate
Blood, until heated -- and even then his own
At times would curdle o'er some heavy groan.
The General Lascy, who had been hard press'd,
Seeing arrive an aid so opportune
As were some hundred youngsters all abreast,
Who came as if just dropp'd down from the moon,
To Juan, who was nearest him, address'd
His thanks, and hopes to take the city soon,
Not reckoning him to be a "base Bezonian"
(As Pistol calls it), but a young Livonian.
Juan, to whom he spoke in German, knew
As much of German as of Sanscrit, and
In answer made an inclination to
The general who held him in command;
For seeing one with ribands, black and blue,
Stars, medals, and a bloody sword in hand,
Addressing him in tones which seem'd to thank,
He recognised an officer of rank.
Short speeches pass between two men who speak
No common language; and besides, in time
Of war and taking towns, when many a shriek
Rings o'er the dialogue, and many a crime
Is perpetrated ere a word can break
Upon the ear, and sounds of horror chime
In like church-bells, with sigh, howl, groan, yell, prayer,
There cannot be much conversation there.
And therefore all we have related in
Two long octaves, pass'd in a little minute;
But in the same small minute, every sin
Contrived to get itself comprised within it.
The very cannon, deafen'd by the din,
Grew dumb, for you might almost hear a linnet,
As soon as thunder, 'midst the general noise
Of human nature's agonising voice!
The town was enter'd. Oh eternity! --
"God made the country and man made the town,"
So Cowper says -- and I begin to be
Of his opinion, when I see cast down
Rome, Babylon, Tyre, Carthage, Nineveh,
All walls men know, and many never known;
And pondering on the present and the past,
To deem the woods shall be our home at last
Of all men, saving Sylla the man-slayer,
Who passes for in life and death most lucky,
Of the great names which in our faces stare,
The General Boon, back-woodsman of Kentucky,
Was happiest amongst mortals anywhere;
For killing nothing but a bear or buck, he
Enjoy'd the lonely, vigorous, harmless days
Of his old age in wilds of deepest maze.
Crime came not near him -- she is not the child
Of solitude; Health shrank not from him -- for
Her home is in the rarely trodden wild,
Where if men seek her not, and death be more
Their choice than life, forgive them, as beguiled
By habit to what their own hearts abhor --
In cities caged. The present case in point I
Cite is, that Boon lived hunting up to ninety;
And what's still stranger, left behind a name
For which men vainly decimate the throng,
Not only famous, but of that good fame,
Without which glory's but a tavern song --
Simple, serene, the antipodes of shame,
Which hate nor envy e'er could tinge with wrong;
An active hermit, even in age the child
Of Nature, or the man of Ross run wild.
'T is true he shrank from men even of his nation,
When they built up unto his darling trees, --
He moved some hundred miles off, for a station
Where there were fewer houses and more ease;
The inconvenience of civilisation
Is, that you neither can be pleased nor please;
But where he met the individual man,
He show'd himself as kind as mortal can.
He was not all alone: around him grew
A sylvan tribe of children of the chase,
Whose young, unwaken'd world was ever new,
Nor sword nor sorrow yet had left a trace
On her unwrinkled brow, nor could you view
A frown on Nature's or on human face;
The free-born forest found and kept them free,
And fresh as is a torrent or a tree.
And tall, and strong, and swift of foot were they,
Beyond the dwarfing city's pale abortions,
Because their thoughts had never been the prey
Of care or gain: the green woods were their portions;
No sinking spirits told them they grew grey,
No fashion made them apes of her distortions;
Simple they were, not savage; and their rifles,
Though very true, were not yet used for trifles.
Motion was in their days, rest in their slumbers,
And cheerfulness the handmaid of their toil;
Nor yet too many nor too few their numbers;
Corruption could not make their hearts her soil;
The lust which stings, the splendour which encumbers,
With the free foresters divide no spoil;
Serene, not sullen, were the solitudes
Of this unsighing people of the woods.
So much for Nature: -- by way of variety,
Now back to thy great joys, Civilisation!
And the sweet consequence of large society,
War, pestilence, the despot's desolation,
The kingly scourge, the lust of notoriety,
The millions slain by soldiers for their ration,
The scenes like Catherine's boudoir at threescore,
With Ismail's storm to soften it the more.
The town was enter'd: first one column made
Its sanguinary way good -- then another;
The reeking bayonet and the flashing blade
Clash'd 'gainst the scimitar, and babe and mother
With distant shrieks were heard Heaven to upbraid:
Still closer sulphury clouds began to smother
The breath of morn and man, where foot by foot
The madden'd Turks their city still dispute.
Koutousow, he who afterward beat back
(With some assistance from the frost and snow)
Napoleon on his bold and bloody track,
It happen'd was himself beat back just now;
He was a jolly fellow, and could crack
His jest alike in face of friend or foe,
Though life, and death, and victory were at stake;
But here it seem'd his jokes had ceased to take:
For having thrown himself into a ditch,
Follow'd in haste by various grenadiers,
Whose blood the puddle greatly did enrich,
He climb'd to where the parapet appears;
But there his project reach'd its utmost pitch
('Mongst other deaths the General Ribaupierre's
Was much regretted), for the Moslem men
Threw them all down into the ditch again.
And had it not been for some stray troops landing
They knew not where, being carried by the stream
To some spot, where they lost their understanding,
And wander'd up and down as in a dream,
Until they reach'd, as daybreak was expanding,
That which a portal to their eyes did seem, --
The great and gay Koutousow might have lain
Where three parts of his column yet remain.
And scrambling round the rampart, these same troops,
After the taking of the "Cavalier,"
Just as Koutousow's most "forlorn" of "hopes"
Took like chameleons some slight tinge of fear,
Open'd the gate call'd "Kilia," to the groups
Of baffled heroes, who stood shyly near,
Sliding knee-deep in lately frozen mud,
Now thaw'd into a marsh of human blood.
The Kozacks, or, if so you please, Cossacques
(I don't much pique myself upon orthography,
So that I do not grossly err in facts,
Statistics, tactics, politics, and geography) --
Having been used to serve on horses' backs,
And no great dilettanti in topography
Of fortresses, but fighting where it pleases
Their chiefs to order, -- were all cut to pieces.
Their column, though the Turkish batteries thunder'd
Upon them, ne'ertheless had reach'd the rampart,
And naturally thought they could have plunder'd
The city, without being farther hamper'd;
But as it happens to brave men, they blunder'd --
The Turks at first pretended to have scamper'd,
Only to draw them 'twixt two bastion corners,
From whence they sallied on those Christian scorners.
Then being taken by the tail -- a taking
Fatal to bishops as to soldiers -- these
Cossacques were all cut off as day was breaking,
And found their lives were let at a short lease --
But perish'd without shivering or shaking,
Leaving as ladders their heap'd carcasses,
O'er which Lieutenant-Colonel Yesouskoi
March'd with the brave battalion of Polouzki: --
This valiant man kill'd all the Turks he met,
But could not eat them, being in his turn
Slain by some Mussulmans, who would not yet,
Without resistance, see their city burn.
The walls were won, but 't was an even bet
Which of the armies would have cause to mourn:
'T was blow for blow, disputing inch by inch,
For one would not retreat, nor t' other flinch.
Another column also suffer'd much: --
And here we may remark with the historian,
You should but give few cartridges to such
Troops as are meant to march with greatest glory on:
When matters must be carried by the touch
Of the bright bayonet, and they all should hurry on,
They sometimes, with a hankering for existence,
Keep merely firing at a foolish distance.
A junction of the General Meknop's men
(Without the General, who had fallen some time
Before, being badly seconded just then)
Was made at length with those who dared to climb
The death-disgorging rampart once again;
And though the Turk's resistance was sublime,
They took the bastion, which the Seraskier
Defended at a price extremely dear.
Juan and Johnson, and some volunteers,
Among the foremost, offer'd him good quarter,
A word which little suits with Seraskiers,
Or at least suited not this valiant Tartar.
He died, deserving well his country's tears,
A savage sort of military martyr.
An English naval officer, who wish'd
To make him prisoner, was also dish'd:
For all the answer to his proposition
Was from a pistol-shot that laid him dead;
On which the rest, without more intermission,
Began to lay about with steel and lead --
The pious metals most in requisition
On such occasions: not a single head
Was spared; -- three thousand Moslems perish'd here,
And sixteen bayonets pierced the Seraskier.
The city's taken -- only part by part --
And death is drunk with gore: there's not a street
Where fights not to the last some desperate heart
For those for whom it soon shall cease to beat.
Here War forgot his own destructive art
In more destroying Nature; and the heat
Of carnage, like the Nile's sun-sodden slime,
Engender'd monstrous shapes of every crime.
A Russian officer, in martial tread
Over a heap of bodies, felt his heel
Seized fast, as if 't were by the serpent's head
Whose fangs Eve taught her human seed to feel:
In vain he kick'd, and swore, and writhed, and bled,
And howl'd for help as wolves do for a meal --
The teeth still kept their gratifying hold,
As do the subtle snakes described of old.
A dying Moslem, who had felt the foot
Of a foe o'er him, snatch'd at it, and bit
The very tendon which is most acute
(That which some ancient Muse or modern wit
Named after thee, Achilles), and quite through 't
He made the teeth meet, nor relinquish'd it
Even with his life -- for (but they lie) 't is said
To the live leg still clung the sever'd head.
However this may be, 't is pretty sure
The Russian officer for life was lamed,
For the Turk's teeth stuck faster than a skewer,
And left him 'midst the invalid and maim'd:
The regimental surgeon could not cure
His patient, and perhaps was to be blamed
More than the head of the inveterate foe,
Which was cut off, and scarce even then let go.
But then the fact's a fact -- and 't is the part
Of a true poet to escape from fiction
Whene'er he can; for there is little art
In leaving verse more free from the restriction
Of truth than prose, unless to suit the mart
For what is sometimes called poetic diction,
And that outrageous appetite for lies
Which Satan angles with for souls, like flies.
The city's taken, but not render'd! -- No!
There's not a Moslem that hath yielded sword:
The blood may gush out, as the Danube's flow
Rolls by the city wall; but deed nor word
Acknowledge aught of dread of death or foe:
In vain the yell of victory is roar'd
By the advancing Muscovite -- the groan
Of the last foe is echoed by his own.
The bayonet pierces and the sabre cleaves,
And human lives are lavish'd everywhere,
As the year closing whirls the scarlet leaves
When the stripp'd forest bows to the bleak air,
And groans; and thus the peopled city grieves,
Shorn of its best and loveliest, and left bare;
But still it falls in vast and awful splinters,
As oaks blown down with all their thousand winters.
It is an awful topic -- but 't is not
My cue for any time to be terrific:
For checker'd as is seen our human lot
With good, and bad, and worse, alike prolific
Of melancholy merriment, to quote
Too much of one sort would be soporific; --
Without, or with, offence to friends or foes,
I sketch your world exactly as it goes.
And one good action in the midst of crimes
Is "quite refreshing," in the affected phrase
Of these ambrosial, Pharisaic times,
With all their pretty milk-and-water ways,
And may serve therefore to bedew these rhymes,
A little scorch'd at present with the blaze
Of conquest and its consequences, which
Make epic poesy so rare and rich.
Upon a taken bastion, where there lay
Thousands of slaughter'd men, a yet warm group
Of murder'd women, who had found their way
To this vain refuge, made the good heart droop
And shudder; -- while, as beautiful as May,
A female child of ten years tried to stoop
And hide her little palpitating breast
Amidst the bodies lull'd in bloody rest.
Two villainous Cossacques pursued the child
With flashing eyes and weapons: match'd with them,
The rudest brute that roams Siberia's wild
Has feelings pure and polish'd as a gem, --
The bear is civilised, the wolf is mild;
And whom for this at last must we condemn?
Their natures? or their sovereigns, who employ
All arts to teach their subjects to destroy?
Their sabres glitter'd o'er her little head,
Whence her fair hair rose twining with affright,
Her hidden face was plunged amidst the dead:
When Juan caught a glimpse of this sad sight,
I shall not say exactly what he said,
Because it might not solace "ears polite;"
But what he did, was to lay on their backs,
The readiest way of reasoning with Cossacques.
One's hip he slash'd, and split the other's shoulder,
And drove them with their brutal yells to seek
If there might be chirurgeons who could solder
The wounds they richly merited, and shriek
Their baffled rage and pain; while waxing colder
As he turn'd o'er each pale and gory cheek,
Don Juan raised his little captive from
The heap a moment more had made her tomb.
And she was chill as they, and on her face
A slender streak of blood announced how near
Her fate had been to that of all her race;
For the same blow which laid her mother here
Had scarr'd her brow, and left its crimson trace,
As the last link with all she had held dear;
But else unhurt, she open'd her large eyes,
And gazed on Juan with a wild surprise.
Just at this instant, while their eyes were fix'd
Upon each other, with dilated glance,
In Juan's look, pain, pleasure, hope, fear, mix'd
With joy to save, and dread of some mischance
Unto his protégée; while hers, transfix'd
With infant terrors, glared as from a trance,
A pure, transparent, pale, yet radiant face,
Like to a lighted alabaster vase; --
Up came John Johnson (I will not say "Jack,"
For that were vulgar, cold, and commonplace
On great occasions, such as an attack
On cities, as hath been the present case):
Up Johnson came, with hundreds at his back,
Exclaiming; -- "Juan! Juan! On, boy! brace
Your arm, and I'll bet Moscow to a dollar
That you and I will win St. George's collar.
"The Seraskier is knock'd upon the head,
But the stone bastion still remains, wherein
The old Pacha sits among some hundreds dead,
Smoking his pipe quite calmly 'midst the din
Of our artillery and his own: 't is said
Our kill'd, already piled up to the chin,
Lie round the battery; but still it batters,
And grape in volleys, like a vineyard, scatters.
"Then up with me!" -- But Juan answer'd, "Look
Upon this child -- I saved her -- must not leave
Her life to chance; but point me out some nook
Of safety, where she less may shrink and grieve,
And I am with you." -- Whereon Johnson took
A glance around -- and shrugg'd -- and twitch'd his sleeve
And black silk neckcloth -- and replied, "You're right;
Poor thing! what's to be done? I'm puzzled quite."
Said Juan: "Whatsoever is to be
Done, I'll not quit her till she seems secure
Of present life a good deal more than we."
Quoth Johnson: "Neither will I quite ensure;
But at the least you may die gloriously."
Juan replied: "At least I will endure
Whate'er is to be borne -- but not resign
This child, who is parentless, and therefore mine."
Johnson said: "Juan, we've no time to lose;
The child's a pretty child -- a very pretty --
I never saw such eyes -- but hark! now choose
Between your fame and feelings, pride and pity; --
Hark! how the roar increases! -- no excuse
Will serve when there is plunder in a city; --
I should be loth to march without you, but,
By God! we'll be too late for the first cut."
But Juan was immovable; until
Johnson, who really loved him in his way,
Pick'd out amongst his followers with some skill
Such as he thought the least given up to prey;
And swearing if the infant came to ill
That they should all be shot on the next day;
But if she were deliver'd safe and sound,
They should at least have fifty rubles round,
And all allowances besides of plunder
In fair proportion with their comrades; -- then
Juan consented to march on through thunder,
Which thinn'd at every step their ranks of men:
And yet the rest rush'd eagerly -- no wonder,
For they were heated by the hope of gain,
A thing which happens everywhere each day --
No hero trusteth wholly to half pay.
And such is victory, and such is man!
At least nine tenths of what we call so; -- God
May have another name for half we scan
As human beings, or his ways are odd.
But to our subject: a brave Tartar khan --
Or "sultan," as the author (to whose nod
In prose I bend my humble verse) doth call
This chieftain -- somehow would not yield at all:
But flank'd by five brave sons (such is polygamy,
That she spawns warriors by the score, where none
Are prosecuted for that false crime bigamy),
He never would believe the city won
While courage clung but to a single twig. -- Am I
Describing Priam's, Peleus', or Jove's son?
Neither -- but a good, plain, old, temperate man,
Who fought with his five children in the van.
To take him was the point. The truly brave,
When they behold the brave oppress'd with odds,
Are touch'd with a desire to shield and save; --
A mixture of wild beasts and demigods
Are they -- now furious as the sweeping wave,
Now moved with pity: even as sometimes nods
The rugged tree unto the summer wind,
Compassion breathes along the savage mind.
But he would not be taken, and replied
To all the propositions of surrender
By mowing Christians down on every side,
As obstinate as Swedish Charles at Bender.
His five brave boys no less the foe defied;
Whereon the Russian pathos grew less tender,
As being a virtue, like terrestrial patience,
Apt to wear out on trifling provocations.
And spite of Johnson and of Juan, who
Expended all their Eastern phraseology
In begging him, for God's sake, just to show
So much less fight as might form an apology
For them in saving such a desperate foe --
He hew'd away, like doctors of theology
When they dispute with sceptics; and with curses
Struck at his friends, as babies beat their nurses.
Nay, he had wounded, though but slightly, both
Juan and Johnson; whereupon they fell,
The first with sighs, the second with an oath,
Upon his angry sultanship, pell-mell,
And all around were grown exceeding wroth
At such a pertinacious infidel,
And pour'd upon him and his sons like rain,
Which they resisted like a sandy plain
That drinks and still is dry. At last they perish'd --
His second son was levell'd by a shot;
His third was sabred; and the fourth, most cherish'd
Of all the five, on bayonets met his lot;
The fifth, who, by a Christian mother nourish'd,
Had been neglected, ill-used, and what not,
Because deform'd, yet died all game and bottom,
To save a sire who blush'd that he begot him.
The eldest was a true and tameless Tartar,
As great a scorner of the Nazarene
As ever Mahomet pick'd out for a martyr,
Who only saw the black-eyed girls in green,
Who make the beds of those who won't take quarter
On earth, in Paradise; and when once seen,
Those houris, like all other pretty creatures,
Do just whate'er they please, by dint of features.
And what they pleased to do with the young khan
In heaven I know not, nor pretend to guess;
But doubtless they prefer a fine young man
To tough old heroes, and can do no less;
And that's the cause no doubt why, if we scan
A field of battle's ghastly wilderness,
For one rough, weather-beaten, veteran body,
You'll find ten thousand handsome coxcombs bloody.
Your houris also have a natural pleasure
In lopping off your lately married men,
Before the bridal hours have danced their measure
And the sad, second moon grows dim again,
Or dull repentance hath had dreary leisure
To wish him back a bachelor now and then.
And thus your houri (it may be) disputes
Of these brief blossoms the immediate fruits.
Thus the young khan, with houris in his sight,
Thought not upon the charms of four young brides,
But bravely rush'd on his first heavenly night.
In short, howe'er our better faith derides,
These black-eyed virgins make the Moslems fight,
As though there were one heaven and none besides, --
Whereas, if all be true we hear of heaven
And hell, there must at least be six or seven.
So fully flash'd the phantom on his eyes,
That when the very lance was in his heart,
He shouted "Allah!" and saw Paradise
With all its veil of mystery drawn apart,
And bright eternity without disguise
On his soul, like a ceaseless sunrise, dart: --
With prophets, houris, angels, saints, descried
In one voluptuous blaze, -- and then he died,
But with a heavenly rapture on his face.
The good old khan, who long had ceased to see
Houris, or aught except his florid race
Who grew like cedars round him gloriously --
When he beheld his latest hero grace
The earth, which he became like a fell'd tree,
Paused for a moment, from the fight, and cast
A glance on that slain son, his first and last.
The soldiers, who beheld him drop his point,
Stopp'd as if once more willing to concede
Quarter, in case he bade them not "aroynt!"
As he before had done. He did not heed
Their pause nor signs: his heart was out of joint,
And shook (till now unshaken) like a reed,
As he look'd down upon his children gone,
And felt -- though done with life -- he was alone
But 't was a transient tremor; -- with a spring
Upon the Russian steel his breast he flung,
As carelessly as hurls the moth her wing
Against the light wherein she dies: he clung
Closer, that all the deadlier they might wring,
Unto the bayonets which had pierced his young;
And throwing back a dim look on his sons,
In one wide wound pour'd forth his soul at once.
'T is strange enough -- the rough, tough soldiers, who
Spared neither sex nor age in their career
Of carnage, when this old man was pierced through,
And lay before them with his children near,
Touch'd by the heroism of him they slew,
Were melted for a moment: though no tear
Flow'd from their bloodshot eyes, all red with strife,
They honour'd such determined scorn of life.
But the stone bastion still kept up its fire,
Where the chief pacha calmly held his post:
Some twenty times he made the Russ retire,
And baffled the assaults of all their host;
At length he condescended to inquire
If yet the city's rest were won or lost;
And being told the latter, sent a bey
To answer Ribas' summons to give way.
In the mean time, cross-legg'd, with great sang-froid,
Among the scorching ruins he sat smoking
Tobacco on a little carpet; -- Troy
Saw nothing like the scene around: -- yet looking
With martial stoicism, nought seem'd to annoy
His stern philosophy; but gently stroking
His beard, he puff'd his pipe's ambrosial gales,
As if he had three lives, as well as tails.
The town was taken -- whether he might yield
Himself or bastion, little matter'd now:
His stubborn valour was no future shield.
Ismail's no more! The crescent's silver bow
Sunk, and the crimson cross glared o'er the field,
But red with no redeeming gore: the glow
Of burning streets, like moonlight on the water,
Was imaged back in blood, the sea of slaughter.
All that the mind would shrink from of excesses;
All that the body perpetrates of bad;
All that we read, hear, dream, of man's distresses;
All that the devil would do if run stark mad;
All that defies the worst which pen expresses;
All by which hell is peopled, or as sad
As hell -- mere mortals who their power abuse --
Was here (as heretofore and since) let loose.
If here and there some transient trait of pity
Was shown, and some more noble heart broke through
Its bloody bond, and saved perhaps some pretty
Child, or an agéd, helpless man or two --
What's this in one annihilated city,
Where thousand loves, and ties, and duties grew?
Cockneys of London! Muscadins of Paris!
Just ponder what a pious pastime war is.
Think how the joys of reading a Gazette
Are purchased by all agonies and crimes:
Or if these do not move you, don't forget
Such doom may be your own in aftertimes.
Meantime the Taxes, Castlereagh, and Debt,
Are hints as good as sermons, or as rhymes.
Read your own hearts and Ireland's present story,
Then feed her famine fat with Wellesley's glory.
But still there is unto a patriot nation,
Which loves so well its country and its king,
A subject of sublimest exultation --
Bear it, ye Muses, on your brightest wing!
Howe'er the mighty locust, Desolation,
Strip your green fields, and to your harvests cling,
Gaunt famine never shall approach the throne --
Though Ireland starve, great George weighs twenty stone.
But let me put an end unto my theme:
There was an end of Ismail -- hapless town!
Far flash'd her burning towers o'er Danube's stream,
And redly ran his blushing waters down.
The horrid war-whoop and the shriller scream
Rose still; but fainter were the thunders grown:
Of forty thousand who had mann'd the wall,
Some hundreds breathed -- the rest were silent all!
In one thing ne'ertheless 't is fit to praise
The Russian army upon this occasion,
A virtue much in fashion now-a-days,
And therefore worthy of commemoration:
The topic's tender, so shall be my phrase --
Perhaps the season's chill, and their long station
In winter's depth, or want of rest and victual,
Had made them chaste; -- they ravish'd very little.
Much did they slay, more plunder, and no less
Might here and there occur some violation
In the other line; -- but not to such excess
As when the French, that dissipated nation,
Take towns by storm: no causes can I guess,
Except cold weather and commiseration;
But all the ladies, save some twenty score,
Were almost as much virgins as before.
Some odd mistakes, too, happen'd in the dark,
Which show'd a want of lanterns, or of taste --
Indeed the smoke was such they scarce could mark
Their friends from foes, -- besides such things from haste
Occur, though rarely, when there is a spark
Of light to save the venerably chaste:
But six old damsels, each of seventy years,
Were all deflower'd by different grenadiers.
But on the whole their continence was great;
So that some disappointment there ensued
To those who had felt the inconvenient state
Of "single blessedness," and thought it good
(Since it was not their fault, but only fate,
To bear these crosses) for each waning prude
To make a Roman sort of Sabine wedding,
Without the expense and the suspense of bedding.
Some voices of the buxom middle-aged
Were also heard to wonder in the din
(Widows of forty were these birds long caged)
"Wherefore the ravishing did not begin!"
But while the thirst for gore and plunder raged,
There was small leisure for superfluous sin;
But whether they escaped or no, lies hid
In darkness -- I can only hope they did.
Suwarrow now was conqueror -- a match
For Timour or for Zinghis in his trade.
While mosques and streets, beneath his eyes, like thatch
Blazed, and the cannon's roar was scarce allay'd,
With bloody hands he wrote his first despatch;
And here exactly follows what he said: --
"Glory to God and to the Empress!" (Powers
Eternal! such names mingled!) "Ismail's ours."
Methinks these are the most tremendous words,
Since "Mene, Mene, Tekel," and "Upharsin,"
Which hands or pens have ever traced of swords.
Heaven help me! I'm but little of a parson:
What Daniel read was short-hand of the Lord's,
Severe, sublime; the prophet wrote no farce on
The fate of nations; -- but this Russ so witty
Could rhyme, like Nero, o'er a burning city.
He wrote this Polar melody, and set it,
Duly accompanied by shrieks and groans,
Which few will sing, I trust, but none forget it --
For I will teach, if possible, the stones
To rise against earth's tyrants. Never let it
Be said that we still truckle unto thrones; --
But ye -- our children's children! think how we
Show'd what things were before the world was free!
That hour is not for us, but 't is for you:
And as, in the great joy of your millennium,
You hardly will believe such things were true
As now occur, I thought that I would pen you 'em;
But may their very memory perish too! --
Yet if perchance remember'd, still disdain you 'em
More than you scorn the savages of yore,
Who painted their bare limbs, but not with gore.
And when you hear historians talk of thrones,
And those that sate upon them, let it be
As we now gaze upon the mammoth's bones,
"And wonder what old world such things could see,
Or hieroglyphics on Egyptian stones,
The pleasant riddles of futurity --
Guessing at what shall happily be hid,
As the real purpose of a pyramid.
Reader! I have kept my word, -- at least so far
As the first Canto promised. You have now
Had sketches of love, tempest, travel, war --
All very accurate, you must allow,
And epic, if plain truth should prove no bar;
For I have drawn much less with a long bow
Than my forerunners. Carelessly I sing,
But Phoebus lends me now and then a string,
With which I still can harp, and carp, and fiddle.
What farther hath befallen or may befall
The hero of this grand poetic riddle,
I by and by may tell you, if at all:
But now I choose to break off in the middle,
Worn out with battering Ismail's stubborn wall,
While Juan is sent off with the despatch,
For which all Petersburgh is on the watch.
This special honour was conferr'd, because
He had behaved with courage and humanity --
Which last men like, when they have time to pause
From their ferocities produced by vanity.
His little captive gain'd him some applause
For saving her amidst the wild insanity
Of carnage, -- and I think he was more glad in her
Safety, than his new order of St. Vladimir.
The Moslem orphan went with her protector,
For she was homeless, houseless, helpless; all
Her friends, like the sad family of Hector,
Had perish'd in the field or by the wall:
Her very place of birth was but a spectre
Of what it had been; there the Muezzin's cal
To prayer was heard no more! -- and Juan wept,
And made a vow to shield her, which he kept.
AURORA LEIGH, be humble. Shall I hope
To speak my poems in mysterious tune
With man and nature,–with the lava-lymph
That trickles from successive galaxies
Still drop by drop adown the finger of God,
In still new worlds?–with summer-days in this,
That scarce dare breathe, they are so beautiful?–
With spring's delicious trouble in the ground
Tormented by the quickened blood of roots.
And softly pricked by golden crocus-sheaves
In token of the harvest-time of flowers?–
With winters and with autumns,–and beyond,
With the human heart's large seasons,–when it hopes
And fears, joys, grieves, and loves?–with all that strain
Of sexual passion, which devours the flesh
In a sacrament of souls? with mother's breasts,
Which, round the new made creatures hanging there,
Throb luminous and harmonious like pure spheres?–
With multitudinous life, and finally
With the great out-goings of ecstatic souls,
Who, in a rush of too long prisoned flame,
Their radiant faces upward, burn away
This dark of the body, issuing on a world
Beyond our mortal?–can I speak my verse
So plainly in tune to these things and the rest,
That men shall feel it catch them on the quick,
As having the same warrant over them
To hold and move them, if they will or no,
Alike imperious as the primal rhythm
Of that theurgic nature? I must fail,
Who fail at the beginning to hold and move
One man,–and he my cousin, and he my friend,
And he born tender, made intelligent,
Inclined to ponder the precipitous sides
Of difficult questions; yet, obtuse to me,–
Of me, incurious! likes me very well,
And wishes me a paradise of good,
Good looks, good means, and good digestion!–ay,
But otherwise evades me, puts me off
With kindness, with a tolerant gentleness,–
Too light a book for a grave man's reading! Go,
Aurora Leigh: be humble.
There it is;
We women are too apt to look to one,
Which proves a certain impotence in art.
We strain our natures at doing something great,
Far less because it's something great to do,
Than, haply, that we, so, commend ourselves
As being not small, and more appreciable
To some one friend. We must have mediators
Betwixt our highest conscience and the judge;
Some sweet saint's blood must quicken in our palms.
Or all the life in heaven seems slow and cold:
Good only, being perceived as the end of good,
And God alone pleased,–that's too poor, we think,
And not enough for us, by any means.
Ay–Romney, I remember, told me once
We miss the abstract, when we comprehend!
We miss it most when we aspire, . . and fail.
Yet, so, I will not.–This vile woman's way
Of trailing garments, shall not trip me up.
I'll have no traffic with the personal thought
In art's pure temple. Must I work in vain,
Without the approbation of a man?
It cannot be; it shall not. Fame itself,
That approbation of the general race,
Presents a poor end, (though the arrow speed,
Shot straight with vigorous finger to the white,)
And the highest fame was never reached except
By what was aimed above it. Art for art,
And good for God Himself, the essential Good!
We'll keep our aims sublime, our eyes erect,
Although our woman-hands should shake and fail;
And if we fail . . But must we?–
Shall I fail?
The Greeks said grandly in their tragic phrase,
'Let no one be called happy till his death.'
To which I add,–Let no one till his death
Be called unhappy. Measure not the work
Until the day's out and the labour done;
Then bring your gauges. If the day's work's scant,
Why, call it scant; affect no compromise;
And, in that we have nobly striven at least,
Deal with us nobly, women though we be,
And honour us with truth, if not with praise.
My ballads prospered; but the ballad's race
Is rapid for a poet who bears weights
Of thought and golden image. He can stand
Like Atlas, in the sonnet,–and support
His own heavens pregnant with dynastic stars;
But then he must stand still, nor take a step.
In that descriptive poem called 'The Hills,'
The prospects were too far and indistinct.
'Tis true my critics said, 'A fine view, that!'
The public scarcely cared to climb the book
For even the finest; and the public's right,
A tree's mere firewood, unless humanised;
Which well the Greeks knew, when they stirred the bark
With close-pressed bosoms of subsiding nymphs,
And made the forest-rivers garrulous
With babble of gods. For us, we are called to mark
A still more intimate humanity
In this inferior nature,–or, ourselves,
Must fall like dead leaves trodden underfoot
By veritabler artists. Earth shut up
By Adam, like a fakir in a box
Left too long buried, remained stiff and dry,
A mere dumb corpse, till Christ the Lord came down,
Unlocked the doors, forced opened the blank eyes,
And used his kingly chrisms to straighten out
The leathery tongue turned back into the throat:
Since when, she lives, remembers, palpitates
In every lip, aspires in every breath,
Embraces infinite relations. Now,
We want no half-gods, Panomph&alig;ean Joves,
Fauns, Naiads, Tritons, Oreads, and the rest,
To take possession of a senseless world
To unnatural vampire-uses. See the earth,
The body of our body, the green earth,
Indubitably human, like this flesh
And these articulated veins through which
Our heart drives blood! There's not a flower of spring,
That dies ere June, but vaunts itself allied
By issue and symbol, by significance
And correspondence, to that spirit-world
Outside the limits of our space and time,
Whereto we are bound. Let poets give it voice
With human meanings; else they miss the thought,
And henceforth step down lower, stand confessed
Instructed poorly for interpreters,–
Thrown out by an easy cowslip in the text.
Even so my pastoral failed: it was a book
Of surface-pictures–pretty, cold, and false
With literal transcript,–the worse done, I think,
For being not ill-done. Let me set my mark
Against such doings, and do otherwise.
This strikes me.–if the public whom we know,
Could catch me at such admissions, I should pass
For being right modest. Yet how proud we are,
In daring to look down upon ourselves!
The critics say that epics have died out
With Agamemnon and the goat-nursed gods–
I'll not believe it. I could never dream
As Payne Knight did, (the mythic mountaineer
Who travelled higher than he was born to live,
And showed sometimes the goitre in his throat
Discoursing of an image seen through fog,)
That Homer's heroes measured twelve feet high.
They were but men!–his Helen's hair turned grey
Like any plain Miss Smith's, who wears a front:
And Hector's infant blubbered at a plume
As yours last Friday at a turkey-cock.
All men are possible heroes: every age,
Heroic in proportions, double-faced,
Looks backward and before, expects a morn
And claims an epos.
Ay, but every age
Appears to souls who live in it, (ask Carlyle)
Most unheroic. Ours, for instance, ours!
The thinkers scout it, and the poets abound
Who scorn to touch it with a finger-tip:
A pewter age,–mixed metal, silver-washed;
An age of scum, spooned off the richer past;
An age of patches for old gabardines;
An age of mere transition, meaning nought,
Except that what succeeds must shame it quite,
If God please. That's wrong thinking, to my mind,
And wrong thoughts make poor poems.
Through being beheld too close, is ill-discerned
By those who have not lived past it. We'll suppose
Mount Athos carved, as Persian Xerxes schemed,
To some colossal statue of a man:
The peasants, gathering brushwood in his ear,
Had guessed as little of any human form
Up there, as would a flock of browsing goats.
They'd have, in fact, to travel ten miles off
Or ere the giant image broke on them,
Full human profile, nose and chin distinct,
Mouth, muttering rhythms of silence up the sky,
And fed at evening with the blood of suns;
Grand torso,–hand, that flung perpetually
The largesse of a silver river down
To all the country pastures. 'Tis even thus
With times we live in,–evermore too great
To be apprehended near.
But poets should
Exert a double vision; should have eyes
To see near things as comprehensibly
As if afar they took their point of sight,
And distant things, as intimately deep,
As if they touched them. Let us strive for this.
I do distrust the poet who discerns
No character or glory in his times,
And trundles back his soul five hundred years,
Past moat and drawbridge, into a castle-court,
Oh not to sing of lizards or of toads
Alive i' the ditch there!–'twere excusable;
But of some black chief, half knight, half sheep-lifter
Some beauteous dame, half chattel and half queen,
As dead as must be, for the greater part,
The poems made on their chivalric bones.
And that's no wonder: death inherits death.
Nay, if there's room for poets in the world
A little overgrown, (I think there is)
Their sole work is to represent the age,
Their age, not Charlemagne's,–this live, throbbing age,
That brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, aspires,
And spends more passion, more heroic heat,
Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing-rooms,
Than Roland with his knights, at Roncesvalles.
To flinch from modern varnish, coat or flounce,
Cry out for togas and the picturesque,
Is fatal,–foolish too. King Arthur's self
Was commonplace to Lady Guenever;
And Camelot to minstrels seemed as flat,
As Regent street to poets.
But still, unscrupulously epic, catch
Upon a burning lava of a song,
The full-veined, heaving, double-breasted Age:
That, when the next shall come, the men of that
May touch the impress with reverent hand, and say
'Behold,–behold the paps we all have sucked!
That bosom seems to beat still, or at least
It sets ours beating. This is living art,
Which thus presents, and thus records true life.'
What form is best for poems? Let me think
Of forms less, and the external. Trust the spirit,
As sovran nature does, to make the form;
For otherwise we only imprison spirit,
And not embody. Inward evermore
To outward,–so in life, and so in art,
Which still is life.
Five acts to make a play.
And why not fifteen? Why not ten? or seven?
What matter for the number of the leaves,
Supposing the tree lives and grows? exact
The literal unities of time and place,
When 'tis the essence of passion to ignore
Both time and place? Absurd. Keep up the fire
And leave the generous flames to shape themselves.
'Tis true the stage requires obsequiousness
To this or that convention; 'exit' here
And 'enter' there; the points for clapping, fixed,
Like Jacob's white-peeled rods before the rams;
And all the close-curled imagery clipped
In manner of their fleece at shearing time.
Forget to prick the galleries to the heart
Precisely at the fourth act,–culminate
Our five pyramidal acts with one act more,–
We're lost so! Shakspeare's ghost could scarcely plead
Against our just damnation. Stand aside;
We'll muse for comfort that, last century,
On this same tragic stage on which we have failed,
A wigless Hamlet would have failed the same.
And whosoever writes good poetry,
Looks just to art. He does not write for you
Or me,–for London or for Edinburgh;
He will not suffer the best critic known
To step into his sunshine of free thought
And self-absorbed conception, and exact
An inch-long swerving of the holy lines.
If virtue done for popularity
Defiles like vice, can art for praise or hire
Still keep its splendour, and remain pure art?
Eschew such serfdom. What the poet writes,
He writes: mankind accepts it, if it suits,
And that's success: if not, the poem's passed
From hand to hand, and yet from hand to hand,
Until the unborn snatch it, crying out
In pity on their fathers' being so dull,
And that's success too.
I will write no plays.
Because the drama, less sublime in this,
Makes lower appeals, defends more menially,
Adopts the standard of the public taste
To chalk its height on, wears a dog chain round
Its regal neck, and learns to carry and fetch
The fashions of the day to please the day;
Fawns close on pit and boxes, who clap hands,
Commending chiefly its docility
And humour in stage-tricks; or else indeed
Gets hissed at, howled at, stamped at like a dog,
Or worse, we'll say. For dogs, unjustly kicked,
Yell, bite at need; but if your dramatist
(Being wronged by some five hundred nobodies
Because their grosser brains most naturally
Misjudge the fineness of his subtle wit)
Shows teeth an almond's breath, protests the length
Of a.modest phrase,–' My gentle countrymen,
'There's something in it, haply of your fault,'–
Why then, besides five hundred nobodies,
He'll have five thousand, and five thousand more,
Against him,–the whole public,–all the hoofs
Of King Saul's father's asses, in full drove,–
And obviously deserve it. He appealed
To these,–and why say more if they condemn,
Than if they praised him?–Weep, my Æschylus,
But low and far, upon Sicilian shores!
For since 'twas Athens (so I read the myth)
Who gave commission to that fatal weight,
The tortoise, cold and hard, to drop on thee
And crush thee,–better cover thy bald head;
She'll hear the softest hum of Hyblan bee
Before thy loud'st protesting.–For the rest,
The risk's still worse upon the modern stage;
I could not, in so little, accept success,
Nor would I risk so much, in ease and calm,
For manifester gains; let those who prize,
Pursue them: I stand off.
And yet, forbid,
That any irreverent fancy or conceit
Should litter in the Drama's throne-room, where
The rulers of our art, in whose full veins
Dynastic glories mingle, sit in strength
And do their kingly work,–conceive, command,
And, from the imagination's crucial heat,
Catch up their men and women all a-flame
For action all alive, and forced to prove
Their life by living out heart, brain, and nerve,
Until mankind makes witness, 'These be men
As we are,' and vouchsafes the kiss that's due
To Imogen and Juliet–sweetest kin
On art's side.
'Tis that, honouring to its worth
The drama, I would fear to keep it down
To the level of the footlights. Dies no more
The sacrificial goat, for Bacchus slain,–
His filmed eyes fluttered by the whirling white
Of choral vestures,–troubled in his blood
While tragic voices that clanged keen as swords,
Leapt high together with the altar-flame,
And made the blue air wink. The waxen mask,
Which set the grand still front of Themis' son
Upon the puckered visage of a player;–
The buskin, which he rose upon and moved,
As some tall ship, first conscious of the wind,
Sweeps slowly past the piers;–the mouthpiece,where
The mere man's voice with all its breaths and breaks
Went sheathed in brass, and clashed on even heights
Its phrasèd thunders;–these things are no more,
Which once were. And concluding, which is clear,
The growing drama has outgrown such toys
Of simulated stature, faces and speech,
It also, peradventure, may outgrow
The simulation of the painted scene,
Boards, actors, prompters, gaslight, and costume;
And take for a worthier stage the soul itself,
Its shifting fancies and celestial lights,
With all its grand orchestral silences
To keep the pauses of the rhythmic sounds.
Alas, I still see something to be done,
And what I do falls short of what I see,
Though I waste myself on doing. Long green days,
Worn bare of grass and sunshine,–long calm nights,
From which the silken sleeps were fretted out,–
Be witness for me, with no amateur's
Irreverent haste and busy idleness
I've set myself to art! What then? what's done?
What's done, at last?
Behold, at last, a book.
If life-blood's necessary,–which it is,
(By that blue vein athrob on Mahomet's brow,
Each prophet-poet's book must show man's blood!)
If life-blood's fertilising, I wrung mine
On every leaf of this,–unless the drops
Slid heavily on one side and left it dry.
That chances often: many a fervid man
Writes books as cold and flat as grave-yard stones
From which the lichen's scraped; and if St. Preux
Had written his own letters, as he might,
We had never wept to think of the little mole
'Neath Julie's drooping eyelid. Passion is
But something suffered, after all.
Sets action on the top of suffering:
The artist's part is both to be and do,
Transfixing with a special, central power
The flat experience of the common man,
And turning outward, with a sudden wrench,
Half agony, half ecstasy, the thing
He feels the inmost: never felt the less
Because he sings it. Does a torch less burn
For burning next reflectors of blue steel,
That he should be the colder for his place
'Twixt two incessant fires,–his personal life's,
And that intense refraction which burns back
Perpetually against him from the round
Of crystal conscience he was born into
If artist born? O sorrowful great gift
Conferred on poets, of a twofold life,
When one life has been found enough for pain!
We staggering 'neath our burden as mere men,
Being called to stand up straight as demi-gods,
Support the intolerable strain and stress
Of the universal, and send clearly up
With voices broken by the human sob,
Our poems to find rhymes among the stars!
But soft!–a 'poet' is a word soon said;
A book's a thing soon written. Nay, indeed,
The more the poet shall be questionable,
The more unquestionably comes his book!
And this of mine,–well, granting to myself
Some passion in it, furrowing up the flats,
Mere passion will not prove a volume worth
Its gall and rags even. Bubbles round a keel
Mean nought, excepting that the vessel moves.
There's more than passion goes to make a man,
Or book, which is a man too.
I am sad:
I wonder if Pygmalion had these doubts,
And, feeling the hard marble first relent,
Grow supple to the straining of his arms,
And tingle through its cold to his burning lip,
Supposed his senses mocked, and that the toil
Of stretching past the known and seen, to reach
The archetypal Beauty out of sight,
Had made his heart beat fast enough for two,
And with his own life dazed and blinded him!
Not so; Pygmalion loved,–and whoso loves
Believes the impossible.
And I am sad:
I cannot thoroughly love a work of mine,
Since none seems worthy of my thought and hope
More highly mated. He has shot them down,
My Phoebus Apollo, soul within my soul,
Who judges by the attempted, what's attained,
And with the silver arrow from his height,
Has struck down all my works before my face,
While I say nothing. Is there aught to say?
I called the artist but a greatened man:
He may be childless also, like a man.
I laboured on alone. The wind and dust
And sun of the world beat blistering in my face;
And hope, now for me, now against me, dragged
My spirits onward,–as some fallen balloon,
Which, whether caught by blossoming tree or bare,
Is torn alike. I sometimes touched my aim,
Or seemed,–and generous souls cried out, 'Be strong,
Take courage; now you're on our level,–now!
The next step saves you!' I was flushed with praise,
But, pausing just a moment to draw breath,
I could not choose but murmur to myself
'Is this all? all that's done? and all that's gained?
If this then be success, 'tis dismaller
Than any failure.'
O my God, my God,
O supreme Artist, who as sole return
For all the cosmic wonder of Thy work,
Demandest of us just a word . . a name,
'My Father!'–thou hast knowledge, only thou,
How dreary 'tis for women to sit still
On winter nights by solitary fires,
And hear the nations praising them far off;
Too far! ay, praising our quick sense of love,
Our very heart of passionate womanhood,
Which could not beat so in the verse without
Being present also in the unkissed lips,
And eyes undried because there's none to ask
The reason they grew moist.
To sit alone,
And think, for comfort, how, that very night,
Affianced lovers, leaning face to face
With sweet half-listenings for each other's breath,
Are reading haply from some page of ours,
To pause with a thrill, as if their cheeks had touched,
When such a stanza, level to their mood,
Seems floating their own thoughts out–'So I feel
For thee,'–'And I, for thee: this poet knows
What everlasting love is!'–how, that night.
A father, issuing from the misty roads
Upon the luminous round of lamp and hearth
And happy children, having caught up first
The youngest there until it shrunk and shrieked
To feel the cold chin prick its dimple through
With winter from the hills, may throw i' the lap
Of the eldest, (who has learnt to drop her lids
To hide some sweetness newer than last year's)
Our book and cry, . . 'Ah you, you care for rhymes;
So here be rhymes to pore on under trees,
When April comes to let you! I've been told
They are not idle as so many are,
But set hearts beating pure as well as fast:
It's yours, the book: I'll write your name in it,–
That so you may not lose, however lost
In poet's lore and charming reverie,
The thought of how your father thought of you
In riding from the town.'
To have our books
Appraised by love, associated with love,
While we sit loveless! is it hard, you think?
At least 'tis mournful. Fame, indeed, 'twas said,
Means simply love. It was a man said that.
And then there's love and love: the love of all
(To risk, in turn, a woman's paradox,)
Is but a small thing to the love of one.
You bid a hungry child be satisfied
With a heritage of many corn-fields: nay,
He says he's hungry,–he would rather have
That little barley-cake you keep from him
While reckoning up his harvests. So with us;
(Here, Romney, too, we fail to generalise!)
Hungry! but it's pitiful
To wail like unweaned babes and suck our thumbs
Because we're hungry. Who, in all this world,
(Wherein we are haply set to pray and fast,
And learn what good is by its opposite)
Has never hungered? Woe to him who has found
The meal enough: if Ugolino's full,
His teeth have crunched some foul unnatural thing:
For here satiety proves penury
More utterly irremediable. And since
We needs must hunger,–better, for man's love,
Than God's truth! better, for companions sweet,
Than great convictions! let us bear our weights,
Preferring dreary hearths to desert souls.
Well, well, they say we're envious, we who rhyme;
But I, because I am a woman, perhaps,
And so rhyme ill, am ill at envying.
I never envied Graham his breadth of style,
Which gives you, with a random smutch or two,
(Near-sighted critics analyse to smutch)
Such delicate perspectives of full life;
Nor Belmore, for the unity of aim
To which he cuts his cedarn poems, fine
As sketchers do their pencils; not Mark Gage,
For that caressing colour and trancing tone
Whereby you're swept away and melted in
The sensual element, which, with a back wave,
Restores you to the level of pure souls
And leaves you with Plotinus. None of these,
For native gifts or popular applause,
I've envied; but for this,–that when, by chance,
Says some one,–'There goes Belmore, a great man!
He leaves clean work behind him, and requires
No sweeper up of the chips,' . . a girl I know,
Who answers nothing, save with her brown eyes,
Smiles unawares, as if a guardian saint
Smiled in her:–for this, too,–that Gage comes home
And lays his last book's prodigal review
Upon his mother's knees, where, years ago,
He had laid his childish spelling-book and learned
To chirp and peck the letters from her mouth,
As young birds must. 'Well done,' she murmured then,
She will not say it now more wonderingly;
And yet the last 'Well done' will touch him more,
As catching up to-day and yesterday
In a perfect chord of love; and so, Mark Gage,
I envy you your mother!–and you, Graham,
Because you have a wife who loves you so,
She half forgets, at moments, to be proud
Of being Graham's wife, until a friend observes,
'The boy here, has his father's massive brow,
Done small in wax . . if we push back the curls.'
Who loves me? Dearest father,–mother sweet,–
I speak the names out sometimes by myself,
And make the silence shiver: they sound strange,
As Hindostanee to an Ind-born man
Accustomed many years to English speech;
Or lovely poet-words grown obsolete,
Which will not leave off singing. Up in heaven
I have my father,–with my mother's face
Beside him in a blotch of heavenly light;
No more for earth's familiar household use,
No more! The best verse written by this hand,
Can never reach them where they sit, to seem
Well-done to them. Death quite unfellows us,
Sets dreadful odds betwixt the live and dead,
And makes us part as those at Babel did,
Through sudden ignorance of a common tongue.
A living Cæsar would not dare to play
At bowls, with such as my dead father is.
And yet, this may be less so than appears,
This change and separation. Sparrows five
For just two farthings, and God cares for each.
If God is not too great for little cares,
Is any creature, because gone to God?
I've seen some men, veracious, nowise mad,
Who have thought or dreamed, declared and testified,
They've heard the Dead a-ticking like a clock
Which strikes the hours of the eternities,
Beside them, with their natural ears, and known
That human spirits feel the human way,
And hate the unreasoning awe which waves them off
From possible communion. It may be.
At least, earth separates as well as heaven.
For instance, I have not seen Romney Leigh
Full eighteen months . . add six, you get two years.
They say he's very busy with good works,–
Has parted Leigh Hall into almshouses.
He made an almshouse of his heart one day,
Which ever since is loose upon the latch
For those who pull the string.–I never did.
It always makes me sad to go abroad;
And now I'm sadder that I went to-night
Among the lights and talkers at Lord Howe's.
His wife is gracious, with her glossy braids,
And even voice, and gorgeous eyeballs, calm
As her other jewels. If she's somewhat cold,
Who wonders, when her blood has stood so long
In the ducal reservoir she calls her line
By no means arrogantly? she's not proud;
Not prouder than the swan is of the lake
He has always swum in;–'tis her element,
And so she takes it with a natural grace,
Ignoring tadpoles. She just knows, perhaps,
There are men, move on without outriders,
Which isn't her fault. Ah, to watch her face,
When good Lord Howe expounds his theories
Of social justice and equality–
'Tis curious, what a tender, tolerant bend
Her neck takes: for she loves him, likes his talk,
Such clever talk–that dear, odd Algernon!'
She listens on, exactly as if he talked
Some Scandinavian myth of Lemures,
Too pretty to dispute, and too absurd.
She's gracious to me as her husband's friend,
And would be gracious, were I not a Leigh,
Being used to smile just so, without her eyes,
On Joseph Strangways, the Leeds mesmerist,
And Delia Dobbs, the lecturer from 'the States'
Upon the 'Woman's question.' Then, for him,
I like him . . he's my friend. And all the rooms
Were full of crinkling silks that swept about
The fine dust of most subtle courtesies.
What then?–why then, we come home to be sad.
How lovely One I love not, looked to-night!
She's very pretty, Lady Waldemar.
Her maid must use both hands to twist that coil
Of tresses, then be careful lest the rich
Bronze rounds should slip :–she missed, though, a grey hair,
A single one,–I saw it; otherwise
The woman looked immortal. How they told,
Those alabaster shoulders and bare breasts,
On which the pearls, drowned out of sight in milk,
Were lost, excepting for the ruby-clasp!
They split the amaranth velvet-boddice down
To the waist, or nearly, with the audacious press
Of full-breathed beauty. If the heart within
Were half as white!–but, if it were, perhaps
The breast were closer covered, and the sight
Less aspectable, by half, too.
The young man with the German student's look–
A sharp face, like a knife in a cleft stick,
Which shot up straight against the parting line
So equally dividing the long hair,–
Say softly to his neighbour, (thirty-five
And mediæval) 'Look that way, Sir Blaise.
She's Lady Waldemar–to the left,–in red–
Whom Romney Leigh, our ablest man just now,
Is soon to marry.'
Sir Blaise Delorme, with quiet, priest-like voice,
Too used to syllable damnations round
To make a natural emphasis worth while:
'Is Leigh your ablest man? the same, I think,
Once jilted by a recreant pretty maid
Adopted from the people? Now, in change,
He seems to have plucked a flower from the other side
Of the social hedge.'
'A flower, a flower,' exclaimed
My German student,–his own eyes full-blown
Bent on her. He was twenty, certainly.
Sir Blaise resumed with gentle arrogance,
As if he had dropped his alms into a hat,
And had the right to counsel,–'My young friend,
I doubt your ablest man's ability
To get the least good or help meet for him,
For pagan phalanstery or Christian home,
From such a flowery creature.'
My student murmured, rapt,–'Mark how she stirs
Just waves her head, as if a flower indeed,
Touched far off by the vain breath of our talk.'
At which that bilious Grimwald, (he who writes
For the Renovator) who had seemed absorbed
Upon the table-book of autographs,
(I dare say mentally he crunched the bones
Of all those writers, wishing them alive
To feel his tooth in earnest) turned short round
With low carnivorous laugh,–'A flower, of course!
She neither sews nor spins,–and takes no thought
Of her garments . . falling off.'
The student flinched,
Sir Blaise, the same; then both, drawing back their chairs
As if they spied black-beetles on the floor,
Pursued their talk, without a word being thrown
To the critic.
Good Sir Blaise's brow is high
And noticeably narrow; a strong wind,
You fancy, might unroof him suddenly,
And blow that great top attic off his head
So piled with feudal relics. You admire
His nose in profile, though you miss his chin;
But, though you miss his chin, you seldom miss
His golden cross worn innermostly, (carved
For penance, by a saintly Styrian monk
Whose flesh was too much with him,) slipping trough
Some unaware unbuttoned casualty
Of the under-waistcoat. With an absent air
Sir Blaise sate fingering it and speaking low,
While I, upon the sofa, heard it all.
'My dear young friend, if we could bear our eyes
Like blessedest St. Lucy, on a plate,
They would not trick us into choosing wives,
As doublets, by the colour. Otherwise
Our fathers chose,–and therefore, when they had hung
Their household keys about a lady's waist,
The sense of duty gave her dignity:
She kept her bosom holy to her babes;
And, if a moralist reproved her dress,
'Twas, 'Too much starch!'–and not, 'Too little lawn!'
'Now, pshaw!' returned the other in a heat,
A little fretted by being called 'young friend,'
Or so I took it,–'for St. Lucy's sake,
If she's the saint to curse by, let us leave
Our fathers,–plagued enough about our sons!'
(He stroked his beardless chin) 'yes, plagued, sir, plagued:
The future generations lie on us
As heavy as the nightmare of a seer;
Our meat and drink grow painful prophecy:
I ask you,–have we leisure, if we liked,
To hollow out our weary hands to keep
Your intermittent rushlight of the past
From draughts in lobbies? Prejudice of sex,
And marriage-laws . . the socket drops them through
While we two speak,–however may protest
Some over-delicate nostrils, like our own,
'Gainst odours thence arising.'
'You are young,'
Sir Blaise objected.
'If I am,' he said
With fire,–'though somewhat less so than I seem.
The young run on before, and see the thing
That's coming. Reverence for the young, I cry.
In that new church for which the world's near ripe,
You'll have the younger in the elder's chair,
Presiding with his ivory front of hope
O'er foreheads clawed by cruel carrion birds
Of life's experience.'
'Pray your blessing, sir,'
Sir Blaise replied good-humouredly,–'I plucked
A silver hair this morning from my beard,
Which left me your inferior. Would I were
Eighteen, and worthy to admonish you!
If young men of your order run before
To see such sights as sexual prejudice
And marriage-law dissolved,–in plainer words,
A general concubinage expressed
In a universal pruriency,–the thing
Is scarce worth running fast for, and you'd gain
By loitering with your elders.'
'Ah,' he said,
'Who, getting to the top of Pisgah-hill,
Can talk with one at the bottom of the view,
To make it comprehensible? Why Leigh
Himself, although our ablest man, I said,
Is scarce advanced to see as far as this,
Which some are: he takes up imperfectly
The social question–by one handle–leaves
The rest to trail. A Christian socialist,
Is Romney Leigh, you understand.'
I disbelieve in Christians-pagans, much
As you in women-fishes. If we mix
Two colours, we lose both, and make a third
Distinct from either. Mark you! to mistake
A colour is the sign of a sick brain,
And mine, I thank the saints, is clear and cool:
A neutral tint is here impossible.
The church,–and by the church, I mean, of course,
The catholic, apostolic, mother-church,–
Draws lines as plain and straight as her own wall;
Inside of which, are Christians, obviously,
And outside . . dogs.'
'We thank you. Well I know
The ancient mother-church would fain still bite
For all her toothless gums,–as Leigh himself
Would fain be a Christian still, for all his wit;
Pass that; you two may settle it, for me.
You're slow in England. In a month I learnt
At Göttingen, enough philosophy
To stock your English schools for fifty years;
Pass that, too. Here, alone, I stop you short,
–Supposing a true man like Leigh could stand
Unequal in the stature of his life
To the height of his opinions. Choose a wife
Because of a smooth skin?–not he, not he!
He'd rail at Venus' self for creaking shoes,
Unless she walked his way of righteousness:
And if he takes a Venus Meretrix
(No imputation on the lady there)
Be sure that, by some sleight of Christian art,
He has metamorphosed and converted her
To a Blessed Virgin.'
'Soft!' Sir Blaise drew breath
As if it hurt him,–'Soft! no blasphemy,
I pray you!'
'The first Christians did the thing;
Why not the last?' asked he of Göttingen,
With just that shade of sneering on the lip,
Compensates for the lagging of the beard,–
'And so the case is. If that fairest fair
Is talked of as the future wife of Leigh,
She's talked of, too, at least as certainly,
As Leigh's disciple. You may find her name
On all his missions and commissions, school,
Asylums, hospitals,–he has had her down,
With other ladies whom her starry lead
Persuaded from their spheres, to his country-place
In Shropshire, to the famed phalanstery
At Leigh Hall, christianised from Fourier's own,
(In which he has planted out his sapling stocks
Of knowledge into social nurseries)
And there, they say, she has tarried half a week,
And milked the cows, and churned, and pressed the curd,
And said 'my sister' to the lowest drab
Of all the assembled castaways; such girls!
Ay, sided with them at the washing-tub–
Conceive, Sir Blaise, those naked perfect arms,
Round glittering arms, plunged elbow-deep in suds,
Like wild swans hid in lilies all a-shake.'
Lord Howe came up. 'What, talking poetry
So near the image of the unfavouring Muse?
That's you, Miss Leigh: I've watched you half an hour,
Precisely as I watched the statue called
A Pallas in the Vatican;–you mind
The face, Sir Blaise?–intensely calm and sad,
As wisdom cut it off from fellowship,–
But that spoke louder. Not a word from you!
And these two gentlemen were bold, I marked,
And unabashed by even your silence.'
Said I, 'my dear Lord Howe, you shall not speak
To a printing woman who has lost her place,
(The sweet safe corner of the household fire
Behind the heads of children) compliments
As if she were a woman. We who have clipt
The curls before our eyes, may see at least
As plain as men do: speak out, man to man;
No compliments, beseech you.'
'Friend to friend,
Let that be. We are sad to-night, I saw,
(–Good night, Sir Blaise! Ah, Smith–he has slipped away)
I saw you across the room, and stayed, Miss Leigh,
To keep a crowd of lion-hunters off,
With faces toward your jungle. There were three;
A spacious lady, five feet ten and fat,
Who has the devil in her (and there's room)
For walking to and fro upon the earth,
From Chippewa to China; she requires
Your autograph upon a tinted leaf
'Twixt Queen Pomare's and Emperor Soulouque's;
Pray give it; she has energies, though fat:
For me, I'd rather see a rick on fire
Than such a woman angry. Then a youth
Fresh from the backwoods, green as the underboughs,
Asks modestly, Miss Leigh, to kiss your shoe,
And adds, he has an epic, in twelve parts,
Which when you've read, you'll do it for his boot,–
All which I saved you, and absorb next week
Both manuscript and man,–because a lord
Is still more potent that a poetess,
With any extreme republican. Ah, ah,
You smile at last, then.'
'Leave the smile,
I'll lose the thanks for't,–ay, and throw you in
My transatlantic girl, with golden eyes,
That draw you to her splendid whiteness, as
The pistil of a water-lily draws,
Adust with gold. Those girls across the sea
Are tyrannously pretty,–and I swore
(She seemed to me an innocent, frank girl)
To bring her to you for a woman's kiss,
Not now, but on some other day or week:
–We'll call it perjury; I give her up.'
'No, bring her.'
'Now,' said he, 'you make it hard
To touch such goodness with a grimy palm.
I thought to tease you well, and fret you cross,
And steel myself, when rightly vexed with you,
For telling you a thing to tease you more.'
'No, no; nothing worse,' he cried,
'Of Romney Leigh, than what is buzzed about,–
That he is taken in an eye-trap too,
Like many half as wise. The thing I mean
Refers to you, not him.'
'Refers to me,'
He echoed,–'Me! You sound it like a stone
Dropped down a dry well very listlessly,
By one who never thinks about the toad
Alive at the bottom. Presently perhaps
You'll sound your 'me' more proudly–till I shrink.
Lord Howe's the toad, then, in this question?'
We'll take it graver. Give me sofa-room,
And quiet hearing. You know Eglinton,
John Eglinton, of Eglinton in Kent?'
'Is he the toad?–he's rather like the snail;
Known chiefly for the house upon his back:
Divide the man and house–you kill the man;
That's Eglinton of Eglinton, Lord Howe.'
He answered grave. 'A reputable man,
An excellent landlord of the olden stamp,
If somewhat slack in new philanthropies;
Who keeps his birthdays with a tenants' dance,
Is hard upon them when they miss the church
Or keep their children back from catechism,
But not ungentle when the aged poor
Pick sticks at hedge-sides; nay, I've heard him say
'The old dame has a twinge because she stoops:
'That's punishment enough for felony.
'O tender-hearted landlord! May I take
My long lease with him, when the time arrives
For gathering winter-faggots?'
'He likes art,
Buys books and pictures . . of a certain kind;
Neglects no patient duty; a good son' . . .
'To a most obedient mother. Born to wear
His father's shoes, he wears her husband's too:
Indeed, I've heard its touching. Dear Lord Howe,
You shall not praise me so against your heart,
When I'm at worst for praise and faggots.'
Less bitter with me, for . . in short,' he said,
'I have a letter, which he urged me so
To bring you . . I could scarcely choose but yield
Insisting that a new love passing through
The hand of an old friendship, caught from it
Some reconciling perfume.'
'Love, you say?
My lord, I cannot love. I only find
The rhymes for love,–and that's not love, my lord.
Take back your letter.'
'Pause: you'll read it first?'
'I will not read it: it is stereotyped;
The same he wrote to,–anybody's name,–
Anne Blythe, the a�ctress, when she had died so true,
A duchess fainted in an open box:
Pauline, the dancer, after the great pas,
In which her little feet winked overhead
Like other fire-flies, and amazed the pit:
Or Baldinacci, when her F in alt
Had touched the silver tops of heaven itself
With such a pungent soul-dart, even the Queen
Laid softly, each to each, her white-gloved palms,
And sighed for joy: or else (I thank your friend)
Aurora Leigh,–when some indifferent rhymes,
Like those the boys sang round the holy ox
On Memphis-road, have chanced, perhaps, to set
Our Apis-public lowing. Oh, he wants,
Instead of any worthy wife at home,
A star upon his stage of Eglinton!
Advise him that he is not overshrewd
In being so little modest: a dropped star
Makes bitter waters, says a Book I've read,–
And there's his unread letter,'
'My dear friend,'
Lord Howe began . .
In haste I tore the phrase.
'You mean your friend of Eglinton, or me?'
'I mean you, you,' he answered with some fire.
'A happy life means prudent compromise;
The tare runs through the farmer's garnered sheaves;
But though the gleaner's apron holds pure wheat,
We count her poorer. Tare with wheat, we cry,
And good with drawbacks. You, you love your art,
And, certain of vocation, set your soul
On utterance. Only, . . in this world we have made,
(They say God made it first, but, if He did,
'Twas so long since, . . and, since, we have spoiled it so,
He scarce would know it, if He looked this way,
From hells we preach of, with the flames blown out,)
In this bad, twisted, topsy-turvy world,
Where all the heaviest wrongs get uppermost,–
In this uneven, unfostering England here,
Where ledger-strokes and sword-strokes count indeed,
But soul-strokes merely tell upon the flesh
They strike from,–it is hard to stand for art,
Unless some golden tripod from the sea
Be fished up, by Apollo's divine chance,
To throne such feet as yours, my prophetess,
At Delphi. Think,–the god comes down as fierce
As twenty bloodhounds! shakes you, strangles you,
Until the oracular shriek shall ooze in froth!
At best it's not all ease,–at worst too hard:
A place to stand on is a 'vantage gained,
And here's your tripod. To be plain, dear friend,
You're poor, except in what you richly give;
You labour for your own bread painfully,
Or ere you pour our wine. For art's sake, pause.'
I answered slow,–as some wayfaring man,
Who feels himself at night too far from home,
Makes stedfast face against the bitter wind.
'Is art so less a thing than virtue is,
That artists first must cater for their ease
Or ever they make issue past themselves
To generous use? alas, and is it so,
That we, who would be somewhat clean, must sweep
Our ways as well as walk them, and no friend
Confirm us nobly,–'Leave results to God,
But you be clean?' What! 'prudent compromise
Makes acceptable life,' you say instead,
You, you, Lord Howe?–in things indifferent, well.
For instance, compromise the wheaten bread
For rye, the meat for lentils, silk for serge,
And sleep on down, if needs, for sleep on straw;
But there, end compromise. I will not bate
One artist-dream, on straw or down, my lord,
Nor pinch my liberal soul, though I be poor,
Nor cease to love high, though I live thus low.
So speaking, with less anger in my voice
Than sorrow, I rose quickly to depart;
While he, thrown back upon the noble shame
Of such high-stumbling natures, murmured words,
The right words after wrong ones. Ah, the man
Is worthy, but so given to entertain
Impossible plans of superhuman life,–
He sets his virtues on so raised a shelf,
To keep them at the grand millennial height,
He has to mount a stool to get at them;
And meantime, lives on quite the common way,
With everybody's morals.
As we passed,
Lord Howe insisting that his friendly arm
Should oar me across the sparkling brawling stream
Which swept from room to room, we fell at once
On Lady Waldemar. 'Miss Leigh,' she said,
And gave me such a smile, so cold and bright,
As if she tried it in a 'tiring glass
And liked it; 'all to-night I've strained at you,
As babes at baubles held up out of reach
By spiteful nurses, ('Never snatch,' they say,)
And there you sate, most perfectly shut in
By good Sir Blaize and clever Mister Smith,
And then our dear Lord Howe! at last, indeed,
I almost snatched. I have a world to speak
About your cousin's place in Shropshire, where
I've been to see his work . . our work,–you heard
I went? . . and of a letter yesterday,
In which, if I should read a page or two,
You might feel interest, though you're locked of course
In literary toil.–You'll like to hear
Your last book lies at the phalanstery,
As judged innocuous for the elder girls
And younger women who still care for books.
We all must read, you see, before we live:
But slowly the ineffable light comes up,
And, as it deepens, drowns the written word,–
So said your cousin, while we stood and felt
A sunset from his favorite beech-tree seat:
He might have been a poet if he would,
But then he saw the higher thing at once,
And climbed to it. It think he looks well now,
Has quite got over that unfortunate . .
Ah, ah . . I know it moved you. Tender-heart!
You took a liking to the wretched girl.
Perhaps you thought the marriage suitable,
Who knows? a poet hankers for romance,
And so on. As for Romney Leigh, 'tis sure
He never loved her,–never. By the way,
You have not heard of her . .? quite out of sight.
And out of saving? lost in every sense?'
She might have gone on talking half-an-hour,
And I stood still, and cold, and pale, I think,
As a garden-statue a child pelts with snow
For pretty pastime. Every now and then
I put in 'yes' or 'no,' I scarce knew why;
The blind man walks wherever the dog pulls,
And so I answered. Till Lord Howe broke in;
'What penance takes the wretch who interrupts
The talk of charming women? I, at last,
Must brave it. Pardon, Lady Waldemar!
The lady on my arm is tired, unwell,
And loyally I've promised she may say
Nor harder word this evening, than . . goodnight;
The rest her face speaks for her.'–Then we went.
And I breathe large at home. I drop my cloak,
Unclasp my girdle, loose the band that ties
My hair . . now could I but unloose my soul!
We are sepulchred alive in this close world,
And want more room.
The charming woman there–
This reckoning up and writing down her talk
Affects me singularly. How she talked
To pain me! woman's spite!–You wear steel-mail;
A woman takes a housewife from her breast,
And plucks the delicatest needle out
As 'twere a rose, and pricks you carefully
'Neath nails, 'neath eyelids, in your nostrils,–say,
A beast would roar so tortured,–but a man,
A human creature, must not, shall not flinch,
No, not for shame.
What vexes after all,
Is just that such as she, with such as I,
Knows how to vex. Sweet heaven, she takes me up
As if she had fingered me and dog-eared me
And spelled me by the fireside, half a life!
She knows my turns, my feeble points,–What then?
The knowledge of a thing implies the thing;
Of course she found that in me, she saw that,
Her pencil underscored this for a fault,
And I, still ignorant. Shut the book up! close!
And crush that beetle in the leaves.
At last we shall grow hard too, like the rest,
And call it self-defence because we are soft.
And after all, now, . . why should I be pained,
That Romney Leigh, my cousin, should espouse
This Lady Waldemar? And, say, she held
Her newly-blossomed gladness in my face, . .
'Twas natural surely, if not generous,
Considering how, when winter held her fast,
I helped the frost with mine, and pained her more
Than she pains me. Pains me!–but wherefore pained?
'Tis clear my cousin Romney wants a wife,–
So, good!–The man's need of the woman, here,
Is greater than the woman's of the man,
And easier served; for where the man discerns
A sex, (ah, ah, the man can generalise,
Said he) we see but one, ideally
And really: where we yearn to lose ourselves
And melt like white pearls in another's wine,
He seeks to double himself by what he loves,
And make his drink more costly by our pearls.
At board, at bed, at work, and holiday,
It is not good for a man to be alone,–
And that's his way of thinking, first and last;
And thus my cousin Romney wants a wife.
But then my cousin sets his dignity
On personal virtue. If he understands
By love, like others, self-aggrandisement,
It is that he may verily be great
By doing rightly and kindly. Once he thought,
For charitable ends set duly forth
In heaven's white judgement-book, to marry . . ah,
We'll call her name Aurora Leigh, although
She's changed since then!–and once, for social ends,
Poor Marian Erle, my sister Marian Erle,
My woodland sister, sweet Maid Marian,
Whose memory moans on in me like the wind
Through ill-shut casements, making me more sad
Than ever I find reasons for. Alas,
Poor pretty plaintive face, embodied ghost,
He finds it easy, then, to clap thee off
From pulling at his sleeve and book and pen,–
He locks thee out at night into the cold,
Away from butting with thy horny eyes
Against his crystal dreams,–that, now, he's strong
To love anew? that Lady Waldemar
Succeeds my Marian?
After all, why not?
He loved not Marian, more than once he loved
Aurora. If he loves, at last, that Third,
Albeit she prove as slippery as spilt oil
On marble floors, I will not augur him
Ill luck for that. Good love, howe'er ill-placed,
Is better for a man's soul in the end,
Than if he loved ill what deserves love well.
A pagan, kissing, for a step of Pan,
The wild-goat's hoof-print on the loamy down,
Exceeds our modern thinker who turns back
The strata . . granite, limestone, coal, and clay,
Concluding coldly with, 'Here's law! Where's God?'
And then at worse,–if Romney loves her not,–
At worst,–if he's incapable of love,
Which may be–then indeed, for such a man
Incapable of love, she's good enough;
For she, at worst too, is a woman still
And loves him as the sort of woman can.
My loose long hair began to burn and creep,
Alive to the very ends, about my knees:
I swept it backward as the wind sweeps flame,
With the passion of my hands. Ah, Romney laughed
One day . . (how full the memories came up!)
'–Your Florence fire-flies live on in your hair,'
He said, 'it gleams so.' Well, I wrung them out,
My fire-flies; made a knot as hard as life,
Of those loose, soft, impracticable curls,
And then sat down and thought . . 'She shall not think
Her thoughts of me,'–and drew my desk and wrote.
'Dear Lady Waldemar, I could not speak
With people around me, nor can sleep to-night
And not speak, after the great news I heard
Of you and of my cousin. My you be
Most happy; and the good he meant the world,
Replenish his own life. Say what I say,
And let my word be sweeter for your mouth,
As you are you . . I only Aurora Leigh.'
That's quiet, guarded! Though she hold it up
Against the light, she'll not see through it more
Than lies there to be seen. So much for pride;
And now for peace, a little! Let me stop
All writing back . . 'Sweet thanks, my sweetest friend,
'You've made more joyful my great joy itself.'
–No, that's too simple! she would twist it thus,
'My joy would still be as sweet as thyme in drawers,
However shut up in the dark and dry;
But violets, aired and dewed by love like yours,
Out-smell all thyme! we keep that in our clothes,
But drop the other down our bosoms, till
they smell like' . . ah, I see her writing back
Just so. She'll make a nosegay of her words,
And tie it with blue ribbons at the end
To suit a poet;–pshaw!
And then we'll have
The call to church; the broken, sad, bad dream
Dreamed out at last; the marriage-vow complete
With the marriage-breakfast; praying in white gloves,
Drawn off in haste for drinking pagan toasts
In somewhat stronger wine than any sipped
By gods, since Bacchus had his way with grapes.
A postscript stops all that, and rescues me.
'You need not write. I have been overworked,
And think of leaving London, England, even,
And hastening to get nearer to the sun,
Where men sleep better. So, adieu,'–I fold
And seal,–and now I'm out of all the coil;
I breathe now; I spring upward like a branch,
A ten-years school-boy with a crooked stick
May pull down to his level, in search of nuts,
But cannot hold a moment. How we twang
Back on the blue sky, and assert our height,
While he stares after! Now, the wonder seems
That I could wrong myself by such a doubt.
We poets always have uneasy hearts;
Because our hearts, large-rounded as the globe,
Can turn but one side to the sun at once.
We are used to dip our artist-hands in gall
And potash, trying potentialities
Of alternated colour, till at last
We get confused, and wonder for our skin
How nature tinged it first. Well–here's the true
Good flesh-colour; I recognise my hand,–
Which Romney Leigh may clasp as just a friend's,
And keep his clean.
And now, my Italy.
Alas, if we could ride with naked souls
And make no noise and pay no price at all,
I would have seen thee sooner, Italy,–
For still I have heard thee crying through my life,
Thou piercing silence of ecstatic graves,
Men call that name!
But even a witch, to-day,
Must melt down golden pieces in the nard
Wherewith to anoint her broomstick ere she rides;
And poets evermore are scant of gold,
And, if they find a piece behind the door,
It turns by sunset to a withered leaf.
The Devil himself scarce trusts his patented
Gold-making art to any who make rhymes,
But culls his Faustus from philosophers
And not from poets. 'Leave my Job,' said God;
And so, the Devil leaves him without pence,
And poverty proves, plainly, special grace.
In these new, just, administrative times,
Men clamour for an order of merit. Why?
Here's black bread on the table, and no wine!
At least I am a poet in being poor;
Thank God. I wonder if the manuscript
Of my long poem, it 'twere sold outright,
Would fetch enough to buy me shoes, to go
A-foot, (thrown in, the necessary patch
For the other side the Alps)? it cannot be:
I fear that I must sell this residue
Of my father's books; although the Elzevirs
Have fly-leaves over-written by his hand,
In faded notes as thick and fine and brown
as cobwebs on a tawny monument
Of the old Greeks–conferenda hoec cum his–
Corruptè citat–lege potiùs,
And so on, in the scholar's regal way
Of giving judgment on the parts of speech,
As if he sate on all twelve thrones up-piled,
Arraigning Israel. Ay, but books and notes
Must go together. And this Proclus too,
In quaintly dear contracted Grecian types,
Fantastically crumpled, like his thoughts
Which would not seem too plain; you go round twice
For one step forward, then you take it back
Because you're somewhat giddy! there's the rule
For Proclus. Ah, I stained this middle leaf
With pressing in't my Florentine iris-bell,
Long stalk and all; my father chided me
For that stain of blue blood,–I recollect
The peevish turn his voice took,–'Silly girls,
Who plant their flowers in our philosophy
To make it fine, and only spoil the book!
No more of it, Aurora.' Yes–no more!
Ah, blame of love, that's sweeter than all praise
Of those who love not! 'tis so lost to me,
I cannot, in such beggared life, afford
To lose my Proclus. Not for Florence, even.
The kissing Judas, Wolff, shall go instead,
Who builds us such a royal book as this
To honour a chief-poet, folio-built,
And writes above, 'The house of Nobody:'
Who floats in cream, as rich as any sucked
From Juno's breasts, the broad Homeric lines,
And, while with their spondaic prodigious mouths
They lap the lucent margins as babe-gods,
Proclaims them bastards. Wolff's an atheist;
And if the Iliad fell out, as he says,
By mere fortuitous concourse of old songs,
We'll guess as much, too, for the universe.
That Wolff, those Platos: sweep the upper shelves
As clean as this, and so I am almost rich,
Which means, not forced to think of being poor
In sight of ends. To-morrow: no delay.
I'll wait in Paris till good Carrington
Dispose of such, and, having chaffered for
My book's price with the publisher, direct
All proceeds to me. Just a line to ask
And now I come, my Italy,
My own hills! are you 'ware of me, my hills,
How I burn toward you? do you feel to-night
The urgency and yearning of my soul,
As sleeping mothers feel the sucking babe
And smile?–Nay, not so much as when, in heat,
Vain lightnings catch at your inviolate tops,
And tremble while ye are stedfast. Still, ye go
Your own determined, calm, indifferent way
Toward sunrise, shade by shade, and light by light;
Of all the grand progression nought left out;
As if God verily made you for yourselves,
And would not interrupt your life with ours.
War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.