World of beauty
Before I meet you I believe that there’s a limit for the beauty
But when I see you I know that I was wrong
Because your beauty don’t have a limit your undescribable beauty
When I see you I see the real beauty a sea of beauty
So I try to write about it to descript it and I do write and write and write
And I look to your eyes and start remember what I write about this beauty
So I find out that all what I write don’t equal a dot in your beauty sea
And I ask the poet’s to help in describe this beauty and the all try but we all know that what we write and what the poet’s will write is just a dot
A dot in your beauty sea…
By Walid T Salame
Black Moon Creeping
Sleeping eyes sleep awhile
And let me get to know your language
If I believe all I see
I would hate to be around for the dawn
Sleeping eyes stay awhile
And give me some cause to rejoice
A parody of the scene
Where my three wishes were granted to me
What you got buried? in your backyard
What secret do you sleep with when the black moon come
Sleeping eyes please come clean
Im not giving you the third degree
When you live with no mans time
Aint it hard to find some peace of mind
Sleeping eyes dont you cry
And dont pretend this is not an ending
Your history yes it seems
Has been swept out with the leaves
- quotes about language
- quotes about cleaning
- quotes about Moon
- quotes about black
- quotes about hate
- quotes about life
- quotes about intellect
- quotes about peace
Nobody Has To Get Hurt
As the sun sets and you let go
And my dreams go that way too
And I watch the silhouettes flow out of clear view
We can do this thing right
Fix what went wrong
Really make this work
Turn around real slow
Walk straight back to me
Nobody has to get hurt
We can learn from my mistakes now
I dont ask you to forget
But forgive my good intentions and where they went
I believe that beauty may captivate the very soul,
And heighten the imagination of the mind to allow it to grow:
It provides aspiration, and a path toward the same goal!
Here is how I know: because I have faith and I let it show.
Beauty's inspiration has been captured
In rhyme, lore, and film-to name but a few;
Its glory has been causal to many a heart, enraptured-
I now count myself amongst them-and know its cause too!
But for beauty's presence, I know not, where I may be:
I am made ever-better, through my privity to its existence;
All I ever need do is close mine eyes, and same I may see;
I seek evermore, proximity to same, at my heart's insistence.
I know not what I might do, without this beauty-
Mine own life a celebration of same, and my solemn duty!
From all the Africans,
From all the Europeans,
From all the Asians,
To all the races located Worldwide,
Thinking that my Attitude was all right,
This Beauty that I see,
The Don must be all smarter,
To raise the children that are so Right,
Imagine this Beauty,
In all that the Father told me,
I can Imagine,
This Beauty that is from the King,
I must come to believe,
This Beauty from my Godfather,
To raise this child and see the sun all Clearly.
Claim True Beauty
It forced her to claim true beauty
Natural one that had come her from almighty
She banged gently her head with hand
“Oh, What I did after all to claim friends”?
It is true peace in mind
At last you will find
The color you choose may reflect
Your desire coupled with noble act
What is there to look so attractive?
Cosmetic application to strive
Hide the real one and claim outer shine
That may not look after all very fine
But what a magic in this ordinary get up?
All dull colors are down not to show up
Simple shine with no more forced smile
Invitation to go along and walk for mile
No words can really explain
All acts are woven in chain
What does she speak and for what?
No answer is ever expected or sought
No flowers can claim importance?
They come up in natural environment at once
Human eyes may stare at to seek peace
Wait for appropriate time to come and release
That is all we live for and mean
Head to rest on solder and lean
Leaving behind all the worries
And final resolve to move and carry
There is so much to speak for color
White may stand for peace and not war
No other color may suit shining face
As goal is achieved in meaningful race
Ready To Meet Him
Please give me the strength I need to live...
Bear with me
We each walk the path, that weve chosen
Im ready to meet him,
Were Im living aint right
Black hate white
White hate black
Its right back
To the same fight
They got us suspecting a war
But the real war is to follow the law of the lord
Lord, you left me stranded
And I dont know why
Told me to live my life,
Now Im ready to die
Ready to fly
I cry, but I shed no tears
You told me you would dead those fears, its been years
Snakes still coming at me
Sometimes I think all you doing me is just listen
I thought that I was special
Thats what you told me
Stop acting like you dont know me
Whatd I do so bad that it sent you away from me
Not only sent you away, but made you stay away from me
(my child Im here, as Ive always been, it was you who went away,
And now are back again, what did I say? )
Follow your word, and be true
(what did you do? )
Wellwhat I wanted to do...
(what have you seen? )
Darkness and hell at a glance
(what do you want? )
All I want is another chance
(just because you went away, my doors are not locked, wanna come back home,
All you gotta do is knock)
Ya see, I left home a boy, I returned as a man
Full grown, and Im still not able to stand
(I gave you a hand)
Well...but I was looking the wrong way
Figured out the plan, then I started to pray
And that prayer, took me from here to over there
Back to over here,
Now they got me like where?
Do I belong?
Do I fit in?
Things on my mind, where do I begin?
Its easier to sin, but it hurts my heart
Im really tryin to win, so where do we start?
(thou shall not steal)
But, what if he stole from me?
(thou shall not kill)
But what if hes tryin to kill me?
(thou shall not, take my, name in vain, no matter how hard it rains,
Withstand the pain)
Our father, who art in heaven
Im not ashamed to ask for guidance, at 27
No longer afraid to knock on your door
Not scared anymore to lose my life in the war
After what I just saw, Im ridin with the lord
Cause I really cant afford to lose my head by the sword
And now that Ive seen, what I need to see
Please take me, where I need to be
(what have you learned? )
Its better to tell the truth than to lie
(what have you learned? )
To love my life until I die
(what have you learned? )
Violence isnt always the key
(what have you learned? )
You cant always believe what you see
(what have you learned? )
Its better to forgive and forget
(what have you learned? )
Give as you expect to get
(what have you learned? )
That I cant go on without you
(what have you learned? )
I musta been a fool to ever doubt you
Im ready to meet him
I refuse to persuade any emotion to a poem
like a horse I can lead to water but can't make drink.
If it's a straitjacket it's a straitjacket.
When its a wet suit it's a wet suit
to go swimming with stars in. Tea leaves.
Yarrow sticks. Tarot decks. Incinerated match books.
I listen to a poem as if it were a response
to what I've said, and didn't say.
I like the counter play of voices and mine
one among them, the whole tree full of birds,
and the chatter of black squirrels in the walls.
Midway between a car starting up and a stanza break
when I write, I feel like a thief that stole the prison
under the warden's nose, and broke out through the window,
exhilarated by the bliss of getting away with my freedom.
I'm on an island alone with the moon.
And it doesn't matter if I was marooned
or just washed up here like a wounded paint rag.
My spine is smoke. I drift tribes away from the fires
that send me like a message to the stars
without knowing what it is I'm going to say to them.
Until I get there like a crane-bag full of alphabets
and a couple of mystic words I'm keeping to myself.
Siderealized. Space speaks through its mere presence
like a field of unnamed wildflowers. Star clusters.
And there's a solitude you can't help answering
that gets deeper every time you open your mouth.
You stop fooling yourself about time the moment
it's realized there is none. You break the bones
of the sturdy ladders of all-well-and-good-but.
You crush the fossils of the crutches you once crawled upon,
take off your spurs, turn your scales into feathers,
and the wind comes along and fits wings to your heels.
Things stop being solid and become real. So
when I write everything writes along with me,
every leaf that falls upon the river like a map
changes the course of the flowing and I let it
and every fallen tree's got its hand on the rudder
and I say if not that way, where?
And the waves all answer in unison, here.
And even the loneliest guitar that ever sat under a willow
and thought of the home that wasn't there to go back to anymore
can feel crowded when myriad words begin
to introduce you to their relatives by close association,
and shades in the closets of the chameleons
that rainbows haven't worn in a thousand years.
You can see things through gravitational eyes
that telescopes have never dreamed of, and all the time
you're lost at sea in a derangement of stars,
you're pulling bodies into an empty lifeboat,
asking each of them as they begin to breathe,
if they knew where they were, because I'm sure
we've all been here before. And everyone
sat still as teeth in the mouth of a seagoing dragon.
Play. Full. Intensity. Sublime absurdity. Big Mind
full of chaotic potential, dark and yet to be the future
of everything, not exceptional perfections of lucidity.
Little Mind absorbed in playing with matches
that blossom in fire like the enlightened water stars.
Flare and dazzle. Ptolemaic translucency. The snow man
melts right down to his eyes in the heat of the picture-music,
peacock blues and greens of auroral acetylenes
and no one knows what it means, except it means deeper
than any answer could conceivably convey.
Here work is a form of worship, and the gods pray.
Mind is a gift. You just undo the ribbon of your chromosome
and let things out. Doves, dragons, and the occasional phoenix.
Or your own voice the tiger that wakes the valley up in the morning
with the roar of a vatic lily. The early breezes stir
and the dew trembles like an amateur on a spider-web.
Constant beginner, how could there be a precedent?
An exploration? An insight into what wasn't there
until you saw it flash across the waxing moon if even
for a nanosecond, the God particle that created you
without having anyone else in mind but you, the becoming
that always worries about the end it never reaches,
the mystic specificity of the unfinished paradigm?
If you don't feel like an idiot from the very start of a poem
you're not showing enough respect for yourself.
If you don't know where you're going, that's a good sign.
You've left everything behind the next world doesn't need.
And the memories will come of their own accord
like waterbirds setting down upon a lake, they'll reflect
what they only are for a moment as creative as the past,
and then they'll return like vases and urns to the mantle
to resonate with the stillness of objects, and you'll be the one
that's deeply moved. The fireflies and lighthouses
will see eye to eye, and things will come to you
and ask you why you're crying, and you'll them
because I wasn't expecting you to show up like open gates.
And this is an aesthetic madness, a crazy wisdom, an antidote
to being afraid to get out of your coffin once you reach shore.
Here the word beauty isn't the verbal fossil of the living tree.
And truth is a virgin sword that's never cut anything
or slept between two lovers like a vow that can't be kept.
Here you're the hydra-headed genius of your own horror story.
You can grow heads upon heads until you're delirious
with intellectual conception, and live in a snake pit
waiting to be bit back by your own black lightning,
or you can take the dandelion path of a parachute
the sky mends with patches of your own skin on the line
and land somewhere gentle as the eyelash of an unknown warrior.
The important thing is to let go. Even of the letting go.
Reacquaint yourself with the dream grammar of the dead
who've been gone for millennia from the bodies they left
before alphabets were born of man's hatred of women
when the sun comes up and the moon fades like soap in the daylight.
Be the nightbird. Be moon. Be shadow and light together.
Include the unlikely similitude without judgement
into the pantheon of your enduring monument to people or the gods
and if someone tells you there aren't any, make a few up on the spot.
Mermaid and witch, warlock and sorcerer alike,
all drink from the same well, but in each mouth,
a different flavour of life, mirages of blood, wine, and water.
Become the mirage and stop hallucinating
there's a reason for everything they can't discern.
There are eyes deep in a poem that are looking out at you
to see if you want to get close, whether you can intuit
the logic of metaphor whispering behind the door
through the keyhole on the inside, or you're stuck
in one long periodic sentence like the logic of syntax
laying tracks across the continent like a ladder of cautious thresholds,
expecting to reach the sky, without any risk of falling.
Fall and you'll find out you can grow wings on the way down.
Fall and the first thing you say will be the sound of bliss
freed from its cage to shriek in a language of its own
that surpasses the teacher like a sonic boom
that doesn't sit at the feet of the thunder in awe.
Real freedom, the most terrifying liberation of them all,
doesn't come up in an unkempt garden like the placard
of a flower that doesn't know what it's there to protest.
Reality? Illusion? Valley and crest of the same wavelength.
When you see the mindscape from the outside in
you're cutting gems with your eyes. You talk about
reality and objectivity as if your were in a solid state.
When you write from the inside out, turn the starmap over,
the light around, nothing is more acceptable than another.
All facets shine Even the abysmal inner spaces
that dwarf the heart into singularities that seed
the bottomless depths of blackholes that tunnel
like star-nosed moles into new worlds
like the other half of the hourglass of this one
seem no different than from here to the store for a loaf of bread.
Nothing's lost, effaced, expunged, or strictly given up
right down to the last detail of starmud in your make-up.
The sea learns not to fear its own weather, and the moon
ebbs and neaps with the tides, and the fish thrive
in the way it edges the waves with the flash of a sword
it's laid down upon the prodigal waters as a sign of itself.
The mystery is the mystery of the wonder
that stands before the beginning and after the end
of a poem that spans the mindstream like a bridge
that let's you see your own reflection on the flowing
inseparable from the water, more indelible than
blood is to skin. Less significant than who's standing beside you.
Or the fact that life is a river with only one bank
and no one's going to make it across in their secret lifeboat
without hauling everything into their inexhaustible emptiness.
Once you stop trying to figure out the universe,
and explain it to the rest of us, you can learn to play in it
like stars without curfews when the crows come home to roost.
The worst is bound to you in inestimable measure to the best.
Gather up your sorrows like old manuscripts
and fling them like leaves out to the stars on the wind.
Put eyes in your weeping and follow your tears
all the way back to the ocean that gave you them
and said water shall see, in the depths and the heights,
the whole of me as the mystic ocean of awareness
that eclipses the blossoms in the black mirror of the mind
to show you the darkness is not homeless
and no more than you can stain space with your blood
does it need to be washed off in the stars like Aldebaran
or our footprints in the red tides of the Pleiades.
You've held that tidal pool up to your face long enough now.
The lobster claw like an amputated crescent of the moon.
The grey nacreous dawns of Chinese-silk harder than porcelain.
The evictions of seashells like empty fortune-cookies
and koans with nothing more to tell, the nervous fish,
the dead starfish that jimmied the locks on the vaults of the clams.
O shore-hugger, when have you ever not felt discarded
by all those things you never took a risk upon
for fear of losing what you know and being washed out to sea
into the greater danger of being vividly alive beyond?
You may live in a marine cemetery but you know nothing about death.
You think because the mirror's broken it stops shining?
Because your missing a claw, you can't be made a constellation?
You live among your cupboards and empty cups
like craters on the moon, and your eyes are full of wariness
the sun's going to come out one day, hot and intense
and you're going to evaporate or there's going to come
one overwhelming wavelength that's going to steal the pot
like a man gathering money with both arms in poker,
and, just like that, you're gone. And what are you
going to do then, cling to the mountain tops like snow
for fear of falling, for fear of the echoes of your calling
sweeping through the valleys below, looking for you,
like eagles and sparrow hawks for something running away?
What a waste of good birds. Step out into the open.
Spread your own wings like Cygnus or Aquila.
Encompass what enlarges you by conceding to it
as if they were your own inimitable spaces you were
flying through with prophetic serpents in your talons
as you raise the lowest up like homely bread
to manna from heaven that tastes of the stars that leavened it.
Spare the scalpel of reason a swordfight with the thorn
of your heart trying not to spill blood out of season
because you've declared a holy month on the moon.
And don't try too hard to impress nothing
with the poetic depths of your vacuity, as the world
rushes in to fill the spaces between one lifeline and the next.
There's a sacred emptiness in the heart of everything
and it's built a temple out of the ground of your being
to receive your gifts like flowers and stars you lay upon the stairs.
And there's nothing from black walnuts to unified field theories
to explain this phenomena that isn't also the noumena
of your own mind listening to a voice older than your ears.
There's a shining in the least of things that could dazzle the stars
were you to take the blinders off your life,
that carapace off the heart of the world turtle you stand upon
like the cornerstone of the cosmic eggshell
that's been free of the encumbrance for fourteen billion lightyears
like a gift that gave itself freely away like an inexpressible secret
in the private lives of the wistful mirrors that reflect it.
Sonnet Cycle to M C after W S Sonnets CXXXI - CXXXIX
Sonnet Cycle to M C after William Shakespeare Sonnets CXXXI - CLIV
[c] Jonathan Robin
CARE IS OUR DREAM
Sonnet Cycle after William Shakespeare: Part II
Sonnets CXXXI - CLIV
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXI
Thou art so tyrannous, so as thou art,
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel;
For well thou know'st to my dear doting heart
Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.
Yet, in good faith, some say that thee behold,
Thy face hath not the power to make love groan;
To say they err I dare not be so bold,
Although I swear it to myself alone.
And to be sure that is not false, I swear,
A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face,
One on another's neck, do witness bear
Thy black is fairest in my judgement's place.
In nothing art thou black save in thy deeds,
And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.
Swift in succession fleet speed thoughts when I
Allow time to rhyme contemplating smile.
Nefertiti resignèdly would cry
Grieving 'Quits' obliged to reconcile
To defeat, a feat none else dare try.
Outer skin and inner heart worthwhile
Most naturally ally I testify,
Adopt love’s truth to heart, scorn art and style.
Millions shudder – to your rank unworthy -
Aware all their priorities weigh zilch,
Understatements glib by small minds scurvy,
Deprived of value still your fame they’d filch.
Enshadowed, dark, stark dead their teeming dreams
Compelled to spell fell shutters, failing themes.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXII
Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me,
Knowing thy heart torments me with disdain,
Have put on black and ivory mourner she,
Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.
And truly not the morning sun of heaven
Better becomes the grey cheeks of the east,
Nor that full star that ushers in the even,
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O! let it then as well beseem thy heart
To mourn for me, since mourning doth thee grace,
And suit thy pity like in every part.
Then will I swear beauty herself is black,
And all they foul that thy complexion lack.
Soft eyes I worship, may yours pity me,
Although tormenting through torn heart's disdain,
Neglecting one who weeps, - deep mourning see, -
Grieving, keeping track of black wracked pain.
The East’s dawn sun no tithe has of your glory
Oft surpassing sunburst’s jealous blush,
Morning star's unequal to your story -
As all aver, - West's claim to fame must hush.
Mourning sun’s eclipsed by rising star
Aphrodite, Venus, put to shame,
Unequivocally eclipsed by power:
Dual beams stream, flooding out all blame.
Elder Time meets peer, stopped in its track,
Compared, no star can fail to fail, worth lack,
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXIII
Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to groan
For that deep wound it gives my friend and me!
Is't not enough to torture me alone,
But slave to slavery my sweet'st friend must be?
Me from myself thy cruel eye hath taken,
And my next self thou harder hast engross'd:
Of him, myself, and thee, I am forsaken;
A torment thrice threefold thus to be crossed.
Prison my heart in thy steel bosom's ward,
But then my friend's heart let my poor heart bail;
Whoe'er keeps me, let my heart be his guard;
Thou canst not then use rigour in my jail:
And yet thou wilt; for I, being pent in thee,
Perforce am thine, and all that is in me.
Stolen from myself, in jail I lie,
Ail, tenfold tortured, wounded to the quick,
Now would tormented heart for bail apply,
Grave wounded slave, lost freedom, soul too sick.
Though many seek respect, to few 'tis due,
On this I dwell, who, puppet on a string,
Myself no longer know, owe all to you,
As prisoner here I suffer triple sting.
My heart’s in jail entrusted to your charge
Applied for bail, but locked prefers to stay,
Unshackled, handcuffed, I’d not stray, at large,
Define as liberation dungeon grey.
Emotion’s motions ribcage rage heart’s gaol,
Call world as witness, all mine’s yours sans fail.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXIV
So have I now confessed that he is thine,
And I myself am mortgaged to thy will,
Myself I'll forfeit, so that other mine
Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still:
But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
For thou art covetous and he is kind;
He learned but surety-like to write for me,
Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.
The statue of thy beauty thou wilt take,
Thou usurer, that put'st forth all to use,
And sue a friend came debtor for my sake;
So him I lose through my unkind abuse.
Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me:
He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.
Servant to you stays Cupid I’ll admit,
And I to both am mortgaged to the hilt,
Now sacrifice of one to t’other wilt
Grant respite to most others bit by bit.
To me however both in heart sit, fit
One spirit, hat to wear till oceans silt
Must it by time and in time filled while wilt
Abysmal all ignorant of your writ.
Medused is stone which, through your beauty, moves:
A role-reversal signal signal sent
Unbalancing all preconceptions’ grooves,
Debtors contribute fresh credit lent.
Exit Cupid, in fee I’d still stay free,
Claim from sensations sweet heart’s symphony.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXV
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will, '
And 'Will! to boot, and 'Will' in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vexed thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no faire acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in 'Will' add to thy 'Will'
One will of mine, to make thy large 'Will' more.
Let no unkind 'No' fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one 'Will';
Sweet fair my will will hold, so fare you well
As, willing, I am overwhelmed to boot,
Nor once compute that I could e’er reboot,
Guess template less than perfect in its spell.
Thus wilful soul to one sole seeks to tell
One telling secret Intel can’t dispute
Meagre welcome at your hands can’t suit
Accepting not, rejecting knot as well.
Melting ice from global warming add
Abundant rain to ocean water store,
Use thus these words to make yourself more glad,
Draw from their corps to reinforce your core.
Expel none who to port of call would venture,
Case pleading, one [f]or [f]all a_void all censure.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXV
Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy 'Will, '
And 'Will! to boot, and 'Will' in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vexed thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no faire acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in 'Will' add to thy 'Will'
One will of mine, to make thy large 'Will' more.
Let no unkind 'No' fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one 'Will';
Sonnet CXXXV BIS
Some find, in seeking, pleasure undefined,
And, finding, founder, treasured hopes unfound,
Nor do they measure pleasure, often bind
Gangrene into warp and weft unsound.
Terrifying the distress assigned
Once vain, hellbound, found echoes hope would sound.
Meagre treasure, pleasure’s s[h]own haste fined
Asserting admiration on rebound.
My loyalty needs no deed legal signed,
A paper pledge: one soul heart, head [t]win-bound.
Unswerving fealty, intense and kind,
Deep trust bestows, deserves to break new ground.
Entoning 'An die Freude' celebrate,
Contest my mettle not, nor nettle merit great.
If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy 'Will',
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
'Will' will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckoned none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy stores' account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:
Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me, for my name is 'Will'.
Severed from all but vocal echo, I
Attempt to build me chateaux in the air.
Now should the castles tall fall from the sky,
Great sorrow, woe tsunami, would despair.
Too many risks with one, myself, I take,
Open doors, where walls stood in the past,
Miserable the grief should heart mistake -
Appreciate ill stakes of soul outcast.
Many seek attention, body, mind,
Admit are your’s to order and command,
Unnoticed though I be, don’t leave behind
Dreams which, when near to you, are dearly fanned.
Emphatically adored – this should suffice:
Can one ask more for love outpoured scores twice.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXVII
Thou blind fool, Love, what dost thou to mine eyes,
That they behold, and see not what they see?
They know what beauty is, see where it lies,
Yet what the best is take the worst to be.
If eyes, corrupt by over-partial looks,
Be anchored in the bay where all men ride,
Why of eyes' falsehood has thou forgèd hooks,
Whereto the judgement of my heart is tied?
Why should my heart think that a several plot
Which my heart knows the wide world's common place?
Or mine eyes, seeing this, say this is not,
To put fair truth upon so foul a face?
In things right true my heart and eyes have erred,
And to this false plague are they now transferred.
Sweet Cupid, what's this trick played on my eyes?
Apart from One none may they recognise!
Nations rise and fall, but Beauty's thrall
Gainst doubt holds out, throughout flouts, routs Time's squall.
This inclination energy supplies, -
One moment burns, then freezes lover's sighs,
My breast can’t quit, nor pant leave rest withal, -
As even dreams, it seems, with love play ball.
My bonds, restrictions ease, don't tease, heed cries,
Alas free me forthwith, don’t improvise,
Unjustifiably let aims’ flames fall,
Despondent shadows mocking heartfelt thrall.
Eyes twain when hearts explain, remove false fog,
Construe need’s plague, Life’s wheel, and I small cog.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXVIII
When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutored youth,
Unlearnèd in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth supprest.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flattered be.
Should she swear she be one with Time and Truth,
Although she lies each vowel I’ll believe.
No matter if, naïve, at heart a youth,
Greet I with grief’s relief each web she’d weave.
Testifying to her spell I've shed
Old age - long years which wrinkled ring by ring,
Mixed silver thread to gold turns back, the head
A tune enchanted sings - spells none else bring.
My answer crystal clear appears, heart burns:
Although, in love, age hates have years told,
Unjust discrepancy – Time ne’er returns -
Denied seem karmic wheels new act unfold.
E’er I’d in her identify shared tie,
Convinced my faults in vaults forgotten lie.
Shakespeare Sonnet CXXXIX
O! call not me to justify the wrong
That thy unkindness lays upon my heart;
Wound me not with thine eye, but with thy tongue:
Use power with power, and slay me not by art.
Tell me thou lovest elsewhere, but in my sight,
Dear heart, forbear to glance thine eye aside:
What need'st thou wound with cunning, when thy might
Is more than my o'erpressed defence can hide?
Let me excuse thee: ah! my love well knows
Her pretty looks have been my enemies;
And therefore from my face she turns my foes,
That they elsewhere might dart their injuries:
Yet do not so; but since I am near slain,
Kill me outright with looks, and rid my pain.
Say love is owed another if you can,
Abjuring love which might be ever shared,
No love like mine could shine which, unprepared,
Gears up the very fires they privy fan.
Tell love elsewhere is sought, not in my sight,
O call not me to justify that wrong,
Might you so do with cunning or with might,
As true heart feels not wounds of steel or tongue.
Mistress, Love's an open book, you know
Amor omnia vincit, foes defeats,
Unthreads threats where chance glance turns friend to foe,
Dart turns attention, saves from harm, deceits.
Execute or heal, just one word might
Convict or free: release? seal, sink from sight?
Dear exile from the hurrying crowd,
At work I muse to you aloud;
Thought on my anvil softens, glows,
And I forget our art has foes;
For life, the mother of beauty, seems
A joyous sleep with waking dreams.
Then the toy armoury of the brain
Opining, judging, looks as vain
As trowels silver gilt for use
Of mayors and kings, who have to lay
Foundation stones in hope they may
Be honoured for walls others build.
I, in amicable muse,
With fathomless wonder only filled,
Whisper over to your ear
Listening two hundred odd miles north,
And give thought chase that, were you here,
Our talk would never run to earth.
Man can answer no momentous question:
Whence comes his spirit? Has it lived before?
Reason fails; hot springs of feeling spout
Their snowy columns high in the dim land
Of his surmise — violent divine decisions
That often rule him: and at times he views
Portraits of places he has never been to,
Yet more minute and vivid than remembrance,
Of boyhood homes, sail between sleep and waking
Like some mirage, refuting all experience
With topsy-turvy ships,
That steals by in dead calms through tropic haze:
And many a man in his climacteric years,
Thoughts and remembered words have roused from sleep
With knowledge that he lacked on lying down:
And I, lapped in a trance of reverie, doubt
Some spore of episodes
Anterior far beyond this body's birth,
Dispersed like puffs of dust impalpable,
Wind-carried round this globe for centuries,
May, breathed with common air, yet swim the blood,
And striking root in this or that brain, raise
One such seems half-implied in all I am,
And many times re-pondered shapes like this:
A child myself I watched a woman loll
Like to a clot of seaweed thrown ashore;
Heavy and limp as cloth soaked in black dye,
She glooms the noontide dazzle where a bay
Bites into vineyarded flats close-fenced by hills,
Over whose tops lap forests of cork and fir
And reach in places half down their rough slopes.
Lower, some few cleared fields square on the thickets
Of junipers and longer thorns than furze
So clumped that they are trackless even for goats
I know two things about that woman: first
She is a slave and I am free, and next
As mothers need their sons' love she needs mine.
Longings to utter fond compassionate sounds
Stir through me, checked by knowing wiser folk
Reprobate such indulgence. Ill at ease,
Mute, yet her captive, I thrust brown toes through
Loose sand no daily large tides overwhelm
To cake and roll it firm and smooth and clean
As the Atlantic remakes shores, you know.
But there, like trailing skirts, long flaws of wind
Obliterate the prints feet during calms
Track over and over its always lonely stretch,
Till some will have, it ghosts must rove at night;
For folk by day are rare, yet a still week
Leaves hardly ten yards anywhere uncrossed;
Tempest spreads all revirginate like snow,
Half burying dead wood snapped off from tossed trees,
Since right along the foreshore, out of reach
Of furious driven waves, three hundred pines
Straggle the marches between sand and soil.
Like maps of stone-walled fields their branching roots
Hold the silt still so that thin grass grows there,
Its blades whitened with travelling powdery drift
The besom of the lightest breeze sets stirring.
That woman's gaze toils worn from remote years,
Yet forward yearns through the bright spacious noon,
Beyond the farthest isle, whose filmy shape
Floats faint on the sea-line.
I, scooping grains up with the frail half-shell
Pale green and white-lined of sea-urchin, knew
What her eyes sought as often children know
Of grief or sin they could not name or think of
Yet sooth or shrink from, so I saw and longed
To heal her tender wound and yet said naught.
The energy of bygone joy and pain
Had left her listless figure charged with magic
That caught and held my idleness near hers.
Resentful of her power, my spirit chafed
Against its own deep pity, as though it were
Raised ghost and she the witch had bid it haunt me.
What's more I knew this slave by rights should glean
And faggot drift-wood, not lounge there and waste
My father's food dreaming his time away.
For then as now the common-minded rich
Grudged ease to those whose toil brought them in means
For every waste of life. At length I spoke,
Insulting both my inarticulate soul
And her with acted anger: 'Lazy wretch,
Is it for eyes like yours to watch the sea
As though you waited for a homing ship?
My father might with reason spend his hours
Scanning the far horizon; for his Swan
Whose outward lading was full half a vintage
Is now months overdue.' She turned on me
Her languor knit and, through its homespun wrap,
Her muscular frame gave hints of rebel will,
While those great caves of night, her eyes, faced mine,
Dread with the silence of unuttered wrongs:
At last she spoke as one who must be heeded.
Truly I am not clear
Whether her meaning was conveyed in words
(She mingled accents of an eastern tongue
With deformed phrases of our native Latin)
Or whether thought from her gaze poured through mine.
The gravity of recollected life
Was hers, condensed and, like a vision, flashed
Suddenly on the guilty mind, a whole
Compact, no longer a mere tedious string
Of moments negligible, each so small
As they were lived, but stark like a slain man
Who would alive have been ourself with twice
The skill, the knowledge, the vitality
Actually ours. Yea, as a tree may view
With fingerless boughs and lorn pole impotent,
An elephant gorged upon its leaves depart,
Men often have reviewed an unwieldy past,
That like a feasted Mammoth, leisured and slow,
Turned its back on their warped bones. Even thus,
Momentous with reproach, her grave regard
Made me feel mean, cashiered of rank and right,
My limbs that twelve good years had nursed were numbed
And all their fidgety quicksilver grew stiff,
Novel and fevering hallucinations
Invaded my attention. So daylight
When shutters are thrown back spreads through a house;
As then the dreams and terrors of the night
Decamp, so from my mind were driven
All its own thoughts and feelings. Close she leant
Propped on a swarthy arm, while the other helped
With eloquent gesture potent as wizard wand,
Veil the world off as with an airy web,
Or flowing tent a-gleam with pictured folds.
These tauten and distend — one sea of wheat,
Islanded with black cities, borders now
The voluminous blue pavilion of day.
There-under to the nearest of those towns
This woman younger by ten years made haste
While at her side ran a small boy of six.
They neared the walls, half a huge double gate
Lay prostrate, though the other by stone hinges
Hung to its flanking tower. The path they followed
Threaded an old paved road whose flags were edged
With dry grass and dry weeds, even cactuses
Had pushed the stones up or found root in muck heaps:
The path struck up the slope of the fallen door,
Basalt like midnight, o'er which dusty feet
Had greyed a passage, for it rested on
Some débris fallen from the left-hand tower,
And from its upper edge rude blocks like steps
Led down into the straight main street, that ran
Past eyeless buildings mined as it were from coal,
And earthquake-raised to light. Palaces and
Roofless wide-flighted colonnaded temples,
The uncemented walls piled-plumb with blocks
Squared, polished, fitted with daemonic patience.
Each gaping threshold high again as need be
Waited a nine-foot lord to enter hall,
Where the least draughty corner sheltered now
Half-tented hut or improvised small home
For Arab, brown, light-footed and proud-necked
As was this woman with the compelling voice.
Their present hutched and hived within that past
As bees in the parchment chest of Samson's lion;
And all seem conscious that their life was sweet,
Like mice who clean their faces after meals
And have such grace of movement, when unscared,
As wins the admiration even of those
Whose stores they rob and soil. I saw her eyes
Young with contentment in her son
And smaller babe and in their handsome sire,
And knew that many a supper had been relished
With hearts as joyous as waited while she cooked
And served upon returning to their cot
In hall where once far other hearts caroused.
They and their tribe could never reap a tithe
Of the vast harvest rustling round those ruins,
And over which a half-moon soon set forth
From black hills mounded up both east and south,
While north-west her light played on distant summits;
All the huge interspace floored with standing corn
Which kings afar send soldiery to reap,
Who now, beside a long canal cut straight
In ancient days, have pitched their noisy camp
Which on that vast staid silence makes a bruise
Of blare and riot that its robust health
Will certainly heal in a brief lapse of time.
One night, re-thought on after ten whole years,
Is like the condor high above the Andes,
A speck with difficulty found again
Once the attention quits it. And I next
Descried our woman under breathless noon,
Bathing in a clear lane of gliding water
Whose banks seem lonely as the path of light
Crossing mid ocean south of Capricorn.
Her son steals warily after a butterfly
And is as hushed with hope to capture it
As are the birds with heat. An insect hum
Circles the spot as round a cymbal's rim,
Long after it has clanged, tingles a throb
Which in a dream forgets the parent sound,
Oppressed by this protracted and awe-filled pause,
She hardly dares to wade the stream and moves
As though in dread to wake some sleeping god,
Yet still she nears and nears the further bank
Where there is shade under a shumac's eaves.
The brilliant surface cut her right in two,
And the reflection of her bronzed torso
Hid all beneath the polished gliding mirror;
How her face listened to that sleep divine
Whose audible breath was tuned to dreams of bliss!
Sudden, as though the woof of heaven were torn,
A strident shout rang from some neighbour shrubs
Three Nubian soldiers ran upon her with
Delighted oily faces. Screaming first
Commands to her small son to make for home,
She laboured to recross the current as when
In nightmares the scared soul expects to die
Tortured by mutiny in limbs like lead,
But as the playful lion of the sea
Climbs the rock ledges hard by Fingal's cave
To throw himself down into deep green baths,
While others barking follow his vigorous lead,
The foremost Abyssinian threw his weight
Before her with a splash that hid them both,
As the explosion of light-filled liquid parcels
Shot forth in all directions. In his arms
She re-appeared, a tragic terrified face
Beside his coarse one laughing with success.
Squeezing her with a pantomime of love,
He turns to follow an arrow with his eyes
That his companion, still upon the bank,
Has aimed towards her son's small head that bobbed
Like a black cork across the basking corn.
But from the level of the sunk stream bed
Neither he nor she could see the target aimed at,
Yet in the pause they heard the poor child scream;
A second arrow, second scream; she fought,
But soon like bundle bound, hung o'er his shoulder,
Helpless as a mouse in cat's mouth carried off
In search of quiet, there to play with it.
Those arrows missed? — or did they not? The child
Shrieked twice, yet scarcely like a wounded thing
She thought and hoped and still but thinks and hopes.
Where is that boy? Where is her husband now?
While she submitted body to force and soul
To the great shuddering violence of despair
How had their life progressed in that far place?
Compassion fused my consciousness with hers
And second-sighted eloquence arose
To claim my mind for rostrum,
But obstinately tranced
My eyes clung to their vision;
For regions to explore allure the boy
No stretch of thought or sea of feeling tempts.
Entranced, the mind I then had, haunted
Those basalt ruins. High on sable towers
Some silky patriarchal goat appears
And ponders silent streets, or suddenly
Some nanny, her huge bag swollen with milk,
Trots out on galleries that unfenced run
Round vacant courts, there, stopped by plaintive kids,
Lets them complete their meal. While always, always,
Throughout, those mazed, sullen and sun-soaked walls,
The steady, healthy wind,
Which often blows for weeks without a lull
Across that upland plain,
Flutes staidly. Moaning
Continuously as seas
Or forests before storm,
And, gathering moment,
Articulated by her woe, begins
With second-sighted eloquence
To wail through me,
Nigh as unheeded,
As though it still had been
For ah! the heart is cowed
And dares not use her strength,
Hears the kind impulse plead
Against the common avaricious fear,
Grants it but life, though sovereignty was due
Or doles it sway but one day out of seven
Or one a year.
So, so, and ever, so
In the close-curtained court
Those causes are deferred
Which most import;
These wait man's leisure.
These daily matters elbow;
His panic meanness
Jibs blindly ere it hear
What wisdom has prepared,
Bolts headlong ere it see
Her face unfold its smile.
Man after man, race after race
Drops jaded by the iterancy
Of petty fear.
Even as horses on the green steppes grazing,
Hundreds scattered through lonely peacefulness,
If shadow of cloud or red fox breaking earth
Delude but one with dream of a stealthy foe,
All are stampeded.
Their frantic torrent draws in,
With dire attraction, cumulative force,
Stragglers grazing miles from where it started;
On it thunders quite devoid of meaning.
The tender private soul
Thus takes contagion from the sordid crowd,
And shying at mere dread of loss,
Loses the whole of life.
Thus, in the vortex of a base turmoil,
Those myriad million energies wear down
That might have raised mankind
To live the life of gods.
Had but my soul been his,
As his was mine,
Those wind-resembling accents
Had found fit auditor.
Their second-sighted eloquence,
Welcomed with acclamation,
Had fired action.
But that was ages since: he was not then
What now I am,
Who have no longer
The opportunity then mine, then missed, —
Who still am dazed and troubled
Surmising others mine, others missed.
Passionate, never-wearied voice,
Tombed in thy brittle shell,
This human heart
Thou croonest age on age,
'Give and ask not,
Help and blame not,'
Heeded less than large and mottled cowry
The which at least some child may hold to ear
All smiles to listen.
Thou findest parables;
With fond imagination
For the successive
This boy, myself that was,
Musing visions by that woman raised,
Watched that land she came from, towned with ruins
Send mile-long files of laden camels out
With grain to hostile cities, —
Knew too the blue entrancing plain of waters
Teemed with fresh shoals, buoyed up indifferently,
Fisher — trader — pirate bark, —
Even the straight thought whispered at his ear,
'Thy lips might join with hers as with some cousin's,
Here, now, at noon,
Hugging her bereavéd sadness close,
And still, to-night, with equal satisfaction,
Thy mother's blind contentment with her son.'
While half-seduced, half-chafed, his mind was shaken
As with conflicting gusts a choppy sea,
His eyes, still greedy of their visions,
Fastened a swarthy town enisled in wheat,
And to the ebon threshold of each house,
Conjured forth the man that each was planned for:
Great creatures smiling with his father's smile,
Muscular, wealthy and self-satisfied,
Wearing loud-coloured raiment, earrings, chains,
Armlet and buckle, all of clanking gold.
His spirit drank from theirs great draughts of pride
And read their minds more clearly than his own;
All, with one counsel like a chorus, dinned
His soul that then was mine,
With truths well-proved in action.
'Love is chaos,
For order's sake
Whatever must be, should be,'
Roared those bulls of Bashan.
Then their proud chant argued,
'How should this woman know
Her little lad again,
Who either now is bones
Under the fertile field,
Or well nigh a grown man?
Say they should cross at market
Both slaves would pass on, not a start the wiser.
What is she then to him
Or he to her
After these years?
To drag a life that might have been but is not
With toil of mind and heart,
Through dreary year on year,
Neglecting for its sake the life that is,
Spells folly and ingratitude to those
Who treat their slaves well.
Thy father's household and thyself should be
More to her now than those who may be dead,
The place she lives in dearer
Than any unattainable far land
Where she is more forgotten than old dreams.
Why make the day of evil worse
By dwelling on it after it has past?
Near things alone are real,
Now is the whole of time:
Places beyond the horizon are but pictures;
Memory cheats the eye with an illusion!'
'Your thoughts are sound, bold builders,
I am my father's son.
Behold this home-shore, these our hills, this bay,
And this our slave! —
Up, work, look sharp about it!'
Bounding a foot and fast retiring from her,
I stoop for stones strewn thick about the sand,
Aim them, fling them,
And, as my idle arm resumes the knack,
Score a hit and laugh
To see her stumble hurt, behind the pine trunks.
'Unless you work, I throw again,
To it and steady at it.
Mark me, drab, we Camilli
Mean what we say.'
Stone after stone still flies,
But aimed to knock chips from the pine-boles now;
For she is busy gathering sticks, increasing
Her distance as she may. The noon is sultry,
Heated and clammy, I,
Towards the live waves turning, slip my tunic,
Then run in naked.
Cooled and soothed by swimming,
Both mind and heart from their late tumult tuned
To placid acquiescent health,
I float, suspended in the limpid water,
Passive, rhythmically governed;
So tranced worlds travel the dark shoreless ether.
'Where should this stream of pictures tend?'
No, Bottomley, you will not ask;
To you I am quite free to send
The unexpected, unexplained,
You will not take me thus to task.
So they be painted well, they live;
If ill, they yet may cling to fame
Associated with your name.
In which case you, and not I, give
That we are both contented with.
Isabella; Or, The Pot Of Basil: A Story From Boccaccio
Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love's eye!
They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
Without some stir of heart, some malady;
They could not sit at meals but feel how well
It soothed each to be the other by;
They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
But to each other dream, and nightly weep.
With every morn their love grew tenderer,
With every eve deeper and tenderer still;
He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
And his continual voice was pleasanter
To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,
She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.
He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
Before the door had given her to his eyes;
And from her chamber-window he would catch
Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
And constant as her vespers would he watch,
Because her face was turn'd to the same skies;
And with sick longing all the night outwear,
To hear her morning-step upon the stair.
A whole long month of May in this sad plight
Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
'To morrow will I bow to my delight,
'To-morrow will I ask my lady's boon.'-
'O may I never see another night,
'Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love's tune.'-
So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
Honeyless days and days did he let pass;
Until sweet Isabella's untouch'd cheek
Fell sick within the rose's just domain,
Fell thin as a young mother's, who doth seek
By every lull to cool her infant's pain:
'How ill she is,' said he, 'I may not speak,
'And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
'If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
'And at the least 'twill startle off her cares.'
So said he one fair morning, and all day
His heart beat awfully against his side;
And to his heart he inwardly did pray
For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide
Stifled his voice, and puls'd resolve away-
Fever'd his high conceit of such a bride,
Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!
So once more he had wak'd and anguished
A dreary night of love and misery,
If Isabel's quick eye had not been wed
To every symbol on his forehead high;
She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
And straight all flush'd; so, lisped tenderly,
'Lorenzo!'-here she ceas'd her timid quest,
But in her tone and look he read the rest.
'O Isabella, I can half perceive
'That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
'If thou didst ever any thing believe,
'Believe how I love thee, believe how near
'My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
'Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
'Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
'Another night, and not my passion shrive.
'Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
'Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
'And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
'In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time.'
So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
Grew, like a lusty flower in June's caress.
Parting they seem'd to tread upon the air,
Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
Only to meet again more close, and share
The inward fragrance of each other's heart.
She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
Sang, of delicious love and honey'd dart;
He with light steps went up a western hill,
And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his fill.
All close they met again, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
All close they met, all eves, before the dusk
Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
Ah! better had it been for ever so,
Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.
Were they unhappy then?-It cannot be-
Too many tears for lovers have been shed,
Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
Too much of pity after they are dead,
Too many doleful stories do we see,
Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
Except in such a page where Theseus' spouse
Over the pathless waves towards him bows.
But, for the general award of love,
The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
And Isabella's was a great distress,
Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
Was not embalm'd, this truth is not the less-
Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.
With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
And for them many a weary hand did swelt
In torched mines and noisy factories,
And many once proud-quiver'd loins did melt
In blood from stinging whip;-with hollow eyes
Many all day in dazzling river stood,
To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.
For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
And went all naked to the hungry shark;
For them his ears gush'd blood; for them in death
The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
Half-ignorant, they turn'd an easy wheel,
That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
Gush'd with more pride than do a wretch's tears?-
Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?-
Why were they proud? Because red-lin'd accounts
Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?-
Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
Why in the name of Glory were they proud?
Yet were these Florentines as self-retired
In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,
As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies,
The hawks of ship-mast forests-the untired
And pannier'd mules for ducats and old lies-
Quick cat's-paws on the generous stray-away,-
Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.
How was it these same ledger-men could spy
Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
How could they find out in Lorenzo's eye
A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt's pest
Into their vision covetous and sly!
How could these money-bags see east and west?-
Yet so they did-and every dealer fair
Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.
O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,
And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
And of thy lilies, that do paler grow
Now they can no more hear thy ghittern's tune,
For venturing syllables that ill beseem
The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.
Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale
Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;
There is no other crime, no mad assail
To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:
But it is done-succeed the verse or fail-
To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;
To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,
An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.
These brethren having found by many signs
What love Lorenzo for their sister had,
And how she lov'd him too, each unconfines
His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad
That he, the servant of their trade designs,
Should in their sister's love be blithe and glad,
When 'twas their plan to coax her by degrees
To some high noble and his olive-trees.
And many a jealous conference had they,
And many times they bit their lips alone,
Before they fix'd upon a surest way
To make the youngster for his crime atone;
And at the last, these men of cruel clay
Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;
For they resolved in some forest dim
To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.
So on a pleasant morning, as he leant
Into the sun-rise, o'er the balustrade
Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent
Their footing through the dews; and to him said,
'You seem there in the quiet of content,
'Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade
'Calm speculation; but if you are wise,
'Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.
'To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
'To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;
'Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
'His dewy rosary on the eglantine.'
Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,
Bow'd a fair greeting to these serpents' whine;
And went in haste, to get in readiness,
With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman's dress.
And as he to the court-yard pass'd along,
Each third step did he pause, and listen'd oft
If he could hear his lady's matin-song,
Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;
And as he thus over his passion hung,
He heard a laugh full musical aloft;
When, looking up, he saw her features bright
Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.
'Love, Isabel!' said he, 'I was in pain
'Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:
'Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain
'I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow
'Of a poor three hours' absence? but we'll gain
'Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.
'Good bye! I'll soon be back.'-'Good bye!' said she:-
And as he went she chanted merrily.
So the two brothers and their murder'd man
Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream
Gurgles through straiten'd banks, and still doth fan
Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream
Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan
The brothers' faces in the ford did seem,
Lorenzo's flush with love.-They pass'd the water
Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.
There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,
There in that forest did his great love cease;
Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,
It aches in loneliness-is ill at peace
As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:
They dipp'd their swords in the water, and did tease
Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,
Each richer by his being a murderer.
They told their sister how, with sudden speed,
Lorenzo had ta'en ship for foreign lands,
Because of some great urgency and need
In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.
Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow's weed,
And 'scape at once from Hope's accursed bands;
To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,
And the next day will be a day of sorrow.
She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;
Sorely she wept until the night came on,
And then, instead of love, O misery!
She brooded o'er the luxury alone:
His image in the dusk she seem'd to see,
And to the silence made a gentle moan,
Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,
And on her couch low murmuring, 'Where? O where?'
But Selfishness, Love's cousin, held not long
Its fiery vigil in her single breast;
She fretted for the golden hour, and hung
Upon the time with feverish unrest-
Not long-for soon into her heart a throng
Of higher occupants, a richer zest,
Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,
And sorrow for her love in travels rude.
In the mid days of autumn, on their eves
The breath of Winter comes from far away,
And the sick west continually bereaves
Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay
Of death among the bushes and the leaves,
To make all bare before he dares to stray
From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel
By gradual decay from beauty fell,
Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes
She ask'd her brothers, with an eye all pale,
Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes
Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale
Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes
Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom's vale;
And every night in dreams they groan'd aloud,
To see their sister in her snowy shroud.
And she had died in drowsy ignorance,
But for a thing more deadly dark than all;
It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,
Which saves a sick man from the feather'd pall
For some few gasping moments; like a lance,
Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall
With cruel pierce, and bringing him again
Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.
It was a vision.-In the drowsy gloom,
The dull of midnight, at her couch's foot
Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
Had marr'd his glossy hair which once could shoot
Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
Had made a miry channel for his tears.
Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
To speak as when on earth it was awake,
And Isabella on its music hung:
Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
As in a palsied Druid's harp unstrung;
And through it moan'd a ghostly under-song,
Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.
Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright
With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof
From the poor girl by magic of their light,
The while it did unthread the horrid woof
Of the late darken'd time,-the murderous spite
Of pride and avarice,-the dark pine roof
In the forest,-and the sodden turfed dell,
Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.
Saying moreover, 'Isabel, my sweet!
'Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
'And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;
'Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
'Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat
'Comes from beyond the river to my bed:
'Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,
'And it shall comfort me within the tomb.
'I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
'Upon the skirts of human-nature dwelling
'Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
'While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
'And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
'And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
'Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
'And thou art distant in Humanity.
'I know what was, I feel full well what is,
'And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;
'Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,
'That paleness warms my grave, as though I had
'A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss
'To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;
'Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel
'A greater love through all my essence steal.'
The Spirit mourn'd 'Adieu!'-dissolv'd, and left
The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;
As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,
Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,
We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,
And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:
It made sad Isabella's eyelids ache,
And in the dawn she started up awake;
'Ha! ha!' said she, 'I knew not this hard life,
'I thought the worst was simple misery;
'I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife
'Portion'd us-happy days, or else to die;
'But there is crime-a brother's bloody knife!
'Sweet Spirit, thou hast school'd my infancy:
'I'll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,
'And greet thee morn and even in the skies.'
When the full morning came, she had devised
How she might secret to the forest hie;
How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,
And sing to it one latest lullaby;
How her short absence might be unsurmised,
While she the inmost of the dream would try.
Resolv'd, she took with her an aged nurse,
And went into that dismal forest-hearse.
See, as they creep along the river side,
How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,
And, after looking round the champaign wide,
Shows her a knife.-'What feverous hectic flame
'Burns in thee, child?-What good can thee betide,
'That thou should'st smile again?'-The evening came,
And they had found Lorenzo's earthy bed;
The flint was there, the berries at his head.
Who hath not loiter'd in a green church-yard,
And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
To see skull, coffin'd bones, and funeral stole;
Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr'd,
And filling it once more with human soul?
Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.
She gaz'd into the fresh-thrown mould, as though
One glance did fully all its secrets tell;
Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know
Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;
Upon the murderous spot she seem'd to grow,
Like to a native lily of the dell:
Then with her knife, all sudden, she began
To dig more fervently than misers can.
Soon she turn'd up a soiled glove, whereon
Her silk had play'd in purple phantasies,
She kiss'd it with a lip more chill than stone,
And put it in her bosom, where it dries
And freezes utterly unto the bone
Those dainties made to still an infant's cries:
Then 'gan she work again; nor stay'd her care,
But to throw back at times her veiling hair.
That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
Until her heart felt pity to the core
At sight of such a dismal labouring,
And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore;
At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
And Isabella did not stamp and rave.
Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
O for the gentleness of old Romance,
The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!
Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
For here, in truth, it doth not well belong
To speak:-O turn thee to the very tale,
And taste the music of that vision pale.
With duller steel than the Persèan sword
They cut away no formless monster's head,
But one, whose gentleness did well accord
With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
If Love impersonate was ever dead,
Pale Isabella kiss'd it, and low moan'd.
'Twas love; cold,-dead indeed, but not dethroned.
In anxious secrecy they took it home,
And then the prize was all for Isabel:
She calm'd its wild hair with a golden comb,
And all around each eye's sepulchral cell
Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
She drench'd away:-and still she comb'd, and kept
Sighing all day-and still she kiss'd, and wept.
Then in a silken scarf,-sweet with the dews
Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,
And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
Through the cold serpent pipe refreshfully,-
She wrapp'd it up; and for its tomb did choose
A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set
Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.
And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten'd it with tears unto the core.
And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.
O Melancholy, linger here awhile!
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,
Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us-O sigh!
Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;
Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,
And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,
Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.
Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
And touch the strings into a mystery;
Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
For simple Isabel is soon to be
Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.
O leave the palm to wither by itself;
Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour!-
It may not be-those Baalites of pelf,
Her brethren, noted the continual shower
From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,
Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower
Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
By one mark'd out to be a Noble's bride.
And, furthermore, her brethren wonder'd much
Why she sat drooping by the Basil green,
And why it flourish'd, as by magic touch;
Greatly they wonder'd what the thing might mean:
They could not surely give belief, that such
A very nothing would have power to wean
Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
And even remembrance of her love's delay.
Therefore they watch'd a time when they might sift
This hidden whim; and long they watch'd in vain;
For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
Beside her Basil, weeping through her hair.
Yet they contriv'd to steal the Basil-pot,
And to examine it in secret place:
The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
And yet they knew it was Lorenzo's face:
The guerdon of their murder they had got,
And so left Florence in a moment's space,
Never to turn again.-Away they went,
With blood upon their heads, to banishment.
O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!
O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
O Echo, Echo, on some other day,
From isles Lethean, sigh to us-O sigh!
Spirits of grief, sing not your 'Well-a-way!'
For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;
Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
Now they have ta'en away her Basil sweet.
Piteous she look'd on dead and senseless things,
Asking for her lost Basil amorously:
And with melodious chuckle in the strings
Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry
After the Pilgrim in his wanderings,
To ask him where her Basil was; and why
'Twas hid from her: 'For cruel 'tis,' said she,
'To steal my Basil-pot away from me.'
And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
Imploring for her Basil to the last.
No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
In pity of her love, so overcast.
And a sad ditty of this story born
From mouth to mouth through all the country pass'd:
Still is the burthen sung-'O cruelty,
'To steal my Basil-pot away from me!'
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about tomb
- quotes about pain
- quotes about illness
- quotes about hours
- quotes about youth
- quotes about elders
- quotes about fate
THE FRANK COURTSHIP.
Grave Jonas Kindred, Sybil Kindred's sire,
Was six feet high, and look'd six inches higher;
Erect, morose, determined, solemn, slow,
Who knew the man could never cease to know:
His faithful spouse, when Jonas was not by,
Had a firm presence and a steady eye;
But with her husband dropp'd her look and tone,
And Jonas ruled unquestion'd and alone.
He read, and oft would quote the sacred words,
How pious husbands of their wives were lords;
Sarah called Abraham Lord! and who could be,
So Jonas thought, a greater man than he?
Himself he view'd with undisguised respect,
And never pardon'd freedom or neglect.
They had one daughter, and this favourite child
Had oft the father of his spleen beguiled;
Soothed by attention from her early years,
She gained all wishes by her smiles or tears;
But Sybil then was in that playful time,
When contradiction is not held a crime;
When parents yield their children idle praise
For faults corrected in their after days.
Peace in the sober house of Jonas dwelt,
Where each his duty and his station felt:
Yet not that peace some favour'd mortals find,
In equal views and harmony of mind;
Not the soft peace that blesses those who love,
Where all with one consent in union move;
But it was that which one superior will
Commands, by making all inferiors still;
Who bids all murmurs, all objections, cease,
And with imperious voice announces--Peace!
They were, to wit, a remnant of that crew,
Who, as their foes maintain, their Sovereign slew;
An independent race, precise, correct,
Who ever married in the kindred sect:
No son or daughter of their order wed
A friend to England's king who lost his head;
Cromwell was still their Saint, and when they met,
They mourn'd that Saints were not our rulers yet.
Fix'd were their habits; they arose betimes,
Then pray'd their hour, and sang their party-
Their meals were plenteous, regular and plain;
The trade of Jonas brought him constant gain;
Vender of hops and malt, of coals and corn -
And, like his father, he was merchant born:
Neat was their house; each table, chair, and stool,
Stood in its place, or moving moved by rule;
No lively print or picture graced the room;
A plain brown paper lent its decent gloom;
But here the eye, in glancing round, survey'd
A small recess that seem'd for china made;
Such pleasing pictures seem'd this pencill'd ware,
That few would search for nobler objects there -
Yet, turn'd by chosen friends, and there appear'd
His stern, strong features, whom they all revered;
For there in lofty air was seen to stand
The bold Protector of the conquer'd land;
Drawn in that look with which he wept and swore,
Turn'd out the Members, and made fast the door,
Ridding the House of every knave and drone,
Forced, though it grieved his soul, to rule alone.
The stern still smile each friend approving gave,
Then turn'd the view, and all again were grave.
There stood a clock, though small the owner's
For habit told when all things should proceed;
Few their amusements, but when friends appear'd,
They with the world's distress their spirits
The nation's guilt, that would not long endure
The reign of men so modest and so pure:
Their town was large, and seldom pass'd a day
But some had fail'd, and others gone astray;
Clerks had absconded, wives eloped, girls flown
To Gretna-Green, or sons rebellious grown;
Quarrels and fires arose;--and it was plain
The times were bad; the Saints had ceased to reign!
A few yet lived, to languish and to mourn
For good old manners never to return.
Jonas had sisters, and of these was one
Who lost a husband and an only son:
Twelve months her sables she in sorrow wore,
And mourn'd so long that she could mourn no more.
Distant from Jonas, and from all her race,
She now resided in a lively place;
There, by the sect unseen, at whist she play'd,
Nor was of churchman or their church afraid:
If much of this the graver brother heard,
He something censured, but he little fear'd;
He knew her rich and frugal; for the rest,
He felt no care, or, if he felt, suppress'd:
Nor for companion when she ask'd her Niece,
Had he suspicions that disturb'd his peace;
Frugal and rich, these virtues as a charm
Preserved the thoughtful man from all alarm;
An infant yet, she soon would home return,
Nor stay the manners of the world to learn;
Meantime his boys would all his care engross,
And be his comforts if he felt the loss.
The sprightly Sybil, pleased and unconfined,
Felt the pure pleasure of the op'ning mind:
All here was gay and cheerful--all at home
Unvaried quiet and unruffled gloom:
There were no changes, and amusements few; -
Here all was varied, wonderful, and new;
There were plain meals, plain dresses, and grave
Here, gay companions and amusing books;
And the young Beauty soon began to taste
The light vocations of the scene she graced.
A man of business feels it as a crime
On calls domestic to consume his time;
Yet this grave man had not so cold a heart,
But with his daughter he was grieved to part:
And he demanded that in every year
The Aunt and Niece should at his house appear.
'Yes! we must go, my child, and by our dress
A grave conformity of mind express;
Must sing at meeting, and from cards refrain,
The more t'enjoy when we return again.'
Thus spake the Aunt, and the discerning child
Was pleased to learn how fathers are beguiled.
Her artful part the young dissembler took,
And from the matron caught th' approving look:
When thrice the friends had met, excuse was sent
For more delay, and Jonas was content;
Till a tall maiden by her sire was seen,
In all the bloom and beauty of sixteen;
He gazed admiring;--she, with visage prim,
Glanced an arch look of gravity on him;
For she was gay at heart, but wore disguise,
And stood a vestal in her father's eyes:
Pure, pensive, simple, sad; the damsel's heart,
When Jonas praised, reproved her for the part.
For Sybil, fond of pleasure, gay and light,
Had still a secret bias to the right;
Vain as she was--and flattery made her vain -
Her simulation gave her bosom pain.
Again return'd, the Matron and the Niece
Found the late quiet gave their joy increase;
The aunt infirm, no more her visits paid,
But still with her sojourn'd the favourite maid.
Letters were sent when franks could be procured,
And when they could not, silence was endured;
All were in health, and if they older grew,
It seem'd a fact that none among them knew;
The aunt and niece still led a pleasant life,
And quiet days had Jonas and his wife.
Near him a Widow dwelt of worthy fame,
Like his her manners, and her creed the same;
The wealth her husband left, her care retain'd
For one tall Youth, and widow she remain'd;
His love respectful all her care repaid,
Her wishes watch'd, and her commands obey'd.
Sober he was and grave from early youth,
Mindful of forms, but more intent on truth:
In a light drab he uniformly dress'd,
And look serene th' unruffled mind express'd;
A hat with ample verge his brows o'erspread,
And his brown locks curl'd graceful on his head;
Yet might observers in his speaking eye
Some observation, some acuteness spy;
The friendly thought it keen, the treacherous
deem'd it sly.
Yet not a crime could foe or friend detect,
His actions all were, like his speech, correct;
And they who jested on a mind so sound,
Upon his virtues must their laughter found;
Chaste, sober, solemn, and devout they named
Him who was thus, and not of this ashamed.
Such were the virtues Jonas found in one
In whom he warmly wish'd to find a son:
Three years had pass'd since he had Sybil seen;
But she was doubtless what she once had been,
Lovely and mild, obedient and discreet;
The pair must love whenever they should meet;
Then ere the widow or her son should choose
Some happier maid, he would explain his views:
Now she, like him, was politic and shrewd,
With strong desire of lawful gain embued;
To all he said, she bow'd with much respect,
Pleased to comply, yet seeming to reject;
Cool and yet eager, each admired the strength
Of the opponent, and agreed at length:
As a drawn battle shows to each a force,
Powerful as his, he honours it of course;
So in these neighbours, each the power discern'd,
And gave the praise that was to each return'd.
Jonas now ask'd his daughter--and the Aunt,
Though loth to lose her, was obliged to grant: -
But would not Sybil to the matron cling,
And fear to leave the shelter of her wing?
No! in the young there lives a love of change,
And to the easy they prefer the strange!
Then, too, the joys she once pursued with zeal,
From whist and visits sprung, she ceased to feel:
When with the matrons Sybil first sat down,
To cut for partners and to stake her crown,
This to the youthful maid preferment seem'd,
Who thought what woman she was then esteem'd;
But in few years, when she perceived, indeed,
The real woman to the girl succeed,
No longer tricks and honours fill'd her mind,
But other feelings, not so well defined;
She then reluctant grew, and thought it hard
To sit and ponder o'er an ugly card;
Rather the nut-tree shade the nymph preferr'd,
Pleased with the pensive gloom and evening bird;
Thither, from company retired, she took
The silent walk, or read the fav'rite book.
The father's letter, sudden, short, and kind,
Awaked her wonder, and disturb'd her mind;
She found new dreams upon her fancy seize,
Wild roving thoughts and endless reveries.
The parting came;--and when the Aunt perceived
The tears of Sybil, and how much she grieved -
To love for her that tender grief she laid,
That various, soft, contending passions made.
When Sybil rested in her father's arms,
His pride exulted in a daughter's charms;
A maid accomplish'd he was pleased to find,
Nor seem'd the form more lovely than the mind:
But when the fit of pride and fondness fled,
He saw his judgment by his hopes misled;
High were the lady's spirits, far more free
Her mode of speaking than a maid's should be;
Too much, as Jonas thought, she seem'd to know,
And all her knowledge was disposed to show;
'Too gay her dress, like theirs who idly dote
On a young coxcomb or a coxcomb's coat;
In foolish spirits when our friends appear,
And vainly grave when not a man is near.'
Thus Jonas, adding to his sorrow blame,
And terms disdainful to a Sister's name:
'The sinful wretch has by her arts denied
The ductile spirit of my darling child.'
'The maid is virtuous,' said the dame--Quoth he,
'Let her give proof, by acting virtuously:
Is it in gaping when the Elders pray?
In reading nonsense half a summer's day?
In those mock forms that she delights to trace,
Or her loud laughs in Hezekiah's face?
She--O Susannah!--to the world belongs;
She loves the follies of its idle throngs,
And reads soft tales of love, and sings love's
But, as our friend is yet delay'd in town,
We must prepare her till the Youth comes down:
You shall advise the maiden; I will threat;
Her fears and hopes may yield us comfort yet.'
Now the grave father took the lass aside,
Demanding sternly, 'Wilt thou be a bride?'
She answer'd, calling up an air sedate,
'I have not vow'd against the holy state.'
'No folly, Sybil,' said the parent; 'know
What to their parents virtuous maidens owe:
A worthy, wealthy youth, whom I approve,
Must thou prepare to honour and to love.
Formal to thee his air and dress may seem,
But the good youth is worthy of esteem:
Shouldst thou with rudeness treat him; of disdain
Should he with justice or of slight complain,
Or of one taunting speech give certain proof,
Girl! I reject thee from my sober roof.'
'My aunt,' said Sybil,' will with pride protect
One whom a father can for this reject;
Nor shall a formal, rigid, soul-less boy
My manners alter, or my views destroy!'
Jonas then lifted up his hands on high,
And, utt'ring something 'twixt a groan and sigh,
Left the determined maid, her doubtful mother by.
'Hear me,' she said; 'incline thy heart, my
And fix thy fancy on a man so mild:
Thy father, Sybil, never could be moved
By one who loved him, or by one he loved.
Union like ours is but a bargain made
By slave and tyrant--he will be obey'd;
Then calls the quiet, comfort--but thy Youth
Is mild by nature, and as frank as truth.'
'But will he love?' said Sybil; 'I am told
That these mild creatures are by nature cold.'
'Alas!' the matron answer'd, 'much I dread
That dangerous love by which the young are led!
That love is earthy; you the creature prize,
And trust your feelings and believe your eyes:
Can eyes and feelings inward worth descry?
No! my fair daughter, on our choice rely!
Your love, like that display'd upon the stage,
Indulged is folly, and opposed is rage; -
More prudent love our sober couples show,
All that to mortal beings, mortals owe;
All flesh is grass--before you give a heart,
Remember, Sybil, that in death you part;
And should your husband die before your love,
What needless anguish must a widow prove!
No! my fair child, let all such visions cease;
Yield but esteem, and only try for peace.'
'I must be loved,' said Sybil; 'I must see
The man in terrors who aspires to me;
At my forbidding frown his heart must ache,
His tongue must falter, and his frame must shake:
And if I grant him at my feet to kneel,
What trembling, fearful pleasure must he feel;
Nay, such the raptures that my smiles inspire,
That reason's self must for a time retire.'
'Alas! for good Josiah,' said the dame,
'These wicked thoughts would fill his soul with
He kneel and tremble at a thing of dust!
He cannot, child:'--the Child replied, 'He must.'
They ceased: the matron left her with a frown;
So Jonas met her when the Youth came down:
'Behold,' said he, 'thy future spouse attends;
Receive him, daughter, as the best of friends;
Observe, respect him--humble be each word,
That welcomes home thy husband and thy lord.'
Forewarn'd, thought Sybil, with a bitter smile,
I shall prepare my manner and my style.
Ere yet Josiah enter'd on his task,
The father met him--'Deign to wear a mask
A few dull days, Josiah--but a few -
It is our duty, and the sex's due;
I wore it once, and every grateful wife
Repays it with obedience through her life:
Have no regard to Sybil's dress, have none
To her pert language, to her flippant tone:
Henceforward thou shalt rule unquestion'd and
And she thy pleasure in thy looks shall seek -
How she shall dress, and whether she may speak.'
A sober smile returned the Youth, and said,
'Can I cause fear, who am myself afraid?'
Sybil, meantime, sat thoughtful in her room,
And often wonder'd--'Will the creature come?
Nothing shall tempt, shall force me to bestow
My hand upon him,--yet I wish to know.'
The door unclosed, and she beheld her sire
Lead in the Youth, then hasten to retire;
'Daughter, my friend--my daughter, friend,' he
And gave a meaning look, and stepp'd aside:
That look contained a mingled threat and prayer,
'Do take him, child,--offend him if you dare.'
The couple gazed--were silent, and the maid
Look'd in his face, to make the man afraid;
The man, unmoved, upon the maiden cast
A steady view--so salutation pass'd:
But in this instant Sybil's eye had seen
The tall fair person, and the still staid mien;
The glow that temp'rance o'er the cheek had spread,
Where the soft down half veil'd the purest red;
And the serene deportment that proclaim'd
A heart unspotted, and a life unblamed:
But then with these she saw attire too plain,
The pale brown coat, though worn without a stain;
The formal air, and something of the pride
That indicates the wealth it seems to hide;
And looks that were not, she conceived, exempt
From a proud pity, or a sly contempt.
Josiah's eyes had their employment too,
Engaged and soften'd by so bright a view;
A fair and meaning face, an eye of fire,
That check'd the bold, and made the free retire:
But then with these he marked the studied dress
And lofty air, that scorn or pride express;
With that insidious look, that seem'd to hide
In an affected smile the scorn and pride;
And if his mind the virgin's meaning caught,
He saw a foe with treacherous purpose fraught -
Captive the heart to take, and to reject it,
Silent they sat--thought Sybil, that he seeks
Something, no doubt; I wonder if he speaks:
Scarcely she wonder'd, when these accents fell
Slow in her ear--'Fair maiden, art thou well?'
'Art thou physician?' she replied; 'my hand,
My pulse, at least, shall be at thy command.'
She said--and saw, surprised, Josiah kneel,
And gave his lips the offer'd pulse to feel;
The rosy colour rising in her cheek,
Seem'd that surprise unmix'd with wrath to speak;
Then sternness she assumed, and--'Doctor, tell;
Thy words cannot alarm me--am I well?'
'Thou art,' said he; 'and yet thy dress so
I do conceive, some danger must excite:'
'In whom?' said Sybil, with a look demure:
'In more,' said he, 'than I expect to cure; -
I, in thy light luxuriant robe behold
Want and excess, abounding and yet cold;
Here needed, there display'd, in many a wanton
Both health and beauty, learned authors show,
From a just medium in our clothing flow.'
'Proceed, good doctor; if so great my need,
What is thy fee? Good doctor! pray proceed.'
'Large is my fee, fair lady, but I take
None till some progress in my cure I make:
Thou hast disease, fair maiden; thou art vain;
Within that face sit insult and disdain;
Thou art enamour'd of thyself; my art
Can see the naughty malice of thy heart:
With a strong pleasure would thy bosom move,
Were I to own thy power, and ask thy love;
And such thy beauty, damsel, that I might,
But for thy pride, feel danger in thy sight,
And lose my present peace in dreams of vain
'And can thy patients,' said the nymph 'endure
Physic like this? and will it work a cure?'
'Such is my hope, fair damsel; thou, I find,
Hast the true tokens of a noble mind;
But the world wins thee, Sybil, and thy joys
Are placed in trifles, fashions, follies, toys;
Thou hast sought pleasure in the world around,
That in thine own pure bosom should be found;
Did all that world admire thee, praise and love,
Could it the least of nature's pains remove?
Could it for errors, follies, sins atone,
Or give the comfort, thoughtful and alone?
It has, believe me, maid, no power to charm
Thy soul from sorrow, or thy flesh from harm:
Turn then, fair creature, from a world of sin,
And seek the jewel happiness within.'
'Speak'st thou at meeting?' said the nymph; 'thy
Is that of mortal very prone to teach;
But wouldst thou, doctor, from the patient learn
Thine own disease?--the cure is thy concern.'
'Yea, with good will.'--'Then know 'tis thy
That, for a sinner, thou'rt too much a saint;
Hast too much show of the sedate and pure,
And without cause art formal and demure:
This makes a man unsocial, unpolite;
Odious when wrong, and insolent if right.
Thou mayst be good, but why should goodness be
Wrapt in a garb of such formality?
Thy person well might please a damsel's eye,
In decent habit with a scarlet dye;
But, jest apart--what virtue canst thou trace
In that broad brim that hides thy sober face?
Does that long-skirted drab, that over-nice
And formal clothing, prove a scorn of vice?
Then for thine accent--what in sound can be
So void of grace as dull monotony?
Love has a thousand varied notes to move
The human heart: --thou mayest not speak of love
Till thou hast cast thy formal ways aside,
And those becoming youth and nature tried:
Not till exterior freedom, spirit, ease,
Prove it thy study and delight to please;
Not till these follies meet thy just disdain,
While yet thy virtues and thy worth remain.'
'This is severe!--Oh! maiden wilt not thou
Something for habits, manners, modes, allow?' -
'Yes! but allowing much, I much require,
In my behalf, for manners, modes, attire!'
'True, lovely Sybil; and, this point agreed,
Let me to those of greater weight proceed:
Thy father!'--'Nay,' she quickly interposed,
'Good doctor, here our conference is closed!'
Then left the Youth, who, lost in his retreat,
Pass'd the good matron on her garden-seat;
His looks were troubled, and his air, once mild
And calm, was hurried: --'My audacious child!'
Exclaim'd the dame, 'I read what she has done
In thy displeasure--Ah! the thoughtless one:
But yet, Josiah, to my stern good man
Speak of the maid as mildly as you can:
Can you not seem to woo a little while
The daughter's will, the father to beguile?
So that his wrath in time may wear away;
Will you preserve our peace, Josiah? say.'
'Yes! my good neighbour,' said the gentle youth,
'Rely securely on my care and truth;
And should thy comfort with my efforts cease,
And only then,--perpetual is thy peace.'
The dame had doubts: she well his virtues knew,
His deeds were friendly, and his words were true:
'But to address this vixen is a task
He is ashamed to take, and I to ask.'
Soon as the father from Josiah learn'd
What pass'd with Sybil, he the truth discern'd.
'He loves,' the man exclaim'd, 'he loves, 'tis
The thoughtless girl, and shall he love in vain?
She may be stubborn, but she shall be tried,
Born as she is of wilfulness and pride.'
With anger fraught, but willing to persuade,
The wrathful father met the smiling maid:
'Sybil,' said he, 'I long, and yet I dread
To know thy conduct--hath Josiah fled?
And, grieved and fretted by thy scornful air,
For his lost peace, betaken him to prayer?
Couldst thou his pure and modest mind distress
By vile remarks upon his speech, address,
Attire, and voice?'--'All this I must confess.'
'Unhappy child! what labour will it cost
To win him back!'--'I do not think him lost.'
'Courts he then (trifler!) insult and disdain?' -
'No; but from these he courts me to refrain.'
'Then hear me, Sybil: should Josiah leave
Thy father's house?'--'My father's child would
'That is of grace, and if he come again
To speak of love?'--'I might from grief refrain.'
'Then wilt thou, daughter, our design embrace?' -
'Can I resist it, if it be of Grace?'
'Dear child in three plain words thy mind express:
Wilt thou have this good youth?'--'Dear Father!
The Odyssey: Book 5
And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with
them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva
began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied
him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I
hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not
one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as
though he were their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an
island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he
cannot get back to his own country, for he can find neither ships
nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are
now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news
of his father."
"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did you
not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the
suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him."
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury, you
are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed
that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by
gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft
he is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are
near of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one
of ourselves. They will send him in a ship to his own country, and
will give him more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have
brought back from Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and
had got home without disaster. This is how we have settled that he
shall return to his country and his friends."
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did
as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals
with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the
wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as
he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he
swooped down through the firmament till he reached the level of the
sea, whose waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing
every hole and corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in
the spray. He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last
he got to the island which was his journey's end, he left the sea
and went on by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning
cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom,
shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing
beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar,
and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had
built their nests- owls, hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy
their business in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained
and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave; there were also four
running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together, and
turned hither and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and
luscious herbage over which they flowed. Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and
looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he went inside
Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within;
he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean
with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow.
Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me,
Mercury- honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often?
Say what you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it
can be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and
mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had
enough, and then said:
"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and
you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you
would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no
cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?
Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross
Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most
ill-starred of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King
Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On
their way home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and
waves against them, so that all his brave companions perished, and
he alone was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are
to let this by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his house
and country and see his friends again."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and
hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to
Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and
killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to
hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts.
And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found
the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all
his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves
on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my
heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his
days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing;
therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas
again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither
ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him
such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him
safely to his own country."
"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you"'
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,
for she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting upon the beach
with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer
home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was
forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he,
that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks
and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and
always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him
"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free
will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft
with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will
put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I
will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take
you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about
these things, and can settle them better than I can."
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered,
"there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to
help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on
a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on
such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go
on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a
great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above
and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-
and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that
I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly
what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite
straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on
and on till they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses took the seat
that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of
the food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar
for herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were
before them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink,
Calypso spoke, saying:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know
how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own
country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and
let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this
wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day;
yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking than
she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should
compare in beauty with an immortal."
"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an
immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing
else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and
make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and
sea already, so let this go with the rest."
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired
into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put
on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light
gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden
girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set
herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave
him a great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both
sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it.
She also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of
the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine,
that reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail
light for him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the
best trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which
he soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them
smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile
Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes with them and
fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as
broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he
filed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He
also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He
fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a protection
against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood. By and
by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made these
too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some
clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and
another larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of
provisions, and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the
wind fair and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail
before it, while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of
the rudder. He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the
Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also
call the wain, and which turns round and round where it is, facing
Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso
had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he
sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the
mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi.
He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry,
so he wagged his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the
gods have been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away
in Ethiopia, and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians,
where it is decreed that he shall escape from the calamities that have
befallen him. Still, he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he
has done with it."
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that
blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night
sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and
West fell upon him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got
up, so that Ulysses' heart began to fail him. "Alas," he said to
himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of me? I am afraid
Calypso was right when she said I should have trouble by sea before
I got back home. It is all coming true. How black is Jove making
heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds are raising from
every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest
were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of
Atreus. Would that had been killed on the day when the Trojans were
pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I
should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my
name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the
raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let
go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke
the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea.
For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to
rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him
weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water and spat out
the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams. In spite
of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as
fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board
again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it
about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road.
It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what
great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and,
rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his
bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do
then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind,
and swim to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here,
take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can
come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take
it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away
again." With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then
she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to himself
in his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the gods who is
luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate I
will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should be
quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know what
I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens I will
stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but when the
sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I can do any
better than this."
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave
that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the
raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry
chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank
and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the
clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino's veil under his arms, and
plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched
him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and
saying, "'There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that
I have let you off too lightly." On this he lashed his horses and
drove to Aegae where his palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all
the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused
a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till
Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,
with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but
when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm
without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell
he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as
children rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after
having for a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry
spirit, but the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful
when he again saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength
that he might once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he
got within earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against
the rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that
I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the
coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer
from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot
climb out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will
lift me off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the
water- which would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I
swim further in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a
hurricane may carry me out to sea again sorely against my will, or
heaven may send some great monster of the deep to attack me; for
Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with
such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and
torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold
of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till
the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave
came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing
his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it
from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did the
rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew
him deep down under the water.
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his
own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him.
He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating
against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the
shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take
the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of
a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were
no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there
was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:
"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who
has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods,
wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to
the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare
myself your suppliant."
Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him, for
the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his
mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he
could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer
exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and came to
himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given him and
threw it back into the salt stream of the river, whereon Ino
received it into her hands from the wave that bore it towards her.
Then he left the river, laid himself down among the rushes, and kissed
the bounteous earth.
"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed
through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the
bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise
there will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other
hand, I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in
some thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night's rest,
but some savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me."
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept
beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one
an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind,
however squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor
could the sun's rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so
closely did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these
and began to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great
litter of dead leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two
or three men even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see
this, so he laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him.
Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor,
hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.
The Manuscript of Saint Alexius
There came a child into the solemn hall
where great Pope Innocent sat throned and heard
angry disputings on Free-Will in man,
Grace, Purity, and the Pelagian creed--
an ignorantly bold poor child, who stood
shewing his rags before the Pope's own eyes,
and bade him come to shrive a beggar man
he found alone and dying in a shed,
who sent him for the Pope, "not any else
but the Pope's self." And Innocent arose
and hushed the mockers "Surely I will go:
servant of servants, I." So he went forth
to where the man lay sleeping into death,
and blessed him. Then, with a last spurt of life,
the dying man rose sitting, "Take," he said,
and placed a written scroll in the Pope's hand,
and so fell back and died. Thus said the scroll:
Alexius, meanest servant of the Lord,
son of Euphemianus, senator,
and of Aglaia, writes his history,
God willing it, which, if God so shall will,
shall be revealed when he is fallen asleep.
Spirit of Truth, Christ, and all saints of Heaven,
and Mary, perfect dove of guilelessness,
make his mind clear, that he write utter truth.
That which I was all know: that which I am
God knows, not I, if I stand near to Him
because I have not yielded, or, by curse
of recreant longings, am to Him a wretch
it needs Such grace to pardon: but I know
that one day soon I, dead, shall see His face
with that great pity on it which is ours
who love Him and have striven and then rest,
that I shall look on Him and be content.
For what I am, in my last days, to men,
'tis nothing; scarce a name, and even that
known to be not my own; a wayside wretch
battening upon a rich lord's charity
and praying, (some say like the hypocrites),
a wayside wretch who, harboured for a night,
is harboured still, and, idle on the alms,
prays day and night and night and day, and fears
lest, even praying, he should suddenly
undo his prayer and perish and be great
and rich and happy. Jesu, keep me Thine.
Father and mother, when ye hear of me,
(for I shall choose so sure a messenger
whom God will shew me), when ye hear these words,
and Claudia, whom I dead will dare count mine,
bidding her pray she be Christ's more than mine,
believe I loved you; know it; but, beloved,
you never will know how much till at length
God bids you know all things in the new life.
Alas, you have had little joy of me:
beloved, could I have given drops of blood
in place of your shed tears, the cruellest wounds
had been my perfect joys: but both my love
and your distress needs were my cross to bear.
Forgive me that you sorrowed. And be glad
because you sorrowed and your sorrow was
holy to God, a sacrifice to Him.
Know now, all men who read or hear my words,
that I, Alexius, lived in much delights
of a dear home where they who looked on me
looked with a smile, and where I did but smile
to earn sweet praises as for some good deed:
I was the sunlight to my mother's eyes,
that waked their deepest blueness and warm glow,
I was my father's joy, ambition, boast,
his hope and his fulfilment. It may be
I grew too strong a link betwixt their hearts
and this poor world whose best gifts seemed to them
destined for me, grew, when they looked on Heaven,
a blur upon their sight, too largely near,
as any trivial tiny shape held close
will make eclipse against the eye it fills:
and so, maybe. for their sake, not for mine,
God took me from them, me, their only son,
for whom they prayed, and trebled pious deeds,
and took thought in this life.
I grew by them,
learning all meet for my estate on earth,
but learning more, what they taught more, of God,
and loving most that learning. And at times,
even from childhood, would my heart grow still
and seem to feel Him, hear Him, and I knew,
but not with ears, a voice that spoke no words
yet called me. And, as ignorant children choose
"I will be emperor when I am big,"
my foolish wont was "I will be a saint:"
later, when riper sense brought humbleness,
I said "When I am grown a man, my lot
Shall be with those who vow their lives to Christ."
But, when my father thought my words took shape
of other than boy's prattle, he grew grave,
and answered me "Alexius, thou art young,
and canst not judge of duties; but know this
thine is to serve God, living in the world."
And still the days went on, and still I felt
the silent voice that called me: then I said
"My father, now I am no more a child,
and I can know my heart; give me to God:"
but he replied "God gives no son save thee
to keep our fathers' name alive, and thus
He shews thy place and duty:" and, with tears,
my mother said "God gives no child save thee;
make me not childless." And their words seemed God's
more than my heart's, theirs who had rule on me.
But still my longing grew, and still the voice:
and they both answered "Had God need of thee
to leave thy natural place none else can fill,
there would be signs which none could doubt, nor we
nor thou thyself." And I received that word;
knowing I doubted since they bade me doubt.
And still the days went on, and still the voice
and then my father said "The bride is chosen,
if thou wilt have her; if not, choose thyself."
And more and more I prayed "Give me to God:"
and more and more they urged "Whom gives He us
save thee to keep our name alive? whom else
to stay us from a desolate old age,
and give us children prattling at our knees?"
and more and more they answered "Shew to us
how He has called thee from thy certain path
where He has set thy feet?" Wherefore I said
"I will obey, and will so serve my God
as you have bidden me serve Him, honouring you:"
and they two blessed me, and we were agreed.
And afterwards Euphemianus laughed
"He asks not of the bride; but, boy, art pleased?
'tis thy fair playmate Claudia, fair and good."
I, who asked not because I nothing cared,
was glad in afterthinking: for the girl
lad been my playmate, and of later time
knew her beauty with familiar eyes
and no more feared it than I feared the grace
of useless goddesses perfect in stone,
lingering dishonoured in unholy nooks
where comes no worship more; so that I mused
"The damsel brings no perilous wedding gift
of amorous unknown fetters for my soul;
my soul shall still be spared me, consecrate,
virgin to God until the better days
when I may live the life alone with Him:"
so was I comforted.
But, in the hour
when all the rite was done and the new bride
come to her home, I sitting half apart,
my mother took her fondly by the hand
and drew her, lagging timidly, to me,
and spoke "Look up my daughter, look on him:
Alexius, shall I tell what I have guessed,
how this girl loves you?" Then she raised her head
a moment long, and looked: and I grew white,
and sank back sickly. For I suddenly
knew that I might know that which men call love.
And through the tedious feast my mind was torn
with reasonings and repentance. For I said
"But I may love her," and kept marshalling forth
such scriptures as should seem to grant it me:
then would an anguish hurl my fabric down,
while I discerned that he who has put hand
upon the plough must never turn again
to take the joyaunce granted easy lives.
And bye and bye I stole away and went,
half conscious, through the darkling garden groves,
amid the evening silence, till I came
to a small lonely chapel, little used,
left open by I know not what new chance,
where there was patterned out in polished stones
Peter denying Christ. I hastened in,
and threw me on the floor, and would have prayed;
but, in a rush of tears, I fell asleep.
And there I dreamed: meseemed the easy years
had slipped along, and I sat, pleased and proud,
among my ruddy children, and I held
my wife's smooth hand, who but so much had changed
as to grow fairer in her womanhood;
and, facing us, a carved and marble Christ
hung on a Cross and gazed with Its dumb eyes,
I looking on It: and I turned my head
to smile to Claudia, and then looked again;
behold Its right arm moved, and then was still,
And a low voice came forth "Alexius, come."
And I replied "Oh Lord I am content;
but lo my father."
Then my father stood,
meseemed, beside me, leading in his hand
a sturdy urchin, copy of himself,
and answered "Son, my ears do hear thee called;
and now I have this son of thine: go forth."
And once again the voice, "Alexius, come."
And I replied "My Lord, I am content;
but lo my mother."
Then my mother stood,
meseemed, beside me, and her arm was wound
round my wife's neck, and clinging to her skirt
a baby boy and girl that teased and played
and clamoured for her kisses: so she stood,
and answered "Son, my ears do hear thee called;
and now this daughter hast thou given me,
and now I have these babes of thine: go forth."
And louder then the voice, "Alexius, come."
And I replied "Dear Lord, I am content;
Then Claudia's hand grew tight in mine,
and I looked on her face and saw it so
as when my mother bade her look on me,
and I replied "Oh Lord I were content,
but lo my wife."
And still again the voice;
and still again her hand that drew mine back;
and I replied "My wife: I cannot come."
And still again the voice, "Alexius, come,"
loud and in wrath.
And I replied "My wife:
I will not come."
And with that word I woke.
I was in darkness, and the door was locked,
(doubtless while I, asleep or tranced, lay dumb
some one had sought me there and had not found,
and so had gone, unconscious, prisoning me);
I groped my way toward the altar steps,
and thanked my God, and prayed.
When morning broke
I heard without two voices, as it seemed
of holy pilgrims talking, and one said
"The youth Alexius surely has fled forth
to serve God safelier;" the other said
"Then doth he well; for now that better part
shall none take from him, he shall be all God's
and only God's, not father's, mother's, son's,
nor any fond fair woman's." Then they went.
But I was still there prisoned. Day moved on,
and brightened, and then waned, and darkness came,
broken by one white moonbeam, for an hour,
that seemed a promise, and, in that good hope,
I prayed, then slept.
But when morn grew again,
and no deliverance came, but frequent steps,
and voices passing, I grew scared with doubts
if, keeping silence, as from enemies,
and by my silence dying, I should be
self-murdered or God's martyr; and I thought
how, maybe, at the last my fainting voice
should vainly cry too late, and I should pass
with none to give God's comfort. But I thought
"If God wills even that, then let it be."
But when the noon sun glowed I heard a hand
touch at the door, and crouched me in a nook,
and scarce had crouched when Claudia passed by me
with slow steps to the altar: she prayed long;
praying, poor child, to have me given back,
claiming me back of Heaven, as if her right
could equal That right, crying out for me
by loving names, and weeping, that my heart
went out of me towards her, wondering,
and yearned for her. But God was pitiful,
so that I swerved not.
When I heard her vow
to pray there daily, I perceived through her
deliverance should come shortly: and I planned
to stand within the shadow the noon light
threw from a massive column by the door,
and, when she had passed in and hid her face,
get me forth softly.
But the flesh was weak,
and when I waked again the noon beams fell
full on the face of Peter where he wept
repenting; Claudia was already there.
I thought a moment should I not come forth,
and charge her let none know, and go my way;
but, did she give one startled sudden cry,
womanlike, I had been betrayed: and then
I feared her if she wept.
May God forgive
my weak heart then, my weak heart all my days,
which never has been so strong as not feel
always the fall at hand, but then so weak
that some few urgent tears and soft sad words
might, haply might, have bought me from my God.
So she went forth, unconscious: and I prayed
death should not come at night, with none at hand
to minister beside me, and in faith
I laid me down to wait what God should send.
And in a little while she came again,
and sought and found a gold and emerald pin,
(one of the gifts they made me give to her),
dropped from her loosened hair, then, kissing it,
passed out, and, for a moment long, forgot
to make the door fast, turned back to the task,
then, murmuring "Why? For it is better thus,
when whoso wills can enter in and pray,"
left it and went.
Then free, I made my vow
to live unknown, unhonoured, with no ties,
no certain home, no aims, no rights, no name,
an unregarded wanderer, whose steps,
by whichsoever road they passed, but passed
to travel nearer Heaven. And, for a sign,
I made a secret place and hid my ring
under the altar.
You will find it there:
at the right hand a cross upon an A
cut on the floor, so small you must look well,
and near it, at the altar-base, a crack
I found there in the chiselling, (just behind
a cherub's wing), is closed with dust and earth;
there lies the ring. Give it me mine again,
it and my name I take back for my grave,
as I take back my kinsfolk and my friends
to pray and mourn for me and give God thanks.
That done, I got me forth, and saw none nigh,
(the search near home being over, as it seemed),
and with my best poor speed I found a copse
whose green thick tangles hid me: there I lay
till the cool nightfall came and patient stars
watched Earth asleep, as if they prayed for her;
and other eyes saw not save theirs, and those
that look from Heaven, when I came sickly forth
and dragged my limp and failing limbs along.
I made my clothes in tatters; thus I went
and begged food at a convent for my life
that else were flickered out: so they gave food,
and they gave shelter: and at dawn I went,
while none who could have known had looked on me,
and, hastening on my journey, followed forth
my fellow-Roman Tiber's seaward strides,
and reached the port. There, as I since have learned,
Euphemianus had left men in wait
while he searched otherwhere: but God ruled all.
A little ship was just launched out to sea,
her heel still caught upon the grating beach,
the men were good and took the pilgrim in
who at the farewell moment called to them,
and, in what while I know not, but it seemed
as short as in a dream are days and years,
I saw my shores grown narrow purple clouds,
and then (for I write truth though shaming me)
I broke into such weeping that the men
felt whiteness in their cheeks, and, marvelling,
sent whispers to and fro, in doubt of me
lest witchcraft held me or my some deep crime
had set a curse demoniac; and they schemed
if they should put back to be rid of me,
but one said "Tush! the youth weeps for his home;
at his age, maybe, some of us could weep;
let him alone."
A rough and grizzled man,
who after, at the haven, came and clapped
a great hand on my shoulder, "Look, my boy,
you keep your secrets safer: for I heard
of a hot hunt after a great man's son,
and when I saw you weep ...... Well go your way,
my tongue shall earn no wages by its blab.
Maybe at your age I should have fled too,
if yoked against my will; but I am old
and preach go home again. Some say she's fair;
and a fair woman, love her or not love,
is a fair woman: but, or fair or foul,
be wise, young sir, be wise; never go starve
because your cake's not candied to your taste."
I said "Kind friend, I have no home to seek;
God gives me not a home till bye and bye,"
and left him. So my pilgrimage began.
But, oh vain heart of man! can this be true
which I remember, that I, plodding on,
whither I did not ask me, as God willed,
undoubting and ungrieving, yea, puffed up
to feel my heart was numb of all regret,
carrying upon my lips (as men will burr
a day long some persistent measured strain)
for refrain-catch "Now all and only God's,"
drew from my bosom, with my crucifix,
a withered crumpled weed, a clinging thing
that, green and dainty, new brushed from its root,
with one white flower-speck on it, trailed its sprays
athwart the purple hem of Claudia's veil
the last time in the chapel while she prayed;
it lay upon the floor when she was gone.
A worthless grass, what good was it to me?
and, lo, made fellow with my crucifix!
yet surely I had done it scarce aware,
for now I gazed on it so stupidly
as though a secret hand had placed it there
to set a riddle so, nor could recall
what thought I took it with. But see what snares
I fled from, flying Claudia; suddenly
the thing was at my lips, in such a kiss
as, maybe, lovers kiss on women's mouths,
in such a kiss howbeit as brought forth shame
almost in its own birth. I hurled the weed,
the viperous thing, into the battling surf
that dragged and sucked the booming shingles down,
lashing the beach before a coming storm;
I hurled it forth and went.
It seems to me,
looking back now, as if that made an end.
I think I had no temptings afterwards.
Natheless my grief was bitter many times
remembering home: but that I felt not sin,
because 'twas as a soul among the dead
might sorrow, never wishing to come back.
And Claudia was not of my memories:
scarcely at all: a stray bad dream at night
would bring her to me, make me dream I wept
because I might not love her, but not dream
that I did love; in daytime she came not.
Ten years I wandered: who cares know the whither?
a pilgrim and alone I trod my way,
no man regarding me. Alone with God:
whether in deserts or the throng of towns;
whether upon the mountain-tops, whence earth
shows sometimes so too exquisite for man
as though the devil had leave to fashion it
and cozen us with its beauty; or below,
where in the valleys one beholds the hills
grow nearer Heaven at sunset; or my ears
full of the hymn of waters, where the sea
breaks at one's feet among the rough brown rocks;
whether in pain, in weariness, in fear,
or, thankful, taking comfortable rest;
always alone with God.
So for ten years:
and in the later of them I had peace:
so for ten years, and then, by what degrees
I know not, (for the stupor crept like sleep,
slowly yet sudden on one at the last),
my peace became a blankness. And one day
I sought to rouse me, questioning "Where is God?"
and could not weep because I found him not,
yea, could not rouse me. And my prayers were words,
like trite goodmorrows when two gossips meet
and never look for answers; and my praise
was rounded like the song the poet makes
to one who never lived for him to love.
I was my Pharisee to cheat myself
and make myself believe me that God's friend
I had forgotten what it felt to be.
So, when I saw this plainly, I took thought,
pondering how it should be that when I pined
for thirst of human love I loved God more
and felt His love more near me than when now
my heart was swept and garnished, void for Him:
at last I saw my need of quickening pain
to stir the sluggish soul awake in me,
and knew I offered nothing to my Lord,
offering Him that it cost me nought to give;
what good to turn to Him, "Lord I leave all,"
if all be noway precious?
and set my face to Rome, making all haste.
On the forty-seventh day I saw the sun
droop to the hills behind my father's house,
and lo, while I toiled up the rude ascent,
our last slope of the Aventine, there came,
riding apart and grave, from the far side,
Euphemianus. When he reached the gate
he entered not, but seemed to point me out
to the servitors that followed with his hawks,
and watched me coming upwards painfully.
And when he saw me footsore and so spent
he had compassion: ere my prayer was done,
"Food, my good lord, and rest, for charity,"
he bade them take me in.
Six years ago:
and now I die here. No one bade depart;
they gave me daily scraps, and let me live
in the shed for harbouring squalid wanderers
that sleep a night, and take their alms, and go.
None knew me; who should know me? Gone away,
past ten years since, a comely petted boy,
and now a half decrepit sickly wretch,
a lean and shrivelled carcase, the ten years
writ twenty on my leathery wrinkled face,
how was I their Alexius? Nay, they looked
and saw the stranger in the beggar's shed
they called, for want of name, Old Lazarus.
In the beggar's shed with God: with God again!
Oh exquisite pain that brought so exquisite joy!
even by instant peril to be lost
lo I was saved. Oh blessed exquisite pain!
my heart awoke, for anguish, and felt God.
I saw my father pass out and pass in;
sometimes he noted me and spoke a word
or looked a careless greeting, oftenest not;
I saw him daily, and I learned his face
how stern long sorrow made it and how still,
and, when some days he could not make a smile,
I heard the servants whisper "Do you see?
this is his lost son's birthday," or "the day
his son fled forth," or else "his baptism,"
"confirming," "going to school," all such home dates
as parents count who watch their children grow:
and he was changed, they said, cared not to see
friends' faces greeting him, nor join in talk,
but would be solitary; changed, they said,
since that strange losing of his only child.
My mother I saw not in the first days,
for she came never forth, but sat and slept,
and wakened querulous, and slept again.
And Claudia tended her: I had not thought
to find her here; I looked she'd count me dead
and marry her, ('tis known what women are),
and was all startled when I saw her first:
but only for the strangeness, after that
she was no more to me than I to her,
she might have smiled to me, or in my sight,
that dangerous smile and I be no more moved
than if a babe had laughed as I passed by.
Then a day came, a still and sultry day
when one might take count of each leaf that stirred
and think the one shrill grasshopper too loud,
my mother waked and heard a hymn I sang,
and took a whim to have the singer brought:
only a whim, belike, for could my voice
bring back the stripling's voice she had thought sweet?
they fetched me, I stood by her: ah my mother!
and she so changed! nothing of her old self;
the goodliness, the sweetness, the delight,
gone, waned out from her, as the light of day
was waning from her eyes long dulled by tears.
Ah, could I but have clung about her feet,
crying out "Mother, take thy son again!"
But yet for her it would have been too late.
She talked to me, inconsequent grave talk
like children's, whispered after when I prayed,
and made me sing her hymns, so was content
longer than was her wont, then bade me go
and come again to-morrow: ever since
she calls me every day.
And every day
is Claudia there. More than two thousand days,
and every day I look on Claudia's face
grown wistful and more sweet, and every day
behold her patience, hear her wise grave words,
and better know her all she is.
Have I not striven? have I not prevailed?
And now death is at hand: some few days more
and I shall lay me down and be at rest.
There will be no farewell at last, I think;'
they will not know of me that I lie sick
and pass away; and, even if they knew,
why should they come to close my dying eyes?
the beggar Lazarus can die alone,
as he has lived alone. My mother, though,
will lack me, ask for me, Claudia will send
to bid me hasten, then the word will come
"He died this morning," and she will not weep
but say "Poor wretch: God rest the parted soul,"
and turn to soothe my mother with some wile
to make her never miss me: and may be
Euphemianus will not hear the news,
or will not note it if he ever hears.
So I shall lie in the grave and they not care,
but wait for lost Alexius to come home,
and mourn for him, half hating him for their grief.
Give me fruit, give me fruit, oh Christ give my earned fruit,
for all my sufferings: I have mine for me,
but I claim theirs, give fruit for them I smote.
Have I written wildly? I will cancel nought.
for I have written looking death in face,
thinking God bade me write: and words come so
must stand untouched. But surely this much grace
my Lord hath given me, that they shall know.
Behold, I make this paper, being forced
as by the Spirit, and it comes on me
that God doth choose his highest in the world
to be the beggar's messenger: he first,
and I the last, so thereto he is called;
servant of servants. This, which I have witten,
do I entrust to him, my testament:
some shall learn patience from it and to do
what God bids and not doubt; for all is good,
all happy, if it be to do His will,
the suffering ye may guess, but not the bliss
till ye have tasted it.
And I desire
that, having scanned the scroll, he shall, or then
or later, as seems to his wisdom wise,
deliver all its words to them and her,
my father and my mother and my wife,
(lo, this once in my life I call her so).
I pray Thee, Lord, give the poor words the power
to comfort them and strengthen; and, I pray,
give the words power to strengthen and stir souls
which hear Thee call and pause to count with Thee.
And now, oh Lord, let earth be dim to me,
and Heaven come near mine eyes: the time is short,
and I am fain for thee. Lord Jesus come.
Now, when Pope Innocent had read the scroll,
he bade one with him enter in the house
and call the lord Euphemianus thither,
and Claudia, and Aglaia. So they came,
Aglaia feebly leaning on the two,
and questioning them who knew not; so they came;
and the Pope pointed them to the dead man,
"Behold, for this is one whom you should know."
Euphemianus gazed and was perplexed:
and the poor purblind mother gazed and peered,
"Old Lazarus? no, yes, old Lazarus;
asleep or dead? Why is it? is he dead?"
but Claudia answered softly "Yes I know;
I knew it;" and then, suddenly, borne down
by one strong gust of passion, flung herself
beside the corpse, her head upon its breast,
her arms clasped straining round it, weeping out.
And Innocent answered the father's eyes,
"This was Alexius, thy long lost son."
But yet the father, stricken dumb, looked doubt:
Aglaia cried "My boy, where is he then?"
and fretfully "This is old Lazarus:
where is my boy? show me Alexius."
Then Innocent bade peace, and read the scroll:
Euphemianus, with his face hid down
between his hands, listened and never stirred;
and Claudia listened, weeping silently;
but Aglaia whispered always "Is it true?
is the tale of Lazarus or of my boy?
I cannot understand." And, when 'twas read,
Euphemianus gazed upon his son,
"Yet did he well?" he said "he was our son,
he was her husband: how could it be well?
for look upon his mother, what she is."
But Claudia rose up tearless, and replied
"Alexius did all well: he knew God called:"
and Innocent, not tearless, raised his hand
and spoke "She answers wisely: he obeyed;
he knew, being a very saint of God:
let us bless God for him." And they all knelt.
But still Aglaia could not understand.
Pharsalia - Book X: Caesar In Egypt
When Caesar, following those who bore the head,
First trod the shore accursed, with Egypt's fates
His fortunes battled, whether Rome should pass
In crimson conquest o'er the guilty land,
Or Memphis' arms should ravish from the world
Victor and vanquished: and the warning shade
Of Magnus saved his kinsman from the sword.
First, by the crime assured, his standards borne
Before, he marched upon the Pharian town;
But when the people, jealous of their laws,
Murmured against the fasces, Caesar knew
Their minds were adverse, and that not for him
Was Magnus' murder wrought. And yet with brow
Dissembling fear, intrepid, through the shrines
Of Egypt's gods he strode, and round the fane
Of ancient Isis; bearing witness all
To Macedon's vigour in the days of old.
Yet did nor gold nor ornament restrain
His hasting steps, nor worship of the gods,
Nor city ramparts: but in greed of gain
He sought the cave dug out amid the tombs.
The madman offspring there of Philip lies
The famed Pellaean robber, fortune's friend,
Snatched off by fate, avenging so the world.
In sacred sepulchre the hero's limbs,
Which should be scattered o'er the earth, repose,
Still spared by Fortune to these tyrant days:
For in a world to freedom once recalled,
All men had mocked the dust of him who set
The baneful lesson that so many lands
Can serve one master. Macedon he left
His home obscure; Athena he despised
The conquest of his sire, and spurred by fate
Through Asia rushed with havoc of mankind,
Plunging his sword through peoples; streams unknown
Ran red with Persian and with Indian blood.
Curse of all earth and thunderbolt of ill
To every nation! On the outer sea
He launched his fleet to sail the ocean wave:
Nor flame nor flood nor sterile Libyan sands
Stayed back his course, nor Hammon's pathless shoals;
Far to the west, where downward slopes the world
He would have led his armies, and the poles
Had compassed, and had drunk the fount of Nile:
But came his latest day; such end alone
Could nature place upon the madman king,
Who jealous in death as when he won the world
His empire with him took, nor left an heir.
Thus every city to the spoiler's hand
Was victim made: Yet in his fall was his
Babylon; and Parthia feared him. Shame on us
That eastern nations dreaded more the lance
Of Macedon than now the Roman spear.
True that we rule beyond where takes its rise
The burning southern breeze, beyond the homes
Of western winds, and to the northern star;
But towards the rising of the sun, we yield
To him who kept the Arsacids in awe;
And puny Pella held as province sure
The Parthia fatal to our Roman arms.
Now from the stream Pelusian of the Nile,
Was come the boyish king, taming the rage
Of his effeminate people: pledge of peace;
And Caesar safely trod Pellaean halls;
When Cleopatra bribed her guard to break
The harbour chains, and borne in little boat
Within the Macedonian palace gates,
Caesar unknowing, entered: Egypt's shame;
Fury of Latium; to the bane of Rome
Unchaste. For as the Spartan queen of yore
By fatal beauty Argos urged to strife
And Ilium's homes, so Cleopatra roused
Italia's frenzy. By her drum she called
Down on the Capitol terror (if to speak
Such word be lawful); mixed with Roman arms
Coward Canopus, hoping she might lead
A Pharian triumph, Caesar in her train;
And 'twas in doubt upon Leucadian waves
Whether a woman, not of Roman blood,
Should hold the world in awe. Such lofty thoughts
Seized on her soul upon that night in which
The wanton daughter of Pellaean kings
First shared our leaders' couches. Who shall blame
Antonius for the madness of his love,
When Caesar's haughty breast drew in the flame?
Who red with carnage, 'mid the clash of arms,
In palace haunted by Pompeius' shade,
Gave place to love; and in adulterous bed,
Magnus forgotten, from the Queen impure,
To Julia gave a brother: on the bounds,
Of furthest Libya permitting thus
His foe to gather: he in dalliance base
Waited upon his mistress, and to her
Pharos would give, for her would conquer all.
Then Cleopatra, trusting to her charms,
Tearless approached him, though in form of grief;
Her tresses loose as though in sorrow torn,
So best becoming her; and thus began:
'If, mighty Caesar, aught to noble birth
Be due, give ear. Of Lagian race am I
Offspring illustrious; from my father's throne
Cast forth to banishment; unless thy hand
Restore to me the sceptre: then a Queen
Falls at thy feet embracing. To our race
Bright star of justice thou! Nor first shall I
As woman rule the cities of the Nile;
For, neither sex preferring, Pharos bows
To queenly governance. Of my parted sire
Read the last words, by which 'tis mine to share
With equal rights the kingdom and the bed.
And loves the boy his sister, were he free;
But his affections and his sword alike
Pothinus orders. Nor wish I myself
To wield my father's power; but this my prayer:
Save from this foul disgrace our royal house,
Bid that the king shall reign, and from the court
Remove this hateful varlet, and his arms.
How swells his bosom for that his the hand
That shore Pompeius' head! And now he threats
Thee, Caesar, also; which the Fates avert!
'Twas shame enough upon the earth and thee
That of Pothinus Magnus should have been
The guilt or merit.'
Caesar's ears in vain
Had she implored, but aided by her charms
The wanton's prayers prevailed, and by a night
Of shame ineffable, passed with her judge,
She won his favour.
When between the pair
Caesar had made a peace, by costliest gifts
Purchased, a banquet of such glad event
Made fit memorial; and with pomp the Queen
Displayed her luxuries, as yet unknown
To Roman fashions. First uprose the hall
Like to a fane which this corrupted age
Could scarcely rear: the lofty ceiling shone
With richest tracery, the beams were bound
In golden coverings; no scant veneer
Lay on its walls, but built in solid blocks
Of marble, gleamed the palace. Agate stood
In sturdy columns, bearing up the roof;
Onyx and porphyry on the spacious floor
Were trodden 'neath the foot; the mighty gates
Of Maroe's throughout were formed,
He mere adornment; ivory clothed the hall,
And fixed upon the doors with labour rare
Shells of the tortoise gleamed, from Indian seas,
With frequent emeralds studded. Gems of price
And yellow jasper on the couches shone.
Lustrous the coverlets; the major part
Dipped more than once within the vats of Tyre
Had drunk their juice: part feathered as with gold;
Part crimson dyed, in manner as are passed
Through Pharian leash the threads. There waited slaves
In number as a people, some in ranks
By different blood distinguished, some by age;
This band with Libyan, that with auburn hair
Red so that Caesar on the banks of Rhine
None such had witnessed; some with features scorched
By torrid suns, their locks in twisted coils
Drawn from their foreheads. Eunuchs too were there,
Unhappy race; and on the other side
Men of full age whose cheeks with growth of hair
Were hardly darkened.
Upon either hand
Lay kings, and Caesar in the midst supreme.
There in her fatal beauty lay the Queen
Thick daubed with unguents, nor with throne content
Nor with her brother spouse; laden she lay
On neck and hair with all the Red Sea spoils,
And faint beneath the weight of gems and gold.
Her snowy breast shone through Sidonian lawn
Which woven close by shuttles of the east
The art of Nile had loosened. Ivory feet
Bore citron tables brought from woods that wave
On Atlas, such as Caesar never saw
When Juba was his captive. Blind in soul
By madness of ambition, thus to fire
By such profusion of her wealth, the mind
Of Caesar armed, her guest in civil war!
Not though he aimed with pitiless hand to grasp
The riches of a world; not though were here
Those ancient leaders of the simple age,
Fabricius or Curius stern of soul,
Or he who, Consul, left in sordid garb
His Tuscan plough, could all their several hopes
Have risen to such spoil. On plates of gold
They piled the banquet sought in earth and air
And from the deepest seas and Nilus' waves,
Through all the world; in craving for display,
No hunger urging. Frequent birds and beasts,
Egypt's high gods, they placed upon the board:
In crystal goblets water of the Nile
They handed, and in massive cups of price
Was poured the wine; no juice of Mareot grape
But noble vintage of Falernian growth
Which in few years in Meroe's vats had foamed,
(For such the clime) to ripeness. On their brows
Chaplets were placed of roses ever young
With glistening nard entwined; and in their locks
Was cinnamon infused, not yet in air
Its fragrance perished, nor in foreign climes;
And rich amomum from the neighbouring fields.
Thus Caesar learned the booty of a world
To lavish, and his breast was shamed of war
Waged with his son-in-law for meagre spoil,
And with the Pharian realm he longed to find
A cause of battle.
When of wine and feast
They wearied and their pleasure found an end,
Caesar drew out in colloquy the night
Thus with Achoreus, on the highest couch
With linen ephod as a priest begirt:
'O thou devoted to all sacred rites,
Loved by the gods, as proves thy length of days,
Tell, if thou wilt, whence sprang the Pharian race;
How lie their lands, the manners of their tribes,
The form and worship of their deities.
Expound the sculptures on your ancient fanes:
Reveal your gods if willing to be known:
If to th' Athenian sage your fathers taught
Their mysteries, who worthier than I
To bear in trust the secrets of the world?
True, by the rumour of my kinsman's flight
Here was I drawn; yet also by your fame:
And even in the midst of war's alarms
The stars and heavenly spaces have I conned;
Nor shall Eudoxus' year excel mine own.
But though such ardour burns within my breast,
Such zeal to know the truth, yet my chief wish
To learn the source of your mysterious flood
Through ages hidden: give me certain hope
To see the fount of Nile -- and civil war
Then shall I leave.'
He spake, and then the priest:
'The secrets, Caesar, of our mighty sires
Kept from the common people until now
I hold it right to utter. Some may deem
That silence on these wonders of the earth
Were greater piety. But to the gods
I hold it grateful that their handiwork
And sacred edicts should be known to men.
'A different power by the primal law,
Each star possesses: these alone control
The movement of the sky, with adverse force
Opposing: while the sun divides the year,
And day from night, and by his potent rays
Forbids the stars to pass their stated course.
The moon by her alternate phases sets
The varying limits of the sea and shore.
'Neath Saturn's sway the zone of ice and snow
Has passed; while Mars in lightning's fitful flames
And winds abounds' beneath high Jupiter
Unvexed by storms abides a temperate air;
And fruitful Venus' star contains the seeds
Of all things. Ruler of the boundless deep
The god Cyllenian: whene'er he holds
That part of heaven where the Lion dwells
With neighbouring Cancer joined, and Sirius star
Flames in its fury; where the circular path
(Which marks the changes of the varying year)
Gives to hot Cancer and to Capricorn
Their several stations, under which doth lie
The fount of Nile, he, master of the waves,
Strikes with his beam the waters. Forth the stream
Brims from his fount, as Ocean when the moon
Commands an increase; nor shall curb his flow
Till night wins back her losses from the sun.
'Vain is the ancient faith that Ethiop snows
Send Nile abundant forth upon the lands.
Those mountains know nor northern wind nor star.
Of this are proof the breezes of the South,
Fraught with warm vapours, and the people's hue
Burned dark by suns: and 'tis in time of spring,
When first are thawed the snows, that ice-fed streams
In swollen torrents tumble; but the Nile
Nor lifts his wave before the Dog star burns;
Nor seeks again his banks, until the sun
In equal balance measures night and day.
Nor are the laws that govern other streams
Obeyed by Nile. For in the wintry year
Were he in flood, when distant far the sun,
His waters lacked their office; but he leaves
His channel when the summer is at height,
Tempering the torrid heat of Egypt's clime.
Such is the task of Nile; thus in the world
He finds his purpose, lest exceeding heat
Consume the lands: and rising thus to meet
Enkindled Lion, to Syene's prayers
By Cancer burnt gives ear; nor curbs his wave
Till the slant sun and Meroe's lengthening shades
Proclaim the autumn. Who shall give the cause?
'Twas Parent Nature's self which gave command
Thus for the needs of earth should flow the Nile.
'Vain too the fable that the western winds
Control his current, in continuous course
At stated seasons governing the air;
Or hurrying from Occident to South
Clouds without number which in misty folds
Press on the waters; or by constant blast,
Forcing his current back whose several mouths
Burst on the sea; -- so, forced by seas and wind,
Men say, his billows pour upon the land.
Some speak of hollow caverns, breathing holes
Deep in the earth, within whose mighty jaws
Waters in noiseless current underneath
From northern cold to southern climes are drawn:
And when hot Meroe pants beneath the sun,
Then, say they, Ganges through the silent depths
And Padus pass: and from a single fount
The Nile arising not in single streams
Pours all the rivers forth. And rumour says
That when the sea which girdles in the world
O'erflows, thence rushes Nile, by lengthy course,
Softening his saltness. More, if it be true
That ocean feeds the sun and heavenly fires,
Then Phoebus journeying by the burning Crab
Sucks from its waters more than air can hold
Upon his passage -- this the cool of night
Pours on the Nile.
'If, Caesar, 'tis my part
To judge such difference, 'twould seem that since
Creation's age has passed, earth's veins by chance
Some waters hold, and shaken cast them forth:
But others took when first the globe was formed
A sure abode; by Him who framed the world
Fixed with the Universe.
'And, Roman, thou,
In thirsting thus to know the source of Nile
Dost as the Pharian and Persian kings
And those of Macedon; nor any age
Refused the secret, but the place prevailed
Remote by nature. Greatest of the kings
By Memphis worshipped, Alexander grudged
To Nile its mystery, and to furthest earth
Sent chosen Ethiops whom the crimson zone
Stayed in their further march, while flowed his stream
Warm at their feet. Sesostris westward far
Reached, to the ends of earth; and necks of kings
Bent 'neath his chariot yoke: but of the springs
Which fill your rivers, Rhone and Po, he drank.
Not of the fount of Nile. Cambyses king
In madman quest led forth his host to where
The long-lived races dwell: then famine struck,
Ate of his dead and, Nile unknown, returned.
No lying rumour of thy hidden source
Has e'er made mention; wheresoe'er thou art
Yet art thou sought, nor yet has nation claimed
In pride of place thy river as its own.
Yet shall I tell, so far as has the god,
Who veils thy fountain, given me to know.
Thy progress. Daring to upraise thy banks
'Gainst fiery Cancer's heat, thou tak'st thy rise
Beneath the zenith: straight towards the north
And mid Bootes flowing; to the couch
Bending, or to the risings, of the sun
In sinuous bends alternate; just alike
To Araby's peoples and to Libyan sands.
By Seres first beheld, yet know they not
Whence art thou come; and with no native stream
Strik'st thou the Ethiop fields. Nor knows the world
To whom it owes thee. Nature ne'er revealed
Thy secret origin, removed afar.
Nor did she wish thee to be seen of men
While still a tiny rivulet, but preferred
Their wonder to their knowledge. Where the sun
Stays at his limit, dost thou rise in flood
Untimely; such try right: to other lands
Bearing try winter: and by both the poles
Thou only wanderest. Here men ask thy rise
And there thine ending. Meroe rich in soil
And tilled by swarthy husbandmen divides
Thy broad expanse, rejoicing in the leaves
Of groves of ebony, which though spreading far
Their branching foliage, by no breadth of shade
Soften the summer sun -- whose rays direct
Pass from the Lion to the fervid earth.
Next dost thou journey onwards past the realm
Of burning Phoebus, and the sterile sands,
With equal volume; now with all thy strength
Gathered in one, and now in devious streams
Parting the bank that crumbles at thy touch.
Then by our kingdom's gates, where Philae parts
Arabian peoples from Egyptian fields
The sluggish bosom of thy flood recalls
Try wandering currents, which through desert wastes
Flow gently on to where the merchant track
Divides the Red Sea waters from our own.
Who, gazing, Nile, upon thy tranquil flow,
Could picture how in wild array of foam
(Where shelves the earth) thy billows shall be plunged
Down the steep cataracts, in fuming wrath
That rocks should bar the passage of thy stream
Free from its source? For whirled on high the spray
Aims at the stars, and trembles all the air
With rush of waters; and with sounding roar
The foaming mass down from the summit pours
In hoary waves victorious. Next an isle
In all our ancient lore 'untrodden' named
Stems firm thy torrent; and the rocks we call
Springs of the river, for that here are marked
The earliest tokens of the coming flood.
With mountain shores now nature hems thee in
And shuts thy waves from Libya; in the midst
Hence do thy waters run, till Memphis first
Forbids the barrier placed upon thy stream
And gives thee access to the open fields.'
Thus did they pass, as though in peace profound,
The nightly watches. But Pothinus' mind,
Once with accursed butchery imbued,
Was frenzied still; since great Pompeius fell
No deed to him was crime; his rabid soul
Th' avenging goddesses and Magnus' shade
Stirred to fresh horrors; and a Pharian hand
No less was worthy, as he deemed, to shed
That blood which Fortune purposed should bedew
The conquered fathers: and the fell revenge
Due to the senate for the civil war
This hireling almost snatched. Avert, ye fates,
Far hence the shame that not by Brutus' hand
This blow be struck! Shall thus the tyrant's fall
Just at our hands, become a Pharian crime,
Reft of example? To prepare a plan
(Fated to fail) he dares; nor veils in fraud
A plot for murder, but with open war
Attacks th' unconquered chieftain: from his crimes
He gained such courage as to send command
To lop the head of Caesar, and to join
In death the kinsmen chiefs.
These words by night
His faithful servants to Achillas bear,
His foul associate, whom the boy had made
Chief of his armies, and who ruled alone
O'er Egypt's land and o'er himself her king:
'Now lay thy limbs upon the sumptuous couch
And sleep in luxury, for the Queen hath seized
The palace; nor alone by her betrayed,
But Caesar's gift, is Pharos. Dost delay
Nor hasten to the chamber of thy Queen?
Thou only? Married to the Latian chief,
The impious sister now her brother weds
And hurrying from rival spouse to spouse
Hath Egypt won, and plays the bawd for Rome.
By amorous potions she has won the man:
Then trust the boy! Yet give him but a night
In her enfondling arms, and drunk with love
Thy life and mine he'll barter for a kiss.
We for his sister's charms by cross and flame
Shall pay the penalty: nor hope of aid;
Here stands adulterous Caesar, here the King
Her spouse: how hope we from so stern a judge
To gain acquittal? Shall she not condemn
Those who ne'er sought her favours? By the deed
We dared together and lost, by Magnus' blood
Which wrought the bond between us, be thou swift
With hasty tumult to arouse the war:
Dash in with nightly band, and mar with death
Their shameless nuptials: on the very bed
With either lover smite the ruthless Queen.
Nor let the fortunes of the Western chief
Make pause our enterprise. We share with him
The glory of his empire o'er the world.
Pompeius fallen makes us too sublime.
There lies the shore that bids us hope success:
Ask of our power from the polluted wave,
And gaze upon the scanty tomb which holds
Not all Pompeius' ashes. Peer to him
Was he whom now thou fearest. Noble blood
True, is not ours: what boots it? Nor are realms
Nor wealth of peoples given to our command.
Yet have we risen to a height of power
For deeds of blood, and Fortune to our hands
Attracts her victims. Lo! a nobler now
Lies in our compass, and a second death
Hesperia shall appease; for Caesar's blood,
Shed by these hands, shall give us this, that Rome
Shall love us, guilty of Pompeius' fall.
Why fear these titles, why this chieftain's strength?
For shorn of these, before your swords he lies
A common soldier. To the civil war
This night shall bring completion, and shall give
To peoples slain fit offerings, and send
That life the world demands beneath the shades.
Rise then in all your hardihood and smite
This Caesar down, and let the Roman youths
Strike for themselves, and Lagos for its King.
Nor do thou tarry: full of wine and feast
Thou'lt fall upon him in the lists of love;
Then dare the venture, and the heavenly gods
Shall grant of Cato's and of Brutus' prayers
To thee fulfilment.'
Nor was Achillas slow
To hear the voice that counselled him to crime.
No sounding clarion summoned, as is wont,
His troops to arms; nor trumpet blare betrayed
Their nightly march: but rapidly he seized
All needed instruments of blood and war.
Of Latian race the most part of his train,
Yet to barbarian customs were their minds
By long forgetfulness of Rome debased:
Else had it shamed to serve the Pharian King;
But now his vassal and his minion's word
Compel obedience. Those who serve in camps
Lose faith and love of kin: their pittance earned
Makes just the deed: and for their sordid pay,
Not for themselves, they threaten Caesar's life.
Where finds the piteous destiny of the realm
Rome with herself at peace? The host withdrawn
From dread Thessalia raves on Nilus' banks
As all the race of Rome. What more had dared,
With Magnus welcomed, the Lagean house?
Each hand must render to the gods their due,
Nor son of Rome may cease from civil war;
By Heaven's command our state was rent in twain;
Nor love for husband nor regard for sire
Parted our peoples. 'Twas a slave who stirred
Afresh the conflict, and Achillas grasped
In turn the sword of Rome: nay more, had won,
Had not the fates adverse restrained his hand
From Caesar's slaughter.
For the murderous pair
Ripe for their plot were met; the spacious hall
Still busied with the feast. So might have flowed
Into the kingly cups a stream of gore,
And in mid banquet fallen Caesar's head.
Yet did they fear lest in the nightly strife
(The fates permitting) some incautious hand --
So did they trust the sword -- might slay the King.
Thus stayed the deed, for in the minds of slaves
The chance of doing Caesar to the death
Might bear postponement: when the day arose
Then should he suffer; and a night of life
Thus by Pothinus was to Caesar given.
Now from the Casian rock looked forth the Sun
Flooding the land of Egypt with a day
Warm from its earliest dawn, when from the walls
Not wandering in disorder are they seen,
But drown in close array, as though to meet
A foe opposing; ready to receive
Or give the battle. Caesar, in the town
Placing no trust, within the palace courts
Lay in ignoble hiding place, the gates
Close barred: nor all the kingly rooms possessed,
But in the narrowest portion of the space
He drew his band together. There in arms
They stood, with dread and fury in their souls.
He feared attack, indignant at his fear.
Thus will a noble beast in little cage
Imprisoned, fume, and break upon the bars
His teeth in frenzied wrath; nor more would rage
The flames of Vulcan in Sicilian depths
Should Etna's top be closed. He who but now
By Haemus' mount against Pompeius chief,
Italia's leaders and the Senate line,
His cause forbidding hope, looked at the fates
He knew were hostile, with unfaltering gaze,
Now fears before the crime of hireling slaves,
And in mid palace trembles at the blow:
He whom nor Scythian nor Alaun had dared
To violate, nor the Moor who aims the dart
Upon his victim slain, to prove his skill.
The Roman world but now did not suffice
To hold him, nor the realms from furthest Ind
To Tyrian Gades. Now, as puny boy,
Or woman, trembling when a town is sacked,
Within the narrow corners of a house
He seeks for safety; on the portals closed
His hope of life; and with uncertain gait
He treads the hails; yet not without the King;
In purpose, Ptolemaeus, that thy life
For his shall give atonement; and to hurl
Thy severed head among the servant throng
Should darts and torches fail. So story tells
The Colchian princess with sword in hand,
And with her brother's neck bared to the blow,
Waited her sire, avenger of his realm
Despoiled, and of her flight. In the imminent risk
Caesar, in hopes of peace, an envoy sent
To the fierce vassals, from their absent lord
Bearing a message, thus: 'At whose command
Wage ye the war?' But not the laws which bind
All nations upon earth, nor sacred rights,
Availed to save or messenger of peace,
Or King's ambassador; or thee from crime
Such as befitted thee, thou land of Nile
Fruitful in monstrous deeds: not Juba's realm
Vast though it be, nor Pontus, nor the land
Thessalian, nor the arms of Pharnaces,
Nor yet the tracts which chill Iberus girds,
Nor Libyan coasts such wickedness have dared,
As thou, with all thy luxuries. Closer now
War hemmed them in, and weapons in the courts,
Shaking the innermost recesses, fell.
Yet did no ram, fatal with single stroke,
Assail the portal, nor machine of war;
Nor flame they called in aid; but blind of plan
They wander purposeless, in separate bands
Around the circuit, nor at any spot
With strength combined attempt to breach the wall.
The fates forbad, and Fortune from their hands
Held fast the palace as a battlement.
Nor failed they to attack from ships of war
The regal dwelling, where its frontage bold
Made stand apart the waters of the deep:
There, too, was Caesar's all-protecting arm;
For these at point of sword, and those with fire
He forces back, and though besieged he dares
To storm th' assailants: and as lay the ships
Joined rank to rank, bids drop upon their sides
Lamps drenched with reeking tar. Nor slow the fire
To seize the hempen cables and the decks
Oozing with melting pitch; the oarsman's bench
All in one moment, and the topmost yards
Burst into flame: half merged the vessels lay
While swam the foemen, all in arms, the wave;
Nor fell the blaze upon the ships alone,
But seized with writhing tongues the neighbouring homes,
And fanned to fury by the Southern breeze
Tempestuous, it leaped from roof to roof;
Not otherwise than on its heavenly track,
Unfed by matter, glides the ball of light,
By air alone aflame.
This pest recalled
Some of the forces to the city's aid
From the besieged halls. Nor Caesar gave
To sleep its season; swifter than all else
To seize the crucial moment of the war.
Quick in the darkest watches of the night
He leaped upon his ships, and Pharos seized,
Gate of the main; an island in the days
Of Proteus seer, now bordering the walls
Of Alexander's city. Thus he gained
A double vantage, for his foes were pent
Within the narrow entrance, which for him
And for his aids gave access to the sea.
Nor longer was Pothinus' doom delayed,
Yet not with cross or flame, nor with the wrath
His crime demanded; nor by savage beasts
Torn, did he suffer; but by Magnus' death,
Alas the shame! he fell; his head by sword
Hacked from his shoulders. Next by frauds prepared
By Ganymede her base attendant, fled
Arsinoe from the Court to Caesar's foes;
There in the absence of the King she ruled
As of Lagean blood: there at her hands,
The savage minion of the tyrant boy,
Achillas, fell by just avenging sword.
Thus did another victim to thy shade
Atone, Pompeius; but the gods forbid
That this be all thy vengeance! Not the king
Nor all the stock of Lagos for thy death
Would make fit sacrifice! So Fortune deemed;
And not till patriot swords shall drink the blood
Of Caesar, Magnus, shalt thou be appeased.
Still, though was slain the author of the strife,
Sank not their rage: with Ganymede for chief
Again they rush to arms; in deeds of fight
Again they conquer. So might that one day
Have witnessed Caesar's fate; so might its fame
Have lived through ages.
As the Roman Chief,
Crushed on the narrow surface of the mole,
Prepared to throw his troops upon the ships,
Sudden upon him the surrounding foes
With all their terrors came. In dense array
Their navy lined the shores, while on the rear
The footmen ceaseless charged. No hope was left,
For flight was not, nor could the brave man's arm
Achieve or safety or a glorious death.
Not now were needed for great Caesar's fall,
Caught in the toils of nature, routed host
Or mighty heaps of slain: his only doubt
To fear or hope for death: while on his brain
Brave Scaeva's image flashed, now vainly sought,
Who on the wall by Epidamnus' fields
Earned fame immortal, and with single arm
Drove back Pompeius as he trod the breach....
Queen Guinevere had fled the court, and sat
There in the holy house at Almesbury
Weeping, none with her save a little maid,
A novice: one low light betwixt them burned
Blurred by the creeping mist, for all abroad,
Beneath a moon unseen albeit at full,
The white mist, like a face-cloth to the face,
Clung to the dead earth, and the land was still.
For hither had she fled, her cause of flight
Sir Modred; he that like a subtle beast
Lay couchant with his eyes upon the throne,
Ready to spring, waiting a chance: for this
He chilled the popular praises of the King
With silent smiles of slow disparagement;
And tampered with the Lords of the White Horse,
Heathen, the brood by Hengist left; and sought
To make disruption in the Table Round
Of Arthur, and to splinter it into feuds
Serving his traitorous end; and all his aims
Were sharpened by strong hate for Lancelot.
For thus it chanced one morn when all the court,
Green-suited, but with plumes that mocked the may,
Had been, their wont, a-maying and returned,
That Modred still in green, all ear and eye,
Climbed to the high top of the garden-wall
To spy some secret scandal if he might,
And saw the Queen who sat betwixt her best
Enid, and lissome Vivien, of her court
The wiliest and the worst; and more than this
He saw not, for Sir Lancelot passing by
Spied where he couched, and as the gardener's hand
Picks from the colewort a green caterpillar,
So from the high wall and the flowering grove
Of grasses Lancelot plucked him by the heel,
And cast him as a worm upon the way;
But when he knew the Prince though marred with dust,
He, reverencing king's blood in a bad man,
Made such excuses as he might, and these
Full knightly without scorn; for in those days
No knight of Arthur's noblest dealt in scorn;
But, if a man were halt or hunched, in him
By those whom God had made full-limbed and tall,
Scorn was allowed as part of his defect,
And he was answered softly by the King
And all his Table. So Sir Lancelot holp
To raise the Prince, who rising twice or thrice
Full sharply smote his knees, and smiled, and went:
But, ever after, the small violence done
Rankled in him and ruffled all his heart,
As the sharp wind that ruffles all day long
A little bitter pool about a stone
On the bare coast.
But when Sir Lancelot told
This matter to the Queen, at first she laughed
Lightly, to think of Modred's dusty fall,
Then shuddered, as the village wife who cries
`I shudder, some one steps across my grave;'
Then laughed again, but faintlier, for indeed
She half-foresaw that he, the subtle beast,
Would track her guilt until he found, and hers
Would be for evermore a name of scorn.
Henceforward rarely could she front in hall,
Or elsewhere, Modred's narrow foxy face,
Heart-hiding smile, and gray persistent eye:
Henceforward too, the Powers that tend the soul,
To help it from the death that cannot die,
And save it even in extremes, began
To vex and plague her. Many a time for hours,
Beside the placid breathings of the King,
In the dead night, grim faces came and went
Before her, or a vague spiritual fear--
Like to some doubtful noise of creaking doors,
Heard by the watcher in a haunted house,
That keeps the rust of murder on the walls--
Held her awake: or if she slept, she dreamed
An awful dream; for then she seemed to stand
On some vast plain before a setting sun,
And from the sun there swiftly made at her
A ghastly something, and its shadow flew
Before it, till it touched her, and she turned--
When lo! her own, that broadening from her feet,
And blackening, swallowed all the land, and in it
Far cities burnt, and with a cry she woke.
And all this trouble did not pass but grew;
Till even the clear face of the guileless King,
And trustful courtesies of household life,
Became her bane; and at the last she said,
`O Lancelot, get thee hence to thine own land,
For if thou tarry we shall meet again,
And if we meet again, some evil chance
Will make the smouldering scandal break and blaze
Before the people, and our lord the King.'
And Lancelot ever promised, but remained,
And still they met and met. Again she said,
`O Lancelot, if thou love me get thee hence.'
And then they were agreed upon a night
(When the good King should not be there) to meet
And part for ever. Vivien, lurking, heard.
She told Sir Modred. Passion-pale they met
And greeted. Hands in hands, and eye to eye,
Low on the border of her couch they sat
Stammering and staring. It was their last hour,
A madness of farewells. And Modred brought
His creatures to the basement of the tower
For testimony; and crying with full voice
`Traitor, come out, ye are trapt at last,' aroused
Lancelot, who rushing outward lionlike
Leapt on him, and hurled him headlong, and he fell
Stunned, and his creatures took and bare him off,
And all was still: then she, `The end is come,
And I am shamed for ever;' and he said,
`Mine be the shame; mine was the sin: but rise,
And fly to my strong castle overseas:
There will I hide thee, till my life shall end,
There hold thee with my life against the world.'
She answered, `Lancelot, wilt thou hold me so?
Nay, friend, for we have taken our farewells.
Would God that thou couldst hide me from myself!
Mine is the shame, for I was wife, and thou
Unwedded: yet rise now, and let us fly,
For I will draw me into sanctuary,
And bide my doom.' So Lancelot got her horse,
Set her thereon, and mounted on his own,
And then they rode to the divided way,
There kissed, and parted weeping: for he past,
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen,
Back to his land; but she to Almesbury
Fled all night long by glimmering waste and weald,
And heard the Spirits of the waste and weald
Moan as she fled, or thought she heard them moan:
And in herself she moaned `Too late, too late!'
Till in the cold wind that foreruns the morn,
A blot in heaven, the Raven, flying high,
Croaked, and she thought, `He spies a field of death;
For now the Heathen of the Northern Sea,
Lured by the crimes and frailties of the court,
Begin to slay the folk, and spoil the land.'
And when she came to Almesbury she spake
There to the nuns, and said, `Mine enemies
Pursue me, but, O peaceful Sisterhood,
Receive, and yield me sanctuary, nor ask
Her name to whom ye yield it, till her time
To tell you:' and her beauty, grace and power,
Wrought as a charm upon them, and they spared
To ask it.
So the stately Queen abode
For many a week, unknown, among the nuns;
Nor with them mixed, nor told her name, nor sought,
Wrapt in her grief, for housel or for shrift,
But communed only with the little maid,
Who pleased her with a babbling heedlessness
Which often lured her from herself; but now,
This night, a rumour wildly blown about
Came, that Sir Modred had usurped the realm,
And leagued him with the heathen, while the King
Was waging war on Lancelot: then she thought,
`With what a hate the people and the King
Must hate me,' and bowed down upon her hands
Silent, until the little maid, who brooked
No silence, brake it, uttering, `Late! so late!
What hour, I wonder, now?' and when she drew
No answer, by and by began to hum
An air the nuns had taught her; `Late, so late!'
Which when she heard, the Queen looked up, and said,
`O maiden, if indeed ye list to sing,
Sing, and unbind my heart that I may weep.'
Whereat full willingly sang the little maid.
`Late, late, so late! and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late! but we can enter still.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.
`No light had we: for that we do repent;
And learning this, the bridegroom will relent.
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now.
`No light: so late! and dark and chill the night!
O let us in, that we may find the light!
Too late, too late: ye cannot enter now.
`Have we not heard the bridegroom is so sweet?
O let us in, though late, to kiss his feet!
No, no, too late! ye cannot enter now.'
So sang the novice, while full passionately,
Her head upon her hands, remembering
Her thought when first she came, wept the sad Queen.
Then said the little novice prattling to her,
`O pray you, noble lady, weep no more;
But let my words, the words of one so small,
Who knowing nothing knows but to obey,
And if I do not there is penance given--
Comfort your sorrows; for they do not flow
From evil done; right sure am I of that,
Who see your tender grace and stateliness.
But weigh your sorrows with our lord the King's,
And weighing find them less; for gone is he
To wage grim war against Sir Lancelot there,
Round that strong castle where he holds the Queen;
And Modred whom he left in charge of all,
The traitor--Ah sweet lady, the King's grief
For his own self, and his own Queen, and realm,
Must needs be thrice as great as any of ours.
For me, I thank the saints, I am not great.
For if there ever come a grief to me
I cry my cry in silence, and have done.
None knows it, and my tears have brought me good:
But even were the griefs of little ones
As great as those of great ones, yet this grief
Is added to the griefs the great must bear,
That howsoever much they may desire
Silence, they cannot weep behind a cloud:
As even here they talk at Almesbury
About the good King and his wicked Queen,
And were I such a King with such a Queen,
Well might I wish to veil her wickedness,
But were I such a King, it could not be.'
Then to her own sad heart muttered the Queen,
`Will the child kill me with her innocent talk?'
But openly she answered, `Must not I,
If this false traitor have displaced his lord,
Grieve with the common grief of all the realm?'
`Yea,' said the maid, `this is all woman's grief,
That SHE is woman, whose disloyal life
Hath wrought confusion in the Table Round
Which good King Arthur founded, years ago,
With signs and miracles and wonders, there
At Camelot, ere the coming of the Queen.'
Then thought the Queen within herself again,
`Will the child kill me with her foolish prate?'
But openly she spake and said to her,
`O little maid, shut in by nunnery walls,
What canst thou know of Kings and Tables Round,
Or what of signs and wonders, but the signs
And simple miracles of thy nunnery?'
To whom the little novice garrulously,
`Yea, but I know: the land was full of signs
And wonders ere the coming of the Queen.
So said my father, and himself was knight
Of the great Table--at the founding of it;
And rode thereto from Lyonnesse, and he said
That as he rode, an hour or maybe twain
After the sunset, down the coast, he heard
Strange music, and he paused, and turning--there,
All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse,
Each with a beacon-star upon his head,
And with a wild sea-light about his feet,
He saw them--headland after headland flame
Far on into the rich heart of the west:
And in the light the white mermaiden swam,
And strong man-breasted things stood from the sea,
And sent a deep sea-voice through all the land,
To which the little elves of chasm and cleft
Made answer, sounding like a distant horn.
So said my father--yea, and furthermore,
Next morning, while he past the dim-lit woods,
Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower,
That shook beneath them, as the thistle shakes
When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed:
And still at evenings on before his horse
The flickering fairy-circle wheeled and broke
Flying, and linked again, and wheeled and broke
Flying, for all the land was full of life.
And when at last he came to Camelot,
A wreath of airy dancers hand-in-hand
Swung round the lighted lantern of the hall;
And in the hall itself was such a feast
As never man had dreamed; for every knight
Had whatsoever meat he longed for served
By hands unseen; and even as he said
Down in the cellars merry bloated things
Shouldered the spigot, straddling on the butts
While the wine ran: so glad were spirits and men
Before the coming of the sinful Queen.'
Then spake the Queen and somewhat bitterly,
`Were they so glad? ill prophets were they all,
Spirits and men: could none of them foresee,
Not even thy wise father with his signs
And wonders, what has fallen upon the realm?'
To whom the novice garrulously again,
`Yea, one, a bard; of whom my father said,
Full many a noble war-song had he sung,
Even in the presence of an enemy's fleet,
Between the steep cliff and the coming wave;
And many a mystic lay of life and death
Had chanted on the smoky mountain-tops,
When round him bent the spirits of the hills
With all their dewy hair blown back like flame:
So said my father--and that night the bard
Sang Arthur's glorious wars, and sang the King
As wellnigh more than man, and railed at those
Who called him the false son of Gorlos:
For there was no man knew from whence he came;
But after tempest, when the long wave broke
All down the thundering shores of Bude and Bos,
There came a day as still as heaven, and then
They found a naked child upon the sands
Of dark Tintagil by the Cornish sea;
And that was Arthur; and they fostered him
Till he by miracle was approven King:
And that his grave should be a mystery
From all men, like his birth; and could he find
A woman in her womanhood as great
As he was in his manhood, then, he sang,
The twain together well might change the world.
But even in the middle of his song
He faltered, and his hand fell from the harp,
And pale he turned, and reeled, and would have fallen,
But that they stayed him up; nor would he tell
His vision; but what doubt that he foresaw
This evil work of Lancelot and the Queen?'
Then thought the Queen, `Lo! they have set her on,
Our simple-seeming Abbess and her nuns,
To play upon me,' and bowed her head nor spake.
Whereat the novice crying, with clasped hands,
Shame on her own garrulity garrulously,
Said the good nuns would check her gadding tongue
Full often, `and, sweet lady, if I seem
To vex an ear too sad to listen to me,
Unmannerly, with prattling and the tales
Which my good father told me, check me too
Nor let me shame my father's memory, one
Of noblest manners, though himself would say
Sir Lancelot had the noblest; and he died,
Killed in a tilt, come next, five summers back,
And left me; but of others who remain,
And of the two first-famed for courtesy--
And pray you check me if I ask amiss-
But pray you, which had noblest, while you moved
Among them, Lancelot or our lord the King?'
Then the pale Queen looked up and answered her,
`Sir Lancelot, as became a noble knight,
Was gracious to all ladies, and the same
In open battle or the tilting-field
Forbore his own advantage, and the King
In open battle or the tilting-field
Forbore his own advantage, and these two
Were the most nobly-mannered men of all;
For manners are not idle, but the fruit
Of loyal nature, and of noble mind.'
`Yea,' said the maid, `be manners such fair fruit?'
Then Lancelot's needs must be a thousand-fold
Less noble, being, as all rumour runs,
The most disloyal friend in all the world.'
To which a mournful answer made the Queen:
`O closed about by narrowing nunnery-walls,
What knowest thou of the world, and all its lights
And shadows, all the wealth and all the woe?
If ever Lancelot, that most noble knight,
Were for one hour less noble than himself,
Pray for him that he scape the doom of fire,
And weep for her that drew him to his doom.'
`Yea,' said the little novice, `I pray for both;
But I should all as soon believe that his,
Sir Lancelot's, were as noble as the King's,
As I could think, sweet lady, yours would be
Such as they are, were you the sinful Queen.'
So she, like many another babbler, hurt
Whom she would soothe, and harmed where she would heal;
For here a sudden flush of wrathful heat
Fired all the pale face of the Queen, who cried,
`Such as thou art be never maiden more
For ever! thou their tool, set on to plague
And play upon, and harry me, petty spy
And traitress.' When that storm of anger brake
From Guinevere, aghast the maiden rose,
White as her veil, and stood before the Queen
As tremulously as foam upon the beach
Stands in a wind, ready to break and fly,
And when the Queen had added `Get thee hence,'
Fled frighted. Then that other left alone
Sighed, and began to gather heart again,
Saying in herself, `The simple, fearful child
Meant nothing, but my own too-fearful guilt,
Simpler than any child, betrays itself.
But help me, heaven, for surely I repent.
For what is true repentance but in thought--
Not even in inmost thought to think again
The sins that made the past so pleasant to us:
And I have sworn never to see him more,
To see him more.'
And even in saying this,
Her memory from old habit of the mind
Went slipping back upon the golden days
In which she saw him first, when Lancelot came,
Reputed the best knight and goodliest man,
Ambassador, to lead her to his lord
Arthur, and led her forth, and far ahead
Of his and her retinue moving, they,
Rapt in sweet talk or lively, all on love
And sport and tilts and pleasure, (for the time
Was maytime, and as yet no sin was dreamed,)
Rode under groves that looked a paradise
Of blossom, over sheets of hyacinth
That seemed the heavens upbreaking through the earth,
And on from hill to hill, and every day
Beheld at noon in some delicious dale
The silk pavilions of King Arthur raised
For brief repast or afternoon repose
By couriers gone before; and on again,
Till yet once more ere set of sun they saw
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship,
That crowned the state pavilion of the King,
Blaze by the rushing brook or silent well.
But when the Queen immersed in such a trance,
And moving through the past unconsciously,
Came to that point where first she saw the King
Ride toward her from the city, sighed to find
Her journey done, glanced at him, thought him cold,
High, self-contained, and passionless, not like him,
`Not like my Lancelot'--while she brooded thus
And grew half-guilty in her thoughts again,
There rode an armd warrior to the doors.
A murmuring whisper through the nunnery ran,
Then on a sudden a cry, `The King.' She sat
Stiff-stricken, listening; but when armd feet
Through the long gallery from the outer doors
Rang coming, prone from off her seat she fell,
And grovelled with her face against the floor:
There with her milkwhite arms and shadowy hair
She made her face a darkness from the King:
And in the darkness heard his armd feet
Pause by her; then came silence, then a voice,
Monotonous and hollow like a Ghost's
Denouncing judgment, but though changed, the King's:
`Liest thou here so low, the child of one
I honoured, happy, dead before thy shame?
Well is it that no child is born of thee.
The children born of thee are sword and fire,
Red ruin, and the breaking up of laws,
The craft of kindred and the Godless hosts
Of heathen swarming o'er the Northern Sea;
Whom I, while yet Sir Lancelot, my right arm,
The mightiest of my knights, abode with me,
Have everywhere about this land of Christ
In twelve great battles ruining overthrown.
And knowest thou now from whence I come--from him
From waging bitter war with him: and he,
That did not shun to smite me in worse way,
Had yet that grace of courtesy in him left,
He spared to lift his hand against the King
Who made him knight: but many a knight was slain;
And many more, and all his kith and kin
Clave to him, and abode in his own land.
And many more when Modred raised revolt,
Forgetful of their troth and fealty, clave
To Modred, and a remnant stays with me.
And of this remnant will I leave a part,
True men who love me still, for whom I live,
To guard thee in the wild hour coming on,
Lest but a hair of this low head be harmed.
Fear not: thou shalt be guarded till my death.
Howbeit I know, if ancient prophecies
Have erred not, that I march to meet my doom.
Thou hast not made my life so sweet to me,
That I the King should greatly care to live;
For thou hast spoilt the purpose of my life.
Bear with me for the last time while I show,
Even for thy sake, the sin which thou hast sinned.
For when the Roman left us, and their law
Relaxed its hold upon us, and the ways
Were filled with rapine, here and there a deed
Of prowess done redressed a random wrong.
But I was first of all the kings who drew
The knighthood-errant of this realm and all
The realms together under me, their Head,
In that fair Order of my Table Round,
A glorious company, the flower of men,
To serve as model for the mighty world,
And be the fair beginning of a time.
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King,
To break the heathen and uphold the Christ,
To ride abroad redressing human wrongs,
To speak no slander, no, nor listen to it,
To honour his own word as if his God's,
To lead sweet lives in purest chastity,
To love one maiden only, cleave to her,
And worship her by years of noble deeds,
Until they won her; for indeed I knew
Of no more subtle master under heaven
Than is the maiden passion for a maid,
Not only to keep down the base in man,
But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
And love of truth, and all that makes a man.
And all this throve before I wedded thee,
Believing, "lo mine helpmate, one to feel
My purpose and rejoicing in my joy."
Then came thy shameful sin with Lancelot;
Then came the sin of Tristram and Isolt;
Then others, following these my mightiest knights,
And drawing foul ensample from fair names,
Sinned also, till the loathsome opposite
Of all my heart had destined did obtain,
And all through thee! so that this life of mine
I guard as God's high gift from scathe and wrong,
Not greatly care to lose; but rather think
How sad it were for Arthur, should he live,
To sit once more within his lonely hall,
And miss the wonted number of my knights,
And miss to hear high talk of noble deeds
As in the golden days before thy sin.
For which of us, who might be left, could speak
Of the pure heart, nor seem to glance at thee?
And in thy bowers of Camelot or of Usk
Thy shadow still would glide from room to room,
And I should evermore be vext with thee
In hanging robe or vacant ornament,
Or ghostly footfall echoing on the stair.
For think not, though thou wouldst not love thy lord,
Thy lord hast wholly lost his love for thee.
I am not made of so slight elements.
Yet must I leave thee, woman, to thy shame.
I hold that man the worst of public foes
Who either for his own or children's sake,
To save his blood from scandal, lets the wife
Whom he knows false, abide and rule the house:
For being through his cowardice allowed
Her station, taken everywhere for pure,
She like a new disease, unknown to men,
Creeps, no precaution used, among the crowd,
Makes wicked lightnings of her eyes, and saps
The fealty of our friends, and stirs the pulse
With devil's leaps, and poisons half the young.
Worst of the worst were that man he that reigns!
Better the King's waste hearth and aching heart
Than thou reseated in thy place of light,
The mockery of my people, and their bane.'
He paused, and in the pause she crept an inch
Nearer, and laid her hands about his feet.
Far off a solitary trumpet blew.
Then waiting by the doors the warhorse neighed
At a friend's voice, and he spake again:
`Yet think not that I come to urge thy crimes,
I did not come to curse thee, Guinevere,
I, whose vast pity almost makes me die
To see thee, laying there thy golden head,
My pride in happier summers, at my feet.
The wrath which forced my thoughts on that fierce law,
The doom of treason and the flaming death,
(When first I learnt thee hidden here) is past.
The pang--which while I weighed thy heart with one
Too wholly true to dream untruth in thee,
Made my tears burn--is also past--in part.
And all is past, the sin is sinned, and I,
Lo! I forgive thee, as Eternal God
Forgives: do thou for thine own soul the rest.
But how to take last leave of all I loved?
O golden hair, with which I used to play
Not knowing! O imperial-moulded form,
And beauty such as never woman wore,
Until it became a kingdom's curse with thee--
I cannot touch thy lips, they are not mine,
But Lancelot's: nay, they never were the King's.
I cannot take thy hand: that too is flesh,
And in the flesh thou hast sinned; and mine own flesh,
Here looking down on thine polluted, cries
"I loathe thee:" yet not less, O Guinevere,
For I was ever virgin save for thee,
My love through flesh hath wrought into my life
So far, that my doom is, I love thee still.
Let no man dream but that I love thee still.
Perchance, and so thou purify thy soul,
And so thou lean on our fair father Christ,
Hereafter in that world where all are pure
We two may meet before high God, and thou
Wilt spring to me, and claim me thine, and know
I am thine husband--not a smaller soul,
Nor Lancelot, nor another. Leave me that,
I charge thee, my last hope. Now must I hence.
Through the thick night I hear the trumpet blow:
They summon me their King to lead mine hosts
Far down to that great battle in the west,
Where I must strike against the man they call
My sister's son--no kin of mine, who leagues
With Lords of the White Horse, heathen, and knights,
Traitors--and strike him dead, and meet myself
Death, or I know not what mysterious doom.
And thou remaining here wilt learn the event;
But hither shall I never come again,
Never lie by thy side; see thee no more--
And while she grovelled at his feet,
She felt the King's breath wander o'er her neck,
And in the darkness o'er her fallen head,
Perceived the waving of his hands that blest.
Then, listening till those armd steps were gone,
Rose the pale Queen, and in her anguish found
The casement: `peradventure,' so she thought,
`If I might see his face, and not be seen.'
And lo, he sat on horseback at the door!
And near him the sad nuns with each a light
Stood, and he gave them charge about the Queen,
To guard and foster her for evermore.
And while he spake to these his helm was lowered,
To which for crest the golden dragon clung
Of Britain; so she did not see the face,
Which then was as an angel's, but she saw,
Wet with the mists and smitten by the lights,
The Dragon of the great Pendragonship
Blaze, making all the night a steam of fire.
And even then he turned; and more and more
The moony vapour rolling round the King,
Who seemed the phantom of a Giant in it,
Enwound him fold by fold, and made him gray
And grayer, till himself became as mist
Before her, moving ghostlike to his doom.
Then she stretched out her arms and cried aloud
`Oh Arthur!' there her voice brake suddenly,
Then--as a stream that spouting from a cliff
Fails in mid air, but gathering at the base
Re-makes itself, and flashes down the vale--
Went on in passionate utterance:
Gone through my sin to slay and to be slain!
And he forgave me, and I could not speak.
Farewell? I should have answered his farewell.
His mercy choked me. Gone, my lord the King,
My own true lord! how dare I call him mine?
The shadow of another cleaves to me,
And makes me one pollution: he, the King,
Called me polluted: shall I kill myself?
What help in that? I cannot kill my sin,
If soul be soul; nor can I kill my shame;
No, nor by living can I live it down.
The days will grow to weeks, the weeks to months
The months will add themselves and make the years,
The years will roll into the centuries,
And mine will ever be a name of scorn.
I must not dwell on that defeat of fame.
Let the world be; that is but of the world.
What else? what hope? I think there was a hope,
Except he mocked me when he spake of hope;
His hope he called it; but he never mocks,
For mockery is the fume of little hearts.
And blessd be the King, who hath forgiven
My wickedness to him, and left me hope
That in mine own heart I can live down sin
And be his mate hereafter in the heavens
Before high God. Ah great and gentle lord,
Who wast, as is the conscience of a saint
Among his warring senses, to thy knights--
To whom my false voluptuous pride, that took
Full easily all impressions from below,
Would not look up, or half-despised the height
To which I would not or I could not climb--
I thought I could not breathe in that fine air
That pure severity of perfect light--
I yearned for warmth and colour which I found
In Lancelot--now I see thee what thou art,
Thou art the highest and most human too,
Not Lancelot, nor another. Is there none
Will tell the King I love him though so late?
Now--ere he goes to the great Battle? none:
Myself must tell him in that purer life,
But now it were too daring. Ah my God,
What might I not have made of thy fair world,
Had I but loved thy highest creature here?
It was my duty to have loved the highest:
It surely was my profit had I known:
It would have been my pleasure had I seen.
We needs must love the highest when we see it,
Not Lancelot, nor another.'
Here her hand
Grasped, made her vail her eyes: she looked and saw
The novice, weeping, suppliant, and said to her,
`Yea, little maid, for am I not forgiven?'
Then glancing up beheld the holy nuns
All round her, weeping; and her heart was loosed
Within her, and she wept with these and said,
`Ye know me then, that wicked one, who broke
The vast design and purpose of the King.
O shut me round with narrowing nunnery-walls,
Meek maidens, from the voices crying "shame."
I must not scorn myself: he loves me still.
Let no one dream but that he loves me still.
So let me, if you do not shudder at me,
Nor shun to call me sister, dwell with you;
Wear black and white, and be a nun like you,
Fast with your fasts, not feasting with your feasts;
Grieve with your griefs, not grieving at your joys,
But not rejoicing; mingle with your rites;
Pray and be prayed for; lie before your shrines;
Do each low office of your holy house;
Walk your dim cloister, and distribute dole
To poor sick people, richer in His eyes
Who ransomed us, and haler too than I;
And treat their loathsome hurts and heal mine own;
And so wear out in almsdeed and in prayer
The sombre close of that voluptuous day,
Which wrought the ruin of my lord the King.'
She said: they took her to themselves; and she
Still hoping, fearing `is it yet too late?'
Dwelt with them, till in time their Abbess died.
Then she, for her good deeds and her pure life,
And for the power of ministration in her,
And likewise for the high rank she had borne,
Was chosen Abbess, there, an Abbess, lived
For three brief years, and there, an Abbess, past
To where beyond these voices there is peace.
Canto the Ninth
Oh, Wellington! (or "Villainton" -- for Fame
Sounds the heroic syllables both ways;
France could not even conquer your great name,
But punn'd it down to this facetious phrase --
Beating or beaten she will laugh the same),
You have obtain'd great pensions and much praise:
Glory like yours should any dare gainsay,
Humanity would rise, and thunder "Nay!"
I don't think that you used Kinnaird quite well
In Marinet's affair -- in fact, 't was shabby,
And like some other things won't do to tell
Upon your tomb in Westminster's old abbey.
Upon the rest 't is not worth while to dwell,
Such tales being for the tea-hours of some tabby;
But though your years as man tend fast to zero,
In fact your grace is still but a young hero.
Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,
Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:
You have repair'd Legitimacy's crutch,
A prop not quite so certain as before:
The Spanish, and the French, as well as Dutch,
Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore;
And Waterloo has made the world your debtor
(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).
You are "the best of cut-throats:" -- do not start;
The phrase is Shakspeare's, and not misapplied:
War's a brain-spattering, windpipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world's masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gain'd by Waterloo?
I am no flatterer -- you've supp'd full of flattery:
They say you like it too -- 't is no great wonder.
He whose whole life has been assault and battery,
At last may get a little tired of thunder;
And swallowing eulogy much more than satire, he
May like being praised for every lucky blunder,
Call'd "Saviour of the Nations" -- not yet saved,
And "Europe's Liberator" -- still enslaved.
I've done. Now go and dine from off the plate
Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,
And send the sentinel before your gate
A slice or two from your luxurious meals:
He fought, but has not fed so well of late.
Some hunger, too, they say the people feels: --
There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,
But pray give back a little to the nation.
I don't mean to reflect -- a man so great as
You, my lord duke! is far above reflection:
The high Roman fashion, too, of Cincinnatus,
With modern history has but small connection:
Though as an Irishman you love potatoes,
You need not take them under your direction;
And half a million for your Sabine farm
Is rather dear! -- I'm sure I mean no harm.
Great men have always scorn'd great recompenses:
Epaminondas saved his Thebes, and died,
Not leaving even his funeral expenses:
George Washington had thanks and nought beside,
Except the all-cloudless glory (which few men's is)
To free his country: Pitt too had his pride,
And as a high-soul'd minister of state is
Renown'd for ruining Great Britain gratis.
Never had mortal man such opportunity,
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now -- what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now -- that the rabble's first vain shouts are o'er?
Go! hear it in your famish'd country's cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories!
As these new cantos touch on warlike feats,
To you the unflattering Muse deigns to inscribe
Truths, that you will not read in the Gazettes,
But which 't is time to teach the hireling tribe
Who fatten on their country's gore, and debts,
Must be recited, and -- without a bribe.
You did great things; but not being great in mind,
Have left undone the greatest -- and mankind.
Death laughs -- Go ponder o'er the skeleton
With which men image out the unknown thing
That hides the past world, like to a set sun
Which still elsewhere may rouse a brighter spring --
Death laughs at all you weep for: -- look upon
This hourly dread of all! whose threaten'd sting
Turns life to terror, even though in its sheath:
Mark how its lipless mouth grins without breath!
Mark how it laughs and scorns at all you are!
And yet was what you are: from ear to ear
It laughs not -- there is now no fleshy bar
So call'd; the Antic long hath ceased to hear,
But still he smiles; and whether near or far,
He strips from man that mantle (far more dear
Than even the tailor's), his incarnate skin,
White, black, or copper -- the dead bones will grin.
And thus Death laughs, -- it is sad merriment,
But still it is so; and with such example
Why should not Life be equally content
With his superior, in a smile to trample
Upon the nothings which are daily spent
Like bubbles on an ocean much less ample
Than the eternal deluge, which devours
Suns as rays -- worlds like atoms -- years like hours?
"To be, or not to be? that is the question,"
Says Shakspeare, who just now is much in fashion.
I am neither Alexander nor Hephæstion,
Nor ever had for abstract fame much passion;
But would much rather have a sound digestion
Than Buonaparte's cancer: could I dash on
Through fifty victories to shame or fame --
Without a stomach what were a good name?
"O dura ilia messorum!" -- "Oh
Ye rigid guts of reapers!" I translate
For the great benefit of those who know
What indigestion is -- that inward fate
Which makes all Styx through one small liver flow.
A peasant's sweat is worth his lord's estate:
Let this one toil for bread -- that rack for rent,
He who sleeps best may be the most content.
"To be, or not to be?" -- Ere I decide,
I should be glad to know that which is being?
'T is true we speculate both far and wide,
And deem, because we see, we are all-seeing:
For my part, I'll enlist on neither side,
Until I see both sides for once agreeing.
For me, I sometimes think that life is death,
Rather than life a mere affair of breath.
"Que scais-je?" was the motto of Montaigne,
As also of the first academicians:
That all is dubious which man may attain,
Was one of their most favourite positions.
There's no such thing as certainty, that's plain
As any of Mortality's conditions;
So little do we know what we're about in
This world, I doubt if doubt itself be doubting.
It is a pleasant voyage perhaps to float,
Like Pyrrho, on a sea of speculation;
But what if carrying sail capsize the boat?
Your wise men don't know much of navigation;
And swimming long in the abyss of thought
Is apt to tire: a calm and shallow station
Well nigh the shore, where one stoops down and gathers
Some pretty shell, is best for moderate bathers.
"But heaven," as Cassio says, "is above all --
No more of this, then, -- let us pray!" We have
Souls to save, since Eve's slip and Adam's fall,
Which tumbled all mankind into the grave,
Besides fish, beasts, and birds. "The sparrow's fall
Is special providence," though how it gave
Offence, we know not; probably it perch'd
Upon the tree which Eve so fondly search'd.
Oh, ye immortal gods! what is theogony?
Oh, thou too, mortal man! what is philanthropy?
Oh, world! which was and is, what is cosmogony?
Some people have accused me of misanthropy;
And yet I know no more than the mahogany
That forms this desk, of what they mean; Lykanthropy
I comprehend, for without transformation
Men become wolves on any slight occasion.
But I, the mildest, meekest of mankind,
Like Moses, or Melancthon, who have ne'er
Done anything exceedingly unkind, --
And (though I could not now and then forbear
Following the bent of body or of mind)
Have always had a tendency to spare, --
Why do they call me misanthrope? Because
They hate me, not I them. -- and here we'll pause.
'T is time we should proceed with our good poem, --
For I maintain that it is really good,
Not only in the body but the proem,
However little both are understood
Just now, -- but by and by the Truth will show 'em
Herself in her sublimest attitude:
And till she doth, I fain must be content
To share her beauty and her banishment.
Our hero (and, I trust, kind reader, yours)
Was left upon his way to the chief city
Of the immortal Peter's polish'd boors
Who still have shown themselves more brave than witty.
I know its mighty empire now allures
Much flattery -- even Voltaire's, and that's a pity.
For me, I deem an absolute autocrat
Not a barbarian, but much worse than that.
And I will war, at least in words (and -- should
My chance so happen -- deeds), with all who war
With Thought; -- and of Thought's foes by far most rude,
Tyrants and sycophants have been and are.
I know not who may conquer: if I could
Have such a prescience, it should be no bar
To this my plain, sworn, downright detestation
Of every depotism in every nation.
It is not that I adulate the people:
Without me, there are demagogues enough,
And infidels, to pull down every steeple,
And set up in their stead some proper stuff.
Whether they may sow scepticism to reap hell,
As is the Christian dogma rather rough,
I do not know; -- I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings -- from you as me.
The consequence is, being of no party,
I shall offend all parties: never mind!
My words, at least, are more sincere and hearty
Than if I sought to sail before the wind.
He who has nought to gain can have small art: he
Who neither wishes to be bound nor bind,
May still expatiate freely, as will I,
Nor give my voice to slavery's jackal cry.
That's an appropriate simile, that jackal; --
I've heard them in the Ephesian ruins howl
By night, as do that mercenary pack all,
Power's base purveyors, who for pickings prowl,
And scent the prey their masters would attack all.
However, the poor jackals are less foul
(As being the brave lions' keen providers)
Than human insects, catering for spiders.
Raise but an arm! 't will brush their web away,
And without that, their poison and their claws
Are useless. Mind, good people! what I say
(Or rather peoples) -- go on without pause!
The web of these tarantulas each day
Increases, till you shall make common cause:
None, save the Spanish fly and Attic bee,
As yet are strongly stinging to be free.
Don Juan, who had shone in the late slaughter,
Was left upon his way with the despatch,
Where blood was talk'd of as we would of water;
And carcasses that lay as thick as thatch
O'er silenced cities, merely served to flatter
Fair Catherine's pastime -- who look'd on the match
Between these nations as a main of cocks,
Wherein she liked her own to stand like rocks.
And there in a kibitka he roll'd on
(A curséd sort of carriage without springs,
Which on rough roads leaves scarcely a whole bone),
Pondering on glory, chivalry, and kings,
And orders, and on all that he had done --
And wishing that post-horses had the wings
Of Pegasus, or at the least post-chaises
Had feathers, when a traveller on deep ways is.
At every jolt -- and they were many -- still
He turn'd his eyes upon his little charge,
As if he wish'd that she should fare less ill
Than he, in these sad highways left at large
To ruts, and flints, and lovely Nature's skill,
Who is no paviour, nor admits a barge
On her canals, where God takes sea and land,
Fishery and farm, both into his own hand.
At least he pays no rent, and has best right
To be the first of what we used to call
"Gentlemen farmer" -- a race worn out quite,
Since lately there have been no rents at all,
And "gentlemen" are in a piteous plight,
And "farmers" can't raise Ceres from her fall:
She fell with Buonaparte -- What strange thoughts
Arise, when we see emperors fall with oats!
But Juan turn'd his eyes on the sweet child
Whom he had saved from slaughter -- what a trophy!
Oh! ye who build up monuments, defiled
With gore, like Nadir Shah, that costive sophy,
Who, after leaving Hindostan a wild,
And scarce to the Mogul a cup of coffee
To soothe his woes withal, was slain, the sinner!
Because he could no more digest his dinner; --
Oh ye! or we! or he! or she! reflect,
That one life saved, especially if young
Or pretty, is a thing to recollect
Far sweeter than the greenest laurels sprung
From the manure of human clay, though deck'd
With all the praises ever said or sung:
Though hymn'd by every harp, unless within
Your heart joins chorus, Fame is but a din.
Oh! ye great authors luminous, voluminous!
Ye twice ten hundred thousand daily scribes!
Whose pamphlets, volumes, newspapers, illumine us!
Whether you're paid by government in bribes,
To prove the public debt is not consuming us --
Or, roughly treading on the "courtier's kibes"
With clownish heel, your popular circulation
Feeds you by printing half the realm's starvation; --
Oh, ye great authors! -- "Apropos des bottes," --
I have forgotten what I meant to say,
As sometimes have been greater sages' lots; --
'T was something calculated to allay
All wrath in barracks, palaces, or cots:
Certes it would have been but thrown away,
And that's one comfort for my lost advice,
Although no doubt it was beyond all price.
But let it go: -- it will one day be found
With other relics of "a former world,"
When this world shall be former, underground,
Thrown topsy-turvy, twisted, crisp'd, and curl'd,
Baked, fried, or burnt, turn'd inside-out, or drown'd,
Like all the worlds before, which have been hurl'd
First out of, and then back again to chaos,
The superstratum which will overlay us.
So Cuvier says; -- and then shall come again
Unto the new creation, rising out
From our old crash, some mystic, ancient strain
Of things destroy'd and left in airy doubt:
Like to the notions we now entertain
Of Titans, giants, fellows of about
Some hundred feet in height, not to say miles,
And mammoths, and your wingéd crocodiles.
Think if then George the Fourth should be dug up!
How the new worldlings of the then new East
Will wonder where such animals could sup!
(For they themselves will be but of the least:
Even worlds miscarry, when too oft they pup,
And every new creation hath decreased
In size, from overworking the material --
Men are but maggots of some huge Earth's burial.)
How will -- to these young people, just thrust out
From some fresh Paradise, and set to plough,
And dig, and sweat, and turn themselves about,
And plant, and reap, and spin, and grind, and sow,
Till all the arts at length are brought about,
Especially of war and taxing, -- how,
I say, will these great relics, when they see 'em,
Look like the monsters of a new museum?
But I am apt to grow too metaphysical:
"The time is out of joint," -- and so am I;
I quite forget this poem's merely quizzical,
And deviate into matters rather dry.
I ne'er decide what I shall say, and this I call
Much too poetical: men should know why
They write, and for what end; but, note or text,
I never know the word which will come next.
So on I ramble, now and then narrating,
Now pondering: -- it is time we should narrate.
I left Don Juan with his horses baiting --
Now we'll get o'er the ground at a great rate.
I shall not be particular in stating
His journey, we've so many tours of late:
Suppose him then at Petersburgh; suppose
That pleasant capital of painted snows;
Suppose him in a handsome uniform, --
A scarlet coat, black facings, a long plume,
Waving, like sails new shiver'd in a storm,
Over a cock'd hat in a crowded room,
And brilliant breeches, bright as a Cairn Gorme,
Of yellow casimere we may presume,
White stocking drawn uncurdled as new milk
O'er limbs whose symmetry set off the silk;
Suppose him sword by side, and hat in hand,
Made up by youth, fame, and an army tailor --
That great enchanter, at whose rod's command
Beauty springs forth, and Nature's self turns paler,
Seeing how Art can make her work more grand
(When she don't pin men's limbs in like a gaoler), --
Behold him placed as if upon a pillar! He
Seems Love turn'd a lieutenant of artillery: --
His bandage slipp'd down into a cravat;
His wings subdued to epaulettes; his quiver
Shrunk to a scabbard, with his arrows at
His side as a small sword, but sharp as ever;
His bow converted into a cock'd hat;
But still so like, that Psyche were more clever
Than some wives (who make blunders no less stupid),
If she had not mistaken him for Cupid.
The courtiers stared, the ladies whisper'd, and
The empress smiled: the reigning favourite frown'd --
I quite forget which of them was in hand
Just then; as they are rather numerous found,
Who took by turns that difficult command
Since first her majesty was singly crown'd:
But they were mostly nervous six-foot fellows,
All fit to make a Patagonian jealous.
Juan was none of these, but slight and slim,
Blushing and beardless; and yet ne'ertheless
There was a something in his turn of limb,
And still more in his eye, which seem'd to express,
That though he look'd one of the seraphim,
There lurk'd a man beneath the spirit's dress.
Besides, the empress sometimes liked a boy,
And had just buried the fair-faced Lanskoi.
No wonder then that Yermoloff, or Momonoff,
Or Scherbatoff, or any other off
Or on, might dread her majesty had not room enough
Within her bosom (which was not too tough)
For a new flame; a thought to cast of gloom enough
Along the aspect, whether smooth or rough,
Of him who, in the language of his station,
Then held that "high official situation."
O, gentle ladies! should you seek to know
The import of this diplomatic phrase,
Bid Ireland's Londonderry's Marquess show
His parts of speech; and in the strange displays
Of that odd string of words, all in a row,
Which none divine, and every one obeys,
Perhaps you may pick out some queer no meaning,
Of that weak wordy harvest the sole gleaning.
I think I can explain myself without
That sad inexplicable beast of prey --
That Sphinx, whose words would ever be a doubt,
Did not his deeds unriddle them each day --
That monstrous hieroglyphic -- that long spout
Of blood and water, leaden Castlereagh!
And here I must an anecdote relate,
But luckily of no great length or weight.
An English lady ask'd of an Italian,
What were the actual and official duties
Of the strange thing some women set a value on,
Which hovers oft about some married beauties,
Called "Cavalier servente?" -- a Pygmalion
Whose statues warm (I fear, alas! too true 't is)
Beneath his art. The dame, press'd to disclose them,
Said -- "Lady, I beseech you to suppose them."
And thus I supplicate your supposition,
And mildest, matron-like interpretation,
Of the imperial favourite's condition.
'T was a high place, the highest in the nation
In fact, if not in rank; and the suspicion
Of any one's attaining to his station,
No doubt gave pain, where each new pair of shoulders,
If rather broad, made stocks rise and their holders.
Juan, I said, was a most beauteous boy,
And had retain'd his boyish look beyond
The usual hirsute seasons which destroy,
With beards and whiskers, and the like, the fond
Parisian aspect which upset old Troy
And founded Doctors' Commons: -- I have conn'd
The history of divorces, which, though chequer'd,
Calls Ilion's the first damages on record.
And Catherine, who loved all things (save her lord,
Who was gone to his place), and pass'd for much
Admiring those (by dainty dames abhorr'd)
Gigantic gentlemen, yet had a touch
Of sentiment; and he she most adored
Was the lamented Lanskoi, who was such
A lover as had cost her many a tear,
And yet but made a middling grenadier.
Oh thou "teterrima causa" of all "belli" --
Thou gate of life and death -- thou nondescript!
Whence is our exit and our entrance, -- well I
May pause in pondering how all souls are dipt
In thy perennial fountain: -- how man fell I
Know not, since knowledge saw her branches stript
Of her first fruit; but how he falls and rises
Since, thou hast settled beyond all surmises.
Some call thee "the worst cause of war," but I
Maintain thou art the best: for after all
From thee we come, to thee we go, and why
To get at thee not batter down a wall,
Or waste a world? since no one can deny
Thou dost replenish worlds both great and small:
With, or without thee, all things at a stand
Are, or would be, thou sea of life's dry land!
Catherine, who was the grand Epitome
Of that great cause of war, or peace, or what
You please (it causes all the things which be,
So you may take your choice of this or that) --
Catherine, I say. was very glad to see
The handsome herald, on whose plumage sat
Victory; and pausing as she saw him kneel
With his despatch, forgot to break the seal.
Then recollecting the whole empress, nor
Forgetting quite the woman (which composed
At least three parts of this great whole), she tore
The letter open with an air which posed
The court, that watch'd each look her visage wore,
Until a royal smile at length disclosed
Fair weather for the day. Though rather spacious,
Her face was noble, her eyes fine, mouth gracious.
Great joy was hers, or rather joys: the first
Was a ta'en city, thirty thousand slain.
Glory and triumph o'er her aspect burst,
As an East Indian sunrise on the main.
These quench'd a moment her ambition's thirst --
So Arab deserts drink in summer's rain:
In vain! -- As fall the dews on quenchless sands,
Blood only serves to wash Ambition's hands!
Her next amusement was more fanciful;
She smiled at mad Suwarrow's rhymes, who threw
Into a Russian couplet rather dull
The whole gazette of thousands whom he slew.
Her third was feminine enough to annul
The shudder which runs naturally through
Our veins, when things call'd sovereigns think it best
To kill, and generals turn it into jest.
The two first feelings ran their course complete,
And lighted first her eye, and then her mouth:
The whole court look'd immediately most sweet,
Like flowers well water'd after a long drouth.
But when on the lieutenant at her feet
Her majesty, who liked to gaze on youth
Almost as much as on a new despatch,
Glanced mildly, all the world was on the watch.
Though somewhat large, exuberant, and truculent,
When wroth -- while pleased, she was as fine a figure
As those who like things rosy, ripe, and succulent,
Would wish to look on, while they are in vigour.
She could repay each amatory look you lent
With interest, and in turn was wont with rigour
To exact of Cupid's bills the full amount
At sight, nor would permit you to discount.
With her the latter, though at times convenient,
Was not so necessary; for they tell
That she was handsome, and though fierce look'd lenient,
And always used her favourites too well.
If once beyond her boudoir's precincts in ye went,
Your "fortune" was in a fair way "to swell
A man" (as Giles says); for though she would widow all
Nations, she liked man as an individual.
What a strange thing is man? and what a stranger
Is woman! What a whirlwind is her head,
And what a whirlpool full of depth and danger
Is all the rest about her! Whether wed
Or widow, maid or mother, she can change her
Mind like the wind: whatever she has said
Or done, is light to what she'll say or do; --
The oldest thing on record, and yet new!
Oh Catherine! (for of all interjections,
To thee both oh! and ah! belong of right
In love and war) how odd are the connections
Of human thoughts, which jostle in their flight!
Just now yours were cut out in different sections:
First Ismail's capture caught your fancy quite;
Next of new knights, the fresh and glorious batch;
And thirdly he who brought you the despatch!
Shakspeare talks of "the herald Mercury
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;"
And some such visions cross'd her majesty,
While her young herald knelt before her still.
'T is very true the hill seem'd rather high,
For a lieutenant to climb up; but skill
Smooth'd even the Simplon's steep, and by God's blessing
With youth and health all kisses are "heaven-kissing."
Her majesty look'd down, the youth look'd up --
And so they fell in love; -- she with his face,
His grace, his God-knows-what: for Cupid's cup
With the first draught intoxicates apace,
A quintessential laudanum or "black drop,"
Which makes one drunk at once, without the base
Expedient of full bumpers; for the eye
In love drinks all life's fountains (save tears) dry.
He, on the other hand, if not in love,
Fell into that no less imperious passion,
Self-love -- which, when some sort of thing above
Ourselves, a singer, dancer, much in fashion,
Or duchess, princess, empress, "deigns to prove"
('T is Pope's phrase) a great longing, though a rash one,
For one especial person out of many,
Makes us believe ourselves as good as any.
Besides, he was of that delighted age
Which makes all female ages equal -- when
We don't much care with whom we may engage,
As bold as Daniel in the lion's den,
So that we can our native sun assuage
In the next ocean, which may flow just then,
To make a twilight in, just as Sol's heat is
Quench'd in the lap of the salt sea, or Thetis.
And Catherine (we must say thus much for Catherine),
Though bold and bloody, was the kind of thing
Whose temporary passion was quite flattering,
Because each lover look'd a sort of king,
Made up upon an amatory pattern,
A royal husband in all save the ring --
Which, being the damn'dest part of matrimony,
Seem'd taking out the sting to leave the honey.
And when you add to this, her womanhood
In its meridian, her blue eyes or gray
(The last, if they have soul, are quite as good,
Or better, as the best examples say:
Napoleon's, Mary's (queen of Scotland), should
Lend to that colour a transcendent ray;
And Pallas also sanctions the same hue,
Too wise to look through optics black or blue) --
Her sweet smile, and her then majestic figure,
Her plumpness, her imperial condescension,
Her preference of a boy to men much bigger
(Fellows whom Messalina's self would pension),
Her prime of life, just now in juicy vigour,
With other extras, which we need not mention, --
All these, or any one of these, explain
Enough to make a stripling very vain.
And that's enough, for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where 't is a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty's frail inanity,
On which the passion's self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main spring of the universe.
Besides Platonic love, besides the love
Of God, the love of sentiment, the loving
Of faithful pairs (I needs must rhyme with dove,
That good old steam-boat which keeps verses moving
'Gainst reason -- Reason ne'er was hand-and-glove
With rhyme, but always leant less to improving
The sound than sense) -- beside all these pretences
To love, there are those things which words name senses;
Those movements, those improvements in our bodies
Which make all bodies anxious to get out
Of their own sand-pits, to mix with a goddess,
For such all women are at first no doubt.
How beautiful that moment! and how odd is
That fever which precedes the languid rout
Of our sensations! What a curious way
The whole thing is of clothing souls in clay!
The noblest kind of love is love Platonical,
To end or to begin with; the next grand
Is that which may be christen'd love canonical,
Because the clergy take the thing in hand;
The third sort to be noted in our chronicle
As flourishing in every Christian land,
Is when chaste matrons to their other ties
Add what may be call'd marriage in disguise.
Well, we won't analyse -- our story must
Tell for itself: the sovereign was smitten,
Juan much flatter'd by her love, or lust; --
I cannot stop to alter words once written,
And the two are so mix'd with human dust,
That he who names one, both perchance may hit on:
But in such matters Russia's mighty empress
Behaved no better than a common sempstress.
The whole court melted into one wide whisper,
And all lips were applied unto all ears!
The elder ladies' wrinkles curl'd much crisper
As they beheld; the younger cast some leers
On one another, and each lovely lisper
Smiled as she talk'd the matter o'er; but tears
Of rivalship rose in each clouded eye
Of all the standing army who stood by.
All the ambassadors of all the powers
Enquired, Who was this very new young man,
Who promised to be great in some few hours?
Which is full soon -- though life is but a span.
Already they beheld the silver showers
Of rubles rain, as fast as specie can,
Upon his cabinet, besides the presents
Of several ribands, and some thousand peasants.
Catherine was generous, -- all such ladies are:
Love, that great opener of the heart and all
The ways that lead there, be they near or far,
Above, below, by turnpikes great or small, --
Love (though she had a curséd taste for war,
And was not the best wife, unless we call
Such Clytemnestra, though perhaps 't is better
That one should die, than two drag on the fetter) --
Love had made Catherine make each lover's fortune,
Unlike our own half-chaste Elizabeth,
Whose avarice all disbursements did importune,
If history, the grand liar, ever saith
The truth; and though grief her old age might shorten,
Because she put a favourite to death,
Her vile, ambiguous method of flirtation,
And stinginess, disgrace her sex and station.
But when the levée rose, and all was bustle
In the dissolving circle, all the nations'
Ambassadors began as 't were to hustle
Round the young man with their congratulations.
Also the softer silks were heard to rustle
Of gentle dames, among whose recreations
It is to speculate on handsome faces,
Especially when such lead to high places.
Juan, who found himself, he knew not how,
A general object of attention, made
His answers with a very graceful bow,
As if born for the ministerial trade.
Though modest, on his unembarrass'd brow
Nature had written "gentleman." He said
Little, but to the purpose; and his manner
Flung hovering graces o'er him like a banner.
An order from her majesty consign'd
Our young lieutenant to the genial care
Of those in office: all the world look'd kind
(As it will look sometimes with the first stare,
Which youth would not act ill to keep in mind),
As also did Miss Protasoff then there,
Named from her mystic office "l'Eprouveuse,"
A term inexplicable to the Muse.
With her then, as in humble duty bound,
Juan retired, -- and so will I, until
My Pegasus shall tire of touching ground.
We have just lit on a "heaven-kissing hill,"
So lofty that I feel my brain turn round,
And all my fancies whirling like a mill;
Which is a signal to my nerves and brain,
To take a quiet ride in some green Lane.
Cannon his name,
Cannon his voice, he came.
Who heard of him heard shaken hills,
An earth at quake, to quiet stamped;
Who looked on him beheld the will of wills,
The driver of wild flocks where lions ramped:
Beheld War's liveries flee him, like lumped grass
Nid-nod to ground beneath the cuffing storm;
While laurelled over his Imperial form,
Forth from her bearded tube of lacquey brass,
Reverberant notes and long blew volant Fame.
Incarnate Victory, Power manifest,
Infernal or God-given to mankind,
On the quenched volcano's cusp did he take stand,
A conquering army's height above the land,
Which calls that army offspring of its breast,
And sees it mid the starry camps enshrined;
His eye the cannon's flame,
The cannon's cave his mind.
To weld the nation in a name of dread,
And scatter carrion flies off wounds unhealed,
The Necessitated came, as comes from out
Electric ebon lightning's javelin-head,
Threatening agitation in the revealed
Founts of our being; terrible with doubt,
With radiance restorative. At one stride
Athwart the Law he stood for sovereign sway.
That Soliform made featureless beside
His brilliancy who neighboured: vapour they;
Vapour what postured statues barred his tread.
On high in amphitheatre field on field,
Italian, Egyptian, Austrian,
Far heard and of the carnage discord clear,
Bells of his escalading triumphs pealed
In crashes on a choral chant severe,
Heraldic of the authentic Charlemagne,
Globe, sceptre, sword, to enfold, to rule, to smite,
Make unity of the mass,
Coherent or refractory, by his might.
Forth from her bearded tube of lacquey brass,
Fame blew, and tuned the jangles, bent the knees
Rebellious or submissive; his decrees
Were thunder in those heavens and compelled:
Such as disordered earth, eclipsed of stars,
Endures for sign of Order's calm return,
Whereunto she is vowed; and his wreckage-spars,
His harried ships, old riotous Ocean lifts alight,
Subdued to splendour in his delirant churn.
Glory suffused the accordant, quelled,
By magic of high sovereignty, revolt:
And he, the reader of men, himself unread;
The name of hope, the name of dread;
Bloom of the coming years or blight;
An arm to hurl the bolt
With aim Olympian; bore
Likeness to Godhead. Whither his flashes hied
Hosts fell; what he constructed held rock-fast.
So did earth's abjects deem of him that built and clove.
Torch on imagination, beams he cast,
Whereat they hailed him deified:
If less than an eagle-speeding Jove, than Vulcan more.
Or it might be a Vulcan-Jove,
Europe for smithy, Europe's floor
Lurid with sparks in evanescent showers,
Loud echo-clap of hammers at all hours,
Our skies the reflex of its furnace blast.
On him the long enchained, released
For bride of the miracle day up the midway blue;
She from her heavenly lover fallen to serve for feast
Of rancours and raw hungers; she, the untrue,
Yet pitiable, not despicable, gazed.
Fawning, her body bent, she gazed
With eyes the moonstone portals to her heart:
Eyes magnifying through hysteric tears
This apparition, ghostly for belief;
Demoniac or divine, but sole
Over earth's mightiest written Chief;
Earth's chosen, crowned, unchallengeable upstart:
The trumpet word to awake, transform, renew;
The arbiter of circumstance;
High above limitations, as the spheres.
Nor ever had heroical Romance,
Never ensanguined History's lengthened scroll,
Shown fulminant to shoot the levin dart
Terrific as this man, by whom upraised,
Aggrandized and begemmed, she outstripped her peers;
Like midnight's levying brazier-beacon blazed
Defiant to the world, a rally for her sons,
Day of the darkness; this man's mate; by him,
Cannon his name,
Rescued from vivisectionist and knave,
Her body's dominators and her shame;
By him with the rivers of ranked battalions, brave
Past mortal, girt: a march of swords and guns
Incessant; his proved warriors; loaded dice
He flung on the crested board, where chilly Fears
Behold the Reaper's ground, Death sitting grim,
Awatch for his predestined ones,
Mid shrieks and torrent-hooves; but these,
Inebriate of his inevitable device,
Hail it their hero's wood of lustrous laurel-trees,
Blossom and fruit of fresh Hesperides,
The boiling life-blood in their cheers.
Unequalled since the world was man they pour
A spiky girdle round her; these, her sons,
His cataracts at smooth holiday, soon to roar
Obstruction shattered at his will or whim:
Kind to her ear as quiring Cherubim,
And trampling earth like scornful mastodons.
The flood that swept her to be slave
Adoring, under thought of being his mate,
These were, and unto the visibly unexcelled,
As much of heart as abjects can she gave,
Or what of heart the body bears for freight
When Majesty apparent overawes;
By the flash of his ascending deeds upheld,
Which let not feminine pride in him have pause
To question where the nobler pride rebelled.
She read the hieroglyphic on his brow,
Felt his firm hand to wield the giant's mace;
Herself whirled upward in an eagle's claws,
Past recollection of her earthly place;
And if cold Reason pressed her, called him Fate;
Offering abashed the servile woman's vow.
Delirium was her virtue when the look
At fettered wrists and violated laws
Faith in a rectitude Supernal shook,
Till worship of him shone as her last rational state,
The slave's apology for gemmed disgrace.
Far in her mind that leap from earth to the ghost
Midway on high; or felt as a troubled pool;
Or as a broken sleep that hunts a dream half lost,
Arrested and rebuked by the common school
Of daily things for truancy. She could rejoice
To know with wakeful eyeballs Violence
Her crowned possessor, and, on every sense
Incumbent, Fact, Imperial Fact, her choice,
In scorn of barren visions, aims at a glassy void.
Who sprang for Liberty once, found slavery sweet;
And Tyranny, on alert subservience buoyed,
Spurred a blood-mare immeasureably fleet
To shoot the transient leagues in a passing wink,
Prompt for the glorious bound at the fanged abyss's brink.
Scarce felt she that she bled when battle scored
On riddled flags the further conjured line;
From off the meteor gleam of his waved sword
Reflected bright in permanence: she bled
As the Bacchante spills her challengeing wine
With whirl o' the cup before the kiss to lip;
And bade drudge History in his footprints tread,
For pride of sword-strokes o'er slow penmanship:
Each step of his a volume: his sharp word
The shower of steel and lead
Or pastoral sunshine.
Persistent through the brazen chorus round
His thunderous footsteps on the foeman's ground,
A broken carol of wild notes was heard,
As when an ailing infant wails a dream.
Strange in familiarity it rang:
And now along the dark blue vault might seem
Winged migratories having but heaven for home,
Now the lone sea-bird's cry down shocks of foam,
Beneath a ruthless paw the captive's pang.
It sang the gift that comes from God
To mind of man as air to lung.
So through her days of under sod
Her faith unto her heart had sung,
Like bedded seed by frozen clod,
With view of wide-armed heaven and buds at burst,
And midway up, Earth's fluttering little lyre.
Even for a glimpse, for even a hope in chained desire
The vision of it watered thirst.
But whom those errant moans accused
As Liberty's murderous mother, cried accursed,
France blew to deafness: for a space she mused;
She smoothed a startled look, and sought,
From treasuries of the adoring slave,
Her surest way to strangle thought;
Picturing her dread lord decree advance
Into the enemy's land; artillery, bayonet, lance;
His ordering fingers point the dial's to time their ranks:
Himself the black storm-cloud, the tempest's bayonet-glaive.
Like foam-heads of a loosened freshet bursting banks,
By mount and fort they thread to swamp the sluggard plains.
Shines his gold-laurel sun, or cloak connivent rains.
They press to where the hosts in line and square throng mute;
He watchful of their form, the Audacious, the Astute;
Eagle to grip the field; to work his craftiest, fox.
From his brief signal, straight the stroke of the leveller falls;
From him those opal puffs, those arcs with the clouded balls:
He waves and the voluble scene is a quagmire shifting blocks;
They clash, they are knotted, and now 'tis the deed of the axe on
Here away moves a spiky woodland, and yon away sweep
Rivers of horse torrent-mad to the shock, and the heap over heap
Right through the troughed black lines turned to bunches or shreds,
or a fog
Rolling off sunlight's arrows. Not mightier Phoebus in ire,
Nor deadlier Jove's avengeing right hand, than he of the brain
Keen at an enemy's mind to encircle and pierce and constrain,
Muffling his own for a fate-charged blow very Gods may admire.
Sure to behold are his eagles on high where the conflict raged.
Rightly, then, should France worship, and deafen the disaccord
Of those who dare withstand an irresistible sword
To thwart his predestined subjection of Europe. Let them submit!
She said it aloud, and heard in her breast, as a singer caged,
With the beat of wings at bars, Earth's fluttering little lyre.
No more at midway heaven, but liker midway to the pit:
Not singing the spirally upward of rapture, the downward of pain
Rather, the drop sheer downward from pressure of merciless weight.
Her strangled thought got breath, with her worship held debate;
To yield and sink, yet eye askant the mark she had missed.
Over the black-blue rollers of that broad Westerly main,
Steady to sky, the light of Liberty glowed
In a flaming pillar, that cast on the troubled waters a road
For Europe to cross, and see the thing lost subsist.
For there 'twas a shepherd led his people, no butcher of sheep;
Firmly there the banner he first upreared
Stands to rally; and nourishing grain do his children reap
From a father beloved in life, in his death revered.
Contemplating him and his work, shall a skyward glance
Clearer sight of our dreamed and abandoned obtain;
Nay, but as if seen in station above the Republic, France
Had view of her one-day's heavenly lover again;
Saw him amid the bright host looking down on her; knew she had
Knew him her judge, knew yonder the spirit preferred;
Yonder the base of the summit she strove that day to ascend,
Ere cannon mastered her soul, and all dreams had end.
Soon felt she in her shivered frame
A bodeful drain of blood illume
Her wits with frosty fire to read
The dazzling wizard who would have her bleed
On fruitless marsh and snows of spectral gloom
For victory that was victory scarce in name.
Husky his clarions laboured, and her sighs
O'er slaughtered sons were heavier than the prize;
Recalling how he stood by Frederic's tomb,
With Frederic's country underfoot and spurned:
There meditated; till her hope might guess,
Albeit his constant star prescribe success,
The savage strife would sink, the civil aim
To head a mannered world breathe zephyrous
Of morning after storm; whereunto she yearned;
And Labour's lovely peace, and Beauty's courtly bloom,
The mind in strenuous tasks hilarious.
At such great height, where hero hero topped,
Right sanely should the Grand Ascendant think
No further leaps at the fanged abyss's brink
True Genius takes: be battle's dice-box dropped!
She watched his desert features, hung to hear
The honey words desired, and veiled her face;
Hearing the Seaman's name recur
Wrathfully, thick with a meaning worse
Than call to the march: for that inveterate Purse
Could kindle the extinct, inform a vacant place,
Conjure a heart into the trebly felled.
It squeezed the globe, insufferably swelled
To feed insurgent Europe: rear and van
Were haunted by the amphibious curse;
Here flesh, there phantom, livelier after rout:
The Seaman piping aye to the rightabout,
Distracted Europe's Master, puffed remote
Those Indies of the swift Macedonian,
Whereon would Europe's Master somewhiles doat,
In dreamings on a docile universe
Beneath an immarcessible Charlemagne.
Nor marvel France should veil a seer's face,
And call on darkness as a blest retreat.
Magnanimously could her iron Emperor
Confront submission: hostile stirred to heat
All his vast enginery, allowed no halt
Up withered avenues of waste-blood war,
To the pitiless red mounts of fire afume,
As 'twere the world's arteries opened! Woe the race!
Ask wherefore Fortune's vile caprice should balk
His panther spring across the foaming salt,
From martial sands to the cliffs of pallid chalk!
There is no answer: seed of black defeat
She then did sow, and France nigh unto death foredoom.
See since that Seaman's epicycle sprite
Engirdle, lure and goad him to the chase
Along drear leagues of crimson spotting white
With mother's tears of France, that he may meet
Behind suborned battalions, ranked as wheat
Where peeps the weedy poppy, him of the sea;
Earth's power to baffle Ocean's power resume;
Victorious army crown o'er Victory's fleet;
And bearing low that Seaman upon knee,
Stay the vexed question of supremacy,
Obnoxious in the vault by Frederic's tomb.
Poured streams of Europe's veins the flood
Full Rhine or Danube rolls off morning-tide
Through shadowed reaches into crimson-dyed:
And Rhine and Danube knew her gush of blood
Down the plucked roots the deepest in her breast.
He tossed her cordials, from his laurels pressed.
She drank for dryness thirstily, praised his gifts.
The blooded frame a powerful draught uplifts
Writhed the devotedness her voice rang wide
In cries ecstatic, as of the martyr-Blest,
Their spirits issuing forth of bodies racked,
And crazy chuckles, with life's tears at feud;
While near her heart the sunken sentinel
Called Critic marked, and dumb in awe reviewed
This torture, this anointed, this untracked
To mortal source, this alien of his kind;
Creator, slayer, conjuror, Solon-Mars,
The cataract of the abyss, the star of stars;
Whose arts to lay the senses under spell
Aroused an insurrectionary mind.
He, did he love her? France was his weapon, shrewd
At edge, a wind in onset: he loved well
His tempered weapon, with the which he hewed
Clean to the ground impediments, or hacked,
Sure of the blade that served the great man-miracle.
He raised her, robed her, gemmed her for his bride,
Did but her blood in blindness given exact.
Her blood she gave, was blind to him as guide:
She quivered at his word, and at his touch
Was hound or steed for any mark he espied.
He loved her more than little, less than much.
The fair subservient of Imperial Fact
Next to his consanguineous was placed
In ranked esteem; above the diurnal meal,
Vexatious carnal appetites above,
Above his hoards, while she Imperial Fact embraced,
And rose but at command from under heel.
The love devolvent, the ascension love,
Receptive or profuse, were fires he lacked,
Whose marrow had expelled their wasteful sparks;
Whose mind, the vast machine of endless haste,
Took up but solids for its glowing seal.
The hungry love, that fish-like creatures feel,
Impelled for prize of hooks, for prey of sharks,
His night's first quarter sicklied to distaste,
In warm enjoyment barely might distract.
A head that held an Europe half devoured
Taste in the blood's conceit of pleasure soured.
Nought save his rounding aim, the means he plied,
Death for his cause, to him could point appeal.
His mistress was the thing of uses tried.
Frigid the netting smile on whom he wooed,
But on his Policy his eye was lewd.
That sharp long zig-zag into distance brooked
No foot across; a shade his ire provoked.
The blunder or the cruelty of a deed
His Policy imperative could plead.
He deemed nought other precious, nor knew he
Legitimate outside his Policy.
Men's lives and works were due, from their birth's date,
To the State's shield and sword, himself the State.
He thought for them in mass, as Titan may;
For their pronounced well-being bade obey;
O'er each obstructive thicket thunderclapped,
And straight their easy road to market mapped.
Watched Argus to survey the huge preserves
He held or coveted; Mars was armed alert
At sign of motion; yet his brows were murk,
His gorge would surge, to see the butcher's work,
The Reaper's field; a sensitive in nerves.
He rode not over men to do them hurt.
As one who claimed to have for paramour
Earth's fairest form, he dealt the cancelling blow;
Impassioned, still impersonal; to ensure
Possession; free of rivals, not their foe.
The common Tyrant's frenzies, rancour, spites,
He knew as little as men's claim on rights.
A kindness for old servants, early friends,
Was constant in him while they served his ends;
And if irascible, 'twas the moment's reek
From fires diverted by some gusty freak.
His Policy the act which breeds the act
Prevised, in issues accurately summed
From reckonings of men's tempers, terrors, needs:-
That universal army, which he leads
Who builds Imperial on Imperious Fact.
Within his hot brain's hammering workshop hummed
A thousand furious wheels at whirr, untired
As Nature in her reproductive throes;
And did they grate, he spake, and cannon fired:
The cause being aye the incendiary foes
Proved by prostration culpable. His dispense
Of Justice made his active conscience;
His passive was of ceaseless labour formed.
So found this Tyrant sanction and repose;
Humanly just, inhumanly unwarmed.
Preventive fencings with the foul intent
Occult, by him observed and foiled betimes,
Let fool historians chronicle as crimes.
His blows were dealt to clear the way he went:
Too busy sword and mind for needless blows.
The mighty bird of sky minutest grains
On ground perceived; in heaven but rays or rains;
In humankind diversities of masks,
For rule of men the choice of bait or goads.
The statesman steered the despot to large tasks;
The despot drove the statesman on short roads.
For Order's cause he laboured, as inclined
A soldier's training and his Euclid mind.
His army unto men he could present
As model of the perfect instrument.
That creature, woman, was the sofa soft,
When warriors their dusty armour doffed,
And read their manuals for the making truce
With rosy frailties framed to reproduce.
He farmed his land, distillingly alive
For the utmost extract he might have and hive,
Wherewith to marshal force; and in like scheme,
Benign shone Hymen's torch on young love's dream.
Thus to be strong was he beneficent;
A fount of earth, likewise a firmament.
The disputant in words his eye dismayed:
Opinions blocked his passage. Rent
Were Councils with a gesture; brayed
By hoarse camp-phrase what argument
Dared interpose to waken spleen
In him whose vision grasped the unseen,
Whose counsellor was the ready blade,
Whose argument the cannonade.
He loathed his land's divergent parties, loth
To grant them speech, they were such idle troops;
The friable and the grumous, dizzards both.
Men were good sticks his mastery wrought from hoops;
Some serviceable, none credible on oath.
The silly preference they nursed to die
In beds he scorned, and led where they should lie.
If magic made them pliable for his use,
Magician he could be by planned surprise.
For do they see the deuce in human guise,
As men's acknowledged head appears the deuce,
And they will toil with devilish craft and zeal.
Among them certain vagrant wits that had
Ideas buzzed; they were the feebly mad;
Pursuers of a film they hailed ideal;
But could be dangerous fire-flies for a brain
Subdued by fact, still amorous of the inane.
With a breath he blew them out, to beat their wings
The way of such transfeminated things,
And France had sense of vacancy in Light.
That is the soul's dead darkness, making clutch
Wild hands for aid at muscles within touch;
Adding to slavery's chain the stringent twist;
Even when it brings close surety that aright
She reads her Tyrant through his golden mist;
Perceives him fast to a harsher Tyrant bound;
Self-ridden, self-hunted, captive of his aim;
Material grandeur's ape, the Infernal's hound;
Enormous, with no infinite around;
No starred deep sky, no Muse, or lame
The dusty pattering pinions,
The voice as through the brazen tube of Fame.
Hugest of engines, a much limited man,
She saw the Lustrous, her great lord, appear
Through that smoked glass her last privation brought
To point her critic eye and spur her thought:
A heart but to propel Leviathan;
A spirit that breathed but in earth's atmosphere.
Amid the plumed and sceptred ones
The mountain tower capped by the floating cloud;
A nursery screamer where dialectics ruled:
Mannerless, graceless, laughterless, unlike
Herself in all, yet with such power to strike,
That she the various features she could scan
Dared not to sum, though seeing: and befooled
By power which beamed omnipotent, she bowed,
Subservient as roused echo round his guns.
Invulnerable Prince of Myrmidons,
He sparkled, by no sage Athene schooled.
Partly she read her riddle, stricken and pained;
But irony, her spirit's tongue, restrained.
The Critic, last of vital in the proud
Enslaved, when most detectively endowed,
Admired how irony's venom off him ran,
Like rain-drops down a statue cast in bronze:
Whereby of her keen rapier disarmed,
Again her chant of eulogy began,
Protesting, but with slavish senses charmed.
Her warrior, chief among the valorous great
In arms he was, dispelling shades of blame,
With radiance palpable in fruit and weight.
Heard she reproach, his victories blared response;
His victories bent the Critic to acclaim,
As with fresh blows upon a ringing sconce.
Or heard she from scarred ranks of jolly growls
His veterans dwarf their reverence and, like owls,
Laugh in the pitch of discord, to exalt
Their idol for some genial trick or fault,
She, too, became his marching veteran.
Again she took her breath from them who bore
His eagles through the tawny roar,
And murmured at a peaceful state,
That bred the title charlatan,
As missile from the mouth of hate,
For one the daemon fierily filled and hurled,
Cannon his name,
Shattering against a barrier world;
Her supreme player of man's primaeval game.
The daemon filled him, and he filled her sons;
Strung them to stature over human height,
As march the standards down the smoky fight;
Her cherubim, her towering mastodons!
Directed vault or breach, break through
Earth's toughest, seasons, elements, tame;
Dash at the bulk the sharpened few;
Count death the smallest of their debts:
Show that the will to do
Is masculine and begets!
These princes unto him the mother owed;
These jewels of manhood that rich hand bestowed.
What wonder, though with wits awake
To read her riddle, for these her offspring's sake; -
And she, before high heaven adulteress,
The lost to honour, in his glory clothed,
Else naked, shamed in sight of men, self-loathed; -
That she should quench her thought, nor worship less
Than ere she bled on sands or snows and knew
The slave's alternative, to worship or to rue!
Bright from the shell of that much limited man,
Her hero, like the falchion out of sheath,
Like soul that quits the tumbled body, soared:
And France, impulsive, nuptial with his plan,
Albeit the Critic fretting her, adored
Once more. Exultingly her heart went forth,
Submissive to his mind and mood,
The way of those pent-eyebrows North;
For now was he to win the wreath
Surpassing sunniest in camp or Court;
Next, as the blessed harvest after years of blight,
Sit, the Great Emperor, to be known the Good!
Now had the Seaman's volvent sprite,
Lean from the chase that barked his contraband,
A beggared applicant at every port,
To strew the profitless deeps and rot beneath,
Slung northward, for a hunted beast's retort
On sovereign power; there his final stand,
Among the perjured Scythian's shaggy horde,
The hydrocephalic aerolite
Had taken; flashing thence repellent teeth,
Though Europe's Master Europe's Rebel banned
To be earth's outcast, ocean's lord and sport.
Unmoved might seem the Master's taunted sword.
Northward his dusky legions nightly slipped,
As on the map of that all-provident head;
He luting Peace the while, like morning's cock
The quiet day to round the hours for bed;
No pastoral shepherd sweeter to his flock.
Then Europe first beheld her Titan stripped.
To what vast length of limb and mounds of thews,
How trained to scale the eminences, pluck
The hazards for new footing, how compel
Those timely incidents by men named luck,
Through forethought that defied the Fates to choose,
Her grovelling admiration had not yet
Imagined of the great man-miracle;
And France recounted with her comic smile
Duplicities of Court and Cabinet,
The silky female of his male in guile,
Wherewith her two-faced Master could amuse
A dupe he charmed in sunny beams to bask,
Before his feint for camisado struck
The lightning moment of the cast-off mask.
Splendours of earth repeating heaven's at set
Of sun down mountain cloud in masses arched;
Since Asia upon Europe marched,
Unmatched the copious multitudes; unknown
To Gallia's over-runner, Rome's inveterate foe,
Such hosts; all one machine for overthrow,
Coruscant from the Master's hand, compact
As reasoned thoughts in the Master's head; were shown
Yon lightning moment when his acme might
Blazed o'er the stream that cuts the sandy tract
Borussian from Sarmatia's famished flat;
The century's flower; and off its pinnacled throne,
Rayed servitude on Europe's ball of sight.
Behind the Northern curtain-folds he passed.
There heard hushed France her muffled heart beat fast
Against the hollow ear-drum, where she sat
In expectation's darkness, until cracked
The straining curtain-seams: a scaly light
Was ghost above an army under shroud.
Imperious on Imperial Fact
Incestuously the incredible begat.
His veterans and auxiliaries,
The trained, the trustful, sanguine, proud,
Princely, scarce numerable to recite, -
Titanic of all Titan tragedies! -
That Northern curtain took them, as the seas
Gulp the great ships to give back shipmen white.
Alive in marble, she conceived in soul,
With barren eyes and mouth, the mother's loss;
The bolt from her abandoned heaven sped;
The snowy army rolling knoll on knoll
Beyond horizon, under no blest Cross:
By the vulture dotted and engarlanded.
Was it a necromancer lured
To weave his tense betraying spell?
A Titan whom our God endured
Till he of his foul hungers fell,
By all his craft and labour scourged?
A deluge Europe's liberated wave,
Paean to sky, leapt over that vast grave.
Its shadow-points against her sacred land converged.
And him, her yoke-fellow, her black lord, her fate,
In doubt, in fevered hope, in chills of hate,
That tore her old credulity to strips,
Then pressed the auspicious relics on her lips,
His withered slave for foregone miracles urged.
And he, whom now his ominous halo's round,
A three parts blank decrescent sickle, crowned,
Prodigious in catastrophe, could wear
The realm of Darkness with its Prince's air;
Assume in mien the resolute pretence
To satiate an hungered confidence,
Proved criminal by the sceptic seen to cower
Beside the generous face of that frail flower.
Desire and terror then had each of each:
His crown and sword were staked on the magic stroke;
Her blood she gave as one who loved her leech;
And both did barter under union's cloak.
An union in hot fever and fierce need
Of either's aid, distrust in trust did breed.
Their traffic instincts hooded their live wits
To issues. Never human fortune throve
On such alliance. Viewed by fits,
From Vulcan's forge a hovering Jove
Evolved. The slave he dragged the Tyrant drove.
Her awe of him his dread of her invoked:
His nature with her shivering faith ran yoked.
What wisdom counselled, Policy declined;
All perils dared he save the step behind.
Ahead his grand initiative becked:
One spark of radiance blurred, his orb was wrecked.
Stripped to the despot upstart, for success
He raged to clothe a perilous nakedness.
He would not fall, while falling; would not be taught,
While learning; would not relax his grasp on aught
He held in hand, while losing it; pressed advance,
Pricked for her lees the veins of wasted France;
Who, had he stayed to husband her, had spun
The strength he taxed unripened for his throw,
In vengeful casts calamitous,
On fields where palsying Pyrrhic laurels grow,
The luminous the ruinous.
An incalescent scorpion,
And fierier for the mounded cirque
That narrowed at him thick and murk,
This gambler with his genius
Flung lives in angry volleys, bloody lightnings, flung
His fortunes to the hosts he stung,
With victories clipped his eagle's wings.
By the hands that built him up was he undone:
By the star aloft, which was his ram's-head will
Within; by the toppling throne the soldier won;
By the yeasty ferment of what once had been,
To cloud a rational mind for present things;
By his own force, the suicide in his mill.
Needs never God of Vengeance intervene
When giants their last lesson have to learn.
Fighting against an end he could discern,
The chivalry whereof he had none
He called from his worn slave's abundant springs:
Not deigning spousally entreat
That ever blinded by his martial skill,
But harsh to have her worship counted out
In human coin, her vital rivers drained,
Her infant forests felled, commanded die
The decade thousand deaths for his Imperial seat,
Where throning he her faith in him maintained;
Bound Reason to believe delayed defeat
Was triumph; and what strength in her remained
To head against the ultimate foreseen rout,
Insensate taxed; of his impenitent will,
Servant and sycophant: without ally,
In Python's coils, the Master Craftsman still;
The smiter, panther springer, trapper sly,
The deadly wrestler at the crucial bout,
The penetrant, the tonant, tower of towers,
Striking from black disaster starry showers.
Her supreme player of man's primaeval game,
He won his harnessed victim's rapturous shout,
When every move was mortal to her frame,
Her prayer to life that stricken he might lie,
She to exchange his laurels for earth's flowers.
The innumerable whelmed him, and he fell:
A vessel in mid-ocean under storm.
Ere ceased the lullaby of his passing bell,
He sprang to sight, in human form
Revealed, from no celestial aids:
The shades enclosed him, and he fired the shades.
Cannon his name,
Cannon his voice, he came.
The fount of miracles from drought-dust arose,
Amazing even on his Imperial stage,
Where marvels lightened through the alternate hours
And winged o'er human earth's heroical shone.
Into the press of cumulative foes,
Across the friendly fields of smoke and rage,
A broken structure bore his furious powers;
The man no more, the Warrior Chief the same;
Match for all rivals; in himself but flame
Of an outworn lamp, to illumine nought anon.
Yet loud as when he first showed War's effete
Their Schoolman off his eagre mounted high,
And summoned to subject who dared compete,
The cannon in the name Napoleon
Discoursed of sulphur earth to curtained sky.
So through a tropic day a regnant sun,
Where armies of assailant vapours thronged,
His glory's trappings laid on them: comes night,
Enwraps him in a bosom quick of heat
From his anterior splendours, and shall seem
Day instant, Day's own lord in the furnace gleam,
The virulent quiver on ravished eyes prolonged,
When severed darkness, all flaminical bright,
Slips vivid eagles linked in rapid flight;
Which bring at whiles the lionly far roar,
As wrestled he with manacles and gags,
To speed across a cowering world once more,
Superb in ordered floods, his lordly flags.
His name on silence thundered, on the obscure
Lightened; it haunted morn and even-song:
Earth of her prodigy's extinction long,
With shudderings and with thrillings, hung unsure.
Snapped was the chord that made the resonant bow,
In France, abased and like a shrunken corse;
Amid the weakest weak, the lowest low,
From the highest fallen, stagnant off her source;
Condemned to hear the nations' hostile mirth;
See curtained heavens, and smell a sulphurous earth;
Which told how evermore shall tyrant Force
Beget the greater for its overthrow.
The song of Liberty in her hearing spoke
A foreign tongue; Earth's fluttering little lyre
Unlike, but like the raven's ravening croak.
Not till her breath of being could aspire
Anew, this loved and scourged of Angels found
Our common brotherhood in sight and sound:
When mellow rang the name Napoleon,
And dim aloft her young Angelical waved.
Between ethereal and gross to choose,
She swung; her soul desired, her senses craved.
They pricked her dreams, while oft her skies were dun
Behind o'ershadowing foemen: on a tide
They drew the nature having need of pride
Among her fellows for its vital dues:
He seen like some rare treasure-galleon,
Hull down, with masts against the Western hues.
The Garden of Years
I have shut fast the door, and am alone
With the sweet memory of this afternoon,
That saw my vague dreams on a sudden grown
Into fulfilment, as I oft have known
Stray notes upon a keyboard fall atune
When least persuaded. I besought no boon
Of Fate to-day; I that, since first Love came
Into my life, have been so importune.
To-day alone I did not press my claim,
And lo! all I have dreamed of is my own!
I have shut fast the door, for so I may
Relive that moment of the turn of tide—
That swift solution of the long delay
That clothed with silver splendor dying day;
And, with low-whispering memory for guide,
See once again your startled eyes confide
The secret of surrender; and your hand
Flutter toward mine, before you turn aside—
And the gold wings of young consent expand
Fresh from the cracking chrysalis of Nay!
I did not dare to speak at first. It seemed
A thing unreal, that with the air might blend—
That strange swift signal—and I feared I dreamed!
Ahead, the city’s lamps, converging, gleamed
To a thin angle at the street’s far bend,
And, as we neared, each from its column’s end
Stepped out, and past us, furtive, slipped away:
Nor could Love’s self a longer respite lend
The radiant moments of our shortening day,
That Time, the donor, one by one redeemed.
We spoke of eloquently empty things;
Of younger days that were before we met,
The trivial acts to which the memory clings,
And in familiar spots unbidden brings
To mind, when graver matters we forget.
The sacred secret lay unspoken, yet
Hovered, half-veiled, between our conscious eyes,
Touched with an indefinable regret
For that swift moment of our love’s surprise—
Like a waked bird, poised upon ready wings.
I cannot tell how first we came to dwell
In short, shy words upon this closer theme,
Or how it was each understood so well
There was no need in clearer speech to tell
The phases of our duplicated dream.
In that sweet intimacy, it would seem
Our endless love had never been begun:
Like the twin branches of a tranquil stream
Our two hearts ran together and were one,
With no trite word to mar the perfect spell!
Heart of my heart, I am no longer young:
Long have I waited for this day of days
When some small sign from you should loose my tongue—
When I should see that gate wide-open flung
That of Love’s garden screened the sunlit ways;
Long have I waited, till your hand should raise
The veil between our understanding eyes,
That you in mine, that I in yours might gaze,
While my heart shouted to the open skies
The song that long in silence it hath sung!
Dear eyes of earnest brown! How well I know
Their every sadness and their every smile;
How I have watched their laughter come and go,
Or some swift shadow cloud their bonny glow
Of stingless scoffing and of guiltless guile:
How jealous grew I in an instant, while
Some thought I knew not on the mirror blew!
Forgotten, from my heaven I stood exile,
And my rose dreamings dimmed upon my view,
As sunset’s fire grays on the Alpine snow.
But each doubt fled as swift as it appeared;
And, day by day, I grew to understand
The heart of him who long his death hath feared,
And, sudden, sees the stately palms upreared
Of some oasis in a desert land.
Yet, even as that far green across the sand
Cheered the dry way of my heart’s wandering,
I hardly looked at length to plunge my hand
And thirsty lips deep in the distant spring
That step by step my feet so slowly neared.
For often I had seen the broken pledge
Of far mirages, swung upon the air,
Touched with the tender green of palm and sedge,
And where a thin stream, sliding from a ledge,
Promised me hope and paid me in despair.
So, come at last, in spite of all, to where
The falling waters all the senses cool,
Is it so strange that I should hardly dare
Believe I stand in truth beside the pool
That shone so small upon the desert’s edge?
I have come far. If my lips cannot say
The words that younger lovers use to woo,
It is because the long and thirsty day,
The sun-baked stretches of my weary way,
Have dried their memory of the holy dew.
If I cannot at once my claim renew
To light, and perfume, music, and a smile,
It is because of discords, had in lieu
Of harmonies. Sweet, patience for a while!
I shall praise later. Grant me time to pray.
Heart of my heart, blame not the arid sand:—
It has but lent the turf a deeper green.
Blame not the copper skies that overspanned
The heartless reaches of that backward land:—
For them the water shows a smoother sheen.
And blame me not if at the brink I lean
Mutely, and seem uneloquent and cold:—
Viewing the verdure of this fair demesne.
I am so young, who yesterday was old!
It is enough to try to understand.
’T was in the garden, phantom-trod, of those
My younger years, when life before me lay,
That first I saw the flower of Love unclose
From fancy’s folded bud. Youth only knows
How tenderly I longed to pluck it! Nay,
I would not waken those dead hours to-day:
For Time’s consuming fire, with lambent lip,
Has kissed my fair frail flower, and so I may
Not touch with the most careful finger-tip
Its ashes, perfect as the unburnt rose.
From our Fate’s map of matters foreordained
Who of us all would rend the veil away—
See the sealed shrine of destiny profaned,
And all the awful ultima explained,
Arid so lose right to hope and need to pray?
Who is there of us all who would not say
That mystery is merciful? Too soon
Our roses droop, our limpid skies go gray,
And youth’s morn glooms to age’s afternoon:—
Let the lees lie until the wine be drained.
Yet are some hours by rapture made so bright
That the sense reels before the blinding blaze
Of an effulgent radiancy, that might,
Spread through a lifetime, shed the steady light
Of calm content on twice ten thousand days.
Ah, if the jealous future would but raise
These, like white beacons on a sad sea thrown,
How patient we should be of life’s delays
That seem denials! Ah, love, had I but known
All my life long the will of Fate to-night!
Close was your secret guarded, empty years!
No far horizon ever hid so well
The dreamt-of harbors of imagined spheres
From the strained eyes of ocean’s pioneers,
Until the appointed dawn from swell to swell
Leaped, and decreed discovery befel.
Had I but known, how different all had been!
To-day—to-day of which you would not tell—
Had lain upon my heart like the unseen
Familiar green of shores their native nears.
Ah, prescient day when I came down to thee,
Heart of the sea, rebellious as my own!
No other tongue could tell the tragedy
Of those boy-dreamings that were not to be;
Such eloquence was thine and thine alone.
So that fair western land, where they had grown,
Sank to a thin grey line, and so I turned
And pledged my troth unto the great unknown,
Cruel, kind world. How little had I learned
In all the years before I sought the sea!
For as a myriad bubbles on our stem
Flashed to swift life, and then as swiftly died,
My fancy saw, like them, my visions yearn
An instant on my eyes, and then return
Upon the eddies of the backward tide.
Dear hopes of youth, so youthfully allied
With one familiar comer of the world!
Dear foolish dreams, in mercy thus denied!
How little knew I what the East unfurled:—
I was so wise, and had so much to learn!
All my life long in memory I shall guard
That slow sea-swing that lullabied the heart,
While the thin, thoughtful mast, shrouded and sparred,
Moved in and out upon the silver-starred
Midnight, as if it traced upon a chart:
And the prow forced the fluttering waves apart,
As they had been the leaves of some wise tome,
Wherefrom it read Life’s story from the start,
Set to the music of the whirling foam,
Wind-rippled cordage, and slow-straining yard.
All my life long in memory I shall know
How the slow, careful fingers of the light
Sort and shift countless jewels to and fro
On liquid velvet, when the breezes blow
After the calm that lay upon the night.
All my life long shall linger on my sight
One flower-like cloud that watched the daylight die,
Until the west-wind, pausing in its flight,
Plucked it, and idly on a turquoise sky
Scattered its petals in a crimson snow.
And yet, had I but known what was to be,
The stillness sweet had been more sweetly still,
The laughter-laden singing of the sea,
That hallowed life and pledged eternity,
I should not then have understood so ill.
And, seeing how the west-wind worked its will
Upon the cloud, I should have known how you
Would one day in a myriad roses spill
My life, and give me faith and hope, in lieu
Of the black heart that you plucked out from me.
O my one love, so frail, so fair, so pure,
Had I but seen you faintly and afar,
My fluctuating faith had pointed sure
As swings the needle—slave, while worlds endure,
To the mute bidding of the northern star—
And many things had never been that are!
Had I but known what Life would bring to-day,
How had the years sung by, with naught to mar
That sweet crescendo, to our fairy-play
Hope’s eloquent, enchanted overture!
Now, from the goal of this, my heart’s fair fate,
I scan the backward way with wondering eyes,
And, in the silence of the night, debate
Upon each changing charm that lay in wait
Beneath the arch of ever stranger skies.
Like to a map the varied prospect lies
Of the long years since from your side I turned:
Fata Morgana-wise my pleasures rise,
Each in its turn sought after, squandered, spurned—
More trivial each, that treasured was of late!
How wide a world it was that met my sight,
Whose eyes were narrowed to but childish things!
Asia lay bathed in unimagined light,
With all the splendors of her past bedight.
Work of the ages’ full-forgotten kings:
And, rocking ’twixt her summers and her springs,
The blue-robed Indian Ocean slept and sighed,
Decked with her emerald islands, looped in strings
Upon the breathing bosom of her tide:—
Slept all bronze day, and all star-studded night.
Africa frowned across my breathless lee,
Mute, unforgetful, cursed, but unconquered still,
Sahara-hemmed in heart and destiny,
Unpardoned yet, and yet too proud for plea,
Pregnant with purpose of unaltered ill.
Distant, the swerved sirocco seemed to spill
From its black cup a plague upon the land,
And, crawling on past barren ridge and hill
Through hope-devouring endlessness of sand,
The swarthy Nile sulked northward to the sea.
Those earliest Americas of all
That, with half-lowered lids, dream on the day
Of the imperial Incas, seemed to call,
As, when their own long, languid evenings fall,
The sea calls landward from her curving bay.
Hearing, I answered, bent my aimless way
To the cool shade that nestled ’neath their palms,
And so, long nights on sloping shoreways lay,
While moons crept, silver-shod, across the calms,
And wrapped their radiance in the horizon’s pall.
Years melted into years as still I strayed,
And Life, still searching, from her pack withdrew
More novel baubles, offered me in trade
For those unvalued days, wherewith I paid
Because with them I knew not what to do:
Till at the end, I smiled to think of you
As but a memory. Fool! How swift I found,
Like the mechanic mole, I burrowed through
Oblivion, an inch below the ground!
One touch, and all my blindness lay displayed.
I know, should some one ask me which was best
Of all the lands wherewith our world is starred,
There could be but one answer to the test.
A rover heart had urged me on a quest
Wherein all gates of distance were unbarred,
Yet never was I able to discard
The thought of that young land that gave me birth:
Still in my memory’s holiest shrine I guard
That virgin daughter of the grim old earth,
The star-eyed White Republic of the West!
Yet, like some chapter of an old romance,
My heart holds one memorial morning dear,
When the gray hazes whirled, as in a dance,
Up from the rippled Channel’s wide expanse,
And sunlit shores stept, on a sudden, near.
On that chief day of that prophetic year
Some pledge I could but dimly understand,
Some subtle spell, lay on the calm and clear
Blue harbor of this mute majestic land,
And hope shone smiling in the eyes of France!
And France it was that crushed my callow creed,
That held me like a mother to her breast;
That staunched the wounds my ignorance made bleed,
And, in the hour of that, my direst need,
Showed where my star still hung against the West.
France was the judge that put my faith to test,
Little by little lent it sturdier strength,
And schooled the rover in the rules of rest;
And now, dear heart, that you are mine at length,
I see ’t was she that taught me love indeed.
Thus, in my deepest heart must I inshrine
Her stately cliffs, patrolled by guardian seas;
Her hollowed hillsides, where the slender vine,
Pregnant with promise of the autumn wine,
Leans on its staff against the battling breeze:
And all her silver streams, that seek the seas,
Threading the dappled fabric of her lawns—
Her crimson sunsets, snared among the trees,
And all the crescent glory of her dawns,—
For I am hers for aye, and she is mine!
The murmured secrets of her Norman firs,
Wherein at night the whisper of the air
To busy babble all the branches spurs,
Till every drowsy needle wakes and stirs,
And of the gossip speaks its little share:
Her shadowy mines, her southern gardens, where
The oval olives crowd the bending bough:
All these are mine:—but, most of all, O fair
Laughing and languid Paris, mine art thou,
Pinned like a pearl on that white brow of hers!
Waywardest wanton of the world to woo,
Blackest of heart, of face the most sublime,
O Cleopatran city, through and through
Blazing with sin and splendor, once I knew
No star upon the black night of thy crime;
Till on the stagnant bosom of thy slime
Bloomed a white lily with a heart of gold:—
Heart of my heart, what matters it if Time
Damned this fair city in the days of old?
She stands regenerate, as the home of you!
As the rank refuse of the city goes
Out to the sea, that maketh all things clean,
So past your doorway all her folly flows,
Rubbish purged pure by one redeeming rose:—
Paris and Hell, but your face in between!
Upon that ground where rose the guillotine
Your slender feet, like benedictions, fall.
With this redress the grim Fates intervene:—
The past is naught, dear love, and you are all!
Paris is pure since your pure eyes she knows.
And it was Paris fully roused me first
From that, my torpor. Flashing on the scene
With nimble feet, this dearest dancer burst
Upon my sight, within her eyes such thirst
As dares and damns, a rose her lips between.
Girdled with jewels, crowned as is a queen,
With Lethe’s poppies dozing in her hair,
Gowned in thin stuffs of silver-dotted sheen,
Humanly sinful, and divinely fair,
She tore the mask from off my best and worst!
I know not how it was she spun that spell
Which made me see, who had been blind so long,
Or with what kiss aroused; nor can I tell
How such a one as she contrived so well
To tempt my weakness and to leave me strong.
Some note there was in her compellant song
That made me man who had been boy till then,
And hurled the idler in among the throng,
Frontward to fight his way with other men,
Scale highest Heaven, and plumb profoundest Hell.
But this I know:—she flung the gauntlet true,
And at the challenge fear shrank back ashamed:
Hope, silver-armored, roused herself anew,
A blast upon the brazen trumpet blew,
And at the call my hand the gage reclaimed.
Wounded, mayhap, in earlier combats maimed,
Yet, as of old, with my escutcheon clean,
A space I sought, where red the pennants flamed,
To see the seat of Love and Beauty’s queen,—
And from the past leaned out the thought of you!
You stepped into my life once more, and lo!
The well-drilled steeds tore loose from every rein:
They whom the years had taught so meek to go
Felt the old breezes past their nostrils blow,
And whirled Love’s chariot to the fore again!
Afresh I knew the rapture and the pain
Of your dear voice, so kind, so unconcerned;
Despite my will, the incense, quenched in vain,
With sweeter perfume on your altars burned,
And gowned in gray the temple columns’ snow.
For siren Paris with her tenderest smile
Had failed to blot the old songs from the score.
The every glamor and the every wile
Of this most sovereign sorceress of guile
But left the tempted truer than before!
Loving I lost, regaining, loved the more:—
What ne’er I learned from sweet propinquity,
My exile taught. Blindness I begged her for:—
She touched my eyes, and showed them how to see,
And how that they had been but blind erewhile.
Upon that day hope turned one golden grain
Of purest promise from the loam of toil,
Significant of some yet hidden vein
Beneath, and by the signal bade me gain
What lay unmined below the stubborn soil.
As if by magic, cleared of ruck and roil,
The spring of Life grew undefiled and pure,
And, limpid lying, freed of all turmoil,
Mirrored your face, immutable and sure,
And then I knew that we should meet again.
Oh, clad in all a dream’s unstable guise,
And unsubstantial as the veriest air,
Thenceforward hung your presence on my eyes,
Worthy of all and any sacrifice,
Pale, but beyond my maddest memory fair!
Walked I by day, the phantom form was there;
Slept I, its radiance on my dreams was cast,
Teaching me mutely how I might prepare
To be, when we should meet again at last,
More pure, more humble, worthier,—and more wise.
No longer toy of each most idle whim,
But unto nobler aims apprentice made,
I filled my duty’s chalice to the brim,
And daily drank my portion, good or grim;—
So was Hope’s stirring summons well obeyed.
And, grew I ever of the end afraid,
Despaired I of my ultimate design,
In that dark hour, when most I needed aid,
As if my draught grew stimulant with wine,
Your promised lips hallowed the goblet’s rim.
Love, to all men that loathe their lives to-day
I fain would give of those rapt years a part;
Of all the words I dreamt I heard you say,
I could spare some to cheer the hapless way
Of every mortal who is sick at heart.
Of hope and honor all the cruel mart
I fain would have one rose relieve the gloom,
Appeasing the unutterable smart
With one sweet breath of that self-same perfume
That turned my own December into May.
And yet—and yet—let the great world go past!
God holds within the hollow of His hand
Each scourged pariah, down-trodden, and outclassed,
Who pauses at the steep abyss, aghast;—
His will we cannot hope to understand.
Only of all good things that He hath planned,
And all that in the future He may send,
There is no further boon that I demand,
Since I have this—that half I comprehend—
That I have held you to my heart at last!
I know that I am worthier to-day
Of your consent than in that long ago
When first I loved you. All the winding way
Was somehow shot with an enlightening ray
That taught me things that I had need to know.
At every step there lay some sign, to show
How best to win you, where I had but lost:
The years were stern and merciless, but oh,
With you the prize, how little seems the cost:—
’T were in my heart tenfold the price to pay!
I often wondered if you ever guessed
How over leagues of sea your influence sped,
How in my every mood of vague unrest
Completest calm crept close against my breast,
Night lightened, and the dawn was mine instead:
And if, perchance, when, woven thread by thread,
My rhyme-linked thoughts lay on some printed page,
They came unto your hand, and, as you read,
You knew them birds bred in your soul’s pure cage,
That I had kissed, and given again the West.
Rereading these, I mind me well what night
Saw each first flutter to my eager hand,
How to my heart I held the wanderer tight,
Smoothed its soft wings, all ruffled by the flight,
And strove each timid note to understand.
sweet unconscious breeder of the band,
Let others say my thoughts are all my own!
I know them nestlings of my native land,
Whose songs were taught by you and you alone:—
All I can do is note the strains aright.
I love them all so well that I would fain
Believe you held their songs as dear as I,
That on your memory may perchance have lain
Some one or two of all the rhythmic train
That you inspired, and I taught how to fly.
Could I but know that some so softly lie
In that most silken nest, I were content!
Ah, tell me some sang true in brushing by
The only ear for which their songs were meant,
And made the meaning of my message plain.
For this the curse of those that tempt the pen:—
Where thousands read, one eye may never see
The thoughts that are but lifeless creatures, when
Taken into the myriad hearts of men,
If one intended ear heed not the plea.
What though I knew that, in mine own degree,
I had made lips to laugh and eyes to weep?
Rather that one unworthy word from me
Within your heart should sleep, and wake, and sleep:—
All I have done were worth the labor then.
Heart of my heart, what all the world may do
To blot my name or keep its memory green
Is naught. I crave not to be of the few
Who, unforgotten, thread the ages through
And lordlier laurels with each cycle glean.
Grant me but this, whereon my life may lean:
As once I saw you in your bonny way
Your mirror kiss, that stood two flowers between,
Let these, my pages, the reflector play,
And kiss again what mirrors only you!
Dearest, to me come oftentimes at night
Pictures, wherein I find you fitly framed—
Shores of strange seas, incomparably bright,
And hill-girt landscapes, haloed with a light
Ethereal, that none hath ever named.
No ownership in these I could have claimed:
They are not of my making. Love alone
Could so blind Nature, utterly ashamed,
With beauty thus out-rivalling her own,
That seems transcendent to our mortal sight.
For I am not of those who, in their dreams,
Are wont to rank their love with simple things,
With humble flowers, babble of vapid streams,
Or that rare note of rapture that redeems
The idle gossip that the blackbird sings.
The grim old earth hath seen too many springs,
Lovers enough have trapped her charm in words:
To all her flowers the mould of usage clings,
And, to the music of her weary birds,
The burden of reiterated themes.
This love of ours doth wonderfully dwell
In new demesnes, born when it first arose;
Treads the young turf of some yet virgin dell,
Where novel buds miraculously swell
On trees not known before, and where unclose
Unprecedented vistas. Where it goes,
Strange birds invent unwonted melodies,
That in all earth no other lover knows
Save our two selves alone, for each of these
Sounds a fresh note, as of a new-wrought bell.
I cannot tell in words what lands these are
Through which I see you moving like a queen:
There is no earthly radiance like that star
That stands in silent majesty, afar,
The peaks of unfamiliar hills between.
Some unknown pigment turns the tender green
Of all that dreaming landscape to a hue
That never was, save in the lovely scene
That Love hath only planned for framing you,
And that no mortal hand could make or mar.
There is a sheen in those soft gowns you wear
Like water turned to opal by the moon;
A lustre in those jewels that you bear,
Twined in and out amid your dusky hair,
Like the still stars, and like the blaze of noon.
There is a perfume of some sweeter June
Than earth hath seen, that follows where you go;
And all the solemn silence is atune
With unvoiced songs, such as the angels know,
Born without breath upon the breathless air!
We may not hope to find each other thus
In waking hours. Our days are too beset
With the world’s voices, shrill and clamorous:
Life is too sharply strained, too strenuous—
We are but mortal, and we may forget!
The momentary pang of some regret
May lay its hand an instant on your eyes
And mine, dear heart, and cloud our vision—yet
Remember that with earthly fears and sighs
We two have naught to do, nor they with us.
What though unbidden tears may turn us blind?
Twilight still comes, and still brings sweet release:
Merciful night, in spite of all, shall find
Us waiting each for each, for sleep is kind,
And moulds from sorrow’s clay the cup of peace.
Heart of my heart, drink deep of that surcease
That at her goblet’s rim divinely gleams:
Whate’er may be deceptive day’s caprice,
I wait you on the borderland of dreams,
Where the world stumbles and is left behind!
And, through my visions as you thread your way,
Girt with that grace my eyes alone may see,
If I make bold your noiseless steps to stay,
It is because in sleep alone I may
Be half to you of all that I would be.
It is because my longing lips, set free,
Can compass then alone each subtle phrase,
And snare in speech that magic melody
Which, since your coming, sings adown my days.
Only in sleep my lips my heart obey.
And who shall say but what our dreams may tell
Some secret we were hardly meant to know,
As if a feather from a rapt lark fell,
To say that in high heaven all things are well,
However black the heart of man below?
If through my visions thus you nightly go,
Robed round with love, may not my dreaming mean
That some day we may wander to and fro
In unknown meadows gowned in such a green
As all the fields of earth cannot excel?
Ah, love, there is a pledge of keener bliss
In these unbidden dreams of sleeping hours,
That set all right that may have been amiss,
And lend us wings to clear whate’er abyss
Darkly across our waking pathway glowers.
There is some promise in these strange new flowers
Holier than we have dreamt of or have planned;
Some fairer fate eternally is ours:—
Only it is so hard to understand.
You love me! Are there greater things than this?
I think that in the past, unheard, unseen,
All influences of the earth and air,
The gleam of water, and the forest’s green,
Have spun some cobweb sympathy between
Our hearts, now one in finding them so fair:
That every sunset taught us to prepare
For the pure dawn when Love was sure to rise;
That every cloud but made us more aware
That soon or late his sun would greet our eyes,
And all our heaven be cloudless and serene!
Else, how should we have come to understand
The perfect meaning of this perfect day?
How could this hour, unbidden and unplanned,
Bring in its train such infinite command
Of all the things we do not need to say?
It is too soon, mayhap, to trace the way
By which we came, guided by birds and flowers,
To the full knowledge of the joys of May:—
We can retrace the path in later hours,
And all our haunts revisit, hand in hand.
To-night it is enough for us to know
That we are one; to know that, if we will,
We may a bridge across the darkness throw,
Whereon our tender thoughts may come and go,
In silent love that distance cannot kill.
I only seek the heart-begotten skill
To put in simple words this truth sublime:—
That I have loved you, dearest, love you still,
And so shall love you till the end of time!
It is enough that what is so is so.
Let me but tell you, lamely if I must,
Of how I love you; how, despite all wiles,
That tender flower, that in my boyhood thrust
Its star-eyed promise from the barren dust,
Still on my path with purest fragrance smiles;
Of how my heart returns, through weary miles,
To that song-spilling throng of birds unseen
Whose inter-rippling music so beguiles
All the long hours, the dawn and dark between.
Love, let me place the secret in your trust!
I loved you first, I know not how or where:—
The world began upon the day we met!
Truth’s self slept in your eyes; and in your hair
The sun lay trapped, as in a silken snare:
The tinkle of some crystal fountain’s jet
Sang in your voice; a hint of violet
Slept on your breath, and dawn’s divinest glow
Flushed your soft cheek—but ah, more tender yet
The ivory of your throat’s ascending snow!
I loved you first when first I found you fair.
Could you but guess how like the dawn you grew
Upon my east, slow as such dawnings will!
Spell-bound and breathless, diademed with dew.
My sunless world its sudden sovereign knew;
And all the fern-fringed forest waited, still.
Slow spread the glory on the distant hill,
From that faint early flush grown clear and strong,
And then, with one divinely daring thrill,
A single bird unleashed its soul in song,
And swung exultant upward in the blue!
I loved you first because, when first you stood
Upon the threshold of my world new-born,
That strange new note I dimly understood
Leapt laughing from the bosom of the wood
Straight to the arms of my supremest morn!
Because your clear eyes, innocent of scorn,
Swept infinite horizons into view;
And the gray hazes, from their moorings torn,
Revealed wide fields that thenceforth, knowing you,
It was for me to till for gain and good.
Yet was I blind to all the better part
Of morning’s mute miraculous intent.
That spell you wove about me at the start,
Conjured to life by simple beauty’s art,
Told but a tithe of all the truth it meant:
And all the higher purpose that you lent
Unto my life, went wrapped within a veil.
Uneloquent, the message that was sent,
Wan with desire of speech, stood, proud and pale,
Outside the holiest holy of my heart.
The chiefest lessons Life makes clear are those
She teaches most at leisure. Sure and slow
Successive leaves of her wise book unclose;
And, day by day, the vital story grows
To consummation, till we come to know
Its perfect purport. All that lay below
The rapture of my earliest glimpse of you
Only that stoic tutor Time could show:—
Long evenings of reiterated dew
Alone perfect the perfume of the rose!
The patient years polished with practised hand
Love’s crystal to a smooth symmetric swell,
Till the curved lens lay, accurately planned,
Flawlessly fitted to the brazen band
Within whose compass it was meant to dwell.
Then from my eyes the scales of blindness fell:
Undreamt-of planets swam into my ken.
And new-mapped heavens with stars made haste to spell
The meaning of the message that, till then,
It was not in my power to understand.
I love you now, not with the love alone
Of blind rebellious boyhood, as of old:
The blooms of mere enchantment, beauty-blown,
Lie withered, and the full fruit, slowlier grown,
Bends the slim bough beneath unmeasured gold.
The sun, of these new secrets, Time hath told—
The tempests of communicative tears—
The strong, blind winds of passion—and behold!—
The careful cultivation of the years
Hath made a harvest of what Love hath sown.
I love you now, because that I and you
Were complements before the birth of Time;
Because our souls have come, the ages through,
Down to the moment when God’s purpose drew
The twain together in one perfect rhyme;
Because that I have made Love’s aria climb
The scales that every subtler phrase involved,
Until I struck the seventh chord sublime.
And one low word upon your lips resolved
My melody, beyond all music new!
You are the magnet moon, and I the sea,
Cradling her face, climbing to catch more clear
The image of her pure tranquillity:
You are the west-wind, mistress of the lea,
And I the reed, that bows when she is near:
You are the spring, and I the obedient year
Whose soul awakens where her footfalls go:
You are the stream, and I a leaf, to veer
Where’er the singing current choose to flow:—
O light and breath, perfume and melody!
I love you for your lips the rose hath kissed—
Your cheeks, more tender than arbutus blooms;
For those half-hidden veins of amethyst
In your white throat, and for the tender mist
That clouds your eyes, as haze the autumn glooms:
For that faint subtle fragrance which perfumes
The soft bewitching tangle of your hair;
For your low laughter in the darkening rooms,
Where our instinctive hands lie linked, and where
Daylight and dark keep transitory tryst!
Life of my love, love of my life, in vain
I marshall every phrase that speech supplies:
The summits of my meaning yet remain
Cloud-capped, above the flat familiar plain
Of spoken thought, unsealed against the skies!
The mute interrogation of your eyes
My own must mutely meet. Ah, touch my hand,
And, like a child, instruct me in what wise
I may contrive to make you understand
The love that aught but silence must profane!
The Bridal Of Triermain
Come Lucy! while 'tis morning hour
The woodland brook we needs must pass;
So, ere the sun assume his power,
We shelter in our poplar bower,
Where dew lies long upon the flower,
Though vanish'd from the velvet grass.
Curbing the stream, this stony ridge
May serve us for a silvan bridge;
For here, compell'd to disunite,
Round petty isles the runnels glide,
And chafing off their puny spite,
The shallows murmurers waste their might,
Yielding to footstep free and light
A dry-shod pass from side to side.
Nay, why this hesitating pause?
And, Lucy, as thy step withdraws,
Why sidelong eye the streamlet's brim?
Titania's foot without a slip,
Like, thine, though timid, light, and slim,
From stone to stone might safely trip,
Nor risk the glow-worm clasp to dip
That binds her slipper's silken rim.
Or trust thy lover's strength; nor fear
That this same stalwart arm of mine,
Which could yon oak's prone trunk uprear,
Shall shrink beneath, the burden dear
Of form so slender, light, and fine;
So! now, the danger dared at last,
Look back, and smile at perils past!
And now we reach the favourite glade,
Paled in copsewood, cliff, and stone,
Where never harsher sounds invade,
To break affection's whispering tone,
Than the deep breeze that waves the shade,
Than the small brooklet's feeble moan.
Come! rest thee on thy wonted seat;
Moss'd is the stone, the turf is green,
A place where lovers best may meet
Who would not that their love be seen.
The boughs, that dim the summer sky,
Shall hide us from each lurking spy,
That fain would spread the invidious tale,
How Lucy of the lofty eye,
Noble in birth, in fortunes high,
She for whom lords and barons sigh,
Meets her poor Arthur in the dale.
How deep that blush! - how deep that sigh!
And why does Lucy shun mine eye?
Is it because that crimson draws
Its colour from some secret cause,
Some hidden movement of the breast
She would not that her Arthur guess'd?
O! quicker far is lovers' ken
Than the dull glance of common men,
And, by strange sympathy, can spell
The thoughts the loved one will not tell!
And mine, in Lucy's blush, saw met
The hues of pleasure and regret;
Pride mingled in the sigh her voice,
And shared with Love the crimson glow;
Well pleased that thou art Arthur's choice,
Yet shamed thine own is placed so low:
Thou turn'st thy self-confessing cheek,
As if to meet the breeze's cooling:
Then, Lucy, hear thy tutor speak,
For Love, too, has his hours of schooling.
Too oft my anxious eye has spied
That secret grief thou fain wouldst hide,
The passing pang of humbled pride;
Too oft, when through the splendid hall,
The load-star of each heart and eye,
My fair one leads the glittering ball,
Will her stol'n glance on Arthur fall,
With such a blush and such a sigh!
Thou wouldst not yield, for wealth or rank,
The heart thy worth and beauty won,
Nor leave me on this mossy bank,
To meet a rival on a throne:
Why, then, should vain repinings rise,
That to thy lover fate denies
A nobler name, a wide domain,
A Baron's birth, a menial train,
Since Heaven assign'd him, for his part,
A lyre, a falchion, and a heart?
My sword - its master must be dumb;
But, when a soldier names my name,
Approach, my Lucy! fearless come,
Nor dread to hear of Arthur's shame.
My heart! 'mid all yon courtly crew
Of lordly rank and lofty line,
Is there to love and honour true,
That boasts a pulse so warm as mine?
They praised thy diamonds' lustre rare -
Match'd with thine eyes, I thought it faded;
They praised the pearls that bound thy hair-
I saw only the locks they braided;
They talk'd of wealthy dower and land,
And titles of high birth the token -
I thought of Lucy's heart and hand,
Nor knew the sense of what was spoken.
And yet, if rank'd in Fortune's roll,
I might have learn'd their choice unwise,
Who rate the dower above the soul,
And Lucy's diamonds o'er her eyes.
My lyre - it is an idle toy,
That borrows accents not its own,
Like warbler of Colombian sky,
That sings in a mimic tone.
Ne'er did it sound o'er sainted well,
Nor boasts it aught of Border spell;
It strings no feudal slogan pour,
Its heroes draw no broad claymore;
No shouting clans applauses raise,
Because it sung their father's praise;
On Scottish moor, or English down,
It ne'er was graced with fair renown;
Norwon - best meed to minstrel true -
One favouring smile from fair BUCCLEUCH!
By one poor streamlet sounds its tone,
And heard by one dear maid alone.
But, if thou bid'st, these tones shall tell
Of errant knight, and damozelle;
Of a dread knot a Wizard tied,
In punishment of maiden's pride,
In notes of marvel and of fear,
That best may charm romantic ear.
For Lucy loves (like COLLINS, ill-starred name,
Whose lay's requital was that tardy fame,
Who bound no laurel round his living head,
Should hang it o'er his monument when dead)
For Lucy loves to tread enchanted strand,
And thread, like him, the maze of fairy land;
Of golden battlements to view the gleam,
And slumber soft by some Elysian stream;
Such lays she loves; and, such my Lucy's choice,
What other song can claim her Poet's voice?
Where is the maiden of mortal strain
That may match with the Baron of Triermain?
She must be lovely, and constant, and kind,
Holy and pure, and humble of mind,
Blithe of cheer, and gentle of mood,
Courteous, and generous, and noble of blood,
Lovely as the sun's first ray
When it breaks the clouds of an April day;
Constant and true as the widow'd dove,
Kind as a minstrel that sings of love;
Pure as the fountain in rocky cave,
Where never sunbeam kiss'd the wave;
Humble as a maiden that loves in vain,
Holy as a hermit's vesper strain;
Gentle as a breeze that but whispers and dies,
Yet blithe as the light leaves that dance in its sighs;
Courteous as monarch the morn he is crown'd,
Generous as spring-dews that bless the glad ground;
Noble her blood as the currents that met
In the veins of the noblest Plantangenet:
Such must her form be, her mood and her strain,
That shall match with Sir Roland of Triermain.
Sir Roland de Vaux he hath laid him to sleep,
His blood it was fever'd, his breathing was deep.
He had been pricking against the Scot,
The foray was long, and the skirmish hot;
His dinted helm and his buckler's plight
Bore token of a stubborn fight.
All in the castle must hold them still,
Harpers must lull him to his rest
With the slow soft tunes he loves the best,
Till sleep sink down upon his breast
Like the dew on a summer hill.
It was the dawn of an autumn day;
The sun was struggling with a frost-fog grey,
That like a silvery crape was spread
Round Skiddaw's dim and distant head,
And faintly gleam'd each painted pane
Of the lordly halls of Triermain,
When that Baron bold awoke.
Starting he woke, and loudly did call,
Rousing his menials in bower and hall,
While hastily he spoke.
'Hearken, my minstrels! which of ye all
Touch'd his harp with that dying fall,
So sweet, so soft, so faint,
It seem'd an angel's whisper'd call
To an expiring saint?
And harken, my merry men! what time or where
Did she pass, that maid with her heavenly brow,
With her look so sweet and her eyes so fair,
And her graceful step and her angel air,
And the eagle plume in her dark-brown hair,
That pass'd from my bower e'en now?'
Answer'd him Richard de Bretville - he
Was chief of the Baron's minstrelsy:
'Silent, noble chieftain, we
Have sat since midnight close,
When such lulling sounds as the brooklet sings
Murmur'd from our melting strings
And hush'd you to repose.
Had a harp-note sounded here
It had caught my watchful ear,
Although it fell as faint and shy
As bashful maiden's half-form'd sigh,
When she thinks her lover near.'
Answer'd Philip of Fasthwaite tall -
He kept guard in the outer hall:
'Since at eve our watch took post,
Not a foot has thy portal cross'd;
Else had I heard the steps, though low
And light they fell, as when the earth receives,
In morn of frost, the wither'd leaves
That drop when no winds blow.'
'Then come thou hither, Henry, my page,
Whom I saved from the sack of Hermitage,
When that dark castle, tower, and spire,
Rose to the skies a pile of fire.
And redden'd all the Nine-stane Hill,
And the shrieks of death, that wildly broke
Through devouring flame and smothering smoke,
Made the warrior's heart-blood chill.
The trustiest thou of all my train,
My fleetest courser thou must rein,
And ride to Lyulph's tower,
And from the Baron of Treirmain
Greet well that sage of power.
He is sprung from Druid sires,
And British bards that tuned their lyres
To Arthur's and Pendragon's praise,
And his who sleeps at Dunmailraise.
Gifted like his gifted race,
He the characters can trace,
Graven deep in elder time,
Upon Helvellyn's cliffs sublime;
Sign and sigil well doth he know,
And can bode of weal and woe,
Of kingdoms' fall, and fate of wars,
From mystic dreams and course of stars.
He shall tell if middle earth,
To that enchanting shape gave birth,
Of if t'was but an airy thing,
Such as fantastic slumbers bring,
Fram'd from the rainbow's varying dyes
Or fading tints of western skies.
For, by the Blessed Rood I swear,
If that fair form breathe vital air,
No other maiden by my side
Shall ever rest De Vaux's bride!'
The faithful Page he mounts his steed,
And soon he cross'd green Irthing's mead,
Dash'd o'er Kirkoswald's verdant plain,
And Eden barr'd his course in vain.
He pass'd red Penrith's Table Round,
For feats of chivalry renown'd.
Left Mayburgh's mound and stones of power,
By Druid's raised in magic hour,
And traced the Eamont's winding way,
Till Ulfo's lake beneath him lay.
Onward he rode, the pathway still
Winding betwixt the lake and hill;
Till, on the fragment of a rock,
Struck from its base by lightning shock,
He saw the hoary Sage;
The silver moss and lichen twined,
With fern and deer-hair check'd and lined,
A cushion fit for age;
And o'er him shook the aspen-tree,
A restless, rustling canopy.
Then sprung young Henry from his selle,
And greeted Lyulph grave;
And then his master's tale did tell,
And then for counsel crave.
The Man of Years mused long and deep,
Of time's lost treasures taking keep,
And then, as rousing from a sleep,
His solemn answer gave.
'That maid is born of middle earth,
And may of man be won,
Though there have glided since her birth
Five hundred years and one,
But where's the knight in all the north
That dare the adventure follow forth,
So perilous to knightly worth,
In the valley of Saint John?
Listen, youth, to what I tell,
And bind it on thy memory well;
Nor muse that I commence the rhyme
Far distant 'mid the wrecks of time.
The mystic tale, by bard and sage,
Is handed down from Merlin's age.
'King Arthur has ridden from merry Carlisle
When Pentecost was o'er:
He journey'd like errant-knight the while,
And sweetly the summer sun did smile
On mountain, moss, and moor.
Above his solitary track
Rose Glaramara's ridgy back,
Amid whose yawning gulfs the sun
Cast umber'd radiance red and dun,
Though never sunbeam could discern
The surface of that sable tarn,
In whose black mirror you may spy
The stars, while noontide lights the sky.
The gallant King he skirted still
The margin of that mighty hill;
Rock upon rocks incumbent hung,
And torrents down the gullies flung,
Join'd the rude river that brawl'd on,
Recoiling now from crag and stone,
Now diving deep from human ken,
And raving down its darksome glen.
The Monarch judged this desert wild,
With such romantic ruin piled,
Was theatre by Nature's hand
For feat of high achievement plann'd.
'O rather he chose, that Monarch bold,
On vent'rous quest to ride,
In plate and mail, by wood and wold,
Than, with ermine trapp'd and cloth of gold,
In princely bower to bide:
The bursting crash of a foeman's spear
As it shiver'd against his mail,
Was merrier music to his ear
Than courtier's whisper'd tale:
And the clash of Caliburn more dear,
When on the hostile casque it rung,
Than all the lays
To their monarch's praise
That the harpers of Reged sung.
He loved better to rest by wood or river,
Than in bower of his bride, Dame Guenever,
For he left that lady, so lovely of cheer,
To follow adventures of danger and fear;
And the frank-hearted Monarch full little did wot
That she smiled in his absence, on brave Lancelot.
'He rode, till over down and dell
The shade more broad and deeper fell;
And though around the mountain's head
Flow'd streams of purple, and gold, and red,
Dark at the base, unblest by beam
Frown'd the black rocks, and roar'd the stream.
With toil the King his way pursued
By lonely Threlkeld's waste and wood,
Till on his course obliquely shone
The narrow valley of SAINT JOHN,
Down sloping to the western sky,
Where lingering sunbeams love to lie.
Right glad to feel those beams again,
The King drew up his charger's rein;
With gauntlet raised he screen'd his sight,
As dazzled with the level light,
And, from beneath his glove of mail,
Scann'd at his ease his the lovely vale,
While 'gainst the sun his armour bright
Gleam'd ruddy like the beacon's light.
'Paled in by many a lofty hill,
The narrow dale lay smooth and still,
And, down its verdant bosom led,
A winding brooklet found its bed.
But, midmost of the vale, a mound
Arose with airy turrets crown'd,
Buttress, and rampire's circling bound
And mighty keep and tower;
Seem'd some primeval giant's hand
The castle's massive walls had plann'd,
A ponderous bulwark to withstand
Ambitious Nimrod's power.
Above the moated entrance slung,
The balanced drawbridge trembling hung,
As jealous of a foe;
Wicket of oak, as iron hard,
With iron studded, clench'd, and barr'd,
And prong'd portcullis, join'd to guard
The gloomy pass below.
But the grey walls, no banners crown'd,
Upon the watch-tower's airy round
No warder stood his horn to sound,
No guard beside the drawbridge was found,
And, where the Gothic gateway frown'd
Glanced neither bill nor bow.
'Beneath the castle's gloomy pride
In ample round did Arthur ride
Three times; nor living thing he spied,
Nor heard a living sound,
Save that, awakening from her dream,
The owlet now began to scream,
In concert with the rushing stream,
That wash'd the battled mound.
He lighted from his goodly steed,
And left him to graze on bank and mead;
And slowly he climb'd the narrow way
That reach'd the entrance grim and grey,
And he stood the outward arch below,
And his bugle-horn prepared to blow,
In summons blithe and bold,
Deeming to rouse from iron sleep
The guardian of this dismal Keep,
Which well he guess'd the hold
Of wizard stern, or goblin grim,
Or pagan of gigantic limb,
The tyrant of the wold.
'The ivory bugle's golden tip
Twice touch'd the Monarch's manly lip,
And twice his hand withdrew.
Think not but Arthur's heart was good!
His shield was cross'd by the blessed rood,
Had a pagan host before him stood
He had charged them through and through;
Yet the silence of that ancient place
Sunk on his heart, and he paused a space
Ere yet his horn he blew.
But, instant as its 'larum rung,
The castle gate was open flung,
Portcullis rose with crashing groan
Full harshly up its groove of stone;
And down the trembling drawbridge cast;
The vaulted arch before him lay,
With nought to bar the gloomy way,
And onward Arthur paced, with hand
On Caliburn's resistless brand.
'An hundred torches, flashing bright,
Dispell'd at once the gloomy night
That lour'd along the walls,
And show'd the King's astonish'd sight
The inmates of the halls.
Nor wizard stern, nor goblin grim,
Nor giant huge of form and limb,
Nor heathen knight, was there;
But the cressets, which odours flung aloft,
Show'd by their yellow light and soft,
A band of damsels fair.
Onward they came, like summer wave
That dances to the shore;
An hundred voices welcome gave,
And welcome o'er and o'er!
An hundred lovely hands assail
The bucklers of the Monarch's mail,
And busy labour'd to unhasp
Rivet of steel and iron clasp,
One wrapp'd him in a mantle fair,
And one flung odours on his hair;
His short curl'd ringlets one smooth'd down,
One wreath'd them in a myrtle crown.
A bride upon her wedding-day
Was tended ne'er by troop so gay.
'Loud laugh'd they all,- the King, in vain,
With questions task'd the giddy train;
Let him entreat, or crave, or call,
'Twas one reply - loud laugh'd they all.
Then o'er him mimic chains they fling,
Framed of the fairest flowers of spring.
While some of their gentle force unite
Onwards to drag the wondering knight;
Some, bolder, urge his pace with blows,
Dealt with the lily or the rose.
Behind him were in triumph borne
The warlike arms he late had worn.
Four of the train combined to rear
The terrors of Tintadgel's spear;
Two, laughing at their lack of strength,
Dragg'd Caliburn in cumbrous length;
One, while she aped a martial stride,
Placed on her brows the helmit's pride;
Then scream'd, 'twixt laughter and surprise,
To feel its depth o'erwhelm her eyes.
With revel-shout, and triumph-song,
Thus gaily march'd the giddy throng.
'Through many a gallery and hall
They led, I ween, their royal thrall;
At length, beneath a fair arcade
Their march and song at once they staid.
The eldest maiden of the band
(The lovely maid was scarce eighteen)
Raised, with imposing air, her hand
And reverent silence did command,
On entrance of their Queen,
And they were mute, - But as a glance
They steal on Arthur's countenance
Bewilder'd with surprise,
Their smother'd mirth again 'gan speak,
In archly dimpled chin and cheek,
And laughter-lighted eyes.
'The attributes of those high days
Now only live in minstrel lays;
For Nature, now exhausted, still
Was then profuse of good and ill.
Strength was gigantic, valour high,
And wisdom soar'd beyond the sky,
And beauty had such matchless beam
As lights not now a lover's dream.
Yet e'en in that romantic age,
Ne'er were such charms by mortal seen,
As Arthur's dazzled eyes engage,
When forth on that enchanted stage,
With glittering train of maid and page,
Advanced the castle's Queen!
While up the hall she slowly pass'd
Her dark eye on the King she cast,
That flash'd expression strong;
The longer dwelt that lingering look,
Her cheek the livelier colour took,
And scarce the shame-faced King could brook
The gaze that lasted long.
A sage, who had that look espied,
Where kindling passion strove with pride,
Had whispered, 'Prince, beware!
From the chafed tiger rend the prey,
Rush on the lion when at bay
Bar the fell dragon's blighted way,
But shun that lovely snare!'
'At once, that inward strife suppress'd,
The dame approach'd her warlike guest,
With greeting in that fair degree,
Where female pride and courtesy
Are blended with such passing art
As awes at once and charms the heart.
A courtly welcome first she gave,
Then of his goodness 'gan to crave
Construction fair and true
Of her light maidens' idle mirth
Who drew from lovely glens their birth,
Nor knew to pay to stranger worth
And dignity their due;
Then she pray'd that he would rest
That night her castle's honour'd guest.
The Monarch meetly thanks express'd;
The banquet rose at her behest;
With lay and tale, and laugh and jest,
Apace the evening flew.
'The Lady sate the Monarch by,
Now in her turn abash'd and shy,
And with indifference seem'd to hear
They toys he whisper'd in her ear.
Her bearing modest was and fair,
Yet shadows of constraint were there,
That show'd an over-cautious care
Some inward thought to hide;
Oft did she pause in full reply,
And oft cast down her large dark eye,
Oft check'd the soft voluptuous sigh
That heav'd her bosom's pride.
Slight symptoms these, but shepherds know
How hot the mid-day sun shall glow
From the midst of morning sky;
And so the wily Monarch guess'd
That this assumed restraint express'd
More ardent passions in the breast
Than ventured to the eye.
Closer he press'd, while beakers rang,
While maidens laugh'd and minstrels sang,
Still closer to her ear -
But why pursue the common tale?
Or wherefore show how knights prevail
When ladies dare to hear?
Or wherefore, trace, from what slight cause
Its source one tyrant passion draws,
Till, mastering all within,
Where lives the man that has not tried
How mirth can into folly glide,
And folly into sin?
'Another day, another day,
And yet another, glides away!
The Saxon stern, the pagan Dane,
Maraud on Britain's shores again.
Arthur, of Christendom the flower,
Lies loitering in a lady's bower;
The horn, that foemen wont to fear,
Sounds but to wake the Cumbrian deer,
And Caliburn, the British pride,
Hangs useless by a lover's side.
'Another day, another day,
And yet another, glides away!
Heroic plans in pleasure drown'd,
He thinks not of the Table Round;
In lawless love dissolved his life,
He thinks not of his beauteous wife:
Better he loves to snatch a flower
From the bosom of his paramour,
Than from a Saxon knight to wrest
The honours of his heathen crest!
Better to wreathe, 'mid tresses brown,
The heron's plume her hawk struck down,
Than o'er the alter give to flow
The banners of a Paynim foe.
Thus, week by week, and day by day,
His life inglorious glides away:
But she, that soothes his dream, with fear
Beholds his hour of waking near!
'Much force have mortal charms to stay
Our peace in Virtue's toilsome way;
But Guendolen's might far outshine
Each maid of merely mortal line.
Her mother was of human birth,
Her sire a Genie of the earth,
In days of old deem'd to preside
O'er lovers' wiles and beauty's pride,
By youths and virgins worshipp'd long
With festive dance and choral song,
Till, when the cross to Britain came,
On heathen alters died the flame.
Now, deep in Wastdale solitude,
The downfall of his rights he rued,
And, born of his resentment heir,
He train'd to guile that lady fair,
To sink in slothful sin and shame
The champions of the Christian name.
Well skill'd to keep vain thoughts alive,
And all to promise, nought to give;
The timid youth had hope in store,
The bold and pressing gain'd no more.
As wilder'd children leave their home
After the rainbow's arch to roam,
Her lovers barter'd fair esteem,
Faith, fame, and honour, for a dream.
'Her sire's soft arts the soul to tame
She practised thus, till Arthur came;
Then frail humanity had part,
And all the mother claim'd her heart.
Forgot each rule her father gave,
Sunk from a princess to a slave,
Too late must Guendolen deplore;
He, that has all, can hope no more!
Now must she see her lover strain,
At every turn, her feeble chain;
Watch, to new-bind each knot, and shrink
To view each fast-decaying link.
Art she invokes to Nature's aid,
Her vest to zone, her locks to braid;
Each varied pleasure heard her call,
The feast, the tourney, and the ball:
Her storied lore she next applies,
Taxing her mind to aid her eyes;
Now more than mortal wise, and then
In female softness sunk again;
Now, raptured, with each wish complying,
With feigned reluctance now denying:
Each charm she varied, to retain
A varying heart, and all in vain!
'Thus in the garden's narrow bound,
Flank'd by some castle's Gothic round,
Fain would the artist's skill provide
The limits of his realms to hide.
The walks in labyrinths he twines,
Shade after shade with skill combines,
With many a varied flowery knot,
And copse, and arbour, decks the spot,
Tempting the hasty foot to stay,
And linger on the lovely way;
Vain art! vain hope! 'tis fruitless all!
At length we reach the bounding wall,
And, sick of flower and trim-dress'd tree,
Long for rough glades and forest free.
'Three summer months had scantly flown
When Arthur, in embarrass'd tone,
Spoke of his liegemen and his throne;
Said, all too long had been his stay,
And duties, which a monarch sway,
Duties, unknown to humbler men,
Must tear her knight from Guendolen.
She listen'd silently the while,
Her mood express'd in bitter smile;
Beneath her eye must Arthur quail,
And oft resume the unfinish'd tale.
Confessing, by his downcast eye,
The wrong he sought to justify.
He ceased. A moment mute she gazed,
And then her looks to heaven she rais'd;
One palm her temples veiled, to hide
The tear that sprung in spite of pride;
The other for an instant press'd
The foldings of her silken vest!
'At her reproachful sign and look,
The hint the Monarch's conscience took.
Eager he spoke - 'No, lady, no!
Deem not of British Arthur so,
Nor think he can deserter prove
To the dear pledge of mutual love.
I swear by sceptre and by sword,
As belted knight and Britain's lord,
That if a boy shall claim my care,
That boy is born a kingdom's heir;
But if a maiden Fate allows,
To choose that maid a fitting spouse,
A summer-day in lists shall strive
My knights, the bravest knights alive,
And he, the best and bravest tried,
Shall Arthur's daughter claim for bride.'
He spoke, with voice resolved and high;
The lady deign'd him not reply.
'At dawn of morn, ere on the brake
His matins did a warbler make,
Or stirr'd his wing to brush away
A single dewdrop from the spray,
Ere yet a sunbeam, through the mist,
The castle-battlements had kiss'd,
The gates revolve, the drawbridge falls,
And Arthur sallies from the walls.
Doff'd his soft garb of Persia's loom,
And steel from spur to helmet-plume,
His Lybian steed full proudly trode,
And joyful neigh'd beneath his load.
The Monarch gave a passing sigh
To penitence and pleasures by,
When, lo! to his astonish'd ken
Appear'd the form of Guendolen.
'Beyond the outmost wall she stood,
Attired like huntress of the wood:
Sandall'd her feet, her ankles bare,
And eagle-plumage deck'd her hair;
Firm was her look, her bearing bold,
And in her hand a cup of gold.
'Thou goest!' she said, 'and ne'er again
Must we two meet, in joy or pain.
Full fain would I this hour delay,
Though weak the wish - yet, wilt thou stay?
No! thou look'st forward. Still, attend!
Part we like lover and like friend.'
She raised the cup - 'Not this the juice
The sluggish vines of earth produce;
Pledge we, at parting, in the draught
Which Genii love!' She said, and quaff'd;
And strange unwonted lustres fly
From her flush'd cheek and sparkling eye.
'The courteous Monarch bent him low,
And, stooping down from saddlebow,
Lifted the cup, in act to drink.
A drop escaped the goblet's brink -
Intense as liquid fire from hell,
Upon the charger's neck it fell.
Screaming with agony and fright,
He bolted twenty feet upright!
The peasant still can show the dint
Where his hoofs lighted on the flint.
From Arthur's hand the goblet flew,
Scattering a shower of fiery dew,
That burn'd and blighted where it fell!
The frantic steed rush'd up the dell,
As whistles from the bow the reed;
Nor bit nor rein could check his speed
Until he gain'd the hill;
Then breath and sinew fail'd apace
And, reeling from the desperate race,
He stood, exhausted, still.
The Monarch, breathless and amazed,
Back on the fatal castle gazed:
Nor tower nor donjon could he spy,
Darkening against the morning sky;
But, on the spot where they once frown'd,
The lonely streamlet brawl'd around
A tufted knoll, where dimly shone
Fragments of rock and rifted stone.
Musing on this strange hap a while,
The King wends back to fair Carlisle;
And cares, that cumber royal sway,
Wore memory of the past away.
'Full fifteen years and more were sped,
Each brought new wreaths to Arthur's head.
Twelve bloody fields, with glory fought,
The Saxons to subjection brought:
Rython, the mighty giant, slain
By his good brand, relieved Bretagne:
The Pictish Gillamore in fight,
And Roman Lucius, own'd his might;
And wide were through the world renown'd
The glories of his Table Round.
Each knight who sought adventurous fame,
To the bold court of Britain came,
And all who suffer'd causeless wrong,
From tyrant proud, or faitour strong,
Sought Arthur's presence, to complain,
Nor there for aid implored in vain.
'For this the King, with pomp and pride,
Held solemn court at Whitsuntide,
And summon'd Prince and Peer,
All who owed homage for their land
Or who craved knighthood from his hand,
Or who had succour to demand,
To come from far and near.
At such high tide were glee and game
Mingled with feats of martial fame,
For many a stranger champion came
In lists to break a spear;
And not a knight in Arthur's host,
Save that he trode on some foreign coast,
But at this Feast of Pentecost
Before him must appear.
Ah, Minstrels! when the Table Round
Arose, with all its warriors crown'd,
There was a theme for bards to sound
In triumph to their string!
Five hundred years are past and gone,
But Time shall draw his dying groan
Ere he behold the British throne
Begirt with such a ring!
'The heralds named the appointed spot,
As Caerleon or Camelot,
Or Carlisle fair and free.
At Penrith, now, the feast was set,
And in fair Eamont's vale were met
The flower of Chivalry.
There Galahad sate with manly grace,
Yet maiden meekness in his face;
There Morolt of the iron mace,
And love-lorn Tristrem there:
And Dinadam with lively glance,
And Lanval with the fairy lance,
And Mordred with his look askance,
Brunor and Bevidere.
Why should I tell of numbers more?
Sir Cay, Sir Banier, Sir Bore,
Sir Carodac the keen,
The gentle Gawain's courteous lore,
Hector de Mares and Pellinore,
And Lancelot, that evermore
Look'd stol'n-wise on the Queen.
'When wine and mirth did most abound,
And harpers play'd their blithest round,
A shrilly trumpet shook the ground,
And marshals cleared the ring;
A maiden, on a palfrey white,
Heading a band of damsels bright,
Paced through the circle, to alight
And kneel before the King.
Arthur, with strong emotion, saw
Her graceful boldness check'd by awe,
Her dress, like huntress of the wold,
Her bow and baldric trapp'd with gold,
Her sandall'd feet, her ankles bare,
And the eagle-plume that deck'd her hair.
Graceful her veil she backward flung;
The King, as from his seat he sprung,
Almost cried 'Guendolen!'
But 'twas a face more frank and wild,
Betwixt the woman and the child,
Where less of magic beauty smiled
Than of the race of men;
And in the forehead's haughty grace
The lines of Britain's royal race,
Pendragon's, you might ken.
'Faltering, yet gracefully she said -
'Great Prince! behold an orphan maid,
In her departed mother's name,
A father's vow'd protection claim!
The vow was sworn in desert lone,
In the deep valley of Saint John.'
At once the King the suppliant raised,
And kiss'd her brow, her beauty praised;
His vow, he said, should well be kept,
Ere in the sea the sun was dipp'd;
Then, conscious, glanced upon his queen;
But she, unruffled at the scene
Of human frailty, construed mild,
Look'd upon Lancelot, and smiled.
''Up! up! each knight of gallant crest,
Take buckler, spear, and brand!
He that to-day shall bear him best
Shall win my Gyneth's hand.
And Arthur's daughter, when a bride,
Shall bring a noble dower;
Both fair Strath-Clyde and Reged wide,
And Carlisle town and tower.'
Then might you hear each valiant knight
To page and squire that cried,
'Bring my armour bright, and my courser wight!
'Tis not each day that a warrior's might
May win a royal bride.'
Then cloaks and caps of maintenance
In haste aside they fling;
The helmets glance, and gleams the lance,
And the steel-weaved hauberks ring.
Small care had they of their peaceful array, -
They might gather it that wolde;
For brake and bramble glitter'd gay
With pearls and cloth of gold.
'Within trumpet sound of the Table Round
Were fifty champions free,
And they all arise to fight that prize,
They all arise but three.
Nor love's fond troth, nor wedlock's oath,
One gallant could withhold,
For priests will allow of a broken vow
For penance or for gold.
But sigh and glance from ladies bright
Among the troop were thrown,
To plead their right, and true-love plight,
And 'plain of honor flown.
The knights they busied them so fast,
With buckling spur and belt,
That sigh and look, by ladies cast,
Were neither seen or felt.
From pleading, or upbraiding glance,
Each gallant turns aside,
And only thought, 'If speeds my lance,
A queen becomes my bride!
She has fair Strath-Clyde, and Reged wide,
And Carlisle tower and town;
She is the loveliest maid, beside,
That ever heir'd a crown.'
So in haste their coursers they bestride,
And strike their visors down.
'The champions, arm'd in martial sort,
Have throng'd into the list,
And but three knights of Arthur's court
Are from the tourney miss'd.
And still these lovers' fame survives
For faith so constant shown, -
There were two who loved their neighbors' wives,
And one who loved his own.
The first was Lancelot de Lac,
The second Tristrem bold,
The third was valiant Carodac,
Who won the cup of gold,
What time, of all King Arthur's crew
(Thereof came jeer and laugh)
He, as the mate of lady true,
Alone the cup could quaff.
Though envy's tongue would fain surmise
That, but for very shame,
Sir Carodac, to fight that prize,
Had given both cup and dame;
Yet, since but one of that fair court
Was true to wedlock's shrine,
Brand him who will with base report,
He shall be free from mine.
'Now caracoled the steeds in air,
Now plumes and pennons wanton'd fair,
As all around the lists so wide
In panoply the champions ride.
King Arthur saw, with startled eye,
The flower of chivalry march by,
The bulwark of the Christian creed,
The kingdom's shield in hour of need.
Too late he thought him of the woe
Might from their civil conflict flow;
For well he knew they would not part
Till cold was many a gallant heart.
His hasty vow he 'gan to rue,
And Gyneth then apart he drew;
To her his leading-staff resign'd,
But added caution grave and kind.
''Thou see'st, my child, as promise-bound,
I bid the trump for tourney sound.
Take thou my warder, as the queen
And umpire of the martial scene;
But mark thou this: as Beauty bright
Is polar star to valiant knight,
As at her word his sword he draws,
His fairest guerdon her applause,
So gentle maid should never ask
Of knighthood vain and dangerous task;
And Beauty's eyes should ever be
Like the twin stars that soothe the sea,
And Beauty's breath shall whisper peace,
And bid the storm of battle cease.
I tell thee this, lest all too far
These knights urge tourney into war.
Blithe at the trumpet let them go,
And fairly counter blow for blow;
No striplings these, who succour need
For a razed helm or a falling steed.
But, Gyneth, when the strife grows warm,
And threatens death or deadly harm,
Thy sire entreats, thy king commands,
Thou drop the warder from thy hands.
Trust thou thy father with thy fate,
Doubt not he choose thee fitting mate;
Nor be it said, through Gyneth's pride
A rose of Arthur's chaplet died.'
The Rape of the Lock
WHAT dire Offence from am'rous Causes springs,
What mighty Contests rise from trivial Things,
I sing -- This Verse to C---, Muse! is due;
This, ev'n Belinda may vouchfafe to view:
Slight is the Subject, but not so the Praise,
If She inspire, and He approve my Lays.
Say what strange Motive, Goddess! cou'd compel
A well-bred Lord t'assault a gentle Belle?
Oh say what stranger Cause, yet unexplor'd,
Cou'd make a gentle Belle reject a Lord?
And dwells such Rage in softest Bosoms then?
And lodge such daring Souls in Little Men?
Sol thro' white Curtains shot a tim'rous Ray,
And op'd those Eyes that must eclipse the Day;
Now Lapdogs give themselves the rowzing Shake,
And sleepless Lovers, just at Twelve, awake:
Thrice rung the Bell, the Slipper knock'd the Ground,
And the press'd Watch return'd a silver Sound.
Belinda still her downy Pillow prest,
Her Guardian Sylph prolong'd the balmy Rest.
'Twas he had summon'd to her silent Bed
The Morning-Dream that hover'd o'er her Head.
A Youth more glitt'ring than a Birth-night Beau,
(That ev'n in Slumber caus'd her Cheek to glow)
Seem'd to her Ear his winning Lips to lay,
And thus in Whispers said, or seem'd to say.
Fairest of Mortals, thou distinguish'd Care
Of thousand bright Inhabitants of Air!
If e'er one Vision touch'd thy infant Thought,
Of all the Nurse and all the Priest have taught,
Of airy Elves by Moonlight Shadows seen,
The silver Token, and the circled Green,
Or Virgins visited by Angel-Pow'rs,
With Golden Crowns and Wreaths of heav'nly Flowers,
Hear and believe! thy own Importance know,
Nor bound thy narrow Views to Things below.
Some secret Truths from Learned Pride conceal'd,
To Maids alone and Children are reveal'd:
What tho' no Credit doubting Wits may give?
The Fair and Innocent shall still believe.
Know then, unnumbered Spirits round thee fly,
The light Militia of the lower Sky;
These, tho' unseen, are ever on the Wing,
Hang o'er the Box, and hover round the Ring.
Think what an Equipage thou hast in Air,
And view with scorn Two Pages and a Chair.
As now your own, our Beings were of old,
And once inclos'd in Woman's beauteous Mold;
Thence, by a soft Transition, we repair
From earthly Vehicles to these of Air.
Think not, when Woman's transient Breath is fled,
That all her Vanities at once are dead:
Succeeding Vanities she still regards,
And tho' she plays no more, o'erlooks the Cards.
Her Joy in gilded Chariots, when alive,
And Love of Ombre, after Death survive.
For when the Fair in all their Pride expire,
To their first Elements the Souls retire:
The Sprights of fiery Termagants in Flame
Mount up, and take a Salamander's Name.
Soft yielding Minds to Water glide away,
And sip with Nymphs, their Elemental Tea.
The graver Prude sinks downward to a Gnome,
In search of Mischief still on Earth to roam.
The light Coquettes in Sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the Fields of Air.
Know farther yet; Whoever fair and chaste
Rejects Mankind, is by some Sylph embrac'd:
For Spirits, freed from mortal Laws, with ease
Assume what Sexes and what Shapes they please.
What guards the Purity of melting Maids,
In Courtly Balls, and Midnight Masquerades,
Safe from the treach'rous Friend, and daring Spark,
The Glance by Day, the Whisper in the Dark;
When kind Occasion prompts their warm Desires,
When Musick softens, and when Dancing fires?
'Tis but their Sylph, the wise Celestials know,
Tho' Honour is the Word with Men below.
Some Nymphs there are, too conscious of their Face,
For Life predestin'd to the Gnomes Embrace.
These swell their Prospects and exalt their Pride,
When Offers are disdain'd, and Love deny'd.
Then gay Ideas crowd the vacant Brain;
While Peers and Dukes, and all their sweeping Train,
And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear,
And in soft Sounds, Your Grace salutes their Ear.
'Tis these that early taint the Female Soul,
Instruct the Eyes of young Coquettes to roll,
Teach Infants Cheeks a bidden Blush to know,
And little Hearts to flutter at a Beau.
Oft when the World imagine Women stray,
The Sylphs thro' mystick Mazes guide their Way,
Thro' all the giddy Circle they pursue,
And old Impertinence expel by new.
What tender Maid but must a Victim fall
To one Man's Treat, but for another's Ball?
When Florio speaks, what Virgin could withstand,
If gentle Damon did not squeeze her Hand?
With varying Vanities, from ev'ry Part,
They shift the moving Toyshop of their Heart;
Where Wigs with Wigs, with Sword-knots Sword-knots strive,
Beaus banish Beaus, and Coaches Coaches drive.
This erring Mortals Levity may call,
Oh blind to Truth! the Sylphs contrive it all.
Of these am I, who thy Protection claim,
A watchful Sprite, and Ariel is my Name.
Late, as I rang'd the Crystal Wilds of Air,
In the clear Mirror of thy ruling Star
I saw, alas! some dread Event impend,
E're to the Main this Morning Sun descend.
But Heav'n reveals not what, or how, or where:
Warn'd by thy Sylph, oh Pious Maid beware!
This to disclose is all thy Guardian can.
Beware of all, but most beware of Man!
He said; when Shock, who thought she slept too long,
Leapt up, and wak'd his Mistress with his Tongue.
'Twas then Belinda, if Report say true,
Thy Eyes first open'd on a Billet-doux.
Wounds, Charms, and Ardors, were no sooner read,
But all the Vision vanish'd from thy Head.
And now, unveil'd, the Toilet stands display'd,
Each Silver Vase in mystic Order laid.
First, rob'd in White, the Nymph intent adores
With Head uncover'd, the cosmetic Pow'rs.
A heav'nly Image in the Glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her Eyes she rears;
Th' inferior Priestess, at her Altar's side,
Trembling, begins the sacred Rites of Pride.
Unnumber'd Treasures ope at once, and here
The various Off'rings of the World appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious Toil,
And decks the Goddess with the glitt'ring Spoil.
This Casket India's glowing Gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder Box.
The Tortoise here and Elephant unite,
Transform'd to Combs, the speckled and the white.
Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows,
Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.
Now awful Beauty puts on all its Arms;
The Fair each moment rises in her Charms,
Repairs her Smiles, awakens ev'ry Grace,
And calls forth all the Wonders of her Face;
Sees by Degrees a purer Blush arise,
And keener Lightnings quicken in her Eyes.
The busy Sylphs surround their darling Care;
These set the Head, and those divide the Hair,
Some fold the Sleeve, while others plait the Gown;
And Betty's prais'd for Labours not her own.
NOT with more Glories, in th' Etherial Plain,
The Sun first rises o'er the purpled Main,
Than issuing forth, the Rival of his Beams
Lanch'd on the Bosom of the Silver Thames.
Fair Nymphs, and well-drest Youths around her shone,
But ev'ry Eye was fix'd on her alone.
On her white Breast a sparkling Cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and Infidels adore.
Her lively Looks a sprightly Mind disclose,
Quick as her Eyes, and as unfix'd as those:
Favours to none, to all she Smiles extends,
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the Sun, her Eyes the Gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful Ease, and Sweetness void of Pride,
Might hide her Faults, if Belles had faults to hide:
If to her share some Female Errors fall,
Look on her Face, and you'll forget 'em all.
This Nymph, to the Destruction of Mankind,
Nourish'd two Locks, which graceful hung behind
In equal Curls, and well conspir'd to deck
With shining Ringlets her smooth Iv'ry Neck.
Love in these Labyrinths his Slaves detains,
And mighty Hearts are held in slender Chains.
With hairy Sprindges we the Birds betray,
Slight Lines of Hair surprize the Finny Prey,
Fair Tresses Man's Imperial Race insnare,
And Beauty draws us with a single Hair.
Th' Adventrous Baron the bright Locks admir'd,
He saw, he wish'd, and to the Prize aspir'd:
Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,
By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray;
For when Success a Lover's Toil attends,
Few ask, if Fraud or Force attain'd his Ends.
For this, e're Phoebus rose, he had implor'd
Propitious Heav'n, and ev'ry Pow'r ador'd,
But chiefly Love--to Love an Altar built,
Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt.
There lay three Garters, half a Pair of Gloves;
And all the Trophies of his former Loves.
With tender Billet-doux he lights the Pyre,
And breathes three am'rous Sighs to raise the Fire.
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent Eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the Prize:
The Pow'rs gave Ear, and granted half his Pray'r,
The rest, the Winds dispers'd in empty Air.
But now secure the painted Vessel glides,
The Sun-beams trembling on the floating Tydes,
While melting Musick steals upon the Sky,
And soften'd Sounds along the Waters die.
Smooth flow the Waves, the Zephyrs gently play
Belinda smil'd, and all the World was gay.
All but the Sylph---With careful Thoughts opprest,
Th' impending Woe sate heavy on his Breast.
He summons strait his Denizens of Air;
The lucid Squadrons round the Sails repair:
Soft o'er the Shrouds Aerial Whispers breathe,
That seem'd but Zephyrs to the Train beneath.
Some to the Sun their Insect-Wings unfold,
Waft on the Breeze, or sink in Clouds of Gold.
Transparent Forms, too fine for mortal Sight,
Their fluid Bodies half dissolv'd in Light.
Loose to the Wind their airy Garments flew,
Thin glitt'ring Textures of the filmy Dew;
Dipt in the richest Tincture of the Skies,
Where Light disports in ever-mingling Dies,
While ev'ry Beam new transient Colours flings,
Colours that change whene'er they wave their Wings.
Amid the Circle, on the gilded Mast,
Superior by the Head, was Ariel plac'd;
His Purple Pinions opening to the Sun,
He rais'd his Azure Wand, and thus begun.
Ye Sylphs and Sylphids, to your Chief give Ear,
Fays, Fairies, Genii, Elves, and Daemons hear!
Ye know the Spheres and various Tasks assign'd,
By Laws Eternal, to th' Aerial Kind.
Some in the Fields of purest AEther play,
And bask and whiten in the Blaze of Day.
Some guide the Course of wandring Orbs on high,
Or roll the Planets thro' the boundless Sky.
Some less refin'd, beneath the Moon's pale Light
Hover, and catch the shooting stars by Night;
Or suck the Mists in grosser Air below,
Or dip their Pinions in the painted Bow,
Or brew fierce Tempests on the wintry Main,
Or o'er the Glebe distill the kindly Rain.
Others on Earth o'er human Race preside,
Watch all their Ways, and all their Actions guide:
Of these the Chief the Care of Nations own,
And guard with Arms Divine the British Throne.
Our humbler Province is to tend the Fair,
Not a less pleasing, tho' less glorious Care.
To save the Powder from too rude a Gale,
Nor let th' imprison'd Essences exhale,
To draw fresh Colours from the vernal Flow'rs,
To steal from Rainbows ere they drop in Show'rs
A brighter Wash; to curl their waving Hairs,
Assist their Blushes, and inspire their Airs;
Nay oft, in Dreams, Invention we bestow,
To change a Flounce, or add a Furbelo.
This Day, black Omens threat the brightest Fair
That e'er deserv'd a watchful Spirit's Care;
Some dire Disaster, or by Force, or Slight,
But what, or where, the Fates have wrapt in Night.
Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's Law,
Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw,
Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade,
Forget her Pray'rs, or miss a Masquerade,
Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball;
Or whether Heav'n has doom'd that Shock must fall.
Haste then ye Spirits! to your Charge repair;
The flutt'ring Fan be Zephyretta's Care;
The Drops to thee, Brillante, we consign;
And Momentilla, let the Watch be thine;
Do thou, Crispissa, tend her fav'rite Lock;
Ariel himself shall be the Guard of Shock.
To Fifty chosen Sylphs, of special Note,
We trust th' important Charge, the Petticoat.
Oft have we known that sev'nfold Fence to fail;
Tho' stiff with Hoops, and arm'd with Ribs of Whale.
Form a strong Line about the Silver Bound,
And guard the wide Circumference around.
Whatever spirit, careless of his Charge,
His Post neglects, or leaves the Fair at large,
Shall feel sharp Vengeance soon o'ertake his Sins,
Be stopt in Vials, or transfixt with Pins.
Or plung'd in Lakes of bitter Washes lie,
Or wedg'd whole Ages in a Bodkin's Eye:
Gums and Pomatums shall his Flight restrain,
While clog'd he beats his silken Wings in vain;
Or Alom-Stypticks with contracting Power
Shrink his thin Essence like a rivell'd Flower.
Or as Ixion fix'd, the Wretch shall feel
The giddy Motion of the whirling Mill,
In Fumes of burning Chocolate shall glow,
And tremble at the Sea that froaths below!
He spoke; the Spirits from the Sails descend;
Some, Orb in Orb, around the Nymph extend,
Some thrid the mazy Ringlets of her Hair,
Some hang upon the Pendants of her Ear;
With beating Hearts the dire Event they wait,
Anxious, and trembling for the Birth of Fate.
CLOSE by those Meads for ever crown'd with Flow'rs,
Where Thames with Pride surveys his rising Tow'rs,
There stands a Structure of Majestick Frame,
Which from the neighb'ring Hampton takes its Name.
Here Britain's Statesmen oft the Fall foredoom
Of Foreign Tyrants, and of Nymphs at home;
Here Thou, great Anna! whom three Realms obey,
Dost sometimes Counsel take--and sometimes Tea.
Hither the Heroes and the Nymphs resort,
To taste awhile the Pleasures of a Court;
In various Talk th' instructive hours they past,
Who gave the Ball, or paid the Visit last:
One speaks the Glory of the British Queen,
And one describes a charming Indian Screen.
A third interprets Motions, Looks, and Eyes;
At ev'ry Word a Reputation dies.
Snuff, or the Fan, supply each Pause of Chat,
With singing, laughing, ogling, and all that.
Mean while declining from the Noon of Day,
The Sun obliquely shoots his burning Ray;
The hungry Judges soon the Sentence sign,
And Wretches hang that Jury-men may Dine;
The Merchant from th'exchange returns in Peace,
And the long Labours of the Toilette cease ----
Belinda now, whom Thirst of Fame invites,
Burns to encounter two adventrous Knights,
At Ombre singly to decide their Doom;
And swells her Breast with Conquests yet to come.
Strait the three Bands prepare in Arms to join,
Each Band the number of the Sacred Nine.
Soon as she spreads her Hand, th' Aerial Guard
Descend, and sit on each important Card,
First Ariel perch'd upon a Matadore,
Then each, according to the Rank they bore;
For Sylphs, yet mindful of their ancient Race,
Are, as when Women, wondrous fond of place.
Behold, four Kings in Majesty rever'd,
With hoary Whiskers and a forky Beard;
And four fair Queens whose hands sustain a Flow'r,
Th' expressive Emblem of their softer Pow'r;
Four Knaves in Garbs succinct, a trusty Band,
Caps on their heads, and Halberds in their hand;
And Particolour'd Troops, a shining Train,
Draw forth to Combat on the Velvet Plain.
The skilful Nymph reviews her Force with Care;
Let Spades be Trumps, she said, and Trumps they were.
Now move to War her Sable Matadores,
In Show like Leaders of the swarthy Moors.
Spadillio first, unconquerable Lord!
Led off two captive Trumps, and swept the Board.
As many more Manillio forc'd to yield,
And march'd a Victor from the verdant Field.
Him Basto follow'd, but his Fate more hard
Gain'd but one Trump and one Plebeian Card.
With his broad Sabre next, a Chief in Years,
The hoary Majesty of Spades appears;
Puts forth one manly Leg, to sight reveal'd;
The rest his many-colour'd Robe conceal'd.
The Rebel-Knave, who dares his Prince engage,
Proves the just Victim of his Royal Rage.
Ev'n mighty Pam that Kings and Queens o'erthrow,
And mow'd down Armies in the Fights of Lu,
Sad Chance of War! now, destitute of Aid,
Falls undistinguish'd by the Victor Spade.
Thus far both Armies to Belinda yield;
Now to the Baron Fate inclines the Field.
His warlike Amazon her Host invades,
Th' Imperial Consort of the Crown of Spades.
The Club's black Tyrant first her Victim dy'd,
Spite of his haughty Mien, and barb'rous Pride:
What boots the Regal Circle on his Head,
His Giant Limbs in State unwieldy spread?
That long behind he trails his pompous Robe,
And of all Monarchs only grasps the Globe?
The Baron now his Diamonds pours apace;
Th' embroider'd King who shows but half his Face,
And his refulgent Queen, with Pow'rs combin'd,
Of broken Troops an easie Conquest find.
Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, in wild Disorder seen,
With Throngs promiscuous strow the level Green.
Thus when dispers'd a routed Army runs,
Of Asia's Troops, and Africk's Sable Sons,
With like Confusion different Nations fly,
In various habits and of various Dye,
The pierc'd Battalions dis-united fall,
In Heaps on Heaps; one Fate o'erwhelms them all.
The Knave of Diamonds now tries his wily Arts,
And wins (oh shameful Chance!) the Queen of Hearts.
At this, the Blood the Virgin's Cheek forsook,
A livid Paleness spreads o'er all her Look;
She sees, and trembles at th' approaching Ill,
Just in the Jaws of Ruin, and Codille.
And now, (as oft in some distemper'd State)
On one nice Trick depends the gen'ral Fate.
An Ace of Hearts steps forth: The King unseen
Lurk'd in her Hand, and mourn'd his captive Queen.
He springs to Vengeance with an eager pace,
And falls like Thunder on the prostrate Ace.
The Nymph exulting fills with Shouts the Sky,
The Walls, the Woods, and long Canals reply.
Oh thoughtless Mortals! ever blind to Fate,
Too soon dejected, and too soon elate!
Sudden these Honours shall be snatch'd away,
And curs'd for ever this Victorious Day.
For lo! the Board with Cups and Spoons is crown'd,
The Berries crackle, and the Mill turns round.
On shining Altars of Japan they raise
The silver Lamp; the fiery Spirits blaze.
From silver Spouts the grateful Liquors glide,
And China's Earth receives the smoking Tyde.
At once they gratify their Scent and Taste,
While frequent Cups prolong the rich Repast.
Strait hover round the Fair her Airy Band;
Some, as she sip'd, the fuming Liquor fann'd,
Some o'er her Lap their careful Plumes display'd,
Trembling, and conscious of the rich Brocade.
Coffee, (which makes the Politician wise,
And see thro' all things with his half shut Eyes)
Sent up in Vapours to the Baron's Brain
New Stratagems, the radiant Lock to gain.
Ah cease rash Youth! desist e'er 'tis too late,
Fear the just Gods, and think of Scylla's Fate!
Chang'd to a Bird, and sent to flit in Air,
She dearly pays for Nisus' injur'd Hair!
But when to Mischief Mortals bend their Will,
How soon they find fit Instruments of Ill!
Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting Grace
A two-edg'd Weapon from her shining Case;
So Ladies in Romance assist their Knight,
Present the Spear, and arm him for the Fight.
He takes the Gift with rev'rence, and extends
The little Engine on his Finger's Ends:
This just behind Belinda's Neck he spread,
As o'er the fragrant Steams she bends her Head:
Swift to the Lock a thousand Sprights repair,
A thousand Wings, by turns, blow back the Hair,
And thrice they twitch'd the Diamond in her Ear,
Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the Foe drew near.
Just in that instant, anxious Ariel sought
The close Recesses of the Virgin's Thought;
As on the Nosegay in her Breast reclin'd,
He watch'd th' Ideas rising in her Mind,
Sudden he view'd, in spite of all her Art,
An Earthly Lover lurking at her Heart.
Amaz'd, confus'd, he found his Pow'r expir'd,
Resign'd to Fate, and with a Sigh retir'd.
The Peer now spreads the glitt'ring Forfex wide,
T'inclose the Lock; now joins it, to divide.
Ev'n then, before the fatal Engine clos'd,
A wretched Sylph too fondly interpos'd;
Fate urg'd the Sheers, and cut the Sylph in twain,
(But Airy Substance soon unites again)
The meeting Points that sacred Hair dissever
From the fair Head, for ever and for ever!
Then flash'd the living Lightnings from her Eyes,
And Screams of Horror rend th' affrighted Skies.
Not louder Shrieks to pitying Heav'n are cast,
When Husbands or when Lap-dogs breath their last,
Or when rich China Vessels, fal'n from high,
In glittring Dust and painted Fragments lie!
Let Wreaths of Triumph now my Temples twine,
(The Victor cry'd) the glorious Prize is mine!
While Fish in Streams, or Birds delight in Air,
Or in a Coach and Six the British Fair,
As long as Atalantis shall be read,
Or the small Pillow grace a Lady's Bed,
While Visits shall be paid on solemn Days,
When numerous Wax-lights in bright Order blaze,
While Nymphs take Treats, or Assignations give,
So long my Honour, Name, and Praise shall live!
What Time wou'd spare, from Steel receives its date,
And Monuments, like Men, submit to Fate!
Steel cou'd the Labour of the Gods destroy,
And strike to Dust th' Imperial Tow'rs of Troy.
Steel cou'd the Works of mortal Pride confound,
And hew Triumphal Arches to the Ground.
What Wonder then, fair Nymph! thy Hairs shou'd feel
The conqu'ring Force of unresisted Steel?
BUT anxious Cares the pensive Nymph opprest,
And secret Passions labour'd in her Breast.
Not youthful Kings in Battel seiz'd alive,
Not scornful Virgins who their Charms survive,
Not ardent Lovers robb'd of all their Bliss,
Not ancient Ladies when refus'd a Kiss,
Not Tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her Manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such Rage, Resentment and Despair,
As Thou, sad Virgin! for thy ravish'd Hair.
For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew,
And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew,
Umbriel, a dusky melancholy Spright,
As ever sully'd the fair face of Light,
Down to the Central Earth, his proper Scene,
Repairs to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen.
Swift on his sooty Pinions flitts the Gnome,
And in a Vapour reach'd the dismal Dome.
No cheerful Breeze this sullen Region knows,
The dreaded East is all the Wind that blows.
Here, in a Grotto, sheltred close from Air,
And screen'd in Shades from Day's detested Glare,
She sighs for ever on her pensive Bed,
Pain at her side, and Megrim at her Head.
Two Handmaids wait the Throne: Alike in Place,
But diff'ring far in Figure and in Face.
Here stood Ill-nature like an ancient Maid,
Her wrinkled Form in Black and White array'd;
With store of Pray'rs, for Mornings, Nights, and Noons,
Her Hand is fill'd; her Bosom with Lampoons.
There Affectation with a sickly Mien
Shows in her Cheek the Roses of Eighteen,
Practis'd to Lisp, and hang the Head aside,
Faints into Airs, and languishes with Pride;
On the rich Quilt sinks with becoming Woe,
Wrapt in a Gown, for Sickness, and for Show.
The Fair ones feel such Maladies as these,
When each new Night-Dress gives a new Disease.
A constant Vapour o'er the Palace flies;
Strange Phantoms rising as the Mists arise;
Dreadful, as Hermit's Dreams in haunted Shades,
Or bright as Visions of expiring Maids.
Now glaring Fiends, and Snakes on rolling Spires,
Pale Spectres, gaping Tombs, and Purple Fires:
Now Lakes of liquid Gold, Elysian Scenes,
And Crystal Domes, and Angels in Machines.
Unnumber'd Throngs on ev'ry side are seen
Of Bodies chang'd to various Forms by Spleen.
Here living Teapots stand, one Arm held out,
One bent; the Handle this, and that the Spout:
A Pipkin there like Homer's Tripod walks;
Here sighs a Jar, and there a Goose Pie talks;
Men prove with Child, as pow'rful Fancy works,
And Maids turn'd Bottels, call aloud for Corks.
Safe past the Gnome thro' this fantastick Band,
A Branch of healing Spleenwort in his hand.
Then thus addrest the Pow'r--Hail wayward Queen!
Who rule the Sex to Fifty from Fifteen,
Parent of Vapors and of Female Wit,
Who give th' Hysteric or Poetic Fit,
On various Tempers act by various ways,
Make some take Physick, others scribble Plays;
Who cause the Proud their Visits to delay,
And send the Godly in a Pett, to pray.
A Nymph there is, that all thy Pow'r disdains,
And thousands more in equal Mirth maintains.
But oh! if e'er thy Gnome could spoil a Grace,
Or raise a Pimple on a beauteous Face,
Like Citron-Waters Matron's Cheeks inflame,
Or change Complexions at a losing Game;
If e'er with airy Horns I planted Heads,
Or rumpled Petticoats, or tumbled Beds,
Or caus'd Suspicion when no Soul was rude,
Or discompos'd the Head-dress of a Prude,
Or e'er to costive Lap-Dog gave Disease,
Which not the Tears of brightest Eyes could ease:
Hear me, and touch Belinda with Chagrin;
That single Act gives half the World the Spleen.
The Goddess with a discontented Air
Seems to reject him, tho' she grants his Pray'r.
A wondrous Bag with both her Hands she binds,
Like that where once Ulysses held the Winds;
There she collects the Force of Female Lungs,
Sighs, Sobs, and Passions, and the War of Tongues.
A Vial next she fills with fainting Fears,
Soft Sorrows, melting Griefs, and flowing Tears.
The Gnome rejoicing bears her Gift away,
Spreads his black Wings, and slowly mounts to Day.
Sunk in Thalestris' Arms the Nymph he found,
Her Eyes dejected and her Hair unbound.
Full o'er their Heads the swelling Bag he rent,
And all the Furies issued at the Vent.
Belinda burns with more than mortal Ire,
And fierce Thalestris fans the rising Fire.
O wretched Maid! she spread her hands, and cry'd,
(While Hampton's Ecchos, wretched Maid reply'd)
Was it for this you took such constant Care
The Bodkin, Comb, and Essence to prepare;
For this your Locks in Paper-Durance bound,
For this with tort'ring Irons wreath'd around?
For this with Fillets strain'd your tender Head,
And bravely bore the double Loads of Lead?
Gods! shall the Ravisher display your Hair,
While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare!
Honour forbid! at whose unrival'd Shrine
Ease, Pleasure, Virtue, All, our Sex resign.
Methinks already I your Tears survey,
Already hear the horrid things they say,
Already see you a degraded Toast,
And all your Honour in a Whisper lost!
How shall I, then, your helpless Fame defend?
'Twill then be Infamy to seem your Friend!
And shall this Prize, th' inestimable Prize,
Expos'd thro' Crystal to the gazing Eyes,
And heighten'd by the Diamond's circling Rays,
On that Rapacious Hand for ever blaze?
Sooner shall Grass in Hide Park Circus grow,
And Wits take Lodgings in the Sound of Bow;
Sooner let Earth, Air, Sea, to Chaos fall,
Men, Monkies, Lap-dogs, Parrots, perish all!
She said; then raging to Sir Plume repairs,
And bids her Beau demand the precious Hairs:
(Sir Plume, of Amber Snuff-box justly vain,
And the nice Conduct of a clouded Cane)
With earnest Eyes, and round unthinking Face,
He first the Snuff-box open'd, then the Case,
And thus broke out--- "My Lord, why, what the Devil?
"Z---ds! damn the Lock! 'fore Gad, you must be civil!
"Plague on't! 'tis past a Jest---nay prithee, Pox!
"Give her the Hair---he spoke, and rapp'd his Box.
It grieves me much (reply'd the Peer again)
Who speaks so well shou'd ever speak in vain.
But by this Lock, this sacred Lock I swear,
(Which never more shall join its parted Hair,
Which never more its Honours shall renew,
Clipt from the lovely Head where late it grew)
That while my Nostrils draw the vital Air,
This Hand, which won it, shall for ever wear.
He spoke, and speaking, in proud Triumph spread
The long-contended Honours of her Head.
But Umbriel, hateful Gnome! forbears not so;
He breaks the Vial whence the Sorrows flow.
Then see! the Nymph in beauteous Grief appears,
Her Eyes half languishing, half drown'd in Tears;
On her heav'd Bosom hung her drooping Head,
Which, with a Sigh, she rais'd; and thus she said.
For ever curs'd be this detested Day,
Which snatch'd my best, my fav'rite Curl away!
Happy! ah ten times happy, had I been,
If Hampton-Court these Eyes had never seen!
Yet am not I the first mistaken Maid,
By Love of Courts to num'rous Ills betray'd.
Oh had I rather un-admir'd remain'd
In some lone Isle, or distant Northern Land;
Where the gilt Chariot never marks the way,
Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea!
There kept my Charms conceal'd from mortal Eye,
Like Roses that in Desarts bloom and die.
What mov'd my Mind with youthful Lords to rome?
O had I stay'd, and said my Pray'rs at home!
'Twas this, the Morning Omens seem'd to tell;
Thrice from my trembling hand the Patch-box fell;
The tott'ring China shook without a Wind,
Nay, Poll sate mute, and Shock was most Unkind!
A Sylph too warn'd me of the Threats of Fate,
In mystic Visions, now believ'd too late!
See the poor Remnants of these slighted Hairs!
My hands shall rend what ev'n thy Rapine spares:
These, in two sable Ringlets taught to break,
Once gave new Beauties to the snowie Neck.
The Sister-Lock now sits uncouth, alone,
And in its Fellow's Fate foresees its own;
Uncurl'd it hangs, the fatal Sheers demands;
And tempts once more thy sacrilegious Hands.
Oh hadst thou, Cruel! been content to seize
Hairs less in sight, or any Hairs but these!
SHE said: the pitying Audience melt in Tears,
But Fate and Jove had stopp'd the Baron's Ears.
In vain Thalestris with Reproach assails,
For who can move when fair Belinda fails?
Not half to fixt the Trojan cou'd remain,
While Anna begg'd and Dido rag'd in vain.
Then grave Clarissa graceful wav'd her Fan;
Silence ensu'd, and thus the Nymph began.
Say, why are Beauties prais'd and honour'd most,
The wise Man's Passion, and the vain Man's Toast?
Why deck'd with all that Land and Sea afford,
Why Angels call'd, and Angel-like ador'd?
Why round our Coaches crowd the white-glov'd Beaus,
Why bows the Side-box from its inmost Rows?
How vain are all these Glories, all our Pains,
Unless good Sense preserve what Beauty gains:
That Men may say, when we the Front-box grace,
Behold the first in Virtue, as in Face!
Oh! if to dance all Night, and dress all Day,
Charm'd the Small-pox, or chas'd old Age away;
Who would not scorn what Huswife's Cares produce,
Or who would learn one earthly Thing of Use?
To patch, nay ogle, might become a Saint,
Nor could it sure be such a Sin to paint.
But since, alas! frail Beauty must decay,
Curl'd or uncurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey,
Since paint'd, or not paint'd, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a Man, must die a Maid;
What then remains, but well our Pow'r to use,
And keep good Humour still whate'er we lose?
And trust me, Dear! good Humour can prevail,
When Airs, and Flights, and Screams, and Scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty Eyes may roll;
Charms strike the Sight, but Merit wins the Soul.
So spake the Dame, but no Applause ensu'd;
Belinda frown'd, Thalestris call'd her Prude.
To Arms, to Arms! the fierce Virago cries,
And swift as Lightning to the Combate flies.
All side in Parties, and begin th' Attack;
Fans clap, Silks russle, and tough Whalebones crack;
Heroes and Heroins Shouts confus'dly rise,
And base, and treble Voices strike the Skies.
No common Weapons in their Hands are found,
Like Gods they fight, nor dread a mortal Wound.
So when bold Homer makes the Gods engage,
And heav'nly Breasts with human Passions rage;
'Gainst Pallas, Mars; Latona, Hermes arms;
And all Olympus rings with loud Alarms.
Jove's Thunder roars, Heav'n trembles all around;
Blue Neptune storms, the bellowing Deeps resound;
Earth shakes her nodding Tow'rs, the Ground gives way;
And the pale Ghosts start at the Flash of Day!
Triumphant Umbriel on a Sconce's Height
Clapt his glad Wings, and sate to view the Fight,
Propt on their Bodkin Spears, the Sprights survey
The growing Combat, or assist the Fray.
While thro' the Press enrag'd Thalestris flies,
And scatters Deaths around from both her Eyes,
A Beau and Witling perish'd in the Throng,
One dy'd in Metaphor, and one in Song.
O cruel Nymph! a living Death I bear,
Cry'd Dapperwit, and sunk beside his Chair.
A mournful Glance Sir Fopling upwards cast,
Those Eyes are made so killing---was his last:
Thus on Meander's flow'ry Margin lies
Th' expiring Swan, and as he sings he dies.
When bold Sir Plume had drawn Clarissa down,
Chloe stept in, and kill'd him with a Frown;
She smil'd to see the doughty Hero slain,
But at her Smile, the Beau reviv'd again.
Now Jove suspends his golden Scales in Air,
Weighs the Mens Wits against the Lady's Hair;
The doubtful Beam long nods from side to side;
At length the Wits mount up, the Hairs subside.
See fierce Belinda on the Baron flies,
With more than usual Lightning in her Eyes;
Nor fear'd the Chief th' unequal Fight to try,
Who sought no more than on his Foe to die.
But this bold Lord, with manly Strength indu'd,
She with one Finger and a Thumb subdu'd,
Just where the Breath of Life his Nostrils drew,
A Charge of Snuff the wily Virgin threw;
The Gnomes direct, to ev'ry Atome just,
The pungent Grains of titillating Dust.
Sudden, with starting Tears each Eye o'erflows,
And the high Dome re-ecchoes to his Nose.
Now meet thy Fate, incens'd Belinda cry'd,
And drew a deadly Bodkin from her Side.
(The same, his ancient Personage to deck,
Her great great Grandsire wore about his Neck
In three Seal-Rings which after, melted down,
Form'd a vast Buckle for his Widow's Gown:
Her infant Grandame's Whistle next it grew,
The Bells she gingled, and the Whistle blew;
Then in a Bodkin grac'd her Mother's Hairs,
Which long she wore, and now Belinda wears.)
Boast not my Fall (he cry'd) insulting Foe!
Thou by some other shalt be laid as low.
Nor think, to die dejects my lofty Mind;
All that I dread, is leaving you behind!
Rather than so, ah let me still survive,
And burn in Cupid's Flames,---but burn alive.
Restore the Lock! she cries; and all around
Restore the Lock! the vaulted Roofs rebound.
Not fierce Othello in so loud a Strain
Roar'd for the Handkerchief that caus'd his Pain.
But see how oft Ambitious Aims are cross'd,
And Chiefs contend 'till all the Prize is lost!
The Lock, obtain'd with Guilt, and kept with Pain,
In ev'ry place is sought, but sought in vain:
With such a Prize no Mortal must be blest,
So Heav'n decrees! with Heav'n who can contest?
Some thought it mounted to the Lunar Sphere,
Since all things lost on Earth, are treasur'd there.
There Heroe's Wits are kept in pondrous Vases,
And Beau's in Snuff-boxes and Tweezer-Cases.
There broken Vows, and Death-bed Alms are found,
And Lovers Hearts with Ends of Riband bound;
The Courtiers Promises, and Sick Man's Pray'rs,
The Smiles of Harlots, and the Tears of Heirs,
Cages for Gnats, and Chains to Yoak a Flea;
Dry'd Butterflies, and Tomes of Casuistry.
But trust the Muse---she saw it upward rise,
Tho' mark'd by none but quick Poetic Eyes:
(So Rome's great Founder to the Heav'ns withdrew,
To Proculus alone confess'd in view.)
A sudden Star, it shot thro' liquid Air,
And drew behind a radiant Trail of Hair.
Not Berenice's Locks first rose so bright,
The heav'ns bespangling with dishevel'd light.
The Sylphs behold it kindling as it flies,
And pleas'd pursue its Progress thro' the Skies.
This the Beau-monde shall from the Mall survey,
And hail with Musick its propitious Ray.
This, the blest Lover shall for Venus take,
And send up Vows from Rosamonda's Lake.
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless Skies,
When next he looks thro' Galilaeo's Eyes;
And hence th' Egregious Wizard shall foredoom
The Fate of Louis, and the Fall of Rome.
Then cease, bright Nymph! to mourn the ravish'd Hair
Which adds new Glory to the shining Sphere!
Not all the Tresses that fair Head can boast
Shall draw such Envy as the Lock you lost.
For, after all the Murders of your Eye,
When, after Millions slain, your self shall die;
When those fair Suns shall sett, as sett they must,
And all those Tresses shall be laid in Dust;
This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame,
And mid'st the Stars inscribe Belinda's Name!