A whispered fall wind echos
While crackling bonfires warm our chilled ears
Remembrance 'tis no longer silent
'How long will you be away? ', she whispered,
'Three months', my tongue hesitantly uttered,
Our hearts sank with a deep silent sorrow,
No words, no gestures ever dared to follow,
Sad was the time when I had to leave,
Heavy was my heart and full of grief,
Such is life; moments of joy and pain,
Such is life; easy, beautiful but insane,
- quotes about time
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about language
- quotes about heart
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about pain
- quotes about words
- quotes about life
Trivia ; or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London : Book III
Of Walking the Streets by Night.
O Trivia, goddess, leave these low abodes,
And traverse o'er the wide ethereal roads,
Celestial queen, put on thy robes of light,
Now Cynthia nam'd, fair regent of the night.
At sight of thee the villain sheaths his sword,
Nor scales the wall, to steal the wealthy hoard.
O may thy silver lamp from heaven's high bower
Direct my footsteps in the midnight hour!
When night first bids the twinkling stars appear,
Or with her cloudy vest enwraps the air,
Then swarms the busy street; with caution tread
Where the shop-windows falling threat thy head;
Now labourers home return, and join their strength
To bear the tottering plank, or ladder's length;
Still fix thy eyes intent upon the throng,
And as the passes open, wind along.
Where the fair columns of St. Clement stand,
Whose straighten'd bounds encroach upon the Strand
Where the low pent-house bows the walker's head,
And the rough pavement wounds the yielding tread;
Where not a post protects the narrow space,
And strung in twines, combs dangle in thy face;
Summon at once thy courage, rouse thy care,
Stand firm, look back, be resolute, beware,
Forth issuing from steep lanes, the collier's steeds
Drag the black load; another cart succeeds,
Team follows team, crowds heap'd on crowds appear,
And wait impatient, 'till the road grow clear.
Now all the pavement sounds with trampling feet,
And the mixt hurry barricades the street;
Entangled here, the waggon's lengthen'd team
Cracks the tough harness; here a ponderous beam
Lies overturn'd athwart; for slaughter fed
Here lowing bullocks raise their horned head.
Now oaths grow loud, with coaches coaches jar,
And the smart blow provokes the sturdy war;
From the high box they whirl the thong around,
And with the twining lash their shins resound;
Their rage ferments, more dangerous wounds they try,
And the blood gushes down their painful eye,
And now on foot the frowning warriors light,
And with their ponderous fists renew the fight;
Blow after blow, the cheeks are smear'd with blood,
Till down they fall, and grappling roll in mud.
So when two boars, in wild Ytene bred,
Or on Westphalia's fattening chestnuts fed,
Gnash their sharp tusks, and rous'd with equal fire,
Dispute the reign of some luxurious mire;
In the black flood they wallow o'er and o'er,
'Till their arm'd jaws distil with foam and gore.
Where the mob gathers, swiftly shoot along,
Nor idly mingle in the noisy throng.
Lur'd by the silver hilt, amid the swarm,
The subtile artist will thy side disarm.
Nor is the flaxen wig with safety worn:
High on the shoulder, in a basket borne,
Lurks the sly boy; whose hand, to rapine bred,
Plucks off the curling honours of thy head.
Here dives the skulking thief, with practis'd slight,
And unfelt fingers make thy pocket light.
Where's now thy watch, with all its trinkets, flown;
And thy late snuff-box is no more thy own.
But lo! his bolder thefts some tradesman spies,
Swift from his prey the scudding lurcher flies;
Dextrous he 'scapes the coach with nimble bounds,
Whilst every honest tongue 'stop thief' resounds.
So speeds the wily fox, alarm'd by fear,
Who lately filch'd the turkey's callow care;
Hounds following hounds, grow louder as he flies,
And injur'd tenants join the hunter's cries.
Breathless he stumbling falls: ill-fated boy!
Why did not honest work thy youth employ?
Seiz'd by rough hands, he's dragg'd amid the rout,
And stretch'd beneath the pump's incessant spout:
Or plung'd in miry ponds, he gasping lies,
Mud choaks his mouth, and plasters o'er his eyes.
Let not the ballad-singer's shrilling strain
Amid the swarm thy listening ear detain:
Guard well thy pocket; for these Sirens stand,
To aid the labours of the diving hand;
Confederate in the cheat, they draw the throng,
And cambric handkerchiefs reward the song.
But soon as coach or cart drives rattling on,
The rabble part, in shoals they backward run.
So Jove's loud bolts the mingled war divide,
And Greece and Troy retreat on either side.
If the rude throng pour on with furious pace,
And hap to break thee from a friend's embrace,
Stop short; nor struggle through the crowd in vain,
But watch with careful eye the passing train.
Yet I (perhaps too fond) if chance the tide
Tumultuous, bear my partner from my side,
Impatient venture back; despising harm,
I force my passage where the thickest swarm.
Thus his lost bride the Trojan sought in vain
Thro' night, and arms, and flames, and hills of slain
Thus Nisus wandere'd o'er the pathless grove,
To find the brave companion of his love,
The pathless grove in vain he wanders o'er:
Euryalus, alas! is now no more.
That walker who, regardless of his pace,
Turns oft to pore upon the damsel's face,
From side to side by rustling elbows tost,
Shall strike his aching breast against the post;
Or water dash'd from fishy stalls shall stain
His hapless coat with spirits of scaly rain.
But if unwarily he chance to stray,
Where twirling turnstiles intercept the way,
The thwarting passenger shall force them round,
And beat the wretch half breathless to the ground.
Let constant vigilance thy footsteps guide,
And wary circumspection guard thy side;
Then shalt thou walk unharm'd the dangerous night,
Nor need the officious link-boy's smoky light.
Thou never wilt attempt to cross the road,
Where ale-house benches rest the porter's load,
Grievous to heedless shins; no barrow's wheel,
That bruises oft the truant school-boy's heel,
Behind thee rolling, with insidious pace,
Shall mark thy stocking with a miry trace.
Let not thy vent'rous steps approach too nigh,
Where gaping wide, low steepy cellars lie;
Should thy shoe wrench aside, down, down you fall,
And overturn the scolding huckster's stall,
The scolding huckster shall not o'er thee moan,
But pence exact for nuts and pears o'erthrown.
Though you through cleanlier alleys wind by day,
To shun the hurries of the public way,
Yet ne'er to those dark paths by night retire;
Mind only safety and contemn the mire.
Then no impervious courts thy haste detain,
Nor sneering ale-wives bid thee turn again,
Where Lincoln's-Inn, wide space, is rail'd around,
Cross not with vent'rous steps, there oft is found
The lurking thief, who while the day-light shone,
Made the walls echo with his begging tone:
That crutch which late compassion mov'd shall wound
Thy bleeding head, and fell thee to the ground.
Though thou art tempted by the link-man's call,
Yet trust him not along the lonely wall;
In the midway he'll quench the flaming brand,
And share the booty with the pilfering band.
Still keep the public streets, where oily rays
Shot from the crystal lamp, o'erspread the ways.
Happy Augusta! law-defended town!
Here no dark lanthorns shade the villain's frown;
No Spanish jealousies thy lanes infest,
Nor Roman vengeance stabs the unwary breast;
Here tyranny ne'er lifts her purple hand,
But liberty and justice guard the land;
No bravos here profess the bloody trade,
Nor is the church the murderer's refuge made.
Let not the chairman with assuming stride
Press near the wall, and rudely thrust thy side;
The laws have set him bounds; his service feet
Should ne'er encroach where posts defend the street.
Yet who the footman's arrogance can quell
Whose flambeau gilds the sashes of Pell-mell,
When in long rank a train of torches flame,
To light the midnight visits of the dame?
Others, perhaps, by happier guidance led,
May where the chairmen rests with safety tread;
Whene'er I pass, their poles unseen below,
Make my knee tremble with the jarring blow.
If wheels bar up the road where streets are crost,
With gentle words the coachman's ear accost;
He ne'er the threat, or harsh command obeys,
But with contempt the spatter'd shoe surveys.
Now man with utmost fortitude thy soul,
To cross the way where carts and coaches roll;
Yet do not in thy hardy skill confide,
Nor rashly risk the kennel's spacious stride;
Stay till afar the distant wheel you hear,
Like dying thunder in the breaking air;
Thy foot will slide upon the miry stone,
And passing coaches crush thy tortur'd bone,
Or wheels enclose the road; on either hand
Pent round with perils, in the midst you stand,
And call for aid in vain; the coachman swears,
And car-men drive, unmindful of thy prayers.
Where wilt thou turn? ah! whither wilt thou fly?
On every side the pressing spokes are nigh.
So sailors, while Charybdis' gulph they shun,
Amaz'd, on Scylla's craggy dangers run.
Be sure observe where brown Ostrea stands,
Who boasts her shelly ware from Walfleet sands;
There mayst thou pass, with safe unmiry feet,
Where the rail'd pavement leads athwart the street
If where Fleet-ditch with muddy current flows,
You chance to roam; where oyster tubs in rows
Are rang'd beside the posts; here stay thy haste
And with the savoury fish indulge thy taste:
The damsel's knife the gaping shell commands,
While the salt liquor streams between her hands.
The man had sure a palate cover'd o'er
With brass or steel, that on the rocky shore
First broke the oozy oyster's pearly coat,
And risk'd the living morsel down his throat.
What will not luxury taste? earth, sea, and air
Blood stuff'd in skins in British Christians food,
And France robs marshes of the croaking brood;
Spongy morells in strong ragousts are found,
And in the soup the slimy snail is drown'd.
When from high spouts the dashing torrents fall,
Ever be watchful to maintain the wall;
For should'st thou quit thy ground, the rushing throng
Will with impetuous fury drive along;
All press to gain those honours thou hast lost,
And rudely shove thee far without the post.
Then to retrieve the shed you strive in vain,
Draggled all o'er, and soak'd in floods of rain.
Yet rather bear the shower, and toils of mud,
Than in the doubtful quarrel risk thy blood.
O think on OEdipus' detested state,
And by his woes be warn'd to shun his fate.
Where three roads join'd he met his sire unknown;
(Unhappy sire, but more unhappy son!)
Each claim'd the way, their swords the strife decide,
The hoary monarch fell, he groan'd, and died!
Hence sprung the fatal plague that thinn'd thy reign,
Thy cursed incest! and thy children slain!
Hence wert thou doom'd in endless night to stray,
Thro' Theban streets, and cheerless grope thy way.
Contemplate, mortal, on thy fleeting years;
See, with black train the funeral pomp appears!
Whether some heir attends in sable state,
And mourns with outward grief a parent's fate;
Or the fair virgin, nipt in beauty's bloom,
A crowd of lovers follow to her tomb.
Why is the hearse with scutcheon blazon'd round,
And with the nodding plume of ostrich crown'd?
No! the dead know it not, nor profit gain;
It only serves to prove the living vain.
How short is life! how frail is human trust!
Is all this pomp for laying dust to dust!
Where the nail'd hoop defends the painted stall,
Brush not thy sweeping skirt too near the wall;
Thy heedless sleeve will drink the colour'd oil,
And spot indelible thy pocket soil.
Has not wise nature strung the legs and feet
With firmest nerves, design'd to walk the street?
Has she not given us hands to grope aright,
Amidst the frequent dangers of the night?
And think'st thou not the double nostril meant,
To warn from oily woes by previous scent?
Who can the various city-frauds recite,
With all the petty rapines of the night?
Who now the guinea-dropper's bait regards,
Trick'd by the sharper's dice, or juggler's cards!
Why should I warn thee ne'er to join the fray,
Where the sham quarrel interrupts the way?
Lives there in these our days so soft a clown,
Brav'd by the bully's oaths or threatening frown;
I need not strict enjoin the pocket's care,
When from the crowded pay thou lead'st the fair?
Who has not here, or watch, or snuff-box lost,
Or handkerchiefs that India's shuttle boast?
O! may thy virtue guard thee through the roads
Of Drury's mazy courts, and dark abodes.
The harlots' guileful paths, who nightly stand,
Where Katharine-street descends into the Strand.
Say, vagrant muse, their wiles and subtile arts,
To lure the strangers' unsuspecting hearts:
So shall our youth on healthful sinews tread,
And city cheeks grow warm with rural red.
'Tis she who nightly strolls with sauntering pace,
No stubborn stays her yielding shape embrace;
Beneath the lamp her tawdry ribbons glare,
The new-scour'd manteau, and the slattern air;
High-draggled petticoats her travels show,
And hollow cheeks with artful blushes glow;
With flattering sounds she sooths the credulous ear
My noble captain! charmer! love! my dear!
In riding-hood near tavern-doors she plies,
Or muffled pinners hide her livid eyes.
With empty bandbox she delights to range,
And feigns a distant errand from the 'Chance;
Nay, she will oft the Quaker's hood profane,
And trudge demure the rounds of Drury-land.
She darts from sarsnet ambush wily leers,
Twitches thy sleeve, or with familiar airs
Her fan will pat thy cheek; these snares disdain,
Nor gaze behind thee when she turns again.
I knew a yeoman, who for thirst or gain,
To the great city drove from Devon's plain
His numerous lowing herd; his hers he sold,
And his deep leathern pocket bagg'd with gold;
Drawn by a fraudful nymph, he gazed, and sigh'd;
Unmindful of his home, and distant bride,
She leads the willing victim to his doom,
Through winding alleys to her cobweb room,
Thence thro' the street he reels, from post to post,
Valiant with wine, nor knows his treasures lost.
The vagrant wretch the assembled watchmen spies,
He waves his hanger, and their poles defies;
Deep in the round-house pent all night he snores,
And the next morning vain his fate deplores.
Ah hapless swain, unus'd to pains and ills!
Canst thou forego roast-beef for nauseous pills?
How wilt thou lift to heaven thy eyes and hands,
When the long scroll the surgeon's fees demands!
Or else (ye gods avert that worst disgrace)
Thy ruin'd nose falls level with thy face,
Then shall thy wife thy loathsome kiss disdain,
And wholesome neighbours from thy mug refrain.
Yet there are watchmen who with friendly light
Will teach thy reeling steps to tread aright;
For sixpence will support thy helpless arm,
And home conduct thee, safe from nightly harm;
But if they shake their lanthorns from afar
To call their brethren confederate war,
When rakes resist their power; if hapless you
Should chance to wander with the scow'ring crew;
Though fortune lead thee captive, ne'er despair,
But seek the constable's considerate ear;
He will reverse the watchman's harsh decree,
Mov'd by the rhetoric of a silver fee.
Thus would you gain some favourite courtier's word:
Fee not the petty clerks, but bribe my lord.
Now is the time that rakes their revels keep:
Kindlers of riot, enemies of sleep.
His scatter'd pence the flying Nicker flings,
And with the copper shower the casement rings.
Who has not heard the Scowrer's midnight fame?
Who has not trembled at the Mohock's name?
Was there a watchman took his hourly rounds,
Safe from their blows, or new-invented wounds?
I pass their desperate deeds, and mischiefs done
Where from Snow-hill black and steepy torrents run;
How matrons hoop'd within the hogshead's womb,
Were tumbled furious thence, the rolling tomb
O'er the stones thunders, bounds from side to side,
So Regulus to save his country died.
Where a dim gleam the paly lanthorn throws
O'er the mid pavement, heapy rubbish grows;
Or arching vaults their gaping jaws extend,
Or the dark caves to common-shores descend.
Oft by the winds extinct the signal lies,
Or smother'd in the glimmering socket dies,
Ere night has half-roll'd round her ebon throne;
In the wide gulph the shatter'd coach o'erthrown
Sinks with the snorting steeds: the reins are broke,
And from the crackling axle flies the spoke.
So when fan'd Eddystone's far-shooting ray,
That led the sailor thro' the stormy way,
Was from its rocky roots by billows torn,
And the high turret in the whirlwind borne,
Fleets bulg'd their sides against the craggy land,
And pitchy ruins blacken'd all the strand.
Who then thro' night would hire the harness'd steed,
And who would choose the rattling wheel for speed?
But hark! distress with screaming voice draws nigher,
And wakes the slumbering street with cries of fire.
At first a glowing red enwraps the skies,
And borne by winds the scattering sparks arise;
From beam to beam the fierce contagion spreads;
The spiry flames now lift aloft their heads,
Through the burst sash a blazing deluge pours,
And splitting tiles descend in rattling showers.
Now with thick crowds the enlighten'd pavement swarms,
The fire-man sweats beneath his crooked arms,
A leathern cask his vent'rous head defends,
Boldly he climbs where thickest smoke ascends;
Mov'd by the mother's streaming eyes and prayers,
The helpless infant through the flame he bears,
With no less virtue, than thro' hostile fire
The Dardan hero bore his aged sire.
See forceful engines spout their levell'd streams,
To quench the blaze that runs along the beams;
The grappling hook plucks rafters from the walls,
And heaps on heaps the smocky ruin falls.
Blown by strong winds the fiery tempest roars,
Bears down new walls, and pours along the floors;
The heavens are all a-blaze, the face of night
Is cover'd with a sanguine dreadful light:
'Twas such a light involv'd thy tower, O Rome,
The dire presage of mighty Caesar's doom,
When the sun veil'd in rust his mourning head,
And frightful prodigies the skies o'erspread.
Hark! the drum thunders! far, ye crowds, retire
Behold! the ready match is tipt with fire,
The nitrous store is laid, the smutty train
With running blaze awakes the barrel'd grain;
Flames sudden wrap the walls; with sullen sound
The shatter'd pile sinks on the smoky ground.
So when the year shall have revolv'd the date,
The inevitable hour of Naples' fate,
Her sapp'd foundations shall with thunder shake,
And heave and toss upon the sulphurous lake
Earth's womb at once the fiery flood shall rend,
And in the abyss her plunging towers descend.
Consider reader, what fatigues I've known,
The toils, the perils of the wintry town;
What riots seen, what bustling crowds I bor'd,
How oft I cross'd where carts and coaches roar'd;
Yet shall I bless my labours, if mankind
Their future safety from my dangers find.
Thus the bold traveller, (inur'd to toil,
Whose steps have printed Asia's desert soil,
The barbarous Arabs haunt; or shivering crost
Dark Greenland's mountains of eternal frost;
Whom Providence in length of years restores
To the wish'd harbour of his native shores);
Sets forth his journals to the public view,
To caution, by his woes, the wandering crew.
And now complete my generous labours lie,
Finish'd, and ripe for Immortality.
Death shall entomb in dust this mouldering frame,
But never reach the eternal part, my fame.
, mighty names, are dead;
Or but at Chelsea under custards read:
When critics crazy bandboxes repair,
And tragedies, turn'd rockets, bounce in air:
High rais'd on Fleet-street posts, consign'd to fame,
This work shall shine, and walkers bless my name.
- quotes about fate
- quotes about walls
- quotes about paying
- quotes about cleaning
- quotes about promises
- quotes about honor
- quotes about beer
- quotes about drawing
Solomon on the Vanity of the World, A Poem. In Three Books. - Power. Book III.
Solomon considers man through the several stages and conditions of life, and concludes, in general, that we are all miserable. He reflects more particularly upon the trouble and uncertainty of greatness and power; gives some instances thereof from Adam down to himself; and still concludes that All Is Vanity. He reasons again upon life, death, and a future being; finds human wisdom too imperfect to resolve his doubts; has recourse to religion; is informed by an angel what shall happen to himself, his family, and his kingdom, till the redemption of Israel; and, upon the whole, resolves to submit his inquiries and anxieties to the will of his Creator.
Come then, my soul: I call thee by that name,
Thou busy thing, from whence I know I am;
For, knowing that I am, I know thou art,
Since that must needs exist which can impart:
But how thou camest to be, or whence thy spring,
For various of thee priests and poets sing.
Hearest thou submissive, but a lowly birth,
Some secret particles of finer earth,
A plain effect which Nature must beget,
As motion orders, and as atoms meet,
Companion of the body's good or ill,
From force of instinct more than choice of will,
Conscious of fear or valour, joy or pain,
As the wild courses of the blood ordain;
Who, as degrees of heat and cold prevail,
In youth dost flourish, and with age shalt fail,
Till, mingled with thy partner's latest breath,
Thou fliest, dissolved in air and lost in death.
Or, if thy great existence would aspire
To causes more sublime, of heavenly fire
Wert thou a spark struck off, a separate ray,
Ordain'd to mingle with terrestrial clay,
With it condemn'd for certain years to dwell,
To grieve its frailties, and its pains to feel,
To teach it good and ill, disgrace or fame,
Pale it with rage, or redden it with shame,
To guide its actions with informing care,
In peace to judge, to conquer in the war;
Render it agile, witty, valiant, sage,
As fits the various course of human age,
Till, as the earthly part decays and falls,
The captive breaks her prison's mouldering walls,
Hovers awhile upon the sad remains,
Which now the pile or sepulchre contains,
And thence, with liberty unbounded, flies,
Impatient to regain her native skies?
Whate'er thou art, where'er ordain'd to go,
(Points which we rather may dispute than know)
Come on, thou little inmate of this breast,
Which for thy sake from passions'l divest
For these, thou say'st, raise all the stormy strife,
Which hinder thy repose, and trouble life;
Be the fair level of thy actions laid
As temperance wills and prudence may persuade
By thy affections undisturb'd and clear,
Guided to what may great or good appear,
And try if life be worth the liver's care.
Amass'd in man, there justly is beheld
What through th whole creation has excell'd,
The angel's forecast and intelligence:
Say, from these glorious seeds what harvest flows?
Recount our blessings, and compare our woes:
In its true light let clearest reason see
The man dragg'd out to act, and forced to be;
Helpless and naked, on a woman's knees,
To be exposed or rear'd as she may please,
Feel her neglect, and pine from her disease:
His tender eye by too direct a ray
Wounded, and flying from unpractised day;
His heart assaulted by invading air,
And beating fervent to the vital war;
To his young sense how various forms appear,
That strike this wonder, and excite his fear;
By his distortions he reveals his pains;
He by his tears and by his sighs complains,
Till time and use assist the infant wretch,
By broken words, and rudiments of speech,
His wants in plainer characters to show,
And paint more perfect figures of his wo,
Condemn'd to sacrifice his childish years
To babbling ignorance, and to empty fears;
To pass the riper period of his age,
Acting his part upon a crowded stage;
To lasting toils exposed, and endless cares,
To open dangers, and to secret snares;
To malice which the vengeful foe intends,
And the more dangerous love of seeming friends:
His deeds examined by the people's will.
Prone to forget the good, and blame the ill;
Or, sadly censured in their cursed debate,
Who, in the scorner's or the judge's seat
Dare to condemn the virtue which they hate:
Or would he rather leave this frantic scene,
And trees and beasts prefer to courts and men,
In the remotest wood and lonely grot
Certain to meet that worst of evils, thought,
Different ideas to his memory brought,
Some intricate, as are the pathless woods,
Impetuous some, as the descending floods;
With anxious doubts, with raging passions torn,
No sweet companion near with whom to mourn,
He hears the echoing rock return his sighs,
And from himself the frighted hermit flies.
Thus, through what path soe'er of life we rove,
Rage companies our hate, and grief our love;
Vex'd with the present moment's heavy gloom,
Why seek we brightness from the years to come?
Disturb'd and broken, like a sick man's sleep,
Our troubled thoughts to distant prospects leap,
Desirous still what flies us to o'ertake;
For hope is but the dream of those that wake:
But looking back we see the dreadful train
Of woes, anew, which, were we to sustain,
We should refuse to tread the path again:
Still adding grief, still counting from the first,
Judging the latest evil still the worst,
And sadly finding each progressive hour
Heighten their number and augment their power,
Till by one countless sum of woes oppress'd,
Hoary with cares, and ignorant of rest,
We find the vital springs relax'd and worn,
Compell'd our common impotence to mourn:
Thus, through the round of age, to childhood we return;
Reflecting find, that naked, from the womb
We yesterday came forth; that in the tomb
Naked again we must to-morrow lie,
Born to lament, to labour, and to die.
Pass we the ills which each man feels or dreads,
The weight or fall'n or hanging o'er our heads;
The bear, the lion, terrors of the plain,
The sheepfold scatter'd, and the shepherd slain;
The frequent errors of the pathless wood,
The giddy precipice, and the dangerous flood;
The noisome pestilence, that in open war
Terrible, marches through the mid-way air,
And scatters death; the arrow that by night
Cuts the dank mist, and fatal wings its flight;
The billowing snow, and violence of the shower,
That from the hills disperse their dreadful store,
And o'er the vales collected ruin pour;
The worm that gnaws the ripening fruit, sad guest,
Canker or locust, hurtful to infest
The blade; while husks elude the tiller's care,
And eminence of want distinguishes the year.
Pass we the slow disease, and subtile pain
Which our weak frame is destined to sustain;
The cruel stone with congregated war,
Tearing his bloody way; the cold catarrh,
With frequent impulse, and continued strife
Weakening the wasted seeds of irksome life;
The gout's fierce rack, the burning fever's rage,
The sad experience of decay and age,
Herself the sorest ill, while death and ease,
Oft and in vain invoked, or to appease
Or end the grief, with hasty wings recede
From the vex'd patient and the sickly bed.
Nought shall it profit that the charming fair,
Angelic, softest work of Heaven, draws near
To the cold shaking paralytic hand,
Senseless of Beauty's touch, or Love's command,
No longer apt or able to fulfil
The dictates of its feeble master's will.
Nought shall the psaltery and the harp avail,
The pleasing song, or well-repeated tale,
When the quick spirits their warm march forbear,
And numbing coldness has unbraced the ear.
The verdant rising of the flowery hill,
The vale enamell'd, and the crystal rill,
The ocean rolling, and the shelly shore,
Beautiful objects, shall delight no more,
When the lax'd sinews of the weaken'd eye
Day follows night; the clouds return again
After the falling of the latter rain;
But to the aged blind shall ne'er return
Grateful vicissitude; he still must mourn,
The sun, and moon, and every starry light,
Eclipsed to him, and lost in everlasting night.
Behold where Age's wretched victim lies;
See his head trembling, and his half-closed eyes;
Frequent for breath his panting bosom heaves;
To broken sleeps his remnant sense he gives,
And only by his pains awaking finds he lives.
Loosed by devouring Time, the silver cord
Dissever'd lies; unhonour'd from the board
The crystal urn, when broken, is thrown by,
And apter utensils their place supply.
These things and thou must share one equal lot;
Die and be lost, corrupt and be forgot;
While still another and another race
Shall now supply and now give up the place.
From earth all came, to earth must all return,
Frail as the cord, and brittle as the urn.
But the terror of these ills suppress'd,
And view we man with health and vigour bless'd.
Home he returns with the declining sun,
His destined task of labour hardly done;
Goes forth again with the ascending ray,
Again his travail for his bread to pay,
And find the ill sufficient to the day.
Haply at night he does with honour shun
A widow'd daughter, or a dying son;
His neighbour's offspring he to-morrow sees,
And doubly feels his want in their increase:
The next day, and the next, he must attend
His foe triumphant, or his buried friend.
In every act and turn of life he feels
Public calamities, or household ills;
The due reward to just desert refused,
The trust betray'd, the nuptial bed abused:
The judge corrupt, the long-depending cause,
And doubtful issue of misconstrued laws:
The crafty turns of a dishonest state,
And violent will of the wrong-doing great;
The venom'd tongue, injurious to his fame,
Which nor can wisdom shun nor fair advice reclaim.
Esteem we these, my friend, event and chance,
Produced as atoms form their fluttering dance?
Or higher yet their essence may we draw
From destined order and eternal law?
Again, my Muse, the cruel doubt repeat?
Spring they, I say, from accident or fate?
Yet such we find they are, as can control
The servile actions of our wavering soul;
Can fright, can alter, or can chain the will;
Their ills all built on life, that fundamental ill.
O fatal search! in which the labouring mind,
Still press'd with weight of wo, still hopes to find
A shadow of delight, a dream of peace,
From years of pain one moment of release;
Hoping, at least, she may herself deceive,
Against experience willing to believe,
Desirous to rejoice, condemn'd to grieve,
Happy the mortal man who now at last
Has through this doleful vale of misery pass'd,
Who to his destined stage has carried on
The tedious load, and laid his burden down;
Whom the cut brass or wounded marble shows
Victor o'er Life, and all her train of woes:
He happier yet, who privileged by Fate
To shorter labour and a lighter weight,
Received but yesterday the gift of breath,
Order'd to-morrow to return to death:
But, O! beyond description happiest he
Who ne'er must roll on life's tumultuous sea;
Exempt, must never force the teeming womb,
Nor see the sun, nor sink into the tomb.
Who breathes must suffer, and who thinks must mourn!
And he alone is bless'd who ne'er was born.
'Yet in thy turn, thou frowning Preacher, hear;
Are not these general maxims too severe?
Say, cannot power secure its owner's bliss?
Are victors bless'd with fame, or kings with ease?'
I tell thee, life is but one common care,
And man was born to suffer and to fear.
'But is no rank, no station, no degree,
From this contagious taint of sorrow free?'
None, mortal, none: yet in a bolder strain
Let me this melancholy truth maintain:
But hence, ye worldly and profane, retire,
For I adapt my voice and raise my lyre
To notions not by vulgar ear received;
Yet still must covet life, and be deceived;
Your very fear of death shall make you try
To catch the shade of immortality,
Wishing on earth to linger, and to save
Part of its prey from the devouring grave;
To those who may survive ye to bequeath
Something entire, in spite of time and death;
A fancied kind of being to retrieve,
And in a book, or from a building live.
False hope! vain labour! let some ages fly,
The dome shall moulder, and the volume die.
Wretches, still taught! still will ye think it strange
That all the parts of this great fabric change.
Quit their high station and primeval frame,
And lose their shape, their essence and their name?
Reduce the song; our hopes, our joys, are vain;
Our lot is sorrow, and our portion pain.
What pause from wo, what hopes of comfort bring
The name of wise or great, of judge or king?
What is a king? a man condemn'd to bear
The public burden of the nation's care;
Now crown'd, some angry faction to appease,
Now falls a victim to the people's ease;
From the first blooming of his ill-taught youth
Nourish'd flattery, and estranged from truth:
At home surrounded by a servile crowd,
Prompt to abuse, and in detraction loud;
Abroad begirt with men, and swords and spears,
His very state acknowledging his fears;
Marching amidst a thousand guards, he shows
His secret terror of a thousand foes;
In war, however prudent, great, or brave,
To blind events and fickle chance a slave;
Seeking to settle what for ever flies,
Sure of the toil, uncertain of the prize.
But he returns with conquest on his brow,
Brings up the triumph, and absolves the vow:
The captive generals to his car are tied;
The joyful citizens, tumultuous tide,
Echoing his glory, gratify his pride.
What is this triumph? madness, shouts, and noise,
One great collection of the people's voice.
The wretches he brings back, in chains relate
What may to-morrow be the victor's fate.
The spoils and trophies borne before him show
National loss and epidemic wo,
Various distress which he and his may know.
Does he not mourn the valiant thousands slain,
The heroes, once the glory of the plain,
Left in the conflict of the fatal day,
Or the wolf's portion, or the vulture's prey?
Does he not weep the laurel which he wears,
Wet with the soldiers' blood and widows tears?
See where he comes, the darting of the war!
See millions crowding round the gilded car!
In the vast joys of this ecstatic hour,
And full fruition of successful power,
One moment and one thought might let him scan
The various turns of life, and fickle state of man.
Are the dire images of sad distrust,
And popular change, obscured amid the dust
That rises from the victor's rapid wheel?
Can the loud clarion or shrill life repel
The inward cries of Care? can Nature's voice,
Plaintive, be drown'd, or lessen'd in the noise,
Though shouts, as thunder loud, afflict the air,
Stun the birds, now released, and shake the ivory chair?
Yon crowd, (he might reflect) yon joyful crowd,
Pleased with my honours, in my praise loud,
(Should fleeting victory to the vanquish'd go,
Should she depress my arms and raise the foe)
Would for that foe with equal ardour wait,
At the high palace or the crowded gate,
With restless rage would pull my statues down,
And cast the brass anew to his renown.
O impotent desire of worldly sway!
That I who make the triumph of to-day,
May of to-morrow's pomp one part appear,
Ghastly with wounds, and lifeless on the bier!
Then, (vileness of mankind!) then of all these
Whom my dilated eye with labour sees,
Would one, alas! repeat me good or great,
Wash my pale body, or bewail my fate?
Or, march'd I chain'd behind the hostile car,
The victor's pastime, and the sport of war,
Would one, would one his pitying sorrow lend,
Or be so poor to own he was my friend?
Avails it then, O Reason, to be wise?
To see this cruel scene with quicker eyes?
To know with more distinction to complain,
And have superior sense in feeling pain?
Let us resolve, that roll with strictest eye,
Where safe from time distinguish'd actions lie,
And judge if greatness be exempt from pain,
Or pleasure ever may with power remain.
Adam, great type, for whom the world was made,
The fairest blessing to his arms convey'd,
A charming wife; and air, and sea, and land,
And all that move therein, to his command
Render'd obedient: say, my pensive Muse,
What did these golden promises produce?
Scarce tasting life he was of joy bereaved;
One day I think in Paradise he lived,
Destined the next his journey to pursue
Where wounding thorns and cursed thistles grew.
Ere yet he earns his bread, adown his brow,
Inclined to earth, his labouring sweat must flow;
His limbs must ache, with daily toils oppress'd,
Ere long-wish'd night brings necessary rest:
Still viewing with regret his darling Eve,
He for her follies and his own must grieve.
Bewailing still afresh their hapless choice,
His ear oft frighted with the imaged voice,
Of Heaven when first it thundere'd, oft his view,
Aghast, as when the infant lightning flew,
And the stern cherub stopp'd the fatal road,
Arm'd with the flames of an avenging God,
His younger son on the polluted ground,
First fruit of death, lies plaintive of a wound
Given by a brother's hand; his eldest birth
Flies, mark'd by Heaven, a fugitive o'er earth:
Yet why these sorrows heap'd upon the sire,
Becomes nor man nor angel to inquire.
Each age sinn'd on, and guild advanced with time;
The son still added to the father's crime;
Till God arose, and, great in anger, said,
Lo! it repenteth me that man was made.
And from your deep abyss, ye waters, rise!
The frighted angels heard th' Almighty Lord,
And o'er the earth from wrathful vials pour'd
Tempests and storm, obedient to his word.
Meantime his providence to Noah gave
The guard of all that he design'd to save:
Exempt from general doom the patriarch stood,
Contemn'd the waves, and triumph'd o'er the flood.
The winds fall silent and the waves decrease;
The dove brings quiet, and the clive peace;
Yet still his heart does inward sorrow feel,
Which faith alone forbids him to reveal.
If on the backward world his views are cast,
'Tis death diffused, and universal waste.
Present, (sad prospect!) can he ought descry
But (what affects his melancholy eye)
The beauties of the ancient fabric lost,
In chains of craggy hill, or lengths of dreary coast?
While to high heaven his pious breathings turn'd,
Weeping he hoped, and sacrificing mourn'd;
When of God's image only eight he found
Snatch'd from the watery grave, and saved from nations drown'd;
And of three sons, the future hopes of earth,
The seed whence empires must receive their birth,
One he foresees excluded heavenly grace,
And mark'd with curses fatal to his race.
Abraham, potent prince, the friend of God,
Of human ills must bear the destined load,
By blood and battles must his power maintain,
And slay the monarchs ere he rules the plain;
Must deal just portions of a servile life
To a proud handmaid and a peevish wife;
Must with the mother leave the weeping son,
In want to wander and in wilds to groan;
Must take his other child, his age's hope,
To trembling Moriah's melancholy top,
Order'd to drench his knife in filial blood,
Destroy his heir, or disobey his God.
Moses beheld that God; but how beheld
The Deity, in radiant beams conceal'd,
And clouded in a deep abyss of light!
While present too severe for human sight,
Nor staying longer than one swift-wing'd night
The following days, and months, and years, decreed
To fierce encounter, and to toilsome deed:
His youth with wants and hardships must engage,
Plots and rebellions must disturb his age:
Some Corah still arose, some rebel slave,
Prompter to sink the state than he to save,
And Israel did his rage so far provoke,
That what the Godhead wrote the prophet broke.
His voice scarce heard, his dictates scarce believed,
In camps, in arms, in pilgrimage, he lived,
And died obedient to severest law,
Forbid to tread the Promised land he saw.
My father's life was one long line of care,
A scene of danger and a state of war.
The bear's rough gripe and foaming lion's rage,
By various turns his threaten'd youth must fear
Goliath's lifted sword and Saul's emitted spear.
Forlorn he must, and persecuted, fly,
Climb the steep mountain, in the cavern lie,
And often ask, and be refused to die.
For ever from his manly toils are known
The weight of power and anguish of a crown.
What tongue can speak the restless monarch's woes,
When God and Nathan were declared his foes?
When every object his offence reviled,
The husband murder'd and the wife defiled,
The parent's sins impress'd upon the dying child!
What heart can think the grief which he sustain',d
When the King's crime brought vengeance on the land,
And the inexorable prophet's voice
Give famine, plague, or war, and bid him fix his choice?
He died; and, oh! may no reflection shed
Its poisonous venom on the royal dead:
Yet the unwilling truth must be express'd
Which long has labour'd in this pensive breast;
Dying he added to my weight of care;
He made me to his crimes undoubted heir;
Left his unfinish'd murder to his son,
And Joab's blood entail'd on Judah's crown.
Young as I was, I hasted to fulfil
The cruel dictates of my parent's will:
Of his fair deeds a distant view I took,
But turn'd the tube upon his faults to look;
Forgot his youth spent in his country's cause,
His care of right, his reverence to the laws,
But could with joy his years of folly trace,
Broken and old in Bathsheba's embrace
Could follow him where'er he stray'd from good,
And cite his sad example, whilst I trod
Paths open to deceit, and track'd with blood.
With smiles I could betray, with temper kill;
Soon in a brother could a rival view,
Watch all his acts, and all his ways pursue:
In vain for life he to the altar fled;
Ambition and Revenge have certain speed.
Even there, my soul, even there he should have fell,
But that my interest did my rage conceal:
Doubling my crime I promise and deceive,
Purpose to slay, whilst swearing to forgive.
Treaties, persuasions, sighs, and tears, are vain
With a mean lie cursed vengeance I sustain.
Join fraud to force, and policy to power,
Till of the destined fugitive secure,
In solemn state to parricide I rise,
And, as God lives, this day my brother dies.
Be witness to my tears, celestial Muse!
In vain I would forget, in vain excuse,
Fraternal blood by my direction spilt;
In vain on Joab's head transfer the guilt:
The deed was acted by the subject's hand,
The sword was pointed by the King's command:
Mine was the murder; it was mine alone;
Years of contrition must the crime atone:
Nor can my guilty soul expect relief
But from a long sincerity of grief.
With an imperfect hand and trembling heart,
Her love of truth superior to her art,
Already the reflecting Muse has traced
The mournful figures of my actions past,
The pensive goddess has already taught
How vain is hope, and how vexatious thought;
From growing childhood to declining age,
How tedious every step, how gloomy every stage,
This course of vanity almost complete,
Tired in the field of life, I hope retreat
In the still shades of death; for dread, and pain,
And grief, will find their shafts elanced in vain,
And their points broke, retorted from the head,
Safe in the grave, and free among the dead.
Yet tell me, frighted reason! what is death?
Blood only stopp'd, and interrupted breath?
The utmost limit of a narrow span,
And end of motion, which with life began?
As smoke that rises from the kindling fires
Is seen this moment, and the next expires;
As empty clouds by rising winds are lost,
Their fleeting forms scarce sooner found than lost,
So vanishes our state, so pass our days,
So life but opens now, and now decays;
The cradle and the tomb, alas! so nigh,
To live is scarce distinguish'd from to die.
Cure of the miser's wish and coward's fear,
Death only shows us what we knew was near,
With courage therefore view the pointed hour,
Dread not Death's anger, but expect his power,
Nor Nature's law with fruitless sorrow mourn,
But die, O mortal man! for thou wast born.
Cautious through doubt, by want of courage wise,
To such advice the reasoner still replies.
Yet measuring all the long continued space,
Every successive day's repeated race,
Since Time first started from his pristine goal,
Till he had reach'd that hour wherein my soul
Join'd to my body swell'd the womb, I was
(At least I think so) nothing; must I pass
Again to nothing when this vital breath
Ceasing, consigns me o'er to rest and death?
Must the whole man, amazing thought! return
To the cold marble or contracted urn?
And never shall those particles agree
That were in life this individual he?
But sever'd, must they join the general mass,
Through other forms and shapes ordain'd to pass,
Nor thought nor image kept of what he was?
Does the great word that gave him sense ordain
That life shall never wake that sense again?
And will no power his sinking spirits save
From the dark caves of death, and chambers of the grave?
Each evening I behold the setting sun
With downward speed into the ocean run;
Yet the same light (pass but some fleeting hours)
Exerts his vigour and renews his powers;
Starts the bright race again: his constant flame
Rises and sets, returning still the same.
I mark the various fury of the winds;
These neither seasons guide nor order binds;
They now dilate, and now contract their force;
Various their speed, but endless is their course,
From his first fountain and beginning ooze,
Down to the sea each brook and torrent flows;
Though sundry drops or leave or swell the stream,
The whole still runs, with equal pace the same;
Still other waves supply the rising urns,
And the eternal flood no want of water mourns.
Why then must man obey the sad decree,
Which subjects neither sun, nor wind, nor sea?
A flower that does with opening morn arise,
And flourishing the day at evening dies;
A winged eastern blast, just skimming o'er
The ocean's brow, and sinking on the shore;
A fire, whose flames through crackling stubbles fly;
A meteor shooting from the summer sky;
A bowl adown the bending mountain roll'd;
A bubble breaking, and a fable told;
A noontide shadow, and a midnight dream,
Are emblems which with semblance apt proclaim
Our earthly course; but, O my Soul! so fast
Must life run off, and death for ever last!
This dark opinion sure is too confined,
Else whence this hope and terror of the mind?
Does something still, and somewhere, yet remain,
Reward or punishment, delight or pain?
Say, shall our relics second birth receive?
Sleep we to wake, and only die to live?
When the sad wife has closed her husband's eyes,
And pierced the echoing vault with doleful cries,
Lies the pale corpse not yet entirely dead,
The spirit only from the body fled,
The grosser part of heat and motion void,
To be by fire, or worm, or time, destroy'd;
The soul, immortal substance, to remain
Conscious of joy and capable of pain?
And if her acts have been directed well,
While with her friendly clay she deign'd to dwell,
Shall she with safety reach her pristine seat,
Find her rest endless, and her bliss complete?
And while the buried man we idly mourn,
Do angels joy to see his better half return?
But if she has deform'd this earthly life
With murderous rapine and seditious strife,
Amazed, repulsed, and by those angels driven
From the ethereal seat and blissful heaven,
In everlasting darkness must she lie,
Still more unhappy that she cannot die?
Amid two seas, on one small point of land,
Wearied, uncertain, and amazed, we stand;
On either side our thoughts incessant turn,
Forward we dread, and looking back we mourn,
Losing the present in this dubious haste,
And lost ourselves betwixt the future and the past.
These cruel doubts contending in my breast,
My reason staggering and my hopes oppress'd,
Once more I said, once more I will inquire,
What is this little, agile, pervious fire,
This flattering motion which we call the Mind,
How does she act? and where is she confined?
Have we the power to give her as we please?
Whence then those evils that obstruct our ease?
We happiness pursue: we fly from pain;
Yet the pursuit and yet the flight is vain;
And while poor Nature labours to be bless'd,
By day with pleasure, and by night with rest,
Some stronger power eludes our sickly will,
Dashes our rising hope with certain ill,
And makes us, with reflective trouble, see
That all is destined which we fancy free.
That power superior then which rules our mind,
Is his decree by human prayer inclined?
Will he for sacrifice our sorrows ease!
And can our tears reverse his firm decrees?
Then let religion aid where reason fails,
Throw loads of incense in to turn the scales,
And let the silent sanctuary show,
What from the babbling schools we may not know,
How man may shun or bear his destined part of wo.
What shall amend, or what absolve our fate?
Anxious we hover in a mediate state
Betwixt infinity and nothing; bounds,
Or boundless terms, whose doubtful sense confounds:
Unequal thought, whilst all we apprehend
Is, that our hopes must rise, our sorrows end,
As our Creator deigns to be our friend.
I said, - and instant bade the priests prepare
The ritual sacrifice and solemn prayer.
Select from vulgar herds, with garlands gay,
A hundred bulls ascend the sacred way:
The artful youth proceed to form the choir,
They breathe the flute, or strike the vocal wire.
The maids in comely order next advance,
They beat the timbrel and instruct the dance:
Follows the chosen tribe, from Levi sprung,
Chanting by just return the holy song.
Along the choir in solemn state they pass'd,
- The anxious King came last.
The sacred hymn perform'd, my promised vow
I paid, and, bowing at the altar low.
Father of heaven! I said, and Judge of earth!
Whose word call'd out this universe to birth,
By whose kind power and influencing care
The various creatures move, and live, and are;
But ceasing once that care, withdrawn that power,
They move (alas!) and live, and are no more;
Omniscient Master, omnipresent King,
To thee, to thee my last distress I bring.
Thou that canst still the raging of the seas,
Chain up the winds, and bid the tempests cease,
Redeem my shipwreck'd soul from raging gusts
Of cruel passion and deceitful lusts;
From storms of rage and dangerous rocks of pride,
Let thy strong hand this little vessel guide,
(It was thy hand that made it) through the tide
Impetuous of this life, let thy command
Direct my course, and bring me safe to land.
If, while this wearied flesh draws fleeting breath,
Not satisfied with life, afraid of death,
It haply be thy will that I should know
Glimpse of delight, or pause from anxious wo,
From now, from instant now, great Sire! dispel
The clouds that press my soul; from now reveal
A gracious beam of light; from now inspire
My tongue to sing, my hand to touch the lyre;
My open'd thought to joyous prospects raise,
And for thy mercy let me sing thy praise:
Or, if thy will ordains, I still shall wait
Some new hereafter and a future state,
Permit me strength my weight of wo to bear,
And raise my mind superior to my care.
Let me, howe'er unable to explain
The secret lab'rinths of thy ways to man,
With humble zeal confess thy awful power,
Still weeping hope, and wondering, still adore:
So in my conquest be thy might declared,
And for thy justice be thy name revered.
My prayer scarce ended, a stupendous gloom
Darkens the air; loud thunder shakes the dome:
To the beginning miracle succeed
An awful silence and religious dread.
Sudden breaks forth a more than common day,
The sacred wood, which on the alter lay
Untouch'd, unlighted glows -
Ambrosial odour, such as never flows
From Arab's gum or the Sabaean rose,
Does round the air evolving scents diffuse:
The holy ground is wet with heavenly dews:
Celestial music (such Jessides' lyre,
Such Miriam's timbrel would in vain require)
Strikes to my thought through admiring ear,
With ecstasy too fine, and pleasure hard to bear:
And, lo! what sees my ravish'd eye? what feels
My wondering soul? an opening cloud reveals
A heavenly form embodied and array'd
With robes of light, I heard; the angel said,
Cease, Man, of women born, to hope relief
From daily trouble and continued grief.
Thy hope of joy deliver to the wind:
Suppress thy passions, and prepare thy mind.
Free and familiar with misfortune grow;
Be used to sorrow, and inured to wo.
By weakening toil and hoary age o'ercome,
See thy decrease, and hasting to thy tomb.
Leave to thy children tumult, strife, and war,
Portions of toil, and legacies of care:
Send the successive ills through ages down,
And let each weeping father tell his son
That, deeper struck, and more distinctly grieved,
He must augment the sorrows he received.
The child to whose success thy hope is bound,
Ere thou art scarce interr'd or he is crown'd,
To lust of arbitrary sway inclined,
(That cursed poison to the prince's mind!)
Shall from thy dictates and his duty rove,
And lose his great defence, his people's love:
Ill counsell'd, vanquish'd, fugitive, disgraced,
Shall mourn the fame of Jacob's strength effaced:
Shall sigh the King diminish'd, and the crown
With lessen'd rays descending to his son:
Shall see the wreaths his grandsire knew to reap
By active toil and military sweat,
Rining incline their sickly leaves, and shed
Their falling honours from his giddy head:
By arms or prayer unable to assuage
Domestic horror and intestine rage,
Shall from the victor and the vanquish'd fear,
From Israel's arrow and from Judah's spear:
Shall cast his wearied limbs on Jordan's flood,
By brothers' arms disturb'd, and stain'd with kindred blood.
Hence labouring years shall weep their destined race,
Charged with ill omens, sully'd with disgrace;
Time, by necessity compell'd, shall go
Through scenes of war, and epochas of wo:
The empire lessen',d in a parted stream
Shall lose its course -
Indulge thy tears; the Heathen shall blaspheme;
Judah shall fall, oppress'd by grief and shame,
And men shall from her ruins know her fame.
New Egypts yet and second bonds remain,
A harsher Pharaoh, and a heavier chain.
Again, obedient to a dire command,
Thy captive sons shall leave the promised land;
Their name more low, their servitude more vile,
Shall on Euphrates' bank renew the grief of Nile.
These pointed spires that wound the ambient sky,
Inglorious change shall in destruction lie
Low, levell'd with the dust, their heights unknown,
Or measured by their ruin. Yonder throne,
For lasting glory built, design'd the seat
Of kings for ever bless'd, for ever great,
Removed by the invader's barbarous hand,
Shall grace his triumph in a foreign land:
The tyrant shall demand yon' sacred load
Of gold and vessels set apart to God,
Then by bile hands to common use debased,
Shall send them flowing round his drunken feast,
With sacrilegious taunt and impious jest.
Twice fourteen ages shall their way complete,
Empires by various turns shall rise and set,
While thy abandon'd tribes shall only know
A different master and a change of wo;
With downcast eyelids, and with looks aghast,
Shall dread the future or bewail the past.
Afflicted Israel shall sit weeping down,
Fast by the streams where Babel's waters run,
Their harps upon the neighbouring willows hung,
Nor joyous hymn encouraging their tongue,
Nor cheerful dance their feet; with toil oppress'd,
Their wearied limbs aspiring but to rest.
In the reflective stream the sighing bride,
Viewing her charms impair'd, abash'd shall hide
Her pensive head, and in her languid face
The bridegroom shall foresee his sickly race,
While ponderous fetters vex their close embrace
With irksome anguish then your priests shall mourn
Their long neglected feasts despair'd return,
And sad oblivion of their solemn days:
Thenceforth their voices they shall only raise,
Louder to weep. By day your frighted seers
Shall call for fountains to express their tears,
And wish their eyes were floods: by night, from dreams
Of opening gulfs, black storms, and raging flames,
Starting amazed, shall to the people show
Emblems of heavenly wrath, and mystic types of wo.
The captives, as their tyrant shall require
That they should breathe the song and touch the lyre,
Shall say, Can Jacob's servile race rejoice,
Untuned the music, and disused the voice?
What can we play, (they shall discourse) how sing
In foreign lands, and to a barbarous king?
We and our fathers, from our childhood bred
To watch the cruel victor's eye, to dread
The arbitrary lash, to bend, to grieve,
(Outcast of mortal race) can we conceive
Image of ought delightful, soft, or gay?
Alas! when we have toil the longsome day,
The fullest bliss our hearts aspire to know,
Is but some interval from active wo;
In broken rest and startling sleep to mourn,
Till morn the tyrant and the scourge return:
Bred up in grief, can pleasure be our theme?
Our endless anguish does not nature claim?
Reason and sorrow are to us the same.
Alas! with wild amazement we require
If idle Folly was not Pleasure's sire?
Madness, we fancy, gave an ill-timed birth.
This is the series of perpetual wo
Which thou, alas! and thine, are born to know.
Illustrious wretch! repine not nor reply;
View not what Heaven ordains with reason's eye;
Too bright the object is, the distance is too high.
The man who would resolve the work of fate
May limit number and make crooked straight:
Stop thy inquiry, then, and curb thy sense,
'Tis God who must dispose and man sustain,
Born to endure, forbidden to complain:
Thy sum of life must his decrees fufil;
What derogates from his command is ill,
And that alone is good which centres in his will.
Yet that thy labouring senses may not droop,
Lost to delight, and destitute of hope,
Remark what I, God's messenger, aver
From him who neither can deceive nor err.
The land, at length redeem'd, shall cease to mourn,
Shall from her sad captivity return:
Sion shall raise her long-dejected head,
And in her courts the law again be read,
Again the glorious temple shall arise,
And with now lustre pierce the neighbouring skies:
The promised seat of empire shall again
Cover the mountain and command the plain;
And from thy race distinguish'd, One shall spring
Greater in act than victor, more than king;
In dignity and power sent down from heaven
To succour earth. To him, to him, 'tis given
Passion, and care, and anguish, to destroy;
Through him soft peace and plenitude of joy
Perpetual o'er the world redeem'd shall flow;
No more may man inquire or angel know.
Now, Solomon, remembering who thou art,
Act through thy remnant life a decent part:
Go forth; be strong; with patience and with care
Perform and suffer; to thyself severe,
Gracious to others, thy desires suppress'd,
Diffused thy virtues, first of men, be best.
Thy sum of duty let two words contain,
O may they graven in thy heart remain!
Be humble and be just. The angel said:
With upward speed his agile wings he spread,
Whilst on the holy ground I prostrate lay,
By various doubts impell'd, or to obey
Or to object; at length (my mournful look
Heavenward erect) determined, thus I spoke:
Supreme, all-wise, eternal Potentate!
Sole author, sole disposer, of our fate!
Enthroned in light and immortality,
Whom no man fully sees, and none can see!
Original of Beings! Power divine!
Since that I live, that I think, is thine;
Benign Creator! let thy plastic hand
Dispose its own effect: let thy command
Restore, great Father, thy instructed son,
And in my act may thy great will be done.
Annus Mirabilis, The Year Of Wonders, 1666
In thriving arts long time had Holland grown,
Crouching at home and cruel when abroad:
Scarce leaving us the means to claim our own;
Our King they courted, and our merchants awed.
Trade, which, like blood, should circularly flow,
Stopp'd in their channels, found its freedom lost:
Thither the wealth of all the world did go,
And seem'd but shipwreck'd on so base a coast.
For them alone the heavens had kindly heat;
In eastern quarries ripening precious dew:
For them the Idumaean balm did sweat,
And in hot Ceylon spicy forests grew.
The sun but seem'd the labourer of the year;
Each waxing moon supplied her watery store,
To swell those tides, which from the line did bear
Their brimful vessels to the Belgian shore.
Thus mighty in her ships, stood Carthage long,
And swept the riches of the world from far;
Yet stoop'd to Rome, less wealthy, but more strong:
And this may prove our second Punic war.
What peace can be, where both to one pretend?
(But they more diligent, and we more strong)
Or if a peace, it soon must have an end;
For they would grow too powerful, were it long.
Behold two nations, then, engaged so far
That each seven years the fit must shake each land:
Where France will side to weaken us by war,
Who only can his vast designs withstand.
See how he feeds the Iberian with delays,
To render us his timely friendship vain:
And while his secret soul on Flanders preys,
He rocks the cradle of the babe of Spain.
Such deep designs of empire does he lay
O'er them, whose cause he seems to take in hand;
And prudently would make them lords at sea,
To whom with ease he can give laws by land.
This saw our King; and long within his breast
His pensive counsels balanced to and fro:
He grieved the land he freed should be oppress'd,
And he less for it than usurpers do.
His generous mind the fair ideas drew
Of fame and honour, which in dangers lay;
Where wealth, like fruit on precipices, grew,
Not to be gather'd but by birds of prey.
The loss and gain each fatally were great;
And still his subjects call'd aloud for war;
But peaceful kings, o'er martial people set,
Each, other's poise and counterbalance are.
He first survey'd the charge with careful eyes,
Which none but mighty monarchs could maintain;
Yet judged, like vapours that from limbecks rise,
It would in richer showers descend again.
At length resolved to assert the watery ball,
He in himself did whole Armadoes bring:
Him aged seamen might their master call,
And choose for general, were he not their king.
It seems as every ship their sovereign knows,
His awful summons they so soon obey;
So hear the scaly herd when Proteus blows,
And so to pasture follow through the sea.
To see this fleet upon the ocean move,
Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies;
And heaven, as if there wanted lights above,
For tapers made two glaring comets rise.
Whether they unctuous exhalations are,
Fired by the sun, or seeming so alone:
Or each some more remote and slippery star,
Which loses footing when to mortals shown.
Or one, that bright companion of the sun,
Whose glorious aspect seal'd our new-born king;
And now a round of greater years begun,
New influence from his walks of light did bring.
Victorious York did first with famed success,
To his known valour make the Dutch give place:
Thus Heaven our monarch's fortune did confess,
Beginning conquest from his royal race.
But since it was decreed, auspicious King,
In Britain's right that thou shouldst wed the main,
Heaven, as a gage, would cast some precious thing,
And therefore doom'd that Lawson should be slain.
Lawson amongst the foremost met his fate,
Whom sea-green Sirens from the rocks lament;
Thus as an offering for the Grecian state,
He first was kill'd who first to battle went.
Their chief blown up in air, not waves, expired,
To which his pride presumed to give the law:
The Dutch confess'd Heaven present, and retired,
And all was Britain the wide ocean saw.
To nearest ports their shatter'd ships repair,
Where by our dreadful cannon they lay awed:
So reverently men quit the open air,
When thunder speaks the angry gods abroad.
And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught
With all the riches of the rising sun:
And precious sand from southern climates brought,
The fatal regions where the war begun.
Like hunted castors, conscious of their store,
Their waylaid wealth to Norway's coasts they bring:
There first the north's cold bosom spices bore,
And winter brooded on the eastern spring.
By the rich scent we found our perfumed prey,
Which, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie;
And round about their murdering cannon lay,
At once to threaten and invite the eye.
Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard,
The English undertake the unequal war:
Seven ships alone, by which the port is barr'd,
Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare.
These fight like husbands, but like lovers those:
These fain would keep, and those more fain enjoy:
And to such height their frantic passion grows,
That what both love, both hazard to destroy.
Amidst whole heaps of spices lights a ball,
And now their odours arm'd against them fly:
Some preciously by shatter'd porcelain fall,
And some by aromatic splinters die.
And though by tempests of the prize bereft,
In Heaven's inclemency some ease we find:
Our foes we vanquish'd by our valour left,
And only yielded to the seas and wind.
Nor wholly lost we so deserved a prey;
For storms repenting part of it restored:
Which, as a tribute from the Baltic sea,
The British ocean sent her mighty lord.
Go, mortals, now; and vex yourselves in vain
For wealth, which so uncertainly must come:
When what was brought so far, and with such pain,
Was only kept to lose it nearer home.
The son, who twice three months on th' ocean tost,
Prepared to tell what he had pass'd before,
Now sees in English ships the Holland coast,
And parents' arms in vain stretch'd from the shore.
This careful husband had been long away,
Whom his chaste wife and little children mourn;
Who on their fingers learn'd to tell the day
On which their father promised to return.
Such are the proud designs of human kind,
And so we suffer shipwreck every where!
Alas, what port can such a pilot find,
Who in the night of fate must blindly steer!
The undistinguish'd seeds of good and ill,
Heaven, in his bosom, from our knowledge hides:
And draws them in contempt of human skill,
Which oft for friends mistaken foes provides.
Let Munster's prelate ever be accurst,
In whom we seek the German faith in vain:
Alas, that he should teach the English first,
That fraud and avarice in the Church could reign!
Happy, who never trust a stranger's will,
Whose friendship's in his interest understood!
Since money given but tempts him to be ill,
When power is too remote to make him good.
Till now, alone the mighty nations strove;
The rest, at gaze, without the lists did stand:
And threatening France, placed like a painted Jove,
Kept idle thunder in his lifted hand.
That eunuch guardian of rich Holland's trade,
Who envies us what he wants power to enjoy;
Whose noiseful valour does no foe invade,
And weak assistance will his friends destroy.
Offended that we fought without his leave,
He takes this time his secret hate to show:
Which Charles does with a mind so calm receive,
As one that neither seeks nor shuns his foe.
With France, to aid the Dutch, the Danes unite:
France as their tyrant, Denmark as their slave,
But when with one three nations join to fight,
They silently confess that one more brave.
Lewis had chased the English from his shore;
But Charles the French as subjects does invite:
Would Heaven for each some Solomon restore,
Who, by their mercy, may decide their right!
Were subjects so but only by their choice,
And not from birth did forced dominion take,
Our prince alone would have the public voice;
And all his neighbours' realms would deserts make.
He without fear a dangerous war pursues,
Which without rashness he began before:
As honour made him first the danger choose,
So still he makes it good on virtue's score.
The doubled charge his subjects' love supplies,
Who, in that bounty, to themselves are kind:
So glad Egyptians see their Nilus rise,
And in his plenty their abundance find.
With equal power he does two chiefs create,
Two such as each seem'd worthiest when alone;
Each able to sustain a nation's fate,
Since both had found a greater in their own.
Both great in courage, conduct, and in fame,
Yet neither envious of the other's praise;
Their duty, faith, and interest too the same,
Like mighty partners equally they raise.
The prince long time had courted fortune's love,
But once possess'd, did absolutely reign:
Thus with their Amazons the heroes strove,
And conquer'd first those beauties they would gain.
The Duke beheld, like Scipio, with disdain,
That Carthage, which he ruin'd, rise once more;
And shook aloft the fasces of the main,
To fright those slaves with what they felt before.
Together to the watery camp they haste,
Whom matrons passing to their children show:
Infants' first vows for them to heaven are cast,
And future people bless them as they go.
With them no riotous pomp, nor Asian train,
To infect a navy with their gaudy fears;
To make slow fights, and victories but vain:
But war severely like itself appears.
Diffusive of themselves, where'er they pass,
They make that warmth in others they expect;
Their valour works like bodies on a glass,
And does its image on their men project.
Our fleet divides, and straight the Dutch appear,
In number, and a famed commander, bold:
The narrow seas can scarce their navy bear,
Or crowded vessels can their soldiers hold.
The Duke, less numerous, but in courage more,
On wings of all the winds to combat flies:
His murdering guns a loud defiance roar,
And bloody crosses on his flag-staffs rise.
Both furl their sails, and strip them for the fight;
Their folded sheets dismiss the useless air:
The Elean plains could boast no nobler sight,
When struggling champions did their bodies bare.
Borne each by other in a distant line,
The sea-built forts in dreadful order move:
So vast the noise, as if not fleets did join,
But lands unfix'd, and floating nations strove.
Now pass'd, on either side they nimbly tack;
Both strive to intercept and guide the wind:
And, in its eye, more closely they come back,
To finish all the deaths they left behind.
On high-raised decks the haughty Belgians ride,
Beneath whose shade our humble frigates go:
Such port the elephant bears, and so defied
By the rhinoceros, her unequal foe.
And as the build, so different is the fight;
Their mounting shot is on our sails design'd:
Deep in their hulls our deadly bullets light,
And through the yielding planks a passage find.
Our dreaded admiral from far they threat,
Whose batter'd rigging their whole war receives:
All bare, like some old oak which tempests beat,
He stands, and sees below his scatter'd leaves.
Heroes of old, when wounded, shelter sought;
But he who meets all danger with disdain,
Even in their face his ship to anchor brought,
And steeple-high stood propt upon the main.
At this excess of courage, all amazed,
The foremost of his foes awhile withdraw:
With such respect in enter'd Rome they gazed,
Who on high chairs the god-like fathers saw.
And now, as where Patroclus' body lay,
Here Trojan chiefs advanced, and there the Greek
Ours o'er the Duke their pious wings display,
And theirs the noblest spoils of Britain seek.
Meantime his busy mariners he hastes,
His shatter'd sails with rigging to restore;
And willing pines ascend his broken masts,
Whose lofty heads rise higher than before.
Straight to the Dutch he turns his dreadful prow,
More fierce the important quarrel to decide:
Like swans, in long array his vessels show,
Whose crests advancing do the waves divide.
They charge, recharge, and all along the sea
They drive, and squander the huge Belgian fleet;
Berkeley alone, who nearest danger lay,
Did a like fate with lost Creusa meet.
The night comes on, we eager to pursue
The combat still, and they ashamed to leave:
Till the last streaks of dying day withdrew,
And doubtful moonlight did our rage deceive.
In the English fleet each ship resounds with joy,
And loud applause of their great leader's fame:
In fiery dreams the Dutch they still destroy,
And, slumbering, smile at the imagined flame.
Not so the Holland fleet, who, tired and done,
Stretch'd on their decks like weary oxen lie;
Faint sweats all down their mighty members run;
Vast bulks which little souls but ill supply.
In dreams they fearful precipices tread:
Or, shipwreck'd, labour to some distant shore:
Or in dark churches walk among the dead;
They wake with horror, and dare sleep no more.
The morn they look on with unwilling eyes,
Till from their main-top joyful news they hear
Of ships, which by their mould bring new supplies,
And in their colours Belgian lions bear.
Our watchful general had discern'd from far
This mighty succour, which made glad the foe:
He sigh'd, but, like a father of the war,
His face spake hope, while deep his sorrows flow.
His wounded men he first sends off to shore,
Never till now unwilling to obey:
They, not their wounds, but want of strength deplore,
And think them happy who with him can stay.
Then to the rest, Rejoice, said he, to-day;
In you the fortune of Great Britain lies:
Among so brave a people, you are they
Whom Heaven has chose to fight for such a prize.
If number English courages could quell,
We should at first have shunn'd, not met, our foes,
Whose numerous sails the fearful only tell:
Courage from hearts and not from numbers grows.
He said, nor needed more to say: with haste
To their known stations cheerfully they go;
And all at once, disdaining to be last,
Solicit every gale to meet the foe.
Nor did the encouraged Belgians long delay,
But bold in others, not themselves, they stood:
So thick, our navy scarce could steer their way,
But seem'd to wander in a moving wood.
Our little fleet was now engaged so far,
That, like the sword-fish in the whale, they fought:
The combat only seem'd a civil war,
Till through their bowels we our passage wrought.
Never had valour, no not ours, before
Done aught like this upon the land or main,
Where not to be o'ercome was to do more
Than all the conquests former kings did gain.
The mighty ghosts of our great Harries rose,
And armed Edwards look'd with anxious eyes,
To see this fleet among unequal foes,
By which fate promised them their Charles should rise.
Meantime the Belgians tack upon our rear,
And raking chase-guns through our sterns they send:
Close by their fire ships, like jackals appear
Who on their lions for the prey attend.
Silent in smoke of cannon they come on:
Such vapours once did fiery Cacus hide:
In these the height of pleased revenge is shown,
Who burn contented by another's side.
Sometimes from fighting squadrons of each fleet,
Deceived themselves, or to preserve some friend,
Two grappling AEtnas on the ocean meet,
And English fires with Belgian flames contend.
85 Now at each tack our little fleet grows less;
And like maim'd fowl, swim lagging on the main:
Their greater loss their numbers scarce confess,
While they lose cheaper than the English gain.
Have you not seen, when, whistled from the fist,
Some falcon stoops at what her eye design'd,
And, with her eagerness the quarry miss'd,
Straight flies at check, and clips it down the wind.
The dastard crow that to the wood made wing,
And sees the groves no shelter can afford,
With her loud caws her craven kind does bring,
Who, safe in numbers, cuff the noble bird.
Among the Dutch thus Albemarle did fare:
He could not conquer, and disdain'd to fly;
Past hope of safety, 'twas his latest care,
Like falling Caesar, decently to die.
Yet pity did his manly spirit move,
To see those perish who so well had fought;
And generously with his despair he strove,
Resolved to live till he their safety wrought.
Let other muses write his prosperous fate,
Of conquer'd nations tell, and kings restored;
But mine shall sing of his eclipsed estate,
Which, like the sun's, more wonders does afford.
He drew his mighty frigates all before,
On which the foe his fruitless force employs:
His weak ones deep into his rear he bore
Remote from guns, as sick men from the noise.
His fiery cannon did their passage guide,
And following smoke obscured them from the foe:
Thus Israel safe from the Egyptian's pride,
By flaming pillars, and by clouds did go.
Elsewhere the Belgian force we did defeat,
But here our courages did theirs subdue:
So Xenophon once led that famed retreat,
Which first the Asian empire overthrew.
The foe approach'd; and one for his bold sin
Was sunk; as he that touch'd the ark was slain:
The wild waves master'd him and suck'd him in,
And smiling eddies dimpled on the main.
This seen, the rest at awful distance stood:
As if they had been there as servants set
To stay, or to go on, as he thought good,
And not pursue, but wait on his retreat.
So Lybian huntsmen, on some sandy plain,
From shady coverts roused, the lion chase:
The kingly beast roars out with loud disdain,
And slowly moves, unknowing to give place.
But if some one approach to dare his force,
He swings his tail, and swiftly turns him round;
With one paw seizes on his trembling horse,
And with the other tears him to the ground.
Amidst these toils succeeds the balmy night;
Now hissing waters the quench'd guns restore;
And weary waves, withdrawing from the fight,
Lie lull'd and panting on the silent shore:
The moon shone clear on the becalmed flood,
Where, while her beams like glittering silver play,
Upon the deck our careful general stood,
And deeply mused on the succeeding day.
That happy sun, said he, will rise again,
Who twice victorious did our navy see:
And I alone must view him rise in vain,
Without one ray of all his star for me.
Yet like an English general will I die,
And all the ocean make my spacious grave:
Women and cowards on the land may lie;
The sea's a tomb that's proper for the brave.
Restless he pass'd the remnant of the night,
Till the fresh air proclaimed the morning nigh:
And burning ships, the martyrs of the fight,
With paler fires beheld the eastern sky.
But now, his stores of ammunition spent,
His naked valour is his only guard;
Rare thunders are from his dumb cannon sent,
And solitary guns are scarcely heard.
Thus far had fortune power, here forced to stay,
Nor longer durst with virtue be at strife:
This as a ransom Albemarle did pay,
For all the glories of so great a life.
For now brave Rupert from afar appears,
Whose waving streamers the glad general knows:
With full spread sails his eager navy steers,
And every ship in swift proportion grows.
The anxious prince had heard the cannon long,
And from that length of time dire omens drew
Of English overmatch'd, and Dutch too strong,
Who never fought three days, but to pursue.
Then, as an eagle, who, with pious care
Was beating widely on the wing for prey,
To her now silent eyrie does repair,
And finds her callow infants forced away:
Stung with her love, she stoops upon the plain,
The broken air loud whistling as she flies:
She stops and listens, and shoots forth again,
And guides her pinions by her young ones' cries.
With such kind passion hastes the prince to fight,
And spreads his flying canvas to the sound;
Him, whom no danger, were he there, could fright,
Now absent every little noise can wound.
As in a drought the thirsty creatures cry,
And gape upon the gather'd clouds for rain,
And first the martlet meets it in the sky,
And with wet wings joys all the feather'd train.
With such glad hearts did our despairing men
Salute the appearance of the prince's fleet;
And each ambitiously would claim the ken,
That with first eyes did distant safety meet.
The Dutch, who came like greedy hinds before,
To reap the harvest their ripe ears did yield,
Now look like those, when rolling thunders roar,
And sheets of lightning blast the standing field.
Full in the prince's passage, hills of sand,
And dangerous flats in secret ambush lay;
Where the false tides skim o'er the cover'd land,
And seamen with dissembled depths betray.
The wily Dutch, who, like fallen angels, fear'd
This new Messiah's coming, there did wait,
And round the verge their braving vessels steer'd,
To tempt his courage with so fair a bait.
But he, unmoved, contemns their idle threat,
Secure of fame whene'er he please to fight:
His cold experience tempers all his heat,
And inbred worth doth boasting valour slight.
Heroic virtue did his actions guide,
And he the substance, not the appearance chose
To rescue one such friend he took more pride,
Than to destroy whole thousands of such foes.
But when approach'd, in strict embraces bound,
Rupert and Albemarle together grow;
He joys to have his friend in safety found,
Which he to none but to that friend would owe.
The cheerful soldiers, with new stores supplied,
Now long to execute their spleenful will;
And, in revenge for those three days they tried,
Wish one, like Joshua's, when the sun stood still.
Thus reinforced, against the adverse fleet,
Still doubling ours, brave Rupert leads the way:
With the first blushes of the morn they meet,
And bring night back upon the new-born day.
His presence soon blows up the kindling fight,
And his loud guns speak thick like angry men:
It seem'd as slaughter had been breathed all night,
And Death new pointed his dull dart again.
The Dutch too well his mighty conduct knew,
And matchless courage since the former fight;
Whose navy like a stiff-stretch'd cord did show,
Till he bore in and bent them into flight.
The wind he shares, while half their fleet offends
His open side, and high above him shows:
Upon the rest at pleasure he descends,
And doubly harm'd he double harms bestows.
Behind the general mends his weary pace,
And sullenly to his revenge he sails:
So glides some trodden serpent on the grass,
And long behind his wounded volume trails.
The increasing sound is borne to either shore,
And for their stakes the throwing nations fear:
Their passions double with the cannons' roar,
And with warm wishes each man combats there.
Plied thick and close as when the fight begun,
Their huge unwieldy navy wastes away;
So sicken waning moons too near the sun,
And blunt their crescents on the edge of day.
And now reduced on equal terms to fight,
Their ships like wasted patrimonies show;
Where the thin scattering trees admit the light,
And shun each other's shadows as they grow.
The warlike prince had sever'd from the rest
Two giant ships, the pride of all the main;
Which with his one so vigorously he prest,
And flew so home they could not rise again.
Already batter'd, by his lee they lay,
In rain upon the passing winds they call:
The passing winds through their torn canvas play,
And flagging sails on heartless sailors fall.
Their open'd sides receive a gloomy light,
Dreadful as day let into shades below:
Without, grim Death rides barefaced in their sight,
And urges entering billows as they flow.
When one dire shot, the last they could supply,
Close by the board the prince's mainmast bore:
All three now helpless by each other lie,
And this offends not, and those fear no more.
So have I seen some fearful hare maintain
A course, till tired before the dog she lay:
Who, stretch'd behind her, pants upon the plain,
Past power to kill, as she to get away.
With his loll'd tongue he faintly licks his prey;
His warm breath blows her flix up as she lies;
She trembling creeps upon the ground away,
And looks back to him with beseeching eyes.
The prince unjustly does his stars accuse,
Which hinder'd him to push his fortune on;
For what they to his courage did refuse,
By mortal valour never must be done.
This lucky hour the wise Batavian takes,
And warns his tatter'd fleet to follow home;
Proud to have so got off with equal stakes,
Where 'twas a triumph not to be o'ercome.
The general's force, as kept alive by fight,
Now not opposed, no longer can pursue:
Lasting till heaven had done his courage right;
When he had conquer'd he his weakness knew.
He casts a frown on the departing foe,
And sighs to see him quit the watery field:
His stern fix'd eyes no satisfaction show,
For all the glories which the fight did yield.
Though, as when fiends did miracles avow,
He stands confess'd e'en by the boastful Dutch:
He only does his conquest disavow,
And thinks too little what they found too much.
Return'd, he with the fleet resolved to stay;
No tender thoughts of home his heart divide;
Domestic joys and cares he puts away;
For realms are households which the great must guide.
As those who unripe veins in mines explore,
On the rich bed again the warm turf lay,
Till time digests the yet imperfect ore,
And know it will be gold another day:
So looks our monarch on this early fight,
Th' essay and rudiments of great success;
Which all-maturing time must bring to light,
While he, like Heaven, does each day's labour bless.
Heaven ended not the first or second day,
Yet each was perfect to the work design'd;
God and king's work, when they their work survey,
A passive aptness in all subjects find.
In burden'd vessels first, with speedy care,
His plenteous stores do seasoned timber send;
Thither the brawny carpenters repair,
And as the surgeons of maim'd ships attend.
With cord and canvas from rich Hamburgh sent,
His navy's molted wings he imps once more:
Tall Norway fir, their masts in battle spent,
And English oak, sprung leaks and planks restore.
All hands employ'd, the royal work grows warm:
Like labouring bees on a long summer's day,
Some sound the trumpet for the rest to swarm.
And some on bells of tasted lilies play.
With gluey wax some new foundations lay
Of virgin-combs, which from the roof are hung:
Some arm'd, within doors upon duty stay,
Or tend the sick, or educate the young.
So here some pick out bullets from the sides,
Some drive old oakum through each seam and rift:
Their left hand does the calking-iron guide,
The rattling mallet with the right they lift.
With boiling pitch another near at hand,
From friendly Sweden brought, the seams instops:
Which well paid o'er, the salt sea waves withstand,
And shakes them from the rising beak in drops.
Some the gall'd ropes with dauby marline bind,
Or sear-cloth masts with strong tarpaulin coats:
To try new shrouds one mounts into the wind,
And one below their ease or stiffness notes.
Our careful monarch stands in person by,
His new-cast cannons' firmness to explore:
The strength of big-corn'd powder loves to try,
And ball and cartridge sorts for every bore.
Each day brings fresh supplies of arms and men,
And ships which all last winter were abroad;
And such as fitted since the fight had been,
Or, new from stocks, were fallen into the road.
The goodly London in her gallant trim
(The Phoenix daughter of the vanish'd old).
Like a rich bride does to the ocean swim,
And on her shadow rides in floating gold.
Her flag aloft spread ruffling to the wind,
And sanguine streamers seem the flood to fire;
The weaver, charm'd with what his loom design'd,
Goes on to sea, and knows not to retire.
With roomy decks, her guns of mighty strength,
Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves;
Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,
She seems a sea-wasp flying on the waves.
This martial present, piously design'd,
The loyal city give their best-loved King:
And with a bounty ample as the wind,
Built, fitted, and maintain'd, to aid him bring.
By viewing Nature, Nature's handmaid, Art,
Makes mighty things from small beginnings grow:
Thus fishes first to shipping did impart,
Their tail the rudder, and their head the prow.
Some log perhaps upon the waters swam,
An useless drift, which, rudely cut within,
And, hollow'd, first a floating trough became,
And cross some rivulet passage did begin.
In shipping such as this, the Irish kern,
And untaught Indian, on the stream did glide:
Ere sharp-keel'd boats to stem the flood did learn,
Or fin-like oars did spread from either side.
Add but a sail, and Saturn so appear'd,
When from lost empire he to exile went,
And with the golden age to Tiber steer'd,
Where coin and commerce first he did invent.
Rude as their ships was navigation then;
No useful compass or meridian known;
Coasting, they kept the land within their ken,
And knew no North but when the Pole-star shone.
Of all who since have used the open sea,
Than the bold English none more fame have won:
Beyond the year, and out of heaven's high way,
They make discoveries where they see no sun.
But what so long in vain, and yet unknown,
By poor mankind's benighted wit is sought,
Shall in this age to Britain first be shown,
And hence be to admiring nations taught.
The ebbs of tides and their mysterious flow,
We, as art's elements, shall understand,
And as by line upon the ocean go,
Whose paths shall be familiar as the land.
Instructed ships shall sail to quick commerce,
By which remotest regions are allied;
Which makes one city of the universe,
Where some may gain, and all may be supplied.
Then we upon our globe's last verge shall go,
And view the ocean leaning on the sky:
From thence our rolling neighbours we shall know,
And on the lunar world securely pry.
This I foretell from your auspicious care,
Who great in search of God and nature grow;
Who best your wise Creator's praise declare,
Since best to praise his works is best to know.
O truly royal! who behold the law
And rule of beings in your Maker's mind:
And thence, like limbecks, rich ideas draw,
To fit the levell'd use of human-kind.
But first the toils of war we must endure,
And from the injurious Dutch redeem the seas.
War makes the valiant of his right secure,
And gives up fraud to be chastised with ease.
Already were the Belgians on our coast,
Whose fleet more mighty every day became
By late success, which they did falsely boast,
And now by first appearing seem'd to claim.
Designing, subtle, diligent, and close,
They knew to manage war with wise delay:
Yet all those arts their vanity did cross,
And by their pride their prudence did betray.
Nor stay'd the English long; but, well supplied,
Appear as numerous as the insulting foe:
The combat now by courage must be tried,
And the success the braver nation show.
There was the Plymouth squadron now come in,
Which in the Straits last winter was abroad;
Which twice on Biscay's working bay had been,
And on the midland sea the French had awed.
Old expert Allen, loyal all along,
Famed for his action on the Smyrna fleet:
And Holmes, whose name shall live in epic song,
While music numbers, or while verse has feet.
Holmes, the Achates of the general's fight;
Who first bewitch'd our eyes with Guinea gold;
As once old Cato in the Roman sight
The tempting fruits of Afric did unfold.
With him went Spragge, as bountiful as brave,
Whom his high courage to command had brought:
Harman, who did the twice-fired Harry save,
And in his burning ship undaunted fought.
Young Hollis, on a Muse by Mars begot,
Born, Caesar-like, to write and act great deeds:
Impatient to revenge his fatal shot,
His right hand doubly to his left succeeds.
Thousands were there in darker fame that dwell,
Whose deeds some nobler poem shall adorn:
And, though to me unknown, they sure fought well
Whom Rupert led, and who were British born.
Of every size an hundred fighting sail:
So vast the navy now at anchor rides,
That underneath it the press'd waters fail,
And with its weight it shoulders off the tides.
Now anchors weigh'd, the seamen shout so shrill,
That heaven and earth and the wide ocean rings:
A breeze from westward waits their sails to fill,
And rests in those high beds his downy wings.
The wary Dutch this gathering storm foresaw,
And durst not bide it on the English coast:
Behind their treacherous shallows they withdraw,
And there lay snares to catch the British host.
So the false spider, when her nets are spread,
Deep ambush'd in her silent den does lie:
And feels far off the trembling of her thread,
Whose filmy cord should bind the struggling fly.
Then if at last she find him fast beset,
She issues forth and runs along her loom:
She joys to touch the captive in her net,
And drags the little wretch in triumph home.
The Belgians hoped, that, with disorder'd haste,
Our deep-cut keels upon the sands might run:
Or, if with caution leisurely were past,
Their numerous gross might charge us one by one.
But with a fore-wind pushing them above,
And swelling tide that heaved them from below,
O'er the blind flats our warlike squadrons move,
And with spread sails to welcome battle go.
It seem'd as there the British Neptune stood,
With all his hosts of waters at command.
Beneath them to submit the officious flood;
And with his trident shoved them off the sand.
To the pale foes they suddenly draw near,
And summon them to unexpected fight:
They start like murderers when ghosts appear,
And draw their curtains in the dead of night.
Now van to van the foremost squadrons meet,
The midmost battles hastening up behind,
Who view far off the storm of falling sleet,
And hear their thunder rattling in the wind.
187 At length the adverse admirals appear;
The two bold champions of each country's right:
Their eyes describe the lists as they come near,
And draw the lines of death before they fight.
The distance judged for shot of every size,
The linstocks touch, the ponderous ball expires:
The vigorous seaman every port-hole plies,
And adds his heart to every gun he fires!
Fierce was the fight on the proud Belgians' side,
For honour, which they seldom sought before!
But now they by their own vain boasts were tied,
And forced at least in show to prize it more.
But sharp remembrance on the English part,
And shame of being match'd by such a foe,
Rouse conscious virtue up in every heart,
And seeming to be stronger makes them so.
Nor long the Belgians could that fleet sustain,
Which did two generals' fates, and Caesar's bear:
Each several ship a victory did gain,
As Rupert or as Albemarle were there.
Their batter'd admiral too soon withdrew,
Unthank'd by ours for his unfinish'd fight;
But he the minds of his Dutch masters knew,
Who call'd that Providence which we call'd flight.
Never did men more joyfully obey,
Or sooner understood the sign to fly:
With such alacrity they bore away,
As if to praise them all the States stood by.
O famous leader of the Belgian fleet,
Thy monument inscribed such praise shall wear,
As Varro, timely flying, once did meet,
Because he did not of his Rome despair.
Behold that navy, which a while before,
Provoked the tardy English close to fight,
Now draw their beaten vessels close to shore,
As larks lie, dared, to shun the hobby's flight.
Whoe'er would English monuments survey,
In other records may our courage know:
But let them hide the story of this day,
Whose fame was blemish'd by too base a foe.
Or if too busily they will inquire
Into a victory which we disdain;
Then let them know the Belgians did retire
Before the patron saint of injured Spain.
Repenting England this revengeful day
To Philip's manes did an offering bring:
England, which first by leading them astray,
Hatch'd up rebellion to destroy her King.
Our fathers bent their baneful industry,
To check a, monarchy that slowly grew;
But did not France or Holland's fate foresee,
Whose rising power to swift dominion flew.
In fortune's empire blindly thus we go,
And wander after pathless destiny;
Whose dark resorts since prudence cannot know,
In vain it would provide for what shall be.
But whate'er English to the bless'd shall go,
And the fourth Harry or first Orange meet;
Find him disowning of a Bourbon foe,
And him detesting a Batavian fleet.
Now on their coasts our conquering navy rides,
Waylays their merchants, and their land besets:
Each day new wealth without their care provides;
They lie asleep with prizes in their nets.
So, close behind some promontory lie
The huge leviathans to attend their prey;
And give no chase, but swallow in the fry,
Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.
Nor was this all: in ports and roads remote,
Destructive fires among whole fleets we send:
Triumphant flames upon the water float,
And out-bound ships at home their voyage end.
Those various squadrons variously design'd,
Each vessel freighted with a several load,
Each squadron waiting for a several wind,
All find but one, to burn them in the road.
Some bound for Guinea, golden sand to find,
Bore all the gauds the simple natives wear;
Some for the pride of Turkish courts design'd,
For folded turbans finest Holland bear.
Some English wool, vex'd in a Belgian loom,
And into cloth of spungy softness made,
Did into France, or colder Denmark, doom,
To ruin with worse ware our staple trade.
Our greedy seamen rummage every hold,
Smile on the booty of each wealthier chest;
And, as the priests who with their gods make bold,
Take what they like, and sacrifice the rest.
But ah! how insincere are all our joys!
Which, sent from heaven, like lightning make no stay;
Their palling taste the journey's length destroys,
Or grief, sent post, o'ertakes them on the way.
Swell'd with our late successes on the foe,
Which France and Holland wanted power to cross,
We urge an unseen fate to lay us low,
And feed their envious eyes with English loss.
Each element His dread command obeys,
Who makes or ruins with a smile or frown;
Who, as by one he did our nation raise,
So now he with another pulls us down.
Yet London, empress of the northern clime,
By an high fate thou greatly didst expire;
Great as the world's, which, at the death of time
Must fall, and rise a nobler frame by fire!
As when some dire usurper Heaven provides,
To scourge his country with a lawless sway;
His birth perhaps some petty village hides,
And sets his cradle out of fortune's way.
Till fully ripe his swelling fate breaks out,
And hurries him to mighty mischiefs on:
His prince, surprised at first, no ill could doubt,
And wants the power to meet it when 'tis known.
Such was the rise of this prodigious fire,
Which, in mean buildings first obscurely bred,
From thence did soon to open streets aspire,
And straight to palaces and temples spread.
The diligence of trades and noiseful gain,
And luxury more late, asleep were laid:
All was the night's; and in her silent reign
No sound the rest of nature did invade.
In this deep quiet, from what source unknown,
Those seeds of fire their fatal birth disclose;
And first few scattering sparks about were blown,
Big with the flames that to our ruin rose.
Then in some close-pent room it crept along,
And, smouldering as it went, in silence fed;
Till the infant monster, with devouring strong,
Walk'd boldly upright with exalted head.
Now like some rich or mighty murderer,
Too great for prison, which he breaks with gold;
Who fresher for new mischiefs does appear,
And dares the world to tax him with the old:
So 'scapes the insulting fire his narrow jail,
And makes small outlets into open air:
There the fierce winds his tender force assail,
And beat him downward to his first repair.
The winds, like crafty courtesans, withheld
His flames from burning, but to blow them more:
And every fresh attempt he is repell'd
With faint denials weaker than before.
And now no longer letted of his prey,
He leaps up at it with enraged desire:
O'erlooks the neighbours with a wide survey,
And nods at every house his threatening fire.
The ghosts of traitors from the bridge descend,
With bold fanatic spectres to rejoice:
About the fire into a dance they bend,
And sing their sabbath notes with feeble voice.
Our guardian angel saw them where they sate
Above the palace of our slumbering king:
He sigh'd, abandoning his charge to fate,
And, drooping, oft look'd back upon the wing.
At length the crackling noise and dreadful blaze
Call'd up some waking lover to the sight;
And long it was ere he the rest could raise,
Whose heavy eyelids yet were full of night.
The next to danger, hot pursued by fate,
Half-clothed, half-naked, hastily retire:
And frighted mothers strike their breasts too late,
For helpless infants left amidst the fire.
227Their cries soon waken all the dwellers near;
Now murmuring noises rise in every street:
The more remote run stumbling with their fear,
And in the dark men jostle as they meet.
So weary bees in little cells repose;
But if night-robbers lift the well-stored hive,
An humming through their waxen city grows,
And out upon each other's wings they drive.
Now streets grow throng'd and busy as by day:
Some run for buckets to the hallow'd quire:
Some cut the pipes, and some the engines play;
And some more bold mount ladders to the fire.
In vain: for from the east a Belgian wind
His hostile breath through the dry rafters sent;
The flames impell'd soon left their foes behind,
And forward with a wanton fury went.
A quay of fire ran all along the shore,
And lighten'd all the river with a blaze:
The waken'd tides began again to roar,
And wondering fish in shining waters gaze.
Old father Thames raised up his reverend head,
But fear'd the fate of Simois would return:
Deep in his ooze he sought his sedgy bed,
And shrunk his waters back into his urn.
The fire, meantime, walks in a broader gross;
To either hand his wings he opens wide:
He wades the streets, and straight he reaches cross,
And plays his longing flames on the other side.
At first they warm, then scorch, and then they take;
Now with long necks from side to side they feed:
At length, grown strong, their mother-fire forsake,
And a new colony of flames succeed.
To every nobler portion of the town
The curling billows roll their restless tide:
In parties now they straggle up and down,
As armies, unopposed, for prey divide.
One mighty squadron with a side-wind sped,
Through narrow lanes his cumber'd fire does haste,
By powerful charms of gold and silver led,
The Lombard bankers and the 'Change to waste.
Another backward to the Tower would go,
And slowly eats his way against the wind:
But the main body of the marching foe
Against the imperial palace is design'd.
Now day appears, and with the day the King,
Whose early care had robb'd him of his rest:
Far off the cracks of falling houses ring,
And shrieks of subjects pierce his tender breast.
239 Near as he draws, thick harbingers of smoke
With gloomy pillars cover all the place;
Whose little intervals of night are broke
By sparks, that drive against his sacred face.
More than his guards, his sorrows made him known,
And pious tears, which down his cheeks did shower;
The wretched in his grief forgot their own;
So much the pity of a king has power.
He wept the flames of what he loved so well,
And what so well had merited his love:
For never prince in grace did more excel,
Or royal city more in duty strove.
Nor with an idle care did he behold:
Subjects may grieve, but monarchs must redress;
He cheers the fearful, and commends the bold,
And makes despairers hope for good success.
Himself directs what first is to be done,
And orders all the succours which they bring,
The helpful and the good about him run,
And form an army worthy such a king.
He sees the dire contagion spread so fast,
That, where it seizes, all relief is vain:
And therefore must unwillingly lay waste
That country, which would else the foe maintain.
The powder blows up all before the fire:
The amazed flames stand gather'd on a heap;
And from the precipice's brink retire,
Afraid to venture on so large a leap.
Thus fighting fires a while themselves consume,
But straight, like Turks forced on to win or die,
They first lay tender bridges of their fume,
And o'er the breach in unctuous vapours fly.
Part stay for passage, till a gust of wind
Ships o'er their forces in a shining sheet:
Part creeping under ground their journey blind,
And climbing from below their fellows meet.
Thus to some desert plain, or old woodside,
Dire night-hags come from far to dance their round;
And o'er broad rivers on their fiends they ride,
Or sweep in clouds above the blasted ground.
No help avails: for hydra-like, the fire
Lifts up his hundred heads to aim his way;
And scarce the wealthy can one half retire,
Before he rushes in to share the prey.
The rich grow suppliant, and the poor grow proud;
Those offer mighty gain, and these ask more:
So void of pity is the ignoble crowd,
When others' ruin may increase their store.
As those who live by shores with joy behold
Some wealthy vessel split or stranded nigh;
And from the rocks leap down for shipwreck'd gold,
And seek the tempests which the others fly:
So these but wait the owners' last despair,
And what's permitted to the flames invade;
Even from their jaws they hungry morsels tear,
And on their backs the spoils of Vulcan lade.
The days were all in this lost labour spent;
And when the weary king gave place to night,
His beams he to his royal brother lent,
And so shone still in his reflective light.
Night came, but without darkness or repose,--
A dismal picture of the general doom,
Where souls, distracted when the trumpet blows,
And half unready, with their bodies come.
Those who have homes, when home they do repair,
To a last lodging call their wandering friends:
Their short uneasy sleeps are broke with care,
To look how near their own destruction tends.
Those who have none, sit round where once it was,
And with full eyes each wonted room require;
Haunting the yet warm ashes of the place,
As murder'd men walk where they did expire.
Some stir up coals, and watch the vestal fire,
Others in vain from sight of ruin run;
And, while through burning labyrinths they retire,
With loathing eyes repeat what they would shun.
The most in fields like herded beasts lie down,
To dews obnoxious on the grassy floor;
And while their babes in sleep their sorrows drown,
Sad parents watch the remnants of their store.
While by the motion of the flames they guess
What streets are burning now, and what are near;
An infant waking to the paps would press,
And meets, instead of milk, a falling tear.
No thought can ease them but their sovereign's care,
Whose praise the afflicted as their comfort sing:
Even those whom want might drive to just despair,
Think life a blessing under such a king.
Meantime he sadly suffers in their grief,
Out-weeps an hermit, and out-prays a saint:
All the long night he studies their relief,
How they may be supplied, and he may want.
O God, said he, thou patron of my days,
Guide of my youth in exile and distress!
Who me, unfriended, brought'st by wondrous ways,
The kingdom of my fathers to possess:
Be thou my judge, with what unwearied care
I since have labour'd for my people's good;
To bind the bruises of a civil war,
And stop the issues of their wasting blood.
Thou who hast taught me to forgive the ill,
And recompense, as friends, the good misled;
If mercy be a precept of thy will,
Return that mercy on thy servant's head.
Or if my heedless youth has stepp'd astray,
Too soon forgetful of thy gracious hand;
On me alone thy just displeasure lay,
But take thy judgments from this mourning land.
We all have sinn'd, and thou hast laid us low,
As humble earth from whence at first we came:
Like flying shades before the clouds we show,
And shrink like parchment in consuming flame.
O let it be enough what thou hast done;
When spotted Deaths ran arm'd through every street,
With poison'd darts which not the good could shun,
The speedy could out-fly, or valiant meet.
The living few, and frequent funerals then,
Proclaim'd thy wrath on this forsaken place;
And now those few who are return'd again,
Thy searching judgments to their dwellings trace.
O pass not, Lord, an absolute decree,
Or bind thy sentence unconditional!
But in thy sentence our remorse foresee,
And in that foresight this thy doom recall.
Thy threatenings, Lord, as thine thou mayst revoke:
But if immutable and fix'd they stand,
Continue still thyself to give the stroke,
And let not foreign foes oppress thy land.
The Eternal heard, and from the heavenly quire
Chose out the cherub with the flaming sword;
And bade him swiftly drive the approaching fire
From where our naval magazines were stored.
The blessed minister his wings display'd,
And like a shooting star he cleft the night:
He charged the flames, and those that disobey'd
He lash'd to duty with his sword of light.
The fugitive flames chastised went forth to prey
On pious structures, by our fathers rear'd;
By which to heaven they did affect the way,
Ere faith in churchmen without works was heard.
The wanting orphans saw, with watery eyes,
Their founder's charity in dust laid low;
And sent to God their ever-answered cries,
For He protects the poor, who made them so.
Nor could thy fabric, Paul's, defend thee long,
Though thou wert sacred to thy Maker's praise:
Though made immortal by a poet's song;
And poets' songs the Theban walls could raise.
The daring flames peep'd in, and saw from far
The awful beauties of the sacred quire:
But since it was profaned by civil war,
Heaven thought it fit to have it purged by fire.
Now down the narrow streets it swiftly came,
And widely opening did on both sides prey:
This benefit we sadly owe the flame,
If only ruin must enlarge our way.
And now four days the sun had seen our woes:
Four nights the moon beheld the incessant fire:
It seem'd as if the stars more sickly rose,
And farther from the feverish north retire.
In th' empyrean heaven, the bless'd abode,
The Thrones and the Dominions prostrate lie,
Not daring to behold their angry God;
And a hush'd silence damps the tuneful sky.
At length the Almighty cast a pitying eye,
And mercy softly touch'd his melting breast:
He saw the town's one half in rubbish lie,
And eager flames drive on to storm the rest.
An hollow crystal pyramid he takes,
In firmamental waters dipt above;
Of it a broad extinguisher he makes,
And hoods the flames that to their quarry drove.
282 The vanquish'd fires withdraw from every place,
Or, full with feeding, sink into a sleep:
Each household genius shows again his face,
And from the hearths the little Lares creep.
Our King this more than natural change beholds;
With sober joy his heart and eyes abound:
To the All-good his lifted hands he folds,
And thanks him low on his redeemed ground.
As when sharp frosts had long constrain'd the earth,
A kindly thaw unlocks it with mild rain;
And first the tender blade peeps up to birth,
And straight the green fields laugh with promised grain:
By such degrees the spreading gladness grew
In every heart which fear had froze before:
The standing streets with so much joy they view,
That with less grief the perish'd they deplore.
The father of the people open'd wide
His stores, and all the poor with plenty fed:
Thus God's anointed God's own place supplied,
And fill'd the empty with his daily bread.
This royal bounty brought its own reward,
And in their minds so deep did print the sense,
That if their ruins sadly they regard,
'Tis but with fear the sight might drive him thence.
But so may he live long, that town to sway,
Which by his auspice they will nobler make,
As he will hatch their ashes by his stay,
And not their humble ruins now forsake.
They have not lost their loyalty by fire;
Nor is their courage or their wealth so low,
That from his wars they poorly would retire,
Or beg the pity of a vanquish'd foe.
Not with more constancy the Jews of old,
By Cyrus from rewarded exile sent,
Their royal city did in dust behold,
Or with more vigour to rebuild it went.
The utmost malice of their stars is past,
And two dire comets, which have scourged the town,
In their own plague and fire have breathed the last,
Or dimly in their sinking sockets frown.
Now frequent trines the happier lights among,
And high-raised Jove, from his dark prison freed,
Those weights took off that on his planet hung,
Will gloriously the new-laid work succeed.
Methinks already from this chemic flame,
I see a city of more precious mould:
Rich as the town which gives the Indies name,
With silver paved, and all divine with gold.
Already labouring with a mighty fate,
She shakes the rubbish from her mounting brow,
And seems to have renew'd her charter's date,
Which Heaven will to the death of time allow.
More great than human now, and more august,
Now deified she from her fires does rise:
Her widening streets on new foundations trust,
And opening into larger parts she flies.
Before, she like some shepherdess did show,
Who sat to bathe her by a river's side;
Not answering to her fame, but rude and low,
Nor taught the beauteous arts of modern pride.
Now, like a maiden queen, she will behold,
From her high turrets, hourly suitors come;
The East with incense, and the West with gold,
Will stand, like suppliants, to receive her doom!
The silver Thames, her own domestic flood,
Shall bear her vessels like a sweeping train;
And often wind, as of his mistress proud,
With longing eyes to meet her face again.
The wealthy Tagus, and the wealthier Rhine,
The glory of their towns no more shall boast;
And Seine, that would with Belgian rivers join,
Shall find her lustre stain'd, and traffic lost.
The venturous merchant who design'd more far,
And touches on our hospitable shore,
Charm'd with the splendour of this northern star,
Shall here unlade him, and depart no more.
Our powerful navy shall no longer meet,
The wealth of France or Holland to invade;
The beauty of this town without a fleet,
From all the world shall vindicate her trade.
And while this famed emporium we prepare,
The British ocean shall such triumphs boast,
That those, who now disdain our trade to share,
Shall rob like pirates on our wealthy coast.
Already we have conquer'd half the war,
And the less dangerous part is left behind:
Our trouble now is but to make them dare,
And not so great to vanquish as to find.
Thus to the Eastern wealth through storms we go,
But now, the Cape once doubled, fear no more;
A constant trade-wind will securely blow,
And gently lay us on the spicy shore.
III. The Other Half-Rome
Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boy's concerns, to save the son
From the sire, her two-weeks' infant orphaned thus,
And—with best smile of all reserved for him—
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!
There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Anna's where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence,
Too many by half,—complain the men of art,—
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visit—justice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly,—a soul
To shrive; 't was Brother Celestine's own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears—but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,—
Her palsied limb 'gan prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclothes merely,—how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlo—well, there's some excuse
For him—Maratta who paints Virgins so—
He too must fee the porter and slip by
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face:
"A lovelier face is not in Rome," cried he,
"Shaped like a peacock's egg, the pure as pearl,
"That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this and black the other! Mighty fine—
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have,
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
'T is just a flower's fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure someone plucks our sleeve—
"Yon blossom at the briar's end, that's the rose
"Two jealous people fought for yesterday
"And killed each other: see, there's undisturbed
"A pretty pool at the root, of rival red!"
Then cry we "Ah, the perfect paragon!"
Then crave we "Just one keepsake-leaf for us!"
Truth lies between: there's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ—
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back. Go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake!—so I say.
Somebody, at the bedside, said much more,
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O' the crime: quoth he, "Such crimes are very rife,
"Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
"Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
"That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
"Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot!"
"Nay," groaned the Augustinian, "what's there new?
"Crime will not fail to flare up from men's hearts
"While hearts are men's and so born criminal;
"Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
"Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
"Molinos may go whistle to the wind
"That waits outside a certain church, you know!"
Though really it does seem as if she here,
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has had undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
—Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self—
What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold?
Thus saintship is effected probably;
No sparing saints the process!—which the more
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and all.
For see now: Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen years ago, all Rome might note
And quote for happy—see the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton's trump.
What could they be but happy?—balanced so,
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high,
Nor poor nor richer than comports with ease,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and scorned,
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick,
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the just degree,
All at the mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's very souls
You saw the adequate half with half to match,
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked nought.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
The acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union gave the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But, as 't is said a body, rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live for ever,—accordingly
Holds a germ—sand-grain weight too much i' the scale—
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release,—
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here:
"With mortals much must go, but something stays;
"Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred—"Our life shall leave no fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear seed,
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up; not supplant themselves
But put in evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a child.
"'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete,
"One flesh: God says so: let him do his work!"
Now, one reminder of this gnawing want,
One special prick o' the maggot at the core,
Always befell when, as the day came round,
A certain yearly sum,—our Pietro being,
As the long name runs, an usufructuary,—
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of money, his till death, not afterward,
Failing an heir: an heir would take and take,
A child of theirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt—the stranger else seized all.
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped,
Making their mill go; but when wheel wore out,
The wave would find a space and sweep on free
And, half-a-mile off, grind some neighbour's corn.
Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more:
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, having asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merciful,
And his and her prayer granted at the last:
Let the old mill-stone moulder,—wheel unworn,
Quartz from the quarry, shot into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist—
Their house continued to them by an heir,
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own confession at full length
Made in the first remorse: 't was Jubilee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt,
So much was plain from what had happened since,
Misfortune on misfortune; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the height,
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all: thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whit
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty-and-under. Him she blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir,—why, tell her first
Who was he? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their gate,
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spendthrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob break shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she wrought,
Good, clearly and incontestably! Her cheat—
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion? See the girl!
A body most like—a soul too probably—
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull,
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade,
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome chance?
Well then, she had caught up this castaway:
This fragile egg, some careless wild bird dropped,
She had picked from where it waited the foot-fall,
And put in her own breast till forth broke finch
Able to sing God praise on mornings now.
What so excessive harm was done?—she asked.
To which demand the dreadful answer comes—
For that same deed, now at Lorenzo's church,
Both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie;
While she, the deed was done to benefit,
Lies also, the most lamentable of things,
Yonder where curious people count her breaths,
Calculate how long yet the little life
Unspilt may serve their turn nor spoil the show,
Give them their story, then the church its group.
Well, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
I' the midst of Pietro here, Violante there,
Each, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
Joining the other round her preciousness—
Two walls that go about a garden-plot
Where a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
Of some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Filched by two exiles and borne far away.
Patiently glorifies their solitude,—
Year by year mounting, grade by grade surmount
The builded brick-work, yet is compassed still,
Still hidden happily and shielded safe,—
Else why should miracle have graced the ground?
But on the twelfth sun that brought April there
What meant that laugh? The coping-stone was reached;
Nay, above towered a light tuft of bloom
To be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
Done good to or else harm to from outside:
Pompilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
Home enclosed still, the rest would be the world's.
All which was taught our couple though obtuse,
Since walls have ears, when one day brought a priest,
Smooth-mannered soft-speeched sleek-cheeked visitor,
The notable Abate Paolo—known
As younger brother of a Tuscan house
Whereof the actual representative,
Count Guido, had employed his youth and age
In culture of Rome's most productive plant—
A cardinal: but years pass and change comes,
In token of which, here was our Paolo brought
To broach a weighty business. Might he speak?
Yes—to Violante somehow caught alone
While Pietro took his after-dinner doze,
And the young maiden, busily as befits,
Minded her broider-frame three chambers off.
So—giving now his great flap-hat a gloss
With flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing now
The silk from out its creases o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again,
But never disengaging, once engaged,
The thin clear grey hold of his eyes on her—
He dissertated on that Tuscan house,
Those Franceschini,—very old they were—
Not rich however—oh, not rich, at least,
As people look to be who, low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all they can
By favour of the money-bag! 't is fair—
Do all gifts go together? But don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor!
Say rather, well enough—i' the way, indeed,
Ha, ha, to fortune better than the best:
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith,
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps warm,
Would but the Count have patience—there's the point!
For he was slipping into years apace,
And years make men restless—they needs must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured,
Some sparkle, tho' from topmost beacon-tip,
That warrants life a harbour through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Guido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces,—fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Go fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say, 't was the wiser wish: the Count
Proved wanting in ambition,—let us avouch,
Since truth is best,—in callousness of heart,
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honours hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture: his—no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed)
Humble but self-sustaining, calm and cold,
Having, as one who puts his hand to the plough,
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel—
Poor brother Guido! All too plain, he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dinginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a quarry and, very like, as bare—
Since to this comes old grandeur now-a-days—
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hill side, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vittiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear drum ache: nought else would serve
But that, to light his mother's visage up
With second youth, hope, gaiety again,
He must find straightway, woo and haply win
And bear away triumphant back, some wife.
Well now, the man was rational in his way:
He, the Abate,—ought he to interpose?
Unless by straining still his tutelage
(Priesthood leaps over elder-brothership)
Across this difficulty: then let go,
Leave the poor fellow in peace! Would that be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,
Spite of himself: then happy be his dole!
Indeed, the Abate's little interest
Was somewhat nearly touched i' the case, they saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent,
Began his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
Full soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phoenix' tail,
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome,—no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass!
The first name-pecking credit-scratching fowl
Would drop her unfledged cuckoo in our nest
To gather greyness there, give voice at length
And shame the brood … but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth!
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame—having our own:
No worldly aggrandizement—such we fly:
But if some wonder of a woman's-heart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth,
Tender and true—tradition tells of such—
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours—
If some good girl (a girl, since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthy (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand,—
There were the lady-love predestinate!
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye—
Scintillant, rutilant, fraternal fire,—
Roving round every way had seized the prize
—The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty!
Come, cards on table; was it true or false
That here—here in this very tenement—
Yea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed thro' the sheath that saved it from the sun?
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guido's house and hand and heart?
He came to see; had spoken, he could no less—
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm were,—well, the matter was off his mind.
Then with the great air did he kiss, devout,
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly,—as if the Pope came next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile,
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their tree-top-tuft of bloom above the wall,
And came now to apprize them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine,
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck,
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with—
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn,
Look very wise, a little woeful too,
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand,
Sally forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps,
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlers lounge,—
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be,
And have congratulation from the world.
Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-face
And told him Hercules was just the heir
To the stubble once a corn-field, and brick-heap
Where used to be a dwelling-place now burned.
Guido and Franceschini; a Count,—ay:
But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship? No!
All gone except sloth, pride, rapacity,
Humours of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin,—nursed to a head
By the rankly-salted soil—a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs,
He had hung on long, and now, let go, said some,
Shaken off, said others,—but in any case
Tired of the trade and something worse for wear,
Was wanting to change town for country quick,
Go home again: let Pietro help him home!
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse,
Had pricked for comfortable quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and fattened so;
But Guido, over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slimness, starved outside,
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was this!
What, was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked,
The little provision for his old age snuffed?
"Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list,
"But have more mercy on our wit than vaunt
"Your bargain as we burgesses who brag!
"Why, Goodman Dullard, if a friend must speak,
"Would the Count, think you, stoop to you and yours
"Were there the value of one penny-piece
"To rattle 'twixt his palms—or likelier laugh,
"Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe?"
Home again, shaking oft the puzzled pate,
Went Pietro to announce a change indeed,
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort,—the taper, quenched so soon,
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink—
Congratulate there was one hope the less
Not misery the more: and so an end.
The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his fate,
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow:
Violante wiped away the transient tear,
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams,
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagaciousness,
Found neighbours' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips' malice, fairly wrapped herself
In her integrity three folds about,
And, letting pass a little day or two,
Threw, even over that integrity,
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil
That hid her, matron-wise, from head to foot,
And, by the hand holding a girl veiled too,
Stood, one dim end of a December day,
In Saint Lorenzo on the altar-step—
Just where she lies now and that girl will lie—
Only with fifty candles' company
Now, in the place of the poor winking one
Which saw,—doors shut and sacristan made sure,—
A priest—perhaps Abate Paolo—wed
Guido clandestinely, irrevocably
To his Pompilia aged thirteen years
And five months,—witness the church register,—
Pompilia, (thus become Count Guido's wife
Clandestinely, irrevocably his,)
Who all the while had borne, from first to last,
As brisk a part i' the bargain, as yon lamb,
Brought forth from basket and set out for sale,
Bears while they chaffer, wary market-man
And voluble housewife, o'er it,—each in turn
Patting the curly calm inconscious head,
With the shambles ready round the corner there,
When the talk's talked out and a bargain struck.
Transfer complete, why, Pietro was apprised.
Violante sobbed the sobs and prayed the prayers
And said the serpent tempted so she fell,
Till Pietro had to clear his brow apace
And make the best of matters: wrath at first,—
How else? pacification presently,
Why not?—could flesh withstand the impurpled one,
The very Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend?
Who, justifiably surnamed "a hinge,"
Knew where the mollifying oil should drop
To cure the creak o' the valve,—considerate
For frailty, patient in a naughty world.
He even volunteered to supervise
The rough draught of those marriage-articles
Signed in a hurry by Pietro, since revoked:
Trust's politic, suspicion does the harm,
There is but one way to brow-beat this world,
Dumb-founder doubt, and repay scorn in kind,—
To go on trusting, namely, till faith move
And faith here made the mountains move.
Why, friends whose zeal cried "Caution ere too late!"—
Bade "Pause ere jump, with both feet joined, on slough!"—
Counselled "If rashness then, now temperance!"—
Heard for their pains that Pietro had closed eyes,
Jumped and was in the middle of the mire,
Money and all, just what should sink a man.
By the mere marriage, Guido gained forthwith
Dowry, his wife's right; no rescinding there:
But Pietro, why must he needs ratify
One gift Violante gave, pay down one doit
Promised in first fool's-flurry? Grasp the bag
Lest the son's service flag,—is reason and rhyme,
Above all when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind! The parents cast their lot
Into the lap o' the daughter: and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Pietro's whole having and holding, house and field,
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favour of Guido. As for the usufruct—
The interest now, the principal anon,
Would Guido please to wait, at Pietro's death:
Till when, he must support the couple's charge,
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries, pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at discretion deal them orts,
Bread-bounty in Arezzo the strange place,—
They who had lived deliciously and rolled
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, "jump" bade the Cardinal!
And neck-deep in a minute there flounced they.
But they touched bottom at Arezzo: there—
Four months' experience of how craft and greed
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutify and bestialize,—
Four months' taste of apportioned insolence,
Cruelty graduated, dose by dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board,
And lo, the work was done, success clapped hands.
The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stupid dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose,
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skin at least:
Left Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is,
And, careless what came after, carried their wrongs
To Rome,—I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise,
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence,
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.
Pietro went back to beg from door to door,
In hope that memory not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance—after the natural laugh,
And tributary "Just as we foretold—"
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was,
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante: ever a-head i' the march,
Quick at the bye-road and the cut-across,
She went first to the best adviser, God—
Whose finger unmistakably was felt
In all this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie!
But here too was what Holy Year would help,
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin
Impossible and supposed for Jubilee' sake:
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
"I will" said she "go burn out this bad hole
"That breeds the scorpion, baulk the plague at least
"Of hope to further plague by progeny:
"I will confess my fault, be punished, yes,
"But pardoned too: Saint Peter pays for all."
So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the dome,
Through the great door new-broken for the nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up the left nave to the formidable throne,
Fell into file with this the poisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
The poor repugnant Penitentiary
Set at this gully-hole o' the world's discharge
To help the frightfullest of filth have vent,
And then knelt down and whispered in his ear
How she had bought Pompilia, palmed the babe
On Pietro, passed the girl off as their child
To Guido, and defrauded of his due
This one and that one,—more than she could name,
Until her solid piece of wickedness
Happened to split and spread woe far and wide:
Contritely now she brought the case for cure.
Replied the throne—"Ere God forgive the guilt,
"Make man some restitution! Do your part!
"The owners of your husband's heritage,
"Barred thence by this pretended birth and heir,—
"Tell them, the bar came so, is broken so,
"Theirs be the due reversion as before!
"Your husband who, no partner in the guilt,
"Suffers the penalty, led blindfold thus
"By love of what he thought his flesh and blood
"To alienate his all in her behalf,—
"Tell him too such contract is null and void!
"Last, he who personates your son-in-law,
"Who with sealed eyes and stopped ears, tame and mute,
"Took at your hand that bastard of a whore
"You called your daughter and he calls his wife,—
"Tell him, and bear the anger which is just!
"Then, penance so performed, may pardon be!"
Who could gainsay this just and right award?
Nobody in the world: but, out o' the world,
Who knows?—might timid intervention be
From any makeshift of an angel-guide,
Substitute for celestial guardianship,
Pretending to take care of the girl's self:
"Woman, confessing crime is healthy work,
"And telling truth relieves a liar like you,
"But how of my quite unconsidered charge?
"No thought if, while this good befalls yourself,
"Aught in the way of harm may find out her?"
No least thought, I assure you: truth being truth,
Tell it and shame the devil!
Said and done:
Home went Violante, disbosomed all:
And Pietro who, six months before, had borne
Word after word of such a piece of news
Like so much cold steel inched through his breastblade,
Now at its entry gave a leap for joy
As who—what did I say of one in a quag?—
Should catch a hand from heaven and spring thereby
Out of the mud, on ten toes stand once more.
"What? All that used to be, may be again?
"My money mine again, my house, my land,
"My chairs and tables, all mine evermore?
"What, the girl's dowry never was the girl's,
"And, unpaid yet, is never now to pay?
"Then the girl's self, my pale Pompilia child
"That used to be my own with her great eyes—
"He who drove us forth, why should he keep her
"When proved as very a pauper as himself?
"Will she come back, with nothing changed at all,
"And laugh 'But how you dreamed uneasily!
"'I saw the great drops stand here on your brow—
"'Did I do wrong to wake you with a kiss?'
"No, indeed, darling! No, for wide awake
"I see another outburst of surprise:
"The lout-lord, bully-beggar, braggart-sneak,
"Who not content with cutting purse, crops ear—
"Assuredly it shall be salve to mine
"When this great news red-letters him, the rogue!
"Ay, let him taste the teeth o' the trap, this fox,
"Give us our lamb back, golden fleece and all,
"Let her creep in and warm our breasts again!
"Why care for the past? We three are our old selves,
"And know now what the outside world is worth."
And so, he carried case before the courts;
And there Violante, blushing to the bone,
Made public declaration of her fault,
Renounced her motherhood, and prayed the law
To interpose, frustrate of its effect
Her folly, and redress the injury done.
Whereof was the disastrous consequence,
That though indisputably clear the case
(For thirteen years are not so large a lapse,
And still six witnesses survived in Rome
To prove the truth o' the tale)—yet, patent wrong
Seemed Guido's; the first cheat had chanced on him:
Here was the pity that, deciding right,
Those who began the wrong would gain the prize.
Guido pronounced the story one long lie
Lied to do robbery and take revenge:
Or say it were no lie at all but truth,
Then, it both robbed the right heirs and shamed him
Without revenge to humanize the deed:
What had he done when first they shamed him thus?
But that were too fantastic: losels they,
And leasing this world's-wonder of a lie,
They lied to blot him though it brand themselves.
So answered Guido through the Abate's mouth.
Wherefore the court, its customary way,
Inclined to the middle course the sage affect.
They held the child to be a changeling,—good:
But, lest the husband got no good thereby,
They willed the dowry, though not hers at all,
Should yet be his, if not by right then grace—
Part-payment for the plain injustice done.
As for that other contract, Pietro's work,
Renunciation of his own estate,
That must be cancelled—give him back his gifts,
He was no party to the cheat at least!
So ran the judgment:—whence a prompt appeal
On both sides, seeing right is absolute.
Cried Pietro "Is the child no child of mine?
"Why give her a child's dowry?"—"Have I right
"To the dowry, why not to the rest as well?"
Cried Guido, or cried Paolo in his name:
Till law said "Reinvestigate the case!"
And so the matter pends, to this same day.
Hence new disaster—here no outlet seemed;
Whatever the fortune of the battle-field,
No path whereby the fatal man might march
Victorious, wreath on head and spoils in hand,
And back turned full upon the baffled foe,—
Nor cranny whence, desperate and disgraced,
Stripped to the skin, he might be fain to crawl
Worm-like, and so away with his defeat
To other fortune and a novel prey.
No, he was pinned to the place there, left alone
With his immense hate and, the solitary
Subject to satisfy that hate, his wife.
"Cast her off? Turn her naked out of doors?
"Easily said! But still the action pends,
"Still dowry, principal and interest,
"Pietro's possessions, all I bargained for,—
"Any good day, be but my friends alert,
"May give them me if she continue mine.
"Yet, keep her? Keep the puppet of my foes—
"Her voice that lisps me back their curse—her eye
"They lend their leer of triumph to—her lip
"I touch and taste their very filth upon?"
In short, he also took the middle course
Rome taught him—did at last excogitate
How he might keep the good and leave the bad
Twined in revenge, yet extricable,—nay
Make the very hate's eruption, very rush
Of the unpent sluice of cruelty relieve
His heart first, then go fertilize his field.
What if the girl-wife, tortured with due care,
Should take, as though spontaneously, the road
It were impolitic to thrust her on?
If, goaded, she broke out in full revolt,
Followed her parents i' the face o' the world,
Branded as runaway not castaway,
Self-sentenced and self-punished in the act?
So should the loathed form and detested face
Launch themselves into hell and there be lost
While he looked o'er the brink with folded arms;
So should the heaped-up shames go shuddering back
O' the head o' the heapers, Pietro and his wife,
And bury in the breakage three at once:
While Guido, left free, no one right renounced,
Gain present, gain prospective, all the gain,
None of the wife except her rights absorbed,
Should ask law what it was law paused about—
If law were dubious still whose word to take,
The husband's—dignified and derelict,
Or the wife's—the … what I tell you. It should be.
Guido's first step was to take pen, indite
A letter to the Abate,—not his own,
His wife's,—she should re-write, sign, seal and send.
She liberally told the household-news,
Rejoiced her vile progenitors were gone,
Revealed their malice—how they even laid
A last injunction on her, when they fled,
That she should forthwith find a paramour,
Complot with him to gather spoil enough,
Then burn the house down,—taking previous care
To poison all its inmates overnight,—
And so companioned, so provisioned too,
Follow to Rome and there join fortunes gay.
This letter, traced in pencil-characters,
Guido as easily got re-traced in ink
By his wife's pen, guided from end to end,
As if it had been just so much Chinese.
For why? That wife could broider, sing perhaps,
Pray certainly, but no more read than write
This letter "which yet write she must," he said,
"Being half courtesy and compliment,
"Half sisterliness: take the thing on trust!"
She had as readily re-traced the words
Of her own death-warrant,—in some sort 't was so.
This letter the Abate in due course
Communicated to such curious souls
In Rome as needs must pry into the cause
Of quarrel, why the Comparini fled
The Franceschini, whence the grievance grew,
What the hubbub meant: "Nay,—see the wife's own word,
"Authentic answer! Tell detractors too
"There's a plan formed, a programme figured here
"—Pray God no after-practice put to proof,
"This letter cast no light upon, one day!"
So much for what should work in Rome: back now
To Arezzo, follow up the project there,
Forward the next step with as bold a foot,
And plague Pompilia to the height, you see!
Accordingly did Guido set himself
To worry up and down, across, around,
The woman, hemmed in by her household-bars,—
Chase her about the coop of daily life,
Having first stopped each outlet thence save one
Which, like bird with a ferret in her haunt,
She needs must seize as sole way of escape
Though there was tied and twittering a decoy
To seem as if it tempted,—just the plume
O' the popinjay, not a real respite there
From tooth and claw of something in the dark,—
The tenebrific passage of the tale:
How hold a light, display the cavern's gorge?
How, in this phase of the affair, show truth?
Here is the dying wife who smiles and says
"So it was,—so it was not,—how it was,
"I never knew nor ever care to know—"
Till they all weep, physician, man of law,
Even that poor old bit of battered brass
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins,
Common utensil of the lazar-house—
Confessor Celestino groans "'T is truth,
"All truth and only truth: there's something here,
"Some presence in the room beside us all,
"Something that every lie expires before:
"No question she was pure from first to last."
So far is well and helps us to believe:
But beyond, she the helpless, simple-sweet
Or silly-sooth, unskilled to break one blow
At her good fame by putting finger forth,—
How can she render service to the truth?
The bird says "So I fluttered where a springe
"Caught me: the springe did not contrive itself,
"That I know: who contrived it, God forgive!"
But we, who hear no voice and have dry eyes,
Must ask,—we cannot else, absolving her,—
How of the part played by that same decoy
I' the catching, caging? Was himself caught first?
We deal here with no innocent at least,
No witless victim,—he's a man of the age
And priest beside,—persuade the mocking world
Mere charity boiled over in this sort!
He whose own safety too,—(the Pope's apprised—
Good-natured with the secular offence,
The Pope looks grave on priesthood in a scrape)
Our priest's own safety therefore, may-be life,
Hangs on the issue! You will find it hard.
Guido is here to meet you with fixed foot,
Stiff like a statue—"Leave what went before!
"My wife fled i' the company of a priest,
"Spent two days and two nights alone with him:
"Leave what came after!" He stands hard to throw
Moreover priests are merely flesh and blood;
When we get weakness, and no guilt beside,
'Tis no such great ill-fortune: finding grey,
We gladly call that white which might be black,
Too used to the double-dye. So, if the priest
Moved by Pompilia's youth and beauty, gave
Way to the natural weakness… . Anyhow
Here be facts, charactery; what they spell
Determine, and thence pick what sense you may!
There was a certain young bold handsome priest
Popular in the city, far and wide
Famed, since Arezzo's but a little place,
As the best of good companions, gay and grave
At the decent minute; settled in his stall,
Or sidling, lute on lap, by lady's couch,
Ever the courtly Canon; see in him
A proper star to climb and culminate,
Have its due handbreadth of the heaven at Rome,
Though meanwhile pausing on Arezzo's edge,
As modest candle does 'mid mountain fog,
To rub off redness and rusticity
Ere it sweep chastened, gain the silver-sphere!
Whether through Guido's absence or what else,
This Caponsacchi, favourite of the town,
Was yet no friend of his nor free o' the house,
Though both moved in the regular magnates' march:
Each must observe the other's tread and halt
At church, saloon, theatre, house of play.
Who could help noticing the husband's slouch,
The black of his brow—or miss the news that buzzed
Of how the little solitary wife
Wept and looked out of window all day long?
What need of minute search into such springs
As start men, set o' the move?—machinery
Old as earth, obvious as the noonday sun.
Why, take men as they come,—an instance now,—
Of all those who have simply gone to see
Pompilia on her deathbed since four days,
Half at the least are, call it how you please,
In love with her—I don't except the priests
Nor even the old confessor whose eyes run
Over at what he styles his sister's voice
Who died so early and weaned him from the world.
Well, had they viewed her ere the paleness pushed
The last o' the red o' the rose away, while yet
Some hand, adventurous 'twixt the wind and her,
Might let shy life run back and raise the flower
Rich with reward up to the guardian's face,—
Would they have kept that hand employed all day
At fumbling on with prayer-book pages? No!
Men are men: why then need I say one word
More than that our mere man the Canon here
Saw, pitied, loved Pompilia?
This is why;
This startling why: that Caponsacchi's self—
Whom foes and friends alike avouch, for good
Or ill, a man of truth whate'er betide,
Intrepid altogether, reckless too
How his own fame and fortune, tossed to the winds,
Suffer by any turn the adventure take,
Nay, more—not thrusting, like a badge to hide,
'Twixt shirt and skin a joy which shown is shame—
But flirting flag-like i' the face o' the world
This tell-tale kerchief, this conspicuous love
For the lady,—oh, called innocent love, I know!
Only, such scarlet fiery innocence
As most folk would try muffle up in shade,—
—'T is strange then that this else abashless mouth
Should yet maintain, for truth's sake which is God's,
That it was not he made the first advance,
That, even ere word had passed between the two,
Pompilia penned him letters, passionate prayers,
If not love, then so simulating love
That he, no novice to the taste of thyme,
Turned from such over-luscious honey-clot
At end o' the flower, and would not lend his lip
Till … but the tale here frankly outsoars faith:
There must be falsehood somewhere. For her part,
Pompilia quietly constantly avers
She never penned a letter in her life
Nor to the Canon nor any other man,
Being incompetent to write and read:
Nor had she ever uttered word to him, nor he
To her till that same evening when they met,
She on her window-terrace, he beneath
I' the public street, as was their fateful chance,
And she adjured him in the name of God
To find out, bring to pass where, when and how
Escape with him to Rome might be contrived.
Means were found, plan laid, time fixed, she avers,
And heart assured to heart in loyalty,
All at an impulse! All extemporized
As in romance-books! Is that credible?
Well, yes: as she avers this with calm mouth
Dying, I do think "Credible!" you'd cry—
Did not the priest's voice come to break the spell.
They questioned him apart, as the custom is,
When first the matter made a noise at Rome,
And he, calm, constant then as she is now,
For truth's sake did assert and re-assert
Those letters called him to her and he came,
—Which damns the story credible otherwise.
Why should this man,—mad to devote himself,
Careless what comes of his own fame, the first,—
Be studious thus to publish and declare
Just what the lightest nature loves to hide,
So screening lady from the byword's laugh
"First spoke the lady, last the cavalier!"
—I say,—why should the man tell truth just now
When graceful lying meets such ready shrift?
Or is there a first moment for a priest
As for a woman, when invaded shame
Must have its first and last excuse to show?
Do both contrive love's entry in the mind
Shall look, i' the manner of it, a surprise,—
That after, once the flag o' the fort hauled down,
Effrontery may sink drawbridge, open gate,
Welcome and entertain the conqueror?
Or what do you say to a touch of the devil's worst?
Can it be that the husband, he who wrote
The letter to his brother I told you of,
I' the name of her it meant to criminate,—
What if he wrote those letters to the priest?
Further the priest says, when it first befell,
This folly o' the letters, that he checked the flow,
Put them back lightly each with its reply.
Here again vexes new discrepancy:
There never reached her eye a word from him:
He did write but she could not read—could just
Burn the offence to wifehood, womanhood,
So did burn: never bade him come to her,
Yet when it proved he must come, let him come,
And when he did come though uncalled,—why, spoke
Prompt by an inspiration: thus it chanced.
Will you go somewhat back to understand?
When first, pursuant to his plan, there sprang,
Like an uncaged beast, Guido's cruelty
On soul and body of his wife, she cried
To those whom law appoints resource for such,
The secular guardian,—that's the Governor,
And the Archbishop,—that's the spiritual guide,
And prayed them take the claws from out her flesh.
Now, this is ever the ill consequence
Of being noble, poor and difficult,
Ungainly, yet too great to disregard,—
This—that born peers and friends hereditary,—
Though disinclined to help from their own store
The opprobrious wight, put penny in his poke
From private purse or leave the door ajar
When he goes wistful by at dinner-time,—
Yet, if his needs conduct him where they sit
Smugly in office, judge this, bishop that,
Dispensers of the shine and shade o' the place—
And if, friend's door shut and friend's purse undrawn,
Still potentates may find the office-seat
Do as good service at no cost—give help
By-the-bye, pay up traditional dues at once
Just through a feather-weight too much i' the scale,
Or finger-tip forgot at the balance-tongue,—
Why, only churls refuse, or Molinists.
Thus when, in the first roughness of surprise
At Guido's wolf-face whence the sheepskin fell,
The frightened couple, all bewilderment,
Rushed to the Governor,—who else rights wrong?
Told him their tale of wrong and craved redress—
Why, then the Governor woke up to the fact
That Guido was a friend of old, poor Count!—
So, promptly paid his tribute, promised the pair,
Wholesome chastisement should soon cure their qualms
Next time they came, wept, prated and told lies:
So stopped all prating, sent them dumb to Rome.
Well, now it was Pompilia's turn to try:
The troubles pressing on her, as I said,
Three times she rushed, maddened by misery,
To the other mighty man, sobbed out her prayer
At footstool of the Archbishop—fast the friend
Of her husband also! Oh, good friends of yore!
So, the Archbishop, not to be outdone
By the Governor, break custom more than he,
Thrice bade the foolish woman stop her tongue,
Unloosed her hands from harassing his gout,
Coached her and carried her to the Count again,
—His old friend should be master in his house,
Rule his wife and correct her faults at need!
Well, driven from post to pillar in this wise,
She, as a last resource, betook herself
To one, should be no family-friend at least,
A simple friar o' the city; confessed to him,
Then told how fierce temptation of release
By self-dealt death was busy with her soul,
And urged that he put this in words, write plain
For one who could not write, set down her prayer
That Pietro and Violante, parent-like
If somehow not her parents, should for love
Come save her, pluck from out the flame the brand
Themselves had thoughtlessly thrust in so deep
To send gay-coloured sparkles up and cheer
Their seat at the chimney-corner. The good friar
Promised as much at the moment; but, alack,
Night brings discretion: he was no one's friend,
Yet presently found he could not turn about
Nor take a step i' the case and fail to tread
On someone's toe who either was a friend,
Or a friend's friend, or friend's friend thrice-removed,
And woe to friar by whom offences come!
So, the course being plain,—with a general sigh
At matrimony the profound mistake,—
He threw reluctantly the business up,
Having his other penitents to mind.
If then, all outlets thus secured save one,
At last she took to the open, stood and stared
With her wan face to see where God might wait—
And there found Caponsacchi wait as well
For the precious something at perdition's edge,
He only was predestinate to save,—
And if they recognized in a critical flash
From the zenith, each the other, her need of him,
His need of … say, a woman to perish for,
The regular way o' the world, yet break no vow,
Do no harm save to himself,—if this were thus?
How do you say? It were improbable;
So is the legend of my patron-saint.
Anyhow, whether, as Guido states the case,
Pompilia,—like a starving wretch i' the street
Who stops and rifles the first passenger
In the great right of an excessive wrong,—
Did somehow call this stranger and he came,—
Or whether the strange sudden interview
Blazed as when star and star must needs go close
Till each hurts each and there is loss in heaven—
Whatever way in this strange world it was,—
Pompilia and Caponsacchi met, in fine,
She at her window, he i' the street beneath,
And understood each other at first look.
All was determined and performed at once.
And on a certain April evening, late
I' the month, this girl of sixteen, bride and wife
Three years and over,—she who hitherto
Had never taken twenty steps in Rome
Beyond the church, pinned to her mother's gown,
Nor, in Arezzo, knew her way through street
Except what led to the Archbishop's door,—
Such an one rose up in the dark, laid hand
On what came first, clothes and a trinket or two,
Belongings of her own in the old day,—
Stole from the side o' the sleeping spouse—who knows?
Sleeping perhaps, silent for certain,—slid
Ghost-like from great dark room to great dark room
In through the tapestries and out again
And onward, unembarrassed as a fate,
Descended staircase, gained last door of all,
Sent it wide open at first push of palm,
And there stood, first time, last and only time,
At liberty, alone in the open street,—
Unquestioned, unmolested found herself
At the city gate, by Caponsacchi's side,
Hope there, joy there, life and all good again,
The carriage there, the convoy there, light there
Broadening ever into blaze at Rome
And breaking small what long miles lay between;
Up she sprang, in he followed, they were safe.
The husband quotes this for incredible,
All of the story from first word to last:
Sees the priest's hand throughout upholding hers,
Traces his foot to the alcove, that night,
Whither and whence blindfold he knew the way,
Proficient in all craft and stealthiness;
And cites for proof a servant, eye that watched
And ear that opened to purse secrets up,
A woman-spy,—suborned to give and take
Letters and tokens, do the work of shame
The more adroitly that herself, who helped
Communion thus between a tainted pair,
Had long since been a leper thick in spot,
A common trull o' the town: she witnessed all,
Helped many meetings, partings, took her wage
And then told Guido the whole matter. Lies!
The woman's life confutes her word,—her word
Confutes itself: "Thus, thus and thus I lied."
"And thus, no question, still you lie," we say.
"Ay but at last, e'en have it how you will,
"Whatever the means, whatever the way, explodes
"The consummation"—the accusers shriek:
"Here is the wife avowedly found in flight,
"And the companion of her flight, a priest;
"She flies her husband, he the church his spouse:
"What is this?"
Wife and priest alike reply
"This is the simple thing it claims to be,
"A course we took for life and honour's sake,
"Very strange, very justifiable."
She says, "God put it in my head to fly,
"As when the martin migrates: autumn claps
"Her hands, cries 'Winter's coming, will be here,
"'Off with you ere the white teeth overtake!
"'Flee!' So I fled: this friend was the warm day,
"The south wind and whatever favours flight;
"I took the favour, had the help, how else?
"And so we did fly rapidly all night,
"All day, all night—a longer night—again,
"And then another day, longest of days,
"And all the while, whether we fled or stopped,
"I scarce know how or why, one thought filled both,
"'Fly and arrive!' So long as I found strength
"I talked with my companion, told him much,
"Knowing that he knew more, knew me, knew God
"And God's disposal of me,—but the sense
"O' the blessed flight absorbed me in the main,
"And speech became mere talking through a sleep,
"Till at the end of that last longest night
"In a red daybreak, when we reached an inn
"And my companion whispered 'Next stage—Rome!'
"Sudden the weak flesh fell like piled-up cards,
"All the frail fabric at a finger's touch,
"And prostrate the poor soul too, and I said
"'But though Count Guido were a furlong off,
"'Just on me, I must stop and rest awhile!'
"Then something like a huge white wave o' the sea
"Broke o'er my brain and buried me in sleep
"Blessedly, till it ebbed and left me loose,
"And where was I found but on a strange bed
"In a strange room like hell, roaring with noise,
"Ruddy with flame, and filled with men, in front
"Who but the man you call my husband? ay—
"Count Guido once more between heaven and me,
"For there my heaven stood, my salvation, yes—
"That Caponsacchi all my heaven of help,
"Helpless himself, held prisoner in the hands
"Of men who looked up in my husband's face
"To take the fate thence he should signify,
"Just as the way was at Arezzo. Then,
"Not for my sake but his who had helped me—
"I sprang up, reached him with one bound, and seized
"The sword o' the felon, trembling at his side,
"Fit creature of a coward, unsheathed the thing
"And would have pinned him through the poison-bag
"To the wall and left him there to palpitate,
"As you serve scorpions, but men interposed—
"Disarmed me, gave his life to him again
"That he might take mine and the other lives,
"And he has done so. I submit myself!"
The priest says—oh, and in the main result
The facts asseverate, he truly says.
As to the very act and deed of him,
However you mistrust the mind o' the man—
The flight was just for flight's sake, no pretext
For aught except to set Pompilia free.
He says "I cite the husband's self's worst charge
"In proof of my best word for both of us.
"Be it conceded that so many times
"We took our pleasure in his palace: then,
"What need to fly at all?—or flying no less,
"What need to outrage the lips sick and white
"Of a woman, and bring ruin down beside,
"By halting when Rome lay one stage beyond?"
So does he vindicate Pompilia's fame,
Confirm her story in all points but one—
This; that, so fleeing and so breathing forth
Her last strength in the prayer to halt awhile,
She makes confusion of the reddening white
Which was the sunset when her strength gave way,
And the next sunrise and its whitening red
Which she revived in when her husband came:
She mixes both times, morn and eve, in one,
Having lived through a blank of night 'twixt each
Though dead-asleep, unaware as a corpse,
She on the bed above; her friend below
Watched in the doorway of the inn the while,
Stood i' the red o' the morn, that she mistakes,
In act to rouse and quicken the tardy crew
And hurry out the horses, have the stage
Over, the last league, reach Rome and be safe:
When up came Guido.
Guido's tale begins—
How he and his whole household, drunk to death
By some enchanted potion, poppied drugs
Plied by the wife, lay powerless in gross sleep
And left the spoilers unimpeded way,
Could not shake off their poison and pursue,
Till noontide, then made shift to get on horse
And did pursue: which means he took his time,
Pressed on no more than lingered after, step
By step, just making sure o' the fugitives,
Till at the nick of time, he saw his chance,
Seized it, came up with and surprised the pair.
How he must needs have gnawn lip and gnashed teeth,
Taking successively at tower and town,
Village and roadside, still the same report
"Yes, such a pair arrived an hour ago,
"Sat in the carriage just where now you stand,
"While we got horses ready,—turned deaf ear
"To all entreaty they would even alight;
"Counted the minutes and resumed their course."
Would they indeed escape, arrive at Rome,
Leave no least loop-hole to let murder through,
But foil him of his captured infamy,
Prize of guilt proved and perfect? So it seemed.
Till, oh the happy chance, at last stage, Rome
But two short hours off, Castelnuovo reached,
The guardian angel gave reluctant place,
Satan stepped forward with alacrity,
Pompilia's flesh and blood succumbed, perforce
A halt was, and her husband had his will.
Perdue he couched, counted out hour by hour
Till he should spy in the east a signal-streak—
Night had been, morrow was, triumph would be.
Do you see the plan deliciously complete?
The rush upon the unsuspecting sleep,
The easy execution, the outcry
Over the deed "Take notice all the world!
"These two dead bodies, locked still in embrace,—
"The man is Caponsacchi and a priest,
"The woman is my wife: they fled me late,
"Thus have I found and you behold them thus,
"And may judge me: do you approve or no?"
Success did seem not so improbable,
But that already Satan's laugh was heard,
His black back turned on Guido—left i' the lurch
Or rather, baulked of suit and service now,
Left to improve on both by one deed more,
Burn up the better at no distant day,
Body and soul one holocaust to hell.
Anyhow, of this natural consequence
Did just the last link of the long chain snap:
For an eruption was o' the priest, alive
And alert, calm, resolute and formidable,
Not the least look of fear in that broad brow—
One not to be disposed of by surprise,
And armed moreover—who had guessed as much?
Yes, there stood he in secular costume
Complete from head to heel, with sword at side,
He seemed to know the trick of perfectly.
There was no prompt suppression of the man
As he said calmly "I have saved your wife
"From death; there was no other way but this;
"Of what do I defraud you except death?
"Charge any wrong beyond, I answer it."
Guido, the valorous, had met his match,
Was forced to demand help instead of fight,
Bid the authorities o' the place lend aid
And make the best of a broken matter so.
They soon obeyed the summons—I suppose,
Apprised and ready, or not far to seek—
Laid hands on Caponsacchi, found in fault,
A priest yet flagrantly accoutred thus,—
Then, to make good Count Guido's further charge,
Proceeded, prisoner made lead the way,
In a crowd, upstairs to the chamber-door
Where wax-white, dead asleep, deep beyond dream,
As the priest laid her, lay Pompilia yet.
And as he mounted step and step with the crowd
How I see Guido taking heart again!
He knew his wife so well and the way of her—
How at the outbreak she would shroud her shame
In hell's heart, would it mercifully yawn—
How, failing that, her forehead to his foot,
She would crouch silent till the great doom fell,
Leave him triumphant with the crowd to see
Guilt motionless or writhing like a worm!
No! Second misadventure, this worm turned,
I told you: would have slain him on the spot
With his own weapon, but they seized her hands:
Leaving her tongue free, as it tolled the knell
Of Guido's hope so lively late. The past
Took quite another shape now. She who shrieked
"At least and for ever I am mine and God's,
"Thanks to his liberating angel Death—
"Never again degraded to be yours
"The ignoble noble, the unmanly man,
"The beast below the beast in brutishness!"—
This was the froward child, "the restif lamb
"Used to be cherished in his breast," he groaned—
"Eat from his hand and drink from out his cup,
"The while his fingers pushed their loving way
"Through curl on curl of that soft coat—alas,
"And she all silverly baaed gratitude
"While meditating mischief!"—and so forth.
He must invent another story now!
The ins and outs o' the rooms were searched: he found
Or showed for found the abominable prize—
Love-letters from his wife who cannot write,
Love-letters in reply o' the priest—thank God!—
Who can write and confront his character
With this, and prove the false thing forged throughout:
Spitting whereat, he needs must spatter whom
But Guido's self?—that forged and falsified
One letter called Pompilia's, past dispute:
Then why not these to make sure still more sure?
So was the case concluded then and there:
Guido preferred his charges in due form,
Called on the law to adjudicate, consigned
The accused ones to the Prefect of the place,
(Oh mouse-birth of that mountain-like revenge!)
And so to his own place betook himself
After the spring that failed,—the wildcat's way.
The captured parties were conveyed to Rome;
Investigation followed here i' the court—
Soon to review the fruit of its own work,
From then to now being eight months and no more.
Guido kept out of sight and safe at home:
The Abate, brother Paolo, helped most
At words when deeds were out of question, pushed
Nearest the purple, best played deputy,
So, pleaded, Guido's representative
At the court shall soon try Guido's self,—what's more,
The court that also took—I told you, Sir—
That statement of the couple, how a cheat
Had been i' the birth of the babe, no child of theirs.
That was the prelude; this, the play's first act:
Whereof we wait what comes, crown, close of all.
Well, the result was something of a shade
On the parties thus accused,—how otherwise?
Shade, but with shine as unmistakable.
Each had a prompt defence: Pompilia first—
"Earth was made hell to me who did no harm:
"I only could emerge one way from hell
"By catching at the one hand held me, so
"I caught at it and thereby stepped to heaven:
"If that be wrong, do with me what you will!"
Then Caponsacchi with a grave grand sweep
O' the arm as though his soul warned baseness off—
"If as a man, then much more as a priest
"I hold me bound to help weak innocence:
"If so my worldly reputation burst,
"Being the bubble it is, why, burst it may:
"Blame I can bear though not blameworthiness.
"But use your sense first, see if the miscreant proved,
"The man who tortured thus the woman, thus
"Have not both laid the trap and fixed the lure
"Over the pit should bury body and soul!
"His facts are lies: his letters are the fact—
"An infiltration flavoured with himself!
"As for the fancies—whether … what is it you say?
"The lady loves me, whether I love her
"In the forbidden sense of your surmise,—
"If, with the midday blaze of truth above,
"The unlidded eye of God awake, aware,
"You needs must pry about and trace the birth
"Of each stray beam of light may traverse night,
"To the night's sun that's Lucifer himself,
"Do so, at other time, in other place,
"Not now nor here! Enough that first to last
"I never touched her lip nor she my hand
"Nor either of us thought a thought, much less
"Spoke a word which the Virgin might not hear.
"Be such your question, thus I answer it."
Then the court had to make its mind up, spoke.
"It is a thorny question, yea, a tale
"Hard to believe, but not impossible:
"Who can be absolute for either side?
"A middle course is happily open yet.
"Here has a blot surprised the social blank,—
"Whether through favour, feebleness or fault,
"No matter, leprosy has touched our robe
"And we unclean must needs be purified.
"Here is a wife makes holiday from home,
"A priest caught playing truant to his church,
"In masquerade moreover: both allege
"Enough excuse to stop our lifted scourge
"Which else would heavily fall. On the other hand,
"Here is a husband, ay and man of mark,
"Who comes complaining here, demands redress
"As if he were the pattern of desert—
"The while those plaguy allegations frown,
"Forbid we grant him the redress he seeks.
"To all men be our moderation known!
"Rewarding none while compensating each,
"Hurting all round though harming nobody,
"Husband, wife, priest, scot-free not one shall 'scape,
"Yet priest, wife, husband, boast the unbroken head
"From application of our excellent oil:
"So that, whatever be the fact, in fine,
"We make no miss of justice in a sort.
"First, let the husband stomach as he may,
"His wife shall neither be returned him, no—
"Nor branded, whipped and caged, but just consigned
"To a convent and the quietude she craves;
"So is he rid of his domestic plague:
"What better thing can happen to a man?
"Next, let the priest retire—unshent, unshamed,
"Unpunished as for perpetrating crime,
"But relegated (not imprisoned, Sirs!)
"Sent for three years to clarify his youth
"At Civita, a rest by the way to Rome:
"There let his life skim off its last of lees
"Nor keep this dubious colour. Judged the cause:
"All parties may retire, content, we hope."
That's Rome's way, the traditional road of law;
Whither it leads is what remains to tell.
The priest went to his relegation-place,
The wife to her convent, brother Paolo
To the arms of brother Guido with the news
And this beside—his charge was countercharged;
The Comparini, his old brace of hates,
Were breathed and vigilant and venomous now—
Had shot a second bolt where the first stuck,
And followed up the pending dowry-suit
By a procedure should release the wife
From so much of the marriage-bond as barred
Escape when Guido turned the screw too much
On his wife's flesh and blood, as husband may.
No more defence, she turned and made attack,
Claimed now divorce from bed and board, in short:
Pleaded such subtle strokes of cruelty,
Such slow sure siege laid to her body and soul,
As, proved,—and proofs seemed coming thick and fast,—
Would gain both freedom and the dowry back
Even should the first suit leave them in his grasp:
So urged the Comparini for the wife.
Guido had gained not one of the good things
He grasped at by his creditable plan
O' the flight and following and the rest: the suit
That smouldered late was fanned to fury new,
This adjunct came to help with fiercer fire,
While he had got himself a quite new plague—
Found the world's face an universal grin
At this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales
Of how a young and spritely clerk devised
To carry off a spouse that moped too much,
And cured her of the vapours in a trice:
And how the husband, playing Vulcan's part,
Told by the Sun, started in hot pursuit
To catch the lovers, and came halting up,
Cast his net and then called the Gods to see
The convicts in their rosy impudence—
Whereat said Mercury "Would that I were Mars!"
Oh it was rare, and naughty all the same!
Brief, the wife's courage and cunning,—the priest's show
Of chivalry and adroitness,—last not least,
The husband—how he ne'er showed teeth at all,
Whose bark had promised biting; but just sneaked
Back to his kennel, tail 'twixt legs, as 't were,—
All this was hard to gulp down and digest.
So pays the devil his liegeman, brass for gold.
But this was at Arezzo: here in Rome
Brave Paolo bore up against it all—
Battled it out, nor wanting to himself
Nor Guido nor the House whose weight he bore
Pillar-like, by no force of arm but brain.
He knew his Rome, what wheels to set to work;
Plied influential folk, pressed to the ear
Of the efficacious purple, pushed his way
To the old Pope's self,—past decency indeed,—
Praying him take the matter in his hands
Out of the regular court's incompetence.
But times are changed and nephews out of date
And favouritism unfashionable: the Pope
Said "Render Cæsar what is Cæsar's due!"
As for the Comparini's counter-plea,
He met that by a counter-plea again,
Made Guido claim divorce—with help so far
By the trial's issue: for, why punishment
However slight unless for guiltiness
However slender?—and a molehill serves
Much as a mountain of offence this way.
So was he gathering strength on every side
And growing more and more to menace—when
All of a terrible moment came the blow
That beat down Paolo's fence, ended the play
O' the foil and brought mannaia on the stage.
Five months had passed now since Pompilia's flight,
Months spent in peace among the Convert nuns.
This,—being, as it seemed, for Guido's sake
Solely, what pride might call imprisonment
And quote as something gained, to friends at home,—
This naturally was at Guido's charge:
Grudge it he might, but penitential fare,
Prayers, preachings, who but he defrayed the cost?
So, Paolo dropped, as proxy, doit by doit
Like heart's blood, till—what's here? What notice comes?
The convent's self makes application bland
That, since Pompilia's health is fast o' the wane,
She may have leave to go combine her cure
Of soul with cure of body, mend her mind
Together with her thin arms and sunk eyes
That want fresh air outside the convent-wall,
Say in a friendly house,—and which so fit
As a certain villa in the Pauline way,
That happens to hold Pietro and his wife,
The natural guardians? "Oh, and shift the care
"You shift the cost, too; Pietro pays in turn,
"And lightens Guido of a load! And then,
"Villa or convent, two names for one thing,
"Always the sojourn means imprisonment,
"Domus pro carcere—nowise we relax,
"Nothing abate: how answers Paolo?"
What would you answer? All so smooth and fair,
Even Paul's astuteness sniffed no harm i' the world.
He authorized the transfer, saw it made
And, two months after, reaped the fruit of the same,
Having to sit down, rack his brain and find
What phrase should serve him best to notify
Our Guido that by happy providence
A son and heir, a babe was born to him
I' the villa,—go tell sympathizing friends!
Yes, such had been Pompilia's privilege:
She, when she fled, was one month gone with child,
Known to herself or unknown, either way
Availing to explain (say men of art)
The strange and passionate precipitance
Of maiden startled into motherhood
Which changes body and soul by nature's law.
So when the she-dove breeds, strange yearnings come
For the unknown shelter by undreamed-of shores,
And there is born a blood-pulse in her heart
To fight if needs be, though with flap of wing,
For the wool-flock or the fur-tuft, though a hawk
Contest the prize,—wherefore, she knows not yet.
Anyhow, thus to Guido came the news.
"I shall have quitted Rome ere you arrive
"To take the one step left,"—wrote Paolo.
Then did the winch o' the winepress of all hate,
Vanity, disappointment, grudge and greed,
Take the last turn that screws out pure revenge
With a bright bubble at the brim beside—
By an heir's birth he was assured at once
O' the main prize, all the money in dispute:
Pompilia's dowry might revert to her
Or stay with him as law's caprice should point,—
But now—now—what was Pietro's shall be hers,
What was hers shall remain her own,—if hers,
Why then,—oh, not her husband's but—her heir's!
That heir being his too, all grew his at last
By this road or by that road, since they join.
Before, why, push he Pietro out o' the world,—
The current of the money stopped, you see,
Pompilia being proved no Pietro's child:
Or let it be Pompilia's life he quenched,
Again the current of the money stopped,—
Guido debarred his rights as husband soon,
So the new process threatened;—now, the chance,
Now, the resplendent minute! Clear the earth,
Cleanse the house, let the three but disappear
A child remains, depositary of all,
That Guido may enjoy his own again,
Repair all losses by a master-stroke,
Wipe out the past, all done all left undone,
Swell the good present to best evermore,
Die into new life, which let blood baptize!
So, i' the blue of a sudden sulphur-blaze,
Both why there was one step to take at Rome,
And why he should not meet with Paolo there,
He saw—the ins and outs to the heart of hell—
And took the straight line thither swift and sure.
He rushed to Vittiano, found four sons o' the soil,
Brutes of his breeding, with one spark i' the clod
That served for a soul, the looking up to him
Or aught called Franceschini as life, death,
Heaven, hell,—lord paramount, assembled these,
Harangued, equipped, instructed, pressed each clod
With his will's imprint; then took horse, plied spur,
And so arrived, all five of them, at Rome
On Christmas-Eve, and forthwith found themselves
Installed i' the vacancy and solitude
Left them by Paolo, the considerate man
Who, good as his word, had disappeared at once
As if to leave the stage free. A whole week
Did Guido spend in study of his part,
Then played it fearless of a failure. One,
Struck the year's clock whereof the hours are days,
And off was rung o' the little wheels the chime
"Good will on earth and peace to man:" but, two,
Proceeded the same bell and, evening come,
The dreadful five felt finger-wise their way
Across the town by blind cuts and black turns
To the little lone suburban villa; knocked—
"Who may be outside?" called a well-known voice.
"A friend of Caponsacchi's bringing friends
That's a test, the excusers say:
Ay, and a test conclusive, I return.
What? Had that name brought touch of guilt or taste
Of fear with it, aught to dash the present joy
With memory of the sorrow just at end,—
She, happy in her parents' arms at length
With the new blessing of the two weeks' babe,—
How had that name's announcement moved the wife?
Or, as the other slanders circulate,
Were Caponsacchi no rare visitant
On nights and days whither safe harbour lured,
What bait had been i' the name to ope the door?
The promise of a letter? Stealthy guests
Have secret watchwords, private entrances:
The man's own self might have been found inside
And all the scheme made frustrate by a word.
No: but since Guido knew, none knew so well,
The man had never since returned to Rome
Nor seen the wife's face more than villa's front,
So, could not be at hand to warn or save,-
For that, he took this sure way to the end.
"Come in," bade poor Violante cheerfully,
Drawing the door-bolt: that death was the first,
Stabbed through and through. Pietro, close on her heels,
Set up a cry—"Let me confess myself!
"Grant but confession!" Cold steel was the grant.
Then came Pompilia's turn.
Then they escaped.
The noise o' the slaughter roused the neighbourhood.
They had forgotten just the one thing more
Which saves i' the circumstance, the ticket to-wit
Which puts post-horses at a traveller's use:
So, all on foot, desperate through the dark
Reeled they like drunkards along open road,
Accomplished a prodigious twenty miles
Homeward, and gained Baccano very near,
Stumbled at last, deaf, dumb, blind through the feat,
Into a grange and, one dead heap, slept there
Till the pursuers hard upon their trace
Reached them and took them, red from head to heel,
And brought them to the prison where they lie.
The couple were laid i' the church two days ago,
And the wife lives yet by miracle.
All is told.
You hardly need ask what Count Guido says,
Since something he must say. "I own the deed—"
(He cannot choose,—but—) "I declare the same
"Just and inevitable,—since no way else
"Was left me, but by this of taking life,
"To save my honour which is more than life.
"I exercised a husband's rights." To which
The answer is as prompt—"There was no fault
"In any one o' the three to punish thus:
"Neither i' the wife, who kept all faith to you,
"Nor in the parents, whom yourself first duped,
"Robbed and maltreated, then turned out of doors.
"You wronged and they endured wrong; yours the fault.
"Next, had endurance overpassed the mark
"And turned resentment needing remedy,—
"Nay, put the absurd impossible case, for once—
"You were all blameless of the blame alleged
"And they blameworthy where you fix all blame,
"Still, why this violation of the law?
"Yourself elected law should take its course,
"Avenge wrong, or show vengeance not your right;
"Why, only when the balance in law's hand
"Trembles against you and inclines the way
"O' the other party, do you make protest,
"Renounce arbitrament, flying out of court,
"And crying 'Honour's hurt the sword must cure'?
"Aha, and so i' the middle of each suit
"Trying i' the courts,—and you had three in play
"With an appeal to the Pope's self beside,—
"What, you may chop and change and right your wrongs
"Leaving the law to lag as she thinks fit?"
That were too temptingly commodious, Count!
One would have still a remedy in reserve
Should reach the safest oldest sinner, you see!
One's honour forsooth? Does that take hurt alone
From the extreme outrage? I who have no wife,
Being yet sensitive in my degree
As Guido,—must discover hurt elsewhere
Which, half compounded-for in days gone by,
May profitably break out now afresh,
Need cure from my own expeditious hands.
The lie that was, as it were, imputed me
When you objected to my contract's clause,—
The theft as good as, one may say, alleged,
When you, co-heir in a will, excepted, Sir,
To my administration of effects,
—Aha, do you think law disposed of these?
My honour's touched and shall deal death around!
Count, that were too commodious, I repeat!
If any law be imperative on us all,
Of all are you the enemy: out with you
From the common light and air and life of man!
Cold Wind Waits
though the frost is gone, the
cold wind waits.
the robin sings while the
cold wind waits.
a gentle breeze
now blows the wheat,
but a threat of rain
will change to sleet.
the summer slips and the
cold wind waits.
though the warm wind blows, the
cold wind waits.
the traffic crawls while the
cold wind waits.
it's dark too early,
winter too soon,
light of the sun
will change to moon.
the weather turns and the
cold wind waits.
Sonnet: The Wind
What shakes the trees so violently? ’Tis Wind;
What moves the clouds hither/ thither? ’Tis Wind;
What takes the tornado around? ’Tis Wind;
What brings the sandstorm on the earth? ’Tis Wind.
What makes the cool and gentle breeze? ’Tis Wind
What makes the boughs and leaves to dance? ’Tis Wind;
What makes the autumn leaves to fall? ’Tis Wind;
What makes the honey-bees to fly? ’Tis Wind.
What makes pollen reach in showers? ’Tis Wind;
What makes the dust to climb towers? ’Tis Wind;
What spreads the perfume of flowers? ’Tis Wind;
What makes the rain-clouds advance far? ’Tis Wind.
What makes the Wind to blow? ’Tis God;
What makes a Tempest stop? ’ Tis our Lord.
I Am Imperfection
I am a shadow
and a figure in the sun.
I am nothing but the distant echo
of a fallen empire.
I am a mountain stream,
rushing to the ground.
I am a foreign book,
tattered and worn.
I am Ignorance.
I am a puppy searching for its mother,
something it will never see.
I am the full moon,
pulling out the werewolves and oceans.
I am a shattered mirror,
abandoned in the dust.
I am a burned caterpillar,
never to become a butterfly.
I am the last snowflake to melt.
I am the wind,
moving voices and people as I pass.
I am a tree in the fall,
losing what keeps me warm.
I am the crumpled Joker in a deck of cards.
I am Hatred.
I am Love.
I am a falling star, shining for only a moment
and plummeting into the darkness.
I am a blood-stained photo,
torn from the scrapbook of Life.
I am a butterfly with one wing,
left in the ashes to die.
I am the puppet master,
held up by the strings of Fear.
I am Nothing.
Before the Mirror
WHITE ROSE in red rose-garden
Is not so white;
Snowdrops that plead for pardon
And pine for fright
Because the hard East blows
Over their maiden rows
Grow not as this face grows from pale to bright.
Behind the veil, forbidden,
Shut up from sight,
Love, is there sorrow hidden,
Is there delight?
Is joy thy dower or grief,
White rose of weary leaf,
Late rose whose life is brief, whose loves are light?
Soft snows that hard winds harden
Till each flake bite
Fill all the flowerless garden
Whose flowers took flight
Long since when summer ceased,
And men rose up from feast,
And warm west wind grew east, and warm day night.
“Come snow, come wind or thunder
High up in air,
I watch my face, and wonder
At my bright hair;
Nought else exalts or grieves
The rose at heart, that heaves
With love of her own leaves and lips that pair.
“She knows not loves that kissed her
She knows not where.
Art thou the ghost, my sister,
White sister there,
Am I the ghost, who knows?
My hand, a fallen rose,
Lies snow-white on white snows, and takes no care.
“I cannot see what pleasures
Or what pains were;
What pale new loves and treasures
New years will bear;
What beam will fall, what shower,
What grief or joy for dower;
But one thing knows the flower; the flower is fair.”
Glad, but not flushed with gladness,
Since joys go by;
Sad, but not bent with sadness,
Since sorrows die;
Deep in the gleaming glass
She sees all past things pass,
And all sweet life that was lie down and lie.
There glowing ghosts of flowers
Draw down, draw nigh;
And wings of swift spent hours
Take flight and fly;
She sees by formless gleams,
She hears across cold streams,
Dead mouths of many dreams that sing and sigh.
Face fallen and white throat lifted,
With sleepless eye
She sees old loves that drifted,
She knew not why,
Old loves and faded fears
Float down a stream that hears
The flowing of all men’s tears beneath the sky.
Builders of Ruins
We build with strength and deep tower wall
That shall be shattered thus and thus.
And fair and great are court and hall,
But how fair--this is not for us,
Who know the lack that lurks in all.
We know, we know how all too bright
The hues are that our painting wears,
And how the marble gleams too white;--
We speak in unknown tongues, the years
Interpret everything aright,
And crown with weeds our pride of towers,
And warm our marble through with sun,
And break our pavements through with flowers,
With an Amen when all is done,
Knowing these perfect things of ours.
O days, we ponder, left alone,
Like children in their lonely hour,
And in our secrets keep your own,
As seeds the color of the flower.
To-day they are not all unknown,
The stars that 'twixt the rise and fall,
Like relic-seers, shall one by one
Stand musing o'er our empty hall;
And setting moons shall brood upon
The frscoes of our inward wall.
And when some midsummer shall be,
Hither shall come some little one
(Dusty with bloom of flowers is he),
Sit on a ruin i' the late long sun,
And think, one foot upon his knee.
And where they wrought, these lives of ours,
So many-worded, many-souled,
A north-west wind will take the towers,
And dark with color, sunny and cold,
Will range alone among the flowers.
And here or there, at our desire,
The little clamorous owl shall sit,
Through her still time, and we aspire
To make a law (and know not it)
Unto the life of a wild briar.
Our purpose is distinct and dear,
Though from our open eyes 'tis hidden,
Thou, time to come, shall make it clear,
Undoing our work; we are children chidden
With pity and smiles of many a year.
We shall allot the praise, and guess
What part is yours and what is ours?--
O years that certainly will bless
Our flowers with fruits, our seeds with flowers,
With ruin all our perfectness.
Be patient, Time, of our delays,
Too happy hopes, and wasted fears,
Our faithful ways, our wilful ways;
Solace our labors, O our seers
The seasons, and our bards the days;
And make our pause and silence brim
With the shrill children's play, and sweets
Of those pathetic flowers and dim,
Of those eternal flowers my Keats,
Dying, felt growing over him!
Come away! come away! there’s a frost along the marshes,
And a frozen wind that skims the shoal where it shakes the dead black water;
There’s a moan across the lowland and a wailing through the woodland
Of a dirge that sings to send us back to the arms of those that love us.
There is nothing left but ashes now where the crimson chills of autumn
Put off the summer’s languor with a touch that made us glad
For the glory that is gone from us, with a flight we cannot follow,
To the slopes of other valleys and the sounds of other shores.
Come away! come away! you can hear them calling, calling,
Calling us to come to them, and roam no more.
Over there beyond the ridges and the land that lies between us,
There’s an old song calling us to come!
Come away! come away!—for the scenes we leave behind us
Are barren for the lights of home and a flame that’s young forever;
And the lonely trees around us creak the warning of the night-wind,
That love and all the dreams of love are away beyond the mountains.
The songs that call for us to-night, they have called for men before us,
And the winds that blow the message, they have blown ten thousand years;
But this will end our wander-time, for we know the joy that waits us
In the strangeness of home-coming, and a woman’s waiting eyes.
Come away! come away! there is nothing now to cheer us—
Nothing now to comfort us, but love’s road home:—
Over there beyond the darkness there’s a window gleams to greet us,
And a warm hearth waits for us within.
Come away! come away!—or the roving-fiend will hold us,
And make us all to dwell with him to the end of human faring:
There are no men yet may leave him when his hands are clutched upon them,
There are none will own his enmity, there are none will call him brother.
So we’ll be up and on the way, and the less we boast the better
For the freedom that God gave us and the dread we do not know:—
The frost that skips the willow-leaf will again be back to blight it,
And the doom we cannot fly from is the doom we do not see.
Come away! come away! there are dead men all around us—
Frozen men that mock us with a wild, hard laugh
That shrieks and sinks and whimpers in the shrill November rushes,
And the long fall wind on the lake.
I’m country child, spurn town defiled, pollution makes me wild.
When Spring’s waft breeze soft tickles trees, from beaten tracks I keep,
with heart beguiled by creatures wild, through woodland dim and deep
my way make mid the forest hid with self am reconciled.
From city guil[e]d, souls’ stress, soles riled, I’ve strayed, at peace abide
with sun and shade on woodland glade, in valley, mountain steep,
delight each sense with joy intense, - a harvest rich to reap
from Spring which rings till Autumn brings its fruits by bushels piled.
I fly with bee from tree to tree’s bright blossom pink and white.
No cities know pure streams, dawn’s glow, air fresh and fragrant where
there is no smoke, where folk won’t yoke each other to despair.
Suburban spite, skyscrapers’ height, can’t quite convince as right.
Imagine plight of elf or sprite confined too tight! Maid, knight
stroll hand in hand through leafy land in freedom everywhere,
no asking why, nor spoke reply, we’d need, nor seek, nor care,
for spirit mild of open child soars through delight, finds flight.
Love’s love’s invite, both greet the light when dawn’s first flush is born
with badger, bird, with lowing herd, we’d sit and stare, take time,
no clocks absurd, no siren whirred, should compromise love’s rhyme,
so haste with me to taste joys free, no more to fee in pawn.
Lets brave the wind with hair unpinned, love at first sight ‘tis styled,
eyes seeking eyes flush fresh surprise through morning, noon and night.
As seasons flow all reasons go, know heights, no lows, excite
summations which together stitch two into one beguiled.
Oh, I’m a child of the country, spurning city defiled and grim,
my heart’s beguiled by creatures wild, and the woodlands deep and dim.
When the warm south winds fall, soothing, from the ferny forest’s feet,
come the nightingales’ songs each even, in madrigals mild and sweet.
For I am a child of the country, Spring orchards soften my sight
when the bees fly to the blossomed boughs, whose buds lie pink and white.
Then hand in hand in the sunlight stroll my soul’s betrothed and I,
nor need we words to question, nor words to heed reply.
Yes I am a child of the country, longing for lush fields at dawn,
where the air feels fresh and fragrant, when sun’s first faint flush is born,
then thrush appeals to starling: ‘Fie, forsake thy stealing way! ’
and the badger cubs, and the birds, and I, welcome the break of day!
Only a Woman
"She loves with love that cannot tire:
And if, ah, woe! she loves alone,
Through passionate duty love flames higher,
As grass grows taller round a stone."
SO, the truth's out. I 'll grasp it like a snake, --
It will not slay me. My heart shall not break
Awhile, if only for the children's sake.
For his too, somewhat. Let him stand unblamed;
None say, he gave me less than honor claimed,
Except -- one trifle scarcely worth being named --
The heart. That 's gone. The corrupt dead might be
As easily raised up, breathing -- fair to see,
As he could bring his whole heart back to me.
I never sought him in coquettish sport,
Or courted him as silly maidens court,
And wonder when the longed-for prize falls short.
I only loved him -- any woman would:
But shut my love up till he came and sued,
Then poured it o'er his dry life like a flood.
I was so happy I could make him blest!
So happy that I was his first and best,
As he mine -- when he took me to his breast.
Ah me! If only then he had been true!
If for one little year, a month or two,
He had given me love for love, as was my due!
Or had he told me, ere the deed was done,
He only raised me to his heart's dear throne --
Poor substitute -- because his queen was gone!
O, had he whispered, when his sweetest kiss
Was warm upon my mouth in fancied bliss,
He had kissed another woman even as this, --
It were less bitter! Sometimes I could weep
To be thus cheated, like a child asleep: --
Were not my anguish far too dry and deep.
So I built my house upon another's ground;
Mocked with a heart just caught at the rebound --
A cankered thing that looked so firm and sound.
And when that heart grew colder -- colder still,
I, ignorant, tried all duties to fulfil,
Blaming my foolish pain, exacting will,
All -- anything but him. It was to be:
The full draught others drink up carelessly
Was made this bitter Tantalus-cup for me.
I say again -- he gives me all I claimed,
I and my children never shall be shamed:
He is a just man -- he will live unblamed.
Only -- O God, O God, to cry for bread,
And get a stone! Daily to lay my head
Upon a bosom where the old love's dead!
Dead? -- Fool! It never lived. It only stirred
Galvanic, like an hour-cold corpse. None heard:
So let me bury it without a word.
He 'll keep that other woman from my sight.
I know not if her face be foul or bright;
I only know that it was his delight --
As his was mine: I only know he stands
Pale, at the touch of their long-severed hands,
Then to a flickering smile his lips commands,
Lest I should grieve, or jealous anger show.
He need not. When the ship 's gone down, I trow,
We little reck whatever wind may blow.
And so my silent moan begins and ends.
No world's laugh or world's taunt, not pity of friends
Or sneer of foes with this my torment blends.
None knows -- none heeds. I have a little pride;
Enough to stand up, wife-like, by his side,
With the same smile as when I was a bride.
And I shall take his children to my arms;
They will not miss these fading, worthless charms;
Their kiss -- ah! unlike his -- all pain disarms.
And haply, as the solemn years go by,
He will think sometimes with regretful sigh,
The other woman was less true than I.
Back to the back
Undo and tracking our footprints
Printed on the sand of time
Reached and stopped at one point
The beginning of earliest thing
Our first meet and Hello greet
We keen seed a plant
Sprout the moment, the lesson start
Water my soul you bring me light
With you the life we ride
Deep in core, inside
Grows to root in heart
It's been many years we had
But seems like yesterday we been here
The wind still calm, loyal visit our garden
Hope all season life still evergreen not frozen
Time goes fast like a smoke
Thick, thin, disappear
We smile we cry, branching emotion in vessels
Patiently we waiting to smell the scent of happy
Life not easy but we learn new lesson daily
Branches becomes stronger day by day
Stronger construct history today
Dig deep by root, taller, up by shoot
Life so mystery but can be understood
Green leaf symbols of living
Each one, each day we been talking
One day we gained or leaving
Day by day, Oh World
Who thought we passed years
We changed by now and we still
To be now a shady tree
Against the storm or a safe home
The best shelter of nightingale
And we learn how to sing beautiful tale
At least apples ripen accompany
Time running just like a smoke
Dense, smear, disappear
Now, here, today will be another memory
Seasons of life, chapter of our story
Green leaf will change to yellow or brown glory
Feel blue, past leave yellow history
Time so fast, if wrong, say my sorry
Green leaves won't leave a grieve
Together this color we folded in our lifestory
Enveloped in leaves of remembrance
And sand of time bringing changes again
Seal with red to yellow, fade out the blue
The old green one day be the past hue
Gentle breeze drift them away
Fall down, the leaves
fall me with the miss
As the autumn comes again
The memories fly away
We missing and missed
but the wind we love still
The moments we now shared
Rooted in heart, ever-last to exhale
The joy, the smile, the cry and pain
In each branches, vessel and vein
We passed the past, memory make it last
The colors only changed but still so intense
All...Enveloped in leaves of remembrance
Just not green only red or yellow remain
Once we live it fresh as green but now
To the red, brown to yellow it changed
I sat and think life is about to change
The significant why memory remain
Autumn wind take all away
Falling all the red leaves
Falling me, for something i missed
The wind touch again, on this skin
Kiss me cold remind, warm past rewind
But this life-tales we love still
Autumn come again to swing this feel
The seed we plant
Swing me back to memories
When the first time i touch life flowers
I enjoyed and sweetly cry
When the branches broken in vein
I cried my salty cry
Now i learn shoot will replace anew
As new day we keep growing too
The lost green will fade away
The past cant forever stay
We might lost beautiful red, yellow part
But forever memory warming in my heart
I will remember as blue disperse remarks.
Falling down those leaves
falling me, this miss
All behind was around and round
Leaves falling down on the ground
Like our memories, matured, beautiful brown
I'll wait for the time, when everything is back
Beginning of a new story
For new branches to grow
And bring green back home
I smiled and creating new footprints to remember
...........for one day i will return
: : : : : : : : Theme: Memory, Time and Dedication: : : : : : : : : Meaning: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :
The poem is about these three things, i make it to tell in diverse meaning..hope fully it works
1. The memory and story of life that symbolized as a leaf..losing it may cause a miss
2. The time, is like the story of our life and history...Hello is intro when we was born and life
bring some another greet as we grow and changed by time
3. Dedication to a friend, which evergreen in heart
I imagine that we start something like a hello, we plant it and grow
deep in heart...
Autumn Swing is about...
'what all of us having now, current is green..so fresh color of living..this moment we are constructing memories for old days sooner...Then the memories in the making are green as it in present tense and all folded in a leaf...The green will fade as time we will leave...it turn to yellow, red and brown (color of memory) we miss the blue (color of peace) ..The green colors have two complexions (element of green=blue+yellow) mean (live in current=peace and memory. As the leaf lost the green and turn yellow, it means the blue and memory depart each other...When the autumn comes, the wind blows and the leave fall...the fall of the leave=miss because the memory just far away from tree which planted in heart..deep rooted in heart :)
The colors, from green to red-yellow fade to blue meaning as well as this
(blue+yellow=green) ...blue=serene, yellow=memory, green=life and fresh. Hope you can feel connected to one of these or any reason
Thanks for reading and Autumn just coming, enjoy it..! ! Keep smiling
: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :
A Channel Crossing
Forth from Calais, at dawn of night, when sunset summer on autumn shone,
Fared the steamer alert and loud through seas whence only the sun was gone:
Soft and sweet as the sky they smiled, and bade man welcome: a dim sweet hour
Gleamed and whispered in wind and sea, and heaven was fair as a field in flower,
Stars fulfilled the desire of the darkling world as with music: the star-bright air
Made the face of the sea, if aught may make the face of the sea, more fair.
Whence came change? Was the sweet night weary of rest? What anguish awoke in the dark?
Sudden, sublime, the strong storm spake: we heard the thunders as hounds that bark.
Lovelier if aught may be lovelier than stars, we saw the lightnings exalt the sky,
Living and lustrous and rapturous as love that is born but to quicken and lighten and die.
Heaven's own heart at its highest of delight found utterance in music and semblance in fire:
Thunder on thunder exulted, rejoicing to live and to satiate the night's desire.
And the night was alive and an-hungered of life as a tiger from toils cast free:
And a rapture of rage made joyous the spirit and strength of the soul of the sea.
All the weight of the wind bore down on it, freighted with death for fraught:
And the keen waves kindled and quickened as things transfigured or things distraught.
And madness fell on them laughing and leaping; and madness came on the wind:
And the might and the light and the darkness of storm were as storm in the heart of Ind.
Such glory, such terror, such passion, as lighten and harrow the far fierce East,
Rang, shone, spake, shuddered around us: the night was an altar with death for priest.
The channel that sunders England from shores where never was man born free
Was clothed with the likeness and thrilled with the strength and the wrath of a tropic sea.
As a wild steed ramps in rebellion, and rears till it swerves from a backward fall,
The strong ship struggled and reared, and her deck was upright as a sheer cliff's wall.
Stern and prow plunged under, alternate: a glimpse, a recoil, a breath,
And she sprang as the life in a god made man would spring at the throat of death.
Three glad hours, and it seemed not an hour of supreme and supernal joy,
Filled full with delight that revives in remembrance a sea-bird's heart in a boy.
For the central crest of the night was cloud that thundered and flamed, sublime
As the splendour and song of the soul everlasting that quickens the pulse of time.
The glory beholden of man in a vision, the music of light overheard,
The rapture and radiance of battle, the life that abides in the fire of a word,
In the midmost heaven enkindled, was manifest far on the face of the sea,
And the rage in the roar of the voice of the waters was heard but when heaven breathed free.
Far eastward, clear of the covering of cloud, the sky laughed out into light
From the rims of the storm to the sea's dark edge with flames that were flowerlike and white.
The leaping and luminous blossoms of live sheet lightning that laugh as they fade
From the cloud's black base to the black wave's brim rejoiced in the light they made.
Far westward, throned in a silent sky, where life was in lustrous tune,
Shone, sweeter and surer than morning or evening, the steadfast smile of the moon.
The limitless heaven that enshrined them was lovelier than dreams may behold, and deep
As life or as death, revealed and transfigured, may shine on the soul through sleep.
All glories of toil and of triumph and passion and pride that it yearns to know
Bore witness there to the soul of its likeness and kinship, above and below.
The joys of the lightnings, the songs of the thunders, the strong sea's labour and rage,
Were tokens and signs of the war that is life and is joy for the soul to wage.
No thought strikes deeper or higher than the heights and the depths that the night made bare,
Illimitable, infinite, awful and joyful, alive in the summit of air--
Air stilled and thrilled by the tempest that thundered between its reign and the sea's,
Rebellious, rapturous, and transient as faith or as terror that bows men's knees.
No love sees loftier and fairer the form of its godlike vision in dreams
Than the world shone then, when the sky and the sea were as love for a breath's length seems--
One utterly, mingled and mastering and mastered and laughing with love that subsides
As the glad mad night sank panting and satiate with storm, and released the tides.
In the dense mid channel the steam-souled ship hung hovering, assailed and withheld
As a soul born royal, if life or if death be against it, is thwarted and quelled.
As the glories of myriads of glow-worms in lustrous grass on a boundless lawn
Were the glories of flames phosphoric that made of the water a light like dawn.
A thousand Phosphors, a thousand Hespers, awoke in the churning sea,
And the swift soft hiss of them living and dying was clear as a tune could be;
As a tune that is played by the fingers of death on the keys of life or of sleep,
Audible alway alive in the storm, too fleet for a dream to keep:
Too fleet, too sweet for a dream to recover and thought to remember awake:
Light subtler and swifter than lightning, that whispers and laughs in the live storm's wake,
In the wild bright wake of the storm, in the dense loud heart of the labouring hour,
A harvest of stars by the storm's hand reaped, each fair as a star-shaped flower.
And sudden and soft as the passing of sleep is the passing of tempest seemed
When the light and the sound of it sank, and the glory was gone as a dream half dreamed.
The glory, the terror, the passion that made of the midnight a miracle, died,
Not slain at a stroke, nor in gradual reluctance abated of power and of pride;
With strong swift subsidence, awful as power that is wearied of power upon earth,
As a God that were wearied of power upon heaven, and were fain of a new God's birth,
The might of the night subsided: the tyranny kindled in darkness fell:
And the sea and the sky put off them the rapture and radiance of heaven and of hell.
The waters, heaving and hungering at heart, made way, and were wellnigh fain,
For the ship that had fought them, and wrestled, and revelled in labour, to cease from her pain.
And an end was made of it: only remembrance endures of the glad loud strife;
And the sense that a rapture so royal may come not again in the passage of life.
Ode To A Child
BRIGHT as a morn of spring,
That jubilates along the earth,
With clouds, and winds, and flowers rejoicing,
And all the creatures that on wing
Scarce dip the ground in their ethereal mirth.
Whilst the dew'd sunlight and the gold-flushed rain
Wed midway in the air;
And from the twain
Is ever born that fairy gossamer,
The iridescent bridge that spans the skies.
Yea, e'en in such wild glory dost thou glow
Soul-fresh exuberant child!
And drops of heavenly freshness gleam
On red, red lips, in dark-orbed eyes,
Like morning dews that glimmering show
On winter moss and heath'ry wild,
And soft-cropped grasses undefiled,
In all the shifting splendour of a dream.
Oh, thou, that in thy glee
Know'st of no ending yet, and no beginning,
Making the hours melodious with thy play,
Like grasshoppers, that through the livelong day
Hopping on the new-mown hay,
Sun-struck trill their roundelay;
Or the cricket, chirping cheerly
Late at night, at morning early,
With a little baby-singing
Like an echo faintly ringing
From the distant summer leas;
And with tremulous murmurs clinging
Round the hearth, like clustering bees
Humming round the linden trees.
And yet athwart thy soul,
At times, perchance, I seem to see
The hid existence of far off events,
Trailing their slumb'rous shadows silently.
For in the dusky deeps
Of thy large eyes
Sometime the veilèd outline of a still
And mute-born vision sleeps
As in the hollows of a hill,
With dim and darksome rents
The dreamful shadow of the morning lies,
And softly, slowly, ever down doth roll,
Till lost in mystic deeps it flees our watchful eyes.
Yet from that silent trance
Quick leap'st thou back into thy playfulness,
As waters darkened by the drifting cloud
Into the swift sweet sunlight crowd,
Where dashed with dewy gold they dance
In unbedimmèd sprightliness;
Till with their blithesome strain
They make the brooding mountains loud
And fling their merriment across the voiceless plain.
And buzzing lightly, here and there,
Thou, like a little curious fly
That fusses through the air,
Dost pry and spy
With thy keen inquisitive eye;
Poking fatly-dimpled fingers
Into corner, box, and closet,
Where, perchance, there hidden lingers
To be carried off triumphantly.
And with many questions, ever
Rippling like a restless river,
Puzzling many an older brain,
Dost thou hour by hour increase thy store
Of marvellous lore.
Thus a squirrel darting deftly
Up and down autumnal trees,
Sees its hoard of chesnuts growing swiftly
In a heap upon the leaf-strewn leas.
Yea, open art thou to each influence
That strikes on thy soft spirit from without
Thy spirit not yet frozen, nor shut out
From nature's kindling breath
By selfish aims, nor dulled the sense
By hot desires; alas, too oft the death
Of man's spiritual vision. No, thy soul
Is yet all clear and bright
And lieth naked 'neath the eye of heaven
As a small mountain pool--
A pure and azure pool,
To whom its food is given
By dews, and rains, and snows all lily-white,
That softly fall
Through many a summer's day and winter's night;
And whose unspotted breast
Glasses each pageant of the outer world,
The cloud with pinions to the blast unfurled,
The mountains' haughty crest,
The slanting beam of twilight skies
That like a golden ladder lies
Stretching across perchance for angel hosts
Down to the earth with heavenly boon;
And glasses too the hurrying mists that glide
Like gliding ghosts,
And stars, and all the mildness of the moon.
As yet 'tis early January with thee!
Warm-cradled doth the summer leaf
Lie folded in the winter leaf
On the blank tree.
And folded in the earth the seed
The future mother of some glorious weed,
Or flower blowing gorgeously,
Or cedar branching wondrously,
Lies slumbering; its whole destiny
Of great or lowly, foul or fair,
In this minutest space surely foreshadowed there.
But let the west wind, ocean-born,
Floating towards the meads of morn,
But once spread out his wild and vasty wing
Setting the sap a-cantring; till new life
Works wonders: then thy being
Will strangely stir, as at the sound
Of sounding drum and fife
The war-horse paws the ground.
And through thy sweet pure veins
Life like a waterfall will grandly bound.
But now the Psyche of thy being
Still shyly doth essay her delicate wing,
Like to that airy nurseling of the sun
When first it breaketh through its dun
And hornèd shell, and tries
To move its pinions, powdered o'er and o'er
With rainbow dust of April skies,
That have as not yet learnt to soar,
And lie soft-folded in sweet mysteries.
Oh! looking on thee, I do speculate
On thy futurity!
What wilt thou be?
Some great and glorious lot I dream for thee,
Some starry fate!
For in thy nature meet
Such buoyant strength, and such a sweet
Half-veiled heart tenderness, that on thy being doth rest
Like soft dark bloom upon a pansy's breast;
And pity gushes o'er thee, like warm rain,
For everything in pain,
Or great or small; and such a shoal
Of thick-bred fancies ever swimmeth forth
From the deep sea
Of changeful fantasy,
Like golden fish that glitter in the sun;
And quick perception leading on and on,
Into a maze of thought, fresh'ning the soul
Of him who listens. Aye, what wilt thou be?
Perchance, one of that sacred band
That ever were the salt of earth,
Whom men call dowered with genius! They who stand
In grandeur and in glory like the Alps,
With silver-shining scalps,
Bathed in the ether; feeding all the land
With the pure skyey waters that descend
For ever from them; men who freed
From narrow bonds of hate and greed,
Fetters of custom, and blind circumstance,
Breathe the soul-quickening air of thought and love.
And struggling into freedom, sudden see
The solid shroud of sense
Consumèd by a heavenly flame,
As is the vapour dense and dun,
Which the earth-spirit fast doth breed
By the great sun.
And the large mind in native majesty
Doth catch that radiance evermore above,
Around us; finest effluence of being;
Illuminating with sharp sudden blaze
Nature's mysterious ways;
Until his spirit, feeling itself one
With all that is, and was, and is to be,
Vibrates into intenser life,
Which is creation!
Then makes he revelation
Of that one truth, that as a supreme ray
With new existence heavily fraught,
Lightened in awful loveliness
And empyrean holiness,
Upon his passive thought;
Till with long peals of explosive oracular thunder,
He bursts and cleaves and splinters asunder
The clinging clinking manacles of life,
That fall and curl in harsh black masses under
His wingèd feet: and through time's noisy strife
His infinite acts do strike like flame
Of a volcano seen across a sea,
On nights when with earthquake the labouring hills are rife;
And labouring, too, like heaving heights, doth he,
Girt round with turbulent whirls of praise and blame,
Breathe the hot spark of that which he did see,
As vital force that pulses strong and warm
In the mid-heart of creeds,
Or rolls itself along the epic's flood,
Or lives through ages in the marbled form,
Or leaps to life in the heroic deeds,
Watering with the heart's noble blood
The seed of future world-reforming good.
But stay, my soul;
Too far thou fliest, as a falcon flies,
Forgetful of the hand
Where he must perch, so trancèd with the grand
And boundless skies.
Oh come my song, and roll
Thy billows back, where on the swelling bank,
Mid flowers, and reeds, and grasses rank,
And feathered warblers, warbling wild,
Sporteth the unconscious child,
Safely roofed o'er by shielding mother's love,
Like wee lamb-clouds of morn by tender skies above.
Hark! now I hear thy low soft laughter falling
Upon my heart, like to the murmurous calling
Of brooding stock doves, now it sweet doth sound
Like rippling rills of rain, that make the ground
Harmonious on hot summer afternoons;
And now thy joyous croons
Blither and brighter tumble on my ear
All clarion clear,
Like songs of matin birds that in spring weather,
Hid in young woods, do jubilate together.
Yea, on the musing mind,
That wrapt in meditation's sober dress,
Looks inward in a half-forgetfulness
Of the world's outer show,
Thou breakest in, like a tumultuous wind
That teasing tosses
The foam of flickering fountain;
Or like the flashing flow
Of waves of light along the long green grasses;
Or waters bickering low
Down many a sloping mountain
That make themselves a nest mid ferns and shining mosses.
Of each free thing that in its joy
All chains, and bonds, and obstacles o'erpasses
In elemental gladsomenesses
And wonderful wild wantonesses--
Fire, water, wand'ring air,
Hast a past, exuberant boy,
Glorious, glad, and fresh, and fair,
And blowing in upon the tired brain
Nature's undying, spirit-stirring strain.
Ode To The Setting Sun
Alpha and Omega, sadness and mirth,
The springing music, and its wasting breath--
The fairest things in life are Death and Birth,
And of these two the fairer thing is Death.
Mystical twins of Time inseparable,
The younger hath the holier array,
And hath the awfuller sway:
It is the falling star that trails the light,
It is the breaking wave that hath the might,
The passing shower that rainbows maniple.
Is it not so, O thou down-stricken Day,
That draw'st thy splendours round thee in thy fall?
High was thine Eastern pomp inaugural;
But thou dost set in statelier pageantry,
Lauded with tumults of a firmament:
Thy visible music-blasts make deaf the sky,
Thy cymbals clang to fire the Occident,
Thou dost thy dying so triumphally:
I SEE the crimson blaring of thy shawms!
Why do those lucent palms
Strew thy feet's failing thicklier than their might,
Who dost but hood thy glorious eyes with night,
And vex the heels of all the yesterdays?
Lo! this loud, lackeying praise
Will stay behind to greet the usurping moon,
When they have cloud-barred over thee the West.
Oh, shake the bright dust from thy parting shoon!
The earth not paeans thee, nor serves thy hest,
Be godded not by Heaven! avert thy face,
And leave to blank disgrace
The oblivious world! unsceptre thee of state and place!
Ha! but bethink thee what thou gazedst on,
Ere yet the snake Decay had venomed tooth;
The name thou bar'st in those vast seasons gone--
Clad in the light of thine immortal youth!
Ere Dionysus bled thy vines,
Or Artemis drave her clamours through the wood,
Thou saw'st how once against Olympus' height
The brawny Titans stood,
And shook the gods' world 'bout their ears, and how
Enceladus (whom Etna cumbers now)
Shouldered me Pelion with its swinging pines,
The river unrecked, that did its broken flood
Spurt on his back: before the mountainous shock
The rank-ed gods dislock,
Scared to their skies; wide o'er rout-trampled night
Flew spurned the pebbled stars: those splendours then
Had tempested on earth, star upon star
Mounded in ruin, if a longer war
Had quaked Olympus and cold-fearing men.
Then did the ample marge
And circuit of thy targe
Sullenly redden all the vaward fight,
Above the blusterous clash
Wheeled thy swung falchion's flash
And hewed their forces into splintered flight.
Yet ere Olympus thou wast, and a god!
Though we deny thy nod,
We cannot spoil thee of thy divinity.
What know we elder than thee?
When thou didst, bursting from the great void's husk,
Leap like a lion on the throat o' the dusk;
When the angels rose-chapleted
Sang each to other,
The vaulted blaze overhead
Of their vast pinions spread,
Hailing thee brother;
How chaos rolled back from the wonder,
And the First Morn knelt down to thy visage of thunder!
Thou didst draw to thy side
Thy young Auroral bride,
And lift her veil of night and mystery;
Tellus with baby hands
Shook off her swaddling-bands,
And from the unswath-ed vapours laughed to thee.
Thou twi-form deity, nurse at once and sire!
Thou genitor that all things nourishest!
The earth was suckled at thy shining breast,
And in her veins is quick thy milky fire.
Who scarfed her with the morning? and who set
Upon her brow the day-fall's carcanet?
Who queened her front with the enrondured moon?
Who dug night's jewels from their vaulty mine
To dower her, past an eastern wizard's dreams,
When hovering on him through his haschish-swoon,
All the rained gems of the old Tartarian line
Shiver in lustrous throbbings of tinged flame?
Whereof a moiety in the Paolis' seams
Statelily builded their Venetian name.
Thou hast enwoof-ed her
An empress of the air,
And all her births are propertied by thee:
Her teeming centuries
Drew being from thine eyes:
Thou fatt'st the marrow of all quality.
Who lit the furnace of the mammoth's heart?
Who shagged him like Pilatus' ribb-ed flanks?
Who raised the columned ranks
Of that old pre-diluvian forestry,
Which like a continent torn oppressed the sea,
When the ancient heavens did in rains depart,
While the high-danc-ed whirls
Of the tossed scud made hiss thy drench-ed curls?
Thou rear'dst the enormous brood;
Who hast with life imbued
The lion maned in tawny majesty,
The tiger velvet-barred,
The stealthy-stepping pard,
And the lithe panther's flexuous symmetry.
How came the entomb-ed tree a light-bearer,
Though sunk in lightless lair?
Friend of the forgers of earth,
Mate of the earthquake and thunders volcanic,
Clasped in the arms of the forces Titanic
Which rock like a cradle the girth
Of the ether-hung world;
Swart son of the swarthy mine,
When flame on the breath of his nostrils feeds
How is his countenance half-divine,
Like thee in thy sanguine weeds?
Thou gavest him his light,
Though sepultured in night
Beneath the dead bones of a perished world;
Over his prostrate form
Though cold, and heat, and storm,
The mountainous wrack of a creation hurled.
Who made the splendid rose
Saturate with purple glows;
Cupped to the marge with beauty; a perfume-press
Whence the wind vintages
Gushes of warm-ed fragrance richer far
Than all the flavorous ooze of Cyprus' vats?
Lo, in yon gale which waves her green cymar,
With dusky cheeks burnt red
She sways her heavy head,
Drunk with the must of her own odorousness;
While in a moted trouble the vexed gnats
Maze, and vibrate, and tease the noontide hush.
Who girt dissolv-ed lightnings in the grape?
Summered the opal with an Irised flush?
Is it not thou that dost the tulip drape,
And huest the daffodilly,
Yet who hast snowed the lily,
And her frail sister, whom the waters name,
Dost vestal-vesture 'mid the blaze of June,
Cold as the new-sprung girlhood of the moon
Ere Autumn's kiss sultry her cheek with flame?
Thou sway'st thy sceptred beam
O'er all delight and dream,
Beauty is beautiful but in thy glance:
And like a jocund maid
In garland-flowers arrayed,
Before thy ark Earth keeps her sacred dance.
And now, O shaken from thine antique throne,
And sunken from thy coerule empery,
Now that the red glare of thy fall is blown
In smoke and flame about the windy sky,
Where are the wailing voices that should meet
From hill, stream, grove, and all of mortal shape
Who tread thy gifts, in vineyards as stray feet
Pulp the globed weight of juiced Iberia's grape?
Where is the threne o' the sea?
And why not dirges thee
The wind, that sings to himself as he makes stride
Lonely and terrible on the Andean height?
Where is the Naiad 'mid her sworded sedge?
The Nymph wan-glimmering by her wan fount's verge?
The Dryad at timid gaze by the wood-side?
The Oread jutting light
On one up-strain-ed sole from the rock-ledge?
The Nereid tip-toe on the scud o' the surge,
With whistling tresses dank athwart her face,
And all her figure poised in lithe Circean grace?
Why withers their lament?
Their tresses tear-besprent,
Have they sighed hence with trailing garment-gem?
O sweet, O sad, O fair!
I catch your flying hair,
Draw your eyes down to me, and dream on them!
A space, and they fleet from me. Must ye fade--
O old, essential candours, ye who made
The earth a living and a radiant thing--
And leave her corpse in our strained, cheated arms?
Lo ever thus, when Song with chorded charms
Draws from dull death his lost Eurydice,
Lo ever thus, even at consummating,
Even in the swooning minute that claims her his,
Even as he trembles to the impassioned kiss
Of reincarnate Beauty, his control
Clasps the cold body, and foregoes the soul!
Whatso looks lovelily
Is but the rainbow on life's weeping rain.
Why have we longings of immortal pain,
And all we long for mortal? Woe is me,
And all our chants but chaplet some decay,
As mine this vanishing--nay, vanished Day.
The low sky-line dusks to a leaden hue,
No rift disturbs the heavy shade and chill,
Save one, where the charred firmament lets through
The scorching dazzle of Heaven; 'gainst which the hill,
Stands black as life against eternity.
A rifting light in me
Burns through the leaden broodings of the mind:
O bless-ed Sun, thy state
Uprisen or derogate
Dafts me no more with doubt; I seek and find.
If with exultant tread
Thou foot the Eastern sea,
Or like a golden bee
Sting the West to angry red,
Thou dost image, thou dost follow
That King-Maker of Creation,
Who, ere Hellas hailed Apollo,
Gave thee, angel-god, thy station;
Thou art of Him a type memorial.
Like Him thou hang'st in dreadful pomp of blood
Upon thy Western rood;
And His stained brow did veil like thine to night,
Yet lift once more Its light,
And, risen, again departed from our ball,
But when It set on earth arose in Heaven.
Thus hath He unto death His beauty given:
And so of all which form inheriteth
The fall doth pass the rise in worth;
For birth hath in itself the germ of death,
But death hath in itself the germ of birth.
It is the falling acorn buds the tree,
The falling rain that bears the greenery,
The fern-plants moulder when the ferns arise.
For there is nothing lives but something dies,
And there is nothing dies but something lives.
Till skies be fugitives,
Till Time, the hidden root of change, updries,
Are Birth and Death inseparable on earth;
For they are twain yet one, and Death is Birth.
The Waggoner - Canto First
'TIS spent--this burning day of June!
Soft darkness o'er its latest gleams is stealing;
The buzzing dor-hawk, round and round, is wheeling,--
That solitary bird
Is all that can be heard
In silence deeper far than that of deepest noon!
Confiding Glow-worms, 'tis a night
Propitious to your earth-born light!
But, where the scattered stars are seen
In hazy straits the clouds between,
Each, in his station twinkling not,
Seems changed into a pallid spot.
The mountains against heaven's grave weight
Rise up, and grow to wondrous height.
The air, as in a lion's den,
Is close and hot;--and now and then
Comes a tired and sultry breeze
With a haunting and a panting,
Like the stifling of disease;
But the dews allay the heat,
And the silence makes it sweet.
Hush, there is some one on the stir!
'Tis Benjamin the Waggoner;
Who long hath trod this toilsome way,
Companion of the night and day.
That far-off tinkling's drowsy cheer,
Mixed with a faint yet grating sound
In a moment lost and found,
The Wain announces--by whose side
Along the banks of Rydal Mere
He paces on, a trusty Guide,--
Listen! you can scarcely hear!
Hither he his course is bending;--
Now he leaves the lower ground,
And up the craggy hill ascending
Many a stop and stay he makes,
Many a breathing-fit he takes;--
Steep the way and wearisome,
Yet all the while his whip is dumb!
The Horses have worked with right good-will,
And so have gained the top of the hill;
He was patient, they were strong,
And now they smoothly glide along,
Recovering breath, and pleased to win
The praises of mild Benjamin.
Heaven shield him from mishap and snare!
But why so early with this prayer?--
Is it for threatenings in the sky?
Or for some other danger nigh?
No; none is near him yet, though he
Be one of much infirmity;
For at the bottom of the brow,
Where once the DOVE and OLIVE-BOUGH
Offered a greeting of good ale
To all who entered Grasmere Vale;
And called on him who must depart
To leave it with a jovial heart;
There, where the DOVE and OLIVE-BOUGH
Once hung, a Poet harbours now,
A simple water-drinking Bard;
Why need our Hero then (though frail
His best resolves) be on his guard?
He marches by, secure and bold;
Yet while he thinks on times of old,
It seems that all looks wondrous cold;
He shrugs his shoulders, shakes his head,
And, for the honest folk within,
It is a doubt with Benjamin
Whether they be alive or dead!
'Here' is no danger,--none at all!
Beyond his wish he walks secure;
But pass a mile--and 'then' for trial,---
Then for the pride of self-denial;
If he resist that tempting door,
Which with such friendly voice will call;
If he resist those casement panes,
And that bright gleam which thence will fall
Upon his Leaders' bells and manes,
Inviting him with cheerful lure:
For still, though all be dark elsewhere,
Some shining notice will be 'there',
Of open house and ready fare.
The place to Benjamin right well
Is known, and by as strong a spell
As used to be that sign of love
And hope--the OLIVE-BOUGH and DOVE;
He knows it to his cost, good Man!
Who does not know the famous SWAN?
Object uncouth! and yet our boast,
For it was painted by the Host;
His own conceit the figure planned,
'Twas coloured all by his own hand;
And that frail Child of thirsty clay,
Of whom I sing this rustic lay,
Could tell with self-dissatisfaction
Quaint stories of the bird's attraction!
Well! that is past--and in despite
Of open door and shining light.
And now the conqueror essays
The long ascent of Dunmail-raise;
And with his team is gentle here
As when he clomb from Rydal Mere;
His whip they do not dread--his voice
They only hear it to rejoice.
To stand or go is at 'their' pleasure;
Their efforts and their time they measure
By generous pride within the breast;
And, while they strain, and while they rest,
He thus pursues his thoughts at leisure.
Now am I fairly safe to-night--
And with proud cause my heart is light:
I trespassed lately worse than ever--
But Heaven has blest a good endeavour;
And, to my soul's content, I find
The evil One is left behind.
Yes, let my master fume and fret,
Here am I--with my horses yet!
My jolly team, he finds that ye
Will work for nobody but me!
Full proof of this the Country gained;
It knows how ye were vexed and strained,
And forced unworthy stripes to bear,
When trusted to another's care.
Here was it--on this rugged slope,
Which now ye climb with heart and hope,
I saw you, between rage and fear,
Plunge, and fling back a spiteful ear,
And ever more and more confused,
As ye were more and more abused:
As chance would have it, passing by
I saw you in that jeopardy:
A word from me was like a charm;
Ye pulled together with one mind;
And your huge burthen, safe from harm,
Moved like a vessel in the wind!
--Yes, without me, up hills so high
'Tis vain to strive for mastery.
Then grieve not, jolly team! though tough
The road we travel, steep, and rough;
Though Rydal-heights and Dunmail-raise,
And all their fellow banks and braes,
Full often make you stretch and strain,
And halt for breath and halt again,
Yet to their sturdiness 'tis owing
That side by side we still are going!
While Benjamin in earnest mood
His meditations thus pursued,
A storm, which had been smothered long,
Was growing inwardly more strong;
And, in its struggles to get free,
Was busily employed as he.
The thunder had begun to growl--
He heard not, too intent of soul;
The air was now without a breath--
He marked not that 'twas still as death.
But soon large rain-drops on his head
Fell with the weight of drops of lead;--
He starts--and takes, at the admonition,
A sage survey of his condition.
The road is black before his eyes,
Glimmering faintly where it lies;
Black is the sky--and every hill,
Up to the sky, is blacker still--
Sky, hill, and dale, one dismal room,
Hung round and overhung with gloom;
Save that above a single height
Is to be seen a lurid light,
Above Helm-crag--a streak half dead,
A burning of portentous red;
And near that lurid light, full well
The ASTROLOGER, sage Sidrophel,
Where at his desk and book he sits,
Puzzling aloft his curious wits;
He whose domain is held in common
With no one but the ANCIENT WOMAN,
Cowering beside her rifted cell,
As if intent on magic spell;--
Dread pair, that, spite of wind and weather,
Still sit upon Helm-crag together!
The ASTROLOGER was not unseen
By solitary Benjamin;
But total darkness came anon,
And he and everything was gone:
And suddenly a ruffling breeze,
(That would have rocked the sounding trees
Had aught of sylvan growth been there)
Swept through the Hollow long and bare:
The rain rushed down--the road was battered,
As with the force of billows shattered;
The horses are dismayed, nor know
Whether they should stand or go;
And Benjamin is groping near them
Sees nothing, and can scarcely hear them.
He is astounded,--wonder not,--
With such a charge in such a spot;
Astounded in the mountain gap
With thunder-peals, clap after clap,
Close-treading on the silent flashes--
And somewhere, as he thinks, by crashes
Among the rocks; with weight of rain,
And sullen motions long and slow,
That to a dreary distance go--
Till, breaking in upon the dying strain,
A rending o'er his head begins the fray again.
Meanwhile, uncertain what to do,
And oftentimes compelled to halt,
The horses cautiously pursue
Their way, without mishap or fault;
And now have reached that pile of stones,
Heaped over brave King Dunmail's bones;
His who had once supreme command,
Last king of rocky Cumberland;
His bones, and those of all his Power
Slain here in a disastrous hour!
When, passing through this narrow strait,
Stony, and dark, and desolate,
Benjamin can faintly hear
A voice that comes from some one near,
A female voice--Whoe'er you be,
Stop,' it exclaimed, 'and pity me!'
And, less in pity than in wonder,
Amid the darkness and the thunder,
The Waggoner, with prompt command,
Summons his horses to a stand.
While, with increasing agitation,
The Woman urged her supplication,
In rueful words, with sobs between--
The voice of tears that fell unseen;
There came a flash--a startling glare,
And all Seat-Sandal was laid bare!
'Tis not a time for nice suggestion,
And Benjamin, without a question,
Taking her for some way-worn rover,
Said, 'Mount, and get you under cover!'
Another voice, in tone as hoarse
As a swoln brook with rugged course,
Cried out, 'Good brother, why so fast?
I've had a glimpse of you--'avast!'
Or, since it suits you to be civil,
Take her at once--for good and evil!'
'It is my Husband,' softly said
The Woman, as if half afraid:
By this time she was snug within,
Through help of honest Benjamin;
She and her Babe, which to her breast
With thankfulness the Mother pressed;
And now the same strong voice more near
Said cordially, 'My Friend, what cheer?
Rough doings these! as God's my judge,
The sky owes somebody a grudge!
We've had in half an hour or less
A twelvemonth's terror and distress!'
Then Benjamin entreats the Man
Would mount, too, quickly as he can:
The Sailor--Sailor now no more,
But such he had been heretofore--
To courteous Benjamin replied,
'Go you your way, and mind not me;
For I must have, whate'er betide,
My Ass and fifty things beside,--
Go, and I'll follow speedily!'
The Waggon moves--and with its load
Descends along the sloping road;
And the rough Sailor instantly
Turns to a little tent hard by:
For when, at closing-in of day,
The family had come that way,
Green pasture and the soft warm air
Tempted them to settle there.--
Green is the grass for beast to graze,
Around the stones of Dunmail-raise!
The Sailor gathers up his bed,
Takes down the canvas overhead;
And, after farewell to the place,
A parting word--though not of grace,
Pursues, with Ass and all his store,
The way the Waggon went before.
One Sabbath day my friend and I
After the meeting, quietly
Passed from the crowded village lanes,
White with dry dust for lack of rains,
And climbed the neighboring slope, with feet
Slackened and heavy from the heat,
Although the day was wellnigh done,
And the low angle of the sun
Along the naked hillside cast
Our shadows as of giants vast.
We reached, at length, the topmost swell,
Whence, either way, the green turf fell
In terraces of nature down
To fruit-hung orchards, and the town
With white, pretenceless houses, tall
Church-steeples, and, o'ershadowing all,
Huge mills whose windows had the look
Of eager eyes that ill could brook
The Sabbath rest. We traced the track
Of the sea-seeking river back,
Glistening for miles above its mouth,
Through the long valley to the south,
And, looking eastward, cool to view,
Stretched the illimitable blue
Of ocean, from its curved coast-line;
Sombred and still, the warm sunshine
Filled with pale gold-dust all the reach
Of slumberous woods from hill to beach,-
Slanted on walls of thronged retreats
From city toil and dusty streets,
On grassy bluff, and dune of sand,
And rocky islands miles from land;
Touched the far-glancing sails, and showed
White lines of foam where long waves flowed
Dumb in the distance. In the north,
Dim through their misty hair, looked forth
The space-dwarfed mountains to the sea,
From mystery to mystery!
So, sitting on that green hill-slope,
We talked of human life, its hope
And fear, and unsolved doubts, and what
It might have been, and yet was not.
And, when at last the evening air
Grew sweeter for the bells of prayer
Ringing in steeples far below,
We watched the people churchward go,
Each to his place, as if thereon
The true shekinah only shone;
And my friend queried how it came
To pass that they who owned the same
Great Master still could not agree
To worship Him in company.
Then, broadening in his thought, he ran
Over the whole vast field of man,-
The varying forms of faith and creed
That somehow served the holders' need;
In which, unquestioned, undenied,
Uncounted millions lived and died;
The bibles of the ancient folk,
Through which the heart of nations spoke;
The old moralities which lent
To home its sweetness and content,
And rendered possible to bear
The life of peoples everywhere
And asked if we, who boast of light,
Claim not a too exclusive right
To truths which must for all be meant,
Like rain and sunshine freely sent.
In bondage to the letter still,
We give it power to cramp and kill,-
To tax God's fulness with a scheme
Narrower than Peter's house-top dream,
His wisdom and his love with plans
Poor and inadequate as man's.
It must be that He witnesses
Somehow to all men that He is
That something of His saving grace
Reaches the lowest of the race,
Who, through strange creed and rite, may draw
The hints of a diviner law.
We walk in clearer light;-but then,
Is He not God?-are they not men?
Are His responsibilities
For us alone and not for these?
And I made answer: 'Truth is one;
And, in all lands beneath the sun,
Whoso hath eyes to see may see
The tokens of its unity.
No scroll of creed its fulness wraps,
We trace it not by school-boy maps,
Free as the sun and air it is
Of latitudes and boundaries.
In Vedic verse, in dull Koran,
Are messages of good to man;
The angels to our Aryan sires
Talked by the earliest household fires;
The prophets of the elder day,
The slant-eyed sages of Cathay,
Read not the riddle all amiss
Of higher life evolved from this.
'Nor doth it lessen what He taught,
Or make the gospel Jesus brought
Less precious, that His lips retold
Some portion of that truth of old;
Denying not the proven seers,
The tested wisdom of the years;
Confirming with his own impress
The common law of righteousness.
We search the world for truth; we cull
The good, the pure, the beautiful,
From graven stone and written scroll,
From all old flower-fields of the soul;
And, weary seekers of the best,
We come back laden from our quest,
To find that all the sages said
Is in the Book our mothers read,
And all our treasure of old thought
In His harmonious fulness wrought
Who gathers in one sheaf complete
The scattered blades of God's sown wheat,
The common growth that maketh good
His all-embracing Fatherhood.
'Wherever through the ages rise
The altars of self-sacrifice,
Where love its arms has opened wide,
Or man for man has calmly died,
I see the same white wings outspread
That hovered o'er the Master's head!
Up from undated time they come,
The martyr souls of heathendom,
And to His cross and passion bring
Their fellowship of suffering.
I trace His presence in the blind
Pathetic gropings of my kind,-
In prayers from sin and sorrow wrung,
In cradle-hymns of life they sung,
Each, in its measure, but a part
Of the unmeasured Over-Heart;
And with a stronger faith confess
The greater that it owns the less.
Good cause it is for thankfulness
That the world-blessing of His life
With the long past is not at strife;
That the great marvel of His death
To the one order witnesseth,
No doubt of changeless goodness wakes,
No link of cause and sequence breaks,
But, one with nature, rooted is
In the eternal verities;
Whereby, while differing in degree
As finite from infinity,
The pain and loss for others borne,
Love's crown of suffering meekly worn,
The life man giveth for his friend
Become vicarious in the end;
Their healing place in nature take,
And make life sweeter for their sake.
'So welcome I from every source
The tokens of that primal Force,
Older than heaven itself, yet new
As the young heart it reaches to,
Beneath whose steady impulse rolls
The tidal wave of human souls;
Guide, comforter, and inward word,
The eternal spirit of the Lord
Nor fear I aught that science brings
From searching through material things;
Content to let its glasses prove,
Not by the letter's oldness move,
The myriad worlds on worlds that course
The spaces of the universe;
Since everywhere the Spirit walks
The garden of the heart, and talks
With man, as under Eden's trees,
In all his varied languages.
Why mourn above some hopeless flaw
In the stone tables of the law,
When scripture every day afresh
Is traced on tablets of the flesh?
By inward sense, by outward signs,
God's presence still the heart divines;
Through deepest joy of Him we learn,
In sorest grief to Him we turn,
And reason stoops its pride to share
The child-like instinct of a prayer.'
And then, as is my wont, I told
A story of the days of old,
Not found in printed books,-in sooth,
A fancy, with slight hint of truth,
Showing how differing faiths agree
In one sweet law of charity.
Meanwhile the sky had golden grown,
Our faces in its glory shone;
But shadows down the valley swept,
And gray below the ocean slept,
As time and space I wandered o'er
To tread the Mogul's marble floor,
And see a fairer sunset fall
On Jumna's wave and Agra's wall.
The good Shah Akbar (peace be his alway!)
Came forth from the Divan at close of day
Bowed with the burden of his many cares,
Worn with the hearing of unnumbered prayers,-
Wild cries for justice, the importunate
Appeals of greed and jealousy and hate,
And all the strife of sect and creed and rite,
Santon and Gouroo waging holy fight
For the wise monarch, claiming not to be
Allah's avenger, left his people free,
With a faint hope, his Book scarce justified,
That all the paths of faith, though severed wide,
O'er which the feet of prayerful reverence passed,
Met at the gate of Paradise at last.
He sought an alcove of his cool hareem,
Where, far beneath, he heard the Jumna's stream
Lapse soft and low along his palace wall,
And all about the cool sound of the fall
Of fountains, and of water circling free
Through marble ducts along the balcony;
The voice of women in the distance sweet,
And, sweeter still, of one who, at his feet,
Soothed his tired ear with songs of a far land
Where Tagus shatters on the salt sea-sand
The mirror of its cork-grown hills of drouth
And vales of vine, at Lisbon's harbor-mouth.
The date-palms rustled not; the peepul laid
Its topmost boughs against the balustrade,
Motionless as the mimic leaves and vines
That, light and graceful as the shawl-designs
Of Delhi or Umritsir, twined in stone;
And the tired monarch, who aside had thrown
The day's hard burden, sat from care apart,
And let the quiet steal into his heart
From the still hour. Below him Agra slept,
By the long light of sunset overswept
The river flowing through a level land,
By mango-groves and banks of yellow sand,
Skirted with lime and orange, gay kiosks,
Fountains at play, tall minarets of mosques,
Fair pleasure-gardens, with their flowering trees
Relieved against the mournful cypresses;
And, air-poised lightly as the blown sea-foam,
The marble wonder of some holy dome
Hung a white moonrise over the still wood,
Glassing its beauty in a stiller flood.
Silent the monarch gazed, until the night
Swift-falling hid the city from his sight;
Then to the woman at his feet he said
'Tell me, O Miriam, something thou hast read
In childhood of the Master of thy faith,
Whom Islam also owns. Our Prophet saith
'He was a true apostle, yea, a Word
And Spirit sent before me from the Lord.'
Thus the Book witnesseth; and well I know
By what thou art, O dearest, it is so.
As the lute's tone the maker's hand betrays,
The sweet disciple speaks her Master's praise.'
Then Miriam, glad of heart, (for in some sort
She cherished in the Moslem's liberal court
The sweet traditions of a Christian child;
And, through her life of sense, the undefiled
And chaste ideal of the sinless One
Gazed on her with an eye she might not shun,-
The sad, reproachful look of pity, born
Of love that hath no part in wrath or scorn,)
Began, with low voice and moist eyes, to tell
Of the all-loving Christ, and what befell
When the fierce zealots, thirsting for her blood,
Dragged to his feet a shame of womanhood.
How, when his searching answer pierced within
Each heart, and touched the secret of its sin,
And her accusers fled his face before,
He bade the poor one go and sin no more.
And Akbar said, after a moment's thought,
'Wise is the lesson by thy prophet taught;
Woe unto him who judges and forgets
What hidden evil his own heart besets!
Something of this large charity I find
In all the sects that sever human kind;
I would to Allah that their lives agreed
More nearly with the lesson of their creed!
Those yellow Lamas who at Meerut pray
By wind and water power, and love to say
'He who forgiveth not shall, unforgiven,
Fail of the rest of Buddha,' and who even
Spare the black gnat that stings them, vex my ears
With the poor hates and jealousies and fears
Nursed in their human hives. That lean, fierce priest
Of thy own people, (be his heart increased
By Allah's love!) his black robes smelling yet
Of Goa's roasted Jews, have I not met
Meek-faced, barefooted, crying in the street
The saying of his prophet true and sweet,-
'He who is merciful shall mercy meet!''
But, next day, so it chanced, as night began
To fall, a murmur through the hareem ran
That one, recalling in her dusky face
The full-lipped, mild-eyed beauty of a race
Known as the blameless Ethiops of Greek song,
Plotting to do her royal master wrong,
Watching, reproachful of the lingering light,
The evening shadows deepen for her flight,
Love-guided, to her home in a far land,
Now waited death at the great Shah's command.
Shapely as that dark princess for whose smile
A world was bartered, daughter of the Nile
Herself, and veiling in her large, soft eyes
The passion and the languor of her skies,
The Abyssinian knelt low at the feet
Of her stern lord: 'O king, if it be meet,
And for thy honor's sake,' she said, 'that I,
Who am the humblest of thy slaves, should die,
I will not tax thy mercy to forgive.
Easier it is to die than to outlive
All that life gave me,-him whose wrong of thee
Was but the outcome of his love for me,
Cherished from childhood, when, beneath the shade
Of templed Axum, side by side we played.
Stolen from his arms, my lover followed me
Through weary seasons over land and sea;
And two days since, sitting disconsolate
Within the shadow of the hareem gate,
Suddenly, as if dropping from the sky,
Down from the lattice of the balcony
Fell the sweet song by Tigre's cowherds sung
In the old music of his native tongue.
He knew my voice, for love is quick of ear,
Answering in song.
This night he waited near
To fly with me. The fault was mine alone
He knew thee not, he did but seek his own;
Who, in the very shadow of thy throne,
Sharing thy bounty, knowing all thou art,
Greatest and best of men, and in her heart
Grateful to tears for favor undeserved,
Turned ever homeward, nor one moment swerved
From her young love. He looked into my eyes,
He heard my voice, and could not otherwise
Than he hath done; yet, save one wild embrace
When first we stood together face to face,
And all that fate had done since last we met
Seemed but a dream that left us children yet,
He hath not wronged thee nor thy royal bed;
Spare him, O king! and slay me in his stead!'
But over Akbar's brows the frown hung black,
And, turning to the eunuch at his back,
'Take them,' he said, 'and let the Jumna's waves
Hide both my shame and these accursed slaves!'
His loathly length the unsexed bondman bowed
'On my head be it!'
Straightway from a cloud
Of dainty shawls and veils of woven mist
The Christian Miriam rose, and, stooping, kissed
The monarch's hand. Loose down her shoulders bare
Swept all the rippled darkness of her hair,
Veiling the bosom that, with high, quick swell
Of fear and pity, through it rose and fell.
'Alas!' she cried, 'hast thou forgotten quite
The words of Him we spake of yesternight?
Or thy own prophet's, 'Whoso doth endure
And pardon, of eternal life is sure'?
O great and good! be thy revenge alone
Felt in thy mercy to the erring shown;
Let thwarted love and youth their pardon plead,
Who sinned but in intent, and not in deed!'
One moment the strong frame of Akbar shook
With the great storm of passion. Then his look
Softened to her uplifted face, that still
Pleaded more strongly than all words, until
Its pride and anger seemed like overblown,
Spent clouds of thunder left to tell alone
Of strife and overcoming. With bowed head,
And smiting on his bosom: 'God,' he said,
'Alone is great, and let His holy name
Be honored, even to His servant's shame!
Well spake thy prophet, Miriam,-he alone
Who hath not sinned is meet to cast a stone
At such as these, who here their doom await,
Held like myself in the strong grasp of fate.
They sinned through love, as I through love forgive;
Take them beyond my realm, but let them live!'
And, like a chorus to the words of grace,
The ancient Fakir, sitting in his place,
Motionless as an idol and as grim,
In the pavilion Akbar built for him
Under the court-yard trees, (for he was wise,
Knew Menu's laws, and through his close-shut eyes
Saw things far off, and as an open book
Into the thoughts of other men could look,)
Began, half chant, half howling, to rehearse
The fragment of a holy Vedic verse;
And thus it ran: 'He who all things forgives
Conquers himself and all things else, and lives
Above the reach of wrong or hate or fear,
Calm as the gods, to whom he is most dear.'
Two leagues from Agra still the traveller sees
The tomb of Akbar through its cypress-trees;
And, near at hand, the marble walls that hide
The Christian Begum sleeping at his side.
And o'er her vault of burial (who shall tell
If it be chance alone or miracle?)
The Mission press with tireless hand unrolls
The words of Jesus on its lettered scrolls,-
Tells, in all tongues, the tale of mercy o'er,
And bids the guilty, 'Go and sin no more!'
It now was dew-fall; very still
The night lay on the lonely hill,
Down which our homeward steps we bent,
And, silent, through great silence went,
Save that the tireless crickets played
Their long, monotonous serenade.
A young moon, at its narrowest,
Curved sharp against the darkening west;
And, momently, the beacon's star,
Slow wheeling o'er its rock afar,
From out the level darkness shot
One instant and again was not.
And then my friend spake quietly
The thought of both: 'Yon crescent see!
Like Islam's symbol-moon it gives
Hints of the light whereby it lives
Somewhat of goodness, something true
From sun and spirit shining through
All faiths, all worlds, as through the dark
Of ocean shines the lighthouse spark,
Attests the presence everywhere
Of love and providential care.
The faith the old Norse heart confessed
In one dear name,-the hopefulest
And tenderest heard from mortal lips
In pangs of birth or death, from ships
Ice-bitten in the winter sea,
Or lisped beside a mother's knee,-
The wiser world hath not outgrown,
And the All-Father is our own!'
Mother and Daughter- Sonnet Sequence
Young laughters, and my music! Aye till now
The voice can reach no blending minors near;
'Tis the bird's trill because the spring is here
And spring means trilling on a blossomy bough;
'Tis the spring joy that has no why or how,
But sees the sun and hopes not nor can fear--
Spring is so sweet and spring seems all the year.
Dear voice, the first-come birds but trill as thou.
Oh music of my heart, be thus for long:
Too soon the spring bird learns the later song;
Too soon a sadder sweetness slays content
Too soon! There comes new light on onward day,
There comes new perfume o'er a rosier way:
Comes not again the young spring joy that went.
ROME, November 1881.
That she is beautiful is not delight,
As some think mothers joy, by pride of her,
To witness questing eyes caught prisoner
And hear her praised the livelong dancing night;
But the glad impulse that makes painters sight
Bids me note her and grow the happier;
And love that finds me as her worshipper
Reveals me each best loveliness aright.
Oh goddess head! Oh innocent brave eyes!
Oh curved and parted lips where smiles are rare
And sweetness ever! Oh smooth shadowy hair
Gathered around the silence of her brow!
Child, I'd needs love thy beauty stranger-wise:
And oh the beauty of it, being thou!
I watch the sweet grave face in timorous thought
Lest I should see it dawn to some unrest
And read that in her heart is youth's ill guest,
The querulous young sadness, born of nought,
That wearies of the strife it has not fought,
And finds the life it has not had unblest,
And asks it knows not what that should be best,
And till Love come has never what it sought.
But she is still. A full and crystal lake
So gives it skies their passage to its deeps
In an unruffled morn where no winds wake,
And, strong and fretless, 'stirs not, nor yet sleeps.
My darling smiles and 'tis for gladness' sake;
She hears a woe, 'tis simple tears she weeps.
'Tis but a child. The quiet Juno gaze
Breaks at a trifle into mirth and glow,
Changed as a folded bud bursts into blow,
And she springs, buoyant, on some busy craze,
Or, in the rhythm of her girlish plays,
Like light upon swift waves floats to and fro,
And, whatsoe'er's her mirth, needs me to know,
And keeps me young by her young innocent ways.
Just now she and her kitten raced and sprang
To catch the daisy ball she tossed about;
Then they grew grave, and found a shady tree,
And kitty tried to see the notes she sang:
Now she flies hitherward--'Mother! Quick! Come see!
Two hyacinths in my garden almost out!'
Last night the broad blue lightnings flamed the sky;
We watched, our breaths caught as each burst its way,
And through its fire out-leaped the sharp white ray,
And sudden dark re-closed when it went by:
But she, that where we are will needs be nigh,
Had tired with hunting orchids half the day.
Her father thought she called us; he and I,
Half anxious, reached the bedroom where she lay.
Oh lily face upon the whiteness blent!
How calm she lay in her unconscious grace!
A peal crashed on the silence ere we went;
She stirred in sleep, a little changed her place,
'Mother,' she breathed, a smile grew on her face:
'Mother,' my darling breathed, and slept content.
Sometimes, as young things will, she vexes me,
Wayward, or too unheeding, or too blind.
Like aimless birds that, flying on a wind,
Strike slant against their own familiar tree;
Like venturous children pacing with the sea,
That turn but when the breaker spurts behind
Outreaching them with spray: she in such kind
Is borne against some fault, or does not flee.
And so, may be, I blame her for her wrong,
And she will frown and lightly plead her part,
And then I bid her go. But 'tis not long:
Then comes she lip to ear and heart to heart.
And thus forgiven her love seems newly strong,
And, oh my penitent, how dear thou art!
Her father lessons me I at times am hard,
Chiding a moment's fault as too grave ill,
And let some little blot my vision fill,
Scanning her with a narrow near regard.
True. Love's unresting gaze is self-debarred
From all sweet ignorance, and learns a skill,
Not painless, of such signs as hurt love's will,
That would not have its prize one tittle marred.
Alas! Who rears and loves a dawning rose
Starts at a speck upon one petal's rim:
Who sees a dusk creep in the shrined pearl's glows,
Is ruined at once: 'My jewel growing dim!'
I watch one bud that on my bosom blows,
I watch one treasured pearl for me and him.
A little child she, half defiant came
Reasoning her case--'twas not so long ago--
'I cannot mind your scolding, for I know
However bad I were you'd love the same.'
And I, what countering answer could I frame?
'Twas true, and true, and God's self told her so.
One does but ask one's child to smile and grow,
And each rebuke has love for its right name.
And yet, methinks, sad mothers who for years,
Watching the child pass forth that was their boast,
Have counted all the footsteps by new fears
Till even lost fears seem hopes whereof they're reft
And of all mother's good love sole is left--
Is their Love, Love, or some remembered ghost?
Oh weary hearts! Poor mothers that look back!
So outcasts from the vale where they were born
Turn on their road and, with a joy forlorn,
See the far roofs below their arid track:
So in chill buffets while the sea grows black
And windy skies, once blue, are tost and torn,
We are not yet forgetful of the morn,
And praise anew the sunshine that we lack.
Oh, sadder than pale sufferers by a tomb
That say 'My dead is happier, and is more'
Are they who dare no 'is' but tell what's o'er--
Thus the frank childhood, those the lovable ways--
Stirring the ashes of remembered days
For yet some sparks to warm the livelong gloom.
Not Love, not Love, that worn and footsore thrall
Who, crowned with withered buds and leaves gone dry,
Plods in his chains to follow one passed by,
Guerdoned with only tears himself lets fall.
Love is asleep and smiling in his pall,
And this that wears his shape and will not die
Was once his comrade shadow, Memory--
His shadow that now stands for him in all.
And there are those who, hurrying on past reach,
See the dim follower and laugh, content,
'Lo, Love pursues me, go where'er I will!'
Yet, longer gazing, some may half beseech,
'This must be Love that wears his features still:
Or else when was the moment that Love went?'
'Tis men who say that through all hurt and pain
The woman's love, wife's, mother's, still will hold,
And breathes the sweeter and will more unfold
For winds that tear it, and the sorrowful rain.
So in a thousand voices has the strain
Of this dear patient madness been retold,
That men call woman's love. Ah! they are bold,
Naming for love that grief which does remain.
Love faints that looks on baseness face to face:
Love pardons all; but by the pardonings dies,
With a fresh wound of each pierced through the breast.
And there stand pityingly in Love's void place
Kindness of household wont familiar-wise,
And faith to Love--faith to our dead at rest.
She has made me wayside posies: here they stand,
Bringing fresh memories of where they grew.
As new-come travellers from a world we knew
Wake every while some image of their land,
So these whose buds our woodland breezes fanned
Bring to my room the meadow where they blew,
The brook-side cliff, the elms where wood-doves coo--
And every flower is dearer for her hand.
Oh blossoms of the paths she loves to tread,
Some grace of her is in all thoughts you bear:
For in my memories of your homes that were
The old sweet loneliness they kept is fled,
And would I think it back I find instead
A presence of my darling mingling there.
My darling scarce thinks music sweet save mine:
'Tis that she does but love me more than hear.
She'll not believe my voice to stranger ear
Is merely measure to the note and line;
'Not so,' she says; 'Thou hast a secret thine:
The others' singing's only rich, or clear,
But something in thy tones brings music near;
As though thy song could search me and divine.'
Oh voice of mine that in some day not far
Time, the strong creditor, will call his debt,
Will dull--and even to her--will rasp and mar,
Sing Time asleep because of her regret,
Be twice thy life the thing her fancies are,
Thou echo to the self she knows not yet.
CASERTA, April, 1882.
To love her as to-day is so great bliss
I needs must think of morrows almost loth,
Morrows wherein the flower's unclosing growth
Shall make my darling other than she is.
The breathing rose excels the bud I wis,
Yet bud that will be rose is sweet for both;
And by-and-by seems like some later troth
Named in the moment of a lover's kiss.
Yes, I am jealous, as of one now strange
That shall instead of her possess my thought,
Of her own self made new by any change,
Of her to be by ripening morrows brought.
My rose of women under later skies!
Yet, ah! my child with the child's trustful eyes!
That some day Death who has us all for jest
Shall hide me in the dark and voiceless mould,
And him whose living hand has mine in hold,
Where loving comes not nor the looks that rest,
Shall make us nought where we are known the best,
Forgotten things that leave their track untold
As in the August night the sky's dropped gold--
This seems no strangeness, but Death's natural hest.
But looking on the dawn that is her face
To know she too is Death's seems mis-belief;
She should not find decay, but, as the sun
Moves mightier from the veil that hides his place,
Keep ceaseless radiance. Life is Death begun:
But Death and her! That's strangeness passing grief.
She will not have it that my day wanes low,
Poor of the fire its drooping sun denies,
That on my brow the thin lines write good-byes
Which soon may be read plain for all to know,
Telling that I have done with youth's brave show;
Alas! and done with youth in heart and eyes,
With wonder and with far expectancies,
Save but to say 'I knew such long ago.'
She will not have it. Loverlike to me,
She with her happy gaze finds all that's best,
She sees this fair and that unfretted still,
And her own sunshine over all the rest:
So she half keeps me as she'd have me be,
And I forget to age, through her sweet will.
And how could I grow old while she's so young?
Methinks her heart sets tune for mine to beat,
We are so near; her new thoughts, incomplete,
Find their shaped wording happen on my tongue;
Like bloom on last year's winterings newly sprung
My youth upflowers with hers, and must repeat
Old joyaunces in me nigh obsolete.
Could I grow older while my child's so young?
And there are tales how youthful blood instilled
Thawing frore Age's veins gave life new course,
And quavering limbs and eyes made indolent
Grew freshly eager with beginning force:
She so breathes impulse. Were my years twice spent,
Not burdening Age, with her, could make me chilled.
'Tis hard that the full summer of our round
Is but the turn where winter's sign-post's writ;
That to have reached the best is leaving it;
That final loss bears date from having found.
So some proud vessel in a narrow sound
Sails at high water with the fair wind fit,
And lo! the ebb along the sandy spit,
Lower and lower till she jars, aground.
'Tis hard. We are young still but more content;
'Tis our ripe flush, the heyday of our prime;
We learn full breath, how rich of the air we are!
But suddenly we note a touch of time,
A little fleck that scarcely seems to mar;
And we know then that some time since youth went.
Life on the wane: yes, sudden that news breaks.
And yet I would 'twere suddenly and less soon;
Since no forewarning makes loss opportune.
And now I watch that slow advance Time makes:
Watch as, while silent flow spreads broad the lakes
Mid the land levels of a smooth lagoon,
One waiting, pitiful, on a tidal dune,
Aware too long before it overtakes.
Ah! there's so quick a joy in hues and sun,
And will my eyes see dim? Will vacant sense
Forget the lark, the surges on the beach?
Shall I step wearily and wish 'twere done?
Well, if it be love will not too go hence,
Love will have new glad secrets yet to teach.
There's one I miss. A little questioning maid
That held my finger, trotting by my side,
And smiled out of her pleased eyes open wide,
Wondering and wiser at each word I said.
And I must help her frolics if she played,
And I must feel her trouble if she cried;
My lap was hers past right to be denied;
She did my bidding, but I more obeyed.
Dearer she is to-day, dearer and more;
Closer to me, since sister womanhoods meet;
Yet, like poor mothers some long while bereft,
I dwell on toward ways, quaint memories left,
I miss the approaching sound of pit-pat feet,
The eager baby voice outside my door.
Hardly in any common tender wise,
With petting talk, light lips on her dear cheek,
The love I mean my child will bear to speak,
Loth of its own less image for disguise;
But liefer will it floutingly devise,
Using a favourite jester's mimic pique,
Prompt, idle, by-names with their sense to seek,
And takes for language laughing ironies.
But she, as when some foreign tongue is heard,
Familiar on our lips and closely known,
We feel the every purport of each word
When ignorant ears reach empty sound alone,
So knows the core within each merry gird,
So gives back such a meaning in her own.
The brook leaps riotous with its life just found,
That freshets from the mountain rains have fed,
Beats at the boulders in its hindered bed,
And fills the valley with its triumphing sound.
The strong unthirsty tarn sunk in deep ground
Has never a sigh wherewith its wealth is said,
Has no more ripples than the May-flies tread:
Silence of waters is where they abound.
And love, whatever love, sure, makes small boast:
'Tis the new lovers tell, in wonder yet.
Oh happy need! Enriched stream's jubilant gush!
But who being spouses well have learned love's most,
Being child and mother learned not nor forget,
These in their joyfulness feel the tarn's strong hush.
Birds sing 'I love you, love' the whole day through,
And not another song can they sing right;
But, singing done with, loving's done with quite,
The autumn sunders every twittering two.
And I'd not have love make too much ado
With sweet parades of fondness and delight,
Lest iterant wont should make caresses trite,
Love-names mere cuckoo ousters of the true.
Oh heart can hear heart's sense in senseless nought,
And heart that's sure of heart has little speech.
What shall it tell? The other knows its thought.
What shall one doubt or question or beseech
Who is assured and knows and, unbesought,
Possesses the dear trust that each gives each.
'You scarcely are a mother, at that rate.
Only one child!' The blithe soul pitied loud.
And doubtless she, amid her household crowd,
When one brings care in another's fortunate;
When one fares forth another's at her gate.
Yea, were her first-born folded in his shroud,
Not with a whole despair would she be bowed,
She has more sons to make her heart elate.
Many to love her singly, mother theirs,
To give her the dear love of being their need,
To storm her lap by turns and claim their kiss,
To kneel around her at their bed-time prayers;
Many to grow her comrades! Some have this.
Yet I, I do not envy them indeed.
You think that you love each as much as one,
Mothers with many nestlings 'neath your wings.
Nay, but you know not. Love's most priceless things
Have unity that cannot be undone.
You give the rays, I the englobed full sun;
I give the river, you the separate springs:
My motherhood's all my child's with all it brings--
None takes the strong entireness from her: none.
You know not. You love yours with various stress;
This with a graver trust, this with more pride;
This maybe with more needed tenderness:
I by each uttermost passion of my soul
Am turned to mine; she is one, she has the whole:
How should you know who appraise love and divide?
Of my one pearl so much more joy I gain
As he that to his sole desire is sworn,
Indifferent what women more were born,
And if she loved him not all love were vain,
Gains more, because of her--yea, through all pain,
All love and sorrows, were they two forlorn--
Than whoso happiest in the lands of morn
Mingles his heart amid a wifely train.
Oh! Child and mother, darling! Mother and child!
And who but we? We, darling, paired alone?
Thou hast all thy mother; thou art all my own.
That passion of maternity which sweeps
Tideless 'neath where the heaven of thee hath smiled
Has but one channel, therefore infinite deeps.
Since first my little one lay on my breast
I never needed such a second good,
Nor felt a void left in my motherhood
She filled not always to the utterest.
The summer linnet, by glad yearnings pressed,
Builds room enough to house a callow brood:
I prayed not for another child--nor could;
My solitary bird had my heart's nest.
But she is cause that any baby thing
If it but smile, is one of mine in truth,
And every child becomes my natural joy:
And, if my heart gives all youth fostering,
Her sister, brother, seems the girl or boy:
My darling makes me mother to their youth.