Sebastian: She killed him. She held a pillow over his face and I held his legs. She killed Alexander Lester. She killed Boris Lester. Poisoned him with mushrooms and let him die. She killed that poorly... [CRIES] She killed that boy so that we could be together. I thought I loved her.
Only Together at Night
Last night I dreamed
Dreamed on a beach
Last night I dreamed
Of you and me
Last night I dreamed
That we could be
Last night I dreamed
That you had died
Last night I dreamed
That in my strife
I took my life
Yes, this I dreamed
That we could be
Never wanna fall in love again
Dont ever wanna feel the pain again
Dont wanna see another love turn into a lie
Dont wanna see another tear fall from my eye
I know my heart wasnt meant to be let down
Its juss not made for pain
You never really know til its much too late
Its juss enuff to drive you insane
True love is not always the best thing
Not when your hearts at stake and the love you make gets thrown away
True love can start out right but then it falls apart
It always break your heart
Never knew that love could be so cruel
To make even the kindest hearts play the fool
At first it makes you feel real good
It makes you feel fine
But it can really turn on you at the best and worst time
I never knew that love could hurt so much
Thought it would always be mine
I didnt know until it was much too late
And now Im going out of my mind
Why did you have to be this way
Why did you have to go
Feels like my heart has been betray
Should of been the best thing that has happened to me
You should of been the best thing
But you play me like a fool
Why you have to be so cruel
Never wanna believe in you
~!*chorus til fade*!~
- quotes about heart
- quotes about illness
- quotes about pain
- quotes about injury
- quotes about beginning
- quotes about eyes
- quotes about intellect
- quotes about beauty
She Loved Me; I Loved Her Not-Chapter Two
Audrey stood in front of the mirror that night
with the radio on staring at her body
in just in her bra and panties
evaluating her body, comparing her body,
her hair, her mouth, her behind
putting tissue paper in her bra cups
trying to get them look like Carly's breasts
puffing out her behind
pouting her lips
trying on a shade of lipstick
of lip gloss
that matched the kinds Carly wore.
She put her shortest shirt
thinking to hem to make it shorter
but not too short;
She didn't want to look cheap;
she would have to hide it in her backpack to get it out of the house.
She would have to change in the girl's bathroom at school
hoping no one would notice how her clothing had changed
that no one would notice and tell her parents,
or worse report her to the principal.
She didn't want people to start to talking about her
that would be mortifying
rumors would start
boys would start to think she was easy
and some of the girls would say she was a tramp or "fast."
Lots of girls at school wore short skirts but if she Audrey
people would notice,
her reputation would get ruined.
She looked at the skirt in the mirror
to see if her thighs,
looked fat or were too thick.
She stared at them not being able to tell
she was not used to seeing her thighs in a short skirt.
She went to her closet to retrieve a top,
a white top,
because she felt that would not draw as much attention
buttoning up the front, with tiny pearl buttons.
staring at herself in the mirror;
examining her tissue-paper breasts
inside the top,
noting to her embarrassment
that her breasts looked lumpy.
Lumpy breasts would be a problem.
She pulled out a pair of socks from her closet
placing them carefully inside her bra.
They looked ok
but she would have to sew them in|
to be sure they didn't fall out
She dropped the socks on the dark carpet
and went to the closet to look again for something else.
She decided on cotton,
which she tore from the shoulder pads of the suit her aunt had given her
for her visit to New York
her junior year.
She took the shoulder pads out and tired them on,
turning slowing in front of the mirror to see how they looked.
They were perfect
and she breathed a gentle sigh of relief.
Now the eyes and the makeup;
She had some
and some she had borrowed
from her mother's makeup kit
and some she had gotten from her girlfriend, Mary
offering the excuse she had seen in a magazine some new things which could be done
Mary didn't ask any questions.
Arrayed before her was eyeliner, blush, powder,
and tweezers for eyebrow plucking,
gloss, foundation, false eyebrows, eyelash thickener, sparkles,
and something Mary had given her which she had no clue as to what it could be used for
(It turned out something which could thicken your newly plucked eyebrows.)
She never wore makeup before, at least to school
and it was suddenly dawning on her
that showing up with all this makeup was bound to be noticed.
She turned from the mirror, feeling dazed
going to sit on the side of her bed
that all this,
and not her.
It was too phony and people would see through it.
If her love was steady and strong
I would see that in time
But she would not pretend to be a person different than she was
because that would be obvious to everyone,
me and to herself.
If love was to triumph here Audrey concluded
it could not be based upon makeup and tight clothes.
She then decided what she would do, closing the make-up cases intinctively understanding it was an important decision in her young life.
The next day she told me what she had decided to do and I listened
just looking at her for a moment
as she told me the details
of the night before,
The makeup, the short skirt
the tight blouse,
all of it.
To be continued
- quotes about cotton
- quotes about girls
- quotes about school
- quotes about paper
- quotes about New York
- quotes about pearls
- quotes about expose
- quotes about victory
She Loved Me; I Loved Her Not
She was not the prettiest flower in the bouquet
but she had a perfumed heart
which shone through in a radiant smile and gentle nature;
she loved me dearly.
I, I awakened to puberty blinded by blond curls
and cheerleader bodies
and to those nasty girls
who flirted with my hormones
shaking me into the boy-way and impure thoughts;
sometimes at the wrong time
as the girls filed by us boys
we both on our
way to the gym and my embarrassment.
Where sometimes I had to skip gym and make excuses.
Audrey watched from afar;
I was not so much oblivious of how she felt
and I felt she was nice but, too nice
to be despoiled by what I wanted from girls
I wanted the fast girls because fast knows fast
and I was definitely fast in my sloppy jeans.
So like attracted like.
Like bears and honey
And like bears and honey
I didn't care if I got stung
I wanted honey.
Every boy in my school wanted the same three girls;
every girl in my school wanted the same three boys
the rest of us were bystanders, spectators and critics
to scenes we were not part of
not even able to offer solace to others like ourselves because
to be in the not-popular group was to be a social failure;
and who wants to associate with social failures-
no one that's who.
Being seen together
only drew attention to your failed status in life.
No one wants that right?
Audrey stood by watching me hunger for the popular girls
who was my female succubus,
who could arouse in me
such that at times I dared not stand up.
Carly was the one who knew how to flirt
how to move my hormones with just a glance;
how to flip her hair
how to bend over to pick up that mythical pencil
how to always look available
whether she had a boyfriend or not
how to perform in lunch-room theater
scenes of a princess eating
several kinds of food stuffs from soup to hotdogs,
to ice cream cones
which drove the boys crazy
where Life would stand still for the boys and the girls
and also for some male faculty members
who too would
become frozen in time
whenever Carly, took up her comestibles.
The girls watched too angry-eager to learn how to imitate
-envious critical condemning, castigating
totally in awe of what Carly could do to boys.
She had the gift of innocent sexuality,
no better, the gift of a innocent playful sexuality
naughty but not seedy,
a young girl in a woman's body,
natural senuous movements which gave promise
of her inner woman to be.
She was of course learning of her ability
to attract boys and men
but her learning was so public
and she learned to accommodate the stares and
mini-hatreds and lusts of others
on the stage she had placed upon
which made her internal development public out of necessity.
She was used to all eyes upon her.
And even then I realized that Carly was also a symbol of how everything and anything could be given a sexual interpretation
not only by us boys, but the girls as well
and as well by the adults,
some of whom hated Carly's natural sexuality
and other adults there
who hated her
and that very same sexuality
as a sign of the devils work
made them feel that sexuality
against their will-same as the young boys.
No one it seemed was immune
from the powerful pull of Carly's natural sexuality.
Carly lived in the middle of this maelstrom.
I found Audrey one Friday
(Carly and her popular group came to the cafeteria
only on Fridays,
hence her appearances were extra special
to all concerned
since they were not frequent.)
One day, as I was saying,
I saw Audrey outside the cafeteria
and the moment her eyes met mine
she started to cry.
I asked her what was the matter.
'Nothing.' she said turning away
but that was the first day I started to see her
as a real person,
not a girlfriend mind you
rather I started to see her as a comrade in suffering.
I vowed to ask her who she was in love with
assuming she shared my predicament.
And I thought we could help each other.
I thought I would call her.
Without further words Audrey walked away
humiliated but happy so happy that I had noticed her.
She vowed that she would fight for me
she would walk up to me in the school corridor
and kiss me on the cheek;
that is what she would do
to make me understand how she felt about me.
To make me see that she was the one
who loved me
that really understood me.
That is what she decided to do
That night she planned it out:
Lip gloss, short skirt, tight top,
she would be a new Audrey and get my attention
and make me forget the nasty girls.
To be continued
Oh How That German Could Love!
Once I got stuck on a sweet little German
And oh what a German was she
The best that was walking, well what's the use talking
Was just made to order for me
So lovely, and witty, more yet she was pretty
You don't know until you have tried
She had such a figure, it couldn't be bigger
And there was some more yet beside
Oh how that German could love
With a feeling that came from the heart
She called me her honey, her angel, her money
She pushed ev'ry word out so smart
She spoke like a speaker, and oh what a speech
Like no other speaker could speak
Ach my what a German when she kissed her Herman
It stayed on my cheek for a week
This girl could squeeze, and it never would hurt
For that lady knew just how to squeeze
Her loving was killing, more yet she was willing
You never would have to say please
I just couldn't stop her, for dinner and supper
Some kisses and hugs was the food
When she wasn't nice it was more better twice
When she's bad she was better than good
Oh how that German could love
With a sweetness that's sweeter than sweet
Just say what you please, you would hug and you'd squeeze
Just the shoes that she wore on her feet
Her smile was like money that somebody owed you
That somebody wanted to give
When you felt like dying and she started sighing
Ach my it was worthwhile to live
Sometimes we'd love for a week at a time
And it only would seem like a day
How well I remember, one night in December
I felt like the middle of May
I'll bet all I'm worth that when she came on earth
All the angels went out on parade
No other one turned up, I think that they burned up
The pattern from which she was made
Oh how that German could love
With a love like you see in a play
When she said, "My dear," it would ring in my ear
For a year, and a week and a day
Her no was like yes, and her yes was like no
It was something like yes, it was, well
When we got together ach donner und vetter
'Twas love with a capital "L
The Boy Next Door
There's a boy who lives next door;
And this boy is just as bad
As a boy can be; and poor!
He's so poor it makes me sad
When I see him. Out at knee;
And no shoes; and, more than that,
Hardly any shirt or hat.
He's as poor as Poverty.
But I like him; yes, I do.
He can play 'most any game,
And tell fairy stories, too;
Funny stories, just the same
As my father does. And he
Told me one about a frog,
Living near a lake or bog,
Frog that married a bumblebee.
And another of Jumping Joan
And Hink Minx, the old witch that
Sits before the fire alone
Frying fat for her black cat.
And of Craney Crow; her dog
And her chicken. But the best,
One I like more than the rest,
'S that one of the bee and frog.
Well, the bumblebee would sing
All day long; and all the night
Sang the old frog; till the thing,
So folks said, was done in spite,
Just to keep the flowers awake:
One a rose, a brier-rose;
And the other, one of those
Lilies that grow in a lake.
All day long the bee would prod
At the rose and buzz and keep
Shaking it; it couldn't nod,
Much less ever go to sleep:
Humming to it, 'Don't you hear?
I'm so happy! Can't you be
Just a little neighborly?
Ain't my froggie just a dear?'
And the frog all night would sing
To the water-lily; while
On the pad he'd sit or cling,
On his face an ear-wide smile,
Croaking, 'Listen! have you heard
All about my bouncing bee?
Don't you wish that you were she?
I'm as happy as a bird!'
Then the water-lily'd yawn,
And the rose would bat its eyes:
One would say, 'It's nearly dawn.
Better sleep. So I advise.'
And the other, 'Jumping Jim!
That old frog's a wonder! made
Just for you. Can't I persuade
You to sing your songs to him?'
Finally it got so bad
That the rose and lily agreed
They would fix them. Both were mad
And just dying to be freed
From this tuneful tyranny.
So the rose just took a thorn,
When the bee dropped in one morn,
Stabbed her; killed her dead, you see.
That night by the yellow moon,
Sitting on the lily-pad,
Tuning up his old bassoon,
Did n't that old frog feel sad
When the lily told him! Cried
Fit to break one's heart; and, plunk!
In he plunged right there and sunk:
Drowned, committed suicide.
My Bride That Is To Be
O soul of mine, look out and see
My bride, my bride that is to be!
Reach out with mad, impatient hands,
And draw aside futurity
As one might draw a veil aside--
And so unveil her where she stands
Madonna-like and glorified--
The queen of undiscovered lands
Of love, to where she beckons me--
My bride--my bride that is to be.
The shadow of a willow-tree
That wavers on a garden-wall
In summertime may never fall
In attitude as gracefully
As my fair bride that is to be;--
Nor ever Autumn's leaves of brown
As lightly flutter to the lawn
As fall her fairy-feet upon
The path of love she loiters down.--
O'er drops of dew she walks, and yet
Not one may stain her sandal wet--
Aye, she might _dance_ upon the way
Nor crush a single drop to spray,
So airy-like she seems to me,--
My bride, my bride that is to be.
I know not if her eyes are light
As summer skies or dark as night,--
I only know that they are dim
With mystery: In vain I peer
To make their hidden meaning clear,
While o'er their surface, like a tear
That ripples to the silken brim,
A look of longing seems to swim
All worn and wearylike to me;
And then, as suddenly, my sight
Is blinded with a smile so bright,
Through folded lids I still may see
My bride, my bride that is to be.
Her face is like a night of June
Upon whose brow the crescent-moon
Hangs pendant in a diadem
Of stars, with envy lighting them.--
And, like a wild cascade, her hair
Floods neck and shoulder, arm and wrist,
Till only through a gleaming mist
I seem to see a siren there,
With lips of love and melody
And open arms and heaving breast
Wherein I fling myself to rest,
The while my heart cries hopelessly
For my fair bride that is to be....
Nay, foolish heart and blinded eyes!
My bride hath need of no disguise.--
But, rather, let her come to me
In such a form as bent above
My pillow when in infancy
I knew not anything but love.--
O let her come from out the lands
Of Womanhood--not fairy isles,--
And let her come with Woman's hands
And Woman's eyes of tears and smiles,--
With Woman's hopefulness and grace
Of patience lighting up her face:
And let her diadem be wrought
Of kindly deed and prayerful thought,
That ever over all distress
May beam the light of cheerfulness.--
And let her feet be brave to fare
The labyrinths of doubt and care,
That, following, my own may find
The path to Heaven God designed.--
O let her come like this to me--
My bride--my bride that is to be.
All That I Could Wish For You
All that I could wish for you or anyone else
is more than I could attain for myself.
So far from home for so long
as if home were the alibi
that put the distance between me and a lie
I got sick of telling myself
to feel I belonged somewhere to some people
who might look up from the compass
of what they’re doing once and awhile
into the thirty-six years of my absence
and care that I’m not there anymore.
So I wish you a door that opens
before you need to knock.
And a thief in a window you leave unlocked
so he can steal your heart like sterling silver
and pawn it off as moonlight.
I suspect most people are way too clever
to ever be loved the way they want to be
and I’m not saying that I’ve never been graced
by the mystery
of waking up beside someone I loved
dreaming next to me
about things I know nothing of
because love keeps its deepest secrets to itself
like water on the moon
but I wish you the purest of fountains
from the sweetest wellsprings of life
that don’t look upon the reflections of the clouds
or the leaves and birds that come to sip from its glass
as just another mouthful of polluted words
indelible as headlines
disposable as trash.
My light’s been bent
by a lot of black holes and gravitational eyes
in the five billion light years it’s taken to get here
like a past I almost forgot I had
and I’m not saying that’s bad
though it’s relatively slow
compared to the speed of thought
that overtook it like a hawk
coming down on a morning dove.
But I wish you the immensity of a clear night sky
it will take you forever to disappear in
because of all the things
you can learn to say good-bye to in this world
the hardest farewell to master is love.
I’ve always been grateful
for the gifts I’ve been given
and endeavoured like any other B.C. salmon
to make a gift of a gift
by swimming upstream
like a waterclock doubling back on its way to the sea.
Like the retrograde motion of Mars
there may be loops and nooses and garottes in my orbit
and small raw pieces of my heart I used
to bait the trapline
to catch and skin the fishers
that kept killing my cats when I lived on a farm
not very far from here
without meaning any harm to the wildlife
that accepted me as one of their own
and like I did them
left me alone.
Except for the fishers.
So I wish you a free passage through life
where every breath you take
adds another inch of feather to the wind
like a mindstream flowing into an older river of stars
with wild irises blooming along its banks
like blue flames of hydrogen
that stick their tongues in each others’ ears
as if they had something to say to one another
like lovers and celestial spheres
and oceans in a seashell
not well-intentioned highways lined with roadkill
like the primrose path to hell that most of us take
like a short cut back to a worse mistake
than the one we made to get here.
Most of my life
I’ve felt like a fluke of the truth
that was able to win out against
the astronomical odds
of my small chances of having the courage
to stand up for it like a strong voice
in a lottery of echoes
but fortunately I’ve always been
to risk everything in the name of nothing
I’ve ever seen
but sensed was near and clear to me
like a warm spring rain on a dirty window pane
like the gardens of ice
that grew out of my breath
like the tendrils of ferns unfurling
like the treble clefs of blue violins
in a sad exiled place
where the truth was music to my ears
that fell like the sound of rain from home on my roots
but felt like all the shattered chandeliers and broken mirrors
had gone into diaspora.
A crystal nacht of jackboots
refused to see the whole
reflected in every part of me as in them
like the yellow star
of the myriad-eyed conspiracy theory
that out shone the black hole they wanted to bury it in
like something you could catch
and put in your pocket
and save for a rainy day
like a ghetto or a bank to bail you out
whenever they got so fanatically deep into themselves
everything they felt
everything they had to say
was a debt to someone
they couldn’t possibly repay
even if they could turn
the bad luck of their swastikas the other way
like the prayer wheel of a poisonous flower
like hate mail disguised as a loveletter
even the wind and the light refused to answer.
So I wish you the mindscape and spirituality
of a generous country with a big sky
where the constellations have no nationality
other than free access to the great sea of awareness beyond
that reflects all the colours of the colour blind stars
and makes them feel they’ve made it home
as soon as their light arrives
like honey bees without borders
to open the flowers
like the passports of Japanese plum blossoms
that travel without i.d. anywhere they want
like the billions upon billions of fingerprints
that never lie about our common humanity
to anyone who needs to ask
who we all belong to
if it isn’t each other
and where we all come from
if it wasn’t from the same dark mother.
Poetry has been the most ardent folly of my crazy wisdom
for as long as I’ve known how to weep and wonder
in joy and sorrow
at the mystery and the horror
of what’s arrayed before us here
with such immensity
even time feels small in its presence.
Keats once said load every rift with ore
and so I have
but the greatest discipline of my calling
the gravest risk
the royal quatternio of Orphic alchemy
in the hands of a master shapeshifter
in the smile of a sacred clown
has been to approach the shining
without turning gold into a base metal.
To taste the water without fouling the well I drew it from.
To look at the stars without getting in their eyes.
To pursue an earthly excellence
that expressed the human divinity
that was born of suffering in everyone
without giving offense to the transcendentalists
who like to keep their gods unattainable
because I could see its immanence
was a lot closer to them
than they were to it.
I could see it in the hunch-back baglady
sorting through a garbage can at four in the morning
for the hidden jewel she was sure to find
if she looked deep enough.
I could see it in myself from time to time
when my mind strayed like a white horse
with an odd-shaped birthmark
in the middle of its forehead
because it wasn’t born lucky enough to be a logo
into the star fields of my reclusive neighbour
like the constellation Pegasus
through a gap in a fallen fence
and she was there to lead it back like a muse
along the Road of Ghosts
and you could tell by the smile on her face
that she’d always met me this way
and that there was nothing supernatural
in what she wasn’t trying to hide.
I can see it in you like light in a lamp
that isn’t cagey enough to keep a dove in
even if it wanted to
and it’s as clear as fireflies on a starless night
that it can’t and it won’t and it doesn’t.
So I wish for you a long love affair
with a passion you can’t marry.
A calling that doesn’t have your name on it
because it doesn’t belong to anyone
but loves the sound of your voice in the stairwell
whether you’re coming or going
and the picture-music you set it to
like morning glory on the moon
to let life speak through you in dead earnest
as if you were wholly possessed by the play
of the hero’s entrance
and the villain’s exit
though you know they’re both taking
a standing ovation in the same doorway.
I wish you the sublimity of a single blade of grass
and a darkness as profound as the shadow of an ant
and a heart like a bell of sorrows so sweet and deep
even in a single tear
it’s way out of its depths.
And in the evening just before the stars come out
and Venus is following
the last crescent of the moon
down in the west
having wandered as far as it dares from the sun
I wish you a soul so expansive and radiant with light
all the nights to come can’t help making
enlightened gestures of glee
toward the court jesters
who illuminate your crown with laughter
like waterlilies that shine up at everyone
out of their dark wisdom
and their artistic genius for working with water
like a Zen master amusing himself
with paper boats that float
like the moon on the mindstream
knowing there’s nowhere to go
nothing to do
no one to be
and no one to set free.
Because the people all know
there’s never been a river
that doesn’t lead to the sea
or a hand or a brush or a pen
following its own cursive script
like the holy book of a lost art
that isn’t written in blood
but makes itself up as it flows along
like a spiral galaxy without a star map
all the way to the heart.
And once the lightning’s rooted in your mind
and blossoms like fireflies
in a garden of insight
I wish you never a thought
whatever the mode of expression
whatever the fashion
whatever the theme
that doesn’t tend like all lucidity
to sweeten the fruits of compassion.
The Book of Annandale
Partly to think, more to be left alone,
George Annandale said something to his friends—
A word or two, brusque, but yet smoothed enough
To suit their funeral gaze—and went upstairs;
And there, in the one room that he could call
His own, he found a sort of meaningless
Annoyance in the mute familiar things
That filled it; for the grate’s monotonous gleam
Was not the gleam that he had known before,
The books were not the books that used to be,
The place was not the place. There was a lack
Of something; and the certitude of death
Itself, as with a furtive questioning,
Hovered, and he could not yet understand.
He knew that she was gone—there was no need
Of any argued proof to tell him that,
For they had buried her that afternoon,
Under the leaves and snow; and still there was
A doubt, a pitiless doubt, a plunging doubt,
That struck him, and upstartled when it struck,
The vision, the old thought in him. There was
A lack, and one that wrenched him; but it was
Not that—not that. There was a present sense
Of something indeterminably near—
The soul-clutch of a prescient emptiness
That would not be foreboding. And if not,
What then?—or was it anything at all?
Yes, it was something—it was everything—
But what was everything? or anything?
Tired of time, bewildered, he sat down;
But in his chair he kept on wondering
That he should feel so desolately strange
And yet—for all he knew that he had lost
More of the world than most men ever win—
So curiously calm. And he was left
Unanswered and unsatisfied: there came
No clearer meaning to him than had come
Before; the old abstraction was the best
That he could find, the farthest he could go;
To that was no beginning and no end—
No end that he could reach. So he must learn
To live the surest and the largest life
Attainable in him, would he divine
The meaning of the dream and of the words
That he had written, without knowing why,
On sheets that he had bound up like a book
And covered with red leather. There it was—
There in his desk, the record he had made,
The spiritual plaything of his life:
There were the words no eyes had ever seen
Save his; there were the words that were not made
For glory or for gold. The pretty wife
Whom he had loved and lost had not so much
As heard of them. They were not made for her.
His love had been so much the life of her,
And hers had been so much the life of him,
That any wayward phrasing on his part
Would have had no moment. Neither had lived enough
To know the book, albeit one of them
Had grown enough to write it. There it was,
However, though he knew not why it was:
There was the book, but it was not for her,
For she was dead. And yet, there was the book.
Thus would his fancy circle out and out,
And out and in again, till he would make
As if with a large freedom to crush down
Those under-thoughts. He covered with his hands
His tired eyes, and waited: he could hear—
Or partly feel and hear, mechanically—
The sound of talk, with now and then the steps
And skirts of some one scudding on the stairs,
Forgetful of the nerveless funeral feet
That she had brought with her; and more than once
There came to him a call as of a voice—
A voice of love returning—but not hers.
Whose he knew not, nor dreamed; nor did he know,
Nor did he dream, in his blurred loneliness
Of thought, what all the rest might think of him.
For it had come at last, and she was gone
With all the vanished women of old time,—
And she was never coming back again.
Yes, they had buried her that afternoon,
Under the frozen leaves and the cold earth,
Under the leaves and snow. The flickering week,
The sharp and certain day, and the long drowse
Were over, and the man was left alone.
He knew the loss—therefore it puzzled him
That he should sit so long there as he did,
And bring the whole thing back—the love, the trust,
The pallor, the poor face, and the faint way
She last had looked at him—and yet not weep,
Or even choose to look about the room
To see how sad it was; and once or twice
He winked and pinched his eyes against the flame
And hoped there might be tears. But hope was all,
And all to him was nothing: he was lost.
And yet he was not lost: he was astray—
Out of his life and in another life;
And in the stillness of this other life
He wondered and he drowsed. He wondered when
It was, and wondered if it ever was
On earth that he had known the other face—
The searching face, the eloquent, strange face—
That with a sightless beauty looked at him
And with a speechless promise uttered words
That were not the world’s words, or any kind
That he had known before. What was it, then?
What was it held him—fascinated him?
Why should he not be human? He could sigh,
And he could even groan,—but what of that?
There was no grief left in him. Was he glad?
Yet how could he be glad, or reconciled,
Or anything but wretched and undone?
How could he be so frigid and inert—
So like a man with water in his veins
Where blood had been a little while before?
How could he sit shut in there like a snail?
What ailed him? What was on him? Was he glad?
Over and over again the question came,
Unanswered and unchanged,—and there he was.
But what in heaven’s name did it all mean?
If he had lived as other men had lived,
If home had ever shown itself to be
The counterfeit that others had called home,
Then to this undivined resource of his
There were some key; but now … Philosophy?
Yes, he could reason in a kind of way
That he was glad for Miriam’s release—
Much as he might be glad to see his friends
Laid out around him with their grave-clothes on,
And this life done for them; but something else
There was that foundered reason, overwhelmed it,
And with a chilled, intuitive rebuff
Beat back the self-cajoling sophistries
That his half-tutored thought would half-project.
What was it, then? Had he become transformed
And hardened through long watches and long grief
Into a loveless, feelingless dead thing
That brooded like a man, breathed like a man,—
Did everything but ache? And was a day
To come some time when feeling should return
Forever to drive off that other face—
The lineless, indistinguishable face—
That once had thrilled itself between his own
And hers there on the pillow,—and again
Between him and the coffin-lid had flashed
Like fate before it closed,—and at the last
Had come, as it should seem, to stay with him,
Bidden or not? He were a stranger then,
Foredrowsed awhile by some deceiving draught
Of poppied anguish, to the covert grief
And the stark loneliness that waited him,
And for the time were cursedly endowed
With a dull trust that shammed indifference
To knowing there would be no touch again
Of her small hand on his, no silencing
Of her quick lips on his, no feminine
Completeness and love-fragrance in the house,
No sound of some one singing any more,
No smoothing of slow fingers on his hair,
No shimmer of pink slippers on brown tiles.
But there was nothing, nothing, in all that:
He had not fooled himself so much as that;
He might be dreaming or he might be sick,
But not like that. There was no place for fear,
No reason for remorse. There was the book
That he had made, though.… It might be the book;
Perhaps he might find something in the book;
But no, there could be nothing there at all—
He knew it word for word; but what it meant—
He was not sure that he had written it
For what it meant; and he was not quite sure
That he had written it;—more likely it
Was all a paper ghost.… But the dead wife
Was real: he knew all that, for he had been
To see them bury her; and he had seen
The flowers and the snow and the stripped limbs
Of trees; and he had heard the preacher pray;
And he was back again, and he was glad.
Was he a brute? No, he was not a brute:
He was a man—like any other man:
He had loved and married his wife Miriam,
They had lived a little while in paradise
And she was gone; and that was all of it.
But no, not all of it—not all of it:
There was the book again; something in that
Pursued him, overpowered him, put out
The futile strength of all his whys and wheres,
And left him unintelligibly numb—
Too numb to care for anything but rest.
It must have been a curious kind of book
That he had made it: it was a drowsy book
At any rate. The very thought of it
Was like the taste of some impossible drink—
A taste that had no taste, but for all that
Had mixed with it a strange thought-cordial,
So potent that it somehow killed in him
The ultimate need of doubting any more—
Of asking any more. Did he but live
The life that he must live, there were no more
To seek.—The rest of it was on the way.
Still there was nothing, nothing, in all this—
Nothing that he cared now to reconcile
With reason or with sorrow. All he knew
For certain was that he was tired out:
His flesh was heavy and his blood beat small;
Something supreme had been wrenched out of him
As if to make vague room for something else.
He had been through too much. Yes, he would stay
There where he was and rest.—And there he stayed;
The daylight became twilight, and he stayed;
The flame and the face faded, and he slept.
And they had buried her that afternoon,
Under the tight-screwed lid of a long box,
Under the earth, under the leaves and snow.
Look where she would, feed conscience how she might,
There was but one way now for Damaris—
One straight way that was hers, hers to defend,
At hand, imperious. But the nearness of it,
The flesh-bewildering simplicity,
And the plain strangeness of it, thrilled again
That wretched little quivering single string
Which yielded not, but held her to the place
Where now for five triumphant years had slept
The flameless dust of Argan.—He was gone,
The good man she had married long ago;
And she had lived, and living she had learned,
And surely there was nothing to regret:
Much happiness had been for each of them,
And they had been like lovers to the last:
And after that, and long, long after that,
Her tears had washed out more of widowed grief
Than smiles had ever told of other joy.—
But could she, looking back, find anything
That should return to her in the new time,
And with relentless magic uncreate
This temple of new love where she had thrown
Dead sorrow on the altar of new life?
Only one thing, only one thread was left;
When she broke that, when reason snapped it off,
And once for all, baffled, the grave let go
The trivial hideous hold it had on her,—
Then she were free, free to be what she would,
Free to be what she was.—And yet she stayed,
Leashed, as it were, and with a cobweb strand,
Close to a tombstone—maybe to starve there.
But why to starve? And why stay there at all?
Why not make one good leap and then be done
Forever and at once with Argan’s ghost
And all such outworn churchyard servitude?
For it was Argan’s ghost that held the string,
And her sick fancy that held Argan’s ghost—
Held it and pitied it. She laughed, almost,
There for the moment; but her strained eyes filled
With tears, and she was angry for those tears—
Angry at first, then proud, then sorry for them.
So she grew calm; and after a vain chase
For thoughts more vain, she questioned of herself
What measure of primeval doubts and fears
Were still to be gone through that she might win
Persuasion of her strength and of herself
To be what she could see that she must be,
No matter where the ghost was.—And the more
She lived, the more she came to recognize
That something out of her thrilled ignorance
Was luminously, proudly being born,
And thereby proving, thought by forward thought,
The prowess of its image; and she learned
At length to look right on to the long days
Before her without fearing. She could watch
The coming course of them as if they were
No more than birds, that slowly, silently,
And irretrievably should wing themselves
Uncounted out of sight. And when he came
Again, she might be free—she would be free.
Else, when he looked at her she must look down,
Defeated, and malignly dispossessed
Of what was hers to prove and in the proving
Wisely to consecrate. And if the plague
Of that perverse defeat should come to be—
If at that sickening end she were to find
Herself to be the same poor prisoner
That he had found at first—then she must lose
All sight and sound of him, she must abjure
All possible thought of him; for he would go
So far and for so long from her that love—
Yes, even a love like his, exiled enough,
Might for another’s touch be born again—
Born to be lost and starved for and not found;
Or, at the next, the second wretchedest,
It might go mutely flickering down and out,
And on some incomplete and piteous day,
Some perilous day to come, she might at last
Learn, with a noxious freedom, what it is
To be at peace with ghosts. Then were the blow
Thrice deadlier than any kind of death
Could ever be: to know that she had won
The truth too late—there were the dregs indeed
Of wisdom, and of love the final thrust
Unmerciful; and there where now did lie
So plain before her the straight radiance
Of what was her appointed way to take,
Were only the bleak ruts of an old road
That stretched ahead and faded and lay far
Through deserts of unconscionable years.
But vampire thoughts like these confessed the doubt
That love denied; and once, if never again,
They should be turned away. They might come back—
More craftily, perchance, they might come back—
And with a spirit-thirst insatiable
Finish the strength of her; but now, today
She would have none of them. She knew that love
Was true, that he was true, that she was true;
And should a death-bed snare that she had made
So long ago be stretched inexorably
Through all her life, only to be unspun
With her last breathing? And were bats and threads,
Accursedly devised with watered gules,
To be Love’s heraldry? What were it worth
To live and to find out that life were life
But for an unrequited incubus
Of outlawed shame that would not be thrown down
Till she had thrown down fear and overcome
The woman that was yet so much of her
That she might yet go mad? What were it worth
To live, to linger, and to be condemned
In her submission to a common thought
That clogged itself and made of its first faith
Its last impediment? What augured it,
Now in this quick beginning of new life,
To clutch the sunlight and be feeling back,
Back with a scared fantastic fearfulness,
To touch, not knowing why, the vexed-up ghost
Of what was gone?
Yes, there was Argan’s face,
Pallid and pinched and ruinously marked
With big pathetic bones; there were his eyes,
Quiet and large, fixed wistfully on hers;
And there, close-pressed again within her own,
Quivered his cold thin fingers. And, ah! yes,
There were the words, those dying words again,
And hers that answered when she promised him.
Promised him? … yes. And had she known the truth
Of what she felt that he should ask her that,
And had she known the love that was to be,
God knew that she could not have told him then.
But then she knew it not, nor thought of it;
There was no need of it; nor was there need
Of any problematical support
Whereto to cling while she convinced herself
That love’s intuitive utility,
Inexorably merciful, had proved
That what was human was unpermanent
And what was flesh was ashes. She had told
Him then that she would love no other man,
That there was not another man on earth
Whom she could ever love, or who could make
So much as a love thought go through her brain;
And he had smiled. And just before he died
His lips had made as if to say something—
Something that passed unwhispered with his breath,
Out of her reach, out of all quest of it.
And then, could she have known enough to know
The meaning of her grief, the folly of it,
The faithlessness and the proud anguish of it,
There might be now no threads to punish her,
No vampire thoughts to suck the coward blood,
The life, the very soul of her.
They might come back.… But why should they come back?
Why was it she had suffered? Why had she
Struggled and grown these years to demonstrate
That close without those hovering clouds of gloom
And through them here and there forever gleamed
The Light itself, the life, the love, the glory,
Which was of its own radiance good proof
That all the rest was darkness and blind sight?
And who was she? The woman she had known—
The woman she had petted and called “I”—
The woman she had pitied, and at last
Commiserated for the most abject
And persecuted of all womankind,—
Could it be she that had sought out the way
To measure and thereby to quench in her
The woman’s fear—the fear of her not fearing?
A nervous little laugh that lost itself,
Like logic in a dream, fluttered her thoughts
An instant there that ever she should ask
What she might then have told so easily—
So easily that Annandale had frowned,
Had he been given wholly to be told
The truth of what had never been before
So passionately, so inevitably
For she could see from where she sat
The sheets that he had bound up like a book
And covered with red leather; and her eyes
Could see between the pages of the book,
Though her eyes, like them, were closed. And she could read
As well as if she had them in her hand,
What he had written on them long ago,—
Six years ago, when he was waiting for her.
She might as well have said that she could see
The man himself, as once he would have looked
Had she been there to watch him while he wrote
Those words, and all for her.… For her whose face
Had flashed itself, prophetic and unseen,
But not unspirited, between the life
That would have been without her and the life
That he had gathered up like frozen roots
Out of a grave-clod lying at his feet,
Unconsciously, and as unconsciously
Transplanted and revived. He did not know
The kind of life that he had found, nor did
He doubt, not knowing it; but well he knew
That it was life—new life, and that the old
Might then with unimprisoned wings go free,
Onward and all along to its own light,
Through the appointed shadow.
While she gazed
Upon it there she felt within herself
The growing of a newer consciousness—
The pride of something fairer than her first
Outclamoring of interdicted thought
Had ever quite foretold; and all at once
There quivered and requivered through her flesh,
Like music, like the sound of an old song,
Triumphant, love-remembered murmurings
Of what for passion’s innocence had been
Too mightily, too perilously hers,
Ever to be reclaimed and realized
Until today. Today she could throw off
The burden that had held her down so long,
And she could stand upright, and she could see
The way to take, with eyes that had in them
No gleam but of the spirit. Day or night,
No matter; she could see what was to see—
All that had been till now shut out from her,
The service, the fulfillment, and the truth,
And thus the cruel wiseness of it all.
So Damaris, more like than anything
To one long prisoned in a twilight cave
With hovering bats for all companionship,
And after time set free to fight the sun,
Laughed out, so glad she was to recognize
The test of what had been, through all her folly,
The courage of her conscience; for she knew,
Now on a late-flushed autumn afternoon
That else had been too bodeful of dead things
To be endured with aught but the same old
Inert, self-contradicted martyrdom
Which she had known so long, that she could look
Right forward through the years, nor any more
Shrink with a cringing prescience to behold
The glitter of dead summer on the grass,
Or the brown-glimmered crimson of still trees
Across the intervale where flashed along,
Black-silvered, the cold river. She had found,
As if by some transcendent freakishness
Of reason, the glad life that she had sought
Where naught but obvious clouds could ever be—
Clouds to put out the sunlight from her eyes,
And to put out the love-light from her soul.
But they were gone—now they were all gone;
And with a whimsied pathos, like the mist
Of grief that clings to new-found happiness
Hard wrought, she might have pity for the small
Defeated quest of them that brushed her sight
Like flying lint—lint that had once been thread.…
Yes, like an anodyne, the voice of him,
There were the words that he had made for her,
For her alone. The more she thought of them
The more she lived them, and the more she knew
The life-grip and the pulse of warm strength in them.
They were the first and last of words to her,
And there was in them a far questioning
That had for long been variously at work,
Divinely and elusively at work,
With her, and with the grace that had been hers;
They were eternal words, and they diffused
A flame of meaning that men’s lexicons
Had never kindled; they were choral words
That harmonized with love’s enduring chords
Like wisdom with release; triumphant words
That rang like elemental orisons
Through ages out of ages; words that fed
Love’s hunger in the spirit; words that smote;
Thrilled words that echoed, and barbed words that clung;—
And every one of them was like a friend
Whose obstinate fidelity, well tried,
Had found at last and irresistibly
The way to her close conscience, and thereby
Revealed the unsubstantial Nemesis
That she had clutched and shuddered at so long;
And every one of them was like a real
And ringing voice, clear toned and absolute,
But of a love-subdued authority
That uttered thrice the plain significance
Of what had else been generously vague
And indolently true. It may have been
The triumph and the magic of the soul,
Unspeakably revealed, that finally
Had reconciled the grim probationing
Of wisdom with unalterable faith,
But she could feel—not knowing what it was,
For the sheer freedom of it—a new joy
That humanized the latent wizardry
Of his prophetic voice and put for it
The man within the music.
So it came
To pass, like many a long-compelled emprise
That with its first accomplishment almost
Annihilates its own severity,
That she could find, whenever she might look,
The certified achievement of a love
That had endured, self-guarded and supreme,
To the glad end of all that wavering;
And she could see that now the flickering world
Of autumn was awake with sudden bloom,
New-born, perforce, of a slow bourgeoning.
And she had found what more than half had been
The grave-deluded, flesh-bewildered fear
Which men and women struggle to call faith,
To be the paid progression to an end
Whereat she knew the foresight and the strength
To glorify the gift of what was hers,
To vindicate the truth of what she was.
And had it come to her so suddenly?
There was a pity and a weariness
In asking that, and a great needlessness;
For now there were no wretched quivering strings
That held her to the churchyard any more:
There were no thoughts that flapped themselves like bats
Around her any more. The shield of love
Was clean, and she had paid enough to learn
How it had always been so. And the truth,
Like silence after some far victory,
Had come to her, and she had found it out
As if it were a vision, a thing born
So suddenly!—just as a flower is born,
Or as a world is born—so suddenly.
The Odyssey: Book 10
Thence we went on to the Aeoli island where lives Aeolus son of
Hippotas, dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that floats (as
it were) upon the sea, iron bound with a wall that girds it. Now,
Aeolus has six daughters and six lusty sons, so he made the sons marry
the daughters, and they all live with their dear father and mother,
feasting and enjoying every conceivable kind of luxury. All day long
the atmosphere of the house is loaded with the savour of roasting
meats till it groans again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on
their well-made bedsteads, each with his own wife between the
blankets. These were the people among whom we had now come.
"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all the
time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the Achaeans. I
told him exactly how everything had happened, and when I said I must
go, and asked him to further me on my way, he made no sort of
difficulty, but set about doing so at once. Moreover, he flayed me a
prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the roaring winds, which he shut
up in the hide as in a sack- for Jove had made him captain over the
winds, and he could stir or still each one of them according to his
own pleasure. He put the sack in the ship and bound the mouth so
tightly with a silver thread that not even a breath of a side-wind
could blow from any quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did
he alone let blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were
lost through our own folly.
"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
native land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we could
see the stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead beat, fell
into a light sleep, for I had never let the rudder out of my own
hands, that we might get home the faster. On this the men fell to
talking among themselves, and said I was bringing back gold and silver
in the sack that Aeolus had given me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn
to his neighbour, saying, 'how this man gets honoured and makes
friends to whatever city or country he may go. See what fine prizes he
is taking home from Troy, while we, who have travelled just as far
as he has, come back with hands as empty as we set out with- and now
Aeolus has given him ever so much more. Quick- let us see what it
all is, and how much gold and silver there is in the sack he gave
"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the sack,
whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that
carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own country. Then I
awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on
and make the best of it; but I bore it, covered myself up, and lay
down in the ship, while the men lamented bitterly as the fierce
winds bore our fleet back to the Aeolian island.
"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
hard by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and one of
my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I found him
feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as suppliants on the
threshold. They were astounded when they saw us and said, 'Ulysses,
what brings you here? What god has been ill-treating you? We took
great pains to further you on your way home to Ithaca, or wherever
it was that you wanted to go to.'
"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend
me this mischief, for you can if you will.'
"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till their
father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once out of the
island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help. Be off, for
you come here as one abhorred of heaven. "And with these words he sent
me sorrowing from his door.
"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
and fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help them.
Six days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh day we reached
the rocky stronghold of Lamus- Telepylus, the city of the
Laestrygonians, where the shepherd who is driving in his sheep and
goats [to be milked] salutes him who is driving out his flock [to
feed] and this last answers the salute. In that country a man who
could do without sleep might earn double wages, one as a herdsman of
cattle, and another as a shepherd, for they work much the same by
night as they do by day.
"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
cliffs, with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My captains took
all their ships inside, and made them fast close to one another, for
there was never so much as a breath of wind inside, but it was
always dead calm. I kept my own ship outside, and moored it to a
rock at the very end of the point; then I climbed a high rock to
reconnoitre, but could see no sign neither of man nor cattle, only
some smoke rising from the ground. So I sent two of my company with an
attendant to find out what sort of people the inhabitants were.
"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which the
people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town, till
presently they met a young woman who had come outside to fetch
water, and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named Antiphates. She
was going to the fountain Artacia from which the people bring in their
water, and when my men had come close up to her, they asked her who
the king of that country might be, and over what kind of people he
ruled; so she directed them to her father's house, but when they got
there they found his wife to be a giantess as huge as a mountain,
and they were horrified at the sight of her.
"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
assembly, and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched up
one of them, and began to make his dinner off him then and there,
whereon the other two ran back to the ships as fast as ever they
could. But Antiphates raised a hue and cry after them, and thousands
of sturdy Laestrygonians sprang up from every quarter- ogres, not men.
They threw vast rocks at us from the cliffs as though they had been
mere stones, and I heard the horrid sound of the ships crunching up
against one another, and the death cries of my men, as the
Laestrygonians speared them like fishes and took them home to eat
them. While they were thus killing my men within the harbour I drew my
sword, cut the cable of my own ship, and told my men to row with alf
their might if they too would not fare like the rest; so they laid out
for their lives, and we were thankful enough when we got into open
water out of reach of the rocks they hurled at us. As for the others
there was not one of them left.
"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though we
had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where Circe
lives a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to the magician
Aeetes- for they are both children of the sun by Perse, who is
daughter to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a safe harbour without a
word, for some god guided us thither, and having landed we there for
two days and two nights, worn out in body and mind. When the morning
of the third day came I took my spear and my sword, and went away from
the ship to reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a
high look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards
amid a dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted whether,
having seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and find out more,
but in the end I deemed it best to go back to the ship, give the men
their dinners, and send some of them instead of going myself.
"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon my
solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle of my
path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to drink of the
river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he passed I struck
him in the middle of the back; the bronze point of the spear went
clean through him, and he lay groaning in the dust until the life went
out of him. Then I set my foot upon him, drew my spear from the wound,
and laid it down; I also gathered rough grass and rushes and twisted
them into a fathom or so of good stout rope, with which I bound the
four feet of the noble creature together; having so done I hung him
round my neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon my spear, for
the stag was much too big for me to be able to carry him on my
shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down in front of
the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by man to each
of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not going to die so
much before our time after all, and at any rate we will not starve
so long as we have got something to eat and drink on board.' On this
they uncovered their heads upon the sea shore and admired the stag,
for he was indeed a splendid fellow. Then, when they had feasted their
eyes upon him sufficiently, they washed their hands and began to
cook him for dinner.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
stayed there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went
down and it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the child
of morning, fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a council and said,
'My friends, we are in very great difficulties; listen therefore to
me. We have no idea where the sun either sets or rises, so that we
do not even know East from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless,
we must try and find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as
high as I could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to
the horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'
"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how they
had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by the savage
ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay, but there was
nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them into two companies
and set a captain over each; I gave one company to Eurylochus, while I
took command of the other myself. Then we cast lots in a helmet, and
the lot fell upon Eurylochus; so he set out with his twenty-two men,
and they wept, as also did we who were left behind.
"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
stones, on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the
forest. There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round
it- poor bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments
and drugged into subjection. They did not attack my men, but wagged
their great tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed their noses lovingly
against them. As hounds crowd round their master when they see him
coming from dinner- for they know he will bring them something- even
so did these wolves and lions with their great claws fawn upon my men,
but the men were terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures.
Presently they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they
stood there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully
as she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of
such dazzling colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On this
Polites, whom I valued and trusted more than any other of my men,
said, 'There is some one inside working at a loom and singing most
beautifully; the whole place resounds with it, let us call her and see
whether she is woman or goddess.'
"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and bade
them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except
Eurylochus, who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had
got them into her house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed
them a mess with cheese, honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged
it with wicked poisons to make them forget their homes, and when
they had drunk she turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand,
and shut them up in her pigsties. They were like pigs-head, hair,
and all, and they grunted just as pigs do; but their senses were the
same as before, and they remembered everything.
"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them some
acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus hurried back
to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He was so overcome with
dismay that though he tried to speak he could find no words to do
so; his eyes filled with tears and he could only sob and sigh, till at
last we forced his story out of him, and he told us what had
happened to the others.
"'We went,' said he, as you told us, through the forest, and in
the middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in a
place that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or else she
was a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly; so the men
shouted to her and called her, whereon she at once came down, opened
the door, and invited us in. The others did not suspect any mischief
so they followed her into the house, but I stayed where I was, for I
thought there might be some treachery. From that moment I saw them
no more, for not one of them ever came out, though I sat a long time
watching for them.'
"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders; I
also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and show me
the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you, but let me
stay here, for I know you will not bring one of them back with you,
nor even return alive yourself; let us rather see if we cannot
escape at any rate with the few that are left us, for we may still
save our lives.'
"'Stay where you are, then, 'answered I, 'eating and drinking at the
ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'
"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got through
the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the enchantress
Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised as a young man in
the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down just coming upon his
face. He came up to me and took my hand within his own, saying, 'My
poor unhappy man, whither are you going over this mountain top,
alone and without knowing the way? Your men are shut up in Circe's
pigsties, like so many wild boars in their lairs. You surely do not
fancy that you can set them free? I can tell you that you will never
get back and will have to stay there with the rest of them. But
never mind, I will protect you and get you out of your difficulty.
Take this herb, which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you
when you go to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against
every kind of mischief.
"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe will
try to practise upon you. She will mix a mess for you to drink, and
she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but she will not be
able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb that I shall give you
will prevent her spells from working. I will tell you all about it.
When Circe strikes you with her wand, draw your sword and spring
upon her as though you were goings to kill her. She will then be
frightened and will desire you to go to bed with her; on this you must
not point blank refuse her, for you want her to set your companions
free, and to take good care also of yourself, but you make her swear
solemnly by all the blessed that she will plot no further mischief
against you, or else when she has got you naked she will unman you and
make you fit for nothing.'
"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me
what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as
milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but
the gods can do whatever they like.
"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
island; but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart was
clouded with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates I stood
there and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard me she came
down, opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I followed her-
much troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid
with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed a
mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for she
meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it
without its charming me, she struck she, struck me with her wand.
'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the pigsty, and make your lair with
the rest of them.'
"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill her,
whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what place and people
have you come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you?
Never yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I
gave you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than
the bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some
day with his ship while on his way home form Troy; so be it then;
sheathe your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends
and learn to trust each other.'
"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with
you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now that
you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask me to
go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing. I
shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will
first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.'
"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
completed her oath then I went to bed with her.
"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and
of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a
fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it.
Another brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with
baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a
silver bowl and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth
she brought in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a
good fire which she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was
boiling, she poured cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and
then she set me in a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about
the head and shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my
limbs. As soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil,
she arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also under my
feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a beautiful golden
ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me to wash my hands, and
she drew a clean table beside me; an upper servant brought me bread
and offered me many things of what there was in the house, and then
Circe bade me eat, but I would not, and sat without heeding what was
before me, still moody and suspicious.
"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great grief,
she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like that as
though you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and refusing both
meat and drink? Is it that you are still suspicious? You ought not
to be, for I have already sworn solemnly that I will not hurt you.'
"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set
his friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and
drink, you must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them
with my own eyes.'
"When I had said this she went straight through the court with her
wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like
so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about
among them and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the
bristles that the bad drug had given them fell off, and they became
men again, younger than they were before, and much taller and better
looking. They knew me at once, seized me each of them by the hand, and
wept for joy till the whole house was filled with the sound of their
hullabalooing, and Circe herself was so sorry for them that she came
up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once
to the sea where you have left your ship, and first draw it on to
the land. Then, hide all your ship's gear and property in some cave,
and come back here with your men.'
"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found the
men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When they saw me
the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me as calves break
out and gambol round their mothers, when they see them coming home
to be milked after they have been feeding all day, and the homestead
resounds with their lowing. They seemed as glad to see me as though
they had got back to their own rugged Ithaca, where they had been born
and bred. 'Sir,' said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as glad to
see you back as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but tell us all
about the fate of our comrades.'
"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship on to
the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property in some cave;
then come with me all of you as fast as you can to Circe's house,
where you will find your comrades eating and drinking in the midst
of great abundance.'
"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
tried to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we are,
what will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to the house of
Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or lions, and we shall
have to keep guard over her house. Remember how the Cyclops treated us
when our comrades went inside his cave, and Ulysses with them. It
was all through his sheer folly that those men lost their lives.'
"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in
spite of his being a near relation of my own; but the men interceded
for him and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this fellow stay here and
mind the ship, but take the rest of us with you to Circe's house.'
"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
after all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe
reprimand that I had given him.
"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
behind were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also given
them woollen cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found them all
comfortably at dinner in her house. As soon as the men saw each
other face to face and knew one another, they wept for joy and cried
aloud till the whole palace rang again. Thereon Circe came up to me
and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off
crying; I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how
ill you have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is
over now, so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as
strong and hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you
are weakened both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking
of the hardships- you have suffered during your travels, so that you
have no more cheerfulness left in you.'
"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and
wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long
days had come round, my men called me apart and said, 'Sir, it is time
you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared
to see your house and native country at all.'
"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the livelong
day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on meat and wine,
but when the sun went down and it came on dark the men laid themselves
down to sleep in the covered cloisters. I, however, after I had got
into bed with Circe, besought her by her knees, and the goddess
listened to what I had got to say. 'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep
the promise you made me about furthering me on my homeward voyage. I
want to get back and so do my men, they are always pestering me with
their complaints as soon as ever your back is turned.'
"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall
none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to, but there is
another journey which you have got to take before you can sail
homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of dread Proserpine
to consult the ghost of the blind Theban prophet Teiresias whose
reason is still unshaken. To him alone has Proserpine left his
understanding even in death, but the other ghosts flit about
"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
would gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun, but
presently when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself about, I
said, 'And who shall guide me upon this voyage- for the house of Hades
is a port that no ship can reach.'
"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise you mast, set your
white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there
of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you
will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's country with its groves
of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach
your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark
abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers
Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx)
flow into Acheron, and you will see a rock near it, just where the two
roaring rivers run into one another.
"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a trench a
cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a
drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then
wine, and in the third place water-sprinkling white barley meal over
the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble
ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will
sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load
the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that
Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all
"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your prayers,
offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads towards
Erebus; but yourself turn away from them as though you would make
towards the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts will come to you,
and you must tell your men to skin the two sheep that you have just
killed, and offer them as a burnt sacrifice with prayers to Hades
and to Proserpine. Then draw your sword and sit there, so as to
prevent any other poor ghost from coming near the split blood before
Teiresias shall have answered your questions. The seer will
presently come to you, and will tell you about your voyage- what
stages you are to make, and how you are to sail the see so as to reach
"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
dressed me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a beautiful
light gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it with a golden
girdle round her waist, and she covered her head with a mantle. Then I
went about among the men everywhere all over the house, and spoke
kindly to each of them man by man: 'You must not lie sleeping here any
longer,' said I to them, 'we must be going, for Circe has told me
all about it.' And this they did as I bade them.
"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
We had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very remarkable
for sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying on the house-top
away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his liquor in the cool.
When he heard the noise of the men bustling about, he jumped up on a
sudden and forgot all about coming down by the main staircase, so he
tumbled right off the roof and broke his neck, and his soul went
down to the house of Hades.
"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
are about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me that
instead of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades and
Proserpine to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias.'
"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
themselves on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but they did
not mend matters by crying. When we reached the sea shore, weeping and
lamenting our fate, Circe brought the ram and the ewe, and we made
them fast hard by the ship. She passed through the midst of us without
our knowing it, for who can see the comings and goings of a god, if
the god does not wish to be seen?
The Iliad: Book 13
Now when Jove had thus brought Hector and the Trojans to the
ships, he left them to their never-ending toil, and turned his keen
eyes away, looking elsewhither towards the horse-breeders of Thrace,
the Mysians, fighters at close quarters, the noble Hippemolgi, who
live on milk, and the Abians, justest of mankind. He no longer
turned so much as a glance towards Troy, for he did not think that any
of the immortals would go and help either Trojans or Danaans.
But King Neptune had kept no blind look-out; he had been looking
admiringly on the battle from his seat on the topmost crests of wooded
Samothrace, whence he could see all Ida, with the city of Priam and
the ships of the Achaeans. He had come from under the sea and taken
his place here, for he pitied the Achaeans who were being overcome
by the Trojans; and he was furiously angry with Jove.
Presently he came down from his post on the mountain top, and as
he strode swiftly onwards the high hills and the forest quaked beneath
the tread of his immortal feet. Three strides he took, and with the
fourth he reached his goal- Aegae, where is his glittering golden
palace, imperishable, in the depths of the sea. When he got there,
he yoked his fleet brazen-footed steeds with their manes of gold all
flying in the wind; he clothed himself in raiment of gold, grasped his
gold whip, and took his stand upon his chariot. As he went his way
over the waves the sea-monsters left their lairs, for they knew
their lord, and came gambolling round him from every quarter of the
deep, while the sea in her gladness opened a path before his
chariot. So lightly did the horses fly that the bronze axle of the car
was not even wet beneath it; and thus his bounding steeds took him
to the ships of the Achaeans.
Now there is a certain huge cavern in the depths of the sea midway
between Tenedos and rocky Imbrus; here Neptune lord of the
earthquake stayed his horses, unyoked them, and set before them
their ambrosial forage. He hobbled their feet with hobbles of gold
which none could either unloose or break, so that they might stay
there in that place until their lord should return. This done he
went his way to the host of the Achaeans.
Now the Trojans followed Hector son of Priam in close array like a
storm-cloud or flame of fire, fighting with might and main and raising
the cry battle; for they deemed that they should take the ships of the
Achaeans and kill all their chiefest heroes then and there.
Meanwhile earth-encircling Neptune lord of the earthquake cheered on
the Argives, for he had come up out of the sea and had assumed the
form and voice of Calchas.
First he spoke to the two Ajaxes, who were doing their best already,
and said, "Ajaxes, you two can be the saving of the Achaeans if you
will put out all your strength and not let yourselves be daunted. I am
not afraid that the Trojans, who have got over the wall in force, will
be victorious in any other part, for the Achaeans can hold all of them
in check, but I much fear that some evil will befall us here where
furious Hector, who boasts himself the son of great Jove himself, is
leading them on like a pillar of flame. May some god, then, put it
into your hearts to make a firm stand here, and to incite others to do
the like. In this case you will drive him from the ships even though
he be inspired by Jove himself."
As he spoke the earth-encircling lord of the earthquake struck
both of them with his sceptre and filled their hearts with daring.
He made their legs light and active, as also their hands and their
feet. Then, as the soaring falcon poises on the wing high above some
sheer rock, and presently swoops down to chase some bird over the
plain, even so did Neptune lord of the earthquake wing his flight into
the air and leave them. Of the two, swift Ajax son of Oileus was the
first to know who it was that had been speaking with them, and said to
Ajax son of Telamon, "Ajax, this is one of the gods that dwell on
Olympus, who in the likeness of the prophet is bidding us fight hard
by our ships. It was not Calchas the seer and diviner of omens; I knew
him at once by his feet and knees as he turned away, for the gods
are soon recognised. Moreover I feel the lust of battle burn more
fiercely within me, while my hands and my feet under me are more eager
for the fray."
And Ajax son of Telamon answered, "I too feel my hands grasp my
spear more firmly; my strength is greater, and my feet more nimble;
I long, moreover, to meet furious Hector son of Priam, even in
Thus did they converse, exulting in the hunger after battle with
which the god had filled them. Meanwhile the earth-encircler roused
the Achaeans, who were resting in the rear by the ships overcome at
once by hard fighting and by grief at seeing that the Trojans had
got over the wall in force. Tears began falling from their eyes as
they beheld them, for they made sure that they should not escape
destruction; but the lord of the earthquake passed lightly about among
them and urged their battalions to the front.
First he went up to Teucer and Leitus, the hero Peneleos, and
Thoas and Deipyrus; Meriones also and Antilochus, valiant warriors;
all did he exhort. "Shame on you young Argives," he cried, "it was
on your prowess I relied for the saving of our ships; if you fight not
with might and main, this very day will see us overcome by the
Trojans. Of a truth my eyes behold a great and terrible portent
which I had never thought to see- the Trojans at our ships- they,
who were heretofore like panic-stricken hinds, the prey of jackals and
wolves in a forest, with no strength but in flight for they cannot
defend themselves. Hitherto the Trojans dared not for one moment
face the attack of the Achaeans, but now they have sallied far from
their city and are fighting at our very ships through the cowardice of
our leader and the disaffection of the people themselves, who in their
discontent care not to fight in defence of the ships but are being
slaughtered near them. True, King Agamemnon son of Atreus is the cause
of our disaster by having insulted the son of Peleus, still this is no
reason why we should leave off fighting. Let us be quick to heal,
for the hearts of the brave heal quickly. You do ill to be thus
remiss, you, who are the finest soldiers in our whole army. I blame no
man for keeping out of battle if he is a weakling, but I am
indignant with such men as you are. My good friends, matters will soon
become even worse through this slackness; think, each one of you, of
his own honour and credit, for the hazard of the fight is extreme.
Great Hector is now fighting at our ships; he has broken through the
gates and the strong bolt that held them."
Thus did the earth-encircler address the Achaeans and urge them
on. Thereon round the two Ajaxes there gathered strong bands of men,
of whom not even Mars nor Minerva, marshaller of hosts could make
light if they went among them, for they were the picked men of all
those who were now awaiting the onset of Hector and the Trojans.
They made a living fence, spear to spear, shield to shield, buckler to
buckler, helmet to helmet, and man to man. The horse-hair crests on
their gleaming helmets touched one another as they nodded forward,
so closely seffied were they; the spears they brandished in their
strong hands were interlaced, and their hearts were set on battle.
The Trojans advanced in a dense body, with Hector at their head
pressing right on as a rock that comes thundering down the side of
some mountain from whose brow the winter torrents have torn it; the
foundations of the dull thing have been loosened by floods of rain,
and as it bounds headlong on its way it sets the whole forest in an
uproar; it swerves neither to right nor left till it reaches level
ground, but then for all its fury it can go no further- even so easily
did Hector for a while seem as though he would career through the
tents and ships of the Achaeans till he had reached the sea in his
murderous course; but the closely serried battalions stayed him when
he reached them, for the sons of the Achaeans thrust at him with
swords and spears pointed at both ends, and drove him from them so
that he staggered and gave ground; thereon he shouted to the
Trojans, "Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanians, fighters in close
combat, stand firm: the Achaeans have set themselves as a wall against
me, but they will not check me for long; they will give ground
before me if the mightiest of the gods, the thundering spouse of Juno,
has indeed inspired my onset."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all. Deiphobus
son of Priam went about among them intent on deeds of daring with
his round shield before him, under cover of which he strode quickly
forward. Meriones took aim at him with a spear, nor did he fail to hit
the broad orb of ox-hide; but he was far from piercing it for the
spear broke in two pieces long ere he could do so; moreover
Deiphobus had seen it coming and had held his shield well away from
him. Meriones drew back under cover of his comrades, angry alike at
having failed to vanquish Deiphobus, and having broken his spear. He
turned therefore towards the ships and tents to fetch a spear which he
had left behind in his tent.
The others continued fighting, and the cry of battle rose up into
the heavens. Teucer son of Telamon was the first to kill his man, to
wit, the warrior Imbrius son of Mentor rich in horses. Until the
Achaeans came he had lived in Pedaeum, and had married Medesicaste a
bastard daughter of Priam; but on the arrival of the Danaan fleet he
had gone back to Ilius, and was a great man among the Trojans,
dwelling near Priam himself, who gave him like honour with his own
sons. The son of Telamon now struck him under the ear with a spear
which he then drew back again, and Imbrius fell headlong as an
ash-tree when it is felled on the crest of some high mountain
beacon, and its delicate green foliage comes toppling down to the
ground. Thus did he fall with his bronze-dight armour ringing
harshly round him, and Teucer sprang forward with intent to strip
him of his armour; but as he was doing so, Hector took aim at him with
a spear. Teucer saw the spear coming and swerved aside, whereon it hit
Amphimachus, son of Cteatus son of Actor, in the chest as he was
coming into battle, and his armour rang rattling round him as he
fell heavily to the ground. Hector sprang forward to take
Amphimachus's helmet from off his temples, and in a moment Ajax
threw a spear at him, but did not wound him, for he was encased all
over in his terrible armour; nevertheless the spear struck the boss of
his shield with such force as to drive him back from the two
corpses, which the Achaeans then drew off. Stichius and Menestheus,
captains of the Athenians, bore away Amphimachus to the host of the
Achaeans, while the two brave and impetuous Ajaxes did the like by
Imbrius. As two lions snatch a goat from the hounds that have it in
their fangs, and bear it through thick brushwood high above the ground
in their jaws, thus did the Ajaxes bear aloft the body of Imbrius, and
strip it of its armour. Then the son of Oileus severed the head from
the neck in revenge for the death of Amphimachus, and sent it whirling
over the crowd as though it had been a ball, till fell in the dust
at Hector's feet.
Neptune was exceedingly angry that his grandson Amphimachus should
have fallen; he therefore went to the tents and ships of the
Achaeans to urge the Danaans still further, and to devise evil for the
Trojans. Idomeneus met him, as he was taking leave of a comrade, who
had just come to him from the fight, wounded in the knee. His
fellow-soldiers bore him off the field, and Idomeneus having given
orders to the physicians went on to his tent, for he was still
thirsting for battle. Neptune spoke in the likeness and with the voice
of Thoas son of Andraemon who ruled the Aetolians of all Pleuron and
high Calydon, and was honoured among his people as though he were a
god. "Idomeneus," said he, "lawgiver to the Cretans, what has now
become of the threats with which the sons of the Achaeans used to
threaten the Trojans?"
And Idomeneus chief among the Cretans answered, "Thoas, no one, so
far as I know, is in fault, for we can all fight. None are held back
neither by fear nor slackness, but it seems to be the of almighty Jove
that the Achaeans should perish ingloriously here far from Argos: you,
Thoas, have been always staunch, and you keep others in heart if you
see any fail in duty; be not then remiss now, but exhort all to do
To this Neptune lord of the earthquake made answer, "Idomeneus,
may he never return from Troy, but remain here for dogs to batten
upon, who is this day wilfully slack in fighting. Get your armour
and go, we must make all haste together if we may be of any use,
though we are only two. Even cowards gain courage from
companionship, and we two can hold our own with the bravest."
Therewith the god went back into the thick of the fight, and
Idomeneus when he had reached his tent donned his armour, grasped
his two spears, and sallied forth. As the lightning which the son of
Saturn brandishes from bright Olympus when he would show a sign to
mortals, and its gleam flashes far and wide- even so did his armour
gleam about him as he ran. Meriones his sturdy squire met him while he
was still near his tent (for he was going to fetch his spear) and
"Meriones, fleet son of Molus, best of comrades, why have you left
the field? Are you wounded, and is the point of the weapon hurting
you? or have you been sent to fetch me? I want no fetching; I had
far rather fight than stay in my tent."
"Idomeneus," answered Meriones, "I come for a spear, if I can find
one in my tent; I have broken the one I had, in throwing it at the
shield of Deiphobus."
And Idomeneus captain of the Cretans answered, "You will find one
spear, or twenty if you so please, standing up against the end wall of
my tent. I have taken them from Trojans whom I have killed, for I am
not one to keep my enemy at arm's length; therefore I have spears,
bossed shields, helmets, and burnished corslets."
Then Meriones said, "I too in my tent and at my ship have spoils
taken from the Trojans, but they are not at hand. I have been at all
times valorous, and wherever there has been hard fighting have held my
own among the foremost. There may be those among the Achaeans who do
not know how I fight, but you know it well enough yourself."
Idomeneus answered, "I know you for a brave man: you need not tell
me. If the best men at the ships were being chosen to go on an ambush-
and there is nothing like this for showing what a man is made of; it
comes out then who is cowardly and who brave; the coward will change
colour at every touch and turn; he is full of fears, and keeps
shifting his weight first on one knee and then on the other; his heart
beats fast as he thinks of death, and one can hear the chattering of
his teeth; whereas the brave man will not change colour nor be on
finding himself in ambush, but is all the time longing to go into
action- if the best men were being chosen for such a service, no one
could make light of your courage nor feats of arms. If you were struck
by a dart or smitten in close combat, it would not be from behind,
in your neck nor back, but the weapon would hit you in the chest or
belly as you were pressing forward to a place in the front ranks.
But let us no longer stay here talking like children, lest we be ill
spoken of; go, fetch your spear from the tent at once."
On this Meriones, peer of Mars, went to the tent and got himself a
spear of bronze. He then followed after Idomeneus, big with great
deeds of valour. As when baneful Mars sallies forth to battle, and his
son Panic so strong and dauntless goes with him, to strike terror even
into the heart of a hero- the pair have gone from Thrace to arm
themselves among the Ephyri or the brave Phlegyans, but they will
not listen to both the contending hosts, and will give victory to
one side or to the other- even so did Meriones and Idomeneus, captains
of men, go out to battle clad in their bronze armour. Meriones was
first to speak. "Son of Deucalion," said he, "where would you have
us begin fighting? On the right wing of the host, in the centre, or on
the left wing, where I take it the Achaeans will be weakest?"
Idomeneus answered, "There are others to defend the centre- the
two Ajaxes and Teucer, who is the finest archer of all the Achaeans,
and is good also in a hand-to-hand fight. These will give Hector son
of Priam enough to do; fight as he may, he will find it hard to
vanquish their indomitable fury, and fire the ships, unless the son of
Saturn fling a firebrand upon them with his own hand. Great Ajax son
of Telamon will yield to no man who is in mortal mould and eats the
grain of Ceres, if bronze and great stones can overthrow him. He would
not yield even to Achilles in hand-to-hand fight, and in fleetness
of foot there is none to beat him; let us turn therefore towards the
left wing, that we may know forthwith whether we are to give glory
to some other, or he to us."
Meriones, peer of fleet Mars, then led the way till they came to the
part of the host which Idomeneus had named.
Now when the Trojans saw Idomeneus coming on like a flame of fire,
him and his squire clad in their richly wrought armour, they shouted
and made towards him all in a body, and a furious hand-to-hand fight
raged under the ships' sterns. Fierce as the shrill winds that whistle
upon a day when dust lies deep on the roads, and the gusts raise it
into a thick cloud- even such was the fury of the combat, and might
and main did they hack at each other with spear and sword throughout
the host. The field bristled with the long and deadly spears which
they bore. Dazzling was the sheen of their gleaming helmets, their
fresh-burnished breastplates, and glittering shields as they joined
battle with one another. Iron indeed must be his courage who could
take pleasure in the sight of such a turmoil, and look on it without
Thus did the two mighty sons of Saturn devise evil for mortal
heroes. Jove was minded to give victory to the Trojans and to
Hector, so as to do honour to fleet Achilles, nevertheless he did
not mean to utterly overthrow the Achaean host before Ilius, and
only wanted to glorify Thetis and her valiant son. Neptune on the
other hand went about among the Argives to incite them, having come up
from the grey sea in secret, for he was grieved at seeing them
vanquished by the Trojans, and was furiously angry with Jove. Both
were of the same race and country, but Jove was elder born and knew
more, therefore Neptune feared to defend the Argives openly, but in
the likeness of man, he kept on encouraging them throughout their
host. Thus, then, did these two devise a knot of war and battle,
that none could unloose or break, and set both sides tugging at it, to
the failing of men's knees beneath them.
And now Idomeneus, though his hair was already flecked with grey,
called loud on the Danaans and spread panic among the Trojans as he
leaped in among them. He slew Othryoneus from Cabesus, a sojourner,
who had but lately come to take part in the war. He sought Cassandra
the fairest of Priam's daughters in marriage, but offered no gifts
of wooing, for he promised a great thing, to wit, that he would
drive the sons of the Achaeans willy nilly from Troy; old King Priam
had given his consent and promised her to him, whereon he fought on
the strength of the promises thus made to him. Idomeneus aimed a
spear, and hit him as he came striding on. His cuirass of bronze did
not protect him, and the spear stuck in his belly, so that he fell
heavily to the ground. Then Idomeneus vaunted over him saying,
"Othryoneus, there is no one in the world whom I shall admire more
than I do you, if you indeed perform what you have promised Priam
son of Dardanus in return for his daughter. We too will make you an
offer; we will give you the loveliest daughter of the son of Atreus,
and will bring her from Argos for you to marry, if you will sack the
goodly city of Ilius in company with ourselves; so come along with me,
that we may make a covenant at the ships about the marriage, and we
will not be hard upon you about gifts of wooing."
With this Idomeneus began dragging him by the foot through the thick
of the fight, but Asius came up to protect the body, on foot, in front
of his horses which his esquire drove so close behind him that he
could feel their 'breath upon his shoulder. He was longing to strike
down Idomeneus, but ere he could do so Idomeneus smote him with his
spear in the throat under the chin, and the bronze point went clean
through it. He fell as an oak, or poplar, or pine which shipwrights
have felled for ship's timber upon the mountains with whetted axes-
even thus did he lie full length in front of his chariot and horses,
grinding his teeth and clutching at the bloodstained just. His
charioteer was struck with panic and did not dare turn his horses
round and escape: thereupon Antilochus hit him in the middle of his
body with a spear; his cuirass of bronze did not protect him, and
the spear stuck in his belly. He fell gasping from his chariot and
Antilochus great Nestor's son, drove his horses from the Trojans to
Deiphobus then came close up to Idomeneus to avenge Asius, and
took aim at him with a spear, but Idomeneus was on the look-out and
avoided it, for he was covered by the round shield he always bore- a
shield of oxhide and bronze with two arm-rods on the inside. He
crouched under cover of this, and the spear flew over him, but the
shield rang out as the spear grazed it, and the weapon sped not in
vain from the strong hand of Deiphobus, for it struck Hypsenor son
of Hippasus, shepherd of his people, in the liver under the midriff,
and his limbs failed beneath him. Deiphobus vaunted over him and cried
with a loud voice saying, "Of a truth Asius has not fallen
unavenied; he will be glad even while passing into the house of Hades,
strong warden of the gate, that I have sent some one to escort him."
Thus did he vaunt, and the Argives were stung by his saying. Noble
Antilochus was more angry than any one, but grief did not make him
forget his friend and comrade. He ran up to him, bestrode him, and
covered him with his shield; then two of his staunch comrades,
Mecisteus son of Echius, and Alastor stooped down, and bore him away
groaning heavily to the ships. But Idomeneus ceased not his fury. He
kept on striving continually either to enshroud some Trojan in the
darkness of death, or himself to fall while warding off the evil day
from the Achaeans. Then fell Alcathous son of noble Aesyetes: he was
son-in-law to Anchises, having married his eldest daughter Hippodameia
who was the darling of her father and mother, and excelled all her
generation in beauty, accomplishments, and understanding, wherefore
the bravest man in all Troy had taken her to wife- him did Neptune lay
low by the hand of Idomeneus, blinding his bright eyes and binding his
strong limbs in fetters so that he could neither go back nor to one
side, but stood stock still like pillar or lofty tree when Idomeneus
struck him with a spear in the middle of his chest. The coat of mail
that had hitherto protected his body was now broken, and rang
harshly as the spear tore through it. He fell heavily to the ground,
and the spear stuck in his heart, which still beat, and made the
butt-end of the spear quiver till dread Mars put an end to his life.
Idomeneus vaunted over him and cried with a loud voice saying,
"Deiphobus, since you are in a mood to vaunt, shall we cry quits now
that we have killed three men to your one? Nay, sir, stand in fight
with me yourself, that you may learn what manner of Jove-begotten
man am I that have come hither. Jove first begot Minos chief ruler
in Crete, and Minos in his turn begot a son, noble Deucalion;
Deucalion begot me to be a ruler over many men in Crete, and my
ships have now brought me hither, to be the bane of yourself, your
father, and the Trojans."
Thus did he speak, and Deiphobus was in two minds, whether to go
back and fetch some other Trojan to help him, or to take up the
challenge single-handed. In the end, he deemed it best to go and fetch
Aeneas, whom he found standing in the rear, for he had long been
aggrieved with Priam because in spite his brave deeds he did not
give him his due share of honour. Deiphobus went up to him and said,
"Aeneas, prince among the Trojans, if you know any ties of kinship,
help me now to defend the body of your sister's husband; come with
me to the rescue of Alcathous, who being husband to your sister
brought you up when you were a child in his house, and now Idomeneus
has slain him."
With these words he moved the heart of Aeneas, and he went in
pursuit of Idomeneus, big with great deeds of valour; but Idomeneus
was not to be thus daunted as though he were a mere child; he held his
ground as a wild boar at bay upon the mountains, who abides the coming
of a great crowd of men in some lonely place- the bristles stand
upright on his back, his eyes flash fire, and he whets his tusks in
his eagerness to defend himself against hounds and men- even so did
famed Idomeneus hold his ground and budge not at the coming of Aeneas.
He cried aloud to his comrades looking towards Ascalaphus, Aphareus,
Deipyrus, Meriones, and Antilochus, all of them brave soldiers-
"Hither my friends," he cried, "and leave me not single-handed- I go
in great fear by fleet Aeneas, who is coming against me, and is a
redoubtable dispenser of death battle. Moreover he is in the flower of
youth when a man's strength is greatest; if I was of the same age as
he is and in my present mind, either he or I should soon bear away the
prize of victory
On this, all of them as one man stood near him, shield on
shoulder. Aeneas on the other side called to his comrades, looking
towards Deiphobus, Paris, and Agenor, who were leaders of the
Trojans along with himself, and the people followed them as sheep
follow the ram when they go down to drink after they have been
feeding, and the heart of the shepherd is glad- even so was the
heart of Aeneas gladdened when he saw his people follow him.
Then they fought furiously in close combat about the body of
Alcathous, wielding their long spears; and the bronze armour about
their bodies rang fearfully as they took aim at one another in the
press of the fight, while the two heroes Aeneas and Idomeneus, peers
of Mars, outxied every one in their desire to hack at each other
with sword and spear. Aeneas took aim first, but Idomeneus was on
the lookout and avoided the spear, so that it sped from Aeneas' strong
hand in vain, and fell quivering in the ground. Idomeneus meanwhile
smote Oenomaus in the middle of his belly, and broke the plate of
his corslet, whereon his bowels came gushing out and he clutched the
earth in the palms of his hands as he fell sprawling in the dust.
Idomeneus drew his spear out of the body, but could not strip him of
the rest of his armour for the rain of darts that were showered upon
him: moreover his strength was now beginning to fail him so that he
could no longer charge, and could neither spring forward to recover
his own weapon nor swerve aside to avoid one that was aimed at him;
therefore, though he still defended himself in hand-to-hand fight, his
heavy feet could not bear him swiftly out of the battle. Deiphobus
aimed a spear at him as he was retreating slowly from the field, for
his bitterness against him was as fierce as ever, but again he
missed him, and hit Ascalaphus, the son of Mars; the spear went
through his shoulder, and he clutched the earth in the palms of his
hands as he fell sprawling in the dust.
Grim Mars of awful voice did not yet know that his son had fallen,
for he was sitting on the summits of Olympus under the golden
clouds, by command of Jove, where the other gods were also sitting,
forbidden to take part in the battle. Meanwhile men fought furiously
about the body. Deiphobus tore the helmet from off his head, but
Meriones sprang upon him, and struck him on the arm with a spear so
that the visored helmet fell from his hand and came ringing down
upon the ground. Thereon Meriones sprang upon him like a vulture, drew
the spear from his shoulder, and fell back under cover of his men.
Then Polites, own brother of Deiphobus passed his arms around his
waist, and bore him away from the battle till he got to his horses
that were standing in the rear of the fight with the chariot and their
driver. These took him towards the city groaning and in great pain,
with the blood flowing from his arm.
The others still fought on, and the battle-cry rose to heaven
without ceasing. Aeneas sprang on Aphareus son of Caletor, and
struck him with a spear in his throat which was turned towards him;
his head fell on one side, his helmet and shield came down along
with him, and death, life's foe, was shed around him. Antilochus spied
his chance, flew forward towards Thoon, and wounded him as he was
turning round. He laid open the vein that runs all the way up the back
to the neck; he cut this vein clean away throughout its whole
course, and Thoon fell in the dust face upwards, stretching out his
hands imploringly towards his comrades. Antilochus sprang upon him and
stripped the armour from his shoulders, glaring round him fearfully as
he did so. The Trojans came about him on every side and struck his
broad and gleaming shield, but could not wound his body, for Neptune
stood guard over the son of Nestor, though the darts fell thickly
round him. He was never clear of the foe, but was always in the
thick of the fight; his spear was never idle; he poised and aimed it
in every direction, so eager was he to hit some one from a distance or
to fight him hand to hand.
As he was thus aiming among the crowd, he was seen by Adamas son
of Asius, who rushed towards him and struck him with a spear in the
middle of his shield, but Neptune made its point without effect, for
he grudged him the life of Antilochus. One half, therefore, of the
spear stuck fast like a charred stake in Antilochus's shield, while
the other lay on the ground. Adamas then sought shelter under cover of
his men, but Meriones followed after and hit him with a spear midway
between the private parts and the navel, where a wound is particualrly
painful to wretched mortals. There did Meriones transfix him, and he
writhed convulsively about the spear as some bull whom mountain
herdsmen have bound with ropes of withes and are taking away perforce.
Even so did he move convulsively for a while, but not for very long,
till Meriones came up and drew the spear out of his body, and his eyes
were veiled in darkness.
Helenus then struck Deipyrus with a great Thracian sword, hitting
him on the temple in close combat and tearing the helmet from his
head; the helmet fell to the ground, and one of those who were
fighting on the Achaean side took charge of it as it rolled at his
feet, but the eyes of Deipyrus were closed in the darkness of death.
On this Menelaus was grieved, and made menacingly towards Helenus,
brandishing his spear; but Helenus drew his bow, and the two
attacked one another at one and the same moment, the one with his
spear, and the other with his bow and arrow. The son of Priam hit
the breastplate of Menelaus's corslet, but the arrow glanced from
off it. As black beans or pulse come pattering down on to a
threshing-floor from the broad winnowing-shovel, blown by shrill winds
and shaken by the shovel- even so did the arrow glance off and
recoil from the shield of Menelaus, who in his turn wounded the hand
with which Helenus carried his bow; the spear went right through his
hand and stuck in the bow itself, so that to his life he retreated
under cover of his men, with his hand dragging by his side- for the
spear weighed it down till Agenor drew it out and bound the hand
carefully up in a woollen sling which his esquire had with him.
Pisander then made straight at Menelaus- his evil destiny luring him
on to his doom, for he was to fall in fight with you, O Menelaus. When
the two were hard by one another the spear of the son of Atreus turned
aside and he missed his aim; Pisander then struck the shield of
brave Menelaus but could not pierce it, for the shield stayed the
spear and broke the shaft; nevertheless he was glad and made sure of
victory; forthwith, however, the son of Atreus drew his sword and
sprang upon him. Pisander then seized the bronze battle-axe, with
its long and polished handle of olive wood that hung by his side under
his shield, and the two made at one another. Pisander struck the
peak of Menelaus's crested helmet just under the crest itself, and
Menelaus hit Pisander as he was coming towards him, on the forehead,
just at the rise of his nose; the bones cracked and his two
gore-bedrabbled eyes fell by his feet in the dust. He fell backwards
to the ground, and Menelaus set his heel upon him, stripped him of his
armour, and vaunted over him saying, "Even thus shall you Trojans
leave the ships of the Achaeans, proud and insatiate of battle
though you be: nor shall you lack any of the disgrace and shame
which you have heaped upon myself. Cowardly she-wolves that you are,
you feared not the anger of dread Jove, avenger of violated
hospitality, who will one day destroy your city; you stole my wedded
wife and wickedly carried off much treasure when you were her guest,
and now you would fling fire upon our ships, and kill our heroes. A
day will come when, rage as you may, you shall be stayed. O father
Jove, you, who they say art above all both gods and men in wisdom, and
from whom all things that befall us do proceed, how can you thus
favour the Trojans- men so proud and overweening, that they are
never tired of fighting? All things pall after a while- sleep, love,
sweet song, and stately dance- still these are things of which a man
would surely have his fill rather than of battle, whereas it is of
battle that the Trojans are insatiate."
So saying Menelaus stripped the blood-stained armour from the body
of Pisander, and handed it over to his men; then he again ranged
himself among those who were in the front of the fight.
Harpalion son of King Pylaemenes then sprang upon him; he had come
to fight at Troy along with his father, but he did not go home
again. He struck the middle of Menelaus's shield with his spear but
could not pierce it, and to save his life drew back under cover of his
men, looking round him on every side lest he should be wounded. But
Meriones aimed a bronze-tipped arrow at him as he was leaving the
field, and hit him on the right buttock; the arrow pierced the bone
through and through, and penetrated the bladder, so he sat down
where he was and breathed his last in the arms of his comrades,
stretched like a worm upon the ground and watering the earth with
the blood that flowed from his wound. The brave Paphlagonians tended
him with all due care; they raised him into his chariot, and bore
him sadly off to the city of Troy; his father went also with him
weeping bitterly, but there was no ransom that could bring his dead
son to life again.
Paris was deeply grieved by the death of Harpalion, who was his host
when he went among the Paphlagonians; he aimed an arrow, therefore, in
order to avenge him. Now there was a certain man named Euchenor, son
of Polyidus the prophet, a brave man and wealthy, whose home was in
Corinth. This Euchenor had set sail for Troy well knowing that it
would be the death of him, for his good old father Polyidus had
often told him that he must either stay at home and die of a
terrible disease, or go with the Achaeans and perish at the hands of
the Trojans; he chose, therefore, to avoid incurring the heavy fine
the Achaeans would have laid upon him, and at the same time to
escape the pain and suffering of disease. Paris now smote him on the
jaw under his ear, whereon the life went out of him and he was
enshrouded in the darkness of death.
Thus then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. But Hector had
not yet heard, and did not know that the Argives were making havoc
of his men on the left wing of the battle, where the Achaeans ere long
would have triumphed over them, so vigorously did Neptune cheer them
on and help them. He therefore held on at the point where he had first
forced his way through the gates and the wall, after breaking
through the serried ranks of Danaan warriors. It was here that the
ships of Ajax and Protesilaus were drawn up by the sea-shore; here the
wall was at its lowest, and the fight both of man and horse raged most
fiercely. The Boeotians and the Ionians with their long tunics, the
Locrians, the men of Phthia, and the famous force of the Epeans
could hardly stay Hector as he rushed on towards the ships, nor
could they drive him from them, for he was as a wall of fire. The
chosen men of the Athenians were in the van, led by Menestheus son
of Peteos, with whom were also Pheidas, Stichius, and stalwart Bias:
Meges son of Phyleus, Amphion, and Dracius commanded the Epeans, while
Medon and staunch Podarces led the men of Phthia. Of these, Medon
was bastard son to Oileus and brother of Ajax, but he lived in Phylace
away from his own country, for he had killed the brother of his
stepmother Eriopis, the wife of Oileus; the other, Podarces, was the
son of Iphiclus son of Phylacus. These two stood in the van of the
Phthians, and defended the ships along with the Boeotians.
Ajax son of Oileus never for a moment left the side of Ajax son of
Telamon, but as two swart oxen both strain their utmost at the
plough which they are drawing in a fallow field, and the sweat
steams upwards from about the roots of their horns- nothing but the
yoke divides them as they break up the ground till they reach the
end of the field- even so did the two Ajaxes stand shoulder to
shoulder by one another. Many and brave comrades followed the son of
Telamon, to relieve him of his shield when he was overcome with
sweat and toil, but the Locrians did not follow so close after the son
of Oileus, for they could not hold their own in a hand-to-hand
fight. They had no bronze helmets with plumes of horse-hair, neither
had they shields nor ashen spears, but they had come to Troy armed
with bows, and with slings of twisted wool from which they showered
their missiles to break the ranks of the Trojans. The others,
therefore, with their heavy armour bore the brunt of the fight with
the Trojans and with Hector, while the Locrians shot from behind,
under their cover; and thus the Trojans began to lose heart, for the
arrows threw them into confusion.
The Trojans would now have been driven in sorry plight from the
ships and tents back to windy Ilius, had not Polydamas presently
said to Hector, "Hector, there is no persuading you to take advice.
Because heaven has so richly endowed you with the arts of war, you
think that you must therefore excel others in counsel; but you
cannot thus claim preeminence in all things. Heaven has made one man
an excellent soldier; of another it has made a dancer or a singer
and player on the lyre; while yet in another Jove has implanted a wise
understanding of which men reap fruit to the saving of many, and he
himself knows more about it than any one; therefore I will say what
I think will be best. The fight has hemmed you in as with a circle
of fire, and even now that the Trojans are within the wall some of
them stand aloof in full armour, while others are fighting scattered
and outnumbered near the ships. Draw back, therefore, and call your
chieftains round you, that we may advise together whether to fall
now upon the ships in the hope that heaven may vouchsafe us victory,
or to beat a retreat while we can yet safely do so. I greatly fear
that the Achaeans will pay us their debt of yesterday in full, for
there is one abiding at their ships who is never weary of battle,
and who will not hold aloof much longer."
Thus spoke Polydamas, and his words pleased Hector well. He sprang
in full armour from his chariot and said, "Polydamas, gather the
chieftains here; I will go yonder into the fight, but will return at
once when I have given them their orders."
He then sped onward, towering like a snowy mountain, and with a loud
cry flew through the ranks of the Trojans and their allies. When
they heard his voice they all hastened to gather round Polydamas the
excellent son of Panthous, but Hector kept on among the foremost,
looking everywhere to find Deiphobus and prince Helenus, Adamas son of
Asius, and Asius son of Hyrtacus; living, indeed, and scatheless he
could no longer find them, for the two last were lying by the sterns
of the Achaean ships, slain by the Argives, while the others had
been also stricken and wounded by them; but upon the left wing of
the dread battle he found Alexandrus, husband of lovely Helen,
cheering his men and urging them on to fight. He went up to him and
upbraided him. "Paris," said he, "evil-hearted Paris, fair to see
but woman-mad and false of tongue, where are Deiphobus and King
Helenus? Where are Adamas son of Asius, and Asius son of Hyrtacus?
Where too is Othryoneus? Ilius is undone and will now surely fall!"
Alexandrus answered, "Hector, why find fault when there is no one to
find fault with? I should hold aloof from battle on any day rather
than this, for my mother bore me with nothing of the coward about
me. From the moment when you set our men fighting about the ships we
have been staying here and doing battle with the Danaans. Our comrades
about whom you ask me are dead; Deiphobus and King Helenus alone
have left the field, wounded both of them in the hand, but the son
of Saturn saved them alive. Now, therefore, lead on where you would
have us go, and we will follow with right goodwill; you shall not find
us fail you in so far as our strength holds out, but no man can do
more than in him lies, no matter how willing he may be."
With these words he satisfied his brother, and the two went
towards the part of the battle where the fight was thickest, about
Cebriones, brave Polydamas, Phalces, Orthaeus, godlike Polyphetes,
Palmys, Ascanius, and Morys son of Hippotion, who had come from
fertile Ascania on the preceding day to relieve other troops. Then
Jove urged them on to fight. They flew forth like the blasts of some
fierce wind that strike earth in the van of a thunderstorm- they
buffet the salt sea into an uproar; many and mighty are the great
waves that come crashing in one after the other upon the shore with
their arching heads all crested with foam- even so did rank behind
rank of Trojans arrayed in gleaming armour follow their leaders
onward. The way was led by Hector son of Priam, peer of murderous
Mars, with his round shield before him- his shield of ox-hides covered
with plates of bronze- and his gleaming helmet upon his temples. He
kept stepping forward under cover of his shield in every direction,
making trial of the ranks to see if they would give way be him, but he
could not daunt the courage of the Achaeans. Ajax was the first to
stride out and challenge him. "Sir," he cried, "draw near; why do
you think thus vainly to dismay the Argives? We Achaeans are excellent
soldiers, but the scourge of Jove has fallen heavily upon us. Your
heart, forsooth, is set on destroying our ships, but we too have bands
that can keep you at bay, and your own fair town shall be sooner taken
and sacked by ourselves. The time is near when you shall pray Jove and
all the gods in your flight, that your steeds may be swifter than
hawks as they raise the dust on the plain and bear you back to your
As he was thus speaking a bird flew by upon his right hand, and
the host of the Achaeans shouted, for they took heart at the omen. But
Hector answered, "Ajax, braggart and false of tongue, would that I
were as sure of being son for evermore to aegis-bearing Jove, with
Queen Juno for my mother, and of being held in like honour with
Minerva and Apollo, as I am that this day is big with the
destruction of the Achaeans; and you shall fall among them if you dare
abide my spear; it shall rend your fair body and bid you glut our
hounds and birds of prey with your fat and your flesh, as you fall
by the ships of the Achaeans."
With these words he led the way and the others followed after with a
cry that rent the air, while the host shouted behind them. The Argives
on their part raised a shout likewise, nor did they forget their
prowess, but stood firm against the onslaught of the Trojan
chieftains, and the cry from both the hosts rose up to heaven and to
the brightness of Jove's presence.
Orlando Furioso Canto 20
Guido and his from that foul haunt retire,
While all Astolpho chases with his horn,
Who to all quarters of the town sets fire,
Then roving singly round the world is borne.
Marphisa, for Gabrina's cause, in ire
Puts upon young Zerbino scathe and scorn,
And makes him guardian of Gabrina fell,
From whom he first learns news of Isabel.
Great fears the women of antiquity
In arms and hallowed arts as well have done,
And of their worthy works the memory
And lustre through this ample world has shone.
Praised is Camilla, with Harpalice,
For the fair course which they in battle run.
Corinna and Sappho, famous for their lore,
Shine two illustrious light, to set no more.
Women have reached the pinnacle of glory,
In every art by them professed, well seen;
And whosoever turns the leaf of story,
Finds record of them, neither dim nor mean.
The evil influence will be transitory,
If long deprived of such the world had been;
And envious men, and those that never knew
Their worth, have haply hid their honours due.
To me it plainly seems, in this our age
Of women such is the celebrity,
That it may furnish matter to the page,
Whence this dispersed to future years shall be;
And you, ye evil tongues which foully rage,
Be tied to your eternal infamy,
And women's praises so resplendent show,
They shall, by much, Marphisa's worth outgo.
To her returning yet again; the dame
To him who showed to her such courteous lore,
Refused not to disclose her martial name,
Since he agreed to tell the style be bore.
She quickly satisfied the warrior's claim;
To learn his title she desired so sore.
'I am Marphisa,' the virago cried:
All else was known, as bruited far and wide.
The other, since 'twas his to speak, begun
With longer preamble: 'Amid your train,
Sirs, it is my belief that there is none
But has heard mention of my race and strain.
Not Pontus, Aethiopia, Ind alone,
With all their neighbouring realms, but France and Spain
Wot well of Clermont, from whose loins the knight
Issued who killed Almontes bold in fight,
'And Chiareillo and Mambrino slew,
And sacked the realm whose royal crown they wore.
Come of this blood, where Danube's waters, through
Eight horns or ten to meet the Euxine pour,
Me to the far-renowned Duke Aymon, who
Thither a stranger roved, my mother bore.
And 'tis a twelvemonth now since her, in quest
Of my French kin, I left with grief opprest.
'But reached not France, for southern tempest's spite
Impelled me hither; lodged in royal bower
Ten months or more; for - miserable wight! -
I reckon every day and every hour.
Guido the Savage I by name am hight,
Ill known and scarcely proved in warlike stower.
Here Argilon of Meliboea I
Slew with ten warriors in his company.
'Conqueror as well in other field confessed,
Ten ladies are the partners of my bed:
Selected at my choice, who are the best
And fairest damsels in this kingdom bred:
These I command, as well as all the rest,
Who of their female band have made me head;
And so would make another who in fight,
Like me, ten opposites to death would smite.'
Sir Guido is besought of them to say
Why there appear so few of the male race,
And to declare if women there bear sway
O'er men, as men o'er them in other place.
He: 'Since my fortune has been here to stay,
I oftentimes have heard relate the case;
And now (according to the story told)
Will, since it pleases you, the cause unfold.
'When, after twenty years, the Grecian host
Returned from Troy (ten years hostility
The town endured, ten weary years were tost
The Greeks, detained by adverse winds at sea),
They found their women had, for comforts lost,
And pangs of absence, learned a remedy;
And, that they might not freeze alone in bed,
Chosen young lovers in their husbands' stead.
'With others' children filled the Grecian crew
Their houses found, and by consent was past
A pardon to their women; for they knew
How ill they could endure so long a fast.
But the adulterous issue, as their due,
To seek their fortunes on the world were cast:
Because the husbands would not suffer more
The striplings should be nourished from their store.
'Some are exposed, and others underhand
Their kindly mothers shelter and maintain:
While the adults, in many a various band,
Some here, some there dispersed, their living gain.
Arms are the trade of some, by some are scanned
Letters and arts; another tills the plain:
One serves in court, by other guided go
The herd as pleases her who rules below.
'A boy departed with they youthful peers,
Who was of cruel Clytemnestra born;
Like lily fresh (he numbered eighteen years)
Or blooming rose, new-gathered from the thorn.
He having armed a bark, his pinnace steers
In search of plunder, o'er the billows borne.
With him a hundred other youths engage,
Picked from all Greece, and of their leader's age.
'The Cretans, who had banished in that day
Idomeneus the tyrant of their land,
And their new state to strengthen and upstay,
Were gathering arms and levying martial band,
Phalantus' service by their goodly pay
Purchased (so hight the youth who sought that strand),
And all those others that his fortune run,
Who the Dictaean city garrison.
'Amid the hundred cities of old Crete,
Was the Dictaean the most rich and bright;
Of fair and amorous dames the joyous seat,
Joyous with festive sports from morn to night:
And (as her townsmen aye were wont to greet
The stranger) with such hospitable rite
They welcomed these, it little lacked but they
Granted them o'er their households sovereign sway.
'Youthful and passing fair were all the crew,
The flower of Greece, who bold Phalantus led;
So that with those fair ladies at first view,
Stealing their hearts, full well the striplings sped.
Since, fair in deed as show, they good and true
Lovers evinced themselves and bold in bed.
And in few days to them so grateful proved,
Above all dearest things they were beloved.
'After the war was ended on accord,
For which were hired Phalantus and his train,
And pay withdrawn, nor longer by the sword
Was aught which the adventurous youth can gain,
And they, for this, anew would go aboard,
The unhappy Cretan women more complain,
And fuller tears on this occasion shed,
That if their fathers lay before them dead.
'Long time and sorely all the striplings bold
Were, each apart, by them implored to stay:
Who since the fleeting youths they cannot hold,
Leave brother, sire, and son, with these to stray,
Of jewels and of weighty sums of gold
Spoiling their households ere they wend their way,
For so well was the plot concealed, no wight
Throughout all Crete was privy to their flight.
'So happy was the hour, so fair the wind,
When young Phalantus chose his time to flee,
They many miles had left the isle behind,
Ere Crete lamented her calamity.
Next, uninhabited by human kind,
This shore received them wandering o'er the sea.
'Twas here they settled, with the plunder reft,
And better weighed the issue of their theft.
'With amorous pleasures teemed this place of rest,
For ten days, to that roving company:
But, as oft happens that in youthful breast
Abundance brings with it satiety,
To quit their women, with one wish possest,
The band resolved to win their liberty;
For never burden does so sore oppress
As woman, when her love breeds weariness.
'They, who are covetous of spoil and gain,
And ill-bested withal in stipend, know
That better means are wanted to maintain
So many paramours, than shaft and bow;
And leaving thus alone the wretched train,
Thence, with their riches charged the adventurers go
For Puglia's pleasant land: there founded near
The sea, Tarentum's city, as I hear.
'The women when they find themselves betrayed
Of lovers by whose faith they set most store,
For many days remain so sore dismayed,
That they seem lifeless statues on the shore.
But seeing lamentations nothing aid,
And fruitless are the many tears they pour,
Begin to meditate, amid their pains,
What remedy for such an ill remains.
'Some laying their opinions now before
The others, deem that to return to Crete
Is in their sad estate the wiser lore,
Throwing themselves at sire and husband's feet,
Than in those wilds, and on that desert shore,
To pine of want. Another troop repeat,
They should esteem it were a worthier notion
To cast themselves into the neighbouring ocean;
'And lighter ill, if they as harlots went
About the world, - beggars or slaves to be,
Than offer up themselves for punishment,
Well merited by their iniquity.
Such and like schemes the unhappy dames present,
Each harder than the other. Finally,
One Orontea amid these upstood,
Who drew her origin from Minos' blood.
'Youngest and fairest of the crew betrayed
She was, and wariest, and who least had erred,
Who to Phalantus' arms had come a maid,
And left for him her father: she in word,
As well as in a kindling face, displayed
How much with generous wrath her heart was stirred;
Then, reprobating all advised before,
Spake; and adopted saw her better lore.
'She would not leave the land they were upon,
Whose soil was fruitful, and whose air was sane,
Throughout which many limpid rivers ran,
Shaded with woods, and for the most part plain;
With creek and port, where stranger bark could shun
Foul wind or storm, which vexed the neighbouring main,
That might from Afric or from Egypt bring
Victual or other necessary thing.
'For vengeance (she opined) they there should stay
Upon man's sex, which had so sore offended.
She willed each bark and crew which to that bay
For shelter from the angry tempest wended,
They should, without remorse, burn, sack, and slay,
Nor mercy be to any one extended.
Such was the lady's motion, such the course
Adopted; and the statute put in force.
'The women, when they see the changing heaven
Turbid with tempest, hurry to the strand,
With savage Orontea, by whom given
Was the fell law, the ruler of the land;
And of all barks into their haven driven
Make havoc dread with fire and murderous brand,
Leaving no man alive, who may diffuse
Upon this side or that the dismal news.
' 'Twas thus with the male sex at enmity,
Some years the lonely women lived forlorn:
Then found that hurtful to themselves would be
The scheme, save changed; for if from them were born
None to perpetuate their empery,
The idle law would soon be held in scorn,
And fail together with the fruitful reign,
Which they had hoped eternal should remain.
'So that some deal its rigour they allay,
And in four years, of all who made repair
Thither, by chance conducted to this bay,
Chose out ten vigorous cavaliers and fair;
That for endurance in the amorous play
Against those hundred dames good champions were:
A hundred they; and, of the chosen men,
A husband was assigned to every ten.
'Ere this, too feeble to abide the test,
Many a one on scaffold lost his head.
Now these ten warriors so approved the best,
Were made partakers of their rule and bed;
First swearing at the sovereign ladies' hest,
That they, if others to that port are led,
No mercy shall to any one afford,
But one and all will put them to the sword.
'To swell, and next to child, and thence to fear
The women turned to teeming wives began
Lest they in time so many males should bear
As might invade the sovereignty they plan,
And that the government they hold so dear
Might finally from them revert to man.
And so, while these are children yet, take measure,
They never shall rebel against their pleasure.
'That the male sex may not usurp the sway,
It is enacted by the statute fell,
Each mother should one boy preserve, and slay
The others, or abroad exchange or sell.
For this, they these to various parts convey,
And to the bearers of the children tell,
To truck the girls for boys in foreign lands,
Or not, at least, return with empty hands.
'Nor by the women one preserved would be,
If they without them could the race maintain.
Such all their mercy, all the clemency
The law accords for theirs, not others' gain.
The dames all others sentence equally;
And temper but in this their statute's pain,
That, not as was their former practice, they
All in their rage promiscuously slay.
'Did ten or twenty persons, or yet more,
Arrive, they were imprisoned and put by;
And every day one only from the store
Of victims was brought out by lot to die,
In fane by Orontea built, before
An altar raised to Vengeance; and to ply
As headsman, and dispatched the unhappy men,
One was by lot selected from the ten.
'To that foul murderous shore by chance did fare,
After long years elapsed, a youthful wight,
Whose fathers sprung from good Alcides were,
And he, of proof in arms, Elbanio hight;
There was he seized, of peril scarce aware,
As unsuspecting such a foul despite:
And, closely guarded, into prison flung,
Kept for like cruel use the rest among.
'Adorned with every fair accomplishment,
Of pleasing face and manners was the peer,
And of a speech so sweet and eloquent,
Him the deaf adder might have stopt to hear;
So that of him to Alexandria went
Tidings as of a precious thing and rare.
She was the daughter of that matron bold,
Queen Orontea, that yet lived, though old.
'Yet Orontea lived, while of that shore
The other settlers all were dead and gone;
And now ten times as many such or more
Had into strength and greater credit grown.
Nor for ten forges, often closed, in store
Have the ill-furnished band more files than one;
And the ten champions have as well the care
To welcome shrewdly all who thither fare.
'Young Alexandria, who the blooming peer
Burned to behold so praised on every part,
The special pleasure him to see and hear,
Won from her mother; and, about to part
From him, discovers that the cavalier
Remains the master of her tortured heart;
Finds herself bound, and that 'tis vain to stir,
- A captive made by her own prisoner.
' `I pity,' (said Elbanio) 'lady fair,
Was in this cruel region known, as through
All other countries near or distant, where
The wandering sun sheds light and colouring hue,
I by your beauty's kindly charms should dare
(Which make each gentle spirit bound to you)
To beg my life; which always, at your will,
Should I be ready for your love to spill.
' `But since deprived of all humanity
Are human bosoms in this cruel land,
I shall not now request my life of thee,
(For fruitless would, I know, be the demand)
But, whether a good knight or bad I be,
Ask but like such to die with arms in hand,
And not as one condemned to penal pain;
Or like brute beast in sacrifice be slain.'
'The gentle maid, her eye bedimmed with tear,
In pity for the hapless youth, replied:
`Though this land be more cruel and severe
Than any other country, far and wide,
Each woman is not a Medaea here
As thou wouldst make her; and, if all beside
Were of such evil kind, in me alone
Should an exception to the rest be known.
' `And though I, like so many here, of yore
Was full of evil deeds and cruelty,
I can well say, I never had before
A fitting subject for my clemency.
But fiercer were I than a tiger, more
Hard were my heart than diamonds, if in me
All hardness did not vanish and give place
Before your courage, gentleness, and grace.
' `Ah! were the cruel statute less severe
Against the stranger to these shores conveyed!
So should I not esteem my death too dear
A ransom for thy worthier life were paid.
But none is here so great, sir cavalier,
Nor of such puissance as to lend thee aid;
And what thou askest, though a scanty grace,
Were difficult to compass in this place.
' `And yet will I endeavour to obtain
For thee, before thou perish, this content;
Though much, I fear, 'twill but augment thy pain.
And thee protracted death but more torment.'
`So I the ten encounter,' (said again
Elbanio), `I at heart, am confident
Myself to save, and enemies to slay;
Though made of iron were the whole array.'
'To this the youthful Alexandria nought
Made answer, saving with a piteous sigh;
And from the conference a bosom brought,
Gored with deep wounds, beyond all remedy.
To Orontea she repaired, and wrought
On her to will the stripling should not die,
Should he display such courage and such skill
As with his single hand the ten to kill.
'Queen Orontea straightway bade unite
Her council, and bespoke the assembled band:
`It still behoves us place the prowest wight
Whom we can find, to guard our ports and strand.
And, to discover whom to take or slight,
'Tis fitting that we prove the warrior's hand;
Lest, to our loss, the election made be wrong,
And we enthrone the weak and slay the strong.
' `I deem it fit, if you the counsel shown
Deem fit as well, in future to ordain,
That each upon our coast by Fortune thrown,
Before he in the temple shall be slain,
Shall have the choice, instead of this, alone
Battle against ten others to maintain;
And if he conquer, shall the port defend
With other comrades, pardoned to that end.
' `I say this, since to strive against our ten,
It seems, that one imprisoned here will dare:
Who, if he stands against so many men,
By Heaven, deserves that we should hear his prayer;
But if he rashly boasts himself, again
As worthily due the punishment should bear.'
Here Orontea ceased; on the other side,
To her the oldest of the dames replied.
' `The leading cause, for which to entertain
This intercourse with men we first agreed,
Was not because we, to defend this reign,
Of their assistance stood in any need;
For we have skill and courage to maintain
This of ourselves, and force, withal, to speed.
Would that we could in all as well avail
Without their succour, nor succession fail!
' `But since this may not be, we some have made
(These few) partakers of our company;
That, ten to one, we be not overlaid;
Nor they possess them of the sovereignty.
Not that we for protection need their aid,
But simply to increase and multiply.
Than be their powers to this sole fear addressed,
And be they sluggards, idle for the rest.
' `To keep among us such a puissant wight
Our first design would render wholly vain.
If one can singly slay ten men in fight,
How many women can he not restrain?
If our ten champions had possessed such might,
They the first day would have usurped the reign.
To arm a hand more powerful than your own
Is an ill method to maintain the throne.
' `Reflect withal, that if your prisoner speed
So that he kill ten champions in the fray,
A hundred women's cry, whose lords will bleed
Beneath his falchion, shall your ears dismay.
Let him not 'scape by such a murderous deed;
But, if he would, propound some other way.
- Yet if he of those ten supply the place,
And please a hundred women, grant him grace.'
'This was severe Artemia's sentiment,
(So was she named) and had her counsel weighed,
Elbanio to the temple had been sent,
To perish by the sacrificial blade.
But Orontea, willing to content
Her daughter, to the matron answer made;
And urged so many reasons, and so wrought,
The yielding senate granted what she ought.
'Elbanio's beauty (for so fair to view
Never was any cavalier beside)
So strongly works upon the youthful crew,
Which in that council sit the state to guide,
That the opinion of the older few
That like Artemia think, is set aside;
And little lacks but that the assembled race
Absolve Elbanio by especial grace.
'To pardon him in fine the dames agreed:
But, after slaying his half-score, and when
He in the next assault as well should speech,
Not with a hundred women, but with ten;
And, furnished to his wish with arms and steed,
Next day he was released from dungeon-den,
And singly with ten warriors matched in plain,
Who by his arm successively were slain.
'He to new proof was put the following night,
Against ten damsels naked and alone;
When so successful was the stripling's might,
He took the 'say of all the troop, and won
Such grace with Orontea, that the knight
Was by the dame adopted for her son;
And from her Alexandria had to wife,
With those whom he had proved in amorous strife.
'And him she left with Alexandria, heir
To this famed city, which from her was hight,
So he and all who his successors were,
Should guard the law which willed, whatever wight,
Conducted hither by his cruel star,
Upon this miserable land did light,
Should have his choice to perish by the knife,
Or singly with ten foes contend to strife.
'And if he should dispatch the men by day,
At night should prove him with the female crew;
And if so fortunate that in this play
He proved again the conqueror, he, as due,
The female band, as prince and guide, should sway,
And his ten consorts at his choice renew:
And reign with them, till other should arrive
Of stouter hand, and him of life deprive.
'They for two thousand years nigh past away
This usage have maintained, and yet maintain
The impious rite; and rarely passes day
But stranger wight is slaughtered in the fane.
If he, Elbanio-like, ten foes assay,
(And such sometimes is found) he oft is slain
In the first charge: nor, in a thousand, one
The other feat, of which I spake, has done,
'Yet some there are have done it, though so few,
They may be numbered on the fingers; one
Of the victorious cavaliers, but who
Reigned with his ten short time, was Argilon:
For, smote by me, whom ill wind hither blew,
The knight to his eternal rest is gone.
Would I with him that day had filled a grave,
Rather than in such scorn survive a slave!
'For amorous pleasures, laughter, game, and play,
Which evermore delight the youthful breast;
The gem, the purple garment, rich array,
And in his city place before the rest.
Little, by Heaven, the wretched man appay
Who of his liberty is dispossest:
And not to have the power to leave this shore
To me seems shameful servitude and sore.
'To know I wear away life's glorious spring
In such effeminate and slothful leisure
Is to my troubled heart a constant sting,
And takes away the taste of every pleasure.
Fame bears my kindred's praise on outstretched wing,
Even to the skies; and haply equal measure
I of the glories of my blood might share
If I united with my brethren were.
'Methinks my fate does such injurious deed
By me, condemned to servitude so base,
As he who turns to grass the generous steed
To run amid the herd of meaner race,
Because unfit for war or worthier meed,
Through blemish, or disease of sight or pace.
Nor hoping but by death, alas! to fly
So vile a service, I desire to die.'
Here Guido ceased to address the martial peers,
And cursed withal the day, in high disdain,
That he achieved o'er dames and cavaliers
The double victory which bestowed that reign.
Astolpho hides his name, and silent hears,
Until to him by many a sign is plain
That this Sir Guido is, as he had said,
The issue of his kinsman Aymon's bed.
Then cried: 'The English duke, Astolpho, I
Thy cousin am,' and clipt him round the waist,
And in a kindly act of courtesy,
Not without weeping, kist him and embraced.
Then, 'Kinsman dear, thy birth to certify
No better sign thy mother could have placed
About thy neck. Enough! that sword of thine,
And courage, vouch thee of our valiant line.'
Guido, who gladly would in other place
So near a kin have welcomed, in dismay
Beholds him here and with a mournful face;
Knowing, if he himself survives the fray,
Astolpho will be doomed to slavery base,
His fate deferred but till the following day;
And he shall perish, if the duke is free:
So that one's good the other's ill shall be.
He grieves, as well, the other cavaliers
Should through his means for ever captive be;
Nor, that he should, if slain, those martial peers
Deliver by his death from slavery.
Since if Marphisa from one quicksand clears
The troop, yet these from other fails to free,
She will have won the victory in vain;
For they will be enslaved, and she be slain.
On the other hand, the stripling's age, in May
Of youth, with courtesy and valour fraught,
Upon the maid and comrades with such sway,
Touching their breasts with love and pity, wrought
That they of freedom, for which he must pay
The forfeit of his life, nigh loathed the thought;
And if Marphisa him perforce must kill,
She is resolved as well herself to spill.
'Join thou with us,' she to Sir Guido cried,
'And we from hence will sally.' - 'From within
These walls to sally' - Guido on his side
Answered, 'Ne'er hope: With me you lose or win.'
'- I fear not, I,' the martial maid replied,
'To execute whatever I begin;
Nor know what can securer path afford
Than that which I shall open with my sword.
'Such proof of thy fair prowess have I made,
With thee I every enterprise would dare.
To-morrow when about the palisade
The crowds assembled in the circus are,
Let us on every side the mob invade,
Whether they fly or for defence prepare;
Then give the town to fire, and on their bed
Of earth to wolf and vulture leave the dead.'
He: 'Ready shalt thou find me in the strife
To follow thee or perish at thy side:
But let us hope not to escape with life.
Enough, is vengeance somedeal satisfied
Ere death; for oft ten thousand, maid and wife,
I in the place have witnessed; and, outside,
As many castle, wall and port, defend.
Nor know I certain way from hence to wend.'
'And were there more (Marphisa made reply)
Than Xerxes led, our squadrons to oppose,
More than those rebel spirits from the sky
Cast out to dwell amid perpetual woes,
All in one day should by this weapon die,
Wert thou with me, at least, not with my foes.'
To her again, 'No project but must fail,
(Sir Guido said) I know, save this avail.'
'This only us can save, should it succeed;
This, which but now remembered I shall teach.
To dames alone our laws the right concede
To sally, or set foot upon the beach,
And hence to one of mine in this our need
Must I commit myself, and aid beseech;
Whose love for me, by perfect friendship tied,
Has oft by better proof than this been tried.
'No less than me would she desire that I
Should 'scape from slavery, so she went with me;
And that, without her rival's company,
She of my lot should sole partaker be.
She bark or pinnace, in the harbour nigh,
Shall bid, while yet 'tis dark, prepare for sea;
Which shall await your sailors, rigged and yare
For sailing, when they thither shall repair.
'Behind me, in a solid band comprest,
Ye merchants, mariners and warriors, who,
Driven to this city, have set up your rest
Beneath this roof (for which my thanks are due)
- You have to force your way with stedfast breast,
If adversaries interrupt our crew.
'Tis thus I hope, by succour of the sword,
To clear a passage through the cruel horde.'
'Do as thou wilt,' Marphisa made reply,
'I of escape am confident withal:
And likelier 'twere that by my hand should die
The martial race, encompassed by this wall,
Than any one should ever see me fly,
Or guess by other sign that fears appall.
I would my passage force in open day,
And shameful in my sight were other way.
'I wot if I were for a woman known,
Honour and place from women I might claim,
Here gladly entertained, and classed as one
Haply among their chiefs of highest fame:
But privilege or favour will I none
Unshared by those with whom I hither came.
Too base it were, did I depart or free
Remain, to leave the rest in slavery.'
These speeches by Marphisa made, and more,
Showed that what only had restrained her arm
Was the respect she to the safety bore
Of the companions whom her wrath might harm;
By this alone withheld form taking sore
And signal vengeance on the female swarm.
And hence she left in Guido's care to shape
What seemed the fittest means for their escape.
Sir Guido speaks that night with Alery
(So the most faithful of his wives was hight)
Nor needs long prayer to make the dame agree,
Disposed already to obey the knight.
She takes a ship and arms the bark for sea,
Stowed with her richest chattels for their flight;
Feigning design, as soon as dawn ensues,
To sail with her companions on a cruise.
She into Guido's palace had before
Bid sword and spear and shield and cuirass bear;
With the intent to furnish from this store,
Merchants and sailors that half naked were.
Some watch, and some repose upon the floor,
And rest and guard among each other share;
Oft marking, still with harness on their backs,
If ruddy yet with light the orient wax.
Not yet from earth's hard visage has the sun
Lifted her veil of dim and dingy dye;
Scarcely Lycaon's child, her furrow done,
Has turned about her ploughshare in the sky;
When to the theatre the women run
Who would the fearful battle's end espy,
As swarming bees upon their threshold cluster,
Who bent on change of realm in springtide muster.
With warlike trumpet, drum, and sound of horn,
The people make the land and welkin roar;
Summoning thus their chieftain to return,
And end of unfinished warfare. Covered o'er
With arms stand Aquilant and Gryphon stern,
And the redoubted duke from England's shore.
Marphisa, Dudo, Sansonet, and all
The knights or footmen harboured in that hall.
Hence to descend towards the sea or port
The way across the place of combat lies;
Nor was there other passage, long or short.
Sir Guido so to his companions cries:
And having ceased his comrades to exhort,
To do their best set forth in silent wise,
And in the place appeared, amid the throng,
Head of a squad above a hundred strong.
Toward the other gate Sir Guido went,
Hurrying his band, but, gathered far and nigh
The mighty multitude, for aye intent
To smite, and clad in arms, when they descry
The comrades whom he leads, perceive his bent,
And truly deem he is about to fly.
All in a thought betake them to their bows,
And at the portal part the knight oppose.
Sir Guido and the cavaliers who go
Beneath that champion's guidance, and before
The others bold Marphisa, were not slow
To strike, and laboured hard to force the door.
But such a storm of darts from ready bow,
Dealing on all sides death or wounding sore,
Was rained in fury on the troop forlorn,
They feared at last to encounter skaith and scorn.
Of proof the corslet was each warrior wore,
Who without this would have had worse to fear:
Sansonnet's horse was slain, and that which bore
Marphisa: to himself the English peer
Exclaimed, 'Why wait I longer? As if more
My horn could ever succour me than here.
Since the sword steads not, I will make assay
If with my bugle I can clear the way.'
As he was customed in extremity,
He to his mouth applied the bugle's round;
The wide world seemed to tremble, earth and sky,
As he in air discharged the horrid sound.
Such terror smote the dames, that bent to fly,
When in their ears the deafening horn was wound,
Not only they the gate unguarded left,
But from the circus reeled, of wit bereft.
As family, awaked in sudden wise,
Leaps from the windows and from lofty height,
Periling life and limb, when in surprise
They see, now near, the fire's encircling light,
Which had, while slumber sealed their heavy eyes,
By little and by little waxed at night:
Reckless of life, thus each, impelled by dread,
At sound of that appalling bugle fled.
Above, below, and here and there, the rout
Rise in confusion and attempt to fly.
At once, above a thousand swarm about
Each entrance, to each other's lett, and lie
In heaps: from window these, or stage without,
Leap headlong; in the press these smothered die.
Broken is many an arm, and many a head;
And one lies crippled, and another dead.
Amid the mighty ruin which ensued,
Cries pierce the very heavens on every part.
Where'er the sound is heard, the multitude,
In panic at the deafening echo, start.
When you are told that without hardihood
Appear the rabble, and of feeble heart,
This need not more your marvel; for by nature
The hare is evermore a timid creature.
But of Marphisa what will be your thought,
And Guido late so furious? - of the two
Young sons of Olivier, that lately wrought
Such deeds in honour of their lineage? who
Lately a hundred thousand held as nought,
And now, deprived of courage, basely flew,
As ring-doves flutter and as coneys fly,
Who hear some mighty noise resounding nigh.
For so to friend as stranger, noxious are
The powers that in the enchanted horn reside.
Sansonet, Guido, follow, with the pair
Or brethren bold, Marphisa terrified.
Nor flying, can they to such distance fare,
But that their ears are dinned. On every side
Astolpho, on his foaming courser borne,
Lends louder breath to his enchanted horn.
One sought the sea, and one the mountain-top,
One fled the hide herself in forest hoar;
And this, who turned not once nor made a stop,
Not for ten days her headlong flight forbore:
These from the bridge in that dread moment drop,
Never to climb the river's margin more.
So temple, house and square and street were drained,
That nigh unpeopled the wide town remained.
Marphisa, Guido, and the brethren two,
With Sansonetto, pale and trembling, hie
Towards the sea, and behind these the crew
Of frighted mariners and merchants fly;
And 'twixt the forts, in bark, prepared with view
To their escape, discover Alery;
Who in sore haste receives the warriors pale,
And bids them ply their oars and make all sail.
The duke within and out the town had bear
From the surrounding hills to the sea-side,
And of its people emptied every street.
All fly before the deafening sound, and hide:
Many in panic, seeking a retreat,
Lurk, in some place obscure and filthy stied;
Many, not knowing whither to repair,
Plunge in the neighbouring sea, and perish there.
The duke arrives, seeking the friendly band,
Whom he had hoped to find upon the quay;
He turns and gazes round the desert strand,
And none is there - directs along the bay
His eyes, and now, far distant from the land,
Beholds the parting frigate under way.
So that the paladin, for his escape -
The vessel gone - must other project shape.
Let him depart! nor let it trouble you
That he so long a road must beat alone;
Where, never without fear, man journeys through
Wild paynim countries: danger is there none,
But what he with his bugle may eschew,
Whose dread effect the English duke has shown;
And let his late companions be our care,
Who trembling to the beach had made repair.
They from that cruel and ensanguined ground
To seaward, under all their canvas, bore;
And having gained such offing, that the sound
Of that alarming horn was heard no more,
Unwonted shame inflicted such a wound,
That all a face of burning crimson wore.
One dares not eye the other, and they stand
With downcast looks, a mute and mournful band.
Fixed on his course, the pilot passes by
Cyprus and Rhodes, and ploughs the Aegean sea:
Beholds a hundred islands from him fly,
And Malea's fearful headland; fanned by free
And constant wind, sees vanish from the eye
The Greek Morea; rounding Sicily,
Into the Tuscan sea his frigate veers,
And, coasting Italy's fair region, steers:
Last rises Luna, where his family
Is waiting his return, the patron hoar
Gives thanks to God at having passed the sea
Without more harm, and makes the well-known shore.
Here, offering passage to their company,
They find a master, ready to unmoor
For France, and that same day his pinnace climb;
Thence wafted to Marseilles in little time.
There was not Bradamant, who used to sway
The land, and had that city in her care,
And who (if present there) to make some stay
Would have compelled them by her courteous prayer.
They disembarked; and that same hour away
Did bold Marphisa at a venture fare;
Bidding adieu to salvage Guido's wife,
And to the four, her comrades in the strife:
Saying she deems unfitting for a knight
To fare in like great fellowship; that so
The starlings and the doves in flock unite,
And every beast who fears - the stag and doe;
But hawk and eagle, that in other's might
Put not their trust, for ever singly go;
And lion, bear, and tyger, roam alone,
Who fear no prowess greater than their own.
But none with her opine, and, in the lack
Of a companion, singly must she fare,
So then, alone and friendless, she a track
Uncouth pursues, and through a wooded lair.
Gryphon the white and Aquilant the black
Take road more beaten with the other pair;
And on the following day a castle see,
Within which they are harboured courteously.
Courteously I, in outward show, would say;
For soon the contrary was made appear.
Since he, the castellain, who with display
Of kindness sheltered them and courteous cheer,
The night ensuing took them as they lay
Couched in their beds, secure and void of fear.
Nor from the snare would he his prisoners loose,
Till they had sworn to observe an evil use.
But I will first pursue the martial maid,
Ere more of these, fair sir, I shall proclaim.
Beyond the Durence, Rhone, and Saone she strayed,
And to the foot of sunny mountain came;
And there approaching in black gown arrayed,
Beside a torrent, saw an ancient dame;
Who with long journey weak, and wearied sore,
Appeared, but pined by melancholy more.
This was the beldam who had wont to ply
Serving the robbers in the caverned mount;
Whither stern Justice sent (that they might die
By that good paladin) Anglante's count.
The aged harridan, for cause which I
To you shall in another place recount,
Now many days by path obscure had flown,
Still fearing lest her visage should be known.
The semblance now of foreign cavalier
She in Marphisa saw, in arms and vest;
And hence she flies not her, though wont to fear,
(As being natives of that land) the rest;
- Nay, with security and open cheer,
Stops at the ford the damsel to arrest:
Stops at the ford - where that old beldam meets
Marphisa, and with fair encounter greets.
And next implored the maid, she of her grace
Would bear her on the croupe to the other shore.
Marphisa, who was come of gentle race,
The hag with her across the torrent bore;
And is content to bear, till she can place
In a securer road the beldam hoar,
Clear of a spacious marish: as its end
They see a cavalier towards them wend.
In shining armour and in fair array,
The warrior rode on saddle richly wrought
Towards the river, and upon his way
With him a single squire and damsel brought.
Of passing beauty was the lady gay,
But little pleasing was her semblance haught;
All overblown with insolence and pride,
Worthy the cavalier who was her guide.
He of Maganza was a count, who bore
The lady with him (Pinabello hight):
The same who Bradamant, some months before,
Had plunged into a hollow cave in spite.
Those many sobs, those burning sighs and sore,
Those tears which had nigh quenched the warrior's sight, -
All for the damsel were, now at his side;
And then by that false necromancer stied.
But when the magic tower upon the hill
Was razed, the dwelling of Atlantes hoar,
And every one was free to rove at will,
Through Bradamant's good deed and virtuous lore,
The damsel, who had been compliant still
With the desires of Pinabel before,
Rejoined him, and now journeying in a round
With him, from castle was to castle bound.
As wanton and ill-customed, when she spies
Marphisa's aged charge approaching near,
She cannot rein her saucy tongue, but plies
Here, in her petulance, with laugh and jeer.
Marphisa haught, unwont in any wise
Outrage from whatsoever part to hear,
Makes answer to the dame, in angry tone,
That handsomer than her she deems the crone.
And that she this would prove upon her knight
With pact that she might strip the bonnibell
Of gown and palfrey, if, o'erthrown in fight,
Her champion from his goodly courser fell.
- In silence to have overpast the slight
Would have been sin and shame in Pinabel,
Who for short answer seized his shield and spear,
And wheeled, and drove at her in fierce career.
Marphisa grasped a mighty lance, and thrust,
Encountering him, at Pinabello's eyes;
And stretched him so astounded in the dust,
That motionless an hour the warrior lies.
Marphisa, now victorious in the just,
Gave orders to strip off the glorious guise
And ornaments wherewith the maid was drest,
And with the spoils her ancient crone invest;
And willed that she should don the youthful weed,
Bedizened at the haughty damsel's cost;
And took away as well the goodly steed
Which her had thither borne, and - bent to post
On her old track - with her the hag will speed,
Who seems most hideous when adorned the most.
Three days the tedious road the couple beat,
Without adventure needful to repeat.
On the fourth day they met a cavalier,
Who came in fury galloping alone.
If you the stranger's name desire to hear,
I tell you 'twas Zerbino, a king's son,
Of beauty and of worth example rare,
Now grieved and angered, as unvenged of one,
Who a great act of courtesy, which fain
The warrior would have done, had rendered vain.
Vainly the young Zerbino, through the glade,
Had chased that man of his, who this despite
Had done him, who himself so well conveyed
Away and took such 'vantage in his flight,
So hid by wood and mist, which overlaid
The horizon and bedimmed the morning-light,
That he escaped Zerbino's grasp, and lay
Concealed until his wrath was past away.
Zerbino laughed parforce, when he descried
That beldam's face, though he was full of rage;
For too ill-sorted seemed her vest of pride
With her foul visage, more deformed by age;
And to the proud Marphisa, at her side
The prince, exclaimed, 'Sir warrior, you are sage,
In having chosen damsel of a sort,
Whom none, I ween, will grudge you should escort.'
Older than Sibyl seemed the beldam hoar,
(As far as from her wrinkles one might guess),
And in the youthful ornaments she wore,
Looked like an ape which men in mockery dress;
And now appears more foul, as angered sore,
While rage and wrath her kindled eyes express.
For none can do a woman worse despite
Than to proclaim her old and foul to sight.
To have sport of him - as she had - an air
Of wrath the maid assumed upon her part,
And to the prince, 'By Heaven, more passing fair
Is this my lady than thou courteous art,'
Exclaimed in answer; 'though I am aware
What thou hast uttered comes not from thy heart.
Thou wilt not own her beauty; a device
Put on to masque thy sovereign cowardice.
'And of what stamp would be that cavalier
Who found such fair and youthful dame alone,
Without protection, in the forest drear,
Nor sought to make the lovely weft his own?'
- 'So well she sorts with thee,' replied the peer,
' `Twere ill that she were claimed by any one:
Nor I of her would thee in any wise
Deprive; God rest thee merry with thy prize!
'But would thou prove what is my chivalry,
On other ground I to thy wish incline;
Yet deem me not of such perversity
As to tilt with thee for this prize of thine.
Or fair or foul, let her remain thy fee;
I would not, I, such amity disjoin.
Well are ye paired, and safely would I swear
That thou as valiant art as she is fair.'
To him Marphisa, 'Thou in thy despite
Shalt try to bear from me the dame away.
I will not suffer that so fair a sight
Thou shouldst behold, nor seek to gain the prey.'
To her the prince, 'I know not wherefore wight
Should suffer pain and peril in affray,
Striving for victory, where, for his pains,
The victor losses, and the vanquished gains.'
'If this condition please not, other course
Which ill thou canst refuse, I offer thee,'
(Marphisa cried): 'If thou shalt me unhorse
In this our tourney, she remains with me:
But if I win, I give her thee parforce.
Then prove we now who shall without her be.
Premised, if loser, thou shalt be her guide,
Wherever it may please the dame to ride.'
'And be it so,' Zerbino cried, and wheeled
Swiftly his foaming courser for the shock,
And rising in his stirrups scowered the field,
Firm in his seat, and smote, with levelled stock,
For surer aim, the damsel in mid-shield;
But she sate stedfast as a metal rock,
And at the warrior's morion thrust so well,
She clean out-bore him senseless from the sell.
Much grieved the prince, to whom in other fray
The like misfortune had not chanced before,
Who had unhorsed some thousands in his day:
Now shamed, he thought for ever. Troubled sore,
And mute long space upon the ground he lay,
And, when 'twas recollected, grieved the more,
That he had promised, and that he was bound,
To accompany the hag where'er she wound.
Turning about to him the victoress cried,
Laughing, 'This lady I to thee present,
And the more beauty is in her descried,
The more that she is thine I am content,
Now in my place her champion and her guide.
But do not thou thy plighted faith repent,
So that thou fail, as promised, to attend
The dame, wherever she may please to wend.'
Without awaiting answer, to career
She spurred her horse, and vanished in the wood.
Zerbino, deeming her a cavalier,
Cried to the crone, 'By whom am I subdued?'
And, knowing 'twould be poison to his ear,
And that it would inflame his angered blood,
She in reply, 'It was a damsel's blow
Which from thy lofty saddle laid thee low.
'She, for her matchless force, deservedly
Usurps from cavalier the sword and lance;
And even from the east is come to try
Her strength against the paladins of France.'
Not only was his cheek of crimson dye,
Such shame Zerbino felt as his mischance,
Little was wanting (so his blushes spread)
But all the arms he wore had glowed as red.
He mounts, and blames himself in angry wise,
In that he had no better kept his seat.
Within herself the beldam laughs, and tries
The Scottish warrior more to sting and heat.
To him for promised convoy she applies;
And he, who knows that there is no retreat,
Stands like tired courser, who in pensive fit,
Hangs down his ears, controlled by spur and bit.
And, sighing deeply, cries, in his despair,
'Fell Fortune, with what change dost thou repay
My loss! she who was fairest of the fair,
Who should be mine, by thee is snatched away!
And thinkest thou the evil to repair
With her whom thou hast given to me this day?
Rather than make like ill exchange, less cross
It were to undergo a total loss.
'Her, who for virtue and for beauteous form
Was never equalled, nor will ever be,
Thou on the rocks hast wrecked, in wintry storm,
As food for fowls and fishes of the sea;
And her who should have fed the earth-bred worm
Preserved beyond her date, some ten or score
Of years, to harass and torment me more.'
So spake Zerbino, and like grief displaid,
In his despairing words and woful mien,
For such an odious acquisition made,
As he had suffered when he lost his queen.
The aged woman now, from what he said,
Though she before Zerbino had not seen,
Perceived 'twas him of whom, in the thieves' hold,
Isabel of Gallicia erst had told.
If you remember what was said before,
This was the hag who 'scaped out of the cave,
Where Isabella, who had wounded sore
Zerbino's heart, was long detained a slave;
Who oft had told how she her native shore
Had left, and, launching upon ocean's wave
Her frigate, had been wrecked by wind and swell
Upon the rocky shallows near Rochelle.
And she to her Zerbino's goodly cheer
And gentle features had pourtrayed so well,
That the hag hearing him, and now more near,
Letter her eyes upon his visage dwell,
Discerned it was the youth for whom, whilere,
Had grieved at heart the prisoned Isabel;
Whose loss she in the cavern more deplored,
Than being captive to the murderous horde.
The beldam, hearing what in rage and grief
Zerbino vents, perceives the youth to be
Deceived, and cheated by the false belief
That Isabel had perished in the sea;
And though she might have given the prince relief,
Knowing the truth, in her perversity
What would have made him joyful she concealed,
And only what would cause him grief revealed.
'Hear, you that are so proud,' (the hag pursues)
'And flout me with such insolence and scorn,
You would entreat me fair to have the news
I know of her whose timeless death you mourn;
But to be strangled would I rather choose,
And be into a thousand pieces torn.
Whereas if you had made me kinder cheer,
Haply from me the secret might you hear.'
As the dog's rage is quickly overblown,
Who flies the approaching robber to arrest,
If the thief proffer piece of bread or bone,
Of offer other lure which likes him best;
As readily Zerbino to the crone
Humbled himself, and burned to know the rest;
Who, in the hints of the old woman, read
That she had news of her he mourned as dead.
And with more winning mien to her applied,
And her did supplicate, entreat, conjure,
By men and gods, the truth no more to hide,
Did she benign or evil lot endure.
The hard and pertinacious crone replied,
'Nought shalt thou hear, thy comfort to assure.
Isabel has not yielded up her breath,
But lives a life she would exchange for death.
'She, since thou heardest of her destiny,
Within few days, has fallen into the power
Of more than twenty. If restored to thee,
Think now, if thou hast hope to crop her flower.'
- 'Curst hag, how well thou shapest thy history,
Yet knowest it is false! Her virgin dower
Secure from brutal wrong, would none invade,
Though in the power of twenty were the maid.'
Questioning of the maid, he when and where
She saw her, vainly asked the beldam hoar,
Who, ever restive to Zerbino's prayer,
To what she had rehearsed would add no more.
The prince in the beginning spoke her fair,
And next to cut her throat in fury swore.
But prayers and menaces alike were weak;
Nor could he make the hideous beldam speak.
At length Zerbino to his tongue gave rest,
Since speaking to the woman booted nought;
Scarcely his heart found room within his breast,
Such dread suspicion had her story wrought.
He to find Isabella was so pressed,
Her in the midst of fire he would have sought;
But could not hurry more than was allowed
By her his convoy, since he so had vowed.
They hence, by strange and solitary way,
Rove, as the beldam does her will betoken,
Nor climbing, nor descending hill, survey
Each other's face, nor any word is spoken.
But when the sun upon the middle day
Had turned his back, their silence first was broken
By cavalier encountered in their way:
What followed the ensuing strain will say.
Through the eyes of a Field Coronet (Epic)
In the kaki coloured tent in Umbilo he writes
his life’s story while women, children and babies are dying,
slowly but surely are obliterated, he see how his nation is suffering
while the events are notched into his mind.
Lying even heavier on him is the treason
of some other Afrikaners who for own gain
have delivered him, to imprisonment in this place of hatred
and thoughts go through him to write a book.
The Afrikaner nation sprouted
who fought decades without defeat
against the super power Spain
mixed with French Huguenots
who left their homes and belongings,
with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Associate this then with the fact
that these people fought formidable
for seven generations
against every onslaught that they got
from savages en wild animals
becoming marksmen, riding
and taming wild horses
with one bullet per day
to hunt a wild antelope,
who migrated right across the country
over hills in mass protest
and then you have
the most formidable adversary
and then let them fight
in a natural wilderness
where the hunter,
the sniper and horseman excels
and any enemy is at a lost.
Let them then also be patriotic
into their souls,
believe in and read
out of the word of God
and then there is almost nothing
that these people do fear.
The Zuid Afrikaanse republic
existed out of twenty one districts,
each with a magistrate for civil ethics,
a commandant to deter the enemy,
in control of a commando as their leader
and so structures appeared
with a commandant-general for much greater authority,
for the whole country.
A field coronet was in control of a ward
to issue commands in it
and the citizens themselves chose their men
as they thought best
and all men from sixteen to sixty had to do service,
if the need be, be prepared for war.
A field coronet was a respected man
as the magistrate, justice of the peace and prosecutor
and a military leader of a ward who could
call up citizens for duty to a commando in a laager
and he was a political representative
of the government and in a district
citizens chose own officers
as they saw it fit.
Commandos arouse when the Boers
had to defend themselves against attacks
from black tribes
and they came together in numbers
to be able to give proper resistance
and to stop pillage, murder and sorrow.
I. Battles against rebel captains Mesotie, Sebboel, Mapit and Magoeba
On the farm of Daniel Page
all the citizens of the ward come together
and Jacobus Potgieter hurried there
and they crowd around the rifles and ammunition
that the government was providing
just a little distance from the cornfields
and Jacobus was like many without a weapon,
but ready to serve his country
and from many hunting expeditions
with his brother in law, Jacobus was very capable
with a rifle.
This was however the first time
that he had been called up for war
and at dusk he was on the porch
when the field coronet arrived with a letter
addressed to the four black captains
who were rebelling
and it happened on the same night
that the field coronet still awake and active
had to depart with sixteen citizens
to Agatha near the native village
of captain Mesotie
and they were totally unaware
that they were awaited,
where they fought bravely
hurrying to the little fortress,
firing to try and win the struggle.
At Agatha they were cornered,
had to make holes
through the walls
to shoot from the building
in their fierce task
to resist the attackers.
The government after this incident sends
a big commando to help,
but the Mesotie tribe
fires at them with canons
from up high and from below
and with rifles and spears
they assaulted the Boers.
The Boers answer their attack
with their own cannons,
shooting into the bushes
where a little war erupts,
and the commando as both horsemen
and foot soldiers
rush down to the village
opening fire and the village starts to burn.
after his tribe loses the battle,
being tired from the events of the past days.
All his tribe’s rifles,
spears and many other weapons
and the village is stripped
of grain before the fire destroys it.
General PJ Joubert manages to
get captain Sebboel in control
and captain Mapit’s tribe
is caught and are crestfallen.
Magoeba flees with his tribe
into the thick bush and his village
is burnt to the ground and stripped,
but the Magoeba tribe circles out
taking half of Houtbergbos
and the town was almost lost to them.
Six forts are constructed
to try and get the Magoeba tribe under control.
The enemy however
draws the citizens manning the forts
out of the forts
while they wait in ambush
and surround them.
The government again calls up
a large commando
and even tribesmen from Swaziland come to help.
Some of the Swazi warriors
behead Magoeba and nineteen others with a sword,
praising the ancestral spirits
and the Boer citizens
win the war against the rest of the Magoeba tribe
pinning them against the hill
and taking them prisoner
and come to the aid of the Swazi’s in times of trouble.
II. The Jameson raid of 1896
Jacobus Potgieter was busy
trading yellow-wood planks
for cattle and was far from his farm,
when he heard about the nonsense
due to Jameson and his little gang
and he hurried to render his services
while they were invading the Transvaal,
but when he did reach Pretoria
the shots had already been fired
and the enemy had been imprisoned.
General Cronje had decided
to lead Jameson’s band into a trap
that was set near Krugersdorp
and at Doornkop the little battle was fought
and some of the citizens,
as agents of the government,
took good quality rifles and canon.
After this incident President Kruger
had set a ultimatum to the foreigners
and a large commando went to collect the rifles
that they had smuggled into the country.
Judge Gregorowski gave the members
of the reform committee the death penalty
but President Paul Kruger had mercy
and changed the sentence
to fifteen years imprisonment
and once again he considered the requests
for leniency, by changing the sentences to a large fine.
Even Cecil John Rhodes was involved
with the invasion
and he lost his position as prime minister
of the Cape colony
but the British government had refused
to pay a single cent
of the claim of damages,
and the problems with the foreigners
had not been solved.
III. The Magatoe war of 1897
Back in 1867 the parents of Jacobus Potgieter,
all the inhabitants of Schoemansdal,
had to flee from the forces of Magatoe
and the farmers were anxious
of the raids of pillage and plunder
of the “Babbler”
and Jacobus himself saw
the destruction of Magatoe’s tribe
and how the town and church, had to be left
to the mercy of Magatoe
and how they had to flee
further back into the republic.
The situation became more serious
and in 1897 the government
called together a commando
of four thousand citizens to stop the plunder
of Magatoe’s tribe and before the attack,
a day of prayer was held
asking God to have mercy on His nation.
The commando was still far away
into the hills, the cliffs,
when firing started from the Magatoe tribe
while their view was still obstructed
and Jacobus was in the front lines of the battle
where he and other Boers, with accurate shots
drove the enemy back
as most of them were marksmen.
Suddenly a thick cloud of fog appeared
enveloping the whole enemy village,
giving the Boers time to build entrenchments
from behind which they could harass the enemy.
When the entrenchments were ready
the thick cloud of fog over Magatoe’s village
started to dissipate and to general Joubert it seemed fit,
as he gave orders
to dropp canon shells and bullets
like rain on that village.
In a half hour’s time they stormed
into the village
while firing at will.
Most of Magatoe’s warriors
fled to safety
and some was killed,
and one rose from a hole
to try and resist,
but Magatoe’s tribe, the Matabele (Ndebele)
then fled to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)
and that formidable tribe
was taught a lesson
and after thirty years stopped harassing the Boers.
IV. Preview to the war with Britain
Jacobus had just been back at home
when in 1899 he had to leave it
and had to leave his family behind,
to get involved with the war against Britain.
He had been gone
on a two month long hunting expedition,
where he was hunting from the back of his horse
and so many animals were shot
that he filled an ox wagon,
but out of duty he had to go on commando
and had to leave his wife and children behind.
Along with his friends they hunted fifty animals.
The game consisted of giraffes, cape oryxes
and eland, many was shot at a time
and he first went back
to greet his family as he had to be on commando
by the eleventh of October
and he went on horseback without fear of the British.
After five hours on horseback from Houtbosberg
they got to the laager,
greeted other men there,
but had to leave again to the Soutpansberg hills
to meet with another commando coming from Spitskop
at the Crocodile River and was told,
that the government had declared war
on Great Britain and was ordered to go to war.
That evening one citizen was of the opinion
that the war would not last long,
as they were civilised men
and every one a marksmen
and he did hear that the British
was also a civilised people
could be sorted out, in a civilised manner
and he gave big value to that quality of them.
Somebody else thought
that it would take months long
and another person that for many evenings
they would have to gather around fires
and that the government has another plan
apart from war
to resist the British.
V. The start of the war
From a hillock
two Boer commandos storm from the back
into a British camp and start the battle
and a couple of British soldiers are shot,
a lot of them are captured, but it’s almost in vain
as most of them flee and get away.
The Boers follow them
in the direction of the Tuli River and at daybreak
some of the enemy combine forces
with comrades at a ox wagon
and the Boers shoot accurately
to try and stop them
and the British break from cover
and the enemy flee
to find shelter in a house
that is empty
and try to resist from the cover of it.
The house is shot to pieces
and for the third time on one day
the British again flee from that aria
against the superior numbers of Boers
and the next day
the Boers capture nine wagons, left behind
with ammunition and food.
The next day Boer scouts
find a large abandoned British camp
with tents, horses and mules where they stop
and while Jacobus tries to rid his feet from cramps,
he notices a large cloud of dust
that is coming in their direction,
that he interprets as enemy.
There’s a field coronet
that stands his man,
to resist the enemy
while two Boer commandos flee past him.
At dusk Jacobus Potgieter finds more men
with a canon on a hillock
and with just more than twenty Boer citizens
he is worried,
but prepares for and waits the enemy.
The more the night darkens,
the nearer the cloud of dust comes
and the Boers are ready to resist the enemy,
to let no Englishman pass them
and there’s a rumbling sound
and something is wrong
as no enemy appears
and they are taken by surprise
in the moonlight
without a shot being fired,
by a huge swarm of grasshoppers
of which the whole veldt is covered
where they swarm like ants.
Jacobus was really disillusioned and angry
about the cowardliness of officers,
of which some
do not return to the commando
and to him this is nearly treason
and to him they are worse than animals.
Sometimes some of the Boers
just asked permission
not to participate in the battle
(of which the general just had to bare knowledge)
and in that way the Boer forces decreased
and the permission could not be denied
and then the men went home, went away.
Generals could only react
against men deserting without permission
and some left the others
and was sometimes nearby
sometimes seen near to battlefields,
as spectators watching
how the battle develops
and some of these later worked for the enemy.
VI. The siege of Kimberley
The Soutpansberg commando got instructions
to go to the Modder Rivier,
to stop the enemy
who were marching along the railway track.
The commando was divided in two
and Jacobus Potgieter was ordered
to ride along with field coronet Alberts by train
to Modder River near to Magersfontein
and the other field coronets and the commandant
went to Colenso to help put it to siege
and to surround that town.
At the Modder River they met general Cronje
and seven thousand other citizens
and greeted each other.
Just a little later commandant-general De la Rey
and the Transvaal citizens were added to strengthen
the citizens from the Orange Free State
and quickly they got to work.
The Boers wanted to stop the British march,
before the enemy could cross the river
and tried to beat them with trenches and ramparts
and by this method break their attack.
The river was a natural strong point
for their defence
with sheltering that the enemy
would not be able to see
and trenches were placed near to the steep banks
The train bridge was blasted away
and three places was left to cross the river
from where they would stop the enemy.
General De la Rey thought that the main column
would come along the railway
to cross the river near to the bridge
and wanted to break this superior numbered force.
Just Bosmansdift and Rosmeadsdrift
were the other places where the river would suit the British,
considering the depth of the river and exposure
to fire that the Boers could manage.
The southern banks of the river
was taken by the Soutpansberg citizens to cover it,
with the men of general Cronje
as part of his plans
that covered the aria between Bosmansdrift
and the intersection of the Modder
and Riet Rivers and the men were enthusiastic
to try and shoot accurately.
General De la Rey with about eight hundred
Transvaal citizens was waiting on the right
near toe the rail crossing.
In the long grass and sand on the left
between the Riet River
and the Modder River some more citizens
were positioned to cover Bosmansdrift
if the enemy want to cross it.
General Prinsloo with a few thousand
Orange Free State citizens were
to the west of general de La Rey’s men
lying from the bridge up to Rosmeadsdrift
between rocky ledges.
In the shelter of the riverbank
behind the men the horses were kept
with them neighing every now and then
and on the northern side
of the Riet River a few canon
was placed behind the men.
Most of the canons were set up
next to the railway track
to cover the aria in front of general de La Rey
and to hit the main oncoming column.
A prayer before the battle was:
“Dear Father, here we are together
before the big battle
coming tomorrow, to pray
to you. We are scared,
that’s why we are here,
praying like we are now doing.
Over there are the British
also Christians like us. Maybe they
are also praying
just as we are doing. For this reason
I want to ask you
please do not take the part
of either one
and if it is your will,
stay out of it,
then tomorrow you will see something! ”
It was shouted: “Here they come! ”
When the canon behind them started shooting
the citizens started firing on the oncoming enemy
and the enemy took cover in an open aria
and the whole day long
they had to stay there on the ground
as they got shots
from Boers sheltered in trenches.
Every time during that day
that the enemy tried to storm forward
the Boers were taking marksmen shots
with their Mausers
and pinned them down, hour after hour
until the dark night.
For ten hours long
the enemy was lying there and nobody
was able to move
and every one that tried to get up
was shot down with Mauser fire
coming from positions that they were not aware of.
After the first rifle fire
the British answered with canon fire
whereupon with big success
the Boers answered with their long-tom canons
and the machinegun of the enemy
was destroyed by the Boers artillery
at the beginning of the battle
and the British were halted for hours long.
A British column moved past from the left
and swept general Prinsloo’s men back.
Under orders of commandant general de La Rey,
the Lichtenburg commando went to free them.
Following this the British was shot back
from Rosmeadsdrift, but a small number
of the British got past Bosmansdrift,
from where in the heat of the battle
they were also shot back
and the battle lasted into the dark night.
After sunset general De la Rey ordered
his men to fall back to Jacobsdal
and the citizens were happy with this decision.
The Free State citizens went to
their set positions at Spytfontein
and Scholsnek about twelve miles from Kimberley
to disappear into their trenches there.
General Cronje got about 7000 citizens
back from Mafakeng
to come and help at the Modder River
and Lord Methuen waited on reinforcements
to be able to stop the Boers.
Then the Boers went to work
to dig trenches at the feet
of the Magersfontein hillocks,
to strengthen their positions
and then they took cover in the trenches.
From the Merthon train stop for about three miles east,
at the foot of the Magersfontein hillocks
the main force of about 3500 citizens was set
in trenches up unto a low hill.
Next to the trenches, well camouflaged
small forts were built
from where the Boers could fire
at any place on the battlefield.
Jacobus Potgieter was placed with 600 men
in a position right against the railway track,
where general Cronje thought
that the British would try and break through.
About 1500 citizens were placed on the right wing,
north of the Modder River station
under command of general Andries Cronje,
but the left wing with 2500 citizens, east of Magersfontein
was without trenches and without a defence line.
To mislead the enemy
a few forts were build on the hillocks
with eleven canon set on the hillocks
and the trenches was hidden
by the camouflage of branches and grass.
When the British on 10 December 1899 started firing
with canon fire from Scholsnek
and were covering the aria with bombs,
it was the first time
that Jacobus Potgieter resisted them
under direct canon fire
and brave men with rifles fired back at the British.
General Piet Cronje called the citizens together
while looking at them earnestly:
“Citizens, the enemy is ready to move against us.
We have to remember one thing.
To fall back the lives of others
are placed in the balance,
and 20 to 30 lives are lost.
When the enemy move out against us, I will
set up a flying commando en lead it to them.”
General Cronje ordered them to wait
until the enemy moves and then to storm forward
for about five hundred paces
and then to take deadly shots
and not to look if anyone is being hit,
just to be aware of the enemy
and to read their movements.
General Cronje’s words were:
“This is the place where we have to beat the enemy! ”
Just at about midnight the British
started their march to Magersfontein
with general-major AG Wauchope leading in the front.
It was very cold and pitch dark
with rain pouring down
and they reached the hillocks
while thunderbolts were dropping down,
totally unaware of the trenches
onto which they were marching.
The enemy came in on an unexpected wing
and the citizens then killed a large number
of British soldiers in the dusk
and shot after shot was taken
and in the front Wauchope received
seven shots simultaneously
and the enemy was confused
while the Boers were mowing them down.
Some turned about to run back
and were falling over the ones behind them
causing still greater chaos
and it was still dark when the canons
were already getting involved.
The Boers were surrounded while the enemy
tried to break through,
to try and win Kimberley back,
but their attacks were stopped
at a great cost to the British,
who time and again
stormed into the Boer fire.
Then the enemy turned right to try and demolish
general Cronje’s left wing, to kill the Boers there,
but were shot down by the resisting Boers.
The whole day long the bombardment
of the British canons were falling
and at about twelve o’clock
general Cronje gave orders
to Jacobus Potgieter’s commando
to move running onto the left wing.
They stormed onto the enemy
and their attack was so effective
that the enemy turned around fleeing
and the Boers took the initiative
driving a great number of the British back.
With the British defeat
Jacobus could not establish
the number of enemy dead
as some were already taken away during the battle.
When Jacobus Potgieter walked on the battlefield
three days after the battle
there were bloody British flags
and some wounded moaning men totally without hope
and by then the dead had been driven away for days
and there were still hundreds that he found there
and after five days the enemy were still digging graves
and were still busy with funeral services.
Commando after commando
went home after that battle
and left the rest of the Boers there.
Cecil John Rhodes
were at the point of handing Kimberley over,
of letting the Boers into the town,
when Methuen attacked with 40000
soldiers as a flashpoint.
With a battle lasting three days long
the British broke through at Paardeberg,
firing hour after hour at the Boers
but the Boers broke this attack.
Then the huge British force tried to break through
the forces of the Orange Free State,
but were waited upon
by the men of commandant Jacobs.
Then they send a column past the backside
and they faced general Christian de Wet
and his men shot them out off their territory.
When the Boers had halted
the whole of the British force,
the British got some more reinforcements
to try again to break through on the eastern side
in such a great force
that the Boers could not stop them.
Jacobus Potgieter was at Scholsnek
with the Soutpansberg commando
for almost three months
under unstopped canon bombardment
and after the breakthrough
general Cronje gave orders to draw back.
“Leave your trenches and fight a way through to the laager.”
The next day the Boers were gone.
During the night Jacobus Potgieter
fled with the laager
and there were a lot of wagons
that had to go back.
Over farms and in the veldt,
women and children were joining them
and Jacobus caught a wild horse
and tamed it in that night
as if it was destined for him.
The wagons kept general Cronje’s commando back
causing the British to catch up with them
and they began shelling
from one of the woman’s farm
in a huge bombardment.
At eight o’clock that night
the Boers again moved out
and the superfluous things were thrown away
as many horses and oxen had been killed
by the bombardment and the distress was huge
and then general Christian de Wet
almost fought right through the British
to come and free general Cronje’s men.
Until eight o’clock that morning
the Boers were fleeing
as the enemy was formidable
and field coronets Jacobus Potgieter
and H Schnell were ordered
to go and find some horses
but to try and avoid the enemy.
The walking Boers were tired
without a proper opportunity
to get away from the British
and the remaining oxen
were thin and tired from the pulling
at the continuous fast pace
and from a shortage of grass
and they did not know
to eat the lye-bushes.
Jacobus Potgieter caught up
with general Cronje.
General Cronje was at the front side of the laager
and strong like steel,
checking the canon and was very worried
and then the commando again
came under British canon bombardment.
In the bushes Jacobus heard horses
and were chasing them
catching them and waged his life in the dark
before Jacobus took the horses into a bush
and decided not to go back in the dark
as it was too dangerous.
The next morning Jacobus tried
to go back to the laager
and came across other citizens
that had fled from the laager
and they told him
to turn back as the commando
was surrounded and the whole time
under enemy rifle and canon fire.
Jacobus Potgieter did not listen to them
and another group of citizens
that he crossed paths with
told him the same thing
and he was annoyed:
“If we turn around and leave our brothers
in their position of distress,
it can cost their lives
and we do not deserve anything better than death.
Come on brothers, bring your rifles! ”
Then on his own Jacobus Potgieter rode
still nearer to the laager
and he was in a hurry, not saving the horses
and he met commandant P Schutte
who asked him very worried:
“Where do you think,
you are going with those horses? ”
He explained that he was taking them
through to the laager
and commandant P Schutte was totally amazed
and said to him:
“Brother, before God nothing is impossible,
but those citizens in that laager
will never again come out of it.
The enemy has more than enough to take there.
Do not take more booty to them.
If you go to that laager with these horses
they will catch you and all of these horses.
Rather turn back and go to Brandfort and wait
for my report about the outcome.”
He listened to the advice of the commandant
and later he came to know that the enemy
had put 150 canons and 75000 soldiers
with continuous bombardment
against 4000 citizens and their 6 canons.
At long last general Cronje had to surrender
against the overpowering numbers
that day and night
came nearer to them
and without mercy the citizens
that were captured were sent
to St. Helena Island for imprisonment.
Of the fourteen field coronets ten was killed
and only Jacobus Potgieter and H Schnell did escape
while shots were fired at them
and a while later the British
marched into Bloemfontein
with the Boers
not really being able to stop them.
VII. The invasion of Natal
After the defeat at Paardeberg
Jacobus Potgieter was sent home
to rest for a month
and the trip took days
but it wasn’t really dangerous
and he took the horses along
as did not want to leave them with anyone.
Jacobus returned to the war
and had to go to Burgersberg in Natal
where he was very unhappy
with the leadership
of the commanding officers
and the fact that they did not take action
as general Piet Cronje and his men
were known for careful plans
and their bravery
and Jacobus was responsible
to give supplies like food, clothes
and ammunition to his comrades.
With the outbreak of the war
the citizens of general Joubert
went to Newcastle and Dundee
to conquer the coal fields.
The 4500 citizens of general Lucas Meyer
were on their way to the Talana hillocks,
to take the enemy on,
with general Erasmus leading his 5000 citizens
to the Mpate kopjes
and general de Kock’s 750 men went
to cut the railway connection at Elandslaagte.
Without great adversary Newcastle
on 16 October fell to the Boers
and on 20 October 1899
Dundee was bombarded
from the hillocks with shots
falling into the enemy camp
where big chaos broke out
among the 3800 soldiers
where the British general Penn-Symons
got them under control
and began with a counter attack
and then the British
were held behind a wall.
To inspire his troops
Penn-Symons ran through
the opening in the wall
where he got several fatal shots.
The British infantry
then stormed the hillock
and came under fire
from the Boers at the top
and their own artillery
that killed some of them.
After the Boers were driven away
from the hillock
they pursued the fleeing Boers
but the whole British horse battalion was unaware
of the men of general Erasmus
and all of them were captured
and their horses were taken from them.
On 19 October general de Kock’s men
assaulted the British trains
where they draw the few British soldiers into a fight
and started to unload the wagons.
An angry general White
rushed his 3500 soldiers to Elandslaagte
where they started to shell the Boers
catching the Boers of balance.
At Dundee brigadier general Yule took command
and under instructions from general White
the British were fleeing back to Ladysmith.
Another 9000 Boers
under chief commandant Prinsloo
but saw the British soldiers storming
over a open piece of veldt
from where they shot them back
with rifle fire, driving them right into Ladysmith.
When general Meyer resigned
field coronet Louis Botha got his position
and it did not take long
for him to proof his bravery
and to rise as a great leader.
In the hillocks at Ladysmith White’s soldiers
were waiting on the Boers
but started their bombardment
on a hillock without any Boer on it
and then the canons of the Boers fired back,
out shooting those of the British
and while the Boers long-tom canons
general Joubert attacked the British form all sides
where in humiliation White had lost
954 soldiers as prisoners of war.
From the surrounding hillocks
Ladysmith was bombarded by canon
where 12500 soldiers
and 7800 citizens were housed
with bombs coming down on them
and they were left with food
for two months and feed for only one month.
On 9 November the Boers attacked the town
with their commandos but could not take it
and the counter attack
of George White was resisted,
but then it happened
that the liberation column
of Buller started its march
trying to penetrate the Boer commandos,
but the Boers were waiting for them
on the other side of the Tugela River
and the British army
was unable to find the drift
to try and pass through the river
and were defeated in chaos
and 143 were killed,755 wounded
and 240 were taken prisoner of war
which had an impact on the career of Buller
and he was fired as supreme commander
and become only the commander
for the invasion through Natal
with Lord Roberts replacing him.
Although Buller then had 30000 soldiers,
his soldiers were thrashed
at Spioenkop and Vaalkrans
but with his great superior number of men,
eventually Buller liberated Ladysmith and Colenso
and Jacobus Potgieter
had been two months in Natal
when Buller’s big army attacked them.
With the death of general Joubert, from illness,
general Louis Botha
was appointed in his place
who ordered the Boer forces to pull back
to the border with the Transvaal
where trenches were prepared
to try and stop the enemy.
The British numbers were far too big
and a lot of Boers were killed
and the Boers could not stop the big force,
with which the British went through them
and later the Orange Free State and Transvaal
came under annexation from Great Britain.
VIII. The changing face of the war
After the defeat on the border of the Transvaal
the Boers gathered on 17 March at Kroonstad
and all their military and political leaders were there
and general Christiaan de Wet accepted leadership,
as commandant-general of the Orange Free State
and they talked and planned together.
Commandant-general de Wet’s plan
was to keep his men highly mobile,
to take the war to the rear guard of the enemy,
to settle the fight
from their horses with their rifles.
They would find food
and ammunition on the farms
and would constantly change
their position and ride on.
It was fruitless to fight
against overpowering numbers
in the front lines,
where the British were only waiting
to decimate the Boers and conditions
were worsened for the Boers
and to hit the enemy
where they expect it the least,
could do great damage to them
and had the possibility
to win the two countries back again.
But first the citizens had to go home
to rest for a month
and general de Wet was well aware,
that he was going to loose some soldiers,
but only the brave
and the most determined
would then come back to him.
The plan was then accepted
by commandant-general De la Rey
and both presidents Kruger and Steyn
for the Boers to ride out in raids
and not to spare any rear defence.
The whole matter
was a big embarrassment to the British.
The Boer patriots
attacked with surprise and again disappeared
before a big British force could react
and de Wet did become a big head ache to them
and they could not stop, the attacks from the Boers
or their guerrilla warfare tactics.
To cut the Boers supply lines
to let his army ride through the farms,
to drive out the women and children
and to put them in concentration camps
with armed soldiers closing down on farms
burning down farms, houses and even towns,
claiming the Boers possessions or selling it
and by force removing women and children.
He also armed the black tribesmen
to attack the farms,
to expel women and children with firearms,
to kill them and to rape
at night and during the day.
Some people believe that Kitchener carefully
chose numerous places
that was hideous,
where people was held in perilous conditions
but it remains a fact
that he did not spend a lot of time
on the planning
and choosing of the camps,
without any feelings for being humane,
or the considering of sicknesses and disasters.
There were fifty concentration camps
that are now being seen as places
of human suffering and sorrow
where about 110000 women
and children were held captured
and where more than 20000 starved
from the pests prevailing
through sickness of almost any kind,
glass that was grinded into the meal,
and glass and fishing hooks
in the salt meat and so on,
as if the British did not
possess humanity at all.
Some of the camps were in marches
or at wet muddy places
at cold windy places,
constructed next to rivers
without hygienic conditions to disrupt lives
and some women had to bath
and wash in pools after rain.
Sometimes people in these camps
had to stay in the open for lengths of time
exposed to sun, rain, hail and wind,
as if it was being planned to kill them
and sometimes they had to beg for clothes.
Food rations was inadequate
and some people starved
from lack of food,
meat from sick animals
were unhygienic cut into pieces.
Only one doctor was appointed
for every camp
with numbers of more than four thousand people,
mostly without hospital facilities
with a lot of complaints
that the medicine was poisoned
and medical treatment was not given to everybody.
IX. The war in the Soutpansberg
General Beyers was sent by the government
as leader to both the Soutpansberg
and Waterberg commandos,
to try and win the war against the British
and it was clear that he knew the art
of using the environment
as camouflage while attacking the British.
When Jacobus Potgieter arrived
in the Northern Transvaal
they had to avoid Pretoria
to get to Warmbaths,
as Pretoria had fallen to the enemy
and for two months
they were harassing the British
and when Paget had withdrawn to Pienaars River,
the Waterberg district was the frontline,
but there were many traitors among the Boers
who daily went to the British,
some were tired of fighting
against the British
and others later came back
on instruction of the British,
to try and convince
some more to surrender.
Jacobus was again chosen
as field coronet of Houtbergbos
and had to go there with immediate effect,
to appose the British.
With a overwhelming big force
Paget went to Pietersburg
that fell to the British on 29 March 1901,
where the British plundered
whatever they could
and they were placing women and children
into concentration camps
and took cattle to Pretoria as a source of food.
They were burning down houses,
were even casting salt onto the fields.
The British possession of Pietersburg
drove the Boers into the mountains
with the British in control
of the whole Northern Transvaal,
with Colenbrander and Plummer
driving the war there,
trying to destroy the Boer commando
of general Beyers.
Plummer made his invasion
along the Olifant River
and in that unknown aria
befriended the blacks,
giving firearms to them
to attack the women on farms
and with all the Boer traitors
that were acting for the British,
Jacobus Potgieter resigned as field coronet.
When the British at Heanertsburg
started fighting with the Boers,
the Boers saw a cloud
of dust coming along,
that was rising from the direction of Houtbosberg
and Jacobus Potgieter and W van Heerden
went out during the night
to scout on the enemy.
Just where they had seen the cloud of dust,
they arrived during the night at a black village
and sneaked up to the wall of the village
and called a black man over
to get some information from him
while trying to avoid the enemy.
The man told them lies
that only two wagons
belonging to the Boers had passed
and about the direction that the wagons
had gone he kept on being deceitful.
From the tracks Jacobus could see
that it was six wagons of the British,
and probably on the way to their camp,
he did not give the black man
any further attention
whose village had been instructed
by the British to attack the women
and children on the farms,
to rob and pillage with firearms.
Back at the commando a spy
told them about a British unit approaching
from another direction
and they had to go out scouting
to see what the British was up to,
but could find no signs of their presence
while they were riding along the whole day long.
At the place where the commando had been
a letter had been left:
“Come in the direction of Haenertsburg.”
Jacobus and field coronet Marais then decided
to get more information
and hurried to the farm
of Jacobus that was nearby.
On the farm Jacobus’s wife Margritha
ran crying up to them and said:
“Where were you the whole day?
The whole territory
has been taken by the British.
The canons were firing the whole day long
and the blacks have stolen all the cattle.
All the people have left! They said that they
would stay at a certain mountain
and we have to meet them there.
The enemy has gone into the mountains
with thousands of blacks
going along with them.”
It was already dark
and they went to the nearest neighbour
to try and get more information.
They greeted him: “How are things here? ”
The neighbour answered:
“The enemy went into the hills
shortly after the two of you had left.
went in the direction of Wolkberg.
The long-tom canon
had fired 16 shots. The enemy
was almost at the canon
when the 17th shot was fired. The canon crew
blew the canon into pieces with dynamite.
The blacks took all the cattle and sheep
and all of the clothes and blankets
of the women and children.
Also every thing in the house,
including all the food. Chickens and pigs
have been killed. The women
were pushed about by the blacks.”
From there they went to the houses
of other citizens to find some more answers
until two o’clock at night whereupon Marais said:
“Let us go to Wolkberg.”
Jacobus answered: “The blacks
are pillaging the women and children
and who knows if the are going to kill them as well.
I will stay here to look for some more citizens,
if your want to go to Wolkberg.”
Marais went to Wolkberg where he was
captured by the enemy,
Jacobus found nobody else
while he was riding to his farm
and he had to hide his horse
to be able to escape with it.
Then he sneaked around the house
to see if his family was safe
and all of them were well
and he was aware of the Lord’s mercy.
The next morning Jacobus
found two more citizens
and heard from them
about the pillaging done by the blacks,
that had happened to other families
and the blacks did not even
leave a blanket for the children,
or anything to eat
and the people
would not be able to forget these evil events
that for Jacobus spoke
of barbarism and the frailty of man
and in his heart he wished disaster on the British.
Jacobus Potgieter, JM Dames and L Alberts together
made plans to protect their families.
They decided that each man
would stay at his own house
as long as he could
and would fire on anyone coming near
until death to rescue their families.
When the blacks came with rifles
to pillage these citizens,
the Boers opened fire on them,
to stop the attacks
where they were around the houses,
like vultures waiting for the death
of the farmers.
But with shot upon shot
they were warded off,
where these farmers were on guard
sitting and praying
for God to stop the enemy.
They saw the British Calvary riding past
and had decided to wait on the enemy,
in order for the women to ask their protection,
but after three days and nights they were far too tired.
They then did decide to surrender, as they could not anymore
carry on with the blacks that were serving the enemy
and Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts went to the enemy,
while J Dames stayed behind to guard their families.
Jacobus had decided to trust in God,
in faith to hold on to the salvation of the Lord
and with a heavy heart he went to surrender,
to try and protect his family with this deed.
The enemy was scared when they saw Jacobus
as they were people from
the Cape colony without arms,
that was part of the British force
and acted as drivers for wagons and mules.
They were in the riverbed,
at the long-tom canon
that had been shot into pieces
and were trying to get a piece
of the canon out of the water.
They greeted the drivers
and went to meet the British
at Najensbrook, about a hour from home,
where an officer
were giving orders in Afrikaans.
Jacobus asked: “What is going on?
I expect to meet Englishmen here.
Now I meet Boers as enemies? ”
One answers him: “What do you think?
We are many more than you.
Our commando is about 1200 strong
and we are mostly Boers
who are helping the British.”
Then Jacobus asks confused: “How can it be,
that you are fighting against your own nation? ”
“We are British subjects from
the Cape colony and Natal.”
Then Jacobus asks: “Where is your general?
I want to see him.”
Then the officer gave orders to a driver:
“Take this man to the general,
the main commander of the laager.”
The laager where they were going
was far from there and Jacobus and Alberts
still were carrying their rifles
and met the officer being angry about the events
of the day before and laid their weapons down
and asked the British officer:
“Why does it look as if you
are fighting with black people against us,
how do you let black people
pillage our homes and families? ”
Then the officer bursts loose:
“Why did you not surrender
before I had to come here?
You let me come here for no reason! ”
Whereupon Jacobus said: “It isn’t fair
to fight with the blacks against the whites.
Still more so, to let them attack our women! ”
The officer answered unruly:
“I have instructed the black people
not to do such things,
but they do not want to listen.”
Whereupon Jacobus answers him:
“I do not believe it! ”
The officer then told them
to go and wait on a certain farm for a day or so.
Whereupon Jacobus was still more angry:
“No! I do not have time to sit around.
Give orders to the blacks
to stop pillaging our families.”
The officer ordered Jacobus to wait
on his commander who had to come
and Jacobus harassed that commander
with the accusation
about the blacks pillaging
women and children
at which the officer granted his request
but at that time most of the farms
had already been pillaged,
and the women and kids were endangered
and treated very badly by the blacks.
Then the officer said: “I will let you go back.
Bring your families here.”
Whereupon Jacobus shook his head and replied:
“The blacks have robbed all the oxen and wagons.
How am I to do it? ”
The colonel then gave the blacks instructions
to give the oxen and wagons back
but they did not really care about his commands,
whereupon Jacobus went back to his family
where they were safe but full of sorrow.
The blacks had only returned six oxen
and no wagons
and at the house of L Alberts
there were some more problems,
with one hundred and three people
that had fled there
without clothes, food and blankets
and they were women and children
who had been molested
and pillaged by the blacks.
Jacobus was astonished
as some of these women
had walked 24 miles
and had carried
their small children on their backs.
A woman said: “The blacks pushed me around
against the ground.”
Another one: “The blacks stabbed me with a
Assegai (spear) in the breast.”
A third one said: “They were hitting me
with rifles against the chest.”
Another lady said: “I tried to keep a blanket
for my child,
but the black man grabbed it
and knocked me from my feet
whit a rifle.”
Some of the blacks
that were loyal workers and maids
did take some things to look after,
when they saw the band of robbers arriving
and stormed with these things into the bushes
and brought the possessions back later
and this humanity goes deep
into a person’s heart,
but it was single items
that they were able to take
like a blanket or sometimes a bed.
Some of the blacks acted shamefully,
raping some of those women
and it was what was reported
to Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
and it is reported here truthfully
and of these things
Jacobus was also a witness
and the enemy had no idea
how he felt about these things
and to protect his family
he went to hand his rifle in.
There were 103 women and children
that Jacobus Potgieter and L Alberts
had to transport with three wagons,
but a lot had to walk
and this trip was dreadful.
That first night
some of the women went to sleep
at Jacobus’s house
as he still had some food,
that he shared with them
and his wife was looking
for sheets and blankets
to try and make beds on the ground.
Some women slept inside on the floor,
but others had to sleep outside
and it was really terrible,
to see vulnerable women lying around.
Jacobus went along with the wagons
up to the main road
and took leave of his wife and companions
and rode out to meet the enemy
and the colonel leading them
where he said to the colonel:
“The women and children,
103 of them in total are waiting on you.”
From the stories that the women
and children had heard
they were really scared of the British.
Jacobus was riding with the enemy
to lead them to the women and children
and he said to the colonel:
“I will go to the families and tell them
that you are coming,
that they do not have to fear.”
The colonel and some of his captains
came along to Kuiperkuil
where some of the women
and children were crying
out of fear for the enemy,
being scared to get hurt
and stayed in a group together.
The British loaded these people
on some more wagons
and turned with them in the road
taking them to Pietersburg
where they lived
in houses for a month long
and then just before dark one late afternoon,
was taken to the concentration camp
as sentenced people.
Some of the food that they got to eat,
(this is the honest truth)
was meat from cattle and sheep
that was contaminated with diseases
and these illnesses
were carried over to these people.
Some of the sick animals
were daily slaughtered there in front of the people
and the meat given to them to eat,
while the British knew about the illnesses
that the animals did possess.
Some of the rations were flour,
coffee and sugar and were given
sparingly to the people.
Some of the cattle had fire-illness,
some with lung-disease
and they got that food to eat
as if the British
had forgotten about these illnesses.
Some of the sheep had measles,
others were infected with heart-water
and this meat was given to the people to eat
as if there was no law in the country
while the British knew about these illnesses
and without food
these people would also have perished
and in this way the British
earned more hatred and caused a lot of sorrow.
Jacobus was digging graves for the dead,
sometimes as many as seventeen per day,
where they loaded as many
as twelve bodies at a time
on a wagon to bury them.
After a time the people refused to eat the meat
as they knew that it made them ill
and were caused their deaths
and they gained the trust of the English doctor
and he did examine the meat and did confirm
that it was terribly infected,
almost like a kind of acknowledgement
whereupon the sheep
were slaughtered and buried.
They then received tinned meat
with grain and sometimes fine pieces of glass
and fishhooks in them
that also droops
the British with inhumanity.
Jacobus took the names
and length and width
of every dead body
and wrote it in his diary
and in a way half estranged,
he took the bodies
after the funeral service to the graves
and covered them with sand.
In that concentration camp Jacobus dug
maybe seventeen graves on a day
and he was mourning while he witnessed
the death of so many people,
but the mule wagon could only take
ten to twelve coffins at a time
depending on the sizes of the coffins.
The crying and sorrow of this experience
stayed with him and his youngest child
Margritha Jacoba was only five months old
when they went into the concentration camp
being aware of people dying.
In every tent where he looked into,
Jacobus saw sick people infected
that they got from the sick meat.
After only two weeks
in the concentration camp
all of his children became ill.
Many things was terribly wrong
in that concentration camp.
All the people with measles died form it,
even adults who were kept in that camp.
Jacobus felt totally defenceless,
knew that the intentions
of the British was wrong
and the only thing
that he and his wife Margritha could do
was to reconcile them with the will of God
and three times a day they were praying
putting the protection of their children
before the throne of God.
X. Jacobus Potgieter escapes
For a long period of time
Jacobus did not receive any news
from the commando,
but at the insistence of the British
a traitor’s wife was sent to the Boers,
to try and convince them to surrender
and she brought news
about the commando’s whereabouts.
started to make plans to escape,
to walk away from the British,
to join the commando once more
and to get the enemy out of his country.
Mostly the lower class Boers joined the British
to kill Afrikaners for 5 shilling a day,
trying to force the Boers to loose the war.
The British even tried
to convince Jacobus to join them,
but he saw it as an evil plan
and was angry about it,
as he was forced unfairly
to surrender, to protect his family
With the passing time Jacobus made friends
with other men
and they were also involved in his escape plan,
at a time where the British were on the look out
for rebellion among the prisoners
Jacobus got thirty citizens
to lead them to freedom.
After many months Jacobus
and his friends got an opportunity
to ride along with the wagons
that was going out of the camp to collect firewood,
but the evening before the escape,
many of his friends became too scared to escape
and most of them decided to stay,
but only seven men
went through with the decision to escape.
They had a careful plan
and took food for four days
and two pairs of clothes along,
that was strong enough to last a year
while they trusted in God to lead them.
Unsure Jacobus greeted his wife and children
and scared that the British could have a suspicion of trouble
they left the crying children in the tent
while he greeted them.
Jacobus was well aware
about the dangers of this concentration camp
how the food, the bad circumstances
impacted on his children,
and asked God to look after them
and to guide the way back to the commando
through the coming dangers.
The seven men were somewhat sultry
when they got onto the wagons,
but in the wood fields they were industrious,
while the other men and blacks
were turning around them.
The escaping men were:
Jacobus Johannes Potgieter,
AJ van Jaarsveld, CJ Potgieter
(the brother of Jacobus) , SJ de Beer,
JH Venter, C Harmse and W van der Gijft,
who trusted their lives into the hands of God.
At twilight that night
they told the driver of their wagon
that they were going to escape,
were going to walk back to their commando,
but did not tell their plans to him
and they had difficulty in convincing him
to take the wagon back to the British
and from the blacks of the nearest rural village
they traded a blanket for a goat
and made a big fire to fry the meat,
while the other citizens
were still standing around them
and they ate as much as they could,
before they went to hide in the bushes
and the blacks were not aggressive
as long as they were with the British,
but became very hostile
the moment that they were not with the British.
With their clothes and a blanket each,
they left that camp in the wood fields
and without talking,
sneaked in the dark past the blacks
hiding in the bushes.
While working during the day they scouted the aria,
finding a route
and slipped away without being noticed.
There was a farm near to them
where they could find hidden rifles and ammunition,
that was buried there and Jacobus during the day
had cut a piece of wood to use as a digging tool,
but they first had to pass a large black village.
They kept to the bushes, trusting in God’s help
but when after an hour they arrived on the farm,
a light was burning in the house on the farm
and they were astonished to find people there
and thought that some of the men
who decided not to come along,
had betrayed them to the British
as the owner of the farm
had been captured by the British.
Sagrys de Beer said: “Let’s leave the rifles.
We are going to get captured here.
The voices that we hear are the voices of Boers,
but far too many Boers have joined the British
to fight against us.
We cannot trust anybody, or that they
will be on our side.”
Fifteen paces from the house
they then discussed the matter,
about either getting the rifles
or leaving the weapons and moving on.
Jacobus who really want the rifles
at first did not want to listen to advice and said:
“Grys, we cannot leave the rifles here,
we have to move over the wall silently
and go and dig the rifles out.”
“You will have us caught! Listen to the voices.
They are enemy Boers! ”
“Grys, just think about the black towns
that we will have to pass.”
“Kotie let us rather walk away while it is still dark.
Let us leave the rifles. Even if we go
over the wall unnoticed,
they will hear us when we start digging
with that piece of wood in your hand.
They will shoot us. If one of us are wounded
we will be very sorry that we did not leave
the guns here.
Kotie, let’s go. My maid
has hidden two of my rifles and ammunition
I will go to my farm.
My maid is trustworthy.”
“Grys, I will do as you say. Come, let us go.”
Thick fog were rising and they were lost,
Could not find the road and wandered along
until they found the road again
and then decided to stay near to it,
but the packs that they were carrying
were becoming heavy
and they were becoming tired.
Sagrys said: “Kotie, we have to sleep here.
Old Albert and Krisjan cannot walk any further.
They are tired. You have to take care
of the weakest man among us.”
“You are right, Grys.
We will have to get away from the road
and go down the cliff, to get a sleeping place.
When the British become aware that we have escaped,
they will start following our tracks.”
“Kotie, lets turn off here to the left.
The cliff is deep. They will never find us here.
If suddenly they find us, we can run along
the cliff in to the bushes.
If we reach the bushes,
they can bring thousands of men
to try and find us, but will have no success.
I know this region very well.”
“It sounds like a great plan,
come on guys lets go down the cliff.
Lancelot And Elaine
Elaine the fair, Elaine the loveable,
Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat,
High in her chamber up a tower to the east
Guarded the sacred shield of Lancelot;
Which first she placed where the morning's earliest ray
Might strike it, and awake her with the gleam;
Then fearing rust or soilure fashioned for it
A case of silk, and braided thereupon
All the devices blazoned on the shield
In their own tinct, and added, of her wit,
A border fantasy of branch and flower,
And yellow-throated nestling in the nest.
Nor rested thus content, but day by day,
Leaving her household and good father, climbed
That eastern tower, and entering barred her door,
Stript off the case, and read the naked shield,
Now guessed a hidden meaning in his arms,
Now made a pretty history to herself
Of every dint a sword had beaten in it,
And every scratch a lance had made upon it,
Conjecturing when and where: this cut is fresh;
That ten years back; this dealt him at Caerlyle;
That at Caerleon; this at Camelot:
And ah God's mercy, what a stroke was there!
And here a thrust that might have killed, but God
Broke the strong lance, and rolled his enemy down,
And saved him: so she lived in fantasy.
How came the lily maid by that good shield
Of Lancelot, she that knew not even his name?
He left it with her, when he rode to tilt
For the great diamond in the diamond jousts,
Which Arthur had ordained, and by that name
Had named them, since a diamond was the prize.
For Arthur, long before they crowned him King,
Roving the trackless realms of Lyonnesse,
Had found a glen, gray boulder and black tarn.
A horror lived about the tarn, and clave
Like its own mists to all the mountain side:
For here two brothers, one a king, had met
And fought together; but their names were lost;
And each had slain his brother at a blow;
And down they fell and made the glen abhorred:
And there they lay till all their bones were bleached,
And lichened into colour with the crags:
And he, that once was king, had on a crown
Of diamonds, one in front, and four aside.
And Arthur came, and labouring up the pass,
All in a misty moonshine, unawares
Had trodden that crowned skeleton, and the skull
Brake from the nape, and from the skull the crown
Rolled into light, and turning on its rims
Fled like a glittering rivulet to the tarn:
And down the shingly scaur he plunged, and caught,
And set it on his head, and in his heart
Heard murmurs, 'Lo, thou likewise shalt be King.'
Thereafter, when a King, he had the gems
Plucked from the crown, and showed them to his knights,
Saying, 'These jewels, whereupon I chanced
Divinely, are the kingdom's, not the King's--
For public use: henceforward let there be,
Once every year, a joust for one of these:
For so by nine years' proof we needs must learn
Which is our mightiest, and ourselves shall grow
In use of arms and manhood, till we drive
The heathen, who, some say, shall rule the land
Hereafter, which God hinder.' Thus he spoke:
And eight years past, eight jousts had been, and still
Had Lancelot won the diamond of the year,
With purpose to present them to the Queen,
When all were won; but meaning all at once
To snare her royal fancy with a boon
Worth half her realm, had never spoken word.
Now for the central diamond and the last
And largest, Arthur, holding then his court
Hard on the river nigh the place which now
Is this world's hugest, let proclaim a joust
At Camelot, and when the time drew nigh
Spake (for she had been sick) to Guinevere,
'Are you so sick, my Queen, you cannot move
To these fair jousts?' 'Yea, lord,' she said, 'ye know it.'
'Then will ye miss,' he answered, 'the great deeds
Of Lancelot, and his prowess in the lists,
A sight ye love to look on.' And the Queen
Lifted her eyes, and they dwelt languidly
On Lancelot, where he stood beside the King.
He thinking that he read her meaning there,
'Stay with me, I am sick; my love is more
Than many diamonds,' yielded; and a heart
Love-loyal to the least wish of the Queen
(However much he yearned to make complete
The tale of diamonds for his destined boon)
Urged him to speak against the truth, and say,
'Sir King, mine ancient wound is hardly whole,
And lets me from the saddle;' and the King
Glanced first at him, then her, and went his way.
No sooner gone than suddenly she began:
'To blame, my lord Sir Lancelot, much to blame!
Why go ye not to these fair jousts? the knights
Are half of them our enemies, and the crowd
Will murmur, "Lo the shameless ones, who take
Their pastime now the trustful King is gone!"'
Then Lancelot vext at having lied in vain:
'Are ye so wise? ye were not once so wise,
My Queen, that summer, when ye loved me first.
Then of the crowd ye took no more account
Than of the myriad cricket of the mead,
When its own voice clings to each blade of grass,
And every voice is nothing. As to knights,
Them surely can I silence with all ease.
But now my loyal worship is allowed
Of all men: many a bard, without offence,
Has linked our names together in his lay,
Lancelot, the flower of bravery, Guinevere,
The pearl of beauty: and our knights at feast
Have pledged us in this union, while the King
Would listen smiling. How then? is there more?
Has Arthur spoken aught? or would yourself,
Now weary of my service and devoir,
Henceforth be truer to your faultless lord?'
She broke into a little scornful laugh:
'Arthur, my lord, Arthur, the faultless King,
That passionate perfection, my good lord--
But who can gaze upon the Sun in heaven?
He never spake word of reproach to me,
He never had a glimpse of mine untruth,
He cares not for me: only here today
There gleamed a vague suspicion in his eyes:
Some meddling rogue has tampered with him--else
Rapt in this fancy of his Table Round,
And swearing men to vows impossible,
To make them like himself: but, friend, to me
He is all fault who hath no fault at all:
For who loves me must have a touch of earth;
The low sun makes the colour: I am yours,
Not Arthur's, as ye know, save by the bond.
And therefore hear my words: go to the jousts:
The tiny-trumpeting gnat can break our dream
When sweetest; and the vermin voices here
May buzz so loud--we scorn them, but they sting.'
Then answered Lancelot, the chief of knights:
'And with what face, after my pretext made,
Shall I appear, O Queen, at Camelot, I
Before a King who honours his own word,
As if it were his God's?'
'Yea,' said the Queen,
'A moral child without the craft to rule,
Else had he not lost me: but listen to me,
If I must find you wit: we hear it said
That men go down before your spear at a touch,
But knowing you are Lancelot; your great name,
This conquers: hide it therefore; go unknown:
Win! by this kiss you will: and our true King
Will then allow your pretext, O my knight,
As all for glory; for to speak him true,
Ye know right well, how meek soe'er he seem,
No keener hunter after glory breathes.
He loves it in his knights more than himself:
They prove to him his work: win and return.'
Then got Sir Lancelot suddenly to horse,
Wroth at himself. Not willing to be known,
He left the barren-beaten thoroughfare,
Chose the green path that showed the rarer foot,
And there among the solitary downs,
Full often lost in fancy, lost his way;
Till as he traced a faintly-shadowed track,
That all in loops and links among the dales
Ran to the Castle of Astolat, he saw
Fired from the west, far on a hill, the towers.
Thither he made, and blew the gateway horn.
Then came an old, dumb, myriad-wrinkled man,
Who let him into lodging and disarmed.
And Lancelot marvelled at the wordless man;
And issuing found the Lord of Astolat
With two strong sons, Sir Torre and Sir Lavaine,
Moving to meet him in the castle court;
And close behind them stept the lily maid
Elaine, his daughter: mother of the house
There was not: some light jest among them rose
With laughter dying down as the great knight
Approached them: then the Lord of Astolat:
'Whence comes thou, my guest, and by what name
Livest thou between the lips? for by thy state
And presence I might guess thee chief of those,
After the King, who eat in Arthur's halls.
Him have I seen: the rest, his Table Round,
Known as they are, to me they are unknown.'
Then answered Sir Lancelot, the chief of knights:
'Known am I, and of Arthur's hall, and known,
What I by mere mischance have brought, my shield.
But since I go to joust as one unknown
At Camelot for the diamond, ask me not,
Hereafter ye shall know me--and the shield--
I pray you lend me one, if such you have,
Blank, or at least with some device not mine.'
Then said the Lord of Astolat, 'Here is Torre's:
Hurt in his first tilt was my son, Sir Torre.
And so, God wot, his shield is blank enough.
His ye can have.' Then added plain Sir Torre,
'Yea, since I cannot use it, ye may have it.'
Here laughed the father saying, 'Fie, Sir Churl,
Is that answer for a noble knight?
Allow him! but Lavaine, my younger here,
He is so full of lustihood, he will ride,
Joust for it, and win, and bring it in an hour,
And set it in this damsel's golden hair,
To make her thrice as wilful as before.'
'Nay, father, nay good father, shame me not
Before this noble knight,' said young Lavaine,
'For nothing. Surely I but played on Torre:
He seemed so sullen, vext he could not go:
A jest, no more! for, knight, the maiden dreamt
That some one put this diamond in her hand,
And that it was too slippery to be held,
And slipt and fell into some pool or stream,
The castle-well, belike; and then I said
That IF I went and IF I fought and won it
(But all was jest and joke among ourselves)
Then must she keep it safelier. All was jest.
But, father, give me leave, an if he will,
To ride to Camelot with this noble knight:
Win shall I not, but do my best to win:
Young as I am, yet would I do my best.'
'So will ye grace me,' answered Lancelot,
Smiling a moment, 'with your fellowship
O'er these waste downs whereon I lost myself,
Then were I glad of you as guide and friend:
And you shall win this diamond,--as I hear
It is a fair large diamond,--if ye may,
And yield it to this maiden, if ye will.'
'A fair large diamond,' added plain Sir Torre,
'Such be for queens, and not for simple maids.'
Then she, who held her eyes upon the ground,
Elaine, and heard her name so tost about,
Flushed slightly at the slight disparagement
Before the stranger knight, who, looking at her,
Full courtly, yet not falsely, thus returned:
'If what is fair be but for what is fair,
And only queens are to be counted so,
Rash were my judgment then, who deem this maid
Might wear as fair a jewel as is on earth,
Not violating the bond of like to like.'
He spoke and ceased: the lily maid Elaine,
Won by the mellow voice before she looked,
Lifted her eyes, and read his lineaments.
The great and guilty love he bare the Queen,
In battle with the love he bare his lord,
Had marred his face, and marked it ere his time.
Another sinning on such heights with one,
The flower of all the west and all the world,
Had been the sleeker for it: but in him
His mood was often like a fiend, and rose
And drove him into wastes and solitudes
For agony, who was yet a living soul.
Marred as he was, he seemed the goodliest man
That ever among ladies ate in hall,
And noblest, when she lifted up her eyes.
However marred, of more than twice her years,
Seamed with an ancient swordcut on the cheek,
And bruised and bronzed, she lifted up her eyes
And loved him, with that love which was her doom.
Then the great knight, the darling of the court,
Loved of the loveliest, into that rude hall
Stept with all grace, and not with half disdain
Hid under grace, as in a smaller time,
But kindly man moving among his kind:
Whom they with meats and vintage of their best
And talk and minstrel melody entertained.
And much they asked of court and Table Round,
And ever well and readily answered he:
But Lancelot, when they glanced at Guinevere,
Suddenly speaking of the wordless man,
Heard from the Baron that, ten years before,
The heathen caught and reft him of his tongue.
'He learnt and warned me of their fierce design
Against my house, and him they caught and maimed;
But I, my sons, and little daughter fled
From bonds or death, and dwelt among the woods
By the great river in a boatman's hut.
Dull days were those, till our good Arthur broke
The Pagan yet once more on Badon hill.'
'O there, great lord, doubtless,' Lavaine said, rapt
By all the sweet and sudden passion of youth
Toward greatness in its elder, 'you have fought.
O tell us--for we live apart--you know
Of Arthur's glorious wars.' And Lancelot spoke
And answered him at full, as having been
With Arthur in the fight which all day long
Rang by the white mouth of the violent Glem;
And in the four loud battles by the shore
Of Duglas; that on Bassa; then the war
That thundered in and out the gloomy skirts
Of Celidon the forest; and again
By castle Gurnion, where the glorious King
Had on his cuirass worn our Lady's Head,
Carved of one emerald centered in a sun
Of silver rays, that lightened as he breathed;
And at Caerleon had he helped his lord,
When the strong neighings of the wild white Horse
Set every gilded parapet shuddering;
And up in Agned-Cathregonion too,
And down the waste sand-shores of Trath Treroit,
Where many a heathen fell; 'and on the mount
Of Badon I myself beheld the King
Charge at the head of all his Table Round,
And all his legions crying Christ and him,
And break them; and I saw him, after, stand
High on a heap of slain, from spur to plume
Red as the rising sun with heathen blood,
And seeing me, with a great voice he cried,
"They are broken, they are broken!" for the King,
However mild he seems at home, nor cares
For triumph in our mimic wars, the jousts--
For if his own knight cast him down, he laughs
Saying, his knights are better men than he--
Yet in this heathen war the fire of God
Fills him: I never saw his like: there lives
No greater leader.'
While he uttered this,
Low to her own heart said the lily maid,
'Save your own great self, fair lord;' and when he fell
From talk of war to traits of pleasantry--
Being mirthful he, but in a stately kind--
She still took note that when the living smile
Died from his lips, across him came a cloud
Of melancholy severe, from which again,
Whenever in her hovering to and fro
The lily maid had striven to make him cheer,
There brake a sudden-beaming tenderness
Of manners and of nature: and she thought
That all was nature, all, perchance, for her.
And all night long his face before her lived,
As when a painter, poring on a face,
Divinely through all hindrance finds the man
Behind it, and so paints him that his face,
The shape and colour of a mind and life,
Lives for his children, ever at its best
And fullest; so the face before her lived,
Dark-splendid, speaking in the silence, full
Of noble things, and held her from her sleep.
Till rathe she rose, half-cheated in the thought
She needs must bid farewell to sweet Lavaine.
First in fear, step after step, she stole
Down the long tower-stairs, hesitating:
Anon, she heard Sir Lancelot cry in the court,
'This shield, my friend, where is it?' and Lavaine
Past inward, as she came from out the tower.
There to his proud horse Lancelot turned, and smoothed
The glossy shoulder, humming to himself.
Half-envious of the flattering hand, she drew
Nearer and stood. He looked, and more amazed
Than if seven men had set upon him, saw
The maiden standing in the dewy light.
He had not dreamed she was so beautiful.
Then came on him a sort of sacred fear,
For silent, though he greeted her, she stood
Rapt on his face as if it were a God's.
Suddenly flashed on her a wild desire,
That he should wear her favour at the tilt.
She braved a riotous heart in asking for it.
'Fair lord, whose name I know not--noble it is,
I well believe, the noblest--will you wear
My favour at this tourney?' 'Nay,' said he,
'Fair lady, since I never yet have worn
Favour of any lady in the lists.
Such is my wont, as those, who know me, know.'
'Yea, so,' she answered; 'then in wearing mine
Needs must be lesser likelihood, noble lord,
That those who know should know you.' And he turned
Her counsel up and down within his mind,
And found it true, and answered, 'True, my child.
Well, I will wear it: fetch it out to me:
What is it?' and she told him 'A red sleeve
Broidered with pearls,' and brought it: then he bound
Her token on his helmet, with a smile
Saying, 'I never yet have done so much
For any maiden living,' and the blood
Sprang to her face and filled her with delight;
But left her all the paler, when Lavaine
Returning brought the yet-unblazoned shield,
His brother's; which he gave to Lancelot,
Who parted with his own to fair Elaine:
'Do me this grace, my child, to have my shield
In keeping till I come.' 'A grace to me,'
She answered, 'twice today. I am your squire!'
Whereat Lavaine said, laughing, 'Lily maid,
For fear our people call you lily maid
In earnest, let me bring your colour back;
Once, twice, and thrice: now get you hence to bed:'
So kissed her, and Sir Lancelot his own hand,
And thus they moved away: she stayed a minute,
Then made a sudden step to the gate, and there--
Her bright hair blown about the serious face
Yet rosy-kindled with her brother's kiss--
Paused by the gateway, standing near the shield
In silence, while she watched their arms far-off
Sparkle, until they dipt below the downs.
Then to her tower she climbed, and took the shield,
There kept it, and so lived in fantasy.
Meanwhile the new companions past away
Far o'er the long backs of the bushless downs,
To where Sir Lancelot knew there lived a knight
Not far from Camelot, now for forty years
A hermit, who had prayed, laboured and prayed,
And ever labouring had scooped himself
In the white rock a chapel and a hall
On massive columns, like a shorecliff cave,
And cells and chambers: all were fair and dry;
The green light from the meadows underneath
Struck up and lived along the milky roofs;
And in the meadows tremulous aspen-trees
And poplars made a noise of falling showers.
And thither wending there that night they bode.
But when the next day broke from underground,
And shot red fire and shadows through the cave,
They rose, heard mass, broke fast, and rode away:
Then Lancelot saying, 'Hear, but hold my name
Hidden, you ride with Lancelot of the Lake,'
Abashed young Lavaine, whose instant reverence,
Dearer to true young hearts than their own praise,
But left him leave to stammer, 'Is it indeed?'
And after muttering 'The great Lancelot,
At last he got his breath and answered, 'One,
One have I seen--that other, our liege lord,
The dread Pendragon, Britain's King of kings,
Of whom the people talk mysteriously,
He will be there--then were I stricken blind
That minute, I might say that I had seen.'
So spake Lavaine, and when they reached the lists
By Camelot in the meadow, let his eyes
Run through the peopled gallery which half round
Lay like a rainbow fallen upon the grass,
Until they found the clear-faced King, who sat
Robed in red samite, easily to be known,
Since to his crown the golden dragon clung,
And down his robe the dragon writhed in gold,
And from the carven-work behind him crept
Two dragons gilded, sloping down to make
Arms for his chair, while all the rest of them
Through knots and loops and folds innumerable
Fled ever through the woodwork, till they found
The new design wherein they lost themselves,
Yet with all ease, so tender was the work:
And, in the costly canopy o'er him set,
Blazed the last diamond of the nameless king.
Then Lancelot answered young Lavaine and said,
'Me you call great: mine is the firmer seat,
The truer lance: but there is many a youth
Now crescent, who will come to all I am
And overcome it; and in me there dwells
No greatness, save it be some far-off touch
Of greatness to know well I am not great:
There is the man.' And Lavaine gaped upon him
As on a thing miraculous, and anon
The trumpets blew; and then did either side,
They that assailed, and they that held the lists,
Set lance in rest, strike spur, suddenly move,
Meet in the midst, and there so furiously
Shock, that a man far-off might well perceive,
If any man that day were left afield,
The hard earth shake, and a low thunder of arms.
And Lancelot bode a little, till he saw
Which were the weaker; then he hurled into it
Against the stronger: little need to speak
Of Lancelot in his glory! King, duke, earl,
Count, baron--whom he smote, he overthrew.
But in the field were Lancelot's kith and kin,
Ranged with the Table Round that held the lists,
Strong men, and wrathful that a stranger knight
Should do and almost overdo the deeds
Of Lancelot; and one said to the other, 'Lo!
What is he? I do not mean the force alone--
The grace and versatility of the man!
Is it not Lancelot?' 'When has Lancelot worn
Favour of any lady in the lists?
Not such his wont, as we, that know him, know.'
'How then? who then?' a fury seized them all,
A fiery family passion for the name
Of Lancelot, and a glory one with theirs.
They couched their spears and pricked their steeds, and thus,
Their plumes driven backward by the wind they made
In moving, all together down upon him
Bare, as a wild wave in the wide North-sea,
Green-glimmering toward the summit, bears, with all
Its stormy crests that smoke against the skies,
Down on a bark, and overbears the bark,
And him that helms it, so they overbore
Sir Lancelot and his charger, and a spear
Down-glancing lamed the charger, and a spear
Pricked sharply his own cuirass, and the head
Pierced through his side, and there snapt, and remained.
Then Sir Lavaine did well and worshipfully;
He bore a knight of old repute to the earth,
And brought his horse to Lancelot where he lay.
He up the side, sweating with agony, got,
But thought to do while he might yet endure,
And being lustily holpen by the rest,
His party,--though it seemed half-miracle
To those he fought with,--drave his kith and kin,
And all the Table Round that held the lists,
Back to the barrier; then the trumpets blew
Proclaiming his the prize, who wore the sleeve
Of scarlet, and the pearls; and all the knights,
His party, cried 'Advance and take thy prize
The diamond;' but he answered, 'Diamond me
No diamonds! for God's love, a little air!
Prize me no prizes, for my prize is death!
Hence will I, and I charge you, follow me not.'
He spoke, and vanished suddenly from the field
With young Lavaine into the poplar grove.
There from his charger down he slid, and sat,
Gasping to Sir Lavaine, 'Draw the lance-head:'
'Ah my sweet lord Sir Lancelot,' said Lavaine,
'I dread me, if I draw it, you will die.'
But he, 'I die already with it: draw--
Draw,'--and Lavaine drew, and Sir Lancelot gave
A marvellous great shriek and ghastly groan,
And half his blood burst forth, and down he sank
For the pure pain, and wholly swooned away.
Then came the hermit out and bare him in,
There stanched his wound; and there, in daily doubt
Whether to live or die, for many a week
Hid from the wide world's rumour by the grove
Of poplars with their noise of falling showers,
And ever-tremulous aspen-trees, he lay.
But on that day when Lancelot fled the lists,
His party, knights of utmost North and West,
Lords of waste marches, kings of desolate isles,
Came round their great Pendragon, saying to him,
'Lo, Sire, our knight, through whom we won the day,
Hath gone sore wounded, and hath left his prize
Untaken, crying that his prize is death.'
'Heaven hinder,' said the King, 'that such an one,
So great a knight as we have seen today--
He seemed to me another Lancelot--
Yea, twenty times I thought him Lancelot--
He must not pass uncared for. Wherefore, rise,
O Gawain, and ride forth and find the knight.
Wounded and wearied needs must he be near.
I charge you that you get at once to horse.
And, knights and kings, there breathes not one of you
Will deem this prize of ours is rashly given:
His prowess was too wondrous. We will do him
No customary honour: since the knight
Came not to us, of us to claim the prize,
Ourselves will send it after. Rise and take
This diamond, and deliver it, and return,
And bring us where he is, and how he fares,
And cease not from your quest until ye find.'
So saying, from the carven flower above,
To which it made a restless heart, he took,
And gave, the diamond: then from where he sat
At Arthur's right, with smiling face arose,
With smiling face and frowning heart, a Prince
In the mid might and flourish of his May,
Gawain, surnamed The Courteous, fair and strong,
And after Lancelot, Tristram, and Geraint
And Gareth, a good knight, but therewithal
Sir Modred's brother, and the child of Lot,
Nor often loyal to his word, and now
Wroth that the King's command to sally forth
In quest of whom he knew not, made him leave
The banquet, and concourse of knights and kings.
So all in wrath he got to horse and went;
While Arthur to the banquet, dark in mood,
Past, thinking 'Is it Lancelot who hath come
Despite the wound he spake of, all for gain
Of glory, and hath added wound to wound,
And ridden away to die?' So feared the King,
And, after two days' tarriance there, returned.
Then when he saw the Queen, embracing asked,
'Love, are you yet so sick?' 'Nay, lord,' she said.
'And where is Lancelot?' Then the Queen amazed,
'Was he not with you? won he not your prize?'
'Nay, but one like him.' 'Why that like was he.'
And when the King demanded how she knew,
Said, 'Lord, no sooner had ye parted from us,
Than Lancelot told me of a common talk
That men went down before his spear at a touch,
But knowing he was Lancelot; his great name
Conquered; and therefore would he hide his name
From all men, even the King, and to this end
Had made a pretext of a hindering wound,
That he might joust unknown of all, and learn
If his old prowess were in aught decayed;
And added, "Our true Arthur, when he learns,
Will well allow me pretext, as for gain
Of purer glory."'
Then replied the King:
'Far lovelier in our Lancelot had it been,
In lieu of idly dallying with the truth,
To have trusted me as he hath trusted thee.
Surely his King and most familiar friend
Might well have kept his secret. True, indeed,
Albeit I know my knights fantastical,
So fine a fear in our large Lancelot
Must needs have moved my laughter: now remains
But little cause for laughter: his own kin--
Ill news, my Queen, for all who love him, this!--
His kith and kin, not knowing, set upon him;
So that he went sore wounded from the field:
Yet good news too: for goodly hopes are mine
That Lancelot is no more a lonely heart.
He wore, against his wont, upon his helm
A sleeve of scarlet, broidered with great pearls,
Some gentle maiden's gift.'
'Yea, lord,' she said,
'Thy hopes are mine,' and saying that, she choked,
And sharply turned about to hide her face,
Past to her chamber, and there flung herself
Down on the great King's couch, and writhed upon it,
And clenched her fingers till they bit the palm,
And shrieked out 'Traitor' to the unhearing wall,
Then flashed into wild tears, and rose again,
And moved about her palace, proud and pale.
Gawain the while through all the region round
Rode with his diamond, wearied of the quest,
Touched at all points, except the poplar grove,
And came at last, though late, to Astolat:
Whom glittering in enamelled arms the maid
Glanced at, and cried, 'What news from Camelot, lord?
What of the knight with the red sleeve?' 'He won.'
'I knew it,' she said. 'But parted from the jousts
Hurt in the side,' whereat she caught her breath;
Through her own side she felt the sharp lance go;
Thereon she smote her hand: wellnigh she swooned:
And, while he gazed wonderingly at her, came
The Lord of Astolat out, to whom the Prince
Reported who he was, and on what quest
Sent, that he bore the prize and could not find
The victor, but had ridden a random round
To seek him, and had wearied of the search.
To whom the Lord of Astolat, 'Bide with us,
And ride no more at random, noble Prince!
Here was the knight, and here he left a shield;
This will he send or come for: furthermore
Our son is with him; we shall hear anon,
Needs must hear.' To this the courteous Prince
Accorded with his wonted courtesy,
Courtesy with a touch of traitor in it,
And stayed; and cast his eyes on fair Elaine:
Where could be found face daintier? then her shape
From forehead down to foot, perfect--again
From foot to forehead exquisitely turned:
'Well--if I bide, lo! this wild flower for me!'
And oft they met among the garden yews,
And there he set himself to play upon her
With sallying wit, free flashes from a height
Above her, graces of the court, and songs,
Sighs, and slow smiles, and golden eloquence
And amorous adulation, till the maid
Rebelled against it, saying to him, 'Prince,
O loyal nephew of our noble King,
Why ask you not to see the shield he left,
Whence you might learn his name? Why slight your King,
And lose the quest he sent you on, and prove
No surer than our falcon yesterday,
Who lost the hern we slipt her at, and went
To all the winds?' 'Nay, by mine head,' said he,
'I lose it, as we lose the lark in heaven,
O damsel, in the light of your blue eyes;
But an ye will it let me see the shield.'
And when the shield was brought, and Gawain saw
Sir Lancelot's azure lions, crowned with gold,
Ramp in the field, he smote his thigh, and mocked:
'Right was the King! our Lancelot! that true man!'
'And right was I,' she answered merrily, 'I,
Who dreamed my knight the greatest knight of all.'
'And if I dreamed,' said Gawain, 'that you love
This greatest knight, your pardon! lo, ye know it!
Speak therefore: shall I waste myself in vain?'
Full simple was her answer, 'What know I?
My brethren have been all my fellowship;
And I, when often they have talked of love,
Wished it had been my mother, for they talked,
Meseemed, of what they knew not; so myself--
I know not if I know what true love is,
But if I know, then, if I love not him,
I know there is none other I can love.'
'Yea, by God's death,' said he, 'ye love him well,
But would not, knew ye what all others know,
And whom he loves.' 'So be it,' cried Elaine,
And lifted her fair face and moved away:
But he pursued her, calling, 'Stay a little!
One golden minute's grace! he wore your sleeve:
Would he break faith with one I may not name?
Must our true man change like a leaf at last?
Nay--like enow: why then, far be it from me
To cross our mighty Lancelot in his loves!
And, damsel, for I deem you know full well
Where your great knight is hidden, let me leave
My quest with you; the diamond also: here!
For if you love, it will be sweet to give it;
And if he love, it will be sweet to have it
From your own hand; and whether he love or not,
A diamond is a diamond. Fare you well
A thousand times!--a thousand times farewell!
Yet, if he love, and his love hold, we two
May meet at court hereafter: there, I think,
So ye will learn the courtesies of the court,
We two shall know each other.'
Then he gave,
And slightly kissed the hand to which he gave,
The diamond, and all wearied of the quest
Leapt on his horse, and carolling as he went
A true-love ballad, lightly rode away.
Thence to the court he past; there told the King
What the King knew, 'Sir Lancelot is the knight.'
And added, 'Sire, my liege, so much I learnt;
But failed to find him, though I rode all round
The region: but I lighted on the maid
Whose sleeve he wore; she loves him; and to her,
Deeming our courtesy is the truest law,
I gave the diamond: she will render it;
For by mine head she knows his hiding-place.'
The seldom-frowning King frowned, and replied,
'Too courteous truly! ye shall go no more
On quest of mine, seeing that ye forget
Obedience is the courtesy due to kings.'
He spake and parted. Wroth, but all in awe,
For twenty strokes of the blood, without a word,
Lingered that other, staring after him;
Then shook his hair, strode off, and buzzed abroad
About the maid of Astolat, and her love.
All ears were pricked at once, all tongues were loosed:
'The maid of Astolat loves Sir Lancelot,
Sir Lancelot loves the maid of Astolat.'
Some read the King's face, some the Queen's, and all
Had marvel what the maid might be, but most
Predoomed her as unworthy. One old dame
Came suddenly on the Queen with the sharp news.
She, that had heard the noise of it before,
But sorrowing Lancelot should have stooped so low,
Marred her friend's aim with pale tranquillity.
So ran the tale like fire about the court,
Fire in dry stubble a nine-days' wonder flared:
Till even the knights at banquet twice or thrice
Forgot to drink to Lancelot and the Queen,
And pledging Lancelot and the lily maid
Smiled at each other, while the Queen, who sat
With lips severely placid, felt the knot
Climb in her throat, and with her feet unseen
Crushed the wild passion out against the floor
Beneath the banquet, where all the meats became
As wormwood, and she hated all who pledged.
But far away the maid in Astolat,
Her guiltless rival, she that ever kept
The one-day-seen Sir Lancelot in her heart,
Crept to her father, while he mused alone,
Sat on his knee, stroked his gray face and said,
'Father, you call me wilful, and the fault
Is yours who let me have my will, and now,
Sweet father, will you let me lose my wits?'
'Nay,' said he, 'surely.' 'Wherefore, let me hence,'
She answered, 'and find out our dear Lavaine.'
'Ye will not lose your wits for dear Lavaine:
Bide,' answered he: 'we needs must hear anon
Of him, and of that other.' 'Ay,' she said,
'And of that other, for I needs must hence
And find that other, wheresoe'er he be,
And with mine own hand give his diamond to him,
Lest I be found as faithless in the quest
As yon proud Prince who left the quest to me.
Sweet father, I behold him in my dreams
Gaunt as it were the skeleton of himself,
Death-pale, for lack of gentle maiden's aid.
The gentler-born the maiden, the more bound,
My father, to be sweet and serviceable
To noble knights in sickness, as ye know
When these have worn their tokens: let me hence
I pray you.' Then her father nodding said,
'Ay, ay, the diamond: wit ye well, my child,
Right fain were I to learn this knight were whole,
Being our greatest: yea, and you must give it--
And sure I think this fruit is hung too high
For any mouth to gape for save a queen's--
Nay, I mean nothing: so then, get you gone,
Being so very wilful you must go.'
Lightly, her suit allowed, she slipt away,
And while she made her ready for her ride,
Her father's latest word hummed in her ear,
'Being so very wilful you must go,'
And changed itself and echoed in her heart,
'Being so very wilful you must die.'
But she was happy enough and shook it off,
As we shake off the bee that buzzes at us;
And in her heart she answered it and said,
'What matter, so I help him back to life?'
Then far away with good Sir Torre for guide
Rode o'er the long backs of the bushless downs
To Camelot, and before the city-gates
Came on her brother with a happy face
Making a roan horse caper and curvet
For pleasure all about a field of flowers:
Whom when she saw, 'Lavaine,' she cried, 'Lavaine,
How fares my lord Sir Lancelot?' He amazed,
'Torre and Elaine! why here? Sir Lancelot!
How know ye my lord's name is Lancelot?'
But when the maid had told him all her tale,
Then turned Sir Torre, and being in his moods
Left them, and under the strange-statued gate,
Where Arthur's wars were rendered mystically,
Past up the still rich city to his kin,
His own far blood, which dwelt at Camelot;
And her, Lavaine across the poplar grove
Led to the caves: there first she saw the casque
Of Lancelot on the wall: her scarlet sleeve,
Though carved and cut, and half the pearls away,
Streamed from it still; and in her heart she laughed,
Because he had not loosed it from his helm,
But meant once more perchance to tourney in it.
And when they gained the cell wherein he slept,
His battle-writhen arms and mighty hands
Lay naked on the wolfskin, and a dream
Of dragging down his enemy made them move.
Then she that saw him lying unsleek, unshorn,
Gaunt as it were the skeleton of himself,
Uttered a little tender dolorous cry.
The sound not wonted in a place so still
Woke the sick knight, and while he rolled his eyes
Yet blank from sleep, she started to him, saying,
'Your prize the diamond sent you by the King:'
His eyes glistened: she fancied 'Is it for me?'
And when the maid had told him all the tale
Of King and Prince, the diamond sent, the quest
Assigned to her not worthy of it, she knelt
Full lowly by the corners of his bed,
And laid the diamond in his open hand.
Her face was near, and as we kiss the child
That does the task assigned, he kissed her face.
At once she slipt like water to the floor.
'Alas,' he said, 'your ride hath wearied you.
Rest must you have.' 'No rest for me,' she said;
'Nay, for near you, fair lord, I am at rest.'
What might she mean by that? his large black eyes,
Yet larger through his leanness, dwelt upon her,
Till all her heart's sad secret blazed itself
In the heart's colours on her simple face;
And Lancelot looked and was perplext in mind,
And being weak in body said no more;
But did not love the colour; woman's love,
Save one, he not regarded, and so turned
Sighing, and feigned a sleep until he slept.
Then rose Elaine and glided through the fields,
And past beneath the weirdly-sculptured gates
Far up the dim rich city to her kin;
There bode the night: but woke with dawn, and past
Down through the dim rich city to the fields,
Thence to the cave: so day by day she past
In either twilight ghost-like to and fro
Gliding, and every day she tended him,
And likewise many a night: and Lancelot
Would, though he called his wound a little hurt
Whereof he should be quickly whole, at times
Brain-feverous in his heat and agony, seem
Uncourteous, even he: but the meek maid
Sweetly forbore him ever, being to him
Meeker than any child to a rough nurse,
Milder than any mother to a sick child,
And never woman yet, since man's first fall,
Did kindlier unto man, but her deep love
Upbore her; till the hermit, skilled in all
The simples and the science of that time,
Told him that her fine care had saved his life.
And the sick man forgot her simple blush,
Would call her friend and sister, sweet Elaine,
Would listen for her coming and regret
Her parting step, and held her tenderly,
And loved her with all love except the love
Of man and woman when they love their best,
Closest and sweetest, and had died the death
In any knightly fashion for her sake.
And peradventure had he seen her first
She might have made this and that other world
Another world for the sick man; but now
The shackles of an old love straitened him,
His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.
Yet the great knight in his mid-sickness made
Full many a holy vow and pure resolve.
These, as but born of sickness, could not live:
For when the blood ran lustier in him again,
Full often the bright image of one face,
Making a treacherous quiet in his heart,
Dispersed his resolution like a cloud.
Then if the maiden, while that ghostly grace
Beamed on his fancy, spoke, he answered not,
Or short and coldly, and she knew right well
What the rough sickness meant, but what this meant
She knew not, and the sorrow dimmed her sight,
And drave her ere her time across the fields
Far into the rich city, where alone
She murmured, 'Vain, in vain: it cannot be.
He will not love me: how then? must I die?'
Then as a little helpless innocent bird,
That has but one plain passage of few notes,
Will sing the simple passage o'er and o'er
For all an April morning, till the ear
Wearies to hear it, so the simple maid
Went half the night repeating, 'Must I die?'
And now to right she turned, and now to left,
And found no ease in turning or in rest;
And 'Him or death,' she muttered, 'death or him,'
Again and like a burthen, 'Him or death.'
But when Sir Lancelot's deadly hurt was whole,
To Astolat returning rode the three.
There morn by morn, arraying her sweet self
In that wherein she deemed she looked her best,
She came before Sir Lancelot, for she thought
'If I be loved, these are my festal robes,
If not, the victim's flowers before he fall.'
And Lancelot ever prest upon the maid
That she should ask some goodly gift of him
For her own self or hers; 'and do not shun
To speak the wish most near to your true heart;
Such service have ye done me, that I make
My will of yours, and Prince and Lord am I
In mine own land, and what I will I can.'
Then like a ghost she lifted up her face,
But like a ghost without the power to speak.
And Lancelot saw that she withheld her wish,
And bode among them yet a little space
Till he should learn it; and one morn it chanced
He found her in among the garden yews,
And said, 'Delay no longer, speak your wish,
Seeing I go today:' then out she brake:
'Going? and we shall never see you more.
And I must die for want of one bold word.'
'Speak: that I live to hear,' he said, 'is yours.'
Then suddenly and passionately she spoke:
'I have gone mad. I love you: let me die.'
'Ah, sister,' answered Lancelot, 'what is this?'
And innocently extending her white arms,
'Your love,' she said, 'your love--to be your wife.'
And Lancelot answered, 'Had I chosen to wed,
I had been wedded earlier, sweet Elaine:
But now there never will be wife of mine.'
'No, no,' she cried, 'I care not to be wife,
But to be with you still, to see your face,
To serve you, and to follow you through the world.'
And Lancelot answered, 'Nay, the world, the world,
All ear and eye, with such a stupid heart
To interpret ear and eye, and such a tongue
To blare its own interpretation--nay,
Full ill then should I quit your brother's love,
And your good father's kindness.' And she said,
'Not to be with you, not to see your face--
Alas for me then, my good days are done.'
'Nay, noble maid,' he answered, 'ten times nay!
This is not love: but love's first flash in youth,
Most common: yea, I know it of mine own self:
And you yourself will smile at your own self
Hereafter, when you yield your flower of life
To one more fitly yours, not thrice your age:
And then will I, for true you are and sweet
Beyond mine old belief in womanhood,
More specially should your good knight be poor,
Endow you with broad land and territory
Even to the half my realm beyond the seas,
So that would make you happy: furthermore,
Even to the death, as though ye were my blood,
In all your quarrels will I be your knight.
This I will do, dear damsel, for your sake,
And more than this I cannot.'
While he spoke
She neither blushed nor shook, but deathly-pale
Stood grasping what was nearest, then replied:
'Of all this will I nothing;' and so fell,
And thus they bore her swooning to her tower.
Then spake, to whom through those black walls of yew
Their talk had pierced, her father: 'Ay, a flash,
I fear me, that will strike my blossom dead.
Too courteous are ye, fair Lord Lancelot.
I pray you, use some rough discourtesy
To blunt or break her passion.'
'That were against me: what I can I will;'
And there that day remained, and toward even
Sent for his shield: full meekly rose the maid,
Stript off the case, and gave the naked shield;
Then, when she heard his horse upon the stones,
Unclasping flung the casement back, and looked
Down on his helm, from which her sleeve had gone.
And Lancelot knew the little clinking sound;
And she by tact of love was well aware
That Lancelot knew that she was looking at him.
And yet he glanced not up, nor waved his hand,
Nor bad farewell, but sadly rode away.
This was the one discourtesy that he used.
So in her tower alone the maiden sat:
His very shield was gone; only the case,
Her own poor work, her empty labour, left.
But still she heard him, still his picture formed
And grew between her and the pictured wall.
Then came her father, saying in low tones,
'Have comfort,' whom she greeted quietly.
Then came her brethren saying, 'Peace to thee,
Sweet sister,' whom she answered with all calm.
But when they left her to herself again,
Death, like a friend's voice from a distant field
Approaching through the darkness, called; the owls
Wailing had power upon her, and she mixt
Her fancies with the sallow-rifted glooms
Of evening, and the moanings of the wind.
And in those days she made a little song,
And called her song 'The Song of Love and Death,'
And sang it: sweetly could she make and sing.
'Sweet is true love though given in vain, in vain;
And sweet is death who puts an end to pain:
I know not which is sweeter, no, not I.
'Love, art thou sweet? then bitter death must be:
Love, thou art bitter; sweet is death to me.
O Love, if death be sweeter, let me die.
'Sweet love, that seems not made to fade away,
Sweet death, that seems to make us loveless clay,
I know not which is sweeter, no, not I.
'I fain would follow love, if that could be;
I needs must follow death, who calls for me;
Call and I follow, I follow! let me die.'
High with the last line scaled her voice, and this,
All in a fiery dawning wild with wind
That shook her tower, the brothers heard, and thought
With shuddering, 'Hark the Phantom of the house
That ever shrieks before a death,' and called
The father, and all three in hurry and fear
Ran to her, and lo! the blood-red light of dawn
Flared on her face, she shrilling, 'Let me die!'
As when we dwell upon a word we know,
Repeating, till the word we know so well
Becomes a wonder, and we know not why,
So dwelt the father on her face, and thought
'Is this Elaine?' till back the maiden fell,
Then gave a languid hand to each, and lay,
Speaking a still good-morrow with her eyes.
At last she said, 'Sweet brothers, yesternight
I seemed a curious little maid again,
As happy as when we dwelt among the woods,
And when ye used to take me with the flood
Up the great river in the boatman's boat.
Only ye would not pass beyond the cape
That has the poplar on it: there ye fixt
Your limit, oft returning with the tide.
And yet I cried because ye would not pass
Beyond it, and far up the shining flood
Until we found the palace of the King.
And yet ye would not; but this night I dreamed
That I was all alone upon the flood,
And then I said, "Now shall I have my will:"
And there I woke, but still the wish remained.
So let me hence that I may pass at last
Beyond the poplar and far up the flood,
Until I find the palace of the King.
There will I enter in among them all,
And no man there will dare to mock at me;
But there the fine Gawain will wonder at me,
And there the great Sir Lancelot muse at me;
Gawain, who bad a thousand farewells to me,
Lancelot, who coldly went, nor bad me one:
And there the King will know me and my love,
And there the Queen herself will pity me,
And all the gentle court will welcome me,
And after my long voyage I shall rest!'
'Peace,' said her father, 'O my child, ye seem
Light-headed, for what force is yours to go
So far, being sick? and wherefore would ye look
On this proud fellow again, who scorns us all?'
Then the rough Torre began to heave and move,
And bluster into stormy sobs and say,
'I never loved him: an I meet with him,
I care not howsoever great he be,
Then will I strike at him and strike him down,
Give me good fortune, I will strike him dead,
For this discomfort he hath done the house.'
To whom the gentle sister made reply,
'Fret not yourself, dear brother, nor be wroth,
Seeing it is no more Sir Lancelot's fault
Not to love me, than it is mine to love
Him of all men who seems to me the highest.'
'Highest?' the father answered, echoing 'highest?'
(He meant to break the passion in her) 'nay,
Daughter, I know not what you call the highest;
But this I know, for all the people know it,
He loves the Queen, and in an open shame:
And she returns his love in open shame;
If this be high, what is it to be low?'
Then spake the lily maid of Astolat:
'Sweet father, all too faint and sick am I
For anger: these are slanders: never yet
Was noble man but made ignoble talk.
He makes no friend who never made a foe.
But now it is my glory to have loved
One peerless, without stain: so let me pass,
My father, howsoe'er I seem to you,
Not all unhappy, having loved God's best
And greatest, though my love had no return:
Yet, seeing you desire your child to live,
Thanks, but you work against your own desire;
For if I could believe the things you say
I should but die the sooner; wherefore cease,
Sweet father, and bid call the ghostly man
Hither, and let me shrive me clean, and die.'
So when the ghostly man had come and gone,
She with a face, bright as for sin forgiven,
Besought Lavaine to write as she devised
A letter, word for word; and when he asked
'Is it for Lancelot, is it for my dear lord?
Then will I bear it gladly;' she replied,
'For Lancelot and the Queen and all the world,
But I myself must bear it.' Then he wrote
The letter she devised; which being writ
And folded, 'O sweet father, tender and true,
Deny me not,' she said--'ye never yet
Denied my fancies--this, however strange,
My latest: lay the letter in my hand
A little ere I die, and close the hand
Upon it; I shall guard it even in death.
And when the heat is gone from out my heart,
Then take the little bed on which I died
For Lancelot's love, and deck it like the Queen's
For richness, and me also like the Queen
In all I have of rich, and lay me on it.
And let there be prepared a chariot-bier
To take me to the river, and a barge
Be ready on the river, clothed in black.
I go in state to court, to meet the Queen.
There surely I shall speak for mine own self,
And none of you can speak for me so well.
And therefore let our dumb old man alone
Go with me, he can steer and row, and he
Will guide me to that palace, to the doors.'
She ceased: her father promised; whereupon
She grew so cheerful that they deemed her death
Was rather in the fantasy than the blood.
But ten slow mornings past, and on the eleventh
Her father laid the letter in her hand,
And closed the hand upon it, and she died.
So that day there was dole in Astolat.
But when the next sun brake from underground,
Then, those two brethren slowly with bent brows
Accompanying, the sad chariot-bier
Past like a shadow through the field, that shone
Full-summer, to that stream whereon the barge,
Palled all its length in blackest samite, lay.
There sat the lifelong creature of the house,
Loyal, the dumb old servitor, on deck,
Winking his eyes, and twisted all his face.
So those two brethren from the chariot took
And on the black decks laid her in her bed,
Set in her hand a lily, o'er her hung
The silken case with braided blazonings,
And kissed her quiet brows, and saying to her
'Sister, farewell for ever,' and again
'Farewell, sweet sister,' parted all in tears.
Then rose the dumb old servitor, and the dead,
Oared by the dumb, went upward with the flood--
In her right hand the lily, in her left
The letter--all her bright hair streaming down--
And all the coverlid was cloth of gold
Drawn to her waist, and she herself in white
All but her face, and that clear-featured face
Was lovely, for she did not seem as dead,
But fast asleep, and lay as though she smiled.
That day Sir Lancelot at the palace craved
Audience of Guinevere, to give at last,
The price of half a realm, his costly gift,
Hard-won and hardly won with bruise and blow,
With deaths of others, and almost his own,
The nine-years-fought-for diamonds: for he saw
One of her house, and sent him to the Queen
Bearing his wish, whereto the Queen agreed
With such and so unmoved a majesty
She might have seemed her statue, but that he,
Low-drooping till he wellnigh kissed her feet
For loyal awe, saw with a sidelong eye
The shadow of some piece of pointed lace,
In the Queen's shadow, vibrate on the walls,
And parted, laughing in his courtly heart.
All in an oriel on the summer side,
Vine-clad, of Arthur's palace toward the stream,
They met, and Lancelot kneeling uttered, 'Queen,
Lady, my liege, in whom I have my joy,
Take, what I had not won except for you,
These jewels, and make me happy, making them
An armlet for the roundest arm on earth,
Or necklace for a neck to which the swan's
Is tawnier than her cygnet's: these are words:
Your beauty is your beauty, and I sin
In speaking, yet O grant my worship of it
Words, as we grant grief tears. Such sin in words
Perchance, we both can pardon: but, my Queen,
I hear of rumours flying through your court.
Our bond, as not the bond of man and wife,
Should have in it an absoluter trust
To make up that defect: let rumours be:
When did not rumours fly? these, as I trust
That you trust me in your own nobleness,
I may not well believe that you believe.'
While thus he spoke, half turned away, the Queen
Brake from the vast oriel-embowering vine
Leaf after leaf, and tore, and cast them off,
Till all the place whereon she stood was green;
Then, when he ceased, in one cold passive hand
Received at once and laid aside the gems
There on a table near her, and replied:
'It may be, I am quicker of belief
Than you believe me, Lancelot of the Lake.
Our bond is not the bond of man and wife.
This good is in it, whatsoe'er of ill,
It can be broken easier. I for you
This many a year have done despite and wrong
To one whom ever in my heart of hearts
I did acknowledge nobler. What are these?
Diamonds for me! they had been thrice their worth
Being your gift, had you not lost your own.
To loyal hearts the value of all gifts
Must vary as the giver's. Not for me!
For her! for your new fancy. Only this
Grant me, I pray you: have your joys apart.
I doubt not that however changed, you keep
So much of what is graceful: and myself
Would shun to break those bounds of courtesy
In which as Arthur's Queen I move and rule:
So cannot speak my mind. An end to this!
A strange one! yet I take it with Amen.
So pray you, add my diamonds to her pearls;
Deck her with these; tell her, she shines me down:
An armlet for an arm to which the Queen's
Is haggard, or a necklace for a neck
O as much fairer--as a faith once fair
Was richer than these diamonds--hers not mine--
Nay, by the mother of our Lord himself,
Or hers or mine, mine now to work my will--
She shall not have them.' Saying which
And, through the casement standing wide for heat,
Flung them, and down they flashed, and smote the stream.
Then from the smitten surface flashed, as it were,
Diamonds to meet them, and they past away.
Then while Sir Lancelot leant, in half disdain
At love, life, all things, on the window ledge,
Close underneath his eyes, and right across
Where these had fallen, slowly past the barge.
Whereon the lily maid of Astolat
Lay smiling, like a star in blackest night.
But the wild Queen, who saw not, burst away
To weep and wail in secret; and the barge,
On to the palace-doorway sliding, paused.
There two stood armed, and kept the door; to whom,
All up the marble stair, tier over tier,
Were added mouths that gaped, and eyes that asked
'What is it?' but that oarsman's haggard face,
As hard and still as is the face that men
Shape to their fancy's eye from broken rocks
On some cliff-side, appalled them, and they said
'He is enchanted, cannot speak--and she,
Look how she sleeps--the Fairy Queen, so fair!
Yea, but how pale! what are they? flesh and blood?
Or come to take the King to Fairyland?
For some do hold our Arthur cannot die,
But that he passes into Fairyland.'
While thus they babbled of the King, the King
Came girt with knights: then turned the tongueless man
From the half-face to the full eye, and rose
And pointed to the damsel, and the doors.
So Arthur bad the meek Sir Percivale
And pure Sir Galahad to uplift the maid;
And reverently they bore her into hall.
Then came the fine Gawain and wondered at her,
And Lancelot later came and mused at her,
And last the Queen herself, and pitied her:
But Arthur spied the letter in her hand,
Stoopt, took, brake seal, and read it; this was all:
'Most noble lord, Sir Lancelot of the Lake,
I, sometime called the maid of Astolat,
Come, for you left me taking no farewell,
Hither, to take my last farewell of you.
I loved you, and my love had no return,
And therefore my true love has been my death.
And therefore to our Lady Guinevere,
And to all other ladies, I make moan:
Pray for my soul, and yield me burial.
Pray for my soul thou too, Sir Lancelot,
As thou art a knight peerless.'
Thus he read;
And ever in the reading, lords and dames
Wept, looking often from his face who read
To hers which lay so silent, and at times,
So touched were they, half-thinking that her lips,
Who had devised the letter, moved again.
Then freely spoke Sir Lancelot to them all:
'My lord liege Arthur, and all ye that hear,
Know that for this most gentle maiden's death
Right heavy am I; for good she was and true,
But loved me with a love beyond all love
In women, whomsoever I have known.
Yet to be loved makes not to love again;
Not at my years, however it hold in youth.
I swear by truth and knighthood that I gave
No cause, not willingly, for such a love:
To this I call my friends in testimony,
Her brethren, and her father, who himself
Besought me to be plain and blunt, and use,
To break her passion, some discourtesy
Against my nature:
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!
Mama, just had to call, oh mama
Your baby boy just had his heart
Broken in two, she said were through
But to send her best to you.
Oh mama, Id like to run to you mama
Id come home today, leave right away
But things wont work that way
Gotta stay, and be a man
If I can, oh mama.
No mom, I dont know I called her tonight
No, not at home, yeah, youre probably right
Yes Ill take care of myself. no Ill be alright
Ill go to bed early tonight.
Oh mama, tell dad I think of him, mama
Hows uncle joe, my puppy go-go
Tell them hello, oh Id better go
But good gosh, I loved her so.
Oh mama, dont worry so much, darling mama
Now mama dont cry, just say goodbye
Cant have us both in tears well mom, you know me
Yes Ill always be your baby through all the years.
There were three cavaliers that went over the Rhine,
And gayly they called to the hostess for wine.
"And where is thy daughter? We would she were here,--
Go fetch us that maiden to gladden our cheer!"
"I'll fetch thee thy goblets full foaming," she said,
"But in yon darkened chamber the maiden lies dead."
And lo! as they stood in the doorway, the white
Of a shroud and a dead shrunken face met their sight.
Then the first cavalier breathed a pitiful sigh,
And the throb of his heart seemed to melt in his eye,
And he cried, "Hadst thou lived, O my pretty white rose,
I ween I had loved thee and wed thee--who knows?"
The next cavalier drew aside a small space,
And stood to the wall with his hands to his face;
And this was the heart-cry that came with his tears:
"I loved her, I loved her these many long years!"
But the third cavalier kneeled him down in that place,
And, as it were holy, he kissed that dead face:
"I loved thee long years, and I love thee to-day,
And I'll love thee, dear maiden, forever and aye!"
Mother Mary, Pray For Us!
The child of Joachim and Anne
Was born holy, immaculate;
A part of God's redemptive plan,
That none could ever calculate!
But what stuns is her obeisance
To God's bidding, despite her fears!
‘Abide with God, ' was her strong stance,
That came spontaneously sans tears.
‘She played her role so very well;
Her growing sorrow, she couldn't tell;
Her boy divine belled the devil,
Defeating death by sin, and hell! '
Her baby boy was Himself Lord:
Creator of the universe;
All things happened by His mouth's word;
He came to remove mankind's curse.
September eighth is her birthday;
Glory to God in the highest;
She is Queen of Heaven today,
Wearing twelve stars for crown, sun-dressed!
Assumed into heaven by Christ,
She prays on our behalf to Him;
Amongst the saints, she is the first,
And promises light to souls dim!
The Lady wants us all to pray
To make the earth, a paradise;
Her example shows us the way
To love God dearly, curb all vice.
May Mother Mary intercede,
And rescue souls meant for the Pit;
Pray, turning rosary's each bead,
And make your soul heavenly-fit!
Seated once by a brook, watching a child
Chiefly that paddled, I was thus beguiled.
Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush
Not far off in oak and hazel brush,
Unseen. There was a scent like honeycomb
From mugwort dull. And down upon the dome
Of the stone the cart-horse kicks against so oft
A butterfly alighted. From aloft
He took the heat of the sun, and from below.
On the hot stone he perched contented so,
As if never a cart would pass again
That way; as if I were the last of men
And he the first of insects to have earth
And sun together and to know their worth.
I was divided between him and the gleam,
The motion, and the voices, of the stream,
The waters running frizzled over gravel,
That never vanish and for ever travel.
A grey flycatcher silent on a fence
And I sat as if we had been there since
The horseman and the horse lying beneath
The fir-tree-covered barrow on the heath,
The horseman and the horse with silver shoes,
Galloped the downs last. All that I could lose
I lost. And then the child's voice raised the dead.
'No one's been here before' was what she said
And what I felt, yet never should have found
A word for, while I gathered sight and sound.
Dodo and The City
Dodo draws on the cigarette.
The smoke hits the throat.
The city sucks her in with its
huge sick well of emptiness.
Bagteller wanted her to go
to his place last night and make
passionate love. What a laugh
that'd been. Him and his fetishes.
The schoolgirl uniform was not
her thing. Too many memories.
She told him to stuff that in one
of his tight dark orifices and walked
out into the city's cold night. Went
home to her own place and took
a hot shower. She is still sore from
the scrub. She wants to scrub her
past away with the brush and soap.
Nothing washes away the memories
that have sunk deep. She wakes to
a new day. The city is buzzing with
the walking dead and half living.
The cigarette smoke fills her lungs
and then out into the air. Mother said
men were not to be trusted. Father
said don't listen to her she's biased
and bitchy and smells of sour cream.
Oh that I could open up my mind and
wash it out and not have to see that
shrink once a month just after my bleeds
have gone she says. Dr Glexity with his
black suit and blue tie one green eye and
one grey. All that darn money and nothing
to say. She inhales the smoke and the city
and the living and the dead and sucks them
into her lungs broken heart and stuffed head.