Perhaps it is not true to speak of God as a judge at all, or of his judgements. There does not seem to be really any evidence that His worlds are places of trial but rather schools, places of training, or that He is a judge but rather a Teacher, a Trainer, not in the imperfect sense in which men are teachers, but in the sense of His contriving and adapting His whole universe for one purpose of training every intelligent being to be perfect. … I think God would not be the Almighty, the All-Wise, the All-Good, if he were the judge, in the sense that the evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians impute judgement to him. … Our business is, I think, to understand, not to judge. What He does is, as far as we know, to rule by law down to the most infinitesimally small portion of His universe, not to judge.
Let's be true to God
Let's be true to God
And true to ourselves
By loving ourselves
And by loving others
For God wants us to do so
For God wants us to be so
When you love yourself
You love others
And God loves you
When you love others
You love God
And God loves you
Speak, God Of Visions
O, thy bright eyes must answer now,
When Reason, with a scornful brow,
Is mocking at my overthrow!
O, thy sweet tongue must plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee!
Stern Reason is to judgment come,
Arrayed in all her forms of gloom:
Wilt thou, my advocate, be dumb?
No, radiant angel, speak and say
Why I did cast the world away;
Why I have presevered to shun
The common paths that others run,
And on a strange road journeyed on,
Heedless alike of wealth and power,
Of Glory's wreath and Pleasure's flower.
These once, indeed, seemed Beings Divine;
And they, perchance, heard vows of mine,
And saw my offerings on their shrine;
But careless gifts are seldom prized,
And mine were worthily despised.
So, with a ready heart I swore
To seek their altar-stone no more;
And gave my spirit to adore
Thee, ever-present, phantom thing—
My slave, my comrade, and my king.
A slave, because I rule thee still,
Incline thee to my changeful will,
And make thy influence good or ill;
A comrade, for by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight,—
My darling pain that wounds and sears,
And wrings a blessing out of tears
Be deadening me to earthly cares;
And yet, a king, though Prudence well
Have taught thy subject to rebel.
And I am wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt, nor Hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of Visions, plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee!
Speak, God of Visions
O, thy bright eyes must answer now,
When Reason, with a scornful brow,
Is mocking at my overthrow!
O, thy sweet tongue must plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee!
Stern Reason is to judgment come,
Arrayed in all her forms of gloom:
Wilt thou, my advocate, be dumb?
No, radiant angel, speak and say
Why I did cast the world away;
Why I have presevered to shun
The common paths that others run,
And on a strange road journeyed on,
Heedless alike of wealth and power,
Of Glory's wreath and Pleasure's flower.
These once, indeed, seemed Beings Divine;
And they, perchance, heard vows of mine,
And saw my offerings on their shrine;
But careless gifts are seldom prized,
And mine were worthily despised.
So, with a ready heart I swore
To seek their altar-stone no more;
And gave my spirit to adore
Thee, ever-present, phantom thing—
My slave, my comrade, and my king.
A slave, because I rule thee still,
Incline thee to my changeful will,
And make thy influence good or ill;
A comrade, for by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight,—
My darling pain that wounds and sears,
And wrings a blessing out of tears
Be deadening me to earthly cares;
And yet, a king, though Prudence well
Have taught thy subject to rebel.
And I am wrong to worship where
Faith cannot doubt, nor Hope despair,
Since my own soul can grant my prayer?
Speak, God of Visions, plead for me,
And tell why I have chosen thee
He Is God Almighty
He does not ask
for blind faith:
look at the evidence.
The universe is
and you did not create it.
You die if your air supply
is cut off
and you did make it.
You die if the earth stops
and you cannot replace it.
Ask Abraham and Melchizedek
Joseph and Mary submitted to Him.
Jesus adores Him.
Invite Him in today.
He will not refuse you.
His arms are outstretched still.
Invite Him in your heart.
He will come in and dwell with you.
He is God Almighty.
Change Me God Almighty
Change me God almighty; as you
are changing me, are trying to mend
that which my will and life has bend
and by your constant love I am becoming new
although in myself nothing good is due,
but I beg you to dwell with me to the end,
against the flaming demonic angels to defend,
my life, my longings and wits and to keep me true
and let me walk along your way again,
let all my own selfish ways die,
while with love you set me free
even if it brings me pain,
batter me so that I will know your love; will your kingdom see.
God give me good luck
God give me good luck
And the opportunity
To live with Jesus
God Of The Good Side
God of the good side
Brought me some good luck today
In the weather
And in my life also
God Bless Our Good and Gracious King
God bless our good and gracious kind,
Whose promise none relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.
God Has Been Good To Me
God has been good to me so many times-
How can I possibly thank God?
And when God has not been good to me?
And when God will not be good to me
In even more difficult ways
And in the final way?
I pray I will have the strength
To still not lose hope in God then.
Today... 'God Almighty
Hallelujah! The Lord God Almighty reigns
He who creates the wind and forms the mountains.
Holy, holy, holy the living creatures cry
To the Glorious and Almighty God on high.
Great and marvellous are the deeds He performs
He who turns dawn to into the darkest storms.
The great God who was, and is, and is to come
the LORD Almighty is his name, The Holy One.
(see also the additional information in the Poet's notes box below)
My Teachers! ! !
My Teachers are the towering trees
cold n thick;
under which i feel
a comfort, pleasure, endless ease...
I dive deep,
n daily dive
into the ocean
of their wisdom full of knowledge
which, by any manner of means,
stretches broad as skies
n deep like those seas...
My Teachers are those perfect guides
who taught me how to love n live,
never to take
but always to give
n give, just give
n keep on giving...
n taught me that, 'for to be social
is to be forgiving.'...
i feel honor,
to my great n worthy teachers,
to my honored second parents...
this is true, O God Almighty!
they purified n sustained
my raw n stubborn cruel self...
they are, O God! your gifted beings
they crafted my inner features...! !
(thanks saadat for worthy suggestions)
God's Been Good To Me
Well I can't believe I'm sittin' here today
Picking on my banjo with a big smile on my face
Writin' new words to an old school melody
Hey there ain't no doubt that God's been good to me
Oh the sun is shinin' on down in Tennessee
And right now where I'm right where I wanna be
I've never felt so loved, so peaceful and so free
Hey there ain't no doubt that God's been good to me
'Cause he put me smack dab in the middle of Paradise
In the heart of the city where my dreams have come alive
And everything I have, and everything I see
Is just another reminder that God's been good to me
This golden road's been long
And sometimes I've lost my way
I've been down some darkened detours
Leanin' heavy on my faith
But where the devil had me chained
Lord your love done set me free
Hallelujah! God's been good to me
(REPEAT CHORUS TWICE)
God Knows Im Good
I was walking through the counters of a national concern
And a cash machine was spitting by my shoulder
And I saw the multitude of faces, honest, rich and clean
As the merchandise exchanged and money roared
And a woman hot with worry slyly slipped a tin of stewing steak
Into the paper bag at her side
And her face was white with fear in case her actions
So she closed her eyes to keep her conscience blind
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
God may look the other way today
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
God may look the other way today
Then she moved toward the exit clutching tightly at her paper bag
Perspiration trickled down her forehead
And her heart it leapt inside her as the hand laid on her shoulder
She was led away bewildered and amazed
Through her deafened ears the cash machines were shrieking on the counter
As her escort asked her softly for her name
And a crowd of honest people rushed to help a tired old lady
Who had fainted to the whirling wooden floor
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
Surely God wont look the other way
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
God knows Im good
Surely God wont look the other way
As he builds me up for a path unknown,
He places peace and quietness, in a lost soul.
I could not fathom his purpose, why me.
Cries of sadness from those I love.
As my heart reaches out as they spoke.
I know joy is inside, I cry don't you see it!
Only you can bring it out!
I remember those tears I cried,
Fallow me on my quest of destiny;
take my hand as we walk.
My shoulder is bare, and my wisdom is free.
The love in my heart is just for you.
I will always be there!
Love is the answer, don't you see.
It's a greatness of life,
the ultimate pleasure we seek.
As years have past by,
I look deep inside their souls.
I see a longing, a desire, and a need!
When My Mind Is Vacant
I love it when my mind is vacant.
A feeling of no need to please,
Immediately surrounds me...
With an ease I can deal with.
There are no imposed ideals to impress.
And I feel free to care even less.
I love it when my mind is vacant.
No pressure at all I carry,
To deliver intelligent thoughts I might think.
And no one there to ask for mink!
~I just thought I'd throw that in,
To see if you were paying any attention...
To this love affair I have with self.~
Don't you feel good,
When you mysteriously catch people...
Minding their own business?
And you know 'something' is special about this.
So you do the best you can,
To introduce your mind to more rest.
I love it when my mind is vacant.
No pressure at all I carry,
To deliver intelligent thoughts I might think.
And no one there to ask for mink!
And I am left not to enforce those delusions on myself!
Why is my telephone ringing at this hour of the day?
'Mister Pertillar, I know you're there.
This is Robert Clarke from Clarke Collections.
We need to talk about your 'commitment to pay'.
Mister Pertillar? Mister Pertillar? I suggest you receive my call!
Mister Pertillar? This is going to have an adverse reflection,
On your credit standing!
You are going to ruin your future capabilities to get a loan.'
I made a commtment to stay married too.
But that didn't work out either!
Like I was saying...
I love it when my mind is vacant.
A feeling of no need to please,
Immediately surrounds me...
With an ease I can deal with.
There are no imposed ideals to impress.
And I feel free to care even less.
Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus
'No more of this, for Godde's dignity!'
Quoth oure Hoste; 'for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewedness,* *stupidity, ignorance
That, all so wisly* God my soule bless, *surely
Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. *worthless
Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* *commend to
This may well be rhyme doggerel,' quoth he.
'Why so?' quoth I; 'why wilt thou lette* me *prevent
More of my tale than any other man,
Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?'* *know
'By God!' quoth he, 'for, plainly at one word,
Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord:
Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. *wastest
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme.
Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* *by way of
Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least, narrative*
In which there be some mirth or some doctrine.'
'Gladly,' quoth I, 'by Godde's sweete pine,* *suffering
I will you tell a little thing in prose,
That oughte like* you, as I suppose, *please
Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* *fastidious
It is a moral tale virtuous,
*All be it* told sometimes in sundry wise *although it be*
By sundry folk, as I shall you devise.
As thus, ye wot that ev'ry Evangelist,
That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, *passion
He saith not all thing as his fellow doth;
But natheless their sentence is all soth,* *true
And all accorden as in their sentence,* *meaning
All be there in their telling difference;
For some of them say more, and some say less,
When they his piteous passion express;
I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
But doubteless their sentence is all one.
Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech,
If that ye think I vary in my speech,
As thus, though that I telle somedeal more
Of proverbes, than ye have heard before
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
*T'enforce with* the effect of my mattere, *with which to
And though I not the same wordes say enforce*
As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray
Blame me not; for as in my sentence
Shall ye nowhere finde no difference
From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** *this **little
After the which this merry tale I write.
And therefore hearken to what I shall say,
And let me tellen all my tale, I pray.'
A young man called Meliboeus, mighty and rich, begat upon his
wife, that called was Prudence, a daughter which that called was
Sophia. Upon a day befell, that he for his disport went into the
fields him to play. His wife and eke his daughter hath he left
within his house, of which the doors were fast shut. Three of his
old foes have it espied, and set ladders to the walls of his house,
and by the windows be entered, and beaten his wife, and
wounded his daughter with five mortal wounds, in five sundry
places; that is to say, in her feet, in her hands, in her ears, in her
nose, and in her mouth; and left her for dead, and went away.
When Meliboeus returned was into his house, and saw all this
mischief, he, like a man mad, rending his clothes, gan weep and
cry. Prudence his wife, as farforth as she durst, besought him of
his weeping for to stint: but not forthy [notwithstanding] he gan
to weep and cry ever longer the more.
This noble wife Prudence remembered her upon the sentence of
Ovid, in his book that called is the 'Remedy of Love,'
where he saith: He is a fool that disturbeth the mother to weep
in the death of her child, till she have wept her fill, as for a
certain time; and then shall a man do his diligence with amiable
words her to recomfort and pray her of her weeping for to stint
[cease]. For which reason this noble wife Prudence suffered her
husband for to weep and cry, as for a certain space; and when
she saw her time, she said to him in this wise: 'Alas! my lord,'
quoth she, 'why make ye yourself for to be like a fool? For
sooth it appertaineth not to a wise man to make such a sorrow.
Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall warish [be cured]
and escape. And all [although] were it so that she right now
were dead, ye ought not for her death yourself to destroy.
Seneca saith, 'The wise man shall not take too great discomfort
for the death of his children, but certes he should suffer it in
patience, as well as he abideth the death of his own proper
Meliboeus answered anon and said: 'What man,' quoth he,
'should of his weeping stint, that hath so great a cause to weep?
Jesus Christ, our Lord, himself wept for the death of Lazarus
his friend.' Prudence answered, 'Certes, well I wot,
attempered [moderate] weeping is nothing defended [forbidden]
to him that sorrowful is, among folk in sorrow but it is rather
granted him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans
writeth, 'Man shall rejoice with them that make joy, and weep
with such folk as weep.' But though temperate weeping be
granted, outrageous weeping certes is defended. Measure of
weeping should be conserved, after the lore [doctrine] that
teacheth us Seneca. 'When that thy friend is dead,' quoth he, 'let
not thine eyes too moist be of tears, nor too much dry: although
the tears come to thine eyes, let them not fall. And when thou
hast forgone [lost] thy friend, do diligence to get again another
friend: and this is more wisdom than to weep for thy friend
which that thou hast lorn [lost] for therein is no boot
[advantage]. And therefore if ye govern you by sapience, put
away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus
Sirach saith, 'A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it him
conserveth flourishing in his age: but soothly a sorrowful heart
maketh his bones dry.' He said eke thus, 'that sorrow in heart
slayth full many a man.' Solomon saith 'that right as moths in
the sheep's fleece annoy [do injury] to the clothes, and the small
worms to the tree, right so annoyeth sorrow to the heart of
man.' Wherefore us ought as well in the death of our children,
as in the loss of our goods temporal, have patience. Remember
you upon the patient Job, when he had lost his children and his
temporal substance, and in his body endured and received full
many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: 'Our Lord hath
given it to me, our Lord hath bereft it me; right as our Lord
would, right so be it done; blessed be the name of our Lord.''
To these foresaid things answered Meliboeus unto his wife
Prudence: 'All thy words,' quoth he, 'be true, and thereto
[also] profitable, but truly mine heart is troubled with this
sorrow so grievously, that I know not what to do.' 'Let call,'
quoth Prudence, 'thy true friends all, and thy lineage, which be
wise, and tell to them your case, and hearken what they say in
counselling, and govern you after their sentence [opinion].
Solomon saith, 'Work all things by counsel, and thou shall never
repent.'' Then, by counsel of his wife Prudence, this Meliboeus
let call [sent for] a great congregation of folk, as surgeons,
physicians, old folk and young, and some of his old enemies
reconciled (as by their semblance) to his love and to his grace;
and therewithal there come some of his neighbours, that did him
reverence more for dread than for love, as happeneth oft. There
come also full many subtle flatterers, and wise advocates
learned in the law. And when these folk together assembled
were, this Meliboeus in sorrowful wise showed them his case,
and by the manner of his speech it seemed that in heart he bare
a cruel ire, ready to do vengeance upon his foes, and suddenly
desired that the war should begin, but nevertheless yet asked he
their counsel in this matter. A surgeon, by licence and assent of
such as were wise, up rose, and to Meliboeus said as ye may
hear. 'Sir,' quoth he, 'as to us surgeons appertaineth, that we
do to every wight the best that we can, where as we be
withholden, [employed] and to our patient that we do no
damage; wherefore it happeneth many a time and oft, that when
two men have wounded each other, one same surgeon healeth
them both; wherefore unto our art it is not pertinent to nurse
war, nor parties to support [take sides]. But certes, as to the
warishing [healing] of your daughter, albeit so that perilously
she be wounded, we shall do so attentive business from day to
night, that, with the grace of God, she shall be whole and
sound, as soon as is possible.' Almost right in the same wise the
physicians answered, save that they said a few words more: that
right as maladies be cured by their contraries, right so shall man
warish war (by peace). His neighbours full of envy, his feigned
friends that seemed reconciled, and his flatterers, made
semblance of weeping, and impaired and agregged [aggravated]
much of this matter, in praising greatly Meliboeus of might, of
power, of riches, and of friends, despising the power of his
adversaries: and said utterly, that he anon should wreak him on
his foes, and begin war.
Up rose then an advocate that was wise, by leave and by
counsel of other that were wise, and said, 'Lordings, the need
[business] for which we be assembled in this place, is a full
heavy thing, and an high matter, because of the wrong and of
the wickedness that hath been done, and eke by reason of the
great damages that in time coming be possible to fall for the
same cause, and eke by reason of the great riches and power of
the parties both; for which reasons, it were a full great peril to
err in this matter. Wherefore, Meliboeus, this is our sentence
[opinion]; we counsel you, above all things, that right anon thou
do thy diligence in keeping of thy body, in such a wise that thou
want no espy nor watch thy body to save. And after that, we
counsel that in thine house thou set sufficient garrison, so that
they may as well thy body as thy house defend. But, certes, to
move war or suddenly to do vengeance, we may not deem
[judge] in so little time that it were profitable. Wherefore we
ask leisure and space to have deliberation in this case to deem;
for the common proverb saith thus; 'He that soon deemeth soon
shall repent.' And eke men say, that that judge is wise, that soon
understandeth a matter, and judgeth by leisure. For albeit so
that all tarrying be annoying, algates [nevertheless] it is no
reproof [subject for reproach] in giving of judgement, nor in
vengeance taking, when it is sufficient and, reasonable. And
that shewed our Lord Jesus Christ by example; for when that
the woman that was taken in adultery was brought in his
presence to know what should be done with her person, albeit
that he wist well himself what he would answer, yet would he
not answer suddenly, but he would have deliberation, and in the
ground he wrote twice. And by these causes we ask deliberation
and we shall then by the grace of God counsel the thing that
shall be profitable.'
Up started then the young folk anon at once, and the most part
of that company have scorned these old wise men and begun to
make noise and said, 'Right as while that iron is hot men should
smite, right so men should wreak their wrongs while that they
be fresh and new:' and with loud voice they cried. 'War! War!'
Up rose then one of these old wise, and with his hand made
countenance [a sign, gesture] that men should hold them still,
and give him audience. 'Lordings,' quoth he, 'there is full many
a man that crieth, 'War! war!' that wot full little what war
amounteth. War at his beginning hath so great an entering and
so large, that every wight may enter when him liketh, and lightly
[easily] find war: but certes what end shall fall thereof it is not
light to know. For soothly when war is once begun, there is full
many a child unborn of his mother, that shall sterve [die] young
by cause of that war, or else live in sorrow and die in
wretchedness; and therefore, ere that any war be begun, men
must have great counsel and great deliberation.' And when this
old man weened [thought, intended] to enforce his tale by
reasons, well-nigh all at once began they to rise for to break his
tale, and bid him full oft his words abridge. For soothly he that
preacheth to them that list not hear his words, his sermon them
annoyeth. For Jesus Sirach saith, that music in weeping is a
noyous [troublesome] thing. This is to say, as much availeth to
speak before folk to whom his speech annoyeth, as to sing
before him that weepeth. And when this wise man saw that him
wanted audience, all shamefast he sat him down again. For
Solomon saith, 'Where as thou mayest have no audience,
enforce thee not to speak.' 'I see well,' quoth this wise man,
'that the common proverb is sooth, that good counsel wanteth,
when it is most need.' Yet [besides, further] had this Meliboeus
in his council many folk, that privily in his ear counselled him
certain thing, and counselled him the contrary in general
audience. When Meliboeus had heard that the greatest part of
his council were accorded [in agreement] that he should make
war, anon he consented to their counselling, and fully affirmed
their sentence [opinion, judgement].
(Dame Prudence, seeing her husband's resolution thus taken, in
full humble wise, when she saw her time, begins to counsel him
against war, by a warning against haste in requital of either
good or evil. Meliboeus tells her that he will not work by her
counsel, because he should be held a fool if he rejected for her
advice the opinion of so many wise men; because all women are
bad; because it would seem that he had given her the mastery
over him; and because she could not keep his secret, if he
resolved to follow her advice. To these reasons Prudence
answers that it is no folly to change counsel when things, or
men's judgements of them, change - especially to alter a
resolution taken on the impulse of a great multitude of folk,
where every man crieth and clattereth what him liketh; that if all
women had been wicked, Jesus Christ would never have
descended to be born of a woman, nor have showed himself
first to a woman after his resurrection and that when Solomon
said he had found no good woman, he meant that God alone
was supremely good; that her husband would not seem to
give her the mastery by following her counsel, for he had his
own free choice in following or rejecting it; and that he knew
well and had often tested her great silence, patience, and
secrecy. And whereas he had quoted a saying, that in wicked
counsel women vanquish men, she reminds him that she would
counsel him against doing a wickedness on which he had set his
mind, and cites instances to show that many women have been
and yet are full good, and their counsel wholesome and
profitable. Lastly, she quotes the words of God himself, when
he was about to make woman as an help meet for man; and
promises that, if her husband will trust her counsel, she will
restore to him his daughter whole and sound, and make him
have honour in this case. Meliboeus answers that because of his
wife's sweet words, and also because he has proved and assayed
her great wisdom and her great truth, he will govern him by her
counsel in all things. Thus encouraged, Prudence enters on a
long discourse, full of learned citations, regarding the manner in
which counsellors should be chosen and consulted, and the
times and reasons for changing a counsel. First, God must be
besought for guidance. Then a man must well examine his own
thoughts, of such things as he holds to be best for his own
profit; driving out of his heart anger, covetousness, and
hastiness, which perturb and pervert the judgement. Then he
must keep his counsel secret, unless confiding it to another shall
be more profitable; but, in so confiding it, he shall say nothing
to bias the mind of the counsellor toward flattery or
subserviency. After that he should consider his friends and his
enemies, choosing of the former such as be most faithful and
wise, and eldest and most approved in counselling; and even of
these only a few. Then he must eschew the counselling of fools,
of flatterers, of his old enemies that be reconciled, of servants
who bear him great reverence and fear, of folk that be drunken
and can hide no counsel, of such as counsel one thing privily
and the contrary openly; and of young folk, for their counselling
is not ripe. Then, in examining his counsel, he must truly tell his
tale; he must consider whether the thing he proposes to do be
reasonable, within his power, and acceptable to the more part
and the better part of his counsellors; he must look at the things
that may follow from that counselling, choosing the best and
waiving all besides; he must consider the root whence the
matter of his counsel is engendered, what fruits it may bear,
and from what causes they be sprung. And having thus
examined his counsel and approved it by many wise folk and
old, he shall consider if he may perform it and make of it a good
end; if he be in doubt, he shall choose rather to suffer than to
begin; but otherwise he shall prosecute his resolution steadfastly
till the enterprise be at an end. As to changing his counsel, a
man may do so without reproach, if the cause cease, or when a
new case betides, or if he find that by error or otherwise harm
or damage may result, or if his counsel be dishonest or come of
dishonest cause, or if it be impossible or may not properly be
kept; and he must take it for a general rule, that every counsel
which is affirmed so strongly, that it may not be changed for
any condition that may betide, that counsel is wicked.
Meliboeus, admitting that his wife had spoken well and suitably
as to counsellors and counsel in general, prays her to tell him in
especial what she thinks of the counsellors whom they have
chosen in their present need. Prudence replies that his counsel in
this case could not properly be called a counselling, but a
movement of folly; and points out that he has erred in sundry
wise against the rules which he had just laid down. Granting
that he has erred, Meliboeus says that he is all ready to change
his counsel right as she will devise; for, as the proverb runs, to
do sin is human, but to persevere long in sin is work of the
Devil. Prudence then minutely recites, analyses, and criticises
the counsel given to her husband in the assembly of his friends.
She commends the advice of the physicians and surgeons, and
urges that they should be well rewarded for their noble speech
and their services in healing Sophia; and she asks Meliboeus
how he understands their proposition that one contrary must be
cured by another contrary. Meliboeus answers, that he should
do vengeance on his enemies, who had done him wrong.
Prudence, however, insists that vengeance is not the contrary of
vengeance, nor wrong of wrong, but the like; and that
wickedness should be healed by goodness, discord by accord,
war by peace. She proceeds to deal with the counsel of the
lawyers and wise folk that advised Meliboeus to take prudent
measures for the security of his body and of his house. First, she
would have her husband pray for the protection and aid of
Christ; then commit the keeping of his person to his true
friends; then suspect and avoid all strange folk, and liars, and
such people as she had already warned him against; then beware
of presuming on his strength, or the weakness of his adversary,
and neglecting to guard his person - for every wise man
dreadeth his enemy; then he should evermore be on the watch
against ambush and all espial, even in what seems a place of
safety; though he should not be so cowardly, as to fear where is
no cause for dread; yet he should dread to be poisoned, and
therefore shun scorners, and fly their words as venom. As to
the fortification of his house, she points out that towers and
great edifices are costly and laborious, yet useless unless
defended by true friends that be old and wise; and the greatest
and strongest garrison that a rich man may have, as well to keep
his person as his goods, is, that he be beloved by his subjects
and by his neighbours. Warmly approving the counsel that in all
this business Meliboeus should proceed with great diligence and
deliberation, Prudence goes on to examine the advice given by
his neighbours that do him reverence without love, his old
enemies reconciled, his flatterers that counselled him certain
things privily and openly counselled him the contrary, and the
young folk that counselled him to avenge himself and make war
at once. She reminds him that he stands alone against three
powerful enemies, whose kindred are numerous and close,
while his are fewer and remote in relationship; that only the
judge who has jurisdiction in a case may take sudden vengeance
on any man; that her husband's power does not accord with his
desire; and that, if he did take vengeance, it would only breed
fresh wrongs and contests. As to the causes of the wrong done
to him, she holds that God, the causer of all things, has
permitted him to suffer because he has drunk so much honey
of sweet temporal riches, and delights, and honours of this
world, that he is drunken, and has forgotten Jesus Christ his
Saviour; the three enemies of mankind, the flesh, the fiend, and
the world, have entered his heart by the windows of his body,
and wounded his soul in five places - that is to say, the deadly
sins that have entered into his heart by the five senses; and in
the same manner Christ has suffered his three enemies to enter
his house by the windows, and wound his daughter in the five
places before specified. Meliboeus demurs, that if his wife's
objections prevailed, vengeance would never be taken, and
thence great mischiefs would arise; but Prudence replies that the
taking of vengeance lies with the judges, to whom the private
individual must have recourse. Meliboeus declares that such
vengeance does not please him, and that, as Fortune has
nourished and helped him from his childhood, he will now assay
her, trusting, with God's help, that she will aid him to avenge his
shame. Prudence warns him against trusting to Fortune, all the
less because she has hitherto favoured him, for just on that
account she is the more likely to fail him; and she calls on him
to leave his vengeance with the Sovereign Judge, that avengeth
all villainies and wrongs. Meliboeus argues that if he refrains
from taking vengeance he will invite his enemies to do him
further wrong, and he will be put and held over low; but
Prudence contends that such a result can be brought about only
by the neglect of the judges, not by the patience of the
individual. Supposing that he had leave to avenge himself, she
repeats that he is not strong enough, and quotes the common
saw, that it is madness for a man to strive with a stronger than
himself, peril to strive with one of equal strength, and folly to
strive with a weaker. But, considering his own defaults and
demerits, - remembering the patience of Christ and the
undeserved tribulations of the saints, the brevity of this life with
all its trouble and sorrow, the discredit thrown on the wisdom
and training of a man who cannot bear wrong with patience -
he should refrain wholly from taking vengeance. Meliboeus
submits that he is not at all a perfect man, and his heart will
never be at peace until he is avenged; and that as his enemies
disregarded the peril when they attacked him, so he might,
without reproach, incur some peril in attacking them in return,
even though he did a great excess in avenging one wrong by
another. Prudence strongly deprecates all outrage or excess; but
Meliboeus insists that he cannot see that it might greatly harm
him though he took a vengeance, for he is richer and mightier
than his enemies, and all things obey money. Prudence
thereupon launches into a long dissertation on the advantages of
riches, the evils of poverty, the means by which wealth should
be gathered, and the manner in which it should be used; and
concludes by counselling her husband not to move war and
battle through trust in his riches, for they suffice not to maintain
war, the battle is not always to the strong or the numerous, and
the perils of conflict are many. Meliboeus then curtly asks her
for her counsel how he shall do in this need; and she answers
that certainly she counsels him to agree with his adversaries and
have peace with them. Meliboeus on this cries out that plainly
she loves not his honour or his worship, in counselling him to
go and humble himself before his enemies, crying mercy to them
that, having done him so grievous wrong, ask him not to be
reconciled. Then Prudence, making semblance of wrath, retorts
that she loves his honour and profit as she loves her own, and
ever has done; she cites the Scriptures in support of her counsel
to seek peace; and says she will leave him to his own courses,
for she knows well he is so stubborn, that he will do nothing for
her. Meliboeus then relents; admits that he is angry and cannot
judge aright; and puts himself wholly in her hands, promising to
do just as she desires, and admitting that he is the more held to
love and praise her, if she reproves him of his folly)
Then Dame Prudence discovered all her counsel and her will
unto him, and said: 'I counsel you,' quoth she, 'above all
things, that ye make peace between God and you, and be
reconciled unto Him and to his grace; for, as I have said to you
herebefore, God hath suffered you to have this tribulation and
disease [distress, trouble] for your sins; and if ye do as I say
you, God will send your adversaries unto you, and make them
fall at your feet, ready to do your will and your commandment.
For Solomon saith, 'When the condition of man is pleasant and
liking to God, he changeth the hearts of the man's adversaries,
and constraineth them to beseech him of peace of grace.' And I
pray you let me speak with your adversaries in privy place, for
they shall not know it is by your will or your assent; and then,
when I know their will and their intent, I may counsel you the
more surely.' ''Dame,' quoth Meliboeus, ''do your will and
your liking, for I put me wholly in your disposition and
Then Dame Prudence, when she saw the goodwill of her
husband, deliberated and took advice in herself, thinking how
she might bring this need [affair, emergency] unto a good end.
And when she saw her time, she sent for these adversaries to
come into her into a privy place, and showed wisely into them
the great goods that come of peace, and the great harms and
perils that be in war; and said to them, in goodly manner, how
that they ought have great repentance of the injuries and
wrongs that they had done to Meliboeus her Lord, and unto her
and her daughter. And when they heard the goodly words of
Dame Prudence, then they were surprised and ravished, and had
so great joy of her, that wonder was to tell. 'Ah lady!' quoth
they, 'ye have showed unto us the blessing of sweetness, after
the saying of David the prophet; for the reconciling which we
be not worthy to have in no manner, but we ought require it
with great contrition and humility, ye of your great goodness
have presented unto us. Now see we well, that the science and
conning [knowledge] of Solomon is full true; for he saith, that
sweet words multiply and increase friends, and make shrews
[the ill-natured or angry] to be debonair [gentle, courteous] and
meek. Certes we put our deed, and all our matter and cause, all
wholly in your goodwill, and be ready to obey unto the speech
and commandment of my lord Meliboeus. And therefore, dear
and benign lady, we pray you and beseech you as meekly as we
can and may, that it like unto your great goodness to fulfil in
deed your goodly words. For we consider and acknowledge
that we have offended and grieved my lord Meliboeus out of
measure, so far forth that we be not of power to make him
amends; and therefore we oblige and bind us and our friends to
do all his will and his commandment. But peradventure he hath
such heaviness and such wrath to usward, [towards us] because
of our offence, that he will enjoin us such a pain [penalty] as we
may not bear nor sustain; and therefore, noble lady, we beseech
to your womanly pity to take such advisement [consideration]
in this need, that we, nor our friends, be not disinherited and
destroyed through our folly.'
'Certes,' quoth Prudence, 'it is an hard thing, and right
perilous, that a man put him all utterly in the arbitration and
judgement and in the might and power of his enemy. For
Solomon saith, 'Believe me, and give credence to that that I
shall say: to thy son, to thy wife, to thy friend, nor to thy
brother, give thou never might nor mastery over thy body, while
thou livest.' Now, since he defendeth [forbiddeth] that a man
should not give to his brother, nor to his friend, the might of his
body, by a stronger reason he defendeth and forbiddeth a man
to give himself to his enemy. And nevertheless, I counsel you
that ye mistrust not my lord: for I wot well and know verily,
that he is debonair and meek, large, courteous and nothing
desirous nor envious of good nor riches: for there is nothing in
this world that he desireth save only worship and honour.
Furthermore I know well, and am right sure, that he shall
nothing do in this need without counsel of me; and I shall so
work in this case, that by the grace of our Lord God ye shall be
reconciled unto us.'
Then said they with one voice, ''Worshipful lady, we put us
and our goods all fully in your will and disposition, and be ready
to come, what day that it like unto your nobleness to limit us or
assign us, for to make our obligation and bond, as strong as it
liketh unto your goodness, that we may fulfil the will of you and
of my lord Meliboeus.'
When Dame Prudence had heard the answer of these men, she
bade them go again privily, and she returned to her lord
Meliboeus, and told him how she found his adversaries full
repentant, acknowledging full lowly their sins and trespasses,
and how they were ready to suffer all pain, requiring and
praying him of mercy and pity. Then said Meliboeus, 'He is well
worthy to have pardon and forgiveness of his sin, that excuseth
not his sin, but acknowledgeth, and repenteth him, asking
indulgence. For Seneca saith, 'There is the remission and
forgiveness, where the confession is; for confession is neighbour
to innocence.' And therefore I assent and confirm me to have
peace, but it is good that we do naught without the assent and
will of our friends.' Then was Prudence right glad and joyful,
and said, 'Certes, Sir, ye be well and goodly advised; for right
as by the counsel, assent, and help of your friends ye have been
stirred to avenge you and make war, right so without their
counsel shall ye not accord you, nor have peace with your
adversaries. For the law saith, 'There is nothing so good by way
of kind, [nature] as a thing to be unbound by him that it was
And then Dame Prudence, without delay or tarrying, sent anon
her messengers for their kin and for their old friends, which
were true and wise; and told them by order, in the presence of
Meliboeus, all this matter, as it is above expressed and declared;
and prayed them that they would give their advice and counsel
what were best to do in this need. And when Meliboeus' friends
had taken their advice and deliberation of the foresaid matter,
and had examined it by great business and great diligence, they
gave full counsel for to have peace and rest, and that Meliboeus
should with good heart receive his adversaries to forgiveness
and mercy. And when Dame Prudence had heard the assent of
her lord Meliboeus, and the counsel of his friends, accord with
her will and her intention, she was wondrous glad in her heart,
and said: 'There is an old proverb that saith, 'The goodness that
thou mayest do this day, do it, and abide not nor delay it not till
to-morrow:' and therefore I counsel you that ye send your
messengers, such as be discreet and wise, unto your adversaries,
telling them on your behalf, that if they will treat of peace and
of accord, that they shape [prepare] them, without delay or
tarrying, to come unto us.' Which thing performed was indeed.
And when these trespassers and repenting folk of their follies,
that is to say, the adversaries of Meliboeus, had heard what
these messengers said unto them, they were right glad and
joyful, and answered full meekly and benignly, yielding graces
and thanks to their lord Meliboeus, and to all his company; and
shaped them without delay to go with the messengers, and obey
to the commandment of their lord Meliboeus. And right anon
they took their way to the court of Meliboeus, and took with
them some of their true friends, to make faith for them, and for
to be their borrows [sureties].
And when they were come to the presence of Meliboeus, he
said to them these words; 'It stands thus,' quoth Meliboeus,
'and sooth it is, that ye causeless, and without skill and reason,
have done great injuries and wrongs to me, and to my wife
Prudence, and to my daughter also; for ye have entered into my
house by violence, and have done such outrage, that all men
know well that ye have deserved the death: and therefore will I
know and weet of you, whether ye will put the punishing and
chastising, and the vengeance of this outrage, in the will of me
and of my wife, or ye will not?' Then the wisest of them three
answered for them all, and said; 'Sir,' quoth he, 'we know well,
that we be I unworthy to come to the court of so great a lord
and so worthy as ye be, for we have so greatly mistaken us, and
have offended and aguilt [incurred guilt] in such wise against
your high lordship, that truly we have deserved the death. But
yet for the great goodness and debonairte [courtesy, gentleness]
that all the world witnesseth of your person, we submit us to
the excellence and benignity of your gracious lordship, and be
ready to obey to all your commandments, beseeching you, that
of your merciable [merciful] pity ye will consider our great
repentance and low submission, and grant us forgiveness of our
outrageous trespass and offence; for well we know, that your
liberal grace and mercy stretch them farther into goodness, than
do our outrageous guilt and trespass into wickedness; albeit that
cursedly [wickedly] and damnably we have aguilt [incurred
guilt] against your high lordship.' Then Meliboeus took them
up from the ground full benignly, and received their obligations
and their bonds, by their oaths upon their pledges and borrows,
[sureties] and assigned them a certain day to return unto his
court for to receive and accept sentence and judgement, that
Meliboeus would command to be done on them, by the causes
aforesaid; which things ordained, every man returned home to
And when that Dame Prudence saw her time she freined
[inquired] and asked her lord Meliboeus, what vengeance he
thought to take of his adversaries. To which Meliboeus
answered, and said; 'Certes,' quoth he, 'I think and purpose me
fully to disinherit them of all that ever they have, and for to put
them in exile for evermore.' 'Certes,' quoth Dame Prudence,
'this were a cruel sentence, and much against reason. For ye be
rich enough, and have no need of other men's goods; and ye
might lightly [easily] in this wise get you a covetous name,
which is a vicious thing, and ought to be eschewed of every
good man: for, after the saying of the Apostle, covetousness is
root of all harms. And therefore it were better for you to lose
much good of your own, than for to take of their good in this
manner. For better it is to lose good with worship [honour],
than to win good with villainy and shame. And every man ought
to do his diligence and his business to get him a good name.
And yet [further] shall he not only busy him in keeping his good
name, but he shall also enforce him alway to do some thing by
which he may renew his good name; for it is written, that the
old good los [reputation ] of a man is soon gone and
passed, when it is not renewed. And as touching that ye say,
that ye will exile your adversaries, that thinketh ye much against
reason, and out of measure, [moderation] considered the power
that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written,
that he is worthy to lose his privilege, that misuseth the might
and the power that is given him. And I set case [if I assume] ye
might enjoin them that pain by right and by law (which I trow
ye may not do), I say, ye might not put it to execution
peradventure, and then it were like to return to the war, as it
was before. And therefore if ye will that men do you obeisance,
ye must deem [decide] more courteously, that is to say, ye must
give more easy sentences and judgements. For it is written, 'He
that most courteously commandeth, to him men most obey.'
And therefore I pray you, that in this necessity and in this need
ye cast you [endeavour, devise a way] to overcome your heart.
For Seneca saith, that he that overcometh his heart, overcometh
twice. And Tullius saith, 'There is nothing so commendable in a
great lord, as when he is debonair and meek, and appeaseth him
lightly [easily].' And I pray you, that ye will now forbear to do
vengeance, in such a manner, that your good name may be kept
and conserved, and that men may have cause and matter to
praise you of pity and of mercy; and that ye have no cause to
repent you of thing that ye do. For Seneca saith, 'He
overcometh in an evil manner, that repenteth him of his victory.'
Wherefore I pray you let mercy be in your heart, to the effect
and intent that God Almighty have mercy upon you in his last
judgement; for Saint James saith in his Epistle, 'Judgement
without mercy shall be done to him, that hath no mercy of
When Meliboeus had heard the great skills [arguments, reasons]
and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise information and
teaching, his heart gan incline to the will of his wife, considering
her true intent, he conformed him anon and assented fully to
work after her counsel, and thanked God, of whom proceedeth
all goodness and all virtue, that him sent a wife of so great
discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should
appear in his presence, he spake to them full goodly, and said in
this wise; 'Albeit so, that of your pride and high presumption
and folly, an of your negligence and unconning, [ignorance] ye
have misborne [misbehaved] you, and trespassed [done injury]
unto me, yet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility,
and that ye be sorry and repentant of your guilts, it constraineth
me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you into my
grace, and forgive you utterly all the offences, injuries, and
wrongs, that ye have done against me and mine, to this effect
and to this end, that God of his endless mercy will at the time of
our dying forgive us our guilts, that we have trespassed to him
in this wretched world; for doubtless, if we be sorry and
repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the
sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciable [merciful],
that he will forgive us our guilts, and bring us to the bliss that
never hath end.' Amen.
The Parish Register - Part III: Burials
THERE was, 'tis said, and I believe, a time
When humble Christians died with views sublime;
When all were ready for their faith to bleed,
But few to write or wrangle for their creed;
When lively Faith upheld the sinking heart,
And friends, assured to meet, prepared to part;
When Love felt hope, when Sorrow grew serene,
And all was comfort in the death-bed scene.
Alas! when now the gloomy king they wait,
'Tis weakness yielding to resistless fate;
Like wretched men upon the ocean cast,
They labour hard and struggle to the last;
'Hope against hope,' and wildly gaze around
In search of help that never shall be found:
Nor, till the last strong billow stops the breath,
Will they believe them in the jaws of Death!
When these my Records I reflecting read,
And find what ills these numerous births succeed;
What powerful griefs these nuptial ties attend;
With what regret these painful journeys end;
When from the cradle to the grave I look,
Mine I conceive a melancholy book.
Where now is perfect resignation seen?
Alas! it is not on the village-green: -
I've seldom known, though I have often read,
Of happy peasants on their dying-bed;
Whose looks proclaimed that sunshine of the breast,
That more than hope, that Heaven itself express'd.
What I behold are feverish fits of strife,
'Twixt fears of dying and desire of life:
Those earthly hopes, that to the last endure;
Those fears, that hopes superior fail to cure;
At best a sad submission to the doom,
Which, turning from the danger, lets it come.
Sick lies the man, bewilder'd, lost, afraid,
His spirits vanquish'd, and his strength decay'd;
No hope the friend, the nurse, the doctor lend -
'Call then a priest, and fit him for his end.'
A priest is call'd; 'tis now, alas! too late,
Death enters with him at the cottage-gate;
Or time allow'd--he goes, assured to find
The self-commending, all-confiding mind;
And sighs to hear, what we may justly call
Death's common-place, the train of thought in all.
'True I'm a sinner,' feebly he begins,
'But trust in Mercy to forgive my sins:'
(Such cool confession no past crimes excite!
Such claim on Mercy seems the sinner's right!)
'I know mankind are frail, that God is just,
And pardons those who in his Mercy trust;
We're sorely tempted in a world like this -
All men have done, and I like all, amiss;
But now, if spared, it is my full intent
On all the past to ponder and repent:
Wrongs against me I pardon great and small,
And if I die, I die in peace with all.'
His merits thus and not his sins confess'd,
He speaks his hopes, and leaves to Heaven the rest.
Alas! are these the prospects, dull and cold,
That dying Christians to their priests unfold?
Or mends the prospect when th' enthusiast cries,
'I die assured!' and in a rapture dies?
Ah, where that humble, self-abasing mind,
With that confiding spirit, shall we find;
The mind that, feeling what repentance brings,
Dejection's terrors and Contrition's stings,
Feels then the hope that mounts all care above,
And the pure joy that flows from pardoning love?
Such have I seen in Death, and much deplore,
So many dying--that I see no more:
Lo! now my Records, where I grieve to trace
How Death has triumph'd in so short a space;
Who are the dead, how died they, I relate,
And snatch some portion of their acts from fate.
With Andrew Collett we the year begin,
The blind, fat landlord of the Old Crown Inn, -
Big as his butt, and, for the selfsame use,
To take in stores of strong fermenting juice.
On his huge chair beside the fire he sate,
In revel chief, and umpire in debate;
Each night his string of vulgar tales he told,
When ale was cheap and bachelors were bold:
His heroes all were famous in their days,
Cheats were his boast, and drunkards had his
'One, in three draughts, three mugs of ale took
As mugs were then--the champion of the Crown;
For thrice three days another lived on ale,
And knew no change but that of mild and stale;
Two thirsty soakers watch'd a vessel's side,
When he the tap, with dext'rous hand, applied;
Nor from their seats departed, till they found
That butt was out and heard the mournful sound.'
He praised a poacher, precious child of fun!
Who shot the keeper with his own spring gun;
Nor less the smuggler who th' exciseman tied,
And left him hanging at the birch-wood side,
There to expire;--but one who saw him hang
Cut the good cord--a traitor of the gang.
His own exploits with boastful glee he told,
What ponds he emptied and what pikes he sold;
And how, when blest with sight alert and gay,
The night's amusements kept him through the day.
He sang the praises of those times, when all
'For cards and dice, as for their drink, might
When justice wink'd on every jovial crew,
And ten-pins tumbled in the parson's view.'
He told, when angry wives, provoked to rail,
Or drive a third-day drunkard from his ale,
What were his triumphs, and how great the skill
That won the vex'd virago to his will;
Who raving came;--then talked in milder strain, -
Then wept, then drank, and pledged her spouse
Such were his themes : how knaves o'er laws
Or, when made captives, how they fly from jail;
The young how brave, how subtle were the old:
And oaths attested all that Folly told.
On death like his what name shall we bestow,
So very sudden! yet so very slow?
'Twas slow: --Disease, augmenting year by year,
Show'd the grim king by gradual steps brought near:
'Twas not less sudden; in the night he died,
He drank, he swore, he jested, and he lied;
Thus aiding folly with departing breath: -
'Beware, Lorenzo, the slow-sudden death.'
Next died the Widow Goe, an active dame,
Famed ten miles round, and worthy all her fame;
She lost her husband when their loves were young,
But kept her farm, her credit, and her tongue:
Full thirty years she ruled, with matchless skill,
With guiding judgment and resistless will;
Advice she scorn'd, rebellions she suppress'd,
And sons and servants bow'd at her behest.
Like that great man's, who to his Saviour came,
Were the strong words of this commanding dame; -
'Come,' if she said, they came; if 'Go,' were gone;
And if 'Do this,'--that instant it was done:
Her maidens told she was all eye and ear,
In darkness saw and could at distance hear;
No parish-business in the place could stir,
Without direction or assent from her;
In turn she took each office as it fell,
Knew all their duties and discharged them well;
The lazy vagrants in her presence shook,
And pregnant damsels fear'd her stern rebuke;
She look'd on want with judgment clear and cool,
And felt with reason and bestow'd by rule;
She match'd both sons and daughters to her mind,
And lent them eyes, for Love, she heard, was blind;
Yet ceaseless still she throve, alert, alive,
The working bee, in full or empty hive;
Busy and careful, like that working bee,
No time for love nor tender cares had she;
But when our farmers made their amorous vows,
She talk'd of market-steeds and patent-ploughs.
Not unemploy'd her evenings pass'd away,
Amusement closed, as business waked the day;
When to her toilet's brief concern she ran,
And conversation with her friends began,
Who all were welcome, what they saw, to share;
And joyous neighbours praised her Christmas fare,
That none around might, in their scorn, complain
Of Gossip Goe as greedy in her gain.
Thus long she reign'd, admired, if not approved;
Praised, if not honour'd; fear'd, if not beloved; -
When, as the busy days of Spring drew near,
That call'd for all the forecast of the year;
When lively hope the rising crops surveyed,
And April promised what September paid;
When stray'd her lambs where gorse and greenwood
When rose her grass in richer vales below;
When pleased she look'd on all the smiling land,
And view'd the hinds, who wrought at her command;
(Poultry in groups still follow'd where she went
Then dread o'ercame her,--that her days were spent.
'Bless me! I die, and not a warning giv'n, -
With MUCH to do on Earth, and ALL for Heav'n? -
No reparation for my soul's affairs,
No leave petition'd for the barn's repairs;
Accounts perplex'd, my interest yet unpaid,
My mind unsettled, and my will unmade; -
A lawyer haste, and in your way, a priest;
And let me die in one good work at least.'
She spake, and, trembling, dropp'd upon her knees,
Heaven in her eye and in her hand her keys;
And still the more she found her life decay,
With greater force she grasp'd those signs of sway:
Then fell and died!--In haste her sons drew near,
And dropp'd, in haste, the tributary tear;
Then from th' adhering clasp the keys unbound,
And consolation for their sorrows found.
Death has his infant-train; his bony arm
Strikes from the baby-cheek the rosy charm;
The brightest eye his glazing film makes dim,
And his cold touch sets fast the lithest limb:
He seized the sick'ning boy to Gerard lent,
When three days' life, in feeble cries, were spent;
In pain brought forth, those painful hours to stay,
To breathe in pain and sigh its soul away!
'But why thus lent, if thus recall'd again,
To cause and feel, to live and die in pain?'
Or rather say, Why grevious these appear,
If all it pays for Heaven's eternal year;
If these sad sobs and piteous sighs secure
Delights that live, when worlds no more endure?
The sister-spirit long may lodge below,
And pains from nature, pains from reason, know:
Through all the common ills of life may run,
By hope perverted and by love undone;
A wife's distress, a mother's pangs, may dread,
And widow-tears, in bitter anguish, shed;
May at old age arrive through numerous harms,
With children's children in those feeble arms:
Nor till by years of want and grief oppress'd
Shall the sad spirit flee and be at rest!
Yet happier therefore shall we deem the boy,
Secured from anxious care and dangerous joy?
Not so! for then would Love Divine in vain
Send all the burthens weary men sustain;
All that now curb the passions when they rage,
The checks of youth and the regrets of age;
All that now bid us hope, believe, endure,
Our sorrow's comfort and our vice's cure;
All that for Heaven's high joys the spirits train,
And charity, the crown of all, were vain.
Say, will you call the breathless infant blest,
Because no cares the silent grave molest?
So would you deem the nursling from the wing
Untimely thrust and never train'd to sing;
But far more blest the bird whose grateful voice
Sings its own joy and makes the woods rejoice,
Though, while untaught, ere yet he charm'd the ear,
Hard were his trials and his pains severe!
Next died the LADY who yon Hall possess'd,
And here they brought her noble bones to rest.
In Town she dwelt;--forsaken stood the Hall:
Worms ate the floors, the tap'stry fled the wall:
No fire the kitchen's cheerless grate display'd;
No cheerful light the long-closed sash convey'd:
The crawling worm, that turns a summer fly,
Here spun his shroud and laid him up to die
The winter-death:- upon the bed of state,
The bat shrill shrieking woo'd his flickering mate;
To empty rooms the curious came no more;
From empty cellars turn'd the angry poor,
And surly beggars cursed the ever-bolted door.
To one small room the steward found his way
Where tenants follow'd to complain and pay;
Yet no complaint before the Lady came,
The feeling servant spared the feeble dame;
Who saw her farms with his observing eyes,
And answer'd all requests with his replies; -
She came not down, her falling groves to view;
Why should she know, what one so faithful knew?
Why come, from many clamorous tongues to hear,
What one so just might whisper in her ear?
Her oaks or acres, why with care explore;
Why learn the wants, the sufferings of the poor;
When one so knowing all their worth could trace,
And one so piteous govern'd in her place?
Lo! now, what dismal Sons of Darkness come,
To bear this Daughter of Indulgence home;
Tragedians all, and well-arranged in black!
Who nature, feeling, force, expression lack;
Who cause no tear, but gloomily pass by,
And shake their sables in the wearied eye,
That turns disgusted from the pompous scene,
Proud without grandeur, with profusion, mean
The tear for kindness past affection owes;
For worth deceased the sigh from reason flows
E'en well feign'd passion for our sorrows call,
And real tears for mimic miseries fall:
But this poor farce has neither truth nor art,
To please the fancy or to touch the heart;
Unlike the darkness of the sky, that pours
On the dry ground its fertilizing showers;
Unlike to that which strikes the soul with dread,
When thunders roar and forky fires are shed;
Dark but not awful, dismal but yet mean,
With anxious bustle moves the cumbrous scene;
Presents no objects tender or profound,
But spreads its cold unmeaning gloom around.
When woes are feign'd, how ill such forms
And oh! how needless, when the woe's sincere.
Slow to the vault they come, with heavy tread,
Bending beneath the Lady and her lead;
A case of elm surrounds that ponderous chest,
Close on that case the crimson velvet's press'd;
Ungenerous this, that to the worm denies,
With niggard-caution, his appointed prize;
For now, ere yet he works his tedious way,
Through cloth and wood and metal to his prey,
That prey dissolving shall a mass remain,
That fancy loathes and worms themselves disdain.
But see! the master-mourner makes his way,
To end his office for the coffin'd clay;
Pleased that our rustic men and maids behold
His plate like silver, and his studs like gold,
As they approach to spell the age, the name,
And all the titles of the illustrious dame.-
This as (my duty done) some scholar read,
A Village-father look'd disdain and said:
'Away, my friends! why take such pains to know
What some brave marble soon in church shall show?
Where not alone her gracious name shall stand,
But how she lived--the blessing of the land;
How much we all deplored the noble dead,
What groans we utter'd and what tears we shed;
Tears, true as those which in the sleepy eyes
Of weeping cherubs on the stone shall rise;
Tears, true as those which, ere she found her
The noble Lady to our sorrows gave.'
Down by the church-way walk, and where the brook
Winds round the chancel like a shepherd's crook;
In that small house, with those green pales before,
Where jasmine trails on either side the door;
Where those dark shrubs, that now grow wild at
Were clipped in form and tantalised with skill;
Where cockles blanch'd and pebbles neatly spread,
Form'd shining borders for the larkspurs' bed;
There lived a Lady, wise, austere, and nice,
Who show'd her virtue by her scorn of vice;
In the dear fashions of her youth she dress'd,
A pea-green Joseph was her favourite vest;
Erect she stood, she walk'd with stately mien,
Tight was her length of stays, and she was tall and
There long she lived in maiden-state immured,
From looks of love and treacherous man secured;
Though evil fame--(but that was long before)
Had blown her dubious blast at Catherine's door:
A Captain thither, rich from India came,
And though a cousin call'd, it touch'd her fame:
Her annual stipend rose from his behest,
And all the long-prized treasures she possess'd:-
If aught like joy awhile appear'd to stay
In that stern face, and chase those frowns away,
'Twas when her treasures she disposed for view
And heard the praises to their splendour due;
Silks beyond price, so rich, they'd stand alone,
And diamonds blazing on the buckled zone;
Rows of rare pearls by curious workmen set,
And bracelets fair in box of glossy jet;
Bright polish'd amber precious from its size,
Or forms the fairest fancy could devise:
Her drawers of cedar, shut with secret springs,
Conceal'd the watch of gold and rubied rings;
Letters, long proofs of love, and verses fine
Round the pink'd rims of crisped Valentine.
Her china-closet, cause of daily care,
For woman's wonder held her pencill'd ware;
That pictured wealth of China and Japan,
Like its cold mistress, shunn'd the eye of man.
Her neat small room, adorn'd with maiden-taste,
A clipp'd French puppy, first of favourites,
A parrot next, but dead and stuff'd with art;
(For Poll, when living, lost the Lady's heart,
And then his life; for he was heard to speak
Such frightful words as tinged his Lady's cheek
Unhappy bird! who had no power to prove,
Save by such speech, his gratitude and love.
A gray old cat his whiskers lick'd beside;
A type of sadness in the house of pride.
The polish'd surface of an India chest,
A glassy globe, in frame of ivory, press'd;
Where swam two finny creatures; one of gold,
Of silver one; both beauteous to behold:-
All these were form'd the guiding taste to suit;
The beast well-manner'd and the fishes mute.
A widow'd Aunt was there, compell'd by need
The nymph to flatter and her tribe to feed;
Who veiling well her scorn, endured the clog,
Mute as the fish and fawning as the dog.
As years increased, these treasures, her
Arose in value in their owner's sight:
A miser knows that, view it as he will,
A guinea kept is but a guinea still;
And so he puts it to its proper use,
That something more this guinea may produce;
But silks and rings, in the possessor's eyes,
The oft'ner seen, the more in value rise,
And thus are wisely hoarded to bestow
The kind of pleasure that with years will grow.
But what avail'd their worth--if worth had they
In the sad summer of her slow decay?
Then we beheld her turn an anxious look
From trunks and chests, and fix it on her book, -
A rich-bound Book of Prayer the Captain gave,
(Some Princess had it, or was said to have
And then once more on all her stores look round,
And draw a sigh so piteous and profound,
That told, 'Alas! how hard from these to part,
And for new hopes and habits form the heart!
What shall I do (she cried,) my peace of mind
To gain in dying, and to die resign'd?'
'Hear,' we return'd;--'these baubles cast aside,
Nor give thy God a rival in thy pride;
Thy closets shut, and ope thy kitchen's door;
There own thy failings, here invite the poor;
A friend of Mammon let thy bounty make;
For widows' prayers, thy vanities forsake;
And let the hungry of thy pride partake:
Then shall thy inward eye with joy survey
The angel Mercy tempering Death's delay!'
Alas! 'twas hard; the treasures still had
Hope still its flattery, sickness its alarms;
Still was the same unsettled, clouded view,
And the same plaintive cry, 'What shall I do?'
Nor change appear'd; for when her race was run,
Doubtful we all exclaim'd, 'What has been done?'
Apart she lived, and still she lies alone;
Yon earthy heap awaits the flattering stone
On which invention shall be long employ'd,
To show the various worth of Catherine Lloyd.
Next to these ladies, but in nought allied,
A noble Peasant, Isaac Ashford, died.
Noble he was, contemning all things mean,
His truth unquestion'd and his soul serene:
Of no man's presence Isaac felt afraid;
At no man's question Isaac looked dismay'd:
Shame knew him not, he dreaded no disgrace;
Truth, simple truth, was written in his face:
Yet while the serious thought his soul approved,
Cheerful he seem'd, and gentleness he loved;
To bliss domestic he his heart resign'd,
And with the firmest had the fondest mind;
Were others joyful, he look'd smiling on,
And gave allowance where he needed none;
Good he refused with future ill to buy,
Nor knew a joy that caused reflection's sigh;
A friend to virtue, his unclouded breast
No envy stung, no jealousy distress'd;
(Bane of the poor! it wounds their weaker mind,
To miss one favour, which their neighbours find
Yet far was he from stoic pride removed;
He felt humanely, and he warmly loved:
I mark'd his action, when his infant died,
And his old neighbour for offence was tried;
The still tears, stealing down that furrow'd cheek,
Spoke pity, plainer than the tongue can speak.
If pride were his, 'twas not their vulgar pride,
Who, in their base contempt, the great deride;
Nor pride in learning,--though my Clerk agreed,
If fate should call him, Ashford might succeed;
Nor pride in rustic skill, although we knew
None his superior, and his equals few:-
But if that spirit in his soul had place,
It was the jealous pride that shuns disgrace;
A pride in honest fame, by virtue gain'd,
In sturdy boys to virtuous labours train'd;
Pride in the power that guards his country's coast,
And all that Englishmen enjoy and boast;
Pride in a life that slander's tongue defied, -
In fact a noble passion, misnamed Pride.
He had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim;
Christian and countrymen was all with him:
True to his church he came; no Sunday-shower
Kept him at home in that important hour;
Nor his firm feet could one persuading sect,
By the strong glare of their new light direct:-
'On hope, in mine own sober light, I gaze,
But should be blind, and lose it, in your blaze.'
In times severe, when many a sturdy swain
Felt it his pride, his comfort to complain;
Isaac their wants would soothe, his own would hide,
And feel in that his comfort and his pride.
At length he found when seventy years were run,
His strength departed, and his labour done;
When he, save honest fame, retain'd no more,
But lost his wife, and saw his children poor:
'Twas then a spark of--say not discontent -
Struck on his mind, and thus he gave it vent:-
'Kind are your laws ('tis not to be denied,)
That in yon House for ruin'd age provide,
And they are just;--when young we give you all,
And for assistance in our weakness call.-
Why then this proud reluctance to be fed,
To join your poor, and eat the parish bread?
But yet I linger, loth with him to feed,
Who gains his plenty by the sons of need;
He who, by contract, all your paupers took,
And gauges stomachs with an anxious look:
On some old master I could well depend;
See him with joy and thank him as a friend;
But ill on him who doles the day's supply,
And counts our chances who at night may die:
Yet help me, Heav'n! and let me not complain
Of what I suffer, but my fate sustain.'
Such were his thoughts, and so resign'd he grew;
Daily he placed the Workhouse in his view!
But came not there, for sudden was his fate,
He dropp'd, expiring, at his cottage gate.
I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,
And view his seat, and sigh for Isaac there:
I see no more these white locks thinly spread
Round the bald polish of that honour'd head;
No more that awful glance on playful wight,
Compell'd to kneel and tremble at the sight,
To fold his fingers, all in dread the while,
Till Mister Ashford soften'd to a smile;
No more that meek and suppliant look in prayer,
Nor the pure faith (to give it force), are there:
But he is blest, and I lament no more
A wise good man contented to be poor.
Then died a Rambler: not the one who sails,
And trucks, for female favours, beads and nails;
Not one who posts from place to place--of men
And manners treating with a flying pen;
Not he who climbs, for prospects, Snowdon's height,
And chides the clouds that intercept the sight;
No curious shell, rare plant, or brilliant spar,
Enticed our traveller from his house so far;
But all the reason by himself assign'd
For so much rambling, was a restless mind;
As on, from place to place, without intent,
Without reflection, Robin Dingley went.
Not thus by nature:- never man was found
Less prone to wander from his parish bound:
Claudian's Old Man, to whom all scenes were new,
Save those where he and where his apples grew,
Resembled Robin, who around would look,
And his horizon for the earth's mistook.
To this poor swain a keen Attorney came; -
'I give thee joy, good fellow! on thy name;
The rich old Dingley's dead;--no child has he,
Nor wife, nor will; his ALL is left for thee:
To be his fortune's heir thy claim is good;
Thou hast the name, and we will prove the blood.'
The claim was made; 'twas tried,--it would not
They proved the blood but were refused the land.
Assured of wealth, this man of simple heart
To every friend had predisposed a part;
His wife had hopes indulged of various kind;
The three Miss Dingleys had their school assign'd,
Masters were sought for what they each required,
And books were bought and harpsichords were hired;
So high was hope:- the failure touched his brain,
And Robin never was himself again;
Yet he no wrath, no angry wish express'd,
But tried, in vain, to labour or to rest;
Then cast his bundle on his back, and went
He knew not whither, nor for what intent.
Years fled;--of Robin all remembrance past,
When home he wandered in his rags at last:
A sailor's jacket on his limbs was thrown,
A sailor's story he had made his own;
Had suffer'd battles, prisons, tempests, storms,
Encountering death in all its ugliest forms:
His cheeks were haggard, hollow was his eye,
Where madness lurk'd, conceal'd in misery;
Want, and th' ungentle world, had taught a part,
And prompted cunning to that simple heart:
'He now bethought him, he would roam no more
But live at home and labour as before.'
Here clothed and fed, no sooner he began
To round and redden, than away he ran;
His wife was dead, their children past his aid,
So, unmolested, from his home he stray'd:
Six years elapsed, when, worn with want and pain.
Came Robin, wrapt in all his rags again:
We chide, we pity;--placed among our poor,
He fed again, and was a man once more.
As when a gaunt and hungry fox is found,
Entrapp'd alive in some rich hunter's ground;
Fed for the field, although each day's a feast,
FATTEN you may, but never TAME the beast;
A house protects him, savoury viands sustain:-
But loose his neck and off he goes again:
So stole our Vagrant from his warm retreat,
To rove a prowler and be deemed a cheat.
Hard was his fare; for him at length we saw
In cart convey'd and laid supine on straw.
His feeble voice now spoke a sinking heart;
His groans now told the motions of the cart:
And when it stopp'd, he tried in vain to stand;
Closed was his eye, and clench'd his clammy hand:
Life ebb'd apace, and our best aid no more
Could his weak sense or dying heart restore:
But now he fell, a victim to the snare
That vile attorneys for the weak prepare;
They who when profit or resentment call,
Heed not the groaning victim they enthrall.
Then died lamented in the strength of life,
A valued MOTHER and a faithful WIFE;
Call'd not away when time had loosed each hold
On the fond heart, and each desire grew cold;
But when, to all that knit us to our kind,
She felt fast-bound, as charity can bind; -
Not when the ills of age, its pain, its care,
The drooping spirit for its fate prepare;
And, each affection failing, leaves the heart
Loosed from life's charm, and willing to depart;
But all her ties the strong invader broke,
In all their strength, by one tremendous stroke!
Sudden and swift the eager pest came on,
And terror grew, till every hope was gone;
Still those around appear'd for hope to seek!
But view'd the sick and were afraid to speak.
Slowly they bore, with solemn step, the dead;
When grief grew loud and bitter tears were shed,
My part began; a crowd drew near the place,
Awe in each eye, alarm in every face:
So swift the ill, and of so fierce a kind,
That fear with pity mingled in each mind;
Friends with the husband came their griefs to
For good-man Frankford was to all a friend.
The last-born boy they held above the bier,
He knew not grief, but cries express'd his fear;
Each different age and sex reveal'd its pain,
In now a louder, now a lower strain;
While the meek father listening to their tones,
Swell'd the full cadence of the grief by groans.
The elder sister strove her pangs to hide,
And soothing words to younger minds applied'.
'Be still, be patient;' oft she strove to stay;
But fail'd as oft, and weeping turn'd away.
Curious and sad, upon the fresh-dug hill
The village lads stood melancholy still;
And idle children, wandering to and fro.
As Nature guided, took the tone of woe.
Arrived at home, how then they gazed around
On every place--where she no more was found; -
The seat at table she was wont to fill;
The fire-side chair, still set, but vacant still;
The garden-walks, a labour all her own;
The latticed bower, with trailing shrubs o'ergrown,
The Sunday-pew she fill'd with all her race, -
Each place of hers, was now a sacred place
That, while it call'd up sorrows in the eyes,
Pierced the full heart and forced them still to
Oh sacred sorrow! by whom souls are tried,
Sent not to punish mortals, but to guide;
If thou art mine (and who shall proudly dare
To tell his Maker, he has had a share!)
Still let me feel for what thy pangs are sent,
And be my guide, and not my punishment!
Of Leah Cousins next the name appears,
With honours crown'd and blest with length of
Save that she lived to feel, in life's decay,
The pleasure die, the honours drop away;
A matron she, whom every village-wife
View'd as the help and guardian of her life,
Fathers and sons, indebted to her aid,
Respect to her and her profession paid;
Who in the house of plenty largely fed,
Yet took her station at the pauper's bed;
Nor from that duty could be bribed again,
While fear or danger urged her to remain:
In her experience all her friends relied.
Heaven was her help and nature was her guide.
Thus Leah lived; long trusted, much caress'd,
Till a Town-Dame a youthful farmer bless'd;
A gay vain bride, who would example give
To that poor village where she deign'd to live;
Some few months past, she sent, in hour of need,
For Doctor Glibb, who came with wond'rous speed,
Two days he waited, all his art applied,
To save the mother when her infant died: -
''Twas well I came,' at last he deign'd to say;
''Twas wondrous well;'--and proudly rode away.
The news ran round;--'How vast the Doctor's
He saved the Lady in the trying hour;
Saved her from death, when she was dead to hope,
And her fond husband had resign'd her up:
So all, like her, may evil fate defy,
If Doctor Glibb, with saving hand, be nigh.
Fame (now his friend), fear, novelty, and whim,
And fashion, sent the varying sex to him:
From this, contention in the village rose;
And these the Dame espoused; the Doctor those,
The wealthier part to him and science went;
With luck and her the poor remain'd content.
The Matron sigh'd; for she was vex'd at heart,
With so much profit, so much fame, to part:
'So long successful in my art,' she cried,
'And this proud man, so young and so untried!'
'Nay,' said the Doctor, 'dare you trust your wives,
The joy, the pride, the solace of your lives,
To one who acts and knows no reason why,
But trusts, poor hag! to luck for an ally? -
Who, on experience, can her claims advance,
And own the powers of accident and chance?
A whining dame, who prays in danger's view,
(A proof she knows not what beside to do
What's her experience? In the time that's gone,
Blundering she wrought, and still she blunders on:-
And what is Nature? One who acts in aid
Of gossips half asleep and half afraid:
With such allies I scorn my fame to blend,
Skill is my luck and courage is my friend:
No slave to Nature, 'tis my chief delight
To win my way and act in her despite:-
Trust then my art, that, in itself complete,
Needs no assistance and fears no defeat.'
Warm'd by her well-spiced ale and aiding pipe,
The angry Matron grew for contest ripe.
'Can you,' she said, 'ungrateful and unjust,
Before experience, ostentation trust!
What is your hazard, foolish daughters, tell?
If safe, you're certain; if secure, you're well:
That I have luck must friend and foe confess,
And what's good judgment but a lucky guess?
He boasts, but what he can do: --will you run
From me, your friend! who, all lie boasts, have
By proud and learned words his powers are known;
By healthy boys and handsome girls my own:
Wives! fathers! children! by my help you live;
Has this pale Doctor more than life to give?
No stunted cripple hops the village round;
Your hands are active and your heads are sound;
My lads are all your fields and flocks require;
My lasses all those sturdy lads admire.
Can this proud leech, with all his boasted skill,
Amend the soul or body, wit or will?
Does he for courts the sons of farmers frame,
Or make the daughter differ from the dame?
Or, whom he brings into this world of woe,
Prepares he them their part to undergo?
If not, this stranger from your doors repel,
And be content to BE and to be WELL.'
She spake; but, ah! with words too strong and
Her warmth offended, and her truth was vain:
The many left her, and the friendly few,
If never colder, yet they older grew;
Till, unemploy'd, she felt her spirits droop,
And took, insidious aid! th' inspiring cup;
Grew poor and peevish as her powers decay'd,
And propp'd the tottering frame with stronger aid,
Then died! I saw our careful swains convey,
From this our changeful world, the Matron's clay,
Who to this world, at least, with equal care,
Brought them its changes, good and ill, to share.
Now to his grave was Roger Cuff conveyed,
And strong resentment's lingering spirit laid.
Shipwreck'd in youth, he home return'd, and found
His brethren three--and thrice they wish'd him
'Is this a landsman's love? Be certain then,
'We part for ever!'--and they cried, 'Amen!'
His words were truth's:- Some forty summers
His brethren died; his kin supposed him dead:
Three nephews these, one sprightly niece, and one,
Less near in blood--they call'd him surly John;
He work'd in woods apart from all his kind,
Fierce were his looks and moody was his mind.
For home the sailor now began to sigh:-
'The dogs are dead, and I'll return and die;
When all I have, my gains, in years of care,
The younger Cuffs with kinder souls shall share -
Yet hold! I'm rich;--with one consent they'll say,
'You're welcome, Uncle, as the flowers in May.'
No; I'll disguise me, be in tatters dress'd,
And best befriend the lads who treat me best.'
Now all his kindred,--neither rich nor poor, -
Kept the wolf want some distance from the door.
In piteous plight he knock'd at George's gate,
And begg'd for aid, as he described his state:-
But stern was George;--'Let them who had thee
Help thee to drag thy weaken'd frame along;
To us a stranger, while your limbs would move,
From us depart, and try a stranger's love:-
'Ha! dost thou murmur?'--for, in Roger's throat,
Was 'Rascal!' rising with disdainful note.
To pious James he then his prayer address'd; -
'Good-lack,' quoth James, 'thy sorrows pierce my
And, had I wealth, as have my brethren twain,
One board should feed us and one roof contain:
But plead I will thy cause, and I will pray:
And so farewell! Heaven help thee on thy way!'
'Scoundrel!' said Roger (but apart);--and told
His case to Peter;--Peter too was cold;
'The rates are high; we have a-many poor;
But I will think,'--he said, and shut the door.
Then the gay niece the seeming pauper press'd; -
'Turn, Nancy, turn, and view this form distress'd:
Akin to thine is this declining frame,
And this poor beggar claims an Uncle's name.'
'Avaunt! begone!' the courteous maiden said,
'Thou vile impostor! Uncle Roger's dead:
I hate thee, beast; thy look my spirit shocks;
Oh! that I saw thee starving in the stocks!'
'My gentle niece!' he said--and sought the wood,
'I hunger, fellow; prithee, give me food!'
'Give! am I rich? This hatchet take, and try
Thy proper strength, nor give those limbs the lie;
Work, feed thyself, to thine own powers appeal,
Nor whine out woes thine own right-hand can heal;
And while that hand is thine, and thine a leg,
Scorn of the proud or of the base to beg.'
'Come, surly John, thy wealthy kinsman view,'
Old Roger said;--'thy words are brave and true;
Come, live with me: we'll vex those scoundrel-
And that prim shrew shall, envying, hear our joys.
Tobacco's glorious fume all day we'll share,
With beef and brandy kill all kinds of care;
We'll beer and biscuit on our table heap,
And rail at rascals, till we fall asleep.'
Such was their life; but when the woodman died,
His grieving kin for Roger's smiles applied -
In vain; he shut, with stern rebuke, the door,
And dying, built a refuge for the poor,
With this restriction, That no Cuff should share
One meal, or shelter for one moment there.
My Record ends:- But hark! e'en now I hear
The bell of death, and know not whose to fear:
Our farmers all, and all our hinds were well;
In no man's cottage danger seem'd to dwell: -
Yet death of man proclaim these heavy chimes,
For thrice they sound, with pausing space, three
'Go; of my Sexton seek, Whose days are sped? -
What! he, himself!- and is old Dibble dead?'
His eightieth year he reach'd, still undecay d,
And rectors five to one close vault convey'd:-
But he is gone; his care and skill I lose,
And gain a mournful subject for my Muse:
His masters lost, he'd oft in turn deplore,
And kindly add,--'Heaven grant, I lose no more!'
Yet, while he spake, a sly and pleasant glance
Appear'd at variance with his complaisance:
For, as he told their fate and varying worth,
He archly look'd,--'I yet may bear thee forth.'
'When first'--(he so began)--'my trade I plied,
Good master Addle was the parish-guide;
His clerk and sexton, I beheld with fear,
His stride majestic, and his frown severe;
A noble pillar of the church he stood,
Adorn'd with college-gown and parish hood:
Then as he paced the hallow'd aisles about,
He fill'd the seven-fold surplice fairly out!
But in his pulpit wearied down with prayer,
He sat and seem'd as in his study's chair;
For while the anthem swell'd, and when it ceased,
Th'expecting people view'd their slumbering priest;
Who, dozing, died.--Our Parson Peele was next;
'I will not spare you,' was his favourite text;
Nor did he spare, but raised them many a pound;
E'en me he mulct for my poor rood of ground;
Yet cared he nought, but with a gibing speech,
'What should I do,' quoth he, 'but what I preach?'
His piercing jokes (and he'd a plenteous store)
Were daily offer'd both to rich and poor;
His scorn, his love, in playful words he spoke;
His pity, praise, and promise, were a joke:
But though so young and blest with spirits high,
He died as grave as any judge could die:
The strong attack subdued his lively powers, -
His was the grave, and Doctor Grandspear ours.
'Then were there golden times the village round;
In his abundance all appear'd t'abound;
Liberal and rich, a plenteous board he spread,
E'en cool Dissenters at his table fed;
Who wish'd and hoped,--and thought a man so kind
A way to Heaven, though not their own, might find.
To them, to all, he was polite and free,
Kind to the poor, and, ah! most kind to me!
'Ralph,' would he say, 'Ralph Dibble, thou art old;
That doublet fit, 'twill keep thee from the cold:
How does my sexton?- What! the times are hard;
Drive that stout pig, and pen him in thy yard.'
But most, his rev'rence loved a mirthful jest:-
'Thy coat is thin; why, man, thou'rt BARELY dress'd
It's worn to th' thread: but I have nappy beer;
Clap that within, and see how they will wear!'
'Gay days were these; but they were quickly
When first he came, we found he couldn't last:
A whoreson cough (and at the fall of leaf)
Upset him quite;--but what's the gain of grief?
'Then came the Author-Rector: his delight
Was all in books; to read them or to write:
Women and men he strove alike to shun,
And hurried homeward when his tasks were done;
Courteous enough, but careless what he said,
For points of learning he reserved his head;
And when addressing either poor or rich,
He knew no better than his cassock which:
He, like an osier, was of pliant kind,
Erect by nature, but to bend inclined;
Not like a creeper falling to the ground,
Or meanly catching on the neighbours round:
Careless was he of surplice, hood, and band, -
And kindly took them as they came to hand,
Nor, like the doctor, wore a world of hat,
As if he sought for dignity in that:
He talk'd, he gave, but not with cautious rules;
Nor turn'd from gipsies, vagabonds, or fools;
It was his nature, but they thought it whim,
And so our beaux and beauties turn'd from him.
Of questions, much he wrote, profound and dark, -
How spake the serpent, and where stopp'd the ark;
From what far land the queen of Sheba came;
Who Salem's Priest, and what his father's name;
He made the Song of Songs its mysteries yield,
And Revelations to the world reveal'd.
He sleeps i' the aisle,--but not a stone records
His name or fame, his actions or his words:
And truth, your reverence, when I look around,
And mark the tombs in our sepulchral ground
(Though dare I not of one man's hope to doubt),
I'd join the party who repose without.
'Next came a Youth from Cambridge, and in truth
He was a sober and a comely youth;
He blush'd in meekness as a modest man,
And gain'd attention ere his task began;
When preaching, seldom ventured on reproof,
But touch'd his neighbours tenderly enough.
Him, in his youth, a clamorous sect assail'd,
Advised and censured, flatter'd,--and prevail'd.-
Then did he much his sober hearers vex,
Confound the simple, and the sad perplex;
To a new style his reverence rashly took;
Loud grew his voice, to threat'ning swell'd his
Above, below, on either side, he gazed,
Amazing all, and most himself amazed:
No more he read his preachments pure and plain,
But launch'd outright, and rose and sank again:
At times he smiled in scorn, at times he wept,
And such sad coil with words of vengeance kept,
That our blest sleepers started as they slept.
'Conviction comes like light'ning,' he would
'In vain you seek it, and in vain you fly;
'Tis like the rushing of the mighty wind,
Unseen its progress, but its power you find;
It strikes the child ere yet its reason wakes;
His reason fled, the ancient sire it shakes;
The proud, learn'd man, and him who loves to know
How and from whence those gusts of grace will blow,
It shuns,--but sinners in their way impedes,
And sots and harlots visits in their deeds:
Of faith and penance it supplies the place;
Assures the vilest that they live by grace,
And, without running, makes them win the race.'
'Such was the doctrine our young prophet taught;
And here conviction, there confusion wrought;
When his thin cheek assumed a deadly hue,
And all the rose to one small spot withdrew,
They call'd it hectic; 'twas a fiery flush,
More fix'd and deeper than the maiden blush;
His paler lips the pearly teeth disclosed,
And lab'ring lungs the length'ning speech opposed.
No more his span-girth shanks and quiv'ring thighs
Upheld a body of the smaller size;
But down he sank upon his dying bed,
And gloomy crotchets fill'd his wandering head.
'Spite of my faith, all-saving faith,' he cried,
'I fear of worldly works the wicked pride;
Poor as I am, degraded, abject, blind,
The good I've wrought still rankles in my mind;
My alms-deeds all, and every deed I've done;
My moral-rags defile me every one;
It should not be:- what say'st thou! tell me,
Quoth I, 'Your reverence, I believe, you're safe;
Your faith's your prop, nor have you pass'd such
In life's good-works as swell them to a crime.
If I of pardon for my sins were sure,
About my goodness I would rest secure.'
'Such was his end; and mine approaches fast;
I've seen my best of preachers,--and my last,' -
He bow'd, and archly smiled at what he said,
Civil but sly:- 'And is old Dibble dead?'
Yes; he is gone: and WE are going all;
Like flowers we wither, and like leaves we fall; -
Here, with an infant, joyful sponsors come,
Then bear the new-made Christian to its home:
A few short years and we behold him stand
To ask a blessing, with his bride in hand:
A few, still seeming shorter, and we hear
His widow weeping at her husband's bier:-
Thus, as the months succeed, shall infants take
Their names; thus parents shall the child forsake;
Thus brides again and bridegrooms blithe shall
By love or law compell'd their vows to seal,
Ere I again, or one like me, explore
These simple Annals of the VILLAGE POOR.
You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I—
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comes—that off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stone—from pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?
How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before—
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then—
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May—
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.
That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
As—better than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord which … what's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
—Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim is—one soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love—
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!
Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go—
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Me—who engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!
I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both—
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn him—on his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!
Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you—
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
—You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!
You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth—
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.
Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind—
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat—
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps—
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"But—young you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her love … that is, endure
"The … hem! the … all of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose—
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth to … shall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancy—this—
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!
Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
—Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?
"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise—
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so—
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my fault … as God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
—The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his—
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!
'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once—
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I say … no, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off—
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife—
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him—
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome—
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront me—not at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I find—no child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I—
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this—
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!
And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!
And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little life—from one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
—Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years—
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
—You know—the tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so—
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I—
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life—
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!
Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"
So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine—
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one—
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word—
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet—
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach—
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart—
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!
You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you—
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
—Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!
Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of—
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die—
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them—
You soon shall see the use of fire!
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.
Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke's—no, I am the Pope's!
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?
Ch 07 On The Effects Of Education Story 20
Contention of Sa’di with a Disputant concerning Wealth and Poverty
I saw a man in the form but not with the character of a dervish, sitting in an assembly, who had begun a quarrel; and, having opened the record of complaints, reviled wealthy men, alleging at last that the hand of power of dervishes to do good was tied and that the foot of the intention of wealthy men to do good was broken.
The liberal have no money.
The wealthy have no liberality.
I, who had been cherished by the wealth of great men, considered these words offensive and said: ‘My good friend, the rich are the income of the destitute and the hoarded store of recluses, the objects of pilgrims, the refuge of travellers, the bearers of heavy loads for the relief of others. They give repasts and partake of them to feed their dependants and servants, the surplus of their liberalities being extended to widows, aged persons, relatives and neighbours.’
The rich must spend for pious uses, vows and hospitality,
Tithes, offerings, manumissions, gifts and sacrifices.
How canst thou attain their power of doing good who art able
To perform only the prayer-flections and these with a hundred distractions?
If there be efficacy in the power to be liberal and in the ability of performing religious duties, the rich can attain it better because they possess money to give alms, their garments are pure, their reputation is guarded, their hearts are at leisure. Inasmuch as the power of obedience depends upon nice morsels and correct worship upon elegant clothes, it is evident that hungry bowels have but little strength, an empty hand can afford no liberality, shackled feet cannot walk, and no good can come from a hungry belly.
He sleeps troubled in the night
Who has no support for the morrow.
The ant collects in summer a subsistence
For spending the winter in ease.
Freedom from care and destitution are not joined together and comfort in poverty is an impossibility. A man who is rich is engaged in his evening devotions whilst another who is poor is looking for his evening meal. How can they resemble each other?
He who possesses means is engaged in worship.
Whose means are scattered, his heart is distracted.
The worship of those who are comfortable is more likely to meet with acceptance, their minds being more attentive and not distracted or scattered. Having a secure income, they may attend to devotion. The Arab says: ‘I take refuge with Allah against base poverty and neighbours whom I do not love. There is also a tradition: Poverty is blackness of face in both worlds.’ He retorted by asking me whether I had heard the Prophet’s saying: Poverty is my glory. I replied: ‘Hush! The prince of the world alluded to the poverty of warriors in the battlefield of acquiescence and of submission to the arrow of destiny; not to those who don the patched garb of righteousness but sell the doles of food given them as alms.’
O drum of high sound and nothing within,
What wilt thou do without means when the struggle comes?
Turn away the face of greed from people if thou art a man.
Trust not the rosary of one thousand beads in thy hand.
A dervish without divine knowledge rests not until his poverty, culminates in unbelief; for poverty is almost infidelity, because a nude person cannot be clothed without money nor a prisoner liberated. How can the like of us attain their high position and how does the bestowing resemble the receiving hand? Knowest thou not that God the most high and glorious mentions in his revealed word the Pleasures of paradise-They shall have a certain provision in paradise-to inform thee that those who are occupied with cares for a subsistence are excluded from the felicity of piety and that the realm of leisure is under the ring of the certain provision.
The thirsty look in their sleep
On the whole world as a spring of water.
Wherever thou beholdest one who has experienced destitution and tasted bitterness, throwing himself wickedly into fearful adventures and not avoiding their consequences, he fears not the punishment of Yazed and does not discriminate between what is licit or illicit.
The dog whose head is touched by a clod of earth
Leaps for joy, imagining it to be a bone.
And when two men take a corpse on their shoulders,
A greedy fellow supposes it to be a table with food.
But the possessor of wealth is regarded with a favourable eye by the Almighty for the lawful acts he has done and preserved from the unlawful acts he might commit. Although I have not fully explained this matter nor adduced arguments, I rely on thy sense of justice to tell me whether thou hast ever seen a mendicant with his hands tied up to his shoulders or a poor fellow sitting in prison or a veil of innocence rent or a guilty hand amputated, except in consequence of poverty? Lion-hearted men were on account of their necessities captured in mines which they had dug to rob houses and their heels were perforated. It is also possible that a dervish, impelled by the cravings of his lust and unable to restrain it, may commit sin because the stomach and the sexual organs are twins, that is to say, they are the two children of one belly and as long as one of these is contented, the other will likewise be satisfied. I heard that a dervish had been seen committing a wicked act with a youth, and although he had been put to shame, he was also in danger of being stoned. He said: ‘O Musalmans, I have no power to marry a wife and no patience to restrain myself. What am I to do? There is no monasticism in Islam.” Among the number of causes producing internal tranquility and comfort in wealthy people, the fact may be reckoned that they take every night a sweetheart in their arms and may every day contemplate a youth whose brightness excels that of the shining morn and causes the feet of walking cypresses to conceal themselves abashed.
Plunging the fist into the blood of beloved persons,
Dying the finger-tips with the colour of the jujube-fruit.
It is impossible that with his beauteous stature he should prowl around prohibited things or entertain intentions of ruin to himself.
How could he who took as booty a Huri of paradise
Take any notice of the benes of Yaghma?
Who has before him fresh dates which he loves
Has no need to throw stones on clusters upon trees.
Mostly empty handed persons pollute the skirt of modesty by transgression, and those who are hungry steal bread.
When a ferocious dog has found meat
He asks not whether it is of the camel of Saleh or the ass of Dujjal.
What a number of modest women have on account of poverty fallen into complete profligacy, throwing away their precious reputation to the wind of dishonour!
With hunger the power of abstinence cannot abide.
Poverty snatches the reins from the hands of piety.
Whilst I was uttering these words, the dervish lost the bridle of patience from his hands, drew forth the sword of his tongue, caused the steed of eloquence to caper in the plain of reproach and said: ‘Thou hast been so profuse in this panegyric of wealthy men and hast talked so much nonsense that they might be supposed to be the antidote to poverty or the key to the storehouse of provisions; whereas they are a handful of proud, arrogant, conceited and abominable fellows intent upon accumulating property and money and so thirsting for dignity and abundance, that they do not speak to poor people except with insolence, and look upon them with contempt. They consider scholars to be mendicants and insult poor men on account of the wealth which they themselves possess and the glory of dignity which they imagine is inherent in them. They sit in the highest places and believe they are better than anyone else. They never show kindness to anybody and are ignorant of the maxim of sages that he who is inferior to others in piety but superior in riches is outwardly powerful but in reality a destitute man.
If a wretch on account of his wealth is proud to a sage
Consider him to be the podex of an ass, though he may be a perfumed ox.’
I said: ‘Do not think it allowable to insult them for they are possessors of generosity.’ He rejoined: ‘Thou art mistaken. They are slaves of money. Of what use is it that they are like bulky clouds and rain not, like the fountain of light, the sun, and shine upon no one? They are mounted on the steed of ability but do not use it; they would not stir a step for God’s sake nor spend one dirhem without imposing obligation and insult. They accumulate property with difficulty, guard it with meanness and abandon it with reluctance, according to the saying of illustrious men that the silver of an avaricious man will come up from the ground when he goes into the ground.
One man gathers wealth with trouble and labour
And if another comes, he takes it without either.’
I retorted: ‘Thou hast not become aware of the parsimony of wealthy men except by reason of mendicancy or else, to him who has laid aside covetousness, a liberal and an avaricious man would appear to be the same. The touchstone knows what gold is and the beggar knows him who is stingy.’ He rejoined: ‘I am speaking from experience when I say that they station rude and insolent men at their gates to keep off worthy persons, to place violent hands upon men of piety and discretion, saying: “Nobody is here”, and verily they have spoken the truth.’
Of him who has no sense, intention, plan or opinion,
The gatekeeper has beautifully said: ‘No one is in the house.’
I said this is excusable because they are teased out of their lives by people expecting favours and driven to lamentation by petitions of mendicants; it being according to common sense an impossibility to satisfy beggars even if the sand of the desert were to be transmuted into pearls.
The eye of greediness, the wealthy of the world
Can no more fill than dew can replenish a well.
Hatim Tai dwelt in the desert; had he been in a town he would have been helpless against the assaults of beggars and they would have torn to pieces his upper garments as it is recorded in the Tayibat:
Look not at me that others may not conceive hopes
Because there is no reward to be got from beggars.
He said: ‘No. I take pity on their state.’ I replied: ‘No. Thou enviest them their wealth.’ We were thus contending with each other, every pawn he put forward I endeavoured to repel, and every time he announced check to my king, I covered him with my queen until he had gambled away all his ready cash and had shot off all the arrows of his quiver in arguing.
Have a care; do not throw away the shield when attacked by an orator
Who has nothing except borrowed eloquence to show,
Practise thou religion and marifet because a Suja-speaking orator
Displays weapons at the gate but no one is in the fort.
At last no arguments remained to him and, having been defeated, he commenced to speak nonsense as is the custom of ignorant men who, when they can no more address proofs against their opponent, shake the chain of enmity like the idol-carver Azer who being unable to overcome his son in argument began to quarrel with him saying if thou forbearest not I will surely stone thee. The man insulted me. I spoke harshly to him. He tore my collar and I caught hold of his chin-case.
He falling upon me and I on him,
Crowds running after us and laughing,
The finger of astonishment of a world
On the teeth; from what was said and heard by us.
In short we carried our dispute to the qazi and agreed to abide by a just decision of the judge of Musalmans, who would investigate the affair and tell the difference between the rich and the poor. When the qazi had seen our state and heard our logic, he plunged his head into his collar and after meditating for a while spoke as follows: ‘O thou, who hast lauded the wealthy and hast indulged in violent language towards dervishes, thou art to know that wherever a rose exists, there also thorns occur; that wine is followed by intoxication, that a treasure is guarded by a serpent, and that wherever royal pearls are found, men-devouring sharks must also be. The sting of death is the sequel of the delights of life and a cunning demon bars the enjoyment of paradise.
‘What will the violence of a foe do if it cannot touch the seeker of the Friend?
Treasure, serpent; rose, thorn; grief and pleasure are all linked together.
‘Perceivest thou not that in a garden there are musk-willows as well as withered sticks? And likewise in the crowd of the rich there are grateful and impious men, as also in the circle of dervishes some are forbearing and some are impatient.
‘If every drop of dew were to become a pearl
The bazar would be full of them as of ass-shells.
‘Those near to the presence of the most high and glorious are rich men with the disposition of dervishes and dervishes with the inclination of the rich. The greatest of rich men is he who sympathizes with dervishes and the best of dervishes is he who looks but little towards rich men. Who trusts in Allah, he will be his sufficient support.’
After this the qazi turned the face of reproof from me to the dervish and said: ‘O thou who hast alleged that the wealthy are engaged in wickedness and intoxicated with pleasure, some certainly are of the kind thou hast described; of defective aspirations, and ungrateful for benefits received. Sometimes they accumulate and put by, eat and give not; if for instance the rain were to fail or a deluge were to distress the world, they, trusting in their own power, would not care for the misery of dervishes, would not fear God and would say:
If another perishes for want of food
I have some; what cares a duck for the deluge?
The women riding on camels in their howdahs
Take no notice of him who sinks in the sana.
The base when they have saved their own blankets
Say: What boots it if all mankind perishes?
‘There are people of the kind thou hast heard of, and other persons who keep the table of beneficence spread out, the hand of liberality open, seeking a good name and pardon from God. They are the possessors of this world and of the next, like the slaves of His Majesty Padshah of the world who is aided by devine grace, conqueror, possessor of authority among nations, defender of the frontiers of Islam, heir of the realm of Solomon, the most righteous of the kings of the period, Muzaffar-ud-dunia wa uddin Atabek Abu Bekr Ben Sa’d Ben Zanki, may Allah prolong his days and aid his banners.
‘A father never shows the kindness to his son
Which the hand of thy liberality has bestowed on mankind.
God desired to vouchsafe a blessing to the world
And in his mercy made thee padshah of the world.’
When the qazi had thus far protracted his remarks and had caused the horse of his eloquence to roam beyond the limits of our expectation, we submitted to his judicial decision, condoned to each other what had passed between us, took the path of reconciliation, placed our heads on each other’s feet by way of apology, kissed each other’s head and face, terminating the discussion with the following two distichs:
Complain not of the turning of the spheres, O dervish,
Because thou wilt be luckless if thou diest in this frame of mind.
O wealthy man, since thy heart and hand are successful
Eat and be liberal for thou hast conquered this world and the next.
The Death of Yazdagird
From the Shahnameh
There was a paladin, a Turk by race,
A man of influence and named Bizhan;
He dwelt within the coasts of Samarkand
Where he had many kin. Ill-starred Mahwi,
Becoming self-assertive, wrote to him:-
'Thou prosperous scion of the paladins!
A strife hath risen that will bring thee profit:
The Sháh is of all places here at Marv
And with no troops! His head and crown and state,
Wealth, throne, and host, are thine if thou wilt come.
Recall the vengeance owing to thy sires,
And give this unjust race its just reward.'
Bizhan, considering the letter, saw
That insolent Mahwi would win the world,
Then spake thus to his minister: 'Thou chief
Of upright men! what sayest thou to this?
If I lead forth a host to aid Mahwi
'Twill be my ruin here.'
Replied: 'O lion-hearted warrior!
'Twere shame to help Mahwi and then withdraw.
Command Barsám to set forth with a host
To aid upon this scene of strife. The sage
Will term thee daft to go and fight in person
At the insistence of this man of Súr.'
Bizhan replied: ''Tis well, I will not go
He therefore bade Barsám to lead
Ten thousand valiant cavaliers and swordsmen
To Marv with all the implements of war
If haply he might take the Sháh. That host
Went like a flying pheasant from Bukhárá
To Marv within one week. One night at cock-crow
The sound of tymbals went up from the plain.
How could the king of kings suspect Mahwi
Of Súr to be his enemy? Shouts rose.
A cavalier reached Yazdagird at dawn
To say: 'Mahwi said thus: 'A host of Turks
Hath come. What is the bidding of the Sháh?
The Khán and the Faghfúr of Chin command:
Earth is not able to support their host!''
The Sháh wroth donned his mail. The armies ranged.
He formed his troops to right and left, and all
Advanced to battle. Spear in hand he held
The center, and the whole world was bedimmed
With flying dust. He saw how lustily
The Turks engaged, unsheathed his sword, and came,
As 'twere an elephant before his troops.
Earth Nile-wise flowed. Like thundering cloud he charged,
But not a warrior supported him;
All turned their backs upon that man of name,
And left him mid the horsemen of the foe.
The world's king, when Mahwi withdrew, perceived
The practice hid till then-the intent and plan
To capture him-yet played the man in fight,
Displaying valour, strength, and warriorship,
Slew many at the centre, but at length
Fled in despair, with falchion of Kábul
In hand, pursued by many Turks. He sped
Like lightning mid night's gloom and spied a mill
On the canal of Zark. Alighting there
The world's king lay in hiding from his foes
Within the mill. The horsemen searched for him;
All Zark was hue and cry. The Sháh abandoned
His gold-trapped steed, his mare, and scimitar
With golden sheath. The Turks with loud shouts sought him,
Excited by that steed and equipage.
The Sháh within the mill-house lurked in hay.
With this false Hostel thus it ever is:
The ascent is lofty and profound the abyss.
With Yazdagird, while fortune slumbered not,
A throne enskied by heaven was his lot,
And now it was a mill! Excess of sweet
Bred bane for him and, if thou art discreet,
Affect not this world for its end is ill.
Whiles a tame serpent to the touch it still
At whiles will bite, and hot that bite will be.
Why then affect this cozening hostelry
While like a drum the signal to be gone
Thou hearest, bidding: 'Bind the baggage on.
And for sole throne the grave's floor look upon?'
With mouth untasting and with tearful eyes
The Sháh abode until the sun arose,
And then the miller oped the mill-house door.
He bore a truss of grass upon his back.
A low-born man was he, by name Khusrau,
Poor, foolish, unrespected, purposeless.
He lived upon the profits of his mill,
Which gave him full employment. He beheld
A warrior, like a lofty cypress, sitting
In dolour on the ground with kingly crown
Upon his head and with brocade of Rúm
Bright on his breast; his eyes a stag's, his chest
And neck a lion's; of beholding him
The eye ne'er tired. He was unique in form;
Wore golden boots; his sleeves were fringed with pearls
And gold. Khusrau looked, stood astound, and called
On God, then said: 'O man of sunlike mien!
Say in what sort thou camest to this mill?
Why didst thou take it for thy resting-place
Full as it is of wheat and dust and hay?
Who art thou with such form, such Grace and looks?
Sure, heaven never saw the like of thee!'
The Sháh replied: 'I am Iránian-born,
In flight before the army of Túrán.'
The miller said, abashed: 'I have no comrade
Save penury, but still, if barley-bread,
With some poor cresses from the river-bank,
Will serve thee I will bring them; naught have I
Besides: a man so straitened well may wail.'
Through stress of fight the Sháh had rested not,
Or eaten, for three days and so replied:-
'Bring what thou hast, that and the sacred twigs
Will serve my turn.'
The poor and lowly miller
Brought him the cresses and the barley-bread,
Made haste to fetch the sacred twigs and, reaching
The toll-house on the way, crossed to the chief
Of Zark to make request for them. Máhwi
Had sent men on all sides to find the Sháh,
And so the chieftain asked the miller: 'Friend!
For whom need'st thou the sacred twigs?'
Khusrau replied: 'There is a warrior at the mill,
And seated on the hay, a cypress slim
In height, a sun in looks, a man of Grace,
With eyebrows arched and melancholy's eyes:
His mouth is full of sighs, his soul is sad.
I set stale fare before him-barley-bread,
Such as I eat myself-but he is fain
To take the sacred twigs while muttering grace.
Thou well mayst muse at him.'
The chief rejoined:-
'Go and inform Máhwi of Súr hereof,
For that foul miscreant must not reveal
His proper bent when he shall hear of this.'
Forthwith he charged a trusty man to take
The miller to Máhwi who asked of him,
Then anxious for himself; 'For whom dist thou
Require the sacred twigs? Tell me the truth.'
The miller all a-tremble made reply:-
'I had been out to fetch a load and flung
The mill-door open roughly, when know this:
The sun was in mine eyes, but his are like
Those of a startled fawn; his locks are dark
As the third watch of night; his breath suggesteth
Musk, and his face embellisheth his crown.
One that hath never seen the Graces of God
Should take the mill-house key. His diadem
Is full of uncut jewels, and his breast
Bright with the brocade of Rúm. The mill hath grown
As 'twere a sun through him, and yet his food
Is barley-bread, his seat upon the hay!
'Spring,' thou wouldst say, 'in Paradise is he:
No thane e'er set so tall a cypress-tree.''
Now when Mahwi had taken thought he knew:-
''Tis none but Yazdagird!' and bade the miller:-
'Haste and cut off his head forthwith or I
Will cut thine own off presently and leave
None of thy stock alive.'
The chiefs, the nobles,
And mighty men heard this and all the assembly
Were filled with wrath at him; their tongues were charged
With words, their eyes with tears. An archimage,
By name Rádwi, whose mind wore wisdom's bridle,
Said to Máhwi: 'O thou malignant one!
Why hath the Div confused thine eyes? This know:
The royal and prophetic offices
Are two gems set within one finger-ring.
To break one is to trample life and wisdom
Beneath thy feet. Reflect upon thy words,
And then forbear. Be not the Maker's foe.
First will disaster come on thee herefrom,
Then thou wilt leave a seed-plot for thy child,
With fruit of colocynth and leafage blood.
Ere long thou wilt behold thy head abased;
They villainy will be exposed; thy sons
Will reap what thou hast sown. This deed of thine
Will wreck the Faith of God, and crown and throne
Will curse thee.'
Then a devotee devout,
Who never put his hand forth to injustice,
By name Hurmuzd, son of Kharrád, a man
Who rested in the Faith, said to Máhwi:-
'O thou oppressor! quit not thus the way
Of holy God. I see thy heart and sense
Bedimmed. We see thy breast a tomb. Though strong
Thou hast no brain; thy mind is weak; thou seekest
The smoke and not the fire. I see that thou
Wouldst have the malediction of the world,
And, when thou quit'st it, travail, smart, and anguish.
Now will thy lifetime prove a wretched one,
And fire thy dwelling-place when thou departest.'
He sat. Shahrán rose and addressed Máhwi:-
'Why this audacity? Thou hast opposed
The king of kings and cottoned with the Khán
And the Faghfúr. Full many of this race
Have proved of no account yet men ne'er hasted
To slay them. Shed not, as thou art a slave,
The blood of Sháhs because thou wilt be cursed
This he said, and sat down weeping
In anguish with heart full and eyes all gall.
Then Mihr-i-Núsh stood forth in deep distress,
With lamentation, and addressed Máhwi:-
'O evil man of evil race, who art
Not well advised or just! a crocodile
Respecteth royal blood, a leopard finding
A slain king doth not rend him. O thou worse
In love and instinct than the beasts of prey!
Thou covetest the Sháh's crown! When Jamshid
Was slaughtered by Zahhák did that affect
Heaven's will? Nay, when Zahhák had won the earth
Abtin appeared, the glorious Faridún
Was born, the fashion of the world was changed,
And thou hast heard what tyrannous Zahhák
Brought on himself as sequel of his crimes.
For though he lived above a thousand years
Still in the end the avenger came to him.
Then, secondly, when Túr, the exalted one,
Afflicted by his longing for Irán,
Slew in his folly virtuous Iraj,
On whom the very dust looked pityingly,
dispatched him to the hero Faridún,
And gave the world to sorrow, Minúchihr,
One of the race, appeared and undid all
Those bonds. When, thirdly, princely Siyáwush
Went forth to war, albeait reluctantly,
Afrásiyáb, inspired by Garsiwaz,
Washed shame and honour from his mind and wits,
And slew the youthful and right royal prince,
So that the world became his enemy.
Sprung from that prince the world-lord Kai Khusrau
Came and filled all the world with hubbub, clave
Asunder with his scimitar his grandsire,
And frayed all those that else had sought revenge.
the fourth count is the feud against Arjásp,
The slayer of Luhrásp. Asfandiyár
Went forth to fight with him and took swift wreak.
Fifth, is the vengeance ta'en for Sháh Hurmuzd.
Khusrau Parwiz, whenas he felt confirmed
In heart and power, dealt in the way we know
both with Bandwi and Gustaham. The sky,
Which then revolved, revolveth still. Forgetting
What they had done for him, when his sire's blood
And love and family appealed to him,
He in his day of strength abated theirs.
One may not scorn the occasion of revenge,
For such a time will quickly come to thee,
And thou wilt suffer for thine evil thoughts.
Thy son will reap what thou hast sown, and fate
Will not rest long from vengeance; so refrain
From all this treasure-hoard, this heritage
Of crown and precious things. Thou art revolting
Because the Div enjoineth, and abjuring
The way of God. The Div, as thou wilt learn,
Is tempting thee with things not for thine honour.
Burn not thy soul and body in Hell-fire;
Dim not this world-illuming crown but gather
Thy scattered troops; recant what thou hast said;
Go ask the Sháh to pardon thee and when
Thou seest him renew thy fealty.
From there prepare to battle with the foe;
Be instant both in counsel and excuse,
For not to hearken to the words of sages
Will mark thee out as evil in both worlds.
Men bring to naught things done a day too late.
Wilt thou treat Yazdagird, the king of kings,
Worse than malignant Turks, for in the fray
He is a lion, on the throne a Sháh
As bright as sun and moon, a memory
Of the Sásánians? None is girdle-girt
Like him. From sire to sire his ancestors
Were mighty men and compassers of wisdom
From Núshirwán, the Sháh, back to Ardshir,
While, seventh backward from Ardshir, Sásán,
The world-lord, had the crown, for God entrusted
To him the Kaian crown, and all the kings
Were of that glorious race. Now many a man
Hath been thy better, but they ne'er conceived
Designs like these. As for Bahrám Chúbina,
Three hundred thousand skilful cavaliers
On barded steeds fled at one shaft of his,
And left the field of fight to him; but when
His heart grew weary of the race of Sháhs
the hear of his resplendent fortune fell.
So Faráyin, who sought the throne of kings
Unworthily and bathed his hands in blood,
Was in like manner miserably slain:
This age endureth not such mockeries.
Fear Him, the Lord, the Maker of the world,
For He created throne and crown and signet.
Defame not thine own person wantonly
Because ere long such things will rise against thee.
Know that whoever speaketh not the truth
To thee is thy soul's foe. Now thou art sick
While I am as the leech, a leech that waileth,
And sheddeth drops of blood. Thou art thyself
Less than the slave of slaves. Be not ambitious
In thy heart's thoughts. Leave strife to holy God,
And seek in honour's way the throne of greatness.'
The shepherd-born had set his heart upon
The throne: the archimages' rede was hard.
So hath it ever been; 'tis no new thing:
The flouts of fortune are past reckoning.
Exalting to the sky above this one,
And making that vile, wretched, and undone,
Not leagued with that, on war with this not bent.
But void of wit, shame, Faith, and precedent.
The archmages all, till the world gloomed and moon
Succeeded sun, warned that vindictive man,
Who was not one hair better for their talk,
And said when night came: 'Ye must leave me now
O sages! I will ponder this tonight,
And take all kinds of wisdom to my breast.
We will call twenty wise men from the host
That we may well need not to deplore this ill.'
The prudent archimages went their ways,
The men of war arrived. Máhwi held session
With his confederates and said: 'What think ye
Herein? If Yazdagird remain alive
Troops will collect to him from every side;
My secret purposes have been exposed,
And all, both great and small, have heard thereof!
My life will end through his hostility,
And neither folk nor field and fell be left.'
A wise man said: 'Thou shouldest not have acted
At first so. If the monarch of Irán
Be ill-disposed toward thee then past doubt
Ill will befall thee from him, yet 'tis ill
To shed his blood for then God will avenge him.
To left and right are cares and pains of all kinds:
Consider how thou need'st must act herein.'
Máhwi's son said to him: 'Well counselled sire!
Since thou hast made the Sháh thine enemy
Be rid of him; troops from Máchin and Chin
Will come to him and earth grow strait for us.
Hold this no trifle. Since thou hast prevailed
Tempt not the maws of lions. Thou and all
Thy host will be uprooted from the world
If standard-wise the Sháh's skirt be unfurl'd.'
Thereat the shameless, infamous Máhwi
Turned fiercely to the miller, saying: 'Up!
Take cavaliers and shed my foeman's blood.'
The miller, hearing, knew not what to do.
But when at night the moon assumed her throne
Departed mill-ward to the Sháh and when
He left the court-gate of Máhwi his eyes
Were charged with tear-drops and his heart was full.
Forthwith Máhwi dispatched some cavaliers
To follow swift as smoke, instructing them:-
'See that ye sully not the crown and earrings,
The signet and the royal robes with blood.
And strip the Sháh when lifeless.'
With his eyes
All tearful and cheeks yellow as the sun
The miller went, exclaiming: 'Judge almighty,
Who art above the process of time!
Wring presently his heart and soul for this
With heart all shame and qualm,
With wetted cheeks and tongue all charged with dust,
He reached the Sháh and drawing nigh with caution,
As one would speak a secret in the ear,
Stabbed with a dirk his middle. At the blow
The Sháh cried: 'Ah!' Then tumbled head and crown,
And barley-bread before him, to the dust!
He that abideth when he might depart
From this world hath no wisdom in his heart,
And wisdom is not in the turning sky,
Whose love is as its stress and enmity.
'Tis well to look not on the world and so
From these its doings love and wrath not know.
The planets weary of their fosterlings,
And guiltless folk like Yazdagird are slain;
None else hath perished thus of all the kings,
Nor of his host a plier of the rein.
The horsemen of accursed Máhwi, on seeing
That royal Tree thus laid to rest afar
From palace and his scenes of ease, drew near,
Gazed, one and all, upon his face, removed
His cincture, violet robe, and coronet,
His torque and golden boots, and left him there
In miserable case upon the ground-
The monarch of Irán flung on the dust,
Blood-boltered, with gashed side! Those emissaries,
When they arose, all framed their tongues to curse:-
'Oh! may Máhwi himself fare, prostrate thus,
All gory on earth's face.'
They told Máhwi:-
'The exalted Sháh hath passed away from throne,
From battle and delights,' and he commanded
To take, when it was night, the monarch's corpse,
And fling it in the stream. The miller took
The body of the Sháh forth from the mill,
And flunt it (mark the horror!) in the water,
And there it floated with a bobbing head!
When it was day and people went abroad
Two men of worship visited the spot.
One of these men austere and sober reached
The river-bank and, when he saw the corpse
All naked in the water, hurried back
In consternation to the monastery,
And told the other monks what he had seen:-
'The Sháh, the master of the world, is drowned,
And naked in the water-way of Zark!'
Then many of those holy men-the chief
And others of all ranks-set forth. A cry
Of anguish rose from them: 'O noble man,
And royal crown-possessor! none e'er saw
The wearer of it in such a plight as this,
Or ever heard before the time of Christ
A case like this king's through his wicked slave,
This misbegotten dog, this reprobate,
Who fawned upon his master till ill came;
Máhwi's just portion is to be accursed.
Woe for the head and crown, the height and mien!
Woe for the breast and arms, the hands and mace!
Woe for the last descendant of Ardshir!
Woe for that cavalier so young and goodly!
Strong wast thou; thou hadst wisdom in thy soul,
And thou hast gone to bear the news hereof
To Núshirwán that, though thy face was moonlike,
And though thou wast a king and soughtest crowns,
Yet in the mill they pierced thy liverstead,
And flung thy naked body in the stream!'
Four of the monks went stripped into the water,
Seized the bare body of the youthful king,
That grandson of the world-lord Núshirwán,
And drew it to the bank while young and old
Lamented greatly. They prepared for him
Within the garth a charnel-house and raised
Its summet to the clouds. They sealed his wound
With gum, with pitch, with camphor, and with musk,
And then arrayed him in brocade of gold,
With fine Egyptian linen underneath,
And dark-blue Russian cloth o'er all. They decked
His place of rest with wine and gum and camphor,
With musk and with rose-water.
When the form
Was hidden of that noble Cypress-tree
What said that honoured thane of Marv? 'In secret
A guerdon waiteth him that after travail
Departeth with good conscience from the world.'
Another said: 'Though man may laugh, yet know
That he is of the sufferers, for he
Will find the falseness of the turning sky,
Which will reveal to him both rise and fall.'
Another said: 'Call not him one of wit
That serveth his own form with princes' blood,
And seeketh wealth, despite of infamy,
With soul unfearful of an evil end.'
Another said: 'Since the Sháh's lips are closed
I see not crown or royal seat or signet,
Or courtiers or a realm or diadem,
Or throne or helmet, and if these possess
No moment in themselves why this expense
Of toil and time?'
'Thy good report, I see,'
Another said, 'will win thee worthy praise.
Thou in the garth of Paradise didst set
A cypress: now thy soul beholdeth it.'
Another said: 'God took thy soul and gave
Thy body to the care of the devout.
Hereby thy soul is profited, hereby
Will harm betide the foe. The Sháh hath now
His work in Paradise; his foeman's soul
Is on the road to Hell.'
'Wise, knowledge-loving Sháh sprung from Ardshir!
Thou reapest now the crop that thou didst sow:
The lamp of sovereignty is still alight.'
Another said: 'Though thou'rt asleep, young king!
Thy spirit is awake. Thy lips are mute,
And with full many a groan thy spirit passed
And left thy body free. Thy work is done:
Thy soul is busy now. Thy foeman's head
Is on the stake. Although thy tongue is tied
Thy spirit speaketh, and thy soul is purged
Although thy form is pierced, while if thy hand
Have dropped the reins thy spirit still will wield
The spear in battle.'
Said another one:-
'O famous warrior! thou hast departed
With thine own works as guide. Thy royal seat
Is now in Paradise; this earth of bale
Is now another's share.'
'The man that slew
One such as thee,' another said, 'will look
Upon harsh days anon.'
The prelate said:-
'Thy slaves are we and laud thy holy soul.
Be this, thy charnel, as a garth all tulips,
This bier thine upland and thy plain of joy.'
They spake, took up the bier and carried it
From waste to mausoleum. Thither came
The hapless Sháh, crown, throne, and casque at end.
O man of many years, whose words still run!
Turn from the path of greed, break off thy strain.
What shall we say hereof? Was justice done
Or vengeance by the seven planets ta'en,
On Yazdagird? The sage, if unresolved
Upon the point, could make me no reply,
Or if he spake 'twould be in words involved
That keep the answer still a mystery.
If thou hast means, good man! indulge thy heart;
Trust not to what the morrow promiseth,
Because the world and thou perforce must part,
And time accounteth for thine every breath;
Thou shouldest sow not any save good seed
In what remaineth of thy mortal strife;
Control the door of appetite and greed;
He that provided will provide through life,
And life itself will but produce for thee
Fair fame and happiness, good friend! Then still
With all thy might eschew iniquity,
For from a wise man should proceed no ill.
Bring wine; our day is nearly o'er and hence
We must away, for what hath been will be.
Had I incomings balancing expense
Then time would be a brother unto me.
The hail this year like death on me hath come,
Though death itself were better than the hail,
And heaven's lofty, far-extending dome
Hath caused my fuel, wheat, and sheep to fail.