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Viorel Vintila

* * *

love is a number game
you should keep playing
till u get the lucky one

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William Shakespeare

Sonnet 61: Is it thy will thy image should keep open

Is it thy will thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken
While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?
Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
So far from home into my deeds to pry,
To find out shames and idle hours in me,
The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?
O, no, thy love, though much, is not so great;
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake,
Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for thy sake.
For thee watch I whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
From me far off, with others all too near.

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If love were a number

Every night and everyday
Mere thoughts of you brighten my day
Your eyes, your smile, the way you walk
I s enough to lift me up as I hit bottom rock!

And it takes two to bear these fruits of love
This love was decided before we were born
I sit here lingering in a moment of passion
Thinking! Seven days a week has long gone

Twelve months of love reduced to none
But the memories of you still turn me on
I weep as I remember us laugh and run
Whilst you slept I loved to watch you turn

Now if love were a number
I will write you as number one in my book
Wishing you were here a bit longer
You captured me not only with your looks!

I can feel my fingers through your hair
I touch the wind wishing you were here
That musky smell and husky voice
And momentarily I sadly rejoice

Now if love were a number
You will always be my number one
I only wish I was stronger
To chase with you, your dreams of fun

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Without Fearing We Should Keep Secrets

With thoughts diversified.
Feelings deep and some quite silly.
As a little bit of rock with a rolling through blues,
Is shown.
These aspects of my life,
I have chosen to you to only make known.

Relationships of all kinds had.
Disappointing splits and emotional heartbreaking,
Coming to exist.
And a desperation that describes,
A sitting on the edge and what it feels like...
To come close to losing one's mind.

Illnesses experienced.
And happiness recovered,
After sadness ends.
There is nothing like feeling,
A beginning like this...
Can and does transcend.

You and I have been together,
Through it all it seems.
And I am glad from you I did not conceal,
Any of my hopes and dreams wished fulfilled.

Every aspect of my life to you has been revealed.
They have!
With a desire I have by my doing this,
You too will recognize...
Thoughts you have are also diversified,
With feelings deep.

And ready you are to come out of hiding,
To experience a life lived feeling totally complete.
And you and I can share,
Without fearing we should keep secrets.

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Theres Your Trouble

Should have been different but
It wasnt different, was
Same old story, dear john, and so long
Should have fit like a glove
Should have fit like a ring
Like a diamond ring
A token of true love
Should have all worked out
But it didnt
She should be here now
But she isnt
Chorus:
Theres your trouble, theres your trouble
You keep seeing double with the wrong one
You cant see I love you, you cant see doesnt
But you just keep holding on
Theres your trouble
So now youre thinking bout
All youre missing -- how
Deep youre sinking, round and round and dragging down
Why dont you cash in your chips
Why dont you call it a loss
Not such a big loss, chalk it up better luck
Could have been true love
But it wasnt
It should all add up
But it doesnt
Repeat chorus
Should have all worked out
But it didnt
She should be here now
But she isnt
Repeat chorus

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Im Not In Love

Im not in love
So dont forget it
Its just a silly phase Im going through
And just because
I call you up
Dont get me wrong, dont think youve got it made
Im not in love, no no, its because....
I like to see you
But then again
That doesnt mean you mean that much to me
So if I call you dont make a fuss
Dont tell you friends about the two of us
Im not in love, no no, its because....
I keep your picture
Upon the wall
It hides a nasty stain thats lying there
So dont you ask me
To give it back
I know you know it doesnt mean that much to me
Im not in love, no no, its because....
Ooh youll wait a long time for me
Ooh youll wait a long time
Ooh youll wait a long time for me
Ooh youll wait a long time
Im not in love
So dont forget it
Its just a silly phase Im going through
And just because I call you up
Dont get me wrong, dont think youve got it made
Im not in love
Im not in love

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How Do You Want My Love

Written by ricky & kim wilde
Its good to meet you - how you doin
I havent seen your face before
Yeah Im alone here - noticed you the minute
You walked through the door
Its getting late and so much time is wasted
Dancing on the floor
And making small talk
Ive been through that before
How do you want my love
You know they told me - keep your distance
Got to play love by the rules
And I believed them wound up losing
Love left me for a fool
I know Im not the only one
Who knows what love can do
Its in your eyes
Youve been hurt the same way too
How do you want my love
How do you want my love tonight
How do you want my love
How do you want my love tonight
Here with you I can smile away the pain
Make believe I can fall in love again
Wont you tell me your name
How do you want my love
The partys over - theres people leaving
Friend saying their goodbyes
So come on over - Ill make you coffee
No need to end the night

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Dont Give Up On Me

Dont give up on me,
Though I know at times its hard to see;
All my many weaknesses
Might blind you,
I must remind you,
Dont give up on me,
Even when I act so selfishly,
All my views are all I see.
Yes, I know theres still so much of me,
But God is working constantly,
To shape me,
Hell remake me.
Dont give up on me.
Im gonna make it.
I know its hard for you to see.
Dont give up on me,
I couldnt take it.
If a part of me should keep you from seeing
The part of me that youd start to believe in,
Im changin so please dont give up on me.
Dont give up on me,
Even when I fail so miserably.
Time and again I know
I stumble,
It makes me humble.
Dont give up on me.
But never let your love to be
Hanging on the things you see,
Counting all the times I fail to be
Everything you want from me;
Im trying.
Hear me crying.
Dont give up on me.
Im gonna make it.
I know its hard for you to see.
Dont give up on me,
I couldnt take it.
If a part of me should keep you from seeing
The part of me that youd start to believe in,
Im changin so please dont give up on me.
I know much more than you
How very weak I am.
But he believes in me,
And so I know you can.
When all my views are all I see,
Then I know theres still so much of me;
But God is working constantly
To shape me,
Hell remake me.
Dont give up on me.
Im gonna make it.
I know its hard for you to see.
Dont give up on me.
I couldnt take it.
If a part of me should keep you from seeing
The part of me that youd start to believe in,
Im changin so please dont give up on me.
Dont give up one me.
Im gonna make it.
I know its hard for you to see.
Dont give up on me.
I couldnt take it.
If a part of me should keep you from seeing
The part of me that youd start to believe in,
Im changin so please dont give up on me.

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The Ballad of Nyakato I

Kinsmen, Kinsmen, Kinsmen
Is it not only the man with no relatives who stays back when the Great Kangabaijje drum is sounded?
Wherever you are assemble here for I have a story to tell..

Those in the millet fields,
Those in the hunting grounds,
Those in war practice, seek permission for leave from the heads of your respective regiments,
Women, hold fast to your dangling breasts and run
For I want you here.
Those from the Well, don't break those delicate clay pots on your heads, but hurry...
Those tending cattle as is your anointed job, drive the herds to the kraals, be fast here..
And all of you lazy men who are in bed glued to the aprons of your wives at this hour of the day
Mounting them hard in the bliss of frenzy,
Come hither, come hither, come hither
all ye my kinsmen

*****

I am Nyakato the fair twin
Yes In the rich traditions of Kitara,
Nyakato is the name given to the girl who comes after the first twin.
At least Omugurusi Mikaili Kabuubi told me that when I raced there to deliver news that the wife to the King's royal drummer,
Kangere Bikundi, had given the King's humble servant
The joy of a bouncing baby boy.

So the one whose ways am bringing to sunlight calls herself Sheena.
To date we have never known what it means, not even her herself!
We hear it is a name that came with these white skinned.

*****

When you look at her
What strikes you most is that thing she calls a wig;
A master- weave of hair scrapped from the decomposing skulls of
white women's rotting corpses.
Sheena paints her eyebrows with charcoal powder
But prefers to call it eyebrow pencil.

She used to apply lime all around her face
Yes, kinsmen,
White lime all around her terribly black face
and rumour has it that she calls it powder!

She wears a very short skirt long enough to expose her oft- tormented womanhood
She does this with immeasurable joy
That those are the ways of the civilized
But when you steal a glance at her in this outfit,
She threatens to burst like an overstuffed sack of potatoes..
Hmmmm...I wonder how her oft- tormented womanhood breathes..
Poor little thing......

*****

Let me first seek clemency from the ancestors
Before I break this Omukago of the coffee bean
That I took with her just the other day beneath the Omutumba tree
When I promised that I would tell no one her little secret
About what she did long way back to lighten her terribly black skin…

I promised thrice as is our custom that I would tell no one about it..
And I seek the clemency and the mercy of the ever- forgiving Gods on this.
Kinsmen help me beseech the immortals to pardon me for braking Omukago, the sacred oath
For the thread that is to run throughout this narrative would break
And the reason I have invited you here lose meaning
If I never reneged on my the Oath.
Remember me in your supplications to the Immortal Gods that reign supreme in this our land of countless hills,
Recall me and plead for me when handing them sacrifice
So that you may know that she immersed herself in a drumful of acid to change the colour of her skin
And look like a white woman...
Pardon me Sheena
But my kinsmen have to know...

She also confided in me that she burnt her firm, hard and black African hair
So that she could assume the neat and raven hair on the heads of the white women
And attract all men
Men of letters, the civilized men with cool Benzes
Especially Prince Bulemu of the astounding Dietsun Apollo 11
And make them wish they could shed under the shadow left behind by her hair...
I know the Gods are all merciful..
But also pardon me Sheena
But my kinsmen have to know...

*****

If you hear her speak,
LO!
She imitates the accent of the white people's Old Woman
Who has the tendency of speaking as though her nose is blocked
And in this attempt,
Kinsmen,
Irabahake my elder says she reminds him of a constipated boy crying foul!

*****

Though I am always weakened just by the mere mention of the name Rujumba Abwooli,
That belongs to handsome son of Mzee Rwetuma of the Abasambu clan
Whose gap in the teeth is the joy of those he smiles to
Whose athletically built body I was chanced to see as he unsuspectingly bathed by the Biizi stream that made me have an orgasm is the delight of the lucky one he strips naked for
Whose princely gaze in his eyes hardens my nipples
I am still Innocent..
I still have the sheath that covers the mortars of the innocent
For no man's pestle has ever pounded my mortar....
Not even Rujumba's!

But Sheena is not a virgin
Her field has been severally tilled...
First was our important son
The Honourable Minister with a thick tuft of white hair at the boundary line of his hair and his brow
who laid her under the roof of his magic palace...
She boasted on me that while her age-mates when laid count the number of poles that support the grass –thatched roofs of the huts of their sweethearts,
And wow at the skill with which the builders managed to fasten the thatch and the Kalitunsi poles with mere banana fibres in sweet agony,
For her she admires the strobe lights that light in different colours
in the Honourable Minister's huuuuge bedroom while singing the Honourable's name MBABA...Mbaba....MBABAZIIIIIIIII...ayiiiii...ayyy iiiii
In her sweet Soprano....
That the honourable can pelt...

Next was the town clerk
The other moustached Muganda man with a belly as huge and round as that of a pot...
I wonder how he goes about with his manly energies..
But Sheena says she doesn’t care...
For the hands of her 'sweet Omulangira Sserwadda' are forever giving...

Then this our son who had just returned from Abroad
Abroad she told me was the name of the white man's Country..
He is the son of the prosperous farmer Bikundi
Yes there is only one Bikundi..
Whom this whole village know and admire,
Whom you invite to virtually all your beer ceremonies..
Whom you always call to witness the payment of dowry when
The daughters of the Important amongst you are pledging their hands
To those boys they meet and love by the Stream....

So as you all know his son is just fresh from Abroad
Still smelling the airs of the white man’s Country.
Aha…now as he was driving past us in his Volkswagen
That shines as if smeared by ghee
And hisses like the salutations of the enormous Black Mamba,
On the road of tarmac that is near the Junction
That connects the D.C's office to the Well,

Sheena started shaking her small buttocks vigorously in all known directions
As if possessed
From the East to the West, then from the North and then South
Ending with the sharp turn from Centre to the South.
She intended to capture the eye
Of the son of an important man,
The prosperous farmer Bikundi…
And indeed
Like the lumber who roams the whole village looking for the strongest axe to cut down a mature Mahogany tree
Only to find that the powerful tree that he intended to cut has been blown down by the wind,
Her motives came to pass
And she was also laid
By the Important man's son.....
But she complained that his Pestle was still innocent, small and soft
Not used to such rough dances...
That it needed some more robust exercises of pounding
Before it could smoothen all grains usually found in mortars of that kind…
How can I count the bees that have sucked the nectar of Sheena’s flower?

*****

She eats in what she calls style
Not from the spread mat on the earthen floor,
But while standing and sometimes speaking!
Is it not a sacrilege, kinsmen, an unforgivable sacrilege
A heinous offence against our ancestors
to eat while standing and speaking
Let alone moistening the throat without pouring libation?
This is Sheena...She takes liberty to offend our ever- watching Gods with pleasure!

She uses a knife,
a certain weapon and a small spade
Occasionally seeking some recess
To prick some’ salads’ with a small but craftily sharpened stick
Slightly smaller than the arrows a trapped porcupine
Aims at its its relentless hunter.
Then with a forced precision
She fixes the knife in her left hand
then the mysterious weapon of four fingers her in her right.
You should see the satisfaction that she derives from using this elaborate process!
It is this tiresome procedure that consumed her entire teenage days…
To learn to eat food with sticks, spades and mysterious weapons....

*****

By the way Sheena also prefers Hot Dog
This is one of her most audacious deeds..
She particularly says a hot one is her delicacy, hot puppies and the like..
I always wonder how she goes about with their claws!

When she opened a certain pointed bottle
It sounded like a terrible blast from a gun's barrel
I almost spoilt in my dress
For fear had overwhelmed me, and who can blame me
Especially at the sight of a kinswoman attempting suicide in such a cruel manner
By drinking liquid gun- powder? !
She parted my back and told me it was CHAMPAGNE
That Amarwa* was to the uncivilized like me what Champagne is to the civilized like her! ..........

My kinsmen,
I pray I pause here now
So that am left with what tell tomorrow of this my friend Sheena and her strange ways......


*Amarwa- Olden brew, delicacy of the throats Banyoro Peoples of Western Uganda.

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The Undying One - Canto IV

'TIS done--the night has pass'd away;
And, basking in the sunny day,
The laughing fountain's waters bear
No record of each burning tear;--
The silent echoes give no sound
Of shriek or moan; and nothing round
Can tell what breaking hearts have been
So lately in that quiet scene.
But ere the evening falls again,
Many a step o'er mount and glen
Shall hurry far and wide, to seek
Her of the pallid brow and cheek.
Proud is the eye of the bridegroom lord!
He hath girt him round with a trusty sword,

And the horse that hath borne him to battle for years,
Gladly his angry summons hears.
His red nostrils snuffing the morning air,
Nothing he heeds their heavy care,
But waits till his high curving neck shall be freed,
To bound o'er the hills with an arrow's speed.
He is gone--full swiftly he dashes by--
And many a bright and beautiful eye
Follows the rider's form;--and dreams
Of pleasant walks by the dancing streams,
Of moonlight whisperings in the grove,
Of looks of ardour, and vows of love,
Fill those young hearts: and they wonder why
Visions so happy should make them sigh:
And more they wonder, that any one
Of the numberless forms their eyes have known,
Should have stolen a heart which Carlos woo'd
By the fount, and the lone wood's solitude.

Oh! love--real love! intoxicating dream
Of beauty and of happiness! how vain
Are our aspirings after thee, which seem
To bring thee near us!--doubt and causeless pain,
And jealousies, and most unconstant sighs
For something fairer than this world supplies;
And fondness which doth end in faint disgust;
And airy hopes that crumble down to dust ;--
These are not love,--though these too oft impart
A false excitement to the swelling heart.

To look upon the fairy one, who stands
Before you, with her young hair's shining bands,
And rosy lips half parted;--and to muse,
Not on the features which you now peruse,
Not on the blushing bride,--but look beyond
Unto the aged wife, nor feel less fond:
To feel, that while thy arm can strike them dead,
No breathing soul shall harm that gentle head:
To know, that none with fierce and sudden strife
Shall tear thee from her, save with loss of life:
To keep thee but to one, and let that one
Be to thy home what warmth is to the sun;
To gaze, and find no change, when time hath made
Youth's dazzling beauty darken into shade,
But fondly--firmly--cling to her, nor fear
The fading touch of each declining year:--
This is true love, when it hath found a rest
In the deep home of manhood's faithful breast.

To worship silently at some heart's shrine,
And feel, but paint not, all its fire in thine:
To pray for that heart's hopes, when thine are gone,
Nor let its after coldness chill thine own:
To hold that one, with every fault, more dear
Than all who whisper fondness in thine ear:
To joy thee in his joy, and silently
Meet the upbraiding of his angry eye:
To bear unshrinking all the blows of fate,
Save that which leaves thy sorrow desolate:
Nor deem that woe, which thou canst feel is still
Borne with him, and for him; through every ill
To smile on him,--nor weep, save when apart,
God, and God only; looks into thy heart:
To keep unchanged thy calm, pure, quiet love,
If he, inconstant, doth a new one prove;
To love all round him as a part of him,
Ev'n her he worships:--though thine eye be dim
With weeping for thyself--to pray that not
One cloud may darken o'er their earthly lot:
With the affection of true hearts, to see
His happiness, which doth not hang on thee :--
Oh! this is woman's love--its joy--its pain;
And this--it hath been felt--and felt in vain.

They are dancing again, by the misty veil
Of the star-lit sky and the moonlight pale.
Laughing and murmuring voices rise
With their gladsome tones, to the peaceful skies:
And no one voice hath a sadder tone
For the sake of her whose form is gone,
Though her step was light in the dance, and her brow
Fairer than any which gleam there now.
Yet after the dance is done, and faint
Each languid limb on the turf is thrown,
Their gathering voices strive to paint
The stranger-heart that Linda won.
And still, as his wasted form, pale brow,
And mournful looks to their thoughts appear;
With his deep, sad voice, they wonder how
He hath pleaded his tale in Linda's ear.
And some dream wildly of wizard bower
Which hath tempted those fair young feet to stray:
And some of the sweet and charmed power
Which lies in the moonlight's holy ray:
And some who love--oh! they fondly feel,
In the hopeful heart of the promised bride,
That her soul may be bound in the woe or weal
Of the stranger by the fountain's side:
And none be able to know, or tell,
How such a love in her young heart grew--
Till the charm have bound their souls as well,
And the flame burn bright in their bosoms too.

They travel fast--the bridegroom lord,
With his prancing steed and his trusty sword;
And the brother-tyrant by his side,
With marble brow and heart of pride.
But vainly they follow o'er vale and hill,
Through the tufted heath, or the cool clear rill;
That mournful pair are far before,
Where the bleak sands lie, and the billows roar.
Far from the smiling land of her birth,
Her early home on the boundless earth,
Hath Linda, with tears, resolved to go,
For her mother's son is her deadly foe.
Stern as he was when she watch'd each look,
And obey'd ere he spoke--oh! how shall he brook
That her heart hath swerved, and her vows are naught
For the sake of the love which a stranger brought?
Oh! far may her white foot seek, and reach,
A home on Erin's shingled beach!
Where Miriam dwelt--in their bless'd land
Of the free warm heart, and the open hand;
Where no hypocrite sneer their wrath disguises,
But the sword springs out as the heart's blood rises;

There hath she chosen her home to be:
And their bark bounds over the foaming sea.
Silently watching by Isbal's side,
Sadly she looks on the curling tide;
And, gloomily as it roams o'er all,
His eye is a guide where hers shall fall.
Sudden a light shot o'er that eye,
And a quivering through him came;
And Linda, though she knows not why,
Clings trembling to his frame.
Hurriedly he spoke,
As the deep flush broke
O'er his face:
'There is a vessel--would it were a wreck!--
I know it by the flag; and on that deck
Are forms my soul can trace.
Though yet I see them not, I know
That, could we meet, a bitter woe
Were thine, their power beneath:
Though yet I hear them not, I feel
Each voice would tear the polish'd steel
From out its idle sheath.
Curse on the sails, whose lagging speed
Doth leave us in our hour of need!
Is there no wind in heaven?
They come--oh! Linda, cling to me:
Come closer yet: more strength will be
To love and vengeance given!'

Vain wrath! Young Linda gazes on the sight
Which thus hath conjured up a desperate fight;
And, in the distance she doth spy a sail,
With its flag fluttering gently on the gale,
White, calm, and peaceful:--strange in truth it seems,
That such a sight hath power to wake such dreams.
Yet doth she shudder, as with vehement force
He clasps her round, and views the vessel's course.
It nears--it nears--and through the signal glass,
The distant forms of crew and captain pass.--
'Tis they! 'tis they! Her brother's haughty form,
Proudly erect, defies the coming storm:
And, seated near him, in his mantle clad,
With brow almost as haughty, but more sad,
Is he who woo'd her heart, when love was yet
A dream--which those who wake, strive vainly to forget!

She sees them, but all unconscious they,
Who tracks them thus on their distant way.
They hail the vessel, then turn to gaze
Upon the sunset's parting rays;
And veering in their course, they sever,
Careless if they should part for ever!
But Isbal hath fix'd his straining sight
On the gleamy look of her canvas white,
And with impatient glance on high
Chides the full sails that hide the sky;
And yearns, till that distant land be won,
For spirits' wings to bear him on.
Bounds the light ship on her foamy track,
With her crimson pennant floating back:
Onward impell'd by the steady gales,
That are firmly pressing the swelling sails.

On she goes, and the waves are dashing
Under her stern, and under her prow;
Oh! pleasant the sound of the waters splashing
To those who the heat of the desert know.

On she goes--and the light is breaking
In a narrow streak o'er the distant sea;
And the shouts confused of the crew are waking
The silent air with an echo free.

On she goes--and the moon hath risen--
The holy moon that her veil doth shroud;
And like a mournful face from prison,
She looketh out of her watery cloud.

Graceful as earth's most gentle daughters,
That good ship sails through the gleaming spray--
Like a beautiful dream on the darken'd waters,
Till she anchors in Killala bay.

Erin!--be hush'd, my lyre! Oh! thou,
With ardent mind and eager brow;
With heart and harp together strung,
The hero's soul, the poet's tongue;
Who shall attempt the chorded shell
Which thou hast breathed upon so well?
Or who shall seek that land to praise,
Nor seem to echo back thy lays?
That land, 'the land that bore thee;' never
Shall aught thy name from Erin's sever--
Nor dream of Erin's beauty be,
That doth not also breathe of thee.
And if perchance, in after years,
Some other harp shall wake our tears;

Or, with a burst of glorious song,
Bear our rapt souls in dreams along:
The songs they sing, the lays they pour,
Shall bring us back thy genius--Moore!
Oh! yes--by all that others feel,
When from thy lip the low words steal:
By many an unregarded sigh
The winds have caught in passing by:
By wild far dreams of light divine,
That come not, save to souls like thine:
By the heart-swelling thou hast wrought:
By thy deep melody of thought:
By tear, and song, and ardour won--
The harp of Erin is thine own!

A storm is in the sky; a storm on earth;
And terror pale hath hush'd the voice of mirth.
And strong determination gleams forth now
From the deep lines of many a careless brow.
A storm is on the sea; a storm in heaven;
And wildly on the vessel's course is driven.
Forth rushes lightning from the lurid skies,
And ere the pilot's lips can pray,--he dies!
Aghast they stand;--the blacken'd corse lies there,
Sickening their helpless hearts with deep despair:

While Isbal waves his vainly lifted hand,
And shouts in deafen'd ears his proud command:
'Each to his post! Myself will take the helm,
Though lightnings dart, and billows overwhelm.
Why dream ye thus? Is death so dreadful then
To shrinking things that boast the name of men?
Will ye be daunted that one soul hath gone
Ere he had time to say, 'I go alone!'
Struggle for life! for soon the yawning tide,
Which howls and dashes o'er the good ship's side,
Shall come to claim its prey:--each to his post,
And strain and labour, or the ship is lost!'
Alarm, and shame, and wonder fill their hearts;
And then his fiery speech some warmth imparts.
All hands aboard with silent strength obey,
And the strain'd vessel ploughs her labour'd way.

A bark--a bark comes tossing o'er the wave,
(On the dark face of heaven, more darkly seen)
Right on the vessel's course,--while ev'n the brave
Shudder for breath;--what doth the helmsman mean?
Onward she comes--by raging wave and wind
Helplessly driven with a meteor's speed:
Almost she touches:--is the helmsman blind,
That of such danger he doth take no heed?

Well doth he know that ship, whose eye hath watch'd
All the long day; and now doth glaring stand,
His only fear that heaven perchance hath snatch'd
His deep revenge from out his desperate hand.
She comes!--a shock--a hollow whiffing sound--
A wail that o'er the troubled waters went
Of many howling voices;--a harsh sound
Of the keel grating o'er that bark's descent;
And all was over!--Oh! in those few words
How much of agony, and hope, and fear,
And yearnings after life, and treasured hoards
Of young hearts' feelings, cease and disappear!
All--all was over! what, we may not know;
But, looking back, in our own breasts we feel
Much perish'd, with the separate all of those
Who sank beneath that vessel's grating keel.
And with them perish'd Linda's brother stern,
And the young bridegroom in his hour of youth:
And Linda feels her brain and bosom burn--
Oh! it had madden'd her to know the truth!
The murderous truth, that he she loved--for whom
And for whose love she broke her plighted troth,
With strong and ruthless hand prepared the doom,
Which sickens her to dream upon--for both.
But as it was, she gazed into his face,
And round upon the black and empty space,

And then with shudderings cold she bow'd her head,
And gazed upon the waters.--
Have the dead
Power to rise? She sees a single form
All impotently struggling with the storm,
And tossing high his arm, as if to crave
A rescue from his comrades' watery grave.
Oh! save him!--save him! Swift a rope is thrown,
And on the deck, with an exhausted groan,
The half-drown'd wretch is laid. With greedy glare
Doth Isbal watch him for a moment there;
And then with faded glance draws calmly back,
And seems to watch the vessel's furrow'd track.
Meanwhile full many a rough but hearty grasp
Greets the lone stranger; but his hand the clasp
Returns not--and their words of welcome seem
Spoken to one who hears not, but doth dream.
Wistfully gazing up into their eyes,
As though he understood them not--awhile
All motionless he stands; then to the skies,
Then on the sea, with a most bitter smile.
And thus he spoke, but whom he loved, or why,
Is in His book who suffer'd them to die:--

'It was a pleasant dream--possessing thee,
Albeit thy stay was very short on earth:
And still my hopes and heart are blessing thee,
Thou of the glad bright eyes and voice of mirth.
It was a pleasant dream--but thou art gone,
By many a billow cover'd from my sight:
Thou'lt come no more to cheer me when alone--
Thy lips are mute--thine eyes no more are bright.
Oh! thou in whom my life was all bound up,
What is that life without thee? Long ere now
I deem'd that I had drain'd pale sorrow's cup--
Alas! I had not seen death on thy brow.

'Oft, when with boding fears I've sat to watch
For thy dear coming, with dim weary gaze,
Or wander'd out thine eye's first glance to catch,
Fancy hath painted them with fading rays.
I've dream'd of danger and of death; and when
Thine answering look hath met my anxious eye;
When I have clasp'd thee to my heart again--
That heart's full joy hath strain'd to agony.
But it hath come at last--the long dark day,
The cheerless absence which hath no return;
And what is left to me? where lies thy clay--
There--there, beloved, doth my beacon burn!'

Wildly he gazed upon the green deep wave,
As if he sought a spot to be his grave;
Then turning him where Isbal stood aside,
'My curse upon thee, helmsman!' loud he cried.
He leapt--the waters closed, and murmur'd o'er:
The heart that beat to suffer--felt no more.
And Isbal started, and young Linda wept;
And the heavens brighten'd, and the loud winds slept.
The cold pale moon began once more to shine,
And the tall vessel sped athwart the brine.

'Tis deep blue midnight--many a star
Is twinkling in the heavens afar.
The autumn winds are blowing keen
The straight and steady masts between;
And motionless the vessel lies,
As she were traced upon the skies.
Within that anchor'd ship are some
Fond simple hearts who dream of home;
And murmuring in their sleep, they hear
Far distant voices whispering near.
Within that anchor'd ship are many
Whose careless dreams (if they have any)
Bring back some lightly-utter'd jest,
To brighten o'er their lonely rest.

Within that anchor'd ship are none
Who sleep not, save the watch--and one
Who may not rest--who dares not dream;
And he--whence glows that sudden beam
That shot along his pallid brow?
Again--again--'tis brighter now--
Awake! awake! 'tis danger--death!--
The flames are round, above, beneath;
Fire! on the lonely waste of sea--
Fire! where no human help can be!
Wild, breathless, and aghast, the crew
Crowd the scorch'd deck. A busy few,
With the rude instinct that doth make
Man struggle for existence' sake,
Lower the boats:--one after one
Those frail light barks are landward gone,
Ere Isbal from his vision'd trance
Is roused.--What meets his hurried glance?
Half burnt, half drown'd, around him dying,
Are wretches on the waters lying.
He gazes on all with shivering start--
''Tis the curse--'tis the curse of that broken heart!'
He hails the last boat--'Oh! not for my life
Do I ask you to brave the element's strife;
But for her who is dearer than life'--in vain!
A hoarse voice answers him again:

'When thou wert helmsman, the ship went down,
And the heavens look'd out with an angry frown.
How know we who or what thou art,
A man in form, but a fiend in heart!
Thou didst not shudder, nor quail, nor shrink,
When we heard the waves their death-sob drink;
Though brave men held their breath, to see
Their fellows die so suddenly!
The wrath of Heaven is on thy head,
And a cry is come up from the early dead--
It hath wrought on us this awful sign;
And we will not perish for thee or thine!'

It was over now!--and alone they stood
In that fiery ship, on the glowing flood;
With a woman's love, and a woman's fear,
She clung to that bosom, now doubly dear;
And she look'd up into his death-like face,
From the eager clasp of his firm embrace,
With a strange wild smile, which seem'd to say,
'Let us die together.' He turn'd away,
And he gazed far out on the lonely sea,
Where the billows are raging desperately;
He gazed far out to the utmost verge,
But the sickening sound of the booming surge,

And the dashing waves, with their ceaseless strife,
Coursing each other like things of life--
And a howl through the lighted firmament,
As the boat, and the boat's crew downward went--
Sounds of sorrow, and sights of fear,
Were all which struck on his eye and ear.
He look'd around him:--the fiery blaze
Mocking the pale moon's quiet rays;
The red flames licking the top-mast high,
As if climbing to reach the cool clear sky;
And the waters which came with a hissing,
On the side of the burning ship to dash;
The fire-tinged sails, and the lonely deck,
Which must soon be a black and helpless wreck;
The perishing fragments of all which lay
So proudly bright at the close of day;
And the memory of that grating sound,
When the keel pass'd over the wretches drown'd:
These, and the thoughts such scenes impart,
Were all that struck on his eye and heart.
All--was it all? Was there no pale form,
Shining amid the element's storm,
With her lip compress'd, and her dark eye proud,
While the flames rose high, and the blast blew loud?
Feeling that now no earthly power
Could sever their hearts for one short hour,

And careless of death, because she knew
That where he sank, she must perish too!
He look'd on her, and his heart grew sick,
And his filmy glance was dull and thick,
As wildly earnest he gazed once more
From the rolling sea to the distant shore.
A wild light shot o'er his gloomy brow;
'Oh! Heaven, dear Linda, is with us now!
Amid these scenes of fear and dread,
Thy Isbal, still secure, might tread:
The floating wave would bear him on
To live--but he would live alone.
Oh! by the love thou bear'st me still,
Though to me thou owest all earthly ill;
By the hours, and days, and years of bliss
Which made thy dreams, ere life sank to this;
By the hope that hath been, and that still may be,
Plunge into the waves, beloved, with me.'
Wildly she gazes, and shrouds her eyes
From the dark confusion of sea and skies.
Oh! woman's heart! to die by his side
Less fearful seems than to stem that tide;
Those roaring, raging, horrible waves,
Which are rolling o'er her shipmates' graves.

Onward--onward--and Isbal draws
His labour'd breath with a gasping pause;
The curse is light
On his soul that night;
For a heart is beating against his breast,
Where his lonely thoughts have found sweet rest,
And a calm delight.

Onward--onward--she faints not yet--
Though her cheek be cold, and her long hair wet;
And Isbal yearns,
As her fond eye turns
To search for hope in his eager face;
For land, and a mossy resting-place,
Where nothing burns.

Onward--onward--for weary miles
Through the lone chill waters, where nothing smiles,
And the light hath shrunk--
And the wave hath drunk
The last dull, cheerless, ruddy gleam,
And naught remains but an awful dream
Of the good ship sunk.

Onward--onward--in darkness now,
And the dew is standing on Isbal's brow;
And his soul is wrung,
As the arms which clung
Confidingly, droop in their beauty there
On the nervous strength of his shoulder bare,
Where her long hair hung.

Onward--onward--he hears once more
Murmurs and sounds from the blessed shore.
He heedeth not
His long dark lot,
But strains that form in a long embrace,
And tenderly kisses her cold pale face,
And his toil is forgot.

'Thou'rt saved, my Linda! See, the land is won--
The pleasant land where we may live alone:
The deep firm land, where we may stand and gaze
Upon the ocean in its stormiest days.
Linda, my beautiful! oh, blessed be
That day of well-remember'd agony
Which stamp'd the brand of darkness on my brow--
Since I have lived, beloved, to save thee now.'

He hath lifted her and laid her down,
And taken her soft hand in his own,
And wrung the brine from out her hair,
And raised its weight from her bosom fair,
Its cold damp weight, that her breath may come
Free from its pure and lovely home.
He hath press'd his cheek close, close to hers,
To feel when the first pulsation stirs,
And now he watches with patient love
Till that fainting form begin to move.
Long may he watch. Oh! never more
By the rolling sea, or the pleasant shore,
Shall her mournful voice with its gentle sigh
Whisper soft words of melody.
Never, oh! never more, her form
With faithful step, through sun and storm,
Shall follow him from land to land
Or like his guardian spirit stand.
Long may he watch for that head to rise,
For the gentle glance of those waking eyes:
Cold and pale as she lieth now--
With her weary limbs, and her faded brow,
So must she lie for evermore--
She hath pass'd her trials, and reach'd the shore!

Ah! who shall tell their agonized despair,
Who, after watchful nights of ceaseless prayer,
And days of toil, and hours of bitter tears,
And agony that does the work of years--
Stand by the bed of death with whirling brain,
And feel they toil'd, and loved, and pray'd, in vain.
Sadly and fearfully they shrink from those
Whose looks confirm the story of their woes,
And seek with visionary words to buoy
Their spirits up with prophecies of joy:
Ev'n while their blanch'd lips quiver in their dread,
The faint tongue murmurs, 'No, they are not dead!'
And yet we feel they are. So Isbal stood
By the deep, rolling, and eternal flood;
And so he sought some comfort to impart
With a fond falsehood to his conscious heart;
And still repeated, 'Lo, she breathes! she stirs!'
When his own breath had waved a tress of hers.
The oft repeated echo died away
Of those vain words; and as the ocean spray
With its light snow-shower drenches her again,
His lip gives forth uncertain sounds of pain.

In his wrung heart he seeks to guess
When perish'd so much of loveliness;

And in Fancy's dream her arms again
Cling, as they clung around him then.
Which of the mountain waves that rose,
Bade her meek eyes for ever close?
Was it her corpse that he bore for miles,
When he gladly dreamt of her grateful smiles?
Or did her white feet touch the shore,
Ere her spirit departed for evermore?
With a straining force his deep thoughts dwell
On each murmur that rose 'mid the ocean's swell.
Was it, when feebly her young arms sank,
That the dashing waters her spirit drank,
And her breath pass'd out on the billows high
With a faint and an unremember'd sigh?
But no--for long after he spoke to cheer,
And her sweet voice answer'd in his ear.
Was it when darkness fell around,
And the red ship sank with a gurgling sound--
That her angel soul to its haven past
On the unseen wings of the midnight blast?
Did she yearn for the far land hopelessly,
As her stiff limbs shrank from the foaming sea:
Or did she yield her up to death,
With a weary moan, and a gasping breath?
Vainly he searches his tortured brain
For a farewell word, or a sigh of pain;

Silently as he bore her on,
Her soul from its gentle frame hath gone,
And never on earth shall his heart discover
The moment her love and her life were over;
Only this much shall the lost one know--
Where she hath departed, he may not go!

With sternly folded arms, and indrawn breath,
He stands and gazes on that form of death.
The deep--the sickening certainty is there,
The doom eternal of his long despair.
O'er the dim wave he flung his desperate arm,
Forgetful in his anguish of the charm
That bound his life. With effort wild and vain
He plunges headlong in the treacherous main;
While the lone sea, with melancholy sound,
Returns him groaning to the mossy ground.
Again he leaps the tide-wash'd bank, which late
He deem'd a shelter from the storms of fate:
The dashing waters yield, and then divide;
But still he sinks not in the whelming tide.
Proudly he stemm'd the billows, when his arms
Bore the faint burden of his Linda's charms:
Proudly he gazed upon the waters high,
Whose strength contain'd no power to bid him die:

But now he curses, with a bitter voice,
The ocean, which doth triumph and rejoice,
As the green billows, heaving in the day,
Greedily roar around that lifeless clay.
Hark! the wild howl that echoes through the land,
As his foot spurns the smooth and glittering sand.
That wave its floating weight on shore hath thrown;
And 'the Undying One' is left alone.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 17

Brave Menelaus son of Atreus now came to know that Patroclus had
fallen, and made his way through the front ranks clad in full armour
to bestride him. As a cow stands lowing over her first calf, even so
did yellow-haired Menelaus bestride Patroclus. He held his round
shield and his spear in front of him, resolute to kill any who
should dare face him. But the son of Panthous had also noted the body,
and came up to Menelaus saying, "Menelaus, son of Atreus, draw back,
leave the body, and let the bloodstained spoils be. I was first of the
Trojans and their brave allies to drive my spear into Patroclus, let
me, therefore, have my full glory among the Trojans, or I will take
aim and kill you."
To this Menelaus answered in great anger "By father Jove, boasting
is an ill thing. The pard is not more bold, nor the lion nor savage
wild-boar, which is fiercest and most dauntless of all creatures, than
are the proud sons of Panthous. Yet Hyperenor did not see out the days
of his youth when he made light of me and withstood me, deeming me the
meanest soldier among the Danaans. His own feet never bore him back to
gladden his wife and parents. Even so shall I make an end of you
too, if you withstand me; get you back into the crowd and do not
face me, or it shall be worse for you. Even a fool may be wise after
the event."
Euphorbus would not listen, and said, "Now indeed, Menelaus, shall
you pay for the death of my brother over whom you vaunted, and whose
wife you widowed in her bridal chamber, while you brought grief
unspeakable on his parents. I shall comfort these poor people if I
bring your head and armour and place them in the hands of Panthous and
noble Phrontis. The time is come when this matter shall be fought
out and settled, for me or against me."
As he spoke he struck Menelaus full on the shield, but the spear did
not go through, for the shield turned its point. Menelaus then took
aim, praying to father Jove as he did so; Euphorbus was drawing
back, and Menelaus struck him about the roots of his throat, leaning
his whole weight on the spear, so as to drive it home. The point
went clean through his neck, and his armour rang rattling round him as
he fell heavily to the ground. His hair which was like that of the
Graces, and his locks so deftly bound in bands of silver and gold,
were all bedrabbled with blood. As one who has grown a fine young
olive tree in a clear space where there is abundance of water- the
plant is full of promise, and though the winds beat upon it from every
quarter it puts forth its white blossoms till the blasts of some
fierce hurricane sweep down upon it and level it with the ground- even
so did Menelaus strip the fair youth Euphorbus of his armour after
he had slain him. Or as some fierce lion upon the mountains in the
pride of his strength fastens on the finest heifer in a herd as it
is feeding- first he breaks her neck with his strong jaws, and then
gorges on her blood and entrails; dogs and shepherds raise a hue and
cry against him, but they stand aloof and will not come close to
him, for they are pale with fear- even so no one had the courage to
face valiant Menelaus. The son of Atreus would have then carried off
the armour of the son of Panthous with ease, had not Phoebus Apollo
been angry, and in the guise of Mentes chief of the Cicons incited
Hector to attack him. "Hector," said he, "you are now going after
the horses of the noble son of Aeacus, but you will not take them;
they cannot be kept in hand and driven by mortal man, save only by
Achilles, who is son to an immortal mother. Meanwhile Menelaus son
of Atreus has bestridden the body of Patroclus and killed the
noblest of the Trojans, Euphorbus son of Panthous, so that he can
fight no more."
The god then went back into the toil and turmoil, but the soul of
Hector was darkened with a cloud of grief; he looked along the ranks
and saw Euphorbus lying on the ground with the blood still flowing
from his wound, and Menelaus stripping him of his armour. On this he
made his way to the front like a flame of fire, clad in his gleaming
armour, and crying with a loud voice. When the son of Atreus heard
him, he said to himself in his dismay, "Alas! what shall I do? I may
not let the Trojans take the armour of Patroclus who has fallen
fighting on my behalf, lest some Danaan who sees me should cry shame
upon me. Still if for my honour's sake I fight Hector and the
Trojans single-handed, they will prove too many for me, for Hector
is bringing them up in force. Why, however, should I thus hesitate?
When a man fights in despite of heaven with one whom a god
befriends, he will soon rue it. Let no Danaan think ill of me if I
give place to Hector, for the hand of heaven is with him. Yet, if I
could find Ajax, the two of us would fight Hector and heaven too, if
we might only save the body of Patroclus for Achilles son of Peleus.
This, of many evils would be the least."
While he was thus in two minds, the Trojans came up to him with
Hector at their head; he therefore drew back and left the body,
turning about like some bearded lion who is being chased by dogs and
men from a stockyard with spears and hue and cry, whereon he is
daunted and slinks sulkily off- even so did Menelaus son of Atreus
turn and leave the body of Patroclus. When among the body of his
men, he looked around for mighty Ajax son of Telamon, and presently
saw him on the extreme left of the fight, cheering on his men and
exhorting them to keep on fighting, for Phoebus Apollo had spread a
great panic among them. He ran up to him and said, "Ajax, my good
friend, come with me at once to dead Patroclus, if so be that we may
take the body to Achilles- as for his armour, Hector already has it."
These words stirred the heart of Ajax, and he made his way among the
front ranks, Menelaus going with him. Hector had stripped Patroclus of
his armour, and was dragging him away to cut off his head and take the
body to fling before the dogs of Troy. But Ajax came up with his
shield like wall before him, on which Hector withdrew under shelter of
his men, and sprang on to his chariot, giving the armour over to the
Trojans to take to the city, as a great trophy for himself; Ajax,
therefore, covered the body of Patroclus with his broad shield and
bestrode him; as a lion stands over his whelps if hunters have come
upon him in a forest when he is with his little ones- in the pride and
fierceness of his strength he draws his knit brows down till they
cover his eyes- even so did Ajax bestride the body of Patroclus, and
by his side stood Menelaus son of Atreus, nursing great sorrow in
his heart.
Then Glaucus son of Hippolochus looked fiercely at Hector and
rebuked him sternly. "Hector," said he, "you make a brave show, but in
fight you are sadly wanting. A runaway like yourself has no claim to
so great a reputation. Think how you may now save your town and
citadel by the hands of your own people born in Ilius; for you will
get no Lycians to fight for you, seeing what thanks they have had
for their incessant hardships. Are you likely, sir, to do anything
to help a man of less note, after leaving Sarpedon, who was at once
your guest and comrade in arms, to be the spoil and prey of the
Danaans? So long as he lived he did good service both to your city and
yourself; yet you had no stomach to save his body from the dogs. If
the Lycians will listen to me, they will go home and leave Troy to its
fate. If the Trojans had any of that daring fearless spirit which lays
hold of men who are fighting for their country and harassing those who
would attack it, we should soon bear off Patroclus into Ilius. Could
we get this dead man away and bring him into the city of Priam, the
Argives would readily give up the armour of Sarpedon, and we should
get his body to boot. For he whose squire has been now killed is the
foremost man at the ships of the Achaeans- he and his close-fighting
followers. Nevertheless you dared not make a stand against Ajax, nor
face him, eye to eye, with battle all round you, for he is a braver
man than you are."
Hector scowled at him and answered, "Glaucus, you should know
better. I have held you so far as a man of more understanding than any
in all Lycia, but now I despise you for saying that I am afraid of
Ajax. I fear neither battle nor the din of chariots, but Jove's will
is stronger than ours; Jove at one time makes even a strong man draw
back and snatches victory from his grasp, while at another he will set
him on to fight. Come hither then, my friend, stand by me and see
indeed whether I shall play the coward the whole day through as you
say, or whether I shall not stay some even of the boldest Danaans from
fighting round the body of Patroclus."
As he spoke he called loudly on the Trojans saying, "Trojans,
Lycians, and Dardanians, fighters in close combat, be men, my friends,
and fight might and main, while I put on the goodly armour of
Achilles, which I took when I killed Patroclus."
With this Hector left the fight, and ran full speed after his men
who were taking the armour of Achilles to Troy, but had not yet got
far. Standing for a while apart from the woeful fight, he changed
his armour. His own he sent to the strong city of Ilius and to the
Trojans, while he put on the immortal armour of the son of Peleus,
which the gods had given to Peleus, who in his age gave it to his son;
but the son did not grow old in his father's armour.
When Jove, lord of the storm-cloud, saw Hector standing aloof and
arming himself in the armour of the son of Peleus, he wagged his
head and muttered to himself saying, "A! poor wretch, you arm in the
armour of a hero, before whom many another trembles, and you reck
nothing of the doom that is already close upon you. You have killed
his comrade so brave and strong, but it was not well that you should
strip the armour from his head and shoulders. I do indeed endow you
with great might now, but as against this you shall not return from
battle to lay the armour of the son of Peleus before Andromache."
The son of Saturn bowed his portentous brows, and Hector fitted
the armour to his body, while terrible Mars entered into him, and
filled his whole body with might and valour. With a shout he strode in
among the allies, and his armour flashed about him so that he seemed
to all of them like the great son of Peleus himself. He went about
among them and cheered them on- Mesthles, Glaucus, Medon,
Thersilochus, Asteropaeus, Deisenor and Hippothous, Phorcys,
Chromius and Ennomus the augur. All these did he exhort saying,
"Hear me, allies from other cities who are here in your thousands,
it was not in order to have a crowd about me that I called you
hither each from his several city, but that with heart and soul you
might defend the wives and little ones of the Trojans from the
fierce Achaeans. For this do I oppress my people with your food and
the presents that make you rich. Therefore turn, and charge at the
foe, to stand or fall as is the game of war; whoever shall bring
Patroclus, dead though he be, into the hands of the Trojans, and shall
make Ajax give way before him, I will give him one half of the
spoils while I keep the other. He will thus share like honour with
myself."
When he had thus spoken they charged full weight upon the Danaans
with their spears held out before them, and the hopes of each ran high
that he should force Ajax son of Telamon to yield up the body- fools
that they were, for he was about to take the lives of many. Then
Ajax said to Menelaus, "My good friend Menelaus, you and I shall
hardly come out of this fight alive. I am less concerned for the
body of Patroclus, who will shortly become meat for the dogs and
vultures of Troy, than for the safety of my own head and yours. Hector
has wrapped us round in a storm of battle from every quarter, and
our destruction seems now certain. Call then upon the princes of the
Danaans if there is any who can hear us."
Menelaus did as he said, and shouted to the Danaans for help at
the top of his voice. "My friends," he cried, "princes and counsellors
of the Argives, all you who with Agamemnon and Menelaus drink at the
public cost, and give orders each to his own people as Jove vouchsafes
him power and glory, the fight is so thick about me that I cannot
distinguish you severally; come on, therefore, every man unbidden, and
think it shame that Patroclus should become meat and morsel for Trojan
hounds."
Fleet Ajax son of Oileus heard him and was first to force his way
through the fight and run to help him. Next came Idomeneus and
Meriones his esquire, peer of murderous Mars. As for the others that
came into the fight after these, who of his own self could name them?
The Trojans with Hector at their head charged in a body. As a
great wave that comes thundering in at the mouth of some heaven-born
river, and the rocks that jut into the sea ring with the roar of the
breakers that beat and buffet them- even with such a roar did the
Trojans come on; but the Achaeans in singleness of heart stood firm
about the son of Menoetius, and fenced him with their bronze
shields. Jove, moreover, hid the brightness of their helmets in a
thick cloud, for he had borne no grudge against the son of Menoetius
while he was still alive and squire to the descendant of Aeacus;
therefore he was loth to let him fall a prey to the dogs of his foes
the Trojans, and urged his comrades on to defend him.
At first the Trojans drove the Achaeans back, and they withdrew from
the dead man daunted. The Trojans did not succeed in killing any
one, nevertheless they drew the body away. But the Achaeans did not
lose it long, for Ajax, foremost of all the Danaans after the son of
Peleus alike in stature and prowess, quickly rallied them and made
towards the front like a wild boar upon the mountains when he stands
at bay in the forest glades and routs the hounds and lusty youths that
have attacked him- even so did Ajax son of Telamon passing easily in
among the phalanxes of the Trojans, disperse those who had
bestridden Patroclus and were most bent on winning glory by dragging
him off to their city. At this moment Hippothous brave son of the
Pelasgian Lethus, in his zeal for Hector and the Trojans, was dragging
the body off by the foot through the press of the fight, having
bound a strap round the sinews near the ancle; but a mischief soon
befell him from which none of those could save him who would have
gladly done so, for the son of Telamon sprang forward and smote him on
his bronze-cheeked helmet. The plumed headpiece broke about the
point of the weapon, struck at once by the spear and by the strong
hand of Ajax, so that the bloody brain came oozing out through the
crest-socket. His strength then failed him and he let Patroclus'
foot drop from his hand, as he fell full length dead upon the body;
thus he died far from the fertile land of Larissa, and never repaid
his parents the cost of bringing him up, for his life was cut short
early by the spear of mighty Ajax. Hector then took aim at Ajax with a
spear, but he saw it coming and just managed to avoid it; the spear
passed on and struck Schedius son of noble Iphitus, captain of the
Phoceans, who dwelt in famed Panopeus and reigned over much people; it
struck him under the middle of the collar-bone the bronze point went
right through him, coming out at the bottom of his shoulder-blade, and
his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to the ground.
Ajax in his turn struck noble Phorcys son of Phaenops in the middle of
the belly as he was bestriding Hippothous, and broke the plate of
his cuirass; whereon the spear tore out his entrails and he clutched
the ground in his palm as he fell to earth. Hector and those who
were in the front rank then gave ground, while the Argives raised a
loud cry of triumph, and drew off the bodies of Phorcys and Hippothous
which they stripped presently of their armour.
The Trojans would now have been worsted by the brave Achaeans and
driven back to Ilius through their own cowardice, while the Argives,
so great was their courage and endurance, would have achieved a
triumph even against the will of Jove, if Apollo had not roused
Aeneas, in the likeness of Periphas son of Epytus, an attendant who
had grown old in the service of Aeneas' aged father, and was at all
times devoted to him. In his likeness, then, Apollo said, "Aeneas, can
you not manage, even though heaven be against us, to save high
Ilius? I have known men, whose numbers, courage, and self-reliance
have saved their people in spite of Jove, whereas in this case he
would much rather give victory to us than to the Danaans, if you would
only fight instead of being so terribly afraid."
Aeneas knew Apollo when he looked straight at him, and shouted to
Hector saying, "Hector and all other Trojans and allies, shame on us
if we are beaten by the Achaeans and driven back to Ilius through
our own cowardice. A god has just come up to me and told me that
Jove the supreme disposer will be with us. Therefore let us make for
the Danaans, that it may go hard with them ere they bear away dead
Patroclus to the ships."
As he spoke he sprang out far in front of the others, who then
rallied and again faced the Achaeans. Aeneas speared Leiocritus son of
Arisbas, a valiant follower of Lycomedes, and Lycomedes was moved with
pity as he saw him fall; he therefore went close up, and speared
Apisaon son of Hippasus shepherd of his people in the liver under
the midriff, so that he died; he had come from fertile Paeonia and was
the best man of them all after Asteropaeus. Asteropaeus flew forward
to avenge him and attack the Danaans, but this might no longer be,
inasmuch as those about Patroclus were well covered by their
shields, and held their spears in front of them, for Ajax had given
them strict orders that no man was either to give ground, or to
stand out before the others, but all were to hold well together
about the body and fight hand to hand. Thus did huge Ajax bid them,
and the earth ran red with blood as the corpses fell thick on one
another alike on the side of the Trojans and allies, and on that of
the Danaans; for these last, too, fought no bloodless fight though
many fewer of them perished, through the care they took to defend
and stand by one another.
Thus did they fight as it were a flaming fire; it seemed as though
it had gone hard even with the sun and moon, for they were hidden over
all that part where the bravest heroes were fighting about the dead
son of Menoetius, whereas the other Danaans and Achaeans fought at
their ease in full daylight with brilliant sunshine all round them,
and there was not a cloud to be seen neither on plain nor mountain.
These last moreover would rest for a while and leave off fighting, for
they were some distance apart and beyond the range of one another's
weapons, whereas those who were in the thick of the fray suffered both
from battle and darkness. All the best of them were being worn out
by the great weight of their armour, but the two valiant heroes,
Thrasymedes and Antilochus, had not yet heard of the death of
Patroclus, and believed him to be still alive and leading the van
against the Trojans; they were keeping themselves in reserve against
the death or rout of their own comrades, for so Nestor had ordered
when he sent them from the ships into battle.
Thus through the livelong day did they wage fierce war, and the
sweat of their toil rained ever on their legs under them, and on their
hands and eyes, as they fought over the squire of the fleet son of
Peleus. It was as when a man gives a great ox-hide all drenched in fat
to his men, and bids them stretch it; whereon they stand round it in a
ring and tug till the moisture leaves it, and the fat soaks in for the
many that pull at it, and it is well stretched- even so did the two
sides tug the dead body hither and thither within the compass of but a
little space- the Trojans steadfastly set on drag ing it into Ilius,
while the Achaeans were no less so on taking it to their ships; and
fierce was the fight between them. Not Mars himself the lord of hosts,
nor yet Minerva, even in their fullest fury could make light of such a
battle.
Such fearful turmoil of men and horses did Jove on that day ordain
round the body of Patroclus. Meanwhile Achilles did not know that he
had fallen, for the fight was under the wall of Troy a long way off
the ships. He had no idea, therefore, that Patroclus was dead, and
deemed that he would return alive as soon as he had gone close up to
the gates. He knew that he was not to sack the city neither with nor
without himself, for his mother had often told him this when he had
sat alone with her, and she had informed him of the counsels of
great Jove. Now, however, she had not told him how great a disaster
had befallen him in the death of the one who was far dearest to him of
all his comrades.
The others still kept on charging one another round the body with
their pointed spears and killing each other. Then would one say, "My
friends, we can never again show our faces at the ships- better, and
greatly better, that earth should open and swallow us here in this
place, than that we should let the Trojans have the triumph of bearing
off Patroclus to their city."
The Trojans also on their part spoke to one another saying,
"Friends, though we fall to a man beside this body, let none shrink
from fighting." With such words did they exhort each other. They
fought and fought, and an iron clank rose through the void air to
the brazen vault of heaven. The horses of the descendant of Aeacus
stood out of the fight and wept when they heard that their driver
had been laid low by the hand of murderous Hector. Automedon,
valiant son of Diores, lashed them again and again; many a time did he
speak kindly to them, and many a time did he upbraid them, but they
would neither go back to the ships by the waters of the broad
Hellespont, nor yet into battle among the Achaeans; they stood with
their chariot stock still, as a pillar set over the tomb of some
dead man or woman, and bowed their heads to the ground. Hot tears fell
from their eyes as they mourned the loss of their charioteer, and
their noble manes drooped all wet from under the yokestraps on
either side the yoke.
The son of Saturn saw them and took pity upon their sorrow. He
wagged his head, and muttered to himself, saying, "Poor things, why
did we give you to King Peleus who is a mortal, while you are
yourselves ageless and immortal? Was it that you might share the
sorrows that befall mankind? for of all creatures that live and move
upon the earth there is none so pitiable as he is- still, Hector son
of Priam shall drive neither you nor your chariot. I will not have it.
It is enough that he should have the armour over which he vaunts so
vainly. Furthermore I will give you strength of heart and limb to bear
Automedon safely to the ships from battle, for I shall let the Trojans
triumph still further, and go on killing till they reach the ships;
whereon night shall fall and darkness overshadow the land."
As he spoke he breathed heart and strength into the horses so that
they shook the dust from out of their manes, and bore their chariot
swiftly into the fight that raged between Trojans and Achaeans. Behind
them fought Automedon full of sorrow for his comrade, as a vulture
amid a flock of geese. In and out, and here and there, full speed he
dashed amid the throng of the Trojans, but for all the fury of his
pursuit he killed no man, for he could not wield his spear and keep
his horses in hand when alone in the chariot; at last, however, a
comrade, Alcimedon, son of Laerces son of Haemon caught sight of him
and came up behind his chariot. "Automedon," said he, "what god has
put this folly into your heart and robbed you of your right mind, that
you fight the Trojans in the front rank single-handed? He who was your
comrade is slain, and Hector plumes himself on being armed in the
armour of the descendant of Aeacus."
Automedon son of Diores answered, "Alcimedon, there is no one else
who can control and guide the immortal steeds so well as you can, save
only Patroclus- while he was alive- peer of gods in counsel. Take then
the whip and reins, while I go down from the car and fight.
Alcimedon sprang on to the chariot, and caught up the whip and
reins, while Automedon leaped from off the car. When Hector saw him he
said to Aeneas who was near him, "Aeneas, counsellor of the
mail-clad Trojans, I see the steeds of the fleet son of Aeacus come
into battle with weak hands to drive them. I am sure, if you think
well, that we might take them; they will not dare face us if we both
attack them."
The valiant son of Anchises was of the same mind, and the pair
went right on, with their shoulders covered under shields of tough dry
ox-hide, overlaid with much bronze. Chromius and Aretus went also with
them, and their hearts beat high with hope that they might kill the
men and capture the horses- fools that they were, for they were not to
return scatheless from their meeting with Automedon, who prayed to
father Jove and was forthwith filled with courage and strength
abounding. He turned to his trusty comrade Alcimedon and said,
"Alcimedon, keep your horses so close up that I may feel their
breath upon my back; I doubt that we shall not stay Hector son of
Priam till he has killed us and mounted behind the horses; he will
then either spread panic among the ranks of the Achaeans, or himself
be killed among the foremost."
On this he cried out to the two Ajaxes and Menelaus, "Ajaxes
captains of the Argives, and Menelaus, give the dead body over to them
that are best able to defend it, and come to the rescue of us
living; for Hector and Aeneas who are the two best men among the
Trojans, are pressing us hard in the full tide of war. Nevertheless
the issue lies on the lap of heaven, I will therefore hurl my spear
and leave the rest to Jove."
He poised and hurled as he spoke, whereon the spear struck the round
shield of Aretus, and went right through it for the shield stayed it
not, so that it was driven through his belt into the lower part of his
belly. As when some sturdy youth, axe in hand, deals his blow behind
the horns of an ox and severs the tendons at the back of its neck so
that it springs forward and then drops, even so did Aretus give one
bound and then fall on his back the spear quivering in his body till
it made an end of him. Hector then aimed a spear at Automedon but he
saw it coming and stooped forward to avoid it, so that it flew past
him and the point stuck in the ground, while the butt-end went on
quivering till Mars robbed it of its force. They would then have
fought hand to hand with swords had not the two Ajaxes forced their
way through the crowd when they heard their comrade calling, and
parted them for all their fury- for Hector, Aeneas, and Chromius
were afraid and drew back, leaving Aretus to lie there struck to the
heart. Automedon, peer of fleet Mars, then stripped him of his
armour and vaunted over him saying, "I have done little to assuage
my sorrow for the son of Menoetius, for the man I have killed is not
so good as he was."
As he spoke he took the blood-stained spoils and laid them upon
his chariot; then he mounted the car with his hands and feet all
steeped in gore as a lion that has been gorging upon a bull.
And now the fierce groanful fight again raged about Patroclus, for
Minerva came down from heaven and roused its fury by the command of
far-seeing Jove, who had changed his mind and sent her to encourage
the Danaans. As when Jove bends his bright bow in heaven in token to
mankind either of war or of the chill storms that stay men from
their labour and plague the flocks- even so, wrapped in such radiant
raiment, did Minerva go in among the host and speak man by man to
each. First she took the form and voice of Phoenix and spoke to
Menelaus son of Atreus, who was standing near her. "Menelaus," said
she, "it will be shame and dishonour to you, if dogs tear the noble
comrade of Achilles under the walls of Troy. Therefore be staunch, and
urge your men to be so also."
Menelaus answered, "Phoenix, my good old friend, may Minerva
vouchsafe me strength and keep the darts from off me, for so shall I
stand by Patroclus and defend him; his death has gone to my heart, but
Hector is as a raging fire and deals his blows without ceasing, for
Jove is now granting him a time of triumph."
Minerva was pleased at his having named herself before any of the
other gods. Therefore she put strength into his knees and shoulders,
and made him as bold as a fly, which, though driven off will yet
come again and bite if it can, so dearly does it love man's blood-
even so bold as this did she make him as he stood over Patroclus and
threw his spear. Now there was among the Trojans a man named Podes,
son of Eetion, who was both rich and valiant. Hector held him in the
highest honour for he was his comrade and boon companion; the spear of
Menelaus struck this man in the girdle just as he had turned in
flight, and went right through him. Whereon he fell heavily forward,
and Menelaus son of Atreus drew off his body from the Trojans into the
ranks of his own people.
Apollo then went up to Hector and spurred him on to fight, in the
likeness of Phaenops son of Asius who lived in Abydos and was the most
favoured of all Hector's guests. In his likeness Apollo said, "Hector,
who of the Achaeans will fear you henceforward now that you have
quailed before Menelaus who has ever been rated poorly as a soldier?
Yet he has now got a corpse away from the Trojans single-handed, and
has slain your own true comrade, a man brave among the foremost, Podes
son of Eetion.
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Hector as he heard, and he made
his way to the front clad in full armour. Thereon the son of Saturn
seized his bright tasselled aegis, and veiled Ida in cloud: he sent
forth his lightnings and his thunders, and as he shook his aegis he
gave victory to the Trojans and routed the Achaeans.
The panic was begun by Peneleos the Boeotian, for while keeping
his face turned ever towards the foe he had been hit with a spear on
the upper part of the shoulder; a spear thrown by Polydamas had grazed
the top of the bone, for Polydamas had come up to him and struck him
from close at hand. Then Hector in close combat struck Leitus son of
noble Alectryon in the hand by the wrist, and disabled him from
fighting further. He looked about him in dismay, knowing that never
again should he wield spear in battle with the Trojans. While Hector
was in pursuit of Leitus, Idomeneus struck him on the breastplate over
his chest near the nipple; but the spear broke in the shaft, and the
Trojans cheered aloud. Hector then aimed at Idomeneus son of Deucalion
as he was standing on his chariot, and very narrowly missed him, but
the spear hit Coiranus, a follower and charioteer of Meriones who
had come with him from Lyctus. Idomeneus had left the ships on foot
and would have afforded a great triumph to the Trojans if Coiranus had
not driven quickly up to him, he therefore brought life and rescue
to Idomeneus, but himself fell by the hand of murderous Hector. For
Hector hit him on the jaw under the ear; the end of the spear drove
out his teeth and cut his tongue in two pieces, so that he fell from
his chariot and let the reins fall to the ground. Meriones gathered
them up from the ground and took them into his own hands, then he said
to Idomeneus, "Lay on, till you get back to the ships, for you must
see that the day is no longer ours."
On this Idomeneus lashed the horses to the ships, for fear had taken
hold upon him.
Ajax and Menelaus noted how Jove had turned the scale in favour of
the Trojans, and Ajax was first to speak. "Alas," said he, "even a
fool may see that father Jove is helping the Trojans. All their
weapons strike home; no matter whether it be a brave man or a coward
that hurls them, Jove speeds all alike, whereas ours fall each one
of them without effect. What, then, will be best both as regards
rescuing the body, and our return to the joy of our friends who will
be grieving as they look hitherwards; for they will make sure that
nothing can now check the terrible hands of Hector, and that he will
fling himself upon our ships. I wish that some one would go and tell
the son of Peleus at once, for I do not think he can have yet heard
the sad news that the dearest of his friends has fallen. But I can see
not a man among the Achaeans to send, for they and their chariots
are alike hidden in darkness. O father Jove, lift this cloud from over
the sons of the Achaeans; make heaven serene, and let us see; if you
will that we perish, let us fall at any rate by daylight."
Father Jove heard him and had compassion upon his tears. Forthwith
he chased away the cloud of darkness, so that the sun shone out and
all the fighting was revealed. Ajax then said to Menelaus, "Look,
Menelaus, and if Antilochus son of Nestor be still living, send him at
once to tell Achilles that by far the dearest to him of all his
comrades has fallen."
Menelaus heeded his words and went his way as a lion from a
stockyard- the lion is tired of attacking the men and hounds, who keep
watch the whole night through and will not let him feast on the fat of
their herd. In his lust of meat he makes straight at them but in vain,
for darts from strong hands assail him, and burning brands which daunt
him for all his hunger, so in the morning he slinks sulkily away- even
so did Menelaus sorely against his will leave Patroclus, in great fear
lest the Achaeans should be driven back in rout and let him fall
into the hands of the foe. He charged Meriones and the two Ajaxes
straitly saying, "Ajaxes and Meriones, leaders of the Argives, now
indeed remember how good Patroclus was; he was ever courteous while
alive, bear it in mind now that he is dead."
With this Menelaus left them, looking round him as keenly as an
eagle, whose sight they say is keener than that of any other bird-
however high he may be in the heavens, not a hare that runs can escape
him by crouching under bush or thicket, for he will swoop down upon it
and make an end of it- even so, O Menelaus, did your keen eyes range
round the mighty host of your followers to see if you could find the
son of Nestor still alive. Presently Menelaus saw him on the extreme
left of the battle cheering on his men and exhorting them to fight
boldly. Menelaus went up to him and said, "Antilochus, come here and
listen to sad news, which I would indeed were untrue. You must see
with your own eyes that heaven is heaping calamity upon the Danaans,
and giving victory to the Trojans. Patroclus has fallen, who was the
bravest of the Achaeans, and sorely will the Danaans miss him. Run
instantly to the ships and tell Achilles, that he may come to rescue
the body and bear it to the ships. As for the armour, Hector already
has it."
Antilochus was struck with horror. For a long time he was
speechless; his eyes filled with tears and he could find no utterance,
but he did as Menelaus had said, and set off running as soon as he had
given his armour to a comrade, Laodocus, who was wheeling his horses
round, close beside him.
Thus, then, did he run weeping from the field, to carry the bad news
to Achilles son of Peleus. Nor were you, O Menelaus, minded to succour
his harassed comrades, when Antilochus had left the Pylians- and
greatly did they miss him- but he sent them noble Thrasymedes, and
himself went back to Patroclus. He came running up to the two Ajaxes
and said, "I have sent Antilochus to the ships to tell Achilles, but
rage against Hector as he may, he cannot come, for he cannot fight
without armour. What then will be our best plan both as regards
rescuing the dead, and our own escape from death amid the battle-cries
of the Trojans?"
Ajax answered, "Menelaus, you have said well: do you, then, and
Meriones stoop down, raise the body, and bear it out of the fray,
while we two behind you keep off Hector and the Trojans, one in
heart as in name, and long used to fighting side by side with one
another."
On this Menelaus and Meriones took the dead man in their arms and
lifted him high aloft with a great effort. The Trojan host raised a
hue and cry behind them when they saw the Achaeans bearing the body
away, and flew after them like hounds attacking a wounded boar at
the loo of a band of young huntsmen. For a while the hounds fly at him
as though they would tear him in pieces, but now and again he turns on
them in a fury, scaring and scattering them in all directions- even so
did the Trojans for a while charge in a body, striking with sword
and with spears pointed ai both the ends, but when the two Ajaxes
faced them and stood at bay, they would turn pale and no man dared
press on to fight further about the dead.
In this wise did the two heroes strain every nerve to bear the
body to the ships out of the fight. The battle raged round them like
fierce flames that when once kindled spread like wildfire over a city,
and the houses fall in the glare of its burning- even such was the
roar and tramp of men and horses that pursued them as they bore
Patroclus from the field. Or as mules that put forth all their
strength to draw some beam or great piece of ship's timber down a
rough mountain-track, and they pant and sweat as they, go even so
did Menelaus and pant and sweat as they bore the body of Patroclus.
Behind them the two Ajaxes held stoutly out. As some wooded
mountain-spur that stretches across a plain will turn water and
check the flow even of a great river, nor is there any stream strong
enough to break through it- even so did the two Ajaxes face the
Trojans and stern the tide of their fighting though they kept
pouring on towards them and foremost among them all was Aeneas son
of Anchises with valiant Hector. As a flock of daws or starlings
fall to screaming and chattering when they see a falcon, foe to i'll
small birds, come soaring near them, even so did the Achaean youth
raise a babel of cries as they fled before Aeneas and Hector,
unmindful of their former prowess. In the rout of the Danaans much
goodly armour fell round about the trench, and of fighting there was
no end.

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Ninth Book

EVEN thus. I pause to write it out at length,
The letter of the Lady Waldemar.–

'I prayed your cousin Leigh to take you this,
He says he'll do it. After years of love,
Or what is called so,–when a woman frets
And fools upon one string of a man's name,
And fingers it for ever till it breaks,–
He may perhaps do for her such thing,
And she accept it without detriment
Although she should not love him any more
And I, who do not love him, nor love you,
Nor you, Aurora,–choose you shall repent
Your most ungracious letter, and confess,
Constrained by his convictions, (he's convinced)
You've wronged me foully. Are you made so ill,
You woman–to impute such ill to me?
We both had mothers,–lay in their bosom once.
Why, after all, I thank you, Aurora Leigh,
For proving to myself that there are things
I would not do, . . not for my life . . nor him . .
Though something I have somewhat overdone,–
For instance, when I went to see the gods
One morning, on Olympus, with a step
That shook the thunder in a certain cloud,
Committing myself vilely. Could I think,
The Muse I pulled my heart out from my breast
To soften, had herself a sort of heart,
And loved my mortal? He, at least, loved her;
I heard him say so; 'twas my recompence,
When, watching at his bedside fourteen days,
He broke out ever like a flame at whiles
Between the heats of fever . . . 'Is it thou?
'Breathe closer, sweetest mouth!' and when at last
The fever gone, the wasted face extinct
As if it irked him much to know me there,
He said, Twas kind, 'twas good, 'twas womanly,'
(And fifty praises to excuse one love)
'But was the picture safe he had ventured for?'
And then, half wandering . . 'I have loved her well,
Although she could not love me.'–'Say instead,'
I answered, 'that she loves you.'–'Twas my turn
To rave: (I would have married him so changed,
Although the world had jeered me properly
For taking up with Cupid at his worst,
The silver quiver worn off on his hair.)
'No, no,' he murmured, 'no, she loves me not;
'Aurora Leigh does better: bring her book
'And read it softly, Lady Waldemar,
'Until I thank your friendship more for that,
'Than even for harder service.' So I read
Your book, Aurora, for an hour, that day:
I kept its pauses, marked its emphasis;
My voice, empaled upon rhyme's golden hooks,
Not once would writhe, nor quiver, nor revolt;
I read on calmly,–calmly shut it up,
Observing, 'There's some merit in the book.
'And yet the merit in't is thrown away
'As chances still with women, if we write
'Or write not: we want string to tie our flowers,
'So drop them as we walk, which serves to show
'The way we went. Good morning, Mister Leigh;
'You'll find another reader the next time.
'A woman who does better than to love,
'I hate; she will do nothing very well:
'Male poets are preferable, tiring less
'And teaching more.' I triumphed o'er you both,
And left him.
' When I saw him afterward,
I had read your shameful letter, and my heart.
He came with health recovered, strong though pale
Lord Howe and he, a courteous pair of friends,
To say what men dare say to women, when
Their debtors. But I stopped them with a word;
And proved I had never trodden such a road,
To carry so much dirt upon my shoe.
Then, putting into it something of disdain,
I asked forsooth his pardon, and my own,
For having done no better than to love,
And that, not wisely,–though 'twas long ago,
And though 'twas altered perfectly since then.
I told him, as I tell you now, Miss Leigh,
And proved I took some trouble for his sake
(Because I know he did not love the girl)
To spoil my hands with working in the stream
Of that poor bubbling nature,–till she went,
Consigned to one I trusted, my own maid,
Who once had lived full five months in my house,
(Dressed hair superbly) with lavish purse
To carry to Australia where she had left
A husband, said she. If the creature lied,
The mission failed, we all do fail and lie
More or less–and I'm sorry–which is all
Expected from us when we fail the most,
And go to church to own it. What I meant,
Was just the best for him, and me, and her . .
Best even for Marian!–I am sorry for't,
And very sorry. Yet my creature said
She saw her stop to speak in Oxford Street
To one . . no matter! I had sooner cut
My hand off (though 'twere kissed the hour before,
And promised a pearl troth-ring for the next)
Than crush her silly head with so much wrong.
Poor child! I would have mended it with gold,
Until it gleamed like St. Sophia's dome
When all the faithful troop to morning prayer:
But he, he nipped the bud of such a thought
With that cold Leigh look which I fancied once,
And broke in, 'Henceforth she was called his wife.
'His wife required no succour: he was bound
'To Florence, to resume this broken bond:
'Enough so. Both were happy, he and Howe,
'To acquit me of the heaviest charge of all–'
–At which I shut my tongue against my fly
And struck him; 'Would he carry,–he was just,–
'A letter from me to Aurora Leigh,
'And ratify from his authentic mouth
'My answer to her accusation?'–'Yes,
'If such a letter were prepared in time.'
–He's just, your cousin,–ay, abhorrently.
He'd wash his hands in blood, to keep them clean.
And so, cold, courteous, a mere gentleman,
He bowed, we parted.
'Parted. Face no more,
Voice no more, love no more! wiped wholly out,
Like some ill scholar's scrawl from heart and slate,–
Ay, spit on and so wiped out utterly
By some coarse scholar! I have been too coarse,
Too human. Have we business, in our rank,
With blood i' the veins? I will have henceforth none;
Not even keep the colour at my lip.
A rose is pink and pretty without blood;
Why not a woman? When we've played in vain
The game, to adore,–we have resources still,
And can play on at leisure, being adored:
Here's Smith already swearing at my feet
That I'm the typic She. Away with Smith!–
Smith smacks of Leigh,–and henceforth, I'll admit
No socialist within three crinolines,
To live and have his being. But for you,
Though insolent your letter and absurd,
And though I hate you frankly,–take my Smith!
For when you have seen this famous marriage tied,
A most unspotted Erle to a noble Leigh,
(His love astray on one he should not love)
Howbeit–beware, you should not want his love,
You'll want some comfort. So I leave you Smith;
Take Smith!–he talks Leigh's subjects, somewhat worse;
Adopts a thought of Leigh's, and dwindles it;
Goes leagues beyond, to be no inch behind;
Will mind you of him, as a shoe-string may,
Of a man: and women, when they are made like you,
Grow tender to a shoe-string, foot-print even,
Adore averted shoulders in a glass,
And memories of what, present once, was loathed.
And yet, you loathed not Romney,–though you've played
At 'fox and goose' about him with your soul:
Pass over fox, you rub out fox,–ignore
A feeling, you eradicate it,–the act's
Identical.
'I wish you joy, Miss Leigh.
You've made a happy marriage for your friend;
And all the honour, well-assorted love,
Derives from you who love him, whom he loves!
You need not wish me joy to think of it,
I have so much. Observe, Aurora Leigh,
Your droop of eyelid is the same as his,
And, but for you, I might have won his love,
And, to you, I have shown my naked heart,–
For which three things I hate, hate, hate you. Hush,
Suppose a fourth!–I cannot choose but think
That, with him, I were virtuouser than you
Without him: so I hate you from this gulph
And hollow of my soul, which opens out
To what, except for you, had been my heaven,
And is instead, a place to curse by! LOVE.'

An active kind of curse. I stood there cursed–
Confounded. I had seized and caught the sense
Of the letter with its twenty stinging snakes,
In a moment's sweep of eyesight, and I stood
Dazed.–'Ah! not married,'
'You mistake,' he said;
'I'm married. Is not Marian Erle my wife?
As God sees things, I have a wife and child;
And I, as I'm a man who honours God,
Am here to claim my child and wife.'

I felt it hard to breathe, much less to speak.
Nor word of mine was needed. Some one else
Was there for answering. 'Romney,' she began,
'My great good angel, Romney.'
Then at first,
I knew that Marian Erle was beautiful.
She stood there, still and pallid as a saint,
Dilated, like a saint in ecstasy,
As if the floating moonshine interposed
Betwixt her foot and the earth, and raised her up
To float upon it. 'I had left my child,
Who sleeps,' she said, 'and, having drawn this way,
I heard you speaking, . . friend!–Confirm me now.
You take this Marian, such as wicked men
Have made her, for your honourable wife?'

The thrilling, solemn, proud, pathetic voice.
He stretched his arms out toward the thrilling voice,
As if to draw it on to his embrace.
–'I take her as God made her, and as men
Must fail to unmake her, as my honoured wife.'

She never raised her eyes, nor took a step,
But stood there in her place, and spoke again.
–'You take this Marian's child, which is her shame
In sight of men and women, for your child,
Of whom you will not ever feel ashamed?'

The thrilling, tender, proud, pathetic voice.
He stepped on toward it, still with outstretched arms,
As if to quench upon his breast that voice.
–'May God so father me, as I do him
And so forsake me as I let him feel
He's orphaned haply. Here I take the child
To share my cup, to slumber on my knee,
To play his loudest gambol at my foot,
To hold my finger in the public ways,
Till none shall need inquire, 'Whose child is this,'
The gesture saying so tenderly, 'My own.

She stood a moment silent in her place;
Then, turning toward me, very slow and cold–
–'And you,–what say you?–will you blame me much,
If, careful for that outcast child of mine
I catch this hand that's stretched to me and him
Nor dare to leave him friendless in the world
Where men have stoned me? Have I not the right
To take so mere an aftermath from life,
Else found so wholly bare? Or is it wrong
To let your cousin, for a generous bent,
Put out his ungloved fingers among briars
To set a tumbling bird's-nest somewhat straight?
You will not tell him, though we're innocent
We are not harmless? . . and that both our harms
Will stick to his good smooth noble life like burrs,
Never to drop off though you shake the cloak?
You've been my friend: you will not now be his?
You've known him, that he's worthy of a friend;
And you're his cousin, lady, after all,
And therefore more than free to take his part,
Explaining, since the nest is surely spoilt,
And Marian what you know her,–though a wife,
The world would hardly understand her case
Of being just hurt and honest; while for him,
'Twould ever twit him with his bastard child
And married Harlot. Speak, while yet there's time:
You would not stand and let a good man's dog
Turn round and rend him, because his, and reared
Of a generous breed,–and will you let his act,
Because it's generous? Speak. I'm bound to you,
And I'll be bound by only you, in this.'
The thrilling, solemn voice, so passionless,
Sustained, yet low, without a rise or fall,
As one who had authority to speak,
And not as Marian.
I looked up to feel
If God stood near me and beheld his heaven
As blue as Aaron's priestly robe appeared
To Aaron when he took it off to die.
And then I spoke–'Accept the gift, I say,
My sister Marian, and be satisfied.
The hand that gives has still a soul behind
Which will not let it quail for having given,
Though foolish worldlings talk they know not what,
Of what they know not. Romney's strong enough
For this: do you be strong to know he's strong:
He stands on Right's side; never flinch for him,
As if he stood on the other. You'll be bound
By me? I am a woman of repute;
No fly-blow gossip ever specked my life;
My name is clean and open as this hand,
Whose glove there's not a man dares blab about
As if he had touched it freely:–here's my hand
To clasp your hand, my Marian, owned as pure!
As pure,–I'm a woman and a Leigh!–
And, as I'm both, I'll witness to the world
That Romney Leigh is honoured in his choice,
Who chooses Marian for his honoured wife.'

Her broad wild woodland eyes shot out a light;
Her smile was wonderful for rapture. 'Thanks,
My great Aurora.' Forward then she sprang,
And dropping her impassioned spaniel head
With all its brown abandonment of curls
On Romney's feet, we heard the kisses drawn
Through sobs upon the foot, upon the ground–
'O Romney! O my angel! O unchanged,
Though, since we've parted, I have passed the grave!
But Death itself could only better thee, ,
Not change thee!–Thee I do not thank at all:
I but thank God who made thee what thou art,
So wholly godlike.'
When he tried in vain
To raise her to his embrace, escaping thence
As any leaping fawn from a huntsman's grasp,
She bounded off and 'lighted beyond reach,
Before him with a staglike majesty
Of soft, serene defiance,–as she knew
He could not touch her, so was tolerant
He had cared to try. She stood there with her great
Drowned eyes, and dripping cheeks, and strange sweet smile
That lived through all, as if one held a light
Across a waste of waters,–shook her head
To keep some thoughts down deeper in her soul,–
Then, white and tranquil as a summer-cloud
Which, having rained itself to a tardy peace,
Stands still in heaven as if it ruled the day,
Spoke out again–'Although, my generous friend,
Since last we met and parted, you're unchanged,
And, having promised faith to Marian Erle,
Maintain it, as she were not changed at all;
And though that's worthy, though that's full of balm
To any conscious spirit of a girl
Who once has loved you as I loved you once,–
Yet still it will not make her . . if she's dead,
And gone away where none can give or take
In marriage,–able to revive, return
And wed you,–will, it Romney? Here's the point;
O friend, we'll see it plainer: you and I
Must never, never, never join hands so.
Nay, let me say it,–for I said it first
To God, and placed it, rounded to an oath,
Far, far above the moon there, at His feet,
As surely as I wept just now at yours,–
We never, never, never join hands so.
And now, be patient with me; do not think
I'm speaking from a false humility.
The truth is, I am grown so proud with grief,
And He has said so often through his nights
And through his mornings, 'Weep a little still,
'Thou foolish Marian, because women must,
'But do not blush at all except for sin,'–
That I, who felt myself unworthy once
Of virtuous Romney and his high-born race,
Have come to learn, . . a woman poor or rich,
Despised or honoured, is a human soul;
And what her soul is,–that, she is herself,
Although she should be spit upon of men,
As is the pavement of the churches here,
Still good enough to pray in. And, being chaste
And honest, and inclined to do the right,
And love the truth, and live my life out green
And smooth beneath his steps, I should not fear
To make him, thus, a less uneasy time
Than many a happier woman. Very proud
You see me. Pardon, that I set a trap
To hear a confirmation in your voice . .
Both yours and yours. It is so good to know
'Twas really God who said the same before:
For thus it is in heaven, that first God speaks,
And then his angels. Oh, it does me good,
It wipes me clean and sweet from devil's dirt,
That Romney Leigh should think me worthy still
Of being his true and honourable wife!
Henceforth I need not say, on leaving earth,
I had no glory in it. For the rest,
The reason's ready (master, angel, friend,
Be patient with me) wherefore you and I
Can never, never, never join hands so.
I know you'll not be angry like a man
(For you are none) when I shall tell the truth,–
Which is, I do not love you, Romney Leigh,
I do not love you. Ah well! catch my hands,
Miss Leigh, and burn into my eyes with yours,–
I swear I do not love him. Did I once?
'Tis said that women have been bruised to death,
And yet, if once they loved, that love of theirs
Could never be drained out with all their blood:
I've heard such things and pondered. Did I indeed
Love once? or did I only worship? Yes,
Perhaps, O friend, I set you up so high
Above all actual good or hope of good,
Or fear of evil, all that could be mine,
I haply set you above love itself,
And out of reach of these poor woman's arms,
Angelic Romney. What was in my thought?
To be your slave, your help, your toy, your tool.
To be your love . . I never thought of that.
To give you love . . still less. I gave you love?
I think I did not give you anything;
I was but only yours,–upon my knees,
All yours, in soul and body, in head and heart,–
A creature you had taken from the ground,
Still crumbling through your fingers to your feet
To join the dust she came from. Did I love,
Or did I worship? judge, Aurora Leigh!
But, if indeed I loved, 'twas long ago,–
So long! before the sun and moon were made,
Before the hells were open,–ah, before
I heard my child cry in the desert night,
And knew he had no father. It may be,
I'm not as strong as other women are,
Who, torn and crushed, are not undone from love.
It may be, I am colder than the dead,
Who, being dead, love always. But for me
Once killed, . . this ghost of Marian loves no more,
No more . . except the child! . . no more at all.
I told your cousin, sir, that I was dead;
And now, she thinks I'll get up from my grave,
And wear my chin-cloth for a wedding-veil,
And glide along the churchyard like a bride,
While all the dead keep whispering through the withes,
'You would be better in your place with us,
'You pitiful corruption!' At the thought,
The damps break out on me like leprosy,
Although I'm clean. Ay, clean as Marian Erle:
As Marian Leigh, I know, I were not clean:
I have not so much life that I should love,
. . Except the child. Ah God! I could not bear
To see my darling on a good man's knees,
And know by such a look, or such a sigh,
Or such a silence, that he thought sometimes,
'This child was fathered by some cursed wretch' . .
For, Romney,–angels are less tender-wise
Than God and mothers: even you would think
What we think never. He is ours, the child;
And we would sooner vex a soul in heaven
By coupling with it the dead body's thought,
It left behind it in a last month's grave,
Than, in my child, see other than . . my child.
We only, never call him fatherless
Who has God and his mother. O my babe,
My pretty, pretty blossom, an ill-wind
Once blew upon my breast! can any think
I'd have another,–one called happier,
A fathered child, with father's love and race
That's worn as bold and open as a smile,
To vex my darling when he's asked his name
And has no answer? What! a happier child
Than mine, my best,–who laughed so loud to-night
He could not sleep for pastime? Nay, I swear
By life and love, that, if I lived like some,
And loved like . . some . . ay, loved you, Romney Leigh,
As some love (eyes that have wept so much, see clear),
I've room for no more children in my arms;
My kisses are all melted on one mouth;
I would not push my darling to a stool
To dandle babies. Here's a hand, shall keep
For ever clean without a marriage-ring,
To tend my boy, until he cease to need
One steadying finger of it, and desert
(Not miss) his mother's lap, to sit with men.
And when I miss him (not he me) I'll come
And say, 'Now give me some of Romney's work,
To help your outcast orphans of the world,
And comfort grief with grief.' For you, meantime,
Most noble Romney, wed a noble wife,
And open on each other your great souls,–
I need not farther bless you. If I dared
But strain and touch her in her upper sphere,
And say, 'Come down to Romney–pay my debt!
I should be joyful with the stream of joy
Sent through me. But the moon is in my face . .
I dare not,–though I guess the name he loves;
I'm learned with my studies of old days,
Remembering how he crushed his under-lip
When some one came and spoke, or did not come.
Aurora, I could touch her with my hand,
And fly, because I dare not.'
She was gone.
He smiled so sternly that I spoke in haste.
'Forgive her–she sees clearly for herself:
Her instinct's holy.'
'I forgive?' he said,
'I only marvel how she sees so sure,
While others' . . there he paused,–then hoarse, abrupt,–
'Aurora, you forgive us, her and me?
For her, the thing she sees, poor loyal child,
If once corrected by the thing I know,
Had been unspoken; since she loves you well,
Has leave to love you:–while for me, alas,
If once or twice I let my heart escape
This night, . . remember, where hearts slip and fall
They break beside: we're parting,–parting,–ah,
You do not love, that you should surely know
What that word means. Forgive, be tolerant;
It had not been, but that I felt myself
So safe in impuissance and despair,
I could not hurt you though I tossed my arms
And sighed my soul out. The most utter wretch
Will choose his postures when he comes to die,
However in the presence of a queen:
And you'll forgive me some unseemly spasms
Which meant no more than dying. Do you think
I had ever come here in my perfect mind,
Unless I had come here, in my settled mind,
Bound Marian's, bound to keep the bond, and give
My name, my house, my hand, the things I could,
To Marian! For even I could give as much;
Even I, affronting her exalted soul
By a supposition that she wanted these,
Could act the husband's coat and hat set up
To creak i' the wind and drive the world-crows off
From pecking in her garden. Straw can fill
A hole to keep out vermin. Now, at last,
I own heaven's angels round her life suffice
To fight the rats of our society,
Without this Romney: I can see it at last;
And here is ended my pretension which
The most pretended. Over-proud of course,
Even so!–but not so stupid . . blind . . that I,
Whom thus the great Taskmaster of the world
Has set to meditate mistaken work,
My dreary face against a dim blank wall
Throughout man's natural lifetime,–could pretend
Or wish . . O love, I have loved you! O my soul,
I have lost you!–but I swear by all yourself,
And all you might have been to me these years,
If that June-morning had not failed my hope,–
I'm not so bestial, to regret that day
This night,–this night, which still to you is fair;
Nay, not so blind, Aurora. I attest
Those stars above us, which I cannot see . . . '

'You cannot.' . .
' That if Heaven itself should stoop,
Remit the lots, and give me another chance,
I'd say, 'No other!'–I'd record my blank.
Aurora never should be wife of mine.'

'Not see the stars?'
Tis worse still, not to see
To find your hand, although we're parting, dear.
A moment let me hold it, ere we part:
And understand my last words–these at last!
I would not have you thinking, when I'm gone,
That Romney dared to hanker for your love,
In thought or vision, if attainable,
(Which certainly for me it never was)
And wish to use it for a dog to-day,
To help the blind man stumbling. God forbid!
And now I know he held you in his palm,
And kept you open-eyed to all my faults,
To save you at last from such a dreary end.
Believe me, dear, that if I had known, like Him,
What loss was coming on me, I had done
As well in this as He has.–Farewell, you,
Who are still my light,–farewell! How late it is:
I know that, now: you've been too patient, sweet.
I will but blow my whistle toward the lane,
And some one comes . . the same who brought me here.
Get in–Good night.'
'A moment. Heavenly Christ!
A moment. Speak once, Romney. 'Tis not true.
I hold your hands, I look into your face–
You see me?'
'No more than the blessed stars.
Be blessed too, Aurora. Ah, my sweet,
You tremble. Tender-hearted! Do you mind
Of yore, dear, how you used to cheat old John,
And let the mice out slyly from his traps,
Until he marvelled at the soul in mice
Which took the cheese and left the snare? The same
Dear soft heart always! 'Twas for this I grieved
Howe's letter never reached you. Ah, you had heard
Of illness,–not the issue . . not the extent:
My life long sick with tossings up and down;
The sudden revulsion in the blazing house,–
The strain and struggle both of body and soul,
Which left fire running in my veins, for blood:
Scarce lacked that thunderbolt of the falling beam,
Which nicked me on the forehead as I passed
The gallery door with a burden. Say heaven's bolt,
Not William Erle's; not Marian's father's; tramp
And poacher, whom I found for what he was,
And, eager for her sake to rescue him,
Forth swept from the open highway of the world,
Road-dust and all,–till, like a woodland boar
Most naturally unwilling to be tamed,
He notched me with his tooth. But not a word
To Marian! and I do not think, besides,
He turned the tilting of the beam my way,–
And if he laughed, as many swear, poor wretch,
Nor he nor I supposed the hurt so deep.
We'll hope his next laugh may be merrier,
In a better cause.'
'Blind, Romney?'
' Ah, my friend,
You'll learn to say it in a cheerful voice.
I, too, at first desponded. To be blind,
Turned out of nature, mulcted as a man,
Refused the daily largesse of the sun
To humble creatures! When the fever's heat
Dropped from me, as the flame did from my house,
And left me ruined like it, stripped of all
The hues and shapes of aspectable life,
A mere bare blind stone in the blaze of day,
A man, upon the outside of the earth,
As dark as ten feet under, in the grave,–
Why that seemed hard.'
'No hope?'
'A tear! you weep,
Divine Aurora? tears upon my hand!
I've seen you weeping for a mouse, a bird,–
But, weep for me, Aurora? Yes, there's hope.
Not hope of sight,–I could be learned, dear,
And tell you in what Greek and Latin name
The visual nerve is withered to the root,
Though the outer eyes appear indifferent,
Unspotted in their crystals. But there's hope.
The spirit, from behind this dethroned sense,
Sees, waits in patience till the walls break up
From which the bas-relief and fresco have dropt.
There's hope. The man here, once so arrogant
And restless, so ambitious, for his part,
Of dealing with statistically packed
Disorders, (from a pattern on his nail,)
And packing such things quite another way,–
Is now contented. From his personal loss
He has come to hope for others when they lose,
And wear a gladder faith in what we gain . .
Through bitter experience, compensation sweet,
Like that tear, sweetest. I am quiet now,–
As tender surely for the suffering world,
But quiet,–sitting at the wall to learn,
Content, henceforth, to do the thing I can:
For, though as powerless, said I, as a stone,
A stone can still give shelter to a worm,
And it is worth while being a stone for that:
There's hope, Aurora.'
' Is there hope for me?
For me?–and is there room beneath the stone
For such a worm?–And if I came and said . .
What all this weeping scarce will let me say,
And yet what women cannot say at all,
But weeping bitterly . . (the pride keeps up,
Until the heart breaks under it) . . I love,–
I love you, Romney' . . .
'Silence!' he exclaimed,
'A woman's pity sometimes makes her mad.
A man's distraction must not cheat his soul
To take advantage of it. Yet, 'tis hard–
Farewell, Aurora.'
'But I love you, sir:
And when a woman says she loves a man,
The man must hear her, though he love her not.
Which . . hush! . . he has leave to answer in his turn;
She will not surely blame him. As for me,
You call it pity,–think I'm generous?
'Twere somewhat easier, for a woman proud,
As I am, and I'm very vilely proud,
To let it pass as such, and press on you
Love born of pity,–seeing that excellent loves
Are born so, often, nor the quicklier die,–
And this would set me higher by the head
Than now I stand. No matter: let the truth
Stand high: Aurora must be humble: no,
My love's not pity merely. Obviously
I'm not a generous woman, never was.
Or else, of old, I had not looked so near
To weights and measures, grudging you the power
To give, as first I scorned your power to judge
For me, Aurora: I would have no gifts
Forsooth, but God's,–and I would use them, too,
According to my pleasure and my choice,
As He and I were equals,–you, below,
Excluded from that level of interchange
Admitting benefaction. You were wrong
In much? you said so. I was wrong in most.
Oh, most! You only thought to rescue men
By half-means, half-way, seeing half their wants,
While thinking nothing of your personal gain.
But I who saw the human nature broad,
At both sides, comprehending, too, the soul's,
And all the high necessities of Art,
Betrayed the thing I saw, and wronged my own life
For which I pleaded. Passioned to exalt
The artist's instinct in me at the cost
Of putting down the woman's–I forgot
No perfect artist is developed here
From any imperfect woman. Flower from root,
And spiritual from natural, grade by grade
In all our life. A handful of the earth
To make God's image! the despised poor earth,
The healthy odorous earth,–I missed, with it,
The divine Breath that blows the nostrils out
To ineffable inflatus: ay, the breath
Which love is. Art is much, but love is more.
O Art, my Art, thou'rt much, but Love is more!
Art symbolises heaven, but Love is God
And makes heaven. I, Aurora, fell from mine:
I would not be a woman like the rest,
A simple woman who believes in love,
And owns the right of love because she loves,
And, hearing she's beloved, is satisfied
With what contents God: I must analyse,
Confront, and question; just as if a fly
Refused to warm itself in any sun
Till such was in leone: I must fret
Forsooth, because the month was only May;
Be faithless of the kind of proffered love,
And captious, lest it miss my dignity,
And scornful, that my lover sought a wife
To use . . to use! O Romney, O my love,
I am changed since then, changed wholly,–for indeed,
If now you'd stoop so low to take my love,
And use it roughly, without stint or spare,
As men use common things with more behind,
(And, in this, ever would be more behind)
To any mean and ordinary end,–
The joy would set me like a star, in heaven,
So high up, I should shine because of height
And not of virtue. Yet in one respect,
Just one, beloved, I am in no wise changed:
I love you, loved you . . loved you first and last,
And love you on for ever. Now I know
I loved you always, Romney. She who died
Knew that, and said so; Lady Waldemar
Knows that; . . and Marian: I had known the same
Except that I was prouder than I knew,
And not so honest. Ay, and as I live,
I should have died so, crushing in my hand
This rose of love, the wasp inside and all,–
Ignoring ever to my soul and you
Both rose and pain,–except for this great loss,
This great despair,–to stand before your face
And know I cannot win a look of yours.
You think, perhaps, I am not changed from pride,
And that I chiefly bear to say such words
Because you cannot shame me with your eyes?
O calm, grand eyes, extinguished in a storm,
Blown out like lights o'er melancholy seas,
Though shrieked for by the shipwrecked,–O my Dark,
My Cloud,–to go before me every day
While I go ever toward the wilderness,–
I would that you could see me bare to the soul!–
If this be pity, 'tis so for myself,
And not for Romney; he can stand alone;
A man like him is never overcome:
No woman like me, counts him pitiable
While saints applaud him. He mistook the world:
But I mistook my own heart,–and that slip
Was fatal. Romney,–will you leave me here?
So wrong, so proud, so weak, so unconsoled,
So mere a woman!–and I love you so,–
I love you, Romney.'
Could I see his face,
I wept so? Did I drop against his breast,
Or did his arms constrain me? Were my cheeks
Hot, overflooded, with my tears, or his?
And which of our two large explosive hearts
So shook me? That, I know not. There were words
That broke in utterance . . melted, in the fire;
Embrace, that was convulsion, . . then a kiss . .
As long and silent as the ecstatic night,–
And deep, deep, shuddering breaths, which meant beyond
Whatever could be told by word or kiss.

But what he said . . I have written day by day,
With somewhat even writing. Did I think
That such a passionate rain would intercept
And dash this last page? What he said, indeed,
I fain would write it down here like the rest
To keep it in my eyes, as in my ears,
The heart's sweet scripture, to be read at night
When weary, or at morning when afraid,
And lean my heaviest oath on when I swear
That when all's done, all tried, all counted here,
All great arts, and all good philosophies,–
This love just puts its hand out in a dream
And straight outreaches all things.
What he said,
I fain would write. But if an angel spoke
In thunder, should we, haply, know much more
Than that it thundered? If a cloud came down
And wrapt us wholly, could we draw its shape,
As if on the outside, and not overcome?
And so he spake. His breath against my face
Confused his words, yet made them more intense,–
As when the sudden finger of the wind
Will wipe a row of single city-lamps
To a pure white line of flame, more luminous
Because of obliteration; more intense
The intimate presence carrying in itself
Complete communication, as with souls
Who, having put the body off, perceive
Through simply being. Thus, 'twas granted me
To know he loved me to the depth and height
Of such large natures, ever competent
With grand horizons by the land or sea,
To love's grand sunrise. Small spheres hold small fires:
But he loved largely, as a man can love
Who, baffled in his love, dares live his life,
Accept the ends which God loves, for his own,
And life a constant aspect.
From the day
I had brought to England my poor searching face,
(An orphan even of my father's grave)
He had loved me, watched me, watched his soul in mine,
Which in me grew and heightened into love.
For he, a boy still, had been told the tale
Of how a fairy bride from Italy,
With smells of oleanders in her hair,
Was coming through the vines to touch his hand;
Whereat the blood of boyhood on the palm
Made sudden heats. And when at last I came,
And lived before him, lived, and rarely smiled,
He smiled and loved me for the thing I was,
As every child will love the year's first flower,
(Not certainly the fairest of the year,
But, in which, the complete year seems to blow)
The poor sad snowdrop,–growing between drifts,
Mysterious medium 'twixt the plant and frost,
So faint with winter while so quick with spring,
So doubtful if to thaw itself away
With that snow near it. Not that Romney Leigh
Had loved me coldly. If I thought so once,
It was as if I had held my hand in fire
And shook for cold. But now I understood
For ever, that the very fire and heat
Of troubling passion in him, burned him clear,
And shaped to dubious order, word and act.
That, just because he loved me over all,
All wealth, all lands, all social privilege,
To which chance made him unexpected heir,–
And, just because on all these lesser gifts,
Constrained by conscience and the sense of wrong
He had stamped with steady hand God's arrow-mark
Of dedication to the human need,
He thought it should be so too, with his love;
He, passionately loving, would bring down
His love, his life, his best, (because the best,)
His bride of dreams, who walked so still and high
Through flowery poems as through meadow-grass
The dust of golden lilies on her feet,
That she should walk beside him on the rooks
In all that clang and hewing out of men,
And help the work of help which was his life,
And prove he kept back nothing,–not his soul.
And when I failed him,–for I failed him, I–
And when it seemed he had missed my love,–he thought,
'Aurora makes room for a working-noon;'
And so, self-girded with torn strips of hope,
Took up his life, as if it were for death,
(Just capable of one heroic aim,)
And threw it in the thickest of the world,–
At which men laughed as if he had drowned a dog:
Nor wonder,–since Aurora failed him first!
The morning and the evening made his day.

But oh, the night! oh, bitter-sweet! oh, sweet!
O dark, O moon and stars, O ecstasy
Of darkness! O great mystery of love,–
In which absorbed, loss, anguish, treason's self
Enlarges rapture,–as a pebble dropt
In some full wine-cup, over-brims the wine!
While we two sate together, leaned that night
So close, my very garments crept and thrilled
With strange electric life; and both my cheeks
Grew red, then pale, with touches from my hair
In which his breath was; while the golden moon
Was hung before our faces as the badge
Of some sublime inherited despair,
Since ever to be seen by only one,–
A voice said, low and rapid as a sigh,
Yet breaking, I felt conscious, from a smile,–
'Thank God, who made me blind, to make me see!
Shine on, Aurora, dearest light of souls,
Which rul'st for evermore both day and night!
I am happy.'
I clung closer to his breast,
As sword that, after battle, flings to sheathe;
And, in that hurtle of united souls,
The mystic motions which in common moods
Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us,
And, as we sate, we felt the old earth spin,
And all the starry turbulence of worlds
Swing round us in their audient circles, till
If that same golden moon were overhead
Or if beneath our feet, we did not know.

And then calm, equal, smooth with weights of joy,
His voice rose, as some chief musician's song
Amid the old Jewish temple's Selah-pause,
And bade me mark how we two met at last
Upon this moon-bathed promontory of earth,
To give up much on each side, then, take all.
'Beloved,' it sang, ' we must be here to work;
And men who work, can only work for men,
And, not to work in vain, must comprehend
Humanity, and, so work humanly,
And raise men's bodies still by raising souls,
As God did, first.'
'But stand upon the earth,'
I said, 'to raise them,–(this is human too;
There's nothing high which has not first been low;
My humbleness, said One, has made me great!)
As God did, last.'
'And work all silently,
And simply,' he returned, 'as God does all;
Distort our nature never, for our work,
Nor count our right hands stronger for being hoofs.
The man most man, with tenderest human hands,
Works best for men,–as God in Nazareth.'

He paused upon the word, and then resumed;
'Fewer programmes; we who have no prescience.
Fewer systems; we who are held and do not hold.
Less mapping out of masses, to be saved,
By nations or by sexes. Fourier's void,
And Comte is dwarfed,–and Cabet, puerile.
Subsists no law of life outside of life;
No perfect manners, without Christian souls:
The Christ himself had been no Lawgiver,
Unless He had given the life, too, with the law.'

I echoed thoughtfully–'The man, most man,
Works best for men: and, if most man indeed,
He gets his manhood plainest from his soul:
While, obviously, this stringent soul itself
Obeys our old rules of development;
The Spirit ever witnessing in ours,
And Love, the soul of soul, within the soul,
Evolving it sublimely. First, God's love.'

'And next,' he smiled, 'the love of wedded souls,
Which still presents that mystery's counterpart.
Sweet shadow-rose, upon the water of life,
Of such a mystic substance, Sharon gave
A name to! human, vital, fructuous rose,
Whose calyx holds the multitude of leaves.–
Loves filial, loves fraternal, neighbour-loves,
And civic, . . all fair petals, all good scents,
All reddened, sweetened from one central Heart!'

'Alas,' I cried, 'it was not long ago,
You swore this very social rose smelt ill.'

'Alas,' he answered, 'is it a rose at all?
The filial's thankless, the fraternal's hard,
The rest is lost. I do but stand and think,
Across dim waters of a troubled life
The Flower of Heaven so vainly overhangs,–
What perfect counterpart would be in sight,
If tanks were clearer. Let us clean the tubes,
And wait for rains. O poet, O my love,
Since I was too ambitious in my deed,
And thought to distance all men in success,
Till God came on me, marked the place, and said
'III-doer, henceforth keep within this line,
'Attempting less than others,'–and I stand
And work among Christ's little ones, content,–
Come thou, my compensation, my dear sight,
My morning-star, my morning! rise and shine,
And touch my hills with radiance not their own
Shine out for two, Aurora, and fulfil
My falling-short that must be! work for two,
As I, though thus restrained, for two, shall love!
Gaze on, with inscient vision toward the sun,
And, from his visceral heat, pluck out the roots
Of light beyond him. Art's a service,–mark:
A silver key is given to thy clasp,
And thou shalt stand unwearied, night and day,
And fix it in the hard, slow-turning wards,
And open, so, that intermediate door
Betwixt the different planes of sensuous form
And form insensuous, that inferior men
May learn to feel on still through thee to those,
And bless thy ministration. The world waits
For help. Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work,
And both, commended, for the sake of each,
By all true workers and true lovers, born.
Now press the clarion on thy woman's lip
(Love's holy kiss shall still keep consecrate)
And breathe the fine keen breath along the brass,
And blow all class-walls level as Jericho's
Past Jordan; crying from the top of souls,
To souls, that they assemble on earth's flats
To get them to some purer eminence
Than any hitherto beheld for clouds!
What height we know not,–but the way we know,
And how by mounting aye, we must attain,
And so climb on. It is the hour for souls;
That bodies, leavened by the will and love,
Be lightened to redemption. The world's old;
But the old world waits the hour to be renewed:
Toward which, new hearts in individual growth
Must quicken, and increase to multitude
In new dynasties of the race of men,–
Developed whence, shall grow spontaneously
New churches, new economies, new laws
Admitting freedom, new societies
Excluding falsehood. HE shall make all new.'

My Romney!–Lifting up my hand in his,
As wheeled by Seeing spirits toward the east,
He turned instinctively,–where, faint and fair,
Along the tingling desert of the sky,
Beyond the circle of the conscious hills,
Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as glass
The first foundations of that new, near Day
Which should be builded out of heaven, to God
He stood a moment with erected brows,
In silence, as a creature might, who gazed:
Stood calm, and fed his blind, majestic eyes
Upon the thought of perfect noon. And when
I saw his soul saw,–'Jasper first,' I said,
'And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;
The rest in order, . . last, an amethyst.'

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Seventh Book

'THE woman's motive? shall we daub ourselves
With finding roots for nettles? 'tis soft clay
And easily explored. She had the means,
The moneys, by the lady's liberal grace,
In trust for that Australian scheme and me,
Which so, that she might clutch with both her hands,
And chink to her naughty uses undisturbed,
She served me (after all it was not strange,;
'Twas only what my mother would have done)
A motherly, unmerciful, good turn.

'Well, after. There are nettles everywhere,
But smooth green grasses are more common still;
The blue of heaven is larger than the cloud;
A miller's wife at Clichy took me in
And spent her pity on me,–made me calm
And merely very reasonably sad.
She found me a servant's place in Paris where
I tried to take the cast-off life again,
And stood as quiet as a beaten ass
Who, having fallen through overloads, stands up
To let them charge him with another pack.

'A few months, so. My mistress, young and light,
Was easy with me, less for kindness than
Because she led, herself, an easy time
Betwixt her lover and her looking-glass,
Scarce knowing which way she was praised the most.
She felt so pretty and so pleased all day
She could not take the trouble to be cross,
But sometimes, as I stooped to tie her shoe,
Would tap me softly with her slender foot
Still restless with the last night's dancing in't,
And say 'Fie, pale-face! are you English girls
'All grave and silent? mass-book still, and Lent?
'And first-communion colours on your cheeks,
'Worn past the time for't? little fool, be gay!'
At which she vanished, like a fairy, through
A gap of silver laughter.
'Came an hour
When all went otherwise. She did not speak,
But clenched her brows, and clipped me with her eyes
As if a viper with a pair of tongs,
Too far for any touch, yet near enough
To view the writhing creature,–then at last,
'Stand still there, in the holy Virgin's name,
'Thou Marian; thou'rt no reputable girl,
'Although sufficient dull for twenty saints!
'I think thou mock'st me and my house,' she said;
'Confess thou'lt be a mother in a month,
'Thou mask of saintship.'
'Could I answer her?
The light broke in so. It meant that then, that?
I had not thought of that, in all my thoughts,
Through all the cold, dumb aching of my brow,
Through all the heaving of impatient life
Which threw me on death at intervals, through all
The upbreak of the fountains of my heart
The rains had swelled too large: it could mean that?
Did God make mothers out of victims, then,
And set such pure amens to hideous deeds?
Why not? He overblows an ugly grave
With violets which blossom in the spring.
And I could be a mother in a month!
I hope it was not wicked to be glad.
I lifted up my voice and wept, and laughed,
To heaven, not her, until I tore my throat.
'Confess, confess!' what was there to confess,
Except man's cruelty, except my wrong?
Except this anguish, or this ecstasy?
This shame, or glory? The light woman there
Was small to take it in: an acorn-cup
Would take the sea in sooner.
Good,' she cried;
'Unmarried and a mother, and she laughs!
'These unchaste girls are always impudent.
'Get out, intriguer! leave my house, and trot:
'I wonder you should look me in the face,
'With such a filthy secret.'
'Then I rolled
My scanty bundle up, and went my way,
Washed white with weeping, shuddering head and foot
With blind hysteric passion, staggering forth
Beyond those doors, 'Twas natural, of course,
She should not ask me where I meant to sleep;
I might sleep well beneath the heavy Seine,
Like others of my sort; the bed was laid
For us. By any woman, womanly,
Had thought of him who should be in a month,
The sinless babe that should be in a month,
And if by chance he might be warmer housed
Than underneath such dreary, dripping eaves.'

I broke on Marian there. 'Yet she herself,
A wife, I think, had scandals of her own,
A lover, not her husband.'
'Ay,' she said
'But gold and meal are measured otherwise;
I learnt so much at school,' said Marian Erle.

'O crooked world,' I cried, 'ridiculous
If not so lamentable! It's the way
With these light women of a thrifty vice,
My Marian,–always hard upon the rent
In any sister's virtue! while they keep
Their chastity so darned with perfidy,
That, though a rag itself, it looks as well
Across a street, in balcony or coach,
As any stronger stuff might. For my part,
I'd rather take the wind-side of the stews
Than touch such women with my finger-end
They top the poor street-walker by their lie,
And look the better for being so much worse
The devil's most devilish when respectable.
But you, dear, and your story.'
'All the rest
Is here,' she said, and sighed upon the child.
'I found a mistress-sempstress who was kind
And let me sew in peace among her girls;
And what was better than to draw the threads
All day and half the night, for him, and him?
And so I lived for him, and so he lives,
And so I know, by this time, God lives too.'
She smiled beyond the sun, and ended so,
And all my soul rose up to take her part
Against the world's successes, virtues, fames.
'Come with me, sweetest sister,' I returned,
'And sit within my house, and do me good
From henceforth, thou and thine! ye are my own
From henceforth. I am lonely in the world,
And thou art lonely, and the child is half
An orphan. Come, and, henceforth, thou and I
Being still together, will not miss a friend,
Nor he a father, since two mothers shall
Make that up to him. I am journeying south,
And, in my Tuscan home I'll find a niche,
And set thee there, my saint, the child and thee,
And burn the lights of love before thy face,
And ever at thy sweet look cross myself
From mixing with the world's prosperities;
That so, in gravity and holy calm,
We too may live on toward the truer life.'

She looked me in the face and answered not,
Nor signed she was unworthy, nor gave thanks,
But took the sleeping child and held it out
To meet my kiss, as if requiting me
And trusting me at once. And thus, at once,
I carried him and her to where I lived;
She's there now, in the little room, asleep,
I hear the soft child-breathing through the door;
And all three of us, at to-morrow's break,
Pass onward, homeward, to our Italy.
Oh, Romney Leigh, I have your debts to pay,
And I'll be just and pay them.
But yourself!
To pay your debts is scarcely difficult;
To buy your life is nearly impossible,
Being sold away to Lamia. My head aches;
I cannot see my road along this dark;
Nor can I creep and grope, as fits the dark,
For these foot-catching robes of womanhood:
A man might walk a little . . but I!–He loves
The Lamia-woman,–and I, write to him
What stops his marriage, and destroys his peace,–
Or what, perhaps, shall simply trouble him,
Until she only need to touch his sleeve
With just a finger's tremulous white flame,
Saying, 'Ah,–Aurora Leigh! a pretty tale,
'A very pretty poet! I can guess
'The motive'–then, to catch his eyes in hers,
And vow she does not wonder,–and they two
To break in laughter, as the sea along
A melancholy coast, and float up higher,
In such a laugh, their fatal weeds of love!
Ay, fatal, ay. And who shall answer me,
Fate has not hurried tides; and if to-night
My letter would not be a night too late,–
An arrow shot into a man that's dead,
To prove a vain intention? Would I show
The new wife vile, to make the husband mad?
No, Lamia! shut the shutters, bar the doors
From every glimmer on they serpent-skin!
I will not let thy hideous secret out
To agonise the man I love–I mean
The friend I love . . as friends love.
It is strange,
To-day while Marian told her story, like
To absorb most listeners, how I listened chief
To a voice not hers, nor yet that enemy's,
Nor God's in wrath, . . but one that mixed with mine
Long years ago, among the garden-trees,
And said to me, to me too, 'Be my wife,
Aurora!' It is strange, with what a swell
Of yearning passion, as a snow of ghosts
Might beat against the impervious doors of heaven,
I thought, 'Now, if I had been a woman, such
As God made women, to save men by love,–
By just my love I might have saved this man,
And made a nobler poem for the world
Than all I have failed in.' But I failed besides
In this; and now he's lost! through me alone!
And, by my only fault, his empty house
Sucks in, at this same hour, a wind from hell
To keep his hearth cold, make his casements creak
For ever to the tune of plague and sin–
O Romney, O my Romney, O my friend!
My cousin and friend! my helper, when I would,
My love that might be! mine!
Why, how one weeps
When one's too weary! Were a witness by,
He'd say some folly . . that I loved the man,
Who knows? . . and make me laugh again for scorn.
At strongest, women are as weak in flesh,
As men, at weakest, vilest, are in soul:
So, hard for women to keep pace with men!
As well give up at once, sit down at once.
And weep as I do. Tears, tears! why, we weep?
'Tis worth enquiry?–That we've shamed a life,
Or lost a love, or missed a world, perhaps?
By no means. Simply, that we've walked too far,
Or talked too much, or felt the wind i' the east,–
And so we weep, as if both body and soul
Broke up in water–this way.
Poor mixed rags
Forsooth we're made of, like those other dolls
That lean with pretty faces into fairs.
It seems as if I had a man in me,
Despising such a woman.
Yet indeed.
To see a wrong or suffering moves us all
To undo it, though we should undo ourselves;
Ay, all the more, that we undo ourselves;
That's womanly, past doubt, and not ill-moved.
A natural movement, therefore, on my part,
To fill the chair up of my cousin's wife,
And save him from a devil's company!
We're all so,–made so–'tis our woman's trade
To suffer torment for another's ease.
The world's male chivalry has perished out,
But women are knights-errant to the last;
And, if Cervantes had been greater still,
He had made his Don a Donna.
So it clears,
And so we rain our skies blue.
Put away
This weakness. If, as I have just now said,
A man's within me–let him act himself,
Ignoring the poor conscious trouble of blood
That's called the woman merely. I will write
Plain words to England,–if too late, too late,–
If ill-accounted, then accounted ill;
We'll trust the heavens with something.

'Dear Lord Howe,
You'll find a story on another leaf
That's Marian Erle's,–what noble friend of yours
She trusted once, through what flagitious means
To what disastrous ends;–the story's true.
I found her wandering on the Paris quays,
A babe upon her breast,–unnatural
Unseasonable outcast on such snows
Unthawed to this time. I will tax in this
Your friendship, friend,–if that convicted She
Be not his wife yet, to denounce the facts
To himself,–but, otherwise, to let them pass
On tip-toe like escaping murderers,
And tell my cousin, merely–Marian lives,
Is found, and finds her home with such a friend,
Myself, Aurora. Which good news, 'She's found,'
Will help to make him merry in his love:
I sent it, tell him, for my marriage gift,
As good as orange-water for the nerves,
Or perfumed gloves for headaches,–though aware
That he, except of love, is scarcely sick;
I mean the new love this time, . . since last year.
Such quick forgetting on the part of men!
Is any shrewder trick upon the cards
To enrich them? pray instruct me how it's done.
First, clubs,–and while you look at clubs, it's spades;
That's prodigy. The lightning strikes a man,
And when we think to find him dead and charred . .
Why, there he is on a sudden, playing pipes
Beneath the splintered elm-tree! Crime and shame
And all their hoggery trample your smooth world,
Nor leave more foot-marks than Apollo's kine,
Whose hoofs were muffled by the thieving god
In tamarisk-leaves and myrtle. I'm so sad,
So weary and sad to-night, I'm somewhat sour,–
Forgive me. To be blue and shrew at once,
Exceeds all toleration except yours;
But yours, I know, is infinite. Farewell.
To-morrow we take train for Italy.
Speak gently of me to your gracious wife,
As one, however far, shall yet be near
In loving wishes to your house.'
I sign.
And now I'll loose my heart upon a page,
This–
'Lady Waldemar, I'm very glad
I never liked you; which you knew so well,
You spared me, in your turn, to like me much.
Your liking surely had done worse for me
Than has your loathing, though the last appears
Sufficiently unscrupulous to hurt,
And not afraid of judgment. Now, there's space
Between our faces,–I stand off, as if
I judged a stranger's portrait and pronounced
Indifferently the type was good or bad:
What matter to me that the lines are false,
I ask you? Did I ever ink my lips
By drawing your name through them as a friend's.
Or touch your hands as lovers do? thank God
I never did: and, since you're proved so vile,
Ay, vile, I say,–we'll show it presently,–
I'm not obliged to nurse my friend in you,
Or wash out my own blots, in counting yours,
Or even excuse myself to honest souls
Who seek to touch my lip or clasp my palm,–
'Alas, but Lady Waldemar came first!'
'Tis true, by this time, you may near me so
That you're my cousin's wife. You've gambled
As Lucifer, and won the morning-star
In that case,–and the noble house of Leigh
Must henceforth with its good roof shelter you:
I cannot speak and burn you up between
Those rafters, I who am born a Leigh,–nor speak
And pierce your breast through Romney's, I who live
His friend and cousin!–so, you are safe. You two
Must grow together like the tares and wheat
Till God's great fire.–But make the best of time.

'And hide this letter! let it speak no more
Than I shall, how you tricked poor Marian Erle,
And set her own love digging her own grave
Within her green hope's pretty garden-ground;
Ay, sent her forth with some of your sort
To a wicked house in France,–from which she fled
With curses in her eyes and ears and throat,
Her whole soul choked with curses,–mad, in short,
And madly scouring up and down for weeks
The foreign hedgeless country, lone and lost,–
So innocent, male-fiends might slink within
Remote hell-corners, seeing her so defiled!

'But you,–you are a woman and more bold.
To do you justice, you'd not shrink to face . .
We'll say, the unfledged life in the other room,
Which, treading down God's corn, you trod in sight
Of all the dogs, in reach of all the guns,–
Ay, Marian's babe, her poor unfathered child,
Her yearling babe!–you'd face him when he wakes
And opens up his wonderful blue eyes:
You'd meet them and not wink perhaps, nor fear
God's triumph in them and supreme revenge,
So, righting His creation's balance-scale
(You pulled as low as Tophet) to the top
Of most celestial innocence! For me
Who am not as bold, I own those infant eyes
Have set me praying.
'While they look at heaven,
No need of protestation in my words
Against the place you've made them! let them look!
They'll do your business with the heavens, be sure:
I spare you common curses.
'Ponder this.
If haply you're the wife of Romney Leigh,
(For which inheritance beyond your birth
You sold that poisonous porridge called your soul)
I charge you, be his faithful and true wife!
Keep warm his hearth and clean his board, and, when
He speaks, be quick with your obedience;
Still grind your paltry wants and low desires
To dust beneath his heel; though, even thus,
The ground must hurt him,–it was writ of old,
'Ye shall not yoke together ox and ass,'
The nobler and ignobler. Ay, but you
Shall do your part as well as such ill things
Can do aught good. You shall not vex him,–mark,
You shall not vex him, . .jar him when he's sad,
Or cross him when he's eager. Understand
To trick him with apparent sympathies,
Nor let him see thee in the face too near
And unlearn thy sweet seeming. Pay the price
Of lies, by being constrained to lie on still;
'Tis easy for they sort: a million more
Will scarcely damn thee deeper.
'Doing which,
You are very safe from Marian and myself;
We'll breathe as softly as the infant here,
And stir no dangerous embers. Fail a point,
And show our Romney wounded, ill-content,
Tormented in his home, . . we open a mouth,
And such a noise will follow, the last trump's
Will scarcely seem more dreadful, even to you;
You'll have no pipers after: Romney will
(I know him) push you forth as none of his,
All other men declaring it well done;
While women, even the worst, your like, will draw
Their skirts back, not to brush you in the street;
And so I warn you. I'm . . . Aurora Leigh.'

The letter written, I felt satisfied.
The ashes, smouldering in me, were thrown out
By handfuls from me: I had writ my heart
And wept my tears, and now was cool and calm;
And, going straightway to the neighbouring room,
I lifted up the curtains of the bed
Where Marian Erle, the babe upon her arm,
Both faces leaned together like a pair
Of folded innocences, self-complete,
Each smiling from the other, smiled and slept.
There seemed no sin, no shame, no wrath, no grief.
I felt, she too had spoken words that night,
But softer certainly, and said to God,–
Who laughs in heaven perhaps, that such as I
Should make ado for such as she.–'Defiled'
I wrote? 'defiled' I thought her? Stoop,
Stoop lower, Aurora! get the angels' leave
To creep in somewhere, humbly, on your knees,
Within this round of sequestration white
In which they have wrapt earth's foundlings, heaven's elect!

The next day, we took train to Italy
And fled on southward in the roar of steam.
The marriage-bells of Romney must be loud,
To sound so clear through all! I was not well;
And truly, though the truth is like a jest,
I could not choose but fancy, half the way,
I stood alone i' the belfry, fifty bells
Of naked iron, mad with merriment,
(As one who laughs and cannot stop himself)
All clanking at me, in me, over me,
Until I shrieked a shriek I could not hear,
And swooned with noise,–but still, along my swoon,
Was 'ware the baffled changes backward rang,
Prepared, at each emerging sense, to beat
And crash it out with clangour. I was weak;
I struggled for the posture of my soul
In upright consciousness of place and time,
But evermore, 'twixt waking and asleep,
Slipped somehow, staggered, caught at Marian's eyes
A moment, (it is very good for strength
To know that some one needs you to be strong)
And so recovered what I called myself,
For that time.
I just knew it when we swept
Above the old roofs of Dijon. Lyons dropped
A spark into the night, half trodden out
Unseen. But presently the winding Rhone
Washed out the moonlight large along his banks,
Which strained their yielding curves out clear and clean
To hold it,–shadow of town and castle just blurred
Upon the hurrying river. Such an air
Blew thence upon the forehead,–half an air
And half a water,–that I leaned and looked;
Then, turning back on Marian, smiled to mark
That she looked only on her child, who slept,
His face towards the moon too.
So we passed
The liberal open country and the close,
And shot through tunnels, like a lightning-wedge
By great Thor-hammers driven through the rock,
Which, quivering through the intestine blackness, splits,
And lets it in at once: the train swept in
Athrob with effort, trembling with resolve,
The fierce denouncing whistle wailing on
And dying off smothered in the shuddering dark,
While we, self-awed, drew troubled breath, oppressed
As other Titans, underneath the pile
And nightmare of the mountains. Out, at last,
To catch the dawn afloat upon the land!
–Hills, slung forth broadly and gauntly everywhere,
Not crampt in their foundations, pushing wide
Rich outspreads of the vineyards and the corn
(As if they entertained i' the name of France)
While, down their straining sides, streamed manifest
A soil as red as Charlemagne's knightly blood,
To consecrate the verdure. Some one said,
'Marseilles!' And lo, the city of Marseilles,
With all her ships behind her, and beyond,
The scimitar of ever-shining sea,
For right-hand use, bared blue against the sky!
That night we spent between the purple heaven
And purple water: I think Marian slept;
But I, as a dog a-watch for his master's foot,
Who cannot sleep or eat before he hears,
I sate upon the deck and watched all night,
And listened through the stars for Italy.
Those marriage-bells I spoke of, sounded far,
As some child's go-cart in the street beneath
To a dying man who will not pass the day,
And knows it, holding by a hand he loves.
I, too, sate quiet, satisfied with death,
Sate silent: I could hear my own soul speak,
And had my friend,–for Nature comes sometimes
And says, 'I am ambassador for God.'
I felt the wind soft from the land of souls;
The old miraculous mountains heaved in sight,
One straining past another along the shore,
The way of grand dull Odyssean ghosts
Athirst to drink the cool blue wine of seas
And stare on voyagers. Peak pushing peak
They stood: I watched beyond that Tyrian belt
Of intense sea betwixt them and the ship,
Down all their sides the misty olive-woods
Dissolving in the weak congenial moon,
And still disclosing some brown convent-tower
That seems as if it grew from some brown rock,–
Or many a little lighted village, dropt
Like a fallen star, upon so high a point,
You wonder what can keep it in its place
From sliding headlong with the waterfalls
Which drop and powder all the myrtle-groves
With spray of silver. Thus my Italy
Was stealing on us. Genoa broke with day;
The Doria's long pale palace striking out,
From green hills in advance of the white town,
A marble finger dominant to ships,
Seen glimmering through the uncertain grey of dawn.

But then I did not think, 'my Italy,'
I thought, 'my father!' O my father's house,
Without his presence!–Places are too much
Or else too little, for immortal man;
Too little, when love's May o'ergrows the ground,–
Too much, when that luxuriant wealth of green
Is rustling to our ankles in dead leaves.
'Tis only good to be, or here or there,
Because we had a dream on such a stone,
Or this or that,–but, once being wholly waked,
And come back to the stone without the dream,
We trip upon't,–alas! and hurt ourselves;
Or else it falls on us and grinds us flat,
The heaviest grave-stone on this buying earth.
–But while I stood and mused, a quiet touch
Fell light upon my arm, and, turning round,
A pair of moistened eyes convicted mine.
'What, Marian! is the babe astir so soon?'
'He sleeps,' she answered; 'I have crept up thrice,
And seen you sitting, standing, still at watch.
I thought it did you good till now, but now' . . .
'But now,' I said, 'you leave the child alone.'
'And your're alone,' she answered,–and she looked
As if I, too, were something. Sweet the help
Of one we have helped! Thanks, Marian, for that help.

I found a house, at Florence, on the hill
Of Bellosguardo. 'Tis a tower that keeps
A post of double-observation o'er
The valley of Arno (holding as a hand
The outspread city) straight toward Fiesole
And Mount Morello and the setting sun,–
The Vallombrosan mountains to the right,
Which sunrise fills as full as crystal cups
Wine-filled, and red to the brim because it's red.
No sun could die, nor yet be born, unseen
By dwellers at my villa: morn and eve
Were magnified before us in the pure
Illimitable space and pause of sky,
Intense as angels' garments blanched with God,
Less blue than radiant. From the outer wall
Of the garden, dropped the mystic floating grey
Of olive-trees, (with interruptions green
From maize and vine) until 'twas caught and torn
On that abrupt black line of cypresses
Which signed the way to Florence. Beautiful
The city lay along the ample vale,
Cathedral, tower and palace, piazza and street;
The river trailing like a silver cord
Through all, and curling loosely, both before
And after, over the whole stretch of land
Sown whitely up and down its opposite slopes,
With farms and villas.
Many weeks had passed,
No word was granted.–Last, a letter came
From Vincent Carrington:–'My Dear Miss Leigh,
You've been as silent as a poet should,
When any other man is sure to speak.
If sick, if vexed, if dumb, a silver-piece
Will split a man's tongue,–straight he speaks and says,
'Received that cheque.' But you! . . I send you funds
To Paris, and you make no sign at all.
Remember I'm responsible and wait
A sign of you, Miss Leigh.
'Meantime your book
Is eloquent as if you were not dumb;
And common critics, ordinarily deaf
To such fine meanings, and, like deaf men, loth
To seem deaf, answering chance-wise, yes or no,
'It must be,' or 'it must not,' (most pronounced
When least convinced) pronounce for once aright:
You'd think they really heard,–and so they do . .
The burr of three or four who really hear
And praise your book aright: Fame's smallest trump
Is a great ear-trumpet for the deaf as posts,
No other being effective. Fear not, friend;
We think, here, you have written a good book,
And you, a woman! It was in you–yes,
I felt 'twas in you: yet I doubted half
If that od-force of German Reichenbach
Which still from female finger-tips burns blue,
Could strike out, as our masculine white heats,
To quicken a man. Forgive me. All my heart
Is quick with yours, since, just a fortnight since,
I read your book and loved it.
'Will you love
My wife, too? Here's my secret, I might keep
A month more from you! but I yield it up
Because I know you'll write the sooner for't,–
Most women (of your height even) counting love
Life's only serious business. Who's my wife
That shall be in a month? you ask? nor guess?
Remember what a pair of topaz eyes
You once detected, turned against the wall,
That morning, in my London painting-room;
The face half-sketched, and slurred; the eyes alone!
But you . . you caught them up with yours, and said
'Kate Ward's eyes, surely.'–Now, I own the truth,
I had thrown them there to keep them safe from Jove;
They would so naughtily find out their way
To both the heads of both my Danaës,
Where just it made me mad to look at them.
Such eyes! I could not paint or think of eyes
But those,–and so I flung them into paint
And turned them to the wall's care. Ay, but now
I've let them out, my Kate's! I've painted her,
(I'll change my style, and leave mythologies)
The whole sweet face; it looks upon my soul
Like a face on water, to beget itself,
A half-length portrait, in a hanging cloak
Like one you wore once; 'tis a little frayed;
I pressed, too, for the nude harmonious arm–
But she . . she'd have her way, and have her cloak;
She said she could be like you only so,
And would not miss the fortune. Ah, my friend,
You'll write and say she shall not miss your love
Through meeting mine? in faith, she would not change:
She has your books by heart, more than my words,
And quotes you up against me till I'm pushed
Where, three months since, her eyes were! nay, in fact,
Nought satisfied her but to make me paint
Your last book folded in her dimpled hands,
Instead of my brown palette, as I wished,
(And, grant me, the presentment had been newer)
She'd grant me nothing: I've compounded for
The naming of the wedding-day next month,
And gladly too. 'Tis pretty, to remark
How women can love women of your sort,
And tie their hearts with love-knots to your feet,
Grow insolent about you against men,
And put us down by putting up the lip,
As if a man,–there are such, let us own.
Who write not ill,–remains a man, poor wretch,
While you–! Write far worse than Aurora Leigh,
And there'll be women who believe of you
(Besides my Kate) that if you walked on sand
You would not leave a foot-print.
'Are you put
To wonder by my marriage, like poor Leigh?
'Kate Ward!' he said. 'Kate Ward!' he said anew.
'I thought . . .' he said, and stopped,–'I did not think . . .'
And then he dropped to silence.
'Ah, he's changed
I had not seen him, you're aware, for long,
But went of course. I have not touched on this
Through all this letter,–conscious of your heart,
And writing lightlier for the heavy fact,
As clocks are voluble with lead.
'How weak
To say I'm sorry. Dear Leigh, dearest Leigh!
In those old days of Shropshire,–pardon me,–
When he and you fought many a field of gold
On what you should do, or you should not do,
Make bread of verses, (it just came to that)
I thought you'd one day draw a silken peace
Through a gold ring. I thought so. Foolishly,
The event proved,–for you went more opposite
To each other, month by month, and year by year,
Until this happened. God knows best, we say,
But hoarsely. When the fever took him first,
Just after I had writ to you in France,
They tell me Lady Waldemar mixed drinks
And counted grains, like any salaried nurse,
Excepting that she wept too. Then Lord Howe,
You're right about Lord Howe! Lord Howe's a trump;
And yet, with such in his hand, a man like Leigh
May lose, as he does. There's an end to all,–
Yes, even this letter, through the second sheet
May find you doubtful. Write a word for Kate:
Even now she reads my letters like a wife,
And if she sees her name, I'll see her smile,
And share the luck. So, bless you, friend of two!
I will not ask you what your feeling is
At Florence with my pictures. I can hear
Your heart a-flutter over the snow-hills;
And, just to pace the Pitti with you once,
I'd give a half-hour of to-morrow's walk
With Kate . . I think so. Vincent Carrington.'

The noon was hot; the air scorched like the sun,
And was shut out. The closed persiani threw
Their long-scored shadows on my villa-floor,
And interlined the golden atmosphere
Straight, still,–across the pictures on the wall
The statuette on the console, (of young Love
And Psyche made one marble by a kiss)
The low couch where I leaned, the table near,
The vase of lilies, Marian pulled last night,
(Each green leaf and each white leaf ruled in black
As if for writing some new text of fate)
And the open letter, rested on my knee,–
But there, the lines swerved, trembled, though I sate
Untroubled . . plainly, . . reading it again
And three times. Well, he's married; that is clear.
No wonder that he's married, nor much more
That Vincent's therefore, 'sorry.' Why, of course,
The lady nursed him when he was not well,
Mixed drinks,–unless nepenthe was the drink,
'Twas scarce worth telling. But a man in love
Will see the whole sex in his mistress' hood,
The prettier for its lining of fair rose;
Although he catches back, and says at last,
'I'm sorry.' Sorry. Lady Waldemar
At prettiest, under the said hood, preserved
From such a light as I could hold to her face
To flare its ugly wrinkles out to shame,–
Is scarce a wife for Romney, as friends judge,
Aurora Leigh, or Vincent Carrington,–
That's plain. And if he's 'conscious of my heart' . .
Perhaps it's natural, though the phrase is strong;
(One's apt to use strong phrases, being in love)
And even that stuff of 'fields of gold,' 'gold rings,'
And what he 'thought,' poor Vincent! what he 'thought,'
May never mean enough to ruffle me.
–Why, this room stifles. Better burn than choke;
Best have air, air, although it comes with fire,
Throw open blinds and windows to the noon
And take a blister on my brow instead
Of this dead weight! best, perfectly be stunned
By those insufferable cicale, sick
And hoarse with rapture of the summer-heat,
That sing like poets, till their hearts break, . . sing
Till men say, 'It's too tedious.'
Books succeed,
And lives fail. Do I feel it so, at last?
Kate loves a worn-out cloak for being like mine,
While I live self-despised for being myself,
And yearn toward some one else, who yearns away
From what he is, in his turn. Strain a step
For ever, yet gain no step? Are we such,
We cannot, with our admirations even,
Our tip-toe aspirations, touch a thing
That's higher than we? is all a dismal flat,
And God alone above each,–as the sun
O'er level lagunes, to make them shine and stink,–
Laying stress upon us with immediate flame,
While we respond with our miasmal fog,
And call it mounting higher, because we grow
More highly fatal?
Tush, Aurora Leigh!
You wear your sackcloth looped in Cæsar's way.
And brag your failings as mankind's. Be still.
There is what's higher in this very world,
Than you can live, or catch at. Stand aside,
And look at others–instance little Kate!
She'll make a perfect wife for Carrington.
She always has been looking round the earth
For something good and green to alight upon
And nestle into, with those soft-winged eyes
Subsiding now beneath his manly hand
'Twixt trembling lids of inexpressive joy:
I will not scorn her, after all, too much,
That so much she should love me. A wise man
Can pluck a leaf, and find a lecture in't;
And I, too, . . God has made me,–I've a heart
That's capable of worship, love, and loss;
We say the same of Shakspeare's. I'll be meek,
And learn to reverence, even this poor myself.

The book, too–pass it. 'A good book,' says he,
'And you a woman,' I had laughed at that,
But long since. I'm a woman,–it is true;
Alas, and woe to us, when we feel it most!
Then, least care have we for the crowns and goals,
And compliments on writing our good books.

The book has some truth in it, I believe:
And truth outlives pain, as the soul does life.
I know we talk our Phædons to the end
Through all the dismal faces that we make,
O'er-wrinkled with dishonouring agony
From any mortal drug. I have written truth,
And I a woman; feebly, partially,
Inaptly in presentation, Romney'll add,
Because a woman. For the truth itself,
That's neither man's nor woman's, but just God's;
None else has reason to be proud of truth:
Himself will see it sifted, disenthralled,
And kept upon the height and in the light,
As far as, and no farther, than 'tis truth;
For,–now He has left off calling firmaments
And strata, flowers and creatures, very good,–
He says it still of truth, which is His own.
Truth, so far, in my book;–the truth which draws
Through all things upwards; that a twofold world
Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural things
And spiritual,–who separates those two
In art, in morals, or the social drift,
Tears up the bond of nature and brings death,
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal verse,
Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly with men,
Is wrong, in short, at all points. We divide
This apple of life, and cut it through the pips,–
The perfect round which fitted Venus' hand
Has perished utterly as if we ate
Both halves. Without the spiritual, observe,
The natural's impossible;–no form,
No motion! Without sensuous, spiritual
Is inappreciable;–no beauty or power!
And in this twofold sphere the twofold man
(And still the artist is intensely a man)
Holds firmly by the natural, to reach
The spiritual beyond it,–fixes still
The type with mortal vision, to pierce through,
With eyes immortal, to the antetype
Some call the ideal,–better called the real,
And certain to be called so presently,
When things shall have their names. Look long enough
On any peasant's face here, coarse and lined.
You'll catch Antinous somewhere in that clay,
As perfect-featured as he yearns at Rome
From marble pale with beauty; then persist,
And, if your apprehension's competent,
You'll find some fairer angel at his back,
As much exceeding him, as he the boor,
And pushing him with empyreal disdain
For ever out of sight. Ay, Carrington
Is glad of such a creed! an artist must,
Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common stone
With just his hand, and finds it suddenly
A-piece with and conterminous to his soul.
Why else do these things move him, leaf or stone?
The bird's not moved, that pecks at a spring-shoot;
Nor yet the horse, before a quarry, a-graze:
But man, the two-fold creature, apprehends
The two-fold manner, in and outwardly,
And nothing in the world comes single to him.
A mere itself,–cup, column, or candlestick,
All patterns of what shall be in the Mount;
The whole temporal show related royally,
And build up to eterne significance
Through the open arms of God. 'There's nothing great
Nor small,' has said a poet of our day,
(Whose voice will ring beyond the curfew of eve
And not be thrown out by the matin's bell)
And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

Truth so far, in my book! a truth which draws
From all things upwards. I, Aurora, still
Have felt it hound me through the wastes of life
As Jove did Io: and, until that Hand
Shall overtake me wholly, and, on my head,
Lay down its large, unfluctuating peace,
The feverish gad-fly pricks me up and down
It must be. Art's the witness of what Is
Behind this show. If this world's show were all,
Then imitation would be all in Art;
There, Jove's hand gripes us!–For we stand here, we.
If genuine artists, witnessing for God's
Complete, consummate, undivided work:
–That not a natural flower can grow on earth,
Without a flower upon the spiritual side,
Substantial, archetypal, all a-glow
With blossoming causes,–not so far away,
That we, whose spirit-sense is somewhat cleared,
May not catch something of the bloom and breath,–
Too vaguely apprehended, though indeed
Still apprehended, consciously or not,
And still transferred to picture, music, verse,
For thrilling audient and beholding souls
By signs and touches which are known to souls,–
How known, they know not,–why, they cannot find,
So straight call out on genius, say, 'A man
Produced this,'–when much rather they should say,
Tis insight, and he saw this.'
Thus is Art
Self-magnified in magnifying a truth
Which, fully recognized, would change the world
And shift its morals. If a man could feel,
Not one day, in the artist's ecstasy,
But every day, feast, fast, or working-day,
The spiritual significance burn through
The hieroglyphic of material shows,
Henceforward he would paint the globe with wings,
And reverence fish and fowl, the bull, the tree,
And even his very body as a man,–
Which now he counts so vile, that all the towns
Make offal of their daughters for its use
On summer-nights, when God is sad in heaven
To think what goes on in his recreant world
He made quite other; while that moon he made
To shine there, at the first love's covenant,
Shines still, convictive as a marriage-ring
Before adulterous eyes.
How sure it is,
That, if we say a true word, instantly
We feel 'tis God's, not ours, and pass it on
As bread at sacrament, we taste and pass
Nor handle for a moment, as indeed
We dared to set up any claim to such!
And I–my poem;–let my readers talk;
I'm closer to it–I can speak as well:
I'll say, with Romney, that the book is weak,
The range uneven, the points of sight obscure,
The music interrupted.
Let us go.
The end of woman (or of man, I think)
Is not a book. Alas, the best of books
Is but a word in Art, which soon grows cramped,
Stiff, dubious-statured with the weight of years,
And drops an accent or digamma down
Some cranny of unfathomable time,
Beyond the critic's reaching. Art itself,
We've called the higher life, still must feel the soul
Live past it. For more's felt than is perceived,
And more's perceived than can be interpreted,
And Love strikes higher with his lambent flame
Than Art can pile the faggots.
Is it so?
When Jove's hand meets us with composing touch,
And when, at last, we are hushed and satisfied,–
Then, Io does not call it truth, but love?
Well, well! my father was an Englishman:
My mother's blood in me is not so strong
That I should bear this stress of Tuscan noon
And keep my wits. The town, there, seems to seethe
In this Medæan boil-pot of the sun,
And all the patient hills are bubbling round
As if a prick would leave them flat. Does heaven
Keep far off, not to set us in a blaze?
Not so,–let drag your fiery fringes, heaven,
And burn us up to quiet! Ah, we know
Too much here, not to know what's best for peace;
We have too much light here, not to want more fire
To purify and end us. We talk, talk,
Conclude upon divine philosophies,
And get the thanks of men for hopeful books;
Whereat we take our own life up, and . . pshaw!
Unless we piece it with another's life,
(A yard of silk to carry out our lawn)
As well suppose my little handkerchief
Would cover Samminiato, church and all,
If out I threw it past the cypresses,
As, in this ragged, narrow life of mine,
Contain my own conclusions.
But at least
We'll shut up the persiani, and sit down,
And when my head's done aching, in the cool,
Write just a word to Kate and Carrington.
May joy be with them! she has chosen well,
And he not ill.
I should be glad, I think,
Except for Romney. Had he married Kate,
I surely, surely, should be very glad.
This Florence sits upon me easily,
With native air and tongue. My graves are calm,
And do not too much hurt me. Marian's good,
Gentle and loving,–lets me hold the child,
Or drags him up the hills to find me flowers
And fill those vases, ere I'm quite awake,–
The grandiose red tulips, which grow wild,
Or else my purple lilies, Dante blew
To a larger bubble with his prophet-breath;
Or one of those tall flowering reeds which stand
In Arno like a sheaf of sceptres, left
By some remote dynasty of dead gods,
To suck the stream for ages and get green,
And blossom wheresoe'er a hand divine
Had warmed the place with ichor. Such I've found
At early morning, laid across my bed,
And woke up pelted with a childish laugh
Which even Marian's low precipitous 'hush'
Had vainly interposed to put away,–
While I, with shut eyes, smile and motion for
The dewy kiss that's very sure to come
From mouth and cheeks, the whole child's face at once
Dissolved on mine,–as if a nosegay burst
Its string with the weight of roses overblown,
And dropt upon me. Surely I should be glad.
The little creature almost loves me now,
And calls my name . . 'Alola,' stripping off
The r s like thorns, to make it smooth enough
To take between his dainty, milk-fed lips,
God love him! I should certainly be glad,
Except, God help me, that I'm sorrowful,
Because of Romney.
Romney, Romney! Well,
This grows absurd!–too like a tune that runs
I' the head, and forces all things in the world,
Wind, rain, the creaking gnat or stuttering fly,
To sing itself and vex you;–yet perhaps
A paltry tune you never fairly liked,
Some 'I'd be a butterfly,' or 'C'est l'amour:'
We're made so,–not such tyrants to ourselves,
We are not slaves to nature. Some of us
Are turned, too, overmuch like some poor verse
With a trick of ritournelle: the same thing goes
And comes back ever.
Vincent Carrington
Is 'sorry,' and I'm sorry; but he's strong
To mount from sorrow to his heaven of love,
And when he says at moments, 'Poor, poor Leigh,
Who'll never call his own, so true a heart,
So fair a face even,'–he must quickly lose
The pain of pity in the blush he has made
By his very pitying eyes. The snow, for him,
Has fallen in May, and finds the whole earth warm,
And melts at the first touch of the green grass.
But Romney,–he has chosen, after all.
I think he had as excellent a sun
To see by, as most others, and perhaps
Has scarce seen really worse than some of us,
When all's said. Let him pass. I'm not too much
A woman, not to be a man for once,
And bury all my Dead like Alaric,
Depositing the treasures of my soul
In this drained water-course, and, letting flow
The river of life again, with commerce-ships
And pleasure-barges, full of silks and songs.
Blow winds, and help us.
Ah, we mock ourselves
With talking of the winds! perhaps as much
With other resolutions. How it weighs,
This hot, sick air! and how I covet here
The Dead's provision on the river's couch,
With silver curtains drawn on tinkling rings!
Or else their rest in quiet crypts,–laid by
From heat and noise!–from those cicale, say,
And this more vexing heart-beat.
So it is:
We covet for the soul, the body's part,
To die and rot. Even so, Aurora, ends
Our aspiration, who bespoke our place
So far in the east. The occidental flats
Had fed us fatter, therefore? we have climbed
Where herbage ends? we want the beast's part now
And tire of the angel's?–Men define a man,
The creature who stands front-ward to the stars,
The creature who looks inward to himself,
The tool-wright, laughing creature. 'Tis enough:
We'll say instead, the inconsequent creature, man,–
For that's his specialty. What creature else
Conceives the circle, and then walks the square?
Loves things proved bad, and leaves a thing proved good?
You think the bee makes honey half a year,
To loathe the comb in winter, and desire
The little ant's food rather? But a man–
Note men!–they are but women after all,
As women are but Auroras!–there are men
Born tender, apt to pale at a trodden worm,
Who paint for pastime, in their favourite dream,
Spruce auto-vestments flowered with crocus-flames:
There are, too, who believe in hell, and lie:
There are, who waste their souls in working out
Life's problem on these sands betwixt two tides,
And end,– 'Now give us the beast's part, in death.'

Alas, long-suffering and most patient God,
Thou need'st be surelier God to bear with us
Than even to have made us! thou, aspire, aspire
From henceforth for me! thou who hast, thyself,
Endured this fleshhood, knowing how, as a soaked
And sucking vesture, it would drag us down
And choke us in the melancholy Deep,
Sustain me, that, with thee, I walk these waves,
Resisting!–breathe me upward, thou for me
Aspiring, who art the way, the truth, the life,–
That no truth henceforth seem indifferent,
No way to truth laborious, and no life,
Not even this life I live, intolerable!
The days went by. I took up the old days
With all their Tuscan pleasures, worn and spoiled,–
Like some lost book we dropt in the long grass
On such a happy summer-afternoon
When last we read it with a loving friend,
And find in autumn, when the friend is gone,
The grass cut short, the weather changed, too late,
And stare at, as at something wonderful
For sorrow,–thinking how two hands, before,
Had held up what is left to only one,
And how we smiled when such a vehement nail
Impressed the tiny dint here, which presents
This verse in fire for ever! Tenderly
And mournfully I lived. I knew the birds
And insects,–which look fathered by the flowers
And emulous of their hues: I recognised
The moths, with that great overpoise of wings
Which makes a mystery of them how at all
They can stop flying: butterflies, that bear
Upon their blue wings such red embers round,
They seem to scorch the blue air into holes
Each flight they take: and fire-flies, that suspire
In short soft lapses of transported flame
Across the tingling Dark, while overhead
The constant and inviolable stars
Outburn those lights-of-love: melodious owls,
(If music had but one note and was sad,
'Twould sound just so) and all the silent swirl
Of bats, that seem to follow in the air
Some grand circumference of a shadowy dome
To which we are blind: and then, the nightingale
Which pluck our heart across a garden-wall,
(When walking in the town) and carry it
So high into the bowery almond-trees,
We tremble and are afraid, and feel as if
The golden flood of moonlight unaware
Dissolved the pillars of the steady earth
And made it less substantial. An I knew
The harmless opal snakes, and large-mouthed frogs,
(Those noisy vaunters of their shallow streams)
And lizards, the green lightnings of the wall,
Which, if you sit down still, nor sigh too loud,
Will flatter you and take you for a stone,
And flash familiarly about your feet
With such prodigious eyes in such small heads!–
I knew them though they had somewhat dwindled from
My childish imagery,–and kept in mind
How last I sat among them equally,
In fellowship and mateship, as a child
Will bear him still toward insect, beast, and bird,
Before the Adam in him has foregone
All privilege of Eden,–making friends
And talk, with such a bird or such a goat,
And buying many a two-inch-wide rush-cage
To let out the caged cricket on a tree,
Saying, 'Oh, my dear grillino, were you cramped
And are you happy with the ilex-leaves?
And do you love me who have let you go?
Say yes in singing, and I'll understand.'
But now the creatures all seemed farther off,
No longer mine, nor like me; only there,
A gulph between us. I could yearn indeed,
Like other rich men, for a drop of dew
To cool this heat,–a drop of the early dew,
The irrecoverable child-innocence
(Before the heart took fire and withered life)
When childhood might pair equally with birds;
But now . . the birds were grown too proud for us!
Alas, the very sun forbids the dew.

And I, I had come back to an empty nest,
Which every bird's too wise for. How I heard
My father's step on that deserted ground,
His voice along that silence, as he told
The names of bird and insect, tree and flower,
And all the presentations of the stars
Across Valdarno, interposing still
'My child,' 'my child.' When fathers say 'my child,'
'Tis easier to conceive the universe,
And life's transitions down the steps of law.

I rode once to the little mountain-house
As fast as if to find my father there,
But, when in sight of't, within fifty yards,
I dropped my horse's bridle on his neck
And paused upon his flank. The house's front
Was cased with lingots of ripe Indian corn
In tesselated order, and device
Of golden patterns: not a stone of wall
Uncovered,–not an inch of room to grow
A vine-leaf. The old porch had disappeared;
And, in the open doorway, sate a girl
At plaiting straws,-her black hair strained away
To a scarlet kerchief caught beneath her chin
In Tuscan fashion,–her full ebon eyes,
Which looked too heavy to be lifted so,
Still dropt and lifted toward the mulberry-tree
On which the lads were busy with their staves
In shout and laughter, stripping all the boughs
As bare as winter, of those summer leaves
My father had not changed for all the silk
In which the ugly silkworms hide themselves.
Enough. My horse recoiled before my heart–
I turned the rein abruptly. Back we went
As fast, to Florence.
That was trial enough
Of graves. I would not visit, if I could,
My father's or my mother's any more,
To see if stone-cutter or lichen beat
So early in the race, or throw my flowers,
Which could not out-smell heaven or sweeten earth.
They live too far above, that I should look
So far below to find them: let me think
That rather they are visiting my grave,
This life here, (undeveloped yet to life)
And that they drop upon me, now and then,
For token or for solace, some small weed
Least odorous of the growths of paradise,
To spare such pungent scents as kill with joy.
My old Assunta, too was dead, was dead–
O land of all men's past! for me alone,
It would not mix its tenses. I was past,
It seemed, like others,–only not in heaven.
And, many a Tuscan eve, I wandered down
The cypress alley, like a restless ghost
That tries its feeble ineffectual breath
Upon its own charred funeral-brands put out
Too soon,–where, black and stiff, stood up the trees
Against the broad vermilion of the skies.
Such skies!–all clouds abolished in a sweep
Of God's skirt, with a dazzle to ghosts and men,
As down I went, saluting on the bridge
The hem of such, before 'twas caught away
Beyond the peaks of Lucca. Underneath,
The river, just escaping from the weight
Of that intolerable glory, ran
In acquiescent shadow murmurously:
And up, beside it, streamed the festa-folk
With fellow-murmurs from their feet and fans,
(With issimo and ino and sweet poise
Of vowels in their pleasant scandalous talk)
Returning from the grand-duke's dairy-farm
Before the trees grew dangerous at eight,
(For, 'trust no tree by moonlight,' Tuscans say)
To eat their ice at Doni's tenderly,–
Each lovely lady close to a cavalier
Who holds her dear fan while she feeds her smile
On meditative spoonfuls of vanille,
He breathing hot protesting vows of love,
Enough to thaw her cream, and scorch his beard.
'Twas little matter. I could pass them by
Indifferently, not fearing to be known.
No danger of being wrecked upon a friend,
And forced to take an iceberg for an isle!
The very English, here, must wait to learn
To hang the cobweb of their gossip out
And catch a fly. I'm happy. It's sublime,
This perfect solitude of foreign lands!
To be, as if you had not been till then,
And were then, simply that you chose to be:
To spring up, not be brought forth from the ground,
Like grasshoppers at Athens, and skip thrice
Before a woman makes a pounce on you
And plants you in her hair!–possess yourself,
A new world all alive with creatures new,
New sun, new moon, new flowers, new people–ah,
And be possessed by none of them! No right
In one, to call your name, enquire your where,
Or what you think of Mister Some-one's book,
Or Mister Other's marriage, or decease,
Or how's the headache which you had last week,
Or why you look so pale still, since it's gone?
–Such most surprising riddance of one's life
Comes next one's death; it's disembodiment
Without the pang. I marvel, people choose
To stand stock-still like fakirs, till the moss
Grows on them, and they cry out, self-admired,
'How verdant and how virtuous!' Well, I'm glad;
Or should be, if grown foreign to myself
As surely as to others.
Musing so,
I walked the narrow unrecognising streets,
Where many a palace-front peers gloomily
Through stony vizors iron-barred, (prepared
Alike, should foe or lover pass that way,
For guest or victim) and came wandering out
Upon the churches with mild open doors
And plaintive wail of vespers, where a few,
Those chiefly women, sprinkled round in blots
Upon the dusk pavement, knelt and prayed
Toward the altar's silver glory. Oft a ray
(I liked to sit and watch) would tremble out,
Just touch some face more lifted, more in need,
Of course a woman's–while I dreamed a tale
To fit its fortunes. There was one who looked
As if the earth had suddenly grown too large
For such a little humpbacked thing as she;
The pitiful black kerchief round her neck
Sole proof she had had a mother. One, again,
Looked sick for love,–seemed praying some soft saint
To put more virtue in the new fine scarf
She spent a fortnight's meals on, yesterday,
That cruel Gigi might return his eyes
From Giuliana. There was one, so old,
So old, to kneel grew easier than to stand.–
So solitary, she accepts at last
Our Lady for her gossip, and frets on
Against the sinful world which goes its rounds
In marrying and being married, just the same
As when 'twas almost good and had the right,
(Her Gian alive, and she herself eighteen).
And yet, now even, if Madonna willed,
She'd win a tern in Thursday's lottery,
And better all things. Did she dream for nought,
That, boiling cabbage for the fast day's soup,
It smelt like blessed entrails? such a dream
For nought? would sweetest Mary cheat her so,
And lose that certain candle, straight and white
As any fair grand-duchess in her teens,
Which otherwise should flare here in a week?
Benigna sis, thou beauteous Queen of heaven!

I sate there musing and imagining
Such utterance from such faces: poor blind souls
That writhed toward heaven along the devil's trail,–
Who knows, I thought, but He may stretch his hand
And pick them up? 'tis written in the Book,
He heareth the young ravens when they cry;
And yet they cry for carrion.–O my God,–
And we, who make excuses for the rest,
We do it in our measure. Then I knelt,
And dropped my head upon the pavement too,
And prayed, since I was foolish in desire
Like other creatures, craving offal-food,
That He would stop his ears to what I said,
And only listen to the run and beat
Of this poor, passionate, helpless blood–
And then
I lay and spoke not. But He heard in heaven.
So many Tuscan evenings passed the same!
I could not lose a sunset on the bridge,
And would not miss a vigil in the church,
And liked to mingle with the out-door crowd
So strange and gay and ignorant of my face,
For men you know not, are as good as trees.
And only once, at the Santissima,
I almost chanced upon a man I knew,
Sir Blaise Delorme. He saw me certainly,
And somewhat hurried, as he crossed himself,
The smoothness of the action,–then half bowed,
But only half, and merely to my shade,
I slipped so quick behind the porphyry plinth,
And left him dubious if 'twas really I,
Or peradventure Satan's usual trick
To keep a mounting saint uncanonised.
But I was safe for that time, and he too;
The argent angels in the altar-flare
Absorbed his soul next moment. The good man!
In England we were scare acquaintances,
That here in Florence he should keep my thought
Beyond the image on his eye, which came
And went: and yet his thought disturbed my life.
For, after that, I often sate at home
On evenings, watching how they fined themselves
With gradual conscience to a perfect night,
Until a moon, diminished to a curve,
Lay out there, like a sickle for His hand
Who cometh down at last to reap the earth.
At such times, ended seemed my trade of verse;
I feared to jingle bells upon my robe
Before the four-faced silent cherubim;
With God so near me, could I sing of God?
I did not write, nor read, nor even think,
But sate absorbed amid the quickening glooms,
Most like some passive broken lump of salt
Dropt in by chance to a bowl of oenomel,
To spoil the drink a little, and lose itself,
Dissolving slowly, slowly, until lost.

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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VII. Pompilia

I am just seventeen years and five months old,
And, if I lived one day more, three full weeks;
'T is writ so in the church's register,
Lorenzo in Lucina, all my names
At length, so many names for one poor child,
—Francesca Camilla Vittoria Angela
Pompilia Comparini,—laughable!
Also 't is writ that I was married there
Four years ago: and they will add, I hope,
When they insert my death, a word or two,—
Omitting all about the mode of death,—
This, in its place, this which one cares to know,
That I had been a mother of a son
Exactly two weeks. It will be through grace
O' the Curate, not through any claim I have;
Because the boy was born at, so baptized
Close to, the Villa, in the proper church:
A pretty church, I say no word against,
Yet stranger-like,—while this Lorenzo seems
My own particular place, I always say.
I used to wonder, when I stood scarce high
As the bed here, what the marble lion meant,
With half his body rushing from the wall,
Eating the figure of a prostrate man—
(To the right, it is, of entry by the door)
An ominous sign to one baptized like me,
Married, and to be buried there, I hope.
And they should add, to have my life complete,
He is a boy and Gaetan by name—
Gaetano, for a reason,—if the friar
Don Celestine will ask this grace for me
Of Curate Ottoboni: he it was
Baptized me: he remembers my whole life
As I do his grey hair.

All these few things
I know are true,—will you remember them?
Because time flies. The surgeon cared for me,
To count my wounds,—twenty-two dagger-wounds,
Five deadly, but I do not suffer much—
Or too much pain,—and am to die to-night.

Oh how good God is that my babe was born,
—Better than born, baptized and hid away
Before this happened, safe from being hurt!
That had been sin God could not well forgive:
He was too young to smile and save himself.
When they took two days after he was born,
My babe away from me to be baptized
And hidden awhile, for fear his foe should find,—
The country-woman, used to nursing babes,
Said "Why take on so? where is the great loss?
"These next three weeks he will but sleep and feed,
"Only begin to smile at the month's end;
"He would not know you, if you kept him here,
"Sooner than that; so, spend three merry weeks
"Snug in the Villa, getting strong and stout,
"And then I bring him back to be your own,
"And both of you may steal to—we know where!"
The month—there wants of it two weeks this day!
Still, I half fancied when I heard the knock
At the Villa in the dusk, it might prove she—
Come to say "Since he smiles before the time,
"Why should I cheat you out of one good hour?
"Back I have brought him; speak to him and judge!"
Now I shall never see him; what is worse,
When he grows up and gets to be my age,
He will seem hardly more than a great boy;
And if he asks "What was my mother like?"
People may answer "Like girls of seventeen"—
And how can he but think of this and that,
Lucias, Marias, Sofias, who titter or blush
When he regards them as such boys may do?
Therefore I wish someone will please to say
I looked already old though I was young;
Do I not … say, if you are by to speak …
Look nearer twenty? No more like, at least,
Girls who look arch or redden when boys laugh,
Than the poor Virgin that I used to know
At our street-corner in a lonely niche,—
The babe, that sat upon her knees, broke off,—
Thin white glazed clay, you pitied her the more:
She, not the gay ones, always got my rose.

How happy those are who know how to write!
Such could write what their son should read in time,
Had they a whole day to live out like me.
Also my name is not a common name,
"Pompilia," and may help to keep apart
A little the thing I am from what girls are.
But then how far away, how hard to find
Will anything about me have become,
Even if the boy bethink himself and ask!
No father that he ever knew at all,
Nor ever had—no, never had, I say!
That is the truth,—nor any mother left,
Out of the little two weeks that she lived,
Fit for such memory as might assist:
As good to as no family, no name,
Not even poor old Pietro's name, nor hers,
Poor kind unwise Violante, since it seems
They must not be my parents any more.
That is why something put it in my head
To call the boy "Gaetano"—no old name
For sorrow's sake; I looked up to the sky
And took a new saint to begin anew.
One who has only been made saint—how long?
Twenty-five years: so, carefuller, perhaps,
To guard a namesake than those old saints grow,
Tired out by this time,—see my own five saints!

On second thoughts, I hope he will regard
The history of me as what someone dreamed,
And get to disbelieve it at the last:
Since to myself it dwindles fast to that,
Sheer dreaming and impossibility,—
Just in four days too! All the seventeen years,
Not once did a suspicion visit me
How very different a lot is mine
From any other woman's in the world.
The reason must be, 't was by step and step
It got to grow so terrible and strange.
These strange woes stole on tiptoe, as it were,
Into my neighbourhood and privacy,
Sat down where I sat, laid them where I lay;
And I was found familiarised with fear,
When friends broke in, held up a torch and cried
"Why, you Pompilia in the cavern thus,
"How comes that arm of yours about a wolf?
"And the soft length,—lies in and out your feet
"And laps you round the knee,—a snake it is!"
And so on.

Well, and they are right enough,
By the torch they hold up now: for first, observe,
I never had a father,—no, nor yet
A mother: my own boy can say at least
"I had a mother whom I kept two weeks!"
Not I, who little used to doubt … I doubt
Good Pietro, kind Violante, gave me birth?
They loved me always as I love my babe
(—Nearly so, that is—quite so could not be—)
Did for me all I meant to do for him,
Till one surprising day, three years ago,
They both declared, at Rome, before some judge
In some Court where the people flocked to hear,
That really I had never been their child,
Was a mere castaway, the careless crime
Of an unknown man, the crime and care too much
Of a woman known too well,—little to these,
Therefore, of whom I was the flesh and blood:
What then to Pietro and Violante, both
No more my relatives than you or you?
Nothing to them! You know what they declared.

So with my husband,—just such a surprise,
Such a mistake, in that relationship!
Everyone says that husbands love their wives,
Guard them and guide them, give them happiness;
'T is duty, law, pleasure, religion: well,
You see how much of this comes true in mine!
People indeed would fain have somehow proved
He was no husband: but he did not hear,
Or would not wait, and so has killed us all.
Then there is … only let me name one more!
There is the friend,—men will not ask about,
But tell untruths of, and give nicknames to,
And think my lover, most surprise of all!
Do only hear, it is the priest they mean,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi: a priest—love,
And love me! Well, yet people think he did.
I am married, he has taken priestly vows,
They know that, and yet go on, say, the same,
"Yes, how he loves you!" "That was love"—they say,
When anything is answered that they ask:
Or else "No wonder you love him"—they say.
Then they shake heads, pity much, scarcely blame—
As if we neither of us lacked excuse,
And anyhow are punished to the full,
And downright love atones for everything!
Nay, I heard read out in the public Court
Before the judge, in presence of my friends,
Letters't was said the priest had sent to me,
And other letters sent him by myself,
We being lovers!

Listen what this is like!
When I was a mere child, my mother … that's
Violante, you must let me call her so
Nor waste time, trying to unlearn the word …
She brought a neighbour's child of my own age
To play with me of rainy afternoons;
And, since there hung a tapestry on the wall,
We two agreed to find each other out
Among the figures. "Tisbe, that is you,
"With half-moon on your hair-knot, spear in hand,
"Flying, but no wings, only the great scarf
"Blown to a bluish rainbow at your back:
"Call off your hound and leave the stag alone!"
"—And there are you, Pompilia, such green leaves
"Flourishing out of your five finger-ends,
"And all the rest of you so brown and rough:
"Why is it you are turned a sort of tree?"
You know the figures never were ourselves
Though we nicknamed them so. Thus, all my life,—
As well what was, as what, like this, was not,—
Looks old, fantastic and impossible:
I touch a fairy thing that fades and fades.
—Even to my babe! I thought, when he was born,
Something began for once that would not end,
Nor change into a laugh at me, but stay
For evermore, eternally quite mine.
Well, so he is,—but yet they bore him off,
The third day, lest my husband should lay traps
And catch him, and by means of him catch me.
Since they have saved him so, it was well done:
Yet thence comes such confusion of what was
With what will be,—that late seems long ago,
And, what years should bring round, already come,
Till even he withdraws into a dream
As the rest do: I fancy him grown great,
Strong, stern, a tall young man who tutors me,
Frowns with the others "Poor imprudent child!
"Why did you venture out of the safe street?
"Why go so far from help to that lone house?
"Why open at the whisper and the knock?"
Six days ago when it was New Year's-day,
We bent above the fire and talked of him,
What he should do when he was grown and great.
Violante, Pietro, each had given the arm
I leant on, to walk by, from couch to chair
And fireside,—laughed, as I lay safe at last,
"Pompilia's march from bed to board is made,
"Pompilia back again and with a babe,
"Shall one day lend his arm and help her walk!"
Then we all wished each other more New Years.
Pietro began to scheme—"Our cause is gained;
"The law is stronger than a wicked man:
"Let him henceforth go his way, leave us ours!
"We will avoid the city, tempt no more
"The greedy ones by feasting and parade,—
"Live at the other villa, we know where,
"Still farther off, and we can watch the babe
"Grow fast in the good air; and wood is cheap
"And wine sincere outside the city gate.
"I still have two or three old friends will grope
"Their way along the mere half-mile of road,
"With staff and lantern on a moonless night
"When one needs talk: they'll find me, never fear,
"And I'll find them a flask of the old sort yet!"
Violante said "You chatter like a crow:
"Pompilia tires o' the tattle, and shall to bed:
"Do not too much the first day,—somewhat more
"To-morrow, and, the next, begin the cape
"And hood and coat! I have spun wool enough."
Oh what a happy friendly eve was that!

And, next day, about noon, out Pietro went—
He was so happy and would talk so much,
Until Violante pushed and laughed him forth
Sight-seeing in the cold,—"So much to see
"I' the churches! Swathe your throat three times!" she cried,
"And, above all, beware the slippery ways,
"And bring us all the news by supper-time!"
He came back late, laid by cloak, staff and hat,
Powdered so thick with snow it made us laugh,
Rolled a great log upon the ash o' the hearth,
And bade Violante treat us to a flask,
Because he had obeyed her faithfully,
Gone sight-see through the seven, and found no church
To his mind like San Giovanni—"There's the fold,
"And all the sheep together, big as cats!
"And such a shepherd, half the size of life,
"Starts up and hears the angel"—when, at the door,
A tap: we started up: you know the rest.

Pietro at least had done no harm, I know;
Nor even Violante, so much harm as makes
Such revenge lawful. Certainly she erred—
Did wrong, how shall I dare say otherwise?—
In telling that first falsehood, buying me
From my poor faulty mother at a price,
To pass off upon Pietro as his child.
If one should take my babe, give him a name,
Say he was not Gaetano and my own,
But that some other woman made his mouth
And hands and feet,—how very false were that!
No good could come of that; and all harm did.
Yet if a stranger were to represent
"Needs must you either give your babe to me
"And let me call him mine for evermore,
"Or let your husband get him"—ah, my God,
That were a trial I refuse to face!
Well, just so here: it proved wrong but seemed right
To poor Violante—for there lay, she said,
My poor real dying mother in her rags,
Who put me from her with the life and all,
Poverty, pain, shame and disease at once,
To die the easier by what price I fetched—
Also (I hope) because I should be spared
Sorrow and sin,—why may not that have helped?
My father,—he was no one, any one,—
The worse, the likelier,—call him—he who came,
Was wicked for his pleasure, went his way,
And left no trace to track by; there remained
Nothing but me, the unnecessary life,
To catch up or let fall,—and yet a thing
She could make happy, be made happy with,
This poor Violante,—who would frown thereat?

Well, God, you see! God plants us where we grow.
It is not that because a bud is born
At a wild briar's end, full i' the wild beast's way,
We ought to pluck and put it out of reach
On the oak-tree top,—say "There the bud belongs!"
She thought, moreover, real lies were lies told
For harm's sake; whereas this had good at heart,
Good for my mother, good for me, and good
For Pietro who was meant to love a babe,
And needed one to make his life of use,
Receive his house and land when he should die.
Wrong, wrong and always wrong! how plainly wrong:
For see, this fault kept pricking, as faults do,
All the same at her heart: this falsehood hatched,
She could not let it go nor keep it fast.
She told me so,—the first time I was found
Locked in her arms once more after the pain,
When the nuns let me leave them and go home,
And both of us cried all the cares away,—
This it was set her on to make amends,
This brought about the marriage—simply this!
Do let me speak for her you blame so much!
When Paul, my husband's brother, found me out,
Heard there was wealth for who should marry me,
So, came and made a speech to ask my hand
For Guido,—she, instead of piercing straight
Through the pretence to the ignoble truth,
Fancied she saw God's very finger point,
Designate just the time for planting me
(The wild-briar slip she plucked to love and wear)
In soil where I could strike real root, and grow,
And get to be the thing I called myself:
For, wife and husband are one flesh, God says,
And I, whose parents seemed such and were none,
Should in a husband have a husband now,
Find nothing, this time, but was what it seemed,
—All truth and no confusion any more.
I know she meant all good to me, all pain
To herself,—since how could it be aught but pain,
To give me up, so, from her very breast,
The wilding flower-tree-branch that, all those years,
She had got used to feel for and find fixed?
She meant well: has it been so ill i' the main?
That is but fair to ask: one cannot judge
Of what has been the ill or well of life,
The day that one is dying,—sorrows change
Into not altogether sorrow-like;
I do see strangeness but scarce misery,
Now it is over, and no danger more.
My child is safe; there seems not so much pain.
It comes, most like, that I am just absolved,
Purged of the past, the foul in me, washed fair,—
One cannot both have and not have, you know,—
Being right now, I am happy and colour things.
Yes, everybody that leaves life sees all
Softened and bettered: so with other sights:
To me at least was never evening yet
But seemed far beautifuller than its day,
For past is past.

There was a fancy came,
When somewhere, in the journey with my friend,
We stepped into a hovel to get food;
And there began a yelp here, a bark there,—
Misunderstanding creatures that were wroth
And vexed themselves and us till we retired.
The hovel is life: no matter what dogs bit
Or cats scratched in the hovel I break from,
All outside is lone field, moon and such peace—
Flowing in, filling up as with a sea
Whereon comes Someone, walks fast on the white,
Jesus Christ's self, Don Celestine declares,
To meet me and calm all things back again.

Beside, up to my marriage, thirteen years
Were, each day, happy as the day was long:
This may have made the change too terrible.
I know that when Violante told me first
The cavalier—she meant to bring next morn,
Whom I must also let take, kiss my hand—
Would be at San Lorenzo the same eve
And marry me,—which over, we should go
Home both of us without him as before,
And, till she bade speak, I must hold my tongue,
Such being the correct way with girl-brides,
From whom one word would make a father blush,—
I know, I say, that when she told me this,
—Well, I no more saw sense in what she said
Than a lamb does in people clipping wool;
Only lay down and let myself be clipped.
And when next day the cavalier who came—
(Tisbe had told me that the slim young man
With wings at head, and wings at feet, and sword
Threatening a monster, in our tapestry,
Would eat a girl else,—was a cavalier)
When he proved Guido Franceschini,—old
And nothing like so tall as I myself
Hook-nosed and yellow in a bush of beard,
Much like a thing I saw on a boy's wrist,
He called an owl and used for catching birds,—
And when he took my hand and made a smile—
Why, the uncomfortableness of it all
Seemed hardly more important in the case
Than,—when one gives you, say, a coin to spend,—
Its newness or its oldness; if the piece
Weigh properly and buy you what you wish,
No matter whether you get grime or glare!
Men take the coin, return you grapes and figs.
Here, marriage was the coin, a dirty piece
Would purchase me the praise of those I loved:
About what else should I concern myself?

So, hardly knowing what a husband meant,
I supposed this or any man would serve,
No whit the worse for being so uncouth:
For I was ill once and a doctor came
With a great ugly hat, no plume thereto,
Black jerkin and black buckles and black sword,
And white sharp beard over the ruff in front,
And oh so lean, so sour-faced and austere!—
Who felt my pulse, made me put out my tongue,
Then oped a phial, dripped a drop or two
Of a black bitter something,—I was cured!
What mattered the fierce beard or the grim face?
It was the physic beautified the man,
Master Malpichi,—never met his match
In Rome, they said,—so ugly all the same!

However, I was hurried through a storm,
Next dark eve of December's deadest day—
How it rained!—through our street and the Lion's-mouth
And the bit of Corso,—cloaked round, covered close,
I was like something strange or contraband,—
Into blank San Lorenzo, up the aisle,
My mother keeping hold of me so tight,
I fancied we were come to see a corpse
Before the altar which she pulled me toward.
There we found waiting an unpleasant priest
Who proved the brother, not our parish friend,
But one with mischief-making mouth and eye,
Paul, whom I know since to my cost. And then
I heard the heavy church-door lock out help
Behind us: for the customary warmth,
Two tapers shivered on the altar. "Quick—
"Lose no time!" cried the priest. And straightway down
From … what's behind the altar where he hid—
Hawk-nose and yellowness and bush and all,
Stepped Guido, caught my hand, and there was I
O' the chancel, and the priest had opened book,
Read here and there, made me say that and this,
And after, told me I was now a wife,
Honoured indeed, since Christ thus weds the Church,
And therefore turned he water into wine,
To show I should obey my spouse like Christ.
Then the two slipped aside and talked apart,
And I, silent and scared, got down again
And joined my mother who was weeping now.
Nobody seemed to mind us any more,
And both of us on tiptoe found our way
To the door which was unlocked by this, and wide.
When we were in the street, the rain had stopped,
All things looked better. At out own house-door,
Violante whispered "No one syllable
"To Pietro! Girl-brides never breathe a word!"
"—Well treated to a wetting, draggle-tails!"
Laughed Pietro as he opened—"Very near
"You made me brave the gutter's roaring sea
"To carry off from roost old dove and young,
"Trussed up in church, the cote, by me, the kite!
"What do these priests mean, praying folk to death
"On stormy afternoons, with Christmas close
"To wash our sins off nor require the rain?"
Violante gave my hand a timely squeeze,
Madonna saved me from immodest speech,
I kissed him and was quiet, being a bride.
When I saw nothing more, the next three weeks,
Of Guido—"Nor the Church sees Christ" thought I:
"Nothing is changed however, wine is wine
"And water only water in our house.
"Nor did I see that ugly doctor since
"That cure of the illness: just as I was cured,
"I am married,—neither scarecrow will return."

Three weeks, I chuckled—"How would Giulia stare,
"And Tecla smile and Tisbe laugh outright,
"Were it not impudent for brides to talk!"—
Until one morning, as I sat and sang
At the broidery-frame alone i' the chamber,—loud
Voices, two, three together, sobbings too,
And my name, "Guido," "Paolo," flung like stones
From each to the other! In I ran to see.
There stood the very Guido and the priest
With sly face,—formal but nowise afraid,—
While Pietro seemed all red and angry, scarce
Able to stutter out his wrath in words;
And this it was that made my mother sob,
As he reproached her—"You have murdered us,
"Me and yourself and this our child beside!"
Then Guido interposed "Murdered or not,
"Be it enough your child is now my wife!
"I claim and come to take her." Paul put in,
"Consider—kinsman, dare I term you so?—
"What is the good of your sagacity
"Except to counsel in a strait like this?
"I guarantee the parties man and wife
"Whether you like or loathe it, bless or ban.
"May spilt milk be put back within the bowl—
"The done thing, undone? You, it is, we look
"For counsel to, you fitliest will advise!
"Since milk, though spilt and spoilt, does marble good,
"Better we down on knees and scrub the floor,
"Than sigh, 'the waste would make a syllabub!'
"Help us so turn disaster to account,
"So predispose the groom, he needs shall grace
"The bride with favour from the very first,
"Not begin marriage an embittered man!"
He smiled,—the game so wholly in his hands!
While fast and faster sobbed Violante—"Ay,
"All of us murdered, past averting now!
"O my sin, O my secret!" and such like.

Then I began to half surmise the truth;
Something had happened, low, mean, underhand,
False, and my mother was to blame, and I
To pity, whom all spoke of, none addressed:
I was the chattel that had caused a crime.
I stood mute,—those who tangled must untie
The embroilment. Pietro cried "Withdraw, my child!
"She is not helpful to the sacrifice
"At this stage,—do you want the victim by
"While you discuss the value of her blood?
"For her sake, I consent to hear you talk:
"Go, child, and pray God help the innocent!

I did go and was praying God, when came
Violante, with eyes swollen and red enough,
But movement on her mouth for make-believe
Matters were somehow getting right again.
She bade me sit down by her side and hear.
"You are too young and cannot understand,
"Nor did your father understand at first.
"I wished to benefit all three of us,
"And when he failed to take my meaning,—why,
"I tried to have my way at unaware—
"Obtained him the advantage he refused.
"As if I put before him wholesome food
"Instead of broken victual,—he finds change
"I' the viands, never cares to reason why,
"But falls to blaming me, would fling the plate
"From window, scandalize the neighbourhood,
"Even while he smacks his lips,—men's way, my child!
"But either you have prayed him unperverse
"Or I have talked him back into his wits:
"And Paolo was a help in time of need,—
"Guido, not much—my child, the way of men!
"A priest is more a woman than a man,
"And Paul did wonders to persuade. In short,
"Yes, he was wrong, your father sees and says;
"My scheme was worth attempting: and bears fruit,
"Gives you a husband and a noble name,
"A palace and no end of pleasant things.
"What do you care about a handsome youth?
"They are so volatile, and tease their wives!
"This is the kind of man to keep the house.
"We lose no daughter,—gain a son, that's all:
"For 't is arranged we never separate,
"Nor miss, in our grey time of life, the tints
"Of you that colour eve to match with morn.
"In good or ill, we share and share alike,
"And cast our lots into a common lap,
"And all three die together as we lived!
"Only, at Arezzo,—that's a Tuscan town,
"Not so large as this noisy Rome, no doubt,
"But older far and finer much, say folk,—
"In a great palace where you will be queen,
"Know the Archbishop and the Governor,
"And we see homage done you ere we die.
"Therefore, be good and pardon!"—"Pardon what?
"You know things, I am very ignorant:
"All is right if you only will not cry!"

And so an end! Because a blank begins
From when, at the word, she kissed me hard and hot,
And took me back to where my father leaned
Opposite Guido—who stood eyeing him,
As eyes the butcher the cast panting ox
That feels his fate is come, nor struggles more,—
While Paul looked archly on, pricked brow at whiles
With the pen-point as to punish triumph there,—
And said "Count Guido, take your lawful wife
"Until death part you!"

All since is one blank,
Over and ended; a terrific dream.
It is the good of dreams—so soon they go!
Wake in a horror of heart-beats, you may—
Cry "The dread thing will never from my thoughts!"
Still, a few daylight doses of plain life,
Cock-crow and sparrow-chirp, or bleat and bell
Of goats that trot by, tinkling, to be milked;
And when you rub your eyes awake and wide,
Where is the harm o' the horror? Gone! So here.
I know I wake,—but from what? Blank, I say!
This is the note of evil: for good lasts.
Even when Don Celestine bade "Search and find!
"For your soul's sake, remember what is past,
"The better to forgive it,"—all in vain!
What was fast getting indistinct before,
Vanished outright. By special grace perhaps,
Between that first calm and this last, four years
Vanish,—one quarter of my life, you know.
I am held up, amid the nothingness,
By one or two truths only—thence I hang,
And there I live,—the rest is death or dream,
All but those points of my support. I think
Of what I saw at Rome once in the Square
O' the Spaniards, opposite the Spanish House:
There was a foreigner had trained a goat,
A shuddering white woman of a beast,
To climb up, stand straight on a pile of sticks
Put close, which gave the creature room enough:
When she was settled there he, one by one,
Took away all the sticks, left just the four
Whereon the little hoofs did really rest,
There she kept firm, all underneath was air.
So, what I hold by, are my prayer to God,
My hope, that came in answer to the prayer,
Some hand would interpose and save me—hand
Which proved to be my friend's hand: and,—blest bliss,—
That fancy which began so faint at first,
That thrill of dawn's suffusion through my dark,
Which I perceive was promise of my child,
The light his unborn face sent long before,—
God's way of breaking the good news to flesh.
That is all left now of those four bad years.
Don Celestine urged "But remember more!
"Other men's faults may help me find your own.
"I need the cruelty exposed, explained,
"Or how can I advise you to forgive?"
He thought I could not properly forgive
Unless I ceased forgetting,—which is true:
For, bringing back reluctantly to mind
My husband's treatment of me,—by a light
That's later than my life-time, I review
And comprehend much and imagine more,
And have but little to forgive at last.
For now,—be fair and say,—is it not true
He was ill-used and cheated of his hope
To get enriched by marriage? Marriage gave
Me and no money, broke the compact so:
He had a right to ask me on those terms,
As Pietro and Violante to declare
They would not give me: so the bargain stood:
They broke it, and he felt himself aggrieved,
Became unkind with me to punish them.
They said 't was he began deception first,
Nor, in one point whereto he pledged himself,
Kept promise: what of that, suppose it were?
Echoes die off, scarcely reverberate
For ever,—why should ill keep echoing ill,
And never let our ears have done with noise?
Then my poor parents took the violent way
To thwart him,—he must needs retaliate,—wrong,
Wrong, and all wrong,—better say, all blind!
As I myself was, that is sure, who else
Had understood the mystery: for his wife
Was bound in some sort to help somehow there.
It seems as if I might have interposed,
Blunted the edge of their resentment so,
Since he vexed me because they first vexed him;
"I will entreat them to desist, submit,
"Give him the money and be poor in peace,—
"Certainly not go tell the world: perhaps
"He will grow quiet with his gains."

Yes, say
Something to this effect and you do well!
But then you have to see first: I was blind.
That is the fruit of all such wormy ways,
The indirect, the unapproved of God:
You cannot find their author's end and aim,
Not even to substitute your good for bad,
Your straight for the irregular; you stand
Stupefied, profitless, as cow or sheep
That miss a man's mind, anger him just twice
By trial at repairing the first fault.
Thus, when he blamed me, "You are a coquette,
"A lure-owl posturing to attract birds,
"You look love-lures at theatre and church,
"In walk, at window!"—that, I knew, was false:
But why he charged me falsely, whither sought
To drive me by such charge,—how could I know?
So, unaware, I only made things worse.
I tried to soothe him by abjuring walk,
Window, church, theatre, for good and all,
As if he had been in earnest: that, you know,
Was nothing like the object of his charge.
Yes, when I got my maid to supplicate
The priest, whose name she read when she would read
Those feigned false letters I was forced to hear
Though I could read no word of,—he should cease
Writing,—nay, if he minded prayer of mine,
Cease from so much as even pass the street
Whereon our house looked,—in my ignorance
I was just thwarting Guido's true intent;
Which was, to bring about a wicked change
Of sport to earnest, tempt a thoughtless man
To write indeed, and pass the house, and more,
Till both of us were taken in a crime.
He ought not to have wished me thus act lies,
Simulate folly: but,—wrong or right, the wish,—
I failed to apprehend its drift. How plain
It follows,—if I fell into such fault,
He also may have overreached the mark,
Made mistake, by perversity of brain,
I' the whole sad strange plot, the grotesque intrigue
To make me and my friend unself ourselves,
Be other man and woman than we were!
Think it out, you who have the time! for me,—
I cannot say less; more I will not say.
Leave it to God to cover and undo!
Only, my dulness should not prove too much!
—Not prove that in a certain other point
Wherein my husband blamed me,—and you blame,
If I interpret smiles and shakes of head,—
I was dull too. Oh, if I dared but speak!
Must I speak? I am blamed that I forwent
A way to make my husband's favour come.
That is true: I was firm, withstood, refused …
—Women as you are, how can I find the words?

I felt there was just one thing Guido claimed
I had no right to give nor he to take;
We being in estrangement, soul from soul:
Till, when I sought help, the Archbishop smiled,
Inquiring into privacies of life,
—Said I was blameable—(he stands for God)
Nowise entitled to exemption there.
Then I obeyed,—as surely had obeyed
Were the injunction "Since your husband bids,
"Swallow the burning coal he proffers you!"
But I did wrong, and he gave wrong advice
Though he were thrice Archbishop,—that, I know!—
Now I have got to die and see things clear.
Remember I was barely twelve years old—
A child at marriage: I was let alone
For weeks, I told you, lived my child-life still
Even at Arezzo, when I woke and found
First … but I need not think of that again—
Over and ended! Try and take the sense
Of what I signify, if it must be so.
After the first, my husband, for hate's sake,
Said one eve, when the simpler cruelty
Seemed somewhat dull at edge and fit to bear,
"We have been man and wife six months almost:
"How long is this your comedy to last?
"Go this night to my chamber, not your own!"
At which word, I did rush—most true the charge—
And gain the Archbishop's house—he stands for God—
And fall upon my knees and clasp his feet,
Praying him hinder what my estranged soul
Refused to bear, though patient of the rest:
"Place me within a convent," I implored—
"Let me henceforward lead the virgin life
"You praise in Her you bid me imitate!"
What did he answer? "Folly of ignorance!
"Know, daughter, circumstances make or mar
"Virginity,—'t is virtue or 't is vice.
"That which was glory in the Mother of God
"Had been, for instance, damnable in Eve
"Created to be mother of mankind.
"Had Eve, in answer to her Maker's speech
"'Be fruitful, multiply, replenish earth'—
"Pouted 'But I choose rather to remain
"'Single'—why, she had spared herself forthwith
"Further probation by the apple and snake,
"Been pushed straight out of Paradise! For see—
"If motherhood be qualified impure,
"I catch you making God command Eve sin!
"—A blasphemy so like these Molinists',
"I must suspect you dip into their books."
Then he pursued "'T was in your covenant!"

No! There my husband never used deceit.
He never did by speech nor act imply
"Because of our souls' yearning that we meet
"And mix in soul through flesh, which yours and mine
"Wear and impress, and make their visible selves,
"—All which means, for the love of you and me,
"Let us become one flesh, being one soul!"
He only stipulated for the wealth;
Honest so far. But when he spoke as plain—
Dreadfully honest also—"Since our souls
"Stand each from each, a whole world's width between,
"Give me the fleshly vesture I can reach
"And rend and leave just fit for hell to burn!"—
Why, in God's name, for Guido's soul's own sake
Imperilled by polluting mine,—I say,
I did resist; would I had overcome!

My heart died out at the Archbishop's smile;
—It seemed so stale and worn a way o' the world,
As though 't were nature frowning—"Here is Spring,
"The sun shines as he shone at Adam's fall,
"The earth requires that warmth reach everywhere:
"What, must your patch of snow be saved forsooth
"Because you rather fancy snow than flowers?"
Something in this style he began with me.
Last he said, savagely for a good man,
"This explains why you call your husband harsh,
"Harsh to you, harsh to whom you love. God's Bread!
"The poor Count has to manage a mere child
"Whose parents leave untaught the simplest things
"Their duty was and privilege to teach,—
"Good wives' instruction, gossips' lore: they laugh
"And leave the Count the task,—or leave it me!"
Then I resolved to tell a frightful thing.
"I am not ignorant,—know what I say,
"Declaring this is sought for hate, not love.
"Sir, you may hear things like almighty God.
"I tell you that my housemate, yes—the priest
"My husband's brother, Canon Girolamo—
"Has taught me what depraved and misnamed love
"Means, and what outward signs denote the sin,
"For he solicits me and says he loves,
"The idle young priest with nought else to do.
"My husband sees this, knows this, and lets be.
"Is it your counsel I bear this beside?"
"—More scandal, and against a priest this time!
"What, 't is the Canon now?"—less snappishly—
"Rise up, my child, for such a child you are,
"The rod were too advanced a punishment!
"Let's try the honeyed cake. A parable!
"'Without a parable spake He not to them.'
"There was a ripe round long black toothsome fruit,
"Even a flower-fig, the prime boast of May:
"And, to the tree, said … either the spirit o' the fig,
"Or, if we bring in men, the gardener,
"Archbishop of the orchard—had I time
"To try o' the two which fits in best: indeed
"It might be the Creator's self, but then
"The tree should bear an apple, I suppose,—
"Well, anyhow, one with authority said
"'Ripe fig, burst skin, regale the fig-pecker—
"'The bird whereof thou art a perquisite!'
"'Nay,' with a flounce, replied the restif fig,
"'I much prefer to keep my pulp myself:
"'He may go breakfastless and dinnerless,
"'Supperless of one crimson seed, for me!'
"So, back she flopped into her bunch of leaves.
"He flew off, left her,—did the natural lord,—
"And lo, three hundred thousand bees and wasps
"Found her out, feasted on her to the shuck:
"Such gain the fig's that gave its bird no bite!
"The moral,—fools elude their proper lot,
"Tempt other fools, get ruined all alike.
"Therefore go home, embrace your husband quick!
"Which if his Canon brother chance to see,
"He will the sooner back to book again."

So, home I did go; so, the worst befell:
So, I had proof the Archbishop was just man,
And hardly that, and certainly no more.
For, miserable consequence to me,
My husband's hatred waxed nor waned at all,
His brother's boldness grew effrontery soon,
And my last stay and comfort in myself
Was forced from me: henceforth I looked to God
Only, nor cared my desecrated soul
Should have fair walls, gay windows for the world.
God's glimmer, that came through the ruin-top,
Was witness why all lights were quenched inside:
Henceforth I asked God counsel, not mankind.

So, when I made the effort, freed myself,
They said—"No care to save appearance here!
"How cynic,—when, how wanton, were enough!"
—Adding, it all came of my mother's life—
My own real mother, whom I never knew,
Who did wrong (if she needs must have done wrong)
Through being all her life, not my four years,
At mercy of the hateful: every beast
O' the field was wont to break that fountain-fence,
Trample the silver into mud so murk
Heaven could not find itself reflected there.
Now they cry "Out on her, who, plashy pool,
"Bequeathed turbidity and bitterness
"To the daughter-stream where Guido dipt and drank!"
Well, since she had to bear this brand—let me!
The rather do I understand her now,
From my experience of what hate calls love,—
Much love might be in what their love called hate.
If she sold … what they call, sold … me her child—
I shall believe she hoped in her poor heart
That I at least might try be good and pure,
Begin to live untempted, not go doomed
And done with ere once found in fault, as she.
Oh and, my mother, it all came to this?
Why should I trust those that speak ill of you,
When I mistrust who speaks even well of them?
Why, since all bound to do me good, did harm,
May not you, seeming as you harmed me most,
Have meant to do most good—and feed your child
From bramble-bush, whom not one orchard-tree
But drew bough back from, nor let one fruit fall?
This it was for you sacrificed your babe?
Gained just this, giving your heart's hope away
As I might give mine, loving it as you,
If … but that never could be asked of me!

There, enough! I have my support again,
Again the knowledge that my babe was, is,
Will be mine only. Him, by death, I give
Outright to God, without a further care,—
But not to any parent in the world,—
So to be safe: why is it we repine?
What guardianship were safer could we choose?
All human plans and projects come to nought:
My life, and what I know of other lives,
Prove that: no plan nor project! God shall care!

And now you are not tired? How patient then
All of you,—Oh yes, patient this long while
Listening, and understanding, I am sure!
Four days ago, when I was sound and well
And like to live, no one would understand.
People were kind, but smiled "And what of him,
"Your friend, whose tonsure the rich dark-brown hides?
"There, there!—your lover, do we dream he was?
"A priest too—never were such naughtiness!
"Still, he thinks many a long think, never fear,
"After the shy pale lady,—lay so light
"For a moment in his arms, the lucky one!"
And so on: wherefore should I blame you much?
So we are made, such difference in minds,
Such difference too in eyes that see the minds!
That man, you misinterpret and misprise—
The glory of his nature, I had thought,
Shot itself out in white light, blazed the truth
Through every atom of his act with me:
Yet where I point you, through the crystal shrine,
Purity in quintessence, one dew-drop,
You all descry a spider in the midst.
One says "The head of it is plain to see,"
And one, "They are the feet by which I judge,"
All say, "Those films were spun by nothing else."

Then, I must lay my babe away with God,
Nor think of him again, for gratitude.
Yes, my last breath shall wholly spend itself
In one attempt more to disperse the stain,
The mist from other breath fond mouths have made,
About a lustrous and pellucid soul:
So that, when I am gone but sorrow stays,
And people need assurance in their doubt
If God yet have a servant, man a friend,
The weak a saviour and the vile a foe,—
Let him be present, by the name invoked,
Giuseppe-Maria Caponsacchi!

There,
Strength comes already with the utterance!
I will remember once more for his sake
The sorrow: for he lives and is belied.
Could he be here, how he would speak for me!
I had been miserable three drear years
In that dread palace and lay passive now,
When I first learned there could be such a man.
Thus it fell: I was at a public play,
In the last days of Carnival last March,
Brought there I knew not why, but now know well.
My husband put me where I sat, in front;
Then crouched down, breathed cold through me from behind,
Stationed i' the shadow,—none in front could see,—
I, it was, faced the stranger-throng beneath,
The crowd with upturned faces, eyes one stare,
Voices one buzz. I looked but to the stage,
Whereon two lovers sang and interchanged
"True life is only love, love only bliss:
"I love thee—thee I love!" then they embraced.
I looked thence to the ceiling and the walls,—
Over the crowd, those voices and those eyes,—
My thoughts went through the roof and out, to Rome
On wings of music, waft of measured words,—
Set me down there, a happy child again
Sure that to-morrow would be festa-day,
Hearing my parents praise past festas more,
And seeing they were old if I was young,
Yet wondering why they still would end discourse
With "We must soon go, you abide your time,
"And,—might we haply see the proper friend
"Throw his arm over you and make you safe!"

Sudden I saw him; into my lap there fell
A foolish twist of comfits, broke my dream
And brought me from the air and laid me low,
As ruined as the soaring bee that's reached
(So Pietro told me at the Villa once)
By the dust-handful. There the comfits lay:
I looked to see who flung them, and I faced
This Caponsacchi, looking up in turn.
Ere I could reason out why, I felt sure,
Whoever flung them, his was not the hand,—
Up rose the round face and good-natured grin
Of one who, in effect, had played the prank,
From covert close beside the earnest face,—
Fat waggish Conti, friend of all the world.
He was my husband's cousin, privileged
To throw the thing: the other, silent, grave,
Solemn almost, saw me, as I saw him.

There is a psalm Don Celestine recites,
"Had I a dove's wings, how I fain would flee!"
The psalm runs not "I hope, I pray for wings,"—
Not "If wings fall from heaven, I fix them fast,"—
Simply "How good it were to fly and rest,
"Have hope now, and one day expect content!
"How well to do what I shall never do!"
So I said "Had there been a man like that,
"To lift me with his strength out of all strife
"Into the calm, how I could fly and rest!
"I have a keeper in the garden here
"Whose sole employment is to strike me low
"If ever I, for solace, seek the sun.
"Life means with me successful feigning death,
"Lying stone-like, eluding notice so,
"Forgoing here the turf and there the sky.
"Suppose that man had been instead of this!"

Presently Conti laughed into my ear,
—Had tripped up to the raised place where I sat—
"Cousin, I flung them brutishly and hard!
"Because you must be hurt, to look austere
"As Caponsacchi yonder, my tall friend
"A-gazing now. Ah, Guido, you so close?
"Keep on your knees, do! Beg her to forgive!
"My cornet battered like a cannon-ball.
"Good-bye, I'm gone!"—nor waited the reply.

That night at supper, out my husband broke,
"Why was that throwing, that buffoonery?
"Do you think I am your dupe? What man would dare
"Throw comfits in a stranger lady's lap?
"'T was knowledge of you bred such insolence
"In Caponsacchi; he dared shoot the bolt,
"Using that Conti for his stalking-horse.
"How could you see him this once and no more,
"When he is always haunting hereabout
"At the street-corner or the palace-side,
"Publishing my shame and your impudence?
"You are a wanton,—I a dupe, you think?
"O Christ, what hinders that I kill her quick?"
Whereat he drew his sword and feigned a thrust.

All this, now,—being not so strange to me,
Used to such misconception day by day
And broken-in to bear,—I bore, this time,
More quietly than woman should perhaps;
Repeated the mere truth and held my tongue.

Then he said, "Since you play the ignorant,
"I shall instruct you. This amour,—commenced
"Or finished or midway in act, all's one,—
"'T is the town-talk; so my revenge shall be.
"Does he presume because he is a priest?
"I warn him that the sword I wear shall pink
"His lily-scented cassock through and through,
"Next time I catch him underneath your eaves!"
But he had threatened with the sword so oft
And, after all, not kept his promise. All
I said was "Let God save the innocent!
"Moreover death is far from a bad fate.
"I shall go pray for you and me, not him;
"And then I look to sleep, come death or, worse,
"Life." So, I slept.

There may have elapsed a week,
When Margherita,—called my waiting-maid,
Whom it is said my husband found too fair—
Who stood and heard the charge and the reply,
Who never once would let the matter rest
From that night forward, but rang changes still
On this the thrust and that the shame, and how
Good cause for jealousy cures jealous fools,
And what a paragon was this same priest
She talked about until I stopped my ears,—
She said, "A week is gone; you comb your hair,
"Then go mope in a corner, cheek on palm,
"Till night comes round again,—so, waste a week
"As if your husband menaced you in sport.
"Have not I some acquaintance with his tricks?
"Oh no, he did not stab the serving-man
"Who made and sang the rhymes about me once!
"For why? They sent him to the wars next day.
"Nor poisoned he the foreigner, my friend
"Who wagered on the whiteness of my breast,—
"The swarth skins of our city in dispute:
"For, though he paid me proper compliment,
"The Count well knew he was besotted with
"Somebody else, a skin as black as ink,
"(As all the town knew save my foreigner)
"He found and wedded presently,—'Why need
"'Better revenge?'—the Count asked. But what's here?
"A priest that does not fight, and cannot wed,
"Yet must be dealt with! If the Count took fire
"For the poor pastime of a minute,—me—
"What were the conflagration for yourself,
"Countess and lady-wife and all the rest?
"The priest will perish; you will grieve too late:
"So shall the city-ladies' handsomest
"Frankest and liberalest gentleman
"Die for you, to appease a scurvy dog
"Hanging's too good for. Is there no escape?
"Were it not simple Christian charity
"To warn the priest be on his guard,—save him
"Assured death, save yourself from causing it?
"I meet him in the street. Give me a glove,
"A ring to show for token! Mum's the word!"

I answered "If you were, as styled, my maid,
"I would command you: as you are, you say,
"My husband's intimate,—assist his wife
"Who can do nothing but entreat 'Be still!'
"Even if you speak truth and a crime is planned,
"Leave help to God as I am forced to do!
"There is no other help, or we should craze,
"Seeing such evil with no human cure.
"Reflect that God, who makes the storm desist,
"Can make an angry violent heart subside.
"Why should we venture teach Him governance?
"Never address me on this subject more!"

Next night she said "But I went, all the same,
"—Ay, saw your Caponsacchi in his house,
"And come back stuffed with news I must outpour.
"I told him 'Sir, my mistress is a stone:
"'Why should you harm her for no good you get?
"'For you do harm her—prowl about our place
"'With the Count never distant half the street,
"'Lurking at every corner, would you look!
"T is certain she has witched you with a spell.
"'Are there not other beauties at your beck?
"'We all know, Donna This and Monna That
"'Die for a glance of yours, yet here you gaze!
"'Go make them grateful, leave the stone its cold!'
"And he—oh, he turned first white and then red,
"And then—'To her behest I bow myself,
"'Whom I love with my body and my soul:
"'Only a word i' the bowing! See, I write
"'One little word, no harm to see or hear!
"'Then, fear no further!' This is what he wrote.
"I know you cannot read,—therefore, let me!
"'My idol!'" …

But I took it from her hand
And tore it into shreds. "Why, join the rest
"Who harm me? Have I ever done you wrong?
"People have told me 't is you wrong myself:
"Let it suffice I either feel no wrong
"Or else forgive it,—yet you turn my foe!
"The others hunt me and you throw a noose!"

She muttered "Have your wilful way!" I slept.

Whereupon … no, I leave my husband out
It is not to do him more hurt, I speak.
Let it suffice, when misery was most,
One day, I swooned and got a respite so.
She stooped as I was slowly coming to,
This Margherita, ever on my trace,
And whispered—"Caponsacchi!"

If I drowned,
But woke afloat i' the wave with upturned eyes,
And found their first sight was a star! I turned—
For the first time, I let her have her will,
Heard passively,—"The imposthume at such head,
"One touch, one lancet-puncture would relieve,—
"And still no glance the good physician's way
"Who rids you of the torment in a trice!
"Still he writes letters you refuse to hear.
"He may prevent your husband, kill himself,
"So desperate and all fordone is he!
"Just hear the pretty verse he made to-day!
"A sonnet from Mirtillo. 'Peerless fair …'
"All poetry is difficult to read,
"—The sense of it is, anyhow, he seeks
"Leave to contrive you an escape from hell,
"And for that purpose asks an interview.
"I can write, I can grant it in your name,
"Or, what is better, lead you to his house.
"Your husband dashes you against the stones;
"This man would place each fragment in a shrine:
"You hate him, love your husband!"

I returned
"It is not true I love my husband,—no,
"Nor hate this man. I listen while you speak,
"—Assured that what you say is false, the same:
"Much as when once, to me a little child,
"A rough gaunt man in rags, with eyes on fire,
"A crowd of boys and idlers at his heels,
"Rushed as I crossed the Square, and held my head
"In his two hands, 'Here's she will let me speak!
"'You little girl, whose eyes do good to mine,
"'I am the Pope, am Sextus, now the Sixth;
"'And that Twelfth Innocent, proclaimed to-day,
"'Is Lucifer disguised in human flesh!
"'The angels, met in conclave, crowned me!'—thus
"He gibbered and I listened; but I knew
"All was delusion, ere folk interposed
"'Unfasten him, the maniac!' Thus I know
"All your report of Caponsacchi false,
"Folly or dreaming; I have seen so much
"By that adventure at the spectacle,
"The face I fronted that one first, last time:
"He would belie it by such words and thoughts.
"Therefore while you profess to show him me,
"I ever see his own face. Get you gone!"

"—That will I, nor once open mouth again,—
"No, by Saint Joseph and the Holy Ghost!
"On your head be the damage, so adieu!"
And so more days, more deeds I must forget,
Till … what a strange thing now is to declare!
Since I say anything, say all if true!
And how my life seems lengthened as to serve!
It may be idle or inopportune,
But, true?—why, what was all I said but truth,
Even when I found that such as are untrue
Could only take the truth in through a lie?
Now—I am speaking truth to the Truth's self:
God will lend credit to my words this time.

It had got half through April. I arose
One vivid daybreak,—who had gone to bed
In the old way my wont those last three years,
Careless until, the cup drained, I should die.
The last sound in my ear, the over-night,
Had been a something let drop on the sly
In prattle by Margherita, "Soon enough
"Gaieties end, now Easter's past: a week,
"And the Archbishop gets him back to Rome,—
"Everyone leaves the town for Rome, this Spring,—
"Even Caponsacchi, out of heart and hope,
"Resigns himself and follows with the flock."
I heard this drop and drop like rain outside
Fast-falling through the darkness while she spoke:
So had I heard with like indifference,
"And Michael's pair of wings will arrive first
"At Rome, to introduce the company,
"And bear him from our picture where he fights
"Satan,—expect to have that dragon loose
"And never a defender!"—my sole thought
Being still, as night came, "Done, another day!
"How good to sleep and so get nearer death!"—
When, what, first thing at daybreak, pierced the sleep
With a summons to me? Up I sprang alive,
Light in me, light without me, everywhere
Change! A broad yellow sunbeam was let fall
From heaven to earth,—a sudden drawbridge lay,
Along which marched a myriad merry motes,
Mocking the flies that crossed them and recrossed
In rival dance, companions new-born too.
On the house-eaves, a dripping shag of weed
Shook diamonds on each dull grey lattice-square,
As first one, then another bird leapt by,
And light was off, and lo was back again,
Always with one voice,—where are two such joys?—
The blessed building-sparrow! I stepped forth,
Stood on the terrace,—o'er the roofs, such sky!
My heart sang, "I too am to go away,
"I too have something I must care about,
"Carry away with me to Rome, to Rome!
"The bird brings hither sticks and hairs and wool,
"And nowhere else i' the world; what fly breaks rank,
"Falls out of the procession that befits,
"From window here to window there, with all
"The world to choose,—so well he knows his course?
"I have my purpose and my motive too,
"My march to Rome, like any bird or fly!
"Had I been dead! How right to be alive!
"Last night I almost prayed for leave to die,
"Wished Guido all his pleasure with the sword
"Or the poison,—poison, sword, was but a trick,
"Harmless, may God forgive him the poor jest!
"My life is charmed, will last till I reach Rome!
"Yesterday, but for the sin,—ah, nameless be
"The deed I could have dared against myself!
"Now—see if I will touch an unripe fruit,
"And risk the health I want to have and use!
"Not to live, now, would be the wickedness,—
"For life means to make haste and go to Rome
"And leave Arezzo, leave all woes at once!"

Now, understand here, by no means mistake!
Long ago had I tried to leave that house
When it seemed such procedure would stop sin;
And still failed more the more I tried—at first
The Archbishop, as I told you,—next, our lord
The Governor,—indeed I found my way,
I went to the great palace where he rules,
Though I knew well 't was he who,—when I gave
A jewel or two, themselves had given me,
Back to my parents,—since they wanted bread,
They who had never let me want a nosegay,—he
Spoke of the jail for felons, if they kept
What was first theirs, then mine, so doubly theirs,
Though all the while my husband's most of all!
I knew well who had spoke the word wrought this:
Yet, being in extremity, I fled
To the Governor, as I say,—scarce opened lip
When—the cold cruel snicker close behind—
Guido was on my trace, already there,
Exchanging nod and wink for shrug and smile,
And I—pushed back to him and, for my pains
Paid with … but why remember what is past?
I sought out a poor friar the people call
The Roman, and confessed my sin which came
Of their sin,—that fact could not be repressed,—
The frightfulness of my despair in God:
And, feeling, through the grate, his horror shake,
Implored him, "Write for me who cannot write,
"Apprise my parents, make them rescue me!
"You bid me be courageous and trust God:
"Do you in turn dare somewhat, trust and write
"'Dear friends, who used to be my parents once,
"'And now declare you have no part in me,
"'This is some riddle I want wit to solve,
"'Since you must love me with no difference.
"'Even suppose you altered,—there's your hate,
"'To ask for: hate of you two dearest ones
"'I shall find liker love than love found here,
"'If husbands love their wives. Take me away
"'And hate me as you do the gnats and fleas,
"'Even the scorpions! How I shall rejoice!'
"Write that and save me!" And he promised—wrote
Or did not write; things never changed at all:
He was not like the Augustinian here!
Last, in a desperation I appealed
To friends, whoever wished me better days,
To Guillichini, that's of kin,—"What, I—
"Travel to Rome with you? A flying gout
"Bids me deny my heart and mind my leg!"
Then I tried Conti, used to brave—laugh back
The louring thunder when his cousin scowled
At me protected by his presence: "You
"Who well know what you cannot save me from,—
"Carry me off! What frightens you, a priest?"
He shook his head, looked grave—"Above my strength!
"Guido has claws that scratch, shows feline teeth;
"A formidabler foe than I dare fret:
"Give me a dog to deal with, twice the size!
"Of course I am a priest and Canon too,
"But . . by the bye . . though both, not quite so bold
"As he, my fellow-Canon, brother-priest,
"The personage in such ill odour here
"Because of the reports—pure birth o' the brain!
"Our Caponsacchi, he's your true Saint George
"To slay the monster, set the Princess free,
"And have the whole High-Altar to himself:
'I always think so when I see that piece
"I' the Pieve, that's his church and mine, you know:
"Though you drop eyes at mention of his name!"

That name had got to take a half-grotesque
Half-ominous, wholly enigmatic sense,
Like any by-word, broken bit of song
Born with a meaning, changed by mouth and mouth
That mix it in a sneer or smile, as chance
Bids, till it now means nought but ugliness
And perhaps shame.

—All this intends to say,
That, over-night, the notion of escape
Had seemed distemper, dreaming; and the name,—
Not the man, but the name of him, thus made
Into a mockery and disgrace,—why, she
Who uttered it persistently, had laughed,
"I name his name, and there you start and wince
"As criminal from the red tongs' touch!"—yet now,
Now, as I stood letting morn bathe me bright,
Choosing which butterfly should bear my news,—
The white, the brown one, or that tinier blue,—
The Margherita, I detested so,
In she came—"The fine day, the good Spring time!
"What, up and out at window? That is best.
"No thought of Caponsacchi?—who stood there
"All night on one leg, like the sentry crane,
"Under the pelting of your water-spout—
"Looked last look at your lattice ere he leave
"Our city, bury his dead hope at Rome.
"Ay, go to looking-glass and make you fine,
"While he may die ere touch one least loose hair
"You drag at with the comb in such a rage!"

I turned—"Tell Caponsacchi he may come!"

"Tell him to come? Ah, but, for charity,
"A truce to fooling! Come? What,—come this eve?
"Peter and Paul! But I see through the trick!
"Yes, come, and take a flower-pot on his head,
"Flung from your terrace! No joke, sincere truth?"

How plainly I perceived hell flash and fade
O' the face of her,—the doubt that first paled joy,
Then, final reassurance I indeed
Was caught now, never to be free again!
What did I care?—who felt myself of force
To play with silk, and spurn the horsehair-springe.

"But—do you know that I have bade him come,
"And in your own name? I presumed so much,
"Knowing the thing you needed in your heart.
"But somehow—what had I to show in proof?
"He would not come: half-promised, that was all,
"And wrote the letters you refused to read.
"What is the message that shall move him now?"

"After the Ave Maria, at first dark,
"I will be standing on the terrace, say!"

"I would I had a good long lock of hair
"Should prove I was not lying! Never mind!"

Off she went—"May he not refuse, that's all—
"Fearing a trick!"

I answered, "He will come."
And, all day, I sent prayer like incense up
To God the strong, God the beneficent,
God ever mindful in all strife and strait,
Who, for our own good, makes the need extreme,
Till at the last He puts forth might and saves.
An old rhyme came into my head and rang
Of how a virgin, for the faith of God,
Hid herself, from the Paynims that pursued,
In a cave's heart; until a thunderstone,
Wrapped in a flame, revealed the couch and prey
And they laughed—"Thanks to lightning, ours at last!"
And she cried "Wrath of God, assert His love!
"Servant of God, thou fire, befriend His child!"
And lo, the fire she grasped at, fixed its flash,
Lay in her hand a calm cold dreadful sword
She brandished till pursuers strewed the ground,
So did the souls within them die away,
As o'er the prostrate bodies, sworded, safe,
She walked forth to the solitudes and Christ:
So should I grasp the lightning and be saved!

And still, as the day wore, the trouble grew
Whereby I guessed there would be born a star,
Until at an intense throe of the dusk,
I started up, was pushed, I dare to say,
Out on the terrace, leaned and looked at last
Where the deliverer waited me: the same
Silent and solemn face, I first descried
At the spectacle, confronted mine once more.

So was that minute twice vouchsafed me, so
The manhood, wasted then, was still at watch
To save me yet a second time: no change
Here, though all else changed in the changing world!

I spoke on the instant, as my duty bade,
In some such sense as this, whatever the phrase.

"Friend, foolish words were borne from you to me;
"Your soul behind them is the pure strong wind,
"Not dust and feathers which its breath may bear:
"These to the witless seem the wind itself,
"Since proving thus the first of it they feel.
"If by mischance you blew offence my way,
"The straws are dropt, the wind desists no whit,
"And how such strays were caught up in the street
"And took a motion from you, why inquire?
"I speak to the strong soul, no weak disguise.
"If it be truth,—why should I doubt it truth?—
"You serve God specially, as priests are bound,
"And care about me, stranger as I am,
"So far as wish my good,—that miracle
"I take to intimate He wills you serve
"By saving me,—what else can He direct?
"Here is the service. Since a long while now,
"I am in course of being put to death:
"While death concerned nothing but me, I bowed
"The head and bade, in heart, my husband strike.
"Now I imperil something more, it seems,
"Something that's truelier me than this myself,
"Something I trust in God and you to save.
"You go to Rome, they tell me: take me there,
"Put me back with my people!"

He replied—
The first word I heard ever from his lips,
All himself in it,—an eternity
Of speech, to match the immeasurable depth
O' the soul that then broke silence—"I am yours."

So did the star rise, soon to lead my step,
Lead on, nor pause before it should stand still
Above the House o' the Babe,—my babe to be,
That knew me first and thus made me know him,
That had his right of life and claim on mine,
And would not let me die till he was born,
But pricked me at the heart to save us both,
Saying "Have you the will? Leave God the way!"
And the way was Caponsacchi—"mine," thank God!
He was mine, he is mine, he will be mine.

No pause i' the leading and the light! I know,
Next night there was a cloud came, and not he:
But I prayed through the darkness till it broke
And let him shine. The second night, he came.

"The plan is rash; the project desperate:
"In such a flight needs must I risk your life,
"Give food for falsehood, folly or mistake,
"Ground for your husband's rancour and revenge"—
So he began again, with the same face.
I felt that, the same loyalty—one star
Turning now red that was so white before—
One service apprehended newly: just
A word of mine and there the white was back!

"No, friend, for you will take me! 'T is yourself
"Risk all, not I,—who let you, for I trust
"In the compensating great God: enough!
"I know you: when is it that you will come?"

"To-morrow at the day's dawn." Then I heard
What I should do: how to prepare for flight
And where to fly.

That night my husband bade
"—You, whom I loathe, beware you break my sleep
"This whole night! Couch beside me like the corpse
"I would you were!" The rest you know, I think—
How I found Caponsacchi and escaped.

And this man, men call sinner? Jesus Christ!
Of whom men said, with mouths Thyself mad'st once,
"He hath a devil"—say he was Thy saint,
My Caponsacchi! Shield and show—unshroud
In Thine own time the glory of the soul
If aught obscure,—if ink-spot, from vile pens
Scribbling a charge against him—(I was glad
Then, for the first time, that I could not write)—
Flirted his way, have flecked the blaze!

For me,
'T is otherwise: let men take, sift my thoughts
—Thoughts I throw like the flax for sun to bleach!
I did pray, do pray, in the prayer shall die,
"Oh, to have Caponsacchi for my guide!"
Ever the face upturned to mine, the hand
Holding my hand across the world,—a sense
That reads, as only such can read, the mark
God sets on woman, signifying so
She should—shall peradventure—be divine;
Yet 'ware, the while, how weakness mars the print
And makes confusion, leaves the thing men see,
—Not this man sees,—who from his soul, re-writes
The obliterated charter,—love and strength
Mending what's marred. "So kneels a votarist,
"Weeds some poor waste traditionary plot
"Where shrine once was, where temple yet may be,
"Purging the place but worshipping the while,
"By faith and not by sight, sight clearest so,—
"Such way the saints work,"—says Don Celestine.
But I, not privileged to see a saint
Of old when such walked earth with crown and palm,
If I call "saint" what saints call something else—
The saints must bear with me, impute the fault
To a soul i' the bud, so starved by ignorance,
Stinted of warmth, it will not blow this year
Nor recognize the orb which Spring-flowers know.
But if meanwhile some insect with a heart
Worth floods of lazy music, spendthrift joy—
Some fire-fly renounced Spring for my dwarfed cup,
Crept close to me, brought lustre for the dark,
Comfort against the cold,—what though excess
Of comfort should miscall the creature—sun?
What did the sun to hinder while harsh hands
Petal by petal, crude and colourless,
Tore me? This one heart gave me all the Spring!
Is all told? There's the journey: and where's time
To tell you how that heart burst out in shine?
Yet certain points do press on me too hard.
Each place must have a name, though I forget:
How strange it was—there where the plain begins
And the small river mitigates its flow—
When eve was fading fast, and my soul sank,
And he divined what surge of bitterness,
In overtaking me, would float me back
Whence I was carried by the striding day—
So,—"This grey place was famous once," said he—
And he began that legend of the place
As if in answer to the unspoken fear,
And told me all about a brave man dead,
Which lifted me and let my soul go on!
How did he know too,—at that town's approach
By the rock-side,—that in coming near the signs
Of life, the house-roofs and the church and tower,
I saw the old boundary and wall o' the world
Rise plain as ever round me, hard and cold,
As if the broken circlet joined again,
Tightened itself about me with no break,—
As if the town would turn Arezzo's self,—
The husband there,—the friends my enemies,
All ranged against me, not an avenue
To try, but would be blocked and drive me back
On him,—this other, … oh the heart in that!
Did not he find, bring, put into my arms
A new-born babe?—and I saw faces beam
Of the young mother proud to teach me joy,
And gossips round expecting my surprise
At the sudden hole through earth that lets in heaven.
I could believe himself by his strong will
Had woven around me what I thought the world
We went along in, every circumstance,
Towns, flowers and faces, all things helped so well!
For, through the journey, was it natural
Such comfort should arise from first to last?
As I look back, all is one milky way;
Still bettered more, the more remembered, so
Do new stars bud while I but search for old,
And fill all gaps i' the glory, and grow him—
Him I now see make the shine everywhere.
Even at the last when the bewildered flesh,
The cloud of weariness about my soul
Clogging too heavily, sucked down all sense,—
Still its last voice was, "He will watch and care;
"Let the strength go, I am content: he stays!"
I doubt not he did stay and care for all—
From that sick minute when the head swam round,
And the eyes looked their last and died on him,
As in his arms he caught me, and, you say,
Carried me in, that tragical red eve,
And laid me where I next returned to life
In the other red of morning, two red plates
That crushed together, crushed the time between,
And are since then a solid fire to me,—
When in, my dreadful husband and the world
Broke,—and I saw him, master, by hell's right,
And saw my angel helplessly held back
By guards that helped the malice—the lamb prone,
The serpent towering and triumphant—then
Came all the strength back in a sudden swell,
I did for once see right, do right, give tongue
The adequate protest: for a worm must turn
If it would have its wrong observed by God.
I did spring up, attempt to thrust aside
That ice-block 'twixt the sun and me, lay low
The neutralizer of all good and truth.
If I sinned so,—never obey voice more
O' the Just and Terrible, who bids us—"Bear!"
Not—"Stand by, bear to see my angels bear!"
I am clear it was on impulse to serve God
Not save myself,—no—nor my child unborn!
Had I else waited patiently till now?—
Who saw my old kind parents, silly-sooth
And too much trustful, for their worst of faults,
Cheated, brow-beaten, stripped and starved, cast out
Into the kennel: I remonstrated,
Then sank to silence, for,—their woes at end,
Themselves gone,—only I was left to plague.
If only I was threatened and belied,
What matter? I could bear it and did bear;
It was a comfort, still one lot for all:
They were not persecuted for my sake
And I, estranged, the single happy one.
But when at last, all by myself I stood
Obeying the clear voice which bade me rise,
Not for my own sake but my babe unborn,
And take the angel's hand was sent to help—
And found the old adversary athwart the path—
Not my hand simply struck from the angel's, but
The very angel's self made foul i' the face
By the fiend who struck there,—that I would not bear,
That only I resisted! So, my first
And last resistance was invincible.
Prayers move God; threats, and nothing else, move men!
I must have prayed a man as he were God
When I implored the Governor to right
My parents' wrongs: the answer was a smile.
The Archbishop,—did I clasp his feet enough,
Hide my face hotly on them, while I told
More than I dared make my own mother know?
The profit was—compassion and a jest.
This time, the foolish prayers were done with, right
Used might, and solemnized the sport at once.
All was against the combat: vantage, mine?
The runaway avowed, the accomplice-wife,
In company with the plan-contriving priest?
Yet, shame thus rank and patent, I struck, bare,
At foe from head to foot in magic mail,
And off it withered, cobweb-armoury
Against the lightning! 'T was truth singed the lies
And saved me, not the vain sword nor weak speech!

You see, I will not have the service fail!
I say, the angel saved me: I am safe!
Others may want and wish, I wish nor want
One point o' the circle plainer, where I stand
Traced round about with white to front the world.
What of the calumny I came across,
What o' the way to the end?—the end crowns all.
The judges judged aright i' the main, gave me
The uttermost of my heart's desire, a truce
From torture and Arezzo, balm for hurt,
With the quiet nuns,—God recompense the good!
Who said and sang away the ugly past.
And, when my final fortune was revealed,
What safety while, amid my parents' arms,
My babe was given me! Yes, he saved my babe:
It would not have peeped forth, the bird-like thing,
Through that Arezzo noise and trouble: back
Had it returned nor ever let me see!
But the sweet peace cured all, and let me live
And give my bird the life among the leaves
God meant him! Weeks and months of quietude,
I could lie in such peace and learn so much—
Begin the task, I see how needful now,
Of understanding somewhat of my past,—
Know life a little, I should leave so soon.
Therefore, because this man restored my soul,
All has been right; I have gained my gain, enjoyed
As well as suffered,—nay, got foretaste too
Of better life beginning where this ends—
All through the breathing-while allowed me thus,
Which let good premonitions reach my soul
Unthwarted, and benignant influence flow
And interpenetrate and change my heart,
Uncrossed by what was wicked,—nay, unkind.
For, as the weakness of my time drew nigh,
Nobody did me one disservice more,
Spoke coldly or looked strangely, broke the love
I lay in the arms of, till my boy was born,
Born all in love, with nought to spoil the bliss
A whole long fortnight: in a life like mine
A fortnight filled with bliss is long and much.
All women are not mothers of a boy,
Though they live twice the length of my whole life,
And, as they fancy, happily all the same.
There I lay, then, all my great fortnight long,
As if it would continue, broaden out
Happily more and more, and lead to heaven:
Christmas before me,—was not that a chance?
I never realized God's birth before—
How He grew likest God in being born.
This time I felt like Mary, had my babe
Lying a little on my breast like hers.
So all went on till, just four days ago—
The night and the tap.

Oh it shall be success
To the whole of our poor family! My friends
… Nay, father and mother,—give me back my word!
They have been rudely stripped of life, disgraced
Like children who must needs go clothed too fine,
Carry the garb of Carnival in Lent.
If they too much affected frippery,
They have been punished and submit themselves,
Say no word: all is over, they see God
Who will not be extreme to mark their fault
Or He had granted respite: they are safe.
For that most woeful man my husband once,
Who, needing respite, still draws vital breath,
I—pardon him? So far as lies in me,
I give him for his good the life he takes,
Praying the world will therefore acquiesce.
Let him make God amends,—none, none to me
Who thank him rather that, whereas strange fate
Mockingly styled him husband and me wife,
Himself this way at least pronounced divorce,
Blotted the marriage-bond: this blood of mine
Flies forth exultingly at any door,
Washes the parchment white, and thanks the blow.
We shall not meet in this world nor the next,
But where will God be absent? In His face
Is light, but in His shadow healing too:
Let Guido touch the shadow and be healed!
And as my presence was importunate,—
My earthly good, temptation and a snare,—
Nothing about me but drew somehow down
His hate upon me,—somewhat so excused
Therefore, since hate was thus the truth of him,—
May my evanishment for evermore
Help further to relieve the heart that cast
Such object of its natural loathing forth!
So he was made; he nowise made himself:
I could not love him, but his mother did.
His soul has never lain beside my soul
But for the unresisting body.—thanks!
He burned that garment spotted by the flesh.
Whatever he touched is rightly ruined: plague
It caught, and disinfection it had craved
Still but for Guido; I am saved through him
So as by fire; to him—thanks and farewell!

Even for my babe, my boy, there's safety thence—
From the sudden death of me, I mean: we poor
Weak souls, how we endeavour to be strong!
I was already using up my life,—
This portion, now, should do him such a good,
This other go to keep off such an ill!
The great life; see, a breath and it is gone!
So is detached, so left all by itself
The little life, the fact which means so much.
Shall not God stoop the kindlier to His work,
His marvel of creation, foot would crush,
Now that the hand He trusted to receive
And hold it, lets the treasure fall perforce?
The better; He shall have in orphanage
His own way all the clearlier: if my babe
Outlived the hour—and he has lived two weeks—
It is through God who knows I am not by.
Who is it makes the soft gold hair turn black,
And sets the tongue, might lie so long at rest,
Trying to talk? Let us leave God alone!
Why should I doubt He will explain in time
What I feel now, but fail to find the words?
My babe nor was, nor is, nor yet shall be
Count Guido Franceschini's child at all—
Only his mother's, born of love not hate!
So shall I have my rights in after-time.
It seems absurd, impossible to-day;
So seems so much else, not explained but known!

Ah! Friends, I thank and bless you every one!
No more now: I withdraw from earth and man
To my own soul, compose myself for God.

Well, and there is more! Yes, my end of breath
Shall bear away my soul in being true!
He is still here, not outside with the world,
Here, here, I have him in his rightful place!
'T is now, when I am most upon the move,
I feel for what I verily find—again
The face, again the eyes, again, through all,
The heart and its immeasurable love
Of my one friend, my only, all my own,
Who put his breast between the spears and me.
Ever with Caponsacchi! Otherwise
Here alone would be failure, loss to me—
How much more loss to him, with life debarred
From giving life, love locked from love's display,
The day-star stopped its task that makes night morn!
O lover of my life, O soldier-saint,
No work begun shall ever pause for death!
Love will be helpful to me more and more
I' the coming course, the new path I must tread—
My weak hand in thy strong hand, strong for that!
Tell him that if I seem without him now,
That's the world's insight! Oh, he understands!
He is at Civita—do I once doubt
The world again is holding us apart?
He had been here, displayed in my behalf
The broad brow that reverberates the truth,
And flashed the word God gave him, back to man!
I know where the free soul is flown! My fate
Will have been hard for even him to bear:
Let it confirm him in the trust of God,
Showing how holily he dared the deed!
And, for the rest,—say, from the deed, no touch
Of harm came, but all good, all happiness,
Not one faint fleck of failure! Why explain?
What I see, oh, he sees and how much more!
Tell him,—I know not wherefore the true word
Should fade and fall unuttered at the last—
It was the name of him I sprang to meet
When came the knock, the summons and the end.
"My great heart, my strong hand are back again!"
I would have sprung to these, beckoning across
Murder and hell gigantic and distinct
O' the threshold, posted to exclude me heaven:
He is ordained to call and I to come!
Do not the dead wear flowers when dressed for God?
Say,—I am all in flowers from head to foot!
Say,—not one flower of all he said and did,
Might seem to flit unnoticed, fade unknown,
But dropped a seed, has grown a balsam-tree
Whereof the blossoming perfumes the place
At this supreme of moments! He is a priest;
He cannot marry therefore, which is right:
I think he would not marry if he could.
Marriage on earth seems such a counterfeit,
Mere imitation of the inimitable:
In heaven we have the real and true and sure.
'T is there they neither marry nor are given
In marriage but are as the angels: right,
Oh how right that is, how like Jesus Christ
To say that! Marriage-making for the earth,
With gold so much,—birth, power, repute so much,
Or beauty, youth so much, in lack of these!
Be as the angels rather, who, apart,
Know themselves into one, are found at length
Married, but marry never, no, nor give
In marriage; they are man and wife at once
When the true time is: here we have to wait
Not so long neither! Could we by a wish
Have what we will and get the future now,
Would we wish aught done undone in the past?
So, let him wait God's instant men call years;
Meantime hold hard by truth and his great soul,
Do out the duty! Through such souls alone
God stooping shows sufficient of His light
For us i' the dark to rise by. And I rise.

poem by from The Ring and the BookReport problemRelated quotes
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Love Life It Is The Only One You've Got

love life my friend
it is the only one
you've got

you have loved
love once
it did not love you

so now my friend
learn to love life
it shall live with you
through and through

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I Cant Believe That Youre In Love With Me

Clarence gaskill / jimmy mchugh
Your eyes so blue
Your kisses too
I never knew what they could do
I cant believe youre in love with me
Youre telling everyone I know
Im on your mind each place you go
They cant believe that youre in love with me
I have always placed you far above me
I just cant image that you love me
And after all is said and done
To think that Im the lucky one
I cant believe youre in love with me

song performed by Billie HolidayReport problemRelated quotes
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The curtain girl

I have been down a rough road
I have been through the freezing cold
I have been an outsider with no where to go
oh I dont know?
I just get up and on with the show

I have been up a high hill
I have been through the crazy mill
I have been an insider with no one to know
oh I dont know?
I just get up and on with the show

I have been here for too long
I have been a lovin you all wrong
I have been nodody coz your love isnt strong
oh I should know?
when I get up the curtains they close.

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2 Wicky

Prophet 60091
This is the flight number of our galactic sun
Prophet 60091
Before we start you should know that youre not the only one
Who can hurt me
Sh10151
This is the serial number of our orbital gun
Sh10151
You better be sure before you leave me for another one
You can hurt me
I can hurt you
You can hurt me
You can hurt me
I can hurt you
But you better be sure before you leave me for another one
I can hurt you
You can hurt me
But you better be sure before you leave me for another one

song performed by HooverphonicReport problemRelated quotes
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Honestly Let Me Talk To Myself And Remind It...

enough of these tantrums
that i have caused upon myself
that i have shamed upon myself
an honorable man
to the eyes of those who do not know
my cravings
and longings and

what do i call it? these rampant
rantings of a man
who may not after all deserve to live
for another day
a devil's quivering chanting
that i may take my life
and let others live
in peace.

drama, enough of this drama.
i admit, it is this unrequited love
for all these years
that keep me living
to the life of la vida loca.

she bangs!

alright, talk, i will listen
in a minute.

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Camera

From the inside room when the front room greeting
Becomes your special book, it was simple then
When the party lulls, if we fall by the side
Will you be remembered? will she be remembered?
Alone in a crowd, a bartered lantern borrowed
If Im to be your camera, then who will be your face?
I fell by your bed once, I didnt want to tell you
I should keep myself in between the pages
Of the green light room if we fall by the side
From the inside room when the front room greeting
Becomes your special book, it was simple then
When the party lulls, if we fall by the side
I still like you, can you remember?

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Sonnet IV: Lovesight

When do I see thee most, beloved one?
When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
The worship of that Love through thee made known?
Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
And my soul only sees thy soul its own?
O love, my love! if I no more should see
Thyself, nor on the earth the shadow of thee,
Nor image of thine eyes in any spring,—
How then should sound upon Life's darkening slope
The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of Hope,
The wind of Death's imperishable wing?

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