The imperturbability of the Church resides in her ability to harmonize the unconditional preservation of eternal truths with an unmatchable elasticity of adjustment to the circumstances and challenges of changing times.
The Hind And The Panther, A Poem In Three Parts : Part II.
“Dame,” said the Panther, “times are mended well,
Since late among the Philistines you fell.
The toils were pitched, a spacious tract of ground
With expert huntsmen was encompassed round;
The inclosure narrowed; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour.
'Tis true, the younger lion 'scaped the snare,
But all your priestly calves lay struggling there,
As sacrifices on their altars laid;
While you, their careful mother, wisely fled,
Not trusting destiny to save your head.
For, whate'er promises you have applied
To your unfailing Church, the surer side
Is four fair legs in danger to provide;
And whate'er tales of Peter's chair you tell,
Yet, saving reverence of the miracle,
The better luck was yours to 'scape so well.”
“As I remember,” said the sober Hind,
“Those toils were for your own dear self designed,
As well as me; and with the selfsame throw,
To catch the quarry and the vermin too,—
Forgive the slanderous tongues that called you so.
Howe'er you take it now, the common cry
Then ran you down for your rank loyalty.
Besides, in Popery they thought you nurst,
As evil tongues will ever speak the worst,
Because some forms, and ceremonies some
You kept, and stood in the main question dumb.
Dumb you were born indeed; but, thinking long,
The test, it seems, at last has loosed your tongue:
And to explain what your forefathers meant,
By real presence in the sacrament,
After long fencing pushed against a wall,
Your salvo comes, that he's not there at all:
There changed your faith, and what may change may fall.
Who can believe what varies every day,
Nor ever was, nor will be at a stay?”
“Tortures may force the tongue untruths to tell,
And I ne'er owned myself infallible,”
Replied the Panther: “grant such presence were,
Yet in your sense I never owned it there.
A real virtue we by faith receive,
And that we in the sacrament believe.”
“Then,” said the Hind, “as you the matter state,
Not only Jesuits can equivocate;
For real, as you now the word expound,
From solid substance dwindles to a sound.
Methinks, an Æsop's fable you repeat;
You know who took the shadow for the meat:
Your Church's substance thus you change at will,
And yet retain your former figure still.
I freely grant you spoke to save your life;
For then you lay beneath the butcher's knife.
Long time you fought, redoubled battery bore,
But, after all, against yourself you swore,
Your former self; for every hour your form
Is chopped and changed, like winds before a storm.
Thus fear and interest will prevail with some;
For all have not the gift of martyrdom.”
The Panther grinned at this, and thus replied:
“That men may err was never yet denied;
But, if that common principle be true,
The canon, dame, is levelled full at you.
But, shunning long disputes, I fain would see
That wondrous wight, Infallibility.
Is he from heaven, this mighty champion, come?
Or lodged below in subterranean Rome?
First, seat him somewhere, and derive his race,
Or else conclude that nothing has no place.”
“Suppose, though I disown it,” said the Hind,
“The certain mansion were not yet assigned;
The doubtful residence no proof can bring
Against the plain existence of the thing.
Because philosophers may disagree,
If sight by emission, or reception be,
Shall it be thence inferred, I do not see?
But you require an answer positive,
Which yet, when I demand, you dare not give;
For fallacies in universals live.
I then affirm, that this unfailing guide
In Pope and General Councils must reside;
Both lawful, both combined; what one decrees
By numerous votes, the other ratifies:
On this undoubted sense the Church relies.
'Tis true, some doctors in a scantier space,
I mean, in each apart, contract the place.
Some, who to greater length extend the line,
The Church's after-acceptation join.
This last circumference appears too wide;
The Church diffused is by the Council tied,
As members by their representatives
Obliged to laws, which prince and senate gives.
Thus, some contract, and some enlarge the space;
In Pope and Council, who denies the place,
Assisted from above with God's unfailing grace?
Those canons all the needful points contain;
Their sense so obvious, and their words so plain,
That no disputes about the doubtful text
Have hitherto the labouring world perplext.
If any should in after-times appear,
New Councils must be called, to make the meaning clear;
Because in them the power supreme resides,
And all the promises are to the guides.
This may be taught with sound and safe defence;
But mark how sandy is your own pretence,
Who, setting Councils, Pope, and Church aside,
Are every man his own presuming guide.
The sacred books, you say, are full and plain,
And every needful point of truth contain;
All who can read interpreters may be.
Thus, though your several Churches disagree,
Yet every saint has to himself alone
The secret of this philosophic stone.
These principles you jarring sects unite,
When differing doctors and disciples fight.
Though Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, holy chiefs,
Have made a battle-royal of beliefs;
Or, like wild horses, several ways have whirled
The tortured text about the Christian world;
Each Jehu lashing on with furious force,
That Turk or Jew could not have used it worse;
No matter what dissension leaders make,
Where every private man may save a stake:
Ruled by the scripture and his own advice,
Each has a blind by-path to Paradise;
Where, driving in a circle slow or fast,
Opposing sects are sure to meet at last.
A wondrous charity you have in store
For all reformed to pass the narrow door;
So much, that Mahomet had scarcely more.
For he, kind prophet, was for damning none;
But Christ and Moses were to save their own:
Himself was to secure his chosen race,
Though reason good for Turks to take the place,
And he allowed to be the better man,
In virtue of his holier Alcoran.”
“True,” said the Panther, “I shall ne'er deny
My brethren may be saved as well as I:
Though Huguenots contemn our ordination,
Succession, ministerial vocation;
And Luther, more mistaking what he read,
Misjoins the sacred body with the bread:
Yet, lady, still remember I maintain,
The word in needful points is only plain.”
“Needless, or needful, I not now contend,
For still you have a loop-hole for a friend,”
Rejoined the matron; “but the rule you lay
Has led whole flocks, and leads them still astray,
In weighty points, and full damnation's way.
For, did not Arius first, Socinus now,
The Son's eternal Godhead disavow?
And did not these by gospel texts alone
Condemn our doctrine, and maintain their own?
Have not all heretics the same pretence
To plead the scriptures in their own defence?
How did the Nicene Council then decide
That strong debate? was it by scripture tried?
No, sure; to that the rebel would not yield;
Squadrons of texts he marshalled in the field:
That was but civil war, an equal set,
Where piles with piles, and eagles eagles met.
With texts point-blank and plain he faced the foe,
And did not Satan tempt our Saviour so?
The good old bishops took a simpler way;
Each asked but what he heard his father say,
Or how he was instructed in his youth,
And by tradition's force upheld the truth.”
The Panther smiled at this;—“And when,” said she,
“Were those first Councils disallowed by me?
Or where did I at sure tradition strike,
Provided still it were apostolic?”
“Friend,” said the Hind, “you quit your former ground,
Where all your faith you did on scripture found:
Now 'tis tradition joined with holy writ;
But thus your memory betrays your wit.”
“No,” said the Panther; “for in that I view,
When your tradition's forged, and when 'tis true.
I set them by the rule, and, as they square,
Or deviate from undoubted doctrine there,
This oral fiction, that old faith declare.”
“The Council steered, it seems, a different course;
They tried the scripture by tradition's force:
But you tradition by the scripture try;
Pursued by sects, from this to that you fly,
Nor dare on one foundation to rely.
The word is then deposed, and in this view,
You rule the scripture, not the scripture you.”
Thus said the dame, and, smiling, thus pursued:
“I see, tradition then is disallowed,
When not evinced by scripture to be true,
And scripture, as interpreted by you.
But here you tread upon unfaithful ground,
Unless you could infallibly expound;
Which you reject as odious popery,
And throw that doctrine back with scorn on me.
Suppose we on things traditive divide,
And both appeal to scripture to decide;
By various texts we both uphold our claim,
Nay, often, ground our titles on the same:
After long labour lost, and time's expense,
Both grant the words, and quarrel for the sense.
Thus all disputes for ever must depend;
For no dumb rule can controversies end.
Thus, when you said,—Tradition must be tried
By sacred writ, whose sense yourselves decide,
You said no more, but that yourselves must be
The judges of the scripture sense, not we.
Against our Church-tradition you declare,
And yet your clerks would sit in Moses' chair;
At least 'tis proved against your argument,
The rule is far from plain, where all dissent.”
“If not by scriptures, how can we be sure,”
Replied the Panther, “what tradition's pure?
For you may palm upon us new for old;
All, as they say, that glitters, is not gold.”
“How but by following her,” replied the dame,
“To whom derived from sire to son they came;
Where every age does on another move,
And trusts no farther than the next above;
Where all the rounds like Jacob's ladder rise,
The lowest hid in earth, the topmost in the skies?”
Sternly the savage did her answer mark,
Her glowing eye-balls glittering in the dark,
And said but this:—“Since lucre was your trade,
Succeeding times such dreadful gaps have made,
'Tis dangerous climbing: To your sons and you
I leave the ladder, and its omen too.”
“The Panther's breath was ever famed for sweet;
But from the Wolf such wishes oft I meet.
You learned this language from the Blatant Beast,
Or rather did not speak, but were possessed.
As for your answer, 'tis but barely urged:
You must evince tradition to be forged;
Produce plain proofs; unblemished authors use
As ancient as those ages they accuse;
Till when, 'tis not sufficient to defame;
An old possession stands, till elder quits the claim.
Then for our interest, which is named alone
To load with envy, we retort your own;
For, when traditions in your faces fly,
Resolving not to yield, you must decry.
As when the cause goes hard, the guilty man
Excepts, and thins his jury all he can;
So when you stand of other aid bereft,
You to the twelve apostles would be left.
Your friend the Wolf did with more craft provide
To set those toys, traditions, quite aside;
And fathers too, unless when, reason spent,
He cites them but sometimes for ornament.
But, madam Panther, you, though more sincere,
Are not so wise as your adulterer;
The private spirit is a better blind,
Than all the dodging tricks your authors find.
For they, who left the scripture to the crowd,
Each for his own peculiar judge allowed;
The way to please them was to make them proud.
Thus with full sails they ran upon the shelf;
Who could suspect a cozenage from himself?
On his own reason safer 'tis to stand,
Than be deceived and damned at second-hand.
But you, who fathers and traditions take,
And garble some, and some you quite forsake,
Pretending Church-authority to fix,
And yet some grains of private spirit mix,
Are, like a mule, made up of different seed,
And that's the reason why you never breed;
At least, not propagate your kind abroad,
For home dissenters are by statutes awed.
And yet they grow upon you every day,
While you, to speak the best, are at a stay,
For sects, that are extremes, abhor a middle way:
Like tricks of state, to stop a raging flood,
Or mollify a mad-brained senate's mood;
Of all expedients never one was good.
Well may they argue, nor can you deny,
If we must fix on Church authority,
Best on the best, the fountain, not the flood;
That must be better still, if this be good.
Shall she command, who has herself rebelled?
Is antichrist by antichrist expelled?
Did we a lawful tyranny displace,
To set aloft a bastard of the race?
Why all these wars to win the book, if we
Must not interpret for ourselves, but she?
Either be wholly slaves, or wholly free.
For purging fires traditions must not fight;
But they must prove episcopacy's right.
Thus, those led horses are from service freed;
You never mount them but in time of need.
Like mercenaries, hired for home defence,
They will not serve against their native prince.
Against domestic foes of hierarchy
These are drawn forth, to make fanatics fly;
But, when they see their countrymen at hand,
Marching against them under Church-command,
Straight they forsake their colours, and disband.”
Thus she; nor could the Panther well enlarge
With weak defence against so strong a charge;
But said:—“For what did Christ his word provide,
If still his Church must want a living guide?
And if all-saving doctrines are not there,
Or sacred penmen could not make them clear,
From after-ages we should hope in vain
For truths which men inspired could not explain.”
“Before the word was written,” said the Hind,
“Our Saviour preached his faith to humankind:
From his apostles the first age received
Eternal truth, and what they taught believed.
Thus, by tradition faith was planted first,
Succeeding flocks succeeding pastors nursed.
This was the way our wise Redeemer chose,
Who sure could all things for the best dispose,
To fence his fold from their encroaching foes.
He could have writ himself, but well foresaw
The event would be like that of Moses' law;
Some difference would arise, some doubts remain,
Like those which yet the jarring Jews maintain.
No written laws can be so plain, so pure,
But wit may gloss, and malice may obscure;
Not those indited by his first command,
A prophet graved the text, an angel held his hand.
Thus faith was ere the written word appeared,
And men believed not what they read, but heard.
But since the apostles could not be confined
To these, or those, but severally designed
Their large commission round the world to blow,
To spread their faith, they spread their labours too.
Yet still their absent flock their pains did share;
They hearkened still, for love produces care.
And as mistakes arose, or discords fell,
Or bold seducers taught them to rebel,
As charity grew cold, or faction hot,
Or long neglect their lessons had forgot,
For all their wants they wisely did provide,
And preaching by epistles was supplied;
So, great physicians cannot all attend,
But some they visit, and to some they send.
Yet all those letters were not writ to all;
Nor first intended but occasional,
Their absent sermons; nor, if they contain
All needful doctrines, are those doctrines plain.
Clearness by frequent preaching must be wrought;
They writ but seldom, but they daily taught;
And what one saint has said of holy Paul,
‘He darkly writ,’ is true applied to all.
For this obscurity could heaven provide
More prudently than by a living guide,
As doubts arose, the difference to decide?
A guide was therefore needful, therefore made;
And, if appointed, sure to be obeyed.
Thus, with due reverence to the apostles' writ,
By which my sons are taught, to which submit,
I think, those truths, their sacred works contain,
The Church alone can certainly explain;
That following ages, leaning on the past,
May rest upon the primitive at last.
Nor would I thence the word no rule infer,
But none without the Church-interpreter;
Because, as I have urged before, 'tis mute,
And is itself the subject of dispute.
But what the apostles their successors taught,
They to the next, from them to us is brought,
The undoubted sense which is in scripture sought.
From hence the Church is armed, when errors rise,
To stop their entrance, and prevent surprise;
And, safe entrenched within, her foes without defies.
By these all festering sores her Councils heal,
Which time or has disclosed, or shall reveal;
For discord cannot end without a last appeal.
Nor can a council national decide,
But with subordination to her guide:
(I wish the cause were on that issue tried.)
Much less the scripture; for suppose debate
Betwixt pretenders to a fair estate,
Bequeathed by some legator's last intent;
(Such is our dying Saviour's testament
The will is proved, is opened, and is read,
The doubtful heirs their differing titles plead;
All vouch the words their interest to maintain,
And each pretends by those his cause is plain.
Shall then the testament award the right?
No, that's the Hungary for which they fight;
The field of battle, subject of debate;
The thing contended for, the fair estate.
The sense is intricate, 'tis only clear
What vowels and what consonants are there.
Therefore 'tis plain, its meaning must be tried
Before some judge appointed to decide.”
“Suppose,” the fair apostate said, “I grant,
The faithful flock some living guide should want,
Your arguments an endless chase pursue:
Produce this vaunted leader to our view,
This mighty Moses of the chosen crew.”
The dame, who saw her fainting foe retired,
With force renewed, to victory aspired;
And, looking upward to her kindred sky,
As once our Saviour owned his Deity,
Pronounced his words—“She whom ye seek am I.”
Nor less amazed this voice the Panther heard,
Than were those Jews to hear a God declared.
Then thus the matron modestly renewed:
“Let all your prophets and their sects be viewed,
And see to which of them yourselves think fit
The conduct of your conscience to submit;
Each proselyte would vote his doctor best,
With absolute exclusion to the rest:
Thus would your Polish diet disagree,
And end, as it began, in anarchy;
Yourself the fairest for election stand,
Because you seem crown-general of the land;
But soon against your superstitious lawn
Some Presbyterian sabre would be drawn;
In your established laws of sovereignty
The rest some fundamental flaw would see,
And call rebellion gospel-liberty.
To Church-decrees your articles require
Submission mollified, if not entire.
Homage denied, to censures you proceed;
But when Curtana will not do the deed,
You lay that pointless clergy-weapon by,
And to the laws, your sword of justice, fly.
Now this your sects the more unkindly take,
(Those prying varlets hit the blots you make,)
Because some ancient friends of yours declare,
Your only rule of faith the scriptures are,
Interpreted by men of judgment sound,
Which every sect will for themselves expound;
Nor think less reverence to their doctors due
For sound interpretation, than to you.
If then, by able heads, are understood
Your brother prophets, who reformed abroad;
Those able heads expound a wiser way,
That their own sheep their shepherd should obey.
But if you mean yourselves are only sound,
That doctrine turns the reformation round,
And all the rest are false reformers found;
Because in sundry points you stand alone,
Not in communion joined with any one;
And therefore must be all the Church, or none.
Then, till you have agreed whose judge is best,
Against this forced submission they protest;
While sound and sound a different sense explains,
Both play at hardhead till they break their brains;
And from their chairs each other's force defy,
While unregarded thunders vainly fly.
I pass the rest, because your Church alone
Of all usurpers best could fill the throne.
But neither you, nor any sect beside,
For this high office can be qualified,
With necessary gifts required in such a guide.
For that, which must direct the whole, must be
Bound in one bond of faith and unity;
But all your several Churches disagree.
The consubstantiating Church and priest
Refuse communion to the Calvinist;
The French reformed from preaching you restrain,
Because you judge their ordination vain;
And so they judge of yours, but donors must ordain.
In short, in doctrine, or in discipline,
Not one reformed can with another join;
But all from each, as from damnation, fly:
No union they pretend, but in non-popery.
Nor, should their members in a synod meet,
Could any Church presume to mount the seat,
Above the rest, their discords to decide;
None would obey, but each would be the guide;
And face to face dissensions would increase,
For only distance now preserves the peace.
All in their turns accusers, and accused;
Babel was never half so much confused;
What one can plead, the rest can plead as well;
For amongst equals lies no last appeal,
And all confess themselves are fallible.
Now, since you grant some necessary guide,
All who can err are justly laid aside;
Because a trust so sacred to confer
Shows want of such a sure interpreter;
And how can he be needful who can err?
Then, granting that unerring guide we want,
That such there is you stand obliged to grant;
Our Saviour else were wanting to supply
Our needs, and obviate that necessity.
It then remains, that Church can only be
The guide, which owns unfailing certainty;
Or else you slip your hold, and change your side,
Relapsing from a necessary guide.
But this annexed condition of the crown,
Immunity from errors, you disown;
Here then you shrink, and lay your weak pretensions down.
For petty royalties you raise debate;
But this unfailing universal state
You shun; nor dare succeed to such a glorious weight;
And for that cause those promises detest,
With which our Saviour did his Church invest;
But strive to evade, and fear to find them true,
As conscious they were never meant to you;
All which the Mother-Church asserts her own,
And with unrivalled claim ascends the throne.
So, when of old the Almighty Father sate
In council, to redeem our ruined state,
Millions of millions, at a distance round,
Silent the sacred consistory crowned,
To hear what mercy, mixed with justice, could propound;
All prompt, with eager pity, to fulfil
The full extent of their Creator's will:
But when the stern conditions were declared,
A mournful whisper through the host was heard,
And the whole hierarchy, with heads hung down,
Submissively declined the ponderous proffer'd crown.
Then, not till then, the Eternal Son from high
Rose in the strength of all the Deity;
Stood forth to accept the terms, and underwent
A weight which all the frame of heaven had bent,
Nor he himself could bear, but as Omnipotent.
Now, to remove the least remaining doubt,
That even the blear-eyed sects may find her out,
Behold what heavenly rays adorn her brows,
What from his wardrobe her beloved allows,
To deck the wedding-day of his unspotted spouse!
Behold what marks of majesty she brings,
Richer than ancient heirs of eastern kings!
Her right hand holds the sceptre and the keys,
To show whom she commands, and who obeys;
With these to bind, or set the sinner free,
With that to assert spiritual royalty.
“One in herself, not rent by schism, but sound,
Entire, one solid shining diamond;
Not sparkles shattered into sects like you:
One is the Church, and must be to be true;
One central principle of unity;
As undivided, so from errors free;
As one in faith, so one in sanctity.
Thus she, and none but she, the insulting rage
Of heretics opposed from age to age;
Still when the giant-brood invades her throne,
She stoops from heaven, and meets them halfway down,
And with paternal thunder vindicates her crown.
But like Egyptian sorcerers you stand,
And vainly lift aloft your magic wand,
To sweep away the swarms of vermin from the land;
You could, like them, with like infernal force,
Produce the plague, but not arrest the course.
But when the boils and botches, with disgrace
And public scandal, sat upon the face,
Themselves attacked, the Magi strove no more,
They saw God's finger, and their fate deplore;
Themselves they could not cure of the dishonest sore.
Thus one, thus pure, behold her largely spread,
Like the fair ocean from her mother-bed;
From east to west triumphantly she rides,
All shores are watered by her wealthy tides.
The gospel-sound, diffused from pole to pole,
Where winds can carry, and where waves can roll,
The selfsame doctrine of the sacred page
Conveyed to every clime, in every age.
“Here let my sorrow give my satire place,
To raise new blushes on my British race.
Our sailing ships like common-sewers we use,
And through our distant colonies diffuse
The draught of dungeons, and the stench of stews;
Whom, when their home-bred honesty is lost,
We disembogue on some far Indian coast,
Thieves, panders, palliards, sins of every sort;
Those are the manufactures we export,
And these the missioners our zeal has made;
For, with my country's pardon, be it said,
Religion is the least of all our trade.
“Yet some improve their traffic more than we,
For they on gain, their only god, rely,
And set a public price on piety.
Industrious of the needle and the chart,
They run full sail to their Japonian mart;
Preventing fear, and, prodigal of fame,
Sell all of Christian to the very name,
Nor leave enough of that to hide their naked shame.
“Thus, of three marks, which in the creed we view,
Not one of all can be applied to you;
Much less the fourth. In vain, alas! you seek
The ambitious title of apostolic:
Godlike descent! 'tis well your blood can be
Proved noble in the third or fourth degree;
For all of ancient that you had before,
I mean what is not borrowed from our store,
Was error fulminated o'er and o'er;
Old heresies condemned in ages past,
By care and time recovered from the blast.
“'Tis said with ease, but never can be proved,
The Church her old foundations has removed,
And built new doctrines on unstable sands:
Judge that, ye winds and rains! you proved her, yet she stands.
Those ancient doctrines charged on her for new,
Show when, and how, and from what hands they grew.
We claim no power, when heresies grow bold,
To coin new faith, but still declare the old.
How else could that obscene disease be purged,
When controverted texts are vainly urged?
To prove tradition new, there's somewhat more
Required, than saying, 'Twas not used before.
Those monumental arms are never stirred,
Till schism or heresy call down Goliah's sword.
“Thus, what you call corruptions, are, in truth,
The first plantations of the gospel's youth;
Old standard faith; but cast your eyes again,
And view those errors which new sects maintain,
Or which of old disturbed the Church's peaceful reign;
And we can point each period of the time,
When they began, and who begot the crime;
Can calculate how long the eclipse endured,
Who interposed, what digits were obscured:
Of all which are already passed away,
We know the rise, the progress, and decay.
“Despair at our foundations then to strike,
Till you can prove your faith apostolic;
A limpid stream drawn from the native source;
Succession lawful in a lineal course.
Prove any Church, opposed to this our head,
So one, so pure, so unconfinedly spread,
Under one chief of the spiritual state,
The members all combined, and all subordinate;
Show such a seamless coat, from schism so free,
In no communion joined with heresy;—
If such a one you find, let truth prevail;
Till when, your weights will in the balance fail;
A Church unprincipled kicks up the scale.
But if you cannot think, (nor sure you can
Suppose in God what were unjust in man,)
That He, the fountain of eternal grace,
Should suffer falsehood for so long a space
To banish truth, and to usurp her place;
That seven successive ages should be lost,
And preach damnation at their proper cost;
That all your erring ancestors should die,
Drowned in the abyss of deep idolatry;
If piety forbid such thoughts to rise,
Awake, and open your unwilling eyes:
God hath left nothing for each age undone,
From this to that wherein he sent his Son;
Then think but well of him, and half your work is done.
See how his Church, adorned with every grace,
With open arms, a kind forgiving face,
Stands ready to prevent her long-lost son's embrace!
Not more did Joseph o'er his brethren weep,
Nor less himself could from discovery keep,
When in the crowd of suppliants they were seen,
And in their crew his best-loved Benjamin.
That pious Joseph in the Church behold,
To feed your famine, and refuse your gold;
The Joseph you exiled, the Joseph whom you sold.”
Thus, while with heavenly charity she spoke,
A streaming blaze the silent shadows broke;
Shot from the skies a cheerful azure light;
The birds obscene to forests winged their flight,
And gaping graves received the wandering guilty sprite.
Such were the pleasing triumphs of the sky,
For James his late nocturnal victory;
The pledge of his almighty Patron's love,
The fireworks which his angels made above.
I saw myself the lambent easy light
Gild the brown horror, and dispel the night;
The messenger with speed the tidings bore;
News, which three labouring nations did restore;
But heaven's own Nuntius was arrived before.
By this, the Hind had reached her lonely cell,
And vapours rose, and dews unwholesome fell;
When she, by frequent observation wise,
As one who long on heaven had fixed her eyes,
Discerned a change of weather in the skies.
The western borders were with crimson spread,
The moon descending looked all flaming red;
She thought good manners bound her to invite
The stranger dame to be her guest that night.
'Tis true, coarse diet, and a short repast,
She said, were weak inducements to the taste
Of one so nicely bred, and so unused to fast;
But what plain fare her cottage could afford,
A hearty welcome at a homely board,
Was freely hers; and, to supply the rest,
An honest meaning, and an open breast;
Last, with content of mind, the poor man's wealth,
A grace-cup to their common patron's health.
This she desired her to accept, and stay,
For fear she might be wildered in her way,
Because she wanted an unerring guide,
And then the dewdrops on her silken hide
Her tender constitution did declare,
Too lady-like a long fatigue to bear,
And rough inclemencies of raw nocturnal air.
But most she feared, that, travelling so late,
Some evil-minded beasts might lie in wait,
And without witness wreak their hidden hate.
The Panther, though she lent a listening ear,
Had more of lion in her than to fear;
Yet wisely weighing, since she had to deal
With many foes, their numbers might prevail,
Returned her all the thanks she could afford,
And took her friendly hostess at her word;
Who, entering first her lowly roof, a shed
With hoary moss and winding ivy spread,
Honest enough to hide an humble hermit's head,
Thus graciously bespoke her welcome guest:
“So might these walls, with your fair presence blest,
Become your dwelling-place of everlasting rest;
Not for a night, or quick revolving year,
Welcome an owner, not a sojourner.
This peaceful seat my poverty secures;
War seldom enters but where wealth allures:
Nor yet despise it; for this poor abode,
Has oft received, and yet receives a God;
A God, victorious of the Stygian race,
Here laid his sacred limbs, and sanctified the place.
This mean retreat did mighty Pan contain;
Be emulous of him, and pomp disdain,
And dare not to debase your soul to gain.”
The silent stranger stood amazed to see
Contempt of wealth, and wilful poverty;
And, though ill habits are not soon controlled,
Awhile suspended her desire of gold.
But civilly drew in her sharpened paws,
Not violating hospitable laws,
And pacified her tail, and licked her frothy jaws.
The Hind did first her country cates provide;
Then couched herself securely by her side.
- quotes about Bible
- quotes about heresy
- quotes about doctors
- quotes about victory
- quotes about receiving
- quotes about independence
- quotes about drawing
- quotes about Israel
- quotes about sound
The River And Her
in the slow history of the river flowing
she wants to mark her own name with her fingers
religiously she goes there on a ritual of her own
naked she dips her skin on the water
so soft are her feet on the bed of pebbles
deep down the fishes ask for more of her toes
touched the river begins to sing a song for her
the bamboo leaves keep watching what happens next
will love dance on the surface of flimsy reasons?
will passion appear and last forever?
the banks want to close in on them: the river and her
the sun is worried what will happen next
it did end, but it was sad, as sad as the butterfly that lost one of its wings.
the river loses its name as she plunges deep to the tight arms of death.
- quotes about worry
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about beginning
- quotes about dance
- quotes about water
- quotes about music
- quotes about death
- quotes about Sun
- quotes about love
The Ghost and Her horse
Everynight in the dark she walks
Everynight in the meadow he neighs
She walks out to her horse
He raises his ghostly head, spots his owner
Only true people can hear this frost filled noise
To her ear it sounds of peace and stillness
To people around it sounds spoky filled with wondering souls
Like the wind
Or the soft rain
Everynight in the dark she walks
Everynight in the meadow he neighs
The ghost walks with her silver hair blowing
In the pony tail that shall never change
She carries his halter in one hand her other hand
Hangs open ready to stroke his transparent maine
Down his silver back
Everynight in the dark she walks
Everynight in the meadow he neighs
The horse to his girl
They are still, his head and long neck
Rested on her shoulder, her arms around his neck
Running her fingers through his maine
The ghost and her horse.
The poem and her poet
Death once told poor life defeated by life:
Life's no life if lived on the edge of knife,
No more a struggle, nor is full of strife,
Do ye know how many deaths is Death rife?
Death's all death; the same is not true of life,
Life tries to knot her up snaps when death's knife,
But I've heard a man asking on death bed,
Pray, tell me Death, how long ere I'm all dead?
To him, said death, straightening up his head,
Moments might when look like minutes of dread,
Minutes stretch and stretch into hours, instead,
When hours take days, and days, years, you are dead.
Remember, life's lived moment to moment,
‘Tis measured too in a moving moment,
Forget not: Death alone is permanent,
I dwell in life from birth, live life dormant;
There's no freedom in life, nor should death call,
Death changes but the bricks of prison wall,
All quarrels ‘tween life and death, big and small,
Settled are, death when proves him far too tall.
Life is a small piece, but a paragraph
Of my poem, said Death, metre nor measure but in half,
Life may decide every new beginning,
But ‘tis me that knows the length, knows ending.
Eons pass sans measure for endless time,
While no clocks tick, nor dare their hours to chime,
Boulders of rocks break down whilst time stands still,
O grinding into grains of sands sans will.
While life is stuck with my poem's first rhyme,
Death challenged life to dare the worst she can,
I'm the Absolute trouser wearing man1,
I wonder how relative would tick time!
1. Death muses himself to be the male principle, the purusha.
The poem stands for life and prakriti. The piece here depicts
a dialogue between Life, or the matter, the poem and her
creator poet, the Death. In Indic philosophy, purusha is the
presiding deity, the atman or soul, which is eternal and body
is made of prakriti, the material nature, which is death-bound.
- Musings | 12.08.12 |
The Child and the Hind
Come, maids and matrons, to caress
Wiesbaden's gentle hind;
And, smiling, deck its glossy neck
With forest flowers entwined.
'Twas after church - on Ascension day -
When organs ceased to sound,
Wiesbaden's people crowded gay
The deer park's pleasant ground.
Here came a twelve years' married pair -
And with them wander'd free
Seven sons and daughters, blooming fair,
A gladsome sight to see!
Their Wilhelm, little innocent,
The youngest of the seven,
Was beautiful as painters' paint -
The cherubim of heaven.
By turns he gave his hand, so dear,
To parent, sister, brother,
And each, that he was safe and near,
Confided in the other.
But Wilhelm loved the field-flowers bright,
With love beyond all measure;
And cull'd them with as keen delight
As misers gather treasure.
Unnoticed, he contrived to glide
Adown a greenwood alley,
By lilies lured - that grew beside
A streamlet in the valley;
And there, where under beech and birch
The rivulet meander'd,
He stray'd, till neither shout nor search,
Could track where he had wander'd.
Still louder, with increasing dread,
They call'd his darling name:
But 'twas like speaking to the dead -
An echo only came.
Hours pass'd till evening's beetle roams,
And blackbird's songs begin;
Then all went back to happy homes,
Save Wilhelm's kith and kin.
The night came on - all others slept
Their cares away till morn;
But sleepless, all night watch'd and wept
That family forlorn.
Betimes the town-crier had been sent
With loud bell up and down;
And told th' afflicting accident
Throughout Wiesbaden's town.
The news reach'd Nassau's Duke - ere earth
Was gladden'd by the lark,
He sent a hundred solders forth
To ransack all his park.
But though they roused up beast and bird
From many a nest and den,
No signal of success was heard
From all the hundred men.
A second morning's light expands,
Unfound the infant fair;
And Wilhelm's household wring their hands,
Abandon'd to despair.
But, haply, a poor artizan
Search'd ceaselessly, till he
Found safe asleep the little one,
Beneath a birchen tree.
His hand still grasp'd a bunch of flowers;
And - true, though wondrous - near,
To sentry his reposing hours,
There stood a female deer,
Who dipp'd her horns at all that pass'd
The spot where Wilhelm lay;
Till force was had to hold her fast,
And bear the boy away.
Hail! sacred love of childhood - hail!
How sweet it is to trace
Thine instinct in Creation's scale,
Even 'neath the human race.
To this poor wanderer of the wild
Speech, reason were unknown -
And yet she watch'd a sleeping child,
As if it were her own!
The Critick and the Writer of Fables
Weary, at last, of the Pindarick way,
Thro' which advent'rously the Muse wou'd stray;
To Fable I descend with soft Delight,
Pleas'd to Translate, or easily Endite:
Whilst aery Fictions hastily repair
To fill my Page, and rid my Thoughts of Care,
As they to Birds and Beasts new Gifts impart,
And Teach, as Poets shou'd, whilst they Divert.
But here, the Critick bids me check this Vein.
Fable, he crys, tho' grown th' affected Strain,
But dies, as it was born, without Regard or Pain.
Whilst of his Aim the lazy Trifler fails,
Who seeks to purchase Fame by childish Tales.
Then, let my Verse, once more attempt the Skies,
The easily persuaded Poet cries,
Since meaner Works you Men of Taste despise.
The Walls of Troy shall be our loftier Stage,
Our mighty Theme the fierce Achilles Rage.
The Strength of Hector, and Ulysses Arts
Shall boast such Language, to adorn their Parts,
As neither Hobbes, nor Chapman cou'd bestow,
Or did from Congreve, or from Dryden flow.
Amidst her Towers, the dedicated Horse
Shall be receiv'd, big with destructive Force;
Till Men shall say, when Flames have brought her down.
" Troy is no more, and Ilium was a Town.
Is this the way to please the Men of Taste,
The Interrupter cries, this old Bombast?
I'm sick of Troy, and in as great a Fright,
When some dull Pedant wou'd her Wars recite,
As was soft Paris, when compell'd to Fight.
To Shades and Springs shall we awhile repair,
The Muse demands, and in that milder Air
Describe some gentle Swain's unhappy Smart
Whose folded Arms still press upon his Heart,
And deeper drive the too far enter'd Dart?
Whilst Phillis with a careless pleasure reigns
The Joy, the Grief, the Envy of the Plains;
Heightens the Beauty of the verdant Woods,
And softens all the Murmurs of the Floods.
Oh! stun me not with these insipid Dreams,
Th' Eternal Hush, the Lullaby of Streams.
Which still, he cries, their even Measures keep,
Till both the Writers, and the Readers sleep.
But urge thy Pen, if thou wouldst move our Thoughts,
To shew us private, or the publick Faults.
Display the Times, High-Church or Low provoke;
We'll praise the Weapon, as we like the Stroke,
And warmly sympathizing with the Spite
Apply to Thousands, what of One you write.
Then, must that single Stream the Town supply,
The harmless Fable-writer do's reply,
And all the Rest of Helicon be dry ?
And when so many choice Productions swarm,
Must only Satire keep your Fancies warm?
Whilst even there, you praise with such Reserve,
As if you'd in the midst of Plenty starve,
Tho' ne'er so liberally we Authors carve.
Happy the Men, whom we divert with Ease,
Whom Opera's and Panegyricks please.
The Widow and Her Son XXI
Night fell over North Lebanon and snow was covering the villages surrounded by the Kadeesha Valley, giving the fields and prairies the appearance of a great sheet of parchment upon which the furious Nature was recording her many deeds. Men came home from the streets while silence engulfed the night.
In a lone house near those villages lived a woman who sat by her fireside spinning wool, and at her side was her only child, staring now at the fire and then at his mother.
A terrible roar of thunder shook the house and the little boy shook with fright. He threw his arms about his mother, seeking protection from Nature in her affection. She took him to her bosom and kissed him; then she say him on her lap and said, "Do not fear, my son, for Nature is but comparing her great power to man's weakness. There is a Supreme Being beyond the falling snow and the heavy clouds and the blowing wind, and He knows the needs of the earth, for He made it; and He looks upon the weak with merciful eyes.
"Be brave, my boy. Nature smiles in Spring and laughs in Summer and yawns in Autumn, but now she is weeping; and with her tears she waters life, hidden under the earth.
"Sleep, my dear child; your father is viewing us from Eternity. The snow and thunder bring us closer to him at this time.
"Sleep, my beloved, for this white blanket which makes us cold, keeps the seeds warm, and these war-like things will produce beautiful flowers when Nisan comes.
"Thus, my child, man cannot reap love until after sad and revealing separation, and bitter patience, and desperate hardship. Sleep, my little boy; sweet dreams will find your soul who is unafraid of the terrible darkness of night and the biting frost."
The little boy looked upon his mother with sleep-laden eyes and said, "Mother, my eyes are heavy, but I cannot go to bed without saying my prayer."
The woman looked at his angelic face, her vision blurred by misted eyes, and said, "Repeat with me, my boy - 'God, have mercy on the poor and protect them from the winter; warm their thin-clad bodies with Thy merciful hands; look upon the orphans who are sleeping in wretched houses, suffering from hunger and cold. Hear, oh Lord, the call of widows who are helpless and shivering with fear for their young. Open, oh Lord, the hearts of all humans, that they may see the misery of the weak. Have mercy upon the sufferers who knock on doors, and lead the wayfarers into warm places. Watch, oh Lord, over the little birds and protect the trees and fields from the anger of the storm; for Thou art merciful and full of love.'"
As Slumber captured the boy's spirit, his mother placed him in the bed and kissed his eyes with quivering lips. Then she went back and sat by the hearth, spinning the wool to make him raiment.
The Jingo and the Minstrel
AN ARGUMENT FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF PEACE AND GOODWILL WITH THE JAPANESE PEOPLE
Glossary for the uninstructed and the hasty: Jimmu Tenno, ancestor of all the Japanese Emperors; Nikko, Japan's loveliest shrine; Iyeyasu, her greatest statesman; Bushido, her code of knighthood; The Forty-seven Ronins, her classic heroes; Nogi, her latest hero; Fuji, her most beautiful mountain.
"Now do you know of Avalon
That sailors call Japan?
She holds as rare a chivalry
As ever bled for man.
King Arthur sleeps at Nikko hill
Where Iyeyasu lies,
And there the broad Pendragon flag
In deathless splendor flies."
"Nay, minstrel, but the great ships come
From out the sunset sea.
We cannot greet the souls they bring
With welcome high and free.
How can the Nippon nondescripts
That weird and dreadful band
Be aught but what we find them here:—
The blasters of the land?"
"First race, first men from anywhere
To face you, eye to eye.
For that do you curse Avalon
And raise a hue and cry?
These toilers cannot kiss your hand,
Or fawn with hearts bowed down:
Be glad for them, and Avalon,
And Arthur's ghostly crown.
"No doubt your guests, with sage debate
In grave things gentlemen
Will let your trade and farms alone
And turn them back again.
But why should brawling braggarts rise
With hasty words of shame
To drive them back like dogs and swine
Who in due honor came?"
"We cannot give them honor, sir.
We give them scorn for scorn.
And Rumor steals around the world
All white-skinned men to warn
Against this sleek silk-merchant here
And viler coolie-man
And wrath within the courts of war
Brews on against Japan!"
"Must Avalon, with hope forlorn,
Her back against the wall,
Have lived her brilliant life in vain
While ruder tribes take all?
Must Arthur stand with Asian Celts,
A ghost with spear and crown,
Behind the great Pendragon flag
And be again cut down?
"Tho Europe's self shall move against
High Jimmu Tenno's throne
The Forty-seven Ronin Men
Will not be found alone.
For Percival and Bedivere
And Nogi side by side
Will stand,—with mourning Merlin there,
Tho all go down in pride.
"But has the world the envious dream—
Ah, such things cannot be,—
To tear their fairy-land like silk
And toss it in the sea?
Must venom rob the future day
The ultimate world-man
Of rare Bushido, code of codes,
The fair heart of Japan?
"Go, be the guest of Avalon.
Believe me, it lies there
Behind the mighty gray sea-wall
Where heathen bend in prayer:
Where peasants lift adoring eyes
To Fuji's crown of snow.
King Arthur's knights will be your hosts,
So cleanse your heart, and go.
"And you will find but gardens sweet
Prepared beyond the seas,
And you will find but gentlefolk
Beneath the cherry-trees.
So walk you worthy of your Christ
Tho church bells do not sound,
And weave the bands of brotherhood
On Jimmu Tenno's ground."
The Knight And The Lady
There's in the Vest a city pleasant
To vich King Bladud gev his name,
And in that city there's a Crescent
Vere dwelt a noble knight of fame.
Although that galliant knight is oldish,
Although Sir John as gray, gray air,
Hage has not made his busum coldish,
His Art still beats tewodds the Fair!
'Twas two years sins, this knight so splendid,
Peraps fateagued with Bath's routines,
To Paris towne his phootsteps bended
In sutch of gayer folks and seans.
His and was free, his means was easy,
A nobler, finer gent than he
Ne'er drove about the Shons-Eleesy,
Or paced the Roo de Rivolee.
A brougham and pair Sir John prowided,
In which abroad he loved to ride;
But ar! he most of all enjyed it,
When some one helse was sittin' inside!
That 'some one helse' a lovely dame was
Dear ladies you will heasy tell—
Countess Grabrowski her sweet name was,
A noble title, ard to spell.
This faymus Countess ad a daughter
Of lovely form and tender art;
A nobleman in marridge sought her,
By name the Baron of Saint Bart.
Their pashn touched the noble Sir John,
It was so pewer and profound;
Lady Grabrowski he did urge on
With Hyming's wreeth their loves to crownd.
'O, come to Bath, to Lansdowne Crescent,'
Says kind Sir John, 'and live with me;
The living there's uncommon pleasant—
I'm sure you'll find the hair agree.
'O, come to Bath, my fair Grabrowski,
And bring your charming girl,' sezee;
'The Barring here shall have the ouse-key,
Vith breakfast, dinner, lunch, and tea.
'And when they've passed an appy winter,
Their opes and loves no more we'll bar;
The marridge-vow they'll enter inter,
And I at church will be their Par.'
To Bath they went to Lansdowne Crescent,
Where good Sir John he did provide
No end of teas and balls incessant,
And hosses both to drive and ride.
He was so Ospitably busy,
When Miss was late, he'd make so bold
Upstairs to call out, 'Missy, Missy,
Come down, the coffy's getting cold!'
But O! 'tis sadd to think such bounties
Should meet with such return as this;
O Barring of Saint Bart, O Countess
Grabrowski, and O cruel Miss!
He married you at Bath's fair Habby,
Saint Bart he treated like a son—
And wasn't it uncommon shabby
To do what you have went and done!
My trembling And amost refewses
To write the charge which Sir John swore,
Of which the Countess he ecuses,
Her daughter and her son-in-lore.
My Mews quite blushes as she sings of
The fatle charge which now I quote:
He says Miss took his two best rings off,
And pawned 'em for a tenpun note.
'Is this the child of honest parince,
To make away with folks' best things?
Is this, pray, like the wives of Barrins,
To go and prig a gentleman's rings?'
Thus thought Sir John, by anger wrought on,
And to rewenge his injured cause,
He brought them hup to Mr. Broughton,
Last Vensday veek as ever waws.
If guiltless, how she have been slandered!
If guilty, wengeance will not fail:
Meanwhile the lady is remanded
And gev three hundred pouns in bail.
Jack Honest, or the Widow and Her Son
Jack Honest was only eight years of age when his father died,
And by the death of his father, Mrs Honest was sorely tried;
And Jack was his father's only joy and pride,
And for honesty Jack couldn't be equalled in the country-side.
So a short time before Jack's father died,
'Twas loud and bitterly for Jack he cried,
And bade him sit down by his bedside,
And then told him to be honest whatever did betide.
John, he said, looking him earnestly in the face,
Never let your actions your name disgrace,
Remember, my dear boy, and do what's right,
And God will bless you by day and night.
Then Mr Honest bade his son farewell, and breathed his last,
While the hot tears from Jack's eyes fell thick and fast;
And the poor child did loudly sob and moan,
When he knew his father had left him and his mother alone.
So, as time wore on, Jack grew to be a fine boy,
And was to his mother a help and joy;
And, one evening, she said, Jack, you are my only prop,
I must tell you, dear, I'm thinking about opening a shop.
Oh! that's a capital thought, mother, cried Jack,
And to take care of the shop I won't be slack;
Then his mother said, Jackey, we will try this plan,
And look to God for his blessing, and do all we can.
So the widow opened the shop and succeeded very well,
But in a few months fresh troubles her befell--
Alas! poor Mrs Honest was of fever taken ill,
But Jack attended his mother with a kindly will.
But, for fear of catching the fever, her customers kept away,
And once more there wasn't enough money the rent to pay;
And in her difficulties Mrs Honest could form no plan to get out,
But God would help her, she had no doubt.
So, one afternoon, Mrs Honest sent Jack away
To a person that owed her some money, and told him not to stay,
But when he got there the person had fled,
And to return home without the money he was in dread.
So he saw a gentleman in a carriage driving along at a rapid rate,
And Jack ran forward to his mansion and opened the lodge-gate,
Then the gentleman opened his purse and gave him, as he thought, a shilling
For opening the lodge-gate so cleverly and so willing.
Then Jack stooped to lift up the coin, when lo and behold!
He found to his surprise it was a piece of gold!
And Jack cried oh! joyful, this will make up for my mother's loss,
Then he ran home speedily, knowing his mother wouldn't be cross.
And when he got home he told his mother of his ill success,
And his adventure with the gentleman, then she felt deep distress;
And when Jack showed her the sovereign, the gentleman gave him,
She cried, We mustn't keep that money, it would be a sin.
Dear mother, I thought so, there must be some mistake,
But in the morning, to Squire Brooksby, the sovereign I'll take;
So, when morning came, he went to Squire Brooksby's Hall,
And at the front door for the Squire he loudly did call.
Then the hall door was opened by a footman, dressed in rich livery,
And Jack told him he wished Mr Brooksby to see;
Then to deliver Jack's message the footman withdrew,
And when the footman returned he said, Master will see you.
Then Jack was conducted into a rich furnished room,
And to Mr Brooksby he told his errand very soon,
While his honest heart, with fear, didn't quake,
Saying, Mr Brooksby, you gave me a sovereign yesterday in a mistake.
Why, surely I have seen you before, said Mr Brooksby;
Yes, Sir, replied Jack Honest, bowing very politely;
Then what is your name, my honest lad? Asked Mr Brooksby;
John Honest, sir, replied Jack, right fearlessly.
The, my brave lad, you are Honest by name, and honest by nature,
Which, really, you appear to be in every feature,
But, I am afraid, such boys as you are very few,
But, I dare say, your mother has taught you.
Then Jack laid the sovereign down on the table before Mr Brooksby;
But Mr Brooksby said, No! my lad, I freely give it to thee;
Then Jack said, Oh, sir, I'm obliged to you I'm sure,
Because, sir, this money will help my mother, for she is poor.
Mrs Brooksby came to see Mrs Honest in a few days,
And for Jack's honesty she was loud in praise;
And she took Jack into her service, and paid him liberally,
And she gave Mrs Honest a house, for life, rent free.
Now, I must leave Jack Honest and his mother in fresh found glory,
Hoping my readers will feel interested in this story,
And try always to imitate the hero-- Jack Honest--
And I'm sure they will find it the safest and the best!
The Bride of the Wind and Rain
There was morning dew, and the sky was blue
When the stranger came to town,
Riding a painted wagon, pulled
By horses, black and brown,
He carried a wand of hickory,
Was clad in a purple cloak,
'The Master of Elementals'
Said the sign - 'of the Gypsy Folk.'
The people gathered to hear him speak
When he stopped in the village square,
'I hold the secrets of wind and rain,
Of summer clouds up there.
The gentle rain for your barley crop,
The breeze that flutters the leaves,
Or the menace of darkening thunderheads
As the lightning strikes at your eaves.'
The people laughed: 'He's a crazy loon, '
They said: 'We think you're a clown! '
They rocked his wagon and jeered at him
But the stranger stood his ground.
'You jeer at eternal mysteries,
And you fail to understand,
But I have the power to raze your crops
With a twitch of my willow wand.'
They turned his wagon upside-down
And laughed, and danced and sang,
'There's not been much to cheer us here
Since we ducked old Widow Strang.
Her spells could never save her
And your wand can do its worst,
So show us your 'Elementals'...'
Then he said - 'Your town is cursed! '
He raised the willow wand on high
And muttered seven words
That didn't make much sense to them,
(In a tongue they'd never heard) .
The rain fell out of a cloudless sky
Like a fine and gentle mist,
A gentle, soaking, water spray,
Then he said - 'Shall I persist? '
There'd been a drought, the people laughed,
And danced about in glee,
'We need the rain, you're a sad buffoon
With your vain idolatry.
So do your worst with your willow wand
Our crops will prosper now...'
'Your crops will nourish the barren ground, '
He said, 'I'll show you how! '
A wind arose in the barley fields,
The rain came pouring down,
The corn, it swayed in the gusts, the trees
Were bent toward the ground,
The sky was blackened with thunderheads,
The rain, it turned to hail,
The crowd began to scatter, and fled
As the women began to wail.
The thunderheads were dark and dense,
They turned the light to gloom,
The hailstones rattled on every roof
In the dark of the afternoon,
Then lightning flashed, lit up the sky
As the stranger paced the town,
His scowl so unforgiving and grim as
The lightning struck the ground.
A wedding party had sheltered in
The chancel of the church,
They dared not hold the service since
The thunder cloud had burst.
The noise drowned out the vicar's voice,
The organ pipes had wailed,
Playing the devil's music to
The rattling of the hail.
The stranger strode on up the aisle,
The people stared him down,
He waved his wand, the floor had split
As an earthquake shook the ground,
'How much to stop this craziness? '
A man stood up and said,
'You've made your point, take what you want! '
The stranger shook his head.
'Not all of your gold will buy me off,
You jeered and laughed at me,
Your town will sink in the primal mud
And be lost in antiquity,
But there is one thing I'd take right now
To save my wounded pride,
I would take just one of your number here...'
Then he pointed to the bride.
The bride had cowered behind the groom
As lightning hit the spire,
The roofing lead came crashing down
On the altar, and the choir,
A floodtide surged in the open door
And the wedding party cried:
'For God's sake, give him the woman then,
Give him the blushing bride! '
The groom was pushed aside and held,
The bride passed hand to hand,
'It's better we let you take her
If it will save our troubled land! '
'I'll only be taking her maidenhead,
Then you can have her back,
And live with the scorn and shame of her
Dishonoured, like you, in fact! '
He took the bride through the chancel door
And they disappeared in the rain,
Somebody said they heard her scream
And the bridegroom reeled in pain,
He swore revenge on the lot of them,
Ran cursing out of the church,
To look for his bride, defiled, he said,
He began his demented search.
There was morning dew, and the sky was blue
When she marched back into town,
Her dress was ragged and torn by then,
Blood-stained, and she wore a frown.
She carried a long white willow wand
As she marched to the village square,
And screamed; 'You'd better come out and pray! '
There was no forgiveness there!
The townsfolk hid in their flooded homes
As she wandered every lane,
There was never a sight of the stranger there
In the torrents of hail and rain,
She waved for the thunderheads to come
And she brought the lightning down,
But the groom was locked in a crazy room
In a distant part of town.
Now the ruined bride still walks the streets
In a torn and faded dress,
More like the rags of the hand-me-downs
Than a hint of future bliss,
The crops have drowned in the sodden fields
And the houses filled with mud,
As she screams like an elemental witch
For the loss of her virgin blood.
18 April 2010
The Hind and the Panther: Part I (excerpts)
A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang'd,
Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang'd;
Without unspotted, innocent within,
She fear'd no danger, for she knew no sin.
Yet had she oft been chas'd with horns and hounds
And Scythian shafts; and many winged wounds
Aim'd at her heart; was often forc'd to fly,
And doom'd to death, though fated not to die.
Not so her young; for their unequal line
Was hero's make, half human, half divine.
Their earthly mold obnoxious was to fate,
Th' immortal part assum'd immortal state.
Of these a slaughter'd army lay in blood,
Extended o'er the Caledonian wood,
Their native walk; whose vocal blood arose,
And cried for pardon on their perjur'd foes.
Their fate was fruitful, and the sanguine seed,
Endued with souls, increas'd the sacred breed.
So captive Israel multiplied in chains,
A numerous exile, and enjoy'd her pains.
With grief and gladness mix'd, their mother view'd
Her martyr'd offspring, and their race renew'd;
Their corps to perish, but their kind to last,
So much the deathless plant the dying fruit surpass'd.
Panting and pensive now she rang'd alone,
And wander'd in the kingdoms, once her own.
The common hunt, tho' from their rage restrain'd
By sov'reign pow'r, her company disdain'd;
Grinn'd as they pass'd, and with a glaring eye
Gave gloomy signs of secret enmity.
'T is true, she bounded by, and tripp'd so light,
They had not time to take a steady sight,
For Truth has such a face and such a mien,
As to be lov'd needs only to be seen.
The bloody Bear, an Independent beast,
Unlick'd to form, in groans her hate express'd.
Among the timorous kind the Quaking Hare
Profess'd neutrality, but would not swear.
Next her the buffoon Ape, as atheists use,
Mimick'd all sects, and had his own to choose:
Still when the Lion look'd, his knees he bent,
And paid at church a courtier's compliment.
The bristled Baptist Boar, impure as he,
(But whiten'd with the foam of sanctity,)
With fat pollutions fill'd the sacred place,
And mountains levell'd in his furious race:
So first rebellion founded was in grace.
But since the mighty ravage which he made
In German forests had his guilt betray'd,
With broken tusks, and with a borrow'd name,
He shunn'd the vengeance, and conceal'd the shame;
So lurk'd in sects unseen. With greater guile
False Reynard fed on consecrated spoil:
The graceless beast by Athanasius first
Was chas'd from Nice; then, by Socinus nurs'd,
His impious race their blasphemy renew'd,
And nature's King through nature's optics view'd.
Revers'd, they view'd him lessen'd to their eye,
Nor in an infant could a God descry:
New swarming sects to this obliquely tend,
Hence they began, and here they all will end.
What weight of ancient witness can prevail,
If private reason hold the public scale?
But, gracious God, how well dost thou provide
For erring judgments an unerring guide!
Thy throne is darkness in th' abyss of light,
A blaze of glory that forbids the sight.
O teach me to believe Thee thus conceal'd,
And search no farther than Thyself reveal'd;
But her alone for my director take,
Whom Thou hast promis'd never to forsake!
My thoughtless youth was wing'd with vain desires,
My manhood, long misled by wand'ring fires,
Follow'd false lights; and when their glimpse was gone,
My pride struck out new sparkles of her own.
Such was I, such by nature still I am,
Be thine the glory, and be mine the shame.
Good life be now my task: my doubts are done:
(What more could fright my faith, than Three in One?)
Can I believe eternal God could lie
Disguis'd in mortal mould and infancy?
That the great Maker of the world could die?
And after that trust my imperfect sense
Which calls in question his omnipotence?
Can I my reason to my faith compel,
And shall my sight, and touch, and taste rebel?
Superior faculties are set aside,
Shall their subservient organs be my guide?
Then let the moon usurp the rule of day,
And winking tapers show the sun his way;
For what my senses can themselves perceive,
I need no revelation to believe.
The Panther, sure the noblest, next the Hind,
And fairest creature of the spotted kind;
Oh, could her inborn stains be wash'd away,
She were too good to be a beast of prey!
How can I praise, or blame, and not offend,
Or how divide the frailty from the friend!
Her faults and virtues lie so mix'd that she
Nor wholly stands condemn'd, nor wholly free.
Then, like her injur'd Lion, let me speak;
He cannot bend her, and he would not break.
Unkind already, and estrang'd in part,
The Wolf begins to share her wand'ring heart.
Though' unpolluted yet with actual ill,
She half commits, who sins but in her will.
If, as our dreaming Platonists report,
There could be spirits of a middle sort,
Too black for heav'n, and yet too white for hell,
Who just dropp'd halfway down, nor lower fell;
So pois'd, so gently she descends from high,
It seems a soft dismission from the sky.
The Gods and the People
What have you done, O skies,
That the millions should kneel to you?
Why should they lift wet eyes,
Grateful with human dew?
Why should they clasp their hands,
And bow at thy shrines, O heaven,
Thanking thy high commands
For the mercies that thou hast given?
What have those mercies been,
O thou who art called the Good?
Who trod through a world of sin,
And stood where the felon stood
What is that wondrous peace
Vouchsafed to the child of dust
For whom all doubt shall cease
In the light of thy perfect trust?
How hast Thou heard their prayers
Smoking up from the bleeding sod,
Who, crushed by their weight of cares,
Cried up to thee, Most High God
• • •
Where the swamps of Humanity sicken
Read the answer in dumb, white scars!
You, Skies, gave the sore and the stricken
The light of your far- off stars!
The children who plead are driven,
Shelterless, through the street,
Receiving the Mercy of heaven
Hard-frozen in glittering Sleet!
The women who prayed for pity,
Who called on the saving Name,
Through the walks of your merciless city,
Are crying the rent, of shame!
The starving, who gazed till the plenty
In which they might not share
Have died in their hunger, rent by
The anguish of unheard prayer !
The weary who plead for remission,
For a moment only release,
Have sunk, with unheeded petition--
This the Christ-pledged Peace.
These are the mercies of heaven,
These are the answer of God
To the prayers of the agony-shriven,
From the paths where the millions plod!
The Silent scorn of the sightless!
The callous ear of the deaf!
The wrath of Might to the mightless!
The shroud and the mourning sheaf!
Light--to behold their squalor!
Breath --to draw in life's pain!
Voices to plead and call for
Heaven's help--hearts tip bleed--in vain!
• • •
What have you done, O Church,
That the weary should bless your name?
Should come with faith's holy torch
To light up your altered fane?
Why should they kiss the folds
Of The garment of your High Priest?
Or bow to the chalice that holds
The wine of your Sacred Feast?
Have you blown out the breath of their sighs?
Have you strengthened the weak, the ill?
Have you wiped the dark tears from their eyes,
And bade their sobbing be still?
Have you touched, have you known, have you felt,
Have you bent and softly smiled
In the face of the woman who dealt
In lewdness--to feed her child?
Have you heard the cry in the night
Going up from the outraged heart,
Masked from the social sight
By the cloak that but angered the smart?
Have you heard the children's moan,
By the light of the skies denied?--
Answer, O Walls of Stone,
In the name of your Crucified!
Out of the clay of their heart-break,
From the red dew of its sod,
You have mortared your bricks for Christ's sake
And reared a palace to God
Your painters have dipped their brushes
In the tears and the blood of the race
Whom, living, your dark frown crushes
And limned--a dead Saviour's face!
Ye have seized, in the name of God, the
Child's crust from famine's dole;
You have taken the price of its body
And sung a mass for its soul!
You have smiled on the man, who, deceiving,
Paid exemption to ease your wrath !
You have cursed the pour fool who believed him,
Though her body lay prone in your path !
You have laid the seal on the lip !
You have bade us to be content !
To bow 'neath our master's whip,
And give thanks for the scourge--"heaven sent."
These, O Church are your thanks :
These are the fruits without flaw,
That flow from the chosen ranks
Who keep in your perfect law !
Doors hard locked on the homeless,
Stained glass windows for bread !
On the living, the law of dumbness,
And the law of need, for-the dead!
Better the dead, who, not needing,
Go down to the vaults of the earth,
Than the living whose hearts lie bleeding,
Crushed by you at their very birth!
What have you done, O State,
That the toilers should shout your ways?
Should light up the fires of their hate
If a "traitor" should dare dispraise?
How do you guard the trust
That the people repose in you?
Do you keep to the law of the just,
And hold to the changeless true?
What do you mean when you say
"The home of the free and brave?"
How free are your people, pray?
Have you no such thing as a slave?
What are the lauded "rights,"
Broad-sealed by your Sovereign Grace?
What are the love-feeding sights
You yield to your subject race?
The rights?-Ah ! the right to toil,
That another, idle, may reap ;
The right to make fruitful the soil,
And a meagre pittance to keep.
The right of a woman to own
Her body spotlessly pure,
And starve in the street--alone!
The right of the wronged--to endure !
The right of the slave--to its yoke,
The right of the hungry--to pray,
The right, of the toiler--to vote
For the master who buys his day !
You have sold the sun and the air,
You have dealt in the price of blood,
You have taken the lion's share
While the lion is fierce for food!
You have laid the load of the strong
On the helpless, the young, the weak!
You have trod out the purple of wrong;--
Beware where its wrath shall wreak!
"Let the voice of the People be heard!
O-- " You strangled it with your rope,
Denied the last dying word
While your Trap and your Gallows spoke!
But a thousand voices rise
Where the words of the martyr fell ;
The seed springs fast to the Skies
Watered deep from that bloody well !
• • •
Hark! Low down you will hear
The storm in the underground!
Listen, tyrants, and fear!
Quake at that muffled sound
"Heavens that mocked our dust,
Smile on, in your pitiless blue!
Silent as you are to us,
So silent are we to you!
"Churches that scourged our brains,
Priests that locked fast our hands!-
We planted the torch in Your chains:
Now gather the burning brands!
"States, that have given us law,
When we asked for the right to earn bread--
The Sword that Damocles saw
By a hair swings over your head!
What ye have sown ye shall reap :
Teardrops, and Blood, and Hate,
Gaunt gather before your Seat
And knock at your palace gate!
"There are murderers on your thrones,
There are thieves in your Justice halls!
White Leprosy cancers their stones,
And gnaws at their worm-eaten walls!
"And the Hand of Belshazzar's Feast
Writes over, in flaming light,
'Thought's kingdom no more to the Priest;
Nor the law of Right to the Might.'"
The Child and the Mariner
A dear old couple my grandparents were,
And kind to all dumb things; they saw in Heaven
The lamb that Jesus petted when a child;
Their faith was never draped by Doubt: to them
Death was a rainbow in Eternity,
That promised everlasting brightness soon.
An old seafaring man was he; a rough
Old man, but kind; and hairy, like the nut
Full of sweet milk. All day on shore he watched
The winds for sailors' wives, and told what ships
Enjoyed fair weather, and what ships had storms;
He watched the sky, and he could tell for sure
What afternoons would follow stormy morns,
If quiet nights would end wild afternoons.
He leapt away from scandal with a roar,
And if a whisper still possessed his mind,
He walked about and cursed it for a plague.
He took offence at Heaven when beggars passed,
And sternly called them back to give them help.
In this old captain's house I lived, and things
That house contained were in ships' cabins once:
Sea-shells and charts and pebbles, model ships;
Green weeds, dried fishes stuffed, and coral stalks;
Old wooden trunks with handles of spliced rope,
With copper saucers full of monies strange,
That seemed the savings of dead men, not touched
To keep them warm since their real owners died;
Strings of red beads, methought were dipped in blood,
And swinging lamps, as though the house might move;
An ivory lighthouse built on ivory rocks,
The bones of fishes and three bottled ships.
And many a thing was there which sailors make
In idle hours, when on long voyages,
Of marvellous patience, to no lovely end.
And on those charts I saw the small black dots
That were called islands, and I knew they had
Turtles and palms, and pirates' buried gold.
There came a stranger to my granddad's house,
The old man's nephew, a seafarer too;
A big, strong able man who could have walked
Twm Barlum's hill all clad in iron mail
So strong he could have made one man his club
To knock down others -- Henry was his name,
No other name was uttered by his kin.
And here he was, sooth illclad, but oh,
Thought I, what secrets of the sea are his!
This man knows coral islands in the sea,
And dusky girls heartbroken for white men;
More rich than Spain, when the Phoenicians shipped
Silver for common ballast, and they saw
Horses at silver mangers eating grain;
This man has seen the wind blow up a mermaid's hair
Which, like a golden serpent, reared and stretched
To feel the air away beyond her head.
He begged my pennies, which I gave with joy --
He will most certainly return some time
A self-made king of some new land, and rich.
Alas that he, the hero of my dreams,
Should be his people's scorn; for they had rose
To proud command of ships, whilst he had toiled
Before the mast for years, and well content;
Him they despised, and only Death could bring
A likeness in his face to show like them.
For he drank all his pay, nor went to sea
As long as ale was easy got on shore.
Now, in his last long voyage he had sailed
From Plymouth Sound to where sweet odours fan
The Cingalese at work, and then back home --
But came not near my kin till pay was spent.
He was not old, yet seemed so; for his face
Looked like the drowned man's in the morgue, when it
Has struck the wooden wharves and keels of ships.
And all his flesh was pricked with Indian ink,
His body marked as rare and delicate
As dead men struck by lightning under trees
And pictured with fine twigs and curlèd ferns;
Chains on his neck and anchors on his arms;
Rings on his fingers, bracelets on his wrist;
And on his breast the Jane of Appledore
Was schooner rigged, and in full sail at sea.
He could not whisper with his strong hoarse voice,
No more than could a horse creep quietly;
He laughed to scorn the men that muffled close
For fear of wind, till all their neck was hid,
Like Indian corn wrapped up in long green leaves;
He knew no flowers but seaweeds brown and green,
He knew no birds but those that followed ships.
Full well he knew the water-world; he heard
A grander music there than we on land,
When organ shakes a church; swore he would make
The sea his home, though it was always roused
By such wild storms as never leave Cape Horn;
Happy to hear the tempest grunt and squeal
Like pigs heard dying in a slaughterhouse.
A true-born mariner, and this his hope --
His coffin would be what his cradle was,
A boat to drown in and be sunk at sea;
Salted and iced in Neptune's larder deep.
This man despised small coasters, fishing-smacks;
He scorned those sailors who at night and morn
Can see the coast, when in their little boats
They go a six days' voyage and are back
Home with their wives for every Sabbath day.
Much did he talk of tankards of old beer,
And bottled stuff he drank in other lands,
Which was a liquid fire like Hell to gulp,
But Paradise to sip.
And so he talked;
Nor did those people listen with more awe
To Lazurus -- whom they had seen stone dead --
Than did we urchins to that seaman's voice.
He many a tale of wonder told: of where,
At Argostoli, Cephalonia's sea
Ran over the earth's lip in heavy floods;
And then again of how the strange Chinese
Conversed much as our homely Blackbirds sing.
He told us how he sailed in one old ship
Near that volcano Martinique, whose power
Shook like dry leaves the whole Caribbean seas;
And made the sun set in a sea of fire
Which only half was his; and dust was thick
On deck, and stones were pelted at the mast.
Into my greedy ears such words that sleep
Stood at my pillow half the night perplexed.
He told how isles sprang up and sank again,
Between short voyages, to his amaze;
How they did come and go, and cheated charts;
Told how a crew was cursed when one man killed
A bird that perched upon a moving barque;
And how the sea's sharp needles, firm and strong,
Ripped open the bellies of big, iron ships;
Of mighty icebergs in the Northern seas,
That haunt the far hirizon like white ghosts.
He told of waves that lift a ship so high
That birds could pass from starboard unto port
Under her dripping keel.
Oh, it was sweet
To hear that seaman tell such wondrous tales:
How deep the sea in parts, that drownèd men
Must go a long way to their graves and sink
Day after day, and wander with the tides.
He spake of his own deeds; of how he sailed
One summer's night along the Bosphorus,
And he -- who knew no music like the wash
Of waves against a ship, or wind in shrouds --
Heard then the music on that woody shore
Of nightingales,and feared to leave the deck,
He thought 'twas sailing into Paradise.
To hear these stories all we urchins placed
Our pennies in that seaman's ready hand;
Until one morn he signed on for a long cruise,
And sailed away -- we never saw him more.
Could such a man sink in the sea unknown?
Nay, he had found a land with something rich,
That kept his eyes turned inland for his life.
'A damn bad sailor and a landshark too,
No good in port or out' -- my granddad said.
The Borough. Letter XVII: The Hospital And
AN ardent spirit dwells with Christian love,
The eagle's vigour in the pitying dove;
'Tis not enough that we with sorrow sigh,
That we the wants of pleading man supply,
That we in sympathy with sufferers feel,
Nor hear a grief without a wish to heal;
Not these suffice--to sickness, pain, and woe,
The Christian spirit loves with aid to go;
Will not be sought, waits not for want to plead,
But seeks the duty--nay, prevents the need;
Her utmost aid to every ill applies,
And plans relief for coining miseries.
Hence yonder Building rose: on either side
Far stretch'd the wards, all airy, warm, and wide;
And every ward has beds by comfort spread,
And smooth'd for him who suffers on the bed:
There all have kindness, most relief,--for some
Is cure complete,--it is the sufferer's home:
Fevers and chronic ills, corroding pains,
Each accidental mischief man sustains;
Fractures and wounds, and wither'd limbs and lame,
With all that, slow or sudden, vex our frame,
Have here attendance--here the sufferers lie,
(Where love and science every aid apply,)
And heal'd with rapture live, or soothed by comfort
See! one relieved from anguish, and to-day
Allow'd to walk and look an hour away;
Two months confined by fever, frenzy, pain,
He comes abroad and is himself again:
'Twas in the spring, when carried to the place,
The snow fell down and melted in his face.
'Tis summer now; all objects gay and new,
Smiling alike the viewer and the view:
He stops as one unwilling to advance,
Without another and another glance;
With what a pure and simple joy he sees
Those sheep and cattle browsing at their ease;
Easy himself, there's nothing breathes or moves,
But he would cherish--all that lives he loves:
Observing every ward as round he goes,
He thinks what pain, what danger they inclose;
Warm in his wish for all who suffer there,
At every view he meditates a prayer:
No evil counsels in his breast abide,
There joy, and love, and gratitude reside.
The wish that Roman necks in one were found,
That he who form'd the wish might deal the wound,
This man had never heard; but of the kind,
Is that desire which rises in his mind;
He'd have all English hands (for further he
Cannot conceive extends our charity),
All but his own, in one right-hand to grow,
And then what hearty shake would he bestow.
'How rose the Building?'--Piety first laid
A strong foundation, but she wanted aid;
To Wealth unwieldy was her prayer address'd,
Who largely gave, and she the donor bless'd:
Unwieldy Wealth then to his couch withdrew,
And took the sweetest sleep he ever knew.
Then busy Vanity sustained her part,
'And much,' she said, 'it moved her tender heart;
To her all kinds of man's distress were known,
And all her heart adopted as its own.'
Then Science came--his talents he display'd,
And Charity with joy the dome survey'd;
Skill, Wealth, and Vanity, obtain the fame,
And Piety, the joy that makes no claim.
Patrons there are, and Governors, from, whom
The greater aid and guiding orders come;
Who voluntary cares and labours take,
The sufferers' servants for the service' sake;
Of these a, part I give you--but a part, -
Some hearts are hidden, some have not a heart.
First let me praise--for so I best shall paint
That pious moralist, that reasoning saint!
Can I of worth like thine, Eusebius, speak?
The man is willing, but the Muse is weak; -
'Tis thine to wait on woe! to soothe! to heal!
With learning social, and polite with zeal:
In thy pure breast although the passions dwell,
They're train'd by virtue, and no more rebel;
But have so long been active on her side,
That passion now might be itself the guide.
Law, conscience, honour, all obey'd; all give
Th' approving voice, and make it bliss to live;
While faith, when life can nothing more supply,
Shall strengthen hope, and make it bliss to die.
He preaches, speaks, and writes with manly
No weak neglect, no labour'd eloquence;
Goodness and wisdom are in all his ways,
The rude revere him and the wicked praise.
Upon humility his virtues grow,
And tower so high because so fix'd below;
As wider spreads the oak his boughs around,
When deeper with his roots he digs the solid
By him, from ward to ward, is every aid
The sufferer needs, with every care convey'd:
Like the good tree he brings his treasure forth,
And, like the tree, unconscious of his worth:
Meek as the poorest Publican is he,
And strict as lives the straitest Pharisee;
Of both, in him unite the better part,
The blameless conduct and the humble heart.
Yet he escapes not; he, with some, is wise
In carnal things, and loves to moralize:
Others can doubt if all that Christian care
Has not its price--there's something he may share:
But this and ill severer he sustains,
As gold the fire, and as unhurt remains;
When most reviled, although he feels the smart,
It wakes to nobler deeds the wounded heart,
As the rich olive, beaten for its fruit,
Puts forth at every bruise a bearing shoot.
A second friend we have, whose care and zeal
But few can equal--few indeed can feel;
He lived a life obscure, and profits made
In the coarse habits of a vulgar trade.
His brother, master of a hoy, he loved
So well, that he the calling disapproved:
'Alas! poor Tom!' the landman oft would sigh
When the gale freshen'd and the waves ran high;
And when they parted, with a tear he'd say,
'No more adventure!--here in safety stay.'
Nor did he feign; with more than half he had
He would have kept the seaman, and been glad.
Alas! how few resist, when strongly tried -
A rich relation's nearer kinsman died;
He sicken'd, and to him the landman went,
And all his hours with cousin Ephraim spent.
This Thomas heard, and cared not: 'I,' quoth he,
'Have one in port upon the watch for me.'
So Ephraim died, and when the will was shown,
Isaac, the landman, had the whole his own:
Who to his brother sent a moderate purse,
Which he return'd in anger, with his curse;
Then went to sea, and made his grog so strong,
He died before he could forgive the wrong.
The rich man built a house, both large and high,
He enter'd in and set him down to sigh;
He planted ample woods and gardens fair,
And walk'd with anguish and compunction there:
The rich man's pines, to every friend a treat,
He saw with pain, and he refused to eat;
His daintiest food, his richest wines, were all
Turn'd by remorse to vinegar and gall:
The softest down by living body press'd,
The rich man bought, and tried to take his rest;
But care had thorns upon his pillow spread,
And scatter'd sand and nettles in his bed:
Nervous he grew,--would often sigh and groan,
He talk'd but little, and he walk'd alone;
Till by his priest convinced, that from one deed
Of genuine love would joy and health proceed,
He from that time with care and zeal began
To seek and soothe the grievous ills of man;
And as his hands their aid to grief apply,
He learns to smile and he forgets to sigh.
Now he can drink his wine and taste his food,
And feel the blessings Heav'n has dealt are good;
And, since the suffering seek the rich man's door,
He sleeps as soundly as when young and poor.
Here much he gives--is urgent more to gain;
He begs--rich beggars seldom sue in vain:
Preachers most famed he moves, the crowd to move,
And never wearies in the work of love:
He rules all business, settles all affairs;
He makes collections, he directs repairs;
And if he wrong'd one brother,--Heav'n forgive
The man by whom so many brethren live.
Then, 'mid our Signatures, a name appears,
Of one for wisdom famed above his years;
And these were forty: he was from his youth
A patient searcher after useful truth:
To language little of his time he gave,
To science less, nor was the Muse's slave;
Sober and grave, his college sent him down,
A fair example for his native town.
Slowly he speaks, and with such solemn air,
You'd thing a Socrates or Solon there;
For though a Christian, he's disposed to draw
His rules from reason's and from nature's law.
'Know,' he exclaims, 'my fellow mortals, know,
Virtue alone is happiness below;
And what is virtue? prudence first to choose
Life's real good,--the evil to refuse;
Add justice then, the eager hand to hold,
To curb the lust of power and thirst of gold;
Join temp'rance next, that cheerful health ensures.
And fortitude unmoved, that conquers or endures.'
He speaks, and lo!--the very man you see,
Prudent and temperate, just and patient he,
By prudence taught his worldly wealth to keep,
No folly wastes, no avarice swells the heap:
He no man's debtor, no man's patron lives;
Save sound advice, he neither asks nor gives;
By no vain thoughts or erring fancy sway'd,
His words are weighty, or at least are weigh'd;
Temp'rate in every place--abroad, at home,
Thence will applause, and hence will profit come
And health from either--he in time prepares
For sickness, age, and their attendant cares,
But not for fancy's ills;--he never grieves
For love that wounds or friendship that deceives.
His patient soul endures what Heav'n ordains,
But neither feels nor fears ideal pains.
'Is aught then wanted in a man so wise?' -
Alas!--I think he wants infirmities;
He wants the ties that knit us to our kind -
The cheerful, tender, soft, complacent mind.
That would the feelings, which he dreads, excite,
And make the virtues he approves delight;
What dying martyrs, saints, and patriots feel,
The strength of action and the warmth of zeal.
Again attend!--and see a man whose cares
Are nicely placed on either world's affairs, -
Merchant and saint; 'tis doubtful if he knows
To which account he most regard bestows;
Of both he keeps his ledger: --there he reads
Of gainful ventures and of godly deeds;
There all he gets or loses find a place,
A lucky bargain and a lack of grace.
The joys above this prudent man invite
To pay his tax--devotion!--day and night;
The pains of hell his timid bosom awe,
And force obedience to the church's law:
Hence that continual thought,--that solemn air,
Those sad good works, and that laborious prayer.
All these (when conscience, waken'd and afraid,
To think how avarice calls and is obey'd)
He in his journal finds, and for his grief
Obtains the transient opium of relief.
'Sink not, my soul!--my spirit, rise and look
O'er the fair entries of this precious book:
Here are the sins, our debts;--this fairer side
Has what to carnal wish our strenetb denied;
Has those religious duties every day
Paid,--which so few upon the Sabbath pay;
Here too are conquests over frail desires,
Attendance due on all the church requires;
Then alms I give--for I believe the word
Of holy writ, and lend unto the Lord,
And if not all th' importunate demand,
The fear of want restrains my ready hand:
- Behold! what sums I to the poor resign,
Sums placed in Heaven's own book, as well as mine:
Rest then, my spirit!--fastings, prayers, and alms,
Will soon suppress these idly-raised alarms,
And weigh'd against our frailties, set in view
A noble balance in our favour due:
Add that I yearly here affix my name,
Pledge for large payment--not from love of fame,
But to make peace within;--that peace to make,
'What sums I lavish! and what gains forsake!
Cheer up, my heart! let's cast off every doubt,
Pray without dread, and place our money out.'
Such the religion of a mind that steers
Its way to bliss, between its hopes and fears;
Whose passions in due bounds each other keep,
And thus subdued, they murmur till they sleep;
Whose virtues all their certain limits know,
Like well-dried herbs that neither fade nor grow;
Who for success and safety ever tries,
And with both worlds alternately complies.
Such are the Guardians of this bless'd estate,
Whate'er without, they're praised within the gate;
That they are men, and have their faults, is true;
But here their worth alone appears in view:
The Muse indeed, who reads the very breast,
Has something of the secrets there express'd,
But yet in charity;--and when she sees
Such means for joy or comfort, health or ease,
And knows how much united minds effect,
She almost dreads their failings to detect;
But Truth commands: --in man's erroneous kind,
Virtues and frailties mingle in the mind,
Happy!--when fears to public spirit move,
And even vices do the work of love.
The Cock And The Fox: Or, The Tale Of The Nun's Priest
There lived, as authors tell, in days of yore,
A widow, somewhat old, and very poor;
Deep in a dale her cottage lonely stood,
Well thatched, and under covert of a wood.
This dowager, on whom my tale I found,
Since last she laid her husband in the ground,
A simple sober life, in patience led,
And had but just enough to buy her bread;
But huswifing the little Heaven had lent,
She duly paid a groat for quarter rent;
And pinched her belly, with her daughters two,
To bring the year about with much ado.
The cattle in her homestead were three sows,
An ewe called Mally, and three brinded cows.
Her parlour window stuck with herbs around,
Of savoury smell; and rushes strewed the ground.
A maple-dresser in her hall she had,
On which full many a slender meal she made,
For no delicious morsel passed her throat;
According to her cloth she cut her coat;
No poignant sauce she knew, nor costly treat,
Her hunger gave a relish to her meat.
A sparing diet did her health assure;
Or sick, a pepper posset was her cure.
Before the day was done, her work she sped,
And never went by candle light to bed.
With exercise she sweat ill humours out;
Her dancing was not hindered by the gout.
Her poverty was glad, her heart content,
Nor knew she what the spleen or vapours meant.
Of wine she never tasted through the year,
But white and black was all her homely cheer;
Brown bread and milk,(but first she skimmed her bowls)
And rashers of singed bacon on the coals.
On holy days an egg, or two at most;
But her ambition never reached to roast.
A yard she had with pales enclosed about,
Some high, some low, and a dry ditch without.
Within this homestead lived, without a peer,
For crowing loud, the noble Chanticleer;
So hight her cock, whose singing did surpass
The merry notes of organs at the mass.
More certain was the crowing of the cock
To number hours, than is an abbey-clock;
And sooner than the matin-bell was rung,
He clapped his wings upon his roost, and sung:
For when degrees fifteen ascended right,
By sure instinct he knew ’twas one at night.
High was his comb, and coral-red withal,
In dents embattled like a castle wall;
His bill was raven-black, and shone like jet;
Blue were his legs, and orient were his feet;
White were his nails, like silver to behold,
His body glittering like the burnished gold
This gentle cock, for solace of his life,
Six misses had, besides his lawful wife;
Scandal, that spares no king, though ne’er so good,
Says, they were all of his own flesh and blood,
His sisters both by sire and mother’s side;
And sure their likeness showed them near allied.
But make the worst, the monarch did no more,
Than all the Ptolemys had done before:
When incest is for interest of a nation,
’Tis made no sin by holy dispensation.
Some lines have been maintained by this alone,
Which by their common ugliness are known.
But passing this as from our tale apart,
Dame Partlet was the sovereign of his heart:
Ardent in love, outrageous in his play,
He feathered her a hundred times a day;
And she, that was not only passing fair,
But was withal discreet, and debonair,
Resolved the passive doctrine to fulfil,
Though loath, and let him work his wicked will:
At board and bed was affable and kind,
According as their marriage-vow did bind,
And as the Church’s precept had enjoined.
Even since she was a se’nnight old, they say,
Was chaste and humble to her dying day,
Nor chick nor hen was known to disobey.
By this her husband’s heart she did obtain;
What cannot beauty, joined with virtue, gain!
She was his only joy, and he her pride,
She, when he walked, went pecking by his side;
If, spurning up the ground, he sprung a corn,
The tribute in his bill to her was borne.
But oh! what joy it was to hear him sing
In summer, when the day began to spring,
Stretching his neck, and warbling in his throat,
Solus cum sola, then was all his note.
For in the days of yore, the birds of parts
Were bred to speak, and sing, and learn the liberal arts.
It happed that perching on the parlour-beam
Amidst his wives, he had a deadly dream,
Just at the dawn; and sighed and groaned so fast,
As every breath he drew would be his last.
Dame Partlet, ever nearest to his side,
Heard all his piteous moan, and how he cried
For help from gods and men; and sore aghast
She pecked and pulled, and wakened him at last.
‘Dear heart,’ said she, ‘for love of Heaven declare
Your pain, and make me partner in your care.
You groan, sir, ever since the morning light,
As something had disturbed your noble sprite.’
‘And, madam, well I might,’ said Chanticleer,
Never was shrovetide-cock in such a fear.
Even still I run all over in a sweat,
My princely senses not recovered yet.
For such a dream I had of dire portent,
That much I fear my body will be shent;
It bodes I shall have wars and woeful strife,
Or in a loathsome dungeon end my life.
Know, dame, I dreamt within my troubled breast,
That in our yard I saw a murderous beast,
That on my body would have made arrest.
With waking eyes I ne’er beheld his fellow;
His colour was betwixt a red and yellow:
Tipped was his tail, and both his pricking ears
Were black; and much unlike his other hairs:
The rest, in shape a beagle’s whelp throughout,
With broader forehead, and a sharper snout.
Deep in his front were sunk his glowing eyes,
That yet, methinks, I see him with surprise.
Reach out your hand, I drop with clammy sweat,
And lay it to my heart, and feel it beat.’
‘Now fie for shame,’ quoth she, ‘by Heaven above,
Thou hast for ever lost thy lady’s love.
No woman can endure a recreant knight;
He must be bold by day, and free by night:
Our sex desires a husband or a friend,
Who can our honour and his own defend;
Wise, hardy, secret, liberal of his purse;
A fool is nauseous, but a coward worse:
No bragging coxcomb, yet no baffled knight.
How darest thou talk of love, and darest not fight?
How darest thou tell thy dame thou art affeared;
Hast thou no manly heart, and hast a beard?
‘If aught from fearful dreams may be divined,
They signify a cock of dunghill kind.
All dreams, as in old Galen I have read,
Are from repletion and complexion bred;
From rising fumes of indigested food,
And noxious humours that infect the blood:
And sure, my lord, if I can read aright,
These foolish fancies, you have had to-night,
Are certain symptoms (in the canting style)
Of boiling choler, and abounding bile;
This yellow gall that in your stomach floats,
Engenders all these visionary thoughts.
When choler overflows, then dreams are bred
Of flames, and all the family of red;
Red dragons, and red beasts, in sleep we view,
For humours are distinguished by their hue.
From hence we dream of wars and warlike things,
And wasps and hornets with their double wings.
‘Choler adust congeals our blood with fear,
Then black bulls toss us, and black devils tear.
In sanguine airy dreams aloft we bound;
With rheums oppressed, we sink in rivers drowned.
‘More I could say, but thus conclude my theme,
The dominating humour makes the dream.
Cato was in his time accounted wise,
And he condemns them all for empty lies.
Take my advice, and when we fly to ground,
With laxatives preserve your body sound,
And purge the peccant humours that abound.
I should be loath to lay you on a bier;
And though there lives no ’pothecary near,
I dare for once prescribe for your disease,
And save long bills, and a damned doctor’s fees.
‘Two sovereign herbs, which I by practice know,
And both at hand, (for in our yard they grow,)
On peril of my soul shall rid you wholly
Of yellow choler, and of melancholy:
You must both purge and vomit; but obey,
And for the love of Heaven make no delay.
Since hot and dry in your complexion join,
Beware the sun when in a vernal sign;
For when he mounts exalted in the Ram,
If then he finds your body in a flame,
Replete with choler, I dare lay a groat,
A tertian ague is at least your lot.
Perhaps a fever (which the gods forfend)
May bring your youth to some untimely end:
And therefore, sir, as you desire to live,
A day or two before your laxative,
Take just three worms, nor under nor above,
Because the gods unequal numbers love,
These digestives prepare you for your purge;
Of fumetery, centaury, and spurge,
And of ground-ivy add a leaf, or two,
All which within our yard or garden grow.
Eat these, and be, my lord, of better cheer;
Your father’s son was never born to fear.’
‘Madam,’ quoth he, ‘gramercy for your care,
But Cato, whom you quoted, you may spare;
’Tis true, a wise and worthy man he seems,
And (as you say) gave no belief to dreams;
But other men of more authority,
And, by the immortal powers, as wise as he,
Maintain, with sounder sense, that dreams forbode;
For Homer plainly says they come from God.
Nor Cato said it; but some modern fool
Imposed in Cato’s name on boys at school.
‘Believe me, madam, morning dreams foreshow
The events of things, and future weal or woe:
Some truths are not by reason to be tried,
But we have sure experience for our guide.
An ancient author, equal with the best,
Relates this tale of dreams among the rest.
‘Two friends or brothers, with devout intent,
On some far pilgrimage together went.
It happened so, that, when the sun was down,
They just arrived by twilight at a town;
That day had been the baiting of a bull,
’Twas at a feast, and every inn so full,
That at void room in chamber, or on ground,
And but one sorry bed was to be found;
And that so little it would hold but one,
Though till this hour they never lay alone.
‘So were they forced to part; one stayed behind,
His fellow sought what lodging he could find;
At last he found a stall where oxen stood,
And that he rather choose than lie abroad.
’Twas in a farther yard without a door;
But, for his ease, well littered was the floor.
‘His fellow, who the narrow bed had kept,
Was weary, and without a rocker slept:
Supine he snored; but in the dead of night,
He dreamt his friend appeared before his sight,
Who, with a ghastly look and doleful cry,
Said, ‘Help me, brother, or this night I die:
Arise, and help, before all help be vain,
Or in an ox’s stall I shall be slain.’
‘Roused from his rest, he wakened in a start,
Shivering with horror, and with aching heart;
At length to cure himself by reason tries;
’Tis but a dream, and what are dreams but lies?
So thinking changed his side, and closed his eyes.
His dream returns; his friend appears again:
‘The murderers come, now help, or I am slain:’
’Twas but a vision still, and visions are but vain.
‘He dreamt the third: but now his friend appeared
Pale, naked, pierced with wounds, with blood besmeared:
‘Thrice warned, awake,’ said he; ‘relief is late,
The deed is done; but thou revenge my fate:
Tardy of aid, unseal thy heavy eyes,
Awake, and with the dawning day arise:
Take to the western gate thy ready way,
For by that passage they my corpse convey
My corpse is in a tumbril laid, among
The filth, and ordure, and inclosed with dung.
That cart arrest, and raise a common cry;
For sacred hunger of my gold, I die:’
Then showed his grisly wounds; and last he drew
A piteous sigh; and took a long adieu.
‘The frighted friend arose by break of day,
And found the stall where late his fellow lay.
Then of his impious host inquiring more,
Was answered that his guest was gone before:
‘Muttering he went,’ said he, ‘by morning light,
And much complained of his ill rest by night.’
This raised suspicion in the pilgrim’s mind;
Because all hosts are of an evil kind,
And oft to share the spoil with robbers joined.
‘His dream confirmed his thought: with troubled look
Straight to the western gate his way he took;
There, as his dream foretold, a cart he found,
That carried composs forth to dung the ground.
This when the pilgrim saw, he stretched his throat,
And cried out ‘Murder’ with a yelling note.
‘My murdered fellow in this cart lies dead;
Vengeance and justice on the villain’s head!
You, magistrates, who sacred laws dispense,
On you I call to punish this offence.’
‘The word thus given, within a little space,
The mob came roaring out, and thronged the place.
All in a trice they cast the cart to ground,
And in the dung the murdered body found;
Though breathless, warm, and reeking from the wound.
Good Heaven, whose darling attribute we find,
Is boundless grace, and mercy to mankind,
Abhors the cruel; and the deeds of night
By wondrous ways reveals in open light:
Murder may pass unpunished for a time,
But tardy justice will o’ertake the crime.
And oft a speedier pain the guilty feels,
The hue and cry of Heaven pursues him at the heels,
Fresh from the fact; as in the present case,
The criminals are seized upon the place:
Carter and host confronted face to face.
Stiff in denial, as the law appoints,
On engines they distend their tortured joints:
So was confession forced, the offence was known.
And public justice on the offenders done.
‘Here may you see that visions are to dread;
And in the page that follows this, I read
Of two young merchants, whom the hope of gain
Induced in partnership to cross the main;
Waiting till willing winds their sails supplied,
Within a trading town they long abide,
Full fairly situate on a haven’s side.
‘One evening it befel, that looking out,
The wind they long had wished was come about;
Well pleased they went to rest; and if the gale
Till morn continued, both resolved to sail.
But as together in a bed they lay,
The younger had a dream at break of day.
A man, he thought, stood frowning at his side,
Who warned him for his safety to provide,
Nor put to sea, but safe on shore abide.
‘I come, thy genius, to command thy stay;
Trust not the winds, for fatal is the day,
And death unhoped attends the watery way.'
‘The vision said: and vanished from his sight;
The dreamer wakened in a mortal fright;
Then pulled his drowsy neighbour, and declared
What in his slumber he had seen and heard.
His friend smiled scornful, and, with proud contempt,
Rejects as idle what his fellow dreamt.
‘Stay, who will stay; for me no fears restrain,
Who follow Mercury, the god of gain;
Let each man do as to his fancy seems,
I wait not, I, till you have better dreams.
Dreams are but interludes, which fancy makes;
When monarch reason sleeps, this mimic wakes;
Compounds a medley of disjointed things,
A mob of cobblers, and a court of kings:
Light fumes are merry, grosser fumes are sad;
Both are the reasonable soul run mad;
And many monstrous forms in sleep we see,
That neither were, nor are, nor e’er can be.
Sometimes, forgotten things long cast behind
Rush forward in the brain, and come to mind.
The nurse’s legends are for truths received,
And the man dreams but what the boy believed.
Sometimes we but rehearse a former play,
The night restores our actions done by day,
As hounds in sleep will open for their prey.
In short the farce of dreams is of a piece,
Chimeras all; and more absurd, or less.
You, who believe in tales, abide’ alone;
Whate’er I get this voyage is my own.’
‘Thus while he spoke, he heard the shouting crew
That called aboard, and took his last adieu.
The vessel went before a merry gale,
And for quick passage put on every sail:
But when least feared, and even in open day,
The mischief overtook her in the way:
Whether she sprung a leak, I cannot find,
Or whether she was overset with wind,
Or that some rock below her bottom rent;
But down at once with all her crew she went.
Her fellow-ships from far her loss descried;
But only she was sunk, and all were safe beside.
‘By this example you are taught again,
That dreams and visions are not always vain:
But if, dear Partlet, you are still in doubt,
Another tale shall make the former out.
‘Kenelm, the son of Kenulph, Mercia’s king,
Whose holy life the legends loudly sing,
Warned in a dream, his murder did foretel
From point to point as after it befel;
All circumstances to his nurse he told,
(A wonder from a child of seven years old);
The dream with horror heard, the good old wife
From treason counselled him to guard his life;
But close to keep the secret in his mind,
For a boy’s vision small belief would find.
The pious child, by promise bound, obeyed,
Nor was the fatal murder long delayed:
By Quenda slain, he fell before his time,
Made a young martyr by his sister’s crime.
The tale is told by venerable Bede,
Which, at your better leisure, you may read.
‘Macrobius too relates the vision sent
To the great Scipio, with the famed, event;
Objections makes, but after makes replies,
And adds, that dreams are often prophesies.
‘Of Daniel you may read in holy writ,
Who, when the king his vision did forget,
Could word for word the wondrous dream repeat.
Nor less of patriarch Joseph understand,
Who by a dream, enslaved, the Egyptian land,
The years of plenty and of dearth foretold,
When, for their bread, their liberty they sold.
Nor must the exalted butler be forgot,
Nor he whose dream presaged his hanging lot.
‘And did not Crœsus the same death foresee,
Raised in his vision on a lofty tree?
The wife of Hector, in his utmost pride,
Dreamt of his death the night before he died;
Well was he warned from battle to refrain,
But men to death decreed are warned in vain;
He dared the dream, and by his fatal foe was slain.
‘Much more I know, which I forbear to speak,
For see the ruddy day begins to break:
Let this suffice, that plainly I foresee
My dream was bad, and bodes adversity,
But neither pills nor laxatives I like,
They only serve to make the well-man sick:
Of these his gain the sharp physician makes,
And often gives a purge, but seldom takes;
They not correct, but poison all the blood,
And ne’er did any but the doctors good.
Their tribe, trade, trinkets, I defy them all,
With every work of ’pothecary’s hall.
‘These melancholy matters I forbear;
But let me tell thee, Partlet mine, and swear,
That when I view the beauties of thy face,
I fear not death, nor dangers, nor disgrace;
So may my soul have bliss, as when I spy
The scarlet red about thy partridge eye,
While thou art constant to thy own true knight,
While thou art mine, and I am thy delight,
All sorrows at thy presence take their flight.
For true it is, as in principio,
Mulier est hominis confusio.
Madam, the meaning of this Latin is,
That woman is to man his sovereign bliss.
For when by night I feel your tender side,
Though for the narrow perch I cannot ride,
Yet I have such a solace in my mind,
That all my boding cares are cast behind,
And even already I forget my dream.’
He said, and downward flew from off the beam.
For daylight now began apace to spring,
The thrush to whistle, and the lark to sing.
Then crowing clapped his wings, the appointed call,
To chuck his wives together in the hall.
By this the widow had unbarred the door,
And Chanticleer went strutting out before,
With royal courage, and with heart so light,
As showed he scorned the visions of the night.
Now roaming in the yard, he spurned the ground,
And gave to Partlet the first grain found.
Then often feathered her with wanton play,
And trod her twenty times ere prime of day;
And took by turns and gave so much delight,
Her sisters pined with envy at the sight.
He chucked again, when other corns he found,
And scarcely deigned to set a foot to ground,
But swaggered like a lord about his hall,
And his seven wives came running at his call.
’Twas now the month in which the world began,
(If March beheld the first created man
And since the vernal equinox, the sun,
In Aries twelve degrees, or more had run;
When casting up his eyes against the light,
Both month, and day, and hour, he measured right,
And told more truly than the Ephemeris:
For art may err, but nature cannot miss.
Thus numbering times and seasons in his breast,
His second crowing the third hour confessed.
Then turning, said to Partlet,—‘See, my dear,
How lavish nature has adorned the year;
How the pale primrose and blue violet spring,
And birds essay their throats diffused to sing:
All these are ours; and I with pleasure see
Man strutting on two legs, and aping me:
An unfledged creature of a lumpish frame,
Endowed with fewer particles of flame:
Our dame sits cowering o’er a kitchen fire,
I draw fresh air, and nature’s works admire;
And even this day in more delight abound,
Than, since I was an egg, I ever found.’—
The time shall come when Chanticleer shall wish
His words unsaid, and hate his boasted bliss;
The crested bird shall by experience knew,
Jove made not him his masterpiece below;
And learn the latter end of joy is woe.
The vessel of his bliss to dregs is run,
And Heaven will have him taste his other tun.
Ye wise, draw near, and hearken to my tale,
Which proves that oft the proud by flattery fall;
The legend is as true I undertake
As Tristran is, and Lancelot of the Lake:
Which all our ladies in such reverence hold,
As if in Book of Martyrs it were told.
A Fox full fraught with seeming sanctity,
That feared an oath, but, like the devil, would lie;
Who looked like Lent, and had the holy leer,
And durst not sin before he said his prayer;
This pious cheat, that never sucked the blood,
Nor chewed the flesh of lambs, but when he could;
Had passed three summers in the neighbouring wood:
And musing long, whom next to cirumvent,
On Chanticleer his wicked fancy bent;
And in his high imagination cast,
By stratagem to gratify his taste.
The plot contrived, before the break of day,
Saint Reynard through the hedge had made his way;
The pale was next, but, proudly, with a bound
He leapt the fence of the forbidden ground:
Yet fearing to be seen, within a bed
Of coleworts he concealed his wily head;
Then skulked till afternoon, and watched his time,
(As murderers use) to perpetrate his crime.
O hypocrite, ingenious to destroy!
O traitor, worse than Simon was to Troy!
O vile subverter of the Gallic reign,
More false than Gano was to Charlemagne!
O Chanticleer, in an unhappy hour
Didst thou forsake the safety of thy bower;
Better for thee thou hadst believed thy dream,
And not that day descended from the beam!
But here the doctors eagerly dispute;
Some hold predestination absolute;
Some clerks maintain, that Heaven at first foresees,
And in the virtue of foresight decrees.
If this be so, then prescience binds the will,
And mortals are not free to good or ill;
For what he first foresaw, he must ordain,
Or its enternal prescience may be vain;
As bad for us as prescience had not been;
For first, or last, he’s author of the sin.
And who says that, let the blaspheming man
Say worse even of the devil, if he can.
For how can that Eternal Power be just
To punish man, who sins because he must?
Or, how can He reward a virtuous deed,
Which is not done by us, but first decreed?
I cannot bolt this matter to the bran,
As Bradwardin and holy Austin can:
If prescience can determine actions so,
That we must do, because he did foreknow,
Or that foreknowing, yet our choice is free,
Not forced to sin by strict necessity;
This strict necessity they simple call,
Another sort there is conditional.
The first so binds the will, that things foreknown
By spontaneity, not choice, are done.
Thus galley-slaves tug willing at their oar,
Content to work, in prospect of the shore;
But would not work at all, if not constrained before.
That other does not liberty constrain,
But man may either act, or my refrain.
Heaven made us agents free to good or ill,
And forced it not, though he foresaw the will.
Freedom was first bestowed on human race,
And prescience only held the second place.
If he could make such agents wholly free,
I not dispute; the point’s too high for me:
For Heaven’s unfathomed power what man can sound,
Or pout to his omnipotence a bound?
He made us to his image, all agree;
That image is the soul, and that must be,
Or not the Maker’s image, or be free.
But whether it were better man had been
By nature bound to good, not free to sin,
I waive, for fear of splitting on a rock.
The tale I tell is only of a cock;
Who had not run the hazard of his life,
Had he believed his dream, and not his wife:
For women, which a mischief to their kind,
Pervert, with bad advice, our better mind.
A woman’s counsel brought us first to woe,
And made her man his paradise forego,
Where at heart’s ease he lived; and might have been
As free from sorrow as he was from sin.
For what the devil had their sex to do,
That, born to folly, they presumed to know;
And could not see the serpent in the grass?
But I myself presume, and let it pass.
Silence in times of suffering is the best,
‘Tis dangerous to disturb a hornets’ nest.
In other authors you may find enough,
But all they way of dames is idle stuff.
Legends of lying wits together bound,
The wife of Bath would throw them to the ground;
These are the words of Chanticleer, not mine,
I honour dames, and think their sex divine.
Now to continue what my tale begun;
Lay madam Partlet basking in the sun,
Breast high in sand; her sisters, in a row,
Enjoyed the beams above, the warmth below.
The cock, that of his flesh was ever free,
Sung merrier than the mermaid in the sea;
And so befel, that as he cast his eye
Among the coleworts, on a butterfly,
He saw false Reynard where he lay full low;
I need not swear he had no list to crow;
But cried, cock, cock, and gave a sudden start,
As sore dismayed and frighted at his heart.
For birds and beasts, informed by nature know
Kinds opposite to theirs, and fly their foe.
So Chanticleer, who never was a fox,
Yet shunned him as a sailor shuns the rocks.
But the false loon, who could not work his will
By open force, employed his flattering skill:
‘I hope, my lord,’ said he, ‘I not offend;
Are you afraid of me that am your friend?
I were a beast indeed to do you wrong,
I, who have loved and honoured you so long:
Stay, gentle sir, nor take a false alarm,
For, on my soul, I never meant you harm!
I come no spy, nor as a traitor press,
To learn the secrets of your soft recess:
Far be from Reynard so profane a thought,
But by the sweetness of your voice was brought:
For, as I bid my beads, by chance I heard
The song that would have charmed the infernal gods,
And banished horror from the dark abodes:
Had Orpheus sung it in the nether sphere,
So much the hymn had pleased the tyrant’s ear,
The wife had been detained, to keep the husband there.
‘My lord, your sire familiarly I knew,
A peer deserving such a son as you:
He, with your lady-mother, (whom Heaven rest)
Has often graced my house, and been my guest:
To view his living features does me good,
For I am your poor neighbour in the wood;
And in my cottage should be proud to see
The worthy heir of my friend’s family.
‘But since I speak of signing let me say,
As with un upright heart I safely may,
That, save yourself, there breathes not on the ground
One like your father for a silver-sound.
So sweetly would he wake the winter-day,
That matrons to the church mistook their way,
And thought they heard the merry organ play.
And he to raise his voice with artful care,
(What will not beaux attempt to please the fair?)
On tiptoe stood do sing with greater strength,
And stretched his comely neck at all the length;
And while he strained his voice to pierce the skies,
As saints in raptures, use, would shut his eyes,
That the sound striving through the narrow throat,
His winking might avail to mend the note.
By this, in song, he never had his peer,
From sweet Cecilia down to Chanticleer;
Not Maro’s muse, who sung the mighty man,
Nor Pindar’s heavenly lyre, nor Horace when a swan.
Your ancestors proceed from race divine:
From Brennus and Belinus is your line;
Who gave to sovereign Rome such loud alarms,
That even the priests were not excused from arms,
‘Besides, a famous monk of modern times
Has left of cocks recorded in his rhymes,
That of a parish priest the son and heir,
(When sons of priests were from the proverb clear,)
Affronted once a cock of noble kind,
And either lamed his legs, or strucks him blind;
For which the clerk his father was disgraced,
And in his benefice another placed.
Now sing, my lord, if not for love of me,
Yet for the sake of sweet Saint Charity;
Make hills and dales, and earth and heaven, rejoice,
And emulate your father’s angel-voice.’
The cock was pleased to hear him speak so fair,
And proud beside, as solar people are;
Nor could the treason from the truth descry,
So was he ravished with this flattery:
So much the more, as from a little elf,
He had a high opinion of himself;
Though sickly, slender, and not large of limb,
Concluding all the world was made for him.
Ye princes, raised by poets to the gods,
And Alexandered up in lying odes,
Believe not every flattering knave’s report,
There’s many a Reynard lurking in the court;
And he shall be received with more regard,
And listened to, than modest truth is heard.
This Chanticleer, of whom the story sings,
Stood high upon his toes, and clapped his wings;
Then stretched his neck, and winked with both his eyes,
Ambitious, as he sought the Olympic prize.
But while he pained himself to raise his note,
False Reynard rushed, and caught him by the throat.
Then on his back he laid the precious load,
And sought his wonted shelter of the wood;
Swiftly he made his way, the mischief done,
Of all unheeded, and pursued by none.
Alas! what stay is there in human state,
Or who can shun inevitable fate?
The doom was written, the decree was past,
Ere the foundations of the world were cast!
In Aries though the sun exalted stood,
His patron-planet to procure his good;
Yet Saturn was his mortal foe, and he,
In Libra raised, opposed the same degree:
The rays both good and bad, of equal power,
Each thwarting other, made a mingled hour.
On Friday-morn he dreamt this direful dream,
Cross to the worthy native, in his scheme.
Ah blissful Venus! Goddess of delight!
How couldst thou suffer thy devoted knight,
On thy own day, to fall by foe oppressed,
The wight of all the world who served thee best?
Who true to love, was all for recreation,
And minded not the work of propagation.
Ganfride, who couldst so well in rhyme complain
The death of Richard with an arrow slain,
Why had not I thy muse, or thou my heart,
To sing this heavy dirge with equal art!
That I like thee on Friday might complain;
For on that day was Coeur de Lion slain.
Not louder cries, when Ilium was in flames,
Were sent to Heaven by woeful Trojan dames,
When Pyrrhus tossed on high his burnished blade,
And offered Priam to his father’s shade,
Than for the cock the widowed poultry made.
Fair Partlet first, when he was borne from sight,
With sovereign shrieks bewailed her captive knight:
Far louder than the Carthaginian wife,
When Asdrubal her husband lost his life,
When she beheld the smould’ring flames ascend,
And all the Punic glories at an end:
Willing into the fires she plunged her head,
With greater ease than others seek their bed.
Not more aghast the matrons of renown,
When tyrant Nero burned the imperial town,
Shrieked for the downfal in a doleful cry,
For which their guiltless lords were doomed to die.
Now to my story I return again:
The trembling widow, and her daughters twain,
This woeful cackling cry with horror heard,
Of those distracted damsels in the yard;
And starting up, beheld the heavy sight,
How Reynard to the forest took his flight,
And cross his back, as in triumphant scorn,
The hope and pillar of the house was borne.
‘The fox, the wicked fox,’ was all the cry;
Out from his house ran every neighbour nigh:
The vicar first, and after him the crew,
With forks and staves the felon to pursue.
Ran Coll our dog, and Talbot with the band,
And Malkin, with her distaff in her hand:
Ran cow and calf, and family of hogs,
In panic horror of pursuing dogs;
With many a deadly grunt and doleful squeak,
Poor swine, as if their pretty hearts would break.
The shouts of men, the women in dismay,
With shrieks augment the terror of the day.
The ducks, that heard the proclamation cried,
And feared a persecution might betide,
Full twenty mile from town their voyage take,
Obscure in rushes of the liquid lake.
The geese fly o’er the barn; the bees in arms,
Drive headlong from their waxen cells in swarms.
Jack Straw at London-stone, with all his rout,
Struck not the city with so loud a shout;
Not when with English hate they did pursue
A Frenchman, or an unbelieving Jew;
Not when the welkin rung with ‘one and all;’
And echoes bounded back from Fox’s hall;
Earth seemed to sink beneath, and heaven above to fall.
With might and main they chased the murderous fox,
With brazen trumpets, and inflated box,
To kindle Mars with military sounds,
Nor wanted horns to inspire sagacious hounds.
But see how Fortune can confound the wise,
And when they least expect it, turn the dice.
The captive-cock, who scarce could draw his breath,
And lay within the very jaws of death;
Yet in this agony his fancy wrought,
And fear supplied him with this happy thought:
‘Yours is the prize, victorious prince,’ said he,
‘The vicar my defeat, and all the village see.
Enjoy your friendly fortune while you may,
And bid the churls that envy you the prey
Call back the mongrel curs, and cease their cry:
See, fools, the shelter of the wood is nigh,
And Chanticleer in your despite shall die;
He shall be plucked and eaten to the bone.’
‘Tis well advised, in faith it shall be done;’
This Reynard said: but as the word he spoke,
The prisoner with a spring from prison broke;
Then stretched his feathered fans with all his might,
And to the neighbouring maple winged his flight.
Whom, when the traitor safe on tree beheld,
He cursed the gods, with shame and sorrow filled;
Shame for his folly; sorrow out of time,
For plotting an unprofitable crime:
Yet, mastering both, the artificer of lies
Renews the assault, and his last battery tries.
‘Though I,’ said he, ‘did ne’er in thought offend,
How justly may my lord suspect his friend!
The appearance is against me, I confess,
Who seemingly have put you in distress;
You, if your goodness does not plead my cause,
May think I broke all hospitable laws,
To bear you from your palace-yard by might,
And put your noble person in a fright;
This, since you take it ill, I must repent,
Though Heaven can witness with no bad intent
I practised it, to make you taste your cheer
With double pleasure, first prepared by fear.
So loyal subjects often seize their prince,
Forced (for his good) to seeming violence,
Yet mean his sacred person not the least offence.
Descend; so help me Jove, as you shall find,
That Reynard comes of no dissembling kind.’
‘Nay,’ quoth the cock; ‘but I beshrew us both,
If I believe a saint upon his oath:
An honest man may take a knave’s advice,
But idiots only may be cozened twice:
Once warned is well bewared; not flattering lies
Shall soothe me more to sing with winking eyes,
And open mouth, for fear of catching flies.
Who blindfold walks upon a river’s brim,
When he should see, has he deserved to swim!’
‘Better, sir Cock, let all contention cease,
Come down,’ said Reynard, ‘let us treat of peace.’
‘A peace with all my soul,’ said Chanticleer,
‘But, with your favour, I will treat it here:
And lest the truce with treason should be mixed,
’Tis my concern to have the tree betwixt.'
In this plain fable you the effect may see
Of negligence, and fond credulity:
And learn besides of flatterers to beware,
Then most pernicious when they speak too fair.
The cock and fox, the fool and knave imply;
The truth is moral, though the tale a lie.
Who spoke in parables, I dare not say;
But sure he knew it was a pleasing way,
Sound sense, by plain example, to convey.
And in a heathen author we may find,
That pleasure with instruction should be joined;
So take the corn, and leave the chaff behind.
XII. The Book and the Ring
Here were the end, had anything an end:
Thus, lit and launched, up and up roared and soared
A rocket, till the key o' the vault was reached,
And wide heaven held, a breathless minute-space,
In brilliant usurpature: thus caught spark,
Rushed to the height, and hung at full of fame
Over men's upturned faces, ghastly thence,
Our glaring Guido: now decline must be.
In its explosion, you have seen his act,
By my power—may-be, judged it by your own,—
Or composite as good orbs prove, or crammed
With worse ingredients than the Wormwood Star.
The act, over and ended, falls and fades:
What was once seen, grows what is now described,
Then talked of, told about, a tinge the less
In every fresh transmission; till it melts,
Trickles in silent orange or wan grey
Across our memory, dies and leaves all dark,
And presently we find the stars again.
Follow the main streaks, meditate the mode
Of brightness, how it hastes to blend with black!
After that February Twenty-Two,
Since our salvation, Sixteen-Ninety-Eight,
Of all reports that were, or may have been,
Concerning those the day killed or let live,
Four I count only. Take the first that comes.
A letter from a stranger, man of rank,
Venetian visitor at Rome,—who knows,
On what pretence of busy idleness?
Thus he begins on evening of that day.
"Here are we at our end of Carnival;
"Prodigious gaiety and monstrous mirth,
"And constant shift of entertaining show:
"With influx, from each quarter of the globe,
"Of strangers nowise wishful to be last
"I' the struggle for a good place presently
"When that befalls fate cannot long defer.
"The old Pope totters on the verge o' the grave:
"You see, Malpichi understood far more
"Than Tozzi how to treat the ailments: age,
"No question, renders these inveterate.
"Cardinal Spada, actual Minister,
"Is possible Pope; I wager on his head,
"Since those four entertainments of his niece
"Which set all Rome a-stare: Pope probably—
"Though Colloredo has his backers too,
"And San Cesario makes one doubt at times:
"Altieri will be Chamberlain at most.
"A week ago the sun was warm like May,
"And the old man took daily exercise
"Along the river-side; he loves to see
"That Custom-house he built upon the bank,
"For, Naples born, his tastes are maritime:
"But yesterday he had to keep in-doors
"Because of the outrageous rain that fell.
"On such days the good soul has fainting-fits,
"Or lies in stupor, scarcely makes believe
"Of minding business, fumbles at his beads.
"They say, the trust that keeps his heart alive
"Is that, by lasting till December next,
"He may hold Jubilee a second time,
"And, twice in one reign, ope the Holy Doors.
"By the way, somebody responsible
"Assures me that the King of France has writ
"Fresh orders: Fénelon will be condemned:
"The Cardinal makes a wry face enough,
"Having a love for the delinquent: still,
"He's the ambassador, must press the point.
"Have you a wager too, dependent here?
"Now, from such matters to divert awhile,
"Hear of to-day's event which crowns the week,
"Casts all the other wagers into shade.
"Tell Dandolo I owe him fifty drops
"Of heart's blood in the shape of gold zecchines!
"The Pope has done his worst: I have to pay
"For the execution of the Count, by Jove!
"Two days since, I reported him as safe,
"Re-echoing the conviction of all Rome:
"Who could suspect its one deaf ear—the Pope's?
"But prejudices grow insuperable,
"And that old enmity to Austria, that
"Passion for France and France's pageant-king
"(Of which, why pause to multiply the proofs
"Now scandalously rife in Europe's mouth?)
"These fairly got the better in our man
"Of justice, prudence, and esprit de corps,
"And he persisted in the butchery.
"Also, 't is said that in his latest walk
"To that Dogana-by-the-Bank he built,
"The crowd,—he suffers question, unrebuked,—
"Asked, 'Whether murder was a privilege
"'Only reserved for nobles like the Count?'
"And he was ever mindful of the mob.
"Martinez, the Cæsarian Minister,
"—Who used his best endeavours to spare blood,
"And strongly pleaded for the life 'of one,'
"Urged he, 'I may have dined at table with!'—
"He will not soon forget the Pope's rebuff,
"—Feels the slight sensibly, I promise you!
"And but for the dissuasion of two eyes
"That make with him foul weather or fine day,
"He had abstained, nor graced the spectacle:
"As it was, barely would he condescend
"Look forth from the palchetto where he sat
"Under the Pincian: we shall hear of this.
"The substituting, too, the People's Square
"For the out-o'-the-way old quarter by the Bridge,
"Was meant as a conciliatory sop
"To the mob; it gave one holiday the more.
"But the French Embassy might unfurl flag,—
"Still the good luck of France to fling a foe!
"Cardinal Bouillon triumphs properly.
"Palchetti were erected in the Place,
"And houses, at the edge of the Three Streets,
"Let their front windows at six dollars each:
"Anguisciola, that patron of the arts,
"Hired one; our Envoy Contarini too.
"Now for the thing; no sooner the decree
"Gone forth,—'t is four-and-twenty hours ago,—
"Than Acciaiuoli and Panciatichi,
"Old friends, indeed compatriots of the man,
"Being pitched on as the couple properest
"To intimate the sentence yesternight,
"Were closeted ere cock-crow with the Count.
"They both report their efforts to dispose
"The unhappy nobleman for ending well,
"Despite the natural sense of injury,
"Were crowned at last with a complete success.
"And when the Company of Death arrived
"At twenty-hours,—the way they reckon here,—
"We say, at sunset, after dinner-time,—
"The Count was led down, hoisted up on car,
"Last of the five, as heinousest, you know:
"Yet they allowed one whole car to each man.
"His intrepidity, nay, nonchalance,
"As up he stood and down he sat himself,
"Struck admiration into those who saw.
"Then the procession started, took the way
"From the New Prisons by the Pilgrim's Street,
"The street of the Governo, Pasquin's Street,
"(Where was stuck up, mid other epigrams,
"A quatrain … but of all that, presently!)
"The Place Navona, the Pantheon's Place,
"Place of the Column, last the Corso's length,
"And so debouched thence at Mannaia's foot
"I' the Place o' the People. As is evident,
"(Despite the malice,—plainly meant, I fear,
"By this abrupt change of locality,—
"The Square's no such bad place to head and hang)
"We had the titillation as we sat
"Assembled, (quality in conclave, ha?)
"Of, minute after minute, some report
"How the slow show was winding on its way
"Now did a car run over, kill a man,
"Just opposite a pork-shop numbered Twelve:
"And bitter were the outcries of the mob
"Against the Pope: for, but that he forbids
"The Lottery, why, Twelve were Tern Quatern!
"Now did a beggar by Saint Agnes, lame
"From his youth up, recover use of leg,
"Through prayer of Guido as he glanced that way:
"So that the crowd near crammed his hat with coin.
"Thus was kept up excitement to the last,
"—Not an abrupt out-bolting, as of yore,
"From Castle, over Bridge and on to block,
"And so all ended ere you well could wink!
"To mount the scaffold-steps, Guido was last
"Here also, as atrociousest in crime.
"We hardly noticed how the peasants died,
"They dangled somehow soon to right and left,
"And we remained all ears and eyes, could give
"Ourselves to Guido undividedly,
"As he harangued the multitude beneath.
"He begged forgiveness on the part of God,
"And fair construction of his act from men,
"Whose suffrage he entreated for his soul,
"Suggesting that we should forthwith repeat
"A Pater and an Ave, with the hymn
"Salve Regina Coeli, for his sake.
"Which said, he turned to the confessor, crossed
"And reconciled himself, with decency,
"Oft glancing at Saint Mary's opposite,
"Where they possess, and showed in shrine to-day,
"The blessed Umbilicus of our Lord,
"(A relic 't is believed no other church
"In Rome can boast of)—then rose up, as brisk
"Knelt down again, bent head, adapted neck,
"And, with the name of Jesus on his lips,
"Received the fatal blow.
"The headsman showed
"The head to the populace. Must I avouch
"We strangers own to disappointment here?
"Report pronounced him fully six feet high,
"Youngish, considering his fifty years,
"And, if not handsome, dignified at least.
"Indeed, it was no face to please a wife!
"His friends say, this was caused by the costume:
"He wore the dress he did the murder in,
"That is, a just-a-corps of russet serge,
"Black camisole, coarse cloak of baracan
"(So they style here the garb of goat's-hair cloth)
"White hat and cotton cap beneath, poor Count
"Preservative against the evening dews
"During the journey from Arezzo. Well,
"So died the man, and so his end was peace;
"Whence many a moral were to meditate.
"Spada,—you may bet Dandolo,—is Pope!
"Now for the quatrain!"
No, friend, this will do!
You've sputtered into sparks. What streak comes next?
A letter: Don Giacinto Arcangeli,
Doctor and Proctor, him I made you mark
Buckle to business in his study late,
The virtuous sire, the valiant for the truth,
Acquaints his correspondent,—Florentine,
By name Cencini, advocate as well,
Socius and brother-in-the-devil to match,—
A friend of Franceschini, anyhow,
And knit up with the bowels of the case,—
Acquaints him, (in this paper that I touch)
How their joint effort to obtain reprieve
For Guido had so nearly nicked the nine
And ninety and one over,—folk would say
At Tarocs,—or succeeded,—in our phrase.
To this Cencini's care I owe the Book,
The yellow thing I take and toss once more,—
How will it be, my four-years'-intimate,
When thou and I part company anon?—
'T was he, the "whole position of the case,"
Pleading and summary, were put before;
Discreetly in my Book he bound them all,
Adding some three epistles to the point.
Here is the first of these, part fresh as penned,
The sand, that dried the ink, not rubbed away,
Though penned the day whereof it tells the deed:
Part—extant just as plainly, you know where,
Whence came the other stuff, went, you know how,
To make the Ring that's all but round and done.
"Late they arrived, too late, egregious Sir,
"Those same justificative points you urge
"Might benefit His Blessed Memory
"Count Guido Franceschini now with God:
"Since the Court,—to state things succinctly,—styled
"The Congregation of the Governor,
"Having resolved on Tuesday last our cause
"I' the guilty sense, with death for punishment,
"Spite of all pleas by me deducible
"In favour of said Blessed Memory,—
"I, with expenditure of pains enough,
"Obtained a respite, leave to claim and prove
"Exemption from the law's award,—alleged
"The power and privilege o' the Clericate:
"To which effect a courier was despatched.
"But ere an answer from Arezzo came,
"The Holiness of our Lord the Pope (prepare!)
"Judging it inexpedient to postpone
"The execution of such sentence passed,
"Saw fit, by his particular cheirograph,
"To derogate, dispense with privilege,
"And wink at any hurt accruing thence
"To Mother Church through damage of her son:
"Also, to overpass and set aside
"That other plea on score of tender age,
"Put forth by me to do Pasquini good,
"One of the four in trouble with our friend.
"So that all five, to-day, have suffered death
"With no distinction save in dying,—he,
"Decollate by mere due of privilege,
"The rest hanged decently and in order. Thus
"Came the Count to his end of gallant man,
"Defunct in faith and exemplarity:
"Nor shall the shield of his great House lose shine
"Thereby, nor its blue banner blush to red.
"This, too, should yield sustainment to our hearts—
"He had commiseration and respect
"In his decease from universal Rome,
"Quantum est hominum venustiorum,
"The nice and cultivated everywhere:
"Though, in respect of me his advocate,
"Needs must I groan o'er my debility,
"Attribute the untoward event o' the strife
"To nothing but my own crass ignorance
"Which failed to set the valid reasons forth,
"Find fit excuse: such is the fate of war!
"May God compensate us the direful blow
"By future blessings on his family,
"Whereof I lowly beg the next commands;
"—Whereto, as humbly, I confirm myself…"
And so forth,—follow name and place and date.
On next leaf—
"There, old fox, show the clients t' other side
"And keep this corner sacred, I beseech!
"You and your pleas and proofs were what folk call
"Pisan assistance, aid that comes too late,
"Saves a man dead as nail in post of door.
"Had I but time and space for narrative!
"What was the good of twenty Clericates
"When Somebody's thick headpiece once was bent
"On seeing Guido's drop into the bag?
"How these old men like giving youth a push!
"So much the better: next push goes to him,
"And a new Pope begins the century.
"Much good I get by my superb defence!
"But argument is solid and subsists,
"While obstinacy and ineptitude
"Accompany the owner to his tomb—
"What do I care how soon? Beside, folk see!
"Rome will have relished heartily the show,
"Yet understood the motives, never fear,
"Which caused the indecent change o' the People's Place
"To the People's Playground,—stigmatize the spite
"Which in a trice precipitated things!
"As oft the moribund will give a kick
"To show they are not absolutely dead,
"So feebleness i' the socket shoots its last,
"A spirt of violence for energy!
"But thou, Cencini, brother of my breast,
"O fox whose home is 'mid the tender grape,
"Whose couch in Tuscany by Themis' throne,
"Subject to no such … best I shut my mouth
"Or only open it again to say,
"This pother and confusion fairly laid,
"My hands are empty and my satchel lank.
"Now then for both the Matrimonial Cause
"And the Case of Gomez! Serve them hot and hot!
"Reliqua differamus in crastinum!
"The impatient estafette cracks whip outside:
"Still, though the earth should swallow him who swears
"And me who make the mischief, in must slip—
"My boy, your godson, fat-chaps Hyacinth,
"Enjoyed the sight while Papa plodded here.
"I promised him, the rogue, a month ago,
"The day his birthday was, of all the days,
"That if I failed to save Count Guido's head,
"Cinuccio should at least go see it chopped
"From trunk—'So, latinize your thanks! quoth I.
"'That I prefer, hoc malim,' raps me out
"The rogue: you notice the subjunctive? Ah!
"Accordingly he sat there, bold in box,
"Proud as the Pope behind the peacock-fans:
"Whereon a certain lady-patroness
"For whom I manage things (my boy in front,
"Her Marquis sat the third in evidence;
"Boys have no eyes nor ears save for the show)
"'This time, Cintino,' was her sportive word,
"When whiz and thump went axe and mowed lay man,
"And folk could fall to the suspended chat,
"'This time, you see, Bottini rules the roast,
"'Nor can Papa with all his eloquence
"'Be reckoned on to help as heretofore!'
"Whereat Cinone pouts; then, sparkishly—
"'Papa knew better than aggrieve his Pope,
"'And baulk him of his grudge against our Count,
"'Else he'd have argued-off Bottini's' . . what?
"'His nose,'—the rogue! well parried of the boy!
"He's long since out of Cæsar (eight years old)
"And as for tripping in Eutropius … well,
"Reason the more that we strain every nerve
"To do him justice, mould a model-mouth,
"A Bartolus-cum-Baldo for next age:
"For that I purse the pieces, work the brain,
"And want both Gomez and the marriage-case,
"Success with which shall plaster aught of pate
"That's broken in me by Bottini's flail,
"And bruise his own, belike, that wags and brags.
"Adverti supplico humiliter
"Quod don't the fungus see, the fop divine
"That one hand drives two horses, left and right?
"With this rein did I rescue from the ditch
"The fortune of our Franceschini, keep
"Unsplashed the credit of a noble House,
"And set the fashionable cause at Rome
"A-prancing till bystanders shouted ware!'
"The other rein's judicious management
"Suffered old Somebody to keep the pace,
"Hobblingly play the roadster: who but he
"Had his opinion, was not led by the nose
"In leash of quibbles strung to look like law!
"You'll soon see,—when I go to pay devoir
"And compliment him on confuting me,—
"If, by a back-swing of the pendulum,
"Grace be not, thick and threefold, consequent.
"'I must decide as I see proper, Don!
"'I'm Pope, I have my inward lights for guide.
"'Had learning been the matter in dispute,
"'Could eloquence avail to gainsay fact,
"'Yours were the victory, be comforted!'
"Cinuzzo will be gainer by it all.
"Quick then with Gomez, hot and hot next case!"
Follows, a letter, takes the other side.
Tall blue-eyed Fisc whose head is capped with cloud,
Doctor Bottini,—to no matter who,
Writes on the Monday two days afterward.
Now shall the honest championship of right,
Crowned with success, enjoy at last, unblamed,
Moderate triumph! Now shall eloquence
Poured forth in fancied floods for virtue's sake,
(The print is sorrowfully dyked and dammed,
But shows where fain the unbridled force would flow,
Finding a channel)—now shall this refresh
The thirsty donor with a drop or two!
Here has been truth at issue with a lie:
Let who gained truth the day have handsome pride
In his own prowess! Eh! What ails the man?
"Well, it is over, ends as I foresaw:
"Easily proved, Pompilia's innocence!
"Catch them entrusting Guido's guilt to me
"Who had, as usual, the plain truth to plead.
"I always knew the clearness of the stream
"Would show the fish so thoroughly, child might prong
"The clumsy monster: with no mud to splash,
"Small credit to lynx-eye and lightning-spear!
"This Guido,—(much sport he contrived to make,
"Who at first twist, preamble of the cord,
"Turned white, told all, like the poltroon he was!)—
"Finished, as you expect, a penitent,
"Fully confessed his crime, and made amends,
"And, edifying Rome last Saturday,
"Died like a saint, poor devil! That's the man
"The gods still give to my antagonist:
"Imagine how Arcangeli claps wing
"And crows! 'Such formidable facts to face,
"'So naked to attack, my client here,
"'And yet I kept a month the Fisc at bay,
"'And in the end had foiled him of the prize
"'By this arch-stroke, this plea of privilege,
"'But that the Pope must gratify his whim,
"'Put in his word, poor old man,—let it pass!'
"—Such is the cue to which all Rome responds.
"What with the plain truth given me to uphold,
"And, should I let truth slip, the Pope at hand
"To pick up, steady her on legs again,
"My office turns a pleasantry indeed!
"Not that the burly boaster did one jot
"O' the little was to do—young Spreti's work!
"But for him,—mannikin and dandiprat,
"Mere candle-end and inch of cleverness
"Stuck on Arcangeli's save-all,—but for him
"The spruce young Spreti, what is bad were worse!
"I looked that Rome should have the natural gird
"At advocate with case that proves itself;
"I knew Arcangeli would grin and brag:
"But what say you to one impertinence
"Might move a stone? That monk, you are to know,
"That barefoot Augustinian whose report
"O' the dying woman's words did detriment
"To my best points it took the freshness from,
"—That meddler preached to purpose yesterday
"At San Lorenzo as a winding-up
"O' the show which proved a treasure to the church.
"Out comes his sermon smoking from the press:
"Its text—'Let God be true, and every man
"'A liar'—and its application, this
"The longest-winded of the paragraphs,
"I straight unstitch, tear out and treat you with:
"'T is piping hot and posts through Rome to-day.
"Remember it, as I engage to do!
"But if you rather be disposed to see
"In the result of the long trial here,—
"This dealing doom to guilt and doling praise
"To innocency,—any proof that truth
"May look for vindication from the world,
"Much will you have misread the signs, I say.
"God, who seems acquiescent in the main
"With those who add 'So will he ever sleep'—
"Flutters their foolishness from time to time,
"Puts forth His right-hand recognizably;
"Even as, to fools who deem He needs must right
"Wrong on the instant, as if earth were heaven,
"He wakes remonstrance—'Passive, Lord, how long?'
"Because Pompilia's purity prevails,
"Conclude you, all truth triumphs in the end?
"So might those old inhabitants of the ark,
"Witnessing haply their dove's safe return,
"Pronounce there was no danger, all the while
"O' the deluge, to the creature's counterparts,
"Aught that beat wing i' the world, was white or soft,—
"And that the lark, the thrush, the culver too,
"Might equally have traversed air, found earth,
"And brought back olive-branch in unharmed bill.
"Methinks I hear the Patriarch's warning voice—
"'Though this one breast, by miracle, return,
"'No wave rolls by, in all the waste, but bears
"'Within it some dead dove-like thing as dear,
"'Beauty made blank and harmlessness destroyed!'
"How many chaste and noble sister-fames
"Wanted the extricating hand, so lie
"Strangled, for one Pompilia proud above
"The welter, plucked from the world's calumny,
"Stupidity, simplicity,—who cares?
"Romans! An elder race possessed your land
"Long ago, and a false faith lingered still,
"As shades do though the morning-star be out.
"Doubtless some pagan of the twilight-day
"Has often pointed to a cavern-mouth
"Obnoxious to beholders, hard by Rome,
"And said,—nor he a bad man, no, nor fool,
"Only a man born blind like all his mates,—
"'Here skulk in safety, lurk, defying law,
"'The devotees to execrable creed,
"'Adoring—with what culture … Jove, avert
"'Thy vengeance from us worshippers of thee!…
"'What rites obscene—their idol-god, an Ass!'
"So went the word forth, so acceptance found,
"So century re-echoed century,
"Cursed the accursed,—and so, from sire to son,
"You Romans cried 'The offscourings of our race
"'Corrupt within the depths there: fitly fiends
"'Perform a temple-service o'er the dead:
"'Child, gather garment round thee, pass nor pry!'
"Thus groaned your generations: till the time
"Grew ripe, and lightning had revealed, belike,—
"Thro' crevice peeped into by curious fear,—
"Some object even fear could recognize
"I' the place of spectres; on the illumined wall,
"To-wit, some nook, tradition talks about,
"Narrow and short, a corpse's length, no more:
"And by it, in the due receptacle,
"The little rude brown lamp of earthenware,
"The cruse, was meant for flowers but now held blood,
"The rough-scratched palm-branch, and the legend left
"Pro Christo. Then the mystery lay clear:
"The abhorred one was a martyr all the time,
"Heaven's saint whereof earth was not worthy. What?
"Do you continue in the old belief?
"Where blackness bides unbroke, must devils brood?
"Is it so certain not another cell
"O' the myriad that make up the catacomb
"Contains some saint a second flash would show?
"Will you ascend into the light of day
"And, having recognized a martyr's shrine,
"Go join the votaries that gape around
"Each vulgar god that awes the market-place?
"Are these the objects of your praising? See!
"In the outstretched right hand of Apollo, there,
"Lies screened a scorpion: housed amid the folds
"Of Juno's mantle lurks a centipede!
"Each statue of a god were fitlier styled
"Demon and devil. Glorify no brass
"That shines like burnished gold in noonday glare,
"For fools! Be otherwise instructed, you!
"And preferably ponder, ere ye judge,
"Each incident of this strange human play
"Privily acted on a theatre
"That seemed secure from every gaze but God's,—
"Till, of a sudden, earthquake laid wall low
"And let the world perceive wild work inside
"And how, in petrifaction of surprise,
"The actors stood,—raised arm and planted foot,—
"Mouth as it made, eye as it evidenced,
"Despairing shriek, triumphant hate,—transfixed,
"Both he who takes and she who yields the life.
"As ye become spectators of this scene,
"Watch obscuration of a pearl-pure fame
"By vapoury films, enwoven circumstance,
"—A soul made weak by its pathetic want
"Of just the first apprenticeship to sin
"Which thenceforth makes the sinning soul secure
"From all foes save itself, souls' truliest foe,—
"Since egg turned snake needs fear no serpentry,—
"As ye behold this web of circumstance
"Deepen the more for every thrill and throe,
"Convulsive effort to disperse the films
"And disenmesh the fame o' the martyr,—mark
"How all those means, the unfriended one pursues,
"To keep the treasure trusted to her breast,
"Each struggle in the flight from death to life,
"How all, by procuration of the powers
"Of darkness, are transformed,—no single ray,
"Shot forth to show and save the inmost star,
"But, passed as through hell's prism, proceeding black
"To the world that hates white: as ye watch, I say,
"Till dusk and such defacement grow eclipse
"By,—marvellous perversity of man!—
"The inadequacy and inaptitude
"Of that self-same machine, that very law
"Man vaunts, devised to dissipate the gloom,
"Rescue the drowning orb from calumny,
"—Hear law, appointed to defend the just,
"Submit, for best defence, that wickedness
"Was bred of flesh and innate with the bone
"Borne by Pompilia's spirit for a space,
"And no mere chance fault, passionate and brief:
"Finally, when ye find,—after this touch
"Of man's protection which intends to mar
"The last pin-point of light and damn the disc,—
"One wave of the hand of God amid the worlds
"Bid vapour vanish, darkness flee away,
"And let the vexed star culminate in peace
"Approachable no more by earthly mist—
"What I call God's hand,—you, perhaps,—mere chance
"Of the true instinct of an old good man
"Who happens to hate darkness and love light,—
"In whom too was the eye that saw, not dim,
"The natural force to do the thing he saw,
"Nowise abated,—both by miracle,—
"All this well pondered,—I demand assent
"To the enunciation of my text
"In face of one proof more that 'God is true
"'And every man a liar'—that who trusts
"To human testimony for a fact
"Gets this sole fact—himself is proved a fool;
"Man's speech being false, if but by consequence
"That only strength is true: while man is weak,
"And, since truth seems reserved for heaven not earth,
"Plagued here by earth's prerogative of lies,
"Should learn to love and long for what, one day,
"Approved by life's probation, he may speak.
"For me, the weary and worn, who haply prompt
"To mirth or pity, as I move the mood,—
"A friar who glides unnoticed to the grave,
"With these bare feet, coarse robe and rope-girt waist,—
"I have long since renounced your world, ye know:
"Yet what forbids I weigh the prize forgone,
"The worldly worth? I dare, as I were dead,
"Disinterestedly judge this and that
"Good ye account good: but God tries the heart.
"Still, if you question me of my content
"At having put each human pleasure by,
"I answer, at the urgency of truth:
"As this world seems, I dare not say I know
"—Apart from Christ's assurance which decides—
"Whether I have not failed to taste much joy.
"For many a doubt will fain perturb my choice—
"Many a dream of life spent otherwise—
"How human love, in varied shapes, might work
"As glory, or as rapture, or as grace:
"How conversancy with the books that teach,
"The arts that help,—how, to grow good and great,
"Rather than simply good, and bring thereby
"Goodness to breathe and live, nor, born i' the brain,
"Die there,—how these and many another gift
"Of life are precious though abjured by me.
"But, for one prize, best meed of mightiest man,
"Arch-object of ambition,—earthly praise,
"Repute o' the world, the flourish of loud trump,
"The softer social fluting,—Oh, for these,
"—No, my friends! Fame,—that bubble which, world-wide
"Each blows and bids his neighbour lend a breath,
"That so he haply may behold thereon
"One more enlarged distorted false fool's-face,
"Until some glassy nothing grown as big
"Send by a touch the imperishable to suds,—
"No, in renouncing fame, my loss was light,
"Choosing obscurity, my chance was well!"
Didst ever touch such ampollosity
As the monk's own bubble, let alone its spite?
What's his speech for, but just the fame he flouts?
How he dares reprehend both high and low,
Nor stoops to turn the sentence "God is true
"And every man a liar—save the Pope
"Happily reigning—my respects to him!"
And so round off the period. Molinism
Simple and pure! To what pitch get we next?
I find that, for first pleasant consequence,
Gomez, who had intended to appeal
From the absurd decision of the Court,
Declines, though plain enough his privilege,
To call on help from lawyers any more—
Resolves earth's liars may possess the world,
Till God have had sufficiency of both:
So may I whistle for my job and fee!
But, for this virulent and rabid monk,—
If law be an inadequate machine,
And advocacy, froth and impotence,
We shall soon see, my blatant brother! That's
Exactly what I hope to show your sort!
For, by a veritable piece of luck,
The providence, you monks round period with,
All may be gloriously retrieved. Perpend!
That Monastery of the Convertites
Whereto the Court consigned Pompilia first,
—Observe, if convertite, why, sinner then,
Or what's the pertinency of award?—
And whither she was late returned to die,
—Still in their jurisdiction, mark again!—
That thrifty Sisterhood, for perquisite,
Claims every piece whereof may die possessed
Each sinner in the circuit of its walls.
Now, this Pompilia seeing that, by death
O' the couple, all their wealth devolved on her,
Straight utilized the respite ere decease,
By regular conveyance of the goods
She thought her own, to will and to devise,—
Gave all to friends, Tighetti and the like,
In trust for him she held her son and heir,
Gaetano,—trust which ends with infancy:
So willing and devising, since assured
The justice of the Court would presently
Confirm her in her rights and exculpate,
Re-integrate and rehabilitate—
Place her as, through my pleading, now she stands.
But here's the capital mistake: the Court
Found Guido guilty,—but pronounced no word
About the innocency of his wife:
I grounded charge on broader base, I hope!
No matter whether wife be true or false,
The husband must not push aside the law,
And punish of a sudden: that's the point:
Gather from out my speech the contrary!
It follows that Pompilia, unrelieved
By formal sentence from imputed fault,
Remains unfit to have and to dispose
Of property which law provides shall lapse.
Wherefore the Monastery claims its due:
And whose, pray, whose the office, but the Fisc's?
Who but I institute procedure next
Against the person of dishonest life,
Pompilia whom last week I sainted so?
I it is teach the monk what scripture means,
And that the tongue should prove a two-edged sword,
No axe sharp one side, blunt the other way,
Like what amused the town at Guido's cost!
Astræa redux! I've a second chance
Before the self-same Court o' the Governor
Who soon shall see volte-face and chop, change sides.
Accordingly, I charge you on your life,
Send me with all despatch the judgment late
O' the Florence Rota Court, confirmative
O' the prior judgment at Arezzo, clenched
Again by the Granducal signature,
Wherein Pompilia is convicted, doomed,
And only destined to escape through flight
The proper punishment. Send me the piece,—
I'll work it! And this foul-mouthed friar shall find
His Noah's-dove that brought the olive back
Turn into quite the other sooty scout,
The raven, Noah first put forth the ark,
Which never came back but ate carcasses!
No adequate machinery in law?
No power of life and death i' the learned tongue?
Methinks I am already at my speech,
Startle the world with "Thou, Pompilia, thus?
"How is the fine gold of the Temple dim!"
And so forth. But the courier bids me close,
And clip away one joke that runs through Rome,
Side by side with the sermon which I send.
How like the heartlessness of the old hunks
Arcangeli! His Count is hardly cold,
The client whom his blunders sacrificed,
When somebody must needs describe the scene—
How the procession ended at the church
That boasts the famous relic: quoth our brute,
"Why, that's just Martial's phrase for 'make an end'—
"Ad umbilicum sic perventum est!"
The callous dog,—let who will cut off head,
He cuts a joke and cares no more than so!
I think my speech shall modify his mirth.
"How is the fine gold dim!"—but send the piece!
Alack, Bottini, what is my next word
But death to all that hope? The Instrument
Is plain before me, print that ends my Book
With the definitive verdict of the Court,
Dated September, six months afterward,
(Such trouble and so long the old Pope gave!)
"In restitution of the perfect fame
"Of dead Pompilia, quondam Guido's wife,
"And warrant to her representative
"Domenico Tighetti, barred hereby,
"While doing duty in his guardianship,
"From all molesting, all disquietude,
"Each perturbation and vexation brought
"Or threatened to be brought against the heir
"By the Most Venerable Convent called
"Saint Mary Magdalen o' the Convertites
'I' the Corso."
Justice done a second time!
Well judged, Marc Antony, Locum-tenens
O' the Governor, a Venturini too!
For which I save thy name,—last of the list!
Next year but one, completing his nine years
Of rule in Rome, died Innocent my Pope
—By some account, on his accession-day.
If he thought doubt would do the next age good,
'T is pity he died unapprised what birth
His reign may boast of, be remembered by—
Terrible Pope, too, of a kind,—Voltaire.
And so an end of all i' the story. Strain
Never so much my eyes, I miss the mark
If lived or died that Gaetano, child
Of Guido and Pompilia: only find,
Immediately upon his father's death,
A record, in the annals of the town—
That Porzia, sister of our Guido, moved
The Priors of Arezzo and their head
Its Gonfalonier to give loyally
A public attestation of the right
O' the Franceschini to all reverence—
Apparently because of the incident
O' the murder,—there's no mention made o' the crime,
But what else could have caused such urgency
To cure the mob, just then, of greediness
For scandal, love of lying vanity,
And appetite to swallow crude reports
That bring annoyance to their betters?—bane
Which, here, was promptly met by antidote.
I like and shall translate the eloquence
Of nearly the worst Latin ever writ:
"Since antique time whereof the memory
"Holds the beginning, to this present hour,
"The Franceschini ever shone, and shine
"Still i' the primary rank, supreme amid
"The lustres of Arezzo, proud to own
"In this great family, the flag-bearer,
"Guide of her steps and guardian against foe,—
"As in the first beginning, so to-day!"
There, would you disbelieve the annalist,
Go rather by the babble of a bard?
I thought, Arezzo, thou hadst fitter souls,
Petrarch,—nay, Buonarroti at a pinch,
To do thee credit as vexillifer!
Was it mere mirth the Patavinian meant,
Making thee out, in his veracious page,
Founded by Janus of the Double Face?
Well, proving of such perfect parentage,
Our Gaetano, born of love and hate,
Did the babe live or die? I fain would find!
What were his ancies if he grew a man?
Was he proud,—a true scion of the stock
Which bore the blazon, shall make bright my page—
Shield, Azure, on a Triple Mountain, Or,
A Palm-tree, Proper, whereunto is tied
A Greyhound, Rampant, striving in the slips?
Or did he love his mother, the base-born,
And fight i' the ranks, unnoticed by the world?
Such, then, the final state o' the story. So
Did the Star Wormwood in a blazing fall
Frighten awhile the waters and lie lost.
So did this old woe fade from memory:
Till after, in the fulness of the days,
I needs must find an ember yet unquenched,
And, breathing, blow the spark to flame. It lives,
If precious be the soul of man to man.
So, British Public, who may like me yet,
(Marry and amen!) learn one lesson hence
Of many which whatever lives should teach:
This lesson, that our human speech is naught,
Our human testimony false, our fame
And human estimation words and wind.
Why take the artistic way to prove so much?
Because, it is the glory and good of Art,
That Art remains the one way possible
Of speaking truth, to mouths like mine at least.
How look a brother in the face and say
"Thy right is wrong, eyes hast thou yet art blind,
"Thine ears are stuffed and stopped, despite their length:
"And, oh, the foolishness thou countest faith!"
Say this as silverly as tongue can troll—
The anger of the man may be endured,
The shrug, the disappointed eyes of him
Are not so bad to bear—but here's the plague
That all this trouble comes of telling truth,
Which truth, by when it reaches him, looks false,
Seems to be just the thing it would supplant,
Nor recognizable by whom it left:
While falsehood would have done the work of truth.
But Art,—wherein man nowise speaks to men,
Only to mankind,—Art may tell a truth
Obliquely, do the thing shall breed the thought,
Nor wrong the thought, missing the mediate word.
So may you paint your picture, twice show truth,
Beyond mere imagery on the wall,—
So, note by note, bring music from your mind,
Deeper than ever e'en Beethoven dived,—
So write a book shall mean beyond the facts,
Suffice the eye and save the soul beside.
And save the soul! If this intent save mine,—
If the rough ore be rounded to a ring,
Render all duty which good ring should do,
And, failing grace, succeed in guardianship,—
Might mine but lie outside thine, Lyric Love,
Thy rare gold ring of verse (the poet praised)
Linking our England to his Italy!
The Hind And The Panther, A Poem In Three Parts : Part III.
Much malice, mingled with a little wit,
Perhaps may censure this mysterious writ;
Because the muse has peopled Caledon
With panthers, bears, and wolves, and beasts unknown,
As if we were not stocked with monsters of our own.
Let Æsop answer, who has set to view
Such kinds as Greece and Phrygia never knew;
And Mother Hubbard, in her homely dress,
Has sharply blamed a British lioness;
That queen, whose feast the factious rabble keep,
Exposed obscenely naked, and asleep.
Led by those great examples, may not I
The wonted organs of their words supply?
If men transact like brutes, 'tis equal then
For brutes to claim the privilege of men.
Others our Hind of folly will indite,
To entertain a dangerous guest by night.
Let those remember, that she cannot die,
Till rolling time is lost in round eternity;
Nor need she fear the Panther, though untamed,
Because the Lion's peace was now proclaimed;
The wary savage would not give offence,
To forfeit the protection of her prince;
But watched the time her vengeance to complete,
When all her furry sons in frequent senate met;
Meanwhile she quenched her fury at the flood,
And with a lenten salad cooled her blood.
Their commons, though but coarse, were nothing scant,
Nor did their minds an equal banquet want.
For now the Hind, whose noble nature strove
To express her plain simplicity of love,
Did all the honours of her house so well,
No sharp debates disturbed the friendly meal.
She turned the talk, avoiding that extreme,
To common dangers past, a sadly-pleasing theme;
Remembering every storm which tossed the state,
When both were objects of the public hate,
And dropt a tear betwixt for her own children's fate.
Nor failed she then a full review to make
Of what the Panther suffered for her sake;
Her lost esteem, her truth, her loyal care,
Her faith unshaken to an exiled heir,
Her strength to endure, her courage to defy,
Her choice of honourable infamy.
On these, prolixly thankful, she enlarged;
Then with acknowledgments herself she charged;
For friendship, of itself an holy tie,
Is made more sacred by adversity.
Now should they part, malicious tongues would say,
They met like chance companions on the way,
Whom mutual fear of robbers had possessed;
While danger lasted, kindness was professed;
But, that once o'er, the short-lived union ends,
The road divides, and there divide the friends.
The Panther nodded, when her speech was done,
And thanked her coldly in a hollow tone;
But said, her gratitude had gone too far
For common offices of Christian care.
If to the lawful heir she had been true,
She paid but Cæsar what was Cæsar's due.
“I might,” she added, “with like praise describe
Your suffering sons, and so return your bribe:
But incense from my hands is poorly prized;
For gifts are scorned where givers are despised.
I served a turn, and then was cast away;
You, like the gaudy fly, your wings display,
And sip the sweets, and bask in your great patron's day.”
This heard, the matron was not slow to find
What sort of malady had seized her mind;
Disdain, with gnawing envy, fell despite,
And cankered malice, stood in open sight;
Ambition, interest, pride without control,
And jealousy, the jaundice of the soul;
Revenge, the bloody minister of ill,
With all the lean tormentors of the will.
'Twas easy now to guess from whence arose
Her new-made union with her ancient foes;
Her forced civilities, her faint embrace,
Affected kindness, with an altered face;
Yet durst she not too deeply probe the wound,
As hoping still the nobler parts were sound;
But strove with anodynes to assuage the smart,
And mildly thus her medicine did impart.
“Complaints of lovers help to ease their pain;
It shows a rest of kindness to complain;
A friendship loath to quit its former hold,
And conscious merit, may be justly bold;
But much more just your jealousy would show,
If others' good were injury to you:
Witness, ye heavens, how I rejoice to see
Rewarded worth and rising loyalty!
Your warrior offspring, that upheld the crown,
The scarlet honour of your peaceful gown,
Are the most pleasing objects I can find,
Charms to my sight, and cordials to my mind:
When virtue spooms before a prosperous gale,
My heaving wishes help to fill the sail;
And if my prayers for all the brave were heard,
Cæsar should still have such, and such should still reward.
“The laboured earth your pains have sowed and tilled,
'Tis just you reap the product of the field:
Yours be the harvest; 'tis the beggar's gain,
To glean the fallings of the loaded wain.
Such scattered ears as are not worth your care,
Your charity, for alms, may safely spare,
For alms are but the vehicles of prayer.
My daily bread is literally implored;
I have no barns nor granaries to hoard.
If Cæsar to his own his hand extends,
Say which of yours his charity offends;
You know, he largely gives to more than are his friends.
Are you defrauded, when he feeds the poor?
Our mite decreases nothing of your store.
I am but few, and by your fare you see
My crying sins are not of luxury.
Some juster motive sure your mind withdraws,
And makes you break our friendship's holy laws;
For barefaced envy is too base a cause.
Show more occasion for your discontent;
Your love, the Wolf, would help you to invent:
Some German quarrel, or, as times go now,
Some French, where force is uppermost, will do.
When at the fountain's head, as merit ought
To claim the place, you take a swilling draught,
How easy 'tis an envious eye to throw,
And tax the sheep for troubling streams below;
Or call her, when no further cause you find,
An enemy professed of all your kind!
But, then, perhaps, the wicked world would think,
The Wolf designed to eat as well as drink.”
This last allusion galled the Panther more,
Because, indeed, it rubbed upon the sore;
Yet seemed she not to wince, though shrewdly pained,
But thus her passive character maintained.
“I never grudged, whate'er my foes report,
Your flaunting fortune in the Lion's court.
You have your day, or you are much belied,
But I am always on the suffering side;
You know my doctrine, and I need not say,
I will not, but I cannot disobey.
On this firm principle I ever stood;
He of my sons who fails to make it good,
By one rebellious act renounces to my blood.”
“Ah,” said the Hind, “how many sons have you,
Who call you mother, whom you never knew!
But most of them, who that relation plead,
Are such ungracious youths as wish you dead.
They gape at rich revenues which you hold,
And fain would nibble at your grandame gold;
Enquire into your years, and laugh to find
Your crazy temper shows you much declined.
Were you not dim and doted, you might see
A pack of cheats that claim a pedigree,
No more of kin to you, than you to me.
Do you not know, that, for a little coin,
Heralds can foist a name into the line?
They ask you blessing but for what you have,
But, once possessed of what with care you save,
The wanton boys would piss upon your grave.
“Your sons of latitude, that court your grace,
Though most resembling you in form and face,
Are far the worst of your pretended race;
And, but I blush your honesty to blot,
Pray God you prove them lawfully begot!
For, in some Popish libels I have read,
The Wolf has been too busy in your bed;
At least their hinder parts, the belly-piece,
The paunch, and all that Scorpio claims, are his.
Their malice too a sore suspicion brings,
For, though they dare not bark, they snarl at kings.
Nor blame them for intruding in your line;
Fat bishoprics are still of right divine.
Think you, your new French proselytes are come,
To starve abroad, because they starved at home?
Your benefices twinkled from afar,
They found the new Messiah by the star;
Those Swisses fight on any side for pay,
And 'tis the living that conforms, not they.
Mark with what management their tribes divide;
Some stick to you, and some to t'other side,
That many churches may for many mouths provide.
More vacant pulpits would more converts make;
All would have latitude enough to take:
The rest unbeneficed your sects maintain;
For ordinations, without cures, are vain,
And chamber practice is a silent gain.
Your sons of breadth at home are much like these;
Their soft and yielding metals run with ease;
They melt, and take the figure of the mould,
But harden and preserve it best in gold.”
“Your Delphic sword,” the Panther then replied,
“Is double-edged, and cuts on either side.
Some sons of mine, who bear upon their shield
Three steeples argent in a sable field,
Have sharply taxed your converts, who, unfed,
Have followed you for miracles of bread;
Such, who themselves of no religion are,
Allured with gain, for any will declare.
Bare lies, with bold assertions, they can face;
But dint of argument is out of place.
The grim logician puts them in a fright;
'Tis easier far to flourish than to fight.
Thus, our eighth Henry's marriage they defame;
They say, the schism of beds began the game,
Divorcing from the Church to wed the dame;
Though largely proved, and by himself professed,
That conscience, conscience would not let him rest,—
I mean, not till possessed of her he loved,
And old, uncharming Catherine was removed.
For sundry years before he did complain,
And told his ghostly confessor his pain.
With the same impudence, without a ground,
They say, that, look the reformation round,
No treatise of humility is found.
But if none were, the gospel does not want;
Our Saviour preached it, and I hope you grant,
The sermon on the mount was Protestant.”
“No doubt,” replied the Hind, “as sure as all
The writings of Saint Peter and Saint Paul;
On that decision let it stand, or fall.
Now for my converts, who, you say, unfed,
Have followed me for miracles of bread.
Judge not by hearsay, but observe at least,
If since their change their loaves have been increased.
The Lion buys no converts; if he did,
Beasts would be sold as fast as he could bid.
Tax those of interest, who conform for gain,
Or stay the market of another reign:
Your broad-way sons would never be too nice
To close with Calvin, if he paid their price;
But, raised three steeples higher, would change their note,
And quit the cassock for the canting-coat.
Now, if you damn this censure, as too bold,
Judge by yourselves, and think not others sold.
“Meantime, my sons accused, by fame's report,
Pay small attendance at the Lion's court,
Nor rise with early crowds, nor flatter late;
For silently they beg, who daily wait.
Preferment is bestowed, that comes unsought;
Attendance is a bribe, and then 'tis bought.
How they should speed, their fortune is untried;
For not to ask, is not to be denied.
For what they have, their God and king they bless,
And hope they should not murmur, had they less.
But if reduced subsistence to implore,
In common prudence they would pass your door;
Unpitied Hudibras, your champion friend,
Has shown how far your charities extend.
This lasting verse shall on his tomb be read,
‘He shamed you living, and upbraids you dead.’
“With odious atheist names you load your foes;
Your liberal clergy why did I expose?
It never fails in charities like those.
In climes where true religion is professed,
That imputation were no laughing jest;
But imprimatur, with a chaplain's name,
Is here sufficient licence to defame.
What wonder is 't that black detraction thrives?
The homicide of names is less than lives;
And yet the perjured murderer survives.”
This said, she paused a little, and suppressed
The boiling indignation of her breast.
She knew the virtue of her blade, nor would
Pollute her satire with ignoble blood;
Her panting foe she saw before her eye,
And back she drew the shining weapon dry.
So when the generous Lion has in sight
His equal match, he rouses for the fight;
But when his foe lies prostrate on the plain,
He sheathes his paws, uncurls his angry mane,
And, pleased with bloodless honours of the day,
Walks over, and disdains the inglorious prey.
So James, if great with less we may compare,
Arrests his rolling thunder-bolts in air;
And grants ungrateful friends a lengthened space,
To implore the remnants of long-suffering grace.
This breathing-time the matron took; and then
Resumed the thrid of her discourse again.
“Be vengeance wholly left to powers divine,
And let heaven judge betwixt your sons and mine:
If joys hereafter must be purchased here
With loss of all that mortals hold so dear,
Then welcome infamy and public shame,
And last, a long farewell to worldly fame!
'Tis said with ease, but, oh, how hardly tried
By haughty souls to human honour tied!
O sharp convulsive pangs of agonising pride!
Down then, thou rebel, never more to rise!
And what thou didst, and dost, so dearly prize,
That fame, that darling fame, make that thy sacrifice.
'Tis nothing thou hast given; then add thy tears
For a long race of unrepenting years:
'Tis nothing yet, yet all thou hast to give:
Then add those may-be years thou hast to live:
Yet nothing still: then poor and naked come,
Thy Father will receive his unthrift home,
And thy blest Saviour's blood discharge the mighty sum.
“Thus,” she pursued, “I discipline a son,
Whose unchecked fury to revenge would run;
He champs the bit, impatient of his loss,
And starts aside, and flounders at the cross.
Instruct him better, gracious God, to know,
As thine is vengeance, so forgiveness too;
That, suffering from ill tongues, he bears no more
Than what his sovereign bears, and what his Saviour bore.
“It now remains for you to school your child,
And ask why God's anointed he reviled;
A king and princess dead! did Shimei worse?
The curser's punishment should fright the curse;
Your son was warned, and wisely gave it o'er,
But he, who counselled him, has paid the score;
The heavy malice could no higher tend,
But woe to him on whom the weights descend.
So to permitted ills the demon flies;
His rage is aimed at him who rules the skies:
Constrained to quit his cause, no succour found,
The foe discharges every tire around,
In clouds of smoke abandoning the fight,
But his own thundering peals proclaim his flight.
“In Henry's change his charge as ill succeeds;
To that long story little answer needs;
Confront but Henry's words with Henry's deeds.
Were space allowed, with ease it might be proved,
What springs his blessed reformation moved.
The dire effects appeared in open sight,
Which from the cause he calls a distant flight,
And yet no larger leap than from the sun to light.
“Now last your sons a double pæan sound,
A treatise of humility is found.
'Tis found, but better it had ne'er been sought,
Than thus in Protestant procession brought.
The famed original through Spain is known,
Rodriguez' work, my celebrated son,
Which yours, by ill-translating, made his own;
Concealed its author, and usurped the name,
The basest and ignoblest theft of fame.
My altars kindled first that living coal;
Restore, or practise better what you stole;
That virtue could this humble verse inspire,
'Tis all the restitution I require.”
Glad was the Panther that the charge was closed,
And none of all her favourite sons exposed;
For laws of arms permit each injured man,
To make himself a saver where he can.
Perhaps the plundered merchant cannot tell
The names of pirates in whose hands he fell;
But at the den of thieves he justly flies,
And every Algerine is lawful prize;
No private person in the foe's estate
Can plead exemption from the public fate.
Yet Christian laws allow not such redress;
Then let the greater supersede the less.
But let the abettors of the Panther's crime
Learn to make fairer wars another time.
Some characters may sure be found to write
Among her sons; for 'tis no common sight,
A spotted dam, and all her offspring white.
The savage, though she saw her plea controlled,
Yet would not wholly seem to quit her hold,
But offered fairly to compound the strife,
And judge conversion by the convert's life.
“'Tis true,” she said, “I think it somewhat strange,
So few should follow profitable change;
For present joys are more to flesh and blood,
Than a dull prospect of a distant good.
'Twas well alluded by a son of mine,
(I hope to quote him is not to purloin,)
Two magnets, heaven and earth, allure to bliss;
The larger loadstone that, the nearer this:
The weak attraction of the greater fails;
We nod a while, but neighbourhood prevails;
But when the greater proves the nearer too,
I wonder more your converts come so slow.
Methinks in those who firm with me remain,
It shows a nobler principle than gain.”
“Your inference would be strong,” the Hind replied,
“If yours were in effect the suffering side;
Your clergy's sons their own in peace possess,
Nor are their prospects in reversion less.
My proselytes are struck with awful dread,
Your bloody comet-laws hang blazing o'er their head;
The respite they enjoy but only lent,
The best they have to hope, protracted punishment.
Be judge yourself, if interest may prevail,
Which motives, yours or mine, will turn the scale.
While pride and pomp allure, and plenteous ease,
That is, till man's predominant passions cease,
Admire no longer at my slow increase.
“By education most have been misled;
So they believe, because they so were bred.
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the child imposes on the man.
The rest I named before, nor need repeat;
But interest is the most prevailing cheat,
The sly seducer both of age and youth;
They study that, and think they study truth.
When interest fortifies an argument,
Weak reason serves to gain the will's assent;
For souls, already warped, receive an easy bent.
“Add long prescription of established laws,
And pique of honour to maintain a cause,
And shame of change, and fear of future ill,
And zeal, the blind conductor of the will;
And chief, among the still-mistaking crowd,
The fame of teachers obstinate and proud,
And, more than all, the private judge allowed;
Disdain of fathers which the dance began,
And last, uncertain whose the narrower span,
The clown unread, and half-read gentleman.”
To this the Panther, with a scornful smile;—
“Yet still you travail with unwearied toil,
And range around the realm without control,
Among my sons for proselytes to prowl;
And here and there you snap some silly soul.
You hinted fears of future change in state;
Pray heaven you did not prophesy your fate!
Perhaps you think your time of triumph near,
But may mistake the season of the year;
The Swallow's fortune gives you cause to fear.”
“For charity,” replied the matron, “tell
What sad mischance those pretty birds befell.”
“Nay, no mischance,” the savage dame replied,
“But want of wit in their unerring guide,
And eager haste, and gaudy hopes, and giddy pride.
Yet, wishing timely warning may prevail,
Make you the moral, and I'll tell the tale.
“The Swallow, privileged above the rest
Of all the birds, as man's familiar guest,
Pursues the sun, in summer brisk and bold,
But wisely shuns the persecuting cold;
Is well to chancels and to chimneys known,
Though 'tis not thought she feeds on smoke alone.
From hence she has been held of heavenly line,
Endued with particles of soul divine.
This merry chorister had long possessed
Her summer-seat, and feathered well her nest;
Till frowning skies began to change their cheer,
And time turned up the wrong side of the year;
The shading trees began the ground to strow
With yellow leaves, and bitter blasts to blow.
Sad auguries of winter thence she drew,
Which by instinct, or prophecy, she knew;
When prudence warned her to remove betimes,
And seek a better heaven, and warmer climes.
“Her sons were summoned on a steeple's height,
And, called in common council, vote a flight.
The day was named, the next that should be fair;
All to the general rendezvous repair,
They try their fluttering wings, and trust themselves in air.
But whether upward to the moon they go,
Or dream the winter out in caves below,
Or hawk at flies elsewhere, concerns us not to know.
Southwards you may be sure they bent their flight,
And harboured in a hollow rock at night;
Next morn they rose, and set up every sail;
The wind was fair, but blew a mackrel gale;
The sickly young sat shivering on the shore,
Abhorred salt-water never seen before,
And prayed their tender mothers to delay
The passage, and expect a fairer day.
“With these the Martin readily concurred,
A church-begot and church-believing bird;
Of little body, but of lofty mind,
Round bellied, for a dignity designed,
And much a dunce, as Martins are by kind;
Yet often quoted canon-laws, and code,
And fathers which he never understood;
But little learning needs in noble blood.
For, sooth to say, the Swallow brought him in,
Her household chaplain, and her next of kin;
In superstition silly to excess,
And casting schemes by planetary guess;
In fine, short-winged, unfit himself to fly,
His fear foretold foul weather in the sky.
Besides, a Raven from a withered oak,
Left of their lodging, was observed to croak.
That omen liked him not; so his advice
Was present safety, bought at any price;
A seeming pious care, that covered cowardice.
To strengthen this, he told a boding dream,
Of rising waters, and a troubled stream,
Sure signs of anguish, dangers, and distress,
With something more, not lawful to express:
By which he slily seemed to intimate
Some secret revelation of their fate.
For he concluded, once upon a time,
He found a leaf inscribed with sacred rhyme,
Whose antique characters did well denote
The Sibyl's hand of the Cumæan grot;
The mad divineress had plainly writ,
A time should come, but many ages yet,
In which, sinister destinies ordain,
A dame should drown with all her feathered train,
And seas from thence be called the Chelidonian main.
At this, some shook for fear; the more devout
Arose, and blessed themselves from head to foot.
“'Tis true, some stagers of the wiser sort
Made all these idle wonderments their sport;
They said their only danger was delay,
And he, who heard what every fool could say,
Would never fix his thought, but trim his time away.
The passage yet was good; the wind, 'tis true,
Was somewhat high, but that was nothing new,
No more than usual equinoxes blew.
The sun, already from the Scales declined,
Gave little hopes of better days behind,
But change from bad to worse, of weather and of wind.
Nor need they fear the dampness of the sky
Should flag their wings, and hinder them to fly,
'Twas only water thrown on sails too dry.
But, least of all, philosophy presumes
Of truth in dreams, from melancholy fumes;
Perhaps the Martin, housed in holy ground,
Might think of ghosts, that walk their midnight round,
Till grosser atoms, tumbling in the stream
Of fancy, madly met, and clubbed into a dream:
As little weight his vain presages bear,
Of ill effect to such alone who fear;
Most prophecies are of a piece with these,
Each Nostradamus can foretell with ease:
Not naming persons, and confounding times,
One casual truth supports a thousand lying rhymes.
“The advice was true; but fear had seized the most,
And all good counsel is on cowards lost.
The question crudely put to shun delay,
'Twas carried by the major part to stay.
“His point thus gained, Sir Martin dated thence
His power, and from a priest became a prince.
He ordered all things with a busy care,
And cells and refectories did prepare,
And large provisions laid of winter fare;
But, now and then, let fall a word or two,
Of hope, that heaven some miracle might show,
And, for their sakes, the sun should backward go;
Against the laws of nature upward climb,
And, mounted on the Ram, renew the prime;
For which two proofs in sacred story lay,
Of Ahaz' dial, and of Joshua's day.
In expectation of such times as these,
A chapel housed them, truly called of ease;
For Martin much devotion did not ask;
They prayed sometimes, and that was all their task.
“It happened, as beyond the reach of wit
Blind prophecies may have a lucky hit,
That this accomplished, or at least in part,
Gave great repute to their new Merlin's art.
Some Swifts, the giants of the Swallow kind,
Large limbed, stout hearted, but of stupid mind,
(For Swisses, or for Gibeonites designed,)
These lubbers, peeping through a broken pane,
To suck fresh air, surveyed the neighbouring plain,
And saw, but scarcely could believe their eyes,
New blossoms flourish, and new flowers arise;
As God had been abroad, and, walking there,
Had left his footsteps, and reformed the year.
The sunny hills from far were seen to glow
With glittering beams, and in the meads below
The burnished brooks appeared with liquid gold to flow.
At last they heard the foolish Cuckoo sing,
Whose note proclaimed the holiday of spring.
“No longer doubting, all prepare to fly,
And repossess their patrimonial sky.
The priest before them did his wings display;
And that good omens might attend their way,
As luck would have it, 'twas St. Martin's day.
“Who but the Swallow now triumphs alone?
The canopy of heaven is all her own;
Her youthful offspring to their haunts repair,
And glide along in glades, and skim in air,
And dip for insects in the purling springs,
And stoop on rivers to refresh their wings.
Their mother thinks a fair provision made,
That every son can live upon his trade,
And, now the careful charge is off their hands,
Look out for husbands, and new nuptial bands.
The youthful widow longs to be supplied;
But first the lover is by lawyers tied,
To settle jointure-chimneys on the bride.
So thick they couple in so short a space,
That Martin's marriage-offerings rise apace.
Their ancient houses, running to decay,
Are furbished up, and cemented with clay:
They teem already; store of eggs are laid,
And brooding mothers call Lucina's aid.
Fame spreads the news, and foreign fowls appear,
In flocks, to greet the new returning year,
To bless the founder, and partake the cheer.
“And now 'twas time, so fast their numbers rise,
To plant abroad and people colonies.
The youth drawn forth, as Martin had desired,
(For so their cruel destiny required,)
Were sent far off on an ill-fated day;
The rest would needs conduct them on their way,
And Martin went, because he feared alone to stay.
“So long they flew with inconsiderate haste,
That now their afternoon began to waste;
And, what was ominous, that very morn
The sun was entered into Capricorn;
Which, by their bad astronomer's account,
That week the Virgin balance should remount.
An infant moon eclipsed him in his way,
And hid the small remainders of his day.
The crowd, amazed, pursued no certain mark,
But birds met birds, and jostled in the dark.
Few mind the public, in a panic fright,
And fear increased the horror of the night.
Night came, but unattended with repose;
Alone she came, no sleep their eyes to close;
Alone, and black she came; no friendly stars arose.
“What should they do, beset with dangers round,
No neighbouring dorp, no lodging to be found,
But bleaky plains, and bare, unhospitable ground?
The latter brood, who just began to fly,
Sick-feathered, and unpractised in the sky,
For succour to their helpless mother call:
She spread her wings; some few beneath them crawl;
She spread them wider yet, but could not cover all.
To augment their woes, the winds began to move,
Debate in air for empty fields above,
Till Boreas got the skies, and poured amain
His rattling hailstones, mixed with snow and rain.
“The joyless morning late arose, and found
A dreadful desolation reign around,
Some buried in the snow, some frozen to the ground.
The rest were struggling still with death, and lay
The Crows' and Ravens' rights, an undefended prey:
Excepting Martin's race; for they and he
Had gained the shelter of a hollow tree;
But, soon discovered by a sturdy clown,
He headed all the rabble of a town,
And finished them with bats, or polled them down.
Martin himself was caught alive, and tried
For treasonous crimes, because the laws provide
No Martin there in winter shall abide.
High on an oak, which never leaf shall bear,
He breathed his last, exposed to open air;
And there his corpse unblessed is hanging still,
To show the change of winds with his prophetic bill.”
The patience of the Hind did almost fail,
For well she marked the malice of the tale;
Which ribald art their Church to Luther owes;
In malice it began, by malice grows;
He sowed the serpent's teeth, an iron harvest rose.
But most in Martin's character and fate,
She saw her slandered sons, the Panther's hate,
The people's rage, the persecuting state:
Then said, “I take the advice in friendly part;
You clear your conscience, or at least your heart.
Perhaps you failed in your foreseeing skill,
For Swallows are unlucky birds to kill:
As for my sons, the family is blessed,
Whose every child is equal to the rest;
No Church reformed can boast a blameless line,
Such Martins build in yours, and more than mine;
Or else an old fanatic author lies,
Who summed their scandals up by centuries.
But through your parable I plainly see
The bloody laws, the crowd's barbarity;
The sunshine, that offends the purblind sight,
Had some their wishes, it would soon be night.
Mistake me not; the charge concerns not you;
Your sons are malcontents, but yet are true,
As far as non-resistance makes them so;
But that's a word of neutral sense, you know,
A passive term, which no relief will bring,
But trims betwixt a rebel and a king.”
“Rest well assured,” the Pardalis replied,
“My sons would all support the regal side,
Though heaven forbid the cause by battle should be tried.”
The matron answered with a loud Amen,
And thus pursued her argument again:—
“If, as you say, and as I hope no less,
Your sons will practise what yourselves profess,
What angry power prevents our present peace?
The Lion, studious of our common good,
Desires (and kings' desires are ill withstood)
To join our nations in a lasting love;
The bars betwixt are easy to remove,
For sanguinary laws were never made above.
If you condemn that prince of tyranny,
Whose mandate forced your Gallic friends to fly,
Make not a worse example of your own,
Or cease to rail at causeless rigour shown,
And let the guiltless person throw the stone.
His blunted sword your suffering brotherhood
Have seldom felt; he stops it short of blood:
But you have ground the persecuting knife,
And set it to a razor-edge on life.
Cursed be the wit, which cruelty refines,
Or to his father's rod the scorpion joins!
Your finger is more gross than the great monarch's loins.
But you, perhaps, remove that bloody note,
And stick it on the first reformers' coat.
Oh let their crime in long oblivion sleep;
'Twas theirs indeed to make, 'tis yours to keep!
Unjust, or just, is all the question now;
'Tis plain, that, not repealing, you allow.
“To name the Test would put you in a rage;
You charge not that on any former age,
But smile to think how innocent you stand,
Armed by a weapon put into your hand.
Yet still remember, that you wield a sword,
Forged by your foes against your sovereign lord;
Designed to hew the imperial cedar down,
Defraud succession, and dis-heir the crown.
To abhor the makers, and their laws approve,
Is to hate traitors, and the treason love.
What means it else, which now your children say,
We made it not, nor will we take away?
“Suppose some great oppressor had, by slight
Of law, disseised your brother of his right,
Your common sire surrendering in a fright;
Would you to that unrighteous title stand,
Left by the villain's will to heir the land?
More just was Judas, who his Saviour sold;
The sacrilegious bribe he could not hold,
Nor hang in peace, before he rendered back the gold.
What more could you have done, than now you do,
Had Oates and Bedloe and their plot been true;
Some specious reasons for those wrongs were found;
The dire magicians threw their mists around,
And wise men walked as on enchanted ground.
But now when time has made the imposture plain,
(Late though he followed truth, and limping held her train,)
What new delusion charms your cheated eyes again?
The painted harlot might a while bewitch,
But why the hag uncased, and all obscene with itch?
“The first reformers were a modest race;
Our peers possessed in peace their native place,
And when rebellious arms o'erturned the state,
They suffered only in the common fate;
But now the sovereign mounts the regal chair,
And mitred seats are full, yet David's bench is bare.
Your answer is, they were not dispossest;
They need but rub their metal on the Test
To prove their ore;—'twere well if gold alone
Were touched and tried on your discerning stone;
But that unfaithful test unfound will pass
The dross of Atheists, and sectarian brass;
As if the experiment were made to hold
For base production, and reject the gold.
Thus men ungodded may to places rise,
And sects may be preferred without disguise;
No danger to the Church or State from these,
The Papist only has his writ of ease.
No gainful office gives him the pretence
To grind the subject, or defraud the prince.
Wrong conscience, or no conscience, may deserve
To thrive, but ours alone is privileged to starve.
Still thank yourselves, you cry; your noble race
We banish not, but they forsake the place;
Our doors are open:—true, but ere they come,
You toss your censing test, and fume the room;
As if 'twere Toby's rival to expel,
And fright the fiend who could not bear the smell.”
To this the Panther sharply had replied,
But having gained a verdict on her side,
She wisely gave the loser leave to chide;
Well satisfied to have the butt and peace,
And for the plaintiff's cause she cared the less,
Because she sued in forma pauperis;
Yet thought it decent something should be said,
For secret guilt by silence is betrayed;
So neither granted all, nor much denied,
But answered with a yawning kind of pride:
“Methinks such terms of proffered peace you bring,
As once Æneas to the Italian king:
By long possession all the land is mine;
You strangers come with your intruding line,
To share my sceptre, which you call to join.
You plead like him an ancient pedigree,
And claim a peaceful seat by fate's decree.
In ready pomp your sacrificer stands,
To unite the Trojan and the Latin bands;
And, that the league more firmly may be tied,
Demand the fair Lavinia for your bride.
Thus plausibly you veil the intended wrong,
But still you bring your exiled gods along;
And will endeavour, in succeeding space,
Those household puppets on our hearths to place.
Perhaps some barbarous laws have been preferred;
I spake against the Test, but was not heard.
These to rescind, and peerage to restore,
My gracious sovereign would my vote implore;
I owe him much, but owe my conscience more.”
“Conscience is then your plea,” replied the dame,
“Which, well-informed, will ever be the same.
But yours is much of the chameleon hue,
To change the dye with every distant view.
When first the Lion sat with awful sway,
Your conscience taught your duty to obey:
He might have had your statutes and your Test;
No conscience but of subjects was professed.
He found your temper, and no farther tried,
But on that broken reed, your Church, relied.
In vain the sects essayed their utmost art,
With offered treasures to espouse their part;
Their treasures were a bribe too mean to move his heart.
But when, by long experience, you had proved,
How far he could forgive, how well he loved;
(A goodness that excelled his godlike race,
And only short of heaven's unbounded grace;
A flood of mercy that o'erflowed our isle,
Calm in the rise, and fruitful as the Nile,)
Forgetting whence your Egypt was supplied,
You thought your sovereign bound to send the tide;
Nor upward looked on that immortal spring,
But vainly deemed, he durst not be a king.
Then Conscience, unrestrained by fear, began
To stretch her limits, and extend the span;
Did his indulgence as her gift dispose,
And made a wise alliance with her foes.
Can Conscience own the associating name,
And raise no blushes to conceal her shame?
For sure she has been thought a bashful dame.
But if the cause by battle should be tried,
You grant she must espouse the regal side;
O Proteus-conscience, never to be tied!
What Phœbus from the Tripod shall disclose,
Which are, in last resort, your friends or foes?
Homer, who learned the language of the sky,
The seeming Gordian knot would soon untie;
Immortal powers the term of Conscience know,
But Interest is her name with men below.”
“Conscience or Interest be't, or both in one,”
(The Panther answered in a surly tone
“The first commands me to maintain the crown,
The last forbids to throw my barriers down.
Our penal laws no sons of yours admit,
Our Test excludes your tribe from benefit.
These are my banks your ocean to withstand,
Which, proudly rising, overlooks the land,
And, once let in, with unresisted sway,
Would sweep the pastors and their flocks away.
Think not my judgment leads me to comply
With laws unjust, but hard necessity:
Imperious need, which cannot be withstood,
Makes ill authentic, for a greater good.
Possess your soul with patience, and attend;
A more auspicious planet may ascend;
Good fortune may present some happier time
With means to cancel my unwilling crime;
(Unwilling, witness all ye powers above!)
To mend my errors, and redeem your love:
That little space you safely may allow;
Your all-dispensing power protects you now.”
“Hold,” said the Hind, “'tis needless to explain;
You would postpone me to another reign;
Till when, you are content to be unjust:
Your part is to possess, and mine to trust;
A fair exchange proposed, of future chance
For present profit and inheritance.
Few words will serve to finish our dispute;
Who will not now repeal, would persecute.
To ripen green revenge your hopes attend,
Wishing that happier planet would ascend.
For shame, let Conscience be your plea no more;
To will hereafter, proves she might before;
But she's a bawd to gain, and holds the door.
“Your care about your banks infers a fear
Of threatening floods and inundations near;
If so, a just reprise would only be
Of what the land usurped upon the sea;
And all your jealousies but serve to show,
Your ground is, like your neighbour-nation, low.
To intrench in what you grant unrighteous laws,
Is to distrust the justice of your cause;
And argues, that the true religion lies
In those weak adversaries you despise.
Tyrannic force is that which least you fear;
The sound is frightful in a Christian's ear:
Avert it, Heaven! nor let that plague be sent
To us from the dispeopled continent.
“But piety commands me to refrain;
Those prayers are needless in this monarch's reign.
Behold how he protects your friends oppressed,
Receives the banished, succours the distressed!
Behold, for you may read an honest open breast.
He stands in daylight, and disdains to hide
An act, to which by honour he is tied,
A generous, laudable, and kingly pride.
Your Test he would repeal, his peers restore;
This when he says he means, he means no more.”
“Well,” said the Panther, “I believe him just,
“And yet, 'tis but because you must;
You would be trusted, but you would not trust.”
The Hind thus briefly; and disdained to enlarge
On power of kings, and their superior charge,
As heaven's trustees before the people's choice;
Though sure the Panther did not much rejoice
To hear those echoes given of her once loyal voice.
The matron wooed her kindness to the last,
But could not win; her hour of grace was past.
Whom, thus persisting, when she could not bring
To leave the Wolf, and to believe her king,
She gave her up, and fairly wished her joy
Of her late treaty with her new ally:
Which well she hoped would more successful prove,
Than was the Pigeon's and the Buzzard's love.
The Panther asked, what concord there could be
Betwixt two kinds whose natures disagree?
The dame replied: “'Tis sung in every street,
The common chat of gossips when they meet;
But, since unheard by you, 'tis worth your while
To take a wholesome tale, though told in homely style.
“A plain good man, whose name is understood,
(So few deserve the name of plain and good,)
Of three fair lineal lordships stood possessed,
And lived, as reason was, upon the best.
Inured to hardships from his early youth,
Much had he done and suffered for his truth:
At land and sea, in many a doubtful fight,
Was never known a more adventurous knight,
Who oftener drew his sword, and always for the right.
“As fortune would, (his fortune came, though late,)
He took possession of his just estate;
Nor racked his tenants with increase of rent,
Nor lived too sparing, nor too largely spent,
But overlooked his hinds; their pay was just,
And ready, for he scorned to go on trust:
Slow to resolve, but in performance quick;
So true, that he was awkward at a trick.
For little souls on little shifts rely,
And coward arts of mean expedients try;
The noble mind will dare do anything but lie.
False friends, his deadliest foes, could find no way,
But shows of honest bluntness, to betray;
That unsuspected plainness he believed;
He looked into himself, and was deceived.
Some lucky planet sure attends his birth,
Or heaven would make a miracle on earth;
For prosperous honesty is seldom seen
To bear so dead a weight, and yet to win.
It looks as fate with nature's law would strive,
To show plain-dealing once an age may thrive;
And, when so tough a frame she could not bend,
Exceeded her commission, to befriend.
“This grateful man, as heaven increased his store,
Gave God again, and daily fed his poor.
His house with all convenience was purveyed;
The rest he found, but raised the fabric where he prayed;
And in that sacred place his beauteous wife
Employed her happiest hours of holy life.
“Nor did their alms extend to those alone,
Whom common faith more strictly made their own;
A sort of Doves were housed too near the hall,
Who cross the proverb, and abound with gall.
Though some, 'tis true, are passively inclined,
The greater part degenerate from their kind;
Voracious birds, that hotly bill and breed,
And largely drink, because on salt they feed.
Small gain from them their bounteous owner draws;
Yet, bound by promise, he supports their cause,
As corporations privileged by laws.
“That house, which harbour to their kind affords,
Was built long since, God knows, for better birds;
But fluttering there, they nestle near the throne,
And lodge in habitations not their own,
By their high crops and corny gizzards known.
Like Harpies, they could scent a plenteous board,
Then to be sure they never failed their lord:
The rest was form, and bare attendance paid;
They drank, and eat, and grudgingly obeyed.
The more they fed, they ravened still for more;
They drained from Dan, and left Beersheba poor.
All this they had by law, and none repined;
The preference was but due to Levi's kind:
But when some lay-preferment fell by chance,
The gourmands made it their inheritance.
When once possessed, they never quit their claim,
For then 'tis sanctified to heaven's high name;
And hallowed thus, they cannot give consent,
The gift should be profaned by worldly management.
“Their flesh was never to the table served,
Though 'tis not thence inferred the birds were starved;
But that their master did not like the food,
As rank, and breeding melancholy blood.
Nor did it with his gracious nature suit,
E'en though they were not doves, to persecute:
Yet he refused, (nor could they take offence,)
Their glutton kind should teach him abstinence.
Nor consecrated grain their wheat he thought,
Which, new from treading, in their bills they brought;
But left his hinds each in his private power,
That those who like the bran might leave the flour.
He for himself, and not for others, chose,
Nor would he be imposed on, nor impose;
But in their faces his devotion paid,
And sacrifice with solemn rites was made,
And sacred incense on his altars laid.
“Besides these jolly birds, whose corpse impure
Repaid their commons with their salt manure,
Another farm he had behind his house,
Not overstocked, but barely for his use;
Wherein his poor domestic poultry fed,
And from his pious hands received their bread.
Our pampered Pigeons, with malignant eyes,
Beheld these inmates, and their nurseries;
Though hard their fare, at evening, and at morn,
(A cruse of water and an ear of corn,)
Yet still they grudged that modicum, and thought
A sheaf in every single grain was brought.
Fain would they filch that little food away,
While unrestrained those happy gluttons prey;
And much they grieved to see so nigh their hall,
The bird that warned St. Peter of his fall;
That he should raise his mitred crest on high,
And clap his wings, and call his family
To sacred rites; and vex the ethereal powers
With midnight matins at uncivil hours;
Nay more, his quiet neighbours should molest,
Just in the sweetness of their morning rest.
Beast of a bird, supinely when he might
Lie snug and sleep, to rise before the light!
What if his dull forefathers used that cry,
Could he not let a bad example die?
The world was fallen into an easier way;
This age knew better than to fast and pray.
Good sense in sacred worship would appear,
So to begin, as they might end the year.
Such feats in former times had wrought the falls
Of crowing chanticleers in cloistered walls.
Expelled for this, and for their lands, they fled;
And sister Partlet, with her hooded head,
Was hooted hence, because she would not pray abed.
The way to win the restiff world to God,
Was to lay by the disciplining rod,
Unnatural fasts, and foreign forms of prayer;
Religion frights us with a mien severe.
'Tis prudence to reform her into ease,
And put her in undress, to make her please;
A lively faith will bear aloft the mind,
And leave the luggage of good works behind.
“Such doctrines in the Pigeon-house were taught;
You need not ask how wondrously they wrought;
But sure the common cry was all for these,
Whose life and precepts both encouraged ease.
Yet fearing those alluring baits might fail,
And holy deeds o'er all their arts prevail,
(For vice, though frontless, and of hardened face,
Is daunted at the sight of awful grace,)
An hideous figure of their foes they drew,
Nor lines, nor looks, nor shades, nor colours true;
And this grotesque design exposed to public view.
One would have thought it an Egyptian piece,
With garden-gods, and barking deities,
More thick than Ptolemy has stuck the skies.
All so perverse a draught, so far unlike,
It was no libel where it meant to strike.
Yet still the daubing pleased, and great and small,
To view the monster, crowded Pigeon-hall.
There Chanticleer was drawn upon his knees,
Adorning shrines, and stocks of sainted trees;
And by him, a misshapen, ugly race,
The curse of God was seen on every face:
No Holland emblem could that malice mend,
But still the worse the look, the fitter for a fiend.
“The master of the farm, displeased to find
So much of rancour in so mild a kind,
Enquired into the cause, and came to know,
The passive Church had struck the foremost blow;
With groundless fears, and jealousies possest,
As if this troublesome intruding guest
Would drive the birds of Venus from their nest,
A deed his inborn equity abhorred;
But interest will not trust, though God should plight his word.
“A law, the source of many future harms,
Had banished all the poultry from the farms;
With loss of life, if any should be found
To crow or peck on this forbidden ground.
That bloody statute chiefly was designed
For Chanticleer the white, of clergy kind;
But after-malice did not long forget
The lay that wore the robe and coronet.
For them, for their inferiors and allies,
Their foes a deadly Shibboleth devise;
By which unrighteously it was decreed,
That none to trust, or profit, should succeed,
Who would not swallow first a poisonous wicked weed;
Or that, to which old Socrates was cursed,
Or henbane juice to swell them till they burst.
“The patron, as in reason, thought it hard
To see this inquisition in his yard,
By which the sovereign was of subjects' use debarred.
All gentle means he tried, which might withdraw
The effects of so unnatural a law;
But still the dove-house obstinately stood
Deaf to their own, and to their neighbours' good;
And which was worse, if any worse could be,
Repented of their boasted loyalty;
Now made the champions of a cruel cause,
And drunk with fumes of popular applause:
For those whom God to ruin has designed,
He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.
“New doubts indeed they daily strove to raise,
Suggested dangers, interposed delays,
And emissary Pigeons had in store,
Such as the Meccan prophet used of yore,
To whisper counsels in their patron's ear,
And veiled their false advice with zealous fear.
The master smiled to see them work in vain,
To wear him out, and make an idle reign:
He saw, but suffered their protractive arts,
And strove by mildness to reduce their hearts;
But they abused that grace to make allies,
And fondly closed with former enemies;
For fools are double fools, endeavouring to be wise.
“After a grave consult what course were best,
One, more mature in folly than the rest,
Stood up, and told them, with his head aside,
That desperate cures must be to desperate ills applied:
And therefore, since their main impending fear
Was from the increasing race of Chanticleer,
Some potent bird of prey they ought to find,
A foe professed to him, and all his kind:
Some haggard Hawk, who had her eyry nigh,
Well pounced to fasten, and well winged to fly;
One they might trust, their common wrongs to wreak.
The Musquet and the Coystrel were too weak,
Too fierce the Falcon; but, above the rest,
The noble Buzzard ever pleased me best:
Of small renown, 'tis true; for, not to lie,
We call him but a Hawk by courtesy.
I know he haunts the Pigeon-house and Farm,
And more, in time of war, has done us harm:
But all his hate on trivial points depends;
Give up our forms, and we shall soon be friends.
For Pigeons' flesh he seems not much to care;
Crammed Chickens are a more delicious fare.
On this high potentate, without delay,
I wish you would confer the sovereign sway;
Petition him to accept the government,
And let a splendid embassy be sent.
“This pithy speech prevailed, and all agreed,
Old enmities forgot, the Buzzard should succeed.
“Their welcome suit was granted, soon as heard,
His lodgings furnished, and a train prepared,
With B's upon their breast, appointed for his guard.
He came, and, crowned with great solemnity,
‘God save king Buzzard!’ was the general cry.
“A portly prince, and goodly to the sight,
He seemed a son of Anak for his height:
Like those whom stature did to crowns prefer,
Black-browed, and bluff, like Homer's Jupiter;
Broad-backed, and brawny-built for love's delight,
A prophet formed to make a female proselyte;
A theologue more by need than genial bent,
By breeding sharp, by nature confident.
Interest in all his actions was discerned;
More learned than honest, more a wit than learned;
Or forced by fear, or by his profit led,
Or both conjoined, his native clime he fled;
But brought the virtues of his heaven along,
A fair behaviour, and a fluent tongue.
And yet with all his arts he could not thrive,
The most unlucky parasite alive;
Loud praises to prepare his paths he sent,
And then himself pursued his compliment;
But by reverse of fortune chased away,
His gifts no longer than their author stay;
He shakes the dust against the ungrateful race,
And leaves the stench of ordures in the place.
Oft has he flattered and blasphemed the same;
For in his rage he spares no sovereign's name:
The hero and the tyrant change their style,
By the same measure that they frown or smile.
When well received by hospitable foes,
The kindness he returns, is to expose;
For courtesies, though undeserved and great,
No gratitude in felon-minds beget;
As tribute to his wit, the churl receives the treat.
His praise of foes is venomously nice;
So touched, it turns a virtue to a vice;
‘A Greek, and bountiful, forewarns us twice.’
Seven sacraments he wisely does disown,
Because he knows confession stands for one;
Where sins to sacred silence are conveyed,
And not for fear, or love, to be betrayed:
But he, uncalled, his patron to control,
Divulged the secret whispers of his soul;
Stood forth the accusing Satan of his crimes,
And offered to the Moloch of the times.
Prompt to assail, and careless of defence,
Invulnerable in his impudence,
He dares the world; and, eager of a name,
He thrusts about, and jostles into fame.
Frontless, and satire-proof, he scours the streets,
And runs an Indian-muck at all he meets.
So fond of loud report, that, not to miss
Of being known, (his last and utmost bliss,)
He rather would be known for what he is.
“Such was, and is, the Captain of the Test,
Though half his virtues are not here expressed;
The modesty of fame conceals the rest.
The spleenful Pigeons never could create
A prince more proper to revenge their hate;
Indeed, more proper to revenge, than save;
A king, whom in his wrath the Almighty gave:
For all the grace the landlord had allowed,
But made the Buzzard and the Pigeons proud;
Gave time to fix their friends, and to seduce the crowd.
They long their fellow-subjects to enthral,
Their patron's promise into question call,
And vainly think he meant to make them lords of all.
“False fears their leaders failed not to suggest,
As if the Doves were to be dispossest;
Nor sighs, nor groans, nor goggling eyes did want,
For now the Pigeons too had learned to cant.
The house of prayer is stocked with large increase;
Nor doors, nor windows, can contain the press,
For birds of every feather fill the abode;
E'en atheists out of envy own a God,
And, reeking from the stews, adulterers come,
Like Goths and Vandals to demolish Rome.
That conscience, which to all their crimes was mute,
Now calls aloud, and cries to persecute:
No rigour of the laws to be released,
And much the less, because it was their Lord's request;
They thought it great their sovereign to control,
And named their pride, nobility of soul.
“'Tis true, the Pigeons, and their prince elect,
Were short of power, their purpose to effect;
But with their quills did all the hurt they could,
And cuffed the tender Chickens from their food:
And much the Buzzard in their cause did stir,
Though naming not the patron, to infer,
With all respect, he was a gross idolater.
“But when the imperial owner did espy,
That thus they turned his grace to villainy,
Not suffering wrath to discompose his mind,
He strove a temper for the extremes to find,
So to be just, as he might still be kind;
Then, all maturely weighed, pronounced a doom
Of sacred strength for every age to come.
By this the Doves their wealth and state possess,
No rights infringed, but licence to oppress:
Such power have they as factious lawyers long
To crowns ascribed, that kings can do no wrong.
But since his own domestic birds have tried
The dire effects of their destructive pride,
He deems that proof a measure to the rest,
Concluding well within his kingly breast,
His fowls of nature too unjustly were opprest.
He therefore makes all birds of every sect
Free of his farm, with promise to respect
Their several kinds alike, and equally protect.
His gracious edict the same franchise yields
To all the wild increase of woods and fields,
And who in rocks aloof, and who in steeples builds:
To Crows the like impartial grace affords,
And Choughs and Daws, and such republic birds;
Secured with ample privilege to feed,
Each has his district, and his bounds decreed;
Combined in common interest with his own,
But not to pass the Pigeons' Rubicon.
“Here ends the reign of this pretended Dove;
All prophecies accomplished from above,
For Shiloh comes the sceptre to remove.
Reduced from her imperial high abode,
Like Dionysius to a private rod,
The passive Church, that with pretended grace
Did her distinctive mark in duty place,
Now touched, reviles her Maker to his face.
“What after happened is not hard to guess;
The small beginnings had a large increase,
And arts and wealth succeed the secret spoils of peace.
'Tis said, the Doves repented, though too late,
Become the smiths of their own foolish fate:
Nor did their owner hasten their ill hour,
But, sunk in credit, they decreased in power;
Like snows in warmth that mildly pass away,
Dissolving in the silence of decay.
“The Buzzard, not content with equal place,
Invites the feathered Nimrods of his race,
To hide the thinness of their flock from sight,
And all together make a seeming goodly flight:
But each have separate interests of their own;
Two Czars are one too many for a throne.
Nor can the usurper long abstain from food;
Already he has tasted Pigeon's blood,
And may be tempted to his former fare,
When this indulgent lord shall late to heaven repair.
Bare benting times, and moulting months may come,
When, lagging late, they cannot reach their home;
Or rent in schism, (for so their fate decrees,)
Like the tumultuous college of the bees,
They fight their quarrel, by themselves opprest,
The tyrant smiles below, and waits the falling feast.”
Thus did the gentle Hind her fable end,
Nor would the Panther blame it, nor commend;
But, with affected yawnings at the close,
Seemed to require her natural repose;
For now the streaky light began to peep,
And setting stars admonished both to sleep.
The Dame withdrew, and, wishing to her guest
The peace of heaven, betook herself to rest:
Ten thousand angels on her slumbers wait,
With glorious visions of her future state.
I. The Ring and the Book
Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more—
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.
Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.
That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."
Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.
Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"
So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"
A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.
But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"
So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
—Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.
This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?
Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"
Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there—
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.
This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?
Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.
I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.
Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime—
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.
Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
—No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?
Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there—
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.
Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!
Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word—
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.
So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
—It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.
Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.
Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.
Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.
Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.
Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.
Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!
A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names
Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.
A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
—Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
The Seventh and Last
Church, Synagogue, Mosque;
Like a perfect family on this earth!
But the Seventh and Last Prophesied Work of Yahweh is what we all need.