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Wake Up Dead

I sneak in my own house
Its four in the morning
I had too much to drink
Said I was out with the boys
I creep in my bedroom
I slip into bed,
I know if I wake her,
Ill wake up dead
Chorus:
I wonder, will she find out,
About the other, other lover.
Diana.
Wake up dead, you die
Wake up dead, and buried.
Wake up dead, you die
Wake up dead.

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Far too much in love I was with her (sonnet corona / crown of sonnets)

(for A)

I

Far too much in love I was with her
but probably she did not really love me,
while she became involved with another,
and I became her liability.

Crying I could hardly see
and although the parting was shattering
from her fighting rages I was finally free
and being alone at times was overwhelming

the parting is much better still
as she tried to stain my integrity
and at times did not have goodwill,
tried to hide from any responsibility,

destiny knew better about the things that ought to be,
my love, like an illness almost destroyed me.

II

My love, like an illness almost destroyed me
and on the balcony of the fifteenth floor
I was robbed from sense and sensibility
wavering to jump and land in a bundle of gore

but something spoke to my heart spoke to my soul
and I knew that all fair reasoning had left me
turned me into a animal, somewhat like a ghoul
and immediately I saw this as inadequacy

dealing with the situation of love lost
and step away from the beyond
spared myself the ultimate cost
of going on in death's bond:

seeing that you like a devil besieged me,
I stepped away and from you I was free.


III

I stepped away and from you I was free,
but I still wonder how you could take
gifts, flowers and poems from me
and in my back could at times rake

your nails and with subtlety
sometimes look me in the eye,
while sleeping around and being dirty
while slowly causing our love to die?

Was it the looks that your beauty had drawn?
that made you slip and ride the tide
or was their promise in each new dawn,
until truth rocked me like a landslide:

while I thought that our love was strong,
what you did to me was terribly wrong.


IV

What you did to me was terribly wrong
giving pain, more pain and joy and pain
as you carried on behind my back, went along,
but what did you really gain?

I wonder why you still at times call me
to tell me that you miss little things
and act sometimes sincerely
as if there are no endings or beginnings

and this was not really my making
and I have pain while you still laugh in glee
as you had made your choices in this undertaking,
destiny had forced me along, as things are to be;

like the withering, as time disposes
the dark red bunches of roses.


V

The dark red bunches of roses
grow among thorn upon thorn
and so it's with women clad in sheer hoses
and a gentle, humble one is still to be born.

Even if for love you do the right deed
it is sometimes filled with a canker,
even if to every caution you do heed
when you do further proceed.

Venus has led many men to disaster
into servant, follower
has stripped the good master
from all his power:

as witnessed by the scars that I bear,
from services to one not true but fair.


VI

From services to one not true but fair
at times sudden disaster sprouted,
as she undressed, let down her long hair
and in intimacy screamed and shouted.

It is a thing to be loved
but then quite another
to from a heart be removed
and then when I truly loved her

even the hairs on her arms did rise
when I reached out to embrace
my loving her was not wise
as she acted at times in disgrace

and now that time speeds faster than it did before,
I wish to have half my life back once more.

VII

I wish to have half my life back once more,
to live daily to what destiny brings
and now I do deplore
not having love's blessings

and it was painful when I went on my way,
to be deceived as she acted secretly
and was interested to kiss and play
with a friend very intimately

but live goes on with seasons and years,
and it brings joys, heartaches, pleasure and pain,
sometimes hours, days and months of tears
but with her I never want a relationship again

and to my death we will never again be together;
far too much in love I was with her

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Tamar

I
A night the half-moon was like a dancing-girl,
No, like a drunkard's last half-dollar
Shoved on the polished bar of the eastern hill-range,
Young Cauldwell rode his pony along the sea-cliff;
When she stopped, spurred; when she trembled, drove
The teeth of the little jagged wheels so deep
They tasted blood; the mare with four slim hooves
On a foot of ground pivoted like a top,
Jumped from the crumble of sod, went down, caught, slipped;
Then, the quick frenzy finished, stiffening herself
Slid with her drunken rider down the ledges,
Shot from sheer rock and broke
Her life out on the rounded tidal boulders.

The night you know accepted with no show of emotion the little
accident; grave Orion
Moved northwest from the naked shore, the moon moved to
meridian, the slow pulse of the ocean
Beat, the slow tide came in across the slippery stones; it drowned
the dead mare's muzzle and sluggishly
Felt for the rider; Cauldwell’s sleepy soul came back from the
blind course curious to know
What sea-cold fingers tapped the walls of its deserted ruin.
Pain, pain and faintness, crushing
Weights, and a vain desire to vomit, and soon again
die icy fingers, they had crept over the loose hand and lay in the
hair now. He rolled sidewise
Against mountains of weight and for another half-hour lay still.
With a gush of liquid noises
The wave covered him head and all, his body
Crawled without consciousness and like a creature with no bones,
a seaworm, lifted its face
Above the sea-wrack of a stone; then a white twilight grew about
the moon, and above
The ancient water, the everlasting repetition of the dawn. You
shipwrecked horseman
So many and still so many and now for you the last. But when it
grew daylight
He grew quite conscious; broken ends of bone ground on each
other among the working fibers
While by half-inches he was drawing himself out of the seawrack
up to sandy granite,
Out of the tide's path. Where the thin ledge tailed into flat cliff
he fell asleep. . . .
Far seaward
The daylight moon hung like a slip of cloud against the horizon.
The tide was ebbing
From the dead horse and the black belt of sea-growth. Cauldwell
seemed to have felt her crying beside him,
His mother, who was dead. He thought 'If I had a month or two
of life yet
I would remember to be decent, only it's now too late, I'm finished,
mother, mother,
I'm sorry.' After that he thought only of pain and raging thirst
until the sundown
Reddened the sea, and hands were reaching for him and drawing
him up the cliff.

His sister Tamar
Nursed him in the big westward bedroom
Of the old house on Point Lobos. After fever
A wonderful day of peace and pleasant weakness
Brought home to his heart the beauty of things. 'O Tamar
I've thrown away years like rubbish. Listen, Tamar,
It would be better for me to be a cripple,
Sit on the steps and watch the forest grow up the hill
Or a new speck of moss on some old rock
That takes ten years agrowing, than waste
Shame and my spirit on Monterey rye whiskey,
And worse, and worse. I shan't be a cripple, Tamar.
We'll walk along the blessed old gray sea,
And up in the hills and watch the spring come home.'

Youth is a troublesome but a magical thing,
There is little more to say for it when you've said
Young bones knit easily; he that fell in December
Walked in the February fields. His sister Tamar
Was with him, and his mind ran on her name,
But she was saying, 'We laugh at poor Aunt Stella
With her spirit
visitors: Lee, something told her truth.
Last August, you were hunting deer, you had been gone
Ten days or twelve, we heard her scream at night,
I went to the room, she told me
She'd seen you lying all bloody on the sea-beach
By a dead deer, its blood dabbling the black weeds of the ebb.'
'I was up Tassajara way,' he answered,
'Far from the sea.' 'We were glad when you rode home
Safe, with the two bucks on the packhorse. But listen,
She said she watched the stars flying over you
In her vision, Orion she said, and made me look
Out of her window southward, where I saw
The stars they call the Scorpion, the red bead
With the curling tail. Then it will be in winter,'
She whispered to me, 'Orion is winter.'
'Tamar, Tamar,
Winter is over, visions are over and vanished,
The fields are winking full of poppies,
In a week or two I'll fill your arms with shining irises.'

The winter sun went under and all that night there came a roaring
from the south; Lee Cauldwell
Lay awake and heard the tough old house creak all her timbers;
he was miserably lonely and vacant,
He'd put away the boyish jets of wickedness, loves with dark
eyes in Monterey back-streets, liquor
And all its fellowship, what was left to live for but the farmwork,
rain would come and hinder?
He heard the cypress trees that seemed to scream in the wind,
and felt the ocean pounding granite.
His father and Tamar's, the old man David Cauldwell, lay in the
eastern chamber; when the storm
Wakened him from the heartless fugitive slumber of age he rose
and made a light, and lighted
The lamp not cold yet; night and day were nearly equal to him,
he had seen too many; he dressed
Slowly and opened his Bible. In the neighboring rooms he heard
on one side Stella Moreland,
His dead wife's sister, quieting his own sister, the idiot Jinny
Cauldwell, who laughed and chuckled
Often for half the night long, an old woman with a child's mind
and mostly sleepless; in the other
Chamber Tamar was moaning, for it seemed that nightmare
Within the house answered to storm without.
To Tamar it seemed that she was walking by the seaside
With her dear brother, who said 'Here's where I fell,
A bad girl that I knew in Monterey pushed me over the cliff,
You can see blood still on the boulders.' Where he vanished to
She could not tell, nor why she was crying 'Lee. No.
No dearest brother, dearest brother no.' But she cried vainly,
Lee was not there to help her, a wild white horse
Came out of the wave and trampled her with his hooves,
The horror that she had dreaded through her dreaming
With mystical foreknowledge. When it wakened her,
She like her father heard old Jinny chuckling
And Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
the cypresses.
'When it rains it will be quieter,' Tamar thought. She slept
again, all night not a drop fell.
Old Cauldwell from his window saw the cloudy light seep up
the sky from the overhanging
Hilltops, the dawn was dammed behind the hills but overflowed
at last and ran down on the sea.

II
Lee Cauldwell rode across the roaring southwind to the winter
pasture up in the hills.
A hundred times he wanted Tamar, to show her some new beauty
of canyon wildflowers, water
Dashing its ferns, or oaktrees thrusting elbows at the wind, blackoaks
smoldering with foliage
And the streaked beauty of white-oak trunks, and redwood
glens; he rode up higher across the rainwind
And found his father's cattle in a quiet hollow among the hills,
their horns to the wind,
Quietly grazing. He returned another way, from the headland
over Wildcat Canyon,
Saw the immense water possessing all the west and saw Point Lobos
Gemmed in it, and the barn-roofs and the house-roof
Like ships' keels in the cypress tops, and thought of Tamar.
Toward sundown he approached the house; Will Andrews
Was leaving it and young Cauldwell said, 'Listen, Bill Andrews,
We've had gay times together and ridden at night.
I've quit it, I don't want my old friends to visit my sister.
Better keep off the place.' 'I will,' said the other,
'When Tamar tells me to.' 'You think my bones
Aren't mended yet, better keep off.' Lee Cauldwell
Rode by to the stable wondering why his lips
Twitched with such bitter anger; Tamar wondered
Why he went upstairs without a word or smile
Of pleasure in her. The old man David Cauldwell,
When Lee had told him news of the herd and that Ramon
Seemed faithful, and the calves flourished, the old man answered:
'I hear that there's a dance at Motley's Landing Saturday. You'll
be riding
Down the coast, Lee. Don't kill the horse, have a good time.'
'No, I've had all I want, I'm staying
At home now, evenings.' 'Don't do it; better dance your pony
down the cliffs again than close
Young life into a little box; you've been too wild; now I'm worn
out, but I remember
Hell's in the box.' Lee answered nothing, his father's lamp of
thought was hidden awhile in words,
An old man's words, like the dry evening moths that choke a
candle. A space, and he was saying,
'Come summer we'll be mixed into the bloody squabble out there,
and you'll be going headforemost
Unless you make your life so pleasant you'd rather live it. I
mayn't be living
To see you home or hear you're killed.' Lee, smiling at him,
'A soldier's what I won't be, father.' That night
He dreamed himself a soldier, an aviator
Duelling with a German above a battle
That looked like waves, he fired his gun and mounted
In steady rhythm; he must have been winged, he suddenly
Plunged and went through the soft and deadly surface
Of the deep sea, wakening in terror.
He heard his old Aunt Jinny chuckling,
Aunt Stella sighing and soothing her, and the southwind
Raging around the gables of the house and through the forest of
the cypresses.

III
They two had unbridled the horses
And tied them with long halters near the thicket
Under Mai Paso bridge and wandered east
Into the narrow cleft, they had climbed the summit
On the right and looked across the sea.
The steep path down, 'What are we for?' said Tamar wearily,
'to want and want and not dare know it.'
'Because I dropped the faded irises,' Lee answered, 'you're unhappy.
They were all withered, Tamar.
We have grown up in the same house.' 'The withered house
Of an old man and a withered woman and an idiot woman. No
wonder if we go mad, no wonder.'
They came to the hid stream and Tamar said, 'Sweet, green and cool,
After the mad white April sun: you wouldn't mind, Lee?
Here where it makes a pool: you mustn't look; but you're my
brother. And then
I will stand guard for you.' The murmur and splash of water
made his fever fierier; something
Unfelt before kept his eyes seaward: why should he dread to see
the round arm and clear throat
Flash from the hollow stream? He trembled, thinking
'O we are beasts, a beast, what am I for?
Was the old man right, I must be drunk and a dancer and feed on
the cheap pleasures, or it's dangerous?
Lovely and thoughtless, if she knew me how she'd loathe and
avoid me. Her brother, brother. My sister.
Better the life with the bones, and all at once have broken.'
Meanwhile Tamar
Uneasily dipped her wrists, and crouching in the leaf-grown bank
Saw her breasts in the dark mirror, she trembled backward
From a long ripple and timidly wading entered
The quiet translucence to the thighs. White-shining
Slender and virgin pillar, desire in water
Unhidden and half reflected among the interbranching ripples,
Arched with alder, over-woven with willow.
Ah Tamar, stricken with strange fever and feeling
Her own desirableness, half-innocent Tamar
Thought, 'If I saw a snake in the water he would come now
And kill the snake, he is keen and fearless but he fears
Me I believe.' Was it the wild rock coast
Of her breeding, and the reckless wind
In the beaten trees and the gaunt booming crashes
Of breakers under the rocks, or rather the amplitude
And wing-subduing immense earth-ending water
That moves all the west taught her this freedom? Ah Tamar,
It was not good, not wise, not safe, not provident,
Not even, for custom creates nature, natural,
Though all other license were; and surely her face
Grew lean and whitened like a mask, the lips
Thinned their rose to a split thread, the little breasts
Erected sharp bright buds but the white belly
Shuddered, sucked in. The lips writhed and no voice
Formed, and again, and a faint cry. 'Tamar?'
He answered, and she answered, 'Nothing. A snake in the water
Frightened me.' And again she called his name.
'What is it, Tamar?' 'Nothing. It is cold in the water.
Come, Lee, I have hidden myself all but the head.
Bathe, if you mean to bathe, and keep me company.
I won't look till you're in.' He came, trembling.
He unclothed himself in a green depth and dared not
Enter the pool, but stared at the drawn scars
Of the old wound on his leg. 'Come, Lee, I'm freezing.
Come, I won't look.' He saw the clear-skinned shoulders
And the hollow of her back, he drowned his body
In the watery floor under the cave of foliage,
And heard her sobbing. When she turned, the great blue eyes
Under the auburn hair, streamed. 'Lee.
We have stopped being children; I would have drowned myself;
If you hadn't taught me swimming long ago long ago, Lee
When we were children.' 'Tamar, what is it, what is it?'
'Only that I want . . . death. You lie if you think
Another thing.' She slipped face down and lay
In the harmless water, the auburn hair trailed forward
Darkened like weeds, the double arc of the shoulders
Floated, and when he had dragged her to the bank both arms
Clung to him, the white body in a sobbing spasm
Clutched him, he could not disentangle the white desire,
So they were joined (like drowning folk brought back
By force to bitter life) painfully, without joy.
The spasm fulfilled, poor Tamar, like one drowned indeed, lay
pale and quiet
And careless of her nakedness. He, gulfs opening
Between the shapes of his thought, desired to rise and leave her
and was ashamed to.
He lay by her side, the cheek he kissed was cold like a smooth
stone, the blue eyes were half open,
The bright smooth body seemed to have suffered pain, not love.
One of her arms crushed both her breasts,
The other lay in the grass, the fingers clutching toward the
roots of die soft grass. 'Tamar,'
He whispered, then she breathed shudderingly and answered,
'We have it, we have it. Now I know.
It was my fault. I never shall be ashamed again.' He said,
'What shall I do? Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, shivering.
'It hurts, there is blood here, I am too cold to bathe myself
again. O brother, brother,
Mine and twice mine. You knew already, a girl has got to learn.
I love you, I chose my teacher.
Mine, it was my doing.' She flung herself upon him, cold white
and smooth, with sobbing kisses.
'I am so cold, dearest, dearest.' The horses at the canyon mouth
tugged at their halters,
Dug pits under the restless forehooves, shivered in the hill-wind
At sundown, were not ridden till dark, it was near midnight
They came to the old house.

IV
When Jinny Cauldwell slept, the old woman with a child's mind,
then Stella Moreland
Invoked her childish-minded dead, or lying blank-eyed in the
dark egged on her dreams to vision,
Suffering for lack of audience, tasting the ecstasy of vision. This
was the vaporous portion
She endured her life in the strength of, in the sea-shaken loneliness,
little loved, nursing an idiot,
Growing bitterly old among the wind-torn Lobos cypress trunks.
(O torture of needled branches
Doubled and gnarled, never a moment of quiet, the northwind
or the southwind or the northwest.
For up and down the coast they are tall and terrible horsemen on
patrol, alternate giants
Guarding the granite and sand frontiers of the last ocean; but
here at Lobos the winds are torturers,
The old trees endure them. They blew always thwart the old
woman's dreams and sometimes by her bedside
Stood, the south in russety black, the north in white, but the
northwest wave-green, sea-brilliant,
Scaled like a fish. She had also the sun and moon and mightier
presences in her visions.) Tamar
Entered the room toward morning and stood ghost-like among
the old woman's ghosts. The rolled-up eyes,
Dull white, with little spindles of iris touching the upper lids,
played back the girl's blown candle
Sightlessly, but the spirit of sight that the eyes are tools of and
it made them, saw her. 'Ah, Helen,'
Cried out the entranced lips, 'We thought you were tired of the
wind, we thought you never came now.
My sister's husband lies in the next room, go waken him, show
him your beauty, call him with kisses.
He is old and the spittle when he dreams runs into his beard, but
he is your lover and your brother.'
'I am not Helen,' she said, 'what Helen, what Helen?' 'Who
was not the wife but the sister of her man,
Mine was his wife.' 'My mother?' 'And now he is an old hulk
battered ashore. Show him your beauty,
Strip for him, Helen, as when he made you a seaweed bed in the
cave. What if the beard is slimy
And the eyes run, men are not always young and fresh like you
dead women.' But Tamar clutching
The plump hand on the coverlet scratched it with her nails, the
old woman groaned but would not waken,
And Tamar held the candle flame against the hand, the soot
striped it, then with a scream
The old woman awoke, sat up, and fell back rigid on the bed.
Tamar found place for the candle
On a little table at the bedside, her freed hands could not awaken
a second answer
In the flesh that now for all its fatness felt like a warmed stone.
But the idiot waked and chuckled,
Waved both hands at the candle saying, 'My little star, my little
star, come little star.'
And to these three old Cauldwell sighing with sleeplessness
Entered, not noticed, and he stood in the open door. Tamar was
bending
Over the bed, loose hair like burnished metal
Concealed her face and sharply cut across one rounded shoulder
The thin night-dress had slipped from. The old man her father
Feared, for a ghost of law-contemptuous youth
Slid through the chilly vaults of the stiff arteries,
And he said, 'What is it, Tamar?' 'She was screaming in a
dream,
I came to quiet her, now she has gone stiff like iron.
Who is this woman Helen she was dreaming about?'
'Helen? Helen?' he answered slowly and Tamar
Believed she saw the beard and the hands tremble.
'It's too cold for you, Tamar, go back to bed
And I'll take care of her. A common name for women.'
Old Jinny clapped her hands, 'Little star, little star,
Twinkle all night!' and the stiff form on the bed began to speak,
In a changed voice and from another mode of being
And spirit of thought: 'I cannot think that you have forgotten.
I was walking on the far side of the moon,
Whence everything is seen but the earth, and never forgot.
This girl's desire drew me home, we also had wanted
Too near our blood,
And to tangle the interbranching net of generations
With a knot sideways. Desire's the arrow-sprayer
And shoots into the stars. Poor little Tamar
He gave you a luckless name in memory of me
And now he is old forgets mine.' 'You are that Helen,'
Said Tamar leaning over the fat shape
The quiet and fleshless voice seemed issuing from,
A sound of youth from the old puffed lips, 'What Helen? This
man's . . .
Sister, this body was saying?' 'By as much more
As you are of your brother.' 'Why,' laughed Tamar trembling,
'Hundreds of nasty children do it, and we
Nothing but children.' Then the old man: 'Lies, lies, lies.
No ghost, a lying old woman. Your Aunt Helen
Died white as snow. She died before your mother died.
Your mother and this old woman always hated her,
This liar, as they hated me. I was too hard a nature
To die of it, Lily and Stella.' 'It makes me nothing,
My darling sin a shadow and me a doll on wires,'
Thought Tamar with one half her spirit; and the other half said,
'Poor lies, words without meaning. Poor Aunt Stella,
The voices in her have no minds.' 'Poor little Tamar,'
Murmured the young voice from the swollen cavern,
'Though you are that woman's daughter, if we dead
Could be sorrowful for anyone but ourselves
I would be sorrowful for you, a trap so baited
Was laid to catch you when the world began,
Before the granite foundation. I too have tasted the sweet bait.
But you are the luckier, no one came home to me
To say there are no whips beyond death but only memory,
And that can be endured.' The room was quiet a moment,
And Tamar heard the wind moving outdoors. Then the idiot
Jinny Cauldwell
Whose mind had been from birth a crippled bird but when she
was twelve years old her mind's cage
Was covered utterly, like a bird-cage covered with its evening
cloth when lamps are lighted,
And her memory skipped the more than forty years between but
caught stray gleams of the sun of childhood,
She in her crumpled voice: 'I'd rather play with Helen, go away
Stella. Stella pinches me,
Lily laughs at me, Lily and Stella are not my sisters.' 'Jinny,
Jinny,'
Said the old man shaking like a thin brick house-wall in an earthquake,
'do you remember, Jinny?'
'Jinny don't like the old man,' she answered, 'give me the star,
give me my star,'
She whined, stretching from bed to reach the candle, 'why have
they taken my little star?
Helen would give it to Jinny.' Then Stella waking from the
trance sighed and arose to quiet her
According to her night's habit. Tamar said, 'You were screaming
in your sleep.' 'I had great visions.
And I have forgotten them. There Jinny, there, there. It'll have
the candle, will it? Pretty Jinny.
Will have candle to-morrow. Little Jinny let Aunt Stella sleep
now.' Old Cauldwell tottering
Went to his room; then Tamar said, 'You were talking about
his sister Helen, my aunt Helen,
You never told me about her.' 'She has been dead for forty
years, what should we tell you about her?
Now little Jinny, pretty sister,' And laying her hands upon the
mattress of the bed
The old woman cradled it up and down, humming a weary song.
Tamar stood vainly waiting
The sleep of the monstrous babe; at length because it would not
sleep went to her room and heard it
Gurgle and whimper an hour; and the tired litanies of the lullabies;
not quiet till daylight.

V
O swiftness of the swallow and strength
Of the stone shore, brave beauty of falcons,
Beauty of the blue heron that flies
Opposite the color of evening
From the Carmel River's reed-grown mouth
To her nest in the deep wood of the deer
Cliffs of peninsular granite engirdle,
beauty of the fountains of the sun
1 pray you enter a little chamber,
I have given you bodies, I have made you puppets,
I have made idols for God to enter
And tiny cells to hold your honey.
I have given you a dotard and an idiot,
An old woman puffed with vanity, youth but botched with incest,
O blower of music through the crooked bugles,
You that make signs of sins and choose the lame for angels,
Enter and possess. Being light you have chosen the dark lamps,
A hawk the sluggish bodies: therefore God you chose
Me; and therefore I have made you idols like these idols
To enter and possess.
Tamar, finding no hope,
Slid back on passion, she had sought counsel of the dead
And found half-scornful pity and found her sin
Fore-dated; there was honey at least in shame
And secrecy in silence, and her lover
Could meet her afield or slip to her room at night
In serviceable safety. They learned, these two,
Not to look back nor forward; and but for the hint
Of vague and possible wreck every transgression
Paints on the storm-edge of the sky, their blue
Though it dulled a shade with custom shone serene
To the fifth moon, when the moon's mark on women
Died out of Tamar. She kept secret the warning,
How could she color such love with perplexed fear?
Her soul walked back and forth like a new prisoner
Feeling the plant of unescapable fate
Root in her body. There was death; who had entered water
To compass love might enter again to escape
Love's fruit; 'But O, but O,' she thought, 'not to die now.
It is less than half a year
Since life turned sweet. If I knew one of the girls
My lover has known
She'd tell me what to do, how to be fruitless,
How to be ... happy? They do it, they do it, all sin
Grew nothing to us that day in Mai Paso water.
A love sterile and sacred as the stars.
I will tell my lover, he will make me safe,
He will find means . . .
Sterile and sacred, and more than any woman
. . . Unhappy. Miserable,' she sobbed, 'miserable,
The rough and bitter water about the cliff's foot
Better to breathe.'
When Lee was not by her side
She walke4 the cliffs to tempt them. The calm and large
Pacific surge heavy with summer rolling southeast from a far origin
Battered to foam among the stumps of granite below.
Tamar watched it swing up the little fjords and fountain
Not angrily in the blowholes; a gray vapor
Breathed up among the buttressed writhings of the cypress trunks
And branches swollen with blood-red lichen. She went home
And her night was full of foolish dreams, two layers of dream,
unrelative in emotion
Or substance to the pain of her thoughts. One, the undercurrent
layer that seemed all night continuous,
Concerned the dead (and rather a vision than a dream, for visions
gathered on that house
Like corposant fire on the hoar mastheads of a ship wandering
strange waters), brown-skinned families
Came down the river and straggled through the wood to the sea,
they kindled fires by knobs of granite
And ate the sea-food that the plow still turns up rotting shells of,
not only around Point Lobos
But north and south wherever the earth breaks off to sea-rock;
Tamar saw the huddled bodies
Squat by the fires and sleep; but when the dawn came there was
throbbing music meant for daylight
And that weak people went where it led them and were nothing;
then Spaniards, priests and horseback soldiers,
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
and hearing the universal music
Went where it led them and were nothing; and the English-speakers
Came down the river and wandered through the wood to the sea,
among them Tamar saw her mother
Walking beside a nameless woman with no face nor breasts; and
the universal music
Led them away and they were nothing; but Tamar led her father
from that flood and saved him,
For someone named a church built on a rock, it was beautiful
and white, not fallen to ruin
Like the ruin by Carmel River; she led him to it and made him
enter the door, when he had entered
A new race came from the door and wandered down the river
to the sea and to Point Lobos.
This was the undertow of the dream, obscured by a brighter
surface layer but seeming senseless.
The tides of the sea were quiet and someone said 'because the
moon is lost.' Tamar looked up
And the moon dwindled, rocketing off through lonely space, and
the people in the moon would perish
Of cold or of a star's fire: then Will Andrews curiously wounded
in the face came saying
'Tamar, don't cry. What do you care? I will take care of you.'
Wakening, Tamar thought about him
And how he had stopped coming to see her. Perhaps it was
another man came through her dream,
The wound in the face disguised him, but that morning Lee
having ridden to Mill Creek
To bargain about some fields of winter pasture
Now that the advancing year withered the hill-grass,
Tamar went down and saddled her own pony,
A four-year-old, as white as foam, and cantered
Past San Jose creek-mouth and the Carrows' farm
(Where David Carrow and his fanatical blue eyes,
That afterward saw Christ on the hill, smiled at her passing)
And three miles up the Carmel Valley came
To the Andrews place where the orchards ran to the river
And all the air was rich with ripening apples.
She would not go to the house; she did not find
Whom she was seeking; at length sadly she turned
Homeward, for Lee might be home within two hours,
And on the Carmel bridge above the water
(Shrunken with summer and shot with water lichen,
The surface scaled with minute scarlet leaves,
The borders green with slimy threads) met whom she sought.
'Tamar,' he said, 'I've been to see you.' 'You hadn't
For a long time.' 'I had some trouble with Lee,
I thought you didn't want me.' While they talked
Her eyes tasted his face: was it endurable?
Though it lacked the curious gash her dream had given him. . . .
'I didn't want you, you thought?' 'Lee said so.' 'You might
have waited
Till Tamar said so.' 'Well,' he answered, 'I've been,
And neither of you was home but now I've met you.'
Well-looking enough; freckles, light hair, light eyes;
Not tall, but with a chest and hard wide shoulders,
And sitting the horse well 'O I can do it, I can do it,
Help me, God,' murmured Tamar in her mind,
'How else what else can I do?' and said, 'Luck, isn't it?
What did you want to see me about?' 'I wanted . . .
Because I ... like you, Tamar.' 'Why should I be careful,'
She thought, 'if I frighten him off what does it matter,
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Let's go down
Into the willow,' she said, 'we needn't be seen
Talking and someone tell him and make trouble
Here on the bridge.' They went to the hidden bank
Under the deep green willows, colored water
Stagnated on its moss up to the stems,
Coarse herbage hid the stirrups, Tamar slid from the saddle
As quietly as the long unwhitening wave
Moulds a sunk rock, and while he tethered the horses,
'I have been lonely,' she said. 'Not for me, Tamar.'
'You think not? Will, now that all's over
And likely we'll not see each other again
Often, nor by ourselves, why shouldn't I tell you . . .'
'What, Tamar?' 'There've been moments . . . hours then . .
When anything you might have asked me for
Would have been given, I'd have done anything
You asked me to, you never asked anything, Will.
I'm telling you this so that you may remember me
As one who had courage to speak truth, you'll meet
So many others.' 'But now' he meant to ask,
'Now it's too late, Tamar?' and hadn't courage,
And Tamar thought 'Must I go farther and say more?
Let him despise me as I despise myself.
I have got a little beyond caring.' 'Now?' she said.
'Do you think I am changed? You have changed, Will,
you have grown
Older, and stronger I think, your face is firmer;
And carefuller: I have not changed, I am still reckless
To my own injury, and as trustful as a child.
Would I be with you here in the green thicket
If I weren't trustful? If you should harm me, Will,
I'd think it was no harm.' She had laid her hand
On the round sunburnt throat and felt it throbbing,
And while she spoke the thought ran through her mind,
'He is only a little boy but if he turns pale
I have won perhaps, for white's the wanting color.
If he reddens I’ve lost and it's no matter.' He did not move
And seemed not to change color and Tamar said,
'Now I must go. Lee will be home soon.
How soft the ground is in the willow shadow.
I have ended with you honestly, Will; remember me
Not afraid to speak truth and not ashamed
To have stripped my soul naked. You have seen all of me.
Good-bye.' But when she turned he caught her by the arm,
She sickened inward, thinking, 'Now it has come.
I have called and called it and I can't endure it.
Ah. A dumb beast.' But he had found words now and said,
'How would you feel, Tamar, if all of a sudden
The bird or star you'd broken your heart to have
Flew into your hands, then flew away. O Tamar, Tamar,
You can't go now, you can't.' She unresisting
Took the hot kisses on her neck and hair
And hung loose in his arms the while he carried her
To a clean bank of grass in the deep shadow.
He laid her there and kneeling by her: 'You said you trusted me.
You are wise, Tamar; I love you so much too well
I would cut my hands off not to harm you.' But she,
Driven by the inward spark of life and dreading
Its premature maturity, could not rest
On harmless love, there were no hands to help
In the innocence of love, and like a vision
Came to her the memory of that other lover
And how he had fallen a farther depth
From firmer innocence at Mai Paso, but the stagnant
Autumn water of Carmel stood too far
From the April freshet in the hills. Tamar pushed off
His kisses and stood up weeping and cried
'It's no use, why will you love me till I cry?
Lee hates you and my father is old and old, we can't
Sour the three years he has before he dies.'
'I'll wait for you,' said the boy, 'wait years, Tamar.' Then Tamar
Hiding her face against his throat
So that he felt the tears whispered, 'But I ...'
She sobbed, 'Have no patience ... I can't wait. Will . . .
When I made my soul naked for you
There was one spot ... a fault ... a shame
I was ashamed to uncover.' She pressed her mouth
Between the muscles of his breast: 'I want you and want you.
You didn't know that a clean girl could want a man.
Now you will take me and use me and throw me away
And I've . . . earned it.' 'Tamar, I swear by God
Never to let you be sorry, but protect you
With all my life.' 'This is our marriage,' Tamar answered.
'But God would have been good to me to have killed me
Before I told you.' The boy feeling her body
Vibrant and soft and sweet in its weeping surrender
Went blind and could not feel how she hated him
That moment; when he awakened she was lying
With the auburn hair muddied and the white face
Turned up to the willow leaves, her teeth were bared
And sunk in the under lip, a smear of blood
Reddening the corner of the lips. One of her arms
Crushed both her breasts, the other lay in the grass,
The fingers clutching toward the roots of the soft grass. 'O Tamar,'
Murmured the boy, 'I love you, I love you. What shall I do?
Go away?
Kill myself, Tamar?' She contracted all her body and crouched
in the long grass, thinking
'That Helen of my old father's never fooled him at least,' and
said, 'There is nothing to do, nothing.
It is horribly finished. Keep it secret, keep it secret, Will. I too
was to blame a little.
But I didn't mean . . . this.' 'I know,' he said, 'it was my
fault, I would kill myself, Tamar,
To undo it but I loved you so, Tamar.' 'Loved? You have hurt
me and broken me, the house is broken
And any thief can enter it.' 'O Tamar!' 'You have broken
our crystal innocence, we can never
Look at each other freely again.' 'What can I do, Tamar?'
'Nothing. I don't know. Nothing.
Never come to the farm to see me.' 'Where can I see you,
Tamar?' 'Lee is always watching me,
And I believe he'd kill us. Listen, Will. To-morrow night I'll
put a lamp in my window,
When all the house is quiet, and if you see it you can climb up
by the cypress. I must go home,
Lee will be home. Will, though you've done to me worse than
I ever dreamed, I love you, you have my soul,
I am your tame bird now.'

VI
This was the high plateau of summer and August waning; white
vapors
Breathed up no more from the brown fields nor hung in the hills;
daily the insufferable sun
Rose, naked light, and flaming naked through the pale transparent
ways of the air drained gray
The strengths of nature; all night the eastwind streamed out of
the valley seaward, and the stars blazed.
The year went up to its annual mountain of death, gilded with
hateful sunlight, waiting rain.
Stagnant waters decayed, the trickling springs that all the misty-hooded
summer had fed
Pendulous green under the granite ocean-cliffs dried and turned
foul, the rock-flowers faded,
And Tamar felt in her blood the filth and fever of the season.
Walking beside the house-wall
Under her window, she resented sickeningly the wounds in the
cypress bark, where Andrews
Climbed to his tryst, disgust at herself choked her, and as a fire
by water
Under the fog-bank of the night lines all the sea and sky with
fire, so her self-hatred
Reflecting itself abroad burned back against her, all the world
growing hateful, both her lovers
Hateful, but the intolerably masculine sun hatefullest of all.
The heat of the season
Multiplied centipedes, the black worms that breed under loose
rock, they call them thousand-leggers,
They invaded the house, their phalloid bodies cracking underfoot
with a bad odor, and dropped
Ceiling to pillow at night, a vile plague though not poisonous.
Also the sweet and female sea
Was weak with calm, one heard too clearly a mounting cormorant's
wing-claps half a mile off shore;
The hard and dry and masculine tyrannized for a season. Rain
in October or November
Yearly avenges the balance; Tamar's spirit rebelled too soon, the
female fury abiding
In so beautiful a house of flesh. She came to her aunt the ghost-seer.
'Listen to me, Aunt Stella.
I think I am going mad, I must talk to the dead; Aunt Stella,
will you help me?' That old woman
Was happy and proud, no one for years had sought her for
her talent. 'Dear Tamar, I will help you.
We must go down into the darkness, Tamar, it is hard and painful
for me.' 'I am in the darkness
Already, a fiery darkness.' 'The good spirits will guide you,
it is easy for you; for me, death.
Death, Tamar, I have to die to reach them.' 'Death's no bad
thing,' she answered, 'each hour of the day
Has more teeth.' 'Are you so unhappy, Tamar, the good spirits
will help you and teach you.' 'Aunt Stella,
To-night, to-night?' 'I groan when I go down to death, your
father and brother will come and spoil it.'
'In the evening we will go under the rocks by the sea.' 'Well,
in the evening.' 'If they talk to us
I'll buy you black silk and white lace.'

In and out of the little fjord swam the weak waves
Moving their foam in the twilight. Tamar at one flank, old
Stella at the other, upheld poor Jinny
Among the jags of shattered granite, so they came to the shingle.
Rich, damp and dark the sea's breath
Folding them made amend for days of sun-sickness, but Jinny
among the rubble granite
(They had no choice but take her along with them, who else
would care for the idiot?) slipped, and falling
Gashed knees and forehead, and she whimpered quietly in the
darkness. 'Here,' said Tamar, 'I made you
A bed of seaweed under the nose of this old rock, let Jinny lie
beside you, Aunt Stella,
I’ll lay the rug over you both.' They lay on the odorous kelp,
Tamar squatted beside them,
The weak sea wavered in her rocks and Venus hung over the
west between the cliff-butts
Like the last angel of the world, the crystal night deepening.
The sea and the three women
Kept silence, only Tamar moved herself continually on the fret
of her taut nerves,
And the sea moved, on the obscure bed of her eternity, but
both were voiceless. Tamar
Felt her pulse bolt like a scared horse and stumble and stop,
for it seemed to her a wandering power
Essayed her body, something hard and rounded and invisible
pressed itself for entrance
Between the breasts, over the diaphragm. When she was forced
backward and lay panting, the assault
Failed, the presence withdrew, and in that clearance she heard
her old Aunt Stella monotonously muttering
Words with no meaning in them; but the tidal night under
the cliff seemed full of persons
With eyes, although there was no light but the evening planet's
and her trail in the long water.
Then came a man's voice from the woman, saying, 'Que quieres
pobrecita?' and Tamar, 'Morir,'
Trembling, and marveling that she lied for no reason, and said,
'Es porque no entiendo,
Anything but ingles.' To which he answered, 'Ah pobrecita,'
and was silent. And Tamar
Cried, 'I will talk to that Helen.' But instead another male throat
spoke out of the woman's
Unintelligible gutturals, and it ceased, and the woman changing
voice, yet not to her own:
'An Indian. He says his people feasted here and sang to their
Gods and the tall Gods came walking
Between the tide-marks on the rocks; he says to strip and dance
and he will sing, and his Gods
Come walking.' Tamar answered, crying, 'I will not, I will
not, tell him to go away and let me
Talk to that Helen.' But old Stella after a silence: 'He says No,
no, the pregnant women
Would always dance here and the shore belongs to his people's
ghosts nor will they endure another
Unless they are pleased.' And Tamar said, 'I cannot dance,
drive him away,' but while she said it
Her hands accepting alien life and a strange will undid the
fastenings of her garments.
She panted to control them, tears ran down her cheeks, the
male voice chanted
Hoarse discords from the old woman's body, Tamar drew her
beauty
Out of its husks; dwellers on eastern shores
Watch moonrises as white as hers
When the half-moon about midnight
Steps out of her husk of water to dance in heaven:
So Tamar weeping
Slipped every sheath down to her feet, the spirit of the place
Ruling her, she and the evening star sharing the darkness,
And danced on the naked shore
Where a pale couch of sand covered the rocks,
Danced with slow steps and streaming hair,
Dark and slender
Against the pallid sea-gleam, slender and maidenly
Dancing and weeping . . .
It seemed to her that all her body
Was touched and troubled with polluting presences
Invisible, and whatever had happened to her from her two lovers
She had been until that hour inviolately a virgin,
Whom now the desires of dead men and dead Gods and a dead
tribe
Used for their common prey . . . dancing and weeping,
Slender and maidenly . . . The chant was changed,
And Tamar's body responded to the change, her spirit
Wailing within her. She heard the brutal voice
And hated it, she heard old Jinny mimic it
In the cracked childish quaver, but all her body
Obeyed it, wakening into wantonness,
Kindling with lust and wilder
Coarseness of insolent gestures,
The senses cold and averse, but the frantic too-governable flesh
Inviting the assaults of whatever desired it, of dead men
Or Gods walking the tide-marks,
The beautiful girlish body as gracile as a maiden's
Gone beastlike, crouching and widening,
Agape to be entered, as the earth
Gapes with harsh heat-cracks, the inland adobe of sun-worn
valleys
At the end of summer
Opening sick mouths for its hope of the rain,
So her body gone mad
Invited the spirits of the night, her belly and her breasts
Twisting, her feet dashed with blood where the granite had
bruised them,
And she fell, and lay gasping on the sand, on the tide-line.
Darkness
Possessed the shore when the evening star was down; old Stella
Was quiet in her trance; old Jinny the idiot clucked and parroted
to herself, there was none but the idiot
Saw whether a God or a troop of Gods came swaggering along
the tide-marks unto Tamar, to use her
Shamefully and return from her, gross and replete shadows,
swaggering along the tide-marks
Against the sea-gleam. After a little the life came back to that
fallen flower; for fear or feebleness
She crept on hands and knees, returning so to the old medium
of this infamy. Only
The new tide moved in the night now; Tamar with her back
bent like a bow and the hair fallen forward
Crouched naked at old Stella's feet, and shortly heard the voice
she had cried for. 'I am your Helen.
I would have wished you choose another place to meet me and
milder ceremonies to summon me.
We dead have traded power for wisdom, yet it is hard for us
to wait on the maniac living
Patiently, the desires of you wild beasts. You have the power.'
And Tamar murmured, 'I had nothing,
Desire nor power.' And Helen, 'Humbler than you were. She
has been humbled, my little Tamar.
And not so clean as the first lover left you, Tamar. Another and
half a dozen savages,
Dead, and dressed up for Gods.' 'I have endured it,' she answered.
Then the sweet disdainful voice
In the throat of the old woman: 'As for me, I chose rather to
die.' 'How can I kill
A dead woman,' said Tamar in her heart, not moving the lips,
but the other listened to thought
And answered, 'O, we are safe, we shan't fear murder. But,
Tamar, the child will die, and all for nothing
You were submissive by the river, and lived, and endured fouling.
I have heard the wiser flights
Of better spirits, that beat up to the breasts and shoulders of our
Father above the star-fire,
Say, 'Sin never buys anything.'
Tamar, kneeling, drew the
thickness of her draggled hair
Over her face and wept till it seemed heavy with blood; and
like a snake lifting its head
Out of a fire, she lifted up her face after a little and said, 'It
will live, and my father's
Bitch be proved a liar.' And the voice answered, and the tone
of the voice smiled, 'Her words
Rhyme with her dancing. Tamar, did you know there were
many of us to watch the dance you danced there,
And the end of the dance? We on the cliff; your mother, who
used to hate me, was among us, Tamar.
But she and I loved each only one man, though it were the
same. We two shared one? You, Tamar,
Are shared by many.' And Tamar: 'This is your help, I dug
down to you secret dead people
To help me and so I am helped now. What shall I ask more?
How it feels when the last liquid morsel
Slides from the bone? Or whether you see the worm that burrows
up through the eye-socket, or thrill
To the maggot's music in the tube of a dead ear? You stinking
dead. That you have no shame
Is nothing: I have no shame: see I am naked, and if my thighs
were wet with dead beasts' drippings
I have suffered no pollution like the worms in yours; and if I
cannot touch you I tell you
There are those I can touch. I have smelled fire and tasted fire,
And all these days of horrible sunlight, fire
Hummed in my ears, I have worn fire about me like a cloak and
burning for clothing. It is God
Who is tired of the house that thousand-leggers crawl about in,
where an idiot sleeps beside a ghost-seer,
A doting old man sleeps with dead women and does not know it,
And pointed bones are at the doors
Or climb up trees to the window. I say He has gathered
Fire all about the walls and no one sees it
But I, the old roof is ripe and the rafters
Rotten for burning, and all the woods are nests of horrible things,
nothing would ever clean them
But fire, but I will go to a clean home by the good river.' 'You
danced, Tamar,' replied
The sweet disdainful voice in the mouth of the old woman, 'and
now your song is like your dance,
Modest and sweet. Only you have not said it was you,
Before you came down by the sea to dance,
That lit a candle in your closet and laid
Paper at the foot of the candle. We were watching.
And now the wick is nearly down to the heap,
It's God will have fired the house? But Tamar,
It will not burn. You will have fired it, your brother
Will quench it, I think that God would hardly touch
Anything in that house.' 'If you know everything,'
Cried Tamar, 'tell me where to go.
Now life won't do me and death is shut against me
Because I hate you. O believe me I hate you dead people
More than you dead hate me. Listen to me, Helen.
There is no voice as horrible to me as yours,
And the breasts the worms have worked in. A vicious berry
Grown up out of the graveyard for my poison.
But there is no one in the world as lonely as I,
Betrayed by life and death.' Like rain breaking a storm
Sobs broke her voice. Holding by a jag of the cliff
She drew herself full height. God who makes beauty
Disdains no creature, nor despised that wounded
Tired and betrayed body. She in the starlight
And little noises of the rising tide
Naked and not ashamed bore a third part
With the ocean and keen stars in the consistence
And dignity of the world. She was white stone,
Passion and despair and grief had stripped away
Whatever is rounded and approachable
In the body of woman, hers looked hard, long lines
Narrowing down from the shoulder-bones, no appeal,
A weapon and no sheath, fire without fuel,
Saying, 'Have you anything more inside you
Old fat and sleepy sepulcher, any more voices?
You can do better than my father's by-play
And the dirty tricks of savages, decenter people
Have died surely. T have so passed nature
That God himself, who's dead or all these devils
Would never have broken hell, might speak out of you
Last season thunder and not scare me.' Old Stella
Groaned but not spoke, old Jinny lying beside her
Wakened at the word thunder and suddenly chuckling
Began to mimic a storm, 'whoo-whoo' for wind
And 'boom-boom-boom' for thunder. Other voices
Wakened far off above the cliff, and suddenly
The farm-bell ringing fire; and on the rock-islets
Sleepy cormorants cried at it. 'Why, now He speaks
Another way than out of the fat throat,'
Cried Tamar, and prayed, 'O strong and clean and terrible
Spirit and not father punish the hateful house.
Fire eat the walls and roofs, drive the red beast
Through every wormhole of the rotting timbers
And into the woods and into the stable, show them,
These liars, that you are alive.' Across her voice
The bell sounded and old Jinny mimicking it,
And shouts above the cliff. 'Look, Jinny, look,'
Cried Tamar, 'the sky'd be red soon, come and we'll dress
And watch the bonfire.' Yet she glanced no thought
At her own mermaid nakedness but gathering
The long black serpents of beached seaweed wove
Wreaths for old Jinny and crowned and wound her. Meanwhile
The bell ceased ringing and Stella ceased her moan,
And in the sudden quietness, 'Tamar,' she said
In the known voice of Helen so many years
Dead, 'though you hate me utterly, Tamar, I
Have nothing to give back, I was quite emptied
Of hate and love and the other fires of the flesh
Before your mother gave the clay to my lover
To mould you a vessel to hold them.' Tamar, winding
Her mindless puppet in the sea-slough mesh
Said over her shoulder, hardly turning, 'Why then
Do you trouble whom you don't hate?' 'Because we hunger
And hunger for life,' she answered. 'Did I come uncalled?
You called me, you have more hot and blind, wild-blooded
And passionate life than any other creature.
How could I ever leave you while the life lasts?
God pity us both, a cataract life
Dashing itself to pieces in an instant.
You are my happiness, you are my happiness and death eats you.
I'll leave you when you are empty and cold and join us.
Then pity me, then Tamar, me flitting
The chilly and brittle pumice-tips of the moon,
While the second death
Corrodes this shell of me, till it makes my end.'
But Tamar would not listen to her, too busily
Decking old Jinny for the festival fire,
And sighing that thin and envious ghost forsook
Her instrument, and about that time harsh pain
Wrung Tamar's loins and belly, and pain and terror
Expelled her passionate fancies, she cried anxiously,
'Stella, Aunt Stella, help me, will you?' and thinking,
'She hears when Jinny whimpers,' twistingly pinched
Her puppet's arm until it screamed. Old Stella
Sat up on the seaweed bed and turned white eyes
No pupils broke the diffused star-gleam in
Upon her sixty-year-old babe, that now
Crouched whimpering, huddled under the slippery leaves
And black whips of the beach; and by it stood gleaming
Tamar, anguished, all white as the blank balls
That swept her with no sight but vision: old Stella
Did not awake yet but a voice blew through her,
Not personal like the other, and shook her body
And shook her hands: 'It was no good to do too soon, your
fire's out, you'd been patient for me
It might have saved two fires.' But Tamar: 'Stella.
I'm dying: or it is dying: wake up Aunt Stella.
O pain, pain, help me.' And the voice: 'She is mine while I
use her. Scream, no one will hear but this one
Who has no mind, who has not more help than July rain.' And
Tamar, 'What are you, what are you, mocking me?
More dirt and another dead man? O,' she moaned, pressing her
flanks with both her hands, and bending
So that her hair across her knees lay on the rock. It answered,
'Not a voice from carrion.
Breaker of trees and father of grass, shepherd of clouds and
waters, if you had waited for me
You'd be the luckier.' 'What shall I give you?' Tamar cried,
'I have given away'
Pain stopped her, and then
Blood ran, and she fell down on the round stones, and felt nor
saw nothing. A little later
Old Stella Moreland woke out of her vision, sick and shaking.

Tamar's mind and suffering
Returned to her neither on the sea-rocks of the midnight nor
in her own room; but she was lying
Where Lee her brother had lain, nine months before, after his
fall, in the big westward bedroom.
She lay on the bed, and in one corner was a cot for Stella who
nursed her, and in the other
A cot for the idiot, whom none else would care for but old
Stella. After the ache of awakening
And blank dismay of the spirit come home to a spoiled house,
she lay thinking with vacant wonder
That life is always an old story, repeating itself always like the
leaves of a tree
Or the lips of an idiot; that herself like Lee her brother
Was picked up bleeding from the sea-boulders under the sea-cliff
and carried up to be laid
In the big westward bedroom . . . was he also fouled with
ghosts before they found him, a gang
Of dead men beating him with rotten bones, mouthing his body,
piercing him? 'Stella,' she whispered,
'Have I been sick long?' 'There, sweetheart, lie still; three or
four days.' 'Has Lee been in to see me?'
'Indeed he has, hours every day.' 'He'll come, then,' and she
closed her eyes and seemed to sleep.
Someone tapped at the door after an hour and Tamar said,
'Come, Lee.' But her old father
Came in, and he said nothing, but sat down by the bed; Tamar
had closed her eyes. In a little
Lee entered, and he brought a chair across the room and sat by
the bed. 'Why don't you speak,
Lee?' And he said, 'What can I say except I love you, sister?'
'Why do you call me sister,
Not Tamar?' And he answered, 'I love you, Tamar.' Then old
Aunt Stella said, 'See, she's much better.
But you must let her rest. She'll be well in a few days; now kiss
her, Lee, and let her rest.'
Lee bent above the white pure cameo-face on the white pillow,
meaning to kiss the forehead.
But Tamar's hands caught him, her lips reached up for his: while
Jinny the idiot clapped and chuckled
And made a clucking noise of kisses; then, while Lee sought to
untwine the arms that yoked his neck,
The old man, rising: 'I opened the Book last night thinking
about the sorrows of this house,
And it said, 'If a man find her in the field and force her and lie
with her, nevertheless the damsel
Has not earned death, for she cried out and there was none to
save her.' Be glad, Tamar, my sins
Are only visited on my son, for you there is mercy.' 'David,
David,
Will you be gone and let her rest now,' cried old Stella, 'do
you mean to kill her with a bible?'
'Woman,' he answered, 'has God anything to do with you?
She will not die, the Book
Opened and said it.' Tamar, panting, leaned against the pillow
and said, 'Go, go. To-morrow
Say all you please; what does it matter?' And the old man said,
'Come, Lee, in the morning she will hear us.'
Tamar stretched out her trembling hand, Lee did not touch it,
but went out ahead of his father.
So they were heard in the hall, and then their footsteps on the
stair. Tamar lay quiet and rigid,
With open eyes and tightening fists, with anger like a coiled steel
spring in her throat but weakness
And pain for the lead weights. After an hour she said, 'What
does he mean to do? Go away?
Kill himself, Stella?' Stella answered, 'Nothing, nothing, they
talk, it's to keep David quiet.
Your father is off his head a little, you know. Now rest you,
little Tamar, smile and be sleepy,
Scold them to-morrow.' 'Shut the sun out of my eyes then,'
Tamar said, but the idiot Jinny
Made such a moaning when the windows were all curtained they
needed to let in one beam
For dust to dance in; then the idiot and the sick girl slept. About
the hour of sundown
Tamar was dreaming trivially an axman chopping down a tree
and field-mice scampering
Out of the roots when suddenly like a shift of wind the dream
Changed and grew awful, she watched dark horsemen coming
out of the south, squadrons of hurrying horsemen
Between the hills and the dark sea, helmeted like the soldiers of
the war in France,
Carrying torches. When they passed Mal Paso Creek the columns
Veered, one of the riders said, 'Here it began,' but another
answered, 'No. Before the granite
Was bedded to build the world on.' So they formed and galloped
north again, hurrying squadrons,
And Tamar thought, 'When they come to the Carmel River
then it will happen. They have passed Mal Paso.'

Meanwhile
Who has ever guessed to what odd ports, what sea buoying the
keels, a passion blows its bulkless
Navies of vision? High up in the hills
Ramon Ramirez, who was herdsman of the Cauldwell herds,
stood in his cabin doorway
Rolling a cigarette a half-hour after sundown, and he felt puffs
from the south
Come down the slope of stunted redwoods, so he thought the
year was turning at last, and shortly
There would come showers; he walked therefore a hundred
yards to westward, where a point of the hill
Stood over Wildcat Canyon and the sea was visible; he saw
Point Lobos gemmed in the darkening
Pale yellow sea; and on the point the barn-roofs and the house roof
breaking up through the blackness
Of twilight cypress tops, and over the sea a cloud forming. The
evening darkened. Southwestward
A half-mile loop of the coast-road could be seen, this side Mal
Paso. Suddenly a nebular company
Of lights rounded the hill, Ramirez thought the headlights of
a car sweeping the road,
But in a moment saw that it was horsemen, each carrying a light,
hurrying northward,
Moving in squads he judged of twenty or twenty-five, he counted
twelve or thirteen companies
When the brush broke behind him and a horseman rode the
headlong ridge like level ground,
Helmeted, carrying a torch. Followed a squad of twelve, helmeted,
cantering the headlong ridge
Like level ground. He thought in the nervous innocence of the
early war, they must be Germans.

Tamar awoke out of her dream and heard old Jinny saying,
'Dear sister Helen, kiss me
As you kiss David. I was watching under a rock, he took your
clothes off and you kissed him
So hard and hard, I love you too, Helen; you hardly ever kiss
me.' Tamar lay rigid,
Breathless to listen to her; it was well known in the house that
under the shell of imbecility
Speech and a spirit, however subdued, existed still; there were
waking flashes, and more often
She talked in sleep and proved her dreams were made out of
clear memories, childhood sights and girlhood
Fancies, before the shadow had fallen; so Tamar craving food
for passion listened to her,
And heard: 'Why are you cross, Helen? I won't peek if you'd
rather I didn't. Darling Helen,
I love him, too; I'd let him play with me the way he does with
you if he wanted to.
And Lily and Stella hate me as much as they hate you.' All
she said after was so mumbled
That Tamar could not hear it, could only hear the mumble, and
old Aunt Stella's nasal sleep
And the sea murmuring. When the mumbled voice was quiet it
seemed to Tamar
A strange thing was preparing, an inward pressure
Grew in her throat and seemed to swell her arms and hands
And join itself with a fluid power
Streaming from somewhere in the room from Jinny?
From Stella? and in a moment the heavy chair
That Lee had sat in, tipped up, rose from the floor,
And floated to the place he had brought it from
Five hours ago. The power was then relaxed,
And Tamar could breathe and speak. She awaked old Stella
And trembling told her what she had seen; who laughed
And answered vaguely so that Tamar wondered
Whether she was still asleep, and let her burrow
In her bed again and sleep. Later that night
Tamar too slept, but shudderingly, in snatches,
For fear of dreaming. A night like years. In the gray of morning
A horse screamed from the stableyard and Tamar
Heard the thud of hooves lashing out and timbers
Splintering, and two or three horses broken loose
Galloped about the grounds of the house. She heard men calling,
And downstairs Lee in a loud angry tone
Saying 'Someone's pitched the saw-buck and the woodpile
Into the horse-corral.' Then Tamar thought
'The same power moved his chair in the room, my hatred, my
hatred,
Disturbing the house because I failed to burn it.
I must be quiet and quiet and quiet and keep
The serving spirits of my hid hatred quiet
Until my rime serves too. Helen you shadow

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III. The Other Half-Rome

Another day that finds her living yet,
Little Pompilia, with the patient brow
And lamentable smile on those poor lips,
And, under the white hospital-array,
A flower-like body, to frighten at a bruise
You'd think, yet now, stabbed through and through again,
Alive i' the ruins. 'T is a miracle.
It seems that, when her husband struck her first,
She prayed Madonna just that she might live
So long as to confess and be absolved;
And whether it was that, all her sad life long
Never before successful in a prayer,
This prayer rose with authority too dread,—
Or whether, because earth was hell to her,
By compensation, when the blackness broke
She got one glimpse of quiet and the cool blue,
To show her for a moment such things were,—
Or else,—as the Augustinian Brother thinks,
The friar who took confession from her lip,—
When a probationary soul that moved
From nobleness to nobleness, as she,
Over the rough way of the world, succumbs,
Bloodies its last thorn with unflinching foot,
The angels love to do their work betimes,
Staunch some wounds here nor leave so much for God.
Who knows? However it be, confessed, absolved,
She lies, with overplus of life beside
To speak and right herself from first to last,
Right the friend also, lamb-pure, lion-brave,
Care for the boy's concerns, to save the son
From the sire, her two-weeks' infant orphaned thus,
Andwith best smile of all reserved for him—
Pardon that sire and husband from the heart.
A miracle, so tell your Molinists!

There she lies in the long white lazar-house.
Rome has besieged, these two days, never doubt,
Saint Anna's where she waits her death, to hear
Though but the chink o' the bell, turn o' the hinge
When the reluctant wicket opes at last,
Lets in, on now this and now that pretence,
Too many by half,—complain the men of art,—
For a patient in such plight. The lawyers first
Paid the due visit—justice must be done;
They took her witness, why the murder was.
Then the priests followed properly,—a soul
To shrive; 't was Brother Celestine's own right,
The same who noises thus her gifts abroad.
But many more, who found they were old friends,
Pushed in to have their stare and take their talk
And go forth boasting of it and to boast.
Old Monna Baldi chatters like a jay,
Swears—but that, prematurely trundled out
Just as she felt the benefit begin,
The miracle was snapped up by somebody,—
Her palsied limb 'gan prick and promise life
At touch o' the bedclothes merely,—how much more
Had she but brushed the body as she tried!
Cavalier Carlo—well, there's some excuse
For him—Maratta who paints Virgins so—
He too must fee the porter and slip by
With pencil cut and paper squared, and straight
There was he figuring away at face:
"A lovelier face is not in Rome," cried he,
"Shaped like a peacock's egg, the pure as pearl,
"That hatches you anon a snow-white chick."
Then, oh that pair of eyes, that pendent hair,
Black this and black the other! Mighty fine—
But nobody cared ask to paint the same,
Nor grew a poet over hair and eyes
Four little years ago when, ask and have,
The woman who wakes all this rapture leaned
Flower-like from out her window long enough,
As much uncomplimented as uncropped
By comers and goers in Via Vittoria: eh?
'T is just a flower's fate: past parterre we trip,
Till peradventure someone plucks our sleeve—
"Yon blossom at the briar's end, that's the rose
"Two jealous people fought for yesterday
"And killed each other: see, there's undisturbed
"A pretty pool at the root, of rival red!"
Then cry we "Ah, the perfect paragon!"
Then crave we "Just one keepsake-leaf for us!"

Truth lies between: there's anyhow a child
Of seventeen years, whether a flower or weed,
Ruined: who did it shall account to Christ—
Having no pity on the harmless life
And gentle face and girlish form he found,
And thus flings back. Go practise if you please
With men and women: leave a child alone
For Christ's particular love's sake!—so I say.

Somebody, at the bedside, said much more,
Took on him to explain the secret cause
O' the crime: quoth he, "Such crimes are very rife,
"Explode nor make us wonder now-a-days,
"Seeing that Antichrist disseminates
"That doctrine of the Philosophic Sin:
"Molinos' sect will soon make earth too hot!"
"Nay," groaned the Augustinian, "what's there new?
"Crime will not fail to flare up from men's hearts
"While hearts are men's and so born criminal;
"Which one fact, always old yet ever new,
"Accounts for so much crime that, for my part,
"Molinos may go whistle to the wind
"That waits outside a certain church, you know!"

Though really it does seem as if she here,
Pompilia, living so and dying thus,
Has had undue experience how much crime
A heart can hatch. Why was she made to learn
—Not you, not I, not even Molinos' self—
What Guido Franceschini's heart could hold?
Thus saintship is effected probably;
No sparing saints the process!—which the more
Tends to the reconciling us, no saints,
To sinnership, immunity and all.

For see now: Pietro and Violante's life
Till seventeen years ago, all Rome might note
And quote for happy—see the signs distinct
Of happiness as we yon Triton's trump.
What could they be but happy?—balanced so,
Nor low i' the social scale nor yet too high,
Nor poor nor richer than comports with ease,
Nor bright and envied, nor obscure and scorned,
Nor so young that their pleasures fell too thick,
Nor old past catching pleasure when it fell,
Nothing above, below the just degree,
All at the mean where joy's components mix.
So again, in the couple's very souls
You saw the adequate half with half to match,
Each having and each lacking somewhat, both
Making a whole that had all and lacked nought.
The round and sound, in whose composure just
The acquiescent and recipient side
Was Pietro's, and the stirring striving one
Violante's: both in union gave the due
Quietude, enterprise, craving and content,
Which go to bodily health and peace of mind.
But, as 't is said a body, rightly mixed,
Each element in equipoise, would last
Too long and live for ever,—accordingly
Holds a germ—sand-grain weight too much i' the scale—
Ordained to get predominance one day
And so bring all to ruin and release,—
Not otherwise a fatal germ lurked here:
"With mortals much must go, but something stays;
"Nothing will stay of our so happy selves."
Out of the very ripeness of life's core
A worm was bred—"Our life shall leave no fruit."
Enough of bliss, they thought, could bliss bear seed,
Yield its like, propagate a bliss in turn
And keep the kind up; not supplant themselves
But put in evidence, record they were,
Show them, when done with, i' the shape of a child.
"'T is in a child, man and wife grow complete,
"One flesh: God says so: let him do his work!"

Now, one reminder of this gnawing want,
One special prick o' the maggot at the core,
Always befell when, as the day came round,
A certain yearly sum,—our Pietro being,
As the long name runs, an usufructuary,—
Dropped in the common bag as interest
Of money, his till death, not afterward,
Failing an heir: an heir would take and take,
A child of theirs be wealthy in their place
To nobody's hurt—the stranger else seized all.
Prosperity rolled river-like and stopped,
Making their mill go; but when wheel wore out,
The wave would find a space and sweep on free
And, half-a-mile off, grind some neighbour's corn.

Adam-like, Pietro sighed and said no more:
Eve saw the apple was fair and good to taste,
So, plucked it, having asked the snake advice.
She told her husband God was merciful,
And his and her prayer granted at the last:
Let the old mill-stone moulder,—wheel unworn,
Quartz from the quarry, shot into the stream
Adroitly, as before should go bring grist—
Their house continued to them by an heir,
Their vacant heart replenished with a child.
We have her own confession at full length
Made in the first remorse: 't was Jubilee
Pealed in the ear o' the conscience and it woke.
She found she had offended God no doubt,
So much was plain from what had happened since,
Misfortune on misfortune; but she harmed
No one i' the world, so far as she could see.
The act had gladdened Pietro to the height,
Her spouse whom God himself must gladden so
Or not at all: thus much seems probable
From the implicit faith, or rather say
Stupid credulity of the foolish man
Who swallowed such a tale nor strained a whit
Even at his wife's far-over-fifty years
Matching his sixty-and-under. Him she blessed;
And as for doing any detriment
To the veritable heir,—why, tell her first
Who was he? Which of all the hands held up
I' the crowd, one day would gather round their gate,
Did she so wrong by intercepting thus
The ducat, spendthrift fortune thought to fling
For a scramble just to make the mob break shins?
She kept it, saved them kicks and cuffs thereby.
While at the least one good work had she wrought,
Good, clearly and incontestably! Her cheat—
What was it to its subject, the child's self,
But charity and religion? See the girl!
A body most like—a soul too probably—
Doomed to death, such a double death as waits
The illicit offspring of a common trull,
Sure to resent and forthwith rid herself
Of a mere interruption to sin's trade,
In the efficacious way old Tiber knows.
Was not so much proved by the ready sale
O' the child, glad transfer of this irksome chance?
Well then, she had caught up this castaway:
This fragile egg, some careless wild bird dropped,
She had picked from where it waited the foot-fall,
And put in her own breast till forth broke finch
Able to sing God praise on mornings now.
What so excessive harm was done?—she asked.

To which demand the dreadful answer comes—
For that same deed, now at Lorenzo's church,
Both agents, conscious and inconscious, lie;
While she, the deed was done to benefit,
Lies also, the most lamentable of things,
Yonder where curious people count her breaths,
Calculate how long yet the little life
Unspilt may serve their turn nor spoil the show,
Give them their story, then the church its group.

Well, having gained Pompilia, the girl grew
I' the midst of Pietro here, Violante there,
Each, like a semicircle with stretched arms,
Joining the other round her preciousness—
Two walls that go about a garden-plot
Where a chance sliver, branchlet slipt from bole
Of some tongue-leaved eye-figured Eden tree,
Filched by two exiles and borne far away.
Patiently glorifies their solitude,—
Year by year mounting, grade by grade surmount
The builded brick-work, yet is compassed still,
Still hidden happily and shielded safe,—
Else why should miracle have graced the ground?
But on the twelfth sun that brought April there
What meant that laugh? The coping-stone was reached;
Nay, above towered a light tuft of bloom
To be toyed with by butterfly or bee,
Done good to or else harm to from outside:
Pompilia's root, stalk and a branch or two
Home enclosed still, the rest would be the world's.
All which was taught our couple though obtuse,
Since walls have ears, when one day brought a priest,
Smooth-mannered soft-speeched sleek-cheeked visitor,
The notable Abate Paolo—known
As younger brother of a Tuscan house
Whereof the actual representative,
Count Guido, had employed his youth and age
In culture of Rome's most productive plant—
A cardinal: but years pass and change comes,
In token of which, here was our Paolo brought
To broach a weighty business. Might he speak?
Yes—to Violante somehow caught alone
While Pietro took his after-dinner doze,
And the young maiden, busily as befits,
Minded her broider-frame three chambers off.

So—giving now his great flap-hat a gloss
With flat o' the hand between-whiles, soothing now
The silk from out its creases o'er the calf,
Setting the stocking clerical again,
But never disengaging, once engaged,
The thin clear grey hold of his eyes on her
He dissertated on that Tuscan house,
Those Franceschini,—very old they were—
Not rich however—oh, not rich, at least,
As people look to be who, low i' the scale
One way, have reason, rising all they can
By favour of the money-bag! 't is fair—
Do all gifts go together? But don't suppose
That being not so rich means all so poor!
Say rather, well enough—i' the way, indeed,
Ha, ha, to fortune better than the best:
Since if his brother's patron-friend kept faith,
Put into promised play the Cardinalate,
Their house might wear the red cloth that keeps warm,
Would but the Count have patience—there's the point!
For he was slipping into years apace,
And years make men restless—they needs must spy
Some certainty, some sort of end assured,
Some sparkle, tho' from topmost beacon-tip,
That warrants life a harbour through the haze.
In short, call him fantastic as you choose,
Guido was home-sick, yearned for the old sights
And usual faces,—fain would settle himself
And have the patron's bounty when it fell
Irrigate far rather than deluge near,
Go fertilize Arezzo, not flood Rome.
Sooth to say, 't was the wiser wish: the Count
Proved wanting in ambition,—let us avouch,
Since truth is best,—in callousness of heart,
And winced at pin-pricks whereby honours hang
A ribbon o'er each puncture: his—no soul
Ecclesiastic (here the hat was brushed)
Humble but self-sustaining, calm and cold,
Having, as one who puts his hand to the plough,
Renounced the over-vivid family-feel—
Poor brother Guido! All too plain, he pined
Amid Rome's pomp and glare for dinginess
And that dilapidated palace-shell
Vast as a quarry and, very like, as bare—
Since to this comes old grandeur now-a-days—
Or that absurd wild villa in the waste
O' the hill side, breezy though, for who likes air,
Vittiano, nor unpleasant with its vines,
Outside the city and the summer heats.
And now his harping on this one tense chord
The villa and the palace, palace this
And villa the other, all day and all night
Creaked like the implacable cicala's cry
And made one's ear drum ache: nought else would serve
But that, to light his mother's visage up
With second youth, hope, gaiety again,
He must find straightway, woo and haply win
And bear away triumphant back, some wife.
Well now, the man was rational in his way:
He, the Abate,—ought he to interpose?
Unless by straining still his tutelage
(Priesthood leaps over elder-brothership)
Across this difficulty: then let go,
Leave the poor fellow in peace! Would that be wrong?
There was no making Guido great, it seems,
Spite of himself: then happy be his dole!
Indeed, the Abate's little interest
Was somewhat nearly touched i' the case, they saw:
Since if his simple kinsman so were bent,
Began his rounds in Rome to catch a wife,
Full soon would such unworldliness surprise
The rare bird, sprinkle salt on phoenix' tail,
And so secure the nest a sparrow-hawk.
No lack of mothers here in Rome,—no dread
Of daughters lured as larks by looking-glass!
The first name-pecking credit-scratching fowl
Would drop her unfledged cuckoo in our nest
To gather greyness there, give voice at length
And shame the brood … but it was long ago
When crusades were, and we sent eagles forth!
No, that at least the Abate could forestall.
He read the thought within his brother's word,
Knew what he purposed better than himself.
We want no name and fame—having our own:
No worldly aggrandizement—such we fly:
But if some wonder of a woman's-heart
Were yet untainted on this grimy earth,
Tender and true—tradition tells of such—
Prepared to pant in time and tune with ours—
If some good girl (a girl, since she must take
The new bent, live new life, adopt new modes)
Not wealthy (Guido for his rank was poor)
But with whatever dowry came to hand,—
There were the lady-love predestinate!
And somehow the Abate's guardian eye—
Scintillant, rutilant, fraternal fire,—
Roving round every way had seized the prize
The instinct of us, we, the spiritualty!
Come, cards on table; was it true or false
That here—here in this very tenement—
Yea, Via Vittoria did a marvel hide,
Lily of a maiden, white with intact leaf
Guessed thro' the sheath that saved it from the sun?
A daughter with the mother's hands still clasped
Over her head for fillet virginal,
A wife worth Guido's house and hand and heart?
He came to see; had spoken, he could no less—
(A final cherish of the stockinged calf)
If harm were,—well, the matter was off his mind.

Then with the great air did he kiss, devout,
Violante's hand, and rise up his whole height
(A certain purple gleam about the black)
And go forth grandly,—as if the Pope came next.
And so Violante rubbed her eyes awhile,
Got up too, walked to wake her Pietro soon
And pour into his ear the mighty news
How somebody had somehow somewhere seen
Their tree-top-tuft of bloom above the wall,
And came now to apprize them the tree's self
Was no such crab-sort as should go feed swine,
But veritable gold, the Hesperian ball
Ordained for Hercules to haste and pluck,
And bear and give the Gods to banquet with
Hercules standing ready at the door.
Whereon did Pietro rub his eyes in turn,
Look very wise, a little woeful too,
Then, periwig on head, and cane in hand,
Sally forth dignifiedly into the Square
Of Spain across Babbuino the six steps,
Toward the Boat-fountain where our idlers lounge,—
Ask, for form's sake, who Hercules might be,
And have congratulation from the world.

Heartily laughed the world in his fool's-face
And told him Hercules was just the heir
To the stubble once a corn-field, and brick-heap
Where used to be a dwelling-place now burned.
Guido and Franceschini; a Count,—ay:
But a cross i' the poke to bless the Countship? No!
All gone except sloth, pride, rapacity,
Humours of the imposthume incident
To rich blood that runs thin,—nursed to a head
By the rankly-salted soil—a cardinal's court
Where, parasite and picker-up of crumbs,
He had hung on long, and now, let go, said some,
Shaken off, said others,—but in any case
Tired of the trade and something worse for wear,
Was wanting to change town for country quick,
Go home again: let Pietro help him home!
The brother, Abate Paolo, shrewder mouse,
Had pricked for comfortable quarters, inched
Into the core of Rome, and fattened so;
But Guido, over-burly for rat's hole
Suited to clerical slimness, starved outside,
Must shift for himself: and so the shift was this!
What, was the snug retreat of Pietro tracked,
The little provision for his old age snuffed?
"Oh, make your girl a lady, an you list,
"But have more mercy on our wit than vaunt
"Your bargain as we burgesses who brag!
"Why, Goodman Dullard, if a friend must speak,
"Would the Count, think you, stoop to you and yours
"Were there the value of one penny-piece
"To rattle 'twixt his palms—or likelier laugh,
"Bid your Pompilia help you black his shoe?"

Home again, shaking oft the puzzled pate,
Went Pietro to announce a change indeed,
Yet point Violante where some solace lay
Of a rueful sort,—the taper, quenched so soon,
Had ended merely in a snuff, not stink—
Congratulate there was one hope the less
Not misery the more: and so an end.

The marriage thus impossible, the rest
Followed: our spokesman, Paolo, heard his fate,
Resignedly Count Guido bore the blow:
Violante wiped away the transient tear,
Renounced the playing Danae to gold dreams,
Praised much her Pietro's prompt sagaciousness,
Found neighbours' envy natural, lightly laughed
At gossips' malice, fairly wrapped herself
In her integrity three folds about,
And, letting pass a little day or two,
Threw, even over that integrity,
Another wrappage, namely one thick veil
That hid her, matron-wise, from head to foot,
And, by the hand holding a girl veiled too,
Stood, one dim end of a December day,
In Saint Lorenzo on the altar-step—
Just where she lies now and that girl will lie—
Only with fifty candles' company
Now, in the place of the poor winking one
Which saw,—doors shut and sacristan made sure,—
A priest—perhaps Abate Paolo—wed
Guido clandestinely, irrevocably
To his Pompilia aged thirteen years
And five months,—witness the church register,—
Pompilia, (thus become Count Guido's wife
Clandestinely, irrevocably his,)
Who all the while had borne, from first to last,
As brisk a part i' the bargain, as yon lamb,
Brought forth from basket and set out for sale,
Bears while they chaffer, wary market-man
And voluble housewife, o'er it,—each in turn
Patting the curly calm inconscious head,
With the shambles ready round the corner there,
When the talk's talked out and a bargain struck.
Transfer complete, why, Pietro was apprised.
Violante sobbed the sobs and prayed the prayers
And said the serpent tempted so she fell,
Till Pietro had to clear his brow apace
And make the best of matters: wrath at first,—
How else? pacification presently,
Why not?—could flesh withstand the impurpled one,
The very Cardinal, Paolo's patron-friend?
Who, justifiably surnamed "a hinge,"
Knew where the mollifying oil should drop
To cure the creak o' the valve,—considerate
For frailty, patient in a naughty world.
He even volunteered to supervise
The rough draught of those marriage-articles
Signed in a hurry by Pietro, since revoked:
Trust's politic, suspicion does the harm,
There is but one way to brow-beat this world,
Dumb-founder doubt, and repay scorn in kind,—
To go on trusting, namely, till faith move
Mountains.

And faith here made the mountains move.
Why, friends whose zeal cried "Caution ere too late!"—
Bade "Pause ere jump, with both feet joined, on slough!"—
Counselled "If rashness then, now temperance!"—
Heard for their pains that Pietro had closed eyes,
Jumped and was in the middle of the mire,
Money and all, just what should sink a man.
By the mere marriage, Guido gained forthwith
Dowry, his wife's right; no rescinding there:
But Pietro, why must he needs ratify
One gift Violante gave, pay down one doit
Promised in first fool's-flurry? Grasp the bag
Lest the son's service flag,—is reason and rhyme,
Above all when the son's a son-in-law.
Words to the wind! The parents cast their lot
Into the lap o' the daughter: and the son
Now with a right to lie there, took what fell,
Pietro's whole having and holding, house and field,
Goods, chattels and effects, his worldly worth
Present and in perspective, all renounced
In favour of Guido. As for the usufruct—
The interest now, the principal anon,
Would Guido please to wait, at Pietro's death:
Till when, he must support the couple's charge,
Bear with them, housemates, pensionaries, pawned
To an alien for fulfilment of their pact.
Guido should at discretion deal them orts,
Bread-bounty in Arezzo the strange place,—
They who had lived deliciously and rolled
Rome's choicest comfit 'neath the tongue before.
Into this quag, "jump" bade the Cardinal!
And neck-deep in a minute there flounced they.

But they touched bottom at Arezzo: there—
Four months' experience of how craft and greed
Quickened by penury and pretentious hate
Of plain truth, brutify and bestialize,—
Four months' taste of apportioned insolence,
Cruelty graduated, dose by dose
Of ruffianism dealt out at bed and board,
And lo, the work was done, success clapped hands.
The starved, stripped, beaten brace of stupid dupes
Broke at last in their desperation loose,
Fled away for their lives, and lucky so;
Found their account in casting coat afar
And bearing off a shred of skin at least:
Left Guido lord o' the prey, as the lion is,
And, careless what came after, carried their wrongs
To Rome,—I nothing doubt, with such remorse
As folly feels, since pain can make it wise,
But crime, past wisdom, which is innocence,
Needs not be plagued with till a later day.

Pietro went back to beg from door to door,
In hope that memory not quite extinct
Of cheery days and festive nights would move
Friends and acquaintance—after the natural laugh,
And tributary "Just as we foretold—"
To show some bowels, give the dregs o' the cup,
Scraps of the trencher, to their host that was,
Or let him share the mat with the mastiff, he
Who lived large and kept open house so long.
Not so Violante: ever a-head i' the march,
Quick at the bye-road and the cut-across,
She went first to the best adviser, God—
Whose finger unmistakably was felt
In all this retribution of the past.
Here was the prize of sin, luck of a lie!
But here too was what Holy Year would help,
Bound to rid sinners of sin vulgar, sin
Abnormal, sin prodigious, up to sin
Impossible and supposed for Jubilee' sake:
To lift the leadenest of lies, let soar
The soul unhampered by a feather-weight.
"I will" said she "go burn out this bad hole
"That breeds the scorpion, baulk the plague at least
"Of hope to further plague by progeny:
"I will confess my fault, be punished, yes,
"But pardoned too: Saint Peter pays for all."

So, with the crowd she mixed, made for the dome,
Through the great door new-broken for the nonce
Marched, muffled more than ever matron-wise,
Up the left nave to the formidable throne,
Fell into file with this the poisoner
And that the parricide, and reached in turn
The poor repugnant Penitentiary
Set at this gully-hole o' the world's discharge
To help the frightfullest of filth have vent,
And then knelt down and whispered in his ear
How she had bought Pompilia, palmed the babe
On Pietro, passed the girl off as their child
To Guido, and defrauded of his due
This one and that one,—more than she could name,
Until her solid piece of wickedness
Happened to split and spread woe far and wide:
Contritely now she brought the case for cure.

Replied the throne—"Ere God forgive the guilt,
"Make man some restitution! Do your part!
"The owners of your husband's heritage,
"Barred thence by this pretended birth and heir,—
"Tell them, the bar came so, is broken so,
"Theirs be the due reversion as before!
"Your husband who, no partner in the guilt,
"Suffers the penalty, led blindfold thus
"By love of what he thought his flesh and blood
"To alienate his all in her behalf,—
"Tell him too such contract is null and void!
"Last, he who personates your son-in-law,
"Who with sealed eyes and stopped ears, tame and mute,
"Took at your hand that bastard of a whore
"You called your daughter and he calls his wife,—
"Tell him, and bear the anger which is just!
"Then, penance so performed, may pardon be!"

Who could gainsay this just and right award?
Nobody in the world: but, out o' the world,
Who knows?—might timid intervention be
From any makeshift of an angel-guide,
Substitute for celestial guardianship,
Pretending to take care of the girl's self:
"Woman, confessing crime is healthy work,
"And telling truth relieves a liar like you,
"But how of my quite unconsidered charge?
"No thought if, while this good befalls yourself,
"Aught in the way of harm may find out her?"
No least thought, I assure you: truth being truth,
Tell it and shame the devil!

Said and done:
Home went Violante, disbosomed all:
And Pietro who, six months before, had borne
Word after word of such a piece of news
Like so much cold steel inched through his breastblade,
Now at its entry gave a leap for joy
As who—what did I say of one in a quag?—
Should catch a hand from heaven and spring thereby
Out of the mud, on ten toes stand once more.
"What? All that used to be, may be again?
"My money mine again, my house, my land,
"My chairs and tables, all mine evermore?
"What, the girl's dowry never was the girl's,
"And, unpaid yet, is never now to pay?
"Then the girl's self, my pale Pompilia child
"That used to be my own with her great eyes—
"He who drove us forth, why should he keep her
"When proved as very a pauper as himself?
"Will she come back, with nothing changed at all,
"And laugh 'But how you dreamed uneasily!
"'I saw the great drops stand here on your brow—
"'Did I do wrong to wake you with a kiss?'
"No, indeed, darling! No, for wide awake
"I see another outburst of surprise:
"The lout-lord, bully-beggar, braggart-sneak,
"Who not content with cutting purse, crops ear—
"Assuredly it shall be salve to mine
"When this great news red-letters him, the rogue!
"Ay, let him taste the teeth o' the trap, this fox,
"Give us our lamb back, golden fleece and all,
"Let her creep in and warm our breasts again!
"Why care for the past? We three are our old selves,
"And know now what the outside world is worth."
And so, he carried case before the courts;
And there Violante, blushing to the bone,
Made public declaration of her fault,
Renounced her motherhood, and prayed the law
To interpose, frustrate of its effect
Her folly, and redress the injury done.

Whereof was the disastrous consequence,
That though indisputably clear the case
(For thirteen years are not so large a lapse,
And still six witnesses survived in Rome
To prove the truth o' the tale)—yet, patent wrong
Seemed Guido's; the first cheat had chanced on him:
Here was the pity that, deciding right,
Those who began the wrong would gain the prize.
Guido pronounced the story one long lie
Lied to do robbery and take revenge:
Or say it were no lie at all but truth,
Then, it both robbed the right heirs and shamed him
Without revenge to humanize the deed:
What had he done when first they shamed him thus?
But that were too fantastic: losels they,
And leasing this world's-wonder of a lie,
They lied to blot him though it brand themselves.

So answered Guido through the Abate's mouth.
Wherefore the court, its customary way,
Inclined to the middle course the sage affect.
They held the child to be a changeling,—good:
But, lest the husband got no good thereby,
They willed the dowry, though not hers at all,
Should yet be his, if not by right then grace—
Part-payment for the plain injustice done.
As for that other contract, Pietro's work,
Renunciation of his own estate,
That must be cancelled—give him back his gifts,
He was no party to the cheat at least!
So ran the judgment:—whence a prompt appeal
On both sides, seeing right is absolute.
Cried Pietro "Is the child no child of mine?
"Why give her a child's dowry?"—"Have I right
"To the dowry, why not to the rest as well?"
Cried Guido, or cried Paolo in his name:
Till law said "Reinvestigate the case!"
And so the matter pends, to this same day.

Hence new disaster—here no outlet seemed;
Whatever the fortune of the battle-field,
No path whereby the fatal man might march
Victorious, wreath on head and spoils in hand,
And back turned full upon the baffled foe,—
Nor cranny whence, desperate and disgraced,
Stripped to the skin, he might be fain to crawl
Worm-like, and so away with his defeat
To other fortune and a novel prey.
No, he was pinned to the place there, left alone
With his immense hate and, the solitary
Subject to satisfy that hate, his wife.
"Cast her off? Turn her naked out of doors?
"Easily said! But still the action pends,
"Still dowry, principal and interest,
"Pietro's possessions, all I bargained for,—
"Any good day, be but my friends alert,
"May give them me if she continue mine.
"Yet, keep her? Keep the puppet of my foes—
"Her voice that lisps me back their curse—her eye
"They lend their leer of triumph toher lip
"I touch and taste their very filth upon?"

In short, he also took the middle course
Rome taught him—did at last excogitate
How he might keep the good and leave the bad
Twined in revenge, yet extricable,—nay
Make the very hate's eruption, very rush
Of the unpent sluice of cruelty relieve
His heart first, then go fertilize his field.
What if the girl-wife, tortured with due care,
Should take, as though spontaneously, the road
It were impolitic to thrust her on?
If, goaded, she broke out in full revolt,
Followed her parents i' the face o' the world,
Branded as runaway not castaway,
Self-sentenced and self-punished in the act?
So should the loathed form and detested face
Launch themselves into hell and there be lost
While he looked o'er the brink with folded arms;
So should the heaped-up shames go shuddering back
O' the head o' the heapers, Pietro and his wife,
And bury in the breakage three at once:
While Guido, left free, no one right renounced,
Gain present, gain prospective, all the gain,
None of the wife except her rights absorbed,
Should ask law what it was law paused about
If law were dubious still whose word to take,
The husband's—dignified and derelict,
Or the wife's—the … what I tell you. It should be.

Guido's first step was to take pen, indite
A letter to the Abate,—not his own,
His wife's,—she should re-write, sign, seal and send.
She liberally told the household-news,
Rejoiced her vile progenitors were gone,
Revealed their malice—how they even laid
A last injunction on her, when they fled,
That she should forthwith find a paramour,
Complot with him to gather spoil enough,
Then burn the house down,—taking previous care
To poison all its inmates overnight,—
And so companioned, so provisioned too,
Follow to Rome and there join fortunes gay.
This letter, traced in pencil-characters,
Guido as easily got re-traced in ink
By his wife's pen, guided from end to end,
As if it had been just so much Chinese.
For why? That wife could broider, sing perhaps,
Pray certainly, but no more read than write
This letter "which yet write she must," he said,
"Being half courtesy and compliment,
"Half sisterliness: take the thing on trust!"
She had as readily re-traced the words
Of her own death-warrant,—in some sort 't was so.
This letter the Abate in due course
Communicated to such curious souls
In Rome as needs must pry into the cause
Of quarrel, why the Comparini fled
The Franceschini, whence the grievance grew,
What the hubbub meant: "Nay,—see the wife's own word,
"Authentic answer! Tell detractors too
"There's a plan formed, a programme figured here
"—Pray God no after-practice put to proof,
"This letter cast no light upon, one day!"

So much for what should work in Rome: back now
To Arezzo, follow up the project there,
Forward the next step with as bold a foot,
And plague Pompilia to the height, you see!
Accordingly did Guido set himself
To worry up and down, across, around,
The woman, hemmed in by her household-bars,—
Chase her about the coop of daily life,
Having first stopped each outlet thence save one
Which, like bird with a ferret in her haunt,
She needs must seize as sole way of escape
Though there was tied and twittering a decoy
To seem as if it tempted,—just the plume
O' the popinjay, not a real respite there
From tooth and claw of something in the dark,—
Giuseppe Caponsacchi.

Now begins
The tenebrific passage of the tale:
How hold a light, display the cavern's gorge?
How, in this phase of the affair, show truth?
Here is the dying wife who smiles and says
"So it was,—so it was not,—how it was,
"I never knew nor ever care to know—"
Till they all weep, physician, man of law,
Even that poor old bit of battered brass
Beaten out of all shape by the world's sins,
Common utensil of the lazar-house
Confessor Celestino groans "'T is truth,
"All truth and only truth: there's something here,
"Some presence in the room beside us all,
"Something that every lie expires before:
"No question she was pure from first to last."
So far is well and helps us to believe:
But beyond, she the helpless, simple-sweet
Or silly-sooth, unskilled to break one blow
At her good fame by putting finger forth,—
How can she render service to the truth?
The bird says "So I fluttered where a springe
"Caught me: the springe did not contrive itself,
"That I know: who contrived it, God forgive!"
But we, who hear no voice and have dry eyes,
Must ask,—we cannot else, absolving her,—
How of the part played by that same decoy
I' the catching, caging? Was himself caught first?
We deal here with no innocent at least,
No witless victim,—he's a man of the age
And priest beside,—persuade the mocking world
Mere charity boiled over in this sort!
He whose own safety too,—(the Pope's apprised—
Good-natured with the secular offence,
The Pope looks grave on priesthood in a scrape)
Our priest's own safety therefore, may-be life,
Hangs on the issue! You will find it hard.
Guido is here to meet you with fixed foot,
Stiff like a statue—"Leave what went before!
"My wife fled i' the company of a priest,
"Spent two days and two nights alone with him:
"Leave what came after!" He stands hard to throw
Moreover priests are merely flesh and blood;
When we get weakness, and no guilt beside,
'Tis no such great ill-fortune: finding grey,
We gladly call that white which might be black,
Too used to the double-dye. So, if the priest
Moved by Pompilia's youth and beauty, gave
Way to the natural weakness… . Anyhow
Here be facts, charactery; what they spell
Determine, and thence pick what sense you may!
There was a certain young bold handsome priest
Popular in the city, far and wide
Famed, since Arezzo's but a little place,
As the best of good companions, gay and grave
At the decent minute; settled in his stall,
Or sidling, lute on lap, by lady's couch,
Ever the courtly Canon; see in him
A proper star to climb and culminate,
Have its due handbreadth of the heaven at Rome,
Though meanwhile pausing on Arezzo's edge,
As modest candle does 'mid mountain fog,
To rub off redness and rusticity
Ere it sweep chastened, gain the silver-sphere!
Whether through Guido's absence or what else,
This Caponsacchi, favourite of the town,
Was yet no friend of his nor free o' the house,
Though both moved in the regular magnates' march:
Each must observe the other's tread and halt
At church, saloon, theatre, house of play.
Who could help noticing the husband's slouch,
The black of his brow—or miss the news that buzzed
Of how the little solitary wife
Wept and looked out of window all day long?
What need of minute search into such springs
As start men, set o' the move?—machinery
Old as earth, obvious as the noonday sun.
Why, take men as they come,—an instance now,—
Of all those who have simply gone to see
Pompilia on her deathbed since four days,
Half at the least are, call it how you please,
In love with herI don't except the priests
Nor even the old confessor whose eyes run
Over at what he styles his sister's voice
Who died so early and weaned him from the world.
Well, had they viewed her ere the paleness pushed
The last o' the red o' the rose away, while yet
Some hand, adventurous 'twixt the wind and her,
Might let shy life run back and raise the flower
Rich with reward up to the guardian's face,—
Would they have kept that hand employed all day
At fumbling on with prayer-book pages? No!
Men are men: why then need I say one word
More than that our mere man the Canon here
Saw, pitied, loved Pompilia?

This is why;
This startling why: that Caponsacchi's self—
Whom foes and friends alike avouch, for good
Or ill, a man of truth whate'er betide,
Intrepid altogether, reckless too
How his own fame and fortune, tossed to the winds,
Suffer by any turn the adventure take,
Nay, more—not thrusting, like a badge to hide,
'Twixt shirt and skin a joy which shown is shame—
But flirting flag-like i' the face o' the world
This tell-tale kerchief, this conspicuous love
For the lady,—oh, called innocent love, I know!
Only, such scarlet fiery innocence
As most folk would try muffle up in shade,—
—'T is strange then that this else abashless mouth
Should yet maintain, for truth's sake which is God's,
That it was not he made the first advance,
That, even ere word had passed between the two,
Pompilia penned him letters, passionate prayers,
If not love, then so simulating love
That he, no novice to the taste of thyme,
Turned from such over-luscious honey-clot
At end o' the flower, and would not lend his lip
Till … but the tale here frankly outsoars faith:
There must be falsehood somewhere. For her part,
Pompilia quietly constantly avers
She never penned a letter in her life
Nor to the Canon nor any other man,
Being incompetent to write and read:
Nor had she ever uttered word to him, nor he
To her till that same evening when they met,
She on her window-terrace, he beneath
I' the public street, as was their fateful chance,
And she adjured him in the name of God
To find out, bring to pass where, when and how
Escape with him to Rome might be contrived.
Means were found, plan laid, time fixed, she avers,
And heart assured to heart in loyalty,
All at an impulse! All extemporized
As in romance-books! Is that credible?
Well, yes: as she avers this with calm mouth
Dying, I do think "Credible!" you'd cry—
Did not the priest's voice come to break the spell.
They questioned him apart, as the custom is,
When first the matter made a noise at Rome,
And he, calm, constant then as she is now,
For truth's sake did assert and re-assert
Those letters called him to her and he came,
—Which damns the story credible otherwise.
Why should this man,—mad to devote himself,
Careless what comes of his own fame, the first,—
Be studious thus to publish and declare
Just what the lightest nature loves to hide,
So screening lady from the byword's laugh
"First spoke the lady, last the cavalier!"
I say,—why should the man tell truth just now
When graceful lying meets such ready shrift?
Or is there a first moment for a priest
As for a woman, when invaded shame
Must have its first and last excuse to show?
Do both contrive love's entry in the mind
Shall look, i' the manner of it, a surprise,—
That after, once the flag o' the fort hauled down,
Effrontery may sink drawbridge, open gate,
Welcome and entertain the conqueror?
Or what do you say to a touch of the devil's worst?
Can it be that the husband, he who wrote
The letter to his brother I told you of,
I' the name of her it meant to criminate,—
What if he wrote those letters to the priest?
Further the priest says, when it first befell,
This folly o' the letters, that he checked the flow,
Put them back lightly each with its reply.
Here again vexes new discrepancy:
There never reached her eye a word from him:
He did write but she could not read—could just
Burn the offence to wifehood, womanhood,
So did burn: never bade him come to her,
Yet when it proved he must come, let him come,
And when he did come though uncalled,—why, spoke
Prompt by an inspiration: thus it chanced.
Will you go somewhat back to understand?

When first, pursuant to his plan, there sprang,
Like an uncaged beast, Guido's cruelty
On soul and body of his wife, she cried
To those whom law appoints resource for such,
The secular guardian,—that's the Governor,
And the Archbishop,—that's the spiritual guide,
And prayed them take the claws from out her flesh.
Now, this is ever the ill consequence
Of being noble, poor and difficult,
Ungainly, yet too great to disregard,—
This—that born peers and friends hereditary,—
Though disinclined to help from their own store
The opprobrious wight, put penny in his poke
From private purse or leave the door ajar
When he goes wistful by at dinner-time,—
Yet, if his needs conduct him where they sit
Smugly in office, judge this, bishop that,
Dispensers of the shine and shade o' the place—
And if, friend's door shut and friend's purse undrawn,
Still potentates may find the office-seat
Do as good service at no cost—give help
By-the-bye, pay up traditional dues at once
Just through a feather-weight too much i' the scale,
Or finger-tip forgot at the balance-tongue,—
Why, only churls refuse, or Molinists.
Thus when, in the first roughness of surprise
At Guido's wolf-face whence the sheepskin fell,
The frightened couple, all bewilderment,
Rushed to the Governor,—who else rights wrong?
Told him their tale of wrong and craved redress—
Why, then the Governor woke up to the fact
That Guido was a friend of old, poor Count!—
So, promptly paid his tribute, promised the pair,
Wholesome chastisement should soon cure their qualms
Next time they came, wept, prated and told lies:
So stopped all prating, sent them dumb to Rome.
Well, now it was Pompilia's turn to try:
The troubles pressing on her, as I said,
Three times she rushed, maddened by misery,
To the other mighty man, sobbed out her prayer
At footstool of the Archbishop—fast the friend
Of her husband also! Oh, good friends of yore!
So, the Archbishop, not to be outdone
By the Governor, break custom more than he,
Thrice bade the foolish woman stop her tongue,
Unloosed her hands from harassing his gout,
Coached her and carried her to the Count again,
—His old friend should be master in his house,
Rule his wife and correct her faults at need!
Well, driven from post to pillar in this wise,
She, as a last resource, betook herself
To one, should be no family-friend at least,
A simple friar o' the city; confessed to him,
Then told how fierce temptation of release
By self-dealt death was busy with her soul,
And urged that he put this in words, write plain
For one who could not write, set down her prayer
That Pietro and Violante, parent-like
If somehow not her parents, should for love
Come save her, pluck from out the flame the brand
Themselves had thoughtlessly thrust in so deep
To send gay-coloured sparkles up and cheer
Their seat at the chimney-corner. The good friar
Promised as much at the moment; but, alack,
Night brings discretion: he was no one's friend,
Yet presently found he could not turn about
Nor take a step i' the case and fail to tread
On someone's toe who either was a friend,
Or a friend's friend, or friend's friend thrice-removed,
And woe to friar by whom offences come!
So, the course being plain,—with a general sigh
At matrimony the profound mistake,—
He threw reluctantly the business up,
Having his other penitents to mind.

If then, all outlets thus secured save one,
At last she took to the open, stood and stared
With her wan face to see where God might wait—
And there found Caponsacchi wait as well
For the precious something at perdition's edge,
He only was predestinate to save,—
And if they recognized in a critical flash
From the zenith, each the other, her need of him,
His need of … say, a woman to perish for,
The regular way o' the world, yet break no vow,
Do no harm save to himself,—if this were thus?
How do you say? It were improbable;
So is the legend of my patron-saint.

Anyhow, whether, as Guido states the case,
Pompilia,—like a starving wretch i' the street
Who stops and rifles the first passenger
In the great right of an excessive wrong,—
Did somehow call this stranger and he came,—
Or whether the strange sudden interview
Blazed as when star and star must needs go close
Till each hurts each and there is loss in heaven—
Whatever way in this strange world it was,—
Pompilia and Caponsacchi met, in fine,
She at her window, he i' the street beneath,
And understood each other at first look.

All was determined and performed at once.
And on a certain April evening, late
I' the month, this girl of sixteen, bride and wife
Three years and over,—she who hitherto
Had never taken twenty steps in Rome
Beyond the church, pinned to her mother's gown,
Nor, in Arezzo, knew her way through street
Except what led to the Archbishop's door,—
Such an one rose up in the dark, laid hand
On what came first, clothes and a trinket or two,
Belongings of her own in the old day,—
Stole from the side o' the sleeping spouse—who knows?
Sleeping perhaps, silent for certain,—slid
Ghost-like from great dark room to great dark room
In through the tapestries and out again
And onward, unembarrassed as a fate,
Descended staircase, gained last door of all,
Sent it wide open at first push of palm,
And there stood, first time, last and only time,
At liberty, alone in the open street,—
Unquestioned, unmolested found herself
At the city gate, by Caponsacchi's side,
Hope there, joy there, life and all good again,
The carriage there, the convoy there, light there
Broadening ever into blaze at Rome
And breaking small what long miles lay between;
Up she sprang, in he followed, they were safe.

The husband quotes this for incredible,
All of the story from first word to last:
Sees the priest's hand throughout upholding hers,
Traces his foot to the alcove, that night,
Whither and whence blindfold he knew the way,
Proficient in all craft and stealthiness;
And cites for proof a servant, eye that watched
And ear that opened to purse secrets up,
A woman-spy,—suborned to give and take
Letters and tokens, do the work of shame
The more adroitly that herself, who helped
Communion thus between a tainted pair,
Had long since been a leper thick in spot,
A common trull o' the town: she witnessed all,
Helped many meetings, partings, took her wage
And then told Guido the whole matter. Lies!
The woman's life confutes her word,—her word
Confutes itself: "Thus, thus and thus I lied."
"And thus, no question, still you lie," we say.

"Ay but at last, e'en have it how you will,
"Whatever the means, whatever the way, explodes
"The consummation"—the accusers shriek:
"Here is the wife avowedly found in flight,
"And the companion of her flight, a priest;
"She flies her husband, he the church his spouse:
"What is this?"

Wife and priest alike reply
"This is the simple thing it claims to be,
"A course we took for life and honour's sake,
"Very strange, very justifiable."
She says, "God put it in my head to fly,
"As when the martin migrates: autumn claps
"Her hands, cries 'Winter's coming, will be here,
"'Off with you ere the white teeth overtake!
"'Flee!' So I fled: this friend was the warm day,
"The south wind and whatever favours flight;
"I took the favour, had the help, how else?
"And so we did fly rapidly all night,
"All day, all night—a longer night—again,
"And then another day, longest of days,
"And all the while, whether we fled or stopped,
"I scarce know how or why, one thought filled both,
"'Fly and arrive!' So long as I found strength
"I talked with my companion, told him much,
"Knowing that he knew more, knew me, knew God
"And God's disposal of me,—but the sense
"O' the blessed flight absorbed me in the main,
"And speech became mere talking through a sleep,
"Till at the end of that last longest night
"In a red daybreak, when we reached an inn
"And my companion whispered 'Next stage—Rome!'
"Sudden the weak flesh fell like piled-up cards,
"All the frail fabric at a finger's touch,
"And prostrate the poor soul too, and I said
"'But though Count Guido were a furlong off,
"'Just on me, I must stop and rest awhile!'
"Then something like a huge white wave o' the sea
"Broke o'er my brain and buried me in sleep
"Blessedly, till it ebbed and left me loose,
"And where was I found but on a strange bed
"In a strange room like hell, roaring with noise,
"Ruddy with flame, and filled with men, in front
"Who but the man you call my husband? ay—
"Count Guido once more between heaven and me,
"For there my heaven stood, my salvation, yes—
"That Caponsacchi all my heaven of help,
"Helpless himself, held prisoner in the hands
"Of men who looked up in my husband's face
"To take the fate thence he should signify,
"Just as the way was at Arezzo. Then,
"Not for my sake but his who had helped me—
"I sprang up, reached him with one bound, and seized
"The sword o' the felon, trembling at his side,
"Fit creature of a coward, unsheathed the thing
"And would have pinned him through the poison-bag
"To the wall and left him there to palpitate,
"As you serve scorpions, but men interposed—
"Disarmed me, gave his life to him again
"That he might take mine and the other lives,
"And he has done so. I submit myself!"
The priest says—oh, and in the main result
The facts asseverate, he truly says.
As to the very act and deed of him,
However you mistrust the mind o' the man—
The flight was just for flight's sake, no pretext
For aught except to set Pompilia free.
He says "I cite the husband's self's worst charge
"In proof of my best word for both of us.
"Be it conceded that so many times
"We took our pleasure in his palace: then,
"What need to fly at all?—or flying no less,
"What need to outrage the lips sick and white
"Of a woman, and bring ruin down beside,
"By halting when Rome lay one stage beyond?"
So does he vindicate Pompilia's fame,
Confirm her story in all points but one—
This; that, so fleeing and so breathing forth
Her last strength in the prayer to halt awhile,
She makes confusion of the reddening white
Which was the sunset when her strength gave way,
And the next sunrise and its whitening red
Which she revived in when her husband came:
She mixes both times, morn and eve, in one,
Having lived through a blank of night 'twixt each
Though dead-asleep, unaware as a corpse,
She on the bed above; her friend below
Watched in the doorway of the inn the while,
Stood i' the red o' the morn, that she mistakes,
In act to rouse and quicken the tardy crew
And hurry out the horses, have the stage
Over, the last league, reach Rome and be safe:
When up came Guido.

Guido's tale begins—
How he and his whole household, drunk to death
By some enchanted potion, poppied drugs
Plied by the wife, lay powerless in gross sleep
And left the spoilers unimpeded way,
Could not shake off their poison and pursue,
Till noontide, then made shift to get on horse
And did pursue: which means he took his time,
Pressed on no more than lingered after, step
By step, just making sure o' the fugitives,
Till at the nick of time, he saw his chance,
Seized it, came up with and surprised the pair.
How he must needs have gnawn lip and gnashed teeth,
Taking successively at tower and town,
Village and roadside, still the same report
"Yes, such a pair arrived an hour ago,
"Sat in the carriage just where now you stand,
"While we got horses ready,—turned deaf ear
"To all entreaty they would even alight;
"Counted the minutes and resumed their course."
Would they indeed escape, arrive at Rome,
Leave no least loop-hole to let murder through,
But foil him of his captured infamy,
Prize of guilt proved and perfect? So it seemed.
Till, oh the happy chance, at last stage, Rome
But two short hours off, Castelnuovo reached,
The guardian angel gave reluctant place,
Satan stepped forward with alacrity,
Pompilia's flesh and blood succumbed, perforce
A halt was, and her husband had his will.
Perdue he couched, counted out hour by hour
Till he should spy in the east a signal-streak—
Night had been, morrow was, triumph would be.
Do you see the plan deliciously complete?
The rush upon the unsuspecting sleep,
The easy execution, the outcry
Over the deed "Take notice all the world!
"These two dead bodies, locked still in embrace,—
"The man is Caponsacchi and a priest,
"The woman is my wife: they fled me late,
"Thus have I found and you behold them thus,
"And may judge me: do you approve or no?"

Success did seem not so improbable,
But that already Satan's laugh was heard,
His black back turned on Guido—left i' the lurch
Or rather, baulked of suit and service now,
Left to improve on both by one deed more,
Burn up the better at no distant day,
Body and soul one holocaust to hell.
Anyhow, of this natural consequence
Did just the last link of the long chain snap:
For an eruption was o' the priest, alive
And alert, calm, resolute and formidable,
Not the least look of fear in that broad brow—
One not to be disposed of by surprise,
And armed moreover—who had guessed as much?
Yes, there stood he in secular costume
Complete from head to heel, with sword at side,
He seemed to know the trick of perfectly.
There was no prompt suppression of the man
As he said calmly "I have saved your wife
"From death; there was no other way but this;
"Of what do I defraud you except death?
"Charge any wrong beyond, I answer it."
Guido, the valorous, had met his match,
Was forced to demand help instead of fight,
Bid the authorities o' the place lend aid
And make the best of a broken matter so.
They soon obeyed the summons—I suppose,
Apprised and ready, or not far to seek—
Laid hands on Caponsacchi, found in fault,
A priest yet flagrantly accoutred thus,—
Then, to make good Count Guido's further charge,
Proceeded, prisoner made lead the way,
In a crowd, upstairs to the chamber-door
Where wax-white, dead asleep, deep beyond dream,
As the priest laid her, lay Pompilia yet.

And as he mounted step and step with the crowd
How I see Guido taking heart again!
He knew his wife so well and the way of her
How at the outbreak she would shroud her shame
In hell's heart, would it mercifully yawn—
How, failing that, her forehead to his foot,
She would crouch silent till the great doom fell,
Leave him triumphant with the crowd to see
Guilt motionless or writhing like a worm!
No! Second misadventure, this worm turned,
I told you: would have slain him on the spot
With his own weapon, but they seized her hands:
Leaving her tongue free, as it tolled the knell
Of Guido's hope so lively late. The past
Took quite another shape now. She who shrieked
"At least and for ever I am mine and God's,
"Thanks to his liberating angel Death—
"Never again degraded to be yours
"The ignoble noble, the unmanly man,
"The beast below the beast in brutishness!"—
This was the froward child, "the restif lamb
"Used to be cherished in his breast," he groaned—
"Eat from his hand and drink from out his cup,
"The while his fingers pushed their loving way
"Through curl on curl of that soft coat—alas,
"And she all silverly baaed gratitude
"While meditating mischief!"—and so forth.
He must invent another story now!
The ins and outs o' the rooms were searched: he found
Or showed for found the abominable prize—
Love-letters from his wife who cannot write,
Love-letters in reply o' the priest—thank God!—
Who can write and confront his character
With this, and prove the false thing forged throughout:
Spitting whereat, he needs must spatter whom
But Guido's self?—that forged and falsified
One letter called Pompilia's, past dispute:
Then why not these to make sure still more sure?

So was the case concluded then and there:
Guido preferred his charges in due form,
Called on the law to adjudicate, consigned
The accused ones to the Prefect of the place,
(Oh mouse-birth of that mountain-like revenge!)
And so to his own place betook himself
After the spring that failed,—the wildcat's way.
The captured parties were conveyed to Rome;
Investigation followed here i' the court—
Soon to review the fruit of its own work,
From then to now being eight months and no more.
Guido kept out of sight and safe at home:
The Abate, brother Paolo, helped most
At words when deeds were out of question, pushed
Nearest the purple, best played deputy,
So, pleaded, Guido's representative
At the court shall soon try Guido's self,—what's more,
The court that also took—I told you, Sir—
That statement of the couple, how a cheat
Had been i' the birth of the babe, no child of theirs.
That was the prelude; this, the play's first act:
Whereof we wait what comes, crown, close of all.

Well, the result was something of a shade
On the parties thus accused,—how otherwise?
Shade, but with shine as unmistakable.
Each had a prompt defence: Pompilia first—
"Earth was made hell to me who did no harm:
"I only could emerge one way from hell
"By catching at the one hand held me, so
"I caught at it and thereby stepped to heaven:
"If that be wrong, do with me what you will!"
Then Caponsacchi with a grave grand sweep
O' the arm as though his soul warned baseness off—
"If as a man, then much more as a priest
"I hold me bound to help weak innocence:
"If so my worldly reputation burst,
"Being the bubble it is, why, burst it may:
"Blame I can bear though not blameworthiness.
"But use your sense first, see if the miscreant proved,
"The man who tortured thus the woman, thus
"Have not both laid the trap and fixed the lure
"Over the pit should bury body and soul!
"His facts are lies: his letters are the fact—
"An infiltration flavoured with himself!
"As for the fancies—whether … what is it you say?
"The lady loves me, whether I love her
"In the forbidden sense of your surmise,—
"If, with the midday blaze of truth above,
"The unlidded eye of God awake, aware,
"You needs must pry about and trace the birth
"Of each stray beam of light may traverse night,
"To the night's sun that's Lucifer himself,
"Do so, at other time, in other place,
"Not now nor here! Enough that first to last
"I never touched her lip nor she my hand
"Nor either of us thought a thought, much less
"Spoke a word which the Virgin might not hear.
"Be such your question, thus I answer it."
Then the court had to make its mind up, spoke.
"It is a thorny question, yea, a tale
"Hard to believe, but not impossible:
"Who can be absolute for either side?
"A middle course is happily open yet.
"Here has a blot surprised the social blank,—
"Whether through favour, feebleness or fault,
"No matter, leprosy has touched our robe
"And we unclean must needs be purified.
"Here is a wife makes holiday from home,
"A priest caught playing truant to his church,
"In masquerade moreover: both allege
"Enough excuse to stop our lifted scourge
"Which else would heavily fall. On the other hand,
"Here is a husband, ay and man of mark,
"Who comes complaining here, demands redress
"As if he were the pattern of desert—
"The while those plaguy allegations frown,
"Forbid we grant him the redress he seeks.
"To all men be our moderation known!
"Rewarding none while compensating each,
"Hurting all round though harming nobody,
"Husband, wife, priest, scot-free not one shall 'scape,
"Yet priest, wife, husband, boast the unbroken head
"From application of our excellent oil:
"So that, whatever be the fact, in fine,
"We make no miss of justice in a sort.
"First, let the husband stomach as he may,
"His wife shall neither be returned him, no—
"Nor branded, whipped and caged, but just consigned
"To a convent and the quietude she craves;
"So is he rid of his domestic plague:
"What better thing can happen to a man?
"Next, let the priest retire—unshent, unshamed,
"Unpunished as for perpetrating crime,
"But relegated (not imprisoned, Sirs!)
"Sent for three years to clarify his youth
"At Civita, a rest by the way to Rome:
"There let his life skim off its last of lees
"Nor keep this dubious colour. Judged the cause:
"All parties may retire, content, we hope."
That's Rome's way, the traditional road of law;
Whither it leads is what remains to tell.

The priest went to his relegation-place,
The wife to her convent, brother Paolo
To the arms of brother Guido with the news
And this beside—his charge was countercharged;
The Comparini, his old brace of hates,
Were breathed and vigilant and venomous now—
Had shot a second bolt where the first stuck,
And followed up the pending dowry-suit
By a procedure should release the wife
From so much of the marriage-bond as barred
Escape when Guido turned the screw too much
On his wife's flesh and blood, as husband may.
No more defence, she turned and made attack,
Claimed now divorce from bed and board, in short:
Pleaded such subtle strokes of cruelty,
Such slow sure siege laid to her body and soul,
As, proved,—and proofs seemed coming thick and fast,—
Would gain both freedom and the dowry back
Even should the first suit leave them in his grasp:
So urged the Comparini for the wife.
Guido had gained not one of the good things
He grasped at by his creditable plan
O' the flight and following and the rest: the suit
That smouldered late was fanned to fury new,
This adjunct came to help with fiercer fire,
While he had got himself a quite new plague—
Found the world's face an universal grin
At this last best of the Hundred Merry Tales
Of how a young and spritely clerk devised
To carry off a spouse that moped too much,
And cured her of the vapours in a trice:
And how the husband, playing Vulcan's part,
Told by the Sun, started in hot pursuit
To catch the lovers, and came halting up,
Cast his net and then called the Gods to see
The convicts in their rosy impudence—
Whereat said Mercury "Would that I were Mars!"
Oh it was rare, and naughty all the same!
Brief, the wife's courage and cunning,—the priest's show
Of chivalry and adroitness,—last not least,
The husband—how he ne'er showed teeth at all,
Whose bark had promised biting; but just sneaked
Back to his kennel, tail 'twixt legs, as 't were,—
All this was hard to gulp down and digest.
So pays the devil his liegeman, brass for gold.
But this was at Arezzo: here in Rome
Brave Paolo bore up against it all—
Battled it out, nor wanting to himself
Nor Guido nor the House whose weight he bore
Pillar-like, by no force of arm but brain.
He knew his Rome, what wheels to set to work;
Plied influential folk, pressed to the ear
Of the efficacious purple, pushed his way
To the old Pope's self,—past decency indeed,—
Praying him take the matter in his hands
Out of the regular court's incompetence.
But times are changed and nephews out of date
And favouritism unfashionable: the Pope
Said "Render Cæsar what is Cæsar's due!"
As for the Comparini's counter-plea,
He met that by a counter-plea again,
Made Guido claim divorce—with help so far
By the trial's issue: for, why punishment
However slight unless for guiltiness
However slender?—and a molehill serves
Much as a mountain of offence this way.
So was he gathering strength on every side
And growing more and more to menace—when
All of a terrible moment came the blow
That beat down Paolo's fence, ended the play
O' the foil and brought mannaia on the stage.

Five months had passed now since Pompilia's flight,
Months spent in peace among the Convert nuns.
This,—being, as it seemed, for Guido's sake
Solely, what pride might call imprisonment
And quote as something gained, to friends at home,—
This naturally was at Guido's charge:
Grudge it he might, but penitential fare,
Prayers, preachings, who but he defrayed the cost?
So, Paolo dropped, as proxy, doit by doit
Like heart's blood, till—what's here? What notice comes?
The convent's self makes application bland
That, since Pompilia's health is fast o' the wane,
She may have leave to go combine her cure
Of soul with cure of body, mend her mind
Together with her thin arms and sunk eyes
That want fresh air outside the convent-wall,
Say in a friendly house,—and which so fit
As a certain villa in the Pauline way,
That happens to hold Pietro and his wife,
The natural guardians? "Oh, and shift the care
"You shift the cost, too; Pietro pays in turn,
"And lightens Guido of a load! And then,
"Villa or convent, two names for one thing,
"Always the sojourn means imprisonment,
"Domus pro carcere—nowise we relax,
"Nothing abate: how answers Paolo?"

You,
What would you answer? All so smooth and fair,
Even Paul's astuteness sniffed no harm i' the world.
He authorized the transfer, saw it made
And, two months after, reaped the fruit of the same,
Having to sit down, rack his brain and find
What phrase should serve him best to notify
Our Guido that by happy providence
A son and heir, a babe was born to him
I' the villa,—go tell sympathizing friends!
Yes, such had been Pompilia's privilege:
She, when she fled, was one month gone with child,
Known to herself or unknown, either way
Availing to explain (say men of art)
The strange and passionate precipitance
Of maiden startled into motherhood
Which changes body and soul by nature's law.
So when the she-dove breeds, strange yearnings come
For the unknown shelter by undreamed-of shores,
And there is born a blood-pulse in her heart
To fight if needs be, though with flap of wing,
For the wool-flock or the fur-tuft, though a hawk
Contest the prize,—wherefore, she knows not yet.
Anyhow, thus to Guido came the news.
"I shall have quitted Rome ere you arrive
"To take the one step left,"—wrote Paolo.
Then did the winch o' the winepress of all hate,
Vanity, disappointment, grudge and greed,
Take the last turn that screws out pure revenge
With a bright bubble at the brim beside—
By an heir's birth he was assured at once
O' the main prize, all the money in dispute:
Pompilia's dowry might revert to her
Or stay with him as law's caprice should point,—
But now—now—what was Pietro's shall be hers,
What was hers shall remain her own,—if hers,
Why then,—oh, not her husband's but—her heir's!
That heir being his too, all grew his at last
By this road or by that road, since they join.
Before, why, push he Pietro out o' the world,—
The current of the money stopped, you see,
Pompilia being proved no Pietro's child:
Or let it be Pompilia's life he quenched,
Again the current of the money stopped,—
Guido debarred his rights as husband soon,
So the new process threatened;—now, the chance,
Now, the resplendent minute! Clear the earth,
Cleanse the house, let the three but disappear
A child remains, depositary of all,
That Guido may enjoy his own again,
Repair all losses by a master-stroke,
Wipe out the past, all done all left undone,
Swell the good present to best evermore,
Die into new life, which let blood baptize!

So, i' the blue of a sudden sulphur-blaze,
Both why there was one step to take at Rome,
And why he should not meet with Paolo there,
He saw—the ins and outs to the heart of hell—
And took the straight line thither swift and sure.
He rushed to Vittiano, found four sons o' the soil,
Brutes of his breeding, with one spark i' the clod
That served for a soul, the looking up to him
Or aught called Franceschini as life, death,
Heaven, hell,—lord paramount, assembled these,
Harangued, equipped, instructed, pressed each clod
With his will's imprint; then took horse, plied spur,
And so arrived, all five of them, at Rome
On Christmas-Eve, and forthwith found themselves
Installed i' the vacancy and solitude
Left them by Paolo, the considerate man
Who, good as his word, had disappeared at once
As if to leave the stage free. A whole week
Did Guido spend in study of his part,
Then played it fearless of a failure. One,
Struck the year's clock whereof the hours are days,
And off was rung o' the little wheels the chime
"Good will on earth and peace to man:" but, two,
Proceeded the same bell and, evening come,
The dreadful five felt finger-wise their way
Across the town by blind cuts and black turns
To the little lone suburban villa; knocked—
"Who may be outside?" called a well-known voice.
"A friend of Caponsacchi's bringing friends
"A letter."

That's a test, the excusers say:
Ay, and a test conclusive, I return.
What? Had that name brought touch of guilt or taste
Of fear with it, aught to dash the present joy
With memory of the sorrow just at end,—
She, happy in her parents' arms at length
With the new blessing of the two weeks' babe,—
How had that name's announcement moved the wife?
Or, as the other slanders circulate,
Were Caponsacchi no rare visitant
On nights and days whither safe harbour lured,
What bait had been i' the name to ope the door?
The promise of a letter? Stealthy guests
Have secret watchwords, private entrances:
The man's own self might have been found inside
And all the scheme made frustrate by a word.
No: but since Guido knew, none knew so well,
The man had never since returned to Rome
Nor seen the wife's face more than villa's front,
So, could not be at hand to warn or save,-
For that, he took this sure way to the end.

"Come in," bade poor Violante cheerfully,
Drawing the door-bolt: that death was the first,
Stabbed through and through. Pietro, close on her heels,
Set up a cry—"Let me confess myself!
"Grant but confession!" Cold steel was the grant.
Then came Pompilia's turn.

Then they escaped.
The noise o' the slaughter roused the neighbourhood.
They had forgotten just the one thing more
Which saves i' the circumstance, the ticket to-wit
Which puts post-horses at a traveller's use:
So, all on foot, desperate through the dark
Reeled they like drunkards along open road,
Accomplished a prodigious twenty miles
Homeward, and gained Baccano very near,
Stumbled at last, deaf, dumb, blind through the feat,
Into a grange and, one dead heap, slept there
Till the pursuers hard upon their trace
Reached them and took them, red from head to heel,
And brought them to the prison where they lie.
The couple were laid i' the church two days ago,
And the wife lives yet by miracle.

All is told.
You hardly need ask what Count Guido says,
Since something he must say. "I own the deed—"
(He cannot choose,—but—) "I declare the same
"Just and inevitable,—since no way else
"Was left me, but by this of taking life,
"To save my honour which is more than life.
"I exercised a husband's rights." To which
The answer is as prompt—"There was no fault
"In any one o' the three to punish thus:
"Neither i' the wife, who kept all faith to you,
"Nor in the parents, whom yourself first duped,
"Robbed and maltreated, then turned out of doors.
"You wronged and they endured wrong; yours the fault.
"Next, had endurance overpassed the mark
"And turned resentment needing remedy,—
"Nay, put the absurd impossible case, for once—
"You were all blameless of the blame alleged
"And they blameworthy where you fix all blame,
"Still, why this violation of the law?
"Yourself elected law should take its course,
"Avenge wrong, or show vengeance not your right;
"Why, only when the balance in law's hand
"Trembles against you and inclines the way
"O' the other party, do you make protest,
"Renounce arbitrament, flying out of court,
"And crying 'Honour's hurt the sword must cure'?
"Aha, and so i' the middle of each suit
"Trying i' the courts,—and you had three in play
"With an appeal to the Pope's self beside,—
"What, you may chop and change and right your wrongs
"Leaving the law to lag as she thinks fit?"

That were too temptingly commodious, Count!
One would have still a remedy in reserve
Should reach the safest oldest sinner, you see!
One's honour forsooth? Does that take hurt alone
From the extreme outrage? I who have no wife,
Being yet sensitive in my degree
As Guido,—must discover hurt elsewhere
Which, half compounded-for in days gone by,
May profitably break out now afresh,
Need cure from my own expeditious hands.
The lie that was, as it were, imputed me
When you objected to my contract's clause,—
The theft as good as, one may say, alleged,
When you, co-heir in a will, excepted, Sir,
To my administration of effects,
—Aha, do you think law disposed of these?
My honour's touched and shall deal death around!
Count, that were too commodious, I repeat!
If any law be imperative on us all,
Of all are you the enemy: out with you
From the common light and air and life of man!

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XI. Guido

You are the Cardinal Acciaiuoli, and you,
Abate Panciatichi—two good Tuscan names:
Acciaiuoli—ah, your ancestor it was
Built the huge battlemented convent-block
Over the little forky flashing Greve
That takes the quick turn at the foot o' the hill
Just as one first sees Florence: oh those days!
'T is Ema, though, the other rivulet,
The one-arched brown brick bridge yawns over,—yes,
Gallop and go five minutes, and you gain
The Roman Gate from where the Ema's bridged:
Kingfishers fly there: how I see the bend
O'erturreted by Certosa which he built,
That Senescal (we styled him) of your House!
I do adjure you, help me, Sirs! My blood
Comes from as far a source: ought it to end
This way, by leakage through their scaffold-planks
Into Rome's sink where her red refuse runs?
Sirs, I beseech you by blood-sympathy,
If there be any vile experiment
In the air,—if this your visit simply prove,
When all's done, just a well-intentioned trick,
That tries for truth truer than truth itself,
By startling up a man, ere break of day,
To tell him he must die at sunset,—pshaw!
That man's a Franceschini; feel his pulse,
Laugh at your folly, and let's all go sleep!
You have my last word,—innocent am I
As Innocent my Pope and murderer,
Innocent as a babe, as Mary's own,
As Mary's self,—I said, say and repeat,—
And why, then, should I die twelve hours hence? I
Whom, not twelve hours ago, the gaoler bade
Turn to my straw-truss, settle and sleep sound
That I might wake the sooner, promptlier pay
His due of meat-and-drink-indulgence, cross
His palm with fee of the good-hand, beside,
As gallants use who go at large again!
For why? All honest Rome approved my part;
Whoever owned wife, sister, daughter,—nay,
Mistress,—had any shadow of any right
That looks like right, and, all the more resolved,
Held it with tooth and nail,—these manly men
Approved! I being for Rome, Rome was for me.
Then, there's the point reserved, the subterfuge
My lawyers held by, kept for last resource,
Firm should all else,—the impossible fancy!—fail,
And sneaking burgess-spirit win the day.
The knaves! One plea at least would hold,—they laughed,—
One grappling-iron scratch the bottom-rock
Even should the middle mud let anchor go!
I hooked my cause on to the Clergy's,—plea
Which, even if law tipped off my hat and plume,
Revealed my priestly tonsure, saved me so.
The Pope moreover, this old Innocent,
Being so meek and mild and merciful,
So fond o' the poor and so fatigued of earth,
So … fifty thousand devils in deepest hell!
Why must he cure us of our strange conceit
Of the angel in man's likeness, that we loved
And looked should help us at a pinch? He help?
He pardon? Here's his mind and message—death!
Thank the good Pope! Now, is he good in this,
Never mind, Christian,—no such stuff's extant,—
But will my death do credit to his reign,
Show he both lived and let live, so was good?
Cannot I live if he but like? "The law!"
Why, just the law gives him the very chance,
The precise leave to let my life alone,
Which the archangelic soul of him (he says)
Yearns after! Here they drop it in his palm,
My lawyers, capital o' the cursed kind,—
Drop life to take and hold and keep: but no!
He sighs, shakes head, refuses to shut hand,
Motions away the gift they bid him grasp,
And of the coyness comes—that off I run
And down I go, he best knows whither! mind,
He knows, who sets me rolling all the same!
Disinterested Vicar of our Lord,
This way he abrogates and disallows,
Nullifies and ignores,—reverts in fine
To the good and right, in detriment of me!
Talk away! Will you have the naked truth?
He's sick of his life's supper,—swallowed lies:
So, hobbling bedward, needs must ease his maw
Just where I sit o' the door-sill. Sir Abate,
Can you do nothing? Friends, we used to frisk:
What of this sudden slash in a friend's face,
This cut across our good companionship
That showed its front so gay when both were young?
Were not we put into a beaten path,
Bid pace the world, we nobles born and bred,
We body of friends with each his scutcheon full
Of old achievement and impunity,—
Taking the laugh of morn and Sol's salute
As forth we fared, pricked on to breathe our steeds
And take equestrian sport over the green
Under the blue, across the crop,—what care?
If we went prancing up hill and down dale,
In and out of the level and the straight,
By the bit of pleasant byeway, where was harm?
Still Sol salutes me and the morning laughs:
I see my grandsire's hoof-prints,—point the spot
Where he drew rein, slipped saddle, and stabbed knave
For daring throw gibe—much less, stone—from pale:
Then back, and on, and up with the cavalcade.
Just so wend we, now canter, now converse,
Till, 'mid the jauncing pride and jaunty port,
Something of a sudden jerks at somebody—
A dagger is out, a flashing cut and thrust,
Because I play some prank my grandsire played,
And here I sprawl: where is the company? Gone!
A trot and a trample! only I lie trapped,
Writhe in a certain novel springe just set
By the good old Pope: I'm first prize. Warn me? Why?
Apprise me that the law o' the game is changed?
Enough that I'm a warning, as I writhe,
To all and each my fellows of the file,
And make law plain henceforward past mistake,
"For such a prank, death is the penalty!"
Pope the Five Hundredth (what do I know or care?)
Deputes your Eminency and Abateship
To announce that, twelve hours from this time, he needs
I just essay upon my body and soul
The virtue of his brand-new engine, prove
Represser of the pranksome! I'm the first!
Thanks. Do you know what teeth you mean to try
The sharpness of, on this soft neck and throat?
I know it,—I have seen and hate it,—ay,
As you shall, while I tell you! Let me talk,
Or leave me, at your pleasure! talk I must:
What is your visit but my lure to talk?
Nay, you have something to disclose?—a smile,
At end of the forced sternness, means to mock
The heart-beats here? I call your two hearts stone!
Is your charge to stay with me till I die?
Be tacit as your bench, then! Use your ears,
I use my tongue: how glibly yours will run
At pleasant supper-time … God's curse! … to-night
When all the guests jump up, begin so brisk
"Welcome, his Eminence who shrived the wretch!
"Now we shall have the Abate's story!"

Life!
How I could spill this overplus of mine
Among those hoar-haired, shrunk-shanked odds and ends
Of body and soul old age is chewing dry!
Those windlestraws that stare while purblind death
Mows here, mows there, makes hay of juicy me,
And misses just the bunch of withered weed
Would brighten hell and streak its smoke with flame!
How the life I could shed yet never shrink,
Would drench their stalks with sap like grass in May!
Is it not terrible, I entreat you, Sirs?—
With manifold and plenitudinous life,
Prompt at death's menace to give blow for threat,
Answer his "Be thou not!" by "Thus I am!"—
Terrible so to be alive yet die?

How I live, how I see! so,—how I speak!
Lucidity of soul unlocks the lips:
I never had the words at will before.
How I see all my folly at a glance!
"A man requires a woman and a wife:"
There was my folly; I believed the saw.
I knew that just myself concerned myself,
Yet needs must look for what I seemed to lack,
In a woman,—why, the woman's in the man!
Fools we are, how we learn things when too late!
Overmuch life turns round my woman-side:
The male and female in me, mixed before,
Settle of a sudden: I'm my wife outright
In this unmanly appetite for truth,
This careless courage as to consequence,
This instantaneous sight through things and through,
This voluble rhetoric, if you please,—'t is she!
Here you have that Pompilia whom I slew,
Also the folly for which I slew her!

Fool!
And, fool-like, what is it I wander from?
What did I say of your sharp iron tooth?
Ah,—that I know the hateful thing! this way.
I chanced to stroll forth, many a good year gone,
One warm Spring eve in Rome, and unaware
Looking, mayhap, to count what stars were out,
Came on your fine axe in a frame, that fails
And so cuts off a man's head underneath,
Mannaia,—thus we made acquaintance first:
Out of the way, in a by-part o' the town,
At the Mouth-of-Truth o' the river-side, you know:
One goes by the Capitol: and wherefore coy,
Retiring out of crowded noisy Rome?
Because a very little time ago
It had done service, chopped off head from trunk
Belonging to a fellow whose poor house
The thing must make a point to stand before—
Felice Whatsoever-was-the-name
Who stabled buffaloes and so gained bread,
(Our clowns unyoke them in the ground hard by)
And, after use of much improper speech,
Had struck at Duke Some-title-or-other's face,
Because he kidnapped, carried away and kept
Felice's sister who would sit and sing
I' the filthy doorway while she plaited fringe
To deck the brutes with,—on their gear it goes,—
The good girl with the velvet in her voice.
So did the Duke, so did Felice, so
Did Justice, intervening with her axe.
There the man-mutilating engine stood
At ease, both gay and grim, like a Swiss guard
Off duty,—purified itself as well,
Getting dry, sweet and proper for next week,—
And doing incidental good, 't was hoped
To the rough lesson-lacking populace
Who now and then, forsooth, must right their wrongs!
There stood the twelve-foot-square of scaffold, railed
Considerately round to elbow-height,
For fear an officer should tumble thence
And sprain his ankle and be lame a month,
Through starting when the axe fell and head too!
Railed likewise were the steps whereby 't was reached.
All of it painted red: red, in the midst,
Ran up two narrow tall beams barred across,
Since from the summit, some twelve feet to reach,
The iron plate with the sharp shearing edge
Had slammed, jerked, shot, slid,—I shall soon find which!—
And so lay quiet, fast in its fit place,
The wooden half-moon collar, now eclipsed
By the blade which blocked its curvature: apart,
The other half,—the under half-moon board
Which, helped by this, completes a neck's embrace,—
Joined to a sort of desk that wheels aside
Out of the way when done with,—down you kneel,
In you're pushed, over you the other drops,
Tight you're clipped, whiz, there's the blade cleaves its best,
Out trundles body, down flops head on floor,
And where's your soul gone? That, too, I shall find!
This kneeling place was red, red, never fear!
But only slimy-like with paint, not blood,
For why? a decent pitcher stood at hand,
A broad dish to hold sawdust, and a broom
By some unnamed utensil,—scraper-rake,—
Each with a conscious air of duty done.
Underneath, loungers,—boys and some few men,—
Discoursed this platter, named the other tool,
Just as, when grooms tie up and dress a steed,
Boys lounge and look on, and elucubrate
What the round brush is used for, what the square,—
So was explained—to me the skill-less then—
The manner of the grooming for next world
Undergone by Felice What's-his-name.
There's no such lovely month in Rome as May—
May's crescent is no half-moon of red plank,
And came now tilting o'er the wave i' the west,
One greenish-golden sea, right 'twixt those bars
Of the engine—I began acquaintance with,
Understood, hated, hurried from before,
To have it out of sight and cleanse my soul!
Here it is all again, conserved for use:
Twelve hours hence, I may know more, not hate worse.

That young May-moon-month! Devils of the deep!
Was not a Pope then Pope as much as now?
Used not he chirrup o'er the Merry Tales,
Chuckle,—his nephew so exact the wag
To play a jealous cullion such a trick
As wins the wife i' the pleasant story! Well?
Why do things change? Wherefore is Rome un-Romed?
I tell you, ere Felice's corpse was cold,
The Duke, that night, threw wide his palace-doors,
Received the compliments o' the quality
For justice done him,—bowed and smirked his best,
And in return passed round a pretty thing,
A portrait of Felice's sister's self,
Florid old rogue Albano's masterpiece,
As—better than virginity in rags—
Bouncing Europa on the back o' the bull:
They laughed and took their road the safelier home.
Ah, but times change, there's quite another Pope,
I do the Duke's deed, take Felice's place,
And, being no Felice, lout and clout,
Stomach but ill the phrase "I lost my head!"
How euphemistic! Lose what? Lose your ring,
Your snuff-box, tablets, kerchief!—but, your head?
I learnt the process at an early age;
'T was useful knowledge, in those same old days,
To know the way a head is set on neck.
My fencing-master urged "Would you excel?
"Rest not content with mere bold give-and-guard,
"Nor pink the antagonist somehow-anyhow!
"See me dissect a little, and know your game!
"Only anatomy makes a thrust the thing."
Oh Cardinal, those lithe live necks of ours!
Here go the vertebræ, here's Atlas, here
Axis, and here the symphyses stop short,
So wisely and well,—as, o'er a corpse, we cant,—
And here's the silver cord which … what's our word?
Depends from the gold bowl, which loosed (not "lost")
Lets us from heaven to hell,—one chop, we're loose!
"And not much pain i' the process," quoth a sage:
Who told him? Not Felice's ghost, I think!
Such "losing" is scarce Mother Nature's mode.
She fain would have cord ease itself away,
Worn to a thread by threescore years and ten,
Snap while we slumber: that seems bearable.
I'm told one clot of blood extravasate
Ends one as certainly as Roland's sword,—
One drop of lymph suffused proves Oliver's mace,—
Intruding, either of the pleasant pair,
On the arachnoid tunic of my brain.
That's Nature's way of loosing cord!—but Art,
How of Art's process with the engine here,
When bowl and cord alike are crushed across,
Bored between, bruised through? Why, if Fagon's self,
The French Court's pride, that famed practitioner,
Would pass his cold pale lightning of a knife,
Pistoja-ware, adroit 'twixt joint and joint,
With just a "See how facile, gentlefolk!"—
The thing were not so bad to bear! Brute force
Cuts as he comes, breaks in, breaks on, breaks out
O' the hard and soft of you: is that the same?
A lithe snake thrids the hedge, makes throb no leaf:
A heavy ox sets chest to brier and branch,
Bursts somehow through, and leaves one hideous hole
Behind him!

And why, why must this needs be?
Oh, if men were but good! They are not good,
Nowise like Peter: people called him rough,
But if, as I left Rome, I spoke the Saint,
—"Petrus, quo vadis?"—doubtless, I should hear,
"To free the prisoner and forgive his fault!
"I plucked the absolute dead from God's own bar,
"And raised up Dorcas,—why not rescue thee?"
What would cost one such nullifying word?
If Innocent succeeds to Peter's place,
Let him think Peter's thought, speak Peter's speech!
I say, he is bound to it: friends, how say you?
Concede I be all one bloodguiltiness
And mystery of murder in the flesh,
Why should that fact keep the Pope's mouth shut fast?
He execrates my crime,—good!—sees hell yawn
One inch from the red plank's end which I press,—
Nothing is better! What's the consequence?
How should a Pope proceed that knows his cue?
Why, leave me linger out my minute here,
Since close on death comes judgment and comes doom,
Not crib at dawn its pittance from a sheep
Destined ere dewfall to be butcher's-meat!
Think, Sirs, if I have done you any harm,
And you require the natural revenge,
Suppose, and so intend to poison me,
—Just as you take and slip into my draught
The paperful of powder that clears scores,
You notice on my brow a certain blue:
How you both overset the wine at once!
How you both smile! "Our enemy has the plague!
"Twelve hours hence he'll be scraping his bones bare
"Of that intolerable flesh, and die,
"Frenzied with pain: no need for poison here!
"Step aside and enjoy the spectacle!"
Tender for souls are you, Pope Innocent!
Christ's maxim is—one soul outweighs the world:
Respite me, save a soul, then, curse the world!
"No," venerable sire, I hear you smirk,
"No: for Christ's gospel changes names, not things,
"Renews the obsolete, does nothing more!
"Our fire-new gospel is re-tinkered law,
"Our mercy, justice,—Jove's rechristened God,—
"Nay, whereas, in the popular conceit,
"'T is pity that old harsh Law somehow limps,
"Lingers on earth, although Law's day be done,
"Else would benignant Gospel interpose,
"Not furtively as now, but bold and frank
"O'erflutter us with healing in her wings,
"Law being harshness, Gospel only love—
"We tell the people, on the contrary,
"Gospel takes up the rod which Law lets fall;
"Mercy is vigilant when justice sleeps!
"Does Law permit a taste of Gospel-grace?
"The secular arm allow the spiritual power
"To act for once?—no compliment so fine
"As that our Gospel handsomely turn harsh,
"Thrust victim back on Law the nice and coy!"
Yes, you do say so, else you would forgive
Me whom Law does not touch but tosses you!
Don't think to put on the professional face!
You know what I know: casuists as you are,
Each nerve must creep, each hair start, sting and stand,
At such illogical inconsequence!
Dear my friends, do but see! A murder's tried,
There are two parties to the cause: I'm one,
—Defend myself, as somebody must do:
I have the best o' the battle: that's a fact,
Simple fact,—fancies find no place just now.
What though half Rome condemned me? Half approved:
And, none disputes, the luck is mine at last,
All Rome, i' the main, acquitting me: whereon,
What has the Pope to ask but "How finds Law?"
"I find," replies Law, "I have erred this while:
"Guilty or guiltless, Guido proves a priest,
"No layman: he is therefore yours, not mine:
"I bound him: loose him, you whose will is Christ's!"
And now what does this Vicar of our Lord,
Shepherd o' the flock,—one of whose charge bleats sore
For crook's help from the quag wherein it drowns?
Law suffers him employ the crumpled end:
His pleasure is to turn staff, use the point,
And thrust the shuddering sheep, he calls a wolf,
Back and back, down and down to where hell gapes!
"Guiltless," cries Law—"Guilty" corrects the Pope!
"Guilty," for the whim's sake! "Guilty," he somehow thinks,
And anyhow says: 't is truth; he dares not lie!

Others should do the lying. That's the cause
Brings you both here: I ought in decency
Confess to you that I deserve my fate,
Am guilty, as the Pope thinks,—ay, to the end,
Keep up the jest, lie on, lie ever, lie
I' the latest gasp of me! What reason, Sirs?
Because to-morrow will succeed to-day
For you, though not for me: and if I stick
Still to the truth, declare with my last breath,
I die an innocent and murdered man,—
Why, there's the tongue of Rome will wag apace
This time to-morrow: don't I hear the talk!
"So, to the last he proved impenitent?
"Pagans have said as much of martyred saints!
"Law demurred, washed her hands of the whole case.
"Prince Somebody said this, Duke Something, that,
"Doubtless the man's dead, dead enough, don't fear!
"But, hang it, what if there have been a spice,
"A touch of … eh? You see, the Pope's so old,
"Some of us add, obtuse: age never slips
"The chance of shoving youth to face death first!"
And so on. Therefore to suppress such talk
You two come here, entreat I tell you lies,
And end, the edifying way. I end,
Telling the truth! Your self-styled shepherd thieves!
A thief—and how thieves hate the wolves we know:
Damage to theft, damage to thrift, all's one!
The red hand is sworn foe of the black jaw.
That's only natural, that's right enough:
But why the wolf should compliment the thief
With shepherd's title, bark out life in thanks,
And, spiteless, lick the prong that spits him,—eh,
Cardinal? My Abate, scarcely thus!
There, let my sheepskin-garb, a curse on't, go—
Leave my teeth free if I must show my shag!
Repent? What good shall follow? If I pass
Twelve hours repenting, will that fact hold fast
The thirteenth at the horrid dozen's end?
If I fall forthwith at your feet, gnash, tear,
Foam, rave, to give your story the due grace,
Will that assist the engine half-way back
Into its hiding-house?—boards, shaking now,
Bone against bone, like some old skeleton bat
That wants, at winter's end, to wake and prey!
Will howling put the spectre back to sleep?
Ah, but I misconceive your object, Sirs!
Since I want new life like the creature,—life
Being done with here, begins i' the world away:
I shall next have "Come, mortals, and be judged!"
There's but a minute betwixt this and then:
So, quick, be sorry since it saves my soul!
Sirs, truth shall save it, since no lies assist!
Hear the truth, you, whatever you style yourselves,
Civilization and society!
Come, one good grapple, I with all the world!
Dying in cold blood is the desperate thing;
The angry heart explodes, bears off in blaze
The indignant soul, and I'm combustion-ripe.
Why, you intend to do your worst with me!
That's in your eyes! You dare no more than death,
And mean no less. I must make up my mind.
So Pietro,—when I chased him here and there,
Morsel by morsel cut away the life
I loathed,—cried for just respite to confess
And save his soul: much respite did I grant!
Why grant me respite who deserve my doom?
Me—who engaged to play a prize, fight you,
Knowing your arms, and foil you, trick for trick,
At rapier-fence, your match and, maybe, more.
I knew that if I chose sin certain sins,
Solace my lusts out of the regular way
Prescribed me, I should find you in the path,
Have to try skill with a redoubted foe;
You would lunge, I would parry, and make end.
At last, occasion of a murder comes:
We cross blades, I, for all my brag, break guard,
And in goes the cold iron at my breast,
Out at my back, and end is made of me.
You stand confessed the adroiter swordsman,—ay,
But on your triumph you increase, it seems,
Want more of me than lying flat on face:
I ought to raise my ruined head, allege
Not simply I pushed worse blade o' the pair,
But my antagonist dispensed with steel!
There was no passage of arms, you looked me low,
With brow and eye abolished cut and thrust
Nor used the vulgar weapon! This chance scratch,
This incidental hurt, this sort of hole
I' the heart of me? I stumbled, got it so!
Fell on my own sword as a bungler may!
Yourself proscribe such heathen tools, and trust
To the naked virtue: it was virtue stood
Unarmed and awed me,—on my brow there burned
Crime out so plainly intolerably red,
That I was fain to cry—"Down to the dust
"With me, and bury there brow, brand and all!"
Law had essayed the adventure,—but what's Law?
Morality exposed the Gorgon shield!
Morality and Religion conquer me.
If Law sufficed would you come here, entreat
I supplement law, and confess forsooth?
Did not the Trial show things plain enough?
"Ah, but a word of the man's very self
"Would somehow put the keystone in its place
"And crown the arch!" Then take the word you want!

I say that, long ago, when things began,
All the world made agreement, such and such
Were pleasure-giving profit-bearing acts,
But henceforth extra-legal, nor to be:
You must not kill the man whose death would please
And profit you, unless his life stop yours
Plainly, and need so be put aside:
Get the thing by a public course, by law,
Only no private bloodshed as of old!
All of us, for the good of every one,
Renounced such licence and conformed to law:
Who breaks law, breaks pact therefore, helps himself
To pleasure and profit over and above the due,
And must pay forfeit,—pain beyond his share:
For, pleasure being the sole good in the world,
Anyone's pleasure turns to someone's pain,
So, law must watch for everyone,—say we,
Who call things wicked that give too much joy,
And nickname mere reprisal, envy makes,
Punishment: quite right! thus the world goes round.
I, being well aware such pact there was,
I, in my time who found advantage come
Of law's observance and crime's penalty,—
Who, but for wholesome fear law bred in friends,
Had doubtless given example long ago,
Furnished forth some friend's pleasure with my pain,
And, by my death, pieced out his scanty life,—
I could not, for that foolish life of me,
Help risking law's infringement,—I broke bond,
And needs must pay price,—wherefore, here's my head,
Flung with a flourish! But, repentance too?
But pure and simple sorrow for law's breach
Rather than blunderer's-ineptitude?
Cardinal, no! Abate, scarcely thus!
'T is the fault, not that I dared try a fall
With Law and straightway am found undermost,
But that I failed to see, above man's law,
God's precept you, the Christians, recognize?
Colly my cow! Don't fidget, Cardinal!
Abate, cross your breast and count your beads
And exorcize the devil, for here he stands
And stiffens in the bristly nape of neck,
Daring you drive him hence! You, Christians both?
I say, if ever was such faith at all
Born in the world, by your community
Suffered to live its little tick of time,
'T is dead of age, now, ludicrously dead;
Honour its ashes, if you be discreet,
In epitaph only! For, concede its death,
Allow extinction, you may boast unchecked
What feats the thing did in a crazy land
At a fabulous epoch,—treat your faith, that way,
Just as you treat your relics: "Here's a shred
"Of saintly flesh, a scrap of blessed bone,
"Raised King Cophetua, who was dead, to life
"In Mesopotamy twelve centuries since,
"Such was its virtue!"—twangs the Sacristan,
Holding the shrine-box up, with hands like feet
Because of gout in every finger joint:
Does he bethink him to reduce one knob,
Allay one twinge by touching what he vaunts?
I think he half uncrooks fist to catch fee,
But, for the grace, the quality of cure,—
Cophetua was the man put that to proof!
Not otherwise, your faith is shrined and shown
And shamed at once: you banter while you bow!
Do you dispute this? Come, a monster-laugh,
A madman's laugh, allowed his Carnival
Later ten days than when all Rome, but he,
Laughed at the candle-contest: mine's alight,
'T is just it sputter till the puff o' the Pope
End it to-morrow and the world turn Ash.
Come, thus I wave a wand and bring to pass
In a moment, in the twinkle of an eye,
What but that—feigning everywhere grows fact,
Professors turn possessors, realize
The faith they play with as a fancy now,
And bid it operate, have full effect
On every circumstance of life, to-day,
In Rome,—faith's flow set free at fountain-head!
Now, you'll own, at this present, when I speak,
Before I work the wonder, there's no man
Woman or child in Rome, faith's fountain-head,
But might, if each were minded, realize
Conversely unbelief, faith's opposite—
Set it to work on life unflinchingly,
Yet give no symptom of an outward change:
Why should things change because men disbelieve
What's incompatible, in the whited tomb,
With bones and rottenness one inch below?
What saintly act is done in Rome to-day
But might be prompted by the devil,—"is"
I say not,—"has been, and again may be,—"
I do say, full i' the face o' the crucifix
You try to stop my mouth with! Off with it!
Look in your own heart, if your soul have eyes!
You shall see reason why, though faith were fled,
Unbelief still might work the wires and move
Man, the machine, to play a faithful part.
Preside your college, Cardinal, in your cape,
Or,—having got above his head, grown Pope,—
Abate, gird your loins and wash my feet!
Do you suppose I am at loss at all
Why you crook, why you cringe, why fast or feast?
Praise, blame, sit, stand, lie or go!—all of it,
In each of you, purest unbelief may prompt,
And wit explain to who has eyes to see.
But, lo, I wave wand, made the false the true!
Here's Rome believes in Christianity!
What an explosion, how the fragments fly
Of what was surface, mask and make-believe!
Begin now,—look at this Pope's-halberdier
In wasp-like black and yellow foolery!
He, doing duty at the corridor,
Wakes from a muse and stands convinced of sin!
Down he flings halbert, leaps the passage-length,
Pushes into the presence, pantingly
Submits the extreme peril of the case
To the Pope's self,—whom in the world beside?—
And the Pope breaks talk with ambassador,
Bids aside bishop, wills the whole world wait
Till he secure that prize, outweighs the world,
A soul, relieve the sentry of his qualm!
His Altitude the Referendary,—
Robed right, and ready for the usher's word
To pay devoir,—is, of all times, just then
'Ware of a master-stroke of argument
Will cut the spinal cord … ugh, ugh! … I mean,
Paralyse Molinism for evermore!
Straight he leaves lobby, trundles, two and two,
Down steps to reach home, write, if but a word
Shall end the impudence: he leaves who likes
Go pacify the Pope: there's Christ to serve!
How otherwise would men display their zeal?
If the same sentry had the least surmise
A powder-barrel 'neath the pavement lay
In neighbourhood with what might prove a match,
Meant to blow sky-high Pope and presence both—
Would he not break through courtiers, rank and file,
Bundle up, bear off and save body so,
The Pope, no matter for his priceless soul?
There's no fool's-freak here, nought to soundly swinge,
Only a man in earnest, you'll so praise
And pay and prate about, that earth shall ring!
Had thought possessed the Referendary
His jewel-case at home was left ajar,
What would be wrong in running, robes awry,
To be beforehand with the pilferer?
What talk then of indecent haste? Which means,
That both these, each in his degree, would do
Just that,—for a comparative nothing's sake,
And thereby gain approval and reward,—
Which, done for what Christ says is worth the world,
Procures the doer curses, cuffs and kicks.
I call such difference 'twixt act and act,
Sheer lunacy unless your truth on lip
Be recognized a lie in heart of you!
How do you all act, promptly or in doubt,
When there's a guest poisoned at supper-time
And he sits chatting on with spot on cheek?
"Pluck him by the skirt, and round him in the ears,
"Have at him by the beard, warn anyhow!"
Good, and this other friend that's cheat and thief
And dissolute,—go stop the devil's feast,
Withdraw him from the imminent hell-fire!
Why, for your life, you dare not tell your friend
"You lie, and I admonish you for Christ!"
Who yet dare seek that same man at the Mass
To warn him—on his knees, and tinkle near,—
He left a cask a-tilt, a tap unturned,
The Trebbian running: what a grateful jump
Out of the Church rewards your vigilance!
Perform that self-same service just a thought
More maladroitly,—since a bishop sits
At function!—and he budges not, bites lip,—
"You see my case: how can I quit my post?
"He has an eye to any such default.
"See to it, neighbour, I beseech your love!"
He and you know the relative worth of things,
What is permissible or inopportune.
Contort your brows! You know I speak the truth:
Gold is called gold, and dross called dross, i' the Book:
Gold you let lie and dross pick up and prize!
—Despite your muster of some fifty monks
And nuns a-maundering here and mumping there,
Who could, and on occasion would, spurn dross,
Clutch gold, and prove their faith a fact so far,—
I grant you! Fifty times the number squeak
And gibber in the madhouse—firm of faith,
This fellow, that his nose supports the moon;
The other, that his straw hat crowns him Pope:
Does that prove all the world outside insane?
Do fifty miracle-mongers match the mob
That acts on the frank faithless principle,
Born-baptized-and-bred Christian-atheists, each
With just as much a right to judge as you,—
As many senses in his soul, and nerves
I' neck of him as I,—whom, soul and sense,
Neck and nerve, you abolish presently,—
I being the unit in creation now
Who pay the Maker, in this speech of mine,
A creature's duty, spend my last of breath
In bearing witness, even by my worst fault,
To the creature's obligation, absolute,
Perpetual: my worst fault protests, "The faith
"Claims all of me: I would give all she claims,
"But for a spice of doubt: the risk's too rash:
"Double or quits, I play, but, all or nought,
"Exceeds my courage: therefore, I descend
"To the next faith with no dubiety—
"Faith in the present life, made last as long
"And prove as full of pleasure as may hap,
"Whatever pain it cause the world." I'm wrong?
I've had my life, whate'er I lose: I'm right?
I've got the single good there was to gain.
Entire faith, or else complete unbelief!
Aught between has my loathing and contempt,
Mine and God's also, doubtless: ask yourself,
Cardinal, where and how you like a man!
Why, either with your feet upon his head,
Confessed your caudatory, or, at large,
The stranger in the crowd who caps to you
But keeps his distance,—why should he presume?
You want no hanger-on and dropper-off,
Now yours, and now not yours but quite his own,
According as the sky looks black or bright.
Just so I capped to and kept off from faith—
You promised trudge behind through fair and foul,
Yet leave i' the lurch at the first spit of rain.
Who holds to faith whenever rain begins?
What does the father when his son lies dead,
The merchant when his money-bags take wing,
The politician whom a rival ousts?
No case but has its conduct, faith prescribes:
Where's the obedience that shall edify?
Why, they laugh frankly in the face of faith
And take the natural course,—this rends his hair
Because his child is taken to God's breast.
That gnashes teeth and raves at loss of trash
Which rust corrupts and thieves break through and steal,
And this, enabled to inherit earth
Through meekness, curses till your blood runs cold!
Down they all drop to my low level, rest
Heart upon dungy earth that's warm and soft,
And let who please attempt the altitudes.
Each playing prodigal son of heavenly sire,
Turning his nose up at the fatted calf,
Fain to fill belly with the husks, we swine
Did eat by born depravity of taste!

Enough of the hypocrites. But you, Sirs, you
Who never budged from litter where I lay,
And buried snout i' the draff-box while I fed,
Cried amen to my creed's one article—
"Get pleasure, 'scape pain,—give your preference
"To the immediate good, for time is brief,
"And death ends good and ill and everything!
"What's got is gained, what's gained soon is gained twice,
"And,—inasmuch as faith gains most,—feign faith!"
So did we brother-like pass word about:
You, now,—like bloody drunkards but half-drunk,
Who fool men yet perceive men find them fools,—
Vexed that a titter gains the gravest mouth,—
O' the sudden you must needs re-introduce
Solemnity, straight sober undue mirth
By a blow dealt me your boon companion here
Who, using the old licence, dreamed of harm
No more than snow in harvest: yet it falls!
You check the merriment effectually
By pushing your abrupt machine i' the midst,
Making me Rome's example: blood for wine!
The general good needs that you chop and change!
I may dislike the hocus-pocus,—Rome,
The laughter-loving people, won't they stare
Chap-fallen!—while serious natures sermonize
"The magistrate, he beareth not the sword
"In vain; who sins may taste its edge, we see!"
Why my sin, drunkards? Where have I abused
Liberty, scandalized you all so much?
Who called me, who crooked finger till I came,
Fool that I was, to join companionship?
I knew my own mind, meant to live my life,
Elude your envy, or else make a stand,
Take my own part and sell you my life dear.
But it was "Fie! No prejudice in the world
"To the proper manly instinct! Cast your lot
"Into our lap, one genius ruled our births,
"We'll compass joy by concert; take with us
"The regular irregular way i' the wood;
"You'll miss no game through riding breast by breast,
"In this preserve, the Church's park and pale,
"Rather than outside where the world lies waste!"
Come, if you said not that, did you say this?
Give plain and terrible warning, "Live, enjoy?
"Such life begins in death and ends in hell!
"Dare you bid us assist your sins, us priests
"Who hurry sin and sinners from the earth?
"No such delight for us, why then for you?
"Leave earth, seek heaven or find its opposite!"
Had you so warned me, not in lying words
But veritable deeds with tongues of flame,
That had been fair, that might have struck a man,
Silenced the squabble between soul and sense,
Compelled him to make mind up, take one course
Or the other, peradventure!—wrong or right,
Foolish or wise, you would have been at least
Sincere, no question,—forced me choose, indulge
Or else renounce my instincts, still play wolf
Or find my way submissive to your fold,
Be red-crossed on my fleece, one sheep the more.
But you as good as bade me wear sheep's wool
Over wolf's skin, suck blood and hide the noise
By mimicry of something like a bleat,—
Whence it comes that because, despite my care,
Because I smack my tongue too loud for once,
Drop baaing, here's the village up in arms!
Have at the wolfs throat, you who hate the breed!
Oh, were it only open yet to choose—
One little time more—whether I'd be free
Your foe, or subsidized your friend forsooth!
Should not you get a growl through the white fangs
In answer to your beckoning! Cardinal,
Abate, managers o' the multitude,
I'd turn your gloved hands to account, be sure!
You should manipulate the coarse rough mob:
'T is you I'd deal directly with, not them,—
Using your fears: why touch the thing myself
When I could see you hunt, and then cry "Shares!
"Quarter the carcase or we quarrel; come,
"Here's the world ready to see justice done!"
Oh, it had been a desperate game, but game
Wherein the winner's chance were worth the pains!
We'd try conclusions!—at the worst, what worse
Than this Mannaia-machine, each minute's talk
Helps push an inch the nearer me? Fool, fool!

You understand me and forgive, sweet Sirs?
I blame you, tear my hair and tell my woe—
All's but a flourish, figure of rhetoric!
One must try each expedient to save life.
One makes fools look foolisher fifty-fold
By putting in their place men wise like you,
To take the full force of an argument
Would buffet their stolidity in vain.
If you should feel aggrieved by the mere wind
O' the blow that means to miss you and maul them,
That's my success! Is it not folly, now,
To say with folk, "A plausible defence—
"We see through notwithstanding, and reject?"
Reject the plausible they do, these fools,
Who never even make pretence to show
One point beyond its plausibility
In favour of the best belief they hold!
"Saint Somebody-or-other raised the dead:"
Did he? How do you come to know as much?
"Know it, what need? The story's plausible,
"Avouched for by a martyrologist,
"And why should good men sup on cheese and leeks
"On such a saint's day, if there were no saint?"
I praise the wisdom of these fools, and straight
Tell them my story—"plausible, but false!"
False, to be sure! What else can story be
That runs—a young wife tired of an old spouse,
Found a priest whom she fled away with,—both
Took their full pleasure in the two-days' flight,
Which a grey-headed greyer-hearted pair,
(Whose best boast was, their life had been a lie)
Helped for the love they bore all liars. Oh,
Here incredulity begins! Indeed?
Allow then, were no one point strictly true,
There's that i' the tale might seem like truth at least
To the unlucky husband,—jaundiced patch—
Jealousy maddens people, why not him?
Say, he was maddened, so forgivable!
Humanity pleads that though the wife were true,
The priest true, and the pair of liars true,
They might seem false to one man in the world!
A thousand gnats make up a serpent's sting,
And many sly soft stimulants to wrath
Compose a formidable wrong at last
That gets called easily by some one name
Not applicable to the single parts,
And so draws down a general revenge,
Excessive if you take crime, fault by fault.
Jealousy! I have known a score of plays,
Were listened to and laughed at in my time
As like the everyday-life on all sides,
Wherein the husband, mad as a March hare,
Suspected all the world contrived his shame.
What did the wife? The wife kissed both eyes blind,
Explained away ambiguous circumstance,
And while she held him captive by the hand,
Crowned his head,—you know what's the mockery,—
By half her body behind the curtain. That's
Nature now! That's the subject of a piece
I saw in Vallombrosa Convent, made
Expressly to teach men what marriage was!
But say "Just so did I misapprehend,
"Imagine she deceived me to my face,"
And that's pretence too easily seen through!
All those eyes of all husbands in all plays,
At stare like one expanded peacock-tail,
Are laughed at for pretending to be keen
While horn-blind: but the moment I step forth—
Oh, I must needs o' the sudden prove a lynx
And look the heart, that stone-wall, through and through!
Such an eye, God's may be,—not yours nor mine.

Yes, presently . . what hour is fleeting now?
When you cut earth away from under me,
I shall be left alone with, pushed beneath
Some such an apparitional dread orb
As the eye of God, since such an eye there glares:
I fancy it go filling up the void
Above my mote-self it devours, or what
Proves—wrath, immensity wreaks on nothingness.
Just how I felt once, couching through the dark,
Hard by Vittiano; young I was, and gay,
And wanting to trap fieldfares: first a spark
Tipped a bent, as a mere dew-globule might
Any stiff grass-stalk on the meadow,—this
Grew fiercer, flamed out full, and proved the sun.
What do I want with proverbs, precepts here?
Away with man! What shall I say to God?
This, if I find the tongue and keep the mind—
"Do Thou wipe out the being of me, and smear
"This soul from off Thy white of things, I blot!
"I am one huge and sheer mistake,—whose fault?
"Not mine at least, who did not make myself!"
Someone declares my wife excused me so!
Perhaps she knew what argument to use.
Grind your teeth, Cardinal: Abate, writhe!
What else am I to cry out in my rage,
Unable to repent one particle
O' the past? Oh, how I wish some cold wise man
Would dig beneath the surface which you scrape,
Deal with the depths, pronounce on my desert
Groundedly! I want simple sober sense,
That asks, before it finishes with a dog,
Who taught the dog that trick you hang him for?
You both persist to call that act a crime,
Which sense would call ... yes, I maintain it, Sirs,...
A blunder! At the worst, I stood in doubt
On cross-road, took one path of many paths:
It leads to the red thing, we all see now,
But nobody saw at first: one primrose-patch
In bank, one singing-bird in bush, the less,
Had warned me from such wayfare: let me prove!
Put me back to the cross-road, start afresh!
Advise me when I take the first false step!
Give me my wife: how should I use my wife,
Love her or hate her? Prompt my action now!
There she is, there she stands alive and pale,
The thirteen-years' old child, with milk for blood,
Pompilia Comparini, as at first,
Which first is only four brief years ago!
I stand too in the little ground-floor room
O' the father's house at Via Vittoria: see!
Her so-called mother,—one arm round the waist
O' the child to keep her from the toys, let fall
At wonder I can live yet look so grim,—
Ushers her in, with deprecating wave
Of the other,—and she fronts me loose at last,
Held only by the mother's finger-tip.
Struck dumb,—for she was white enough before!—
She eyes me with those frightened balls of black,
As heifer—the old simile comes pat—
Eyes tremblingly the altar and the priest.
The amazed look, all one insuppressive prayer,—
Might she but breathe, set free as heretofore,
Have this cup leave her lips unblistered, bear
Any cross anywhither anyhow,
So but alone, so but apart from me!
You are touched? So am I, quite otherwise,
If 't is with pity. I resent my wrong,
Being a man: I only show man's soul
Through man's flesh: she sees mine, it strikes her thus!
Is that attractive? To a youth perhaps—
Calf-creature, one-part boy to three-parts girl,
To whom it is a flattering novelty
That he, men use to motion from their path,
Can thus impose, thus terrify in turn
A chit whose terror shall be changed apace
To bliss unbearable when grace and glow,
Prowess and pride descend the throne and touch
Esther in all that pretty tremble, cured
By the dove o' the sceptre! But myself am old,
O' the wane at least, in all things: what do you say
To her who frankly thus confirms my doubt?
I am past the prime, I scare the woman-world,
Done-with that way: you like this piece of news?
A little saucy rose-bud minx can strike
Death-damp into the breast of doughty king
Though 't were French Louis,—soul I understand,—
Saying, by gesture of repugnance, just
"Sire, you are regal, puissant and so forth,
"But—young you have been, are not, nor will be!"
In vain the mother nods, winks, bustles up,
"Count, girls incline to mature worth like you!
"As for Pompilia, what's flesh, fish, or fowl
"To one who apprehends no difference,
"And would accept you even were you old
"As you are … youngish by her father's side?
"Trim but your beard a little, thin your bush
"Of eyebrow; and for presence, portliness,
"And decent gravity, you beat a boy!"
Deceive yourself one minute, if you may,
In presence of the child that so loves age,
Whose neck writhes, cords itself against your kiss,
Whose hand you wring stark, rigid with despair!
Well, I resent this; I am young in soul,
Nor old in body,—thews and sinews here,—
Though the vile surface be not smooth as once,—
Far beyond that first wheelwork which went wrong
Through the untempered iron ere 't was proof:
I am the wrought man worth ten times the crude,
Would woman see what this declines to see,
Declines to say "I see,"—the officious word
That makes the thing, pricks on the soul to shoot
New fire into the half-used cinder, flesh!
Therefore 't is she begins with wronging me,
Who cannot but begin with hating her.
Our marriage follows: there she stands again!
Why do I laugh? Why, in the very gripe
O' the jaws of death's gigantic skull, do I
Grin back his grin, make sport of my own pangs?
Why from each clashing of his molars, ground
To make the devil bread from out my grist,
Leaps out a spark of mirth, a hellish toy?
Take notice we are lovers in a church,
Waiting the sacrament to make us one
And happy! Just as bid, she bears herself,
Comes and kneels, rises, speaks, is silent,—goes:
So have I brought my horse, by word and blow,
To stand stock-still and front the fire he dreads.
How can I other than remember this,
Resent the very obedience? Gain thereby?
Yes, I do gain my end and have my will,—
Thanks to whom? When the mother speaks the word,
She obeys it—even to enduring me!
There had been compensation in revolt—
Revolt's to quell: but martyrdom rehearsed,
But predetermined saintship for the sake
O' the mother?—"Go!" thought I, "we meet again!"
Pass the next weeks of dumb contented death,
She lives,—wakes up, installed in house and home,
Is mine, mine all day-long, all night-long mine.
Good folk begin at me with open mouth
"Now, at least, reconcile the child to life!
"Study and make her love … that is, endure
"The … hem! the … all of you though somewhat old,
"Till it amount to something, in her eye,
"As good as love, better a thousand times,—
"Since nature helps the woman in such strait,
"Makes passiveness her pleasure: failing which,
"What if you give up boy-and-girl-fools'-play
"And go on to wise friendship all at once?
"Those boys and girls kiss themselves cold, you know,
"Toy themselves tired and slink aside full soon
"To friendship, as they name satiety:
"Thither go you and wait their coming!" Thanks,
Considerate advisers,—but, fair play!
Had you and I, friends, started fair at first
We, keeping fair, might reach it, neck by neck,
This blessed goal, whenever fate so please:
But why am I to miss the daisied mile
The course begins with, why obtain the dust
Of the end precisely at the starting-point?
Why quaff life's cup blown free of all the beads,
The bright red froth wherein our beard should steep
Before our mouth essay the black o' the wine?
Foolish, the love-fit? Let me prove it such
Like you, before like you I puff things clear!
"The best's to come, no rapture but content!
"Not love's first glory but a sober glow,
"Not a spontaneous outburst in pure boon,
"So much as, gained by patience, care and toil,
"Proper appreciation and esteem!"
Go preach that to your nephews, not to me
Who, tired i' the midway of my life, would stop
And take my first refreshment, pluck a rose:
What's this coarse woolly hip, worn smooth of leaf,
You counsel I go plant in garden-plot,
Water with tears, manure with sweat and blood,
In confidence the seed shall germinate
And, for its very best, some far-off day,
Grow big, and blow me out a dog-rose bell?
Why must your nephews begin breathing spice
O' the hundred-petalled Provence prodigy?
Nay, more and worse,—would such my root bear rose—
Prove really flower and favourite, not the kind
That's queen, but those three leaves that make one cup
And hold the hedge-bird's breakfast,—then indeed
The prize though poor would pay the care and toil!
Respect we Nature that makes least as most,
Marvellous in the minim! But this bud,
Bit through and burned black by the tempter's tooth,
This bloom whose best grace was the slug outside
And the wasp inside its bosom,—call you "rose"?
Claim no immunity from a weed's fate
For the horrible present! What you call my wife
I call a nullity in female shape,
Vapid disgust, soon to be pungent plague,
When mixed with, made confusion and a curse
By two abominable nondescripts,
That father and that mother: think you see
The dreadful bronze our boast, we Aretines,
The Etruscan monster, the three-headed thing,
Bellerophon's foe! How name you the whole beast?
You choose to name the body from one head,
That of the simple kid which droops the eye,
Hangs the neck and dies tenderly enough:
I rather see the griesly lion belch
Flame out i' the midst, the serpent writhe her rings,
Grafted into the common stock for tail,
And name the brute, Chimæra which I slew!
How was there ever more to be—(concede
My wife's insipid harmless nullity)—
Dissociation from that pair of plagues—
That mother with her cunning and her cant—
The eyes with first their twinkle of conceit,
Then, dropped to earth in mock-demureness,—now,
The smile self-satisfied from ear to ear,
Now, the prim pursed-up mouth's protruded lips,
With deferential duck, slow swing of head,
Tempting the sudden fist of man too much,—
That owl-like screw of lid and rock of ruff!
As for the father,—Cardinal, you know,
The kind of idiot!—such are rife in Rome,
But they wear velvet commonly; good fools,
At the end of life, to furnish forth young folk
Who grin and bear with imbecility:
Since the stalled ass, the joker, sheds from jaw
Corn, in the joke, for those who laugh or starve.
But what say we to the same solemn beast
Wagging his ears and wishful of our pat,
When turned, with holes in hide and bones laid bare,
To forage for himself i' the waste o' the world,
Sir Dignity i' the dumps? Pat him? We drub
Self-knowledge, rather, into frowzy pate,
Teach Pietro to get trappings or go hang!
Fancy this quondam oracle in vogue
At Via Vittoria, this personified
Authority when time was,—Pantaloon
Flaunting his tom-fool tawdry just the same
As if Ash-Wednesday were mid-Carnival!
That's the extreme and unforgiveable
Of sins, as I account such. Have you stooped
For your own ends to bestialize yourself
By flattery of a fellow of this stamp?
The ends obtained or else shown out of reach,
He goes on, takes the flattery for pure truth,—
"You love, and honour me, of course: what next?"
What, but the trifle of the stabbing, friend?—
Which taught you how one worships when the shrine
Has lost the relic that we bent before.
Angry! And how could I be otherwise?
'T is plain: this pair of old pretentious fools
Meant to fool me: it happens, I fooled them.
Why could not these who sought to buy and sell
Me,—when they found themselves were bought and sold,
Make up their mind to the proved rule of right,
Be chattel and not chapman any more?
Miscalculation has its consequence;
But when the shepherd crooks a sheep-like thing
And meaning to get wool, dislodges fleece
And finds the veritable wolf beneath,
(How that staunch image serves at every turn!)
Does he, by way of being politic,
Pluck the first whisker grimly visible?
Or rather grow in a trice all gratitude,
Protest this sort-of-what-one-might-name sheep
Beats the old other curly-coated kind,
And shall share board and bed, if so it deign,
With its discoverer, like a royal ram?
Ay, thus, with chattering teeth and knocking knees,
Would wisdom treat the adventure! these, forsooth,
Tried whisker-plucking, and so found what trap
The whisker kept perdue, two rows of teeth—
Sharp, as too late the prying fingers felt.
What would you have? The fools transgress, the fools
Forthwith receive appropriate punishment:
They first insult me, I return the blow,
There follows noise enough: four hubbub months,
Now hue and cry, now whimpering and wail—
A perfect goose-yard cackle of complaint
Because I do not gild the geese their oats,—
I have enough of noise, ope wicket wide,
Sweep out the couple to go whine elsewhere,
Frightened a little, hurt in no respect,
And am just taking thought to breathe again,
Taste the sweet sudden silence all about,
When, there they raise it, the old noise I know,
At Rome i' the distance! "What, begun once more?
"Whine on, wail ever, 't is the loser's right!"
But eh, what sort of voice grows on the wind?
Triumph it sounds and no complaint at all!
And triumph it is. My boast was premature:
The creatures, I turned forth, clapped wing and crew
Fighting-cock-fashion,—they had filched a pearl
From dung-heap, and might boast with cause enough!
I was defrauded of all bargained for:
You know, the Pope knows, not a soul but knows
My dowry was derision, my gain—muck,
My wife, (the Church declared my flesh and blood)
The nameless bastard of a common whore:
My old name turned henceforth to … shall I say
"He that received the ordure in his face?"
And they who planned this wrong, performed this wrong,
And then revealed this wrong to the wide world,
Rounded myself in the ears with my own wrong,—
Why, these were (note hell's lucky malice, now!)
These were just they who, they alone, could act
And publish and proclaim their infamy,
Secure that men would in a breath believe
Compassionate and pardon them,—for why?
They plainly were too stupid to invent,
Too simple to distinguish wrong from right,—
Inconscious agents they, the silly-sooth,
Of heaven's retributive justice on the strong
Proud cunning violent oppressor—me!
Follow them to their fate and help your best,
You Rome, Arezzo, foes called friends of me,
They gave the good long laugh to, at my cost!
Defray your share o' the cost, since you partook
The entertainment! Do!—assured the while,
That not one stab, I dealt to right and left,
But went the deeper for a fancy—this—
That each might do me two-fold service, find
A friend's face at the bottom of each wound,
And scratch its smirk a little!

Panciatichi!
There's a report at Florence,—is it true?—
That when your relative the Cardinal
Built, only the other day, that barrack-bulk,
The palace in Via Larga, someone picked
From out the street a saucy quip enough
That fell there from its day's flight through the town,
About the flat front and the windows wide
And bulging heap of cornice,—hitched the joke
Into a sonnet, signed his name thereto,
And forthwith pinned on post the pleasantry:
For which he's at the galleys, rowing now
Up to his waist in water,—just because
Panciatic and lymphatic rhymed so pat!
I hope, Sir, those who passed this joke on me
Were not unduly punished? What say you,
Prince of the Church, my patron? Nay, indeed,
I shall not dare insult your wits so much
As think this problem difficult to solve.
This Pietro and Violante then, I say,
These two ambiguous insects, changing name
And nature with the season's warmth or chill,—
Now, grovelled, grubbing toiling moiling ants,
A very synonym of thrift and peace,—
Anon, with lusty June to prick their heart,
Soared i' the air, winged flies for more offence,
Circled me, buzzed me deaf and stung me blind,
And stunk me dead with fetor in the face
Until I stopped the nuisance: there's my crime!
Pity I did not suffer them subside
Into some further shape and final form
Of execrable life? My masters, no!
I, by one blow, wisely cut short at once
Them and their transformations of disgust,
In the snug little Villa out of hand.
"Grant me confession, give bare time for that!"—
Shouted the sinner till his mouth was stopped.
His life confessed!—that was enough for me,
Who came to see that he did penance. 'S death!
Here's a coil raised, a pother and for what?
Because strength, being provoked by weakness, fought
And conquered,—the world never heard the like!
Pah, how I spend my breath on them, as if
'T was their fate troubled me, too hard to range
Among the right and fit and proper things!

Ay, but Pompilia,—I await your word,—
She, unimpeached of crime, unimplicate
In folly, one of alien blood to these
I punish, why extend my claim, exact
Her portion of the penalty? Yes, friends,
I go too fast: the orator's at fault:
Yes, ere I lay her, with your leave, by them
As she was laid at San Lorenzo late,
I ought to step back, lead you by degrees,
Recounting at each step some fresh offence,
Up to the red bed,—never fear, I will!
Gaze at her, where I place her, to begin,
Confound me with her gentleness and worth!
The horrible pair have fled and left her now,
She has her husband for her sole concern:
His wife, the woman fashioned for his help,
Flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone, the bride
To groom as is the Church and Spouse to Christ:
There she stands in his presence: "Thy desire
"Shall be to the husband, o'er thee shall he rule!"
—"Pompilia, who declare that you love God,
"You know who said that: then, desire my love,
"Yield me contentment and be ruled aright!"
She sits up, she lies down, she comes and goes,
Kneels at the couch-side, overleans the sill
O' the window, cold and pale and mute as stone,
Strong as stone also. "Well, are they not fled?
"Am I not left, am I not one for all?
"Speak a word, drop a tear, detach a glance,
"Bless me or curse me of your own accord!
"Is it the ceiling only wants your soul,
"Is worth your eyes?" And then the eyes descend,
And do look at me. Is it at the meal?
"Speak!" she obeys, "Be silent!" she obeys,
Counting the minutes till I cry "Depart,"
As brood-bird when you saunter past her eggs.
Departs she? just the same through door and wall
I see the same stone strength of white despair.
And all this will be never otherwise!
Before, the parents' presence lent her life:
She could play off her sex's armoury,
Entreat, reproach, be female to my male,
Try all the shrieking doubles of the hare,
Go clamour to the Commissary, bid
The Archbishop hold my hands and stop my tongue,
And yield fair sport so: but the tactics change,
The hare stands stock-still to enrage the hound!
Since that day when she learned she was no child
Of those she thought her parents,—that their trick
Had tricked me whom she thought sole trickster late,—
Why, I suppose she said within herself
"Then, no more struggle for my parents' sake!
"And, for my own sake, why needs struggle be?"
But is there no third party to the pact?
What of her husband's relish or dislike
For this new game of giving up the game,
This worst offence of not offending more?
I'll not believe but instinct wrought in this,
Set her on to conceive and execute
The preferable plague: how sure they probe—
These jades, the sensitivest soft of man!
The long black hair was wound now in a wisp,
Crowned sorrow better than the wild web late:
No more soiled dress, 't is trimness triumphs now,
For how should malice go with negligence?
The frayed silk looked the fresher for her spite!
There was an end to springing out of bed,
Praying me, with face buried on my feet,
Be hindered of my pastime,—so an end
To my rejoinder, "What, on the ground at last?
'Vanquished in fight, a supplicant for life?
"What if I raise you? 'Ware the casting down
"When next you fight me!" Then, she lay there, mine:
Now, mine she is if I please wring her neck,—
A moment of disquiet, working eyes,
Protruding tongue, a long sigh, then no more,—
As if one killed the horse one could not ride!
Had I enjoined "Cut off the hair!"—why, snap
The scissors, and at once a yard or so
Had fluttered in black serpents to the floor:
But till I did enjoin it, how she combs,
Uncurls and draws out to the complete length,
Plaits, places the insulting rope on head
To be an eyesore past dishevelment!
Is all done? Then sit still again and stare!
I advise—no one think to bear that look
Of steady wrong, endured as steadily
—Through what sustainment of deluding hope?
Who is the friend i' the background that notes all?
Who may come presently and close accounts?
This self-possession to the uttermost,
How does it differ in aught, save degree,
From the terrible patience of God?

"All which just means,
"She did not love you!" Again the word is launched
And the fact fronts me! What, you try the wards
With the true key and the dead lock flies ope?
No, it sticks fast and leaves you fumbling still!
You have some fifty servants, Cardinal,—
Which of them loves you? Which subordinate
But makes parade of such officiousness
That,—if there's no love prompts it,—love, the sham,
Does twice the service done by love, the true.
God bless us liars, where's one touch of truth
In what we tell the world, or world tells us,
Of how we love each other? All the same,
We calculate on word and deed, nor err,—
Bid such a man do such a loving act,
Sure of effect and negligent of cause,
Just as we bid a horse, with cluck of tongue,
Stretch his legs arch-wise, crouch his saddled back
To foot-reach of the stirrup—all for love,
And some for memory of the smart of switch
On the inside of the foreleg—what care we?
Yet where's the bond obliges horse to man
Like that which binds fast wife to husband? God
Laid down the law: gave man the brawny arm
And ball of fist—woman the beardless cheek
And proper place to suffer in the side:
Since it is he can strike, let her obey!
Can she feel no love? Let her show the more,
Sham the worse, damn herself praiseworthily!
Who's that soprano, Rome went mad about
Last week while I lay rotting in my straw?
The very jailer gossiped in his praise—
How,—dressed up like Armida, though a man;
And painted to look pretty, though a fright,—
He still made love so that the ladies swooned,
Being an eunuch. "Ah, Rinaldo mine!
"But to breathe by thee while Jove slays us both!
All the poor bloodless creature never felt,
Si, do, re, mi, fa, squeak and squall—for what?
Two gold zecchines the evening. Here's my slave,
Whose body and soul depend upon my nod,
Can't falter out the first note in the scale
For her life! Why blame me if I take the life?
All women cannot give men love, forsooth!
No, nor all pullets lay the henwife eggs—
Whereat she bids them remedy the fault,
Brood on a chalk-ball: soon the nest is stocked—
Otherwise, to the plucking and the spit!
This wife of mine was of another mood—
Would not begin the lie that ends with truth,
Nor feign the love that brings real love about:
Wherefore I judged, sentenced and punished her
But why particularize, defend the deed?
Say that I hated her for no one cause
Beyond my pleasure so to do,—what then?
Just on as much incitement acts the world,
All of you! Look and like! You favour one
Browbeat another, leave alone a third,—
Why should you master natural caprice?
Pure nature Try: plant elm by ash in file;
Both unexceptionable trees enough,
They ought to overlean each other, pair
At top, and arch across the avenue
The whole path to the pleasaunce: do they so—
Or loathe, lie off abhorrent each from each?
Lay the fault elsewhere: since we must have faults,
Mine shall have been,—seeing there's ill in the end
Come of my course,—that I fare somehow worse
For the way I took: my fault … as God's my judge,
I see not where my fault lies, that's the truth!
I ought … oh, ought in my own interest
Have let the whole adventure go untried,
This chance by marriage: or else, trying it,
Ought to have turned it to account, some one
O' the hundred otherwises? Ay, my friend,
Easy to say, easy to do: step right
Now you've stepped left and stumbled on the thing,
The red thing! Doubt I any more than you
That practice makes man perfect? Give again
The chance,—same marriage and no other wife,
Be sure I'll edify you! That's because
I'm practised, grown fit guide for Guido's self.
You proffered guidance,—I know, none so well,—
You laid down law and rolled decorum out,
From pulpit-corner on the gospel-side,—
Wanted to make your great experience mine,
Save me the personal search and pains so: thanks!
Take your word on life's use? When I take his—
The muzzled ox that treadeth out the corn,
Gone blind in padding round and round one path,—
As to the taste of green grass in the field!
What do you know o' the world that's trodden flat
And salted sterile with your daily dung,
Leavened into a lump of loathsomeness?
Take your opinion of the modes of life,
The aims of life, life's triumph or defeat,
How to feel, how to scheme, and how to do
Or else leave undone? You preached long and loud
On high-days, "Take our doctrine upon trust!
"Into the mill-house with you! Grind our corn,
"Relish our chaff, and let the green grass grow!"
I tried chaff, found I famished on such fare,
So made this mad rush at the mill-house-door,
Buried my head up to the ears in dew,
Browsed on the best: for which you brain me, Sirs!
Be it so. I conceived of life that way,
And still declare—life, without absolute use
Of the actual sweet therein, is death, not life.
Give me,—pay down,—not promise, which is air,—
Something that's out of life and better still,
Make sure reward, make certain punishment,
Entice me, scare me,—I'll forgo this life;
Otherwise, no!—the less that words, mere wind,
Would cheat me of some minutes while they plague,
Baulk fulness of revenge here,—blame yourselves
For this eruption of the pent-up soul
You prisoned first and played with afterward
"Deny myself" meant simply pleasure you,
The sacred and superior, save the mark!
You,—whose stupidity and insolence
I must defer to, soothe at every turn,—
Whose swine-like snuffling greed and grunting lust
I had to wink at or help gratify,—
While the same passions,—dared they perk in me,
Me, the immeasurably marked, by God,
Master of the whole world of such as you,—
I, boast such passions? 'T was "Suppress them straight!
"Or stay, we'll pick and choose before destroy.
"Here's wrath in you, a serviceable sword,—
"Beat it into a ploughshare! What's this long
"Lance-like ambition? Forge a pruning-hook,
"May be of service when our vines grow tall!
"But—sword use swordwise, spear thrust out as spear?
"Anathema! Suppression is the word!"
My nature, when the outrage was too gross,
Widened itself an outlet over-wide
By way of answer, sought its own relief
With more of fire and brimstone than you wished.
All your own doing: preachers, blame yourselves!

'T is I preach while the hour-glass runs and runs!
God keep me patient! All I say just means—
My wife proved, whether by her fault or mine,—
That's immaterial,—a true stumbling-block
I' the way of me her husband. I but plied
The hatchet yourselves use to clear a path,
Was politic, played the game you warrant wins,
Plucked at law's robe a-rustle through the courts,
Bowed down to kiss divinity's buckled shoe
Cushioned i' the church: efforts all wide the aim!
Procedures to no purpose! Then flashed truth.
The letter kills, the spirit keeps alive
In law and gospel: there be nods and winks
Instruct a wise man to assist himself
In certain matters, nor seek aid at all.
"Ask money of me,"—quoth the clownish saw,—
"And take my purse! But,—speaking with respect,—
"Need you a solace for the troubled nose?
"Let everybody wipe his own himself!"
Sirs, tell me free and fair! Had things gone well
At the wayside inn: had I surprised asleep
The runaways, as was so probable,
And pinned them each to other partridge-wise,
Through back and breast to breast and back, then bade
Bystanders witness if the spit, my sword,
Were loaded with unlawful game for once—
Would you have interposed to damp the glow
Applauding me on every husband's cheek?
Would you have checked the cry "A judgment, see!
"A warning, note! Be henceforth chaste, ye wives,
"Nor stray beyond your proper precinct, priests!"
If you had, then your house against itself
Divides, nor stands your kingdom any more.
Oh why, why was it not ordained just so?
Why fell not things out so nor otherwise?
Ask that particular devil whose task it is
To trip the all-but-at perfection,—slur
The line o' the painter just where paint leaves off
And life begins,—put ice into the ode
O' the poet while he cries "Next stanza—fire!"
Inscribe all human effort with one word,
Artistry's haunting curse, the Incomplete!
Being incomplete, my act escaped success.
Easy to blame now! Every fool can swear
To hole in net that held and slipped the fish.
But, treat my act with fair unjaundiced eye,
What was there wanting to a masterpiece
Except the luck that lies beyond a man?
My way with the woman, now proved grossly wrong,
Just missed of being gravely grandly right
And making mouths laugh on the other side.
Do, for the poor obstructed artist's sake,
Go with him over that spoiled work once more!
Take only its first flower, the ended act
Now in the dusty pod, dry and defunct!
I march to the Villa, and my men with me,
That evening, and we reach the door and stand.
I say … no, it shoots through me lightning-like
While I pause, breathe, my hand upon the latch,
"Let me forebode! Thus far, too much success:
"I want the natural failure—find it where?
"Which thread will have to break and leave a loop
"I' the meshy combination, my brain's loom
"Wove this long while, and now next minute tests?
"Of three that are to catch, two should go free,
"One must: all three surprised,—impossible!
"Beside, I seek three and may chance on six,—
"This neighbour, t' other gossip,—the babe's birth
"Brings such to fireside, and folks give them wine,—
"'T is late: but when I break in presently
"One will be found outlingering the rest
"For promise of a posset,—one whose shout
"Would raise the dead down in the catacombs,
"Much more the city-watch that goes its round.
"When did I ever turn adroitly up
"To sun some brick embedded in the soil,
"And with one blow crush all three scorpions there?
"Or Pietro or Violante shambles off—
"It cannot be but I surprise my wife—
"If only she is stopped and stamped on, good!
"That shall suffice: more is improbable.
"Now I may knock!" And this once for my sake
The impossible was effected: I called king,
Queen and knave in a sequence, and cards came,
All three, three only! So, I had my way,
Did my deed: so, unbrokenly lay bare
Each tænia that had sucked me dry of juice,
At last outside me, not an inch of ring
Left now to writhe about and root itself
I' the heart all powerless for revenge! Henceforth
I might thrive: these were drawn and dead and damned
Oh Cardinal, the deep long sigh you heave
When the load's off you, ringing as it runs
All the way down the serpent-stair to hell!
No doubt the fine delirium flustered me,
Turned my brain with the influx of success
As if the sole need now were to wave wand
And find doors fly wide,—wish and have my will,—
The rest o' the scheme would care for itself: escape
Easy enough were that, and poor beside!
It all but proved so,—ought to quite have proved,
Since, half the chances had sufficed, set free
Anyone, with his senses at command,
From thrice the danger of my flight. But, drunk,
Redundantly triumphant,—some reverse
Was sure to follow! There's no other way
Accounts for such prompt perfect failure then
And there on the instant. Any day o' the week,
A ducat slid discreetly into palm
O' the mute post-master, while you whisper him—
How you the Count and certain four your knaves,
Have just been mauling who was malapert,
Suspect the kindred may prove troublesome,
Therefore, want horses in a hurry,—that
And nothing more secures you any day
The pick o' the stable! Yet I try the trick,
Double the bribe, call myself Duke for Count,
And say the dead man only was a Jew,
And for my pains find I am dealing just
With the one scrupulous fellow in all Rome—
Just this immaculate official stares,
Sees I want hat on head and sword in sheath,
Am splashed with other sort of wet than wine,
Shrugs shoulder, puts my hand by, gold and all,
Stands on the strictness of the rule o' the road!
"Where's the Permission?" Where's the wretched rag
With the due seal and sign of Rome's Police,
To be had for asking, half-an-hour ago?
"Gone? Get another, or no horses hence!"
He dares not stop me, we five glare too grim,
But hinders,—hacks and hamstrings sure enough,
Gives me some twenty miles of miry road
More to march in the middle of that night
Whereof the rough beginning taxed the strength
O' the youngsters, much more mine, both soul and flesh,
Who had to think as well as act: dead-beat,
We gave in ere we reached the boundary
And safe spot out of this irrational Rome,—
Where, on dismounting from our steeds next day,
We had snapped our fingers at you, safe and sound,
Tuscans once more in blessed Tuscany,
Where laws make wise allowance, understand
Civilized life and do its champions right!
Witness the sentence of the Rota there,
Arezzo uttered, the Granduke confirmed,
One week before I acted on its hint,—
Giving friend Guillichini, for his love,
The galleys, and my wife your saint, Rome's saint,—
Rome manufactures saints enough to know,—
Seclusion at the Stinche for her life.
All this, that all but was, might all have been,
Yet was not! baulked by just a scrupulous knave
Whose palm was horn through handling horses' hoofs
And could not close upon my proffered gold!
What say you to the spite of fortune? Well,
The worst's in store: thus hindered, haled this way
To Rome again by hangdogs, whom find I
Here, still to fight with, but my pale frail wife?
—Riddled with wounds by one not like to waste
The blows he dealt,—knowing anatomy,—
(I think I told you) bound to pick and choose
The vital parts! 'T was learning all in vain!
She too must shimmer through the gloom o' the grave,
Come and confront me—not at judgment-seat
Where I could twist her soul, as erst her flesh,
And turn her truth into a lie,—but there,
O' the death-bed, with God's hand between us both,
Striking me dumb, and helping her to speak,
Tell her own story her own way, and turn
My plausibility to nothingness!
Four whole days did Pompilia keep alive,
With the best surgery of Rome agape
At the miracle,—this cut, the other slash,
And yet the life refusing to dislodge,
Four whole extravagant impossible days,
Till she had time to finish and persuade
Every man, every woman, every child
In Rome, of what she would: the selfsame she
Who, but a year ago, had wrung her hands,
Reddened her eyes and beat her breasts, rehearsed
The whole game at Arezzo, nor availed
Thereby to move one heart or raise one hand!
When destiny intends you cards like these,
What good of skill and preconcerted play?
Had she been found dead, as I left her dead,
I should have told a tale brooked no reply:
You scarcely will suppose me found at fault
With that advantage! "What brings me to Rome?
"Necessity to claim and take my wife:
"Better, to claim and take my new born babe,—
"Strong in paternity a fortnight old,
"When't is at strongest: warily I work,
"Knowing the machinations of my foe;
"I have companionship and use the night:
"I seek my wife and child,—I find—no child
"But wife, in the embraces of that priest
"Who caused her to elope from me. These two,
"Backed by the pander-pair who watch the while,
"Spring on me like so many tiger-cats,
"Glad of the chance to end the intruder. I
"What should I do but stand on my defence,
"Strike right, strike left, strike thick and threefold, slay,
"Not all-because the coward priest escapes.
"Last, I escape, in fear of evil tongues,
"And having had my taste of Roman law."
What's disputable, refutable here?—
Save by just this one ghost-thing half on earth,
Half out of it,—as if she held God's hand
While she leant back and looked her last at me,
Forgiving me (here monks begin to weep)
Oh, from her very soul, commending mine
To heavenly mercies which are infinite,—
While fixing fast my head beneath your knife!
'T is fate not fortune. All is of a piece!
When was it chance informed me of my youths?
My rustic four o' the family, soft swains,
What sweet surprise had they in store for me,
Those of my very household,—what did Law
Twist with her rack-and-cord-contrivance late
From out their bones and marrow? What but this—
Had no one of these several stumbling-blocks
Stopped me, they yet were cherishing a scheme,
All of their honest country homespun wit,
To quietly next day at crow of cock
Cut my own throat too, for their own behoof,
Seeing I had forgot to clear accounts
O' the instant, nowise slackened speed for that,—
And somehow never might find memory,
Once safe back in Arezzo, where things change,
And a court-lord needs mind no country lout.
Well, being the arch-offender, I die last,—
May, ere my head falls, have my eyesight free,
Nor miss them dangling high on either hand,
Like scarecrows in a hemp-field, for their pains!

And then my Trial,—'t is my Trial that bites
Like a corrosive, so the cards are packed,
Dice loaded, and my life-stake tricked away!
Look at my lawyers, lacked they grace of law,
Latin or logic? Were not they fools to the height,
Fools to the depth, fools to the level between,
O' the foolishness set to decide the case?
They feign, they flatter; nowise does it skill,
Everything goes against me: deal each judge
His dole of flattery and feigning,—why,
He turns and tries and snuffs and savours it,
As some old fly the sugar-grain, your gift;
Then eyes your thumb and finger, brushes clean
The absurd old head of him, and whisks away,
Leaving your thumb and finger dirty. Faugh!

And finally, after this long-drawn range
Of affront and failure, failure and affront,—
This path, 'twixt crosses leading to a skull,
Paced by me barefoot, bloodied by my palms
From the entry to the end,—there's light at length,
A cranny of escape: appeal may be
To the old man, to the father, to the Pope,
For a little life—from one whose life is spent,
A little pity—from pity's source and seat,
A little indulgence to rank, privilege,
From one who is the thing personified,
Rank, privilege, indulgence, grown beyond
Earth's bearing, even, ask Jansenius else!
Still the same answer, still no other tune
From the cicala perched at the tree-top
Than crickets noisy round the root: 't is "Die!"
Bids Law—"Be damned!" adds Gospel,—nay,
No word so frank,—'t is rather, "Save yourself!"
The Pope subjoins—"Confess and be absolved!
"So shall my credit countervail your shame,
"And the world see I have not lost the knack
"Of trying all the spirits: yours, my son,
"Wants but a fiery washing to emerge
"In clarity! Come, cleanse you, ease the ache
"Of these old bones, refresh our bowels, boy!"
Do I mistake your mission from the Pope?
Then, bear his Holiness the mind of me!
I do get strength from being thrust to wall,
Successively wrenched from pillar and from post
By this tenacious hate of fortune, hate
Of all things in, under, and above earth.
Warfare, begun this mean unmanly mode,
Does best to end so,—gives earth spectacle
Of a brave fighter who succumbs to odds
That turn defeat to victory. Stab, I fold
My mantle round me! Rome approves my act:
Applauds the blow which costs me life but keeps
My honour spotless: Rome would praise no more
Had I fallen, say, some fifteen years ago,
Helping Vienna when our Aretines
Flocked to Duke Charles and fought Turk Mustafa;
Nor would you two be trembling o'er my corpse
With all this exquisite solicitude.
Why is it that I make such suit to live?
The popular sympathy that's round me now
Would break like bubble that o'er-domes a fly:
Solid enough while he lies quiet there,
But let him want the air and ply the wing,
Why, it breaks and bespatters him, what else?
Cardinal, if the Pope had pardoned me,
And I walked out of prison through the crowd,
It would not be your arm I should dare press!
Then, if I got safe to my place again,
How sad and sapless were the years to come!
I go my old ways and find things grown grey;
You priests leer at me, old friends look askance
The mob's in love, I'll wager, to a man,
With my poor young good beauteous murdered wife:
For hearts require instruction how to beat,
And eyes, on warrant of the story, wax
Wanton at portraiture in white and black
Of dead Pompilia gracing ballad-sheet,
Which eyes, lived she unmurdered and unsung,
Would never turn though she paced street as bare
As the mad penitent ladies do in France.
My brothers quietly would edge me out
Of use and management of things called mine;
Do I command? "You stretched command before!
Show anger? "Anger little helped you once!"
Advise? "How managed you affairs of old?"
My very mother, all the while they gird,
Turns eye up, gives confirmatory groan;
For unsuccess, explain it how you will,
Disqualifies you, makes you doubt yourself,
Much more, is found decisive by your friends.
Beside, am I not fifty years of age?
What new leap would a life take, checked like mine
I' the spring at outset? Where's my second chance?
Ay, but the babe … I had forgot my son,
My heir! Now for a burst of gratitude!
There's some appropriate service to intone,
Some gaudeamus and thanksgiving psalm!
Old, I renew my youth in him, and poor
Possess a treasure,—is not that the phrase?
Only I must wait patient twenty years—
Nourishing all the while, as father ought,
The excrescence with my daily blood of life.
Does it respond to hope, such sacrifice,—
Grows the wen plump while I myself grow lean?
Why, here's my son and heir in evidence,
Who stronger, wiser, handsomer than I
By fifty years, relieves me of each load,—
Tames my hot horse, carries my heavy gun,
Courts my coy mistress,—has his apt advice
On house-economy, expenditure,
And what not? All which good gifts and great growth
Because of my decline, he brings to bear
On Guido, but half apprehensive how
He cumbers earth, crosses the brisk young Count,
Who civilly would thrust him from the scene.
Contrariwise, does the blood-offering fail?
There's an ineptitude, one blank the more
Added to earth in semblance of my child?
Then, this has been a costly piece of work,
My life exchanged for his!—why he, not I,
Enjoy the world, if no more grace accrue?
Dwarf me, what giant have you made of him?
I do not dread the disobedient son:
I know how to suppress rebellion there,
Being not quite the fool my father was.
But grant the medium measure of a man,
The usual compromise 'twixt fool and sage,
You knowthe tolerably-obstinate,
The not-so-much-perverse but you may train,
The true son-servant that, when parent bids
"Go work, son, in my vineyard!" makes reply
"I go, Sir!"—Why, what profit in your son
Beyond the drudges you might subsidize,
Have the same work from, at a paul the head?
Look at those four young precious olive-plants
Reared at Vittiano,—not on flesh and blood,
These twenty years, but black bread and sour wine!
I bade them put forth tender branch, hook, hold,
And hurt three enemies I had in Rome:
They did my hest as unreluctantly,
At promise of a dollar, as a son
Adjured by mumping memories of the past.
No, nothing repays youth expended so—
Youth, I say, who am young still: grant but leave
To live my life out, to the last I'd live
And die conceding age no right of youth!
It is the will runs the renewing nerve
Through flaccid flesh that faints before the time.
Therefore no sort of use for son have I
Sick, not of life's feast but of steps to climb
To the house where life prepares her feast,—of means
To the end: for make the end attainable
Without the means,—my relish were like yours.
A man may have an appetite enough
For a whole dish of robins ready cooked,
And yet lack courage to face sleet, pad snow,
And snare sufficiently for supper.

Thus
The time's arrived when, ancient Roman-like,
I am bound to fall on my own sword: why not
Say—Tuscan-like, more ancient, better still?
Will you hear truth can do no harm nor good?
I think I never was at any time
A Christian, as you nickname all the world,
Me among others: truce to nonsense now!
Name me, a primitive religionist—
As should the aboriginary be
I boast myself, Etruscan, Aretine,
One sprung,—your frigid Virgil's fieriest word,—
From fauns and nymphs, trunks and the heart of oak,
With,—for a visible divinity,—
The portent of a Jove Ægiochus
Descried 'mid clouds, lightning and thunder, couched
On topmost crag of your Capitoline:
'T is in the Seventh Æneid,—what, the Eighth?
Right,—thanks, Abate,—though the Christian's dumb,
The Latinist's vivacious in you yet!
I know my grandsire had our tapestry
Marked with the motto, 'neath a certain shield,
Whereto his grandson presently will give gules
To vary azure. First we fight for faiths,
But get to shake hands at the last of all:
Mine's your faith too,—in Jove Ægiochus!
Nor do Greek gods, that serve as supplement,
Jar with the simpler scheme, if understood.
We want such intermediary race
To make communication possible;
The real thing were too lofty, we too low,
Midway hang these: we feel their use so plain
In linking height to depth, that we doff hat
And put no question nor pry narrowly
Into the nature hid behind the names.
We grudge no rite the fancy may demand;
But never, more than needs, invent, refine,
Improve upon requirement, idly wise
Beyond the letter, teaching gods their trade,
Which is to teach us: we'll obey when taught.
Why should we do our duty past the need?
When the sky darkens, Jove is wroth,—say prayer!
When the sun shines and Jove is glad,—sing psalm!
But wherefore pass prescription and devise
Blood-offering for sweat-service, lend the rod
A pungency through pickle of our own?
Learned Abate,—no one teaches you
What Venus means and who's Apollo here!
I spare you, Cardinal,—but, though you wince,
You know me, I know you, and both know that!
So, if Apollo bids us fast, we fast:
But where does Venus order we stop sense
When Master Pietro rhymes a pleasantry?
Give alms prescribed on Friday: but, hold hand
Because your foe lies prostrate,—where's the word
Explicit in the book debars revenge?
The rationale of your scheme is just
"Pay toll here, there pursue your pleasure free!"
So do you turn to use the medium-powers,
Mars and Minerva, Bacchus and the rest,
And so are saved propitiating—whom?
What all-good, all-wise and all-potent Jove
Vexed by the very sins in man, himself
Made life's necessity when man he made?
Irrational bunglers! So, the living truth
Revealed to strike Pan dead, ducks low at last,
Prays leave to hold its own and live good days
Provided it go masque grotesquely, called
Christian not Pagan. Oh, you purged the sky
Of all gods save the One, the great and good,
Clapped hands and triumphed! But the change came fast:
The inexorable need in man for life—
(Life, you may mulct and minish to a grain
Out of the lump, so that the grain but live)
Laughed at your substituting death for life,
And bade you do your worst: which worst was done
In just that age styled primitive and pure
When Saint this, Saint that, dutifully starved,
Froze, fought with beasts, was beaten and abused
And finally ridded of his flesh by fire:
He kept life-long unspotted from the world!
Next age, how goes the game, what mortal gives
His life and emulates Saint that, Saint this?
Men mutter, make excuse or mutiny,
In fine are minded all to leave the new,
Stick to the old,—enjoy old liberty,
No prejudice in enjoyment, if you please,
To the new profession: sin o' the sly, henceforth!
The law stands though the letter kills: what then?
The spirit saves as unmistakeably.
Omniscience sees, Omnipotence could stop,
Omnibenevolence pardons: it must be,
Frown law its fiercest, there's a wink somewhere!

Such was the logic in this head of mine:
I, like the rest, wrote "poison" on my bread,
But broke and ate:—said "Those that use the sword
"Shall perish by the same;" then stabbed my foe.
I stand on solid earth, not empty air:
Dislodge me, let your Pope's crook hale me hence!
Not he, nor you! And I so pity both,
I'll make the true charge you want wit to make:
"Count Guido, who reveal our mystery,
"And trace all issues to the love of life.
"We having life to love and guard, like you,
"Why did you put us upon self-defence?
"You well knew what prompt pass-word would appease
"The sentry's ire when folk infringed his bounds,
"And yet kept mouth shut: do you wonder then
"If, in mere decency, he shot you dead?
"He can't have people play such pranks as yours
"Beneath his nose at noonday: you disdained
"To give him an excuse before the world
"By crying 'I break rule to save our camp!'
"Under the old rule, such offence were death;
"And you had heard the Pontifex pronounce
"'Since you slay foe and violate the form,
"'Slaying turns murder, which were sacrifice
"'Had you, while, say, law-suiting foe to death,
"'But raised an altar to the Unknown God
"'Or else the Genius of the Vatican.'
"Why then this pother?—all because the Pope,
"Doing his duty, cried 'A foreigner,
"'You scandalize the natives: here at Rome
"'Romano vivitur more: wise men, here,
"'Put the Church forward and efface themselves.
"'The fit defence had been,—you stamped on wheat,
"'Intending all the time to trample tares,—
"'Were fain extirpate, then, the heretic,
"'You now find, in your haste was slain a fool:
"'Nor Pietro, nor Violante, nor your wife
"'Meant to breed up your babe a Molinist!
"'Whence you are duly contrite. Not one word
"'Of all this wisdom did you urge: which slip
"'Death must atone for.'"

So, let death atone!
So ends mistake, so end mistakers!—end
Perhaps to recommence,—how should I know?
Only, be sure, no punishment, no pain
Childish, preposterous, impossible,
But some such fate as Ovid could foresee,—
Byblis in fluvium, let the weak soul end
In water, sed Lycaon in lupum, but
The strong become a wolf for evermore!
Change that Pompilia to a puny stream
Fit to reflect the daisies on its bank!
Let me turn wolf, be whole, and sate, for once,—
Wallow in what is now a wolfishness
Coerced too much by the humanity
That's half of me as well! Grow out of man,
Glut the wolf-nature,—what remains but grow
Into the man again, be man indeed
And all man? Do I ring the changes right?
Deformed, transformed, reformed, informed, conformed!
The honest instinct, pent and crossed through life,
Let surge by death into a visible flow
Of rapture: as the strangled thread of flame
Painfully winds, annoying and annoyed,
Malignant and maligned, thro' stone and ore,
Till earth exclude the stranger: vented once,
It finds full play, is recognized a-top
Some mountain as no such abnormal birth
Fire for the mount, the streamlet for the vale!
Ay, of the water was that wife of mine—
Be it for good, be it for ill, no run
O' the red thread through that insignificance!
Again, how she is at me with those eyes!
Away with the empty stare! Be holy still,
And stupid ever! Occupy your patch
Of private snow that's somewhere in what world
May now be growing icy round your head,
And aguish at your foot-print,—freeze not me,
Dare follow not another step I take,
Not with so much as those detested eyes,
No, though they follow but to pray me pause
On the incline, earth's edge that's next to hell!
None of your abnegation of revenge!
Fly at me frank, tug while I tear again!
There's God, go tell Him, testify your worst!
Not she! There was no touch in her of hate:
And it would prove her hell, if I reached mine!
To know I suffered, would still sadden her,
Do what the angels might to make amends!
Therefore there's either no such place as hell,
Or thence shall I be thrust forth, for her sake,
And thereby undergo three hells, not one—
I who, with outlet for escape to heaven,
Would tarry if such flight allowed my foe
To raise his head, relieved of that firm foot
Had pinned him to the fiery pavement else!
So am I made, "who did not make myself:"
(How dared she rob my own lip of the word?)
Beware me in what other world may be!—
Pompilia, who have brought me to this pass!
All I know here, will I say there, and go
Beyond the saying with the deed. Some use
There cannot but be for a mood like mine,
Implacable, persistent in revenge.
She maundered "All is over and at end:
"I go my own road, go you where God will!
"Forgive you? I forget you!" There's the saint
That takes your taste, you other kind of men!
How you had loved her! Guido wanted skill
To value such a woman at her worth!
Properly the instructed criticize
"What's here, you simpleton have tossed to take
"Its chance i' the gutter? This a daub, indeed?
"Why, 't is a Rafael that you kicked to rags!"
Perhaps so: some prefer the pure design:
Give me my gorge of colour, glut of gold
In a glory round the Virgin made for me!
Titian 's the man, not Monk Angelico
Who traces you some timid chalky ghost
That turns the church into a charnel: ay,
Just such a pencil might depict my wife!
She,—since she, also, would not change herself,—
Why could not she come in some heart-shaped cloud,
Rainbowed about with riches, royalty
Rimming her round, as round the tintless lawn
Guardingly runs the selvage cloth of gold?
I would have left the faint fine gauze untouched,
Needle-worked over with its lily and rose,
Let her bleach unmolested in the midst
Chill that selected solitary spot
Of quietude she pleased to think was life.
Purity, pallor grace the lawn no doubt
When there's the costly bordure to unthread
And make again an ingot: but what's grace
When you want meat and drink and clothes and fire?
A tale comes to my mind that's apposite—
Possibly true, probably false, a truth
Such as all truths we live by, Cardinal!
'T is said, a certain ancestor of mine
Followed—whoever was the potentate,
To Paynimrie, and in some battle, broke
Through more than due allowance of the foe,
And, risking much his own life, saved the lord's.
Battered and bruised, the Emperor scrambles up,
Rubs his eyes and looks round and sees my sire,
Picks a furze-sprig from out his hauberk-joint,
(Token how near the ground went majesty)
And says "Take this, and if thou get safe home,
"Plant the same in thy garden-ground to grow:
"Run thence an hour in a straight line, and stop:
"Describe a circle round (for central point)
"The furze aforesaid, reaching every way
"The length of that hour's run: I give it thee,—
"The central point, to build a castle there,
"The space circumjacent, for fit demesne,
"The whole to be thy children's heritage,—
"Whom, for thy sake, bid thou wear furze on cap!"
Those are my arms: we turned the furze a tree
To show more, and the greyhound tied thereto,
Straining to start, means swift and greedy both;
He stands upon a triple mount of gold—
By Jove, then, he's escaping from true gold
And trying to arrive at empty air!
Aha! the fancy never crossed my mind!
My father used to tell me, and subjoin
"As for the castle, that took wings and flew:
"The broad lands,—why, to traverse them to day
"Scarce tasks my gouty feet, and in my prime
"I doubt not I could stand and spit so far:
"But for the furze, boy, fear no lack of that,
"So long as fortune leaves one field to grub!
"Wherefore, hurra for furze and loyalty!"
What may I mean, where may the lesson lurk?
"Do not bestow on man, by way of gift,
"Furze without land for framework,—vaunt no grace
"Of purity, no furze-sprig of a wife,
"To me, i' the thick of battle for my bread,
"Without some better dowry,—gold will do!"
No better gift than sordid muck? Yes, Sirs!
Many more gifts much better. Give them me!
O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?
"Be thou to me law, right, wrong, heaven and hell!
"Let us blend souls, blent, thou in me, to bid
"Two bodies work one pleasure! What are these
"Called king, priest, father, mother, stranger, friend?
"They fret thee or they frustrate? Give the word—
"Be certain they shall frustrate nothing more!
"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
"—Being a prince and potency, forsooth!—
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson,—pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet—
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!
"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck—my dupe's,—
"Then take the breast shall turn a breast indeed!"
Such women are there; and they marry whom?
Why, when a man has gone and hanged himself
Because of what he calls a wicked wife,—
See, if the very turpitude bemoaned
Prove not mere excellence the fool ignores!
His monster is perfection,—Circe, sent
Straight from the sun, with wand the idiot blames
As not an honest distaff to spin wool!
O thou Lucrezia, is it long to wait
Yonder where all the gloom is in a glow
With thy suspected presence?—virgin yet,
Virtuous again, in face of what's to teach—
Sin unimagined, unimaginable,—
I come to claim my bride,—thy Borgia's self
Not half the burning bridegroom I shall be!
Cardinal, take away your crucifix!
Abate, leave my lips alone,—they bite!
Vainly you try to change what should not change,
And shall not. I have bared, you bathe my heart—
It grows the stonier for your saving dew!
You steep the substance, you would lubricate,
In waters that but touch to petrify!

You too are petrifactions of a kind:
Move not a muscle that shows mercy. Rave
Another twelve hours, every word were waste!
I thought you would not slay impenitence,
But teased, from men you slew, contrition first,—
I thought you had a conscience. Cardinal,
You know I am wronged!—wronged, say, and wronged, maintain.
Was this strict inquisition made for blood
When first you showed us scarlet on your back,
Called to the College? Your straightforward way
To your legitimate end,—I think it passed
Over a scantling of heads brained, hearts broke,
Lives trodden into dust! How otherwise?
Such was the way o' the world, and so you walked.
Does memory haunt your pillow? Not a whit.
God wills you never pace your garden-path,
One appetizing hour ere dinner-time,
But your intrusion there treads out of life
A universe of happy innocent things:
Feel you remorse about that damsel-fly
Which buzzed so near your mouth and flapped your face?
You blotted it from being at a blow:
It was a fly, you were a man, and more,
Lord of created things, so took your course.
Manliness, mind,—these are things fit to save,
Fit to brush fly from: why, because I take
My course, must needs the Pope kill me?—kill you!
You! for this instrument, he throws away,
Is strong to serve a master, and were yours
To have and hold and get much good from out!
The Pope who dooms me needs must die next year;
I'll tell you how the chances are supposed
For his successor: first the Chamberlain,
Old San Cesario,—Colloredo, next,—
Then, one, two, three, four, I refuse to name;
After these, comes Altieri; then come you
Seventh on the list you come, unless … ha, ha,
How can a dead hand give a friend a lift?
Are you the person to despise the help
O' the head shall drop in pannier presently?
So a child seesaws on or kicks away
The fulcrum-stone that's all the sage requires
To fit his lever to and move the world.
Cardinal, I adjure you in God's name,
Save my life, fall at the Pope's feet, set forth
Things your own fashion, not in words like these
Made for a sense like yours who apprehend!
Translate into the Court-conventional
Count Guido must not die, is innocent!
"Fair, be assured! But what an he were foul,
"Blood-drenched and murder-crusted head to foot?
"Spare one whose death insults the Emperor,
"Nay, outrages the Louis you so love!
"He has friends who will avenge him; enemies
"Who will hate God now with impunity,
"Missing the old coercive: would you send
"A soul straight to perdition, dying frank
"An atheist?" Go and say this, for God's sake!
—Why, you don't think I hope you'll say one word?
Neither shall I persuade you from your stand
Nor you persuade me from my station: take
Your crucifix away, I tell you twice!

Come, I am tired of silence! Pause enough!
You have prayed: I have gone inside my soul
And shut its door behind me: 't is your torch
Makes the place dark: the darkness let alone
Grows tolerable twilight: one may grope
And get to guess at length and breadth and depth.
What is this fact I feel persuaded of—
This something like a foothold in the sea,
Although Saint Peter's bark scuds, billow-borne,
Leaves me to founder where it flung me first?
Spite of your splashing, I am high and dry!
God takes his own part in each thing He made;
Made for a reason, He conserves his work,
Gives each its proper instinct of defence.
My lamblike wife could neither bark nor bite,
She bleated, bleated, till for pity pure
The village roused up, ran with pole and prong
To the rescue, and behold the wolf's at bay!
Shall he try bleating?—or take turn or two,
Since the wolf owns some kinship with the fox,
And, failing to escape the foe by craft,
Give up attempt, die fighting quietly?
The last bad blow that strikes fire in at eye
And on to brain, and so out, life and all,
How can it but be cheated of a pang
If, fighting quietly, the jaws enjoy
One re-embrace in mid back-bone they break,
After their weary work thro' the foe's flesh?
That's the wolf-nature. Don't mistake my trope!
A Cardinal so qualmish? Eminence,
My fight is figurative, blows i' the air,
Brain-war with powers and principalities,
Spirit-bravado, no real fisticuffs!
I shall not presently, when the knock comes,
Cling to this bench nor claw the hangman's face,
No, trust me! I conceive worse lots than mine.
Whether it be, the old contagious fit
And plague o' the prison have surprised me too,
The appropriate drunkenness of the death-hour
Crept on my sense, kind work o' the wine and myrrh,—
I know not,—I begin to taste my strength,
Careless, gay even. What's the worth of life?
The Pope's dead now, my murderous old man,
For Tozzi told me so: and you, forsooth—
Why, you don't think, Abate, do your best,
You'll live a year more with that hacking cough
And blotch of crimson where the cheek's a pit?
Tozzi has got you also down in book!
Cardinal, only seventh of seventy near,
Is not one called Albano in the lot?
Go eat your heart, you'll never be a Pope!
Inform me, is it true you left your love,
A Pucci, for promotion in the church?
She's more than in the church,—in the churchyard!
Plautilla Pucci, your affianced bride,
Has dust now in the eyes that held the love,—
And Martinez, suppose they make you Pope,
Stops that with veto,—so, enjoy yourself!
I see you all reel to the rock, you waves—
Some forthright, some describe a sinuous track,
Some, crested brilliantly, with heads above,
Some in a strangled swirl sunk who knows how,
But all bound whither the main-current sets,
Rockward, an end in foam for all of you!
What if I be o'ertaken, pushed to the front
By all you crowding smoother souls behind,
And reach, a minute sooner than was meant,
The boundary whereon I break to mist?
Go to! the smoothest safest of you all,
Most perfect and compact wave in my train,
Spite of the blue tranquillity above,
Spite of the breadth before of lapsing peace,
Where broods the halcyon and the fish leaps free,
Will presently begin to feel the prick
At lazy heart, the push at torpid brain,
Will rock vertiginously in turn, and reel,
And, emulative, rush to death like me.
Later or sooner by a minute then,
So much for the untimeliness of death!
And, as regards the manner that offends,
The rude and rough, I count the same for gain.
Be the act harsh and quick! Undoubtedly
The soul's condensed and, twice itself, expands
To burst thro' life, by alternation due,
Into the other state whate'er it prove.
You never know what life means till you die:
Even throughout life, 't is death that makes life live,
Gives it whatever the significance.
For see, on your own ground and argument,
Suppose life had no death to fear, how find
A possibility of nobleness
In man, prevented daring any more?
What's love, what's faith without a worst to dread?
Lack-lustre jewelry! but faith and love
With death behind them bidding do or die
Put such a foil at back, the sparkle's born!
From out myself how the strange colours come!
Is there a new rule in another world?
Be sure I shall resign myself: as here
I recognized no law I could not see,
There, what I see, I shall acknowledge too:
On earth I never took the Pope for God,
In heaven I shall scarce take God for the Pope.
Unmanned, remanned: I hold it probable—
With something changeless at the heart of me
To know me by, some nucleus that's myself:
Accretions did it wrong? Away with them—
You soon shall see the use of fire!

Till when,
All that was, is; and must forever be.
Nor is it in me to unhate my hates,—
I use up my last strength to strike once more
Old Pietro in the wine-house-gossip-face,
To trample underfoot the whine and wile
Of beast Violante,—and I grow one gorge
To loathingly reject Pompilia's pale
Poison my hasty hunger took for food.
A strong tree wants no wreaths about its trunk,
No cloying cups, no sickly sweet of scent,
But sustenance at root, a bucketful.
How else lived that Athenian who died so,
Drinking hot bull's blood, fit for men like me?
I lived and died a man, and take man's chance,
Honest and bold: right will be done to such.

Who are these you have let descend my stair?
Ha, their accursed psalm! Lights at the sill!
Is it "Open" they dare bid you? Treachery!
Sirs, have I spoken one word all this while
Out of the world of words I had to say?
Not one word! All was folly—I laughed and mocked!
Sirs, my first true word, all truth and no lie,
Is—save me notwithstanding! Life is all!
I was just stark mad,—let the madman live
Pressed by as many chains as you please pile!
Don't open! Hold me from them! I am yours,
I am the Granduke's—no, I am the Pope's!
Abate,—Cardinal,—Christ,—Maria,—God, …
Pompilia, will you let them murder me?

poem by from The Ring and the BookReport problemRelated quotes
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Sleepy Bee, He Is Rising Beneath Me, The Hidden God Is Pleased

Sleepy Bee, He Is Rising Beneath Me, The Hidden God Is Pleased

for Karthik

Somniculosus Apis, Sleepy Bee
Ascendit infra me, He rises beneath me
Deus absconditus placet, The hidden God is pleased


'...descend and of the curveship lend a myth to God.' - Hart Crane

The boys, seven falling: Jamey Rodemayer, Tyler Clementi,
Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg


Oh Valdosta,

He is busy preparing a repast for many paying guests who will watch him cook sacred chilies of his Mother's garden born, who will hear him sing their praises...Krishna was over yesterday more radiant than when we first met beside the cardamom and the ghee in the intoxicating basement of the Indian spice and food shop not easily hidden below the sidewalk, such aromas cannot to be tucked away like the shop is beside and below the avenue.

Which flower should I adorn my table with? I ask, approaching shyly beside the spice bins. I buzz inside, a bee for the nectar.

If you serve, said he, If you serve with cardamom and ghee then flowers three are best, the jasmine, the oleander, the anthurium. But if choosing only one, he looks at me, something insistent, responding, in his eyes, I would choose for you the anthurium.

And so we began our time together, the first demur approaches, the blushing papayas, the cooking lessons, then the fires, the chilies harvested, curtains drawn. One day perhaps I to shall fall but in this way:

I shall fling back the curtains
Open the window
Throw cut sleeves for years
gathered, hidden, to the street.
Shouting out names of lovers,
I shall then leap openly into life
land softly upon the Autumn
ginkgo leaves and, golden,
kiss every parked car
on the street leaving
lips like leaves and all
the cut sleeves in love
with all the world and if
not all the world then
all the cars and a fiddle
dee dee for the fall of me


Yesterday I coached him how to slow down as he speaks (his accent is thickly, richly Tamil) , how to enunciate each syllable. He had several stories to choose from which he may relate to the guests, all of which he related to me, a sweet one of him as a little boy waking up at dawn, asking his dear mama for an omelet to eat:

'Sleepy Bee, ' she called to him. 'Go, my Sleepy Bee, to the garden and be sure to smell the jasmine there, touch softly the spices in trembling rows, fetch then some chilies of many colors and I will prepare for you a dish as you wish. When the teacher makes you sleepy by noon reach then your fingers to your face, smell the spices there, remember the touch of smooth skinned chilies whispering of lingering liaisons to come, and you will brighten my Sleepy Bee.'

A chili omelet she would make, a side of yogurt to soothe the burn, and milk from the cow drawn before dawn's first udder swelled against the press of distant hills where even the Temple soundly sleeps so very full and pleased with itself. Mother, each morning as he stumbles, rubbing his eyes, into the garden, tells him,

You may shout if you wish to wake

the Temple for the cow cannot speak -

Wake up! Awake! Make haste!

Lord Indra comes! Prepare the wicks,

the incense sticks for His Holy Fire!

Hasten! Hurry! Quicken!

There beside Lord Indra's captured fire in the little grate her Bee awakens watching her slow movements, the slicing of chilies, the removal of seeds, the washing again of plump hands, the cracking of eggs, beating them with the whisk, spreading ghee upon the hot flat stone, the enchantment of liquid whites and yokes becoming firm, becoming food. She turns them in round rhythms as she rhythmically prays.

After eggs and chilies are eaten comes the rose oil poured upon his raven hair smoothly brushed back to reveal his shining face, his smile. She prepares him for school with kisses, his uniform freshly cleaned, ironed, smelling, too, of rose-flavored soap. Then off to school with a lunch, a string of chilies of all colors sewn together, sewn when he was still in a waking dream.

'The chilies may burn, ' he tells me, speaking slowly, enunciating each syllable, practicing through smiles, returning to my gaze. 'But not like the touch of my mother's hand. She is far away but I can feel her burning hands on me now.' He smiles. I stammer. How can one enunciate such wonder?


Visionary company, Krishna, his mother, and me.


I have been encouraging Krishna (which is a funny thing to say, Krishna being a bold, blue God) to find a language coach to help him with his accent, to tone it down while keeping the wonderful music/lilt of it and he's going to do that...he complains of tilting his head as he talks 'as all Indians do' but I insist he merely speak and let his head and hands speak, too, in their own way. If he does more public events he will need to be understood clearly when he speaks while preparing his magnificent dishes from his country, his rich feasts of stories of the chilies from his mother's garden entwined by morning glories, the morning cock already at quarrel with the world just beyond the tin reaching in to take some spices too enticing to refuse...

I always feel as if he is, or will soon be, bored with me and my humble 'ministrations' but he sweeps into my little 'box-doir' - you recall how tiny my expensive studio on the 5th floor is! - like a Raj, a young prince beaming, brimming full of stories to tell me, usually some food, spicy hot, he has prepared for me, offered with a grin. Then he strips instantly down, lays upon the down pallet in easy, unabashed nakedness - it catches my breath, I do want to see! - checks his Blackberry for the latest cricket scores while I hurriedly 'hide' my Ganesha, the prominent statue of the god I have in front of my useless fireplace; this hiding I half understand...but still, naked, he has a fresh and beautifully made tattoo of Ganesha on his shoulder, he wears a Ganesha necklace, a Ganesha bracelet, and a Ganesha waist scapular, the image of which is just below his navel. So why, I ask only myself and Ganesha, never Krishna, why must I hide my large wooden Ganesha statue? But I do hide Him in deference to Krishna's wishes and meanwhile have intercourse with the god-in-miniature, scraping a necklace trunk with an ear, a tongue, receive a scapular kiss of the image upon my forehead as I trace those wonderful hairlines of the male body on my way to other deities.

Ah! give me all the beans in the world in all my poverty! Am I not, too, a Raj of floors and scented pillows, this beaming god beneath me thrusting utterly to reveal his secrets, his desires, his pleasures to me who am not a god?

Life, dear Valdosta, over all, is good, yes? I wish it no ill. But, agreeing with the cock, I will quarrel, even fight, with life when young men still leap too soon from bridges because I have learned (and relearn it hard lesson by hard lesson at a time) visionary company insists its tracings in many forms, man to man being but one holy expression, those sons, burning mother's hands upon them demanding, insisting to life that each her sons is a rajah, a Sleepy Bee.

So please the intemperate humanity, in the face of patient deities the burning ones are leaping still and I am ill with grief, with prayer, their dead bodies gone, their now emptier hands.


And he leaves me.


I return to my poems.

The room is filled with Krishna, aromas of rose oil in his hair, pungent spices in his sweat and upon his hands and skin, and sex.

I retrieve Lord Ganesha out from his little sanctuary of hiding (it seems I am always retrieving deities) and we both laugh richly. I remember to sprinkle some cologne upon Him, to pour out some milk into His votive bowl, to rub His belly, to light another candle (the other extinguished, panting, while we were busy bees exchanging knees and sighs, diffusing male spices into bracing air, fingers upon oily chilies thickening in always morning hunger) .

I light more incense and thank the Lord Ganesha in all his forms, appearing both large and small, His adornment of Secrets, though one cannot easily hide an Elephant, man-love and more in such a small infinite universe whose toes I seek to tickle then gather for a shoe as tides shrink and swell, grow and diminish depending upon the worshipers, those who will do so in spite of those who would kill delicate or manly infidels whose worship, forever babies breath, is all the more meaningful.

Be damned the trellises. The petals shall reach, shall extend outward.

The violin's throat cut.

'Do not ask me to see it! '

Then, Ganesha restored to His rightful place; good-natured about being hidden, it is back to the kitchen, the slicing of the onion, the crushing of the garlic, the pouring of the wine, the selecting of the greens and washing them of the clinging sand and grit they kindly bring, then to the pot to cook them in, the meat to go with, and begins the fire, O Indra, more aromas extend into, entwine with what Krishna has left to me and the god and I am grateful, full of heart, for each time he is here is a miracle. A grace. Mother India with hot hands gifts me one of Her Raj's who graces me with his presence evoking praise bestowed from oft bitter lips and tongue made the more bilious by aging, aching joints, laxer muscles, and yet the encroaching decrepitude is bent and stretched, the better for the wear from Krishna's 'half nelsons' and yogic overreaches. More the better for me.

Yet I remain bitter, too, from the senseless loss of young men who could not endure, no fault of their own, for sure, who leap from bridges, forced to by killing edges broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's hands upon them

I have placed your picture, dear Valdosta, upon my altar beside Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, the image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb en perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, along with photos of the young men in the past two weeks who have joined Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, emptied of love from loving deeply out into love for more love, endlessly bleeding out like our Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but remembering only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood stunned, 'how young and handsome are assassins' faces', he flew backward in the wall graced with his brave shadow then his blood until he fell. I believe he fell hard for life demands it as does death which will continue its duende.

Love, as Hart and all hearts love, is still a vision not yet fully, solidly formed in spite of stones and walls forgetting noble shadows, but there are foolish Krishnas, restoring Krishna-moments, patient hidden gods though human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early, too broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.

I pray for my inherited brood of brothers, and remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional, while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life, in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.

I am yours, bleating, sometimes crowing, but almost always bestowing praise. I am loved, Valdosta, and I love you.


N. Nightingale

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 6

So here Ulysses slept, overcome by sleep and toil; but Minerva
went off to the country and city of the Phaecians- a people who used
to live in the fair town of Hypereia, near the lawless Cyclopes. Now
the Cyclopes were stronger than they and plundered them, so their king
Nausithous moved them thence and settled them in Scheria, far from all
other people. He surrounded the city with a wall, built houses and
temples, and divided the lands among his people; but he was dead and
gone to the house of Hades, and King Alcinous, whose counsels were
inspired of heaven, was now reigning. To his house, then, did
Minerva hie in furtherance of the return of Ulysses.
She went straight to the beautifully decorated bedroom in which
there slept a girl who was as lovely as a goddess, Nausicaa,
daughter to King Alcinous. Two maid servants were sleeping near her,
both very pretty, one on either side of the doorway, which was
closed with well-made folding doors. Minerva took the form of the
famous sea captain Dymas's daughter, who was a bosom friend of
Nausicaa and just her own age; then, coming up to the girl's bedside
like a breath of wind, she hovered over her head and said:
"Nausicaa, what can your mother have been about, to have such a lazy
daughter? Here are your clothes all lying in disorder, yet you are
going to be married almost immediately, and should not only be well
dressed yourself, but should find good clothes for those who attend
you. This is the way to get yourself a good name, and to make your
father and mother proud of you. Suppose, then, that we make tomorrow a
washing day, and start at daybreak. I will come and help you so that
you may have everything ready as soon as possible, for all the best
young men among your own people are courting you, and you are not
going to remain a maid much longer. Ask your father, therefore, to
have a waggon and mules ready for us at daybreak, to take the rugs,
robes, and girdles; and you can ride, too, which will be much
pleasanter for you than walking, for the washing-cisterns are some way
from the town."
When she had said this Minerva went away to Olympus, which they
say is the everlasting home of the gods. Here no wind beats roughly,
and neither rain nor snow can fall; but it abides in everlasting
sunshine and in a great peacefulness of light, wherein the blessed
gods are illumined for ever and ever. This was the place to which
the goddess went when she had given instructions to the girl.
By and by morning came and woke Nausicaa, who began wondering
about her dream; she therefore went to the other end of the house to
tell her father and mother all about it, and found them in their own
room. Her mother was sitting by the fireside spinning her purple
yarn with her maids around her, and she happened to catch her father
just as he was going out to attend a meeting of the town council,
which the Phaeacian aldermen had convened. She stopped him and said:
"Papa dear, could you manage to let me have a good big waggon? I
want to take all our dirty clothes to the river and wash them. You are
the chief man here, so it is only right that you should have a clean
shirt when you attend meetings of the council. Moreover, you have five
sons at home, two of them married, while the other three are
good-looking bachelors; you know they always like to have clean
linen when they go to a dance, and I have been thinking about all
this."
She did not say a word about her own wedding, for she did not like
to, but her father knew and said, "You shall have the mules, my
love, and whatever else you have a mind for. Be off with you, and
the men shall get you a good strong waggon with a body to it that will
hold all your clothes."
On this he gave his orders to the servants, who got the waggon
out, harnessed the mules, and put them to, while the girl brought
the clothes down from the linen room and placed them on the waggon.
Her mother prepared her a basket of provisions with all sorts of
good things, and a goat skin full of wine; the girl now got into the
waggon, and her mother gave her also a golden cruse of oil, that she
and her women might anoint themselves. Then she took the whip and
reins and lashed the mules on, whereon they set off, and their hoofs
clattered on the road. They pulled without flagging, and carried not
only Nausicaa and her wash of clothes, but the maids also who were
with her.
When they reached the water side they went to the
washing-cisterns, through which there ran at all times enough pure
water to wash any quantity of linen, no matter how dirty. Here they
unharnessed the mules and turned them out to feed on the sweet juicy
herbage that grew by the water side. They took the clothes out of
the waggon, put them in the water, and vied with one another in
treading them in the pits to get the dirt out. After they had washed
them and got them quite clean, they laid them out by the sea side,
where the waves had raised a high beach of shingle, and set about
washing themselves and anointing themselves with olive oil. Then
they got their dinner by the side of the stream, and waited for the
sun to finish drying the clothes. When they had done dinner they threw
off the veils that covered their heads and began to play at ball,
while Nausicaa sang for them. As the huntress Diana goes forth upon
the mountains of Taygetus or Erymanthus to hunt wild boars or deer,
and the wood-nymphs, daughters of Aegis-bearing Jove, take their sport
along with her (then is Leto proud at seeing her daughter stand a full
head taller than the others, and eclipse the loveliest amid a whole
bevy of beauties), even so did the girl outshine her handmaids.
When it was time for them to start home, and they were folding the
clothes and putting them into the waggon, Minerva began to consider
how Ulysses should wake up and see the handsome girl who was to
conduct him to the city of the Phaeacians. The girl, therefore,
threw a ball at one of the maids, which missed her and fell into
deep water. On this they all shouted, and the noise they made woke
Ulysses, who sat up in his bed of leaves and began to wonder what it
might all be.
"Alas," said he to himself, "what kind of people have I come
amongst? Are they cruel, savage, and uncivilized, or hospitable and
humane? I seem to hear the voices of young women, and they sound
like those of the nymphs that haunt mountain tops, or springs of
rivers and meadows of green grass. At any rate I am among a race of
men and women. Let me try if I cannot manage to get a look at them."
As he said this he crept from under his bush, and broke off a
bough covered with thick leaves to hide his nakedness. He looked
like some lion of the wilderness that stalks about exulting in his
strength and defying both wind and rain; his eyes glare as he prowls
in quest of oxen, sheep, or deer, for he is famished, and will dare
break even into a well-fenced homestead, trying to get at the sheep-
even such did Ulysses seem to the young women, as he drew near to them
all naked as he was, for he was in great want. On seeing one so
unkempt and so begrimed with salt water, the others scampered off
along the spits that jutted out into the sea, but the daughter of
Alcinous stood firm, for Minerva put courage into her heart and took
away all fear from her. She stood right in front of Ulysses, and he
doubted whether he should go up to her, throw himself at her feet, and
embrace her knees as a suppliant, or stay where he was and entreat her
to give him some clothes and show him the way to the town. In the
end he deemed it best to entreat her from a distance in case the
girl should take offence at his coming near enough to clasp her knees,
so he addressed her in honeyed and persuasive language.
"O queen," he said, "I implore your aid- but tell me, are you a
goddess or are you a mortal woman? If you are a goddess and dwell in
heaven, I can only conjecture that you are Jove's daughter Diana,
for your face and figure resemble none but hers; if on the other
hand you are a mortal and live on earth, thrice happy are your
father and mother- thrice happy, too, are your brothers and sisters;
how proud and delighted they must feel when they see so fair a scion
as yourself going out to a dance; most happy, however, of all will
he be whose wedding gifts have been the richest, and who takes you
to his own home. I never yet saw any one so beautiful, neither man nor
woman, and am lost in admiration as I behold you. I can only compare
you to a young palm tree which I saw when I was at Delos growing
near the altar of Apollo- for I was there, too, with much people after
me, when I was on that journey which has been the source of all my
troubles. Never yet did such a young plant shoot out of the ground
as that was, and I admired and wondered at it exactly as I now
admire and wonder at yourself. I dare not clasp your knees, but I am
in great distress; yesterday made the twentieth day that I had been
tossing about upon the sea. The winds and waves have taken me all
the way from the Ogygian island, and now fate has flung me upon this
coast that I may endure still further suffering; for I do not think
that I have yet come to the end of it, but rather that heaven has
still much evil in store for me.
"And now, O queen, have pity upon me, for you are the first person I
have met, and I know no one else in this country. Show me the way to
your town, and let me have anything that you may have brought hither
to wrap your clothes in. May heaven grant you in all things your
heart's desire- husband, house, and a happy, peaceful home; for
there is nothing better in this world than that man and wife should be
of one mind in a house. It discomfits their enemies, makes the
hearts of their friends glad, and they themselves know more about it
than any one."
To this Nausicaa answered, "Stranger, you appear to be a sensible,
well-disposed person. There is no accounting for luck; Jove gives
prosperity to rich and poor just as he chooses, so you must take
what he has seen fit to send you, and make the best of it. Now,
however, that you have come to this our country, you shall not want
for clothes nor for anything else that a foreigner in distress may
reasonably look for. I will show you the way to the town, and will
tell you the name of our people; we are called Phaeacians, and I am
daughter to Alcinous, in whom the whole power of the state is vested."
Then she called her maids and said, "Stay where you are, you
girls. Can you not see a man without running away from him? Do you
take him for a robber or a murderer? Neither he nor any one else can
come here to do us Phaeacians any harm, for we are dear to the gods,
and live apart on a land's end that juts into the sounding sea, and
have nothing to do with any other people. This is only some poor man
who has lost his way, and we must be kind to him, for strangers and
foreigners in distress are under Jove's protection, and will take what
they can get and be thankful; so, girls, give the poor fellow
something to eat and drink, and wash him in the stream at some place
that is sheltered from the wind."
On this the maids left off running away and began calling one
another back. They made Ulysses sit down in the shelter as Nausicaa
had told them, and brought him a shirt and cloak. They also brought
him the little golden cruse of oil, and told him to go wash in the
stream. But Ulysses said, "Young women, please to stand a little on
one side that I may wash the brine from my shoulders and anoint myself
with oil, for it is long enough since my skin has had a drop of oil
upon it. I cannot wash as long as you all keep standing there. I am
ashamed to strip before a number of good-looking young women."
Then they stood on one side and went to tell the girl, while Ulysses
washed himself in the stream and scrubbed the brine from his back
and from his broad shoulders. When he had thoroughly washed himself,
and had got the brine out of his hair, he anointed himself with oil,
and put on the clothes which the girl had given him; Minerva then made
him look taller and stronger than before, she also made the hair
grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like
hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders as a
skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan and
Minerva enriches a piece of silver plate by gilding it- and his work
is full of beauty. Then he went and sat down a little way off upon the
beach, looking quite young and handsome, and the girl gazed on him
with admiration; then she said to her maids:
"Hush, my dears, for I want to say something. I believe the gods who
live in heaven have sent this man to the Phaeacians. When I first
saw him I thought him plain, but now his appearance is like that of
the gods who dwell in heaven. I should like my future husband to be
just such another as he is, if he would only stay here and not want to
go away. However, give him something to eat and drink."
They did as they were told, and set food before Ulysses, who ate and
drank ravenously, for it was long since he had had food of any kind.
Meanwhile, Nausicaa bethought her of another matter. She got the linen
folded and placed in the waggon, she then yoked the mules, and, as she
took her seat, she called Ulysses:
"Stranger," said she, "rise and let us be going back to the town;
I will introduce you at the house of my excellent father, where I
can tell you that you will meet all the best people among the
Phaecians. But be sure and do as I bid you, for you seem to be a
sensible person. As long as we are going past the fields- and farm
lands, follow briskly behind the waggon along with the maids and I
will lead the way myself. Presently, however, we shall come to the
town, where you will find a high wall running all round it, and a good
harbour on either side with a narrow entrance into the city, and the
ships will be drawn up by the road side, for every one has a place
where his own ship can lie. You will see the market place with a
temple of Neptune in the middle of it, and paved with large stones
bedded in the earth. Here people deal in ship's gear of all kinds,
such as cables and sails, and here, too, are the places where oars are
made, for the Phaeacians are not a nation of archers; they know
nothing about bows and arrows, but are a sea-faring folk, and pride
themselves on their masts, oars, and ships, with which they travel far
over the sea.
"I am afraid of the gossip and scandal that may be set on foot
against me later on; for the people here are very ill-natured, and
some low fellow, if he met us, might say, 'Who is this fine-looking
stranger that is going about with Nausicaa? Where did she End him? I
suppose she is going to marry him. Perhaps he is a vagabond sailor
whom she has taken from some foreign vessel, for we have no
neighbours; or some god has at last come down from heaven in answer to
her prayers, and she is going to live with him all the rest of her
life. It would be a good thing if she would take herself of I for sh
and find a husband somewhere else, for she will not look at one of the
many excellent young Phaeacians who are in with her.' This is the kind
of disparaging remark that would be made about me, and I could not
complain, for I should myself be scandalized at seeing any other
girl do the like, and go about with men in spite of everybody, while
her father and mother were still alive, and without having been
married in the face of all the world.
"If, therefore, you want my father to give you an escort and to help
you home, do as I bid you; you will see a beautiful grove of poplars
by the road side dedicated to Minerva; it has a well in it and a
meadow all round it. Here my father has a field of rich garden ground,
about as far from the town as a man' voice will carry. Sit down
there and wait for a while till the rest of us can get into the town
and reach my father's house. Then, when you think we must have done
this, come into the town and ask the way to the house of my father
Alcinous. You will have no difficulty in finding it; any child will
point it out to you, for no one else in the whole town has anything
like such a fine house as he has. When you have got past the gates and
through the outer court, go right across the inner court till you come
to my mother. You will find her sitting by the fire and spinning her
purple wool by firelight. It is a fine sight to see her as she leans
back against one of the bearing-posts with her maids all ranged behind
her. Close to her seat stands that of my father, on which he sits
and topes like an immortal god. Never mind him, but go up to my
mother, and lay your hands upon her knees if you would get home
quickly. If you can gain her over, you may hope to see your own
country again, no matter how distant it may be."
So saying she lashed the mules with her whip and they left the
river. The mules drew well and their hoofs went up and down upon the
road. She was careful not to go too fast for Ulysses and the maids who
were following on foot along with the waggon, so she plied her whip
with judgement. As the sun was going down they came to the sacred
grove of Minerva, and there Ulysses sat down and prayed to the
mighty daughter of Jove.
"Hear me," he cried, "daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable,
hear me now, for you gave no heed to my prayers when Neptune was
wrecking me. Now, therefore, have pity upon me and grant that I may
find friends and be hospitably received by the Phaecians."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer, but she would not
show herself to him openly, for she was afraid of her uncle Neptune,
who was still furious in his endeavors to prevent Ulysses from getting
home.

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Of Ancient Mastodon, Sleepy Bee & Young Men Who Leap Too Soon From Bridges - Nightingale Confesses Into Straighter Teeth

'...descend, and of the curveship lend a myth to God.' - Hart Crane

Pueri aeterna, septem cadens
Etiam plures ad

The boys eternal, seven falling
Too many more to come

Jamey Rodemayer
Tyler Clementi
Raymond Chase
Asher Brown
Billy Lucas
Seth Walsh
Justin Aaberg

Sub olivae, pacem
Ut vos omnes adoremus orientatio

Under the olive trees, peace
May you all adore this orientation


******

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their
hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once
hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."

- James Baldwin


'Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood

Do not ask me to see it! '

- Federico Garcia Lorca*


1


Even the pigeons on my stoop are silent now.
One mourning dove coos tenderly for these who
have taken their own lives publicly on our behalf,
for those many gone before them, broken hearts
enraged, no more to engage the unpersuaded
world which, one of them, one of the public ones,
in spite of murmuring wharves, in spite of amorous
dark alleys bitter in the pitch of the last hateful
American Century, Hart Crane, wrote before his leap
from the ship beside the phallic curve where Cuba
meets the lisping sea, took his tongue away which
sang of chill dawns breaking upon bridges whose
spans still freely splinter light returning hungover
from the night wharves, grottoes, and denim World
Wars, industrial embraces crushing every man and
now another one abandons his fingers and fiddling
to scattering light, takes flight from ledges to
edge close to an embrace no longer forbidden -

'And so it was I entered the broken world
to trace the visionary company of love...'

I am at the 'Way of Peace Bistro, ' where the server
Alberto whose cousins are the famous Wolf Boys in
Jalisco, Mexico, hirsute himself, gives me free double
espressos so I may hear his confession, who only just
yesterday came out to me in my confessional booth
here at the perpetually wobbly table in the far corner
at the cracked window rocking with Hart's un-confessed
bones wrapped in soothing silt which he now dreams
to be his silken pall.

Life is indeed strange above the veiled bottom.
I do receive confessions here where I weekly haunt
for studying, writing, chasing down dreams, waves,
receding horizons.

Why, I wonder, is each window where I sit cracked?

I am the itinerant priest who sits at meager feasts.
Suffering congregants, forlorn over their starfish
and soup, ask about dreams, confess to anguish, ask
what should be done. I consult espresso foam, open
the nearest book at hand willy nilly to see what advice
or wisdom might be gained from That which, we hope,
indiscriminately sustains us all here straining after
some realing thing to keep us going when Hart and
those too recent others obey some impulse to place
at last the final period, reifiying the punctuate
though unrepentant ending of this too too long run-on
sentence of hate. One hopes this period holds fast,
that Logos/meaning is somehow, plates of starfish
with fork and knife beside, true or truing at least.

One serves where needed. And when.
So come unto me you 'sad young men.
All the news is bad again so kiss your dreams goodbye.'**

Here at my confessional I can only plead mercy upon the boys
who have jumped from bridges, hung themselves, cut, sliced their
compulsive hands, exploded hearts, leaping dears eyes ablaze in
thrall of antlers, trembling flanks strong to fly decrying the
violent hunt which always ends in a death bequeathing these
chopped bits to me and to others like me who remain at table,
plates before, to stare at what is to be later scattered, sown,
these pieces in and for Love-without-name still a stain upon
confused local deities and their wild-eyed supplicants.


But there is no stain upon the promiscuous sea.

The compliant sky is not confused.

Neither is all that is between confused,
allowing birth and blessing, passing of
all kinds in all manner of motive and motion.
But in the human world, distressing, there
will be more boys, more men growing up as
from the very beginning where earliest enmity
mythically grew strong before shoes, before
hearts were capable of breaking, before turgid
theological floods spilled blood of brother
by brother turning witness stones toward silence,
echoing lamenting Federico,

'Do not ask me to see it! '

I don't want to see it!

I will not see it!

But I, but perhaps we, who remain to plant these
petaled parts of these unwitting scapegoats whose
eyes are milk now forever, we must bar sentimentality,
must move toward genuine knowing which comes from
the long hard stare beyond Milky Ways at the way
things still inexorably are. 'Nothing gets better -
or changes for the better - until it is what it is.'
But the falling ones, half-way to eternity while
here and eschewed, know what the 'is' is of the matter,
that it is the others, too many of them, who don't
or won't know, who willingly refuse to see 'what is'
in order to reach beyond the collective NOT SEE
solutions' of hetero-normative culture/religion.

Perhaps even in the deepest fault of the ocean that
very visionary company - in league with stuporous
pigeons, a mourning dove, me here who remains-not
-yet-remains, tearful over my espresso looking for
signs, finding only an endlessly fracturing rainbow,
remembering, too, the murmuring secrets of wharves
and co-mingled breath - that very visionary company
traces all the sunken ones, the jumping ones, those
with other means for departure by their own hands
empty now of demands for love.

Here I sit, arthritic living hands still
demanding, remembering full of past and
present griefs the Violin with a cut throat
in a youthful suicide once writ years ago,
hidden, hiding out, refusing to shout my
rage to Almighty 'Nothing-But':

Do not hear nothing but the cabin walls,
do not hear nothing but late summer roses
petal by petal leaping from the still too
white trellises, leaping pinkly, redly,
memory to breezes, overwhelmed by trellises
shagged with cut sleeves.***

But not me. Not yet.

I don't want to see it!

I will not see it.

On the mute page, the Violin refusing to sing

- in love with Garcia Lorca,
the goring horn of the Bull,
the destined cornada -

each and all appalling, commanding 'Write'
in long nights working where the mentally ill
wandered with me, keys ironically in my hand,
the yellowing hallways with even more ironic
EXIT signs brightly RED above the locked doors,
silent companions somnolent but for the jangling
joke of the keys.

Do not ask me to see it!

I don't want to see it!

I will not see it.


Still, I have now these better days in the Village,
broke or near to it, with eggs and beans, cheap but
edible things. An epicurean after all, I do luxuriously
head to the Polish butcher shop nearby to gather meat
but not any of the young butchers want to be gathered
- too Catholic - for Poland is 'passing strange' with
bad teeth, fingers stained with nicotine. Or is it rust
from once Curtains of Iron,

or the Blood of the Acetylene Virgin? ****

I get my meat, cook my greens and things, have good-enough feasts for garlic and the right spice make grander the demanded abstemiousness of current coin. I purloin my pleasure during eats in my dirty yet happy apron with recordings of poetry, lectures or a good aria or two to salt my food with tears, a blubbering fool beside his one low watt lamp, darkness too too comfortable like a pooch or cat at feet. What is that bleating in the darker corner? I shall wait for daylight to see what it can be. And if I can I shall free it from it's trap and in doing so perhaps free me from all this, all this witnessing as life demands I must, of young ones setting themselves free because they are forced to do so by collective psychopathology now rendered even more effective and efficient via technology, via internet, emphasis upon the 'net', where the ills set free from Pandora's Modem have only begun to be revealed.

But I shall use that 'net' and my still goodly paper and goodly pen to dim whatever ill tides there are and to come, as they surely will in spite of low wattage. I'll jangle keys on the night watches reading my mystic books, making my prayers with roamers of wards and wharves glancing up, considering bridges, edges, silty bottoms. The tides are here even now. But right now I wish to sing a lullaby in protest to those hurting departed, even to those coming ills, that I may sing innocence dumbly back to those who may come ashore again more gently having forgotten enforcing depths insisting them toward resistant yet resolved embraces...


...So breech then, waves. Feet first. Heads in the brine. I shall keep time on your wrinkled toes sticking up from the sand, play peek-a-boo. Then while you sleep I shall harvest gently, place them firmly in that old woman's shoe...'there was an old woman who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn't know what to do'.

She may yet have learned what to by now.


I haven't. But for my one strange harvest here below...


2


Somniculosus Apis, Sleepy Bee
Ascendit infra me, He rises beneath me
Deus absconditus placet, The hidden God is pleased

He is busy even as I write this preparing a repast for many paying guests who will watch him cook sacred chilies of his Mother's garden born, who will hear him sing their praises...Krishna was over yesterday, nervous and excited about it all. Working out regularly at the gym he is now very toned, muscular in a good way, not too pumped in exaggerated lumps, and he is even more radiantly beautiful/handsome than when we first met beside the cardamom and the ghee in the intoxicating basement of the Indian spice and food shop not easily hidden, such aromas are not to be tucked down like the shop is beside and below the avenue.

Which flower should I adorn my table with? I ask, approaching shyly beside the spice bins. I buzz inside, a bee for the nectar.

If you serve, said he, If you serve with cardamom and ghee then flowers three are best, the jasmine, the oleander, the anthurium. But if choosing only one, he looks at me, something insistent, responding, in his eyes, I would choose for you the anthurium.

And so we began our time together, the cooking lessons, the first demur approaches, the blushing papayas, then the fires, the chilies harvested, curtains drawn. One day perhaps I to shall fall but in this way:

I shall fling back the curtains
Open the window
Throw cut sleeves for years
gathered, hidden, to the street.
Shouting out names of lovers,
I shall then leap openly into life
land softly upon the Autumn
ginkgo leaves and, golden,
kiss every parked car
on the street leaving
lips like leaves and all
the cut sleeves in love
with all the world and if
not all the world then
all the cars and a fiddle
dee dee for the fall of me


Yesterday I coached him on slowing down as he speaks (his accent is thickly, richly Tamil) , how to enunciate each syllable. He had several stories to choose from which he may relate to the guests, all of which he related to me, a sweet one of him as a little boy waking up at dawn, asking his dear mama for an omelet to eat:

'Sleepy Bee, ' she called to him. 'Go, my Sleepy Bee, to the garden and be sure to smell the jasmine there, touch softly the spices in trembling rows, fetch then some chilies of many colors and I will prepare for you a dish as you wish. When the teacher makes you sleepy by noon reach then your fingers to your face, smell the spices there, remember the touch of smooth skinned chilies whispering of lingering liaisons to come, and you will brighten my Sleepy Bee.'

A chili omelet she would make, a side of yogurt to soothe the burn, and milk from the cow drawn before dawn's first udder swelled against the press of distant hills where even the Temple soundly sleeps so very full and pleased with itself. Mother, each morning as he stumbles, rubbing his eyes, into the garden, tells him,

You may shout if you wish to wake

the Temple for the cow cannot speak -

Wake up! Awake! Make haste!

Lord Indra comes! Prepare the wicks,

the incense sticks for His Holy Fire!

Hasten! Hurry! Quicken!

There beside Lord Indra's captured fire in the little grate her Bee awakens watching her slow movements, the slicing of chilies, the removal of seeds, the washing again of plump hands, the cracking of eggs, beating them with the whisk, spreading ghee upon the hot flat stone, the enchantment of liquid whites and yokes becoming firm, becoming food. She turns them in round rhythms as she rhythmically prays.

After eggs and chilies are eaten comes the rose oil poured upon his raven hair smoothly brushed back to reveal his shining face, his smile. She prepares him for school with kisses, his uniform freshly cleaned, ironed, smelling, too, of rose-flavored soap. Then off to school with a lunch, a string of chilies of all colors sewn together, sewn when he was still in a waking dream.

'The chilies may burn, ' he tells me, speaking slowly, enunciating each syllable, practicing through smiles, returning to my gaze. 'But not like the touch of my mother's hand. She is far away but I can feel her burning hands on me now.' He smiles. I stammer. How can one enunciate such wonder?


Visionary company, Krishna, his mother, and me.


I have been encouraging Krishna (which is a funny thing to say, Krishna being a bold, blue God) to find a language coach to help him with his accent, to tone it down while keeping the wonderful music/lilt of it and he's going to do that...he complains of tilting his head as he talks 'as all Indians do' but I insist he merely speak and let his head and hands speak, too, in their own way. If he does more public events he will need to be understood clearly when he speaks while preparing his magnificent dishes from his country, his rich feasts of stories of the chilies from his mother's garden entwined by morning glories, the morning cock already at quarrel with the world just beyond the tin reaching in to take some spices too enticing to refuse...

I always feel as if he is, or will soon be, bored with me and my humble 'ministrations' but he sweeps into my little 'box-doir' - you recall how tiny my expensive studio on the 5th floor is! - like a Raj, a young prince beaming, brimming full of stories to tell me, usually some food, spicy hot, he has prepared for me, offered with a grin. Then he strips instantly down, lays upon the down pallet in easy, unabashed nakedness - it catches my breath, I do want to see! - checks his Blackberry for the latest cricket scores while I hurriedly 'hide' my Ganesha, the prominent statue of the god I have in front of my useless fireplace; this hiding I half understand...but still, naked, he has a fresh and beautifully made tattoo of Ganesha on his shoulder, he wears a Ganesha necklace, a Ganesha bracelet, and a Ganesha waist scapular, the image of which is just below his navel. So why, I ask only myself and Ganesha, never Krishna, why must I hide my large wooden Ganesha statue? But I do hide Him in deference to Krishna's wishes and meanwhile have intercourse with the god-in-miniature, scraping a necklace trunk with an ear, a tongue, receive a scapular kiss of the image upon my forehead as I trace those wonderful hairlines of the male body on my way to other deities.

Ah! give me all the beans in the world in all my poverty! Am I not, too, a Raj of floors and scented pillows, this beaming god beneath me thrusting utterly to reveal his secrets, his desires, his pleasures to me who am not a god?

Life, dear Valdosta, over all, is good, yes? I wish it no ill. But, agreeing with the cock, I will quarrel, even fight, with life when young men still leap too soon from bridges because I have learned (and relearn it hard lesson by hard lesson at a time) visionary company insists its tracings in many forms, man to man being but one holy expression, those sons, burning mother's hands upon them demanding, insisting to life that each her sons is a rajah, a Sleepy Bee.

So please the intemperate humanity, in the face of patient deities the burning ones are leaping still and I am ill with grief, with prayer, their dead bodies gone, their now emptier hands.


And he leaves me.


I return to my poems.

The room is filled with Krishna, aromas of rose oil in his hair, pungent spices in his sweat and upon his hands and skin, and sex.

I retrieve Lord Ganesha out from his little sanctuary of hiding (it seems I am always retrieving deities) and we both laugh richly. I remember to sprinkle some cologne upon Him, to pour out some milk into His votive bowl, to rub His belly, to light another candle (the other extinguished, panting, while we were busy bees exchanging knees and sighs, diffusing male spices into bracing air, fingers upon oily chilies thickening in always morning hunger) .

I light more incense and thank the Lord Ganesha in all his forms, appearing both large and small, His adornment of Secrets, though one cannot easily hide an Elephant, man-love and more in such a small infinite universe whose toes I seek to tickle then gather for a shoe as tides shrink and swell, grow and diminish depending upon the worshipers, those who will do so in spite of those who would kill delicate or manly infidels whose worship, forever babies breath, is all the more meaningful.

Be damned the trellises. The petals shall reach, shall extend outward.

The violin's throat cut.

'Do not ask me to see it! '

Then, Ganesha restored to His rightful place; good-natured about being hidden, it is back to the kitchen, the slicing of the onion, the crushing of the garlic, the pouring of the wine, the selecting of the greens and washing them of the clinging sand and grit they kindly bring, then to the pot to cook them in, the meat to go with, and begins the fire, O Indra, more aromas extend into, entwine with what Krishna has left to me and the god and I am grateful, full of heart, for each time he is here is a miracle. A grace. Mother India with hot hands gifts me one of Her Raj's who graces me with his presence evoking praise bestowed from oft bitter lips and tongue made the more bilious by aging, aching joints, laxer muscles, and yet the encroaching decrepitude is bent and stretched, the better for the wear from Krishna's 'half nelsons' and yogic overreaches. More the better for me.

Yet I remain bitter, too, from the senseless loss of young men who could not endure, no fault of their own, for sure, who leap from bridges, forced to by killing edges broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's hands upon them

I have placed your picture, dear Valdosta, upon my altar beside Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, the image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb en perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, along with photos of the young men in the past two weeks who have joined Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, emptied of love from loving deeply out into love for more love, endlessly bleeding out like our Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but remembering only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood stunned, 'how young and handsome are assassins' faces', he flew backward in the wall graced with his brave shadow then his blood until he fell. I believe he fell hard for life demands it as does death which will continue its duende.

Love, as Hart and all hearts love, is still a vision not yet fully, solidly formed in spite of stones and walls forgetting noble shadows, but there are foolish Krishnas, restoring Krishna-moments, patient hidden gods though human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early, too broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.

I pray for my inherited brood of brothers, and remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional, while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life, in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.

I am yours, bleating, sometimes crowing, but almost always bestowing praise. I am loved, Valdosta, and I love you.


N. Nightingale


******************

*Opening quote is from Lorca's elegy, 'Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías'

** The Ballad of the Sad Young Men

Music written by: Tommy WolfLyrics written by: Fran Landesman

(best version sung that I know of is by an aged Mabel Mercer in concert, hard to find it now) 

Sing a song of sad young men
Glasses full of rye
All the news is bad again so
Kiss your dreams goodbye

All the sad young men
Sitting in the bars
Knowing neon nights
Missing all the stars

All the sad young men
Drifting through the town
Drinking up the night
Trying not to drown

All the sad young men
Singing in the cold
Trying to forget
That they're growing old

All the sad young men
Choking on their youth
Trying to be brave
Running from the truth

Autumn turns the leaves to gold
Slowly dies the heart
Sad young men are growing old
That's the cruelest part

All the sad young men
Seek a certain smile
Someone they can hold
For a little while

Tired little bird,
She does the best she can
Trying to be gay for her
sad young man

While the grimy moon
Blossoms up above
All the sad young men
Play at making love

Misbegotten moon
Shine for sad young men
Let your gentle light
Guide them home again

All the sad young men


***In China homosexuality was referred to as 'the cut sleeve'.

Read an excellent account of this in

Passions of the Cut Sleeve, The Male Homosexual Tradition in China.

http: //www.ucpress.edu/book.php? isbn=9780520078697

 ****Surrealistic Sutures For The Acetylene Virgin by Warren Falcon

'I think that poetry should stay awake all night drinking in dark cellars.' - Thomas Merton


Look to the body for metaphor


Look to blood, use this word
in relation to dreams or flowers
while silver runs in veins which
are usually streets or vines.

Breasts, male and female,
are stars, have to do with
a handful or feet to span them.

Abdomen, then, is a great
Milky Way gathering,
holding, expelling comets,
caroling colons' humming.

Spleens are bones to
pick teeth with, teeth
which are, of course,
sea horses or gravestones
bearing images of the Flagrant
Heart to tame this spot of
gypsum and flint, to charm
where Violin's cut throat
sings itself awake, one
black breast out of its fold
slapping metal seas against
dropping metal shores in
Sidelight's shadow across
this hand writing now,
slap of waves mute in
this stillness of knees.

So lend a darkness to gardens,
ancient pattern of a breast,
cloth lightly lifting, black on black.

From Her chest reveal a slenderer throat
that nods when she swallows
and names her peace.

The delicate will not pass away just yet.


Great Seamstress of Space

sew, please,

with fingers of dew.

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The four Monarchyes, the Assyrian being the first, beginning under Nimrod, 131. Years after the Floo

When time was young, & World in Infancy,
Man did not proudly strive for Soveraignty:
But each one thought his petty Rule was high,
If of his house he held the Monarchy.
This was the golden Age, but after came
The boisterous son of Chus, Grand-Child to Ham,
That mighty Hunter, who in his strong toyles
Both Beasts and Men subjected to his spoyles:
The strong foundation of proud Babel laid,
Erech, Accad, and Culneh also made.
These were his first, all stood in Shinar land,
From thence he went Assyria to command,
And mighty Niniveh, he there begun,
Not finished till he his race had run.
Resen, Caleh, and Rehoboth likewise
By him to Cities eminent did rise.
Of Saturn, he was the Original,
Whom the succeeding times a God did call,
When thus with rule, he had been dignifi'd,
One hundred fourteen years he after dy'd.
Belus.
Great Nimrod dead, Belus the next his Son
Confirms the rule, his Father had begun;
Whose acts and power is not for certainty
Left to the world, by any History.
But yet this blot for ever on him lies,
He taught the people first to Idolize:
Titles Divine he to himself did take,
Alive and dead, a God they did him make.
This is that Bel the Chaldees worshiped,
Whose Priests in Stories oft are mentioned;
This is that Baal to whom the Israelites
So oft profanely offered sacred Rites:
This is Beelzebub God of Ekronites,
Likewise Baalpeor of the Mohabites,
His reign was short, for as I calculate,
At twenty five ended his Regal date.
Ninus.
His Father dead, Ninus begins his reign,
Transfers his seat to the Assyrian plain;
And mighty Nineveh more mighty made,
Whose Foundation was by his Grand-sire laid:
Four hundred forty Furlongs wall'd about,
On which stood fifteen hundred Towers stout.
The walls one hundred sixty foot upright,
So broad three Chariots run abrest there might.
Upon the pleasant banks of Tygris floud
This stately Seat of warlike Ninus stood:
This Ninus for a God his Father canonized,
To whom the sottish people sacrificed.
This Tyrant did his Neighbours all oppress,
Where e're he warr'd he had too good success.
Barzanes the great Armenian King
By force and fraud did under Tribute bring.
The Median Country he did also gain,
Thermus their King he caused to be slain;
An Army of three millions he led out
Against the Bactrians (but that I doubt)
Zoreaster their King he likewise slew,
And all the greater Asia did subdue.
Semiramis from Menon did he take
Then drown'd himself, did Menon for her sake.
Fifty two years he reign'd, (as we are told)
The world then was two thousand nineteen old.
Semiramis.
This great oppressing Ninus, dead and gone,
His wife Semiramis usurp'd the Throne;
She like a brave Virago played the Rex
And was both shame and glory of her Sex:
Her birth place was Philistines Ascolan,
Her mother Dorceta a Curtizan.
Others report she was a vestal Nun,
Adjudged to be drown'd for th'crime she'd done.
Transform'd into a Fish by Venus will,
Her beauteous face, (they feign) reteining still.
Sure from this Fiction Dagon first began,
Changing the womans face into a man:
But all agree that from no lawfull bed,
This great renowned Empress issued:
For which she was obscurely nourished,
Whence rose that Fable, she by birds was fed.
This gallant Dame unto the Bactrian warre,
Accompanying her husband Menon farr,
Taking a town, such valour she did show,
That Ninus amorous of her soon did grow,
And thought her fit to make a Monarchs wife,
Which was the cause poor Menon lost his life:
She flourishing with Ninus long did reign,
Till her Ambition caus'd him to be slain.
That having no Compeer, she might rule all,
Or else she sought revenge for Menon's fall.
Some think the Greeks this slander on her cast,
As on her life Licentious, and unchast,
That undeserv'd, they blur'd her name and fame
By their aspersions, cast upon the same:
But were her virtues more or less, or none,
She for her potency must go alone.
Her wealth she shew'd in building Babylon,
Admir'd of all, but equaliz'd of none;
The Walls so strong, and curiously was wrought,
That after Ages, Skill by them was taught:
With Towers and Bulwarks made of costly stone,
Quadrangle was the form it stood upon.
Each Square was fifteen thousand paces long,
An hundred gates it had of mettal strong:
Three hundred sixty foot the walls in height,
Almost incredible, they were in breadth
Some writers say, six Chariots might affront
With great facility, march safe upon't:
About the Wall a ditch so deep and wide,
That like a River long it did abide.
Three hundred thousand men here day by day
Bestow'd their labour, and receiv'd their pay.
And that which did all cost and Art excell,
The wondrous Temple was, she rear'd to Bell:
Which in the midst of this brave Town was plac'd,
Continuing till Xerxes it defac'd:
Whose stately top above the Clouds did rise,
From whence Astrologers oft view'd the Skies.
This to describe in each particular,
A structure rare I should but rudely marre.
Her Gardens, Bridges, Arches, mounts and spires
All eyes that saw, or Ears that hear admires,
In Shinar plain on the Euphratian flood
This wonder of the world, this Babel stood.
An expedition to the East she made
Staurobates, his Country to invade:
Her Army of four millions did consist,
Each may believe it as his fancy list.
Her Camels, Chariots, Gallyes in such number,
As puzzles best Historians to remember;
But this is wonderful, of all those men,
They say, but twenty e're came back agen.
The River Judas swept them half away,
The rest Staurobates in fight did slay;
This was last progress of this mighty Queen,
Who in her Country never more was seen.
The Poets feign'd her turn'd into a Dove,
Leaving the world to Venus soar'd above:
Which made the Assyrians many a day,
A Dove within their Ensigns to display:
Forty two years she reign'd, and then she di'd
But by what means we are not certifi'd.
Ninias or Zamies.
His Mother dead, Ninias obtains his right,
A Prince wedded to ease and to delight,
Or else was his obedience very great,
To sit thus long (obscure) rob'd of his Seat.
Some write his Mother put his habit on,
Which made the people think they serv'd her Son:
But much it is, in more then forty years
This fraud in war nor peace at all appears:
More like it is his lust with pleasures fed,
He sought no rule till she was gone and dead.
VVhat then he did of worth can no man tell,
But is suppos'd to be that Amraphel
VVho warr'd with Sodoms and Gomorrahs King,
'Gainst whom his trained bands Abram did bring,
But this is farre unlike, he being Son
Unto a Father, that all Countryes won
So suddenly should loose so great a state,
VVith petty Kings to joyne Confederate.
Nor can those Reasons which wise Raileih finds,
VVell satisfie the most considerate minds:
VVe may with learned Vsher better say,
He many Ages liv'd after that day.
And that Semiramis then flourished
VVhen famous Troy was so beleaguered:
VVhat e're he was, or did, or how it fell,
VVe may suggest our thoughts but cannot tell.
For Ninias and all his race are left
In deep oblivion, of acts bereft:
And many hundred years in silence sit,
Save a few Names a new Berosus writ.
And such as care not what befalls their fames,
May feign as many acts as he did Names;
It may suffice, if all be true that's past.
T'Sardanapalas next, we will make haste.
Sardanapalas
Sardanapalas, Son to Ocrazapes,
VVho wallowed in all voluptuousness,
That palliardizing sot that out of dores,
Ne're shew'd his face but revell'd with his whores
Did wear their garbs, their gestures imitate,
And in their kind, t'excel did emulate.
His baseness knowing, and the peoples hate
Kept close, fearing his well deserved fate;
It chanc'd Arbaces brave unwarily,
His Master like a Strumpet clad did spye.
His manly heart disdained (in the least)
Longer to serve this Metamorphos'd Beast;
Unto Belosus then he brake his mind,
Who sick of his disease, he soon did find
These two, rul'd Media and Babilon
Both for their King, held their Dominion;
Belosus promised Arbaces aid,
Arbaces him fully to be repayd.
The last: The Medes and Persians do invite
Against their monstrous King, to use their might.
Belosus, the Chaldeans doth require
And the Arabians, to further his desire:
These all agree, and forty thousand make
The Rule, from their unworthy Prince to take:
These Forces mustered. and in array
Sardanapalus leaves his Apish play.
And though of wars, he did abhor the sight;
Fear of his diadem did force him fight:
And either by his valour, or his fate,
Arbaces Courage he did so abate;
That in dispair, he left the Field and fled,
But with fresh hopes Belosus succoured,
From Bactria, an Army was at hand
Prest for this Service by the Kings Command:
These with celerity Arbaces meet,
And with all Terms of amity them greet.
With promises their necks now to unyoke,
And their Taxations sore all to revoke;
T'infranchise them, to grant what they could crave,
No priviledge to want, Subjects should have,
Only intreats them, to joyn their Force with his,
And win the Crown, which was the way to bliss.
Won by his loving looks, more by his speech,
T'accept of what they could, they all beseech:
Both sides their hearts their hands, & bands unite,
And set upon their Princes Camp that night;
Who revelling in Cups, sung care away,
For victory obtain'd the other day:
And now surpris'd, by this unlookt for fright,
Bereft of wits, were slaughtered down right.
The King his brother leavs, all to sustain,
And speeds himself to Niniveh amain.
But Salmeneus slain, the Army falls;
The King's pursu'd unto the City Walls,
But he once in, pursuers came to late,
The Walls and Gates their hast did terminate,
There with all store he was so well provided:
That what Arbaces did, was but derided:
Who there incamp'd, two years for little end,
But in the third, the River prov'd his friend,
For by the rain, was Tygris so o'reflown,
Part of that stately Wall was overthrown.
Arbaces marches in the Town he takes,
For few or none (it seems) resistance makes:
And now they saw fulfil'd a Prophesy,
That when the River prov'd their Enemy,
Their strong wal'd Town should suddenly be taken
By this accomplishment, their hearts were shaken.
Sardanapalas did not seek to fly,
This his inevitable destiny;
But all his wealth and friends together gets,
Then on himself, and them a fire he sets.
This was last Monarch of great Ninus race
That for twelve hundred years had held the place;
Twenty he reign'd same time, as Stories tell,
That Amaziah was King of Israel.
His Father was then King (as we suppose)
VVhen Jonah for their sins denounc'd those woes.
He did repent, the threatning was not done,
But now accomplish'd in his wicked Son.
Arbaces thus of all becoming Lord,
Ingeniously with all did keep his word.
Of Babylon Belosus he made King,
VVith overplus of all the wealth therein.
To Bactrians he gave their liberty,
Of Ninivites he caused none to dye.
But suffer'd with their goods, to go else where,
Not granting them now to inhabit there:
For he demolished that City great,
And unto Media transfer'd his Seat.
Such was his promise which he firmly made,
To Medes and Persians when he crav'd their aid:
A while he and his race aside must stand,
Not pertinent to what we have in hand;
And Belochus in's progeny pursue,
VVho did this Monarchy begin anew.
Belosus or Belochus.
Belosus setled in his new old Seat,
Not so content but aiming to be great,
Incroaching still upon the bordering lands,
Till Mesopotamia he got in's hands.
And either by compound or else by strength,
Assyria he gain'd also at length;
Then did rebuild, destroyed Nineveh,
A costly work which none could do but he,
VVho own'd the Treasures of proud Babylon,
And those that seem'd with Snrdanapal's gone;
For though his Palace did in ashes lye,
The fire those Mettals could not damnifie;
From these with diligence he rakes,
Arbaces suffers all, and all he takes,
He thus inricht by this new tryed gold.
Raises a Phænix new, from grave o'th' old;
And from this heap did after Ages see
As fair a Town, as the first Niniveh.
VVhen this was built, and matters all in peace
Molests poor Israel, his wealth t'increase.
A thousand Talents of Menahem had,
(Who to be rid of such a guest was glad
In sacrid writ he's known by name of Pul,
Which makes the world of difference so full.
That he and Belochus could not one be,
But Circumstance doth prove the verity;
And times of both computed so fall out,
That these two made but one, we need not doubt:
What else he did, his Empire to advance,
To rest content we must, in ignorance.
Forty eight years he reign'd, his race then run,
He left his new got Kingdome to his Son.
Tiglath Pulassar.
Belosus dead, Tiglath his warlike Son,
Next treads those steps, by which his Father won;
Damascus ancient Seat, of famous Kings
Under subjection, by his Sword he brings.
Resin their valiant King he also slew,
And Syria t'obedience did subdue.
Judas bad King occasioned this war,
When Resins force his Borders sore did marre,
And divers Cities by strong hand did seaze:
To Tiglath then, doth Ahaz send for ease,
The Temple robs, so to fulfil his ends,
And to Assyria's King a present sends.
I am thy Servant and thy Son, (quoth he)
From Resin, and from Pekah set me free,
Gladly doth Tiglath this advantage take,
And succours Ahaz, yet for Tiglath's sake.
Then Resin slain, his Army overthrown,
He Syria makes a Province of his own.
Unto Damascus then comes Judah's King,
His humble thankfulness (in haste) to bring,
Acknowledging th'Assyrians high desert,
To whom he ought all loyalty of heart.
But Tiglath having gain'd his wished end,
Proves unto Ahaz but a feigned friend;
All Israels lands beyond Jordan he takes,
In Galilee he woful havock makes.
Through Syria now he march'd none stopt his way,
And Ahaz open at his mercy lay;
Who still implor'd his love, but was distrest;
This was that Ahaz, who so high trans grest:
Thus Tiglath reign'd, & warr'd twenty seven years
Then by his death releas'd was Israels fears.
Salmanassar or Nabanassar.
Tiglath deceas'd, Salmanassar was next,
He Israelites, more then his Father vext;
Hoshea their last King he did invade,
And him six years his Tributary made;
But weary of his servitude, he sought
To Egypts King, which did avail him nought;
For Salmanassar with a mighty Host,
Besieg'd his Regal Town, and spoyl'd his Coast,
And did the people, nobles, and their King,
Into perpetual thraldome that time bring;
Those that from Joshuah's time had been a state,
Did Justice now by him eradicate:
This was that strange, degenerated brood,
On whom, nor threats, nor mercies could do good;
Laden with honour, prisoners, and with spoyle,
Returns triumphant Victor to his soyle;
He placed Israel there, where he thought best,
Then sent his Colonies, theirs to invest;
Thus Jacobs Sons in Exile must remain,
And pleasant Canaan never saw agaiu:
Where now those ten Tribes are, can no man tell,
Or how they fare, rich, poor, or ill, or well;
Whether the Indians of the East, or West,
Or wild Tartarians, as yet ne're blest,
Or else those Chinoes rare, whose wealth & arts
Hath bred more wonder then belief in hearts:
But what, or where they are; yet know we this,
They shall return, and Zion see with bliss.
Senacherib.
Senacherib Salmanasser succeeds,
Whose haughty heart is showne in words & deeds
His wars, none better then himself can boast,
On Henah, Arpad, and on Juahs coast;
On Hevahs and on Shepharvaims gods,
'Twixt them and Israels he knew no odds,
Untill the thundring hand of heaven he felt,
Which made his Army into nothing melt:
With shame then turn'd to Ninive again,
And by his sons in's Idols house was slain.
Essarhadon.
His Son, weak Essarhaddon reign'd in's place,
The fifth, and last of great Bellosus race.
Brave Merodach, the Son of Baladan,
In Babylon Lieftenant to this man
Of opportunity advantage takes,
And on his Masters ruines his house makes,
As Belosus his Soveraign did onthrone,
So he's now stil'd the King of Babilon.
After twelve years did Essarhaddon dye,
And Merodach assume the Monarchy.
Merodach Balladan.
All yield to him, but Niniveh kept free,
Untill his Grand-child made her bow the knee.
Ambassadors to Hezekiah sent,
His health congratulates with complement.
Ben Merodach.
Ben MERODACH Successor to this King,
Of whom is little said in any thing,
But by conjecture this, and none but he
Led King Manasseh to Captivity.
Nebulassar.
Brave Nebulassar to this King was son,
The famous Niniveh by him was won,
For fifty years, or more, it had been free,
Now yields her neck unto captivity:
A Vice-Roy from her foe she's glad to accept,
By whom in firm obedience she is kept.
This King's less fam'd for all the acts he's done,
Then being Father to so great a Son.
Nebuchadnezzar, or Nebopolassar.
The famous acts of this heroick King
Did neither Homer, Hesiod, Virgil sing:
Nor of his Wars have we the certainty
From some Thucidides grave history;
Nor's Metamorphosis from Ovids book,
Nor his restoriag from old Legends took:
But by the Prophets, Pen-men most divine,
This prince in's magnitude doth ever shine:
This was of Monarchyes that head of gold,
The richest and the dread fullest to behold:
This was that tree whose branches fill'd the earth,
Under whose shadow birds and beasts had birth:
This was that king of kings, did what he pleas'd,
Kil'd, sav'd, pul'd down, set up, or pain'd or eas'd;
And this was he, who when he fear'd the least
Was changed from a King into a beast.
This Prince the last year of his fathers reign
Against Jehojakim marcht with his train,
Judahs poor King besieg'd and succourless
Yields to his mercy, and the present 'stress;
His Vassal is, gives pledges for his truth,
Children of royal blood, unblemish'd youth:
Wise Daniel and his fellowes, mongst the rest,
By the victorious king to Babel's prest:
The Temple of rich ornaments defac'd,
And in his Idols house the vessels plac'd.
The next year he with unresisted hand
Quite vanguish'd Pharaoh Necho with his band:
By great Euphrates did his army fall,
Which was the loss of Syria withall.
Then into Egypt Necho did retire,
Which in few years proves the Assirians hire.
A mighty army next he doth prepare,
And unto wealthy Tyre in hast repair.
Such was the scituation of this place,
As might not him, but all the world out-face,
That in her pride she knew not which to boast
Whether her wealth, or yet her strength was most
How in all merchandize she did excel,
None but the true Ezekiel need to tell.
And for her strength, how hard she was to gain,
Can Babels tired souldiers tell with pain.
Within an Island had this city seat,
Divided from the Main by channel great:
Of costly ships and Gallyes she had store,
And Mariners to handle sail and oar:
But the Chaldeans had nor ships nor skill,
Their shoulders must their Masters mind fulfill,
Fetcht rubbish from the opposite old town,
And in the channel threw each burden down;
Where after many essayes, they made at last
The sea firm land, whereon the Army past,
And took the wealthy town; but all the gain,
Requited not the loss, the toyle and pain.
Full thirteen years in this strange work he spent
Before he could accomplish his intent:
And though a Victor home his Army leads,
With peeled shoulders, and with balded heads.
When in the Tyrian war this King was hot,
Jehojakim his oath had clean forgot,
Thinks this the fittest time to break his bands
Whilest Babels King thus deep engaged stands:
But he whose fortunes all were in the ebbe,
Had all his hopes like to a spiders web;
For this great King withdraws part of his force,
To Judah marches with a speedy course,
And unexpected finds the feeble Prince
Whom he chastis'd thus for his proud offence,
Fast bound, intends to Babel him to send,
But chang'd his mind, & caus'd his life there end,
Then cast him out like to a naked Ass,
For this is he for whom none said alas.
His son he suffered three months to reign,
Then from his throne he pluck'd him down again,
Whom with his mother he to Babel led,
And seven and thirty years in prison fed:
His Uncle he establish'd in his place
(Who was last King of holy Davids race)
But he as perjur'd as Jehojakim,
They lost more now then e're they lost by him.
Seven years he kept his faith, and safe he dwells;
But in the eighth against his Prince rebels:
The ninth came Nebuchadnezzar with power,
Besieg'd his city, temple, Zions tower,
And after eighteen months he took them all:
The Walls so strong, that stood so long, now fall.
The cursed King by flight could no wise fly
His well deserv'd and foretold misery:
But being caught to Babels wrathfull King
With children, wives and Nobles all they bring,
Where to the sword all but himself were put,
And with that wofull sight his eyes close shut.
Ah! hapless man, whose darksome contemplation
Was nothing but such gastly meditation.
In midst of Babel now till death he lyes;
Yet as was told ne're saw it with his eyes.
The Temple's burnt, the vessels had away.
The towres and palaces brought to decay:
Where late of harp and Lute were heard the noise
Now Zim & Jim lift up their scrieching voice.
All now of worth are Captive led with tears,
And sit bewailing Zion seventy years.
With all these conquests, Babels King rests not,
No not when Moab, Edom he had got,
Kedar and Hazar, the Arabians too,
All Vassals at his hands for Grace must sue.
A total conquest of rich Egypt makes,
All rule he from the ancient Phraohes takes,
Who had for sixteen hundred years born sway,
To Babilons proud King now yields the day.
Then Put and Lud do at his mercy stand.
VVhere e're he goes, he conquers every land.
His sumptuous buildings passes all conceit,
Which wealth and strong ambition made so great.
His Image Judahs Captives worship not,
Although the Furnace be seven times more hot.
His dreams wise Daniel doth expound full well,
And his unhappy chang with grief foretell.
Strange melancholy humours on him lay,
Which for seven years his reason took away,
VVhich from no natural causes did proceed,
But for his pride, so had the heavens decreed.
The time expir'd, bruitish remains no more,
But Government resumes as heretofore:
In splendor, and in Majesty he sits,
Contemplating those times he lost his witts.
And if by words we may ghess at the heart,
This king among the righteous had a part:
Fourty four years he reign'd, which being run,
He left his wealth and conquests to his son.
Evilmerodach
Babel's great Monarch now laid in the dust,
His son possesses wealth and rule as just:
And in the first year of his Royalty
Easeth Jehojakims Captivity:
Poor forlorn Prince, who had all state forgot
In seven and thirty years had seen no jot.
Among the conquer'd Kings that there did ly
Is Judah's King now lifted up on high:
But yet in Babel he must still remain,
And native Canaan never see again:
Unlike his Father Evilmerodach,
Prudence and magnanimity did lack;
Fair Egypt is by his remisness lost,
Arabia, and all the bordering coast.
Warrs with the Medes unhappily he wag'd
(Within which broyles rich Croesus was ingag'd)
His Army routed, and himself there slain:
His Kingdome to Belshazzar did remain.
Belshazzar.
Unworthy Belshazzar next wears the crown,
Whose acts profane a sacred Pen sets down,
His lust and crueltyes in storyes find,
A royal State rul'd by a bruitish mind.
His life so base, and dissolute invites
The noble Persian to invade his rights.
Who with his own, and Uncles power anon,
Layes siedge to's Regal Seat, proud Babylon,
The coward King, whose strength lay in his walls,
To banquetting and revelling now falls,
To shew his little dread, but greater store,
To chear his friends, and scorn his foes the more.
The holy vessels thither brought long since,
They carrows'd in, and sacrilegious prince
Did praise his Gods of mettal, wood, and stone,
Protectors of his Crown, and Babylon,
But he above, his doings did deride,
And with a hand soon dashed all this pride.
The King upon the wall casting his eye,
The fingers of a hand writing did spy,
Which horrid sight, he fears must needs portend
Destruction to his Crown, to's Person end.
With quaking knees, and heart appall'd he cries,
For the Soothsayers, and Magicians wise;
This language strange to read, and to unfold;
With gifts of Scarlet robe, and Chain of gold,
And highest dignity, next to the King,
To him that could interpret, clear this thing:
But dumb the gazing Astrologers stand,
Amazed at the writing, and the hand.
None answers the affrighted Kings intent,
Who still expects some fearful sad event;
As dead, alive he sits, as one undone:
In comes the Queen, to chear her heartless Son.
Of Daniel tells, who in his grand-sires dayes
VVas held in more account then now he was.
Daniel in haste is brought before the King,
VVho doth not flatter, nor once cloak the thing;
Reminds him of his Grand-Sires height and fall,
And of his own notorious sins withall:
His Drunkenness, and his profaness high,
His pride and sottish gross Idolatry.
The guilty King with colour pale and dead
Then hears his Mene and his Tekel read.
And one thing did worthy a King (though late)
Perform'd his word to him that told his fate.
That night victorious Cyrus took the town,
VVho soon did terminate his life and crown;
VVith him did end the race of Baladan:
And now the Persian Monarchy began.
The End of the Assyrian Monarchy.

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Don Juan: Canto The Fourteenth

If from great nature's or our own abyss
Of thought we could but snatch a certainty,
Perhaps mankind might find the path they miss--
But then 'twould spoil much good philosophy.
One system eats another up, and this
Much as old Saturn ate his progeny;
For when his pious consort gave him stones
In lieu of sons, of these he made no bones.

But System doth reverse the Titan's breakfast,
And eats her parents, albeit the digestion
Is difficult. Pray tell me, can you make fast,
After due search, your faith to any question?
Look back o'er ages, ere unto the stake fast
You bind yourself, and call some mode the best one.
Nothing more true than not to trust your senses;
And yet what are your other evidences?

For me, I know nought; nothing I deny,
Admit, reject, contemn; and what know you,
Except perhaps that you were born to die?
And both may after all turn out untrue.
An age may come, Font of Eternity,
When nothing shall be either old or new.
Death, so call'd, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass'd in sleep.

A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!
The very Suicide that pays his debt
At once without instalments (an old way
Of paying debts, which creditors regret)
Lets out impatiently his rushing breath,
Less from disgust of life than dread of death.

'Tis round him, near him, here, there, every where;
And there's a courage which grows out of fear,
Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare
The worst to know it:--when the mountains rear
Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there
You look down o'er the precipice, and drear
The gulf of rock yawns,--you can't gaze a minute
Without an awful wish to plunge within it.

'Tis true, you don't - but, pale and struck with terror,
Retire: but look into your past impression!
And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror
Of your own thoughts, in all their self--confession,
The lurking bias, be it truth or error,
To the unknown; a secret prepossession,
To plunge with all your fears - but where? You know not,
And that's the reason why you do - or do not.

But what's this to the purpose? you will say.
Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation,
For which my sole excuse is - 'tis my way;
Sometimes with and sometimes without occasion
I write what's uppermost, without delay:
This narrative is not meant for narration,
But a mere airy and fantastic basis,
To build up common things with common places.

You know, or don't know, that great Bacon saith,
'Fling up a straw, 'twill show the way the wind blows;'
And such a straw, borne on by human breath,
Is poesy, according as the mind glows;
A paper kite which flies 'twixt life and death,
A shadow which the onward soul behind throws:
And mine's a bubble, not blown up for praise,
But just to play with, as an infant plays.

The world is all before me - or behind;
For I have seen a portion of that same,
And quite enough for me to keep in mind;--
Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame,
To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind,
Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame;
For I was rather famous in my time,
Until I fairly knock'd it up with rhyme.

I have brought this world about my ears, and eke
The other; that's to say, the clergy, who
Upon my head have bid their thunders break
In pious libels by no means a few.
And yet I can't help scribbling once a week,
Tiring old readers, nor discovering new.
In youth I wrote because my mind was full,
And now because I feel it growing dull.

But 'why then publish?'- There are no rewards
Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn,--Why do you play at cards?
Why drink? Why read?- To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
On what I've seen or ponder'd, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sink - I have had at least my dream.

I think that were I certain of success,
I hardly could compose another line:
So long I've battled either more or less,
That no defeat can drive me from the Nine.
This feeling 'tis not easy to express,
And yet 'tis not affected, I opine.
In play, there are two pleasures for your choosing -
The one is winning, and the other losing.

Besides, my Muse by no means deals in fiction:
She gathers a repertory of facts,
Of course with some reserve and slight restriction,
But mostly sings of human things and acts -
And that's one cause she meets with contradiction;
For too much truth, at first sight, ne'er attracts;
And were her object only what's call'd glory,
With more ease too she 'd tell a different story.

Love, war, a tempest - surely there 's variety;
Also a seasoning slight of lucubration;
A bird's-eye view, too, of that wild, Society;
A slight glance thrown on men of every station.
If you have nought else, here 's at least satiety
Both in performance and in preparation;
And though these lines should only line portmanteaus,
Trade will be all the better for these Cantos.

The portion of this world which I at present
Have taken up to fill the following sermon,
Is one of which there's no description recent.
The reason why is easy to determine:
Although it seems both prominent and pleasant,
There is a sameness in its gems and ermine,
A dull and family likeness through all ages,
Of no great promise for poetic pages.

With much to excite, there's little to exalt;
Nothing that speaks to all men and all times;
A sort of varnish over every fault;
A kind of common-place, even in their crimes;
Factitious passions, wit without much salt,
A want of that true nature which sublimes
Whate'er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony
Of character, in those at least who have got any.

Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade,
They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill;
But then the roll-call draws them back afraid,
And they must be or seem what they were: still
Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
But when of the first sight you have had your fill,
It palls - at least it did so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui.

When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
Drest, voted, shone, and, may be, something more;
With dandies dined; heard senators declaiming;
Seen beauties brought to market by the score,
Sad rakes to sadder husbands chastely taming;
There's little left but to be bored or bore.
Witness those 'ci-devant jeunes hommes' who stem
The stream, nor leave the world which leaveth them.

'Tis said - indeed a general complaint -
That no one has succeeded in describing
The monde, exactly as they ought to paint:
Some say, that authors only snatch, by bribing
The porter, some slight scandals strange and quaint,
To furnish matter for their moral gibing;
And that their books have but one style in common -
My lady's prattle, filter'd through her woman.

But this can't well be true, just now; for writers
Are grown of the beau monde a part potential:
I've seen them balance even the scale with fighters,
Especially when young, for that's essential.
Why do their sketches fail them as inditers
Of what they deem themselves most consequential,
The real portrait of the highest tribe?
'Tis that, in fact, there's little to describe.

'Haud ignara loquor;' these are Nugae, 'quarum
Pars parva fui,' but still art and part.
Now I could much more easily sketch a harem,
A battle, wreck, or history of the heart,
Than these things; and besides, I wish to spare 'em,
For reasons which I choose to keep apart.
'Vetabo Cereris sacrum qui vulgarit-'
Which means that vulgar people must not share it.

And therefore what I throw off is ideal -
Lower'd, leaven'd, like a history of freemasons;
Which bears the same relation to the real,
As Captain Parry's voyage may do to Jason's.
The grand arcanum's not for men to see all;
My music has some mystic diapasons;
And there is much which could not be appreciated
In any manner by the uninitiated.

Alas! worlds fall - and woman, since she fell'd
The world (as, since that history less polite
Than true, hath been a creed so strictly held)
Has not yet given up the practice quite.
Poor thing of usages! coerced, compell'd,
Victim when wrong, and martyr oft when right,
Condemn'd to child-bed, as men for their sins
Have shaving too entail'd upon their chins,--

A daily plague, which in the aggregate
May average on the whole with parturition.
But as to women, who can penetrate
The real sufferings of their she condition?
Man's very sympathy with their estate
Has much of selfishness, and more suspicion.
Their love, their virtue, beauty, education,
But form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.

All this were very well, and can't be better;
But even this is difficult, Heaven knows,
So many troubles from her birth beset her,
Such small distinction between friends and foes,
The gilding wears so soon from off her fetter,
That - but ask any woman if she'd choose
(Take her at thirty, that is) to have been
Female or male? a schoolboy or a queen?

'Petticoat influence' is a great reproach,
Which even those who obey would fain be thought
To fly from, as from hungry pikes a roach;
But since beneath it upon earth we are brought,
By various joltings of life's hackney coach,
I for one venerate a petticoat-
A garment of a mystical sublimity,
No matter whether russet, silk, or dimity.

Much I respect, and much I have adored,
In my young days, that chaste and goodly veil,
Which holds a treasure, like a miser's hoard,
And more attracts by all it doth conceal-
A golden scabbard on a Damasque sword,
A loving letter with a mystic seal,
A cure for grief - for what can ever rankle
Before a petticoat and peeping ankle?

And when upon a silent, sullen day,
With a sirocco, for example, blowing,
When even the sea looks dim with all its spray,
And sulkily the river's ripple's flowing,
And the sky shows that very ancient gray,
The sober, sad antithesis to glowing,--
'Tis pleasant, if then any thing is pleasant,
To catch a glimpse even of a pretty peasant.

We left our heroes and our heroines
In that fair clime which don't depend on climate,
Quite independent of the Zodiac's signs,
Though certainly more difficult to rhyme at,
Because the sun, and stars, and aught that shines,
Mountains, and all we can be most sublime at,
Are there oft dull and dreary as a dun -
Whether a sky's or tradesman's is all one.

An in-door life is less poetical;
And out of door hath showers, and mists, and sleet,
With which I could not brew a pastoral.
But be it as it may, a bard must meet
All difficulties, whether great or small,
To spoil his undertaking or complete,
And work away like spirit upon matter,
Embarrass'd somewhat both with fire and water.

Juan - in this respect, at least, like saints -
Was all things unto people of all sorts,
And lived contentedly, without complaints,
In camps, in ships, in cottages, or courts -
Born with that happy soul which seldom faints,
And mingling modestly in toils or sports.
He likewise could be most things to all women,
Without the coxcombry of certain she men.

A fox -hunt to a foreigner is strange;
'T is also subject to the double danger
Of tumbling first, and having in exchange
Some pleasant jesting at the awkward stranger:
But Juan had been early taught to range
The wilds, as doth an Arab turn'd avenger,
So that his horse, or charger, hunter, hack,
Knew that he had a rider on his back.

And now in this new field, with some applause,
He clear'd hedge, ditch, and double post, and rail,
And never craned, and made but few 'faux pas,'
And only fretted when the scent 'gan fail.
He broke, 'tis true, some statutes of the laws
Of hunting - for the sagest youth is frail;
Rode o'er the hounds, it may be, now and then,
And once o'er several country gentlemen.

But on the whole, to general admiration
He acquitted both himself and horse: the squires
Marvell'd at merit of another nation;
The boors cried 'Dang it? who'd have thought it?'--Sires,
The Nestors of the sporting generation,
Swore praises, and recall'd their former fires;
The huntsman's self relented to a grin,
And rated him almost a whipper-in.

Such were his trophies--not of spear and shield,
But leaps, and bursts, and sometimes foxes' brushes;
Yet I must own,--although in this I yield
To patriot sympathy a Briton's blushes,--
He thought at heart like courtly Chesterfield,
Who, after a long chase o'er hills, dales, bushes,
And what not, though he rode beyond all price,
Ask'd next day, 'If men ever hunted twice?'

He also had a quality uncommon
To early risers after a long chase,
Who wake in winter ere the cock can summon
December's drowsy day to his dull race,--
A quality agreeable to woman,
When her soft, liquid words run on apace,
Who likes a listener, whether saint or sinner,--
He did not fall asleep just after dinner;

But, light and airy, stood on the alert,
And shone in the best part of dialogue,
By humouring always what they might assert,
And listening to the topics most in vogue;
Now grave, now gay, but never dull or pert;
And smiling but in secret--cunning rogue!
He ne'er presumed to make an error clearer;-
In short, there never was a better hearer.

And then he danced;- all foreigners excel
The serious Angles in the eloquence
Of pantomime;--he danced, I say, right well,
With emphasis, and also with good sense--
A thing in footing indispensable;
He danced without theatrical pretence,
Not like a ballet-master in the van
Of his drill'd nymphs, but like a gentleman.

Chaste were his steps, each kept within due bound,
And elegance was sprinkled o'er his figure;
Like swift Camilla, he scarce skimm'd the ground,
And rather held in than put forth his vigour;
And then he had an ear for music's sound,
Which might defy a crotchet critic's rigour.
Such classic pas--sans flaws--set off our hero,
He glanced like a personified Bolero;

Or, like a flying Hour before Aurora,
In Guido's famous fresco which alone
Is worth a tour to Rome, although no more a
Remnant were there of the old world's sole throne.
The 'tout ensemble' of his movements wore a
Grace of the soft ideal, seldom shown,
And ne'er to be described; for to the dolour
Of bards and prosers, words are void of colour.

No marvel then he was a favourite;
A full -grown Cupid, very much admired;
A little spoilt, but by no means so quite;
At least he kept his vanity retired.
Such was his tact, he could alike delight
The chaste, and those who are not so much inspired.
The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke, who loved 'tracasserie,'
Began to treat him with some small 'agacerie.'

She was a fine and somewhat full-blown blonde,
Desirable, distinguish'd, celebrated
For several winters in the grand, grand monde.
I'd rather not say what might be related
Of her exploits, for this were ticklish ground;
Besides there might be falsehood in what's stated:
Her late performance had been a dead set
At Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.

This noble personage began to look
A little black upon this new flirtation;
But such small licences must lovers brook,
Mere freedoms of the female corporation.
Woe to the man who ventures a rebuke!
'Twill but precipitate a situation
Extremely disagreeable, but common
To calculators when they count on woman.

The circle smiled, then whisper'd, and then sneer'd;
The Misses bridled, and the matrons frown'd;
Some hoped things might not turn out as they fear'd;
Some would not deem such women could be found;
Some ne'er believed one half of what they heard;
Some look'd perplex'd, and others look'd profound;
And several pitied with sincere regret
Poor Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.

But what is odd, none ever named the duke,
Who, one might think, was something in the affair;
True, he was absent, and, 'twas rumour'd, took
But small concern about the when, or where,
Or what his consort did: if he could brook
Her gaieties, none had a right to stare:
Theirs was that best of unions, past all doubt,
Which never meets, and therefore can't fall out.

But, oh! that I should ever pen so sad a line!
Fired with an abstract love of virtue, she,
My Dian of the Ephesians, Lady Adeline,
Began to think the duchess' conduct free;
Regretting much that she had chosen so bad a line,
And waxing chiller in her courtesy,
Look'd grave and pale to see her friend's fragility,
For which most friends reserve their sensibility.

There's nought in this bad world like sympathy:
'Tis so becoming to the soul and face,
Sets to soft music the harmonious sigh,
And robes sweet friendship in a Brussels lace.
Without a friend, what were humanity,
To hunt our errors up with a good grace?
Consoling us with - 'Would you had thought twice!
Ah, if you had but follow'd my advice!'

O job! you had two friends: one's quite enough,
Especially when we are ill at ease;
They are but bad pilots when the weather's rough,
Doctors less famous for their cures than fees.
Let no man grumble when his friends fall off,
As they will do like leaves at the first breeze:
When your affairs come round, one way or t'other,
Go to the coffee-house, and take another.

But this is not my maxim: had it been,
Some heart-aches had been spared me: yet I care not--
I would not be a tortoise in his screen
Of stubborn shell, which waves and weather wear not.
'Tis better on the whole to have felt and seen
That which humanity may bear, or bear not:
'Twill teach discernment to the sensitive,
And not to pour their ocean in a sieve.

Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe,
Sadder than owl-songs or the midnight blast,
Is that portentous phrase, 'I told you so,'
Utter'd by friends, those prophets of the past,
Who, 'stead of saying what you now should do,
Own they foresaw that you would fall at last,
And solace your slight lapse 'gainst 'bonos mores,'
With a long memorandum of old stories.

The Lady Adeline's serene severity
Was not confined to feeling for her friend,
Whose fame she rather doubted with posterity,
Unless her habits should begin to mend:
But Juan also shared in her austerity,
But mix'd with pity, pure as e'er was penn'd:
His inexperience moved her gentle ruth,
And (as her junior by six weeks) his youth.

These forty days' advantage of her years--
And hers were those which can face calculation,
Boldly referring to the list of peers
And noble births, nor dread the enumeration--
Gave her a right to have maternal fears
For a young gentleman's fit education,
Though she was far from that leap year, whose leap,
In female dates, strikes Time all of a heap.

This may be fix'd at somewhere before thirty--
Say seven-and-twenty; for I never knew
The strictest in chronology and virtue
Advance beyond, while they could pass for new.
O Time! why dost not pause? Thy scythe, so dirty
With rust, should surely cease to hack and hew.
Reset it; shave more smoothly, also slower,
If but to keep thy credit as a mower.

But Adeline was far from that ripe age,
Whose ripeness is but bitter at the best:
'Twas rather her experience made her sage,
For she had seen the world and stood its test,
As I have said in--I forget what page;
My Muse despises reference, as you have guess'd
By this time;--but strike six from seven -and -twenty,
And you will find her sum of years in plenty.

At sixteen she came out; presented, vaunted,
She put all coronets into commotion:
At seventeen, too, the world was still enchanted
With the new Venus of their brilliant ocean:
At eighteen, though below her feet still panted
A hecatomb of suitors with devotion,
She had consented to create again
That Adam, call'd 'The happiest of men.'

Since then she had sparkled through three glowing winters,
Admired, adored; but also so correct,
That she had puzzled all the acutest hinters,
Without the apparel of being circumspect:
They could not even glean the slightest splinters
From off the marble, which had no defect.
She had also snatch'd a moment since her marriage
To bear a son and heir - and one miscarriage.

Fondly the wheeling fire-flies flew around her,
Those little glitterers of the London night;
But none of these possess'd a sting to wound her -
She was a pitch beyond a coxcomb's flight.
Perhaps she wish'd an aspirant profounder;
But whatsoe'er she wish'd, she acted right;
And whether coldness, pride, or virtue dignify
A woman, so she's good, what does it signify?

I hate a motive, like a lingering bottle
Which with the landlord makes too long a stand,
Leaving all-claretless the unmoisten'd throttle,
Especially with politics on hand;
I hate it, as I hate a drove of cattle,
Who whirl the dust as simooms whirl the sand;
I hate it, as I hate an argument,
A laureate's ode, or servile peer's 'content.'

'Tis sad to hack into the roots of things,
They are so much intertwisted with the earth;
So that the branch a goodly verdure flings,
I reck not if an acorn gave it birth.
To trace all actions to their secret springs
Would make indeed some melancholy mirth;
But this is not at present my concern,
And I refer you to wise Oxenstiern.

With the kind view of saving an eclat,
Both to the duchess and diplomatist,
The Lady Adeline, as soon's she saw
That Juan was unlikely to resist
(For foreigners don't know that a faux pas
In England ranks quite on a different list
From those of other lands unblest with juries,
Whose verdict for such sin a certain cure is);-

The Lady Adeline resolved to take
Such measures as she thought might best impede
The farther progress of this sad mistake.
She thought with some simplicity indeed;
But innocence is bold even at the stake,
And simple in the world, and doth not need
Nor use those palisades by dames erected,
Whose virtue lies in never being detected.

It was not that she fear'd the very worst:
His Grace was an enduring, married man,
And was not likely all at once to burst
Into a scene, and swell the clients' clan
Of Doctors' Commons: but she dreaded first
The magic of her Grace's talisman,
And next a quarrel (as he seem'd to fret)
With Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.

Her Grace, too, pass'd for being an intrigante,
And somewhat mechante in her amorous sphere;
One of those pretty, precious plagues, which haunt
A lover with caprices soft and dear,
That like to make a quarrel, when they can't
Find one, each day of the delightful year;
Bewitching, torturing, as they freeze or glow,
And - what is worst of all - won't let you go:

The sort of thing to turn a young man's head,
Or make a Werter of him in the end.
No wonder then a purer soul should dread
This sort of chaste liaison for a friend;
It were much better to be wed or dead,
Than wear a heart a woman loves to rend.
'T is best to pause, and think, ere you rush on,
If that a 'bonne fortune' be really 'bonne.'

And first, in the o'erflowing of her heart,
Which really knew or thought it knew no guile,
She call'd her husband now and then apart,
And bade him counsel Juan. With a smile
Lord Henry heard her plans of artless art
To wean Don Juan from the siren's wile;
And answer'd, like a statesman or a prophet,
In such guise that she could make nothing of it.

Firstly, he said, 'he never interfered
In any body's business but the king's:'
Next, that 'he never judged from what appear'd,
Without strong reason, of those sort of things:'
Thirdly, that 'Juan had more brain than beard,
And was not to be held in leading strings;'
And fourthly, what need hardly be said twice,
'That good but rarely came from good advice.'

And, therefore, doubtless to approve the truth
Of the last axiom, he advised his spouse
To leave the parties to themselves, forsooth -
At least as far as bienseance allows:
That time would temper Juan's faults of youth;
That young men rarely made monastic vows;
That opposition only more attaches -
But here a messenger brought in despatches:

And being of the council call'd 'the Privy,'
Lord Henry walk'd into his cabinet,
To furnish matter for some future Livy
To tell how he reduced the nation's debt;
And if their full contents I do not give ye,
It is because I do not know them yet;
But I shall add them in a brief appendix,
To come between mine epic and its index.

But ere he went, he added a slight hint,
Another gentle common-place or two,
Such as are coin'd in conversation's mint,
And pass, for want of better, though not new:
Then broke his packet, to see what was in 't,
And having casually glanced it through,
Retired; and, as went out, calmly kiss'd her,
Less like a young wife than an aged sister.

He was a cold, good, honourable man,
Proud of his birth, and proud of every thing;
A goodly spirit for a state divan,
A figure fit to walk before a king;
Tall, stately, form'd to lead the courtly van
On birthdays, glorious with a star and string;
The very model of a chamberlain--
And such I mean to make him when I reign.

But there was something wanting on the whole--
I don't know what, and therefore cannot tell--
Which pretty women--the sweet souls!--call soul.
Certes it was not body; he was well
Proportion'd, as a poplar or a pole,
A handsome man, that human miracle;
And in each circumstance of love or war
Had still preserved his perpendicular.

Still there was something wanting, as I've said -
That undefinable 'Je ne scais quoi,'
Which, for what I know, may of yore have led
To Homer's Iliad, since it drew to Troy
The Greek Eve, Helen, from the Spartan's bed;
Though on the whole, no doubt, the Dardan boy
Was much inferior to King Menelaus:-
But thus it is some women will betray us.

There is an awkward thing which much perplexes,
Unless like wise Tiresias we had proved
By turns the difference of the several sexes;
Neither can show quite how they would be loved.
The sensual for a short time but connects us,
The sentimental boasts to be unmoved;
But both together form a kind of centaur,
Upon whose back 'tis better not to venture.

A something all-sufficient for the heart
Is that for which the sex are always seeking:
But how to fill up that same vacant part?
There lies the rub--and this they are but weak in.
Frail mariners afloat without a chart,
They run before the wind through high seas breaking;
And when they have made the shore through every shock,
'Tis odd, or odds, it may turn out a rock.

There is a flower call'd 'Love in Idleness,'
For which see Shakspeare's everblooming garden;-
I will not make his great description less,
And beg his British godship's humble pardon,
If in my extremity of rhyme's distress,
I touch a single leaf where he is warden;-
But though the flower is different, with the French
Or Swiss Rousseau, cry 'Voila la Pervenche!'

Eureka! I have found it! What I mean
To say is, not that love is idleness,
But that in love such idleness has been
An accessory, as I have cause to guess.
Hard labour's an indifferent go-between;
Your men of business are not apt to express
Much passion, since the merchant-ship, the Argo,
Convey'd Medea as her supercargo.

'Beatus ille procul!' from 'negotiis,'
Saith Horace; the great little poet's wrong;
His other maxim, 'Noscitur a sociis,'
Is much more to the purpose of his song;
Though even that were sometimes too ferocious,
Unless good company be kept too long;
But, in his teeth, whate'er their state or station,
Thrice happy they who have an occupation!

Adam exchanged his Paradise for ploughing,
Eve made up millinery with fig leaves -
The earliest knowledge from the tree so knowing,
As far as I know, that the church receives:
And since that time it need not cost much showing,
That many of the ills o'er which man grieves,
And still more women, spring from not employing
Some hours to make the remnant worth enjoying.

And hence high life is oft a dreary void,
A rack of pleasures, where we must invent
A something wherewithal to be annoy'd.
Bards may sing what they please about Content;
Contented, when translated, means but cloy'd;
And hence arise the woes of sentiment,
Blue devils, and blue -stockings, and romances
Reduced to practice, and perform'd like dances.

I do declare, upon an affidavit,
Romances I ne'er read like those I have seen;
Nor, if unto the world I ever gave it,
Would some believe that such a tale had been:
But such intent I never had, nor have it;
Some truths are better kept behind a screen,
Especially when they would look like lies;
I therefore deal in generalities.

'An oyster may be cross'd in love,'--and why?
Because he mopeth idly in his shell,
And heaves a lonely subterraqueous sigh,
Much as a monk may do within his cell:
And a-propos of monks, their piety
With sloth hath found it difficult to dwell;
Those vegetables of the Catholic creed
Are apt exceedingly to run to seed.

O Wilberforce! thou man of black renown,
Whose merit none enough can sing or say,
Thou hast struck one immense Colossus down,
Thou moral Washington of Africa!
But there's another little thing, I own,
Which you should perpetrate some summer's day,
And set the other halt of earth to rights;
You have freed the blacks - now pray shut up the whites.

Shut up the bald-coot bully Alexander!
Ship off the Holy Three to Senegal;
Teach them that 'sauce for goose is sauce for gander,'
And ask them how they like to be in thrall?
Shut up each high heroic salamander,
Who eats fire gratis (since the pay's but small);
Shut up - no, not the King, but the Pavilion,
Or else 'twill cost us all another million.

Shut up the world at large, let Bedlam out;
And you will be perhaps surprised to find
All things pursue exactly the same route,
As now with those of soi -disant sound mind.
This I could prove beyond a single doubt,
Were there a jot of sense among mankind;
But till that point d'appui is found, alas!
Like Archimedes, I leave earth as 'twas.

Our gentle Adeline had one defect--
Her heart was vacant, though a splendid mansion;
Her conduct had been perfectly correct,
As she had seen nought claiming its expansion.
A wavering spirit may be easier wreck'd,
Because 'tis frailer, doubtless, than a stanch one;
But when the latter works its own undoing,
Its inner crash is like an earthquake's ruin.

She loved her lord, or thought so; but that love
Cost her an effort, which is a sad toil,
The stone of Sisyphus, if once we move
Our feelings 'gainst the nature of the soil.
She had nothing to complain of, or reprove,
No bickerings, no connubial turmoil:
Their union was a model to behold,
Serene and noble,--conjugal, but cold.

There was no great disparity of years,
Though much in temper; but they never clash'd:
They moved like stars united in their spheres,
Or like the Rhone by Leman's waters wash'd,
Where mingled and yet separate appears
The river from the lake, all bluely dash'd
Through the serene and placid glassy deep,
Which fain would lull its river-child to sleep.

Now when she once had ta'en an interest
In any thing, however she might flatter
Herself that her intentions were the best,
Intense intentions are a dangerous matter:
Impressions were much stronger than she guess'd,
And gather'd as they run like growing water
Upon her mind; the more so, as her breast
Was not at first too readily impress'd.

But when it was, she had that lurking demon
Of double nature, and thus doubly named -
Firmness yclept in heroes, kings, and seamen,
That is, when they succeed; but greatly blamed
As obstinacy, both in men and women,
Whene'er their triumph pales, or star is tamed:-
And 'twill perplex the casuist in morality
To fix the due bounds of this dangerous quality.

Had Buonaparte won at Waterloo,
It had been firmness; now 'tis pertinacity:
Must the event decide between the two?
I leave it to your people of sagacity
To draw the line between the false and true,
If such can e'er be drawn by man's capacity:
My business is with Lady Adeline,
Who in her way too was a heroine.

She knew not her own heart; then how should I?
I think not she was then in love with Juan:
If so, she would have had the strength to fly
The wild sensation, unto her a new one:
She merely felt a common sympathy
(I will not say it was a false or true one)
In him, because she thought he was in danger,-
Her husband's friend, her own, young, and a stranger,

She was, or thought she was, his friend - and this
Without the farce of friendship, or romance
Of Platonism, which leads so oft amiss
Ladies who have studied friendship but in France,
Or Germany, where people purely kiss.
To thus much Adeline would not advance;
But of such friendship as man's may to man be
She was as capable as woman can be.

No doubt the secret influence of the sex
Will there, as also in the ties of blood,
An innocent predominance annex,
And tune the concord to a finer mood.
If free from passion, which all friendship checks,
And your true feelings fully understood,
No friend like to a woman earth discovers,
So that you have not been nor will be lovers.

Love bears within its breast the very germ
Of change; and how should this be otherwise?
That violent things more quickly find a term
Is shown through nature's whole analogies;
And how should the most fierce of all be firm?
Would you have endless lightning in the skies?
Methinks Love's very title says enough:
How should 'the tender passion' e'er be tough?

Alas! by all experience, seldom yet
(I merely quote what I have heard from many)
Had lovers not some reason to regret
The passion which made Solomon a zany.
I've also seen some wives (not to forget
The marriage state, the best or worst of any)
Who were the very paragons of wives,
Yet made the misery of at least two lives.

I've also seen some female friends ('tis odd,
But true--as, if expedient, I could prove)
That faithful were through thick and thin, abroad,
At home, far more than ever yet was Love--
Who did not quit me when Oppression trod
Upon me; whom no scandal could remove;
Who fought, and fight, in absence, too, my battles,
Despite the snake Society's loud rattles.

Whether Don Juan and chaste Adeline
Grew friends in this or any other sense,
Will be discuss'd hereafter, I opine:
At present I am glad of a pretence
To leave them hovering, as the effect is fine,
And keeps the atrocious reader in suspense;
The surest way for ladies and for books
To bait their tender, or their tenter, hooks.

Whether they rode, or walk'd, or studied Spanish
To read Don Quixote in the original,
A pleasure before which all others vanish;
Whether their talk was of the kind call'd 'small,'
Or serious, are the topics I must banish
To the next Canto; where perhaps I shall
Say something to the purpose, and display
Considerable talent in my way.

Above all, I beg all men to forbear
Anticipating aught about the matter:
They'll only make mistakes about the fair,
And Juan too, especially the latter.
And I shall take a much more serious air
Than I have yet done, in this epic satire.
It is not clear that Adeline and Juan
Will fall; but if they do, 'twill be their ruin.

But great things spring from little:- Would you think,
That in our youth, as dangerous a passion
As e'er brought man and woman to the brink
Of ruin, rose from such a slight occasion,
As few would ever dream could form the link
Of such a sentimental situation?
You'll never guess, I 'll bet you millions, milliards--
It all sprung from a harmless game at billiards.

'Tis strange,--but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!
How oft would vice and virtue places change!
The new world would be nothing to the old,
If some Columbus of the moral seas
Would show mankind their souls' antipodes.

What 'antres vast and deserts idle' then
Would be discover'd in the human soul!
What icebergs in the hearts of mighty men,
With self-love in the centre as their pole!
What Anthropophagi are nine of ten
Of those who hold the kingdoms in control
Were things but only call'd by their right name,
Caesar himself would be ashamed of fame.

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Canto the Fourteenth

I
If from great nature's or our own abyss
Of thought we could but snatch a certainty,
Perhaps mankind might find the path they miss --
But then 't would spoil much good philosophy.
One system eats another up, and this
Much as old Saturn ate his progeny;
For when his pious consort gave him stones
In lieu of sons, of these he made no bones.

II
But System doth reverse the Titan's breakfast,
And eats her parents, albeit the digestion
Is difficult. Pray tell me, can you make fast,
After due search, your faith to any question?
Look back o'er ages, ere unto the stake fast
You bind yourself, and call some mode the best one.
Nothing more true than not to trust your senses;
And yet what are your other evidences?

III
For me, I know nought; nothing I deny,
Admit, reject, contemn; and what know you,
Except perhaps that you were born to die?
And both may after all turn out untrue.
An age may come, Font of Eternity,
When nothing shall be either old or new.
Death, so call'd, is a thing which makes men weep,
And yet a third of life is pass'd in sleep.

IV
A sleep without dreams, after a rough day
Of toil, is what we covet most; and yet
How clay shrinks back from more quiescent clay!
The very Suicide that pays his debt
At once without instalments (an old way
Of paying debts, which creditors regret)
Lets out impatiently his rushing breath,
Less from disgust of life than dread of death.

V
'T is round him, near him, here, there, every where;
And there's a courage which grows out of fear,
Perhaps of all most desperate, which will dare
The worst to know it -- when the mountains rear
Their peaks beneath your human foot, and there
You look down o'er the precipice, and drear
The gulf of rock yawns -- you can't gaze a minute
Without an awful wish to plunge within it.

VI
'T is true, you don't -- but, pale and struck with terror,
Retire: but look into your past impression!
And you will find, though shuddering at the mirror
Of your own thoughts, in all their self-confession,
The lurking bias, be it truth or error,
To the unknown; a secret prepossession,
To plunge with all your fear -- but where? You know not,
And that's the reason why you'd -- or do not.

VII
But what's this to the purpose? you will say.
Gent. reader, nothing; a mere speculation,
For which my sole excuse is -- 't is my way;
Sometimes with and sometimes without occasion
I write what's uppermost, without delay:
This narrative is not meant for narration,
But a mere airy and fantastic basis,
To build up common things with common places.

VIII
You know, or don't know, that great Bacon saith,
"Fling up a straw, 't will show the way the wind blows;"
And such a straw, borne on by human breath,
Is poesy, according as the mind glows;
A paper kite which flies 'twixt life and death,
A shadow which the onward soul behind throws:
And mine's a bubble, not blown up for praise,
But just to play with, as an infant plays.

IX
The world is all before me -- or behind;
For I have seen a portion of that same,
And quite enough for me to keep in mind; --
Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame,
To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind,
Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame;
For I was rather famous in my time,
Until I fairly knock'd it up with rhyme.

X
I have brought this world about my ears, and eke
The other; that's to say, the clergy, who
Upon my head have bid their thunders break
In pious libels by no means a few.
And yet I can't help scribbling once a week,
Tiring old readers, nor discovering new.
In youth I wrote because my mind was full,
And now because I feel it growing dull.

XI
But "why then publish?" -- There are no rewards
Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn -- Why do you play at cards?
Why drink? Why read -- To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
On what I've seen or ponder'd, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sink -- I have had at least my dream.

XII
I think that were I certain of success,
I hardly could compose another line:
So long I've battled either more or less,
That no defeat can drive me from the Nine.
This feeling 't is not easy to express,
And yet 't is not affected, I opine.
In play, there are two pleasures for your choosing --
The one is winning, and the other losing.

XIII
Besides, my Muse by no means deals in fiction:
She gathers a repertory of facts,
Of course with some reserve and slight restriction,
But mostly sings of human things and acts --
And that's one cause she meets with contradiction;
For too much truth, at first sight, ne'er attracts;
And were her object only what's call'd glory,
With more ease too she'd tell a different story.

XIV
Love, war, a tempest -- surely there's variety;
Also a seasoning slight of lucubration;
A bird's-eye view, too, of that wild, Society;
A slight glance thrown on men of every station.
If you have nought else, here's at least satiety
Both in performance and in preparation;
And though these lines should only line portmanteaus,
Trade will be all the better for these Cantos.

XV
The portion of this world which I at present
Have taken up to fill the following sermon,
Is one of which there's no description recent.
The reason why is easy to determine:
Although it seems both prominent and pleasant,
There is a sameness in its gems and ermine,
A dull and family likeness through all ages,
Of no great promise for poetic pages.

XVI
With much to excite, there's little to exalt;
Nothing that speaks to all men and all times;
A sort of varnish over every fault;
A kind of common-place, even in their crimes;
Factitious passions, wit without much salt,
A want of that true nature which sublimes
Whate'er it shows with truth; a smooth monotony
Of character, in those at least who have got any.

XVII
Sometimes, indeed, like soldiers off parade,
They break their ranks and gladly leave the drill;
But then the roll-call draws them back afraid,
And they must be or seem what they were: still
Doubtless it is a brilliant masquerade;
But when of the first sight you have had your fill,
It palls -- at least it did so upon me,
This paradise of pleasure and ennui.

XVIII
When we have made our love, and gamed our gaming,
Drest, voted, shone, and, may be, something more;
With dandies dined; heard senators declaiming;
Seen beauties brought to market by the score,
Sad rakes to sadder husbands chastely taming;
There's little left but to be bored or bore.
Witness those ci-devant jeunes hommes who stem
The stream, nor leave the world which leaveth them.

XIX
'T is said -- indeed a general complaint --
That no one has succeeded in describing
The monde, exactly as they ought to paint:
Some say, that authors only snatch, by bribing
The porter, some slight scandals strange and quaint,
To furnish matter for their moral gibing;
And that their books have but one style in common --
My lady's prattle, filter'd through her woman.

XX
But this can't well be true, just now; for writers
Are grown of the beau monde a part potential:
I've seen them balance even the scale with fighters,
Especially when young, for that's essential.
Why do their sketches fail them as inditers
Of what they deem themselves most consequential,
The real portrait of the highest tribe?
'T is that, in fact, there's little to describe.

XXI
"Haud ignara loquor;" these are Nugae, "quarum
Pars parva fui," but still art and part.
Now I could much more easily sketch a harem,
A battle, wreck, or history of the heart,
Than these things; and besides, I wish to spare 'em,
For reasons which I choose to keep apart.
"Vetabo Cereris sacrum qui vulgarit --"
Which means that vulgar people must not share it.

XXII
And therefore what I throw off is ideal --
Lower'd, leaven'd, like a history of freemasons;
Which bears the same relation to the real,
As Captain Parry's voyage may do to Jason's.
The grand arcanum's not for men to see all;
My music has some mystic diapasons;
And there is much which could not be appreciated
In any manner by the uninitiated.

XXIII
Alas! worlds fall -- and woman, since she fell'd
The world (as, since that history less polite
Than true, hath been a creed so strictly held)
Has not yet given up the practice quite.
Poor thing of usages! coerced, compell'd,
Victim when wrong, and martyr oft when right,
Condemn'd to child-bed, as men for their sins
Have shaving too entail'd upon their chins, --

XXIV
A daily plague, which in the aggregate
May average on the whole with parturition.
But as to women, who can penetrate
The real sufferings of their she condition?
Man's very sympathy with their estate
Has much of selfishness, and more suspicion.
Their love, their virtue, beauty, education,
But form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.

XXV
All this were very well, and can't be better;
But even this is difficult, Heaven knows,
So many troubles from her birth beset her,
Such small distinction between friends and foes,
The gilding wears so soon from off her fetter,
That -- but ask any woman if she'd choose
(Take her at thirty, that is) to have been
Female or male? a schoolboy or a queen?

XXVI
"Petticoat influence" is a great reproach,
Which even those who obey would fain be thought
To fly from, as from hungry pikes a roach;
But since beneath it upon earth we are brought,
By various joltings of life's hackney coach,
I for one venerate a petticoat --
A garment of a mystical sublimity,
No matter whether russet, silk, or dimity.

XXVII
Much I respect, and much I have adored,
In my young days, that chaste and goodly veil,
Which holds a treasure, like a miser's hoard,
And more attracts by all it doth conceal --
A golden scabbard on a Damasque sword,
A loving letter with a mystic seal,
A cure for grief -- for what can ever rankle
Before a petticoat and peeping ankle?

XXVIII
And when upon a silent, sullen day,
With a sirocco, for example, blowing,
When even the sea looks dim with all its spray,
And sulkily the river's ripple's flowing,
And the sky shows that very ancient gray,
The sober, sad antithesis to glowing, --
'T is pleasant, if then any thing is pleasant,
To catch a glimpse even of a pretty peasant.

XXIX
We left our heroes and our heroines
In that fair clime which don't depend on climate,
Quite independent of the Zodiac's signs,
Though certainly more difficult to rhyme at,
Because the sun, and stars, and aught that shines,
Mountains, and all we can be most sublime at,
Are there oft dull and dreary as a dun --
Whether a sky's or tradesman's is all one.

XXX
An in-door life is less poetical;
And out of door hath showers, and mists, and sleet,
With which I could not brew a pastoral.
But be it as it may, a bard must meet
All difficulties, whether great or small,
To spoil his undertaking or complete,
And work away like spirit upon matter,
Embarrass'd somewhat both with fire and water.

XXXI
Juan -- in this respect, at least, like saints --
Was all things unto people of all sorts,
And lived contentedly, without complaints,
In camps, in ships, in cottages, or courts --
Born with that happy soul which seldom faints,
And mingling modestly in toils or sports.
He likewise could be most things to all women,
Without the coxcombry of certain she men.

XXXII
A fox-hunt to a foreigner is strange;
'T is also subject to the double danger
Of tumbling first, and having in exchange
Some pleasant jesting at the awkward stranger:
But Juan had been early taught to range
The wilds, as doth an Arab turn'd avenger,
So that his horse, or charger, hunter, hack,
Knew that he had a rider on his back.

XXXIII
And now in this new field, with some applause,
He clear'd hedge, ditch, and double post, and rail,
And never craned, and made but few "faux pas,"
And only fretted when the scent 'gan fail.
He broke, 't is true, some statutes of the laws
Of hunting -- for the sagest youth is frail;
Rode o'er the hounds, it may be, now and then,
And once o'er several country gentlemen.

XXXIV
But on the whole, to general admiration
He acquitted both himself and horse: the squires
Marvell'd at merit of another nation;
The boors cried "Dang it? who'd have thought it?" -- Sires,
The Nestors of the sporting generation,
Swore praises, and recall'd their former fires;
The huntsman's self relented to a grin,
And rated him almost a whipper-in.

XXXV
Such were his trophies -- not of spear and shield,
But leaps, and bursts, and sometimes foxes' brushes;
Yet I must own -- although in this I yield
To patriot sympathy a Briton's blushes, --
He thought at heart like courtly Chesterfield,
Who, after a long chase o'er hills, dales, bushes,
And what not, though he rode beyond all price,
Ask'd next day, "If men ever hunted twice?"

XXXVI
He also had a quality uncommon
To early risers after a long chase,
Who wake in winter ere the cock can summon
December's drowsy day to his dull race, --
A quality agreeable to woman,
When her soft, liquid words run on apace,
Who likes a listener, whether saint or sinner, --
He did not fall asleep just after dinner;

XXXVII
But, light and airy, stood on the alert,
And shone in the best part of dialogue,
By humouring always what they might assert,
And listening to the topics most in vogue;
Now grave, now gay, but never dull or pert;
And smiling but in secret -- cunning rogue!
He ne'er presumed to make an error clearer; --
In short, there never was a better hearer.

XXXVIII
And then he danced -- all foreigners excel
The serious Angles in the eloquence
Of pantomime -- he danced, I say, right well,
With emphasis, and also with good sense --
A thing in footing indispensable;
He danced without theatrical pretence,
Not like a ballet-master in the van
Of his drill'd nymphs, but like a gentleman.

XXXIX
Chaste were his steps, each kept within due bound,
And elegance was sprinkled o'er his figure;
Like swift Camilla, he scarce skimm'd the ground,
And rather held in than put forth his vigour;
And then he had an ear for music's sound,
Which might defy a crotchet critic's rigour.
Such classic pas -- sans flaw -- set off our hero,
He glanced like a personified Bolero;

XL
Or, like a flying Hour before Aurora,
In Guido's famous fresco which alone
Is worth a tour to Rome, although no more a
Remnant were there of the old world's sole throne.
The tout ensemble of his movements wore a
Grace of the soft ideal, seldom shown,
And ne'er to be described; for to the dolour
Of bards and prosers, words are void of colour.

XLI
No marvel then he was a favourite;
A full-grown Cupid, very much admired;
A little spoilt, but by no means so quite;
At least he kept his vanity retired.
Such was his tact, he could alike delight
The chaste, and those who are not so much inspired.
The Duchess of Fitz-Fulke, who loved tracasserie,
Began to treat him with some small agacerie.

XLII
She was a fine and somewhat full-blown blonde,
Desirable, distinguish'd, celebrated
For several winters in the grand, grand monde.
I'd rather not say what might be related
Of her exploits, for this were ticklish ground;
Besides there might be falsehood in what's stated:
Her late performance had been a dead set
At Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.

XLIII
This noble personage began to look
A little black upon this new flirtation;
But such small licences must lovers brook,
Mere freedoms of the female corporation.
Woe to the man who ventures a rebuke!
'T will but precipitate a situation
Extremely disagreeable, but common
To calculators when they count on woman.

XLIV
The circle smiled, then whisper'd, and then sneer'd;
The Misses bridled, and the matrons frown'd;
Some hoped things might not turn out as they fear'd;
Some would not deem such women could be found;
Some ne'er believed one half of what they heard;
Some look'd perplex'd, and others look'd profound;
And several pitied with sincere regret
Poor Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.

XLV
But what is odd, none ever named the duke,
Who, one might think, was something in the affair;
True, he was absent, and, 't was rumour'd, took
But small concern about the when, or where,
Or what his consort did: if he could brook
Her gaieties, none had a right to stare:
Theirs was that best of unions, past all doubt,
Which never meets, and therefore can't fall out.

XLVI
But, oh! that I should ever pen so sad a line!
Fired with an abstract love of virtue, she,
My Dian of the Ephesians, Lady Adeline,
Began to think the duchess' conduct free;
Regretting much that she had chosen so bad a line,
And waxing chiller in her courtesy,
Look'd grave and pale to see her friend's fragility,
For which most friends reserve their sensibility.

XLVII
There's nought in this bad world like sympathy:
'T is so becoming to the soul and face,
Sets to soft music the harmonious sigh,
And robes sweet friendship in a Brussels lace.
Without a friend, what were humanity,
To hunt our errors up with a good grace?
Consoling us with -- "Would you had thought twice!
Ah, if you had but follow'd my advice!"

XLVIII
O Job! you had two friends: one's quite enough,
Especially when we are ill at ease;
They are but bad pilots when the weather's rough,
Doctors less famous for their cures than fees.
Let no man grumble when his friends fall off,
As they will do like leaves at the first breeze:
When your affairs come round, one way or t' other,
Go to the coffee-house, and take another.

XLIX
But this is not my maxim: had it been,
Some heart-aches had been spared me: yet I care not --
I would not be a tortoise in his screen
Of stubborn shell, which waves and weather wear not.
'T is better on the whole to have felt and seen
That which humanity may bear, or bear not:
'T will teach discernment to the sensitive,
And not to pour their ocean in a sieve.

L
Of all the horrid, hideous notes of woe,
Sadder than owl-songs or the midnight blast,
Is that portentous phrase, "I told you so,"
Utter'd by friends, those prophets of the past,
Who, 'stead of saying what you now should do,
Own they foresaw that you would fall at last,
And solace your slight lapse 'gainst bonos mores,
With a long memorandum of old stories.

LI
The Lady Adeline's serene severity
Was not confined to feeling for her friend,
Whose fame she rather doubted with posterity,
Unless her habits should begin to mend:
But Juan also shared in her austerity,
But mix'd with pity, pure as e'er was penn'd:
His inexperience moved her gentle ruth,
And (as her junior by six weeks) his youth.

LII
These forty days' advantage of her years --
And hers were those which can face calculation,
Boldly referring to the list of peers
And noble births, nor dread the enumeration --
Gave her a right to have maternal fears
For a young gentleman's fit education,
Though she was far from that leap year, whose leap,
In female dates, strikes Time all of a heap.

LIII
This may be fix'd at somewhere before thirty --
Say seven-and-twenty; for I never knew
The strictest in chronology and virtue
Advance beyond, while they could pass for new.
O Time! why dost not pause? Thy scythe, so dirty
With rust, should surely cease to hack and hew.
Reset it; shave more smoothly, also slower,
If but to keep thy credit as a mower.

LIV
But Adeline was far from that ripe age,
Whose ripeness is but bitter at the best:
'T was rather her experience made her sage,
For she had seen the world and stood its test,
As I have said in -- I forget what page;
My Muse despises reference, as you have guess'd
By this time -- but strike six from seven-and-twenty,
And you will find her sum of years in plenty.

LV
At sixteen she came out; presented, vaunted,
She put all coronets into commotion:
At seventeen, too, the world was still enchanted
With the new Venus of their brilliant ocean:
At eighteen, though below her feet still panted
A hecatomb of suitors with devotion,
She had consented to create again
That Adam, call'd "The happiest of men."

LVI
Since then she had sparkled through three glowing winters,
Admired, adored; but also so correct,
That she had puzzled all the acutest hinters,
Without the apparel of being circumspect:
They could not even glean the slightest splinters
From off the marble, which had no defect.
She had also snatch'd a moment since her marriage
To bear a son and heir -- and one miscarriage.

LVII
Fondly the wheeling fire-flies flew around her,
Those little glitterers of the London night;
But none of these possess'd a sting to wound her --
She was a pitch beyond a coxcomb's flight.
Perhaps she wish'd an aspirant profounder;
But whatsoe'er she wish'd, she acted right;
And whether coldness, pride, or virtue dignify
A woman, so she's good, what does it signify?

LVIII
I hate a motive, like a lingering bottle
Which with the landlord makes too long a stand,
Leaving all-claretless the unmoisten'd throttle,
Especially with politics on hand;
I hate it, as I hate a drove of cattle,
Who whirl the dust as simooms whirl the sand;
I hate it, as I hate an argument,
A laureate's ode, or servile peer's "content."

LIX
'T is sad to hack into the roots of things,
They are so much intertwisted with the earth;
So that the branch a goodly verdure flings,
I reck not if an acorn gave it birth.
To trace all actions to their secret springs
Would make indeed some melancholy mirth;
But this is not at present my concern,
And I refer you to wise Oxenstiern.

LX
With the kind view of saving an éclat,
Both to the duchess and diplomatist,
The Lady Adeline, as soon's she saw
That Juan was unlikely to resist
(For foreigners don't know that a faux pas
In England ranks quite on a different list
From those of other lands unblest with juries,
Whose verdict for such sin a certain cure is); --

LXI
The Lady Adeline resolved to take
Such measures as she thought might best impede
The farther progress of this sad mistake.
She thought with some simplicity indeed;
But innocence is bold even at the stake,
And simple in the world, and doth not need
Nor use those palisades by dames erected,
Whose virtue lies in never being detected.

LXII
It was not that she fear'd the very worst:
His Grace was an enduring, married man,
And was not likely all at once to burst
Into a scene, and swell the clients' clan
Of Doctors' Commons: but she dreaded first
The magic of her Grace's talisman,
And next a quarrel (as he seem'd to fret)
With Lord Augustus Fitz-Plantagenet.

LXIII
Her Grace, too, pass'd for being an intrigante,
And somewhat méchante in her amorous sphere;
One of those pretty, precious plagues, which haunt
A lover with caprices soft and dear,
That like to make a quarrel, when they can't
Find one, each day of the delightful year;
Bewitching, torturing, as they freeze or glow,
And -- what is worst of all -- won't let you go:

LXIV
The sort of thing to turn a young man's head,
Or make a Werter of him in the end.
No wonder then a purer soul should dread
This sort of chaste liaison for a friend;
It were much better to be wed or dead,
Than wear a heart a woman loves to rend.
'T is best to pause, and think, ere you rush on,
If that a bonne fortune be really bonne.

LXV
And first, in the o'erflowing of her heart,
Which really knew or thought it knew no guile,
She call'd her husband now and then apart,
And bade him counsel Juan. With a smile
Lord Henry heard her plans of artless art
To wean Don Juan from the siren's wile;
And answer'd, like a statesman or a prophet,
In such guise that she could make nothing of it.

LXVI
Firstly, he said, "he never interfered
In any body's business but the king's:"
Next, that "he never judged from what appear'd,
Without strong reason, of those sort of things:"
Thirdly, that "Juan had more brain than beard,
And was not to be held in leading strings;"
And fourthly, what need hardly be said twice,
"That good but rarely came from good advice."

LXVII
And, therefore, doubtless to approve the truth
Of the last axiom, he advised his spouse
To leave the parties to themselves, forsooth --
At least as far as bienséance allows:
That time would temper Juan's faults of youth;
That young men rarely made monastic vows;
That opposition only more attaches --
But here a messenger brought in despatches:

LXVIII
And being of the council call'd "the Privy,"
Lord Henry walk'd into his cabinet,
To furnish matter for some future Livy
To tell how he reduced the nation's debt;
And if their full contents I do not give ye,
It is because I do not know them yet;
But I shall add them in a brief appendix,
To come between mine epic and its index.

LXIX
But ere he went, he added a slight hint,
Another gentle common-place or two,
Such as are coin'd in conversation's mint,
And pass, for want of better, though not new:
Then broke his packet, to see what was in 't,
And having casually glanced it through,
Retired; and, as went out, calmly kiss'd her,
Less like a young wife than an agéd sister.

LXX
He was a cold, good, honourable man,
Proud of his birth, and proud of every thing;
A goodly spirit for a state divan,
A figure fit to walk before a king;
Tall, stately, form'd to lead the courtly van
On birthdays, glorious with a star and string;
The very model of a chamberlain --
And such I mean to make him when I reign.

LXXI
But there was something wanting on the whole --
I don't know what, and therefore cannot tell --
Which pretty women -- the sweet souls -- call soul.
Certes it was not body; he was well
Proportion'd, as a poplar or a pole,
A handsome man, that human miracle;
And in each circumstance of love or war
Had still preserved his perpendicular.

LXXII
Still there was something wanting, as I 've said --
That undefinable "Je ne sçais quoi,"
Which, for what I know, may of yore have led
To Homer's Iliad, since it drew to Troy
The Greek Eve, Helen, from the Spartan's bed;
Though on the whole, no doubt, the Dardan boy
Was much inferior to King Menelaüs: --
But thus it is some women will betray us.

LXXIII
There is an awkward thing which much perplexes,
Unless like wise Tiresias we had proved
By turns the difference of the several sexes;
Neither can show quite how they would be loved.
The sensual for a short time but connects us,
The sentimental boasts to be unmoved;
But both together form a kind of centaur,
Upon whose back 't is better not to venture.

LXXIV
A something all-sufficient for the heart
Is that for which the sex are always seeking:
But how to fill up that same vacant part?
There lies the rub -- and this they are but weak in.
Frail mariners afloat without a chart,
They run before the wind through high seas breaking;
And when they have made the shore through every shock,
'T is odd, or odds, it may turn out a rock.

LXXV
There is a flower call'd "Love in Idleness,"
For which see Shakspeare's everblooming garden; --
I will not make his great description less,
And beg his British godship's humble pardon,
If in my extremity of rhyme's distress,
I touch a single leaf where he is warden; --
But though the flower is different, with the French
Or Swiss Rousseau, cry "Voilà la Pervenche!"

LXXVI
Eureka! I have found it! What I mean
To say is, not that love is idleness,
But that in love such idleness has been
An accessory, as I have cause to guess.
Hard labour's an indifferent go-between;
Your men of business are not apt to express
Much passion, since the merchant-ship, the Argo,
Convey'd Medea as her supercargo.

LXXVII
"Beatus ille procul!" from "negotiis,"
Saith Horace; the great little poet's wrong;
His other maxim, "Noscitur a sociis,"
Is much more to the purpose of his song;
Though even that were sometimes too ferocious,
Unless good company be kept too long;
But, in his teeth, whate'er their state or station,
Thrice happy they who have an occupation!

LXXVIII
Adam exchanged his Paradise for ploughing,
Eve made up millinery with fig leaves --
The earliest knowledge from the tree so knowing,
As far as I know, that the church receives:
And since that time it need not cost much showing,
That many of the ills o'er which man grieves,
And still more women, spring from not employing
Some hours to make the remnant worth enjoying.

LXXIX
And hence high life is oft a dreary void,
A rack of pleasures, where we must invent
A something wherewithal to be annoy'd.
Bards may sing what they please about Content;
Contented, when translated, means but cloy'd;
And hence arise the woes of sentiment,
Blue devils, and blue-stockings, and romances
Reduced to practice, and perform'd like dances.

LXXX
I do declare, upon an affidavit,
Romances I ne'er read like those I have seen;
Nor, if unto the world I ever gave it,
Would some believe that such a tale had been:
But such intent I never had, nor have it;
Some truths are better kept behind a screen,
Especially when they would look like lies;
I therefore deal in generalities.

LXXXI
"An oyster may be cross'd in love" -- and why?
Because he mopeth idly in his shell,
And heaves a lonely subterraqueous sigh,
Much as a monk may do within his cell:
And à-propos of monks, their piety
With sloth hath found it difficult to dwell;
Those vegetables of the Catholic creed
Are apt exceedingly to run to seed.

LXXXII
O Wilberforce! thou man of black renown,
Whose merit none enough can sing or say,
Thou hast struck one immense Colossus down,
Thou moral Washington of Africa!
But there's another little thing, I own,
Which you should perpetrate some summer's day,
And set the other half of earth to rights;
You have freed the blacks -- now pray shut up the whites.

LXXXIII
Shut up the bald-coot bully Alexander!
Ship off the Holy Three to Senegal;
Teach them that "sauce for goose is sauce for gander,"
And ask them how they like to be in thrall?
Shut up each high heroic salamander,
Who eats fire gratis (since the pay's but small);
Shut up -- no, not the King, but the Pavilion,
Or else 't will cost us all another million.

LXXXIV
Shut up the world at large, let Bedlam out;
And you will be perhaps surprised to find
All things pursue exactly the same route,
As now with those of soi-disant sound mind.
This I could prove beyond a single doubt,
Were there a jot of sense among mankind;
But till that point d'appui is found, alas!
Like Archimedes, I leave earth as 't was.

LXXXV
Our gentle Adeline had one defect --
Her heart was vacant, though a splendid mansion;
Her conduct had been perfectly correct,
As she had seen nought claiming its expansion.
A wavering spirit may be easier wreck'd,
Because 't is frailer, doubtless, than a stanch one;
But when the latter works its own undoing,
Its inner crash is like an earthquake's ruin.

LXXXVI
She loved her lord, or thought so; but that love
Cost her an effort, which is a sad toil,
The stone of Sisyphus, if once we move
Our feelings 'gainst the nature of the soil.
She had nothing to complain of, or reprove,
No bickerings, no connubial turmoil:
Their union was a model to behold,
Serene and noble -- conjugal, but cold.

LXXXVII
There was no great disparity of years,
Though much in temper; but they never clash'd:
They moved like stars united in their spheres,
Or like the Rhone by Leman's waters wash'd,
Where mingled and yet separate appears
The river from the lake, all bluely dash'd
Through the serene and placid glassy deep,
Which fain would lull its river-child to sleep.

LXXXVIII
Now when she once had ta'en an interest
In any thing, however she might flatter
Herself that her intentions were the best,
Intense intentions are a dangerous matter:
Impressions were much stronger than she guess'd,
And gather'd as they run like growing water
Upon her mind; the more so, as her breast
Was not at first too readily impress'd.

LXXXIX
But when it was, she had that lurking demon
Of double nature, and thus doubly named --
Firmness yclept in heroes, kings, and seamen,
That is, when they succeed; but greatly blamed
As obstinacy, both in men and women,
Whene'er their triumph pales, or star is tamed: --
And 't will perplex the casuist in morality
To fix the due bounds of this dangerous quality.

XC
Had Buonaparte won at Waterloo,
It had been firmness; now 't is pertinacity:
Must the event decide between the two?
I leave it to your people of sagacity
To draw the line between the false and true,
If such can e'er be drawn by man's capacity:
My business is with Lady Adeline,
Who in her way too was a heroine.

XCI
She knew not her own heart; then how should I?
I think not she was then in love with Juan:
If so, she would have had the strength to fly
The wild sensation, unto her a new one:
She merely felt a common sympathy
(I will not say it was a false or true one)
In him, because she thought he was in danger, --
Her husband's friend, her own, young, and a stranger,

XCII
She was, or thought she was, his friend -- and this
Without the farce of friendship, or romance
Of Platonism, which leads so oft amiss
Ladies who have studied friendship but in France,
Or Germany, where people purely kiss.
To thus much Adeline would not advance;
But of such friendship as man's may to man be
She was as capable as woman can be.

XCIII
No doubt the secret influence of the sex
Will there, as also in the ties of blood,
An innocent predominance annex,
And tune the concord to a finer mood.
If free from passion, which all friendship checks,
And your true feelings fully understood,
No friend like to a woman earth discovers,
So that you have not been nor will be lovers.

XCIV
Love bears within its breast the very germ
Of change; and how should this be otherwise?
That violent things more quickly find a term
Is shown through nature's whole analogies;
And how should the most fierce of all be firm?
Would you have endless lightning in the skies?
Methinks Love's very title says enough:
How should "the tender passion" e'er be tough?

XCV
Alas! by all experience, seldom yet
(I merely quote what I have heard from many)
Had lovers not some reason to regret
The passion which made Solomon a zany.
I've also seen some wives (not to forget
The marriage state, the best or worst of any)
Who were the very paragons of wives,
Yet made the misery of at least two lives.

XCVI
I've also seen some female friends ('t is odd,
But true -- as, if expedient, I could prove)
That faithful were through thick and thin, abroad,
At home, far more than ever yet was Love --
Who did not quit me when Oppression trod
Upon me; whom no scandal could remove;
Who fought, and fight, in absence, too, my battles,
Despite the snake Society's loud rattles.

XCVII
Whether Don Juan and chaste Adeline
Grew friends in this or any other sense,
Will be discuss'd hereafter, I opine:
At present I am glad of a pretence
To leave them hovering, as the effect is fine,
And keeps the atrocious reader in suspense;
The surest way for ladies and for books
To bait their tender, or their tenter, hooks.

XCVIII
Whether they rode, or walk'd, or studied Spanish
To read Don Quixote in the original,
A pleasure before which all others vanish;
Whether their talk was of the kind call'd "small,"
Or serious, are the topics I must banish
To the next Canto; where perhaps I shall
Say something to the purpose, and display
Considerable talent in my way.

XCIX
Above all, I beg all men to forbear
Anticipating aught about the matter:
They'll only make mistakes about the fair,
And Juan too, especially the latter.
And I shall take a much more serious air
Than I have yet done, in this epic satire.
It is not clear that Adeline and Juan
Will fall; but if they do, 't will be their ruin.

C
But great things spring from little -- Would you think,
That in our youth, as dangerous a passion
As e'er brought man and woman to the brink
Of ruin, rose from such a slight occasion,
As few would ever dream could form the link
Of such a sentimental situation?
You'll never guess, I'll bet you millions, milliards --
It all sprung from a harmless game at billiards.

CI
'T is strange -- but true; for truth is always strange;
Stranger than fiction; if it could be told,
How much would novels gain by the exchange!
How differently the world would men behold!
How oft would vice and virtue places change!
The new world would be nothing to the old,
If some Columbus of the moral seas
Would show mankind their souls' antipodes.

CII
What "antres vast and deserts idle" then
Would be discover'd in the human soul!
What icebergs in the hearts of mighty men,
With self-love in the centre as their pole!
What Anthropophagi are nine of ten
Of those who hold the kingdoms in control
Were things but only call'd by their right name,
Cæsar himself would be ashamed of fame.

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The Victories Of Love. Book I

I
From Frederick Graham

Mother, I smile at your alarms!
I own, indeed, my Cousin's charms,
But, like all nursery maladies,
Love is not badly taken twice.
Have you forgotten Charlotte Hayes,
My playmate in the pleasant days
At Knatchley, and her sister, Anne,
The twins, so made on the same plan,
That one wore blue, the other white,
To mark them to their father's sight;
And how, at Knatchley harvesting,
You bade me kiss her in the ring,
Like Anne and all the others? You,
That never of my sickness knew,
Will laugh, yet had I the disease,
And gravely, if the signs are these:

As, ere the Spring has any power,
The almond branch all turns to flower,
Though not a leaf is out, so she
The bloom of life provoked in me;
And, hard till then and selfish, I
Was thenceforth nought but sanctity
And service: life was mere delight
In being wholly good and right,
As she was; just, without a slur;
Honouring myself no less than her;
Obeying, in the loneliest place,
Ev'n to the slightest gesture, grace
Assured that one so fair, so true,
He only served that was so too.
For me, hence weak towards the weak,
No more the unnested blackbird's shriek
Startled the light-leaved wood; on high
Wander'd the gadding butterfly,
Unscared by my flung cap; the bee,
Rifling the hollyhock in glee,
Was no more trapp'd with his own flower,
And for his honey slain. Her power,
From great things even to the grass
Through which the unfenced footways pass,
Was law, and that which keeps the law,
Cherubic gaiety and awe;
Day was her doing, and the lark
Had reason for his song; the dark
In anagram innumerous spelt
Her name with stars that throbb'd and felt;
'Twas the sad summit of delight
To wake and weep for her at night;
She turn'd to triumph or to shame
The strife of every childish game;
The heart would come into my throat
At rosebuds; howsoe'er remote,
In opposition or consent,
Each thing, or person, or event,
Or seeming neutral howsoe'er,
All, in the live, electric air,
Awoke, took aspect, and confess'd
In her a centre of unrest,
Yea, stocks and stones within me bred
Anxieties of joy and dread.

O, bright apocalyptic sky
O'erarching childhood! Far and nigh
Mystery and obscuration none,
Yet nowhere any moon or sun!
What reason for these sighs? What hope,
Daunting with its audacious scope
The disconcerted heart, affects
These ceremonies and respects?
Why stratagems in everything?
Why, why not kiss her in the ring?
'Tis nothing strange that warriors bold,
Whose fierce, forecasting eyes behold
The city they desire to sack,
Humbly begin their proud attack
By delving ditches two miles off,
Aware how the fair place would scoff
At hasty wooing; but, O child,
Why thus approach thy playmate mild?

One morning, when it flush'd my thought
That, what in me such wonder wrought
Was call'd, in men and women, love,
And, sick with vanity thereof,
I, saying loud, ‘I love her,’ told
My secret to myself, behold
A crisis in my mystery!
For, suddenly, I seem'd to be
Whirl'd round, and bound with showers of threads
As when the furious spider sheds
Captivity upon the fly
To still his buzzing till he die;
Only, with me, the bonds that flew,
Enfolding, thrill'd me through and through
With bliss beyond aught heaven can have
And pride to dream myself her slave.

A long, green slip of wilder'd land,
With Knatchley Wood on either hand,
Sunder'd our home from hers. This day
Glad was I as I went her way.
I stretch'd my arms to the sky, and sprang
O'er the elastic sod, and sang
I love her, love her!’ to an air
Which with the words came then and there;
And even now, when I would know
All was not always dull and low,
I mind me awhile of the sweet strain
Love taught me in that lonely lane.

Such glories fade, with no more mark
Than when the sunset dies to dark.
They pass, the rapture and the grace
Ineffable, their only trace
A heart which, having felt no less
Than pure and perfect happiness,
Is duly dainty of delight;
A patient, poignant appetite
For pleasures that exceed so much
The poor things which the world calls such,
That, when these lure it, then you may
The lion with a wisp of hay.

That Charlotte, whom we scarcely knew
From Anne but by her ribbons blue,
Was loved, Anne less than look'd at, shows
That liking still by favour goes!
This Love is a Divinity,
And holds his high election free
Of human merit; or let's say,
A child by ladies call'd to play,
But careless of their becks and wiles,
Till, seeing one who sits and smiles
Like any else, yet only charms,
He cries to come into her arms.
Then, for my Cousins, fear me not!
None ever loved because he ought.
Fatal were else this graceful house,
So full of light from ladies' brows.
There's Mary; Heaven in her appears
Like sunshine through the shower's bright tears;
Mildred's of Earth, yet happier far
Than most men's thoughts of Heaven are;
But, for Honoria, Heaven and Earth
Seal'd amity in her sweet birth.
The noble Girl! With whom she talks
She knights first with her smile; she walks,
Stands, dances, to such sweet effect,
Alone she seems to move erect.
The brightest and the chastest brow
Rules o'er a cheek which seems to show
That love, as a mere vague suspense
Of apprehensive innocence,
Perturbs her heart; love without aim
Or object, like the sunlit flame
That in the Vestals' Temple glow'd,
Without the image of a god.
And this simplicity most pure
She sets off with no less allure
Of culture, subtly skill'd to raise
The power, the pride, and mutual praise
Of human personality
Above the common sort so high,
It makes such homely souls as mine
Marvel how brightly life may shine.
How you would love her! Even in dress
She makes the common mode express
New knowledge of what's fit so well
'Tis virtue gaily visible!
Nay, but her silken sash to me
Were more than all morality,
Had not the old, sweet, feverous ill
Left me the master of my will!

So, Mother, feel at rest, and please
To send my books on board. With these,
When I go hence, all idle hours
Shall help my pleasures and my powers.
I've time, you know, to fill my post,
And yet make up for schooling lost
Through young sea-service. They all speak
German with ease; and this, with Greek,
(Which Dr. Churchill thought I knew,)
And history, which I fail'd in too,
Will stop a gap I somewhat dread,
After the happy life I've led
With these my friends; and sweet 'twill be
To abridge the space from them to me.


II
From Mrs. Graham

My Child, Honoria Churchill sways
A double power through Charlotte Hayes.
In minds to first-love's memory pledged
The second Cupid's born full-fledged.
I saw, and trembled for the day
When you should see her beauty, gay
And pure as apple-blooms, that show
Outside a blush and inside snow,
Her high and touching elegance
Of order'd life as free as chance.
Ah, haste from her bewitching side,
No friend for you, far less a bride!
But, warning from a hope so wild,
I wrong you. Yet this know, my Child:
He that but once too nearly hears
The music of forefended spheres,
Is thenceforth lonely, and for all
His days like one who treads the Wall
Of China, and, on this hand, sees
Cities and their civilities,
And, on the other, lions. Well,
(Your rash reply I thus foretell,)
Good is the knowledge of what's fair,
Though bought with temporal despair!
Yes, good for one, but not for two.
Will it content a wife that you
Should pine for love, in love's embrace,
Through having known a happier grace;
And break with inward sighs your rest,
Because, though good, she's not the best?
You would, you think, be just and kind,
And keep your counsel! You will find
You cannot such a secret keep;
'Twill out, like murder, in your sleep;
A touch will tell it, though, for pride,
She may her bitter knowledge hide;
And, while she accepts love's make-believe,
You'll twice despise what you'd deceive.

I send the books. Dear Child, adieu!
Tell me of all you are and do.
I know, thank God, whate'er it be,
'Twill need no veil 'twixt you and me.


III
From Frederick

The multitude of voices blythe
Of early day, the hissing scythe
Across the dew drawn and withdrawn,
The noisy peacock on the lawn,
These, and the sun's eye-gladding gleam,
This morning, chased the sweetest dream
That e'er shed penitential grace
On life's forgetful commonplace;
Yet 'twas no sweeter than the spell
To which I woke to say farewell.

Noon finds me many a mile removed
From her who must not be beloved;
And us the waste sea soon shall part,
Heaving for aye, without a heart!
Mother, what need to warn me so?
I love Miss Churchill? Ah, no, no.
I view, enchanted, from afar,
And love her as I love a star,
For, not to speak of colder fear,
Which keeps my fancy calm, I hear,
Under her life's gay progress hurl'd,
The wheels of the preponderant world,
Set sharp with swords that fool to slay
Who blunders from a poor byway,
To covet beauty with a crown
Of earthly blessing added on;
And she's so much, it seems to me,
Beyond all women womanly,
I dread to think how he should fare
Who came so near as to despair.


IV
From Frederick

Yonder the sombre vessel rides
Where my obscure condition hides.
Waves scud to shore against the wind
That flings the sprinkling surf behind;
In port the bickering pennons show
Which way the ships would gladly go;
Through Edgecumb Park the rooted trees
Are tossing, reckless, in the breeze;
On top of Edgecumb's firm-set tower,
As foils, not foibles, of its power,
The light vanes do themselves adjust
To every veering of the gust:
By me alone may nought be given
To guidance of the airs of heaven?
In battle or peace, in calm or storm,
Should I my daily task perform,
Better a thousand times for love,
Who should my secret soul reprove?

Beholding one like her, a man
Longs to lay down his life! How can
Aught to itself seem thus enough,
When I have so much need thereof?
Blest in her place, blissful is she;
And I, departing, seem to be
Like the strange waif that comes to run
A few days flaming near the sun,
And carries back, through boundless night,
Its lessening memory of light.

Oh, my dear Mother, I confess
To a deep grief of homelessness,
Unfelt, save once, before. 'Tis years
Since such a shower of girlish tears
Disgraced me? But this wretched Inn,
At Plymouth, is so full of din,
Talkings and trampings to and fro.
And then my ship, to which I go
To-night, is no more home. I dread,
As strange, the life I long have led;
And as, when first I went to school,
And found the horror of a rule
Which only ask'd to be obey'd,
I lay and wept, of dawn afraid,
And thought, with bursting heart, of one
Who, from her little, wayward son,
Required obedience, but above
Obedience still regarded love,
So change I that enchanting place,
The abode of innocence and grace
And gaiety without reproof,
For the black gun-deck's louring roof,
Blind and inevitable law
Which makes light duties burdens, awe
Which is not reverence, laughters gain'd
At cost of purities profaned,
And whatsoever most may stir
Remorseful passion towards her,
Whom to behold is to depart
From all defect of life and heart.

But, Mother, I shall go on shore,
And see my Cousin yet once more!
'Twere wild to hope for her, you say.
l've torn and cast those words away.
Surely there's hope! For life 'tis well
Love without hope's impossible;
So, if I love, it is that hope
Is not outside the outer scope
Of fancy. You speak truth: this hour
I must resist, or lose the power.
What! and, when some short months are o'er,
Be not much other than before?
Drop from the bright and virtuous sphere
In which I'm held but while she's dear?
For daily life's dull, senseless mood,
Slay the fine nerves of gratitude
And sweet allegiance, which I owe
Whether the debt be weal or woe?
Nay, Mother, I, forewarn'd, prefer
To want for all in wanting her.

For all? Love's best is not bereft
Ever from him to whom is left
The trust that God will not deceive
His creature, fashion'd to believe
The prophecies of pure desire.
Not loss, not death, my love shall tire.
A mystery does my heart foretell;
Nor do I press the oracle
For explanations. Leave me alone,
And let in me love's will be done.


V
From Frederick

Fashion'd by Heaven and by art
So is she, that she makes the heart
Ache and o'erflow with tears, that grace
So lovely fair should have for place,
(Deeming itself at home the while,)
The unworthy earth! To see her smile
Amid this waste of pain and sin,
As only knowing the heaven within,
Is sweet, and does for pity stir
Passion to be her minister:
Wherefore last night I lay awake,
And said, ‘Ah, Lord, for Thy love's sake,
Give not this darling child of Thine
To care less reverent than mine!’
And, as true faith was in my word,
I trust, I trust that I was heard.

The waves, this morning, sped to land,
And shouted hoarse to touch the strand,
Where Spring, that goes not out to sea,
Lay laughing in her lovely glee;
And, so, my life was sunlit spray
And tumult, as, once more to-day,
For long farewell did I draw near
My Cousin, desperately dear.
Faint, fierce, the truth that hope was none
Gleam'd like the lightning in the sun;
Yet hope I had, and joy thereof.
The father of love is hope, (though love
Lives orphan'd on, when hope is dead,)
And, out of my immediate dread
And crisis of the coming hour,
Did hope itself draw sudden power.
So the still brooding storm, in Spring,
Makes all the birds begin to sing.

Mother, your foresight did not err:
I've lost the world, and not won her.
And yet, ah, laugh not, when you think
What cup of life I sought to drink!
The bold, said I, have climb'd to bliss
Absurd, impossible, as this,
With nought to help them but so great
A heart it fascinates their fate.
If ever Heaven heard man's desire,
Mine, being made of altar-fire,
Must come to pass, and it will be
That she will wait, when she shall see,
This evening, how I go to get,
By means unknown, I know not yet
Quite what, but ground whereon to stand,
And plead more plainly for her hand!

And so I raved, and cast in hope
A superstitious horoscope!
And still, though something in her face
Portended ‘No!’ with such a grace
It burthen'd me with thankfulness,
Nothing was credible but ‘Yes.’
Therefore, through time's close pressure bold,
I praised myself, and boastful told
My deeds at Acre; strain'd the chance
I had of honour and advance
In war to come; and would not see
Sad silence meant, ‘What's this to me.’

When half my precious hour was gone,
She rose to greet a Mr. Vaughan;
And, as the image of the moon
Breaks up, within some still lagoon
That feels the soft wind suddenly,
Or tide fresh flowing from the sea,
And turns to giddy flames that go
Over the water to and fro,
Thus, when he took her hand to-night,
Her lovely gravity of light
Was scatter'd into many smiles
And flattering weakness. Hope beguiles
No more my heart, dear Mother. He,
By jealous looks, o'erhonour'd me.

With nought to do, and fondly fain
To hear her singing once again,
I stay'd, and turn'd her music o'er;
Then came she with me to the door.
‘Dearest Honoria,’ I said,
(By my despair familiar made,)
‘Heaven bless you!’ Oh, to have back then stepp'd
And fallen upon her neck, and wept,
And said, ‘My friend, I owe you all
I am, and have, and hope for. Call
‘For some poor service; let me prove
To you, or him here whom you love,
My duty. Any solemn task,
‘For life's whole course, is all I ask!’
Then she must surely have wept too,
And said, ‘My friend, what can you do!’
And I should have replied, ‘I'll pray
‘For you and him three times a-day,
And, all day, morning, noon, and night,
My life shall be so high and right
‘That never Saint yet scaled the stairs
‘Of heaven with more availing prayers!’
But this (and, as good God shall bless
Somehow my end, I'll do no less,)
I had no right to speak. Oh, shame,
So rich a love, so poor a claim!

My Mother, now my only friend,
Farewell. The school-books which you send
I shall not want, and so return.
Give them away, or sell, or burn.
I'll write from Malta. Would I might
But be your little Child to-night,
And feel your arms about me fold,
Against this loneliness and cold!


VI
From Mrs. Graham

The folly of young girls! They doff
Their pride to smooth success, and scoff
At far more noble fire and might
That woo them from the dust of fight!

But, Frederick, now the storm is past,
Your sky should not remain o'ercast.
A sea-life's dull, and, oh, beware
Of nourishing, for zest, despair.
My Child, remember, you have twice
Heartily loved; then why not thrice,
Or ten times? But a wise man shuns
To cry ‘All's over,’ more than once.
I'll not say that a young man's soul
Is scarcely measure of the whole
Earthly and heavenly universe,
To which he inveterately prefers
The one beloved woman. Best
Speak to the senses' interest,
Which brooks no mystery nor delay:
Frankly reflect, my Son, and say,
Was there no secret hour, of those
Pass'd at her side in Sarum Close,
When, to your spirit's sick alarm,
It seem'd that all her marvellous charm
Was marvellously fled? Her grace
Of voice, adornment, movement, face
Was what already heart and eye
Had ponder'd to satiety;
And so the good of life was o'er,
Until some laugh not heard before,
Some novel fashion in her hair,
Or style of putting back her chair,
Restored the heavens. Gather thence
The loss-consoling inference.

Yet blame not beauty, which beguiles,
With lovely motions and sweet smiles,
Which while they please us pass away,
The spirit to lofty thoughts that stay
And lift the whole of after-life,
Unless you take the vision to wife,
Which then seems lost, or serves to slake
Desire, as when a lovely lake
Far off scarce fills the exulting eye
Of one athirst, who comes thereby,
And inappreciably sips
The deep, with disappointed lips.
To fail is sorrow, yet confess
That love pays dearly for success!
No blame to beauty! Let's complain
Of the heart, which can so ill sustain
Delight. Our griefs declare our fall,
But how much more our joys! They pall
With plucking, and celestial mirth
Can find no footing on the earth,
More than the bird of paradise,
Which only lives the while it flies.

Think, also, how 'twould suit your pride
To have this woman for a bride.
Whate'er her faults, she's one of those
To whom the world's last polish owes
A novel grace, which all who aspire
To courtliest custom must acquire.
The world's the sphere she's made to charm,
Which you have shunn'd as if 'twere harm.
Oh, law perverse, that loneliness
Breeds love, society success!
Though young, 'twere now o'er late in life
To train yourself for such a wife;
So she would suit herself to you,
As women, when they marry, do.
For, since 'tis for our dignity
Our lords should sit like lords on high,
We willingly deteriorate
To a step below our rulers' state;
And 'tis the commonest of things
To see an angel, gay with wings,
Lean weakly on a mortal's arm!
Honoria would put off the charm
Of lofty grace that caught your love,
For fear you should not seem above
Herself in fashion and degree,
As in true merit. Thus, you see,
'Twere little kindness, wisdom none,
To light your cot with such a sun.


VII
From Frederick

Write not, my Mother, her dear name
With the least word or hint of blame.
Who else shall discommend her choice,
I giving it my hearty voice?
Wed me? Ah, never near her come
The knowledge of the narrow home!
Far fly from her dear face, that shows
The sunshine lovelier than the rose,
The sordid gravity they wear
Who poverty's base burthen bear!
(And all are poor who come to miss
Their custom, though a crown be this.)
My hope was, that the wheels of fate,
For my exceeding need, might wait,
And she, unseen amidst all eyes,
Move sightless, till I sought the prize,
With honour, in an equal field.
But then came Vaughan, to whom I yield
With grace as much as any man,
In such cause, to another can.
Had she been mine, it seems to me
That I had that integrity
And only joy in her delight—
But each is his own favourite
In love! The thought to bring me rest
Is that of us she takes the best.

'Twas but to see him to be sure
That choice for her remain'd no more!
His brow, so gaily clear of craft;
His wit, the timely truth that laugh'd
To find itself so well express'd;
His words, abundant yet the best;
His spirit, of such handsome show
You mark'd not that his looks were so;
His bearing, prospects, birth, all these
Might well, with small suit, greatly please;
How greatly, when she saw arise
The reflex sweetness of her eyes
In his, and every breath defer
Humbly its bated life to her;
Whilst power and kindness of command,
Which women can no more withstand
Than we their grace, were still unquell'd,
And force and flattery both compell'd
Her softness! Say I'm worthy. I
Grew, in her presence, cold and shy.
It awed me, as an angel's might
In raiment of reproachful light.
Her gay looks told my sombre mood
That what's not happy is not good;
And, just because 'twas life to please,
Death to repel her, truth and ease
Deserted me; I strove to talk,
And stammer'd foolishness; my walk
Was like a drunkard's; if she took
My arm, it stiffen'd, ached, and shook:
A likely wooer! Blame her not;
Nor ever say, dear Mother, aught
Against that perfectness which is
My strength, as once it was my bliss.

And do not chafe at social rules.
Leave that to charlatans and fools.
Clay graffs and clods conceive the rose,
So base still fathers best. Life owes
Itself to bread; enough thereof
And easy days condition love;
And, kindly train'd, love's roses thrive,
No more pale, scentless petals five,
Which moisten the considerate eye
To see what haste they make to die,
But heavens of colour and perfume,
Which, month by month, renew the bloom
Of art-born graces, when the year
In all the natural grove is sere.

Blame nought then! Bright let be the air
About my lonely cloud of care.


VIII
From Frederick

Religion, duty, books, work, friends,—
'Tis good advice, but there it ends.
I'm sick for what these have not got.
Send no more books: they help me not;
I do my work: the void's there still
Which carefullest duty cannot fill.
What though the inaugural hour of right
Comes ever with a keen delight?
Little relieves the labour's heat;
Disgust oft crowns it when complete;
And life, in fact, is not less dull
For being very dutiful.
The stately homes of England,’ lo,
‘How beautiful they stand!’ They owe
How much to nameless things like me
Their beauty of security!
But who can long a low toil mend
By looking to a lofty end?
And let me, since 'tis truth, confess
The void's not fill'd by godliness.
God is a tower without a stair,
And His perfection, love's despair.
'Tis He shall judge me when I die;
He suckles with the hissing fly
The spider; gazes calmly down,
Whilst rapine grips the helpless town.
His vast love holds all this and more.
In consternation I adore.
Nor can I ease this aching gulf
With friends, the pictures of myself.

Then marvel not that I recur
From each and all of these to her.
For more of heaven than her have I
No sensitive capacity.
Had I but her, ah, what the gain
Of owning aught but that domain!
Nay, heaven's extent, however much,
Cannot be more than many such;
And, she being mine, should God to me
Say ‘Lo! my Child, I give to thee
All heaven besides,’ what could I then,
But, as a child, to Him complain
That whereas my dear Father gave
A little space for me to have
In His great garden, now, o'erblest,
I've that, indeed, but all the rest,
Which, somehow, makes it seem I've got
All but my only cared-for plot.
Enough was that for my weak hand
To tend, my heart to understand.

Oh, the sick fact, 'twixt her and me
There's naught, and half a world of sea.


IX
From Frederick

In two, in less than two hours more
I set my foot on English shore,
Two years untrod, and, strange to tell,
Nigh miss'd through last night's storm! There fell
A man from the shrouds, that roar'd to quench
Even the billows' blast and drench.
Besides me none was near to mark
His loud cry in the louder dark,
Dark, save when lightning show'd the deeps
Standing about in stony heaps.
No time for choice! A rope; a flash
That flamed as he rose; a dizzy splash;
A strange, inopportune delight
Of mounting with the billowy might,
And falling, with a thrill again
Of pleasure shot from feet to brain;
And both paced deck, ere any knew
Our peril. Round us press'd the crew,
With wonder in the eyes of most.
As if the man who had loved and lost
Honoria dared no more than that!

My days have else been stale and flat.
This life's at best, if justly scann'd,
A tedious walk by the other's strand,
With, here and there cast up, a piece
Of coral or of ambergris,
Which, boasted of abroad, we ignore
The burden of the barren shore.
I seldom write, for 'twould be still
Of how the nerves refuse to thrill;
How, throughout doubly-darken'd days,
I cannot recollect her face;
How to my heart her name to tell
Is beating on a broken bell;
And, to fill up the abhorrent gulf,
Scarce loving her, I hate myself.

Yet, latterly, with strange delight,
Rich tides have risen in the night,
And sweet dreams chased the fancies dense
Of waking life's dull somnolence.
I see her as I knew her, grace
Already glory in her face;
I move about, I cannot rest,
For the proud brain and joyful breast
I have of her. Or else I float,
The pilot of an idle boat,
Alone, alone with sky and sea,
And her, the third simplicity.
Or Mildred, to some question, cries,
(Her merry meaning in her eyes,)
The Ball, oh, Frederick will go;
‘Honoria will be there!’ and, lo,
As moisture sweet my seeing blurs
To hear my name so link'd with hers,
A mirror joins, by guilty chance,
Either's averted, watchful glance!
Or with me, in the Ball-Room's blaze,
Her brilliant mildness thrids the maze;
Our thoughts are lovely, and each word
Is music in the music heard,
And all things seem but parts to be
Of one persistent harmony.
By which I'm made divinely bold;
The secret, which she knows, is told;
And, laughing with a lofty bliss
Of innocent accord, we kiss;
About her neck my pleasure weeps;
Against my lip the silk vein leaps;
Then says an Angel, ‘Day or night,
If yours you seek, not her delight,
‘Although by some strange witchery
‘It seems you kiss her, 'tis not she;
‘But, whilst you languish at the side
‘Of a fair-foul phantasmal bride,
‘Surely a dragon and strong tower
‘Guard the true lady in her bower.’
And I say, ‘Dear my Lord, Amen!’
And the true lady kiss again.
Or else some wasteful malady
Devours her shape and dims her eye;
No charms are left, where all were rife,
Except her voice, which is her life,
Wherewith she, for her foolish fear,
Says trembling, ‘Do you love me, Dear?’
And I reply, ‘Sweetest, I vow
I never loved but half till now.’
She turns her face to the wall at this,
And says, ‘Go, Love, 'tis too much bliss.’
And then a sudden pulse is sent
About the sounding firmament
In smitings as of silver bars;
The bright disorder of the stars
Is solved by music; far and near,
Through infinite distinctions clear,
Their twofold voices' deeper tone
Utters the Name which all things own,
And each ecstatic treble dwells
On one whereof none other tells;
And we, sublimed to song and fire,
Take order in the wheeling quire,
Till from the throbbing sphere I start,
Waked by the heaving of my heart.

Such dreams as these come night by night,
Disturbing day with their delight.
Portend they nothing? Who can tell!
God yet may do some miracle.
'Tis nigh two years, and she's not wed,
Or you would know! He may be dead,
Or mad, and loving some one else,
And she, much moved that nothing quells
My constancy, or, simply wroth
With such a wretch, accept my troth
To spite him; or her beauty's gone,
(And that's my dream!) and this man Vaughan
Takes her release: or tongues malign,
Confusing every ear but mine,
Have smirch'd her: ah, 'twould move her, sure,
To find I loved her all the more!
Nay, now I think, haply amiss
I read her words and looks, and his,
That night! Did not his jealousy
Show—Good my God, and can it be
That I, a modest fool, all blest,
Nothing of such a heaven guess'd?
Oh, chance too frail, yet frantic sweet,
To-morrow sees me at her feet!

Yonder, at last, the glad sea roars
Along the sacred English shores!
There lies the lovely land I know,
Where men and women lordliest grow;
There peep the roofs where more than kings
Postpone state cares to country things,
And many a gay queen simply tends
The babes on whom the world depends;
There curls the wanton cottage smoke
Of him that drives but bears no yoke;
There laughs the realm where low and high
Are lieges to society.
And life has all too wide a scope,
Too free a prospect for its hope,
For any private good or ill,
Except dishonour, quite to fill!
—Mother, since this was penn'd, I've read
That ‘Mr. Vaughan, on Tuesday, wed
The beautiful Miss Churchill.’ So
That's over; and to-morrow I go
To take up my new post on board
The ‘Wolf,’ my peace at last restored;
My lonely faith, like heart-of-oak,
Shock-season'd. Grief is now the cloak
I clasp about me to prevent
The deadly chill of a content
With any near or distant good,
Except the exact beatitude
Which love has shown to my desire.
Talk not of ‘other joys and higher,’
I hate and disavow all bliss
As none for me which is not this.
Think not I blasphemously cope
With God's decrees, and cast off hope.
How, when, and where can mine succeed?
I'll trust He knows who made my need.

Baseness of men! Pursuit being o'er,
Doubtless her Husband feels no more
The heaven of heavens of such a Bride,
But, lounging, lets her please his pride
With fondness, guerdons her caress
With little names, and turns a tress
Round idle fingers. If 'tis so,
Why then I'm happier of the two!
Better, for lofty loss, high pain,
Than low content with lofty gain.
Poor, foolish Dove, to trust from me
Her happiness and dignity!


X
From Frederick

I thought the worst had brought me balm:
'Twas but the tempest's central calm.
Vague sinkings of the heart aver
That dreadful wrong is come to her,
And o'er this dream I brood and dote,
And learn its agonies by rote.
As if I loved it, early and late
I make familiar with my fate,
And feed, with fascinated will,
On very dregs of finish'd ill.
I think, she's near him now, alone,
With wardship and protection none;
Alone, perhaps, in the hindering stress
Of airs that clasp him with her dress,
They wander whispering by the wave;
And haply now, in some sea-cave,
Where the ribb'd sand is rarely trod,
They laugh, they kiss. Oh, God! oh, God!
There comes a smile acutely sweet
Out of the picturing dark; I meet
The ancient frankness of her gaze,
That soft and heart-surprising blaze
Of great goodwill and innocence,
And perfect joy proceeding thence!
Ah! made for earth's delight, yet such
The mid-sea air's too gross to touch.
At thought of which, the soul in me
Is as the bird that bites a bee,
And darts abroad on frantic wing,
Tasting the honey and the sting;
And, moaning where all round me sleep
Amidst the moaning of the deep,
I start at midnight from my bed
And have no right to strike him dead.

What world is this that I am in,
Where chance turns sanctity to sin!
'Tis crime henceforward to desire
The only good; the sacred fire
That sunn'd the universe is hell!
I hear a Voice which argues well:
The Heaven hard has scorn'd your cry;
‘Fall down and worship me, and I
Will give you peace; go and profane
‘This pangful love, so pure, so vain,
And thereby win forgetfulness
And pardon of the spirit's excess,
‘Which soar'd too nigh that jealous Heaven
‘Ever, save thus, to be forgiven.
‘No Gospel has come down that cures
With better gain a loss like yours.
‘Be pious! Give the beggar pelf,
And love your neighbour as yourself!
You, who yet love, though all is o'er,
And she'll ne'er be your neighbour more,
With soul which can in pity smile
‘That aught with such a measure vile
‘As self should be at all named 'love!'
‘Your sanctity the priests reprove;
‘Your case of grief they wholly miss;
The Man of Sorrows names not this.
The years, they say, graff love divine
‘On the lopp'd stock of love like thine;
The wild tree dies not, but converts.
‘So be it; but the lopping hurts,
The graff takes tardily! Men stanch
‘Meantime with earth the bleeding branch,
‘There's nothing heals one woman's loss,
And lighten's life's eternal cross
With intermission of sound rest,
‘Like lying in another's breast.
The cure is, to your thinking, low!
‘Is not life all, henceforward, so?’

Ill Voice, at least thou calm'st my mood.
I'll sleep! But, as I thus conclude,
The intrusions of her grace dispel
The comfortable glooms of hell.

A wonder! Ere these lines were dried,
Vaughan and my Love, his three-days' Bride,
Became my guests. I look'd, and, lo,
In beauty soft as is the snow
And powerful as the avalanche,
She lit the deck. The Heav'n-sent chance!
She smiled, surprised. They came to see
The ship, not thinking to meet me.

At infinite distance she's my day:
What then to him? Howbeit they say
'Tis not so sunny in the sun
But men might live cool lives thereon!

All's well; for I have seen arise
That reflex sweetness of her eyes
In his, and watch'd his breath defer
Humbly its bated life to her,
His wife. My Love, she's safe in his
Devotion! What ask'd I but this?

They bade adieu; I saw them go
Across the sea; and now I know
The ultimate hope I rested on,
The hope beyond the grave, is gone,
The hope that, in the heavens high,
At last it should appear that I
Loved most, and so, by claim divine,
Should have her, in the heavens, for mine,
According to such nuptial sort
As may subsist in the holy court,
Where, if there are all kinds of joys
To exhaust the multitude of choice
In many mansions, then there are
Loves personal and particular,
Conspicuous in the glorious sky
Of universal charity,
As Phosphor in the sunrise. Now
I've seen them, I believe their vow
Immortal; and the dreadful thought,
That he less honour'd than he ought
Her sanctity, is laid to rest,
And, blessing them, I too am blest.
My goodwill, as a springing air,
Unclouds a beauty in despair;
I stand beneath the sky's pure cope
Unburthen'd even by a hope;
And peace unspeakable, a joy
Which hope would deaden and destroy,
Like sunshine fills the airy gulf
Left by the vanishing of self.
That I have known her; that she moves
Somewhere all-graceful; that she loves,
And is belov'd, and that she's so
Most happy, and to heaven will go,
Where I may meet with her, (yet this
I count but accidental bliss,)
And that the full, celestial weal
Of all shall sensitively feel
The partnership and work of each,
And thus my love and labour reach
Her region, there the more to bless
Her last, consummate happiness,
Is guerdon up to the degree
Of that alone true loyalty
Which, sacrificing, is not nice
About the terms of sacrifice,
But offers all, with smiles that say,
'Tis little, but it is for aye!


XI
From Mrs. Graham

You wanted her, my Son, for wife,
With the fierce need of life in life.
That nobler passion of an hour
Was rather prophecy than power;
And nature, from such stress unbent,
Recurs to deep discouragement.
Trust not such peace yet; easy breath,
In hot diseases, argues death;
And tastelessness within the mouth
Worse fever shows than heat or drouth.
Wherefore take, Frederick, timely fear
Against a different danger near:
Wed not one woman, oh, my Child,
Because another has not smiled!
Oft, with a disappointed man,
The first who cares to win him can;
For, after love's heroic strain,
Which tired the heart and brought no gain,
He feels consoled, relieved, and eased
To meet with her who can be pleased
To proffer kindness, and compute
His acquiescence for pursuit;
Who troubles not his lonely mood;
And asks for love mere gratitude.
Ah, desperate folly! Yet, we know,
Who wed through love wed mostly so.

At least, my Son, when wed you do,
See that the woman equals you,
Nor rush, from having loved too high,
Into a worse humility.
A poor estate's a foolish plea
For marrying to a base degree.
A woman grown cannot be train'd,
Or, if she could, no love were gain'd;
For, never was a man's heart caught
By graces he himself had taught.
And fancy not 'tis in the might
Of man to do without delight;
For, should you in her nothing find
To exhilarate the higher mind,
Your soul would deaden useless wings
With wickedness of lawful things,
And vampire pleasure swift destroy
Even the memory of joy.
So let no man, in desperate mood,
Wed a dull girl because she's good.
All virtues in his wife soon dim,
Except the power of pleasing him,
Which may small virtue be, or none!

I know my just and tender Son,
To whom the dangerous grace is given
That scorns a good which is not heaven;
My Child, who used to sit and sigh
Under the bright, ideal sky,
And pass, to spare the farmer's wheat,
The poppy and the meadow-sweet!
He would not let his wife's heart ache
For what was mainly his mistake;
But, having err'd so, all his force
Would fix upon the hard, right course.

She's graceless, say, yet good and true,
And therefore inly fair, and, through
The veils which inward beauty fold,
Faith can her loveliness behold.
Ah, that's soon tired; faith falls away
Without the ceremonial stay
Of outward loveliness and awe.
The weightier matters of the law
She pays: mere mint and cumin not;
And, in the road that she was taught,
She treads, and takes for granted still
Nature's immedicable ill;
So never wears within her eyes
A false report of paradise,
Nor ever modulates her mirth
With vain compassion of the earth,
Which made a certain happier face
Affecting, and a gayer grace
With pathos delicately edged!
Yet, though she be not privileged
To unlock for you your heart's delight,
(Her keys being gold, but not the right,)
On lower levels she may do!
Her joy is more in loving you
Than being loved, and she commands
All tenderness she understands.
It is but when you proffer more
The yoke weighs heavy and chafes sore.
It's weary work enforcing love
On one who has enough thereof,
And honour on the lowlihead
Of ignorance! Besides, you dread,
In Leah's arms, to meet the eyes
Of Rachel, somewhere in the skies,
And both return, alike relieved,
To life less loftily conceived.
Alas, alas!

Then wait the mood
In which a woman may be woo'd
Whose thoughts and habits are too high
For honour to be flattery,
And who would surely not allow
The suit that you could proffer now.
Her equal yoke would sit with ease;
It might, with wearing, even please,
(Not with a better word to move
The loyal wrath of present love);
She would not mope when you were gay,
For want of knowing aught to say;
Nor vex you with unhandsome waste
Of thoughts ill-timed and words ill-placed;
Nor reckon small things duties small,
And your fine sense fantastical;
Nor would she bring you up a brood
Of strangers bound to you by blood,
Boys of a meaner moral race,
Girls with their mother's evil grace,
But not her chance to sometimes find
Her critic past his judgment kind;
Nor, unaccustom'd to respect,
Which men, where 'tis not claim'd, neglect,
Confirm you selfish and morose,
And slowly, by contagion, gross;
But, glad and able to receive
The honour you would long to give,
Would hasten on to justify
Expectancy, however high,
Whilst you would happily incur
Compulsion to keep up with her.


XII
From Frederick

Your letter, Mother, bears the date
Of six months back, and comes too late.
My Love, past all conceiving lost,
A change seem'd good, at any cost,
From lonely, stupid, silent grief,
Vain, objectless, beyond relief,
And, like a sea-fog, settled dense
On fancy, feeling, thought, and sense.
I grew so idle, so despised
Myself, my powers, by Her unprized,
Honouring my post, but nothing more,
And lying, when I lived on shore,
So late of mornings: weak tears stream'd
For such slight cause,—if only gleam'd,
Remotely, beautifully bright,
On clouded eves at sea, the light
Of English headlands in the sun,—
That soon I deem'd 'twere better done
To lay this poor, complaining wraith
Of unreciprocated faith:
And so, with heart still bleeding quick,
But strengthen'd by the comfort sick
Of knowing that She could not care,
I turn'd away from my despair,
And told our chaplain's daughter, Jane,—
A dear, good girl, who saw my pain,
And look'd as if she pitied me,—
How glad and thankful I should be
If some kind woman, not above
Myself in rank, would give her love
To one that knew not how to woo.
Whereat she, without more ado,
Blush'd, spoke of love return'd, and closed
With what she thought I had proposed.

And, trust me, Mother, I and Jane,
We suit each other well. My gain
Is very great in this good Wife,
To whom I'm bound, for natural life,
By hearty faith, yet crossing not
My faith towards—I know not what!
As to the ether is the air,
Is her good to Honoria's fair;
One place is full of both, yet each
Lies quite beyond the other's reach
And recognition.

If you say,
Am I contented? Yea and nay!
For what's base but content to grow
With less good than the best we know?
But think me not from life withdrawn,
By passion for a hope that's gone,
So far as to forget how much
A woman is, as merely such,
To man's affection. What is best,
In each, belongs to all the rest;
And though, in marriage, quite to kiss
And half to love the custom is,
'Tis such dishonour, ruin bare,
The soul's interior despair,
And life between two troubles toss'd,
To me, who think not with the most;
Whatever 'twould have been, before
My Cousin's time, 'tis now so sore
A treason to the abiding throne
Of that sweet love which I have known,
I cannot live so, and I bend
My mind perforce to comprehend
That He who gives command to love
Does not require a thing above
The strength He gives. The highest degree
Of the hardest grace, humility;
The step t'ward heaven the latest trod,
And that which makes us most like God,
And us much more than God behoves,
Is, to be humble in our loves.
Henceforth for ever therefore I
Renounce all partiality
Of passion. Subject to control
Of that perspective of the soul
Which God Himself pronounces good,
Confirming claims of neighbourhood,
And giving man, for earthly life,
The closest neighbour in a wife,
I'll serve all. Jane be much more dear
Than all as she is much more near!
I'll love her! Yea, and love's joy comes
Ever from self-love's martyrdoms!

Yet, not to lie for God, 'tis true
That 'twas another joy I knew
When freighted was my heart with fire
Of fond, irrational desire
For fascinating, female charms,
And hopeless heaven in Her mild arms.
Nor wrong I any, if I profess
That care for heaven with me were less
But that I'm utterly imbued
With faith of all Earth's hope renew'd
In realms where no short-coming pains
Expectance, and dear love disdains
Time's treason, and the gathering dross,
And lasts for ever in the gloss
Of newness.

All the bright past seems,
Now, but a splendour in my dreams,
Which shows, albeit the dreamer wakes,
The standard of right life. Life aches
To be therewith conform'd; but, oh,
The world's so stolid, dark, and low!
That and the mortal element
Forbid the beautiful intent,
And, like the unborn butterfly,
It feels the wings, and wants the sky.

But perilous is the lofty mood
Which cannot yoke with lowly good.
Right life, for me, is life that wends
By lowly ways to lofty ends.
I well perceive, at length, that haste
T'ward heaven itself is only waste;
And thus I dread the impatient spur
Of aught that speaks too plain of Her.
There's little here that story tells;
But music talks of nothing else.
Therefore, when music breathes, I say,
(And urge my task,) Away, away!
Thou art the voice of one I knew,
But what thou say'st is not yet true;
Thou art the voice of her I loved,
And I would not be vainly moved.

So that which did from death set free
All things, now dons death's mockery,
And takes its place with things that are
But little noted. Do not mar
For me your peace! My health is high.
The proud possession of mine eye
Departed, I am much like one
Who had by haughty custom grown
To think gilt rooms, and spacious grounds,
Horses, and carriages, and hounds,
Fine linen, and an eider bed
As much his need as daily bread,
And honour of men as much or more.
Till, strange misfortune smiting sore,
His pride all goes to pay his debts,
A lodging anywhere he gets,
And takes his family thereto
Weeping, and other relics few,
Allow'd, by them that seize his pelf,
As precious only to himself.
Yet the sun shines; the country green
Has many riches, poorly seen
From blazon'd coaches; grace at meat
Goes well with thrift in what they eat;
And there's amends for much bereft
In better thanks for much that's left!

Jane is not fair, yet pleases well
The eye in which no others dwell;
And features somewhat plainly set,
And homely manners leave her yet
The crowning boon and most express
Of Heaven's inventive tenderness,
A woman. But I do her wrong,
Letting the world's eyes guide my tongue!
She has a handsomeness that pays
No homage to the hourly gaze,
And dwells not on the arch'd brow's height
And lids which softly lodge the light,
Nor in the pure field of the cheek
Flow'rs, though the soul be still to seek;
But shows as fits that solemn place
Whereof the window is the face:
Blankness and leaden outlines mark
What time the Church within is dark;
Yet view it on a Festal night,
Or some occasion else for light,
And each ungainly line is seen
A special character to mean
Of Saint or Prophet, and the whole
Blank window is a living scroll.

For hours, the clock upon the shelf,
Has all the talking to itself;
But to and fro her needle runs
Twice, while the clock is ticking once;
And, when a wife is well in reach,
Not silence separates, but speech;
And I, contented, read, or smoke,
And idly think, or idly stroke
The winking cat, or watch the fire,
In social peace that does not tire;
Until, at easeful end of day,
She moves, and puts her work away,
And, saying ‘How cold 'tis,’ or ‘How warm,’
Or something else as little harm,
Comes, used to finding, kindly press'd,
A woman's welcome to my breast,
With all the great advantage clear
Of none else having been so near.

But sometimes, (how shall I deny!)
There falls, with her thus fondly by,
Dejection, and a chilling shade.
Remember'd pleasures, as they fade,
Salute me, and colossal grow,
Like foot-prints in the thawing snow.
I feel oppress'd beyond my force
With foolish envy and remorse.
I love this woman, but I might
Have loved some else with more delight;
And strange it seems of God that He
Should make a vain capacity.

Such times of ignorant relapse,
'Tis well she does not talk, perhaps.
The dream, the discontent, the doubt,
To some injustice flaming out,
Were't else, might leave us both to moan
A kind tradition overthrown,
And dawning promise once more dead
In the pernicious lowlihead
Of not aspiring to be fair.
And what am I, that I should dare
Dispute with God, who moulds one clay
To honour and shame, and wills to pay
With equal wages them that delve
About His vines one hour or twelve!


XIII
From Lady Clitheroe To Mary Churchill

I've dreadful news, my Sister dear!
Frederick has married, as we hear,
Oh, such a girl! This fact we get
From Mr. Barton, whom we met
At Abury once. He used to know,
At Race and Hunt, Lord Clitheroe,
And writes that he ‘has seen Fred Graham,
‘Commander of the 'Wolf,'—the same
The Mess call'd Joseph,—with his Wife
‘Under his arm.’ He ‘lays his life,
The fellow married her for love,
‘For there was nothing else to move.
‘H. is her Shibboleth. 'Tis said
Her Mother was a Kitchen-Maid.’

Poor Fred! What will Honoria say?
She thought so highly of him. Pray
Tell it her gently. I've no right,
I know you hold, to trust my sight;
But Frederick's state could not be hid!
And Felix, coming when he did,
Was lucky; for Honoria, too,
Was half in love. How warm she grew
On ‘worldliness,’ when once I said
I fancied that, in ladies, Fred
Had tastes much better than his means!
His hand was worthy of a Queen's,
Said she, and actually shed tears
The night he left us for two years,
And sobb'd, when ask'd the cause to tell,
That ‘Frederick look'd so miserable.’
He did look very dull, no doubt,
But such things girls don't cry about.

What weathercocks men always prove!
You're quite right not to fall in love.
I never did, and, truth to tell,
I don't think it respectable.
The man can't understand it, too.
He likes to be in love with you,
But scarce knows how, if you love him,
Poor fellow. When 'tis woman's whim
To serve her husband night and day,
The kind soul lets her have her way!
So, if you wed, as soon you should,
Be selfish for your husband's good.
Happy the men who relegate
Their pleasures, vanities, and state
To us. Their nature seems to be
To enjoy themselves by deputy,
For, seeking their own benefit,
Dear, what a mess they make of it!
A man will work his bones away,
If but his wife will only play;
He does not mind how much he's teased,
So that his plague looks always pleased;
And never thanks her, while he lives,
For anything, but what he gives!
'Tis hard to manage men, we hear!
Believe me, nothing's easier, Dear.
The most important step by far
Is finding what their colours are.
The next is, not to let them know
The reason why they love us so.
The indolent droop of a blue shawl,
Or gray silk's fluctuating fall,
Covers the multitude of sins
In me. Your husband, Love, might wince
At azure, and be wild at slate,
And yet do well with chocolate.
Of course you'd let him fancy he
Adored you for your piety.


XIV
From Jane To Her Mother

Dear Mother, as you write, I see
How glad and thankful I should be
For such a husband. Yet to tell
The truth, I am so miserable!
How could he—I remember, though,
He never said he loved me! No,
He is so right that all seems wrong
I've done and thought my whole life long!
I'm grown so dull and dead with fear
That Yes and No, when he is near,
Is all I have to say. He's quite
Unlike what most would call polite,
And yet, when first I saw him come
To tea in Aunt's fine drawing-room,
He made me feel so common! Oh,
How dreadful if he thinks me so!
It's no use trying to behave
To him. His eye, so kind and grave,
Sees through and through me! Could not you,
Without his knowing that I knew,
Ask him to scold me now and then?
Mother, it's such a weary strain
The way he has of treating me
As if 'twas something fine to be
A woman; and appearing not
To notice any faults I've got!
I know he knows I'm plain, and small,
Stupid, and ignorant, and all
Awkward and mean; and, by degrees,
I see a beauty which he sees,
When often he looks strange awhile,
Then recollects me with a smile.

I wish he had that fancied Wife,
With me for Maid, now! all my life
To dress her out for him, and make
Her looks the lovelier for his sake;
To have her rate me till I cried;
Then see her seated by his side,
And driven off proudly to the Ball;
Then to stay up for her, whilst all
The servants were asleep; and hear
At dawn the carriage rolling near,
And let them in; and hear her laugh,
And boast, he said that none was half
So beautiful, and that the Queen,
Who danced with him the first, had seen
And noticed her, and ask'd who was
That lady in the golden gauze?
And then to go to bed, and lie
In a sort of heavenly jealousy,
Until 'twas broad day, and I guess'd
She slept, nor knew how she was bless'd.

Pray burn this letter. I would not
Complain, but for the fear I've got
Of going wild, as we hear tell
Of people shut up in a cell,
With no one there to talk to. He
Must never know he is loved by me
The most; he'd think himself to blame;
And I should almost die for shame.

If being good would serve instead
Of being graceful, ah, then, Fred—
But I, myself, I never could
See what's in women's being good;
For all their goodness is to do
Just what their nature tells them to.
Now, when a man would do what's right,
He has to try with all his might.

Though true and kind in deed and word,
Fred's not a vessel of the Lord.
But I have hopes of him; for, oh,
How can we ever surely know
But that the very darkest place
May be the scene of saving grace!


XV
From Frederick

‘How did I feel?’ The little wight
Fill'd me, unfatherly, with fright!
So grim it gazed, and, out of the sky,
There came, minute, remote, the cry,
Piercing, of original pain.
I put the wonder back to Jane,
And her delight seem'd dash'd, that I,
Of strangers still by nature shy,
Was not familiar quite so soon
With her small friend of many a moon.
But, when the new-made Mother smiled,
She seem'd herself a little child,
Dwelling at large beyond the law
By which, till then, I judged and saw;
And that fond glow which she felt stir
For it, suffused my heart for her;
To whom, from the weak babe, and thence
To me, an influent innocence,
Happy, reparative of life,
Came, and she was indeed my wife,
As there, lovely with love she lay,
Brightly contented all the day
To hug her sleepy little boy,
In the reciprocated joy
Of touch, the childish sense of love,
Ever inquisitive to prove
Its strange possession, and to know
If the eye's report be really so.


XVI
From Jane To Mrs. Graham

Dear Mother,—such if you'll allow,
In love, not law, I'll call you now,—
I hope you're well. I write to say
Frederick has got, besides his pay,
A good appointment in the Docks;
Also to thank you for the frocks
And shoes for Baby. I, (D.V.,)
Shall soon be strong. Fred goes to sea
No more. I am so glad; because,
Though kinder husband never was,
He seems still kinder to become
The more he stays with me at home.
When we are parted, I see plain
He's dull till he gets used again
To marriage. Do not tell him, though;
I would not have him know I know,
For all the world.

I try to mind
All your advice; but sometimes find
I do not well see how. I thought
To take it about dress; so bought
A gay new bonnet, gown, and shawl;
But Frederick was not pleased at all;
For, though he smiled, and said, ‘How smart!’
I feel, you know, what's in his heart.
But I shall learn! I fancied long
That care in dress was very wrong,
Till Frederick, in his startling way,
When I began to blame, one day,
The Admiral's Wife, because we hear
She spends two hours, or something near,
In dressing, took her part, and said
How all things deck themselves that wed;
How birds and plants grow fine to please
Each other in their marriages;
And how (which certainly is true—
It never struck me—did it you?)
Dress was, at first, Heaven's ordinance,
And has much Scripture countenance.
For Eliezer, we are told,
Adorn'd with jewels and with gold
Rebecca. In the Psalms, again,
How the King's Daughter dress'd! And, then,
The Good Wife in the Proverbs, she
Made herself clothes of tapestry,
Purple and silk: and there's much more
I had not thought about before!
But Fred's so clever! Do you know,
Since Baby came, he loves me so!
I'm really useful, now, to Fred;
And none could do so well instead.
It's nice to fancy, if I died,
He'd miss me from the Darling's side!
Also, there's something now, you see,
On which we talk, and quite agree;
On which, without pride too, I can
Hope I'm as wise as any man.
I should be happy now, if quite
Sure that in one thing Fred was right.
But, though I trust his prayers are said,
Because he goes so late to bed,
I doubt his Calling. Glad to find
A text adapted to his mind,—
That where St. Paul, in Man and Wife,
Allows a little worldly life,—
He smiled, and said that he knew all
Such things as that without St. Paul!
And once he said, when I with pain
Had got him just to read Romaine,
‘Men's creeds should not their hopes condemn.
‘Who wait for heaven to come to them
‘Are little like to go to heaven,
If logic's not the devil's leaven!’
I cried at such a wicked joke,
And he, surprised, went out to smoke.

But to judge him is not for me,
Who myself sin so dreadfully
As half to doubt if I should care
To go to heaven, and he not there.
He must be right; and I dare say
I shall soon understand his way.
To other things, once strange, I've grown
Accustom'd, nay, to like. I own
'Twas long before I got well used
To sit, while Frederick read or mused
For hours, and scarcely spoke. When he
For all that, held the door to me,
Pick'd up my handkerchief, and rose
To set my chair, with other shows
Of honour, such as men, 'tis true,
To sweethearts and fine ladies do,
It almost seem'd an unkind jest;
But now I like these ways the best.
They somehow make me gentle and good;
And I don't mind his quiet mood.
If Frederick does seem dull awhile,
There's Baby. You should see him smile!
I'm pretty and nice to him, sweet Pet,
And he will learn no better yet:
Indeed, now little Johnny makes
A busier time of it, and takes
Our thoughts off one another more,
I'm happy as need be, I'm sure!


XVII
From Felix To Honoria

Let me, Beloved, while gratitude
Is garrulous with coming good,
Or ere the tongue of happiness
Be silenced by your soft caress,
Relate how, musing here of you,
The cl

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sixth Book

THE English have a scornful insular way
Of calling the French light. The levity
Is in the judgment only, which yet stands;
For say a foolish thing but oft enough,
(And here's the secret of a hundred creeds,–
Men get opinions as boys learn to spell,
By re-iteration chiefly) the same thing
Shall pass at least for absolutely wise,
And not with fools exclusively. And so,
We say the French are light, as if we said
The cat mews, or the milch-cow gives us milk:
Say rather, cats are milked, and milch cows mew,
For what is lightness but inconsequence,
Vague fluctuation 'twixt effect and cause,
Compelled by neither? Is a bullet light,
That dashes from the gun-mouth, while the eye
Winks, and the heart beats one, to flatten itself
To a wafer on the white speck on a wall
A hundred paces off? Even so direct,
So sternly undivertible of aim,
Is this French people.
All idealists
Too absolute and earnest, with them all
The idea of a knife cuts real flesh;
And still, devouring the safe interval
Which Nature placed between the thought and act,
They threaten conflagration to the world
And rush with most unscrupulous logic on
Impossible practice. Set your orators
To blow upon them with loud windy mouths
Through watchword phrases, jest or sentiment,
Which drive our burley brutal English mobs
Like so much chaff, whichever way they blow,–
This light French people will not thus be driven.
They turn indeed; but then they turn upon
Some central pivot of their thought and choice,
And veer out by the force of holding fast.
–That's hard to understand, for Englishmen
Unused to abstract questions, and untrained
To trace the involutions, valve by valve,
In each orbed bulb-root of a general truth,
And mark what subtly fine integument
Divides opposed compartments. Freedom's self
Comes concrete to us, to be understood,
Fixed in a feudal form incarnately
To suit our ways of thought and reverence,
The special form, with us, being still the thing.
With us, I say, though I'm of Italy
My mother's birth and grave, by father's grave
And memory; let it be,–a poet's heart
Can swell to a pair of nationalities,
However ill-lodged in a woman's breast.

And so I am strong to love this noble France,
This poet of the nations, who dream on
And wails on (while the household goes to wreck)
For ever, after some ideal good,–
Some equal poise of sex, some unvowed love
Inviolate, some spontaneous brotherhood,
Some wealth, that leaves none poor and finds none tired,
Some freedom of the many, that respects
The wisdom of the few. Heroic dreams!
Sublime, to dream so; natural, to wake:
And sad, to use such lofty scaffoldings,
Erected for the building of a church,
To build instead, a brothel . . or a prison–
May God save France!
However she have sighed
Her great soul up into a great man's face,
To flush his temples out so gloriously
That few dare carp at Cæsar for being bald,
What then?–this Cæsar represents, not reigns,
And is not despot, though twice absolute;
This Head has all the people for a heart;
This purple's lined with the democracy,–
Now let him see to it! for a rent within
Must leave irreparable rags without.

A serious riddle: find such anywhere
Except in France; and when it's found in France,
Be sure to read it rightly. So, I mused
Up and down, up and down, the terraced streets,
The glittering Boulevards, the white colonnades
Of fair fantastic Paris who wears boughs
Like plumes, as if a man made them,–tossing up
Her fountains in the sunshine from the squares,
As dice i' the game of beauty, sure to win;
Or as she blew the down-balls of her dreams,
And only waited for their falling back,
To breathe up more, and count her festive hours.

The city swims in verdure, beautiful
As Venice on the waters, the sea-swan.
What bosky gardens, dropped in close-walled courts,
As plums in ladies' laps, who start and laugh:
What miles of streets that run on after trees,
Still carrying the necessary shops,
Those open caskets, with the jewels seen!
And trade is art, and art's philosophy,
In Paris. There's a silk, for instance, there,
As worth an artist's study for the folds,
As that bronze opposite! nay, the bronze has faults;
Art's here too artful,–conscious as a maid,
Who leans to mark her shadow on the wall
Until she lose a 'vantage in her step.
Yet Art walks forward, and knows where to walk:
The artists also, are idealists,
Too absolute for nature, logical
To austerity in the application of
The special theory; not a soul content
To paint a crooked pollard and an ass,
As the English will, because they find it so,
And like it somehow.–Ah, the old Tuileries
Is pulling its high cap down on its eyes,
Confounded, conscience-stricken, and amazed
By the apparition of a new fair face
In those devouring mirrors. Through the grate,
Within the gardens, what a heap of babes,
Swept up like leaves beneath the chestnut-trees,
From every street and alley of the town,
By the ghosts perhaps that blow too bleak this way
A-looking for their heads! Dear pretty babes,
I'll wish them luck to have their ball-play out
Before the next change comes.–And further on,
What statues, posed upon their columns fine,
As if to stand a moment were a feat,
Against that blue! What squares! what breathing-room
For a nation that funs fast,–ay, runs against
The dentist's teeth at the corner, in pale rows,
Which grin at progress in an epigram.

I walked the day out, listening to the chink
Of the first Napoleon's dry bones, as they lay
In his second grave beneath the golden dome
That caps all Paris like a bubble. 'Shall
These dry bones live,' thought Louis Philippe once,
And lived to know. Herein is argument
For kings and politicians, but still more
For poets, who bear buckets to the well,
Of ampler draught.
These crowds are very good
For meditation, (when we are very strong)
Though love of beauty makes us timorous,
And draws us backward from the coarse town-sights
To count the daisies upon dappled fields,
And hear the streams bleat on among the hills
In innocent and indolent repose;
While still with silken elegiac thoughts
We wind out from us the distracting world,
And die into the chrysalis of a man,
And leave the best that may, to come of us
In some brown moth. Be, rather, bold, and bear
To look into the swarthiest face of things,
For God's sake who has made them.

Seven days' work;
The last day shutting 'twixt its dawn and eve,
The whole work bettered, of the previous six!
Since God collected and resumed in man
The firmaments, the strata, and the lights,
Fish, fowl, and beast, and insect,–all their trains
Of various life caught back upon His arm,
Reorganised, and constituted MAN,
The microcosm, the adding up of works;
Within whose fluttering nostrils, then at last,
Consummating Himself, the Maker sighed,
As some strong winner at the foot race sighs
Touching the goal.
Humanity is great;
And, if I would not rather pore upon
An ounce of common, ugly, human dust,
An artisan's palm, or a peasant's brow,
Unsmooth, ignoble, save to me and God,
Than track old Nilus to his silver roots,
And wait on all the changes of the moon
Among the mountain-peaks of Thessaly,
(Until her magic crystal round itself
For many a witch to see in)–set it down
As weakness,–strength by no means. How is this
That men of science, osteologists
And surgeons, beat some poets, in respect
For nature,–count nought common or unclean,
Spend raptures upon perfect specimens
Of indurated veins, distorted joints,
Or beautiful new cases of curved spine:
While we, we are shocked at nature's falling off,
We dare to shrink back from her warts and blains,
We will not, when she sneezes, look at her,
Not even to say 'God bless her'? That's our wrong;
For that, she will not trust us often with
Her larger sense of beauty and desire,
But tethers us to a lily or a rose
And bids us diet on the dew inside,–
Left ignorant that the hungry beggar-boy
(Who stares unseen against our absent eyes,
And wonders at the gods that we must be,
To pass so careless for the oranges!)
Bears yet a breastful of a fellow-world
To this world, undisparaged, undespoiled,
And (while we scorn him for a flower or two,
As being, Heaven help us, less poetical)
Contains, himself, both flowers and firmaments
And surging seas and aspectable stars,
And all that we would push him out of sight
In order to see nearer. Let us pray
God's grace to keep God's image in repute;
That so, the poet and philanthropist
(Even I and Romney) may stand side by side,
Because we both stand face to face with men
Contemplating the people in the rough,–
Yet each so follow a vocation,–his
And mine.
I walked on, musing with myself
On life and art, and whether, after all,
A larger metaphysics might not help
Our physics, a completer poetry
Adjust our daily life and vulgar wants,
More fully than the special outside plans,
Phalansteries, material institutes
The civil conscriptions and lay monasteries
Preferred by modern thinkers, as they thought
The bread of man indeed made all his life,
And washing seven times in the 'People's Baths'
Were sovereign for a people's leprosy,–
Still leaving out the essential prophet's word
That comes in power. On which, we thunder down,
We prophets, poets,–Virtue's in the word!
The maker burnt the darkness up with His,
To inaugurate the use of vocal life;
And, plant a poet's word even, deep enough
In any man's breast, looking presently
For offshoots, you have done more for the man,
Than if you dressed him in a broad-cloth coat
And warmed his Sunday potage at your fire.
Yet Romney leaves me . . .
God! what face is that?
O Romney, O Marian!
Walking on the quays
And pulling thoughts to pieces leisurely,
As if I caught at grasses in a field,
And bit them slow between my absent lips,
And shred them with my hands . .
What face is that?
What a face, what a look, what a likeness! Full on mine
The sudden blow of it came down, till all
My blood swam, my eyes dazzled. Then I sprang–

If was as if a meditative man
Were dreaming out a summer afternoon
And watching gnats a-prick upon a pond,
When something floats up suddenly, out there,
Turns over . . a dead face, known once alive–
So old, so new! It would be dreadful now
To lose the sight and keep the doubt of this.
He plunges–ha! he has lost it in the splash.

I plunged–I tore the crowd up, either side,
And rushed on,–forward, forward . . after her.
Her? whom?
A woman sauntered slow, in front,
Munching an apple,–she left off amazed
As if I had snatched it: that's not she, at least.
A man walked arm-linked with a lady veiled,
Both heads dropped closer than the need of talk:
They started; he forgot her with his face,
And she, herself,–and clung to him as if
My look were fatal. Such a stream of folk,
All with cares and business of their own!
I ran the whole quay down against their eyes;
No Marian; nowhere Marian. Almost, now,
I could call Marian, Marian, with the shriek
Of desperate creatures calling for the Dead.
Where is she, was she? was she anywhere?
I stood still, breathless, gazing, straining out
In every uncertain distance, till, at last,
A gentleman abstracted as myself
Came full against me, then resolved the clash
In voluble excuses,–obviously
Some learned member of the Institute
Upon his way there, walking, for his health,
While meditating on the last 'Discourse;'
Pinching the empty air 'twixt finger and thumb,
From which the snuff being ousted by that shock,
Defiled his snow-white waistcoat, duly pricked
At the button-hole with honourable red;
'Madame, your pardon,'–there, he swerved from me
A metre, as confounded as he had heard
That Dumas would be chosen to fill up
The next chair vacant, by his 'men in us,'
Since when was genius found respectable?
It passes in its place, indeed,–which means
The seventh floor back, or else the hospital;
Revolving pistols are ingenious things,
But prudent men (Academicians are)
Scare keep them in the cupboard, next the prunes.

And so, abandoned to a bitter mirth,
I loitered to my inn. O world, O world,
O jurists, rhymers, dreamers, what you please,
We play a weary game of hide and seek!
We shape a figure of our fantasy,
Call nothing something, and run after it
And lose it, lose ourselves too in the search,
Till clash against us, comes a somebody
Who also has lost something and is lost,
Philosopher against philanthropist,
Academician against poet, man
Against woman, against the living, the dead,–
Then home, with a bad headache and worse jest!

To change the water for my heliotropes
And yellow roses. Paris has such flowers,
But England, also. 'Twas a yellow rose,
By that south window of the little house,
My cousin Romney gathered with his hand
On all my birthdays for me, save the last;
And then I shook the tree too rough, too rough,
For roses to stay after.
Now, my maps
I must not linger here from Italy
Till the last nightingale is tired of song,
And the last fire-fly dies off in the maize.
My soul's in haste to leap into the sun
And scorch and seethe itself to a finer mood,
Which here, in this chill north, is apt to stand
Too stiffly in former moulds.
That face persists.
It floats up, it turns over in my mind,
As like to Marian, as one dead is like
That same alive. In very deed a face
And not a fancy, though it vanished so;
The small fair face between the darks of hair,
I used to liken, when I saw her first,
To a point of moonlit water down a well:
The low brow, the frank space between the eyes,
Which always had the brown pathetic look
Of a dumb creature who had been beaten once,
And never since was easy with the world.
Ah, ah–now I remember perfectly
Those eyes to-day,–how overlarge they seemed
As if some patient passionate despair
(Like a coal dropt and forgot on tapestry,
Which slowly burns a widening circle out)
Had burnt them larger, larger. And those eyes,
To-day, I do remember, saw me too,
As I saw them, with conscious lids astrain
In recognition. Now, a fantasy,
A simple shade or image of the brain,
Is merely passive, does not retro-act,
Is seen, but sees not.
'Twas a real face,
Perhaps a real Marian.
Which being so,
I ought to write to Romney, 'Marian's here.
Be comforted for Marian.'
My pen fell,
My hands struck sharp together, as hands do
Which hold at nothing. Can I write to him
A half truth? can I keep my own soul blind
To the other half, . . the worse? What are our souls,
If still, to run on straight a sober pace
Nor start at every pebble or dead leaf,
They must wear blinkers, ignore facts, suppress
Six-tenths of the road? Confront the truth, my soul!
And oh, as truly as that was Marian's face,
The arms of the same Marian clasped a thing
. . Not hid so well beneath the scanty shawl,
I cannot name it now for what it was.

A child. Small business has a cast-away
Like Marian, with that crown of prosperous wives
At which the gentlest she grows arrogant
And says, 'my child.' Who'll find an emerald ring
On a beggar's middle finger, and require
More testimony to convict a thief?
A child's too costly for so mere a wretch;
She filched it somewhere; and it means, with her,
Instead of honour, blessing, . . merely shame.
I cannot write to Romney, 'Here she is,
Here's Marian found! I'll set you on her track:
I saw her here, in Paris, . . and her child.
She put away your love two years ago,
But, plainly, not to starve. You suffered then;
And, now that you've forgot her utterly
As any lost year's annual in whose place
You've planted a thick flowering evergreen,
I choose, being kind, to write and tell you this
To make you wholly easy–she's not dead,
But only . . damned.'
Stop there: I go too fast;
I'm cruel like the rest,–in haste to take
The first stir in the arras for a rat,
And set my barking, biting thoughts upon't.
–A child! what then? Suppose a neighbour's sick
And asked her, 'Marian, carry out my child
In this spring air,'–I punish her for that?
Or say, the child should hold her round the neck
For good child-reasons, that he liked it so
And would not leave hershe had winning ways–
I brand her therefore, that she took the child?
Not so.
I will not write to Romney Leigh.
For now he's happy,–and she may indeed
Be guilty,–and the knowledeg of her fault
Would draggle his smooth time. But I, whose days
Are not so fine they cannot bear the rain,
And who, moreover, having seen her face,
Must see it again, . . will see it, by my hopes
Of one day seeing heaven too. The police
Shall track her, hound her, ferret their own soil;
We'll dig this Paris to its catacombs
But certainly we'll find her, have her out,
And save her, if she will or will not–child
Or no child,–if a child, then one to save!

The long weeks passed on without consequence.
As easy find a footstep on the sand
The morning after spring-tied, as the trace
Of Marian's feet between the incessant surfs
Of this live flood. She may have moved this way,–
But so the star-fish does, and crosses out
The dent of her small shoe. The foiled police
Renounced me; 'Could they find a girl and child,
No other signalment but girl and child?
No data shown, but noticeable eyes
And hair in masses, low upon the brow,
As if it were an iron crown and pressed?
Friends heighten, and suppose they specify:
Why, girls with hair and eyes are everywhere
In Paris; they had turned me up in vain
No Marian Erle indeed, but certainly
Mathildes, Justines, Victoires, . . or, if I sought
The English, Betsis, Saras, by the score.
They might as well go out into the fields
To find a speckled bean, that's somehow specked,
And somewhere in the pod.'–They left me so.
Shall I leave Marian? have I dreamed a dream?
I thank God I have found her! I must say
'Thank, God,' for finding her, although 'tis true
I find the world more sad and wicked for't.
But she
I'll write about her, presently;
My hand's a-tremble as I had just caught up
My heart to write with, in the place of it.
At least you'd take these letters to be writ
At sea, in storm!–wait now . .
A simple chance
Did all. I could not sleep last night, and tired
Of turning on my pillow and harder thoughts
Went out at early morning, when the air
Is delicate with some last starry touch,
To wander through the Market-place of Flowers
(The prettiest haunt in Paris), and make sure
At worst, that there were roses in the world.
So wandering, musing with the artist's eye,
That keeps the shade-side of the thing it loves,
Half-absent, whole-observing, while the crowd
Of young vivacioius and black-braided heads
Dipped, quick as finches in a blossomed tree,
Among the nosegays, cheapening this and that
In such a cheerful twitter of rapid speech,–
My heart leapt in me, startled by a voice
That slowly, faintly, with long breaths that marked
The interval between the wish and word,
Inquired in stranger's French, 'Would that be much,
That branch of flowering mountain-gorse?'–'So much?
Too much for me, then!' turning the face round
So close upon me, that I felt the sigh
It turned with.
'Marian, Marian!'–face to face–
'Marian! I find you. Shall I let you go?'
I held her two slight wrists with both my hands;
'Ah, Marian, Marian, can I let you go?'
She fluttered from me like a cyclamen,
As white, which, taken in a sudden wind,
Beats on against the palisade.–'Let pass,'
She said at last. 'I will not,' I replied;
'I lost my sister Marian many days,
And sought her ever in my walks and prayers,
And now I find her . . . do we thrown away
The bread we worked and prayed for,–crumble it
And drop it, . . to do even so by thee
Whom still I've hungered after more than bread,
My sister Marian?–can I hurt thee, dear?
Then why distrust me? Never tremble so.
Come with me rather, where we'll talk and live,
And none shall vex us. I've a home for you
And me and no one else' . . .
She shook her head.
'A home for you and me and no one else
Ill-suits one of us: I prefer to such,
A roof of grass on which a flower might spring,
Less costly to me than the cheapest here;
And yet I could not, at this hour, afford
A like home, even. That you offer yours,
I thank you. You are good as heaven itself–
As good as one I knew before . . Farewell.'
I loosed her hands. 'In his name, no farewell!'
(She stood as if I held her,) 'for his sake,
For his sake, Romney's! by the good he meant,
Ay, always! by the love he pressed for once,–
And by the grief, reproach, abandonment,
He took in change' . .
'He, Romney! who grieved him?
Who had the heart for't? what reproach touch'd him?
Be merciful,–speak quickly.'
'Therefore come.
I answered with authority,–'I think
We dare to speak such things, and name such names,
In the open squares of Paris!'
Not a word
She said, but, in a gentle humbled way,
(As one who had forgot herself in grief)
Turned round and followed closely where I went.
As if I led her by a narrow plank
Across devouring waters, step by step,–
And so in silence we walked on a mile.

And then she stopped: her face was white as wax.
'We go much further?'
'You are ill,' I asked,
'Or tired?'
She looked the whiter for her smile.
'There's one at home,' she said, 'has need of me
By this time,–and I must not let him wait.'

'Not even,' I asked, 'to hear of Romney Leigh?'
'Not even,' she said, 'to hear of Mister Leigh.'

'In that case,' I resumed, 'I go with you,
And we can talk the same thing there as here.
None waits for me: I have my day to spend.'

Her lips moved in a spasm without a sound,–
But then she spoke. 'It shall be as you please;
And better so,–'tis shorter seen than told.
And though you will not find me worth your pains,
That even, may be worth some pains to know,
For one as good as you are.'
Then she led
The way, and I, as by a narrow plank
Across devouring waters, followed her,
Stepping by her footsteps, breathing by her breath,
And holding her with eyes that would not slip;
And so, without a word, we walked a mile,
And so, another mile, without a word.

Until the peopled streets being all dismissed,
House-rows and groups all scattered like a flock,
The market-gardens thickened, and the long
White walls beyond, like spiders' outside threads,
Stretched, feeling blindly toward the country-fields
Through half-built habitations and half-dug
Foundations,–intervals of trenchant chalk,
That bite betwixt the grassy uneven turfs
Where goats (vine tendrils trailing from their mouths)
Stood perched on edges of the cellarage
Which should be, staring as about to leap
To find their coming Bacchus. All the place
Seemed less a cultivation than a waste:
Men work here, only,–scarce begin to live:
All's sad, the country struggling with the town,
Like an untamed hawk upon a strong man's fist,
That beats its wings and tries to get away,
And cannot choose be satisfied so soon
To hop through court-yards with its right foot tied,
The vintage plains and pastoral hills in sight!

We stopped beside a house too high and slim
To stand there by itself, but waiting till
Five others, two on this side, three on that,
Should grow up from the sullen second floor
They pause at now, to build it to a row.
The upper windows partly were unglazed
Meantime,–a meagre, unripe house: a line
Of rigid poplars elbowed it behind,
And just in front, beyond the lime and bricks
That wronged the grass between it and the road,
A great acacia, with its slender trunk
And overpoise of multitudinous leaves,
(In which a hundred fields might spill their dew
And intense verdure, yet find room enough)
Stood reconciling all the place with green.

I follwoed up the stair upon her step.
She hurried upward, shot across a face,
A woman's on the landing,–'How now, now!
Is no one to have holidays but you?
You said an hour, and stay three hours, I think,
And Julie waiting for your betters here!
Why if he had waked, he might have waked for me.'
–Just murmuring an excusing word she passed
And shut the rest out with the chamber-door,
Myself shut in beside her.
'Twas a room
Scarce large than a grave, and near as bare;
Two stools, a pallet-bed; I saw the room;
A mouse could find no sort of shelter in't,
Much less a greater secret; curtainless,–
The window fixed you with its torturing eye,
Defying you to take a step apart.
If peradventure you would hide a thing.
I saw the whole room, I and Marian there
Alone.
Alone? She threw her bonnet off,
Then sighing as 'twere sighing the last time,
Approached the bed, and drew a shawl away:
You could not peel a fruit you fear to bruise
More calmly and more carefully than so,–
Nor would you find within, a rosier flushed
Pomegranate–
There he lay, upon his back,
The yearling creature, warm and moist with life
To the bottom of his dimples,–to the ends
Of the lovely tumbled curls about his face;
For since he had been covered over-much
To keep him from the light glare, both his cheeks
Were hot and scarlet as the first live rose
The shepherd's heart blood ebbed away into,
The faster for his love. And love was here
As instant! in the pretty baby-mouth,
Shut close as if for dreaming that it sucked;
The little naked feet drawn up the way
Of nestled birdlings; everything so soft
And tender,–to the little holdfast hands,
Which, closing on a finger into sleep,
Had kept the mould of't.
While we stood there dumb,–
For oh, that it should take such innocence
To prove just guilt, I thought, and stood there dumb;
The light upon his eyelids pricked them wide,
And staring out at us with all their blue,
As half perplexed between the angelhood
He had been away to visit in his sleep,
And our most mortal presence,–gradually
He saw his mother's face, accepting it
In change for heaven itself, with such a smile
As might have well been learnt there,–never moved,
But smiled on, in a drowse of ecstasy,
So happy (half with her and half with heaven)
He could not have the trouble to be stirred,
But smiled and lay there. Like a rose, I said:
As red and still indeed as any rose,
That blows in all the silence of its leaves,
Content, in blowing, to fulfil its life.

She leaned above him (drinking him as wine)
In that extremity of love, 'twill pass
For agony or rapture, seeing that love
Includes the whole of nature, rounding it
To love . . no more,–since more can never be
Than just love. Self-forgot, cast out of self,
And drowning in the transport of the sight,
Her whole pale passionate face, mouth, forehead, eyes,
One gaze, she stood! then, slowly as he smiled,
She smiled too, slowly, smiling unaware,
And drawing from his countenance to hers
A fainter red, as if she watched a flame
And stood in it a-glow. 'How beautiful!'
Said she.
I answered, trying to be cold.
(Must sin have compensations, was my thought,
As if it were a holy thing like grief?
And is a woman to be fooled aside
From putting vice down, with that woman's toy,
A baby?)––'Ay! the child is well enough,'
I answered. 'If his mother's palms are clean,
They need be glad, of course, in clasping such:
But if not,–I would rather lay my hand,
Were I she,–on God's brazen altar-bars
Red-hot with burning sacrificial lambs,
Than touch the sacred curls of such a child.'

She plunged her fingers in his clustering locks,
As one who would not be afraid of fire;
And then, with indrawn steady utterance, said,–
'My lamb, my lamb! although, through such as thou,
The most unclean got courage and approach
To God, once,–now they cannot, even with men,
Find grace enough for pity and gentle words.'

'My Marian,' I made answer, grave and sad,
'The priest who stole a lamb to offer him,
Was still a thief. And if a woman steals
(Through God's own barrier-hedges of true love,
Which fence out licence in securing love)
A child like this, that smiles so in her face,
She is no mother, but a kidnapper,
And he's a dismal orphan . . not a son;
Whom all her kisses cannot feed so full
He will not miss herafter a pure home
To live in, a pure heart to lean against,
A pure good mother's name and memory
To hope by when the world grows thick and bad,
And he feels out for virtue.'
'Oh,' she smiled
With bitter patience, 'the child takes his chance,–
Not much worse off in being fatherless
Than I was fathered. He will say, belike,
His mother was the saddest creature born;
He'll say his mother lived so contrary
To joy, that even the kindest, seeing her,
Grew sometimes almost cruel: he'll not say
She flew contrarious in the face of God
With bat-wings of her vices. Stole my child,–
My flower of earth, my only flower on earth,
My sweet, my beauty!' . . Up she snatched the child,
And breaking on him in a storm of tears,
Drew out her long sobs from their shivering roots,
Until he took it for a game, and stretched
His feet, and flapped his eager arms like wings,
And crowed and gurgled through his infant laugh:
'Mine, mine,' she said; 'I have as sure a right
As any glad pround mother in the world,
Who sets her darling down to cut his teeth
Upon her church-ring. If she talks of law,
I talk of law! I claim my mother-dues
By law,–the law which now is paramount;
The common law, by which the poor and weak
Are trodden underfoot by vicious men,
And loathed for ever after by the good.
Let pass! I did not filch . . I found the child.'

'You found him, Marian?'
'Ay, I found him where
I found my curse,–in the gutter with my shame!
What have you, any of you, to say to that,
Who all are happy, and sit safe and high,
And never spoke before to arraign my right
To grief itself? What, what, . . being beaten down
By hoofs of maddened oxen into a ditch,
Half-dead, whole mangled . . when a girl, at last,
Breathes, sees . . and finds, there, bedded in her flesh,
Because of the overcoming shock perhaps,
Some coin of price! . . and when a good man comes
(That's God! the best men are not quite as good)
And says, 'I dropped the coin there: take it, you,
And keep it,–it shall pay you for the loss,–
You all put up your finger–'See the thief!
'Observe that precious thing she has come to filch!
'How bad those girls are!' Oh, my flower, my pet,
I dare forget I have you in my arms,
And fly off to be angry with the world,
And fright you, hurt you with my tempers, till
You double up your lip? Ah, that indeed
Is bad: a naughty mother!'
'You mistake,'
I interrupted. 'If I loved you not,
I should not, Marian, certainly be here.'

'Alas,' she said, 'you are so very good;
And yet I wish, indeed, you had never come
To make me sob until I vex the child.
It is not wholesome for these pleasure-plats
To be so early watered by our brine.
And then, who knows? he may not like me now
As well, perhaps, as ere he saw me fret,–
One's ugly fretting! he has eyes the same
As angels, but he cannot see as deep,
And so I've kept for ever in his sight
A sort of smile to please him, as you place
A green thing from the garden in a cup,
To make believe it grows there. Look, my sweet,
My cowslip-ball! we've done with that cross face,
And here's the face come back you used to like.
And, ah! he laughs! he likes me. Ah, Miss Leigh,
You're great and pure; but were you purer still,–
As if you had walked, we'll say, no otherwhere
Than up and down the new Jerusalem,
And held your trailing lutestring up yourself
From brushing the twelve stones, for fear of some
Small speck as little as a needle prick,
White stitched on white,–the child would keep to me,
Would choose his poor lost Marian, like me best,
And, though you stretched your arms, cry back and cling,
As we do, when God says it's time to die
And bids us go up higher. Leave us then;
We two are happy. Does he push me off?
He's satisfied with me, as I with him.'

'So soft to one, so hard to others! Nay.'
I cried, more angry that she melted me,
'We make henceforth a cushion of our faults
To sit and practise easy virtues on?
I thought a child was given to sanctify
A woman,–set her in the sight of all
The clear-eyed heavens, a chosen minister
To do their business and lead spirits up
The difficult blue heights. A woman lives,
Not bettered, quickened toward the truth and good
Through being a mother? . . . then she's none although
She damps her baby's cheeks by kissing them,
As we kill roses.'
'Kill! O Christ,' she said,
And turned her wild sad face from side to side
With most despairing wonder in it–'What,
What have you in your souls against me then,
All of you? am I wicked, do you think?
God knows me, trusts me with a child! but you,
You think me really wicked?'
'Complaisant,'
I answered softly, 'to a wrong you've done,
Because of certain profits,–which is wrong
Beyond the first wrong, Marian. When you left
The pure place and the noble heart, to take
The hand of a seducer' . .
'Whom? whose hand?
I took the hand of' . .
Springing up erect,
And lifting up the child at full arm's length,
As if to bear him like an oriflamme
Unconquerable to armies of reproach,–
'By him,' she said, 'my child's head and its curls,
By those blue eyes no woman born could dare
A perjury on, I make my mother's oath,
That if I left that Heart, to lighten it,
The blood of mine was still, except for grief!
No cleaner maid than I was, took a step
To a sadder cup,–no matron-mother now
Looks backwards to her early maidenhood
Through chaster pulses. I speak steadily:
And if I lie so, . . if, being fouled in will
And paltered with in soul by devil's lust,
I dare to bid this angel take my part, . .
Would God sit quiet, let us think, in heaven,
Nor strike me dumb with thunder? Yet I speak:
He clears me therefore. What, 'seduced' 's your word?
Do wolves seduce a wandering fawn in France?
Do eagles, who have pinched a lamb with claws,
Seduce it into carrion? So with me.
I was not ever as you say, seduced,
But simply murdered.'
There she paused, and sighed,
With such a sigh as drops from agony
To exhaustion,–sighing while she let the babe
Slide down upon her bosom from her arms,
And all her face's light fell after him,
Like a torch quenched in falling. Down she sank,
And sate upon the bedside with the child.
But I, convicted, broken utterly,
With woman's passion clung about her waist,
And kissed her hair and eyes,–'I have been wrong,
Sweet Marian' . . (weeping in a tender rage)
'Sweet holy Marian! And now, Marian, now,
I'll use your oath although my lips are hard,
And by the child, my Marian, by the child,
I'll swear his mother shall be innocent
Before my conscience, as in the open Book
Of Him who reads for judgment. Innocent,
My sister! let the night be ne'er so dark,
The moon is surely somewhere in the sky:
So surely is your whiteness to be found
Through all dark facts. But pardon, pardon me,
And smile a little, Marian,–for the child,
If not for me, my sister.'
The poor lip
Just motioned for the smile and let it go.
And then, with scarce a stirring of the mouth,
As if a statue spoke that could not breathe,
But spoke on calm between its marble lips,–
'I'm glad, I'm very glad you clear me so.
I should be sorry that you set me down
With harlots, or with even a better name
Which misbecomes his mother. For the rest
I am not on a level with your love,
Nor ever was, you know,–but now am worse,
Because that world of yours has dealt with me
As when the hard sea bites and chews a stone
And changes the first form of it. I've marked
A shore of pebbles bitten to one shape
From all the various life of madrepores;
And so, that little stone, called Marian Erle,
Picked up and dropped by you and another friend,
Was ground and tortured by the incessant sea
And bruised from what she was,–changed! death's a change,
And she, I said, was murdered; Marian's dead.
What can you do with people when they are dead,
But, if you are pious, sing a hymn and go;
Or, if you are tender, heave a sigh and go,
But go by all means,–and permit the grass
To keep its green feud up 'twixt them and you?
Then leave me,–let me rest. I'm dead, I say.
And if, to save the child from death as well,
The mother in me has survived the rest,
Why, that's God's miracle you must not tax,–
I'm not less dead for that: I'm nothing more
But just a mother. Only for the child,
I'm warm, and cold, and hungry, and afraid,
And smell the flowers a little, and see the sun,
And speak still, and am silent,–just for him!
I pray you therefore to mistake me not
And treat me haply, as I were alive;
For though you ran a pin into my soul,
I think it would not hurt nor trouble me.
Here's proof, dear lady,–in the market-place
But now, you promised me to say a word
About . . a friend, who once, long years ago,
Took God's place toward me, when He draws and loves
And does not thunder, . . whom at last I left,
As all of us leave God. You thought perhaps
I seemed to care for hearing of that friend?
Now, judge me! we have sate here half an hour
And talked together of the child and me,
And I not asked as much as 'What's the thing
You had to tell me of the friend . . the friend?'
He's sad, I think you said,–he's sick perhaps?
It's nought to Marian if he's sad or sick.
Another would have crawled beside your foot
And prayed your words out. Why, a beast, a dog,
A starved cat, if he had fed it once with milk,
Would show less hardness. But I'm dead, you see,
And that explains it.'
Poor, poor thing, she spoke
And shook her head, as white and calm as frost
On days too cold for raining any more,
But still with such a face, so much alive,
I could not choose but take it on my arm
And stroke the placid patience of its cheeks,–
Then told my story out, of Romney Leigh,
How, having lost her, sought her, missed her still,
He, broken-hearted for himself and her,
Had drawn the curtains of the world awhile
As if he had done with morning. There I stopped,
For when she gasped, and pressed me with her eyes,
'And now . . how is it with him? tell me now,'–
I felt the shame of compensated grief,
And chose my words with scruple–slowly stepped
Upon the slippery stones set here and there
Across the sliding water. 'Certainly,
As evening empties morning into night,
Another morning takes the evening up
With healthful, providential interchange;
And, though he thought still of her–'
'Yes, she knew,
She understood: she had supposed indeed
That, as one stops a hole upon a flute,
At which a new note comes and shapes the tune,
Excluding her would bring a worthier in,
And, long ere this, that Lady Waldemar
He loved so' . .
'Loved,' I started,–'loved her so!
Now tell me' . .
'I will tell you,' she replied:
'But since we're taking oaths, you'll promise first
That he in England, he, shall never learn
In what a dreadful trap his creature here,
Round whose unworthy neck he had meant to tie
The honourable ribbon of his name,
Fell unaware and came to butchery:
Because,–I know him,–as he takes to heart
The grief of every stranger, he's not like
To banish mine as far as I should choose
In wishing him most happy. Now he leaves
To think of me, perverse, who went my way,
Unkind, and left him,–but if once he knew . .
Ah, then, the sharp nail of my cruel wrong
Would fasten me for ever in his sight,
Like some poor curious bird, through each spread wing
Nailed high up over a fierce hunter's fire
To spoil the dinner of all tenderer folk
Come in by chance. Nay, since your Marian's dead,
You shall not hang her up, but dig a hole
And bury her in silence! ring no bells.'

I answered gaily, though my whole voice wept,
'We'll ring the joy-bells, not the funeral-bells,
Because we have her back, dead or alive.'

She never answered that, but shook her head;
Then low and calm, as one who, safe in heaven,
Shall tell a story of his lower life,
Unmoved by shame or anger,–so she spoke.
She told me she had loved upon her knees
As others pray, more perfectly absorbed
In the act and inspiration. She felt his,
For just his uses, not her own at all,–
His stool, to sit on or put up his foot,
His cup, to fill with wine or vinegar,
Whichever drink might please him at the chance,
For that should please her always: let him write
His name upon her . . it seemed natural;
It was most precious, standing on his shelf,
To wait until he chose to lift his hand.
Well, well,–I saw her then, and must have seen
How bright her life went floating on her love,
Like wicks the housewives send afloat on oil
Which feeds them to a flame that lasts the night.

To do good seemed so much his business,
That, having done it, she was fain to think,
Must fill up his capacity for joy.
At first she never mooted with herself
If he was happy, since he made her so,
Or if he loved her, being so much beloved:
Who thinks of asking if the sun is light,
Observing that it lightens? Who's so bold,
To question God of his felicity?
Still less. And thus she took for granted first,
What first of all she should have put to proof,
And sinned against him so, but only so.
'What could you hope,' she said, 'of such as she?
You take a kid you like, and turn it out
In some fair garden: though the creature's fond
And gentle, it will leap upon the beds
And break your tulips, bite your tender trees;
The wonder would be if such innocence
Spoiled less. A garden is no place for kids.'

And, by degrees, when he who had chosen her
Brought in his courteous and benignant friends
To spend their goodness on her, which she took
So very gladly, as a part of his,–
By slow degrees it broke on her slow sense,
That she, too, in that Eden of delight
Was out of place, and, like the silly kid,
Still did most mischief where she meant most love.
A thought enough to make a woman mad
(No beast in this, but she may well go mad),
That, saying, 'I am thine to love and use;'
May blow the plague in her protesting breath
To the very man for whom she claims to die,–
That, clinging round his neck, she pulls him down
And drowns him,–and that, lavishing her soul
She hales perdition on him. 'So, being mad,'
Said Marian . .
'Ah–who stirred such thoughts, you ask?
Whose fault it was, that she should have such thoughts?
None's fault, none's fault. The light comes, and we see:
But if it were not truly for our eyes,
There would be nothing seen, for all the light.
And so with Marian. If she saw at last,
The sense was in her,–Lady Waldemar
Had spoken all in vain else.'
'Oh my heart,
O prophet in my heart,' I cried aloud,
'Then Lady Waldemar spoke!'
'Did she speak,'
Mused Marian softly, 'or did she only sign?
Or did she put a word into her face
And look, and so impress you with the word?
Or leave it in the foldings of her gown,
Like rosemary smells, a movement will shake out
When no one's conscious? who shall say, or guess?
One thing alone was certain–from the day
The gracious lady paid a visit first,
She, Marian, saw things different,–felt distrust
Of all that sheltering roof of circumstance
Her hopes were building into with clay nests:
Her heart was restless, pacing up and down
And fluttering, like dumb creatures before storms,
Not knowing wherefore she was ill at ease.'

'And still the lady came,' said Marian Erle,
'Much oftener than he knew it, Mister Leigh.
She bade me never tell him she had come,
She liked to love me better than he knew,
So very kind was Lady Waldemar:
And every time she brought with her more light,
And every light made sorrow clearer . . Well,
Ah, well! we cannot give her blame for that;
'Twould be the same thing if an angel came,
Whose right should prove our wrong. And every time
The lady came, she looked more beautiful
And spoke more like a flute among green trees,
Until at last, as one, whose heart being sad
On hearing lovely music, suddenly
Dissolves in weeping, I brake out in tears
Before her . . asked her counsel . . 'had I erred
'In being too happy? would she set me straight?
'For she, being wise and good and born above
'The flats I had never climbed from, could perceive
'If such as I, might grow upon the hills;
'And whether such poor herb sufficed to grow,
'For Romney Leigh to break his fast upon't,–
'Or would he pine on such, or haply starve?'
She wrapt me in her generous arms at once,
And let me dream a moment how it feels
To have a real mother, like some girls:
But when I looked, her face was younger . . ay,
Youth's too bright not to be a little hard,
And beauty keeps itself still uppermost,
That's true!–Though Lady Waldemar was kind,
She hurt me, hurt, as if the morning-sun
Should smite us on the eyelids when we sleep,
And wake us up with headache. Ay, and soon
Was light enough to make my heart ache too:
She told me truths I asked for, . . 'twas my fault, . .
'That Romney could not love me, if he would,
'As men call loving; there are bloods that flow
'Together, like some rivers, and not mix,
'Through contraries of nature. He indeed
'Was set to wed me, to espouse my class,
'Act out a rash opinion,–and, once wed,
'So just a man and gentle, could not choose
'But make my life as smooth as marriage-ring,
'Bespeak me mildly, keep me a cheerful house,
'With servants, brooches, all the flowers I liked,
'And pretty dresses, silk the whole year round' . .
At which I stopped her,–'This for me. And now
'For him.'–She murmured,–truth grew difficult;
She owned, Twas plain a man like Romney Leigh
'Required a wife more level to himself.
'If day by day he had to bend his height
'To pick up sympathies, opinions, thoughts,
'And interchange the common talk of life
'Which helps a man to live as well as talk,
'His days were heavily taxed. Who buys a staff
'To fit the hand, that reaches but the knee?
'He'd feel it bitter to be forced to miss
'The perfect joy of married suited pairs,
'Who, bursting through the separating hedge
'Of personal dues with that sweet eglantine
'Of equal love, keep saying, 'So we think,
It strikes us,–that's our fancy.–When I asked
If earnest will, devoted love, employed
In youth like mine, would fail to raise me up,–
As two strong arms will always raise a child
To a fruit hung overhead? she sighed and sighed . .
'That could not be,' she feared. 'You take a pink,
'You dig about its roots and water it,
'And so improve it to a garden-pink,
'But will not change it to a heliotrope,
'The kind remains. And then, the harder truth–
'This Romney Leigh, so rash to leap a pale,
'So bold for conscience, quick for martyrdom,
'Would suffer steadily and never flinch,
'But suffer surely and keenly, when his class
'Turned shoulder on him for a shameful match,
'And set him up as nine-pin in their talk
'To bowl him down with jestings.'–There, she paused;
And when I used the pause in doubting that
We wronged him after all in what we feared–
'Suppose such things should never touch him, more
'In his high conscience, (if the things should be,)
'Than, when the queen sits in an upper room
'The horses in the street can spatter her!'–
A moment, hope came,–but the lady closed
That door and nicked the lock and shut it out,
Observing wisely that 'the tender heart
'Which made him over-soft to a lower class,
'Could scarcely fail to make him sensitive
'To a higher,–how they thought and what they felt.'

'Alas, alas!' said Marian, rocking slow
The pretty baby who was near asleep,
The eyelids creeping over the blue balls,–
'She made it clear, too clear–I saw the whole!
And yet who knows if I had seen my way
Straight out of it, by looking, though 'twas clear,
Unless the generous lady, 'ware of this,
Had set her own house all a-fire for me,
To light me forwards? Leaning on my face
Her heavy agate eyes which crushed my will,
She told me tenderly, (as when men come
To a bedside to tell people they must die)
'She knew of knowledge,–aye, of knowledge, knew,
'That Romney Leigh had loved her formerly.
'And she loved him, she might say, now the chance
'Was past . . but that, of course, he never guessed,–
'For something came between them . . something thin
As a cobweb . . catching every fly of doubt
'To hold it buzzing at the window-pane
'And help to dim the daylight. Ah, man's pride
'Or woman's–which is greatest? most averse
'To brushing cobwebs? Well, but she and he
'Remained fast friends; it seemed not more than so,
'Because he had bound his hands and could not stir:
'An honorable man, if somewhat rash;
'And she, not even for Romney, would she spill
'A blot . . as little even as a tear . .
'Upon his marriage-contract,–not to gain
'A better joy for two than came by that!
'For, though I stood between her heart and heaven,
'She loved me wholly.
Did I laugh or curse?
I think I sat there silent, hearing all,
Ay, hearing double,–Marian's tale, at once,
And Romney's marriage vow, 'I'll keep to THEE,'
Which means that woman-serpent. Is it time
For church now?
'Lady Waldemar spoke more,'
Continued Marian, 'but, as when a soul
Will pass out through the sweetness of a song
Beyond it, voyaging the uphill road,–
Even so mine wandered from the things I heard,
To those I suffered. It was afterward
I shaped the resolution to the act.
For many hours we talked. What need to talk?
The fate was clear and close; it touched my eyes;
But still the generous lady tried to keep
The case afloat, and would not let it go,
And argued, struggled upon Marian's side,
Which was not Romney's! though she little knew
What ugly monster would take up the end,–
What griping death within the drowning death
Was ready to complete my sum of death.'
I thought,–Perhaps he's sliding now the ring
Upon that woman's finger . .
She went on:
'The lady, failing to prevail her way,
Upgathered my torn wishes from the ground
And pieced them with her strong benevolence;
And, as I thought I could breathe freer air
Away from England, going without pause,
Without farewell,–just breaking with a jerk
The blossomed offshoot from my thorny life,–
She promised kindly to provide the means,
With instant passage to the colonies
And full protection, would commit me straight
'To one who once had been her waiting-maid
'And had the customs of the world, intent
'On changing England for Australia
'Herself, to carry out her fortune so.'
For which I thanked the Lady Waldemar,
As men upon their death-beds thank last friends
Who lay the pillow straight: it is not much,
And yet 'tis all of which they are capable,
This lying smoothly in a bed to die.
And so, 'twas fixed;–and so, from day to day,
The woman named, came in to visit me.'

Just then the girl stopped speaking,–sate erect,
And stared at me as if I had been a ghost,
(Perhaps I looked as white as any ghost),
With large-eyed horror. 'Does God make,' she said,
'All sorts of creatures really, do you think?
Or is it that the Devil slavers them
So excellently, that we come to doubt
Who's stronger, He who makes, or he who mars?
I never liked the woman's face or voice,
Or ways: it made me blush to look at her;
It made me tremble if she touched my hand;
And when she spoke a fondling word I shrank,
As if one hated me, who had power to hurt;
And, every time she came, my veins ran cold,
As somebody were walking on my grave.
At last I spoke to Lady Waldemar:
'Could such an one be good to trust?' I asked.
Whereat the lady stroked my cheek and laughed
Her silver-laugh (one must be born to laugh,
To put such music in it) 'Foolish girl,
'Your scattered wits are gathering wool beyond
'The sheep-walk reaches!–leave the thing to me.'
And therefore, half in trust, and half in scorn
That I had heart still for another fear
In such a safe despair, I left the thing.

'The rest is short. I was obedient:
I wrote my letter which delivered him
From Marian to his own prosperities,
And followed that bad guide. The lady?–hush,–
I never blame the lady. Ladies who
Sit high, however willing to look down,
Will scarce see lower than their dainty feet;
And Lady Waldemar saw less than I
With what a Devil's daughter I went forth
The swine's road, headlong over a precipice,
In such a curl of hell-foam caught and choked,
No shriek of soul in anguish could pierce through
To fetch some help. They say there's help in heaven
For all such cries. But if one cries from hell. .
What then?–the heavens are deaf upon that side.
A woman . . hear me,–let me make it plain,–
A woman . . not a monster . . both her breasts
Made right to suckle babes . . she took me off,
A woman also, young and ignorant,
And heavy with my grief, my two poor eyes
Near washed away with weeping, till the trees,
The blessed unaccustomed trees and fields,
Ran either side the train like stranger dogs
Unworthy of any notice,–took me off,
So dull, so blind, and only half alive,
Not seeing by what road, nor by what ship,
Nor toward what place, nor to what end of all.–
Men carry a corpse thus,–past the doorway, past
The garden-gate, the children's playground, up
The green lane,–then they leave it in the pit,
To sleep and find corruption, cheek to cheek
With him who stinks since Friday.
'But suppose;
To go down with one's soul into the grave,–
To go down half dead, half alive, I say,
And wake up with corruption, . . cheek to cheek
With him who stinks since Friday! There it is,
And that's the horror of't, Miss Leigh.
'You feel?
You understand?–no, do not look at me,
But understand. The blank, blind, weary way,
Which led . . where'er it led . . away at least;
The shifted ship . . to Sydney or to France . .
Still bound, wherever else, to another land;
The swooning sickness on the dismal sea,
The foreign shore, the shameful house, the night,
The feeble blood, the heavy-headed grief, . .
No need to bring their damnable drugged cup,
And yet they brought it! Hell's so prodigal
Of devil's gifts . . hunts liberally in packs,
Will kill no poor small creature of the wilds
But fifty red wide throats must smoke at it,
As HIS at me . . when waking up at last . .
I told you that I waked up in the grave.

'Enough so!–it is plain enough so. True,
We wretches cannot tell out all our wrong,
Without offence to decent happy folk.
I know that we must scrupulously hint
With half-words, delicate reserves, the thing
Which no one scrupled we should feel in full.
Let pass the rest, then; only leave my oath
Upon this sleeping child,–man's violence,
Not man's seduction, made me what I am,
As lost as . . I told him I should be lost.
When mothers fail us, can we help ourselves?
That's fatal!–And you call it being lost,
That down came next day's noon and caught me there,
Half gibbering and half raving on the floor,
And wondering what had happened up in heaven,
That suns should dare to shine when God Himself
Was certainly abolished.
'I was mad,–
How many weeks, I know not,–many weeks.
I think they let me go, when I was mad,
They feared my eyes and loosed me, as boys might
A mad dog which they had tortured. Up and down
I went, by road and village, over tracts
Of open foreign country, large and strange,
Crossed everywhere by long thin poplar-lines
Like fingers of some ghastly skeleton hand
Through sunlight and through moonlight evermore
Pushed out from hell itself to pluck me back,
And resolute to get me, slow and sure;
While every roadside Christ upon his cross
Hung reddening through his gory wounds at me,
And shook his nails in anger, and came down
To follow a mile after, wading up
The low vines and green wheat, crying 'Take the girl!
She's none of mine from henceforth.' Then, I knew,
(But this is somewhat dimmer than the rest)
The charitable peasants gave me bread
And leave to sleep in straw: and twice they tied,
At parting, Mary's image round my neck–
How heavy it seemed! as heavy as a stone;
A woman has been strangled with less weight:
I threw it in a ditch to keep it clean
And ease my breath a little, when none looked;
I did not need such safeguards:–brutal men
Stopped short, Miss Leigh, in insult, when they had seen
My face,–I must have had an awful look.
And so I lived: the weeks passed on,–I lived.
'Twas living my old tramp-life o'er again,
But, this time, in a dream, and hunted round
By some prodigious Dream-fear at my back,
Which ended, yet: my brain cleared presently,
And there I sate, one evening, by the road,
I, Marian Erle, myself, alone, undone,
Facing a sunset low upon the flats,
As if it were the finish of all time,–
The great red stone upon my sepulchre,
Which angels were too weak to roll away.

poem by from Aurora Leigh (1856)Report problemRelated quotes
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Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society

Epigraph

Υδραν φονεύσας, μυρίων τ᾽ ἄλλων πόνων
διῆλθον ἀγέλας . . .
τὸ λοίσθιον δὲ τόνδ᾽ ἔτλην τάλας πόνον,
. . . δῶμα θριγκῶσαι κακοῖς.

I slew the Hydra, and from labour pass'd
To labour — tribes of labours! Till, at last,
Attempting one more labour, in a trice,
Alack, with ills I crowned the edifice.

You have seen better days, dear? So have I
And worse too, for they brought no such bud-mouth
As yours to lisp "You wish you knew me!" Well,
Wise men, 't is said, have sometimes wished the same,
And wished and had their trouble for their pains.
Suppose my Œdipus should lurk at last
Under a pork-pie hat and crinoline,
And, latish, pounce on Sphynx in Leicester Square?
Or likelier, what if Sphynx in wise old age,
Grown sick of snapping foolish people's heads,
And jealous for her riddle's proper rede, —
Jealous that the good trick which served the turn
Have justice rendered it, nor class one day
With friend Home's stilts and tongs and medium-ware,—
What if the once redoubted Sphynx, I say,
(Because night draws on, and the sands increase,
And desert-whispers grow a prophecy)
Tell all to Corinth of her own accord.
Bright Corinth, not dull Thebes, for Lais' sake,
Who finds me hardly grey, and likes my nose,
And thinks a man of sixty at the prime?
Good! It shall be! Revealment of myself!
But listen, for we must co-operate;
I don't drink tea: permit me the cigar!
First, how to make the matter plain, of course —
What was the law by which I lived. Let 's see:
Ay, we must take one instant of my life
Spent sitting by your side in this neat room:
Watch well the way I use it, and don't laugh!
Here's paper on the table, pen and ink:
Give me the soiled bit — not the pretty rose!
See! having sat an hour, I'm rested now,
Therefore want work: and spy no better work
For eye and hand and mind that guides them both,
During this instant, than to draw my pen
From blot One — thus — up, up to blot Two — thus —
Which I at last reach, thus, and here's my line
Five inches long and tolerably straight:
Better to draw than leave undrawn, I think.
Fitter to do than let alone, I hold,
Though better, fitter, by but one degree.
Therefore it was that, rather than sit still
Simply, my right-hand drew it while my left
Pulled smooth and pinched the moustache to a point.

Now I permit your plump lips to unpurse:
So far, one possibly may understand
"Without recourse to witchcraft!" True, my dear.
Thus folks begin with Euclid, — finish, how?
Trying to square the circle! — at any rate,
Solving abstruser problems than this first
"How find the nearest way 'twixt point and point."
Deal but with moral mathematics so —
Master one merest moment's work of mine,
Even this practising with pen and ink, —
Demonstrate why I rather plied the quill
Than left the space a blank, — you gain a fact,
And God knows what a fact's worth! So proceed
By inference from just this moral fact
I don't say, to that plaguy quadrature
"What the whole man meant, whom you wish you knew,"
But, what meant certain things he did of old,
Which puzzled Europe, — why, you'll find them plain,
This way, not otherwise: I guarantee.
Understand one, you comprehend the rest.
Rays from all round converge to any point:
Study the point then ere you track the rays!
The size o' the circle's nothing; subdivide
Earth, and earth's smallest grain of mustard-seed,
You count as many parts, small matching large,
If you can use the mind's eye: otherwise,
Material optics, being gross at best,
Prefer the large and leave our mind the small —
And pray how many folks have minds can see?
Certainly youand somebody in Thrace
Whose name escapes me at the moment. You
Lend me your mind then! Analyse with me
This instance of the line 'twixt blot and blot
I rather chose to draw than leave a blank.
Things else being equal. You are taught thereby
That 't is my nature, when I am at ease,
Rather than idle out my life too long,
To want to do a thing — to put a thought,
Whether a great thought or a little one,
Into an act, as nearly as may be.
Make what is absolutely new — I can't,
Mar what is made already well enough —
I won't: but turn to best account the thing
That 's half-made — that I can. Two blots, you saw
I knew how to extend into a line
Symmetric on the sheet they blurred before —
Such little act sufficed, this time, such thought.

Now, we'll extend rays, widen out the verge,
Describe a larger circle; leave this first
Clod of an instance we began with, rise
To the complete world many clods effect.
Only continue patient while I throw,
Delver-like, spadeful after spadeful up,
Just as truths come, the subsoil of me, mould
Whence spring my moods: your object, — just to find,
Alike from handlift and from barrow-load, 100
What salts and silts may constitute the earth —
If it be proper stuff to blow man glass,
Or bake him pottery, bear him oaks or wheat —
What's born of me, in brief; which found, all's known.
If it were genius did the digging-job,
Logic would speedily sift its product smooth
And leave the crude truths bare for poetry;
But I'm no poet, and am stiff i' the back.
What one spread fails to bring, another may.
In goes the shovel and out comes scoop — as here!

I live to please myself. I recognize
Power passing mine, immeasurable, God —
Above me, whom He made, as heaven beyond
Earth — to use figures which assist our sense.
I know that He is there as I am here.
By the same proof, which seems no proof at all,
It so exceeds familiar forms of proof.
Why "there," not "here"? Because, when I say "there,"
I treat the feeling with distincter shape
That space exists between us: I, — not He, —
Live, think, do human work here — no machine.
His will moves, but a being by myself,
His, and not He who made me for a work,
Watches my working, judges its effect,
But does not interpose. He did so once,
And probably will again some time — not now,
Life being the minute of mankind, not God's,
In a certain sense, like time before and time
After man's earthly life, so far as man
Needs apprehend the matter. Am I clear?
Suppose I bid a courier take to-night
(. . . Once for all, let me talk as if I smoked
Yet in the Residenz, a personage:
I must still represent the thing I was,
Galvanically make dead muscle play.
Or how shall I illustrate muscle's use?)
I could then, last July, bid courier take
Message for me, post-haste, a thousand miles.
I bid him, since I have the right to bid,
And, my part done so far, his part begins;
He starts with due equipment, will and power,
Means he may use, misuse, not use at all.
At his discretion, at his peril too.
I leave him to himself: but, journey done,
I count the minutes, call for the result
In quickness and the courier quality.
Weigh its worth, and then punish or reward
According to proved service; not before.
Meantime, he sleeps through noontide, rides till dawn.
Sticks to the straight road, tries the crooked path,
Measures and manages resource, trusts, doubts
Advisers by the wayside, does his best
At his discretion, lags or launches forth,
(He knows and I know) at his peril too.
You see? Exactly thus men stand to God:
I with my courier, God with me. Just so
I have His bidding to perform; but mind
And body, all of me, though made and meant
For that sole service, must consult, concert
With my own self and nobody beside,
How to effect the same: God helps not else.
'T is I who, with my stock of craft and strength,
Choose the directer cut across the hedge,
Or keep the foot-track that respects a crop.
Lie down and rest, rise up and run, — live spare,
Feed free, — all that 's my business: but, arrive,
Deliver message, bring the answer back,
And make my bow, I must: then God will speak,
Praise me or haply blame as service proves.
To other men, to each and everyone,
Another law! what likelier? God, perchance,
Grants each new man, by some as new a mode.
Intercommunication with Himself,
Wreaking on finiteness infinitude;
By such a series of effects, gives each
Last His own imprint: old yet ever new
The process: 't is the way of Deity.
How it succeeds, He knows: I only know
That varied modes of creatureship abound,
Implying just as varied intercourse
For each with the creator of them all.
Each has his own mind and no other's mode.
What mode may yours be? I shall sympathize!
No doubt, you, good young lady that you are,
Despite a natural naughtiness or two,
Turn eyes up like a Pradier Magdalen
And see an outspread providential hand
Above the owl's-wing aigrette — guard and guide —
Visibly o'er your path, about your bed,
Through all your practisings with London-town.
It points, you go; it stays fixed, and you stop;
You quicken its procedure by a word
Spoken, a thought in silence, prayer and praise.
Well, I believe that such a hand may stoop,
And such appeals to it may stave off harm,
Pacify the grim guardian of this Square,
And stand you in good stead on quarter-day:
Quite possible in your case; not in mine.
"Ah, but I choose to make the difference,
Find the emancipation?" No, I hope!
If I deceive myself, take noon for night,
Please to become determinedly blind
To the true ordinance of human life.
Through mere presumption — that is my affair.
And truly a grave one; but as grave I think
Your affair, yours, the specially observed, —
Each favoured person that perceives his path
Pointed him, inch by inch, and looks above
For guidance, through the mazes of this world,
In what we call its meanest life-career
— Not how to manage Europe properly.
But how keep open shop, and yet pay rent.
Rear household, and make both ends meet, the same.
I say, such man is no less tasked than I
To duly take the path appointed him
By whatsoever sign he recognize.
Our insincerity on both our heads!
No matter what the object of a life,
Small work or large, — the making thrive a shop,
Or seeing that an empire take no harm, —
There are known fruits to judge obedience by.
You've read a ton's weight, now, of newspaper —
Lives of me, gabble about the kind of prince —
You know my work i' the rough; I ask you, then.
Do I appear subordinated less
To hand-impulsion, one prime push for all.
Than little lives of men, the multitude
That cried out, every quarter of an hour,
For fresh instructions, did or did not work,
And praised in the odd minutes?

Eh, my dear?
Such is the reason why I acquiesced
In doing what seemed best for me to do,
So as to please myself on the great scale,
Having regard to immortality
No less than life — did that which head and heart
Prescribed my hand, in measure with its means
Of doing — used my special stock of power —
Not from the aforesaid head and heart alone,
But every sort of helpful circumstance.
Some problematic and some nondescript:
All regulated by the single care
I' the last resort — that I made thoroughly serve
The when and how, toiled where was need, reposed
As resolutely to the proper point.
Braved sorrow, courted joy, to just one end:
Namely, that just the creature I was bound
To be, I should become, nor thwart at all
God's purpose in creation. I conceive
No other duty possible to man, —
Highest mind, lowest mind, — no other law
By which to judge life failure or success:
What folks call being saved or cast away.

Such was my rule of life; I worked my best
Subject to ultimate judgment, God's not man's.
Well then, this settled, — take your tea, I beg.
And meditate the fact, 'twixt sip and sip, —
This settled — why I pleased myself, you saw,
By turning blot and blot into a line,
O' the little scale, — we'll try now (as your tongue
Tries the concluding sugar-drop) what's meant
To please me most o' the great scale. Why, just now,
With nothing else to do within my reach.
Did I prefer making two blots one line
To making yet another separate
Third blot, and leaving those I found unlinked?
It meant, I like to use the thing I find.
Rather than strive at unfound novelty:
I make the best of the old, nor try for new.
Such will to act, such choice of action's way.
Constitute — when at work on the great scale,
Driven to their farthest natural consequence
By all the help from all the means — my own
Particular faculty of serving God,
Instinct for putting power to exercise
Upon some wish and want o' the time, I prove
Possible to mankind as best I may.
This constitutes my mission, — grant the phrase, —
Namely, to rule men — men within my reach,
To order, influence and dispose them so
As render solid and stabilify
Mankind in particles, the light and loose,
For their good and my pleasure in the act.
Such good accomplished proves twice good to me —
Good for its own sake, as the just and right.
And, in the effecting also, good again
To me its agent, tasked as suits my taste.

Is this much easy to be understood
At first glance? Now begin the steady gaze!

My rank — (if I must tell you simple truth —
Telling were else not worth the whiff o' the weed
I lose for the tale's sake) — dear, my rank i' the world
Is hard to know and name precisely: err
I may, but scarcely over-estimate
My style and title. Do I class with men
Most useful to their fellows? Possibly, —
Therefore, in some sort, best; but, greatest mind
And rarest nature? Evidently no.
A conservator, call me, if you please,
Not a creator nor destroyer: one
Who keeps the world safe. I profess to trace
The broken circle of society,
Dim actual order, I can redescribe
Not only where some segment silver-true
Stays clear, but where the breaks of black commence
Baffling you all who want the eye to probe —
As I make out yon problematic thin
White paring of your thumb-nail outside there,
Above the plaster-monarch on his steed —
See an inch, name an ell, and prophecy
O' the rest that ought to follow, the round moon
Now hiding in the night of things: that round,
I labour to demonstrate moon enough
For the month's purpose, — that society,
Render efficient for the age's need:
Preserving you in either case the old,
Nor aiming at a new and greater thing,
A sun for moon, a future to be made
By first abolishing the present law:
No such proud task for me by any means!
History shows you men whose master-touch
Not so much modifies as makes anew:
Minds that transmute nor need restore at all.
A breath of God made manifest in flesh
Subjects the world to change, from time to time,
Alters the whole conditions of our race
Abruptly, not by unperceived degrees
Nor play of elements already there,
But quite new leaven, leavening the lump,
And liker, so, the natural process. See!
Where winter reigned for ages — by a turn
I' the time, some star-change, (ask geologists)
The ice-tracts split, clash, splinter and disperse.
And there's an end of immobility,
Silence, and all that tinted pageant, base
To pinnacle, one flush from fairy-land
Dead-asleep and deserted somewhere, — see! —
As a fresh sun, wave, spring and joy outburst.
Or else the earth it is, time starts from trance.
Her mountains tremble into fire, her plains
Heave blinded by confusion: what result?
New teeming growth, surprises of strange life
Impossible before, a world broke up
And re-made, order gained by law destroyed.
Not otherwise, in our society
Follow like portents, all as absolute
Regenerations: they have birth at rare
Uncertain unexpected intervals
O' the world, by ministry impossible
Before and after fulness of the days:
Some dervish desert-spectre, swordsman, saint,
Law-giver, lyrist, — Oh, we know the names!
Quite other these than I. Our time requires
No such strange potentate, — who else would dawn, —
No fresh force till the old have spent itself.
Such seems the natural economy.
To shoot a beam into the dark, assists:
To make that beam do fuller service, spread
And utilize such bounty to the height,
That assists also, — and that work is mine.
I recognize, contemplate, and approve
The general compact of society.
Not simply as I see effected good.
But good i' the germ, each chance that's possible
I' the plan traced so far: all results, in short,
For better or worse of the operation due
To those exceptional natures, unlike mine,
Who, helping, thwarting, conscious, unaware.
Did somehow manage to so far describe
This diagram left ready to my hand.
Waiting my turn of trial. I see success.
See failure, see what makes or mars throughout.
How shall I else but help complete this plan
Of which I know the purpose and approve,
By letting stay therein what seems to stand,
And adding good thereto of easier reach
To-day than yesterday?

So much, no more!
Whereon, "No more than that?" — inquire aggrieved
Half of my critics: "nothing new at all?
The old plan saved, instead of a sponged slate
And fresh-drawn figure?" — while, "So much as that?"
Object their fellows of the other faith:
"Leave uneffaced the crazy labyrinth
Of alteration and amendment, lines
Which every dabster felt in duty bound
To signalize his power of pen and ink
By adding to a plan once plain enough?
Why keep each fool's bequeathment, scratch and blurr
Which overscrawl and underscore the piece —
Nay, strengthen them by touches of your own?"

Well, that 's my mission, so I serve the world,
Figure as man o' the moment, — in default
Of somebody inspired to strike such change
Into society — from round to square.
The ellipsis to the rhomboid, how you please,
As suits the size and shape o' the world he finds.
But this I can, — and nobody my peer, —
Do the best with the least change possible:
Carry the incompleteness on, a stage,
Make what was crooked straight, and roughness smooth.
And weakness strong: wherein if I succeed,
It will not prove the worst achievement, sure.
In the eyes at least of one man, one I look
Nowise to catch in critic company:
To-wit, the man inspired, the genius' self
Destined to come and change things thoroughly.
He, at least, finds his business simplified.
Distinguishes the done from undone, reads
Plainly what meant and did not mean this time
We live in, and I work on, and transmit
To such successor: he will operate
On good hard substance, not mere shade and shine.
Let all my critics, born to idleness
And impotency, get their good, and have
Their hooting at the giver: I am deaf —
Who find great good in this society,
Great gain, the purchase of great labour. Touch
The work I may and must, but — reverent
In every fall o' the finger-tip, no doubt.
Perhaps I find all good there's warrant for
I' the world as yet: nay, to the end of time, —
Since evil never means part company
With mankind, only shift side and change shape.
I find advance i' the main, and notably
The Present an improvement on the Past,
And promise for the Future — which shall prove
Only the Present with its rough made smooth,
Its indistinctness emphasized; I hope
No better, nothing newer for mankind,
But something equably smoothed everywhere,
Good, reconciled with hardly-quite-as-good,
Instead of good and bad each jostling each.
"And that's all?" Ay, and quite enough for me!
We have toiled so long to gain what gain I find
I' the Present, — let us keep it! We shall toil
So long before we gain — if gain God grant —
A Future with one touch of difference
I' the heart of things, and not their outside face, —
Let us not risk the whiff of my cigar
For Fourier, Comte and all that ends in smoke!

This I see clearest probably of men
With power to act and influence, now alive:
Juster than they to the true state of things;
In consequence, more tolerant that, side
By side, shall co-exist and thrive alike
In the age, the various sorts of happiness
jNIoral, mark! — not material — moods o' the mind
Suited to man and man his opposite:
Say, minor modes of movement — hence to there,
Or thence to here, or simply round about
So long as each toe spares its neighbour's kibe,
Nor spoils the major march and main advance.
The love of peace, care for the family,
Contentment with what's bad but might be worse —
Good movements these! and good, too, discontent,
So long as that spurs good, which might be best,
Into becoming better, anyhow:
Good — pride of country, putting hearth and home
I' the back-ground, out of undue prominence:
Good — yearning after change, strife, victory,
And triumph. Each shall have its orbit marked,
But no more, — none impede the other's path
In this wide world, — though each and all alike,
Save for me, fain would spread itself through space
And leave its fellow not an inch of way.
I rule and regulate the course, excite,
Restrain: because the whole machine should march
Impelled by those diversely-moving parts,
Each blind to aught beside its little bent.
Out of the turnings round and round inside,
Comes that straightforward world-advance, I want,
And none of them supposes God wants too
And gets through just their hindrance and my help.
I think that to have held the balance straight
For twenty years, say, weighing claim and claim,
And giving each its due, no less no more,
This was good service to humanity,
Right usage of my power in head and heart,
And reasonable piety beside.
Keep those three points in mind while judging me!
You stand, perhaps, for some one man, not men, —
Represent this or the other interest,
Nor mind the general welfare, — so, impugn
My practice and dispute my value: why?
You man of faith, I did not tread the world
Into a paste, and thereof make a smooth
Uniform mound whereon to plant your flag,
The lily-white, above the blood and brains!
Nor yet did I, you man of faithlessness,
So roll things to the level which you love,
That you could stand at ease there and survey
The universal Nothing undisgraced
By pert obtrusion of some old church-spire
I' the distance! Neither friend would I content,
Nor, as the world were simply meant for him.
Thrust out his fellow and mend God's mistake.
Why, you two fools, — my dear friends all the same, —
Is it some change o' the world and nothing else
Contents you? Should whatever was, not be?
How thanklessly you view things! There 's the root
Of the evil, source of the entire mistake:
You see no worth i' the world, nature and life,
Unless we change what is to what may be.
Which means, — may be, i' the brain of one of you!
"Reject what is?" — all capabilities —
Nay, you may style them chances if you choose —
All chances, then, of happiness that lie
Open to anybody that is born,
Tumbles into this life and out again, —
All that may happen, good and evil too,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
I' the space between, to each adventurer
Upon this 'sixty, Anno Domini:
A life to live — and such a life a world
To learn, one's lifetime in, — and such a world!
However did the foolish pass for wise
By calling life a burden, man a fly
Or worm or what's most insignificant?
"O littleness of man!" deplores the bard;
And then, for fear the Powers should punish him,
"O grandeur of the visible universe
Our human littleness contrasts withal!
O sun, O moon, ye mountains and thou sea,
Thou emblem of immensity, thou this,
That and the other, — what impertinence
In man to eat and drink and walk about
And have his little notions of his own,
The while some wave sheds foam upon the shore!"
First of all, 't is a lie some three-times thick:
The bard, — this sort of speech being poetry, —
The bard puts mankind well outside himself
And then begins instructing them: "This way
I and my friend the sea conceive of you!
What would you give to think such thoughts as ours
Of you and the sea together? "Down they go
On the humbled knees of them: at once they draw
Distinction, recognize no mate of theirs
In one, despite his mock humility,
So plain a match for what he plays with. Next,
The turn of the great ocean-play-fellow,
When the bard, leaving Bond Street very far
From ear-shot, cares not to ventriloquize,
But tells the sea its home-truths: "You, my match?
You, all this terror and inmiensity
And what not? Shall I tell you what you are?
Just fit to hitch into a stanza, so
Wake up and set in motion who's asleep
O' the other side of you, in England, else
Unaware, as folk pace their Bond Street now,
Somebody here despises them so much!
Between us, — they are the ultimate! to them
And their perception go these lordly thoughts:
Since what were ocean — mane and tail, to boot —
Mused I not here, how make thoughts thinkable?
Start forth my stanza and astound the world!
Back, billows, to your insignificance!
Deep, you are done with!"

Learn, my gifted friend,
There are two things i' the world, still wiser folk
Accept — intelligence and sympathy.
You pant about unutterable power
I' the ocean, all you feel but cannot speak?
Why, that's the plainest speech about it all.
You did not feel what was not to be felt.
Well, then, all else but what man feels is naught —
The wash o' the liquor that o'erbrims the cup
Called man, and runs to waste adown his side,
Perhaps to feed a cataract, — who cares?
I'll tell you: all the more I know mankind,
The more I thank God, like my grandmother,
For making me a little lower than
The angels, honour-clothed and glory-crowned:
This is the honour, — that no thing I know,
Feel or conceive, but I can make my own
Somehow, by use of hand or head or heart:
This is the glory, — that in all conceived.
Or felt or known, I recognize a mind
Not mine but like mine, — for the double joy, —
Making all things for me and me for Him.
There's folly for you at this time of day!
So think it! and enjoy your ignorance
Of what — no matter for the worthy's name —
Wisdom set working in a noble heart,
When he, who was earth's best geometer
Up to that time of day, consigned his life
With its results into one matchless book,
The triumph of the human mind so far.
All in geometry man yet could do:
And then wrote on the dedication-page
In place of name the universe applauds,
"But, God, what a geometer art Thou!"
I suppose Heaven is, through Eternity,
The equalizing, ever and anon,
In momentary rapture, great with small,
Omniscience with intelligency, God
With man, — the thunder-glow from pole to pole
Abolishing, a blissful moment-space,
Great cloud alike and small cloud, in one fire —
As sure to ebb as sure again to flow
When the new receptivity deserves
The new completion. There's the Heaven for me.
And I say, therefore, to live out one's life
I' the world here, with the chance, — whether by pain
Or pleasure be the process, long or short
The time, august or mean the circumstance
To human eye, — of learning how set foot
Decidedly on some one path to Heaven,
Touch segment in the circle whence all lines
Lead to the centre equally, red lines
Or black lines, so they but produce themselves —
This, I do say, — and here my sermon ends, —
This makes it worth our while to tenderly
Handle a state of things which mend we might.
Mar we may, but which meanwhile helps so far.
Therefore my end is — save society!

"And that's all?" twangs the never-failing taunt
O' the foe — "No novelty, creativeness,
Mark of the master that renews the age?"
"Nay, all that?" rather will demur my judge
I look to hear some day, nor friend nor foe —
"Did you attain, then, to perceive that God
Knew what He undertook when He made things?"
Ay: that my task was to co-operate
Rather than play the rival, chop and change
The order whence comes all the good we know,
With this, — good's last expression to our sense, —
That there's a further good conceivable
Beyond the utmost earth can realize:
And, therefore, that to change the agency,
The evil whereby good is brought about
Try to make good do good as evil does —
Were just as if a chemist, wanting white.
And knowing black ingredients bred the dye.
Insisted these too should be white forsooth!
Correct the evil, mitigate your best,
Blend mild with harsh, and soften black to gray
If gray may follow with no detriment
To the eventual perfect purity!
But as for hazarding the main result
By hoping to anticipate one half
In the intermediate process, — no, my friends!
This bad world, I experience and approve;
Your good world, — with no pity, courage, hope.
Fear, sorrow, joy, — devotedness, in short,
Which I account the ultimate of man,
Of which there's not one day nor hour but brings
In flower or fruit, some sample of success,
Out of this same society I save —
None of it for me! That I might have none,
I rapped your tampering knuckles twenty years.
Such was the task imposed me, such my end.

Now for the means thereto. Ah, confidence —
Keep we together or part company?
This is the critical minute! "Such my end?"
Certainly; how could it be otherwise?
Can there be question which was the right task —
To save or to destroy society?
Why, even prove that, by some miracle,
Destruction were the proper work to choose,
And that a torch best remedies what's wrong
I' the temple, whence the long procession wound
Of powers and beauties, earth's achievements all.
The human strength that strove and overthrew, —
The human love that, weak itself, crowned strength,—
The instinct crying "God is whence I came!" —
The reason laying down the law "And such
His will i' the world must be! " — the leap and shout
Of genius "For I hold His very thoughts,
The meaning of the mind of Him!" — nay, more
The ingenuities, each active force
That turning in a circle on itselt
Looks neither up nor down but keeps the spot.
Mere creature-like and, for religion, works,
Works only and works ever, makes and shapes
And changes, still wrings more of good from less,
Still stamps some bad out, where was worst before.
So leaves the handiwork, the act and deed.
Were it but house and land and wealth, to show
Here was a creature perfect in the kind —
Whether as bee, beaver, or behemoth,
What's the importance? he has done his work
For work's sake, worked well, earned a creature's praise; —
I say, concede that same fane, whence deploys
Age after age, all this humanity,
Diverse but ever dear, out of the dark
Behind the altar into the broad day
By the portal — enter, and, concede there mocks
Each lover of free motion and much space
A perplexed length of apse and aisle and nave, —
Pillared roof and carved screen, and what care I?
That irk the movement and impede the march, —
Nay, possibly, bring flat upon his nose
At some odd break-neck angle, by some freak
Of old-world artistry, that personage
Who, could he but have kept his skirts from grief
And catching at the hooks and crooks about,
Had stepped out on the daylight of our time
Plainly the man of the age, — still, still, I bar
Excessive conflagration in the case.
"Shake the flame freely!" shout the multitude:
The architect approves I stuck my torch
Inside a good stout lantern, hung its light
Above the hooks and crooks, and ended so.
To save society was well: the means
Whereby to save it, — there begins the doubt
Permitted you, imperative on me;
Were mine the best means? Did I work aright
With powers appointed me? — since powers denied
Concern me nothing.

Well, my work reviewed
Fairly, leaves more hope than discouragement.
First, there's the deed done: what I found, I leave,-
What tottered, I kept stable: if it stand
One month, without sustainment, still thank me
The twenty years' sustainer! Now, observe,
Sustaining is no brilliant self-display
Like knocking down or even setting up:
Much bustle these necessitate; and still
To vulgar eye, the mightier of the myth
Is Hercules, who substitutes his own
For Atlas' shoulder and supports the globe
A whole day, — not the passive and obscure
Atlas who bore, ere Hercules was born,
And is to go on bearing that same load
When Hercules turns ash on OEta's top.
'T is the transition-stage, the tug and strain.
That strike men: standing still is stupid-like.
My pressure was too constant on the whole
For any part's eruption into space
Mid sparkles, crackling, and much praise of me.
I saw that, in the ordinary life,
Many of the little make a mass of men
Important beyond greatness here and there;
As certainly as, in life exceptional,
When old things terminate and new commence,
A solitary great man's worth the world.
God takes the business into His own hands
At such time: who creates the novel flower
Contrives to guard and give it breathing-room:
I merely tend the corn-field, care for crop,
And weed no acre thin to let emerge
What prodigy may stifle there perchance,
— No, though my eye have noted where he lurks.
Oh those mute myriads that spoke loud to me —
The eyes that craved to see the light, the mouths
That sought the daily bread and nothing more,
The hands that supplicated exercise,
Men that had wives, and women that had babes,
And all these making suit to only live!
Was I to turn aside from husbandry,
Leave hope of harvest for the corn, my care,
To play at horticulture, rear some rose
Or poppy into perfect leaf and bloom
When, mid the furrows, up was pleased to sprout
Some man, cause, system, special interest
I ought to study, stop the world meanwhile?
"But I am Liberty, Philanthropy,
Enhghtenment, or Patriotism, the power
Whereby you are to stand or fall!" cries each:
"Mine and mine only be the flag you flaunt!"
And, when I venture to object "Meantime,
What of yon myriads with no flag at all —
My crop which, who flaunts flag must tread across?"
"Now, this it is to have a puny mind!"
Admire my mental prodigies: "down — down —
Ever at home o' the level and the low.
There bides he brooding! Could he look above,
With less of the owl and more of the eagle eye,
He'd see there's no way helps the little cause
Like the attainment of the great. Dare first
The chief emprise; dispel yon cloud between
The sun and us; nor fear that, though our heads
Find earlier warmth and comfort from his ray,
What Hes about our feet, the multitude,
Will fail of benefaction presently.
Come now, let each of us awhile cry truce
To special interests, make common cause
Against the adversary — or perchance
Mere dullard to his own plain interest!
Which of us will you choose? — since needs must be
Some one o' the warring causes you incline
To hold, i' the main, has right and should prevail;
Why not adopt and give it prevalence?
Choose strict Faith or lax Incredulity, —
King, Caste and Cultus — or the Rights of Man,
Sovereignty of each Proudhon o'er himself,
And all that follows in just consequence!
Go free the stranger from a foreign yoke;
Or stay, concentrate energy at home;
Succeed! — when he deserves, the stranger will.
Comply with the Great Nation's impulse, print
By force of arms, — since reason pleads in vain,
And, mid the sweet compulsion, pity weeps, —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau on the universe!
Snub the Great Nation, cure the impulsive itch
With smartest fillip on a restless nose
Was ever launched by thumb and finger! Bid
Hohenstiel-Schwangau first repeal the tax
On pig-tails and pomatum and then mind
Abstruser matters for next century!
Is your choice made? Why then, act up to choice!
Leave the illogical touch now here now there
I' the way of work, the tantalizing help
First to this then the other opposite:
The blowing hot and cold, sham policy,
Sure ague of the mind and nothing more,
Disease of the perception or the Will,
That fain would hide in a fine name! Your choice,
Speak it out and condemn yourself thereby!"

Well, Leicester-square is not the Residenz:
Instead of shrugging shoulder, turning friend
The deaf ear, with a wink to the police —
I'll answer — by a question, wisdom's mode.
How many years, o' the average, do men
Live in this world? Some score, say computists.
Quintuple me that term and give mankind
The likely hundred, and with all my heart
I'll take your task upon me, work your way,
Concentrate energy on some one cause:
Since, counseller, I also have my cause,
My flag, my faith in its effect, my hope
In its eventual triumph for the good
O' the world. And once upon a time, when I
Was like all you, mere voice and nothing more,
Myself took wings, soared sun-ward, and thence sang
"Look where I live i' the loft, come up to me,
Groundlings, nor grovel longer I gain this height.
And prove you breathe here better than below!
Why, what emancipation far and wide
Will follow in a trice! They too can soar,
Each tenant of the earth's circumference
Claiming to elevate humanity,
They also must attain such altitude,
Live in the luminous circle that surrounds
The planet, not the leaden orb itself.
Press out, each point, from surface to yon verge
Which one has gained and guaranteed your realm!"
Ay, still my fragments wander, music-fraught,
Sighs of the soul, mine once, mine now, and mine
For ever! Crumbled arch, crushed aqueduct,
Alive with tremors in the shaggy growth
Of wild-wood, crevice-sown, that triumphs there
Imparting exultation to the hills!
Sweep of the swathe when only the winds walk
And waft my words above the grassy sea
Under the blinding blue that basks o'er Rome, —
Hear ye not still — "Be Italy again?"
And ye, what strikes the panic to your heart?
Decrepit council-chambers, — where some lamp
Drives the unbroken black three paces off
From where the greybeards huddle in debate,
Dim cowls and capes, and midmost glimmers one
Like tarnished gold, and what they say is doubt.
And what they think is fear, and what suspends
The breath in them is not the plaster-patch
Time disengages from the painted wall
Where Rafael moulderingly bids adieu,
Nor tick of the insect turning tapestry
To dust, which a queen's finger traced of old;
But some word, resonant, redoubtable.
Of who once felt upon his head a hand
Whereof the head now apprehends his foot.
"Light in Rome, Law in Rome, and Liberty
O' the soul in Rome — the free Church, the free State!
Stamp out the nature that's best typified
By its embodiment in Peter's Dome,
The scorpion-body with the greedy pair
Of outstretched nippers, either colonnade
Agape for the advance of heads and hearts!"
There's one cause for you! one and only one.
For I am vocal through the universe,
I' the work-shop, manufactory, exchange
And market-place, sea-port and custom-house
O' the frontier: listen if the echoes die
"Unfettered commerce! Power to speak and hear,
And print and read! The universal vote!
Its rights for labour!" This, with much beside,
I spoke when I was voice and nothing more,
But altogether such an one as you
My censors. "Voice, and nothing more, indeed!"
Re-echoes round me: "that's the censure, there's
Involved the ruin of you soon or late!
Voice, — when its promise beat the empty air:
And nothing more, — when solid earth's your stage.
And we desiderate performance, deed
For word, the realizing all you dreamed
In the old days: now, for deed, we find at door
O' the council-chamber posted, mute as mouse,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, sentry and safeguard
O' the greybeards all a-chuckle, cowl to cape.
Who challenge Judas, — that 's endearment's style, —
To stop their mouths or let escape grimace,
While they keep cursing Italy and him.
The power to speak, hear, print and read is ours?
Ay, we learn where and how, when clapped inside
A convict-transport bound for cool Cayenne!
The universal vote we have: its urn,
We also have where votes drop, fingered-o'er
By the universal Prefect. Say, Trade's free
And Toil turned master out o' the slave it was:
What then? These feed man's stomach, but his soul
Craves finer fare, nor lives by bread alone.
As somebody says somewhere. Hence you stand
Proved and recorded either false or weak,
Faulty in promise or performance: which?"
Neither, I hope. Once pedestalled on earth,
To act not speak, I found earth was not air.
I saw that multitude of mine, and not
The nakedness and nullity of air
Fit only for a voice to float in free.
Such eyes I saw that craved the light alone.
Such mouths that wanted bread and nothing else,
Such hands that supplicated handiwork,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes,
Yet all these pleading just to live, not die!
Did I believe one whit less in belief.
Take truth for falsehood, wish the voice revoked
That told the truth to heaven for earth to hear?
No, this should be, and shall; but when and how?
At what expense to these who average
Your twenty years of life, my computists?
"Not bread alone" but bread before all else
For these: the bodily want serve first, said I;
If earth-space and the life-time help not here,
Where is the good of body having been?
But, helping body, if we somewhat baulk
The soul of finer fare, such food's to find
Elsewhere and afterward — all indicates.
Even this self-same fact that soul can starve
Yet body still exist its twenty years:
While, stint the body, there's an end at once
O' the revel in the fancy that Rome's free.
And superstition's fettered, and one prints
Whate'er one pleases and who pleases reads
The same, and speaks out and is spoken to.
And divers hundred thousand fools may vote
A vote untampered with by one wise man,
And so elect Barabbas deputy
In lieu of his concurrent. I who trace
The purpose written on the face of things,
For my behoof and guidance — (whoso needs
No such sustainment, sees beneath my signs,
Proves, what I take for writing, penmanship,
Scribble and flourish with no sense for me
O' the sort I solemnly go spelling out, —
Let him! there 's certain work of mine to show
Alongside his work: which gives warranty
Of shrewder vision in the workman — judge!)
I who trace Providence without a break
I' the plan of things, drop plumb on this plain print
Of an intention with a view to good,
That man is made in sympathy with man
At outset of existence, so to speak;
But in dissociation, more and more,
Man from his fellow, as their lives advance
In culture; still humanity, that's born
A mass, keeps flying off, fining away
Ever into a multitude of points,
And ends in isolation, each from each:
Peerless above i' the sky, the pinnacle, —
Absolute contact, fusion, all below
At the base of being. How comes this about?
This stamp of God characterizing man
And nothing else but man in the universe —
That, while he feels with man (to use man's speech)
I' the little things of life, its fleshly wants
Of food and rest and health and happiness,
Its simplest spirit-motions, loves and hates,
Hopes, fears, soul-cravings on the ignoblest scale,
O' the fellow-creature, — owns the bond at base, —
He tends to freedom and divergency
In the upward progress, plays the pinnacle
When life's at greatest (grant again the phrase!
Because there's neither great nor small in life.)
"Consult thou for thy kind that have the eyes
To see, the mouths to eat, the hands to work,
Men with the wives, and women with the babes!"
Prompts Nature. "Care thou for thyself alone
I' the conduct of the mind God made thee with!
Think, as if man had never thought before!
Act, as if all creation hung attent
On the acting of such faculty as thine,
To take prime pattern from thy masterpiece!"
Nature prompts also: neither law obeyed
To the uttermost by any heart and soul
We know or have in record: both of them
Acknowledged blindly by whatever man
We ever knew or heard of in this world.
"Will you have why and wherefore, and the fact
Made plain as pikestaff?" modern Science asks.
"That mass man sprung from was a jelly-lump
Once on a time; he kept an after course
Through fish and insect, reptile, bird and beast,
Till he attained to be an ape at last
Or last but one. And if this doctrine shock
In aught the natural pride" . . . Friend, banish fear,
The natural humility replies!
Do you suppose, even I, poor potentate,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, who once ruled the roast, —
I was born able at all points to ply
My tools? or did I have to learn my trade,
Practise as exile ere perform as prince?
The world knows something of my ups and downs:
But grant me time, give me the management
And manufacture of a model me.
Me fifty-fold, a prince without a flaw, —
Why, there's no social grade, the sordidest,
My embryo potentate should blink and scape.
King, all the better he was cobbler once,
He should know, sitting on the throne, how tastes
Life to who sweeps the doorway. But life's hard,
Occasion rare; you cut probation short,
And, being half-instructed, on the stage
You shuffle through your part as best you may,
And bless your stars, as I do. God takes time.
I like the thought He should have lodged me once
I' the hole, the cave, the hut, the tenement.
The mansion and the palace; made me learn
The feel o' the first, before I found myself
Loftier i' the last, not more emancipate
From first to last of lodging, I was I,
And not at all the place that harboured me.
Do I refuse to follow farther yet
I' the backwardness, repine if tree and flower,
Mountain or streamlet were my dwelling-place
Before I gained enlargement, grew mollusc?
As well account that way for many a thrill
Of kinship, I confess to, with the powers
Called Nature: animate, inanimate.
In parts or in the whole, there's something there
Man-like that somehow meets the man in me.
My pulse goes altogether with the heart
O' the Persian, that old Xerxes, when he stayed
His march to conquest of the world, a day
I' the desert, for the sake of one superb
Plane-tree which queened it there in solitude:
Giving her neck its necklace, and each arm
Its armlet, suiting soft waist, snowy side.
With cincture and apparel. Yes, I lodged
In those successive tenements; perchance
Taste yet the straitness of them while I stretch
Limb and enjoy new liberty the more.
And some abodes are lost or ruinous;
Some, patched-up and pieced out, and so transformed
They still accommodate the traveller
His day of life-time. O you count the links,
Descry no bar of the unbroken man?
Yes, — and who welds a lump of ore, suppose
He likes to make a chain and not a bar.
And reach by link on link, link small, link large,
Out to the due length — why, there's forethought still
Outside o' the series, forging at one end.
While at the other there's — no matter what
The kind of critical intelligence
Believing that last link had last but one
For parent, and no link was, first of all,
Fitted to anvil, hammered into shape.
Else, I accept the doctrine, and deduce
This duty, that I recognize mankind,
In all its height and depth and length and breadth.
Mankind i' the main have little wants, not large:
I, being of will and power to help, i' the main,
Mankind, must help the least wants first. My friend,
That is, my foe, without such power and will,
May plausibly concentrate all he wields,
And do his best at helping some large want,
Exceptionally noble cause, that's seen
Subordinate enough from where I stand.
As he helps, I helped once, when like himself.
Unable to help better, work more wide;
And so would work with heart and hand to-day,
Did only computists confess a fault,
And multiply the single score by five,
Five only, give man's life its hundred years.
Change life, in me shall follow change to match!
Time were then, to work here, there, everywhere,
By turns and try experiment at ease!
Full time to mend as well as mar: why wait
The slow and sober uprise all around
O' the building? Let us run up, right to roof.
Some sudden marvel, piece of perfectness,
And testify what we intend the whole!
Is the world losing patience? "Wait!" say we:
"There's time: no generation needs to die
Unsolaced; you Ve a century in store!"
But, no: I sadly let the voices wing
Their way i' the upper vacancy, nor test
Truth on this solid as I promised once.
Well, and what is there to be sad about?
The world's the world, life's life, and nothing else.
'T is part of life, a property to prize.
That those o' the higher sort engaged i' the world,
Should fancy they can change its ill to good.
Wrong to right, ugliness to beauty: find
Enough success in fancy turning fact.
To keep the sanguine kind in countenance
And justify the hope that busies them:
Failure enough, — to who can follow change
Beyond their vision, see new good prove ill
I' the consequence, see blacks and whites of life
Shift square indeed, but leave the chequered face
Unchanged i' the main, — failure enough for such.
To bid ambition keep the whole from change,
As their best service. I hope naught beside.
No, my brave thinkers, whom I recognize,
Gladly, myself the first, as, in a sense,
All that our world's worth, flower and fruit of man!
Such minds myself award supremacy
Over the common insignificance,
When only Mind's in question, — Body bows
To quite another government, you know.
Be Kant crowned king o' the castle in the air!
Hans Slouch, — his own, and children's mouths to feed
I' the hovel on the ground, — wants meat, nor chews
"The Critique of Pure Reason" in exchange.
But, now, — suppose I could allow your claims
And quite change life to please you, — would it please?
Would life comport with change and still be life?
Ask, now, a doctor for a remedy:
There's his prescription. Bid him point you out
Which of the five or six ingredients saves
The sick man. "Such the efficacity?
Then why not dare and do things in one dose
Simple and pure, all virtue, no alloy
Of the idle drop and powder?" What's his word?
The efficacity, neat, were neutralized:
It wants dispersing and retarding, — nay
Is put upon its mettle, plays its part
Precisely through such hindrance everywhere,
Finds some mysterious give and take i' the case,
Some gain by opposition, he foregoes
Should he unfetter the medicament.
So with this thought of yours that fain would work
Free in the world: it wants just what it finds —
The ignorance, stupidity, the hate,
Envy and malice and uncharitableness
That bar your passage, break the flow of you
Down from those happy heights where many a cloud
Combined to give you birth and bid you be
The royalest of rivers: on you glide
Silverly till you reach the summit-edge,
Then over, on to all that ignorance.
Stupidity, hate, envy, bluffs and blocks.
Posted to fret you into foam and noise.
What of it? Up you mount in minute mist,
And bridge the chasm that crushed your quietude,
A spirit-rainbow, earthborn jewelry
Outsparkling the insipid firmament
Blue above Terni and its orange-trees.
Do not mistake me! You, too, have your rights!
Hans must not burn Kant's house above his head,
Because he cannot understand Kant's book:
And still less must Hans' pastor bum Kant's self
Because Kant understands some books too well.
But, justice seen to on this little point,
Answer me, is it manly, is it sage
To stop and struggle with arrangements here
It took so many lives, so much of toil,
To tinker up into efficiency?
Can't you contrive to operate at once, —
Since time is short and art is long, — to show
Your quality i' the world, whatever you boast,
Without this fractious call on folks to crush
The world together just to set you free,
Admire the capers you will cut perchance,
Nor mind the mischief to your neighbours?

"Age!
Age and experience bring discouragement,"
You taunt me: I maintain the opposite.
Am I discouraged who, — perceiving health.
Strength, beauty, as they tempt the eye of soul,
Are uncombinable with flesh and blood, —
Resolve to let my body live its best,
And leave my soul what better yet may be
Or not be, in this life or afterward?
In either fortune, wiser than who waits
Till magic art procure a miracle.
In virtue of my very confidence
Mankind ought to outgrow its babyhood,
I prescribe rocking, deprecate rough hands,
While thus the cradle holds it past mistake.
Indeed, my task's the harder — equable
Sustainment everywhere, all strain, no push —
Whereby friends credit me with indolence,
Apathy, hesitation. "Stand stock-still
If able to move briskly? 'All a-strain' —
So must we compliment your passiveness?
Sound asleep, rather!"

Just the judgment passed
Upon a statue, luckless like myself,
I saw at Rome once! 'T was some artist's whim
To cover all the accessories close
I' the group, and leave you only Laocoön
With neither sons nor serpents to denote
The purpose of his gesture. Then a crowd
Was called to try the question, criticize
Wherefore such energy of legs and arms.
Nay, eyeballs, starting from the socket. One —
I give him leave to write my history —
Only one said "I think the gesture strives
Against some obstacle we cannot see."
All the rest made their minds up. "'T is a yawn
Of sheer fatigue subsiding to repose:
The Statue's 'Somnolency' clear enough!"
There, my arch stranger-friend, my audience both
And arbitress, you have one half your wish,
At least: you know the thing I tried to do!
All, so far, to my praise and glory — all
Told as befits the self-apologist, —
Who ever promises a candid sweep
And clearance of those errors miscalled crimes
None knows more, none laments so much as he,
And ever rises from confession, proved
A god whose fault was — trying to be man.
Just so, fair judge, — if I read smile aright —
I condescend to figure in your eyes
As biggest heart and best of Europe's friends,
And hence my failure. God will estimate
Success one day; and, in the mean time — you!
I daresay there's some fancy of the sort
Frolicking round this final puff I send
To die up yonder in the ceiling-rose, —
Some consolation-stakes, we losers win!
A plague of the return to "III
Did this, meant that, hoped, feared the other thing!"
Autobiography, adieu! The rest
Shall make amends, be pure blame, history
And falsehood: not the ineffective truth,
But Thiers-and-Victor-Hugo exercise.
Hear what I never was, but might have been
I' the better world where goes tobacco-smoke!
Here lie the dozen volumes of my life:
(Did I say "lie?" the pregnant word will serve.)
Cut on to the concluding chapter, though!
Because the little hours begin to strike.
Hurry Thiers-Hugo to the labour's end!

Something like this the unwritten chapter reads.

Exemplify the situation thus!
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, being, no dispute,
Absolute mistress, chose the Assembly, first,
To serve her: chose this man, its President
Afterward, to serve also, — specially
To see that they did service one and all.
And now the proper term of years was out.
When the Head-servant must vacate his place;
And nothing lay so patent to the world
As that his fellow-servants one and all
Were — mildly make we mention — knaves or fools,
Each of them with his purpose flourished full
I' the face of you by word and impudence,
Or filtered slyly out by nod and wink
And nudge upon your sympathetic rib —
That not one minute more did knave or fool
Mean to keep faith and serve as he had sworn
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, once that Head away.
Why did such swear except to get the chance,
When time should ripen and confusion bloom,
Of putting Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
To the true use of human property?
Restoring souls and bodies, this to Pope,
And that to King, that other to his planned
Perfection of a Share-and-share-alike,
That other still, to Empire absolute
In shape of the Head-servant's very self
Transformed to master whole and sole: each scheme
Discussible, concede one circumstance —
That each scheme's parent were, beside himself,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, not her serving-man
Sworn to do service in the way she chose
Rather than his way: way superlative,
Only, — by some infatuation, — his
And his and his and everyone's but hers
Who stuck to just the Assembly and the Head.
I niake no doubt the Head, too, had his dream
Of doing sudden duty swift and sure
On all that heap of untrustworthiness —
Catching each vaunter of the villany
He meant to perpetrate when time was ripe,
Once the Head-servant fairly out of doors, —
And, caging here a knave and there a fool,
Cry "Mistress of the servants, these and me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! I, their trusty Head,
Pounce on a pretty scheme concocting here
That's stopped, extinguished by my vigilance.
Your property is safe again: but mark!
Safe in these hands, not yours, who lavish trust
Too lightly. Leave my hands their charge awhile!
I know your business better than yourself:
Let me alone about it! Some fine day,
Once we are rid of the embarrassment,
You shall look up and see your longings crowned!"
Such fancy may have tempted to be false,
But this man chose truth and was wiser so.
He recognized that for great minds i' the world
There is no trial like the appropriate one
Of leaving little minds their liberty
Of littleness to blunder on through life,
Now, aiming at right end by foolish means.
Now, at absurd achievement through the aid
Of good and wise means: trial to acquiesce
In folly's life-long privilege — though with power
To do the little minds the good they need,
Despite themselves, by just abolishing
Their right to play the part and fill the place
I' the scheme of things He schemed who made alike
Great minds and little minds, saw use for each.
Could the orb sweep those puny particles
It just half-lights at distance, hardly leads
I' the leash — sweep out each speck of them from space
They anticize in with their days and nights
And whirlings round and dancings off, forsooth,
And all that fruitless individual life
One cannot lend a beam to but they spoil —
Sweep them into itself and so, one star,
Preponderate henceforth i' the heritage
Of heaven! No! in less senatorial phrase.
The man endured to help, not save outright
The multitude by substituting him
For them, his knowledge, will and way, for God's:
Not change the world, such as it is, and was
And will be, for some other, suiting all
Except the purpose of the maker. No!
He saw that weakness, wickedness will be,
And therefore should be: that the perfect man
As we account perfection — at most pure
0' the special gold, whate'er the form it take,
Head-work or heart-work, fined and thrice-refined
I' the crucible of life, whereto the powers
Of the refiner, one and all, were flung
To feed the flame their utmost, — e'en that block.
He holds out breathlessly triumphant, — breaks
Into some poisonous ore, its opposite.
At the very purest, so compensating
The Adversary — what if we believe?
For earlier stern exclusion of his stuff.
See the sage, with the hunger for the truth,
And see his system that's all true, except
The one weak place that's stanchioned by a lie!
The moralist, that walks with head erect
I' the crystal clarity of air so long.
Until a stumble, and the man's one mire!
Philanthropy undoes the social knot
With axe-edge, makes love room 'twixt head and trunk!
Religion — but, enough, the thing's too clear!
Well, if these sparks break out i' the greenest tree.
Our topmost of performance, yours and mine,
AVhat will be done i' the dry ineptitude
Of ordinary mankind, Ipark and bole.
All seems ashamed of but their mother-earth?
Therefore throughout his term of servitude
He did the appointed service, and forbore
Extraneous action that were duty else,
Done by some other servant, idle now
Or mischievous: no matter, each his own
Own task, and, in the end, own praise or blame!
He suffered them strut, prate and brag their best.
Squabble at odds on every point save one,
And there shake hands, — agree to trifle time,
Obstruct advance with, each, his cricket-cry
"Wait till the Head be off the shoulders here!
Then comes my King, my Pope, my Autocrat,
My Socialist Republic to her own
To-wit, that property of only me,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau who conceits herself
Free, forsooth, and expects I keep her so!"
— Nay, suffered when, perceiving with dismay
His silence paid no tribute to their noise,
They turned on him. "Dumb menace in that mouth,
Malice in that unstridulosity!
He cannot but intend some stroke of state
Shall signalize his passage into peace
Out of the creaking, — hinder transference
O' the Hohenstielers-Schwangauese to king.
Pope, autocrat, or socialist republic! That's
Exact the cause his lips unlocked would cry!
Therefore be stirring: brave, beard, bully him!
Dock, by the million, of its friendly joints,
The electoral body short at once! who did,
May do again, and undo us beside.
Wrest from his hands the sword for self-defence,
The right to parry any thrust in play
We peradventure please to meditate!"
And so forth; creak, creak, creak: and ne'er a line
His locked mouth oped the wider, till at last
O' the long degraded and insulting day,
Sudden the clock told it was judgment-time.
Then he addressed himself to speak indeed
To the fools, not knaves: they saw him walk straight down
Each step of the eminence, as he first engaged,
And stand at last o' the level, — all he swore.
"People, and not the people's varletry,
This is the task you set myself and these!
Thus I performed my part of it, and thus
They thwarted me throughout, here, here, and here:
Study each instance! yours the loss, not mine.
What they intend now is demonstrable
As plainly: here's such man, and here's such mode
Of making you some other than the thing
You, wisely or unwisely, choose to be,
And only set him up to keep you so.
Do you approve this? Yours the loss, not mine.
Do you condemn it? There's a remedy.
Take me — who know your mind, and mean your good,
With clearer head and stouter arm than they,
Or you, or haply anybody else —
And make me master for the moment! Choose
What time, what power you trust me with: I too
Will choose as frankly ere I trust myself
With time and power: they must be adequate
To the end and aim, since mine the loss, with yours
If means be wanting; once their worth approved,
Grant them, and I shall forthwith operate —
Ponder it well! — to the extremest stretch
0' the power you trust me: if with unsuccess,
God wills it, and there's nobody to blame."

Whereon the people answered with a shout
"The trusty one! no tricksters any more!"
How could they other? He was in his place.

What followed? Just what he foresaw, what proved
The soundness of both judgments, — his, o' the knaves
And fools, each trickster with his dupe, — and theirs
The people, in what head and arm should help.
There was uprising, masks dropped, flags unfurled,
Weapons outflourished in the wind, my faith!
Heavily did he let his fist fall plumb
On each perturber of the public peace,
No matter whose the wagging head it broke —
From bald-pate craft and greed and impudence
Of night-hawk at first cliance to prowl and prey
For glory and a little gain beside,
Passing for eagle in the dusk of the age, —
To florid head-top, foamy patriotism
And tribunitial daring, breast laid bare
Thro' confidence in rectitude, with hand
On private pistol in the pocket: these
And all the dupes of these, who lent themselves
As dust and feather do, to help offence
O' the wind that whirls them at you, then subsides
In safety somewhere, leaving filth afloat,
Annoyance you may brush from eyes and beard, —
These he stopped: bade the wind's spite howl or whine
Its worst outside the building, wind conceives
Meant to be pulled together and become
Its natural playground so. What foolishness
Of dust or feather proved importunate
And fell 'twixt thumb and finger, found them gripe
To detriment of bulk and buoyancy.
Then followed silence and submission. Next,
The inevitable comment came on work
And work's cost; he was censured as profuse
Of human life and liberty: too swift
And thorough his procedure, who had lagged
At the outset, lost the opportunity
Through timid scruples as to right and wrong.
"There's no such certain mark of a small mind"
(So did Sagacity explain the fault)
"As when it needs must square away and sink
To its own small dimensions, private scale
Of right and wrong, — humanity i' the large,
The right and wrong of the universe, forsooth!
This man addressed himself to guard and guide
Hohenstiel-Schwangau. When the case demands
He frustrate villany in the egg, unhatched,
With easy stamp and minimum of pang
E'en to the punished reptile, 'There's my oath
Restrains my foot,' objects our guide and guard,
'I must leave guardianship and guidance now:
Rather than stretch one handbreadth of the law,
I am bound to see it break from end to end.
First show me death i' the body politic:
Then prescribe pill and potion, what may please
Hohenstiel-Schwangau! all is for her sake:
'T was she ordained my service should be so.
What if the event demonstrate her unwise,
If she unwill the thing she willed before?
I hold to the letter and obey the bond
And leave her to perdition loyally.'
Whence followed thrice the expenditure we blame
Of human life and liberty: for want
O' the by-blow, came deliberate butcher's-work!"
"Elsewhere go carry your complaint!" bade he.
"Least, largest, there's one law for all the minds,
Here or above: be true at any price!
'T is just o' the great scale, that such happy stroke
Of falsehood would be found a failure. Truth
Still stands unshaken at her base by me,
Reigns paramount i' the world, for the large good
O' the long late generations, — I and you
Forgotten like this buried foohshness!
Not so the good I rooted in its grave."

This is why he refused to break his oath,
Rather appealed to the people, gained the power
To act as he thought best, then used it, once
For all, no matter what the consequence
To knaves and fools. As thus began his sway,
So, through its twenty years, one rule of right
Sufficed him: govern for the many first,
The poor mean multitude, all mouths and eyes:
Bid the few, better favoured in the brain,
Be patient, nor presume on privilege.
Help him, or else be quiet, — never crave
That he help them, — increase, forsooth, the gulf
Yawning so terribly 'twixt mind and mind
I' the world here, which his purpose was to block
At bottom, were it by an inch, and bridge,
If by a filament, no more, at top,
Equalize things a little! And the way
He took to work that purpose out, was plain
Enough to intellect and honesty
And — superstition, style it if you please,
So long as you allow there was no lack
O' the quality imperative in man —
Reverence. You see deeper? thus saw he,
And by the light he saw, must walk: how else
Was he to do his part? the man's, with might
And main, and not a faintest touch of fear
Sure he was in the hand of God who comes
Before and after, with a work to do
Which no man helps nor hinders. Thus the man,
So timid when the business was to touch
The uncertain order of humanity,
Imperil, for a problematic cure
Of grievance on the surface, any good
I' the deep of things, dim yet discernible —
This same man, so irresolute before,
Show him a true excrescence to cut sheer,
A devil's-graft on God's foundation-stone,
Then — no complaint of indecision more!
He wrenched out the whole canker, root and branch,
Deaf to who cried the world would tumble in
At its four corners if he touched a twig.
Witness that lie of lies, arch-infamy.
When the Republic, with all life involved
In just this law — "Each people rules itself
Its own way, not as any stranger please" —
Turned, and for first proof she was living, bade
Hohenstiel-Schwangau fasten on the throat
Of the first neighbour that claimed benefit
O' the law herself established: "Hohenstiel
For Hohenstielers! Rome, by parity
Of reasoning, for Romans? That 's a jest
Wants proper treatment, — lancet-puncture suits
The proud flesh: Rome ape Hohenstiel forsooth!"
And so the siege and slaughter and success
Whereof we nothing doubt that Hohenstiel
Will have to pay the price, in God's good time,
Which does not always fall on Saturday
When the world looks for wages. Any how.
He found this infamy triumphant. Well, —
Sagacity suggested, make this speech!
"The work was none of mine: suppose wrong wait,
Stand over for redressing? Mine for me,
My predecessors' work on their own head!
Meantime, there's plain advantage, should we leave
Things as we find them. Keep Rome manacled
Hand and foot: no fear of unruliness!
Her foes consent to even seem our friends
So long, no longer. Then, there's glory got
I' the boldness and bravado to the world.
The disconcerted world must grin and bear
The old saucy writing, — 'Grunt thereat who may,
So shall things be, for such my pleasure is —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau.' How that reads in Rome
I' the Capitol where Brennus broke his pate!
And what a flourish for our journalists!"

Only, it was nor read nor flourished of,
Since, not a moment did such glory stay
Excision of the canker! Out it came,
Root and branch, with much roaring, and some blood,
And plentiful abuse of him from friend
And foe. Who cared? Not Nature, that assuaged
The pain and set the patient on his legs
Promptly: the better! had it been the worse,
'T is Nature you must try conclusions with,
Not he, since nursing canker kills the sick
For certain, while to cut may cure, at least.
"Ah," groaned a second time Sagacity,
"Again the little mind, precipitate,
Rash, rude, when even in the right, as here!
The great mind knows the power of gentleness,
Only tries force because persuasion fails.
Had this man, by prelusive trumpet-blast,
Signified 'Truth and Justice mean to come.
Nay, fast approach your threshold! Ere they knock,
See that the house be set in order, swept
And garnished, windows shut, and doors thrown wide!
The free State comes to visit the free Church:
Receive her! or . . or . . never mind what else!'
Thus moral suasion heralding brute force,
How had he seen the old abuses die,
And new life kindle here, there, everywhere.
Roused simply by that mild yet potent spell —
Beyond or beat of drum or stroke of sword —
Public opinion!"

"How, indeed?" he asked,
"When all to see, after some twenty years,
Were your own fool-face waiting for the sight.
Faced by as wide a grin from ear to ear
O' the knaves that, while the fools were waiting, worked —
Broke yet another generation's heart —
Twenty years' respite helping! Teach your nurse
'Compliance with, before you suck, the teat!'
Find what that means, and meanwhile hold your tongue!"

Whereof the war came which he knew must be.

Now, this had proved the dry-rot of the race
He ruled o'er, that, in the old day, when was need
They fought for their own liberty and life,
Well did they fight, none better: whence, such love
Of fighting somehow still for fighting's sake
Against no matter whose the liberty
And life, so long as self-conceit should crow
And clap the wing, while justice sheathed her claw, —
That what had been the glory of the world
When thereby came the world's good, grew its plague
Now that the champion-armour, donned to dare
The dragon once, was clattered up and down
Highway and by-path of the world at peace,
Merely to mask marauding, or for sake
O' the shine and rattle that apprized the fields
Hohenstiel-Schwangau was a fighter yet.
And would be, till the weary world suppressed
A peccant humour out of fashion now.
Accordingly the world spoke plain at last.
Promised to punish who next played with fire.

So, at his advent, such discomfiture
Taking its true shape of beneficence,
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, half-sad and part-wise,
Sat: if with wistful eye reverting oft
To each pet weapon rusty on its peg,
Yet, with a sigh of satisfaction too
That, peacefulness become the law, herself
Got the due share of godsends in its train,
Cried shame and took advantage quietly.
Still, so the dry-rot had been nursed into
Blood, bones and marrow, that, from worst to best,
All, — clearest brains and soundest hearts, save here, —
All had this lie acceptable for law
Plain as the sun at noonday — "War is best,
Peace is worst; peace we only tolerate
As needful preparation for new war:
War may be for whatever end we will
Peace only as the proper help thereto.
Such is the law of right and wrong for us
Hohenstiel-Schwangau: for the other world,
As naturally, quite another law.
Are we content? The world is satisfied.
Discontent? Then the world must give us leave
Strike right and left to exercise our arm
Torpid of late through overmuch repose,
And show its strength is still superlative
At somebody's expense in life or limb:
Which done, — let peace succeed and last a year!"
Such devil's-doctrine was so judged God's law,
We say, when this man stepped upon the stage,
That it had seemed a venial fault at most
Had he once more obeyed Sagacity.
"You come i' the happy interval of peace,
The favourable weariness from war:
Prolong it! — artfully, as if intent
On ending peace as soon as possible.
Quietly so increase the sweets of ease
And safety, so employ the multitude.
Put hod and trowel so in idle hands.
So stuff and stop the wagging jaws with bread.
That selfishness shall surreptitiously
Do wisdom's office, whisper in the ear
Of Hohenstiel-Schwangau, there's a pleasant feel
In being gently forced down, pinioned fast
To the easy arm-chair by the pleading arms
O' the world beseeching her to there abide
Content with all the harm done hitherto,
And let herself be petted in return,
Free to re-wage, in speech and prose and verse,
The old unjust wars, nay — in verse and prose
And speech, — to vaunt new victories, as vile
A plague o' the future, — so that words suffice
For present comfort, and no deeds denote
That, — tired of illimitable line on line
Of boulevard-building, tired o' the theatre
With the tuneful thousand in their thrones above.
For glory of the male intelligence.
And Nakedness in her due niche below,
For illustration of the female use —
She, 'twixt a yawn and sigh, prepares to slip
Out of the arm-chair, wants some blood again
From over the boundary, to colour-up
The sheeny sameness, keep the world aware
Hohenstiel-Schwangau must have exercise
Despite the petting of the universe!
Come, you're a city-builder: what's the way
Wisdom takes when time needs that she entice
Some fierce tribe, castled on the mountain-peak,
Into the quiet and amenity
O' the meadow-land below? By crying 'Done
With fight now, down with fortress?' Rather — 'Dare
On, dare ever, not a stone displaced!'
Cries Wisdom, 'Cradle of our ancestors.
Be bulwark, give our children safety still!
Who of our children please, may stoop and taste
O' the valley-fatness, unafraid, — for why?
At first alarm, they have thy mother-ribs
To run upon for refuge; foes forget
Scarcely what Terror on her vantage-coigne,
Couchant supreme among the powers of air,
Watches — prepared to pounce — the country wide!
Meanwhile the encouraged valley holds its own,
From the first hut's adventure in descent.
Half home, half hiding place, — to dome and spire
Befitting the assured metropolis:
Nor means offence to the fort which caps the crag,
All undismantled of a turret-stone,
And bears the banner-pole that creaks at times
Embarrassed by the old emblazonment,
When festal days are to commemorate.
Otherwise left untenanted, no doubt,
Since, never fear, our myriads from below
Would rush, if needs were, man the walls once more.
Renew the exploits of the earlier time
At moment's notice! But till notice sound,
Inhabit we in ease and opulence!'
And so, till one day thus a notice sounds,
Not trumpeted, but in a whisper-gust
Fitfully playing through mute city streets
At midnight weary of day's feast and game —
'Friends, your famed fort's a ruin past repair!
Its use is — to proclaim it had a use
Stolen away long since. Climb to study there
How to paint barbican and battlement
I' the scenes of our new theatre! We fight
Now — by forbidding neighbours to sell steel
Or buy wine, not by blowing out their brains!
Moreover, while we let time sap the strength
O' the walls omnipotent in menace once,
Neighbours would seem to have prepared surprise —
Run up defences in a mushroom-growth,
For all the world like what we boasted: brief —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau's policy is peace!' "

Ay, so Sagacity advised him filch
Folly from fools: handsomely substitute
The dagger o' lath, while gay they sang and danced
For that long dangerous sword they liked to feel,
Even at feast-time, clink and make friends start.
No! he said "Hear the truth, and bear the truth,
And bring the truth to bear on all you are
And do, assured that only good comes thence
Whate'er the shape good take! While I have rule.
Understand! — war for war's sake, war for the sake
O' the good war gets you as war's sole excuse,
Is damnable and damned shall be. You want
Glory? Why so do I, and so does God.
Where is it found, — in this paraded shame, —
One particle of glory? Once you warred
For liberty against the world, and won:
There was the glory. Now, you fain would war
Because the neighbour prospers overmuch, —
Because there has been silence half-an-hour,
Like Heaven on earth, without a cannon-shot
Announcing Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
Are minded to disturb the jubilee, —
Because the loud tradition echoes faint,
And who knows but posterity may doubt
If the great deeds were ever done at all,
Much less believe, were such to do again,
So the event would follow: therefore, prove
The old power, at the expense of somebody!
Oh, Glory, — gilded bubble, bard and sage
So nickname rightly, — would thy dance endure
One moment, would thy mocking make believe
Only one upturned eye thy ball was gold,
Had'st thou less breath to buoy thy vacancy
Than a whole multitude expends in praise,
Less range for roaming than from head to head
Of a whole people? Flit, fall, fly again,
Only, fix never where the resolute hand
May prick thee, prove the lie thou art, at once!
Give me real intellect to reason with,
No multitude, no entity that apes
One wise man, being but a million fools!
How and whence wishest glory, thou wise one?
Would'st get it, — did'st thyself guide Providence, —
By stinting of his due each neighbour round
In strength and knowledge and dexterity
So as to have thy littleness grow large
By all those somethings, once, turned nothings, now,
As children make a molehill mountainous
By scooping out the plain into a trench
And saving so their favourite from approach?
Quite otherwise the cheery game of life.
True yet mimetic warfare, whereby man
Does his best with his utmost, and so ends
The victor most of all in fair defeat.
Who thinks, — would he have no one think beside?
Who knows, who does, — must other learning die
And action perish? Why, our giant proves
No better than a dwarf, with rivalry
Prostrate around him. 'Let the whole race stand
And try conclusions fairly!' he cries first.
Show me the great man would engage his peer
Rather by grinning 'Cheat, thy gold is brass!'
Than granting 'Perfect piece of purest ore!
Still, is it less good mintage, this of mine?'
Well, and these right and sound results of soul
I' the strong and healthy one wise man, — shall such
Be vainly sought for, scornfully renounced
I' the multitude that make the entity —
The people? — to what purpose, if no less.
In power and purity of soul, below
The reach of the unit than, in multiplied
Might of the body, vulgarized the more,
Above, in thick and threefold brutishness?
See! you accept such one wise man, myself:
Wiser or less wise, still I operate
From my own stock of wisdom, nor exact
Of other sort of natures you admire.
That whoso rhymes a sonnet pays a tax,
Who paints a landscape dips brush at his cost,
Who scores a septett true for strings and wind
Mulcted must be — else how should I impose
Properly, attitudinize aright,
Did such conflicting claims as these divert
Hohenstiel-Schwangau from observing me?
Therefore, what I find facile, you be sure,
With effort or without it, you shall dare —
You, I aspire to make my better self
And truly the Great Nation. No more war
For war's sake, then! and, — seeing, wickedness
Springs out of folly, — no more foolish dread
O' the neighbour waxing too inordinate
A rival, through his gain of wealth and ease!
What? — keep me patient, Powers! — the people here,
Earth presses to her heart, nor owns a pride
Above her pride i' the race all flame and air
And aspiration to the boundless Great,
The incommensurably Beautiful —
Whose very faulterings groundward come of flight
Urged by a pinion all too passionate
For heaven and what it holds of gloom and glow:
Bravest of thinkers, bravest of the brave
Doers, exalt in Science, rapturous
In Art, the — more than all — magnetic race
To fascinate their fellows, mould mankind
Hohenstiel-Schwangau-fashion, — these, what? — these
Will have to abdicate their primacy
Should such a nation sell them steel untaxed,
And such another take itself, on hire
For the natural sen'night, somebody for lord
Unpatronized by me whose back was turned?
Or such another yet would fain build bridge,
Lay rail, drive tunnel, busy its poor self
With its appropriate fancy: so there's — flash —
Hohenstiel-Schwangau up in arms at once!
Genius has somewhat of the infantine:
But of the childish, not a touch nor taint
Except through self-will, which, being foolishness,
Is certain, soon or late, of punishment.
Which Providence avert! — and that it may
Avert what both of us would so deserve.
No foolish dread o' the neighbour, I enjoin!
By consequence, no wicked war with him,
While I rule!

Does that mean — no war at all
When just the wickedness I here proscribe
Comes, haply, from the neighbour? Does my speech
Precede the praying that you beat the sword
To plough-share, and the spear to pruning-hook.
And sit down henceforth under your own vine
And fig-tree through the sleepy summer month,
Letting what hurly-burly please explode
On the other side the mountain-frontier? No,
Beloved! I foresee and I announce
Necessity of warfare in one case,
For one cause: one way, I bid broach the blood
O' the world. For truth and right, and only right
And truth, — right, truth, on the absolute scale of God,
No pettiness of man's admeasurement, —
In such case only, and for such one cause,
Fight your hearts out, whatever fate betide
Hands energetic to the uttermost!
Lie not! Endure no lie which needs your heart
And hand to push it out of mankind's path —
No lie that lets the natural forces work
Too long ere lay it plain and pulverized —
Seeing man's life lasts only twenty years!
And such a lie, before both man and God,
Being, at this time present, Austria's rule
O'er Italy, — for Austria's sake the first,
Italy's next, and our sake last of all.
Come with me and deliver Italy!
Smite hip and thigh until the oppressor leave
Free from the Adriatic to the Alps
The oppressed one! We were they who laid her low
In the old bad day when Villany braved Truth
And Right, and laughed 'Henceforward, God deposed,
The Devil is to rule for evermore
I' the world!' — whereof to stop the consequence,
And for atonement of false glory there
Gaped at and gabbled over by the world,
We purpose to get God enthroned again
For what the world will gird at as sheer shame
I' the cost of blood and treasure. 'All for naught —
Not even, say, some patch of province, splice
O' the frontier? — some snug honorarium-fee
Shut into glove and pocketed apace?'
(Questions Sagacity) 'in deference
To the natural susceptibility
Of folks at home, unwitting of that pitch
You soar to, and misdoubting if Truth, Right
And the other such augustnesses repay
Expenditure in coin o' the realm, — but prompt
To recognize the cession of Savoy
And Nice as marketable value!' No,
Sagacity, go preach to Metternich,
And, sermon ended, stay where he resides I
Hohenstiel-Schwangau, you and I must march
The other road! war for the hate of war,
Not love, this once!" So Italy was free.

What else noteworthy and commendable
I' the man's career? — that he was resolute
No trepidation, much less treachery
On his part, should imperil from its poise
The ball o' the world, heaved up at such expense
Of pains so far, and ready to rebound,
Let but a finger maladroitly fall,
Under pretence of making fast and sure
The inch gained by late volubility,
And run itself back to the ancient rest
At foot o' the mountain. Thus he ruled, gave proof
The world had gained a point, progressive so,
By choice, this time, as will and power concurred,
0' the fittest man to rule; not chance of birth,
Or such-like dice-throw. Oft Sagacity
Was at his ear: "Confirm this clear advance,
Support this wise procedure! You, elect
O' the people, mean to justify their choice
And out-king all the kingly imbeciles;
But that's just half the enterprise: remains
You find them a successor like yourself,
In head and heart and eye and hand and aim,
Or all done's undone; and whom hope to mould
So like you as the pupil Nature sends,
The son and heir's completeness which you lack?
Lack it no longer! Wed the pick o' the world,
Where'er you think you find it. Should she be
A queen, — tell Hohenstielers-Schwangauese
'So do the old enthroned decrepitudes
Acknowledge, in the rotten hearts of them,
Their knell is knolled, they hasten to make peace
With the new order, recognize in me
Your right to constitute what king you will.
Cringe therefore crown in hand and bride on arm,
To both of us: we triumph, I suppose!'
Is it the other sort of rank? — bright eye,
Soft smile, and so forth, all her queenly boast?
Undaunted the exordium — 'I, the man
O' the people, with the people mate myself:
So stand, so fall. Kings, keep your crowns and brides!
Our progeny (if Providence agree)
Shall live to tread the baubles underfoot
And bid the scarecrows consort with their kin.
For son, as for his sire, be the free wife
In the free state!' "

That is. Sagacity
Would prop up one more lie, the most of all
Pernicious fancy that the son and heir
Receives the genius from the sire, himself
Transmits as surely, — ask experience else!
Which answers, — never was so plain a truth
As that God drops his seed of heavenly flame
Just where He wills on earth: sometimes where man
Seems to tempt — such the accumulated store
Of faculties — one spark to fire the heap;
Sometimes where, fire-ball-like, it falls upon
The naked unpreparedness of rock,
Burns, beaconing the nations through their night.
Faculties, fuel for the flame? All helps
Come, ought to come, or come not, crossed by chance,
From culture and transmission. What's your want
I' the son and heir? Sympathy, aptitude.
Teachableness, the fuel for the flame?
You'll have them for your pains: but the flame's self,
The novel thought of God shall light the world?
No, poet, though your offspring rhyme and chime
I' the cradle, — painter, no, for all your pet
Draws his first eye, beats Salvatore's boy, —
And thrice no, statesman, should your progeny
Tie bib and tucker with no tape but red,
And make a foolscap-kite of protocols!
Critic and copyist and bureaucrat
To heart's content! The seed o' the apple-tree
Brings forth another tree which bears a crab:
'T is the great gardener grafts the excellence
On wildings where he will.

"How plain I view,
Across those misty years 'twixt me and Rome " —
(Such the man's answer to Sagacity)
The little wayside temple, halfway down
To a mild river that makes oxen white
Miraculously, un-mouse-colours hide,
Or so the Roman country people dream!
I view that sweet small shrub-embedded shrine
On the declivity, was sacred once
To a transmuting Genius of the land,
Could touch and turn its dunnest natures bright,
— Since Italy means the Land of the Ox, we know.
Well, how was it the due succession fell
From priest to priest who ministered i' the cool
Calm fane o' the Clitumnian god? The sire
Brought forth a son and sacerdotal sprout,
Endowed instinctively with good and grace
To suit the gliding gentleness below —
Did he? Tradition tells another tale.
Each priest obtained his predecessor's staff,

Robe, fillet and insignia, blamelessly.
By springing out of ambush, soon or late.
And slaying him: the initiative rite
Simply was murder, save that murder took,
I' the case, another and religious name.
So it was once, is now, shall ever be
With genius and its priesthood in this world:
The new power slays the old — but handsomely.
There he lies, not diminished by an inch
Of stature that he graced the altar with.
Though somebody of other bulk and build
Cries 'What a goodly personage lies here
Reddening the water where the bulrush roots!
May I conduct the service in his place.
Decently and in order, as did he,
And, as he did not, keep a wary watch
When meditating 'neath a willow shade!'
Find out your best man, sure the son of him,
Will prove best man again, and, better still
Somehow than best, the grandson-prodigy!
You think the world would last another day
Did we so make us masters of the trick
Whereby the works go, we could pre-arrange
Their play and reach perfection when we please?
Depend on it, the change and the surprise
Are part o' the plan: 't is we wish steadiness;
Nature prefers a motion by unrest,
Advancement through this force that jostles that.
And so, since much remains i' the world to see.
Here is it still, affording God the sight."
Thus did the man refute Sagacity,
Ever at this one whisper in his ear:
"Here are you picked out, by a miracle,
And placed conspicuously enough, folks say
And you believe, by Providence outright
Taking a new way — nor without success —
To put the world upon its mettle: good!
But Fortune alternates with Providence;
Resource is soon exhausted. Never count
On such a happy hit occurring twice!
Try the old method next time!"

"Old enough,"
(At whisper in his ear, the laugh outbroke)
"And most discredited of all the modes
By just the men and women who make boast
They are kings and queens thereby! Mere self-defence
Should teach them, on one chapter of the law
Must be no sort of trifling — chastity:
They stand or fall, as their progenitors
Were chaste or unchaste. Now, run eye around
My crowned acquaintance, give each life its look
And no more, — why, you'd think each life was led
Purposely for example of what pains
Who leads it took to cure the prejudice.
And prove there's nothing so unproveable
As who is who, what son of what a sire,
And, — inferentially, — how faint the chance
That the next generation needs to fear
Another fool o' the selfsame type as he
Happily regnant now by right divine
And luck o' the pillow! No: select your lord
By the direct employment of your brains
As best you may, — bad as the blunder prove,
A far worse evil stank beneath the sun
When some legitimate blockhead managed so
Matters that high time was to interfere,
Though interference came from hell itself
And not the blind mad miserable mob
Happily ruled so long by pillow-luck
And divine right, — by lies in short, not truth.
And meanwhile use the allotted minute . . . "

One, —
Two, three, four, five — yes, five the pendule warns!
Eh? Why, this wild work wanders past all bound
And bearing! Exile, Leicester-square, the life
I' the old gay miserable time, rehearsed,
Tried on again like cast clothes, still to serve
At a pinch, perhaps? "Who's who?" was aptly asked,
Since certainly I am not I! since when?
Where is the bud-mouthed arbitress? A nod
Out-Homering Homer! Stay — there flits the clue
I fain would find the end of! Yes, — "Meanwhile,
Use the allotted minute!" Well, you see,
(Veracious and imaginary Thiers,
Who map out thus the life I might have led,
But did not, — all the worse for earth and me —
Doff spectacles, wipe pen, shut book, decamp!)
You see 't is easy in heroics! Plain
Pedestrian speech shall help me perorate.
Ah, if one had no need to use the tongue!
How obvious and how easy 't is to talk
Inside the soul, a ghostly dialogue —
Instincts with guesses, — instinct, guess, again
With dubious knowledge, half-experience: each
And all the interlocutors alike
Subordinating, — as decorum bids,
Oh, never fear! but still decisively, —
Claims from without that take too high a tone,
— ("God wills this, man wants that, the dignity
Prescribed a prince would wish the other thing") —
Putting them back to insignificance
Beside one intimatest fact — myself
Am first to be considered, since I live
Twenty years longer and then end, perhaps!
But, where one ceases to soliloquize,
Somehow the motives, that did well enough
I' the darkness, when you bring them into light
Are found, like those famed cave-fish, to lack eye
And organ for the upper magnitudes.
The other common creatures, of less fine
Existence, that acknowledge earth and heaven,
Have it their own way in the argument.
Yes, forced to speak, one stoops to say — one's aim
Was — what it peradventure should have been; —
To renovate a people, mend or end
That bane come of a blessing meant the world —
Inordinate culture of the sense made quick
By soul, — the lust o' the flesh, lust of the eye,
And pride of life, — and, consequent on these,
The worship of that prince o' the power o' the air
Who paints the cloud and fills the emptiness
And bids his votaries, famishing for truth.
Feed on a lie.

Alack, one lies oneself
Even in the stating that one's end was truth,
Truth only, if one states as much in words!
Give me the inner chamber of the soul
For obvious easy argument! 't is there
One pits the silent truth against a lie —
Truth which breaks shell a careless simple bird,
Nor wants a gorget nor a beak filed fine,
Steel spurs and the whole armoury o' the tongue,
To equalize the odds. But, do your best,
Words have to come: and somehow words deflect
As the best cannon ever rifled will.

"Deflect" indeed! nor merely words from thoughts
But names from facts: "Clitumnus" did I say?
As if it had been his ox-whitening wave
Whereby folk practised that grim cult of old —
The murder of their temple's priest by who
Would qualify for his succession. Sure —
Nemi was the true lake's style. Dream had need
Of the ox-whitening piece of prettiness
And so confused names, well known once awake.

So, i' the Residenz yet, not Leicester-square,
Alone, — no such congenial intercourse! —
My reverie concludes, as dreaming should,
With daybreak: nothing done and over yet,
Except cigars! The adventure thus may be,
Or never needs to be at all: who knows?
My Cousin-Duke, perhaps, at whose hard head
— Is it, now — is this letter to be launched,
The sight of whose grey oblong, whose grim seal,
Set all these fancies floating for an hour?

Twenty years are good gain, come what come will!
Double or quits! The letter goes! Or stays?

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Little Eleanor's Sleep

Sleep little Eleanor and sleep forever
Forget the troubles that lie behind you
Close your eyes and let them wonder
Sleep forever and fall into the blue

This world was filled with twists and turns
And you could not handle all its burns
I'd see you staring at the stars
And somewhere along you'd mind your scars
Was the world with too much pain?
Was every action made in vain?

Were the nights not beautiful though without the care?
Were the stars not beautiful or why'd you stare?

I know your days were filled with struggle
Every hour filled with battles
Every wound brought too much pain
Every action was in vain
Every breath was a fight on its own
Every step was taken alone

So I can understand why you are so tired
I can understand why you want to sleep
But little Eleanor you are a fighter
When I look at you it's all I see

So forgive me when I say
That Lord forbid that you never wake
He wants you to live through every battle
He's wants you to stand from every tackle

He watches you through all your sorrow
And I know he planned you a better tomorrow
So little Eleanor wake from your sleep
Do not mind the demons that creep
The lord is watching with a beautiful plan
Just trust in him and all will be well

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Christina Georgina Rossetti

The Poor Ghost

'Oh whence do you come, my dear friend, to me,
With your golden hair all fallen below your knee,
And your face as white as snowdrops on the lea,
And your voice as hollow as the hollow sea?'

'From the other world I come back to you,
My locks are uncurled with dripping drenching dew.
You know the old, whilst I know the new:
But to-morrow you shall know this too.'

'Oh not to-morrow into the dark, I pray;
Oh not to-morrow, too soon to go away:
Here I feel warm and well-content and gay:
Give me another year, another day.'

'Am I so changed in a day and a night
That mine own only love shrinks from me with fright,
Is fain to turn away to left or right
And cover up his eyes from the sight?'

'Indeed I loved you, my chosen friend,
I loved you for life, but life has an end;
Through sickness I was ready to tend:
But death mars all, which we cannot mend.

'Indeed I loved you; I love you yet,
If you will stay where your bed is set,
Where I have planted a violet,
Which the wind waves, which the dew makes wet.'

'Life is gone, then love too is gone,
It was a reed that I leant upon:
Never doubt I will leave you alone
And not wake you rattling bone with bone.

'I go home alone to my bed,
Dug deep at the foot and deep at the head,
Roofed in with a load of lead,
Warm enough for the forgotten dead.

'But why did your tears soak through the clay,
And why did your sobs wake me where I lay?
I was away, far enough away:
Let me sleep now till the Judgment Day.'

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Upon the death of my ever desired friend Doctor Donne Dean of Pauls

To have liv'd eminent in a degreee
Beyond our lofty'st flights, that is like thee;
Or t'have had too much merit is not safe;
For such excesses find no Epitaph.
At common graves we have Poetick eyes
Can melt themselves in easie Elegies;
Each quill can drop his tributary verse,
And pin it with the Hatchments, to the Herse:
But at thine, Poem or inscription
(Rich Soul of wit and language); we have none;
Indeed a silence does that Tomb befit
Where is no Herald left to blazon it.
Widdow'd invention justly doth forbear
To come abroad knowing thou art not here,
Late her great Patron; whose prerogative
Maintain'd and cloth'd her so, as none alive
Must now presume to keep her at thy rate,
Though he the Indies for her dowre estate:
Or else that awful fire, which once did burn
In thy clear brain, now fall'n into thy Urn.
Lives there to fright rude Empericks from thence,
Which might profane thee by their ignorance:
Who ever writes of thee, and in a style
Unworthy such a Theme, does but revile
Thy precious dust, and wake a learned spirit
Which may revenge his rapes upon thy merit.
For all a low-pitcht fancie can devise,
Will prove at best but hallow'd injuries.
Thou, like the dying Swan, didst lately sing
Thy mournful Dirge in audience of the King;
When pale looks, and faint accents of thy breath,
Presented so to life that piece of death,
That it was fear'd and prophesi'd by all
Thou thither cam'st to preach thy Funerall.
O! hadst thou in an Elegiack knell
Rung out unto the world thine own farewell;
And in thy high victorious numbers beat
The solemn measure of thy griev'd retreat:
Thou might'st the Poets service now have mist,
As well as then thou didst prevent the Priest:
And never to the world beholden be,
So much as for an Epitaph for thee.
I do not like the office. Nor is't fit
Thou, who didst lend our age such summes of wit,
Should'st now reborrow from her Bankrupt Mine
That Ore to bury thee, which once was thine.
Rather still leave us in thy debt; and know
(Exalted Soul!) More glory 'tis to ow
Unto thy Herse what we can never pay,
Then with embased coin those Rites defray.
Commit we then Thee to Thy Self: nor blame
Our drooping loves, which thus to thine own fame
Leave Thee Executour: since but thy own
No pen could do Thee Justice, nor Bayes crown
Thy vast desert; save that we nothing can
Depute to be thy ashes Guardian.
So Jewellers no Art or Metal trust
To form the Diamond, but the Diamonds dust.

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Patrick White

Sit Warmly Here With Me Awhile

Sit warmly here with me awhile
and I will smother you in fireflies
until your aura looks like
a dandelion constellation
or a globular cluster of first magnitude stars.
My scars have exhumed the knives of old wounds.
And though I confide in the void
like an echo returning to its own voice
or a breath to the sacred groves of the lungs at sunset
and superseded my quota of regrets
to make an expandable universe liveable
every firefly of insight's
got the engine of a dragon behind it
and it burns like a dark clarity within me.
Wrap your silence and mystery around me
like a chrysalis or cloak
and let me rest in your indivisibility awhile
until I disappear deep in your eyes
like a nightbird into its longing.
Let me sit around the lonely fire of your heart
as if I were the only house of the zodiac
who comes to you like an illicit love affair
with its lights still on
long after all the others have gone out.
My solitude is bruised by an abyss
that keeps digging deeper into me
and sometimes it feels as if
it's looking for water and a well
and then other times it's a midnight burial
of someone I can only catch a glimpse of
once and a while under a full moon
that looks like an undertaker
through the leafless veils of the weeping willows
digging his own grave
but feels just like a spade hitting my skull
like a strange form of paydirt
buried like the black pearl of the new moon
in a hope chest of star mud.
Take the coin from under my tongue
like the last sacred syllable
of my unconditional humanity
and throw it down this black hole in my heart
like the moon in a wishing well
and embrace me as if I were not dead awhile.
Out of the ashes the smoke and the flames
like two candles under the stars
let's make up myths of origin
where the gods have no names
until the wildflowers that have outgrown
the gates of the Garden of Eden
look back at where they come from
like a long way away
and give them one
like the elders of an Ojibway tribe
decide on the names of the new born
each according to the totem of a dream.
Pull this thorn from my eye
like the eyelash of the last crescent of the moon
and let me see you face to face
without a thousand and one tears between us.
I shall glorify you like a mosque in lapis lazuli
that can no more contain your image
than the day the night
or one constellation
the whole of the Milky Way.
I shall paint your portrait in picture-music
like the moon reflected on the black water gardens
of the Taj Mahal in mystic hues
of nocturnal waterlilies and cobalt blues
to highlight your eyelids when you sleep
and on your lips rose drops of blood
to wake you like a kiss from your dream
when the waterbirds rise from the lake.
Receive me like a sword into your depths
I throw in tribute from a bridge that crosses over
to the other side of myself
as if you were the far shore of my mindstream
come near to sit with me here awhile
and reminisce like water
on the things that have been and passed
as we listen to the tender laughter of the waves.
I will lift up my shirt
and show you the scars of all the holy wars
I've fought with myself like a faithful heretic
who knew he was doomed to lose
and the spots where the spearheads of insight
penetrated my heart like a voodoo doll
baptized in hot whiskey and cold blood
to take a message to the gods
about human suffering
in a language they could understand
wasn't just the echo of their own voices.
Sit with me here awhile like a face beside a mirror
looking out upon the same starfields
without a trace of our own reflections in the view
and I will teach you
the healing powers of a wounded mouth
like the secret grammar of a grail that seeks itself.

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The Grave (excerpt)

While some affect the sun, and some the shade.
Some flee the city, some the hermitage;
Their aims as various, as the roads they take
In journeying thro' life;--the task be mine,
To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb;
Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
These travellers meet.--Thy succours I implore,
Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
The keys of Hell and Death.--The Grave, dread thing!
Men shiver when thou'rt named: Nature appall'd
Shakes off her wonted firmness.--Ah ! how dark
The long-extended realms, and rueful wastes!
Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was chaos, ere the infant Sun
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
Athwart the gloom profound.--The sickly taper,
By glimm'ring thro' thy low-brow'd misty vaults,
(Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime)
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,
Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
'Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
Where light-heel'd ghosts, and visionary shades,
Beneath the wan, cold moon (as fame reports)
Embodied thick, perform their mystic rounds,
No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.

See yonder hallow'd fane;--the pious work
Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
And buried midst the wreck of things which were;
There lie interr'd the more illustrious dead.
The wind is up:--hark! how it howls!--Methinks,
'Till now, I never heard a sound so dreary:
Doors creak, and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
Rook'd in the spire, screams loud; the gloomy aisles
Black plaster'd, and hung round with shreds f 'scutcheons,
And tatter'd coats of arms, send back the sund,
Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
The mansions of the dead.--Rous'd from their slumbers,
In grim array the grisly spectres rise,
Grin horrible, and, obstinately sullen,
Pass and repass, hush'd as the foot of night.
Again the screech-owl shrieks--ungracious sound!
I'll hear no more; it makes one's blood run chill.

Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
(Coeval near with that) all ragged show,
Long lash'd by the rude winds. Some rift half down
Their branchless trunks; others so thin at top,
That scarce two crows can lodge in the same tree.
Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here;
Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs;
Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;
And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.
(Such tales their cheer at wake or gossipping,
When it draws near to witching time of night.)

Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,
The sound of something purring at his heels;
Full fast he flies, and dare not look behind him,
'Till, out of breath, he overtakes his fellows,
Who gather round and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition tall and ghastly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
Evanishes at crowing of the cock.

The new-made widow, too, I've sometimes 'spy'd,
Sad sight! slow moving o'er the prostrate dead:
Listless, she crawls along in doleful black,
While bursts of sorrow gush from either eye,
Fast falling down her now untasted cheek,
Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
She drops; while busy meddling memory,
In barbarous succession, musters up
The past endearments of their softer hours,
Tenacious of its theme. Still, still she thinks
She sees him, and indulging the fond thought,
Clings yet more closely to the senseless turf,
Nor heeds the passenger who looks that way.

Invidious Grave!--how dost thou rend in sunder
Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one?
A tie more stubborn far than Nature's band.
Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul,
Sweet'ner of life, and solder of society,
I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
Oft have I prov'd the labours of thy love,
And the warm efforts of the gentle heart,
Anxious to please.--Oh! when my friend and I
In some thick wood have wander'd heedless on,
Hid from the vulgar eye, and sat us down
Upon the sloping cowslip-cover'd bank,
Where the pure limpid stream has slid along
In grateful errors thro' the underwood,
Sweet murmuring; methought the shrill-tongued thrush
Mended his song of love; the sooty blackbird
Mellow'd his pipe, and soften'd every note:
The eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the rose
Assum'd a dye more deep; whilst ev'ry flower
Vied with its fellow-plant in luxury
Of dress--Oh! then the longest summer's day
Seem'd too too much in haste; still the full heart
Had not imparted half: 'twas happiness
Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed,
Not to return, how painful the remembrance!

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Grave, The (excerpt)

While some affect the sun, and some the shade.
Some flee the city, some the hermitage;
Their aims as various, as the roads they take
In journeying thro' life;--the task be mine,
To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb;
Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all
These travellers meet.--Thy succours I implore,
Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
The keys of Hell and Death.--The Grave, dread thing!
Men shiver when thou'rt named: Nature appall'd
Shakes off her wonted firmness.--Ah ! how dark
The long-extended realms, and rueful wastes!
Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark night,
Dark as was chaos, ere the infant Sun
Was roll'd together, or had tried his beams
Athwart the gloom profound.--The sickly taper,
By glimm'ring thro' thy low-brow'd misty vaults,
(Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime)
Lets fall a supernumerary horror,
And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,
Cheerless, unsocial plant! that loves to dwell
'Midst skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms:
Where light-heel'd ghosts, and visionary shades,
Beneath the wan, cold moon (as fame reports)
Embodied thick, perform their mystic rounds,
No other merriment, dull tree! is thine.

See yonder hallow'd fane;--the pious work
Of names once fam'd, now dubious or forgot,
And buried midst the wreck of things which were;
There lie interr'd the more illustrious dead.
The wind is up:--hark! how it howls!--Methinks,
'Till now, I never heard a sound so dreary:
Doors creak, and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
Rook'd in the spire, screams loud; the gloomy aisles
Black plaster'd, and hung round with shreds of 'scutcheons,
And tatter'd coats of arms, send back the sound,
Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
The mansions of the dead.--Rous'd from their slumbers,
In grim array the grisly spectres rise,
Grin horrible, and, obstinately sullen,
Pass and repass, hush'd as the foot of night.
Again the screech-owl shrieks--ungracious sound!
I'll hear no more; it makes one's blood run chill.

Quite round the pile, a row of reverend elms,
(Coeval near with that) all ragged show,
Long lash'd by the rude winds. Some rift half down
Their branchless trunks; others so thin at top,
That scarce two crows can lodge in the same tree.
Strange things, the neighbours say, have happen'd here;
Wild shrieks have issued from the hollow tombs;
Dead men have come again, and walk'd about;
And the great bell has toll'd, unrung, untouch'd.
(Such tales their cheer at wake or gossipping,
When it draws near to witching time of night.)

Oft in the lone church yard at night I've seen,
By glimpse of moonshine chequering thro' the trees,
The school boy, with his satchel in his hand,
Whistling aloud to bear his courage up,
And lightly tripping o'er the long flat stones,
(With nettles skirted, and with moss o'ergrown,)
That tell in homely phrase who lie below.
Sudden he starts, and hears, or thinks he hears,
The sound of something purring at his heels;
Full fast he flies, and dare not look behind him,
'Till, out of breath, he overtakes his fellows,
Who gather round and wonder at the tale
Of horrid apparition tall and ghastly,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
O'er some new-open'd grave; and (strange to tell!)
Evanishes at crowing of the cock.

The new-made widow, too, I've sometimes 'spy'd,
Sad sight! slow moving o'er the prostrate dead:
Listless, she crawls along in doleful black,
While bursts of sorrow gush from either eye,
Fast falling down her now untasted cheek,
Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man
She drops; while busy meddling memory,
In barbarous succession, musters up
The past endearments of their softer hours,
Tenacious of its theme. Still, still she thinks
She sees him, and indulging the fond thought,
Clings yet more closely to the senseless turf,
Nor heeds the passenger who looks that way.

Invidious Grave!--how dost thou rend in sunder
Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one?
A tie more stubborn far than Nature's band.
Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul,
Sweet'ner of life, and solder of society,
I owe thee much. Thou hast deserv'd from me,
Far, far beyond what I can ever pay.
Oft have I prov'd the labours of thy love,
And the warm efforts of the gentle heart,
Anxious to please.--Oh! when my friend and I
In some thick wood have wander'd heedless on,
Hid from the vulgar eye, and sat us down
Upon the sloping cowslip-cover'd bank,
Where the pure limpid stream has slid along
In grateful errors thro' the underwood,
Sweet murmuring; methought the shrill-tongued thrush
Mended his song of love; the sooty blackbird
Mellow'd his pipe, and soften'd every note:
The eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the rose
Assum'd a dye more deep; whilst ev'ry flower
Vied with its fellow-plant in luxury
Of dress--Oh! then the longest summer's day
Seem'd too too much in haste; still the full heart
Had not imparted half: 'twas happiness
Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed,
Not to return, how painful the remembrance!

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Oscar Wilde

The Burden Of Itys

THIS English Thames is holier far than Rome,
Those harebells like a sudden flush of sea
Breaking across the woodland, with the foam
Of meadow-sweet and white anemone
To fleck their blue waves,--God is likelier there,
Than hidden in that crystal-hearted star the pale monks bear!

Those violet-gleaming butterflies that take
Yon creamy lily for their pavilion
Are monsignores, and where the rushes shake
A lazy pike lies basking in the sun
His eyes half-shut,--He is some mitred old
Bishop in partibus! look at those gaudy scales all green and gold.

The wind the restless prisoner of the trees
Does well for Palæstrina, one would say
The mighty master's hands were on the keys
Of the Maria organ, which they play
When early on some sapphire Easter morn
In a high litter red as blood or sin the Pope is borne

From his dark House out to the Balcony
Above the bronze gates and the crowded square,
Whose very fountains seem for ecstasy
To toss their silver lances in the air,
And stretching out weak hands to East and West
In vain sends peace to peaceless lands, to restless nations rest.

Is not yon lingering orange afterglow
That stays to vex the moon more fair than all
Rome's lordliest pageants! strange, a year ago
I knelt before some crimson Cardinal
Who bare the Host across the Esquiline,
And now--those common poppies in the wheat seem twice as fine.

The blue-green beanfields yonder, tremulous
With the last shower, sweeter perfume bring
Through this cool evening than the odorous
Flame-jewelled censers the young deacons swing,
When the grey priest unlocks the curtained shrine,
And makes God's body from the common fruit of corn and vine.

Poor Fra Giovanni bawling at the mass
Were out of tune now, for a small brown bird
Sings overhead, and through the long cool grass
I see that throbbing throat which once I heard
On starlit hills of flower-starred Arcady,
Once where the white and crescent sand of Salamis meets sea.

Sweet is the swallow twittering on the eaves
At daybreak, when the mower whets his scythe,
And stock-doves murmur, and the milkmaid leaves
Her little lonely bed, and carols blithe
To see the heavy-lowing cattle wait
Stretching their huge and dripping mouths across the farmyard gate.

And sweet the hops upon the Kentish leas,
And sweet the wind that lifts the new-mown hay,
And sweet the fretful swarms of grumbling bees
That round and round the linden blossoms play;
And sweet the heifer breathing in the stall,
And the green bursting figs that hang upon the red-brick wall.

And sweet to hear the cuckoo mock the spring
While the last violet loiters by the well,
And sweet to hear the shepherd Daphnis sing
The song of Linus through a sunny dell
Of warm Arcadia where the corn is gold
And the slight lithe-limbed reapers dance about the wattled fold.

And sweet with young Lycoris to recline
In some Illyrian valley far away,
Where canopied on herbs amaracine
We too might waste the summer-trancèd day
Matching our reeds in sportive rivalry,
While far beneath us frets the troubled purple of the sea.

But sweeter far if silver-sandalled foot
Of some long-hidden God should ever tread
The Nuneham meadows, if with reeded flute
Pressed to his lips some Faun might raise his head
By the green water-flags, ah! sweet indeed
To see the heavenly herdsman call his white-fleeced flock to feed.

Then sing to me thou tuneful chorister,
Though what thou sing'st be thine own requiem!
Tell me thy tale thou hapless chronicler
Of thine own tragedies! do not contemn
These unfamiliar haunts, this English field,
For many a lovely coronal our northern isle can yield,

Which Grecian meadows know not, many a rose,
Which all day long in vales Æolian
A lad might seek in vain for, overgrows
Our hedges like a wanton courtezan
Unthrifty of her beauty, lilies too
Ilissus never mirrored star our streams, and cockles blue

Dot the green wheat which, though they are the signs
For swallows going south, would never spread
Their azure tents between the Attic vines;
Even that little weed of ragged red,
Which bids the robin pipe, in Arcady
Would be a trespasser, and many an unsung elegy

Sleeps in the reeds that fringe our winding Thames
Which to awake were sweeter ravishment
Than ever Syrinx wept for, diadems
Of brown bee-studded orchids which were meant
For Cytheræa's brows are hidden here
Unknown to Cytheræa, and by yonder pasturing steer

There is a tiny yellow daffodil,
The butterfly can see it from afar,
Although one summer evening's dew could fill
Its little cup twice over ere the star
Had called the lazy shepherd to his fold
And be no prodigal, each leaf is flecked with spotted gold

As if Jove's gorgeous leman Danaé
Hot from his gilded arms had stooped to kiss
The trembling petals, or young Mercury
Low-flying to the dusky ford of Dis
Had with one feather of his pinions
Just brushed them!--the slight stem which bears the burden of its
suns

Is hardly thicker than the gossamer,
Or poor Arachne's silver tapestry,--
Men say it bloomed upon the sepulchre
Of One I sometime worshipped, but to me
It seems to bring diviner memories
Of faun-loved Heliconian glades and blue nymph-haunted seas,

Of an untrodden vale at Tempe where
On the clear river's marge Narcissus lies,
The tangle of the forest in his hair,
The silence of the woodland in his eyes,
Wooing that drifting imagery which is
No sooner kissed than broken, memories of Salmacis

Who is not boy or girl and yet is both,
Fed by two fires and unsatisfied
Through their excess, each passion being loth
For love's own sake to leave the other's side
Yet killing love by staying, memories
Of Oreads peeping through the leaves of silent moon-lit trees,

Of lonely Ariadne on the wharf
At Naxos, when she saw the treacherous crew
Far out at sea, and waved her crimson scarf
And called false Theseus back again nor knew
That Dionysos on an amber pard
Was close behind her, memories of what Maeonia's bard

With sightless eyes beheld, the wall of Troy,
Queen Helen lying in the carven room,
And at her side an amorous red-lipped boy
Trimming with dainty hand his helmet's plume,
And far away the moil, the shout, the groan,
As Hector shielded off the spear and Ajax hurled the stone;

Of wingèd Perseus with his flawless sword
Cleaving the snaky tresses of the witch,
And all those tales imperishably stored
In little Grecian urns, freightage more rich
Than any gaudy galleon of Spain
Bare from the Indies ever! these at least bring back again,

For well I know they are not dead at all,
The ancient Gods of Grecian poesy,
They are asleep, and when they hear thee call
Will wake and think 't is very Thessaly,
This Thames the Daulian waters, this cool glade
The yellow-irised mead where once young Itys laughed and played.

If it was thou dear jasmine-cradled bird
Who from the leafy stillness of thy throne
Sang to the wondrous boy, until he heard
The horn of Atalanta faintly blown
Across the Cumner hills, and wandering
Through Bagley wood at evening found the Attic poets' spring,--

Ah! tiny sober-suited advocate
That pleadest for the moon against the day!
If thou didst make the shepherd seek his mate
On that sweet questing, when Proserpina
Forgot it was not Sicily and leant
Across the mossy Sandford stile in ravished wonderment,--

Light-winged and bright-eyed miracle of the wood!
If ever thou didst soothe with melody
One of that little clan, that brotherhood
Which loved the morning-star of Tuscany
More than the perfect sun of Raphael
And is immortal, sing to me! for I too love thee well,

Sing on! sing on! let the dull world grow young,
Let elemental things take form again,
And the old shapes of Beauty walk among
The simple garths and open crofts, as when
The son of Leto bare the willow rod,
And the soft sheep and shaggy goats followed the boyish God.

Sing on! sing on! and Bacchus will be here
Astride upon his gorgeous Indian throne,
And over whimpering tigers shake the spear
With yellow ivy crowned and gummy cone,
While at his side the wanton Bassarid
Will throw the lion by the mane and catch the mountain kid!

Sing on! and I will wear the leopard skin,
And steal the moonéd wings of Ashtaroth,
Upon whose icy chariot we could win
Cithæron in an hour e'er the froth
Has overbrimmed the wine-vat or the Faun
Ceased from the treading! ay, before the flickering lamp of dawn

Has scared the hooting owlet to its nest,
And warned the bat to close its filmy vans,
Some Mænad girl with vine-leaves on her breast
Will filch their beechnuts from the sleeping Pans
So softly that the little nested thrush
Will never wake, and then with shrilly laugh and leap will rush

Down the green valley where the fallen dew
Lies thick beneath the elm and count her store,
Till the brown Satyrs in a jolly crew
Trample the loosestrife down along the shore,
And where their hornèd master sits in state
Bring strawberries and bloomy plums upon a wicker crate!

Sing on! and soon with passion-wearied face
Through the cool leaves Apollo's lad will come,
The Tyrian prince his bristled boar will chase
Adown the chestnut-copses all a-bloom,
And ivory-limbed, grey-eyed, with look of pride,
After yon velvet-coated deer the virgin maid will ride.

Sing on! and I the dying boy will see
Stain with his purple blood the waxen bell
That overweighs the jacinth, and to me
The wretched Cyprian her woe will tell,
And I will kiss her mouth and streaming eyes,
And lead her to the myrtle-hidden grove where Adon lies!

Cry out aloud on Itys! memory
That foster-brother of remorse and pain
Drops poison in mine ear,--O to be free,
To burn one's old ships! and to launch again
Into the white-plumed battle of the waves
And fight old Proteus for the spoil of coral-flowered caves!

O for Medea with her poppied spell!
O for the secret of the Colchian shrine!
O for one leaf of that pale asphodel
Which binds the tired brows of Proserpine,
And sheds such wondrous dews at eve that she
Dreams of the fields of Enna, by the far Sicilian sea,

Where oft the golden-girdled bee she chased
From lily to lily on the level mead,
Ere yet her sombre Lord had bid her taste
The deadly fruit of that pomegranate seed,
Ere the black steeds had harried her away
Down to the faint and flowerless land, the sick and sunless day.

O for one midnight and as paramour
The Venus of the little Melian farm!
O that some antique statue for one hour
Might wake to passion, and that I could charm
The Dawn at Florence from its dumb despair
Mix with those mighty limbs and make that giant breast my lair!

Sing on! sing on! I would be drunk with life,
Drunk with the trampled vintage of my youth,
I would forget the wearying wasted strife,
The riven vale, the Gorgon eyes of Truth,
The prayerless vigil and the cry for prayer,
The barren gifts, the lifted arms, the dull insensate air!

Sing on! sing on! O feathered Niobe,
Thou canst make sorrow beautiful, and steal
From joy its sweetest music, not as we
Who by dead voiceless silence strive to heal
Our too untented wounds, and do but keep
Pain barricadoed in our hearts, and murder pillowed sleep.

Sing louder yet, why must I still behold
The wan white face of that deserted Christ,
Whose bleeding hands my hands did once enfold,
Whose smitten lips my lips so oft have kissed,
And now in mute and marble misery
Sits in his lone dishonoured House and weeps, perchance for me.

O memory cast down thy wreathèd shell!
Break thy hoarse lute O sad Melpomene!
O sorrow sorrow keep thy cloistered cell
Nor dim with tears this limpid Castaly!
Cease, cease, sad bird, thou dost the forest wrong
To vex its sylvan quiet with such wild impassioned song!

Cease, cease, or if 'tis anguish to be dumb
Take from the pastoral thrush her simpler air,
Whose jocund carelessness doth more become
This English woodland than thy keen despair,
Ah! cease and let the northwind bear thy lay
Back to the rocky hills of Thrace, the stormy Daulian bay.

A moment more, the startled leaves had stirred,
Endymion would have passed across the mead
Moonstruck with love, and this still Thames had heard
Pan plash and paddle groping for some reed
To lure from her blue cave that Naiad maid
Who for such piping listens half in joy and half afraid.

A moment more, the waking dove had cooed,
The silver daughter of the silver sea
With the fond gyves of clinging hands had wooed
Her wanton from the chase, and Dryope
Had thrust aside the branches of her oak
To see the lusty gold-haired lad rein in his snorting yoke.

A moment more, the trees had stooped to kiss
Pale Daphne just awakening from the swoon
Of tremulous laurels, lonely Salmacis
Had bared his barren beauty to the moon,
And through the vale with sad voluptuous smile
Antinous had wandered, the red lotus of the Nile

Down leaning from his black and clustering hair
To shade those slumberous eyelids' caverned bliss,
Or else on yonder grassy slope with bare
High-tuniced limbs unravished Artemis
Had bade her hounds give tongue, and roused the deer
From his green ambuscade with shrill halloo and pricking spear.

Lie still, lie still, O passionate heart, lie still!
O Melancholy, fold thy raven wing!
O sobbing Dryad, from thy hollow hill
Come not with such desponded answering!
No more thou wingèd Marsyas complain,
Apollo loveth not to hear such troubled songs of pain!

It was a dream, the glade is tenantless,
No soft Ionian laughter moves the air,
The Thames creeps on in sluggish leadenness,
And from the copse left desolate and bare
Fled is young Bacchus with his revelry,
Yet still from Nuneham wood there comes that thrilling melody

So sad, that one might think a human heart
Brake in each separate note, a quality
Which music sometimes has, being the Art
Which is most nigh to tears and memory,
Poor mourning Philomel, what dost thou fear?
Thy sister doth not haunt these fields, Pandion is not here,

Here is no cruel Lord with murderous blade,
No woven web of bloody heraldries,
But mossy dells for roving comrades made,
Warm valleys where the tired student lies
With half-shut book, and many a winding walk
Where rustic lovers stray at eve in happy simple talk.

The harmless rabbit gambols with its young
Across the trampled towing-path, where late
A troop of laughing boys in jostling throng
Cheered with their noisy cries the racing eight;
The gossamer, with ravelled silver threads,
Works at its little loom, and from the dusky red-eaved sheds

Of the lone Farm a flickering light shines out
Where the swinked shepherd drives his bleating flock
Back to their wattled sheep-cotes, a faint shout
Comes from some Oxford boat at Sandford lock,
And starts the moor-hen from the sedgy rill,
And the dim lengthening shadows flit like swallows up the hill.

The heron passes homeward to the mere,
The blue mist creeps among the shivering trees,
Gold world by world the silent stars appear,
And like a blossom blown before the breeze,
A white moon drifts across the shimmering sky,
Mute arbitress of all thy sad, thy rapturous threnody.

She does not heed thee, wherefore should she heed,
She knows Endymion is not far away,
'Tis I, 'tis I, whose soul is as the reed
Which has no message of its own to play,
So pipes another's bidding, it is I,
Drifting with every wind on the wide sea of misery.

Ah! the brown bird has ceased: one exquisite trill
About the sombre woodland seems to cling,
Dying in music, else the air is still,
So still that one might hear the bat's small wing
Wander and wheel above the pines, or tell
Each tiny dewdrop dripping from the blue-bell's brimming cell.

And far away across the lengthening wold,
Across the willowy flats and thickets brown,
Magdalen's tall tower tipped with tremulous gold
Marks the long High Street of the little town,
And warns me to return; I must not wait,
Hark! 'tis the curfew booming from the bell at Christ Church gate.

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