There are people whom one loves immediately and forever. Even to know they are alive in the world with one is quite enough.
There Are Pains Beyond The Healing Of Poetry
THERE ARE PAINS BEYOND THE HEALING OF POETRY
There are pains beyond the healing of poetry-
Life’s wounds can be deeper than any helping song or thought-
A life can fail
And go into the ground
With all its cries unanswered.
Who are we to know why we suffer so sometimes?
Perhaps we deserve it,
Perhaps we do not.
There Are Times/ When The Poetry Of The Poem
THERE ARE TIMES/ WHEN THE POETRY OF THE POEM
There are times
When the poetry of the poem,
And the poetry of the poet
But there are too times
When the poetry of the poet
And the poetry of the poem
Are not poetry.
There are times
When all the poetry,
And all the poets in the universe
Do not make the world a poem.
There are times that the walls
There are times that the walls
of the bedroom wants to fold in,
when sheer loneliness becomes too much
and the power of love focuses on loss
as if nothingness wants to fill the whole body
and we are stripped naked by it,
when it concentrates on love that still survives,
lingers while death have robbed us
and we yearn for something new,
for someone unknown.
There are times that I am at peace
There are times
that I am at peace, in tranquillity
with the world surrounding me
even with my enemies
who in a godlike way
judged me, stole my life
my job from me
with a certainty of the perfect correctness
of their actions and decisions
without having all the facts, without walking
in my shoes, without judging me on merit.
There are times
when the world seems a friendly place,
where I see great beauty
in the way that the world functions,
in every shrub, every flower and tree.
There are times where I am free
from men who take political decisions
about my future, where I am free from the military
free from the influence, the mangling of men
and then there are times when I know
how much you mean to me,
where the meaning, the sheer beauty
compassion and joy that you bring
floods me like an everlasting spring.
- quotes about divine
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about jobs
- quotes about men
- quotes about walking
- quotes about perfection
- quotes about time
- quotes about future
- quotes about peace
To-- Oh! there are spirits of the air
Dakrysi Dioisw Potmon Apotmon
Oh! there are spirits of the air,
And genii of the evening breeze,
And gentle ghosts, with eyes as fair
As star-beams among twilight trees:—
Such lovely ministers to meet
Oft hast thou turned from men thy lonely feet.
With mountain winds, and babbling springs,
And moonlight seas, that are the voice
Of these inexplicable things,
Thou didst hold commune, and rejoice
When they did answer thee; but they
Cast, like a worthless boon, thy love away.
And thou hast sought in starry eyes
Beams that were never meant for thine,
Another’s wealth:—tame sacrifice
To a fond faith! still dost thou pine?
Still dost thou hope that greeting hands,
Voice, looks, or lips, may answer thy demands?
Ah! wherefore didst thou build thine hope
On the false earth’s inconstancy?
Did thine own mind afford no scope
Of love, or moving thoughts to thee?
That natural scenes or human smiles
Could steal the power to wind thee in their wiles?
Yes, all the faithless smiles are fled
Whose falsehood left thee broken-hearted;
The glory of the moon is dead;
Night’s ghosts and dreams have now departed;
Thine own soul still is true to thee,
But changed to a foul fiend through misery.
This fiend, whose ghastly presence ever
Beside thee like thy shadow hangs,
Dream not to chase;—the mad endeavour
Would scourge thee to severer pangs.
Be as thou art. Thy settled fate,
Dark as it is, all change would aggravate.
- quotes about Moon
- quotes about heart
- quotes about wind
- quotes about voice
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about dreaming
- quotes about mountains
- quotes about fate
- quotes about art
There Are Holes In The Sky
There are holes in the sky
Where the rain gets in
But there ever so small
That's why the rain is thin.
We Are Alive In The Moment Of Death
We are the nocturnal nightmares of fear induced
We are fear by which hope is reduced
We are the dead and the living the same
We are the board when your life is the game
We are as children hung from a rope
We are as children in fear of lost hope
We are the dead and the living the same
We are the board when your life is the game.
We are the silence of all that is night
We are the shadows scared of the light
We are the dead and the living the same
We are the parasite worms in your brain.
We are the killers of true passion in love
We are the angels of Hell’s mansion above
We are the wings upon which devils may fly
We are the fear and the tears that you cry
We are the dead and the living the same
We are the parasite worms in your brain.
We are the moon as we are the sun
We are the end and the story begun
We are the dead and the living the same
We are the board when your life is the game.
We are the children who beat you at school
We are the teachers that deem you a fool
We are the rotting as we are the fresh
We are alive in the moment of death.
Silence, where there are no words! !
'somewhere in my heart I still find myself some time,
I keep all the loneliness at one side and let the silence rhyme,
Then I open my mind to some fairy tales,
some heartless mind wandering trails,
oh then and there,
I land up somewhere,
up above the sky height.
I open the cockpit of my flight
and see the words flowing into you
oh you are the first woman whom i knew,
you are someone to whom my first words were addressed,
oh my heart rupturing mother come lets get dressed,
as we have to go so far away even from your words
to seek the language of the silence where there are no word,
the ultimate and utter silence mother'
'but what will you do there if there are no words there,
the ever eating silence will scare you and get your out, fear',
said the crystal eyed my other,
'won't you seek the silence in one another,
let me talk you through this out,
i want to hear my tears fall and sprout,
in this loneliness and utter silence i cry,
i am so soused but it's still dry,
no matter what i can't stop this thought of mine,
yes, there will be silence and everything will be fine'.
There Are The Days That The Silence Need Not Hear Itself
There are days that the Silence need not hear itself-
It rests calmly where no one is
And waits wholly alone for nothing to disturb it-
It knows what it knows and it does not know anything
But it is calm as peace as rest after satisfying love-
It knows it need not hear itself
It knows it is not
Silence waits and calls
Listens and answers
Pretends to be
And pretends not to be-
What it is really can be heard only
By those who have at one time or another have known
The infinite intimations given by the musics of Sound
There Are Moments
There are moments
In the reservoir of life
When the hours become twisted
And slowly drown in infinity.
There are moments
When traveling through
The unending highway of destiny,
One feels like wasted in a bin of time.
There are moments
When the mind is trapped
In the tunnel of forgetfulness
While words become muted
And the fragile body motionless.
there are moments
When you feel like in a vessel
Caught on fire and capsizing
In the middle of the sea
There is not help at all.
There are moments
When facts are unknown
Why or what has happened
In the urgency of self-preservation
And the only help is oneself alone
In the rescue of the senses-flammable
Until oppositely charged
By expulsion or exposition.
Knowing the vessel was capsizing
and that the only sailor was me,
I found the way to stay afloat
Along with an invisible friend named Hope
Who gave me strength to keep on going
Until reaching the solid ground
Thank you, my Lord!
For no abandoning me
In this tumultuous journey!
One Against the World
It's my opinion - though I own
In thinking so I'm quite alone -
In some respects I'm but a fright.
YOU like my features, I suppose?
I'M disappointed with my nose:
Some rave about it - perhaps they're right.
My figure just sets off a fit;
But when they say it's exquisite
(And they DO say so), that's too strong.
I hope I'm not what people call
Opinionated! After all,
I'm but a goose, and may be wrong!
When charms enthral
There's some excuse
For measures strong;
And after all
I'm but a goose,
And may be wrong!
My teeth are very neat, no doubt;
But after all they MAY fall out:
I think they will - some think they won't.
My hands are small, as you may see,
But not as small as they might be,
At least, I think so - others don't.
But there, a girl may preach and prate
From morning six to evening eight,
And never stop to dine,
When all the world, although misled,
Is quite agreed on any head -
And it is quite agreed on mine!
All said and done,
It's little I
Against a throng.
I'm only one,
I may be wrong!
There are Places (From, To Oscar Act III)
There are places so far away
Where the ocean has its spell
And dark doesn't leave the day
When the night says its farewell
There are times of lasting things
Further out in unknown nowhere
Where a different world sings
Remote from all the reality here
Something no one listens too
For the dreams are very brief
Wishful themes and quite new
That so soon must split and leave
Every heart is what you'll know
Nothing else to reach there out
Wandering waves in tides flow
Reaching to those shores about
There are pleases in the sea
Further on and tenebrific now
Where we all would want to be
But never can reach to somehow
For in reality we must hearken
Holding on to what we're seeing
If there's some somewhat darken
We are not suppose to believing
There are places so far away
Where the oceans has its spell
And dark doesn't leave the day
When the night says its farewell
There are times of lasting things
Further out in unknown nowhere
Where a different world sings
Remote from all the reality here
(Inspired by a whale that came up the Thames)
(Shadows over a cradle…
throws something in the fire
and a smaller hand
runs into the flame and out again,
singed and empty….
settling over a cradle…
and a fire.)
Cherry, cherry, glowing on the hearth, bright red cherry…. When you try to pick up cherry Celia's shriek sticks in you like a pin.
When God throws hailstones you cuddle in Celia's shawl and press your feet on her belly high up like a stool. When Celia makes umbrella of her hand. Rain falls through big pink spokes of her fingers. When wind blows Celia's gown up off her legs she runs under pillars of the bank— great round pillars of the bank have on white stockings too.
Celia says my father
will bring me a golden bowl.
When I think of my father
I cannot see him
for the big yellow bowl
like the moon with two handles
he carries in front of him.
(Light all about you…
ginger… pouring out of green jars…)
You don't believe he has gone away and left his great coat…
so you pretend… you see his face up in the ceiling.
When you clap your hands and cry, grandpa, grandpa, grandpa,
Celia crosses herself.
It isn't a dream…. It comes again and again…. You hear ivy crying on steeples the flames haven't caught yet and images screaming when they see red light on the lilies on the stained glass window of St. Joseph. The girl with the black eyes holds you tight, and you run… and run past the wild, wild towers… and trees in the gardens tugging at their feet and little frightened dolls shut up in the shops crying… and crying… because no one stops… you spin like a penny thrown out in the street. Then the man clutches her by the hair…. He always clutches her by the hair…. His eyes stick out like spears. You see her pulled-back face and her black, black eyes lit up by the glare…. Then everything goes out. Please God, don't let me dream any more of the girl with the black, black eyes.
Celia's shadow rocks and rocks… and mama's eyes stare out of the pillow as though she had gone away and the night had come in her place as it comes in empty rooms… you can't bear it— the night threshing about and lashing its tail on its sides as bold as a wolf that isn't afraid— and you scream at her face, that is white as a stone on a grave and pull it around to the light, till the night draws backward… the night that walks alone and goes away without end. Mama says, I am cold, Betty, and shivers. Celia tucks the quilt about her feet, but I run for my little red cloak because red is hot like fire.
I wish Celia
could see the sea climb up on the sky
and slide off again…
I'd beg the world with you….
Celia… holding on to the cab…
hands wrenched away…
wind in the masts… like Celia crying….
Celia never minded if you slapped her
when the comb made your hairs ache,
but though you rub your cheek against mama's hand
she has not said darling since….
Now I will slap her again….
I will bite her hand till it bleeds.
It is cool by the port hole.
The wet rags of the wind
flap in your face.
Because you are four years old
the candle is all dressed up in a new frill.
And stars nod to you through the hole in the curtain,
(except the big stiff planets
too fat to move about much,)
and you curtsey back to the stars
when no one is looking.
You feel sorry for the poor wooden chair
that knows it isn't nice to sit on,
and no one is sad but mama.
You don't like mama to be sad
when you are four years old,
so you pretend
you like the bitter gold-pale tea—
if you don't drink it up pretty quick
a little gold-fish
will think it is a pond
and come and get born in it.
It's hot in our street and the breeze is a dirty little broom that sweeps dust into our room and bits of paper out of the alley. You are not let to play with the children in the alley But you must be very polite— so you pass them and say good day and when they fling banana skins you fling them back again.
There is no one to play with and the flies on the window buzz and buzz… …you can pull out their legs and stick pins in their bodies but still they buzz… and mama says: When Nero was a little boy he caught flies on his mama's window and pulled out their legs and stuck pins in their bodies and nobody loved him. Buzz, blue-bellied flies— buzz, nasty black wheel of mama's machine— you are the biggest fly of all— you have the loudest buzz. I hear you at dawn before the locusts. But I like the picture of the Flood and the little babies getting drowned…. If I were there I would save them, but as I can't save them I like to watch them getting drowned.
When mama buys of Ling Ho, he smiles very wide and picks her the largest loquots. The greens-man gave her a cabbage and she held it against her black bodice and said what a beautiful green it was and put it on the table as though it had been a flower. But next day we boiled and ate it with salt. It was our dinner.
Christmas day I found Janie on my pillow. Janie is made of rubber. Her red and blue jacket won't come off. Christmas dinner was green and white chicken and lettuce and peas and drops of oil on the salad smiley and full of light like the gold on the lady's teeth.
But mama said politely Thank you, we are dining out. She wouldn't let you take one pea to put in the hole where the whistle was at the back of Janie's head, so Janie should have some dinner So you went to the park with biscuits and black tea in a bottle.
You feel very sad
when you climb on the fence
to watch mama out of sight.
The women in the alley
poke their heads out of doorways
and watch her too.
You know her
by the way she holds her shoulders
till she is only a speck
in a chain of specks—
till she is swallowed up.
that day after day
you were to watch for her face
and it didn't come back?
it were to drop out of the string of white faces
like the pearl out of my chain
I never found again?
Mabel minds you while mama is out,
she washes while she sings
Three blind mice!
they all run away from the farmer's wife
who cut off their tails
with a carving knife—
Wind blows out Mabel's sheets,
way you blow in a bag before you burst it.
Wind has a soapy smell.
It's heavier'n sun
that lies all over you without any weight
and makes you feel happy
and crinkly like bubbling water.
There's no sun on the empty house—
you can't see in its windows
that watch you out of their corners.
Perhaps there's a big spider there
spinning gray threads over the windows
till they look like dead people's faces….
Jimmie's hair is white as a white mouse.
His lashes are gold as mama's wedding ring
and his mouth feels cool and smooth
like a flower wet with rain.
You wouldn't believe Jimmie was different…
till he showed you….
Blind wet sheets flapping on the lines… sun in your eyes, dark gold sun full of little black spots, you have to blink and blink… round eyes of Jimmie…. Jimmie's blue jumper… blue shadow of wall… all the world holding still as when a clock stops… streets still… people still… no streets… no people… only sky and wall… sun glaring bright as God down at you and Jimmie… shadow like a purple cloth trailing off the wall…
Wild wet sheets flapping in the wind… big slippered feet flapping too… big-balloon-face rushing up the alley… houses closing up again… windows looking round… … Mabel pulls you in the gate and shakes you and tells you not to tell your mama… And you wonder if God has spoiled Jimmie.
is smooth and pale as tea-rose leaves.
That ivory oval of aunt Gem
you sucked the miniature off
had black black hair like mama.
Pit-it-ty-pat, Mama walks so fast, street lamps jig without bending a leg… lights in the windows play twinkling tunes on crimson and blue bottles like bubbles big as balloons… Faster and faster… and pink light spurts over cakes doing polkas in little white shirts, with cake-princesses in flounced white skirts.
mama walks slower…
slower and… slower…
Eyes… lamps… stars…
acres and acres of stars…
bells… and sleepily
You're glad mama walks slow.
It's nice to be carried along
up high near the stars
that look at you with a grave, great look.
mama sings you to sleep.
When she sings, O for the light of thine eyes Dolores,
there's a castle on a cliff
and the sea roars like lions.
It leaps at the castle
and the cliff knocks it down
but always the sea
shakes its flattened head
and gets up again.
The castle has no roof
so the rain spins silvery webs in it,
and Dolores' face
floats dim and beautiful
the way flowers do when they are drowned.
Step by white step
she goes up the castle stairs,
but the stair goes up into the sky
and the sky keeps going up too,
and none of them ever get there.
When mama sings Ba ba black sheep, the stars seem to shine through her voice so everything has to be still, and when she has finished singing her song goes up off the earth, higher and higher… till it is only as big as a tiny silver bird with nothing but moonlight around it.
You can see the sandhills from our new room. Butterflies live in the sandhills and lizards and centipedes. If you keep very still lizards will think you a stone and run over your lap. Butterflies' liveries are scarlet and black. They drive chariots in air. People in the chariots are pale as dew— you can see right through them— but the chariots are made of gold of the sun. They go up to heaven and never catch fire. There are green centipedes and brown centipedes and black centipedes, because green and brown and black are the colors in hell's flag. Centipedes have hundreds of feet because it is so far from hell to come up for air. Centipedes do not hurry. They are waiting for the last day when they will creep over the false prophets who will have their hands tied.
Night calls to the sandhills and gathers them under her. she pushes away cities because their sharp lights hurt her soft breast. Even candles make a sore place when they stick in the night.
There are things in the sandhills that no one knows about… they come out at dark when the young snakes play and tell each other secrets in the deaf logs.
Sometimes… before rain… when the stars have gone inside… the night comes close to your window and sniffs at the light…. But you must not run away— you must keep your face to the night and walk backward.
When it rains and you are pulling off flies' legs… mama lets you play houses with Lizzie and Clara. Because you are the Only One— and because Only Ones have to live alone while sisters stay together, Lizzie and Clara give you the dry house and take the one with the leaking roof.
Rain like curly hairpins
blows on Lizzie and Clara's two heads
turned like one head—
spread into one laugh.
Lizzie is saying:
why don't you want to play—
when you feel you'd like to braid
the crinkled-silver rain
into a shining rope
to climb up… and up… and up… into the wet sky
and never see any one again.
Our gate doesn't hang right. It must have pawed at the wind and gotten a kick as the wind passed over. The sitting sky puffs out a gray smoke and the wind makes a red-striped sound blowing out straight, but our gate drags its foot and whines to itself on one hinge.
What do you think I've found—
two wee knickers of fairy brass,
or two gold sovereigns folded up
in a bit of green silk,
or two gold bugs
in little green shirts?
If you want to know,
you must walk tip-toe
so your feet just whisper in the grass—
you must carry them careful
and very proud,
for their stems bleed drops of milk—
but Lizzie and Clara shout in glee:
You look in the eyes of grown-up people
to see if they feel
the way you feel…
but they hide inside of themselves,
and so you do not find out.
Grown-up people say:
The stars are bright to-night,
but they do not say
what you are thinking about stars—
not even mama says what you are thinking about stars.
This makes you feel very lonely.
It's strange about stars…. You have to be still when they look at you. They push your song inside of you with their song. Their long silvery rays sink into you and do not hurt. It is good to feel them resting on you like great white birds… and their shining whiteness doesn't burn like the sun— it washes all over you and makes you feel cleaner'n water.
My doll Janie has no waist and her body is like a tub with feet on it. Sometimes I beat her but I always kiss her afterwards. When I have kissed all the paint off her body I shall tie a ribbon about it so she shan't look shabby. But it must be blue— it mustn't be pink— pink shows the dirt on her face that won't wash off.
I beat Janie
and beat her…
but still she smiled…
so I scratched her between the eyes with a pin.
Now she doesn't love me anymore…
she scowls… and scowls…
though I've begged her to forgive me
and poured sugar in the hole at the back of her head.
Mama says Janie is a fairy doll
and she has forgiven me—
that she's gone to the market
to buy me some sweets.
—Now she's at the door
and a little bag tied to her neck—
I run to Janie
and kiss her all over….
Ah… she is still frowning.
I let the sweets drop on the floor—
has told you a lie.
singing in street:
gleen ledd-ish-es, gleen ledd-ish-es—
shining on your face—
it must be a new day.
But why aren't you happy
if it's a new day?
Because something has happened…
something sad and terrible….
Now I remember… it's Janie.
I took Janie out
and tied my handkerchief over her face
and put sand in it
and threw her into the ditch
down in the black water
under the dock leaves…
and when mama asked me where Janie was
I said I had lost her.
I'm glad it is night-time
so I'll be able to go to sleep
and forget all about it….
But mama looks at my tongue
and says she will give me senna tea.
When you smell the tea
you shut your eyes tight
and pretend not to hear
the soft, cool voice of mama
that goes over your forehead
like a little wind.
And then you lie in the dark
and stare… and stare…
till the faces come…
yellow faces with leering eyes
drifting in a greeny mist….
if Janie sees faces
out there… alone in the dark….
if she has got the handkerchief off
or if the water has gone in the hole
where the whistle was
at the back of her head
and drowned her…
or if the stars
can see her under the dock leaves?
It's smoky-blue and still over the red road. Wind must be lying down with its tail under it— doesn't even flick off the flies. And you can hear the silence buzzing in the gum trees, the way the angels buzzed when they flew through the cedars of Lebanon with thin gauze wings you could see through. Nice to hear the silence buzzing— till it comes too close and booms in your ears and presses all over you till you scream…. When you scream at the silence it goes to jingling pieces like a silver mirror broken into tiny bits. Perhaps its wings are made of glass— perhaps it lives down in a dark, dark cave and only comes up to warm its wings in the sun…. It's cold in the cave— no matter how you cover yourself up. Little girls sit there dressed in white and the dolls in their arms all have white handkerchiefs over their faces. Their shadows cannot play with them… their shadows lie down at their feet… for the little girls sit stiff as stones with their backs to the mouth of the cave where a little light falls off the wings of the silence when it comes down out of the sun.
Moon catches the flying fish
as they dive in the bay.
spin over and over
into the water.
Mom bends over jungles
and touches the foreheads of tigers
as they pass under openings made by dropped leaves.
Tigers stop on the trail of the deer
while the moon is on their foreheads—
they let the stags go by.
Moon is shining strangely on the white palings of the fence. Fence keeps very still… most times it moves a little… everything moves a little though you mayn't know it… but now the little fence wouldn't change places with the great cross that stands so stiff and high with its back to the moon. Moon shining strangely on the white palings of the fence, I am shining too but my light is shut inside of me and can't get out.
Old house with black windows— blind house begging moonlight to put out the shadows— why do you want so much light? You creak when the wind steps on you— you cough up dust and your beams ache— you know you will soon fall, the moon just pities you! Don't waste yourself moon— come on my bed and play with me. Wrap me up in blue light, you who are cool. I am too hot, I am all alive and the shadows are outside of me.
There are different kinds of shadows.
The blind ones
are the shadows of things.
These are the tame shadows—
they love to play on the wall with you
and follow you about like cats and dogs.
they hiss at you softly
like snakes that do not bite,
or swish like women's dresses,
but if you poke a candle at them
they pull in their heads and disappear.
But there is a shadow that is not the shadow of a thing… it is a thing itself. When you meet this shadow you must not look at it too long… it grows with your looking at it… till you are all alone with nothing around you… nothing… nothing… nothing… but a shadow with its eyes full of black light.
There's a shadow in the corner of the shed, crouching, lying in wait… a black coiled shadow, watching… ready to strike… but I mustn't be afraid of it— I mustn't be afraid of anything. Poor evil shadow, the candle would chase it away only she can't get at it. Do you think that every one hates you, shadow with your back to the wall, afraid to lie down and sleep? But I don't hate you. Even the moon means to be kind. She just treads on you as I'd tread on a worm that I didn't see. Don't be afraid of me, shadow. See—I've no light in my hand— nothing to save myself with— yet I walk right up to you— if you'll let me I'll put my arms around you and stroke you softly. Are you surprised I'd put my arms around you? Is it your black black sorrow that nobody loves you?
When you tell mama you are going to do something great she looks at you as though you were a window she were trying to see through, and says she hopes you will be good instead of great.
When you are five years old
you spend the day in the Gardens.
The grass is greener than cabbages,
and orange lilies
stand up very straight
and will not curtsey to the sun
when the wind tells them.
Only pansies bow down very low.
Pansies make little purple cushions
for queen bees to stand on.
have brown silk hair on their bodies.
If you are careful
they will let you stroke them.
The trees over the marble man catch up all the sunbeams so the shadows have it their way— the shadows swallow him up like a blue shark. When you scoop a sunbeam up on your palm and offer it to the marble man, he does not notice… he looks into his stone beard. … When you do something great people give you a stone face, so you do not care any more when the sun throws gold on you through leaf-holes the wind makes in green bushes…. This thought makes me very sad.
Jude has eyes like tobacco
with yellow specks on it
and his hair is red as a red orange.
Jude and I
have made a garden in the field
that no one knows about.
We creep in and out
through a little place
where the barbed wire is down.
We lie in the long grass
and crush dandelions
between our two cheeks
till the milk comes out on our faces.
We hold each other tight
and the wind tip-toes all over us
and pelts us with thistle-down.
Jude isn't afraid of shadows—
not even of the ones that have eyes in them.
And he can look in the face of the sun
without blinking at all.
Hush! don't say sun so loud.
The sun gets angry when you stare at him.
If you peek in his glory-windows
he spreads into a great white flame
like God out of his Burning Bush…
till you put your hands up on your face
and tremble like a drop of rain upon a flower
that some one throws into the fire…
the sun makes himself small,
the sun swings down out of the sky—
littler'n a star,
little as a spark
little as a fierce red spider
on a burning thread…
the light goes out…
shivers into blackened bits….
You hold on to a wall that whirls around
and the gate is a black hole.
You grope your way in like a toad
that's blinded by a stone…
and mama puts on cold wet rags
that get hot soon….
Hush! don't let's talk about the sun.
When you pass by the ditch where Janie is You run very fast and look at the other side. Jude says Janie did love me only she couldn't forgive me, and that you can love people very much and never, never, never forgive them…. so we poked a stick in the bottle-green water. But only weeds came up and an old top with the paint washed off.
Jude and I
wave to the new moon
curled right up like one gold hair
on the bald-head sandhill.
Mama peeps out the window and smiles.
I am playing with myself…
Run, Jude, run with the wind—
but hold my hand tight
or the wind,
looking for some one to play with,
will take me away from you!
Wind with no one to play with
cooees the orange-trees—
stay-at-home orange trees,
have to nurse oranges,
Wind shouts to the grass—
tugs at its roots,
but the earth holds tight
and the grass falls down
and wind boos over it.
Wind whistles the bees—
bees too busy
with taking home stuff out of flowers
won't look back—
bees always going somewhere.
Only Jude and I—
heads over shoulders
watching all roads at one time—
run with the wind,
going to nowhere.
Jude and I
were weeding our garden
when we heard his whip—
must have been a new whip
to cut off dandelion-heads at one swing….
He was the kind of boy you knew when you had Celia….
with nice clothes on and curls
crawling about his collar
like little golden slugs,
and his man was leading his horse.
I wish I hadn't run to meet him….
If you hadn't run to meet him
he mightn't have trod on your garden and said:
Get out of my field you dirty little beggar…
he mightn't have struck you with his whip….
How the daisies stared….
I hate daisies—
stupid white faces—
craning over the grass!
I said It is not your field,
and he struck me again.
But he didn't make me run.
smelled of sweet soap…
he couldn't shake me off,
but his man did….
Funny—how the sky fell down
and turned over and over
like a blue carpet rolling you up,
and the grass caught at your face—
it couldn't have been spiteful—
it must have been saving itself.
Hot road… silly wind playing with your hair….
The road smelled of horses.
I only got up
when I heard a dray.
Mama has sung ba ba black sheep,
and put a chair with a cloth on it
between me and the light.
But the clock keeps saying:
Dirty little beggar,
dirty little beggar….
I will get that boy.
I will pull off his arms and legs
and put him in a box
and hide the box
under the bed….
will he buzz
when I take him out to look at his body
that will have no arms to whip me?
Mama drew my cot to the window
so I can look at the stars.
I will not look at the stars.
There is a black chimney
throwing up sparks
and one tall flame
like gold hair in a blaze….
I know now
what I shall do….
I will set fire to him
and he will burn up into a tall flame—
he will scream into the sky
and sparks will fly out of him—
he will burn and burn…
and his blazing hair
shall light up the world.
Before he hit me— I knew he was going to— I thought about Jude…. I thought if he'd fight… but he shriveled all up… he lay down like a fear.
Mama never knew about Jude. You always wanted to tell her, but somehow you never did. You were afraid she'd smile and say he wasn't real— that he was only a little dream-boy, because the grass didn't fall down under his feet…. He is fading now…. He is just lines… like a drawing…. You can see mama in between. When she moves she rubs some of him out.
The Odyssey: Book 14
Ulysses now left the haven, and took the rough track up through
the wooded country and over the crest of the mountain till he
reached the place where Minerva had said that he would find the
swineherd, who was the most thrifty servant he had. He found him
sitting in front of his hut, which was by the yards that he had
built on a site which could be seen from far. He had made them
spacious and fair to see, with a free ran for the pigs all round them;
he had built them during his master's absence, of stones which he
had gathered out of the ground, without saying anything to Penelope or
Laertes, and he had fenced them on top with thorn bushes. Outside
the yard he had run a strong fence of oaken posts, split, and set
pretty close together, while inside lie had built twelve sties near
one another for the sows to lie in. There were fifty pigs wallowing in
each sty, all of them breeding sows; but the boars slept outside and
were much fewer in number, for the suitors kept on eating them, and
die swineherd had to send them the best he had continually. There were
three hundred and sixty boar pigs, and the herdsman's four hounds,
which were as fierce as wolves, slept always with them. The
swineherd was at that moment cutting out a pair of sandals from a good
stout ox hide. Three of his men were out herding the pigs in one place
or another, and he had sent the fourth to town with a boar that he had
been forced to send the suitors that they might sacrifice it and
have their fill of meat.
When the hounds saw Ulysses they set up a furious barking and flew
at him, but Ulysses was cunning enough to sit down and loose his
hold of the stick that he had in his hand: still, he would have been
torn by them in his own homestead had not the swineherd dropped his ox
hide, rushed full speed through the gate of the yard and driven the
dogs off by shouting and throwing stones at them. Then he said to
Ulysses, "Old man, the dogs were likely to have made short work of
you, and then you would have got me into trouble. The gods have
given me quite enough worries without that, for I have lost the best
of masters, and am in continual grief on his account. I have to attend
swine for other people to eat, while he, if he yet lives to see the
light of day, is starving in some distant land. But come inside, and
when you have had your fill of bread and wine, tell me where you
come from, and all about your misfortunes."
On this the swineherd led the way into the hut and bade him sit
down. He strewed a good thick bed of rushes upon the floor, and on the
top of this he threw the shaggy chamois skin- a great thick one- on
which he used to sleep by night. Ulysses was pleased at being made
thus welcome, and said "May Jove, sir, and the rest of the gods
grant you your heart's desire in return for the kind way in which
you have received me."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Stranger, though a still
poorer man should come here, it would not be right for me to insult
him, for all strangers and beggars are from Jove. You must take what
you can get and be thankful, for servants live in fear when they
have young lords for their masters; and this is my misfortune now, for
heaven has hindered the return of him who would have been always
good to me and given me something of my own- a house, a piece of land,
a good looking wife, and all else that a liberal master allows a
servant who has worked hard for him, and whose labour the gods have
prospered as they have mine in the situation which I hold. If my
master had grown old here he would have done great things by me, but
he is gone, and I wish that Helen's whole race were utterly destroyed,
for she has been the death of many a good man. It was this matter that
took my master to Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight the
Trojans in the cause of kin Agamemnon."
As he spoke he bound his girdle round him and went to the sties
where the young sucking pigs were penned. He picked out two which he
brought back with him and sacrificed. He singed them, cut them up, and
spitted on them; when the meat was cooked he brought it all in and set
it before Ulysses, hot and still on the spit, whereon Ulysses
sprinkled it over with white barley meal. The swineherd then mixed
wine in a bowl of ivy-wood, and taking a seat opposite Ulysses told
him to begin.
"Fall to, stranger," said he, "on a dish of servant's pork. The
fat pigs have to go to the suitors, who eat them up without shame or
scruple; but the blessed gods love not such shameful doings, and
respect those who do what is lawful and right. Even the fierce
free-booters who go raiding on other people's land, and Jove gives
them their spoil- even they, when they have filled their ships and got
home again live conscience-stricken, and look fearfully for judgement;
but some god seems to have told these people that Ulysses is dead
and gone; they will not, therefore, go back to their own homes and
make their offers of marriage in the usual way, but waste his estate
by force, without fear or stint. Not a day or night comes out of
heaven, but they sacrifice not one victim nor two only, and they
take the run of his wine, for he was exceedingly rich. No other
great man either in Ithaca or on the mainland is as rich as he was; he
had as much as twenty men put together. I will tell you what he had.
There are twelve herds of cattle upon the mainland, and as many flocks
of sheep, there are also twelve droves of pigs, while his own men
and hired strangers feed him twelve widely spreading herds of goats.
Here in Ithaca he runs even large flocks of goats on the far end of
the island, and they are in the charge of excellent goatherds. Each
one of these sends the suitors the best goat in the flock every day.
As for myself, I am in charge of the pigs that you see here, and I
have to keep picking out the best I have and sending it to them."
This was his story, but Ulysses went on eating and drinking
ravenously without a word, brooding his revenge. When he had eaten
enough and was satisfied, the swineherd took the bowl from which he
usually drank, filled it with wine, and gave it to Ulysses, who was
pleased, and said as he took it in his hands, "My friend, who was this
master of yours that bought you and paid for you, so rich and so
powerful as you tell me? You say he perished in the cause of King
Agamemnon; tell me who he was, in case I may have met with such a
person. Jove and the other gods know, but I may be able to give you
news of him, for I have travelled much."
Eumaeus answered, "Old man, no traveller who comes here with news
will get Ulysses' wife and son to believe his story. Nevertheless,
tramps in want of a lodging keep coming with their mouths full of
lies, and not a word of truth; every one who finds his way to Ithaca
goes to my mistress and tells her falsehoods, whereon she takes them
in, makes much of them, and asks them all manner of questions,
crying all the time as women will when they have lost their
husbands. And you too, old man, for a shirt and a cloak would
doubtless make up a very pretty story. But the wolves and birds of
prey have long since torn Ulysses to pieces, or the fishes of the
sea have eaten him, and his bones are lying buried deep in sand upon
some foreign shore; he is dead and gone, and a bad business it is
for all his friends- for me especially; go where I may I shall never
find so good a master, not even if I were to go home to my mother
and father where I was bred and born. I do not so much care,
however, about my parents now, though I should dearly like to see them
again in my own country; it is the loss of Ulysses that grieves me
most; I cannot speak of him without reverence though he is here no
longer, for he was very fond of me, and took such care of me that
whereever he may be I shall always honour his memory."
"My friend," replied Ulysses, "you are very positive, and very
hard of belief about your master's coming home again, nevertheless I
will not merely say, but will swear, that he is coming. Do not give me
anything for my news till he has actually come, you may then give me a
shirt and cloak of good wear if you will. I am in great want, but I
will not take anything at all till then, for I hate a man, even as I
hate hell fire, who lets his poverty tempt him into lying. I swear
by king Jove, by the rites of hospitality, and by that hearth of
Ulysses to which I have now come, that all will surely happen as I
have said it will. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with
the end of this moon and the beginning of the next he will be here
to do vengeance on all those who are ill treating his wife and son."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Old man, you will
neither get paid for bringing good news, nor will Ulysses ever come
home; drink you wine in peace, and let us talk about something else.
Do not keep on reminding me of all this; it always pains me when any
one speaks about my honoured master. As for your oath we will let it
alone, but I only wish he may come, as do Penelope, his old father
Laertes, and his son Telemachus. I am terribly unhappy too about
this same boy of his; he was running up fast into manhood, and bade
fare to be no worse man, face and figure, than his father, but some
one, either god or man, has been unsettling his mind, so he has gone
off to Pylos to try and get news of his father, and the suitors are
lying in wait for him as he is coming home, in the hope of leaving the
house of Arceisius without a name in Ithaca. But let us say no more
about him, and leave him to be taken, or else to escape if the son
of Saturn holds his hand over him to protect him. And now, old man,
tell me your own story; tell me also, for I want to know, who you
are and where you come from. Tell me of your town and parents, what
manner of ship you came in, how crew brought you to Ithaca, and from
what country they professed to come- for you cannot have come by
And Ulysses answered, "I will tell you all about it. If there were
meat and wine enough, and we could stay here in the hut with nothing
to do but to eat and drink while the others go to their work, I
could easily talk on for a whole twelve months without ever
finishing the story of the sorrows with which it has pleased heaven to
"I am by birth a Cretan; my father was a well-to-do man, who had
many sons born in marriage, whereas I was the son of a slave whom he
had purchased for a concubine; nevertheless, my father Castor son of
Hylax (whose lineage I claim, and who was held in the highest honour
among the Cretans for his wealth, prosperity, and the valour of his
sons) put me on the same level with my brothers who had been born in
wedlock. When, however, death took him to the house of Hades, his sons
divided his estate and cast lots for their shares, but to me they gave
a holding and little else; nevertheless, my valour enabled me to marry
into a rich family, for I was not given to bragging, or shirking on
the field of battle. It is all over now; still, if you look at the
straw you can see what the ear was, for I have had trouble enough
and to spare. Mars and Minerva made me doughty in war; when I had
picked my men to surprise the enemy with an ambuscade I never gave
death so much as a thought, but was the first to leap forward and
spear all whom I could overtake. Such was I in battle, but I did not
care about farm work, nor the frugal home life of those who would
bring up children. My delight was in ships, fighting, javelins, and
arrows- things that most men shudder to think of; but one man likes
one thing and another another, and this was what I was most
naturally inclined to. Before the Achaeans went to Troy, nine times
was I in command of men and ships on foreign service, and I amassed
much wealth. I had my pick of the spoil in the first instance, and
much more was allotted to me later on.
"My house grew apace and I became a great man among the Cretans, but
when Jove counselled that terrible expedition, in which so many
perished, the people required me and Idomeneus to lead their ships
to Troy, and there was no way out of it, for they insisted on our
doing so. There we fought for nine whole years, but in the tenth we
sacked the city of Priam and sailed home again as heaven dispersed us.
Then it was that Jove devised evil against me. I spent but one month
happily with my children, wife, and property, and then I conceived the
idea of making a descent on Egypt, so I fitted out a fine fleet and
manned it. I had nine ships, and the people flocked to fill them.
For six days I and my men made feast, and I found them many victims
both for sacrifice to the gods and for themselves, but on the
seventh day we went on board and set sail from Crete with a fair North
wind behind us though we were going down a river. Nothing went ill
with any of our ships, and we had no sickness on board, but sat
where we were and let the ships go as the wind and steersmen took
them. On the fifth day we reached the river Aegyptus; there I
stationed my ships in the river, bidding my men stay by them and
keep guard over them while I sent out scouts to reconnoitre from every
point of vantage.
"But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and
ravaged the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their
wives and children captive. The alarm was soon carried to the city,
and when they heard the war cry, the people came out at daybreak
till the plain was filled with horsemen and foot soldiers and with the
gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would
no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The
Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced
labour for them. Jove, however, put it in my mind to do thus- and I
wish I had died then and there in Egypt instead, for there was much
sorrow in store for me- I took off my helmet and shield and dropped my
spear from my hand; then I went straight up to the king's chariot,
clasped his knees and kissed them, whereon he spared my life, bade
me get into his chariot, and took me weeping to his own home. Many
made at me with their ashen spears and tried to kil me in their
fury, but the king protected me, for he feared the wrath of Jove the
protector of strangers, who punishes those who do evil.
"I stayed there for seven years and got together much money among
the Egyptians, for they all gave me something; but when it was now
going on for eight years there came a certain Phoenician, a cunning
rascal, who had already committed all sorts of villainy, and this
man talked me over into going with him to Phoenicia, where his house
and his possessions lay. I stayed there for a whole twelve months, but
at the end of that time when months and days had gone by till the same
season had come round again, he set me on board a ship bound for
Libya, on a pretence that I was to take a cargo along with him to that
place, but really that he might sell me as a slave and take the
money I fetched. I suspected his intention, but went on board with
him, for I could not help it.
"The ship ran before a fresh North wind till we had reached the
sea that lies between Crete and Libya; there, however, Jove counselled
their destruction, for as soon as we were well out from Crete and
could see nothing but sea and sky, he raised a black cloud over our
ship and the sea grew dark beneath it. Then Jove let fly with his
thunderbolts and the ship went round and round and was filled with
fire and brimstone as the lightning struck it. The men fell all into
the sea; they were carried about in the water round the ship looking
like so many sea-gulls, but the god presently deprived them of all
chance of getting home again. I was all dismayed; Jove, however,
sent the ship's mast within my reach, which saved my life, for I clung
to it, and drifted before the fury of the gale. Nine days did I
drift but in the darkness of the tenth night a great wave bore me on
to the Thesprotian coast. There Pheidon king of the Thesprotians
entertained me hospitably without charging me anything at all for
his son found me when I was nearly dead with cold and fatigue, whereon
he raised me by the hand, took me to his father's house and gave me
clothes to wear.
"There it was that I heard news of Ulysses, for the king told me
he had entertained him, and shown him much hospitality while he was on
his homeward journey. He showed me also the treasure of gold, and
wrought iron that Ulysses had got together. There was enough to keep
his family for ten generations, so much had he left in the house of
king Pheidon. But the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he
might learn Jove's mind from the god's high oak tree, and know whether
after so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly, or in
secret. Moreover the king swore in my presence, making drink-offerings
in his own house as he did so, that the ship was by the water side,
and the crew found, that should take him to his own country. He sent
me off however before Ulysses returned, for there happened to be a
Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,
and he told those in charge of her to be sure and take me safely to
"These men hatched a plot against me that would have reduced me to
the very extreme of misery, for when the ship had got some way out
from land they resolved on selling me as a slave. They stripped me
of the shirt and cloak that I was wearing, and gave me instead the
tattered old clouts in which you now see me; then, towards
nightfall, they reached the tilled lands of Ithaca, and there they
bound me with a strong rope fast in the ship, while they went on shore
to get supper by the sea side. But the gods soon undid my bonds for
me, and having drawn my rags over my head I slid down the rudder
into the sea, where I struck out and swam till I was well clear of
them, and came ashore near a thick wood in which I lay concealed. They
were very angry at my having escaped and went searching about for
me, till at last they thought it was no further use and went back to
their ship. The gods, having hidden me thus easily, then took me to
a good man's door- for it seems that I am not to die yet awhile."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Poor unhappy stranger, I
have found the story of your misfortunes extremely interesting, but
that part about Ulysses is not right; and you will never get me to
believe it. Why should a man like you go about telling lies in this
way? I know all about the return of my master. The gods one and all of
them detest him, or they would have taken him before Troy, or let
him die with friends around him when the days of his fighting were
done; for then the Achaeans would have built a mound over his ashes
and his son would have been heir to his renown, but now the storm
winds have spirited him away we know not whither.
"As for me I live out of the way here with the pigs, and never go to
the town unless when Penelope sends for me on the arrival of some news
about Ulysses. Then they all sit round and ask questions, both those
who grieve over the king's absence, and those who rejoice at it
because they can eat up his property without paying for it. For my own
part I have never cared about asking anyone else since the time when I
was taken in by an Aetolian, who had killed a man and come a long
way till at last he reached my station, and I was very kind to him. He
said he had seen Ulysses with Idomeneus among the Cretans, refitting
his ships which had been damaged in a gale. He said Ulysses would
return in the following summer or autumn with his men, and that he
would bring back much wealth. And now you, you unfortunate old man,
since fate has brought you to my door, do not try to flatter me in
this way with vain hopes. It is not for any such reason that I shall
treat you kindly, but only out of respect for Jove the god of
hospitality, as fearing him and pitying you."
Ulysses answered, "I see that you are of an unbelieving mind; I have
given you my oath, and yet you will not credit me; let us then make
a bargain, and call all the gods in heaven to witness it. If your
master comes home, give me a cloak and shirt of good wear, and send me
to Dulichium where I want to go; but if he does not come as I say he
will, set your men on to me, and tell them to throw me from yonder
precepice, as a warning to tramps not to go about the country
"And a pretty figure I should cut then," replied Eumaeus, both now
and hereafter, if I were to kill you after receiving you into my hut
and showing you hospitality. I should have to say my prayers in good
earnest if I did; but it is just supper time and I hope my men will
come in directly, that we may cook something savoury for supper."
Thus did they converse, and presently the swineherds came up with
the pigs, which were then shut up for the night in their sties, and
a tremendous squealing they made as they were being driven into
them. But Eumaeus called to his men and said, "Bring in the best pig
you have, that I may sacrifice for this stranger, and we will take
toll of him ourselves. We have had trouble enough this long time
feeding pigs, while others reap the fruit of our labour."
On this he began chopping firewood, while the others brought in a
fine fat five year old boar pig, and set it at the altar. Eumaeus
did not forget the gods, for he was a man of good principles, so the
first thing he did was to cut bristles from the pig's face and throw
them into the fire, praying to all the gods as he did so that
Ulysses might return home again. Then he clubbed the pig with a billet
of oak which he had kept back when he was chopping the firewood, and
stunned it, while the others slaughtered and singed it. Then they
cut it up, and Eumaeus began by putting raw pieces from each joint
on to some of the fat; these he sprinkled with barley meal, and laid
upon the embers; they cut the rest of the meat up small, put the
pieces upon the spits and roasted them till they were done; when
they had taken them off the spits they threw them on to the dresser in
a heap. The swineherd, who was a most equitable man, then stood up
to give every one his share. He made seven portions; one of these he
set apart for Mercury the son of Maia and the nymphs, praying to
them as he did so; the others he dealt out to the men man by man. He
gave Ulysses some slices cut lengthways down the loin as a mark of
especial honour, and Ulysses was much pleased. "I hope, Eumaeus," said
he, "that Jove will be as well disposed towards you as I am, for the
respect you are showing to an outcast like myself."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "Eat, my good fellow, and
enjoy your supper, such as it is. God grants this, and withholds that,
just as he thinks right, for he can do whatever he chooses."
As he spoke he cut off the first piece and offered it as a burnt
sacrifice to the immortal gods; then he made them a drink-offering,
put the cup in the hands of Ulysses, and sat down to his own
portion. Mesaulius brought them their bread; the swineherd had
bought this man on his own account from among the Taphians during
his master's absence, and had paid for him with his own money
without saying anything either to his mistress or Laertes. They then
laid their hands upon the good things that were before them, and
when they had had enough to eat and drink, Mesaulius took away what
was left of the bread, and they all went to bed after having made a
Now the night came on stormy and very dark, for there was no moon.
It poured without ceasing, and the wind blew strong from the West,
which is a wet quarter, so Ulysses thought he would see whether
Eumaeus, in the excellent care he took of him, would take off his
own cloak and give it him, or make one of his men give him one.
"Listen to me," said he, "Eumaeus and the rest of you; when I have
said a prayer I will tell you something. It is the wine that makes
me talk in this way; wine will make even a wise man fall to singing;
it will make him chuckle and dance and say many a word that he had
better leave unspoken; still, as I have begun, I will go on. Would
that I were still young and strong as when we got up an ambuscade
before Troy. Menelaus and Ulysses were the leaders, but I was in
command also, for the other two would have it so. When we had come
up to the wall of the city we crouched down beneath our armour and lay
there under cover of the reeds and thick brush-wood that grew about
the swamp. It came on to freeze with a North wind blowing; the snow
fell small and fine like hoar frost, and our shields were coated thick
with rime. The others had all got cloaks and shirts, and slept
comfortably enough with their shields about their shoulders, but I had
carelessly left my cloak behind me, not thinking that I should be
too cold, and had gone off in nothing but my shirt and shield. When
the night was two-thirds through and the stars had shifted their their
places, I nudged Ulysses who was close to me with my elbow, and he
at once gave me his ear.
"'Ulysses,' said I, 'this cold will be the death of me, for I have
no cloak; some god fooled me into setting off with nothing on but my
shirt, and I do not know what to do.'
"Ulysses, who was as crafty as he was valiant, hit upon the
"'Keep still,' said he in a low voice, 'or the others will hear
you.' Then he raised his head on his elbow.
"'My friends,' said he, 'I have had a dream from heaven in my sleep.
We are a long way from the ships; I wish some one would go down and
tell Agamemnon to send us up more men at once.'
"On this Thoas son of Andraemon threw off his cloak and set out
running to the ships, whereon I took the cloak and lay in it
comfortably enough till morning. Would that I were still young and
strong as I was in those days, for then some one of you swineherds
would give me a cloak both out of good will and for the respect due to
a brave soldier; but now people look down upon me because my clothes
And Eumaeus answered, "Old man, you have told us an excellent story,
and have said nothing so far but what is quite satisfactory; for the
present, therefore, you shall want neither clothing nor anything
else that a stranger in distress may reasonably expect, but
to-morrow morning you have to shake your own old rags about your
body again, for we have not many spare cloaks nor shirts up here,
but every man has only one. When Ulysses' son comes home again he will
give you both cloak and shirt, and send you wherever you may want to
With this he got up and made a bed for Ulysses by throwing some
goatskins and sheepskins on the ground in front of the fire. Here
Ulysses lay down, and Eumaeus covered him over with a great heavy
cloak that he kept for a change in case of extraordinarily bad
Thus did Ulysses sleep, and the young men slept beside him. But
the swineherd did not like sleeping away from his pigs, so he got
ready to go and Ulysses was glad to see that he looked after his
property during his master's absence. First he slung his sword over
his brawny shoulders and put on a thick cloak to keep out the wind. He
also took the skin of a large and well fed goat, and a javelin in case
of attack from men or dogs. Thus equipped he went to his rest where
the pigs were camping under an overhanging rock that gave them shelter
from the North wind.
The Task: Book III. -- The Garden
As one who, long in thickets and in brakes
Entangled, winds now this way and now that
His devious course uncertain, seeking home;
Or, having long in miry ways been foil’d,
And sore discomfited, from slough to slough
Plunging, and half despairing of escape;
If chance at length he finds a greensward smooth
And faithful to the foot, his spirits rise,
He chirrups brisk his ear-erecting steed,
And winds his way with pleasure and with ease:
So I, designing other themes, and call’d
To adorn the Sofa with eulogium due,
To tell its slumbers, and to paint its dreams,
Have rambled wide. In country, city, seat
Of academic fame (howe’er deserved),
Long held, and scarcely disengaged at last.
But now with pleasant pace a cleanlier road
I mean to tread. I feel myself at large,
Courageous, and refresh’d for future toil,
If toil awaits me, or if dangers new.
Since pulpits fail, and sounding boards reflect
Most part an empty ineffectual sound,
What chance that I, to fame so little known,
Nor conversant with men or manners much,
Should speak to purpose, or with better hope
Crack the satiric thong? ‘Twere wiser far
For me, enamour’d of sequester’d scenes,
And charm’d with rural beauty, to repose,
Where chance may throw me, beneath elm or vine,
My languid limbs, when summer sears the plains;
Or, when rough winter rages, on the soft
And shelter’d Sofa, while the nitrous air
Feeds a blue flame, and makes a cheerful hearth;
There, undisturb’d by Folly, and apprised
How great the danger of disturbing her,
To muse in silence, or at least confine
Remarks that gall so many to the few,
My partners in retreat. Disgust conceal’d
Is ofttimes proof of wisdom, when the fault
Is obstinate, and cure beyond our reach.
Domestic Happiness, thou only bliss
Of Paradise that has survived the fall!
Though few now taste thee unimpair’d and pure,
Or tasting long enjoy thee! too infirm,
Or too incautious, to preserve thy sweets
Unmix’d with drops of bitter, which neglect
Or temper sheds into thy crystal cup;
Thou art the nurse of Virtue, in thine arms
She smiles, appearing, as in truth she is,
Heaven-born, and destined to the skies again.
Thou art not known where Pleasure is adored,
That reeling goddess with the zoneless waist
And wandering eyes, still leaning on the arm
Of Novelty, her fickle, frail support;
For thou art meek and constant, hating change,
And finding in the calm of truth-tried love
Joys that her stormy raptures never yield.
Forsaking thee, what shipwreck have we made
Of honour, dignity, and fair renown!
Till prostitution elbows us aside
In all our crowded streets; and senates seem
Convened for purposes of empire less
Than to release the adultress from her bond.
The adultress! what a theme for angry verse!
What provocation to the indignant heart,
That feels for injur’d love! but I disdain
The nauseous task, to paint her as she is,
Cruel, abandon’d, glorying in her shame!
No:—let her pass, and, charioted along
In guilty splendour, shake the public ways;
The frequency of crimes has wash’d them white;
And verse of mine shall never brand the wretch,
Whom matrons now, of character unsmirch’d
And chaste themselves, are not ashamed to own.
Virtue and vice had boundaries in old time,
Not to be pass’d: and she, that had renounced
Her sex’s honour, was renounced herself
By all that prized it; not for prudery’s sake,
But dignity’s, resentful of the wrong.
‘Twas hard perhaps on here and there a waif,
Desirous to return, and not received;
But was a wholesome rigour in the main,
And taught the unblemish’d to preserve with care
That purity, whose loss was loss of all.
Men too were nice in honour in those days,
And judged offenders well. Then he that sharp’d,
And pocketed a prize by fraud obtain’d,
Was mark’d and shunn’d as odious. He that sold
His country, or was slack when she required
His every nerve in action and at stretch,
Paid, with the blood that he had basely spared,
The price of his default. But now—yes, now
We are become so candid and so fair,
So liberal in construction, and so rich
In Christian charity (good-natured age!),
That they are safe, sinners of either sex,
Transgress what laws they may. Well dress’d, well bred,
Well equipaged, is ticket good enough
To pass us readily through every door.
Hypocrisy, detest her as we may
(And no man’s hatred ever wrong’d her yet),
May claim this merit still—that she admits
The worth of what she mimics with such care,
And thus gives virtue indirect applause;
But she has burnt her mask, not needed here,
Where Vice has such allowance, that her shifts
And specious semblances have lost their use.
I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since: with many an arrow deep infix’d
My panting side was charged, when I withdrew,
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There was I found by One who had himself
Been hurt by the archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heal’d, and bade me live.
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene;
With few associates, not wishing more.
Here much I ruminate, as much I may,
With other views of men and manners now
Than once, and others of a life to come.
I see that all are wanderers, gone astray
Each in his own delusions; they are lost
In chase of fancied happiness, still woo’d
And never won. Dream after dream ensues;
And still they dream that they shall still succeed;
And still are disappointed. Rings the world
With the vain stir. I sum up half mankind,
And add two-thirds of the remaining half,
And find the total of their hopes and fears
Dreams, empty dreams. The million flit as gay
As if created only like the fly,
That spreads his motley wings in the eye of noon,
To sport their season, and be seen no more.
The rest are sober dreamers, grave and wise,
And pregnant with discoveries new and rare.
Some write a narrative of wars, and feats
Of heroes little known; and call the rant
A history; describe the man, of whom
His own coevals took but little note;
And paint his person, character, and views,
As they had known him from his mother’s womb.
They disentangle from the puzzled skein,
In which obscurity has wrapp’d them up,
The threads of politic and shrewd design,
That ran through all his purposes, and charge
His mind with meanings that he never had,
Or having, kept conceal’d. Some drill and bore
The solid earth, and from the strata there
Extract a register, by which we learn,
That He who made it, and reveal’d its date
To Moses, was mistaken in its age.
Some, more acute, and more industrious still,
Contrive creation; travel nature up
To the sharp peak of her sublimest height,
And tell us whence the stars; why some are fix’d,
And planetary some; what gave them first
Rotation, from what fountain flow’d their light.
Great contest follows, and much learned dust
Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
And truth disclaiming both. And thus they spend
The little wick of life’s poor shallow lamp
In playing tricks with nature, giving laws
To distant worlds, and trifling in their own.
Is’t not a pity, now, that tickling rheums
Should ever tease the lungs and blear the sight
Of oracles like these? Great pity too,
That, having wielded the elements, and built
A thousand systems, each in his own way,
They should go out in fume, and be forgot?
Ah! what is life thus spent? and what are they
But frantic who thus spend it? all for smoke—
Eternity for bubbles proves at last
A senseless bargain. When I see such games
Play’d by the creatures of a Power who swears
That he will judge the earth, and call the fool
To a sharp reckoning that has lived in vain;
And when I weigh this seeming wisdom well,
And prove it in the infallible result
So hollow and so false—I feel my heart
Dissolve in pity, and account the learn’d,
If this be learning, most of all deceived.
Great crimes alarm the conscience, but it sleeps
While thoughtful man is plausibly amused.
Defend me therefore, common sense, say I,
From reveries so airy, from the toil
Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
And growing old in drawing nothing up!
‘Twere well, says one sage erudite, profound,
Terribly arch’d and aquiline his nose,
And overbuilt with most impending brows,—
‘Twere well could you permit the world to live
As the world pleases: what’s the world to you?
Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk
As sweet as charity from human breasts.
I think, articulate, I laugh and weep,
And exercise all functions of a man.
How then should I and any man that lives
Be strangers to each other? Pierce my vein,
Take of the crimson stream meandering there,
And catechise it well: apply thy glass,
Search it, and prove now if it be not blood
Congenial with thine own: and, if it be,
What edge of subtlety canst thou suppose
Keen enough, wise and skilful as thou art,
To cut the link of brotherhood, by which
One common Maker bound me to the kind?
True; I am no proficient, I confess,
In arts like yours. I cannot call the swift
And perilous lightnings from the angry clouds,
And bid them hide themselves in earth beneath;
I cannot analyse the air, nor catch
The parallax of yonder luminous point,
That seems half-quench’d in the immense abyss:
Such powers I boast not—neither can I rest
A silent witness of the headlong rage,
Or heedless folly by which thousands die,
Bone of my bone, and kindred souls to mine.
God never meant that man should scale the heavens
By strides of human wisdom. In his works,
Though wondrous, he commands us in his word
To seek him rather where his mercy shines.
The mind indeed, enlighten’d from above,
Views him in all; ascribes to the grand cause
The grand effect; acknowledges with joy
His manner, and with rapture tastes his style.
But never yet did philosophic tube,
That brings the planets home into the eye
Of Observation, and discovers, else
Not visible, his family of worlds,
Discover him that rules them; such a veil
Hangs over mortal eyes, blind from the birth,
And dark in things divine. Full often too
Our wayward intellect, the more we learn
Of nature overlooks her Author more;
From instrumental causes proud to draw
Conclusions retrograde and mad mistake.
But if his word once teach us, shoot a ray
Through all the heart’s dark chambers, and reveal
Truths undiscern’d but by that holy light,
Then all is plain. Philosophy, baptized
In the pure fountain of eternal love,
Has eyes indeed; and, viewing all she sees
As meant to indicate a God to man,
Gives him his praise, and forfeits not her own.
Learning has borne such fruit in other days
On all her branches: piety has found
Friends in the friends of science, and true prayer
Has flow’d from lips wet with Castalian dews.
Such was thy wisdom, Newton, child-like sage!
Sagacious reader of the works of God,
And in his word sagacious. Such, too, thine,
Milton, whose genius had angelic wings,
And fed on manna! And such thine, in whom
Our British Themis gloried with just cause,
Immortal Hale! for deep discernment praised,
And sound integrity, not more than famed
For sanctity of manners undefiled.
All flesh is grass, and all its glory fades
Like the fair flower dishevell’d in the wind;
Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream.
The man we celebrate must find a tomb,
And we that worship him ignoble graves.
Nothing is proof against the general curse
Of vanity, that seizes all below.
The only amaranthine flower on earth
Is virtue; the only lasting treasure, truth.
But what is truth? ‘Twas Pilate’s question put
To Truth itself, that deign’d him no reply.
And wherefore? will not God impart his light
To them that ask it?—Freely—’tis his joy,
His glory, and his nature to impart.
But to the proud, uncandid, insincere,
Or negligent inquirer, not a spark.
What’s that which brings contempt upon a book,
And him who writes it, though the style be neat,
The method clear, and argument exact?
That makes a minister in holy things
The joy of many and the dread of more,
His name a theme for praise and for reproach?—
That, while it gives us worth in God’s account,
Depreciates and undoes us in our own?
What pearl is it that rich men cannot buy,
That learning is too proud to gather up;
But which the poor, and the despised of all,
Seek and obtain, and often find unsought?
Tell me—and I will tell thee what is truth.
O friendly to the best pursuits of man,
Friendly to thought, to virtue, and to peace,
Domestic life in rural pleasure pass’d!
Few know thy value, and few taste thy sweets;
Though many boast thy favours, and affect
To understand and choose thee for their own.
But foolish man forgoes his proper bliss,
E’en as his first progenitor, and quits,
Though placed in Paradise (for earth has still
Some traces of her youthful beauty left),
Substantial happiness for transient joy.
Scenes form’d for contemplation, and to nurse
The growing seeds of wisdom; that suggest,
By every pleasing image they present,
Reflections such as meliorate the heart,
Compose the passions, and exalt the mind;
Scenes such as these ‘tis his supreme delight
To fill with riot, and defile with blood.
Should some contagion, kind to the poor brutes
We persecute, annihilate the tribes
That draw the sportsman over hill and dale,
Fearless and rapt away from all his cares;
Should never game-fowl hatch her eggs again,
Nor baited hook deceive the fish’s eye;
Could pageantry and dance, and feast and song,
Be quell’d in all our summer months’ retreat,
How many self-deluded nymphs and swains,
Who dream they have a taste for fields and groves,
Would find them hideous nurseries of the spleen,
And crowd the roads, impatient for the town!
They love the country, and none else, who seek
For their own sake its silence and its shade.
Delights which who would leave, that has a heart
Susceptible of pity, or a mind
Cultured and capable of sober thought,
For all the savage din of the swift pack,
And clamours of the field?—Detested sport,
That owes its pleasures to another’s pain;
That feeds upon the sobs and dying shrieks
Of harmless nature, dumb, but yet endued
With eloquence, that agonies inspire
Of silent tears and heart-distending sighs?
Vain tears, alas! and sighs that never find
A corresponding tone in jovial souls!
Well—one at least is safe. One shelter’d hare
Has never heard the sanguinary yell
Of cruel man, exulting in her woes.
Innocent partner of my peaceful home,
Whom ten long years’ experience of my care
Has made at last familiar; she has lost
Much of her vigilant instinctive dread,
Not needful here, beneath a roof like mine.
Yes—thou mayest eat thy bread, and lick the hand
That feeds thee; thou mayest frolic on the floor
At evening, and at night retire secure
To thy straw couch, and slumber unalarm’d;
For I have gain’d thy confidence, have pledged
All that is human in me to protect
Thine unsuspecting gratitude and love.
If I survive thee, I will dig thy grave;
And, when I place thee in it, sighing say,
“I knew at least one hare that had a friend.”
How various his employments whom the world
Calls idle; and who justly in return
Esteems that busy world an idler too!
Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry enjoy’d at home,
And Nature, in her cultivated trim
Dress’d to his taste, inviting him abroad—
Can he want occupation who has these?
Will he be idle who has much to enjoy?
Me, therefore, studious of laborious ease,
Not slothful, happy to deceive the time,
Not waste it, and aware that human life
Is but a loan to be repaid with use,
When He shall call his debtors to account,
From whom are all our blessings, business finds
E’en here: while sedulous I seek to improve,
At least neglect not, or leave unemploy’d,
The mind He gave me; driving it, though slack
Too oft, and much impeded in its work,
By causes not to be divulged in vain,
To its just point—the service of mankind.
He, that attends to his interior self,
That has a heart, and keeps it; has a mind
That hungers, and supplies it; and who seeks
A social, not a dissipated life,
Has business; feels himself engaged to achieve
No unimportant, though a silent, task.
A life all turbulence and noise may seem
To him that leads it, wise, and to be praised;
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still water and beneath clear skies.
He that is ever occupied in storms,
Or dives not for it, or brings up instead,
Vainly industrious, a disgraceful prize.
The morning finds the self-sequester’d man
Fresh for his task, intend what task he may.
Whether inclement seasons recommend
His warm but simple home, where he enjoys
With her who shares his pleasures and his heart,
Sweet converse, sipping calm the fragrant lymph
Which neatly she prepares; then to his book
Well chosen, and not sullenly perused
In selfish silence, but imparted oft,
As ought occurs, that she might smile to hear,
Or turn to nourishment, digested well.
Or if the garden, with its many cares,
All well repaid, demand him, he attends
The welcome call, conscious how much the hand
Of lubbard Labour needs his watchful eye.
Oft loitering lazily, if not o’erseen,
Or misapplying his unskilful strength.
Nor does he govern only or direct,
But much performs himself. No works, indeed,
That ask robust, tough sinews, bred to toil,
Servile employ; but such as may amuse,
Not tire, demanding rather skill than force.
Proud of his well-spread walls, he views his trees,
That meet no barren interval between,
With pleasure more than e’en their fruits afford;
Which, save himself who trains them, none can feel.
These therefore are his own peculiar charge;
No meaner hand may discipline the shoots,
None but his steel approach them. What is weak,
Distemper’d, or has lost prolific powers,
Impair’d by age, his unrelenting hand
Dooms to the knife: nor does he spare the soft
And succulent, that feeds its giant growth,
But barren, at the expense of neighbouring twigs
Less ostentatious, and yet studded thick
With hopeful gems. The rest, no portion left
That may disgrace his art, or disappoint
Large expectations, he disposes neat,
At measured distances, that air and sun,
Admitted freely, may afford their aid,
And ventilate and warm the swelling buds.
Hence Summer has her riches, Autumn hence,
And hence e’en Winter fills his wither’d hand
With blushing fruits, and plenty not his own.
Fair recompence of labour well bestow’d,
And wise precaution; which a clime so rude
Makes needful still, whose Spring is but the child
Of churlish Winter, in her froward moods
Discovering much the temper of her sire.
For oft, as if in her the stream of mild
Maternal nature had reversed its course,
She brings her infants forth with many smiles;
But, once deliver’d, kills them with a frown.
He therefore, timely warn’d himself, supplies
Her want of care, screening and keeping warm
The plenteous bloom, that no rough blast may sweep
His garlands from the boughs. Again, as oft
As the sun peeps, and vernal airs breathe mild,
The fence withdrawn, he gives them every beam,
And spreads his hopes before the blaze of day.
To raise the prickly and green-coated gourd,
So grateful to the palate, and when rare
So coveted, else base and disesteem’d—
Food for the vulgar merely—is an art
That toiling ages have but just matured,
And at this moment unassay’d in song.
Yet gnats have had, and frogs and mice, long since,
Their eulogy; those sang the Mantuan bard;
And these the Grecian, in ennobling strains;
And in thy numbers, Phillips, shines for aye,
The solitary shilling. Pardon then,
Ye sage dispensers of poetic fame,
The ambition of one meaner far, whose powers,
Presuming an attempt not less sublime,
Pant for the praise of dressing to the taste
Of critic appetite no sordid fare,
A cucumber, while costly yet and scarce.
The stable yields a stercoraceous heap,
Impregnated with quick fermenting salts,
And potent to resist the freezing blast;
For, ere the beech and elm have cast their leaf
Deciduous, when now November dark
Checks vegetation in the torpid plant
Exposed to his cold breath, the task begins.
Warily therefore, and with prudent heed,
He seeks a favour’d spot; that where he builds
The agglomerated pile his frame may front
The sun’s meridian disk, and at the back
Enjoy close shelter, wall, or reeds, or hedge
Impervious to the wind. First he bids spread
Dry fern or litter’d hay, that may imbibe
The ascending damps; then leisurely impose,
And lightly, shaking it with agile hand
From the full fork, the saturated straw.
What longest binds the closest forms secure
The shapely side, that as it rises takes,
By just degrees, an overhanging breadth,
Sheltering the base with its projected eaves;
The uplifted frame, compact at every joint,
And overlaid with clear translucent glass,
He settles next upon the sloping mount,
Whose sharp declivity shoots off secure
From the dash’d pane the deluge as it falls.
He shuts it close, and the first labour ends.
Thrice must the voluble and restless earth
Spin round upon her axle, ere the warmth,
Slow gathering in the midst, through the square mass
Diffused, attain the surface: when, behold!
A pestilent and most corrosive steam,
Like a gross fog Bœotian, rising fast,
And fast condensed upon the dewy sash,
Asks egress; which obtain’d, the overcharged
And drench’d conservatory breathes abroad,
In volumes wheeling slow, the vapour dank;
And, purified, rejoices to have lost
Its foul inhabitant. But to assuage
The impatient fervour, which it first conceives
Within its reeking bosom, threatening death
To his young hopes, requires discreet delay.
Experience, slow preceptress, teaching oft
The way to glory by miscarriage foul,
Must prompt him, and admonish how to catch
The auspicious moment, when the temper’d heat,
Friendly to vital motion, may afford
Soft fomentation, and invite the seed.
The seed, selected wisely, plump, and smooth,
And glossy, he commits to pots of size
Diminutive, well fill’d with well prepared
And fruitful soil, that has been treasured long,
And drunk no moisture from the dripping clouds.
These on the warm and genial earth, that hides
The smoking manure, and o’erspreads it all,
He places lightly, and, as time subdues
The rage of fermentation, plunges deep
In the soft medium, till they stand immersed.
Then rise the tender germs, upstarting quick,
And spreading wide their spongy lobes; at first
Pale, wan, and livid; but assuming soon,
If fann’d by balmy and nutritious air,
Strain’d through the friendly mats, a vivid green.
Two leaves produced, two rough indented leaves,
Cautious he pinches from the second stalk
A pimple, that portends a future sprout,
And interdicts its growth. Thence straight succeed
The branches, sturdy to his utmost wish;
Prolific all, and harbingers of more.
The crowded roots demand enlargement now,
And transplantation in an ampler space.
Indulged in what they wish, they soon supply
Large foliage, overshadowing golden flowers,
Blown on the summit of the apparent fruit.
These have their sexes; and when summer shines,
The bee transports the fertilizing meal
From flower to flower, and e’en the breathing air
Wafts the rich prize to its appointed use.
Not so when winter scowls. Assistant Art
Then acts in Nature’s office, brings to pass
The glad espousals, and ensures the crop.
Grudge not, ye rich (since Luxury must have
His dainties, and the World’s more numerous half
Lives by contriving delicates for you),
Grudge not the cost. Ye little know the cares,
The vigilance, the labour, and the skill,
That day and night are exercised, and hang
Upon the ticklish balance of suspense,
That ye may garnish your profuse regales
With summer fruits brought forth by wintry suns.
Ten thousand dangers lie in wait to thwart
The process. Heat, and cold, and wind, and steam,
Moisture, and drought, mice, worms, and swarming flies,
Minute as dust, and numberless, oft work
Dire disappointment, that admits no cure,
And which no care can obviate. It were long,
Too long, to tell the expedients and the shifts
Which he that fights a season so severe
Devises while he guards his tender trust;
And oft at last in vain. The learn’d and wise
Sarcastic would exclaim, and judge the song
Cold as its theme, and like its theme the fruit
Of too much labour, worthless when produced.
Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.
Unconscious of a less propitious clime,
There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug,
While the winds whistle and the snows descend.
The spiry myrtle with unwithering leaf
Shines there, and flourishes. The golden boast
Of Portugal and western India there,
The ruddier orange, and the paler lime,
Peep through their polish’d foliage at the storm,
And seem to smile at what they need not fear.
The amomum there with intermingling flowers
And cherries hangs her twigs. Geranium boasts
Her crimson honours; and the spangled beau,
Ficoides, glitters bright the winter long.
All plants, of every leaf that can endure
The winter’s frown, if screen’d from his shrewd bite,
Live there, and prosper. Those Ausonia claims,
Levantine regions these; the Azores send
Their jessamine, her jessamine remote
Caffraria: foreigners from many lands,
They form one social shade, as if convened
By magic summons of the Orphean lyre.
Yet just arrangement, rarely brought to pass
But by a master’s hand, disposing well
The gay diversities of leaf and flower,
Must lend its aid to illustrate all their charms,
And dress the regular yet various scene.
Plant behind plant aspiring, in the van
The dwarfish, in the rear retired, but still
Sublime above the rest, the statelier stand.
So once were ranged the sons of ancient Rome,
A noble show! while Roscius trod the stage;
And so, while Garrick, as renown’d as he,
The sons of Albion; fearing each to lose
Some note of Nature’s music from his lips,
And covetous of Shakspeare’s beauty, seen
In every flash of his far beaming eye.
Nor taste alone and well contrived display
Suffice to give the marshall’d ranks the grace
Of their complete effect. Much yet remains
Unsung, and many cares are yet behind,
And more laborious; cares on which depends
Their vigour, injured soon, not soon restored.
The soil must be renewed, which often wash’d,
Loses its treasure of salubrious salts,
And disappoints the roots; the slender roots
Close interwoven, where they meet the vase,
Must smooth be shorn away; the sapless branch
Must fly before the knife; the wither’d leaf
Must be detach’d, and where it strews the floor
Swept with a woman’s neatness, breeding else
Contagion, and disseminating death.
Discharge but these kind offices (and who
Would spare, that loves them, offices like these?)
Well they reward the toil. The sight is pleased,
The scent regaled, each odoriferous leaf,
Each opening blossom freely breathes abroad
Its gratitude, and thanks him with its sweets.
So manifold, all pleasing in their kind,
All healthful, are the employs of rural life,
Reiterated as the wheel of time
Runs round; still ending and beginning still.
Nor are these all. To deck the shapely knoll,
That softly swell’d and gaily dress’d appears
A flowery island, from the dark green lawn
Emerging, must be deem’d a labour due
To no mean hand, and asks the touch of taste.
Here also grateful mixture of well-match’d
And sorted hues (each giving each relief,
And by contrasted beauty shining more)
Is needful. Strength may wield the ponderous spade,
May turn the clod, and wheel the compost home;
But elegance, chief grace the garden shows,
And most attractive, is the fair resul
Of thought, the creature of a polish’d mind.
Without it all is gothic as the scene
To which the insipid citizen resorts
Near yonder heath; where Industry misspent,
But proud of his uncouth ill chosen task,
Has made a heaven on earth; with suns and moons
Of close ramm’d stones has charged the encumber’d soil,
And fairly laid the zodiac in the dust.
He therefore, who would see his flowers disposed
Sightly and in just order, ere he gives
The beds the trusted treasure of their seeds,
Forecasts the future whole; that when the scene
Shall break into its preconceived display,
Each for itself, and all as with one voice
Conspiring, may attest his bright design.
Nor even then, dismissing as perform’d
His pleasant work, may he suppose it done.
Few self-supported flowers endure the wind
Uninjured, but expect the upholding aid
Of the smooth shaven prop, and, neatly tied,
Are wedded thus, like beauty to old age,
For interest sake, the living to the dead.
Some clothe the soil that feeds them, far diffused
And lowly creeping, modest and yet fair,
Like virtue, thriving most where little seen;
Some, more aspiring, catch the neighbour shrub
With clasping tendrils, and invest his branch,
Else unadorn’d with many a gay festoon
And fragrant chaplet, recompensing well
The strength they borrow with the grace they lend.
All hate the rank society of weeds,
Noisome, and ever greedy to exhaust
The impoverish’d earth; an overbearing race,
That, like the multitude made faction mad,
Disturb good order, and degrade true worth.
O blest seclusion from a jarring world,
Which he, thus occupied, enjoys! Retreat
Cannot indeed to guilty man restore
Lost innocence, or cancel follies past;
But it has peace, and much secures the mind
From all assaults of evil; proving still
A faithful barrier, not o’erleap’d with ease
By vicious Custom, raging uncontroll’d
Abroad, and desolating public life.
When fierce temptation, seconded within
By traitor Appetite, and arm’d with darts
Temper’d in Hell, invades the throbbing breast,
To combat may be glorious, and success
Perhaps may crown us; but to fly is safe.
Had I the choice of sublunary good,
What could I wish, that I possess not here?
Health, leisure, means to improve it, friendship, peace,
No loose or wanton, though a wandering, muse,
And constant occupation without care.
Thus blest I draw a picture of that bliss;
Hopeless indeed, that dissipated minds,
And profligate abusers of a world
Created fair so much in vain for them,
Should seek the guiltless joys that I describe,
Allured by my report: but sure no less
That self-condemn’d they must neglect the prize,
And what they will not taste must yet approve.
What we admire we praise; and, when we praise,
Advance it into notice, that, its worth
Acknowledged, others may admire it too.
I therefore recommend, though at the risk
Of popular disgust, yet boldly still,
The cause of piety and sacred truth,
And virtue, and those scenes which God ordain’d
Should best secure them and promote them most,
Scenes that I love, and with regret perceive
Forsaken, or through folly not enjoy’d.
Pure is the nymph, though liberal of her smiles,
And chaste, though unconfined, whom I extol.
Not as the prince in Shushan, when he call’d,
Vain-glorious of her charms, his Vashti forth,
To grace the full pavilion. His design
Was but to boast his own peculiar good,
Which all might view with envy, none partake.
My charmer is not mine alone; my sweets,
And she that sweetens all my bitters too,
Nature, enchanting Nature, in whose form
And lineaments divine I trace a hand
That errs not, and finds raptures still renew’d,
Is free to all men—universal prize.
Strange that so fair a creature should yet want
Admirers, and be destined to divide
With meaner objects e’en the few she finds!
Stripp’d of her ornaments, her leaves, and flowers,
She loses all her influence. Cities then
Attract us, and neglected Nature pines,
Abandon’d as unworthy of our love.
But are not wholesome airs, though unperfumed
By roses; and clear suns, though scarcely felt;
And groves, if unharmonious, yet secure
From clamour, and whose very silence charms;
To be preferr’d to smoke, to the eclipse
That metropolitan volcanoes make,
Whose Stygian throats breathe darkness all day long;
And to the stir of Commerce, driving slow,
And thundering loud, with his ten thousand wheels?
They would be, were not madness in the head,
And folly in the heart; were England now
What England was, plain, hospitable, kind,
And undebauch’d. But we have bid farewell
To all the virtues of those better days,
And all their honest pleasures. Mansions once
Knew their own masters; and laborious hinds,
Who had survived the father, served the son.
Now the legitimate and rightful lord
Is but a transient guest, newly arrived,
And soon to be supplanted. He that saw
His patrimonial timber cast its leaf
Sells the last scantling, and transfers the price
To some shrewd sharper, ere it buds again.
Estates are landscapes, gazed upon awhile,
Then advertised, and auctioneer’d away.
The country starves, and they that feed the o’ercharged
And surfeited lewd town with her fair dues,
By a just judgment strip and starve themselves.
The wings, that waft our riches out of sight,
Grow on the gamester’s elbows; and the alert
And nimble motion of those restless joints,
That never tire, soon fans them all away.
Improvement too, the idol of the age,
Is fed with many a victim. Lo, he comes!
The omnipotent magician, Brown, appears!
Down falls the venerable pile, the abode
Of our forefathers—a grave whisker’d race,
But tasteless. Springs a palace in its stead,
But in a distant spot; where more exposed
It may enjoy the advantage of the north,
And aguish east, till time shall have transform’d
Those naked acres to a sheltering grove.
He speaks. The lake in front becomes a lawn:
Woods vanish, hills subside, and valleys rise;
And streams, as if created for his use,
Pursue the track of his directing wand,
Sinuous or straight, now rapid and now slow,
Now murmuring soft, now roaring in cascades—
E’en as he bids! The enraptured owner smiles.
‘Tis finish’d, and yet, finish’d as it seems,
Still wants a grace, the loveliest it could show,
A mine to satisfy the enormous cost.
Drain’d to the last poor item of his wealth,
He sighs, departs, and leaves the accomplish’d plan,
That he has touch’d, retouch’d, many a long day
Labour’d, and many a night pursued in dreams,
Just when it meets his hopes, and proves the heaven
He wanted, for a wealthier to enjoy!
And now perhaps the glorious hour is come
When, having no stake left, no pledge to endear
Her interests, or that gives her sacred cause
A moment’s operation on his love,
He burns with most intense and flagrant zeal,
To serve his country. Ministerial grace
Deals him out money from the public chest;
Or, if that mine be shut, some private purse
Supplies his need with a usurious loan,
To be refunded duly, when his vote
Well managed shall have earn’d its worthy price.
O innocent, compared with arts like these,
Crape, and cock’d pistol, and the whistling ball
Sent through the traveller’s temples! He that finds
One drop of Heaven’s sweet mercy in his cup,
Can dig, beg, rot, and perish, well content,
So he may wrap himself in honest rags
At his last gasp: but could not for a world
Fish up his dirty and dependent bread
From pools and ditches of the commonwealth,
Sordid and sickening at his own success.
Ambition, avarice, penury incurr’d
By endless riot, vanity, the lust
Of pleasure and variety, despatch,
As duly as the swallows disappear,
The world of wandering knights and squires to town.
London engulfs them all! The shark is there,
And the shark’s prey; the spendthrift, and the leech
That sucks him; there the sycophant, and he
Who, with bareheaded and obsequious bows,
Begs a warm office, doom’d to a cold jail
And groat per diem, if his patron frown.
The levee swarms, as if in golden pomp
Were character’d on every statesman’s door,
“Batter’d and bankrupt fortunes mended here.”
These are the charms that sully and eclipse
The charms of nature. ‘Tis the cruel gripe
That lean hard-handed Poverty inflicts,
The hope of better things, the chance to win,
The wish to shine, the thirst to be amused,
That at the sound of Winter’s hoary wing
Unpeople all our counties of such herds
Of fluttering, loitering, cringing, begging, loose,
And wanton vagrants, as make London, vast
And boundless as it is, a crowded coop.
O thou, resort and mart of all the earth,
Chequer’d with all complexions of mankind,
And spotted with all crimes; in whom I see
Much that I love, and more that I admire,
And all that I abhor; thou freckled fair,
That pleasest and yet shock’st me, I can laugh,
And I can weep, can hope, and can despond,
Feel wrath and pity, when I think on thee!
Ten righteous would have saved the city once,
And thou hast many righteous.—Well for thee—
That salt preserves thee; more corrupted else,
And therefore more obnoxious, at this hour,
Than Sodom in her day had power to be,
For whom God heard his Abraham plead in vain.
EVEN thus. I pause to write it out at length,
The letter of the Lady Waldemar.–
'I prayed your cousin Leigh to take you this,
He says he'll do it. After years of love,
Or what is called so,–when a woman frets
And fools upon one string of a man's name,
And fingers it for ever till it breaks,–
He may perhaps do for her such thing,
And she accept it without detriment
Although she should not love him any more
And I, who do not love him, nor love you,
Nor you, Aurora,–choose you shall repent
Your most ungracious letter, and confess,
Constrained by his convictions, (he's convinced)
You've wronged me foully. Are you made so ill,
You woman–to impute such ill to me?
We both had mothers,–lay in their bosom once.
Why, after all, I thank you, Aurora Leigh,
For proving to myself that there are things
I would not do, . . not for my life . . nor him . .
Though something I have somewhat overdone,–
For instance, when I went to see the gods
One morning, on Olympus, with a step
That shook the thunder in a certain cloud,
Committing myself vilely. Could I think,
The Muse I pulled my heart out from my breast
To soften, had herself a sort of heart,
And loved my mortal? He, at least, loved her;
I heard him say so; 'twas my recompence,
When, watching at his bedside fourteen days,
He broke out ever like a flame at whiles
Between the heats of fever . . . 'Is it thou?
'Breathe closer, sweetest mouth!' and when at last
The fever gone, the wasted face extinct
As if it irked him much to know me there,
He said, Twas kind, 'twas good, 'twas womanly,'
(And fifty praises to excuse one love)
'But was the picture safe he had ventured for?'
And then, half wandering . . 'I have loved her well,
Although she could not love me.'–'Say instead,'
I answered, 'that she loves you.'–'Twas my turn
To rave: (I would have married him so changed,
Although the world had jeered me properly
For taking up with Cupid at his worst,
The silver quiver worn off on his hair.)
'No, no,' he murmured, 'no, she loves me not;
'Aurora Leigh does better: bring her book
'And read it softly, Lady Waldemar,
'Until I thank your friendship more for that,
'Than even for harder service.' So I read
Your book, Aurora, for an hour, that day:
I kept its pauses, marked its emphasis;
My voice, empaled upon rhyme's golden hooks,
Not once would writhe, nor quiver, nor revolt;
I read on calmly,–calmly shut it up,
Observing, 'There's some merit in the book.
'And yet the merit in't is thrown away
'As chances still with women, if we write
'Or write not: we want string to tie our flowers,
'So drop them as we walk, which serves to show
'The way we went. Good morning, Mister Leigh;
'You'll find another reader the next time.
'A woman who does better than to love,
'I hate; she will do nothing very well:
'Male poets are preferable, tiring less
'And teaching more.' I triumphed o'er you both,
And left him.
' When I saw him afterward,
I had read your shameful letter, and my heart.
He came with health recovered, strong though pale
Lord Howe and he, a courteous pair of friends,
To say what men dare say to women, when
Their debtors. But I stopped them with a word;
And proved I had never trodden such a road,
To carry so much dirt upon my shoe.
Then, putting into it something of disdain,
I asked forsooth his pardon, and my own,
For having done no better than to love,
And that, not wisely,–though 'twas long ago,
And though 'twas altered perfectly since then.
I told him, as I tell you now, Miss Leigh,
And proved I took some trouble for his sake
(Because I know he did not love the girl)
To spoil my hands with working in the stream
Of that poor bubbling nature,–till she went,
Consigned to one I trusted, my own maid,
Who once had lived full five months in my house,
(Dressed hair superbly) with lavish purse
To carry to Australia where she had left
A husband, said she. If the creature lied,
The mission failed, we all do fail and lie
More or less–and I'm sorry–which is all
Expected from us when we fail the most,
And go to church to own it. What I meant,
Was just the best for him, and me, and her . .
Best even for Marian!–I am sorry for't,
And very sorry. Yet my creature said
She saw her stop to speak in Oxford Street
To one . . no matter! I had sooner cut
My hand off (though 'twere kissed the hour before,
And promised a pearl troth-ring for the next)
Than crush her silly head with so much wrong.
Poor child! I would have mended it with gold,
Until it gleamed like St. Sophia's dome
When all the faithful troop to morning prayer:
But he, he nipped the bud of such a thought
With that cold Leigh look which I fancied once,
And broke in, 'Henceforth she was called his wife.
'His wife required no succour: he was bound
'To Florence, to resume this broken bond:
'Enough so. Both were happy, he and Howe,
'To acquit me of the heaviest charge of all–'
–At which I shut my tongue against my fly
And struck him; 'Would he carry,–he was just,–
'A letter from me to Aurora Leigh,
'And ratify from his authentic mouth
'My answer to her accusation?'–'Yes,
'If such a letter were prepared in time.'
–He's just, your cousin,–ay, abhorrently.
He'd wash his hands in blood, to keep them clean.
And so, cold, courteous, a mere gentleman,
He bowed, we parted.
'Parted. Face no more,
Voice no more, love no more! wiped wholly out,
Like some ill scholar's scrawl from heart and slate,–
Ay, spit on and so wiped out utterly
By some coarse scholar! I have been too coarse,
Too human. Have we business, in our rank,
With blood i' the veins? I will have henceforth none;
Not even keep the colour at my lip.
A rose is pink and pretty without blood;
Why not a woman? When we've played in vain
The game, to adore,–we have resources still,
And can play on at leisure, being adored:
Here's Smith already swearing at my feet
That I'm the typic She. Away with Smith!–
Smith smacks of Leigh,–and henceforth, I'll admit
No socialist within three crinolines,
To live and have his being. But for you,
Though insolent your letter and absurd,
And though I hate you frankly,–take my Smith!
For when you have seen this famous marriage tied,
A most unspotted Erle to a noble Leigh,
(His love astray on one he should not love)
Howbeit–beware, you should not want his love,
You'll want some comfort. So I leave you Smith;
Take Smith!–he talks Leigh's subjects, somewhat worse;
Adopts a thought of Leigh's, and dwindles it;
Goes leagues beyond, to be no inch behind;
Will mind you of him, as a shoe-string may,
Of a man: and women, when they are made like you,
Grow tender to a shoe-string, foot-print even,
Adore averted shoulders in a glass,
And memories of what, present once, was loathed.
And yet, you loathed not Romney,–though you've played
At 'fox and goose' about him with your soul:
Pass over fox, you rub out fox,–ignore
A feeling, you eradicate it,–the act's
'I wish you joy, Miss Leigh.
You've made a happy marriage for your friend;
And all the honour, well-assorted love,
Derives from you who love him, whom he loves!
You need not wish me joy to think of it,
I have so much. Observe, Aurora Leigh,
Your droop of eyelid is the same as his,
And, but for you, I might have won his love,
And, to you, I have shown my naked heart,–
For which three things I hate, hate, hate you. Hush,
Suppose a fourth!–I cannot choose but think
That, with him, I were virtuouser than you
Without him: so I hate you from this gulph
And hollow of my soul, which opens out
To what, except for you, had been my heaven,
And is instead, a place to curse by! LOVE.'
An active kind of curse. I stood there cursed–
Confounded. I had seized and caught the sense
Of the letter with its twenty stinging snakes,
In a moment's sweep of eyesight, and I stood
Dazed.–'Ah! not married,'
'You mistake,' he said;
'I'm married. Is not Marian Erle my wife?
As God sees things, I have a wife and child;
And I, as I'm a man who honours God,
Am here to claim my child and wife.'
I felt it hard to breathe, much less to speak.
Nor word of mine was needed. Some one else
Was there for answering. 'Romney,' she began,
'My great good angel, Romney.'
Then at first,
I knew that Marian Erle was beautiful.
She stood there, still and pallid as a saint,
Dilated, like a saint in ecstasy,
As if the floating moonshine interposed
Betwixt her foot and the earth, and raised her up
To float upon it. 'I had left my child,
Who sleeps,' she said, 'and, having drawn this way,
I heard you speaking, . . friend!–Confirm me now.
You take this Marian, such as wicked men
Have made her, for your honourable wife?'
The thrilling, solemn, proud, pathetic voice.
He stretched his arms out toward the thrilling voice,
As if to draw it on to his embrace.
–'I take her as God made her, and as men
Must fail to unmake her, as my honoured wife.'
She never raised her eyes, nor took a step,
But stood there in her place, and spoke again.
–'You take this Marian's child, which is her shame
In sight of men and women, for your child,
Of whom you will not ever feel ashamed?'
The thrilling, tender, proud, pathetic voice.
He stepped on toward it, still with outstretched arms,
As if to quench upon his breast that voice.
–'May God so father me, as I do him
And so forsake me as I let him feel
He's orphaned haply. Here I take the child
To share my cup, to slumber on my knee,
To play his loudest gambol at my foot,
To hold my finger in the public ways,
Till none shall need inquire, 'Whose child is this,'
The gesture saying so tenderly, 'My own.
She stood a moment silent in her place;
Then, turning toward me, very slow and cold–
–'And you,–what say you?–will you blame me much,
If, careful for that outcast child of mine
I catch this hand that's stretched to me and him
Nor dare to leave him friendless in the world
Where men have stoned me? Have I not the right
To take so mere an aftermath from life,
Else found so wholly bare? Or is it wrong
To let your cousin, for a generous bent,
Put out his ungloved fingers among briars
To set a tumbling bird's-nest somewhat straight?
You will not tell him, though we're innocent
We are not harmless? . . and that both our harms
Will stick to his good smooth noble life like burrs,
Never to drop off though you shake the cloak?
You've been my friend: you will not now be his?
You've known him, that he's worthy of a friend;
And you're his cousin, lady, after all,
And therefore more than free to take his part,
Explaining, since the nest is surely spoilt,
And Marian what you know her,–though a wife,
The world would hardly understand her case
Of being just hurt and honest; while for him,
'Twould ever twit him with his bastard child
And married Harlot. Speak, while yet there's time:
You would not stand and let a good man's dog
Turn round and rend him, because his, and reared
Of a generous breed,–and will you let his act,
Because it's generous? Speak. I'm bound to you,
And I'll be bound by only you, in this.'
The thrilling, solemn voice, so passionless,
Sustained, yet low, without a rise or fall,
As one who had authority to speak,
And not as Marian.
I looked up to feel
If God stood near me and beheld his heaven
As blue as Aaron's priestly robe appeared
To Aaron when he took it off to die.
And then I spoke–'Accept the gift, I say,
My sister Marian, and be satisfied.
The hand that gives has still a soul behind
Which will not let it quail for having given,
Though foolish worldlings talk they know not what,
Of what they know not. Romney's strong enough
For this: do you be strong to know he's strong:
He stands on Right's side; never flinch for him,
As if he stood on the other. You'll be bound
By me? I am a woman of repute;
No fly-blow gossip ever specked my life;
My name is clean and open as this hand,
Whose glove there's not a man dares blab about
As if he had touched it freely:–here's my hand
To clasp your hand, my Marian, owned as pure!
As pure,–I'm a woman and a Leigh!–
And, as I'm both, I'll witness to the world
That Romney Leigh is honoured in his choice,
Who chooses Marian for his honoured wife.'
Her broad wild woodland eyes shot out a light;
Her smile was wonderful for rapture. 'Thanks,
My great Aurora.' Forward then she sprang,
And dropping her impassioned spaniel head
With all its brown abandonment of curls
On Romney's feet, we heard the kisses drawn
Through sobs upon the foot, upon the ground–
'O Romney! O my angel! O unchanged,
Though, since we've parted, I have passed the grave!
But Death itself could only better thee, ,
Not change thee!–Thee I do not thank at all:
I but thank God who made thee what thou art,
So wholly godlike.'
When he tried in vain
To raise her to his embrace, escaping thence
As any leaping fawn from a huntsman's grasp,
She bounded off and 'lighted beyond reach,
Before him with a staglike majesty
Of soft, serene defiance,–as she knew
He could not touch her, so was tolerant
He had cared to try. She stood there with her great
Drowned eyes, and dripping cheeks, and strange sweet smile
That lived through all, as if one held a light
Across a waste of waters,–shook her head
To keep some thoughts down deeper in her soul,–
Then, white and tranquil as a summer-cloud
Which, having rained itself to a tardy peace,
Stands still in heaven as if it ruled the day,
Spoke out again–'Although, my generous friend,
Since last we met and parted, you're unchanged,
And, having promised faith to Marian Erle,
Maintain it, as she were not changed at all;
And though that's worthy, though that's full of balm
To any conscious spirit of a girl
Who once has loved you as I loved you once,–
Yet still it will not make her . . if she's dead,
And gone away where none can give or take
In marriage,–able to revive, return
And wed you,–will, it Romney? Here's the point;
O friend, we'll see it plainer: you and I
Must never, never, never join hands so.
Nay, let me say it,–for I said it first
To God, and placed it, rounded to an oath,
Far, far above the moon there, at His feet,
As surely as I wept just now at yours,–
We never, never, never join hands so.
And now, be patient with me; do not think
I'm speaking from a false humility.
The truth is, I am grown so proud with grief,
And He has said so often through his nights
And through his mornings, 'Weep a little still,
'Thou foolish Marian, because women must,
'But do not blush at all except for sin,'–
That I, who felt myself unworthy once
Of virtuous Romney and his high-born race,
Have come to learn, . . a woman poor or rich,
Despised or honoured, is a human soul;
And what her soul is,–that, she is herself,
Although she should be spit upon of men,
As is the pavement of the churches here,
Still good enough to pray in. And, being chaste
And honest, and inclined to do the right,
And love the truth, and live my life out green
And smooth beneath his steps, I should not fear
To make him, thus, a less uneasy time
Than many a happier woman. Very proud
You see me. Pardon, that I set a trap
To hear a confirmation in your voice . .
Both yours and yours. It is so good to know
'Twas really God who said the same before:
For thus it is in heaven, that first God speaks,
And then his angels. Oh, it does me good,
It wipes me clean and sweet from devil's dirt,
That Romney Leigh should think me worthy still
Of being his true and honourable wife!
Henceforth I need not say, on leaving earth,
I had no glory in it. For the rest,
The reason's ready (master, angel, friend,
Be patient with me) wherefore you and I
Can never, never, never join hands so.
I know you'll not be angry like a man
(For you are none) when I shall tell the truth,–
Which is, I do not love you, Romney Leigh,
I do not love you. Ah well! catch my hands,
Miss Leigh, and burn into my eyes with yours,–
I swear I do not love him. Did I once?
'Tis said that women have been bruised to death,
And yet, if once they loved, that love of theirs
Could never be drained out with all their blood:
I've heard such things and pondered. Did I indeed
Love once? or did I only worship? Yes,
Perhaps, O friend, I set you up so high
Above all actual good or hope of good,
Or fear of evil, all that could be mine,
I haply set you above love itself,
And out of reach of these poor woman's arms,
Angelic Romney. What was in my thought?
To be your slave, your help, your toy, your tool.
To be your love . . I never thought of that.
To give you love . . still less. I gave you love?
I think I did not give you anything;
I was but only yours,–upon my knees,
All yours, in soul and body, in head and heart,–
A creature you had taken from the ground,
Still crumbling through your fingers to your feet
To join the dust she came from. Did I love,
Or did I worship? judge, Aurora Leigh!
But, if indeed I loved, 'twas long ago,–
So long! before the sun and moon were made,
Before the hells were open,–ah, before
I heard my child cry in the desert night,
And knew he had no father. It may be,
I'm not as strong as other women are,
Who, torn and crushed, are not undone from love.
It may be, I am colder than the dead,
Who, being dead, love always. But for me
Once killed, . . this ghost of Marian loves no more,
No more . . except the child! . . no more at all.
I told your cousin, sir, that I was dead;
And now, she thinks I'll get up from my grave,
And wear my chin-cloth for a wedding-veil,
And glide along the churchyard like a bride,
While all the dead keep whispering through the withes,
'You would be better in your place with us,
'You pitiful corruption!' At the thought,
The damps break out on me like leprosy,
Although I'm clean. Ay, clean as Marian Erle:
As Marian Leigh, I know, I were not clean:
I have not so much life that I should love,
. . Except the child. Ah God! I could not bear
To see my darling on a good man's knees,
And know by such a look, or such a sigh,
Or such a silence, that he thought sometimes,
'This child was fathered by some cursed wretch' . .
For, Romney,–angels are less tender-wise
Than God and mothers: even you would think
What we think never. He is ours, the child;
And we would sooner vex a soul in heaven
By coupling with it the dead body's thought,
It left behind it in a last month's grave,
Than, in my child, see other than . . my child.
We only, never call him fatherless
Who has God and his mother. O my babe,
My pretty, pretty blossom, an ill-wind
Once blew upon my breast! can any think
I'd have another,–one called happier,
A fathered child, with father's love and race
That's worn as bold and open as a smile,
To vex my darling when he's asked his name
And has no answer? What! a happier child
Than mine, my best,–who laughed so loud to-night
He could not sleep for pastime? Nay, I swear
By life and love, that, if I lived like some,
And loved like . . some . . ay, loved you, Romney Leigh,
As some love (eyes that have wept so much, see clear),
I've room for no more children in my arms;
My kisses are all melted on one mouth;
I would not push my darling to a stool
To dandle babies. Here's a hand, shall keep
For ever clean without a marriage-ring,
To tend my boy, until he cease to need
One steadying finger of it, and desert
(Not miss) his mother's lap, to sit with men.
And when I miss him (not he me) I'll come
And say, 'Now give me some of Romney's work,
To help your outcast orphans of the world,
And comfort grief with grief.' For you, meantime,
Most noble Romney, wed a noble wife,
And open on each other your great souls,–
I need not farther bless you. If I dared
But strain and touch her in her upper sphere,
And say, 'Come down to Romney–pay my debt!
I should be joyful with the stream of joy
Sent through me. But the moon is in my face . .
I dare not,–though I guess the name he loves;
I'm learned with my studies of old days,
Remembering how he crushed his under-lip
When some one came and spoke, or did not come.
Aurora, I could touch her with my hand,
And fly, because I dare not.'
She was gone.
He smiled so sternly that I spoke in haste.
'Forgive her–she sees clearly for herself:
Her instinct's holy.'
'I forgive?' he said,
'I only marvel how she sees so sure,
While others' . . there he paused,–then hoarse, abrupt,–
'Aurora, you forgive us, her and me?
For her, the thing she sees, poor loyal child,
If once corrected by the thing I know,
Had been unspoken; since she loves you well,
Has leave to love you:–while for me, alas,
If once or twice I let my heart escape
This night, . . remember, where hearts slip and fall
They break beside: we're parting,–parting,–ah,
You do not love, that you should surely know
What that word means. Forgive, be tolerant;
It had not been, but that I felt myself
So safe in impuissance and despair,
I could not hurt you though I tossed my arms
And sighed my soul out. The most utter wretch
Will choose his postures when he comes to die,
However in the presence of a queen:
And you'll forgive me some unseemly spasms
Which meant no more than dying. Do you think
I had ever come here in my perfect mind,
Unless I had come here, in my settled mind,
Bound Marian's, bound to keep the bond, and give
My name, my house, my hand, the things I could,
To Marian! For even I could give as much;
Even I, affronting her exalted soul
By a supposition that she wanted these,
Could act the husband's coat and hat set up
To creak i' the wind and drive the world-crows off
From pecking in her garden. Straw can fill
A hole to keep out vermin. Now, at last,
I own heaven's angels round her life suffice
To fight the rats of our society,
Without this Romney: I can see it at last;
And here is ended my pretension which
The most pretended. Over-proud of course,
Even so!–but not so stupid . . blind . . that I,
Whom thus the great Taskmaster of the world
Has set to meditate mistaken work,
My dreary face against a dim blank wall
Throughout man's natural lifetime,–could pretend
Or wish . . O love, I have loved you! O my soul,
I have lost you!–but I swear by all yourself,
And all you might have been to me these years,
If that June-morning had not failed my hope,–
I'm not so bestial, to regret that day
This night,–this night, which still to you is fair;
Nay, not so blind, Aurora. I attest
Those stars above us, which I cannot see . . . '
'You cannot.' . .
' That if Heaven itself should stoop,
Remit the lots, and give me another chance,
I'd say, 'No other!'–I'd record my blank.
Aurora never should be wife of mine.'
'Not see the stars?'
Tis worse still, not to see
To find your hand, although we're parting, dear.
A moment let me hold it, ere we part:
And understand my last words–these at last!
I would not have you thinking, when I'm gone,
That Romney dared to hanker for your love,
In thought or vision, if attainable,
(Which certainly for me it never was)
And wish to use it for a dog to-day,
To help the blind man stumbling. God forbid!
And now I know he held you in his palm,
And kept you open-eyed to all my faults,
To save you at last from such a dreary end.
Believe me, dear, that if I had known, like Him,
What loss was coming on me, I had done
As well in this as He has.–Farewell, you,
Who are still my light,–farewell! How late it is:
I know that, now: you've been too patient, sweet.
I will but blow my whistle toward the lane,
And some one comes . . the same who brought me here.
Get in–Good night.'
'A moment. Heavenly Christ!
A moment. Speak once, Romney. 'Tis not true.
I hold your hands, I look into your face–
You see me?'
'No more than the blessed stars.
Be blessed too, Aurora. Ah, my sweet,
You tremble. Tender-hearted! Do you mind
Of yore, dear, how you used to cheat old John,
And let the mice out slyly from his traps,
Until he marvelled at the soul in mice
Which took the cheese and left the snare? The same
Dear soft heart always! 'Twas for this I grieved
Howe's letter never reached you. Ah, you had heard
Of illness,–not the issue . . not the extent:
My life long sick with tossings up and down;
The sudden revulsion in the blazing house,–
The strain and struggle both of body and soul,
Which left fire running in my veins, for blood:
Scarce lacked that thunderbolt of the falling beam,
Which nicked me on the forehead as I passed
The gallery door with a burden. Say heaven's bolt,
Not William Erle's; not Marian's father's; tramp
And poacher, whom I found for what he was,
And, eager for her sake to rescue him,
Forth swept from the open highway of the world,
Road-dust and all,–till, like a woodland boar
Most naturally unwilling to be tamed,
He notched me with his tooth. But not a word
To Marian! and I do not think, besides,
He turned the tilting of the beam my way,–
And if he laughed, as many swear, poor wretch,
Nor he nor I supposed the hurt so deep.
We'll hope his next laugh may be merrier,
In a better cause.'
' Ah, my friend,
You'll learn to say it in a cheerful voice.
I, too, at first desponded. To be blind,
Turned out of nature, mulcted as a man,
Refused the daily largesse of the sun
To humble creatures! When the fever's heat
Dropped from me, as the flame did from my house,
And left me ruined like it, stripped of all
The hues and shapes of aspectable life,
A mere bare blind stone in the blaze of day,
A man, upon the outside of the earth,
As dark as ten feet under, in the grave,–
Why that seemed hard.'
'A tear! you weep,
Divine Aurora? tears upon my hand!
I've seen you weeping for a mouse, a bird,–
But, weep for me, Aurora? Yes, there's hope.
Not hope of sight,–I could be learned, dear,
And tell you in what Greek and Latin name
The visual nerve is withered to the root,
Though the outer eyes appear indifferent,
Unspotted in their crystals. But there's hope.
The spirit, from behind this dethroned sense,
Sees, waits in patience till the walls break up
From which the bas-relief and fresco have dropt.
There's hope. The man here, once so arrogant
And restless, so ambitious, for his part,
Of dealing with statistically packed
Disorders, (from a pattern on his nail,)
And packing such things quite another way,–
Is now contented. From his personal loss
He has come to hope for others when they lose,
And wear a gladder faith in what we gain . .
Through bitter experience, compensation sweet,
Like that tear, sweetest. I am quiet now,–
As tender surely for the suffering world,
But quiet,–sitting at the wall to learn,
Content, henceforth, to do the thing I can:
For, though as powerless, said I, as a stone,
A stone can still give shelter to a worm,
And it is worth while being a stone for that:
There's hope, Aurora.'
' Is there hope for me?
For me?–and is there room beneath the stone
For such a worm?–And if I came and said . .
What all this weeping scarce will let me say,
And yet what women cannot say at all,
But weeping bitterly . . (the pride keeps up,
Until the heart breaks under it) . . I love,–
I love you, Romney' . . .
'Silence!' he exclaimed,
'A woman's pity sometimes makes her mad.
A man's distraction must not cheat his soul
To take advantage of it. Yet, 'tis hard–
'But I love you, sir:
And when a woman says she loves a man,
The man must hear her, though he love her not.
Which . . hush! . . he has leave to answer in his turn;
She will not surely blame him. As for me,
You call it pity,–think I'm generous?
'Twere somewhat easier, for a woman proud,
As I am, and I'm very vilely proud,
To let it pass as such, and press on you
Love born of pity,–seeing that excellent loves
Are born so, often, nor the quicklier die,–
And this would set me higher by the head
Than now I stand. No matter: let the truth
Stand high: Aurora must be humble: no,
My love's not pity merely. Obviously
I'm not a generous woman, never was.
Or else, of old, I had not looked so near
To weights and measures, grudging you the power
To give, as first I scorned your power to judge
For me, Aurora: I would have no gifts
Forsooth, but God's,–and I would use them, too,
According to my pleasure and my choice,
As He and I were equals,–you, below,
Excluded from that level of interchange
Admitting benefaction. You were wrong
In much? you said so. I was wrong in most.
Oh, most! You only thought to rescue men
By half-means, half-way, seeing half their wants,
While thinking nothing of your personal gain.
But I who saw the human nature broad,
At both sides, comprehending, too, the soul's,
And all the high necessities of Art,
Betrayed the thing I saw, and wronged my own life
For which I pleaded. Passioned to exalt
The artist's instinct in me at the cost
Of putting down the woman's–I forgot
No perfect artist is developed here
From any imperfect woman. Flower from root,
And spiritual from natural, grade by grade
In all our life. A handful of the earth
To make God's image! the despised poor earth,
The healthy odorous earth,–I missed, with it,
The divine Breath that blows the nostrils out
To ineffable inflatus: ay, the breath
Which love is. Art is much, but love is more.
O Art, my Art, thou'rt much, but Love is more!
Art symbolises heaven, but Love is God
And makes heaven. I, Aurora, fell from mine:
I would not be a woman like the rest,
A simple woman who believes in love,
And owns the right of love because she loves,
And, hearing she's beloved, is satisfied
With what contents God: I must analyse,
Confront, and question; just as if a fly
Refused to warm itself in any sun
Till such was in leone: I must fret
Forsooth, because the month was only May;
Be faithless of the kind of proffered love,
And captious, lest it miss my dignity,
And scornful, that my lover sought a wife
To use . . to use! O Romney, O my love,
I am changed since then, changed wholly,–for indeed,
If now you'd stoop so low to take my love,
And use it roughly, without stint or spare,
As men use common things with more behind,
(And, in this, ever would be more behind)
To any mean and ordinary end,–
The joy would set me like a star, in heaven,
So high up, I should shine because of height
And not of virtue. Yet in one respect,
Just one, beloved, I am in no wise changed:
I love you, loved you . . loved you first and last,
And love you on for ever. Now I know
I loved you always, Romney. She who died
Knew that, and said so; Lady Waldemar
Knows that; . . and Marian: I had known the same
Except that I was prouder than I knew,
And not so honest. Ay, and as I live,
I should have died so, crushing in my hand
This rose of love, the wasp inside and all,–
Ignoring ever to my soul and you
Both rose and pain,–except for this great loss,
This great despair,–to stand before your face
And know I cannot win a look of yours.
You think, perhaps, I am not changed from pride,
And that I chiefly bear to say such words
Because you cannot shame me with your eyes?
O calm, grand eyes, extinguished in a storm,
Blown out like lights o'er melancholy seas,
Though shrieked for by the shipwrecked,–O my Dark,
My Cloud,–to go before me every day
While I go ever toward the wilderness,–
I would that you could see me bare to the soul!–
If this be pity, 'tis so for myself,
And not for Romney; he can stand alone;
A man like him is never overcome:
No woman like me, counts him pitiable
While saints applaud him. He mistook the world:
But I mistook my own heart,–and that slip
Was fatal. Romney,–will you leave me here?
So wrong, so proud, so weak, so unconsoled,
So mere a woman!–and I love you so,–
I love you, Romney.'
Could I see his face,
I wept so? Did I drop against his breast,
Or did his arms constrain me? Were my cheeks
Hot, overflooded, with my tears, or his?
And which of our two large explosive hearts
So shook me? That, I know not. There were words
That broke in utterance . . melted, in the fire;
Embrace, that was convulsion, . . then a kiss . .
As long and silent as the ecstatic night,–
And deep, deep, shuddering breaths, which meant beyond
Whatever could be told by word or kiss.
But what he said . . I have written day by day,
With somewhat even writing. Did I think
That such a passionate rain would intercept
And dash this last page? What he said, indeed,
I fain would write it down here like the rest
To keep it in my eyes, as in my ears,
The heart's sweet scripture, to be read at night
When weary, or at morning when afraid,
And lean my heaviest oath on when I swear
That when all's done, all tried, all counted here,
All great arts, and all good philosophies,–
This love just puts its hand out in a dream
And straight outreaches all things.
What he said,
I fain would write. But if an angel spoke
In thunder, should we, haply, know much more
Than that it thundered? If a cloud came down
And wrapt us wholly, could we draw its shape,
As if on the outside, and not overcome?
And so he spake. His breath against my face
Confused his words, yet made them more intense,–
As when the sudden finger of the wind
Will wipe a row of single city-lamps
To a pure white line of flame, more luminous
Because of obliteration; more intense
The intimate presence carrying in itself
Complete communication, as with souls
Who, having put the body off, perceive
Through simply being. Thus, 'twas granted me
To know he loved me to the depth and height
Of such large natures, ever competent
With grand horizons by the land or sea,
To love's grand sunrise. Small spheres hold small fires:
But he loved largely, as a man can love
Who, baffled in his love, dares live his life,
Accept the ends which God loves, for his own,
And life a constant aspect.
From the day
I had brought to England my poor searching face,
(An orphan even of my father's grave)
He had loved me, watched me, watched his soul in mine,
Which in me grew and heightened into love.
For he, a boy still, had been told the tale
Of how a fairy bride from Italy,
With smells of oleanders in her hair,
Was coming through the vines to touch his hand;
Whereat the blood of boyhood on the palm
Made sudden heats. And when at last I came,
And lived before him, lived, and rarely smiled,
He smiled and loved me for the thing I was,
As every child will love the year's first flower,
(Not certainly the fairest of the year,
But, in which, the complete year seems to blow)
The poor sad snowdrop,–growing between drifts,
Mysterious medium 'twixt the plant and frost,
So faint with winter while so quick with spring,
So doubtful if to thaw itself away
With that snow near it. Not that Romney Leigh
Had loved me coldly. If I thought so once,
It was as if I had held my hand in fire
And shook for cold. But now I understood
For ever, that the very fire and heat
Of troubling passion in him, burned him clear,
And shaped to dubious order, word and act.
That, just because he loved me over all,
All wealth, all lands, all social privilege,
To which chance made him unexpected heir,–
And, just because on all these lesser gifts,
Constrained by conscience and the sense of wrong
He had stamped with steady hand God's arrow-mark
Of dedication to the human need,
He thought it should be so too, with his love;
He, passionately loving, would bring down
His love, his life, his best, (because the best,)
His bride of dreams, who walked so still and high
Through flowery poems as through meadow-grass
The dust of golden lilies on her feet,
That she should walk beside him on the rooks
In all that clang and hewing out of men,
And help the work of help which was his life,
And prove he kept back nothing,–not his soul.
And when I failed him,–for I failed him, I–
And when it seemed he had missed my love,–he thought,
'Aurora makes room for a working-noon;'
And so, self-girded with torn strips of hope,
Took up his life, as if it were for death,
(Just capable of one heroic aim,)
And threw it in the thickest of the world,–
At which men laughed as if he had drowned a dog:
Nor wonder,–since Aurora failed him first!
The morning and the evening made his day.
But oh, the night! oh, bitter-sweet! oh, sweet!
O dark, O moon and stars, O ecstasy
Of darkness! O great mystery of love,–
In which absorbed, loss, anguish, treason's self
Enlarges rapture,–as a pebble dropt
In some full wine-cup, over-brims the wine!
While we two sate together, leaned that night
So close, my very garments crept and thrilled
With strange electric life; and both my cheeks
Grew red, then pale, with touches from my hair
In which his breath was; while the golden moon
Was hung before our faces as the badge
Of some sublime inherited despair,
Since ever to be seen by only one,–
A voice said, low and rapid as a sigh,
Yet breaking, I felt conscious, from a smile,–
'Thank God, who made me blind, to make me see!
Shine on, Aurora, dearest light of souls,
Which rul'st for evermore both day and night!
I am happy.'
I clung closer to his breast,
As sword that, after battle, flings to sheathe;
And, in that hurtle of united souls,
The mystic motions which in common moods
Are shut beyond our sense, broke in on us,
And, as we sate, we felt the old earth spin,
And all the starry turbulence of worlds
Swing round us in their audient circles, till
If that same golden moon were overhead
Or if beneath our feet, we did not know.
And then calm, equal, smooth with weights of joy,
His voice rose, as some chief musician's song
Amid the old Jewish temple's Selah-pause,
And bade me mark how we two met at last
Upon this moon-bathed promontory of earth,
To give up much on each side, then, take all.
'Beloved,' it sang, ' we must be here to work;
And men who work, can only work for men,
And, not to work in vain, must comprehend
Humanity, and, so work humanly,
And raise men's bodies still by raising souls,
As God did, first.'
'But stand upon the earth,'
I said, 'to raise them,–(this is human too;
There's nothing high which has not first been low;
My humbleness, said One, has made me great!)
As God did, last.'
'And work all silently,
And simply,' he returned, 'as God does all;
Distort our nature never, for our work,
Nor count our right hands stronger for being hoofs.
The man most man, with tenderest human hands,
Works best for men,–as God in Nazareth.'
He paused upon the word, and then resumed;
'Fewer programmes; we who have no prescience.
Fewer systems; we who are held and do not hold.
Less mapping out of masses, to be saved,
By nations or by sexes. Fourier's void,
And Comte is dwarfed,–and Cabet, puerile.
Subsists no law of life outside of life;
No perfect manners, without Christian souls:
The Christ himself had been no Lawgiver,
Unless He had given the life, too, with the law.'
I echoed thoughtfully–'The man, most man,
Works best for men: and, if most man indeed,
He gets his manhood plainest from his soul:
While, obviously, this stringent soul itself
Obeys our old rules of development;
The Spirit ever witnessing in ours,
And Love, the soul of soul, within the soul,
Evolving it sublimely. First, God's love.'
'And next,' he smiled, 'the love of wedded souls,
Which still presents that mystery's counterpart.
Sweet shadow-rose, upon the water of life,
Of such a mystic substance, Sharon gave
A name to! human, vital, fructuous rose,
Whose calyx holds the multitude of leaves.–
Loves filial, loves fraternal, neighbour-loves,
And civic, . . all fair petals, all good scents,
All reddened, sweetened from one central Heart!'
'Alas,' I cried, 'it was not long ago,
You swore this very social rose smelt ill.'
'Alas,' he answered, 'is it a rose at all?
The filial's thankless, the fraternal's hard,
The rest is lost. I do but stand and think,
Across dim waters of a troubled life
The Flower of Heaven so vainly overhangs,–
What perfect counterpart would be in sight,
If tanks were clearer. Let us clean the tubes,
And wait for rains. O poet, O my love,
Since I was too ambitious in my deed,
And thought to distance all men in success,
Till God came on me, marked the place, and said
'III-doer, henceforth keep within this line,
'Attempting less than others,'–and I stand
And work among Christ's little ones, content,–
Come thou, my compensation, my dear sight,
My morning-star, my morning! rise and shine,
And touch my hills with radiance not their own
Shine out for two, Aurora, and fulfil
My falling-short that must be! work for two,
As I, though thus restrained, for two, shall love!
Gaze on, with inscient vision toward the sun,
And, from his visceral heat, pluck out the roots
Of light beyond him. Art's a service,–mark:
A silver key is given to thy clasp,
And thou shalt stand unwearied, night and day,
And fix it in the hard, slow-turning wards,
And open, so, that intermediate door
Betwixt the different planes of sensuous form
And form insensuous, that inferior men
May learn to feel on still through thee to those,
And bless thy ministration. The world waits
For help. Beloved, let us love so well,
Our work shall still be better for our love,
And still our love be sweeter for our work,
And both, commended, for the sake of each,
By all true workers and true lovers, born.
Now press the clarion on thy woman's lip
(Love's holy kiss shall still keep consecrate)
And breathe the fine keen breath along the brass,
And blow all class-walls level as Jericho's
Past Jordan; crying from the top of souls,
To souls, that they assemble on earth's flats
To get them to some purer eminence
Than any hitherto beheld for clouds!
What height we know not,–but the way we know,
And how by mounting aye, we must attain,
And so climb on. It is the hour for souls;
That bodies, leavened by the will and love,
Be lightened to redemption. The world's old;
But the old world waits the hour to be renewed:
Toward which, new hearts in individual growth
Must quicken, and increase to multitude
In new dynasties of the race of men,–
Developed whence, shall grow spontaneously
New churches, new economies, new laws
Admitting freedom, new societies
Excluding falsehood. HE shall make all new.'
My Romney!–Lifting up my hand in his,
As wheeled by Seeing spirits toward the east,
He turned instinctively,–where, faint and fair,
Along the tingling desert of the sky,
Beyond the circle of the conscious hills,
Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as glass
The first foundations of that new, near Day
Which should be builded out of heaven, to God
He stood a moment with erected brows,
In silence, as a creature might, who gazed:
Stood calm, and fed his blind, majestic eyes
Upon the thought of perfect noon. And when
I saw his soul saw,–'Jasper first,' I said,
'And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;
The rest in order, . . last, an amethyst.'
There Are Times 
There are times when the sky is so blue
that it's almost a touchable living thing
when birds do constantly praises sing
and I am blessed in all the things I do.
You Betrayed My Trust
When I heard the news,
I got all confused,
I didn't know how to take it,
You said we were friends,
I trusted you,
But you betrayed my trust,
I thought you trusted me,
But I was wrong,
For all you told me,
I don't know what I'll do,
A friend like you,
Is hard to find,
For now I don't know
Who to trust,
You've mixed me up forever,
Is everyone like you,
Will they laugh and tell,
Or are there good people,
Whom I can trust,
And can respect,
I'm not so sure,
So I can't try,
It'll be a while,
Before I can trust again,
But I'll know just when,
The time is right.
There Are Reasons
there will always be reasons
as there are leaves from the trees,
why, this word never goes extinct,
it is famous, and always gets the
good ratings in the scoreboards
of our interrogative history,
why did you leave me? why did you
these are the top questions of
those who are in pain, of those
you have betrayed, and you
hide, wanting to grasp the most
convincing answer, like the leaves
of the trees,
falling, rotting, decaying, and
wanting to come up, rise
to the trunks, to the clouds
still wishing to explain, to exude
the sweet smell of humus,
death is sweet
decay is cool, in rotting
shall come the sweetest flavor of the soul.
The World Needs Peace And Love
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
Muslims and Christians are all alike.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
We don't need another airstrike.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
People of all colors must be one.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
All sorts of violence must be gone.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
Stop killing our brothers and sisters!
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
Stop all these bullshit wars!
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
Stop terrorism, please.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
Let our children live to the fullest.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
We must stand together for better world.
The world needs peace, the world needs love.
We are the children of God.
The world needs peace and love...