The Fairy Fellers Master-stroke
Hes a fairy feller
The fairy folk have gathered round the new moon shine
To see the feller crack a nut at nights noon time
To swing his ace he swears, as it climbs he dares
Ploughman, waggoner will, and types
Politician with senatorial pope - hes a dilly-dally-o
Pedagogue squinting, wears a frown
And a satyr peers under ladys gown, dirty fellow
What a dirty laddio
Tatterdemalion and a junketer
Theres a thief and a dragonfly trumpeter - hes my hero
Fairy dandy tickling the fancy of his lady friend
The nymph in yellow can we see the master-stroke
What a quaere fellow
Soldier, sailor, tinker, tailor, ploughboy
Waiting to hear the sound
And the arch-magician presides
He is the leader
Oberon and titania watched by a harridan
Mab is the queen and theres a good apothecary-man
Come to say hello
Fairy dandy tickling the fancy of his lady friend
The nymph in yellow
What a quaere fellow
The ostler stares with hands on his knees
Come on mr. feller, crack it open if you please
- quotes about teachers
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The Fairy Folk
In the hollow of the oak,
Waiting patiently for night.
The fairy king and fairy folk,
Watch the quickly fading light.
Inside the giant oak they wait,
For their time will soon be here.
With the moon and mist they have a date,
To ride the moonbeams that they hold dear.
The night arrives and the fairies fly,
On golden moonbeams they spread their wings.
Joyously reaching for the sky,
Bringers of dreams and all good things.
The fairy king upon a limb,
Holds court for his subjects every night.
In a hidden corner where the moon is dim,
Till the early morning light.
Deep in the woods, round hollow logs,
Flying near the pond next to the oak.
Through cattails and ferns, playing with frogs,
Bringing joy to the forrest, fly the fairy folk.
If you walk in the woods, your eyes will see,
Their tiny lanterns glowing bright.
Flying on moonbeams forever free,
Illuminating the stygian night.
There really are fairies, without a doubt,
Just believe and they'll appear.
Just walk quietly don't scream or shout,
And you will see them flying near.
9/21/10 Alton Texas
Love Poem-1 Shine O Moon! Shine.
Shine O Moon! Shine brightly now
for my beloved
is coming to kindle
the fire of love.
Shine O Moon! Shine brightly now.
Unending seemed to be the nights
succumbing to death were diminishing lights
his appearance illuminates now
my temple of love.
Shine O Moon! Shine brightly now.
O moon, play hide and seek
I have him, my love to share
behind the clouds hide you moon
he takes refuge beneath my lustrous hair.
Shine O Moon! Shine brightly if you care
Sing a melody in company of the stars
and sleep with the moonshine
my lap is for him to sleep
as he is only mine.
AS HE IS ONLY MINE.
Shine O Moon! Shine brightly shine.
I Sing The Body Electric
I SING the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the
And if the body does not do as much as the Soul?
And if the body were not the Soul, what is the Soul?
The love of the Body of man or woman balks account--the body itself
That of the male is perfect, and that of the female is perfect. 10
The expression of the face balks account;
But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of
his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist
and knees--dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton
To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-
The sprawl and fulness of babes, the bosoms and heads of women, the
folds of their dress, their style as we pass in the street, the
contour of their shape downwards,
The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the
transparent green-shine, or lies with his face up, and rolls
silently to and fro in the heave of the water,
The bending forward and backward of rowers in row-boats--the horseman
in his saddle, 20
Girls, mothers, house-keepers, in all their performances,
The group of laborers seated at noon-time with their open dinner-
kettles, and their wives waiting,
The female soothing a child--the farmer's daughter in the garden or
The young fellow hoeing corn--the sleigh-driver guiding his six
horses through the crowd,
The wrestle of wrestlers, two apprentice-boys, quite grown, lusty,
good-natured, native-born, out on the vacant lot at sundown,
The coats and caps thrown down, the embrace of love and resistance,
The upper-hold and the under-hold, the hair rumpled over and blinding
The march of firemen in their own costumes, the play of masculine
muscle through clean-setting trowsers and waist-straps,
The slow return from the fire, the pause when the bell strikes
suddenly again, and the listening on the alert,
The natural, perfect, varied attitudes--the bent head, the curv'd
neck, and the counting; 30
Such-like I love--I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother's
breast with the little child,
Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with wrestlers, march in line with
the firemen, and pause, listen, and count.
I know a man, a common farmer--the father of five sons;
And in them were the fathers of sons--and in them were the fathers of
This man was of wonderful vigor, calmness, beauty of person;
The shape of his head, the pale yellow and white of his hair and
beard, and the immeasurable meaning of his black eyes--the
richness and breadth of his manners,
These I used to go and visit him to see--he was wise also;
He was six feet tall, he was over eighty years old--his sons were
massive, clean, bearded, tan-faced, handsome;
They and his daughters loved him--all who saw him loved him;
They did not love him by allowance--they loved him with personal
He drank water only--the blood show'd like scarlet through the clear-
brown skin of his face;
He was a frequent gunner and fisher--he sail'd his boat himself--he
had a fine one presented to him by a ship-joiner--he had
fowling-pieces, presented to him by men that loved him;
When he went with his five sons and many grand-sons to hunt or fish,
you would pick him out as the most beautiful and vigorous of
You would wish long and long to be with him--you would wish to sit by
him in the boat, that you and he might touch each other.
I have perceiv'd that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly
round his or her neck for a moment--what is this, then?
I do not ask any more delight--I swim in it, as in a sea.
There is something in staying close to men and women, and looking on
them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the
soul well; 50
All things please the soul--but these please the soul well.
This is the female form;
A divine nimbus exhales from it from head to foot;
It attracts with fierce undeniable attraction!
I am drawn by its breath as if I were no more than a helpless vapor--
all falls aside but myself and it;
Books, art, religion, time, the visible and solid earth, the
atmosphere and the clouds, and what was expected of heaven or
fear'd of hell, are now consumed;
Mad filaments, ungovernable shoots play out of it--the response
Hair, bosom, hips, bend of legs, negligent falling hands, all
diffused--mine too diffused;
Ebb stung by the flow, and flow stung by the ebb--love-flesh swelling
and deliciously aching;
Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of
love, white-blow and delirious juice; 60
Bridegroom night of love, working surely and softly into the
Undulating into the willing and yielding day,
Lost in the cleave of the clasping and sweet-flesh'd day.
This is the nucleus--after the child is born of woman, the man is
born of woman;
This is the bath of birth--this is the merge of small and large, and
the outlet again.
Be not ashamed, women--your privilege encloses the rest, and is the
exit of the rest;
You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.
The female contains all qualities, and tempers them--she is in her
place, and moves with perfect balance;
She is all things duly veil'd--she is both passive and active;
She is to conceive daughters as well as sons, and sons as well as
As I see my soul reflected in nature;
As I see through a mist, one with inexpressible completeness and
See the bent head, and arms folded over the breast--the female I see.
The male is not less the soul, nor more--he too is in his place;
He too is all qualities--he is action and power;
The flush of the known universe is in him;
Scorn becomes him well, and appetite and defiance become him well;
The wildest largest passions, bliss that is utmost, sorrow that is
utmost, become him well--pride is for him;
The full-spread pride of man is calming and excellent to the soul;
Knowledge becomes him--he likes it always--he brings everything to
the test of himself; 80
Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail, he strikes
soundings at last only here;
(Where else does he strike soundings, except here?)
The man's body is sacred, and the woman's body is sacred;
No matter who it is, it is sacred;
Is it a slave? Is it one of the dull-faced immigrants just landed on
Each belongs here or anywhere, just as much as the well-off--just as
much as you;
Each has his or her place in the procession.
(All is a procession;
The universe is a procession, with measured and beautiful motion.)
Do you know so much yourself, that you call the slave or the dull-
face ignorant? 90
Do you suppose you have a right to a good sight, and he or she has no
right to a sight?
Do you think matter has cohered together from its diffuse float--and
the soil is on the surface, and water runs, and vegetation
For you only, and not for him and her?
A man's Body at auction;
I help the auctioneer--the sloven does not half know his business.
Gentlemen, look on this wonder!
Whatever the bids of the bidders, they cannot be high enough for it;
For it the globe lay preparing quintillions of years, without one
animal or plant;
For it the revolving cycles truly and steadily roll'd.
In this head the all-baffling brain; 100
In it and below it, the makings of heroes.
Examine these limbs, red, black, or white--they are so cunning in
tendon and nerve;
They shall be stript, that you may see them.
Exquisite senses, life-lit eyes, pluck, volition,
Flakes of breast-muscle, pliant back-bone and neck, flesh not flabby,
good-sized arms and legs,
And wonders within there yet.
Within there runs blood,
The same old blood!
The same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart--there all passions, desires,
reachings, aspirations; 110
Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in
parlors and lecture-rooms?
This is not only one man--this is the father of those who shall be
fathers in their turns;
In him the start of populous states and rich republics;
Of him countless immortal lives, with countless embodiments and
How do you know who shall come from the offspring of his offspring
through the centuries?
Who might you find you have come from yourself, if you could trace
back through the centuries?
A woman's Body at auction!
She too is not only herself--she is the teeming mother of mothers;
She is the bearer of them that shall grow and be mates to the
Have you ever loved the Body of a woman? 120
Have you ever loved the Body of a man?
Your father--where is your father?
Your mother--is she living? have you been much with her? and has she
been much with you?
--Do you not see that these are exactly the same to all, in all
nations and times, all over the earth?
If any thing is sacred, the human body is sacred,
And the glory and sweet of a man, is the token of manhood untainted;
And in man or woman, a clean, strong, firm-fibred body, is beautiful
as the most beautiful face.
Have you seen the fool that corrupted his own live body? or the fool
that corrupted her own live body?
For they do not conceal themselves, and cannot conceal themselves.
O my Body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women,
nor the likes of the parts of you; 130
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the
Soul, (and that they are the Soul;)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems--and
that they are poems,
Man's, woman's, child's, youth's, wife's, husband's, mother's,
father's, young man's, young woman's poems;
Head, neck, hair, ears, drop and tympan of the ears,
Eyes, eye-fringes, iris of the eye, eye-brows, and the waking or
sleeping of the lids,
Mouth, tongue, lips, teeth, roof of the mouth, jaws, and the jaw-
Nose, nostrils of the nose, and the partition,
Cheeks, temples, forehead, chin, throat, back of the neck, neck-slue,
Strong shoulders, manly beard, scapula, hind-shoulders, and the ample
side-round of the chest.
Upper-arm, arm-pit, elbow-socket, lower-arm, arm-sinews,
Wrist and wrist-joints, hand, palm, knuckles, thumb, fore-finger,
finger-balls, finger-joints, finger-nails,
Broad breast-front, curling hair of the breast, breast-bone, breast-
Ribs, belly, back-bone, joints of the back-bone,
Hips, hip-sockets, hip-strength, inward and outward round, man-balls,
Strong set of thighs, well carrying the trunk above,
Leg-fibres, knee, knee-pan, upper-leg, under leg,
Ankles, instep, foot-ball, toes, toe-joints, the heel;
All attitudes, all the shapeliness, all the belongings of my or your
body, or of any one's body, male or female,
The lung-sponges, the stomach-sac, the bowels sweet and clean,
The brain in its folds inside the skull-frame, 150
Sympathies, heart-valves, palate-valves, sexuality, maternity,
Womanhood, and all that is a woman--and the man that comes from
The womb, the teats, nipples, breast-milk, tears, laughter, weeping,
love-looks, love-perturbations and risings,
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud,
Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming,
Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and
The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes,
The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair,
The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked
meat of the body,
The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out, 160
The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you, or within me--the bones, and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of
O I say now these are the Soul!
- quotes about swimming
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- quotes about seasons
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The Plea Of The Midsummer Fairies
'Twas in that mellow season of the year
When the hot sun singes the yellow leaves
Till they be gold,—and with a broader sphere
The Moon looks down on Ceres and her sheaves;
When more abundantly the spider weaves,
And the cold wind breathes from a chillier clime;—
That forth I fared, on one of those still eves,
Touch'd with the dewy sadness of the time,
To think how the bright months had spent their prime,
So that, wherever I address'd my way,
I seem'd to track the melancholy feet
Of him that is the Father of Decay,
And spoils at once the sour weed and the sweet;—
Wherefore regretfully I made retreat
To some unwasted regions of my brain,
Charm'd with the light of summer and the heat,
And bade that bounteous season bloom again,
And sprout fresh flowers in mine own domain.
It was a shady and sequester'd scene,
Like those famed gardens of Boccaccio,
Planted with his own laurels evergreen,
And roses that for endless summer blow;
And there were fountain springs to overflow
Their marble basins,—and cool green arcades
Of tall o'erarching sycamores, to throw
Athwart the dappled path their dancing shades,—
With timid coneys cropping the green blades.
And there were crystal pools, peopled with fish,
Argent and gold; and some of Tyrian skin,
Some crimson-barr'd;—and ever at a wish
They rose obsequious till the wave grew thin
As glass upon their backs, and then dived in,
Quenching their ardent scales in watery gloom;
Whilst others with fresh hues row'd forth to win
My changeable regard,—for so we doom
Things born of thought to vanish or to bloom.
And there were many birds of many dyes,
From tree to tree still faring to and fro,
And stately peacocks with their splendid eyes,
And gorgeous pheasants with their golden glow,
Like Iris just bedabbled in her bow,
Beside some vocalists, without a name,
That oft on fairy errands come and go,
With accents magical;—and all were tame,
And peckled at my hand where'er I came.
And for my sylvan company, in lieu
Of Pampinea with her lively peers,
Sate Queen Titania with her pretty crew,
All in their liveries quaint, with elfin gears,
For she was gracious to my childish years,
And made me free of her enchanted round;
Wherefore this dreamy scene she still endears,
And plants her court upon a verdant mound,
Fenced with umbrageous woods and groves profound.
'Ah me,' she cries, 'was ever moonlight seen
So clear and tender for our midnight trips?
Go some one forth, and with a trump convene
My lieges all!'—Away the goblin skips
A pace or two apart, and deftly strips
The ruddy skin from a sweet rose's cheek,
Then blows the shuddering leaf between his lips,
Making it utter forth a shrill small shriek,
Like a fray'd bird in the gray owlet's beak.
And lo! upon my fix'd delighted ken
Appear'd the loyal Fays.—Some by degrees
Crept from the primrose buds that open'd then,
Ana some from bell-shaped blossoms like the bees,
Some from the dewy meads, and rushy leas,
Flew up like chafers when the rustics pass;
Some from the rivers, others from tall trees
Dropp'd, like shed blossoms, silent to the grass,
Spirits and elfins small, of every class.
Peri and Pixy, and quaint Puck the Antic,
Brought Robin Goodfellow, that merry swain;
And stealthy Mab, queen of old realms romantic,
Came too, from distance, in her tiny wain,
Fresh dripping from a cloud—some bloomy rain,
Then circling the bright Moon, had wash'd her car,
And still bedew'd it with a various stain:
Lastly came Ariel, shooting from a star,
Who bears all fairy embassies afar.
But Oberon, that night elsewhere exiled,
Was absent, whether some distemper'd spleen
Kept him and his fair mate unreconciled,
Or warfare with the Gnome (whose race had been
Sometime obnoxious), kept him from his queen,
And made her now peruse the starry skies
Prophetical, with such an absent mien;
Howbeit, the tears stole often to her eyes,
And oft the Moon was incensed with her sighs—
Which made the elves sport drearily, and soon
Their hushing dances languish'd to a stand,
Like midnight leaves, when, as the Zephyrs swoon,
All on their drooping stems they sink unfann'd,—
So into silence droop'd the fairy band,
To see their empress dear so pale and still,
Crowding her softly round on either hand,
As pale as frosty snowdrops, and as chill,
To whom the sceptred dame reveals her ill.
'Alas,' quoth she, 'ye know our fairy lives
Are leased upon the fickle faith of men;
Not measured out against Fate's mortal knives,
Like human gosamers,—we perish when
We fade and are forgot in worldly kens—
Though poesy has thus prolong'd our date,
Thanks be to the sweet Bard's auspicious pen
That rescued us so long!—howbeit of late
I feel some dark misgivings of our fate.'
'And this dull day my melancholy sleep
Hath been so thronged with images of woe,
That even now I cannot choose but weep
To think this was some sad prophetic show
Of future horror to befall us so,
Of mortal wreck and uttermost distress,
Yea, our poor empire's fall and overthrow,
For this was my long vision's dreadful stress,
And when I waked my trouble was not less.'
'Whenever to the clouds I tried to seek,
Such leaden weight dragg'd these Icarian wings,
My faithless wand was wavering and weak,
And slimy toads had trespass'd in our rings—
The birds refused to sing for me—all things
Disown'd their old allegiance to our spells;
The rude bees prick'd me with their rebel stings;
And, when I pass'd, the valley-lily's bells
Rang out, methought, most melancholy knells.'
'And ever on the faint and flagging air
A doleful spirit with a dreary note
Cried in my fearful ear, 'Prepare! prepare!'
Which soon I knew came from a raven's throat,
Perch'd on a cypress-bough not far remote,—
A cursed bird, too crafty to be shot,
That alway cometh with his soot-black coat
To make hearts dreary:—for he is a blot
Upon the book of life, as well ye wot!—'
'Wherefore some while I bribed him to be mute,
With bitter acorns stuffing his foul maw,
Which barely I appeased, when some fresh bruit
Startled me all aheap!—and soon I saw
The horridest shape that ever raised my awe,—
A monstrous giant, very huge and tall,
Such as in elder times, devoid of law,
With wicked might grieved the primeval ball,
And this was sure the deadliest of them all!'
'Gaunt was he as a wolf of Languedoc,
With bloody jaws, and frost upon his crown
So from his barren poll one hoary lock
Over his wrinkled front fell far adown,
Well nigh to where his frosty brows did frown
Like jagged icicles at cottage eaves;
And for his coronal he wore some brown
And bristled ears gather'd from Ceres' sheaves,
Entwined with certain sere and russet leaves.'
'And lo! upon a mast rear'd far aloft,
He bore a very bright and crescent blade,
The which he waved so dreadfully, and oft,
In meditative spite, that, sore dismay'd,
I crept into an acorn-cup for shade;
Meanwhile the horrid effigy went by:
I trow his look was dreadful, for it made
The trembling birds betake them to the sky,
For every leaf was lifted by his sigh.'
'And ever, as he sigh'd, his foggy breath
Blurr'd out the landscape like a flight of smoke:
Thence knew I this was either dreary Death
Or Time, who leads all creatures to his stroke.
Ah wretched me!'—Here, even as she spoke,
The melancholy Shape came gliding in,
And lean'd his back against an antique oak,
Folding his wings, that were so fine and thin,
They scarce were seen against the Dryad's skin.
Then what a fear seized all the little rout!
Look how a flock of panick'd sheep will stare—
And huddle close—and start—and wheel about,
Watching the roaming mongrel here and there,—
So did that sudden Apparition scare
All close aheap those small affrighted things;
Nor sought they now the safety of the air,
As if some leaden spell withheld their wings;
But who can fly that ancientest of Kings?
Whom now the Queen, with a forestalling tear
And previous sigh, beginneth to entreat,
Bidding him spare, for love, her lieges dear:
'Alas!' quoth she, 'is there no nodding wheat
Ripe for thy crooked weapon, and more meet,—
Or wither'd leaves to ravish from the tree,—
Or crumbling battlements for thy defeat?
Think but what vaunting monuments there be
Builded in spite and mockery of thee.'
'O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Cæsars with the dust:
Make tombs inscriptionless—raze each high name,
And waste old armors of renown with rust:
Do all of this, and thy revenge is just:
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
And check Ambition's overweening lust,
That dares exterminating war with Time,—
But we are guiltless of that lofty crime.'
'Frail feeble spirits!—the children of a dream!
Leased on the sufferance of fickle men,
Like motes dependent on the sunny beam,
Living but in the sun's indulgent ken,
And when that light withdraws, withdrawing then;—
So do we flutter in the glance of youth
And fervid fancy,—and so perish when
The eye of faith grows aged;—in sad truth,
Feeling thy sway, O Time! though not thy tooth!'
'Where be those old divinities forlorn,
That dwelt in trees, or haunted in a stream?
Alas! their memories are dimm'd and torn,
Like the remainder tatters of a dream:
So will it fare with our poor thrones, I deem;—
For us the same dark trench Oblivion delves,
That holds the wastes of every human scheme.
O spare us then,—and these our pretty elves,—
We soon, alas! shall perish of ourselves!'
Now as she ended, with a sigh, to name
Those old Olympians, scatter'd by the whirl
Of Fortune's giddy wheel and brought to shame,
Methought a scornful and malignant curl
Show'd on the lips of that malicious churl,
To think what noble havocs he had made;
So that I fear'd he all at once would hurl
The harmless fairies into endless shade,—
Howbeit he stopp'd awhile to whet his blade.
Pity it was to hear the elfins' wail
Rise up in concert from their mingled dread,
Pity it was to see them, all so pale,
Gaze on the grass as for a dying bed;—
But Puck was seated on a spider's thread,
That hung between two branches of a briar,
And 'gan to swing and gambol, heels o'er head,
Like any Southwark tumbler on a wire,
For him no present grief could long inspire.
Meanwhile the Queen with many piteous drops,
Falling like tiny sparks full fast and free,
Bedews a pathway from her throne;—and stops
Before the foot of her arch enemy,
And with her little arms enfolds his knee,
That shows more grisly from that fair embrace;
But she will ne'er depart. 'Alas!' quoth she,
'My painful fingers I will here enlace
Till I have gain'd your pity for our race.'
'What have we ever done to earn this grudge,
And hate—(if not too humble for thy hating?)—
Look o'er our labors and our lives, and judge
If there be any ills of our creating;
For we are very kindly creatures, dating
With nature's charities still sweet and bland:—
O think this murder worthy of debating!'
Herewith she makes a signal with her hand,
To beckon some one from the Fairy band.
Anon I saw one of those elfin things,
Clad all in white like any chorister,
Come fluttering forth on his melodious wings,
That made soft music at each little stir,
But something louder than a bee's demur
Before he lights upon a bunch of broom,
And thus 'gan he with Saturn to confer,—
And O his voice was sweet, touch'd with the gloom
Of that sad theme that argued of his doom!
Quoth he, 'We make all melodies our care,
That no false discords may offend the Sun,
Music's great master—tuning everywhere
All pastoral sounds and melodies, each one
Duly to place and season, so that none
May harshly interfere. We rouse at morn
The shrill sweet lark; and when the day is done,
Hush silent pauses for the bird forlorn,
That singeth with her breast against a thorn.'
'We gather in loud choirs the twittering race,
That make a chorus with their single note;
And tend on new-fledged birds in every place,
That duly they may get their tunes by rote;
And oft, like echoes, answering remote,
We hide in thickets from the feather'd throng,
And strain in rivalship each throbbing throat,
Singing in shrill responses all day long,
Whilst the glad truant listens to our song.'
'Wherefore, great King of Years, as thou dost love
The raining music from a morning cloud,
When vanish'd larks are carolling above,
To wake Apollo with their pipings loud;—
If ever thou hast heard in leafy shroud
The sweet and plaintive Sappho of the dell,
Show thy sweet mercy on this little crowd,
And we will muffle up the sheepfold bell
Whene'er thou listenest to Philomel.'
Then Saturn thus;—'Sweet is the merry lark,
That carols in man's ear so clear and strong;
And youth must love to listen in the dark
That tuneful elegy of Tereus' wrong;
But I have heard that ancient strain too long,
For sweet is sweet but when a little strange,
And I grow weary for some newer song;
For wherefore had I wings, unless to range
Through all things mutable, from change to change?'
'But would'st thou hear the melodies of Time,
Listen when sleep and drowsy darkness roll
Over hush'd cities, and the midnight chime
Sounds from their hundred clocks, and deep bells toll
Like a last knell over the dead world's soul,
Saying, 'Time shall be final of all things,
Whose late, last voice must elegize the whole,'—
O then I clap aloft my brave broad wings,
And make the wide air tremble while it rings!'
Then next a fair Eve-Fay made meek address,
Saying, 'We be the handmaids of the Spring;
In sign whereof, May, the quaint broideress,
Hath wrought her samplers on our gauzy wing.
We tend upon buds birth and blossoming,
And count the leafy tributes that they owe—
As, so much to the earth—so much to fling
In showers to the brook—so much to go
In whirlwinds to the clouds that made them grow.'
'The pastoral cowslips are our little pets,
And daisy stars, whose firmament is green;
Pansies, and those veil'd nuns, meek violets,
Sighing to that warm world from which they screen;
And golden daffodils, pluck'd for May's Queen;
And lonely harebells, quaking on the heath;
And Hyacinth, long since a fair youth seen,
Whose tuneful voice, turn'd fragrance in his breath,
Kiss'd by sad Zephyr, guilty of his death.'
'The widow'd primrose weeping to the moon
And saffron crocus in whose chalice bright
A cool libation hoarded for the noon
Is kept—and she that purifies the light,
The virgin lily, faithful to her white,
Whereon Eve wept in Eden for her shame;
And the most dainty rose, Aurora's spright,
Our every godchild, by whatever name—
Spares us our lives, for we did nurse the same!'
Then that old Mower stamp'd his heel, and struck
His hurtful scythe against the harmless ground,
Saying, 'Ye foolish imps, when am I stuck
With gaudy buds, or like a wooer crown'd
With flow'ry chaplets, save when they are found
Withered?—Whenever have I pluck'd a rose,
Except to scatter its vain leaves around?
For so all gloss of beauty I oppose,
And bring decay on every flow'r that blows.'
'Or when am I so wroth as when I view
The wanton pride of Summer;—how she decks
The birthday world with blossoms ever-new,
As if Time had not lived, and heap'd great wrecks
Of years on years?—O then I bravely vex
And catch the gay Months in their gaudy plight,
And slay them with the wreaths about their necks,
Like foolish heifers in the holy rite,
And raise great trophies to my ancient might.'
Then saith another, 'We are kindly things,
And like her offspring nestle with the dove,—
Witness these hearts embroidered on our wings,
To show our constant patronage of love:—
We sit at even, in sweet bow'rs above
Lovers, and shake rich odors on the air,
To mingle with their sighs; and still remove
The startling owl, and bid the bat forbear
Their privacy, and haunt some other where.'
'And we are near the mother when she sits
Beside her infant in its wicker bed;
And we are in the fairy scene that flits
Across its tender brain: sweet dreams we shed,
And whilst the tender little soul is fled,
Away, to sport with our young elves, the while
We touch the dimpled cheek with roses red,
And tickle the soft lips until they smile,
So that their careful parents they beguile.'
'O then, if ever thou hast breathed a vow
At Love's dear portal, or at pale moon-rise
Crush'd the dear curl on a regardful brow,
That did not frown thee from thy honey prize—
If ever thy sweet son sat on thy thighs,
And wooed thee from thy careful thoughts within
To watch the harmless beauty of his eyes,
Or glad thy fingers on his smooth soft skin,
For Love's dear sake, let us thy pity win!'
Then Saturn fiercely thus:—'What joy have I
In tender babes, that have devour'd mine own,
Whenever to the light I heard them cry,
Till foolish Rhea cheated me with stone?
Whereon, till now, is my great hunger shown,
In monstrous dint of my enormous tooth;
And—but the peopled world is too full grown
For hunger's edge—I would consume all youth
At one great meal, without delay or ruth!'
'For I am well nigh crazed and wild to hear
How boastful fathers taunt me with their breed,
Saying, 'We shall not die nor disappear,
But, in these other selves, ourselves succeed
Ev'n as ripe flowers pass into their seed
Only to be renew'd from prime to prime,'
All of which boastings I am forced to read,
Besides a thousand challenges to Time,
Which bragging lovers have compiled in rhyme.'
'Wherefore, when they are sweetly met o' nights,
There will I steal and with my hurried hand
Startle them suddenly from their delights
Before the next encounter hath been plann'd,
Ravishing hours in little minutes spann'd;
But when they say farewell, and grieve apart,
Then like a leaden statue I will stand,
Meanwhile their many tears encrust my dart,
And with a ragged edge cut heart from heart.'
Then next a merry Woodsman, clad in green,
Step vanward from his mates, that idly stood
Each at his proper ease, as they had been
Nursed in the liberty of old Shérwood,
And wore the livery of Robin Hood,
Who wont in forest shades to dine and sup,—
So came this chief right frankly, and made good
His haunch against his axe, and thus spoke up,
Doffing his cap, which was an acorn's cup:—
'We be small foresters and gay, who tend
On trees, and all their furniture of green,
Training the young boughs airily to bend,
And show blue snatches of the sky between;—
Or knit more close intricacies, to screen
Birds' crafty dwellings, as may hide them best,
But most the timid blackbird's—she that, seen,
Will bear black poisonous berries to her nest,
Lest man should cage the darlings of her breast.'
'We bend each tree in proper attitude,
And founting willows train in silvery falls;
We frame all shady roofs and arches rude,
And verdant aisles leading to Dryads' halls,
Or deep recesses where the Echo calls;—
We shape all plumy trees against the sky,
And carve tall elms' Corinthian capitals,—
When sometimes, as our tiny hatchets ply,
Men say, the tapping woodpecker is nigh.'
'Sometimes we scoop the squirrel's hollow cell,
And sometimes carve quaint letters on trees' rind,
That haply some lone musing wight may spell
Dainty Aminta,—Gentle Rosalind,—
Or chastest Laura,—sweetly call'd to mind
In sylvan solitudes, ere he lies down;—
And sometimes we enrich gray stems with twined
And vagrant ivy,—or rich moss, whose brown
Burns into gold as the warm sun goes down.'
'And, lastly, for mirth's sake and Christmas cheer,
We bear the seedling berries, for increase,
To graft the Druid oaks, from year to year,
Careful that mistletoe may never cease;—
Wherefore, if thou dost prize the shady peace
Of sombre forests, or to see light break
Through sylvan cloisters, and in spring release
Thy spirit amongst leaves from careful ake,
Spare us our lives for the Green Dryad's sake.'
Then Saturn, with a frown:—'Go forth, and fell
Oak for your coffins, and thenceforth lay by
Your axes for the rust, and bid farewell
To all sweet birds, and the blue peeps of sky
Through tangled branches, for ye shall not spy
The next green generation of the tree;
But hence with the dead leaves, whene'e they fly,—
Which in the bleak air I would rather see,
Than flights of the most tuneful birds that be.'
'For I dislike all prime, and verdant pets,
Ivy except, that on the aged wall
Prays with its worm-like roots, and daily frets
The crumbled tower it seems to league withal,
King-like, worn down by its own coronal:—
Neither in forest haunts love I to won,
Before the golden plumage 'gins to fall,
And leaves the brown bleak limbs with few leaves on,
Or bare—like Nature in her skeleton.'
'For then sit I amongst the crooked boughs,
Wooing dull Memory with kindred sighs;
And there in rustling nuptials we espouse,
Smit by the sadness in each other's eyes;—
But Hope must have green bowers and blue skies,
And must be courted with the gauds of Spring;
Whilst Youth leans god-like on her lap, and cries,
'What shall we always do, but love and sing?'—
And Time is reckon'd a discarded thing.'
Here in my dream it made me fret to see
How Puck, the antic, all this dreary while
Had blithely jested with calamity,
With mis-timed mirth mocking the doleful style
Of his sad comrades, till it raised my bile
To see him so reflect their grief aside,
Turning their solemn looks to have a smile—
Like a straight stick shown crooked in the tide;—
But soon a novel advocate I spied.
Quoth he—'We teach all natures to fulfil
Their fore-appointed crafts, and instincts meet,—
The bee's sweet alchemy,—the spider's skill,—
The pismire's care to garner up his wheat,—
And rustic masonry to swallows fleet,—
The lapwing's cunning to preserve her nest,—
But most, that lesser pelican, the sweet
And shrilly ruddock, with its bleeding breast,
Its tender pity of poor babes distrest.'
'Sometimes we cast our shapes, and in sleek skins
Delve with the timid mole, that aptly delves
From our example; so the spider spins,
And eke the silk-worm, pattern'd by ourselves:
Sometimes we travail on the summer shelves
Of early bees, and busy toils commence,
Watch'd of wise men, that know not we are elves,
But gaze and marvel at our stretch of sense,
And praise our human-like intelligence.'
'Wherefore, by thy delight in that old tale,
And plaintive dirges the late robins sing,
What time the leaves are scatter'd by the gale,
Mindful of that old forest burying;—
As thou dost love to watch each tiny thing,
For whom our craft most curiously contrives,
If thou hast caught a bee upon the wing,
To take his honey-bag,—spare us our lives,
And we will pay the ransom in full hives.'
'Now by my glass,' quoth Time, 'ye do offend
In teaching the brown bees that careful lore,
And frugal ants, whose millions would have end,
But they lay up for need a timely store,
And travail with the seasons evermore;
Whereas Great Mammoth long hath pass'd away,
And none but I can tell what hide he wore;
Whilst purblind men, the creatures of a day,
In riddling wonder his great bones survey.'
Then came an elf, right beauteous to behold,
Whose coat was like a brooklet that the sun
Hath all embroider'd with its crooked gold,
It was so quaintly wrought and overrun
With spangled traceries,—most meet for one
That was a warden of the pearly streams;—
And as he stept out of the shadows dun,
His jewels sparkled in the pale moon's gleams,
And shot into the air their pointed beams.
Quoth he,—'We bear the gold and silver keys
Of bubbling springs and fountains, that below
Course thro' the veiny earth,—which when they freeze
Into hard crysolites, we bid to flow,
Creeping like subtle snakes, when, as they go,
We guide their windings to melodious falls,
At whose soft murmurings, so sweet and low,
Poets have tuned their smoothest madrigals,
To sing to ladies in their banquet-halls.'
'And when the hot sun with his steadfast heat
Parches the river god,—whose dusty urn
Drips miserly, till soon his crystal feet
Against his pebbly floor wax faint and burn
And languid fish, unpoised, grow sick and yearn,—
Then scoop we hollows in some sandy nook,
And little channels dig, wherein we turn
The thread-worn rivulet, that all forsook
The Naiad-lily, pining for her brook.'
'Wherefore, by thy delight in cool green meads,
With living sapphires daintily inlaid,—
In all soft songs of waters and their reeds,—
And all reflections in a streamlet made,
Haply of thy own love, that, disarray'd,
Kills the fair lily with a livelier white,—
By silver trouts upspringing from green shade,
And winking stars reduplicate at night,
Spare us, poor ministers to such delight.'
Howbeit his pleading and his gentle looks
Moved not the spiteful Shade:—Quoth he, 'Your taste
Shoots wide of mine, for I despise the brooks
And slavish rivulets that run to waste
In noontide sweats, or, like poor vassals, haste
To swell the vast dominion of the sea,
In whose great presence I am held disgraced,
And neighbor'd with a king that rivals me
In ancient might and hoary majesty.'
'Whereas I ruled in Chaos, and still keep
The awful secrets of that ancient dearth,
Before the briny fountains of the deep
Brimm'd up the hollow cavities of earth;—
I saw each trickling Sea-God at his birth,
Each pearly Naiad with her oozy locks,
And infant Titans of enormous girth,
Whose huge young feet yet stumbled on the rocks,
Stunning the early world with frequent shocks.'
'Where now is Titan, with his cumbrous brood,
That scared the world?—By this sharp scythe they fell,
And half the sky was curdled with their blood:
So have all primal giants sigh'd farewell.
No wardens now by sedgy fountains dwell,
Nor pearly Naiads. All their days are done
That strove with Time, untimely, to excel;
Wherefore I razed their progenies, and none
But my great shadow intercepts the sun!'
Then saith the timid Fay—'Oh, mighty Time!
Well hast thou wrought the cruel Titans' fall,
For they were stain'd with many a bloody crime:
Great giants work great wrongs,—but we are small,
For love goes lowly;—but Oppression's tall,
And with surpassing strides goes foremost still
Where love indeed can hardly reach at all;
Like a poor dwarf o'erburthen'd with good will,
That labors to efface the tracks of ill.—'
'Man even strives with Man, but we eschew
The guilty feud, and all fierce strifes abhor;
Nay, we are gentle as the sweet heaven's dew,
Beside the red and horrid drops of war,
Weeping the cruel hates men battle for,
Which worldly bosoms nourish in our spite:
For in the gentle breast we ne'er withdraw,
But only when all love hath taken flight,
And youth's warm gracious heart is hardened quite.'
'So are our gentle natures intertwined
With sweet humanities, and closely knit
In kindly sympathy with human kind.
Witness how we befriend, with elfin wit,
All hopeless maids and lovers,—nor omit
Magical succors unto hearts forlorn:—
We charm man's life, and do not perish it;—
So judge us by the helps we showed this morn,
To one who held his wretched days in scorn.'
''Twas nigh sweet Amwell;—for the Queen had task'd
Our skill to-day amidst the silver Lea,
Whereon the noontide sun had not yet bask'd,
Wherefore some patient man we thought to see,
Planted in moss-grown rushes to the knee,
Beside the cloudy margin cold and dim;—
Howbeit no patient fisherman was he
That cast his sudden shadow from the brim,
Making us leave our toils to gaze on him.'
'His face was ashy pale, and leaden care
Had sunk the levell'd arches of his brow,
Once bridges for his joyous thoughts to fare
Over those melancholy springs and slow,
That from his piteous eyes began to flow,
And fell anon into the chilly stream;
Which, as his mimick'd image show'd below,
Wrinkled his face with many a needless seam,
Making grief sadder in its own esteem.'
'And lo! upon the air we saw him stretch
His passionate arms; and, in a wayward strain,
He 'gan to elegize that fellow wretch
That with mute gestures answer'd him again,
Saying, 'Poor slave, how long wilt thou remain
Life's sad weak captive in a prison strong,
Hoping with tears to rust away thy chain,
In bitter servitude to worldly wrong?—
Thou wear'st that mortal livery too long!''
'This, with more spleenful speeches and some tears,
When he had spent upon the imaged wave,
Speedily I convened my elfin peers
Under the lily-cups, that we might save
This woeful mortal from a wilful grave
By shrewd diversions of his mind's regret,
Seeing he was mere Melancholy's slave,
That sank wherever a dark cloud he met,
And straight was tangled in her secret net.'
'Therefore, as still he watch'd the water's flow,
Daintily we transform'd, and with bright fins
Came glancing through the gloom; some from below
Rose like dim fancies when a dream begins,
Snatching the light upon their purple skins;
Then under the broad leaves made slow retire:
One like a golden galley bravely wins
Its radiant course,—another glows like fire,—
Making that wayward man our pranks admire.'
'And so he banish'd thought, and quite forgot
All contemplation of that wretched face;
And so we wiled him from that lonely spot
Along the river's brink; till, by heaven's grace,
He met a gentle haunter of the place,
Full of sweet wisdom gather'd from the brooks,
Who there discuss'd his melancholy case
With wholesome texts learned from kind nature's books,
Meanwhile he newly trimm'd his lines and hooks.'
Herewith the Fairy ceased. Quoth Ariel now—
'Let me remember how I saved a man,
Whose fatal noose was fastened on a bough,
Intended to abridge his sad life's span;
For haply I was by when he began
His stern soliloquy in life dispraise,
And overheard his melancholy plan,
How he had made a vow to end his days,
And therefore follow'd him in all his ways.'
'Through brake and tangled copse, for much he loathed
All populous haunts, and roam'd in forests rude,
To hide himself from man. But I had clothed
My delicate limbs with plumes, and still pursued,
Where only foxes and wild cats intrude,
Till we were come beside an ancient tree
Late blasted by a storm. Here he renew'd
His loud complaints,—choosing that spot to be
The scene of his last horrid tragedy.'
'It was a wild and melancholy glen,
Made gloomy by tall firs and cypress dark,
Whose roots, like any bones of buried men,
Push'd through the rotten sod for fear's remark;
A hundred horrid stems, jagged and stark,
Wrestled with crooked arms in hideous fray,
Besides sleek ashes with their dappled bark,
Like crafty serpents climbing for a prey,
With many blasted oaks moss-grown and gray.'
'But here upon his final desperate clause
Suddenly I pronounced so sweet a strain,
Like a pang'd nightingale, it made him pause,
Till half the frenzy of his grief was slain,
The sad remainder oozing from his brain
In timely ecstasies of healing tears,
Which through his ardent eyes began to drain;—
Meanwhile the deadly Fates unclosed their shears:—
So pity me and all my fated peers!'
Thus Ariel ended, and was some time hush'd:
When with the hoary shape a fresh tongue pleads,
And red as rose the gentle Fairy blush'd
To read the records of her own good deeds:—
'It chanced,' quoth she, 'in seeking through the meads
For honied cowslips, sweetest in the morn,
Whilst yet the buds were hung with dewy beads.'
And Echo answered to the huntsman's horn,
We found a babe left in the swaths forlorn.
'A little, sorrowful, deserted thing,
Begot of love, and yet no love begetting;
Guiltless of shame, and yet for shame to wring;
And too soon banish'd from a mother's petting,
To churlish nurture and the wide world's fretting,
For alien pity and unnatural care;—
Alas! to see how the cold dew kept wetting
His childish coats, and dabbled all his hair,
Like gossamers across his forehead fair.'
'His pretty pouting mouth, witless of speech,
Lay half-way open like a rose-lipp'd shell;
And his young cheek was softer than a peach,
Whereon his tears, for roundness, could not dwell,
But quickly roll'd themselves to pearls, and fell,
Some on the grass, and some against his hand,
Or haply wander'd to the dimpled well,
Which love beside his mouth had sweetly plann'd,
Yet not for tears, but mirth and smilings bland.'
'Pity it was to see those frequent tears
Falling regardless from his friendless eyes;
There was such beauty in those twin blue spheres,
As any mother's heart might leap to prize;
Blue were they, like the zenith of the skies
Softened betwixt two clouds, both clear and mild;—
Just touched with thought, and yet not over wise,
They show'd the gentle spirit of a child,
Not yet by care or any craft defiled.'
'Pity it was to see the ardent sun
Scorching his helpless limbs—it shone so warm;
For kindly shade or shelter he had none,
Nor mother's gentle breast, come fair or storm.
Meanwhile I bade my pitying mates transform
Like grasshoppers, and then, with shrilly cries,
All round the infant noisily we swarm,
Haply some passing rustic to advise—
Whilst providential Heaven our care espies.'
'And sends full soon a tender-hearted hind,
Who, wond'ring at our loud unusual note,
Strays curiously aside, and so doth find
The orphan child laid in the grass remote,
And laps the foundling in his russet coat,
Who thence was nurtured in his kindly cot:—
But how he prosper'd let proud London quote,
How wise, how rich, and how renown'd he got,
And chief of all her citizens, I wot.'
'Witness his goodly vessels on the Thames,
Whose holds were fraught with costly merchandise,—
Jewels from Ind, and pearls for courtly dames,
And gorgeous silks that Samarcand supplies:
Witness that Royal Bourse he bade arise,
The mart of merchants from the East and West:
Whose slender summit, pointing to the skies,
Still bears, in token of his grateful breast,
The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest—'
'The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest,
That all the summer, with a tuneful wing,
Makes merry chirpings in its grassy nest,
Inspirited with dew to leap and sing:—
So let us also live, eternal King!
Partakers of the green and pleasant earth:—
Pity it is to slay the meanest thing,
That, like a mote, shines in the smile of mirth:—
Enough there is of joy's decrease and dearth!'
'Enough of pleasure, and delight, and beauty,
Perish'd and gone, and hasting to decay;—
Enough to sadden even thee, whose duty
Or spite it is to havoc and to slay:
Too many a lovely race razed quite away,
Hath left large gaps in life and human loving;—
Here then begin thy cruel war to stay,
And spare fresh sighs, and tears, and groans, reproving
Thy desolating hand for our removing.'
Now here I heard a shrill and sudden cry,
And, looking up, I saw the antic Puck
Grappling with Time, who clutch'd him like a fly,
Victim of his own sport,—the jester's luck!
He, whilst his fellows grieved, poor wight, had stuck
His freakish gauds upon the Ancient's brow,
And now his ear, and now his beard, would pluck;
Whereas the angry churl had snatched him now,
Crying, 'Thou impish mischief, who art thou?'
'Alas!' quoth Puck, 'a little random elf,
Born in the sport of nature, like a weed,
For simple sweet enjoyment of myself,
But for no other purpose, worth, or need;
And yet withal of a most happy breed;
And there is Robin Goodfellow besides,
My partner dear in many a prankish deed
To make dame Laughter hold her jolly sides,
Like merry mummers twain on holy tides.'
''Tis we that bob the angler's idle cork,
Till e'en the patient man breathes half a curse;
We steal the morsel from the gossip's fork,
And curdling looks with secret straws disperse,
Or stop the sneezing chanter at mid verse:
And when an infant's beauty prospers ill,
We change, some mothers say, the child at nurse:
But any graver purpose to fulfil,
We have not wit enough, and scarce the will.'
'We never let the canker melancholy
To gather on our faces like a rust,
But glass our features with some change of folly,
Taking life's fabled miseries on trust,
But only sorrowing when sorrow must:
We ruminate no sage's solemn cud,
But own ourselves a pinch of lively dust
To frisk upon a wind,—whereas the flood
Of tears would turn us into heavy mud.'
'Beshrew those sad interpreters of nature,
Who gloze her lively universal law,
As if she had not form'd our cheerful feature
To be so tickled with the slightest straw!
So let them vex their mumbling mouths, and draw
The corners downward, like a wat'ry moon,
And deal in gusty sighs and rainy flaw—
We will not woo foul weather all too soon,
Or nurse November on the lap of June.'
'For ours are winging sprites, like any bird,
That shun all stagnant settlements of grief;
And even in our rest our hearts are stirr'd,
Like insects settled on a dancing leaf:—
This is our small philosophy in brief,
Which thus to teach hath set me all agape:
But dost thou relish it? O hoary chief!
Unclasp thy crooked fingers from my nape,
And I will show thee many a pleasant scrape.'
Then Saturn thus:—shaking his crooked blade
O'erhead, which made aloft a lightning flash
In all the fairies' eyes, dismally fray'd!
His ensuing voice came like the thunder crash—
Meanwhile the bolt shatters some pine or ash—
'Thou feeble, wanton, foolish, fickle thing!
Whom nought can frighten, sadden, or abash,—
To hope my solemn countenance to wring
To idiot smiles!—but I will prune thy wing!'
'Lo! this most awful handle of my scythe
Stood once a May-pole, with a flowery crown,
Which rustics danced around, and maidens blithe,
To wanton pipings;—but I pluck'd it down,
And robed the May Queen in a churchyard gown,
Turning her buds to rosemary and rue;
And all their merry minstrelsy did drown,
And laid each lusty leaper in the dew;—
So thou shalt fare—and every jovial crew!'
Here he lets go the struggling imp, to clutch.
His mortal engine with each grisly hand,
Which frights the elfin progeny so much,
They huddle in a heap, and trembling stand
All round Titania, like the queen bee's band,
With sighs and tears and very shrieks of woe!—
Meanwhile, some moving argument I plann'd,
To make the stern Shade merciful,—when lo!
He drops his fatal scythe without a blow!
For, just at need, a timely Apparition
Steps in between, to bear the awful brunt;
Making him change his horrible position,
To marvel at this comer, brave and blunt,
That dares Time's irresistible affront,
Whose strokes have scarr'd even the gods of old;—
Whereas this seem'd a mortal, at mere hunt
For coneys, lighted by the moonshine cold,
Or stalker of stray deer, stealthy and bold.
Who, turning to the small assembled fays,
Doffs to the lily queen his courteous cap,
And holds her beauty for a while in gaze,
With bright eyes kindling at this pleasant hap;
And thence upon the fair moon's silver map,
As if in question of this magic chance,
Laid like a dream upon the green earth's lap;
And then upon old Saturn turns askance,
Exclaiming, with a glad and kindly glance:—
'Oh, these be Fancy's revelers by night!
Stealthy companions of the downy moth—
Diana's motes, that flit in her pale light,
Shunners of sunbeams in diurnal sloth;—
These be the feasters on night's silver cloth;—
The gnat with shrilly trump is their convener,
Forth from their flowery chambers, nothing loth,
With lulling tunes to charm the air serener,
Or dance upon the grass to make it greener.'
'These be the pretty genii of the flow'rs,
Daintily fed with honey and pure dew—
Midsummer's phantoms in her dreaming hours,
King Oberon, and all his merry crew,
The darling puppets of romance's view;
Fairies, and sprites, and goblin elves we call them,
Famous for patronage of lovers true;—
No harm they act, neither shall harm befall them,
So do not thus with crabbed frowns appal them.'
O what a cry was Saturn's then!—it made
The fairies quake. 'What care I for their pranks,
However they may lovers choose to aid,
Or dance their roundelays on flow'ry banks?—
Long must they dance before they earn my thanks,—
So step aside, to some far safer spot,
Whilst with my hungry scythe I mow their ranks,
And leave them in the sun, like weeds, to rot,
And with the next day's sun to be forgot.'
Anon, he raised afresh his weapon keen;
But still the gracious Shade disarm'd his aim,
Stepping with brave alacrity between,
And made his sore arm powerless and tame.
His be perpetual glory, for the shame
Of hoary Saturn in that grand defeat!—
But I must tell how here Titania, came
With all her kneeling lieges, to entreat
His kindly succor, in sad tones, but sweet.
Saying, 'Thou seest a wretched queen before thee,
The fading power of a failing land,
Who for a kingdom kneeleth to implore thee,
Now menaced by this tyrant's spoiling hand;
No one but thee can hopefully withstand
That crooked blade, he longeth so to lift.
I pray thee blind him with his own vile sand,
Which only times all ruins by its drift,
Or prune his eagle wings that are so swift.'
'Or take him by that sole and grizzled tuft,
That hangs upon his bald and barren crown;
And we will sing to see him so rebuff'd,
And lend our little mights to pull him down,
And make brave sport of his malicious frown,
For all his boastful mockery o'er men.
For thou wast born, I know, for this renown,
By my most magical and inward ken,
That readeth ev'n at Fate's forestalling pen.'
'Nay, by the golden lustre of thine eye,
And by thy brow's most fair and ample span,
Thought's glorious palace, framed for fancies high,
And by thy cheek thus passionately wan,
I know the signs of an immortal man,—
Nature's chief darling, and illustrious mate,
Destined to foil old Death's oblivious plan,
And shine untarnish'd by the fogs of Fate,
Time's famous rival till the final date!'
'O shield us then from this usurping Time,
And we will visit thee in moonlight dreams;
And teach thee tunes, to wed unto thy rhyme,
And dance about thee in all midnight gleams,
Giving thee glimpses of our magic schemes,
Such as no mortal's eye hath ever seen;
And, for thy love to us in our extremes,
Will ever keep thy chaplet fresh and green,
Such as no poet's wreath hath ever been!'
'And we'll distil thee aromatic dews,
To charm thy sense, when there shall be no flow'rs;
And flavor'd syrups in thy drinks infuse,
And teach the nightingale to haunt thy bow'rs,
And with our games divert thy weariest hours,
With all that elfin wits can e'er devise.
And, this churl dead, there'll be no hasting hours
To rob thee of thy joys, as now joy flies':—
Here she was stopp'd by Saturn's furious cries.]
Whom, therefore, the kind Shade rebukes anew,
Saying, 'Thou haggard Sin, go forth, and scoop
Thy hollow coffin in some churchyard yew,
Or make th' autumnal flow'rs turn pale, and droop;
Or fell the bearded corn, till gleaners stoop
Under fat sheaves,—or blast the piny grove;—
But here thou shall not harm this pretty group,
Whose lives are not so frail and feebly wove,
But leased on Nature's loveliness and love.'
''Tis these that free the small entangled fly,
Caught in the venom'd spider's crafty snare;—
These be the petty surgeons that apply
The healing balsams to the wounded hare,
Bedded in bloody fern, no creature's care!—
These be providers for the orphan brood,
Whose tender mother hath been slain in air,
Quitting with gaping bill her darling's food,
Hard by the verge of her domestic wood.'
''Tis these befriend the timid trembling stag,
When, with a bursting heart beset with fears,
He feels his saving speed begin to flag;
For then they quench the fatal taint with tears,
And prompt fresh shifts in his alarum'd ears,
So piteously they view all bloody morts;
Or if the gunner, with his arms, appears,
Like noisy pyes and jays, with harsh reports,
They warn the wild fowl of his deadly sports.'
'For these are kindly ministers of nature,
To soothe all covert hurts and dumb distress;
Pretty they be, and very small of stature,—
For mercy still consorts with littleness;—
Wherefore the sum of good is still the less,
And mischief grossest in this world of wrong;—
So do these charitable dwarfs redress
The tenfold ravages of giants strong,
To whom great malice and great might belong.'
'Likewise to them are Poets much beholden
For secret favors in the midnight glooms;
Brave Spenser quaff'd out of their goblets golden,
And saw their tables spread of prompt mushrooms,
And heard their horns of honeysuckle blooms
Sounding upon the air most soothing soft,
Like humming bees busy about the brooms,—
And glanced this fair queen's witchery full oft,
And in her magic wain soar'd far aloft.'
'Nay I myself, though mortal, once was nursed
By fairy gossips, friendly at my birth,
And in my childish ear glib Mab rehearsed
Her breezy travels round our planet's girth,
Telling me wonders of the moon and earth;
My gramarye at her grave lap I conn'd,
Where Puck hath been convened to make me mirth;
I have had from Queen Titania tokens fond,
And toy'd with Oberon's permitted wand.'
'With figs and plums and Persian dates they fed me,
And delicate cates after my sunset meal,
And took me by my childish hand, and led me
By craggy rocks crested with keeps of steel,
Whose awful bases deep dark woods conceal,
Staining some dead lake with their verdant dyes.
And when the West sparkled at Phoebus' wheel,
With fairy euphrasy they purged mine eyes,
To let me see their cities in the skies.'
''Twas they first school'd my young imagination
To take its flights like any new-fledged bird,
And show'd the span of winged meditation
Stretch'd wider than things grossly seen or heard.
With sweet swift Ariel how I soar'd and stirr'd
The fragrant blooms of spiritual bow'rs!
'Twas they endear'd what I have still preferr'd,
Nature's blest attributes and balmy pow'rs,
Her hills and vales and brooks, sweet birds and flow'rs.'
'Wherefore with all true loyalty and duty
Will I regard them in my honoring rhyme,
With love for love, and homages to beauty,
And magic thoughts gather'd in night's cool clime,
With studious verse trancing the dragon Time,
Strong as old Merlin's necromantic spells;
So these dear monarchs of the summer's prime
Shall live unstartled by his dreadful yells,
Till shrill larks warn them to their flowery cells.'
Look how a poison'd man turns livid black,
Drugg'd with a cup of deadly hellebore,
That sets his horrid features all at rack,—
So seem'd these words into the ear to pour
Of ghastly Saturn, answering with a roar
Of mortal pain and spite and utmost rage,
Wherewith his grisly arm he raised once more,
And bade the cluster'd sinews all engage,
As if at one fell stroke to wreck an age.
Whereas the blade flash'd on the dinted ground,
Down through his steadfast foe, yet made no scar
On that immortal Shade, or death-like wound;
But Time was long benumb'd, and stood ajar,
And then with baffled rage took flight afar,
To weep his hurt in some Cimmerian gloom,
Or meaner fames (like mine) to mock and mar,
Or sharp his scythe for royal strokes of doom,
Whetting its edge on some old Cæsar's tomb.
Howbeit he vanish'd in the forest shade,
Distantly heard as if some grumbling pard,
And, like Nymph Echo, to a sound decay'd;—
Meanwhile the fays cluster'd the gracious Bard,
The darling centre of their dear regard:
Besides of sundry dances on the green,
Never was mortal man so brightly starr'd,
Or won such pretty homages, I ween.
'Nod to him, Elves!' cries the melodious queen.
'Nod to him, Elves, and flutter round about him,
And quite enclose him with your pretty crowd,
And touch him lovingly, for that, without him,
The silkworm now had spun our dreary shroud;—
But he hath all dispersed Death's tearful cloud,
And Time's dread effigy scared quite away:
Bow to him then, as though to me ye bow'd,
And his dear wishes prosper and obey
Wherever love and wit can find a way!'
''Noint him with fairy dews of magic savors,
Shaken from orient buds still pearly wet,
Roses and spicy pinks,—and, of all favors,
Plant in his walks the purple violet,
And meadow-sweet under the hedges set,
To mingle breaths with dainty eglantine
And honeysuckles sweet,—nor yet forget
Some pastoral flowery chaplets to entwine,
To vie the thoughts about his brow benign!'
'Let no wild things astonish him or fear him,
But tell them all how mild he is of heart,
Till e'en the timid hares go frankly near him,
And eke the dappled does, yet never start;
Nor shall their fawns into the thickets dart,
Nor wrens forsake their nests among the leaves,
Nor speckled thrushes flutter far apart;—
But bid the sacred swallow haunt his eaves,
To guard his roof from lightning and from thieves.'
'Or when he goes the nimble squirrel's visitor,
Let the brown hermit bring his hoarded nuts,
For, tell him, this is Nature's kind Inquisitor,—
Though man keeps cautious doors that conscience shuts,
For conscious wrong all curious quest rebuts,—
Nor yet shall bees uncase their jealous stings,
However he may watch their straw-built huts;—
So let him learn the crafts of all small things,
Which he will hint most aptly when he sings.'
Here she leaves off, and with a graceful hand
Waves thrice three splendid circles round his head;
Which, though deserted by the radiant wand,
Wears still the glory which her waving shed,
Such as erst crown'd the old Apostle's head,
To show the thoughts there harbor'd were divine,
And on immortal contemplations fed:—
Goodly it was to see that glory shine
Around a brow so lofty and benign!—
Goodly it was to see the elfin brood
Contend for kisses of his gentle hand,
That had their mortal enemy withstood,
And stay'd their lives, fast ebbing with the sand.
Long while this strife engaged the pretty band;
But now bold Chanticleer, from farm to farm,
Challenged the dawn creeping o'er eastern land,
And well the fairies knew that shrill alarm,
Which sounds the knell of every elfish charm.
And soon the rolling mist, that 'gan arise
From plashy mead and undiscover'd stream,
Earth's morning incense to the early skies,
Crept o'er the failing landscape of my dream.
Soon faded then the Phantom of my theme—
A shapeless shade, that fancy disavowed,
And shrank to nothing in the mist extreme,
Then flew Titania,—and her little crowd,
Like flocking linnets, vanished in a cloud.
I. The Ring and the Book
Do you see this Ring?
'T is Rome-work, made to match
(By Castellani's imitative craft)
Etrurian circlets found, some happy morn,
After a dropping April; found alive
Spark-like 'mid unearthed slope-side figtree-roots
That roof old tombs at Chiusi: soft, you see,
Yet crisp as jewel-cutting. There's one trick,
(Craftsmen instruct me) one approved device
And but one, fits such slivers of pure gold
As this was,—such mere oozings from the mine,
Virgin as oval tawny pendent tear
At beehive-edge when ripened combs o'erflow,—
To bear the file's tooth and the hammer's tap:
Since hammer needs must widen out the round,
And file emboss it fine with lily-flowers,
Ere the stuff grow a ring-thing right to wear.
That trick is, the artificer melts up wax
With honey, so to speak; he mingles gold
With gold's alloy, and, duly tempering both,
Effects a manageable mass, then works:
But his work ended, once the thing a ring,
Oh, there's repristination! Just a spirt
O' the proper fiery acid o'er its face,
And forth the alloy unfastened flies in fume;
While, self-sufficient now, the shape remains,
The rondure brave, the lilied loveliness,
Gold as it was, is, shall be evermore:
Prime nature with an added artistry—
No carat lost, and you have gained a ring.
What of it? 'T is a figure, a symbol, say;
A thing's sign: now for the thing signified.
Do you see this square old yellow Book, I toss
I' the air, and catch again, and twirl about
By the crumpled vellum covers,—pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since?
Examine it yourselves! I found this book,
Gave a lira for it, eightpence English just,
(Mark the predestination!) when a Hand,
Always above my shoulder, pushed me once,
One day still fierce 'mid many a day struck calm,
Across a Square in Florence, crammed with booths,
Buzzing and blaze, noontide and market-time,
Toward Baccio's marble,—ay, the basement-ledge
O' the pedestal where sits and menaces
John of the Black Bands with the upright spear,
'Twixt palace and church,—Riccardi where they lived,
His race, and San Lorenzo where they lie.
This book,—precisely on that palace-step
Which, meant for lounging knaves o' the Medici,
Now serves re-venders to display their ware,—
Mongst odds and ends of ravage, picture-frames
White through the worn gilt, mirror-sconces chipped,
Bronze angel-heads once knobs attached to chests,
(Handled when ancient dames chose forth brocade)
Modern chalk drawings, studies from the nude,
Samples of stone, jet, breccia, porphyry
Polished and rough, sundry amazing busts
In baked earth, (broken, Providence be praised!)
A wreck of tapestry, proudly-purposed web
When reds and blues were indeed red and blue,
Now offered as a mat to save bare feet
(Since carpets constitute a cruel cost)
Treading the chill scagliola bedward: then
A pile of brown-etched prints, two crazie each,
Stopped by a conch a-top from fluttering forth
—Sowing the Square with works of one and the same
Master, the imaginative Sienese
Great in the scenic backgrounds—(name and fame
None of you know, nor does he fare the worse:)
From these … Oh, with a Lionard going cheap
If it should prove, as promised, that Joconde
Whereof a copy contents the Louvre!—these
I picked this book from. Five compeers in flank
Stood left and right of it as tempting more—
A dogseared Spicilegium, the fond tale
O' the Frail One of the Flower, by young Dumas,
Vulgarized Horace for the use of schools,
The Life, Death, Miracles of Saint Somebody,
Saint Somebody Else, his Miracles, Death and Life,—
With this, one glance at the lettered back of which,
And "Stall!" cried I: a lira made it mine.
Here it is, this I toss and take again;
Small-quarto size, part print part manuscript:
A book in shape but, really, pure crude fact
Secreted from man's life when hearts beat hard,
And brains, high-blooded, ticked two centuries since.
Give it me back! The thing's restorative
I'the touch and sight.
That memorable day,
(June was the month, Lorenzo named the Square)
I leaned a little and overlooked my prize
By the low railing round the fountain-source
Close to the statue, where a step descends:
While clinked the cans of copper, as stooped and rose
Thick-ankled girls who brimmed them, and made place
For marketmen glad to pitch basket down,
Dip a broad melon-leaf that holds the wet,
And whisk their faded fresh. And on I read
Presently, though my path grew perilous
Between the outspread straw-work, piles of plait
Soon to be flapping, each o'er two black eyes
And swathe of Tuscan hair, on festas fine:
Through fire-irons, tribes of tongs, shovels in sheaves,
Skeleton bedsteads, wardrobe-drawers agape,
Rows of tall slim brass lamps with dangling gear,—
And worse, cast clothes a-sweetening in the sun:
None of them took my eye from off my prize.
Still read I on, from written title-page
To written index, on, through street and street,
At the Strozzi, at the Pillar, at the Bridge;
Till, by the time I stood at home again
In Casa Guidi by Felice Church,
Under the doorway where the black begins
With the first stone-slab of the staircase cold,
I had mastered the contents, knew the whole truth
Gathered together, bound up in this book,
Print three-fifths, written supplement the rest.
Better translate—"A Roman murder-case:
"Position of the entire criminal cause
"Of Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
"With certain Four the cutthroats in his pay,
"Tried, all five, and found guilty and put to death
"By heading or hanging as befitted ranks,
"At Rome on February Twenty Two,
"Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight:
"Wherein it is disputed if, and when,
"Husbands may kill adulterous wives, yet 'scape
"The customary forfeit."
Word for word,
So ran the title-page: murder, or else
Legitimate punishment of the other crime,
Accounted murder by mistake,—just that
And no more, in a Latin cramp enough
When the law had her eloquence to launch,
But interfilleted with Italian streaks
When testimony stooped to mother-tongue,—
That, was this old square yellow book about.
Now, as the ingot, ere the ring was forged,
Lay gold, (beseech you, hold that figure fast!)
So, in this book lay absolutely truth,
Fanciless fact, the documents indeed,
Primary lawyer-pleadings for, against,
The aforesaid Five; real summed-up circumstance
Adduced in proof of these on either side,
Put forth and printed, as the practice was,
At Rome, in the Apostolic Chamber's type,
And so submitted to the eye o' the Court
Presided over by His Reverence
Rome's Governor and Criminal Judge,—the trial
Itself, to all intents, being then as now
Here in the book and nowise out of it;
Seeing, there properly was no judgment-bar,
No bringing of accuser and accused,
And whoso judged both parties, face to face
Before some court, as we conceive of courts.
There was a Hall of Justice; that came last:
For Justice had a chamber by the hall
Where she took evidence first, summed up the same,
Then sent accuser and accused alike,
In person of the advocate of each,
To weigh its worth, thereby arrange, array
The battle. 'T was the so-styled Fisc began,
Pleaded (and since he only spoke in print
The printed voice of him lives now as then)
The public Prosecutor—"Murder's proved;
"With five … what we call qualities of bad,
"Worse, worst, and yet worse still, and still worse yet;
"Crest over crest crowning the cockatrice,
"That beggar hell's regalia to enrich
"Count Guido Franceschini: punish him!"
Thus was the paper put before the court
In the next stage, (no noisy work at all,)
To study at ease. In due time like reply
Came from the so-styled Patron of the Poor,
Official mouthpiece of the five accused
Too poor to fee a better,—Guido's luck
Or else his fellows',—which, I hardly know,—
An outbreak as of wonder at the world,
A fury-fit of outraged innocence,
A passion of betrayed simplicity:
"Punish Count Guido? For what crime, what hint
"O' the colour of a crime, inform us first!
"Reward him rather! Recognize, we say,
"In the deed done, a righteous judgment dealt!
"All conscience and all courage,—there's our Count
"Charactered in a word; and, what's more strange,
"He had companionship in privilege,
"Found four courageous conscientious friends:
"Absolve, applaud all five, as props of law,
"Sustainers of society!—perchance
"A trifle over-hasty with the hand
"To hold her tottering ark, had tumbled else;
"But that's a splendid fault whereat we wink,
"Wishing your cold correctness sparkled so!"
Thus paper second followed paper first,
Thus did the two join issue—nay, the four,
Each pleader having an adjunct. "True, he killed
"—So to speak—in a certain sort—his wife,
"But laudably, since thus it happed!" quoth one:
Whereat, more witness and the case postponed.
"Thus it happed not, since thus he did the deed,
"And proved himself thereby portentousest
"Of cutthroats and a prodigy of crime,
"As the woman that he slaughtered was a saint,
"Martyr and miracle!" quoth the other to match:
Again, more witness, and the case postponed.
"A miracle, ay—of lust and impudence;
"Hear my new reasons!" interposed the first:
"—Coupled with more of mine!" pursued his peer.
"Beside, the precedents, the authorities!"
From both at once a cry with an echo, that!
That was a firebrand at each fox's tail
Unleashed in a cornfield: soon spread flare enough,
As hurtled thither and there heaped themselves
From earth's four corners, all authority
And precedent for putting wives to death,
Or letting wives live, sinful as they seem.
How legislated, now, in this respect,
Solon and his Athenians? Quote the code
Of Romulus and Rome! Justinian speak!
Nor modern Baldo, Bartolo be dumb!
The Roman voice was potent, plentiful;
Cornelia de Sicariis hurried to help
Pompeia de Parricidiis; Julia de
Something-or-other jostled Lex this-and-that;
King Solomon confirmed Apostle Paul:
That nice decision of Dolabella, eh?
That pregnant instance of Theodoric, oh!
Down to that choice example Ælian gives
(An instance I find much insisted on)
Of the elephant who, brute-beast though he were,
Yet understood and punished on the spot
His master's naughty spouse and faithless friend;
A true tale which has edified each child,
Much more shall flourish favoured by our court!
Pages of proof this way, and that way proof,
And always—once again the case postponed.
Thus wrangled, brangled, jangled they a month,
—Only on paper, pleadings all in print,
Nor ever was, except i' the brains of men,
More noise by word of mouth than you hear now—
Till the court cut all short with "Judged, your cause.
"Receive our sentence! Praise God! We pronounce
"Count Guido devilish and damnable:
"His wife Pompilia in thought, word and deed,
"Was perfect pure, he murdered her for that:
"As for the Four who helped the One, all Five—
"Why, let employer and hirelings share alike
"In guilt and guilt's reward, the death their due!"
So was the trial at end, do you suppose?
"Guilty you find him, death you doom him to?
"Ay, were not Guido, more than needs, a priest,
"Priest and to spare!"—this was a shot reserved;
I learn this from epistles which begin
Here where the print ends,—see the pen and ink
Of the advocate, the ready at a pinch!—
"My client boasts the clerkly privilege,
"Has taken minor orders many enough,
"Shows still sufficient chrism upon his pate
"To neutralize a blood-stain: presbyter,
"Primæ tonsuræ, subdiaconus,
"Sacerdos, so he slips from underneath
"Your power, the temporal, slides inside the robe
"Of mother Church: to her we make appeal
"By the Pope, the Church's head!"
A parlous plea,
Put in with noticeable effect, it seems;
"Since straight,"—resumes the zealous orator,
Making a friend acquainted with the facts,—
"Once the word 'clericality' let fall,
"Procedure stopped and freer breath was drawn
"By all considerate and responsible Rome."
Quality took the decent part, of course;
Held by the husband, who was noble too:
Or, for the matter of that, a churl would side
With too-refined susceptibility,
And honour which, tender in the extreme,
Stung to the quick, must roughly right itself
At all risks, not sit still and whine for law
As a Jew would, if you squeezed him to the wall,
Brisk-trotting through the Ghetto. Nay, it seems,
Even the Emperor's Envoy had his say
To say on the subject; might not see, unmoved,
Civility menaced throughout Christendom
By too harsh measure dealt her champion here.
Lastly, what made all safe, the Pope was kind,
From his youth up, reluctant to take life,
If mercy might be just and yet show grace;
Much more unlikely then, in extreme age,
To take a life the general sense bade spare.
'T was plain that Guido would go scatheless yet.
But human promise, oh, how short of shine!
How topple down the piles of hope we rear!
How history proves … nay, read Herodotus!
Suddenly starting from a nap, as it were,
A dog-sleep with one shut, one open orb,
Cried the Pope's great self,—Innocent by name
And nature too, and eighty-six years old,
Antonio Pignatelli of Naples, Pope
Who had trod many lands, known many deeds,
Probed many hearts, beginning with his own,
And now was far in readiness for God,—
'T was he who first bade leave those souls in peace,
Those Jansenists, re-nicknamed Molinists,
('Gainst whom the cry went, like a frowsy tune,
Tickling men's ears—the sect for a quarter of an hour
I' the teeth of the world which, clown-like, loves to chew
Be it but a straw 'twixt work and whistling-while,
Taste some vituperation, bite away,
Whether at marjoram-sprig or garlic-clove,
Aught it may sport with, spoil, and then spit forth)
"Leave them alone," bade he, "those Molinists!
"Who may have other light than we perceive,
"Or why is it the whole world hates them thus?"
Also he peeled off that last scandal-rag
Of Nepotism; and so observed the poor
That men would merrily say, "Halt, deaf and blind,
"Who feed on fat things, leave the master's self
"To gather up the fragments of his feast,
'These be the nephews of Pope Innocent!—
"His own meal costs but five carlines a day,
"Poor-priest's allowance, for he claims no more."
—He cried of a sudden, this great good old Pope,
When they appealed in last resort to him,
"I have mastered the whole matter: I nothing doubt.
"Though Guido stood forth priest from head to heel,
"Instead of, as alleged, a piece of one,—
"And further, were he, from the tonsured scalp
"To the sandaled sole of him, my son and Christ's,
"Instead of touching us by finger-tip
"As you assert, and pressing up so close
"Only to set a blood-smutch on our robe,—
"I and Christ would renounce all right in him.
"Am I not Pope, and presently to die,
"And busied how to render my account,
"And shall I wait a day ere I decide
"On doing or not doing justice here?
"Cut off his head to-morrow by this time,
"Hang up his four mates, two on either hand,
"And end one business more!"
So said, so done—
Rather so writ, for the old Pope bade this,
I find, with his particular chirograph,
His own no such infirm hand, Friday night;
And next day, February Twenty Two,
Since our salvation Sixteen Ninety Eight,
—Not at the proper head-and-hanging-place
On bridge-foot close by Castle Angelo,
Where custom somewhat staled the spectacle,
('T was not so well i' the way of Rome, beside,
The noble Rome, the Rome of Guido's rank)
But at the city's newer gayer end,—
The cavalcading promenading place
Beside the gate and opposite the church
Under the Pincian gardens green with Spring,
'Neath the obelisk 'twixt the fountains in the Square,
Did Guido and his fellows find their fate,
All Rome for witness, and—my writer adds—
Remonstrant in its universal grief,
Since Guido had the suffrage of all Rome.
This is the bookful; thus far take the truth,
The untempered gold, the fact untampered with,
The mere ring-metal ere the ring be made!
And what has hitherto come of it? Who preserves
The memory of this Guido, and his wife
Pompilia, more than Ademollo's name,
The etcher of those prints, two crazie each,
Saved by a stone from snowing broad the Square
With scenic backgrounds? Was this truth of force?
Able to take its own part as truth should,
Sufficient, self-sustaining? Why, if so—
Yonder's a fire, into it goes my book,
As who shall say me nay, and what the loss?
You know the tale already: I may ask,
Rather than think to tell you, more thereof,—
Ask you not merely who were he and she,
Husband and wife, what manner of mankind,
But how you hold concerning this and that
Other yet-unnamed actor in the piece.
The young frank handsome courtly Canon, now,
The priest, declared the lover of the wife,
He who, no question, did elope with her,
For certain bring the tragedy about,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi;—his strange course
I' the matter, was it right or wrong or both?
Then the old couple, slaughtered with the wife
By the husband as accomplices in crime,
Those Comparini, Pietro and his spouse,—
What say you to the right or wrong of that,
When, at a known name whispered through the door
Of a lone villa on a Christmas night,
It opened that the joyous hearts inside
Might welcome as it were an angel-guest
Come in Christ's name to knock and enter, sup
And satisfy the loving ones he saved;
And so did welcome devils and their death?
I have been silent on that circumstance
Although the couple passed for close of kin
To wife and husband, were by some accounts
Pompilia's very parents: you know best.
Also that infant the great joy was for,
That Gaetano, the wife's two-weeks' babe,
The husband's first-born child, his son and heir,
Whose birth and being turned his night to day—
Why must the father kill the mother thus
Because she bore his son and saved himself?
Well, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!) and will have your proper laugh
At the dark question, laugh it! I laugh first.
Truth must prevail, the proverb vows; and truth
—Here is it all i' the book at last, as first
There it was all i' the heads and hearts of Rome
Gentle and simple, never to fall nor fade
Nor be forgotten. Yet, a little while,
The passage of a century or so,
Decads thrice five, and here's time paid his tax,
Oblivion gone home with her harvesting,
And all left smooth again as scythe could shave.
Far from beginning with you London folk,
I took my book to Rome first, tried truth's power
On likely people. "Have you met such names?
"Is a tradition extant of such facts?
"Your law-courts stand, your records frown a-row:
"What if I rove and rummage?" "—Why, you'll waste
"Your pains and end as wise as you began!"
Everyone snickered: "names and facts thus old
"Are newer much than Europe news we find
"Down in to-day's Diario. Records, quotha?
"Why, the French burned them, what else do the French?
"The rap-and-rending nation! And it tells
"Against the Church, no doubt,—another gird
"At the Temporality, your Trial, of course?"
"—Quite otherwise this time," submitted I;
"Clean for the Church and dead against the world,
"The flesh and the devil, does it tell for once."
"—The rarer and the happier! All the same,
"Content you with your treasure of a book,
"And waive what's wanting! Take a friend's advice!
"It's not the custom of the country. Mend
"Your ways indeed and we may stretch a point:
"Go get you manned by Manning and new-manned
"By Newman and, mayhap, wise-manned to boot
"By Wiseman, and we'll see or else we won't!
"Thanks meantime for the story, long and strong,
"A pretty piece of narrative enough,
"Which scarce ought so to drop out, one would think,
"From the more curious annals of our kind.
"Do you tell the story, now, in off-hand style,
"Straight from the book? Or simply here and there,
"(The while you vault it through the loose and large)
"Hang to a hint? Or is there book at all,
"And don't you deal in poetry, make-believe,
"And the white lies it sounds like?"
Yes and no!
From the book, yes; thence bit by bit I dug
The lingot truth, that memorable day,
Assayed and knew my piecemeal gain was gold,—
Yes; but from something else surpassing that,
Something of mine which, mixed up with the mass,
Made it bear hammer and be firm to file.
Fancy with fact is just one fact the more;
To-wit, that fancy has informed, transpierced,
Thridded and so thrown fast the facts else free,
As right through ring and ring runs the djereed
And binds the loose, one bar without a break.
I fused my live soul and that inert stuff,
Before attempting smithcraft, on the night
After the day when,—truth thus grasped and gained,—
The book was shut and done with and laid by
On the cream-coloured massive agate, broad
'Neath the twin cherubs in the tarnished frame
O' the mirror, tall thence to the ceiling-top.
And from the reading, and that slab I leant
My elbow on, the while I read and read,
I turned, to free myself and find the world,
And stepped out on the narrow terrace, built
Over the street and opposite the church,
And paced its lozenge-brickwork sprinkled cool;
Because Felice-church-side stretched, a-glow
Through each square window fringed for festival,
Whence came the clear voice of the cloistered ones
Chanting a chant made for midsummer nights—
I know not what particular praise of God,
It always came and went with June. Beneath
I' the street, quick shown by openings of the sky
When flame fell silently from cloud to cloud,
Richer than that gold snow Jove rained on Rhodes,
The townsmen walked by twos and threes, and talked,
Drinking the blackness in default of air—
A busy human sense beneath my feet:
While in and out the terrace-plants, and round
One branch of tall datura, waxed and waned
The lamp-fly lured there, wanting the white flower.
Over the roof o' the lighted church I looked
A bowshot to the street's end, north away
Out of the Roman gate to the Roman road
By the river, till I felt the Apennine.
And there would lie Arezzo, the man's town,
The woman's trap and cage and torture-place,
Also the stage where the priest played his part,
A spectacle for angels,—ay, indeed,
There lay Arezzo! Farther then I fared,
Feeling my way on through the hot and dense,
Romeward, until I found the wayside inn
By Castelnuovo's few mean hut-like homes
Huddled together on the hill-foot bleak,
Bare, broken only by that tree or two
Against the sudden bloody splendour poured
Cursewise in day's departure by the sun
O'er the low house-roof of that squalid inn
Where they three, for the first time and the last,
Husband and wife and priest, met face to face.
Whence I went on again, the end was near,
Step by step, missing none and marking all,
Till Rome itself, the ghastly goal, I reached.
Why, all the while,—how could it otherwise?—
The life in me abolished the death of things,
Deep calling unto deep: as then and there
Acted itself over again once more
The tragic piece. I saw with my own eyes
In Florence as I trod the terrace, breathed
The beauty and the fearfulness of night,
How it had run, this round from Rome to Rome—
Because, you are to know, they lived at Rome,
Pompilia's parents, as they thought themselves,
Two poor ignoble hearts who did their best
Part God's way, part the other way than God's,
To somehow make a shift and scramble through
The world's mud, careless if it splashed and spoiled,
Provided they might so hold high, keep clean
Their child's soul, one soul white enough for three,
And lift it to whatever star should stoop,
What possible sphere of purer life than theirs
Should come in aid of whiteness hard to save.
I saw the star stoop, that they strained to touch,
And did touch and depose their treasure on,
As Guido Franceschini took away
Pompilia to be his for evermore,
While they sang "Now let us depart in peace,
"Having beheld thy glory, Guido's wife!"
I saw the star supposed, but fog o' the fen,
Gilded star-fashion by a glint from hell;
Having been heaved up, haled on its gross way,
By hands unguessed before, invisible help
From a dark brotherhood, and specially
Two obscure goblin creatures, fox-faced this,
Cat-clawed the other, called his next of kin
By Guido the main monster,—cloaked and caped,
Making as they were priests, to mock God more,—
Abate Paul, Canon Girolamo.
These who had rolled the starlike pest to Rome
And stationed it to suck up and absorb
The sweetness of Pompilia, rolled again
That bloated bubble, with her soul inside,
Back to Arezzo and a palace there—
Or say, a fissure in the honest earth
Whence long ago had curled the vapour first,
Blown big by nether firs to appal day:
It touched home, broke, and blasted far and wide.
I saw the cheated couple find the cheat
And guess what foul rite they were captured for,—
Too fain to follow over hill and dale
That child of theirs caught up thus in the cloud
And carried by the Prince o' the Power of the Air
Whither he would, to wilderness or sea.
I saw them, in the potency of fear,
Break somehow through the satyr-family
(For a grey mother with a monkey-mien,
Mopping and mowing, was apparent too,
As, confident of capture, all took hands
And danced about the captives in a ring)
—Saw them break through, breathe safe, at Rome again,
Saved by the selfish instinct, losing so
Their loved one left with haters. These I saw,
In recrudescency of baffled hate,
Prepare to wring the uttermost revenge
From body and soul thus left them: all was sure,
Fire laid and cauldron set, the obscene ring traced,
The victim stripped and prostrate: what of God?
The cleaving of a cloud, a cry, a crash,
Quenched lay their cauldron, cowered i' the dust the crew,
As, in a glory of armour like Saint George,
Out again sprang the young good beauteous priest
Bearing away the lady in his arms,
Saved for a splendid minute and no more.
For, whom i' the path did that priest come upon,
He and the poor lost lady borne so brave,
—Checking the song of praise in me, had else
Swelled to the full for God's will done on earth—
Whom but a dusk misfeatured messenger,
No other than the angel of this life,
Whose care is lest men see too much at once.
He made the sign, such God-glimpse must suffice,
Nor prejudice the Prince o' the Power of the Air,
Whose ministration piles us overhead
What we call, first, earth's roof and, last, heaven's floor,
Now grate o' the trap, then outlet of the cage:
So took the lady, left the priest alone,
And once more canopied the world with black.
But through the blackness I saw Rome again,
And where a solitary villa stood
In a lone garden-quarter: it was eve,
The second of the year, and oh so cold!
Ever and anon there flittered through the air
A snow-flake, and a scanty couch of snow
Crusted the grass-walk and the garden-mould.
All was grave, silent, sinister,—when, ha?
Glimmeringly did a pack of were-wolves pad
The snow, those flames were Guido's eyes in front,
And all five found and footed it, the track,
To where a threshold-streak of warmth and light
Betrayed the villa-door with life inside,
While an inch outside were those blood-bright eyes,
And black lips wrinkling o'er the flash of teeth,
And tongues that lolled—Oh God that madest man!
They parleyed in their language. Then one whined—
That was the policy and master-stroke—
Deep in his throat whispered what seemed a name—
"Open to Caponsacchi!" Guido cried:
"Gabriel!" cried Lucifer at Eden-gate.
Wide as a heart, opened the door at once,
Showing the joyous couple, and their child
The two-weeks' mother, to the wolves, the wolves
To them. Close eyes! And when the corpses lay
Stark-stretched, and those the wolves, their wolf-work done,
Were safe-embosomed by the night again,
I knew a necessary change in things;
As when the worst watch of the night gives way,
And there comes duly, to take cognizance,
The scrutinizing eye-point of some star—
And who despairs of a new daybreak now?
Lo, the first ray protruded on those five!
It reached them, and each felon writhed transfixed.
Awhile they palpitated on the spear
Motionless over Tophet: stand or fall?
"I say, the spear should fall—should stand, I say!"
Cried the world come to judgment, granting grace
Or dealing doom according to world's wont,
Those world's-bystanders grouped on Rome's crossroad
At prick and summons of the primal curse
Which bids man love as well as make a lie.
There prattled they, discoursed the right and wrong,
Turned wrong to right, proved wolves sheep and sheep wolves,
So that you scarce distinguished fell from fleece;
Till out spoke a great guardian of the fold,
Stood up, put forth his hand that held the crook,
And motioned that the arrested point decline:
Horribly off, the wriggling dead-weight reeled,
Rushed to the bottom and lay ruined there.
Though still at the pit's mouth, despite the smoke
O' the burning, tarriers turned again to talk
And trim the balance, and detect at least
A touch of wolf in what showed whitest sheep,
A cross of sheep redeeming the whole wolf,—
Vex truth a little longer:—less and less,
Because years came and went, and more and more
Brought new lies with them to be loved in turn.
Till all at once the memory of the thing,—
The fact that, wolves or sheep, such creatures were,—
Which hitherto, however men supposed,
Had somehow plain and pillar-like prevailed
I' the midst of them, indisputably fact,
Granite, time's tooth should grate against, not graze,—
Why, this proved sandstone, friable, fast to fly
And give its grain away at wish o' the wind.
Ever and ever more diminutive,
Base gone, shaft lost, only entablature,
Dwindled into no bigger than a book,
Lay of the column; and that little, left
By the roadside 'mid the ordure, shards and weeds.
Until I haply, wandering that lone way,
Kicked it up, turned it over, and recognized,
For all the crumblement, this abacus,
This square old yellow book,—could calculate
By this the lost proportions of the style.
This was it from, my fancy with those facts,
I used to tell the tale, turned gay to grave,
But lacked a listener seldom; such alloy,
Such substance of me interfused the gold
Which, wrought into a shapely ring therewith,
Hammered and filed, fingered and favoured, last
Lay ready for the renovating wash
O' the water. "How much of the tale was true?"
I disappeared; the book grew all in all;
The lawyers' pleadings swelled back to their size,—
Doubled in two, the crease upon them yet,
For more commodity of carriage, see!—
And these are letters, veritable sheets
That brought posthaste the news to Florence, writ
At Rome the day Count Guido died, we find,
To stay the craving of a client there,
Who bound the same and so produced my book.
Lovers of dead truth, did ye fare the worse?
Lovers of live truth, found ye false my tale?
Well, now; there's nothing in nor out o' the world
Good except truth: yet this, the something else,
What's this then, which proves good yet seems untrue?
This that I mixed with truth, motions of mine
That quickened, made the inertness malleolable
O'the gold was not mine,—what's your name for this?
Are means to the end, themselves in part the end?
Is fiction which makes fact alive, fact too?
The somehow may be thishow.
I find first
Writ down for very A B C of fact,
"In the beginning God made heaven and earth;"
From which, no matter with what lisp, I spell
And speak you out a consequence—that man,
Man,—as befits the made, the inferior thing,—
Purposed, since made, to grow, not make in turn,
Yet forced to try and make, else fail to grow,—
Formed to rise, reach at, if not grasp and gain
The good beyond him,—which attempt is growth,—
Repeats God's process in man's due degree,
Attaining man's proportionate result,—
Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps.
Inalienable, the arch-prerogative
Which turns thought, act—conceives, expresses too!
No less, man, bounded, yearning to be free,
May so proiect his surplusage of soul
In search of body, so add self to self
By owning what lay ownerless before,—
So find, so fill full, so appropriate forms—
That, although nothing which had never life
Shall get life from him, be, not having been,
Yet, something dead may get to live again,
Something with too much life or not enough,
Which, either way imperfect, ended once:
An end whereat man's impulse intervenes,
Makes new beginning, starts the dead alive,
Completes the incomplete and saves the thing.
Man's breath were vain to light a virgin wick,—
Half-burned-out, all but quite-quenched wicks o' the lamp
Stationed for temple-service on this earth,
These indeed let him breathe on and relume!
For such man's feat is, in the due degree,
—Mimic creation, galvanism for life,
But still a glory portioned in the scale.
Why did the mage say,—feeling as we are wont
For truth, and stopping midway short of truth,
And resting on a lie,—"I raise a ghost"?
"Because," he taught adepts, "man makes not man.
"Yet by a special gift, an art of arts,
"More insight and more outsight and much more
"Will to use both of these than boast my mates,
"I can detach from me, commission forth
"Half of my soul; which in its pilgrimage
"O'er old unwandered waste ways of the world,
"May chance upon some fragment of a whole,
"Rag of flesh, scrap of bone in dim disuse,
"Smoking flax that fed fire once: prompt therein
"I enter, spark-like, put old powers to play,
"Push lines out to the limit, lead forth last
"(By a moonrise through a ruin of a crypt)
"What shall be mistily seen, murmuringly heard,
"Mistakenly felt: then write my name with Faust's!"
Oh, Faust, why Faust? Was not Elisha once?—
Who bade them lay his staff on a corpse-face.
There was no voice, no hearing: he went in
Therefore, and shut the door upon them twain,
And prayed unto the Lord: and he went up
And lay upon the corpse, dead on the couch,
And put his mouth upon its mouth, his eyes
Upon its eyes, his hands upon its hands,
And stretched him on the flesh; the flesh waxed warm:
And he returned, walked to and fro the house,
And went up, stretched him on the flesh again,
And the eyes opened. 'T is a credible feat
With the right man and way.
Enough of me!
The Book! I turn its medicinable leaves
In London now till, as in Florence erst,
A spirit laughs and leaps through every limb,
And lights my eye, and lifts me by the hair,
Letting me have my will again with these
—How title I the dead alive once more?
Count Guido Franceschini the Aretine,
Descended of an ancient house, though poor,
A beak-nosed bushy-bearded black-haired lord,
Lean, pallid, low of stature yet robust,
Fifty years old,—having four years ago
Married Pompilia Comparini, young,
Good, beautiful, at Rome, where she was born,
And brought her to Arezzo, where they lived
Unhappy lives, whatever curse the cause,—
This husband, taking four accomplices,
Followed this wife to Rome, where she was fled
From their Arezzo to find peace again,
In convoy, eight months earlier, of a priest,
Aretine also, of still nobler birth,
Giuseppe Caponsacchi,—caught her there
Quiet in a villa on a Christmas night,
With only Pietro and Violante by,
Both her putative parents; killed the three,
Aged, they, seventy each, and she, seventeen,
And, two weeks since, the mother of his babe
First-born and heir to what the style was worth
O' the Guido who determined, dared and did
This deed just as he purposed point by point.
Then, bent upon escape, but hotly pressed,
And captured with his co-mates that same night,
He, brought to trial, stood on this defence—
Injury to his honour caused the act;
And since his wife was false, (as manifest
By flight from home in such companionship,)
Death, punishment deserved of the false wife
And faithless parents who abetted her
I' the flight aforesaid, wronged nor God nor man.
"Nor false she, nor yet faithless they," replied
The accuser; "cloaked and masked this murder glooms;
"True was Pompilia, loyal too the pair;
"Out of the man's own heart a monster curled
"Which crime coiled with connivancy at crime—
"His victim's breast, he tells you, hatched and reared;
"Uncoil we and stretch stark the worm of hell!"
A month the trial swayed this way and that
Ere judgment settled down on Guido's guilt;
Then was the Pope, that good Twelfth Innocent,
Appealed to: who well weighed what went before,
Affirmed the guilt and gave the guilty doom.
Let this old woe step on the stage again!
Act itself o'er anew for men to judge,
Not by the very sense and sight indeed—
(Which take at best imperfect cognizance,
Since, how heart moves brain, and how both move hand,
What mortal ever in entirety saw?)
—No dose of purer truth than man digests,
But truth with falsehood, milk that feeds him now,
Not strong meat he may get to bear some day—
To-wit, by voices we call evidence,
Uproar in the echo, live fact deadened down,
Talked over, bruited abroad, whispered away,
Yet helping us to all we seem to hear:
For how else know we save by worth of word?
Here are the voices presently shall sound
In due succession. First, the world's outcry
Around the rush and ripple of any fact
Fallen stonewise, plumb on the smooth face of things;
The world's guess, as it crowds the bank o' the pool,
At what were figure and substance, by their splash:
Then, by vibrations in the general mind,
At depth of deed already out of reach.
This threefold murder of the day before,—
Say, Half-Rome's feel after the vanished truth;
Honest enough, as the way is: all the same,
Harbouring in the centre of its sense
A hidden germ of failure, shy but sure,
To neutralize that honesty and leave
That feel for truth at fault, as the way is too.
Some prepossession such as starts amiss,
By but a hair's breadth at the shoulder-blade,
The arm o' the feeler, dip he ne'er so bold;
So leads arm waveringly, lets fall wide
O' the mark its finger, sent to find and fix
Truth at the bottom, that deceptive speck.
With this Half-Rome,—the source of swerving, call
Over-belief in Guido's right and wrong
Rather than in Pompilia's wrong and right:
Who shall say how, who shall say why? 'T is there—
The instinctive theorizing whence a fact
Looks to the eye as the eye likes the look.
Gossip in a public place, a sample-speech.
Some worthy, with his previous hint to find
A husband's side the safer, and no whit
Aware he is not Æacus the while,—
How such an one supposes and states fact
To whosoever of a multitude
Will listen, and perhaps prolong thereby
The not-unpleasant flutter at the breast,
Born of a certain spectacle shut in
By the church Lorenzo opposite. So, they lounge
Midway the mouth o'the street, on Corso side,
'Twixt palace Fiano and palace Ruspoli,
Linger and listen; keeping clear o' the crowd,
Yet wishful one could lend that crowd one's eyes,
(So universal is its plague of squint)
And make hearts beat our time that flutter false:
—All for the truth's sake, mere truth, nothing else!
How Half-Rome found for Guido much excuse.
Next, from Rome's other half, the opposite feel
For truth with a like swerve, like unsuccess,—
Or if success, by no skill but more luck
This time, through siding rather with the wife,
Because a fancy-fit inclined that way,
Than with the husband. One wears drab, one pink;
Who wears pink, ask him "Which shall win the race,
"Of coupled runners like as egg and egg?"
"—Why, if I must choose, he with the pink scarf."
Doubtless for some such reason choice fell here.
A piece of public talk to correspond
At the next stage of the story; just a day
Let pass and new day brings the proper change.
Another sample-speech i' the market-place
O' the Barberini by the Capucins;
Where the old Triton, at his fountain-sport,
Bernini's creature plated to the paps,
Puffs up steel sleet which breaks to diamond dust,
A spray of sparkles snorted from his conch,
High over the caritellas, out o' the way
O' the motley merchandizing multitude.
Our murder has been done three days ago,
The frost is over and gone, the south wind laughs,
And, to the very tiles of each red roof
A-smoke i' the sunshine, Rome lies gold and glad:
So, listen how, to the other half of Rome,
Pompilia seemed a saint and martyr both!
Then, yet another day let come and go,
With pause prelusive still of novelty,
Hear a fresh speaker!—neither this nor that
Half-Rome aforesaid; something bred of both:
One and one breed the inevitable three.
Such is the personage harangues you next;
The elaborated product, tertium quid:
Rome's first commotion in subsidence gives
The curd o'the cream, flower o' the wheat, as it were,
And finer sense o' the city. Is this plain?
You get a reasoned statement of the case,
Eventual verdict of the curious few
Who care to sift a business to the bran
Nor coarsely bolt it like the simpler sort.
Here, after ignorance, instruction speaks;
Here, clarity of candour, history's soul,
The critical mind, in short: no gossip-guess.
What the superior social section thinks,
In person of some man of quality
Who,—breathing musk from lace-work and brocade,
His solitaire amid the flow of frill,
Powdered peruke on nose, and bag at back,
And cane dependent from the ruffled wrist,—
Harangues in silvery and selectest phrase
'Neath waxlight in a glorified saloon
Where mirrors multiply the girandole:
Courting the approbation of no mob,
But Eminence This and All-Illustrious That
Who take snuff softly, range in well-bred ring,
Card-table-quitters for observance' sake,
Around the argument, the rational word—
Still, spite its weight and worth, a sample-speech.
How Quality dissertated on the case.
So much for Rome and rumour; smoke comes first:
Once let smoke rise untroubled, we descry
Clearlier what tongues of flame may spire and spit
To eye and ear, each with appropriate tinge
According to its food, or pure or foul.
The actors, no mere rumours of the act,
Intervene. First you hear Count Guido's voice,
In a small chamber that adjoins the court,
Where Governor and Judges, summoned thence,
Tommati, Venturini and the rest,
Find the accused ripe for declaring truth.
Soft-cushioned sits he; yet shifts seat, shirks touch,
As, with a twitchy brow and wincing lip
And cheek that changes to all kinds of white,
He proffers his defence, in tones subdued
Near to mock-mildness now, so mournful seems
The obtuser sense truth fails to satisfy;
Now, moved, from pathos at the wrong endured,
To passion; for the natural man is roused
At fools who first do wrong then pour the blame
Of their wrong-doing, Satan-like, on Job.
Also his tongue at times is hard to curb;
Incisive, nigh satiric bites the phrase,
Rough-raw, yet somehow claiming privilege
—It is so hard for shrewdness to admit
Folly means no harm when she calls black white!
—Eruption momentary at the most,
Modified forthwith by a fall o' the fire,
Sage acquiescence; for the world's the world,
And, what it errs in, Judges rectify:
He feels he has a fist, then folds his arms
Crosswise and makes his mind up to be meek.
And never once does he detach his eye
From those ranged there to slay him or to save,
But does his best man's-service for himself,
Despite,—what twitches brow and makes lip wince,—
His limbs' late taste of what was called the Cord,
Or Vigil-torture more facetiously.
Even so; they were wont to tease the truth
Out of loth witness (toying, trifling time)
By torture: 't was a trick, a vice of the age,
Here, there and everywhere, what would you have?
Religion used to tell Humanity
She gave him warrant or denied him course.
And since the course was much to his own mind,
Of pinching flesh and pulling bone from bone
To unhusk truth a-hiding in its hulls,
Nor whisper of a warning stopped the way,
He, in their joint behalf, the burly slave,
Bestirred him, mauled and maimed all recusants,
While, prim in place, Religion overlooked;
And so had done till doomsday, never a sign
Nor sound of interference from her mouth,
But that at last the burly slave wiped brow,
Let eye give notice as if soul were there,
Muttered "'T is a vile trick, foolish more than vile,
"Should have been counted sin; I make it so:
"At any rate no more of it for me—
"Nay, for I break the torture-engine thus!"
Then did Religion start up, stare amain,
Look round for help and see none, smile and say
"What, broken is the rack? Well done of thee!
"Did I forget to abrogate its use?
"Be the mistake in common with us both!
"—One more fault our blind age shall answer for,
"Down in my book denounced though it must be
"Somewhere. Henceforth find truth by milder means!"
Ah but, Religion, did we wait for thee
To ope the book, that serves to sit upon,
And pick such place out, we should wait indeed!
That is all history: and what is not now,
Was then, defendants found it to their cost.
How Guido, after being tortured, spoke.
Also hear Caponsacchi who comes next,
Man and priest—could you comprehend the coil!—
In days when that was rife which now is rare.
How, mingling each its multifarious wires,
Now heaven, now earth, now heaven and earth at once,
Had plucked at and perplexed their puppet here,
Played off the young frank personable priest;
Sworn fast and tonsured plain heaven's celibate,
And yet earth's clear-accepted servitor,
A courtly spiritual Cupid, squire of dames
By law of love and mandate of the mode.
The Church's own, or why parade her seal,
Wherefore that chrism and consecrative work?
Yet verily the world's, or why go badged
A prince of sonneteers and lutanists,
Show colour of each vanity in vogue
Borne with decorum due on blameless breast?
All that is changed now, as he tells the court
How he had played the part excepted at;
Tells it, moreover, now the second time:
Since, for his cause of scandal, his own share
I' the flight from home and husband of the wife,
He has been censured, punished in a sort
By relegation,—exile, we should say,
To a short distance for a little time,—
Whence he is summoned on a sudden now,
Informed that she, he thought to save, is lost,
And, in a breath, bidden re-tell his tale,
Since the first telling somehow missed effect,
And then advise in the matter. There stands he,
While the same grim black-panelled chamber blinks
As though rubbed shiny with the sins of Rome
Told the same oak for ages—wave-washed wall
Against which sets a sea of wickedness.
There, where you yesterday heard Guido speak,
Speaks Caponsacchi; and there face him too
Tommati, Venturini and the rest
Who, eight months earlier, scarce repressed the smile,
Forewent the wink; waived recognition so
Of peccadillos incident to youth,
Especially youth high-born; for youth means love,
Vows can't change nature, priests are only men,
And love likes stratagem and subterfuge
Which age, that once was youth, should recognize,
May blame, but needs not press too hard upon.
Here sit the old Judges then, but with no grace
Of reverend carriage, magisterial port:
For why? The accused of eight months since,—the same
Who cut the conscious figure of a fool,
Changed countenance, dropped bashful gaze to ground,
While hesitating for an answer then,—
Now is grown judge himself, terrifies now
This, now the other culprit called a judge,
Whose turn it is to stammer and look strange,
As he speaks rapidly, angrily, speech that smites:
And they keep silence, bear blow after blow,
Because the seeming-solitary man,
Speaking for God, may have an audience too,
Invisible, no discreet judge provokes.
How the priest Caponsacchi said his say.
Then a soul sighs its lowest and its last
After the loud ones,—so much breath remains
Unused by the four-days'-dying; for she lived
Thus long, miraculously long, 't was thought,
Just that Pompilia might defend herself.
How, while the hireling and the alien stoop,
Comfort, yet question,—since the time is brief,
And folk, allowably inquisitive,
Encircle the low pallet where she lies
In the good house that helps the poor to die,—
Pompilia tells the story of her life.
For friend and lover,—leech and man of law
Do service; busy helpful ministrants
As varied in their calling as their mind,
Temper and age: and yet from all of these,
About the white bed under the arched roof,
Is somehow, as it were, evolved a one,—
Small separate sympathies combined and large,
Nothings that were, grown something very much:
As if the bystanders gave each his straw,
All he had, though a trifle in itself,
Which, plaited all together, made a Cross
Fit to die looking on and praying with,
Just as well as if ivory or gold.
So, to the common kindliness she speaks,
There being scarce more privacy at the last
For mind than body: but she is used to bear,
And only unused to the brotherly look.
How she endeavoured to explain her life.
Then, since a Trial ensued, a touch o' the same
To sober us, flustered with frothy talk,
And teach our common sense its helplessness.
For why deal simply with divining-rod,
Scrape where we fancy secret sources flow,
And ignore law, the recognized machine,
Elaborate display of pipe and wheel
Framed to unchoke, pump up and pour apace
Truth till a flowery foam shall wash the world?
The patent truth-extracting process,—ha?
Let us make that grave mystery turn one wheel,
Give you a single grind of law at least!
One orator, of two on either side,
Shall teach us the puissance of the tongue
—That is, o' the pen which simulated tongue
On paper and saved all except the sound
Which never was. Law's speech beside law's thought?
That were too stunning, too immense an odds:
That point of vantage law lets nobly pass.
One lawyer shall admit us to behold
The manner of the making out a case,
First fashion of a speech; the chick in egg,
The masterpiece law's bosom incubates.
How Don Giacinto of the Arcangeli,
Called Procurator of the Poor at Rome,
Now advocate for Guido and his mates,—
The jolly learned man of middle age,
Cheek and jowl all in laps with fat and law,
Mirthful as mighty, yet, as great hearts use,
Despite the name and fame that tempt our flesh,
Constant to that devotion of the hearth,
Still captive in those dear domestic ties!—
How he,—having a cause to triumph with,
All kind of interests to keep intact,
More than one efficacious personage
To tranquillize, conciliate and secure,
And above all, public anxiety
To quiet, show its Guido in good hands,—
Also, as if such burdens were too light,
A certain family-feast to claim his care,
The birthday-banquet for the only son—
Paternity at smiling strife with law—
How he brings both to buckle in one bond;
And, thick at throat, with waterish under-eye,
Turns to his task and settles in his seat
And puts his utmost means in practice now:
Wheezes out law-phrase, whiffles Latin forth,
And, just as though roast lamb would never be,
Makes logic levigate the big crime small:
Rubs palm on palm, rakes foot with itchy foot,
Conceives and inchoates the argument,
Sprinkling each flower appropriate to the time,
—Ovidian quip or Ciceronian crank,
A-bubble in the larynx while he laughs,
As he had fritters deep down frying there.
How he turns, twists, and tries the oily thing
Shall be—first speech for Guido 'gainst the Fisc.
Then with a skip as it were from heel to head,
Leaving yourselves fill up the middle bulk
O' the Trial, reconstruct its shape august,
From such exordium clap we to the close;
Give you, if we dare wing to such a height,
The absolute glory in some full-grown speech
On the other side, some finished butterfly,
Some breathing diamond-flake with leaf-gold fans,
That takes the air, no trace of worm it was,
Or cabbage-bed it had production from.
Giovambattista o' the Bottini, Fisc,
Pompilia's patron by the chance of the hour,
To-morrow her persecutor,—composite, he,
As becomes who must meet such various calls—
Odds of age joined in him with ends of youth.
A man of ready smile and facile tear,
Improvised hopes, despairs at nod and beck,
And language—ah, the gift of eloquence!
Language that goes, goes, easy as a glove,
O'er good and evil, smoothens both to one.
Rashness helps caution with him, fires the straw,
In free enthusiastic careless fit,
On the first proper pinnacle of rock
Which offers, as reward for all that zeal,
To lure some bark to founder and bring gain:
While calm sits Caution, rapt with heavenward eye,
A true confessor's gaze, amid the glare
Beaconing to the breaker, death and hell.
"Well done, thou good and faithful" she approves:
"Hadst thou let slip a faggot to the beach,
"The crew might surely spy thy precipice
"And save their boat; the simple and the slow
"Might so, forsooth, forestall the wrecker's fee!
"Let the next crew be wise and hail in time!"
Just so compounded is the outside man,
Blue juvenile pure eye and pippin cheek,
And brow all prematurely soiled and seamed
With sudden age, bright devastated hair.
Ah, but you miss the very tones o' the voice,
The scrannel pipe that screams in heights of head,
As, in his modest studio, all alone,
The tall wight stands a-tiptoe, strives and strains,
Both eyes shut, like the cockerel that would crow,
Tries to his own self amorously o'er
What never will be uttered else than so—
Since to the four walls, Forum and Mars' Hill,
Speaks out the poesy which, penned, turns prose.
Clavecinist debarred his instrument,
He yet thrums—shirking neither turn nor trill,
With desperate finger on dumb table-edge—
The sovereign rondo, shall conclude his Suite,
Charm an imaginary audience there,
From old Corelli to young Haendel, both
I' the flesh at Rome, ere he perforce go print
The cold black score, mere music for the mind—
The last speech against Guido and his gang,
With special end to prove Pompilia pure.
How the Fisc vindicates Pompilia's fame.
Then comes the all but end, the ultimate
Judgment save yours. Pope Innocent the Twelfth,
Simple, sagacious, mild yet resolute,
With prudence, probity and—what beside
From the other world he feels impress at times,
Having attained to fourscore years and six,—
How, when the court found Guido and the rest
Guilty, but law supplied a subterfuge
And passed the final sentence to the Pope,
He, bringing his intelligence to bear
This last time on what ball behoves him drop
In the urn, or white or black, does drop a black,
Send five souls more to just precede his own,
Stand him in stead and witness, if need were,
How he is wont to do God's work on earth.
The manner of his sitting out the dim
Droop of a sombre February day
In the plain closet where he does such work,
With, from all Peter's treasury, one stool,
One table and one lathen crucifix.
There sits the Pope, his thoughts for company;
Grave but not sad,—nay, something like a cheer
Leaves the lips free to be benevolent,
Which, all day long, did duty firm and fast.
A cherishing there is of foot and knee,
A chafing loose-skinned large-veined hand with hand,—
What steward but knows when stewardship earns its wage,
May levy praise, anticipate the lord?
He reads, notes, lays the papers down at last,
Muses, then takes a turn about the room;
Unclasps a huge tome in an antique guise,
Primitive print and tongue half obsolete,
That stands him in diurnal stead; opes page,
Finds place where falls the passage to be conned
According to an order long in use:
And, as he comes upon the evening's chance,
Starts somewhat, solemnizes straight his smile,
Then reads aloud that portion first to last,
And at the end lets flow his own thoughts forth
Likewise aloud, for respite and relief,
Till by the dreary relics of the west
Wan through the half-moon window, all his light,
He bows the head while the lips move in prayer,
Writes some three brief lines, signs and seals the same,
Tinkles a hand-bell, bids the obsequious Sir
Who puts foot presently o' the closet-sill
He watched outside of, bear as superscribed
That mandate to the Governor forthwith:
Then heaves abroad his cares in one good sigh,
Traverses corridor with no arm's help,
And so to sup as a clear conscience should.
The manner of the judgment of the Pope.
Then must speak Guido yet a second time,
Satan's old saw being apt here—skin for skin,
All a man hath that will he give for life.
While life was graspable and gainable,
And bird-like buzzed her wings round Guido's brow,
Not much truth stiffened out the web of words
He wove to catch her: when away she flew
And death came, death's breath rivelled up the lies,
Left bare the metal thread, the fibre fine
Of truth, i' the spinning: the true words shone last.
How Guido, to another purpose quite,
Speaks and despairs, the last night of his life,
In that New Prison by Castle Angelo
At the bridge foot: the same man, another voice.
On a stone bench in a close fetid cell,
Where the hot vapour of an agony,
Struck into drops on the cold wall, runs down—
Horrible worms made out of sweat and tears—
There crouch, well nigh to the knees in dungeon-straw,
Lit by the sole lamp suffered for their sake,
Two awe-struck figures, this a Cardinal,
That an Abate, both of old styled friends
O' the thing part man part monster in the midst,
So changed is Franceschini's gentle blood.
The tiger-cat screams now, that whined before,
That pried and tried and trod so gingerly,
Till in its silkiness the trap-teeth joined;
Then you know how the bristling fury foams.
They listen, this wrapped in his folds of red,
While his feet fumble for the filth below;
The other, as beseems a stouter heart,
Working his best with beads and cross to ban
The enemy that comes in like a flood
Spite of the standard set up, verily
And in no trope at all, against him there
For at the prison-gate, just a few steps
Outside, already, in the doubtful dawn,
Thither, from this side and from that, slow sweep
And settle down in silence solidly,
Crow-wise, the frightful Brotherhood of Death.
Black-hatted and black-hooded huddle they,
Black rosaries a-dangling from each waist;
So take they their grim station at the door,
Torches lit, skull-and-cross-bones-banner spread,
And that gigantic Christ with open arms,
Grounded. Nor lacks there aught but that the group
Break forth, intone the lamentable psalm,
"Out of the deeps, Lord, have I cried to thee!"—
When inside, from the true profound, a sign
Shall bear intelligence that the foe is foiled,
Count Guido Franceschini has confessed,
And is absolved and reconciled with God.
Then they, intoning, may begin their march,
Make by the longest way for the People's Square,
Carry the criminal to his crime's award:
A mob to cleave, a scaffolding to reach,
Two gallows and Mannaia crowning all.
How Guido made defence a second time.
Finally, even as thus by step and step
I led you from the level of to-day
Up to the summit of so long ago,
Here, whence I point you the wide prospect round—
Let me, by like steps, slope you back to smooth,
Land you on mother-earth, no whit the worse,
To feed o' the fat o' the furrow: free to dwell,
Taste our time's better things profusely spread
For all who love the level, corn and wine,
Much cattle and the many-folded fleece.
Shall not my friends go feast again on sward,
Though cognizant of country in the clouds
Higher than wistful eagle's horny eye
Ever unclosed for, 'mid ancestral crags,
When morning broke and Spring was back once more,
And he died, heaven, save by his heart, unreached?
Yet heaven my fancy lifts to, ladder-like,—
As Jack reached, holpen of his beanstalk-rungs!
A novel country: I might make it mine
By choosing which one aspect of the year
Suited mood best, and putting solely that
On panel somewhere in the House of Fame,
Landscaping what I saved, not what I saw:
—Might fix you, whether frost in goblin-time
Startled the moon with his abrupt bright laugh,
Or, August's hair afloat in filmy fire,
She fell, arms wide, face foremost on the world,
Swooned there and so singed out the strength of things.
Thus were abolished Spring and Autumn both,
The land dwarfed to one likeness of the land,
Life cramped corpse-fashion. Rather learn and love
Each facet-flash of the revolving year!—
Red, green and blue that whirl into a white,
The variance now, the eventual unity,
Which make the miracle. See it for yourselves,
This man's act, changeable because alive!
Action now shrouds, nor shows the informing thought;
Man, like a glass ball with a spark a-top,
Out of the magic fire that lurks inside,
Shows one tint at a time to take the eye:
Which, let a finger touch the silent sleep,
Shifted a hair's-breadth shoots you dark for bright,
Suffuses bright with dark, and baffles so
Your sentence absolute for shine or shade.
Once set such orbs,—white styled, black stigmatized,—
A-rolling, see them once on the other side
Your good men and your bad men every one
From Guido Franceschini to Guy Faux,
Oft would you rub your eyes and change your names
Such, British Public, ye who like me not,
(God love you!)—whom I yet have laboured for,
Perchance more careful whoso runs may read
Than erst when all, it seemed, could read who ran,—
Perchance more careless whoso reads may praise
Than late when he who praised and read and wrote
Was apt to find himself the self-same me,—
Such labour had such issue, so I wrought
This arc, by furtherance of such alloy,
And so, by one spirt, take away its trace
Till, justifiably golden, rounds my ring.
A ring without a posy, and that ring mine?
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird
And all a wonder and a wild desire,—
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,—
Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart—
When the first summons from the darkling earth
Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue,
And bared them of the glory—to drop down,
To toil for man, to suffer or to die,—
This is the same voice: can thy soul know change?
Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help!
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee,
Except with bent head and beseeching hand—
That still, despite the distance and the dark,
What was, again may be; some interchange
Of grace, some splendour once thy very thought,
Some benediction anciently thy smile:
—Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward,
Their utmost up and on,—so blessing back
In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home,
Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud,
Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
The Fairy Nursery Tree
The West Wind whispered, “Come away.
There’s a sight to see in the woods today.”
I followed where the West Wind led,
Past nodding violets and through ferns we sped.
Over velvet moss, woodland debris,
While the West Wind beckoned and murmured to me.
T’is fairy folk, whose bid we do.
They have summoned me, as they have summoned you.”
No sooner had he said these words.
Than the West Wind left me and I heard the birds.
Sing a lullaby’s sweet refrain,
While somewhere nearby, they were calling my name.
I turned to look and then I spied,
A venerable oak that had long since died.
And near the base where it still stood.
Were hollows and nooks in its decaying wood.
In each crevice, to my surprise.
Was a sight so enchanting, I blinked my eyes.
Fairy babies filled the spaces,
Small, perfect forms with pretty little faces.
Some peering out, others asleep.
So delicate and dear, I thought I would weep.
I gaped in wonder, gazed in awe.
I was overwhelmed by the vision I saw.
The West Wind came. He called to me.
I had seen the sight I was bidden to see.
I waved goodbye and threw a kiss.
To the fairy babies. - to that realm of bliss.
I marvel still that it was me,
Summoned to view the Fairy Nursery tree.
Alas, I thought this forest must be true,
And would not change because of my changed eyes;
I thought the growing things were as I knew,
And not a mock; I thought at least the skies
Were honest and would keep that happy blue
They used to wear before I learned to see
.But woe the day!
Lo, I have wandered forth and thought to stay
Here where some gladness still might be for me,
Where some delight
Should still break on my now too faithful sight;
And, lo, not even here may I go free.
Oh, hateful knowledge, pass and let me be:
Why am I made thy slave? why am I wise
Who once beheld all life with glamoured eyes?
Ah, woe the day! this bleak and shrivelled wood,
These rotted leaves, and all the wild flowers dead:
And here the ferns lie bruised and brown that stood
My tall green shelter: and, above my head,
The naked creaking branches show the sky
Athwart their lattice one murk sunless grey
Ah, woe the day!
I see, and beauty has all passed away.
Woe for my desolate wisdom, woe! Ah why
Must the sweet spell be broken ere I die?
Dear glad-tongued lark, come down and talk with me;
Tell me, oh tell me, hast thou caught, maybe,
Some little word,
Some word from heaven to make the meaning plain
Of this great change, or change me back again?
And, chattering sparrow from the eaves, come here
And tell me, thou who seest men so near,
Canst thou have heard
Some talk among them, out of all their lore,
To teach me, who have learned to see as they,
To be like them still more
And smile at hateful things or pass them o'er?
Sky-bird and house-bird, do you know the way?
Come hither, let me tell you all my woe;
Have you not known me in my carelessness?
I was that joyous child, not long ago,
The fairies hid away from life's distress
And eager weariness of burdened men
To live their darling in the elfin glen;
I was that thing of mirth and fantasies,
More antic than young squirrels at their play,
More wilful wanton than coy butterflies
Teasing the flowers with make-believes to kiss,
More happy than the early thrush whose lay
Awakes the woodlands with spring melodies
And sings the year to summer with his bliss:
And now I am so sad:
For, listen, I am wise, my eyes see truth,
And nothing wears the brightness that it had,
Nothing is fair or glad;
All joy and grace were dreams, dead with my fairy youth.
Ah, had you seen our home!
For the great hall one amethyst clear dome
Fretted with silver or, who could say which,
With white pure moonbeams; and the floors made rich
With patens of all rare translucent gems
And musky flower-buds bending down their stems
For weight of diamonds that hung like dews;
And everywhere the radiance of carved gold,
And pearls' soft shimmer, and quick various hues
Of mystic opals glinting manifold;
And everywhere the music and the gleams
Of clear cool water's sparkling iris beams
In emerald and crystal fountains wrought
Like river lilies with their buds and leaves,
Or as late briar shoots caught
In the first glittering rime-webs blithe October weaves.
Ah me, so fair, so bright!
Had you but seen! But, lo, the other night
I was alone and watching how the sky
Made a new star each moment and grew dim,
And singing to the moon, when he came by,
The wise weird man—what need had I of him?—
The wise weird man who can see fairy folk
And break all spells, he saw me and he spoke
'Poor changeling child,
How is thy heart beguiled,
And thy blind eyes made foolish with false sight!
Let the spell end: be wise, and see aright.'
Then with a frozen salve that brought sharp tears
Signed both my eyes, and went. And from that hour
I am made weary with the cruel dower
Of sight for evil. For mine eyes before
Made beauty where they looked, and saw no more.
Ah happy eyes! Ah sweet, blind, cheated years!
Alas! the glories of our fairy halls:
Alas! the blossoms and the gems and gold:
Dreams, dreams, and lies.
Broken and clammy are the earthen walls,
The mildew is their silvering; where of old
The jewels shimmered shimmers moist and cold
The dew of oozing damps; and, for the dyes
And the fair shapes of diamond laden flowers,
Foul toadstool growths that never saw the skies;
And, for the fountains,pools; and, for the bowers,
Blank caves. Nought, nought in its old gracious guise.
And what is left for beauty is a mock:
Spangles and gilt and glass for precious things,
Bedraggled tinsel gauzes to enfrock
Unlovely nakedness of earth and rock,
And painted images and cozenings.
Ah me! ah me! the beauty, the delight:
Dreams, dreams, and lies.
Ah me! and a curse more has come with sight;
There is no sweetness left me for my ears:
For when they sing the fairy melodies,
Like voice of laughters and like voice of sighs
And voice of running brooks and voice of birds
And voice of lovers' wooing, and the words
Are those that fill the heart of each who hears,
I hate the song, for I hear all the while
'Dreams, dreams, and lies.'
Yea, and I see no loving in a smile;
For, when they soothe me tenderly, and praise,
And speak the soft words of the former days,
My heart is cold and wise as are mine eyes,
And I grow sick of pleasant flatteries
And talk of bliss and ancient merry ways:
For, lo, the hollow old content was vain, How shall it live again?
Dreams, dreams, and lies.
And even here is change. For not till now
Have I seen barrenness, and leaves lie dank.
For me the leaf was green upon the bough
The livelong year, my tall ferns never sank,
Some sweet and tender blossom always grew,
The summer and the winter skies were blue;
And when the snow came in a winter freak
To make the blossoms play me hide and seek
I laughed because I knew that they were there.
Ah woe is me!
I said 'I will steal forth and make my lair,
Like some strayed foxcub, in the sheltered wood,
For that will be as it was wont to be:
And I will live among the careless birds
And happy forest beasts and insect herds
Who in blithe wanderings find their easy food,
And feed and sport and rest in ceaseless glee,
Having their world all real and all fair.'
Alas! for it was falseness even here!
The beauty has gone by, it was my dream,
And all the black and dripping trees lie bare,
Soddening in fog and in dull mists that steam
From the unwholesome barren earth and where
The dead leaves fester that were born this year.
Ah me, I am grown wise, my sight is clear:
And to see clear is weeping, wisdom is despair.
Kind birds, oh tell me, whither shall I hie?
Dear lark, hast thou looked down out of thy sky
On the sweet quiet of some summer land
Where truth and beauty yet go hand in hand?—
Nay, but would'st thou be here!
Tell me, half human sparrow, hast thou seen,
Among the homes of men where thine has been,
A home where I might be among my kind
And love it, and love them, not being blind?
Tell me; draw near.
Oh answer me, for now I learn desires
For men's strong life to stir me, and were fain
To lose old dreams, warm by their hearthside fires.
Yea, and I must go, though it all were pain:
The doom of my new'wisdom is on me.
Woe for my fairy youth! Man among men
I must go forth and suffer, for I see.
Woe for the blind days in the happy glen!
And the lark answered 'Nay, I am not wise;
I can teach nought. Only, the other day,
I heard them singing who sing in the skies,
And ceaselessly I whisper low that lay,
To sing it when the summer comes again:
'In the world are Love and Pain:
Foes yet lovers they remain:
Pain strengthens Love till Love slay Pain.''
The sparrow said 'I could not hear thee plain,
For I was chirruping the merry rhyme
I heard men sing last night at supper-time:
'Reap the grain, and sow the grain,
To grow by sunshine and by rain.''
Then the sad fairies' foster-child arose,
And saw the grey day darkening to its close,
And passed out from the wood, and wandered down,
Along the misty hillside, to the town.
M'Fingal - Canto IV
Now Night came down, and rose full soon
That patroness of rogues, the Moon;
Beneath whose kind protecting ray,
Wolves, brute and human, prowl for prey.
The honest world all snored in chorus,
While owls and ghosts and thieves and Tories,
Whom erst the mid-day sun had awed,
Crept from their lurking holes abroad.
On cautious hinges, slow and stiller,
Wide oped the great M'Fingal's cellar,
Where safe from prying eyes, in cluster,
The Tory Pandemonium muster.
Their chiefs all sitting round descried are,
On kegs of ale and seats of cider;
When first M'Fingal, dimly seen,
Rose solemn from the turnip-bin.
Nor yet his form had wholly lost
Th' original brightness it could boast,
Nor less appear'd than Justice Quorum,
In feather'd majesty before 'em.
Adown his tar-streak'd visage, clear
Fell glistening fast th' indignant tear,
And thus his voice, in mournful wise,
Pursued the prologue of his sighs.
"Brethren and friends, the glorious band
Of loyalty in rebel land!
It was not thus you've seen me sitting,
Return'd in triumph from town-meeting;
When blust'ring Whigs were put to stand,
And votes obey'd my guiding hand,
And new commissions pleased my eyes;
Blest days, but ah, no more to rise!
Alas, against my better light,
And optics sure of second-sight,
My stubborn soul, in error strong,
Had faith in Hutchinson too long.
See what brave trophies still we bring
From all our battles for the king;
And yet these plagues, now past before us,
Are but our entering wedge of sorrows!
"I see, in glooms tempestuous, stand
The cloud impending o'er the land;
That cloud, which still beyond their hopes
Serves all our orators with tropes;
Which, though from our own vapors fed,
Shall point its thunders on our head!
I see the Mob, beflipp'd at taverns,
Hunt us, like wolves, through wilds and caverns!
What dungeons open on our fears!
What horsewhips whistle round our ears!
Tar, yet in embryo in the pine,
Shall run on Tories' backs to shine;
Trees, rooted fair in groves of sallows,
Are growing for our future gallows;
And geese unhatch'd, when pluck'd in fray,
Shall rue the feathering of that day.
"For me, before that fatal time,
I mean to fly th' accursed clime,
And follow omens, which of late
Have warn'd me of impending fate.
"For late in visions of the night
The gallows stood before my sight;
I saw its ladder heaved on end;
I saw the deadly rope descend,
And in its noose, that wavering swang,
Friend Malcolm hung, or seem'd to hang.
How changed from him, who bold as lion,
Stood Aid-de-camp to Gen'ral Tryon,
Made rebels vanish once, like witches,
And saved his life, but dropp'd his breeches.
I scarce had made a fearful bow,
And trembling ask'd him, "How d'ye do;"
When lifting up his eyes so wide,
His eyes alone, his hands were tied;
With feeble voice, as spirits use,
Now almost choak'd by gripe of noose;
"Ah, fly my friend, he cried, escape,
And keep yourself from this sad scrape;
Enough you've talk'd and writ and plann'd;
The Whigs have got the upper hand.
Could mortal arm our fears have ended,
This arm (and shook it) had defended.
Wait not till things grow desperater,
For hanging is no laughing matter.
Adventure then no longer stay;
But call your friends and haste away.
"For lo, through deepest glooms of night,
I come to aid thy second-sight,
Disclose the plagues that round us wait,
And scan the dark decrees of fate.
"Ascend this ladder, whence unfurl'd
The curtain opes of t'other world;
For here new worlds their scenes unfold,
Seen from this backdoor of the old.
As when Æneas risk'd his life,
Like Orpheus vent'ring for his wife,
And bore in show his mortal carcase
Through realms of Erebus and Orcus,
Then in the happy fields Elysian,
Saw all his embryon sons in vision;
As shown by great Archangel, Michael,
Old Adam saw the world's whole sequel,
And from the mount's extended space,
The rising fortunes of his race:
So from this stage shalt thou behold
The war its coming scenes unfold,
Raised by my arm to meet thine eye;
My Adam, thou; thine Angel, I.
But first my pow'r, for visions bright,
Must cleanse from clouds thy mental sight,
Remove the dim suffusions spread,
Which bribes and salaries there have bred;
And from the well of Bute infuse
Three genuine drops of Highland dews,
To purge, like euphrasy and rue,
Thine eyes, for much thou hast to view.
Now freed from Tory darkness, raise
Thy head and spy the coming days.
For lo, before our second-sight,
The Continent ascends in light.
From north to south, what gath'ring swarms
Increase the pride of rebel arms!
Through every State our legions brave
Speed gallant marches to the grave,
Of battling Whigs the frequent prize,
While rebel trophies stain the skies.
Behold o'er northern realms afar
Extend the kindling flames of war!
See famed St. John's and Montreal
Doom'd by Montgomery's arm to fall!
Where Hudson with majestic sway
Through hills disparted plows his way,
Fate spreads on Bemus' heights alarms,
And pours destruction on our arms;
There Bennington's ensanguined plain,
And Stony-Point, the prize of Wayne.
Behold near Del'ware's icy roar,
Where morning dawns on Trenton's shore,
While Hessians spread their Christmas feasts,
Rush rude these uninvited guests;
Nor aught avails the captured crew
Their martial whiskers' grisly hue!
On Princeton plains our heroes yield,
And spread in flight the vanquish'd field;
While fear to Mawhood's heels puts on
Wings, wide as worn by Maia's son.
Behold the Pennsylvanian shore
Enrich'd with streams of British gore;
Where many a veteran chief in bed
Of honor rests his slumb'ring head,
And in soft vales, in land of foes,
Their wearied virtue finds repose!
See plund'ring Dunmore's negro band
Fly headlong from Virginia's strand;
And far on southern hills our cousins,
The Scotch M'Donalds, fall by dozens;
Or where King's Mountain lifts its head,
Our ruin'd bands in triumph led!
Behold, o'er Tarlton's blustring train
Defeat extends the captive chain!
Afar near Eutaw's fatal springs,
Lo, rebel Vict'ry spreads her wings!
Through all the land, in varied chace,
We hunt the rainbow of success,
In vain! their Chief, superior still,
Eludes our force with Fabian skill;
Or swift descending by surprize,
Like Prussia's eagle, sweeps the prize.
"I look'd; nor yet, oppress'd with fears,
Gave credit to my eyes or ears;
But held the sights an empty dream,
On Berkley's immaterial scheme;
And pond'ring sad with troubled breast,
At length my rising doubts express'd.
'Ah, whither thus, by rebels smitten,
Is fled th' omnipotence of Britain;
Or fail'd its usual guard to keep,
Absent from home or fast asleep?
Did not, retired to bowers Flysian,
Great Mars leave with her his commission,
And Neptune erst, in treaty free,
Give up dominion o'er the sea?
Else where's the faith of famed orations,
Address, debate and proclamations,
Or courtly sermon, laureat ode,
And ballads on the wat'ry God;
With whose high strains great George enriches
His eloquence of gracious speeches?
Not faithful to our Highland eyes,
These deadly forms of vision rise.
Some whig-inspiring rebel sprite
Now palms delusion on our sight.
I'd scarcely trust a tale so vain,
Should revelation prompt the strain;
Or Ossian's ghost the scenes rehearse
In all the melody of Erse."
"Too long," quoth Malcolm, "from confusion,
You've dwelt already in delusion;
As sceptics, of all fools the chief,
Hold faith in creeds of unbelief.
I come to draw thy veil aside
Of error, prejudice and pride.
Fools love deception, but the wise
Prefer sad truths to pleasing lies.
For know, those hopes can ne'er succeed,
That trust on Britain's breaking reed.
For weak'ning long from bad to worse,
By cureless atrophy of purse,
She feels at length with trembling heart,
Her foes have found her mortal part.
As famed Achilles, dipp'd by Thetis
In Styx, as sung in antient ditties,
Grew all case-harden'd o'er, like steel,
Invulnerable, save his heel;
And laugh'd at swords and spears and squibs,
And all diseases, but the kibes;
Yet met at last his deadly wound,
By Paris' arrow nail'd to ground:
So Britain's boasted strength deserts
In these her empire's utmost skirts,
Removed beyond her fierce impressions,
And atmosphere of omnipresence;
Nor to this shore's remoter ends
Her dwarf-omnipotence extends.
Hence in this turn of things so strange,
'Tis time our principles to change:
For vain that boasted faith, that gathers
No perquisite, but tar and feathers;
No pay, but stripes from whiggish malice,
And no promotion, but the gallows.
I've long enough stood firm and steady,
Half-hang'd for loyalty already,
And could I save my neck and pelf,
I'd turn a flaming whig myself.
But since, obnoxious here to fate,
This saving wisdom comes too late,
Our noblest hopes already crost,
Our sal'ries gone, our titles lost,
Doom'd to worse suff'rings from the mob,
Than Satan's surg'ries used on Job;
What hope remains, but now with sleight
What's left of us to save by flight?
'Now raise thine eyes, for visions true
Again ascending wait thy view.'
"I look'd; and clad in early light,
The spires of Boston met my sight;
The morn o'er eastern hills afar
Illumed the varied scenes of war;
Great Howe had sweetly in the lap
Of Loring taken out his nap;
When all th' encircling hills around
With instantaneous breastworks crown'd,
With pointed thunders met his sight,
Like magic, rear'd the former night.
Each summit, far as eye commands,
Shone, peopled with rebellious bands.
Aloft their tow'ring heroes rise,
As Titans erst assail'd the skies;
Leagued in superior force to prove
The sceptred hand of British Jove.
Mounds piled on hills ascended fair
With batt'ries placed in middle air,
That hurl'd their fiery bolts amain,
In thunder on the trembling plain.
I saw, along the prostrate strand
Our baffled generals quit the land,
Eager, as frighted mermaids, flee
T' our boasted element, the sea,
And tow'rd their town of refuge fly,
Like convict Jews condemn'd to die.
Then to the north I turn'd my eyes,
Where Saratoga's heights arise,
And saw our chosen vet'ran band
Descend in terror o'er the land;
T' oppose this fury of alarms,
Saw all New-England wake to arms,
And every Yankee, full of mettle,
Swarm forth, like bees at sound of kettle.
Not Rome, when Tarquin raped Lucretia,
Saw wilder must'ring of militia.
Through all the woods and plains of fight,
What mortal battles pain'd my sight,
While British corses strew'd the shore,
And Hudson tinged his streams with gore.
What tongue can tell the dismal day,
Or paint the parti-color'd fray,
When yeomen left their fields afar
To plow the crimson plains of war;
When zeal to swords transform'd their shares,
And turn'd their pruning hooks to spears,
Changed tailor's geese to guns and ball,
And stretch'd to pikes the cobbler's awl;
While hunters, fierce like mighty Nimrod,
Made on our troops a furious inroad,
And levelling squint on barrel round,
Brought our beau-officers to ground;
While sunburnt wigs, in high command,
Rush daring on our frighted band,
And ancient beards and hoary hair,
Like meteors, stream in troubled air;
While rifle-frocks drove Gen'rals cap'ring,
And Red-coats shrunk from leathern apron,
And epaulette and gorget run
From whinyard brown and rusty gun.
With locks unshorn not Samson more
Made useless all the show of war,
Nor fought with ass's jaw for rarity
With more success, or singularity.
I saw our vet'ran thousands yield,
And pile their muskets on the field,
And peasant guards, in rueful plight,
March off our captured bands from fight;
While every rebel fife in play
To Yankee-doodle tuned its lay,
And like the music of the spheres,
Mellifluous sooth'd their vanquish'd ears."
"Alas, I cried, what baleful star
Sheds fatal influence on the war?
And who that chosen Chief of fame,
That heads this grand parade of shame?"
"There see how fate, great Malcolm cried,
Strikes with its bolts the tow'rs of pride!
Behold that martial Macaroni,
Compound of Phoebus and Bellona,
Equipp'd alike for feast or fray,
With warlike sword and singsong lay,
Where equal wit and valour join!
This, this is he--the famed Burgoyne!
Who pawn'd his honor and commission,
To coax the patriots to submission,
By songs and balls secure allegiance,
And dance the ladies to obedience.
Oft his Camp-Muses he'll parade
At Boston in the grand blockade;
And well inspired with punch of arrack,
Hold converse sweet in tent or barrack,
Aroused to more poetic passion,
Both by his theme and situation.
For genius works more strong and clear
When close confined, like bottled beer.
So Prior's wit gain'd matchless power
By inspiration of the Tower;
And Raleigh, once to prison hurl'd,
Wrote the whole hist'ry of the world;
So Wilkes grew, while in jail he lay,
More patriotic every day,
But found his zeal, when not confined,
Soon sink below the freezing point,
And public spirit, once so fair,
Evaporate in open air.
But thou, great favourite of Venus,
By no such luck shalt cramp thy genius;
Thy friendly stars, till wars shall cease,
Shall ward th' ill fortune of release,
And hold thee fast in bonds not feeble,
In good condition still to scribble.
Such merit fate shall shield from firing,
Bomb, carcase, langridge and cold iron,
Nor trust thy doubly-laurell'd head,
To rude assaults of flying lead.
Hence thou, from Yankee troops retreating,
For pure good fortune shalt be beaten,
Not taken oft, released or rescued,
Pass for small change, like simple Prescott;
But captured then, as fates befall,
Shall stand thy fortune, once for all.
Then raise thy daring thoughts sublime,
And dip thy conq'ring pen in rhyme,
And changing war for puns and jokes,
Write new Blockades and Maids of Oaks."
This said, he turn'd and saw the tale
Had dyed my trembling cheeks with pale;
Then pitying in a milder vein,
Pursued the visionary strain;
"Too much perhaps hath pain'd your view,
From vict'ries of the Rebel crew.
Now see the deeds, not small or scanty,
Of British valour and humanity;
And learn from this heroic sight,
How England's sons and friends can fight,
In what dread scenes their courage grows,
And how they conquer all their foes."
I look'd, and saw in wintry skies
Our spacious prison-walls arise,
Where Britons, all their captives taming,
Plied them with scourging, cold and famine,
By noxious food and plagues contagious
Reduced to life's last, fainting stages.
Amid the dead, that crowd the scene,
The moving skeletons were seen.
Aloft the haughty Loring stood,
And thrived, like Vampire, on their blood,
And counting all his gains arising,
Dealt daily rations out, of poison.
At hand our troops, in vaunting strain,
Insulted all their wants and pain,
And turn'd upon the dying tribe
The bitter taunt and scornful gibe;
And British captains, chiefs of might,
Exulting in the joyous sight,
On foes disarm'd, with courage daring,
Exhausted all their tropes of swearing.
Distain'd around with rebel blood,
Like Milton's Lazar house it stood,
Where grim Despair presided Nurse,
And Death was Regent of the house.
Amazed I cried, "Is this the way
That British valor wins the day?"
More had I said in strains unwelcome,
Till interrupted thus by Malcolm.
"Blame not, said he, but learn the reason
Of this new mode of conq'ring treason.
'Tis but a wise, politic plan
To root out all the rebel clan;
For surely treason ne'er can thrive
Where not a soul is left alive;
A scheme all other chiefs to surpass,
And do th' effectual work to purpose.
Know, War itself is nothing further
Than th' art and mystery of Murther;
He, who most methods has essay'd,
Is the best Gen'ral of the trade,
And stands Death's plenipotentiary
To conquer, poison, starve and bury.
This Howe well knew and thus began;
(Despising Carlton's coaxing plan,
To keep his pris'ners well and merry,
And deal them food, like commissary,
And by parol or ransom vain,
Dismiss them all to fight again)
Hence his first captives, with great spirit
He tied up, for his troops to fire at,
And hoped they'd learn on foes thus taken,
To aim at rebels without shaking.
Then deep in stratagem, he plann'd
The sure destruction of the land;
Turn'd famine, torture and despair
To useful enginry of war;
Sent forth the small-pox, and the greater,
To thin the land of every traitor;
Spread desolation o'er their head,
And plagues in providence's stead;
Perform'd with equal skill and beauty
Th' avenging Angel's tour of duty:
Then bade these prison-walls arise,
Like temple tow'ring to the skies,
Where British Clemency renown'd
Might fix her seat on hallow'd ground,
(That Virtue, as each herald saith,
Of whole blood kin to Punic Faith)
Where all her godlike pow'rs unveiling,
She finds a grateful shrine to dwell in:
And at this altar for her honor,
Chose this High-priest to wait upon her,
Who with just rites, in ancient guise,
Offers the human sacrifice.
Here every day, her vot'ries tell,
She more devours, than th' idol Bel;
And thirsts more rav'nously for gore,
Than any worshipp'd Power before.
That ancient heathen godhead, Moloch,
Oft stay'd his stomach with a bullock;
And if his morning rage you'd check first,
One child sufficed him for a breakfast:
But British clemency with zeal
Devours her hundreds at a meal;
Right well by nat'ralists defined
A being of carniv'rous kind:
So erst Gargantua pleased his palate,
And eat six pilgrims up in sallad.
Not blest with maw less ceremonious
The wide-mouth'd whale, that swallow'd Jonas;
Like earthquake gapes, to death devote,
That open sepulchre, her throat;
The grave or barren womb you'd stuff,
And sooner bring to cry, enough;
Or fatten up to fair condition
The lean-flesh'd kine of Pharaoh's vision.
Behold her temple, where it stands
Erect, by famed Britannic hands.
'Tis the Black-hole of Indian structure,
New-built in English architecture,
On plan, 'tis said, contrived and wrote
By Clive, before he cut his throat;
Who, ere he took himself in hand,
Was her high-priest in nabob-land:
And when with conq'ring triumph crown'd,
He'd well enslaved the nation round,
With tender British heart, the Chief,
Since slavery's worse than loss of life,
Bade desolation circle far,
And famine end the work of war;
And loosed their chains, and for their merits
Dismiss'd them free to worlds of spirits.
Whence they with choral hymns of praise,
Return'd to sooth his latter days,
And hov'ring round his restless bed,
Spread nightly visions o'er his head.
Now turn thine eyes to nobler sights,
And mark the prowess of our fights.
Behold, like whelps of Britain's lion,
Our warriors, Clinton, Vaughan, and Tryon,
March forth with patriotic joy
To ravish, plunder, burn, destroy.
Great Gen'rals, foremost in their nation,
The journeymen of Desolation!
Like Samson's foxes, each assails,
Let loose with firebrands in their tails,
And spreads destruction more forlorn,
Than they among Philistine corn.
And see in flames their triumphs rise,
Illuming all the nether skies,
O'er-streaming, like a new Aurora,
The western hemisphere with glory!
What towns, in ashes laid, confess
These heroes' prowess and success!
What blacken'd walls and burning fanes,
For trophies spread the ruin'd plains!
What females, caught in evil hour,
By force submit to British power;
Or plunder'd negroes in disaster
Confess King George their lord and master!
What crimson corses strew their way,
What smoaking carnage dims the day!
Along the shore, for sure reduction,
They wield the besom of destruction.
Great Homer likens, in his Ilias,
To dogstar bright the fierce Achilles;
But ne'er beheld in red procession
Three dogstars rise in constellation,
Nor saw, in glooms of evening misty,
Such signs of fiery triplicity,
Which, far beyond the comet's tail,
Portend destruction where they sail.
Oh, had Great-Britain's warlike shore
Produced but ten such heroes more,
They'd spared the pains, and held the station
Of this world's final conflagration;
Which when its time comes, at a stand,
Would find its work all done t' its hand!
Yet though gay hopes our eyes may bless,
Malignant fate forbids success;
Like morning dreams our conquest flies,
Dispersed before the dawn arise."
Here Malcolm paused; when pond'ring long
Grief thus gave utt'rance to my tongue.
"Where shrink in fear our friends dismay'd,
And where the Tories' promised aid?
Can none, amid these fierce alarms,
Assist the power of royal arms?"
"In vain, he cried, our King depends
On promised aid of Tory friends.
When our own efforts want success,
Friends ever fail, as fears increase.
As leaves, in blooming verdure wove,
In warmth of summer clothe the grove,
But when autumnal frosts arise,
Leave bare their trunks to wintry skies:
So, while your power can aid their ends,
You ne'er can need ten thousand friends;
But once in want, by foes dismay'd,
May advertise them, stol'n or stray'd.
Thus ere Great-Britain's force grew slack,
She gain'd that aid she did not lack;
But now in dread, imploring pity,
All hear unmoved her dol'rous ditty;
Allegiance wand'ring turns astray,
And Faith grows dim for lack of pay.
In vain she tries, by new inventions,
Fear, falsehood, flatt'ry, threats and pensions;
Or sends Commiss'ners with credentials
Of promises and penitentials.
As, for his fare o'er Styx of old,
The Trojan stole the bough of gold,
And least grim Cerb'rus should make head,
Stuff'd both his fobs with ginger-bread:
Behold, at Britain's utmost shifts,
Comes Johnstone loaded with like gifts,
To venture through the whiggish tribe,
To cuddle, wheedle, coax and bribe:
And call, to aid his desp'rate mission,
His petticoated politician,
While Venus, join'd to act the farce,
Strolls forth embassadress for Mars.
In vain he strives, for while he lingers,
These mastiffs bite his off'ring fingers;
Nor buys for George and realms infernal
One spaniel, but the mongrel, Arnold.
"'Twere vain to paint, in vision'd show,
The mighty nothings done by Howe;
What towns he takes in mortal fray,
As stations whence to run away;
What triumphs gain'd in conflict warm,
No aid to us, to them no harm;
For still th' event alike is fatal,
Whate'er success attend the battle,
Whether he vict'ry gain or lose it,
Who ne'er had skill enough to use it.
And better 'twere, at their expense,
T' have drubb'd him into common sense,
And waked, by bastings on his rear,
Th' activity, though but of fear.
By slow advance his arms prevail,
Like emblematic march of snail,
That, be Millennium nigh or far,
'Twould long before him end the war.
From York to Philadelphian ground,
He sweeps the pompous flourish round,
Wheel'd circ'lar by eccentric stars,
Like racing boys at prison-bars,
Who take th' opposing crew in whole,
By running round the adverse goal;
Works wide the traverse of his course,
Like ship t' evade the tempest's force;
Like mill-horse circling in his race,
Advances not a single pace,
And leaves no trophies of reduction,
Save that of cankerworms, destruction.
Thus having long both countries curst,
He quits them as he found them first,
Steers home disgraced, of little worth,
To join Burgoyne and rail at North.
"Now raise thine eyes and view with pleasure,
The triumphs of his famed successor."
"I look'd, and now by magic lore
Faint rose to view the Jersey shore:
But dimly seen in gloom array'd,
For night had pour'd her sable shade,
And every star, with glimm'rings pale,
Was muffled deep in ev'ning veil.
Scarce visible, in dusky night
Advancing red-coats rose in sight;
The length'ning train in gleaming rows
Stole silent from their slumb'ring foes;
No trembling soldier dared to speak,
And not a wheel presumed to creak.
My looks my new surprize confess'd,
Till by great Malcolm thus address'd.
"Spend not thy wits in vain researches;
'Tis one of Clinton's moonlight marches.
From Philadelphia now retreating
To save his baffled troops a beating,
With hasty strides he flies in vain,
His rear attack'd on Monmouth plain.
With various chance the dread affray
Holds in suspense till close of day,
When his tired bands, o'ermatch'd in fight,
Are rescued by descending night.
He forms his camp, with great parade,
While evening spreads the world in shade,
Then still, like some endanger'd spark,
Steals off on tiptoe in the dark:
Yet writes his king in boasting tone
How grand he march'd by light of moon.
I see him, but thou canst not; proud
He leads in front the trembling crowd,
And wisely knows, as danger's near,
'Twill fall much heaviest on his rear.
Go on, great Gen'ral, nor regard
The scoffs of every scribbling bard;
Who sings how gods, that fearful night,
Aided by miracle your flight,
As once they used, in Homer's day,
To help weak heroes run away;
Tells how the hours, at this sad trial,
Went back, as erst on Ahaz' dial,
While British Joshua stay'd the moon
On Monmouth plains for Ajalon.
Heed not their sneers or gibes so arch,
Because she set before your march.
A small mistake! your meaning right;
You take her influence for her light:
Her influence, which shall be your guide,
And o'er your Gen'ralship preside.
Hence still shall teem your empty skull
With vict'ries, when the moon's at full,
Which by transition passing strange
Wane to defeats before the change.
Still shall you steer, on land or ocean,
By like eccentric lunar motion;
Eclips'd in many a fatal crisis,
And dimm'd when Washington arises.
"And see how Fate, herself turn'd traitor,
Inverts the ancient course of nature;
And changes manners, tempers, climes,
To suit the genius of the times!
See, Bourbon forms a gen'rous plan,
New guardian of the rights of man,
And prompt in firm alliance joins
To aid the Rebels' proud designs!
Behold from realms of eastern day
His sails innum'rous shape their way,
In warlike line the billows sweep,
And roll the thunders of the deep!
See, low in equinoctial skies,
The western islands fall their prize;
See British flags, o'ermatch'd in might,
Put all their faith in instant flight,
Or broken squadrons, from th' affray,
Drag slow their wounded hulks away!
Behold his Chiefs, in daring setts,
D'Estaignes, De Grasses and Fayettes,
Spread through our camps their dread alarms,
And swell the fear of rebel arms!
Yet ere our glories sink in night,
A gleam of hope shall strike your sight;
As lamps, that fail of oil and fire,
Collect one glimm'ring to expire.
"For lo, where southern shores extend,
Behold our gather'd hosts descend,
Where Charleston views, with varying beams
Her turrets gild th' encircling streams!
There by superior force compell'd,
Behold their gallant Lincoln yield;
Nor aught the wreaths avail him now,
Pluck'd from Burgoyne's imperious brow.
See, furious from the vanquish'd strand,
Cornwallis leads his mighty band;
The southern realms and Georgian shore
Submit and own the victor's power;
Lo! sunk before his wasting way,
The Carolinas fall his prey!
See, shrinking from his conq'ring eye,
The Rebel legions fall or fly;
And with'ring in these torrid skies,
The northern laurel fades and dies!
With rapid force he leads his train
To fair Virginia's cultured plain,
Triumphant eyes the travell'd zone,
And boasts the southern realm his own.
"Nor yet this hero's glories bright
Blaze only in the fields of fight.
Not Howe's humanity more deserving
In gifts of hanging and of starving;
Not Arnold plunders more tobacco,
Or steals more negroes for Jamaica;
Scarce Rodney's self, among th' Eustatians,
Insults so well the laws of nations;
Ev'n Tryon's fame grows dim, and mourning
He yields the civic crown of burning.
I see, with pleasure and surprize,
New triumph sparkling in your eyes;
But view, where now renew'd in might,
Again the Rebels dare the fight."
"I look'd, and far in southern skies
Saw Greene, their second hope, arise,
And with his small, but gallant, band.
Invade the Carolinian land.
As winds, in stormy circles whirl'd,
Rush billowy o'er the darken'd world,
And where their wasting fury roves
Successive sweep th' astonish'd groves:
Thus where he pours the rapid fight,
Our boasted conquests sink in night,
And far o'er all the extended field
Our forts resign, our armies yield,
Till now, regain'd the vanquish'd land,
He lifts his standard on the strand.
"Again to fair Virginia's coast
I turn'd and view'd the British host,
Where Chesapeak's wide waters lave
Her shores and join th' Atlantic wave.
There famed Cornwallis tow'ring rose,
And scorn'd secure his distant foes;
His bands the haughty rampart raise,
And bid the Royal standard blaze.
When lo, where ocean's bounds extend,
Behold the Gallic sails ascend,
With fav'ring breezes stem their way,
And crowd with ships the spacious bay.
Lo! Washington, from northern shores,
O'er many a region wheels his force,
And Rochambeau, with legions bright,
Descends in terror to the fight.
Not swifter cleaves his rapid way
The eagle, cow'ring o'er his prey;
Or knights in famed romance, that fly
On fairy pinions through the sky.
Amazed, the Briton's startled pride
Sees ruin wake on every side,
And all his troops, to fate consign'd,
By instantaneous stroke, Burgoyned.
Not Cadmus view'd with more surprise,
From earth embattled armies rise,
Who from the dragon's teeth beheld
Men starting fierce with spear and shield.
I saw, with looks downcast and grave,
The Chief emerging from his cave,
Where chased, like fox, in mighty round,
His hunters earth'd him first in ground;
And doom'd by fate to rebel sway,
Yield all his captured host a prey.
There while I view'd the vanquish'd town,
Thus with a sigh my friend went on."
"Behold'st thou not that band forlorn,
Like slaves in Roman triumphs borne,
Their faces length'ning with their fears,
And cheeks distain'd with streams of tears;
Like dramatis personæ sage,
Equipp'd to act on Tyburn's stage.
Lo, these are they, who lured by follies
Left all, and follow'd great Cornwallis,
Expectant of the promised glories,
And new Millennial reign of Tories!
Alas! in vain, all doubts forgetting,
They tried th' omnipotence of Britain;
But found her arm, once strong and brave,
So shorten'd now, she cannot save.
Not more aghast, departed souls
Who risk'd their fate on Popish bulls,
And find St. Peter, at the wicket,
Refuse to countersign their ticket,
When driven to purgatory back,
With each his pardon in his pack;
Than Tories, must'ring at their stations,
On faith of royal proclamations.
As Pagan chiefs at every crisis,
Confirm'd their leagues by sacrifices,
And herds of beasts, to all their deities,
Oblations fell, at close of treaties:
Cornwallis thus, in ancient fashion,
Concludes his grand capitulation;
And heedless of their screams or suff'rings,
Gives up the Tories for sin-off'rings.
See where, relieved from sad embargo,
Steer off consign'd a recreant cargo;
Like old scape-goats to roam in pain,
Mark'd like their great forerunner, Cain.
The rest now doom'd by British leagues
To vengeance of resentful Whigs,
Hold doubtful lives on tenure ill
Of tenancy at Rebel-will,
While hov'ring o'er their forfeit persons,
The gallows waits his just reversions.
"Thou too, M'Fingal, ere that day,
Shalt taste the terrors of th' affray.
See, o'er thee hangs in angry skies,
Where Whiggish Constellations rise,
And while plebeian signs ascend,
Their mob-inspiring aspects bend,
That baleful Star, whose horrid hair
Shakes forth the plagues of down and tar!
I see the pole, that rears on high
Its flag terrific through the sky;
The mob beneath prepared t' attack,
And tar predestined for thy back.
Ah quit, my friend, this dang'rous home,
Nor wait the darker scenes to come.
For know, that fate's auspicious door,
Once shut to flight, is oped no more;
Nor wears its hinge, by changing stations,
Like Mercy's door in Proclamations.
"But lest thou pause, or doubt to fly,
To stranger visions turn thine eye.
Each cloud, that dimm'd thy mental ray,
And all the mortal mists decay.
See, more than human pow'rs befriend,
And lo! their hostile forms ascend.
There tow'ring o'er the extended strand,
The Genius of this western land,
For vengeance arm'd, his sword assumes,
And stands, like Tories, dress'd in plumes!
See, o'er yon Council-seat, with pride
How Freedom spreads her banners wide!
There Patriotism, with torch address'd
To fire with zeal each daring breast;
While all the Virtues in their train,
Escaped with pleasure o'er the main,
Desert their ancient British station,
Possess'd with rage of emigration.
Honor, his bus'ness at a stand,
For fear of starving quits their land;
And Justice, long disgraced at Court, had
By Mansfield's sentence been transported.
Vict'ry and Fame attend their way,
Though Britain wish their longer stay;
Care not what George or North would be at,
Nor heed their writs of Ne exeat;
But fired with love of colonizing,
Quit the fall'n empire for the rising."
"I look'd, and saw, with horror smitten,
These hostile pow'rs averse to Britain.
"When lo, an awful spectre rose,
With languid paleness on his brows;
Wan dropsies swell'd his form beneath,
And iced his bloated cheeks with death;
His tatter'd robes exposed him bare
To every blast of ruder air;
On two weak crutches propp'd he stood,
That bent at every step he trod;
Gilt titles graced their sides so slender,
One, "Regulation," t'other, "Tender;"
His breastplate graved, with various dates,
"The Faith of all th' United States;"
Before him went his funeral pall,
His grave stood, dug to wait his fall.
"I started, and aghast I cried,
"What means this spectre at their side?
What danger from a pow'r so vain,
Or union with that splendid train?"
"Alas, great Malcolm cried, experience
Might teach you not to trust appearance.
Here stands, as dress'd by fell Bellona,
The ghost of Continental Money!
Of Dame Necessity descended,
With whom Credulity engender'd:
Though born with constitution frail,
And feeble strength, that soon must fail,
Yet strangely vers'd in magic lore,
And gifted with transforming power.
His skill the wealth Peruvian joins,
With diamonds of Brazilian mines.
As erst Jove fell, by subtle wiles,
On Danae's apron through the tiles,
In show'rs of gold; his potent wand
Shall shed like show'rs o'er all the land.
Less great the wondrous art was reckon'd
Of tallies cast by Charles the second,
Or Law's famed Missisippi schemes,
Or all the wealth of South-Sea dreams.
For he, of all the world, alone
Owns the long-sought Philos'pher's stone,
Restores the fabulous times to view,
And proves the tale of Midas true.
O'er heaps of rags he waves his wand;
All turn to gold at his command,
Provide for present wants and future,
Raise armies, victual, clothe, accoutre,
Adjourn our conquests by essoin,
Check Howe's advance, and take Burgoyne;
Then makes all days of payment vain,
And turns all back to rags again.
In vain great Howe shall play his part
To ape and counterfeit his art;
In vain shall Clinton, more belated,
A conj'rer turn to imitate it.
With like ill luck and pow'rs as narrow,
They'll fare, like sorcerers of old Pharaoh;
Who, though the art they understood
Of turning rivers into blood,
And caused their frogs and snakes t' exist,
That with some merit croak'd and hiss'd,
Yet ne'er by every quaint device
Could frame the true Mosaic lice.
He for the Whigs his arts shall try,
Their first, and long their sole, ally;
A Patriot firm, while breath he draws,
He'll perish in his Country's cause,
And when his magic labors cease,
Lie buried in eternal peace.
Now view the scenes, in future hours,
That wait the famed European powers.
See, where yon chalky cliffs arise,
The hills of Britain strike your eyes;
Its small extension long supplied
By full immensity of pride;
So small, that had it found a station
In this new world, at first creation,
Or doom'd by justice, been betimes
Transported over for its crimes,
We'd find full room for't in lake Erie, or
That larger water-pond, Superior,
Where North at margin taking stand,
Would scarce be able to spy land.
See, dwindling from her height amain,
What piles of ruin spread the plain;
With mould'ring hulks her ports are fill'd,
And brambles clothe the lonely field!
See, on her cliffs her Genius lies,
His handkerchief at both his eyes,
With many a deep-drawn sigh and groan,
To mourn her ruin, and his own!
While joyous Holland, France and Spain
With conq'ring navies awe the main;
And Russian banners wide unfurl'd
Spread commerce round the eastern world.
And see, (sight hateful and tormenting!)
This Rebel Empire, proud and vaunting,
From anarchy shall change her crasis,
And fix her pow'r on firmer basis;
To glory, wealth and fame ascend,
Her commerce wake, her realms extend;
Where now the panther guards his den,
Her desert forests swarm with men;
Gay cities, tow'rs and columns rise,
And dazzling temples meet the skies;
Her pines, descending to the main,
In triumph spread the wat'ry plain,
Ride inland seas with fav'ring gales,
And crowd her ports with whitening sails:
Till to the skirts of western day,
The peopled regions own her sway."
Thus far M'Fingal told his tale,
When startling shouts his ears assail;
And strait the Constable, their sentry,
Aghast rush'd headlong down the entry,
And with wild outcry, like magician,
Dispersed the residue of vision.
For now the Whigs the news had found
Of Tories must'ring under ground,
And with rude bangs and loud uproar,
'Gan thunder furious at the door.
The lights put out, each tory calls,
To cover him on cellar walls,
Creeps in each box, or bin, or tub,
To hide him from the rage of mob,
Or lurks, where cabbage-heads in row
Adorn'd the sides with verdant show.
M'Fingal deem'd it vain to stay,
And risk his bones in second fray:
But chose a grand retreat from foes,
In literal sense, beneath their nose.
The window then, which none else knew,
He softly open'd and crept through,
And crawling slow in deadly fear,
By movements wise made good his rear.
Then scorning all the fame of martyr,
For Boston took his swift departure,
Nor look'd back on the fatal spot,
More than the family of Lot.
Not North in more distress'd condition,
Out-voted first by opposition;
Nor good King George, when our dire phantom
Of Independence came to haunt him,
Which hov'ring round by night and day,
Not all his conj'rors e'er could lay.
His friends, assembled for his sake,
He wisely left in pawn, at stake,
To tarring, feath'ring, kicks and drubs
Of furious, disappointed mobs,
Or with their forfeit heads to pay
For him, their leader, crept away.
So when wise Noah summon'd greeting,
All animals to gen'ral meeting,
From every side the members went,
All kinds of beasts to represent;
Each, from the flood, took care t' embark,
And save his carcase in the ark:
But as it fares in state and church,
Left his constituents in the lurch.
The Troubadour. Canto 2
THE first, the very first; oh! none
Can feel again as they have done;
In love, in war, in pride, in all
The planets of life's coronal,
However beautiful or bright,--
What can be like their first sweet light?
When will the youth feel as he felt,
When first at beauty's feet he knelt?
As if her least smile could confer
A kingdom on its worshipper;
Or ever care, or ever fear
Had cross'd love's morning hemisphere.
And the young bard, the first time praise
Sheds its spring sunlight o'er his lays,
Though loftier laurel, higher name,
May crown the minstrel's noontide fame,
They will not bring the deep content
Of his lure's first encouragement.
And where the glory that will yield
The flush and glow of his first field
To the young chief? Will RAYMOND ever
Feel as he now is feeling?--Never.
The sun wept down or ere they gain'd
The glen where the chief band remain'd.
It was a lone and secret shade,
As nature form'd an ambuscade
For the bird's nest and the deer's lair,
Though now less quiet guests were there.
On one side like a fortress stood
A mingled pine and chesnut wood;
Autumn was falling, but the pine
Seem'd as it mock'd all change; no sign
Of season on its leaf was seen,
The same dark gloom of changeless green.
But like the gorgeous Persian bands
'Mid the stern race of northern lands,
The chesnut boughs were bright with all
That gilds and mocks the autumn's fall.
Like stragglers from an army's rear
Gradual they grew, near and less near,
Till ample space was left to raise,
Amid the trees, the watch-fire's blaze;
And there, wrapt in their cloaks around,
The soldiers scatter'd o'er the ground.
One was more crowded than the rest,
And to that one was RAYMOND prest;--
There sat the chief: kind greetings came
At the first sound of RAYMOND'S name.
'Am I not proud that this should be,
Thy first field to be fought with me:
Years since thy father's sword and mine
Together dimm'd their maiden shine.
We were sworn brothers; when he fell
'Twas mine to hear his last farewell:
And how revenged I need not say,
Though few were left to tell that day.--
Thy brow is his, and thou wilt wield
A sword like his in battle-field.
Let the day break, and thou shalt ride
Another RAYMOND by my side;
And thou shalt win and I confer,
To-morrow, knightly brand and spur.'
With thoughts of pride, and thoughts of grief,
Sat RAYMOND by that stranger chief,
So proud to hear his father's fame,
So sad to hear that father's name,
And then to think that he had known
That father by his name alone;
And aye his heart within him burn'd
When his eye to DE VALENCE turn'd,
Mark'd his high step, his warlike mien,--
'And such my father would have been!'
A few words of years past away,
A few words of the coming day,
They parted, not that night for sleep;
RAYMOND had thoughts that well might keep
Rest from his pillow,--memory, hope,
In youth's horizon had full scope
To blend and part each varied line
Of cloud and clear, of shade and shine.
--He rose and wander'd round, the light
Of the full moon fell o'er each height;
Leaving the wood behind in shade,
O'er rock, and glen, and rill it play'd.
He follow'd a small stream whose tide
Was bank'd by lilies on each side,
And there, as if secure of rest,
A swan had built her lonely nest;
And spread out was each lifted wing,
Like snow or silver glittering.
Wild flowers grew around the dale,
Sweet children of the sun and gale;
From every crag the wild vine fell,
To all else inaccessible;
And where a dark rock rose behind,
Their shelter from the northern wind,
Grew myrtles with their fragrant leaves,
Veil'd with the web the gossamer weaves,
So pearly fair, so light, so frail,
Like beauty's self more than her veil.--
And first to gaze upon the scene,
Quiet as there had never been
Heavier step than village maid
With flowers for her nuptial braid,
Or louder sound than hermit's prayer,
To crush its grass or load its air.
Then to look on the armed train,
The watch-fire on the wooded plain,
And think how with the morrow's dawn,
Would banner wave, and blade be drawn;
How clash of steel, and trumpet's swell,
Would wake the echoes of each dell.
--And thus it ever is with life,
Peace sleeps upon the breast of Strife,
But to be waken'd from its rest,
Till comes that sleep the last and best.
And RAYMOND paused at last, and laid
Himself beneath a chesnut's shade,
A little way apart from all,
That he might catch the waterfall,
Whose current swept like music round,--
When suddenly another sound
Came on the ear; it was a tone,
Rather a murmur than a song,
As he who breathed deem'd all unknown
The words, thoughts, echo bore along.
Parting the boughs which hung between,
Close, thick, as if a tapestried screen,
RAYMOND caught sight of a white plume
Waving o'er brow and cheek of bloom;
And yet the song was sad and low,
As if the chords it waked were woe.
SONG OF THE YOUNG KNIGHT.
YOUR scarf is bound upon my breast,
Your colours dance upon my crest,--
They have been soil'd by dust and rain,
And they must wear a darker stain.
I mark'd thy tears as fast they fell,
I saw but heard not thy farewell,
I gave my steed the spur and rein,--
I dared not look on thee again.
My cheek is pale, but not with fears,
And I have dash'd aside my tears;
This woman's softness of my breast
Will vanish when my spear's in rest.
I know that farewell was our last,
That life and love from me are past;
For I have heard the fated sign
That speaks the downfall of our line.
I slept the soldier's tired sleep;
But yet I heard the music sweep,
Dim, faint, as when I stood beside
The bed whereon my father died.
Farewell, sweet love! never again
Will thine ear listen to the strain
With which so oft at midnight's hour
I've waked the silence of thy bower.
Farewell! I would not tears should stain
Thy fair cheek with their burning rain:
Tears, sweet! would an ill offering be
To one whose death was worthy thee.
RAYMOND thought on that song next day
When bleeding that young warrior lay,
While his hand, in its death-pang, prest
A bright curl to his wounded breast.
AND waning stars, and brightening sky,
And on the clouds a crimson dye,
And fresher breeze, and opening flowers,
Tell the approach of morning hours.
Oh, how can breath, and light, and bloom,
Herald a day of death and doom!
With knightly pennons, which were spread
Like mirror's for the morning's red,
Gather the ranks, while shout and horn
Are o'er the distant mountains borne.
'Twas a fair sight, that arm'd array
Winding through the deep vale their way,
Helmet and breast-plate gleaming in gold,
Banners waving their crimson fold,
Like clouds of the day-break: hark to the peal
Of the war-cry, answer'd by clanging steel!
The young chief strokes his courser's neck,
The ire himself had provoked to check,
Impatient for that battle plain
He may reach but never leave again;
And with flashing eye and sudden start,
He hears the trumpet's stately tone,
Like the echo of his beating heart,
And meant to rouse his ear alone.
And by his side the warrior grey,
With hair as white as the plumes that play
Over his head, yet spurs he as proud,
As keen as the youngest knight of the crowd:
And glad and glorious on they ride
In strength and beauty, power and pride.
And such the morning, but let day
Close on that gallant fair array,
The moon will see another sight
Than that which met the dawning light.--
Look on that field,--'tis the battle field!
Look on what harvest victory will yield!
There the steed and his rider o'erthrown,
Crouch together, their warfare is done:
The bolt is undrawn, the bow is unbent,
And the archer lies like his arrow spent.
Deep is the banner of crimson dyed,
But not with the red of its morning pride;
Torn and trampled with soil and stain,
When will it float on the breeze again;--
And over the ghastly plain are spread,
Pillow'd together, the dying and dead.
There lay one with an unclosed eye
Set in bright, cold vacancy,
While on its fix'd gaze the moonbeam shone,
Light mocking the eye whose light was gone;
And by his side another lay,
The life-blood ebbing fast away,
But calm his cheek and calm his eye,
As if leant on his mother's bosom to die.
Too weak to move, he feebly eyed
A wolf and a vulture close to his side,
Watching and waiting, himself the prey,
While each one kept the other away.
Little of this the young warrior deems
When, with heart and head all hopes and dreams,
He hastes for the battle:--The trumpet's call
Waken'd RAYMOND the first of all;
His the first step that to stirrup sprung,
His the first banner upwards flung;
And brow and cheek with his spirit glow'd,
When first at DE VALENCE'S side he rode.
The quiet glen is left behind,
The dark wood lost in the blue sky;
When other sounds come on the wind,
And other pennons float on high.
With snow-white plumes and glancing crest,
And standard raised, and spear in rest,
On a small river's farther banks
Wait their approach Sir HERBERT'S ranks.--
One silent gaze, as if each band
Could slaughter both with eye and hand.
Then peals the war-cry! then the dash
Amid the waters! and the crash
Of spears,--the falchion's iron ring,--
The arrow hissing from the string,
Tell they have met. Thus from the height
The torrent rushes in its might.
With the lightning's speed, the thunder's peal,
Flashes the lance, and strikes the steel.
Many a steed to the earth is borne,
Many a banner trampled and torn;
Or ever its brand could strike a blow,
Many a gallant arm lies low;--
Many a scarf, many a crest,
Float with the leaves on the river's breast;
And strange it is to see how around
Buds and flowers strew the ground,
For the banks were cover'd with wild rose trees,
Oh! what should they do amid scenes like these.
In the blue stream, as it hovered o'er,
A hawk was mirror'd, and before
Its wings could reach yon pine, which stands
A bow-shot off from the struggling bands,
The stain of death was on the flood,
And the red waters roll'd dark with blood.--
RAYMOND'S spear was the first that flew,
He the first who dash'd the deep river through;
His step the first on the hostile strand,
And the first that fell was borne down by his hand.
The fight is ended:--the same sun
Has seen the battle lost and won;
The field is cover'd with dying and dead,
With the valiant who stood, and the coward who fled.
And a gallant salute the trumpets sound,
As the warriors gather from victory around.
On a hill that skirted the purple flood,
With his peers around, DE VALENCE stood,
And with bended knee, and forehead bare,
Save its cloud of raven hair,
And beautiful as some wild star
Come in its glory and light from afar,
With his dark eyes flashing stern and bright,
And his cheek o'erflooded with crimson light,
And the foeman's banner over his head,
His first field's trophy proudly spread,
Knelt RAYMOND down his boon to name,--
The knightly spurs he so well might claim:
And a softness stole to DE VALENCE'S eyes,
As he bade the new-made knight arise.--
From his own belt he took the brand,
And gave it into RAYMOND'S hand,
And said it might a memory yield
Of his father's friend, and his own first field.
Pleasant through the darkening night
Shines from Clarin's towers the light.
Home from the battle the warriors ride,
In the soldiers' triumph, and soldiers' pride:
The drawbridge is lower'd, and in they pour,
Like the sudden rush of a summer shower,
While the red torch-light bursts through the gloom,
Over banner and breast-plate, helm and plume.
Sudden a flood of lustre play'd
Over a lofty ballustrade,
Music and perfume swept the air,
Messengers sweet for the spring to prepare;
And like a sunny vision sent
For worship and astonishment,
Aside a radiant ladye flung
The veil that o'er her beauty hung.
With stately grace to those below,
She bent her gem encircled brow,
And bade them welcome in the name
Of her they saved, the castle's dame,
Who had not let another pay
Thanks, greeting to their brave array,--
But she had vow'd the battle night
To fasting, prayer, and holy rite.
On the air the last tones of the music die,
The odour passes away like a sigh,
The torches flash a parting gleam,
And she vanishes as she came, like a dream.
But many an eye dwelt on the shade,
Till fancy again her form display'd,
And still again seem'd many an ear
The softness of her voice to hear.
And many a heart had a vision that night,
Which future years never banish'd quite.
And sign and sound of festival
Are ringing through that castle hall;
Tapers, whose flame send a perfumed cloud,
Flash their light o'er a gorgeous crowd;
With a thousand colours the tapestry falls
Over the carved and gilded walls,
And, between, the polish'd oak pannels hear,
Like dark mirrors, the image of each one there.
At one end the piled up hearth is spread
With sparkling embers of glowing red:
Above the branching antlers have place,
Sign of many a hard won chase;
And beneath, in many a polish'd line,
The arms of the hunter and warrior shine;
And around the fire, like a laurell'd arch,
Raised for some victor's triumphal march,
The wood is fretted with tracery fair,
And green boughs and flowers are waving there.
Lamps, like faery planets shine,
O'er massive cups of the genial wine,
And shed a ray more soft and fair
Than the broad red gleam of the torch's glare;
And, flitting like a rainbow, plays
In beautiful and changing rays,
When from the pictured windows fall
The colour'd shadows o'er the hall;
As every pane some bright hue lent
To vary the lighted element.
The ladye of the festive board
Was ward to the castle's absent lord;
The Ladye ADELINE ,--the same
Bright vision that with their greeting came
Maidens four stood behind her chair,
Each one was young, and each one fair;
Yet they were but as the stars at night
When the mood shines forth in her fullness of light
On the knot of her wreathed hair was set
A blood-red ruby coronet;
But among the midnight cloud of curls
That hung o'er her brow were eastern pearls,
As if to tell their wealth of snow,
How white her forehead could look below.
Around her floated a veil of white,
Like the silvery rack round the star of twilight;
And down to the ground her mantle's fold
Spread its length of purple and gold;
And sparkling gems were around her arm,
That shone like marble, only warm,
With the blue veins wandering tide,
And the hand with its crimson blush inside.
A zone of precious stones embraced
The graceful circle of her waist,
Sparkling as if they were proud
Of the clasp to them allow'd.
But yet there was 'mid this excess
Of soft and dazzling loveliness,
A something in the eye, and hand,
And forehead, speaking of command:
An eye whose dark flash seem'd allied
To even more than beauty's pride,--
A hand as only used to wave
Its sign to worshipper and slave,--
A forehead, but that was too fair
To read of aught but beauty there!
And RAYMOND had the place of pride,
The place so envied by her side,--
The victor's seat,--and overhead
The banner he had won was spread.
His health was pledged!--he only heard
The murmur of one silver word;
The pageant seem'd to fade away,
Vanish'd the board and glad array,
The gorgeous hall around grew dim,
There shone one only light for him,
That radiant form, whose brightness fell
In power upon him like a spell,
Laid in its strength by Love to reign
Despotic over heart and brain.
Silent he stood amid the mirth,
Oh, love is timid in its birth!
Watching her lightest look or stir,
As he but look'd and breathed with her.
Gay words were passing, but he leant
In silence; yet, one quick glance sent,--
His secret is no more his own,
When has woman her power not known?
The feast broke up:--that midnight shade
Heard many a gentle serenade
Beneath the ladye's lattice. One
Breathed after all the rest were gone.
SLEEP , ladye! for the moonlit hour,
Like peace, is shining on thy bower;
It is so late, the nightingale
Has ended even his love tale.
Sleep, ladye! 'neath thy turret grows,
Cover'd with flowers, one pale white rose;
I envy its sweet sighs, they steep
The perfumed airs that lull thy sleep.
Perchance, around thy chamber floats
The music of my lone lute notes,--
Oh, may they on thine eyelids fall,
And make thy slumbers musical!
Sleep, ladye! to thy rest be given
The gleamings of thy native heaven,
And thoughts of early paradise,
The treasures of thy sleeping eyes.
I NEED not say whose was the song
The sighing night winds bore along.
RAYMOND had left the maiden's side
As one too dizzy with the tide
To breast the stream, or strive, or shrink,
Enough for him to feel, not think;
Enough for him the dim sweet fear,
The twilight of the heart, or ere
Awakening hope has named the name
Of love, or blown its spark to flame.
Restlessness, but as the winds range
From leaf to leaf, from flower to flower;
Changefulness, but as rainbows change,
From colour'd sky to sunlit hour.
Ay, well indeed may minstrel sing,--
What have the heart and year like spring?
Her vow was done: the castle dame
Next day to join the revellers came;
And never had a dame more gay
O'er hall or festival held sway.
And youthful knight, and ladye fair,
And juggler quaint, and minstrel rare,
And mirth, and crowds, and music, all
Of pleasure gather'd at her call.
And RAYMOND moved as in a dream
Of song and odour, bloom and beam,
As he dwelt in a magic bower,
Charm'd from all by fairy power.
--And ADELINE rode out that morn,
With hunting train, and hawk, and horn;
And broider'd rein, and curb of gold,
And housings with their purple fold
Decked the white steed o'er which she leant
Graceful as a young cypress, bent
By the first summer wind: she wore
A cap the heron plume waved o'er,
And round her wrist a golden band,
Which held the falcon on her hand.
The bird's full eye, so clear, so bright,
Match'd not her own's dark flashing light.
And RAYMOND , as he watch'd the dyes
Of her cheek rich with exercise,
Could almost deem her beauty's power
Was now in its most potent hour;
But when at night he saw her glance
The gayest of the meteor dance,
The jewels in her braided hair,
Her neck, her arms of ivory bare,
The silver veil, the broider'd vest,--
Look'd she not then her loveliest?
Ah, every change of beauty's face
And beauty's shape has its own grace!
That night his heart throbb'd when her hand
Met his touch in the saraband:
That night her smile first bade love live
On the sweet life that hope can give.--
Beautiful, but thrice wayward, wild,
Capricious as a petted child,
She was all chance, all change; but now
A smile is on her radiant brow,--
A moment and that smile is fled,
Coldness and scorn are there instead.
Ended the dance, and ADELINE
Flung herself, like an eastern queen,
Upon the cushions which were laid
Amid a niche of that gay hall,
Hid from the lamps; around it play'd
The softness of the moonlight fall.
And there the gorgeous shapes past by
But like a distant pageantry,
In which you have yourself no share,
For all its pride, and pomp, and care.
She pass'd her hand across the chords
Of a lute near, and with soft words
Answer'd; then said, 'no, thou shalt sing
Some legend of the fair and brave.'
To RAYMOND'S hand the lute she gave,
Whose very soul within him burn'd
When her dark eye on his was turn'd:
One moment's pause, it slept not long,--
His spirit pour'd itself in song.
THE lady sits in her lone bower,
With cheek wan as the white rose flower
That blooms beside, 'tis pale and wet
As that rose with its dew pearls set.
Her cheek burns with a redder dye,
Flashes light from her tearful eye;
She has heard pinions beat the air,
She sees her white dove floating there;
And well she knows its faithful wing,
The treasure of her heart will bring;
And takes the gentle bird its stand
Accustom'd on the maiden's hand,
With glancing eye and throbbing breast,
As if rejoicing in its rest.
She read the scroll,--'dear love, to-night
By the lake, all is there for flight
What time the moon is down;--oh, then
My own life shall we meet again!'
One upward look of thankfulness,
One pause of joy, one fond caress
Of her soft lips, as to reward
The messenger of EGINHARD.
That night in her proud father's hall
She shone the fairest one of all;
For like the cloud of evening came
Over her cheek the sudden flame,
And varying as each moment brought
Some hasty change of secret thought;
As if its colour would confess
The conscious heart's inmost recess.
And the clear depths of her dark eye
Were bright with troubled brilliancy,
Yet the lids droop'd as with the tear
Which might oppress but not appear.
And flatteries, and smile and sigh
Loaded the air as she past by.
It sparkled, but her jewell'd vest
Was crost above a troubled breast:
Her curls, with all their sunny glow,
Were braided o'er an aching brow:
But well she knew how many sought
To gaze upon her secret thought;--
And Love is proud,--she might not brook
That other's on her heart should look.
But there she sate, cold, pale, and high,
Beneath her purple canopy;
And there was many a mutter'd word,
And one low whisper'd name was heard,--
The name of EGINHARD ,--that name
Like some forbidden secret came.
The theme went, that he dared to love
One like a star his state above;
Here to the princess turn'd each eye,--
And it was said, he did not sigh
With love that pales the pining cheek,
And leaves the slighted heart to break.
And then a varying tale was told,
How a page had betray'd for gold;
But all was rumour light and vain,
That all might hear, but none explain.
Like one that seeks a festival,
Early the princess left the hall;
Yet said she, sleep dwelt on her eyes,
That she was worn with revelries.
And hastily her maidens' care
Unbinds the jewels from her hair.
Odours are round her chamber strown,
And ELENORE is left alone.
With throbbing heart, whose pulses beat
Louder than fall her ivory feet,
She rises from her couch of down;
And, hurriedly, a robe is thrown
Around her form, and her own hand
Lets down her tresses golden band.
Another moment she has shred
Those graceful tresses from her head.
There stands a plate of polish'd steel,
She folds her cloak as to conceal
Her strange attire, for she is drest
As a young page in dark green vest.
Softly she steps the balustrade,
Where myrtle, rose, and hyacinth made
A passage to the garden shade.
It was a lovely summer night,
The air was incense-fill'd, the light
Was dim and tremulous, a gleam,
When a star, mirror'd on the stream,
Sent a ray round just to reveal
How gales from flower to flower steal.
'It was on such a night as this,
When even a single breath is bliss,
Such a soft air, such a mild heaven,
My vows to EGINHARD were given.'
Sigh'd ELENORE , 'Oh, might it be
A hope, a happy augury!'
She reach'd the lake,--a blush, a smile,
Contended on her face the while;
And safely in a little cove,
Shelter'd by willow trees above,
An ambuscade from all secured,
Her lover's little boat lay moor'd.--
One greeting word, with muffled oar,
And silent lip, they left that shore.
It was most like a phantom dream
To see that boat flit o'er the stream,
So still, that but yet less and less
It grew, it had seem'd motionless.
And then the silent lake, the trees
Visible only when the breeze
Aside the shadowy branches threw,
And let one single star shine through,
While the faint glimmer scarcely gave
To view the wanderers of the wave.
The breeze has borne the clouds away
That veil'd the blushes of young day;
The lark has sung his morning song;--
Surely the princess slumbers long.
And now it is the accustom'd hour
Her royal father seeks her bower,
When her soft voice and gentle lute,
The snowfall of her fairy foot,
The flowers she has cull'd, with dew
Yet moist upon each rainbow hue;
The fruits with bloom upon their cheek,
Fresh as the morning's first sun streak;
Each, all conspired to wile away
The weariness of royal sway.
But she is gone: there hangs her lute,
And there it may hang lone and mute:
The flowers may fade, for who is there
To triumph now if they are fair:
There are her gems,--oh, let them twine
An offering round some sainted shrine!
For she who wore them may not wear
Again those jewels in her hair.
At first the monarch's rage was wild;
But soon the image of his child,
In tenderness rose on his heart,
How could he bear from it to part?
And anger turn'd to grief: in vain
Ambition had destroy'd the chain
With which love had bound happiness.
In vain remorse, in vain redress,--
Fruitless all search. And years past o'er,
No tidings came of ELENORE,
Although the king would have laid down
His golden sceptre, purple crown,
His pomp, his power, but to have prest
His child one moment to his breast.
And where was ELENORE ? her home
Was now beneath the forest dome;--
A hundred knights had watch'd her hall,
Her guards were now the pine trees tall:
For harps waked with the minstrel tale,
Sang to her sleep the nightingale:
For silver vases, where were blent
Rich perfumes from Arabia sent,
Were odours when the wild thyme flower
Wafted its sweets on gale and shower:
For carpets of the purple loom
The violets spread their cloud of bloom,
Starr'd with primroses; and around
Boughs like green tapestry swept the ground.
--And there they dwelt apart from all
That gilds and mocks ambition's thrall;
Apart from cities, crowds, and care,
Hopes that deceive, and toils that wear;
For they had made themselves a world
Like that or ever man was hurl'd
From his sweet Eden, to begin
His bitter course of grief and sin.--
And they were happy; EGINHARD
Had won the prize for which he dared
Dungeon and death; but what is there
That the young lover will not dare?
And she, though nurtured as a flower,
The favourite bud of a spring bower,
Daughter of palaces, yet made
Her dwelling place in the green shade;
Happy, as she remember'd not
Her royal in her peasant lot,--
With gentle cares, and smiling eyes
As love could feel no sacrifice.
Happy her ivory brow to lave
Without a mirror but the wave,
As one whose sweetness could dispense
With all save its own excellence;--
A fair but gentle creature, meant
For heart, and hearth, and home content.
It was at night the chase was over,
And ELENORE sat by her lover,--
Her lover still, though years had fled
Since their first word of love was said,--
When one sought, at that darksome hour,
The refuge of their lonely bower,
A hunter, who, amid the shade,
Had from his own companions stray'd.
And ELENORE gazed on his face,
And knew her father! In the chase
Often the royal mourner sought
A refuge from his one sad thought.
He knew her not,--the lowly mien,
The simple garb of forest green,
The darken'd brow, which told the spoil
The sun stole from her daily toil,
The cheek where woodland health had shed
The freshness of its morning red,--
All was so changed. She spread the board,
Her hand the sparkling wine cup pour'd;
And then around the hearth they drew,
And cheerfully the woodfire threw
Its light around.--Bent o'er her wheel
Scarcely dared ELENORE to steal
A look, half tenderness, half fear,
Yet seem'd he as he loved to hear
Her voice, as if it had a tone
Breathing of days and feelings gone.
'Ah! surely,' thought she, 'Heaven has sent
My father here, as that it meant,
Our years of absence ended now!'
She gazed upon his soften'd brow;
And the next moment, all revealing,
ELENORE at his feet is kneeling!--
Need I relate that, reconciled,
The father bless'd his truant child.
WHERE is the heart that has not bow'd
A slave, eternal Love, to thee:
Look on the cold, the gay, the proud,
And is there one among them free?
The cold, the proud,--oh! Love has turn'd
The marble till with fire it burn'd;
The gay, the young,--alas that they
Should ever bend beneath thy sway!
Look on the cheek the rose might own,
The smile around like sunshine thrown;
The rose, the smile, alike are thine,
To fade and darken at thy shrine.
And what must love be in a heart
All passion's fiery depths concealing,
Which has in its minutest part
More than another's whole of feeling.
And RAYMOND'S heart; love's morning sun
On fitter altar never shone;
Loving with all the snow-white truth,
That is found but in early youth;
Freshness of feeling as of flower,
That lives not more than spring's first hour;
And loving with that wild devotion,
That deep and passionate emotion,
With which the minstrel soul is thrown
On all that it would make its own.
And RAYMOND loved; the veriest slave
That e'er his life to passion gave:
Upon his ear no murmur came
That seem'd not echoing her name;
The lightest colour on her cheek
Was lovelier than the morning break.
He gazed upon her as he took
His sense of being from her look:--
Sometimes it was idolatry,
Like homage to some lovely star,
Whose beauty though for hope too high,
He yet might worship from afar.
At other times his heart would swell
With tenderness unutterable:
He would have borne her to an isle
Where May and June had left their smile;
And there, heard but by the lone gale,
He would have whisper'd his love tale;
And without change, or cloud, or care,
Have kept his bosom's treasure there.
And then, with all a lover's pride,
He thought it shame such gem to hide:
And imaged he a courtly scene
Of which she was the jewell'd queen,--
The one on whom each glance was bent,
The beauty of the tournament,
The magnet of the festival,
The grace, the joy, the life of all,--
But she, alas for her false smile!
ADELINE loved him not the while.
And is it thus that woman's heart
Can trifle with its dearest part,
Its own pure sympathies?--can fling
The poison'd arrow from the string
In utter heartlessness around,
And mock, or think not of the wound?
And thus can woman barter all
That makes and gilds her gentle thrall,--
The blush which should be like the one
White violets hide from the sun,--
The soft, low sighs, like those which breathe
In secret from a twilight wreath,--
The smile like a bright lamp, whose shine
Is vow'd but only to one shrine;
All these sweet spells,--and can they be
Weapons of reckless vanity?
And woman, in whose gentle heart
From all save its sweet self apart,
Love should dwell with that purity
Which but in woman's love can be:
A sacred fire, whose flame was given
To shed on earth the light of heaven,--
That she can fling her wealth aside
In carelessness, or sport, or pride!
It was not form'd for length of bliss,
A dream so fond, so false as this;
Enough for ADELINE to win
The heart she had no pleasure in,--
Enough that bright eyes turn'd in vain
On him who bow'd beneath her chain:--
Then came the careless word and look,
All the fond soul so ill can brook,
The jealous doubt, the burning pain,
That rack the lover's heart and brain;
The fear that will not own it fear,
The hope that cannot disappear;
Faith clinging to its visions past,
And trust confiding to the last.
And thus it is: ay, let Love throw
Aside his arrows and his bow;
But let him not with one spell part,
The veil that binds his eyes and heart.
Woe for Love when his eyes shall be
Open'd upon reality!
One day a neighbouring baron gave
A revel to the fair and brave,--
And knights upon their gallant steeds,
And ladies on their palfreys gray,
All shining in their gayest weeds,
Held for the festival their way.
A wanderer on far distant shores,
That baron, had brought richest stores
To his own hall, and much of rare
And foreign luxury was there:
Pages, with colour'd feathers, fann'd
The odours of Arabia's land;
The carpets strewn around each room
Were all of Persia's purple loom;
And dark slaves waited on his guests,
Each habited in Moorish vests,
With turbann'd brows, and bands of gold
Around their arms and ancles roll'd.
And gazed the guests o'er many a hoard,
Like Sinbad's, from his travel stored.
They look'd upon the net work dome,
Where found the stranger birds a home,
With rainbow wings and gleaming eyes,
Seen only beneath Indian skies.
At length they stood around the ring,
Where stalk'd, unchain'd, the forest king,
With eyes of fire and mane erect,
As if by human power uncheck'd.
Full ill had RAYMOND'S spirit borne
The wayward mood, the careless scorn,
With which his mistress had that day
Trifled his happiness away.--
His very soul within him burn'd,
When, as in chance, her dark eye turn'd
On him, she spoke in reckless glee,--
''Is there a knight who, for love of me,
Into the court below will spring,
And bear from the lion the glove I fling?'
A shriek!--a pause,--then loud acclaim
Rose to the skies with RAYMOND'S name.
Oh, worthy of a lady's love!
RAYMOND has borne away the glove.
He laid the prize at the maiden's feet,
Then turn'd from the smile he dared not meet:
A moment more he is on the steed,
The spur has urged to its utmost speed,
As that he could fly from himself, and all
The misery of his spirit's thrall.
The horse sank down, and RAYMOND then
Started to see the foaming rein,
The drops that hung on the courser's hide,
And the rowel's red trace on its panting side;
And deep shame mingled with remorse,
As he brought the cool stream to his fallen horse.
The spot where he paused was a little nook,
Like a secret page in nature's book,--
Around were steeps where the wild vine
Hung, wreathed in many a serpentine,
Wearing each the colour'd sign
Of the autumn's pale decline.
Like a lake in the midst was spread
A grassy sweep of softest green,
Smooth, flower-dropt, as no human tread
Upon its growth had ever been.
Limes rose around, but lost each leaf,
Like hopes luxuriant but brief;
And by their side the sycamore
Grew prouder of its scarlet store:
The air was of that cold clear light
That heralds in an autumn night,--
The amber west had just a surge
Of crimson on its utmost verge;
And on the east were piled up banks
Where darkness gather'd with her ranks
Of clouds, and in the midst a zone
Of white with transient brightness shone
From the young moon, who scarcely yet
Had donn'd her lighted coronet.
With look turn'd to the closing day,
As he watch'd every hue decay,
Sat RAYMOND ; and a passer by
Had envied him his reverie;--
But nearer look had scann'd his brow,
And started at its fiery glow,
As if the temples' burning swell
Had made their pulses visible.
Too glazed, too fix'd, his large eyes shone
To see aught that they gazed upon.
Not his the paleness that may streak
The lover's or the minstrel's cheek,
As it had its wan colour caught
From moods of melancholy thought;
'Twas that cold, dark, unearthly shade,
But for a corpse's death look made;
Speaking that desperateness of pain,
As one more pang, and the rack'd brain
Would turn to madness; one more grief,
And the swoln heart breaks for relief.
Oh, misery! to see the tomb
Close over all our world of bloom;
To look our last in the dear eyes
Which made our light of paradise;
To know that silent is the tone
Whose tenderness was all our own;
To kiss the cheek which once had burn'd
At the least glance, and find it turn'd
To marble; and then think of all
Of hope, that memory can recall.
Yes, misery! but even here
There is a somewhat left to cheer,
A gentle treasuring of sweet things
Remembrance gathers from the past,
The pride of faithfulness, which clings
To love kept sacred to the last.
And even if another's love
Has touch'd the heart to us above
The treasures of the east, yet still
There is a solace for the ill.
Those who have known love's utmost spell
Can feel for those who love as well;
Can half forget their own distress,
To share the loved one's happiness.
Oh, but to know our heart has been,
Like the toy of an Indian queen,
Torn, trampled, without thought or care,--
Where is despair like this despair!--
ll night beneath an oak he lay,
Till nature blush'd bright into day;
When, at a trumpet's sudden sound,
Started his courser from the ground:
And his loud neigh waked RAYMOND'S dream,
And, gazing round, he saw the gleam
Of arms upon a neighbouring height,
Where helm and cuirass stream'd in light.
As RAYMOND rose from his unrest
He knew DE VALENCE'S falcon crest;
And the red cross that shone like a glory afar,
Told the warrior was vow'd to the holy war.
Ay, this,' thought RAYMOND , 'is the strife
To make my sacrifice of life;
What is it now to me that fame
Shall brighten over RAYMOND'S name;
There is no gentle heart to bound,
No cheek to mantle at the sound:
Lady's favour no more I wear,--
My heart, my helm--oh! what are there?
A blighted hope, a wither'd rose.
Surely this warfare is for those
Who only of the victory crave
A holy but a nameless grave.'
Short greeting past; DE VALENCE read
All that the pale lip left unsaid;
On the wan brow, in the dimm'd eye,
The whole of youth's despondency,
Which at the first shock it has known
Deems its whole world of hope o'erthrown.
And it was fix'd, that at Marseilles,
Where the fleet waited favouring gales,
RAYMOND should join the warrior train,
Leagued 'gainst the infidels of Spain.
They parted:--Over RAYMOND'S thought
Came sadness mingled too with shame;
When suddenly his memory brought
The long forgotten EVA'S name.
Oh! Love is like the mountain tide,
Sweeping away all things beside,
Till not another trace appears
But its own joys, and griefs, and fears.
He took her cross, he took her chain
From the heart where they still had lain;
And that heart felt as if its fate
Had sudden grown less desolate,
In thus remembering love that still
Would share and sooth in good and ill.
He spurr'd his steed; but the night fall
Had darken'd ere he reach'd the hall;
And gladly chief and vassal train
Welcomed the youthful knight again.
And many praised his stately tread,
His face with darker manhood spread;
But of those crowding round him now,
Who mark'd the paleness of his brow,
But one, who paused till they were past,
Who look'd the first but spoke the last:
Her welcome in its timid fear
Fell almost cold on RAYMOND'S ear;
A single look,--he felt he gazed
Upon a gentle child no more,
The blush that like the lightning blazed,
The cheek then paler than before,
A something of staid maiden grace,
A cloud of thought upon her face;
She who had been, in RAYMOND'S sight,
A plaything, fancy, and delight,--
Was changed: the depth of her blue eye
Spoke to him now of sympathy,
And seem'd her melancholy tone
A very echo of his own;
And that pale forehead, surely care
Has graved an early lesson there.
They roved through many a garden scene,
Where other, happier days had been;
And soon had RAYMOND told his all
Of hopes, like stars but bright to fall;
Of feelings blighted, changed, and driven
Like exiles from their native heaven;
And of an aimless sword, a lute
Whose chords were now uncharm'd and mute.
But EVA'S tender blandishing
Was as the April rays, that fling
A rainbow till the thickest rain
Melts into blue and light again.
There is a feeling in the heart
Of woman which can have no part
In man; a self devotedness,
As victims round their idols press,
And asking nothing, but to show
How far their zeal and faith can go.
Pure as the snow the summer sun
Never at noon hath look'd upon,--
Deep as is the diamond wave,
Hidden in the desart cave,--
Changeless as the greenest leaves
Of the wreath the cypress weaves,--
Hopeless often when most fond,
Without hope or fear beyond
Its own pale fidelity,--
And this woman's love can be!
And RAYMOND although not again
Dreaming of passion's burning chain,
Yet felt that life had still dear things
To which the lingering spirit clings.
More dear, more lovely EVA shone
In thinking of that faithless one;
And read he not upon the cheek
All that the lip might never speak,
All the heart cherish'd yet conceal'd,
Scarce even to itself reveal'd.
And RAYMOND , though with heart so torn
By anger, agony, and scorn,
Might ill bear even with love's name,
Yet felt the maiden's hidden flame
Come like the day-star in the east,
When every other light has ceased;
Sent from the bosom of the night
To harbinger the morning light.
Again they parted: she to brood
O'er dreaming hopes in solitude,
And every pitying saint to pray
For RAYMOND on the battle day.
And he no longer deem'd the field
But death to all his hopes could yield.
To other, softer dreams allied,
He thought upon the warrior's pride.
But as he pass'd the castle gate
He left so wholly desolate,
His throbbing pulse, his burning brain,
The sudden grasp upon the rein,
The breast and lip that gasp'd for air,
Told Love's shaft was still rankling there.
That night, borne o'er the bounding seas,
The vessel swept before the breeze,
Loaded the air, the war-cry's swell,
Woe to the Moorish infidel;
And raising their rich hymn, a band
Of priests were kneeling on the strand,
To bless the parting ship, and song
Came from the maidens ranged along
The sea wall, and who incense gave,
And flowers, like offerings to the wave
That bore the holy and the brave.
And RAYMOND felt his spirit rise,
And burn'd his cheek, and flash'd his eyes
With something of their ancient light,
While plume and pennon met his sight;
While o'er the deep swept the war-cry,
And peal'd the trumpet's voice on high,
While the ship rode the waves as she
Were mistress of their destiny.
And muster'd on the deck the band,
Till died the last shout from the strand;
But when the martial pomp was o'er,
And, like the future, dim the shore
On the horizon hung, again
Closed RAYMOND'S memory, like a chain
The spirit struggles with in vain.
The sky with its delicious blue,
The stars like visions wandering through:
Surely, if Fate had treasured there
Her rolls of life, they must be fair;
The mysteries their glories hide
Must be but of life's brightest side;
It cannot be that Fate would write
Her dark decrees in lines of light.
And RAYMOND mused upon the hour
When, comrade of the star and flower,
He watch'd beside his lady's bower;
He number'd every hope and dream,
Like blooms that threw upon life's stream
Colours of beauty, and then thought
On knowledge, all too dearly bought;
Feelings lit up in waste to burn,
Hopes that seem but shadows fair,
All that the heart so soon must learn,
All that it finds so hard to bear.
The young moon's vestal lamp that hour
Seem'd pale as that it pined for love;
No marvel such a night had power,
So calm below, so fair above,
To wake the spirit's finest chords
Till minstrel thoughts found minstrel words.
THE LAST SONG.
IT is the latest song of mine
That ever breathes thy name,
False idol of a dream-raised shrine,
Thy very thought is shame,--
Shame that I could my sprit bow
To one so very false as thou.
I had past years where the green wood
Makes twilight of the noon,
And I had watch'd the silver flood
Kiss'd by the rising moon;
And gazed upon the clear midnight
In all its luxury of light.
And, thrown where the blue violets dwell,
I would pass hours away,
Musing o'er some old chronicle
Fill'd with a wild love lay;
Till beauty seem'd to me a thing
Made for all nature's worshipping.
saw thee, and the air grew bright
In thy clear eyes' sunshine;
I oft had dream'd of shapes of light,
But not of shape like thine.
My heart bow'd down,--I worshipp'd thee,
A woman and a deity.
I may not say how thy first look
Turn'd my whole soul to flame,
I read it as a glorious book
Fill'd with high deeds of fame;
I felt a hero's spirit rise,
Unknown till lighted at thine eyes.
False look, false hope, and falsest love!
All meteors sent to me
To show how they the heart could move,
And how deceiving be:
They left me, darken'd, crush'd, alone,
My bosom's household gods o'erthrown.
The world itself was changed, and all
That I had loved before
Seem'd as if gone beyond recall,
And I could hope no more;
The sear of fire, the dint of steel,
Are easier than Love's wounds to heal.
But this is past, and I can cope
With what I'd fain forget;
I have a sweet, a gentle hope
That lingers with me yet,--
A hope too fair, too pure to be
Named in the words that speak of thee.
Henceforth within the last recess
Of my heart shall remain
Thy name in all its bitterness,
But never named again;
The only memory of that heart
Will be to think how false thou art.
And yet I fain would name thy name,
My heart's now gentle queen,
E'en as they burn the perfumed flame
Where the plague spot has been;
Methinks that it will cleanse away
The ills that on my spirit prey.
Sweet EVA ! the last time I gazed
Upon thy deep blue eyes,
The cheek whereon my look had raised
A blush's crimson dyes,
I marvell'd, love, this heart of mine
Had worshipp'd at another shrine.
I will think of thee when the star,
That lit our own fair river,
Shines in the blue sky from afar,
As beautiful as ever;
That twilight star, sweet love, shall be
A sign and seal with thee and me!
Endymion: Book III
There are who lord it o'er their fellow-men
With most prevailing tinsel: who unpen
Their baaing vanities, to browse away
The comfortable green and juicy hay
From human pastures; or, O torturing fact!
Who, through an idiot blink, will see unpack'd
Fire-branded foxes to sear up and singe
Our gold and ripe-ear'd hopes. With not one tinge
Of sanctuary splendour, not a sight
Able to face an owl's, they still are dight
By the blear-eyed nations in empurpled vests,
And crowns, and turbans. With unladen breasts,
Save of blown self-applause, they proudly mount
To their spirit's perch, their being's high account,
Their tiptop nothings, their dull skies, their thrones--
Amid the fierce intoxicating tones
Of trumpets, shoutings, and belabour'd drums,
And sudden cannon. Ah! how all this hums,
In wakeful ears, like uproar past and gone--
Like thunder clouds that spake to Babylon,
And set those old Chaldeans to their tasks.--
Are then regalities all gilded masks?
No, there are throned seats unscalable
But by a patient wing, a constant spell,
Or by ethereal things that, unconfin'd,
Can make a ladder of the eternal wind,
And poise about in cloudy thunder-tents
To watch the abysm-birth of elements.
Aye, 'bove the withering of old-lipp'd Fate
A thousand Powers keep religious state,
In water, fiery realm, and airy bourne;
And, silent as a consecrated urn,
Hold sphery sessions for a season due.
Yet few of these far majesties, ah, few!
Have bared their operations to this globe--
Few, who with gorgeous pageantry enrobe
Our piece of heaven--whose benevolence
Shakes hand with our own Ceres; every sense
Filling with spiritual sweets to plenitude,
As bees gorge full their cells. And, by the feud
'Twixt Nothing and Creation, I here swear,
Eterne Apollo! that thy Sister fair
Is of all these the gentlier-mightiest.
When thy gold breath is misting in the west,
She unobserved steals unto her throne,
And there she sits most meek and most alone;
As if she had not pomp subservient;
As if thine eye, high Poet! was not bent
Towards her with the Muses in thine heart;
As if the ministring stars kept not apart,
Waiting for silver-footed messages.
O Moon! the oldest shades 'mong oldest trees
Feel palpitations when thou lookest in:
O Moon! old boughs lisp forth a holier din
The while they feel thine airy fellowship.
Thou dost bless every where, with silver lip
Kissing dead things to life. The sleeping kine,
Couched in thy brightness, dream of fields divine:
Innumerable mountains rise, and rise,
Ambitious for the hallowing of thine eyes;
And yet thy benediction passeth not
One obscure hiding-place, one little spot
Where pleasure may be sent: the nested wren
Has thy fair face within its tranquil ken,
And from beneath a sheltering ivy leaf
Takes glimpses of thee; thou art a relief
To the poor patient oyster, where it sleeps
Within its pearly house.--The mighty deeps,
The monstrous sea is thine--the myriad sea!
O Moon! far-spooming Ocean bows to thee,
And Tellus feels his forehead's cumbrous load.
Cynthia! where art thou now? What far abode
Of green or silvery bower doth enshrine
Such utmost beauty? Alas, thou dost pine
For one as sorrowful: thy cheek is pale
For one whose cheek is pale: thou dost bewail
His tears, who weeps for thee. Where dost thou sigh?
Ah! surely that light peeps from Vesper's eye,
Or what a thing is love! 'Tis She, but lo!
How chang'd, how full of ache, how gone in woe!
She dies at the thinnest cloud; her loveliness
Is wan on Neptune's blue: yet there's a stress
Of love-spangles, just off yon cape of trees,
Dancing upon the waves, as if to please
The curly foam with amorous influence.
O, not so idle: for down-glancing thence
She fathoms eddies, and runs wild about
O'erwhelming water-courses; scaring out
The thorny sharks from hiding-holes, and fright'ning
Their savage eyes with unaccustomed lightning.
Where will the splendor be content to reach?
O love! how potent hast thou been to teach
Strange journeyings! Wherever beauty dwells,
In gulf or aerie, mountains or deep dells,
In light, in gloom, in star or blazing sun,
Thou pointest out the way, and straight 'tis won.
Amid his toil thou gav'st Leander breath;
Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death;
Thou madest Pluto bear thin element;
And now, O winged Chieftain! thou hast sent
A moon-beam to the deep, deep water-world,
To find Endymion.
On gold sand impearl'd
With lily shells, and pebbles milky white,
Poor Cynthia greeted him, and sooth'd her light
Against his pallid face: he felt the charm
To breathlessness, and suddenly a warm
Of his heart's blood: 'twas very sweet; he stay'd
His wandering steps, and half-entranced laid
His head upon a tuft of straggling weeds,
To taste the gentle moon, and freshening beads,
Lashed from the crystal roof by fishes' tails.
And so he kept, until the rosy veils
Mantling the east, by Aurora's peering hand
Were lifted from the water's breast, and fann'd
Into sweet air; and sober'd morning came
Meekly through billows:--when like taper-flame
Left sudden by a dallying breath of air,
He rose in silence, and once more 'gan fare
Along his fated way.
Far had he roam'd,
With nothing save the hollow vast, that foam'd
Above, around, and at his feet; save things
More dead than Morpheus' imaginings:
Old rusted anchors, helmets, breast-plates large
Of gone sea-warriors; brazen beaks and targe;
Rudders that for a hundred years had lost
The sway of human hand; gold vase emboss'd
With long-forgotten story, and wherein
No reveller had ever dipp'd a chin
But those of Saturn's vintage; mouldering scrolls,
Writ in the tongue of heaven, by those souls
Who first were on the earth; and sculptures rude
In ponderous stone, developing the mood
Of ancient Nox;--then skeletons of man,
Of beast, behemoth, and leviathan,
And elephant, and eagle, and huge jaw
Of nameless monster. A cold leaden awe
These secrets struck into him; and unless
Dian had chaced away that heaviness,
He might have died: but now, with cheered feel,
He onward kept; wooing these thoughts to steal
About the labyrinth in his soul of love.
"What is there in thee, Moon! that thou shouldst move
My heart so potently? When yet a child
I oft have dried my tears when thou hast smil'd.
Thou seem'dst my sister: hand in hand we went
From eve to morn across the firmament.
No apples would I gather from the tree,
Till thou hadst cool'd their cheeks deliciously:
No tumbling water ever spake romance,
But when my eyes with thine thereon could dance:
No woods were green enough, no bower divine,
Until thou liftedst up thine eyelids fine:
In sowing time ne'er would I dibble take,
Or drop a seed, till thou wast wide awake;
And, in the summer tide of blossoming,
No one but thee hath heard me blithly sing
And mesh my dewy flowers all the night.
No melody was like a passing spright
If it went not to solemnize thy reign.
Yes, in my boyhood, every joy and pain
By thee were fashion'd to the self-same end;
And as I grew in years, still didst thou blend
With all my ardours: thou wast the deep glen;
Thou wast the mountain-top--the sage's pen--
The poet's harp--the voice of friends--the sun;
Thou wast the river--thou wast glory won;
Thou wast my clarion's blast--thou wast my steed--
My goblet full of wine--my topmost deed:--
Thou wast the charm of women, lovely Moon!
O what a wild and harmonized tune
My spirit struck from all the beautiful!
On some bright essence could I lean, and lull
Myself to immortality: I prest
Nature's soft pillow in a wakeful rest.
But, gentle Orb! there came a nearer bliss--
My strange love came--Felicity's abyss!
She came, and thou didst fade, and fade away--
Yet not entirely; no, thy starry sway
Has been an under-passion to this hour.
Now I begin to feel thine orby power
Is coming fresh upon me: O be kind,
Keep back thine influence, and do not blind
My sovereign vision.--Dearest love, forgive
That I can think away from thee and live!--
Pardon me, airy planet, that I prize
One thought beyond thine argent luxuries!
How far beyond!" At this a surpris'd start
Frosted the springing verdure of his heart;
For as he lifted up his eyes to swear
How his own goddess was past all things fair,
He saw far in the concave green of the sea
An old man sitting calm and peacefully.
Upon a weeded rock this old man sat,
And his white hair was awful, and a mat
Of weeds were cold beneath his cold thin feet;
And, ample as the largest winding-sheet,
A cloak of blue wrapp'd up his aged bones,
O'erwrought with symbols by the deepest groans
Of ambitious magic: every ocean-form
Was woven in with black distinctness; storm,
And calm, and whispering, and hideous roar
Were emblem'd in the woof; with every shape
That skims, or dives, or sleeps, 'twixt cape and cape.
The gulphing whale was like a dot in the spell,
Yet look upon it, and 'twould size and swell
To its huge self; and the minutest fish
Would pass the very hardest gazer's wish,
And show his little eye's anatomy.
Then there was pictur'd the regality
Of Neptune; and the sea nymphs round his state,
In beauteous vassalage, look up and wait.
Beside this old man lay a pearly wand,
And in his lap a book, the which he conn'd
So stedfastly, that the new denizen
Had time to keep him in amazed ken,
To mark these shadowings, and stand in awe.
The old man rais'd his hoary head and saw
The wilder'd stranger--seeming not to see,
His features were so lifeless. Suddenly
He woke as from a trance; his snow-white brows
Went arching up, and like two magic ploughs
Furrow'd deep wrinkles in his forehead large,
Which kept as fixedly as rocky marge,
Till round his wither'd lips had gone a smile.
Then up he rose, like one whose tedious toil
Had watch'd for years in forlorn hermitage,
Who had not from mid-life to utmost age
Eas'd in one accent his o'er-burden'd soul,
Even to the trees. He rose: he grasp'd his stole,
With convuls'd clenches waving it abroad,
And in a voice of solemn joy, that aw'd
Echo into oblivion, he said:--
"Thou art the man! Now shall I lay my head
In peace upon my watery pillow: now
Sleep will come smoothly to my weary brow.
O Jove! I shall be young again, be young!
O shell-borne Neptune, I am pierc'd and stung
With new-born life! What shall I do? Where go,
When I have cast this serpent-skin of woe?--
I'll swim to the syrens, and one moment listen
Their melodies, and see their long hair glisten;
Anon upon that giant's arm I'll be,
That writhes about the roots of Sicily:
To northern seas I'll in a twinkling sail,
And mount upon the snortings of a whale
To some black cloud; thence down I'll madly sweep
On forked lightning, to the deepest deep,
Where through some sucking pool I will be hurl'd
With rapture to the other side of the world!
O, I am full of gladness! Sisters three,
I bow full hearted to your old decree!
Yes, every god be thank'd, and power benign,
For I no more shall wither, droop, and pine.
Thou art the man!" Endymion started back
Dismay'd; and, like a wretch from whom the rack
Tortures hot breath, and speech of agony,
Mutter'd: "What lonely death am I to die
In this cold region? Will he let me freeze,
And float my brittle limbs o'er polar seas?
Or will he touch me with his searing hand,
And leave a black memorial on the sand?
Or tear me piece-meal with a bony saw,
And keep me as a chosen food to draw
His magian fish through hated fire and flame?
O misery of hell! resistless, tame,
Am I to be burnt up? No, I will shout,
Until the gods through heaven's blue look out!--
O Tartarus! but some few days agone
Her soft arms were entwining me, and on
Her voice I hung like fruit among green leaves:
Her lips were all my own, and--ah, ripe sheaves
Of happiness! ye on the stubble droop,
But never may be garner'd. I must stoop
My head, and kiss death's foot. Love! love, farewel!
Is there no hope from thee? This horrid spell
Would melt at thy sweet breath.--By Dian's hind
Feeding from her white fingers, on the wind
I see thy streaming hair! and now, by Pan,
I care not for this old mysterious man!"
He spake, and walking to that aged form,
Look'd high defiance. Lo! his heart 'gan warm
With pity, for the grey-hair'd creature wept.
Had he then wrong'd a heart where sorrow kept?
Had he, though blindly contumelious, brought
Rheum to kind eyes, a sting to human thought,
Convulsion to a mouth of many years?
He had in truth; and he was ripe for tears.
The penitent shower fell, as down he knelt
Before that care-worn sage, who trembling felt
About his large dark locks, and faultering spake:
"Arise, good youth, for sacred Phoebus' sake!
I know thine inmost bosom, and I feel
A very brother's yearning for thee steal
Into mine own: for why? thou openest
The prison gates that have so long opprest
My weary watching. Though thou know'st it not,
Thou art commission'd to this fated spot
For great enfranchisement. O weep no more;
I am a friend to love, to loves of yore:
Aye, hadst thou never lov'd an unknown power
I had been grieving at this joyous hour
But even now most miserable old,
I saw thee, and my blood no longer cold
Gave mighty pulses: in this tottering case
Grew a new heart, which at this moment plays
As dancingly as thine. Be not afraid,
For thou shalt hear this secret all display'd,
Now as we speed towards our joyous task."
So saying, this young soul in age's mask
Went forward with the Carian side by side:
Resuming quickly thus; while ocean's tide
Hung swollen at their backs, and jewel'd sands
Took silently their foot-prints. "My soul stands
Now past the midway from mortality,
And so I can prepare without a sigh
To tell thee briefly all my joy and pain.
I was a fisher once, upon this main,
And my boat danc'd in every creek and bay;
Rough billows were my home by night and day,--
The sea-gulls not more constant; for I had
No housing from the storm and tempests mad,
But hollow rocks,--and they were palaces
Of silent happiness, of slumberous ease:
Long years of misery have told me so.
Aye, thus it was one thousand years ago.
One thousand years!--Is it then possible
To look so plainly through them? to dispel
A thousand years with backward glance sublime?
To breathe away as 'twere all scummy slime
From off a crystal pool, to see its deep,
And one's own image from the bottom peep?
Yes: now I am no longer wretched thrall,
My long captivity and moanings all
Are but a slime, a thin-pervading scum,
The which I breathe away, and thronging come
Like things of yesterday my youthful pleasures.
"I touch'd no lute, I sang not, trod no measures:
I was a lonely youth on desert shores.
My sports were lonely, 'mid continuous roars,
And craggy isles, and sea-mew's plaintive cry
Plaining discrepant between sea and sky.
Dolphins were still my playmates; shapes unseen
Would let me feel their scales of gold and green,
Nor be my desolation; and, full oft,
When a dread waterspout had rear'd aloft
Its hungry hugeness, seeming ready ripe
To burst with hoarsest thunderings, and wipe
My life away like a vast sponge of fate,
Some friendly monster, pitying my sad state,
Has dived to its foundations, gulph'd it down,
And left me tossing safely. But the crown
Of all my life was utmost quietude:
More did I love to lie in cavern rude,
Keeping in wait whole days for Neptune's voice,
And if it came at last, hark, and rejoice!
There blush'd no summer eve but I would steer
My skiff along green shelving coasts, to hear
The shepherd's pipe come clear from aery steep,
Mingled with ceaseless bleatings of his sheep:
And never was a day of summer shine,
But I beheld its birth upon the brine:
For I would watch all night to see unfold
Heaven's gates, and Aethon snort his morning gold
Wide o'er the swelling streams: and constantly
At brim of day-tide, on some grassy lea,
My nets would be spread out, and I at rest.
The poor folk of the sea-country I blest
With daily boon of fish most delicate:
They knew not whence this bounty, and elate
Would strew sweet flowers on a sterile beach.
"Why was I not contented? Wherefore reach
At things which, but for thee, O Latmian!
Had been my dreary death? Fool! I began
To feel distemper'd longings: to desire
The utmost privilege that ocean's sire
Could grant in benediction: to be free
Of all his kingdom. Long in misery
I wasted, ere in one extremest fit
I plung'd for life or death. To interknit
One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff
Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
Forgetful utterly of self-intent;
Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
Then, like a new fledg'd bird that first doth shew
His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
'Twas freedom! and at once I visited
The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed.
No need to tell thee of them, for I see
That thou hast been a witness--it must be
For these I know thou canst not feel a drouth,
By the melancholy corners of that mouth.
So I will in my story straightway pass
To more immediate matter. Woe, alas!
That love should be my bane! Ah, Scylla fair!
Why did poor Glaucus ever--ever dare
To sue thee to his heart? Kind stranger-youth!
I lov'd her to the very white of truth,
And she would not conceive it. Timid thing!
She fled me swift as sea-bird on the wing,
Round every isle, and point, and promontory,
From where large Hercules wound up his story
Far as Egyptian Nile. My passion grew
The more, the more I saw her dainty hue
Gleam delicately through the azure clear:
Until 'twas too fierce agony to bear;
And in that agony, across my grief
It flash'd, that Circe might find some relief--
Cruel enchantress! So above the water
I rear'd my head, and look'd for Phoebus' daughter.
Aeaea's isle was wondering at the moon:--
It seem'd to whirl around me, and a swoon
Left me dead-drifting to that fatal power.
"When I awoke, 'twas in a twilight bower;
Just when the light of morn, with hum of bees,
Stole through its verdurous matting of fresh trees.
How sweet, and sweeter! for I heard a lyre,
And over it a sighing voice expire.
It ceased--I caught light footsteps; and anon
The fairest face that morn e'er look'd upon
Push'd through a screen of roses. Starry Jove!
With tears, and smiles, and honey-words she wove
A net whose thraldom was more bliss than all
The range of flower'd Elysium. Thus did fall
The dew of her rich speech: "Ah! Art awake?
O let me hear thee speak, for Cupid's sake!
I am so oppress'd with joy! Why, I have shed
An urn of tears, as though thou wert cold dead;
And now I find thee living, I will pour
From these devoted eyes their silver store,
Until exhausted of the latest drop,
So it will pleasure thee, and force thee stop
Here, that I too may live: but if beyond
Such cool and sorrowful offerings, thou art fond
Of soothing warmth, of dalliance supreme;
If thou art ripe to taste a long love dream;
If smiles, if dimples, tongues for ardour mute,
Hang in thy vision like a tempting fruit,
O let me pluck it for thee." Thus she link'd
Her charming syllables, till indistinct
Their music came to my o'er-sweeten'd soul;
And then she hover'd over me, and stole
So near, that if no nearer it had been
This furrow'd visage thou hadst never seen.
"Young man of Latmos! thus particular
Am I, that thou may'st plainly see how far
This fierce temptation went: and thou may'st not
Exclaim, How then, was Scylla quite forgot?
"Who could resist? Who in this universe?
She did so breathe ambrosia; so immerse
My fine existence in a golden clime.
She took me like a child of suckling time,
And cradled me in roses. Thus condemn'd,
The current of my former life was stemm'd,
And to this arbitrary queen of sense
I bow'd a tranced vassal: nor would thence
Have mov'd, even though Amphion's harp had woo'd
Me back to Scylla o'er the billows rude.
For as Apollo each eve doth devise
A new appareling for western skies;
So every eve, nay every spendthrift hour
Shed balmy consciousness within that bower.
And I was free of haunts umbrageous;
Could wander in the mazy forest-house
Of squirrels, foxes shy, and antler'd deer,
And birds from coverts innermost and drear
Warbling for very joy mellifluous sorrow--
To me new born delights!
"Now let me borrow,
For moments few, a temperament as stern
As Pluto's sceptre, that my words not burn
These uttering lips, while I in calm speech tell
How specious heaven was changed to real hell.
"One morn she left me sleeping: half awake
I sought for her smooth arms and lips, to slake
My greedy thirst with nectarous camel-draughts;
But she was gone. Whereat the barbed shafts
Of disappointment stuck in me so sore,
That out I ran and search'd the forest o'er.
Wandering about in pine and cedar gloom
Damp awe assail'd me; for there 'gan to boom
A sound of moan, an agony of sound,
Sepulchral from the distance all around.
Then came a conquering earth-thunder, and rumbled
That fierce complain to silence: while I stumbled
Down a precipitous path, as if impell'd.
I came to a dark valley.--Groanings swell'd
Poisonous about my ears, and louder grew,
The nearer I approach'd a flame's gaunt blue,
That glar'd before me through a thorny brake.
This fire, like the eye of gordian snake,
Bewitch'd me towards; and I soon was near
A sight too fearful for the feel of fear:
In thicket hid I curs'd the haggard scene--
The banquet of my arms, my arbour queen,
Seated upon an uptorn forest root;
And all around her shapes, wizard and brute,
Laughing, and wailing, groveling, serpenting,
Shewing tooth, tusk, and venom-bag, and sting!
O such deformities! Old Charon's self,
Should he give up awhile his penny pelf,
And take a dream 'mong rushes Stygian,
It could not be so phantasied. Fierce, wan,
And tyrannizing was the lady's look,
As over them a gnarled staff she shook.
Oft-times upon the sudden she laugh'd out,
And from a basket emptied to the rout
Clusters of grapes, the which they raven'd quick
And roar'd for more; with many a hungry lick
About their shaggy jaws. Avenging, slow,
Anon she took a branch of mistletoe,
And emptied on't a black dull-gurgling phial:
Groan'd one and all, as if some piercing trial
Was sharpening for their pitiable bones.
She lifted up the charm: appealing groans
From their poor breasts went sueing to her ear
In vain; remorseless as an infant's bier
She whisk'd against their eyes the sooty oil.
Whereat was heard a noise of painful toil,
Increasing gradual to a tempest rage,
Shrieks, yells, and groans of torture-pilgrimage;
Until their grieved bodies 'gan to bloat
And puff from the tail's end to stifled throat:
Then was appalling silence: then a sight
More wildering than all that hoarse affright;
For the whole herd, as by a whirlwind writhen,
Went through the dismal air like one huge Python
Antagonizing Boreas,--and so vanish'd.
Yet there was not a breath of wind: she banish'd
These phantoms with a nod. Lo! from the dark
Came waggish fauns, and nymphs, and satyrs stark,
With dancing and loud revelry,--and went
Swifter than centaurs after rapine bent.--
Sighing an elephant appear'd and bow'd
Before the fierce witch, speaking thus aloud
In human accent: "Potent goddess! chief
Of pains resistless! make my being brief,
Or let me from this heavy prison fly:
Or give me to the air, or let me die!
I sue not for my happy crown again;
I sue not for my phalanx on the plain;
I sue not for my lone, my widow'd wife;
I sue not for my ruddy drops of life,
My children fair, my lovely girls and boys!
I will forget them; I will pass these joys;
Ask nought so heavenward, so too--too high:
Only I pray, as fairest boon, to die,
Or be deliver'd from this cumbrous flesh,
From this gross, detestable, filthy mesh,
And merely given to the cold bleak air.
Have mercy, Goddess! Circe, feel my prayer!"
That curst magician's name fell icy numb
Upon my wild conjecturing: truth had come
Naked and sabre-like against my heart.
I saw a fury whetting a death-dart;
And my slain spirit, overwrought with fright,
Fainted away in that dark lair of night.
Think, my deliverer, how desolate
My waking must have been! disgust, and hate,
And terrors manifold divided me
A spoil amongst them. I prepar'd to flee
Into the dungeon core of that wild wood:
I fled three days--when lo! before me stood
Glaring the angry witch. O Dis, even now,
A clammy dew is beading on my brow,
At mere remembering her pale laugh, and curse.
"Ha! ha! Sir Dainty! there must be a nurse
Made of rose leaves and thistledown, express,
To cradle thee my sweet, and lull thee: yes,
I am too flinty-hard for thy nice touch:
My tenderest squeeze is but a giant's clutch.
So, fairy-thing, it shall have lullabies
Unheard of yet; and it shall still its cries
Upon some breast more lily-feminine.
Oh, no--it shall not pine, and pine, and pine
More than one pretty, trifling thousand years;
And then 'twere pity, but fate's gentle shears
Cut short its immortality. Sea-flirt!
Young dove of the waters! truly I'll not hurt
One hair of thine: see how I weep and sigh,
That our heart-broken parting is so nigh.
And must we part? Ah, yes, it must be so.
Yet ere thou leavest me in utter woe,
Let me sob over thee my last adieus,
And speak a blessing: Mark me! thou hast thews
Immortal, for thou art of heavenly race:
But such a love is mine, that here I chase
Eternally away from thee all bloom
Of youth, and destine thee towards a tomb.
Hence shalt thou quickly to the watery vast;
And there, ere many days be overpast,
Disabled age shall seize thee; and even then
Thou shalt not go the way of aged men;
But live and wither, cripple and still breathe
Ten hundred years: which gone, I then bequeath
Thy fragile bones to unknown burial.
Adieu, sweet love, adieu!"--As shot stars fall,
She fled ere I could groan for mercy. Stung
And poisoned was my spirit: despair sung
A war-song of defiance 'gainst all hell.
A hand was at my shoulder to compel
My sullen steps; another 'fore my eyes
Moved on with pointed finger. In this guise
Enforced, at the last by ocean's foam
I found me; by my fresh, my native home.
Its tempering coolness, to my life akin,
Came salutary as I waded in;
And, with a blind voluptuous rage, I gave
Battle to the swollen billow-ridge, and drave
Large froth before me, while there yet remain'd
Hale strength, nor from my bones all marrow drain'd.
"Young lover, I must weep--such hellish spite
With dry cheek who can tell? While thus my might
Proving upon this element, dismay'd,
Upon a dead thing's face my hand I laid;
I look'd--'twas Scylla! Cursed, cursed Circe!
O vulture-witch, hast never heard of mercy?
Could not thy harshest vengeance be content,
But thou must nip this tender innocent
Because I lov'd her?--Cold, O cold indeed
Were her fair limbs, and like a common weed
The sea-swell took her hair. Dead as she was
I clung about her waist, nor ceas'd to pass
Fleet as an arrow through unfathom'd brine,
Until there shone a fabric crystalline,
Ribb'd and inlaid with coral, pebble, and pearl.
Headlong I darted; at one eager swirl
Gain'd its bright portal, enter'd, and behold!
'Twas vast, and desolate, and icy-cold;
And all around--But wherefore this to thee
Who in few minutes more thyself shalt see?--
I left poor Scylla in a niche and fled.
My fever'd parchings up, my scathing dread
Met palsy half way: soon these limbs became
Gaunt, wither'd, sapless, feeble, cramp'd, and lame.
"Now let me pass a cruel, cruel space,
Without one hope, without one faintest trace
Of mitigation, or redeeming bubble
Of colour'd phantasy; for I fear 'twould trouble
Thy brain to loss of reason: and next tell
How a restoring chance came down to quell
One half of the witch in me. On a day,
Sitting upon a rock above the spray,
I saw grow up from the horizon's brink
A gallant vessel: soon she seem'd to sink
Away from me again, as though her course
Had been resum'd in spite of hindering force--
So vanish'd: and not long, before arose
Dark clouds, and muttering of winds morose.
Old Eolus would stifle his mad spleen,
But could not: therefore all the billows green
Toss'd up the silver spume against the clouds.
The tempest came: I saw that vessel's shrouds
In perilous bustle; while upon the deck
Stood trembling creatures. I beheld the wreck;
The final gulphing; the poor struggling souls:
I heard their cries amid loud thunder-rolls.
O they had all been sav'd but crazed eld
Annull'd my vigorous cravings: and thus quell'd
And curb'd, think on't, O Latmian! did I sit
Writhing with pity, and a cursing fit
Against that hell-born Circe. The crew had gone,
By one and one, to pale oblivion;
And I was gazing on the surges prone,
With many a scalding tear and many a groan,
When at my feet emerg'd an old man's hand,
Grasping this scroll, and this same slender wand.
I knelt with pain--reached out my hand--had grasp'd
These treasures--touch'd the knuckles--they unclasp'd--
I caught a finger: but the downward weight
O'erpowered me--it sank. Then 'gan abate
The storm, and through chill aguish gloom outburst
The comfortable sun. I was athirst
To search the book, and in the warming air
Parted its dripping leaves with eager care.
Strange matters did it treat of, and drew on
My soul page after page, till well-nigh won
Into forgetfulness; when, stupefied,
I read these words, and read again, and tried
My eyes against the heavens, and read again.
O what a load of misery and pain
Each Atlas-line bore off!--a shine of hope
Came gold around me, cheering me to cope
Strenuous with hellish tyranny. Attend!
For thou hast brought their promise to an end.
"In the wide sea there lives a forlorn wretch,
Doom'd with enfeebled carcase to outstretch
His loath'd existence through ten centuries,
And then to die alone. Who can devise
A total opposition? No one. So
One million times ocean must ebb and flow,
And he oppressed. Yet he shall not die,
These things accomplish'd:--If he utterly
Scans all the depths of magic, and expounds
The meanings of all motions, shapes, and sounds;
If he explores all forms and substances
Straight homeward to their symbol-essences;
He shall not die. Moreover, and in chief,
He must pursue this task of joy and grief
Most piously;--all lovers tempest-tost,
And in the savage overwhelming lost,
He shall deposit side by side, until
Time's creeping shall the dreary space fulfil:
Which done, and all these labours ripened,
A youth, by heavenly power lov'd and led,
Shall stand before him; whom he shall direct
How to consummate all. The youth elect
Must do the thing, or both will be destroy'd."--
"Then," cried the young Endymion, overjoy'd,
"We are twin brothers in this destiny!
Say, I intreat thee, what achievement high
Is, in this restless world, for me reserv'd.
What! if from thee my wandering feet had swerv'd,
Had we both perish'd?"--"Look!" the sage replied,
"Dost thou not mark a gleaming through the tide,
Of divers brilliances? 'tis the edifice
I told thee of, where lovely Scylla lies;
And where I have enshrined piously
All lovers, whom fell storms have doom'd to die
Throughout my bondage." Thus discoursing, on
They went till unobscur'd the porches shone;
Which hurryingly they gain'd, and enter'd straight.
Sure never since king Neptune held his state
Was seen such wonder underneath the stars.
Turn to some level plain where haughty Mars
Has legion'd all his battle; and behold
How every soldier, with firm foot, doth hold
His even breast: see, many steeled squares,
And rigid ranks of iron--whence who dares
One step? Imagine further, line by line,
These warrior thousands on the field supine:--
So in that crystal place, in silent rows,
Poor lovers lay at rest from joys and woes.--
The stranger from the mountains, breathless, trac'd
Such thousands of shut eyes in order plac'd;
Such ranges of white feet, and patient lips
All ruddy,--for here death no blossom nips.
He mark'd their brows and foreheads; saw their hair
Put sleekly on one side with nicest care;
And each one's gentle wrists, with reverence,
Put cross-wise to its heart.
"Let us commence,
Whisper'd the guide, stuttering with joy, even now."
He spake, and, trembling like an aspen-bough,
Began to tear his scroll in pieces small,
Uttering the while some mumblings funeral.
He tore it into pieces small as snow
That drifts unfeather'd when bleak northerns blow;
And having done it, took his dark blue cloak
And bound it round Endymion: then struck
His wand against the empty air times nine.--
"What more there is to do, young man, is thine:
But first a little patience; first undo
This tangled thread, and wind it to a clue.
Ah, gentle! 'tis as weak as spider's skein;
And shouldst thou break it--What, is it done so clean?
A power overshadows thee! Oh, brave!
The spite of hell is tumbling to its grave.
Here is a shell; 'tis pearly blank to me,
Nor mark'd with any sign or charactery--
Canst thou read aught? O read for pity's sake!
Olympus! we are safe! Now, Carian, break
This wand against yon lyre on the pedestal."
'Twas done: and straight with sudden swell and fall
Sweet music breath'd her soul away, and sigh'd
A lullaby to silence.--"Youth! now strew
These minced leaves on me, and passing through
Those files of dead, scatter the same around,
And thou wilt see the issue."--'Mid the sound
Of flutes and viols, ravishing his heart,
Endymion from Glaucus stood apart,
And scatter'd in his face some fragments light.
How lightning-swift the change! a youthful wight
Smiling beneath a coral diadem,
Out-sparkling sudden like an upturn'd gem,
Appear'd, and, stepping to a beauteous corse,
Kneel'd down beside it, and with tenderest force
Press'd its cold hand, and wept--and Scylla sigh'd!
Endymion, with quick hand, the charm applied--
The nymph arose: he left them to their joy,
And onward went upon his high employ,
Showering those powerful fragments on the dead.
And, as he pass'd, each lifted up its head,
As doth a flower at Apollo's touch.
Death felt it to his inwards; 'twas too much:
Death fell a weeping in his charnel-house.
The Latmian persever'd along, and thus
All were re-animated. There arose
A noise of harmony, pulses and throes
Of gladness in the air--while many, who
Had died in mutual arms devout and true,
Sprang to each other madly; and the rest
Felt a high certainty of being blest.
They gaz'd upon Endymion. Enchantment
Grew drunken, and would have its head and bent.
Delicious symphonies, like airy flowers,
Budded, and swell'd, and, full-blown, shed full showers
Of light, soft, unseen leaves of sounds divine.
The two deliverers tasted a pure wine
Of happiness, from fairy-press ooz'd out.
Speechless they eyed each other, and about
The fair assembly wander'd to and fro,
Distracted with the richest overflow
Of joy that ever pour'd from heaven.
Shouted the new-born god; "Follow, and pay
Our piety to Neptunus supreme!"--
Then Scylla, blushing sweetly from her dream,
They led on first, bent to her meek surprise,
Through portal columns of a giant size,
Into the vaulted, boundless emerald.
Joyous all follow'd, as the leader call'd,
Down marble steps; pouring as easily
As hour-glass sand--and fast, as you might see
Swallows obeying the south summer's call,
Or swans upon a gentle waterfall.
Thus went that beautiful multitude, nor far,
Ere from among some rocks of glittering spar,
Just within ken, they saw descending thick
Another multitude. Whereat more quick
Moved either host. On a wide sand they met,
And of those numbers every eye was wet;
For each their old love found. A murmuring rose,
Like what was never heard in all the throes
Of wind and waters: 'tis past human wit
To tell; 'tis dizziness to think of it.
This mighty consummation made, the host
Mov'd on for many a league; and gain'd, and lost
Huge sea-marks; vanward swelling in array,
And from the rear diminishing away,--
Till a faint dawn surpris'd them. Glaucus cried,
"Behold! behold, the palace of his pride!
God Neptune's palaces!" With noise increas'd,
They shoulder'd on towards that brightening east.
At every onward step proud domes arose
In prospect,--diamond gleams, and golden glows
Of amber 'gainst their faces levelling.
Joyous, and many as the leaves in spring,
Still onward; still the splendour gradual swell'd.
Rich opal domes were seen, on high upheld
By jasper pillars, letting through their shafts
A blush of coral. Copious wonder-draughts
Each gazer drank; and deeper drank more near:
For what poor mortals fragment up, as mere
As marble was there lavish, to the vast
Of one fair palace, that far far surpass'd,
Even for common bulk, those olden three,
Memphis, and Babylon, and Nineveh.
As large, as bright, as colour'd as the bow
Of Iris, when unfading it doth shew
Beyond a silvery shower, was the arch
Through which this Paphian army took its march,
Into the outer courts of Neptune's state:
Whence could be seen, direct, a golden gate,
To which the leaders sped; but not half raught
Ere it burst open swift as fairy thought,
And made those dazzled thousands veil their eyes
Like callow eagles at the first sunrise.
Soon with an eagle nativeness their gaze
Ripe from hue-golden swoons took all the blaze,
And then, behold! large Neptune on his throne
Of emerald deep: yet not exalt alone;
At his right hand stood winged Love, and on
His left sat smiling Beauty's paragon.
Far as the mariner on highest mast
Can see all round upon the calmed vast,
So wide was Neptune's hall: and as the blue
Doth vault the waters, so the waters drew
Their doming curtains, high, magnificent,
Aw'd from the throne aloof;--and when storm-rent
Disclos'd the thunder-gloomings in Jove's air;
But sooth'd as now, flash'd sudden everywhere,
Noiseless, sub-marine cloudlets, glittering
Death to a human eye: for there did spring
From natural west, and east, and south, and north,
A light as of four sunsets, blazing forth
A gold-green zenith 'bove the Sea-God's head.
Of lucid depth the floor, and far outspread
As breezeless lake, on which the slim canoe
Of feather'd Indian darts about, as through
The delicatest air: air verily,
But for the portraiture of clouds and sky:
This palace floor breath-air,--but for the amaze
Of deep-seen wonders motionless,--and blaze
Of the dome pomp, reflected in extremes,
Globing a golden sphere.
They stood in dreams
Till Triton blew his horn. The palace rang;
The Nereids danc'd; the Syrens faintly sang;
And the great Sea-King bow'd his dripping head.
Then Love took wing, and from his pinions shed
On all the multitude a nectarous dew.
The ooze-born Goddess beckoned and drew
Fair Scylla and her guides to conference;
And when they reach'd the throned eminence
She kist the sea-nymph's cheek,--who sat her down
A toying with the doves. Then,--"Mighty crown
And sceptre of this kingdom!" Venus said,
"Thy vows were on a time to Nais paid:
Behold!"--Two copious tear-drops instant fell
From the God's large eyes; he smil'd delectable,
And over Glaucus held his blessing hands.--
"Endymion! Ah! still wandering in the bands
Of love? Now this is cruel. Since the hour
I met thee in earth's bosom, all my power
Have I put forth to serve thee. What, not yet
Escap'd from dull mortality's harsh net?
A little patience, youth! 'twill not be long,
Or I am skilless quite: an idle tongue,
A humid eye, and steps luxurious,
Where these are new and strange, are ominous.
Aye, I have seen these signs in one of heaven,
When others were all blind; and were I given
To utter secrets, haply I might say
Some pleasant words:--but Love will have his day.
So wait awhile expectant. Pr'ythee soon,
Even in the passing of thine honey-moon,
Visit my Cytherea: thou wilt find
Cupid well-natured, my Adonis kind;
And pray persuade with thee--Ah, I have done,
All blisses be upon thee, my sweet son!"--
Thus the fair goddess: while Endymion
Knelt to receive those accents halcyon.
Meantime a glorious revelry began
Before the Water-Monarch. Nectar ran
In courteous fountains to all cups outreach'd;
And plunder'd vines, teeming exhaustless, pleach'd
New growth about each shell and pendent lyre;
The which, in disentangling for their fire,
Pull'd down fresh foliage and coverture
For dainty toying. Cupid, empire-sure,
Flutter'd and laugh'd, and oft-times through the throng
Made a delighted way. Then dance, and song,
And garlanding grew wild; and pleasure reign'd.
In harmless tendril they each other chain'd,
And strove who should be smother'd deepest in
Fresh crush of leaves.
O 'tis a very sin
For one so weak to venture his poor verse
In such a place as this. O do not curse,
High Muses! let him hurry to the ending.
All suddenly were silent. A soft blending
Of dulcet instruments came charmingly;
And then a hymn.
"KING of the stormy sea!
Brother of Jove, and co-inheritor
Of elements! Eternally before
Thee the waves awful bow. Fast, stubborn rock,
At thy fear'd trident shrinking, doth unlock
Its deep foundations, hissing into foam.
All mountain-rivers lost, in the wide home
Of thy capacious bosom ever flow.
Thou frownest, and old Eolus thy foe
Skulks to his cavern, 'mid the gruff complaint
Of all his rebel tempests. Dark clouds faint
When, from thy diadem, a silver gleam
Slants over blue dominion. Thy bright team
Gulphs in the morning light, and scuds along
To bring thee nearer to that golden song
Apollo singeth, while his chariot
Waits at the doors of heaven. Thou art not
For scenes like this: an empire stern hast thou;
And it hath furrow'd that large front: yet now,
As newly come of heaven, dost thou sit
To blend and interknit
Subdued majesty with this glad time.
O shell-borne King sublime!
We lay our hearts before thee evermore--
We sing, and we adore!
"Breathe softly, flutes;
Be tender of your strings, ye soothing lutes;
Nor be the trumpet heard! O vain, O vain;
Not flowers budding in an April rain,
Nor breath of sleeping dove, nor river's flow,--
No, nor the Eolian twang of Love's own bow,
Can mingle music fit for the soft ear
Of goddess Cytherea!
Yet deign, white Queen of Beauty, thy fair eyes
On our souls' sacrifice.
Who has another care when thou hast smil'd?
Unfortunates on earth, we see at last
All death-shadows, and glooms that overcast
Our spirits, fann'd away by thy light pinions.
O sweetest essence! sweetest of all minions!
God of warm pulses, and dishevell'd hair,
And panting bosoms bare!
Dear unseen light in darkness! eclipser
Of light in light! delicious poisoner!
Thy venom'd goblet will we quaff until
We fill--we fill!
And by thy Mother's lips----"
Was heard no more
For clamour, when the golden palace door
Opened again, and from without, in shone
A new magnificence. On oozy throne
Smooth-moving came Oceanus the old,
To take a latest glimpse at his sheep-fold,
Before he went into his quiet cave
To muse for ever--Then a lucid wave,
Scoop'd from its trembling sisters of mid-sea,
Afloat, and pillowing up the majesty
Of Doris, and the Egean seer, her spouse--
Next, on a dolphin, clad in laurel boughs,
Theban Amphion leaning on his lute:
His fingers went across it--All were mute
To gaze on Amphitrite, queen of pearls,
And Thetis pearly too.--
The palace whirls
Around giddy Endymion; seeing he
Was there far strayed from mortality.
He could not bear it--shut his eyes in vain;
Imagination gave a dizzier pain.
"O I shall die! sweet Venus, be my stay!
Where is my lovely mistress? Well-away!
I die--I hear her voice--I feel my wing--"
At Neptune's feet he sank. A sudden ring
Of Nereids were about him, in kind strife
To usher back his spirit into life:
But still he slept. At last they interwove
Their cradling arms, and purpos'd to convey
Towards a crystal bower far away.
Lo! while slow carried through the pitying crowd,
To his inward senses these words spake aloud;
Written in star-light on the dark above:
Dearest Endymion! my entire love!
How have I dwelt in fear of fate: 'tis done--
Immortal bliss for me too hast thou won.
Arise then! for the hen-dove shall not hatch
Her ready eggs, before I'll kissing snatch
Thee into endless heaven. Awake! awake!
The youth at once arose: a placid lake
Came quiet to his eyes; and forest green,
Cooler than all the wonders he had seen,
Lull'd with its simple song his fluttering breast.
How happy once again in grassy nest!
The City of Dreadful Night
Per me si va nella citta dolente.
Poi di tanto adoprar, di tanti moti
D'ogni celeste, ogni terrena cosa,
Girando senza posa,
Per tornar sempre la donde son mosse;
Uso alcuno, alcun frutto
Indovinar non so.
Sola nel mondo eterna, a cui si volve
Ogni creata cosa,
In te, morte, si posa
Nostra ignuda natura;
Lieta no, ma sicura
Dell' antico dolor . . .
Pero ch' esser beato
Nega ai mortali e nega a' morti il fato.
Lo, thus, as prostrate, "In the dust I write
My heart's deep languor and my soul's sad tears."
Yet why evoke the spectres of black night
To blot the sunshine of exultant years?
Why disinter dead faith from mouldering hidden?
Why break the seals of mute despair unbidden,
And wail life's discords into careless ears?
Because a cold rage seizes one at whiles
To show the bitter old and wrinkled truth
Stripped naked of all vesture that beguiles,
False dreams, false hopes, false masks and modes of youth;
Because it gives some sense of power and passion
In helpless innocence to try to fashion
Our woe in living words howe'er uncouth.
Surely I write not for the hopeful young,
Or those who deem their happiness of worth,
Or such as pasture and grow fat among
The shows of life and feel nor doubt nor dearth,
Or pious spirits with a God above them
To sanctify and glorify and love them,
Or sages who foresee a heaven on earth.
For none of these I write, and none of these
Could read the writing if they deigned to try;
So may they flourish in their due degrees,
On our sweet earth and in their unplaced sky.
If any cares for the weak words here written,
It must be some one desolate, Fate-smitten,
Whose faith and hopes are dead, and who would die.
Yes, here and there some weary wanderer
In that same city of tremendous night,
Will understand the speech and feel a stir
Of fellowship in all-disastrous fight;
"I suffer mute and lonely, yet another
Uplifts his voice to let me know a brother
Travels the same wild paths though out of sight."
O sad Fraternity, do I unfold
Your dolorous mysteries shrouded from of yore?
Nay, be assured; no secret can be told
To any who divined it not before:
None uninitiate by many a presage
Will comprehend the language of the message,
Although proclaimed aloud for evermore.
The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night; for never there
Can come the lucid morning's fragrant breath
After the dewy dawning's cold grey air:
The moon and stars may shine with scorn or pity
The sun has never visited that city,
For it dissolveth in the daylight fair.
Dissolveth like a dream of night away;
Though present in distempered gloom of thought
And deadly weariness of heart all day.
But when a dream night after night is brought
Throughout a week, and such weeks few or many
Recur each year for several years, can any
Discern that dream from real life in aught?
For life is but a dream whose shapes return,
Some frequently, some seldom, some by night
And some by day, some night and day: we learn,
The while all change and many vanish quite,
In their recurrence with recurrent changes
A certain seeming order; where this ranges
We count things real; such is memory's might.
A river girds the city west and south,
The main north channel of a broad lagoon,
Regurging with the salt tides from the mouth;
Waste marshes shine and glister to the moon
For leagues, then moorland black, then stony ridges;
Great piers and causeways, many noble bridges,
Connect the town and islet suburbs strewn.
Upon an easy slope it lies at large
And scarcely overlaps the long curved crest
Which swells out two leagues from the river marge.
A trackless wilderness rolls north and west,
Savannahs, savage woods, enormous mountains,
Bleak uplands, black ravines with torrent fountains;
And eastward rolls the shipless sea's unrest.
The city is not ruinous, although
Great ruins of an unremembered past,
With others of a few short years ago
More sad, are found within its precincts vast.
The street-lamps always burn; but scarce a casement
In house or palace front from roof to basement
Doth glow or gleam athwart the mirk air cast.
The street-lamps burn amid the baleful glooms,
Amidst the soundless solitudes immense
Of ranged mansions dark and still as tombs.
The silence which benumbs or strains the sense
Fulfils with awe the soul's despair unweeping:
Myriads of habitants are ever sleeping,
Or dead, or fled from nameless pestilence!
Yet as in some necropolis you find
Perchance one mourner to a thousand dead,
So there: worn faces that look deaf and blind
Like tragic masks of stone. With weary tread,
Each wrapt in his own doom, they wander, wander,
Or sit foredone and desolately ponder
Through sleepless hours with heavy drooping head.
Mature men chiefly, few in age or youth,
A woman rarely, now and then a child:
A child! If here the heart turns sick with ruth
To see a little one from birth defiled,
Or lame or blind, as preordained to languish
Through youthless life, think how it bleeds with anguish
To meet one erring in that homeless wild.
They often murmur to themselves, they speak
To one another seldom, for their woe
Broods maddening inwardly and scorns to wreak
Itself abroad; and if at whiles it grow
To frenzy which must rave, none heeds the clamour,
Unless there waits some victim of like glamour,
To rave in turn, who lends attentive show.
The City is of Night, but not of Sleep;
There sweet sleep is not for the weary brain;
The pitiless hours like years and ages creep,
A night seems termless hell. This dreadful strain
Of thought and consciousness which never ceases,
Or which some moments' stupor but increases,
This, worse than woe, makes wretches there insane.
They leave all hope behind who enter there:
One certitude while sane they cannot leave,
One anodyne for torture and despair;
The certitude of Death, which no reprieve
Can put off long; and which, divinely tender,
But waits the outstretched hand to promptly render
That draught whose slumber nothing can bereave
Because he seemed to walk with an intent
I followed him; who, shadowlike and frail,
Unswervingly though slowly onward went,
Regardless, wrapt in thought as in a veil:
Thus step for step with lonely sounding feet
We travelled many a long dim silent street.
At length he paused: a black mass in the gloom,
A tower that merged into the heavy sky;
Around, the huddled stones of grave and tomb:
Some old God's-acre now corruption's sty:
He murmured to himself with dull despair,
Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air.
Then turning to the right went on once more
And travelled weary roads without suspense;
And reached at last a low wall's open door,
Whose villa gleamed beyond the foliage dense:
He gazed, and muttered with a hard despair,
Here Love died, stabbed by its own worshipped pair.
Then turning to the right resumed his march,
And travelled street and lanes with wondrous strength,
Until on stooping through a narrow arch
We stood before a squalid house at length:
He gazed, and whispered with a cold despair,
Here Hope died, starved out in its utmost lair.
When he had spoken thus, before he stirred,
I spoke, perplexed by something in the signs
Of desolation I had seen and heard
In this drear pilgrimage to ruined shrines:
Where Faith and Love and Hope are dead indeed,
Can Life still live? By what doth it proceed?
As whom his one intense thought overpowers,
He answered coldly, Take a watch, erase
The signs and figures of the circling hours,
Detach the hands, remove the dial-face;
The works proceed until run down; although
Bereft of purpose, void of use, still go.
Then turning to the right paced on again,
And traversed squares and travelled streets whose glooms
Seemed more and more familiar to my ken;
And reached that sullen temple of the tombs;
And paused to murmur with the old despair,
Here Faith died, poisoned by this charnel air.
I ceased to follow, for the knot of doubt
Was severed sharply with a cruel knife:
He circled thus forever tracing out
The series of the fraction left of Life;
Perpetual recurrence in the scope
Of but three terms, dead Faith, dead Love, dead Hope. [ 1]
 Life divided by that persistent three = --- = .210.
Although lamps burn along the silent streets,
Even when moonlight silvers empty squares
The dark holds countless lanes and close retreats;
But when the night its sphereless mantle wears
The open spaces yawn with gloom abysmal,
The sombre mansions loom immense and dismal,
The lanes are black as subterranean lairs.
And soon the eye a strange new vision learns:
The night remains for it as dark and dense,
Yet clearly in this darkness it discerns
As in the daylight with its natural sense;
Perceives a shade in shadow not obscurely,
Pursues a stir of black in blackness surely,
Sees spectres also in the gloom intense.
The ear, too, with the silence vast and deep
Becomes familiar though unreconciled;
Hears breathings as of hidden life asleep,
And muffled throbs as of pent passions wild,
Far murmurs, speech of pity or derision;
but all more dubious than the things of vision,
So that it knows not when it is beguiled.
No time abates the first despair and awe,
But wonder ceases soon; the weirdest thing
Is felt least strange beneath the lawless law
Where Death-in-Life is the eternal king;
Crushed impotent beneath this reign of terror,
Dazed with mysteries of woe and error,
The soul is too outworn for wondering.
He stood alone within the spacious square
Declaiming from the central grassy mound,
With head uncovered and with streaming hair,
As if large multitudes were gathered round:
A stalwart shape, the gestures full of might,
The glances burning with unnatural light:--
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: All was black,
In heaven no single star, on earth no track;
A brooding hush without a stir or note,
The air so thick it clotted in my throat;
And thus for hours; then some enormous things
Swooped past with savage cries and clanking wings:
But I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Eyes of fire
Glared at me throbbing with a starved desire;
The hoarse and heavy and carnivorous breath
Was hot upon me from deep jaws of death;
Sharp claws, swift talons, fleshless fingers cold
Plucked at me from the bushes, tried to hold:
But I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Lo you, there,
That hillock burning with a brazen glare;
Those myriad dusky flames with points a-glow
Which writhed and hissed and darted to and fro;
A Sabbath of the Serpents, heaped pell-mell
For Devil's roll-call and some fete of Hell:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Meteors ran
And crossed their javelins on the black sky-span;
The zenith opened to a gulf of flame,
The dreadful thunderbolts jarred earth's fixed frame;
The ground all heaved in waves of fire that surged
And weltered round me sole there unsubmerged:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Air once more,
And I was close upon a wild sea-shore;
Enormous cliffs arose on either hand,
The deep tide thundered up a league-broad strand;
White foambelts seethed there, wan spray swept and flew;
The sky broke, moon and stars and clouds and blue:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: On the left
The sun arose and crowned a broad crag-cleft;
There stopped and burned out black, except a rim,
A bleeding eyeless socket, red and dim;
Whereon the moon fell suddenly south-west,
And stood above the right-hand cliffs at rest:
Yet I strode on austere;
No hope could have no fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: From the right
A shape came slowly with a ruddy light;
A woman with a red lamp in her hand,
Bareheaded and barefooted on that strand;
O desolation moving with such grace!
O anguish with such beauty in thy face!
I fell as on my bier,
Hope travailed with such fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: I was twain,
Two selves distinct that cannot join again;
One stood apart and knew but could not stir,
And watched the other stark in swoon and her;
And she came on, and never turned aside,
Between such sun and moon and roaring tide:
And as she came more near
My soul grew mad with fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: Hell is mild
And piteous matched with that accursed wild;
A large black sign was on her breast that bowed,
A broad black band ran down her snow-white shroud;
That lamp she held was her own burning heart,
Whose blood-drops trickled step by step apart:
The mystery was clear;
Mad rage had swallowed fear.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: By the sea
She knelt and bent above that senseless me;
Those lamp-drops fell upon my white brow there,
She tried to cleanse them with her tears and hair;
She murmured words of pity, love, and woe,
Shee heeded not the level rushing flow:
And mad with rage and fear,
I stood stonebound so near.
As I came through the desert thus it was,
As I came through the desert: When the tide
Swept up to her there kneeling by my side,
She clasped that corpse-like me, and they were borne
Away, and this vile me was left forlorn;
I know the whole sea cannot quench that heart,
Or cleanse that brow, or wash those two apart:
They love; their doom is drear,
Yet they nor hope nor fear;
But I, what do I here?
How he arrives there none can clearly know;
Athwart the mountains and immense wild tracts,
Or flung a waif upon that vast sea-flow,
Or down the river's boiling cataracts:
To reach it is as dying fever-stricken
To leave it, slow faint birth intense pangs quicken;
And memory swoons in both the tragic acts.
But being there one feels a citizen;
Escape seems hopeless to the heart forlorn:
Can Death-in-Life be brought to life again?
And yet release does come; there comes a morn
When he awakes from slumbering so sweetly
That all the world is changed for him completely,
And he is verily as if new-born.
He scarcely can believe the blissful change,
He weeps perchance who wept not while accurst;
Never again will he approach the range
Infected by that evil spell now burst:
Poor wretch! who once hath paced that dolent city
Shall pace it often, doomed beyond all pity,
With horror ever deepening from the first.
Though he possess sweet babes and loving wife,
A home of peace by loyal friendships cheered,
And love them more than death or happy life,
They shall avail not; he must dree his weird;
Renounce all blessings for that imprecation,
Steal forth and haunt that builded desolation,
Of woe and terrors and thick darkness reared.
I sat forlornly by the river-side,
And watched the bridge-lamps glow like golden stars
Above the blackness of the swelling tide,
Down which they struck rough gold in ruddier bars;
And heard the heave and plashing of the flow
Against the wall a dozen feet below.
Large elm-trees stood along that river-walk;
And under one, a few steps from my seat,
I heard strange voices join in stranger talk,
Although I had not heard approaching feet:
These bodiless voices in my waking dream
Flowed dark words blending with sombre stream:--
And you have after all come back; come back.
I was about to follow on your track.
And you have failed: our spark of hope is black.
That I have failed is proved by my return:
The spark is quenched, nor ever more will burn,
But listen; and the story you shall learn.
I reached the portal common spirits fear,
And read the words above it, dark yet clear,
"Leave hope behind, all ye who enter here:"
And would have passed in, gratified to gain
That positive eternity of pain
Instead of this insufferable inane.
A demon warder clutched me, Not so fast;
First leave your hopes behind!--But years have passed
Since I left all behind me, to the last:
You cannot count for hope, with all your wit,
This bleak despair that drives me to the Pit:
How could I seek to enter void of it?
He snarled, What thing is this which apes a soul,
And would find entrance to our gulf of dole
Without the payment of the settled toll?
Outside the gate he showed an open chest:
Here pay their entrance fees the souls unblest;
Cast in some hope, you enter with the rest.
This is Pandora's box; whose lid shall shut,
And Hell-gate too, when hopes have filled it; but
They are so thin that it will never glut.
I stood a few steps backwards, desolate;
And watched the spirits pass me to their fate,
And fling off hope, and enter at the gate.
When one casts off a load he springs upright,
Squares back his shoulders, breathes will all his might,
And briskly paces forward strong and light:
But these, as if they took some burden, bowed;
The whole frame sank; however strong and proud
Before, they crept in quite infirm and cowed.
And as they passed me, earnestly from each
A morsel of his hope I did beseech,
To pay my entrance; but all mocked my speech.
No one would cede a little of his store,
Though knowing that in instants three or four
He must resign the whole for evermore.
So I returned. Our destiny is fell;
For in this Limbo we must ever dwell,
Shut out alike from heaven and Earth and Hell.
The other sighed back, Yea; but if we grope
With care through all this Limbo's dreary scope,
We yet may pick up some minute lost hope;
And sharing it between us, entrance win,
In spite of fiends so jealous for gross sin:
Let us without delay our search begin.
Some say that phantoms haunt those shadowy streets,
And mingle freely there with sparse mankind;
And tell of ancient woes and black defeats,
And murmur mysteries in the grave enshrined:
But others think them visions of illusion,
Or even men gone far in self-confusion;
No man there being wholly sane in mind.
And yet a man who raves, however mad,
Who bares his heart and tells of his own fall,
Reserves some inmost secret good or bad:
The phantoms have no reticence at all:
The nudity of flesh will blush though tameless
The extreme nudity of bone grins shameless,
The unsexed skeleton mocks shroud and pall.
I have seen phantoms there that were as men
And men that were as phantoms flit and roam;
Marked shapes that were not living to my ken,
Caught breathings acrid as with Dead Sea foam:
The City rests for man so weird and awful,
That his intrusion there might seem unlawful,
And phantoms there may have their proper home.
While I still lingered on that river-walk,
And watched the tide as black as our black doom,
I heard another couple join in talk,
And saw them to the left hand in the gloom
Seated against an elm bole on the ground,
Their eyes intent upon the stream profound.
"I never knew another man on earth
But had some joy and solace in his life,
Some chance of triumph in the dreadful strife:
My doom has been unmitigated dearth."
"We gaze upon the river, and we note
The various vessels large and small that float,
Ignoring every wrecked and sunken boat."
"And yet I asked no splendid dower, no spoil
Of sway or fame or rank or even wealth;
But homely love with common food and health,
And nightly sleep to balance daily toil."
"This all-too-humble soul would arrogate
Unto itself some signalising hate
From the supreme indifference of Fate!"
"Who is most wretched in this dolorous place?
I think myself; yet I would rather be
My miserable self than He, than He
Who formed such creatures to His own disgrace.
"The vilest thing must be less vile than Thou
From whom it had its being, God and Lord!
Creator of all woe and sin! abhorred
Malignant and implacable! I vow
"That not for all Thy power furled and unfurled,
For all the temples to Thy glory built,
Would I assume the ignominious guilt
Of having made such men in such a world."
"As if a Being, God or Fiend, could reign,
At once so wicked, foolish and insane,
As to produce men when He might refrain!
"The world rolls round for ever like a mill;
It grinds out death and life and good and ill;
It has no purpose, heart or mind or will.
"While air of Space and Time's full river flow
The mill must blindly whirl unresting so:
It may be wearing out, but who can know?
"Man might know one thing were his sight less dim;
That it whirls not to suit his petty whim,
That it is quite indifferent to him.
"Nay, does it treat him harshly as he saith?
It grinds him some slow years of bitter breath,
Then grinds him back into eternal death."
It is full strange to him who hears and feels,
When wandering there in some deserted street,
The booming and the jar of ponderous wheels,
The trampling clash of heavy ironshod feet:
Who in this Venice of the Black Sea rideth?
Who in this city of the stars abideth
To buy or sell as those in daylight sweet?
The rolling thunder seems to fill the sky
As it comes on; the horses snort and strain,
The harness jingles, as it passes by;
The hugeness of an overburthened wain:
A man sits nodding on the shaft or trudges
Three parts asleep beside his fellow-drudges:
And so it rolls into the night again.
What merchandise? whence, whither, and for whom?
Perchance it is a Fate-appointed hearse,
Bearing away to some mysterious tomb
Or Limbo of the scornful universe
The joy, the peace, the life-hope, the abortions
Of all things good which should have been our portions,
But have been strangled by that City's curse.
The mansion stood apart in its own ground;
In front thereof a fragrant garden-lawn,
High trees about it, and the whole walled round:
The massy iron gates were both withdrawn;
And every window of its front shed light,
Portentous in that City of the Night.
But though thus lighted it was deadly still
As all the countless bulks of solid gloom;
Perchance a congregation to fulfil
Solemnities of silence in this doom,
Mysterious rites of dolour and despair
Permitting not a breath or chant of prayer?
Broad steps ascended to a terrace broad
Whereon lay still light from the open door;
The hall was noble, and its aspect awed,
Hung round with heavy black from dome to floor;
And ample stairways rose to left and right
Whose balustrades were also draped with night.
I paced from room to room, from hall to hall,
Nor any life throughout the maze discerned;
But each was hung with its funereal pall,
And held a shrine, around which tapers burned,
With picture or with statue or with bust,
all copied from the same fair form of dust:
A woman very young and very fair;
Beloved by bounteous life and joy and youth,
And loving these sweet lovers, so that care
And age and death seemed not for her in sooth:
Alike as stars, all beautiful and bright,
these shapes lit up that mausolean night.
At length I heard a murmur as of lips,
And reached an open oratory hung
With heaviest blackness of the whole eclipse;
Beneath the dome a fuming censer swung;
And one lay there upon a low white bed,
With tapers burning at the foot and head:
The Lady of the images, supine,
Deathstill, lifesweet, with folded palms she lay:
And kneeling there as at a sacred shrine
A young man wan and worn who seemed to pray:
A crucifix of dim and ghostly white
Surmounted the large altar left in night:--
The chambers of the mansion of my heart,
In every one whereof thine image dwells,
Are black with grief eternal for thy sake.
The inmost oratory of my soul,
Wherein thou ever dwellest quick or dead,
Is black with grief eternal for thy sake.
I kneel beside thee and I clasp the cross,
With eyes forever fixed upon that face,
So beautiful and dreadful in its calm.
I kneel here patient as thou liest there;
As patient as a statue carved in stone,
Of adoration and eternal grief.
While thou dost not awake I cannot move;
And something tells me thou wilt never wake,
And I alive feel turning into stone.
Most beautiful were Death to end my grief,
Most hateful to destroy the sight of thee,
Dear vision better than all death or life.
But I renounce all choice of life or death,
For either shall be ever at thy side,
And thus in bliss or woe be ever well.--
He murmured thus and thus in monotone,
Intent upon that uncorrupted face,
Entranced except his moving lips alone:
I glided with hushed footsteps from the place.
This was the festival that filled with light
That palace in the City of the Night.
What men are they who haunt these fatal glooms,
And fill their living mouths with dust of death,
And make their habitations in the tombs,
And breathe eternal sighs with mortal breath,
And pierce life's pleasant veil of various error
To reach that void of darkness and old terror
Wherein expire the lamps of hope and faith?
They have much wisdom yet they are not wise,
They have much goodness yet they do not well,
(The fools we know have their own paradise,
The wicked also have their proper Hell);
They have much strength but still their doom is stronger,
Much patience but their time endureth longer,
Much valour but life mocks it with some spell.
They are most rational and yet insane:
And outward madness not to be controlled;
A perfect reason in the central brain,
Which has no power, but sitteth wan and cold,
And sees the madness, and foresees as plainly
The ruin in its path, and trieth vainly
To cheat itself refusing to behold.
And some are great in rank and wealth and power,
And some renowned for genius and for worth;
And some are poor and mean, who brood and cower
And shrink from notice, and accept all dearth
Of body, heart and soul, and leave to others
All boons of life: yet these and those are brothers,
The saddest and the weariest men on earth.
Our isolated units could be brought
To act together for some common end?
For one by one, each silent with his thought,
I marked a long loose line approach and wend
Athwart the great cathedral's cloistered square,
And slowly vanish from the moonlit air.
Then I would follow in among the last:
And in the porch a shrouded figure stood,
Who challenged each one pausing ere he passed,
With deep eyes burning through a blank white hood:
Whence come you in the world of life and light
To this our City of Tremendous Night?--
From pleading in a senate of rich lords
For some scant justice to our countless hordes
Who toil half-starved with scarce a human right:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From wandering through many a solemn scene
Of opium visions, with a heart serene
And intellect miraculously bright:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From making hundreds laugh and roar with glee
By my transcendent feats of mimicry,
And humour wanton as an elvish sprite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From prayer and fasting in a lonely cell,
Which brought an ecstasy ineffable
Of love and adoration and delight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From ruling on a splendid kingly throne
A nation which beneath my rule has grown
Year after year in wealth and arts and might:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From preaching to an audience fired with faith
The Lamb who died to save our souls from death,
Whose blood hath washed our scarlet sins wool-white:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From drinking fiery poison in a den
Crowded with tawdry girls and squalid men,
Who hoarsely laugh and curse and brawl and fight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From picturing with all beauty and all grace
First Eden and the parents of our race,
A luminous rapture unto all men's sight:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From writing a great work with patient plan
To justify the ways of God to man,
And show how ill must fade and perish quite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
From desperate fighting with a little band
Against the powerful tyrants of our land,
To free our brethren in their own despite:
I wake from daydreams to this real night.
Thus, challenged by that warder sad and stern,
Each one responded with his countersign,
Then entered the cathedral; and in turn
I entered also, having given mine;
But lingered near until I heard no more,
And marked the closing of the massive door.
Of all things human which are strange and wild
This is perchance the wildest and most strange,
And showeth man most utterly beguiled,
To those who haunt that sunless City's range;
That he bemoans himself for aye, repeating
How Time is deadly swift, how life is fleeting,
How naught is constant on the earth but change.
The hours are heavy on him and the days;
The burden of the months he scarce can bear;
And often in his secret soul he prays
To sleep through barren periods unaware,
Arousing at some longed-for date of pleasure;
Which having passed and yielded him small treasure,
He would outsleep another term of care.
Yet in his marvellous fancy he must make
Quick wings for Time, and see it fly from us;
This Time which crawleth like a monstrous snake,
Wounded and slow and very venomous;
Which creeps blindwormlike round the earth and ocean,
Distilling poison at each painful motion,
And seems condemned to circle ever thus.
And since he cannot spend and use aright
The little time here given him in trust,
But wasteth it in weary undelight
Of foolish toil and trouble, strife and lust,
He naturally claimeth to inherit
The everlasting Future, that his merit
May have full scope; as surely is most just.
O length of the intolerable hours,
O nights that are as aeons of slow pain,
O Time, too ample for our vital powers,
O Life, whose woeful vanities remain
Immutable for all of all our legions
Through all the centuries and in all the regions,
Not of your speed and variance WE complain.
WE do not ask a longer term of strife,
Weakness and weariness and nameless woes;
We do not claim renewed and endless life
When this which is our torment here shall close,
An everlasting conscious inanition!
We yearn for speedy death in full fruition,
Dateless oblivion and divine repose.
Large glooms were gathered in the mighty fane,
With tinted moongleams slanting here and there;
And all was hush: no swelling organ-strain,
No chant, no voice or murmuring of prayer;
No priests came forth, no tinkling censers fumed,
And the high altar space was unillumed.
Around the pillars and against the walls
Leaned men and shadows; others seemed to brood
Bent or recumbent in secluded stalls.
Perchance they were not a great multitude
Save in that city of so lonely streets
Where one may count up every face he meets.
All patiently awaited the event
Without a stir or sound, as if no less
Self-occupied, doomstricken while attent.
And then we heard a voice of solemn stress
From the dark pulpit, and our gaze there met
Two eyes which burned as never eyes burned yet:
Two steadfast and intolerable eyes
Burning beneath a broad and rugged brow;
The head behind it of enormous size.
And as black fir-groves in a large wind bow,
Our rooted congregation, gloom-arrayed,
By that great sad voice deep and full were swayed:--
O melancholy Brothers, dark, dark, dark!
O battling in black floods without an ark!
O spectral wanderers of unholy Night!
My soul hath bled for you these sunless years,
With bitter blood-drops running down like tears:
Oh dark, dark, dark, withdrawn from joy and light!
My heart is sick with anguish for your bale;
Your woe hath been my anguish; yea, I quail
And perish in your perishing unblest.
And I have searched the highths and depths, the scope
Of all our universe, with desperate hope
To find some solace for your wild unrest.
And now at last authentic word I bring,
Witnessed by every dead and living thing;
Good tidings of great joy for you, for all:
There is no God; no Fiend with names divine
Made us and tortures us; if we must pine,
It is to satiate no Being's gall.
It was the dark delusion of a dream,
That living Person conscious and supreme,
Whom we must curse for cursing us with life;
Whom we must curse because the life he gave
Could not be buried in the quiet grave,
Could not be killed by poison or the knife.
This little life is all we must endure,
The grave's most holy peace is ever sure,
We fall asleep and never wake again;
Nothing is of us but the mouldering flesh,
Whose elements dissolve and merge afresh
In earth, air, water, plants, and other men.
We finish thus; and all our wretched race
Shall finish with its cycle, and give place
To other beings with their own time-doom:
Infinite aeons ere our kind began;
Infinite aeons after the last man
Has joined the mammoth in earth's tomb and womb.
We bow down to the universal laws,
Which never had for man a special clause
Of cruelty or kindness, love or hate:
If toads and vultures are obscene to sight,
If tigers burn with beauty and with might,
Is it by favour or by wrath of Fate?
All substance lives and struggles evermore
Through countless shapes continually at war,
By countless interactions interknit:
If one is born a certain day on earth,
All times and forces tended to that birth,
Not all the world could change or hinder it.
I find no hint throughout the Universe
Of good or ill, of blessing or of curse;
I find alone Necessity Supreme;
With infinite Mystery, abysmal, dark,
Unlighted ever by the faintest spark
For us the flitting shadows of a dream.
O Brothers of sad lives! they are so brief;
A few short years must bring us all relief:
Can we not bear these years of laboring breath?
But if you would not this poor life fulfil,
Lo, you are free to end it when you will,
Without the fear of waking after death.--
The organ-like vibrations of his voice
Thrilled through the vaulted aisles and died away;
The yearning of the tones which bade rejoice
Was sad and tender as a requiem lay:
Our shadowy congregation rested still
As brooding on that "End it when you will."
Wherever men are gathered, all the air
Is charged with human feeling, human thought;
Each shout and cry and laugh, each curse and prayer,
Are into its vibrations surely wrought;
Unspoken passion, wordless meditation,
Are breathed into it with our respiration
It is with our life fraught and overfraught.
So that no man there breathes earth's simple breath,
As if alone on mountains or wide seas;
But nourishes warm life or hastens death
With joys and sorrows, health and foul disease,
Wisdom and folly, good and evil labours,
Incessant of his multitudinous neighbors;
He in his turn affecting all of these.
That City's atmosphere is dark and dense,
Although not many exiles wander there,
With many a potent evil influence,
Each adding poison to the poisoned air;
Infections of unutterable sadness,
Infections of incalculable madness,
Infections of incurable despair.
Our shadowy congregation rested still,
As musing on that message we had heard
And brooding on that "End it when you will;"
Perchance awaiting yet some other word;
When keen as lightning through a muffled sky
Sprang forth a shrill and lamentable cry:--
The man speaks sooth, alas! the man speaks sooth:
We have no personal life beyond the grave;
There is no God; Fate knows nor wrath nor ruth:
Can I find here the comfort which I crave?
In all eternity I had one chance,
One few years' term of gracious human life:
The splendours of the intellect's advance,
The sweetness of the home with babes and wife;
The social pleasures with their genial wit:
The fascination of the worlds of art,
The glories of the worlds of nature, lit
By large imagination's glowing heart;
The rapture of mere being, full of health;
The careless childhood and the ardent youth,
The strenuous manhood winning various wealth,
The reverend age serene with life's long truth:
All the sublime prerogatives of Man;
The storied memories of the times of old,
The patient tracking of the world's great plan
Through sequences and changes myriadfold.
This chance was never offered me before;
For me this infinite Past is blank and dumb:
This chance recurreth never, nevermore;
Blank, blank for me the infinite To-come.
And this sole chance was frustrate from my birth,
A mockery, a delusion; and my breath
Of noble human life upon this earth
So racks me that I sigh for senseless death.
My wine of life is poison mixed with gall,
My noonday passes in a nightmare dream,
I worse than lose the years which are my all:
What can console me for the loss supreme?
Speak not of comfort where no comfort is,
Speak not at all: can words make foul things fair?
Our life's a cheat, our death a black abyss:
Hush and be mute envisaging despair.--
This vehement voice came from the northern aisle
Rapid and shrill to its abrupt harsh close;
And none gave answer for a certain while,
For words must shrink from these most wordless woes;
At last the pulpit speaker simply said,
With humid eyes and thoughtful drooping head:--
My Brother, my poor Brothers, it is thus;
This life itself holds nothing good for us,
But ends soon and nevermore can be;
And we knew nothing of it ere our birth,
And shall know nothing when consigned to earth:
I ponder these thoughts and they comfort me.
How the moon triumphs through the endless nights!
How the stars throb and glitter as they wheel
Their thick processions of supernal lights
Around the blue vault obdurate as steel!
And men regard with passionate awe and yearning
The mighty marching and the golden burning,
And think the heavens respond to what they feel.
Boats gliding like dark shadows of a dream
Are glorified from vision as they pass
The quivering moonbridge on the deep black stream;
Cold windows kindle their dead glooms of glass
To restless crystals; cornice dome and column
Emerge from chaos in the splendour solemn;
Like faery lakes gleam lawns of dewy grass.
With such a living light these dead eyes shine,
These eyes of sightless heaven, that as we gaze
We read a pity, tremulous, divine,
Or cold majestic scorn in their pure rays:
Fond man! they are not haughty, are not tender;
There is no heart or mind in all their splendour,
They thread mere puppets all their marvellous maze.
If we could near them with the flight unflown,
We should but find them worlds as sad as this,
Or suns all self-consuming like our own
Enringed by planet worlds as much amiss:
They wax and wane through fusion and confusion;
The spheres eternal are a grand illusion,
The empyrean is a void abyss.
I wandered in a suburb of the north,
And reached a spot whence three close lanes led down,
Beneath thick trees and hedgerows winding forth
Like deep brook channels, deep and dark and lown:
The air above was wan with misty light,
The dull grey south showed one vague blur of white.
I took the left-hand path and slowly trod
Its earthen footpath, brushing as I went
The humid leafage; and my feet were shod
With heavy languor, and my frame downbent,
With infinite sleepless weariness outworn,
So many nights I thus had paced forlorn.
After a hundred steps I grew aware
Of something crawling in the lane below;
It seemed a wounded creature prostrate there
That sobbed with pangs in making progress slow,
The hind limbs stretched to push, the fore limbs then
To drag; for it would die in its own den.
But coming level with it I discerned
That it had been a man; for at my tread
It stopped in its sore travail and half-turned,
Leaning upon its right, and raised its head,
And with the left hand twitched back as in ire
Long grey unreverend locks befouled with mire.
A haggard filthy face with bloodshot eyes,
An infamy for manhood to behold.
He gasped all trembling, What, you want my prize?
You leave, to rob me, wine and lust and gold
And all that men go mad upon, since you
Have traced my sacred secret of the clue?
You think that I am weak and must submit
Yet I but scratch you with this poisoned blade,
And you are dead as if I clove with it
That false fierce greedy heart. Betrayed! betrayed!
I fling this phial if you seek to pass,
And you are forthwith shrivelled up like grass.
And then with sudden change, Take thought! take thought!
Have pity on me! it is mine alone.
If you could find, it would avail you naught;
Seek elsewhere on the pathway of your own:
For who of mortal or immortal race
The lifetrack of another can retrace?
Did you but know my agony and toil!
Two lanes diverge up yonder from this lane;
My thin blood marks the long length of their soil;
Such clue I left, who sought my clue in vain:
My hands and knees are worn both flesh and bone;
I cannot move but with continual moan.
But I am in the very way at last
To find the long-lost broken golden thread
Which unites my present with my past,
If you but go your own way. And I said,
I will retire as soon as you have told
Whereunto leadeth this lost thread of gold.
And so you know it not! he hissed with scorn;
I feared you, imbecile! It leads me back
From this accursed night without a morn,
And through the deserts which have else no track,
And through vast wastes of horror-haunted time,
To Eden innocence in Eden's clime:
And I become a nursling soft and pure,
An infant cradled on its mother's knee,
Without a past, love-cherished and secure;
Which if it saw this loathsome present Me,
Would plunge its face into the pillowing breast,
And scream abhorrence hard to lull to rest.
He turned to grope; and I retiring brushed
Thin shreds of gossamer from off my face,
And mused, His life would grow, the germ uncrushed;
He should to antenatal night retrace,
And hide his elements in that large womb
Beyond the reach of man-evolving Doom.
And even thus, what weary way were planned,
To seek oblivion through the far-off gate
Of birth, when that of death is close at hand!
For this is law, if law there be in Fate:
What never has been, yet may have its when;
The thing which has been, never is again.
The mighty river flowing dark and deep,
With ebb and flood from the remote sea-tides
Vague-sounding through the City's sleepless sleep,
Is named the River of the Suicides;
For night by night some lorn wretch overweary,
And shuddering from the future yet more dreary,
Within its cold secure oblivion hides.
One plunges from a bridge's parapet,
As if by some blind and sudden frenzy hurled;
Another wades in slow with purpose set
Until the waters are above him furled;
Another in a boat with dreamlike motion
Glides drifting down into the desert ocean,
To starve or sink from out the desert world.
They perish from their suffering surely thus,
For none beholding them attempts to save,
The while thinks how soon, solicitous,
He may seek refuge in the self-same wave;
Some hour when tired of ever-vain endurance
Impatience will forerun the sweet assurance
Of perfect peace eventual in the grave.
When this poor tragic-farce has palled us long,
Why actors and spectators do we stay?--
To fill our so-short roles out right or wrong;
To see what shifts are yet in the dull play
For our illusion; to refrain from grieving
Dear foolish friends by our untimely leaving:
But those asleep at home, how blest are they!
Yet it is but for one night after all:
What matters one brief night of dreary pain?
When after it the weary eyelids fall
Upon the weary eyes and wasted brain;
And all sad scenes and thoughts and feelings vanish
In that sweet sleep no power can ever banish,
That one best sleep which never wakes again.
I sat me weary on a pillar's base,
And leaned against the shaft; for broad moonlight
O'erflowed the peacefulness of cloistered space,
A shore of shadow slanting from the right:
The great cathedral's western front stood there,
A wave-worn rock in that calm sea of air.
Before it, opposite my place of rest,
Two figures faced each other, large, austere;
A couchant sphinx in shadow to the breast,
An angel standing in the moonlight clear;
So mighty by magnificence of form,
They were not dwarfed beneath that mass enorm.
Upon the cross-hilt of the naked sword
The angel's hands, as prompt to smite, were held;
His vigilant intense regard was poured
Upon the creature placidly unquelled,
Whose front was set at level gaze which took
No heed of aught, a solemn trance-like look.
And as I pondered these opposed shapes
My eyelids sank in stupor, that dull swoon
Which drugs and with a leaden mantle drapes
The outworn to worse weariness. But soon
A sharp and clashing noise the stillness broke,
And from the evil lethargy I woke.
The angel's wings had fallen, stone on stone,
And lay there shattered; hence the sudden sound:
A warrior leaning on his sword alone
Now watched the sphinx with that regard profound;
The sphinx unchanged looked forthright, as aware
Of nothing in the vast abyss of air.
Again I sank in that repose unsweet,
Again a clashing noise my slumber rent;
The warrior's sword lay broken at his feet:
An unarmed man with raised hands impotent
Now stood before the sphinx, which ever kept
Such mien as if open eyes it slept.
My eyelids sank in spite of wonder grown;
A louder crash upstartled me in dread:
The man had fallen forward, stone on stone,
And lay there shattered, with his trunkless head
Between the monster's large quiescent paws,
Beneath its grand front changeless as life's laws.
The moon had circled westward full and bright,
And made the temple-front a mystic dream,
And bathed the whole enclosure with its light,
The sworded angel's wrecks, the sphinx supreme:
I pondered long that cold majestic face
Whose vision seemed of infinite void space.
Anear the centre of that northern crest
Stands out a level upland bleak and bare,
From which the city east and south and west
Sinks gently in long waves; and throned there
An Image sits, stupendous, superhuman,
The bronze colossus of a winged Woman,
Upon a graded granite base foursquare.
Low-seated she leans forward massively,
With cheek on clenched left hand, the forearm's might
Erect, its elbow on her rounded knee;
Across a clasped book in her lap the right
Upholds a pair of compasses; she gazes
With full set eyes, but wandering in thick mazes
Of sombre thought beholds no outward sight.
Words cannot picture her; but all men know
That solemn sketch the pure sad artist wrought
Three centuries and threescore years ago,
With phantasies of his peculiar thought:
The instruments of carpentry and science
Scattered about her feet, in strange alliance
With the keen wolf-hound sleeping undistraught;
Scales, hour-glass, bell, and magic-square above;
The grave and solid infant perched beside,
With open winglets that might bear a dove,
Intent upon its tablets, heavy-eyed;
Her folded wings as of a mighty eagle,
But all too impotent to lift the regal
Robustness of her earth-born strength and pride;
And with those wings, and that light wreath which seems
To mock her grand head and the knotted frown
Of forehead charged with baleful thoughts and dreams,
The household bunch of keys, the housewife's gown
Voluminous, indented, and yet rigid
As if a shell of burnished metal frigid,
The feet thick-shod to tread all weakness down;
The comet hanging o'er the waste dark seas,
The massy rainbow curved in front of it
Beyond the village with the masts and trees;
The snaky imp, dog-headed, from the Pit,
Bearing upon its batlike leathern pinions
Her name unfolded in the sun's dominions,
The "MELENCOLIA" that transcends all wit.
Thus has the artist copied her, and thus
Surrounded to expound her form sublime,
Her fate heroic and calamitous;
Fronting the dreadful mysteries of Time,
Unvanquished in defeat and desolation,
Undaunted in the hopeless conflagration
Of the day setting on her baffled prime.
Baffled and beaten back she works on still,
Weary and sick of soul she works the more,
Sustained by her indomitable will:
The hands shall fashion and the brain shall pore,
And all her sorrow shall be turned to labour,
Till Death the friend-foe piercing with his sabre
That mighty heart of hearts ends bitter war.
But as if blacker night could dawn on night,
With tenfold gloom on moonless night unstarred,
A sense more tragic than defeat and blight,
More desperate than strife with hope debarred,
More fatal than the adamantine Never
Encompassing her passionate endeavour,
Dawns glooming in her tenebrous regard:
To sense that every struggle brings defeat
Because Fate holds no prize to crown success;
That all the oracles are dumb or cheat
Because they have no secret to express;
That none can pierce the vast black veil uncertain
Because there is no light beyond the curtain;
That all is vanity and nothingness.
Titanic from her high throne in the north,
That City's sombre Patroness and Queen,
In bronze sublimity she gazes forth
Over her Capital of teen and threne,
Over the river with its isles and bridges,
The marsh and moorland, to the stern rock-ridges,
Confronting them with a coeval mien.
The moving moon and stars from east to west
Circle before her in the sea of air;
Shadows and gleams glide round her solemn rest.
Her subjects often gaze up to her there:
The strong to drink new strength of iron endurance,
The weak new terrors; all, renewed assurance
And confirmation of the old despair.
Canto the First
I want a hero: an uncommon want,
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I'll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—
We all have seen him, in the pantomime,
Sent to the devil somewhat ere his time.
Vernon, the butcher Cumberland, Wolfe, Hawke,
Prince Ferdinand, Granby, Burgoyne, Keppel, Howe,
Evil and good, have had their tithe of talk,
And fill'd their sign posts then, like Wellesley now;
Each in their turn like Banquo's monarchs stalk,
Followers of fame, "nine farrow" of that sow:
France, too, had Buonaparté and Dumourier
Recorded in the Moniteur and Courier.
Barnave, Brissot, Condorcet, Mirabeau,
Petion, Clootz, Danton, Marat, La Fayette,
Were French, and famous people, as we know:
And there were others, scarce forgotten yet,
Joubert, Hoche, Marceau, Lannes, Desaix, Moreau,
With many of the military set,
Exceedingly remarkable at times,
But not at all adapted to my rhymes.
Nelson was once Britannia's god of war,
And still should be so, but the tide is turn'd;
There's no more to be said of Trafalgar,
'T is with our hero quietly inurn'd;
Because the army's grown more popular,
At which the naval people are concern'd;
Besides, the prince is all for the land-service,
Forgetting Duncan, Nelson, Howe, and Jervis.
Brave men were living before Agamemnon
And since, exceeding valorous and sage,
A good deal like him too, though quite the same none;
But then they shone not on the poet's page,
And so have been forgotten:—I condemn none,
But can't find any in the present age
Fit for my poem (that is, for my new one);
So, as I said, I'll take my friend Don Juan.
Most epic poets plunge "in medias res"
(Horace makes this the heroic turnpike road),
And then your hero tells, whene'er you please,
What went before—by way of episode,
While seated after dinner at his ease,
Beside his mistress in some soft abode,
Palace, or garden, paradise, or cavern,
Which serves the happy couple for a tavern.
That is the usual method, but not mine—
My way is to begin with the beginning;
The regularity of my design
Forbids all wandering as the worst of sinning,
And therefore I shall open with a line
(Although it cost me half an hour in spinning)
Narrating somewhat of Don Juan's father,
And also of his mother, if you'd rather.
In Seville was he born, a pleasant city,
Famous for oranges and women—he
Who has not seen it will be much to pity,
So says the proverb—and I quite agree;
Of all the Spanish towns is none more pretty,
Cadiz perhaps—but that you soon may see;
Don Juan's parents lived beside the river,
A noble stream, and call'd the Guadalquivir.
His father's name was Jóse—Don, of course,—
A true Hidalgo, free from every stain
Of Moor or Hebrew blood, he traced his source
Through the most Gothic gentlemen of Spain;
A better cavalier ne'er mounted horse,
Or, being mounted, e'er got down again,
Than Jóse, who begot our hero, who
Begot—but that's to come—Well, to renew:
His mother was a learnéd lady, famed
For every branch of every science known
In every Christian language ever named,
With virtues equall'd by her wit alone,
She made the cleverest people quite ashamed,
And even the good with inward envy groan,
Finding themselves so very much exceeded
In their own way by all the things that she did.
Her memory was a mine: she knew by heart
All Calderon and greater part of Lopé,
So that if any actor miss'd his part
She could have served him for the prompter's copy;
For her Feinagle's were an useless art,
And he himself obliged to shut up shop—he
Could never make a memory so fine as
That which adorn'd the brain of Donna Inez.
Her favourite science was the mathematical,
Her noblest virtue was her magnanimity,
Her wit (she sometimes tried at wit) was Attic all,
Her serious sayings darken'd to sublimity;
In short, in all things she was fairly what I call
A prodigy—her morning dress was dimity,
Her evening silk, or, in the summer, muslin,
And other stuffs, with which I won't stay puzzling.
She knew the Latin—that is, "the Lord's prayer,"
And Greek—the alphabet—I'm nearly sure;
She read some French romances here and there,
Although her mode of speaking was not pure;
For native Spanish she had no great care,
At least her conversation was obscure;
Her thoughts were theorems, her words a problem,
As if she deem'd that mystery would ennoble 'em.
She liked the English and the Hebrew tongue,
And said there was analogy between 'em;
She proved it somehow out of sacred song,
But I must leave the proofs to those who've seen 'em;
But this I heard her say, and can't be wrong
And all may think which way their judgments lean 'em,
"'T is strange—the Hebrew noun which means 'I am,'
The English always used to govern d—n."
Some women use their tongues—she look'd a lecture,
Each eye a sermon, and her brow a homily,
An all-in-all sufficient self-director,
Like the lamented late Sir Samuel Romilly,
The Law's expounder, and the State's corrector,
Whose suicide was almost an anomaly—
One sad example more, that "All is vanity"
(The jury brought their verdict in "Insanity").
In short, she was a walking calculation,
Miss Edgeworth's novels stepping from their covers,
Or Mrs. Trimmer's books on education,
Or "Coelebs' Wife" set out in quest of lovers,
Morality's prim personification,
In which not Envy's self a flaw discovers;
To others' share let "female errors fall,"
For she had not even one—the worst of all.
Oh! she was perfect past all parallel—
Of any modern female saint's comparison;
So far above the cunning powers of hell,
Her guardian angel had given up his garrison;
Even her minutest motions went as well
As those of the best time-piece made by Harrison:
In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her,
Save thine "incomparable oil," Macassar!
Perfect she was, but as perfection is
Insipid in this naughty world of ours,
Where our first parents never learn'd to kiss
Till they were exiled from their earlier bowers,
Where all was peace, and innocence, and bliss
(I wonder how they got through the twelve hours),
Don Jóse, like a lineal son of Eve,
Went plucking various fruit without her leave.
He was a mortal of the careless kind,
With no great love for learning, or the learn'd,
Who chose to go where'er he had a mind,
And never dream'd his lady was concern'd;
The world, as usual, wickedly inclined
To see a kingdom or a house o'erturn'd,
Whisper'd he had a mistress, some said two—
But for domestic quarrels one will do.
Now Donna Inez had, with all her merit,
A great opinion of her own good qualities;
Neglect, indeed, requires a saint to bear it,
And such, indeed, she was in her moralities;
But then she had a devil of a spirit,
And sometimes mix'd up fancies with realities,
And let few opportunities escape
Of getting her liege lord into a scrape.
This was an easy matter with a man
Oft in the wrong, and never on his guard;
And even the wisest, do the best they can,
Have moments, hours, and days, so unprepared,
That you might "brain them with their lady's fan;"
And sometimes ladies hit exceeding hard,
And fans turn into falchions in fair hands,
And why and wherefore no one understands.
'T is pity learnéd virgins ever wed
With persons of no sort of education,
Or gentlemen, who, though well born and bred,
Grow tired of scientific conversation:
I don't choose to say much upon this head,
I'm a plain man, and in a single station,
But—Oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly, have they not hen-peck'd you all?
Don Jóse and his lady quarrell'd—why,
Not any of the many could divine,
Though several thousand people chose to try,
'T was surely no concern of theirs nor mine;
I loathe that low vice—curiosity;
But if there's anything in which I shine,
'T is in arranging all my friends' affairs,
Not having of my own domestic cares.
And so I interfered, and with the best
Intentions, but their treatment was not kind;
I think the foolish people were possess'd,
For neither of them could I ever find,
Although their porter afterwards confess'd—
But that's no matter, and the worst's behind,
For little Juan o'er me threw, down stairs,
A pail of housemaid's water unawares.
A little curly-headed, good-for-nothing,
And mischief-making monkey from his birth;
His parents ne'er agreed except in doting
Upon the most unquiet imp on earth;
Instead of quarrelling, had they been but both in
Their senses, they'd have sent young master forth
To school, or had him soundly whipp'd at home,
To teach him manners for the time to come.
Don Jóse and the Donna Inez led
For some time an unhappy sort of life,
Wishing each other, not divorced, but dead;
They lived respectably as man and wife,
Their conduct was exceedingly well-bred,
And gave no outward signs of inward strife,
Until at length the smother'd fire broke out,
And put the business past all kind of doubt.
For Inez call'd some druggists and physicians,
And tried to prove her loving lord was mad;
But as he had some lucid intermissions,
She next decided he was only bad;
Yet when they ask'd her for her depositions,
No sort of explanation could be had,
Save that her duty both to man and God
Required this conduct—which seem'd very odd.
She kept a journal, where his faults were noted,
And open'd certain trunks of books and letters,
All which might, if occasion served, be quoted;
And then she had all Seville for abettors,
Besides her good old grandmother (who doted);
The hearers of her case became repeaters,
Then advocates, inquisitors, and judges,
Some for amusement, others for old grudges.
And then this best and weakest woman bore
With such serenity her husband's woes,
Just as the Spartan ladies did of yore,
Who saw their spouses kill'd, and nobly chose
Never to say a word about them more—
Calmly she heard each calumny that rose,
And saw his agonies with such sublimity,
That all the world exclaim'd, "What magnanimity!"
No doubt this patience, when the world is damning us,
Is philosophic in our former friends;
'T is also pleasant to be deem'd magnanimous,
The more so in obtaining our own ends;
And what the lawyers call a "malus animus"
Conduct like this by no means comprehends;
Revenge in person's certainly no virtue,
But then 't is not my fault, if others hurt you.
And if your quarrels should rip up old stories,
And help them with a lie or two additional,
I'm not to blame, as you well know—no more is
Any one else—they were become traditional;
Besides, their resurrection aids our glories
By contrast, which is what we just were wishing all:
And science profits by this resurrection—
Dead scandals form good subjects for dissection.
Their friends had tried at reconciliation,
Then their relations, who made matters worse.
('T were hard to tell upon a like occasion
To whom it may be best to have recourse—
I can't say much for friend or yet relation):
The lawyers did their utmost for divorce,
But scarce a fee was paid on either side
Before, unluckily, Don Jóse died.
He died: and most unluckily, because,
According to all hints I could collect
From counsel learnéd in those kinds of laws
(Although their talk's obscure and circumspect),
His death contrived to spoil a charming cause;
A thousand pities also with respect
To public feeling, which on this occasion
Was manifested in a great sensation.
But, ah! he died; and buried with him lay
The public feeling and the lawyers' fees:
His house was sold, his servants sent away,
A Jew took one of his two mistresses,
A priest the other—at least so they say:
I ask'd the doctors after his disease—
He died of the slow fever call'd the tertian,
And left his widow to her own aversion.
Yet Jóse was an honourable man,
That I must say who knew him very well;
Therefore his frailties I'll no further scan
Indeed there were not many more to tell;
And if his passions now and then outran
Discretion, and were not so peaceable
As Numa's (who was also named Pompilius),
He had been ill brought up, and was born bilious.
Whate'er might be his worthlessness or worth,
Poor fellow! he had many things to wound him.
Let's own—since it can do no good on earth—
It was a trying moment that which found him
Standing alone beside his desolate hearth,
Where all his household gods lay shiver'd round him:
No choice was left his feelings or his pride,
Save death or Doctors' Commons- so he died.
Dying intestate, Juan was sole heir
To a chancery suit, and messuages, and lands,
Which, with a long minority and care,
Promised to turn out well in proper hands:
Inez became sole guardian, which was fair,
And answer'd but to nature's just demands;
An only son left with an only mother
Is brought up much more wisely than another.
Sagest of women, even of widows, she
Resolved that Juan should be quite a paragon,
And worthy of the noblest pedigree
(His sire was of Castile, his dam from Aragon):
Then for accomplishments of chivalry,
In case our lord the king should go to war again,
He learn'd the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery,
And how to scale a fortress—or a nunnery.
But that which Donna Inez most desired,
And saw into herself each day before all
The learnéd tutors whom for him she hired,
Was, that his breeding should be strictly moral;
Much into all his studies she inquired,
And so they were submitted first to her, all,
Arts, sciences, no branch was made a mystery
To Juan's eyes, excepting natural history.
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that's loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer'd, lest he should grow vicious.
His classic studies made a little puzzle,
Because of filthy loves of gods and goddesses,
Who in the earlier ages raised a bustle,
But never put on pantaloons or bodices;
His reverend tutors had at times a tussle,
And for their AEneids, Iliads, and Odysseys,
Were forced to make an odd sort of apology,
For Donna Inez dreaded the Mythology.
Ovid's a rake, as half his verses show him,
Anacreon's morals are a still worse sample,
Catullus scarcely has a decent poem,
I don't think Sappho's Ode a good example,
Although Longinus tells us there is no hymn
Where the sublime soars forth on wings more ample:
But Virgil's songs are pure, except that horrid one
Beginning with "Formosum Pastor Corydon."
Lucretius' irreligion is too strong,
For early stomachs, to prove wholesome food;
I can't help thinking Juvenal was wrong,
Although no doubt his real intent was good,
For speaking out so plainly in his song,
So much indeed as to be downright rude;
And then what proper person can be partial
To all those nauseous epigrams of Martial?
Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learnéd men, who place
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy's vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;
For there we have them all "at one fell swoop,"
Instead of being scatter'd through the Pages;
They stand forth marshall'd in a handsome troop,
To meet the ingenuous youth of future ages,
Till some less rigid editor shall stoop
To call them back into their separate cages,
Instead of standing staring all together,
Like garden gods—and not so decent either.
The Missal too (it was the family Missal)
Was ornamented in a sort of way
Which ancient mass-books often are, and this all
Kinds of grotesques illumined; and how they,
Who saw those figures on the margin kiss all,
Could turn their optics to the text and pray,
Is more than I know—But Don Juan's mother
Kept this herself, and gave her son another.
Sermons he read, and lectures he endured,
And homilies, and lives of all the saints;
To Jerome and to Chrysostom inured,
He did not take such studies for restraints;
But how faith is acquired, and then ensured,
So well not one of the aforesaid paints
As Saint Augustine in his fine Confessions,
Which make the reader envy his transgressions.
This, too, was a seal'd book to little Juan—
I can't but say that his mamma was right,
If such an education was the true one.
She scarcely trusted him from out her sight;
Her maids were old, and if she took a new one,
You might be sure she was a perfect fright;
She did this during even her husband's life—
I recommend as much to every wife.
Young Juan wax'd in goodliness and grace;
At six a charming child, and at eleven
With all the promise of as fine a face
As e'er to man's maturer growth was given:
He studied steadily, and grew apace,
And seem'd, at least, in the right road to heaven,
For half his days were pass'd at church, the other
Between his tutors, confessor, and mother.
At six, I said, he was a charming child,
At twelve he was a fine, but quiet boy;
Although in infancy a little wild,
They tamed him down amongst them: to destroy
His natural spirit not in vain they toil'd,
At least it seem'd so; and his mother's joy
Was to declare how sage, and still, and steady,
Her young philosopher was grown already.
I had my doubts, perhaps I have them still,
But what I say is neither here nor there:
I knew his father well, and have some skill
In character—but it would not be fair
From sire to son to augur good or ill:
He and his wife were an ill-sorted pair—
But scandal's my aversion—I protest
Against all evil speaking, even in jest.
For my part I say nothing—nothing—but
This I will say—my reasons are my own—
That if I had an only son to put
To school (as God be praised that I have none),
'T is not with Donna Inez I would shut
Him up to learn his catechism alone,
No—no—I'd send him out betimes to college,
For there it was I pick'd up my own knowledge.
For there one learns—'t is not for me to boast,
Though I acquired—but I pass over that,
As well as all the Greek I since have lost:
I say that there's the place—but Verbum sat.
I think I pick'd up too, as well as most,
Knowledge of matters—but no matter what—
I never married—but, I think, I know
That sons should not be educated so.
Young Juan now was sixteen years of age,
Tall, handsome, slender, but well knit: he seem'd
Active, though not so sprightly, as a page;
And everybody but his mother deem'd
Him almost man; but she flew in a rage
And bit her lips (for else she might have scream'd)
If any said so, for to be precocious
Was in her eyes a thing the most atrocious.
Amongst her numerous acquaintance, all
Selected for discretion and devotion,
There was the Donna Julia, whom to call
Pretty were but to give a feeble notion
Of many charms in her as natural
As sweetness to the flower, or salt to ocean,
Her zone to Venus, or his bow to Cupid
(But this last simile is trite and stupid).
The darkness of her Oriental eye
Accorded with her Moorish origin
(Her blood was not all Spanish, by the by;
In Spain, you know, this is a sort of sin);
When proud Granada fell, and, forced to fly,
Boabdil wept, of Donna Julia's kin
Some went to Africa, some stay'd in Spain,
Her great-great-grandmamma chose to remain.
She married (I forget the pedigree)
With an Hidalgo, who transmitted down
His blood less noble than such blood should be;
At such alliances his sires would frown,
In that point so precise in each degree
That they bred in and in, as might be shown,
Marrying their cousins—nay, their aunts, and nieces,
Which always spoils the breed, if it increases.
This heathenish cross restored the breed again,
Ruin'd its blood, but much improved its flesh;
For from a root the ugliest in Old Spain
Sprung up a branch as beautiful as fresh;
The sons no more were short, the daughters plain:
But there's a rumour which I fain would hush,
'T is said that Donna Julia's grandmamma
Produced her Don more heirs at love than law.
However this might be, the race went on
Improving still through every generation,
Until it centred in an only son,
Who left an only daughter; my narration
May have suggested that this single one
Could be but Julia (whom on this occasion
I shall have much to speak about), and she
Was married, charming, chaste, and twenty-three.
Her eye (I'm very fond of handsome eyes)
Was large and dark, suppressing half its fire
Until she spoke, then through its soft disguise
Flash'd an expression more of pride than ire,
And love than either; and there would arise
A something in them which was not desire,
But would have been, perhaps, but for the soul
Which struggled through and chasten'd down the whole.
Her glossy hair was cluster'd o'er a brow
Bright with intelligence, and fair, and smooth;
Her eyebrow's shape was like th' aerial bow,
Her cheek all purple with the beam of youth,
Mounting at times to a transparent glow,
As if her veins ran lightning; she, in sooth,
Possess'd an air and grace by no means common:
Her stature tall—I hate a dumpy woman.
Wedded she was some years, and to a man
Of fifty, and such husbands are in plenty;
And yet, I think, instead of such a one
'T were better to have two of five-and-twenty,
Especially in countries near the sun:
And now I think on 't, "mi vien in mente",
Ladies even of the most uneasy virtue
Prefer a spouse whose age is short of thirty.
'T is a sad thing, I cannot choose but say,
And all the fault of that indecent sun,
Who cannot leave alone our helpless clay,
But will keep baking, broiling, burning on,
That howsoever people fast and pray,
The flesh is frail, and so the soul undone:
What men call gallantry, and gods adultery,
Is much more common where the climate's sultry.
Happy the nations of the moral North!
Where all is virtue, and the winter season
Sends sin, without a rag on, shivering forth
('T was snow that brought St. Anthony to reason);
Where juries cast up what a wife is worth,
By laying whate'er sum in mulct they please on
The lover, who must pay a handsome price,
Because it is a marketable vice.
Alfonso was the name of Julia's lord,
A man well looking for his years, and who
Was neither much beloved nor yet abhorr'd:
They lived together, as most people do,
Suffering each other's foibles by accord,
And not exactly either one or two;
Yet he was jealous, though he did not show it,
For jealousy dislikes the world to know it.
Julia was—yet I never could see why—
With Donna Inez quite a favourite friend;
Between their tastes there was small sympathy,
For not a line had Julia ever penn'd:
Some people whisper but no doubt they lie,
For malice still imputes some private end)
That Inez had, ere Don Alfonso's marriage,
Forgot with him her very prudent carriage;
And that still keeping up the old connection,
Which time had lately render'd much more chaste,
She took his lady also in affection,
And certainly this course was much the best:
She flatter'd Julia with her sage protection,
And complimented Don Alfonso's taste;
And if she could not (who can?) silence scandal,
At least she left it a more slender handle.
I can't tell whether Julia saw the affair
With other people's eyes, or if her own
Discoveries made, but none could be aware
Of this, at least no symptom e'er was shown;
Perhaps she did not know, or did not care,
Indifferent from the first or callous grown:
I'm really puzzled what to think or say,
She kept her counsel in so close a way.
Juan she saw, and, as a pretty child,
Caress'd him often—such a thing might be
Quite innocently done, and harmless styled,
When she had twenty years, and thirteen he;
But I am not so sure I should have smiled
When he was sixteen, Julia twenty-three;
These few short years make wondrous alterations,
Particularly amongst sun-burnt nations.
Whate'er the cause might be, they had become
Changed; for the dame grew distant, the youth shy,
Their looks cast down, their greetings almost dumb,
And much embarrassment in either eye;
There surely will be little doubt with some
That Donna Julia knew the reason why,
But as for Juan, he had no more notion
Than he who never saw the sea of ocean.
Yet Julia's very coldness still was kind,
And tremulously gentle her small hand
Withdrew itself from his, but left behind
A little pressure, thrilling, and so bland
And slight, so very slight, that to the mind
'T was but a doubt; but ne'er magician's wand
Wrought change with all Armida's fairy art
Like what this light touch left on Juan's heart.
And if she met him, though she smiled no more,
She look'd a sadness sweeter than her smile,
As if her heart had deeper thoughts in store
She must not own, but cherish'd more the while
For that compression in its burning core;
Even innocence itself has many a wile,
And will not dare to trust itself with truth,
And love is taught hypocrisy from youth.
But passion most dissembles, yet betrays
Even by its darkness; as the blackest sky
Foretells the heaviest tempest, it displays
Its workings through the vainly guarded eye,
And in whatever aspect it arrays
Itself, 't is still the same hypocrisy;
Coldness or anger, even disdain or hate,
Are masks it often wears, and still too late.
Then there were sighs, the deeper for suppression,
And stolen glances, sweeter for the theft,
And burning blushes, though for no transgression,
Tremblings when met, and restlessness when left;
All these are little preludes to possession,
Of which young passion cannot be bereft,
And merely tend to show how greatly love is
Embarrass'd at first starting with a novice.
Poor Julia's heart was in an awkward state;
She felt it going, and resolved to make
The noblest efforts for herself and mate,
For honour's, pride's, religion's, virtue's sake;
Her resolutions were most truly great,
And almost might have made a Tarquin quake:
She pray'd the Virgin Mary for her grace,
As being the best judge of a lady's case.
She vow'd she never would see Juan more,
And next day paid a visit to his mother,
And look'd extremely at the opening door,
Which, by the Virgin's grace, let in another;
Grateful she was, and yet a little sore—
Again it opens, it can be no other,
'T is surely Juan now—No! I'm afraid
That night the Virgin was no further pray'd.
She now determined that a virtuous woman
Should rather face and overcome temptation,
That flight was base and dastardly, and no man
Should ever give her heart the least sensation;
That is to say, a thought beyond the common
Preference, that we must feel upon occasion
For people who are pleasanter than others,
But then they only seem so many brothers.
And even if by chance—and who can tell?
The devil's so very sly—she should discover
That all within was not so very well,
And, if still free, that such or such a lover
Might please perhaps, a virtuous wife can quell
Such thoughts, and be the better when they're over;
And if the man should ask, 't is but denial:
I recommend young ladies to make trial.
And then there are such things as love divine,
Bright and immaculate, unmix'd and pure,
Such as the angels think so very fine,
And matrons who would be no less secure,
Platonic, perfect, "just such love as mine;"
Thus Julia said—and thought so, to be sure;
And so I'd have her think, were I the man
On whom her reveries celestial ran.
Such love is innocent, and may exist
Between young persons without any danger.
A hand may first, and then a lip be kist;
For my part, to such doings I'm a stranger,
But hear these freedoms form the utmost list
Of all o'er which such love may be a ranger:
If people go beyond, 't is quite a crime,
But not my fault—I tell them all in time.
Love, then, but love within its proper limits,
Was Julia's innocent determination
In young Don Juan's favour, and to him its
Exertion might be useful on occasion;
And, lighted at too pure a shrine to dim its
Ethereal lustre, with what sweet persuasion
He might be taught, by love and her together—
I really don't know what, nor Julia either.
Fraught with this fine intention, and well fenced
In mail of proof—her purity of soul—
She, for the future of her strength convinced.
And that her honour was a rock, or mole,
Exceeding sagely from that hour dispensed
With any kind of troublesome control;
But whether Julia to the task was equal
Is that which must be mention'd in the sequel.
Her plan she deem'd both innocent and feasible,
And, surely, with a stripling of sixteen
Not scandal's fangs could fix on much that's seizable,
Or if they did so, satisfied to mean
Nothing but what was good, her breast was peaceable—
A quiet conscience makes one so serene!
Christians have burnt each other, quite persuaded
That all the Apostles would have done as they did.
And if in the mean time her husband died,
But Heaven forbid that such a thought should cross
Her brain, though in a dream! (and then she sigh'd)
Never could she survive that common loss;
But just suppose that moment should betide,
I only say suppose it—inter nos.
(This should be entre nous, for Julia thought
In French, but then the rhyme would go for naught.)
I only say suppose this supposition:
Juan being then grown up to man's estate
Would fully suit a widow of condition,
Even seven years hence it would not be too late;
And in the interim (to pursue this vision)
The mischief, after all, could not be great,
For he would learn the rudiments of love,
I mean the seraph way of those above.
So much for Julia. Now we'll turn to Juan.
Poor little fellow! he had no idea
Of his own case, and never hit the true one;
In feelings quick as Ovid's Miss Medea,
He puzzled over what he found a new one,
But not as yet imagined it could be
Thing quite in course, and not at all alarming,
Which, with a little patience, might grow charming.
Silent and pensive, idle, restless, slow,
His home deserted for the lonely wood,
Tormented with a wound he could not know,
His, like all deep grief, plunged in solitude:
I'm fond myself of solitude or so,
But then, I beg it may be understood,
By solitude I mean a sultan's, not
A hermit's, with a haram for a grot.
"Oh Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine."
The bard I quote from does not sing amiss,
With the exception of the second line,
For that same twining "transport and security"
Are twisted to a phrase of some obscurity.
The poet meant, no doubt, and thus appeals
To the good sense and senses of mankind,
The very thing which every body feels,
As all have found on trial, or may find,
That no one likes to be disturb'd at meals
Or love.—I won't say more about "entwined"
Or "transport," as we knew all that before,
But beg'security' will bolt the door.
Young Juan wander'd by the glassy brooks,
Thinking unutterable things; he threw
Himself at length within the leafy nooks
Where the wild branch of the cork forest grew;
There poets find materials for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.
He, Juan (and not Wordsworth), so pursued
His self-communion with his own high soul,
Until his mighty heart, in its great mood,
Had mitigated part, though not the whole
Of its disease; he did the best he could
With things not very subject to control,
And turn'd, without perceiving his condition,
Like Coleridge, into a metaphysician.
He thought about himself, and the whole earth
Of man the wonderful, and of the stars,
And how the deuce they ever could have birth;
And then he thought of earthquakes, and of wars,
How many miles the moon might have in girth,
Of air-balloons, and of the many bars
To perfect knowledge of the boundless skies;—
And then he thought of Donna Julia's eyes.
In thoughts like these true wisdom may discern
Longings sublime, and aspirations high,
Which some are born with, but the most part learn
To plague themselves withal, they know not why:
'T was strange that one so young should thus concern
His brain about the action of the sky;
If you think 't was philosophy that this did,
I can't help thinking puberty assisted.
He pored upon the leaves, and on the flowers,
And heard a voice in all the winds; and then
He thought of wood-nymphs and immortal bowers,
And how the goddesses came down to men:
He miss'd the pathway, he forgot the hours,
And when he look'd upon his watch again,
He found how much old Time had been a winner—
He also found that he had lost his dinner.
Sometimes he turn'd to gaze upon his book,
Boscan, or Garcilasso;—by the wind
Even as the page is rustled while we look,
So by the poesy of his own mind
Over the mystic leaf his soul was shook,
As if 't were one whereon magicians bind
Their spells, and give them to the passing gale,
According to some good old woman's tale.
Thus would he while his lonely hours away
Dissatisfied, nor knowing what he wanted;
Nor glowing reverie, nor poet's lay,
Could yield his spirit that for which it panted,
A bosom whereon he his head might lay,
And hear the heart beat with the love it granted,
With—several other things, which I forget,
Or which, at least, I need not mention yet.
Those lonely walks, and lengthening reveries,
Could not escape the gentle Julia's eyes;
She saw that Juan was not at his ease;
But that which chiefly may, and must surprise,
Is, that the Donna Inez did not tease
Her only son with question or surmise:
Whether it was she did not see, or would not,
Or, like all very clever people, could not.
This may seem strange, but yet 't is very common;
For instance—gentlemen, whose ladies take
Leave to o'erstep the written rights of woman,
And break the—Which commandment is 't they break?
(I have forgot the number, and think no man
Should rashly quote, for fear of a mistake.)
I say, when these same gentlemen are jealous,
They make some blunder, which their ladies tell us.
A real husband always is suspicious,
But still no less suspects in the wrong place,
Jealous of some one who had no such wishes,
Or pandering blindly to his own disgrace,
By harbouring some dear friend extremely vicious;
The last indeed's infallibly the case:
And when the spouse and friend are gone off wholly,
He wonders at their vice, and not his folly.
Thus parents also are at times short-sighted;
Though watchful as the lynx, they ne'er discover,
The while the wicked world beholds delighted,
Young Hopeful's mistress, or Miss Fanny's lover,
Till some confounded escapade has blighted
The plan of twenty years, and all is over;
And then the mother cries, the father swears,
And wonders why the devil he got heirs.
But Inez was so anxious, and so clear
Of sight, that I must think, on this occasion,
She had some other motive much more near
For leaving Juan to this new temptation;
But what that motive was, I sha'n't say here;
Perhaps to finish Juan's education,
Perhaps to open Don Alfonso's eyes,
In case he thought his wife too great a prize.
It was upon a day, a summer's day;—
Summer's indeed a very dangerous season,
And so is spring about the end of May;
The sun, no doubt, is the prevailing reason;
But whatsoe'er the cause is, one may say,
And stand convicted of more truth than treason,
That there are months which nature grows more merry in,—
March has its hares, and May must have its heroine.
'T was on a summer's day—the sixth of June:—
I like to be particular in dates,
Not only of the age, and year, but moon;
They are a sort of post-house, where the Fates
Change horses, making history change its tune,
Then spur away o'er empires and o'er states,
Leaving at last not much besides chronology,
Excepting the post-obits of theology.
'T was on the sixth of June, about the hour
Of half-past six—perhaps still nearer seven—
When Julia sate within as pretty a bower
As e'er held houri in that heathenish heaven
Described by Mahomet, and Anacreon Moore,
To whom the lyre and laurels have been given,
With all the trophies of triumphant song—
He won them well, and may he wear them long!
She sate, but not alone; I know not well
How this same interview had taken place,
And even if I knew, I should not tell—
People should hold their tongues in any case;
No matter how or why the thing befell,
But there were she and Juan, face to face—
When two such faces are so, 't would be wise,
But very difficult, to shut their eyes.
How beautiful she look'd! her conscious heart
Glow'd in her cheek, and yet she felt no wrong.
Oh Love! how perfect is thy mystic art,
Strengthening the weak, and trampling on the strong,
How self-deceitful is the sagest part
Of mortals whom thy lure hath led along-
The precipice she stood on was immense,
So was her creed in her own innocence.
She thought of her own strength, and Juan's youth,
And of the folly of all prudish fears,
Victorious virtue, and domestic truth,
And then of Don Alfonso's fifty years:
I wish these last had not occurr'd, in sooth,
Because that number rarely much endears,
And through all climes, the snowy and the sunny,
Sounds ill in love, whate'er it may in money.
When people say, "I've told you fifty times,"
They mean to scold, and very often do;
When poets say, "I've written fifty rhymes,"
They make you dread that they'll recite them too;
In gangs of fifty, thieves commit their crimes;
At fifty love for love is rare, 't is true,
But then, no doubt, it equally as true is,
A good deal may be bought for fifty Louis.
Julia had honour, virtue, truth, and love,
For Don Alfonso; and she inly swore,
By all the vows below to powers above,
She never would disgrace the ring she wore,
Nor leave a wish which wisdom might reprove;
And while she ponder'd this, besides much more,
One hand on Juan's carelessly was thrown,
Quite by mistake—she thought it was her own;
Unconsciously she lean'd upon the other,
Which play'd within the tangles of her hair:
And to contend with thoughts she could not smother
She seem'd by the distraction of her air.
'T was surely very wrong in Juan's mother
To leave together this imprudent pair,
She who for many years had watch'd her son so—
I'm very certain mine would not have done so.
The hand which still held Juan's, by degrees
Gently, but palpably confirm'd its grasp,
As if it said, "Detain me, if you please;"
Yet there's no doubt she only meant to clasp
His fingers with a pure Platonic squeeze:
She would have shrunk as from a toad, or asp,
Had she imagined such a thing could rouse
A feeling dangerous to a prudent spouse.
I cannot know what Juan thought of this,
But what he did, is much what you would do;
His young lip thank'd it with a grateful kiss,
And then, abash'd at its own joy, withdrew
In deep despair, lest he had done amiss,—
Love is so very timid when 't is new:
She blush'd, and frown'd not, but she strove to speak,
And held her tongue, her voice was grown so weak.
The sun set, and up rose the yellow moon:
The devil's in the moon for mischief; they
Who call'd her CHASTE, methinks, began too soon
Their nomenclature; there is not a day,
The longest, not the twenty-first of June,
Sees half the business in a wicked way
On which three single hours of moonshine smile—
And then she looks so modest all the while.
There is a dangerous silence in that hour,
A stillness, which leaves room for the full soul
To open all itself, without the power
Of calling wholly back its self-control;
The silver light which, hallowing tree and tower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o'er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o'er it throws
A loving languor, which is not repose.
And Julia sate with Juan, half embraced
And half retiring from the glowing arm,
Which trembled like the bosom where 't was placed;
Yet still she must have thought there was no harm,
Or else 't were easy to withdraw her waist;
But then the situation had its charm,
And then—— God knows what next—I can't go on;
I'm almost sorry that I e'er begun.
Oh Plato! Plato! you have paved the way,
With your confounded fantasies, to more
Immoral conduct by the fancied sway
Your system feigns o'er the controulless core
Of human hearts, than all the long array
Of poets and romancers:—You're a bore,
A charlatan, a coxcomb—and have been,
At best, no better than a go-between.
And Julia's voice was lost, except in sighs,
Until too late for useful conversation;
The tears were gushing from her gentle eyes,
I wish indeed they had not had occasion,
But who, alas! can love, and then be wise?
Not that remorse did not oppose temptation;
A little still she strove, and much repented
And whispering "I will ne'er consent"—consented.
'T is said that Xerxes offer'd a reward
To those who could invent him a new pleasure:
Methinks the requisition's rather hard,
And must have cost his majesty a treasure:
For my part, I'm a moderate-minded bard,
Fond of a little love (which I call leisure);
I care not for new pleasures, as the old
Are quite enough for me, so they but hold.
Oh Pleasure! you are indeed a pleasant thing,
Although one must be damn'd for you, no doubt:
I make a resolution every spring
Of reformation, ere the year run out,
But somehow, this my vestal vow takes wing,
Yet still, I trust it may be kept throughout:
I'm very sorry, very much ashamed,
And mean, next winter, to be quite reclaim'd.
Here my chaste Muse a liberty must take—
Start not! still chaster reader—she'll be nice hence—
Forward, and there is no great cause to quake;
This liberty is a poetic licence,
Which some irregularity may make
In the design, and as I have a high sense
Of Aristotle and the Rules, 't is fit
To beg his pardon when I err a bit.
This licence is to hope the reader will
Suppose from June the sixth (the fatal day,
Without whose epoch my poetic skill
For want of facts would all be thrown away),
But keeping Julia and Don Juan still
In sight, that several months have pass'd; we'll say
'T was in November, but I'm not so sure
About the day—the era's more obscure.
We'll talk of that anon.—'T is sweet to hear
At midnight on the blue and moonlit deep
The song and oar of Adria's gondolier,
By distance mellow'd, o'er the waters sweep;
'T is sweet to see the evening star appear;
'T is sweet to listen as the night-winds creep
From leaf to leaf; 't is sweet to view on high
The rainbow, based on ocean, span the sky.
'T is sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark
Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home;
'T is sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming, and look brighter when we come;
'T is sweet to be awaken'd by the lark,
Or lull'd by falling waters; sweet the hum
Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds,
The lisp of children, and their earliest words.
Sweet is the vintage, when the showering grapes
In Bacchanal profusion reel to earth,
Purple and gushing: sweet are our escapes
From civic revelry to rural mirth;
Sweet to the miser are his glittering heaps,
Sweet to the father is his first-born's birth,
Sweet is revenge—especially to women,
Pillage to soldiers, prize-money to seamen.
Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet
The unexpected death of some old lady
Or gentleman of seventy years complete,
Who've made "us youth" wait too—too long already
For an estate, or cash, or country seat,
Still breaking, but with stamina so steady
That all the Israelites are fit to mob its
Next owner for their double-damn'd post-obits.
'T is sweet to win, no matter how, one's laurels,
By blood or ink; 't is sweet to put an end
To strife; 't is sometimes sweet to have our quarrels,
Particularly with a tiresome friend:
Sweet is old wine in bottles, ale in barrels;
Dear is the helpless creature we defend
Against the world; and dear the schoolboy spot
We ne'er forget, though there we are forgot.
But sweeter still than this, than these, than all,
Is first and passionate love—it stands alone,
Like Adam's recollection of his fall;
The tree of knowledge has been pluck'd—all's known—
And life yields nothing further to recall
Worthy of this ambrosial sin, so shown,
No doubt in fable, as the unforgiven
Fire which Prometheus filch'd for us from heaven.
Man's a strange animal, and makes strange use
Of his own nature, and the various arts,
And likes particularly to produce
Some new experiment to show his parts;
This is the age of oddities let loose,
Where different talents find their different marts;
You'd best begin with truth, and when you've lost your
Labour, there's a sure market for imposture.
What opposite discoveries we have seen!
(Signs of true genius, and of empty pockets.)
One makes new noses, one a guillotine,
One breaks your bones, one sets them in their sockets;
But vaccination certainly has been
A kind antithesis to Congreve's rockets,
With which the Doctor paid off an old pox,
By borrowing a new one from an ox.
Bread has been made (indifferent) from potatoes;
And galvanism has set some corpses grinning,
But has not answer'd like the apparatus
Of the Humane Society's beginning
By which men are unsuffocated gratis:
What wondrous new machines have late been spinning!
I said the small-pox has gone out of late;
Perhaps it may be follow'd by the great.
'T is said the great came from America;
Perhaps it may set out on its return,—
The population there so spreads, they say
'T is grown high time to thin it in its turn,
With war, or plague, or famine, any way,
So that civilisation they may learn;
And which in ravage the more loathsome evil is—
Their real lues, or our pseudo-syphilis?
This is the patent-age of new inventions
For killing bodies, and for saving souls,
All propagated with the best intentions;
Sir Humphry Davy's lantern, by which coals
Are safely mined for in the mode he mentions,
Tombuctoo travels, voyages to the Poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind, as true,
Perhaps, as shooting them at Waterloo.
Man's a phenomenon, one knows not what,
And wonderful beyond all wondrous measure;
'T is pity though, in this sublime world, that
Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure;
Few mortals know what end they would be at,
But whether glory, power, or love, or treasure,
The path is through perplexing ways, and when
The goal is gain'd, we die, you know—and then—
What then?—I do not know, no more do you—
And so good night.—Return we to our story:
'T was in November, when fine days are few,
And the far mountains wax a little hoary,
And clap a white cape on their mantles blue;
And the sea dashes round the promontory,
And the loud breaker boils against the rock,
And sober suns must set at five o'clock.
'T was, as the watchmen say, a cloudy night;
No moon, no stars, the wind was low or loud
By gusts, and many a sparkling hearth was bright
With the piled wood, round which the family crowd;
There's something cheerful in that sort of light,
Even as a summer sky's without a cloud:
I'm fond of fire, and crickets, and all that,
A lobster salad, and champagne, and chat.
'T was midnight—Donna Julia was in bed,
Sleeping, most probably,—when at her door
Arose a clatter might awake the dead,
If they had never been awoke before,
And that they have been so we all have read,
And are to be so, at the least, once more;—
The door was fasten'd, but with voice and fist
First knocks were heard, then "Madam—Madam—hist!
"For God's sake, Madam—Madam—here's my master,
With more than half the city at his back—
Was ever heard of such a curst disaster!
'T is not my fault—I kept good watch—Alack!
Do pray undo the bolt a little faster—
They're on the stair just now, and in a crack
Will all be here; perhaps he yet may fly—
Surely the window's not so very high!"
By this time Don Alfonso was arrived,
With torches, friends, and servants in great number;
The major part of them had long been wived,
And therefore paused not to disturb the slumber
Of any wicked woman, who contrived
By stealth her husband's temples to encumber:
Examples of this kind are so contagious,
Were one not punish'd, all would be outrageous.
I can't tell how, or why, or what suspicion
Could enter into Don Alfonso's head;
But for a cavalier of his condition
It surely was exceedingly ill-bred,
Without a word of previous admonition,
To hold a levee round his lady's bed,
And summon lackeys, arm'd with fire and sword,
To prove himself the thing he most abhorr'd.
Poor Donna Julia, starting as from sleep
(Mind—that I do not say—she had not slept),
Began at once to scream, and yawn, and weep;
Her maid Antonia, who was an adept,
Contrived to fling the bed-clothes in a heap,
As if she had just now from out them crept:
I can't tell why she should take all this trouble
To prove her mistress had been sleeping double.
But Julia mistress, and Antonia maid,
Appear'd like two poor harmless women, who
Of goblins, but still more of men afraid,
Had thought one man might be deterr'd by two,
And therefore side by side were gently laid,
Until the hours of absence should run through,
And truant husband should return, and say,
"My dear, I was the first who came away."
Now Julia found at length a voice, and cried,
"In heaven's name, Don Alfonso, what d' ye mean?
Has madness seized you? would that I had died
Ere such a monster's victim I had been!
What may this midnight violence betide,
A sudden fit of drunkenness or spleen?
Dare you suspect me, whom the thought would kill?
Search, then, the room!"—Alfonso said, "I will."
He search'd, they search'd, and rummaged everywhere,
Closet and clothes' press, chest and window-seat,
And found much linen, lace, and several pair
Of stockings, slippers, brushes, combs, complete,
With other articles of ladies fair,
To keep them beautiful, or leave them neat:
Arras they prick'd and curtains with their swords,
And wounded several shutters, and some boards.
Under the bed they search'd, and there they found—
No matter what—it was not that they sought;
They open'd windows, gazing if the ground
Had signs or footmarks, but the earth said nought;
And then they stared each other's faces round:
'T is odd, not one of all these seekers thought,
And seems to me almost a sort of blunder,
Of looking in the bed as well as under.
During this inquisition, Julia's tongue
Was not asleep—"Yes, search and search," she cried,
"Insult on insult heap, and wrong on wrong!
It was for this that I became a bride!
For this in silence I have suffer'd long
A husband like Alfonso at my side;
But now I'll bear no more, nor here remain,
If there be law or lawyers in all Spain.
"Yes, Don Alfonso! husband now no more,
If ever you indeed deserved the name,
Is 't worthy of your years?—you have threescore—
Fifty, or sixty, it is all the same—
Is 't wise or fitting, causeless to explore
For facts against a virtuous woman's fame?
Ungrateful, perjured, barbarous Don Alfonso,
How dare you think your lady would go on so?
"Is it for this I have disdain'd to hold
The common privileges of my sex?
That I have chosen a confessor so old
And deaf, that any other it would vex,
And never once he has had cause to scold,
But found my very innocence perplex
So much, he always doubted I was married—
How sorry you will be when I've miscarried!
"Was it for this that no Cortejo e'er
I yet have chosen from out the youth of Seville?
Is it for this I scarce went anywhere,
Except to bull-fights, mass, play, rout, and revel?
Is it for this, whate'er my suitors were,
I favor'd none—nay, was almost uncivil?
Is it for this that General Count O'Reilly,
Who took Algiers, declares I used him vilely?
"Did not the Italian Musico Cazzani
Sing at my heart six months at least in vain?
Did not his countryman, Count Corniani,
Call me the only virtuous wife in Spain?
Were there not also Russians, English, many?
The Count Strongstroganoff I put in pain,
And Lord Mount Coffeehouse, the Irish peer,
Who kill'd himself for love (with wine) last year.
"Have I not had two bishops at my feet,
The Duke of Ichar, and Don Fernan Nunez?
And is it thus a faithful wife you treat?
I wonder in what quarter now the moon is:
I praise your vast forbearance not to beat
Me also, since the time so opportune is—
Oh, valiant man! with sword drawn and cock'd trigger,
Now, tell me, don't you cut a pretty figure?
"Was it for this you took your sudden journey.
Under pretence of business indispensable
With that sublime of rascals your attorney,
Whom I see standing there, and looking sensible
Of having play'd the fool? though both I spurn, he
Deserves the worst, his conduct's less defensible,
Because, no doubt, 't was for his dirty fee,
And not from any love to you nor me.
"If he comes here to take a deposition,
By all means let the gentleman proceed;
You've made the apartment in a fit condition:
There's pen and ink for you, sir, when you need—
Let every thing be noted with precision,
I would not you for nothing should be fee'd—
But, as my maid's undrest, pray turn your spies out."
"Oh!" sobb'd Antonia, "I could tear their eyes out."
"There is the closet, there the toilet, there
The antechamber—search them under, over;
There is the sofa, there the great arm-chair,
The chimney—which would really hold a lover.
I wish to sleep, and beg you will take care
And make no further noise, till you discover
The secret cavern of this lurking treasure—
And when 't is found, let me, too, have that pleasure.
"And now, Hidalgo! now that you have thrown
Doubt upon me, confusion over all,
Pray have the courtesy to make it known
Who is the man you search for? how d' ye call
Him? what's his lineage? let him but be shown—
I hope he's young and handsome—is he tall?
Tell me—and be assured, that since you stain
My honour thus, it shall not be in vain.
"At least, perhaps, he has not sixty years,
At that age he would be too old for slaughter,
Or for so young a husband's jealous fears
(Antonia! let me have a glass of water).
I am ashamed of having shed these tears,
They are unworthy of my father's daughter;
My mother dream'd not in my natal hour
That I should fall into a monster's power.
"Perhaps 't is of Antonia you are jealous,
You saw that she was sleeping by my side
When you broke in upon us with your fellows:
Look where you please—we've nothing, sir, to hide;
Only another time, I trust, you'll tell us,
Or for the sake of decency abide
A moment at the door, that we may be
Drest to receive so much good company.
"And now, sir, I have done, and say no more;
The little I have said may serve to show
The guileless heart in silence may grieve o'er
The wrongs to whose exposure it is slow:
I leave you to your conscience as before,
'T will one day ask you why you used me so?
God grant you feel not then the bitterest grief!—
Antonia! where's my pocket-handkerchief?"
She ceased, and turn'd upon her pillow; pale
She lay, her dark eyes flashing through their tears,
Like skies that rain and lighten; as a veil,
Waved and o'ershading her wan cheek, appears
Her streaming hair; the black curls strive, but fail,
To hide the glossy shoulder, which uprears
Its snow through all;—her soft lips lie apart,
And louder than her breathing beats her heart.
The Senhor Don Alfonso stood confused;
Antonia bustled round the ransack'd room,
And, turning up her nose, with looks abused
Her master and his myrmidons, of whom
Not one, except the attorney, was amused;
He, like Achates, faithful to the tomb,
So there were quarrels, cared not for the cause,
Knowing they must be settled by the laws.
With prying snub-nose, and small eyes, he stood,
Following Antonia's motions here and there,
With much suspicion in his attitude;
For reputations he had little care;
So that a suit or action were made good,
Small pity had he for the young and fair,
And ne'er believed in negatives, till these
Were proved by competent false witnesses.
But Don Alfonso stood with downcast looks,
And, truth to say, he made a foolish figure;
When, after searching in five hundred nooks,
And treating a young wife with so much rigour,
He gain'd no point, except some self-rebukes,
Added to those his lady with such vigour
Had pour'd upon him for the last half-hour,
Quick, thick, and heavy—as a thunder-shower.
At first he tried to hammer an excuse,
To which the sole reply was tears and sobs,
And indications of hysterics, whose
Prologue is always certain throes, and throbs,
Gasps, and whatever else the owners choose:
Alfonso saw his wife, and thought of Job's;
He saw too, in perspective, her relations,
And then he tried to muster all his patience.
He stood in act to speak, or rather stammer,
But sage Antonia cut him short before
The anvil of his speech received the hammer,
With "Pray, sir, leave the room, and say no more,
Or madam dies."—Alfonso mutter'd, "D—n her,"
But nothing else, the time of words was o'er;
He cast a rueful look or two, and did,
He knew not wherefore, that which he was bid.
With him retired his "posse comitatus,"
The attorney last, who linger'd near the door
Reluctantly, still tarrying there as late as
Antonia let him—not a little sore
At this most strange and unexplain'd "hiatus"
In Don Alfonso's facts, which just now wore
An awkward look; as he revolved the case,
The door was fasten'd in his legal face.
No sooner was it bolted, than—Oh shame!
Oh sin! Oh sorrow! and oh womankind!
How can you do such things and keep your fame,
Unless this world, and t' other too, be blind?
Nothing so dear as an unfilch'd good name!
But to proceed—for there is more behind:
With much heartfelt reluctance be it said,
Young Juan slipp'd half-smother'd, from the bed.
He had been hid—I don't pretend to say
How, nor can I indeed describe the where—
Young, slender, and pack'd easily, he lay,
No doubt, in little compass, round or square;
But pity him I neither must nor may
His suffocation by that pretty pair;
'T were better, sure, to die so, than be shut
With maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.
And, secondly, I pity not, because
He had no business to commit a sin,
Forbid by heavenly, fined by human laws,
At least 't was rather early to begin;
But at sixteen the conscience rarely gnaws
So much as when we call our old debts in
At sixty years, and draw the accompts of evil,
And find a deuced balance with the devil.
Of his position I can give no notion:
'T is written in the Hebrew Chronicle,
How the physicians, leaving pill and potion,
Prescribed, by way of blister, a young belle,
When old King David's blood grew dull in motion,
And that the medicine answer'd very well;
Perhaps 't was in a different way applied,
For David lived, but Juan nearly died.
What's to be done? Alfonso will be back
The moment he has sent his fools away.
Antonia's skill was put upon the rack,
But no device could be brought into play—
And how to parry the renew'd attack?
Besides, it wanted but few hours of day:
Antonia puzzled; Julia did not speak,
But press'd her bloodless lip to Juan's cheek.
He turn'd his lip to hers, and with his hand
Call'd back the tangles of her wandering hair;
Even then their love they could not all command,
And half forgot their danger and despair:
Antonia's patience now was at a stand—
"Come, come, 't is no time now for fooling there,"
She whisper'd, in great wrath—"I must deposit
This pretty gentleman within the closet:
"Pray, keep your nonsense for some luckier night—
Who can have put my master in this mood?
What will become on 't—I'm in such a fright,
The devil's in the urchin, and no good—
Is this a time for giggling? this a plight?
Why, don't you know that it may end in blood?
You'll lose your life, and I shall lose my place,
My mistress all, for that half-girlish face.
"Had it but been for a stout cavalier
Of twenty-five or thirty (come, make haste)—
But for a child, what piece of work is here!
I really, madam, wonder at your taste
(Come, sir, get in)—my master must be near:
There, for the present, at the least, he's fast,
And if we can but till the morning keep
Our counsel—(Juan, mind, you must not sleep)."
Now, Don Alfonso entering, but alone,
Closed the oration of the trusty maid:
She loiter'd, and he told her to be gone,
An order somewhat sullenly obey'd;
However, present remedy was none,
And no great good seem'd answer'd if she stay'd:
Regarding both with slow and sidelong view,
She snuff'd the candle, curtsied, and withdrew.
Alfonso paused a minute—then begun
Some strange excuses for his late proceeding;
He would not justify what he had done,
To say the best, it was extreme ill-breeding;
But there were ample reasons for it, none
Of which he specified in this his pleading:
His speech was a fine sample, on the whole,
Of rhetoric, which the learn'd call "rigmarole."
Julia said nought; though all the while there rose
A ready answer, which at once enables
A matron, who her husband's foible knows,
By a few timely words to turn the tables,
Which, if it does not silence, still must pose,—
Even if it should comprise a pack of fables;
'T is to retort with firmness, and when he
Suspects with one, do you reproach with three.
Julia, in fact, had tolerable grounds,—
Alfonso's loves with Inez were well known,
But whether 't was that one's own guilt confounds—
But that can't be, as has been often shown,
A lady with apologies abounds;—
It might be that her silence sprang alone
From delicacy to Don Juan's ear,
To whom she knew his mother's fame was dear.
There might be one more motive, which makes two;
Alfonso ne'er to Juan had alluded,—
Mention'd his jealousy but never who
Had been the happy lover, he concluded,
Conceal'd amongst his premises; 't is true,
His mind the more o'er this its mystery brooded;
To speak of Inez now were, one may say,
Like throwing Juan in Alfonso's way.
A hint, in tender cases, is enough;
Silence is best, besides there is a tact—
(That modern phrase appears to me sad stuff,
But it will serve to keep my verse compact)—
Which keeps, when push'd by questions rather rough,
A lady always distant from the fact:
The charming creatures lie with such a grace,
There's nothing so becoming to the face.
They blush, and we believe them; at least I
Have always done so; 't is of no great use,
In any case, attempting a reply,
For then their eloquence grows quite profuse;
And when at length they 're out of breath, they sigh,
And cast their languid eyes down, and let loose
A tear or two, and then we make it up;
And then—and then—and then—sit down and sup.
Alfonso closed his speech, and begg'd her pardon,
Which Julia half withheld, and then half granted,
And laid conditions he thought very hard on,
Denying several little things he wanted:
He stood like Adam lingering near his garden,
With useless penitence perplex'd and haunted,
Beseeching she no further would refuse,
When, lo! he stumbled o'er a pair of shoes.
A pair of shoes!—what then? not much, if they
Are such as fit with ladies' feet, but these
(No one can tell how much I grieve to say)
Were masculine; to see them, and to seize,
Was but a moment's act.—Ah! well-a-day!
My teeth begin to chatter, my veins freeze—
Alfonso first examined well their fashion,
And then flew out into another passion.
He left the room for his relinquish'd sword,
And Julia instant to the closet flew.
"Fly, Juan, fly! for heaven's sake—not a word—
The door is open—you may yet slip through
The passage you so often have explored—
Here is the garden-key—Fly—fly—Adieu!
Haste—haste! I hear Alfonso's hurrying feet—
Day has not broke—there's no one in the street:"
None can say that this was not good advice,
The only mischief was, it came too late;
Of all experience 't is the usual price,
A sort of income-tax laid on by fate:
Juan had reach'd the room-door in a trice,
And might have done so by the garden-gate,
But met Alfonso in his dressing-gown,
Who threaten'd death—so Juan knock'd him down.
Dire was the scuffle, and out went the light;
Antonia cried out "Rape!" and Julia "Fire!"
But not a servant stirr'd to aid the fight.
Alfonso, pommell'd to his heart's desire,
Swore lustily he'd be revenged this night;
And Juan, too, blasphemed an octave higher;
His blood was up: though young, he was a Tartar,
And not at all disposed to prove a martyr.
Alfonso's sword had dropp'd ere he could draw it,
And they continued battling hand to hand,
For Juan very luckily ne'er saw it;
His temper not being under great command,
If at that moment he had chanced to claw it,
Alfonso's days had not been in the land
Much longer.—Think of husbands', lovers' lives!
And how ye may be doubly widows—wives!
Alfonso grappled to detain the foe,
And Juan throttled him to get away,
And blood ('t was from the nose) began to flow;
At last, as they more faintly wrestling lay,
Juan contrived to give an awkward blow,
And then his only garment quite gave way;
He fled, like Joseph, leaving it; but there,
I doubt, all likeness ends between the pair.
Lights came at length, and men, and maids, who found
An awkward spectacle their eyes before;
Antonia in hysterics, Julia swoon'd,
Alfonso leaning, breathless, by the door;
Some half-torn drapery scatter'd on the ground,
Some blood, and several footsteps, but no more:
Juan the gate gain'd, turn'd the key about,
And liking not the inside, lock'd the out.
Here ends this canto.—Need I sing, or say,
How Juan naked, favour'd by the night,
Who favours what she should not, found his way,
And reach'd his home in an unseemly plight?
The pleasant scandal which arose next day,
The nine days' wonder which was brought to light,
And how Alfonso sued for a divorce,
Were in the English newspapers, of course.
If you would like to see the whole proceedings,
The depositions, and the cause at full,
The names of all the witnesses, the pleadings
Of counsel to nonsuit, or to annul,
There's more than one edition, and the readings
Are various, but they none of them are dull;
The best is that in short-hand ta'en by Gurney,
Who to Madrid on purpose made a journey.
But Donna Inez, to divert the train
Of one of the most circulating scandals
That had for centuries been known in Spain,
At least since the retirement of the Vandals,
First vow'd (and never had she vow'd in vain)
To Virgin Mary several pounds of candles;
And then, by the advice of some old ladies,
She sent her son to be shipp'd off from Cadiz.
She had resolved that he should travel through
All European climes, by land or sea,
To mend his former morals, and get new,
Especially in France and Italy
(At least this is the thing most people do).
Julia was sent into a convent: she
Grieved, but, perhaps, her feelings may be better
Shown in the following copy of her Letter:—
"They tell me 't is decided; you depart:
'T is wise—'t is well, but not the less a pain;
I have no further claim on your young heart,
Mine is the victim, and would be again;
To love too much has been the only art
I used;—I write in haste, and if a stain
Be on this sheet, 't is not what it appears;
My eyeballs burn and throb, but have no tears.
"I loved, I love you, for this love have lost
State, station, heaven, mankind's, my own esteem,
And yet can not regret what it hath cost,
So dear is still the memory of that dream;
Yet, if I name my guilt, 't is not to boast,
None can deem harshlier of me than I deem:
I trace this scrawl because I cannot rest—
I've nothing to reproach, or to request.
"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,
'T is woman's whole existence; man may range
The court, camp, church, the vessel, and the mart;
Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart,
And few there are whom these cannot estrange;
Men have all these resources, we but one,
To love again, and be again undone.
"You will proceed in pleasure, and in pride,
Beloved and loving many; all is o'er
For me on earth, except some years to hide
My shame and sorrow deep in my heart's core;
These I could bear, but cannot cast aside
The passion which still rages as before—
And so farewell—forgive me, love me—No,
That word is idle now—but let it go.
"My breast has been all weakness, is so yet;
But still I think I can collect my mind;
My blood still rushes where my spirit's set,
As roll the waves before the settled wind;
My heart is feminine, nor can forget—
To all, except one image, madly blind;
So shakes the needle, and so stands the pole,
As vibrates my fond heart to my fix'd soul.
"I have no more to say, but linger still,
And dare not set my seal upon this sheet,
And yet I may as well the task fulfil,
My misery can scarce be more complete:
I had not lived till now, could sorrow kill;
Death shuns the wretch who fain the blow would meet,
And I must even survive this last adieu,
And bear with life, to love and pray for you!"
This note was written upon gilt-edged paper
With a neat little crow-quill, slight and new:
Her small white hand could hardly reach the taper,
It trembled as magnetic needles do,
And yet she did not let one tear escape her;
The seal a sun-flower; "Elle vous suit partout,"
The motto cut upon a white cornelian;
The wax was superfine, its hue vermilion.
This was Don Juan's earliest scrape; but whether
I shall proceed with his adventures is
Dependent on the public altogether;
We'll see, however, what they say to this:
Their favour in an author's cap's a feather,
And no great mischief's done by their caprice;
And if their approbation we experience,
Perhaps they'll have some more about a year hence.
My poem's epic, and is meant to be
Divided in twelve books; each book containing,
With love, and war, a heavy gale at sea,
A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning,
New characters; the episodes are three:
A panoramic view of hell's in training,
After the style of Virgil and of Homer,
So that my name of Epic's no misnomer.
All these things will be specified in time,
With strict regard to Aristotle's rules,
The Vade Mecum of the true sublime,
Which makes so many poets, and some fools:
Prose poets like blank-verse, I'm fond of rhyme,
Good workmen never quarrel with their tools;
I've got new mythological machinery,
And very handsome supernatural scenery.
There's only one slight difference between
Me and my epic brethren gone before,
And here the advantage is my own, I ween
(Not that I have not several merits more,
But this will more peculiarly be seen);
They so embellish, that 't is quite a bore
Their labyrinth of fables to thread through,
Whereas this story's actually true.
If any person doubt it, I appeal
To history, tradition, and to facts,
To newspapers, whose truth all know and feel,
To plays in five, and operas in three acts;
All these confirm my statement a good deal,
But that which more completely faith exacts
Is that myself, and several now in Seville,
Saw Juan's last elopement with the devil.
If ever I should condescend to prose,
I'll write poetical commandments, which
Shall supersede beyond all doubt all those
That went before; in these I shall enrich
My text with many things that no one knows,
And carry precept to the highest pitch:
I'll call the work "Longinus o'er a Bottle,
Or, Every Poet his own Aristotle."
Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is crazed beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy:
With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope,
And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy:
Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor
Commit—flirtation with the muse of Moore.
Thou shalt not covet Mr. Sotheby's Muse,
His Pegasus, nor anything that's his;
Thou shalt not bear false witness like "the Blues"
(There's one, at least, is very fond of this);
Thou shalt not write, in short, but what I choose:
This is true criticism, and you may kiss—
Exactly as you please, or not,—the rod;
But if you don't, I'll lay it on, by G-d!
If any person should presume to assert
This story is not moral, first, I pray,
That they will not cry out before they're hurt,
Then that they'll read it o'er again, and say
(But, doubtless, nobody will be so pert)
That this is not a moral tale, though gay;
Besides, in Canto Twelfth, I mean to show
The very place where wicked people go.
If, after all, there should be some so blind
To their own good this warning to despise,
Led by some tortuosity of mind,
Not to believe my verse and their own eyes,
And cry that they "the moral cannot find,"
I tell him, if a clergyman, he lies;
Should captains the remark, or critics, make,
They also lie too—under a mistake.
The public approbation I expect,
And beg they'll take my word about the moral,
Which I with their amusement will connect
(So children cutting teeth receive a coral);
Meantime, they'll doubtless please to recollect
My epical pretensions to the laurel:
For fear some prudish readers should grow skittish,
I've bribed my grandmother's review—the British.
I sent it in a letter to the Editor,
Who thank'd me duly by return of post—
I'm for a handsome article his creditor;
Yet, if my gentle Muse he please to roast,
And break a promise after having made it her,
Denying the receipt of what it cost,
And smear his page with gall instead of honey,
All I can say is—that he had the money.
I think that with this holy new alliance
I may ensure the public, and defy
All other magazines of art or science,
Daily, or monthly, or three monthly; I
Have not essay'd to multiply their clients,
Because they tell me 't were in vain to try,
And that the Edinburgh Review and Quarterly
Treat a dissenting author very martyrly.
"Non ego hoc ferrem calida juventâ
Consule Planco," Horace said, and so
Say I; by which quotation there is meant a
Hint that some six or seven good years ago
(Long ere I dreamt of dating from the Brenta)
I was most ready to return a blow,
And would not brook at all this sort of thing
In my hot youth—when George the Third was King.
But now at thirty years my hair is grey
(I wonder what it will be like at forty?
I thought of a peruke the other day)—
My heart is not much greener; and, in short, I
Have squander'd my whole summer while 't was May,
And feel no more the spirit to retort; I
Have spent my life, both interest and principal,
And deem not, what I deem'd, my soul invincible.
No more—no more—Oh! never more on me
The freshness of the heart can fall like dew,
Which out of all the lovely things we see
Extracts emotions beautiful and new,
Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee:
Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew?
Alas! 't was not in them, but in thy power
To double even the sweetness of a flower.
No more—no more—Oh! never more, my heart,
Canst thou be my sole world, my universe!
Once all in all, but now a thing apart,
Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse:
The illusion's gone for ever, and thou art
Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgment,
Though heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.
My days of love are over; me no more
The charms of maid, wife, and still less of widow,
Can make the fool of which they made before,—
In short, I must not lead the life I did do;
The credulous hope of mutual minds is o'er,
The copious use of claret is forbid too,
So for a good old-gentlemanly vice,
I think I must take up with avarice.
Ambition was my idol, which was broken
Before the shrines of Sorrow, and of Pleasure;
And the two last have left me many a token
O'er which reflection may be made at leisure:
Now, like Friar Bacon's brazen head, I've spoken,
"Time is, Time was, Time's past:"—a chymic treasure
Is glittering youth, which I have spent betimes—
My heart in passion, and my head on rhymes.
What is the end of Fame? 't is but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper:
Some liken it to climbing up a hill,
Whose summit, like all hills, is lost in vapour;
For this men write, speak, preach, and heroes kill,
And bards burn what they call their "midnight taper,"
To have, when the original is dust,
A name, a wretched picture, and worse bust.
What are the hopes of man? Old Egypt's King
Cheops erected the first pyramid
And largest, thinking it was just the thing
To keep his memory whole, and mummy hid;
But somebody or other rummaging,
Burglariously broke his coffin's lid:
Let not a monument give you or me hopes,
Since not a pinch of dust remains of Cheops.
But I being fond of true philosophy,
Say very often to myself, "Alas!
All things that have been born were born to die,
And flesh (which Death mows down to hay) is grass;
You've pass'd your youth not so unpleasantly,
And if you had it o'er again—'t would pass—
So thank your stars that matters are no worse,
And read your Bible, sir, and mind your purse."
But for the present, gentle reader! and
Still gentler purchaser! the bard—that's I—
Must, with permission, shake you by the hand,
And so "Your humble servant, and good-b'ye!"
We meet again, if we should understand
Each other; and if not, I shall not try
Your patience further than by this short sample—
'T were well if others follow'd my example.
"Go, little book, from this my solitude!
I cast thee on the waters—go thy ways!
And if, as I believe, thy vein be good,
The world will find thee after many days."
When Southey's read, and Wordsworth understood,
I can't help putting in my claim to praise—
The four first rhymes are Southey's every line:
For God's sake, reader! take them not for mine.
As you Lie there in the dark,
Me lying next to you on that hot humid night of summer.
The moons shines off your body,
off every line and countour of your muscle.
the moons shine bouncing from your glistening skin.
Your face looking beautiful in the moons light.
You breathe the smoke free from your lungs,
The nights sky, stars and moon behind the foggy smoke.
As your strong arms hold me next to you,
As you sing a lullabye to me,
As i lay next to you, safe in your strong arms.
I will forever remember this night my dear,
Although you are no longer here,
Thank you for all you did.
The time is right for me to bid farewell.
Farewell my darling.
May the moon forever shine to lighten the darkness that falls.
These tiny loiterers on the barley's beard,
And happy units of a numerous herd
Of playfellows, the laughing Summer brings,
Mocking the sunshine on their glittering wings,
How merrily they creep, and run, and fly!
No kin they bear to labour's drudgery,
Smoothing the velvet of the pale hedge-rose;
And where they fly for dinner no one knows -
The dew-drops feed them not - they love the shine
Of noon, whose suns may bring them golden wine
All day they're playing in their Sunday dress -
When night reposes, for they can do no less;
Then, to the heath-bell's purple hood they fly,
And like to princes in their slumbers lie,
Secure from rain, and dropping dews, and all,
In silken beds and roomy painted hall.
So merrily they spend their summer-day,
Now in the corn-fields, now in the new-mown hay.
One almost fancies that such happy things,
With coloured hoods and richly burnished wings,
Are fairy folk, in splendid masquerade
Disguised, as if of mortal folk afraid,
Keeping their joyous pranks a mystery still,
Lest glaring day should do their secrets ill.
Murtagh The Cobbler
The harvest moon was shinin’
As Murtagh came from the fair,
And Oh! The scent of the new-mown hay
And the gorsebloom in the air.
The night wind lifted his shock of hair
With whisperings weird and low,
And sang in his lonely, aching heart
Till he could not choose but go.
Aside from the dusky highway
Down a haunted old boreen
To where a strange light flickered
In under the hollies green--
All night he spent in that fairy dell,
Till the red dawn stained the sky;
And he sold his soul to the fairy folk
For the gift of the seeing eye.
Now he dwells in the mountain cabin,
Silent and unafraid,
The cabin his Father left him,
With the tools of his cobbler’s trade.
He has no hope of Heaven,
He has no fear of Hell,
But he shrinks with a passing shiver
At the sound of the chapel bell.
Th stern young priest came storming,
Ah! ‘tis bitter and cross was he,
But Murtagh gazed with clouded eyes
At the far-off shining sea.
And the wise old priest came pleading
With his understanding eyes;
Ah! Non can know the heart of a man
Like a priest grown old and wise.
But the bitter word and the kind word
Went by on the whispering wind,
For Murtagh’s eyes were seeing
Things hid from all human kind.
Below at the village fireside
By the flickering turf-fires flame,
Prays a little blue-eyes girsha
Sickly and frail and lame.
Till the smoky air around her
Is vibrant with angels’ wings,
For the heart of the child is near to God
And akin to holy things.
She prays and prays for Murtagh,
Who has been her friend for so long,
Who fashioned her crutch of mountain ash
And cheered her with smile and song.
And I know that the Lord of Mercy
Will hark to her cry of pain;
And turn his steps from the erring path
And give Murtagh his soul again.
I left my love in the Fairy Glen
Home of the litte fairy men
I met her there on a July night
When a Summer moon was beaming bright.
For my love was the Fairy Queen
In Fairyland she reign supreme
She wore a glittering diamond cloak
Queen of the little fairy folk.
Though the night was bright it was bright as day
In a wooded vale I lost my way
Then I sat me down by a tall oak tree
And the Fairy Queen she came to me.
I gazed upon this fairy small
She stood scarcely more than two foot tall
Tiny shoes covered her tiny feet
And she bowed towards me in a fairy greet
Her pretty little face showed no trace of woe
And her hair was white as new fallen snow
And her eyes were sparkling bright and brown
And on her head she wore a tiny crown.
Then she smiled at me and this did say
You're in Fairyland you have lost your way
Sorry to disturb you from your rest
Come along with me and be my guest.
Then she led me to the fairy ball
To a fairy dance in a fairy hall
All the fairy folk were dancing there
And fairy music filled the air.
But when we stepped inside the fairy dance hall door
A hushed silence fell across the floor
Fairy men and women scarce one third my size
All looked up at me with fear in their eyes.
But their Queen she spoke to them and said
Of this gentle giant you need hold no dread
I met him in the oak tree shade
Into Fairyland he has somehow strayed.
Then the fairy band started playing anew
And the fairy folk started dancing too
Round and round the dance floor they did wheel
To the haunting sound of a fairy reel.
I have never seen people quite so gay
As these little fairies in their bright array
These happy folk did laugh and sing
As they danced around in a fairy ring.
Then I left the ball with the Fairy Queen
And we strolled the banks of a moonlit stream
I stooped to kiss her but she was gone
And by the moonlit stream I stood alone.
The alarm clock rang and I awoke
And my spell of fantasy was broke
I awoke to a World of reality
From a Fairyland of fantasy.
Poem For The Two Hundred And Fiftieth Anniversary Of The Founding Of Harvard College
TWICE had the mellowing sun of autumn crowned
The hundredth circle of his yearly round,
When, as we meet to-day, our fathers met:
That joyous gathering who can e'er forget,
When Harvard's nurslings, scattered far and wide,
Through mart and village, lake's and ocean's side,
Came, with one impulse, one fraternal throng,
And crowned the hours with banquet, speech, and song?
Once more revived in fancy's magic glass,
I see in state the long procession pass
Tall, courtly, leader as by right divine,
Winthrop, our Winthrop, rules the marshalled line,
Still seen in front, as on that far-off day
His ribboned baton showed the column's way.
Not all are gone who marched in manly pride
And waved their truncheons at their leader's side;
Gray, Lowell, Dixwell, who his empire shared,
These to be with us envious Time has spared.
Few are the faces, so familiar then,
Our eyes still meet amid the haunts of men;
Scarce one of all the living gathered there,
Whose unthinned locks betrayed a silver hair,
Greets us to-day, and yet we seem the same
As our own sires and grandsires, save in name.
There are the patriarchs, looking vaguely round
For classmates' faces, hardly known if found;
See the cold brow that rules the busy mart;
Close at its side the pallid son of art,
Whose purchased skill with borrowed meaning clothes,
And stolen hues, the smirking face he loathes.
Here is the patient scholar; in his looks
You read the titles of his learned books;
What classic lore those spidery crow's-feet speak!
What problems figure on that wrinkled cheek!
For never thought but left its stiffened trace,
Its fossil footprint, on the plastic face,
As the swift record of a raindrop stands,
Fixed on the tablet of the hardening sands.
On every face as on the written page
Each year renews the autograph of age;
One trait alone may wasting years defy,--
The fire still lingering in the poet's eye,
While Hope, the siren, sings her sweetest strain,--
_Non omnis moriar_ is its proud refrain.
Sadly we gaze upon the vacant chair;
He who should claim its honors is not there,--
Otis, whose lips the listening crowd enthrall
That press and pack the floor of Boston's hall.
But Kirkland smiles, released from toil and care
Since the silk mantle younger shoulders wear,--
Quincy's, whose spirit breathes the selfsame fire
That filled the bosom of his youthful sire,
Who for the altar bore the kindled torch
To freedom's temple, dying in its porch.
Three grave professions in their sons appear,
Whose words well studied all well pleased will hear
Palfrey, ordained in varied walks to shine,
Statesman, historian, critic, and divine;
Solid and square behold majestic Shaw,
A mass of wisdom and a mine of law;
Warren, whose arm the doughtiest warriors fear,
Asks of the startled crowd to lend its ear,--
Proud of his calling, him the world loves best,
Not as the coming, but the parting guest.
Look on that form,--with eye dilating scan
The stately mould of nature's kingliest man!
Tower-like he stands in life's unfaded prime;
Ask you his name? None asks a second time
He from the land his outward semblance takes,
Where storm-swept mountains watch o'er slumbering lakes.
See in the impress which the body wears
How its imperial might the soul declares
The forehead's large expansion, lofty, wide,
That locks unsilvered vainly strive to hide;
The lines of thought that plough the sober cheek;
Lips that betray their wisdom ere they speak
In tones like answers from Dodona's grove;
An eye like Juno's when she frowns on Jove.
I look and wonder; will he be content--
This man, this monarch, for the purple meant--
The meaner duties of his tribe to share,
Clad in the garb that common mortals wear?
Ah, wild Ambition, spread thy restless wings,
Beneath whose plumes the hidden cestrum stings;
Thou whose bold flight would leave earth's vulgar crowds,
And like the eagle soar above the clouds,
Must feel the pang that fallen angels know
When the red lightning strikes thee from below!
Less bronze, more silver, mingles in the mould
Of him whom next my roving eyes behold;
His, more the scholar's than the statesman's face,
Proclaims him born of academic race.
Weary his look, as if an aching brain
Left on his brow the frozen prints of pain;
His voice far-reaching, grave, sonorous, owns
A shade of sadness in its plaintive tones,
Yet when its breath some loftier thought inspires
Glows with a heat that every bosom fires.
Such Everett seems; no chance-sown wild flower knows
The full-blown charms of culture's double rose,--
Alas, how soon, by death's unsparing frost,
Its bloom is faded and its fragrance lost!
Two voices, only two, to earth belong,
Of all whose accents met the listening throng:
Winthrop, alike for speech and guidance framed,
On that proud day a twofold duty claimed;
One other yet,--remembered or forgot,--
Forgive my silence if I name him not.
Can I believe it? I, whose youthful voice
Claimed a brief gamut,--notes not over choice,
Stood undismayed before the solemn throng,
And _propria voce_ sung that saucy song
Which even in memory turns my soul aghast,--
_Felix audacia_ was the verdict cast.
What were the glory of these festal days
Shorn of their grand illumination's blaze?
Night comes at last with all her starry train
To find a light in every glittering pane.
From 'Harvard's' windows see the sudden flash,--
Old 'Massachusetts' glares through every sash;
From wall to wall the kindling splendors run
Till all is glorious as the noonday sun.
How to the scholar's mind each object brings
What some historian tells, some poet sings!
The good gray teacher whom we all revered--
Loved, honored, laughed at, and by freshmen feared,
As from old 'Harvard,' where its light began,
From hall to hall the clustering splendors ran--
Took down his well-worn Eschylus and read,
Lit by the rays a thousand tapers shed,
How the swift herald crossed the leagues between
Mycenae's monarch and his faithless queen;
And thus he read,--my verse but ill displays
The Attic picture, clad in modern phrase.
On Ida's summit flames the kindling pile,
And Lemnos answers from his rocky isle;
From Athos next it climbs the reddening skies,
Thence where the watch-towers of Macistus rise.
The sentries of Mesapius in their turn
Bid the dry heath in high piled masses burn,
Cithoeron's crag the crimson billows stain,
Far AEgiplanctus joins the fiery train.
Thus the swift courier through the pathless night
Has gained at length the Arachnoean height,
Whence the glad tidings, borne on wings offlame,
'Ilium has fallen!' reach the royal dame.
So ends the day; before the midnight stroke
The lights expiring cloud the air with smoke;
While these the toil of younger hands employ,
The slumbering Grecian dreams of smouldering Troy.
As to that hour with backward steps I turn,
Midway I pause; behold a funeral urn!
Ah, sad memorial! known but all too well
The tale which thus its golden letters tell:
This dust, once breathing, changed its joyous life
For toil and hunger, wounds and mortal strife;
Love, friendship, learning's all prevailing charms,
For the cold bivouac and the clash of arms.
The cause of freedom won, a race enslaved
Called back to manhood, and a nation saved,
These sons of Harvard, falling ere their prime,
Leave their proud memory to the coming time.
While in their still retreats our scholars turn
The mildewed pages of the past, to learn
With endless labor of the sleepless brain
What once has been and ne'er shall be again,
We reap the harvest of their ceaseless toil
And find a fragrance in their midnight oil.
But let a purblind mortal dare the task
The embryo future of itself to ask,
The world reminds him, with a scornful laugh,
That times have changed since Prospero broke his staff.
Could all the wisdom of the schools foretell
The dismal hour when Lisbon shook and fell,
Or name the shuddering night that toppled down
Our sister's pride, beneath whose mural crown
Scarce had the scowl forgot its angry lines,
When earth's blind prisoners fired their fatal mines?
New realms, new worlds, exulting Science claims,
Still the dim future unexplored remains;
Her trembling scales the far-off planet weigh,
Her torturing prisms its elements betray,--
We know what ores the fires of Sirius melt,
What vaporous metals gild Orion's belt;
Angels, archangels, may have yet to learn
Those hidden truths our heaven-taught eyes discern;
Yet vain is Knowledge, with her mystic wand,
To pierce the cloudy screen and read beyond;
Once to the silent stars the fates were known,
To us they tell no secrets but their own.
At Israel's altar still we humbly bow,
But where, oh where, are Israel's prophets now?
Where is the sibyl with her hoarded leaves?
Where is the charm the weird enchantress weaves?
No croaking raven turns the auspex pale,
No reeking altars tell the morrow's tale;
The measured footsteps of the Fates are dumb,
Unseen, unheard, unheralded, they come,
Prophet and priest and all their following fail.
Who then is left to rend the future's veil?
Who but the poet, he whose nicer sense
No film can baffle with its slight defence,
Whose finer vision marks the waves that stray,
Felt, but unseen, beyond the violet ray?--
Who, while the storm-wind waits its darkening shroud,
Foretells the tempest ere he sees the cloud,--
Stays not for time his secrets to reveal,
But reads his message ere he breaks the seal.
So Mantua's bard foretold the coming day
Ere Bethlehem's infant in the manger lay;
The promise trusted to a mortal tongue
Found listening ears before the angels sung.
So while his load the creeping pack-horse galled,
While inch by inch the dull canal-boat crawled,
Darwin beheld a Titan from 'afar
Drag the slow barge or drive the rapid car,'
That panting giant fed by air and flame,
The mightiest forges task their strength to tame.
Happy the poet! him no tyrant fact
Holds in its clutches to be chained and racked;
Him shall no mouldy document convict,
No stern statistics gravely contradict;
No rival sceptre threats his airy throne;
He rules o'er shadows, but he reigns alone.
Shall I the poet's broad dominion claim
Because you bid me wear his sacred name
For these few moments? Shall I boldly clash
My flint and steel, and by the sudden flash
Read the fair vision which my soul descries
Through the wide pupils of its wondering eyes?
List then awhile; the fifty years have sped;
The third full century's opened scroll is spread,
Blank to all eyes save his who dimly sees
The shadowy future told in words like these.
How strange the prospect to my sight appears,
Changed by the busy hands of fifty years!
Full well I know our ocean-salted Charles,
Filling and emptying through the sands and marls
That wall his restless stream on either bank,
Not all unlovely when the sedges rank
Lend their coarse veil the sable ooze to hide
That bares its blackness with the ebbing tide.
In other shapes to my illumined eyes
Those ragged margins of our stream arise
Through walls of stone the sparkling waters flow,
In clearer depths the golden sunsets glow,
On purer waves the lamps of midnight gleam,
That silver o'er the unpolluted stream.
Along his shores what stately temples rise,
What spires, what turrets, print the shadowed skies!
Our smiling Mother sees her broad domain
Spread its tall roofs along the western plain;
Those blazoned windows' blushing glories tell
Of grateful hearts that loved her long and well;
Yon gilded dome that glitters in the sun
Was Dives' gift,--alas, his only one!
These buttressed walls enshrine a banker's name,
That hallowed chapel hides a miser's shame;
Their wealth they left,--their memory cannot fade
Though age shall crumble every stone they laid.
Great lord of millions,--let me call thee great,
Since countless servants at thy bidding wait,--
Richesse oblige: no mortal must be blind
To all but self, or look at human kind
Laboring and suffering,--all its want and woe,--
Through sheets of crystal, as a pleasing show
That makes life happier for the chosen few
Duty for whom is something not to do.
When thy last page of life at length is filled,
What shall thine heirs to keep thy memory build?
Will piles of stone in Auburn's mournful shade
Save from neglect the spot where thou art laid?
Nay, deem not thus; the sauntering stranger's eye
Will pass unmoved thy columned tombstone by,
No memory wakened, not a teardrop shed,
Thy name uncared for and thy date unread.
But if thy record thou indeed dost prize,
Bid from the soil some stately temple rise,--
Some hall of learning, some memorial shrine,
With names long honored to associate thine:
So shall thy fame outlive thy shattered bust
When all around thee slumber in the dust.
Thus England's Henry lives in Eton's towers,
Saved from the spoil oblivion's gulf devours;
Our later records with as fair a fame
Have wreathed each uncrowned benefactor's name;
The walls they reared the memories still retain
That churchyard marbles try to keep in vain.
In vain the delving antiquary tries
To find the tomb where generous Harvard lies
Here, here, his lasting monument is found,
Where every spot is consecrated ground!
O'er Stoughton's dust the crumbling stone decays,
Fast fade its lines of lapidary praise;
There the wild bramble weaves its ragged nets,
There the dry lichen spreads its gray rosettes;
Still in yon walls his memory lives unspent,
Nor asks a braver, nobler monument.
Thus Hollis lives, and Holden, honored, praised,
And good Sir Matthew, in the halls they raised;
Thus live the worthies of these later times,
Who shine in deeds, less brilliant, grouped in rhymes.
Say, shall the Muse with faltering steps retreat,
Or dare these names in rhythmic form repeat?
Why not as boldly as from Homer's lips
The long array, of Argive battle-ships?
When o'er our graves a thousand years have past
(If to such date our threatened globe shall last)
These classic precincts, myriad feet have pressed,
Will show on high, in beauteous garlands dressed,
Those honored names that grace our later day,--
Weld, Matthews, Sever, Thayer, Austin, Gray,
Sears, Phillips, Lawrence, Hemenway,--to the list
Add Sanders, Sibley,--all the Muse has missed.
Once more I turn to read the pictured page
Bright with the promise of the coming age.
Ye unborn sons of children yet unborn,
Whose youthful eyes shall greet that far-off morn,
Blest are those eyes that all undimmed behold
The sights so longed for by the wise of old.
From high-arched alcoves, through resounding halls,
Clad in full robes majestic Science calls,
Tireless, unsleeping, still at Nature's feet,
Whate'er she utters fearless to repeat,
Her lips at last from every cramp released
That Israel's prophet caught from Egypt's priest.
I see the statesman, firm, sagacious, bold,
For life's long conflict cast in amplest mould;
Not his to clamor with the senseless throng
That shouts unshamed, 'Our party, right or wrong,'
But in the patriot's never-ending fight
To side with Truth, who changes wrong to right.
I see the scholar; in that wondrous time
Men, women, children, all can write in rhyme.
These four brief lines addressed to youth inclined
To idle rhyming in his notes I find:
Who writes in verse that should have writ in prose
Is like a traveller walking on his toes;
Happy the rhymester who in time has found
The heels he lifts were made to touch the ground.
I see gray teachers,--on their work intent,
Their lavished lives, in endless labor spent,
Had closed at last in age and penury wrecked,
Martyrs, not burned, but frozen in neglect,
Save for the generous hands that stretched in aid
Of worn-out servants left to die half paid.
Ah, many a year will pass, I thought, ere we
Such kindly forethought shall rejoice to see,--
Monarchs are mindful of the sacred debt
That cold republics hasten to forget.
I see the priest,--if such a name he bears
Who without pride his sacred vestment wears;
And while the symbols of his tribe I seek
Thus my first impulse bids me think and speak:
Let not the mitre England's prelate wears
Next to the crown whose regal pomp it shares,
Though low before it courtly Christians bow,
Leave its red mark on Younger England's brow.
We love, we honor, the maternal dame,
But let her priesthood wear a modest name,
While through the waters of the Pilgrim's bay
A new-born Mayflower shows her keels the way.
Too old grew Britain for her mother's beads,--
Must we be necklaced with her children's creeds?
Welcome alike in surplice or in gown
The loyal lieges of the Heavenly Crown!
We greet with cheerful, not submissive, mien
A sister church, but not a mitred Queen!
A few brief flutters, and the unwilling Muse,
Who feared the flight she hated to refuse,
Shall fold the wings whose gayer plumes are shed,
Here where at first her half-fledged pinions spread.
Well I remember in the long ago
How in the forest shades of Fontainebleau,
Strained through a fissure in a rocky cell,
One crystal drop with measured cadence fell.
Still, as of old, forever bright and clear,
The fissured cavern drops its wonted tear,
And wondrous virtue, simple folk aver,
Lies in that teardrop of la roche qui pleure.
Of old I wandered by the river's side
Between whose banks the mighty waters glide,
Where vast Niagara, hurrying to its fall,
Builds and unbuilds its ever-tumbling wall;
Oft in my dreams I hear the rush and roar
Of battling floods, and feel the trembling shore,
As the huge torrent, girded for its leap,
With bellowing thunders plunges down the steep.
Not less distinct, from memory's pictured urn,
The gray old rock, the leafy woods, return;
Robed in their pride the lofty oaks appear,
And once again with quickened sense I hear,
Through the low murmur of the leaves that stir,
The tinkling teardrop of _la roche qui pleure_.
So when the third ripe century stands complete,
As once again the sons of Harvard meet,
Rejoicing, numerous as the seashore sands,
Drawn from all quarters,--farthest distant lands,
Where through the reeds the scaly saurian steals,
Where cold Alaska feeds her floundering seals,
Where Plymouth, glorying, wears her iron crown,
Where Sacramento sees the suns go down;
Nay, from the cloisters whence the refluent tide
Wafts their pale students to our Mother's side,--
Mid all the tumult that the day shall bring,
While all the echoes shout, and roar, and ring,
These tinkling lines, oblivion's easy prey,
Once more emerging to the light of day,
Not all unpleasing to the listening ear
Shall wake the memories of this bygone year,
Heard as I hear the measured drops that flow
From the gray rock of wooded Fontainebleau.
Yet, ere I leave, one loving word for all
Those fresh young lives that wait our Mother's call:
One gift is yours, kind Nature's richest dower,--
Youth, the fair bud that holds life's opening flower,
Full of high hopes no coward doubts enchain,
With all the future throbbing in its brain,
And mightiest instincts which the beating heart
Fills with the fire its burning waves impart.
O joyous youth, whose glory is to dare,--
Thy foot firm planted on the lowest stair,
Thine eye uplifted to the loftiest height
Where Fame stands beckoning in the rosy light,
Thanks for thy flattering tales, thy fond deceits,
Thy loving lies, thy cheerful smiling cheats
Nature's rash promise every day is broke,--
A thousand acorns breed a single oak,
The myriad blooms that make the orchard gay
In barren beauty throw their lives away;
Yet shall we quarrel with the sap that yields
The painted blossoms which adorn the fields,
When the fair orchard wears its May-day suit
Of pink-white petals, for its scanty fruit?
Thrice happy hours, in hope's illusion dressed,
In fancy's cradle nurtured and caressed,
Though rich the spoils that ripening years may bring,
To thee the dewdrops of the Orient cling,--
Not all the dye-stuffs from the vats of truth
Can match the rainbow on the robes of youth!
Dear unborn children, to our Mother's trust
We leave you, fearless, when we lie in dust:
While o'er these walls the Christian banner waves
From hallowed lips shall flow the truth that saves;
While o'er those portals Veritas you read
No church shall bind you with its human creed.
Take from the past the best its toil has won,
But learn betimes its slavish ruts to shun.
Pass the old tree whose withered leaves are shed,
Quit the old paths that error loved to tread,
And a new wreath of living blossoms seek,
A narrower pathway up a loftier peak;
Lose not your reverence, but unmanly fear
Leave far behind you, all who enter here!
As once of old from Ida's lofty height
The flaming signal flashed across the night,
So Harvard's beacon sheds its unspent rays
Till every watch-tower shows its kindling blaze.
Caught from a spark and fanned by every gale,
A brighter radiance gilds the roofs of Yale;
Amherst and Williams bid their flambeaus shine,
And Bowdoin answers through her groves of pine;
O'er Princeton's sands the far reflections steal,
Where mighty Edwards stamped his iron heel;
Nay, on the hill where old beliefs were bound
Fast as if Styx had girt them nine times round,
Bursts such a light that trembling souls inquire
If the whole church of Calvin is on fire!
Well may they ask, for what so brightly burns
As a dry creed that nothing ever learns?
Thus link by link is knit the flaming chain
Lit by the torch of Harvard's hallowed plain.
Thy son, thy servant, dearest Mother mine,
Lays this poor offering on thy holy shrine,
An autumn leaflet to the wild winds tost,
Touched by the finger of November's frost,
With sweet, sad memories of that earlier day,
And all that listened to my first-born lay.
With grateful heart this glorious morn I see,--
Would that my tribute worthier were of thee!
A Satire, in Imitation of the Third of Juvenal
1Though much concern'd to leave my dear old friend,
2I must however his design commend
3Of fixing in the country: for were I
4As free to choose my residence, as he;
5The Peak, the Fens, the Hundreds, or Land's End,
6I would prefer to Fleet Street, or the Strand.
7What place so desert, and so wild is there
8Whose inconveniences one would not bear,
9Rather than the alarms of midnight fire,
10The falls of houses, knavery of cits,
11The plots of factions, and the noise of wits,
12And thousand other plagues, which up and down
13Each day and hour infest the cursed town?
14 As fate would hav't, on the appointed day
15Of parting hence, I met him on the way,
16Hard by Mile End, the place so fam'd of late,
17In prose, and verse for the great faction's treat;
18Here we stood still, and after compliments
19Of course, and wishing his good journey hence
20I ask'd what sudden causes made him fly
21The once lov'd town, and his dear company:
22When, on the hated prospect looking back,
23Thus with just rage the good old Timon spake.
24 .'Since virtue here in no repute is had,
25Since worth is scorn'd, learning and sense unpaid,
26And knavery the only thriving trade;
27Finding my slender fortune ev'ry day
28Dwindle, and waste insensibly away,
29I, like a losing gamester, thus retreat,
30To manage wiselier my last stake of fate:
31While I have strength, and want no staff to prop
32My tott'ring limbs, ere age has made me stoop
33Beneath its weight, ere all my thread be spun,
34And life has yet in store some sands to run,
35'Tis my resolve to quit the nauseous town.
36 Let thriving Morecraft choose his dwelling there,
37Rich with the spoils of some young spendthrift heir:
38Let the plot-mongers stay behind, whose art
39Can truth to sham, and sham to truth convert:
40Whoever has an house to build, or set
41His wife, his conscience, or his oath to let:
42Whoever has, or hopes for offices,
43A Navy, Guard, or Custom-house's place:
44Let sharping courtiers stay, who there are great
45By putting the false dice on King, and state.
46Where they, who once were grooms, and foot-boys known,
47Are now to fair estates, and honours grown;
48Nor need we envy them, or wonder much
49At their fantastic greatness, since they're such,
50Whom Fortune oft, in her capricious freaks,
51Is pleas'd to raise from kennels, and the jakes,
52To wealth, and dignity above the rest,
53When she is frolic, and dispos'd to jest.
54 'I live in London? What should I do there?
55I cannot lie, nor flatter, nor forswear:
56I can't commend a book, or piece of wit,
57(Though a lord were the author) dully writ:
58I'm no Sir Sydrophel to read the stars,
59And cast nativities for longing heirs,
60When fathers shall dropp off: no Gadbury
61To tell the minute when the King shall die,
62And you know what-come in: nor can I steer,
63And tack about my conscience, whensoe'er,
64To a new point, I see religion veer.
65Let others pimp to courtiers' lechery,
66I'll draw no City-cuckold's curse on me:
67Nor would I do it, though to be made great,
68And rais'd to the chief ministry of state.
69Therefore, I think it fit to rid the town
70Of one, that is an useless member grown.
71 'Besides, who has pretence to favour now,
72But he, who hidden villainy does know,
73Whose breast does with some burning secret glow?
74By none thou shalt preferred, or valued be,
75That trusts thee with an honest secrecy:
76He only may to great men's friendship reach,
77Who great men, when he pleases, can impeach.
78Let others thus aspire to dignity;
79For me, I'd not their envied grandeur buy
80For all th' Exchange is worth, that Paul's will cost,
81Or was of late in the Scotch voyage lost.
82What would it boot, if I, to gain my end,
83Forego my quiet, and my ease of mind,
84Still fear'd, at last betray'd, by my dear friend?
85 'Another cause, which I must boldly own,
86And not the least, for which I quit the town,
87Is to behold it made the common shore,
88Where France does all her filth, and ordure pour:
89What spark of true old English rage can bear
90Those, who were slaves at home, to lord it here?
91We've all our fashion, language, compliments,
92Our music, dances, curing, cooking thence:
93And we shall have their pois'ning too ere long,
94If still in the improvement we go on.
95 'What would'st thou say, great Harry, should'st thou view
96Thy gaudy, flutt'ring race of English now,
97Their tawdry cloths, pulvilios, essences,
98Their Chedreux perukes, and those vanities,
99Which thou, and they of old, did so despise?
100What would'st thou say to see th' infected town
101With the foul spawn of foreigners o'errun?
102Hither from Paris, and all parts they come,
103The spew, and vomit of their jails at home;
104To Court they flock, and to St. James his Square,
105And wriggle into great men's service there:
106Footboys at first, till they from wiping shoes,
107Grow, by degrees, the masters of the house:
108Ready of wit, harden'd of impudence,
109Able with ease to put down either Haines,
110Both the King's player, and king's evidence:
111Flippant of talk, and voluble of tongue,
112With words at will, no lawyer better hung:
113Softer than flattering Court-parasite,
114Or City trader, when he means to cheat,
115No calling, or profession comes amiss:
116A needy Monsieur can be what he please,
117Groom, page, valet, quack, operator, fencer,
118Perfumer, pimp, jack-pudding, juggler, dancer:
119Give but the word, the cur will fetch and bring,
120Come over to the Emperor, or King:
121Or, if you please, fly o'er the pyramid,
122Which Aston and the rest in vain have tried.
123 'Can I have patience, and endure to see
124The paltry foreign wretch take place of me,
125Whom the same wind, and vessel brought ashore,
126That brought prohibited goods, and dildoes o'er?
127Then, pray, what mighty privilege is there
128For me, that at my birth drew English air?
129And where's the benefit to have my veins
130Run British blood, if there's no difference
131'Twixt me, and him, the statute freedom gave,
132And made a subject of a true-born slave?
133 'But nothing shocks, and is more loath'd by me,
134Than the vile rascal's fulsome flattery:
135By help of this false magnifying glass,
136A louse, or flea, shall for a camel pass:
137Produce an hideous wight, more ugly far
138Than those ill shapes, which in old hangings are,
139He'll make him straight a beau garçon appear:
140Commend his voice, and singing, though he bray
141Worse than Sir Martin Mar-all in the play:
142And if he rhyme, shall praise for standard wit,
143More scurvy sense than Prynne, and Vickars writ.
144 'And here's the mischief, though we say the same,
145He is believ'd, and we are thought to sham:
146Do you but smile, immediately the beast
147Laughs out aloud, though he ne'er heard the jest;
148Pretend you're sad, he's presently in tears,
149Yet grieves no more than marble, when it wears
150Sorrow in metaphor: but speak of heat;
151'O God! How sultry 'tis!' he'll cry, and sweat
152In depth of winter: strait, if you complain
153Of cold; the weather-glass is sunk again:
154Then he'll call for his frieze-campaign, and swear,
155'Tis beyond eighty, he's in Greenland here,
156Thus he shifts scenes, and oft'ner in a day
157Can change his face, than actors at a play,
158There's nought so mean can 'scape the flatt'ring sot,
159Not his Lord's snuff-box, nor his powder-spot:
160If he but spit, or pick his teeth; he'll cry,
161'How every thing becomes you! let me die,
162Your Lordship does it most judiciously:'
163And swear, 'tis fashionable, if he sneeze,
164Extremely taking, and it needs must please.
165 'Besides, there's nothing sacred, nothing free
166From the hot satyr's rampant lechery;
167Nor wife, not virgin-daughter can escape,
168Scarce thou thy self, or son avoid a rape:
169All must go padlock'd: if nought else there be,
170Suspect thy very stable's chastity.
171By this the vermin into secrets creep,
172Thus, families in awe they strive to keep,
173What living for an Englishman, is there,
174Where such as these get head, and domineer,
175Whose use, and custom 'tis, never to share
176A friend, but love to reign, without dispute,
177Without a rival, full and absolute?
178Soon as the insect gets his honour's ear,
179And fly-blows some of 's pois'nous malice there,
180Strait I'm turn'd off, kick'd out of doors, discarded,
181And all my former service disregarded.
182 'But leaving these Messieurs, for fear that I
183Be thought of the silk-weavers' mutiny,
184From the loath'd subject let us hasten on,
185To mention other grievances in town:
186And further, what respect at all is had
187Of poor men here? and how's their service paid,
188Though they be ne'er so diligent to wait,
189To sneak, and dance attendance on the great?
190No mark of favour is to be obtain'd
191By one, that sues, and brings an empty hand:
192And all his merit is but made a sport,
193Unless he glut some cormorant at Court.
194 ''Tis now a common thing, and usual here,
195To see the son of some rich usurer
196Take place of nobles, keep his first-rate whore,
197And for a vaulting-bout or two give more
198Than a Guard-captain's pay: meanwhile the breed
199Of peers, reduced to poverty, and need,
200Are fain to trudge to the Bankside, and there
201Take up with porter's leavings, suburb-ware,
202There spend that blood, which their great ancestor
203So nobly shed at Cressy heretofore,
204At brothel-fights in some foul common shore.
205 'Produce an evidence, though just he be,
206As righteous Job, or Abraham, or he,
207Whom Heaven, when whole nature shipwreck'd was,
208Thought worth the saving, of all human race;
209Or t'other, who the flaming deluge scap'd,
210When Sodom's lechers angels would have rap'd;
211'How rich he is,' must the first question be,
212Next, for his manners and integrity:
213They'll ask, 'what equipage he keeps, and what
214He's reckon'd worth, in money, and estate,
215For Shrieve how oft he has been known to fine,
216And with how many dishes he does dine?'
217You look what cash a person has in store,
218Just so much credit has he, and no more:
219Should I upon a thousand Bibles swear,
220And call each saint throughout the calendar
221To vouch my oath, it won't be taken here;
222The poor slight Heav'n, and thunderbolts (they think),
223And Heav'n itself does at such trifles wink.
224 'Besides, what store of gibing scoffs are thrown
225On one, that's poor, and meanly clad in town;
226If his apparel seem but overworn,
227His stockings out at heel, or breeches torn?
228One takes occasion his ripp'd shoe to flout,
229And swears 't has been at prison-grates hung out:
230Another shrewdly jeers his coarse cravat,
231Because himself wears point: a third, his hat,
232And most unmercifully shows his wit,
233If it be old, and does not cock aright:
234Nothing in poverty so ill is borne,
235As its exposing men to grinning scorn,
236To be by tawdry coxcombs piss'd upon
237And made the jesting-stock of each buffoon,
238'Turn out there, friend! (cries one at church) 'the pew
239Is not for such mean scoundrel curs, as you:
240'Tis for your betters kept:' belike some sot
241That knew no father, was on bulks begot:
242But now is rais'd to an estate, and pride,
243By having the kind proverb on his side:
244Let Gripe and Cheatwell take their places there,
245And Dash the scriv'ner's gaudy sparkish heir,
246That wears three ruin'd orphans on his back:
247Meanwhile you in the alley stand, and sneak:
248And you therewith must rest contented, since
249Almighty wealth does put such difference.
250What citizen a son-in-law will take,
251Bred ne'er so well, that can't a jointure make?
252What man of sense, that's poor, e'er summon'd is
253Among the Common Council to advise?
254At vestry-consults, when he does he appear
255For choosing of some parish officer,
256Or making leather-buckets for the choir?
257 ''Tis hard for any man to rise, that feels
258His virtue clogg'd with poverty at heels:
259But harder 'tis by much in London, where
260A sorry lodging, coarse, and slender fare,
261Fire, water, breathing, every thing is dear:
262Yet such as these an earthen dish disdain,
263With which their ancestors, in Edgar's reign,
264Were serv'd, and thought it no disgrace to dine,
265Though they were rich, had store of leather-coin.
266Low as their fortune is, yet they despise
267A man that walks the streets in homely frieze:
268To speak the truth, great part of England now
269In their own cloth, will scarce vouchsafe to go:
270Only the statute's penalty to save,
271Some few perhaps wear woollen in the grave.
272Here all go gaily dress'd, although it be
273Above their means, their rank, and quality:
274The most in borrow'd gallantry, are clad,
275For which the tradesman's books are still unpaid:
276This fault is common in the meaner sort,
277That they must needs affect to bear the port
278Of gentlemen, though they want income for't.
279 'Sir, to be short, in this expensive town
280There's nothing without money to be done:
281What will you give to be admitted there,
282And brought to speech of some Court-minister?
283What will you give to have the quarter-face,
284The squint and nodding and go-by of his Grace?
285His porter, groom, and steward, must have fees,
286And you may see the tombs, the Tow'r for less:
287Hard fate of suitors! who must pay, and pray
288To livery-slaves, yet oft go scorn'd away.
289 'Whoe'er at Barnet, or St. Albans fears
290To have his lodging dropp about his ears,
291Unless a sudden hurricane befall,
292Or such a wind as blew old Noll to Hell?
293Here we build slight, what scarce outlasts the lease,
294Without the help of props, and buttresses:
295And houses nowadays as much require
296To be insur'd from falling, as from fire.
297There buildings are substantial, though less neat,
298And kept with care both wind-, and water-tight:
299There you in safe security are blest,
300And nought, but conscience to disturb your rest.
301 'I am for living where no fires affright,
302No bells rung backward break my sleep at night:
303I scarce lie down, and draw my curtains here,
304But strait I'm rous'd by the next house on fire:
305Pale, and half dead with fear, myself I raise,
306And find my room all over in a blaze;
307By this 't has seiz'd on the third stairs, and I
308Can now discern no other remedy,
309But leaping out at window to get free:
310For if the mischief from the cellar came,
311Be sure the garret is the last, takes flame.
312 'The moveables of Pordage were a bed
313For him, and 's wife: a piss-pot by its side,
314A looking-glass upon the cupboard's head,
315A comb-case, candlestick, and pewter-spoon,
316For want of plate, with desk to write upon:
317A box without a lid serv'd to contain
318Few authors, which made up his Vatican:
319And there his own immortal works were laid,
320On which the barb'rous mice for hunger prey'd:
321Pordage had nothing, all the world does know;
322And yet should he have lost this nothing too,
323No one the wretched bard would have supplied
324With lodging, house-room, or a crust of bread.
325 'But if the fire burn down some great man's house
326All strait are interested in the loss:
327The Court is strait in mourning sure enough,
328The Act, Commencement, and the Term put off:
329Then we mischances of the town lament,
330And fasts are kept, like judgments to prevent.
331Out comes a brief immediately, with speed
332To gather charity as far as Tweed.
333Nay, while 'tis burning, some will send him in
334Timber, and stone to build his house again:
335Others choice furniture: here some rare piece
336Of Rubens, or Vandyke presented is:
337There a rich suit of Mortlack tapestry,
338A bed of damask, or embroidery:
339One gives a fine scritoire, or cabinet,
340Another a huge massy dish of plate,
341Or bag of gold; thus he, at length, gets more
342By kind misfortune than he had before:
343And all suspect it for a laid design,
344As if he did himself the fire begin.
345 'Could you but be advis'd to leave the town,
346And from dear plays, and drinking friends be drawn,
347An handsome dwelling might be had in Kent,
348Surrey, or Essex, at a cheaper rent
349Than what you're forc'd to give for one half-year
350To lie, like lumber, in a garret here:
351A garden there, and well, that needs no rope,
352Engine, or pains to crane its waters up:
353Water is there, through nature's pipes convey'd,
354For which, no custom, nor excise is paid:
355Had I the smallest spot of ground, which scarce
356Would summer half-a-dozen grasshoppers,
357Not larger than my grave, though hence remote,
358Far as St. Michael's Mount, I would go to 't,
359Dwell there content, and thank the fates to boot.
360 'Here, want of rest a-nights more people kills
361Than all the College, and the weekly bills:
362Where none have privilege to sleep, but those,
363Whose purses can compound for their repose:
364In vain I go to bed, or close my eyes,
365Methinks the place the middle region is,
366Where I lie down in storms, in thunder rise:
367The restless bells such din in steeples keep,
368That scarce the dead can in their churchyards sleep:
369Huzza's of drunkards, bellmen's midnight rhymes,
370The noise of shops, with hawkers' early screams,
371Besides the brawls of coachmen, when they meet,
372And stop in turnings of a narrow street,
373Such a loud medley of confusion makes,
374As drowsy Archer on the bench would wake.
375 'If you walk out in bus'ness ne'er so great,
376Ten thousand stops you must expect to meet:
377Thick crowds in ev'ry place you must charge through
378And storm your passage, wheresoe'er you go:
379While tides of followers behind you throng,
380And pressing on your heels, shove you along:
381One, with a board, or rafter hits your head,
382Another, with his elbow bores your side;
383Some tread upon your corns, perhaps in sport,
384Meanwhile your legs are cas'd all o'er with dirt.
385Here you the march of a slow funeral wait,
386Advancing to the church with solemn state:
387There a sedan, and lackeys stop your way,
388That bears some punk of honour to the play:
389Now you some mighty piece of timber meet,
390Which tott'ring threatens ruin to the street:
391Next a huge Portland stone, for building Paul's,
392Itself almost a rock, on carriage rolls:
393Which, if it fall, would cause a massacre,
394And serve at once to murder and inter.
395If what I've said can't from the town affright,
396Consider other dangers of the night:
397When brickbats are from upper stories thrown,
398And emptied chamber pots come pouring down
399From garret windows: you have cause to bless
400The gentle stars, if you come off with piss:
401So many fates attend, a man had need
402Ne'er walk without a surgeon by his side:
403And he can hardly now discreet be thought,
404That does not make his will, ere he go out.
405 'If this you 'scape, twenty to one, you meet
406Some of the drunken scourers of the street,
407Flush'd with success of warlike deeds perform'd,
408Or constables subdu'd, and brothels storm'd:
409These, if a quarrel, or a fray be miss'd,
410Are ill at ease a-nights, and want their rest;
411For mischief is a lechery to some,
412And serves to make them sleep like laudanum.
413Yet heated, as they are, with youth, and wine,
414If they discern a train of flambeaus shine,
415If a great man with his gilt coach appear,
416And a strong guard of footboys in the rear,
417The rascals sneak, and shrink their heads for fear.
418Poor me, who use no light to walk about,
419Save what the parish, or the skies hang out,
420They value not: 'tis worth your while to hear
421The scuffle, if that be a scuffle, where
422Another gives the blows, I only bear:
423He bids me stand: of force I must give way,
424For 'twere a senseless thing to disobey,
425And struggle here, where I'd as good oppose
426Myself to Preston and his mastiffs loose.
427 .''Who's there?' he cries, and takes you by the throat,
428'Dog! Are you dumb? Speak quickly, else my foot
429Shall march about your buttocks: whence d' ye come,
430From what bulk-ridden strumpet reeking home?
431Saving your rev'rend pimpship, where d' ye ply?
432How may one have a job of lechery?'
433If you say anything, or hold your peace,
434And silently go off, 'tis all a case:
435Still he lays on: nay well, if you scape so:
436Perhaps he'll clap an action on you too
437Of battery, nor need he fear to meet
438A jury to his turn, shall do him right,
439And bring him in large damage for a shoe
440Worn out, besides the pains, in kicking you.
441But patience: his best way in such a case
442Is to be thankful for the drubs, and beg
443That they would mercifully spare one leg,
444Or arm unbroke, and let him go away
445With teeth enough to eat his meat next day.
446 'Nor is this all, which you have cause to fear,
447Oft we encounter midnight padders here:
448When the exchanges, and the shops are close,
449And the rich tradesman in his counting house
450To view the profits of the day, withdraws.
451Hither in flocks from Shooter's Hill they come,
452To seek their prize, and booty nearer home:
453'Your purse!' they cry; 'tis madness to resist,
454Or strive with a cock'd pistol at your breast:
455And these each day so strong and num'rous grow,
456The town can scarce afford them jail-room now.
457Happy the times of the old Heptarchy,
458Ere London knew so much of villainy:
459Then fatal carts through Holborn seldom went,
460And Tyburn with few pilgrims was content:
461A less, and single prison then would do,
462And serv'd the city, and the county too.
463 'These are the reasons, sir, that drive me hence,
464To which I might add more, would time dispense,
465To hold you longer, but the sun draws low,
466The coach is hard at hand, and I must go:
467Therefore, dear sir, farewell; and when the town,
468From better company can spare you down,
469To make the country with your presence blest,
470Then visit your old friend amongst the rest:
471There I'll find leisure to unlade my mind
472Of what remarks I now must leave behind:
473The fruits of dear experience, which, with these
474Improv'd will serve for hints, and notices;
475And when you write again, may be of use
476To furnish satire for your daring muse.'
Of Ancient Mastodon, Sleepy Bee & Young Men Who Leap Too Soon From Bridges - Nightingale Confesses Into Straighter Teeth
'...descend, and of the curveship lend a myth to God.' - Hart Crane
Pueri aeterna, septem cadens
Etiam plures ad
The boys eternal, seven falling
Too many more to come
Sub olivae, pacem
Ut vos omnes adoremus orientatio
Under the olive trees, peace
May you all adore this orientation
"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their
hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once
hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."
- James Baldwin
'Ignacio goes up the tiers
with all his death on his shoulders.
He sought for the dawn
but the dawn was no more.
He seeks for his confident profile
and the dream bewilders him
He sought for his beautiful body
and encountered his opened blood
Do not ask me to see it! '
- Federico Garcia Lorca*
Even the pigeons on my stoop are silent now.
One mourning dove coos tenderly for these who
have taken their own lives publicly on our behalf,
for those many gone before them, broken hearts
enraged, no more to engage the unpersuaded
world which, one of them, one of the public ones,
in spite of murmuring wharves, in spite of amorous
dark alleys bitter in the pitch of the last hateful
American Century, Hart Crane, wrote before his leap
from the ship beside the phallic curve where Cuba
meets the lisping sea, took his tongue away which
sang of chill dawns breaking upon bridges whose
spans still freely splinter light returning hungover
from the night wharves, grottoes, and denim World
Wars, industrial embraces crushing every man and
now another one abandons his fingers and fiddling
to scattering light, takes flight from ledges to
edge close to an embrace no longer forbidden -
'And so it was I entered the broken world
to trace the visionary company of love...'
I am at the 'Way of Peace Bistro, ' where the server
Alberto whose cousins are the famous Wolf Boys in
Jalisco, Mexico, hirsute himself, gives me free double
espressos so I may hear his confession, who only just
yesterday came out to me in my confessional booth
here at the perpetually wobbly table in the far corner
at the cracked window rocking with Hart's un-confessed
bones wrapped in soothing silt which he now dreams
to be his silken pall.
Life is indeed strange above the veiled bottom.
I do receive confessions here where I weekly haunt
for studying, writing, chasing down dreams, waves,
Why, I wonder, is each window where I sit cracked?
I am the itinerant priest who sits at meager feasts.
Suffering congregants, forlorn over their starfish
and soup, ask about dreams, confess to anguish, ask
what should be done. I consult espresso foam, open
the nearest book at hand willy nilly to see what advice
or wisdom might be gained from That which, we hope,
indiscriminately sustains us all here straining after
some realing thing to keep us going when Hart and
those too recent others obey some impulse to place
at last the final period, reifiying the punctuate
though unrepentant ending of this too too long run-on
sentence of hate. One hopes this period holds fast,
that Logos/meaning is somehow, plates of starfish
with fork and knife beside, true or truing at least.
One serves where needed. And when.
So come unto me you 'sad young men.
All the news is bad again so kiss your dreams goodbye.'**
Here at my confessional I can only plead mercy upon the boys
who have jumped from bridges, hung themselves, cut, sliced their
compulsive hands, exploded hearts, leaping dears eyes ablaze in
thrall of antlers, trembling flanks strong to fly decrying the
violent hunt which always ends in a death bequeathing these
chopped bits to me and to others like me who remain at table,
plates before, to stare at what is to be later scattered, sown,
these pieces in and for Love-without-name still a stain upon
confused local deities and their wild-eyed supplicants.
But there is no stain upon the promiscuous sea.
The compliant sky is not confused.
Neither is all that is between confused,
allowing birth and blessing, passing of
all kinds in all manner of motive and motion.
But in the human world, distressing, there
will be more boys, more men growing up as
from the very beginning where earliest enmity
mythically grew strong before shoes, before
hearts were capable of breaking, before turgid
theological floods spilled blood of brother
by brother turning witness stones toward silence,
echoing lamenting Federico,
'Do not ask me to see it! '
I don't want to see it!
I will not see it!
But I, but perhaps we, who remain to plant these
petaled parts of these unwitting scapegoats whose
eyes are milk now forever, we must bar sentimentality,
must move toward genuine knowing which comes from
the long hard stare beyond Milky Ways at the way
things still inexorably are. 'Nothing gets better -
or changes for the better - until it is what it is.'
But the falling ones, half-way to eternity while
here and eschewed, know what the 'is' is of the matter,
that it is the others, too many of them, who don't
or won't know, who willingly refuse to see 'what is'
in order to reach beyond the collective NOT SEE
solutions' of hetero-normative culture/religion.
Perhaps even in the deepest fault of the ocean that
very visionary company - in league with stuporous
pigeons, a mourning dove, me here who remains-not
-yet-remains, tearful over my espresso looking for
signs, finding only an endlessly fracturing rainbow,
remembering, too, the murmuring secrets of wharves
and co-mingled breath - that very visionary company
traces all the sunken ones, the jumping ones, those
with other means for departure by their own hands
empty now of demands for love.
Here I sit, arthritic living hands still
demanding, remembering full of past and
present griefs the Violin with a cut throat
in a youthful suicide once writ years ago,
hidden, hiding out, refusing to shout my
rage to Almighty 'Nothing-But':
Do not hear nothing but the cabin walls,
do not hear nothing but late summer roses
petal by petal leaping from the still too
white trellises, leaping pinkly, redly,
memory to breezes, overwhelmed by trellises
shagged with cut sleeves.***
But not me. Not yet.
I don't want to see it!
I will not see it.
On the mute page, the Violin refusing to sing
- in love with Garcia Lorca,
the goring horn of the Bull,
the destined cornada -
each and all appalling, commanding 'Write'
in long nights working where the mentally ill
wandered with me, keys ironically in my hand,
the yellowing hallways with even more ironic
EXIT signs brightly RED above the locked doors,
silent companions somnolent but for the jangling
joke of the keys.
Do not ask me to see it!
I don't want to see it!
I will not see it.
Still, I have now these better days in the Village,
broke or near to it, with eggs and beans, cheap but
edible things. An epicurean after all, I do luxuriously
head to the Polish butcher shop nearby to gather meat
but not any of the young butchers want to be gathered
- too Catholic - for Poland is 'passing strange' with
bad teeth, fingers stained with nicotine. Or is it rust
from once Curtains of Iron,
or the Blood of the Acetylene Virgin? ****
I get my meat, cook my greens and things, have good-enough feasts for garlic and the right spice make grander the demanded abstemiousness of current coin. I purloin my pleasure during eats in my dirty yet happy apron with recordings of poetry, lectures or a good aria or two to salt my food with tears, a blubbering fool beside his one low watt lamp, darkness too too comfortable like a pooch or cat at feet. What is that bleating in the darker corner? I shall wait for daylight to see what it can be. And if I can I shall free it from it's trap and in doing so perhaps free me from all this, all this witnessing as life demands I must, of young ones setting themselves free because they are forced to do so by collective psychopathology now rendered even more effective and efficient via technology, via internet, emphasis upon the 'net', where the ills set free from Pandora's Modem have only begun to be revealed.
But I shall use that 'net' and my still goodly paper and goodly pen to dim whatever ill tides there are and to come, as they surely will in spite of low wattage. I'll jangle keys on the night watches reading my mystic books, making my prayers with roamers of wards and wharves glancing up, considering bridges, edges, silty bottoms. The tides are here even now. But right now I wish to sing a lullaby in protest to those hurting departed, even to those coming ills, that I may sing innocence dumbly back to those who may come ashore again more gently having forgotten enforcing depths insisting them toward resistant yet resolved embraces...
...So breech then, waves. Feet first. Heads in the brine. I shall keep time on your wrinkled toes sticking up from the sand, play peek-a-boo. Then while you sleep I shall harvest gently, place them firmly in that old woman's shoe...'there was an old woman who lived in a shoe, had so many children she didn't know what to do'.
She may yet have learned what to by now.
I haven't. But for my one strange harvest here below...
Somniculosus Apis, Sleepy Bee
Ascendit infra me, He rises beneath me
Deus absconditus placet, The hidden God is pleased
He is busy even as I write this preparing a repast for many paying guests who will watch him cook sacred chilies of his Mother's garden born, who will hear him sing their praises...Krishna was over yesterday, nervous and excited about it all. Working out regularly at the gym he is now very toned, muscular in a good way, not too pumped in exaggerated lumps, and he is even more radiantly beautiful/handsome than when we first met beside the cardamom and the ghee in the intoxicating basement of the Indian spice and food shop not easily hidden, such aromas are not to be tucked down like the shop is beside and below the avenue.
Which flower should I adorn my table with? I ask, approaching shyly beside the spice bins. I buzz inside, a bee for the nectar.
If you serve, said he, If you serve with cardamom and ghee then flowers three are best, the jasmine, the oleander, the anthurium. But if choosing only one, he looks at me, something insistent, responding, in his eyes, I would choose for you the anthurium.
And so we began our time together, the cooking lessons, the first demur approaches, the blushing papayas, then the fires, the chilies harvested, curtains drawn. One day perhaps I to shall fall but in this way:
I shall fling back the curtains
Open the window
Throw cut sleeves for years
gathered, hidden, to the street.
Shouting out names of lovers,
I shall then leap openly into life
land softly upon the Autumn
ginkgo leaves and, golden,
kiss every parked car
on the street leaving
lips like leaves and all
the cut sleeves in love
with all the world and if
not all the world then
all the cars and a fiddle
dee dee for the fall of me
Yesterday I coached him on slowing down as he speaks (his accent is thickly, richly Tamil) , how to enunciate each syllable. He had several stories to choose from which he may relate to the guests, all of which he related to me, a sweet one of him as a little boy waking up at dawn, asking his dear mama for an omelet to eat:
'Sleepy Bee, ' she called to him. 'Go, my Sleepy Bee, to the garden and be sure to smell the jasmine there, touch softly the spices in trembling rows, fetch then some chilies of many colors and I will prepare for you a dish as you wish. When the teacher makes you sleepy by noon reach then your fingers to your face, smell the spices there, remember the touch of smooth skinned chilies whispering of lingering liaisons to come, and you will brighten my Sleepy Bee.'
A chili omelet she would make, a side of yogurt to soothe the burn, and milk from the cow drawn before dawn's first udder swelled against the press of distant hills where even the Temple soundly sleeps so very full and pleased with itself. Mother, each morning as he stumbles, rubbing his eyes, into the garden, tells him,
You may shout if you wish to wake
the Temple for the cow cannot speak -
Wake up! Awake! Make haste!
Lord Indra comes! Prepare the wicks,
the incense sticks for His Holy Fire!
Hasten! Hurry! Quicken!
There beside Lord Indra's captured fire in the little grate her Bee awakens watching her slow movements, the slicing of chilies, the removal of seeds, the washing again of plump hands, the cracking of eggs, beating them with the whisk, spreading ghee upon the hot flat stone, the enchantment of liquid whites and yokes becoming firm, becoming food. She turns them in round rhythms as she rhythmically prays.
After eggs and chilies are eaten comes the rose oil poured upon his raven hair smoothly brushed back to reveal his shining face, his smile. She prepares him for school with kisses, his uniform freshly cleaned, ironed, smelling, too, of rose-flavored soap. Then off to school with a lunch, a string of chilies of all colors sewn together, sewn when he was still in a waking dream.
'The chilies may burn, ' he tells me, speaking slowly, enunciating each syllable, practicing through smiles, returning to my gaze. 'But not like the touch of my mother's hand. She is far away but I can feel her burning hands on me now.' He smiles. I stammer. How can one enunciate such wonder?
Visionary company, Krishna, his mother, and me.
I have been encouraging Krishna (which is a funny thing to say, Krishna being a bold, blue God) to find a language coach to help him with his accent, to tone it down while keeping the wonderful music/lilt of it and he's going to do that...he complains of tilting his head as he talks 'as all Indians do' but I insist he merely speak and let his head and hands speak, too, in their own way. If he does more public events he will need to be understood clearly when he speaks while preparing his magnificent dishes from his country, his rich feasts of stories of the chilies from his mother's garden entwined by morning glories, the morning cock already at quarrel with the world just beyond the tin reaching in to take some spices too enticing to refuse...
I always feel as if he is, or will soon be, bored with me and my humble 'ministrations' but he sweeps into my little 'box-doir' - you recall how tiny my expensive studio on the 5th floor is! - like a Raj, a young prince beaming, brimming full of stories to tell me, usually some food, spicy hot, he has prepared for me, offered with a grin. Then he strips instantly down, lays upon the down pallet in easy, unabashed nakedness - it catches my breath, I do want to see! - checks his Blackberry for the latest cricket scores while I hurriedly 'hide' my Ganesha, the prominent statue of the god I have in front of my useless fireplace; this hiding I half understand...but still, naked, he has a fresh and beautifully made tattoo of Ganesha on his shoulder, he wears a Ganesha necklace, a Ganesha bracelet, and a Ganesha waist scapular, the image of which is just below his navel. So why, I ask only myself and Ganesha, never Krishna, why must I hide my large wooden Ganesha statue? But I do hide Him in deference to Krishna's wishes and meanwhile have intercourse with the god-in-miniature, scraping a necklace trunk with an ear, a tongue, receive a scapular kiss of the image upon my forehead as I trace those wonderful hairlines of the male body on my way to other deities.
Ah! give me all the beans in the world in all my poverty! Am I not, too, a Raj of floors and scented pillows, this beaming god beneath me thrusting utterly to reveal his secrets, his desires, his pleasures to me who am not a god?
Life, dear Valdosta, over all, is good, yes? I wish it no ill. But, agreeing with the cock, I will quarrel, even fight, with life when young men still leap too soon from bridges because I have learned (and relearn it hard lesson by hard lesson at a time) visionary company insists its tracings in many forms, man to man being but one holy expression, those sons, burning mother's hands upon them demanding, insisting to life that each her sons is a rajah, a Sleepy Bee.
So please the intemperate humanity, in the face of patient deities the burning ones are leaping still and I am ill with grief, with prayer, their dead bodies gone, their now emptier hands.
And he leaves me.
I return to my poems.
The room is filled with Krishna, aromas of rose oil in his hair, pungent spices in his sweat and upon his hands and skin, and sex.
I retrieve Lord Ganesha out from his little sanctuary of hiding (it seems I am always retrieving deities) and we both laugh richly. I remember to sprinkle some cologne upon Him, to pour out some milk into His votive bowl, to rub His belly, to light another candle (the other extinguished, panting, while we were busy bees exchanging knees and sighs, diffusing male spices into bracing air, fingers upon oily chilies thickening in always morning hunger) .
I light more incense and thank the Lord Ganesha in all his forms, appearing both large and small, His adornment of Secrets, though one cannot easily hide an Elephant, man-love and more in such a small infinite universe whose toes I seek to tickle then gather for a shoe as tides shrink and swell, grow and diminish depending upon the worshipers, those who will do so in spite of those who would kill delicate or manly infidels whose worship, forever babies breath, is all the more meaningful.
Be damned the trellises. The petals shall reach, shall extend outward.
The violin's throat cut.
'Do not ask me to see it! '
Then, Ganesha restored to His rightful place; good-natured about being hidden, it is back to the kitchen, the slicing of the onion, the crushing of the garlic, the pouring of the wine, the selecting of the greens and washing them of the clinging sand and grit they kindly bring, then to the pot to cook them in, the meat to go with, and begins the fire, O Indra, more aromas extend into, entwine with what Krishna has left to me and the god and I am grateful, full of heart, for each time he is here is a miracle. A grace. Mother India with hot hands gifts me one of Her Raj's who graces me with his presence evoking praise bestowed from oft bitter lips and tongue made the more bilious by aging, aching joints, laxer muscles, and yet the encroaching decrepitude is bent and stretched, the better for the wear from Krishna's 'half nelsons' and yogic overreaches. More the better for me.
Yet I remain bitter, too, from the senseless loss of young men who could not endure, no fault of their own, for sure, who leap from bridges, forced to by killing edges broken open within and by hateful, fearful others forgetting, if ever had, those restorative burning constancies of a Mother's hands upon them
I have placed your picture, dear Valdosta, upon my altar beside Lorca's portrait, and Hart Crane's young face, the image of a sweet Christ holding a lamb en perpetua, and the yellowed newspaper clipping from Spain of the Matador's death, along with photos of the young men in the past two weeks who have joined Hart becoming ghostly visionary company. They now remain forever chaste not having lived long enough to be wasted, emptied of love from loving deeply out into love for more love, endlessly bleeding out like our Lorca, a corrida of laurel encircling his head no longer remembering but remembering only one sound, guns exploding outward, extending, bullets, petals, one by one beyond the wall where he stood stunned, 'how young and handsome are assassins' faces', he flew backward in the wall graced with his brave shadow then his blood until he fell. I believe he fell hard for life demands it as does death which will continue its duende.
Love, as Hart and all hearts love, is still a vision not yet fully, solidly formed in spite of stones and walls forgetting noble shadows, but there are foolish Krishnas, restoring Krishna-moments, patient hidden gods though human hearts and bodies remove themselves from the potter's wheel too early, too broken, too tired, too alone to try to shape love from Love from the tiny shard, the remnant bone of the ancient mastodon, the last one, dreaming within each heart of that Love which all Nature yearns for.
I pray for my inherited brood of brothers, and remember to be gay for all the gray afternoons in this sad but forgiving confessional, while not forgetting mine and the cock's quarrel with life, in the booth by the cracked window near the corner of 7th and Second.
I am yours, bleating, sometimes crowing, but almost always bestowing praise. I am loved, Valdosta, and I love you.
*Opening quote is from Lorca's elegy, 'Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías'
** The Ballad of the Sad Young Men
Music written by: Tommy WolfLyrics written by: Fran Landesman
(best version sung that I know of is by an aged Mabel Mercer in concert, hard to find it now)
Sing a song of sad young men
Glasses full of rye
All the news is bad again so
Kiss your dreams goodbye
All the sad young men
Sitting in the bars
Knowing neon nights
Missing all the stars
All the sad young men
Drifting through the town
Drinking up the night
Trying not to drown
All the sad young men
Singing in the cold
Trying to forget
That they're growing old
All the sad young men
Choking on their youth
Trying to be brave
Running from the truth
Autumn turns the leaves to gold
Slowly dies the heart
Sad young men are growing old
That's the cruelest part
All the sad young men
Seek a certain smile
Someone they can hold
For a little while
Tired little bird,
She does the best she can
Trying to be gay for her
sad young man
While the grimy moon
Blossoms up above
All the sad young men
Play at making love
Shine for sad young men
Let your gentle light
Guide them home again
All the sad young men
***In China homosexuality was referred to as 'the cut sleeve'.
Read an excellent account of this in
Passions of the Cut Sleeve, The Male Homosexual Tradition in China.
http: //www.ucpress.edu/book.php? isbn=9780520078697
****Surrealistic Sutures For The Acetylene Virgin by Warren Falcon
'I think that poetry should stay awake all night drinking in dark cellars.' - Thomas Merton
Look to the body for metaphor
Look to blood, use this word
in relation to dreams or flowers
while silver runs in veins which
are usually streets or vines.
Breasts, male and female,
are stars, have to do with
a handful or feet to span them.
Abdomen, then, is a great
Milky Way gathering,
holding, expelling comets,
caroling colons' humming.
Spleens are bones to
pick teeth with, teeth
which are, of course,
sea horses or gravestones
bearing images of the Flagrant
Heart to tame this spot of
gypsum and flint, to charm
where Violin's cut throat
sings itself awake, one
black breast out of its fold
slapping metal seas against
dropping metal shores in
Sidelight's shadow across
this hand writing now,
slap of waves mute in
this stillness of knees.
So lend a darkness to gardens,
ancient pattern of a breast,
cloth lightly lifting, black on black.
From Her chest reveal a slenderer throat
that nods when she swallows
and names her peace.
The delicate will not pass away just yet.
Great Seamstress of Space
with fingers of dew.
The Task: Book IV. -- The Winter Evening
Hark! ‘tis the twanging horn o’er yonder bridge,
That with its wearisome but needful length
Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright;—
He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter’d boots, strapp’d waist, and frozen locks;
News from all nations lumbering at his back.
True to his charge, the close-pack’d load behind,
Yet, careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destined inn,
And, having dropp’d the expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer’s cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But O the important budget! usher’d in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings? have our troops awaked?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg’d,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave?
Is India free? and does she wear her plumed
And jewell’d turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh—I long to know them all;
I burn to set the imprison’d wranglers free,
And give them voice and utterance once again.
Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups,
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
Not such his evening, who with shining face
Sweats in the crowded theatre, and, squeezed
And bored with elbow points through both his sides,
Outscolds the ranting actor on the stage:
Nor his, who patient stands till his feet throb,
And his head thumps, to feed upon the breath
Of patriots, bursting with heroic rage,
Or placemen, all tranquillity and smiles.
This folio of four pages, happy work!
Which not e’en critics criticise; that holds
Inquisitive attention, while I read,
Fast bound in chains of silence, which the fair,
Though eloquent themselves, yet fear to break;
What is it but a map of busy life,
Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns?
Here runs the mountainous and craggy ridge
That tempts Ambition. On the summit see
The seals of office glitter in his eyes;
He climbs, he pants, he grasps them! At his heels,
Close at his heels, a demagogue ascends,
And with a dexterous jerk soon twists him down,
And wins them, but to lose them in his turn.
Here rills of oily eloquence, in soft
Meanders, lubricate the course they take;
The modest speaker is ashamed and grieved
To engross a moment’s notice; and yet begs,
Begs a propitious ear for his poor thoughts,
However trivial all that he conceives.
Sweet bashfulness! it claims at least this praise;
The dearth of information and good sense,
That it foretells us, always comes to pass.
Cataracts of declamation thunder here;
There forests of no meaning spread the page,
In which all comprehension wanders lost;
While fields of pleasantry amuse us there
With merry descants on a nation’s woes.
The rest appears a wilderness of strange
But gay confusion; roses for the cheeks
And lilies for the brows of faded age,
Teeth for the toothless, ringlets for the bald,
Heaven, earth, and ocean, plunder’d of their sweets,
Nectareous essences, Olympian dews,
Sermons, and city feasts, and favourite airs,
Æthereal journeys, submarine exploits,
And Katerfelto, with his hair on end
At his own wonders, wondering for his bread.
‘Tis pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
To peep at such a world; to see the stir
Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd;
To hear the roar she sends through all her gates
At a safe distance, where the dying sound
Falls a soft murmur on the uninjured ear.
Thus sitting, and surveying thus at ease
The globe and its concerns, I seem advanced
To some secure and more than mortal height
That liberates and exempts me from them all.
It turns submitted to my view, turns round
With all its generations; I behold
The tumult and am still. The sound of war
Has lost its terrors ere it reaches me;
Grieves, but alarms me not. I mourn the pride
And avarice that make man a wolf to man;
Hear the faint echo of those brazen throats,
By which he speaks the language of his heart,
And sigh, but never tremble at the sound.
He travels and expatiates, as the bee
From flower to flower, so he from land to land;
The manners, customs, policy of all
Pay contribution to the store he gleans;
He sucks intelligence in every clime,
And spreads the honey of his deep research
At his return—a rich repast for me.
He travels, and I too. I tread his deck,
Ascend his topmast, through his peering eyes
Discover countries, with a kindred heart
Suffer his woes, and share in his escapes;
While fancy, like the finger of a clock,
Runs the great circuit, and is still at home.
O Winter, ruler of the inverted year,
Thy scatter’d hair with sleet like ashes fill’d,
Thy breath congeal’d upon thy lips, thy cheeks
Fringed with a beard made white with other snows
Than those of age, thy forehead wrapp’d in clouds,
A leafless branch thy sceptre, and thy throne
A sliding car, indebted to no wheels,
But urged by storms along its slippery way,
I love thee, all unlovely as thou seem’st,
And dreaded as thou art! Thou hold’st the sun
A prisoner in the yet undawning east,
Shortening his journey between morn and noon,
And hurrying him, impatient of his stay,
Down to the rosy west; but kindly still
Compensating his loss with added hours
Of social converse and instructive ease,
And gathering, at short notice, in one group
The family dispersed, and fixing thought,
Not less dispersed by daylight and its cares.
I crown thee king of intimate delights,
Fireside enjoyments, homeborn happiness,
And all the comforts that the lowly roof
Of undisturb’d Retirement, and the hours
Of long uninterrupted evening know.
No rattling wheels stop short before these gates;
No powder’d pert proficient in the art
Of sounding an alarm assaults these doors
Till the street rings; no stationary steeds
Cough their own knell, while, heedless of the sound,
The silent circle fan themselves, and quake:
But here the needle plies its busy task,
The pattern grows, the well-depicted flower,
Wrought patiently into the snowy lawn,
Unfolds its bosom; buds, and leaves, and sprigs,
And curling tendrils, gracefully disposed,
Follow the nimble finger of the fair;
A wreath, that cannot fade, of flowers that blow
With most success when all besides decay.
The poet’s or historian’s page by one
Made vocal for the amusement of the rest;
The sprightly lyre, whose treasure of sweet sounds
The touch from many a trembling chord shakes out;
And the clear voice, symphonious, yet distinct,
And in the charming strife triumphant still,
Beguile the night, and set a keener edge
On female industry: the threaded steel
Flies swiftly, and unfelt the task proceeds.
The volume closed, the customary rites
Of the last meal commence. A Roman meal,
Such as the mistress of the world once found
Delicious, when her patriots of high note,
Perhaps by moonlight, at their humble doors,
And under an old oak’s domestic shade,
Enjoy’d, spare feast! a radish and an egg!
Discourse ensues, not trivial, yet not dull,
Nor such as with a frown forbids the play
Of fancy, or proscribes the sound of mirth:
Nor do we madly, like an impious world,
Who deem religion frenzy, and the God
That made them an intruder on their joys,
Start at his awful name, or deem his praise
A jarring note. Themes of a graver tone,
Exciting oft our gratitude and love,
While we retrace with Memory’s pointing wand,
That calls the past to our exact review,
The dangers we have ‘scaped, the broken snare,
The disappointed foe, deliverance found
Unlook’d for, life preserved, and peace restored,
Fruits of omnipotent eternal love.
O evenings worthy of the gods! exclaim’d
The Sabine bard. O evenings, I reply,
More to be prized and coveted than yours,
As more illumined, and with nobler truths,
That I, and mine, and those we love, enjoy.
Is Winter hideous in a garb like this?
Needs he the tragic fur, the smoke of lamps,
The pent-up breath of an unsavoury throng,
To thaw him into feeling; or the smart
And snappish dialogue, that flippant wits
Call comedy, to prompt him with a smile?
The self-complacent actor, when he views
(Stealing a sidelong glance at a full house)
The slope of faces from the floor to the roof
(As if one master spring controll’d them all),
Relax’d into a universal grin,
Sees not a countenance there that speaks of joy
Half so refined or so sincere as ours.
Cards were superfluous here, with all the tricks
That idleness has ever yet contrived
To fill the void of an unfurnish’d brain,
To palliate dulness, and give time a shove.
Time, as he passes us, has a dove’s wing.
Unsoil’d, and swift, and of a silken sound;
But the World’s Time is Time in masquerade!
Theirs, should I paint him, has his pinions fledged
With motley plumes; and, where the peacock shows
His azure eyes, is tinctured black and red
With spots quadrangular of diamond form,
Ensanguined hearts, clubs typical of strife,
And spades, the emblem of untimely graves.
What should be, and what was an hour-glass once,
Becomes a dice-box, and a billiard mace
Well does the work of his destructive scythe.
Thus deck’d, he charms a world whom Fashion blinds
To his true worth, most pleased when idle most;
Whose only happy are their wasted hours.
E’en misses, at whose age their mothers wore
The backstring and the bib, assume the dress
Of womanhood, fit pupils in the school
Of card-devoted Time, and, night by night
Placed at some vacant corner of the board,
Learn every trick, and soon play all the game.
But truce with censure. Roving as I rove,
Where shall I find an end, or how proceed?
As he that travels far oft turns aside,
To view some rugged rock or mouldering tower,
Which seen delights him not; then, coming home,
Describes and prints it, that the world may know
How far he went for what was nothing worth;
So I, with brush in hand and pallet spread,
With colours mix’d for a far different use,
Paint cards, and dolls, and every idle thing
That Fancy finds in her excursive flights.
Come, Evening, once again, season of peace;
Return, sweet Evening, and continue long!
Methinks I see thee in the streaky west,
With matron step slow moving, while the Night
Treads on thy sweeping train; one hand employ’d
In letting fall the curtain of repose
On bird and beast, the other charged for man
With sweet oblivion of the cares of day:
Not sumptuously adorn’d, not needing aid,
Like homely featured Night, of clustering gems;
A star or two, just twinkling on thy brow
Suffices thee; save that the moon is thine
No less than hers, not worn indeed on high
With ostentatious pageantry, but set
With modest grandeur in thy purple zone,
Resplendent less, but of an ampler round.
Come then, and thou shalt find thy votary calm,
Or make me so. Composure is thy gift:
And, whether I devote thy gentle hours
To books, to music, or the poet’s toil;
To weaving nets for bird-alluring fruit;
Or twining silken threads round ivory reels,
When they command whom man was born to please;
I slight thee not, but make thee welcome still.
Just when our drawing-rooms begin to blaze
With lights, by clear reflection multiplied
From many a mirror, in which he of Gath,
Goliath, might have seen his giant bulk
Whole without stooping, towering crest and all,
My pleasures too begin. But me perhaps
The glowing hearth may satisfy awhile
With faint illumination, that uplifts
The shadows to the ceiling, there by fits
Dancing uncouthly to the quivering flame.
Not undelightful is an hour to me
So spent in parlour twilight: such a gloom
Suits well the thoughtful or unthinking mind,
The mind contemplative, with some new theme
Pregnant, or indisposed alike to all.
Laugh ye, who boast your more mercurial powers,
That never felt a stupor, know no pause,
Nor need one; I am conscious, and confess,
Fearless, a soul that does not always think.
Me oft has Fancy ludicrous and wild
Soothed with a waking dream of houses, towers,
Trees, churches, and strange visages, express’d
In the red cinders, while with poring eye
I gazed, myself creating what I saw.
Nor less amused, have I quiescent watch’d
The sooty films that play upon the bars,
Pendulous and foreboding, in the view
Of superstition, prophesying still,
Though still deceived, some stranger’s near approach.
‘Tis thus the understanding takes repose
In indolent vacuity of thought,
And sleeps and is refresh’d. Meanwhile the face
Conceals the mood lethargic with a mask
Of deep deliberation, as the man
Were task’d to his full strength, absorb’d and lost.
Thus oft, reclined at ease, I lose an hour
At evening, till at length the freezing blast,
That sweeps the bolted shutter, summons home
The recollected powers; and, snapping short
The glassy threads with which the fancy weaves
Her brittle toils, restores me to myself.
How calm is my recess; and how the frost,
Raging abroad, and the rough wind, endear
The silence and the warmth enjoy’d within!
I saw the woods and fields at close of day
A variegated show; the meadows green,
Though faded; and the lands, where lately waved
The golden harvest, of a mellow brown,
Upturn’d so lately by the forceful share.
I saw far off the weedy fallows smile
With verdure not unprofitable, grazed
By flocks, fast feeding, and selecting each
His favourite herb; while all the leafless groves
That skirt the horizon, wore a sable hue
Scarce noticed in the kindred dusk of eve.
To-morrow brings a change, a total change!
Which even now, though silently perform’d,
And slowly, and by most unfelt, the face
Of universal nature undergoes.
Fast falls a fleecy shower: the downy flakes
Descending, and with never-ceasing lapse,
Softly alighting upon all below,
Assimilate all objects. Earth receives
Gladly the thickening mantle; and the green
And tender blade, that fear’d the chilling blast,
Escapes unhurt beneath so warm a veil.
In such a world so thorny, and where none
Finds happiness unblighted; or, if found,
Without some thistly sorrow at its side;
It seems the part of wisdom, and no sin
Against the law of love, to measure lots
With less distinguish’d than ourselves; that thus
We may with patience bear our moderate ills,
And sympathise with others suffering more.
Ill fares the traveller now, and he that stalks
In ponderous boots beside his reeking team.
The wain goes heavily, impeded sore
By congregated loads, adhering close
To the clogg’d wheels; and in its sluggish pace
Noiseless appears a moving hill of snow.
The toiling steeds expand the nostril wide,
While every breath, by respiration strong
Forced downward, is consolidated soon
Upon their jutting chests. He, form’d to bear
The pelting brunt of the tempestuous night,
With half-shut eyes, and pucker’d cheeks, and teeth
Presented bare against the storm, plods on.
One hand secures his hat, save when with both
He brandishes his pliant length of whip,
Resounding oft, and never heard in vain.
O happy; and, in my account, denied
That sensibility of pain with which
Refinement is endued, thrice happy thou!
Thy frame, robust and hardy, feels indeed
The piercing cold, but feels it unimpair’d.
The learned finger never need explore
Thy vigorous pulse; and the unhealthful east,
That breathes the spleen, and searches every bone
Of the infirm, is wholesome air to thee.
Thy days roll on exempt from household care;
Thy waggon is thy wife, and the poor beasts,
That drag the dull companion to and fro,
Thine helpless charge, dependent on thy care.
Ah, treat them kindly! rude as thou appear’st,
Yet show that thou hast mercy! which the great,
With needless hurry whirl’d from place to place,
Humane as they would seem, not always show.
Poor, yet industrious, modest, quiet, neat,
Such claim compassion in a night like this,
And have a friend in every feeling heart.
Warm’d, while it lasts, by labour all day long,
They brave the season, and yet find at eve,
Ill clad, and fed but sparely, time to cool.
The frugal housewife trembles when she lights
Her scanty stock of brushwood, blazing clear,
But dying soon, like all terrestrial joys.
The few small embers left she nurses well;
And, while her infant race, with outspread hands,
And crowded knees, sit cowering o’er the sparks,
Retires, content to quake, so they be warm’d.
The man feels least, as more inured than she
To winter, and the current in his veins
More briskly moved by his severer toil;
Yet he too finds his own distress in theirs.
The taper soon extinguish’d, which I saw
Dangled along at the cold finger’s end
Just when the day declined; and the brown loaf
Lodged on the shelf, half eaten without sauce
Of savoury cheese, or butter, costlier still;
Sleep seems their only refuge: for, alas!
Where penury is felt the thought is chain’d,
And sweet colloquial pleasures are but few!
With all this thrift they thrive not. All the care,
Ingenious Parsimony takes, but just
Saves the small inventory, bed, and stool,
Skillet, and old carved chest, from public sale.
They live, and live without extorted alms
From grudging hands; but other boast have none
To soothe their honest pride, that scorns to beg,
Nor comfort else, but in their mutual love.
I praise you much, ye meek and patient pair,
For ye are worthy; choosing rather far
A dry but independent crust, hard earn’d,
And eaten with a sigh, than to endure
The rugged frowns and insolent rebuffs
Of knaves in office, partial in the work
Of distribution, liberal of their aid
To clamorous importunity in rags,
But ofttimes deaf to suppliants, who would blush
To wear a tatter’d garb however coarse,
Whom famine cannot reconcile to filth:
These ask with painful shyness, and refused
Because deserving, silently retire!
But be ye of good courage! Time itself
Shall much befriend you. Time shall give increase;
And all your numerous progeny, well train’d,
But helpless, in few years shall find their hands,
And labour too. Meanwhile ye shall not want
What, conscious of your virtues, we can spare,
Nor what a wealthier than ourselves may send.
I mean the man who, when the distant poor
Need help, denies them nothing but his name.
But poverty with most, who whimper forth
Their long complaints, is self-inflicted woe;
The effect of laziness or sottish waste.
Now goes the nightly thief prowling abroad
For plunder; much solicitous how best
He may compensate for a day of sloth
By works of darkness and nocturnal wrong.
Woe to the gardener’s pale, the farmer’s hedge,
Plash’d neatly, and secured with driven stakes
Deep in the loamy bank! Uptorn by strength,
Resistless in so bad a cause, but lame
To better deeds, he bundles up the spoil,
An ass’s burden, and, when laden most
And heaviest, light of foot steals fast away;
Nor does the boarded hovel better guard
The well-stack’d pile of riven logs and roots
From his pernicious force. Nor will he leave
Unwrench’d the door, however well secured,
Where Chanticleer amidst his harem sleeps
In unsuspecting pomp. Twitch’d from the perch,
He gives the princely bird, with all his wives,
To his voracious bag, struggling in vain,
And loudly wondering at the sudden change.
Nor this to feed his own. ‘Twere some excuse,
Did pity of their sufferings warp aside
His principle, and tempt him into sin
For their support, so destitute. But they
Neglected pine at home; themselves, as more
Exposed than others, with less scruple made
His victims, robb’d of their defenceless all.
Cruel is all he does. ‘Tis quenchless thirst
Of ruinous ebriety that prompts
His every action, and imbrutes the man.
O for a law to noose the villain’s neck
Who starves his own; who persecutes the blood
He gave them in his children’s veins, and hates
And wrongs the woman he has sworn to love!
Pass where we may, through city or through town,
Village, or hamlet, of this merry land,
Though lean and beggar’d, every twentieth pace
Conducts the unguarded nose to such a whiff
Of stale debauch, forth issuing from the styes
That law has licensed, as makes temperance reel.
There sit, involved and lost in curling clouds
Of Indian fume, and guzzling deep, the boor,
The lackey, and the groom: the craftsman there
Takes a Lethean leave of all his toil;
Smith, cobbler, joiner, he that plies the shears,
And he that kneads the dough; all loud alike,
All learned, and all drunk! the fiddle screams
Plaintive and piteous, as it wept and wail’d
Its wasted tones and harmony unheard:
Fierce the dispute, whate’er the theme; while she,
Fell Discord, arbitress of such debate,
Perch’d on the sign-post, holds with even hand
Her undecisive scales. In this she lays
A weight of ignorance; in that, of pride;
And smiles delighted with the eternal poise.
Dire is the frequent curse, and its twin sound,
The cheek-distending oath, not to be praised
As ornamental, musical, polite,
Like those which modern senators employ,
Whose oath is rhetoric, and who swear for fame!
Behold the schools in which plebeian minds,
Once simple, are initiated in arts,
Which some may practise with politer grace,
But none with readier skill!—’tis here they learn
The road that leads from competence and peace
To indigence and rapine; till at last
Society, grown weary of the load,
Shakes her encumber’d lap, and casts them out.
But censure profits little: vain the attempt
To advertise in verse a public pest,
That, like the filth with which the peasant feeds
His hungry acres, stinks, and is of use.
The excise is fatten’d with the rich result
Of all this riot; and ten thousand casks,
For ever dribbling out their base contents,
Touch’d by the Midas finger of the state,
Bleed gold for ministers to sport away.
Drink, and be mad then; ‘tis your country bids!
Gloriously drunk, obey the important call!
Her cause demands the assistance of your throat;—
Ye all can swallow, and she asks no more.
Would I had fallen upon those happier days,
That poets celebrate; those golden times,
And those Arcadian scenes, that Maro sings,
And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose.
Nymphs were Dianas then, and swains had hearts
That felt their virtues: Innocence, it seems,
From courts dismiss’d, found shelter in the groves;
The footsteps of Simplicity, impress’d
Upon the yielding herbage (so they sing)
Then were not all effaced: then speech profane
And manners profligate were rarely found,
Observed as prodigies, and soon reclaim’d.
Vain wish! those days were never: airy dreams
Sat for the picture: and the poet’s hand,
Imparting substance to an empty shade,
Imposed a gay delirium for a truth.
Grant it:—I still must envy them an age
That favour’d such a dream; in days like these
Impossible, when Virtue is so scarce,
That to suppose a scene where she presides,
Is tramontane, and stumbles all belief.
No: we are polish’d now! The rural lass,
Whom once her virgin modesty and grace,
Her artless manners, and her neat attire,
So dignified, that she was hardly less
Than the fair shepherdess of old romance,
Is seen no more. The character is lost!
Her head, adorn’d with lappets pinn’d aloft,
And ribands streaming gay, superbly raised,
And magnified beyond all human size,
Indebted to some smart wig-weaver’s hand
For more than half the tresses it sustains;
Her elbows ruffled, and her tottering form
Ill propp’d upon French heels; she might be deem’d
(But that the basket dangling on her arm
Interprets her more truly) of a rank
Too proud for dairy work, or sale of eggs.
Expect her soon with footboy at her heels,
No longer blushing for her awkward load,
Her train and her umbrella all her care!
The town has tinged the country; and the stain
Appears a spot upon a vestal’s robe,
The worse for what it soils. The fashion runs
Down into scenes still rural; but, alas!
Scenes rarely graced with rural manners now!
Time was when in the pastoral retreat
The unguarded door was safe; men did not watch
To invade another’s right, or guard their own.
Then sleep was undisturb’d by fear, unscared
By drunken howlings; and the chilling tale
Of midnight murder was a wonder heard
With doubtful credit, told to frighten babes.
But farewell now to unsuspicious nights,
And slumbers unalarm’d! Now, ere you sleep,
See that your polish’d arms be primed with care,
And drop the night bolt;—ruffians are abroad;
And the first ‘larum of the cock’s shrill throat
May prove a trumpet, summoning your ear
To horrid sounds of hostile feet within.
E’en daylight has its dangers; and the walk
Through pathless wastes and woods, unconscious once
Of other tenants than melodious birds,
Or harmless flocks, is hazardous and bold.
Lamented change! to which full many a cause
Inveterate, hopeless of a cure, conspires.
The course of human things from good to ill,
From ill to worse, is fatal, never fails.
Increase of power begets increase of wealth;
Wealth luxury, and luxury excess;
Excess, the scrofulous and itchy plague,
That seizes first the opulent, descends
To the next rank contagious, and in time
Taints downward all the graduated scale
Of order, from the chariot to the plough.
The rich, and they that have an arm to check
The licence of the lowest in degree,
Desert their office; and themselves, intent
On pleasure, haunt the capital, and thus
To all the violence of lawless hands
Resign the scenes their presence might protect.
Authority herself not seldom sleeps,
Though resident, and witness of the wrong.
The plump convivial parson often bears
The magisterial sword in vain, and lays
His reverence and his worship both to rest
On the same cushion of habitual sloth.
Perhaps timidity restrains his arm;
When he should strike he trembles, and sets free,
Himself enslaved by terror of the band,
The audacious convict, whom he dares not bind.
Perhaps, though by profession ghostly pure,
He too may have his vice, and sometimes prove
Less dainty than becomes his grave outside
In lucrative concerns. Examine well
His milk-white hand; the palm is hardly clean—
But here and there an ugly smutch appears.
Foh! ‘twas a bribe that left it: he has touch’d
Corruption! Whoso seeks an audit here
Propitious, pays his tribute, game or fish,
Wildfowl or venison, and his errand speeds.
But faster far, and more than all the rest,
A noble cause, which none who bears a spark
Of public virtue, ever wish’d removed,
Works the deplored and mischievous effect.
‘Tis universal soldiership has stabb’d
The heart of merit in the meaner class.
Arms, through the vanity and brainless rage
Of those that bear them, in whatever cause,
Seem most at variance with all moral good,
And incompatible with serious thought.
The clown, the child of nature, without guile,
Blest with an infant’s ignorance of all
But his own simple pleasures; now and then
A wrestling-match, a foot-race, or a fair;
Is balloted, and trembles at the news:
Sheepish he doffs his hat, and mumbling swears
A bible-oath to be whate’er they please,
To do he knows not what. The task perform’d,
That instant he becomes the serjeant’s care,
His pupil, and his torment, and his jest.
His awkward gait, his introverted toes,
Bent knees, round shoulders, and dejected looks,
Procure him many a curse. By slow degrees
Unapt to learn, and form’d of stubborn stuff,
He yet by slow degrees puts off himself,
Grows conscious of a change, and likes it well:
He stands erect; his slouch becomes a walk;
He steps right onward, martial in his air,
His form, and movement; is as smart above
As meal and larded locks can make him; wears
His hat, or his plumed helmet, with a grace;
And, his three years of heroship expired,
Returns indignant to the slighted plough.
He hates the field, in which no fife or drum
Attends him; drives his cattle to a march;
And sighs for the smart comrades he has left.
‘Twere well if his exterior change were all—
But with his clumsy port the wretch has lost
His ignorance and harmless manners too.
To swear, to game, to drink; to show at home,
By lewdness, idleness, and Sabbath beach,
The great proficiency he made abroad;
To astonish and to grieve his gazing friends;
To break some maiden’s and his mother’s heart;
To be a pest where he was useful once;
Are his sole aim, and all his glory now.
Man in society is like a flower
Blown in its native bed: ‘tis there alone
His faculties, expanded in full bloom,
Shine out; there only reach their proper use.
But man, associated and leagued with man
By regal warrant, or self-join’d by bond
For interest sake, or swarming into clans
Beneath one head for purposes of war,
Like flowers selected from the rest, and bound
And bundled close to fill some crowded vase,
Fades rapidly, and, by compression marr’d,
Contracts defilement not to be endured.
Hence charter’d burghs are such public plagues;
And burghers, men immaculate perhaps
In all their private functions, once combined,
Become a loathsome body, only fit
For dissolution, hurtful to the main.
Hence merchants, unimpeachable of sin
Against the charities of domestic life,
Incorporated, seem at once to lose
Their nature; and, disclaiming all regard
For mercy and the common rights of man,
Build factories with blood, conducting trade
At the sword’s point, and dyeing the white robe
Of innocent commercial Justice red.
Hence too the field of glory, as the world
Misdeems it, dazzled by its bright array,
With all its majesty of thundering pomp,
Enchanting music and immortal wreaths,
Is but a school where thoughtlessness is taught
On principle, where foppery atones
For folly, gallantry for every vice.
But slighted as it is, and by the great
Abandon’d, and, which still I more regret,
Infected with the manners and the modes
It knew not once, the country wins me sill.
I never framed a wish, or form’d a plan,
That flatter’d me with hopes of earthly bliss,
But there I laid the scene. There early stray’d
My fancy, ere yet liberty of choice
Had found me, or the hope of being free.
My very dreams were rural; rural too
The firstborn efforts of my youthful muse,
Sportive, and jingling her poetic bells
Ere yet her ear was mistress of their powers.
No bard could please me but whose lyre was tuned
To Nature’s praises. Heroes and their feats
Fatigued me, never weary of the pipe
Of Tityrus, assembling, as he sang,
The rustic throng beneath his favourite beech.
Then Milton had indeed a poet’s charms:
New to my taste, his Paradise surpass’d
The struggling efforts of my boyish tongue
To speak its excellence. I danced for joy.
I marvell’d much that, at so ripe an age
As twice seven years, his beauties had then first
Engaged my wonder; and admiring still,
And still admiring, with regret supposed
The joy half lost, because not sooner found.
There too, enamour’d of the life I loved,
Pathetic in its praise, in its pursuit
Determined, and possessing it at last,
With transports, such as favour’d lovers feel,
I studied, prized, and wish’d that I had known
Ingenious Cowley! and, though now reclaim’d
By modern lights from an erroneous taste,
I cannot but lament thy splendid wit
Entangled in the cobwebs of the schools.
I still revere thee, courtly though retired;
Though stretch’d at ease in Chertsey’s silent bowers,
Not unemployed; and finding rich amends
For a lost world in solitude and verse.
‘Tis born with all: the love of Nature’s works
Is an ingredient in the compound man,
Infused at the creation of the kind.
And, though the Almighty Maker has throughout
Discriminated each from each, by strokes
And touches of his hand, with so much art
Diversified, that two were never found
Twins at all points—yet this obtains in all,
That all discern a beauty in his works,
And all can taste them: minds that have been form’d
And tutor’d, with a relish more exact,
But none without some relish, none unmoved.
It is a flame that dies not even there
Where nothing feeds it: neither business, crowds,
Nor habits of luxurious city life,
Whatever else they smother of true worth
In human bosoms, quench it or abate.
The villas with which London stands begirt
Like a swarth Indian with his belt of beads
Prove it. A breath of unadulterate air,
The glimpse of a green pasture, how they cheer
The citizen, and brace his languid frame!
E’en in the stifling bosom of the town
A garden, in which nothing thrives, has charms
That soothe the rich possessor; much consoled,
That here and there some sprigs of mournful mint,
Of nightshade, or valerian, grace the well
He cultivates. These serve him with a hint
That Nature lives; that sight-refreshing green
Is still the livery she delights to wear,
Though sickly samples of the exuberant whole.
What are the casements lined with creeping herbs,
The prouder sashes fronted with a range
Of orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed,
The Frenchman’s darling? are they not all proofs
That man, immured in cities, still retains
His inborn inextinguishable thirst
Of rural scenes, compensating his loss
By supplemental shifts, the best he may,
The most unfurnish’d with the means of life,
And they that never pass their brick-wall bounds,
To range the fields and treat their lungs with air,
Yet feel the burning instinct: over head
Suspend their crazy boxes, planted thick,
And water’d duly. There the pitcher stands,
A fragment, and the spoutless teapot there;
Sad witnesses how close-pent man regrets
The country, with what ardour he contrives
A peep at Nature, when he can no more.
Hail, therefore, patroness of health and ease,
And contemplation, heart-consoling joys,
And harmless pleasures, in the throng’d abode
Of multitudes unknown! hail, rural life!
Address himself who will to the pursuit
Of honours, or emolument, or fame;
I shall not add myself to such a chase,
Thwart his attempts, or envy his success.
Some must be great. Great offices will have
Great talents. And God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordain’d to fill.
To the deliverer of an injured land
He gives a tongue to enlarge upon, a heart
To feel, and courage to redress her wrongs;
To monarchs dignity; to judges sense;
To artists ingenuity and skill;
To me an unambitious mind, content
In the low vale of life, that early felt
A wish for ease and leisure, and ere long
Found here that leisure and that ease I wish’d.