The Poet took his walking-stick
Of fine and polished ebony.
Set in the close-grained wood
Were quaint devices;
Patterns in ambers,
And in the clouded green of jades.
The top was smooth, yellow ivory,
And a tassel of tarnished gold
Hung by a faded cord from a hole
Pierced in the hard wood,
Circled with silver.
For years the Poet had wrought upon this cane.
His wealth had gone to enrich it,
His experiences to pattern it,
His labour to fashion and burnish it.
To him it was perfect,
A work of art and a weapon,
A delight and a defence.
The Poet took his walking-stick
And walked abroad.
Peace be with you, Brother.
The Poet came to a meadow.
Sifted through the grass were daisies,
Open-mouthed, wondering, they gazed at the sun.
The Poet struck them with his cane.
The little heads flew off, and they lay
Dying, open-mouthed and wondering,
On the hard ground.
"They are useless. They are not roses," said the Poet.
Peace be with you, Brother. Go your ways.
The Poet came to a stream.
Purple and blue flags waded in the water;
In among them hopped the speckled frogs;
The wind slid through them, rustling.
The Poet lifted his cane,
And the iris heads fell into the water.
They floated away, torn and drowning.
"Wretched flowers," said the Poet,
"They are not roses."
Peace be with you, Brother. It is your affair.
The Poet came to a garden.
Dahlias ripened against a wall,
Gillyflowers stood up bravely for all their short stature,
And a trumpet-vine covered an arbour
With the red and gold of its blossoms.
Red and gold like the brass notes of trumpets.
The Poet knocked off the stiff heads of the dahlias,
And his cane lopped the gillyflowers at the ground.
Then he severed the trumpet-blossoms from their stems.
Red and gold they lay scattered,
Red and gold, as on a battle field;
Red and gold, prone and dying.
"They were not roses," said the Poet.
Peace be with you, Brother.
But behind you is destruction, and waste places.
The Poet came home at evening,
And in the candle-light
He wiped and polished his cane.
The orange candle flame leaped in the yellow ambers,
And made the jades undulate like green pools.
It played along the bright ebony,
And glowed in the top of cream-coloured ivory.
But these things were dead,
Only the candle-light made them seem to move.
"It is a pity there were no roses," said the Poet.
Peace be with you, Brother. You have chosen your part.
'Say, Alice, gi' me a couple
O' them two for five cigars,
'Where's your nickel?'
'My! Ain't you close!
Can't trust a feller, can yer.'
'Trust you! Why
What you owe this store
Would set you up in business.
I can't think why Father 'lows it.'
'Yer Father's a sight more neighbourly
Than you be. That's a fact.
Besides, he knows I got a vote.'
'A vote! Oh, yes, you got a vote!
A lot o' good the Senate'll be to Father
When all his bank account
Has run away in credits.
There's your cigars,
If you can relish smokin'
With all you owe us standin'.'
'I dunno as that makes 'em taste any diff'rent.
You ain't fair to me, Alice, 'deed you ain't.
I work when anythin's doin'.
I'll get a carpenterin' job next Summer sure.
Cleve was tellin' me to-day he'd take me on come Spring.'
'Come Spring, and this December!
I've no patience with you, Leon,
Shilly-shallyin' the way you do.
Here, lift over them crates o' oranges
I wanter fix 'em in the winder.'
'It riles yer, don't it, me not havin' work.
You pepper up about it somethin' good.
You pick an' pick, and that don't help a mite.
Say, Alice, do come in out o' that winder.
Th' oranges c'n wait,
An' I don't like talkin' to yer back.'
'Don't you! Well, you'd better make the best o' what
you can git.
Maybe you won't have my back to talk to soon.
They look good in pyramids with the 'lectric light on 'em,
Now hand me them bananas
An' I'll string 'em right acrost.'
'What do yer mean
'Bout me not havin' you to talk to?
Are yer springin' somethin' on me?'
'I don't know 'bout springin'
When I'm tellin' you right out.
I'm goin' away, that's all.'
What yer mean - goin' away?'
'I've took a place
Down to Boston, in a candy store
For the holidays.'
'Good Land, Alice,
What in the Heavens fer!'
'To earn some money,
And to git away from here, I guess.'
'Ain't yer Father got enough?
Don't he give yer proper pocket-money?'
'He'd have a plenty, if you folks paid him.'
'He's rich I tell yer.
I never figured he'd be close with you.'
'Oh, he ain't. Not close.
That ain't why.
But I must git away from here.
I must! I must!'
'You got a lot o' reason in yer
How long d' you cal'late
You'll be gone?'
'Maybe for always.'
'What ails yer, Alice?
Talkin' wild like that.
Ain't you an' me goin' to be married
'Some day! Some day!
I guess the sun'll never rise on some day.'
'So that's the trouble.
Same old story.
'Cause I ain't got the cash to settle right now.
You know I love yer,
An' I'll marry yer as soon
As I c'n raise the money.'
'You've said that any time these five year,
But you don't do nothin'.'
'Wot could I do?
Ther ain't no work here Winters.
Not fer a carpenter, ther ain't.'
'I guess you warn't born a carpenter.
Ther's ice-cuttin' a plenty.'
'I got a dret'ful tender throat;
Dr. Smiles he told me
I mustn't resk ice-cuttin'.'
'Why haven't you gone to Boston,
And hunted up a job?'
'Have yer forgot the time I went expressin'
In the American office, down ther?'
'And come back two weeks later!
No, I ain't.'
'You didn't want I should git hurted,
I'm a sight too light fer all that liftin' work.
My back was commencin' to strain, as 'twas.
Ef I was like yer brother now,
I'd ha' be'n down to the city long ago.
But I'm too clumsy fer a dancer.
I ain't got Arthur's luck.'
'Do you call it luck to be a disgrace to your folks,
And git locked up in jail!'
'Oh, come now, Alice,
`Disgrace' is a mite strong.
Why, the jail was a joke.
Art's all right.'
All right to dance, and smirk, and lie
For a livin',
And then in the end
Lead a silly girl to give you
What warn't hers to give
By pretendin' you'd marry her -
And she a pupil.'
'He'd ha' married her right enough,
Her folks was millionaires.'
'Yes, he'd ha' married her!
Thank God, they saved her that.'
'Art's a fine feller.
I wish I had his luck.
Swellin' round in Hart, Schaffner & Marx fancy suits,
And eatin' in rest'rants.
But somebody's got to stick to the old place,
Else Foxfield'd have to shut up shop,
'You admire him!
You admire Arthur!
You'd be like him only you can't dance.
Oh, Shame! Shame!
And I've been like that silly girl.
Fooled with your promises,
And I give you all I had.
I knew it, oh, I knew it,
But I wanted to git away 'fore I proved it.
You've shamed me through and through.
Why couldn't you hold your tongue,
And spared me seein' you
As you really are.'
'What the Devil's the row?
I only said Art was lucky.
What you spitfirin' at me fer?
Ferget it, Alice.
We've had good times, ain't we?
I'll see Cleve 'bout that job agin to-morrer,
And we'll be married 'fore hayin' time.'
'It's like you to remind me o' hayin' time.
I've good cause to love it, ain't I?
Many's the night I've hid my face in the dark
To shut out thinkin'!'
'Why, that ain't nothin'.
You ain't be'n half so kind to me
As lots o' fellers' girls.
Gi' me a kiss, Dear,
And let's make up.'
You poor fool.
Do you suppose I care a ten cent piece
For you now.
You've killed yourself for me.
Done it out o' your own mouth.
You've took away my home,
I hate the sight o' the place.
You're all over it,
Every stick an' stone means you,
An' I hate 'em all.'
'Alice, I say,
Don't go on like that.
I can't marry yer
Boardin' in one room,
But I'll see Cleve to-morrer,
I'll make him --'
'Oh, you fool!
You terrible fool!'
'Alice, don't go yit,
Wait a minit,
I'll see Cleve --'
'You terrible fool!'
'Alice, don't go.
Alice --' (Door slams)
Number 3 On The Docket
The lawyer, are you?
Well! I ain't got nothin' to say.
I told the perlice I hadn't nothin'.
They know'd real well 'twas me.
Ther warn't no supposin',
Ketchin' me in the woods as they did,
An' me in my house dress.
Folks don't walk miles an' miles
In the drifted snow,
With no hat nor wrap on 'em
Ef everythin's all right, I guess.
All right? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Nothin' warn't right with me.
Oh, Lord! Why did I do it?
Why ain't it yesterday, and Ed here agin?
Many's the time I've set up with him nights
When he had cramps, or rheumatizm, or somethin'.
I used ter nurse him same's ef he was a baby.
I wouldn't hurt him, I love him!
Don't you dare to say I killed him. 'Twarn't me!
Somethin' got aholt o' me. I couldn't help it.
Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!
I beg your pardon, I - I -
Oh, I'm a wicked woman!
An' I'm desolate, desolate!
Why warn't I struck dead or paralyzed
Afore my hands done it.
Oh, my God, what shall I do!
No, Sir, ther ain't no extenuatin' circumstances,
An' I don't want none.
I want a bolt o' lightnin'
To strike me dead right now!
Oh, I'll tell yer.
But it won't make no diff'rence.
Yes, I killed him.
Why do yer make me say it?
It's cruel! Cruel!
I killed him because o' th' silence.
The long, long silence,
That watched all around me,
And he wouldn't break it.
I tried to make him,
Time an' agin,
But he was terrible taciturn, Ed was.
He never spoke 'cept when he had to,
An' then he'd only say 'yes' and 'no'.
You can't even guess what that silence was.
I'd hear it whisperin' in my ears,
An' I got frightened, 'twas so thick,
An' al'ays comin' back.
Ef Ed would ha' talked sometimes
It would ha' driven it away;
But he never would.
He didn't hear it same as I did.
You see, Sir,
Our farm was off'n the main road,
And set away back under the mountain;
And the village was seven mile off,
Measurin' after you'd got out o' our lane.
We didn't have no hired man,
'Cept in hayin' time;
An' Dane's place,
That was the nearest,
Was clear way 'tother side the mountain.
They used Marley post-office
An' ours was Benton.
Ther was a cart-track took yer to Dane's in Summer,
An' it warn't above two mile that way,
But it warn't never broke out Winters.
I used to dread the Winters.
Seem's ef I couldn't abear to see the golden-rod bloomin';
Winter'd come so quick after that.
You don't know what snow's like when yer with it
Day in an' day out.
Ed would be out all day loggin',
An' I set at home and look at the snow
Layin' over everythin';
It 'ud dazzle me blind,
Till it warn't white any more, but black as ink.
Then the quiet 'ud commence rushin' past my ears
Till I most went mad listenin' to it.
Many's the time I've dropped a pan on the floor
Jest to hear it clatter.
I was most frantic when dinner-time come
An' Ed was back from the woods.
I'd ha' give my soul to hear him speak.
But he'd never say a word till I asked him
Did he like the raised biscuits or whatever,
An' then sometimes he'd jest nod his answer.
Then he'd go out agin,
An' I'd watch him from the kitchin winder.
It seemed the woods come marchin' out to meet him
An' the trees 'ud press round him an' hustle him.
I got so I was scared o' th' trees.
I thought they come nearer,
Every day a little nearer,
Closin' up round the house.
I never went in t' th' woods Winters,
Though in Summer I liked 'em well enough.
It warn't so bad when my little boy was with us.
He used to go sleddin' and skatin',
An' every day his father fetched him to school in the pung
An' brought him back agin.
We scraped an' scraped fer Neddy,
We wanted him to have a education.
We sent him to High School,
An' then he went up to Boston to Technology.
He was a minin' engineer,
An' doin' real well,
A credit to his bringin' up.
But his very first position ther was an explosion in the mine.
And I'm glad! I'm glad!
He ain't here to see me now.
I'm your mother still, Neddy.
Don't turn from me like that.
I can't abear it. I can't! I can't!
What did you say?
Oh, yes, Sir.
I'm very sorry,
I don't know what I'm sayin'.
Not till after Neddy died.
'Twas the next Winter the silence come,
I don't remember noticin' it afore.
That was five year ago,
An' it's been gittin' worse an' worse.
I asked Ed to put in a telephone.
I thought ef I felt the whisperin' comin' on
I could ring up some o' th' folks.
But Ed wouldn't hear of it.
He said we'd paid so much for Neddy
We couldn't hardly git along as 'twas.
An' he never understood me wantin' to talk.
Well, this year was worse'n all the others;
We had a terrible spell o' stormy weather,
An' the snow lay so thick
You couldn't see the fences even.
Out o' doors was as flat as the palm o' my hand,
Ther warn't a hump or a holler
Fer as you could see.
It was so quiet
The snappin' o' the branches back in the wood-lot
Sounded like pistol shots.
Ed was out all day
Same as usual.
An' it seemed he talked less'n ever.
He didn't even say `Good-mornin'', once or twice,
An' jest nodded or shook his head when I asked him things.
On Monday he said he'd got to go over to Benton
Fer some oats.
I'd oughter ha' gone with him,
But 'twas washin' day
An' I was afeared the fine weather'd break,
An' I couldn't do my dryin'.
All my life I'd done my work punctual,
An' I couldn't fix my conscience
To go junketin' on a washin'-day.
I can't tell you what that day was to me.
It dragged an' dragged,
Fer ther warn't no Ed ter break it in the middle
Every time I stopped stirrin' the water
I heerd the whisperin' all about me.
I stopped oftener'n I should
To see ef 'twas still ther,
An' it al'ays was.
An' gittin' louder
It seemed ter me.
Once I threw up the winder to feel the wind.
That seemed most alive somehow.
But the woods looked so kind of menacin'
I closed it quick
An' started to mangle's hard's I could,
The squeakin' was comfortin'.
Well, Ed come home 'bout four.
I seen him down the road,
An' I run out through the shed inter th' barn
To meet him quicker.
I hollered out, `Hullo!'
But he didn't say nothin',
He jest drove right in
An' climbed out o' th' sleigh
An' commenced unharnessin'.
I asked him a heap o' questions;
Who he'd seed
An' what he'd done.
Once in a while he'd nod or shake,
But most o' th' time he didn't do nothin'.
'Twas gittin' dark then,
An' I was in a state,
With the loneliness
An' Ed payin' no attention
Like somethin' warn't livin'.
All of a sudden it come,
I don't know what,
But I jest couldn't stand no more.
It didn't seem 's though that was Ed,
An' it didn't seem as though I was me.
I had to break a way out somehow,
Somethin' was closin' in
An' I was stiflin'.
Ed's loggin' axe was ther,
An' I took it.
Oh, my God!
I can't see nothin' else afore me all the time.
I run out inter th' woods,
Seemed as ef they was pullin' me;
An' all the time I was wadin' through the snow
I seed Ed in front of me
Where I'd laid him.
An' I see him now.
What you holdin' me fer?
I want ter go to Ed,
Stop holdin' me.
I got to go.
I'm comin', Ed.
I'll be ther in a minit.
Oh, I'm so tired!
Paul Jannes was working very late,
For this watch must be done by eight
To-morrow or the Cardinal
Would certainly be vexed. Of all
His customers the old prelate
Was the most important, for his state
Descended to his watches and rings,
And he gave his mistresses many things
To make them forget his age and smile
When he paid visits, and they could while
The time away with a diamond locket
Exceedingly well. So they picked his pocket,
And he paid in jewels for his slobbering kisses.
This watch was made to buy him blisses
From an Austrian countess on her way
Home, and she meant to start next day.
Paul worked by the pointed, tulip-flame
Of a tallow candle, and became
So absorbed, that his old clock made him wince
Striking the hour a moment since.
Its echo, only half apprehended,
Lingered about the room. He ended
Screwing the little rubies in,
Setting the wheels to lock and spin,
Curling the infinitesimal springs,
Fixing the filigree hands. Chippings
Of precious stones lay strewn about.
The table before him was a rout
Of splashes and sparks of coloured light.
There was yellow gold in sheets, and quite
A heap of emeralds, and steel.
Here was a gem, there was a wheel.
And glasses lay like limpid lakes
Shining and still, and there were flakes
Of silver, and shavings of pearl,
And little wires all awhirl
With the light of the candle. He took the watch
And wound its hands about to match
The time, then glanced up to take the hour
From the hanging clock.
Good, Merciful Power!
How came that shadow on the wall,
No woman was in the room! His tall
Chiffonier stood gaunt behind
His chair. His old cloak, rabbit-lined,
Hung from a peg. The door was closed.
Just for a moment he must have dozed.
He looked again, and saw it plain.
The silhouette made a blue-black stain
On the opposite wall, and it never wavered
Even when the candle quavered
Under his panting breath. What made
That beautiful, dreadful thing, that shade
Of something so lovely, so exquisite,
Cast from a substance which the sight
Had not been tutored to perceive?
Paul brushed his eyes across his sleeve.
Clear-cut, the Shadow on the wall
Gleamed black, and never moved at all.
Paul's watches were like amulets,
Wrought into patterns and rosettes;
The cases were all set with stones,
And wreathing lines, and shining zones.
He knew the beauty in a curve,
And the Shadow tortured every nerve
With its perfect rhythm of outline
Cutting the whitewashed wall. So fine
Was the neck he knew he could have spanned
It about with the fingers of one hand.
The chin rose to a mouth he guessed,
But could not see, the lips were pressed
Loosely together, the edges close,
And the proud and delicate line of the nose
Melted into a brow, and there
Broke into undulant waves of hair.
The lady was edged with the stamp of race.
A singular vision in such a place.
He moved the candle to the tall
Chiffonier; the Shadow stayed on the wall.
He threw his cloak upon a chair,
And still the lady's face was there.
From every corner of the room
He saw, in the patch of light, the gloom
That was the lady. Her violet bloom
Was almost brighter than that which came
From his candle's tulip-flame.
He set the filigree hands; he laid
The watch in the case which he had made;
He put on his rabbit cloak, and snuffed
His candle out. The room seemed stuffed
With darkness. Softly he crossed the floor,
And let himself out through the door.
The sun was flashing from every pin
And wheel, when Paul let himself in.
The whitewashed walls were hot with light.
The room was the core of a chrysolite,
Burning and shimmering with fiery might.
The sun was so bright that no shadow could fall
From the furniture upon the wall.
Paul sighed as he looked at the empty space
Where a glare usurped the lady's place.
He settled himself to his work, but his mind
Wandered, and he would wake to find
His hand suspended, his eyes grown dim,
And nothing advanced beyond the rim
Of his dreaming. The Cardinal sent to pay
For his watch, which had purchased so fine a day.
But Paul could hardly touch the gold,
It seemed the price of his Shadow, sold.
With the first twilight he struck a match
And watched the little blue stars hatch
Into an egg of perfect flame.
He lit his candle, and almost in shame
At his eagerness, lifted his eyes.
The Shadow was there, and its precise
Outline etched the cold, white wall.
The young man swore, 'By God! You, Paul,
There's something the matter with your brain.
Go home now and sleep off the strain.'
The next day was a storm, the rain
Whispered and scratched at the window-pane.
A grey and shadowless morning filled
The little shop. The watches, chilled,
Were dead and sparkless as burnt-out coals.
The gems lay on the table like shoals
Of stranded shells, their colours faded,
Mere heaps of stone, dull and degraded.
Paul's head was heavy, his hands obeyed
No orders, for his fancy strayed.
His work became a simple round
Of watches repaired and watches wound.
The slanting ribbons of the rain
Broke themselves on the window-pane,
But Paul saw the silver lines in vain.
Only when the candle was lit
And on the wall just opposite
He watched again the coming of IT,
Could he trace a line for the joy of his soul
And over his hands regain control.
Paul lingered late in his shop that night
And the designs which his delight
Sketched on paper seemed to be
A tribute offered wistfully
To the beautiful shadow of her who came
And hovered over his candle flame.
In the morning he selected all
His perfect jacinths. One large opal
Hung like a milky, rainbow moon
In the centre, and blown in loose festoon
The red stones quivered on silver threads
To the outer edge, where a single, fine
Band of mother-of-pearl the line
Completed. On the other side,
The creamy porcelain of the face
Bore diamond hours, and no lace
Of cotton or silk could ever be
Tossed into being more airily
Than the filmy golden hands; the time
Seemed to tick away in rhyme.
When, at dusk, the Shadow grew
Upon the wall, Paul's work was through.
Holding the watch, he spoke to her:
'Lady, Beautiful Shadow, stir
Into one brief sign of being.
Turn your eyes this way, and seeing
This watch, made from those sweet curves
Where your hair from your forehead swerves,
Accept the gift which I have wrought
With your fairness in my thought.
Grant me this, and I shall be
The Shadow rested black and still,
And the wind sighed over the window-sill.
Paul put the despised watch away
And laid out before him his array
Of stones and metals, and when the morning
Struck the stones to their best adorning,
He chose the brightest, and this new watch
Was so light and thin it seemed to catch
The sunlight's nothingness, and its gleam.
Topazes ran in a foamy stream
Over the cover, the hands were studded
With garnets, and seemed red roses, budded.
The face was of crystal, and engraved
Upon it the figures flashed and waved
With zircons, and beryls, and amethysts.
It took a week to make, and his trysts
At night with the Shadow were his alone.
Paul swore not to speak till his task was done.
The night that the jewel was worthy to give.
Paul watched the long hours of daylight live
To the faintest streak; then lit his light,
And sharp against the wall's pure white
The outline of the Shadow started
Into form. His burning-hearted
Words so long imprisoned swelled
To tumbling speech. Like one compelled,
He told the lady all his love,
And holding out the watch above
His head, he knelt, imploring some
The Shadow was dumb.
Weeks passed, Paul worked in fevered haste,
And everything he made he placed
Before his lady. The Shadow kept
Its perfect passiveness. Paul wept.
He wooed her with the work of his hands,
He waited for those dear commands
She never gave. No word, no motion,
Eased the ache of his devotion.
His days passed in a strain of toil,
His nights burnt up in a seething coil.
Seasons shot by, uncognisant
He worked. The Shadow came to haunt
Even his days. Sometimes quite plain
He saw on the wall the blackberry stain
Of his lady's picture. No sun was bright
Enough to dazzle that from his sight.
There were moments when he groaned to see
His life spilled out so uselessly,
Begging for boons the Shade refused,
His finest workmanship abused,
The iridescent bubbles he blew
Into lovely existence, poor and few
In the shadowed eyes. Then he would curse
Himself and her! The Universe!
And more, the beauty he could not make,
And give her, for her comfort's sake!
He would beat his weary, empty hands
Upon the table, would hold up strands
Of silver and gold, and ask her why
She scorned the best which he could buy.
He would pray as to some high-niched saint,
That she would cure him of the taint
Of failure. He would clutch the wall
With his bleeding fingers, if she should fall
He could catch, and hold her, and make her live!
With sobs he would ask her to forgive
All he had done. And broken, spent,
He would call himself impertinent;
Presumptuous; a tradesman; a nothing; driven
To madness by the sight of Heaven.
At other times he would take the things
He had made, and winding them on strings,
Hang garlands before her, and burn perfumes,
Chanting strangely, while the fumes
Wreathed and blotted the shadow face,
As with a cloudy, nacreous lace.
There were days when he wooed as a lover, sighed
In tenderness, spoke to his bride,
Urged her to patience, said his skill
Should break the spell. A man's sworn will
Could compass life, even that, he knew.
By Christ's Blood! He would prove it true!
The edge of the Shadow never blurred.
The lips of the Shadow never stirred.
He would climb on chairs to reach her lips,
And pat her hair with his finger-tips.
But instead of young, warm flesh returning
His warmth, the wall was cold and burning
Like stinging ice, and his passion, chilled,
Lay in his heart like some dead thing killed
At the moment of birth. Then, deadly sick,
He would lie in a swoon for hours, while thick
Phantasmagoria crowded his brain,
And his body shrieked in the clutch of pain.
The crisis passed, he would wake and smile
With a vacant joy, half-imbecile
And quite confused, not being certain
Why he was suffering; a curtain
Fallen over the tortured mind beguiled
His sorrow. Like a little child
He would play with his watches and gems, with glee
Calling the Shadow to look and see
How the spots on the ceiling danced prettily
When he flashed his stones. 'Mother, the green
Has slid so cunningly in between
The blue and the yellow. Oh, please look down!'
Then, with a pitiful, puzzled frown,
He would get up slowly from his play
And walk round the room, feeling his way
From table to chair, from chair to door,
Stepping over the cracks in the floor,
Till reaching the table again, her face
Would bring recollection, and no solace
Could balm his hurt till unconsciousness
Stifled him and his great distress.
One morning he threw the street door wide
On coming in, and his vigorous stride
Made the tools on his table rattle and jump.
In his hands he carried a new-burst clump
Of laurel blossoms, whose smooth-barked stalks
Were pliant with sap. As a husband talks
To the wife he left an hour ago,
Paul spoke to the Shadow. 'Dear, you know
To-day the calendar calls it Spring,
And I woke this morning gathering
Asphodels, in my dreams, for you.
So I rushed out to see what flowers blew
Their pink-and-purple-scented souls
Across the town-wind's dusty scrolls,
And made the approach to the Market Square
A garden with smells and sunny air.
I feel so well and happy to-day,
I think I shall take a Holiday.
And to-night we will have a little treat.
I am going to bring you something to eat!'
He looked at the Shadow anxiously.
It was quite grave and silent. He
Shut the outer door and came
And leant against the window-frame.
'Dearest,' he said, 'we live apart
Although I bear you in my heart.
We look out each from a different world.
At any moment we may be hurled
Asunder. They follow their orbits, we
Obey their laws entirely.
Now you must come, or I go there,
Unless we are willing to live the flare
Of a lighted instant and have it gone.'
A bee in the laurels began to drone.
A loosened petal fluttered prone.
'Man grows by eating, if you eat
You will be filled with our life, sweet
Will be our planet in your mouth.
If not, I must parch in death's wide drouth
Until I gain to where you are,
And give you myself in whatever star
May happen. O You Beloved of Me!
Is it not ordered cleverly?'
The Shadow, bloomed like a plum, and clear,
Hung in the sunlight. It did not hear.
Paul slipped away as the dusk began
To dim the little shop. He ran
To the nearest inn, and chose with care
As much as his thin purse could bear.
As rapt-souled monks watch over the baking
Of the sacred wafer, and through the making
Of the holy wine whisper secret prayers
That God will bless this labour of theirs;
So Paul, in a sober ecstasy,
Purchased the best which he could buy.
Returning, he brushed his tools aside,
And laid across the table a wide
Napkin. He put a glass and plate
On either side, in duplicate.
Over the lady's, excellent
With loveliness, the laurels bent.
In the centre the white-flaked pastry stood,
And beside it the wine flask. Red as blood
Was the wine which should bring the lustihood
Of human life to his lady's veins.
When all was ready, all which pertains
To a simple meal was there, with eyes
Lit by the joy of his great emprise,
He reverently bade her come,
And forsake for him her distant home.
He put meat on her plate and filled her glass,
And waited what should come to pass.
The Shadow lay quietly on the wall.
From the street outside came a watchman's call
'A cloudy night. Rain beginning to fall.'
And still he waited. The clock's slow tick
Knocked on the silence. Paul turned sick.
He filled his own glass full of wine;
From his pocket he took a paper. The twine
Was knotted, and he searched a knife
From his jumbled tools. The cord of life
Snapped as he cut the little string.
He knew that he must do the thing
He feared. He shook powder into the wine,
And holding it up so the candle's shine
Sparked a ruby through its heart,
He drank it. 'Dear, never apart
Again! You have said it was mine to do.
It is done, and I am come to you!'
Paul Jannes let the empty wine-glass fall,
And held out his arms. The insentient wall
Stared down at him with its cold, white glare
Unstained! The Shadow was not there!
Paul clutched and tore at his tightening throat.
He felt the veins in his body bloat,
And the hot blood run like fire and stones
Along the sides of his cracking bones.
But he laughed as he staggered towards the door,
And he laughed aloud as he sank on the floor.
The Coroner took the body away,
And the watches were sold that Saturday.
The Auctioneer said one could seldom buy
Such watches, and the prices were high.
Sword Blades And Poppy Seed
A drifting, April, twilight sky,
A wind which blew the puddles dry,
And slapped the river into waves
That ran and hid among the staves
Of an old wharf. A watery light
Touched bleak the granite bridge, and white
Without the slightest tinge of gold,
The city shivered in the cold.
All day my thoughts had lain as dead,
Unborn and bursting in my head.
From time to time I wrote a word
Which lines and circles overscored.
My table seemed a graveyard, full
Of coffins waiting burial.
I seized these vile abortions, tore
Them into jagged bits, and swore
To be the dupe of hope no more.
Into the evening straight I went,
Starved of a day's accomplishment.
Unnoticing, I wandered where
The city gave a space for air,
And on the bridge's parapet
I leant, while pallidly there set
A dim, discouraged, worn-out sun.
Behind me, where the tramways run,
Blossomed bright lights, I turned to leave,
When someone plucked me by the sleeve.
'Your pardon, Sir, but I should be
Most grateful could you lend to me
A carfare, I have lost my purse.'
The voice was clear, concise, and terse.
I turned and met the quiet gaze
Of strange eyes flashing through the haze.
The man was old and slightly bent,
Under his cloak some instrument
Disarranged its stately line,
He rested on his cane a fine
And nervous hand, an almandine
Smouldered with dull-red flames, sanguine
It burned in twisted gold, upon
His finger. Like some Spanish don,
Conferring favours even when
Asking an alms, he bowed again
And waited. But my pockets proved
Empty, in vain I poked and shoved,
No hidden penny lurking there
Greeted my search. 'Sir, I declare
I have no money, pray forgive,
But let me take you where you live.'
And so we plodded through the mire
Where street lamps cast a wavering fire.
I took no note of where we went,
His talk became the element
Wherein my being swam, content.
It flashed like rapiers in the night
Lit by uncertain candle-light,
When on some moon-forsaken sward
A quarrel dies upon a sword.
It hacked and carved like a cutlass blade,
And the noise in the air the broad words made
Was the cry of the wind at a window-pane
On an Autumn night of sobbing rain.
Then it would run like a steady stream
Under pinnacled bridges where minarets gleam,
Or lap the air like the lapping tide
Where a marble staircase lifts its wide
Green-spotted steps to a garden gate,
And a waning moon is sinking straight
Down to a black and ominous sea,
While a nightingale sings in a lemon tree.
I walked as though some opiate
Had stung and dulled my brain, a state
Acute and slumbrous. It grew late.
We stopped, a house stood silent, dark.
The old man scratched a match, the spark
Lit up the keyhole of a door,
We entered straight upon a floor
White with finest powdered sand
Carefully sifted, one might stand
Muddy and dripping, and yet no trace
Would stain the boards of this kitchen-place.
From the chimney, red eyes sparked the gloom,
And a cricket's chirp filled all the room.
My host threw pine-cones on the fire
And crimson and scarlet glowed the pyre
Wrapped in the golden flame's desire.
The chamber opened like an eye,
As a half-melted cloud in a Summer sky
The soul of the house stood guessed, and shy
It peered at the stranger warily.
A little shop with its various ware
Spread on shelves with nicest care.
Pitchers, and jars, and jugs, and pots,
Pipkins, and mugs, and many lots
Of lacquered canisters, black and gold,
Like those in which Chinese tea is sold.
Chests, and puncheons, kegs, and flasks,
Goblets, chalices, firkins, and casks.
In a corner three ancient amphorae leaned
Against the wall, like ships careened.
There was dusky blue of Wedgewood ware,
The carved, white figures fluttering there
Like leaves adrift upon the air.
Classic in touch, but emasculate,
The Greek soul grown effeminate.
The factory of Sevres had lent
Elegant boxes with ornament
Culled from gardens where fountains splashed
And golden carp in the shadows flashed,
Nuzzling for crumbs under lily-pads,
Which ladies threw as the last of fads.
Eggshell trays where gay beaux knelt,
Hand on heart, and daintily spelt
Their love in flowers, brittle and bright,
Artificial and fragile, which told aright
The vows of an eighteenth-century knight.
The cruder tones of old Dutch jugs
Glared from one shelf, where Toby mugs
Endlessly drank the foaming ale,
Its froth grown dusty, awaiting sale.
The glancing light of the burning wood
Played over a group of jars which stood
On a distant shelf, it seemed the sky
Had lent the half-tones of his blazonry
To paint these porcelains with unknown hues
Of reds dyed purple and greens turned blues,
Of lustres with so evanescent a sheen
Their colours are felt, but never seen.
Strange winged dragons writhe about
These vases, poisoned venoms spout,
Impregnate with old Chinese charms;
Sealed urns containing mortal harms,
They fill the mind with thoughts impure,
Pestilent drippings from the ure
Of vicious thinkings. 'Ah, I see,'
Said I, 'you deal in pottery.'
The old man turned and looked at me.
Shook his head gently. 'No,' said he.
Then from under his cloak he took the thing
Which I had wondered to see him bring
Guarded so carefully from sight.
As he laid it down it flashed in the light,
A Toledo blade, with basket hilt,
Damascened with arabesques of gilt,
Or rather gold, and tempered so
It could cut a floating thread at a blow.
The old man smiled, 'It has no sheath,
'Twas a little careless to have it beneath
My cloak, for a jostle to my arm
Would have resulted in serious harm.
But it was so fine, I could not wait,
So I brought it with me despite its state.'
'An amateur of arms,' I thought,
'Bringing home a prize which he has bought.'
'You care for this sort of thing, Dear Sir?'
'Not in the way which you infer.
I need them in business, that is all.'
And he pointed his finger at the wall.
Then I saw what I had not noticed before.
The walls were hung with at least five score
Of swords and daggers of every size
Which nations of militant men could devise.
Poisoned spears from tropic seas,
That natives, under banana trees,
Smear with the juice of some deadly snake.
Blood-dipped arrows, which savages make
And tip with feathers, orange and green,
A quivering death, in harlequin sheen.
High up, a fan of glancing steel
Was formed of claymores in a wheel.
Jewelled swords worn at kings' levees
Were suspended next midshipmen's dirks, and these
Elbowed stilettos come from Spain,
Chased with some splendid Hidalgo's name.
There were Samurai swords from old Japan,
And scimitars from Hindoostan,
While the blade of a Turkish yataghan
Made a waving streak of vitreous white
Upon the wall, in the firelight.
Foils with buttons broken or lost
Lay heaped on a chair, among them tossed
The boarding-pike of a privateer.
Against the chimney leaned a queer
Two-handed weapon, with edges dull
As though from hacking on a skull.
The rusted blood corroded it still.
My host took up a paper spill
From a heap which lay in an earthen bowl,
And lighted it at a burning coal.
At either end of the table, tall
Wax candles were placed, each in a small,
And slim, and burnished candlestick
Of pewter. The old man lit each wick,
And the room leapt more obviously
Upon my mind, and I could see
What the flickering fire had hid from me.
Above the chimney's yawning throat,
Shoulder high, like the dark wainscote,
Was a mantelshelf of polished oak
Blackened with the pungent smoke
Of firelit nights; a Cromwell clock
Of tarnished brass stood like a rock
In the midst of a heaving, turbulent sea
Of every sort of cutlery.
There lay knives sharpened to any use,
The keenest lancet, and the obtuse
And blunted pruning bill-hook; blades
Of razors, scalpels, shears; cascades
Of penknives, with handles of mother-of-pearl,
And scythes, and sickles, and scissors; a whirl
Of points and edges, and underneath
Shot the gleam of a saw with bristling teeth.
My head grew dizzy, I seemed to hear
A battle-cry from somewhere near,
The clash of arms, and the squeal of balls,
And the echoless thud when a dead man falls.
A smoky cloud had veiled the room,
Shot through with lurid glares; the gloom
Pounded with shouts and dying groans,
With the drip of blood on cold, hard stones.
Sabres and lances in streaks of light
Gleamed through the smoke, and at my right
A creese, like a licking serpent's tongue,
Glittered an instant, while it stung.
Streams, and points, and lines of fire!
The livid steel, which man's desire
Had forged and welded, burned white and cold.
Every blade which man could mould,
Which could cut, or slash, or cleave, or rip,
Or pierce, or thrust, or carve, or strip,
Or gash, or chop, or puncture, or tear,
Or slice, or hack, they all were there.
Nerveless and shaking, round and round,
I stared at the walls and at the ground,
Till the room spun like a whipping top,
And a stern voice in my ear said, 'Stop!
I sell no tools for murderers here.
Of what are you thinking! Please clear
Your mind of such imaginings.
Sit down. I will tell you of these things.'
He pushed me into a great chair
Of russet leather, poked a flare
Of tumbling flame, with the old long sword,
Up the chimney; but said no word.
Slowly he walked to a distant shelf,
And brought back a crock of finest delf.
He rested a moment a blue-veined hand
Upon the cover, then cut a band
Of paper, pasted neatly round,
Opened and poured. A sliding sound
Came from beneath his old white hands,
And I saw a little heap of sands,
Black and smooth. What could they be:
'Pepper,' I thought. He looked at me.
'What you see is poppy seed.
Lethean dreams for those in need.'
He took up the grains with a gentle hand
And sifted them slowly like hour-glass sand.
On his old white finger the almandine
Shot out its rays, incarnadine.
'Visions for those too tired to sleep.
These seeds cast a film over eyes which weep.
No single soul in the world could dwell,
Without these poppy-seeds I sell.'
For a moment he played with the shining stuff,
Passing it through his fingers. Enough
At last, he poured it back into
The china jar of Holland blue,
Which he carefully carried to its place.
Then, with a smile on his aged face,
He drew up a chair to the open space
'Twixt table and chimney. 'Without preface,
Young man, I will say that what you see
Is not the puzzle you take it to be.'
'But surely, Sir, there is something strange
In a shop with goods at so wide a range
Each from the other, as swords and seeds.
Your neighbours must have greatly differing needs.'
'My neighbours,' he said, and he stroked his chin,
'Live everywhere from here to Pekin.
But you are wrong, my sort of goods
Is but one thing in all its moods.'
He took a shagreen letter case
From his pocket, and with charming grace
Offered me a printed card.
I read the legend, 'Ephraim Bard.
Dealer in Words.' And that was all.
I stared at the letters, whimsical
Indeed, or was it merely a jest.
He answered my unasked request:
'All books are either dreams or swords,
You can cut, or you can drug, with words.
My firm is a very ancient house,
The entries on my books would rouse
Your wonder, perhaps incredulity.
I inherited from an ancestry
Stretching remotely back and far,
This business, and my clients are
As were those of my grandfather's days,
Writers of books, and poems, and plays.
My swords are tempered for every speech,
For fencing wit, or to carve a breach
Through old abuses the world condones.
In another room are my grindstones and hones,
For whetting razors and putting a point
On daggers, sometimes I even anoint
The blades with a subtle poison, so
A twofold result may follow the blow.
These are purchased by men who feel
The need of stabbing society's heel,
Which egotism has brought them to think
Is set on their necks. I have foils to pink
An adversary to quaint reply,
And I have customers who buy
Scalpels with which to dissect the brains
And hearts of men. Ultramundanes
Even demand some finer kinds
To open their own souls and minds.
But the other half of my business deals
With visions and fancies. Under seals,
Sorted, and placed in vessels here,
I keep the seeds of an atmosphere.
Each jar contains a different kind
Of poppy seed. From farthest Ind
Come the purple flowers, opium filled,
From which the weirdest myths are distilled;
My orient porcelains contain them all.
Those Lowestoft pitchers against the wall
Hold a lighter kind of bright conceit;
And those old Saxe vases, out of the heat
On that lowest shelf beside the door,
Have a sort of Ideal, 'couleur d'or'.
Every castle of the air
Sleeps in the fine black grains, and there
Are seeds for every romance, or light
Whiff of a dream for a summer night.
I supply to every want and taste.'
'Twas slowly said, in no great haste
He seemed to push his wares, but I
Dumfounded listened. By and by
A log on the fire broke in two.
He looked up quickly, 'Sir, and you?'
I groped for something I should say;
Amazement held me numb. 'To-day
You sweated at a fruitless task.'
He spoke for me, 'What do you ask?
How can I serve you?' 'My kind host,
My penniless state was not a boast;
I have no money with me.' He smiled.
'Not for that money I beguiled
You here; you paid me in advance.'
Again I felt as though a trance
Had dimmed my faculties. Again
He spoke, and this time to explain.
'The money I demand is Life,
Your nervous force, your joy, your strife!'
What infamous proposal now
Was made me with so calm a brow?
Bursting through my lethargy,
Indignantly I hurled the cry:
'Is this a nightmare, or am I
Drunk with some infernal wine?
I am no Faust, and what is mine
Is what I call my soul! Old Man!
Devil or Ghost! Your hellish plan
Revolts me. Let me go.' 'My child,'
And the old tones were very mild,
'I have no wish to barter souls;
My traffic does not ask such tolls.
I am no devil; is there one?
Surely the age of fear is gone.
We live within a daylight world
Lit by the sun, where winds unfurled
Sweep clouds to scatter pattering rain,
And then blow back the sun again.
I sell my fancies, or my swords,
To those who care far more for words,
Ideas, of which they are the sign,
Than any other life-design.
Who buy of me must simply pay
Their whole existence quite away:
Their strength, their manhood, and their prime,
Their hours from morning till the time
When evening comes on tiptoe feet,
And losing life, think it complete;
Must miss what other men count being,
To gain the gift of deeper seeing;
Must spurn all ease, all hindering love,
All which could hold or bind; must prove
The farthest boundaries of thought,
And shun no end which these have brought;
Then die in satisfaction, knowing
That what was sown was worth the sowing.
I claim for all the goods I sell
That they will serve their purpose well,
And though you perish, they will live.
Full measure for your pay I give.
To-day you worked, you thought, in vain.
What since has happened is the train
Your toiling brought. I spoke to you
For my share of the bargain, due.'
'My life! And is that all you crave
In pay? What even childhood gave!
I have been dedicate from youth.
Before my God I speak the truth!'
Fatigue, excitement of the past
Few hours broke me down at last.
All day I had forgot to eat,
My nerves betrayed me, lacking meat.
I bowed my head and felt the storm
Plough shattering through my prostrate form.
The tearless sobs tore at my heart.
My host withdrew himself apart;
Busied among his crockery,
He paid no farther heed to me.
Exhausted, spent, I huddled there,
Within the arms of the old carved chair.
A long half-hour dragged away,
And then I heard a kind voice say,
'The day will soon be dawning, when
You must begin to work again.
Here are the things which you require.'
By the fading light of the dying fire,
And by the guttering candle's flare,
I saw the old man standing there.
He handed me a packet, tied
With crimson tape, and sealed. 'Inside
Are seeds of many differing flowers,
To occupy your utmost powers
Of storied vision, and these swords
Are the finest which my shop affords.
Go home and use them; do not spare
Yourself; let that be all your care.
Whatever you have means to buy
Be very sure I can supply.'
He slowly walked to the window, flung
It open, and in the grey air rung
The sound of distant matin bells.
I took my parcels. Then, as tells
An ancient mumbling monk his beads,
I tried to thank for his courteous deeds
My strange old friend. 'Nay, do not talk,'
He urged me, 'you have a long walk
Before you. Good-by and Good-day!'
And gently sped upon my way
I stumbled out in the morning hush,
As down the empty street a flush
Ran level from the rising sun.
Another day was just begun.
Frindsbury, Kent, 1786
All through the lead and silver Winter days,
All through the copper of Autumn hazes.
Tap to the red rising sun,
Tap to the purple setting sun.
Four years pass before the job is done.
Two thousand oak trees grown and felled,
Two thousand oaks from the hedgerows of the Weald,
Sussex had yielded two thousand oaks
With huge boles
Round which the tape rolls
Thirty mortal feet, say the village folks.
Two hundred loads of elm and Scottish fir;
Planking from Dantzig.
My! What timber goes into a ship!
Two years they have seasoned her ribs on the ways,
You can hear, though there's nothing where you gaze.
Through the fog down the reaches of the river,
The tapping goes on like heart-beats in a fever.
The church-bells chime
Hours and hours,
Dropping days in showers.
Bang! Rap! Tap!
Go the hammers all the time.
They have planked up her timbers
And the nails are driven to the head;
They have decked her over,
And again, and again.
The shoring-up beams shudder at the strain.
Black and blue breeches,
Pigtails bound and shining:
Like ants crawling about,
The hull swarms with carpenters, running in and out.
And they are all terrible talkers.
Jem Wilson has been to sea and he tells some wonderful tales
Of whales, and spice islands,
And pirates off the Barbary coast.
He boasts magnificently, with his mouth full of nails.
Stephen Pibold has a tenor voice,
He shifts his quid of tobacco and sings:
'The second in command was blear-eyed Ned:
While the surgeon his limb was a-lopping,
A nine-pounder came and smack went his head,
Pull away, pull away, pull away! I say;
Rare news for my Meg of Wapping!'
People come in crowds
(After church-time, of course)
In curricles, and gigs, and wagons,
And some have brought cold chicken and flagons
And beer in stoppered jugs.
'Dear! Dear! But I tell 'ee 'twill be a fine ship.
There's none finer in any of the slips at Chatham.'
The third Summer's roses have started in to blow,
When the fine stern carving is begun.
Flutings, and twinings, and long slow swirls,
Bits of deal shaved away to thin spiral curls.
Tap! Tap! A cornucopia is nailed into place.
Rap-a-tap! They are putting up a railing filigreed like Irish lace.
The Three Town's people never saw such grace.
And the paint on it! The richest gold leaf!
Why, the glitter when the sun is shining passes belief.
And that row of glass windows tipped toward the sky
Are rubies and carbuncles when the day is dry.
Oh, my! Oh, my!
They have coppered up the bottom,
And the copper nails
Stand about and sparkle in big wooden pails.
Bang! Clash! Bang!
'And he swigg'd, and Nick swigg'd,
And Ben swigg'd, and Dick swigg'd,
And I swigg'd, and all of us swigg'd it,
And swore there was nothing like grog.'
It seems they sing,
Even though coppering is not an easy thing.
What a splendid specimen of humanity is a true British workman,
Say the people of the Three Towns,
As they walk about the dockyard
To the sound of the evening church-bells.
And so artistic, too, each one tells his neighbour.
What immense taste and labour!
Miss Jessie Prime, in a pink silk bonnet,
Titters with delight as her eyes fall upon it,
When she steps lightly down from Lawyer Green's whisky;
Such amazing beauty makes one feel frisky,
Mr. Nichols says he is delighted
(He is the firm);
His work is all requited
If Miss Jessie can approve.
Miss Jessie answers that the ship is 'a love'.
The sides are yellow as marigold,
The port-lids are red when the ports are up:
Blood-red squares like an even chequer
Of yellow asters and portulaca.
There is a wide 'black strake' at the waterline
And above is a blue like the sky when the weather is fine.
The inner bulwarks are painted red.
'Why?' asks Miss Jessie. ''Tis a horrid note.'
Mr. Nichols clears his throat,
And tells her the launching day is set.
He says, 'Be careful, the paint is wet.'
But Miss Jessie has touched it, her sprigged muslin gown
Has a blood-red streak from the shoulder down.
'It looks like blood,' says Miss Jessie with a frown.
Tap! Tap! Rap!
An October day, with waves running in blue-white lines and a capful of wind.
Three broad flags ripple out behind
Where the masts will be:
Royal Standard at the main,
Admiralty flag at the fore,
Union Jack at the mizzen.
The hammers tap harder, faster,
They must finish by noon.
The last nail is driven.
But the wind has increased to half a gale,
And the ship shakes and quivers upon the ways.
The Commissioner of Chatham Dockyard is coming
In his ten-oared barge from the King's Stairs;
The Marine's band will play 'God Save Great George Our King';
And there is to be a dinner afterwards at the Crown, with speeches.
The wind screeches, and flaps the flags till they pound like hammers.
The wind hums over the ship,
And slips round the dog-shores,
Jostling them almost to falling.
There is no time now to wait for Commissioners and marine bands.
Mr. Nichols has a bottle of port in his hands.
He leans over, holding his hat, and shouts to the men below:
'Let her go!'
Bang! Bang! Pound!
The dog-shores fall to the ground,
And the ship slides down the greased planking.
A splintering of glass,
And port wine running all over the white and copper stem timbers.
'Success to his Majesty's ship, the Bellerophon!'
And the red wine washes away in the waters of the Medway.
Paris, March, 1814
Fine yellow sunlight down the rue du Mont Thabor.
Ten o'clock striking from all the clock-towers of Paris.
Over the door of a shop, in gilt letters:
'Martin - Parfumeur', and something more.
A large gilded wooden something.
Listen! What a ringing of hammers!
Tap! Squeak! Tap-a-tap!
'Don't touch the letters. My name stays.'
'Just take down the eagle, and the shield with the bees.'
'As M'sieu pleases.'
Tap! Squeak! Tap!
The man on the ladder hammers steadily for a minute or two,
They are fastened well, Nom d'un Chien!
What if I break them?'
You and Paul must have them down to-day.'
And the hammers start again,
Drum-beating at the something of gilded wood.
Sunshine in a golden flood
Lighting up the yellow fronts of houses,
Glittering each window to a flash.
Squeak! Squeak! Tap!
The hammers beat and rap.
A Prussian hussar on a grey horse goes by at a dash.
From other shops, the noise of striking blows:
Pounds, thumps, and whacks;
Wooden sounds: splinters - cracks.
Paris is full of the galloping of horses and the knocking of hammers.
'Hullo! Friend Martin, is business slack
That you are in the street this morning? Don't turn your back
And scuttle into your shop like a rabbit to its hole.
I've just been taking a stroll.
The stinking Cossacks are bivouacked all up and down the Champs Elysees.
I can't get the smell of them out of my nostrils.
Dirty fellows, who don't believe in frills
Like washing. Ah, mon vieux, you'd have to go
Out of business if you lived in Russia. So!
We've given up being perfumers to the Emperor, have we?
Be careful of the hen,
Maybe I can find a use for her one of these days.
That eagle's rather well cut, Martin.
But I'm sick of smelling Cossack,
Take me inside and let me put my head into a stack
Of orris-root and musk.'
Within the shop, the light is dimmed to a pearl-and-green dusk
Out of which dreamily sparkle counters and shelves of glass,
Containing phials, and bowls, and jars, and dishes; a mass
Of aqueous transparence made solid by threads of gold.
Gold and glass,
And scents which whiff across the green twilight and pass.
The perfumer sits down and shakes his head:
'Always the same, Monsieur Antoine,
You artists are wonderful folk indeed.'
But Antoine Vernet does not heed.
He is reading the names on the bottles and bowls,
Done in fine gilt letters with wonderful scrolls.
'What have we here? `Eau Imperial Odontalgique.'
I must say, mon cher, your names are chic.
But it won't do, positively it will not do.
Elba doesn't count. Ah, here is another:
`Baume du Commandeur'. That's better. He needs something to smother
Regrets. A little lubricant, too,
Might be useful. I have it,
`Sage Oil', perhaps he'll be good now; with it we'll submit
This fine German rouge. I fear he is pale.'
'Monsieur Antoine, don't rail
At misfortune. He treated me well and fairly.'
'And you prefer him to Bourbons, admit it squarely.'
'Heaven forbid!' Bang! Whack!
Squeak! Squeak! Crack!
'Oh, Lord, Martin! That shield is hash.
The whole street is covered with golden bees.
They look like so many yellow peas,
Lying there in the mud. I'd like to paint it.
`Plum pudding of Empire'. That's rather quaint, it
Might take with the Kings. Shall I try?' 'Oh, Sir,
You distress me, you do.' 'Poor old Martin's purr!
But he hasn't a scratch in him, I know.
Now let us get back to the powders and patches.
The Kings are here now. We must hit on a plan
To change all these titles as fast as we can.
`Bouquet Imperatrice'. Tut! Tut! Give me some ink -
`Bouquet de la Reine', what do you think?
Not the same receipt?
Now, Martin, put away your conceit.
Who will ever know?
`Extract of Nobility' - excellent, since most of them are killed.'
'But, Monsieur Antoine -'
'You are self-willed,
Martin. You need a salve
For your conscience, do you?
Very well, we'll halve
The compliments, also the pastes and dentifrices;
Send some to the Kings, and some to the Empresses.
`Oil of Bitter Almonds' - the Empress Josephine can have that.
`Oil of Parma Violets' fits the other one pat.'
Rap! Rap! Bang!
'What a hideous clatter!
Blaise seems determined to batter
That poor old turkey into bits,
And pound to jelly my excellent wits.
Come, come, Martin, you mustn't shirk.
`The night cometh soon' - etc. Don't jerk
Me up like that. `Essence de la Valliere' -
That has a charmingly Bourbon air.
And, oh! Magnificent! Listen to this! -
`Vinaigre des Quatre Voleurs'. Nothing amiss
With that - England, Austria, Russia and Prussia!
Martin, you're a wonder,
Upheavals of continents can't keep you under.'
'Monsieur Antoine, I am grieved indeed
At such levity. What France has gone through -'
'Very true, Martin, very true,
But never forget that a man must feed.'
Pound! Pound! Thump!
'Look here, in another minute Blaise will drop that bird on the ground.'
Martin shrugs his shoulders. 'Ah, well, what then? -'
Antoine, with a laugh: 'I'll give you two sous for that antiquated hen.'
The Imperial Eagle sells for two sous,
And the lilies go up.
A man must choose!
Paris, April, 1814
Cold, impassive, the marble arch of the Place du Carrousel.
Haughty, contemptuous, the marble arch of the Place du Carrousel.
Like a woman raped by force, rising above her fate,
Borne up by the cold rigidity of hate,
Stands the marble arch of the Place du Carrousel.
Tap! Rap! Chink!
What falls to the ground like a streak of flame?
Hush! It is only a bit of bronze flashing in the sun.
What are all those soldiers? Those are not the uniforms of France.
Alas! No! The uniforms of France, Great Imperial France, are done.
They will rot away in chests and hang to dusty tatters in barn lofts.
These are other armies. And their name?
Hush, be still for shame;
Be still and imperturbable like the marble arch.
Another bright spark falls through the blue air.
Over the Place du Carrousel a wailing of despair.
Crowd your horses back upon the people, Uhlans and Hungarian Lancers,
They see too much.
Unfortunately, Gentlemen of the Invading Armies, what they do not see,
Another sharp spear
And a ringing of quick metal lightness
On hard stones.
Workmen are chipping off the names of Napoleon's victories
From the triumphal arch of the Place du Carrousel.
Do they need so much force to quell the crowd?
An old Grenadier of the line groans aloud,
And each hammer tap points the sob of a woman.
Russia, Prussia, Austria, and the faded-white-lily Bourbon king
Think it well
To guard against tumult,
A mob is an undependable thing.
Vienna is scattered all over the Place du Carrousel
In glittering, bent, and twisted letters.
Your betters have clattered over Vienna before,
Officer of his Imperial Majesty our Father-in-Law!
A workman's chisel can strew you to the winds,
Do they think
To pleasure Paris, used to the fall of cities,
By giving her a fall of letters!
It is a month too late.
One month, and our lily-white Bourbon king
Has done a colossal thing;
He has curdled love,
And soured the desires of a people.
Still the letters fall,
The workmen creep up and down their ladders like lizards on a wall.
Tap! Tap! Tink!
'Oh, merciful God, they will not touch Austerlitz!
Strike me blind, my God, my eyes can never look on that.
I would give the other leg to save it, it took one.
Curse them! Curse them! Aim at his hat.
Give me the stone. Why didn't you give it to me?
I would not have missed. Curse him!
Curse all of them! They have got the `A'!'
'I saw the Terror, but I never saw so horrible a thing as this.
`Vive l'Empereur! Vive l'Empereur!''
'Don't strike him, Fritz.
The mob will rise if you do.
Just run him out to the `quai',
That will get him out of the way.
They are almost through.'
Clink! Tink! Ding!
Clear as the sudden ring
Of a bell
'Z' strikes the pavement.
Farewell, Austerlitz, Tilsit, Presbourg;
Farewell, greatness departed.
Farewell, Imperial honours, knocked broadcast by the beating hammers
of ignorant workmen.
Straight, in the Spring moonlight,
Rises the deflowered arch.
In the silence, shining bright,
She stands naked and unsubdued.
Her marble coldness will endure the march
Rend her bronzes, hammers;
Cast down her inscriptions.
She is unconquerable, austere,
Cold as the moon that swims above her
When the nights are clear.
Croissy, Ile-de-France, June, 1815
Devil take the mare! I've never seen so vicious a beast.
She kicked Jules the last time she was here,
He's been lame ever since, poor chap.'
Tap-a-tap-a-tap! Tap! Tap!
'I'd rather be lame than dead at Waterloo, M'sieu Charles.'
'Sacre Bleu! Don't mention Waterloo, and the damned grinning British.
We didn't run in the old days.
There wasn't any running at Jena.
Those were decent days,
And decent men, who stood up and fought.
We never got beaten, because we wouldn't be.
'You would have taught them, wouldn't you, Sergeant Boignet?
But to-day it's everyone for himself,
And the Emperor isn't what he was.'
'How the Devil do you know that?
If he was beaten, the cause
Is the green geese in his army, led by traitors.
Oh, I say no names, Monsieur Charles,
You needn't hammer so loud.
If there are any spies lurking behind the bellows,
I beg they come out. Dirty fellows!'
The old Sergeant seizes a red-hot poker
And advances, brandishing it, into the shadows.
The rows of horses flick
Victorine gives a savage kick
As the nails
Go in. Tap! Tap!
Jules draws a horseshoe from the fire
And beats it from red to peacock-blue and black,
Purpling darker at each whack.
Ding! Dang! Dong!
It is a long time since any one spoke.
Then the blacksmith brushes his hand over his eyes,
'Well,' he sighs,
The Sergeant charges out from behind the bellows.
'It's the green geese, I tell you,
Their hearts are all whites and yellows,
There's no red in them. Red!
That's what we want. Fouche should be fed
To the guillotine, and all Paris dance the carmagnole.
That would breed jolly fine lick-bloods
To lead his armies to victory.'
'Ancient history, Sergeant.
'Say that again, Monsieur Charles, and I'll stun
You where you stand for a dung-eating Royalist.'
The Sergeant gives the poker a savage twist;
He is as purple as the cooling horseshoes.
The air from the bellows creaks through the flues.
Tap! Tap! The blacksmith shoes Victorine,
And through the doorway a fine sheen
Of leaves flutters, with the sun between.
By a spurt of fire from the forge
You can see the Sergeant, with swollen gorge,
Puffing, and gurgling, and choking;
The bellows keep on croaking.
Creak! Bang! Squeeze!
And the hammer strokes fall like buzzing bees
Or pattering rain,
Or faster than these,
Like the hum of a waterfall struck by a breeze.
Clank! from the bellows-chain pulled up and down.
And sunshine twinkles on Victorine's flank,
Starting it to blue,
Dropping it to black.
Lord! What galloping! Some mishap
Is making that man ride so furiously.
Victorine won't be through
For another quarter of an hour.' 'As you hope to die,
Work faster, man, the order has come.'
'What order? Speak out. Are you dumb?'
'A chaise, without arms on the panels, at the gate
In the far side-wall, and just to wait.
We must be there in half an hour with swift cattle.
You're a stupid fool if you don't hear that rattle.
Those are German guns. Can't you guess the rest?
Nantes, Rochefort, possibly Brest.'
Tap! Tap! as though the hammers were mad.
Dang! Ding! Creak! The farrier's lad
Jerks the bellows till he cracks their bones,
And the stifled air hiccoughs and groans.
The Sergeant is lying on the floor
Stone dead, and his hat with the tricolore
Cockade has rolled off into the cinders. Victorine snorts and lays back
What glistens on the anvil? Sweat or tears?
St. Helena, May, 1821
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Through the white tropic night.
Beat the hammers,
They are hanging dull black cloth about the dead.
Lustreless black cloth
Which chokes the radiance of the moonlight
And puts out the little moving shadows of leaves.
The knocking makes the candles quaver,
And the long black hangings waver
Tap! Tap! Tap!
In the ears which do not heed.
Above the eyelids which do not flicker.
Over the hands which do not stir.
Chiselled like a cameo of white agate against the hangings,
Struck to brilliance by the falling moonlight,
Sharp as a frozen flame,
Beautiful as an altar lamp of silver,
And still. Perfectly still.
In the next room, the men chatter
As they eat their midnight lunches.
A knife hits against a platter.
But the figure on the bed
Between the stifling black hangings
Is cold and motionless,
Played over by the moonlight from the windows
And the indistinct shadows of leaves.
Upholsterer Darling has a fine shop in Jamestown.
Andrew Darling has ridden hard from Longwood to see to the work in his shop
He has a corps of men in it, toiling and swearing,
Knocking, and measuring, and planing, and squaring,
Working from a chart with figures,
Comparing with their rules,
Setting this and that part together with their tools.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
So great is the need
That carpenters have been taken from the new church,
Joiners have been called from shaping pews and lecterns
To work of greater urgency.
Coffins is what they are making this bright Summer morning.
Coffins - and all to measurement.
There is a tin coffin,
A deal coffin,
A lead coffin,
And Captain Bennett's best mahogany dining-table
Has been sawed up for the grand outer coffin.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Sunshine outside in the square,
But inside, only hollow coffins and the tapping upon them.
The men whistle,
And the coffins grow under their hammers
In the darkness of the shop.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Tramp of men.
Steady tramp of men.
Slit-eyed Chinese with long pigtails
Bearing oblong things upon their shoulders
March slowly along the road to Longwood.
Their feet fall softly in the dust of the road;
Sometimes they call gutturally to each other and stop to shift shoulders.
Four coffins for the little dead man,
Four fine coffins,
And one of them Captain Bennett's dining-table!
And sixteen splendid Chinamen, all strong and able
And of assured neutrality.
Ah! George of England, Lord Bathhurst & Co.
Your princely munificence makes one's heart glow.
Huzza! Huzza! For the Lion of England!
Tap! Tap! Tap!
Marble likeness of an Emperor,
Dead man, who burst your heart against a world too narrow,
The hammers drum you to your last throne
Which always you shall hold alone.
The glory of your past is faded as a sunset fire,
Your day lingers only like the tones of a wind-lyre
In a twilit room.
Here is the emptiness of your dream
Scattered about you.
Coins of yesterday,
Double napoleons stamped with Consul or Emperor,
Strange as those of Herculaneum -
And you just dead!
Not one spool of thread
Will these buy in any market-place.
Lay them over him,
They are the baubles of a crown of mist
Worn in a vision and melted away at waking.
His heart strained at kingdoms
And now it is content with a silver dish.
Strange World! Strange Wayfarer!
Lower it gently beside him and let it lie.
Tap! Tap! Tap!
How fresh the Dartle's little waves that day!
A steely silver, underlined with blue,
And flashing where the round clouds, blown away,
Let drop the yellow sunshine to gleam through
And tip the edges of the waves with shifts
And spots of whitest fire, hard like gems
Cut from the midnight moon they were, and sharp
As wind through leafless stems.
The Lady Eunice walked between the drifts
Of blooming cherry-trees, and watched the rifts
Of clouds drawn through the river's azure warp.
Her little feet tapped softly down the path.
Her soul was listless; even the morning breeze
Fluttering the trees and strewing a light swath
Of fallen petals on the grass, could please
Her not at all. She brushed a hair aside
With a swift move, and a half-angry frown.
She stopped to pull a daffodil or two,
And held them to her gown
To test the colours; put them at her side,
Then at her breast, then loosened them and tried
Some new arrangement, but it would not do.
A lady in a Manor-house, alone,
Whose husband is in Flanders with the Duke
Of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, she's grown
Too apathetic even to rebuke
Her idleness. What is she on this Earth?
No woman surely, since she neither can
Be wed nor single, must not let her mind
Build thoughts upon a man
Except for hers. Indeed that were no dearth
Were her Lord here, for well she knew his worth,
And when she thought of him her eyes were kind.
Too lately wed to have forgot the wooing.
Too unaccustomed as a bride to feel
Other than strange delight at her wife's doing.
Even at the thought a gentle blush would steal
Over her face, and then her lips would frame
Some little word of loving, and her eyes
Would brim and spill their tears, when all they saw
Was the bright sun, slantwise
Through burgeoning trees, and all the morning's flame
Burning and quivering round her. With quick shame
She shut her heart and bent before the law.
He was a soldier, she was proud of that.
This was his house and she would keep it well.
His honour was in fighting, hers in what
He'd left her here in charge of. Then a spell
Of conscience sent her through the orchard spying
Upon the gardeners. Were their tools about?
Were any branches broken? Had the weeds
Been duly taken out
Under the 'spaliered pears, and were these lying
Nailed snug against the sunny bricks and drying
Their leaves and satisfying all their needs?
She picked a stone up with a little pout,
Stones looked so ill in well-kept flower-borders.
Where should she put it? All the paths about
Were strewn with fair, red gravel by her orders.
No stone could mar their sifted smoothness. So
She hurried to the river. At the edge
She stood a moment charmed by the swift blue
Beyond the river sedge.
She watched it curdling, crinkling, and the snow
Purfled upon its wave-tops. Then, 'Hullo,
My Beauty, gently, or you'll wriggle through.'
The Lady Eunice caught a willow spray
To save herself from tumbling in the shallows
Which rippled to her feet. Then straight away
She peered down stream among the budding sallows.
A youth in leather breeches and a shirt
Of finest broidered lawn lay out upon
An overhanging bole and deftly swayed
A well-hooked fish which shone
In the pale lemon sunshine like a spurt
Of silver, bowed and damascened, and girt
With crimson spots and moons which waned and played.
The fish hung circled for a moment, ringed
And bright; then flung itself out, a thin blade
Of spotted lightning, and its tail was winged
With chipped and sparkled sunshine. And the shade
Broke up and splintered into shafts of light
Wheeling about the fish, who churned the air
And made the fish-line hum, and bent the rod
Almost to snapping. Care
The young man took against the twigs, with slight,
Deft movements he kept fish and line in tight
Obedience to his will with every prod.
He lay there, and the fish hung just beyond.
He seemed uncertain what more he should do.
He drew back, pulled the rod to correspond,
Tossed it and caught it; every time he threw,
He caught it nearer to the point. At last
The fish was near enough to touch. He paused.
Eunice knew well the craft - 'What's got the thing!'
She cried. 'What can have caused -
Where is his net? The moment will be past.
The fish will wriggle free.' She stopped aghast.
He turned and bowed. One arm was in a sling.
The broad, black ribbon she had thought his basket
Must hang from, held instead a useless arm.
'I do not wonder, Madam, that you ask it.'
He smiled, for she had spoke aloud. 'The charm
Of trout fishing is in my eyes enhanced
When you must play your fish on land as well.'
'How will you take him?' Eunice asked. 'In truth
I really cannot tell.
'Twas stupid of me, but it simply chanced
I never thought of that until he glanced
Into the branches. 'Tis a bit uncouth.'
He watched the fish against the blowing sky,
Writhing and glittering, pulling at the line.
'The hook is fast, I might just let him die,'
He mused. 'But that would jar against your fine
Sense of true sportsmanship, I know it would,'
Cried Eunice. 'Let me do it.' Swift and light
She ran towards him. 'It is so long now
Since I have felt a bite,
I lost all heart for everything.' She stood,
Supple and strong, beside him, and her blood
Tingled her lissom body to a glow.
She quickly seized the fish and with a stone
Ended its flurry, then removed the hook,
Untied the fly with well-poised fingers. Done,
She asked him where he kept his fishing-book.
He pointed to a coat flung on the ground.
She searched the pockets, found a shagreen case,
Replaced the fly, noticed a golden stamp
Filling the middle space.
Two letters half rubbed out were there, and round
About them gay rococo flowers wound
And tossed a spray of roses to the clamp.
The Lady Eunice puzzled over these.
'G. D.' the young man gravely said. 'My name
Is Gervase Deane. Your servant, if you please.'
'Oh, Sir, indeed I know you, for your fame
For exploits in the field has reached my ears.
I did not know you wounded and returned.'
'But just come back, Madam. A silly prick
To gain me such unearned
Holiday making. And you, it appears,
Must be Sir Everard's lady. And my fears
At being caught a-trespassing were quick.'
He looked so rueful that she laughed out loud.
'You are forgiven, Mr. Deane. Even more,
I offer you the fishing, and am proud
That you should find it pleasant from this shore.
Nobody fishes now, my husband used
To angle daily, and I too with him.
He loved the spotted trout, and pike, and dace.
He even had a whim
That flies my fingers tied swiftly confused
The greater fish. And he must be excused,
Love weaves odd fancies in a lonely place.'
She sighed because it seemed so long ago,
Those days with Everard; unthinking took
The path back to the orchard. Strolling so
She walked, and he beside her. In a nook
Where a stone seat withdrew beneath low boughs,
Full-blossomed, hummed with bees, they sat them down.
She questioned him about the war, the share
Her husband had, and grown
Eager by his clear answers, straight allows
Her hidden hopes and fears to speak, and rouse
Her numbed love, which had slumbered unaware.
Under the orchard trees daffodils danced
And jostled, turning sideways to the wind.
A dropping cherry petal softly glanced
Over her hair, and slid away behind.
At the far end through twisted cherry-trees
The old house glowed, geranium-hued, with bricks
Bloomed in the sun like roses, low and long,
Gabled, and with quaint tricks
Of chimneys carved and fretted. Out of these
Grey smoke was shaken, which the faint Spring breeze
Tossed into nothing. Then a thrush's song
Needled its way through sound of bees and river.
The notes fell, round and starred, between young leaves,
Trilled to a spiral lilt, stopped on a quiver.
The Lady Eunice listens and believes.
Gervase has many tales of her dear Lord,
His bravery, his knowledge, his charmed life.
She quite forgets who's speaking in the gladness
Of being this man's wife.
Gervase is wounded, grave indeed, the word
Is kindly said, but to a softer chord
She strings her voice to ask with wistful sadness,
'And is Sir Everard still unscathed? I fain
Would know the truth.' 'Quite well, dear Lady, quite.'
She smiled in her content. 'So many slain,
You must forgive me for a little fright.'
And he forgave her, not alone for that,
But because she was fingering his heart,
Pressing and squeezing it, and thinking so
Only to ease her smart
Of painful, apprehensive longing. At
Their feet the river swirled and chucked. They sat
An hour there. The thrush flew to and fro.
The Lady Eunice supped alone that day,
As always since Sir Everard had gone,
In the oak-panelled parlour, whose array
Of faded portraits in carved mouldings shone.
Warriors and ladies, armoured, ruffed, peruked.
Van Dykes with long, slim fingers; Holbeins, stout
And heavy-featured; and one Rubens dame,
A peony just burst out,
With flaunting, crimson flesh. Eunice rebuked
Her thoughts of gentler blood, when these had duked
It with the best, and scorned to change their name.
A sturdy family, and old besides,
Much older than her own, the Earls of Crowe.
Since Saxon days, these men had sought their brides
Among the highest born, but always so,
Taking them to themselves, their wealth, their lands,
But never their titles. Stern perhaps, but strong,
The Framptons fed their blood from richest streams,
Scorning the common throng.
Gazing upon these men, she understands
The toughness of the web wrought from such strands
And pride of Everard colours all her dreams.
Eunice forgets to eat, watching their faces
Flickering in the wind-blown candle's shine.
Blue-coated lackeys tiptoe to their places,
And set out plates of fruit and jugs of wine.
The table glitters black like Winter ice.
The Dartle's rushing, and the gentle clash
Of blossomed branches, drifts into her ears.
And through the casement sash
She sees each cherry stem a pointed slice
Of splintered moonlight, topped with all the spice
And shimmer of the blossoms it uprears.
'In such a night -' she laid the book aside,
She could outnight the poet by thinking back.
In such a night she came here as a bride.
The date was graven in the almanack
Of her clasped memory. In this very room
Had Everard uncloaked her. On this seat
Had drawn her to him, bade her note the trees,
How white they were and sweet
And later, coming to her, her dear groom,
Her Lord, had lain beside her in the gloom
Of moon and shade, and whispered her to ease.
Her little taper made the room seem vast,
Caverned and empty. And her beating heart
Rapped through the silence all about her cast
Like some loud, dreadful death-watch taking part
In this sad vigil. Slowly she undrest,
Put out the light and crept into her bed.
The linen sheets were fragrant, but so cold.
And brimming tears she shed,
Sobbing and quivering in her barren nest,
Her weeping lips into the pillow prest,
Her eyes sealed fast within its smothering fold.
The morning brought her a more stoic mind,
And sunshine struck across the polished floor.
She wondered whether this day she should find
Gervase a-fishing, and so listen more,
Much more again, to all he had to tell.
And he was there, but waiting to begin
Until she came. They fished awhile, then went
To the old seat within
The cherry's shade. He pleased her very well
By his discourse. But ever he must dwell
Upon Sir Everard. Each incident
Must be related and each term explained.
How troops were set in battle, how a siege
Was ordered and conducted. She complained
Because he bungled at the fall of Liege.
The curious names of parts of forts she knew,
And aired with conscious pride her ravelins,
And counterscarps, and lunes. The day drew on,
And his dead fish's fins
In the hot sunshine turned a mauve-green hue.
At last Gervase, guessing the hour, withdrew.
But she sat long in still oblivion.
Then he would bring her books, and read to her
The poems of Dr. Donne, and the blue river
Would murmur through the reading, and a stir
Of birds and bees make the white petals shiver,
And one or two would flutter prone and lie
Spotting the smooth-clipped grass. The days went by
Threaded with talk and verses. Green leaves pushed
Through blossoms stubbornly.
Gervase, unconscious of dishonesty,
Fell into strong and watchful loving, free
He thought, since always would his lips be hushed.
But lips do not stay silent at command,
And Gervase strove in vain to order his.
Luckily Eunice did not understand
That he but read himself aloud, for this
Their friendship would have snapped. She treated him
And spoilt him like a brother. It was now
'Gervase' and 'Eunice' with them, and he dined
Whenever she'd allow,
In the oak parlour, underneath the dim
Old pictured Framptons, opposite her slim
Figure, so bright against the chair behind.
Eunice was happier than she had been
For many days, and yet the hours were long.
All Gervase told to her but made her lean
More heavily upon the past. Among
Her hopes she lived, even when she was giving
Her morning orders, even when she twined
Nosegays to deck her parlours. With the thought
Of Everard, her mind
Solaced its solitude, and in her striving
To do as he would wish was all her living.
She welcomed Gervase for the news he brought.
Black-hearts and white-hearts, bubbled with the sun,
Hid in their leaves and knocked against each other.
Eunice was standing, panting with her run
Up to the tool-house just to get another
Basket. All those which she had brought were filled,
And still Gervase pelted her from above.
The buckles of his shoes flashed higher and higher
Until his shoulders strove
Quite through the top. 'Eunice, your spirit's filled
This tree. White-hearts!' He shook, and cherries spilled
And spat out from the leaves like falling fire.
The wide, sun-winged June morning spread itself
Over the quiet garden. And they packed
Full twenty baskets with the fruit. 'My shelf
Of cordials will be stored with what it lacked.
In future, none of us will drink strong ale,
But cherry-brandy.' 'Vastly good, I vow,'
And Gervase gave the tree another shake.
The cherries seemed to flow
Out of the sky in cloudfuls, like blown hail.
Swift Lady Eunice ran, her farthingale,
Unnoticed, tangling in a fallen rake.
She gave a little cry and fell quite prone
In the long grass, and lay there very still.
Gervase leapt from the tree at her soft moan,
And kneeling over her, with clumsy skill
Unloosed her bodice, fanned her with his hat,
And his unguarded lips pronounced his heart.
'Eunice, my Dearest Girl, where are you hurt?'
His trembling fingers dart
Over her limbs seeking some wound. She strove
To answer, opened wide her eyes, above
Her knelt Sir Everard, with face alert.
Her eyelids fell again at that sweet sight,
'My Love!' she murmured, 'Dearest! Oh, my Dear!'
He took her in his arms and bore her right
And tenderly to the old seat, and 'Here
I have you mine at last,' she said, and swooned
Under his kisses. When she came once more
To sight of him, she smiled in comfort knowing
Herself laid as before
Close covered on his breast. And all her glowing
Youth answered him, and ever nearer growing
She twined him in her arms and soft festooned
Herself about him like a flowering vine,
Drawing his lips to cling upon her own.
A ray of sunlight pierced the leaves to shine
Where her half-opened bodice let be shown
Her white throat fluttering to his soft caress,
Half-gasping with her gladness. And her pledge
She whispers, melting with delight. A twig
Snaps in the hornbeam hedge.
A cackling laugh tears through the quietness.
Eunice starts up in terrible distress.
'My God! What's that?' Her staring eyes are big.
Revulsed emotion set her body shaking
As though she had an ague. Gervase swore,
Jumped to his feet in such a dreadful taking
His face was ghastly with the look it wore.
Crouching and slipping through the trees, a man
In worn, blue livery, a humpbacked thing,
Made off. But turned every few steps to gaze
At Eunice, and to fling
Vile looks and gestures back. 'The ruffian!
By Christ's Death! I will split him to a span
Of hog's thongs.' She grasped at his sleeve, 'Gervase!
What are you doing here? Put down that sword,
That's only poor old Tony, crazed and lame.
We never notice him. With my dear Lord
I ought not to have minded that he came.
But, Gervase, it surprises me that you
Should so lack grace to stay here.' With one hand
She held her gaping bodice to conceal
Her breast. 'I must demand
Your instant absence. Everard, but new
Returned, will hardly care for guests. Adieu.'
'Eunice, you're mad.' His brain began to reel.
He tried again to take her, tried to twist
Her arms about him. Truly, she had said
Nothing should ever part them. In a mist
She pushed him from her, clasped her aching head
In both her hands, and rocked and sobbed aloud.
'Oh! Where is Everard? What does this mean?
So lately come to leave me thus alone!'
But Gervase had not seen
Sir Everard. Then, gently, to her bowed
And sickening spirit, he told of her proud
Surrender to him. He could hear her moan.
Then shame swept over her and held her numb,
Hiding her anguished face against the seat.
At last she rose, a woman stricken - dumb -
And trailed away with slowly-dragging feet.
Gervase looked after her, but feared to pass
The barrier set between them. All his rare
Joy broke to fragments - worse than that, unreal.
And standing lonely there,
His swollen heart burst out, and on the grass
He flung himself and wept. He knew, alas!
The loss so great his life could never heal.
For days thereafter Eunice lived retired,
Waited upon by one old serving-maid.
She would not leave her chamber, and desired
Only to hide herself. She was afraid
Of what her eyes might trick her into seeing,
Of what her longing urge her then to do.
What was this dreadful illness solitude
Had tortured her into?
Her hours went by in a long constant fleeing
The thought of that one morning. And her being
Bruised itself on a happening so rude.
It grew ripe Summer, when one morning came
Her tirewoman with a letter, printed
Upon the seal were the Deane crest and name.
With utmost gentleness, the letter hinted
His understanding and his deep regret.
But would she not permit him once again
To pay her his profound respects? No word
Of what had passed should pain
Her resolution. Only let them get
Back the old comradeship. Her eyes were wet
With starting tears, now truly she deplored
His misery. Yes, she was wrong to keep
Away from him. He hardly was to blame.
'Twas she - she shuddered and began to weep.
'Twas her fault! Hers! Her everlasting shame
Was that she suffered him, whom not at all
She loved. Poor Boy! Yes, they must still be friends.
She owed him that to keep the balance straight.
It was such poor amends
Which she could make for rousing hopes to gall
Him with their unfulfilment. Tragical
It was, and she must leave him desolate.
Hard silence he had forced upon his lips
For long and long, and would have done so still
Had not she - here she pressed her finger tips
Against her heavy eyes. Then with forced will
She wrote that he might come, sealed with the arms
Of Crowe and Frampton twined. Her heart felt lighter
When this was done. It seemed her constant care
Might some day cease to fright her.
Illness could be no crime, and dreadful harms
Did come from too much sunshine. Her alarms
Would lessen when she saw him standing there,
Simple and kind, a brother just returned
From journeying, and he would treat her so.
She knew his honest heart, and if there burned
A spark in it he would not let it show.
But when he really came, and stood beside
Her underneath the fruitless cherry boughs,
He seemed a tired man, gaunt, leaden-eyed.
He made her no more vows,
Nor did he mention one thing he had tried
To put into his letter. War supplied
Him topics. And his mind seemed occupied.
Daily they met. And gravely walked and talked.
He read her no more verses, and he stayed
Only until their conversation, balked
Of every natural channel, fled dismayed.
Again the next day she would meet him, trying
To give her tone some healthy sprightliness,
But his uneager dignity soon chilled
Her well-prepared address.
Thus Summer waned, and in the mornings, crying
Of wild geese startled Eunice, and their flying
Whirred overhead for days and never stilled.
One afternoon of grey clouds and white wind,
Eunice awaited Gervase by the river.
The Dartle splashed among the reeds and whined
Over the willow-roots, and a long sliver
Of caked and slobbered foam crept up the bank.
All through the garden, drifts of skirling leaves
Blew up, and settled down, and blew again.
The cherry-trees were weaves
Of empty, knotted branches, and a dank
Mist hid the house, mouldy it smelt and rank
With sodden wood, and still unfalling rain.
Eunice paced up and down. No joy she took
At meeting Gervase, but the custom grown
Still held her. He was late. She sudden shook,
And caught at her stopped heart. Her eyes had shown
Sir Everard emerging from the mist.
His uniform was travel-stained and torn,
His jackboots muddy, and his eager stride
Jangled his spurs. A thorn
Entangled, trailed behind him. To the tryst
He hastened. Eunice shuddered, ran - a twist
Round a sharp turning and she fled to hide.
But he had seen her as she swiftly ran,
A flash of white against the river's grey.
'Eunice,' he called. 'My Darling. Eunice. Can
You hear me? It is Everard. All day
I have been riding like the very devil
To reach you sooner. Are you startled, Dear?'
He broke into a run and followed her,
And caught her, faint with fear,
Cowering and trembling as though she some evil
Spirit were seeing. 'What means this uncivil
Greeting, Dear Heart?' He saw her senses blur.
Swaying and catching at the seat, she tried
To speak, but only gurgled in her throat.
At last, straining to hold herself, she cried
To him for pity, and her strange words smote
A coldness through him, for she begged Gervase
To leave her, 'twas too much a second time.
Gervase must go, always Gervase, her mind
Repeated like a rhyme
This name he did not know. In sad amaze
He watched her, and that hunted, fearful gaze,
So unremembering and so unkind.
Softly he spoke to her, patiently dealt
With what he feared her madness. By and by
He pierced her understanding. Then he knelt
Upon the seat, and took her hands: 'Now try
To think a minute I am come, my Dear,
Unharmed and back on furlough. Are you glad
To have your lover home again? To me,
Pickthorn has never had
A greater pleasantness. Could you not bear
To come and sit awhile beside me here?
A stone between us surely should not be.'
She smiled a little wan and ravelled smile,
Then came to him and on his shoulder laid
Her head, and they two rested there awhile,
Each taking comfort. Not a word was said.
But when he put his hand upon her breast
And felt her beating heart, and with his lips
Sought solace for her and himself. She started
As one sharp lashed with whips,
And pushed him from her, moaning, his dumb quest
Denied and shuddered from. And he, distrest,
Loosened his wife, and long they sat there, parted.
Eunice was very quiet all that day,
A little dazed, and yet she seemed content.
At candle-time, he asked if she would play
Upon her harpsichord, at once she went
And tinkled airs from Lully's `Carnival'
And `Bacchus', newly brought away from France.
Then jaunted through a lively rigadoon
To please him with a dance
By Purcell, for he said that surely all
Good Englishmen had pride in national
Accomplishment. But tiring of it soon
He whispered her that if she had forgiven
His startling her that afternoon, the clock
Marked early bed-time. Surely it was Heaven
He entered when she opened to his knock.
The hours rustled in the trailing wind
Over the chimney. Close they lay and knew
Only that they were wedded. At his touch
Anxiety she threw
Away like a shed garment, and inclined
Herself to cherish him, her happy mind
Quivering, unthinking, loving overmuch.
Eunice lay long awake in the cool night
After her husband slept. She gazed with joy
Into the shadows, painting them with bright
Pictures of all her future life's employ.
Twin gems they were, set to a single jewel,
Each shining with the other. Soft she turned
And felt his breath upon her hair, and prayed
Her happiness was earned.
Past Earls of Crowe should give their blood for fuel
To light this Frampton's hearth-fire. By no cruel
Affrightings would she ever be dismayed.
When Everard, next day, asked her in joke
What name it was that she had called him by,
She told him of Gervase, and as she spoke
She hardly realized it was a lie.
Her vision she related, but she hid
The fondness into which she had been led.
Sir Everard just laughed and pinched her ear,
And quite out of her head
The matter drifted. Then Sir Everard chid
Himself for laziness, and off he rid
To see his men and count his farming-gear.
At supper he seemed overspread with gloom,
But gave no reason why, he only asked
More questions of Gervase, and round the room
He walked with restless strides. At last he tasked
Her with a greater feeling for this man
Than she had given. Eunice quick denied
The slightest interest other than a friend
Might claim. But he replied
He thought she underrated. Then a ban
He put on talk and music. He'd a plan
To work at, draining swamps at Pickthorn End.
Next morning Eunice found her Lord still changed,
Hard and unkind, with bursts of anger. Pride
Kept him from speaking out. His probings ranged
All round his torment. Lady Eunice tried
To sooth him. So a week went by, and then
His anguish flooded over; with clenched hands
Striving to stem his words, he told her plain
Tony had seen them, 'brands
Burning in Hell,' the man had said. Again
Eunice described her vision, and how when
Awoke at last she had known dreadful pain.
He could not credit it, and misery fed
Upon his spirit, day by day it grew.
To Gervase he forbade the house, and led
The Lady Eunice such a life she flew
At his approaching footsteps. Winter came
Snowing and blustering through the Manor trees.
All the roof-edges spiked with icicles
In fluted companies.
The Lady Eunice with her tambour-frame
Kept herself sighing company. The flame
Of the birch fire glittered on the walls.
A letter was brought to her as she sat,
Unsealed, unsigned. It told her that his wound,
The writer's, had so well recovered that
To join his regiment he felt him bound.
But would she not wish him one short 'Godspeed',
He asked no more. Her greeting would suffice.
He had resolved he never should return.
Would she this sacrifice
Make for a dying man? How could she read
The rest! But forcing her eyes to the deed,
She read. Then dropped it in the fire to burn.
Gervase had set the river for their meeting
As farthest from the farms where Everard
Spent all his days. How should he know such cheating
Was quite expected, at least no dullard
Was Everard Frampton. Hours by hours he hid
Among the willows watching. Dusk had come,
And from the Manor he had long been gone.
Eunice her burdensome
Task set about. Hooded and cloaked, she slid
Over the slippery paths, and soon amid
The sallows saw a boat tied to a stone.
Gervase arose, and kissed her hand, then pointed
Into the boat. She shook her head, but he
Begged her to realize why, and with disjointed
Words told her of what peril there might be
From listeners along the river bank.
A push would take them out of earshot. Ten
Minutes was all he asked, then she should land,
He go away again,
Forever this time. Yet how could he thank
Her for so much compassion. Here she sank
Upon a thwart, and bid him quick unstrand
His boat. He cast the rope, and shoved the keel
Free of the gravel; jumped, and dropped beside
Her; took the oars, and they began to steal
Under the overhanging trees. A wide
Gash of red lantern-light cleft like a blade
Into the gloom, and struck on Eunice sitting
Rigid and stark upon the after thwart.
It blazed upon their flitting
In merciless light. A moment so it stayed,
Then was extinguished, and Sir Everard made
One leap, and landed just a fraction short.
His weight upon the gunwale tipped the boat
To straining balance. Everard lurched and seized
His wife and held her smothered to his coat.
'Everard, loose me, we shall drown -' and squeezed
Against him, she beat with her hands. He gasped
'Never, by God!' The slidden boat gave way
And the black foamy water split - and met.
Bubbled up through the spray
A wailing rose and in the branches rasped,
And creaked, and stilled. Over the treetops, clasped
In the blue evening, a clear moon was set.
They lie entangled in the twisting roots,
Embraced forever. Their cold marriage bed
Close-canopied and curtained by the shoots
Of willows and pale birches. At the head,
White lilies, like still swans, placidly float
And sway above the pebbles. Here are waves
Sun-smitten for a threaded counterpane
Gold-woven on their graves.
In perfect quietness they sleep, remote
In the green, rippled twilight. Death has smote
Them to perpetual oneness who were twain.
The Great Adventure Of Max Breuck
A yellow band of light upon the street
Pours from an open door, and makes a wide
Pathway of bright gold across a sheet
Of calm and liquid moonshine. From inside
Come shouts and streams of laughter, and a snatch
Of song, soon drowned and lost again in mirth,
The clip of tankards on a table top,
And stir of booted heels. Against the patch
Of candle-light a shadow falls, its girth
Proclaims the host himself, and master of his shop.
This is the tavern of one Hilverdink,
Jan Hilverdink, whose wines are much esteemed.
Within his cellar men can have to drink
The rarest cordials old monks ever schemed
To coax from pulpy grapes, and with nice art
Improve and spice their virgin juiciness.
Here froths the amber beer of many a brew,
Crowning each pewter tankard with as smart
A cap as ever in his wantonness
Winter set glittering on top of an old yew.
Tall candles stand upon the table, where
Are twisted glasses, ruby-sparked with wine,
Clarets and ports. Those topaz bumpers were
Drained from slim, long-necked bottles of the Rhine.
The centre of the board is piled with pipes,
Slender and clean, the still unbaptized clay
Awaits its burning fate. Behind, the vault
Stretches from dim to dark, a groping way
Bordered by casks and puncheons, whose brass stripes
And bands gleam dully still, beyond the gay tumult.
'For good old Master Hilverdink, a toast!'
Clamoured a youth with tassels on his boots.
'Bring out your oldest brandy for a boast,
From that small barrel in the very roots
Of your deep cellar, man. Why here is Max!
Ho! Welcome, Max, you're scarcely here in time.
We want to drink to old Jan's luck, and smoke
His best tobacco for a grand climax.
Here, Jan, a paper, fragrant as crushed thyme,
We'll have the best to wish you luck, or may we choke!'
Max Breuck unclasped his broadcloth cloak, and sat.
'Well thought of, Franz; here's luck to Mynheer Jan.'
The host set down a jar; then to a vat
Lost in the distance of his cellar, ran.
Max took a pipe as graceful as the stem
Of some long tulip, crammed it full, and drew
The pungent smoke deep to his grateful lung.
It curled all blue throughout the cave and flew
Into the silver night. At once there flung
Into the crowded shop a boy, who cried to them:
'Oh, sirs, is there some learned lawyer here,
Some advocate, or all-wise counsellor?
My master sent me to inquire where
Such men do mostly be, but every door
Was shut and barred, for late has grown the hour.
I pray you tell me where I may now find
One versed in law, the matter will not wait.'
'I am a lawyer, boy,' said Max, 'my mind
Is not locked to my business, though 'tis late.
I shall be glad to serve what way is in my power.
Then once more, cloaked and ready, he set out,
Tripping the footsteps of the eager boy
Along the dappled cobbles, while the rout
Within the tavern jeered at his employ.
Through new-burst elm leaves filtered the white moon,
Who peered and splashed between the twinkling boughs,
Flooded the open spaces, and took flight
Before tall, serried houses in platoon,
Guarded by shadows. Past the Custom House
They took their hurried way in the Spring-scented night.
Before a door which fronted a canal
The boy halted. A dim tree-shaded spot.
The water lapped the stones in musical
And rhythmic tappings, and a galliot
Slumbered at anchor with no light aboard.
The boy knocked twice, and steps approached. A flame
Winked through the keyhole, then a key was turned,
And through the open door Max went toward
Another door, whence sound of voices came.
He entered a large room where candelabra burned.
An aged man in quilted dressing gown
Rose up to greet him. 'Sir,' said Max, 'you sent
Your messenger to seek throughout the town
A lawyer. I have small accomplishment,
But I am at your service, and my name
Is Max Breuck, Counsellor, at your command.'
'Mynheer,' replied the aged man, 'obliged
Am I, and count myself much privileged.
I am Cornelius Kurler, and my fame
Is better known on distant oceans than on land.
My ship has tasted water in strange seas,
And bartered goods at still uncharted isles.
She's oft coquetted with a tropic breeze,
And sheered off hurricanes with jaunty smiles.'
'Tush, Kurler,' here broke in the other man,
'Enough of poetry, draw the deed and sign.'
The old man seemed to wizen at the voice,
'My good friend, Grootver, --' he at once began.
'No introductions, let us have some wine,
And business, now that you at last have made your choice.'
A harsh and disagreeable man he proved to be,
This Grootver, with no single kindly thought.
Kurler explained, his old hands nervously
Twisting his beard. His vessel he had bought
From Grootver. He had thought to soon repay
The ducats borrowed, but an adverse wind
Had so delayed him that his cargo brought
But half its proper price, the very day
He came to port he stepped ashore to find
The market glutted and his counted profits naught.
Little by little Max made out the way
That Grootver pressed that poor harassed old man.
His money he must have, too long delay
Had turned the usurer to a ruffian.
'But let me take my ship, with many bales
Of cotton stuffs dyed crimson, green, and blue,
Cunningly patterned, made to suit the taste
Of mandarin's ladies; when my battered sails
Open for home, such stores will I bring you
That all your former ventures will be counted waste.
Such light and foamy silks, like crinkled cream,
And indigo more blue than sun-whipped seas,
Spices and fragrant trees, a massive beam
Of sandalwood, and pungent China teas,
Tobacco, coffee!' Grootver only laughed.
Max heard it all, and worse than all he heard
The deed to which the sailor gave his word.
He shivered, 'twas as if the villain gaffed
The old man with a boat-hook; bleeding, spent,
He begged for life nor knew at all the road he went.
For Kurler had a daughter, young and gay,
Carefully reared and shielded, rarely seen.
But on one black and most unfriendly day
Grootver had caught her as she passed between
The kitchen and the garden. She had run
In fear of him, his evil leering eye,
And when he came she, bolted in her room,
Refused to show, though gave no reason why.
The spinning of her future had begun,
On quiet nights she heard the whirring of her doom.
Max mended an old goosequill by the fire,
Loathing his work, but seeing no thing to do.
He felt his hands were building up the pyre
To burn two souls, and seized with vertigo
He staggered to his chair. Before him lay
White paper still unspotted by a crime.
'Now, young man, write,' said Grootver in his ear.
'`If in two years my vessel should yet stay
From Amsterdam, I give Grootver, sometime
A friend, my daughter for his lawful wife.' Now swear.'
And Kurler swore, a palsied, tottering sound,
And traced his name, a shaking, wandering line.
Then dazed he sat there, speechless from his wound.
Grootver got up: 'Fair voyage, the brigantine!'
He shuffled from the room, and left the house.
His footsteps wore to silence down the street.
At last the aged man began to rouse.
With help he once more gained his trembling feet.
'My daughter, Mynheer Breuck, is friendless now.
Will you watch over her? I ask a solemn vow.'
Max laid his hand upon the old man's arm,
'Before God, sir, I vow, when you are gone,
So to protect your daughter from all harm
As one man may.' Thus sorrowful, forlorn,
The situation to Max Breuck appeared,
He gave his promise almost without thought,
Nor looked to see a difficulty. 'Bred
Gently to watch a mother left alone;
Bound by a dying father's wish, who feared
The world's accustomed harshness when he should be dead;
Such was my case from youth, Mynheer Kurler.
Last Winter she died also, and my days
Are passed in work, lest I should grieve for her,
And undo habits used to earn her praise.
My leisure I will gladly give to see
Your household and your daughter prosperous.'
The sailor said his thanks, but turned away.
He could not brook that his humility,
So little wonted, and so tremulous,
Should first before a stranger make such great display.
'Come here to-morrow as the bells ring noon,
I sail at the full sea, my daughter then
I will make known to you. 'Twill be a boon
If after I have bid good-by, and when
Her eyeballs scorch with watching me depart,
You bring her home again. She lives with one
Old serving-woman, who has brought her up.
But that is no friend for so free a heart.
No head to match her questions. It is done.
And I must sail away to come and brim her cup.
My ship's the fastest that owns Amsterdam
As home, so not a letter can you send.
I shall be back, before to where I am
Another ship could reach. Now your stipend --'
Quickly Breuck interposed. 'When you once more
Tread on the stones which pave our streets. -- Good night!
To-morrow I will be, at stroke of noon,
At the great wharf.' Then hurrying, in spite
Of cake and wine the old man pressed upon
Him ere he went, he took his leave and shut the door.
'Twas noon in Amsterdam, the day was clear,
And sunshine tipped the pointed roofs with gold.
The brown canals ran liquid bronze, for here
The sun sank deep into the waters cold.
And every clock and belfry in the town
Hammered, and struck, and rang. Such peals of bells,
To shake the sunny morning into life,
And to proclaim the middle, and the crown,
Of this most sparkling daytime! The crowd swells,
Laughing and pushing toward the quays in friendly strife.
The 'Horn of Fortune' sails away to-day.
At highest tide she lets her anchor go,
And starts for China. Saucy popinjay!
Giddy in freshest paint she curtseys low,
And beckons to her boats to let her start.
Blue is the ocean, with a flashing breeze.
The shining waves are quick to take her part.
They push and spatter her. Her sails are loose,
Her tackles hanging, waiting men to seize
And haul them taut, with chanty-singing, as they choose.
At the great wharf's edge Mynheer Kurler stands,
And by his side, his daughter, young Christine.
Max Breuck is there, his hat held in his hands,
Bowing before them both. The brigantine
Bounces impatient at the long delay,
Curvets and jumps, a cable's length from shore.
A heavy galliot unloads on the walls
Round, yellow cheeses, like gold cannon balls
Stacked on the stones in pyramids. Once more
Kurler has kissed Christine, and now he is away.
Christine stood rigid like a frozen stone,
Her hands wrung pale in effort at control.
Max moved aside and let her be alone,
For grief exacts each penny of its toll.
The dancing boat tossed on the glinting sea.
A sun-path swallowed it in flaming light,
Then, shrunk a cockleshell, it came again
Upon the other side. Now on the lee
It took the 'Horn of Fortune'. Straining sight
Could see it hauled aboard, men pulling on the crane.
Then up above the eager brigantine,
Along her slender masts, the sails took flight,
Were sheeted home, and ropes were coiled. The shine
Of the wet anchor, when its heavy weight
Rose splashing to the deck. These things they saw,
Christine and Max, upon the crowded quay.
They saw the sails grow white, then blue in shade,
The ship had turned, caught in a windy flaw
She glided imperceptibly away,
Drew farther off and in the bright sky seemed to fade.
Home, through the emptying streets, Max took Christine,
Who would have hid her sorrow from his gaze.
Before the iron gateway, clasped between
Each garden wall, he stopped. She, in amaze,
Asked, 'Do you enter not then, Mynheer Breuck?
My father told me of your courtesy.
Since I am now your charge, 'tis meet for me
To show such hospitality as maiden may,
Without disdaining rules must not be broke.
Katrina will have coffee, and she bakes today.'
She straight unhasped the tall, beflowered gate.
Curled into tendrils, twisted into cones
Of leaves and roses, iron infoliate,
It guards the pleasance, and its stiffened bones
Are budded with much peering at the rows,
And beds, and arbours, which it keeps inside.
Max started at the beauty, at the glare
Of tints. At either end was set a wide
Path strewn with fine, red gravel, and such shows
Of tulips in their splendour flaunted everywhere!
From side to side, midway each path, there ran
A longer one which cut the space in two.
And, like a tunnel some magician
Has wrought in twinkling green, an alley grew,
Pleached thick and walled with apple trees; their flowers
Incensed the garden, and when Autumn came
The plump and heavy apples crowding stood
And tapped against the arbour. Then the dame
Katrina shook them down, in pelting showers
They plunged to earth, and died transformed to sugared food.
Against the high, encircling walls were grapes,
Nailed close to feel the baking of the sun
From glowing bricks. Their microscopic shapes
Half hidden by serrated leaves. And one
Old cherry tossed its branches near the door.
Bordered along the wall, in beds between,
Flickering, streaming, nodding in the air,
The pride of all the garden, there were more
Tulips than Max had ever dreamed or seen.
They jostled, mobbed, and danced. Max stood at helpless stare.
'Within the arbour, Mynheer Breuck, I'll bring
Coffee and cakes, a pipe, and Father's best
Tobacco, brought from countries harbouring
Dawn's earliest footstep. Wait.' With girlish zest
To please her guest she flew. A moment more
She came again, with her old nurse behind.
Then, sitting on the bench and knitting fast,
She talked as someone with a noble store
Of hidden fancies, blown upon the wind,
Eager to flutter forth and leave their silent past.
The little apple leaves above their heads
Let fall a quivering sunshine. Quiet, cool,
In blossomed boughs they sat. Beyond, the beds
Of tulips blazed, a proper vestibule
And antechamber to the rainbow. Dyes
Of prismed richness: Carmine. Madder. Blues
Tinging dark browns to purple. Silvers flushed
To amethyst and tinct with gold. Round eyes
Of scarlet, spotting tender saffron hues.
Violets sunk to blacks, and reds in orange crushed.
Of every pattern and in every shade.
Nacreous, iridescent, mottled, checked.
Some purest sulphur-yellow, others made
An ivory-white with disks of copper flecked.
Sprinkled and striped, tasselled, or keenest edged.
Striated, powdered, freckled, long or short.
They bloomed, and seemed strange wonder-moths new-fledged,
Born of the spectrum wedded to a flame.
The shade within the arbour made a port
To o'ertaxed eyes, its still, green twilight rest became.
Her knitting-needles clicked and Christine talked,
This child matured to woman unaware,
The first time left alone. Now dreams once balked
Found utterance. Max thought her very fair.
Beneath her cap her ornaments shone gold,
And purest gold they were. Kurler was rich
And heedful. Her old maiden aunt had died
Whose darling care she was. Now, growing bold,
She asked, had Max a sister? Dropped a stitch
At her own candour. Then she paused and softly sighed.
Two years was long! She loved her father well,
But fears she had not. He had always been
Just sailed or sailing. And she must not dwell
On sad thoughts, he had told her so, and seen
Her smile at parting. But she sighed once more.
Two years was long; 'twas not one hour yet!
Mynheer Grootver she would not see at all.
Yes, yes, she knew, but ere the date so set,
The 'Horn of Fortune' would be at the wall.
When Max had bid farewell, she watched him from the door.
The next day, and the next, Max went to ask
The health of Jufvrouw Kurler, and the news:
Another tulip blown, or the great task
Of gathering petals which the high wind strews;
The polishing of floors, the pictured tiles
Well scrubbed, and oaken chairs most deftly oiled.
Such things were Christine's world, and his was she
Winter drew near, his sun was in her smiles.
Another Spring, and at his law he toiled,
Unspoken hope counselled a wise efficiency.
Max Breuck was honour's soul, he knew himself
The guardian of this girl; no more, no less.
As one in charge of guineas on a shelf
Loose in a china teapot, may confess
His need, but may not borrow till his friend
Comes back to give. So Max, in honour, said
No word of love or marriage; but the days
He clipped off on his almanac. The end
Must come! The second year, with feet of lead,
Lagged slowly by till Spring had plumped the willow sprays.
Two years had made Christine a woman grown,
With dignity and gently certain pride.
But all her childhood fancies had not flown,
Her thoughts in lovely dreamings seemed to glide.
Max was her trusted friend, did she confess
A closer happiness? Max could not tell.
Two years were over and his life he found
Sphered and complete. In restless eagerness
He waited for the 'Horn of Fortune'. Well
Had he his promise kept, abating not one pound.
Spring slipped away to Summer. Still no glass
Sighted the brigantine. Then Grootver came
Demanding Jufvrouw Kurler. His trespass
Was justified, for he had won the game.
Christine begged time, more time! Midsummer went,
And Grootver waxed impatient. Still the ship
Tarried. Christine, betrayed and weary, sank
To dreadful terrors. One day, crazed, she sent
For Max. 'Come quickly,' said her note, 'I skip
The worst distress until we meet. The world is blank.'
Through the long sunshine of late afternoon
Max went to her. In the pleached alley, lost
In bitter reverie, he found her soon.
And sitting down beside her, at the cost
Of all his secret, 'Dear,' said he, 'what thing
So suddenly has happened?' Then, in tears,
She told that Grootver, on the following morn,
Would come to marry her, and shuddering:
'I will die rather, death has lesser fears.'
Max felt the shackles drop from the oath which he had sworn.
'My Dearest One, the hid joy of my heart!
I love you, oh! you must indeed have known.
In strictest honour I have played my part;
But all this misery has overthrown
My scruples. If you love me, marry me
Before the sun has dipped behind those trees.
You cannot be wed twice, and Grootver, foiled,
Can eat his anger. My care it shall be
To pay your father's debt, by such degrees
As I can compass, and for years I've greatly toiled.
This is not haste, Christine, for long I've known
My love, and silence forced upon my lips.
I worship you with all the strength I've shown
In keeping faith.' With pleading finger tips
He touched her arm. 'Christine! Beloved! Think.
Let us not tempt the future. Dearest, speak,
I love you. Do my words fall too swift now?
They've been in leash so long upon the brink.'
She sat quite still, her body loose and weak.
Then into him she melted, all her soul at flow.
And they were married ere the westering sun
Had disappeared behind the garden trees.
The evening poured on them its benison,
And flower-scents, that only night-time frees,
Rose up around them from the beamy ground,
Silvered and shadowed by a tranquil moon.
Within the arbour, long they lay embraced,
In such enraptured sweetness as they found
Close-partnered each to each, and thinking soon
To be enwoven, long ere night to morning faced.
At last Max spoke, 'Dear Heart, this night is ours,
To watch it pale, together, into dawn,
Pressing our souls apart like opening flowers
Until our lives, through quivering bodies drawn,
Are mingled and confounded. Then, far spent,
Our eyes will close to undisturbed rest.
For that desired thing I leave you now.
To pinnacle this day's accomplishment,
By telling Grootver that a bootless quest
Is his, and that his schemes have met a knock-down blow.'
But Christine clung to him with sobbing cries,
Pleading for love's sake that he leave her not.
And wound her arms about his knees and thighs
As he stood over her. With dread, begot
Of Grootver's name, and silence, and the night,
She shook and trembled. Words in moaning plaint
Wooed him to stay. She feared, she knew not why,
Yet greatly feared. She seemed some anguished saint
Martyred by visions. Max Breuck soothed her fright
With wisdom, then stepped out under the cooling sky.
But at the gate once more she held him close
And quenched her heart again upon his lips.
'My Sweetheart, why this terror? I propose
But to be gone one hour! Evening slips
Away, this errand must be done.' 'Max! Max!
First goes my father, if I lose you now!'
She grasped him as in panic lest she drown.
Softly he laughed, 'One hour through the town
By moonlight! That's no place for foul attacks.
Dearest, be comforted, and clear that troubled brow.
One hour, Dear, and then, no more alone.
We front another day as man and wife.
I shall be back almost before I'm gone,
And midnight shall anoint and crown our life.'
Then through the gate he passed. Along the street
She watched his buttons gleaming in the moon.
He stopped to wave and turned the garden wall.
Straight she sank down upon a mossy seat.
Her senses, mist-encircled by a swoon,
Swayed to unconsciousness beneath its wreathing pall.
Briskly Max walked beside the still canal.
His step was firm with purpose. Not a jot
He feared this meeting, nor the rancorous gall
Grootver would spit on him who marred his plot.
He dreaded no man, since he could protect
Christine. His wife! He stopped and laughed aloud.
His starved life had not fitted him for joy.
It strained him to the utmost to reject
Even this hour with her. His heart beat loud.
'Damn Grootver, who can force my time to this employ!'
He laughed again. What boyish uncontrol
To be so racked. Then felt his ticking watch.
In half an hour Grootver would know the whole.
And he would be returned, lifting the latch
Of his own gate, eager to take Christine
And crush her to his lips. How bear delay?
He broke into a run. In front, a line
Of candle-light banded the cobbled street.
Hilverdink's tavern! Not for many a day
Had he been there to take his old, accustomed seat.
'Why, Max! Stop, Max!' And out they came pell-mell,
His old companions. 'Max, where have you been?
Not drink with us? Indeed you serve us well!
How many months is it since we have seen
You here? Jan, Jan, you slow, old doddering goat!
Here's Mynheer Breuck come back again at last,
Stir your old bones to welcome him. Fie, Max.
Business! And after hours! Fill your throat;
Here's beer or brandy. Now, boys, hold him fast.
Put down your cane, dear man. What really vicious whacks!'
They forced him to a seat, and held him there,
Despite his anger, while the hideous joke
Was tossed from hand to hand. Franz poured with care
A brimming glass of whiskey. 'Here, we've broke
Into a virgin barrel for you, drink!
Tut! Tut! Just hear him! Married! Who, and when?
Married, and out on business. Clever Spark!
Which lie's the likeliest? Come, Max, do think.'
Swollen with fury, struggling with these men,
Max cursed hilarity which must needs have a mark.
Forcing himself to steadiness, he tried
To quell the uproar, told them what he dared
Of his own life and circumstance. Implied
Most urgent matters, time could ill be spared.
In jesting mood his comrades heard his tale,
And scoffed at it. He felt his anger more
Goaded and bursting; -- 'Cowards! Is no one loth
To mock at duty --' Here they called for ale,
And forced a pipe upon him. With an oath
He shivered it to fragments on the earthen floor.
Sobered a little by his violence,
And by the host who begged them to be still,
Nor injure his good name, 'Max, no offence,'
They blurted, 'you may leave now if you will.'
'One moment, Max,' said Franz. 'We've gone too far.
I ask your pardon for our foolish joke.
It started in a wager ere you came.
The talk somehow had fall'n on drugs, a jar
I brought from China, herbs the natives smoke,
Was with me, and I thought merely to play a game.
Its properties are to induce a sleep
Fraught with adventure, and the flight of time
Is inconceivable in swiftness. Deep
Sunken in slumber, imageries sublime
Flatter the senses, or some fearful dream
Holds them enmeshed. Years pass which on the clock
Are but so many seconds. We agreed
That the next man who came should prove the scheme;
And you were he. Jan handed you the crock.
Two whiffs! And then the pipe was broke, and you were freed.'
'It is a lie, a damned, infernal lie!'
Max Breuck was maddened now. 'Another jest
Of your befuddled wits. I know not why
I am to be your butt. At my request
You'll choose among you one who'll answer for
Your most unseasonable mirth. Good-night
And good-by, -- gentlemen. You'll hear from me.'
But Franz had caught him at the very door,
'It is no lie, Max Breuck, and for your plight
I am to blame. Come back, and we'll talk quietly.
You have no business, that is why we laughed,
Since you had none a few minutes ago.
As to your wedding, naturally we chaffed,
Knowing the length of time it takes to do
A simple thing like that in this slow world.
Indeed, Max, 'twas a dream. Forgive me then.
I'll burn the drug if you prefer.' But Breuck
Muttered and stared, -- 'A lie.' And then he hurled,
Distraught, this word at Franz: 'Prove it. And when
It's proven, I'll believe. That thing shall be your work.
I'll give you just one week to make your case.
On August thirty-first, eighteen-fourteen,
I shall require your proof.' With wondering face
Franz cried, 'A week to August, and fourteen
The year! You're mad, 'tis April now.
April, and eighteen-twelve.' Max staggered, caught
A chair, -- 'April two years ago! Indeed,
Or you, or I, are mad. I know not how
Either could blunder so.' Hilverdink brought
'The Amsterdam Gazette', and Max was forced to read.
'Eighteen hundred and twelve,' in largest print;
And next to it, 'April the twenty-first.'
The letters smeared and jumbled, but by dint
Of straining every nerve to meet the worst,
He read it, and into his pounding brain
Tumbled a horror. Like a roaring sea
Foreboding shipwreck, came the message plain:
'This is two years ago! What of Christine?'
He fled the cellar, in his agony
Running to outstrip Fate, and save his holy shrine.
The darkened buildings echoed to his feet
Clap-clapping on the pavement as he ran.
Across moon-misted squares clamoured his fleet
And terror-winged steps. His heart began
To labour at the speed. And still no sign,
No flutter of a leaf against the sky.
And this should be the garden wall, and round
The corner, the old gate. No even line
Was this! No wall! And then a fearful cry
Shattered the stillness. Two stiff houses filled the ground.
Shoulder to shoulder, like dragoons in line,
They stood, and Max knew them to be the ones
To right and left of Kurler's garden. Spine
Rigid next frozen spine. No mellow tones
Of ancient gilded iron, undulate,
Expanding in wide circles and broad curves,
The twisted iron of the garden gate,
Was there. The houses touched and left no space
Between. With glassy eyes and shaking nerves
Max gazed. Then mad with fear, fled still, and left that place.
Stumbling and panting, on he ran, and on.
His slobbering lips could only cry, 'Christine!
My Dearest Love! My Wife! Where are you gone?
What future is our past? What saturnine,
Sardonic devil's jest has bid us live
Two years together in a puff of smoke?
It was no dream, I swear it! In some star,
Or still imprisoned in Time's egg, you give
Me love. I feel it. Dearest Dear, this stroke
Shall never part us, I will reach to where you are.'
His burning eyeballs stared into the dark.
The moon had long been set. And still he cried:
'Christine! My Love! Christine!' A sudden spark
Pricked through the gloom, and shortly Max espied
With his uncertain vision, so within
Distracted he could scarcely trust its truth,
A latticed window where a crimson gleam
Spangled the blackness, and hung from a pin,
An iron crane, were three gilt balls. His youth
Had taught their meaning, now they closed upon his dream.
Softly he knocked against the casement, wide
It flew, and a cracked voice his business there
Demanded. The door opened, and inside
Max stepped. He saw a candle held in air
Above the head of a gray-bearded Jew.
'Simeon Isaacs, Mynheer, can I serve
You?' 'Yes, I think you can. Do you keep arms?
I want a pistol.' Quick the old man grew
Livid. 'Mynheer, a pistol! Let me swerve
You from your purpose. Life brings often false alarms --'
'Peace, good old Isaacs, why should you suppose
My purpose deadly. In good truth I've been
Blest above others. You have many rows
Of pistols it would seem. Here, this shagreen
Case holds one that I fancy. Silvered mounts
Are to my taste. These letters `C. D. L.'
Its former owner? Dead, you say. Poor Ghost!
'Twill serve my turn though --' Hastily he counts
The florins down upon the table. 'Well,
Good-night, and wish me luck for your to-morrow's toast.'
Into the night again he hurried, now
Pale and in haste; and far beyond the town
He set his goal. And then he wondered how
Poor C. D. L. had come to die. 'It's grown
Handy in killing, maybe, this I've bought,
And will work punctually.' His sorrow fell
Upon his senses, shutting out all else.
Again he wept, and called, and blindly fought
The heavy miles away. 'Christine. I'm well.
I'm coming. My Own Wife!' He lurched with failing pulse.
Along the dyke the keen air blew in gusts,
And grasses bent and wailed before the wind.
The Zuider Zee, which croons all night and thrusts
Long stealthy fingers up some way to find
And crumble down the stones, moaned baffled. Here
The wide-armed windmills looked like gallows-trees.
No lights were burning in the distant thorps.
Max laid aside his coat. His mind, half-clear,
Babbled 'Christine!' A shot split through the breeze.
The cold stars winked and glittered at his chilling corpse.