Bacchus And Ariadne
The moist and quiet morn was scarcely breaking.
When Ariadne in her bower was waking;
Her eyelids still were closing, and she heard
But indistinctly yet a little bird.
That in the leaves o'erhead, waiting the sun.
Seemed answering another distant one.
She wakes, but stirred not, only just to please
Her pillow-nestling cheek; while the full seas.
* * * * *
Her senses lingering in the feel of sleep;
And with a little smile she seemed to say,
'I know my love is near me, and 'tis day.'
At length, not feeling the accustomed arm.
That from all sense of fancied want and harm
Used to enclose her, when she turned that way.
She stretched her hand to feel where Theseus lay.
But how? Not there? She starts with a small cry,
And feels the empty space, and runs her eye
O'er all the bower, and stretches from the bed
One hasty foot, and listens with wild head.
No sight—no voice: she tries to smile, heart-sick.
And murmurs, 'Oh, 'tis but some hiding trick;
He sees me through the boughs:' and so she rose.
And, like a wood-nymph, through the glimmering goes.
And for a while delays to call his name,
Pretending she should spoil his amorous game;
But stops at last, her throat full-pulsed with fears.
And calls convulsively with bursting tears;
Then calls again; and then in the open air
Rushes, and fiercely calls. He is not there.
The faithless bark, far off, leaning away.
And now with gleaming sail, and now with dim.
Hastening to slip o'er the horizon's brim.
'Tis gone; and as a dead thing, down falls she.
In the great eye of morn, then breaking quietly. (lines 41–45)
Some say that Theseus took this selfish flight
From common causes — a cloyed appetite;
Others, that having brought her sister there
As well, he turned his easy love to her;
And others, who are sure to quote Heaven's orders 50
For great men's crimes, though not for small disorders.
Pretend that Bacchus in the true old way,
A dream, advised him sternly not to stay.
But go and cut up nations limb by limb.
And leave the lady and the bower to him.
One tiling looks certain,—that the chief that day
Was not alone a skulking runaway.
But left the woman that believed his smile
To all the horrors of a desert isle. (lines 41–59)
'Oh, Theseus, Theseus!' then awhile she stopped,
And turned, and in her hand her poor face dropped,
Shaking her head, and cried, 'How could you go.
And leave me here to die, that loved you so!
I would not have left you, even for mirth.
Not in the best and safest place on earth;
Nor, had you been never so false a one, 90
Denied you this poor breast to lean upon;
Much less for loving too confidingly;
And yet, for nothing worse, have you left me;
Left me—left Ariadne, sleeping too
Fast by your side; and yet for you, for you,
She left her father, country, home, and all. (lines 84–96)
Suddenly from a wood his dancers rush.
Leaping like wines that from the bottle gush;
Bounding they come, and twirl, and thrust on high
Their thyrsuses, as they would rouse the sky;
And hurry here and there, in loosened bands,
And trill above their heads their cymballed hands:
Some, brawny males, that almost show from far
Their forceful arms, cloudy and muscular;
Some, smoother females, who have nevertheless
Strong limbs, and hands, to fling with and to press;
And shapes, which they can bend with heavenward glare.
And tortuous wrists, and backward streaming hair.
A troop of goat-foot shapes came trampling after. (lines 161–173)
Bacchus took in his arms his bridal lass.
And gave and shared as much more happiness
Than Theseus, as a noble spirit's caress.
Full of sincerity, and mind, and heart.
Out-relishes mere fire and self-embittering art. (lines 339–343)
The grateful god took off from his love's hair
Her fervid crown; and with a leap i' the air,
As when a quoiter springs to his firm eye.
Whirled it in buzzing swiftness to the sky.
Starry already, and with heat within,
It fired as it flew up with that fierce spin.
And opening into grandeur, round and even.
Shook its immortal sparkles out of heaven.
* * * * *
The easy wear of inward gracefulness.
Beneath this star, this star, where'er she be.
Sits the accomplished female womanly:
Part of its light is round about her hair;
And should her gentle cheek be wet with care,
The tears shall be kissed off, as Ariadne's were.
A Thought Or Two On Reading Pomfret's
I have been reading Pomfret's "Choice" this spring,
A pretty kind of--sort of--kind of thing,
Not much a verse, and poem none at all,
Yet, as they say, extremely natural.
And yet I know not. There's an art in pies,
In raising crusts as well as galleries;
And he's the poet, more or less, who knows
The charm that hallows the least truth from prose,
And dresses it in its mild singing clothes.
Not oaks alone are trees, nor roses flowers;
Much humble wealth makes rich this world of ours.
Nature from some sweet energy throws up
Alike the pine-mount and the buttercup;
And truth she makes so precious, that to paint
Either, shall shrine an artist like a saint,
And bring him in his turn the crowds that press
Round Guido's saints or Titian's goddesses.
Our trivial poet hit upon a theme
Which all men love, an old, sweet household dream:--
Pray, reader, what is yours?--I know full well
What sort of home should grace my garden-bell,--
No tall, half-furnish'd, gloomy, shivering house,
That worst of mountains labouring with a mouse;
Nor should I choose to fill a tawdry niche in
A Grecian temple, opening to a kitchen.
The frogs in Homer should have had such boxes,
Or Aesop's frog, whose heart was like the ox's.
Such puff about high roads, so grand, so small,
With wings and what not, portico and all,
And poor drench'd pillars, which it seems a sin
Not to mat up at night-time, or take in.
I'd live in none of those. Nor would I have
Veranda'd windows to forestall my grave;
Veranda'd truly, from the northern heat!
And cut down to the floor to comfort one's cold feet!
My house should be of brick, more wide than high,
With sward up to the path, and elm-trees nigh;
A good old country lodge, half hid with blooms
Of honied green, and quaint with straggling rooms,
A few of which, white-bedded and well swept,
For friends, whose name endear'd them, should be kept.
The tip-toe traveller, peeping through the boughs
O'er my low wall, should bless the pleasant house:
And that my luck might not seem ill-bestow'd,
A bench and spring should greet him on the road.
My grounds should not be large. I like to go
To Nature for a range, and prospect too,
And cannot fancy she'd comprise for me,
Even in a park, her all-sufficiency.
Besides, my thoughts fly far, and when at rest
Love not a watch-tow'r but a lulling nest.
A Chiswick or a Chatsworth might, I grant,
Visit my dreams with an ambitious want;
But then I should be forc'd to know the weight
Of splendid cares, new to my former state;
And these 'twould far more fit me to admire,
Borne by the graceful ease of noblest Devonshire.
Such grounds, however, as I had should look
Like "something" still; have seats, and walks, and brook;
One spot for flowers, the rest all turf and trees;
For I'd not grow my own bad lettuces.
I'd build a cover'd path too against rain,
Long, peradventure, as my whole domain,
And so be sure of generous exercise,
The youth of age and med'cine of the wise.
And this reminds me, that behind some screen
About my grounds, I'd have a bowling-green;
Such as in wits' and merry women's days
Suckling preferr'd before his walk of bays.
You may still see them, dead as haunts of fairies,
By the old seats of Killigrews and Careys,
Where all, alas! is vanish'd from the ring,
Wits and black eyes, the skittles and the king!
Fishing I hate, because I think about it,
Which makes it right that I should do without it.
A dinner, or a death, might not be much,
But cruelty's a rod I dare not touch.
I own I cannot see my right to feel
For my own jaws, and tear a trout's with steel;
To troll him here and there, and spike, and strain,
And let him loose to jerk him back again.
Fancy a preacher at this sort of work,
Not with his trout or gudgeon, but his clerk:
The clerk leaps gaping at a tempting bit,
And, hah! an ear-ache with a knife in it!
That there is pain and evil is no rule
That I should make it greater, like a fool;
Or rid me of my rust so vile a way,
As long as there's a single manly play.
Nay, "fool"'s a word my pen unjustly writes,
Knowing what hearts and brains have dozed o'er "bites";
But the next inference to be drawn might be,
That higher beings made a trout of me;
Which I would rather should not be the case,
Though Isaak were the saint to tear my face,
And, stooping from his heaven with rod and line,
Made the fell sport, with his old dreams divine,
As pleasant to his taste, as rough to mine.
Such sophistry, no doubt, saves half the hell,
But fish would have preferr'd his reasoning well,
And, if my gills concern'd him, so should I.
The dog, I grant, is in that "equal sky,"
But, heaven be prais'd, he's not my deity.
All manly games I'd play at,--golf and quoits,
And cricket, to set lungs and limbs to rights,
And make me conscious, with a due respect,
Of muscles one forgets by long neglect.
With these, or bowls aforesaid, and a ride,
Books, music, friends, the day I would divide,
Most with my family, but when alone,
Absorb'd in some new poem of my own,
A task which makes my time so richly pass,
So like a sunshine cast through painted glass
(Save where poor Captain Sword crashes the panes),
That cold my friends live too, and were the gains
Of toiling men but freed from sordid fears,
Well could I walk this earth a thousand years.
Robin Hood's Flight
Robin Hood's mother, these twelve years now,
Has been gone from her earthly home;
And Robin has paid, he scarce knew how,
A sum for a noble tomb.
The church-yard lies on a woody hill,
But open to sun and air:
It seems as if the heaven still
Were looking and smiling there.
Often when Robin looked that way,
He looked through a sweet thin tear;
But he looked in a different manner, they say,
Towards the Abbey of Vere.
He cared not for its ill-got wealth,
He felt not for his pride;
He had youth, and strength, and health,
And enough for one beside.
But he thought of his gentle mother's cheek
How it sunk away,
And how she used to grow more weak
And weary every day;
And how, when trying a hymn, her voice
At evening would expire,
How unlike it was the arrogant noise
Of the hard throats in the quire:
And Robin thought too of the poor,
How they toiled without their share,
And how the alms at the abbey-door
But kept them as they were:
And he thought him then of the friars again,
Who rode jingling up and down
With their trappings and things as fine as the king's,
Though they wore but a shaven crown.
And then bold Robin he thought of the king,
How he got all his forests and deer,
And how he made the hungry swing
If they killed but one in a year.
And thinking thus, as Robin stood,
Digging his bow in the ground,
He was aware in Gamelyn Wood,
Of one who looked around.
"And what is Will doing," said Robin then,
"That he looks so fearful and wan?"
"Oh my dear master that should have been,
I am a weary man."
"A weary man," said Will Scarlet, "am I;
For unless I pilfer this wood
To sell to the fletchers, for want I shall die
Here in this forest so good.
"Here in this forest where I have been
So happy and so stout,
And like a palfrey on the green
Have carried you about."
"And why, Will Scarlet, not come to me?
Why not to Robin, Will?
For I remember thy love and thy glee,
And the scar that marks thee still;
"And not a soul of my uncle's men
To such a pass should come,
While Robin can find in his pocket or bin
A penny or a crumb.
"Stay thee, Will Scarlet, man, stay awhile;
And kindle a fire for me."
And into the wood for half a mile,
He has vanished instantly.
Robin Hood, with his cheek on fire,
Has drawn his bow so stern,
And a leaping deer, with one leap higher,
Lies motionless in the fern.
Robin, like a proper knight
As he should have been,
Carved a part of the shoulder right,
And bore off a portion clean.
"Oh, what hast thou done, dear master mine!
What hast thou done for me?"
"Roast it, Will, for excepting wine,
Thou shalt feast thee royally."
And Scarlet took and half roasted it,
Blubbering with blinding tears,
And ere he had eaten a second bit,
A trampling came to their ears.
They heard the tramp of a horse's feet,
And they listened and kept still,
For Will was feeble and knelt by the meat;
And Robin he stood by Will.
"Seize him, seize him!" the Abbot cried
With his fat voice through the trees;
Robin a smooth arrow felt and eyed,
And Will jumped stout with his knees.
"Seize him, seize him!" and now they appear
The Abbot and foresters three.
"'Twas I," cried Will Scarlet, "that killed the deer."
Says Robin, "Now let not a man come near,
Or he's dead as dead can be."
But on they came, and with an embrace
The first one the arrow met;
And he came pitching forward and fell on his face,
Like a stumbler in the street.
The others turned to that Abbot vain,
But "seize him!" still he cried,
And as the second turned again,
An arrow was in his side.
"Seize him, seize him still, I say,"
Cried the Abbot in furious chafe,
"Or these dogs will grow so bold some day,
Even priests will not be safe."
A fatal word! for as he sat
Urging the sword to cut,
An arrow stuck in his paunch so fat,
As in a leathern butt,
As in a leathern butt of wine;
Or dough, a household lump;
Or a pumpkin; or a good beef chine,
Stuck that arrow with a dump.
"Truly," said Robin without fear,
Smiling there as he stood,
"Never was slain so fat a deer
In good old Gamelyn wood."
"Pardon, pardon, Sir Robin stout,"
Said he that stood apart,
"As soon as I knew thee, I wished thee out,
Of the forest with all my heart.
"And I pray thee let me follow thee
Any where under the sky,
For thou wilt never stay here with me,
Nor without thee can I."
Robin smiled, and suddenly fell
Into a little thought;
And then into a leafy dell,
The three slain men they brought.
Ancle deep in leaves so red,
Which autumn there had cast,
When going to her winter-bed
She had undrest her last.
And there in a hollow, side by side,
They buried them under the treen;
The Abbot's belly, for all it's pride,
Made not the grave be seen.
Robin Hood, and the forester,
And Scarlet the good Will,
Struck off among the green trees there
Up a pathless hill;
And Robin caught a sudden sight,
Of merry sweet Locksley town,
Reddening in the sun-set bright;
And the gentle tears came down.
Robin looked at the town and land
And the church-yard where it lay;
And poor Will Scarlet kissed his hand,
And turned his head away.
Then Robin turned with a grasp of Will's,
And clapped him on the shoulder,
And said with one of his pleasant smiles,
"Now shew us three men bolder."
And so they took their march away
As firm as if to fiddle,
To journey that night and all next day
With Robin Hood in the middle.