Gossip right and left you're strowing,
Never heeding what you do;
Tho' each idle word you're sowing
Friend and neighbour long may rue.
When we marked you lately loosing
Stone from yonder green hill's side,
You but in your sport were choosing
Swift adown to see it glide.
You look'd pale tho', when in fury,
Like a mad thing just releas'd,
Threatening work for judge and jury,
Wild it whirred o'er man and beast.
Think then, Chatterer! 'mid your doing,
If for others nought you rue,
How the very seed you're strewing
May spring up—ill seed for you.
Yon maim'd traveller, you behold him,
Smitten sore by avalanche;
Wiser heads in vain had told him
On to move, in silence staunch.
Now his own sad cup he's drinking;
Word of his provoked the fall,
Which so lamed; and left him thinking
How that word was cause of all.
Written In A Country Churchyard
Oh! how I hate the cumbrous pride
Of plume and pall and scutcheon'd hearse,
And all the rank and ready tide
Of venal prose and lying verse.
Nor in the city's churchyard, rife
With close compacted crowds of dead,
And clogged with thoughts of stir and strife,
Would I consent to lay my head
But where 'mid Quantock's waving scene
Of brow and glen, some village church
From forth the coppice clustering green
Projects its grey and simple porch;
From whose worn seat the eye may view
Brown upland slope and cattled plain,
And, farther still, the summits blue
Of hills that skirt the channell'd main;
There, Nea, in some quiet nook,
May we our place of resting have,
And let a broad majestic oak
Wave its green branches near the grave.
No costly stone for us be planned
With palisading stern and high,
As if from truth's indignant hand
To fence foul flattery's graven lie;
But o'er the turf let sun and air
And dew their blessed influence fling,
And rosy children gather there
The earliest violets of the spring;
There let the cuckoo's oft-told tale
Be heard at flush of morning light;
And there the pensive nightingale
Chaunt requiem half the summer night.
We loved that Upper Austrian land;
And who, that knows, would love it less?
Which, as it seems, alike the hand
Of God and man conspire to bless.
His stream-dispensing hills, that tower,
Man's happy, lowly, household bower,
On sunny slope, in quiet dell,
These well may win a fond farewell.
How may we e'er forget the power
Of those huge hills, at sunset hour?
Peak and black ridge upheaved on high
Athwart the gorgeous evening sky,
While brightest waves beneath were rolled
In amethyst or living gold.
Or how the beams that loved to wake
With morning touch Gemunden's lake;
Or that pale moon which paused to light
Dark Traunstein's solitary height?
Nor more, Fair Land! may we forget
Thy Happy with thy Lovely met.
Those rural dwellings snug and warm,
And strong to meet the winter storm.
With casement green, and vine around;
Each in its plot of garden ground.
The most—beneath. But some that creep
Where the sun beckons up the steep;
Near neighbours to the beechen grove,
Which mingles with the pines above.
And every little mountain-plain,
Of herb profuse or waving grain;
Where all that eye beholds is rife
With signs of well-contented life.
O Liberty! thou sacred name!
Whate'er reproach may thee befall,
From judgment just or spiteful blame,
To thee I cling—on thee I call.
And, yet, thou art not All in All;
And, e'en where thou art worshipp'd less,
In spite of check, in spite of thrall,
Content may spring, and happiness.
And tho', man's rightful claim to cheer,
Thy fuller beams be wanting here;
Yet happy they, if right I spell,
The folk within this land who dwell.
Here no hard look, no dogged eye,
Meets, to repel, the passer by;
But observation loves to scan
Mild greetings sped from man to man;
Bland courtesies; kind words that fall
From each to each, and all to all.
And here is woman's bending grace,
That bends reply; and answering face,
With servile smile not falsely deckt,
But honest smile from self-respect.
While peasant boy, with curly pate,
And arm surcharged with book and slate,
Gives frank reciprocating look,
The fruit—I ween—of slate and book.
Nor lack there signs to speak a sense
Imbibed of holier influence.
For if there be or nook or spot
More lovely than the rest;
Beside the brook, beneath the grot,
Some chapel neat is drest;
Whenceforth the Virgin-Mother seen,
In azure robe depict' or green,
From that her ever-blessed face
Sheds softer beauty o'er the place.
Or He, who died on holy-rood,
Is there, with thoughts of deeper mood
To sanctify the solitude.
'Tis true—for me their accents rung
In fact, as name, a stranger-tongue.
A cloud, if words alone could speak,
Thro' which no ray of thought might break.
But soul of ready sympathy
Finds semaphore in silent eye.
And smiles that play from silent lips
Clear what were else the heart's eclipse.
And One was with me, who could spell
Whate'er each tongue might say,
And oft, I ween, their sense would tell
In better phrase than they.
And all that German land was known
To him, familiar as his own.
Their states, their dynasties he knew,
Their folk, how many or how few;
Each tale of conquest, battle, siege,
Right, custom, tenure, privilege,
With all that appertaineth; down
From Cæsar or from King to Clown;
And all that priest or jurist saith
Of modes of law or modes of faith.
And he had comment, full and clear,
The fruit of many a travelled year;
But more, by meditation brought
From inner depths of silent thought;
Or fresh from fountain, never dry,
Of undisturbed humanity.
When first among these hills we came,
The Autumn lingered bright;
But winter now begins to claim
His old ancestral right.
He speaks intelligible speech
In the red yellow of the beech;
And mingles with the breeze a touch
Of polar air; in sooth not much;
But such as serves to hint the day,
When he shall rule, not far away.
Fall'n leaves are straggling down the brook,
With something of prophetic look;
Whose little eddies circle round
With more, methinks, than summer sound.
While the strong rivers, now more strong,
With dimmer current sweep along.
And frequent gust and chilling rain,
That meet the traveller on the plain,
Are telling tale of wintry war
Amid the topmost peaks—afar.
Scarce longer, Hills of whitening brow!
Man's summer day endures;
And snowy flakes are falling, now,
On other heads than yours;
And colder, dimmer currents roll
From Time or Chance to chill the soul.
Our fervent youth's adventurous blood
Defies or place or clime,
And dares the mountain or the flood,
Thro' winter's stormiest time.
When sober eld, grown weak or wise,
Seeks gentler scenes and milder skies.
So we will seek a milder sky,
By where slow roads up creep
Atween the summits, cresting high,
Of some huge Alpine steep;
By easier way thenceforth to glide
Adown the smooth Italian side.
With choice before us, shall we go
Where Stelvio winds his road,
Above the realms of thawless snow,
To where green things refuse to grow,
Primeval frosts' abode?
Then—beating cloud, and bitter wind,
And torrent fierce left all behind—
lDrop down to Como's southern bowers,
And drink the breath of orange flowers?
Or else, in idle boat reclined,
Hang loitering round that little bay,
Where erst inquiring Pliny lay
Thro' long observant hours;
Or haply nursed some inner dream,
Beside his intermitting stream?
Or rather shall we follow, now,
The waters as they roll
From rugged Brenner's lowlier brow
Adown the steep Tyrol;
To where Catullus loved to wake
His sweetest harp on Garda's lake?
Rich is the land, (all own its power,)
The land for which we part,
Italia!—rich in every dower
Of nature and of art.
And rich in precious memories—more—
From fragrant urns of classic lore.
But whether 'mid Etrurian bowers,
Where gallery spreads and palace towers;
Or where, beneath cerulean day,
Bright Naples clasps her double bay;
Or where steep-fallen Anio roves,
All peaceful now, thro' Tibur's groves;
On thee, contentment's happy home,
Land of bright stream and hill!
Fair Austrian land! where'er we roam,
Our hearts shall ponder still.
Raising The Dead
We all have heard, and marvelled as we heard,
Of seers, who have raised the Dead from out their tombs,
And made them parley. Nor would I gainsay
Such story. For who knows the invisible links,
Mysterious sympathies of life with life,
Or life, perchance, with death? Or guesses what
Thessalian spells, or what divining rod
The soul erewhile may have weird gift to use,
And, with strange power, interrogate the grave,
Yet leave the turf unbroke? Or even may reach
Up the blue regions, where freed spirits dwell,
With her far-finding telescope of love;
Or, may be, hate!
Nay, are our nightly dreams
But fancies of the brain? some straggling shreds
From memory? or, meaner still, mere jet
From stomach or nerve? Or, rather, do we not,
(So sometimes I have deemed) what time we sleep,
—If sleep it be, and not a wider waking—
Within the close-drawn curtains, face to face,
Hold actual commerce with the living Dead?
Who stand beside us; and do look upon us;
And well nigh touch us with their stony hands;
And see themselves in our fixed lineaments
Fit comradeship! dead life with living death!
And then, when morn hath come, with crow of cock,
Or early swallow, twittering by the lattice,
To summon them back to their lonely homes,
And us to all the over busy doings
Of this world's life; we, in our ignorance,
Because they have left no foot-prints on the night,
Do swear we have dreamed.
Nor doth it hap alone
Within the silent and the dim domain
Of sleep; that doubtful confine laid between
The Here and the Hereafter; nor where deed
Of guilt doth hold some troubled mind awake
At midnight; nor where mist, obscure as night,
Hath wrapt the Gaël upon his mountain moor,
And the pale wraith doth prophesy him woe;
Not in such moments only do the Dead
Revisit earth. Go thou and throw thyself
On some hill side, beneath the bluest sky
And cheeriest sun; or—better—when the touch
Of twilight eve hath sanctified the air,
And very earth thou liest on; and surrender
Thy spirit to old memories; and 'tis chance
If then thy half-closed eyes behold them not.
Uncalled they come; or led by threads of thought
Too fine to scan. Thy dearest objects once,
And now, behold! they come to thee again,
And hang around thee, sweetly visible,
And real as life itself. If life itself
Be a real thing; and not—as some have deemed—
A dream of shadows; sequel to a drama
Acted before; and we (its actors, then,
But, now, forgetful of the parts we played)
No creatures of fresh breath, but the stale ghosts
Of former Being; doomed to walk once more
This weary earth; and fret the appointed years,
In penance of some evil we have done;
But when—and what—and where—we must not know.
Uncalled they come. But we can call them too,
(I speak but what I know) and make them pass
Before us. If not alway, yet by fits,
When the strong will and planet hour have met
In apt conjunction. But why only then,
Or not to all accorded, who may find?
Then may be seen the newly-gifted seer,
With steadfast eye, yet outward nought beholding,
Like one in presence of some lofty thought
Or deed; absorbed in it, and it alone;
Or prophet so may have gazed in his strong hour.
For now he feels his spirit privileged
All strangely (how—he knows not, yet he knows it)
To hold communion with the parted life;
And from that very spot where now he stands,
To speed (as if along some chargëd wire,
That mocks at far and near, and rough and smooth)
His swift invisible message to the tomb.
I speak but what I know. Of late I found me
Where I had dwelt of yore; and stood to gaze
On the once well-known scene. Behind me rose
The quaint old town; its square cathedral tower
Lifted above; while all before and round
Lay spread the lovely landscape. Those smooth meads;
And the bright sparkling river, bright as ever,
Gliding amid; and bearing white-sailed bark
To the near sea. And green hills sloping up
On the other side; with woods and homes ancestral;
And many a cheery prospect-tower, that told
How man had loved the region; and the purple
Of heathy moors beyond them. And I thought me
Of all their little valleys, folded in;
Each with its vagrant brook. Sweet solitudes!
Which I had roamed with Her, who made them all
Sweeter than solitude; from whom I had dreamed
Never to part. But on that baffled vision
I dared to think no more.
Yet still I longed
To muse on some whom I had known—with Her—
In that spring-hour of life, (They were not all
Deceivers!) and who now, like Her, were gone!
And never on this earth to meet again,
Save only in such vision—memory-led.
So, all the less distrubedly to dream,
I stood and leaned, with closëd eyes, against
That lingering fragment of the old town-wall,
Where I had leaned of old—but not alone!
And memory came to aid me, the whole spot
Re-peopling; and I caught, or secmed to catch
Familiar looks; and heard, or seemed to hear,
Familiar tones; first—one's; and then—another's.
The best beloved came first. Relations dear,
Part of whose life I was, as they of mine;
And friends—as dear. And then acquaintances,
More or less strict. And foremost among these,
(For now—as then—the church had due precedence)
The well-bred dean; and jovial prebendary;
And wife prebendal, with her stately look
Dwarfing wife secular. And, next, town-member,
From his near seat, aye welcome; liberal ever
Of hare and pheasant; or with blandest smile
Winning constituent. And young barrister
From the great city; at provincial board
Predominant; with legal tale and jest
From Westminster or circuit. And the staid
Physician; and the brisk apothecary,
Rapping from door to door; with news from each
Regaling convalescent. Gossip rare!
Yet kindly ever by the poor man's bed.
There too the youthful curate, with white brow
And chiselled lip; and mild, yet fervent eye;
Full oft descanting with ingenuous warmth
On type or prophecy; while hectic cheek
All the sad time too plainly spoke its own.
Now wherefore was it? (for I sought it not)
That on a sudden stretched its length before me
The old town ball-room; lit as it was wont
At races or assize time. And behold!
Thro' the wide double doors came flitting in
Fair white-robed Misses; separate or in bevies;
Now, ones—and twos—and threes; then, thick together,
(Like gradual snow flakes) whitening the whole floor.
Or rather shall we say, for fitter type,
Like orange-blossoms, which some summer-breeze
Is fluttering from amid the glossy boughs
To blanch the beds beneath. So in they streamed,
A galaxy of muslin.
Those white robes
Had long been shrouds! and that gay dance—what since,
Let Holbein tell us!
Yea, I saw them all,
As I had seen of yore. Here the young heir,
Not quite unconscious. There, the matron-mother
Of those three youthful Graces; eagle eyed;
From the side benches, her tall eyrie, brooding
O'er park and manor. And flirtations thin,
Meant for the general eye; and deep-souled looks
Of silent love, the lookers fain would hide.
And wreathëd smiles—some, hollow; and the sneer
Forecast to wound; and petty rivalries,
And pettier leagues; and all the worthless doings
Of this our daily life—done by the Dead!
Them too I saw, those three deep-wrinkled hags,
Pink-rouged; dark-ringletted; and diamond-decked;
Yet hag-like still. Beneath whose baleful breath
The fairest fame would wither; whose dim hints,
And counsels shrewd, and worming confidences
Had art to melt the firmest plighted faith
Of youthful bride affianced. There they stood,
With snake-like eyes; sharp voices; finger up;
Those ball-room beldames! And I heard them gibber,
E'en as ghosts gibber; or as they themselves
Had gibbered here on earth. I heard, and scarce
Forbore to curse them.
Say, had wrath such power
To quicken memory? for it now seemed freshened
To a new strength. We all have read, when earthquake
Hath smote some ancient city's street of tombs,
Disrupting their foundations, how come forth
Graven sarcophagus, and pictured urn,
And the grey ashes of forgotten men
Five hundred lustres buried. Even so,
Stirred by some influence, be it what it might,
Did now the long-sealed chambers of the brain
Give up their Dead. And, lo! before me stood
All of the Parted I had known from when
I first began to know; (for of the Quick
None came to mingle). And not those alone
Whom I had sought to see, but all, yea all,
Or separate, or in clusters. Mother—nurse—
Preceptor. Next, school-comrades—college-friends—
(Ah! little had we dreamed to part so soon)
And then the yet more numerous host, 'mid whom
Our after-life hath thrust us. More and more,
Swifter and swifter. Till there grew a sense
Confused and ill at ease, as if it now
Were all too cramp for those who there would enter.
Hast thou not heard erewhile some gentle music?
(If thro' similitudes I speak (perchance,
Usque ad nauseam) 'tis that speech direct
Might fail to tell my story; nor boast I
Wide masterdom of words.) But as some music,
Slowly preluding with soft notes and few,
Swells by degrees; and other instruments
Join in; till finally the whole orchestra,
Like some freshed river, swollen with tributaries,
Hath gathered up the multitudinous minglings,
Then flings them all with unresolvable speed
In one broad crash upon the shrinking ear;
So shrank I at that moment, as all these,
Poured forth from East and West and North and South,
Were round and round me eddying, till the brain spun.
Nor was I any longer in the Present;
(For time itself seemed reeling with the brain)
My Present was the Past! Life's actual hour
Supplanted by the vanished! As they tell
Of drowning men, with whom all former memories;
All they have done or suffered; known or felt;
Childhood and manhood; loves and enmities;
Nay, things that were, or seemed to be, forgotten,
Are all whirred back upon the sharpened sense,
To be compressed within that struggling minute;
Thus suddenly, (I may not say unrolled,
But, somehow, flung before me) in that instant
Flashed a whole life.
How may words paint to thee
What thou hast never felt? Or how I stood
(There was no time for fear) but all-amazed,
Like one who hath oped a sluice he may not stop.
Till, in a moment of collected will,
Quivering the while, but stronger than I knew,
I bade them—and they went!
What went? mere visions?
Were these, so real, so distinct, but visions?
Or were they—could they be (I dare confess
Such thought was glancing by me) no—not shadows!
But they—the Dead—come back in body again?
'Yea, visions'—thou wilt tell me — 'shadows mere—'
'Such stuff as dreams are made of;' when the mind
Diseased, or else in sport, is peopling space
With shapes of matter. (If that mind and matter
In sooth be twain.) Or thou wilt tell how fancy
Is still most potent when the soul is stirred;
As mine was then. Or else wilt hold wise descant,
In metaphysic guise, of filmy links
Associative; and echoes—tho' unheard—
From thought to thought. And think'st thou then that I
Not thus philosophized? Yet 'twas not these
I speak but what I know—and 'twas not these.
Now listen to a tale incredible!
And yet most true. Nay, 'tis no jesting story;
Nor was I drugged with opium; nor was it
Some wild hallucination of a brain,
Thou'lt say—o'erwrought. But it was given me,
(I tell thee a true tale, believe or not)
But it was given me in that hour to know
Distinct, as e'er distinctest knowledge stood,
(Yet how or whence such knowledge came, I knew not;
Nor if to tempt or punish, that I know not
But it was given me in that hour to know
That they, the Parted—wheresoe'er they were—
That they should feel and hear me in their graves!
Not merely in yon church-yard, but wherever
Their bones did house them. And should leave awhile,
(No, not mere phantoms, but the very Dead)
Those graves all tenantless—to march before me!
'Twas a strange power. A ghastly dream to shrink from,
If it had been a dream; but, being a power,
I cared to use it; and with will perverse
(For power corrupteth will), did choose to see
Her, whom but now my heart had shrunk to think of.
And She did come! and I beheld her what
She was when last we parted. Was it love
Or anger made me call that vision up?
I might not stay to know; but this I know,
That all of wrath, long cherished—and revenge—
(For that thought too, all hideous as it was,
Had yet been there) did melt them fast away
Before that once loved presence; till (each wrong
Forgiven) the old affection ruled alone.
One other was there in that church-yard laid,
Whom I had loved the least (why did She love him?)
My foe; and him—the next—I willed to see.
And will was now compulsion; and I saw him;
Yea, with these very bodily eyes I saw him
Stir in his shroud, beneath the coffin-lid!
And staring upward with wide helpless eyes,
He moaned—I heard him—wherefore dost thou wake me?
Then too I saw—nay 'twas no fantasy—
Two other eyes—eyes unmistakeable—
Gazing reproachfully. And all at once,
With a most swift revulsion of the heart,
I started from my own unnatural power,
And knew that I had done a deed unholy.
Ay, started every limb; and so aroused me!
And, lifting with that start the closëd lids,
Beheld, oh blessed! just beneath me lying
That alway lovely landscape; lovelier now
Than ever; while, like ghost before the day,
The unholy power had vanished.
As some dreamer,
Amid the wanderings of his troubled dream,
All on a sudden finds himself in-coiled
In some strange guilt; tho' how it was he knows not;
Nor even if his; yet, nathless, shame and fear
Are all around him; if by chance, just then,
From forth the sweetly dawning East, some ray
Slant to his eye-lids, heavenly visitant!
He, leaping up with inexpressible joy,
Finds himself shrieved; or as some noble spirit,
Who, lured by pride, (oh! if such tale be true,
May heaven from us avert the dire temptation)
Hath plighted with the Demon, dreadful pact!
And sold his soul for power; and, having tested,
Succeeds; then shudders at his own success;
And flings him on his kness in agony
Of prayer; if that, with penitence, may melt
The seal from off the accursed bond; and lo!
His prayer is heard. Like him—like him so saved
In such a mortal hour, ev'n so felt I;
When, starting from that gift of horrible might,
(Or be it dream, if dream thou still wilt have it)
I did behold again the cheery sun
On that up-sparkling river. Mother Earth!
To me thou ne'er wert dearer. Rather say,
Never so dear. Oh! how I joyed to see
Those blue-eyed children, lightly gamboling
On the shorn turf anear. That loving dog,
Who seemed as if he ne'er could love enough,
Fond frolicking beside them; every bird,
How small soever, that with tiny rustle
Burst from the bushes. Ay, and those grave daws,
Now, musing on the old cathedral tower;
Now, wheeling round and round in the clear air.
Oh! what a calming bliss to be once more
(Escaped such fearful fact—or mocking vision)
Amid these mild realities of life!
Then first it was I comprehended how
Complacently might king resign his crown.
Nor marvelled any longer at the tale
Of potent wizards, who had burned their books.
Dorchester Amphitheatre .
By Rome's old amphitheatre I stood,
Still pretty perfect, on the Weymouth road,
Within some half a mile of Dorchester.
There had I come, as others come, to feed
A curious eye, and win such thoughts as spring
From sense of contrast 'twixt the ideal Past
And the fact-speaking Present. In good sooth
Strange contrast did I find; for all within
The oval boundary of that fair arena
Was seen to spread a most unclassic growth
Of vile potatoes! Plant, to me it seems,
Aye somewhat vile to view; which, when the World
New-found first gave it to our older climes,
She gave with true utilitarian aim,
Far more for use than beauty. But these were
Of all most vile; black spotted, with torn leaves
And draggled stalks; dank and disconsolate
As Autumn rains and trampling feet could make them.
Some pauper-hand had sown the ragged crop;
No peasant's, but some mean suburban hand;
Whether with license from the corporation,
Or of his own coarse will I might not learn,
'Twas a sore check to fancy; and, full sure,
Fine lady or yet finer gentleman,
Fastidious dandlers of their own sweet wills,
At once had quitted, in a brisk disgust,
But I had learned (a lesson time will teach)
To make the best of matters, and, beside,
'Tis a wise pride, through the mind's alchemy,
To draw a pleasure from poor promisings
Nor hard the task; for let but patience watch
The process, and up-comes, in no long time,
Through subtile ducts of feeling or of thought,
The good which lurks in all things.
So I went not;
But, laid at length upon the topmost edge
Of that green circus, failed not soon to win
Full recompence. For the benignant air
Was very bliss to breathe; and evening, now,
Was slanting her long shadows o'er the land,
And, with her shadows, peace! All told of peace,
Insensate things and things of life; each flake
Of floating cloud, like white-sailed bark becalmed,
That paused in the blue sky; the thrifty rook,
Last labourer in the newly furrowed field,
Seen wending homeward on slow-waving wing;
And unyoked ox that, tranquil still, though freed,
Swayed leisurely by, to food and needful rest
In stable or night pasture. Nor did man
Not profit by the hour; but stole him forth
From out the precinct of the toiling town
To taste, abroad, our nobler human rest,
Which links with meditation; pondering, now,
The quiet of the plain; now sending forth
Freed thought to travel 'mid the circling hills.
Who may misprize Dorchestrian hills? What though
They tower to no such height as looks with scorn
Over a dwindled plain; what though no crags
Be there to fortify; no forest belts
To gird them midway round; yet theirs, instead,
Are graceful slopes with shadowy dips between;
And theirs are breezy summits, not too high
To recognise familiar sights, and catch
Familiar sounds of life, the ploughman's call
Or tinkling from the fold. Yet thence the eye
Feeds on no stinted landscape, sky and earth
And the blue sea; and thence may wingèd thought,
Which ever loves the vantage ground of hills,
Launch amid buoyant air, and soar at will.
Fair, amid these, art thou, camp-crested Mount,
In some far time, for some forgotten cause,
Named of the Maiden. Nor doth surer lore
Attest if Briton or if Roman wound
Those triple trenches round thee; regular
As terraces, by architect up-built
For princely pleasure-ground, or those, far-famed,
By ancient hunters made—so some have deemed—
Or else by Nature's self in wild Glenroy.
Along thy sides they stretch, ring above ring,
Marking thee from afar; then vanish round
Like the broad shingly banks, which ocean heaves
In noble curves along his winding shore.
The passing wayfarer with wonder views
E'en at imperfect distance, their bold lines,
And asks the Who? the Wherefore? and the When?
Wafting his spirit back into far times,
And dreaming as he goes. But whoso stays,
And climbs the turf-way to thy tabled top,
Shall reap a fuller wonder; shall behold
Thy girdled area, of itself a plain,
Where widely feeds the scattered flock; shall mark
Thy trenches, complicate' with warlike art,
And deep almost as natural ravine
Cut in the mountain; or some startling rent
In the blue-gleaming glacier; or as clefts,
Severing the black and jagged lava-walls,
Which old Vesuvius round his crater flings,
Outworks, to guard the mysteries within.
But these are smooth and verdant. Tamed long since,
Breastwork abrupt and pallisaded mound
Are, now, but sloping greensward; as if Nature,
Who vainly her mild moral reads to man,
Still strove to realize the blessed days,
By seers avouched, by statesmen turned to dreams,
When war shall be no more.
So mused I there!
As who had failed to muse? But now the sun,
Silently sunken, with departing light
Had fused the whole horizon; not alone
His western realm, but flooded refluent gold
Back to the southern hills, along whose tops
Are seen to stretch, in far continuous line,
Sepulchral barrows. Brightly-verdant cones
I marked them rise beneath his earlier ray;
But now they stood against that orange light
Each of a velvet blackness; like the bier
Before some high-illumined altar spread
When a king lies in state; and well might seem
To twilight fantasy, like funeral palls,
Shrouding the bones of aboriginal men,
Who there had lived and died, long ere our tribes
Had heard the name or felt the conquering arms
Of Rome or Roman; or as yet had seen,
Mocking their hearths of clay and turf-built huts,
The prætor's quaint mosaic or tiled bath;
Or heard our hard-school task, the phrase of Terence,
Bandied in common parlance round the land.
This was the hour of Fancy, Spirit shy!
Who weaves no dreams beneath the garish day,
Or if indeed she weave, yet tells them not,
So fearful of the comment, or the jeer.
Nay, still the more from vulgar guess to hide
Her visionary themes, will oft put on,
With harmless treachery, worldly masquerade
Of common-place or business; squaring now
Some dull frivolity of daily life,
Visit or etiquette; now poring o'er
Law book or ledger, or long-drawn report
Of grave committee, just as if she prized
The things she seems to ponder but when night
Is in the heaven, her natural day begins.
Then, like yon star, which, when the morning sun
Came forth, first trembled, and then dropt away
To unobserved seclusion, and yet now
Once more hangs thoughtful in the twilight sky;
E'en so doth Fancy venture forth again
To float among the tinted clouds of eve;
And—hovering now—now car-like borne along—
Imbues her visions with their loveliest hues,
And gives them back yet lovelier of her own.
Ere long, uncontradicted and more bold,
She gives command to Matter and to Space
To work her bidding; and behold! the Twain,
Like Genii-servants of the lamp or ring,
Contract themselves at once, or else dilate
As she would have it. Nor may Time oppose
His realm's remoteness, parted by the gulf
Of cycled centuries; for she knows to weave
Her gossamer threads so subtile, yet so strong,
That linkèd by the long invisible line,
Present and Past are one.
This was her hour,
The potent hour of Fancy! As of old
The games were just beginning; and I saw
The rural dwellers hastening o'er the plain
By ones, and twos, and threes; some quaint to view
With their own painted skins, and some hirsute
In spoil of wolf or bear. A denser mass
Poured from the crowded city; helm and gown,
The soldier and civilian; and, ere long,
These circling seats, almost obliterate' now,
And where the shy mole-cricket, undisturbed,
Creaks his funereal note, were thronged with looks
So eager—so intent—it seemed as if
No desolation e'er could touch the place.
Mingled they sat, conquered and conqueror;
The intruder and the native of the land;
Fair British damsel by dark Roman maid;
And whoso had but scanned, with curious eye,
The multitude there met, had singled out
Each separate race, distinct as then they showed,
Ere holy marriage rites, and lapse of years,
Had fused the swarthy South and paler North
Into one blended beauty.
Relaxed not, and behold! the games went on.
But here no wretched gladiator died,
To stimulate the jaded taste corrupt
Of a luxurious city, mingling blood
And sport together; here no lordly brute,
Pride of his woods, tiger nor spotted 'pard
Was brought to bathe his beautiful sides in gore.
But simple games were here, befitting well
Remoter province. Yet there wanted not
The course of chariots, seven times rapt around
The level circus; nor impetuous speed
Of the foot-racer swift; nor clenchèd hand
With cestus mailed; nor strong transcendent arm
Whirling the discus far and far away.
Here too were jugglers' feats, with many a feint
Of the quick hand, deceiving eye and guess;
Perchance transmitted down from those who strove
With Moses, when the rods to serpents rolled
In ancient Egypt, aye for magic famed;
And whose strange sorceries even now perplex
The traveller, and send him doubting home.
And graceful dancers here from Southern Gaul
Wove their gay measures, with half-wingèd feet
Quivering in air, as if the air were half
Their element; nor was there lack of song
From smooth Italian clime, nor of sweet flute,
Breathing some lay, on slope of Aready
First framed by love-sick shepherd; courting now
Barbarian ears; which yet delighted heard,
And treasured up the strain.
Him too I saw—
(For Fancy bodied forth whate'er she willed)—
The shepherd-minstrel of remotest time,
Zampognatore, who, with moving arm,
From the pressed bag compels the struggling air
Into a liquid music. He had strayed
From his Calabrian home, lone wanderer,
For humble gain, thus far; and such, e'en now,
Gay Naples! when returning Christmas brings
High festival, amid thy crowded streets
Are seen and heard, hymning each sacred shrine.
In simple sheep-skin clad, they wend along,
(Rude vesture! worn of old, when men first watched
Their feeding flocks along the grassy hills,)
And seem like records of an earlier world,
Linking the Past and Present. And, full oft,
(If Fancy might presume on holy ground,)
Me would she fondly lure to dream that such
As these, perchance, in old Judæa's land,
The missioned angel summoned from their folds,
To learn the glorious birth in Bethlehem!
A pause—and, lo! two well-trained wrestlers come,
Briton with Roman matched; and as they stand
Eyeing each other, face to face, erect,
Look like bold statues, which some master-hand
Hath wrought to best proportion. Soon their arms
Are grasping each the other's at full length.
Anon they stoutly close; and while they strive
Each one to stir the other from the base
Of his firm footing, you behold them rock
Like gallant vessels in a stormy surge,
Whose proud yards almost touch the deep; or trees
Full-foliaged, which, when some mighty wind
Sweeps through the forest, stagger to and fro,
Full soon to fall! A thousand straining eyes,
And utter silence, and suspended breaths,
Are waiting on the contest; till, at last,
By one collected effort whirled amain,
Prostrate the Roman lies. Then all at once
Bursts a loud shout from the rude tribes around,
Mixed with the broad uncultured laugh. Yet one
Stood there, who joined not in the laugh nor shout,
A chieftain of the land! but deeply groaned
Within his inmost soul to mark his race,
Firm as they were of valour and of limb,
Thus to the stranger bowed. Yet wherefore groan?
Finite is human wrong; while Justice holds
Eternally—to balance and redress—
Her righteous scales above.
Not far away,
In modest beauty sat a British maid,
That chieftain's daughter. She nor heard the shout,
Nor marked the triumph. All her thoughts, the while,
Were in the Imperial City; thither led
By tale of young centurion, whose dark plume,
As he bent o'er her, nearer and more near,
Soft-shadowed her sweet face. From him she heard
Of mighty amphitheatres, within
Whose ample bounds a hundred chariots roll;
Then—flooded to broad lakes—a hundred barks
Glide o'er their vast arenas. Passing by,
In pity to that pitying heart of hers,
Combat of man or beast, he spoke of shows
More gentle, that enforced no shuddering ear.
He told her of the nodding elephant,
Huge and compact of bulk, and girt with tower;
And dromedary of ungainly stride;
And still more rare, and stranger still of form,
Camelopard; yet prized for sinuous grace
Of neck, and delicate step, and loving eye,
Mild as her own.
She, with half doubting eyes,
Expanding as he spoke, sat by and listened,
Scarce knowing if she might believe or not;
Hard though it were such speaker not to trust.
Then would he tell her of proud palaces,
Temples, and towers; yet most he loved to speak
Of his own native home, their Sabine farm;
Where still his mother dwelt, 'mid their own fields,
Their fruitful olive trees and tents of vine;
Vaunting his dear Penates; yet therewith
Mingling, as if by chance, some gentle word
Of Cupid and of Hymen.
Thence I turned
To the benign Proconsul. He was one,
Or so imagination loved to feign,
Of Rome's first blood, tracing his lofty line,
Through long-drawn pedigree and consular fast,
To race of Lelius or of Scipio;
And thence fore-born large thoughts to interweave
Of statesman and of sage. Some warrior-pride
He well might feel, beholding all around
His steadfast soldiery, and the strong walls
Of the near city, and those camp-crowned hills,
Plucked from their fierce defenders. Yet his heart
Was gentle, and his mind full-fraught with lore
From history won, and humanized by power
Of mild philosophy; nor lacked he love
For Maro's polished strain, or bolder song
Of old Mæonides. And now, e'en now,
Amid this throng and tumult of the games,
There seemed to flit athwart his pensive brow
Such thoughts, as oft, at eve, will touch the soul
Of him who sojourns in a foreign land.
Say, did he think on his own native Rome
And fallen empires? on Etruria old,
Gone like a dream—on Carthage, vanish'd too—
And the razed walls of proud Jerusalem?
Then ask himself if that barbarian flood,
Rolled from the stormy regions of the North,
Billow on billow, and o'erhanging now
In dread suspense, should yet withhold its wave;
Or burst in vengeance on sweet Italy,
Whelming her ancient glories? Did he muse
How, then, each conquered realm, long tributary,
The Dacian tribes, wide Gaul and mountain-Spain
Should snap their bonds? and e'en this isle remote
Start from its vassalage, perhaps to pluck
Itself—some shred of empire?
Thus far might warn from shrine of thoughtful mind,
Or yet more thoughtful heart, deceiving not.
But not far thoughts, nor deep humanities,
Nor clear experience from old histories won,
Might hint of all the coming. Who might tell
How ships, contemptuous of the guiding shore,
Should breast right onward o'er strange seas, and find
A world as yet unknown; all bold to dare
—Though still beat back—the beakèd promontory,
For ever weltered round by stormy waves,
From which the trireme bark had shrunk amazed?
Then burst on other oceans, all unguessed
Till now, far-spread and thousand-islanded,
Amid new climates and beneath new stars?
Not well-known constellations; not the Twins,
Orion, nor the ancient Pleiades;
But stars yet unbeheld; which when, at first,
The helmsman viewed, he doubted his own eyes,
Perchance grown old, or else with watching worn,
And questioned if he read aright; or if
To mar the boldness of presumptuous man,
Who dared (for so might be) forbidden seas,
The very heavens themselves were changed.
Might'st Thou, Proconsul mild! (albeit full-stored
With lore of statesman, and far-reaching thought)
How might'st thou dream that this barbarian isle,
O'er which it seemed half-exile e'en to rule,
This Britain utterly from the world shut out,
Should rise from strife to strife, from strength to strength,
Foremost among the nations; conquering
O'er lands and seas to which the Roman realm,
In its most lordly day, was but a speck?
That she should shed her laws, her polity,
Her cultured language, and her peaceful arts,
All she had stored from her own toils, and all
That came from Rome or Greece transmitted down,
A glorious gift! o'er half the peopled globe?
There to survive, when she, perchance, may be
What Rome and Greece are now!
Change deep as this,
What oracle might bring thee to believe?
Or that, in tract of time, a day could come,
When, in this very amphitheatre,
A common plant—its lonely tenant now—
By a chance-traveller scanned—should summon up,
To dim the glories of departed Rome,
The mightier marvel of a new-found world?
Not alway from the lessons of the schools,
Taught evermore by those who trust them not,
Though in fine phrase tricked out, or bodied forth
In solid saw, spring forth the fairest fruits
Of wisdom or of duty. Spirits there are
Who, rather from the forms of outward nature—
Those teachers who in our dull colleges
Have never taken degree—rejoice to cull
Their doctrine; nutriment to grosser sense,
If alien, yet with finer essences
Not unassimilate! Such win their lore
Through many a sympathy, from 'stones, and trees,
And running brooks;' from every sound and thing;
Yea, from far less; from films of sounds and things;
The airiest shadow flitting o'er the mead;
The last thin whisper of the evening breeze;
The faintest hue that dies along the main.
Such thoughts dost Thou, beloved Moon, shed forth
For poets, which from them we gather up
Not scant; and I have had them of my own,
Gentle and fair, and, as I fain would deem,
Not unpoetic quite, though never stamped
With countermark of verse; I all unskilled
Of measure, or the thoughts themselves too swift
Or subtile for the workmanship of words
And yet, though woven of thy most delicate rays,
Or snatched, as might be, from quick-vanishing stars,
Twinkling and gone, not thence, would I believe,
Mere passing thoughts, but fitted to endure,
For profit of the meditative mind,
As yon sweet stars and Thou, fair Moon, endurest.
For I have loved Thee from my childhood up
Till now; from when, beneath far tropic skies,
Forth guided by my ancient Afran nurse,
Whose ebon face strange contrast made with Thine,
I first observed Thee; and, observing, wondered
If those, thy seeming features, nose and mouth,
And steadfast eyes, were really such as ours,
And asked of her, like wondering. Nor when
To these fair isles conveyed, a growing school-boy,
From forth our play-ground's narrow boundary,
I spied thee, 'mid blue ether, in thy freedom
Careering, even like the white-sailed ship
That sped me hither; or if I beheld thee,
When sultry summer-airs forbade to sleep,
Slanting, at midnight, through th' uncurtained window,
On the half-testered bed, uncurtained too,
Our youngster couch; not then could I withhold
To gaze upon Thee; pensive half—half glad,
I scarce knew which nor wherefore, with a vague
Unsatisfied delight. And as, in days
Ere chivalry was gone, some youthful knight,
Of high-born damsel, whom he ne'er might reach,
Enamoured, worshipped still her peerless beauty,
And dress'd his thoughts on hers, and thus imbibed
Civility with love; not less, fair Idol,
On thee I hung in thy removèd sphere,
And duly paid my visionary vows
To thy bright purity; nor was the soul,
E'en in those stripling-days, as now I deem,
Wholly by such communion unrefined.
Nor seldom did I win from thy sweet light
A more creative and less pensive joy;
Such joy as kindly Fancy oft will weave
For childhood; kindlier still, if she desert not
Our after-years. 'Twas when dim-floating clouds
Were hung in the still west, and there had hung
From hour of parted twilight. They had watched
The sinking Sun's last glory, and caught thence,
Around his golden garment clustering,
A passing radiance not their own; but now,
Though rayless, hueless, still they lingered here,
As in persisting love (so spirits, they say,
Will hover round loved spots); nor lingered here
In vain; for Thou didst bring a second day
Less bright than his; but not less beautiful.
Sun of the Midnight! Then those pallid clouds,
Each in its turn by thy soft light lit up,
Grew to a living dream-land. Earth and Sea,
In all their shows, were there, with semblances
Of man, or beast, or monster. Not an image
Through childhood's brain had flitted, won, perchance,
From tale of nurse or grandsire, or out-gleaned
From story-book, thumbed o'er and o'er again,
But there found type or home. What mattered it,
In that free hour, of tyrant pedagogue,
Or brute school-comrade, tyrant more than he;
Or grammar rule, perplexing easy speech;
Or cramp obdurate sum, tried ten times o'er
On the smeared slate? I recked not of them then—
I thought not of them! No discoverer
By land or sea, to cape or central range
Tacking his own proud name, to dream thenceforth
Of immortality;—no conqueror—
No! not the Norman, broadly parcelling
Among his mailèd knights and barons bold
New territory—was more lord than I
In that my flaky kingdom; free to give,
Make or unmake, at pleasure! Yon far cloud,
Floating like island in its sea of sky,
Should be the spot for Crusoe! There Saint George
Was fighting with the dragon, while below
Paced slowly Bunyan's Pilgrim with his staff!
There stood the magic steed, which whirled away
Young Calmaralzaman; there drove the bark,
Rapt fiercely by invisible force along,
To split, with Sinbad, on the loadstone shore!
But when came classic lessons, and all fresh
From lore of Tooke's Pantheon—a new world
Peopled with deity—I knew how thine,
In the far days of famed Antiquity,
Had been no slighted worship; glorious then
Of my new knowledge, and fantastical
As innocent childhood is, I longed to have been
The shepherd youth, of whom then first I read,
Endymion; Endymion, loved in Latmos!
(Ah! me, quaint shepherd, not of crook, but satchel,
And guessing, at that age, how much of love!)
And, in my foolishness, almost I craved
Those Pagan days again. Then would recur
The holy teachings of the primal book,
'The Sun to rule the day, and Thou the night,'
And wake to wiser musings. Mixture strange
Of sacred and profane! Yet each in turn
Struck its own chord, and made Thee dearer still.
Nor me when onward years had loosed at length
From 'prisonment of school-boy, and left free
To choose my own observatories, when
And where I willed, frank-breathing mountain-top
Or wide-viewed plain, did I less love thy light,
Sweet Moon; and, e'en amid the revelries
Of the mad city, when thy thoughtful beam
Hath met me, sliding slow from temple to tower,
Or pausing on the broad and silent street,
Beneath that pause more broad and yet more silent;
How oft hath the wild will of wayward youth
Received in Thee a monitor, not vain,
To calm and summon home. But if, far rather,
Thou wert seen planing o'er some lovely region,
From city remote, to thy attempering ray
More native; making its day-loveliness
Yet lovelier; softening with diffused beauty
Near plain; or making with long narrow line
The distant sea; or, slanted with soft step
Almost to earth, wert streaming light behind
Some ancient wood, more forward thence to fling
Its huge black outline; Thou thyself chance-spied
Through the tall stems; or else wert stealing down
The shadowy dingle, pensively to rest
By the hushed waters of some bosomed lake;
'Mid scene like this, to love most harmonised,
How dearer was thy presence! By such mirror,
(Mirror of Dian! aptly named by those
Who dwelt near Nemi's wooded wave,) how oft
Fixed have I stood to watch thy dream-like image,
And then upturned me from the soft reflection
To view thy very Self in the high heaven.
There wert Thou, with the same unaltered features
Which mocked my childhood; features still, indeed,
So Science tells, but features of a world,
Visible continents and circling seas,
With all their promontories. Trancèd thus,
(My childish fancies weaned, but love unbated,)
How fondly have I longed, how deeply yearned
To know Thee nearer; yearned to climb thy hills,
And thread thy peaceful valleys; there, perchance,
To meet some loved one lost; and well content,
With such sweet compensation, to forego
This native earth of ours, by folly and guilt
Too often marred; and yet, though often marred,
Beautiful still; and still more beautiful
That Thou, fair Moon! dost shed thy peace upon it.
That peace, how deep! this night of thousand stars,
That hide themselves abashed from the bold sun,
But hang, all fondly, on thy gentler brow—
How calm! Yet not o'er calmer skies alone,
Mild Moon! is thy dominion Thou dost sway
The very storm to obey thy peacefulness.
When winds are piping, and the chargèd clouds,
As if out-summoned by that warlike music,
First in black squadrons rush; then sternly muster
In sullen mass, on either side the heaven,
Like armies face to face, with space between;
'Tis then Thou glidest forth; like some pale nun,
Unhooded, whom a high and rare occasion
Wrests from her sanctuary, to interpose
In mortal quarrel, so Thou glidest forth,
And lookest thy mild bidding; and the winds
Are silent; and those close-compacted clouds,
Disbanding, fleet in tender flakes away,
And leave the world to thy tranquillity.
On such a night it was, so wildly fitful,
That Thou, Conductress of my way, didst lead me
To where the mighty mystery of Stonehenge
Broods o'er the silent plain, and with mute power
Rules the vast circuit of its sea-like space,
As Thou dost rule the sky. For many a mile
I journeyed, pondering on the days when Thou
Wert shining o'er the Druid; being to him
His Sun, his chronicler of months and years,
And sanctifier of his rites most holy!
And musing on the rites—the priest—all gone!
Thou and that lonely fane the sole abiders!
In my inmost spirit I felt how the dead Past
Controuls the living Present; binding awe
And melancholy, of high strain or low,
Not solely on the' imaginative mind,
That 'mid mere earthly precinct asks no home,
But e'en on fleshlier natures, which escape not
Foresight of their own doom, to vanish in turn.
So did I reach to where uprose those pillars
'Mid their sepulchral barrows; turfy tombs!
Which yet outlast the marble. At the first
All indistinctly visioned; but, ere long,
When Thou wert lucent in the open path
Which winds had swept before Thee, then I saw them
In their huge steadfastness; and felt their power
Unutterable, and in wonder stood!
Then too I longed to chase away those clouds
Which still were flocking round Thee, like the ghosts
Of fabled Orcus; and to question Thee
Of all the past; as the great Florentine,
Who saw the triple vision, reverently
Questioned mild Maro 'mid the dim sojourn.
Say, Moon! for Thou didst shine o'er Paradise
From the beginning; its sole light by night,
Thou and the stars; ere yet that other light
From the preventing sword with double tongue
Flamed at the gateway; and hast seen the shepherds
In old Chaldæa watchers of those stars,
And of thy nightly course, with each event
Of after-rolling time; say, who first planned
The mystic round of those gigantic columns?
Who dragged the masses from their yawning quarries,
And planted on such bases as might scorn
The earthquake, and uphung rock upon rock?
Are they, as some have dreamed, unconquered relics
Of a young world; survivors of the flood;
Reared by a first-born strength mightier than ours?
Or if indeed the work of men like us,
In what far cyele? Stood they here before
Elder Assyria, or ere Egypt was?
Before those pyramids, or ere the towers
Of Belus old? Or did they rise, thus rude,
And curl their uncouth ring in that same age
Which saw the fair-proportioned Parthenon,
In its first finish of Pentelic marble,
Outsparkle from the hand of Phidias?
Say, for Thou knowest; Thou hast seen of each
The birth and the old age; hast seen the rites
Of either worship, Pallas's or Thine;
Beheld thine oaken or her olive-wreath
Hung on each altar; and beholdest, now,
The vaunted wonder of each famous temple,
The Celtic circle and the Grecian frieze,
Was it, O Moon! in prescience
Of populous champaigns turned to pallid wastes;
And temples—fallen; and roofless palaces;
And monuments—men know not whose they were;
Making our solid earth seem but a play-place
For Mutability; was it for this
That Thou didst choose the undecaying sea
For thy peculiar realm? Towers, built like rocks,
Crumble and strew the region; forests old
Are treeless wastes; where hills, up-peaked, yawn now
Deep gulfs; such foot-marks Mutability
Leaves on the land. But, for the ocean-waves,
Myriads of sharp-keeled ships have cut athwart them
To their safe ports, and left behind no furrow;
Ten thousand gallant barks with all their trim
Have sunk, yet where they sunk remains no sign;
Tempest hath wrenched the Pharos from its rock,
And toppled down, with every tended light,
To gorge the surge they lit; Earthquake hath flung
Whole cities to the deep; yet o'er the fragments,
Acanthus, or volute, or fluted column,
Or causeway, clattering once with proud-horsed chariot,
It rolls as heretofore. This isle of ours
What if no Earthquake rend! yet change steals o'er it
Slowly, but surely; and, ere yet the half
Of our threescore-and-ten be past, we learn
The lesson. Nor alone the works of Man,
The long-trimmed avenue, or hall ancestral,
On which our youngling wonder loved to gaze,
Are sought for and are gone; yon very headland
Which now thy light is lifting from the waves,
Or struck by storm, or fretted by still frost,
Wears not the form it wore when, yet an urchin,
Timidly bold, I scrambled on its edge
Precipitous, and, warned a hundred times,
Would still gaze giddily down. And yet the waters
Are circling round its base, as seems, no other
Than those my childhood knew; and such, no doubt,
The woad-stained aboriginal beheld,
When his flat coracle from off his shoulder
He slipped upon them; such the unflinching Roman
Stemmed with the strong oar of his beakèd galley;
And such the more impetuous Norman blood
Swept through, to win a kingdom in a day.
Hence rightly didst Thou make the ocean-waves
Thine appanage; their very change constraining
To a vicissitude so fixed, that change
With them is but renewal.—Storm may smite them,
And flash their sprays all round, like wind-tost feathers,—
Still they re-plume their beauty; and, like Thee,—
Thou, waxing, waning; They, in ebb or flow—
Though ever changing are the same for ever.
Through what invisible controul Thou rulest
These willing waves, sublimer intellects
Have found and taught; and veneration waits
On their vast toils. But far-reached arguments
Of densities, and gravitating powers,
Mean distance—perigee, and apogee—
Forewarned eclipses—total or in part—
With each attraction, simple or combined,
Were never meant for hold unscientific
Of brain like mine; while lettered diagrams,
And algebraic symbols, line or cross,—
Strange as the shapes, which, in our Carib isle,
Rude Obi-wizard scrawls on hut or tree,
Or as demure astrologer erst traced
On vellum, when he sold the stars for gold—
These but perplex the more, like Cabala,
Searing the sense. Enough for me to know,
Through such chance-knowledge as mere hear-say brings,
And faith, if uninquiring yet sincere,
Enough for me to know, wide-ruling Moon!
That thine it is to lead the foam-edged surges
Along the shores; or up the sinuous harbour
Where ships ride inland, lifting their tall masts
Above the groves; or call them to the loch,
Whose briny inlet, winding from the main,
Tempts up the grampus 'mid the heathy hills.
Enough for me to know that Thou, no less,
Dost fill the curving horns of mightiest bay,
Whose indrawn waters are themselves a sea,
While kingdoms clasp it round. Or if I turn
From lore of book or chart to watch the billows
In-rolling from the deeps with joyous motion;
And catch their thousand faces glistening up
In thy clear light, and hear their thousand voices,
Like a whole people's at a jubilee;
Or if I see them, as I see them, now,
Beneath this calmest sky as smoothly spread,
And whitely, as an alabaster floor;
No touch of cloud and not a murmur on them;
E'en where they meet the shore scarce murmuring;
As all reposing in thy clement ray,
Yet ready to up-leap at thy least bidding;
Beholding this, what needs more formal warrant
From inky hand of gowned Philosophy
To prove that Thou art in full right their Queen?
And Queen Thou art in this thy realm of midnight,
And lovely as Queen-like; yet not lovely less
When Thou art lapsing on through either twilight,
Companion of the Evening or the Dawn.
For ever to the heart, which feeds on beauty,
The Evening and the Morning make the day;
Meridian Suns are mate-fellows of Earth,
But Morn and musing Eve consort with Heaven.
And ne'er did Dawn behold Thee lovelier yet,
Than when we saw Thee, one remembered day,
Thee and that brightest of all morning-stars,
Hang o'er the Adrian; not in thy full lustre,
But graceful with slim crescent; such as, erst,
Some Arab chief beheld in his own sky
Of purest, deepest azure; and so loved it,
So loved it, that he chose it for his symbol;
A peaceful symbol in a warlike banner!
And oft, I ween, in many a distant camp,
'Mid the sharp neigh of steeds, and clash of cymbals,
And jingle of the nodding Moorish bells,
When he hath caught that image o'er the tents,
Hath he bethought him of the placid hours
When Thou wert whitening his night-feeding flocks
On Yemen's happy hills; and then, perchance,
Hath sighed to think of war!
We too beheld Thee
With untired eye fixed upward; scarce regarding
(So deep the charm which Thou hadst wrapped around us)
Where reddening lines along the Eastward Sea
Spoke of the Sun's uprising. Up He rose,
From o'er the regions of the near Illyria,
Glorious, how glorious!—if less gladly hailed
As warning thy departure. Yet, some time,
Ye shone together; and we then might feel
How they, the ancient masters of that land,
The dwellers on the banks of Rubicon,
Who saw what we were seeing, uninstruct'
Of wiser faith, had, in no feigned devotion,
Bowed down to Thee, their Dian, and to Him,
Bright-haired Apollo! We too bowed our hearts,
But in a purer worship, to the One,
Who made, Alone, the hills and seas and skies,
And Thee, fair Moon, the Hallower of them all!
Well did that Sun fulfil his rising promise,
Showering redundant light, the live-long day,
O'er plain, and inland peak, and bluest sea;
And brightening the far mole, which Old Ancona
Hath reared upon the waves. Meanwhile thy form
(Faint and more faint, and, if might be, more fair;
And still, as near to lose Thee, loved the more)
Thinned to unseen. But as some morning dream,
Too sweet to part with, and which yet must fade
At touch of light, will oft unconsciously
Mix with the day, serener thoughts inweaving
Than sun-beams bring; or as some melody,
Closed on the ear, nor e'en by it remembered,
Will still its silent agency prolong
Upon the spirit, with a hoarded sweetness
Tempering the after-mood; e'en so didst Thou
Waft the bland influence of thy dawning presence
Over the onward hours.
Yet, Thou sphered Vestal!
If mine it were to choose me when to bend
Before thy high-hung lamp; and venerate
Thy mysteries; and feel, not hear, the voice
Of thy mute admonition; let it be
At holy vesper-tide, when nature all
Whispers of peace; if solemn less than night's,
More soothing still. Such season of the Soul
Obeys Thee best. For as the unwrinkled pool,
Stilled o'er by stirless Eve, will dimple under
The tiniest brushing of an insect's wing;
So, at that hour, do human hearts respond
To every touch of finer thought.
Such blessed eve was ours, when last we stood
Beside the storied shore of Gaëta,
Breathing its citroned air. Silence more strict
Was never. The small wave, or ripple rather,
Scarce lisping up the sand, crept to the ear
Sole sound; nor did we break the calm with movement,
Or sacrilege of word; but stayed in peace,
Of Thee expectant. And what need had been
Of voicèd language, when the silent eye,
And silent pressure of each linkèd arm,
Spokemore than utterance? Nay, whose tongue might tell
What hues were garlanding the western sky
To welcome thy approaching! Purple hues
With orange wove, and many a floating flake
Crimson or rose, with that last tender green
Which best relieves thy beauty. Who may paint
How glowed those hills, with depth of ruddy light
Translucified, and half etherial made,
For thy white feet to tread on? and, ere long—
Ere yet those hues had left or sky or hill,
One peak with pearling top confess'd thy Coming.
There didst Thou pause awhile, as inly musing
O'er realm so fair! And, first, thy rays fell partial
On many a scattered object, here and there;
Edging or tipping, with fantastic gleam,
The sword-like aloe, or the tent-roofed pine,
Or adding a yet paler pensiveness
To the pale olive-tree; or, yet more near us,
Were flickering back from wall reticulate'
Of ruin old. But when that orb of Thine
Had clomb to the mid-concave, then broad light
Was flung around o'er all those girding cliffs,
And groves, and villages, and fortress towers,
And the far circle of that lake-like sea,
Till the whole grew to one expanded sense
Of peacefulness, one atmosphere of love,
Where the Soul breathed as native, and mere Body
Sublimed to Spirit.
She, too, stood beside us,
Our human type of Thee; the Pure, the Peaceful,
The Gentle—potent in her gentleness!
And, as she raised her eyes to thy meek glory,
In the fond aspiration of a heart,
Which prized all beauty and all sanctity;
We saw, and loved to see, thy sainting ray
Fall, as in fondness, on her upturned brow,
Serene—like it. Alas! in how brief space
Coldly to glitter on her marble tomb!
She lies in her own land; far from the scene
Of that fair eve; but Thou, its fairer part,
Thou Moon! art here; and now we gaze on Thee
To think on Her; if still in sorrow, yet
Not without hope; and, for the time to come,
Though dear to us thy light hath ever been,
Shall love Thee yet the more for her sweet sake.
Once more that tomb hath opened! and She, who,
Companion of my wanderings as my life,
Thus far had listened to th' unfinished strain,
Shedding fond tears to hear a Sister's praise,
Now lies in death beside her. Fare thee well,
Thou faithful Heart! and Thou, dejected Song!
For now thy spell is broken—fare thee well.
A Day At Tivoli - Prologue
Fair blows the breeze—depart—depart—
And tread with me th' Italian shore;
And feed thy soul with glorious art;
And drink again of classic lore.
Nor sometime shalt thou deem it wrong,
When not in mood too gravely wise,
At idle length to lie along,
And quaff a bliss from bluest skies.
Or, pleased more pensive joy to woo,
At twilight eve, by ruin grey,
Muse o'er the generations, who
Have passed, as we must pass, away.
Or mark o'er olive tree and vine
Steep towns uphung; to win from them
Some thought of Southern Palestine;
Some dream of old Jerusalem.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! At last our sun outbreaks,
And chases, one by one, dawn's lingering flakes.
Come, Pilgrim-Friend! and downward let us rove
(Thy long-vow'd vow) this old Tiburtian grove.
See where, beneath, the jocund runnels play,
All cheerly brighten'd in the brightening day.
E'en in the far-off years when Flaccus wrote,
('Tis here, I ween, no pedantry to quote,)
Thus led, they gurgled thro' those orchard-bowers
To feed the herb—the fruitage—and the flowers.
Come, then, and snatch Occasion; transient boon!
And sliding into Future all too soon.
That Future's self possession just as brief,
And stolen, soon as given, by Time—the Thief.
Well! if such filching knave we needs must meet,
Let us, as best we may, the Cheater cheat;
And, since the Then, the Now, will flit so fast,
Look back, and lengthen life into the Past.
That Past is here; where old Tiburtus found
Mere mountain-brow, and fenc'd with walls around;
And for his wearied Argives reared a home
Long ere yon seven proud hills had dream'd of Rome.
'Tis here, amid these patriarch olive trees,
Which Flaccus saw, or ancestry of these;
Oft musing, as he slowly strayed him past,
How here his quiet age should close at last.
And here behold them, still! Like ancient seers
They stand; the dwellers of a thousand years.
Deep-furrow'd, strangely crook'd, and ashy-grey,
As ghost might gleam beneath the touch of day.
All strangely perforate too; with rounded eyes,
That ever scan the traveller as he hies:
Fit guardians of the spot they seem to be,
With centuries seen, and centuries yet to see.
Who treads this pallid grove, by moonlight pale,
Might half believe the peasant's spectre tale
Of Latian heroes old, that come to glide
Along these silent paths at even-tide;
Or Sibyl, wan with ghastly prophecy,
From her near fane, as whilom, wandering by.
But Morning, now, and sunny vines are here,
From tree to tree gay-gadding without fear;
Or else in verdant rope their fibres string,
As if to tempt the little Loves to swing;
Or, tricking silvery head and wrinkled stem
With tendril-curl, or leafy diadem;
A sportive war of graceful contrast wage,
The Grave and Gay—green Youth and hoary Age.
Hence we may feel Resounding Anio's shock,
As his full river thunders from his rock.
Yet mark! meanwhile adown its own small dell
How falls or winds each little cascatelle.
With no rude sound—with no impetuous rush;
But blandly—fondly—or by bank or bush.
Or floats in air; as when mild mermaid frees
(Or so they feign) her tresses to the breeze;
And careless, for a while, of coral bower,
Basks on the sunny sands till noontide's scorching hour.
How sweet! to have such gentle waters near;
Just soothing, ne'er disturbing eye nor ear.
Nor deem I those unblest, whom choice—or fate—
Leads to prefer the Lesser to the Great.
'Repose, thou better privilege than fame.'—
So felt, we know, the great historic name,
Mecænas; he who owned those villa-halls,
All stately once, tho' now but rifted walls.
And hither, wisely truant, oft would come,
Forth from the smokes, the toils, the strifes of Rome.
For, tho' defaced, discolour'd, broken, bow'd,
Yet were they then of gold and ivory proud.
Or far beyond what proudest wealth might do,
From thoughtful art a nobler triumph drew.
There, dark-hued urns, with mythic picture fraught,
Time's treasures! stood, from old Etruria brought;
Which even then had claim'd uncounted date,
When you great Rome was yet a struggling state.
Or marble vases there, in white array,
Beam'd back an added lustre to the day.
Or, better, when the gladly-welcom'd guest
Came to the banquet, rich with every zest,
From lamp of chisell'd bronze, adjusted light
Threw out some Phidian marvel on the night;
Evoking, heightening thus, in form or face,
Each subtler beauty or diviner grace.
Nor yet, when hours of feast had found their close,
Or jaded statesman sighed for short repose,
Was wanting, there, some well-befitting room,
Nor all-too bright, nor quite subdued to gloom,
Whose odoriferous cedar-shelves along
Fair scrolls were ranged; philosophy or song.
There, all our Lost might be. All Livy told,
(Where now?) and all Menander limned of old,
Fresh from the life; with sweet Simonides;
And glorious Sappho, —greater yet than These.
And then, perchance, you small and sinuous rill,
In open day now glittering down the hill,
Slid underground its tube-directed path,
To feed or sculptured fount or perfumed bath.
Their graceful rites, their gorgeous prides are gone;
Their proudest monument a crumbled stone!
Yet if the marble and the bronze decay,
Their storied memories fade not thus away;
But cluster still, tho' dying centuries toll,
Beadrolls for thought, and relics for the soul.
Hence here have bowed, thro' farthest tracts of time,
Genius and Lore, from every cultured clime.
And hence, no less, thro' many a countless year,
Like us, shall unborn pilgrims worship here.
And how may pilgrim stand on spot like this,
Nor feel what flitting wayfarer he is?
Here, where the joys, the griefs, the hopes, the fears,
The busy doings of three thousand years,
Since first Tiburtus made these hills his hold,
Have dreamed their dream, and mingle with the mould.
Men pass like cloud, or wave, or morning dew:
A thought nor very deep, nor very new.
Yet who, as here, shall find him, face to face,
In presence of that Mighty Commonplace,
And not imbibe the moral of the spot,
Accept the general doom—and murmur not?
Yet, if All die, there are who die not All;
(So Flaccus hoped), and half escape the pall.
The Sacred Few! whom love of glory binds,
'That last infirmity of noble minds,
'To scorn delights, and live laborious days,'
And win thro' lofty toil undying praise.
What if for These, now verging to the tomb,
As yet, nor laurels spread nor myrtles bloom;
Proud mortgagees they stand of Fame's estate,
And for the brave reversion bear to wait.
Nay, what tho' never from th' ungrateful soil
Green chaplets spring, for guerdon of the toil;
In calm content their avarice sublime
May well forego those unpaid debts of Time;
Who, e'en while clutching at the generous pelf,
Priz'd ever, most, the virtue for itself.
So go we musing on. But, as we go,
Just glimpse yon lizard frisking to and fro.
Now here—now there—now straightly fixed he lies;
Then turns him sudden in a mock surprise.
Give him this southern wall, this sprightly sun,
And Past and Future are to him as One.
Tell him of either, (for he loves to talk
With loiterer, pausing on his easy walk,)
Tell him of either, and, with eyes that glisten,
And head aslant, awhile he seems to listen,
Then jerks him merry off, as if to say,
'Good Sirs! for me sufficient is the day.'
So, should grave memories ever come to press
Life's present hour with thought of past distress;
Or future years o'erhang us, vague or dim,
Why, we may come and take a hint from him.
And who not thus delights him, who or what,
In such a clime, or animate or not?
These hill-side vines; this wide expanding plain;
These fields—of pasture, here; and there, of grain;
These twisted chesnuts, with their cheery green;
Yon darker cypress, spired above them seen;
Which, many a century, land-mark, there, hath stood,
Self-lifted obelisk, immortal wood;
Those aloes, that with sworded panoply
Still warn the pilgrim, who would dare too nigh;
Yon steeply climbing town; that rocky height;
Seem they not living in the living light?
For each grey flake hath faded from the view,
And all around is one Ausonian Blue.
Not the fresh dawn, not evening's tenderest hour,
Speak to the spirit with a deeper power.
As eye and heart strain up that azure air,
What light—what love—what fixedness is there!
Transient—we know—Eternal—let it seem!
With such blue sky we only ask to dream.
E'en he, (behold! him in that shaggy coat)—
Yon goat-herd, with his only browsing goat,
On the hill-slope; beside that humming stream;
This heaven above; how can he help but dream!
He ne'er was train'd in thronging city vast,
For some huge deck to shape the mighty mast;
To face, in ship, the deadly Afran breeze;
Or drop the anchor deep in Arctic seas,
Like our stern sons. Yet not for this despise,
Albeit in seeming vacancy he lies.
Not idle they the most, who idlest seem;
Nor lost are all the hours in which we dream.
In trade's dim workshops all unused to moil,
Small share is his of luxuries won by toil.
But luxuries he hath not unrefin'd,
That please, perchance, yet more his southern mind.
Mere idlesse pleases; as supine he lies,
And gazing upward thro' the blazing skies,
Wins shifting colours to his dazzl'd eyes;
Or red or azure. And delights to see
The brilliant mockeries as they come and flee;
And wonders, why? Or makes of each a gem,
Such as might grace a pontiff's diadem;
Ruby or sapphire. Strange to me—or you;
But, here, All love this dreamy 'Nought-to-do.'
Or by tradition's tongue, or ruin old,
Of his own land's great deeds hath he been told;
And asks himself, erewhile, with wishful pain,
Why may not those brave days return again?
And tho' still mingling in confusion quaint
Profane and Sacred; Warrior and Saint;
Yet each in turn hath taught him, if need were,
Like This, to suffer—or, like That, to dare.
Think too that These were they, whose flags, unfurl'd
Beneath Rome's eagle crest, once shook the world.
Yon peasant-girl, —you mark'd her where she stood,
In her just pride of conscious womanhood—
(Against yon column now she leans awhile,
Graceful, you'll own, as milkmaid by a stile.)
Behold her in her country's old costume;
Is lady statelier in a palace room?
Too poor, we know; perchance, too inly great,
The town's last mode to wish to imitate.
Barefooted—but with no submissive mien;
In beauty's regal right—a lawful queen.
Such type to Michael's chisel had given a law;
And Raphael's self but painted what he saw.
In region, where not oft the Dryad charms
Town-loving Signor to his woods and farms;
And palaces, within proud city shut,
But rarely neighbour on the peasant's hut;
(He'privileg'd—or doom'd—by lot of birth
To see, but seldom, these the Lords of earth
'Mid equals rear'd, what other should he be
But equal too—a freeman 'mid the free?
Our nobler civil rights to him unknown,
Yet all his social freedom—all his own.
But where wealth's stringent or out-doling hand
From point to point wide stretches o'er a land;
In power or bounty ever seen or felt,
Like lictor's fasces or an almsman's belt;
Tho' order hence, with all its blessings, flow, —
As fertilizing waters guided go—
Yet as, henceforth, we lose the stream that played
Thro' its own runnels, free and not afraid;
So there, by wealth or purchased or controlled,
Word—gesture—look—in native frankness bold—
Are quelled, like sprite, beneath the Wand of Gold.
Again—(prolix beyond the thing I ought,
You kindly bear, and let me speak my thought)
In land—where from the plough men rushed to arms,
Just saved a state, and then re-sought their farms—
I love these breathings free; these heads erect;
I love, in look and speech, this brave neglect.
With ancient memories they better suit
Than balanced phrases or observance mute.
Nay, for a spot like this seem least unmeet,
As in high natures Grand and Simple greet.
Is this the race down-dwindled to a weed?
A rotted trunk? or but a buried seed?
Which, if the storm should rise and floods up-tear
The shrouding soil, and give it back to air,
Shall sprout again; no longer matter brute;
But gladden'd with green leaves and its own glorious fruit.
Oh Italy! if fallen (as some delight
To say thou art), yet fallen from what vast height;
Oh Italy! thou land of memories dear,
Yet not for these alone we prize thee here;
But gladly take thee, with acceptive heart,
Not for thy 'hast been,' but for what thou art.
For who that knows thy seas of brightest wave,
Their shelving shores or rocky steeps that lave;
Thy lakes, 'mid mountains laid, in soft blue length,
Like Beauty guarded at the feet of Strength;
Thy landscape, seen at morn or evening hour,
Town—village—cresting chapel—arch or tower;
Rich art—rich nature—each on each that press,
Till the sense aches with very loveliness;
Thy corn with fruitage mixed; thy realms of vine,
For ever beauteous—if they droop, or twine;
Thy balmiest clime, which daily tasks can leaven
With bliss, from out the common air of heaven;
Man's natural bearing; woman's easy grace;
From very rags—in gesture and in face;
Thy dark-eyed childhood's ever-ready smile
Of playful innocence or playful wile;
Or knows thy human nature's better part,
Swift thought, swift feeling, and the kindly heart;
And knows, beside, what thousand pulses beat
To win thy glories back, with generous heat;
Who but for thee must fervent vows forecast,
And hope thy Future, while he dreams thy Past?
But now 'tis Mid-day! and the deep retreat
Of Anio's grot must shield us from the heat.
'Twas in such deep recess Salvator's touch
Won its dark truth, and Gaspar fed on such.
Lo! the rapt river along its channel'd ledge
Precipitous hurrying to that dizzy edge.
Now, for one breathless moment, high uphung,
Like curled sea-wave; then—forth, as foamy, flung.
Here—in long lance-like flakes—straight down; while, there—
As if were all uncoiled Medusa's hair,
The serpent-waters twirl and hiss in air.
Or else, in black and rocky cauldron bound,
For ever eddy round and round and round;
Wakening the thought, or sadden'd or sublime,
Of endless toil, or never-ending time.
All types from clashing waters—all are here;
All types and all emotions; sound and fear;
Pent agonies, that struggle for relief;
Free gushing tears; dishevelled locks of grief;
Mad angers; sullen pause; re-bursting ire;
With flood still swifter than pursuing fire.
Yet beauty too. But such as poets shed
Round the great vision of that snake-tress'd head,
Perplexing beauty—beauty wreathed with dread.
'Tis a great scene! Yet, not by it opprest,
We feel its greatness in a buoyant breast.
For (not as when some wild Helvetian flood
Dives down its sombre depth of piny wood)
Here, all around, hath Gladness flung her braid
Of green festoons, and scattered light and shade.
Or rather—if the word were fitlier won—
Not shade, but shadow—playmate of the sun.
Gloom glorified! as suits a southern clime;
And (bear the phrase) a Cheerfuller Sublime.
E'en far within the grot Light sports with Dark;
Here—a long arrowy streak; and there—a spark.
If disappearing, soon to re-illume;
Like festive fire-fly, glancing thro' the gloom;
Or old Venetian masquer, richly dight,
Who, 'neath his waxen torches' orange light,
With gems and spangles glitters on the night.
Who, Anio! that hath come, or soon or late,
To this thy shrine, but deems the day—a date;
Whence to recal at will, his whole life's length,
Thy voice—thy speed—thy beauty and thy strength?
Whether thou tinklest from some mountain-rest,—
Thy birth-place—where the eagle builds his nest;
Or cruel bandit plants him; thence to strain
His greedy vision o'er the cowering plain;
Or whether, wandered from thy native hills,
(As strong and stronger grown from clustering rills)
Thou pausest for a while in silent lake,
Where that she-wolf her passing thirst might slake,
Who (prowled to Tiber down and destined thus)
Suckled great Rome in infant Romulus;
Or holdest on by feudal tower, or hall
From Cæsars named, or nameless ruined wall;
Or by quaint villa; such as after days
For Este's princely line made pride to raise;
Where, many a time, thy rushing wave would roll
Intenser power o'er Ariosto's soul;
Brightening, thro' secret sympathies, the lay,
Which here he loved to weave (or so they say);
And which for aye—like thee—shall flow along
As wild—as smooth—as playful and as strong;
Whether thou speak of simple Sabine farms,
Or call, as now, to song—or art—or arms;
Be welcome every dream thou waftest down,
And every tale; but most of old renown.
Tell us of statesman—warrior—bard—or sage—
Wonder or love of many a famous age—
What time, by seas shut in and rocky strand,
And all-undreaming of the Roman brand,
Our Britain lay, a yet unhistoried land.
Hail and Farewell! Resounding Anio!
And now, Fair Stream! with milder current flow
On 'mid thy vines and pasture; till thou come
'Neath the proud walls of twice Imperial Rome.
Thence, with old Tiber, soon to sport thee free
'Mid the blue waters of the Tyrrhene sea.
Thou, Pilgrim-Friend! (we know) wert never one,
Mere idle praiser of the days foregone;
Nor striving still to shroud with poor pretence
Of classic feeling gap of week-day sense;
But ever, in thy wisdom, taking heed
That worthy life is made of daily deed.
And tho' (by shrewd Saint Stephen stolen, of late,
From converse of thy friends—to serve the state)
It thee befits to pay thy studious vow
To Hansard rather than to Livy—now;
Yet hence, methinks, 'tis joyance doubly sweet
In this, the dream-land of our youth to meet;
Together turn again the classic page,
And win us back our boyhood's loftier age;
And church and state for some brief weeks eschew;
And make again this Ancient World our New.
But, here, far back the scroll must be unroll'd;
Here, where ten centuries do not make the Old.
Where old they deem in antiquarian thought
Some work by Ancus or by Tarquin wrought.
That tunnel huge, or prison Mammertine;
Or old may grant the Fabian—Julian—line;
But half a Modern make our Constantine;
And, as they pass his structures, on their way,
Scarce note them—as but things of yesterday.
Small matter! Old or new, we'll list the while,
As Ciceroni teach us—or beguile.
And, if some tales for question seem to call,
In sifting Niebuhr's spite, accept them all.
Where Curtius leapt, believe the very spot;
Or muse with Numa in th' Egerian grot.
Yea—sweet for him, by parent doomed to court—
Unwilling suitor—ancient law-report;
Awhile to snatch him from the hated thrall
Of pleader's desk, or point-contesting hall;
And sweet, not less, for thee, who legislate,
To 'scape committee-room and dull debate;
Corn question—currency—and funded debt;
French marriage—and the treaty of Utretcht;
And leaving—not too long—our own dear land,
To hail—as we of late—the Belgic strand;
Thence, o'er their ill-laid rail, right glad to roll,—
Tho' shaken sore—to this Ausonian Goal.
Not stately Bruges might detain us, now,
Nor Meuse, soft-gliding 'neath her fortress'd brow;
More pleased some while to thrust from off the scene
Battles and sieges, Marlborough and Eugene.
Nay, prizing thee, old Legendary Rhine!
Less for thy legends than thy climbing vine.
Nor yet in famed Helvetia tarrying long,
Tho' there green vales and glittering mountains throng;
And We aye pleased to feel the bosom swell,
By Uris rock, at thought of William Tell.
But onward still our purposed way we take
O'er tall Gothard and by Locarno's lake;
Or climbing slow, or if in full career,
With Rome! Rome! Rome! in heart and eye and ear.
Still thirsting; till at last we came to stand,
Glad Exodites! in it—our Promised Land.
And what our Pisgah view? Crushed piles of state
The walls within; and dun and desolate
Campagna round; with bridge and tower destruct
By age or war; and ruined aqueduct
Athwart the fading twilight. And is this
A Forum? or a vast Necropolis?
Temples—for tombs; a nation's dust beneath;
With silence round, that fears almost to breathe;
And city-solitude, so strangely drear,
The Living seem to have no business—here.
If in some vineyard ground our step be stayed,
Awhile, beside the peasant's delving spade;
(Now—vineyard; once—Patrician's client court,
When that near Forum was a world's resort)
As up and up the rank black mould is cast,
The very earth seems odorous of the Past.
Each after each, behold in turn out-thrown
Tile—faded stucco—scrap of sculptured stone.
Anon—some shattered urn, or broken frieze;
Power—turned to skeleton! His fragments—These.
Ruins and fragments! Is it these that Ye
From your own thriving land come forth to see?
We answer, 'Yea;' these are the things that We
From our own thriving land come forth to see.
We come to see how ancient power may die,
And ponder on a realm's mortality.
Yet, seeing how survive the Good—the Just;
In goodness and in justice learn to trust.
We come, as in fond youth, to sympathize,
Thro' backward ages, with the Great and Wise;
And feel—as then—some throb thro' inner heart,
Where life's low interests claim no smallest part.
We come from restless plan and restless deed,
Ambition's instrument, or habit's need,
To find the Calm which generous leisures give,
And less in act than meditation live.
We come from wit's and jest's enlivening strife,
And all the dearer bliss of household life,
To feed on pensive thoughts; yet not the less
To win a pleasure from our pensiveness.
And if those grave and pensive thoughts (and such
Our case may be) should press the heart too much;
'Twere not so very far to find our way
Mid glorious art, that tells of no decay.
Where beams each high conception just the same
As when from Grecian chisel first it came.
Tho' mortal-born, of beauty that might mate
With archetype celestial increate.
Nay, beauteous more than in their glittering prime,
Tinged softly by the sun-set hues of Time.
Then, if some friend should come, with best intent,
To warn of hours all uselessly misspent;
He too may learn (nor is the lore abstruse)
That uselessness, like this, is noblest use.
That while the busy serfs of wealth and power
Fawn only on the Present's sordid hour,
(No lofty thought or back—or forward—cast)
We pluck our nobler Present from the Past.
Nor pause we there, but, starting forth anew,
From thence shape out a nobler Future too.
This long discourse hath led us far away
'Mid other themes from our Tiburtian day,
But now again, with renovated grace,
We bow before the Genius of the Place,
Full of the scene around; and all-intent,
As slow we travel up this steep ascent,
To win the passing pictures, as they rise
From present hour, or ancient memories.
For here, glance where eye may, or footstep fall,
Or new or old, 'tis picture—picture—All.
This structure near, mere peasant's dwelling-place,
Is not itself without some claim of grace.
Its terraced roof, square tower, and arching gate
To Art, long since, thro' picture consecrate.
For Creed of Art hath not alone to do
With reason'd faith, but with tradition too;
And Beauty's self we hold for most divine,
When Memory stands Priestess at her shrine.
Behold! its sunward wall. How all-ablaze
With one full glow of ripest, yellowest maize;
Whose rich-ribbed cylinders, in order strung,
Seem tassels, for some festal rite uphung.
Or each might be fit cresting ornament
For regal canopy, or warrior-tent.
No brighter hues hath Ceres in her horn;
No cheerier ever broke from saffron morn.
More golden—ne'er from furnace-fires were rolled
Than these, sun-wrought in vegetable gold.
Which almost might requite his absent ray,
Themselves a sun-shine for each clouded day.
While yon ripe gourds, that strew the court-yard floor,
Beam upward, each a mass of glittering ore.
But now, with these our rural splendours done,
And we, like them, full-saturate with sun;
How fresh it is, as, step by step, we mount,
To watch the gushings of that marble fount.
Its cistern—some antique sarcophagus;
(Here, Old and New for ever mingle—thus)
While its raised cup, whenceforth the Naiads toss
O'erbrimming wave, is fringed with greenest moss.
(For, in these lands comes oft from mere neglect,
What art long while might ponder to effect.)
Each pendent tuft, with sparkling spray bedript,
Seems it not emerald, with diamond tipt?
And then those female forms, with braided hair,
And heads erect, that classic urns up-bear;
(From forth whose shapely rims dewed vine-leaves drop;—
Thrust partly in, escaping lymph to stop.)
These, as around the cistern's edge they throng,
Say, might not These to Grecian Art belong?
Whoe'er from life's mere prose awhile would flee,
Should roam with us this land of reverie.
Where museful fancy needeth not the aid
Of cloister dim, or silent colonnade,
Or solitary shore, or moonlight glen,
But meets her visions 'mid the haunts of men;
And feels in broadest sun-light round her stream
From every waking fact some answering dream.
And how that lofty Past exalts the Now!
That churl—a Cincinnatus at the plough!
Yon kite, slow circling up the Blue—afar—
An augury! or be it peace or war.
Those very geese, out clamouring, one and all,
The Sacred Birds that saved the Capitol!
And lo! thro' yonder arch those oxen twain;
On slowly swaying that grape-loaded wain.
Right goodly creatures, beautiful to view!
Dark-hoofed—dark-maned—the rest of creamy hue;
With large soft eyes. All soft as Here's were,
('Tis Homer's simile, so we may dare)—
When their pride slept, and love alone was there.
Now, thro' the spacious court behold they go;
Now, pause beside the pillared portico.
With foliage drest, and that rich ruby freight,
Nay—draw they not, in sacrificial state,
A Bacchic offering to some temple's gate?
Mark the broad wheels—but two! That yoking bar,
Just as of old! No wain—but ancient car!
And they, above the piled up grapes who ride,
Their naked limbs with purpling vintage dyed,
The Fauns! And here, ere long, the rest shall be:
Look with poetic eyes and thou shalt see
Bacchante lithe; and jesting Satyr near;
With broad Silenus, staggering in the rear,
Tho' doubly propped; while gay goat-footed Pan
'Mid pipe and cymbal triumphs in the van.
Then that old Crone, with lifted tambourine,
Which still she smites; and some strange rhythm between,
Or, rather, mixed; while to the double sound
A dark-tress'd girl is dancing round and round,
That Crone, with hair unkempt, yet scarce uncouth,
(So well it suits) and that fore-thrusting tooth,
Keen—almost prescient—tooth of prophetess;
(A flitting fancy, which I may not press)
That Crone shall be our Sibyl! And that Girl,
Still hurried round and round in dizzier whirl;
With her wild eye almost to frenzy fired,
(Such look in Delphi had been held inspired)
And flashing locks, and every flashing limb,
She shall be Priestess! and that Song—the Hymn!
And wherefore, 'No?' Why may not this be chaunt
From Pythian tripod or Dodona's haunt?
For, as some stream, by ancient fragments hid,
From earthquake—flung; or mighty hill—down slid;
(That cumber, many a league, the valleys round
With huge grey rock or grass-grown earthy mound
Still holds its silent way 'neath all that hides,
Then at some far-off point once more outglides,
Another stream; another, yet the same;
E'en those, who quaff, may guess not whence it came;
No otherwise this mystic rhythm may flow,
Far winding on, from ages long ago;
Some Grecian chaunt, its secret course unknown,
And heard, at last, in region not its own.
Old customs die not, but sprout forth again;
The names distorted, while the things remain.
Fane, 'Church' baptized, sees new-named votaries vow,
And old Chief Augur is Prime Pontiff, now.
E'en Jove himself, Great Jove Capitoline,
Rules in strange semblance o'er a later shrine.
His twice-fused bronze transformed, by pious feint,
From Pagan Deity to Christian Saint.
At this you smile; and who would smile refuse?
But when the smile is o'er, 'twere well to muse.
Olympian Zeus, upon his golden throne;
Calm Pallas, glorious in her Parthenon;
Or rudest Sibyl, from her rocky cave,
Mid spiky aloes, issued forth to rave;
Or curling smokes, o'er Judah wont to rise
From bull or goat, in barbarous sacrifice;
These, for rank falsehoods, while the most eschew,
In stern contempt for Gentile and for Jew;
These, for imperfect truths, let us accept;
Instalments of the universal debt;
Acknowledgment, we know, far off and dim;
Yet, not the less, acknowledgment of Him,
'In every age, in every clime adored;
(So sang the bard,) Jehovah—Jove—or Lord.'
This preachment o'er, (which yet you mildly bear,
Of preachments all-impatient as you are),
Yon church, whence now intones the holy mass,
If so you please, we'll enter as we pass.
For churches here (with reverence be it said)
Are not too holy held for week-day tread.
But each, at will and unrebuked for wrong,
May come and muse their column'd aisles along:
And some high influence win, or grave delight
From picture, incense, or the chaunted rite;
Or find fit hour, as every passing day
Its joy or sorrow brings—to praise or pray.
But now with festal silks the shafts are bound,
And glittering fringes edge the arches round.
Of granites red, or cippolino grey,
Or carvings quaint, small sight for us—to-day.
We quarrel not. There are, we know, who hate,
Or half unchristian deem such pious fête.
Yet silvered Saints, and Virgin fancy-drest
For peasant-worshipper may be the best.
Rare entrance his, or none, thro' palace gate;
Be this his palace hall—his room of state.
Or let him bring his humble sorrows here,
Secure, at least, of one Great Listener's ear.
These types, so falsified, from earliest youth
Have been to him the very types of truth;
And his own toil hath helped the monthly dole
That gilds the shrine, and bids the organ roll.
Worships—like tastes—have each their power and tone;
Church ne'er was meant for Dilletant' alone.
And Christians, such as would all rites confine
To their own forms, are Christians none of mine.
Then spare him, Critic! as he kneels in this
His ill-drest fane, and loves for God's—and his.
'Of all the ills unhappy mortals know,
A life of wandering is the greatest woe.'
So thought Ulysses; but we think not so.
And blest it is, with pilgrim-staff in hand,
At our own will to roam each ancient land,
(Of which in school-boy volume first we read,
Yet never dared to hope our feet should tread)
And test with manhood's sense the dreams of youth,
Nor lose the vision, and yet win the truth.
If nature-led; to track with pleasant pains
Their mountain-wilds and cultivated plains.
If student; in some shy monastic crypt,
To try old text by new found manuscript.
If vowed to art; its each attempt explore,
From primal Ægypt, or the Xanthian shore,
To where in Greece it triumphed; deified
And deifying; then like mortal died.
In this bright land again to spring to life,
And strive again; scarce conquered in the strife.
But he who to the land, that sent him forth,
Brings back but this, brings product little worth.
Huge virtuoso—true! But driveller blind
Beside the larger soul—the deeper mind—
Which, learning man, hath learnt to love mankind.
Our hostel hold us now; not undistrest
By pleasant toil; for pleasures must have rest.
Here, sit—or sleep—or scrawl the pane—your fill;
Or rhyme—like me, (against Minerva's will!)
Who for sublimer flight nor bold nor strong,
May just achieve to journalize in song.
Yet for brief space. For now, it seems, we dine:
Lo! here, wild boar—and, here, Falernian wine;
With figs—ripe grapes—and rarest wheaten bread.
And who may tell but here the board was spread
For genial Flaccus and for Maro—thus—
Two thousand years ago, as now for us?
Just fancy! when they sat, as here we sit,
The frolic—and the wisdom—and the wit.
And here came he, the blood of ancient kings,
To find the joyance equal converse brings.
With them gay chatting, as the whim might be,
Of one's arch Phillis, one's sweet Lalage.
Or last year's visit to Bandusia's fount;
Or journey planned to yon Soractes' mount.
Or laughing back, with still-recurring glee,
Those sparkling days from Rome to Brindisi.
Here too the Cæsar might consort with them;—
His Purple laid aside and Diadem—
Well-pleased, amid their talk and easy cheer,
To glimpse his own great Rome—yet feel it not too near.
What glimpse (had glimpse been given) of years to come!
The conquering Goth; and that twice pillaged Rome.
Gone! eagles—banners—lances—lictors' rods;
The temples crumbling o'er their crumbled Gods.
All steadfast as they seemed, his ancient stock
Uprooted from their Capitolian rock.
The far-off realms, they swayed but with the sword,
Crouched at a swordless pontiff's slightest word.
Their mighty palace (of each glory reft,
Nor marble frieze, nor porphyry pillar left;
Nor floor, as once, with rich mosaic spread;
Nor hues cerulean arching overhead)
Roofless and void; and only, now, renowned
As larger ruin 'mid the ruins round.
The baths with rubbish choked; the fountains dry;
The green acanthus, as in mockery,
(And wild, as when by chance in wicker sown,
It gave, of old, its graceful hint to stone)
Wandering, at will, amid those very halls,
Where once 'twas carved for golden capitals.
Some lingering terrace but a loftier spot,
Whence to discern that his own Rome was not.
Thee, Flaccus! the self-promised not to die,
A kindlier star hath sped thy prophecy.
Or song itself fulfils its own desire;
Realms fade away, and dynasties expire;
Yet on from age to age sounds thine—with Maro's lyre.
But here, by rightful and peculiar lot,
Ye hover most, the Genii of the spot.
Of memory—vision—feeling—thought—a part;
Heard from each lip, or borne in every heart.
Brave bliss! What braver may to bard belong?
Save its own joy from self-requiting song.
Diverse the strains. Yet would we figure how
Together oft ye trod this favorite brow.
Not now in jocund converse, as of late,
But each his inner theme to meditate.
Thou, it might be, some polished lyric verse;
Now, fondly dallying; now, brightly terse.
Or precept, each with its own wisdom rife,
That models—here—a poem; there—a life.
Or else wouldst hie thee to the busy street,
To sketch some silly pride or grave conceit.
Then round to us the playful picture turn,
And bid us in that glass ourselves re-learn.
Meanwhile (so dream we on) the Mantuan Bard
To yon tall peak hath paced the silent sward.
Thenceforth to scan, in prospect calm and free,
The various plain, from hill to circling sea.
Pale region, now; with culture ill be-sped;
Then, one wide Georgic, bright beneath him spread.
Or, not unprompted by that far sea-line,
Would ponder o'er th' Eneian tale divine;
Till clear before him, and in perfect plan,
The Heroic Vision stood — 'Arms and the Man.'
Once more I move you (our third flask is done,
And lo! the shadows lengthen in the sun)
To view yon time-hued fane, at this soft hour,
When eye and spirit best may feel its power.
Laud we the Gods! No connoisseur is near,
With his clipp'd talk our frank delight to sear.
Who, while a thousand admirations crave,
Still harps and harps on arch and architrave;
And, vowed to his five orders, fain would school
Our kindling spirits with his three-foot rule.
Scarce more, if we might choose our time and place,
Here would we wish that nobler critic race,
Esthetical; who stand on tiptoe still,
And see far less with eyesight than with will.
Would-be discoverers, on vague voyage bent;
Interpreters 'of meanings never meant;'
Of the true creed, but whose ecstatic faith
O'erpasseth ever what the Gospel saith;
These, while the smaller critics tease or vex,
With their dim dreams disturb us—or perplex;
Or, if such comment sound not civil quite,
Daze out our clearness with their too much light.
Digressive thus, ere passing thoughts be gone,
I crave your leave, and idly ramble on,
(You still indulging) till I bring you near
Our famous temple—and behold it!—here.
Amid these varying tales of ruin old,—
Some, scantly gathered up; some, falsely told—
Sibyl's or Vesta's we may hardly tell:
But he, who first devised, devised it well,
Here, where it stands, with circling columns bound,
And placed—how calm! above the gulf profound,
To tame these rugged rocks—this torrent's stress—
With power of Beauty and of Gentleness.
So might we feign, some fair high-lineaged queen
Rules o'er a raging crowd with look serene.
So too, when some great Master hath designed
To paint in human form th' Eternal Mind;
And humbly dares essay that lofty brow,
Which holds the Past—the Future—and the Now;
Awhile we pause before his art severe;
Then, reverent bend; yet less in love than fear.
But when, ere long, around those awful brows
In graceful curve his cherub-group he throws;
Each with its little arms—beneath—above—
Outstretch'd to clasp, and childhood's look of love;
Behold! those awful brows no longer lower,
But Sense of Love hath soothed the Sense of Power.
So—Pilgrim-Friend! our pleasant day is sped:
'To-morrow, to fresh woods;' to-night, to bed.
Yet from these heights throw one more glance abroad,
And some few moments dream with dreamy Claude.
Beneath—are field and stream and lake and wood,
And site, where ancient city stands—or stood.
Around—the hills. That—here—in bay recede,
As if for nestling culture taking heed;
Or boldly—there—indent the level plain,
Like promontory pronged into the main.
As parts for other clime th' unwilling day,
See! how that far Campagna sinks away.
A sea of purpled land, now, seems to be;
Now, scarce distinguished from the purple sea.
E'en while we gaze, how vanish on the view
Each bright—each fair—each fading—faded—hue!
A pensive light, while aught of light remains;
Then—pensive veil for these Deserted Plains!
Rhymed Plea For Tolerance - Dialogue Ii.
By no faint shame withheld from general gaze,
'Tis thus, my friend, we bask us in the blaze;
Where deeds, more surface-smooth than inly bright,
Snatch up a transient lustre from the light.
Yet as rich hues, in loom of nature spun,
The rose itself, will fade in torrid sun;
Or diamond to vapour fleet away,
In the fierce furnace of the focal ray;
True virtues thus, of finer frame or hue,
In that unnatural glare of public view,
Their beauty lose—and lose their essence too.
Applause least wins, where hearty thoughts engage,
'Tis the mere Actor frets him for a Stage.—
Nor Man alone now strives for saintly fame,
The passion steals o'er many a gentle Dame;
And faith, that once held timid course—to pray,—
Now throbs in furious lust of public sway.
How could I dream, that thou shouldst e'er affect,
Gay, flirting Phyllis, leadership of sect?
Frank and fond-hearted then, if not discreet;
The censor now, and terror of the street.
Yet, Phyllis, by thy new evangelism
Though puzzled sore, I never called it schism.
Knelt at thy bible-rout, where chairs were hassocks,
And petticoats expounded texts—like cassocks;
With penny contributions wage no war,
Nor breathed one comment on thy ball-bazaar.
If thoughts will rise, when simpering Rosa barters
For coin of whisker'd cornet ladies' garters;
If gallopade be scarce a saint-like frolic,
And waltz, though winning, hardly apostolic;
Earth thus for heaven to tax may yet be meet,
Odour of gain, spring whence it will, is sweet;
And if, in sooth, sprout forth some small abuses,
Yet all come sanctified to pious uses.
License thus far, far Saint, my creed accords—
But blame I must that tongue, 'whose words are swords.'
If holier now, dear Phyllis, than of yore,
And great the gain—be tolerant yet the more;
For of all humours by which soul is crost,
A piety, turned acrid, cankers most.—
Melancthon! well didst thou thy mother sway
To keep her aged feet in the old way;
With life's first lights to cheer its evening gloom,
And drop, in placid temper, to the tomb.—
As quiet leaf, that sleeps on summer trees,
Will turn and tremble to the awakening breeze;
As glassy lake, that wood and sky reflects,
Or ruin, boast of ancient architects,
Let the gale rise, and clouds come clustering o'er,
With wave upheaved runs darkening to the shore;
Sensitive Woman thus (as some have thought,
With sympathies, yet more than logic, fraught,)
O'er her sweet rest should winds of doctrine blow,
Quick as the leaf, will vibrate to and fro,
Or break from anchorage, where she rode at ease,
And whelm her own, and wreck her household's peace.
And yet Devotion, though from high her birth,
Was made to dwell amid the ties of earth,
And, with her own melodious prayer to blend
All gentle names of family and friend.
And if not always in her eager ears
Responses ring, immediate from the spheres,
Yet sweetest echoes back from earth are given,
That if not heavenly all,—still speak of heaven.
But, Woman, Thou, who o'er the craving soul
Would'st nought but heaven's unmingled music roll;
Thou, soon or late, shalt feel th' o'erwrought desire
On the strained strings or languish or expire;
And then Hypocrisy—forgive the word—
Steals in and—for Devotion—smites the chord;
Or through that gentle breast, by stealth, in glide
The vexing demons of Dispute and Pride.
Ah! then, when daily joys less fondly press,
When Sister—Friend—or Husband win thee less,
Through thine own bosom stern inquiry move,
And sift, if this, indeed, be Holy Love!
Giver of gifts! Disposer of my life!
Oh! save me from a Controversial Wife!
Each Gospel lesson be it her's to prize,
But more its Duties than its Mysteries;
Her sigh to guilt,—her tear to suffering given,—
And, night and morn, her own sweet prayer to heaven;
But let no demon tempt her to the claim
Of Parlour-Disputant's ill-sorted fame;
Such theologic triumphs all not worth
One happy household-look—one quiet evening hearth.
Thou Faith, with whom, when purest,—group unriven—
Link Charity, for earth—and Hope, for Heaven—
(Group lovelier than those favourite Three of Jove,
By fabling chisel wreath'd for classic love
Before whose upward glances, glory-fraught,
Words quail, and faints the ineffectual thought;
Yet, downward from that high communion sped,
Then, sweetest Comforter of sorrow's bed;
'Tis thine in human hearts, unforced, to grow,
Dropt gently in from all we see and know;
And, of all earthly spots, thou lov'st to dwell,
Unvex'd, in home affection's tranquil cell.
To thee, plain prayer—proud mass—each varying toll—
All are but types, whose essence is the soul;
Tests—synods—these thy spirit loves, nor lacks,
But warder's bolt abhors and lictor's axe.
Louis, by servile France misnamed the Great,
(In France when kingship stood at higher rate)
Say, could he hear, where now, most Stately Shade,
He loves to plan some Stygian masquerade;
—Or, following up the bent of mortal will,
Along Cocytus weaves the grave quadrille;
—Or rather, leaving now that fabled plain,
To take, as suits our theme, a graver strain;—
Say—would he still his earthly dogmas hold?—
And meek, yet steadfast faith, and conscience bold,
These would he deem that Kings—that God—should pay
With dragonnades on earth and pains for aye?
Or of a wise Repentance feel the weight,
And o'er each bitter edict weep—too late?
Ye who on mortal man temptations shower,
One trial spare, and prove him not with Power!
For, as changed soil still modifies the seed,
As clime adds fierceness, gentleness, to breed;
As chemists mark, when like approaches like,
How strong affinities will rush to strike;
As generous wine that makes the cheerful glad,
Transforms the dull to stern—the wild to mad;
So Faith, in harsh or gentle bosom sown,
Shapes here a Calvin—here a Fénélon—
Him who his Lord's own spirit seemed to wake,
And him, who burned Servetus at the stake.
'Mighty, we shout, is Truth, and must prevail,'
Nor, till the glove be thrown, begin to quail.
Then in her scutcheon we suspect a flaw,
And harness, for the battle, strong in law;
And as the doubtful duel draws more near,
More doubt the verdict of the Ithuriel spear;
'List some stout Pleader—Second for the fight,
And pack a jury—to decide the right.
Yet Truth from Themis asks nor sword nor mace,
Give but the quiet balance in their place.
Who with brute force her temperate cause defends,
Her plaint must bide—'Protect me from my friends;'
And thence may ponder on His patient word,
Who bade the hot disciple 'Sheath his sword!'
Beneath the proud Pantheon's girdling dome
When found all vagrant Deities a home,
From some fond votary each received a prayer,
And Nemesis and Até had their share.
But when that vast idolatry was gone,
And Faith, less darken'd, worshipp'd but the One,
To Him each worshipper, in selfish guise,
Transferred his favourite Virtue or his Vice.
In Love, Love found his godhead.—The Severe
Felt not the Love, and bowed alone to Fear.
Each culled some different text—Self-Will to stay—
Or read the self-same text—a different way.
So—Passions still were Deities—and Schism,
As free to choose—but sourer Pantheism;—
And hence 'twixt sect and sect, when strifes arose,
And banded Converts widened off to Foes,
The scornful Sadducee would jeer amain
At Discord and the Furies come again!
Thus Doctrines, rebel natures meant to bind,
Themselves, more oft, are govern'd by each Mind,
Most have two Creeds.—The one from Ritual known,
The other, Temper-moulded, and our own.—
Reason may balance with her patient poise,
But Temper-creeds admit no compromise.
—As Friends, far sundered by the Atlantic main,
To friendship cling, and sigh to meet again;
Yet when to Village Neighbourhood they draw,
Like other neighbours, stickle for a straw;
So minds that muse, with no unkindly heed,
Where mountain doubts divide, on distant creed;
Let but some two approach so near together,
Mere feather parts, will quarrel for that feather;
And fume that, won almost to concert pitch,
Accord should there, abruptly, make its hitch.
Some from themselves wide differing, yet sincere,
Swerved by disturbing fancies, swiftly veer;
Or if, like Saurian monsters, turned with pain,
Once turned—dart forward fiercely straight again;
Now grasp the Whole, now some stray Scrap recal,
(For Text or Context oft is difference all)
Yet, Bosom-pride of every change the root,
For each would Suffer, or would Persecute;
—Had Martyrs or Inquisitors become,
And dared—or lit—your fires, Madrid and Rome.
The Goule—'tis story of Arabian strain—
Her rice picked up with bodkin, grain by grain;
And nature thus, we scarce know why, imparts
Her needle intellects and pin-point hearts—
We scarce know why, unless her aim hath been
Word-Critic shrewd, or Theologian keen,
Who, dull to what precedes, or follows next,
Clips out his Godhead from some single text.
Seize we, with wider scope, the Gospel's Whole,
Flux dim with clear, and fuse along the soul.
Then—when our Form beams forth, of perfect mould,
And not one drossy fragment specks its gold;
—Then, let Comparison together strike
This and That Image—and oh! how unlike.
So Scripture text may serve man's Mortal Foe,
So Scripture text hath wrought our weal or woe;
Now interceding Saint, that leads to God,
Hired Bravo now, that stabs at Hatred's nod.
He least perplexed through discrepance shall move,
Who makes his running comment—Christian Love.
B.— But now, concede, we neither hang nor burn;
Tests are mere Forms.—From ours you'll scarcely turn.
What Virtue—Wisdom—own, if Thou reject,
Of Prejudice—of Pride—thyself suspect.
A.— But where Compliance helps to mend our store,
'Twere wisdom to suspect ourselves yet more.
—All courtesy to faith of foeman shown,
I deem not well to parley with our own.
Nor well to pledge, where Tests—grown Forms—disjoin
The inward Spirit from the outward Sign;
For that first Insincerity, confess'd,
Sheds its far tinge of Doubt on all the rest.
Who Truth on Falsehood builds, with idiot hand
But piles his granite on a shifting sand.
Bold Gelon, called at length to pastoral cares,
Sifts through the test he scorns and stoutly swears.
Servio, with wiser heart, if weaker head,
To 'scape dilemma, gulps the oaths unread.
Whoe'er to 'sticking place' his heart would screw
For Faith, or Fair,—at least should deem them true.
Worn Creeds have pluck'd new strength from rival Schism,
But die beneath a bought Indifferentism.
Why must Authority on oaths insist,
When thus we take and break them, as we list?
And where the justice of a penal due,
That holds the frank and lets the cunning through?
Reared up in Paley's qualm-controlling school,
Our good old Granta's comfortable rule—
You say Subscription scarce was meant to bind—
But is there here no martyrdom of mind?
Accept—and lurks no Snare for conscience by?
Refuse—and threats no starving Penalty?
If now no Alva torture for the state,
Is there no Alva in a private Hate?
No Force, when lacking plaint of guiltier deed,
We criminate a neighbour for his Creed?
That neighbour on thy manor starts a doubt,
Or from thy favourite vestry votes thee out.
The law forbids to stab the man or stone.—
Hint him not Orthodox, thy work is done.
Let honest fools cry, 'Shame.' Thou, unperplexed,
Shalt show good warrant in some twisted text;
Whilst hand with thine each coward foe shall link,
With Thee combining,—if like Him they think.
Perchance, the very Courts shall help thee through;
For truth and justice have, long since, been two.
Lo! where yon Pleader-knave—Paine's perfect growth—
With well-fee'd horror probes some Sectary's oath.
With 'Sir, you this reject'—or 'this believe.'
(The judge—perchance—no stickler in his sleeve
Then doffs that mask devout—just one hour worn—
For curse habitual, and a sceptic scorn.
And who but grieves, when dooms dogmatic part
From Priesthood's lip—more rarely from his heart;
To that, more oft, some milder reading taught
By gentle nature, or by critic thought.
What though his voice subdued, and shrinking eye
Speak word and thought contending inwardly;
What though, stern Athanase, (if Sainted once,)
Thy curses win from Mercy no response;
Yet, dropped on soil of Ignorance or Pride,
To Hate they spring, and man from man divide;
Of old—to pyre of martyrdom gave birth,
Now agonise some dear domestic hearth,
When son or husband, starting from the thrall,
Incredulous hates—then madly doubts of all.
Where Bigotry in voice of vengeance speaks,
Himself fore-slays the very end he seeks.
Some kneeling Faith near Tolerance still is found,
Intolerance wafts Scepticism round;
Or else to other folds drives clean away
Whom sophist tongues had never lured to stray.
Benign examples, on which all may look,
Plead more for creed than preachment or than book,
Of many a rising schism repress the spark,
Or win the rebel back and save the ark.
—Yet, spite of time and trial, still the same,
Our explications and our oaths we frame;
Frame for eternity!—though every year
Steal silent on, its own Interpreter.
The Forms meanwhile remain, a seemly crust,
Till some Chance hurtle—and the things are dust!
Like dust or petty nuisance scorned; but yet
Potent, till then, to torture or to fret.
Lore, from calm bowers, by Cam and lsis laved!
Lore, by fond Youth with cheated transport craved!
'Tis yours to lure the young Enquirer on,
Through many a path, that tracks from ages gone,
Till, where Thought's vistas open yet more free,
Subscription blocks the way—and bans Degree;
And, while a thousand powers of prospect stir,
Would strain to beg some loop-hole glimpse from Her.
Who crouches through that low and narrow door,
To him his Fate cries sternly—'Think no more.'
Hard to abstain, but perilous to press,
Where after-thought may bring 'the more or less';
And Thou be held, as fast or loose thy thrall,
Socinian here—there Evangelical.
If Thought will rise, let Thoughtlessness dispute it;
A strenuous idler, fiddle it, or flute it;
Be wise in tulips, learned on a haunch—
Your little Thinker is the truly Staunch;
Or better—let thy life with deeds be fraught,
Such as heaven loves—but still abstain from Thought!
Beneath the surface of yon level deep
Lurk rifting rocks, and gulfing currents sweep.
And what are Creeds, planed down by State Decree,
But the smooth treachery of a summer sea?
This Leo learned, Rome's Pilot, to his cost,
When half his freight of ancient faith was lost.—
And now, scarce less, a strange horizon lowers,
And Change, His church that wreck'd, may burst on Ours;
Burst, as of old, like Luther's lightning shock,
The fold half-crush, and dissipate the flock.
Hence more, as earthly meed may seem less sure,
Cleanse we our faith;—for honest held, if poor.
Soldier, for conscience his good sword who draws,
Should have to boast, at least, a sterling cause.
That scattered creeds shall scarce converge to one,
If observation, century-school'd, have shown;
As adders deaf to each dogmatic word,
Nor much conciliated by the sword;
'Twere now as well another course to trim,
If not for wisdom, merely for the whim;
And since Authority so long hath tried,
And failed at last—take Tolerance for a guide.
But if Authority we needs must have,
With rod to smite and fetter to enslave;
Her let me worship, venerably old,
Tiara-bound, and vesture starred with gold;
And hear—'mid crosses, shrines, her anthems roll,
And incense breathe, at once, through sense and soul;
As tost, in fragrant wreathings, to and fro,
Amid the pictured dreams it lingers slow
Of thoughtful Raffaelle or vast Angelo.
Blind wisdom theirs, who bade old Harshness stay,
And Beauty—half that soothed it—tore away.
—Plain English Scripture doth right well for me;
But if its blessed meanings still must be
Read in another's sense—mine strictly bound—
Me then let loftier Latin peal around,
Where antique mass intones its deep delight,
And far tradition rules, in Reason's spite.
Ye Senator-Economists, who plan
Substantial blessings for Elector-man;
Embodying each your own, or prompter's scheme,
Canal or corn law—currency or steam;
For one brief hour, these loftier cares at rest,
Weave one poor speech, to plead for Minds Opprest.
Let trade, if so ye deem, unfetter'd be,
But leave the Conscience, like the trader, free.
Tithes—and tithe-proctors, if ye will, control,
But dogmas harsh, not less, that tithe the soul.
Let Charity no more be ruled a sin,
Nor Justice, but by license, smuggled in;
Nor holy rights of Tolerance left to guess,
But Love, like Hate, by statute taught express.
Disused though long, impeach her not of loss,
But trumpet-sound her, at the public Cross;
—Yet not for dole, at will withheld, or given,—
But birth-right, like the genial air of heaven.—
If round us yet ancestral rancours throng,
To you, ye Senates, half pertains the wrong;
—But ill a backward legislation suits,
The law 'twas Orpheus gave, and not the Brutes.
B.— Yet ours is 'Toleration practical'—
A.— If fit the freedom, why retain the thrall?
—Rightful our Creed, like ancient Christian men
Why strained to hide and worship in a den?
—Why still condemned beneath your sway to pine?
Speak, Athanasius! speak, ye Thirty-nine!
Wise is it, thus to bid us weep or laugh?
Half to perplex and turn to bigots half?
While of old disputants on our free sense
Ye harness thus the hates or the pretence,
Ye too, like charioteers who curb and strain,
May chance, when least ye fear, to snap the rein.
Of tangled problems why thus large your list?
Christian to be must each turn casuist?
By cobweb clues how hard our way to find!
'Tis not with gossamers we lead the blind;
And, left to hair-split logic's breaking line,
What Theseus-Faith may triumph o'er the mine?
Your zig-zag ray distracts our straight desire,
Or tempts, like ignis fatuus, to the mire;
Light would ye proffer—let it aid—not mar,
To focus drawn and fixed as polar star,
Nor hard to find, and never kindled hot,
To martyrize dim sight which finds it not.
Thee, Charity, did peace-persuading Paul
Wisely prefer, the rarest gem of all;
For Alms he knew, full oft, the gifts of Pride,
And Faith, erewhile, by Selfishness supplied;
—But thee, of Meekness born, and Self-control,
The very scarcest product of the soul.
In strife apart our other Virtues flee,
When not in sister union held by Thee;
And, breaking from their old harmonious chime,
Jar, in each other's ears, like Guilt or Crime;
But where thy presence is, there all the rest
Cluster in Love, and that one spot is blest.
And proofs have been, if ancient tale may move,
Of Faith unconquered and unconquered Love;
Who, trailed amid the Arena's brutal crew,
Died for belief, and prayed for those who slew;
And still of these, though much in sooth they fail,
Fragments are found to win us to the tale.
As when some mighty tree hath met the shock
Of storm or axe; a ruin—or a block;
Though high in air no more its branches toss,
The wreck remains—to tell how vast it was.
'To tame the proud—the fettered slave to free,
These are imperial arts and worthy thee.'
Allow me, thus, in English phrase to quote,
When 'glorious John' translates what Virgil wrote.
Nor ill, in truth, some loftier virtues throve,
When bowed the darkened world to Gentile Jove;
Nor were long years, ere purer faith was born,
Of household loves and duties all forlorn;
And every land hath known, since first it saw
Seed cast on furrow, wise restraint of Law;
—But—Humbled Heart! that lesson first was given
In Galilee; to temper sterner leaven,
Make Heaven of Earth; then lead from Earth to Heaven.
Thence Virtue—not to Action prompted less,—
Yet harder glory won from Passiveness;
And, peacefully sublime, brooked sweetly, there,
Her doubled task—to Do and to Forbear.
—Oh! bitter produce of that Christian tree,
For Loving kindness and for Charity!
One sheltering sky—one earth to feed the root—
The Brethren pluck—and Hatred is the fruit!
The pious bandit thus, Abruzzi's son,
His dagger bears and crucifix in one;
The point full sharp for deeds of blood and guilt,
And our meek Saviour carved upon the hilt.
—With differing optics earth and sky we view,
And what to Me is dark, beams bright to You.
Nay things, the very same to sight confest,
With differing impulse strike upon the breast.
Say then, if Outward Forms,—the plainest speech
Of nature, various aspects yield for each;
If mountain peak, and forest's deep abyss,
To thee indifferent, mould another's bliss;
How then may Mere Conceptions, clear far less,
To all alike conveyed, alike impress?
Of Will, of Thought, the measure who shall find,
Or strain one dogma on each varying mind?
When from our North the Zephyr-breeze shall blow,
And Tides flow equalised, nor high, nor low;
On the lithe Pard when shows each spot alike,
And with one colour eyes from Beauty strike;
Then bring the pattern of thy Choosing Wit,
And bid all human race conform to it.
Or rather, as each herb selects from earth
The vital food that fosters best its birth;
Even so, let Individual Minds drink in
The nurture to their spirit most akin;
Freely by each his own calm progress won,
And—of Faith's 'many mansions' found the One.
Then ceaseless why, in village and in town,
'Twixt sect and sect, dispute of up and down?
With secular why mix religious strife,
To add one pang the more to worried life?
If coming worlds at pleasure we divide,
In this why walk not kindly, side by side?
In guild why thus contentious ever meet?
Why thwart our pavement? why not light the street?
B.— But Faith is Will.
A.— So taught Bray's easy Vicar,
And innocently wondered folk should bicker;
—Next, held each stickler-obstinate,—not dim—
Last, hated all, no weathercocks, like him.
—Oh! milky maxim! And not his alone,—
Now Metaphysic claims it for his own;
And having twisted,—doubted,—talked,—his fill—
Decrees, at last, dogmatic, 'Faith is Will.'
—And when the crowd, of old, was clustering thick
Round the last throb of dying Heretic,
Inquisitors, I ween, might well instil
The very self-same maxim, 'Faith is Will.'
—Convenient phrase! that serves his several turn,
Who wills to flatter, or who wills to burn!
Or saves the brambled foot from thorns that goad,—
Of our Theology the Royal Road!
On crust-when Stoic dined, in robe of stuff,
'Tenacious! Just!' the phrase went well enough;
But, for a race 'mid silks and clarets cast,
Trite is the maxim, and the mode o'erpast.
To him, who wills a borough or a place;
To him, who wills a living from His Grace;
—Wills, for his son, a rich and pious wife;
Or, for himself, unpersecuted life
Or him, whose heart and brain, tired fairly out,
Will sweet repose from logic and from doubt;
I too, well pleased to thrive and to be still,
I too, full oft could echo—'Faith is Will'—
Though checked, as oft, by him, whose honest heart
To Conscience clings, and spurns the Trimmer's part.
Where varying Creeds diverge, like vista-views,
In separate lines, and Thought stands free to choose,
If honest Prejudice oppose some hill
To block the best—thus far let Faith be will.
But hold no commune with that Faith polite,
Which, knowing black for black, would will it white;
And taunts each slower creed which dares gainsay,
Or clasps not yet, her option of to-day,
And feasts with every rite in every grove,
And veers by turns to Titan and to Jove.
Not Swallows, whom the instinct of the year
Convenes for flight, with swifter motion veer,
When all the tiny birds in long array
First cloud with cindery wing the clear blue day,
Then, as by signal, suddenly to view
Glance their white breasts and change the squadron's hue.
Not rapid more (to illume that mighty dome,
'The world's great wonder and e'en thine, oh Rome!'
When loftier festivals their pomp prepare)
The fiery transmutation flames in air.
There, while innumerous eyes on that vast ring
Of tempered lamps, serene as moonbeam cling,
Hands all unseen bright flambeaux toss on high,
And the changed fires flash ruddy round the sky;
—But Faith, I ween, with steadier light should burn,
Nor quite at will, like glancing Swallow, turn.
But where stern statutes summon state-bound men
Old creeds to quit, or—quitting—clasp again,
And sorely-hunted Faith pursuit bemocks
With season-shifted hue, like Arctic fox,
Of such Compliance deem not We quite ill
Though prone it be to mould Belief on Will.
Our Prosperous Faith, unthreatened yet, may frown,
But hard it is to wear the Martyr's crown;
And justly hence high guerdon waits on them,
Who, spite its thorns, have dared that diadem.
Yes, Conscience, thy strong Presence can constrain
To view, with scarce a smile, e'en Southcote's train.
Corrupt their text may be, or weak its gloss,
But Soul Sincere to gold can coin the dross.
Truth's ancient Landmarks, parting Good from Ill,
These well to know nor labour asks nor skill;
Conscience hath writ life's daily duties plain,
Nor lets the Moral vibrate with the Brain;
But Creeds that from ideal regions come,
And 'mid unvisioned objects seek their home,
—Each with some favourite phantasy imprest,—
On this they muse or rave, and scorn the rest.
Hence Syria saw her silent Hermits brood,
Hence whirl'd the Priestess 'mid the Delphic wood;
Hence Swedenborg 'presumed empyreal air'—
Hence Tongues Prophetic screech in Regent Square.
Calm Reason may deplore such Freaks should be;
But, if they find their Followers, leave them Free.
Some think a Sabbath feast no grievous sin;
Some on their Sabbath let no stranger in.
This creed with cheerful dance accords right well,
This deems a pirouette a step for hell.
If sour Geneva bear a Sunday play,
Give we, as mildly, every faith its way;
For many a Pilgrim Prayer, to Us unknown,
By its own pathway travels to the Throne.
Where mighty congregations throng amain,
And pulpit-thunders shake the astonished fane,
And through far roofs long-volumed organs peal,
There are, who then alone consent to feel.
Others, Shy Souls! whom silken crowds perplex,
Polemics tire, and Actor Preachers vex,
Love more, like Hermit, near his cross of stone,
To pace, at eve, the silent turf alone,
And softly breathe, or inly muse, a prayer,
And find, not less, the General Father there.
And whencesoe'er the glow—from Outward Sense,
Or fully fed by Inner Heart intense;
What wins to love his God and Neighbour best,
Be this, for each, the object and the Test.
'Built in the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark,'
With Puritan I quarrel not, though stark;
But let him breast along his Narrow Sea,
Right easy, if he keep but clear of Me.
—Yet some a Sabbath galls, o'er-strictly set,
—As hounds, kept long at walk, in kennel fret—
And then the silent niece, the meek-eyed wife,
Shrink from the prelude growl of coming strife,
As, 'neath the thraldoms of a tedious day,
Strained chords of temper, one by one, give way.
E'en Thou, the saccharine of all week-day men—
Confess, my Friend! art somewhat acid then.
—Oft too, on minds not abstract quite, nor pure,
Long-stretched devotions that but ill endure,
Slander, who thrives on leisure unemployed,
Slander drops in, to fill the uneasy void;
And duly makes, if not in holiest guise,
Her Sabbath day, a day of Sacrifice!
Thy Creed, like Country, is thy Birth's, not Thine;
The unconscious Baptism of some frontier line;
Swathed round Thee by yon sweep of Mountain ridge,
Swerved by a Rivulet, changing at a Bridge.
On this side or on that by hazard thrown,
For regal rights we battle or our own;
And here or there, as first we draw our breath,
Theology decrees us Life or Death.
Such, where thou partest with thy ten-yards span
Of Polity and Faith the various man,
Such thoughts, St. Maurice! to thy Bridge will cling,
Around its antique arches clustering,
Calvin and Leo, Landaman and King,
Or e'en old Pagan Jove, who first saw thrown
Those arches o'er thy waters, Rapid Rhone.
All that feeds eye and ear—our earliest books,—
Fond childhood's hill-side walks, and playmate brooks,—
Tale of old martyr—picture—bust—or song—
These stoutly chain, or hurry hearts along
With force than reasonings and than truth more strong.
Or, if Conviction's guileless sophistry
Steal in, with kisses, at the Mother's knee;
'Mid toils, so seeming-slight, yet firmly set,
What after-growth may struggle with the net?
'Tis thus th' Affections clasp what Faith denies,
For creed who quits must snap a thousand ties.
Him tolerate we, whom Conscience strains to stray,
And him—who simply plods the beaten way.
B.— False or absurd, what, treat all creeds alike?
Nor Ridicule to shame, nor Law to strike?
'Twere like the man, so fearful, or so civil,
He burned a taper both to Saint and Devil.
A.— False creeds have thriven, e'en when by Laws comprest,
And Ridicule been busy with the best.
Where creeds no public decencies offend,
Nor with forced nostrums our poor creeds would mend,
To pass them gently by is Wisdom's plan;
Let Force sway brutes, but Reason keep for man;
Nay deem unsafe with Ridicule to smite;
Laughter may err; but Mercy must be right.
Who Ridicule would make of Truth the test,
He reasons ill, with moral not the best.
Our mirth breathes oft-times from no zephyr-coast,
And seldom is most wise, when keen the most.
Jester—for jest—Wit asks for cutting sense—
Heaven's milder canon bids Benevolence.
As keenest eye, closed in by cramping fence,
Will lose, or soon or late, its wider sense;
So least who knows least feels another's right,
And Narrow Creed most oft is Narrow Sight.
—And hence Intolerance, of all her sons,
For her chief Aide-de-camp most loves a Dunce;
Who, like dense Critic on Greek text obscure,
Still rages most, when least his light is sure,
And where an Angel's sense might pause in fear,
Decides at once with statute or with sneer.
Or Bigot shall himself exclude the ray
From his own crypt, and then denies the day;
But while, like fog, He dark and darker grows,
And o'er all nature his own darkness throws,
Love, like the bow that curves from yonder Blue,
Cheers earth and sky, and nobly spans the Two.—
The slowly judging eye—the doubting ear—
The holy love of truth, the reverent fear—
The philosophic brain, that loves to scan,
May make a Sage, but spoil a Partisan.
From struggling sects, such wiselier keep aloof,
For Zealotry but seldom waits on Proof;
The All—the None—concedes no ground between,
And smiles, with bitter scorn, at 'Golden Mean.'
But not alone within some cloister's bound,
Or chapel trim, contracted creed is found.
At good men's feasts, as where monks diet spare,
The harsh, exclusive heart is everywhere.
The Libertine, whose nights, whose every day,
Wild orgies whelm of pleasure or of play;
When Apoplexy, his first visit, knocks,
Or Palsy helps, unasked, to shake the box;
E'en he, at once, with new-born zeal is wroth,
For Ignorance and Vice turn bigots both.
Go! go! Thou frighted Neophyte and learn
This wiser creed and milder truth discern.
Where Penitence takes counsel but from Fear,
Tho' in heaven's track—to heaven she comes not near.
Back to the path, whence first we turned aside,
'Tis frank Regret—'tis loving Hope must guide;
But up the Steep and thro' the Eternal Gate
No Penitence may pass which leagues with Hate.
The 'Joy in Heaven' is over them alone
Who curse no Neighbour's sin, but weep Their Own.
Little to know the lot of fervent Youth,
Yet deem that little All—undoubted truth.
For him each boundary line is coloured strong,
And all is fiercely right, or fiercely wrong.
Nor ill on Youthhood sits that generous rage,
But let a wiser tolerance wait on Age.
Firm on himself the rule of Strictness press'd,
Each mild Exception keep he for the rest;
Through many a meditation trained to know,
How little sure our guesses here below;
Through many a moral conflict, viewed or striven,
Taught, ere he die, 'Forgive to be Forgiven.'
In the Brain's chambers, as the Heart's deep frame,
How oft is error, that which vice we name!
And hopes—for Virtue—thoughts—for Truth—that try,
How oft, by strange refractions, swerved awry!
When Timour ravaged realms, in fierce delight,
His dream was Providence, and Fated Right.
When Ganges chokes some aged parent's breath,
'Tis Filial Love prepares the work of death.
Their falsest Creed, some Truth ill understood
Their Foulest Act, some Misdirected Good.
In minds, as nature, 'tis my doctrine still,
The Good is essence, accident the Ill;
And deeds, that win from virtue least consent,
More oft o'erselfish than malevolent.
To this, 'mid Virtue's wreck, I grapple fast,
And cling in hope, like sailor to the mast.
Mark, with observant eye, the inferior kinds,
Through all their tribes how fondest instinct winds.
Drink in of Infancy the answering smile,
Ere petty passions touch it, to defile.
Hear Youth his glorious aspirations roll,
Ere worldliness steal in, to taint the soul.
Of Manhood test the basest, earthliest leaven,
And feelings mingle there might mix with heaven.
These—not ascetic dogmas that degrade—
Shall teach to love the beings God hath made,
And—glorious fruitage from a noble stem—
Lead on to love the God, who made, through Them!
Who asks allegiance, as from heaven addrest,
On sympathies akin to heaven must rest.
Build Faith on fancies fine, or matter brute,
Your subtilties we slight—your facts dispute.
Reasonings may cheat us, if they soar or plod,
But God is Love, and Love the test of God.
When He with primal love bade hearts o'erbrim,
'Twas not alone mankind to love—but Him.
He gave us faith, in Him—th' Unseen—to trust,
He gave us justice, Him to adore—the Just.
Less to the senses spake than souls of men,
And now would teach us, as he taught us then.
And when best logic's best-forged links decay,
And e'en foundation-facts dissolve away;
—Such logic as, perchance, Aquinas drew
From facts, which sifting Brown for errors knew—
(For truths undoubted, of one age the text,
Are oft the scouted falsehoods of the next)—
Faith then shall find in heart from hates aloof
Her holiest hope and grasp her firmest proof.
Such Faith be mine! Earth-lover, yet with wings
To soar above the abyss of mortal things;
And, if through doubtful skies sent forth to roam,
With thought on Love still turned—Her ark and home.
Fade tangible and visible combined,
She lives, while conscience lives and mind is mind.
Let Mutability through systems roll,
She still is here, the Witness in the soul;
And here, eternal as in heaven, shall stand,
In tabernacle never made with hand!
Instructors bland! your memories ne'er shall cease,
Who teach us Wisdom, when ye teach us Peace;
Who win to think, and prize each thought that flows
O'er gentler hearts, from 'meanest flower that blows;'
And—our World's Book thus mildly understood—
Find your own solace in a Creed of Good.
Walton! who long in busy city pent,
Yet most, 'mid streams and fields fulfilled his bent;
Benign of spirit; and, though Simple Sage;
How fondly have I turned his quiet page;
And led by sedgy Lea, or clearer Dove,
Inhaled, with him, the very breath of Love.
And me, if since, in ne'er forgotten hour,
That Lore of Love hath stirr'd with deeper power;
And taught yet keener glow—with wider aim—
Nature's own Priest, 'twas Wordsworth fed the Flame.
B.— Circle of Tolerance if thus vast you draw,
Useless our hulks! and every sage of law!
Of idlesse shall each Midas feel the strain,
And Sidney Cove her pilgrims crave in vain.
A.— If Crime she find, let Law just vengeance take;
But Crime of Creed—she doth not find, but make;
Like Æsop's wolf, who marked the lamb for prey,
Herself the Guilt invents; then turns to slay.
But He, each inner motive wise to scan,
Shall look with kindlier glance on erring man,
And, though the Lictor smite, refrain His rod;
For Tolerance, earth-rejected, dwells with God.
Pilots of Good! who guide o'er farthest seas,
Untired, our Bible-laden argosies;
To where, by populous Ganges, weed-like thrown,
The poor dejected Paria pines alone;
Or where, 'mid Polynesia's seas of blue,
Some island Seer proclaims his stern Taboo;
For these, with generous haste, unload your freight,
Our Faith, our Morals,—all—except our Hate.
By Indian streams, beneath Australian skies,
Countless as stars, ere long, our Fanes shall rise,
And white-robed Hopes each altar beam above;
But lay their first foundations deep in Love.
So shall your task be hailed indeed Divine,
And Heber's gentlest spirit bless each shrine.
I, in their turn, have known each various crew
Of all the sects, that ever Evans drew.
At morning meetings joined each gathering host,
And pledged at dinner many a dismal toast.
True, when I heard each straining leader teach
Of heights exclusive, all assumed to reach;
Left far behind all stretch of sympathy,
Beating the wing, in vain, to soar so high,
My grosser essence, all unused to bear
The tingling of those Alpine regions rare,
Dropt gladly down to breathe in common air;
To tread my own calm valley-paths again,
And talk of simple Creeds, with simple Men.
Yet as the traveller, who some lofty brow
Hath reached, whence spreads his journey past below,
Enough perceives to know how turned aside
His erring steps, if not henceforth to guide;
So I—well marked each controversial tribe—
Each race that will not, or that will, subscribe—
Conflicting tenets, each by each abhorred,
The other each to hate their sole accord;
Observed—how this asserts what that denies,
One takes the extreme, another qualifies;
Or, veering round, by turns affirms—retracts—
Now swerved by fancies—steadying now on facts;
What tangled strifes contending sects provoke,
The snow-white surplice, or Geneva cloak;—
If but t' asperge the new-born babe of sin,
Or plunge the full grown Baptist fairly in;—
How firmly this on Two—this leans on Seven—
Yet, right or wrong, in earnest All for heaven;—
I may not dare pronounce man's proper creed
So full in light, 'that he who runs may read.'—
Can own a Stray may honestly be out,
Nor quite would damn a Brother for a Doubt.
Instincts there are, I know, that rise and cleave,
Wind round the heart, and bind it to believe;
And Doctrines, such as early lore imparts,
And sheds, like morning dew, on Infant Hearts,
When o'er her lisping babe the Mother stands,
And moulds his prayer, and joins his little hands.
Yet these, Guides only for the straightway road,
That humbly leads, through duty, up to God;
But blind and helpless for the dangerous lee
Of wide theology's unfathomed sea;
These all desert the wretch, who hangs, perplex'd,
On the dark comment and the doubtful text;
Doomed, for his sins, to drift, and drive through all,
Mad or inspired, from Brothers up to Paul,
And force him, long by winds of doctrine blown,
To seize the helm—and work a course his own.
Oh Friend, be ours, of softer metal wrought,
To rock us in the creed each mother taught!
To others left the controversial leaf;
By others reaped its triumphs—and its grief!
Is it a boon, repose of soul to quit,
For all the pride of logic and of wit?
And, too vain-glorious for quiescent state,
Mix fiercely in dispute and learn to hate?
Is it a boon, when Love's and Friendship's voice
Call thee with them to trust and to rejoice,
Like some far planet thy lone course to wheel,
Nor feel, nor hope what others hope and feel.
When village-groups, for sabbath worship drest,
Throng the green churchyard where their Fathers rest,
And mourners, bending o'er the precious dust,
Win solace from the Bliss that waits the Just—
Is it a boon to approach that house of prayer,
And feel thy footstep hath 'no business there;'
To kneel thee, where thy boyhood knelt—and then
Weep in thy heart Thou 'canst not say Amen?'
Vainly with Guilt when groaning Virtue strives,
And, but in Heaven, not one sad hope survives;
Is it a boon thou, Knowledge, hast conferred,
To deem the strife unmarked, the groan unheard?
Ourselves to deem mere Atoms, random-hurled,
The Orphans of an Unregarded World?
And 'mid the body's, 'mid the soul's distress,
To clutch our utmost Hope—from Hopelessness?
Is it a boon, when Dissolution's strife
Hangs—trembling—o'er the bed of Child or Wife;
And the fond Sufferer turns amid her pain,
And looks, and strives to say, 'We meet again;'
Is it a boon to stand in anguish by,
And meet with some lip-phrase that clinging eye,
While the sad Sceptic Heart makes no reply?
Then, bending o'er the tomb to which she sank,
Present to feel—and Future—one mere Blank?
Oh! thou from Faith's mild bondage sadly free,
'Lone mariner, upon a shoreless sea;'
Oh! say, thou deeply wounded Child of Doubt,
Thus, in thy solitude of soul, shut out
From Nature's fondest, holiest sympathies,
Doth Knowledge—(vaunt it Knowledge)—pay for this?
Thee shall some Guiding Instinct's mild behest
Yet turn in season to the appointed nest.
On ever-questing wing 'twere hard to go,
For surer All we Feel than all we Know!
Hence Thou—though logic-mailed, shalt not disdain
Philosophy!—that mild enthusiast train;
Spirits, by nature's thousand harmonies
That touched, respond; and, without reasonings, wise,
Find types for faith, in earth—and sea—and skies.
Malvern—I love to track in thought, e'en now,
Our twilight path along thy turfy brow,
That tinted—oh! how fair! by Hallowing Even,
Rose, like a ladder step, 'twixt Earth and Heaven.
Eastward, o'er sunless valley, far beneath,
Wan shadows crept, our Human Vale of death;
While beamed, soft radiant, in the mellow west,
Mute as we gazed, the Mansions of the Blest!
Who, placed on that far-grasping promontory,
Not thus had imaged out life's Two-fold Story?
Or Who, beneath that sweet and silent air,
Not worshipped—as Our Spirits worshipped there?
But art Thou of those searching minds, in sooth,
That track, through Thought alone, the vein of truth?
A keen and subtile Intellect, yet stout
To drag Conviction from the depths of Doubt?
Then delve; but from thy toil keep pride apart;
And link to the Stern Brain a Trusting Heart.
So shalt thou reach Belief.—Not the mere Note,
Stale from some Teacher's tongue, and caught by rote;
Nor Dogma, from the forehead of a Dunce
That springs, his Pallas, cap-a-pee at once;
Nor love-taught Faith, as Knighthood fierce to start,
When Beauty smiles Belief into the heart;
And prompt, not less, let wrinkles—frowns—succeed,
To start, a Ready Recreant, from the Creed;
Not such Bold Trust, as Convict Wretches snatch
From desperate need of heaven's uplifted latch,
Whom Ghostly Comforters so cleanse—or paint—
Not one but dies, at least, a Three days' Saint;
Nor yet the dim assent from Anguish wrung,
From feeble signs scarce gleaned, or faltering tongue,
When speechless Palsy hangs the helpless head,
Or low Delirium plucks the dying bed;—
For when no Instinct of our vital Whole,
Nor early Lesson, woven with the soul,
Carefully, then, to concentration wrought
By the slow process of alembic Thought,
Belief is toil of Brain; 'tis Labour's dower,
Reared painfully, thro' frost—and sun—and shower,
And the slow growth of many a ripening hour,
That, like the Aloe's blossom, long to come,
Yet comes at last, and bears Immortal Bloom.
Thrice happy He, who—Conqueror at length,—
On such calm height repairs his weary strength;
And, more and more, sees darkness rolled away,
Till the full prospect brightens into day.
Yet—not for this, inflate' with new-born pride,
Looks he with scorn on all the world beside;
But downward casts benignant glances o'er
The minds that stray, where his had strayed before,
And hopes, and prays for All, before that Throne,
Where Knowledge—Goodness—Intellect are One.
And what though Some, not shunning to be taught,
Nay thirsty for the truth, yet find it not;
Like fainting travellers, through Arabian sand,
Where the shy fount still mocks the searching hand,
Condemned to tread the Doubter's dreary way,
To the last tinge of life's descending day.
Yet, e'en for these,—the Spirit bold and rude,
And all the irreverent Heat of Youth subdued,—
Slow rolling years at length have done their part,
While, from the Husband's and the Father's heart,
New feelings, household interests, budding out—
If not supplanting, yet o'ershadowing Doubt—
Produce, at length, the calm submitted mind,
That Past and Present scans with will resigned,
And onward pondering o'er the dark Untrod,
In humblest acquiescence rests on God.
And yet, such Faith though God perhaps permit,
Nor Church, nor Conventicle, deem it fit.
No sheltering niche have they for trembling Doubt;
Or true, or false, the Creed must still be stout.
Pledged to some Sect—less matter what that one—
But woe betide the Wretch that herds with none.
Each hath his own Prophetic Dream, I wis.—
His mad Millennium Scheme—and mine is This!
A greater than the old Saturnian birth
Shall come, when, o'er this vexed and vexing earth
Tolerance her wing shall spread, like Parent Dove,
And Faith be but another word for Love;
And Conscience, on no synods forced to wait,
Herself perform the work of Sect and State.
In thought I see the Destined Years unfold,
The Blissful Reign for eager earth foretold.
Lo! there the Few—by grateful nations loved—
The More—by man unmarked—by heaven approved—
Some Oberlin—but to his village known;
Some Titus, beaming virtue from a throne;
Minds with each hue of every faith imbued,
Like but in this—all followers of the Good.—
Here Bramin—there the Worshipper of Fire—
Mild Pagan here—there holy Christian sire—
From every Age and Clime—a beauteous band—
Priests—Sages—Bards—they wander hand in hand;
In tranquil converse quest for Truth Alone,
Nor chafe, though each believe that Truth his own;
Of rival creeds shake off the Hate or Fear,
And—wondrous! love more nearly, as more near;
Oft pondering, 'mid that strangely-peaceful scene,
How Theologic Hates had ever been!
B.— Translated hence to some Angelic Sphere,
Such Tolerance we may meet, but hardly here.
Meanwhile, like thee who rambles in discourse,
Must for Utopian pass, if not for worse.
A.— Utopian! 'tis a sneer I heed not much;
And—for what worse—confound not me with such.
Through Stranger-paths but little prone to range,
I keep the old, and leave, who will, to change;
But taught the Gospel came, that strifes should cease,
Deem, like Moravian, its best lesson—Peace;
On harder doctrines lean, in quiet trust,
And leave polemic folios—in their dust;—
But this point hold—howe'er each sect may brawl,
Where pure the life, where free the Heart from gall,
Whate'er the Creed, Heaven looks with Love on All!