Time Of Roses
It was not in the Winter
Our loving lot was cast;
It was the time of roses—
We pluck'd them as we pass'd!
That churlish season never frown'd
On early lovers yet:
O no—the world was newly crown'd
With flowers when first we met!
'Twas twilight, and I bade you go,
But still you held me fast;
It was the time of roses—
We pluck'd them as we pass'd!
The Autumn is old,
The sere leaves are flying;—
He hath gather'd up gold,
And now he is dying;—
Old Age, begin sighing!
The vintage is ripe,
The harvest is heaping;—
But some that have sow'd
Have no riches for reaping;—
Poor wretch, fall a-weeping!
The year's in the wane,
There is nothing adorning,
The night has no eve,
And the day has no morning;—
Cold winter gives warning.
The rivers run chill,
The red sun is sinking,
And I am grown old,
And life is fast shrinking;
Here's enow for sad thinking!
Unfathomable Night! how dost thou sweep
Over the flooded earth, and darkly hide
The mighty city under thy full tide;
Making a silent palace for old Sleep,
Like his own temple under the hush'd deep,
Where all the busy day he doth abide,
And forth at the late dark, outspreadeth wide
His dusky wings, whence the cold waters sweep!
How peacefully the living millions lie!
Lull'd unto death beneath his poppy spells;
There is no breath—no living stir—no cry
No tread of foot—no song—no music-call—
Only the sound of melancholy bells—
The voice of Time—survivor of them all!
My Heart Is Sick With Longing
My heart is sick with longing, tho' I feed
On hope; Time goes with such a heavy pace
That neither brings nor takes from thy embrace,
As if he slept—forgetting his old speed:
For, as in sunshine only we can read
The march of minutes on the dial's face,
So in the shadows of this lonely place
There is no love, and Time is dead indeed.
But when, dear lady, I am near thy heart,
Thy smile is time, and then so swift it flies,
It seems we only meet to tear apart,
With aching hands and lingering of eyes.
Alas, alas! that we must learn hours' flight
By the same light of love that makes them bright!
By Eve'Ry Sweet Tradition Of True Hearts
By ev'ry sweet tradition of true hearts,
Graven by Time, in love with his own lore;
By all old martyrdoms and antique smarts,
Wherein Love died to be alive the more;
Yea, by the sad impression on the shore,
Left by the drown'd Leander, to endear
That coast for ever, where the billow's roar
Moaneth for pity in the Poet's ear;
By Hero's faith, and the foreboding tear
That quench'd her brand's last twinkle in its fall;
By Sappho's leap, and the low rustling fear
That sigh'd around her flight; I swear by all,
The world shall find such pattern in my act,
As if Love's great examples still were lack'd.
Spring It Is Cheery
Spring it is cheery,
Winter is dreary,
Green leaves hang, but the brown must fly;
When he's forsaken,
Wither'd and shaken,
What can an old man do but die?
Love will not clip him,
Maids will not lip him,
Maud and Marian pass him by;
Youth it is sunny,
Age has no honey,—
What can an old man do but die?
June it was jolly,
Oh for its folly!
A dancing leg and a laughing eye;
Youth may be silly,
Wisdom is chilly,—
What can an old man do but die?
Friends, they are scanty,
Beggars are plenty,
If he has followers, I know why;
Gold's in his clutches,
(Buying him crutches!)
What can an old man do but die?
Hymn To The Sun
Giver of glowing light!
Though but a god of other days,
The kings and sages
Of wiser ages
Still live and gladden in thy genial rays!
King of the tuneful lyre,
Still poets' hymns to thee belong;
Though lips are cold
Whereon of old
Thy beams all turn'd to worshipping and song!
Lord of the dreadful bow,
None triumph now for Python's death;
But thou dost save
From hungry grave
The life that hangs upon a summer breath.
Father of rosy day,
No more thy clouds of incense rise;
But waking flow'rs
At morning hours,
Give out their sweets to meet thee in the skies.
God of the Delphic fame,
No more thou listenest to hymns sublime;
But they will leave
On winds at eve,
A solemn echo to the end of time.
Time, Hope And Memory
I heard a gentle maiden, in the spring,
Set her sweet sighs to music, and thus sing:
'Fly through the world, and I will follow thee,
Only for looks that may turn back on me;
'Only for roses that your chance may throw—
Though withered—Twill wear them on my brow,
To be a thoughtful fragrance to my brain,—
Warm'd with such love, that they will bloom again.'
'Thy love before thee, I must tread behind,
Kissing thy foot-prints, though to me unkind;
But trust not all her fondness, though it seem,
Lest thy true love should rest on a false dream.'
'Her face is smiling, and her voice is sweet;
But smiles betray, and music sings deceit;
And words speak false;—yet, if they welcome prove,
I'll be their echo, and repeat their love.'
'Only if waken'd to sad truth, at last,
The bitterness to come, and sweetness past;
When thou art vext, then turn again, and see
Thou hast loved Hope, but Memory loved thee.'
The Pauper's Christmas Carol
Full of drink and full of meat,
On our SAVIOUR'S natal day,
CHARITY'S perennial treat;
Thus I heard a Pauper say:—
'Ought not I to dance and sing
Thus supplied with famous cheer?
I hardly know—
Christmas comes but once a year.
'After labor's long turmoil,
Sorry fare and frequent fast,
Two-and-fifty weeks of toil,
Pudding-time is come at last!
But are raisins high or low,
Flour and suet cheap or dear?
I hardly know—
Christmas comes but once a year.
'Fed upon the coarsest fare
Three hundred days and sixty-four,
But for one on viands rare,
Just as if I wasn't poor!
Ought not I to bless my stars,
Warden, clerk, and overseer?
I hardly know—
Christmas comes but once a year.
'Treated like a welcome guest,
One of Nature's social chain,
Seated, tended on, and press'd—
But when shall I be press'd again,
Twice to pudding, thrice to beef,
A dozen times to ale and beer?
I hardly know—
Christmas comes but once a year.
'Come to-morrow how it will;
Diet scant and usage rough,
Hunger once has had its fill,
Thirst for once has had enough,
But shall I ever dine again?
Or see another feast appear?
I only know—
Christmas comes but once a year!
'Frozen cares begin to melt,
Hopes revive and spirits flow—
Feeling as I have not felt
Since a dozen months ago—
Glad enough to sing a song—
To-morrow shall I volunteer?
I hardly know—
Christmas comes but once a year.
'Bright and blessed is the time,
Sorrows end and joys begin,
While the bells with merry chime
Ring the Day of Plenty in!
But the happy tide to hail,
With a sigh or with or a tear,
I hardly know—
Christmas comes but once a year!'
The Workhouse Clock
There's a murmur in the air,
And noise in every street—
The murmur of many tongues,
The noise of numerous feet—
While round the Workhouse door
The Laboring Classes flock,
For why? the Overseer of the Poor
Is setting the Workhouse Clock.
Who does not hear the tramp
Of thousands speeding along
Of either sex and various stamp,
Sickly, cripple, or strong,
Walking, limping, creeping
From court and alley, and lane,
But all in one direction sweeping
Like rivers that seek the main?
Who does not see them sally
From mill, and garret, and room,
In lane, and court and alley,
From homes in poverty's lowest valley,
Furnished with shuttle and loom—
Poor slaves of Civilization's galley—
And in the road and footways rally,
As if for the Day of Doom?
Some, of hardly human form,
Stunted, crooked, and crippled by toil;
Dingy with smoke and dust and oil,
And smirch'd besides with vicious soil,
Clustering, mustering, all in a swarm.
Father, mother, and careful child,
Looking as if it had never smiled—
The Sempstress, lean, and weary, and wan,
With only the ghosts of garments on—
The Weaver, her sallow neighbor,
The grim and sooty Artisan;
Every soul—child, woman, or man,
Who lives—or dies—by labor.
Stirr'd by an overwhelming zeal,
And social impulse, a terrible throng!
Leaving shuttle, and needle, and wheel,
Furnace, and grindstone, spindle, and reel,
Thread, and yarn, and iron, and steel—
Yea, rest and the yet untasted meal—
Gushing, rushing, crushing along,
A very torrent of Man!
Urged by the sighs of sorrow and wrong,
Grown at last to a hurricane strong,
Stop its course who can!
Stop who can its onward course
And irresistible moral force;
O vain and idle dream!
For surely as men are all akin,
Whether of fair or sable skin,
According to Nature's scheme,
That Human Movement contains within
A Blood-Power stronger than Steam.
Onward, onward, with hasty feet,
They swarm—and westward still—
Masses born to drink and eat,
But starving amidst Whitechapel's meat,
And famishing down Cornhill!
Through the Poultry—but still unfed—
Christian Charity, hang your head!
Hungry—passing the Street of Bread;
Thirsty—the street of Milk;
Ragged—beside the Ludgate Mart,
So gorgeous, through Mechanic-Art,
With cotton, and wool, and silk!
At last, before that door
That bears so many a knock
Ere ever it opens to Sick or Poor,
Like sheep they huddle and flock—
And would that all the Good and Wise
Could see the Million of hollow eyes,
With a gleam deriv'd from Hope and the skies,
Upturn'd to the Workhouse Clock!
Oh that the Parish Powers,
Who regulate Labor's hours,
The daily amount of human trial,
Weariness, pain, and self-denial,
Would turn from the artificial dial
That striketh ten or eleven,
And go, for once, by that older one
That stands in the light of Nature's sun,
And takes its time from Heaven!
The Song Of The Shirt
The Song of the Shirt
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread--
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the "Song of the Shirt."
"Work! work! work!
While the cock is crowing aloof!
And work — work — work,
Till the stars shine through the roof!
It's Oh! to be a slave
Along with the barbarous Turk,
Where woman has never a soul to save,
If this is Christian work!
"Work — work — work
Till the brain begins to swim;
Work — work — work
Till the eyes are heavy and dim!
Seam, and gusset, and band,
Band, and gusset, and seam,
Till over the buttons I fall asleep,
And sew them on in a dream!
"Oh, Men, with Sisters dear!
Oh, Men, with Mothers and Wives!
It is not linen you're wearing out,
But human creatures' lives!
Stitch — stitch — stitch,
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
Sewing at once with a double thread,
A Shroud as well as a Shirt.
But why do I talk of Death?
That Phantom of grisly bone,
I hardly fear its terrible shape,
It seems so like my own —
It seems so like my own,
Because of the fasts I keep;
Oh, God! that bread should be so dear,
And flesh and blood so cheap!
"Work — work — work!
My Labour never flags;
And what are its wages? A bed of straw,
A crust of bread — and rags.
That shatter'd roof — and this naked floor —
A table — a broken chair —
And a wall so blank, my shadow I thank
For sometimes falling there!
"Work — work — work!
From weary chime to chime,
Work — work — work!
As prisoners work for crime!
Band, and gusset, and seam,
Seam, and gusset, and band,
Till the heart is sick, and the brain benumb'd,
As well as the weary hand.
"Work — work — work,
In the dull December light,
And work — work — work,
When the weather is warm and bright —
While underneath the eaves
The brooding swallows cling
As if to show me their sunny backs
And twit me with the spring.
Oh! but to breathe the breath
Of the cowslip and primrose sweet —
With the sky above my head,
And the grass beneath my feet
For only one short hour
To feel as I used to feel,
Before I knew the woes of want
And the walk that costs a meal!
Oh! but for one short hour!
A respite however brief!
No blessed leisure for Love or Hope,
But only time for Grief!
A little weeping would ease my heart,
But in their briny bed
My tears must stop, for every drop
Hinders needle and thread!"
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread —
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch, —
Would that its tone could reach the Rich! —
She sang this "Song of the Shirt!"
Ode To The Moon
Mother of light! how fairly dost thou go
Over those hoary crests, divinely led!—
Art thou that huntress of the silver bow,
Fabled of old? Or rather dost thou tread
Those cloudy summits thence to gaze below,
Like the wild Chamois from her Alpine snow,
Where hunter never climb'd,—secure from dread?
How many antique fancies have I read
Of that mild presence! and how many wrought!
Wondrous and bright,
Upon the silver light,
Chasing fair figures with the artist, Thought!
What art thou like?—Sometimes I see thee ride
A far-bound galley on its perilous way,
Whilst breezy waves toss up their silvery spray;—
Sometimes behold thee glide,
Cluster'd by all thy family of stars,
Like a lone widow, through the welkin wide,
Whose pallid cheek the midnight sorrow mars;—
Sometimes I watch thee on from steep to steep,
Timidly lighted by thy vestal torch,
Till in some Latmian cave I see thee creep,
To catch the young Endymion asleep,—
Leaving thy splendor at the jagged porch!—
Oh, thou art beautiful, howe'er it be!
Huntress, or Dian, or whatever named;
And he, the veriest Pagan, that first framed
A silver idol, and ne'er worshipp'd thee!—
It is too late—or thou should'st have my knee—
Too late now for the old Ephesian vows,
And not divine the crescent on thy brows!—
Yet, call thee nothing but the mere mild Moon,
Behind those chestnut boughs,
Casting their dappled shadows at my feet;
I will be grateful for that simple boon,
In many a thoughtful verse and anthem sweet,
And bless thy dainty face when'er we meet.
In nights far gone,—ay, far away and dead,—
Before Care-fretted, with a lidless eye,—
I was thy wooer on my little bed,
Letting the early hours of rest go by,
To see thee flood the heaven with milky light,
And feed thy snow-white swans, before I slept;
For thou wert then purveyor of my dreams,—
Thou wert the fairies' armourer, that kept
Their burnish'd helms, and crowns, and corslets bright,
Their spears, and glittering mails;
And ever thou didst spill in winding streams
Sparkles and midnight gleams,
For fishes to new gloss their ardent scales!—
Why sighs?—why creeping tears?—why clasped hands?—
Is it to count the boy's expended dow'r?
That fairies since have broke their gifted wands?
That young Delight, like any o'erblown flower,
Gave, one by one, its sweet leaves to the ground?—
Why then, fair Moon, for all thou mark'st no hour,
Thou art a sadder dial to old Time
Than ever I have found
On sunny garden-plot, or moss-grown tow'r,
Motto'd with stern and melancholy rhyme.
Why should I grieve for this?—Oh I must yearn
Whilst Time, conspirator with Memory,
Keeps his cold ashes in an ancient urn,
Richly emboss'd with childhood's revelry,
With leaves and cluster'd fruits, and flow'rs eterne,—
(Eternal to the world, though not to me),
Aye there will those brave sports and blossoms be,
The deathless wreath, and undecay'd festoon,
When I am hearsed within,—
Less than the pallid primrose to the Moon,
That now she watches through a vapor thin.
So let it be:—Before I lived to sigh,
Thou wert in Avon, and a thousand rills,
Beautiful Orb! and so, whene'er I lie
Trodden, thou wilt be gazing from thy hills.
Blest be thy loving light, where'er it spills,
And blessëd thy fair face, O Mother mild!
Still shine, the soul of rivers as they run,
Still lend thy lonely lamp to lovers fond,
And blend their plighted shadows into one:—
Still smile at even on the bedded child,
And close his eyelids with thy silver wand!
The Haunted House
Oh, very gloomy is the house of woe,
Where tears are falling while the bell is knelling,
With all the dark solemnities that show
That Death is in the dwelling!
Oh, very, very dreary is the room
Where Love, domestic Love, no longer nestles,
But smitten by the common stroke of doom,
The corpse lies on the trestles!
But house of woe, and hearse, and sable pall,
The narrow home of the departed mortal,
Ne’er looked so gloomy as that Ghostly Hall,
With its deserted portal!
The centipede along the threshold crept,
The cobweb hung across in mazy tangle,
And in its winding sheet the maggot slept
At every nook and angle.
The keyhole lodged the earwig and her brood,
The emmets of the steps has old possession,
And marched in search of their diurnal food
In undisturbed procession.
As undisturbed as the prehensile cell
Of moth or maggot, or the spider’s tissue,
For never foot upon that threshold fell,
To enter or to issue.
O’er all there hung the shadow of a fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted.
Howbeit, the door I pushed—or so I dreamed--
Which slowly, slowly gaped, the hinges creaking
With such a rusty eloquence, it seemed
That Time himself was speaking.
But Time was dumb within that mansion old,
Or left his tale to the heraldic banners
That hung from the corroded walls, and told
Of former men and manners.
Those tattered flags, that with the opened door,
Seemed the old wave of battle to remember,
While fallen fragments danced upon the floor
Like dead leaves in December.
The startled bats flew out, bird after bird,
The screech-owl overhead began to flutter,
And seemed to mock the cry that she had heard
Some dying victim utter!
A shriek that echoed from the joisted roof,
And up the stair, and further still and further,
Till in some ringing chamber far aloof
In ceased its tale of murther!
Meanwhile the rusty armor rattled round,
The banner shuddered, and the ragged streamer;
All things the horrid tenor of the sound
Acknowledged with a tremor.
The antlers where the helmet hung, and belt,
Stirred as the tempest stirs the forest branches,
Or as the stag had trembled when he felt
The bloodhound at his haunches.
The window jingled in its crumbled frame,
And through its many gaps of destitution
Dolorous moans and hollow sighings came,
Like those of dissolution.
The wood-louse dropped, and rolled into a ball,
Touched by some impulse occult or mechanic;
And nameless beetles ran along the wall
In universal panic.
The subtle spider, that, from overhead,
Hung like a spy on human guilt and error,
Suddenly turned, and up its slender thread
Ran with a nimble terror.
The very stains and fractures on the wall,
Assuming features solemn and terrific,
Hinted some tragedy of that old hall,
Locked up in hieroglyphic.
Some tale that might, perchance, have solved the doubt,
Wherefore, among those flags so dull and livid,
The banner of the bloody hand shone out
So ominously vivid.
Some key to that inscrutable appeal
Which made the very frame of Nature quiver,
And every thrilling nerve and fiber feel
So ague-like a shiver.
For over all there hung a cloud of fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted!
Prophetic hints that filled the soul with dread,
But through one gloomy entrance pointing mostly,
The while some secret inspiration said,
“That chamber is the ghostly!”
Across the door no gossamer festoon
Swung pendulous, --no web, no dusty fringes,
No silky chrysalis or white cocoon,
About its nooks and hinges.
The spider shunned the interdicted room,
The moth, the beetle, and the fly were banished,
And when the sunbeam fell athwart the gloom,
The very midge had vanished.
One lonely ray that glanced upon a bed,
As if with awful aim direct and certain,
To show the Bloody Hand, in burning red,
Embroidered on the curtain.
Ode To Melancholy
Come, let us set our careful breasts,
Like Philomel, against the thorn,
To aggravate the inward grief,
That makes her accents so forlorn;
The world has many cruel points,
Whereby our bosoms have been torn,
And there are dainty themes of grief,
In sadness to outlast the morn,—
True honor's dearth, affection's death,
Neglectful pride, and cankering scorn,
With all the piteous tales that tears
Have water'd since the world was born.
The world!—it is a wilderness,
Where tears are hung on every tree;
For thus my gloomy phantasy
Makes all things weep with me!
Come let us sit and watch the sky,
And fancy clouds, where no clouds be;
Grief is enough to blot the eye,
And make heaven black with misery.
Why should birds sing such merry notes,
Unless they were more blest than we?
No sorrow ever chokes their throats,
Except sweet nightingale; for she
Was born to pain our hearts the more
With her sad melody.
Why shines the Sun, except that he
Makes gloomy nooks for Grief to hide,
And pensive shades for Melancholy,
When all the earth is bright beside?
Let clay wear smiles, and green grass wave,
Mirth shall not win us back again,
Whilst man is made of his own grave,
And fairest clouds but gilded rain!
I saw my mother in her shroud,
Her cheek was cold and very pale;
And ever since I've look'd on all
As creatures doom'd to fail!
Why do buds ope except to die?
Ay, let us watch the roses wither,
And think of our loves' cheeks;
And oh! how quickly time doth fly
To bring death's winter hither!
Minutes, hours, days, and weeks,
Months, years, and ages, shrink to nought;
An age past is but a thought!
Ay, let us think of Him awhile
That, with a coffin for a boat,
Rows daily o'er the Stygian moat,
And for our table choose a tomb:
There's dark enough in any skull
To charge with black a raven plume;
And for the saddest funeral thoughts
A winding-sheet hath ample room,
Where Death, with his keen-pointed style,
Hath writ the common doom.
How wide the yew-tree spreads its gloom,
And o'er the dead lets fall its dew,
As if in tears it wept for them,
The many human families
That sleep around its stem!
How cold the dead have made these stones,
With natural drops kept ever wet!
Lo! here the best—the worst—the world
Doth now remember or forget,
Are in one common ruin hurl'd,
And love and hate are calmly met;
The loveliest eyes that ever shone,
The fairest hands, and locks of jet.
Is't not enough to vex our souls,
And fill our eyes, that we have set
Our love upon a rose's leaf,
Our hearts upon a violet?
Blue eyes, red cheeks, are frailer yet;
And sometimes at their swift decay
Beforehand we must fret.
The roses bud and bloom, again;
But Love may haunt the grave of Love,
And watch the mould in vain.
O clasp me, sweet, whilst thou art mine,
And do not take my tears amiss;
For tears must flow to wash away
A thought that shows so stern as this:
Forgive, if somewhile I forget,
In woe to come, the present bliss;
As frighted Proserpine let fall
Her flowers at the sight of Dis,
Ev'n so the dark and bright will kiss.
The sunniest things throw sternest shade,
And there is ev'n a happiness
That makes the heart afraid!
Now let us with a spell invoke
The full-orb'd moon to grieve our eyes;
Not bright, not bright, but, with a cloud
Lapp'd all about her, let her rise
All pale and dim, as if from rest
The ghost of the late-buried sun
Had crept into the skies.
The Moon! she is the source of sighs,
The very face to make us sad;
If but to think in other times
The same calm quiet look she had,
As if the world held nothing base,
Of vile and mean, of fierce and bad;
The same fair light that shone in streams,
The fairy lamp that charmed the lad;
For so it is, with spent delights
She taunts men's brains, and makes them mad.
All things are touch'd with Melancholy,
Born of the secret soul's mistrust,
To feel her fair ethereal wings
Weigh'd down with vile degraded dust;
Even the bright extremes of joy
Bring on conclusions of disgust,
Like the sweet blossoms of the May,
Whose fragrance ends in must.
O give her, then, her tribute just,
Her sighs and tears, and musings holy;
There is no music in the life
That sounds with idiot laughter solely;
There's not a string attuned to mirth,
But has its chord in Melancholy.
Ode On A Distant Prospect Of Clapham Academy
Ah me! those old familiar bounds!
That classic house, those classic grounds
My pensive thought recalls!
What tender urchins now confine,
What little captives now repine,
Within yon irksome walls?
Ay, that's the very house! I know
Its ugly windows, ten a-row!
Its chimneys in the rear!
And there's the iron rod so high,
That drew the thunder from the sky
And turn'd our table-beer!
There I was birch'd! there I was bred!
There like a little Adam fed
From Learning's woeful tree!
The weary tasks I used to con!—
The hopeless leaves I wept upon!—
Most fruitless leaves to me!—
The summon'd class!—the awful bow!—
I wonder who is master now
And wholesome anguish sheds!
How many ushers now employs,
How many maids to see the boys
Have nothing in their heads!
And Mrs. S——?—Doth she abet
(Like Pallas in the parlor) yet
Some favor'd two or three,—
The little Crichtons of the hour,
Her muffin-medals that devour,
And swill her prize—bohea?
Ay, there's the playground! there's the lime,
Beneath whose shade in summer's prime
So wildly I have read!—
Who sits there now, and skims the cream
Of young Romance, and weaves a dream
Of Love and Cottage-bread?
Who struts the Randall of the walk?
Who models tiny heads in chalk?
Who scoops the light canoe?
What early genius buds apace?
Where's Poynter? Harris? Bowers? Chase?
Hal Baylis? blithe Carew?
Alack! they're gone—a thousand ways!
And some are serving in 'the Greys,'
And some have perish'd young!—
Jack Harris weds his second wife;
Hal Baylis drives the wane of life;
And blithe Carew—is hung!
Grave Bowers teaches A B C
To savages at Owhyee;
Poor Chase is with the worms!—
All, all are gone—the olden breed!—
New crops of mushroon boys succeed,
'And push us from our forms!'
Lo! where they scramble forth, and shout,
And leap, and skip, and mob about,
At play where we have play'd!
Some hop, some run, (some fall,) some twine
Their crony arms; some in the shine,—
And some are in the shade!
Lo there what mix'd conditions run!
The orphan lad; the widow's son;
And Fortune's favor'd care—
The wealthy-born, for whom she hath
Mac-Adamised the future path—
The Nabob's pamper'd heir!
Some brightly starr'd—some evil born,—
For honor some, and some for scorn,—
For fair or foul renown!
Good, bad, indiff'rent—none may lack!
Look, here's a White, and there's a Black
And there's a Creole brown!
Some laugh and sing, some mope and weep,
And wish their frugal sires would keep
Their only sons at home;—
Some tease their future tense, and plan
The full-grown doings of the man,
And plant for years to come!
A foolish wish! There's one at hoop;
And four at fives! and five who stoop
The marble taw to speed!
And one that curvets in and out,
Reining his fellow Cob about,—
Would I were in his steed!
Yet he would glady halt and drop
That boyish harness off, to swop
With this world's heavy van—
To toil, to tug. O little fool!
While thou canst be a horse at school,
To wish to be a man!
Perchance thou deem'st it were a thing
To wear a crown,—to be a king!
And sleep on regal down!
Alas! thou know'st not kingly cares;
For happier is thy head that wears
That hat without a crown!
And dost thou think that years acquire
New added joys? Dost think thy sire
More happy than his son?
That manhood's mirth?—Oh, go thy ways
To Drury-lane when—plays,
And see how forced our fun!
Thy taws are brave!—thy tops are rare!—
Our tops are spun with coils of care,
Our dumps are no delight!—
The Elgin marbles are but tame,
And 'tis at best a sorry game
To fly the Muse's kite!
Our hearts are dough, our heels are lead,
Our topmost joys fall dull and dead
Like balls with no rebound!
And often with a faded eye
We look behind, and send a sigh
Towards that merry ground!
Then be contented. Thou hast got
The most of heaven in thy young lot;
There's sky-blue in thy cup!
Thou'lt find thy Manhood all too fast—
Soon come, soon gone! and Age at last
A sorry breaking-up!
The Key (A Moorish Romance)
'On the east coast, towards Tunis, the Moors still preserve the key of their ancestors' houses in Spain; to which country they still express the hopes of one day returning and again planting the crescent on the ancient walls of the Alhambra.'
Travels in Morocco and Algiers.
'Is Spain cloven in such a manner as to want closing?'
Sancho Panza in
The Moor leans on his cushion,
With the pipe between his lips;
And still at frequent intervals
The sweet sherbét he sips;
But, spite of lulling vapor
And the sober cooling cup,
The spirit of the swarthy Moor
Is fiercely kindling up!
One hand is on his pistol,
On its ornamented stock,
While his finger feels the trigger
And is busy with the lock—
The other seeks his ataghan,
And clasps its jewell'd hilt—
Oh! much of gore in days of yore
That crooked blade has spilt!
His brows are knit, his eyes of jet
In vivid blackness roll,
And gleam with fatal flashes
Like the fire-damp of the coal;
His jaws are set, and through his teeth
He draws a savage breath,
As if about to raise the shout
Of Victory or Death!
For why? the last Zebeck that came
And moor'd within the Mole,
Such tidings unto Tunis brought
As stir his very soul—
The cruel jar of civil war,
The sad and stormy reign,
That blackens like a thunder cloud
The sunny land of Spain!
No strife of glorious Chivalry,
For honor's gain or loss,
Nor yet that ancient rivalry,
The Crescent with the Cross.
No charge of gallant Paladins
On Moslems stern and stanch;
But Christians shedding Christian blood
Beneath the olive's branch!
A war of horrid parricide,
And brother killing brother;
Yea, like to 'dogs and sons of dogs'
That worry one another.
But let them bite and tear and fight,
The more the Kaffers slay,
The sooner Hagar's swarming sons
Shall make the land a prey!
The sooner shall the Moor behold
Th' Alhambra's pile again;
And those who pined in Barbary
Shall shout for joy in Spain—
The sooner shall the Crescent wave
On dear Granada's walls:
And proud Mohammed Ali sit
Within his fathers halls!
Up springs the swarthy Moor,
And, with a wide and hasty stride,
Steps o'er the marble floor;
Across the hall, till from the wall,
Where such quaint patterns be,
With eager hand he snatches down
And old and massive Key!
A massive Key of curious shape,
And dark with dirt and rust,
And well three weary centuries
The metal might encrust!
For since the King Boabdil fell
Before the native stock,
That ancient Key, so quaint to see,
Hath never been in lock.
Brought over by the Saracens
Who fled accross the main,
A token of the secret hope
Of going back again;
From race to race, from hand to hand,
From house to house it pass'd;
O will it ever, ever ope
The Palace gate at last?
Three hundred years and fifty-two
On post and wall it hung—
Three hundred years and fifty-two
A dream to old and young;
But now a brighter destiny
The Prophet's will accords:
The time is come to scour the rust,
And lubricate the wards.
For should the Moor with sword and lance
At Algesiras land,
Where is the bold Bernardo now
Their progress to withstand?
To Burgos should the Moslem come,
Where is the noble Cid
Five royal crowns to topple down
As gallant Diaz did?
Hath Xeres any Pounder now,
When other weapons fail,
With club to thrash invaders rash,
Like barley with a flail?
Hath Seville any Perez still,
To lay his clusters low,
And ride with seven turbans green
Around his saddle-bow?
No! never more shall Europe see
Such Heroes brave and bold,
Such Valor, Faith and Loyalty,
As used to shine of old!
No longer to one battle cry
United Spaniards run,
And with their thronging spears uphold
The Virgin and her Son!
From Cadiz Bay to rough Biscay
Internal discord dwells,
And Barcelona bears the scars
Of Spanish shot and shells.
The fleets decline, the merchants pine
For want of foreign trade;
And gold is scant; and Alicante
Is seal'd by strict blockade!
The loyal fly, and Valor falls,
Opposed by court intrigue;
But treachery and traitors thrive,
Upheld by foreign league;
While factions seeking private ends
By turns usurping reign—
Well may the dreaming, scheming Moor
Exulting point to Spain!
Well may he cleanse the rusty Key
With Afric sand and oil,
And hope an Andalusian home
Shall recompense the toil!
Well may he swear the Moorish spear
Through wild Castile shall sweep,
And where the Catalonian sowed
The Saracen shall reap!
Well may he vow to spurn the Cross
Beneath the Arab hoof,
And plant the Crescent yet again
Above th' Alhambra's roof—
When those from whom St. Jago's name
In chorus once arose,
Are shouting Faction's battle-cries,
And Spain forgets to 'Close!'
Well may he swear his ataghan
Shall rout the traitor swarm,
And carve them into Arabesques
That show no human form—
The blame be theirs, whose bloody feuds
Invite the savage Moor,
And tempt him with the ancient Key
To seek the ancient door!
The Departure Of Summer
Summer is gone on swallows' wings,
And Earth has buried all her flowers:
No more the lark,—the linnet—sings,
But Silence sits in faded bowers.
There is a shadow on the plain
Of Winter ere he comes again,—
There is in woods a solemn sound
Of hollow warnings whisper'd round,
As Echo in her deep recess
For once had turn'd a prophetess.
Shuddering Autumn stops to list,
And breathes his fear in sudden sighs,
With clouded face, and hazel eyes
That quench themselves, and hide in mist.
Yes, Summer's gone like pageant bright;
Its glorious days of golden light
Are gone—the mimic suns that quiver,
Then melt in Time's dark-flowing river.
Gone the sweetly-scented breeze
That spoke in music to the trees;
Gone—for damp and chilly breath,
As if fresh blown o'er marble seas,
Or newly from the lungs of Death.
Gone its virgin roses' blushes,
Warm as when Aurora rushes
Freshly from the God's embrace,
With all her shame upon her face.
Old Time hath laid them in the mould;
Sure he is blind as well as old,
Whose hand relentless never spares
Young cheeks so beauty-bright as theirs!
Gone are the flame-eyed lovers now
From where so blushing-blest they tarried
Under the hawthorn's blossom-bough,
Gone; for Day and Night are married.
All the light of love is fled:—
Alas! that negro breasts should hide
The lips that were so rosy red,
At morning and at even-tide!
Delightful Summer! then adieu
Till thou shalt visit us anew:
But who without regretful sigh
Can say, adieu, and see thee fly?
Not he that e'er hath felt thy pow'r.
His joy expanding like a flow'r,
That cometh after rain and snow,
Looks up at heaven, and learns to glow:—
Not he that fled from Babel-strife
To the green sabbath-land of life,
To dodge dull Care 'mid clustered trees,
And cool his forehead in the breeze,—
Whose spirit, weary-worn perchance,
Shook from its wings a weight of grief,
And perch'd upon an aspen leaf,
For every breath to make it dance.
Farewell!—on wings of sombre stain,
That blacken in the last blue skies,
Thou fly'st; but thou wilt come again
On the gay wings of butterflies.
Spring at thy approach will sprout
Her new Corinthian beauties out,
Leaf-woven homes, where twitter-words
Will grow to songs, and eggs to birds;
Ambitious buds shall swell to flowers,
And April smiles to sunny hours,
Bright days shall be, and gentle nights
Full of soft breath and echo-lights,
As if the god of sun-time kept
His eyes half-open while he slept.
Roses shall be where roses were,
Not shadows, but reality;
As if they never perished there,
But slept in immortality:
Nature shall thrill with new delight,
And Time's relumined river run
Warm as young blood, and dazzling bright,
As if its source were in the sun!
But say, hath Winter then no charms?
Is there no joy, no gladness warms
His aged heart? no happy wiles
To cheat the hoary one to smiles?
Onward he comes—the cruel North
Pours his furious whirlwind forth
Before him—and we breathe the breath
Of famish'd bears that howl to death.
Onward he comes from the rocks that blanch
O'er solid streams that never flow:
His tears all ice, his locks all snow,
Just crept from some huge avalanche—
A thing half-breathing and half-warm,
As if one spark began to glow
Within some statue's marble form,
Or pilgrim stiffened in the storm.
Oh! will not Mirth's light arrows fail
To pierce that frozen coat of mail?
Oh! will not joy but strive in vain
To light up those glazed eyes again?
No! take him in, and blaze the oak,
And pour the wine, and warm the ale;
His sides shall shake to many a joke,
His tongue shall thaw in many a tale,
His eyes grow bright, his heart be gay,
And even his palsy charm'd away.
What heeds he then the boisterous shout
Of angry winds that scowl without,
Like shrewish wives at tavern door?
What heeds he then the wild uproar
Of billows bursting on the shore?
In dashing waves, in howling breeze,
There is a music that can charm him;
When safe, and sheltered, and at ease,
He hears the storm that cannot harm him.
But hark! those shouts! that sudden din
Of little hearts that laugh within.
Oh! take him where the youngsters play,
And he will grow as young as they!
They come! they come! each blue-eyed Sport,
The Twelfth-Night King and all his court—
'Tis Mirth fresh crown'd with misletoe!
Music with her merry fiddles,
Joy 'on light fantastic toe,'
Wit with all his jests and riddles,
Singing and dancing as they go.
And Love, young Love, among the rest,
A welcome—nor unbidden guest.
But still for Summer dost thou grieve?
Then read our Poets—they shall weave
A garden of green fancies still,
Where thy wish may rove at will.
They have kept for after-treats
The essences of summer sweets,
And echoes of its songs that wind
In endless music through the mind:
They have stamp'd in visible traces
The 'thoughts that breathe,' in words that shine—
The flights of soul in sunny places—
To greet and company with thine.
These shall wing thee on to flow'rs—
The past or future, that shall seem
All the brighter in thy dream
For blowing in such desert hours.
The summer never shines so bright
As thought-of in a winter's night;
And the sweetest loveliest rose
Is in the bud before it blows;
The dear one of the lover's heart
Is painted to his longing eyes,
In charms she ne'er can realize—
But when she turns again to part.
Dream thou then, and bind thy brow
With wreath of fancy roses now,
And drink of Summer in the cup
Where the Muse hath mix'd it up;
The 'dance, and song, and sun-burnt mirth,'
With the warm nectar of the earth:
Drink! 'twill glow in every vein,
And thou shalt dream the winter through:
Then waken to the sun again,
And find thy Summer Vision true!
The Lost Heir
'Oh where, and oh where
Is my bonny laddie gone?'
One day, as I was going by
That part of Holborn christened High,
I heard a loud and sodden cry,
That chill'd my very blood;
And lo! from out a dirty alley,
Where pigs and Irish wont to rally,
I saw a crazy woman sally,
Bedaub'd with grease and mud.
She turn'd her East, she turn'd her West,
Staring like Pythoness possest,
With streaming hair and heaving breast,
As one stark mad with grief.
This way and that she wildly ran,
Jostling with woman and with man-
Her right hand held a frying pan,
The left a lump of beef.
At last her frenzy seemed to reach
A point just capable of speech,
And with a tone almost a screech,
As wild as ocean bird's,
Or female Banter mov'd to preach,
She gave her 'sorrow-words.'
'O Lord! O dear, my heart will break, I shall
go stick stark staring wild!
Has ever a one seen anything about the streets
like a crying lost-looking child?
Lawk help me, I don't know where to look, or to
run, if I only knew which way-
A Child as is lost about London Streets, and especially
Seven Dials, is a needle in a bottle of hay.
I am all in a quiver- get out of my sight, do, you
wretch, you little Kitty M'Nab!
You promised to have half an eye to him, you
know you did, you dirty deceitful young drab.
The last time as ever I see him, poor thing;
was with my own blessed Motherly eyes,
Sitting as good as gold in the gutter,
a-playing at making little dirt pies.
I wonder he left the court where he was better off
than all the other young boys,
With two bricks, an old shoe, nine oyster-shells,
and a dead kitten by way of toys.
When his father comes home, and he always comes home
as sure as ever the clock strikes one,
He'll be rampant, he will, at his child being lost;
and the beef and the inguns not done!
La bless you, good folks, mind your own consarns,
and don't be making a mob in the street;
O Sergeant M'Farlane! you have not come across
my poor little boy, have you, in your beat?
Do, good people, move on! don't stand staring at me
like a parcel of stupid stuck pigs;
Saints forbid! but he's p'r'aps been inviggled
away up a court for the sake of his clothes
He'd a very good jacket, for certain,
for I bought it myself for a shilling one day in Rag Fair;
And his trowsers considering not very much patch'd,
and red plush, they was once his Father'
His shirt, it's very lucky I'd got washing in the tub,
or that might have gone with the rest
But he'd got on a very good pinafore
with only two slits and a burn on the breast.
He'd a goodish sort of hat, If the crown was sew'd in,
and not quite so much jagg'd at the brim,
With one shoe on, and the other shoe is a boot,
and not a fit, and, you'll know by that if it's him.
Except being so well dress'd, my mind would misgive,
some old beggar woman in want of an orphan,
Had borrow'd the child to go a begging with,
but I'd rather see him laid out in his coffin!
Do, good people, move on, such a rabble of boys!
I'll break every bone of 'em I come near,
Go home- you're spilling the porter- go home-
Tommy Jones, go along home with your beer.
This day is the sorrowfullest day of my life,
ever since my name was Betty Morgan,
Them vile Savoyards! they lost him once before
all along of following a Monkey and an Organ:
O my Billy- my head will turn right round- if
he's got kiddynapp'd with them Italians,
They'll make him a plaster parish image boy,
they will, the outlandish tatterdemallions.
Billy- where are you, Billy?- I'm as hoarse as a crow,
with screaming for ye, you young sorrow!
And shan't have half a voice, no more I shan't,
for crying fresh herrings to-morrow.
O Billy, you're bursting my heart in two, and my
life won't be of no more vally,
If I'm to see other folk's darlins, and none of
mine, playing like angels in our alley,
And what shall I do but cry out my eyes, when I
looks at the old three-legged chair,
As Billy used to make coaches and horses of, and
there ain't no Billy there!
I would run all the wide world over to find him,
if I only know'd where to run,
Little Murphy, now I remember, was once lost
for a month through stealing a penny bun,-
The Lord forbid of any child of mine!
I think it would kill me raily,
To find my Bill holdin up his little
innocent hand at the Old Bailey.
For though I say it as oughtn't, yet I will say,
you may search for miles and mileses
And not find one better brought up,
and more pretty behaved, from one end to t'other
of St. Giles's.
And if I called him a beauty, it's no lie, but only
as a Mother ought to speak;
You never set eyes on a more handsomer face,
only it hasn't been washed for a week;
As for hair, tho' it's red, it's the most nicest hair
when I've time to just show it the comb;
I'll owe 'em five pounds, and a blessing besides,
as will only bring him safe and sound home.
He's blue eyes, and not to be call'd a squint,
though a little cast he's certainly got;
And his nose is still a good un, tho' the bridge is
broke, by his falling on a pewter pint pot;
He's got the most elegant wide mouth in the
world, and very large teeth for his age;
And quite as fit as Mrs. Murdockson's child to
play Cupid on the Drury Lane Stage.
And then he has got such dear winning ways-
but O, I never never shall see him no more!
O dear! to think of losing him just after nussing
him back from death's door!
Only the very last month when the windfalls,
hang 'em, was at twenty a penny!
And the threepence he'd got by grottoing was
spent in plums, and sixty for a child is too many.
And the Cholera man came and whitewash'd us
all and, drat him, made a seize of our hog,-
It's no use to send the Crier to cry him about,
he's such a blunderin drunken old dog;
The last time he was fetched to find a lost child,
he was guzzling with his bell at the Crown,
And went and cried a boy instead of a girl, for a
distracted Mother and Father about Town.
Billy- where are you, Billy, I say? come, Billy,
come home, to your best of Mothers!
I'm scared when I think of them Cabroleys, they
drive so, they'd run over their own Sisters and Brothers.
Or may be he's stole by some chimbly sweeping
wretch, to stick fast in narrow flues and what not,
And be poked up behind with a picked pointed
pole, when the soot has ketch'd, and the chimbly's red hot.
Oh I'd give the whole wide world, if the world
was mine, to clap my two longin eyes on his face,
For he's my darlin of darlins, and if he don't soon
come back, you'll see me drop stone dead on the place.
I only wish I'd got him safe in these two Motherly
arms, and wouldn't I hug him and kiss him!
Lauk! I never knew what a precious he was-
but a child don't not feel like a child till you miss him.
Why, there he is! Punch and Judy hunting, the
young wretch, it's that Billy as sartin as sin!
But let me get him home, with a good grip of his hair,
and I'm blest if he shall have a whole bone in his skin!
The Dream Of Eugene Aram
'Twas in the prime of summer-time
An evening calm and cool,
And four-and-twenty happy boys
Came bounding out of school:
There were some that ran and some that leapt,
Like troutlets in a pool.
Away they sped with gamesome minds,
And souls untouched by sin;
To a level mead they came, and there
They drave the wickets in:
Pleasantly shone the setting sun
Over the town of Lynn.
Like sportive deer they coursed about,
And shouted as they ran,-
Turning to mirth all things of earth,
As only boyhood can;
But the Usher sat remote from all,
A melancholy man!
His hat was off, his vest apart,
To catch heaven's blessed breeze;
For a burning thought was in his brow,
And his bosom ill at ease:
So he leaned his head on his hands, and read
The book upon his knees!
Leaf after leaf he turned it o'er
Nor ever glanced aside,
For the peace of his soul he read that book
In the golden eventide:
Much study had made him very lean,
And pale, and leaden-eyed.
At last he shut the pond'rous tome,
With a fast and fervent grasp
He strained the dusky covers close,
And fixed the brazen hasp;
'Oh, God! could I so close my mind,
And clasp it with a clasp! '
Then leaping on his feet upright,
Some moody turns he took,-
Now up the mead, then down the mead,
And past a shady nook,-
And lo! he saw a little boy
That pored upon a book.
'My gentle lad, what is't you read -
Romance or fairy fable?
Or is it some historic page,
Of kings and crowns unstable? '
The young boy gave an upward glance,-
'It is 'The Death of Abel.''
The Usher took six hasty strides,
As smit with sudden pain, -
Six hasty strides beyond the place,
Then slowly back again;
And down he sat beside the lad,
And talked with him of Cain;
And, long since then, of bloody men,
Whose deeds tradition saves;
Of lonely folks cut off unseen,
And hid in sudden graves;
Of horrid stabs, in groves forlorn,
And murders done in caves;
And how the sprites of injured men
Shriek upward from the sod. -
Ay, how the ghostly hand will point
To show the burial clod:
And unknown facts of guilty acts
Are seen in dreams from God!
He told how murderers walk the earth
Beneath the curse of Cain, -
With crimson clouds before their eyes,
And flames about their brain:
For blood has left upon their souls
Its everlasting stain!
'And well,' quoth he, 'I know for truth,
Their pangs must be extreme, -
Woe, woe, unutterable woe, -
Who spill life's sacred stream!
For why, Methought last night I wrought
A murder, in a dream!
One that had never done me wrong -
A feeble man and old;
I led him to a lonely field,
The moon shone clear and cold:
Now here, said I, this man shall die,
And I will have his gold!
'Two sudden blows with a ragged stick,
And one with a heavy stone,
One hurried gash with a hasty knife, -
And then the deed was done:
There was nothing lying at my foot
But lifeless flesh and bone!
'Nothing but lifeless flesh and bone,
That could not do me ill;
And yet I feared him all the more,
For lying there so still:
There was a manhood in his look,
That murder could not kill! '
'And lo! the universal air
Seemed lit with ghastly flame;
Ten thousand thousand dreadful eyes
Were looking down in blame:
I took the dead man by his hand,
And called upon his name!
'O God! it made me quake to see
Such sense within the slain!
But when I touched the lifeless clay,
The blood gushed out amain!
For every clot, a burning spot
Was scorching in my brain!
'My head was like an ardent coal,
My heart as solid ice;
My wretched, wretched soul, I knew,
Was at the Devil's price:
A dozen times I groaned: the dead
Had never groaned but twice!
'And now, from forth the frowning sky,
From the Heaven's topmost height,
I heard a voice - the awful voice
Of the blood-avenging sprite -
'Thou guilty man! take up thy dead
And hide it from my sight! '
'I took the dreary body up,
And cast it in a stream, -
A sluggish water, black as ink,
The depth was so extreme:
My gentle boy, remember this
Is nothing but a dream!
'Down went the corse with a hollow plunge,
And vanished in the pool;
Anon I cleansed my bloody hands,
And washed my forehead cool,
And sat among the urchins young,
That evening in the school.
'Oh, Heaven! to think of their white souls,
And mine so black and grim!
I could not share in childish prayer,
Nor join in Evening Hymn:
Like a Devil of the Pit I seemed,
'Mid holy Cherubim!
'And peace went with them, one and all,
And each calm pillow spread;
But Guilt was my grim Chamberlain
That lighted me to bed;
And drew my midnight curtains round
With fingers bloody red!
'All night I lay in agony,
In anguish dark and deep,
My fevered eyes I dared not close,
But stared aghast at Sleep:
For Sin had rendered unto her
The keys of Hell to keep!
'All night I lay in agony,
From weary chime to chime,
With one besetting horrid hint,
That racked me all the time;
A mighty yearning, like the first
Fierce impulse unto crime!
'One stern, tyrannic thought, that made
All other thoughts its slave;
Stronger and stronger every pulse
Did that temptation crave, -
Still urging me to go and see
The Dead Man in his grave!
'Heavily I rose up, as soon
As light was in the sky,
And sought the black accursèd pool
With a wild misgiving eye:
And I saw the Dead in the river-bed,
For the faithless stream was dry.
'Merrily rose the lark, and shook
The dewdrop from its wing;
But I never marked its morning flight,
I never heard it sing:
For I was stooping once again
Under the horrid thing.
'With breathless speed, like a soul in chase,
I took him up and ran;
There was no time to dig a grave
Before the day began:
In a lonesome wood, with heaps of leaves,
I hid the murdered man!
'And all that day I read in school,
But my thought was otherwhere;
As soon as the midday task was done,
In secret I went there:
And a mighty wind had swept the leaves,
And still the corpse was bare!
'Then down I cast me on my face,
And first began to weep,
For I knew my secret then was one
That earth refused to keep:
Or land, or sea, though he should be
Ten thousand fathoms deep.
'So wills the fierce avenging Sprite,
Till blood for blood atones!
Ay, though he's buried in a cave,
And trodden down with stones,
And years have rotted off his flesh, -
The world shall see his bones!
'Oh God! that horrid, horrid dream
Besets me now awake!
Again- again, with dizzy brain,
The human life I take:
And my red right hand grows raging hot,
Like Cranmer's at the stake.
'And still no peace for the restless clay,
Will wave or mould allow;
The horrid thing pursues my soul -
It stands before me now! '
The fearful Boy looked up, and saw
Huge drops upon his brow.
That very night while gentle sleep
The urchin's eyelids kissed,
Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn,
Through the cold and heavy mist;
And Eugene Aram walked between,
With gyves upon his wrist.
Ode To Captain Paery
'By the North Pole, I do challenge thee!'
From 'Love's Labour's Lost.'
Paery, my man! has thy brave leg
Yet struck its foot against the peg
On which the world is spun?
Or hast thou found No Thoroughfare
Writ by the hand of Nature there
Where man has never run!
Hast thou yet traced the Great Unknown
Of channels in the Frozen Zone,
Or held at Icy Bay,
Hast thou still miss'd the proper track
For homeward Indian men that lack
A bracing by the way?
Still hast thou wasted toil and trouble
On nothing but the North-Sea Bubble
Of geographic scholar?
Or found new ways for ships to shape,
Instead of winding round the Cape,
A short cut thro' the collar?
Hast found the way that sighs were sent to
The Pole—tho' God knows whom they went to!
That track reveal'd to Pope—
Or if the Arctic waters sally,
Or terminate in some blind alley,
A chilly path to grope?
Alas! tho' Ross, in love with snows,
Has painted them couleur de rose,
It is a dismal doom,
As Clauclio saith, to Winter thrice,
'In regions of thick-ribbed ice'—
All bright,—and yet all gloom!
'Tis well for Gheber souls that sit
Before the fire and worship it
With pecks of Wallsend coals,
With feet upon the fender's front,
Roasting their corns—like Mr. Hunt—
To speculate on poles.
'Tis easy for our Naval Board—
'Tis easy for our Civic Lord
Of London and of ease,
That lies in ninety feet of down,
With fur on his nocturnal gown,
To talk of Frozen Seas!
'Tis fine for Monsieur Ude to sit,
And prate about the mundane spit,
And babble of Cook's track—
He'd roast the leather off his toes,
Ere he would trudge thro' polar snows,
To plant a British Jack!
Oh, not the proud licentious great,
That travel on a carpet skate,
Can value toils like thine!
What 'tis to take a Hecla range,
Through ice unknown to Mrs. Grange,
And alpine lumps of brine?
But we, that mount the Hill o' Rhyme,
Can tell how hard it is to climb
The lofty slippery steep,
Ah! there are more Snow Hills than that
Which doth black Newgate, like a hat,
Upon its forehead, keep.
Perchance thou'rt now—while I am writing—
Feeling a bear's wet grinder biting
About thy frozen spine!
Or thou thyself art eating whale,
Oily, and underdone, and stale,
That, haply, cross'd thy line!
But I'll not dream such dreams of ill—
Rather will I believe thee still
Safe cellar'd in the snow,—
Reciting many a gallant story,
Of British kings and British glory,
To crony Esquimaux—
Cheering that dismal game where Night
Makes one slow move from black to white
Thro' all the tedious year,—
Or smitten by some fond frost fair,
That comb'd out crystals from her hair,
Wooing a seal-skin dear!
So much a long communion tends,
As Byron says, to make us friends
With what we daily view—
God knows the daintiest taste may come
To love a nose that's like a plum
In marble, cold and blue!
To dote on hair, an oily fleece!
As tho' it hung from Helen o' Greece—
They say that love prevails
Ev'n in the veriest polar land—
And surely she may steal thy hand
That used to steal thy nails!
But ah, ere thou art fixed to marry,
And take a polar Mrs. Parry,
Think of a six months' gloom—
Think of the wintry waste, and hers,
Each furnish'd with a dozen furs,
Think of thine icy dome!
Think of the children born to blubber!
Ah me! hast thou an Indian rubber
Inside!—to hold a meal
For months,—about a stone and half
Of whale, and part of a sea calf—
A fillet of salt veal!—
Some walrus ham—no trifle but
A decent steak—a solid cut
Of seal—no wafer slice!
A reindeer's tongue and drink beside!
Gallons of sperm—not rectified!
And pails of water-ice!
Oh, canst thou fast and then feast thus?
Still come away, and teach to us
Those blessed alternations—
To-day to run our dinners fine,
To feed on air and then to dine
With Civic Corporations—
To save th' Old Bailey daily shilling,
And then to take a half-year's filling
In P.N.'s pious Row—
When ask'd to Hock and haunch o' ven'son,
Thro' something we have worn our pens on
For Longman and his Co.
O come and tell us what the Pole is—
Whether it singular and sole is,—
Or straight, or crooked bent,—
If very thick or very thin,—
Made of what wood—and if akin
To those there be in Kent?
There's Combe, there's Spurzheim, and there's Gall,
Have talk'd of poles—yet, after all,
What has the public learn'd?
And Hunt's account must still defer,—
He sought the poll at Westminster—
And is not yet return'd!
Alvanly asks if whist, dear soul,
Is play'd in snow-towns near the Pole,
And how the fur-man deals?
And Eldon doubts if it be true,
That icy Chancellors really do
Exist upon the seals!
Barrow, by well-fed office grates,
Talks of his own bechristen'd Straits,
And longs that he were there;
And Croker, in his cabriolet,
Sighs o'er his brown horse, at his Bay,
And pants to cross the mer!
O come away, and set us right,
And, haply, throw a northern light
On questions such as these:—
Whether, when this drown'd world was lost.
The surflux waves were lock'd in frost,
And turned to Icy Seas!
Is Ursa Major white or black?
Or do the Polar tribes attack
Their neighbors—and what for?
Whether they ever play at cuffs,
And then, if they take off their muffs
In pugilistic war?
Tells us, is Winter champion there,
As in our milder fighting air?
Say, what are Chilly loans?
What cures they have for rheums beside,
And if their hearts get ossified
From eating bread of bones?
Whether they are such dwarfs—the quicker
To circulate the vital liquor,—
And then, from head to heel—
How short the Methodists must choose
Their dumpy envoys not to lose
Their toes in spite of zeal?
Whether 'twill soften or sublime it
To preach of Hell in such a climate—
Whether may Wesley hope
To win their souls—or that old function
Of seals—with the extreme of unction—
Bespeaks them for the Pope?
Whether the lamps will e'er be 'learn'd'
Where six months' 'midnight oil' is burn'd
Or Letters must confer
With people that have never conn'd
An A, B, C, but live beyond
The Sound of Lancaster!
O come away at any rate—
Well hast thou earn'd a downier state—
With all thy hardy peers—
Good lack, thou must be glad to smell dock,
And rub thy feet with opodeldock,
After such frosty years.
Mayhap, some gentle dame at last,
Smit by the perils thou hast pass'd.
However coy before,
Shall bid thee now set up thy rest
And tempt the Fates no more!
The Two Peacocks Of Bedfont
Alas! That breathing Vanity should go
Where Pride is buried,—like its very ghost,
Uprisen from the naked bones below,
In novel flesh, clad in the silent boast
Of gaudy silk that flutters to and fro,
Shedding its chilling superstition most
On young and ignorant natures—as it wont
To haunt the peaceful churchyard of Bedfont!
Each Sabbath morning, at the hour of prayer,
Behold two maidens, up the quiet green
Shining, far distant, in the summer air
That flaunts their dewy robes and breathes between
Their downy plumes,—sailing as if they were
Two far-off ships,—until they brush between
The churchyard's humble walls, and watch and wait
On either side of the wide open'd gate,
And there they stand—with haughty necks before
God's holy house, that points towards the skies—
Frowning reluctant duty from the poor,
And tempting homage from unthoughtful eyes:
And Youth looks lingering from the temple door,
Breathing its wishes in unfruitful sighs,
With pouting lips,—forgetful of the grace,
Of health, and smiles, on the heart-conscious face;—
Because that Wealth, which has no bliss beside,
May wear the happiness of rich attire;
And those two sisters, in their silly pride,
May change the soul's warm glances for the fire
Of lifeless diamonds;—and for health denied,—
With art, that blushes at itself, inspire
Their languid cheeks—and flourish in a glory
That has no life in life, nor after-story.
The aged priest goes shaking his gray hair
In meekest censuring, and turns his eye
Earthward in grief, and heavenward in pray'r,
And sighs, and clasps his hands, and passes by,
Good-hearted man! what sullen soul would wear
Thy sorrow for a garb, and constantly
Put on thy censure, that might win the praise
Of one so gray in goodness and in days?
Also the solemn clerk partakes the shame
Of this ungodly shine of human pride,
And sadly blends his reverence and blame
In one grave bow, and passes with a stride
Impatient:—many a red-hooded dame
Turns her pain'd head, but not her glance, aside
From wanton dress, and marvels o'er again,
That heaven hath no wet judgments for the vain.
'I have a lily in the bloom at home,'
Quoth one, 'and by the blessed Sabbath day
I'll pluck my lily in its pride, and come
And read a lesson upon vain array;—
And when stiff silks are rustling up, and some
Give place, I'll shake it in proud eyes and say—
Making my reverence,—'Ladies, an you please,
King Solomon's not half so fine as these,''
Then her meek partner, who has nearly run
His earthly course,—'Nay, Goody, let your text
Grow in the garden.—We have only one—
Who knows that these dim eyes may see the next?
Summer will come again, and summer sun,
And lilies too,—but I were sorely vext
To mar my garden, and cut short the blow
Of the last lily I may live to grow,'
'The last!' quoth she, 'and though the last it were—
Lo! those two wantons, where they stand so proud
With waving plumes, and jewels in their hair,
And painted cheeks, like Dagons to be bow'd
And curtsey'd to!—last Sabbath after pray'r,
I heard the little Tomkins ask aloud
If they were angels—but I made him know
God's bright ones better, with a bitter blow!'
So speaking, they pursue the pebbly walk
That leads to the white porch the Sunday throng,
Hand-coupled urchins in restrainëd talk,
And anxious pedagogue that chastens wrong,
And posied churchwarden with solemn stalk,
And gold-bedizen'd beadle flames along,
And gentle peasant clad in buff and green,
Like a meek cowslip in the spring serene;
And blushing maiden—modestly array'd
In spotless white,—still conscious of the glass;
And she, the lonely widow, that hath made
A sable covenant with grief,—alas!
She veils her tears under the deep, deep shade,
While the poor kindly-hearted, as they pass,
Bend to unclouded childhood, and caress
Her boy,—so rosy!—and so fatherless!
Thus, as good Christians ought, they all draw near
The fair white temple, to the timely call
Of pleasant bells that tremble in the ear.—
Now the last frock, and scarlet hood, and shawl
Fade into dusk, in the dim atmosphere
Of the low porch, and heav'n has won them all,
—Saying those two, that turn aside and pass,
In velvet blossom, where all flesh is grass.
Ah me! to see their silken manors trail'd
In purple luxuries—with restless gold,—
Flaunting the grass where widowhood has wail'd
In blotted black,—over the heapy mould
Panting wave-wantonly! They never quail'd
How the warm vanity abused the cold;
Nor saw the solemn faces of the gone
Sadly uplooking through transparent stone:
But swept their dwellings with unquiet light,
Shocking the awful presence of the dead;
Where gracious natures would their eyes benight,
Nor wear their being with a lip too red,
Nor move too rudely in the summer bright
Of sun, but put staid sorrow in their tread,
Meting it into steps, with inward breath,
In very pity to bereaved death.
Now in the church, time-sober'd minds resign
To solemn pray'r, and the loud chaunted hymn,—
With glowing picturings of joys divine
Painting the mist-light where the roof is dim;
But youth looks upward to the window shine,
Warming with rose and purple and the swim
Of gold, as if thought-tinted by the stains
Of gorgeous light through many-color'd panes;
Soiling the virgin snow wherein God hath
Enrobed his angels,—and with absent eyes
Hearing of Heav'n, and its directed path,
Thoughtful of slippers—and the glorious skies
Clouding with satin,—till the preacher's wrath
Consumes his pity, and he glows and cries
With a deep voice that trembles in its might,
And earnest eyes grow eloquent in light:
'Oh, that the vacant eye would learn to look
On very beauty, and the heart embrace
True loveliness, and from this holy book
Drink the warm-breathing tenderness and grace
Of love indeed! Oh, that the young soul took
Its virgin passion from the glorious face
Of fair religion, and address'd its strife,
To win the riches of eternal life!'
'Doth the vain heart love glory that is none,
And the poor excellence of vain attire?
Oh go, and drown your eyes against the sun,
The visible ruler of the starry quire,
Till boiling gold in giddy eddies run,
Dazzling the brain with orbs of living fire;
And the faint soul down-darkens into night,
And dies a burning martyrdom to light.'
Oh go, and gaze,—when the low winds of ev'n
Breathe hymns, and Nature's many forests nod
Their gold-crown'd heads; and the rich blooms of heav'n
Sun-ripen'd give their blushes up to God;
And mountain-rocks and cloudy steeps are riv'n
By founts of fire, as smitten by the rod
Of heavenly Moses,—that your thirsty sense
May quench its longings of magnificence!
'Yet suns shall perish—stars shall fade away—
Day into darkness—darkness into death—
Death into silence; the warm light of day,
The blooms of summer, the rich glowing breath
Of even—all shall wither and decay,
Like the frail furniture of dreams beneath
The touch of morn—or bubbles of rich dyes
That break and vanish in the aching eyes.'
They hear, soul-blushing, and repentant shed
Unwholesome thoughts in wholesome tears, and pour
Their sin to earth,—and with low drooping head
Receive the solemn blessing, and implore
Its grace—then soberly with chasten'd tread,
They meekly press towards the gusty door
With humbled eyes that go to graze upon
The lowly grass—like him of Babylon.
The lowly grass!—O water-constant mind!
Fast-ebbing holiness!—soon-fading grace
Of serious thought, as if the gushing wind
Through the low porch had wash'd it from the face
For ever!—How they lift their eyes to find
Old vanities!—Pride wins the very place
Of meekness, like a bird, and flutters now
With idle wings on the curl-conscious brow!
And lo! with eager looks they seek the way
Of old temptation at the lowly gate;
To feast on feathers, and on vain array,
And painted cheeks, and the rich glistering state
Of jewel-sprinkled locks,—But where are they,
The graceless haughty ones that used to wait
With lofty neck, and nods, and stiffen'd eye?—
None challenge the old homage bending by.
In vain they look for the ungracious bloom
Of rich apparel where it glow'd before,—
For Vanity has faded all to gloom,
And lofty Pride has stiffen'd to the core,
For impious Life to tremble at its doom,—
Set for a warning token evermore,
Whereon, as now, the giddy and the wise
Shall gaze with lifted hands and wond'ring eyes.
The aged priest goes on each Sabbath morn,
But shakes not sorrow under his gray hair;
The solemn clerk goes lavender'd and shorn
Nor stoops his back to the ungodly pair;—
And ancient lips that pucker'd up in scorn,
Go smoothly breathing to the house of pray'r;
And in the garden-plot, from day to day,
The lily blooms its long white life away.
And where two haughty maidens used to be,
In pride of plume, where plumy Death had trod,
Trailing their gorgeous velvets wantonly,
Most unmeet pall, over the holy sod;
There, gentle stranger, thou may'st only see
Two sombre Peacocks.
Age, with sapient nod
Marking the spot, still tarries to declare
How they once lived, and wherefore they are there.
Ode To The Great Unknown
'O breathe not his name!'
Thou Great Unknown!
I do not mean Eternity, nor Death,
That vast incog!
For I suppose thou hast a living breath,
Howbeit we know not from whose lungs 'tis blown,
Thou man of fog!
Parent of many children—child of none!
Nobody's daughter—but a parent still!
Still but an ostrich parent of a batch
Of orphan eggs,—left to the world to hatch
A vox and nothing more,—yet not Vauxhall;
A head in papers, yet without a curl!
Not the Invisible Girl!
No hand—but a handwriting on a wall—
A popular nonentity,
Still call'd the same,—without identity!
A lark, heard out of sight,—
A nothing shin'd upon,—invisibly bright,
'Dark with excess of light!'
Constable's literary John-a-nokes—
The real Scottish wizard—and not which,
Nobody—in a niche;
Every one's hoax!
Maybe Sir Walter Scott—
Why dost thou so conceal and puzzle curious folks?
Thou,—whom the second-sighted never saw,
The Master Fiction of fictitious history!
No mister in the world—and yet all mystery!
The 'tricksy spirit' of a Scotch Cock Lane—
A novel Junius puzzling the world's brain—
A man of Magic—yet no talisman!
A man of clair obscure—not he o' the moon!
A star—at noon.
A non-descriptus in a caravan,
A private—of no corps—a northern light
In a dark lantern,—Bogie in a crape—
A figure—but no shape;
A vizor—and no knight;
The real abstract hero of the age;
The staple Stranger of the stage;
A Some One made in every man's presumption,
Frankenstein's monster—but instinct with gumption;
Another strange state captive in the north,
Constable-guarded in an iron mask—
Still let me ask,
Hast thou no silver platter,
No door-plate, or no card—or some such matter,
To scrawl a name upon, and then cast forth?
Thou Scottish Barmecide, feeding the hunger
Of Curiosity with airy gammon!
Dealing it out like middle cut of salmon,
That people buy and can't make head or tail of it;
(Howbeit that puzzle never hurts the sale of it
Thou chief of authors mystic and abstractical,
That lay their proper bodies on the shelf—
Keeping thyself so truly to thyself,
Thou Zimmerman made practical!
Thou secret fountain of a Scottish style,
That, like the Nile,
Hideth its source wherever it is bred,
But still keeps disemboguing
Thro' such broad sandy mouths without a head!
Thou disembodied author—not yet dead,—
The whole world's literary Absentee!
Ah! wherefore hast thou fled,
Thou learned Nemo—wise to a degree,
Thou nameless captain of the nameless gang
That do—and inquests cannot say who did it!
Wert thou at Mrs. Donatty's death-pang?
Hast thou made gravy of Weare's watch—or hid it?
Hast thou a Blue-Beard chamber? Heaven forbid it!
I should be very loth to see thee hang!
I hope thou hast an alibi well plann'd,
An innocent, altho' an ink-black hand.
Tho' that hast newly turn'd thy private bolt on
The curiosity of all invaders—
I hope thou art merely closeted with Colton,
Who knows a little of the Holy Land,
Writing thy next new novel—The Crusaders!
Perhaps thou wert even born
To be Unknown.—Perhaps hung, some foggy morn,
At Captain Coram's charitable wicket,
Pinn'd to a ticket
That Fate had made illegible, foreseeing
The future great unmentionable being.—
Perhaps thou hast ridden
A scholar poor on St. Augustine's Back,
Like Chatterton, and found a dusty pack
Of Rowley novels in an old chest hidden;
A little hoard of clever simulation,
That took the town—and Constable has bidden
Some hundred pounds for a continuation—
To keep and clothe thee in genteel starvation.
I like thy Waverley—first of thy breeding;
I like its modest 'sixty years ago,'
As if it was not meant for ages' reading.
I don't like Ivanhoe,
Tho' Dymoke does—it makes him think of clattering
In iron overalls before the king
Secure from battering, to ladies flattering,
Tuning, his challenge to the gauntlet's ring—
Oh better far than all that anvil clang
It was to hear thee touch the famous string
Of Robin Hood's tough bow and make it twang,
Rousing him up, all verdant, with his clan,
Like Sagittarian Pan!
I like Guy Mannering—but not that sham son
Of Brown:—I like that literary Sampson,
Nine-tenths a Dyer, with a smack of Porson.
I like Dirk Hatteraick, that rough sea Orson
That slew the Gauger;
And Dandie Dinmont, like old Ursa Major;
And Merrilies, young Bertram's old defender,
That Scottish Witch of Endor,
That doom'd thy fame. She was the Witch, I take it,
To tell a great man's fortune—or to make it!
I like thy Antiquary. With his fit on,
He makes me think of Mr. Britton,
I like thy Antiquary. With Ins fit on,
It makes me think
Who has—or had—within his garden wall,
A miniature Stone Henge, so very small
That sparrows find it difficult to sit on;
And Dousterwivel, like Poyais' M'Gregor;
And Edie Ochiltree, that old Blue Beggar,
Painted so cleverly,
I think thou surely knowest Mrs. Beverly!
I like thy Barber—him that fir'd the Beacon—
But that's a tender subject now to speak on!
I like long-arm'd Rob Roy.—His very charms
Fashion'd him for renown!—In sad sincerity,
The man that robs or writes must have long arms,
If he's to hand his deeds down to posterity!
Witness Miss Biffin's posthumous prosperity,
Her poor brown crumpled mummy (nothing more)
Bearing the name she bore,
A thing Time's tooth is tempted to destroy!
But Roys can never die—why else, in verity,
Is Paris echoing with 'Vive le Roy'!
Aye, Rob shall live again, and deathless Di
Vernon, of course, shall often live again—
Whilst there's a stone in Newgate, or a chain,
Who can pass by
Nor feel the Thief's in prison and at hand?
There be Old Bailey Jarvies on the stand!
I like thy Landlord's Tales!—I like that Idol
Of love and Lammermoor—the blue-eyed maid
That led to church the mounted cavalcade,
And then pull'd up with such a bloody bridal!
Throwing equestrian Hymen on his haunches—
like the family (not silver) branches
That hold the tapers
To light the serious legend of Montrose.—
I like M'Aulay's second-sighted vapors,
As if he could not walk or talk alone,
Without the devil—or the Great Unknown,—
Dalgetty is the dearest of Ducrows!
I like St. Leonard's Lily—drench'd with dew!
I like thy Vision of the Covenanters,
That bloody-minded Grahame shot and slew.
I like the battle lost and won;
The hurly-burlys bravely done,
The warlike gallop and the warlike canters!
I like that girded chieftain of the ranters,
Ready to preach down heathens, or to grapple,
With one eye on his sword,
And one upon the Word,—
How he would cram the Caledonian Chapel!
I like stern Claverhouse, though he cloth dapple
His raven steed with blood of many a corse—
I like dear Mrs. Headrigg, that unravels
Her texts of scripture on a trotting horse—
She is so like Rae Wilson when he travels!
I like thy Kenilworth—but I'm not going
To take a Retrospective Re-Review
Of all thy dainty novels—merely showing
The old familiar faces of a few,
The question to renew,
How thou canst leave such deeds without a name,
Forego the unclaim'd Dividends of fame,
Forego the smiles of literary houris—
Mid-Lothian's trump, and Fife's shrill note of praise,
And all the Carse of Gowrie's,
When thou might'st have thy statue in Cromarty—
Or see thy image on Italian trays,
Betwixt Queen Caroline and Buonaparté,
Be painted by the Titian of R.A's,
Or vie in signboards with the Royal Guelph!
P'rhaps have thy bust set cheek by jowl with Homer's,
P'rhaps send out plaster proxies of thyself
To other Englands with Australian roamers—
Mayhap, in Literary Owhyhee
Displace the native wooden gods, or be
The china-Lar of a Canadian shelf!
It is not modesty that bids thee hide—
She never wastes her blushes out of sight:
It is not to invite
The world's decision, for thy fame is tried,—
And thy fair deeds are scatter'd far and wide,
Even royal heads are with thy readers reckon'd,—
From men in trencher caps to trencher scholars
In crimson collars,
And learned serjeants in the Forty-Second!
Whither by land or sea art thou not beckon'd?
Mayhap exported from the Frith of Forth,
Defying distance and its dim control;
Perhaps read about Stromness, and reckon'd worth
A brace of Miltons for capacious soul—
Perhaps studied in the whalers, further north,
And set above ten Shakspeares near the pole!
Oh, when thou writest by Aladdin's lamp,
With such a giant genius at command,
Forever at thy stamp,
To fill thy treasury from Fairy Land,
When haply thou might'st ask the pearly hand
Of some great British Vizier's eldest daughter,
Tho' princes sought her,
And lead her in procession hymeneal,
Oh, why dost thou remain a Beau Ideal!
Why stay, a ghost, on the Lethean Wharf,
Envelop'd in Scotch mist and gloomy fogs?
Why, but because thou art some puny Dwarf,
Some hopeless Imp, like Biquet with the Tuft,
Fearing, for all thy wit, to be rebuff'd,
Or bullied by our great reviewing Gogs?
What in this masquing age
Maketh Unknowns so many and so shy?
What but the critic's page?
One hath a cast, he hides from the world's eye;
Another hath a wen,—he won't show where;
A third has sandy hair,
A hunch upon his back, or legs awry,
Things for a vile reviewer to espy!
Another hath a mangel-wurzel nose,—
Finally, this is dimpled,
Like a pale crumpet face, or that is pimpled,
Things for a monthly critic to expose—
Nay, what is thy own case—that being small,
Thou choosest to be nobody at all!
Well, thou art prudent, with such puny bones—
E'en like Elshender, the mysterious elf,
That shadowy revelation of thyself—
To build thee a small hut of haunted stones—
For certainly the first pernicious man
That ever saw thee, would quickly draw thee
In some vile literary caravan—
Shown for a shilling
Would be thy killing,
Think of Crachami's miserable span!
No tinier frame the tiny spark could dwell in
Than there it fell in—
But when she felt herself a show, she tried
To shrink from the world's eye, poor dwarf! and died!
O since it was thy fortune to be born
A dwarf on some Scotch Inch, and then to flinch
From all the Gog-like jostle of great men,
Still with thy small crow pen
Amuse and charm thy lonely hours forlorn—
Still Scottish story daintily adorn,
Be still a shade—and when this age is fled,
When we poor sons and daughters of reality
Are in our graves forgotten and quite dead,
And Time destroys our mottoes of morality—
The lithographic hand of Old Mortality
Shall still restore thy emblem on the stone,
A featureless death's head,
And rob Oblivion ev'n of the Unknown!
Bianca's Dream - A Venetian Story
BIANCA!—fair Bianca!—who could dwell
With safety on her dark and hazel gaze,
Nor find there lurk'd in it a witching spell,
Fatal to balmy nights and blessed days?
The peaceful breath that made the bosom swell,
She turn'd to gas, and set it in a blaze;
Each eye of hers had Love's Eupyrion in it,
That he could light his link at in a minute.
So that, wherever in her charms she shone,
A thousand breasts were kindled into flame;
Maidens who cursed her looks forgot their own,
And beaux were turn'd to flambeaux where she
All hearts indeed were conquer'd but her own,
Which none could ever temper down or tame:
In short, to take our haberdasher's hints,
She might have written over it,—'from Flints.'
She was, in truth, the wonder of her sex,
At least in Venice—where with eyes of brown
Tenderly languid, ladies seldom vex
An amorous gentle with a needless frown;
Where gondolas convey guitars by pecks,
And Love at casements climbeth up and down,
Whom for his tricks and custom in that kind,
Some have considered a Venetian blind.
Howbeit, this difference was quickly taught,
Amongst more youths who had this cruel jailer,
To hapless Julio—all in vain he sought
With each new moon his hatter and his tailor;
In vain the richest padusoy he bought,
And went in bran new beaver to assail her—
As if to show that Love had made him smart
All over—and not merely round his heart.
In vain he labour'd thro' the sylvan park
Bianca haunted in—that where she came,
Her learned eyes in wandering might mark
The twisted cypher of her maiden name,
Wholesomely going thro' a course of bark:
No one was touched or troubled by his flame,
Except the Dryads, those old maids that grow
In trees,—like wooden dolls in embryo.
In vain complaining elegies he writ,
And taught his tuneful instrument to grieve,
And sang in quavers how his heart was split,
Constant beneath her lattice with each eve;
She mock'd his wooing with her wicked wit,
And slash'd his suit so that it matched his sleeve,
Till he grew silent at the vesper star,
And, quite despairing, hamstring'd his guitar.
Bianca's heart was coldly frosted o'er
With snows unmelting—an eternal sheet,
But his was red within him, like the core
Of old Vesuvius, with perpetual heat;
And oft he longed internally to pour
His flames and glowing lava at her feet,
But when his burnings he began to spout.
She stopp'd his mouth, and put the crater out.
Meanwhile he wasted in the eyes of men,
So thin, he seem'd a sort of skeleton-key
Suspended at death's door—so pale—and then
He turn'd as nervous as an aspen tree;
The life of man is three score years and ten,
But he was perishing at twenty-three,
For people truly said, as grief grew stronger,
'It could not shorten his poor life—much longer.'
For why, he neither slept, nor drank, nor fed,
Nor relished any kind of mirth below;
Fire in his heart, and frenzy in his head,
Love had become his universal foe,
Salt in his sugar—nightmare in his bed,
At last, no wonder wretched Julio,
A sorrow-ridden thing, in utter dearth
Of hope,—made up his mind to cut her girth!
For hapless lovers always died of old,
Sooner than chew reflection's bitter cud;
So Thisbe stuck herself, what time 'tis told,
The tender-hearted mulberries wept blood;
And so poor Sappho when her boy was cold,
Drown'd her salt tear drops in a salter flood,
Their fame still breathing, tho' their breath be past,
For those old suitors lived beyond their last.
So Julio went to drown,—when life was dull,
But took his corks, and merely had a bath;
And once he pull'd a trigger at his skull,
But merely broke a window in his wrath;
And once, his hopeless being to annul,
He tied a pack-thread to a beam of lath,
A line so ample, 'twas a query whether
'Twas meant to be a halter or a tether.
Smile not in scorn, that Julio did not thrust
His sorrows thro'—'tis horrible to die!
And come down, with our little all of dust,
That dun of all the duns to satisfy:
To leave life's pleasant city as we must,
In Death's most dreary spunging-house to lie,
Where even all our personals must go
To pay the debt of nature that we owe!
So Julio liv'd:—'twas nothing but a pet
He took at life—a momentary spite;
Besides, he hoped that time would some day get
The better of love's flame, howover bright;
A thing that time has never compass'd yet,
For love, we know, is an immortal light.
Like that old fire, that, quite beyond a doubt,
Was always in,—for none have found it out.
Meanwhile, Bianca dream'd—'twas once when Night
Along the darken'd plain began to creep,
Like a young Hottentot, whose eyes are bright,
Altho' in skin as sooty as a sweep:
The flow'rs had shut their eyes—the zephyr light
Was gone, for it had rock'd the leaves to sleep.
And all the little birds had laid their heads
Under their wings—sleeping in feather beds.
Lone in her chamber sate the dark-ey'd maid,
By easy stages jaunting thro' her pray'rs,
But list'ning side-long to a serenade,
That robb'd the saints a little of their shares;
For Julio underneath the lattice play'd
His Deh Vieni, and such amorous airs,
Born only underneath Italian skies,
Where every fiddle has a Bridge of Sighs.
Sweet was the tune—the words were even sweeter—
Praising her eyes, her lips, her nose, her hair,
With all the common tropes wherewith in metre
The hackney poets overcharge their fair.
Her shape was like Diana's, but completer;
Her brow with Grecian Helen's might compare:
Cupid, alas! was cruel Sagittarius,
Julio—the weeping water-man Aquarius.
Now, after listing to such laudings rare,
'Twas very natural indeed to go—
What if she did postpone one little pray'r—
To ask her mirror 'if it was not so?'
'Twas a large mirror, none the worse for wear,
Reflecting her at once from top to toe:
And there she gazed upon that glossy track,
That show'd her front face tho' it 'gave her back.'
And long her lovely eyes were held in thrall,
By that dear page where first the woman reads:
That Julio was no flatt'rer, none at all,
She told herself—and then she told her beads;
Meanwhile, the nerves insensibly let fall
Two curtains fairer than the lily breeds;
For Sleep had crept and kiss'd her unawares,
Just at the half-way milestone of her pray'rs.
Then like a drooping rose so bended she,
Till her bow'd head upon her hand reposed;
But still she plainly saw, or seem'd to see,
That fair reflection, tho' her eyes were closed,
A beauty-bright as it was wont to be,
A portrait Fancy painted while she dozed:
'Tis very natural some people say,
To dream of what we dwell on in the day.
Still shone her face—yet not, alas! the same,
But 'gan some dreary touches to assume,
And sadder thoughts, with sadder changes came—
Her eyes resigned their light, her lips their bloom,
Her teeth fell out, her tresses did the same,
Her cheeks were tinged with bile, her eyes with
There was a throbbing at her heart within,
For, oh! there was a shooting in her chin.
And lo! upon her sad desponding brow,
The cruel trenches of besieging age,
With seams, but most unseemly, 'gan to show
Her place was booking for the seventh stage;
And where her raven tresses used to flow,
Some locks that Time had left her in his rage.
And some mock ringlets, made her forehead shady,
A compound (like our Psalms) of Tête and braidy.
Then for her shape—alas! how Saturn wrecks,
And bends, and corkscrews all the frame about,
Doubles the hams, and crooks the straightest necks,
Draws in the nape, and pushes forth the snout,
Makes backs and stomachs concave or convex:
Witness those pensioners called In and Out,
Who all day watching first and second rater,
Quaintly unbend themselves—but grow no
So Time with fair Bianca dealt, and made
Her shape a bow, that once was like an arrow;
His iron hand upon her spine he laid,
And twisted all awry her 'winsome marrow.'
In truth it was a change!—she had obey'd
The holy Pope before her chest grew narrow,
But spectacles and palsy seem'd to make her
Something between a Glassite and a Quaker.
Her grief and gall meanwhile were quite extreme,
And she had ample reason for her trouble;
For what sad maiden can endure to seem
Set in for singleness, tho' growing double.
The fancy madden'd her; but now the dream,
Grown thin by getting bigger, like a bubble,
Burst,—but still left some fragments of its size,
That, like the soapsuds, smarted in her eyes.
And here—just here—as she began to heed
The real world, her clock chimed out its score;
A clock it was of the Venetian breed,
That cried the hour from one to twenty-four;
The works moreover standing in some need
Of workmanship, it struck some dozens more;
A warning voice that clench'd Bianca's fears,
Such strokes referring doubtless to her years.
At fifteen chimes she was but half a nun,
By twenty she had quite renounced the veil;
She thought of Julio just at twenty-one,
And thirty made her very sad and pale,
To paint that ruin where her charms would run;
At forty all the maid began to fail,
And thought no higher, as the late dream cross'd her,
Of single blessedness, than single Gloster.
And so Bianca changed;—the next sweet even,
With Julio in a black Venetian bark,
Row'd slow and stealthily—the hour, eleven,
Just sounding from the tow'r of old St. Mark;
She sate with eyes turn'd quietly to heav'n,
Perchance rejoicing in the grateful dark
That veil'd her blushing cheek,—for Julio brought her
Of course—to break the ice upon the water.
But what a puzzle is one's serious mind
To open;—oysters, when the ice is thick,
Are not so difficult and disinclin'd;
And Julio felt the declaration stick
About his throat in a most awful kind;
However, he contrived by bits to pick
His trouble forth,—much like a rotten cork
Grop'd from a long-necked bottle with a fork.
But love is still the quickest of all readers;
And Julio spent besides those signs profuse
That English telegraphs and foreign pleaders,
In help of language, are so apt to use,
Arms, shoulders, fingers, all were interceders,
Nods, shrugs, and bends,—Bianca could not choose
But soften to his suit with more facility,
He told his story with so much agility.
'Be thou my park, and I will be thy dear,
(So he began at last to speak or quote
Be thou my bark, and I thy gondolier,
(For passion takes this figurative note
Be thou my light, and I thy chandelier;
Be thou my dove, and I will be thy cote:
My lily be, and I will be thy river;
Be thou my life—and I will be thy liver.'
This, with more tender logic of the kind,
He pour'd into her small and shell-like ear,
That timidly against his lips inclin'd;
Meanwhile her eyes glanced on the silver sphere
That even now began to steal behind
A dewy vapour, which was lingering near,
Wherein the dull moon crept all dim and pale,
Just like a virgin putting on the veil:—
Bidding adieu to all her sparks—the stars,
That erst had woo'd and worshipp'd in her train,
Saturn and Hesperus, and gallant Mars—
Never to flirt with heavenly eyes again.
Meanwhile, remindful of the convent bars,
Bianca did not watch these signs in vain,
But turn'd to Julio at the dark eclipse,
With words, like verbal kisses, on her lips.
He took the hint full speedily, and, back'd
By love, and night, and the occasion's meetness,
Bestow'd a something on her cheek that smack'd
(Tho' quite in silence) of ambrosial sweetness;
That made her think all other kisses lack'd
Till then, but what she knew not, of completeness;
Being used but sisterly salutes to feel,
Insipid things—like sandwiches of veal.
He took her hand, and soon she felt him wring
The pretty fingers all instead of one;
Anon his stealthy arm began to cling
About her waist that had been clasp'd by none,
Their dear confessions I forbear to sing,
Since cold description would but be outrun;
For bliss and Irish watches have the pow'r,
In twenty minutes, to lose half an hour!
The Two Swans (A Fairy Tale)
Immortal Imogen, crown'd queen above
The lilies of thy sex, vouchsafe to hear
A fairy dream in honor of true love—
True above ills, and frailty, and all fear,—
Perchance a shadow of his own career
Whose youth was darkly prison'd and long-twined
By serpent-sorrow, till white Love drew near,
And sweetly sang him free, and round his mind
A bright horizon threw, wherein no grief may wind.
I saw a tower builded on a lake,
Mock'd by its inverse shadow, dark and deep—
That seem'd a still intenser night to make,
Wherein the quiet waters sank to sleep,—
And, whatso'er was prison'd in that keep,
A monstrous Snake was warden:—round and round
In sable ringlets I beheld him creep
Blackest amid black shadows to the ground,
Whilst his enormous head, the topmost turret crown'd.
From whence he shot fierce light against the stars,
Making the pale moon paler with affright;
And with his ruby eye out-threaten'd Mars—
That blaz'd in the mid-heavens, hot and bright—
Nor slept, nor wink'd, but with a steadfast spite
Watch'd their wan looks and tremblings in the skies;
And that he might not slumber in the night,
The curtain-lids were pluck'd from his large eyes,
So he might never drowse, but watch his secret prize.
Prince or princess in dismal durance pent,
Victims of old Enchantment's love or hate,
Their lives must all in painful sighs be spent,
Watching the lonely waters soon and late,
And clouds that pass and leave them to their fate,
Or company their grief with heavy tears:—
Meanwhile that Hope can spy no golden gate
For sweet escapement, but in darksome fears
They weep and pine away as if immortal years.
No gentle bird with gold upon its wing
Will perch upon the grate—the gentle bird
Is safe in leafy dell, and will not bring
Freedom's sweet key-note and commission-word
Learn'd of a fairy's lips, for pity stirr'd—
Lest while he trembling sings, untimely guest!
Watch'd by that cruel Snake and darkly heard,
He leave a widow on her lonely nest,
To press in silent grief the darlings of her breast.
No gallant knight, adventurous, in his bark,
Will seek the fruitful perils of the place,
To rouse with dipping oar the waters dark
That bear that serpent image on their face.
And Love, brave Love! though he attempt the base,
Nerved to his loyal death, he may not win
His captive lady from the strict embrace
Of that foul Serpent, clasping her within
His sable folds—like Eve enthrall'd by the old Sin.
But there is none—no knight in panoply,
Nor Love, intrench'd in his strong steely coat:
No little speck—no sail—no helper nigh,
No sign—no whispering—no plash of boat:—
The distant shores show dimly and remote,
Made of a deeper mist,—serene and gray,—
And slow and mute the cloudy shadows float
Over the gloomy wave, and pass away,
Chased by the silver beams that on their marges play.
And bright and silvery the willows sleep
Over the shady verge—no mad winds tease
Their hoary heads; but quietly they weep
Their sprinkling leaves—half fountains and half trees:
Their lilies be—and fairer than all these,
A solitary Swan her breast of snow
Launches against the wave that seems to freeze
Into a chaste reflection, still below
Twin shadow of herself wherever she may go.
And forth she paddles in the very noon
Of solemn midnight like an elfin thing,
Charm'd into being by the argent moon—
Whose silver light for love of her fair wing
Goes with her in the shade, still worshipping
Her dainty plumage:—all around her grew
A radiant circlet, like a fairy ring;
And all behind, a tiny little clue
Of light, to guide her back across the waters blue.
And sure she is no meaner than a fay,
Redeem'd from sleepy death, for beauty's sake,
By old ordainment:—silent as she lay,
Touched by a moonlight wand I saw her wake,
And cut her leafy slough, and so forsake
The verdant prison of her lily peers,
That slept amidst the stars upon the lake—
A breathing shape—restored to human fears,
And new-born love and grief—self-conscious of her tears.
And now she clasps her wings around her heart,
And near that lonely isle begins to glide,
Pale as her fears, and oft-times with a start
Turns her impatient head from side to side
In universal terrors—all too wide
To watch; and often to that marble keep
Upturns her pearly eyes, as if she spied
Some foe, and crouches in the shadows steep
That in the gloomy wave go diving fathoms deep.
And well she may, to spy that fearful thing
All down the dusky walls in circlets wound;
Alas! for what rare prize, with many a ring
Girding the marble casket round and round?
His folded tail, lost in the gloom profound,
Terribly darkeneth the rocky base;
But on the top his monstrous head is crown'd
With prickly spears, and on his doubtful face
Gleam his unwearied eyes, red watchers of the place.
Alas! of the hot fires that nightly fall,
No one will scorch him in those orbs of spite,
So he may never see beneath the wall
That timid little creature, all too bright,
That stretches her fair neck, slender and white,
Invoking the pale moon, and vainly tries
Her throbbing throat, as if to charm the night
With song—but, hush—it perishes in sighs,
And there will be no dirge sad-swelling, though she dies!
She droops—she sinks—she leans upon the lake,
Fainting again into a lifeless flower;
But soon the chilly springs anoint and wake
Her spirit from its death, and with new power
She sheds her stifled sorrows in a shower
Of tender song, timed to her falling tears—
That wins the shady summit of that tower,
And, trembling all the sweeter for its fears,
Fills with imploring moan that cruel monster's ears.
And, lo! the scaly beast is all deprest,
Subdued like Argus by the might of sound—
What time Apollo his sweet lute addrest
To magic converse with the air, and bound
The many monster eyes, all slumber-drown'd:—
So on the turret-top that watchful Snake
Pillows his giant head, and lists profound,
As if his wrathful spite would never wake,
Charm'd into sudden sleep for Love and Beauty's sake!
His prickly crest lies prone upon his crown,
And thirsty lip from lip disparted flies,
To drink that dainty flood of music down—
His scaly throat is big with pent-up sighs—
And whilst his hollow ear entranced lies,
His looks for envy of the charmed sense
Are fain to listen, till his steadfast eyes,
Stung into pain by their own impotence,
Distil enormous tears into the lake immense.
Oh, tuneful Swan! oh, melancholy bird!
Sweet was that midnight miracle of song,
Rich with ripe sorrow, needful of no word
To tell of pain, and love, and love's deep wrong—
Hinting a piteous tale—perchance how long
Thy unknown tears were mingled with the lake,
What time disguised thy leafy mates among—
And no eye knew what human love and ache
Dwelt in those dewy leaves, and heart so nigh to break.
Therefore no poet will ungently touch
The water-lily, on whose eyelids dew
Trembles like tears; but ever hold it such
As human pain may wander through and through,
Turning the pale leaf paler in its hue—
Wherein life dwells, transfigured, not entomb'd,
By magic spells. Alas! who ever knew
Sorrow in all its shapes, leafy and plumed,
Or in gross husks of brutes eternally inhumed?
And now the winged song has scaled the height
Of that dark dwelling, builded for despair,
And soon a little casement flashing bright
Widens self-open'd into the cool air—
That music like a bird may enter there
And soothe the captive in his stony cage;
For there is nought of grief, or painful care,
But plaintive song may happily engage
From sense of its own ill, and tenderly assuage.
And forth into the light, small and remote,
A creature, like the fair son of a king,
Draws to the lattice in his jewell'd coat
Against the silver moonlight glistening,
And leans upon his white hand listening
To that sweet music that with tenderer tone
Salutes him, wondering what kindly thing
Is come to soothe him with so tuneful moan,
Singing beneath the walls as if for him alone!
And while he listens, the mysterious song,
Woven with timid particles of speech.
Twines into passionate words that grieve along
The melancholy notes, and softly teach
The secrets of true love,—that trembling reach
His earnest ear, and through the shadows dun
He missions like replies, and each to each
Their silver voices mingle into one,
Like blended streams that make one music as they run.
'Ah! Love, my hope is swooning in my heart,—'
'Ay, sweet, my cage is strong and hung full high—'
'Alas! our lips are held so far apart,
Thy words come faint,—they have so far to fly!—'
'If I may only shun that serpent-eye,—'
'Ah me! that serpent-eye doth never sleep;—'
'Then, nearer thee, Love's martyr, I will die!—'
'Alas, alas! that word has made me weep!
For pity's sake remain safe in thy marble keep!'
'My marble keep! it is my marble tomb—'
'Nay, sweet! but thou hast there thy living breath—'
'Aye to expend in sighs for this hard doom;—'
'But I will come to thee and sing beneath,'
'And nightly so beguile this serpent wreath;—'
'Nay, I will find a path from these despairs.'
'Ah, needs then thou must tread the back of death,
Making his stony ribs thy stony stairs.—
Behold his ruby eye, how fearfully it glares!'
Full sudden at these words, the princely youth
Leaps on the scaly back that slumbers, still
Unconscious of his foot, yet not for ruth,
But numb'd to dulness by the fairy skill
Of that sweet music (all more wild and shrill
For intense fear) that charm'd him as he lay—
Meanwhile the lover nerves his desperate will,
Held some short throbs by natural dismay,
Then down the serpent-track begins his darksome way.
Now dimly seen—now toiling out of sight,
Eclipsed and cover'd by the envious wall;
Now fair and spangled in the sudden light,
And clinging with wide arms for fear of fall;
Now dark and shelter'd by a kindly pall
Of dusky shadow from his wakeful foe;
Slowly he winds adown—dimly and small,
Watch'd by the gentle Swan that sings below,
Her hope increasing, still, the larger he doth grow.
But nine times nine the serpent folds embrace
The marble walls about—which he must tread
Before his anxious foot may touch the base:
Long in the dreary path, and must be sped!
But Love, that holds the mastery of dread,
Braces his spirit, and with constant toil
He wins his way, and now, with arms outspread,
Impatient plunges from the last long coil;
So may all gentle Love ungentle Malice foil!
The song is hush'd, the charm is all complete,
And two fair Swans are swimming on the lake:
But scarce their tender bills have time to meet,
When fiercely drops adown that cruel Snake—
His steely scales a fearful rustling make,
Like autumn leaves that tremble and foretell
The sable storm;—the plumy lovers quake—
And feel the troubled waters pant and swell,
Heaved by the giant bulk of their pursuer fell.
His jaws, wide yawning like the gates of Death,
Hiss horrible pursuit—his red eyes glare
The waters into blood—his eager breath
Grows hot upon their plumes:—now, minstrel fair!
She drops her ring into the waves, and there
It widens all around, a fairy ring
Wrought of the silver light—the fearful pair
Swim in the very midst, and pant and cling
The closer for their fears, and tremble wing to wing.
Bending their course over the pale gray lake,
Against the pallid East, wherein light play'd
In tender flushes, still the baffled Snake
Circled them round continually, and bay'd
Hoarsely and loud, forbidden to invade
The sanctuary ring—his sable mail
Roll'd darkly through the flood, and writhed and made
A shining track over the waters pale,
Lash'd into boiling foam by his enormous tail.
And so they sail'd into the distance dim,
Into the very distance—small and white,
Like snowy blossoms of the spring that swim
Over the brooklets—follow'd by the spite
Of that huge Serpent, that with wild affright
Worried them on their course, and sore annoy,
Till on the grassy marge I saw them 'light,
And change, anon, a gentle girl and boy,
Lock'd in embrace of sweet unutterable joy!
Then came the Morn, and with her pearly showers
Wept on them, like a mother, in whose eyes
Tears are no grief; and from his rosy bowers
The Oriental sun began to rise,
Chasing the darksome shadows from the skies;
Wherewith that sable Serpent far away
Fled, like a part of night—delicious sighs
From waking blossoms purified the day,
And little birds were singing sweetly from each spray.
Ode To Rae Wilson Esq.
A WANDERER, Wilson, from my native land,
Remote, O Rae, from godliness and thee,
Where rolls between us the eternal sea,
Besides some furlongs of a foreign sand,—
Beyond the broadest Scotch of London Wall;
Beyond the loudest Saint that has a call;
Across the wavy waste between us stretch'd,
A friendly missive warns me of a stricture,
Wherein my likeness you have darkly etch'd,
And though I have not seen the shadow sketch'd,
Thus I remark prophetic on the picture.
I guess the features:—in a line to paint
Their moral ugliness, I'm not a saint.
Not one of those self-constituted saints,
Quacks—not physicians—in the cure of souls,
Censors who sniff out mortal taints,
And call the devil over his own coals—
Those pseudo Privy Councillors of God,
Who write down judgments with a pen hard-nibb'd;
Ushers of Beelzebub's Black Rod,
Commending sinners, not to ice thick-ribb'd,
But endless flames, to scorch them up like flax—
Yet sure of heav'n themselves, as if they'd cribb'd
Th' impression of St. Peter's keys in wax!
Of such a character no single trace
Exists, I know, in my fictitious face;
There wants a certain cast about the eye;
A certain lifting of the nose's tip;
A certain curling of the nether lip,
In scorn of all that is, beneath the sky;
In brief it is an aspect deleterious,
A face decidedly not serious,
A face profane, that would not do at all
To make a face at Exeter Hall,—
That Hall where bigots rant, and cant, and pray,
And laud each other face to face,
Till ev'ry farthing-candle ray
Conceives itself a great gas-light of grace.
Well!—be the graceless lineaments confest!
I do enjoy this bounteous beauteous earth;
And dote upon a jest
'Within the limits of becoming mirth';—
No solemn sanctimonious face I pull,
Nor think I'm pious when I'm only bilious—
Nor study in my sanctum supercilious
To frame a Sabbath Bill or forge a Bull.
I pray for grace—repent each sinful act—
Peruse, but underneath the rose, my Bible;
And love my neighbour far too well, in fact,
To call and twit him with a godly tract
That's turn'd by application to a libel.
My heart ferments not with the bigot's leaven,
All creeds I view with toleration thorough,
And have a horror of regarding heaven
As anybody's rotten borough.
What else? no part I take in party fray,
With troops from Billingsgate's slang-whanging
I fear no Pope—and let great Ernest play
At Fox and Goose with Foxs' Martyrs!
I own I laugh at over-righteous men,
I own I shake my sides at ranters,
And treat sham-Abr'am saints with wicked banters,
I even own, that there are times—but then
It's when I've got my wine—I say d——canters!
I've no ambition to enact the spy
On fellow souls, a Spiritual Pry—
'Tis said that people ought to guard their noses,
Who thrust them into matters none of theirs;
And tho' no delicacy discomposes
Your Saint, yet I consider faith and pray'rs
Amongst the privatest of men's affairs.
I do not hash the Gospel in my books,
And thus upon the public mind intrude it,
As if I thought, like Otaheitan cooks,
No food was fit to eat till I had chewed it.
On Bible stilts I don't affect to stalk;
Nor lard with Scripture my familiar talk,—
For man may pious texts repeat,
And yet religion have no inward seat;
'Tis not so plain as the old Hill of Howth,
A man has got his belly full of meat
Because he talks with victuals in his mouth!
Mere verbiage,—it is not worth a carrot!
Why, Socrates—or Plato—where's the odds?—
Once taught a jay to supplicate the Gods,
And made a Polly-theist of a Parrot!
A mere professor, spite of all his cant, is
Not a whit better than a Mantis,—
An insect, of what clime I can't determine,
That lifts its paws most parson-like, and thence,
By simple savages—thro' sheer pretence—
Is reckon'd quite a saint amongst the vermin.
But where's the reverence, or where the nous,
To ride on one's religion thro' the lobby,
Whether a stalking-horse or hobby,
To show its pious paces to 'the house'?
I honestly confess that I would hinder
The Scottish member's legislative rigs,
That spiritual Pinder,
Who looks on erring souls as straying pigs,
That must be lash'd by law, wherever found,
And driv'n to church, as to the parish pound.
I do confess, without reserve or wheedle,
I view that grovelling idea as one
Worthy some parish clerk's ambitious son,
A charity-boy, who longs to be a beadle.
On such a vital topic sure 'tis odd
How much a man can differ from his neighbour:
One wishes worship freely giv'n to God,
Another wants to make it statute-labour—
The broad distinction in a line to draw,
As means to lead us to the skies above,
You say—Sir Andrew and his love of law,
And I—the Saviour with his law of love.
Spontaneously to God should tend the soul,
Like the magnetic needle to the Pole;
But what were that intrinsic virtue worth,
Suppose some fellow, with more zeal than
Fresh from St. Andrew's College,
Should nail the conscious needle to the north?
I do confess that I abhor and shrink
From schemes, with a religious willy-nilly,
That frown upon St. Giles's sins, but blink
The peccadilloes of all Piccadilly—
My soul revolts at such a bare hypocrisy,
And will not, dare not, fancy in accord
The Lord of Hosts with an Exclusive Lord
Of this world's aristocracy.
It will not own a notion so unholy,
As thinking that the rich by easy trips
May go to heav'n, whereas the poor and lowly
Must work their passage, as they do in ships.
One place there is—beneath the burial sod,
Where all mankind are equalized by death;
Another place there is—the Fane of God,
Where all are equal, who draw living breath;—
Juggle who will elsewhere with his own soul,
Playing the Judas with a temporal dole—
He who can come beneath that awful cope,
In the dread presence of a Maker just,
Who metes to ev'ry pinch of human dust
One even measure of immortal hope—
He who can stand within that holy door,
With soul unbow'd by that pure spirit-level,
And frame unequal laws for rich and poor,—
Might sit for Hell and represent the Devil!
Such are the solemn sentiments, O Rae,
In your last Journey-Work, perchance you ravage,
Seeming, but in more courtly terms, to say
I'm but a heedless, creedless, godless savage;
A very Guy, deserving fire and faggots,—
A Scoffer, always on the grin,
And sadly given to the mortal sin
Of liking Maw-worms less than merry maggots!
The humble records of my life to search,
I have not herded with mere pagan beasts;
But sometimes I have 'sat at good men's feasts,'
And I have been 'where bells have knoll'd to
Dear bells! how sweet the sounds of village bells
When on the undulating air they swim!
Now loud as welcomes! faint, now, as farewells!
And trembling all about the breezy dells
As flutter'd by the wings of Cherubim.
Meanwhile the bees are chanting a low hymn;
And lost to sight th' ecstatic lark above
Sings, like a soul beatified, of love,—
With, now and then, the coo of the wild pigeon;—
O Pagans, Heathens, Infidels and Doubters!
If such sweet sounds can't woo you to religion,
Will the harsh voices of church cads and touters?
A man may cry 'Church! Church!' at ev'ry word,
With no more piety than other people—
A daw's not reckon'd a religious bird
Because it keeps a-cawing from a steeple.
The Temple is a good, a holy place,
But quacking only gives it an ill savour;
While saintly mountebanks the porch disgrace,
And bring religion's self into disfavour!
Behold yon servitor of God and Mammon,
Who, binding up his Bible with his Ledger,
Blends Gospel texts with trading gammon,
A black-leg saint, a spiritual hedger,
Who backs his rigid Sabbath, so to speak,
Against the wicked remnant of the week,
A saving bet against his sinful bias—
'Rogue that I am,' he whispers to himself,
'I lie—I cheat—do anything for pelf,
But who on earth can say I am not pious?'
In proof how over-righteousness re-acts,
Accept an anecdote well based on facts.
One Sunday morning—(at the day don't fret)—
In riding with a friend to Ponder's End
Outside the stage, we happened to commend
A certain mansion that we saw To Let.
'Ay,' cried our coachman, with our talk to grapple
'You're right! no house along the road comes nigh
'Twas built by the same man as built yon chapel
And master wanted once to buy it,—
But t'other driv the bargain much too hard—
He ax'd sure-ly a sum purdigious!
But being so particular religious,
Why, that, you see, put master on his guard!'
Church is 'a little heav'n below,
I have been there and still would go,'—
Yet I am none of those, who think it odd
A man can pray unbidden from the cassock,
And, passing by the customary hassock,
Kneel down remote upon the simple sod,
And sue in formâ pauperis to God.
As for the rest,—intolerant to none,
Whatever shape the pious rite may bear,
Ev'n the poor Pagan's homage to the Sun
I would not harshly scorn, lest even there
I spurn'd some elements of Christian pray'r—
An aim, tho' erring, at a 'world ayont,'
Acknowledgment of good—of man's futility,
A sense of need, and weakness, and indeed
That very thing so many Christians want—
Such, unto Papists, Jews or turban'd Turks,
Such is my spirit—(I don't mean my wraith!)
Such, may it please you, is my humble faith;
I know, full well, you do not like my works!
I have not sought, 'tis true, the Holy Land,
As full of texts as Cuddie Headrigg's mother,
The Bible in one hand,
And my own commonplace-book in the other—
But you have been to Palestine—alas!
Some minds improve by travel, others, rather,
Resemble copper wire, or brass,
Which gets the narrower by going farther!
Worthless are all such Pilgrimages—very!
If Palmers at the Holy Tomb contrive
The human heats and rancour to revive
That at the Sepulchre they ought to bury.
A sorry sight it is to rest the eye on,
To see a Christian creature graze at Sion,
Then homeward, of the saintly pasture full,
Rush bellowing, and breathing fire and smoke,
At crippled Papistry to butt and poke,
Exactly as a skittish Scottish bull
Hunts an old woman in a scarlet cloak!
Why leave a serious, moral, pious home,
Scotland, renown'd for sanctity of old,
Far distant Catholics to rate and scold
For—doing as the Romans do at Rome?
With such a bristling spirit wherefore quit
The Land of Cakes for any land of wafers,
About the graceless images to flit,
And buzz and chafe importunate as chafers,
Longing to carve the carvers to Scotch collops?—
People who hold such absolute opinions
Should stay at home, in Protestant dominions,
Not travel like male Mrs. Trollopes.
Gifted with noble tendency to climb,
Yet weak at the same time,
Faith is a kind of parasitic plant,
That grasps the nearest stem with tendril-rings;
And as the climate and the soil may grant,
So is the sort of tree to which it clings.
Consider then, before, like Hurlothrumbo
You aim your club at any creed on earth,
That, by the simple accident of birth,
You might have been High Priest to Mumbo Jumbo.
For me—thro' heathen ignorance perchance,
Not having knelt in Palestine,—I feel
None of that griffinish excess of zeal,
Some travellers would blaze with here in France.
Dolls I can see in virgin-like array,
Nor for a scuffle with the idols hanker
Like crazy Quixote at the puppet's play,
If their 'offence be rank,' should mine be rancour?
Mild light, and by degrees, should be the plan
To cure the dark and erring mind;
But who would rush at a benighted man,
And give him two black eyes for being blind?
Suppose the tender but luxuriant hop
Around a canker'd stem should twine,
What Kentish boor would tear away the prop
So roughly as to wound, nay, kill the bine?
The images, 'tis true, are strangely dress'd,
With gauds and toys extremely out of season;
The carving nothing of the very best,
The whole repugnant to the eye of reason,
Shocking to Taste, and to Fine Arts a treason—
Yet ne'er o'erlook in bigotry of sect
One truly Catholic, one common form,
At which uncheck'd
All Christian hearts may kindle or keep warm.
Say, was it to my spirit's gain or loss,
One bright and balmy morning, as I went
From Liege's lovely environs to Ghent,
If hard by the wayside I found a cross,
That made me breathe a pray'r upon the spot—
While Nature of herself, as if to trace
The emblem's use, had trail'd around its base
The blue significant Forget-me-not?
Methought, the claims of Charity to urge
More forcibly, along with Faith and Hope,
The pious choice had pitched upon the verge
Of a delicious slope
Giving the eye much variegated scope;—
'Look round,' it whisper'd, 'on that prospect rare,
Those vales so verdant, and those hills so blue;
Enjoy the sunny world, so fresh, and fair,
But'—(how the simple legend pierced me thro'!)
'PRIEZ POUR LES MALHEUREUX.'
With sweet kind natures, as in honey'd cells,
Religion lives, and feels herself at home;
But only on a formal visit dwells
Where wasps instead of bees have formed the comb.
Shun pride, O Rae!—whatever sort beside
You take in lieu, shun spiritual pride!
A pride there is of rank—a pride of birth,
A pride of learning, and a pride of purse,
A London pride—in short, there be on earth
A host of prides, some better and some worse;
But of all prides, since Lucifer's attaint,
The proudest swells a self-elected Saint.
To picture that cold pride so harsh and hard,
Fancy a peacock in a poultry yard.
Behold him in conceited circles sail,
Strutting and dancing, and now planted stiff,
In all his pomp of pageantry, as if
He felt 'the eyes of Europe' on his tail!
As for the humble breed retain'd by man,
He scorns the whole domestic clan—
He bows, he bridles,
He wheels, he sidles,
At last, with stately dodgings, in a corner
He pens a simple russet hen, to scorn her
Full in the blaze of his resplendent fan!
'Look here,' he cries (to give him words),
'Thou feather'd clay—thou scum of birds!'
Flirting the rustling plumage in her eyes,—
'Look here, thou vile predestined sinner,
Doom'd to be roasted for a dinner,
Behold those lovely variegated dyes!
These are the rainbow colors of the skies,
That Heav'n has shed upon me con amore—
A Bird of Paradise?—a pretty story!
I am that Saintly Fowl, thou paltry chick!
Look at my crown of glory!
Thou dingy, dirty, drabbled, draggled jill!'
And off goes Partlet, wriggling from a kick,
With bleeding scalp laid open by his bill!
That little simile exactly paints
How sinners are despised by saints.
By saints!—the Hypocrites that ope heav'n's door
Obsequious to the sinful man of riches—
But put the wicked, naked, barelegg'd poor
In parish stocks instead of breeches.
The Saints!—the Bigots that in public spout,
Spread phosphorus of zeal on scraps of fustian,
And go like walking 'Lucifers' about
Mere living bundles of combustion.
The Saints!—the aping Fanatics that talk
All cant and rant, and rhapsodies high-flown—
That bid you baulk
A Sunday walk,
And shun God's work as you should shun your own.
The Saints!—the Formalists, the extra pious,
Who think the mortal husk can save the soul,
By trundling with a mere mechanic bias,
To church, just like a lignum-vitæ bowl!
The Saints!—the Pharisees, whose beadle stands
Beside a stern coercive kirk.
A piece of human mason-work,
Calling all sermons contrabands,
In that great Temple that's not made with hands.
Thrice blessed, rather, is the man, with whom
The gracious prodigality of nature,
The balm, the bliss, the beauty, and the bloom,
The bounteous providence in ev'ry feature,
Recall the good Creator to his creature,
Making all earth a fane, all heav'n its dome!
To his tuned spirit the wild heather-bells
Ring Sabbath knells;
The jubilate of the soaring lark
Is chant of clerk;
For choir, the thrush and the gregarious linnet;
The sod's a cushion for his pious want;
And, consecrated by the heav'n within it,
The sky-blue pool, a font.
Each cloud-capped mountain is a holy altar;
An organ breathes in every grove;
And the full heart's a Psalter,
Rich in deep hymns of gratitude and love!
Sufficiently by stern necessitarians
Poor Nature, with her face begrimed by dust,
Is stoked, coked, smoked, and almost choked; but
Religion have its own Utilitarians,
Labell'd with evangelical phylacteries,
To make the road to heav'n a railway trust,
And churches—that's the naked fact—mere factories?
Oh! simply open wide the Temple door,
And let the solemn, swelling, organ greet,
With Voluntaries meet,
The willing advent of the rich and poor!
And while to God the loud Hosannas soar,
With rich vibrations from the vocal throng—
From quiet shades that to the woods belong,
And brooks with music of their own,
Voices may come to swell the choral song
With notes of praise they learned in musings lone.
How strange it is while on all vital questions,
That occupy the House and public mind,
We always meet with some humane suggestions
Of gentle measures of a healing kind,
Instead of harsh severity and vigour,
The Saint alone his preference retains
For bills of penalties and pains,
And marks his narrow code with legal rigor!
Why shun, as worthless of affiliation,
What men of all political persuasion
Extol—and even use upon occasion—
That Christian principle, Conciliation?
But possibly the men who make such fuss
With Sunday pippins and old Trots infirm,
Attach some other meaning to the term,
One market morning, in my usual rambles,
Passing along Whitechapel's ancient shambles,
Where meat was hung in many a joint and quarter,
I had to halt awhile, like other folks,
To let a killing butcher coax
A score of lambs and fatted sheep to slaughter.
A sturdy man he looke'd to fell an ox,
Bull-fronted, ruddy, with a formal streak
Of well-greased hair down either cheek,
As if he dee-dash-dee'd some other flocks
Beside those woolly-headed stubborn blocks
That stood before him, in vexatious huddle—
Poor little lambs, with bleating wethers group'd,
While, now and then, a thirsty creature stoop'd
And meekly snuff'd, but did not taste the puddle.
Fierce bark'd the dog, and many a blow was dealt,
That loin, and chump, and scrag and saddle felt,
Yet still, that fatal step they all declined it,—
And shunn'd the tainted door as if they smelt
Onions, mint sauce, and lemon juice behind it.
At last there came a pause of brutal force,
The cur was silent, for his jaws were full
Of tangled locks of tarry wool,
The man had whoop'd and holloed till dead hoarse.
The time was ripe for mild expostulation,
And thus it stammer'd from a stander-by—
'Zounds!—my good fellow,—it quite makes me—why,
It really—my dear fellow—do just try
Stringing his nerves like flint,
The sturdy butcher seized upon the hint,—
At least he seized upon the foremost wether,—
And hugg'd and lugg'd and tugg'd him neck and
Just nolens volens thro' the open shop—
If tails come off he didn't care a feather,—
Then walking to the door and smiling grim,
He rubb'd his forehead and his sleeve together—
'There!—I have conciliated him!'
Again—good-humouredly to end our quarrel—
(Good humour should prevail!)
I'll fit you with a tale,
Whereto is tied a moral.
Once on a time a certain English lass
Was seized with symptoms of such deep decline,
Cough, hectic flushes, ev'ry evil sign,
That, as their wont is at such desperate pass,
The Doctors gave her over—to an ass.
Accordingly, the grisly Shade to bilk,
Each morn the patient quaff'd a frothy bowl
Of asinine new milk,
Robbing a shaggy suckling of a foal
Which got proportionably spare and skinny—
Meanwhile the neighbours cried 'Poor Mary Ann!
She can't get over it! she never can!'
When lo! to prove each prophet was a ninny
The one that died was the poor wet-nurse Jenny.
To aggravate the case,
There were but two grown donkeys in the place;
And most unluckily for Eve's sick daughter,
The other long ear'd creature was a male,
Who never in his life had given a pail
Of milk, or even chalk and water.
No matter: at the usual hour of eight
Down trots a donkey to the wicket-gate,
With Mister Simon Gubbins on his back,—
'Your sarvant, Miss',—a worry spring-like day,—
Bad time for hasses tho'! good lack! good lack!
Jenny be dead, Miss,—but I've brought ye Jack,
He doesn't give no milk—but he can bray.
So runs the story,
And, in vain self-glory,
Some Saints would sneer at Gubbins for his blindness—
But what the better are their pious saws
To ailing souls, than dry hee-haws,
Without the milk of human kindness?
Lycus The Centaur
FROM AN UNROLLED MANUSCRIPT OF APOLLONIUS CURIUS
(The Argument: Lycus, detained by Circe in her magical dominion, is beloved by a Water Nymph, who, desiring to render him immortal, has recourse to the Sorceress. Circe gives her an incantation to pronounce, which should turn Lycus into a horse; but the horrible effect of the charm causing her to break off in the midst, he becomes a Centaur).
Who hath ever been lured and bound by a spell
To wander, fore-doomed, in that circle of hell
Where Witchery works with her will like a god,
Works more than the wonders of time at a nod,—
At a word,—at a touch,—at a flash of the eye,
But each form is a cheat, and each sound is a lie,
Things born of a wish—to endure for a thought,
Or last for long ages—to vanish to nought,
Or put on new semblance? O Jove, I had given
The throne of a kingdom to know if that heaven,
And the earth and its streams were of Circe, or whether
They kept the world's birthday and brighten'd together!
For I loved them in terror, and constantly dreaded
That the earth where I trod, and the cave where I bedded,
The face I might dote on, should live out the lease
Of the charm that created, and suddenly cease:
And I gave me to slumber, as if from one dream
To another—each horrid,—and drank of the stream
Like a first taste of blood, lest as water I quaff'd
Swift poison, and never should breathe from the draught,—
Such drink as her own monarch husband drain'd up
When he pledged her, and Fate closed his eyes in the cup.
And I pluck'd of the fruit with held breath, and a fear
That the branch would start back and scream out in my ear;
For once, at my suppering, I plucked in the dusk
An apple, juice-gushing and fragrant of musk;
But by daylight my fingers were crimson'd with gore,
And the half-eaten fragment was flesh at the core;
And once—only once—for the love of its blush,
I broke a bloom bough, but there came such a gush
On my hand, that it fainted away in weak fright,
While the leaf-hidden woodpecker shriek'd at the sight;
And oh! such an agony thrill'd in that note,
That my soul, startling up, beat its wings in my throat,
As it long'd to be free of a body whose hand
Was doom'd to work torments a Fury had plann'd!
There I stood without stir, yet how willing to flee,
As if rooted and horror-turn'd into a tree,—
Oh! for innocent death,—and to suddenly win it,
I drank of the stream, but no poison was in it;
I plunged in its waters, but ere I could sink,
Some invisible fate pull'd me back to the brink;
I sprang from the rock, from its pinnacle height,
But fell on the grass with a grasshopper's flight;
I ran at my fears—they were fears and no more,
For the bear would not mangle my limbs, nor the boar,
But moan'd—all their brutalized flesh could not smother
The horrible truth,—we were kin to each other!
They were mournfully gentle, and group'd for relief,
All foes in their skin, but all friends in their grief:
The leopard was there,—baby-mild in its feature;
And the tiger, black-barr'd, with the gaze of a creature
That knew gentle pity; the bristle-back'd boar,
His innocent tusks stain'd with mulberry gore;
And the laughing hyena—but laughing no more;
And the snake, not with magical orbs to devise
Strange death, but with woman's attraction of eyes;
The tall ugly ape, that still bore a dim shine
Through his hairy eclipse of a manhood divine;
And the elephant stately, with more than its reason,
How thoughtful in sadness! but this is no season
To reckon them up from the lag-bellied toad
To the mammoth, whose sobs shook his ponderous load.
There were woes of all shapes, wretched forms, when I came,
That hung down their heads with a human-like shame;
The elephant hid in the boughs, and the bear
Shed over his eyes the dark veil of his hair;
And the womanly soul turning sick with disgust,
Tried to vomit herself from her serpentine crust;
While all groan'd their groans into one at their lot,
As I brought them the image of what they were not.
Then rose a wild sound of the human voice choking
Through vile brutal organs—low tremulous croaking:
Cries swallow'd abruptly—deep animal tones
Attuned to strange passion, and full-utter'd groans;
All shuddering weaken, till hush'd in a pause
Of tongues in mute motion and wide-yawning jaws;
And I guessed that those horrors were meant to tell o'er
The tale of their woes; but the silence told more,
That writhed on their tongues; and I knelt on the sod,
And pray'd with my voice to the cloud-stirring god,
For the sad congregation of supplicants there,
That upturn'd to his heaven brute faces of prayer;
And I ceased, and they utter'd a moaning so deep,
That I wept for my heart-ease,—but they could not weep,
And gazed with red eyeballs, all wistfully dry,
At the comfort of tears in a stag's human eye.
Then I motion'd them round, and, to soothe their distress,
I caress'd, and they bent them to meet my caress,
Their necks to my arm, and their heads to my palm,
And with poor grateful eyes suffer'd meekly and calm
Those tokens of kindness, withheld by hard fate
From returns that might chill the warm pity to hate;
So they passively bow'd—save the serpent, that leapt
To my breast like a sister, and pressingly crept
In embrace of my neck, and with close kisses blister'd
My lips in rash love,—then drew backward, and glister'd
Her eyes in my face, and loud hissing affright,
Dropt down, but swift started away from my sight!
This sorrow was theirs, but thrice wretched my lot,
Turn'd brute in my soul, though my body was not,
When I fled from the sorrow of womanly faces,
That shrouded their woe in the shade of lone places,
And dash'd off bright tears, till their fingers were wet,
And then wiped their lids with long tresses of jet:
But I fled—though they stretch'd out their hands, all entangled
With hair, and blood-stain'd of the breasts they had mangled,—
Though they call'd—and perchance but to ask, had I seen
Their loves, or to tell the vile wrongs that had been:
But I stayed not to hear, lest the story should hold
Some hell-form of words, some enchantment, once told,
Might translate me in flesh to a brute; and I dreaded
To gaze on their charms, lest my faith should be wedded
With some pity,—and love in that pity perchance—
To a thing not all lovely; for once at glance,
Methought, where one sat, I descried a bright wonder
That flow'd like a long silver rivulet under
The long fenny grass,—with so lovely a breast,
Could it be a snake-tail made the charm of the rest?
So I roamed in that circle of horrors, and Fear
Walk'd with me, by hills, and in valleys, and near
Cluster'd trees for their gloom—not to shelter from heat—
But lest a brute-shadow should grow at my feet;
And besides that full oft in the sunshiny place
Dark shadows would gather like clouds on its face,
In the horrible likeness of demons (that none
Could see, like invisible flames in the sun);
But grew to one monster that seized on the light,
Like the dragon that strangles the moon in the night;
Fierce sphinxes, long serpents, and asps of the south;
Wild birds of huge beak, and all horrors that drouth
Engenders of slime in the land of the pest,
Vile shapes without shape, and foul bats of the West,
Bringing Night on their wings; and the bodies wherein
Great Brahma imprisons the spirits of sin,
Many-handed, that blent in one phantom of fight
Like a Titan, and threatfully warr'd with the light;
I have heard the wild shriek that gave signal to close,
When they rushed on that shadowy Python of foes,
That met with sharp beaks and wide gaping of jaws,
With flappings of wings, and fierce grasping of claws,
And whirls of long tails:—I have seen the quick flutter
Of fragments dissevered,—and necks stretch'd to utter
Long screamings of pain,—the swift motion of blows,
And wrestling of arms—to the flight at the close,
When the dust of the earth startled upward in rings,
And flew on the whirlwind that follow'd their wings.
Thus they fled—not forgotten—but often to grow
Like fears in my eyes, when I walk'd to and fro
In the shadows, and felt from some beings unseen
The warm touch of kisses, but clean or unclean
I knew not, nor whether the love I had won
Was of heaven or hell—till one day in the sun,
In its very noon-blaze, I could fancy a thing
Of beauty, but faint as the cloud-mirrors fling
On the gaze of the shepherd that watches the sky,
Half-seen and half-dream'd in the soul of his eye.
And when in my musings I gazed on the stream,
In motionless trances of thought, there would seem
A face like that face, looking upward through mine:
With his eyes full of love, and the dim-drownd shine
Of limbs and fair garments, like clouds in that blue
Serene:—there I stood for long hours but to view
Those fond earnest eyes that were ever uplifted
Towards me, and wink'd as the water-weed drifted
Between; but the fish knew that presence, and plied
Their long curvy tails, and swift darted aside.
There I gazed for lost time, and forgot all the things
That once had been wonders—the fishes with wings,
And the glimmer of magnified eyes that look'd up
From the glooms of the bottom like pearls in a cup,
And the huge endless serpent of silvery gleam,
Slow winding along like a tide in the stream.
Some maid of the waters, some Naiad, methought
Held me dear in the pearl of her eye—and I brought
My wish to that fancy; and often I dash'd
My limbs in the water, and suddenly splash'd
The cool drops around me, yet clung to the brink,
Chill'd by watery fears, how that beauty might sink
With my life in her arms to her garden, and bind me
With its long tangled grasses, or cruelly wind me
In some eddy to hum out my life in her ear,
Like a spider-caught bee,—and in aid of that fear
Came the tardy remembrance—Oh falsest of men!
Why was not that beauty remember'd till then?
My love, my safe love, whose glad life would have run
Into mine—like a drop—that our fate might be one,
That now, even now,—may-be,—clasp'd in a dream,
That form which I gave to some jilt of the stream,
And gazed with fond eyes that her tears tried to smother
On a mock of those eyes that I gave to another!
Then I rose from the stream, but the eyes of my mind,
Still full of the tempter, kept gazing behind
On her crystalline face, while I painfully leapt
To the bank, and shook off the curst waters, and wept
With my brow in the reeds; and the reeds to my ear
Bow'd, bent by no wind, and in whispers of fear,
Growing small with large secrets, foretold me of one
That loved me,—but oh to fly from her, and shun
Her love like a pest—though her love was as true
To mine as her stream to the heavenly blue;
For why should I love her with love that would bring
All misfortune, like hate, on so joyous a thing?
Because of her rival,—even Her whose witch-face
I had slighted, and therefore was doom'd in that place
To roam, and had roam'd, where all horrors grew rank,
Nine days ere I wept with my brow on that bank;
Her name be not named, but her spite would not fail
To our love like a blight; and they told me the tale
Of Scylla,—and Picus, imprison'd to speak
His shrill-screaming woe through a woodpecker's beak.
Then they ceased—I had heard as the voice of my star
That told me the truth of my fortunes—thus far
I had read of my sorrow, and lay in the hush
Of deep meditation,—when lo! a light crush
Of the reeds, and I turn'd and look'd round in the night
Of new sunshine, and saw, as I sipp'd of the light
Narrow-winking, the realized nymph of the stream,
Rising up from the wave with the bend and the gleam
Of a fountain, and o'er her white arms she kept throwing
Bright torrents of hair, that went flowing and flowing
In falls to her feet, and the blue waters roll'd
Down her limbs like a garment, in many a fold,
Sun-spangled, gold-broider'd, and fled far behind,
Like an infinite train. So she came and reclined
In the reeds, and I hunger'd to see her unseal
The buds of her eyes that would ope and reveal
The blue that was in them;—they oped and she raised
Two orbs of pure crystal, and timidly gazed
With her eyes on my eyes; but their color and shine
Was of that which they look'd on, and mostly of mine—
For she loved me,—except when she blush'd, and they sank,
Shame-humbled, to number the stones on the bank,
Or her play-idle fingers, while lisping she told me
How she put on her veil, and in love to behold me
Would wing through the sun till she fainted away
Like a mist, and then flew to her waters and lay
In love-patience long hours, and sore dazzled her eyes
In watching for mine 'gainst the midsummer skies.
But now they were heal'd,—O my heart, it still dances
When I think of the charm of her changeable glances,
And my image how small when it sank in the deep
Of her eyes where her soul was,—Alas! now they weep,
And none knoweth where. In what stream do her eyes
Shed invisible tears? Who beholds where her sighs
Flow in eddies, or sees the ascent of the leaf
She has pluck'd with her tresses? Who listens her grief
Like a far fall of waters, or hears where her feet
Grow emphatic among the loose pebbles, and beat
Them together? Ah! surely her flowers float adown
To the sea unaccepted, and little ones drown
For need of her mercy,—even he whose twin-brother
Will miss him forever; and the sorrowful mother
Imploreth in vain for his body to kiss
And cling to, all dripping and cold as it is,
Because that soft pity is lost in hard pain
We loved,—how we loved!—for I thought not again
Of the woes that were whisper'd like fears in that place
If I gave me to beauty. Her face was the face,
Far away, and her eyes were the eyes that were drown'd
For my absence,—her arms were the arms that sought round
And claspt me to nought; for I gazed and became
Only true to my falsehood, and had but one name
For two loves, and call'd ever on Ægle, sweet maid
Of the sky-loving waters,—and was not afraid
Of the sight of her skin;—for it never could be;
Her beauty and love were misfortunes to me!
Thus our bliss had endured for a time-shorten'd space,
Like a day made of three, and the smile of her face
Had been with me for joy,—when she told me indeed
Her love was self-task'd with a work that would need
Some short hours, for in truth 'twas the veriest pity
Our love should not last, and then sang me a ditty,
Of one with warm lips that should love her, and love her
When suns were burnt dim and long ages past over.
So she fled with her voice, and I patiently nested
My limbs in the reeds, in still quiet, and rested
Till my thoughts grew extinct, and I sank in a sleep
Of dreams,—but their meaning was hidden too deep
To be read what their woe was;—but still it was woe
That was writ on all faces that swam to and fro
In that river of night;—and the gaze of their eyes
Was sad,—and the bend of their brows,—and their cries
Were seen, but I heard not. The warm touch of tears
Travell'd down my cold cheeks, and I shook till my fears
Awaked me, and lo! I was couch'd in a bower,
The growth of long summers rear'd up in an hour!
Then I said, in the fear of my dream, I will fly
From this magic, but could not, because that my eye
Grew love-idle among the rich blooms; and the earth
Held me down with its coolness of touch, and the mirth
Of some bird was above me,—who, even in fear,
Would startle the thrush? and methought there drew near
A form as of Ægle,—but it was not the face
Hope made, and I knew the witch-Queen of that place,
Even Circe the Cruel, that came like a Death,
Which I fear'd, and yet fled not, for want of my breath.
There was thought in her face, and her eyes were not raised
From the grass at her foot, but I saw, as I gazed,
Her spite—and her countenance changed with her mind
As she plann'd how to thrall me with beauty, and bind
My soul to her charms,—and her long tresses play'd
From shade into shine and from shine into shade,
Like a day in mid-autumn,—first fair, O how fair!
With long snaky locks of the adder-black hair
That clung round her neck,—those dark locks that I prize,
For the sake of a maid that once loved me with eyes
Of that fathomless hue,—but they changed as they roll'd,
And brighten'd, and suddenly blazed into gold
That she comb'd into flames, and the locks that fell down
Turn'd dark as they fell, but I slighted their brown,
Nor loved, till I saw the light ringlets shed wild,
That innocence wears when she is but a child;
And her eyes,—Oh I ne'er had been witched with their shine,
Had they been any other, my Ægle, than thine!
Then I gave me to magic, and gazed till I madden'd
In the full of their light,—but I sadden'd and sadden'd
The deeper I look'd,—till I sank on the snow
Of her bosom, a thing made of terror and woe,
And answer'd its throb with the shudder of fears,
And hid my cold eyes from her eyes with my tears,
And strain'd her white arms with the still languid weight
Of a fainting distress. There she sat like the Fate
That is nurse unto Death, and bent over in shame
To hide me from her the true Ægle—that came
With the words on her lips the false witch had fore-given
To make me immortal—for now I was even
At the portals of Death, who but waited the hush
Of world-sounds in my ears to cry welcome, and rush
With my soul to the banks of his black-flowing river.
Oh, would it had flown from my body forever,
Ere I listen'd those words, when I felt with a start,
The life-blood rush back in one throb to my heart,
And saw the pale lips where the rest of that spell
Had perished in horror—and heard the farewell
Of that voice that was drown'd in the dash of the stream!
How fain had I follow'd, and plunged with that scream
Into death, but my being indignantly lagg'd
Through the brutalized flesh that I painfully dragg'd
Behind me:—O Circe! O mother of spite!
Speak the last of that curse! and imprison me quite
In the husk of a brute,—that no pity may name
The man that I was,—that no kindred may claim—
'The monster I am! Let me utterly be
Brute-buried, and Nature's dishonor with me
Uninscribed!'—But she listen'd my prayer, that was praise
To her malice, with smiles, and advised me to gaze
On the river for love,—and perchance she would make
In pity a maid without eyes for my sake,
And she left me like Scorn. Then I ask'd of the wave,
What monster I was, and it trembled and gave
The true shape of my grief, and I turn'd with my face
From all waters forever, and fled through that place,
Till with horror more strong than all magic I pass'd
Its bounds, and the world was before me at last.
There I wander'd in sorrow, and shunned the abodes
Of men, that stood up in the likeness of Gods,
But I saw from afar the warm shine of the sun
On the cities, where man was a million, not one;
And I saw the white smoke of their altars ascending,
That show'd where the hearts of many were blending,
And the wind in my face brought shrill voices that came
From the trumpets that gather'd whole bands in one fame
As a chorus of man,—and they stream'd from the gates
Like a dusky libation poured out to the Fates.
But at times there were gentler processions of peace
That I watch'd with my soul in my eyes till their cease,
There were women! there men! but to me a third sex
I saw them all dots—yet I loved them as specks:
And oft to assuage a sad yearning of eyes
I stole near the city, but stole covert-wise
Like a wild beast of love, and perchance to be smitten
By some hand that I rather had wept on than bitten!
Oh, I once had a haunt near a cot where a mother
Daily sat in the shade with her child, and would smother
Its eyelids in kisses, and then in its sleep
Sang dreams in its ear of its manhood, while deep
In a thicket of willows I gazed o'er the brooks
That murmur'd between us and kiss'd them with looks;
But the willows unbosom'd their secret, and never
I return'd to a spot I had startled forever,
Though I oft long'd to know, but could ask it of none,
Was the mother still fair, and how big was her son?
For the haunters of fields they all shunn'd me by flight;
The men in their horror, the women in fright;
None ever remain'd save a child once that sported
Among the wild bluebells, and playfully courted
The breeze; and beside him a speckled snake lay
Tight strangled, because it had hiss'd him away
From the flower at his finger; he rose and drew near
Like a Son of Immortals, one born to no fear,
But with strength of black locks and with eyes azure bright
To grow to large manhood of merciful might.
He came, with his face of bold wonder, to feel,
The hair of my side, and to lift up my heel,
And question'd my face with wide eyes; but when under
My lids he saw tears,—for I wept at his wonder,
He stroked me, and utter'd such kindliness then,
That the once love of women, the friendship of men
In past sorrow, no kindness e'er came like a kiss
On my heart in its desolate day such as this!
And I yearn'd at his cheeks in my love, and down bent,
And lifted him up in my arms with intent
To kiss him,—but he cruel-kindly, alas!
Held out to my lips a pluck'd handful of grass!
Then I dropt him in horror, but felt as I fled
The stone he indignantly hurl'd at my head,
That dissever'd my ear,—but I felt not, whose fate
Was to meet more distress in his love than his hate!
Thus I wander'd, companion'd of grief and forlorn
Till I wish'd for that land where my being was born
But what was that land with its love, where my home
Was self-shut against me; for why should I come
Like an after-distress to my gray-bearded father,
With a blight to the last of his sight?—let him rather
Lament for me dead, and shed tears in the urn
Where I was not, and still in fond memory turn
To his son even such as he left him. Oh, how
Could I walk with the youth once my fellows, but now
Like Gods to my humbled estate?—or how bear
The steeds once the pride of my eyes and the care
Of my hands? Then I turn'd me self-banish'd, and came
Into Thessaly here, where I met with the same
As myself. I have heard how they met by a stream
In games, and were suddenly changed by a scream
That made wretches of many, as she roll'd her wild eyes
Against heaven, and so vanish'd.—The gentle and wise
Lose their thoughts in deep studies, and others their ill
In the mirth of mankind where they mingle them still.
The Plea Of The Midsummer Fairies
'Twas in that mellow season of the year
When the hot sun singes the yellow leaves
Till they be gold,—and with a broader sphere
The Moon looks down on Ceres and her sheaves;
When more abundantly the spider weaves,
And the cold wind breathes from a chillier clime;—
That forth I fared, on one of those still eves,
Touch'd with the dewy sadness of the time,
To think how the bright months had spent their prime,
So that, wherever I address'd my way,
I seem'd to track the melancholy feet
Of him that is the Father of Decay,
And spoils at once the sour weed and the sweet;—
Wherefore regretfully I made retreat
To some unwasted regions of my brain,
Charm'd with the light of summer and the heat,
And bade that bounteous season bloom again,
And sprout fresh flowers in mine own domain.
It was a shady and sequester'd scene,
Like those famed gardens of Boccaccio,
Planted with his own laurels evergreen,
And roses that for endless summer blow;
And there were fountain springs to overflow
Their marble basins,—and cool green arcades
Of tall o'erarching sycamores, to throw
Athwart the dappled path their dancing shades,—
With timid coneys cropping the green blades.
And there were crystal pools, peopled with fish,
Argent and gold; and some of Tyrian skin,
Some crimson-barr'd;—and ever at a wish
They rose obsequious till the wave grew thin
As glass upon their backs, and then dived in,
Quenching their ardent scales in watery gloom;
Whilst others with fresh hues row'd forth to win
My changeable regard,—for so we doom
Things born of thought to vanish or to bloom.
And there were many birds of many dyes,
From tree to tree still faring to and fro,
And stately peacocks with their splendid eyes,
And gorgeous pheasants with their golden glow,
Like Iris just bedabbled in her bow,
Beside some vocalists, without a name,
That oft on fairy errands come and go,
With accents magical;—and all were tame,
And peckled at my hand where'er I came.
And for my sylvan company, in lieu
Of Pampinea with her lively peers,
Sate Queen Titania with her pretty crew,
All in their liveries quaint, with elfin gears,
For she was gracious to my childish years,
And made me free of her enchanted round;
Wherefore this dreamy scene she still endears,
And plants her court upon a verdant mound,
Fenced with umbrageous woods and groves profound.
'Ah me,' she cries, 'was ever moonlight seen
So clear and tender for our midnight trips?
Go some one forth, and with a trump convene
My lieges all!'—Away the goblin skips
A pace or two apart, and deftly strips
The ruddy skin from a sweet rose's cheek,
Then blows the shuddering leaf between his lips,
Making it utter forth a shrill small shriek,
Like a fray'd bird in the gray owlet's beak.
And lo! upon my fix'd delighted ken
Appear'd the loyal Fays.—Some by degrees
Crept from the primrose buds that open'd then,
Ana some from bell-shaped blossoms like the bees,
Some from the dewy meads, and rushy leas,
Flew up like chafers when the rustics pass;
Some from the rivers, others from tall trees
Dropp'd, like shed blossoms, silent to the grass,
Spirits and elfins small, of every class.
Peri and Pixy, and quaint Puck the Antic,
Brought Robin Goodfellow, that merry swain;
And stealthy Mab, queen of old realms romantic,
Came too, from distance, in her tiny wain,
Fresh dripping from a cloud—some bloomy rain,
Then circling the bright Moon, had wash'd her car,
And still bedew'd it with a various stain:
Lastly came Ariel, shooting from a star,
Who bears all fairy embassies afar.
But Oberon, that night elsewhere exiled,
Was absent, whether some distemper'd spleen
Kept him and his fair mate unreconciled,
Or warfare with the Gnome (whose race had been
Sometime obnoxious), kept him from his queen,
And made her now peruse the starry skies
Prophetical, with such an absent mien;
Howbeit, the tears stole often to her eyes,
And oft the Moon was incensed with her sighs—
Which made the elves sport drearily, and soon
Their hushing dances languish'd to a stand,
Like midnight leaves, when, as the Zephyrs swoon,
All on their drooping stems they sink unfann'd,—
So into silence droop'd the fairy band,
To see their empress dear so pale and still,
Crowding her softly round on either hand,
As pale as frosty snowdrops, and as chill,
To whom the sceptred dame reveals her ill.
'Alas,' quoth she, 'ye know our fairy lives
Are leased upon the fickle faith of men;
Not measured out against Fate's mortal knives,
Like human gosamers,—we perish when
We fade and are forgot in worldly kens—
Though poesy has thus prolong'd our date,
Thanks be to the sweet Bard's auspicious pen
That rescued us so long!—howbeit of late
I feel some dark misgivings of our fate.'
'And this dull day my melancholy sleep
Hath been so thronged with images of woe,
That even now I cannot choose but weep
To think this was some sad prophetic show
Of future horror to befall us so,
Of mortal wreck and uttermost distress,
Yea, our poor empire's fall and overthrow,
For this was my long vision's dreadful stress,
And when I waked my trouble was not less.'
'Whenever to the clouds I tried to seek,
Such leaden weight dragg'd these Icarian wings,
My faithless wand was wavering and weak,
And slimy toads had trespass'd in our rings—
The birds refused to sing for me—all things
Disown'd their old allegiance to our spells;
The rude bees prick'd me with their rebel stings;
And, when I pass'd, the valley-lily's bells
Rang out, methought, most melancholy knells.'
'And ever on the faint and flagging air
A doleful spirit with a dreary note
Cried in my fearful ear, 'Prepare! prepare!'
Which soon I knew came from a raven's throat,
Perch'd on a cypress-bough not far remote,—
A cursed bird, too crafty to be shot,
That alway cometh with his soot-black coat
To make hearts dreary:—for he is a blot
Upon the book of life, as well ye wot!—'
'Wherefore some while I bribed him to be mute,
With bitter acorns stuffing his foul maw,
Which barely I appeased, when some fresh bruit
Startled me all aheap!—and soon I saw
The horridest shape that ever raised my awe,—
A monstrous giant, very huge and tall,
Such as in elder times, devoid of law,
With wicked might grieved the primeval ball,
And this was sure the deadliest of them all!'
'Gaunt was he as a wolf of Languedoc,
With bloody jaws, and frost upon his crown
So from his barren poll one hoary lock
Over his wrinkled front fell far adown,
Well nigh to where his frosty brows did frown
Like jagged icicles at cottage eaves;
And for his coronal he wore some brown
And bristled ears gather'd from Ceres' sheaves,
Entwined with certain sere and russet leaves.'
'And lo! upon a mast rear'd far aloft,
He bore a very bright and crescent blade,
The which he waved so dreadfully, and oft,
In meditative spite, that, sore dismay'd,
I crept into an acorn-cup for shade;
Meanwhile the horrid effigy went by:
I trow his look was dreadful, for it made
The trembling birds betake them to the sky,
For every leaf was lifted by his sigh.'
'And ever, as he sigh'd, his foggy breath
Blurr'd out the landscape like a flight of smoke:
Thence knew I this was either dreary Death
Or Time, who leads all creatures to his stroke.
Ah wretched me!'—Here, even as she spoke,
The melancholy Shape came gliding in,
And lean'd his back against an antique oak,
Folding his wings, that were so fine and thin,
They scarce were seen against the Dryad's skin.
Then what a fear seized all the little rout!
Look how a flock of panick'd sheep will stare—
And huddle close—and start—and wheel about,
Watching the roaming mongrel here and there,—
So did that sudden Apparition scare
All close aheap those small affrighted things;
Nor sought they now the safety of the air,
As if some leaden spell withheld their wings;
But who can fly that ancientest of Kings?
Whom now the Queen, with a forestalling tear
And previous sigh, beginneth to entreat,
Bidding him spare, for love, her lieges dear:
'Alas!' quoth she, 'is there no nodding wheat
Ripe for thy crooked weapon, and more meet,—
Or wither'd leaves to ravish from the tree,—
Or crumbling battlements for thy defeat?
Think but what vaunting monuments there be
Builded in spite and mockery of thee.'
'O fret away the fabric walls of Fame,
And grind down marble Cæsars with the dust:
Make tombs inscriptionless—raze each high name,
And waste old armors of renown with rust:
Do all of this, and thy revenge is just:
Make such decays the trophies of thy prime,
And check Ambition's overweening lust,
That dares exterminating war with Time,—
But we are guiltless of that lofty crime.'
'Frail feeble spirits!—the children of a dream!
Leased on the sufferance of fickle men,
Like motes dependent on the sunny beam,
Living but in the sun's indulgent ken,
And when that light withdraws, withdrawing then;—
So do we flutter in the glance of youth
And fervid fancy,—and so perish when
The eye of faith grows aged;—in sad truth,
Feeling thy sway, O Time! though not thy tooth!'
'Where be those old divinities forlorn,
That dwelt in trees, or haunted in a stream?
Alas! their memories are dimm'd and torn,
Like the remainder tatters of a dream:
So will it fare with our poor thrones, I deem;—
For us the same dark trench Oblivion delves,
That holds the wastes of every human scheme.
O spare us then,—and these our pretty elves,—
We soon, alas! shall perish of ourselves!'
Now as she ended, with a sigh, to name
Those old Olympians, scatter'd by the whirl
Of Fortune's giddy wheel and brought to shame,
Methought a scornful and malignant curl
Show'd on the lips of that malicious churl,
To think what noble havocs he had made;
So that I fear'd he all at once would hurl
The harmless fairies into endless shade,—
Howbeit he stopp'd awhile to whet his blade.
Pity it was to hear the elfins' wail
Rise up in concert from their mingled dread,
Pity it was to see them, all so pale,
Gaze on the grass as for a dying bed;—
But Puck was seated on a spider's thread,
That hung between two branches of a briar,
And 'gan to swing and gambol, heels o'er head,
Like any Southwark tumbler on a wire,
For him no present grief could long inspire.
Meanwhile the Queen with many piteous drops,
Falling like tiny sparks full fast and free,
Bedews a pathway from her throne;—and stops
Before the foot of her arch enemy,
And with her little arms enfolds his knee,
That shows more grisly from that fair embrace;
But she will ne'er depart. 'Alas!' quoth she,
'My painful fingers I will here enlace
Till I have gain'd your pity for our race.'
'What have we ever done to earn this grudge,
And hate—(if not too humble for thy hating?)—
Look o'er our labors and our lives, and judge
If there be any ills of our creating;
For we are very kindly creatures, dating
With nature's charities still sweet and bland:—
O think this murder worthy of debating!'
Herewith she makes a signal with her hand,
To beckon some one from the Fairy band.
Anon I saw one of those elfin things,
Clad all in white like any chorister,
Come fluttering forth on his melodious wings,
That made soft music at each little stir,
But something louder than a bee's demur
Before he lights upon a bunch of broom,
And thus 'gan he with Saturn to confer,—
And O his voice was sweet, touch'd with the gloom
Of that sad theme that argued of his doom!
Quoth he, 'We make all melodies our care,
That no false discords may offend the Sun,
Music's great master—tuning everywhere
All pastoral sounds and melodies, each one
Duly to place and season, so that none
May harshly interfere. We rouse at morn
The shrill sweet lark; and when the day is done,
Hush silent pauses for the bird forlorn,
That singeth with her breast against a thorn.'
'We gather in loud choirs the twittering race,
That make a chorus with their single note;
And tend on new-fledged birds in every place,
That duly they may get their tunes by rote;
And oft, like echoes, answering remote,
We hide in thickets from the feather'd throng,
And strain in rivalship each throbbing throat,
Singing in shrill responses all day long,
Whilst the glad truant listens to our song.'
'Wherefore, great King of Years, as thou dost love
The raining music from a morning cloud,
When vanish'd larks are carolling above,
To wake Apollo with their pipings loud;—
If ever thou hast heard in leafy shroud
The sweet and plaintive Sappho of the dell,
Show thy sweet mercy on this little crowd,
And we will muffle up the sheepfold bell
Whene'er thou listenest to Philomel.'
Then Saturn thus;—'Sweet is the merry lark,
That carols in man's ear so clear and strong;
And youth must love to listen in the dark
That tuneful elegy of Tereus' wrong;
But I have heard that ancient strain too long,
For sweet is sweet but when a little strange,
And I grow weary for some newer song;
For wherefore had I wings, unless to range
Through all things mutable, from change to change?'
'But would'st thou hear the melodies of Time,
Listen when sleep and drowsy darkness roll
Over hush'd cities, and the midnight chime
Sounds from their hundred clocks, and deep bells toll
Like a last knell over the dead world's soul,
Saying, 'Time shall be final of all things,
Whose late, last voice must elegize the whole,'—
O then I clap aloft my brave broad wings,
And make the wide air tremble while it rings!'
Then next a fair Eve-Fay made meek address,
Saying, 'We be the handmaids of the Spring;
In sign whereof, May, the quaint broideress,
Hath wrought her samplers on our gauzy wing.
We tend upon buds birth and blossoming,
And count the leafy tributes that they owe—
As, so much to the earth—so much to fling
In showers to the brook—so much to go
In whirlwinds to the clouds that made them grow.'
'The pastoral cowslips are our little pets,
And daisy stars, whose firmament is green;
Pansies, and those veil'd nuns, meek violets,
Sighing to that warm world from which they screen;
And golden daffodils, pluck'd for May's Queen;
And lonely harebells, quaking on the heath;
And Hyacinth, long since a fair youth seen,
Whose tuneful voice, turn'd fragrance in his breath,
Kiss'd by sad Zephyr, guilty of his death.'
'The widow'd primrose weeping to the moon
And saffron crocus in whose chalice bright
A cool libation hoarded for the noon
Is kept—and she that purifies the light,
The virgin lily, faithful to her white,
Whereon Eve wept in Eden for her shame;
And the most dainty rose, Aurora's spright,
Our every godchild, by whatever name—
Spares us our lives, for we did nurse the same!'
Then that old Mower stamp'd his heel, and struck
His hurtful scythe against the harmless ground,
Saying, 'Ye foolish imps, when am I stuck
With gaudy buds, or like a wooer crown'd
With flow'ry chaplets, save when they are found
Withered?—Whenever have I pluck'd a rose,
Except to scatter its vain leaves around?
For so all gloss of beauty I oppose,
And bring decay on every flow'r that blows.'
'Or when am I so wroth as when I view
The wanton pride of Summer;—how she decks
The birthday world with blossoms ever-new,
As if Time had not lived, and heap'd great wrecks
Of years on years?—O then I bravely vex
And catch the gay Months in their gaudy plight,
And slay them with the wreaths about their necks,
Like foolish heifers in the holy rite,
And raise great trophies to my ancient might.'
Then saith another, 'We are kindly things,
And like her offspring nestle with the dove,—
Witness these hearts embroidered on our wings,
To show our constant patronage of love:—
We sit at even, in sweet bow'rs above
Lovers, and shake rich odors on the air,
To mingle with their sighs; and still remove
The startling owl, and bid the bat forbear
Their privacy, and haunt some other where.'
'And we are near the mother when she sits
Beside her infant in its wicker bed;
And we are in the fairy scene that flits
Across its tender brain: sweet dreams we shed,
And whilst the tender little soul is fled,
Away, to sport with our young elves, the while
We touch the dimpled cheek with roses red,
And tickle the soft lips until they smile,
So that their careful parents they beguile.'
'O then, if ever thou hast breathed a vow
At Love's dear portal, or at pale moon-rise
Crush'd the dear curl on a regardful brow,
That did not frown thee from thy honey prize—
If ever thy sweet son sat on thy thighs,
And wooed thee from thy careful thoughts within
To watch the harmless beauty of his eyes,
Or glad thy fingers on his smooth soft skin,
For Love's dear sake, let us thy pity win!'
Then Saturn fiercely thus:—'What joy have I
In tender babes, that have devour'd mine own,
Whenever to the light I heard them cry,
Till foolish Rhea cheated me with stone?
Whereon, till now, is my great hunger shown,
In monstrous dint of my enormous tooth;
And—but the peopled world is too full grown
For hunger's edge—I would consume all youth
At one great meal, without delay or ruth!'
'For I am well nigh crazed and wild to hear
How boastful fathers taunt me with their breed,
Saying, 'We shall not die nor disappear,
But, in these other selves, ourselves succeed
Ev'n as ripe flowers pass into their seed
Only to be renew'd from prime to prime,'
All of which boastings I am forced to read,
Besides a thousand challenges to Time,
Which bragging lovers have compiled in rhyme.'
'Wherefore, when they are sweetly met o' nights,
There will I steal and with my hurried hand
Startle them suddenly from their delights
Before the next encounter hath been plann'd,
Ravishing hours in little minutes spann'd;
But when they say farewell, and grieve apart,
Then like a leaden statue I will stand,
Meanwhile their many tears encrust my dart,
And with a ragged edge cut heart from heart.'
Then next a merry Woodsman, clad in green,
Step vanward from his mates, that idly stood
Each at his proper ease, as they had been
Nursed in the liberty of old Shérwood,
And wore the livery of Robin Hood,
Who wont in forest shades to dine and sup,—
So came this chief right frankly, and made good
His haunch against his axe, and thus spoke up,
Doffing his cap, which was an acorn's cup:—
'We be small foresters and gay, who tend
On trees, and all their furniture of green,
Training the young boughs airily to bend,
And show blue snatches of the sky between;—
Or knit more close intricacies, to screen
Birds' crafty dwellings, as may hide them best,
But most the timid blackbird's—she that, seen,
Will bear black poisonous berries to her nest,
Lest man should cage the darlings of her breast.'
'We bend each tree in proper attitude,
And founting willows train in silvery falls;
We frame all shady roofs and arches rude,
And verdant aisles leading to Dryads' halls,
Or deep recesses where the Echo calls;—
We shape all plumy trees against the sky,
And carve tall elms' Corinthian capitals,—
When sometimes, as our tiny hatchets ply,
Men say, the tapping woodpecker is nigh.'
'Sometimes we scoop the squirrel's hollow cell,
And sometimes carve quaint letters on trees' rind,
That haply some lone musing wight may spell
Dainty Aminta,—Gentle Rosalind,—
Or chastest Laura,—sweetly call'd to mind
In sylvan solitudes, ere he lies down;—
And sometimes we enrich gray stems with twined
And vagrant ivy,—or rich moss, whose brown
Burns into gold as the warm sun goes down.'
'And, lastly, for mirth's sake and Christmas cheer,
We bear the seedling berries, for increase,
To graft the Druid oaks, from year to year,
Careful that mistletoe may never cease;—
Wherefore, if thou dost prize the shady peace
Of sombre forests, or to see light break
Through sylvan cloisters, and in spring release
Thy spirit amongst leaves from careful ake,
Spare us our lives for the Green Dryad's sake.'
Then Saturn, with a frown:—'Go forth, and fell
Oak for your coffins, and thenceforth lay by
Your axes for the rust, and bid farewell
To all sweet birds, and the blue peeps of sky
Through tangled branches, for ye shall not spy
The next green generation of the tree;
But hence with the dead leaves, whene'e they fly,—
Which in the bleak air I would rather see,
Than flights of the most tuneful birds that be.'
'For I dislike all prime, and verdant pets,
Ivy except, that on the aged wall
Prays with its worm-like roots, and daily frets
The crumbled tower it seems to league withal,
King-like, worn down by its own coronal:—
Neither in forest haunts love I to won,
Before the golden plumage 'gins to fall,
And leaves the brown bleak limbs with few leaves on,
Or bare—like Nature in her skeleton.'
'For then sit I amongst the crooked boughs,
Wooing dull Memory with kindred sighs;
And there in rustling nuptials we espouse,
Smit by the sadness in each other's eyes;—
But Hope must have green bowers and blue skies,
And must be courted with the gauds of Spring;
Whilst Youth leans god-like on her lap, and cries,
'What shall we always do, but love and sing?'—
And Time is reckon'd a discarded thing.'
Here in my dream it made me fret to see
How Puck, the antic, all this dreary while
Had blithely jested with calamity,
With mis-timed mirth mocking the doleful style
Of his sad comrades, till it raised my bile
To see him so reflect their grief aside,
Turning their solemn looks to have a smile—
Like a straight stick shown crooked in the tide;—
But soon a novel advocate I spied.
Quoth he—'We teach all natures to fulfil
Their fore-appointed crafts, and instincts meet,—
The bee's sweet alchemy,—the spider's skill,—
The pismire's care to garner up his wheat,—
And rustic masonry to swallows fleet,—
The lapwing's cunning to preserve her nest,—
But most, that lesser pelican, the sweet
And shrilly ruddock, with its bleeding breast,
Its tender pity of poor babes distrest.'
'Sometimes we cast our shapes, and in sleek skins
Delve with the timid mole, that aptly delves
From our example; so the spider spins,
And eke the silk-worm, pattern'd by ourselves:
Sometimes we travail on the summer shelves
Of early bees, and busy toils commence,
Watch'd of wise men, that know not we are elves,
But gaze and marvel at our stretch of sense,
And praise our human-like intelligence.'
'Wherefore, by thy delight in that old tale,
And plaintive dirges the late robins sing,
What time the leaves are scatter'd by the gale,
Mindful of that old forest burying;—
As thou dost love to watch each tiny thing,
For whom our craft most curiously contrives,
If thou hast caught a bee upon the wing,
To take his honey-bag,—spare us our lives,
And we will pay the ransom in full hives.'
'Now by my glass,' quoth Time, 'ye do offend
In teaching the brown bees that careful lore,
And frugal ants, whose millions would have end,
But they lay up for need a timely store,
And travail with the seasons evermore;
Whereas Great Mammoth long hath pass'd away,
And none but I can tell what hide he wore;
Whilst purblind men, the creatures of a day,
In riddling wonder his great bones survey.'
Then came an elf, right beauteous to behold,
Whose coat was like a brooklet that the sun
Hath all embroider'd with its crooked gold,
It was so quaintly wrought and overrun
With spangled traceries,—most meet for one
That was a warden of the pearly streams;—
And as he stept out of the shadows dun,
His jewels sparkled in the pale moon's gleams,
And shot into the air their pointed beams.
Quoth he,—'We bear the gold and silver keys
Of bubbling springs and fountains, that below
Course thro' the veiny earth,—which when they freeze
Into hard crysolites, we bid to flow,
Creeping like subtle snakes, when, as they go,
We guide their windings to melodious falls,
At whose soft murmurings, so sweet and low,
Poets have tuned their smoothest madrigals,
To sing to ladies in their banquet-halls.'
'And when the hot sun with his steadfast heat
Parches the river god,—whose dusty urn
Drips miserly, till soon his crystal feet
Against his pebbly floor wax faint and burn
And languid fish, unpoised, grow sick and yearn,—
Then scoop we hollows in some sandy nook,
And little channels dig, wherein we turn
The thread-worn rivulet, that all forsook
The Naiad-lily, pining for her brook.'
'Wherefore, by thy delight in cool green meads,
With living sapphires daintily inlaid,—
In all soft songs of waters and their reeds,—
And all reflections in a streamlet made,
Haply of thy own love, that, disarray'd,
Kills the fair lily with a livelier white,—
By silver trouts upspringing from green shade,
And winking stars reduplicate at night,
Spare us, poor ministers to such delight.'
Howbeit his pleading and his gentle looks
Moved not the spiteful Shade:—Quoth he, 'Your taste
Shoots wide of mine, for I despise the brooks
And slavish rivulets that run to waste
In noontide sweats, or, like poor vassals, haste
To swell the vast dominion of the sea,
In whose great presence I am held disgraced,
And neighbor'd with a king that rivals me
In ancient might and hoary majesty.'
'Whereas I ruled in Chaos, and still keep
The awful secrets of that ancient dearth,
Before the briny fountains of the deep
Brimm'd up the hollow cavities of earth;—
I saw each trickling Sea-God at his birth,
Each pearly Naiad with her oozy locks,
And infant Titans of enormous girth,
Whose huge young feet yet stumbled on the rocks,
Stunning the early world with frequent shocks.'
'Where now is Titan, with his cumbrous brood,
That scared the world?—By this sharp scythe they fell,
And half the sky was curdled with their blood:
So have all primal giants sigh'd farewell.
No wardens now by sedgy fountains dwell,
Nor pearly Naiads. All their days are done
That strove with Time, untimely, to excel;
Wherefore I razed their progenies, and none
But my great shadow intercepts the sun!'
Then saith the timid Fay—'Oh, mighty Time!
Well hast thou wrought the cruel Titans' fall,
For they were stain'd with many a bloody crime:
Great giants work great wrongs,—but we are small,
For love goes lowly;—but Oppression's tall,
And with surpassing strides goes foremost still
Where love indeed can hardly reach at all;
Like a poor dwarf o'erburthen'd with good will,
That labors to efface the tracks of ill.—'
'Man even strives with Man, but we eschew
The guilty feud, and all fierce strifes abhor;
Nay, we are gentle as the sweet heaven's dew,
Beside the red and horrid drops of war,
Weeping the cruel hates men battle for,
Which worldly bosoms nourish in our spite:
For in the gentle breast we ne'er withdraw,
But only when all love hath taken flight,
And youth's warm gracious heart is hardened quite.'
'So are our gentle natures intertwined
With sweet humanities, and closely knit
In kindly sympathy with human kind.
Witness how we befriend, with elfin wit,
All hopeless maids and lovers,—nor omit
Magical succors unto hearts forlorn:—
We charm man's life, and do not perish it;—
So judge us by the helps we showed this morn,
To one who held his wretched days in scorn.'
''Twas nigh sweet Amwell;—for the Queen had task'd
Our skill to-day amidst the silver Lea,
Whereon the noontide sun had not yet bask'd,
Wherefore some patient man we thought to see,
Planted in moss-grown rushes to the knee,
Beside the cloudy margin cold and dim;—
Howbeit no patient fisherman was he
That cast his sudden shadow from the brim,
Making us leave our toils to gaze on him.'
'His face was ashy pale, and leaden care
Had sunk the levell'd arches of his brow,
Once bridges for his joyous thoughts to fare
Over those melancholy springs and slow,
That from his piteous eyes began to flow,
And fell anon into the chilly stream;
Which, as his mimick'd image show'd below,
Wrinkled his face with many a needless seam,
Making grief sadder in its own esteem.'
'And lo! upon the air we saw him stretch
His passionate arms; and, in a wayward strain,
He 'gan to elegize that fellow wretch
That with mute gestures answer'd him again,
Saying, 'Poor slave, how long wilt thou remain
Life's sad weak captive in a prison strong,
Hoping with tears to rust away thy chain,
In bitter servitude to worldly wrong?—
Thou wear'st that mortal livery too long!''
'This, with more spleenful speeches and some tears,
When he had spent upon the imaged wave,
Speedily I convened my elfin peers
Under the lily-cups, that we might save
This woeful mortal from a wilful grave
By shrewd diversions of his mind's regret,
Seeing he was mere Melancholy's slave,
That sank wherever a dark cloud he met,
And straight was tangled in her secret net.'
'Therefore, as still he watch'd the water's flow,
Daintily we transform'd, and with bright fins
Came glancing through the gloom; some from below
Rose like dim fancies when a dream begins,
Snatching the light upon their purple skins;
Then under the broad leaves made slow retire:
One like a golden galley bravely wins
Its radiant course,—another glows like fire,—
Making that wayward man our pranks admire.'
'And so he banish'd thought, and quite forgot
All contemplation of that wretched face;
And so we wiled him from that lonely spot
Along the river's brink; till, by heaven's grace,
He met a gentle haunter of the place,
Full of sweet wisdom gather'd from the brooks,
Who there discuss'd his melancholy case
With wholesome texts learned from kind nature's books,
Meanwhile he newly trimm'd his lines and hooks.'
Herewith the Fairy ceased. Quoth Ariel now—
'Let me remember how I saved a man,
Whose fatal noose was fastened on a bough,
Intended to abridge his sad life's span;
For haply I was by when he began
His stern soliloquy in life dispraise,
And overheard his melancholy plan,
How he had made a vow to end his days,
And therefore follow'd him in all his ways.'
'Through brake and tangled copse, for much he loathed
All populous haunts, and roam'd in forests rude,
To hide himself from man. But I had clothed
My delicate limbs with plumes, and still pursued,
Where only foxes and wild cats intrude,
Till we were come beside an ancient tree
Late blasted by a storm. Here he renew'd
His loud complaints,—choosing that spot to be
The scene of his last horrid tragedy.'
'It was a wild and melancholy glen,
Made gloomy by tall firs and cypress dark,
Whose roots, like any bones of buried men,
Push'd through the rotten sod for fear's remark;
A hundred horrid stems, jagged and stark,
Wrestled with crooked arms in hideous fray,
Besides sleek ashes with their dappled bark,
Like crafty serpents climbing for a prey,
With many blasted oaks moss-grown and gray.'
'But here upon his final desperate clause
Suddenly I pronounced so sweet a strain,
Like a pang'd nightingale, it made him pause,
Till half the frenzy of his grief was slain,
The sad remainder oozing from his brain
In timely ecstasies of healing tears,
Which through his ardent eyes began to drain;—
Meanwhile the deadly Fates unclosed their shears:—
So pity me and all my fated peers!'
Thus Ariel ended, and was some time hush'd:
When with the hoary shape a fresh tongue pleads,
And red as rose the gentle Fairy blush'd
To read the records of her own good deeds:—
'It chanced,' quoth she, 'in seeking through the meads
For honied cowslips, sweetest in the morn,
Whilst yet the buds were hung with dewy beads.'
And Echo answered to the huntsman's horn,
We found a babe left in the swaths forlorn.
'A little, sorrowful, deserted thing,
Begot of love, and yet no love begetting;
Guiltless of shame, and yet for shame to wring;
And too soon banish'd from a mother's petting,
To churlish nurture and the wide world's fretting,
For alien pity and unnatural care;—
Alas! to see how the cold dew kept wetting
His childish coats, and dabbled all his hair,
Like gossamers across his forehead fair.'
'His pretty pouting mouth, witless of speech,
Lay half-way open like a rose-lipp'd shell;
And his young cheek was softer than a peach,
Whereon his tears, for roundness, could not dwell,
But quickly roll'd themselves to pearls, and fell,
Some on the grass, and some against his hand,
Or haply wander'd to the dimpled well,
Which love beside his mouth had sweetly plann'd,
Yet not for tears, but mirth and smilings bland.'
'Pity it was to see those frequent tears
Falling regardless from his friendless eyes;
There was such beauty in those twin blue spheres,
As any mother's heart might leap to prize;
Blue were they, like the zenith of the skies
Softened betwixt two clouds, both clear and mild;—
Just touched with thought, and yet not over wise,
They show'd the gentle spirit of a child,
Not yet by care or any craft defiled.'
'Pity it was to see the ardent sun
Scorching his helpless limbs—it shone so warm;
For kindly shade or shelter he had none,
Nor mother's gentle breast, come fair or storm.
Meanwhile I bade my pitying mates transform
Like grasshoppers, and then, with shrilly cries,
All round the infant noisily we swarm,
Haply some passing rustic to advise—
Whilst providential Heaven our care espies.'
'And sends full soon a tender-hearted hind,
Who, wond'ring at our loud unusual note,
Strays curiously aside, and so doth find
The orphan child laid in the grass remote,
And laps the foundling in his russet coat,
Who thence was nurtured in his kindly cot:—
But how he prosper'd let proud London quote,
How wise, how rich, and how renown'd he got,
And chief of all her citizens, I wot.'
'Witness his goodly vessels on the Thames,
Whose holds were fraught with costly merchandise,—
Jewels from Ind, and pearls for courtly dames,
And gorgeous silks that Samarcand supplies:
Witness that Royal Bourse he bade arise,
The mart of merchants from the East and West:
Whose slender summit, pointing to the skies,
Still bears, in token of his grateful breast,
The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest—'
'The tender grasshopper, his chosen crest,
That all the summer, with a tuneful wing,
Makes merry chirpings in its grassy nest,
Inspirited with dew to leap and sing:—
So let us also live, eternal King!
Partakers of the green and pleasant earth:—
Pity it is to slay the meanest thing,
That, like a mote, shines in the smile of mirth:—
Enough there is of joy's decrease and dearth!'
'Enough of pleasure, and delight, and beauty,
Perish'd and gone, and hasting to decay;—
Enough to sadden even thee, whose duty
Or spite it is to havoc and to slay:
Too many a lovely race razed quite away,
Hath left large gaps in life and human loving;—
Here then begin thy cruel war to stay,
And spare fresh sighs, and tears, and groans, reproving
Thy desolating hand for our removing.'
Now here I heard a shrill and sudden cry,
And, looking up, I saw the antic Puck
Grappling with Time, who clutch'd him like a fly,
Victim of his own sport,—the jester's luck!
He, whilst his fellows grieved, poor wight, had stuck
His freakish gauds upon the Ancient's brow,
And now his ear, and now his beard, would pluck;
Whereas the angry churl had snatched him now,
Crying, 'Thou impish mischief, who art thou?'
'Alas!' quoth Puck, 'a little random elf,
Born in the sport of nature, like a weed,
For simple sweet enjoyment of myself,
But for no other purpose, worth, or need;
And yet withal of a most happy breed;
And there is Robin Goodfellow besides,
My partner dear in many a prankish deed
To make dame Laughter hold her jolly sides,
Like merry mummers twain on holy tides.'
''Tis we that bob the angler's idle cork,
Till e'en the patient man breathes half a curse;
We steal the morsel from the gossip's fork,
And curdling looks with secret straws disperse,
Or stop the sneezing chanter at mid verse:
And when an infant's beauty prospers ill,
We change, some mothers say, the child at nurse:
But any graver purpose to fulfil,
We have not wit enough, and scarce the will.'
'We never let the canker melancholy
To gather on our faces like a rust,
But glass our features with some change of folly,
Taking life's fabled miseries on trust,
But only sorrowing when sorrow must:
We ruminate no sage's solemn cud,
But own ourselves a pinch of lively dust
To frisk upon a wind,—whereas the flood
Of tears would turn us into heavy mud.'
'Beshrew those sad interpreters of nature,
Who gloze her lively universal law,
As if she had not form'd our cheerful feature
To be so tickled with the slightest straw!
So let them vex their mumbling mouths, and draw
The corners downward, like a wat'ry moon,
And deal in gusty sighs and rainy flaw—
We will not woo foul weather all too soon,
Or nurse November on the lap of June.'
'For ours are winging sprites, like any bird,
That shun all stagnant settlements of grief;
And even in our rest our hearts are stirr'd,
Like insects settled on a dancing leaf:—
This is our small philosophy in brief,
Which thus to teach hath set me all agape:
But dost thou relish it? O hoary chief!
Unclasp thy crooked fingers from my nape,
And I will show thee many a pleasant scrape.'
Then Saturn thus:—shaking his crooked blade
O'erhead, which made aloft a lightning flash
In all the fairies' eyes, dismally fray'd!
His ensuing voice came like the thunder crash—
Meanwhile the bolt shatters some pine or ash—
'Thou feeble, wanton, foolish, fickle thing!
Whom nought can frighten, sadden, or abash,—
To hope my solemn countenance to wring
To idiot smiles!—but I will prune thy wing!'
'Lo! this most awful handle of my scythe
Stood once a May-pole, with a flowery crown,
Which rustics danced around, and maidens blithe,
To wanton pipings;—but I pluck'd it down,
And robed the May Queen in a churchyard gown,
Turning her buds to rosemary and rue;
And all their merry minstrelsy did drown,
And laid each lusty leaper in the dew;—
So thou shalt fare—and every jovial crew!'
Here he lets go the struggling imp, to clutch.
His mortal engine with each grisly hand,
Which frights the elfin progeny so much,
They huddle in a heap, and trembling stand
All round Titania, like the queen bee's band,
With sighs and tears and very shrieks of woe!—
Meanwhile, some moving argument I plann'd,
To make the stern Shade merciful,—when lo!
He drops his fatal scythe without a blow!
For, just at need, a timely Apparition
Steps in between, to bear the awful brunt;
Making him change his horrible position,
To marvel at this comer, brave and blunt,
That dares Time's irresistible affront,
Whose strokes have scarr'd even the gods of old;—
Whereas this seem'd a mortal, at mere hunt
For coneys, lighted by the moonshine cold,
Or stalker of stray deer, stealthy and bold.
Who, turning to the small assembled fays,
Doffs to the lily queen his courteous cap,
And holds her beauty for a while in gaze,
With bright eyes kindling at this pleasant hap;
And thence upon the fair moon's silver map,
As if in question of this magic chance,
Laid like a dream upon the green earth's lap;
And then upon old Saturn turns askance,
Exclaiming, with a glad and kindly glance:—
'Oh, these be Fancy's revelers by night!
Stealthy companions of the downy moth—
Diana's motes, that flit in her pale light,
Shunners of sunbeams in diurnal sloth;—
These be the feasters on night's silver cloth;—
The gnat with shrilly trump is their convener,
Forth from their flowery chambers, nothing loth,
With lulling tunes to charm the air serener,
Or dance upon the grass to make it greener.'
'These be the pretty genii of the flow'rs,
Daintily fed with honey and pure dew—
Midsummer's phantoms in her dreaming hours,
King Oberon, and all his merry crew,
The darling puppets of romance's view;
Fairies, and sprites, and goblin elves we call them,
Famous for patronage of lovers true;—
No harm they act, neither shall harm befall them,
So do not thus with crabbed frowns appal them.'
O what a cry was Saturn's then!—it made
The fairies quake. 'What care I for their pranks,
However they may lovers choose to aid,
Or dance their roundelays on flow'ry banks?—
Long must they dance before they earn my thanks,—
So step aside, to some far safer spot,
Whilst with my hungry scythe I mow their ranks,
And leave them in the sun, like weeds, to rot,
And with the next day's sun to be forgot.'
Anon, he raised afresh his weapon keen;
But still the gracious Shade disarm'd his aim,
Stepping with brave alacrity between,
And made his sore arm powerless and tame.
His be perpetual glory, for the shame
Of hoary Saturn in that grand defeat!—
But I must tell how here Titania, came
With all her kneeling lieges, to entreat
His kindly succor, in sad tones, but sweet.
Saying, 'Thou seest a wretched queen before thee,
The fading power of a failing land,
Who for a kingdom kneeleth to implore thee,
Now menaced by this tyrant's spoiling hand;
No one but thee can hopefully withstand
That crooked blade, he longeth so to lift.
I pray thee blind him with his own vile sand,
Which only times all ruins by its drift,
Or prune his eagle wings that are so swift.'
'Or take him by that sole and grizzled tuft,
That hangs upon his bald and barren crown;
And we will sing to see him so rebuff'd,
And lend our little mights to pull him down,
And make brave sport of his malicious frown,
For all his boastful mockery o'er men.
For thou wast born, I know, for this renown,
By my most magical and inward ken,
That readeth ev'n at Fate's forestalling pen.'
'Nay, by the golden lustre of thine eye,
And by thy brow's most fair and ample span,
Thought's glorious palace, framed for fancies high,
And by thy cheek thus passionately wan,
I know the signs of an immortal man,—
Nature's chief darling, and illustrious mate,
Destined to foil old Death's oblivious plan,
And shine untarnish'd by the fogs of Fate,
Time's famous rival till the final date!'
'O shield us then from this usurping Time,
And we will visit thee in moonlight dreams;
And teach thee tunes, to wed unto thy rhyme,
And dance about thee in all midnight gleams,
Giving thee glimpses of our magic schemes,
Such as no mortal's eye hath ever seen;
And, for thy love to us in our extremes,
Will ever keep thy chaplet fresh and green,
Such as no poet's wreath hath ever been!'
'And we'll distil thee aromatic dews,
To charm thy sense, when there shall be no flow'rs;
And flavor'd syrups in thy drinks infuse,
And teach the nightingale to haunt thy bow'rs,
And with our games divert thy weariest hours,
With all that elfin wits can e'er devise.
And, this churl dead, there'll be no hasting hours
To rob thee of thy joys, as now joy flies':—
Here she was stopp'd by Saturn's furious cries.]
Whom, therefore, the kind Shade rebukes anew,
Saying, 'Thou haggard Sin, go forth, and scoop
Thy hollow coffin in some churchyard yew,
Or make th' autumnal flow'rs turn pale, and droop;
Or fell the bearded corn, till gleaners stoop
Under fat sheaves,—or blast the piny grove;—
But here thou shall not harm this pretty group,
Whose lives are not so frail and feebly wove,
But leased on Nature's loveliness and love.'
''Tis these that free the small entangled fly,
Caught in the venom'd spider's crafty snare;—
These be the petty surgeons that apply
The healing balsams to the wounded hare,
Bedded in bloody fern, no creature's care!—
These be providers for the orphan brood,
Whose tender mother hath been slain in air,
Quitting with gaping bill her darling's food,
Hard by the verge of her domestic wood.'
''Tis these befriend the timid trembling stag,
When, with a bursting heart beset with fears,
He feels his saving speed begin to flag;
For then they quench the fatal taint with tears,
And prompt fresh shifts in his alarum'd ears,
So piteously they view all bloody morts;
Or if the gunner, with his arms, appears,
Like noisy pyes and jays, with harsh reports,
They warn the wild fowl of his deadly sports.'
'For these are kindly ministers of nature,
To soothe all covert hurts and dumb distress;
Pretty they be, and very small of stature,—
For mercy still consorts with littleness;—
Wherefore the sum of good is still the less,
And mischief grossest in this world of wrong;—
So do these charitable dwarfs redress
The tenfold ravages of giants strong,
To whom great malice and great might belong.'
'Likewise to them are Poets much beholden
For secret favors in the midnight glooms;
Brave Spenser quaff'd out of their goblets golden,
And saw their tables spread of prompt mushrooms,
And heard their horns of honeysuckle blooms
Sounding upon the air most soothing soft,
Like humming bees busy about the brooms,—
And glanced this fair queen's witchery full oft,
And in her magic wain soar'd far aloft.'
'Nay I myself, though mortal, once was nursed
By fairy gossips, friendly at my birth,
And in my childish ear glib Mab rehearsed
Her breezy travels round our planet's girth,
Telling me wonders of the moon and earth;
My gramarye at her grave lap I conn'd,
Where Puck hath been convened to make me mirth;
I have had from Queen Titania tokens fond,
And toy'd with Oberon's permitted wand.'
'With figs and plums and Persian dates they fed me,
And delicate cates after my sunset meal,
And took me by my childish hand, and led me
By craggy rocks crested with keeps of steel,
Whose awful bases deep dark woods conceal,
Staining some dead lake with their verdant dyes.
And when the West sparkled at Phoebus' wheel,
With fairy euphrasy they purged mine eyes,
To let me see their cities in the skies.'
''Twas they first school'd my young imagination
To take its flights like any new-fledged bird,
And show'd the span of winged meditation
Stretch'd wider than things grossly seen or heard.
With sweet swift Ariel how I soar'd and stirr'd
The fragrant blooms of spiritual bow'rs!
'Twas they endear'd what I have still preferr'd,
Nature's blest attributes and balmy pow'rs,
Her hills and vales and brooks, sweet birds and flow'rs.'
'Wherefore with all true loyalty and duty
Will I regard them in my honoring rhyme,
With love for love, and homages to beauty,
And magic thoughts gather'd in night's cool clime,
With studious verse trancing the dragon Time,
Strong as old Merlin's necromantic spells;
So these dear monarchs of the summer's prime
Shall live unstartled by his dreadful yells,
Till shrill larks warn them to their flowery cells.'
Look how a poison'd man turns livid black,
Drugg'd with a cup of deadly hellebore,
That sets his horrid features all at rack,—
So seem'd these words into the ear to pour
Of ghastly Saturn, answering with a roar
Of mortal pain and spite and utmost rage,
Wherewith his grisly arm he raised once more,
And bade the cluster'd sinews all engage,
As if at one fell stroke to wreck an age.
Whereas the blade flash'd on the dinted ground,
Down through his steadfast foe, yet made no scar
On that immortal Shade, or death-like wound;
But Time was long benumb'd, and stood ajar,
And then with baffled rage took flight afar,
To weep his hurt in some Cimmerian gloom,
Or meaner fames (like mine) to mock and mar,
Or sharp his scythe for royal strokes of doom,
Whetting its edge on some old Cæsar's tomb.
Howbeit he vanish'd in the forest shade,
Distantly heard as if some grumbling pard,
And, like Nymph Echo, to a sound decay'd;—
Meanwhile the fays cluster'd the gracious Bard,
The darling centre of their dear regard:
Besides of sundry dances on the green,
Never was mortal man so brightly starr'd,
Or won such pretty homages, I ween.
'Nod to him, Elves!' cries the melodious queen.
'Nod to him, Elves, and flutter round about him,
And quite enclose him with your pretty crowd,
And touch him lovingly, for that, without him,
The silkworm now had spun our dreary shroud;—
But he hath all dispersed Death's tearful cloud,
And Time's dread effigy scared quite away:
Bow to him then, as though to me ye bow'd,
And his dear wishes prosper and obey
Wherever love and wit can find a way!'
''Noint him with fairy dews of magic savors,
Shaken from orient buds still pearly wet,
Roses and spicy pinks,—and, of all favors,
Plant in his walks the purple violet,
And meadow-sweet under the hedges set,
To mingle breaths with dainty eglantine
And honeysuckles sweet,—nor yet forget
Some pastoral flowery chaplets to entwine,
To vie the thoughts about his brow benign!'
'Let no wild things astonish him or fear him,
But tell them all how mild he is of heart,
Till e'en the timid hares go frankly near him,
And eke the dappled does, yet never start;
Nor shall their fawns into the thickets dart,
Nor wrens forsake their nests among the leaves,
Nor speckled thrushes flutter far apart;—
But bid the sacred swallow haunt his eaves,
To guard his roof from lightning and from thieves.'
'Or when he goes the nimble squirrel's visitor,
Let the brown hermit bring his hoarded nuts,
For, tell him, this is Nature's kind Inquisitor,—
Though man keeps cautious doors that conscience shuts,
For conscious wrong all curious quest rebuts,—
Nor yet shall bees uncase their jealous stings,
However he may watch their straw-built huts;—
So let him learn the crafts of all small things,
Which he will hint most aptly when he sings.'
Here she leaves off, and with a graceful hand
Waves thrice three splendid circles round his head;
Which, though deserted by the radiant wand,
Wears still the glory which her waving shed,
Such as erst crown'd the old Apostle's head,
To show the thoughts there harbor'd were divine,
And on immortal contemplations fed:—
Goodly it was to see that glory shine
Around a brow so lofty and benign!—
Goodly it was to see the elfin brood
Contend for kisses of his gentle hand,
That had their mortal enemy withstood,
And stay'd their lives, fast ebbing with the sand.
Long while this strife engaged the pretty band;
But now bold Chanticleer, from farm to farm,
Challenged the dawn creeping o'er eastern land,
And well the fairies knew that shrill alarm,
Which sounds the knell of every elfish charm.
And soon the rolling mist, that 'gan arise
From plashy mead and undiscover'd stream,
Earth's morning incense to the early skies,
Crept o'er the failing landscape of my dream.
Soon faded then the Phantom of my theme—
A shapeless shade, that fancy disavowed,
And shrank to nothing in the mist extreme,
Then flew Titania,—and her little crowd,
Like flocking linnets, vanished in a cloud.