Come With The Summer Leaves
Come with the summer leaves, love, to my grave,
And, if you doubt among the quiet dead,
Choose out that mound where greenest grasses wave
And where the flowers grow thickest and most red.
Come in the morning while the dews of night,
Which are fair Nature's tears in darkness shed,
Rim the sad petals nor are garnered quite,
Like my lost hopes untimely harvested.
Come to my grave--ah gather, love, those flowers!
Out of my heart they grow for your dear head.
These are its songs unwritten and all yours,
The love I loved you with and left unsaid.
Esther, A Sonnet Sequence: Xxv
My childhood, then, had passed a mystery
Shrouded by death, my boyhood a shut thing.
The passion of my soul as it grew free
With growing youth, a bird with broken wing,
Knew nothing of its strength to dare or do,
Or, if it dreamed of battle still to come,
That was its secret hidden in the blue
Of life's great vault of tears which was its doom,
A duty of revenge some day for blood.
Enough! You know I held me from the press
To whom base things are nothing, that I stood
Parted from this world's weekday wickedness
By a whole legend of romance sublime,
Perhaps by the dead virtue of a crime.
Natalia’s Resurrection: Sonnet Vi
So he departed angry and in haste,
A bitter wanderer on the ways of life:
He cared not whither so he found a feast
Spread for his hunger which should need no strife.
He went out silent, scornful and alone,
That none might pity him. He would not make
Of his too public grief a public moan,
Nor yet feign laughter for his manhood's sake,
For now that love was lost he less had heart
To cast his pride too on the dunghill there,
And his were griefs where none could bear a part,
And his a cup of pain no lips could share.
He went his way, to Germany some said,
And some to Naples, some that he was dead.
On A Grave In The Forest
Hush, gentle stranger. Here lies one asleep
In the tall grass whom we must not awaken.
For see, the wildest winds hush here and keep
Silence for her and not a leaf is shaken,
Lest she should wake and find herself forsaken.
Close to my feet aweary did she creep
And slept, and she is sweetly still mistaken
Deeming I stand by her and watch her sleep.
--Hush, gentle stranger! One as gentle lies
In this poor grave, and weep before you go
For one who knew no weeping, yet abode
Among our human sorrows and was wise
With tenderer sympathy than tears can show,
The gentlest kindliest creature made by God.
Esther, A Sonnet Sequence: I
When is life other than a tragedy,
Whether it is played in tears from the first scene,
In sable robes and grief's mute pageantry,
For loves that died ere they had ever been,
Or whether on the edge of joys set keen,
While all the stage with laughter is agog,
Death stepping forward with an altered mien
Pulls off his mask, and speaks the epilogue?
Life is a play acted by dying men,
Where, if its heroes seem to foot it well
And go light--tongued without grimace of pain,
Death will be found anon. And who shall tell
Which part was saddest, or in youth or age,
When the tired actor stops and leaves the stage?
Natalia’s Resurrection: Sonnet Xxii
The thought of night consoled him. To his vision
Natalia was dead only in false death,
The sleeping treason of some false misprision,
Some silent mystery of shortened breath,
Not dead in truth for ever and to him,
Or to that other life his dream foretold:--
Her murderers these. And in his heart the whim
Rose he should draw her from her cincture cold,
And set his lips upon her lips once more,
And free her spirit thus from its dull trance,
And all should be between them as before,
Only more dear for her deliverance.
And darkly there he smiled as, their work done,
The mourners left him with their dead alone.
Natalia’s Resurrection: Sonnet Xxxi
Rather I hold with those that tell it thus,
That they, who had made proof of their great faith,
Were joined no less with honour in love's house
By Holy Church, which binding looseneth,
Since it is written that 'twixt maid and man
The wedded contract joining hand and heart
For this life is and passeth not the span
Of victor death which all our bonds doth part.
And it were grievous one should suffer all,
Even death's last pang and an untimely grave,
If overcoming he again should fall
Prisoner to penance and to sorrow slave.
Ah, no! They lived the life their love had given,
And we too all, so grant it kindly Heaven!
To A Dead Journalist
The busy trade of life is over now,
The intricate toil which was so hard for bread,
The strife each day renewed 'neath this poor brow
By this frail hand to be interpreted,
The zeal, the forethought, the heart's wounds that bled,
The anger roused, the stark blow answering blow,
All that was centred in that aching head
Of black necessity for weal or woe.
--Its use, its purpose what? Nay, less than none,
More blindly naught than even the dull clay
Left on this bed, its corporal union done,
Which we must shovel to its grave to--day.
O soul of Man, thou pilgrim of distress
Lost in Time's void! Thou wind of nothingness!
Laughter And Death
THERE is no laughter in the natural world
Of beast or fish or bird, though no sad doubt
Of their futurity to them unfurled
Has dared to check the mirth-compelling shout.
The lion roars his solemn thunder out
To the sleeping woods. The eagle screams her cry.
Even the lark must strain a serious throat
To hurl his blest defiance at the sky.
Fear, anger, jealousy, have found a voice.
Love’s pain or rapture the brute bosoms swell.
Nature has symbols for her nobler joys,
Her nobler sorrows. Who had dared foretell
That only man, by some sad mockery,
Should learn to laugh who learns that he must die?
The Love Sonnets Of Proteus. Part Iv: Vita Nova: Lxxxviii
THE SAME CONTINUED
There were two with thee in thine agony,
I and another. In that hour supreme
We stood beside thy cross and gazed at thee,
Waiting till death should wake thee from thy dream.
Thy hands held both our hands and clung to them
And drew them to each other. We could see
Thy dumb lips open as to either name
And thy eyes turn to our eyes wistfully.
O eloquent eyes! Ye were not closed in vain.
Still from the grave ye speak, ``Behold a son,
Behold a mother.'' From that rite of pain
We two went home together bone of bone
And flesh of flesh, distinguished among men,
Thy witnesses till death shall come again.
The Love Sonnets Of Proteus. Part I: To Manon: Xvii
I had a live joy once and pampered her,
For I had brought her from the ``golden East,''
To lie when nights were cold upon my breast
And sit beside me the long days and purr,
Until her whole soul should be lapped in fur,
Deep as her claws; a beautiful sleek beast,
Which I might love.--But, when I deemed it least,
Her topaz eyes were on my stomacher,
Athirst for blood. Thus, for I loathed her since
I learned her guile, one night I had her slain
And thrown upon a dunghill to the flies,
Who bred in her fair limbs a pestilence,
Whereof I sickened.--Thus it ever is:
Dead joys unburied breed us death and pain.
All White Continued
Ah, beautiful sweet woman, made in vain,
Since Launcelot is dead and only I,
Alas for this new world of recreant men,
Remain in age Love's creed to justify
And prove his right to fools who would deny!
Heaven's help shall win her, though she long hath been
Child of a doubting Age. Or let me die
At her dear feet, my Guenevere, my queen.
--Ride therefore forth, my soul, on this last quest.
Oblivion soon shall fold all in its arms.
Love, if she love thee or love not. The loss
Is hers, not thine, since each thing else is dross;
Not thine, whom Heaven makes whole and no hurt harms,
Even that of death, so thou have loved thy best.
The Love Sonnets Of Proteus. Part Iv: Vita Nova: Xcvi
ON THE SHORTNESS OF TIME
If I could live without the thought of death,
Forgetful of time's waste, the soul's decay,
I would not ask for other joy than breath
With light and sound of birds and the sun's ray.
I could sit on untroubled day by day
Watching the grass grow, and the wild flowers range
From blue to yellow and from red to grey
In natural sequence as the seasons change.
I could afford to wait, but for the hurt
Of this dull tick of time which chides my ear.
But now I dare not sit with loins ungirt
And staff unlifted, for death stands too near.
I must be up and doing--ay, each minute.
The grave gives time for rest when we are in it.
Natalia’s Resurrection: Sonnet Xxvii
She wakes, she breathes, she rises from her bed,
That bed of death where she has lain so long;
The flowers they set there fall from her fair head
Withered, while she, sweet soul, has known no wrong.
Forth from her grave miraculously white,
And all unstained by the dull earth's decay,
Natalia rises, a last star of night,
Just as the dawn is breaking into day.
Upon the stones they kneeled them down and prayed,
For hearts grow soft with a long danger past,
And both were young and for a while dismayed
At their great joy nor deemed they held it fast;
Then, having kissed and wept, they turned to go
Through the dark church with faltering steps and slow.
The Two Highwaymen
I LONG have had a quarrel set with Time
Because he robb'd me. Every day of life
Was wrested from me after bitter strife:
I never yet could see the sun go down
But I was angry in my heart, nor hear
The leaves fall in the wind without a tear
Over the dying summer. I have known
No truce with Time nor Time's accomplice, Death.
The fair world is the witness of a crime
Repeated every hour. For life and breath
Are sweet to all who live; and bitterly
The voices of these robbers of the heath
Sound in each ear and chill the passer-by.
--What have we done to thee, thou monstrous Time?
What have we done to Death that we must die?
The Love Sonnets Of Proteus. Part Iv: Vita Nova: Lxxxv
THE SAME CONTINUED
These flowers shall be my offering, living flowers
Which here shall die with you in sacrifice,
Flowers from the empty fields which once were yours
And now are mine. No gold, nor myrrh, nor spice,
Nor any dead man's offering may suffice.
I love not flowers: but thus to deck a grave
Which has no need of things of greater price.
Life is the only tribute death would have.
--Ah, thou art dead. Mine is this fair domain
With all its living beauty and brave shows
Of lawn, and lake, and garden; mine the increase
Of the year's harvest, the slow growth of trees,
And that fair natural wealth we loved in vain,
Flowers, which shall never more adorn my house.
The Idler’s Calendar. Twelve Sonnets For The Months. September
FEAST OF ST. PARTRIDGE
The only saint in all our calendar
Is good St. Partridge. 'Tis his feast to--day,
The happiest day of all a happy year,
And heralded as never yet was May.
The dawn has found us marshalled for the fray,
Striding the close--shorn stubbles ranked in line,
With lust of battle and with lust of play
Made glorious drunk as men are drunk with wine.
There go the coveys, forward birds and strong,
Bound for the mangold where they wheel and stop.
Now, steady, men, and bring the left along.
A fortune waits us in each turnip--top.
With a wild shriek, and then a whirr of wings,
The covey rises. Brace and brace they drop,
Joining the dead ranks of forgotten things
In glorious death, the fierce delight of kings.
The Death Of The Rose
Ah! life, dear life, thy summer days have flown
Swiftly yet all too late, for they did wither.
Joy should be joy for one short hour alone,
Or it will lose its loveliness for ever.
I did not spare to use the cruel knife,
But cut the rose as soon as it was day,
And gave it to my love. Its little life
Passed, like a sigh, from Nature's breast away.
Full--hearted flower, thou didst not shrink nor flee
When the steel touched thee. No sad memories
Made what thou knew not terrible to thee,
And death came on thee like a sad surprise.
Too happy flower! I would my love had died
At unawares, by such a death as thine.
I should have slain my love in its full pride,
So had it lived and been for ever mine,
A treasure for all joy to ponder on,
Laid up for aye in old Time's palaces,
A ``thing of beauty'' which my soul had won,
And death had made undying with a kiss.
The Grief Of Love
Love, I am sick for thee, sick with an absolute grief,
Sick with the thought of thy eyes and lips and bosom.
All the beauty I saw, I see to my hurt revealed.
All that I felt I feel to--day for my pain and sorrow.
Love, I would fain forget thee, hide thee in deeper night,
Shut thee where no thought is, in the grave with tears.
Love, I would turn my face to the wall and, if needs be, die;
Death less cruel were than thy eyes which have blinded me.
Since thou art gone from me, glory is gone from my life;
Dumb are the woods and streams, and dumb the voice of my soul;
Dead are the flowers we loved, blackened and sere with blight;
Earth is frost--bound under my foot where our footsteps trod.
Give me back for my sorrow the days of senseless peace,
Days when I thought not of thee, or thought in wisdom;
Let me see thee once more as thou to my folly wert,
A woman senseless as sounding brass or as tinkling cymbal.
Why didst thou show me thy heart, which I thought not of?
Why didst thou bare me thy soul, who to me wert soulless?
Why didst thou kiss my mouth, when my mouth did mock?
Why didst thou speak to my lips of love, ere my lips had spoken?
Love, thou hast made me thine, thine, and in my despite,
Laying thy hand on my heart in the soft Spring weather;
Love, thou hast bought my soul at a price, the price of thine,
Never again to mock at love, ah, never, never!
Moan on with thy loud changeless wail,
Grinding thy pebbles into thankless sand.
Oh, could I lash my angry heart like thee
Until it broke upon an iron land,
The very rocks should tremble and turn pale
To be the witness of my agony.
Fierce wind, the sob of thy dull pitiless voice
Is thick with snow.
Hiss out thy tale into my ice--bound ear
In sleety whispers, for full well I know
That in thy wanderings thou hast seen my joys,
My young joys, dead in some far hemisphere,
A land of blackness and colossal woe.
Naked they lay, my shipwrecked mariners,
Upon the shore.
The low moon pointed her long fingers, red
As a murderer's hand, between their prison bars
In the ribbed wreck, which hungry ocean tore
At the first spring--tide to reclaim the dead
And hide them in his jaws for evermore.
Tell me, thou silence, what sad death they died,
What wolfish eyes were on each other there,
When they had eaten all that hunger stays,
And thirst no longer could be quenched with pride!
Didst thou not see their teeth grow white and bare,
Grinding a savage thought for many days,
Until they fell upon their own red hearts?
Thou didst not see,
Or Thou hadst surely had some pity, God,
When they crept gnawing to the vital parts,
My joys, which I had nursed so tenderly
In the very cradle of my love's abode.
Or art Thou pitiless as wind or sea?
The gods did love Adonis, and for this
He died, ere time had furrowed his young cheek.
For Aphrodité slew him with a kiss.
He sighed one sigh, as though he fain would speak
The name he loved, but that his breath grown weak
Died on his lips. So died the summer breeze;
And all the wood was hushed a minute's space,
Where I stood listening underneath the trees,
Until a wood--chat from her secret place
Chirped in an undertone, ``He is not dead,
Not dead, for lo! the bloom upon his face
Is ruddy as the newly--blossomed rose
Which even yet is woven round his head.
But sleep, more sweet than waking dream, doth close
The laughter of his eyes. He is not dead.''
Alone in that fair wood the livelong day
And through the silent night I watched him near.
But in the morning he was fled away,
When broke the dawn upon me cold and clear.
I looked within the thicket where he lay;
And lo! the sod, which he had pressed in death,
Was white with blossoms, scattered from the may,
Which made the thick air sweet with their sweet breath.
But he was gone; and I went o'er the heath,
Clutching, like one distraught, the dim air grey
With dawning,--for a voice encompassed me,
Crying, ``Fair boy, thy youth was but a span,
Yet did it circle in eternity.
Thy epic was accomplishèd. A man
Fills but the measure of his destiny,
And thine was all complete. Ere age began
To mar the royal palace of thy youth
With upper storeys of less perfect plan,
Death, kindly Death, filled with immortal ruth,
Took back the trowel from the builder's hand,
And wrote his `fecit' on thy work of truth.''
Ghost Of The Beautiful Past
Ghost of the beautiful past, of the days long gone, of a queen, of a fair sweet woman.
Ghost with the passionate eyes, how proud, yet not too proud to have wept, to have loved, since to love is human.
Angel in fair white garments, with skirts of lawn, by the autumn wind on the pathway fluttered,
Always close by the castle wall and about to speak. But the whisper dies on her lips unuttered.
Yellow leaves deep strewn on the sward, dead leaves of a far--off glorious summer.
Yea, the leaves of the roses she plucked, petal by petal, with beating heart, for him the delayed loved comer.
Why doth she weep thus year on year? He hath tarried long, ah me, a thousand desolate years.
Why doth she weep? She hath wept enough. For see, dark down in the gardens dim, a lake. It is filled with her tears.
If I should ask her name, her title with men? But I need not ask it. I know it, alas, of old, though of old unspoken.
Is there another name but one for that face divine, for those sad sweet lips, like a bow unbent, like a bent bow broken?
No, it is none but her's, the Queen, the beloved of all, the beloved of one, when the Table Round was set in thy mead, Carleon.
None but hers, who was Guenevere, when the trumpets blew and the knights full clad rode down to joust at noon, with their clamorous shout, ``The Queen!''
Doth she remember all, or is all forgotten, pennon proud and lance in rest, the thunder of hoofs and the light swift tread of the foremost runner?
Dareth she raise her eyes, those passionate eyes, at the crowd that gazed? None of them all might meet her look, save he, her one true passionate knight, who adoring won her.
Surely, surely, she seeth; she knoweth all; she is no lost vision of death.
She hath still a smile deep hidden. She hath a name on her lips. She shall sigh, she shall speak, she shall move, when the light winds breathe from the Western Seas with the Spring that quickeneth.
Oh, she shall laugh and sing, though the shadow of Death be a cloud behind her!
Oh, she shall love! Though the dragon of grief keep watch, he shall sleep when the trees in the mead grow green, and awaking he shall not find her.
Read me a sweeter meaning, O Lady, O thou whom I serve, of this pictured story.
Read. Nay the tale is told. To it's truth I swear, by my sword, by my knightly faith, by the fame of the King and the Table Round, and the souls of the Saints in glory!
A Summer In Tuscany
Do you remember, Lucy,
How, in the days gone by
We spent a summer together,
A summer in Tuscany,
In the chestnut woods by the river,
You and the rest and I?
Your house had the largest garden,
But ours was next to the bridge,
And we had a mulberry alley
Which sloped to the water's edge.
You were always talking and laughing
On your side of the hedge.
How many sisters and brothers,
Lucy, then did you own?
Harriet and Francis and Horace
And Phyllis, a flower half--blown.
I liked you more than the others,
For you had the longest gown.
What has become of the laughter,
What of the mulberry trees?
Is there no record in Heaven,
No echo of days like these?
Francis is married and happy
And Horace beyond the seas.
Phyllis was first to desert us,
She had no soul for the Earth
But lingered a guest impatient
Alike of our sorrow and mirth.
Death's step to her on the threshold
Seemed news of a glorious birth.
Harriet, whose eyes were the brightest
The fullest of innocent guile,
Has hidden her joy and our sorrow
Under a Carmelite veil.
They call her the ``mother abbess.''
She has hardly leisure to smile.
Do you remember the ponies
We used to ride on the hill,
Every knee of them broken,
Every back like a quill,
Milor and Jack and Jill?
High o'er the plains and the valleys,
Wherever our leader led,
We two, closest of allies,
Were with him still in his tread,
Sworn to be first on his footsteps,
To serve him alive or dead.
Dead--ah dead! Who could think it?
The laughter so strong on his lips
Had seemed an elixir of living.
Where now are his jibes and his quips,
The fair paradoxes he flung us,
The fire of him?--Lost in eclipse!
All are scattered and vanished,
Laughter and smiles and tears,
Gone with the dust on the sandals
Which cling to the feet of the years.
Time has no time to remember,
And Fortune no face for our fears.
Do you remember, Lucy,
The day which too soon had come,
The first sad day of the Autumn,
The last of our summer home,
The day of my journey to England
And yours to your convent at Rome?
We rose with the dawn that morning--
--The others were hardly awake--
And took our walk by the river.
Lucy, did your heart ache?
Or was it the chill of the sunrise
That made you shiver and shake?
Lucy, the dog rose you gave me
Still lies in its secret place.
Lucy, the tears, my fool's answer,
Have left on my cheeks a trace.
The kiss you gave me at parting
I yet can feel on my face.
These are the things I remember.
These are the things that I grieve,
The joys that are scattered and vanished,
The friends I am loath to leave.
I grudge them to death and silence
And age which is death's reprieve.
Vanished, forgotten and scattered,
All but you, Lucy, and I,
Who cling some moments together
Till Time shall have hurried us by:
A moment and yet a moment,
Till we too forget and die!
Pictures On Enamel
When Astraled was lying, like to die
Of love's green sickness, all his bed was strown
With buds of crocus and anemone,
For other flowers yet were barely none,
And these he loved. And so it came to pass
That, when they deemed he slept, then one by one
The watchers left him for the Candlemas;
And thus he chanced upon his bed alone
When the day broke. You might have deemed he was
An image of Hope slain by drear Oblivion.
The chamber where he lay was hushed as sorrow,
Which is joy's anteroom. The holy night,
In silent expectation of the morrow,
Gazed on the moon, as some fair anchorite
On her own chastity, until the sight
Made her heart ache. But, as the morning broke,
Down the dim lobby came Somandolin,
With her thick hair around her like a cloak,
Even to her feet. I wot she might have been
The dawn's own sister. Clad in mystic white,
More beautiful than awe, came that fair woman in.
Long while she stood before the dreaming boy,
Still as he lay on crimson cushions piled.
And when she bent o'er him, her breath did toy
With his dank hair. Long while she stood and smiled
As smiled Elisha on the widow's child
In Shunam. For although her lips were sad
As a broken bow, if you had read their meaning
You would have learned the sense that smiling had
Was less of sorrow than of joy beguiled
To grief at the sad world and its revealing,
As when the name of Death is whispered to a child.
Doubtless that lady knew the spell to win
The life--blood back; for, when she bent her down
And laid her cheek to his that was so thin,
The shut lips quivered and let fall a moan,
As in sweet pain. And next Somandolin
Put her white hand upon the sleeper's arm
Entangled in his tresses. She could feel
The curls crisp back like leaves when they grow warm
Before a watchfire. Then she took his chin
In her two palms, and bade his eyes unseal
Their close--shut lids, and laid her lips upon his own.
Slowly, as in a trance of wonderment,
Those blue eyes opened wide, as from the dead
His spirit stole. Old memories came and went
Like summer lightnings, and a murmur sped
To his dull ear, until he deemed it said,
In a new tongue which none might heed but he,
``Arise and worship, for behold thy bed
And all about thee is as holy ground!''
And then he cried, ``Behold, dear love, I rise!''
And on a sudden, waking from his swound,
A countenance of tearful majesty
And strange ecstatic love looked in his eyes.
These things were written for a mystery
In the Book of Life, lest lovers in their need
Should faint for hunger by the road and die.
Thus were they written. Though a god should read,
He could not choose but learn a newer creed,
Transcending his own knowledge. For anon,
The Mass being ended, came the rest with speed,
Bearing with them the blest viaticum
And holy oils, nor guessed he needed not,
Who sought him a long hour. The warder told
Erewhile a knight, belike Sir Astraled,
With a white lady rode the castle out,
And all his harness was of burnished gold,
Who, pricking fast towards the rising sun,
Was gone beyond the hills upon his battle--steed.
Across The Pampas
Dost thou remember, oh, dost thou remember,
Here as we sit at home and take our rest,
How we went out one morning on a venture
In the West?
Hast thou forgotten, in these English hedgerows,
How the great Pampas rolled out like the sea?
Never a daisy in that mighty meadow!
Never a tree!
Full were our hearts upon that sunny morning;
Stout--handed and stout--hearted went we forth.
The warm wind in our faces breathed us fortune
From the North;
And high in heaven the sun stood for a token.
We had no other sign by which to steer.
No landmark is there in the Earth's great ocean,
Dost thou remember how, when night was falling,
There in the middle plain, as best we might,
We set our little tent up as a fortress
For the night?
Dost thou remember how, through the night watches,
We listened to the voices of the plain,
The owls and plovers and the bold bischachas,
Talking like men?
Drowsy we sat, and watched our horses feeding,
Dim through the night, while over the tent's mouth
The Cross was turning like a clock and reeling
In the South.
But, as the night grew out and we grew chilly,
Under our blankets safe we crept and warm,
Full of good heart and each with loaded pistols
Close to his arm;
And so dreamed pleasant dreams of far off faces,
And trees and fields which we had loved in youth,
All in a maze of present apprehension
And how we travelled on and ever onwards,
Still in the red path of the setting sun,
Until into the heart of a great woodland
We had come;
And there saw, round about our strange encampment,
Flocks of bright birds which flew and screamed at us,
Red cardinals and woodpeckers and parrots
And on the lake black--headed swans were sailing,
And in the morning to the water's brink
Flamingoes, like the rising sun, came wading
Down to drink.
Dost thou remember, oh, dost thou remember
How, in that fatal wood, the mancaròn
Found out a poisonous herb before his fellows,
And fed thereon;
And how we left him, and how Caesar sickened,
And how the sky grew dark and overcast,
And how two tragic days we rode on silent
In the blast;
And how the wind grew icy and more icy,
Until we could not feel our hands or feet,
As sick at heart we sought in vain a hiding
From the sleet;
Lighting at last on a deserted post--house,
Where we found shelter from the wind, but nought
Of entertainment for our souls or comfort
Of any sort;
And how in that wild pass brave Caesar dying
Stretched out his arm towards the promised land,
And saw as in a dream the white hills lying
Close at hand,--
For, ere the sun set, suddenly that evening,
The great plain opened out beneath our feet,
And, in a valley far below, lay gleaming,
With square and street,
And spire and dome and pinnacle, uprising
White on the bosom of a mountain slope,
To our amazement bodily the city
Of our hope.
Dost thou remember, oh, dost thou remember
How the bells rang as, sick and travel--worn,
A weary crew, we made our solemn entry
To the town?
Strangely, as phantoms out of the great desert,
We came into the city, and at last
Heard sound of Christian singing in the churches
As we passed:
And laid at length our weary limbs in rapture
Between the clean sheets of a Christian bed.
Oh! there are things I think we shall remember
When we are dead!
At A Funeral
I loved her too, this woman who is dead.
Look in my face. I have a right to go
And see the place where you have made her bed
Among the snow.
I loved her too whom you are burying.
I have a right to stand beside her bier,
And to my handful of the dust I fling,
That she may hear.
I loved her; and it was not for the eyes
Which you have shut, nor for her yellow hair,
Nor for the face which in your bosom lies.
Let it lie there!
Nor for the wild--birds' music of her voice,
Which we shall hear in dreams till we too sleep;
Nor for the rest, which made the world rejoice,
The angels weep.
It was not for the payment of sweet love,
Though love is often straitened for a kiss,
Nor for the hope of other joys above,
But only this,
That she had laid her hand upon my heart
Once in the summer time when we were young,
And that her finger--tips had left a smart,
And that my tongue
Had spoken words which might not be unspoken
Lest they should make a by--word of love's truth,
And I had sworn that love should be the token
Of my youth.
And so I gave her all, and long ago
The treasure of my youth was put in pawn;
And she was little richer that I know
When that was gone.
But I have lived a beggar since that day
And hide my face it may be from men's eyes;
For often I have seen them shrink away,
As in surprise
That such a loathsome cripple should be found
To walk abroad in daylight with the rest,
And scarce a rag to cover up the wound
Upon his breast.
Yet no man stopped to ask how this might be,
Or I had scared them, and let loose my tongue,
How I had bought myself this misery
When I was young.
Yet I have loved her. This must be my pay,
The pension I have earned me with these tears;
The right to kneel beside her grave to--day,
Despite these years,
With all her kisses burning on my cheek,
As when I left her and our love was dead,
And our lips trembled though they did not speak,
The night I fled;
The right to bid you stand aside, nor be
A witness of our meeting. Did you love
In joy as I have loved in misery?
You did not prove
Your love was stronger than the strength of death,
Or she had never died upon your hand.
I would have fed her breathing with my breath;
I would have fanned
A living wind of Heaven to her lips;
I would have stolen life from Paradise.
And she is dead, and you have seen eclipse
Within those eyes.
If I could know that you had loved her well;
If I could hold it for a certainty
That you had sold your life as I did sell;
If I could see
The blackness of your soul, and with my tongue
Taste the full bitterness of tears unshed;
If I should find your very heart was wrung
And maimed and dead;
If I should feel your hand's grasp crumble mine,
And hug the pain when I should grasp in turn;
If I could dip my fingers in the brine
Of eyes that burn;
If I could hear your voice call back the dead
With such a mighty cry of agony
That she should turn and listen in the bed
Where she doth lie,
And all the heavens should together roll,
Thinking they heard the angel's trumpet tone,
I could forget it that you bought a soul
Which was my own;
I could forget that she forgot her vows,
That aught was bartered for the wealth of love;
I could untell the story of my woes,
Till God above
Should hold her guiltless and condone the wrong
Done to His justice; I could take your hand
And call you brother, as we went along
To take our stand
Before His judgment--seat with her again
Where we are hurrying,--for we could not keep
Our place unchallenged in the ranks of men
Who do not weep.
I cannot tell his story. He was one
To whom the riddle of our human life
Was strangely put, and who, because of that
And that he could not read it, died. But a short hour
Before he passed, the woman who stood by,
Weeping as once she had wept to see him born,
Tired with her watching looked into his face
And saw the heavy eyelids dropping down
Loaded with sleep. And she, for all her tears,
Bent for the hundredth time to ease his bed.
And, as she almost touched him, smoothing out
The ruffled pillows, close into her ear
He whispered, never lifting up his eyes:
``No matter now. I shall be soon asleep.''
And then, as if he would pursue the thought
A little way as once he loved to do,
And yet too weak to catch it, he went on:
``And what a trouble it has been to keep
This pillow smooth! And in a little while
It will not want another touch; and then--
This aching head of mine will have done with thought.
Thought! Thought!'' But loud the aged woman sobbed,
``Poor soul, poor gentleman.'' So they remained
For a brief space, the goodwife standing there
Knotting her wrinkled hands and he hard by
Upon the bed and breathing heavily.
For he seemed sunk again in that dull trance
Through which men often pass away from life,
When death, as the lion does, has shaken his prey
And he lies numb and dumb and powerless.
She listened. He was telling slowly over
The names of those whom he had loved in youth.
Many were strange to her; and then there came
One she knew well. She started at the sound
She had not heard for years, and bending near
Heard him repeat it twice. She whispered hoarsely:
``Have you no word for her?''--yet stopped again
Because his eyes were open. Doubtingly
They wandered to her own and seemed to say
``Who, and what is it that you ask?'' And she
Spoke it again. He seemed to catch the name
And said it after her, but like a child
Which knows not what it speaks; and afterwards:
``Ah! Bridget, I have quite forgot that story,
And now, in half an hour, it is not long,
I shall have clean forgotten the name too.''
She cried, ``Oh Sir, it is a life too late.
Would God you had forgot it long ago!''
The tears stole slowly down her withered cheeks
And fell upon his hands. She did not move
While he went murmuring on: ``'Tis very well
Thus to forget. And what a wonder too
It now is''--and there came a sudden light
Into his eyes--``that one should ever care
To recollect a single day of life.
I used to think and plan and plot and scheme
How I might build my life in such a way
That I should take fine memories to my grave.
And now what a small matter 'tis to know
How the years went, when death in half an hour
Is all that is left of them! No matter now,
But only to sleep sound in any bed
And have no dreams.'' His eyes grew dim again
As he ceased speaking. And the woman knew
That he was dying. ``He is gone,'' she said.
And then she started muttering half aloud
``They cannot pass without the sacraments,
These gentle--folks.'' And so she hurried out.
The dying man smiled. When they came again,
She whispered in his ear, and looking down
Saw him still smiling; so she lit in haste
A candle by the bed and knelt aside.
They put the holy oils upon his hands,
Which closed upon the fingers of the priest.
The priest bent over him and laid his ear
To the half--open mouth and presently,
Thinking he heard some words, gave absolution.
But, when they would have gone on with the rest,
They found that he was dead. They buried him
With some small pomp to comfort the old dame,
Who said her master was a gentleman
And must be followed with a mourning coach
And mutes and weepers. There was no one else.
His name is cut upon a stone. His dreams
Were written on Time's hem; and Time has fled
And taken him and them. The grass is green
Upon his grave. I cannot doubt he sleeps.
Body And Soul: A Metaphysical Argument
Man openeth the case
Body, from the arrogance
Of the Soul thou seekest shield,
Makest prayer the old mis--chance
Of your birth--bond be repealed,
Since, sayest thou, the Soul would wield
Sovereign power and looks askance
At her partner in life's dance.
Tell me, Soul, why claimest thou,
Of what right, this sovereignty?
Wherefore dost thou cloud thy brow,
This thy partner standing nigh?
Scorn is written in thine eye
Watching him. Speak plain and show
All thy plaint that I may know.
The Soul speaketh
Judge most just! Wouldst ask of me
My being's secret? Ask the fire
Why he is kindled in the tree,
And why his flames mount high and higher
In scorn of the poor tortured pyre
Which feedeth him. Ask why the Sea
Thus frets her bed eternally.
The flames their kindred flames would reach;
The waves leap up towards the Moon,
And when they foam upon the beach
Grow pale like her. From morn to noon
The sun--flower turneth with the Sun.
A power there is in all and each
Should lesson thee what I would teach.
For I am subtle as the air
Which stirs the tree--tops, scattering wide
The feathered seed--blooms everywhere
And ordering all, itself unspied,
And is unchanged while all beside
Change and decay. In me no share
Is of the death these others bear.
Simple in essence I, to thee
Known but as one exiled by Fate
From her old home Eternity,
And sunk awhile from her estate
And bound to a material mate,
Through whose gross shape and quality
Alone my worth revealed may be.
Yet, shall I doubt me of the power,
Inborn in me, to seek a throne,
Although I stumble toward the hour
Which waits with death, my penance done,
Body to naught and I to run
Simple and unconditioned nor
On quality dependent more?
Or is faith nothing? O I feel
Pity for this poor thing of dust;
And that is why I bid him kneel
And be ennobled, for he must
Kneel first before his queen in trust.
Then would I strike him with my steel
And bind my spurs upon his heel.
But his mistrust defieth me,
His striving still against the bond
Which joineth us, nor will he see
Our wisdom must be straight uncrowned,
And he but perish of the wound,
In such divorcement were he free.
This is my secret, this my plea.
The Judge questioneth
Body, hast thou heard aright
How Soul thus doth thee deny?
She hath claimed in thy despite
Being from Eternity.
Hast thou ancestry as high?
Tell thy title, thou sad wight,
Else her claim will I requite. Body replieth
Wouldst thou know my lineage?
Look around thee. Thou shalt trace
From form to form, from age to age,
Fossil records of my race.
I, the latest, claim my place
Engrossed on Earth's ancestral page
By right inscribed of heritage.
Tell me, in those days long gone
Where was Soul? What then her power?
If to--day she claims a throne,
Was she fashioned me before?
Both of us old Matter bore.
I the elder was, Time's son,
Ages vast ere Soul was known.
Soul came later. My male might
Shielded her in her first cell,
She a frail fair anchorite,
Guarded by my valiance well,
Silent, sanct, intangible.
All my joy she was, and light,
A new dawning on my night.
Thus the out--set. Tryst we kept
In good concord I and she.
Mine the strength which overstepped
Her weak life's propinquity.
Or we yielded mutually;
I was weary and she slept,
She was wounded and I wept.
Happy days of growth. Ah why
Must change come with pride of youth?
She was eager, slow--foot I,
Glorious she, I all uncouth.
Her new wit showed little ruth,
Threw out cunning wings to fly,
Made as she would pass me by.
And when she found she could not win
Alone upon the blast of Time,
It irked her we were counted kin,
Until she held it me a crime
I should be matched with one sublime
And noble as she fain had been,
And last she claimed to be my queen.
Therefore from her arrogance
And her pride I make appeal
Praying this the ordinance
Of our birth--bond, grown unleal,
Thou wouldst cancel or make real.
Be our judge in this mis--chance;
Else decree deliverance. Judgement is given
I am but by your union.
With either Soul or Body lost,
All perisheth. Then work ye on
Together friends, not corpse and ghost.
To live and be is a brave boast.
Learn this; alone ye nothing can,
Yet both together ye make Man.
Death In A Ball-Room
Oh many, many thus have died, alas,
Children, poor things! The grave will have its prey.
Some flowers must still be mown down with the grass,
And in life's wild quadrille the dancers gay
Must trample here and there a weak one in their way.
Yes, thus it is. After the day the night,
A night that has no waking. Who shall tell?
A joyous crowd sits down to feast aright,
But always some one guest, where all seemed well,
Gets up and leaves his chair and hears the passing bell.
I have seen many go; cheeks rosy pink,
And blue eyes wide as if entranced with song,
And forms so frail it seemed that on death's brink
A bird had bent the branch to which it clung,
So frail the body was, the tyrant soul so strong.
One knew I who in her delirium
Uttered a name which troubled all around,
And then, like a lost chaunt for ever dumb,
She left us, smiling. In her breast we found
Some faded violets hid, by a blue ribbon bound.
Poor flowers, poor souls, and only born to die;
Fair fledglings torn untimely from their nest;
Halcyons our Earth had borrowed from the sky
For one short Spring, and then, as if confessed
Unworthy that high charge, given back to Heaven's breast.
Such have I known; and such, alas was one
Whom now I picture sadly here. Her eyes
Had gleams where April's fitful beauty shone.
I know not why she heaved so many sighs.
She was sixteen, perhaps, and cared not to be wise.
Yet think not it was love that was her death.
Love had no song for her of any tone.
Her heart had never beat too fast for brerth.
Though all men called her pretty, there was none
To whisper that soft fable in her ear alone.
No. It was dancing, dancing which she loved
Beyond all else, that caused her thus to die.
Her very dust, methinks, by night is moved
When the pale moon beneath heaven's canopy
Holds revel with the clouds in the quick--circling sky.
Balls she adored. Each evening that she danced
She thought three days and dreamed three nights of it,
And visions brave where goblin partners pranced
Beset her pillows, till she could not sit
Still in her bed but she must rise and dance a bit.
By night and day her fancy framed the sight
Of scarves and flowers and ribbons bright as noon,
And jewels gleaming with unearthly light,
And skirts of gossamer in wild festoon,
And lace like spiders' webs of spiders in the moon.
When the ball opened, she was first to come
With her proud father, honest gentleman.
Like a little mouse she ran about the room.
Oh how she frowned and rattled with her fan
And beat her pretty foot, until the dance began!
It did us good to see her dance. Her feet
Twinkled like stars in a dark firmament.
They moved so fast they made our pulses beat
Lest those frail laces should be overspent
And the white satin shoes be whirled away or rent.
She was all movement, laughter, and mad joy.
Child! How we followed her with our sad eyes,
Forgetful of the fever and annoy
And rush and dust and nameless miseries,
The punishment of souls too proud or sad or wise.
But she, borne off upon her pleasure's wing,
Whirled round and round. She never stopped for breath.
She seemed to drink the fiddler's fiddling in.
She seemed to smell the flowers of every wreath,
To dance with every step the dancers danced beneath.
'Twas joy to her to leap and bound along,
To feel as though she had a thousand feet,
To grow so giddy in the turning throng
She knew not where she was. Her heart so beat
She could not see the chairs to find herself a seat.
Alas, alas that ever morn should come
On such sweet nights! Alas that she must stand
Those hours of woe in the chill waiting room.
Oh, often ere the coach was at command,
The dawn had touched her shoulders with its naked hand.
'Tis ever a sad waking the next day.
No laughter now, but only a dull cough.
The crumpled dresses have been put away.
Pleasure is dead, and there stands Pleasure's scoff,
Fever with cheeks all red and tongue all white and rough.
She died at sixteen, happy, loved by all.
Died as she left off dancing. All of us
Wore mourning long in token of that ball.
She died upon the threshold of the house
In her white robe and wreath and sable--lined burnous.
Death took her thus that she might ever be
Dressed for new dancing. When she wakes again
She shall be ready for Eternity,
And, if in Heaven such raptures are not vain,
Shall tread fair measures still to seraph angels' strain.
To A Happy Warrior
Glory to God who made a man like this!
To God be praise who in the empty heaven
Set Earth's gay globe
With its green vesture given
And nuptial robe
To be the home enthroned of happiness!
Who from the silences
Of the dumb Universe,
For listening ears,
And fashioned the first note
Of the first linnet's throat,
His audible whisper the deep woods among!
Who, with His dance--masters,
The dappled deer
And their fleet fawns,
With rhythmic beat
Of their light feet
Upon the thyme--sweet lawns,
Framed the free gamut of the wakening year
And gave command to mirth His minister
That all things young and glad
In this fair world's expanse
Praise be! and most for these,
The lyric ecstasies
Sublime in each least lot,
The passionate plot
Subtly contrived to propagate their kind
By beast and bird and in Man's livelier mind
To make of life new life,
Of joy new joy, in corporal bliss
Man's who is man and wife,
Though neither he have thought
Nor she, in their love blind,
Of that child's smile
Half hers half his
Unborn, the while
They clasp and kiss!
These are the vastnesses
That bid us give God glory for his depths of guile.
And he? The ultimate man,
The heir of their delight,
Whose keener sight
Grasped the full vision of Time's master--plan,
And who, because he knew,
Found power to do
What the rest dared not and was thus the priest
Of the divine high feast
Of Love on Earth? Poet, whose prosody
Embraced heaven's infinite blue
And the white light of stars,
The moon's proud chastity
And the sea beating on its prison bars;
Was the procession of the months and days
In ordered praise
Of ceremonial flowers, Earth's virginal
Patchwork of shredded colours in the grass;
Whose incense was
The mist of morning, and whose sacrifice
The sun in splendour by whose light all live?
How shall we give
To one thus wise
Our homage who so loved him and alas
Now weep for him with unavailing eyes?
For what is wisdom more than this one thought,
To harvest happiness? Time has its wheat,
Its rule of life discreet,
By scholars taught,
For daily bread; and its weeds too,
Its wild crop of the woods which is not bought,
Its way that fools call folly,
Choke--pear, crab, holly,
All the riot
Of the bird's diet,
For maid and boy,
Their winter--pick of joy,
If they but knew!
And these to learn and gather in their prime
Is youth's sublime.
Here lay his victory. Not flowers alone
Nor fruits were his,
But the world's sadnesses
He gathered also, its loves lost and gone,
The tragic things that are
As the maple leaves
Of the fast dying year,
Crowning its funeral car,
The glory of its passing set on fire
In the late hedges,
The wreathed bryony
Black with the Autumn saltings of the Sea,
And those lone sedges at the lake's edges
Which winter winds have whitened on the mere.
These, as the symbols of his Soul's romance
In antique lands,
He bound into the sheaves
Of his desire,
Nobler for death.
Of these he fashioned a new chivalry
For days to be,
Incorporate with the glories of all Time,
The immortal rhyme
Of Roland and the paladins of France,
The Cid Bivar of Spain,
And those pround questers of the Holy Grail
Who rode with Arthur cap à pie in mail,
Till in his hands
It seemed the actual lance
Of Lancelot trembled and took edge and shook
Defiance at his foes in Lyonnesse,
No less than those
Of whom it is written in the old French book
That he pursued and slew and scattering rent
Their ranks in fear,
While the Earth trembled his glad shout to hear.
So he in his high rage in Parliament.
Anon, too, at the feasts
Where with the knights and ladies crowned he sat,
Of that famed Table Round, its pleasure's lord,
His was the tongue
To celebrate their praise,
Theirs the adored,
With virile minstrelsy and mirth and song,
And generous wine
In draughts divine from flagons
Rich with the mellow fruitage of the vine;
His was the tongue
To tell of valorous deeds
Done for high honour's needs
On pestilent dragons in dank forest places
Vanquished and slain, and felon knights laid low,
For fair loved faces
In days long ago;
Amorous sad tales of dolorous mistakes
At hands that sought to save;
Each laid to rest in its forgotten grave.
And with them griefs, which venturing found their hour,
Fruitage and flower,
And were fulfilled of joy;--and chiefly hers,
Royal sad Guinevere's
Noblest of all among the tragic dead.
Of her he loved to tell.
And he did well;
For she, the lady of his dreams, one night,
As it is said,
Hearing his young steps hurry
As to a goal,
To kneel at her dead feet,
Where as she lay with her sleep--folded palms
In the long calms
Of a passed soul,
Did from her cerements white
And feel her passionate heart beat
To his desire,
And in new bride's attire
Arise and live a woman for his sake,
A woman and no dream.
These were the rhapsodies of life to him,
The things that his heart's zeal
And who shall wonder if to--day we weep
Our Prince of happiness,
Our warrior dead?
If we, who saw
These wonders beyond law,
And his proud soul's essay
To live the great life of the Fellowship
In our late day,
Should mourn him fled,
Yet, none the less,
To God, with chastened but undoubting lip,
For this exemplar of His works and ways?
Since that we know that in His scheme of bliss
No permanent anguish is,
But beauty only and high ruth and truth,
And that Life's law is this:
Pleasure is duty, duty pleasure
In equal measure;
And Time's happiness
God's all--sufficient reason with the wise,
As with this man
Who sleeps in Paradise.
Queen Mary’s Letter To Bothwell
Pitiful gods! Have pity on my passion.
Teach me the road how I a certain proving
Shall make to him I love of my great loving,
My faith unchanged, nor plead it in fool's fashion.
Ah, is he weary of too full possession,
Of this poor body's zeal which naught denied him,
Of a Queen's pride enthroned too near beside him,
Her parliament of joy in too long session?
Nay, but she held as naught for him her honour,
Naught her friends' loyalty, their wrath her foemen.
Less than as naught the proud eyes of her women,
The load of a realm's anger laid upon her.
If it might vantage him! Behold me dying,
To prove my constancy, bequeathing all,
Fame, fortune, faith, my life's memorial,
The one son born to me, nor ought denying.
Queen am I with no subjects. Subject I
To my sole king. My country? 'Tis his pleasure.
There would I reign, who find in it my treasure,
For treasure--house his arms, and there would lie.
Without those frontiers would I wander never.
I am no vagrant to take ship and go.
This is my haven. Whatso winds shall blow,
They shall not tempt me to a new endeavour.
And yet he doubteth! Lo, the proof I offer:
Not tears, not prayers; a manlier test is mine.
Let others plead in weakness; my soul's wine
Has a strong logic which shall find no scoffer.
She, thy right lady for her own pride's sake,
Vowed thee obedience. 'Twas her debt of duty.
I for my shame made free gift of my beauty,
Holding it royaller to give than take.
She to her profit bindeth thee her lover,
Being thus mistress of thy wealth and name;
I to my hurt, in peril of my fame,
And dreading all men should my shame discover.
She dreadeth nothing; I have lost my daring.
She of her parents took thee proud to give;
I in despite of mine, who still must live
Fearing worse fortune through my too much caring.
And thou believest her! Although she reapeth
All her delight of thee, her place, her glory,
Her noble name who had no name in story,
(And I a queen!) Half of thy love she keepeth,
Love which was mine! And in exchange for what?
A girl's fool fancy for a boy aspirant.
How should she love thee not, thou master tyrant,
Her wedded lord, in room of that sad sot?
Mad were she else, since thou of all art master,
Supreme in valour, beauty and men's praise,
Thee in whose light I live out all my days.
How should I pity her her soul's disaster?
When first you wooed her, it was she the colder,
You the more fierce; your flame raged as a furnace,
She shrank from you abashed at love's sweet harness,
Raised a maid's finger as your zeal grew bolder.
No pleasure took she in your strength. She doubted
Naught of your constancy who least could care.
Small joy she made for you of braided hair
Or happy raiment, going meanly clouted.
Why should she deck herself? Her heart no faster
Beat, nor when even at death's door you lay.
Calmly she watched you in that disarray,
Nor trembled for you till Fate's fear had passed her.
And she lamenteth now, and moan she maketh,
Noting the petulance of her first folly,
Waileth aloud in wifely melancholy,
And blindeth thee with feint of that she lacketh.
What tales are hers! What flatteries now she weaveth,
In her false letters, as one more than I
Vowed to thy worship in long constancy
To a loved paramour! And he believeth!
Lies all! tales taken from some alien rhymer
Richer than she in words to cozen you.
Her woes are painted every week anew
On her green cheeks, each than the last sublimer.
And you give faith to her, to me light credence,
Though all my joy, my constancy is yours,
A flame which needs no kindling and endures,
Claiming its place by right of long precedence.
Too plain, alas, it is you hold me lightly,
Deem me with heart of wax, with words of wind,
A woman indiscreet and all too kind
To all the world, with a new lover nightly.
This is your ill thought which the more inflames me,
Humbling my pride, till I no longer crave
More than a share to--day of that you gave
So wholly yesterday. Your doubting shames me.
To--day I ask but this, to do you reverence,
To heap you worship and make full your fame,
To work for you the building of your name
Joined to my own. For this I bar our severance.
It is for you I supplicate my fortune,
My health restored, my strength, that you may learn
The fullness of my love and sweet concern
So dear to serve you. Thus do I importune;
Since that no wish have I but still to merit
Your life's companionship, who first of men
Possessed my body though less wholly then
My joy of heart which I of you inherit.
How many tears for you have I not wasted,
How much of anguish suffered and disgrace!
That day I saw the blood flow on your face
I knew you mine; 'twas my own death I tasted.
A day that was the last of my high queenship,
Of my life's honour held to--day in scorn,
Of my friends' faith even here where I was born
With those that nursed me or were near in kinship.
To--day I put aside their tried alliance.
Yours only do I seek, which shall sustain
My woman's weakness and make strong my reign,
And give meet answer to my foes' defiance.
This my presumption is, my reckoning this is,
The one desire of her who is your friend,
Who would your mistress be to her life's end
And serve you with her tenderest tendernesses,
You who to her are as her soul's sole brother,
A woman in subjection to your will,
To live and die for you your servant still,
You only of all men and not another.
Take it, my heart, my life, my blood, my all,
The pleasure of my days, my nights of anguish,
The lovelessness of hours where lone I languish,
And build them with me to a festival.
For now my heart is palsied with long fearings
Of this, of that, the fear lest you forget,
Lest tales be told of me, lest snares be set
To lure you from my arms to new endearings,
Some pitiful sad accident of sorrow,
Which may God shield us from with his good grace.
My fears I write who cannot see your face
Yet know my love as yesterday to--morrow.
And so farewell. Nay answer not in censure.
Be bountiful of praise nor count the cost.
Learn that that man is king who dareth most,
And his the victory who most shall venture.
Sancho Sanchez lay a--dying in the house of Mariquita,
For his life ebbed with the ebbing of the red wound in his side.
And he lay there as they left him when he came from the Corrida
In his gold embroidered jacket and his red cloak and his pride.
But at cockcrow in the morning, when the convents of Sevilla
Suddenly rang loud to matins, Sanchez wakened with a cry,
And he called to Mariquita, bade her summon his cuadrilla,
That they all might stand around him in the hour when he should die.
For he thought in his bold bosom, ``I have ventured with them often,
And have led the way to honour upon every ring in Spain.
And now in this the hardest of the fields that I have fought in
I would choose that every face of them were witness of my pain.
``For their stern eyes would upbraid me if I went down to the battle
Without a friend to cheer me, or at least a fool to hiss.
And they hold it all unworthy men should die like fatted cattle
Stricken singly in the darkness at the shambles of Cadiz.''
Then he bade the lamps be lighted, and he made them bring a mirror,
Lest his cheeks should have grown paler in the watches of the night.
For he feared lest his disciples should mistrust his soul of terror,
When they came to look upon him, if they saw his face was white.
Oh, long time in the mirror did he look with awful smiling
At the eyes which gazed out at him, while the women watched him mute.
And he marked how death's white fingers had been clammily defiling
The redness of God's image and had wiped the sunburns out.
Then he spake, ``Go fetch the carmine from the side drawer of the table,
Where Mariquita keeps it.'' But, when it was not found,
``'Tis no matter,'' answered Sanchez, ``we must do what we are able.''
And he painted his cheeks' paleness with the red blood of his wound.
And anon there came a murmur as of voices and a humming
On the staircase, and he knew them by their footsteps at the door.
And he leant up on his pillow that his eyes might see them coming
In their order of the plaza as they strode across the floor.
And when they stood around him, in their stately mantas folded,
With a solemn grief outawing the brute laughter of their eyes,
You had deemed them in the lamplight to be bronzen statues moulded
Of the powers of Nature yielding a brave man in sacrifice.
But the soul of Sanchez quailed not, and he laughed in their sad faces,
Crying loud to Mariquita for the Valdepeñas wine.
``A fair pig--skin, Caballeros, blushes here for your embraces.
And I drink to you your fortune, and I pray you drink to mine.''
Then they filled their leathern flagons, and they held them up together
In a ghastly expectation till their chief should give the sign.
And the red wine in the silence flowed like blood adown the leather.
And the red blood from the pillow trickled drop by drop like wine.
Spake the Master, ``Ere I pledge you, look upon me, men, and hearken,
For I have a thing to utter, and a dying man is wise.
Death is weighing down my eyelids. Silently your faces darken.
But another torch is lighted than the daylight in my eyes.
``Life, I see it now as never I had thought to comprehend it,
Like the lines which old Manola used to write upon the sand,
And we looked on in wonder nor guessed till it was ended
The birds and trees and faces which were growing from her hand.
``Meaning was there from the outset, glorious meaning in our calling,
In the voice of emulation and our boyhood's pride of soul,
From the day when first, the capa from our father's shoulders falling,
We were seized with inspiration and rushed out upon the bull.
``Meaning was there in our courage and the calm of our demeanour,
For there stood a foe before us which had need of all our skill.
And our lives were as the programme, and the world was our arena,
And the wicked beast was death, and the horns of death were hell.
``And the boast of our profession was a bulwark against danger
With its fearless expectation of what good or ill may come,
For the very prince of darkness shall burst forth on us no stranger
When the doors of death fly open to the rolling of the drum.
``As I lay here in the darkness, I beheld a sign from Heaven:
Standing close a golden angel by the footpost of my bed,
And in his hand a letter with the seal and arms engraven
Of the glorious San Fernando which he bade me read and read.
``And the message of his master, the blessed king my patron,
Was to bid me in his honour to hold myself at need
For this very day and morning of his feast and celebration,
And in pledge of his high favour he had sent me his own steed.
``For the lists of Heaven were open, and that day they had decreed it
There should be a special function for the glory of his name.
And the beasts were Sevillanos, and a master's hand was needed
Lest the swords of Heaven should falter and the Saint be put to shame.
``And I heard the potro stamping in the street, and would have risen
But that Mariquita held me and the women and my wound.
And, though the angel left me, it was truth and not a vision,
And I know the Saint has called me, and the place where I am bound.
``I shall fight this day in Heaven, and, though all Hell shall assail me,
I have hope of a good issue, for perhaps I have some skill,
And perhaps, if I should stumble or if my hand should fail me,
There are others in the plaza who have vowed me less than ill.
``And my mantle of salvation is the faith which is our charter,
And the Virgin of the Pillar my protector and reward,
And the hosts of Heaven my witness and each Spanish Saint and Martyr,
And our lord Don Santiago himself has lent the sword.''
Thus he spoke, and on his speaking fell a silence and a wonder,
While the eyes of his companions turned in awe from each to each,
And they waited in expectance for the gates to roll asunder
And the voices of the angels to command him to the breach,--
Waited till the sun uprising sent his glory through the chamber,
And the spent lamps paled and flickered on the shame of their dismay,
And the dying man transfigured passed in silence from his slumber,
Like a king to coronation, in the light of his new day.
Only they that stood the closest say the pale lips curved and parted,
And the eyes flashed out in battle, and the fingers sought the sword.
``'Tis the President has called him,'' said Fernandez the true hearted,
``He has thrown his hat behind him for the glory of the Lord!''
O who shall tell us of the truth of things?
The day was ending blood--red in the West
After a storm. The sun had smelted down
As in a furnace all the clouds to gold.
Upon a cart track by a pool of rain,
Dumbly with calm eyes fixed upon the heavens,
A toad sat thinking. It was wretchedness
That gazed on majesty. Ah, who shall tell
The very truth of things, the hidden law
Of pain and ugliness? Byzantium bred
Growths of Augustuli, Great Rome her crimes,
As Earth breeds flowers, the firmament its suns,
And the toad too his crop of ulcerous sores.
The leaves turned purple on the vermeil trees;
The rain lay like a mirror in the ruts;
The dying sun shook his last banners out;
Birds sang in whispers, and the world grew dumb
With the hush of evening and forgetfulness.
Then too the toad forgot himself and all
His daylight shame, as he looked out bright--eyed
Into the sweet face of the coming night.
For who shall tell? He too the accursed one
Dreamt of a blessing. There is not a creature
On whom the infinite heaven hath not smiled
Wildly and tenderly; no thing impure
Monstrous deformed and hideous but he holds
The immensity of the starlight in his eyes.
A priest came by and saw the unholy thing,
And with his foot, even as his prayers he read,
Trod it aside and shuddered and went on.
A woman with a wild flower in her bosom
Came next and at the eye's light mirrored there
Aimed her umbrella point. Now he was old,
And she was beautiful. Then home from school
Ran four boys with young faces like the dawn.
``I was a child, was weak, was pitiless'':
Thus must each man relate who would begin
The true tale of his life. A child hath all,
Joy, laughter, mirth. He is drunk with life's delight.
Hope's day--star breaketh in his innocent eyes.
He hath a mother. He is just a boy,
A little man who breathes the untrammelled air
Clean--winded and clean--limbed, and he is free
And the world loves him. Why should he not then
For lack of sorrow strike the sorrowful?
The toad dragged down the deep track of the road.
It was the hour when from the hollows round
Blue mists steal creeping low upon the fields.
His wild heart sought the night. Just then the children
Came on the fugitive and all together
Cried ``Let us kill him. We will punish him
For being so ugly.'' And at the word they laughed.
(For children laugh when they do murder.) Then
They thrust at him with sticks and where the eye
Bulged from its socket made a ghastlier wound
Opening his sores. The passers by looked on,
And they too laughed. And then the night fell down
Black on the blackness of his martyrdom
Who was so dumb. And when the blood flowed out
It was horrible blood. And he was horrible.
That was his crime. And still along the lane
The creature sprawled. One foot had been shorn away
By a child's spade, and at each new blow aimed
Its jaws foamed blood, poor damnéd suffering thing,
Which even when the sun had soothed its hide
Had skulked in holes. And the children mocked the more:
``Wretch. Would you spit at us?'' O strange child's heart!
What rage is thine to pluck thus at the robe
Of misery and taunt it with its pain?
And so from clod to clod, from briar to briar,
But breathing still, in his dull fear he fled
Seeking a shelter from their tyrannous eyes.
So mean a thing, it seemed Death shrank from him
Refusing aid of his all pitying scythe.
And the children followed on with rushes noosed
To take him, but he slipped between their hands
And fell, so chanced it, where the rut gaped deepest,
Into a mire of mud; cool hiding place
It was and refuge for his mangled limbs,
And there he quaking lay. The anointing slime
Soothed his hurt body like a sacrament,
An extreme unction for his utter need.
Nor yet was safety won. The children's eyes,
Abominable eyes, were on him still
With their hard mirth. ``Is there no stone?'' they cried,
``To end him with? Here, Jeremiah, Jim,
Lend us a hand.'' And willing hands were lent.
Once more, O child of Man! I ask it. Say
What is the goal of thy desire? What aim
Is thine? What target wouldst thou hit? What win?
Say. Is it death or life? The stone was brought,
A ponderous mass, broad as a paving flag,
But light in his young hands that bore it in,
Pride giving strength to lift, and the lust to kill.
``You shall see what this will do,'' the young giant cried.
And all stood near expectant of the end.
And then a new thing happened, a new chance.
A coster's dray, drawn by an ancient ass,
Passed down the lane. With creaking wheels it came
And slow harsh jolts in the ruts. The ass was lean
And stiff with age, spavined, with foundered feet,
And dead to blows which rained on his dull hide.
Each step he stumbled. He was near his home,
After a long day's labour in the field,
And began to scent his stable, while the cart
Lagged in the ruts, or with shafts forward thrown
Pressed his galled sides and thrust its load on him,
At the downward slope where the lane left the hill,
More than his strength. A mist was in his eyes
And that dull stupor which foreshadows death.
Thus the cart moved, its driver cursing loud,
Its driven dumb, while the whip cracked in time.
The ass was in his dreams beyond our thought,
Plunged in those depths of soul where no man strays.
And the children heard the cart upon the road.
It gave them a new thought. And ``Stop,'' they cried,
``Let the stone be. We shall have better sport
Here with the wheels. This ass will do the thing.''
And they stood aside and watched what next should come.
And the cart drew near, its wheels sunk in the rut
Where the toad lay, the ass with his dull eyes
Fixed on the path before him, his head down
Nosing the ground in apathy of thought.
And the ass stopped. He, the sad slave of pain,
Had seen the vision of a sadder slave
Needing his pity, and being as it were the judge
To save or slay he had been moved to grace;
He had seen and understood. And, gathering up
In a single act supreme of his poor weakness
All that remained to him of combative pride,
He made the grand refusal, mastering
By his last strength the load which pressed on him
With terrible connivance of the hill,
And wrenched the cart wheel from its track of doom
Spite of his tyrant's voice of blasphemy
And its mad curses and his own huge pain,
And so, the victory won, passed on his road.
Then also was it that that child with the stone,
He who now tells this story, from his hands
Let the flag drop. A voice had cried to him
Too loud for denial: ``Fool. Be merciful.''
O, wisdom of the witless! Law of pity
Loud on the lips of pain! Nature's pure light
Lightening the darkness of Man's gulfs of crime!
Lessons of courage taught by coward hearts,
Of joy by the joyless! Eyes that cannot weep
Pleading with grief and pointing consolation!
The eloquent call of one poor damnéd soul
Preaching to souls elect, the beast to man!
Know this: hours are there, twilight hours of grace,
When, be he what he may, beast, bird or slave,
Each living thing gets glimpses of God's heaven
And knows himself own brother to the stars,
Being one with these in ancestry of love,
Kindred in kindness. Learn that this poor ass,
Facing his pain rather than add to pain,
Was master of his soul in verier deed
Than Socrates was saint, than Plato sage.
Who is the teacher here? O man of mind!
Wouldst thou touch truth? The true truth in thee lies,
Thy lack of light. Nay kneel, weep, pray, believe,
Grovel on the Earth. She shall thy teacher be.
A corner of their Heaven thou too shalt win
When thou art dust with these. Then shalt thou too
Get glimpses of their world's ingenuous dawn
And purchase back thy soul's lost purity,
The love that casts out fear and conquers pain,
The link which binds its weak ones with its strong
And equals all in one divine accord,
The unknowing ass with the all--knowing God.
The Wanderer’s Return
An old heart's mourning is a hideous thing,
And weeds upon an aged weeper cling
Like night upon a grave. The city there,
Gaunt as a woman who has once been fair,
Lay black with winter, and the silent rain
Fell thro' the heavens darkly, like a stain
Upon her face. The dusky houses rose,
Unlovely shapes laid naked on the ooze,
Grimed with long sooty tears. The night fell down,
And gathered all the highways in its frown.
This was my home. I saw men pass and pass
Nor stop to look into a neighbour's face.
I dared not look in their's because my eyes
Were faint and travel--jarred and would not rise
From the dull earth, and hunger made them dim,
The hunger of a seven years' angry dream
Of love and peace and home unsatisfied.
And now my heart thus grievously denied
Rose, like a caged bird in the nesting time
Who beats against the bars that prison him,
In all its greenness of youth's wounds and pain
And would not cease till these should bleed again.
For I had gone a hunter through the world,
And set my tent in every land, and hurled
My spears at life because my joys were dead;
And many a fair field of the Earth was red
Where I had passed, and many a wind might tell
Of stricken souls that to my arrows fell.
I would not stop to listen to their cries
But went my way and thought that I was wise.
A wanderer's life, whether his lone chase be man
Or only those poor outlaws under ban
The creatures of the field his hand destroys
Through rage of wantonness or need of noise,
Is the fierce solace of its anger given
To a hurt soul which dares not turn to Heaven.
With me it was a vengeance of love lost,
A refuge proved for passions tempest--tossed,
An unguent for despairs that could not kill.
I wandered in the desert and the hill
Seeking dry places, and behold my grief
Fled with my footprints and I found relief.
And it had happened to me, as befalls
Men bred in cities who have left their walls
For gain or pleasure, that the wilderness
Grew lastly wearisome. I loved it less.
And once a desperate chase had led me on
To an unknown land when daylight was near done,
And I sat weary by my slaughtered prey
And watched the cranes which northward fled away
Rank upon rank into the depths of air,
And still the horizon lifeless vast and bare
Stretched wide around, and like a vault of dread
The arch of heaven hemmed me overhead,
And the great eye of the dead beast was set
Upon my own. I felt my cheek was wet.
Oh surely then, for all man's heart be hard,
Though he have taken Nature by the beard
And lived alone as to the manner born,
And though his limbs be strung with toil, and worn
To all Earth's dangers, yet at such a time
His coward soul will overmaster him,
Saying ``Beware, thou child of Earth, even now
Look at the world how wide it is and thou
How small! And thou hast dared to be alone.''
And lo, the last long flight of cranes was gone,
And darkness with its folding pity crept
Over the plain. I hid my face and wept,
Till sleep fell on me. But, when dawn was come,
I turned my steps to what had been my home.
The palace gardens! I had fled aside
From the gaunt streets in easement of my pride
After the lamps were lit, for to my brain
The tumult and the passers--by were pain:
The gardens where in those far summer times
A boy I came to watch the pantomimes
Among a laughing crowd of white--capped bonnes
And red--cheeked children and loud country clowns,
Or where, along the wall in graver sense
And screened from winds in their petite Provence,
With the first chestnut blossoms old men sat
And cheered their melancholy souls with chat,
Thawing like frozen apples in the sun!
The old men and the children all were gone.
The leaves, their canopy, lay torn and dead
And crushed in spongy heaps beneath my tread.
The fountains recreant to their laughter lay
Murk pools of silence shrouded from the day,
As though no doves had ever at their brink
Stooped in full June to plume themselves and drink.
Only the trees stood, witness of the past.
Sad trees, I greeted them. I held them fast
Like a friend's hands. They were as changed and bare
As my own life, but calm in the despair
Of their long winter's martyrdom, and I
A very child in my philosophy!
Till I remembered that no Spring would come
To mock the winter of my own long doom
With any merriment. And ``Trees'' I cried,
``Your hearts within are all too greenly dyed
To match with mine.'' I let their branches go
And sat upon a bench to feed my woe
With memories long hidden out of mind,
But which trooped back that night and rode the wind.
These wooden benches, what sad ghosts of pleasures
Had used them nightly crouching o'er their treasures,
My own long murdered joys, since there we sat
Blind in our love and insolent to Fate!
Each one a witness proved of our lost vows,
Our prayers, our protests, all our souls' carouse;
Each one inscribed through the unheeding years
With letters of a name I wrote in tears.
'Twas here I saw her first, a pure sweet woman
Fair as a goddess but with smile all human,
Her children at her knees who went and came
At each new wayward impulse of their game,
And she reproving with her quiet eyes
Veiling the mirth they could not all disguise.
The echo of her voice with its mute thrill
Lived in these glades and stirred my pulses still,
Though I had lived to hear it in what tone
Of passionate grief and souls' disunion.
She stood, a broken lily, by that tree,
Sunlight and shade for ever changingly
Chequering the robe she wore of virgin white,
When first I touched the goal of my delight
Her woman's hand and hid it in my hands.
Here shone the glory of her countenance
Nobler for tears when weakness for a space
Held full dominion in that heaven her face
And she confessed herself of grief divine
And love grown young, a vintage of new wine,
And I was crowned her king. O silent trees,
You heard it and you know how to the lees
We drained the cup of life and found it good,
Gathering love's manna for our daily food,
In scorn of the vain rest. You heard and knew
What the world only guessed where all was true.
And have you dreamed on in your quiet grove
While seven years were built against our love!
'Twas on this bench I sat that day of June
Thinking of death a whole sweet afternoon,
Till I was sick of sorrow and my tongue
Weary of its long silence (I was young
And the birds sang so loud); and when the night
Came as it now came, and the lamps grew bright
In the long street, lit like a diamond chain,
I rose and said: ``I will not bear the pain.
What is my pride worth that for it this smart
Should harrow up the green things of my heart
For twelve importunate hours in such a sort?
And pleasure is so sweet and life so short.''
And as a martyr, who long time has lain
Frozen in a dungeon, sees amid his pain,
When he has fasted on for many days,
Bright visions of hot feasts and hearths ablaze
With welcome, and who sells his gloomy creed,
And is overcome of pleasure, so my need
Conquered my pride; and I arose and went
Striding, with smiles at my new found intent,
Down these same gravel alleys to the gate
And so beyond, like one inebriate,
Thinking the while of the brave baths and food
Set for the renegade, until I stood
Once more before her door I had forsworn.
I did not stop to question thoughts forlorn,
But knocked as I had knocked a thousand times.
St. Roch's was ringing its last evening chimes,
And I still thought about the martyr's dream.
I saw the light within the threshold gleam
Which opened to me, and the voice I knew
Said in all sweetness, as the door swung to,
``Come. We are just in time. How fortunate
You too like me have happened to be late.''
I swear I said no word of the sad plans
I had plotted on this bench of ignorance.
There have been kings called happy, but not one
As I that night. Ah God! to be alone,
Alone, and never more to hear her voice
Calling me back, blest martyr, to my joys!
I sat there grieving in the cold and rain
Until my heart had half forgot its pain,
And when I rose I scarce could guide my feet,
They were so numb, to the unlovely street.
And yet need was my steps should bear me on
To some mad corner of that Babylon;
And I must feed the gnawings of my soul
With broken meat. ``The seven years may roll,''
I said, ``and men may change and she be dead,
Yet the house stands, God knows how tenanted.''
I leaned my head against the colonnade
Which skirts the square. I think I had not prayed
Through all those years, but now I said a prayer,
And hope in spite of reason seemed to wear
Green buds upon its branches. Who shall know
If 'twas a vision sent me in my woe
To prove the power of prayer? But, when I turned
And looked across the square, the candles burned
In the old upper windows, and, before,
A shadow crossed the curtain, and the door
Opened towards me, and a voice there cried
``Come. You are just in time.'' I put out wide
My arms into the darkness, and I fell.
When I awoke, 'twas as one passed from Hell
Who fears and feels no longer. I was tired.
I scarcely cared to know when I inquired
After the house. The girl who held the glass
To my lips (a flower--girl it seemed she was)
Told me that house and square alike were gone
Swept by new boulevards to oblivion.
Why should I grieve? The new was worth the old.
I listened to the story as 'twas told,
And lingered with her all the evening there
Because she pitied me and she was fair,
And held me with her hand upon the latch.
``Seven years,'' I said, ``it is a long night's watch
For any soul alone upon life's way,
And mine is weary at the break of day.''
The tent lines these of Kháula in stone--stricken Tháhmadi.
See where the fire has touched them, dyed dark as the hands of her.
'Twas here thy friends consoled thee that day with thee comforting,
cried; Not of grief, thou faint--heart! Men die not thus easily.
Ay, here the howdahs passed thee at day--dawn, how royally!
stood for the Dédi pastures: a white fleet they seemed to thee,
Ships tall--rigged from Adáuli--of Yámin the build of them--
wandering wide the night through, to meet at the sunrising.
Thus climbed they the long wave--lines, their prows set how loftily!
ploughing the drifted ridges, sand heaped by the sandseers.
Alas for the dark--lipped one, the maid of the topazes,
hardly yet grown a woman, sweet fruit--picking loiterer!
A girl, a fawn still fawnless, which browses the thorn--bushes,
close to the doe--herd feeding, aloof in the long valleys.
I see her mouth--slit smiling, her teeth,--nay, a camomile
white on the white sand blooming and moist with the night--showers.
Sun--steeped it is, pure argent, white all but the lips of her,
these are too darkly painted to shrink from the sunburning.
The face of her how joyous, the day's robe enfolding her,
clean as a thing fresh fashioned, untouched by sad time--fingers.
Enough! New joys now claim me. Ay, mount and away from her!
Here on my swift--foot camel I laugh at love's bitterness.
Ship--strong is she, my nága, my stout--timbered road--goer,
footing the long--lined path--way--a striped cloak--in front of us.
Steel tempered are her sinews. She runs like an ostrich--hen,
one which has fled defying the ash--plumed proud lord of her.
Out--paces she the best--born, shank still on shank following,
threading the mazes lightly. Ah, what foot shall follow her?
The spring--long on Kufféyn she has wandered, her kind with her,
pastured in pleasant places, the rain--watered thyme--valleys,
Has turned to her herd's calling, aloft in wrath brandishing,
scared by the thick--furred red thief, that proud tuft the tail of her.
Her tail sways this and that way--a falcon, the wings of him
bating her flanks impatient: erect stands the bone of it--
So lasheth she in anger anon her croup--rider's knee,
then her own shrunken udder, a drought--withered water--skin.
Note well her limbs' perfection, her thighs like the elbow--worn
jambs of a city gateway, two smooth shafts of porphyry.
Her barrel, a stone well--mouth, like bent bows the curves of it,
caved where the neck--shaft enters, ends in an arched hollow.
Deep dens are her two arm--pits, a tree--trunk with cavities.
Bows are her rib--bones bended, her spine the hands holding them.
Her elbows are twin buckets, the pails of a water--man
wide--set, the neck between them the strong man who carries them.
Bridge--like, and Roman--builded! How swore he its architect
none should leave work or loiter, its key--stone unlaid by them!
Red chestnut is her chin--tuft, a vast vault the back of her.
Swift--step her hind--feet follow the path of her fore--footing.
Her legs are a cord twisted. Towards them the arms of her
slant from the shoulders outward, a tent--roof the slope of them.
So sways she, the strong--skulled one, and lightly her shoulder blades
rise from her spine alternate, arhyme with the march of her.
Like rain--pools in the smooth rock, so, flecking the sides of her,
white stand the girth--marks, witness once of the sores on them.
Her neck, how tall, how proud--set! Behold her! She raises it
high as in ships of Díjleh the point of a stern--rudder.
Her head--piece a stout anvil, and, joined to it hardily
sharp as a file the neck--ridge, fixed as a vice to it.
Her jowl a Syrian parchment, clean vellum the lip of her,
smooth as a hide of Yémen, no skin--crease nor fold in it.
Her eyes two mirrors shining, her bent brows the shade of them, pitted with deep--set hollows, as rock--holes for rain--water.
Eyes dark--rimmed, pure of dust--stains. You gaze in the depths of them as in a wild cow's wide eyes, scared for the calf of her.
Ears fearful of the night--sounds, the whispers, the murmurings
caught in the darkness passing--night--day: they can rest never.
Their thorn--tips tell her lineage, a wild bull's of Háumala
raging alone forsaken; her breeding you read in them.
Heart watchful of strange dangers, yet stout in the face of them.
Firm as a test--stone standing where cleft lie the base pebbles.
Lip slit, nose pierced for nose--ring, how slender its cartilage!
Nobly she lowers it running and stretched to the front of her.
I strike at her, my nága: I force her: I hurry her,
while in our path the false--lights lure us to follow them.
The gait of her how rhythmic! She sways like a dancing--girl,
one with the white skirts trailing, who bends to the lord of her.
Obedient to your riding, she slackens her outrunning,
watches the hide--thong twisted, the speed that you need of her.
Her head by your hand close held, your knee--crutch how near to it!
Then with her fore--arms swimming, an ostrich, she flies with you.
Thus rode I, and thus spake he, the friend of my tear--sheddings:
O for the wit to cure thee, but and my own sorrows!
His soul within him trembled; it seemed to his hardihood
death and a sure destruction, though far we from roadfarers.
For which of us is valiant? When men speak of true valour,
I feel my own the name named. Straight am I roused by it.
No recreant I, my tent--ridge I hide from no enemy.
Nor in the far hills build it who bring men a swift succour.
The hand that seeks shall find me. I stand at the gatherings.
Ay, where men tap the wine--skin, 'tis there they shall speak with me.
What day the tribes assemble, behold me conspicuous,
sitting as fits my lineage, nor go I in fear of them.
Beside me my companions, bright stars of nobility.
Dyed is her robe with saffron the girl who pours out to us.
O sweet is her shirt's neck--slit, set wide to the eyes of us.
Soft is the thing it hides there. We bade her: Now, sing to us.
Ay sing to us: we prayed her. And she, with monotony
striking a low note slowly, chaunted unchangingly.
O strange it was that cadence: it came back the wail of it,
grave as a mother's grieving the one son new--slain from her.
Thus sang she. And I spared not the full cups of revelry,
not till my spoil was wasted, my whole wealth's inheritance.
Then left me they that loved me. Then shunned me my tribe--fellows.
Sat I alone forsaken, a mange--stricken male camel.
Nathless the poor showed pity, the sons of Earth's particles,
these and the alien tent--lords, the far chiefs befriended me.
You only did revile me. Yet, say, ye philosophers,
was that same wealth eternal I squandered in feasting you?
Could all you my fate hinder? Friends, run we ahead of it,
rather our lives enjoying, since Time will not wait for us.
And, truly, but for three things in youth's day of vanity,
fain would I see them round me the friends at my deathbedding,
As first: to outstrip the sour ones, be first at the winebibbing,
ay, at the blink of day--dawn when mixed the cup foams for me;
And next, to ride their champion, who none have to succour them,
fierce on my steed, the led one, a wolf roused and thirst--stricken;
And third, to lie the day--long, while wild clouds are wildering,
close in her tent of goat's hair, the dearest beloved of me.
O noble she, a tree--stem unpruned in her maidenhood,
tall as a branch of Khírwa, where men hang their ornaments.
'Tis thus I slake my soul's rage, the life--thirst so wild in me.
If we two died to--morrow, think, which would go thirstier?
For lo, his grave the miser's! Lo, next it the prodigal's!
Both are alike, scant favour to hoarder or squanderer.
'Neath mounds of earth the twain lie, a low stone atop of them,
heavy and broad and shapeless, with new slabs o'erlaying it.
Death is no subtle chooser. He takes all, the free--givers,
ay, and the rogues close--fisted, the fast--handed goldhiders.
And life's heap lies unguarded. The night--thieves make spoil of it.
All that these leave the day--thieves straightway come plundering.
Nay, by thy life--I swear it, though fast fly the heels of him,
Death has a lead--rope round him, loose though it seem to you.
Ha! How is this? My kinsman? my fool--cousin Máleki?
Daily, as I draw near him, he turns his mad back on me.
He frowns I know not wherefore. He flouts me, as once with them
Kurt, in the face of all men, flouted and jibed at me.
His help he has denied me; and, truly, our brotherhood
tried in the fire of asking lies dead in love's sepulchre.
My word his words discredit. Yet all I for Mábadi
asked was a poor assistance to gather his lost camels,
I who hold fast to kinship. I swear by the luck of thee,
when they shall want hard riding, that day they shall fawn on me,
What day their tribes need succour, when loudly their womenfolk
cry from his hand the oppressor's to hands that are mightier.
Be but their honour tainted, I straight will pour out for them
death as from brimming cisterns, nor ask for an argument.
They rail at and revile me, who know me no ill--doer;
me, who have borne their burdens, cast would they out from them.
Yet, had my friend been other, this Málek of larger soul,
long had my pain been ended, a respiting found for me.
Shame on him for his baseness. His black hand would strangle me,
whether I thanked or sued him, or turned but my back on him.
O cruel is the sword--stroke: it bites with an Indian edge:
yet is their temper keener, the clowns I call kin to me.
Then leave me to my own ways, my tent set in Dárghadi,
far from the eyes of all men, and earn thee my gratitude.
Had he, the Lord, so willed it, my name had been Khálidi,
or had he willed it Ámer, or Káis, or Márthadi.
Wealth had been mine and increase, ay, all that men most covet,
sons as a gift of heaven, a proud--lined posterity.
Yet see me a man subtle, one lithe--souled and lithe--bodied,
quick as a snake for wounding, whose head is a hurt to them.
The oath my tongue has sworn to is this, to keep close to me
ever my sword--blade loosened; of Indies the edge of it.
Such blade, if I take vengeance and rise up and smite with it,
needs not a second down--stroke; I wield me no wood--chopper.
My sword is my true brother. It grudges no blood--spilling.
Called on to spare, it answers: My lord alone holdeth me.
Thus was I when men armed them and rushed to the battle--field:
grasped I my sword--hilt foremost, nor feared what fate doomed for me.
Herds knelt, their necks stretched earth--long. How scared them the eyes of me,
me with my sword drawn marching, its sheath cast away from me.
There passed a strong fair nága, a full--uddered milch--camel,
joy of her lord, the gray--beard, a hot man, though time--troubled.
He shouted when she fell there, her stout sinews houghed by me:
Man, art thou blind who seest not thy sword hath done robbery?
He spake, and to his friends turned: Behold him, this wine--bibber!
What is his rage against us, his wild words, his drinkfolly?
Yet paused: Nay, give him wide room and leave it to profit him: herd
we the scared ones rather, lest more he should slay of them.
Then fell the maids aroasting its fair flesh the foal of her,
nor of the fat denied us, the whole hump our prize of it.
We cast the arrows gaily, the dun shafts, the fire--hardened:
each time the holder held them, straightway I won with them.
When I am dead, speak kindly, thou daughter of Mábadi:
rend for my sake thy garments as one worth the love of thee.
Nor count me with the lewd folk, the night--knaves, the roysterers,
men with nor wit nor wisdom nor will to do weightily,
Men slow to deeds of virtue, men swift but in ill--doing,
men by the brave held lightly, with spread palms and brow--knitting.
For, had I been a weakling, know well, their mad hate of me
long had been my destruction, their blind wrath my butchery.
Only it wards me from them the fear of my hand's valour,
this, and my faith untainted, my fame too of ancestry.
Once on a time I bound me with vows, on the battlefield
ever to guard the weak posts, points where the foe threatened,
Points where the bravest faltered, where pale men stood panic--struck,
where they the strong--hearts trembled, faint through the fear in them.
Nay, by thy life, I fear not. I hold not time weariness;
neither hath day distressed me, nor night what it brought to me.
Because I see Death spares none. It smites with an even hand,
bows not to names exalted, nor knows it men's dignities;
Because with Death behind me, my flight can avail me not,
neither can I outwit him, he lying in wait for me.
Because if one be proved vain by those who seek aid of him,
helpless to hurt the harmful, better he perishèd.
The days to come, what are they? A handful, a borrowing:
vain is the thing thou fearest. To--day is the life of thee.
And death is as a well--spring; to it men pass and pass:
near them is each to--morrow; near them was yesterday.
Only shall Age, the slow--foot, arraign thee of ignorance:
only shall One bring tidings, when least thou desirest him,
One who is hard to deal with, of whom thou art ransomer
neither for pay nor raiment, nor madest thou tryst with him.
Griselda: A Society Novel In Verse - Chapter I
An idle story with an idle moral!
Why do I tell it, at the risk of quarrel
With nobler themes? The world, alas! is so,
And who would gather truth must bend him low,
Nor fear to soil his knees with graveyard ground,
If haply there some flower of truth be found.
For human nature is an earthy fruit,
Mired at the stem and fleshy at the root,
And thrives with folly's mixon best o'erlaid,
Nor less divinely so, when all is said.
Brave lives are lived, and worthy deeds are done
Each virtuous day, 'neath the all--pitying sun;
But these are not the most, perhaps not even
The surest road to our soul's modern Heaven.
The best of us are creatures of God's chance
(Call it His grace), which works deliverance;
The rest mere pendulums 'twixt good and ill,
Like soldiers marking time while standing still.
'Tis all their strategy, who have lost faith
In things Divine beyond Man's life and death,
Pleasure and pain. Of Heaven what know we
Save as unfit for angels' company,
Say rather Hell's? We cling to sins confessed,
And say our prayers still hoping for the best.
We fear old age and ugliness and pain,
And love our lives, nor look to live again.
I do but parable the crowd I know,
The human cattle grazing as they go,
Unheedful of the heavens. Here and there
Some prouder, may be, or less hungry steer
Lifting his face an instant to the sky,
And left behind as the bent herd goes by,
Or stung to a short madness, tossing wild
His horns aloft, and charging the gay field,
Till the fence stops him, and he vanquished too,
Turns to his browsing--lost his Waterloo.
The moral of my tale I leave to others
More bold, who point the finger at their brothers,
And surer know than I which way is best
To virtue's goal, where all of us find rest,
Whether in stern denial of things sweet,
Or yielding timely, lest life lose its feet
And fall the further. A plain tale is mine
Of naked fact, unconscious of design,
Told of the world in this last century
Of Man's (not God's) disgrace, the XIXth. We
Have made it all a little as it is
In our own images and likenesses,
And need the more forgiveness for our sin.
Therefore, my Muse, impatient to begin,
I bid thee fearless forward on thy road.
Steer thou thy honest course 'twixt bad and good:
Know this, in art that thing alone is evil
Which shuns the one plain word that shames the Devil.
Tell truth without preamble or excuse,
And all shall be forgiven thee--all, my Muse!
In London then not many years ago
There lived a lady of high fashion, who
For her friends' sake, if any still there be
Who hold her virtues green in memory,
Shall not be further named in this true tale
Than as Griselda or the Lady L.
Such, if I err not, was the second name
Her parents gave when to the font she came,
And such the initial letter bravely set
On her coach door, beneath the coronet
Which bore her and her fortunes--bore, alas!
For, as in this sad world all things must pass,
However great and nobly framed and fair:
Griselda, too, is of the things that were.
But while she lived Griselda had no need
Of the world's pity. She was proudly bred
And proudly nurtured. Plenty her full horn
Had fairly emptied out when she was born,
And dowered her with all bounties. She was fair
As only children of the noblest are,
And brave and strong and opulent of health,
Which made her take full pleasure of her wealth.
She had a pitying scorn of little souls
And little bodies, levying heavy tolls
On all the world which was less strong than she.
She used her natural strength most naturally,
And yet with due discretion, so that all
Stood equally in bondage to her thrall.
She was of that high godlike shape and size
Which has authority in all men's eyes:
Her hair was brown, her colour white and red,
Nor idly moved to blush. She held her head
Straight with her back. Her body, from the knee
Tall and clean shaped, like some well--nurtured tree,
Rose finely finished to the finger tips.
She had a noble carriage of the hips,
And that proportionate waist which only art
Dares to divine, harmonious part with part.
But of this more anon, or rather never.
All that the world could vaunt for its endeavour
Was the fair promise of her ankles set
Upon a pair of small high--instepped feet,
In whose behalf, though modestly, God wot,
As any nun, she raised her petticoat
One little inch more high than reason meet
Was for one crossing a well--besomed street.
This was the only tribute she allowed
To human folly and the envious crowd;
Nor for my part would I be found her judge
For her one weakness, nor appear to grudge
What in myself, as surely in the rest,
Bred strange sweet fancies such as feet suggest.
We owe her all too much. This point apart,
Griselda, modesty's own counterpart,
Moved in the sphere of folly like a star,
Aloof and bright and most particular.
By girlish choice and whim of her first will
She had espoused the amiable Lord L.,
A worthy nobleman, in high repute
For wealth and virtue, and her kin to boot;
A silent man, well mannered and well dressed,
Courteous, deliberate, kind, sublimely blessed
With fortune's favours, but without pretence,
Whom manners almost made a man of sense.
In early life he had aspired to fame
In the world of letters by the stratagem
Of a new issue, from his private press,
Of classic bards in senatorial dress,
``In usum Marchionis.'' He had spent
Much of his youth upon the Continent,
Purchasing marbles, bronzes, pictures, gems,
In every town from Tiber unto Thames,
And gaining store of curious knowledge too
On divers subjects that the world least knew:
Knowledge uncatalogued, and overlaid
With dust and lumber somewhere in his head.
A slumberous man, in whom the lamp of life
Had never quite been lighted for the strife
And turmoil of the world, but flickered down,
In an uncertain twilight of its own,
With an occasional flash, that only made
A deeper shadow for its world of shade.
When he returned to England, all admired
The taste of his collections, and inquired
To whose fair fortunate head the lot should fall
To wear these gems and jewels after all.
But years went by, and still unclaimed they shone,
A snare and stumbling--block to more than one,
Till in his fiftieth year 'twas vaguely said,
Lord L. already had too long delayed.
Be it as it may, he abdicated life
The day he took Griselda to his wife.
And then Griselda loved him. All agreed,
The world's chief sponsors for its social creed,
That, whether poor Lord L. was or was not
The very fool some said and idiot,
Or whether under cloak of dulness crass,
He veiled that sense best suited to his case,
Sparing his wit, as housewives spare their light,
For curtain eloquence and dead of night;
And spite of whispered tales obscurely spread,
Doubting the fortunes of her nuptial bed,
Here at this word all sides agreed to rest:
Griselda did her duty with the best.
Yet, poor Griselda! When in lusty youth
A love--sick boy I stood unformed, uncouth,
And watched with sad and ever jealous eye
The vision of your beauty passing by,
Why was it that that brow inviolate,
That virginal courage yet unscared by fate,
That look the immortal queen and huntress wore
To frightened shepherds' eyes in days of yore
Consoled me thus, and soothed unconsciously,
And stilled my jealous fears I knew not why?
How shall I tell the secret of your soul
Which then I blindly guessed, or how cajole
My boyhood's ancient folly to declare
Now in my wisdom the dear maid you were,
Though such the truth? Griselda's early days
Of married life were not that fitful maze
Of tears and laughter which betoken aught,
Changed or exchanged, of pain with pleasure bought,
Of maiden freedom conquered and subdued,
Of hopes new born and fears of womanhood.
Those who then saw Griselda saw a child
Well pleased and happy, thoughtlessly beguiled
By every simplest pleasure of her age,
Gay as a bird just issued from its cage,
When every flower is sweet. No eye could trace
Doubt or disquiet written on her face,
Where none there was. And, if the truth be told,
Griselda grieved not that Lord L. was old.
She found it well that her sweet seventeen
Should live at peace with fifty, and was seen
Just as she felt, contented with her lot,
Pleased with what was and pleased with what was not
She held her husband the more dear that he
Was kind within the bounds of courtesy,
And love was not as yet within her plan,
And life was fair, and wisdom led the van.
For she was wise--oh, wise! She rose at eight
And played her scales till breakfast, and then sat
The morning through with staid and serious looks,
Counting the columns of her household books,
Her daily labour, or with puzzled head
Bent over languages alive and dead,
Wise as alas! in life those only are
Who have not yet beheld a twentieth year.
Wealth had its duties, time its proper use,
Youth and her marriage should be no excuse;
Her education must be made complete!
Lord L. looked on and quite approved of it.
The afternoons, in sense of duty done,
Went by more idly than the rest had gone.
If in the country, which Lord L. preferred,
She had her horse, her dogs, her favourite bird,
Her own rose--garden, which she loved to rake,
Her fish to feed with bread crumbs in the lake,
Her schools, old women, poor and almshouses,
Her sick to visit, or her church to dress.
Lord L. was pleased to see her bountiful:
They hardly found the time to find it dull.
In London, where they spent their second year,
Came occupations suited to the sphere
In which they lived; and to the just pretence
Of our Griselda's high--born consequence,
New duties to the world which no excuse
Admitted. She was mistress of L. House
And heir to its traditions. These must be
Observed by her in due solemnity.
Her natural taste, I think, repelled the noise,
The rush, and dust, and crush of London joys;
But habit, which becomes a second sense,
Had reconciled her to its influence
Even in girlhood, and she long had known
That life in crowds may still be life alone,
While mere timidity and want of ease
She never ranked among youth's miseries.
She had her parents too, who made demand
Upon her thoughts and time, and close at hand
Sisters and friends. With these her days were spent
In simple joys and girlish merriment.
She would not own that being called a wife
Should make a difference in her daily life.
Then London lacks not of attractions fit
For serious minds, and treasures infinite
Of art and science for ingenious eyes,
And learning for such wits as would be wise,
Lectures in classes, galleries, schools of art:
In each Griselda played conspicuous part--
Pupil and patron, ay, and patron--saint
To no few poor who live by pens and paint.
The world admired and flattered as a friend,
And only wondered what would be the end.
And so the days went by. Griselda's face,
Calm in its outline, of romantic grace,
Became a type even to the vulgar mind
Of all that beauty means when most refined,
The visible symbol of a soul within,
Conceived immaculate of human sin,
And only clothed in our humanity
That we may learn to praise and better be.
Where'er she went, instinctively the crowd
Made way before her, and ungrudging bowed
To one so fair as to a Queen of Earth,
Ruling by right of conquest and of birth.
And thus I first beheld her, standing calm
In the swayed crowd upon her husband's arm,
One opera night, the centre of all eyes,
So proud she seemed, so fair, so sweet, so wise.
Some one behind me whispered ``Lady L.!
His Lordship too! and thereby hangs a tale.''
His Lordship! I beheld a placid man,
With gentle deep--set eyes, and rather wan,
And rather withered, yet on whose smooth face
Time seemed to have been in doubt what lines to trace
Of youth or age, and so had left it bare,
As it had left its colour to his hair.
An old young man perhaps, or really old,
Which of the two could never quite be told.
I judged him younger than his years gave right,
His looks betrayed him least by candlelight.
Yet, young or old, that night he seemed to me
Sublime, the priest of her divinity
At whose new shrine I worshipped. But enough
Of me and my concerns! More pertinent stuff
My tale requires than this first boyish love,
Which never found the hour its fate to prove.
My Lady smiling motions with her hand;
The crowd falls back; his Lordship, gravely bland,
Leads down the steps to where his footmen stay
In state. Griselda's carriage stops the way!
And was Griselda happy? Happy?--Yes,
In her first year of marriage, and no less
Perhaps, too, in her second and her third.
For youth is proud, nor cares its last sad word
To ask of fate, and not unwilling clings
To what the present hour in triumph brings.
It was enough, as I have said, for her
That she was young and fortunate and fair.
The world that loved her was a lovely world,
The rest she knew not of. Fate had not hurled
A single spear as yet against her life.
She would not argue as 'twixt maid and wife,
Where both were Woman, Human Nature, Man,
Which held the nobler place in the world's plan.
Her soul at least was single, and must be
Unmated still through its eternity.
And, even here in life, what reason yet
To doubt or question or despair of Fate?
Her youth, an ample web, before her shone
For hope to weave its subtlest fancies on,
If she had cared to dream. Her lot was good
Beyond the common lot of womanhood,
And she would prove her fortune best in this,
That she would not repine at happiness.
Thus to her soul she argued as the Spring
Brought back its joy to each begotten thing--
Begotten and begetting. Who shall say
Which had the better reason, she or they?
In the fourth year a half acknowledged grief
Made its appearance in Griselda's life.
Her sisters married, younger both than she,
Mere children she had thought, and happily.
Each went her way engrossed by her new bliss,
Too gay to guess Griselda's dumb distress.
Her home was broken. In their pride they wrote
Things that like swords against her bosom smote,
The detail of their hopes, and loves, and fears.
Griselda read, and scarce restrained her tears.
Her mother too, the latest fledgling flown,
Had vanished from the world. She was alone.
When she returned to London, earlier
Than was her custom, in the following year,
She found her home a desert, dark and gaunt;
L. House looked emptier, gloomier than its wont.
Griselda sighed, for on the table lay
Two letters, which announced each in its way
The expected tidings of her sisters' joy.
Either was brought to bed--and with a boy.
Her generous heart leaped forth to these in vain,
It could not cheat a first sharp touch of pain,
But yielded to its sorrow. That same night,
Lord L., whose sleep was neither vexed nor light,
And who for many years had ceased to dream,
Beheld a vision. Slowly he became
Aware of a strange light which in his eyes
Shone to his vast discomfort and surprise;
And, while perplexed with vague mistrusts and fears,
He saw a face, Griselda's face, in tears
Before him. She was standing by his bed
Holding a candle. It was cold, she said,
And shivered. And he saw her wrap her shawl
About her shoulders closely like a pall.
Why was she there? Why weeping? Why this light,
Burning so brightly in the dead of night?
These riddles poor Lord L.'s half--wakened brain
Tried dimly to resolve, but tried in vain.
``I cannot sleep to--night,'' went on the voice,
``The streets disturb me strangely with their noise,
The cabs, the striking clocks.'' Lord L.'s distress
Struggled with sleep. He thought he answered ``Yes.''
``What can I do to make me sleep? I am ill,
Unnerv'd to--night. This house is like a well.
Do I disturb you here, and shall I go?''
Lord L. was moved. He thought he answered ``No.''
``If you would speak, perhaps my tears would stop.
Speak! only speak!'' Lord L. here felt a drop
Upon his hand. She had put down the light,
And sat upon his bed forlornly white
And pale and trembling. Her dark hair unbound
Lay on her knees. Her lips moved, but their sound
Came strangely to his ears and half--unheard.
He only could remember the last word:
``I am unhappy--listen L.!--alone.''
She touched his shoulder and he gave a groan.
``This is too much. You do not hear me. See,
I cannot stop these tears. Too much!'' And he
Now well awake, looked round him. He could catch
A gleam of light just vanished, and the latch
Seemed hardly silent. This was all he knew.
He sat some moments doubting what to do,
Rose, went out, shivered, hearing nothing, crept
Back to his pillow where the vision wept
Or seemed to weep awhile ago, and then
With some disquiet went to sleep again.
Next morning, thinking of his dream, Lord L.
Went down to breakfast in intent to tell
The story of his vision. But he met
With little sympathy. His wife was late,
And in a hurry for her school of art.
His lordship needed time to make a start
On any topic, and no time she gave.
Griselda had appointments she must save,
And could not stop to hear of rhyme or reason--
The dream must wait a more convenient season.
And so it was not told. Alas, alas!
Who shall foretell what wars shall come to pass,
What woes be wrought, what fates accomplishèd,
What new dreams dreamt, what new tears vainly shed,
What doubts, what anguish, what remorse, what fears
Begotten in the womb of what new years!--
And all because of this, that poor Lord L.
Was slow of speech, or that he slept too well!
The Stealing Of The Mare - I
In the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate! He who narrateth this tale is Abu Obeyd, and he saith:
When I took note and perceived that the souls of men were in pleasure to hear good stories, and that their ears were comforted and that they made good cheer in the listening, then called I to mind the tale of the Agheyli Jaber and his mare, and of all that befell him and his people. For this is a story of wonderful adventure and marvellous stratagems, and a tale which when one heareth he desireth to have it evermore in remembrance as a delight tasted once by him and not forgotten.
And the telling of it is this:
The Emir Abu Zeyd the Helali Salameh was sitting one morning in his tent with the Arabs of the Beni Helal and the Lords of the tribe. And lo, there appeared before them in the desert the figure of one wandering to and fro alone. And this was Ghanimeh. And the Emir Abu Zeyd said to his slave Abul Komsan, ``Go forth thou, and read me the errand of this fair Lady and bring me word again.'' And Abul Komsan went forth as he was bidden, and presently returned to them with a smiling countenance, and he said, ``O my Lord, there is the best of news for thee, for this is one that hath come a guest to thee, and she desireth something of thee, for fate hath oppressed her and troubles sore are on her head. And she hath told me all her story and the reason of her coming, and that it is from her great sorrow of mind; for she had once an husband, and his name was Dagher abul Jud, a great one of the Arabs. And to them was born a son named Amer ibn el Keram, and the boy's uncle's name was En Naaman. And when the father died, then the uncle possessed himself of all the inheritance, and he drove forth the widow from the tribe; and he hath kept the boy as a herder of his camels; and this for seven years. And Ghanimeh all that time was in longing for her son. But at the end of the seventh year she returned to seek the boy. Then Naaman struck her and drove her forth. And Amer, too, the boy, his nephew, is in trouble, for Naaman will not now yield to the boy that he should marry his daughter, though she was promised to him, and he hath betrothed her to another. And when Amer begged him for the girl (for the great ones of the tribe pitied the boy, and there had interceded for him fifty--and--five of the princes), he answered, `Nay, that may not be, not though in denying it I should taste of the cup of evil things. But, if he be truly desirous of the girl and would share all things with me in my good fortune, then let him bring me the mare of the Agheyli Jaber,--and the warriors be witness of my word thereto.' But when the men of the tribe heard this talk, they said to one another: `There is none able to do this thing but only Abu Zeyd.' And thus hath this lady come to thee. And I entreat thee, my lord, look into her business and do for her what is needful.''
And when Abu Zeyd heard this word of his slave Abul Komsan he rejoiced exceedingly, and his heart waxed big within him, and he threw his cloak as a gift to Abul Komsan, and he bade him go to the Lady Ghanimeh and treat her with all honour, for, ``I needs,'' said he, ``must see to her affairs and quiet her mind.'' So Abul Komsan returned to her, and he built for her a tent, and did all that was needed. And Abu Zeyd bade him attend upon her and bring her dresses of honour and all things meet for her service.
Then began the Narrator to sing:
Saith the hero Abu Zeyd the Helali Salameh:
(Woe is me, my heart is a fire, a fire that burneth!)
On a Friday morning once, I sat with three companions,
I in my tent, the fourth of four, with the sons of Amer.
Sudden I raised my eyes and gazed at the breadth of the desert,
Searching the void afar, the empty hills and the valleys;
Lo, in the midmost waste a form, where the rainways sundered,
Wandering uncertain round in doubt, with steps of a stranger.
Turned I to Abul Komsan, my slave, and straightway I bade him,
``Ho, thou master of signs, expound to us this new comer.''
Abul Komsan arose and went, and anon returning,
``Fortune fair,'' said he, ``I bring and a noble token.
O my Lord Abu Zeyd,'' he cried, and his lips were smiling,
``Here is a guest of renown for thee, a stranger, a lady,
One for the wounding of hearts, a dame of illustrious lineage,
One whose heart is on fire with grief, and sorely afflicted.''
The dark one threw off his cloak to Abul Komsan in guerdon,
Even I, Abu Zeyd Salameh, the while my companions
Rose with me all as I rose in my place, we four rejoicing,
Hassan and Abu Kheyl Diab, and the Kadi Faïd.
And first of them Hassan spake and said, ``Is my name not Hassan?
Sultan and chief and lord am I of the lords of the Bedu.
Shall not my tent stand free to all, to each guest that cometh?
So God send her to me, be they hers, two thousand camels.''
And Abu Kheyl uprose, and with him the Kadi Faïd.
``And I,'' said he, ``no less will give to this dame two thousand.''
Nor was the Kadi slow to speak: ``Though this pen and paper
All my poor fortune be,'' said he, ``I will name her thirty.''
But I, Salameh, said, ``By my faith, these gifts were little;
Mine be a larger vow.'' And I swore an oath and I promised
All that she would to bring, nay, all her soul demanded,
Even a service of fear, a thing from the land of danger.
And thus they sat in discourse till the hour of noon was upon them,
And the caller called to prayer, and the great ones prayed assembled;
And these too in their place, and they stood in prayer together.
And when they had made an end of praises and prostrations,
Back to the tent came they, and still behold the lady
Wandering in doubt uncertain there with steps of a stranger.
Then to the desert went I forth, and I called and I shouted,
``Marhaba, welcome to thee,'' I cried, ``thou illustrious lady,
Welcomes as many be to thee as the leagues thou hast wandered.''
And she, ``I seek the hero, the Knight of Helal ibn Amer,
Bring me to him, the renowned of might, the hero of Amer.''
And I, ``I hear and obey, though I am not of the great ones.
Raise thy eyes and behold him here, the Sultan Hassan,
And with him Abu Musa Diab, the light of Zoghbat,
Best of the swordsmen he, and our learned Kadi Faïd,
The reader of the word, the learnedest of the learned,
And with them Aziz ed Din and El Hajin and Amer,
Fifty and five of the best, Fulano and Fulano.
These be men of their word; asking thou shalt obtain it:
Ask thou all that thou wilt, even all thy soul desireth.''
But she, ``Nay, thou dost mock, thou slave and idle talker,
Not of these would I hear nor of other than Salameh,
Salameh Abu Zeyd, Chief of Helal ibn Amer.
Why art thou mute of him for whom my soul is kindled?''
And I, ``Myself am he, the Helali Salameh,
Welcome to thee, and welcome as wide as thou hast wandered.''
And she prayed, ``O Abu Zeyd, behold me here thy stranger.
A boon I ask, O dark one, a mighty deed of daring.
Thy suppliant am I, thou son of Risk Salameh,
From the distress of time behold my tears are flowing.
For this one boon behold me pleading here before thee.
I have tasted Fortune's change. I plead by the day of judgment.''
And I, ``What is thy want, O Lady, that I grant it?
All, to the cord, I give, so thy tears cease from flowing.''
And she, ``O man admired! A great one was my husband,
A knight, a prince of lineage, Abul Jud Dagher,
A man of mighty wealth, stored up in many houses,
Wealth whose sole catalogue were a library of volumes.
He dying left behind with me our one son Amer,
To me and to the hate of an ill--minded uncle.
For when that Abul Jud was gathered to his fathers,
And sent from his loved home to death's unjoyful dwellings,
Behold this Naaman, this man he called his brother,
In arms against our house, he with his evil--doers,
Raiding all our wealth and making Amer captive.
Thus weeping did I flee, and seven long years an exile
Bore I his heart with me like a bird ever flying.
And then, the seven years done, to the dear place forbidden
Turned I in my love and my sweet son's remembrance.
And when he saw me near he called to me, `O mother,
Behold me in what straits I lie through men of evil
(And these may God requite!). Seven years behold me outcast,
Herding the flocks afar each day in the lone desert,
And in my uncle's tent nightly a guest unwelcome.
Yet was there one with me, his daughter fair, Betina,
Whom I, as of little count, might wander with unquestioned
Until but few days since. But now another suitor
Asking her hand hath come, and with him brave companions.
And for this suitor's sake am I forbid her presence.
And what then, O my mother, shall I do, my mother,
Who have neither riches, though my soul is generous,
Nor wile nor stratagem in my life's little wisdom?
How shall I win to her, this fair child of my uncle?
How shall I answer her, her greetings night and morning?
Thus spake he, and I heard, and with a heart of anger
Went I forth with him my son, and to the tribesmen
Pleaded in every tent his cause, we two as suppliants,
Calling on all their chiefs to give the hand of succour.
And fifty and five of them were those who lent agreement,
This one and that with joy, Fulano and Fulano.
And with them Selman was, Abul Jud el Aser.
And Jafferi was there, Khalifa ibn Nasser,
And many more of note. And they rose and went assembled
To the council of the king, and found him there in judgment
Set with his valiant men, and meting out obedience.
And when En Naaman saw them he cried to them in welcome:
`Sit ye, O chiefs, with me,' and made their place beside him,
And when he found them mute and of their manner bashful,
`Ye have come,' said he, `to speak of him, my brother's orphan.'
And they, `Ay, of a truth. We ask for him Betina.'
And he, `Be short of words. From me ye shall get no lying.
Nasser hath come for her, and with him a brave dowry.
This one, what hath he (speak) beside his beggar's portion?'
And they, `But we will give. So be thy mind unburdened,
And his, too, of the doubt. We stand to thee his guarants.'
And Selman spake, `Behold it, to the last coin, his dowry.'
And Jafferi, `Nor less, things needed for the wedding.
All that thou wilt we bring, a gift to thee and Amer.'
Then answered them the hero, En Naaman, the chieftain:
`List to my word, O chiefs, O generous--minded princes.
Let him but bring one thing, the thing my soul desireth,
So shall I stand content, nor ask a further dowry,
Necklace, nor chain, nor ring, nor ornament of silver,
Nor silk, nor broidered robe, and, lo, my word is on it.
He shall be to me a son, and I will love him truly,
More than a brother's son, in all things first and foremost.
But come he empty--handed, the girl shall be another's.'
And so with a pious phrase the hero left them wondering.
And straightway questioned all, `And what is this, O Naaman?'
Laughing he made reply, `The mare of Agheyli Jaber.'
Then on the chiefs assembled there fell as it were a tremor,
And each man looked at each, nor made they further pleading,
Only with whispered looks the thought passed round in silence,
`This thing can no man bring, nor he were a Jinn in cunning,
Not though on wings he flew.' But Amer in his longing,
Swore he the deed would do for sake of her, Betina.
And when I learned it all, how it had fared in council,
From my poor head the wits, O Sheykh Salameh, wandered.
And since that day of trouble (listen, O Helali!)
Around the world of men have I in anguish wandered,
Seeking of kings and chiefs and princes of the Arabs
Which one shall help our case, and all in turn have answered,
`This is a deed of deeds meet only for Salameh.
There is but one thy help, he of Helal ibn Amer.'
Thus have I come to thee on my soul's faith, Salameh,
Thee the champion proved of all whose hearts are doubting,
Thee the doer of right, the scourge of the oppressor,
Thee the breeze in autumn, thee the winter's coolness,
Thee the morning's warmth after a night of watching,
Thee the wanderer's joy, well of the living water,
Thee to thy foeman's lips as colocynth of the desert,
Thee the river Nile, in the full day of his flooding,
When he hath mounted high and covereth the islands.
Behold me thus for thee clothed in the robes of amber.
Beyond thee there is none save the sole Lord of pity.
Thou art my last appeal, O Helali Salameh,
Glory of the Arabs, beauty of all beholders.''
Thus then spoke Ghanimeh, and Abu Zeyd made answer,
``Nay, but a thousand welcomes, O thou mother of Amer,
Welcomes as many be as the leagues thy feet have wandered.
Fear thou nought at our hand, nay, only but fair dealing.''
And the hero Abu Zeyd called to his servant loudly:
``Forth, O Abul Komsan, nor let thy footsteps linger.''
And the slave said, ``Yes and yes, O thou beloved of the Arabs.''
And he, ``Go with this lady and build her a pavilion,
With breadths of perfumed silk, and bid prepare all dainties
That she may eat of the best, and serve her in due honour.
For well it is in life to be of all things generous,
Ere we are called away to death's unjoyful dwellings,
Even of the shoulder meat, that the guests may rise up praising.''
And Abul Komsan went and all things set in order,
Even as he was bid, at the word of his lord Salameh.
Said the Narrator:
And, when the lady had made an end of talking, then agreed the Emir Abu Zeyd to all her desires, and he delivered her into the hand of Abul Komsan, and bade him to do her honour and to serve her in his own person, and not through the persons of others, and he gave him his commands, saying: ``Take charge of her thus and thus, the while I go forth and see diligently to her affairs.'' And Abul Komsan did as he was commanded.
And immediately the Emir Abu Zeyd arose and went into his own tent and took out a herdsman's wallet and a lute, and went forth in disguise as a singer, of the singers of ballads. And thus travestied he came to the Assembly that he might take his leave of the Sultan Hassan and of the rest. And Hassan said to him, ``O Mukheymer, whither goest thou, and what is thy design?'' And Abu Zeyd made answer, ``I am of a mind to journey abroad, even to the land of the Agheyli Jaber.'' And so he disclosed to him all his plan, both what was without and what was within, the manifest and the hidden. And as he spoke behold the Sultan's countenance changed, and he grew pale, and ``Goest thou,'' said he, ``to the land of our enemy, and takest thou from us the light of thy countenance? Leave now this adventure, and we will determine all things as is best for the fair lady.'' But Abu Zeyd said: ``Nay, for the like of me that were a disgrace and a shame, and need is that I go: ay, though I were given to drink of the cup of confusion, yet must I go forward.'' And Diab said, ``May no such disgrace befall thee, nor confusion, for this would be to us all a sign that thou lackedst understanding.'' And Abu Zeyd said, ``Lengthen not thy words.'' And the Kadi calling to the others, said, ``My mind is that you should prevent him, even if it were by force, from his purpose, nor let him go.'' But when Abu Zeyd heard that word of the Kadi his wrath flamed forth, and he said, ``How! would ye deal with me in this wise, with me, the Emir Abu Zeyd?''
Now the ears of the tribe were filled with these sayings, and their mouths with the noise of them. But none was able to turn Abu Zeyd from his way. And his sister Rih came to dissuade him. Yet he listened not to her words, but soothed and consoled her only, and bade her farewell. And he departed on his quest, going by the desolate valleys of the desert.
Then once more the Narrator singeth:
Saith the hero, Abu Zeyd Salameh Mukheymer:
``Needs must I haste abroad to the wide breadths of desert,
What though I fare afar to death's unjoyful dwellings?
Constrained of my guest I go to do her pleasure's bidding.''
And speaking thus he turned and went to his pavilion,
And clothed himself anew in his most cheerful raiment,
Lengthening his kaftan's sleeves and rolling broad his turban,
Till in disguise he stood, a singer of the singers,
With wallet in his hand and lute for his sole armour,
But in his head what store of strategy and cunning!
And thus to the Divan, wherein the chiefs assembled
Crowded all the floor as it were the market of Amer.
And when the Sultan Hassan beheld him at the tent ropes,
Loudly he cried to him, ``Thou goest forth? And whither?
Tell us, O Abu Zeyd, what meaneth this thy venture?''
And I, Salameh, said, ``It is a thing of honour.
A lady came to me, O Hassan, one a stranger,
To ask a deed of me, and my own tongue hath bound me.
For when I cried to her, `What is thy need, O lady?'
She answered, `This I need, the mare of Agheyli Jaber.'''
And the Sultan Hassan hearing, struck his two palms together,
And he cried, ``O Abu Helal, thine is a case of evil.
How hast thou staked thy life? Nay, rather leave this daring.
Thine shall the camels be--ay, even the two thousand.''
And I, ``Alas, for shame! Such failure were unseemly.
Or will I bring the mare or stand no more among ye,
Nay, though my way be death.'' Then answered Abu Musa,
``Madman thou art and fool. This is beyond thy winning,
Not though thy back grew wings.'' And I, ``Forbear vain pleadings.
Base surely were the man less prompt to do than promise.''
But next the Kadi came and fingered at his turban,
And with him Rih my sister, and she called to him, ``Helali,
Wilt thou not stay this champion?'' And I, ``Nay, hold thy clamour
Lest I should cut thee short, even with this sword, my sister.''
And the Kadi: ``Hear, O people. This warrior is foolhardy.
Bring forth the brazen fetters to bind this Father of Patience.''
And hearing, Abu Zeyd was wrath with wrath exceeding,
And his hand set to his sword and ``Ho,'' said he, ``ye mad ones!
Talk ye to lay in fetter me who am named Salameh,
Me, the strength of Helal, who clothed the tribe in glory?
Nay, were it not for shame I would hew ye all in pieces.''
And Rih cried, ``Woe is me, the burning of my trouble!
How shall I quench this flame? Yet shall he take our blessing.''
And I, ``The word farewell is but a wound to the goer.
Cease, therefore, from thy tears.'' And weeping thus she left me.
But I my camel mounted and went my way in silence,
Going by paths unknown in the wide, trackless desert,
Nor turned my head again when they had turned back silent.
Thus was our parting done. Shame rest with the gainsayer.
The Canon Of Aughrim
You ask me of English honour, whether your Nation is just?
Justice for us is a word divine, a name we revere,
Alas, no more than a name, a thing laid by in the dust.
The world shall know it again, but not in this month or year.
Honour? Oh no, you profane it. Justice? What words! What deeds!
Look at the suppliant Earth with its living burden of men.
Here and to Hindostan the nations and kings and creeds
Praise your name as a god's, the god of their children slain.
Which of us doubts your justice? It is not here in the West,
After six hundred years of pitiless legal war,
The sons of our soil are in doubt. They know, who have borne it, best:
The world is famished for justice. You give us a stone, your law.
These are its fruits. Yet, think you, the Ireland where men weep
Once was a jubilant land and dear to the Saints of God.
All you have made it to--day is a hell to conquer and keep,
Yours by the right of the strongest hand, the right of the rod.
History tells the story in signs deep writ on the soil,
Plain and clear in indelible type both for fools and wise.
Here is no need of books, of any expositor's coil.
He who runs may read, and he may weep who has eyes.
This is the plain of Aughrim, renowned in our Irish story
Because of the blood that was shed, the last in arms by our sons,
A fight in battle array, with more of grief than of glory,
Where as a Nation we died to dirge of your English guns.
So the Chroniclers tell us, and turn in silence their page,
Ending the fighting here. I tell you the Chroniclers lie.
Spite of the hush of the dead, the battle from age to age
Flames on still through the land, and still at men's hands men die.
Look! I will show you the footsteps of those who have died at your hand,
Done to death by your law, alas, and not by the sword,
Only their work remaining, a nations's track in the sand,
Ridge and furrow of ancient fields half hid in the sward.
Step by step they retreated. You fenced them out with your Pale,
Back from township and city and cornland fair by the Sea.
Waterford, Youghal and Wexford you took and the Golden Vale.
Tears were their portion assigned: for you their demesnes in fee.
Back to the forest and bog. They shouldered their spades like men,
Fought with the wolf and the rock and the hunger which holds the hill.
Still new homesteads arose where fever lurked in the fen,
Still your law was a sword that hunted and dogged them still.
Magistrate, landlord, bailiff, process--server and spy,
These were the dogs of your pack, which scented the land's increase.
Vainly, like hares, they lay in the forms they had fashioned to die.
Justice hunted them forth by the hand of the Justice of Peace.
Look at it closer, thus, and shading your eyes with your hand,
Far as a bird could reach, to the utmost edge of the plain,
What do you see but grass! And what do you understand?
Cattle that graze on the grass.--Alas, you have looked in vain.
See with my eyes. They are older than yours, but more keen in their love.
See what I saw as a boy in the fields, as a priest by the ways.
See what I saw in anger with angels watching above
Hiding their faces for shame in the day of the terrible days.
Horsemen and footmen and guns. They were here. I have seen them, though some
Say that two hundred years have passed since the battle was stilled.
Ay, and the cry of the wounded, drowned by the beat of the drum.
Did I not hear with my ears how it rose like the wail of a child?
I was a student then, a boy, in the days now forgotten,
When for our school--house the chapel must serve, for our master the priest.
Many a Latin theme have I scrawled on the altar rails rotten,
Thinking no more of the house of God than the house of the least.
Yet we were saints in Aughrim. An Eden the plain then stood,
Covered with gardens round, a happy and holy place,
Rich in the generations of those who had shed their blood,
Bound to their faith by the martyr's bond and the power of grace.
They do us wrong who affirm the Irish people are sad.
Sad we are in the lands afar, but not in our home.
Oh, if you knew the gladness with which our people are glad,
Well might you grieve for your own, the poor in your towns of doom.
Here, God knows it, we hunger. But hunger, a little, is well,
Man with full stomach is proud, his heart is shut to the poor.
Well, too, is persecution, since thus through its sting we rebel,
Clinging yet more to our love and our hate in the homes we adore.
Mine is a mission of peace, to save men's souls in the world,
Not to make converts to Hell, for Ireland's sake even, you say.
Why should I preach of rebellion, and hatred, words impotent hurled
Each like a spear from the lips to strike whom it lists in the fray?
Hark. You shall hear it. This parish was mine. I remember it all
Tilled in squares, like a chess--board, each house and holding apart.
Down where the nettles grow you may mark the line of the wall
Bounding the chapel field where our dead lie heart on heart.
It was not the famine killed them. God knows in that evil year
He pressed us a little hard, but he spared us our lives and joy.
Only the old and weak were taken. The rest stood clear,
Quit of their debt to Death. God struck, but not to destroy.
The wolves of the world were fiercer. The wolves of the world to--day
Go in sheep's clothing all, with names that the world applauds.
Nobody now draws sword or spear with intent to slay.
Death is done with a sigh, and mercy tightens the cords.
It was a woman did it. Her father, the lawyer Blake,
Purchased the land for a song,--some say, or less, for a debt
Owed by the former Lord, a broken spendthrift and rake--
And left it hers when he died with all he could grip or get.
Timothy Blake was not loved. He had too much in his heart
Of the law of tenures, for love. No word men spoke in his praise.
Yet, in his lawyer's way, and deeds and titles apart,
All were allowed to live who paid their rent in his days.
Little Miss Blake was his daughter. A pink--faced school--girl she came
First from Dublin city to live in her father's house,
She and her dogs and horses, unconscious of shame or blame.
Who would have guessed her cruel with manners meek as a mouse?
Nothing in truth was further, or further seemed, from her heart,
Set as it was on pleasure and undisturbed with pain,
So she might ride with the hounds when winter brought round its sport,
Or angle a trout from the river, than war with her fellow men.
She was fastidious, too, with her English education,
And pained at want and squalor, things hard she should understand.
The sight of poverty touched the sense of what was due to her station,
And still in her earlier years she gave with an open hand.
The village was poor to look at, a row of houses, no more,
With just four walls and the thatch in holes where the fowls passed through.
A shame to us all, she averred, and her, so near to her door,
She sent us for slates to the quarry and bade us build them anew.
The Chapel, too, was unsightly. A Protestant she, and yet
Decency needs must be in a house of prayer, she said.
Perched on a rising ground in sight of her windows set,
Its shapeless walls were her grief. She built it a new facade.
What was it changed her heart? God knows. I know not. Some say
She set her fancy on one above her in rank and pride.
Young Lord Clair at the Castle had danced with her. Then one day
Dancing and she were at odds. He had taken an English bride.
This, or it may be less, a foolish word from a friend,
A jest repeated to ears already wounded and sore,
A pang of jealousy roused for the sake of some private end,
Or only the greed of gain, of more begotten of more.
These were the days of plenty, of prices rising, men thought
Still to rise for ever, and all were eager to buy.
Landlord with landlord vied, and tenant with tenant bought.
Riches make selfish souls, and gain has an evil eye.
Oh! the economist fraud, with wealth of nations for text,
How has it robbed the poor of their one poor right to live!
Only the fields grow fat. The men that delve them are vexed,
Scourged with the horse--leech cry of the daughter of hunger, ``give.''
Why should I blame this woman? She practised what all men preach,
Duty to Man a little, but much to herself and land.
She made two blades of grass to grow in the place of each.
She took two guineas for one. What more would your laws demand?
If in her way men died, Economy's rules are stern,
Stern as the floods and droughts, the tempests and fires and seas.
Men but cumber the land whose labour is weak to earn
More than their board and bed; much cattle were worthy these.
So those argued who served her. What wonder if she too grew
Hard in her dealings around, and grudged their lands to the poor?
Cary, her agent, died. The day she engaged the new,
Grief stepped into the village, and Death sat down at the door.
Rent? Who speaks of the rent? We Irish who till the soil,
Are ever ready to pay the tribute your laws impose;
You, the conquering race, have portioned to each his toil;
We, the conquered, bring the ransom due to our woes.
Here is no case of justice, of just debts made or unjust.
Contracts 'twixt freemen are, not here, where but one is free.
No man argues of right, who pays the toll that he must;
Life is dear to all, and rent is the leave to be.
No. None argued of rent. Each paid, or he could not pay,
Much as the seasons willed, in fatness or hungry years.
Blake's old rental was high. She raised it, and none said nay;
Then she raised it again, and made a claim for arrears.
Joyce was her agent now. The rules of Charity bind
Somewhat my tongue in speech, for even truths wrongs endured;
All I will say is this, in Joyce you might see combined,
Three worst things, a lawyer, money--lender, and steward.
His was the triple method, to harass by legal plan,
Ruin by note of hand, and serve with the Crown's decree;
One by one in his snare he trapped the poor to a man,
Left them bare in the street, and turned in their doors the key.
How many Christian hearts have I seen thus flouted with scorn,
Turned adrift on the world in the prime of life and their pride!
How many lips have I heard curse out the day they were born,
Souls absolved in their anger to die on the bare hill--side!
All for Miss Blake and the law, and Joyce's profit on fees!
All for Imperial order, to see the Queen's writ run!
All for the honour of England, mistress of half the seas!
All in the name of justice, the purest under the sun!
Pitiful God of justice! You speak of order and law?
Order! the law of blood which sets the stoat on the track;
Law! the order of death which has glutted the soldier's maw,
When Hell lies drunk in a city the morning after a sack.
Order and law and justice! All noble things, but defiled,
Made to stink in men's nostrils, a carrion refuse of good,
Till God Himself is debased in the work of His hands beguiled,
And good and bad are as one in the mind of the multitude.
All in vain we argue who preach submission to Heaven.
Even to us who know it, such mercy is hard to find.
How then submission to Man by whom no quarter is given?
Vainly and thrice in vain. That nut has too hard a rind.
Then men rise in their anger. Another justice they seek.
Maxims of right prevail traced down from a pagan age;
These take the place of the gospel your laws have robbed from the weak.
Who shall convince them of wrong, or turn the worm from his rage?
Which are the first fruits of freedom? Truth, Courage, Compassion. A man,
Nursed from his childhood in right and guarded close by the law,
Why should he trifle with virtue or doubt to do what he can
Fearless in sight of the world, his life without failure or flaw?
All things come to the strong, power, riches, fair living, repute,
Conscience of worth and of virtue, plain speaking and dealing as plain.
Oh, fair words are easy to speak when the world spreads its pearls at your foot.
Free is humanity's fetter with pleasure gilding the chain.
The Englishman's word, who shall doubt it? The poor Celt, truly, he lies.
Fie on his houghing of cattle, his blunderbuss fired from the hedge!
Witness swears falsely to murder. You throw up your innocent eyes,
Rightly, for murder and lying set honest teeth upon edge.
Yet, mark how circumstance alters. You plant your Englishman down
Strange on the banks of the Nile or Niger to shift with new life.
All things are stronger than he. He fears men's fanatic frown,
Straightway fawns at their knees, his fingers clutching the knife.
He is kindly. Yet, think you he spares them, the servant, the cattle, the child,
The wife he has wedded in falsehood, the Prince who clothed him in gold?
Out on such womanly scruples! He boasts the friends he beguiled,
The poisoned wells on his track, the poor slaves starved on the wold.
This is necessity's law? Ay, truly. Necessity teaches
Sternly the Devil's truth, and he that hath ears may hear.
Only the grace of God interprets the wrong Hell preaches.
Only the patience of perfect love can cast out fear.
Joyce was found on his doorstep, stone dead, one Sunday morning,
Shot by an unknown hand, a charge of slugs in his chest,
The blow had fallen unheard, without either sign or warning,
Save for the notice--to--quit pinned to the dead man's breast.
Oh, that terrible morning of grief to angels and men!
I who knew, none better, the truth that until that day
Sin in its larger sense was hardly within the ken
Of these poor peasant souls, what dared I devise or say?
A deed of terror? Yes. A murder? Yes. A foul crime?
True, but a signal of battle, the first blood spilt in a war.
Who could foresee the sequence of wrong to the end of time?
Who would listen to peace with the red flag waving afar?
War, war, war, was the issue in all men's minds as they stood
Watching the constable force paraded that afternoon,
War of the ancient sort when men lay wait in a wood
Spying the Norman camps low crouched in a waning moon.
Group with group they whispered. Their eyes looked strangely and new,
Lit with the guilty knowledge as thoughts of the dead would pass.
It was a pitiful sight to mark how the anger grew
In souls that had prayed as children that very morning at Mass.
The answer to Joyce's murder was swift. Two strokes of the pen,
Set by Miss Blake's fair hand on parchment white as her face,
Gave what remained of the parish, lands, tenements, chapel, and mill,
All to a Scotch stock farmer to hold on a single lease.
Here stands the story written. The parchment itself could show
Hardly more of their death than this great desolate plain.
The poor potato trenches they dug, how greenly they grow!
Grass, all grass for ever, the graves of our women and men!
And did all die? You ask it. I ask you in turn, ``What is death?''
Death by disease or battle, with gaping wounds for a door:
Through it the prisoned soul runs forth with the prisoned breath,
And what is lost for the one the other gains it and more:
This is the death of the body. Some died thus, fortunate ones,
Here and there a woman taken in labour of birth,
Here and there a man struck down on his cold hearth stones,
Here and there a child, or grey beard bent to the earth.
Heaven in pity took them. Their innocent souls received
All that the Church can give of help on the onward way.
Here as they lived they died, believing all they believed.
Here their bodies rest, clay kneaded with kindred clay.
Every eviction in Ireland brings one such physical loss,
Weak ones left by the road, grief touching the feeble brain.
None of us mourn such dead who hold the creed of the Cross,
Counting as sure their certain hope of eternal gain.
Not for these is my anger. Love grieves, but the cicatrice closes,
Ending in peace of heart. The dead are doubly our own.
But what of that other death for which love strews no roses,
Death of the altered soul, lost, perished, forever gone?
Deep in the gulf of your cities they lie, the poor lorn creatures,
Made in God's image once, His folded innocent sheep,
Now misused and profaned, in speech and form and features
Living like devils and dying like dogs in incestuous sleep.
Seek them where I have found them, in New York, Liverpool, London,
Cursing and cursed of all, a pustulous human growth,
These same Irish children God made for His glory, undone,
Ay, and undoing your law, while black Hell gapes for you both.
There! You asked for the truth. You have it plain from my lips.
Scientists tell us the world has no direction or plan,
Only a struggle of Nature, each beast and nation at grips,
Still the fittest surviving and he the fittest who can.
You are that fittest, the lion to--day in your strength. To--morrow?
Well, who knows what other will come with a wider jaw?
Justly, you say, the nations give place and yield in their sorrow;
Vainly, you say, Christ died in face of the natural law.
Would you have me believe it? I tell you, if it were so,
If I were not what I am, a priest instructed in grace,
Knowing the truth of the Gospel and holding firm what I know,
Where should I be at this hour? Nay, surely not in this place.
Granted your creed of destruction, your right of the strong to devour,
Granted your law of Nature that he shall live who can kill,
Find me the law of submission shall stay the weak in his hour,
His single hour of vengeance, or set a rein on his will.
Where should I be, even I? Not surely here with my tears,
Weeping an old man's grief at wrongs which are past regret,
Healing here a little and helping there with my prayers,
All for the sake of Nature, to fill the teeth she has whet!
Not a priest at Aughrim. My place would be down with those
Poor lost souls of Ireland, who, loving her far away,
Not too wisely but well, deep down in your docks lie close,
Waiting the night of ruin which needs must follow your day.
England's lion is fat. Full--bellied with fortune he sleeps;
Why disturb his slumber with ominous news of ill?
Softly from under his paw the prey he has mangled creeps,
Deals his blow in the back, and all the carcase is still.
Logic and counter--logic. You talk of cowardice rarely!
Dynamite under your ships might make even your cheek white.
Treacherous? Oh, you are jesting. The natural law works fairly,
He that has cunning shall live, and he that has poison bite.
Only I dare not believe it. I hold the justice of Heaven
Larger than all the science, and welled from a purer fount;
God as greater than Nature, His law than the wonders seven,
Darwin's sermon on Man redeemed by that on the Mount.
Thus spoke the Canon of Aughrim, and raised in silence his hands,
Seeming to bless the battle his eyes had seen on the plain.
Order and law, he murmured, a Nation's track in the sands,
Ridge and furrow of grass, the graves of our women and men.
The Wind And The Whirlwind
I have a thing to say. But how to say it?
I have a cause to plead. But to what ears?
How shall I move a world by lamentation,
A world which heeded not a Nation's tears?
How shall I speak of justice to the aggressors,
Of right to Kings whose rights include all wrong,
Of truth to Statecraft, true but in deceiving,
Of peace to Prelates, pity to the Strong?
Where shall I find a hearing? In high places?
The voice of havock drowns the voice of good.
On the throne's steps? The elders of the nation
Rise in their ranks and call aloud for blood.
Where? In the street? Alas for the world's reason!
Not Peers not Priests alone this deed have done.
The clothes of those high Hebrews stoning Stephen
Were held by all of us,--ay every one.
Yet none the less I speak. Nay, here by Heaven
This task at least a poet best may do,
To stand alone against the mighty many,
To force a hearing for the weak and few.
Unthanked, unhonoured,--yet a task of glory,
Not in his day, but in an age more wise,
When those poor Chancellors have found their portion
And lie forgotten in their dust of lies.
And who shall say that this year's cause of freedom
Lost on the Nile has not as worthy proved
Of poet's hymning as the cause which Milton
Sang in his blindness or which Dante loved?
The fall of Guelph beneath the spears of Valois,
Freedom betrayed, the Ghibelline restored:
Have we not seen it, we who caused this anguish,
Exile and fear, proscription and the sword?
Or shall God less avenge in their wild valley
Where they lie slaughtered those poor sheep whose fold
In the grey twilight of our wrath we harried
To serve the worshippers of stocks and gold?
This fails. That finds its hour. This fights. That falters.
Greece is stamped out beneath a Wolseley's heels.
Or Egypt is avenged of her long mourning,
And hurls her Persians back to their own keels.
'Tis not alone the victor who is noble.
'Tis not alone the wise man who is wise.
There is a voice of sorrow in all shouting,
And shame pursues not only him who flies.
To fight and conquer: 'tis the boast of heroes.
To fight and fly: of this men do not speak.
Yet shall there come a day when men shall tremble
Rather than do misdeeds upon the weak,
A day when statesmen baffled in their daring
Shall rather fear to wield the sword in vain
Than to give back their charge to a hurt nation,
And own their frailties, and resign their reign,
A day of wrath when all fame shall remember
Of this year's work shall be the fall of one
Who, standing foremost in her paths of virtue,
Bent a fool's knee at War's red altar--stone,
And left all virtue beggared in his falling,
A sign to England of new griefs to come,
Her priest of peace who sold his creed for glory
And marched to carnage at the tuck of drum.
Therefore I fear not. Rather let this record
Stand of the past, ere God's revenge shall chase
From place to punishment His sad vicegerents
Of power on Earth.--I fling it in their face!
I have a thing to say. But how to say it?
Out of the East a twilight had been born.
It was not day. Yet the long night was waning,
And the spent nations watched it less forlorn.
Out of the silence of the joyless ages
A voice had spoken, such as the first bird
Speaks to the woods, before the morning wakens,
And the World starting to its feet had heard.
Men hailed it as a prophecy. Its utterance
Was in that tongue divine the Orient knew.
It spoke of hope. Men hailed it as a brother's.
It spoke of happiness. Men deemed it true.
There in the land of Death, where toil is cradled,
That tearful Nile, unknown to Liberty,
It spoke in passionate tones of human freedom,
And of those rights of Man which cannot die,
Till from the cavern of long fear, whose portals
Had backward rolled, and hardly yet aloud,
Men prisoned stole like ghosts and joined the chorus,
And chaunted trembling, each man in his shroud:
Justice and peace, the brotherhood of nations,
Love and goodwill of all mankind to man:
These were the words they caught and echoed strangely,
Deeming them portions of some Godlike plan,
A plan thus first to their own land imparted.
They did not know the irony of Fate,
The mockery of man's freedom, and the laughter
Which greets a brother's love from those that hate.
Oh for the beauty of hope's dreams! The childhood
Of that old land, long impotent in pain,
Cast off its slough of sorrow with its silence,
And laughed and shouted and grew new again.
And in the streets, where still the shade of Pharaoh
Stalked in his sons, the Mamelukian horde,
Youth greeted youth with words of exultation
And shook his chains and clutched as for a sword:
Student and merchant, Jew, and Copt, and Moslem,
All whose scarred backs had bent to the same rod,
Fired with one mighty thought, their feuds forgotten,
Stood hand in hand and praising the same God.
I have a thing to say. But how to say it?
As in the days of Moses in the land,
God sent a man of prayer before his people
To speak to Pharaoh, and to loose his hand.
Injustice, that hard step--mother of heroes,
Had taught him justice. Him the sight of pain
Moved unto anger, and the voice of weeping
Made his eyes weep as for a comrade slain.
A soldier in the bands of his proud masters
It was his lot to serve. But of his soul
None owned allegiance save the Lord of Armies.
No worship from his God's might him cajole.
Strict was his service. In the law of Heaven
He comfort took and patience under wrong.
And all men loved him for his heart unquailing,
And for the words of pity on his tongue.
Knowledge had come to him in the night--watches,
And strength with fasting, eloquence with prayer.
He stood a Judge from God before the strangers,
The one just man among his people there.
Strongly he spoke: ``Now, Heaven be our witness!
Egypt this day has risen from her sleep.
She has put off her mourning and her silence.
It was no law of God that she should weep.
``It was no law of God nor of the Nations
That in this land, alone of the fair Earth,
The hand that sowed should reap not of its labour,
The heart that grieved should profit not of mirth.
``How have we suffered at the hands of strangers,
Binding their sheaves, and harvesting their wrath!
Our service has been bitter, and our wages
Hunger and pain and nakedness and drouth.
``Which of them pitied us? Of all our princes,
Was there one Sultan listened to our cry?
Their palaces we built, their tombs, their temples.
What did they build but tombs for Liberty?
``To live in ignorance, to die by service,
To pay our tribute and our stripes receive:
This was the ransom of our toil in Eden,
This, and our one sad liberty--to grieve.
``We have had enough of strangers and of princes
Nursed on our knees and lords within our house.
The bread which they have eaten was our children's,
For them the feasting and the shame for us.
``The shadow of their palaces, fair dwellings
Built with our blood and kneaded with our tears,
Darkens the land with darkness of Gehennem,
The lust, the crime, the infamy of years.
``Did ye not hear it? From those muffled windows
A sound of women rises and of mirth.
These are our daughters--ay our sons--in prison,
Captives to shame with those who rule the Earth.
``The silent river, by those gardens lapping,
To--night receives its burden of new dead,
A man of age sent home with his lord's wages,
Stones to his feet, a grave--cloth to his head.
``Walls infamous in beauty, gardens fragrant
With rose and citron and the scent of blood.
God shall blot out the memory of all laughter,
Rather than leave you standing where you stood.
``We have had enough of princes and of strangers,
Slaves that were Sultans, eunuchs that were kings,
The shame of Sodom is on all their faces.
The curse of Cain pursues them, and it clings.
``Is there no virtue? See the pale Greek smiling.
Virtue for him is as a tale of old.
Which be his gods? The cent per cent in silver.
His God of gods? The world's creator, Gold.
``The Turk that plunders and the Frank that panders,
These are our lords who ply with lust and fraud.
The brothel and the winepress and the dancers
Are gifts unneeded in the lands of God.
``We need them not. We heed them not. Our faces
Are turned to a new Kebla, a new truth,
Proclaimed by the one God of all the nations
To save His people and renew their youth.
``A truth which is of knowledge and of reason;
Which teaches men to mourn no more and live;
Which tells them of things good as well as evil,
And gives what Liberty alone can give,
``The counsel to be strong, the will to conquer,
The love of all things just and kind and wise,
Freedom for slaves, fair rights for all as brothers,
The triumph of things true, the scorn of lies.
``O men, who are my brethren, my soul's kindred!
That which our fathers dreamed of as a dream,
The sun of peace, and justice, has arisen,
And God shall work in you His perfect scheme.
``The rulers of your Earth shall cease deceiving,
The men of usury shall fly your land.
Your princes shall be numbered with your servants,
And peace shall guide the sword in your right hand.
``You shall become a nation with the nations.
Lift up your voices, for the night is past.
Stretch forth your hands. The hands of the free peoples
Have beckoned you the youngest and the last.
``And in the brotherhood of Man reposing,
Joined to their hopes and nursed in their new day,
The anguish of the years shall be forgotten
And God, with these, shall wipe your tears away.''
I have a thing to say. But how to say it?
How shall I tell the mystery of guile,
The fraud that fought, the treason that disbanded,
The gold that slew the children of the Nile?
The ways of violence are hard to reckon,
And men of right grow feeble in their will,
And Virtue of her sons has been forsaken,
And men of peace have turned aside to kill.
How shall I speak of them, the priests of Baal,
The men who sowed the wind for their ill ends!
The reapers of the whirlwind in that harvest
Were all my countrymen, were some my friends.
Friends, countrymen and lovers of fair freedom,
Souls to whom still my soul laments and cries!
I would not tell the shame of your false dealings,
Save for the blood which clamours to the skies.
A curse on Statecraft, not on you, my Country!
The men you slew were not more foully slain
Than was your honour at their hands you trusted.
They died, you conquered,--both alike in vain.
Crimes find accomplices, and Murder weapons.
The ways of Statesmen are an easy road.
All swords are theirs, the noblest with the neediest.
And those who serve them best are men of good.
What need to blush, to trifle with dissembling?
A score of honest tongues anon shall swear.
Blood flows. The Senate's self shall spread its mantle
In the world's face, nor own a Caesar there.
``Silence! Who spoke?'' ``The voice of one disclosing
A truth untimely.'' ``With what right to speak?
Holds he the Queen's commission?'' ``No, God's only.''
A hundred hands shall smite him on the cheek.
The ``truth'' of Statesmen is the thing they publish,
Their ``falsehood'' the thing done they do not say,
Their ``honour'' what they win from the world's trouble,
Their ``shame'' the ``ay'' which reasons with their ``nay.''
Alas for Liberty, alas for Egypt!
What chance was yours in this ignoble strife?
Scorned and betrayed, dishonoured and rejected,
What was there left you but to fight for life?
The men of honour sold you to dishonour.
The men of truth betrayed you with a kiss.
Your strategy of love too soon outplotted,
What was there left you of your dreams but this?
You thought to win a world by your fair dealing,
To conquer freedom with no drop of blood.
This was your crime. The world knows no such reasoning.
It neither bore with you nor understood.
Your Pharaoh with his chariots and his dancers,
Him they could understand as of their kin.
He spoke in their own tongue and as their servant,
And owned no virtue they could call a sin.
They took him for his pleasure and their purpose.
They fashioned him as clay to their own pride.
His name they made a cudgel to your hurting,
His treachery a spear--point to your side.
They knew him, and they scorned him and upheld him.
They strengthened him with honours and with ships.
They used him as a shadow for seditions.
They stabbed you with the lying of his lips.
Sad Egypt! Since that night of misadventure
Which slew your first--born for your Pharaoh's crime,
No plague like this has God decreed against you,
No punishment of all foredoomed in Time.
I have a thing to say. Oh how to say it!
One summer morning, at the hour of prayer,
And in the face of Man and Man's high Maker,
The thunder of their cannon rent the air.
The flames of death were on you and destruction.
A hail of iron on your heads they poured.
You fought, you fell, you died until the sunset;
And then you fled forsaken of the Lord.
I care not if you fled. What men call courage
Is the least noble thing of which they boast.
Their victors always are great men of valour.
Find me the valour of the beaten host!
It may be you were cowards. Let them prove it,--
What matter? Were you women in the fight,
Your courage were the greater that a moment
You steeled your weakness in the cause of right.
Oh I would rather fly with the first craven
Who flung his arms away in your good cause,
Than head the hottest charge by England vaunted
In all the record of her unjust wars!
Poor sheep! they scattered you. Poor slaves! they bowed you.
You prayed for your dear lives with your mute hands.
They answered you with laughter and with shouting,
And slew you in your thousands on the sands.
They led you with arms bound to your betrayer:
His slaves, they said, recaptured for his will.
They bade him to take heart and fill his vengeance.
They gave him his lost sword that he might kill.
They filled for him his dungeons with your children.
They chartered him new gaolers from strange shores:
The Arnaout and the Cherkess for his minions,
Their soldiers for the sentries at his doors.
He plied you with the whip, the rope, the thumb--screw.
They plied you with the scourging of vain words.
He sent his slaves, his eunuchs, to insult you.
They sent you laughter on the lips of Lords.
They bound you to the pillar of their firmans.
They placed for sceptre in your hand a pen.
They cast lots for the garments of your treaties,
And brought you naked to the gaze of men.
They called on your High Priest for your death mandate.
They framed indictments on you from your laws.
For him men loved they offered a Barabbas.
They washed their hands and found you without cause.
They scoffed at you and pointed in derision,
Crowned with their thorns and nailed upon their tree.
And at your head their Pilate wrote the inscription:
``This is the land restored to Liberty!''
Oh insolence of strength! Oh boast of wisdom!
Oh poverty in all things truly wise!
Thinkest thou, England, God can be outwitted
For ever thus by him who sells and buys?
Thou sellest the sad nations to their ruin.
What hast thou bought? The child within the womb,
The son of him thou slayest to thy hurting,
Shall answer thee, ``An Empire for thy tomb.''
Thou hast joined house to house for thy perdition.
Thou hast done evil in the name of right.
Thou hast made bitter sweet and the sweet bitter,
And called light darkness and the darkness light.
Thou art become a by--word for dissembling,
A beacon to thy neighbours for all fraud.
Thy deeds of violence men count and reckon.
Who takes the sword shall perish by the sword.
Thou hast deserved men's hatred. They shall hate thee.
Thou hast deserved men's fear. Their fear shall kill.
Thou hast thy foot upon the weak. The weakest
With his bruised head shall strike thee on the heel.
Thou wentest to this Egypt for thy pleasure.
Thou shalt remain with her for thy sore pain.
Thou hast possessed her beauty. Thou wouldst leave her.
Nay. Thou shalt lie with her as thou hast lain.
She shall bring shame upon thy face with all men.
She shall disease thee with her grief and fear.
Thou shalt grow sick and feeble in her ruin.
Thou shalt repay her to the last sad tear.
Her kindred shall surround thee with strange clamours,
Dogging thy steps till thou shalt loathe their din.
The friends thou hast deceived shall watch in anger.
Thy children shall upbraid thee with thy sin.
All shall be counted thee a crime,--thy patience
With thy impatience. Thy best thought shall wound.
Thou shalt grow weary of thy work thus fashioned,
And walk in fear with eyes upon the ground.
The Empire thou didst build shall be divided.
Thou shalt be weighed in thine own balances
Of usury to peoples and to princes,
And be found wanting by the world and these.
They shall possess the lands by thee forsaken
And not regret thee. On their seas no more
Thy ships shall bear destruction to the nations,
Or thy guns thunder on a fenceless shore.
Thou hadst no pity in thy day of triumph.
These shall not pity thee. The world shall move
On its high course and leave thee to thy silence,
Scorned by the creatures that thou couldst not love.
Thy Empire shall be parted, and thy kingdom.
At thy own doors a kingdom shall arise,
Where freedom shall be preached and the wrong righted
Which thy unwisdom wrought in days unwise.
Truth yet shall triumph in a world of justice.
This is of faith. I swear it. East and west
The law of Man's progression shall accomplish
Even this last great marvel with the rest.
Thou wouldst not further it. Thou canst not hinder.
If thou shalt learn in time, thou yet shalt live.
But God shall ease thy hand of its dominion,
And give to these the rights thou wouldst not give.
The nations of the East have left their childhood.
Thou art grown old. Their manhood is to come;
And they shall carry on Earth's high tradition
Through the long ages when thy lips are dumb,
Till all shall be wrought out. O Lands of weeping,
Lands watered by the rivers of old Time,
Ganges and Indus and the streams of Eden,
Yours is the future of the world's sublime.
Yours was the fount of man's first inspiration,
The well of wisdom whence he earliest drew.
And yours shall be the flood--time of his reason,
The stream of strength which shall his strength renew.
The wisdom of the West is but a madness,
The fret of shallow waters in their bed.
Yours is the flow, the fulness of Man's patience
The ocean of God's rest inherited.
And thou too, Egypt, mourner of the nations,
Though thou hast died to--day in all men's sight,
And though upon thy cross with thieves thou hangest,
Yet shall thy wrong be justified in right.
'Twas meet one man should die for the whole people.
Thou wert the victim chosen to retrieve
The sorrows of the Earth with full deliverance.
And, as thou diest, these shall surely live.
Thy prophets have been scattered through the cities.
The seed of martyrdom thy sons have sown
Shall make of thee a glory and a witness
In all men's hearts held captive with thine own.
Thou shalt not be forsaken in thy children.
Thy righteous blood shall fructify the Earth.
The virtuous of all lands shall be thy kindred,
And death shall be to thee a better birth.
Therefore I do not grieve. Oh hear me, Egypt!
Even in death thou art not wholly dead.
And hear me, England! Nay. Thou needs must hear me.
I had a thing to say. And it is said.
The Wisdom Of Merlyn
These are the time--words of Merlyn, the voice of his age recorded,
All his wisdom of life, the fruit of tears in his youth, of joy in his manhood hoarded,
All the wit of his years unsealed, to the witless alms awarded.
These are his time--gifts of song, his help to the heavy--laden,
Words of an expert of life, who has gathered its sins in his sack, its virtues to grieve and gladden,
Speaking aloud as one who is strong to the heart of man, wife and maiden.
For he is Merlyn of old, the once young, the still robed in glory,
Ancient of days though he be, with wisdom only for wealth and the crown of his locks grown hoary,
Yet with the rage of his soul untamed, the skill of his lips in story.
He dares not unhouselled die, who has seen, who has known, who has tasted
What of the splendours of Time, of the wise wild joys of the Earth, of the newness of pleasures quested,
All that is neither of then nor now, Truth's naked self clean--breasted,
Things of youth and of strength, the Earth with its infinite pity,
Glories of mountain and plain, of streams that wind from the hills to the insolent human city,
Dark with its traders of human woe enthroned in the seats of the mighty.
Fair things nobler than Man before the day of his ruling,
Free in their ancient peace, ere he came to change, to destroy, to hinder with his schooling,
Asking naught that was his to give save freedom from his fooling.
Beautiful, wonderful, wise, a consonant law--ruled heaven,
Garden ungardened yet, in need yet hardly of God to walk there noon or even,
Beast and bird and flower in its place, Earth's wonders more than seven.
Of these he would speak and confess, to the young who regard not their heirship,
Of beauty to boys who are blind, of might to the impotent strong, to the women who crowd Time's fair ship,
Of pearls deep hid in Love's Indian seas, the name of the God they worship.
Thus let it be with Merlyn before his daylight is ended,
One last psalm of his life, the light of it lipped with laughter, the might of it mixed and blended
Still with the subtle sweet need of tears than Pleasure's self more splendid,
Psalm and hymn of the Earth expounding what Time teaches,
Creed no longer of wrath, of silent issueless hopes, of a thing which beyond Man's reach is,
Hope deferred till the heart grows sick, while the preacher vainly preaches.
Nay but a logic of life, which needeth no deferring,
Life with its birthright love, the sun the wind and the rain in multiple pleasure stirring
Under the summer leaves at noon, with no sad doubt of erring,
No sad legend of sin, since his an innocent Eden
Is, and a garden of grace, its gateway clear of the sword, its alleys not angel--ridden,
Its tree of life at the lips of all and never a fruit forbidden.
Merlyn is no vain singer to vex men's ears in the street,
Nay, nor a maid's unbidden. He importuneth none with his song, be it never so wild and sweet.
She that hath ears to hear, let her hear; he will not follow her feet.
Merlyn makes no petition. He asketh of no man alms.
Prince and prophet is he, a monarch, a giver of gifts, a lord of the open plams,
Sueth he naught, not at God's own hand, though he laudeth the Lord in psalms.
Merlyn would speak his message only to hearts that are strong,
To him that hath courage to climb, who would gather time's samphire flowers, who would venture the crags among.
To her who would lesson her soul to fear, with love for sermon and song.
Merlyn hath arms of pity, the weak he would hold to his soul,
Make them partakers of truth, of the ancient weal of the Earth, of the life--throb from Pole to Pole.
He would hold them close; he would dry their tears; with a kiss he would make them whole.
Thus would he sing and to thee, thou child with the eyes of passion
Watching his face in the dark, in the silent light of the stars, while he in his godlike fashion
Maketh his mock at the fears of men, nor spareth to lay the lash on.
Thus would thy Merlyn devise, ere the days of his years be numbered,
Now at threescore and ten. He would leave his word to the world, his soul of its load uncumbered.
Then would he lay his ear to the grave, and sleep as his childhood slumbered.
What is the fruit of Wisdom? To learn the proportion of things;
To know the ant from the lion, the whale from the crest of the wave, the ditty the grasshopper sings
From the chaunt of the full--fledged Paradise bird as he shakes the dew from his wings.
There is one thing more than knowledge, a harvest garnered by few:
To tutor the heart to achieve, to fashion the act to the hand, to do and not yearn to do,
To say to the wish of the soul ``I will,'' to have gathered the flower where it grew.
I was young, and they told me ``Tarry. The rash in the nets are taken.
If there be doubt of thy deed, abstain, lest the day of danger behold thee by these forsaken,
Lest thou lie in the lion's den thou hast roused, with the eyes thou hast dared to waken.''
They spake, but I answered ``Nay, who waiteth shall take no quarry.
Pleasure is fleet as the roe; in the vales he feedeth to--day, but at nightwhen the eyes grow weary
Lo, he hath passed to the desolate hills; he is gone. Nay, he may not tarry.''
For Joy too needeth a net. He cometh tame to thy hand,
Asketh an alms of thy life, to serve thee, thy jubilant slave, if thou wouldst but understand.
Then is thy moment, O Man, for the noose, be it steel or a silken band.
Therefore, where doubt is, do! Thou shalt stumble in thine endeavour,
Ay, till thy knees be sore, thy back with the arrows of grief, and thou stand with an empty quiver.
Yet shall thy heart prevail through its pain, for pain is a mastering lever.
Wouldst thou be wise, O Man? At the knees of a woman begin.
Her eyes shall teach thee thy road, the worth of the thing called pleasure, the joy of the thing called sin.
Else shalt thou go to thy grave in pain for the folly that might have been.
For know, the knowledge of women the beginning of wisdom is.
Who had seven hundred wives and concubines hundreds three, as we read in the book of bliss?
Solomon, wisest of men and kings, and ``all of them princesses.''
Yet, be thou stronger than they. To be ruled of a woman is ill.
Life hath an hundred ways, beside the way of her arms, to give thee of joy thy fill.
Only is love of thy life the flower. Be thine the ultimate will.
A right way is to be happy, a wrong way too. Then beware.
Leave the colt in his stall, he shall grow to a thankless jade, be he never so fat and fair.
Sloth is a crime. Rise up, young fool, and grasp thy joy by the hair.
What is the motto of youth? There is only one. Be thou strong.
Do thy work and achieve, with thy brain, with thy hands, with thy heart, the deeds which to strength belong.
Strike each day thy blow for the right, or failing strike for the wrong.
He that would gain let him give. The shut hand hardly shall win.
Open thy palms to the poor, O thou of the indigent heart. There shall pleas ure be poured therein.
Use thy soul to the cord of joy. If thou sin must, strongly sin.
Cast thy whole heart away. The Earth, philosophers tell,
Leaps to a pebble thrown, be it never so little; it moved to the bidding of that which fell.
Throw thy heart! Thou shalt move the world, though thou fall on the floor of Hell.
Few have the courage of loving. Faint hearts! The loss is theirs.
Few of their idlest whims. ``I would win to Rome ere I die,'' one cried in his daily cares,
Yet plods on on 'Change to his grave, the slave of his stocks and shares.
Learn to appraise thy desires, to weigh the wares of thy heart.
If thou wouldst play with pleasure, avoid Love's passionate tides, its perilous Ocean chart,
Hug the shores of Love's inland seas, and buy thy joys in the mart.
Love lightly, but marry at leisure. Wild Love is a flower of the field
Waiting all hands to gather and ours. If we leave it another will win it and kneel where we kneeled.
Marriage is one tame garden rose in a garden fenced and sealed.
O thou who art sitting silent! Youth, with the eyelids of grief!
How shall I rouse thee to wit? Thou hast stolen the joy of our world. Thouscornest its vain relief.
Nay, she is here. Be thy tongue set free. Play up, thou eloquent thief.
Doubt not thy absolution, sinner, who darest to sin.
So thou prevail in the end, she shall hold thee guiltless of guile, a hero, a paladin.
The end in her eyes hath thee justified, whatever thy means have been.
Love is of body and body, the physical passion of joy;
The desire of the man for the maid, her nakedness strained to his own; the mother's who suckles her boy
With the passionate flow of her naked breast. All else is a fraudulent toy.
Of the house where Love is the master thy beauty may hold the key.
It shall open the hall--door wide, shout loud thy name to its lord. Yet, wouldst thou its full guest be,
Bring with thee other than beauty, wit. Then sit at the feast made free.
``To talk of love is to make love.'' Truly, a maxim of price.
Nathless the noblest soul, shouldst thou tell her of passionate things and fail to gaze in her eyes,
Shall hold thee cheap in her woman's pride, a clown for thy courtesies.
Love hath two mountain summits, the first where pleasure was born
Faint in the cloud--land of light, a vision of possible hope; the second a tempest--torn
Crag where passion is lord and king. Betwixt them what vales forlorn!
Happiness needs to be learned. In youth the ideal woman
Gazed at afar was a dream, a priceless untouchable prize, while she in your arms, too human,
Mocked you with love. 'Tis an art learned late; alas, and the whole by no man.
O! thou in the purple gendered. Thou needst pain for thy case.
Lose thy health or thy heart. Be bowed in thy soul's despond. Be whelmed in a world's disgrace.
So shall thy eyes be unsealed of pride and see Love face to face.
If thou wouldst win love, speak. She shall read the truth on thy lips.
Spoken vows shall prevail, the spell of thy eloquent hand, the flame of thy finger--tips.
Write? She is reading another's eyes while thy sad pen dips and dips.
Thou hast ventured a letter of passion, in ease of thy passionate heart?
Nay, be advised; there is fear, mischance in the written word, when lovers are far apart.
Pain is betrayed by the subtle pen where lips prevailed without art.
Love is a fire. In the lighting, it raiseth a treacherous smoke,
Telling its tale to the world; but anon, growing clear in its flame, may be hid by an old wife's cloak,
And the world learn nothing more and forget the knowledge its smouldering woke.
Comes there a trouble upon thee? Be silent, nor own the debt.
Friendship kicks at the goda; thy naked state is its shame; thou hast angered these with thy fret.
Wait. The world shall forgive thy sin. It asks but leave to forget.
The world is an indolent house--shrew. It scolds but cares not to know
Whether in fancy or fact. What it thinks we have done, that it scourges; the true thing we did it lets go.
What matter? We fare less ill than our act, ay, all of us; more be our woe!
There are days when wisdom is witless, when folly is noble, sublime.
Let us thank the dear gods for our madness, the rush of the blood in our veins, the exuberant pulsings of Time,
And pray, while we sin the forbidden sin, we be spared our penance of crime.
There are habits and customs of passion. Long loves are a tyrannous debt.
But to some there is custom of change, the desire of the untrodden ways, with sunshine of days that were wet,
Of the four fair wives of love's kindly law by licence of Mahomet.
Experience all is of use, save one, to have angered a friend.
Break thy heart for a maid; another shall love thee anon. The gold shall return thou didst spend,
Ay, and thy beaten back grow whole. But friendship's grave is the end.
Why do I love thee, brother? We have shared what things in our youth,
Battle and siege and triumph, together, always together, in wanderings North and South.
But one thing shared binds nearer than all, the kisses of one sweet mouth.
He that hath loved the mother shall love the daughter no less,
Sister the younger sister. There are tones how sweet to his ear, gestures that plead and press,
Echoes fraught with remembered things that cry in the silences.
Fly from thy friend in his fortune, his first days of wealth, of fame;
Or, if thou needest to meet him, do thou as the children of Noah, walk back wards and guard thee from blame.
He who saw found forgiveness none. With thee it were haply the same.
Bridegroom, thy pride is unseemly. Thou boastest abroad, with a smile,
Thou hast read our humanity's riddle. Nay, wait yet a year with thy bride; she shall lesson thee wiser the while.
Then shalt thou blush for thy words to--day, the shame of thy innocent guile.
The love of a girl is a taper lit on a windy night.
Awhile it lightens our darkness, consoles with its pure sudden flame, and the shadows around it grow white.
Anon with a rain--gust of tears it is gone, and we blink more blind for the light.
Sage, thou art proud of thy knowledge, what mountains and marvels seen!
Thou hast loved how madly, how often! hast known what wiles of the heart, what ways of maid, wife and quean!
Yet shalt thou still be betrayed by love, befooled like a boy on the green.
Oh, there is honour in all love. Have lips once kissed thee, be dumb,
Save in their only praise. To cheapen the thing thou hast loved is to bite at thyself thy thumb,
To shout thy own fool's fault to the world, and beat thy shame on a drum.
Who hath dared mock at thy beauty, Lady? Who deemeth thee old?
If he had seen thee anon in the tender light of thine eyes, as I saw thee, what tales had he told
Of ruined kingdoms and kings for one, of misers spending their gold!
Friendship or Love? You ask it: which binds with the stronger tether?
Friendship? Thy comrade of youth, who laughed with thee on thy road? What ailed him in that rough weather,
When to thy bosom Love's angel crept, twin tragedies locked together?
Friendship is fostered with gifts. Be it so; little presents? Yes.
Friendship! But ah, not Love, since love is itself Love's gift and it angereth him to have less.
Woe to the lover who dares to bring more wealth than his tenderness.
This to the woman: Forbear his gifts, the man's thou wouldst hold.
Cheerfully he shall give and thou nothing guess, yet anon he shall weigh thee in scales of his gold.
Woe to thee then if the charge be more than a heartache's cost all told.
Thou art tempted, a passion unworthy? Long struggle hath dulled thy brain?
How shalt thou save thee, poor soul? How buy back the peace of thy days? If of rest thou be fain,
Oft is there virtue in yielding all; thou shalt not be tempted again.
Sacrifice truly is noble. Yet, Lady, ponder thy fate.
Many a victory, won in tears by her who forbore, hath ruined her soul's estate.
Virtue's prize was too dear a whim, the price agreed to too great.
Virtue or vice? Which, think you, should need more veil for her face?
Virtue hath little fear; she goeth in unchaste guise; she ventureth all disgrace.
Poor Vice hid in her shame sits dumb while a stranger taketh her place.
Chastity? Who is unchaste? The church--wed wife, without blame
Yielding her body nightly, a lack--love indolent prize, to the lord of her legal shame?
Or she, the outlawed passionate soul? Their carnal act is the same.
In youth it is well thou lovest. The fire in thee burneth strong.
Choose whom thou wilt, it kindleth; a beggar--maid or a queen, she shall carry the flame along.
Only in age to be loved is best; her right shall repair thy wrong.
Lady, wouldst fly with thy lover? Alas, he loves thee to--day.
How shall it be to--morrow? He saw thee a bird in the air, a rose on its thorny spray.
He would take thee? What shalt thou be in his hand? A burden to bear alway.
Women love beauty in women, a thing to uphold, to adore,
To vaunt for all womanhood's fame, a seemly sweet fitness of body, adorned with all virtuous lore.
Beauty, but not of the kind men prize. On that they would set small store.
What is there cruel as fear? A falcon rending her prey
Showeth an evil eye, but to him she loveth is kind; her rage she shall put away.
But a frightened woman hath pity none. Though she love thee, yet shall she slay.
Show not thy sin to thy son. He shall judge thee harder than these.
All the servants of Noah beheld his shame in the house and loyally held their peace.
Ham alone at his father laughed, made jest of his nakedness.
Cast not loose thy religion, whether believing or no.
Heavy it is with its rule, a burden laid on thy back, a sombre mask at the show.
Yet shall it cloak thee in days of storm, a shield when life's whirlwinds blow.
As to the tree its ivy, so virtue is to the soul.
All the winter long it clothed us in leafage green, and the forest paid us its toll.
Now it is Spring and the rest rejoice while we stand drear in our dole.
Thy love of children is well. Yet a peril lurketh therein.
See lest thy sloth take excuse of thy fondness. Nay, coward art thou, and thine is the pestilent sin.
Shift wouldst thou thy burden of life, the blame of thy ``might have been.''
Courage we all find enough to bear the mischance of our friends.
How many tortured souls have gone to their self--made graves through wreck of their own mad ends:
But no man yet hath his weazand slit for his neighbour's pain in amends.
Fear not to change thy way, since change is of growth, life's sign.
The Child in his growing body, the Sage in his gathered lore, the Saint in his growths divine,
All find pleasure but Age which weeps the unchanging years' decline.
Whence is our fountain of tears? We weep in childhood for pain,
Anon for triumph in manhood, the sudden glory of praise, the giant mastered and slain.
Age weeps only for love renewed and pleasure come back again.
What is our personal self? A fading record of days
Held in our single brain, memory linked with memory back to our childhood's ways.
Beyond it what? A tradition blurred of gossip and nursemaid says.
Why dost thou plain of thine age, O thou with the beard that is thin?
Art thou alone in thy home? Is there none at thy side, not one, to deem thee a man among men?
Nay, thou art young while she holds thy hand, be thy years the threescore and ten.
The world is untimely contrived. It gives us our sunshine in summer,
Its laughing face in our youth, when we need it not to be gay, being each one his own best mummer.
All its frown is for life that goes, its smile for the last new comer.
Europe a horologe is, ill mounted and clogged with grime,
Asia a clock run down. Its hands on the dial are still; its hours are toldby no chime.
Nathless, twice in the twenty--four, it shall tell thee exactly the time.
What is the profit of knowledge? Ah none, though to know not is pain!
We grieve like a child in the dark; we grope for a chink at the door, for a way of escape from the chain;
We beat on life's lock with our bleeding hands, till it opens. And where is the gain?
I have tried all pleasures but one, the last and sweetest; it waits.
Childhood, the childhood of age, to totter again on the lawns, to have done with the loves and the hates,
To gather the daisies, and drop them, and sleep on the nursing knees of the Fates.
I asked of the wise man ``Tell me, what age is the age of pleasure?
Twenty years have I lived. I have spread my meshes in vain. I have taken a paltry treasure.
Where is the heart of the gold?'' And he, ``I will tell thee anon at leisure.''
I pleaded at thirty ``Listen. I have played, I have lost, I have won.
I have loved in joy and sorrow. My life is a burden grown with the thought of its sands outrun.
Where is the joy of our years? At forty?'' ``Say it is just begun.''
At forty I made love's mourning. I stood alone with my foes,
Foot to foot with my Fate, as a man at grips with a man, returning blows for blows.
In the joy of battle ``'Tis here'' I cried. But the wise man, ``Nay, who knows?''
At fifty I walked sedately. At sixty I took my rest.
I had learned the good with the evil. I troubled my soul no more, I had reached the Isles of the Blest.
The sage was dead who had warned my fears. I was wise, I too, with the best.
What do we know of Being? Our own? How short lived, how base!
That which is not our own? The eternal enrolment of stars, the voids and the silences!
The enormous might of the mindless globes whirling through infinite space!
The infinite Great overhead, the infinite Little beneath!
The turn of the cellular germ, the giddy evolving of life in the intricate struggle for breath,
The microbe, the mote alive in the blood, the eyeless atom of death!
Yet which is the greater Being? We have dreamed of a life--giving God,
Him, the mind of the Sun, the conscious brain--flower of Space, with a cosmic form and abode,
With thought and pity and power of will, Humanity's ethical code.
We have dreamed, but we do not believe. Be He here, be He not, 'tis as one.
His Godhead, how does it help? He is far. He is blind to our need. Nay, nay, He is less than the Sun,
Less than the least of the tremulous stars, than our old scorned idols of stone.
For He heareth not, nor seeth. As we to the motes in our blood,
So is He to our lives, a possible symbol of power, a formula half understood.
But the voice of Him, where? the hand grip, where? A child's cry lost in a wood.
Therefore is Matter monarch, the eternal the infinite Thing,
The ``I that am'' which reigneth, which showeth no shadow of change, while humanities wane and spring,
Which saith ``Make no vain Gods before me, who only am Lord and King.''
What then is Merlyn's message, his word to thee weary of pain,
Man, on thy desolate march, thy search for an adequate cause, for a thread, for a guiding rein,
Still in the maze of thy doubts and fears, to bring thee thy joy again?
Thou hast tried to climb to the sky; thou hast called it a firmament;
Thou hast found it a thing infirm, a heaven which is no haven, a bladder punctured and rent,
A mansion frail as the rainbow mist, as thy own soul impotent.
Thou hast clung to a dream in thy tears; thou hast stayed thy rage with a hope;
Thou hast anchored thy wreck to a reed, a cobweb spread for thy sail, with sand for thy salvage rope;
Thou hast made thy course with a compass marred, a toy for thy telescope.
What hast thou done with thy days? Bethink thee, Man, that alone,
Thou of all sentient things, hast learned to grieve in thy joy, hast earned thee the malison
Of going sad without cause of pain, a weeper and woebegone.
Why? For the dream of a dream of another than this fair life
Joyous to all but thee, by every creature beloved in its spring--time of passion rife,
By every creature but only thee, sad husband with sadder wife,
Scared at thought of the end, at the simple logic of death,
Scared at the old Earth's arms outstretched to hold thee again, thou child of an hour, of a breath,
Seeking refuge with all but her, the mother that comforteth.
Merlyn's message is this: he would bid thee have done with pride.
What has it brought thee but grief, thy parentage with the Gods, thy kinship with beasts denied?
What thy lore of a life to come in a cloud--world deified?
O thou child which art Man, distraught with a shadow of ill!
O thou fool of thy dreams, thou gatherer rarely of flowers but of fungi ofevil smell,
Posion growths of the autumn woods, rank mandrake and mort--morell!
Take thy joy with the rest, the bird, the beast of the field,
Each one wiser than thou, which frolic in no dismay, which seize what the seasons yield,
And lay thee down when thy day is done content with the unrevealed.
Take the thing which thou hast. Forget thy kingdom unseen.
Lean thy lips on the Earth; she shall bring new peace to thy eyes with her healing vesture green.
Drink once more at her fount of love, the one true hippocrene.
O thou child of thy fears! Nay, shame on thy childish part
Weeping when called to thy bed. Take cheer. When the shadows come, when the crowd is leaving the mart,
Then shalt thou learn that thou needest sleep, Death's kindly arms for thy heart.