She gathers his playthings up, And dreamily puts them by; Children are playing in the meadow, She hears their joyous cry, And the sun is bright.
She sits and clasps her brow, And looks with swollen eyes On the landscape that reels and dances,— To herself she softly cries, And the sun is bright.
The lonesome graveyard lieth, A deep with silent waves Of night-long snow, all white, and billowed Over the hidden graves.
The snow-birds come in the morning, Flocking and fluttering low, And light on the graveyard brambles, And twitter there in the snow.
The Singer, old and weary, Looks out from his narrow room: "Ah, me! but my thoughts are snow-birds, Haunting a graveyard gloom,
"Where all the Past is buried And dead, these many years, Under the drifted whiteness Of frozen falls of tears.
"Poor birds! that know not summer, Nor sun, nor flowers fair,— Only the graveyard brambles, And graves, and winter air!"
Up and down the dusty street, I hurry with my burning feet; Against my face the wind-waves beat, Fierce from the city-sea of heat. Deep in my heart the vision is, Of meadow grass and meadow trees Blown silver in the summer breeze, And ripe, red, hillside strawberries.
My sense the city tumult fills,— The tumult that about me reels Of strokes and cries, and feet and wheels. Deep in my dream I list, and, hark! From out the maple's leafy dark, The fluting of the meadow lark!
About the thronged street I go: There is no face here that I know; Of all that pass me to and fro There is no face here that I know. Deep in my soul's most sacred place, With a sweet pain I look and trace The features of a tender face, All lit with love and girlish grace.
Some spell is on me, for I seem A memory of the past, a dream Of happiness remembered dim, Unto myself that walk the street Scathed with the city's noontide heat, With puzzled brain and burning feet.
The children sit by the fireside With their little faces in bloom; And behind, the lily-pale mother, Looking out of the gloom,
Flushes in cheek and forehead With a light and sudden start; But the father sits there silent, From the firelight apart.
"Now, what dost thou see in the embers? Tell it to me, my child," Whispers the lily-pale mother To her daughter sweet and mild.
"O, I see a sky and a moon In the coals and ashes there, And under, two are walking In a garden of flowers so fair.
"A lady gay, and her lover, Talking with low-voiced words, Not to waken the dreaming flowers And the sleepy little birds."
Back in the gloom the mother Shrinks with a sudden sigh. "Now, what dost thou see in the embers?" Cries the father to the boy.
"O, I see a wedding-procession Go in at the church's door,— Ladies in silk and knights in steel,— A hundred of them, and more.
"The bride's face is as white as a lily, And the groom's head is white as snow; And without, with plumes and tapers, A funeral paces slow."
Loudly then laughed the father, And shouted again for cheer, And called to the drowsy housemaid To fetch him a pipe and beer.
All night long they heard in the houses beside the shore, Heard, or seemed to hear, through the multitudinous roar, Out of the hell of the rapids as 'twere a lost soul's cries,— Heard and could not believe; and the morning mocked their eyes, Showing, where wildest and fiercest the waters leaped up and ran Raving round him and past, the visage of a man Clinging, or seeming to cling, to the trunk of a tree that, caught Fast in the rocks below, scarce out of the surges raught. Was it a life, could it be, to yon slender hope that clung? Shrill, above all the tumult the answering terror rung.
Under the weltering rapids a boat from the bridge is drowned, Over the rocks the lines of another are tangled and wound; And the long, fateful hours of the morning have wasted soon, As it had been in some blessed trance, and now it is noon. Hurry, now with the raft! But O, build it strong and stanch, And to the lines and treacherous rocks look well as you launch! Over the foamy tops of the waves, and their foam-sprent sides, Over the hidden reefs, and through the embattled tides, Onward rushes the raft, with many a lurch and leap,— Lord! if it strike him loose from the hold he scarce can keep!
No! through all peril unharmed, it reaches him harmless at last, And to its proven strength he lashes his weakness fast. Now, for the shore! But steady, steady, my men, and slow; Taut, now, the quivering lines; now slack; and so, let her go! Thronging the shores around stand the pitying multitude; Wan as his own are their looks, and a nightmare seems to brood Heavy upon them, and heavy the silence hangs on all, Save for the rapids' plunge, and the thunder of the fall. But on a sudden thrills from the people still and pale, Chorussing his unheard despair, a desperate wail: Caught on a lurking point of rock it sways and swings, Sport of the pitiless waters, the raft to which he clings.
All the long afternoon it idly swings and sways; And on the shore the crowd lifts up its hands and prays: Lifts to heaven and wrings the hands so helpless to save, Prays for the mercy of God on him whom the rock and the wave Battle for, fettered betwixt them, and who, amidst their strife, Struggles to help his helpers, and fights so hard for his life,— Tugging at rope and at reef, while men weep and women swoon. Priceless second by second, so wastes the afternoon, And it is sunset now; and another boat and the last Down to him from the bridge through the rapids has safely passed.
Wild through the crowd comes flying a man that nothing can stay, Maddening against the gate that is locked athwart his way. "No! we keep the bridge for them that can help him. You, Tell us, who are you?" "His brother!" "God help you both! Pass through." Wild, with wide arms of imploring he calls aloud to him, Unto the face of his brother, scarce seen in the distance dim; But in the roar of the rapids his fluttering words are lost As in a wind of autumn the leaves of autumn are tossed. And from the bridge he sees his brother sever the rope Holding him to the raft, and rise secure in his hope; Sees all as in a dream the terrible pageantry,— Populous shores, the woods, the sky, the birds flying free; Sees, then, the form,—that, spent with effort and fasting and fear, Flings itself feebly and fails of the boat that is lying so near,— Caught in the long-baffled clutch of the rapids, and rolled and hurled Headlong on to the cataract's brink, and out of the world.
BOPEEP: A PASTORAL.
"O, to what uses shall we put The wildweed flower that simply blows? And is there any moral shut Within the bosom of the rose?"
She lies upon the soft, enamoured grass, I' the wooing shelter of an apple-tree, And at her feet the tranced brook is glass, And in the blossoms over her the bee Hangs charmed of his sordid industry; For love of her the light wind will not pass.
Her golden hair, blown over her red lips, That seem two rose-leaves softly breathed apart, Athwart her rounded throat like sunshine slips; Her small hand, resting on her beating heart, The crook that tells her peaceful shepherd-art Scarce keeps with light and tremulous finger-tips.
She is as fair as any shepherdess That ever was in mask or Christmas scene: Bright silver spangles hath she on her dress, And of her red-heeled shoes appears the sheen; And she hath ribbons of such blue or green As best suits pastoral people's comeliness.
She sleeps, and it is in the month of May, And the whole land is full of the delight Of music and sweet scents; and all the day The sun is gold; the moon is pearl all night, And like a paradise the world is bright, And like a young girl's hopes the world is gay.
So waned the hours; and while her beauteous sleep Was blest with many a happy dream of Love, Untended still, her silly, vagrant sheep Afar from that young shepherdess did rove, Along the vales and through the gossip grove, O'er daisied meads and up the thymy steep.
Then (for it happens oft when harm is nigh, Our dreams grow haggard till at last we wake) She thought that from the little runnel by There crept upon a sudden forth a snake, And stung her hand, and fled into the brake; Whereat she sprang up with a bitter cry,
And wildly over all that place did look, And could not spy her ingrate, wanton flock,— Not there among tall grasses by the brook, Not there behind the mossy-bearded rock; And pitiless Echo answered with a mock When she did sorrow that she was forsook.
Alas! the scattered sheep might not be found, And long and loud that gentle maid did weep, Till in her blurred sight the hills went round, And, circling far, field, wood, and stream did sweep; And on the ground the miserable Bopeep Fell and forgot her troubles in a swound.
When she awoke, the sun long time had set, And all the land was sleeping in the moon, And all the flowers with dim, sad dews were wet, As they had wept to see her in that swoon. It was about the night's low-breathing noon; Only the larger stars were waking yet.
Bopeep, the fair and hapless shepherdess, Rose from her swooning in a sore dismay, And tried to smooth her damp and rumpled dress, That showed in truth a grievous disarray; Then where the brook the wan moon's mirror lay, She laved her eyes, and curled each golden tress.
And looking to her ribbons, if they were As ribbons of a shepherdess should be, She took the hat that she was wont to wear (Bedecked it was with ribbons flying free As ever man in opera might see), And set it on her curls of yellow hair.
"And I will go and seek my sheep," she said, "Through every distant land until I die; But when they bring me hither, cold and dead, Let me beneath these apple-blossoms lie, With this dear, faithful, lovely runnel nigh, Here, where my cru—cru—cruel sheep have fed."
Thus sorrow and despair make bold Bopeep, And forth she springs, and hurries on her way: Across the lurking rivulet she can leap, No sombre forest shall her quest delay, No crooked vale her eager steps bewray: What dreadeth she that seeketh her lost sheep?
By many a pond, where timorous water-birds, With clattering cries and throbbing wings, arose, By many a pasture, where the soft-eyed herds Looked shadow-huge in their unmoved repose, Long through the lonesome night that sad one goes And fills the solitude with wailing words;
So that the little field-mouse dreams of harm, Snuggled away from harm beneath the weeds; The violet, sleeping on the clover's arm, Wakes, and is cold with thoughts of dreadful deeds; The pensive people of the water-reeds Hark with a mute and dolorous alarm.
And the fond hearts of all the turtle-doves Are broken in compassion of her woe, And every tender little bird that loves Feels in his breast a sympathetic throe; And flowers are sad wherever she may go, And hoarse with sighs the waterfalls and groves.
The pale moon droppeth low; star after star Grows faint and slumbers in the gray of dawn; And still she lingers not, but hurries far, Till in a dreary wilderness withdrawn Through tangled woods she lorn and lost moves on, Where griffins dire and dreadful dragons are.
Her ribbons all are dripping with the dew, Her red-heeled shoes are torn, and stained with mire, Her tender arms the angry sharpness rue Of many a scraggy thorn and envious brier; And poor Bopeep, with no sweet pity nigh her, Wrings her small hands, and knows not what to do.
And on that crude and rugged ground she sinks, And soon her seeking had been ended there, But through the trees a fearful glimmer shrinks, And of a hermit's dwelling she is 'ware: At the dull pane a dull-eyed taper blinks, Drowsed with long vigils and the morning air.
Thither she trembling moves, and at the door Falls down, and cannot either speak or stir: The hermit comes,—with no white beard before, Nor coat of skins, nor cap of shaggy fur: It was a comely youth that lifted her, And to his hearth, and to his breakfast, bore.
Arrayed he was in princeliest attire, And of as goodly presence sooth was he As any little maiden might admire, Or any king-beholding cat might see "My poor Bopeep," he sigheth piteously, "Rest here, and warm you at a hermit's fire."
She looked so beautiful, there, mute and white, He kissed her on the lips and on the eyes (The most a prince could do in such a plight); But chiefly gazed on her in still surprise, And when he saw her lily eyelids rise, For him the whole world had no fairer sight.
"Rude is my fare: a bit of venison steak, A dish of honey and a glass of wine, With clean white bread, is the poor feast I make. Be served, I pray: I think this flask is fine," He said. "Hard is this hermit life of mine: This day I will its weariness forsake."
And then he told her how it chanced that he, King Cole's son, in that forest held his court, And the sole reason that there seemed to be Was, he was being hermit there for sport; But he confessed the life was not his forte, And therewith both laughed out right jollily.
And sly Bopeep forgot her sheep again In gay discourse with that engaging youth: Love hath such sovran remedies for pain! But then he was a handsome prince, in truth, And both were young, and both were silly, sooth, And everything to Love but love seems vain.
They took them down the silver-clasped book That this young anchorite's predecessor kept,— A holy seer,—and through it they did look; Sometimes their idle eyes together crept, Sometimes their lips; but still the leaves they swept, Until they found a shepherd's pictured crook.
And underneath was writ it should befall On such a day, in such a month and year, A maiden fair, a young prince brave and tall, By such a chance should come together here. They were the people, that was very clear: "O love," the prince said, "let us read it all!"
And thus the hermit's prophecy ran on: Though she her lost sheep wist not where to find, Yet should she bid her weary care begone, And banish every doubt from her sweet mind: They, with their little snow-white tails behind, Homeward would go, if they were left alone.
They closed the book, and in her happy eyes The prince read truth and love forevermore,— Better than any hermit's prophecies! They passed together from the cavern's door; Embraced, they turned to look at it once more, And over it beheld the glad sun rise,
That streamed before them aisles of dusk and gold Under the song-swept arches of the wood, And forth they went, tranced in each other's hold, Down through that rare and luminous solitude, Their happy hearts enchanted in the mood Of morning, and of May, and romance old.
Sometimes the saucy leaves would kiss her cheeks, And he must kiss their wanton kiss away; To die beneath her feet the wood-flower seeks, The quivering aspen feels a fine dismay, And many a scented blossom on the spray In odorous sighs its passionate longing speaks.
And forth they went down to that stately stream, Bowed over by the ghostly sycamores (Awearily, as if some heavy dream Held them in languor), but whose opulent shores With pearled shells and dusts of precious ores Were tremulous brilliance in the morning beam;
Where waited them, beside the lustrous sand, A silk-winged shallop, sleeping on the flood; And smoothly wafted from the hither strand, Across the calm, broad stream they lightly rode, Under them still the silver fishes stood; The eager lilies, on the other land,
Beckoned them; but where the castle shone With diamonded turrets and a wall Of gold-embedded pearl and costly stone, Their vision to its peerless splendor thrall The maiden fair, the young prince brave and tall, Thither with light, unlingering feet pressed on.
A gallant train to meet this loving pair, In silk and steel, moves from the castle door, And up the broad and ringing castle stair They go with gleeful minstrelsy before, And "Hail our prince and princess evermore!" From all the happy throng is greeting there.
And in the hall the prince's sire, King Cole, Sitting with crown and royal ermine on, His fiddlers three behind with pipe and bowl, Rises and moves to lift his kneeling son, Greeting his bride with kisses many a one, And tears and laughter from his jolly soul;
Then both his children to a window leads That over daisied pasture-land looks out, And shows Bopeep where her lost flock wide feeds, And every frolic lambkin leaps about. She hears Boy-Blue, that lazy shepherd, shout, Slow pausing from his pipe of mellow reeds;
And, turning, peers into her prince's eyes; Then, caught and clasped against her prince's heart, Upon her breath her answer wordless dies, And leaves her gratitude to sweeter art,— To lips from which the bloom shall never part, To looks wherein the summer never dies!
WHILE SHE SANG.
She sang, and I heard the singing, Far out of the wretched past, Of meadow-larks in the meadow, In a breathing of the blast.
Cold through the clouds of sunset The thin red sunlight shone, Staining the gloom of the woodland Where I walked and dreamed alone;
And glinting with chilly splendor The meadow under the hill, Where the lingering larks were lurking In the sere grass hid and still.
Out they burst with their singing, Their singing so loud and gay; They made in the heart of October A sudden ghastly May,
That faded and ceased with their singing. The thin red sunlight paled, And through the boughs above me The wind of evening wailed;—
Wailed, and the light of evening Out of the heaven died; And from the marsh by the river The lonesome killdee cried.
The song is done, but a phantom Of music haunts the chords, That thrill with its subtile presence, And grieve for the dying words.
And in the years that are perished, Far back in the wretched past, I see on the May-green meadows The white snow falling fast;—
Falling, and falling, and falling, As still and cold as death, On the bloom of the odorous orchard, On the small, meek flowers beneath;
On the roofs of the village-houses, On the long, silent street, Where its plumes are soiled and broken Under the passing feet;
On the green crest of the woodland, On the cornfields far apart; On the cowering birds in the gable, And on my desolate heart.
From wells where Truth in secret lay He saw the midnight stars by day.
"O marvellous gift!" the many cried, "O cruel gift!" his voice replied.
The stars were far, and cold, and high, That glimmered in the noonday sky;
He yearned toward the sun in vain, That warmed the lives of other men.
He falters on the threshold, She lingers on the stair: Can it be that was his footstep? Can it be that she is there?
Without is tender yearning, And tender love is within; They can hear each other's heart-beats, But a wooden door is between.
THE POET'S FRIENDS.
The robin sings in the elm; The cattle stand beneath, Sedate and grave, with great brown eyes And fragrant meadow-breath.
They listen to the flattered bird, The wise-looking, stupid things; And they never understand a word Of all the robin sings.
NO LOVE LOST.
A ROMANCE OF TRAVEL.
1862. BERTHA—Writing from Venice.
On your heart I feign myself fallen—ah, heavier burden, Darling, of sorrow and pain than ever shall rest there! I take you Into these friendless arms of mine, that you cannot escape me; Closer and closer I fold you, and tell you all, and you listen Just as you used at home, and you let my sobs and my silence Speak, when the words will not come—and you understand and forgive me. —Ah! no, no! but I write, with the wretched bravado of distance, What you must read unmoved by the pity too far for entreaty.
Well, I could never have loved him, but when he sought me and asked me,— When to the men that offered their lives, the love of a woman Seemed so little to give!—I promised the love that he asked me, Sent him to war with my kiss on his lips, and thought him my hero. Afterward came the doubt, and out of long question, self-knowledge,— Came that great defeat, and the heart of the nation was withered; Mine leaped high with the awful relief won of death. But the horror, Then, of the crime that was wrought in that guilty moment of rapture,— Guilty as if my will had winged the bullet that struck him,— Clung to me day and night, and dreaming I saw him forever, Looking through battle-smoke with sorrowful eyes of upbraiding, Or, in the moonlight lying gray, or dimly approaching, Holding toward me his arms, that still held nearer and nearer, Folded about me at last ... and I would I had died in the fever!— Better then than now, and better than ever hereafter!
Weary as some illusion of fever to me was the ocean— Storm-swept, scourged with bitter rains, and wandering always Onward from sky to sky with endless processions of surges, Knowing not life nor death, but since the light was, the first day, Only enduring unrest till the darkness possess it, the last day. Over its desolate depths we voyaged away from all living: All the world behind us waned into vaguest remoteness; Names, and faces, and scenes recurred like that broken remembrance Of the anterior, bodiless life of the spirit,—the trouble Of a bewildered brain, or the touch of the Hand that created,— And when the ocean ceased at last like a faded illusion, Europe itself seemed only a vision of eld and of sadness. Naught but the dark in my soul remained to me constant and real, Growing and taking the thoughts bereft of happier uses, Blotting all sense of lapse from the days that with swift iteration Were and were not. They fable the bright days the fleetest: These that had nothing to give, that had nothing to bring or to promise, Went as one day alone. For me was no alternation Save from my dull despair to wild and reckless rebellion, When the regret for my sin was turned to ruthless self-pity— When I hated him whose love had made me its victim, Through his faith and my falsehood yet claiming me. Then I was smitten With so great remorse, such grief for him, and compassion, That, if he could have come back to me, I had welcomed and loved him More than man ever was loved. Alas, for me that another Holds his place in my heart evermore! Alas, that I listened When the words, whose daring lured my spirit and lulled it, Seemed to take my blame away with my will of resistance!
Do not make haste to condemn me: my will was the will of a woman,— Fain to be broken by love. Yet unto the last I endeavored What I could to be faithful still to the past and my penance; And as we stood that night in the old Roman garden together— By the fountain whose passionate tears but now had implored me In his pleading voice—and he waited my answer, I told him All that had been before of delusion and guilt, and conjured him Not to darken his fate with mine. The costly endeavor Only was subtler betrayal. O me, from the pang of confession, Sprang what strange delight, as I tore from its lurking that horror— Brooded upon so long—with the hope that at last I might see it Through his eyes, unblurred by the tears that disordered my vision! Oh, with what rapturous triumph I humbled my spirit before him, That he might lift me and soothe me, and make that dreary remembrance, All this confused present, seem only some sickness of fancy, Only a morbid folly, no certain and actual trouble! If from that refuge I fled with words of too feeble denial— Bade him hate me, with sobs that entreated his tenderest pity, Moved mute lips and left the meaningless farewell unuttered— She that never has loved, alone can wholly condemn me.
How could he other than follow? My heart had bidden him follow, Nor had my lips forbidden; and Rome yet glimmered behind me, When my soul yearned towards his from the sudden forlornness of absence. Everywhere his face looked from vanishing glimpses of faces, Everywhere his voice reached my senses in fugitive cadence. Sick, through the storied cities, with wretched hopes, and upbraidings Of my own heart for its hopes, I went from wonder to wonder, Blind to them all, or only beholding them wronged, and related, Through some trick of wayward thought, to myself and my trouble. Not surprise nor regret, but a fierce, precipitate gladness Sent the blood to my throbbing heart when I found him in Venice. "Waiting for you," he whispered; "you would so." I answered him nothing.
Father, whose humor grows more silent and ever more absent (Changed in all but love for me since the death of my mother), Willing to see me contented at last, and trusting us wholly, Left us together alone in our world of love and of beauty. So, by noon and by night, we two have wandered in Venice, Where the beautiful lives in vivid and constant caprices, Yet, where the charm is so perfect that nothing fantastic surprises More than in dreams, and one's life with the life of the city is blended In a luxurious calm, and the tumult without and beyond it Seems but the emptiest fable of vain aspiration and labor.
Yes, from all that makes this Venice sole among cities, Peerless forever,—the still lagoons that sleep in the sunlight, Lulled by their island-bells; the night's mysterious waters Lit through their shadowy depths by stems of splendor, that blossom Into the lamps that float, like flamy lotuses, over; Narrow and secret canals, that dimly gleaming and glooming Under palace-walls and numberless arches of bridges, List no sound but the dip of the gondolier's oar and his warning Cried from corner to corner; the sad, superb Canalazzo Mirroring marvellous grandeur and beauty, and dreaming of glory Out of the empty homes of her lords departed; the footways Wandering sunless between the walls of the houses, and stealing Glimpses, through rusted cancelli, of lurking greenness of gardens, Wild-grown flowers and broken statues and mouldering frescos; Thoroughfares filled with traffic, and throngs ever ebbing and flowing To and from the heart of the city, whose pride and devotion, Lifting high the bells of St. Mark's like prayers unto heaven, Stretch a marble embrace of palaces toward the cathedral Orient, gorgeous, and flushed with color and light, like the morning!— From the lingering waste that is not yet ruin in Venice, And her phantasmal show, through all, of being and doing— Came a strange joy to us, untouched by regret for the idle Days without yesterdays that died into nights without morrows. Here, in our paradise of love we reigned, new-created, As in the youth of the world, in the days before evil and conscience. Ah! in our fair, lost world was neither fearing nor doubting, Neither the sickness of old remorse nor the gloom of foreboding,— Only the glad surrender of all individual being Unto him whom I loved, and in whose tender possession, Fate-free, my soul reposed from its anguish.
—Of these things I write you As of another's experience; part of my own they no longer Seem to me now, through the doom that darkens the past like the future.
Golden the sunset gleamed, above the city behind us, Out of a city of clouds as fairy and lovely as Venice, While we looked at the fishing-tails of purple and yellow Far on the rim of the sea, whose light and musical surges Broke along the sands with a faint, reiterant sadness. But, when the sails had darkened into black wings, through the twilight Sweeping away into night—past the broken tombs of the Hebrews Homeward we sauntered slowly, through dew-sweet, blossomy alleys; So drew near the boat by errant and careless approaches, Entered, and left with indolent pulses the Lido behind us.
All the sunset had paled, and the campanili of Venice Rose like the masts of a mighty fleet moored there in the water. Lights flashed furtively to and fro through the deepening twilight. Massed in one thick shade lay the Gardens; the numberless islands Lay like shadows upon the lagoons. And on us as we loitered By their enchanted coasts, a spell of ineffable sweetness Fell and made us at one with them; and silent and blissful Shadows we seemed, that drifted on through a being of shadow, Vague, indistinct to ourselves, unbounded by hope or remembrance. Yet we knew the beautiful night, as it grew from the evening: Far beneath us and far above us the vault of the heavens Glittered and darkened; and now the moon, that had haunted the daylight Thin and pallid, dimmed the stars with her fulness of splendor, And over all the lagoons fell the silvery rain of the moonbeams, As in the song the young girls sang while their gondolas passed us,— Sang in the joy of love, or youth's desire of loving.
Balmy night of the South! O perfect night of the Summer! Night of the distant dark, of the near and tender effulgence!— How from my despair are thy peace and loveliness frightened! For, while our boat lay there at the will of the light undulations, Idle as if our mood imbued and controlled it, yet ever Seeming to bear us on athwart those shining expanses Out to shining seas beyond pursuit or returning— There, while we lingered, and lingered, and would not break from our rapture, Down the mirrored night another gondola drifted Nearer and slowly nearer our own, and moonlighted faces Stared. And that sweet trance grew a rigid and dreadful possession, Which, if no dream indeed, yet mocked with such semblance of dreaming, That, as it happens in dreams, when a dear face, stooping to kiss us, Takes, ere the lips have touched, some malign and horrible aspect, His face faded away, and the face of the Dead—of that other— Flashed on mine, and writhing, through every change of emotion,— Wild amaze and scorn, accusation and pitiless mocking,— Vanished into the swoon whose blackness encompassed and hid me.
I am not sure, I own, that if first I had seen my delusion When I saw you, last night, I should be so ready to give you Now your promises back, and hold myself nothing above you, That it is mine to offer a freedom you never could ask for. Yet, believe me, indeed, from no bitter heart I release you: You are as free of me now as though I had died in the battle, Or as I never had lived. Nay, if it is mine to forgive you, Go without share of the blame that could hardly be all upon your side.
Ghosts are not sensitive things; yet, after my death in the papers, Sometimes a harrowing doubt assailed this impalpable essence: Had I done so well to plead my cause at that moment, When your consent must be yielded less to the lover than soldier? "Not so well," I was answered by that ethereal conscience Ghosts have about them, "and not so nobly or wisely as might be." —Truly, I loved you, then, as now I love you no longer.
I was a prisoner then, and this doubt in the languor of sickness Came; and it clung to my convalescence, and grew to the purpose, After my days of captivity ended, to seek you and solve it, And, if I haply had erred, to undo the wrong, and release you.
Well, you have solved me the doubt. I dare to trust that you wept me, Just a little, at first, when you heard of me dead in the battle? For we were plighted, you know, and even in this saintly humor, I would scarce like to believe that my loss had merely relieved you. Yet, I say, it was prudent and well not to wait for my coming Back from the dead. If it may be I sometimes had cherished a fancy That I had won some right to the palm with the pang of the martyr,— Fondly intended, perhaps, some splendor of self-abnegation,— Doubtless all that was a folly which merciful chances have spared me. No, I am far from complaining that Circumstance coolly has ordered Matters of tragic fate in such a commonplace fashion. How do I know, indeed, that the easiest isn't the best way?
Friendly adieux end this note, and our little comedy with it.
Yes, I promised to write, but how shall I write to you, darling? Venice we reached last Monday, wild for canals and for color, Palaces, prisons, lagoons, and gondolas, bravoes, and moonlight, All the mysterious, dreadful, beautiful things in existence. Fred had joined us at Naples, insuff'rably knowing and travelled, Wise in the prices of things and great at tempestuous bargains, Rich in the costly nothing our youthful travellers buy here, At a prodigious outlay of time and money and trouble; Utter confusion of facts, and talking the wildest of pictures,— Pyramids, battle-fields, bills, and examinations of luggage, Passports, policemen, porters, and how he got through his tobacco,— Ignorant, handsome, full-bearded, brown, and good-natured as ever: Annie thinks him perfect, and I well enough for a brother. Also, a friend of Fred's came with us from Naples to Venice; And, altogether, I think, we are rather agreeable people, For we've been taking our pleasure at all times in perfect good-humor; Which is an excellent thing that you'll understand when you've travelled, Seen Recreation dead-beat and cross, and learnt what a burden Frescos, for instance, can be, and, in general, what an affliction Life is apt to become among the antiques and old masters.
Venice we've thoroughly done, and it's perfectly true of the pictures— Titians and Tintorettos, and Palmas and Paul Veroneses; Neither are gondolas fictions, but verities, hearse-like and swan-like, Quite as the heart could wish. And one finds, to one's infinite comfort, Venice just as unique as one's fondest visions have made it: Palaces and mosquitoes rise from the water together, And, in the city's streets, the salt-sea is ebbing and flowing Several inches or more.
—Ah! let me not wrong thee, O Venice! Fairest, forlornest, and saddest of all the cities, and dearest! Dear, for my heart has won here deep peace from cruel confusion; And in this lucent air, whose night is but tenderer noon-day, Fear is forever dead, and hope has put on the immortal! —There! and you need not laugh. I'm coming to something directly. One thing: I've bought you a chain of the famous fabric of Venice— Something peculiar and quaint, and of such a delicate texture That you must wear it embroidered upon a riband of velvet, If you would have the effect of its exquisite fineness and beauty. "Isn't it very frail?" I asked of the workman who made it. "Strong enough, if you will, to bind a lover, signora,"— With an expensive smile. 'Twas bought near the Bridge of Rialto. (Shylock, you know.) In our shopping, Aunt May and Fred do the talking: Fred begins always in French, with the most delicious effront'ry, Only to end in profoundest humiliation and English. Aunt, however, scorns to speak any tongue but Italian: "Quanto per these ones here?" and "What did you say was the prezzo?" "Ah! troppo caro! Too much! No, no! Don't I tell you it's troppo?" All the while insists that the gondolieri shall show us What she calls Titian's palazzo, and pines for the house of Othello. Annie, the dear little goose, believes in Fred and her mother With an enchanting abandon. She doesn't at all understand them, But she has some twilight views of their cleverness. Father is quiet, Now and then ventures some French when he fancies that nobody hears him, In an aside to the valet-de-place—I never detect him— Buys things for mother and me with a quite supernatural sweetness, Tolerates all Fred's airs, and is indispensably pleasant.
Prattling on of these things, which I think cannot interest deeply, So I hold back in my heart its dear and wonderful secret (Which I must tell you at last, however I falter to tell you), Fain to keep it all my own for a little while longer,— Doubting but it shall lose some part of its strangeness and sweetness, Shared with another, and fearful that even you may not find it Just the marvel that I do—and thus turn our friendship to hatred.
Sometimes it seems to me that this love, which I feel is eternal, Must have begun with my life, and that only an absence was ended When we met and knew in our souls that we loved one another. For from the first was no doubt. The earliest hints of the passion, Whispered to girlhood's tremulous dream, may be mixed with misgiving, But, when the very love comes, it bears no vagueness of meaning; Touched by its truth (too fine to be felt by the ignorant senses, Knowing but looks and utterance) soul unto soul makes confession, Silence to silence speaks. And I think that this subtile assurance, Yet unconfirmed from without, is even sweeter and dearer Than the perfected bliss that comes when the words have been spoken. —Not that I'd have them unsaid, now! But 't was delicious to ponder All the miracle over, and clasp it, and keep it, and hide it,— While I beheld him, you know, with looks of indifferent languor, Talking of other things, and felt the divine contradiction Trouble my heart below!
And yet, if no doubt touched our passion, Do not believe for that, our love has been wholly unclouded. All best things are ours when pain and patience have won them: Peace itself would mean nothing but for the strife that preceded; Triumph of love is greatest, when peril of love has been sorest. (That's to say, I dare say. I'm only repeating what he said.) Well, then, of all wretched things in the world, a mystery, Clara, Lurked in this life dear to mine, and hopelessly held us asunder When we drew nearest together, and all but his speech said, "I love you." Fred had known him at college, and then had found him at Naples, After several years,—and called him a capital fellow. Thus far his knowledge went, and beyond this began to run shallow Over troubled ways, and to break into brilliant conjecture, Harder by far to endure than the other's reticent absence— Absence wherein at times he seemed to walk like one troubled By an uneasy dream, whose spell is not broken with waking, But it returns all day with a vivid and sudden recurrence, Like a remembered event. Of the past that was closest the present, This we knew from himself: He went at the earliest summons, When the Rebellion began, and falling, terribly wounded, Into the enemy's hands, after ages of sickness and prison, Made his escape at last; and, returning, found all his virtues Grown out of recognition and shining in posthumous splendor,— Found all changed and estranged, and, he fancied, more wonder than welcome. So, somewhat heavy of heart, and disabled for war, he had wandered Hither to Europe for perfecter peace. Abruptly his silence, Full of suggestion and sadness, made here a chasm between us; But we spanned the chasm with conversational bridges, Else talked all around it, and feigned an ignorance of it, With that absurd pretence which is always so painful, or comic, Just as you happen to make it or see it.
In spite of our fictions, Severed from his by that silence, my heart grew ever more anxious, Till last night when together we sat in Piazza San Marco (Then, when the morrow must bring us parting—forever, it might be), Taking our ices al fresco. Some strolling minstrels were singing Airs from the Trovatore. I noted with painful observance, With the unwilling minuteness at such times absolute torture, All that brilliant scene, for which I cared nothing, before me: Dark-eyed Venetian leoni regarding the forestieri With those compassionate looks of gentle and curious wonder Home-keeping Italy's nations bend on the voyaging races,— Taciturn, indolent, sad, as their beautiful city itself is; Groups of remotest English—not just the traditional English (Lavish Milor is no more, and your travelling Briton is frugal)— English, though, after all, with the Channel always between them, Islanded in themselves, and the Continent's sociable races; Country-people of ours—the New World's confident children, Proud of America always, and even vain of the Troubles As of disaster laid out on a scale unequalled in Europe; Polyglot Russians that spoke all languages better than natives; White-coated Austrian officers, anglicized Austrian dandies; Gorgeous Levantine figures of Greek, and Turk, and Albanian— These, and the throngs that moved through the long arcades and Piazza, Shone on by numberless lamps that flamed round the perfect Piazza, Jewel-like set in the splendid frame of this beautiful picture, Full of such motley life, and so altogether Venetian.
Then we rose and walked where the lamps were blanched by the moonlight Flooding the Piazzetta with splendor, and throwing in shadow All the facade of Saint Mark's, with its pillars, and horses, and arches; But the sculptured frondage, that blossoms over the arches Into the forms of saints, was touched with tenderest lucence, And the angel that stands on the crest of the vast campanile Bathed his golden vans in the liquid light of the moonbeams. Black rose the granite pillars that lift the Saint and the Lion; Black sank the island campanili from distance to distance; Over the charmed scene there brooded a presence of music, Subtler than sound, and felt, unheard, in the depth of the spirit.
How can I gather and show you the airy threads of enchantment Woven that night round my life and forever wrought into my being, As in our boat we glided away from the glittering city? Dull at heart I felt, and I looked at the lights in the water, Blurring their brilliance with tears, while the tresses of eddying seaweed, Whirled in the ebbing tide, like the tresses of sea-maidens drifting Seaward from palace-haunts, in the moonshine glistened and darkened.
Sad and vague were my thoughts, and full of fear was the silence; And, when he turned to speak at last, I trembled to hear him, Feeling he now must speak of his love, and his life and its secret,— Now that the narrowing chances had left but that cruel conclusion, Else the life-long ache of a love and a trouble unuttered. Better, my feebleness pleaded, the dreariest doubt that had vexed me, Than my life left nothing, not even a doubt to console it; But, while I trembled and listened, his broken words crumbled to silence, And, as though some touch of fate had thrilled him with warning, Suddenly from me he turned. Our gondola slipped from the shadow Under a ship lying near, and glided into the moonlight, Where, in its brightest lustre, another gondola rested. I saw two lovers there, and he, in the face of the woman, Saw what has made him mine, my own beloved, forever! Mine!—but through what tribulation, and awful confusion of spirit! Tears that I think of with smiles, and sighs I remember with laughter, Agonies full of absurdity, keen, ridiculous anguish, Ending in depths of blissful shame, and heavenly transports!
White, and estranged as a man who has looked on a spectre, he mutely Sank to the place at my side, nor while we returned to the city Uttered a word of explaining, or comment, or comfort, but only, With his good-night, incoherently craved my forgiveness and patience, Parted, and left me to spend the night in hysterical vigils, Tending to Annie's supreme dismay, and postponing our journey One day longer at least; for I went to bed in the morning, Firmly rejecting the pity of friends, and the pleasures of travel, Fixed in a dreadful purpose never to get any better.
Later, however, I rallied, when Fred, with a maddening prologue Touching the cause of my sickness, including his fever at Jaffa, Told me that some one was waiting; and could he see me a moment? See me? Certainly not. Or,—yes. But why did he want to? So, in the dishabille of a morning-gown and an arm-chair, Languid, with eloquent wanness of eye and of cheek, I received him— Willing to touch and reproach, and half-melted myself by my pathos, Which, with a reprobate joy, I wholly forgot the next instant, When, with electric words, few, swift, and vivid, he brought me, Through a brief tempest of tears, to this heaven of sunshine and sweetness.
Yes, he had looked on a ghost—the phantom of love that was perished!— When, last night, he beheld the scene of which I have told you. For to the woman he saw there, his troth had been solemnly plighted Ere he went to the war. His return from the dead found her absent In the belief of his death; and hither to Europe he followed,— Followed to seek her, and keep, if she would, the promise between them, Or, were a haunting doubt confirmed, to break it and free her. Then, at Naples we met, and the love that, before he was conscious, Turned his life toward mine, laid torturing stress to the purpose Whither it drove him forever, and whence forever it swerved him. How could he tell me his love, with this terrible burden upon him? How could he linger near me, and still withhold the avowal? And what ruin were that, if the other were doubted unjustly, And should prove fatally true! With shame, he confessed he had faltered, Clinging to guilty delays, and to hopes that were bitter with treason, Up to the eve of our parting. And then the last anguish was spared him. Her love for him was dead. But the heart that leaped in his bosom With a great, dumb throb of joy and wonder and doubting, Still must yield to the spell of his silencing will till that phantom Proved an actual ghost by common-place tests of the daylight, Such as speech with the lady's father.
And now, could I pardon— Nay, did I think I could love him? I sobbingly answered, I thought so. And we are all of us going to Lago di Como to-morrow, With an ulterior view at the first convenient Legation.
Patientest darling, good-by! Poor Fred, whose sense of what's proper Never was touched till now, is shocked at my glad self-betrayals, And I am pointed out as an awful example to Annie, Figuring all she must never be. But, oh, if he loves me!—
Since, he has shown me a letter in which he absolves and forgives her (Philip, of course, not Fred; and the other, of course, and not Annie). Don't you think him generous, noble, unselfish, heroic?
Well, I'm glad, I am sure, if Fanny supposes she's happy. I've no doubt her lover is good and noble—as men go. But, as regards his release of a woman who'd wholly forgot him, And whom he loved no longer, for one whom he loves, and who loves him, I don't exactly see where the heroism commences.
THE SONG THE ORIOLE SINGS.
There is a bird that comes and sings In the Professor's garden-trees; Upon the English oak he swings, And tilts and tosses in the breeze.
I know his name, I know his note, That so with rapture takes my soul; Like flame the gold beneath his throat, His glossy cope is black as coal.
O oriole, it is the song You sang me from the cottonwood, Too young to feel that I was young, Too glad to guess if life were good.
And while I hark, before my door, Adown the dusty Concord Road, The blue Miami flows once more As by the cottonwood it flowed.
And on the bank that rises steep, And pours a thousand tiny rills, From death and absence laugh and leap My school-mates to their flutter-mills.
The blackbirds jangle in the tops Of hoary-antlered sycamores; The timorous killdee starts and stops Among the drift-wood on the shores.
Below, the bridge—a noonday fear Of dust and shadow shot with sun— Stretches its gloom from pier to pier, Far unto alien coasts unknown.
And on those alien coasts, above, Where silver ripples break the stream's Long blue, from some roof-sheltering grove A hidden parrot scolds and screams.
Ah, nothing, nothing! Commonest things: A touch, a glimpse, a sound, a breath— It is a song the oriole sings— And all the rest belongs to death.
But oriole, my oriole, Were some bright seraph sent from bliss With songs of heaven to win my soul From simple memories such as this,
What could he tell to tempt my ear From you? What high thing could there be, So tenderly and sweetly dear As my lost boyhood is to me?
Hard by the Church of Saint Stephen, in sole and beautiful Venice, Under the colonnade of the Augustinian Convent, Every day, as I passed, I paused to look at the frescos Painted upon the ancient walls of the court of the Convent By a great master of old, who wore his sword and his dagger While he wrought the figures of patriarchs, martyrs, and virgins Into the sacred and famous scenes of Scriptural story.
Long ago the monks from their snug self-devotion were driven, Wistful and fat and slow: looking backward, I fancied them going Out through the sculptured doorway, and down the Ponte de'Frati, Cowled and sandalled and beaded, a plump and pensive procession; And in my day their cells were barracks for Austrian soldiers, Who in their turn have followed the Augustinian Friars. As to the frescos, little remained of work once so perfect. Summer and winter weather of some three cycles had wasted; Plaster had fallen, and left unsightly blotches of ruin; Wanton and stupid neglect had done its worst to the pictures: Yet to the sympathetic and reverent eye was apparent— Where the careless glance but found, in expanses of plaster, Touches of incoherent color and lines interrupted— Somewhat still of the life of surpassing splendor and glory Filling the frescos once; and here and there was a figure, Standing apart, and out from the common decay and confusion, Flushed with immortal youth and ineffaceable beauty, Such as that figure of Eve in pathetic expulsion from Eden, Taking—the tourist remembers—the wrath of Heaven al fresco, As is her well-known custom in thousands of acres of canvas.
I could make out the much-bepainted Biblical subjects, When I had patience enough: The Temptation, of course, and Expulsion; Cain killing Abel, his Brother—the merest fragment of murder; Noah's Debauch—the trunk of the sea-faring patriarch naked, And the garment, borne backward to cover it, fearfully tattered; Abraham offering Isaac—no visible Isaac, and only Abraham's lifted knife held back by the hovering angel; Martyrdom of Saint Stephen—a part of the figure of Stephen; And the Conversion of Paul—the greaves on the leg of a soldier Held across the back of a prostrate horse by the stirrup; But when I looked at the face of that tearful and beauteous figure,— Eve in the fresco there, and, in Venice of old, Violante, As I must fain believe (the lovely daughter of Palma, Who was her father's Saint Barbara, and was the Bella of Titian),— Such a meaning and life shone forth from its animate presence As could restore those vague and ineffectual pictures, With their pristine colors, and fill them with light and with movement. Nay, sometimes it could blind me to all the present about me, Till I beheld no more the sausage-legged Austrian soldiers, Where they stood on guard beside one door of the Convent, Nor the sentinel beggars that watched the approach to the other; Neither the bigolanti, the broad-backed Friulan maidens, Drawing the water with clatter and splashing, and laughter and gossip, Out of the carven well in the midst of the court of the Convent— No, not even the one with the mole on her cheek and the sidelong Look, as she ambled forth with her buckets of bronze at her shoulder, Swinging upon the yoke to and fro, a-drip and a-glimmer. All in an instant was changed, and once more the cloister was peopled By the serene monks of old, and against walls of the cloisters, High on his scaffolding raised, Pordenone wrought at his frescos. Armed with dagger and sword, as the legend tells, against Titian, Who was his rival in art and in love.
It seemed to be summer, In the forenoon of the day; and the master's diligent pencil Laid its last light touches on Eve driven forth out of Eden, Otherwise Violante, and while his pupils about him Wrought and chattered, in silence ran the thought of the painter: "She, and forever she! Is it come to be my perdition? Shall I, then, never more make the face of a beautiful woman But it must take her divine, accursed beauty upon it, And, when I finish my work, stand forth her visible presence? Ah! I could take this sword and strike it into her bosom! Though I believe my own heart's blood would stream from the painting, So much I love her! Yes, that look is marvellous like you, Wandering, tender—such as I'd give my salvation to win you Once to bend upon me! But I knew myself better than make you, Lest I should play the fool about you here before people, Helpless to turn away from your violet eyes, Violante, That have turned all my life to a vision of madness." The painter Here unto speech betraying the thoughts he had silently pondered, "Visions, visions, my son?" said a gray old friar who listened, Seated there in the sun, with his eye on the work of the painter Fishily fixed, while the master blasphemed behind his mustaches. "Much have I envied your Art, who vouchsafeth to those who adore her Visions of heavenly splendor denied to fastings and vigils. I have spent days and nights of faint and painful devotion, Scourged myself almost to death, without one glimpse of the glory Which your touch has revealed in the face of that heavenly maiden. Pleasure me to repeat what it was you were saying of visions: Fain would I know how they come to you, though I never see them, And in my thickness of hearing I fear some words have escaped me." Then, while the painter glared on the lifted face of the friar, Baleful, breathless, bewildered, fiercer than noon in the dog-days, Round the circle of pupils there ran a tittering murmur; From the lips to the ears of those nameless Beppis and Gigis Buzzed the stinging whisper: "Let's hear Pordenone's confession." Well they knew the master's luckless love, and whose portrait He had unconsciously painted there, and guessed that his visions Scarcely were those conceived by the friar, who constantly blundered Round the painter at work, mistaking every subject— Noah's drunken Debauch for the Stoning of Stephen the Martyr, And the Conversion of Paul for the Flight into Egypt; forever Putting his hand to his ear and shouting, "Speak louder, I pray you!" So they waited now, in silent, amused expectation, Till Pordenone's angry scorn should gather to bursting. Long the painter gazed in furious silence, then slowly Uttered a kind of moan, and turned again to his labor. Tears gathered into his eyes, of mortification and pathos, And when the dull old monk, who forgot, while he waited the answer, Visions and painter, and all, had maundered away in his error, Pordenone half envied the imbecile peace of his bosom; "For in my own," he mused, "is such a combat of devils, That I believe torpid age or stupid youth would be better Than this manhood of mine that has climbed aloft to discover Heights which I never can reach, and bright on the pinnacle standing In the unfading light, my rival crowned victor above me. If I could hint what I feel, what forever escapes from my pencil, All after-time should know my will was not less than my failure, Nor should any one dare remember me merely in pity. All should read my sorrows and do my discomfiture homage, Saying: 'Not meanly at any time this painter meant or endeavored; His was the anguish of one who falls short of the highest achievement, Conscious of doing his utmost, and knowing how vast his defeat is. Life, if he would, might have had some second guerdon to give him, But he would only the first; and behold! Let us honor Grief such as his must have been; no other sorrow can match it! There are certainly some things here that are nobly imagined: Look! here is masterly power in this play of light, and these shadows Boldly are massed; and what color! One can well understand Buonarotti Saying the sight of his Curtius was worth the whole journey from Florence. Here is a man at least never less than his work; you can feel it As you can feel in Titian's the painter's inferior spirit. He and this Pordenone, you know, were rivals; and Titian Knew how to paint to the popular humor, and spared not Foul means or fair (his way with rivals) to crush Pordenone, Who with an equal chance'— "Alas, if the whole world should tell me I was his equal in art, and the lie could save me from torment, So must I be lost, for my soul could never believe it! Nay, let my envy snarl as fierce as it will at his glory, Still, when I look on his work, my soul makes obeisance within me, Humbling itself before the touch that shall never be equalled."
He who sleeps in continual noise is wakened by silence, And Pordenone was roused from these thoughts anon by the sudden Hush that had fallen upon the garrulous group of his pupils; And ere he turned half-way with instinctive looks of inquiry, He was already warned, with a shock at the heart, of a presence Long attended, not feared; and he laid one hand on his sword-hilt, Seizing the sheath with the other hand, that the pallet had dropped from. Then he fronted Titian, who stood with his arms lightly folded, And with a curious smile, half of sarcasm, half of compassion, Bent on th' embattled painter, cried: "Your slave, Messere Antonio! What good friend has played this bitter jest with your humor? As I beheld you just now full-armed with your pencil and palette, I was half awed by your might; but these sorry trappings of bravo Make me believe you less fit to be the rival of Titian, Here in the peaceful calm of our well-ordered city of Venice, Than to take service under some Spanish lordling at Naples, Needy in blades for work that can not wait for the poison."
Pordenone flushed with anger and shame to be taken At an unguarded point; but he answered with scornful defiance: "Oh, you are come, I see, with the favorite weapon of Titian, And you would make a battle of words. If you care for my counsel, Listen to me: I say you are skilfuller far in my absence, And your tongue can inflict a keener and deadlier mischief When it is dipped in poisonous lies, and wielded in secret." "Nay, then," Titian responded, "methinks that our friend Aretino Makes a much better effect than either of us in that tongue-play. But since Messer Robusti has measured our wit for his portrait, Even he has grown shyer of using his tongue than he once was. Have you not heard the tale? Tintoretto was told Aretino Meant to make him the subject of one of his merry effusions; And with his naked dirk he went carefully over his person, Promising, if the poet made free with him in his verses, He would immortalize my satirical friend with that pencil. Doubtless the tale is not true. Aretino says nothing about it; Always speaks, in fact, with the highest respect of Robusti. True or not, 'tis well found." Then looking around on the frescos: "Good, very good indeed! Your breadth and richness and softness No man living surpasses; those heads are truly majestic. Yes, Buonarotti was right, when he said that to look at your Curtius Richly repaid him the trouble and cost of a journey from Florence. Surely the world shall know you the first of painters in fresco! Well? You will not strike me unarmed? This was hardly expected By the good people that taught you to think our rivalry blood-red. Let us be friends, Pordenone!" "Be patron and patronized, rather; Nay, if you spoke your whole mind out, be assassin and victim. Could the life beat again in the broken heart of Giorgione, He might tell us, I think, something pleasant of friendship with Titian." Suddenly over the shoulder of Titian peered an ironical visage, Smiling, malignly intent—the leer of the scurrilous poet: "You know—all the world knows—who dug the grave of Giorgione. Titian and he were no friends—our Lady of Sorrows forgive 'em! But for all hurt that Titian did him he might have been living, Greater than any living, and lord of renown and such glory As would have left you both dull as yon withered moon in the sunshine." Loud laughed the listening group at the insolent gibe of the poet, Stirring the gall to its depths in the bitter soul of their master, Who with his tremulous fingers tapped the hilt of his poniard, Answering naught as yet. Anon the glance of the ribald, Carelessly ranging from Pordenone's face to the picture, Dwelt with an absent light on its marvellous beauty, and kindled Into a slow recognition, with "Ha! Violante!" Then, erring Wilfully as to the subject, he cackled his filthy derision: "What have we here! More Magdalens yet of the painter's acquaintance? Ah—!" The words had scarce left his lips, when the painter Rushed upon him, and clutching his throat, thrust him backward and held him Over the scaffolding's edge in air, and straightway had flung him Crashing down on the pave of the cloister below, but for Titian, Who around painter and poet alike wound his strong arms and stayed them Solely, until the bewildered pupils could come to the rescue. Then, as the foes relaxed that embrace of frenzy and murder— White, one with rage and the other with terror, and either with hatred— Grimly the great master smiled: "You were much nearer paradise, Piero, Than you have been for some time. Be ruled now by me and get homeward Fast as you may, and be thankful." And then, as the poet, Looking neither to right nor to left, amid the smiles of the pupils Tottered along the platform, and trembling descended the ladder Down to the cloister pave, and, still without upward or backward Glance, disappeared beneath the outer door of the Convent, Titian turned again to the painter: "Farewell, Pordenone! Learn more fairly to know me. I envy you not; and no rival Now, or at any time, have I held you, or ever shall hold you. Prosper and triumph still, for all me: you shall but do me honor, Seeing that I too serve the art that your triumphs illustrate. I for my part find life too short for work and for pleasure; If it should touch a century's bound, I should think it too precious Even to spare a moment for rage at another's good fortune. Do not be fooled by the purblind flatterers who would persuade you Either of us shall have greater fame through the fall of the other. We can thrive only in common. The tardily blossoming cycles, Flowering at last in this glorious age of our art, had not waited, Folded calyxes still, for Pordenone or Titian. Think you if we had not been, our pictures had never been painted? Others had done them, or better, the same. We are only Pencils God paints with. And think you that He had wanted for pencils But for our being at hand? And yet—for some virtue creative Dwells and divinely exists in the being of every creature, So that the thing done through him is dear as if he had done it— If I should see your power, a tint of this great efflorescence, Fading, methinks I should feel myself beginning to wither. They have abused your hate who told you that Titian was jealous. Once, in my youth that is passed, I too had my hates and my envies. 'Sdeath! how it used to gall me—that power and depth of Giorgione! I could have turned my knife in his heart when I looked at his portraits. Ah! we learn somewhat still as the years go. Now, when I see you Doing this good work here, I am glad in my soul of its beauty. Art is not ours, O friend! but if we are not hers, we are nothing. Look at the face you painted last year—or yesterday, even: Far, so far, it seems from you, so utterly, finally, parted, Nothing is stranger to you than this child of your soul; and you wonder— 'Did I indeed then do it?' No thrill of the rapture of doing Stirs in your breast at the sight. Nay, then, not even the beauty Which we had seemed to create is our own: the frame universal Is as much ours. And shall I hate you because you are doing That which when done you cannot feel yours more than I mine can feel it? It shall belong hereafter to all who perceive and enjoy it, Rather than him who made it; he, least of all, shall enjoy it. They of the Church conjure us to look on death and be humble; I say, look upon life and keep your pride if you can, then: See how to-day's achievement is only to-morrow's confusion; See how possession always cheapens the thing that was precious To our endeavor; how losses and gains are equally losses; How in ourselves we are nothing, and how we are anything only As indifferent parts of the whole, that still, on our ceasing, Whole remains as before, no less without us than with us. Were it not for the delight of doing, the wonderful instant Ere the thing done is done and dead, life scarce were worth living. Ah, but that makes life divine! We are gods, for that instant immortal, Mortal for evermore, with a few days' rumor—or ages'— What does it matter? We, too, have our share of eating and drinking, Love, and the liking of friends—mankind's common portion and pleasure. Come, Pordenone, with me; I would fain have you see my Assumption While it is still unfinished, and stay with me for the evening: You shall send home for your lute, and I'll ask Sansovino to supper. After what happened just now I scarcely could ask Aretino; Though, for the matter of that, the dog is not one to bear malice. Will you not come?"
I listen with Titian, and wait for the answer. But, whatever the answer that comes to Titian, I hear none. Nay, while I linger, all those presences fade into nothing, In the dead air of the past; and the old Augustinian Convent Lapses to picturesque profanation again as a barrack; Lapses and changes once more, and this time vanishes wholly, Leaving me at the end with the broken, shadowy legend, Broken and shadowy still, as in the beginning. I linger, Teased with its vague unfathomed suggestion, and wonder, As at first I wondered, what happened about Violante, And am but ill content with those metaphysical phrases Touching the strictly impersonal nature of personal effort, Wherewithal Titian had fain avoided the matter at issue.
 Giovanni Antonio Licinio, called Pordenone from his birth-place in the Friuli, was a contemporary of Titian's, whom he equalled in many qualities, and was one of the most eminent Venetian painters in fresco.
 Pietro Aretino, the satirical poet, was a friend of Titian, whose house he frequented. The story of Tintoretto's measuring him for a portrait with his dagger is well known.
 Giorgione (Giorgio Barbarelli) was Titian's fellow-pupil and rival in the school of Bellini. He died at thirty-four, after a life of great triumphs and excesses.
 Sansovino, the architect, was a familiar guest at Titian's table, in his house near the Fondamenta Nuove.
THE LONG DAYS.
Yes! they are here again, the long, long days, After the days of winter, pinched and white; Soon, with a thousand minstrels comes the light, Late, the sweet robin-haunted dusk delays.
But the long days that bring us back the flowers, The sunshine, and the quiet-dripping rain, And all the things we knew of spring again, The long days bring not the long-lost long hours.
The hours that now seem to have been each one A summer in itself, a whole life's bound, Filled full of deathless joy—where in his round, Have these forever faded from the sun?
The fret, the fever, the unrest endures, But the time flies.... Oh, try, my little lad, Coming so hot and play-worn, to be glad And patient of the long hours that are yours!
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Archaic and variable spelling and hypenation preserved, including words like chorussing and chipmonk.
Author's punctuation style is preserved, including some inconsistent quotes in "Pordenone".
Passages in italics indicated by underscores.