O mother, my best diligence shall be In all by thy experience to be ruled Where my own youth falls short! But, Laias, now, First work after such victory, let us go To render to my true Messenians thanks, To the Gods grateful sacrifice; and then, Assume the ensigns of my father's power.
Son of Cresphontes, past what perils Com'st thou, guided safe, to thy home! What things daring! what enduring! And all this by the will of the Gods.
EMPEDOCLES ON ETNA
A DRAMATIC POEM
EMPEDOCLES. PAUSANIAS, a Physician. CALLICLES, a young Harp-player.
The Scene of the Poem is on Mount Etna; at first in the forest region, afterwards on the summit of the mountain.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Morning. A Pass in the forest region of Etna.
(Alone, resting on a rock by the path.)
The mules, I think, will not be here this hour; They feel the cool wet turf under their feet By the stream-side, after the dusty lanes In which they have toil'd all night from Catana, And scarcely will they budge a yard. O Pan, How gracious is the mountain at this hour! A thousand times have I been here alone, Or with the revellers from the mountain-towns, But never on so fair a morn;—the sun Is shining on the brilliant mountain-crests, And on the highest pines; but farther down, Here in the valley, is in shade; the sward Is dark, and on the stream the mist still hangs; One sees one's footprints crush'd in the wet grass, One's breath curls in the air; and on these pines That climb from the stream's edge, the long grey tufts, Which the goats love, are jewell'd thick with dew. Here will I stay till the slow litter comes. I have my harp too—that is well.—Apollo! What mortal could be sick or sorry here? I know not in what mind Empedocles, Whose mules I follow'd, may be coming up, But if, as most men say, he is half mad With exile, and with brooding on his wrongs, Pausanias, his sage friend, who mounts with him, Could scarce have lighted on a lovelier cure. The mules must be below, far down. I hear Their tinkling bells, mix'd with the song of birds, Rise faintly to me—now it stops!—Who's here? Pausanias! and on foot? alone?
And thou, then? I left thee supping with Peisianax, With thy head full of wine, and thy hair crown'd, Touching thy harp as the whim came on thee, And praised and spoil'd by master and by guests Almost as much as the new dancing-girl. Why hast thou follow'd us?
The night was hot, And the feast past its prime; so we slipp'd out, Some of us, to the portico to breathe;— Peisianax, thou know'st, drinks late;—and then, As I was lifting my soil'd garland off, I saw the mules and litter in the court, And in the litter sate Empedocles; Thou, too, wast with him. Straightway I sped home; I saddled my white mule, and all night long Through the cool lovely country follow'd you, Pass'd you a little since as morning dawn'd, And have this hour sate by the torrent here, Till the slow mules should climb in sight again. And now?
And now, back to the town with speed! Crouch in the wood first, till the mules have pass'd; They do but halt, they will be here anon. Thou must be viewless to Empedocles; Save mine, he must not meet a human eye. One of his moods is on him that thou know'st; I think, thou wouldst not vex him.
No—and yet I would fain stay, and help thee tend him. Once He knew me well, and would oft notice me; And still, I know not how, he draws me to him, And I could watch him with his proud sad face, His flowing locks and gold-encircled brow And kingly gait, for ever; such a spell In his severe looks, such a majesty As drew of old the people after him, In Agrigentum and Olympia, When his star reign'd, before his banishment, Is potent still on me in his decline. But oh! Pausanias, he is changed of late; There is a settled trouble in his air Admits no momentary brightening now, And when he comes among his friends at feasts, 'Tis as an orphan among prosperous boys. Thou know'st of old he loved this harp of mine, When first he sojourn'd with Peisianax; He is now always moody, and I fear him; But I would serve him, soothe him, if I could, Dared one but try.
Thou wast a kind child ever! He loves thee, but he must not see thee now. Thou hast indeed a rare touch on thy harp, He loves that in thee, too;—there was a time (But that is pass'd), he would have paid thy strain With music to have drawn the stars from heaven. He hath his harp and laurel with him still, But he has laid the use of music by, And all which might relax his settled gloom. Yet thou may'st try thy playing, if thou wilt— But thou must keep unseen; follow us on, But at a distance! in these solitudes, In this clear mountain-air, a voice will rise, Though from afar, distinctly; it may soothe him. Play when we halt, and, when the evening comes And I must leave him (for his pleasure is To be left musing these soft nights alone In the high unfrequented mountain-spots), Then watch him, for he ranges swift and far, Sometimes to Etna's top, and to the cone; But hide thee in the rocks a great way down, And try thy noblest strains, my Callicles, With the sweet night to help thy harmony! Thou wilt earn my thanks sure, and perhaps his.
More than a day and night, Pausanias, Of this fair summer-weather, on these hills, Would I bestow to help Empedocles. That needs no thanks; one is far better here Than in the broiling city in these heats. But tell me, how hast them persuaded him In this his present fierce, man-hating mood, To bring thee out with him alone on Etna?
Thou hast heard all men speaking of Pantheia The woman who at Agrigentum lay Thirty long days in a cold trance of death, And whom Empedocles call'd back to life. Thou art too young to note it, but his power Swells with the swelling evil of this time, And holds men mute to see where it will rise. He could stay swift diseases in old days, Chain madmen by the music of his lyre, Cleanse to sweet airs the breath of poisonous streams, And in the mountain-chinks inter the winds. This he could do of old; but now, since all Clouds and grows daily worse in Sicily, Since broils tear us in twain, since this new swarm Of sophists has got empire in our schools Where he was paramount, since he is banish'd And lives a lonely man in triple gloom— He grasps the very reins of life and death. I ask'd him of Pantheia yesterday, When we were gather'd with Peisianax, And he made answer, I should come at night On Etna here, and be alone with him, And he would tell me, as his old, tried friend, Who still was faithful, what might profit me; That is, the secret of this miracle.
Bah! Thou a doctor! Thou art superstitious. Simple Pausanias, 'twas no miracle! Pantheia, for I know her kinsmen well, Was subject to these trances from a girl. Empedocles would say so, did he deign; But he still lets the people, whom he scorns, Gape and cry wizard at him, if they list. But thou, thou art no company for him! Thou art as cross, as sour'd as himself! Thou hast some wrong from thine own citizens, And then thy friend is banish'd, and on that, Straightway thou fallest to arraign the times, As if the sky was impious not to fall. The sophists are no enemies of his; I hear, Gorgias, their chief, speaks nobly of him, As of his gifted master, and once friend. He is too scornful, too high-wrought, too bitter. 'Tis not the times, 'tis not the sophists vex him; There is some root of suffering in himself, Some secret and unfollow'd vein of woe, Which makes the time look black and sad to him. Pester him not in this his sombre mood With questionings about an idle tale, But lead him through the lovely mountain-paths, And keep his mind from preying on itself, And talk to him of things at hand and common, Not miracles! thou art a learned man, But credulous of fables as a girl.
And thou, a boy whose tongue outruns his knowledge, And on whose lightness blame is thrown away. Enough of this! I see the litter wind Up by the torrent-side, under the pines. I must rejoin Empedocles. Do thou Crouch in the brushwood till the mules have pass'd; Then play thy kind part well. Farewell till night!
Noon. A Glen on the highest skirts of the woody region of Etna.
The noon is hot. When we have cross'd the stream, We shall have left the woody tract, and come Upon the open shoulder of the hill. See how the giant spires of yellow bloom Of the sun-loving gentian, in the heat, Are shining on those naked slopes like flame! Let us rest here; and now, Empedocles, Pantheia's history! [A harp-note below is heard.
Hark! what sound was that Rose from below? If it were possible, And we were not so far from human haunt, I should have said that some one touch'd a harp Hark! there again!
'Tis the boy Callicles, The sweetest harp-player in Catana. He is for ever coming on these hills, In summer, to all country-festivals, With a gay revelling band; he breaks from them Sometimes, and wanders far among the glens. But heed him not, he will not mount to us; I spoke with him this morning. Once more, therefore, Instruct me of Pantheia's story, Master, As I have pray'd thee.
That? and to what end?
It is enough that all men speak of it. But I will also say, that when the Gods Visit us as they do with sign and plague, To know those spells of thine which stay their hand Were to live free from terror.
Spells? Mistrust them! Mind is the spell which governs earth and heaven. Man has a mind with which to plan his safety; Know that, and help thyself!
But thine own words? "The wit and counsel of man was never clear, Troubles confound the little wit he has." Mind is a light which the Gods mock us with, To lead those false who trust it. [The harp sounds again.
Hist! once more! Listen, Pausanias!—Ay, 'tis Callicles; I know these notes among a thousand. Hark!
(Sings unseen, from below).
The track winds down to the clear stream, To cross the sparkling shallows; there The cattle love to gather, on their way To the high mountain-pastures, and to stay, Till the rough cow-herds drive them past, Knee-deep in the cool ford; for 'tis the last Of all the woody, high, well-water'd dells On Etna; and the beam Of noon is broken there by chestnut-boughs Down its steep verdant sides; the air Is freshen'd by the leaping stream, which throws Eternal showers of spray on the moss'd roots Of trees, and veins of turf, and long dark shoots Of ivy-plants, and fragrant hanging bells Of hyacinths, and on late anemonies, That muffle its wet banks; but glade, And stream, and sward, and chestnut-trees, End here; Etna beyond, in the broad glare Of the hot noon, without a shade, Slope behind slope, up to the peak, lies bare; The peak, round which the white clouds play.
In such a glen, on such a day, On Pelion, on the grassy ground, Chiron, the aged Centaur lay, The young Achilles standing by. The Centaur taught him to explore The mountains; where the glens are dry And the tired Centaurs come to rest, And where the soaking springs abound And the straight ashes grow for spears, And where the hill-goats come to feed, And the sea-eagles build their nest. He show'd him Phthia far away, And said: O boy, I taught this lore To Peleus, in long distant years! He told him of the Gods, the stars, The tides;—and then of mortal wars, And of the life which heroes lead Before they reach the Elysian place And rest in the immortal mead; And all the wisdom of his race.
The music below ceases, and EMPEDOCLES speaks, accompanying himself in a solemn manner on his harp.
The out-spread world to span A cord the Gods first slung, And then the soul of man There, like a mirror, hung, And bade the winds through space impel the gusty toy
Hither and thither spins The wind-borne, mirroring soul, A thousand glimpses wins, And never sees a whole; Looks once, and drives elsewhere, and leaves its last employ.
The Gods laugh in their sleeve To watch man doubt and fear, Who knows not what to believe Since he sees nothing clear, And dares stamp nothing false where he finds nothing sure.
Is this, Pausanias, so? And can our souls not strive, But with the winds must go, And hurry where they drive? Is fate indeed so strong, man's strength indeed so poor?
I will not judge. That man, Howbeit, I judge as lost, Whose mind allows a plan, Which would degrade it most; And he treats doubt the best who tries to see least ill.
Be not, then, fear's blind slave! Thou art my friend; to thee, All knowledge that I have, All skill I wield, are free. Ask not the latest news of the last miracle, Ask not what days and nights In trance Pantheia lay, But ask how thou such sights May'st see without dismay; Ask what most helps when known, thou son of Anchitus!
What? hate, and awe, and shame Fill thee to see our time; Thou feelest thy soul's frame Shaken and out of chime? What? life and chance go hard with thee too, as with us;
Thy citizens, 'tis said, Envy thee and oppress, Thy goodness no men aid, All strive to make it less; Tyranny, pride, and lust, fill Sicily's abodes;
Heaven is with earth at strife, Signs make thy soul afraid, The dead return to life, Rivers are dried, winds stay'd; Scarce can one think in calm, so threatening are the Gods;
And we feel, day and night, The burden of ourselves— Well, then, the wiser wight In his own bosom delves, And asks what ails him so, and gets what cure he can.
The sophist sneers: Fool, take Thy pleasure, right or wrong. The pious wail: Forsake A world these sophists throng. Be neither saint nor sophist-led, but be a man!
These hundred doctors try To preach thee to their school. We have the truth! they cry; And yet their oracle, Trumpet it as they will, is but the same as thine.
Once read thy own breast right, And thou hast done with fears; Man gets no other light, Search he a thousand years. Sink in thyself! there ask what ails thee, at that shrine!
What makes thee struggle and rave? Why are men ill at ease?— 'Tis that the lot they have Fails their own will to please; For man would make no murmuring, were his will obey'd.
And why is it, that still Man with his lot thus fights?— 'Tis that he makes this will The measure of his rights, And believes Nature outraged if his will's gainsaid.
Couldst thou, Pausanias, learn How deep a fault is this; Couldst thou but once discern Thou hast no right to bliss, No title from the Gods to welfare and repose;
Then thou wouldst look less mazed Whene'er of bliss debarr'd, Nor think the Gods were crazed When thy own lot went hard. But we are all the same—the fools of our own woes!
For, from the first faint morn Of life, the thirst for bliss Deep in man's heart is born; And, sceptic as he is, He fails not to judge clear if this be quench'd or no.
Nor is the thirst to blame. Man errs not that he deems His welfare his true aim, He errs because he dreams The world does but exist that welfare to bestow.
We mortals are no kings For each of whom to sway A new-made world up-springs, Meant merely for his play; No, we are strangers here; the world is from of old.
In vain our pent wills fret, And would the world subdue. Limits we did not set Condition all we do; Born into life we are, and life must be our mould.
Born into life!—man grows Forth from his parents' stem, And blends their bloods, as those Of theirs are blent in them; So each new man strikes root into a far fore-time.
Born into life!—we bring A bias with us here, And, when here, each new thing Affects us we come near; To tunes we did not call our being must keep chime.
Born into life!—in vain, Opinions, those or these, Unalter'd to retain The obstinate mind decrees; Experience, like a sea, soaks all-effacing in.
Born into life!—who lists May what is false hold dear, And for himself make mists Through which to see less clear; The world is what it is, for all our dust and din.
Born into life!—'tis we, And not the world, are new; Our cry for bliss, our plea, Others have urged it too— Our wants have all been felt, our errors made before.
No eye could be too sound To observe a world so vast, No patience too profound To sort what's here amass'd; How man may here best live no care too great to explore.
But we—as some rude guest Would change, where'er he roam, The manners there profess'd To those he brings from home— We mark not the world's course, but would have it take ours.
The world's course proves the terms On which man wins content; Reason the proof confirms— We spurn it, and invent A false course for the world, and for ourselves, false powers.
Riches we wish to get, Yet remain spendthrifts still; We would have health, and yet Still use our bodies ill; Bafflers of our own prayers, from youth to life's last scenes.
We would have inward peace, Yet will not look within; We would have misery cease, Yet will not cease from sin; We want all pleasant ends, but will use no harsh means;
We do not what we ought, What we ought not, we do, And lean upon the thought That chance will bring us through; But our own acts, for good or ill, are mightier powers.
Yet, even when man forsakes All sin,—is just, is pure, Abandons all which makes His welfare insecure,— Other existences there are, that clash with ours.
Like us, the lightning-fires Love to have scope and play; The stream, like us, desires An unimpeded way; Like us, the Libyan wind delights to roam at large.
Streams will not curb their pride The just man not to entomb, Nor lightnings go aside To give his virtues room; Nor is that wind less rough which blows a good man's barge.
Nature, with equal mind, Sees all her sons at play; Sees man control the wind, The wind sweep man away; Allows the proudly-riding and the foundering bark.
And, lastly, though of ours No weakness spoil our lot, Though the non-human powers Of Nature harm us not, The ill deeds of other men make often our life dark.
What were the wise man's plan?— Through this sharp, toil-set life, To work as best he can, And win what's won by strife.— But we an easier way to cheat our pains have found.
Scratch'd by a fall, with moans As children of weak age Lend life to the dumb stones Whereon to vent their rage, And bend their little fists, and rate the senseless ground;
So, loath to suffer mute, We, peopling the void air, Make Gods to whom to impute The ills we ought to bear; With God and Fate to rail at, suffering easily.
Yet grant—as sense long miss'd Things that are now perceived, And much may still exist Which is not yet believed— Grant that the world were full of Gods we cannot see; All things the world which fill Of but one stuff are spun, That we who rail are still, With what we rail at, one; One with the o'erlabour'd Power that through the breadth and length
Of earth, and air, and sea, In men, and plants, and stones, Hath toil perpetually, And travails, pants, and moans; Fain would do all things well, but sometimes fails in strength.
And patiently exact This universal God Alike to any act Proceeds at any nod, And quietly declaims the cursings of himself.
This is not what man hates, Yet he can curse but this. Harsh Gods and hostile Fates Are dreams! this only is— Is everywhere; sustains the wise, the foolish elf.
Nor only, in the intent To attach blame elsewhere, Do we at will invent Stern Powers who make their care To embitter human life, malignant Deities;
But, next, we would reverse The scheme ourselves have spun, And what we made to curse We now would lean upon, And feign kind Gods who perfect what man vainly tries.
Look, the world tempts our eye, And we would know it all! We map the starry sky, We mine this earthen ball, We measure the sea-tides, we number the sea-sands;
We scrutinise the dates Of long-past human things, The bounds of effaced states, The lines of deceased kings; We search out dead men's words, and works of dead men's hands;
We shut our eyes, and muse How our own minds are made, What springs of thought they use, How righten'd, how betray'd— And spend our wit to name what most employ unnamed.
But still, as we proceed The mass swells more and more Of volumes yet to read, Of secrets yet to explore. Our hair grows grey, our eyes are dimm'd, our heat is tamed;
We rest our faculties, And thus address the Gods: "True science if there is, It stays in your abodes! Man's measures cannot mete the immeasurable All.
"You only can take in The world's immense design. Our desperate search was sin, Which henceforth we resign, Sure only that your mind sees all things which befal."
Fools! That in man's brief term He cannot all things view, Affords no ground to affirm That there are Gods who do; Nor does being weary prove that he has where to rest.
Again.—Our youthful blood Claims rapture as its right; The world, a rolling flood Of newness and delight, Draws in the enamour'd gazer to its shining breast;
Pleasure, to our hot grasp, Gives flowers, after flowers; With passionate warmth we clasp Hand after hand in ours; Now do we soon perceive how fast our youth is spent.
At once our eyes grow clear! We see, in blank dismay, Year posting after year, Sense after sense decay; Our shivering heart is mined by secret discontent;
Yet still, in spite of truth, In spite of hopes entomb'd, That longing of our youth Burns ever unconsumed, Still hungrier for delight as delights grow more rare.
We pause; we hush our heart, And thus address the Gods: "The world hath fail'd to impart The joy our youth forebodes, Fail'd to fill up the void which in our breasts we bear.
"Changeful till now, we still Look'd on to something new; Let us, with changeless will, Henceforth look on to you, To find with you the joy we in vain here require!"
Fools! That so often here Happiness mock'd our prayer, I think, might make us fear A like event elsewhere; Make us, not fly to dreams, but moderate desire.
And yet, for those who know Themselves, who wisely take Their way through life, and bow To what they cannot break, Why should I say that life need yield but moderate bliss?
Shall we, with temper spoil'd, Health sapp'd by living ill, And judgment all embroil'd By sadness and self-will, Shall we judge what for man is not true bliss or is?
Is it so small a thing To have enjoy'd the sun, To have lived light in the spring, To have loved, to have thought, to have done; To have advanced true friends, and beat down baffling foes—
That we must feign a bliss Of doubtful future date, And, while we dream on this, Lose all our present state, And relegate to worlds yet distant our repose?
Not much, I know, you prize What pleasures may be had, Who look on life with eyes Estranged, like mine, and sad; And yet the village-churl feels the truth more than you,
Who's loath to leave this life Which to him little yields— His hard-task'd sunburnt wife, His often-labour'd fields, The boors with whom he talk'd, the country-spots he knew.
But thou, because thou hear'st Men scoff at Heaven and Fate, Because the Gods thou fear'st Fail to make blest thy state, Tremblest, and wilt not dare to trust the joys there are!
I say: Fear not! Life still Leaves human effort scope. But, since life teems with ill, Nurse no extravagant hope: Because thou must not dream, thou need'st not then despair!
A long pause. At the end of it the notes of a harp below are again heard, and CALLICLES sings:—
Far, far from here, The Adriatic breaks in a warm bay Among the green Illyrian hills; and there The sunshine in the happy glens is fair, And by the sea, and in the brakes. The grass is cool, the sea-side air Buoyant and fresh, the mountain flowers More virginal and sweet than ours. And there, they say, two bright and aged snakes, Who once were Cadmus and Harmonia, Bask in the glens or on the warm sea-shore, In breathless quiet, after all their ills; Nor do they see their country, nor the place Where the Sphinx lived among the frowning hills, Nor the unhappy palace of their race, Nor Thebes, nor the Ismenus, any more.
There those two live, far in the Illyrian brakes! They had stay'd long enough to see, In Thebes, the billow of calamity Over their own dear children roll'd, Curse upon curse, pang upon pang, For years, they sitting helpless in their home, A grey old man and woman; yet of old The Gods had to their marriage come, And at the banquet all the Muses sang.
Therefore they did not end their days In sight of blood; but were rapt, far away, To where the west-wind plays, And murmurs of the Adriatic come To those untrodden mountain-lawns; and there Placed safely in changed forms, the pair Wholly forget their first sad life, and home, And all that Theban woe, and stray For ever through the glens, placid and dumb.
That was my harp-player again!—where is he? Down by the stream?
Yes, Master, in the wood.
He ever loved the Theban story well! But the day wears. Go now, Pausanias, For I must be alone. Leave me one mule; Take down with thee the rest to Catana. And for young Callicles, thank him from me; Tell him, I never fail'd to love his lyre— But he must follow me no more to-night.
Thou wilt return to-morrow to the city?
Either to-morrow or some other day, In the sure revolutions of the world, Good friend, I shall revisit Catana. I have seen many cities in my time, Till mine eyes ache with the long spectacle, And I shall doubtless see them all again; Thou know'st me for a wanderer from of old. Meanwhile, stay me not now. Farewell, Pausanias!
He departs on his way up the mountain.
I dare not urge him further—he must go; But he is strangely wrought!—I will speed back And bring Peisianax to him from the city; His counsel could once soothe him. But, Apollo! How his brow lighten'd as the music rose! Callicles must wait here, and play to him; I saw him through the chestnuts far below, Just since, down at the stream.—Ho! Callicles!
He descends, calling.
Evening. The Summit of Etna.
Alone!— On this charr'd, blacken'd, melancholy waste, Crown'd by the awful peak, Etna's great mouth. Round which the sullen vapour rolls—alone! Pausanias is far hence, and that is well, For I must henceforth speak no more with man He hath his lesson too, and that debt's paid; And the good, learned, friendly, quiet man, May bravelier front his life, and in himself Find henceforth energy and heart. But I— The weary man, the banish'd citizen, Whose banishment is not his greatest ill, Whose weariness no energy can reach, And for whose hurt courage is not the cure— What should I do with life and living more?
No, thou art come too late, Empedocles! And the world hath the day, and must break thee, Not thou the world. With men thou canst not live, Their thoughts, their ways, their wishes, are not thine; And being lonely thou art miserable, For something has impair'd thy spirit's strength, And dried its self-sufficing fount of joy. Thou canst not live with men nor with thyself— O sage! O sage!—Take then the one way left; And turn thee to the elements, thy friends, Thy well-tried friends, thy willing ministers, And say: Ye helpers, hear Empedocles, Who asks this final service at your hands! Before the sophist-brood hath overlaid The last spark of man's consciousness with words— Ere quite the being of man, ere quite the world Be disarray'd of their divinity— Before the soul lose all her solemn joys, And awe be dead, and hope impossible, And the soul's deep eternal night come on— Receive me, hide me, quench me, take me home!
He advances to the edge of the crater. Smoke and fire break forth with a loud noise, and CALLICLES is heard below singing:—
The lyre's voice is lovely everywhere; In the court of Gods, in the city of men, And in the lonely rock-strewn mountain-glen, In the still mountain air.
Only to Typho it sounds hatefully; To Typho only, the rebel o'erthrown, Through whose heart Etna drives her roots of stone To imbed them in the sea.
Wherefore dost thou groan so loud? Wherefore do thy nostrils flash, Through the dark night, suddenly, Typho, such red jets of flame?— Is thy tortured heart still proud? Is thy fire-scathed arm still rash? Still alert thy stone-crush'd frame? Doth thy fierce soul still deplore Thine ancient rout by the Cilician hills, And that curst treachery on the Mount of Gore? Do thy bloodshot eyes still weep The fight which crown'd thine ills, Thy last mischance on this Sicilian deep? Hast thou sworn, in thy sad lair, Where erst the strong sea-currents suck'd thee down, Never to cease to writhe, and try to rest, Letting the sea-stream wander through thy hair? That thy groans, like thunder prest, Begin to roll, and almost drown The sweet notes whose lulling spell Gods and the race of mortals love so well, When through thy caves thou hearest music swell?
But an awful pleasure bland Spreading o'er the Thunderer's face, When the sound climbs near his seat, The Olympian council sees; As he lets his lax right hand, Which the lightnings doth embrace, Sink upon his mighty knees. And the eagle, at the beck Of the appeasing, gracious harmony, Droops all his sheeny, brown, deep-feather'd neck, Nestling nearer to Jove's feet; While o'er his sovran eye The curtains of the blue films slowly meet And the white Olympus-peaks Rosily brighten, and the soothed Gods smile At one another from their golden chairs, And no one round the charmed circle speaks. Only the loved Hebe bears The cup about, whose draughts beguile Pain and care, with a dark store Of fresh-pull'd violets wreathed and nodding o'er; And her flush'd feet glow on the marble floor.
He fables, yet speaks truth! The brave, impetuous heart yields everywhere To the subtle, contriving head; Great qualities are trodden down, And littleness united Is become invincible.
These rumblings are not Typho's groans, I know! These angry smoke-bursts Are not the passionate breath Of the mountain-crush'd, tortured, intractable Titan king— But over all the world What suffering is there not seen Of plainness oppress'd by cunning, As the well-counsell'd Zeus oppress'd That self-helping son of earth! What anguish of greatness, Rail'd and hunted from the world, Because its simplicity rebukes This envious, miserable age!
I am weary of it. —Lie there, ye ensigns Of my unloved preeminence In an age like this! Among a people of children, Who throng'd me in their cities, Who worshipp'd me in their houses, And ask'd, not wisdom, But drugs to charm with, But spells to mutter— All the fool's-armoury of magic!—Lie there, My golden circlet, My purple robe!
Callicles (from below)
As the sky-brightening south-wind clears the day, And makes the mass'd clouds roll, The music of the lyre blows away The clouds which wrap the soul.
Oh! that Fate had let me see That triumph of the sweet persuasive lyre, That famous, final victory, When jealous Pan with Marsyas did conspire;
When, from far Parnassus' side, Young Apollo, all the pride Of the Phrygian flutes to tame, To the Phrygian highlands came; Where the long green reed-beds sway In the rippled waters grey Of that solitary lake Where Maeander's springs are born; Whence the ridged pine-wooded roots Of Messogis westward break, Mounting westward, high and higher. There was held the famous strife; There the Phrygian brought his flutes, And Apollo brought his lyre; And, when now the westering sun Touch'd the hills, the strife was done, And the attentive Muses said: "Marsyas, thou art vanquished!" Then Apollo's minister Hang'd upon a branching fir Marsyas, that unhappy Faun, And began to whet his knife. But the Maenads, who were there, Left their friend, and with robes flowing In the wind, and loose dark hair O'er their polish'd bosoms blowing, Each her ribbon'd tambourine Flinging on the mountain-sod, With a lovely frighten'd mien Came about the youthful God. But he turn'd his beauteous face Haughtily another way, From the grassy sun-warm'd place Where in proud repose he lay, With one arm over his head, Watching how the whetting sped.
But aloof, on the lake-strand, Did the young Olympus stand, Weeping at his master's end; For the Faun had been his friend. For he taught him how to sing, And he taught him flute-playing. Many a morning had they gone To the glimmering mountain-lakes, And had torn up by the roots The tall crested water-reeds With long plumes and soft brown seeds, And had carved them into flutes, Sitting on a tabled stone Where the shoreward ripple breaks. And he taught him how to please The red-snooded Phrygian girls, Whom the summer evening sees Flashing in the dance's whirls Underneath the starlit trees In the mountain-villages. Therefore now Olympus stands, At his master's piteous cries Pressing fast with both his hands His white garment to his eyes, Not to see Apollo's scorn;— Ah, poor Faun, poor Faun! ah, poor Faun!
And lie thou there, My laurel bough! Scornful Apollo's ensign, lie thou there! Though thou hast been my shade in the world's heat— Though I have loved thee, lived in honouring thee— Yet lie thou there, My laurel bough!
I am weary of thee. I am weary of the solitude Where he who bears thee must abide— Of the rocks of Parnassus, Of the rocks of Delphi, Of the moonlit peaks, and the caves. Thou guardest them, Apollo! Over the grave of the slain Pytho, Though young, intolerably severe! Thou keepest aloof the profane, But the solitude oppresses thy votary! The jars of men reach him not in thy valley— But can life reach him? Thou fencest him from the multitude— Who will fence him from himself? He hears nothing but the cry of the torrents, And the beating of his own heart. The air is thin, the veins swell, The temples tighten and throb there— Air! air!
Take thy bough, set me free from my solitude; I have been enough alone!
Where shall thy votary fly then? back to men?— But they will gladly welcome him once more, And help him to unbend his too tense thought, And rid him of the presence of himself, And keep their friendly chatter at his ear, And haunt him, till the absence from himself, That other torment, grow unbearable; And he will fly to solitude again, And he will find its air too keen for him, And so change back; and many thousand times Be miserably bandied to and fro Like a sea-wave, betwixt the world and thee, Thou young, implacable God! and only death Can cut his oscillations short, and so Bring him to poise. There is no other way. And yet what days were those, Parmenides! When we were young, when we could number friends In all the Italian cities like ourselves, When with elated hearts we join'd your train. Ye Sun-born Virgins! on the road of truth. Then we could still enjoy, then neither thought Nor outward things were closed and dead to us; But we received the shock of mighty thoughts On simple minds with a pure natural joy; And if the sacred load oppress'd our brain, We had the power to feel the pressure eased, The brow unbound, the thoughts flow free again, In the delightful commerce of the world. We had not lost our balance then, nor grown Thought's slaves, and dead to every natural joy. The smallest thing could give us pleasure then— The sports of the country-people, A flute-note from the woods, Sunset over the sea; Seed-time and harvest, The reapers in the corn, The vinedresser in his vineyard, The village-girl at her wheel.
Fulness of life and power of feeling, ye Are for the happy, for the souls at ease, Who dwell on a firm basis of content! But he, who has outlived his prosperous days— But he, whose youth fell on a different world From that on which his exiled age is thrown— Whose mind was fed on other food, was train'd By other rules than are in vogue to-day— Whose habit of thought is fix'd, who will not change, But, in a world he loves not, must subsist In ceaseless opposition, be the guard Of his own breast, fetter'd to what he guards, That the world win no mastery over him— Who has no friend, no fellow left, not one; Who has no minute's breathing space allow'd To nurse his dwindling faculty of joy—— Joy and the outward world must die to him, As they are dead to me.
A long pause, during which EMPEDOCLES remains motionless, plunged in thought. The night deepens. He moves forward and gazes round him, and proceeds:—
And you, ye stars, Who slowly begin to marshal, As of old, in the fields of heaven, Your distant, melancholy lines! Have you, too, survived yourselves? Are you, too, what I fear to become? You, too, once lived; You too moved joyfully Among august companions, In an older world, peopled by Gods, In a mightier order, The radiant, rejoicing, intelligent Sons of Heaven. But now, ye kindle Your lonely, cold-shining lights, Unwilling lingerers In the heavenly wilderness, For a younger, ignoble world; And renew, by necessity, Night after night your courses, In echoing, unnear'd silence, Above a race you know not— Uncaring and undelighted, Without friend and without home; Weary like us, though not Weary with our weariness.
No, no, ye stars! there is no death with you, No languor, no decay! languor and death, They are with me, not you! ye are alive— Ye, and the pure dark ether where ye ride Brilliant above me! And thou, fiery world, That sapp'st the vitals of this terrible mount Upon whose charr'd and quaking crust I stand— Thou, too, brimmest with life!—the sea of cloud, That heaves its white and billowy vapours up To moat this isle of ashes from the world, Lives; and that other fainter sea, far down, O'er whose lit floor a road of moonbeams leads To Etna's Liparean sister-fires And the long dusky line of Italy— That mild and luminous floor of waters lives, With held-in joy swelling its heart; I only, Whose spring of hope is dried, whose spirit has fail'd, I, who have not, like these, in solitude Maintain'd courage and force, and in myself Nursed an immortal vigour—I alone Am dead to life and joy, therefore I read In all things my own deadness.
A long silence. He continues:—
Oh, that I could glow like this mountain! Oh, that my heart bounded with the swell of the sea! Oh, that my soul were full of light as the stars! Oh, that it brooded over the world like the air!
But no, this heart will glow no more; thou art A living man no more, Empedocles! Nothing but a devouring flame of thought— But a naked, eternally restless mind!
After a pause:—
To the elements it came from Everything will return— Our bodies to earth, Our blood to water, Heat to fire, Breath to air. They were well born, they will be well entomb'd— But mind?...
And we might gladly share the fruitful stir Down in our mother earth's miraculous womb; Well would it be With what roll'd of us in the stormy main; We might have joy, blent with the all-bathing air, Or with the nimble, radiant life of fire.
But mind, but thought— If these have been the master part of us— Where will they find their parent element? What will receive them, who will call them home? But we shall still be in them, and they in us, And we shall be the strangers of the world, And they will be our lords, as they are now; And keep us prisoners of our consciousness, And never let us clasp and feel the All But through their forms, and modes, and stifling veils. And we shall be unsatisfied as now; And we shall feel the agony of thirst, The ineffable longing for the life of life Baffled for ever; and still thought and mind Will hurry us with them on their homeless march, Over the unallied unopening earth, Over the unrecognising sea; while air Will blow us fiercely back to sea and earth, And fire repel us from its living waves. And then we shall unwillingly return Back to this meadow of calamity, This uncongenial place, this human life; And in our individual human state Go through the sad probation all again, To see if we will poise our life at last, To see if we will now at last be true To our own only true, deep-buried selves, Being one with which we are one with the whole world; Or whether we will once more fall away Into some bondage of the flesh or mind, Some slough of sense, or some fantastic maze Forged by the imperious lonely thinking-power. And each succeeding age in which we are born Will have more peril for us than the last; Will goad our senses with a sharper spur, Will fret our minds to an intenser play, Will make ourselves harder to be discern'd. And we shall struggle awhile, gasp and rebel— And we shall fly for refuge to past times, Their soul of unworn youth, their breath of greatness; And the reality will pluck us back, Knead us in its hot hand, and change our nature And we shall feel our powers of effort flag, And rally them for one last fight—and fail; And we shall sink in the impossible strife, And be astray for ever.
Slave of sense I have in no wise been;—but slave of thought?... And who can say: I have been always free, Lived ever in the light of my own soul?— I cannot; I have lived in wrath and gloom, Fierce, disputatious, ever at war with man, Far from my own soul, far from warmth and light. But I have not grown easy in these bonds— But I have not denied what bonds these were. Yea, I take myself to witness, That I have loved no darkness, Sophisticated no truth, Nursed no delusion, Allow'd no fear!
And therefore, O ye elements! I know— Ye know it too—it hath been granted me Not to die wholly, not to be all enslaved. I feel it in this hour. The numbing cloud Mounts off my soul; I feel it, I breathe free.
Is it but for a moment? —Ah, boil up, ye vapours! Leap and roar, thou sea of fire! My soul glows to meet you. Ere it flag, ere the mists Of despondency and gloom Rush over it again, Receive me, save me!
[He plunges into the crater.
Through the black, rushing smoke-bursts, Thick breaks the red flame; All Etna heaves fiercely Her forest-clothed frame.
Not here, O Apollo! Are haunts meet for thee. But, where Helicon breaks down In cliff to the sea,
Where the moon-silver'd inlets Send far their light voice Up the still vale of Thisbe, O speed, and rejoice!
On the sward at the cliff-top Lie strewn the white flocks, On the cliff-side the pigeons Roost deep in the rocks.
In the moonlight the shepherds, Soft lull'd by the rills, Lie wrapt in their blankets Asleep on the hills.
—What forms are these coming So white through the gloom? What garments out-glistening The gold-flower'd broom?
What sweet-breathing presence Out-perfumes the thyme? What voices enrapture The night's balmy prime?—
'Tis Apollo comes leading His choir, the Nine. —The leader is fairest, But all are divine.
They are lost in the hollows! They stream up again! What seeks on this mountain The glorified train?—
They bathe on this mountain, In the spring by their road; Then on to Olympus, Their endless abode.
—Whose praise do they mention? Of what is it told?— What will be for ever; What was from of old.
First hymn they the Father Of all things; and then, The rest of immortals, The action of men.
The day in his hotness, The strife with the palm; The night in her silence, The stars in their calm.
JULY 25, 1881.
(The Day of Burial, in the Abbey, of ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, Dean of Westminster.)
What! for a term so scant Our shining visitant Cheer'd us, and now is pass'd into the night? Couldst thou no better keep, O Abbey old, The boon thy dedication-sign foretold, The presence of that gracious inmate, light?— A child of light appear'd; Hither he came, late-born and long-desired, And to men's hearts this ancient place endear'd; What, is the happy glow so soon expired?
—Rough was the winter eve; Their craft the fishers leave, And down over the Thames the darkness drew. One still lags last, and turns, and eyes the Pile Huge in the gloom, across in Thorney Isle, King Sebert's work, the wondrous Minster new. —'Tis Lambeth now, where then They moor'd their boats among the bulrush stems; And that new Minster in the matted fen The world-famed Abbey by the westering Thames.
His mates are gone, and he For mist can scarcely see A strange wayfarer coming to his side— Who bade him loose his boat, and fix his oar, And row him straightway to the further shore, And wait while he did there a space abide. The fisher awed obeys, That voice had note so clear of sweet command; Through pouring tide he pulls, and drizzling haze, And sets his freight ashore on Thorney strand.
The Minster's outlined mass Rose dim from the morass, And thitherward the stranger took his way. Lo, on a sudden all the Pile is bright! Nave, choir and transept glorified with light, While tongues of fire on coign and carving play! And heavenly odours fair Come streaming with the floods of glory in, And carols float along the happy air, As if the reign of joy did now begin.
Then all again is dark; And by the fisher's bark The unknown passenger returning stands. O Saxon fisher! thou hast had with thee The fisher from the Lake of Galilee— So saith he, blessing him with outspread hands; Then fades, but speaks the while: At dawn thou to King Sebert shalt relate How his St. Peter's Church in Thorney Isle Peter, his friend, with light did consecrate.
Twelve hundred years and more Along the holy floor Pageants have pass'd, and tombs of mighty kings Efface the humbler graves of Sebert's line, And, as years sped, the minster-aisles divine Grew used to the approach of Glory's wings. Arts came, and arms, and law, And majesty, and sacred form and fear; Only that primal guest the fisher saw, Light, only light, was slow to reappear.
The Saviour's happy light, Wherein at first was dight His boon of life and immortality, In desert ice of subtleties was spent Or drown'd in mists of childish wonderment, Fond fancies here, there false philosophy! And harsh the temper grew Of men with mind thus darken'd and astray; And scarce the boon of life could struggle through, For want of light which should the boon convey.
Yet in this latter time The promise of the prime Seem'd to come true at last, O Abbey old! It seem'd, a child of light did bring the dower Foreshown thee in thy consecration-hour, And in thy courts his shining freight unroll'd: Bright wits, and instincts sure, And goodness warm, and truth without alloy, And temper sweet, and love of all things pure, And joy in light, and power to spread the joy.
And on that countenance bright Shone oft so high a light, That to my mind there came how, long ago, Lay on the hearth, amid a fiery ring, The charm'd babe of the Eleusinian king— His nurse, the Mighty Mother, will'd it so. Warm in her breast, by day, He slumber'd, and ambrosia balm'd the child; But all night long amid the flames he lay, Upon the hearth, and play'd with them, and smiled.
But once, at midnight deep, His mother woke from sleep, And saw her babe amidst the fire, and scream'd. A sigh the Goddess gave, and with a frown Pluck'd from the fire the child, and laid him down; Then raised her face, and glory round her stream'd. The mourning-stole no more Mantled her form, no more her head was bow'd; But raiment of celestial sheen she wore, And beauty fill'd her, and she spake aloud:—
"O ignorant race of man! Achieve your good who can, If your own hands the good begun undo? Had human cry not marr'd the work divine, Immortal had I made this boy of mine; But now his head to death again is due And I have now no power Unto this pious household to repay Their kindness shown me in my wandering hour." —She spake, and from the portal pass'd away.
The Boy his nurse forgot, And bore a mortal lot. Long since, his name is heard on earth no more. In some chance battle on Cithaeron-side The nursling of the Mighty Mother died, And went where all his fathers went before. —On thee too, in thy day Of childhood, Arthur! did some check have power, That, radiant though thou wert, thou couldst but stay, Bringer of heavenly light, a human hour?
Therefore our happy guest Knew care, and knew unrest, And weakness warn'd him, and he fear'd decline. And in the grave he laid a cherish'd wife, And men ignoble harass'd him with strife, And deadly airs his strength did undermine. Then from his Abbey fades The sound beloved of his victorious breath; And light's fair nursling stupor first invades, And next the crowning impotence of death.
But hush! This mournful strain, Which would of death complain, The oracle forbade, not ill-inspired.— That Pair, whose head did plan, whose hands did forge The Temple in the pure Parnassian gorge, Finish'd their work, and then a meed required. "Seven days," the God replied, "Live happy, then expect your perfect meed!" Quiet in sleep, the seventh night, they died. Death, death was judged the boon supreme indeed.
And truly he who here Hath run his bright career, And served men nobly, and acceptance found, And borne to light and right his witness high, What could he better wish than then to die, And wait the issue, sleeping underground? Why should he pray to range Down the long age of truth that ripens slow; And break his heart with all the baffling change, And all the tedious tossing to and fro?
For this and that way swings The flux of mortal things, Though moving inly to one far-set goal.— What had our Arthur gain'd, to stop and see, After light's term, a term of cecity, A Church once large and then grown strait in soul? To live, and see arise, Alternating with wisdom's too short reign, Folly revived, re-furbish'd sophistries, And pullulating rites externe and vain?
Ay me! 'Tis deaf, that ear Which joy'd my voice to hear; Yet would I not disturb thee from thy tomb, Thus sleeping in thine Abbey's friendly shade, And the rough waves of life for ever laid! I would not break thy rest, nor change thy doom. Even as my father, thou— Even as that loved, that well-recorded friend— Hast thy commission done; ye both may now Wait for the leaven to work, the let to end.
And thou, O Abbey grey! Predestined to the ray By this dear guest over thy precinct shed— Fear not but that thy light once more shall burn, Once more thine immemorial gleam return, Though sunk be now this bright, this gracious head! Let but the light appear And thy transfigured walls be touch'd with flame— Our Arthur will again be present here, Again from lip to lip will pass his name.
Four years!—and didst thou stay above The ground, which hides thee now, but four? And all that life, and all that love, Were crowded, Geist! into no more?
Only four years those winning ways, Which make me for thy presence yearn, Call'd us to pet thee or to praise, Dear little friend! at every turn?
That loving heart, that patient soul, Had they indeed no longer span, To run their course, and reach their goal, And read their homily to man?
That liquid, melancholy eye, From whose pathetic, soul-fed springs Seem'd surging the Virgilian cry,[B] The sense of tears in mortal things—
That steadfast, mournful strain, consoled By spirits gloriously gay, And temper of heroic mould— What, was four years their whole short day?
Yes, only four!—and not the course Of all the centuries yet to come, And not the infinite resource Of Nature, with her countless sum
Of figures, with her fulness vast Of new creation evermore, Can ever quite repeat the past, Or just thy little self restore.
Stern law of every mortal lot! Which man, proud man, finds hard to bear, And builds himself I know not what Of second life I know not where.
But thou, when struck thine hour to go, On us, who stood despondent by, A meek last glance of love didst throw, And humbly lay thee down to die.
Yet would we keep thee in our heart— Would fix our favourite on the scene, Nor let thee utterly depart And be as if thou ne'er hadst been.
And so there rise these lines of verse On lips that rarely form them now; While to each other we rehearse: Such ways, such arts, such looks hadst thou!
We stroke thy broad brown paws again, We bid thee to thy vacant chair, We greet thee by the window-pane, We hear thy scuffle on the stair.
We see the flaps of thy large ears Quick raised to ask which way we go; Crossing the frozen lake, appears Thy small black figure on the snow!
Nor to us only art thou dear Who mourn thee in thine English home; Thou hast thine absent master's tear, Dropt by the far Australian foam.
Thy memory lasts both here and there, And thou shall live as long as we. And after that—thou dost not care! In us was all the world to thee.
Yet, fondly zealous for thy fame, Even to a date beyond our own We strive to carry down thy name, By mounded turf, and graven stone.
We lay thee, close within our reach, Here, where the grass is smooth and warm, Between the holly and the beech, Where oft we watch'd thy couchant form,
Asleep, yet lending half an ear To travellers on the Portsmouth road;— There build we thee, O guardian dear, Mark'd with a stone, thy last abode!
Then some, who through this garden pass, When we too, like thyself, are clay, Shall see thy grave upon the grass, And stop before the stone, and say:
People who lived here long ago Did by this stone, it seems, intend To name for future times to know The dachs-hound, Geist, their little friend.
[Footnote B: Sunt lacrimae rerum!]
Poor Matthias!—Found him lying Fall'n beneath his perch and dying? Found him stiff, you say, though warm— All convulsed his little form? Poor canary! many a year Well he knew his mistress dear; Now in vain you call his name, Vainly raise his rigid frame, Vainly warm him in your breast, Vainly kiss his golden crest, Smooth his ruffled plumage fine, Touch his trembling beak with wine. One more gasp—it is the end! Dead and mute our tiny friend! —Songster thou of many a year, Now thy mistress brings thee here, Says, it fits that I rehearse, Tribute due to thee, a verse, Meed for daily song of yore Silent now for evermore.
Poor Matthias! Wouldst thou have More than pity? claim'st a stave? —Friends more near us than a bird We dismiss'd without a word. Rover, with the good brown head, Great Atossa, they are dead; Dead, and neither prose nor rhyme Tells the praises of their prime. Thou didst know them old and grey, Know them in their sad decay. Thou hast seen Atossa sage Sit for hours beside thy cage; Thou wouldst chirp, thou foolish bird, Flutter, chirp—she never stirr'd! What were now these toys to her? Down she sank amid her fur; Eyed thee with a soul resign'd— And thou deemedst cats were kind! —Cruel, but composed and bland, Dumb, inscrutable and grand, So Tiberius might have sat, Had Tiberius been a cat.
Rover died—Atossa too. Less than they to us are you! Nearer human were their powers, Closer knit their life with ours. Hands had stroked them, which are cold, Now for years, in churchyard mould; Comrades of our past were they, Of that unreturning day. Changed and aging, they and we Dwelt, it seem'd, in sympathy. Alway from their presence broke Somewhat which remembrance woke Of the loved, the lost, the young— Yet they died, and died unsung.
Geist came next, our little friend; Geist had verse to mourn his end. Yes, but that enforcement strong Which compell'd for Geist a song— All that gay courageous cheer, All that human pathos dear; Soul-fed eyes with suffering worn, Pain heroically borne, Faithful love in depth divine— Poor Matthias, were they thine?
Max and Kaiser we to-day Greet upon the lawn at play; Max a dachshound without blot— Kaiser should be, but is not. Max, with shining yellow coat, Prinking ears and dewlap throat— Kaiser, with his collie face, Penitent for want of race. —Which may be the first to die, Vain to augur, they or I! But, as age comes on, I know, Poet's fire gets faint and low; If so be that travel they First the inevitable way, Much I doubt if they shall have Dirge from me to crown their grave.
Yet, poor bird, thy tiny corse Moves me, somehow, to remorse; Something haunts my conscience, brings Sad, compunctious visitings. Other favourites, dwelling here, Open lived to us, and near; Well we knew when they were glad, Plain we saw if they were sad, Joy'd with them when they were gay, Soothed them in their last decay; Sympathy could feel and show Both in weal of theirs and woe.
Birds, companions more unknown, Live beside us, but alone; Finding not, do all they can, Passage from their souls to man. Kindness we bestow, and praise, Laud their plumage, greet their lays; Still, beneath their feather'd breast, Stirs a history unexpress'd. Wishes there, and feelings strong, Incommunicably throng; What they want, we cannot guess, Fail to track their deep distress— Dull look on when death is nigh, Note no change, and let them die. Poor Matthias! couldst thou speak, What a tale of thy last week! Every morning did we pay Stupid salutations gay, Suited well to health, but how Mocking, how incongruous now! Cake we offer'd, sugar, seed, Never doubtful of thy need; Praised, perhaps, thy courteous eye, Praised thy golden livery. Gravely thou the while, poor dear! Sat'st upon thy perch to hear, Fixing with a mute regard Us, thy human keepers hard, Troubling, with our chatter vain, Ebb of life, and mortal pain— Us, unable to divine Our companion's dying sign, Or o'erpass the severing sea Set betwixt ourselves and thee, Till the sand thy feathers smirch Fallen dying off thy perch!
Was it, as the Grecian sings, Birds were born the first of things, Before the sun, before the wind, Before the gods, before mankind, Airy, ante-mundane throng— Witness their unworldly song! Proof they give, too, primal powers, Of a prescience more than ours— Teach us, while they come and go, When to sail, and when to sow. Cuckoo calling from the hill, Swallow skimming by the mill, Swallows trooping in the sedge, Starlings swirling from the hedge, Mark the seasons, map our year, As they show and disappear. But, with all this travail sage Brought from that anterior age, Goes an unreversed decree Whereby strange are they and we; Making want of theirs, and plan, Indiscernible by man.
No, away with tales like these Stol'n from Aristophanes! Does it, if we miss your mind, Prove us so remote in kind? Birds! we but repeat on you What amongst ourselves we do. Somewhat more or somewhat less, 'Tis the same unskilfulness. What you feel, escapes our ken— Know we more our fellow men? Human suffering at our side, Ah, like yours is undescried! Human longings, human fears, Miss our eyes and miss our ears. Little helping, wounding much, Dull of heart, and hard of touch, Brother man's despairing sign Who may trust us to divine? Who assure us, sundering powers Stand not 'twixt his soul and ours?
Poor Matthias! See, thy end What a lesson doth it lend! For that lesson thou shalt have, Dead canary bird, a stave! Telling how, one stormy day, Stress of gale and showers of spray Drove my daughter small and me Inland from the rocks and sea. Driv'n inshore, we follow down Ancient streets of Hastings town— Slowly thread them—when behold, French canary-merchant old Shepherding his flock of gold In a low dim-lighted pen Scann'd of tramps and fishermen! There a bird, high-coloured, fat, Proud of port, though something squat— Pursy, play'd-out Philistine— Dazzled Nelly's youthful eyne. But, far in, obscure, there stirr'd On his perch a sprightlier bird, Courteous-eyed, erect and slim; And I whisper'd: "Fix on him!" Home we brought him, young and fair, Songs to trill in Surrey air. Here Matthias sang his fill, Saw the cedars of Pains Hill; Here he pour'd his little soul, Heard the murmur of the Mole. Eight in number now the years He hath pleased our eyes and ears; Other favourites he hath known Go, and now himself is gone. —Fare thee well, companion dear! Fare for ever well, nor fear, Tiny though thou art, to stray Down the uncompanion'd way! We without thee, little friend, Many years have not to spend; What are left, will hardly be Better than we spent with thee.
April 6, 1887.
What, Kaiser dead? The heavy news Post-haste to Cobham calls the Muse, From where in Farringford she brews The ode sublime, Or with Pen-bryn's bold bard pursues A rival rhyme.
Kai's bracelet tail, Kai's busy feet, Were known to all the village-street. "What, poor Kai dead?" say all I meet; "A loss indeed!" O for the croon pathetic, sweet, Of Robin's reed!
Six years ago I brought him down, A baby dog, from London town; Round his small throat of black and brown A ribbon blue, And vouch'd by glorious renown A dachshound true.
His mother, most majestic dame, Of blood-unmix'd, from Potsdam came; And Kaiser's race we deem'd the same— No lineage higher. And so he bore the imperial name. But ah, his sire!
Soon, soon the days conviction bring. The collie hair, the collie swing, The tail's indomitable ring, The eye's unrest— The case was clear; a mongrel thing Kai stood confest.
But all those virtues, which commend The humbler sort who serve and tend, Were thine in store, thou faithful friend. What sense, what cheer! To us, declining tow'rds our end, A mate how dear!
For Max, thy brother-dog, began To flag, and feel his narrowing span. And cold, besides, his blue blood ran, Since, 'gainst the classes, He heard, of late, the Grand Old Man Incite the masses.
Yes, Max and we grew slow and sad; But Kai, a tireless shepherd-lad, Teeming with plans, alert, and glad In work or play, Like sunshine went and came, and bade Live out the day!
Still, still I see the figure smart— Trophy in mouth, agog to start, Then, home return'd, once more depart; Or prest together Against thy mistress, loving heart, In winter weather.
I see the tail, like bracelet twirl'd, In moments of disgrace uncurl'd, Then at a pardoning word re-furl'd, A conquering sign; Crying, "Come on, and range the world, And never pine."
Thine eye was bright, thy coat it shone; Thou hadst thine errands, off and on; In joy thy last morn flew; anon, A fit! All's over; And thou art gone where Geist hath gone, And Toss, and Rover.
Poor Max, with downcast, reverent head, Regards his brother's form outspread; Full well Max knows the friend is dead Whose cordial talk, And jokes in doggish language said, Beguiled his walk.
And Glory, stretch'd at Burwood gate, Thy passing by doth vainly wait; And jealous Jock, thy only hate, The chiel from Skye, Lets from his shaggy Highland pate Thy memory die.
Well, fetch his graven collar fine, And rub the steel, and make it shine, And leave it round thy neck to twine, Kai, in thy grave. There of thy master keep that sign, And this plain stave.
[Footnote 1: NOTE 1, PAGE 2.
Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen.
The name Europe ([Greek: Europe], the wide prospect) probably describes the appearance of the European coast to the Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor opposite. The name Asia, again, comes, it has been thought, from the muddy fens of the rivers of Asia Minor, such as the Cayster or Maeander, which struck the imagination of the Greeks living near them.]
[Footnote 2: NOTE 2, PAGE 8.
"After Chephren, Mycerinus, son of Cheops, reigned over Egypt. He abhorred his father's courses, and judged his subjects more justly than any of their kings had done.—To him there came an oracle from the city of Buto, to the effect that he was to live but six years longer, and to die in the seventh year from that time."—HERODOTUS.]
[Footnote 3: NOTE 3, PAGE 38.
Stagirius was a young monk to whom St. Chrysostom addressed three books, and of whom those books give an account. They will be found in the first volume of the Benedictine edition of St. Chrysostom's works.]
[Footnote 4: NOTE 4, PAGE 47.
Written in 1847. Printed by permission of Mr. Arthur Galton, to whom the Poem was given in 1886 for publication in The Hobby Horse.]
[Footnote 5: NOTE 5, PAGE 54.
That wayside inn we left to-day.
Those who have been long familiar with the English Lake-Country will find no difficulty in recalling, from the description in the text, the roadside inn at Wythburn on the descent from Dunmail Raise towards Keswick; its sedentary landlord of thirty years ago, and the passage over the Wythburn Fells to Watendlath.]
[Footnote 6: NOTE 6, PAGE 65.
Sohrab and Rustum.
The story of Sohrab and Rustum is told in Sir John Malcolm's History of Persia, as follows:—
"The young Sohrab was the fruit of one of Rustum's early amours. He had left his mother, and sought fame under the banners of Afrasiab, whose armies he commanded, and soon obtained a renown beyond that of all contemporary heroes but his father. He had carried death and dismay into the ranks of the Persians, and had terrified the boldest warriors of that country, before Rustum encountered him, which at last that hero resolved to do, under a feigned name. They met three times. The first time they parted by mutual consent, though Sohrab had the advantage; the second, the youth obtained a victory, but granted life to his unknown father; the third was fatal to Sohrab, who, when writhing in the pangs of death, warned his conqueror to shun the vengeance that is inspired by parental woes, and bade him dread the rage of the mighty Rustum, who must soon learn that he had slain his son Sohrab. These words, we are told, were as death to the aged hero; and when he recovered from a trance, he called in despair for proofs of what Sohrab had said. The afflicted and dying youth tore open his mail, and showed his father a seal which his mother had placed on his arm when she discovered to him the secret of his birth, and bade him seek his father. The sight of his own signet rendered Rustum quite frantic; he cursed himself, attempting to put an end to his existence, and was only prevented by the efforts of his expiring son. After Sohrab's death, he burnt his tents and all his goods, and carried the corpse to Seistan, where it was interred; the army of Turan was, agreeably to the last request of Sohrab, permitted to cross the Oxus unmolested. To reconcile us to the improbability of this tale, we are informed that Rustum could have no idea his son was in existence. The mother of Sohrab had written to him her child was a daughter, fearing to lose her darling infant if she revealed the truth; and Rustum, as before stated, fought under a feigned name, an usage not uncommon in the chivalrous combats of those days."]
[Footnote 7: NOTE 7, PAGE 101.
"Balder the Good having been tormented with terrible dreams, indicating that his life was in great peril, communicated them to the assembled AEsir, who resolved to conjure all things to avert from him the threatened danger. Then Frigga exacted an oath from fire and water, from iron, and all other metals, as well as from stones, earths, diseases, beasts, birds, poisons, and creeping things, that none of them would do any harm to Balder. When this was done, it became a favourite pastime of the AEsir, at their meetings, to get Balder to stand up and serve them as a mark, some hurling darts at him, some stones, while others hewed at him with their swords and battle-axes, for do what they would, none of them could harm him, and this was regarded by all as a great honour shown to Balder. But when Loki beheld the scene he was sorely vexed that Balder was not hurt. Assuming, therefore, the shape of a woman, he went to Fensalir, the mansion of Frigga. That goddess, when she saw the pretended woman, inquired of her if she knew what the AEsir were doing at their meetings. She replied, that they were throwing darts and stones at Balder without being able to hurt him.
"'Ay,' said Frigga, 'neither metal nor wood can hurt Balder, for I have exacted an oath from all of them.'
"'What!' exclaimed the woman, 'have all things sworn to spare Balder?'
"'All things,' replied Frigga, 'except one little shrub that grows on the eastern side of Valhalla, and is called Mistletoe, and which I thought too young and feeble to crave an oath from.'
"As soon as Loki heard this he went away, and, resuming his natural shape, cut off the mistletoe, and repaired to the place where the gods were assembled. There he found Hoedur standing apart, without partaking of the sports, on account of his blindness, and going up to him said, 'Why dost thou not also throw something at Balder?'
"'Because I am blind,' answered Hoedur, 'and see not where Balder is, and have, moreover, nothing to throw with.'
"'Come, then,' said Loki, 'do like the rest, and show honour to Balder by throwing this twig at him, and I will direct thy arm toward the place where he stands.'
"Hoedur then took the mistletoe, and, under the guidance of Loki, darted it at Balder, who, pierced through and through, fell down lifeless."—Edda.]
[Footnote 8: NOTE 8, PAGE 138.
Tristram and Iseult.
"In the court of his uncle King Marc, the king of Cornwall, who at this time resided at the castle of Tyntagel, Tristram became expert in all knightly exercises.—The king of Ireland, at Tristram's solicitations, promised to bestow his daughter Iseult in marriage on King Marc. The mother of Iseult gave to her daughter's confidante a philtre, or love-potion, to be administered on the night of her nuptials. Of this beverage Tristram and Iseult, on their voyage to Cornwall, unfortunately partook. Its influence, during the remainder of their lives, regulated the affections and destiny of the lovers.—
"After the arrival of Tristram and Iseult in Cornwall, and the nuptials of the latter with King Marc, a great part of the romance is occupied with their contrivances to procure secret interviews.—Tristram, being forced to leave Cornwall, on account of the displeasure of his uncle, repaired to Brittany, where lived Iseult with the White Hands.—He married her—more out of gratitude than love.—Afterwards he proceeded to the dominions of Arthur, which became the theatre of unnumbered exploits.
"Tristram, subsequent to these events, returned to Brittany, and to his long-neglected wife. There, being wounded and sick, he was soon reduced to the lowest ebb. In this situation, he despatched a confidant to the queen of Cornwall, to try if he could induce her to follow him to Brittany, etc."—DUNLOP'S History of Fiction.]
[Footnote 9: NOTE 9, PAGE 177.
That son of Italy who tried to blow.
Giacopone di Todi.]
[Footnote 10: NOTE 10, PAGE 183.
Recalls the obscure opposer he outweigh'd.
Gilbert de la Porree, at the Council of Rheims, in 1148.]
[Footnote 11: NOTE 11, PAGE 184.
Of that unpitying Phrygian sect which cried.
[Footnote 12: NOTE 12, PAGE 184.
See St. Augustine's Confessions, book ix. chapter 11.]
[Footnote 13: NOTE 13, PAGE 189.
My Marguerite smiles upon the strand.
See, among "Early Poems," the poem called A Memory-Picture.]
[Footnote 14: NOTE 14, PAGE 213.
The Hunter of the Tanagraean Field.
Orion, the Wild Huntsman of Greek legend, and in this capacity appearing in both earth and sky.]
[Footnote 15: NOTE 15, PAGE 214.
O'er the sun-redden'd western straits.
Erytheia, the legendary region around the Pillars of Hercules, probably took its name from the redness of the West under which the Greeks saw it.]
[Footnote 16: NOTE 16, PAGE 273.
"There was very lately a lad in the University of Oxford, who was by his poverty forced to leave his studies there; and at last to join himself to a company of vagabond gipsies. Among these extravagant people, by the insinuating subtilty of his carriage, he quickly got so much of their love and esteem as that they discovered to him their mystery. After he had been a pretty while exercised in the trade, there chanced to ride by a couple of scholars, who had formerly been of his acquaintance. They quickly spied out their old friend among the gipsies; and he gave them an account of the necessity which drove him to that kind of life, and told them that the people he went with were not such impostors as they were taken for, but that they had a traditional kind of learning among them, and could do wonders by the power of imagination, their fancy binding that of others: that himself had learned much of their art, and when he had compassed the whole secret, he intended, he said, to leave their company, and give the world an account of what he had learned."—GLANVIL'S Vanity of Dogmatizing, 1661.]
[Footnote 17: NOTE 17, PAGE 281.
Throughout this poem there is reference to the preceding piece, The Scholar-Gipsy.]
[Footnote 18: NOTE 18, PAGE 287.
Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing.
Daphnis, the ideal Sicilian shepherd of Greek pastoral poetry, was said to have followed into Phrygia his mistress Piplea, who had been carried off by robbers, and to have found her in the power of the king of Phrygia, Lityerses. Lityerses used to make strangers try a contest with him in reaping corn, and to put them to death if he overcame them. Hercules arrived in time to save Daphnis, took upon himself the reaping-contest with Lityerses, overcame him, and slew him. The Lityerses-song connected with this tradition was, like the Linus-song, one of the early plaintive strains of Greek popular poetry, and used to be sung by corn-reapers. Other traditions represented Daphnis as beloved by a nymph who exacted from him an oath to love no one else. He fell in love with a princess, and was struck blind by the jealous nymph. Mercury, who was his father, raised him to Heaven, and made a fountain spring up in the place from which he ascended. At this fountain the Sicilians offered yearly sacrifices.—See Servius, Comment. in Virgil. Bucol., v. 20, and viii. 68.]
[Footnote 19: NOTE 19, PAGE 294.
Ah! where is he, who should have come.
The author's brother, William Delafield Arnold, Director of Public Instruction in the Punjab, and author of Oakfield, or Fellowship in the East, died at Gibraltar on his way home from India, April the 9th, 1859.]
[Footnote 20: NOTE 20, PAGE 295.
So moonlit, saw me once of yore.
See the poem, A Summer Night, p. 257.]
[Footnote 21: NOTE 21, PAGE 295.
My brother! and thine early lot.
See Note 19.]
[Footnote 22: NOTE 22, PAGE 299.
I saw the meeting of two Gifted women.
Charlotte Bronte and Harriet Martineau.]
[Footnote 23: NOTE 23, PAGE 302.
Whose too bold dying song.
See the last verses by Emily Bronte in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.]
[Footnote 24: NOTE 24, PAGE 317.
Goethe, too, had been there.
See Harzreise im Winter, in Goethe's Gedichte.]
[Footnote 25: NOTE 25, PAGE 325.
The author of Obermann, Etienne Pivert de Senancour, has little celebrity in France, his own country; and out of France he is almost unknown. But the profound inwardness, the austere sincerity, of his principal work, Obermann, the delicate feeling for nature which it exhibits, and the melancholy eloquence of many passages of it, have attracted and charmed some of the most remarkable spirits of this century, such as George Sand and Sainte-Beuve, and will probably always find a certain number of spirits whom they touch and interest.
Senancour was born in 1770. He was educated for the priesthood, and passed some time in the seminary of St. Sulpice; broke away from the Seminary and from France itself, and passed some years in Switzerland, where he married; returned to France in middle life, and followed thenceforward the career of a man of letters, but with hardly any fame or success. He died an old man in 1846, desiring that on his grave might be placed these words only: Eternite, deviens mon asile!
The influence of Rousseau, and certain affinities with more famous and fortunate authors of his own day,—Chateaubriand and Madame de Stael,—are everywhere visible in Senancour. But though, like these eminent personages, he may be called a sentimental writer, and though Obermann, a collection of letters from Switzerland treating almost entirely of nature and of the human soul, may be called a work of sentiment, Senancour has a gravity and severity which distinguish him from all other writers of the sentimental school. The world is with him in his solitude far less than it is with them; of all writers he is the most perfectly isolated and the least attitudinising. His chief work, too, has a value and power of its own, apart from these merits of its author. The stir of all the main forces, by which modern life is and has been impelled, lives in the letters of Obermann; the dissolving agencies of the eighteenth century, the fiery storm of the French Revolution, the first faint promise and dawn of that new world which our own time is but now more fully bringing to light,—all these are to be felt, almost to be touched, there. To me, indeed, it will always seem that the impressiveness of this production can hardly be rated too high.
Besides Obermann there is one other of Senancour's works which, for those spirits who feel his attraction, is very interesting; its title is, Libres Meditations d'un Solitaire Inconnu.]
[Footnote 26: NOTE 26, PAGE 326.
Behind are the abandon'd baths.
The Baths of Leuk. This poem was conceived, and partly composed, in the valley going down from the foot of the Gemmi Pass towards the Rhone.]
[Footnote 27: NOTE 27, PAGE 332.
Glion?——Ah, twenty years, it cuts.
Probably all who know the Vevey end of the Lake of Geneva, will recollect Glion, the mountain-village above the castle of Chillon. Glion now has hotels, pensions, and villas; but twenty years ago it was hardly more than the huts of Avant opposite to it,—huts through which goes that beautiful path over the Col de Jaman, followed by so many foot-travellers on their way from Vevey to the Simmenthal and Thun.]
[Footnote 28: NOTE 28, PAGE 333.
The gentian-flower'd pass, its crown With yellow spires aflame.
The blossoms of the Gentiana lutea.]
[Footnote 29: NOTE 29, PAGE 333.
And walls where Byron came.
Montbovon. See Byron's Journal, in his Works, vol. iii. p. 258. The river Saane becomes the Sarine below Montbovon.]
[Footnote 30: NOTE 30, PAGE 429.
And the kind, chance-arrived Wanderer.
Poias, the father of Philoctetes. Passing near, he was attracted by the concourse round the pyre, and at the entreaty of Hercules set fire to it, receiving the bow and arrows of the hero as his reward.]
[Footnote 31: NOTE 31, PAGE 462.
And that curst treachery on the Mount of Gore.
Mount Haemus, so called, said the legend, from Typho's blood spilt on it in his last battle with Zeus, when the giant's strength failed, owing to the Destinies having a short time before given treacherously to him, for his refreshment, perishable fruits. See APOLLODORUS, Bibliotheca, book i. chap. vi.]
[Footnote 32: NOTE 32, PAGE 468
Ye Sun-born Virgins! on the road of truth.
See the Fragments of Parmenides:
... [Greek: kourai d' hodon hegemoneuon, heliades kourai, prolipousai domata nyktos, eis phaos]....
[Footnote 33: NOTE 33, PAGE 479.
Couldst thou no better keep, O Abbey old, The boon thy dedication-sign foretold.
"Ailred of Rievaulx, and several other writers, assert that Sebert, king of the East Saxons and nephew of Ethelbert, founded the Abbey of Westminster very early in the seventh century.
"Sulcardus, who lived in the time of William the Conqueror, gives a minute account of the miracle supposed to have been worked at the consecration of the Abbey.
"The church had been prepared against the next day for dedication. On the night preceding, St. Peter appeared on the opposite side of the water to a fisherman, desiring to be conveyed to the farther shore. Having left the boat, St. Peter ordered the fisherman to wait, promising him a reward on his return. An innumerable host from heaven accompanied the apostle, singing choral hymns, while everything was illuminated with a supernatural light. The dedication having been completed, St. Peter returned to the fisherman, quieted his alarm at what had passed, and announced himself as the apostle. He directed the fisherman to go as soon as it was day to the authorities, to state what he had seen and heard, and to inform them that, in corroboration of his testimony, they would find the marks of consecration on the walls of the church. In obedience to the apostle's direction, the fisherman waited on Mellitus, Bishop of London, who, going to the church, found not only marks of the chrism, but of the tapers with which the church had been illuminated. Mellitus, therefore, desisted from proceeding to a new consecration, and contented himself with the celebration of the mass."—DUGDALE, Monasticon Anglicanum (edition of 1817), vol. i. pp. 265, 266. See also MONTALEMBERT, Les 'Moines d'Occident, vol. iii. pp. 428-432.]
[Footnote 34: NOTE 34, PAGE 482.
The charm'd babe of the Eleusinian king.
Demophooen, son of Celeus, king of Eleusis. See, in the Homeric Hymns, the Hymn to Demeter, 184-298.]
[Footnote 35: NOTE 35, PAGE 483.
That Pair, whose head did plan, whom hands did forge The Temple in the pure Parnassian gorge.
Agamedes and Trophonius, the builders of the temple of Apollo at Delphi. See Plutarch, Consolatio ad Apollonium, c. 14.]
[Footnote 36: NOTE 36, PAGE 493.
Stol'n from Aristophanes.
See The Birds of Aristophanes, 465-485.]
[Footnote 37: NOTE 37, PAGE 495.
Of Robin's reed.
"Come, join the melancholious croon O' Robin's reed."—BURNS, Poor Mailie's Elegy.]
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