I am grown peaceful as old age tonight. I regret little, I would change still less. 245 Since there my past life lies, why alter it? The very wrong to Francis!—it is true I took his coin, was tempted and complied, And built this house and sinned, and all is said. My father and my mother died of want. 250 Well, had I riches of my own? You see How one gets rich! Let each one bear his lot. They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died: And I have labored somewhat in my time And not been paid profusely. Some good son 255 Paint my two hundred pictures—let him try! No doubt, there's something strikes a balance. Yes, You loved me quite enough, it seems tonight. This must suffice me here. What would one have? In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance— 260 Four great walls in the New Jerusalem, Meted on each side by the angel's reed, For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo, and me To cover—the three first without a wife, While I have mine! So—still they overcome 265 Because there's still Lucrezia—as I choose.
Again the Cousin's whistle! Go, my Love.
THE BISHOP ORDERS HIS TOMB AT SAINT PRAXED'S CHURCH
Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity! Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back? Nephews—sons mine ... ah God, I know not! Well— She, men would have to be your mother once, Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was! 5 What's done is done, and she is dead beside, Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since, And as she died so must we die ourselves, And thence ye may perceive the world's a dream. Life, how and what is it? As here I lie 10 In this state-chamber, dying by degrees, Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask "Do I live, am I dead?" Peace, peace seems all. Saint Praxed's ever was the church for peace; And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought 15 With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know: —Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care; Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South He graced his carrion with, God curse the same! Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence 20 One sees the pulpit o' the epistle-side, And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats, And up into the aery dome where live The angels, and a sunbeam's sure to lurk: And I shall fill my slab of basalt there, 25 And 'neath my tabernacle take my rest, With those nine columns round me, two and two, The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands: Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse. 30 —Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone, Put me where I may look at him! True peach, Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize! Draw close: that conflagration of my church —What then? So much was saved if aught were missed! 35 My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood, Drop water gently till the surface sink, And if ye find ... Ah God, I know not, I! ... Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft, 40 And corded up in a tight olive-frail, Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli, Big as a Jew's head cut off at the nape, Blue as a vein o'er the Madonna's breast ... Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all, 45 That brave Frascati villa with its bath, So, let the blue lump poise between my knees, Like God the Father's globe on both his hands Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay, For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst! 50 Swift as a weaver's shuttle fleet our years: Man goeth to the grave, and where is he? Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? Black— 'Twas ever antique-black I meant! How else Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath? 55 The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me, Those Pan and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so, The Savior at his sermon on the mount, Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan 60 Ready to twitch the Nymph's last garment off, And Moses with the tables ... but I know Ye mark me not! What do they whisper thee, Child of my bowels, Anselm? Ah, ye hope To revel down my villas while I gasp 65 Bricked o'er with beggar's moldy travertine Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at! Nay, boys, ye love me—all of jasper, then! 'Tis jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve My bath must needs be left behind, alas! 70 One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut, There's plenty jasper somewhere in the world— And have I not Saint Praxed's ear to pray Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts, And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs? 75 —That's if ye carve my epitaph aright, Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully's every word, No gaudy ware like Gandolf's second line— Tully, my masters? Ulpian serves his need! And then how I shall lie through centuries, 80 And hear the blessed mutter of the mass, And see God made and eaten all day long, And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke! For as I lie here, hours of the dead night, 85 Dying in state and by such slow degrees, I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook, And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can point, And let the bedclothes, for a mortcloth, drop Into great laps and folds of sculptor's-work: 90 And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts Grow, with a certain humming in my ears, About the life before I lived this life, And this life too, popes, cardinals, and priests, Saint Praxed at his sermon on the mount, 95 Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes, And new-found agate urns as fresh as day, And marble's language, Latin pure, discreet, —Aha, ELUCESCEBAT quoth our friend? No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best! 100 Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage. All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope My villas! Will ye ever eat my heart? Ever your eyes were as a lizard's quick, They glitter like your mother's for my soul, 105 Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze, Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase With grapes, and add a visor and a Term, And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx That in his struggle throws the thyrsus down, 110 To comfort me on my entablature Whereon I am to lie till I must ask, "Do I live, am I dead?" There, leave me, there! For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude To death—ye wish it—God, ye wish it! Stone— 115 Gritstone, a-crumble! Clammy squares which sweat As if the corpse they keep were oozing through— And no more lapis to delight the world! Well, go! I bless ye. Fewer tapers there, But in a row: and, going, turn your backs 120 —Aye, like departing altar-ministrants, And leave me in my church, the church for peace, That I may watch at leisure if he leers— Old Gandolf—at me, from his onion-stone, As still he envied me, so fair she was! 125
"As certain also of your own poets have said"—
Cleon the poet (from the sprinkled isles, Lily on lily, that o'erlace the sea, And laugh their pride when the light wave lisps "Greece")— To Protus in his Tyranny: much health!
They give thy letter to me, even now; 5 I read and seem as if I heard thee speak. The master of thy galley still unlades Gift after gift; they block my court at last And pile themselves along its portico Royal with sunset, like a thought of thee; 10 And one white she-slave from the group dispersed Of black and white slaves (like the checker-work Pavement, at once my nation's work and gift, Now covered with this settle-down of doves), One lyric woman, in her crocus vest 15 Woven of sea-wools, with her two white hands Commends to me the strainer and the cup Thy lip hath bettered ere it blesses mine.
Well-counseled, king, in thy munificence! For so shall men remark, in such an act 20 Of love for him whose song gives life its joy, Thy recognition of the use of life; Nor call thy spirit barely adequate To help on life in straight ways, broad enough For vulgar souls, by ruling and the rest. 25 Thou, in the daily building of thy tower— Whether in fierce and sudden spasms of toil, Or through dim lulls of unapparent growth, Or when the general work 'mid good acclaim Climbed with the eye to cheer the architect— 30 Didst ne'er engage in work for mere work's sake— Hadst ever in thy heart the luring hope Of some eventual rest a-top of it, Whence, all the tumult of the building hushed, Thou first of men mightst look out to the East. 35 The vulgar saw thy tower, thou sawest the sun. For this, I promise on thy festival To pour libation, looking o'er the sea, Making this slave narrate thy fortunes, speak Thy great words, and describe thy royal face— 40 Wishing thee wholly where Zeus lives the most, Within the eventual element of calm.
Thy letter's first requirement meets me here. It is as thou hast heard: in one short life I, Cleon, have effected all those things 45 Thou wonderingly dost enumerate. That epos on thy hundred plates of gold Is mine—and also mine the little chant, So sure to rise from every fishing-bark When, lights at prow, the seamen haul their net. 50 The image of the sun-god on the phare, Men turn from the sun's self to see, is mine; The Poecile, o'er-storied its whole length, As thou didst hear, with painting, is mine too. I know the true proportions of a man 55 And woman also, not observed before; And I have written three books on the soul, Proving absurd all written hitherto, And putting us to ignorance again. For music—why, I have combined the moods, 60 Inventing one. In brief, all arts are mine; Thus much the people know and recognize, Throughout our seventeen islands. Marvel not. We of these latter days, with greater mind Than our forerunners, since more composite, 65 Look not so great, beside their simple way, To a judge who only sees one way at once, One mind-point and no other at a time— Compares the small part of a man of us With some whole man of the heroic age, 70 Great in his way—not ours, nor meant for ours. And ours is greater, had we skill to know: For, what we call this life of men on earth, This sequence of the soul's achievements here Being, as I find much reason to conceive, 75 Intended to be viewed eventually As a great whole, not analyzed to parts, But each part having reference to all— How shall a certain part, pronounced complete, Endure effacement by another part? 80 Was the thing done?—then, what's to do again? See, in the checkered pavement opposite, Suppose the artist made a perfect rhomb, And next a lozenge, then a trapezoid— He did not overlay them, superimpose 85 The new upon the old and blot it out, But laid them on a level in his work, Making at last a picture; there it lies. So, first the perfect separate forms were made, The portions of mankind; and after, so, 90 Occurred the combination of the same. For where had been a progress, otherwise? Mankind, made up of all the single men— In such a synthesis the labor ends. Now mark me! those divine men of old time 95 Have reached, thou sayest well, each at one point The outside verge that rounds our faculty; And where they reached, who can do more than reach? It takes but little water just to touch At some one point the inside of a sphere, 100 And, as we turn the sphere, touch all the rest In due succession; but the finer air Which not so palpably nor obviously, Though no less universally, can touch The whole circumference of that emptied sphere, 105 Fills it more fully than the water did; Holds thrice the weight of water in itself Resolved into a subtler element. And yet the vulgar call the sphere first full Up to the visible height—and after, void; 110 Not knowing air's more hidden properties. And thus our soul, misknown, cries out to Zeus To vindicate his purpose in our life: Why stay we on the earth unless to grow? Long since, I imaged, wrote the fiction out, 115 That he or other god descended here And, once for all, showed simultaneously What, in its nature, never can be shown, Piecemeal or in succession—showed, I say, The worth both absolute and relative 120 Of all his children from the birth of time, His instruments for all appointed work. I now go on to image—might we hear The judgment which should give the due to each, Show where the labor lay and where the ease, 125 And prove Zeus' self, the latent everywhere! This is a dream—but no dream, let us hope, That years and days, the summers and the springs, Follow each other with unwaning powers. The grapes which dye thy wine are richer far, 130 Through culture, than the wild wealth of the rock; The suave plum than the savage-tasted drupe; The pastured honey-bee drops choicer sweet; The flowers turn double, and the leaves turn flowers; That young and tender crescent-moon, thy slave, 135 Sleeping above her robe as buoyed by clouds, Refines upon the women of my youth. What, and the soul alone deteriorates? I have not chanted verse like Homer, no— Nor swept string like Terpander, no—nor carved 140 And painted men like Phidias and his friend: I am not great as they are, point by point. But I have entered into sympathy With these four, running these into one soul, Who, separate, ignored each other's art. 145 Say, is it nothing that I know them all? The wild flower was the larger; I have dashed Rose-blood upon its petals, pricked its cup's Honey with wine, and driven its seed to fruit, And show a better flower if not so large: 150 I stand myself. Refer this to the gods Whose gift alone it is! which, shall I dare (All pride apart) upon the absurd pretext That such a gift by chance lay in my hand, Discourse of lightly or depreciate? 155 It might have fallen to another's hand: what then? I pass too surely: let at least truth stay!
And next, of what thou followest on to ask. This being with me as I declare, O king, My works, in all these varicolored kinds, 160 So done by me, accepted so by men— Thou askest, if (my soul thus in men's hearts) I must not be accounted to attain The very crown and proper end of life? Inquiring thence how, now life closeth up, 165 I face death with success in my right hand: Whether I fear death less than dost thyself The fortunate of men? "For" (writest thou) "Thou leavest much behind, while I leave naught. Thy life stays in the poems men shall sing, 170 The pictures men shall study; while my life, Complete and whole now in its power and joy, Dies altogether with my brain and arm, Is lost indeed; since, what survives myself? The brazen statue to o'erlook my grave, 175 Set on the promontory which I named. And that—some supple courtier of my heir Shall use its robed and sceptered arm, perhaps, To fix the rope to, which best drags it down. I go then: triumph thou, who dost not go!" 180
Nay, thou art worthy of hearing my whole mind. Is this apparent, when thou turn'st to muse Upon the scheme of earth and man in chief, That admiration grows as knowledge grows? That imperfection means perfection hid, 185 Reserved in part, to grace the after-time? If, in the morning of philosophy, Ere aught had been recorded, nay perceived, Thou, with the light now in thee, couldst have looked On all earth's tenantry, from worm to bird, 190 Ere man, her last, appeared upon the stage— Thou wouldst have seen them perfect, and deduced The perfectness of others yet unseen. Conceding which—had Zeus then questioned thee, "Shall I go on a step, improve on this, 195 Do more for visible creatures than is done?" Thou wouldst have answered, "Aye, by making each Grow conscious in himself—by that alone. All's perfect else: the shell sucks fast the rock, The fish strikes through the sea, the snake both swims 200 And slides, forth range the beasts, the birds take flight, Till life's mechanics can no further go— And all this joy in natural life is put Like fire from off thy finger into each, So exquisitely perfect is the same. 205 But 'tis pure fire, and they mere matter are; It has them, not they it: and so I choose For man, thy last premeditated work (If I might add a glory to the scheme), That a third thing should stand apart from both, 210 A quality arise within his soul, Which, introactive, made to supervise And feel the force it has, may view itself, And so be happy." Man might live at first The animal life: but is there nothing more? 215 In due time, let him critically learn How he lives; and, the more he gets to know Of his own life's adaptabilities, The more joy-giving will his life become. Thus man, who hath this quality, is best. 220
But thou, king, hadst more reasonably said: "Let progress end at once—man make no step Beyond the natural man, the better beast, Using his senses, not the sense of sense." In man there's failure, only since he left 225 The lower and inconscious forms of life. We called it an advance, the rendering plain Man's spirit might grow conscious of man's life, And, by new lore so added to the old, Take each step higher over the brute's head. 230 This grew the only life, the pleasure-house, Watch-tower, and treasure-fortress of the soul, Which whole surrounding flats of natural life Seemed only fit to yield subsistence to; A tower that crowns a country. But alas, 235 The soul now climbs it just to perish there! For thence we have discovered ('tis no dream— We know this, which we had not else perceived) That there's a world of capability For joy, spread round about us, meant for us, 240 Inviting us; and still the soul craves all, And still the flesh replies, "Take no jot more Than ere thou clombst the tower to look abroad! Nay, so much less as that fatigue has brought Deduction to it." We struggle, fain to enlarge 245 Our bounded physical recipiency, Increase our power, supply fresh oil to life, Repair the waste of age and sickness: no, It skills not! life's inadequate to joy, As the soul sees joy, tempting life to take. 250 They praise a fountain in my garden here Wherein a Naiad sends the water-bow Thin from her tube; she smiles to see it rise. What if I told her, it is just a thread From that great river which the hills shut up, 255 And mock her with my leave to take the same? The artificer has given her one small tube Past power to widen or exchange—what boots To know she might spout oceans if she could? She cannot lift beyond her first thin thread: 260 And so a man can use but a man's joy While he sees God's. Is it for Zeus to boast, "See, man, how happy I live, and despair— That I may be still happier—for thy use!" If this were so, we could not thank our Lord, 265 As hearts beat on to doing; 'tis not so— Malice it is not. Is it carelessness? Still, no. If care—where is the sign? I ask, And get no answer, and agree in sum, O king, with thy profound discouragement, 270 Who seest the wider but to sigh the more. Most progress is most failure: thou sayest well.
The last point now:—thou dost except a case— Holding joy not impossible to one With artist-gifts—to such a man as I 275 Who leave behind me living works indeed; For, such a poem, such a painting lives. What? Dost thou verily trip upon a word, Confound the accurate view of what joy is (Caught somewhat clearer by my eyes than thine) 280 With feeling joy? confound the knowing how And showing how to live (my faculty) With actually living?—Otherwise Where is the artist's vantage o'er the king? Because in my great epos I display 285 How divers men young, strong, fair, wise, can act— Is this as though I acted? If I paint, Carve the young Phoebus, am I therefore young? Methinks I'm older that I bowed myself The many years of pain that taught me art! 290 Indeed, to know is something, and to prove How all this beauty might be enjoyed, is more: But, knowing naught, to enjoy is something, too. Yon rower, with the molded muscles there, Lowering the sail, is nearer it than I. 295 I can write love-odes: thy fair slave's an ode. I get to sing of love, when grown too gray For being beloved: she turns to that young man, The muscles all a-ripple on his back. I know the joy of kingship: well, thou art king! 300
"But," sayest thou—and I marvel, I repeat, To find thee trip on such a mere word—"what Thou writest, paintest, stays; that does not die: Sappho survives, because we sing her songs, And Aeschylus, because we read his plays!" 305 Why, if they live still, let them come and take Thy slave in my despite, drink from thy cup, Speak in my place. Thou diest while I survive? Say rather that my fate is deadlier still, In this, that every day my sense of joy 310 Grows more acute, my soul (intensified By power and insight) more enlarged, more keen; While every day my hairs fall more and more, My hand shakes, and the heavy years increase— The horror quickening still from year to year, 315 The consummation coming past escape, When I shall know most, and yet least enjoy— When all my works wherein I prove my worth, Being present still to mock me in men's mouths, Alive still, in the praise of such as thou, 320 I, I the feeling, thinking, acting man, The man who loved his life so overmuch, Sleep in my urn. It is so horrible, I dare at times imagine to my need Some future state revealed to us by Zeus, 325 Unlimited in capability For joy, as this is in desire for joy, —To seek which, the joy-hunger forces us: That, stung by straitness of our life, made strait On purpose to make prized the life at large— 330 Freed, by the throbbing impulse we call death, We burst there as the worm into the fly, Who, while a worm still, wants his wings. But no! Zeus has not yet revealed it; and alas, He must have done so, were it possible! 335
Live long and happy, and in that thought die: Glad for what was! Farewell. And for the rest, I cannot tell thy messenger aright Where to deliver what he bears of thine To one called Paulus; we have heard his fame 340 Indeed, if Christus be not one with him— I know not, nor am troubled much to know. Thou canst not think a mere barbarian Jew, As Paulus proves to be, one circumcised, Hath access to a secret shut from us? 345 Thou wrongest our philosophy, O king, In stooping to inquire of such an one, As if his answer could impose at all! He writeth, doth he? Well, and he may write. Oh, the Jew findeth scholars! Certain slaves 350 Who touched on this same isle, preached him and Christ; And (as I gathered from a bystander) Their doctrine could be held by no sane man.
ONE WORD MORE
There they are, my fifty men and women Naming me the fifty poems finished! Take them, Love, the book and me together: Where the heart lies, let the brain lie also.
Rafael made a century of sonnets, 5 Made and wrote them in a certain volume Dinted with the silver-pointed pencil Else he only used to draw Madonnas: These, the world might view—but one, the volume. Who that one, you ask? Your heart instructs you. 10 Did she live and love it all her lifetime? Did she drop, his lady of the sonnets, Die, and let it drop beside her pillow Where it lay in place of Rafael's glory, Rafael's cheek so duteous and so loving— 15 Cheek, the world was wont to hail a painter's, Rafael's cheek, her love had turned a poet's?
You and I would rather read that volume (Taken to his beating bosom by it), Lean and list the bosom-beats of Rafael, 20 Would we not? than wonder at Madonnas— Her, San Sisto names, and Her, Foligno, Her, that visits Florence in a vision, Her, that's left with lilies in the Louvre— Seen by us and all the world in circle. 25
You and I will never read that volume. Guido Reni, like his own eye's apple Guarded long the treasure-book and loved it. Guido Reni dying, all Bologna Cried, and the world cried too, "Ours, the treasure!" 30 Suddenly, as rare things will, it vanished.
Dante once prepared to paint an angel: Whom to please? You whisper "Beatrice." While he mused and traced it and retraced it (Peradventure with a pen corroded 35 Still by drops of that hot ink he dipped for, When, his left hand i' the hair o' the wicked, Back he held the brow and pricked its stigma, Bit into the live man's flesh for parchment, Loosed him, laughed to see the writing rankle, 40 Let the wretch go festering through Florence)— Dante, who loved well because he hated, Hated wickedness that hinders loving, Dante standing, studying his angel— In there broke the folk of his Inferno. 45 Says he—"Certain people of importance" (Such he gave his daily, dreadful line to) "Entered and would seize, forsooth, the poet." Says the poet—"Then I stopped my painting."
You and I would rather see that angel, 50 Painted by the tenderness of Dante— Would we not?—than read a fresh Inferno.
You and I will never see that picture. While he mused on love and Beatrice, While he softened o'er his outlined angel, 55 In they broke, those "people of importance": We and Bice bear the loss forever.
What of Rafael's sonnets, Dante's picture? This: no artist lives and loves, that longs not Once, and only once, and for one only 60 (Ah, the prize!), to find his love a language Fit and fair and simple and sufficient— Using nature that's an art to others, Not, this one time, art that's turned his nature. Aye, of all the artists living, loving, 65 None but would forego his proper dowry— Does he paint? He fain would write a poem— Does he write? He fain would paint a picture, Put to proof art alien to the artist's, Once, and only once, and for one only, 70 So to be the man and leave the artist, Gain the man's joy, miss the artist's sorrow.
Wherefore? Heaven's gift takes earth's abatement! He who smites the rock and spreads the water, Bidding drink and live a crowd beneath him, 75 Even he, the minute makes immortal, Proves, perchance, but mortal in the minute, Desecrates, belike, the deed in doing. While he smites, how can he but remember, So he smote before, in such a peril, 80 When they stood and mocked—"Shall smiting help us?" When they drank and sneered—"A stroke is easy!" When they wiped their mouths and went their journey, Throwing him for thanks—"But drought was pleasant." Thus old memories mar the actual triumph; 85 Thus the doing savors of disrelish; Thus achievement lacks a gracious somewhat; O'er-importuned brows becloud the mandate, Carelessness or consciousness—the gesture. For he bears an ancient wrong about him, 90 Sees and knows again those phalanxed faces, Hears, yet one time more, the 'customed prelude— "How shouldst thou, of all men, smite, and save us?" Guesses what is like to prove the sequel— "Egypt's flesh-pots—nay, the drought was better." 95
Oh, the crowd must have emphatic warrant Theirs, the Sinai-forehead's cloven brilliance, Right-arm's rod-sweep, tongue's imperial fiat. Never dares the man put off the prophet.
Did he love one face from out the thousands 100 (Were she Jethro's daughter, white and wifely, Were she but the Ethiopian bondslave), He would envy yon dumb patient camel, Keeping a reserve of scanty water Meant to save his own life in the desert; 105 Ready in the desert to deliver (Kneeling down to let his breast be opened) Hoard and life together for his mistress.
I shall never, in the years remaining, Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues, 110 Make you music that should all-express me; So it seems: I stand on my attainment. This of verse alone, one life allows me; Verse and nothing else have I to give you. Other heights in other lives, God willing: 115 All the gifts from all the heights, your own, Love!
Yet a semblance of resource avails us— Shade so finely touched, love's sense must seize it. Take these lines, look lovingly and nearly, Lines I write the first time and the last time. 120 He who works in fresco, steals a hair-brush, Curbs the liberal hand, subservient proudly, Cramps his spirit, crowds its all in little, Makes a strange art of an art familiar, Fills his lady's missal-marge with flowerets. 125 He who blows through bronze may breathe through silver, Fitly serenade a slumbrous princess. He who writes may write for once as I do.
Love, you saw me gather men and women, Live or dead or fashioned by my fancy, 130 Enter each and all, and use their service. Speak from every mouth—the speech, a poem. Hardly shall I tell my joys and sorrows, Hopes and fears, belief and disbelieving: I am mine and yours—the rest be all men's, 135 Karshish, Cleon, Norbert, and the fifty. Let me speak this once in my true person, Not as Lippo, Roland, or Andrea, Though the fruit of speech be just this sentence: Pray you, look on these my men and women, 140 Take and keep my fifty poems finished; Where my heart lies, let my brain lie also! Poor the speech; be how I speak, for all things.
Not but that you know me! Lo, the moon's self! Here in London, yonder late in Florence, 145 Still we find her face, the thrice-transfigured. Curving on a sky imbrued with color, Drifted over Fiesole by twilight, Came she, our new crescent of a hair's-breadth. Full she flared it, lamping Samminiato, 150 Rounder 'twixt the cypresses and rounder, Perfect till the nightingales applauded. Now, a piece of her old self, impoverished, Hard to greet, she traverses the house-roofs, Hurries with unhandsome thrift of silver, 155 Goes dispiritedly, glad to finish.
What, there's nothing in the moon noteworthy? Nay: for if that moon could love a mortal, Use, to charm him (so to fit a fancy), All her magic ('tis the old sweet mythos), 160 She would turn a new side to her mortal, Side unseen of herdsman, huntsman, steersman— Blank to Zoroaster on his terrace, Blind to Galileo on his turret, Dumb to Homer, dumb to Keats—him, even! 165 Think, the wonder of the moonstruck mortal— When she turns round, comes again in heaven, Opens out anew for worse or better! Proves she like some portent of an iceberg Swimming full upon the ship it founders, 170 Hungry with huge teeth of splintered crystals? Proves she as the paved work of a sapphire Seen by Moses when he climbed the mountain? Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu Climbed and saw the very God, the Highest, 175 Stand upon the paved work of a sapphire. Like the bodied heaven in his clearness Shone the stone, the sapphire of that paved work, When they ate and drank and saw God also!
What were seen? None knows, none ever shall know. 180 Only this is sure—the sight were other, Not the moon's same side, born late in Florence, Dying now impoverished here in London. God be thanked, the meanest of his creatures Boasts two soul-sides, one to face the world with, 185 One to show a woman when he loves her!
This I say of me, but think of you, Love! This to you—yourself my moon of poets! Ah, but that's the world's side, there's the wonder, Thus they see you, praise you, think they know you! 190 There, in turn I stand with them and praise you— Out of my own self, I dare to phrase it. But the best is when I glide from out them, Cross a step or two of dubious twilight, Come out on the other side, the novel 195 Silent silver lights and darks undreamed of, Where I hush and bless myself with silence.
Oh, their Rafael of the dear Madonnas, Oh, their Dante of the dread Inferno, Wrote one song—and in my brain I sing it, 200 Drew one angel—borne, see, on my bosom.
(AFTER HE HAS BEEN EXTEMPORIZING UPON THE MUSICAL INSTRUMENT OF HIS INVENTION)
Would that the structure brave, the manifold music I build, Bidding my organ obey, calling its keys to their work, Claiming each slave of the sound, at a touch, as when Solomon willed Armies of angels that soar, legions of demons that lurk, Man, brute, reptile, fly—alien of end and of aim, 5 Adverse, each from the other heaven-high, hell-deep removed— Should rush into sight at once as he named the ineffable Name, And pile him a palace straight, to pleasure the princess he loved! Would it might tarry like his, the beautiful building of mine, This which my keys in a crowd pressed and importuned to 10 raise! Ah, one and all, how they helped, would dispart now and now combine, Zealous to hasten the work, heighten their master his praise! And one would bury his brow with a blind plunge down to hell, Burrow awhile and build broad on the roots of things, Then up again swim into sight, having based me my palace 15 well, Founded it, fearless of flame, flat on the nether springs.
And another would mount and march, like the excellent minion he was, Aye, another and yet another, one crowd but with many a crest, Raising my rampired walls of gold as transparent as glass, Eager to do and die, yield each his place to the rest: 20 For higher still and higher (as a runner tips with fire, When a great illumination surprises a festal night— Outlining round and round Rome's dome from space to spire) Up, the pinnacled glory reached, and the pride of my soul was in sight.
In sight? Not half! for it seemed, it was certain, to match 25 man's birth, Nature in turn conceived, obeying an impulse as I; And the emulous heaven yearned down, made effort to reach the earth, As the earth had done her best, in my passion, to scale the sky: Novel splendors burst forth, grew familiar and dwelt with mine, Not a point nor peak but found and fixed its wandering 30 star; Meteor-moons, balls of blaze; and they did not pale nor pine, For earth had attained to heaven, there was no more near nor far.
Nay more; for there wanted not who walked in the glare and glow, Presences plain in the place; or, fresh from the Protoplast, Furnished for ages to come, when a kindlier wind should blow, 35 Lured now to begin and live, in a house to their liking at last; Or else the wonderful Dead who have passed through the body and gone, But were back once more to breathe in an old world worth their new: What never had been, was now; what was, as it shall be anon; And what is—shall I say, matched both? for I was made 40 perfect, too.
All through my keys that gave their sounds to a wish of my soul, All through my soul that praised as its wish flowed visibly forth, All through music and me! For think, had I painted the whole, Why, there it had stood, to see, nor the process so wonder-worth: Had I written the same, made verse—still, effect proceeds 45 from cause, Ye know why the forms are fair, ye hear how the tale is told; It is all triumphant art, but art in obedience to laws, Painter and poet are proud in the artist-list enrolled:
But here is the finger of God, a flash of the will that can, Existent behind all laws, that made them and, lo, they are! 50 And I know not if, save in this, such gift be allowed to man, That out of three sounds he frame, not a fourth sound, but a star. Consider it well: each tone of our scale in itself is naught; It is everywhere in the world—loud, soft, and all is said: Give it to me to use! I mix it with two in my thought: 55 And there! Ye have heard and seen: consider and bow the head!
Well, it is gone at last, the palace of music I reared; Gone! and the good tears start, the praises that come too slow; For one is assured at first, one scarce can say that he feared, That he even gave it a thought, the gone thing was to go. 60 Never to be again! But many more of the kind As good, nay, better perchance: is this your comfort to me? To me, who must be saved because I cling with my mind To the same, same self, same love, same God: aye, what was, shall be.
Therefore to whom turn I but to thee, the ineffable Name? 65 Builder and maker, thou, of houses not made with hands! What, have fear of change from thee who art ever the same? Doubt that thy power can fill the heart that thy power expands? There shall never be one lost good! What was, shall live as before; The evil is null, is naught, is silence implying sound; 70 What was good shall be good, with, for evil, so much good more; On the earth the broken arcs; in the heaven, a perfect round.
All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist; Not its semblance, but itself; no beauty, nor good, nor power Whose voice has gone forth, but each survives for the 75 melodist When eternity affirms the conception of an hour. The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard, The passion that left the ground to lose itself in the sky, Are music sent up to God by the lover and the bard; Enough that He heard it once: we shall hear it by-and-by. 80
And what is our failure here but a triumph's evidence For the fullness of the days? Have we withered or agonized? Why else was the pause prolonged but that singing might issue thence? Why rushed the discords in but that harmony should be prized? Sorrow is hard to bear, and doubt is slow to clear, 85 Each sufferer says his say, his scheme of the weal and woe: But God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear; The rest may reason and welcome: 'tis we musicians know.
Well, it is earth with me; silence resumes her reign: I will be patient and proud, and soberly acquiesce. 90 Give me the keys. I feel for the common chord again, Sliding by semitones, till I sink to the minor—yes, And I blunt it into a ninth, and I stand on alien ground, Surveying awhile the heights I rolled from into the deep; Which, hark, I have dared and done, for my resting-place is 95 found, The C Major of this life: so, now I will try to sleep.
RABBI BEN EZRA
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, The last of life, for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand Who saith, "A whole I planned, 5 Youth shows but half; trust God: see all nor be afraid!"
Not that, amassing flowers, Youth sighed, "Which rose make ours, Which lily leave and then as best recall?" Not that, admiring stars, It yearned, "Nor Jove, nor Mars; 10 Mine be some figured flame which blends, transcends them all!"
Not for such hopes and fears Annulling youth's brief years, Do I remonstrate: folly wide the mark! 15 Rather I prize the doubt Low kinds exist without, Finished and finite clods, untroubled by a spark.
Poor vaunt of life indeed, Were man but formed to feed 20 On joy, to solely seek and find and feast: Such feasting ended, then As sure an end to men; Irks care the crop-full bird? Frets doubt the maw-crammed beast?
Rejoice we are allied 25 To That which doth provide And not partake, effect and not receive! A spark disturbs our clod; Nearer we hold of God Who gives, than of His tribes that take, I must believe. 30
Then, welcome each rebuff That turns earth's smoothness rough, Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go! Be our joys three-parts pain! Strive, and hold cheap the strain; 35 Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!
For thence—a paradox Which comforts while it mocks— Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail: What I aspired to be, 40 And was not, comforts me; A brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.
What is he but a brute Whose flesh has soul to suit, Whose spirit works lest arms and legs want play? 45 To man, propose this test— Thy body at its best, How far can that project thy soul on its lone way?
Yet gifts should prove their use: I own the Past profuse 50 Of power each side, perfection every turn: Eyes, ears took in their dole, Brain treasured up the whole; Should not the heart beat once, "How good to live and learn"?
Not once beat, "Praise be Thine! 55 I see the whole design, I, who saw power, see now Love perfect too: Perfect I call Thy plan: Thanks that I was a man! Maker, remake, complete—I trust what Thou shalt do!" 60
For pleasant is this flesh; Our soul, in its rose-mesh Pulled ever to the earth, still yearns for rest: Would we some prize might hold To match those manifold 65 Possessions of the brute—gain most, as we did best!
Let us not always say, "Spite of this flesh today I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole!" As the bird wings and sings, 70 Let us cry, "All good things Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul!"
Therefore I summon age To grant youth's heritage, Life's struggle having so far reached its term: 75 Thence shall I pass, approved A man, for aye removed From the developed brute; a god though in the germ.
And I shall thereupon Take rest, ere I be gone 80 Once more on my adventure brave and new: Fearless and unperplexed, When I wage battle next, What weapons to select, what armor to indue.
Youth ended, I shall try 85 My gain or loss thereby; Leave the fire ashes, what survives is gold: And I shall weigh the same, Give life its praise or blame: Young, all lay in dispute; I shall know, being old. 90
For note, when evening shuts, A certain moment cuts The deed off, calls the glory from the gray: A whisper from the west Shoots—"Add this to the rest, 95 Take it and try its worth: here dies another day."
So, still within this life, Though lifted o'er its strife, Let me discern, compare, pronounce at last, "This rage was right i' the main, 100 That acquiescence vain: The Future I may face now I have proved the Past." For more is not reserved To man, with soul just nerved To act tomorrow what he learns today: 105 Here, work enough to watch The Master work, and catch Hints of the proper craft, tricks of the tool's true play.
As it was better, youth Should strive, through acts uncouth, 110 Toward making, than repose on aught found made; So, better, age, exempt From strife, should know, than tempt Further. Thou waitedst age; wait death nor be afraid!
Enough now, if the Right 115 And Good and Infinite Be named here, as thou callest thy hand thine own, With knowledge absolute, Subject to no dispute From fools that crowded youth, nor let thee feel alone. 120
Be there, for once and all, Severed great minds from small, Announced to each his station in the Past! Was I, the world arraigned, Were they, my soul disdained, 125 Right? Let age speak the truth and give us peace at last!
Now, who shall arbitrate? Ten men love what I hate, Shun what I follow, slight what I receive; Ten, who in ears and eyes 130 Match me: we all surmise, They this thing and I that; whom shall my soul believe?
Not on the vulgar mass Called "work," must sentence pass, Things done, that took the eye and had the price; 135 O'er which, from level stand, The low world laid its hand, Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:
But all, the world's coarse thumb And finger failed to plumb, 140 So passed in making up the main account; All instincts immature, All purposes unsure, That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount;
Thoughts hardly to be packed 145 Into a narrow act, Fancies that broke through language and escaped; All I could never be, All, men ignored in me, This, I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped. 150
Aye, note that Potter's wheel, That metaphor! and feel Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay Thou, to whom fools propound, When the wine makes its round, 155 "Since life fleets, all is change; the Past gone, seize today!"
Fool! All that is, at all, Lasts ever, past recall; Earth changes, but thy soul and God stand sure: What entered into thee, 160 That was, is, and shall be: Time's wheel runs back or stops; Potter and clay endure.
He fixed thee, mid this dance Of plastic circumstance, This Present, thou, forsooth, wouldst fain arrest: 165 Machinery just meant To give thy soul its bent, Try thee and turn thee forth, sufficiently impressed.
What though the earlier grooves Which ran the laughing loves 170 Around thy base, no longer pause and press? What though, about thy rim, Skull-things in order grim Grow out, in graver mood, obey the sterner stress?
Look not thou down but up! 175 To uses of a cup, The festal board, lamp's flash and trumpet's peal, The new wine's foaming flow, The Master's lips aglow! Thou, heaven's consummate cup, what need'st thou with earth's 180 wheel?
But I need, now as then, Thee, God, who moldest men; And since, not even while the whirl was worst, Did I—to the wheel of life With shapes and colors rife, 185 Bound dizzily—mistake my end, to slake Thy thirst:
So, take and use Thy work: Amend what flaws may lurk, What strain o' the stuff, what warpings past the aim! My times be in Thy hand! 190 Perfect the cup as planned! Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same!
CALIBAN UPON SETEBOS; OR NATURAL THEOLOGY IN THE ISLAND
"Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself."
['Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best, Flat on his belly in the pit's much mire, With elbows wide, fists clenched to prop his chin. And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush, And feels about his spine small eft-things course, 5 Run in and out each arm, and make him laugh; And while above his head a pompion-plant, Coating the cave-top as a brow its eye, Creeps down to touch and tickle hair and beard, And now a flower drops with a bee inside, 10 And now a fruit to snap at, catch and crunch— He looks out o'er yon sea which sunbeams cross And recross till they weave a spider web (Meshes of fire, some great fish breaks at times) And talks to his own self, howe'er he please, 15 Touching that other, whom his dam called God. Because to talk about Him, vexes—ha, Could He but know! and time to vex is now, When talk is safer than in wintertime. Moreover Prosper and Miranda sleep 20 In confidence he drudges at their task, And it is good to cheat the pair, and gibe, Letting the rank tongue blossom into speech.]
Setebos, Setebos, and Setebos! 'Thinketh, He dwelleth i' the cold o' the moon. 25
Thinketh He made it, with the sun to match, But not the stars; the stars came otherwise; Only made clouds, winds, meteors, such as that; Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon, And snaky sea which rounds and ends the same. 30
'Thinketh, it came of being ill at ease: He hated that He cannot change His cold, Nor cure its ache. 'Hath spied an icy fish That longed to 'scape the rock-stream where she lived, And thaw herself within the lukewarm brine 35 O' the lazy sea her stream thrusts far amid, A crystal spike 'twixt two warm walls of wave; Only, she ever sickened, found repulse At the other kind of water, not her life, (Green-dense and dim-delicious, bred o' the sun) 40 Flounced back from bliss she was not born to breathe, And in her old bounds buried her despair, Hating and loving warmth alike: so He.
'Thinketh, He made thereat the sun, this isle, Trees and the fowls here, beast and creeping thing. 45 Yon otter, sleek-wet, black, lithe as a leech; Yon auk, one fire-eye in a ball of foam, That floats and feeds; a certain badger brown He hath watched hunt with that slant white-wedge eye By moonlight; and the pie with the long tongue 50 That pricks deep into oakwarts for a worm, And says a plain word when she finds her prize, But will not eat the ants; the ants themselves That build a wall of seeds and settled stalks About their hole—He made all these and more, 55 Made all we see, and us, in spite: how else? He could not, Himself, make a second self To be His mate; as well have made Himself: He would not make what He mislikes or slights, An eyesore to Him, or not worth His pains: 60 But did, in envy, listlessness or sport, Make what Himself would fain, in a manner, be— Weaker in most points, stronger in a few, Worthy, and yet mere playthings all the while, Things He admires and mocks too—that is it. 65 Because; so brave, so better though they be, It nothing skills if He begin to plague. Look now, I melt a gourd-fruit into mash, Add honeycomb and pods, I have perceived, Which bite like finches when they bill and kiss— 70 Then, when froth rises bladdery, drink up all, Quick, quick, till maggots scamper through my brain; Last, throw me on my back i' the seeded thyme, And wanton, wishing I were born a bird. Put case, unable to be what I wish, 75 I yet could make a live bird out of clay: Would not I take clay, pinch my Caliban Able to fly?—for, there, see, he hath wings, And great comb like the hoopoe's to admire, And there, a sting to do his foes offense, 80 There, and I will that he begin to live, Fly to yon rock-top, nip me off the horns Of grigs high up that make the merry din, Saucy through their veined wings, and mind me not. In which feat, if his leg snapped, brittle clay, 85 And he lay stupid-like—why, I should laugh; And if he, spying me, should fall to weep, Beseech me to be good, repair his wrong, Bid his poor leg smart less or grow again— Well, as the chance were, this might take or else 90 Not take my fancy: I might hear his cry, And give the manikin three sound legs for one, Or pluck the other off, leave him like an egg, And lessoned he was mine and merely clay. Were this no pleasure, lying in the thyme, 95 Drinking the mash, with brain become alive, Making and marring clay at will? So He.
'Thinketh, such shows nor right nor wrong in Him, Nor kind, nor cruel: He is strong and Lord. 'Am strong myself compared to yonder crabs 100 That march now from the mountain to the sea; 'Let twenty pass, and stone the twenty-first, Loving not, hating not, just choosing so. 'Say, the first straggler that boasts purple spots Shall join the file, one pincer twisted off; 105 'Say, this bruised fellow shall receive a worm, And two worms he whose nippers end in red; As it likes me each time, I do: so He.
Well then, 'supposeth He is good i' the main, Placable if His mind and ways were guessed, 110 But rougher than His handiwork, be sure! Oh, He hath made things worthier than Himself, And envieth that, so helped, such things do more Than He who made them! What consoles but this? That they, unless through Him, do naught at all, 115 And must submit: what other use in things? 'Hath cut a pipe of pithless elder-joint That, blown through, gives exact the scream o' the jay When from her wing you twitch the feathers blue: Sound this, and little birds that hate the jay 120 Flock within stone's throw, glad their foe is hurt: Put case such pipe could prattle and boast forsooth, "I catch the birds, I am the crafty thing, I make the cry my maker cannot make With his great round mouth; he must blow through mine!" 125 Would not I smash it with my foot? So He.
But wherefore rough, why cold and ill at ease? Aha, that is a question! Ask, for that, What knows—the something over Setebos That made Him, or He, may be, found and fought, 130 Worsted, drove off and did to nothing, perchance. There may be something quiet o'er His head, Out of His reach, that feels nor joy nor grief, Since both derive from weakness in some way. I joy because the quails come; would not joy 135 Could I bring quails here when I have a mind: This Quiet, all it hath a mind to, doth. 'Esteemeth stars the outposts of its couch, But never spends much thought nor care that way. It may look up, work up—the worse for those 140 It works on! 'Careth but for Setebos The many-handed as a cuttlefish, Who, making Himself feared through what He does, Looks up, first, and perceives he cannot soar To what is quiet and hath happy life; 145 Next looks down here, and out of very spite Makes this a bauble-world to ape yon real, These good things to match those as hips do grapes. 'Tis solace making baubles, aye, and sport. Himself peeped late, eyed Prosper at his books 150 Careless and lofty, lord now of the isle: Vexed, 'stitched a book of broad leaves, arrow-shaped, Wrote thereon, he knows what, prodigious words; Has peeled a wand and called it by a name; Weareth at whiles for an enchanter's robe 155 The eyed skin of a supple oncelot; And hath an ounce sleeker than youngling mole, A four-legged serpent he makes cower and couch, Now snarl, now hold its breath and mind his eye, And saith she is Miranda and my wife: 160 'Keeps for his Ariel, a tall pouch-bill crane He bids go wade for fish and straight disgorge; Also a sea-beast, lumpish, which he snared, Blinded the eyes of, and brought somewhat tame, And split its toe-webs, and now pens the drudge 165 In a hole o' the rock and calls him Caliban; A bitter heart that bides its time and bites. 'Plays thus at being Prosper in a way, Taketh his mirth with make-believes: so He.
His dam held that the Quiet made all things 170 Which Setebos vexed only: 'holds not so. Who made them weak, meant weakness He might vex. Had He meant other, while His hand was in, Why not make horny eyes no thorn could prick, Or plate my scalp with bone against the snow, 175 Or overscale my flesh 'neath joint and joint, Like an orc's armor? Aye—so spoil His sport! He is the One now: only He doth all.
'Saith, He may like, perchance, what profits Him. Aye, himself loves what does him good; but why? 180 'Gets good no otherwise. This blinded beast Loves whoso places fleshmeat on his nose, But, had he eyes, would want no help, but hate Or love, just as it liked him: He hath eyes. Also it pleaseth Setebos to work, 185 Use all His hands, and exercise much craft, By no means for the love of what is worked. 'Tasteth, himself, no finer good i' the world When all goes right, in this safe summertime, And he wants little, hungers, aches not much, 190 Than trying what to do with wit and strength. 'Falls to make something: 'piled yon pile of turfs, And squared and stuck there squares of soft white chalk, And, with a fish-tooth, scratched a moon on each, And set up endwise certain spikes of tree, 195 And crowned the whole with a sloth's skull a-top, Found dead i' the woods, too hard for one to kill. No use at all i' the work, for work's sole sake; 'Shall some day knock it down again: so He.
'Saith He is terrible: watch His feats in proof! 200 One hurricane will spoil six good months' hope. He hath a spite against me, that I know, Just as He favors Prosper, who knows why? So it is, all the same, as well I find. 'Wove wattles half the winter, fenced them firm 205 With stone and stake to stop she-tortoises Crawling to lay their eggs here: well, one wave, Feeling the foot of Him upon its neck, Gaped as a snake does, lolled out its large tongue, And licked the whole labor flat: so much for spite. 210 'Saw a ball flame down late (yonder it lies) Where, half an hour before, I slept i' the shade: Often they scatter sparkles: there is force! 'Dug up a newt He may have envied once And turned to stone, shut up inside a stone. 215 Please Him and hinder this?—What Prosper does? Aha, if He would tell me how! Not He! There is the sport: discover how or die! All need not die, for of the things o' the isle Some flee afar, some dive, some run up trees; 220 Those at His mercy—why, they please Him most When ... when ... well, never try the same way twice! Repeat what act has pleased, He may grow wroth. You must not know, His ways, and play Him off, Sure of the issue. 'Doth the like himself: 225 'Spareth a squirrel that it nothing fears But steals the nut from underneath my thumb, And when I threat, bites stoutly in defense: 'Spareth an urchin that contrariwise, Curls up into a ball, pretending death 230 For fright at my approach: the two ways please. But what would move my choler more than this, That either creature counted on its life Tomorrow and next day and all days to come, Saying, forsooth, in the inmost of its heart, 235 "Because he did so yesterday with me, And otherwise with such another brute, So must he do henceforth and always."—Aye? Would teach the reasoning couple what "must" means! 'Doth as he likes, or wherefore Lord? So He. 240 'Conceiveth all things will continue thus, And we shall have to live in fear of Him So long as He lives, keeps His strength: no change, If He have done His best, make no new world To please Him more, so leave off watching this— 245 If He surprise not even the Quiet's self Some strange day—or, suppose, grow into it As grubs grow butterflies: else, here are we, And there is He, and nowhere help at all.
'Believeth with the life, the pain shall stop. 250 His dam held different, that after death He both plagued enemies and feasted friends: Idly! He doth His worst in this our life, Giving just respite lest we die through pain, Saving last pain for worst—with which, an end. 255 Meanwhile, the best way to escape His ire Is not to seem too happy. 'Sees, himself, Yonder two flies, with purple films and pink, Bask on the pompion-bell above: kills both. 'Sees two black painful beetles roll their ball 260 On head and tail as if to save their lives: Moves them the stick away they strive to clear.
Even so, 'would have Him misconceive, suppose This Caliban strives hard and ails no less, And always, above all else, envies Him; 265 Wherefore he mainly dances on dark nights, Moans in the sun, gets under holes to laugh, And never speaks his mind save housed as now: Outside, 'groans, curses. If He caught me here, O'erheard this speech, and asked, "What chucklest at?" 270 'Would, to appease Him, cut a finger off, Or of my three kid yearlings burn the best, Or let the toothsome apples rot on tree, Or push my tame beast for the orc to taste: While myself lit a fire, and made a song 275 And sung it, "What I hate, be consecrate To celebrate Thee and Thy state, no mate For Thee; what see for envy in poor me?" Hoping the while, since evils sometimes mend, Warts rub away, and sores are cured with slime, 280 That some strange day, will either the Quiet catch And conquer Setebos, or likelier He Decrepit may doze, doze, as good as die.
* * * * *
[What, what? A curtain o'er the world at once! Crickets stop hissing; not a bird—or, yes, 285 There scuds His raven that has told Him all! It was fool's play, this prattling! Ha! The wind Shoulders the pillared dust, death's house o' the move, And fast invading fires begin! White blaze— A tree's head snaps—and there, there, there, there, there, 290 His thunder follows! Fool to gibe at Him! Lo! 'Lieth flat and loveth Setebos! 'Maketh his teeth meet through his upper lip, Will let those quails fly, will not eat this month One little mess of whelks, so he may 'scape!] 295
MAY AND DEATH
I wish that when you died last May, Charles, there had died along with you Three parts of spring's delightful things; Aye, and, for me, the fourth part, too.
A foolish thought, and worse, perhaps! 5 There must be many a pair of friends Who, arm in arm, deserve the warm Moon-births and the long evening-ends.
So, for their sake, be May still May! Let their new time, as mine of old, 10 Do all it did for me: I bid Sweet sights and sounds throng manifold.
Only, one little sight, one plant, Woods have in May, that starts up green Save a sole streak which, so to speak, 15 Is spring's blood, spilt its leaves between—
That, they might spare; a certain wood Might miss the plant; their loss were small: But I—whene'er the leaf grows there, Its drop comes from my heart, that's all. 20
Fear death?—to feel the fog in my throat, The mist in my face, When the snows begin, and the blasts denote I am nearing the place, The power of the night, the press of the storm, 5 The post of the foe; Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form, Yet the strong man must go; For the journey is done and the summit attained, And the barriers fall, 10 Though a battle's to fight ere the guerdon be gained, The reward of it all. I was ever a fighter, so—one fight more, The best and the last! I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore, 15 And bade me creep past. No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers The heroes of old, Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears Of pain, darkness, and cold. 20 For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave, The black minute's at end, And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave, Shall dwindle, shall blend, Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain, 25 Then a light, then thy breast, O thou soul of my soul! I shall clasp thee again, And with God be the rest!
If one could have that little head of hers Painted upon a background of pale gold, Such as the Tuscan's early art prefers! No shade encroaching on the matchless mold Of those two lips, which should be opening soft 5 In the pure profile; not as when she laughs, For that spoils all; but rather as if aloft Yon hyacinth, she loves so, leaned its staff's Burthen of honey-colored buds to kiss And capture 'twixt the lips apart for this. 10 Then her lithe neck, three fingers might surround, How it should waver on the pale gold ground Up to the fruit-shaped, perfect chin it lifts! I know, Correggio loves to mass, in rifts Of heaven, his angel faces, orb on orb 15 Breaking its outline, burning shades absorb; But these are only massed there, I should think, Waiting to see some wonder momently Grow out, stand full, fade slow against the sky (That's the pale ground you'd see this sweet face by), 20 All heaven, meanwhile, condensed into one eye Which fears to lose the wonder, should it wink.
O LYRIC LOVE
O lyric Love, half angel and half bird, And all a wonder and a wild desire— Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun, Took sanctuary within the holier blue, And sang a kindred soul out to his face— 5 Yet human at the red-ripe of the heart— When the first summons from the darkling earth Reached thee amid thy chambers, blanched their blue, And bared them of the glory—to drop down, To toil for man, to suffer or to die— 10 This is the same voice; can thy soul know change? Hail then, and hearken from the realms of help! Never may I commence my song, my due To God who best taught song by gift of thee, Except with bent head and beseeching hand— 15 That still, despite the distance and the dark, What was, again may be; some interchange Of grace, some splendor once thy very thought, Some benediction anciently thy smile: —Never conclude, but raising hand and head. 20 Thither where eyes, that cannot reach, yet yearn For all hope, all sustainment, all reward, Their utmost up and on—so blessing back In those thy realms of help, that heaven thy home, Some whiteness which, I judge, thy face makes proud, 25 Some wanness where, I think, thy foot may fall!
PROLOGUE TO PACCHIAROTTO
Oh, the old wall here! How I could pass Life in a long midsummer day, My feet confined to a plot of grass, My eyes from a wall not once away!
And lush and lithe do the creepers clothe 5 Yon wall I watch, with a wealth of green: Its bald red bricks draped, nothing loth, In lappets of tangle they laugh between.
Now, what is it makes pulsate the robe? Why tremble the sprays? What life o'erbrims 10 The body—the house, no eye can probe— Divined as, beneath a robe, the limbs?
And there again! But my heart may guess Who tripped behind; and she sang perhaps; So, the old wall throbbed, and its life's excess 15 Died out and away in the leafy wraps!
Wall upon wall are between us; life And song should away from heart to heart! I—prison-bird, with a ruddy strife At breast, and a lip whence storm-notes start— 20
Hold on, hope hard in the subtle thing That's spirit: though cloistered fast, soar free; Account as wood, brick, stone, this ring Of the rueful neighbors, and—forth to thee!
Shall I sonnet-sing you about myself? 25 Do I live in a house you would like to see? Is it scant of gear, has it store of pelf? "Unlock my heart with a sonnet-key"?
Invite the world, as my betters have done? "Take notice: this building remains on view, 30 Its suites of reception every one, Its private apartment and bedroom too;
"For a ticket, apply to the Publisher." No: thanking the public, I must decline. A peep through my window, if folk prefer; 35 But, please you, no foot over threshold of mine!
I have mixed with a crowd and heard free talk In a foreign land where an earthquake chanced And a house stood gaping, naught to balk Man's eye wherever he gazed or glanced. 40
The whole of the frontage shaven sheer, The inside gaped; exposed to day, Right and wrong and common and queer, Bare, as the palm of your hand, it lay.
The owner? Oh, he had been crushed, no doubt! 45 "Odd tables and chairs for a man of wealth! What a parcel of musty old books about! He smoked—no wonder he lost his health!
"I doubt if he bathed before he dressed. A brasier?—the pagan, he burned perfumes! 50 You see it is proved, what the neighbors guessed: His wife and himself had separate rooms."
Friends, the goodman of the house at least Kept house to himself till an earthquake came; 'Tis the fall of its frontage permits you feast 55 On the inside arrangement you praise or blame.
Outside should suffice for evidence; And whoso desires to penetrate Deeper, must dive by the spirit-sense— No optics like yours, at any rate! 60
"Hoity-toity! A street to explore, Your house the exception! 'With this same key Shakespeare unlocked his heart,' once more!" Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!
So, friend, your shop was all your house! 65 Its front, astonishing the street, Invited view from man and mouse To what diversity of treat Behind its glass—the single sheet!
What gimcracks, genuine Japanese: 70 Gape-jaw and goggle-eye, the frog; Dragons, owls, monkeys, beetles, geese; Some crush-nosed human-hearted dog: Queer names, too, such a catalogue!
I thought, "And he who owns the wealth 75 Which blocks the window's vastitude, —Ah, could I peep at him by stealth Behind his ware, pass shop, intrude On house itself, what scenes were viewed!
"If wide and showy thus the shop, 80 What must the habitation prove? The true house with no name a-top— The mansion, distant one remove, Once get him off his traffic-groove!
"Pictures he likes, or books perhaps; 85 And as for buying most and best, Commend me to these City chaps! Or else he's social, takes his rest On Sundays, with a lord for guest.
"Some suburb-palace, parked about 90 And gated grandly, built last year; The four-mile walk to keep off gout; Or big seat sold by bankrupt peer— But then he takes the rail, that's clear.
"Or, stop! I wager, taste selects 95 Some out o' the way, some all-unknown Retreat; the neighborhood suspects Little that he who rambles lone Makes Rothschild tremble on his throne!"
Nowise! Nor Mayfair residence 100 Fit to receive and entertain— Nor Hampstead villa's kind defense From noise and crowd, from dust and drain— Nor country-box was soul's domain!
Nowise! At back of all that spread 105 Of merchandise, woe's me, I find A hole i' the wall where, heels by head, The owner couched, his ware behind —In cupboard suited to his mind.
For why? He saw no use of life 110 But, while he drove a roaring trade, To chuckle, "Customers are rife!" To chafe, "So much hard cash outlaid Yet zero in my profits made!
"This novelty costs pains, but—takes? 115 Cumbers my counter! Stock no more! This article, no such great shakes, Fizzes like wildfire? Underscore The cheap thing—thousands to the fore!"
'Twas lodging best to live most nigh 120 (Cramp, coffinlike as crib might be) Receipt of Custom; ear and eye Wanted no outworld: "Hear and see The bustle in the shop!" quoth he
My fancy of a merchant-prince 125 Was different. Through his wares we groped Our darkling way to—not to mince The matter—no black den where moped The master if we interloped!
Shop was shop only: household-stuff? 130 What did he want with comforts there? "Walls, ceiling, floor, stay blank and rough, So goods on sale show rich and rare! 'Sell and scud home' be shop's affair!"
What might he deal in? Gems, suppose! 135 Since somehow business must be done At cost of trouble—see, he throws You choice of jewels, everyone, Good, better, best, star, moon, and sun!
Which lies within your power of purse? 140 This ruby that would tip aright Solomon's scepter? Oh, your nurse Wants simply coral, the delight Of teething baby—stuff to bite!
Howe'er your choice fell, straight you took 145 Your purchase, prompt your money rang On counter—scarce the man forsook His study of the "Times," just swang Till-ward his hand that stopped the clang—
Then off made buyer with a prize, 150 Then seller to his "Times" returned; And so did day wear, wear, till eyes Brightened apace, for rest was earned; He locked door long ere candle burned.
And whither went he? Ask himself, 155 Not me! To change of scene, I think. Once sold the ware and pursed the pelf, Chaffer was scarce his meat and drink, Nor all his music—money-chink.
Because a man has shop to mind 160 In time and place, since flesh must live, Needs spirit lack all life behind, All stray thoughts, fancies fugitive, All loves except what trade can give?
I want to know a butcher paints, 165 A baker rhymes for his pursuit, Candlestick-maker much acquaints His soul with song, or, haply mute, Blows out his brains upon the flute!
But—shop each day and all day long! 170 Friend, your good angel slept, your star Suffered eclipse, fate did you wrong! From where these sorts of treasures are, There should our hearts be—Christ, how far!
On the sea and at the Hogue, sixteen hundred ninety-two, Did the English fight the French—woe to France! And, the thirty-first of May, helter-skelter through the blue, Like a crowd of frightened porpoises a shoal of sharks pursue, Came crowding ship on ship to Saint Malo on the Rance, 5 With the English fleet in view.
'Twas the squadron that escaped, with the victor in full chase; First and foremost of the drove, in his great ship, Damfreville; Close on him fled, great and small, Twenty-two good ships in all; 10 And they signaled to the place, "Help the winners of a race! Get us guidance, give us harbor, take us quick—or, quicker still, Here's the English can and will!"
Then the pilots of the place put out brisk and leapt on 15 board; "Why, what hope or chance have ships like these to pass?" laughed they; "Rocks to starboard, rocks to port, all the passage scarred and scored, Shall the Formidable here, with her twelve and eighty guns, Think to make the river-mouth by the single narrow way, Trust to enter—where 'tis ticklish for a craft of twenty tons, 20 And with flow at full beside? Now, 'tis slackest ebb of tide. Reach the mooring? Rather say, While rock stands or water runs, Not a ship will leave the bay!" 25
Then was called a council straight. Brief and bitter the debate: "Here's the English at our heels; would you have them take in tow All that's left us of the fleet, linked together stern and bow, For a prize to Plymouth Sound? 30 Better run the ships aground!" (Ended Damfreville his speech). "Not a minute more to wait! Let the Captains all and each Shove ashore, then blow up, burn the vessels on the beach! 35 France must undergo her fate.
"Give the word!" But no such word Was ever spoke or heard; For up stood, for out stepped, for in struck amid all these —A Captain? A Lieutenant? A Mate—first, second, third? 40 No such man of mark, and meet With his betters to compete! But a simple Breton sailor pressed by Tourville for the fleet, A poor coasting-pilot he, Herve Riel the Croisickese.
And "What mockery or malice have we here?" cries Herve Riel; 45 "Are you mad, you Malouins? Are you cowards, fools, or rogues? Talk to me of rocks and shoals, me who took the soundings, tell On my fingers every bank, every shallow, every smell 'Twixt the offing here and Greve where the river disembogues? Are you bought by English gold? Is it love the lying's for? 50 Morn and eve, night and day, Have I piloted your bay, Entered free and anchored fast at the foot of Solidor. Burn the fleet and ruin France? That were worse than fifty Hogues! Sirs, they know I speak the truth! Sirs, believe me 55 there's a way! Only let me lead the line, Have the biggest ship to steer, Get this Formidable clear, Make the others follow mine, And I lead them, most and least, by a passage I know well, 60 Right to Solidor past Greve, And there lay them safe and sound; And if one ship misbehave —Keel so much as grate the ground, Why, I've nothing but my life;—here's my head!" cries Herve 65 Riel.
Not a minute more to wait. "Steer us in, then, small and great! Take the helm, lead the line, save the squadron!" cried its chief. Captains, give the sailor place! He is Admiral, in brief. 70 Still the north-wind, by God's grace! See the noble fellow's face As the big ship, with a bound, Clears the entry like a hound, Keeps the passage as its inch of way were the wide sea's 75 profound! See, safe through shoal and rock, How they follow in a flock; Not a ship that misbehaves, not a keel that grates the ground, Not a spar that comes to grief! The peril, see, is past. 80 All are harbored to the last, And just as Herve Riel hollas, "Anchor!"—sure as fate Up the English come—too late!
So, the storm subsides to calm: They see the green trees wave 85 On the heights o'erlooking Greve. Hearts that bled are stanched with balm. "Just our rapture to enhance; Let the English rake the bay, Gnash their teeth, and glare askance 90 As they cannonade away! 'Neath rampired Solidor pleasant riding on the Rance!" How hope succeeds despair on each Captain's countenance! Out burst all with one accord, "This is Paradise for Hell! 95 Let France, let France's King Thank the man that did the thing!" What a shout, and all one word, "Herve Riel!" As he stepped in front once more, Not a symptom of surprise 100 In the frank blue Breton eyes, Just the same man as before.
Then said Damfreville, "My friend, I must speak out at the end, Though I find the speaking hard. 105 Praise is deeper than the lips; You have saved the King his ships, You must name your own reward. 'Faith, our sun was near eclipse! Demand whate'er you will, 110 France remains your debtor still. Ask to heart's content and have! or my name's not Damfreville."
Then a beam of fun outbroke On the bearded mouth that spoke, As the honest heart laughed through 115 Those frank eyes of Breton blue: "Since I needs must say my say, Since on board the duty's done, And from Malo Roads to Croisic Point, what is it but a run?— Since 'tis ask and have, I may— 120 Since the others go ashore— Come! A good whole holiday! Leave to go and see my wife, whom I call the Belle Aurore!" That he asked and that he got—nothing more.
Name and deed alike are lost. 125 Not a pillar nor a post In his Croisic keeps alive the feat as it befell; Not a head in white and black On a single fishing smack, In memory of the man but for whom had gone to wrack 130 All that France saved from the fight whence England bore the bell. Go to Paris: rank on rank Search the heroes flung pell-mell On the Louvre, face and flank! You shall look long enough ere you come to Herve Riel. 135 So, for better and for worse, Herve Riel, accept my verse! In my verse, Herve Riel, do thou once more Save the squadron, honor France, love thy wife, the Belle Aurore!
"GOOD, TO FORGIVE"
Good, to forgive; Best, to forget! Living, we fret; Dying, we live. Fretless and free, 5 Soul, clap thy pinion! Earth have dominion, Body, o'er thee!
Wander at will, Day after day— 10 Wander away, Wandering still— Soul that canst soar! Body may slumber: Body shall cumber 15 Soul-flight no more.
Waft of soul's wing! What lies above? Sunshine and Love, Skyblue and Spring! 20 Body hides—where? Ferns of all feather, Mosses and heather. Yours be the care!
"SUCH A STARVED BANK OF MOSS"
Such a starved bank of moss Till, that May-morn, Blue ran the flash across: Violets were born!
Sky—what a scowl of cloud 5 Till, near and far, Ray on ray split the shroud: Splendid, a star!
World—how it walled about Life with disgrace 10 Till God's own smile came out: That was thy face!
EPILOGUE TO THE TWO POETS OF CROISIC
What a pretty tale you told me Once upon a time —Said you found it somewhere (scold me!) Was it prose or was it rhyme, Greek or Latin? Greek, you said, 5 While your shoulder propped my head.
Anyhow there's no forgetting This much if no more, That a poet (pray, no petting!) Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore, 10 Went where suchlike used to go, Singing for a prize, you know.
Well, he had to sing, nor merely Sing but play the lyre; Playing was important clearly 15 Quite as singing—I desire, Sir, you keep the fact in mind For a purpose that's behind.
There stood he, while deep attention Held the judges round, 20 —Judges able, I should mention, To detect the slightest sound Sung or played amiss—such ears Had old judges, it appears!
None the less he sang out boldly, 25 Played in time and tune, Till the judges, weighing coldly Each note's worth, seemed, late or soon, Sure to smile, "In vain one tries Picking faults out; take the prize!" 30
When, a mischief! Were they seven Strings the lyre possessed? Oh, and afterwards eleven, Thank you! Well, sir—who had guessed Such ill luck in store?—it happed 35 One of those same seven strings snapped.
All was lost, then! No! a cricket (What "cicada"? Pooh!) —Some mad thing that left its thicket For mere love of music—flew 40 With its little heart on fire, Lighted on the crippled lyre.
So that when (ah, joy!) our singer For his truant string Feels with disconcerted finger, 45 What does cricket else but fling Fiery heart forth, sound the note Wanted by the throbbing throat?
Aye and, ever to the ending, Cricket chirps at need, 50 Executes the hand's intending, Promptly, perfectly—indeed Saves the singer from defeat With her chirrup low and sweet.
Till, at ending, all the judges 55 Cry with one assent, "Take the prize—a prize who grudges Such a voice and instrument? Why, we took your lyre for harp, So it shrilled us forth F sharp!" 60
Did the conqueror spurn the creature, Once its service done? That's no such uncommon feature In the case when Music's son Finds his Lotte's power too spent 65 For aiding soul-development.
No! This other, on returning Homeward, prize in hand, Satisfied his bosom's yearning (Sir, I hope you understand!) 70 —Said, "Some record there must be Of this cricket's help to me!"
So, he made himself a statue: Marble stood, life-size; On the lyre he pointed at you 75 Perched his partner in the prize; Never more apart you found Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.
That's the tale—its application? Somebody I know 80 Hopes one day for reputation Through his poetry that's—oh, All so learned and so wise And deserving of a prize!
If he gains one, will some ticket, 85 When his statue's built, Tell the gazer, "'Twas a cricket Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt Sweet and low, when strength usurped Softness' place i' the scale, she chirped? 90
"For as victory was nighest, While I sang and played— With my lyre at lowest, highest, Right alike—one string that made 'Love' sound soft was snapped in twain, 95 Never to be heard again—
"Had not a kind cricket fluttered, Perched upon the place Vacant left, and duly uttered, 'Love, Love, Love,' whene'er the bass 100 Asked the treble to atone For its somewhat somber drone."
But you don't know music! Wherefore Keep on casting pearls To a—poet? All I care for 105 Is—to tell him that a girl's "Love" comes aptly in when gruff Grows his singing. (There, enough!)
[Greek: Chairete, nikomen.]
First I salute this soil of the blessed, river and rock! Gods of my birthplace, daemons and heroes, honor to all! Then I name thee, claim thee for our patron, coequal in praise —Aye, with Zeus the Defender, with Her of the aegis and spear! Also ye of the bow and the buskin, praised be your peer, 5 Now, henceforth and forever—O latest to whom I upraise Hand and heart and voice! For Athens, leave pasture and flock! Present to help, potent to save, Pan—patron I call!
Archons of Athens, topped by the tettix, see, I return! See, 'tis myself here standing alive, no specter that speaks! 10 Crowned with the myrtle, did you command me, Athens and you, "Run, Pheidippides, run and race, reach Sparta for aid! Persia has come, we are here, where is She?" Your command I obeyed, Ran and raced; like stubble, some field which a fire runs through, Was the space between city and city. Two days, two nights did 15 I burn Over the hills, under the dales, down pits and up peaks.
Into their midst I broke; breath served but for "Persia has come! Persia bids Athens proffer slaves'-tribute, water and earth; Razed to the ground is Eretria—but Athens, shall Athens sink, Drop into dust and die—the flower of Hellas utterly die, 20 Die, with the wide world spitting at Sparta, the stupid, the stander-by? Answer me quick, what help, what hand do you stretch o'er destruction's brink? How—when? No care for my limbs!—there's lightning in all and some— Fresh and fit your message to bear, once lips give it birth!"
O my Athens—Sparta love thee? Did Sparta respond? 25 Every face of her leered in a furrow of envy, mistrust, Malice—each eye of her gave me its glitter of gratified hate! Gravely they turned to take counsel, to cast for excuses. I stood Quivering—the limbs of me fretting as fire frets, an inch from dry wood— "Persia has come, Athens asks aid, and still they debate? 30 Thunder, thou Zeus! Athene, are Spartans a quarry beyond Swing of thy spear? Phoibos and Artemis, clang them 'Ye must'!" No bolt launched from Olumpos! Lo, their answer at last!
"Has Persia come—does Athens ask aid—may Sparta befriend? Nowise precipitate judgment—too weighty the issue at stake! 35 Count we no time lost time which lags through respect to the gods! Ponder that precept of old, 'No warfare, whatever the odds In your favor, so long as the moon, half-orbed, is unable to take Full circle her state in the sky!' Already she rounds to it fast: Athens must wait, patient as we—who judgment suspend." 40
Athens—except for that sparkle—thy name, I had moldered to ash! That sent a blaze through my blood; off, off and away was I back, —Not one word to waste, one look to lose on the false and the vile! Yet "O gods of my land!" I cried, as each hillock and plain, Wood and stream, I knew, I named, rushing past them again, 45 "Have ye kept faith, proved mindful of honors we paid you erewhile? Vain was the filleted victim, the fulsome libation! Too rash Love in its choice, paid you so largely service so slack!
"Oak and olive and bay—I bid you cease to enwreathe Brows made bold by your leaf! Fade at the Persian's foot, 50 You that, our patrons were pledged, should never adorn a slave! Rather I hail thee, Parnes—trust to thy wild waste tract! Treeless, herbless, lifeless mountain! What matter if slacked My speed may hardly be, for homage to crag and to cave No deity deigns to drape with verdure? At least I can breathe, 55 Fear in thee no fraud from the blind, no lie from the mute!"
Such my cry as, rapid, I ran over Parnes' ridge; Gully and gap I clambered and cleared till, sudden, a bar Jutted, a stoppage of stone against me, blocking the way. Right! for I minded the hollow to traverse, the fissure across: 60 "Where I could enter, there I depart by! Night in the fosse? Athens to aid? Though the dive were through Erebos, thus I obey— Out of the day dive, into the day as bravely arise! No bridge Better!"—when—ha! what was it I came on, of wonders that are?
There, in the cool of a cleft, sat he—majestical Pan! 65 Ivy drooped wanton, kissed his head, moss cushioned his hoof; All the great god was good in the eyes grave-kindly—the curl Carved on the bearded cheek, amused at a mortal's awe, As, under the human trunk, the goat-thighs grand I saw. "Halt, Pheidippides!"—halt I did, my brain of a whirl. 70 "Hither to me! Why pale in my presence?" he gracious began; "How is it—Athens, only in Hellas, holds me aloof?
"Athens, she only, rears me no fane, makes me no feast! Wherefore? Than I what godship to Athens more helpful of old? Aye, and still, and forever her friend! Test Pan, trust me! 75 Go, bid Athens take heart, laugh Persia to scorn, have faith In the temples and tombs! Go, say to Athens, 'The Goat-God saith: When Persia—so much as strews not the soil—is cast in the sea, Then praise Pan who fought in the ranks with your most and least, Goat-thigh to greaved-thigh, made one cause with the free and 80 the bold!'
"Say Pan saith: 'Let this, foreshowing the place, be the pledge!'" (Gay, the liberal hand held out this herbage I bear —Fennel—I grasped it a-tremble with dew—whatever it bode) "While, as for thee" ... But enough! He was gone. If I ran hitherto— Be sure that, the rest of my journey, I ran no longer, but 85 flew. Parnes to Athens—earth no more, the air was my road; Here am I back. Praise Pan, we stand no more on the razor's edge! Pan for Athens, Pan for me! I too have a guerdon rare!
* * * * *
Then spoke Miltiades. "And thee, best runner of Greece, Whose limbs did duty indeed—what gift is promised thyself? 90 Tell it us straightway—Athens the mother demands of her son!" Rosily blushed the youth; he paused; but, lifting at length His eyes from the ground, it seemed as he gathered the rest of his strength Into the utterance—"Pan spoke thus: 'For what thou hast done Count on a worthy reward! Henceforth be allowed thee release 95 From the racer's toil, no vulgar reward in praise or in pelf!'
"I am bold to believe, Pan means reward the most to my mind! Fight I shall, with our foremost, wherever this fennel may grow— Pound—Pan helping us—Persia to dust, and, under the deep, Whelm her away forever; and then—no Athens to save— 100 Marry a certain maid, I know keeps faith to the brave— Hie to my house and home; and, when my children shall creep Close to my knees—recount how the God was awful yet kind, Promised their sire reward to the full—rewarding him—so!"
* * * * *
Unforeseeing one! Yes, he fought on the Marathon day; 105 So, when Persia was dust, all cried, "To Akropolis! Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due! 'Athens is saved, thank Pan,' go shout!" He flung down his shield, Ran like fire once more; and the space 'twixt the Fennel-field And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through, 110 Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine through clay, Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died—the bliss!
So, to this day, when friend meets friend, the word of salute Is still "Rejoice!"—his word which brought rejoicing indeed. So is Pheidippides happy forever—the noble strong man 115 Who could race like a god, bear the face of a god, whom a god loved so well; He saw the land saved he had helped to save, and was suffered to tell Such tidings, yet never decline, but, gloriously as he began, So to end gloriously—once to shout, thereafter be mute: "Athens is saved!"—Pheidippides dies in the shout for his 120 meed.
If a stranger passed the tent of Hoseyn, he cried, "A churl's!" Or haply, "God help the man who has neither salt nor bread!" —"Nay," would a friend exclaim, "he needs nor pity nor scorn More than who spends small thought on the shore-sand, picking pearls, —Holds but in light esteem the seed-sort, bears instead 5 On his breast a moon-like prize, some orb which of night makes morn.
"What if no flocks and herds enrich the son of Sinan? They went when his tribe was mulct, ten thousand camels the due, Blood-value paid perforce for a murder done of old. 'God gave them, let them go! But never since time began, 10 Muleykeh, peerless mare, owned master the match of you, And you are my prize, my Pearl; I laugh at men's land and gold!'
"So in the pride of his soul laughs Hoseyn—and right, I say. Do the ten steeds run a race of glory? Outstripping all, Ever Muleykeh stands first steed at the victor's staff. 15 Who started, the owner's hope, gets shamed and named, that day. 'Silence,' or, last but one, is 'The Cuffed,' as we use to call Whom the paddock's lord thrusts forth. Right, Hoseyn, I say, to laugh!"
"Boasts he Muleykeh the Pearl?" the stranger replies: "Be sure On him I waste nor scorn nor pity, but lavish both 20 On Duhl the son of Sheyban, who withers away in heart For envy of Hoseyn's luck. Such sickness admits no cure. A certain poet has sung, and sealed the same with an oath, 'For the vulgar—flocks and herds! The Pearl is a prize apart.'"
Lo, Duhl the son of Sheyban comes riding to Hoseyn's tent, 25 And he casts his saddle down, and enters and "Peace!" bids he. "You are poor, I know the cause: my plenty shall mend the wrong. 'Tis said of your Pearl—the price of a hundred camels spent In her purchase were scarce ill paid; such prudence is far from me Who proffer a thousand. Speak! Long parley may last too 30 long."
Said Hoseyn, "You feed young beasts a many, of famous breed, Slit-eared, unblemished, fat, true offspring of Muzennem: There stumbles no weak-eyed she in the line as it climbs the hill. But I love Muleykeh's face; her forefront whitens indeed Like a yellowish wave's cream-crest. Your camels—go gaze on 35 them! Her fetlock is foam-splashed too. Myself am the richer still."
A year goes by; lo, back to the tent again rides Duhl. "You are open-hearted, aye—moist-handed, a very prince. Why should I speak of sale? Be the mare your simple gift! My son is pined to death for her beauty; my wife prompts, 40 'Fool, Beg for his sake the Pearl! Be God the rewarder, since God pays debts seven for one; who squanders on Him shows thrift.'"
Said Hoseyn, "God gives each man one life, like a lamp, then gives That lamp due measure of oil; lamp lighted—hold high, wave wide Its comfort for others to share! once quench it, what help is 45 left? The oil of your lamp is your son, I shine while Muleykeh lives. Would I beg your son to cheer my dark if Muleykeh died? It is life against life—what good avails to the life-bereft?"
Another year, and—hist! What craft is it Duhl designs? He alights not at the door of the tent as he did last time, 50 But, creeping behind, he gropes his stealthy way by the trench Half-round till he finds the flap in the folding, for night combines With the robber—and such is he: Duhl, covetous up to crime, Must wring from Hoseyn's grasp the Pearl, by whatever the wrench.
"He was hunger-bitten, I heard; I tempted with half my store, 55 And a gibe was all my thanks. Is he generous like Spring dew? Account the fault to me who chaffered with such an one! He has killed, to feast chance comers, the creature he rode; nay, more— For a couple of singing-girls his robe has he torn in two— I will beg! Yet I nowise gained by the tale of my wife and 60 son.
"I swear by the Holy House, my head will I never wash Till I filch his Pearl away. Fair dealing I tried, then guile, And now I resort to force. He said we must live or die; Let him die, then—let me live! Be bold—but not too rash! I have found me a peeping-place; breast, bury your breathing 65 while I explore for myself! Now, breathe! He deceived me not, the spy!
"As he said—there lies in peace Hoseyn—how happy! Beside Stands tethered the Pearl; thrice winds her headstall about his wrist; 'Tis therefore he sleeps so sound—the moon through the roof reveals. And, loose on his left, stands too that other, known far and 70 wide, Buheyseh, her sister born; fleet is she yet ever missed The winning tail's fire-flash a-stream past the thunderous heels.
"No less she stands saddled and bridled, this second, in case some thief Should enter and seize and fly with the first, as I mean to do. What then? The Pearl is the Pearl—once mount her we both 75 escape." Through the skirt-fold in glides Duhl—so a serpent disturbs no leaf In a bush as he parts the twigs entwining a nest; clean through, He is noiselessly at his work; as he planned, he performs the rape.
He has set the tent-door wide, has buckled the girth, has clipped The headstall away from the wrist he leaves thrice bound as 80 before, He springs on the Pearl, is launched on the desert like bolt from bow. Up starts our plundered man; from his breast though the heart be ripped, Yet his mind has the mastery. Behold, in a minute more, He is out and off and away on Buheyseh, whose worth we know!
And Hoseyn—his blood turns flame, he has learned long since 85 to ride, And Buheyseh does her part—they gain—they are gaining fast On the fugitive pair, and Duhl has Ed-Darraj to cross and quit, And to reach the ridge El-Saban—no safety till that be spied! And Buheyseh is, bound by bound, but a horse-length off at last, For the Pearl has missed the tap of the heel, the touch of 90 the bit.
She shortens her stride, she chafes at her rider the strange and queer: Buheyseh is mad with hope—beat sister she shall and must, Though Duhl, of the hand and heel so clumsy, she has to thank. She is near now, nose by tail—they are neck by croup—joy! fear! What folly makes Hoseyn shout, "Dog Duhl, Damned son of the 95 Dust, Touch the right ear and press with your foot my Pearl's left flank!"
And Duhl was wise at the word, and Muleykeh as prompt perceived Who was urging redoubled pace, and to hear him was to obey, And a leap indeed gave she, and evanished for evermore. And Hoseyn looked one long last look as who, all bereaved, 100 Looks, fain to follow the dead so far as the living may; Then he turned Buheyseh's neck slow homeward, weeping sore.
And, lo, in the sunrise, still sat Hoseyn upon the ground Weeping; and neighbors came, the tribesmen of Benu-Asad In the vale of green Er-Rass, and they questioned him of his 105 grief; And he told from first to last how, serpent-like, Duhl had wound His way to the nest, and how Duhl rode like an ape, so bad! And how Buheyseh did wonders, yet Pearl remained with the thief.
And they jeered him, one and all: "Poor Hoseyn is crazed past hope! How else had he wrought himself his ruin, in fortune's 110 spite? To have simply held the tongue were a task for boy or girl, And here were Muleykeh again, the eyed like an antelope, The child of his heart by day, the wife of his breast by night!"— "And the beaten in speed!" wept Hoseyn. "You never have loved my Pearl."
Wanting is—what? Summer redundant, Blueness abundant, —Where is the blot? Beamy the world, yet a blank all the same —Framework which waits for a picture to frame; 5 What of the leafage, what of the flower? Roses embowering with naught they embower! Come then, complete incompletion, O comer, Pant through the blueness, perfect the summer! Breathe but one breath 10 Rose-beauty above, And all that was death Grows life, grows love, Grows love!
NEVER THE TIME AND THE PLACE
Never the time and the place And the loved one all together! This path—how soft to pace! This May—what magic weather! Where is the loved one's face? 5 In a dream that loved one's face meets mine, But the house is narrow, the place is bleak Where, outside, rain and wind combine With a furtive ear, if I strive to speak, With a hostile eye at my flushing cheek, 10 With a malice that marks each word, each sign! O enemy sly and serpentine, Uncoil thee from the waking man! Do I hold the Past Thus firm and fast 15 Yet doubt if the Future hold I can? This path so soft to pace shall lead Through the magic of May to herself indeed! Or narrow if needs the house must be, Outside are the storms and strangers; we— 20 Oh, close, safe, warm sleep I and she —I and she!