It was roses, roses, all the way, With myrtle mixed in my path like mad; The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway, The church-spires flamed, such flags they had, A year ago on this very day. 5
The air broke into a mist with bells, The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries. Had I said, "Good folk, mere noise repels— But give me your sun from yonder skies!" They had answered, "And afterward, what else?" 10
Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun To give it my loving friends to keep! Naught man could do, have I left undone; And you see my harvest, what I reap This very day, now a year is run. 15
There's nobody on the housetops now— Just a palsied few at the windows set; For the best of the sight is, all allow, At the Shambles' Gate—or, better yet, By the very scaffold's foot, I trow. 20
I go in the rain, and, more than needs, A rope cuts both my wrists behind; And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds, For they fling, whoever has a mind, Stones at me for my year's misdeeds. 25
Thus I entered, and thus I go! In triumphs, people have dropped down dead. "Paid by the world, what dost thou owe Me?"—God might question; now instead, 'Tis God shall repay; I am safer so. 30
Of the million or two, more or less, I rule and possess, One man, for some cause undefined, Was least to my mind.
I struck him; he groveled, of course— 5 For what was his force? I pinned him to earth with my weight And persistence of hate; And he lay, would not moan, would not curse, As his lot might be worse. 10
"Were the object less mean, would he stand At the swing of my hand! For obscurity helps him and blots The hole where he squats." So I set my five wits on the stretch 15 To inveigle the wretch. All in vain! Gold and jewels I threw; Still he couched there perdue; I tempted his blood and his flesh, Hid in roses my mesh, 20 Choicest cates and the flagon's best spilth; Still he kept to his filth.
Had he kith now or kin, were access To his heart, did I press; Just a son or a mother to seize! 25 No such booty as these. Were it simply a friend to pursue 'Mid my million or two, Who could pay me in person or pelf What he owes me himself! 30 No; I could not but smile through my chafe; For the fellow lay safe As his mates do, the midge and the nit —Through minuteness, to wit.
Then a humor more great took its place 35 At the thought of his face, The droop, the low cares of the mouth, The trouble uncouth 'Twixt the brows, all that air one is fain To put out of its pain. 40 And, "no!" I admonished myself, "Is one mocked by an elf, Is one baffled by toad or by rat? The gravamen's in that! How the lion, who crouches to suit 45 His back to my foot, Would admire that I stand in debate! But the small turns the great If it vexes you—that is the thing! Toad or rat vex the king? 50 Though I waste half my realm to unearth Toad or rat, 'tis well worth!"
So I soberly laid my last plan To extinguish the man. Round his creep-hole, with never a break, 55 Ran my fires for his sake; Overhead, did my thunder combine With my underground mine: Till I looked from my labor content To enjoy the event. 60
When sudden ... how think ye, the end? Did I say "without friend"? Say, rather, from marge to blue marge The whole sky grew his targe With the sun's self for visible boss, 65 While an Arm ran across Which the earth heaved beneath like a breast Where the wretch was safe pressed! Do you see? Just my vengeance complete, The man sprang to his feet, 70 Stood erect, caught at God's skirts, and prayed! —So, I was afraid!
THE ITALIAN IN ENGLAND
That second time they hunted me From hill to plain, from shore to sea, And Austria, hounding far and wide Her bloodhounds through the countryside. Breathed hot and instant on my trace— 5 I made six days a hiding-place Of that dry green old aqueduct Where I and Charles, when boys, have plucked The fireflies from the roof above, Bright creeping through the moss they love: 10 —How long it seems since Charles was lost! Six days the soldiers crossed and crossed The country in my very sight; And when that peril ceased at night, The sky broke out in red dismay 15 With signal fires; well, there I lay Close covered o'er in my recess, Up to the neck in ferns and cress, Thinking of Metternich our friend, And Charles's miserable end, 20 And much beside, two days; the third, Hunger o'ercame me when I heard The peasants from the village go To work among the maize; you know, With us in Lombardy, they bring 25 Provisions packed on mules, a string With little bells that cheer their task, And casks, and boughs on every cask To keep the sun's heat from the wine; These I let pass in jingling line, 30 And, close on them, dear noisy crew, The peasants from the village, too; For at the very rear would troop Their wives and sisters in a group To help, I knew. When these had passed, 35 I threw my glove to strike the last, Taking the chance; she did not start, Much less cry out, but stooped apart, One instant rapidly glanced round, And saw me beckon from the ground; 40 A wild bush grows and hides my crypt; She picked my glove up while she stripped A branch off, then rejoined the rest With that; my glove lay in her breast. Then I drew breath; they disappeared; 45 It was for Italy I feared.
An hour, and she returned alone Exactly where my glove was thrown. Meanwhile came many thoughts; on me Rested the hopes of Italy; 50 I had devised a certain tale Which, when 'twas told her, could not fail Persuade a peasant of its truth; I meant to call a freak of youth This hiding, and give hopes of pay, 55 And no temptation to betray. But when I saw that woman's face, Its calm simplicity of grace, Our Italy's own attitude In which she walked thus far, and stood, 60 Planting each naked foot so firm, To crush the snake and spare the worm— At first sight of her eyes, I said, "I am that man upon whose head They fix the price, because I hate 65 The Austrians over us; the State Will give you gold—oh, gold so much!— If you betray me to their clutch, And be your death, for aught I know, If once they find you saved their foe. 70 Now you must bring me food and drink, And also paper, pen, and ink, And carry safe what I shall write To Padua, which you'll reach at night Before the duomo shuts; go in, 75 And wait till Tenebrae begin; Walk to the third confessional, Between the pillar and the wall, And kneeling whisper, Whence comes peace? Say it a second time, then cease; 80 And if the voice inside returns, From Christ and Freedom; what concerns The cause of Peace?—for answer, slip My letter where you placed your lip; Then come back happy we have done 85 Our mother service—I, the son, As you the daughter of our land!"
Three mornings more, she took her stand In the same place, with the same eyes; I was no surer of sunrise 90 Than of her coming. We conferred Of her own prospects, and I heard She had a lover—stout and tall, She said—then let her eyelids fall, "He could do much"—as if some doubt 95 Entered her heart—then, passing out, "She could not speak for others, who Had other thoughts; herself she knew"; And so she brought me drink and food. After four days the scouts pursued 100 Another path; at last arrived The help my Paduan friends contrived To furnish me; she brought the news. For the first time I could not choose But kiss her hand, and lay my own 105 Upon her head—"This faith was shown To Italy, our mother; she Uses my hand and blesses thee." She followed down to the seashore; I left and never saw her more. 110
How very long since I have thought Concerning—much less wished for—aught Beside the good of Italy, For which I live and mean to die! I never was in love; and since 115 Charles proved false, what shall now convince My inmost heart I have a friend? However, if I pleased to spend Real wishes on myself—say, three— I know at least what one should be. 120 I would grasp Metternich until I felt his red wet throat distill In blood through these two hands. And next —Nor much for that am I perplexed— Charles, perjured traitor, for his part, 125 Should die slow of a broken heart Under his new employers. Last —Ah, there, what should I wish? For fast Do I grow old and out of strength. If I resolved to seek at length 130 My father's house again, how scared They all would look, and unprepared! My brothers live in Austria's pay —Disowned me long ago, men say; And all my early mates who used 135 To praise me so—perhaps induced More than one early step of mine— Are turning wise; while some opine, "Freedom grows license," some suspect, "Haste breeds delay," and recollect 140 They always said, such premature Beginnings never could endure! So, with a sullen "All's for best," The land seems settling to its rest. I think then, I should wish to stand 145 This evening in that dear, lost land, Over the sea the thousand miles, And know if yet that woman smiles With the calm smile; some little farm She lives in there, no doubt; what harm 150 If I sat on the door-side bench, And, while her spindle made a trench Fantastically in the dust, Inquired of all her fortunes—just Her children's ages and their names, 155 And what may be the husband's aims For each of them. I'd talk this out, And sit there, for an hour about, Then kiss her hand once more, and lay Mine on her head, and go my way. 160
So much for idle wishing—how It steals the time! To business now.
"ROUND US THE WILD CREATURES"
Round us the wild creatures, overhead the trees, Underfoot the moss-tracks—life and love with these! I to wear a fawn-skin, thou to dress in flowers; All the long lone summer day, that greenwood life of ours!
Rich-pavilioned, rather—still the world without— 5 Inside—gold-roofed, silk-walled silence round about! Queen it thou on purple—I, at watch and ward, Couched beneath the columns, gaze, thy slave, love's guard!
So, for us no world? Let throngs press thee to me! Up and down amid men, heart by heart fare we! 10 Welcome squalid vesture, harsh voice, hateful face! God is soul, souls I and thou; with souls should souls have place.
PROLOGUE TO ASOLANDO
"The Poet's age is sad: for why? In youth, the natural world could show No common object but his eye At once involved with alien glow— His own soul's iris-bow. 5
"And now a flower is just a flower; Man, bird, beast are but beast, bird, man Simply themselves, uncinct by dower Of dyes which, when life's day began, Round each in glory ran." 10
Friend, did you need an optic glass, Which were your choice? A lens to drape In ruby, emerald, chrysopras, Each object—or reveal its shape Clear outlined, past escape, 15
The naked very thing?—so clear That, when you had the chance to gaze, You found its inmost self appear Through outer seeming—truth ablaze, Not falsehood's fancy-haze? 20
How many a year, my Asolo, Since—one step just from sea to land— I found you, loved yet feared you so— For natural objects seemed to stand Palpably fire-clothed! No— 25
No mastery of mine o'er these! Terror with beauty, like the Bush Burning but unconsumed. Bend knees, Drop eyes to earthward! Language? Tush! Silence 'tis awe decrees. 30
And now? The lambent flame is—where? Lost from the naked world; earth, sky, Hill, vale, tree, flower—Italia's rare O'errunning beauty crowds the eye— But flame? The Bush is bare. 35
Hill, vale, tree, flower—they stand distinct, Nature to know and name. What then? A Voice spoke thence which straight unlinked Fancy from fact; see, all's in ken: Has once my eyelid winked? 40
No, for the purged ear apprehends Earth's import, not the eye late dazed. The Voice said, "Call my works thy friends! At Nature dost thou shrink amazed? God is it who transcends."
All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee; All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem; In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea; Breath and bloom, shade and shine—wonder, wealth, and—how far above them— Truth, that's brighter than gem, 5 Trust, that's purer than pearl— Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe—all were for me In the kiss of one girl.
EPILOGUE TO ASOLANDO
At the midnight in the silence of the sleep-time, When you set your fancies free, Will they pass to where—by death, fools think, imprisoned— Low he lies who once so loved you, whom you loved so, —Pity me?
Oh, to love so, be so loved, yet so mistaken! 5 What had I on earth to do With the slothful, with the mawkish, the unmanly? Like the aimless, helpless, hopeless, did I drivel —Being—who?
One who never turned his back, but marched breast forward, Never doubted clouds would break, 10 Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph, Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better, Sleep to wake.
No, at noonday in the bustle of man's work time Greet the unseen with a cheer! Bid him forward, breast and back as either should be, 15 "Strive and thrive!" cry "Speed—fight on, fare ever There as here!"
PIPPA. OTTIMA. SEBALD. Foreign Students. GOTTLIEB. SCHRAMM. JULES. PHENE. Austrian Police. BLUPHOCKS. LUIGI and his Mother. Poor Girls. MONSIGNOR and his Attendants.
NEW YEAR'S DAY AT ASOLO IN THE TREVISAN
SCENE.—A large, mean, airy chamber. A girl, PIPPA, from the silk-mills, springing out of bed.
Day! Faster and more fast, O'er night's brim, day boils at last; Boils, pure gold, o'er the cloud-cup's brim Where spurting and suppressed it lay, 5 For not a froth-flake touched the rim Of yonder gap in the solid gray Of the eastern cloud, an hour away; But forth one wavelet, then another, curled, Till the whole sunrise, not to be suppressed, 10 Rose, reddened, and its seething breast Flickered in bounds, grew gold, than overflowed the world.
Oh, Day, if I squander a wavelet of thee, A mite of my twelve hours' treasure, The least of thy gazes or glances 15 (Be they grants thou art bound to or gifts above measure), One of thy choices or one of thy chances, (Be they tasks God imposed thee or freaks at thy pleasure) —My Day, if I squander such labor or leisure, Then shame fall on Asolo, mischief on me! 20
Thy long blue solemn hours serenely flowing, Whence earth, we feel, gets steady help and good— Thy fitful sunshine-minutes, coming, going, As if earth turned from work in gamesome mood— All shall be mine! But thou must treat me not 25 As prosperous ones are treated, those who live At hand here, and enjoy the higher lot, In readiness to take what thou wilt give, And free to let alone what thou refusest; For, Day, my holiday, if thou ill-usest 30 Me, who am only Pippa—old-year's sorrow, Cast off last night, will come again tomorrow; Whereas, if thou prove gentle, I shall borrow Sufficient strength of thee for new-year's sorrow. All other men and women that this earth 35 Belongs to, who all days alike possess, Make general plenty cure particular dearth, Get more joy one way, if another, less; Thou art my single day, God lends to leaven What were all earth else, with a feel of heaven— 40 Sole light that helps me through the year, thy sun's! Try now! Take Asolo's Four Happiest Ones— And let thy morning rain on that superb Great haughty Ottima; can rain disturb Her Sebald's homage? All the while thy rain 45 Beats fiercest on her shrub-house windowpane, He will but press the closer, breathe more warm Against her cheek; how should she mind the storm? And, morning past, if midday shed a gloom O'er Jules and Phene—what care bride and groom 50 Save for their dear selves? 'Tis their marriage-day; And while they leave church and go home their way, Hand clasping hand, within each breast would be Sunbeams and pleasant weather spite of thee. Then, for another trial, obscure thy eve 55 With mist—will Luigi and his mother grieve— The lady and her child, unmatched, forsooth, She in her age, as Luigi in his youth, For true content? The cheerful town, warm, close, And safe, the sooner that thou art morose, 60 Receives them. And yet once again, outbreak In storm at night on Monsignor, they make Such stir about—whom they expect from Rome To visit Asolo, his brothers' home, And say here masses proper to release 65 A soul from pain—what storm dares hurt his peace? Calm would he pray, with his own thoughts to ward Thy thunder off, nor want the angels' guard. But Pippa—just one such mischance would spoil Her day that lightens the next twelve-month's toil 70 At wearisome silk-winding, coil on coil! And here I let time slip for naught! Aha, you foolhardy sunbeam, caught With a single splash from my ewer! You that would mock the best pursuer, 75 Was my basin over-deep? One splash of water ruins you asleep, And up, up, fleet your brilliant bits Wheeling and counterwheeling, Reeling, broken beyond healing— 80 Now grow together on the ceiling! That will task your wits. Whoever it was quenched fire first, hoped to see Morsel after morsel flee As merrily, as giddily ... 85 Meantime, what lights my sunbeam on, Where settles by degrees the radiant cripple? Oh, is it surely blown, my martagon? New-blown and ruddy as St. Agnes' nipple, Plump as the flesh-bunch on some Turk bird's poll! 90 Be sure if corals, branching 'neath the ripple Of ocean, bud there, fairies watch unroll Such turban-flowers; I say, such lamps disperse Thick red flame through that dusk green universe! I am queen of thee, floweret! 95 And each fleshy blossom Preserve I not—safer Than leaves that embower it, Or shells that embosom— From weevil and chafer? 100 Laugh through my pane then; solicit the bee; Gibe him, be sure; and, in midst of thy glee, Love thy queen, worship me!
—Worship whom else? For am I not, this day, Whate'er I please? What shall I please today? 105 My morn, noon, eve, and night—how spend my day? Tomorrow I must be Pippa who winds silk, The whole year round, to earn just bread and milk. But, this one day, I have leave to go, And play out my fancy's fullest games; 110 I may fancy all day—and it shall be so— That I taste of the pleasures, am called by the names Of the Happiest Four in our Asolo!
See! Up the hillside yonder, through the morning, Someone shall love me, as the world calls love; 115 I am no less than Ottima, take warning! The gardens, and the great stone house above, And other house for shrubs, all glass in front, Are mine; where Sebald steals, as he is wont, To court me, while old Luca yet reposes; 120 And therefore, till the shrub-house door uncloses, I—what now?—give abundant cause for prate About me—Ottima, I mean—of late, Too bold, too confident she'll still face down The spitefullest of talkers in our town. 125 How we talk in the little town below! But love, love, love—there's better love, I know! This foolish love was only day's first offer; I choose my next love to defy the scoffer; For do not our Bride and Bridegroom sally 130 Out of Possagno church at noon? Their house looks over Orcana valley— Why should not I be the bride as soon As Ottima? For I saw, beside, Arrive last night that little bride— 135 Saw, if you call it seeing her, one flash Of the pale snow-pure cheek and black bright tresses, Blacker than all except the black eyelash; I wonder she contrives those lids no dresses! So strict was she, the veil 140 Should cover close her pale Pure cheeks—a bride to look at and scarce touch, Scarce touch, remember, Jules! For are not such Used to be tended, flower-like, every feature, As if one's breath would fray the lily of a creature? 145 A soft and easy life these ladies lead! Whiteness in us were wonderful indeed. Oh, save that brow its virgin dimness, Keep that foot its lady primness, Let those ankles never swerve 150 From their exquisite reserve, Yet have to trip along the streets like me, All but naked to the knee! How will she ever grant her Jules a bliss So startling as her real first infant kiss? 155 Oh, no—not envy, this!
—Not envy, sure!—for if you gave me Leave to take or to refuse, In earnest, do you think I'd choose That sort of new love to enslave me? 160 Mine should have lapped me round from the beginning; As little fear of losing it as winning; Lovers grow cold, men learn to hate their wives, And only parents' love can last our lives. At eve the Son and Mother, gentle pair, 165 Commune inside our turret; what prevents My being Luigi? While that mossy lair Of lizards through the wintertime is stirred With each to each imparting sweet intents For this new-year, as brooding bird to bird 170 (For I observe of late, the evening walk Of Luigi and his mother, always ends Inside our ruined turret, where they talk, Calmer than lovers, yet more kind than friends), Let me be cared about, kept out of harm, 175 And schemed for, safe in love as with a charm; Let me be Luigi! If I only knew What was my mother's face—my father, too! Nay, if you come to that, best love of all Is God's; then why not have God's love befall 180 Myself as, in the palace by the Dome, Monsignor?—who tonight will bless the home Of his dead brother; and God bless in turn That heart which beats, those eyes which mildly burn With love for all men! I tonight at least, 185 Would be that holy and beloved priest.
Now wait!—even I already seem to share In God's love: what does New-year's hymn declare? What other meaning do these verses bear?
All service ranks the same with God: 190 If now, as formerly he trod Paradise, his presence fills Our earth, each only as God wills Can work—God's puppets, best and worst, Are we; there is no last nor first. 195
Say not "a small event!" Why "small"? Costs it more pain that this, ye call A "great event," should come to pass, Than that? Untwine me from the mass Of deeds which make up life, one deed 200 Power shall fall short in or exceed!
And more of it, and more of it!—oh yes— I will pass each, and see their happiness, And envy none—being just as great, no doubt, Useful to men, and dear to God, as they! 205 A pretty thing to care about So mightily, this single holiday! But let the sun shine! Wherefore repine? —With thee to lead me, O Day of mine, Down the grass path gray with dew, 210 Under the pine-wood, blind with boughs, Where the swallow never flew Nor yet cicala dared carouse— No, dared carouse! [She enters the street
SCENE.—Up the Hillside, inside the Shrub-house. LUCA'S wife, OTTIMA, and her paramour, the German SEBALD.
Let the watching lids wink! Day's ablaze with eyes, think! Deep into the night, drink!
Ottima. Night? Such may be your Rhineland nights, perhaps; But this blood-red beam through the shutter's chink 5 —We call such light the morning: let us see! Mind how you grope your way, though! How these tall Naked geraniums straggle! Push the lattice Behind that frame!—Nay, do I bid you?—Sebald, It shakes the dust down on me! Why, of course 10 The slide-bolt catches. Well, are you content, Or must I find you something else to spoil? Kiss and be friends, my Sebald! Is 't full morning? Oh, don't speak then!
Sebald. Aye, thus it used to be. Ever your house was, I remember, shut 15 Till midday; I observed that, as I strolled On mornings through the vale here; country girls Were noisy, washing garments in the brook, Hinds drove the slow white oxen up the hills; But no, your house was mute, would ope no eye. 20 And wisely; you were plotting one thing there, Nature, another outside. I looked up— Rough white wood shutters, rusty iron bars, Silent as death, blind in a flood of light, Oh, I remember!—and the peasants laughed 25 And said, "The old man sleeps with the young wife." This house was his, this chair, this window—his!
Ottima. Ah, the clear morning! I can see St. Mark's; That black streak is the belfry. Stop: Vicenza Should lie—there's Padua, plain enough, that blue! 30 Look o'er my shoulder, follow my finger!
Sebald. Morning? It seems to me a night with a sun added. Where's dew, where's freshness? That bruised plant, I bruised In getting through the lattice yestereve, Droops as it did. See, here's my elbow's mark 35 I' the dust o' the sill.
Ottima. Oh, shut the lattice, pray!
Sebald. Let me lean out. I cannot scent blood here, Foul as the morn may be. There, shut the world out! How do you feel now, Ottima? There, curse The world and all outside! Let us throw off 40 This mask: how do you bear yourself? Let's out With all of it.
Ottima. Best never speak of it.
Sebald. Best speak again and yet again of it. Till words cease to be more than words. "His blood," For instance—let those two words mean "His blood" 45 And nothing more. Notice, I'll say them now, "His blood."
Ottima. Assuredly if I repented The deed—
Sebald. Repent? Who should repent, or why? What puts that in your head? Did I once say That I repented?
Ottima. No; I said the deed— 50
Sebald. "The deed" and "the event"—just now it was "Our passion's fruit"—the devil take such cant! Say, once and always, Luca was a wittol, I am his cutthroat, you are—
Ottima. Here's the wine; I brought it when we left the house above, 55 And glasses too—wine of both sorts. Black? White then?
Sebald. But am not I his cutthroat? What are you?
Ottima. There trudges on his business from the Duomo Benet the Capuchin, with his brown hood And bare feet; always in one place at church, 60 Close under the stone wall by the south entry. I used to take him for a brown cold piece Of the wall's self, as out of it he rose To let me pass—at first, I say, I used— Now, so has that dumb figure fastened on me, 65 I rather should account the plastered wall A piece of him, so chilly does it strike. This, Sebald?
Sebald. No, the white wine—the white wine! Well, Ottima, I promised no new year Should rise on us the ancient shameful way; 70 Nor does it rise. Pour on! To your black eyes! Do you remember last damned New Year's day?
Ottima. You brought those foreign prints. We looked at them Over the wine and fruit. I had to scheme To get him from the fire. Nothing but saying 75 His own set wants the proof-mark, roused him up To hunt them out.
Sebald. 'Faith, he is not alive To fondle you before my face.
Ottima. Do you Fondle me then! Who means to take your life For that, my Sebald? 80
Sebald. Hark you, Ottima! One thing to guard against. We'll not make much One of the other—that is, not make more Parade of warmth, childish officious coil, Than yesterday—as if, sweet, I supposed Proof upon proof were needed now, now first, 85 To show I love you—yes, still love you—love you In spite of Luca and what's come to him— Sure sign we had him ever in our thoughts, White sneering old reproachful face and all! We'll even quarrel, love, at times, as if 90 We still could lose each other, were not tied By this—conceive you?
Sebald. Not tied so sure! Because though I was wrought upon, have struck His insolence back into him—am I So surely yours?—therefore forever yours? 95
Ottima. Love, to be wise (one counsel pays another), Should we have—months ago, when first we loved, For instance that May morning we two stole Under the green ascent of sycamores—If we had come upon a thing like that 100 Suddenly—
Sebald. "A thing"—there again—"a thing!"
Ottima. Then, Venus' body, had we come upon My husband Luca Gaddi's murdered corpse Within there, at his couch-foot, covered close— Would you have pored upon it? Why persist 105 In poring now upon it? For 'tis here As much as there in the deserted house; You cannot rid your eyes of it. For me, Now he is dead I hate him worse; I hate— Dare you stay here? I would go back and hold 110 His two dead hands, and say, "I hate you worse, Luca, than"—
Sebald. Off, off—take your hands off mine, 'Tis the hot evening—off! oh, morning, is it?
Ottima. There's one thing must be done—you know what thing. Come in and help to carry. We may sleep 115 Anywhere in the whole wide house tonight.
Sebald. What would come, think you, if we let him lie Just as he is? Let him lie there until The angels take him! He is turned by this Off from his face beside, as you will see. 120
Ottima. This dusty pane might serve for looking-glass. Three, four—four gray hairs! Is it so you said A plait of hair should wave across my neck? No—this way.
Sebald. Ottima, I would give your neck, Each splendid shoulder, both those breasts of yours, 125 That this were undone! Killing! Kill the world, So Luca lives again!—aye, lives to sputter His fulsome dotage on you—yes, and feign Surprise that I return at eve to sup, When all the morning I was loitering here— 130 Bid me dispatch my business and begone. I would—
Sebald. No, I'll finish. Do you think I fear to speak the bare truth once for all? All we have talked of, is at bottom, fine To suffer; there's a recompense in guilt; 135 One must be venturous and fortunate— What is one young for, else? In age we'll sigh O'er the wild, reckless, wicked days flown over; Still, we have lived; the vice was in its place. But to have eaten Luca's bread, have worn 140 His clothes, have felt his money swell my purse— Do lovers in romances sin that way? Why, I was starving when I used to call And teach you music, starving while you plucked me These flowers to smell! 145
Ottima. My poor lost friend!
Sebald. He gave me Life, nothing else; what if he did reproach My perfidy, and threaten, and do more— Had he no right? What was to wonder at? He sat by us at table quietly— Why must you lean across till our cheeks touched? 150 Could he do less than make pretense to strike? 'Tis not the crime's sake—I'd commit ten crimes Greater, to have this crime wiped out, undone! And you—oh, how feel you? Feel you for me?
Ottima. Well then, I love you better now than ever, 155 And best (look at me while I speak to you)— Best for the crime; nor do I grieve, in truth, This mask, this simulated ignorance, This affectation of simplicity, Falls off our crime; this naked crime of ours 160 May not now be looked over—look it down! Great? Let it be great; but the joys it brought, Pay they or no its price? Come: they or it Speak not! The past, would you give up the past Such as it is, pleasure and crime together? 165 Give up that noon I owned my love for you? The garden's silence! even the single bee Persisting in his toil, suddenly stopped, And where he hid you only could surmise By some campanula chalice set a-swing. 170 Who stammered—"Yes, I love you?"
Sebald. And I drew Back; put far back your face with both my hands Lest you should grow too full of me—your face So seemed athirst for my whole soul and body!
Ottima. And when I ventured to receive you here, 175 Made you steal hither in the mornings—
Sebald. When I used to look up 'neath the shrub-house here, Till the red fire on its glazed windows spread To a yellow haze?
Ottima. Ah—my sign was, the sun Inflamed the sear side of yon chestnut-tree 180 Nipped by the first frost.
Sebald. You would always laugh At my wet boots: I had to stride through grass Over my ankles.
Ottima. Then our crowning night!
Sebald. The July night?
Ottima. The day of it too, Sebald! When heaven's pillars seemed o'erbowed with heat, 185 Its black-blue canopy suffered descend Close on us both, to weigh down each to each, And smother up all life except our life. So lay we till the storm came.
Sebald. How it came!
Ottima. Buried in woods we lay, you recollect; 190 Swift ran the searching tempest overhead; And ever and anon some bright white shaft Burned through the pine-tree roof, here burned and there, As if God's messenger through the close wood screen Plunged and replunged his weapon at a venture, 195 Feeling for guilty thee and me; then broke The thunder like a whole sea overhead—
* * * * *
Sebald. Slower, Ottima! Do not lean on me!
Ottima. Sebald, as we lay, Who said, "Let death come now! 'Tis right to die! Right to be punished! Naught completes such bliss 200 But woe!" Who said that?
Sebald. How did we ever rise? Was't that we slept? Why did it end?
Ottima. I felt you Taper into a point the ruffled ends Of my loose locks 'twixt both your humid lips. My hair is fallen now: knot it again! 205
Sebald. I kiss you now, dear Ottima, now and now! This way? Will you forgive me—be once more My great queen?
Ottima. Bind it thrice about my brow; Crown me your queen, your spirit's arbitress, Magnificent in sin. Say that!
Sebald. I crown you 210 My great white queen, my spirit's arbitress, Magnificent—
[From without is heard the voice of PIPPA singing—
The year's at the spring And day's at the morn; Morning's at seven; 215 The hillside's dew-pearled; The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn: God's in his heaven— All's right with the world! 220
Sebald. God's in his heaven! Do you hear that? Who spoke? You, you spoke!
Ottima. Oh—that little ragged girl! She must have rested on the step: we give them But this one holiday the whole year round. Did you ever see our silk-mills—their inside? 225 There are ten silk-mills now belong to you. She stoops to pick my double heartsease—Sh! She does not hear: call you out louder!
Sebald. Leave me! Go, get your clothes on—dress, those shoulders!
Sebald. Wipe off that paint! I hate you. 230
Sebald. My God, and she is emptied of it now! Outright now!—how miraculously gone All of the grace—had she not strange grace once? Why, the blank cheek hangs listless as it likes, No purpose holds the features up together, 235 Only the cloven brow and puckered chin Stay in their places; and the very hair, That seemed to have a sort of life in it, Drops, a dead web!
Ottima. Speak to me—not of me.
Sebald. That round great full-orbed face, where not an 240 angle Broke the delicious indolence—all broken!
Ottima. To me—not of me! Ungrateful, perjured cheat! A coward, too: but ingrate's worse than all! Beggar—my slave—a fawning, cringing lie! Leave me! Betray me! I can see your drift! 245 A lie that walks and eats and drinks!
Sebald. My God! Those morbid, olive, faultless shoulder-blades— I should have known there was no blood beneath!
Ottima. You hate me then? You hate me then?
Sebald. To think She would succeed in her absurd attempt, 250 And fascinate by sinning, show herself Superior—guilt from its excess superior To innocence! That little peasant's voice Has righted all again. Though I be lost, I know which is the better, never fear, 255 Of vice or virtue, purity or lust, Nature or trick! I see what I have done, Entirely now! Oh, I am proud to feel Such torments—let the world take credit thence— I, having done my deed, pay too its price! 260 I hate, hate—curse you! God's in his heaven!
Ottima. —Me! Me! no, no, Sebald, not yourself—kill me! Mine is the whole crime. Do but kill me—then Yourself—then—presently—first hear me speak I always meant to kill myself—wait, you! 265 Lean on my breast—not as a breast; don't love me The more because you lean on me, my own Heart's Sebald! There, there, both deaths presently!
Sebald. My brain is drowned now—quite drowned: all I feel Is ... is, at swift-recurring intervals, 270 A hurry-down within me, as of waters Loosened to smother up some ghastly pit: There they go—whirls from a black, fiery sea!
Ottima. Not me—to him, O God, be merciful!
Talk by the way, while PIPPA is passing from the hillside to Orcana. Foreign Students of painting and sculpture, from Venice, assembled opposite the house of JULES, a young French statuary, at Possagno.
1st Student. Attention! My own post is beneath this window, but the pomegranate clump yonder will hide three or four of you with a little squeezing, and Schramm and his pipe must lie flat in the balcony. Four, five—who's a defaulter? We want everybody, for Jules must not be 5 suffered to hurt his bride when the jest's found out.
2nd Student. All here! Only our poet's away—never having much meant to be present, moonstrike him! The airs of that fellow, that Giovacchino! He was in violent love with himself, and had a fair prospect of thriving in 10 his suit, so unmolested was it—when suddenly a woman falls in love with him, too; and out of pure jealousy he takes himself off to Trieste, immortal poem and all—whereto is this prophetical epitaph appended already, as Bluphocks assures me—"Here a mammoth-poem lies, 15 Fouled to death by butterflies." His own fault, the simpleton! Instead of cramp couplets, each like a knife in your entrails, he should write, says Bluphocks, both classically and intelligibly.—AEsculapius, an Epic. Catalogue of the drugs: Hebe's plaister—One strip Cools 20 your lip. Phoebus's emulsion—One bottle Clears your throttle. Mercury's bolus—One box Cures—
3rd Student. Subside, my fine fellow! If the marriage was over by ten o'clock, Jules will certainly be here in a minute with his bride. 25
2nd Student. Good!—Only, so should the poet's muse have been universally acceptable, says Bluphocks, et canibus nostris—and Delia not better known to our literary dogs than the boy Giovacchino!
1st Student. To the point now. Where's Gottlieb, 30 the new-comer? Oh—listen, Gottlieb, to what has called down this piece of friendly vengeance on Jules, of which we now assemble to witness the winding-up. We are all agreed, all in a tale, observe, when Jules shall burst out on us in a fury by and by: I am spokesman—the verses 35 that are to undeceive Jules bear my name of Lutwyche—but each professes himself alike insulted by this strutting stone-squarer, who came alone from Paris to Munich, and thence with a crowd of us to Venice and Possagno here, but proceeds in a day or two alone again—oh, alone 40 indubitably!—to Rome and Florence. He, forsooth, take up his portion with these dissolute, brutalized, heartless bunglers!—so he was heard to call us all: now, is Schramm brutalized, I should like to know? Am I heartless?
Gottlieb. Why, somewhat heartless; for, suppose Jules 45 a coxcomb as much as you choose, still, for this mere coxcombry, you will have brushed off—what do folks style it?—the bloom of his life.
Is it too late to alter? These love-letters now, you call his—I can't laugh at them. 50
4th Student. Because you never read the sham letters of our inditing which drew forth these.
Gottlieb. His discovery of the truth will be frightful.
4th Student. That's the joke. But you should have joined us at the beginning; there's no doubt he loves the 55 girl—loves a model he might hire by the hour!
Gottlieb. See here! "He has been accustomed," he writes, "to have Canova's women about him, in stone, and the world's women beside him, in flesh; these being as much below, as those above, his soul's aspiration; 60 but now he is to have the reality." There you laugh again! I say, you wipe off the very dew of his youth.
1st Student. Schramm! (Take the pipe out of his mouth, somebody!) Will Jules lose the bloom of his youth? 65
Schramm. Nothing worth keeping is ever lost in this world: look at a blossom—it drops presently, having done its service and lasted its time; but fruits succeed, and where would be the blossom's place could it continue? As well affirm that your eye is no longer in your body, 70 because its earliest favorite, whatever it may have first loved to look on, is dead and done with—as that any affection is lost to the soul when its first object, whatever happened first to satisfy it, is superseded in due course. Keep but ever looking, whether with the body's eye or the 75 mind's, and you will soon find something to look on! Has a man done wondering at women?—there follow men, dead and alive, to wonder at. Has he done wondering at men?—there's God to wonder at; and the faculty of wonder may be, at the same time, old and tired enough with 80 respect to its first object, and yet young and fresh sufficiently, so far as concerns its novel one. Thus—
1st Student. Put Schramm's pipe into his mouth again! There you see! Well, this Jules—a wretched fribble —oh, I watched his disportings at Possagno, the other 85 day! Canova's gallery—you know: there he marches first resolvedly past great works by the dozen without vouchsafing an eye; all at once he stops full at the Psiche-fanciulla—cannot pass that old acquaintance without a nod of encouragement—"In your new place, beauty? 90 Then behave yourself as well here as at Munich—I see you!" Next he posts himself deliberately before the unfinished Pieta for half an hour without moving, till up he starts of a sudden, and thrusts his very nose into—I say, into—the group; by which gesture you are informed that 95 precisely the sole point he had not fully mastered in Canova's practice was a certain method of using the drill in the articulation of the knee-joint—and that, likewise, has he mastered at length! Good-by, therefore, to poor Canova—whose gallery no longer needs detain his successor 100 Jules, the predestinated novel thinker in marble!
5th Student. Tell him about the women; go on to the women!
1st Student. Why, on that matter he could never be supercilious enough. How should we be other (he said) 105 than the poor devils you see, with those debasing habits we cherish? He was not to wallow in that mire, at least; he would wait, and love only at the proper time, and meanwhile put up with the Psiche-fanciulla. Now, I happened to hear of a young Greek—real Greek girl at 110 Malamocco; a true Islander, do you see, with Alciphron's "hair like sea-moss"—Schramm knows!—white and quiet as an apparition, and fourteen years old at farthest—a daughter of Natalia, so she swears—that hag Natalia, who helps us to models at three lire an hour. We selected 115 this girl for the heroine of our jest. So first, Jules received a scented letter—somebody had seen his Tydeus at the Academy, and my picture was nothing to it: a profound admirer bade him persevere—would make herself known to him ere long. (Paolina, my little friend of the Fenice, 120 transcribes divinely.) And in due time, the mysterious correspondent gave certain hints of her peculiar charms—the pale cheeks, the black hair—whatever, in short, had struck us in our Malamocco model: we retained her name, too—Phene, which is, by interpretation, sea-eagle. Now, 125 think of Jules finding himself distinguished from the herd of us by such a creature! In his very first answer he proposed marrying his monitress: and fancy us over these letters, two, three times a day, to receive and dispatch! I concocted the main of it: relations were in 130 the way—secrecy must be observed—in fine, would he wed her on trust, and only speak to her when they were indissolubly united? St—st—Here they come!
6th Student. Both of them! Heaven's love, speak softly, speak within yourselves! 135
5th Student. Look at the bridegroom! Half his hair in storm and half in calm—patted down over the left temple—like a frothy cup one blows on to cool it! and the same old blouse that he murders the marble in!
2nd Student. Not a rich vest like yours, Hannibal 140 Scratchy!—rich, that your face may the better set it off.
6th Student. And the bride! Yes, sure enough, our Phene! Should you have known her in her clothes? How magnificently pale!
Gottlieb. She does not also take it for earnest, I 145 hope?
1st Student. Oh, Natalia's concern, that is! We settle with Natalia.
6th Student. She does not speak—has evidently let out no word. The only thing is, will she equally remember 150 the rest of her lesson, and repeat correctly all those verses which are to break the secret to Jules?
Gottlieb. How he gazes on her! Pity—pity!
1st Student. They go in; now, silence! You three—not nearer the window, mind, than that pomegranate—just 155 where the little girl, who a few minutes ago passed us singing, is seated!
SCENE—Over Orcana. The house of JULES, who crosses its threshold with PHENE: she is silent, on which JULES begins—
Do not die, Phene! I am yours now, you Are mine now; let fate reach me how she likes, If you'll not die: so, never die! Sit here— My workroom's single seat. I over-lean This length of hair and lustrous front; they turn 5 Like an entire flower upward: eyes, lips, last Your chin—no, last your throat turns: 'tis their scent Pulls down my face upon you. Nay, look ever This one way till I change, grow you—I could Change into you, beloved! You by me, 10 And I by you; this is your hand in mine, And side by side we sit: all's true. Thank God! I have spoken: speak you! O my life to come! My Tydeus must be carved that's there in clay; Yet how be carved, with you about the room? 15 Where must I place you? When I think that once This roomfull of rough block-work seemed my heaven Without you! Shall I ever work again, Get fairly into my old ways again, Bid each conception stand while, trait by trait, 20 My hand transfers its lineaments to stone? Will my mere fancies live near you, their truth— The live truth, passing and repassing me, Sitting beside me? Now speak! Only first, See, all your letters! Was't not well contrived? 25 Their hiding-place is Psyche's robe; she keeps Your letters next her skin: which drops out foremost? Ah—this that swam down like a first moonbeam Into my world! Again those eyes complete Their melancholy survey, sweet and slow, 30 Of beauty—to the human archetype. On me, with pity, yet some wonder too: As if God bade some spirit plague a world, And this were the one moment of surprise And sorrow while she took her station, pausing 35 O'er what she sees, finds good, and must destroy! What gaze you at? Those? Books, I told you of; Let your first word to me rejoice them, too: This minion, a Coluthus, writ in red Bister and azure by Bessarion's scribe— 40 Read this line—no, shame—Homer's be the Greek First breathed me from the lips of my Greek girl! This Odyssey in coarse black vivid type With faded yellow blossoms 'twixt page and page, To mark great places with due gratitude; 45 "He said, and on Antinous directed A bitter shaft"—a flower blots out the rest! Again upon your search? My statues, then! —Ah, do not mind that—better that will look When cast in bronze—an Almaign Kaiser, that, 50 Swart-green and gold, with truncheon based on hip. This, rather, turn to! What, unrecognized? I thought you would have seen that here you sit As I imagined you—Hippolyta, Naked upon her bright Numidian horse. 55 Recall you this, then? "Carve in bold relief"— So you commanded—"carve, against I come, A Greek, in Athens, as our fashion was, Feasting, bay-filleted and thunder-free, Who rises 'neath the lifted myrtle-branch. 60 'Praise Those who slew Hipparchus!' cry the guests, 'While o'er thy head the singer's myrtle waves As erst above our champion: stand up all!'" See, I have labored to express your thought. Quite round, a cluster of mere hands and arms, 65 (Thrust in all senses, all ways, from all sides, Only consenting at the branch's end They strain toward) serves for frame to a sole face, The Praiser's, in the center: who with eyes Sightless, so bend they back to light inside 70 His brain where visionary forms throng up, Sings, minding not that palpitating arch Of hands and arms, nor the quick drip of wine From the drenched leaves o'erhead, nor crowns cast off, Violet and parsley crowns to trample on— 75 Sings, pausing as the patron-ghosts approve, Devoutly their unconquerable hymn. But you must say a "well" to that—say "well!" Because you gaze—am I fantastic, sweet? Gaze like my very life's-stuff, marble—marbly 80 Even to the silence! Why, before I found The real flesh Phene, I inured myself To see, throughout all nature, varied stuff For better nature's birth by means of art: With me, each substance tended to one form 85 Of beauty—to the human archetype. On every side occurred suggestive germs Of that—the tree, the flower—or take the fruit— Some rosy shape, continuing the peach, Curved beewise o'er its bough; as rosy limbs, 90 Depending, nestled in the leaves; and just From a cleft rose-peach the whole Dryad sprang. But of the stuffs one can be master of, How I divined their capabilities! From the soft-rinded smoothening facile chalk 95 That yields your outline to the air's embrace, Half-softened by a halo's pearly gloom; Down to the crisp imperious steel, so sure To cut its one confided thought clean out Of all the world. But marble!—'neath my tools 100 More pliable than jelly—as it were Some clear primordial creature dug from depths In the earth's heart, where itself breeds itself, And whence all baser substance may be worked; Refine it off to air, you may—condense it 105 Down to the diamond—is not metal there, When o'er the sudden speck my chisel trips? —Not flesh, as flake off flake I scale, approach, Lay bare those bluish veins of blood asleep? Lurks flame in no strange windings where, surprised 110 By the swift implement sent home at once, Flushes and glowings radiate and hover About its track? Phene? what—why is this? That whitening cheek, those still dilating eyes! Ah, you will die—I knew that you would die! 115
PHENE begins, on his having long remained silent.
Now the end's coming; to be sure, it must Have ended sometime! Tush, why need I speak Their foolish speech? I cannot bring to mind One half of it, beside; and do not care For old Natalia now, nor any of them. 120 Oh, you—what are you?—if I do not try To say the words Natalia made me learn; To please your friends—it is to keep myself Where your voice lifted me, by letting that Proceed; but can it? Even you, perhaps, 125 Cannot take up, now you have once let fall, The music's life, and me along with that— No, or you would! We'll stay, then, as we are— Above the world. You creature with the eyes! If I could look forever up to them, 130 As now you let me—I believe all sin, All memory of wrong done, suffering borne, Would drop down, low and lower, to the earth Whence all that's low comes, and there touch and stay —Never to overtake the rest of me, 135 All that, unspotted, reaches up to you, Drawn by those eyes! What rises is myself, Not me the shame and suffering; but they sink, Are left, I rise above them. Keep me so, Above the world! 140 But you sink, for your eyes Are altering—altered! Stay—"I love you, love"— I could prevent it if I understood: More of your words to me; was 't in the tone Or the words, your power? Or stay—I will repeat Their speech, if that contents you! Only change 145 No more, and I shall find it presently Far back here, in the brain yourself filled up. Natalia threatened me that harm should follow Unless I spoke their lesson to the end, But harm to me, I thought she meant, not you. 150 Your friends—Natalia said they were your friends And meant you well—because, I doubted it, Observing (what was very strange to see) On every face, so different in all else, The same smile girls like me are used to bear, 155 But never men, men cannot stoop so low; Yet your friends, speaking of you, used that smile, That hateful smirk of boundless self-conceit Which seems to take possession of the world And make of God a tame confederate, 160 Purveyor to their appetites—you know! But still Natalia said they were your friends, And they assented though they smiled the more, And all came round me—that thin Englishman With light lank hair seemed leader of the rest; 165 He held a paper—"What we want," said he, Ending some explanation to his friends, "Is something slow, involved, and mystical, To hold Jules long in doubt, yet take his taste And lure him on until, at innermost 170 Where he seeks sweetness' soul, he may find—this! —As in the apple's core, the noisome fly; For insects on the rind are seen at once, And brushed aside as soon, but this is found Only when on the lips or loathing tongue." 175 And so he read what I have got by heart: I'll speak it—"Do not die, love! I am yours"— No—is not that, or like that, part of words Yourself began by speaking? Strange to lose What cost such pains to learn! Is this more right? 180
I am a painter who cannot paint; In my life, a devil rather than saint; In my brain, as poor a creature too: No end to all I cannot do! Yet do one thing at least I can— 185 Love a man or hate a man Supremely: thus my lore began. Through the Valley of Love I went, In the lovingest spot to abide, And just on the verge where I pitched my tent, 190 I found Hate dwelling beside. (Let the Bridegroom ask what the painter meant, Of his Bride, of the peerless Bride!) And further, I traversed Hate's grove, In the hatefullest nook to dwell; 195 But lo, where I flung myself prone, couched Love Where the shadow threefold fell. (The meaning—those black bride's-eyes above, Not a painter's lip should tell!)
"And here," said he, "Jules probably will ask, 200 'You have black eyes, Love—you are, sure enough, My peerless bride—then do you tell indeed What needs some explanation! What means this?'" —And I am to go on, without a word—
So I grew wise in Love and Hate, 205 From simple that I was of late. Once when I loved, I would enlace Breast, eyelids, hands, feet, form, and face Of her I loved, in one embrace— As if by mere love I could love immensely! 210 Once, when I hated, I would plunge My sword, and wipe with the first lunge My foe's whole life out like a sponge— As if by mere hate I could hate intensely! But now I am wiser, know better the fashion 215 How passion seeks aid from its opposite passion; And if I see cause to love more, hate more Than ever man loved, ever hated before— And seek in the Valley of Love, The nest, or the nook in Hate's Grove, 220 Where my soul may surely reach The essence, naught less, of each, The Hate of all Hates, the Love Of all Loves, in the Valley or Grove— I find them the very warders 225 Each of the other's borders. When I love most, Love is disguised In Hate; and when Hate is surprised In Love, then I hate most: ask How Love smiles through Hate's iron casque, 230 Hate grins through Love's rose-braided mask— And how, having hated thee, I sought long and painfully To reach thy heart, nor prick The skin but pierce to the quick— 235 Ask this, my Jules, and be answered straight By thy bride—how the painter Lutwyche can hate!
Lutwyche! Who else? But all of them, no doubt, Hated me: they at Venice—presently Their turn, however! You I shall not meet: 240 If I dreamed, saying this would wake me. Keep What's here, the gold—we cannot meet again, Consider! and the money was but meant For two years' travel, which is over now, All chance or hope or care or need of it. 245 This—and what comes from selling these, my casts And books and medals, except—let them go Together, so the produce keeps you safe Out of Natalia's clutches! If by chance (For all's chance here) I should survive the gang 250 At Venice, root out all fifteen of them, We might meet somewhere, since the world is wide.
[From without is heard the voice of PIPPA, singing—
Give her but a least excuse to love me! When—where— How—can this arm establish her above me, 255 If fortune fixed her as my lady there, There already, to eternally reprove me? ("Hist!"—said Kate the Queen; But "Oh!" cried the maiden, binding her tresses, "'Tis only a page that carols unseen, 260 Crumbling your hounds their messes!")
Is she wronged?—To the rescue of her honor, My heart! Is she poor?—What costs it to be styled a donor? Merely an earth to cleave, a sea to part. 265 But that fortune should have thrust all this upon her! ("Nay, list!"—bade Kate the Queen; And still cried the maiden, binding her tresses, "'Tis only a page that carols unseen Fitting your hawks their jesses!") 270
What name was that the little girl sang forth? Kate? The Cornaro, doubtless, who renounced The crown of Cyprus to be lady here At Asolo, where still her memory stays, And peasants sing how once a certain page 275 Pined for the grace of her so far above His power of doing good to, "Kate the Queen— She never could be wronged, be poor," he sighed, "Need him to help her!" Yes, a bitter thing To see our lady above all need of us; 280 Yet so we look ere we will love; not I, But the world looks so. If whoever loves Must be, in some sort, god or worshiper, The blessing or the blest-one, queen or page, Why should we always choose the page's part? 285 Here is a woman with utter need of me— I find myself queen here, it seems! How strange! Look at the woman here with the new soul, Like my own Psyche—fresh upon her lips Alit the visionary butterfly, 290 Waiting my word to enter and make bright, Or flutter off and leave all blank as first. This body had no soul before, but slept Or stirred, was beauteous or ungainly, free From taint or foul with stain, as outward things 295 Fastened their image on its passiveness; Now, it will wake, feel, live—or die again! Shall to produce form out of unshaped stuff Be Art—and further, to evoke a soul From form be nothing? This new soul is mine! 300
Now, to kill Lutwyche, what would that do?—save A wretched dauber, men will hoot to death Without me, from their hooting. Oh, to hear God's voice plain as I heard it first, before They broke in with their laughter! I heard them 305 Henceforth, not God. To Ancona—Greece—some isle! I wanted silence only; there is clay Everywhere. One may do whate'er one likes In Art; the only thing is, to make sure That one does like it—which takes pains to know. 310 Scatter all this, my Phene—this mad dream! Who, what is Lutwyche, what Natalia's friends, What the whole world except our love—my own, Own Phene? But I told you, did I not, Ere night we travel for your land—some isle 315 With the sea's silence on it? Stand aside— I do but break these paltry models up To begin Art afresh. Meet Lutwyche, I— And save him from my statue meeting him? Some unsuspected isle in the far seas! 320 Like a god going through his world, there stands One mountain for a moment in the dusk, Whole brotherhoods of cedars on its brow; And you are ever by me while I gaze —Are in my arms as now—as now—as now! 325 Some unsuspected isle in the far seas! Some unsuspected isle in far-off seas!
Talk by the way, while PIPPA is passing from Orcana to the Turret. Two or three of the Austrian Police loitering with BLUPHOCKS, an English vagabond, just in view of the Turret.
Bluphocks. So, that is your Pippa, the little girl who passed us singing? Well, your Bishop's Intendant's money shall be honestly earned:—now, don't make me that sour face because I bring the Bishop's name into the business; we know he can have nothing to do with such 5 horrors; we know that he is a saint and all that a bishop should be, who is a great man beside. Oh, were but every worm a maggot, Every fly a grig, Every bough a Christmas faggot, Every tune a jig! In fact, I have abjured all religions; but the last I inclined to was the Armenian: for 10 I have traveled, do you see, and at Koenigsberg, Prussia Improper (so styled because there's a sort of bleak hungry sun there), you might remark over a venerable house-porch a certain Chaldee inscription; and brief as it is, a mere glance at it used absolutely to change the mood of 15 every bearded passenger. In they turned, one and all; the young and lightsome, with no irreverent pause, the aged and decrepit, with a sensible alacrity: 'twas the Grand Rabbi's abode, in short. Struck with curiosity, I lost no time in learning Syriac—(these are vowels, you dogs—follow 20 my stick's end in the mud—Celarent, Darii, Ferio!) and one morning presented myself, spelling-book in hand, a, b, c—I picked it out letter by letter, and what was the purport of this miraculous posy? Some cherished legend of the past, you'll say—"How Moses hocus-pocussed 25 Egypt's land with fly and locust"—or, "How to Jonah sounded harshish, Get thee up and go to Tarshish"—or, "How the angel meeting Balaam, Straight his ass returned a salaam." In no wise! "Shackabrack—Boach—somebody or other—Isaach, Re-cei-ver, Pur-cha-ser, and 30 Ex-chan-ger of—Stolen Goods!" So, talk to me of the religion of a bishop! I have renounced all bishops save Bishop Beveridge—mean to live so—and die—As some Greek dog-sage, dead and merry, Hellward bound in Charon's wherry with food for both worlds, under and 35 upper, Lupine-seed and Hecate's supper, and never an obolus. (Though thanks to you, or this Intendant through you, or this Bishop through his Intendant—I possess a burning pocketful of zwanzigers) To pay Stygian Ferry!
1st Policeman. There is the girl, then; go and deserve 40 them the moment you have pointed out to us Signor Luigi and his mother. [To the rest.] I have been noticing a house yonder, this long while—not a shutter unclosed since morning!
2nd Policeman. Old Luca Gaddi's, that owns the silk-mills 45 here: he dozes by the hour, wakes up, sighs deeply, says he should like to be Prince Metternich, and then dozes again, after having bidden young Sebald, the foreigner, set his wife to playing draughts. Never molest such a household; they mean well. 50
Bluphocks. Only, cannot you tell me something of this little Pippa I must have to do with? One could make something of that name. Pippa—that is, short for Felippa—rhyming to Panurge consults Hertrippa—Believest thou, King Agrippa? Something might be done 55 with that name.
2nd Policeman. Put into rhyme that your head and a ripe muskmelon would not be dear at half a zwanziger! Leave this fooling, and look out; the afternoon 's over or nearly so. 60
3rd Policeman. Where in this passport of Signor Luigi does our Principal instruct you to watch him so narrowly? There? What's there beside a simple signature? (That English fool's busy watching.)
2nd Policeman. Flourish all round—"Put all possible 65 obstacles in his way"; oblong dot at the end—"Detain him till further advices reach you"; scratch at bottom—"Send him back on pretense of some informality in the above"; ink-spirt on right-hand side (which is the case here)—"Arrest him at once." Why and wherefore, I 70 don't concern myself, but my instructions amount to this: if Signor Luigi leaves home tonight for Vienna—well and good, the passport deposed with us for our visa is really for his own use, they have misinformed the Office, and he means well; but let him stay over tonight—there 75 has been the pretense we suspect, the accounts of his corresponding and holding intelligence with the Carbonari are correct, we arrest him at once, tomorrow comes Venice, and presently Spielberg. Bluphocks makes the signal, sure enough! That is he, entering the 80 turret with his mother, no doubt.
SCENE.—Inside the Turret on the Hill above Asolo. LUIGI and his Mother entering.
Mother. If there blew wind, you'd hear a long sigh, easing The utmost heaviness of music's heart.
Luigi. Here in the archway?
Mother. Oh, no, no—in farther, Where the echo is made, on the ridge.
Luigi. Here surely, then. How plain the tap of my heel as I leaped up! 5 Hark—"Lucius Junius!" The very ghost of a voice Whose body is caught and kept by—what are those? Mere withered wall flowers, waving overhead? They seem an elvish group with thin bleached hair That lean out of their topmost fortress—look 10 And listen, mountain men, to what we say, Hand under chin of each grave earthy face. Up and show faces all of you!—"All of you!" That's the king dwarf with the scarlet comb; old Franz, Come down and meet your fate? Hark—"Meet your fate!" 15
Mother. Let him not meet it, my Luigi—do not Go to his City! Putting crime aside, Half of these ills of Italy are feigned: Your Pellicos and writers for effect, Write for effect. 20
Luigi. Hush! Say A writes, and B.
Mother. These A's and B's write for effect, I say. Then, evil is in its nature loud, while good Is silent; you hear each petty injury, None of his virtues; he is old beside, Quiet and kind, and densely stupid. Why 25 Do A and B not kill him themselves?
Luigi. They teach Others to kill him—me—and, if I fail, Others to succeed; now, if A tried and failed, I could not teach that: mine's the lesser task. Mother, they visit night by night—
Mother. —You, Luigi? 30 Ah, will you let me tell you what you are?
Luigi. Why not? Oh, the one thing you fear to hint, You may assure yourself I say and say Ever to myself! At times—nay, even as now We sit—I think my mind is touched, suspect 35 All is not sound; but is not knowing that What constitutes one sane or otherwise? I know I am thus—so, all is right again. I laugh at myself as through the town I walk, And see men merry as if no Italy 40 Were suffering; then I ponder—"I am rich, Young, healthy; why should this fact trouble me, More than it troubles these?" But it does trouble. No, trouble's a bad word; for as I walk There's springing and melody and giddiness, 45 And old quaint turns and passages of my youth, Dreams long forgotten, little in themselves, Return to me—whatever may amuse me, And earth seems in a truce with me, and heaven Accords with me, all things suspend their strife, 50 The very cicala laughs, "There goes he, and there! Feast him, the time is short; he is on his way For the world's sake: feast him this once, our friend!" And in return for all this, I can trip Cheerfully up the scaffold-steps. I go 55 This evening, mother!
Mother. But mistrust yourself— Mistrust the judgment you pronounce on him!
Luigi. Oh, there I feel—am sure that I am right!
Mother. Mistrust your judgment, then, of the mere means To this wild enterprise. Say you are right— 60 How should one in your state e'er bring to pass What would require a cool head, a cold heart, And a calm hand? You never will escape.
Luigi. Escape? To even wish that would spoil all. The dying is best part of it. Too much 65 Have I enjoyed these fifteen years of mine, To leave myself excuse for longer life: Was not life pressed down, running o'er with joy, That I might finish with it ere my fellows Who, sparelier feasted, make a longer stay? 70 I was put at the board-head, helped to all At first; I rise up happy and content. God must be glad one loves his world so much. I can give news of earth to all the dead Who ask me:—last year's sunsets, and great stars 75 Which had a right to come first and see ebb The crimson wave that drifts the sun away— Those crescent moons with notched and burning rims That strengthened into sharp fire, and there stood, Impatient of the azure—and that day 80 In March, a double rainbow stopped the storm— May's warm, slow, yellow moonlit summer nights— Gone are they, but I have them in my soul!
Mother. (He will not go!)
Luigi. You smile at me? 'Tis true— Voluptuousness, grotesqueness, ghastliness, 85 Environ my devotedness as quaintly As round about some antique altar wreathe The rose festoons, goats' horns, and oxen's skulls.
Mother. See now: you reach the city, you must cross His threshold—how?
Luigi. Oh, that's if we conspired! 90 Then would come pains in plenty, as you guess— But guess not how the qualities most fit For such an office, qualities I have, Would little stead me, otherwise employed, Yet prove of rarest merit only here. 95 Everyone knows for what his excellence Will serve, but no one ever will consider For what his worst defect might serve; and yet Have you not seen me range our coppice yonder In search of a distorted ash?—I find 100 The wry spoilt branch a natural perfect bow. Fancy the thrice-sage, thrice-precautioned man Arriving at the palace on my errand! No, no! I have a handsome dress packed up— White satin here, to set off my black hair; 105 In I shall march—for you may watch your life out Behind thick walls, make friends there to betray you; More than one man spoils everything. March straight— Only, no clumsy knife to fumble for. Take the great gate, and walk (not saunter) on 110 Through guards and guards—I have rehearsed it all Inside the turret here a hundred times Don't ask the way of whom you meet, observe! But where they cluster thickliest is the door Of doors; they'll let you pass—they'll never blab 115 Each to the other, he knows not the favorite, Whence he is bound and what's his business now. Walk in—straight up to him; you have no knife: Be prompt, how should he scream? Then, out with you! Italy, Italy, my Italy! 120 You're free, you're free! Oh, mother, I could dream They got about me—Andrea from his exile, Pier from his dungeon, Gualtier from his grave!
Mother. Well, you shall go. Yet seems this patriotism The easiest virtue for a selfish man 125 To acquire: he loves himself—and next, the world— If he must love beyond—but naught between: As a short-sighted man sees naught midway His body and the sun above. But you Are my adored Luigi, ever obedient 130 To my least wish, and running o'er with love; I could not call you cruel or unkind. Once more, your ground for killing him!—then go!
Luigi. Now do you try me, or make sport of me? How first the Austrians got these provinces— 135 (If that is all, I'll satisfy you soon) —Never by conquest but by cunning, for That treaty whereby—
Luigi. (Sure, he's arrived, The telltale cuckoo; spring's his confidant, And he lets out her April purposes!) 140 Or—better go at once to modern time, He has—they have—in fact, I understand But can't restate the matter; that's my boast: Others could reason it out to you, and prove Things they have made me feel.
Mother. Why go tonight? 145 Morn's for adventure. Jupiter is now A morning-star. I cannot hear you, Luigi!
Luigi. "I am the bright and morning-star," saith God— And, "to such an one I give the morning-star." The gift of the morning-star! Have I God's gift 150 Of the morning-star?
Mother. Chiara will love to see That Jupiter an evening-star next June.
Luigi. True, mother. Well for those who live through June! Great noontides, thunder-storms, all glaring pomps That triumph at the heels of June the god 155 Leading his revel through our leafy world. Yes, Chiara will be here.
Mother. In June: remember, Yourself appointed that month for her coming.
Luigi. Was that low noise the echo?
Mother. The night-wind. She must be grown—with her blue eyes upturned 160 As if life were one long and sweet surprise: In June she comes.
Luigi. We were to see together The Titian at Treviso. There, again!
[From without is heard the voice of PIPPA, singing—
A king lived long ago, In the morning of the world, 165 When earth was nigher heaven than now. And the king's locks curled, Disparting o'er a forehead full As the milk-white space 'twixt horn and horn Of some sacrificial bull— 170 Only calm as a babe new-born: For he was got to a sleepy mood, So safe from all decrepitude, Age with its bane, so sure gone by, (The gods so loved him while he dreamed) 175 That, having lived thus long, there seemed No need the king should ever die.
Luigi. No need that sort of king should ever die!
Among the rocks his city was: Before his palace, in the sun, 180 He sat to see his people pass, And judge them every one From its threshold of smooth stone. They haled him many a valley-thief Caught in the sheep-pens, robber-chief 185 Swarthy and shameless, beggar-cheat, Spy-prowler, or rough pirate found On the sea-sand left aground; And sometimes clung about his feet, With bleeding lid and burning cheek, 190 A woman, bitterest wrong to speak Of one with sullen thickset brows: And sometimes from the prison-house The angry priests a pale wretch brought, Who through some chink had pushed and pressed 195 On knees and elbows, belly and breast, Worm-like into the temple—caught He was by the very god, Whoever in the darkness strode Backward and forward, keeping watch 200 O'er his brazen bowls, such rogues to catch! These, all and everyone, The king judged, sitting in the sun.
Luigi. That king should still judge sitting in the sun!
His councilors, on left and right, 205 Looked anxious up—but no surprise Disturbed the king's old smiling eyes, Where the very blue had turned to white. 'Tis said, a Python scared one day The breathless city, till he came, 210 With forky tongue and eyes on flame, Where the old king sat to judge alway; But when he saw the sweepy hair Girt with a crown of berries rare Which the god will hardly give to wear 215 To the maiden who singeth, dancing bare In the altar-smoke by the pine-torch lights, At his wondrous forest rites— Seeing this, he did not dare Approach that threshold in the sun, 220 Assault the old king smiling there. Such grace had kings when the world begun!
Luigi. And such grace have they, now that the world ends! The Python at the city, on the throne, And brave men, God would crown for slaying him, 225 Lurk in by-corners lest they fall his prey. Are crowns yet to be won in this late time, Which weakness makes me hesitate to reach? Tis God's voice calls; how could I stay? Farewell!
Talk by the way, while PIPPA is passing from the Turret to the Bishop's Brother's House, close to the Duomo S. Maria. Poor Girls sitting on the steps.
1st Girl. There goes a swallow to Venice—the stout seafarer! Seeing those birds fly makes one wish for wings. Let us all wish; you wish first!
2nd Girl. I? This sunset To finish.
3rd Girl. That old—somebody I know, Grayer and older than my grandfather, 5 To give me the same treat he gave last week— Feeding me on his knee with fig-peckers, Lampreys and red Breganze-wine, and mumbling The while some folly about how well I fare, Let sit and eat my supper quietly: 10 Since had he not himself been late this morning, Detained at—never mind where—had he not— "Eh, baggage, had I not!"—
2nd Girl. How she can lie!
3rd Girl. Look there—by the nails!
2nd Girl. What makes your fingers red?
3rd Girl. Dipping them into wine to write bad words with 15 On the bright table: how he laughed!
1st Girl. My turn. Spring's come and summer's coming. I would wear A long loose gown, down to the feet and hands, With plaits here, close about the throat, all day; And all night lie, the cool long nights, in bed; 20 And have new milk to drink, apples to eat, Deuzans and junetings, leather-coats—ah, I should say, This is away in the fields—miles!
3rd Girl. Say at once You'd be at home—she'd always be at home! Now comes the story of the farm among 25 The cherry orchards, and how April snowed White blossoms on her as she ran. Why, fool, They've rubbed the chalk-mark out, how tall you were, Twisted your starling's neck, broken his cage, Made a dunghill of your garden!
1st Girl. They destroy 30 My garden since I left them? Well—perhaps I would have done so—so I hope they have! A fig-tree curled out of our cottage wall; They called it mine, I have forgotten why, It must have been there long ere I was born: 35 Cric—cric—I think I hear the wasps o'erhead Pricking the papers strung to flutter there And keep off birds in fruit-time—coarse long papers, And the wasps eat them, prick them through and through.
3rd Girl. How her mouth twitches! Where was I?—before 40 She broke in with her wishes and long gowns And wasps—would I be such a fool!—Oh, here! This is my way: I answer everyone Who asks me why I make so much of him— (If you say, "you love him"—straight "he'll not be gulled!") 45 "He that seduced me when I was a girl Thus high—had eyes like yours, or hair like yours, Brown, red, white"—as the case may be; that pleases! See how that beetle burnishes in the path! There sparkles he along the dust; and, there— 50 Your journey to that maize-tuft spoiled at least!
1st Girl. When I was young, they said if you killed one Of those sunshiny beetles, that his friend Up there would shine no more that day nor next.
2nd Girl. When you were young? Nor are you young, that's true. 55 How your plump arms, that were, have dropped away! Why, I can span them. Cecco beats you still? No matter, so you keep your curious hair. I wish they'd find a way to dye our hair Your color—any lighter tint, indeed, 60 Than black—the men say they are sick of black, Black eyes, black hair!
4th Girl. Sick of yours, like enough. Do you pretend you ever tasted lampreys And ortolans? Giovita, of the palace, Engaged (but there 's no trusting him) to slice me 65 Polenta with a knife that had cut up An ortolan.
2nd Girl. Why, there! Is not that Pippa We are to talk to, under the window—quick!— Where the lights are?
1st Girl. That she? No, or she would sing, For the Intendant said—
3rd Girl. Oh, you sing first! 70 Then, if she listens and comes close—I'll tell you— Sing that song the young English noble made, Who took you for the purest of the pure, And meant to leave the world for you—what fun!
2nd Girl [sings].
You'll love me yet!—and I can tarry 75 Your love's protracted growing: June reared that bunch of flowers you carry, From seeds of April's sowing.
I plant a heartful now: some seed At least is sure to strike 80 And yield—what you'll not pluck indeed, Not love, but, may be, like.
You'll look at least on love's remains, A grave's one violet: Your look?—that pays a thousand pains. 85 What's death? You'll love me yet!
3rd Girl [to PIPPA, who approaches.] Oh, you may come closer—we shall not eat you! Why, you seem the very person that the great rich handsome Englishman has fallen so violently in love with. I'll tell you all about it. 90
SCENE.—Inside the Palace by the Duomo. MONSIGNOR, dismissing his Attendants.
Monsignor. Thanks, friends, many thanks! I chiefly desire life now, that I may recompense every one of you. Most I know something of already. What, a repast prepared? Benedicto benedicatur—ugh, ugh! Where was I? Oh, as you were remarking, Ugo, the weather is 5 mild, very unlike winter weather; but I am a Sicilian, you know, and shiver in your Julys here. To be sure, when 'twas full summer at Messina, as we priests used to cross in procession the great square on Assumption Day, you might see our thickest yellow tapers twist suddenly in 10 two, each like a falling star, or sink down on themselves in a gore of wax. But go, my friends, but go! [To the Intendant.] Not you, Ugo! [The others leave the apartment.] I have long wanted to converse with you, Ugo.
Intendant. Uguccio— 15
Monsignor. ... 'guccio Stefani, man! of Ascoli, Fermo and Fossombruno—what I do need instructing about are these accounts of your administration of my poor brother's affairs. Ugh! I shall never get through a third part of your accounts; take some of these dainties 20 before we attempt it, however. Are you bashful to that degree? For me, a crust and water suffice.
Intendant. Do you choose this especial night to question me?
Monsignor. This night, Ugo. You have managed my 25 late brother's affairs since the death of our elder brother —fourteen years and a month, all but three days. On the Third of December, I find him—
Intendant. If you have so intimate an acquaintance with your brother's affairs, you will be tender of turning 30 so far back: they will hardly bear looking into, so far back.
Monsignor. Aye, aye, ugh, ugh—nothing but disappointments here below! I remark a considerable payment made to yourself on this Third of December. Talk of disappointments! There was a young fellow here, 35 Jules, a foreign sculptor I did my utmost to advance, that the Church might be a gainer by us both; he was going on hopefully enough, and of a sudden he notifies to me some marvelous change that has happened in his notions of Art. Here's his letter: "He never had a clearly conceived 40 Ideal within his brain till today. Yet since his hand could manage a chisel, he has practiced expressing other men's Ideals; and, in the very perfection he has attained to, he foresees an ultimate failure: his unconscious hand will pursue its prescribed course of old years, and will 45 reproduce with a fatal expertness the ancient types, let the novel one appear never so palpably to his spirit. There is but one method of escape: confiding the virgin type to as chaste a hand, he will turn painter instead of sculptor, and paint, not carve, its characteristics"—strike out, I 50 dare say, a school like Correggio: how think you, Ugo?
Intendant. Is Correggio a painter?
Monsignor. Foolish Jules! and yet, after all, why foolish? He may—probably will—fail egregiously; but if there should arise a new painter, will it not be in some 55 such way, by a poet now, or a musician (spirits who have conceived and perfected an Ideal through some other channel), transferring it to this, and escaping our conventional roads by pure ignorance of them; eh, Ugo? If you have no appetite, talk at least, Ugo! 60
Intendant. Sir, I can submit no longer to this course of yours. First, you select the group of which I formed one—next you thin it gradually—always retaining me with your smile—and so do you proceed till you have fairly got me alone with you between four stone walls. 65 And now then? Let this farce, this chatter, end now; what is it you want with me?
Intendant. From the instant you arrived, I felt your smile on me as you questioned me about this and the 70 other article in those papers—why your brother should have given me this villa, that podere—and your nod at the end meant—what?
Monsignor. Possibly that I wished for no loud talk here. If once you set me coughing, Ugo!— 75
Intendant. I have your brother's hand and seal to all I possess: now ask me what for! what service I did him—ask me!
Monsignor. I would better not: I should rip up old disgraces, let out my poor brother's weaknesses. By the 80 way, Maffeo of Forli (which, I forgot to observe, is your true name), was the interdict ever taken off you, for robbing that church at Cesena?
Intendant. No, nor needs be; for when I murdered your brother's friend, Pasquale, for him— 85
Monsignor. Ah, he employed you in that business, did he? Well, I must let you keep, as you say, this villa and that podere, for fear the world should find out my relations were of so indifferent a stamp? Maffeo, my family is the oldest in Messina, and century after century 90 have my progenitors gone on polluting themselves with every wickedness under heaven: my own father—rest his soul!—I have, I know, a chapel to support that it may rest; my dear two dead brothers were—what you know tolerably well; I, the youngest, might have rivaled them 95 in vice, if not in wealth: but from my boyhood I came out from among them, and so am not partaker of their plagues. My glory springs from another source; or if from this, by contrast only—for I, the bishop, am the brother of your employers, Ugo. I hope to repair some 100 of their wrong, however; so far as my brother's ill-gotten treasure reverts to me, I can stop the consequences of his crime—and not one soldo shall escape me. Maffeo, the sword we quiet men spurn away, you shrewd knaves pick up and commit murders with; what opportunities 105 the virtuous forego, the villainous seize. Because, to pleasure myself, apart from other considerations, my food would be millet-cake, my dress sackcloth, and my couch straw—am I therefore to let you, the offscouring of the earth, seduce the poor and ignorant by appropriating 110 a pomp these will be sure to think lessens the abominations so unaccountably and exclusively associated with it? Must I let villas and poderi go to you, a murderer and thief, that you may beget by means of them other murderers and thieves? No—if my cough would but 115 allow me to speak!