The Jew replied, with solemn air, "I said the Manichaean's prayer. It was his faith,—perhaps is mine,— That life in all its forms is one, And that its secret conduits run Unseen, but in unbroken line, From the great fountain-head divine Through man and beast, through grain and grass. Howe'er we struggle, strive, and cry, From death there can be no escape, And no escape from life, alas Because we cannot die, but pass From one into another shape: It is but into life we die.
"Therefore the Manichaean said This simple prayer on breaking bread, Lest he with hasty hand or knife Might wound the incarcerated life, The soul in things that we call dead: 'I did not reap thee, did not bind thee, I did not thrash thee, did not grind thee, Nor did I in the oven bake thee! It was not I, it was another Did these things unto thee, O brother; I only have thee, hold thee, break thee!'"
"That birds have souls I can concede," The poet cried, with glowing cheeks; "The flocks that from their beds of reed Uprising north or southward fly, And flying write upon the sky The biforked letter of the Greeks, As hath been said by Rucellai; All birds that sing or chirp or cry, Even those migratory bands, The minor poets of the air, The plover, peep, and sanderling, That hardly can be said to sing, But pipe along the barren sands,— All these have souls akin to ours; So hath the lovely race of flowers: Thus much I grant, but nothing more. The rusty hinges of a door Are not alive because they creak; This chimney, with its dreary roar, These rattling windows, do not speak!" "To me they speak," the Jew replied; "And in the sounds that sink and soar, I hear the voices of a tide That breaks upon an unknown shore!"
Here the Sicilian interfered: "That was your dream, then, as you dozed A moment since, with eyes half-closed, And murmured something in your beard."
The Hebrew smiled, and answered, "Nay; Not that, but something very near; Like, and yet not the same, may seem The vision of my waking dream; Before it wholly dies away, Listen to me, and you shall hear."
THE SPANISH JEW'S TALE
King Solomon, before his palace gate At evening, on the pavement tessellate Was walking with a stranger from the East, Arrayed in rich attire as for a feast, The mighty Runjeet-Sing, a learned man, And Rajah of the realms of Hindostan. And as they walked the guest became aware Of a white figure in the twilight air, Gazing intent, as one who with surprise His form and features seemed to recognize; And in a whisper to the king he said: "What is yon shape, that, pallid as the dead, Is watching me, as if he sought to trace In the dim light the features of my face?"
The king looked, and replied: "I know him well; It is the Angel men call Azrael, 'T is the Death Angel; what hast thou to fear?" And the guest answered: "Lest he should come near, And speak to me, and take away my breath! Save me from Azrael, save me from death! O king, that hast dominion o'er the wind, Bid it arise and bear me hence to Ind."
The king gazed upward at the cloudless sky, Whispered a word, and raised his hand on high, And lo! the signet-ring of chrysoprase On his uplifted finger seemed to blaze With hidden fire, and rushing from the west There came a mighty wind, and seized the guest And lifted him from earth, and on they passed, His shining garments streaming in the blast, A silken banner o'er the walls upreared, A purple cloud, that gleamed and disappeared. Then said the Angel, smiling: "If this man Be Rajah Runjeet-Sing of Hindostan, Thou hast done well in listening to his prayer; I was upon my way to seek him there."
"O Edrehi, forbear to-night Your ghostly legends of affright, And let the Talmud rest in peace; Spare us your dismal tales of death That almost take away one's breath; So doing, may your tribe increase."
Thus the Sicilian said; then went And on the spinet's rattling keys Played Marianina, like a breeze From Naples and the Southern seas, That brings us the delicious scent Of citron and of orange trees, And memories of soft days of ease At Capri and Amalfi spent.
"Not so," the eager Poet said; "At least, not so before I tell The story of my Azrael, An angel mortal as ourselves, Which in an ancient tome I found Upon a convent's dusty shelves, Chained with an iron chain, and bound In parchment, and with clasps of brass, Lest from its prison, some dark day, It might be stolen or steal away, While the good friars were singing mass.
"It is a tale of Charlemagne, When like a thunder-cloud, that lowers And sweeps from mountain-crest to coast, With lightning flaming through its showers, He swept across the Lombard plain, Beleaguering with his warlike train Pavia, the country's pride and boast, The City of the Hundred Towers." Thus heralded the tale began, And thus in sober measure ran.
THE POET'S TALE
Olger the Dane and Desiderio, King of the Lombards, on a lofty tower Stood gazing northward o'er the rolling plains, League after league of harvests, to the foot Of the snow-crested Alps, and saw approach A mighty army, thronging all the roads That led into the city. And the King Said unto Olger, who had passed his youth As hostage at the court of France, and knew The Emperor's form and face "Is Charlemagne Among that host?" And Olger answered: "No."
And still the innumerable multitude Flowed onward and increased, until the King Cried in amazement: "Surely Charlemagne Is coming in the midst of all these knights!" And Olger answered slowly: "No; not yet; He will not come so soon." Then much disturbed King Desiderio asked: "What shall we do, if he approach with a still greater army!" And Olger answered: "When he shall appear, You will behold what manner of man he is; But what will then befall us I know not."
Then came the guard that never knew repose, The Paladins of France; and at the sight The Lombard King o'ercome with terror cried: "This must be Charlemagne!" and as before Did Olger answer: "No; not yet, not yet."
And then appeared in panoply complete The Bishops and the Abbots and the Priests Of the imperial chapel, and the Counts And Desiderio could no more endure The light of day, nor yet encounter death, But sobbed aloud and said: "Let us go down And hide us in the bosom of the earth, Far from the sight and anger of a foe So terrible as this!" And Olger said: "When you behold the harvests in the fields Shaking with fear, the Po and the Ticino Lashing the city walls with iron waves, Then may you know that Charlemagne is come. And even as he spake, in the northwest, Lo! there uprose a black and threatening cloud, Out of whose bosom flashed the light of arms Upon the people pent up in the city; A light more terrible than any darkness; And Charlemagne appeared;—a Man of Iron!
His helmet was of iron, and his gloves Of iron, and his breastplate and his greaves And tassets were of iron, and his shield. In his left hand he held an iron spear, In his right hand his sword invincible. The horse he rode on had the strength of iron, And color of iron. All who went before him Beside him and behind him, his whole host, Were armed with iron, and their hearts within them Were stronger than the armor that they wore. The fields and all the roads were filled with iron, And points of iron glistened in the sun And shed a terror through the city streets.
This at a single glance Olger the Dane Saw from the tower, and turning to the King Exclaimed in haste: "Behold! this is the man You looked for with such eagerness!" and then Fell as one dead at Desiderio's feet.
Well pleased all listened to the tale, That drew, the Student said, its pith And marrow from the ancient myth Of some one with an iron flail; Or that portentous Man of Brass Hephaestus made in days of yore, Who stalked about the Cretan shore, And saw the ships appear and pass, And threw stones at the Argonauts, Being filled with indiscriminate ire That tangled and perplexed his thoughts; But, like a hospitable host, When strangers landed on the coast, Heated himself red-hot with fire, And hugged them in his arms, and pressed Their bodies to his burning breast.
The Poet answered: "No, not thus The legend rose; it sprang at first Out of the hunger and the thirst In all men for the marvellous. And thus it filled and satisfied The imagination of mankind, And this ideal to the mind Was truer than historic fact. Fancy enlarged and multiplied The tenors of the awful name Of Charlemagne, till he became Armipotent in every act, And, clothed in mystery, appeared Not what men saw, but what they feared. Besides, unless my memory fail, Your some one with an iron flail Is not an ancient myth at all, But comes much later on the scene As Talus in the Faerie Queene, The iron groom of Artegall, Who threshed out falsehood and deceit, And truth upheld, and righted wrong, As was, as is the swallow, fleet, And as the lion is, was strong."
The Theologian said: "Perchance Your chronicler in writing this Had in his mind the Anabasis, Where Xenophon describes the advance Of Artaxerxes to the fight; At first the low gray cloud of dust, And then a blackness o'er the fields As of a passing thunder-gust, Then flash of brazen armor bright, And ranks of men, and spears up-thrust, Bowmen and troops with wicker shields, And cavalry equipped in white, And chariots ranged in front of these With scythes upon their axle-trees."
To this the Student answered: "Well, I also have a tale to tell Of Charlemagne; a tale that throws A softer light, more tinged with rose, Than your grim apparition cast Upon the darkness of the past. Listen, and hear in English rhyme What the good Monk of Lauresheim Gives as the gossip of his time, In mediaeval Latin prose."
THE STUDENT'S TALE
EMMA AND EGINHARD
When Alcuin taught the sons of Charlemagne, In the free schools of Aix, how kings should reign, And with them taught the children of the poor How subjects should be patient and endure, He touched the lips of some, as best befit, With honey from the hives of Holy Writ; Others intoxicated with the wine Of ancient history, sweet but less divine; Some with the wholesome fruits of grammar fed; Others with mysteries of the stars o'er-head, That hang suspended in the vaulted sky Like lamps in some fair palace vast and high.
In sooth, it was a pleasant sight to see That Saxon monk, with hood and rosary, With inkhorn at his belt, and pen and book, And mingled lore and reverence in his look, Or hear the cloister and the court repeat The measured footfalls of his sandaled feet, Or watch him with the pupils of his school, Gentle of speech, but absolute of rule.
Among them, always earliest in his place. Was Eginhard, a youth of Frankish race, Whose face was bright with flashes that forerun The splendors of a yet unrisen sun. To him all things were possible, and seemed Not what he had accomplished, but had dreamed, And what were tasks to others were his play, The pastime of an idle holiday.
Smaragdo, Abbot of St. Michael's, said, With many a shrug and shaking of the head, Surely some demon must possess the lad, Who showed more wit than ever schoolboy had, And learned his Trivium thus without the rod; But Alcuin said it was the grace of God.
Thus he grew up, in Logic point-device, Perfect in Grammar, and in Rhetoric nice; Science of Numbers, Geometric art, And lore of Stars, and Music knew by heart; A Minnesinger, long before the times Of those who sang their love in Suabian rhymes.
The Emperor, when he heard this good report Of Eginhard much buzzed about the court, Said to himself, "This stripling seems to be Purposely sent into the world for me; He shall become my scribe, and shall be schooled In all the arts whereby the world is ruled." Thus did the gentle Eginhard attain To honor in the court of Charlemagne; Became the sovereign's favorite, his right hand, So that his fame was great in all the land, And all men loved him for his modest grace And comeliness of figure and of face. An inmate of the palace, yet recluse, A man of books, yet sacred from abuse Among the armed knights with spur on heel, The tramp of horses and the clang of steel; And as the Emperor promised he was schooled In all the arts by which the world is ruled. But the one art supreme, whose law is fate, The Emperor never dreamed of till too late.
Home from her convent to the palace came The lovely Princess Emma, whose sweet name, Whispered by seneschal or sung by bard, Had often touched the soul of Eginhard. He saw her from his window, as in state She came, by knights attended through the gate; He saw her at the banquet of that day, Fresh as the morn, and beautiful as May; He saw her in the garden, as she strayed Among the flowers of summer with her maid, And said to him, "O Eginhard, disclose The meaning and the mystery of the rose"; And trembling he made answer: "In good sooth, Its mystery is love, its meaning youth!"
How can I tell the signals and the signs By which one heart another heart divines? How can I tell the many thousand ways By which it keeps the secret it betrays?
O mystery of love! O strange romance! Among the Peers and Paladins of France, Shining in steel, and prancing on gay steeds, Noble by birth, yet nobler by great deeds, The Princess Emma had no words nor looks But for this clerk, this man of thought and books.
The summer passed, the autumn came; the stalks Of lilies blackened in the garden walks; The leaves fell, russet-golden and blood-red, Love-letters thought the poet fancy-led, Or Jove descending in a shower of gold Into the lap of Danae of old; For poets cherish many a strange conceit, And love transmutes all nature by its heat.
No more the garden lessons, nor the dark And hurried meetings in the twilight park; But now the studious lamp, and the delights Of firesides in the silent winter nights, And watching from his window hour by hour The light that burned in Princess Emma's tower.
At length one night, while musing by the fire, O'ercome at last by his insane desire,— For what will reckless love not do and dare?— He crossed the court, and climbed the winding stair, With some feigned message in the Emperor's name; But when he to the lady's presence came He knelt down at her feet, until she laid Her hand upon him, like a naked blade, And whispered in his ear: "Arise, Sir Knight, To my heart's level, O my heart's delight."
And there he lingered till the crowing cock, The Alectryon of the farmyard and the flock, Sang his aubade with lusty voice and clear, To tell the sleeping world that dawn was near. And then they parted; but at parting, lo! They saw the palace courtyard white with snow, And, placid as a nun, the moon on high Gazing from cloudy cloisters of the sky. "Alas!" he said, "how hide the fatal line Of footprints leading from thy door to mine, And none returning!" Ah, he little knew What woman's wit, when put to proof, can do!
That night the Emperor, sleepless with the cares And troubles that attend on state affairs, Had risen before the dawn, and musing gazed Into the silent night, as one amazed To see the calm that reigned o'er all supreme, When his own reign was but a troubled dream. The moon lit up the gables capped with snow, And the white roofs, and half the court below, And he beheld a form, that seemed to cower Beneath a burden, come from Emma's tower,— A woman, who upon her shoulders bore Clerk Eginhard to his own private door, And then returned in haste, but still essayed To tread the footprints she herself had made; And as she passed across the lighted space, The Emperor saw his daughter Emma's face!
He started not; he did not speak or moan, But seemed as one who hath been turned to stone; And stood there like a statue, nor awoke Out of his trance of pain, till morning broke, Till the stars faded, and the moon went down, And o'er the towers and steeples of the town Came the gray daylight; then the sun, who took The empire of the world with sovereign look, Suffusing with a soft and golden glow All the dead landscape in its shroud of snow, Touching with flame the tapering chapel spires, Windows and roofs, and smoke of household fires, And kindling park and palace as he came; The stork's nest on the chimney seemed in flame. And thus he stood till Eginhard appeared, Demure and modest with his comely beard And flowing flaxen tresses, come to ask, As was his wont, the day's appointed task.
The Emperor looked upon him with a smile, And gently said: "My son, wait yet awhile; This hour my council meets upon some great And very urgent business of the state. Come back within the hour. On thy return The work appointed for thee shalt thou learn.
Having dismissed this gallant Troubadour, He summoned straight his council, and secure And steadfast in his purpose, from the throne All the adventure of the night made known; Then asked for sentence; and with eager breath Some answered banishment, and others death.
Then spake the king: "Your sentence is not mine; Life is the gift of God, and is divine; Nor from these palace walls shall one depart Who carries such a secret in his heart; My better judgment points another way. Good Alcuin, I remember how one day When my Pepino asked you, 'What are men?' You wrote upon his tablets with your pen, 'Guests of the grave and travellers that pass!' This being true of all men, we, alas! Being all fashioned of the selfsame dust, Let us be merciful as well as just; This passing traveller, who hath stolen away The brightest jewel of my crown to-day, Shall of himself the precious gem restore; By giving it, I make it mine once more. Over those fatal footprints I will throw My ermine mantle like another snow."
Then Eginhard was summoned to the hall, And entered, and in presence of them all, The Emperor said: "My son, for thou to me Hast been a son, and evermore shalt be, Long hast thou served thy sovereign, and thy zeal Pleads to me with importunate appeal, While I have been forgetful to requite Thy service and affection as was right. But now the hour is come, when I, thy Lord, Will crown thy love with such supreme reward, A gift so precious kings have striven in vain To win it from the hands of Charlemagne."
Then sprang the portals of the chamber wide, And Princess Emma entered, in the pride Of birth and beauty, that in part o'er-came The conscious terror and the blush of shame. And the good Emperor rose up from his throne, And taking her white hand within his own Placed it in Eginhard's, and said: "My son This is the gift thy constant zeal hath won; Thus I repay the royal debt I owe, And cover up the footprints in the snow."
Thus ran the Student's pleasant rhyme Of Eginhard and love and youth; Some doubted its historic truth, But while they doubted, ne'ertheless Saw in it gleams of truthfulness, And thanked the Monk of Lauresheim.
This they discussed in various mood; Then in the silence that ensued Was heard a sharp and sudden sound As of a bowstring snapped in air; And the Musician with a bound Sprang up in terror from his chair, And for a moment listening stood, Then strode across the room, and found His dear, his darling violin Still lying safe asleep within Its little cradle, like a child That gives a sudden cry of pain, And wakes to fall asleep again; And as he looked at it and smiled, By the uncertain light beguiled, Despair! two strings were broken in twain.
While all lamented and made moan, With many a sympathetic word As if the loss had been their own, Deeming the tones they might have heard Sweeter than they had heard before, They saw the Landlord at the door, The missing man, the portly Squire! He had not entered, but he stood With both arms full of seasoned wood, To feed the much-devouring fire, That like a lion in a cage Lashed its long tail and roared with rage.
The missing man! Ah, yes, they said, Missing, but whither had he fled? Where had he hidden himself away? No farther than the barn or shed; He had not hidden himself, nor fled; How should he pass the rainy day But in his barn with hens and hay, Or mending harness, cart, or sled? Now, having come, he needs must stay And tell his tale as well as they.
The Landlord answered only: "These Are logs from the dead apple-trees Of the old orchard planted here By the first Howe of Sudbury. Nor oak nor maple has so clear A flame, or burns so quietly, Or leaves an ash so clean and white"; Thinking by this to put aside The impending tale that terrified; When suddenly, to his delight, The Theologian interposed, Saying that when the door was closed, And they had stopped that draft of cold, Unpleasant night air, he proposed To tell a tale world-wide apart From that the Student had just told; World-wide apart, and yet akin, As showing that the human heart Beats on forever as of old, As well beneath the snow-white fold Of Quaker kerchief, as within Sendal or silk or cloth of gold, And without preface would begin.
And then the clamorous clock struck eight, Deliberate, with sonorous chime Slow measuring out the march of time, Like some grave Consul of old Rome In Jupiter's temple driving home The nails that marked the year and date. Thus interrupted in his rhyme, The Theologian needs must wait; But quoted Horace, where he sings The dire Necessity of things, That drives into the roofs sublime Of new-built houses of the great The adamantine nails of Fate.
When ceased the little carillon To herald from its wooden tower The important transit of the hour, The Theologian hastened on, Content to be all owed at last To sing his Idyl of the Past.
THE THEOLOGIAN'S TALE
"Ah, how short are the days! How soon the night overtakes us! In the old country the twilight is longer; but here in the forest Suddenly comes the dark, with hardly a pause in its coming, Hardly a moment between the two lights, the day and the lamplight; Yet how grand is the winter! How spotless the snow is, and perfect!"
Thus spake Elizabeth Haddon at nightfall to Hannah the housemaid, As in the farm-house kitchen, that served for kitchen and parlor, By the window she sat with her work, and looked on a landscape White as the great white sheet that Peter saw in his vision, By the four corners let down and descending out of the heavens. Covered with snow were the forests of pine, and the fields and the meadows. Nothing was dark but the sky, and the distant Delaware flowing Down from its native hills, a peaceful and bountiful river.
Then with a smile on her lips made answer Hannah the housemaid: "Beautiful winter! yea, the winter is beautiful, surely, If one could only walk like a fly with one's feet on the ceiling. But the great Delaware River is not like the Thames, as we saw it Out of our upper windows in Rotherhithe Street in the Borough, Crowded with masts and sails of vessels coming and going; Here there is nothing but pines, with patches of snow on their branches. There is snow in the air, and see! it is falling already; All the roads will be blocked, and I pity Joseph to-morrow, Breaking his way through the drifts, with his sled and oxen; and then, too, How in all the world shall we get to Meeting on First-Day?"
But Elizabeth checked her, and answered, mildly reproving: "Surely the Lord will provide; for unto the snow he sayeth, Be thou on the earth, the good Lord sayeth; he is it Giveth snow like wool, like ashes scatters the hoar-frost." So she folded her work and laid it away in her basket.
Meanwhile Hannah the housemaid had closed and fastened the shutters, Spread the cloth, and lighted the lamp on the table, and placed there Plates and cups from the dresser, the brown rye loaf, and the butter Fresh from the dairy, and then, protecting her hand with a holder, Took from the crane in the chimney the steaming and simmering kettle, Poised it aloft in the air, and filled up the earthen teapot, Made in Delft, and adorned with quaint and wonderful figures.
Then Elizabeth said, "Lo! Joseph is long on his errand. I have sent him away with a hamper of food and of clothing For the poor in the village. A good lad and cheerful is Joseph; In the right place is his heart, and his hand is ready and willing."
Thus in praise of her servant she spake, and Hannah the housemaid Laughed with her eyes, as she listened, but governed her tongue, and was silent, While her mistress went on: "The house is far from the village; We should be lonely here, were it not for Friends that in passing Sometimes tarry o'ernight, and make us glad by their coming."
Thereupon answered Hannah the housemaid, the thrifty, the frugal: "Yea, they come and they tarry, as if thy house were a tavern; Open to all are its doors, and they come and go like the pigeons In and out of the holes of the pigeon-house over the hayloft, Cooing and smoothing their feathers and basking themselves in the sunshine."
But in meekness of spirit, and calmly, Elizabeth answered: "All I have is the Lord's, not mine to give or withhold it; I but distribute his gifts to the poor, and to those of his people Who in journeyings often surrender their lives to his service. His, not mine, are the gifts, and only so far can I make them Mine, as in giving I add my heart to whatever is given. Therefore my excellent father first built this house in the clearing; Though he came not himself, I came; for the Lord was my guidance, Leading me here for this service. We must not grudge, then, to others Ever the cup of cold water, or crumbs that fall from our table."
Thus rebuked, for a season was silent the penitent housemaid; And Elizabeth said in tones even sweeter and softer: "Dost thou remember, Hannah, the great May-Meeting in London, When I was still a child, how we sat in the silent assembly, Waiting upon the Lord in patient and passive submission? No one spake, till at length a young man, a stranger, John Estaugh, Moved by the Spirit, rose, as if he were John the Apostle, Speaking such words of power that they bowed our hearts, as a strong wind Bends the grass of the fields, or grain that is ripe for the sickle. Thoughts of him to-day have been oft borne inward upon me, Wherefore I do not know; but strong is the feeling within me That once more I shall see a face I have never forgotten."
E'en as she spake they heard the musical jangle of sleigh-bells, First far off, with a dreamy sound and faint in the distance, Then growing nearer and louder, and turning into the farmyard, Till it stopped at the door, with sudden creaking of runners. Then there were voices heard as of two men talking together, And to herself, as she listened, upbraiding said Hannah the housemaid, "It is Joseph come back, and I wonder what stranger is with him?"
Down from its nail she took and lighted the great tin lantern Pierced with holes, and round, and roofed like the top of a lighthouse, And went forth to receive the coming guest at the doorway, Casting into the dark a network of glimmer and shadow Over the falling snow, the yellow sleigh, and the horses, And the forms of men, snow-covered, looming gigantic. Then giving Joseph the lantern, she entered the house with the stranger. Youthful he was and tall, and his cheeks aglow with the night air; And as he entered, Elizabeth rose, and, going to meet him, As if an unseen power had announced and preceded his presence, And he had come as one whose coming had long been expected, Quietly gave him her hand, and said, "Thou art welcome, John Estaugh." And the stranger replied, with staid and quiet behavior, "Dost thou remember me still, Elizabeth? After so many Years have passed, it seemeth a wonderful thing that I find thee. Surely the hand of the Lord conducted me here to thy threshold. For as I journeyed along, and pondered alone and in silence On his ways, that are past finding out, I saw in the snow-mist, Seemingly weary with travel, a wayfarer, who by the wayside Paused and waited. Forthwith I remembered Queen Candace's eunuch, How on the way that goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, Reading Esaias the Prophet, he journeyed, and spake unto Philip, Praying him to come up and sit in his chariot with him. So I greeted the man, and he mounted the sledge beside me, And as we talked on the way he told me of thee and thy homestead, How, being led by the light of the Spirit, that never deceiveth, Full of zeal for the work of the Lord, thou hadst come to this country. And I remembered thy name, and thy father and mother in England, And on my journey have stopped to see thee, Elizabeth Haddon. Wishing to strengthen thy hand in the labors of love thou art doing."
And Elizabeth answered with confident voice, and serenely Looking into his face with her innocent eyes as she answered, "Surely the hand of the Lord is in it; his Spirit hath led thee Out of the darkness and storm to the light and peace of my fireside."
Then, with stamping of feet, the door was opened, and Joseph Entered, bearing the lantern, and, carefully blowing the light out, Rung it up on its nail, and all sat down to their supper; For underneath that roof was no distinction of persons, But one family only, one heart, one hearth and one household.
When the supper was ended they drew their chairs to the fireplace, Spacious, open-hearted, profuse of flame and of firewood, Lord of forests unfelled, and not a gleaner of fagots, Spreading its arms to embrace with inexhaustible bounty All who fled from the cold, exultant, laughing at winter! Only Hannah the housemaid was busy in clearing the table, Coming and going, and hustling about in closet and chamber.
Then Elizabeth told her story again to John Estaugh, Going far back to the past, to the early days of her childhood; How she had waited and watched, in all her doubts and besetments Comforted with the extendings and holy, sweet inflowings Of the spirit of love, till the voice imperative sounded, And she obeyed the voice, and cast in her lot with her people Here in the desert land, and God would provide for the issue.
Meanwhile Joseph sat with folded hands, and demurely Listened, or seemed to listen, and in the silence that followed Nothing was heard for a while but the step of Hannah the housemaid Walking the floor overhead, and setting the chambers in order. And Elizabeth said, with a smile of compassion, "The maiden Hath a light heart in her breast, but her feet are heavy and awkward." Inwardly Joseph laughed, but governed his tongue, and was silent.
Then came the hour of sleep, death's counterfeit, nightly rehearsal Of the great Silent Assembly, the Meeting of shadows, where no man Speaketh, but all are still, and the peace and rest are unbroken! Silently over that house the blessing of slumber descended. But when the morning dawned, and the sun uprose in his splendor, Breaking his way through clouds that encumbered his path in the heavens, Joseph was seen with his sled and oxen breaking a pathway Through the drifts of snow; the horses already were harnessed, And John Estaugh was standing and taking leave at the threshold, Saying that he should return at the Meeting in May; while above them Hannah the housemaid, the homely, was looking out of the attic, Laughing aloud at Joseph, then suddenly closing the casement, As the bird in a cuckoo-clock peeps out of its window, Then disappears again, and closes the shutter behind it.
Now was the winter gone, and the snow; and Robin the Redbreast, Boasted on bush and tree it was he, it was he and no other That had covered with leaves the Babes in the Wood, and blithely All the birds sang with him, and little cared for his boasting, Or for his Babes in the Wood, or the Cruel Uncle, and only Sang for the mates they had chosen, and cared for the nests they were building. With them, but more sedately and meekly, Elizabeth Haddon Sang in her inmost heart, but her lips were silent and songless. Thus came the lovely spring with a rush of blossoms and music, Flooding the earth with flowers, and the air with melodies vernal.
Then it came to pass, one pleasant morning, that slowly Up the road there came a cavalcade, as of pilgrims Men and women, wending their way to the Quarterly Meeting In the neighboring town; and with them came riding John Estaugh. At Elizabeth's door they stopped to rest, and alighting Tasted the currant wine, and the bread of rye, and the honey Brought from the hives, that stood by the sunny wall of the garden; Then remounted their horses, refreshed, and continued their journey, And Elizabeth with them, and Joseph, and Hannah the housemaid. But, as they started, Elizabeth lingered a little, and leaning Over her horse's neck, in a whisper said to John Estaugh "Tarry awhile behind, for I have something to tell thee, Not to be spoken lightly, nor in the presence of others; Them it concerneth not, only thee and me it concerneth." And they rode slowly along through the woods, conversing together. It was a pleasure to breathe the fragrant air of the forest; It was a pleasure to live on that bright and happy May morning!
Then Elizabeth said, though still with a certain reluctance, As if impelled to reveal a secret she fain would have guarded: "I will no longer conceal what is laid upon me to tell thee; I have received from the Lord a charge to love thee, John Estaugh."
And John Estaugh made answer, surprised by the words she had spoken, "Pleasant to me are thy converse, thy ways, thy meekness of spirit; Pleasant thy frankness of speech, and thy soul's immaculate whiteness, Love without dissimulation, a holy and inward adorning. But I have yet no light to lead me, no voice to direct me. When the Lord's work is done, and the toil and the labor completed He hath appointed to me, I will gather into the stillness Of my own heart awhile, and listen and wait for his guidance."
Then Elizabeth said, not troubled nor wounded in spirit, "So is it best, John Estaugh. We will not speak of it further. It hath been laid upon me to tell thee this, for to-morrow Thou art going away, across the sea, and I know not When I shall see thee more; but if the Lord hath decreed it, Thou wilt return again to seek me here and to find me." And they rode onward in silence, and entered the town with the others.
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
Now went on as of old the quiet life of the homestead. Patient and unrepining Elizabeth labored, in all things Mindful not of herself, but bearing the burdens of others, Always thoughtful and kind and untroubled; and Hannah the housemaid Diligent early and late, and rosy with washing and scouring, Still as of old disparaged the eminent merits of Joseph, And was at times reproved for her light and frothy behavior, For her shy looks, and her careless words, and her evil surmisings, Being pressed down somewhat like a cart with sheaves overladen, As she would sometimes say to Joseph, quoting the Scriptures.
Meanwhile John Estaugh departed across the sea, and departing Carried hid in his heart a secret sacred and precious, Filling its chambers with fragrance, and seeming to him in its sweetness Mary's ointment of spikenard, that filled all the house with its odor. O lost days of delight, that are wasted in doubting and waiting! O lost hours and days in which we might have been happy! But the light shone at last, and guided his wavering footsteps, And at last came the voice, imperative, questionless, certain.
Then John Estaugh came back o'er the sea for the gift that was offered, Better than houses and lands, the gift of a woman's affection. And on the First-Day that followed, he rose in the Silent Assembly, Holding in his strong hand a hand that trembled a little, Promising to be kind and true and faithful in all things. Such were the marriage-rites of John and Elizabeth Estaugh.
And not otherwise Joseph, the honest, the diligent servant, Sped in his bashful wooing with homely Hannah the housemaid; For when he asked her the question, she answered, "Nay"; and then added "But thee may make believe, and see what will come of it, Joseph."
"A pleasant and a winsome tale," The Student said, "though somewhat pale And quiet in its coloring, As if it caught its tone and air From the gray suits that Quakers wear; Yet worthy of some German bard, Hebel, or Voss, or Eberhard, Who love of humble themes to sing, In humble verse; but no more true Than was the tale I told to you."
The Theologian made reply, And with some warmth, "That I deny; 'T is no invention of my own, But something well and widely known To readers of a riper age, Writ by the skilful hand that wrote The Indian tale of Hobomok, And Philothea's classic page. I found it like a waif afloat Or dulse uprooted from its rock, On the swift tides that ebb and flow In daily papers, and at flood Bear freighted vessels to and fro, But later, when the ebb is low, Leave a long waste of sand and mud."
"It matters little," quoth the Jew; "The cloak of truth is lined with lies, Sayeth some proverb old and wise; And Love is master of all arts, And puts it into human hearts The strangest things to say and do."
And here the controversy closed Abruptly, ere 't was well begun; For the Sicilian interposed With, "Lordlings, listen, every one That listen may, unto a tale That's merrier than the nightingale; A tale that cannot boast, forsooth, A single rag or shred of truth; That does not leave the mind in doubt As to the with it or without; A naked falsehood and absurd As mortal ever told or heard. Therefore I tell it; or, maybe, Simply because it pleases me."
THE SICILIAN'S TALE
THE MONK OF CASAL-MAGGIORE
Once on a time, some centuries ago, In the hot sunshine two Franciscan friars Wended their weary way with footsteps slow Back to their convent, whose white walls and spires Gleamed on the hillside like a patch of snow; Covered with dust they were, and torn by briers, And bore like sumpter-mules upon their backs The badge of poverty, their beggar's sacks.
The first was Brother Anthony, a spare And silent man, with pallid cheeks and thin, Much given to vigils, penance, fasting, prayer, Solemn and gray, and worn with discipline, As if his body but white ashes were, Heaped on the living coals that glowed within; A simple monk, like many of his day, Whose instinct was to listen and obey.
A different man was Brother Timothy, Of larger mould and of a coarser paste; A rubicund and stalwart monk was he, Broad in the shoulders, broader in the waist, Who often filled the dull refectory With noise by which the convent was disgraced, But to the mass-book gave but little heed, By reason he had never learned to read.
Now, as they passed the outskirts of a wood, They saw, with mingled pleasure and surprise, Fast tethered to a tree an ass, that stood Lazily winking his large, limpid eyes. The farmer Gilbert of that neighborhood His owner was, who, looking for supplies Of fagots, deeper in the wood had strayed, Leaving his beast to ponder in the shade.
As soon as Brother Timothy espied The patient animal, he said: "Good-lack! Thus for our needs doth Providence provide; We'll lay our wallets on the creature's back." This being done, he leisurely untied From head and neck the halter of the jack, And put it round his own, and to the tree Stood tethered fast as if the ass were he.
And, bursting forth into a merry laugh, He cried to Brother Anthony: "Away! And drive the ass before you with your staff; And when you reach the convent you may say You left me at a farm, half tired and half Ill with a fever, for a night and day, And that the farmer lent this ass to bear Our wallets, that are heavy with good fare."
Now Brother Anthony, who knew the pranks Of Brother Timothy, would not persuade Or reason with him on his quirks and cranks, But, being obedient, silently obeyed; And, smiting with his staff the ass's flanks, Drove him before him over hill and glade, Safe with his provend to the convent gate, Leaving poor Brother Timothy to his fate.
Then Gilbert, laden with fagots for his fire, Forth issued from the wood, and stood aghast To see the ponderous body of the friar Standing where he had left his donkey last. Trembling he stood, and dared not venture nigher, But stared, and gaped, and crossed himself full fast; For, being credulous and of little wit, He thought it was some demon from the pit.
While speechless and bewildered thus he gazed, And dropped his load of fagots on the ground, Quoth Brother Timothy: "Be not amazed That where you left a donkey should be found A poor Franciscan friar, half-starved and crazed, Standing demure and with a halter bound; But set me free, and hear the piteous story Of Brother Timothy of Casal-Maggiore.
"I am a sinful man, although you see I wear the consecrated cowl and cape; You never owned an ass, but you owned me, Changed and transformed from my own natural shape All for the deadly sin of gluttony, From which I could not otherwise escape, Than by this penance, dieting on grass, And being worked and beaten as an ass.
"Think of the ignominy I endured; Think of the miserable life I led, The toil and blows to which I was inured, My wretched lodging in a windy shed, My scanty fare so grudgingly procured, The damp and musty straw that formed my bed! But, having done this penance for my sins, My life as man and monk again begins."
The simple Gilbert, hearing words like these, Was conscience-stricken, and fell down apace Before the friar upon his bended knees, And with a suppliant voice implored his grace; And the good monk, now very much at ease, Granted him pardon with a smiling face, Nor could refuse to be that night his guest, It being late, and he in need of rest.
Upon a hillside, where the olive thrives, With figures painted on its white-washed walls, The cottage stood; and near the humming hives Made murmurs as of far-off waterfalls; A place where those who love secluded lives Might live content, and, free from noise and brawls, Like Claudian's Old Man of Verona here Measure by fruits the slow-revolving year.
And, coming to this cottage of content They found his children, and the buxom wench His wife, Dame Cicely, and his father, bent With years and labor, seated on a bench, Repeating over some obscure event In the old wars of Milanese and French; All welcomed the Franciscan, with a sense Of sacred awe and humble reverence.
When Gilbert told them what had come to pass, How beyond question, cavil, or surmise, Good Brother Timothy had been their ass, You should have seen the wonder in their eyes; You should have heard them cry, "Alas! alas! Have heard their lamentations and their sighs! For all believed the story, and began To see a saint in this afflicted man.
Forthwith there was prepared a grand repast, To satisfy the craving of the friar After so rigid and prolonged a fast; The bustling housewife stirred the kitchen fire; Then her two barnyard fowls, her best and last, Were put to death, at her express desire, And served up with a salad in a bowl, And flasks of country wine to crown the whole.
It would not be believed should I repeat How hungry Brother Timothy appeared; It was a pleasure but to see him eat, His white teeth flashing through his russet beard, His face aglow and flushed with wine and meat, His roguish eyes that rolled and laughed and leered! Lord! how he drank the blood-red country wine As if the village vintage were divine!
And all the while he talked without surcease, And told his merry tales with jovial glee That never flagged, but rather did increase, And laughed aloud as if insane were he, And wagged his red beard, matted like a fleece, And cast such glances at Dame Cicely That Gilbert now grew angry with his guest, And thus in words his rising wrath expressed.
"Good father," said he, "easily we see How needful in some persons, and how right, Mortification of the flesh may be. The indulgence you have given it to-night, After long penance, clearly proves to me Your strength against temptation is but slight, And shows the dreadful peril you are in Of a relapse into your deadly sin.
"To-morrow morning, with the rising sun, Go back unto your convent, nor refrain From fasting and from scourging, for you run Great danger to become an ass again, Since monkish flesh and asinine are one; Therefore be wise, nor longer here remain, Unless you wish the scourge should be applied By other hands, that will not spare your hide."
When this the monk had heard, his color fled And then returned, like lightning in the air, Till he was all one blush from foot to head, And even the bald spot in his russet hair Turned from its usual pallor to bright red! The old man was asleep upon his chair. Then all retired, and sank into the deep And helpless imbecility of sleep.
They slept until the dawn of day drew near, Till the cock should have crowed, but did not crow, For they had slain the shining chanticleer And eaten him for supper, as you know. The monk was up betimes and of good cheer, And, having breakfasted, made haste to go, As if he heard the distant matin bell, And had but little time to say farewell.
Fresh was the morning as the breath of kine; Odors of herbs commingled with the sweet Balsamic exhalations of the pine; A haze was in the air presaging heat; Uprose the sun above the Apennine, And all the misty valleys at its feet Were full of the delirious song of birds, Voices of men, and bells, and low of herds.
All this to Brother Timothy was naught; He did not care for scenery, nor here His busy fancy found the thing it sought; But when he saw the convent walls appear, And smoke from kitchen chimneys upward caught And whirled aloft into the atmosphere, He quickened his slow footsteps, like a beast That scents the stable a league off at least.
And as he entered though the convent gate He saw there in the court the ass, who stood Twirling his ears about, and seemed to wait, Just as he found him waiting in the wood; And told the Prior that, to alleviate The daily labors of the brotherhood, The owner, being a man of means and thrift, Bestowed him on the convent as a gift.
And thereupon the Prior for many days Revolved this serious matter in his mind, And turned it over many different ways, Hoping that some safe issue he might find; But stood in fear of what the world would say, If he accepted presents of this kind, Employing beasts of burden for the packs, That lazy monks should carry on their backs.
Then, to avoid all scandal of the sort, And stop the mouth of cavil, he decreed That he would cut the tedious matter short, And sell the ass with all convenient speed, Thus saving the expense of his support, And hoarding something for a time of need. So he despatched him to the neighboring Fair, And freed himself from cumber and from care.
It happened now by chance, as some might say, Others perhaps would call it destiny, Gilbert was at the Fair; and heard a bray, And nearer came, and saw that it was he, And whispered in his ear, "Ah, lackaday! Good father, the rebellious flesh, I see, Has changed you back into an ass again, And all my admonitions were in vain."
The ass, who felt this breathing in his ear, Did not turn round to look, but shook his head, As if he were not pleased these words to hear, And contradicted all that had been said. And this made Gilbert cry in voice more clear, "I know you well; your hair is russet-red; Do not deny it; for you are the same Franciscan friar, and Timothy by name."
The ass, though now the secret had come out, Was obstinate, and shook his head again; Until a crowd was gathered round about To hear this dialogue between the twain; And raised their voices in a noisy shout When Gilbert tried to make the matter plain, And flouted him and mocked him all day long With laughter and with jibes and scraps of song.
"If this be Brother Timothy," they cried, "Buy him, and feed him on the tenderest grass; Thou canst not do too much for one so tried As to be twice transformed into an ass." So simple Gilbert bought him, and untied His halter, and o'er mountain and morass He led him homeward, talking as he went Of good behavior and a mind content.
The children saw them coming, and advanced, Shouting with joy, and hung about his neck,— Not Gilbert's, but the ass's,—round him danced, And wove green garlands where-withal to deck His sacred person; for again it chanced Their childish feelings, without rein or check, Could not discriminate in any way A donkey from a friar of Orders Gray.
"O Brother Timothy," the children said, "You have come back to us just as before; We were afraid, and thought that you were dead, And we should never see you any more." And then they kissed the white star on his head, That like a birth-mark or a badge he wore, And patted him upon the neck and face, And said a thousand things with childish grace.
Thenceforward and forever he was known As Brother Timothy, and led alway A life of luxury, till he had grown Ungrateful being stuffed with corn and hay, And very vicious. Then in angry tone, Rousing himself, poor Gilbert said one day "When simple kindness is misunderstood A little flagellation may do good."
His many vices need not here be told; Among them was a habit that he had Of flinging up his heels at young and old, Breaking his halter, running off like mad O'er pasture-lands and meadow, wood and wold, And other misdemeanors quite as bad; But worst of all was breaking from his shed At night, and ravaging the cabbage-bed.
So Brother Timothy went back once more To his old life of labor and distress; Was beaten worse than he had been before. And now, instead of comfort and caress, Came labors manifold and trials sore; And as his toils increased his food grew less, Until at last the great consoler, Death, Ended his many sufferings with his breath.
Great was the lamentation when he died; And mainly that he died impenitent; Dame Cicely bewailed, the children cried, The old man still remembered the event In the French war, and Gilbert magnified His many virtues, as he came and went, And said: "Heaven pardon Brother Timothy, And keep us from the sin of gluttony."
"Signor Luigi," said the Jew, When the Sicilian's tale was told, "The were-wolf is a legend old, But the were-ass is something new, And yet for one I think it true. The days of wonder have not ceased If there are beasts in forms of men, As sure it happens now and then, Why may not man become a beast, In way of punishment at least?
"But this I will not now discuss, I leave the theme, that we may thus Remain within the realm of song. The story that I told before, Though not acceptable to all, At least you did not find too long. I beg you, let me try again, With something in a different vein, Before you bid the curtain fall. Meanwhile keep watch upon the door, Nor let the Landlord leave his chair, Lest he should vanish into air, And thus elude our search once more."
Thus saying, from his lips he blew A little cloud of perfumed breath, And then, as if it were a clew To lead his footsteps safely through, Began his tale as followeth.
THE SPANISH JEW'S SECOND TALE
The battle is fought and won By King Ladislaus the Hun, In fire of hell and death's frost, On the day of Pentecost. And in rout before his path From the field of battle red Flee all that are not dead Of the army of Amurath.
In the darkness of the night Iskander, the pride and boast Of that mighty Othman host, With his routed Turks, takes flight From the battle fought and lost On the day of Pentecost; Leaving behind him dead The army of Amurath, The vanguard as it led, The rearguard as it fled, Mown down in the bloody swath Of the battle's aftermath.
But he cared not for Hospodars, Nor for Baron or Voivode, As on through the night he rode And gazed at the fateful stars, That were shining overhead But smote his steed with his staff, And smiled to himself, and said; "This is the time to laugh."
In the middle of the night, In a halt of the hurrying flight, There came a Scribe of the King Wearing his signet ring, And said in a voice severe: "This is the first dark blot On thy name, George Castriot! Alas why art thou here, And the army of Amurath slain, And left on the battle plain?"
And Iskander answered and said: "They lie on the bloody sod By the hoofs of horses trod; But this was the decree Of the watchers overhead; For the war belongeth to God, And in battle who are we, Who are we, that shall withstand The wind of his lifted hand?"
Then he bade them bind with chains This man of books and brains; And the Scribe said: "What misdeed Have I done, that, without need, Thou doest to me this thing?" And Iskander answering Said unto him: "Not one Misdeed to me hast thou done; But for fear that thou shouldst run And hide thyself from me, Have I done this unto thee.
"Now write me a writing, O Scribe, And a blessing be on thy tribe! A writing sealed with thy ring, To King Amurath's Pasha In the city of Croia, The city moated and walled, That he surrender the same In the name of my master, the King; For what is writ in his name Can never be recalled."
And the Scribe bowed low in dread, And unto Iskander said: "Allah is great and just, But we are as ashes and dust; How shall I do this thing, When I know that my guilty head Will be forfeit to the King?"
Then swift as a shooting star The curved and shining blade Of Iskander's scimetar From its sheath, with jewels bright, Shot, as he thundered: "Write!" And the trembling Scribe obeyed, And wrote in the fitful glare Of the bivouac fire apart, With the chill of the midnight air On his forehead white and bare, And the chill of death in his heart.
Then again Iskander cried: "Now follow whither I ride, For here thou must not stay. Thou shalt be as my dearest friend, And honors without end Shall surround thee on every side, And attend thee night and day." But the sullen Scribe replied "Our pathways here divide; Mine leadeth not thy way."
And even as he spoke Fell a sudden scimetar-stroke, When no one else was near; And the Scribe sank to the ground, As a stone, pushed from the brink Of a black pool, might sink With a sob and disappear; And no one saw the deed; And in the stillness around No sound was heard but the sound Of the hoofs of Iskander's steed, As forward he sprang with a bound.
Then onward he rode and afar, With scarce three hundred men, Through river and forest and fen, O'er the mountains of Argentar; And his heart was merry within, When he crossed the river Drin, And saw in the gleam of the morn The White Castle Ak-Hissar, The city Croia called, The city moated and walled, The city where he was born,— And above it the morning star.
Then his trumpeters in the van On their silver bugles blew, And in crowds about him ran Albanian and Turkoman, That the sound together drew. And he feasted with his friends, And when they were warm with wine, He said: "O friends of mine, Behold what fortune sends, And what the fates design! King Amurath commands That my father's wide domain, This city and all its lands, Shall be given to me again."
Then to the Castle White He rode in regal state, And entered in at the gate In all his arms bedight, And gave to the Pasha Who ruled in Croia The writing of the King, Sealed with his signet ring. And the Pasha bowed his head, And after a silence said: "Allah is just and great! I yield to the will divine, The city and lands are thine; Who shall contend with fate?"
Anon from the castle walls The crescent banner falls, And the crowd beholds instead, Like a portent in the sky, Iskander's banner fly, The Black Eagle with double head; And a shout ascends on high, For men's souls are tired of the Turks, And their wicked ways and works, That have made of Ak-Hissar A city of the plague; And the loud, exultant cry That echoes wide and far Is: "Long live Scanderbeg!"
It was thus Iskander came Once more unto his own; And the tidings, like the flame Of a conflagration blown By the winds of summer, ran, Till the land was in a blaze, And the cities far and near, Sayeth Ben Joshua Ben Meir, In his Book of the Words of the Days, "Were taken as a man Would take the tip of his ear."
"Now that is after my own heart," The Poet cried; "one understands Your swarthy hero Scanderbeg, Gauntlet on hand and boot on leg, And skilled in every warlike art, Riding through his Albanian lands, And following the auspicious star That shone for him o'er Ak-Hissar."
The Theologian added here His word of praise not less sincere, Although he ended with a jibe; "The hero of romance and song Was born," he said, "to right the wrong; And I approve; but all the same That bit of treason with the Scribe Adds nothing to your hero's fame."
The Student praised the good old times And liked the canter of the rhymes, That had a hoofbeat in their sound; But longed some further word to hear Of the old chronicler Ben Meir, And where his volume might he found. The tall Musician walked the room With folded arms and gleaming eyes, As if he saw the Vikings rise, Gigantic shadows in the gloom; And much he talked of their emprise, And meteors seen in Northern skies, And Heimdal's horn, and day of doom But the Sicilian laughed again; "This is the time to laugh," he said, For the whole story he well knew Was an invention of the Jew, Spun from the cobwebs in his brain, And of the same bright scarlet thread As was the Tale of Kambalu.
Only the Landlord spake no word; 'T was doubtful whether he had heard The tale at all, so full of care Was he of his impending fate, That, like the sword of Damocles, Above his head hung blank and bare, Suspended by a single hair, So that he could not sit at ease, But sighed and looked disconsolate, And shifted restless in his chair, Revolving how he might evade The blow of the descending blade.
The Student came to his relief By saying in his easy way To the Musician: "Calm your grief, My fair Apollo of the North, Balder the Beautiful and so forth; Although your magic lyre or lute With broken strings is lying mute, Still you can tell some doleful tale Of shipwreck in a midnight gale, Or something of the kind to suit The mood that we are in to-night For what is marvellous and strange; So give your nimble fancy range, And we will follow in its flight."
But the Musician shook his head; "No tale I tell to-night," he said, "While my poor instrument lies there, Even as a child with vacant stare Lies in its little coffin dead."
Yet, being urged, he said at last: "There comes to me out of the Past A voice, whose tones are sweet and wild, Singing a song almost divine, And with a tear in every line; An ancient ballad, that my nurse Sang to me when I was a child, In accents tender as the verse; And sometimes wept, and sometimes smiled While singing it, to see arise The look of wonder in my eyes, And feel my heart with tenor beat. This simple ballad I retain Clearly imprinted on my brain, And as a tale will now repeat"
THE MUSICIAN'S TALE
THE MOTHER'S GHOST
Svend Dyring he rideth adown the glade; I myself was young! There he hath wooed him so winsome a maid; Fair words gladden so many a heart.
Together were they for seven years, And together children six were theirs.
Then came Death abroad through the land, And blighted the beautiful lily-wand.
Svend Dyring he rideth adown the glade, And again hath he wooed him another maid,
He hath wooed him a maid and brought home a bride, But she was bitter and full of pride.
When she came driving into the yard, There stood the six children weeping so hard.
There stood the small children with sorrowful heart; From before her feet she thrust them apart.
She gave to them neither ale nor bread; "Ye shall suffer hunger and hate," she said.
She took from them their quilts of blue, And said: "Ye shall lie on the straw we strew."
She took from them the great waxlight; "Now ye shall lie in the dark at night."
In the evening late they cried with cold; The mother heard it under the mould.
The woman heard it the earth below: "To my little children I must go."
She standeth before the Lord of all: "And may I go to my children small?"
She prayed him so long, and would not cease, Until he bade her depart in peace.
"At cock-crow thou shalt return again; Longer thou shalt not there remain!"
She girded up her sorrowful bones, And rifted the walls and the marble stones.
As through the village she flitted by, The watch-dogs howled aloud to the sky.
When she came to the castle gate, There stood her eldest daughter in wait.
"Why standest thou here, dear daughter mine? How fares it with brothers and sisters thine?"
"Never art thou mother of mine, For my mother was both fair and fine.
"My mother was white, with cheeks of red, But thou art pale, and like to the dead."
"How should I be fair and fine? I have been dead; pale cheeks are mine.
"How should I be white and red, So long, so long have I been dead?"
When she came in at the chamber door, There stood the small children weeping sore.
One she braided, another she brushed, The third she lifted, the fourth she hushed.
The fifth she took on her lap and pressed, As if she would suckle it at her breast.
Then to her eldest daughter said she, "Do thou bid Svend Dyring come hither to me."
Into the chamber when he came She spake to him in anger and shame.
"I left behind me both ale and bread; My children hunger and are not fed.
"I left behind me quilts of blue; My children lie on the straw ye strew.
"I left behind me the great waxlight; My children lie in the dark at night.
"If I come again unto your hall, As cruel a fate shall you befall!
"Now crows the cock with feathers red; Back to the earth must all the dead.
"Now crows the cock with feathers swart; The gates of heaven fly wide apart.
"Now crows the cock with feathers white; I can abide no longer to-night."
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs wail, They gave the children bread and ale.
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bay, They feared lest the dead were on their way.
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bark; I myself was young! They feared the dead out there in the dark. Fair words gladden so many a heart.
Touched by the pathos of these rhymes, The Theologian said: "All praise Be to the ballads of old times And to the bards of simple ways, Who walked with Nature hand in hand, Whose country was their Holy Land, Whose singing robes were homespun brown From looms of their own native town, Which they were not ashamed to wear, And not of silk or sendal gay, Nor decked with fanciful array Of cockle-shells from Outre-Mer."
To whom the Student answered: "Yes; All praise and honor! I confess That bread and ale, home-baked, home-brewed, Are wholesome and nutritious food, But not enough for all our needs; Poets—the best of them—are birds Of passage; where their instinct leads They range abroad for thoughts and words, And from all climes bring home the seeds That germinate in flowers or weeds. They are not fowls in barnyards born To cackle o'er a grain of corn; And, if you shut the horizon down To the small limits of their town, What do you but degrade your bard Till he at last becomes as one Who thinks the all-encircling sun Rises and sets in his back yard?"
The Theologian said again: "It may be so; yet I maintain That what is native still is best, And little care I for the rest. 'T is a long story; time would fail To tell it, and the hour is late; We will not waste it in debate, But listen to our Landlord's tale."
And thus the sword of Damocles Descending not by slow degrees, But suddenly, on the Landlord fell, Who blushing, and with much demur And many vain apologies, Plucking up heart, began to tell The Rhyme of one Sir Christopher.
THE LANDLORD'S TALE
THE RHYME OF SIR CHRISTOPHER
It was Sir Christopher Gardiner, Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, From Merry England over the sea, Who stepped upon this continent As if his august presence lent A glory to the colony.
You should have seen him in the street Of the little Boston of Winthrop's time, His rapier dangling at his feet Doublet and hose and boots complete, Prince Rupert hat with ostrich plume, Gloves that exhaled a faint perfume, Luxuriant curls and air sublime, And superior manners now obsolete!
He had a way of saying things That made one think of courts and kings, And lords and ladies of high degree; So that not having been at court Seemed something very little short Of treason or lese-majesty, Such an accomplished knight was he.
His dwelling was just beyond the town, At what he called his country-seat; For, careless of Fortune's smile or frown, And weary grown of the world and its ways, He wished to pass the rest of his days In a private life and a calm retreat.
But a double life was the life he led, And, while professing to be in search Of a godly course, and willing, he said, Nay, anxious to join the Puritan church, He made of all this but small account, And passed his idle hours instead With roystering Morton of Merry Mount, That pettifogger from Furnival's Inn, Lord of misrule and riot and sin, Who looked on the wine when it was red.
This country-seat was little more Than a cabin of log's; but in front of the door A modest flower-bed thickly sown With sweet alyssum and columbine Made those who saw it at once divine The touch of some other hand than his own. And first it was whispered, and then it was known, That he in secret was harboring there A little lady with golden hair, Whom he called his cousin, but whom he had wed In the Italian manner, as men said, And great was the scandal everywhere.
But worse than this was the vague surmise, Though none could vouch for it or aver, That the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre Was only a Papist in disguise; And the more to imbitter their bitter lives, And the more to trouble the public mind, Came letters from England, from two other wives, Whom he had carelessly left behind; Both of them letters of such a kind As made the governor hold his breath; The one imploring him straight to send The husband home, that he might amend; The other asking his instant death, As the only way to make an end.
The wary governor deemed it right, When all this wickedness was revealed, To send his warrant signed and sealed, And take the body of the knight. Armed with this mighty instrument, The marshal, mounting his gallant steed, Rode forth from town at the top of his speed, And followed by all his bailiffs bold, As if on high achievement bent, To storm some castle or stronghold, Challenge the warders on the wall, And seize in his ancestral hall A robber-baron grim and old.
But when though all the dust and heat He came to Sir Christopher's country-seat, No knight he found, nor warder there, But the little lady with golden hair, Who was gathering in the bright sunshine The sweet alyssum and columbine; While gallant Sir Christopher, all so gay, Being forewarned, through the postern gate Of his castle wall had tripped away, And was keeping a little holiday In the forests, that bounded his estate.
Then as a trusty squire and true The marshal searched the castle through, Not crediting what the lady said; Searched from cellar to garret in vain, And, finding no knight, came out again And arrested the golden damsel instead, And bore her in triumph into the town, While from her eyes the tears rolled down On the sweet alyssum and columbine, That she held in her fingers white and fine.
The governor's heart was moved to see So fair a creature caught within The snares of Satan and of sin, And he read her a little homily On the folly and wickedness of the lives Of women, half cousins and half wives; But, seeing that naught his words availed, He sent her away in a ship that sailed For Merry England over the sea, To the other two wives in the old countree, To search her further, since he had failed To come at the heart of the mystery.
Meanwhile Sir Christopher wandered away Through pathless woods for a month and a day, Shooting pigeons, and sleeping at night With the noble savage, who took delight In his feathered hat and his velvet vest, His gun and his rapier and the rest. But as soon as the noble savage heard That a bounty was offered for this gay bird, He wanted to slay him out of hand, And bring in his beautiful scalp for a show, Like the glossy head of a kite or crow, Until he was made to understand They wanted the bird alive, not dead; Then he followed him whithersoever he fled, Through forest and field, and hunted him down, And brought him prisoner into the town.
Alas! it was a rueful sight, To see this melancholy knight In such a dismal and hapless case; His hat deformed by stain and dent, His plumage broken, his doublet rent, His beard and flowing locks forlorn, Matted, dishevelled, and unshorn, His boots with dust and mire besprent; But dignified in his disgrace, And wearing an unblushing face. And thus before the magistrate He stood to hear the doom of fate. In vain he strove with wonted ease To modify and extenuate His evil deeds in church and state, For gone was now his power to please; And his pompous words had no more weight Than feathers flying in the breeze.
With suavity equal to his own The governor lent a patient ear To the speech evasive and highflown, In which he endeavored to make clear That colonial laws were too severe When applied to a gallant cavalier, A gentleman born, and so well known, And accustomed to move in a higher sphere.
All this the Puritan governor heard, And deigned in answer never a word; But in summary manner shipped away, In a vessel that sailed from Salem bay, This splendid and famous cavalier, With his Rupert hat and his popery, To Merry England over the sea, As being unmeet to inhabit here.
Thus endeth the Rhyme of Sir Christopher, Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, The first who furnished this barren land With apples of Sodom and ropes of sand.
These are the tales those merry guests Told to each other, well or ill; Like summer birds that lift their crests Above the borders of their nests And twitter, and again are still.
These are the tales, or new or old, In idle moments idly told; Flowers of the field with petals thin, Lilies that neither toil nor spin, And tufts of wayside weeds and gorse Hung in the parlor of the inn Beneath the sign of the Red Horse.
And still, reluctant to retire, The friends sat talking by the fire And watched the smouldering embers burn To ashes, and flash up again Into a momentary glow, Lingering like them when forced to go, And going when they would remain; For on the morrow they must turn Their faces homeward, and the pain Of parting touched with its unrest A tender nerve in every breast.
But sleep at last the victory won; They must be stirring with the sun, And drowsily good night they said, And went still gossiping to bed, And left the parlor wrapped in gloom. The only live thing in the room Was the old clock, that in its pace Kept time with the revolving spheres And constellations in their flight, And struck with its uplifted mace The dark, unconscious hours of night, To senseless and unlistening ears.
Uprose the sun; and every guest, Uprisen, was soon equipped and dressed For journeying home and city-ward; The old stage-coach was at the door, With horses harnessed, long before The sunshine reached the withered sward Beneath the oaks, whose branches hoar Murmured: "Farewell forevermore."
"Farewell!" the portly Landlord cried; "Farewell!" the parting guests replied, But little thought that nevermore Their feet would pass that threshold o'er; That nevermore together there Would they assemble, free from care, To hear the oaks' mysterious roar, And breathe the wholesome country air.
Where are they now? What lands and skies Paint pictures in their friendly eyes? What hope deludes, what promise cheers, What pleasant voices fill their ears? Two are beyond the salt sea waves, And three already in their graves. Perchance the living still may look Into the pages of this book, And see the days of long ago Floating and fleeting to and fro, As in the well-remembered brook They saw the inverted landscape gleam, And their own faces like a dream Look up upon them from below.
Beautiful lily, dwelling by still rivers, Or solitary mere, Or where the sluggish meadow-brook delivers Its waters to the weir!
Thou laughest at the mill, the whir and worry Of spindle and of loom, And the great wheel that toils amid the hurry And rushing of the flame.
Born in the purple, born to joy and pleasance, Thou dost not toil nor spin, But makest glad and radiant with thy presence The meadow and the lin.
The wind blows, and uplifts thy drooping banner, And round thee throng and run The rushes, the green yeomen of thy manor, The outlaws of the sun.
The burnished dragon-fly is thine attendant, And tilts against the field, And down the listed sunbeam rides resplendent With steel-blue mail and shield.
Thou art the Iris, fair among the fairest, Who, armed with golden rod And winged with the celestial azure, bearest The message of some God.
Thou art the Muse, who far from crowded cities Hauntest the sylvan streams, Playing on pipes of reed the artless ditties That come to us as dreams.
O flower-de-luce, bloom on, and let the river Linger to kiss thy feet! O flower of song, bloom on, and make forever The world more fair and sweet.
I lay upon the headland-height, and listened To the incessant sobbing of the sea In caverns under me, And watched the waves, that tossed and fled and glistened, Until the rolling meadows of amethyst Melted away in mist.
Then suddenly, as one from sleep, I started; For round about me all the sunny capes Seemed peopled with the shapes Of those whom I had known in days departed, Apparelled in the loveliness which gleams On faces seen in dreams.
A moment only, and the light and glory Faded away, and the disconsolate shore Stood lonely as before; And the wild-roses of the promontory Around me shuddered in the wind, and shed Their petals of pale red.
There was an old belief that in the embers Of all things their primordial form exists, And cunning alchemists Could re-create the rose with all its members From its own ashes, but without the bloom, Without the lost perfume.
Ah me! what wonder-working, occult science Can from the ashes in our hearts once more The rose of youth restore? What craft of alchemy can bid defiance To time and change, and for a single hour Renew this phantom-flower?
"O, give me back," I cried, "the vanished splendors, The breath of morn, and the exultant strife, When the swift stream of life Bounds o'er its rocky channel, and surrenders The pond, with all its lilies, for the leap Into the unknown deep!"
And the sea answered, with a lamentation, Like some old prophet wailing, and it said, "Alas! thy youth is dead! It breathes no more, its heart has no pulsation; In the dark places with the dead of old It lies forever cold!"
Then said I, "From its consecrated cerements I will not drag this sacred dust again, Only to give me pain; But, still remembering all the lost endearments, Go on my way, like one who looks before, And turns to weep no more."
Into what land of harvests, what plantations Bright with autumnal foliage and the glow Of sunsets burning low; Beneath what midnight skies, whose constellations Light up the spacious avenues between This world and the unseen!
Amid what friendly greetings and caresses, What households, though not alien, yet not mine, What bowers of rest divine; To what temptations in lone wildernesses, What famine of the heart, what pain and loss, The bearing of what cross!
I do not know; nor will I vainly question Those pages of the mystic book which hold The story still untold, But without rash conjecture or suggestion Turn its last leaves in reverence and good heed, Until "The End" I read.
THE BRIDGE OF CLOUD
Burn, O evening hearth, and waken Pleasant visions, as of old! Though the house by winds be shaken, Safe I keep this room of gold!
Ah, no longer wizard Fancy Builds her castles in the air, Luring me by necromancy Up the never-ending stair!
But, instead, she builds me bridges Over many a dark ravine, Where beneath the gusty ridges Cataracts dash and roar unseen.
And I cross them, little heeding Blast of wind or torrent's roar, As I follow the receding Footsteps that have gone before.
Naught avails the imploring gesture, Naught avails the cry of pain! When I touch the flying vesture, 'T is the gray robe of the rain.
Baffled I return, and, leaning O'er the parapets of cloud, Watch the mist that intervening Wraps the valley in its shroud.
And the sounds of life ascending Faintly, vaguely, meet the ear, Murmur of bells and voices blending With the rush of waters near.
Well I know what there lies hidden, Every tower and town and farm, And again the land forbidden Reassumes its vanished charm.
Well I know the secret places, And the nests in hedge and tree; At what doors are friendly faces, In what hearts are thoughts of me.
Through the mist and darkness sinking, Blown by wind and beaten by shower, Down I fling the thought I'm thinking, Down I toss this Alpine flower.
MAY 23, 1864
How beautiful it was, that one bright day In the long week of rain! Though all its splendor could not chase away The omnipresent pain.
The lovely town was white with apple-blooms, And the great elms o'erhead Dark shadows wove on their aerial looms Shot through with golden thread.
Across the meadows, by the gray old manse, The historic river flowed: I was as one who wanders in a trance, Unconscious of his road.
The faces of familiar friends seemed strange; Their voices I could hear, And yet the words they uttered seemed to change Their meaning to my ear.
For the one face I looked for was not there, The one low voice was mute; Only an unseen presence filled the air, And baffled my pursuit.
Now I look back, and meadow, manse, and stream Dimly my thought defines; I only see—a dream within a dream— The hill-top hearsed with pines.
I only hear above his place of rest Their tender undertone, The infinite longings of a troubled breast, The voice so like his own.
There in seclusion and remote from men The wizard hand lies cold, Which at its topmost speed let fall the pen, And left the tale half told.
Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power, And the lost clew regain? The unfinished window in Aladdin's tower Unfinished must remain!
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old, familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said: "For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
THE WIND OVER THE CHIMNEY
See, the fire is sinking low, Dusky red the embers glow, While above them still I cower, While a moment more I linger, Though the clock, with lifted finger, Points beyond the midnight hour.
Sings the blackened log a tune Learned in some forgotten June From a school-boy at his play, When they both were young together, Heart of youth and summer weather Making all their holiday.
And the night-wind rising, hark! How above there in the dark, In the midnight and the snow, Ever wilder, fiercer, grander, Like the trumpets of Iskander, All the noisy chimneys blow!
Every quivering tongue of flame Seems to murmur some great name, Seems to say to me, "Aspire!" But the night-wind answers, "Hollow Are the visions that you follow, Into darkness sinks your fire!"
Then the flicker of the blaze Gleams on volumes of old days, Written by masters of the art, Loud through whose majestic pages Rolls the melody of ages, Throb the harp-strings of the heart.
And again the tongues of flame Start exulting and exclaim: "These are prophets, bards, and seers; In the horoscope of nations, Like ascendant constellations, They control the coming years."
But the night-wind cries: "Despair! Those who walk with feet of air Leave no long-enduring marks; At God's forges incandescent Mighty hammers beat incessant, These are but the flying sparks.
"Dust are all the hands that wrought; Books are sepulchres of thought; The dead laurels of the dead Rustle for a moment only, Like the withered leaves in lonely Churchyards at some passing tread."
Suddenly the flame sinks down; Sink the rumors of renown; And alone the night-wind drear Clamors louder, wilder, vaguer,— "'T is the brand of Meleager Dying on the hearth-stone here!"
And I answer,—"Though it be, Why should that discomfort me? No endeavor is in vain; Its reward is in the doing, And the rapture of pursuing Is the prize the vanquished gain."
THE BELLS OF LYNN
HEARD AT NAHANT
O curfew of the setting sun! O Bells of Lynn! O requiem of the dying day! O Bells of Lynn!
From the dark belfries of yon cloud-cathedral wafted, Your sounds aerial seem to float, O Bells of Lynn!
Borne on the evening wind across the crimson twilight, O'er land and sea they rise and fall, O Bells of Lynn!
The fisherman in his boat, far out beyond the headland, Listens, and leisurely rows ashore, O Bells of Lynn!
Over the shining sands the wandering cattle homeward Follow each other at your call, O Bells of Lynn!
The distant lighthouse hears, and with his flaming signal Answers you, passing the watchword on, O Bells of Lynn!
And down the darkening coast run the tumultuous surges, And clap their hands, and shout to you, O Bells of Lynn!
Till from the shuddering sea, with your wild incantations, Ye summon up the spectral moon, O Bells of Lynn!
And startled at the sight like the weird woman of Endor, Ye cry aloud, and then are still, O Bells of Lynn!
KILLED AT THE FORD.
He is dead, the beautiful youth, The heart of honor, the tongue of truth, He, the life and light of us all, Whose voice was blithe as a bugle-call, Whom all eyes followed with one consent, The cheer of whose laugh, and whose pleasant word, Hushed all murmurs of discontent.
Only last night, as we rode along, Down the dark of the mountain gap, To visit the picket-guard at the ford, Little dreaming of any mishap, He was humming the words of some old song: "Two red roses he had on his cap, And another he bore at the point of his sword."
Sudden and swift a whistling ball Came out of a wood, and the voice was still; Something I heard in the darkness fall, And for a moment my blood grew chill; I spake in a whisper, as he who speaks In a room where some one is lying dead; But he made no answer to what I said.
We lifted him up to his saddle again, And through the mire and the mist and the rain Carried him back to the silent camp, And laid him as if asleep on his bed; And I saw by the light of the surgeon's lamp Two white roses upon his cheeks, And one, just over his heart, blood-red!
And I saw in a vision how far and fleet That fatal bullet went speeding forth, Till it reached a town in the distant North, Till it reached a house in a sunny street, Till it reached a heart that ceased to beat Without a murmur, without a cry; And a bell was tolled, in that far-off town, For one who had passed from cross to crown, And the neighbors wondered that she should die.
How many lives, made beautiful and sweet By self-devotion and by self-restraint, Whose pleasure is to run without complaint On unknown errands of the Paraclete, Wanting the reverence of unshodden feet, Fail of the nimbus which the artists paint Around the shining forehead of the saint, And are in their completeness incomplete! In the old Tuscan town stands Giotto's tower, The lily of Florence blossoming in stone,— A vision, a delight, and a desire,— The builder's perfect and centennial flower, That in the night of ages bloomed alone, But wanting still the glory of the spire.
'T is late at night, and in the realm of sleep My little lambs are folded like the flocks; From room to room I hear the wakeful clocks Challenge the passing hour, like guards that keep Their solitary watch on tower and steep; Far off I hear the crowing of the cocks, And through the opening door that time unlocks Feel the fresh breathing of To-morrow creep. To-morrow! the mysterious, unknown guest, Who cries to me: "Remember Barmecide, And tremble to be happy with the rest." And I make answer: "I am satisfied; I dare not ask; I know not what is best; God hath already said what shall betide."
Oft have I seen at some cathedral door A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat, Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'er; Far off the noises of the world retreat; The loud vociferations of the street Become an undistinguishable roar. So, as I enter here from day to day, And leave my burden at this minster gate, Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray, The tumult of the time disconsolate To inarticulate murmurs dies away, While the eternal ages watch and wait.
How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers! This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers, And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers! But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves, And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers! Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain, What exultations trampling on despair, What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong, What passionate outcry of a soul in pain, Uprose this poem of the earth and air, This medieval miracle of song!
I enter, and I see thee in the gloom Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine! And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine. The air is filled with some unknown perfume; The congregation of the dead make room For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine; Like rooks that haunt Ravenna's groves of pine The hovering echoes fly from tomb to tomb. From the confessionals I hear arise Rehearsals of forgotten tragedies, And lamentations from the crypts below; And then a voice celestial, that begins With the pathetic words, "Although your sins As scarlet be," and ends with "as the snow."
With snow-white veil and garments as of flame, She stands before thee, who so long ago Filled thy young heart with passion and the woe From which thy song and all its splendors came; And while with stern rebuke she speaks thy name, The ice about thy heart melts as the snow On mountain height; and in swift overflow Comes gushing from thy lips in sobs of shame. Thou makest full confession; and a gleam, As of the dawn on some dark forest cast, Seems on thy lifted forehead to increase; Lethe and Eunoe—the remembered dream And the forgotten sorrow—bring at last That perfect pardon which is perfect peace.
I lift mine eyes, and all the windows blaze With forms of saints and holy men who died, Here martyred and hereafter glorified; And the great Rose upon its leaves displays Christ's Triumph, and the angelic roundelays, With splendor upon splendor multiplied; And Beatrice again at Dante's side No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise. And then the organ sounds, and unseen choirs Sing the old Latin hymns of peace and love, And benedictions of the Holy Ghost; And the melodious bells among the spires O'er all the house-tops and through heaven above Proclaim the elevation of the Host!
O star of morning and of liberty! O bringer of the light, whose splendor shines Above the darkness of the Apennines, Forerunner of the day that is to be! The voices of the city and the sea, The voices of the mountains and the pines, Repeat thy song, till the familiar lines Are footpaths for the thought of Italy! Thy fame is blown abroad from all the heights, Through all the nations, and a sound is heard, As of a mighty wind, and men devout, Strangers of Rome, and the new proselytes, In their own language hear thy wondrous word, And many are amazed and many doubt.
ENVOYE A M. AGASSIZ, LA VEILLE DE NOEL 1864, AVEC UN PANIER DE VINS DIVERS
L'Academie en respect, Nonobstant l'incorrection A la faveur du sujet, Ture-lure, N'y fera point de rature; Noel! ture-lure-lure. — Gui Barozai
Quand les astres de Noel Brillaient, palpitaient au ciel, Six gaillards, et chacun ivre, Chantaient gaiment dans le givre, "Bons amis, Allons donc chez Agassiz!"
Ces illustres Pelerins D'Outre-Mer adroits et fins, Se donnant des airs de pretre, A l'envi se vantaient d'etre "Bons amis, De Jean Rudolphe Agassiz!"
Oeil-de-Perdrix, grand farceur, Sans reproche et sans pudeur, Dans son patois de Bourgogne, Bredouillait comme un ivrogne, "Bons amis, J'ai danse chez Agassiz!"
Verzenay le Champenois, Bon Francais, point New-Yorquois, Mais des environs d'Avize, Fredonne a mainte reprise, "Bons amis, J'ai chante chez Agassiz!"
A cote marchait un vieux Hidalgo, mais non mousseux; Dans le temps de Charlemagne Fut son pere Grand d'Espagne! "Bons amis, J'ai dine chez Agassiz!"
Derriere eux un Bordelais, Gascon, s'il en fut jamais, Parfume de poesie Riait, chantait, plein de vie, "Bons amis, J'ai soupe chez Agassiz!"
Avec ce beau cadet roux, Bras dessus et bras dessous, Mine altiere et couleur terne, Vint le Sire de Sauterne; "Bons amis, J'ai couche chez Agassiz!"
Mais le dernier de ces preux, Etait un pauvre Chartreux, Qui disait, d'un ton robuste, "Benedictions sur le Juste! Bons amis, Benissons Pere Agassiz!"
Ils arrivent trois a trois, Montent l'escalier de bois Clopin-clopant! quel gendarme Peut permettre ce vacarme, Bons amis, A la porte d'Agassiz!
"Ouvrer donc, mon bon Seigneur, Ouvrez vite et n'ayez peur; Ouvrez, ouvrez, car nous sommes Gens de bien et gentilshommes, Bons amis De la famille Agassiz!"
Chut, ganaches! taisez-vous! C'en est trop de vos glouglous; Epargnez aux Philosophes Vos abominables strophes! Bons amis, Respectez mon Agassiz!
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
FLIGHT THE THIRD
O sweet illusions of Song, That tempt me everywhere, In the lonely fields, and the throng Of the crowded thoroughfare!
I approach, and ye vanish away, I grasp you, and ye are gone; But ever by nigh an day, The melody soundeth on.
As the weary traveller sees In desert or prairie vast, Blue lakes, overhung with trees, That a pleasant shadow cast;
Fair towns with turrets high, And shining roofs of gold, That vanish as he draws nigh, Like mists together rolled,—
So I wander and wander along, And forever before me gleams The shining city of song, In the beautiful land of dreams.
But when I would enter the gate Of that golden atmosphere, It is gone, and I wander and wait For the vision to reappear.
THE HAUNTED CHAMBER
Each heart has its haunted chamber, Where the silent moonlight falls! On the floor are mysterious footsteps, There are whispers along the walls!
And mine at times is haunted By phantoms of the Past As motionless as shadows By the silent moonlight cast.
A form sits by the window, That is not seen by day, For as soon as the dawn approaches It vanishes away.
It sits there in the moonlight Itself as pale and still, And points with its airy finger Across the window-sill.
Without before the window, There stands a gloomy pine, Whose boughs wave upward and downward As wave these thoughts of mine.
And underneath its branches Is the grave of a little child, Who died upon life's threshold, And never wept nor smiled.
What are ye, O pallid phantoms! That haunt my troubled brain? That vanish when day approaches, And at night return again?
What are ye, O pallid phantoms! But the statues without breath, That stand on the bridge overarching The silent river of death?
After so long an absence At last we meet again: Does the meeting give us pleasure, Or does it give us pain?
The tree of life has been shaken, And but few of us linger now, Like the Prophet's two or three berries In the top of the uppermost bough.
We cordially greet each other In the old, familiar tone; And we think, though we do not say it, How old and gray he is grown!
We speak of a Merry Christmas And many a Happy New Year But each in his heart is thinking Of those that are not here.
We speak of friends and their fortunes, And of what they did and said, Till the dead alone seem living, And the living alone seem dead.
And at last we hardly distinguish Between the ghosts and the guests; And a mist and shadow of sadness Steals over our merriest jests.
When Mazarvan the Magician, Journeyed westward through Cathay, Nothing heard he but the praises Of Badoura on his way.
But the lessening rumor ended When he came to Khaledan, There the folk were talking only Of Prince Camaralzaman,
So it happens with the poets: Every province hath its own; Camaralzaman is famous Where Badoura is unknown.
A gentle boy, with soft and silken locks A dreamy boy, with brown and tender eyes, A castle-builder, with his wooden blocks, And towers that touch imaginary skies.
A fearless rider on his father's knee, An eager listener unto stories told At the Round Table of the nursery, Of heroes and adventures manifold.
There will be other towers for thee to build; There will be other steeds for thee to ride; There will be other legends, and all filled With greater marvels and more glorified.
Build on, and make thy castles high and fair, Rising and reaching upward to the skies; Listen to voices in the upper air, Nor lose thy simple faith in mysteries.
From the outskirts of the town Where of old the mile-stone stood. Now a stranger, looking down I behold the shadowy crown Of the dark and haunted wood.
Is it changed, or am I changed? Ah! the oaks are fresh and green, But the friends with whom I ranged Through their thickets are estranged By the years that intervene.
Bright as ever flows the sea, Bright as ever shines the sun, But alas! they seem to me Not the sun that used to be, Not the tides that used to run.
I have a vague remembrance Of a story, that is told In some ancient Spanish legend Or chronicle of old.
It was when brave King Sanchez Was before Zamora slain, And his great besieging army Lay encamped upon the plain.
Don Diego de Ordonez Sallied forth in front of all, And shouted loud his challenge To the warders on the wall.
All the people of Zamora, Both the born and the unborn, As traitors did he challenge With taunting words of scorn.
The living, in their houses, And in their graves, the dead! And the waters of their rivers, And their wine, and oil, and bread!
There is a greater army, That besets us round with strife, A starving, numberless army, At all the gates of life.
The poverty-stricken millions Who challenge our wine and bread, And impeach us all as traitors, Both the living and the dead.
And whenever I sit at the banquet, Where the feast and song are high, Amid the mirth and the music I can hear that fearful cry.
And hollow and haggard faces Look into the lighted hall, And wasted hands are extended To catch the crumbs that fall.
For within there is light and plenty, And odors fill the air; But without there is cold and darkness, And hunger and despair.
And there in the camp of famine, In wind and cold and rain, Christ, the great Lord of the army, Lies dead upon the plain!
THE BROOK AND THE WAVE
The brooklet came from the mountain, As sang the bard of old, Running with feet of silver Over the sands of gold!
Far away in the briny ocean There rolled a turbulent wave, Now singing along the sea-beach, Now howling along the cave.
And the brooklet has found the billow Though they flowed so far apart, And has filled with its freshness and sweetness That turbulent bitter heart!
When the summer fields are mown, When the birds are fledged and flown, And the dry leaves strew the path; With the falling of the snow, With the cawing of the crow, Once again the fields we mow And gather in the aftermath.
Not the sweet, new grass with flowers Is this harvesting of ours; Not the upland clover bloom; But the rowen mired with weeds, Tangled tufts from marsh and meads, Where the poppy drops its seeds In the silence and the gloom.
THE MASQUE OF PANDORA
THE WORKSHOP OF HEPHAESTUS
HEPHAESTUS (standing before the statue of Pandora.) Not fashioned out of gold, like Hera's throne, Nor forged of iron like the thunderbolts Of Zeus omnipotent, or other works Wrought by my hands at Lemnos or Olympus, But moulded in soft clay, that unresisting Yields itself to the touch, this lovely form Before me stands, perfect in every part. Not Aphrodite's self appeared more fair, When first upwafted by caressing winds She came to high Olympus, and the gods Paid homage to her beauty. Thus her hair Was cinctured; thus her floating drapery Was like a cloud about her, and her face Was radiant with the sunshine and the sea.
THE VOICE OF ZEUS. Is thy work done, Hephaestus?
HEPHAESTUS. It is finished!
THE VOICE. Not finished till I breathe the breath of life Into her nostrils, and she moves and speaks.