The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In Six Volumes
London Smith, Elder, & Co., 15 Waterloo Place 1890
POEMS:— A Child's Grave at Florence 3 Catarina to Camoens 12 Life and Love 20 A Denial 22 Proof and Disproof 25 Question and Answer 29 Inclusions 30 Insufficiency 32
SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE 33
CASA GUIDI WINDOWS:— First Part 83 Second Part 134
POEMS BEFORE CONGRESS:— Napoleon III. in Italy 171 The Dance 190 A Tale of Villafranca 195 A Court Lady 200 An August Voice 207 Christmas Gifts 213 Italy and the World 217 A Curse for a Nation 227
LAST POEMS:— Little Mattie 241 A False Step 246 Void in Law 248 Lord Walter's Wife 252 Bianca among the Nightingales 259 My Kate 267 A Song for the Ragged Schools of London 270 May's Love 279 Amy's Cruelty 280 My Heart and I 284 The Best Thing in the World 287 Where's Agnes? 288
A CHILD'S GRAVE AT FLORENCE.
Born, July 1848. Died, November 1849
Of English blood, of Tuscan birth, What country should we give her? Instead of any on the earth, The civic Heavens receive her.
And here among the English tombs In Tuscan ground we lay her, While the blue Tuscan sky endomes Our English words of prayer.
A little child!—how long she lived, By months, not years, is reckoned: Born in one July, she survived Alone to see a second.
Bright-featured, as the July sun Her little face still played in, And splendours, with her birth begun, Had had no time for fading.
So, LILY, from those July hours, No wonder we should call her; She looked such kinship to the flowers,— Was but a little taller.
A Tuscan Lily,—only white, As Dante, in abhorrence Of red corruption, wished aright The lilies of his Florence.
We could not wish her whiter,—her Who perfumed with pure blossom The house—a lovely thing to wear Upon a mother's bosom!
This July creature thought perhaps Our speech not worth assuming; She sat upon her parents' laps And mimicked the gnat's humming;
Said "father," "mother"—then left off, For tongues celestial, fitter: Her hair had grown just long enough To catch heaven's jasper-glitter.
Babes! Love could always hear and see Behind the cloud that hid them. "Let little children come to Me, And do not thou forbid them."
So, unforbidding, have we met, And gently here have laid her, Though winter is no time to get The flowers that should o'erspread her:
We should bring pansies quick with spring, Rose, violet, daffodilly, And also, above everything, White lilies for our Lily.
Nay, more than flowers, this grave exacts,— Glad, grateful attestations Of her sweet eyes and pretty acts, With calm renunciations.
Her very mother with light feet Should leave the place too earthy, Saying "The angels have thee, Sweet, Because we are not worthy."
But winter kills the orange-buds, The gardens in the frost are, And all the heart dissolves in floods, Remembering we have lost her.
Poor earth, poor heart,—too weak, too weak To miss the July shining! Poor heart!—what bitter words we speak When God speaks of resigning!
Sustain this heart in us that faints, Thou God, the self-existent! We catch up wild at parting saints And feel Thy heaven too distant.
The wind that swept them out of sin Has ruffled all our vesture: On the shut door that let them in We beat with frantic gesture,—
To us, us also, open straight! The outer life is chilly; Are we too, like the earth, to wait Till next year for our Lily?
—Oh, my own baby on my knees, My leaping, dimpled treasure, At every word I write like these, Clasped close with stronger pressure!
Too well my own heart understands,— At every word beats fuller— My little feet, my little hands, And hair of Lily's colour!
But God gives patience, Love learns strength, And Faith remembers promise, And Hope itself can smile at length On other hopes gone from us.
Love, strong as Death, shall conquer Death, Through struggle made more glorious: This mother stills her sobbing breath, Renouncing yet victorious.
Arms, empty of her child, she lifts With spirit unbereaven,— "God will not all take back His gifts; My Lily's mine in heaven.
"Still mine! maternal rights serene Not given to another! The crystal bars shine faint between The souls of child and mother.
"Meanwhile," the mother cries, "content! Our love was well divided: Its sweetness following where she went, Its anguish stayed where I did.
"Well done of God, to halve the lot, And give her all the sweetness; To us, the empty room and cot,— To her, the Heaven's completeness.
"To us, this grave,—to her, the rows The mystic palm-trees spring in; To us, the silence in the house,— To her, the choral singing.
"For her, to gladden in God's view,— For us, to hope and bear on. Grow, Lily, in thy garden new, Beside the Rose of Sharon!
"Grow fast in heaven, sweet Lily clipped, In love more calm than this is, And may the angels dewy-lipped Remind thee of our kisses!
"While none shall tell thee of our tears, These human tears now falling, Till, after a few patient years, One home shall take us all in.
"Child, father, mother—who, left out? Not mother, and not father! And when, our dying couch about, The natural mists shall gather,
"Some smiling angel close shall stand In old Correggio's fashion, And bear a LILY in his hand, For death's ANNUNCIATION."
CATARINA TO CAMOENS
(DYING IN HIS ABSENCE ABROAD, AND REFERRING TO THE POEM IN WHICH HE RECORDED THE SWEETNESS OF HER EYES).
On the door you will not enter, I have gazed too long: adieu! Hope withdraws her peradventure; Death is near me,—and not you. Come, O lover, Close and cover These poor eyes, you called, I ween, "Sweetest eyes were ever seen!"
When I heard you sing that burden In my vernal days and bowers, Other praises disregarding, I but hearkened that of yours— Only saying In heart-playing, "Blessed eyes mine eyes have been, If the sweetest HIS have seen!"
But all changes. At this vesper, Cold the sun shines down the door. If you stood there, would you whisper "Love, I love you," as before,— Death pervading Now, and shading Eyes you sang of, that yestreen, As the sweetest ever seen?
Yes. I think, were you beside them, Near the bed I die upon, Though their beauty you denied them, As you stood there, looking down, You would truly Call them duly, For the love's sake found therein, "Sweetest eyes were ever seen."
And if you looked down upon them, And if they looked up to you, All the light which has foregone them Would be gathered back anew: They would truly Be as duly Love-transformed to beauty's sheen, "Sweetest eyes were ever seen."
But, ah me! you only see me, In your thoughts of loving man, Smiling soft perhaps and dreamy Through the wavings of my fan; And unweeting Go repeating, In your reverie serene, "Sweetest eyes were ever seen——"
While my spirit leans and reaches From my body still and pale, Fain to hear what tender speech is In your love to help my bale. O my poet, Come and show it! Come, of latest love, to glean "Sweetest eyes were ever seen."
O my poet, O my prophet, When you praised their sweetness so, Did you think, in singing of it, That it might be near to go? Had you fancies From their glances, That the grave would quickly screen "Sweetest eyes were ever seen"?
No reply. The fountain's warble In the courtyard sounds alone. As the water to the marble So my heart falls with a moan From love-sighing To this dying. Death forerunneth Love to win "Sweetest eyes were ever seen."
Will you come? When I'm departed Where all sweetnesses are hid, Where thy voice, my tender-hearted, Will not lift up either lid. Cry, O lover, Love is over! Cry, beneath the cypress green, "Sweetest eyes were ever seen!"
When the angelus is ringing, Near the convent will you walk, And recall the choral singing Which brought angels down our talk? Spirit-shriven I viewed Heaven, Till you smiled—"Is earth unclean, Sweetest eyes were ever seen?"
When beneath the palace-lattice You ride slow as you have done, And you see a face there that is Not the old familiar one,— Will you oftly Murmur softly, "Here ye watched me morn and e'en, Sweetest eyes were ever seen!"
When the palace-ladies, sitting Round your gittern, shall have said, "Poet, sing those verses written For the lady who is dead," Will you tremble Yet dissemble,— Or sing hoarse, with tears between, "Sweetest eyes were ever seen"?
"Sweetest eyes!" how sweet in flowings The repeated cadence is! Though you sang a hundred poems, Still the best one would be this. I can hear it 'Twixt my spirit And the earth-noise intervene— "Sweetest eyes were ever seen!"
But the priest waits for the praying, And the choir are on their knees, And the soul must pass away in Strains more solemn-high than these. Miserere For the weary! Oh, no longer for Catrine "Sweetest eyes were ever seen!"
Keep my riband, take and keep it, (I have loosed it from my hair) Feeling, while you overweep it, Not alone in your despair, Since with saintly Watch unfaintly Out of heaven shall o'er you lean "Sweetest eyes were ever seen."
But—but now—yet unremoved Up to heaven, they glisten fast; You may cast away, Beloved, In your future all my past: Such old phrases May be praises For some fairer bosom-queen— "Sweetest eyes were ever seen!"
Eyes of mine, what are ye doing? Faithless, faithless,—praised amiss If a tear be of your showing, Dropt for any hope of HIS! Death has boldness Besides coldness, If unworthy tears demean "Sweetest eyes were ever seen."
I will look out to his future; I will bless it till it shine. Should he ever be a suitor Unto sweeter eyes than mine, Sunshine gild them, Angels shield them, Whatsoever eyes terrene Be the sweetest HIS have seen!
 She left him the riband from her hair.
LIFE AND LOVE.
Fast this Life of mine was dying, Blind already and calm as death, Snowflakes on her bosom lying Scarcely heaving with her breath.
Love came by, and having known her In a dream of fabled lands, Gently stooped, and laid upon her Mystic chrism of holy hands;
Drew his smile across her folded Eyelids, as the swallow dips; Breathed as finely as the cold did Through the locking of her lips.
So, when Life looked upward, being Warmed and breathed on from above, What sight could she have for seeing, Evermore ... but only LOVE?
We have met late—it is too late to meet, O friend, not more than friend! Death's forecome shroud is tangled round my feet, And if I step or stir, I touch the end. In this last jeopardy Can I approach thee, I, who cannot move? How shall I answer thy request for love? Look in my face and see.
I love thee not, I dare not love thee! go In silence; drop my hand. If thou seek roses, seek them where they blow In garden-alleys, not in desert-sand. Can life and death agree, That thou shouldst stoop thy song to my complaint? I cannot love thee. If the word is faint, Look in my face and see.
I might have loved thee in some former days. Oh, then, my spirits had leapt As now they sink, at hearing thy love-praise! Before these faded cheeks were overwept, Had this been asked of me, To love thee with my whole strong heart and head,— I should have said still ... yes, but smiled and said, "Look in my face and see!"
But now ... God sees me, God, who took my heart And drowned it in life's surge. In all your wide warm earth I have no part— A light song overcomes me like a dirge. Could Love's great harmony The saints keep step to when their bonds are loose, Not weigh me down? am I a wife to choose? Look in my face and see—
While I behold, as plain as one who dreams, Some woman of full worth, Whose voice, as cadenced as a silver stream's, Shall prove the fountain-soul which sends it forth; One younger, more thought-free And fair and gay, than I, thou must forget, With brighter eyes than these ... which are not wet ... Look in my face and see!
So farewell thou, whom I have known too late To let thee come so near. Be counted happy while men call thee great, And one beloved woman feels thee dear!— Not I!—that cannot be. I am lost, I am changed,—I must go farther, where The change shall take me worse, and no one dare Look in my face and see.
Meantime I bless thee. By these thoughts of mine I bless thee from all such! I bless thy lamp to oil, thy cup to wine, Thy hearth to joy, thy hand to an equal touch Of loyal troth. For me, I love thee not, I love thee not!—away! Here's no more courage in my soul to say "Look in my face and see."
PROOF AND DISPROOF.
Dost thou love me, my Beloved? Who shall answer yes or no? What is proved or disproved When my soul inquireth so, Dost thou love me, my Beloved?
I have seen thy heart to-day, Never open to the crowd, While to love me aye and aye Was the vow as it was vowed By thine eyes of steadfast grey.
Now I sit alone, alone— And the hot tears break and burn, Now, Beloved, thou art gone, Doubt and terror have their turn. Is it love that I have known?
I have known some bitter things,— Anguish, anger, solitude. Year by year an evil brings, Year by year denies a good; March winds violate my springs.
I have known how sickness bends, I have known how sorrow breaks,— How quick hopes have sudden ends, How the heart thinks till it aches Of the smile of buried friends.
Last, I have known thee, my brave Noble thinker, lover, doer! The best knowledge last I have. But thou comest as the thrower Of fresh flowers upon a grave.
Count what feelings used to move me! Can this love assort with those? Thou, who art so far above me, Wilt thou stoop so, for repose? Is it true that thou canst love me?
Do not blame me if I doubt thee. I can call love by its name When thine arm is wrapt about me; But even love seems not the same, When I sit alone, without thee.
In thy clear eyes I descried Many a proof of love, to-day; But to-night, those unbelied Speechful eyes being gone away, There's the proof to seek, beside.
Dost thou love me, my Beloved? Only thou canst answer yes! And, thou gone, the proof's disproved, And the cry rings answerless— Dost thou love me, my Beloved?
QUESTION AND ANSWER.
Love you seek for, presupposes Summer heat and sunny glow. Tell me, do you find moss-roses Budding, blooming in the snow? Snow might kill the rose-tree's root— Shake it quickly from your foot, Lest it harm you as you go.
From the ivy where it dapples A grey ruin, stone by stone, Do you look for grapes or apples, Or for sad green leaves alone? Pluck the leaves off, two or three— Keep them for morality When you shall be safe and gone.
Oh, wilt thou have my hand, Dear, to lie along in thine? As a little stone in a running stream, it seems to lie and pine. Now drop the poor pale hand, Dear, unfit to plight with thine.
Oh, wilt thou have my cheek, Dear, drawn closer to thine own? My cheek is white, my cheek is worn, by many a tear run down. Now leave a little space, Dear, lest it should wet thine own.
Oh, must thou have my soul, Dear, commingled with thy soul?— Red grows the cheek, and warm the hand; the part is in the whole: Nor hands nor cheeks keep separate, when soul is joined to soul.
There is no one beside thee and no one above thee, Thou standest alone as the nightingale sings! And my words that would praise thee are impotent things, For none can express thee though all should approve thee. I love thee so, Dear, that I only can love thee.
Say, what can I do for thee? weary thee, grieve thee? Lean on thy shoulder, new burdens to add? Weep my tears over thee, making thee sad? Oh, hold me not—love me not! let me retrieve thee. I love thee so, Dear, that I only can leave thee.
SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE
I thought once how Theocritus had sung Of the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years, Who each one in a gracious hand appears To bear a gift for mortals, old or young: And, as I mused it in his antique tongue, I saw, in gradual vision through my tears, The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years, Those of my own life, who by turns had flung A shadow across me. Straightway I was 'ware, So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair; And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,— "Guess now who holds thee?"—"Death," I said. But, there, The silver answer rang,—"Not Death, but Love."
But only three in all God's universe Have heard this word thou hast said,—Himself, beside Thee speaking, and me listening! and replied One of us ... that was God, ... and laid the curse So darkly on my eyelids, as to amerce My sight from seeing thee,—that if I had died, The deathweights, placed there, would have signified Less absolute exclusion. "Nay" is worse From God than from all others, O my friend! Men could not part us with their worldly jars, Nor the seas change us, nor the tempests bend; Our hands would touch for all the mountain-bars: And, heaven being rolled between us at the end, We should but vow the faster for the stars.
Unlike are we, unlike, O princely Heart! Unlike our uses and our destinies. Our ministering two angels look surprise On one another, as they strike athwart Their wings in passing. Thou, bethink thee, art A guest for queens to social pageantries, With gages from a hundred brighter eyes Than tears even can make mine, to play thy part Of chief musician. What hast thou to do With looking from the lattice-lights at me, A poor, tired, wandering singer, singing through The dark, and leaning up a cypress tree? The chrism is on thine head,—on mine, the dew,— And Death must dig the level where these agree.
Thou hast thy calling to some palace-floor, Most gracious singer of high poems! where The dancers will break footing, from the care Of watching up thy pregnant lips for more. And dost thou lift this house's latch too poor For hand of thine? and canst thou think and bear To let thy music drop here unaware In folds of golden fulness at my door? Look up and see the casement broken in, The bats and owlets builders in the roof! My cricket chirps against thy mandolin. Hush, call no echo up in further proof Of desolation! there's a voice within That weeps ... as thou must sing ... alone, aloof.
I lift my heavy heart up solemnly, As once Electra her sepulchral urn, And, looking in thine eyes, I overturn The ashes at thy feet. Behold and see What a great heap of grief lay hid in me, And how the red wild sparkles dimly burn Through the ashen greyness. If thy foot in scorn Could tread them out to darkness utterly, It might be well perhaps. But if instead Thou wait beside me for the wind to blow The grey dust up, ... those laurels on thine head, O my Beloved, will not shield thee so, That none of all the fires shall scorch and shred The hair beneath. Stand further off then! go.
Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore Alone upon the threshold of my door Of individual life, I shall command The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand Serenely in the sunshine as before, Without the sense of that which I forbore— Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine With pulses that beat double. What I do And what I dream include thee, as the wine Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue God for myself, He hears that name of thine, And sees within my eyes the tears of two.
The face of all the world is changed, I think, Since first I heard the footsteps of thy soul Move still, oh, still, beside me, as they stole Betwixt me and the dreadful outer brink Of obvious death, where I, who thought to sink, Was caught up into love, and taught the whole Of life in a new rhythm. The cup of dole God gave for baptism, I am fain to drink, And praise its sweetness, Sweet, with thee anear. The names of country, heaven, are changed away For where thou art or shalt be, there or here; And this ... this lute and song ... loved yesterday, (The singing angels know) are only dear Because thy name moves right in what they say.
What can I give thee back, O liberal And princely giver, who hast brought the gold And purple of thine heart, unstained, untold, And laid them on the outside of the wall For such as I to take or leave withal, In unexpected largesse? am I cold, Ungrateful, that for these most manifold High gifts, I render nothing back at all? Not so; not cold,—but very poor instead Ask God who knows. For frequent tears have run The colours from my life, and left so dead And pale a stuff, it were not fitly done To give the same as pillow to thy head. Go farther! let it serve to trample on.
Can it be right to give what I can give? To let thee sit beneath the fall of tears As salt as mine, and hear the sighing years Re-sighing on my lips renunciative Through those infrequent smiles which fail to live For all thy adjurations? O my fears, That this can scarce be right! We are not peers, So to be lovers; and I own, and grieve, That givers of such gifts as mine are, must Be counted with the ungenerous. Out, alas! I will not soil thy purple with my dust, Nor breathe my poison on thy Venice-glass, Nor give thee any love—which were unjust. Beloved, I only love thee! let it pass.
Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright, Let temple burn, or flax; an equal light Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed: And love is fire. And when I say at need I love thee ... mark!... I love thee—in thy sight I stand transfigured, glorified aright, With conscience of the new rays that proceed Out of my face toward thine. There's nothing low In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures Who love God, God accepts while loving so. And what I feel, across the inferior features Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show How that great work of Love enhances Nature's.
And therefore if to love can be desert, I am not all unworthy. Cheeks as pale As these you see, and trembling knees that fail To bear the burden of a heavy heart,— This weary minstrel-life that once was girt To climb Aornus, and can scarce avail To pipe now 'gainst the valley nightingale A melancholy music,—why advert To these things? O Beloved, it is plain I am not of thy worth nor for thy place! And yet, because I love thee, I obtain From that same love this vindicating grace, To live on still in love, and yet in vain,— To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face.
Indeed this very love which is my boast, And which, when rising up from breast to brow, Doth crown me with a ruby large enow To draw men's eyes and prove the inner cost,— This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost, I should not love withal, unless that thou Hadst set me an example, shown me how, When first thine earnest eyes with mine were crossed, And love called love. And thus, I cannot speak Of love even, as a good thing of my own: Thy soul hath snatched up mine all faint and weak, And placed it by thee on a golden throne,— And that I love (O soul, we must be meek!) Is by thee only, whom I love alone.
And wilt thou have me fashion into speech The love I bear thee, finding words enough, And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough, Between our faces, to cast light on each?— I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach My hand to hold my spirit so far off From myself—me—that I should bring thee proof In words, of love hid in me out of reach. Nay, let the silence of my womanhood Commend my woman-love to thy belief,— Seeing that I stand unwon, however wooed, And rend the garment of my life, in brief, By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude, Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief.
If thou must love me, let it be for nought Except for love's sake only. Do not say "I love her for her smile—her look—her way Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought That falls in well with mine, and certes brought A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"— For these things in themselves, Beloved, may Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought, May be unwrought so. Neither love me for Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,— A creature might forget to weep, who bore Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby! But love me for love's sake, that evermore Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.
Accuse me not, beseech thee, that I wear Too calm and sad a face in front of thine; For we two look two ways, and cannot shine With the same sunlight on our brow and hair. On me thou lookest with no doubting care, As on a bee shut in a crystalline; Since sorrow hath shut me safe in love's divine, And to spread wing and fly in the outer air Were most impossible failure, if I strove To fail so. But I look on thee—on thee— Beholding, besides love, the end of love, Hearing oblivion beyond memory; As one who sits and gazes from above, Over the rivers to the bitter sea.
And yet, because thou overcomest so, Because thou art more noble and like a king, Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling Thy purple round me, till my heart shall grow Too close against thine heart henceforth to know How it shook when alone. Why, conquering May prove as lordly and complete a thing In lifting upward, as in crushing low! And as a vanquished soldier yields his sword To one who lifts him from the bloody earth, Even so, Beloved, I at last record, Here ends my strife. If thou invite me forth, I rise above abasement at the word. Make thy love larger to enlarge my worth.
My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes God set between His After and Before, And strike up and strike off the general roar Of the rushing worlds a melody that floats In a serene air purely. Antidotes Of medicated music, answering for Mankind's forlornest uses, thou canst pour From thence into their ears. God's will devotes Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine. How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for most use? A hope, to sing by gladly? or a fine Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse? A shade, in which to sing—of palm or pine? A grave, on which to rest from singing? Choose.
I never gave a lock of hair away To a man, Dearest, except this to thee, Which now upon my fingers thoughtfully, I ring out to the full brown length and say "Take it." My day of youth went yesterday; My hair no longer bounds to my foot's glee, Nor plant I it from rose or myrtle-tree, As girls do, any more: it only may Now shade on two pale cheeks the mark of tears, Taught drooping from the head that hangs aside Through sorrow's trick. I thought the funeral-shears Would take this first, but Love is justified,— Take it thou,—finding pure, from all those years, The kiss my mother left here when she died.
The soul's Rialto hath its merchandise; I barter curl for curl upon that mart, And from my poet's forehead to my heart Receive this lock which outweighs argosies,— As purply black, as erst to Pindar's eyes The dim purpureal tresses gloomed athwart The nine white Muse-brows. For this counterpart, ... The bay-crown's shade, Beloved, I surmise, Still lingers on thy curl, it is so black! Thus, with a fillet of smooth-kissing breath, I tie the shadows safe from gliding back, And lay the gift where nothing hindereth; Here on my heart, as on thy brow, to lack No natural heat till mine grows cold in death.
Beloved, my Beloved, when I think That thou wast in the world a year ago, What time I sat alone here in the snow And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink No moment at thy voice, but, link by link, Went counting all my chains as if that so They never could fall off at any blow Struck by thy possible hand,—why, thus I drink Of life's great cup of wonder! Wonderful, Never to feel thee thrill the day or night With personal act or speech,—nor ever cull Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull, Who cannot guess God's presence out of sight.
Say over again, and yet once over again, That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated Should seem "a cuckoo-song," as thou dost treat it. Remember, never to the hill or plain, Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed. Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt's pain Cry, "Speak once more—thou lovest!" Who can fear Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll, Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year? Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear, To love me also in silence with thy soul.
When our two souls stand up erect and strong, Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher, Until the lengthening wings break into fire At either curved point,—what bitter wrong Can the earth do to us, that we should not long Be here contented? Think. In mounting higher, The angels would press on us and aspire To drop some golden orb of perfect song Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay Rather on earth, Beloved,—where the unfit Contrarious moods of men recoil away And isolate pure spirits, and permit A place to stand and love in for a day, With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.
Is it indeed so? If I lay here dead, Wouldst thou miss any life in losing mine? And would the sun for thee more coldly shine Because of grave-damps falling round my head? I marvelled, my Beloved, when I read Thy thought so in the letter. I am thine— But ... so much to thee? Can I pour thy wine While my hands tremble? Then my soul, instead Of dreams of death, resumes life's lower range. Then, love me, Love! look on me—breathe on me! As brighter ladies do not count it strange, For love, to give up acres and degree, I yield the grave for thy sake, and exchange My near sweet view of Heaven, for earth with thee!
Let the world's sharpness, like a clasping knife, Shut in upon itself and do no harm In this close hand of Love, now soft and warm, And let us hear no sound of human strife After the click of the shutting. Life to life— I lean upon thee, Dear, without alarm, And feel as safe as guarded by a charm Against the stab of worldlings, who if rife Are weak to injure. Very-whitely still The lilies of our lives may reassure Their blossoms from their roots, accessible Alone to heavenly dews that drop not fewer Growing straight, out of man's reach, on the hill. God only, who made us rich, can make us poor.
A heavy heart, Beloved, have I borne From year to year until I saw thy face, And sorrow after sorrow took the place Of all those natural joys as lightly worn As the stringed pearls, each lifted in its turn By a beating heart at dance-time. Hopes apace Were changed to long despairs, till God's own grace Could scarcely lift above the world forlorn My heavy heart. Then thou didst bid me bring And let it drop adown thy calmly great Deep being! Fast it sinketh, as a thing Which its own nature doth precipitate, While thine doth close above it, mediating Betwixt the stars and the unaccomplished fate.
I lived with visions for my company Instead of men and women, years ago, And found them gentle mates, nor thought to know A sweeter music than they played to me. But soon their trailing purple was not free Of this world's dust, their lutes did silent grow, And I myself grew faint and blind below Their vanishing eyes. Then THOU didst come—to be, Beloved, what they seemed. Their shining fronts, Their songs, their splendours (better, yet the same, As river-water hallowed into fonts), Met in thee, and from out thee overcame My soul with satisfaction of all wants: Because God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame.
My own Beloved, who hast lifted me From this drear flat of earth where I was thrown, And, in betwixt the languid ringlets, blown A life-breath, till the forehead hopefully Shines out again, as all the angels see, Before thy saving kiss! My own, my own, Who camest to me when the world was gone, And I who looked for only God, found thee! I find thee; I am safe, and strong, and glad. As one who stands in dewless asphodel Looks backward on the tedious time he had In the upper life,—so I, with bosom-swell, Make witness, here, between the good and bad, That Love, as strong as Death, retrieves as well.
My letters! all dead paper, mute and white! And yet they seem alive and quivering Against my tremulous hands which loose the string And let them drop down on my knee to-night. This said,—he wished to have me in his sight Once, as a friend: this fixed a day in spring To come and touch my hand ... a simple thing, Yet I wept for it!—this, ... the paper's light ... Said, Dear, I love thee; and I sank and quailed As if God's future thundered on my past. This said, I am thine—and so its ink has paled With lying at my heart that beat too fast. And this ... O Love, thy words have ill availed If, what this said, I dared repeat at last!
I think of thee!—my thoughts do twine and bud About thee, as wild vines, about a tree, Put out broad leaves, and soon there's nought to see Except the straggling green which hides the wood. Yet, O my palm-tree, be it understood I will not have my thoughts instead of thee Who art dearer, better! Rather, instantly Renew thy presence; as a strong tree should, Rustle thy boughs and set thy trunk all bare, And let these bands of greenery which insphere thee Drop heavily down,—burst, shattered, everywhere! Because, in this deep joy to see and hear thee And breathe within thy shadow a new air, I do not think of thee—I am too near thee.
I see thine image through my tears to-night, And yet to-day I saw thee smiling. How Refer the cause?—Beloved, is it thou Or I, who makes me sad? The acolyte Amid the chanted joy and thankful rite May so fall flat, with pale insensate brow, On the altar-stair. I hear thy voice and vow, Perplexed, uncertain, since thou art out of sight, As he, in his swooning ears, the choir's Amen. Beloved, dost thou love? or did I see all The glory as I dreamed, and fainted when Too vehement light dilated my ideal, For my soul's eyes? Will that light come again, As now these tears come—falling hot and real?
Thou comest! all is said without a word. I sit beneath thy looks, as children do In the noon-sun, with souls that tremble through Their happy eyelids from an unaverred Yet prodigal inward joy. Behold, I erred In that last doubt! and yet I cannot rue The sin most, but the occasion—that we two Should for a moment stand unministered By a mutual presence. Ah, keep near and close, Thou dovelike help! and, when my fears would rise, With thy broad heart serenely interpose: Brood down with thy divine sufficiencies These thoughts which tremble when bereft of those, Like callow birds left desert to the skies.
The first time that the sun rose on thine oath To love me, I looked forward to the moon To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon And quickly tied to make a lasting troth. Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe; And, looking on myself, I seemed not one For such man's love!—more like an out-of-tune Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste, Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note. I did not wrong myself so, but I placed A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float 'Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced,— And great souls, at one stroke, may do and doat.
Yes, call me by my pet-name! let me hear The name I used to run at, when a child, From innocent play, and leave the cowslips piled, To glance up in some face that proved me dear With the look of its eyes. I miss the clear Fond voices which, being drawn and reconciled Into the music of Heaven's undefiled, Call me no longer. Silence on the bier, While I call God—call God!—So let thy mouth Be heir to those who are now exanimate. Gather the north flowers to complete the south, And catch the early love up in the late. Yes, call me by that name,—and I, in truth, With the same heart, will answer and not wait.
With the same heart, I said, I'll answer thee As those, when thou shalt call me by my name— Lo, the vain promise! is the same, the same, Perplexed and ruffled by life's strategy? When called before, I told how hastily I dropped my flowers or brake off from a game, To run and answer with the smile that came At play last moment, and went on with me Through my obedience. When I answer now, I drop a grave thought, break from solitude; Yet still my heart goes to thee—ponder how— Not as to a single good, but all my good! Lay thy hand on it, best one, and allow That no child's foot could run fast as this blood.
If I leave all for thee, wilt thou exchange And be all to me? Shall I never miss Home-talk and blessing and the common kiss That comes to each in turn, nor count it strange, When I look up, to drop on a new range Of walls and floors, another home than this? Nay, wilt thou fill that place by me which is Filled by dead eyes too tender to know change? That's hardest. If to conquer love, has tried, To conquer grief, tries more, as all things prove; For grief indeed is love and grief beside. Alas, I have grieved so I am hard to love. Yet love me—wilt thou? Open thine heart wide, And fold within the wet wings of thy dove.
When we met first and loved, I did not build Upon the event with marble. Could it mean To last, a love set pendulous between Sorrow and sorrow? Nay, I rather thrilled, Distrusting every light that seemed to gild The onward path, and feared to overlean A finger even. And, though I have grown serene And strong since then, I think that God has willed A still renewable fear ... O love, O troth ... Lest these enclasped hands should never hold, This mutual kiss drop down between us both As an unowned thing, once the lips being cold. And Love, be false! if he, to keep one oath, Must lose one joy, by his life's star foretold.
Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make, Of all that strong divineness which I know For thine and thee, an image only so Formed of the sand, and fit to shift and break. It is that distant years which did not take Thy sovranty, recoiling with a blow, Have forced my swimming brain to undergo Their doubt and dread, and blindly to forsake Thy purity of likeness and distort Thy worthiest love to a worthless counterfeit: As if a shipwrecked Pagan, safe in port, His guardian sea-god to commemorate, Should set a sculptured porpoise, gills a-snort And vibrant tail, within the temple-gate.
First time he kissed me, he but only kissed The fingers of this hand wherewith I write; And ever since, it grew more clean and white, Slow to world-greetings, quick with its "Oh, list," When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst I could not wear here, plainer to my sight, Than that first kiss. The second passed in height The first, and sought the forehead, and half missed, Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed! That was the chrism of love, which love's own crown, With sanctifying sweetness, did precede. The third upon my lips was folded down In perfect, purple state; since when, indeed, I have been proud and said, "My love, my own."
Because thou hast the power and own'st the grace To look through and behind this mask of me (Against which years have beat thus blanchingly With their rains), and behold my soul's true face, The dim and weary witness of life's race,— Because thou hast the faith and love to see, Through that same soul's distracting lethargy, The patient angel waiting for a place In the new Heavens,—because nor sin nor woe, Nor God's infliction, nor death's neighbourhood, Nor all which others viewing, turn to go, Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed,— Nothing repels thee, ... Dearest, teach me so To pour out gratitude, as thou dost, good!
Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours! I will not gainsay love, called love forsooth. I have heard love talked in my early youth, And since, not so long back but that the flowers Then gathered, smell still. Mussulmans and Giaours Throw kerchiefs at a smile, and have no ruth For any weeping. Polypheme's white tooth Slips on the nut if, after frequent showers, The shell is over-smooth,—and not so much Will turn the thing called love, aside to hate Or else to oblivion. But thou art not such A lover, my Beloved! thou canst wait Through sorrow and sickness, to bring souls to touch, And think it soon when others cry "Too late."
I thank all who have loved me in their hearts, With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all Who paused a little near the prison-wall To hear my music in its louder parts Ere they went onward, each one to the mart's Or temple's occupation, beyond call. But thou, who, in my voice's sink and fall When the sob took it, thy divinest Art's Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot To hearken what I said between my tears, ... Instruct me how to thank thee! Oh, to shoot My soul's full meaning into future years, That they should lend it utterance, and salute Love that endures, from Life that disappears!
"My future will not copy fair my past"— I wrote that once; and thinking at my side My ministering life-angel justified The word by his appealing look upcast To the white throne of God, I turned at last, And there, instead, saw thee, not unallied To angels in thy soul! Then I, long tried By natural ills, received the comfort fast, While budding, at thy sight, my pilgrim's staff Gave out green leaves with morning dews impearled. I seek no copy now of life's first half: Leave here the pages with long musing curled, And write me new my future's epigraph, New angel mine, unhoped for in the world!
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of everyday's Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.
Beloved, thou hast brought me many flowers Plucked in the garden, all the summer through And winter, and it seemed as if they grew In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers. So, in the like name of that love of ours, Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too, And which on warm and cold days I withdrew From my heart's ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue, And wait thy weeding; yet here's eglantine, Here's ivy!—take them, as I used to do Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine. Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true, And tell thy soul their roots are left in mine.
CASA GUIDI WINDOWS
A Poem, IN TWO PARTS
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION.
This poem contains the impressions of the writer upon events in Tuscany of which she was a witness. "From a window," the critic may demur. She bows to the objection in the very title of her work. No continuous narrative nor exposition of political philosophy is attempted by her. It is a simple story of personal impressions, whose only value is in the intensity with which they were received, as proving her warm affection for a beautiful and unfortunate country, and the sincerity with which they are related, as indicating her own good faith and freedom from partisanship.
Of the two parts of this poem, the first was written nearly three years ago, while the second resumes the actual situation of 1851. The discrepancy between the two parts is a sufficient guarantee to the public of the truthfulness of the writer, who, though she certainly escaped the epidemic "falling sickness" of enthusiasm for Pio Nono, takes shame upon herself that she believed, like a woman, some royal oaths, and lost sight of the probable consequences of some obvious popular defects. If the discrepancy should be painful to the reader, let him understand that to the writer it has been more so. But such discrepancies we are called upon to accept at every hour by the conditions of our nature, implying the interval between aspiration and performance, between faith and disillusion, between hope and fact.
"O trusted broken prophecy, O richest fortune sourly crost, Born for the future, to the future lost!"
Nay, not lost to the future in this case. The future of Italy shall not be disinherited.
CASA GUIDI WINDOWS.
I heard last night a little child go singing 'Neath Casa Guidi windows, by the church, O bella liberta, O bella!—stringing The same words still on notes he went in search So high for, you concluded the upspringing Of such a nimble bird to sky from perch Must leave the whole bush in a tremble green, And that the heart of Italy must beat, While such a voice had leave to rise serene 'Twixt church and palace of a Florence street: A little child, too, who not long had been By mother's finger steadied on his feet, And still O bella liberta he sang.
Then I thought, musing, of the innumerous Sweet songs which still for Italy outrang From older singers' lips who sang not thus Exultingly and purely, yet, with pang Fast sheathed in music, touched the heart of us So finely that the pity scarcely pained. I thought how Filicaja led on others, Bewailers for their Italy enchained, And how they called her childless among mothers, Widow of empires, ay, and scarce refrained Cursing her beauty to her face, as brothers Might a shamed sister's,—"Had she been less fair She were less wretched;"—how, evoking so From congregated wrong and heaped despair Of men and women writhing under blow, Harrowed and hideous in a filthy lair, Some personating Image wherein woe Was wrapt in beauty from offending much, They called it Cybele, or Niobe, Or laid it corpse-like on a bier for such, Where all the world might drop for Italy Those cadenced tears which burn not where they touch,— "Juliet of nations, canst thou die as we? And was the violet crown that crowned thy head So over-large, though new buds made it rough, It slipped down and across thine eyelids dead, O sweet, fair Juliet?" Of such songs enough, Too many of such complaints! behold, instead, Void at Verona, Juliet's marble trough: As void as that is, are all images Men set between themselves and actual wrong, To catch the weight of pity, meet the stress Of conscience,—since 't is easier to gaze long On mournful masks and sad effigies Than on real, live, weak creatures crushed by strong.
For me who stand in Italy to-day Where worthier poets stood and sang before, I kiss their footsteps yet their words gainsay. I can but muse in hope upon this shore Of golden Arno as it shoots away Through Florence' heart beneath her bridges four: Bent bridges, seeming to strain off like bows, And tremble while the arrowy undertide Shoots on and cleaves the marble as it goes, And strikes up palace-walls on either side, And froths the cornice out in glittering rows, With doors and windows quaintly multiplied, And terrace-sweeps, and gazers upon all, By whom if flower or kerchief were thrown out From any lattice there, the same would fall Into the river underneath, no doubt, It runs so close and fast 'twixt wall and wall. How beautiful! the mountains from without In silence listen for the word said next. What word will men say,—here where Giotto planted His campanile like an unperplexed Fine question Heavenward, touching the things granted A noble people who, being greatly vexed In act, in aspiration keep undaunted? What word will God say? Michel's Night and Day And Dawn and Twilight wait in marble scorn Like dogs upon a dunghill, couched on clay From whence the Medicean stamp's outworn, The final putting off of all such sway By all such hands, and freeing of the unborn In Florence and the great world outside Florence. Three hundred years his patient statues wait In that small chapel of the dim Saint Lawrence: Day's eyes are breaking bold and passionate Over his shoulder, and will flash abhorrence On darkness and with level looks meet fate, When once loose from that marble film of theirs; The Night has wild dreams in her sleep, the Dawn Is haggard as the sleepless, Twilight wears A sort of horror; as the veil withdrawn 'Twixt the artist's soul and works had left them heirs Of speechless thoughts which would not quail nor fawn, Of angers and contempts, of hope and love: For not without a meaning did he place The princely Urbino on the seat above With everlasting shadow on his face, While the slow dawns and twilights disapprove The ashes of his long-extinguished race Which never more shall clog the feet of men. I do believe, divinest Angelo, That winter-hour in Via Larga, when They bade thee build a statue up in snow And straight that marvel of thine art again Dissolved beneath the sun's Italian glow, Thine eyes, dilated with the plastic passion, Thawing too in drops of wounded manhood, since, To mock alike thine art and indignation, Laughed at the palace-window the new prince,— ("Aha! this genius needs for exaltation, When all's said and however the proud may wince, A little marble from our princely mines!") I do believe that hour thou laughedst too For the whole sad world and for thy Florentines, After those few tears, which were only few! That as, beneath the sun, the grand white lines Of thy snow-statue trembled and withdrew,— The head, erect as Jove's, being palsied first, The eyelids flattened, the full brow turned blank, The right-hand, raised but now as if it cursed, Dropt, a mere snowball, (till the people sank Their voices, though a louder laughter burst From the royal window)—thou couldst proudly thank God and the prince for promise and presage, And laugh the laugh back, I think verily, Thine eyes being purged by tears of righteous rage To read a wrong into a prophecy, And measure a true great man's heritage Against a mere great-duke's posterity. I think thy soul said then, "I do not need A princedom and its quarries, after all; For if I write, paint, carve a word, indeed, On book or board or dust, on floor or wall, The same is kept of God who taketh heed That not a letter of the meaning fall Or ere it touch and teach His world's deep heart, Outlasting, therefore, all your lordships, sir! So keep your stone, beseech you, for your part, To cover up your grave-place and refer The proper titles; I live by my art. The thought I threw into this snow shall stir This gazing people when their gaze is done; And the tradition of your act and mine, When all the snow is melted in the sun, Shall gather up, for unborn men, a sign Of what is the true princedom,—ay, and none Shall laugh that day, except the drunk with wine."
Amen, great Angelo! the day's at hand. If many laugh not on it, shall we weep? Much more we must not, let us understand. Through rhymers sonneteering in their sleep And archaists mumbling dry bones up the land And sketchers lauding ruined towns a-heap,— Through all that drowsy hum of voices smooth, The hopeful bird mounts carolling from brake, The hopeful child, with leaps to catch his growth, Sings open-eyed for liberty's sweet sake: And I, a singer also from my youth, Prefer to sing with these who are awake, With birds, with babes, with men who will not fear The baptism of the holy morning dew, (And many of such wakers now are here, Complete in their anointed manhood, who Will greatly dare and greatlier persevere,) Than join those old thin voices with my new, And sigh for Italy with some safe sigh Cooped up in music 'twixt an oh and ah,— Nay, hand in hand with that young child, will I Go singing rather, "Bella liberta," Than, with those poets, croon the dead or cry "Se tu men bella fossi, Italia!"
"Less wretched if less fair." Perhaps a truth Is so far plain in this, that Italy, Long trammelled with the purple of her youth Against her age's ripe activity, Sits still upon her tombs, without death's ruth But also without life's brave energy. "Now tell us what is Italy?" men ask: And others answer, "Virgil, Cicero, Catullus, Caesar." What beside? to task The memory closer—"Why, Boccaccio, Dante, Petrarca,"—and if still the flask Appears to yield its wine by drops too slow,— "Angelo, Raffael, Pergolese,"—all Whose strong hearts beat through stone, or charged again The paints with fire of souls electrical, Or broke up heaven for music. What more then? Why, then, no more. The chaplet's last beads fall In naming the last saintship within ken, And, after that, none prayeth in the land. Alas, this Italy has too long swept Heroic ashes up for hour-glass sand; Of her own past, impassioned nympholept! Consenting to be nailed here by the hand To the very bay-tree under which she stept A queen of old, and plucked a leafy branch; And, licensing the world too long indeed To use her broad phylacteries to staunch And stop her bloody lips, she takes no heed How one clear word would draw an avalanche Of living sons around her, to succeed The vanished generations. Can she count These oil-eaters with large live mobile mouths Agape for macaroni, in the amount Of consecrated heroes of her south's Bright rosary? The pitcher at the fount, The gift of gods, being broken, she much loathes To let the ground-leaves of the place confer A natural bowl. So henceforth she would seem No nation, but the poet's pensioner, With alms from every land of song and dream, While aye her pipers sadly pipe of her Until their proper breaths, in that extreme Of sighing, split the reed on which they played: Of which, no more. But never say "no more" To Italy's life! Her memories undismayed Still argue "evermore;" her graves implore Her future to be strong and not afraid; Her very statues send their looks before.
We do not serve the dead—the past is past. God lives, and lifts His glorious mornings up Before the eyes of men awake at last, Who put away the meats they used to sup, And down upon the dust of earth outcast The dregs remaining of the ancient cup, Then turn to wakeful prayer and worthy act. The Dead, upon their awful 'vantage ground, The sun not in their faces, shall abstract No more our strength; we will not be discrowned As guardians of their crowns, nor deign transact A barter of the present, for a sound Of good so counted in the foregone days. O Dead, ye shall no longer cling to us With rigid hands of desiccating praise, And drag us backward by the garment thus, To stand and laud you in long-drawn virelays! We will not henceforth be oblivious Of our own lives, because ye lived before, Nor of our acts, because ye acted well. We thank you that ye first unlatched the door, But will not make it inaccessible By thankings on the threshold any more. We hurry onward to extinguish hell With our fresh souls, our younger hope, and God's Maturity of purpose. Soon shall we Die also! and, that then our periods Of life may round themselves to memory As smoothly as on our graves the burial-sods, We now must look to it to excel as ye, And bear our age as far, unlimited By the last mind-mark; so, to be invoked By future generations, as their Dead.
'T is true that when the dust of death has choked A great man's voice, the common words he said Turn oracles, the common thoughts he yoked Like horses, draw like griffins: this is true And acceptable. I, too, should desire, When men make record, with the flowers they strew, "Savonarola's soul went out in fire Upon our Grand-duke's piazza, and burned through A moment first, or ere he did expire, The veil betwixt the right and wrong, and showed How near God sat and judged the judges there,—" Upon the self-same pavement overstrewed To cast my violets with as reverent care, And prove that all the winters which have snowed Cannot snow out the scent from stones and air, Of a sincere man's virtues. This was he, Savonarola, who, while Peter sank With his whole boat-load, called courageously "Wake Christ, wake Christ!"—who, having tried the tank Of old church-waters used for baptistry Ere Luther came to spill them, swore they stank; Who also by a princely deathbed cried, "Loose Florence, or God will not loose thy soul!" Then fell back the Magnificent and died Beneath the star-look shooting from the cowl, Which turned to wormwood-bitterness the wide Deep sea of his ambitions. It were foul To grudge Savonarola and the rest Their violets: rather pay them quick and fresh! The emphasis of death makes manifest The eloquence of action in our flesh; And men who, living, were but dimly guessed, When once free from their life's entangled mesh, Show their full length in graves, or oft indeed Exaggerate their stature, in the flat, To noble admirations which exceed Most nobly, yet will calculate in that But accurately. We, who are the seed Of buried creatures, if we turned and spat Upon our antecedents, we were vile. Bring violets rather. If these had not walked Their furlong, could we hope to walk our mile? Therefore bring violets. Yet if we self-baulked Stand still, a-strewing violets all the while, These moved in vain, of whom we have vainly talked. So rise up henceforth with a cheerful smile, And having strewn the violets, reap the corn, And having reaped and garnered, bring the plough And draw new furrows 'neath the healthy morn, And plant the great Hereafter in this Now.
Of old 't was so. How step by step was worn, As each man gained on each securely!—how Each by his own strength sought his own Ideal,— The ultimate Perfection leaning bright From out the sun and stars to bless the leal And earnest search of all for Fair and Right Through doubtful forms by earth accounted real! Because old Jubal blew into delight The souls of men with clear-piped melodies, If youthful Asaph were content at most To draw from Jubal's grave, with listening eyes, Traditionary music's floating ghost Into the grass-grown silence, were it wise? And was 't not wiser, Jubal's breath being lost, That Miriam clashed her cymbals to surprise The sun between her white arms flung apart, With new glad golden sounds? that David's strings O'erflowed his hand with music from his heart? So harmony grows full from many springs, And happy accident turns holy art.
You enter, in your Florence wanderings, The church of Saint Maria Novella. Pass The left stair, where at plague-time Machiavel Saw One with set fair face as in a glass, Dressed out against the fear of death and hell, Rustling her silks in pauses of the mass, To keep the thought off how her husband fell, When she left home, stark dead across her feet,— The stair leads up to what the Orgagnas save Of Dante's daemons; you, in passing it, Ascend the right stair from the farther nave To muse in a small chapel scarcely lit By Cimabue's Virgin. Bright and brave, That picture was accounted, mark, of old: A king stood bare before its sovran grace, A reverent people shouted to behold The picture, not the king, and even the place Containing such a miracle grew bold, Named the Glad Borgo from that beauteous face Which thrilled the artist, after work, to think His own ideal Mary-smile should stand So very near him,—he, within the brink Of all that glory, let in by his hand With too divine a rashness! Yet none shrink Who come to gaze here now; albeit 't was planned Sublimely in the thought's simplicity: The Lady, throned in empyreal state, Minds only the young Babe upon her knee, While sidelong angels bear the royal weight, Prostrated meekly, smiling tenderly Oblivion of their wings; the Child thereat Stretching its hand like God. If any should, Because of some stiff draperies and loose joints, Gaze scorn down from the heights of Raffaelhood On Cimabue's picture,—Heaven anoints The head of no such critic, and his blood The poet's curse strikes full on and appoints To ague and cold spasms for evermore. A noble picture! worthy of the shout Wherewith along the streets the people bore Its cherub-faces which the sun threw out Until they stooped and entered the church door. Yet rightly was young Giotto talked about, Whom Cimabue found among the sheep, And knew, as gods know gods, and carried home To paint the things he had painted, with a deep And fuller insight, and so overcome His chapel-Lady with a heavenlier sweep Of light: for thus we mount into the sum Of great things known or acted. I hold, too, That Cimabue smiled upon the lad At the first stroke which passed what he could do, Or else his Virgin's smile had never had Such sweetness in 't. All great men who foreknew Their heirs in art, for art's sake have been glad, And bent their old white heads as if uncrowned, Fanatics of their pure Ideals still Far more than of their triumphs, which were found With some less vehement struggle of the will. If old Margheritone trembled, swooned And died despairing at the open sill Of other men's achievements (who achieved, By loving art beyond the master), he Was old Margheritone, and conceived Never, at first youth and most ecstasy, A Virgin like that dream of one, which heaved The death-sigh from his heart. If wistfully Margheritone sickened at the smell Of Cimabue's laurel, let him go! For Cimabue stood up very well In spite of Giotto's, and Angelico The artist-saint kept smiling in his cell The smile with which he welcomed the sweet slow Inbreak of angels (whitening through the dim That he might paint them), while the sudden sense Of Raffael's future was revealed to him By force of his own fair works' competence. The same blue waters where the dolphins swim Suggest the tritons. Through the blue Immense Strike out, all swimmers! cling not in the way Of one another, so to sink; but learn The strong man's impulse, catch the freshening spray He throws up in his motions, and discern By his clear westering eye, the time of day. Thou, God, hast set us worthy gifts to earn Besides Thy heaven and Thee! and when I say There's room here for the weakest man alive To live and die, there's room too, I repeat, For all the strongest to live well, and strive Their own way, by their individual heat,— Like some new bee-swarm leaving the old hive, Despite the wax which tempts so violet-sweet. Then let the living live, the dead retain Their grave-cold flowers!—though honour's best supplied By bringing actions, to prove theirs not vain.
Cold graves, we say? it shall be testified That living men who burn in heart and brain, Without the dead were colder. If we tried To sink the past beneath our feet, be sure The future would not stand. Precipitate This old roof from the shrine, and, insecure, The nesting swallows fly off, mate from mate. How scant the gardens, if the graves were fewer! The tall green poplars grew no longer straight Whose tops not looked to Troy. Would any fight For Athens, and not swear by Marathon? Who dared build temples, without tombs in sight? Or live, without some dead man's benison? Or seek truth, hope for good, and strive for right, If, looking up, he saw not in the sun Some angel of the martyrs all day long Standing and waiting? Your last rhythm will need Your earliest key-note. Could I sing this song, If my dead masters had not taken heed To help the heavens and earth to make me strong, As the wind ever will find out some reed And touch it to such issues as belong To such a frail thing? None may grudge the Dead Libations from full cups. Unless we choose To look back to the hills behind us spread, The plains before us sadden and confuse; If orphaned, we are disinherited.
I would but turn these lachrymals to use, And pour fresh oil in from the olive-grove, To furnish them as new lamps. Shall I say What made my heart beat with exulting love A few weeks back?— The day was such a day As Florence owes the sun. The sky above, Its weight upon the mountains seemed to lay, And palpitate in glory, like a dove Who has flown too fast, full-hearted—take away The image! for the heart of man beat higher That day in Florence, flooding all her streets And piazzas with a tumult and desire. The people, with accumulated heats And faces turned one way, as if one fire Both drew and flushed them, left their ancient beats And went up toward the palace-Pitti wall To thank their Grand-duke who, not quite of course, Had graciously permitted, at their call, The citizens to use their civic force To guard their civic homes. So, one and all, The Tuscan cities streamed up to the source Of this new good at Florence, taking it As good so far, presageful of more good,— The first torch of Italian freedom, lit To toss in the next tiger's face who should Approach too near them in a greedy fit,— The first pulse of an even flow of blood To prove the level of Italian veins Towards rights perceived and granted. How we gazed From Casa Guidi windows while, in trains Of orderly procession—banners raised, And intermittent bursts of martial strains Which died upon the shout, as if amazed By gladness beyond music—they passed on! The Magistracy, with insignia, passed,— And all the people shouted in the sun, And all the thousand windows which had cast A ripple of silks in blue and scarlet down (As if the houses overflowed at last), Seemed growing larger with fair heads and eyes. The Lawyers passed,—and still arose the shout, And hands broke from the windows to surprise Those grave calm brows with bay-tree leaves thrown out. The Priesthood passed,—the friars with worldly-wise Keen sidelong glances from their beards about The street to see who shouted; many a monk Who takes a long rope in the waist, was there: Whereat the popular exultation drunk With indrawn "vivas" the whole sunny air, While through the murmuring windows rose and sunk A cloud of kerchiefed hands,—"The church makes fair Her welcome in the new Pope's name." Ensued The black sign of the "Martyrs"—(name no name, But count the graves in silence). Next were viewed The Artists; next, the Trades; and after came The People,—flag and sign, and rights as good— And very loud the shout was for that same Motto, "Il popolo." IL POPOLO,— The word means dukedom, empire, majesty, And kings in such an hour might read it so. And next, with banners, each in his degree, Deputed representatives a-row Of every separate state of Tuscany: Siena's she-wolf, bristling on the fold Of the first flag, preceded Pisa's hare, And Massa's lion floated calm in gold, Pienza's following with his silver stare, Arezzo's steed pranced clear from bridle-hold,— And well might shout our Florence, greeting there These, and more brethren. Last, the world had sent The various children of her teeming flanks— Greeks, English, French—as if to a parliament Of lovers of her Italy in ranks, Each bearing its land's symbol reverent; At which the stones seemed breaking into thanks And rattling up the sky, such sounds in proof Arose; the very house-walls seemed to bend; The very windows, up from door to roof, Flashed out a rapture of bright heads, to mend With passionate looks the gesture's whirling off A hurricane of leaves. Three hours did end While all these passed; and ever in the crowd, Rude men, unconscious of the tears that kept Their beards moist, shouted; some few laughed aloud, And none asked any why they laughed and wept: Friends kissed each other's cheeks, and foes long vowed More warmly did it; two-months' babies leapt Right upward in their mother's arms, whose black Wide glittering eyes looked elsewhere; lovers pressed Each before either, neither glancing back; And peasant maidens smoothly 'tired and tressed Forgot to finger on their throats the slack Great pearl-strings; while old blind men would not rest, But pattered with their staves and slid their shoes Along the stones, and smiled as if they saw. O heaven, I think that day had noble use Among God's days! So near stood Right and Law, Both mutually forborne! Law would not bruise Nor Right deny, and each in reverent awe Honoured the other. And if, ne'ertheless, That good day's sun delivered to the vines No charta, and the liberal Duke's excess Did scarce exceed a Guelf's or Ghibelline's In any special actual righteousness Of what that day he granted, still the signs Are good and full of promise, we must say, When multitudes approach their kings with prayers And kings concede their people's right to pray Both in one sunshine. Griefs are not despairs, So uttered, nor can royal claims dismay When men from humble homes and ducal chairs Hate wrong together. It was well to view Those banners ruffled in a ruler's face Inscribed, "Live freedom, union, and all true Brave patriots who are aided by God's grace!" Nor was it ill when Leopoldo drew His little children to the window-place He stood in at the Pitti, to suggest They too should govern as the people willed. What a cry rose then! some, who saw the best, Declared his eyes filled up and overfilled With good warm human tears which unrepressed Ran down. I like his face; the forehead's build Has no capacious genius, yet perhaps Sufficient comprehension,—mild and sad, And careful nobly,—not with care that wraps Self-loving hearts, to stifle and make mad, But careful with the care that shuns a lapse Of faith and duty, studious not to add A burden in the gathering of a gain. And so, God save the Duke, I say with those Who that day shouted it; and while dukes reign, May all wear in the visible overflows Of spirit, such a look of careful pain! For God must love it better than repose.
And all the people who went up to let Their hearts out to that Duke, as has been told— Where guess ye that the living people met, Kept tryst, formed ranks, chose leaders, first unrolled Their banners? In the Loggia? where is set Cellini's godlike Perseus, bronze or gold, (How name the metal, when the statue flings Its soul so in your eyes?) with brow and sword Superbly calm, as all opposing things, Slain with the Gorgon, were no more abhorred Since ended? No, the people sought no wings From Perseus in the Loggia, nor implored An inspiration in the place beside From that dim bust of Brutus, jagged and grand, Where Buonarroti passionately tried From out the close-clenched marble to demand The head of Rome's sublimest homicide, Then dropt the quivering mallet from his hand, Despairing he could find no model-stuff Of Brutus in all Florence where he found The gods and gladiators thick enough. Nor there! the people chose still holier ground: The people, who are simple, blind and rough, Know their own angels, after looking round. Whom chose they then? where met they?
On the stone Called Dante's,—a plain flat stone scarce discerned From others in the pavement,—whereupon He used to bring his quiet chair out, turned To Brunelleschi's church, and pour alone The lava of his spirit when it burned: It is not cold to-day. O passionate Poor Dante who, a banished Florentine, Didst sit austere at banquets of the great And muse upon this far-off stone of thine And think how oft some passer used to wait A moment, in the golden day's decline, With "Good night, dearest Dante!"—well, good night! I muse now, Dante, and think verily, Though chapelled in the byeway out of sight, Ravenna's bones would thrill with ecstasy, Couldst know thy favourite stone's elected right As tryst-place for thy Tuscans to foresee Their earliest chartas from. Good night, good morn, Henceforward, Dante! now my soul is sure That thine is better comforted of scorn, And looks down earthward in completer cure Than when, in Santa Croce church forlorn Of any corpse, the architect and hewer Did pile the empty marbles as thy tomb. For now thou art no longer exiled, now Best honoured: we salute thee who art come Back to the old stone with a softer brow Than Giotto drew upon the wall, for some Good lovers of our age to track and plough Their way to, through time's ordures stratified, And startle broad awake into the dull Bargello chamber: now thou'rt milder-eyed,— Now Beatrix may leap up glad to cull Thy first smile, even in heaven and at her side, Like that which, nine years old, looked beautiful At May-game. What do I say? I only meant That tender Dante loved his Florence well, While Florence, now, to love him is content; And, mark ye, that the piercingest sweet smell Of love's dear incense by the living sent To find the dead, is not accessible To lazy livers—no narcotic,—not Swung in a censer to a sleepy tune,— But trod out in the morning air by hot Quick spirits who tread firm to ends foreshown, And use the name of greatness unforgot, To meditate what greatness may be done.
For Dante sits in heaven and ye stand here, And more remains for doing, all must feel, Than trysting on his stone from year to year To shift processions, civic toe to heel, The town's thanks to the Pitti. Are ye freer For what was felt that day? a chariot-wheel May spin fast, yet the chariot never roll. But if that day suggested something good, And bettered, with one purpose, soul by soul,— Better means freer. A land's brotherhood Is most puissant: men, upon the whole, Are what they can be,—nations, what they would.
Will therefore, to be strong, thou Italy! Will to be noble! Austrian Metternich Can fix no yoke unless the neck agree; And thine is like the lion's when the thick Dews shudder from it, and no man would be The stroker of his mane, much less would prick His nostril with a reed. When nations roar Like lions, who shall tame them and defraud Of the due pasture by the river-shore? Roar, therefore! shake your dewlaps dry abroad: The amphitheatre with open door Leads back upon the benches who applaud The last spear-thruster.
Yet the Heavens forbid That we should call on passion to confront The brutal with the brutal and, amid This ripening world, suggest a lion-hunt And lion's-vengeance for the wrongs men did And do now, though the spears are getting blunt. We only call, because the sight and proof Of lion-strength hurts nothing; and to show A lion-heart, and measure paw with hoof, Helps something, even, and will instruct a foe As well as the onslaught, how to stand aloof: Or else the world gets past the mere brute blow Or given or taken. Children use the fist Until they are of age to use the brain; And so we needed Caesars to assist Man's justice, and Napoleons to explain God's counsel, when a point was nearly missed, Until our generations should attain Christ's stature nearer. Not that we, alas, Attain already; but a single inch Will raise to look down on the swordsman's pass. As knightly Roland on the coward's flinch: And, after chloroform and ether-gas, We find out slowly what the bee and finch Have ready found, through Nature's lamp in each, How to our races we may justify Our individual claims and, as we reach Our own grapes, bend the top vines to supply The children's uses,—how to fill a breach With olive-branches,—how to quench a lie With truth, and smite a foe upon the cheek With Christ's most conquering kiss. Why, these are things Worth a great nation's finding, to prove weak The "glorious arms" of military kings. And so with wide embrace, my England, seek To stifle the bad heat and flickerings Of this world's false and nearly expended fire! Draw palpitating arrows to the wood, And twang abroad thy high hopes and thy higher Resolves, from that most virtuous altitude! Till nations shall unconsciously aspire By looking up to thee, and learn that good And glory are not different. Announce law By freedom; exalt chivalry by peace; Instruct how clear calm eyes can overawe, And how pure hands, stretched simply to release A bond-slave, will not need a sword to draw To be held dreadful. O my England, crease Thy purple with no alien agonies, No struggles toward encroachment, no vile war! Disband thy captains, change thy victories, Be henceforth prosperous as the angels are, Helping, not humbling.
Drums and battle-cries Go out in music of the morning-star— And soon we shall have thinkers in the place Of fighters, each found able as a man To strike electric influence through a race, Unstayed by city-wall and barbican. The poet shall look grander in the face Than even of old (when he of Greece began To sing "that Achillean wrath which slew So many heroes")—seeing he shall treat The deeds of souls heroic toward the true, The oracles of life, previsions sweet And awful like divine swans gliding through White arms of Ledas, which will leave the heat Of their escaping godship to endue The human medium with a heavenly flush.
Meanwhile, in this same Italy we want Not popular passion, to arise and crush, But popular conscience, which may covenant For what it knows. Concede without a blush, To grant the "civic guard" is not to grant The civic spirit, living and awake: Those lappets on your shoulders, citizens, Your eyes strain after sideways till they ache (While still, in admirations and amens, The crowd comes up on festa-days to take The great sight in)—are not intelligence, Not courage even—alas, if not the sign Of something very noble, they are nought; For every day ye dress your sallow kine With fringes down their cheeks, though unbesought They loll their heavy heads and drag the wine And bear the wooden yoke as they were taught The first day. What ye want is light—indeed Not sunlight—(ye may well look up surprised To those unfathomable heavens that feed Your purple hills)—but God's light organized In some high soul, crowned capable to lead The conscious people, conscious and advised,— For if we lift a people like mere clay, It falls the same. We want thee, O unfound And sovran teacher! if thy beard be grey Or black, we bid thee rise up from the ground And speak the word God giveth thee to say, Inspiring into all this people round, Instead of passion, thought, which pioneers All generous passion, purifies from sin, And strikes the hour for. Rise up, teacher! here's A crowd to make a nation!—best begin By making each a man, till all be peers Of earth's true patriots and pure martyrs in Knowing and daring. Best unbar the doors Which Peter's heirs keep locked so overclose They only let the mice across the floors, While every churchman dangles, as he goes, The great key at his girdle, and abhors In Christ's name, meekly. Open wide the house, Concede the entrance with Christ's liberal mind, And set the tables with His wine and bread. What! "commune in both kinds?" In every kind— Wine, wafer, love, hope, truth, unlimited, Nothing kept back. For when a man is blind To starlight, will he see the rose is red? A bondsman shivering at a Jesuit's foot— "Vae! mea culpa!"—is not like to stand A freedman at a despot's and dispute His titles by the balance in his hand, Weighing them "suo jure." Tend the root If careful of the branches, and expand The inner souls of men before you strive For civic heroes.
But the teacher, where? From all these crowded faces, all alive, Eyes, of their own lids flashing themselves bare, And brows that with a mobile life contrive A deeper shadow,—may we in no wise dare To put a finger out and touch a man, And cry "this is the leader"? What, all these! Broad heads, black eyes,—yet not a soul that ran From God down with a message? All, to please The donna waving measures with her fan, And not the judgment-angel on his knees (The trumpet just an inch off from his lips), Who when he breathes next, will put out the sun?
Yet mankind's self were foundered in eclipse, If lacking doers, with great works to be done; And lo, the startled earth already dips Back into light; a better day's begun; And soon this leader, teacher, will stand plain, And build the golden pipes and synthesize This people-organ for a holy strain. We hold this hope, and still in all these eyes Go sounding for the deep look which shall drain Suffused thought into channelled enterprise. Where is the teacher? What now may he do, Who shall do greatly? Doth he gird his waist With a monk's rope, like Luther? or pursue The goat, like Tell? or dry his nets in haste, Like Masaniello when the sky was blue? Keep house, like other peasants, with inlaced Bare brawny arms about a favourite child, And meditative looks beyond the door (But not to mark the kidling's teeth have filed The green shoots of his vine which last year bore Full twenty bunches), or, on triple-piled Throne-velvets sit at ease to bless the poor, Like other pontiffs, in the Poorest's name? The old tiara keeps itself aslope Upon his steady brows which, all the same, Bend mildly to permit the people's hope?
Whatever hand shall grasp this oriflamme, Whatever man (last peasant or first pope Seeking to free his country) shall appear, Teach, lead, strike fire into the masses, fill These empty bladders with fine air, insphere These wills into a unity of will, And make of Italy a nation—dear And blessed be that man! the Heavens shall kill No leaf the earth lets grow for him, and Death Shall cast him back upon the lap of Life To live more surely, in a clarion-breath Of hero-music. Brutus with the knife, Rienzi with the fasces, throb beneath Rome's stones,—and more who threw away joy's fife Like Pallas, that the beauty of their souls Might ever shine untroubled and entire: But if it can be true that he who rolls The Church's thunders will reserve her fire For only light,—from eucharistic bowls Will pour new life for nations that expire, And rend the scarlet of his papal vest To gird the weak loins of his countrymen,— I hold that he surpasses all the rest Of Romans, heroes, patriots; and that when He sat down on the throne, he dispossessed The first graves of some glory. See again, This country-saving is a glorious thing: And if a common man achieved it? well. Say, a rich man did? excellent. A king? That grows sublime. A priest? improbable. A pope? Ah, there we stop, and cannot bring Our faith up to the leap, with history's bell So heavy round the neck of it—albeit We fain would grant the possibility For thy sake, Pio Nono!
Stretch thy feet In that case—I will kiss them reverently As any pilgrim to the papal seat: And, such proved possible, thy throne to me Shall seem as holy a place as Pellico's Venetian dungeon, or as Spielberg's grate At which the Lombard woman hung the rose Of her sweet soul by its own dewy weight, To feel the dungeon round her sunshine close, And pining so, died early, yet too late For what she suffered. Yea, I will not choose Betwixt thy throne, Pope Pius, and the spot Marked red for ever, spite of rains and dews, Where Two fell riddled by the Austrian's shot, The brothers Bandiera, who accuse, With one same mother-voice and face (that what They speak may be invincible) the sins Of earth's tormentors before God the just, Until the unconscious thunderbolt begins To loosen in His grasp.
And yet we must Beware, and mark the natural kiths and kins Of circumstance and office, and distrust The rich man reasoning in a poor man's hut, The poet who neglects pure truth to prove Statistic fact, the child who leaves a rut For a smoother road, the priest who vows his glove Exhales no grace, the prince who walks afoot, The woman who has sworn she will not love, And this Ninth Pius in Seventh Gregory's chair, With Andrea Doria's forehead!
Count what goes To making up a pope, before he wear That triple crown. We pass the world-wide throes Which went to make the popedom,—the despair Of free men, good men, wise men; the dread shows Of women's faces, by the faggot's flash Tossed out, to the minutest stir and throb O' the white lips, the least tremble of a lash, To glut the red stare of a licensed mob; The short mad cries down oubliettes, and plash So horribly far off; priests, trained to rob, And kings that, like encouraged nightmares, sat On nations' hearts most heavily distressed With monstrous sights and apophthegms of fate— We pass these things,—because "the times" are prest With necessary charges of the weight Of all this sin, and "Calvin, for the rest, Made bold to burn Servetus. Ah, men err!"— And so do churches! which is all we mean To bring to proof in any register Of theological fat kine and lean: So drive them back into the pens! refer Old sins (with pourpoint, "quotha" and "I ween") Entirely to the old times, the old times; Nor ever ask why this preponderant Infallible pure Church could set her chimes Most loudly then, just then,—most jubilant, Precisely then, when mankind stood in crimes Full heart-deep, and Heaven's judgments were not scant. Inquire still less, what signifies a church Of perfect inspiration and pure laws Who burns the first man with a brimstone-torch, And grinds the second, bone by bone, because The times, forsooth, are used to rack and scorch! What is a holy Church unless she awes The times down from their sins? Did Christ select Such amiable times to come and teach Love to, and mercy? The whole world were wrecked If every mere great man, who lives to reach A little leaf of popular respect, Attained not simply by some special breach In the age's customs, by some precedence In thought and act, which, having proved him higher Than those he lived with, proved his competence In helping them to wonder and aspire.
My words are guiltless of the bigot's sense; My soul has fire to mingle with the fire Of all these souls, within or out of doors Of Rome's church or another. I believe In one Priest, and one temple with its floors Of shining jasper gloom'd at morn and eve By countless knees of earnest auditors, And crystal walls too lucid to perceive, That none may take the measure of the place And say "So far the porphyry, then, the flint— To this mark mercy goes, and there ends grace," Though still the permeable crystals hint At some white starry distance, bathed in space. I feel how nature's ice-crusts keep the dint Of undersprings of silent Deity. I hold the articulated gospels which Show Christ among us crucified on tree. I love all who love truth, if poor or rich In what they have won of truth possessively. No altars and no hands defiled with pitch Shall scare me off, but I will pray and eat With all these—taking leave to choose my ewers— And say at last "Your visible churches cheat Their inward types; and, if a church assures Of standing without failure and defeat, The same both fails and lies."
To leave which lures Of wider subject through past years,—behold, We come back from the popedom to the pope, To ponder what he must be, ere we are bold For what he may be, with our heavy hope To trust upon his soul. So, fold by fold, Explore this mummy in the priestly cope, Transmitted through the darks of time, to catch The man within the wrappage, and discern How he, an honest man, upon the watch Full fifty years for what a man may learn, Contrived to get just there; with what a snatch Of old-world oboli he had to earn The passage through; with what a drowsy sop, To drench the busy barkings of his brain; What ghosts of pale tradition, wreathed with hop 'Gainst wakeful thought, he had to entertain For heavenly visions; and consent to stop The clock at noon, and let the hour remain (Without vain windings-up) inviolate Against all chimings from the belfry. Lo, From every given pope you must abate, Albeit you love him, some things—good, you know— Which every given heretic you hate, Assumes for his, as being plainly so. A pope must hold by popes a little,—yes, By councils, from Nicaea up to Trent,— By hierocratic empire, more or less Irresponsible to men,—he must resent Each man's particular conscience, and repress Inquiry, meditation, argument, As tyrants faction. Also, he must not Love truth too dangerously, but prefer "The interests of the Church" (because a blot Is better than a rent, in miniver)— Submit to see the people swallow hot Husk-porridge, which his chartered churchmen stir Quoting the only true God's epigraph, "Feed my lambs, Peter!"—must consent to sit Attesting with his pastoral ring and staff To such a picture of our Lady, hit Off well by artist-angels (though not half As fair as Giotto would have painted it)— To such a vial, where a dead man's blood Runs yearly warm beneath a churchman's finger,— To such a holy house of stone and wood, Whereof a cloud of angels was the bringer From Bethlehem to Loreto. Were it good For any pope on earth to be a flinger Of stones against these high-niched counterfeits? Apostates only are iconoclasts. He dares not say, while this false thing abets That true thing, "This is false." He keeps his fasts And prayers, as prayer and fast were silver frets To change a note upon a string that lasts, And make a lie a virtue. Now, if he Did more than this, higher hoped, and braver dared, I think he were a pope in jeopardy, Or no pope rather, for his truth had barred The vaulting of his life,—and certainly, If he do only this, mankind's regard Moves on from him at once, to seek some new Teacher and leader. He is good and great According to the deeds a pope can do; Most liberal, save those bonds; affectionate, As princes may be, and, as priests are, true; But only the Ninth Pius after eight, When all's praised most. At best and hopefullest, He's pope—we want a man! his heart beats warm, But, like the prince enchanted to the waist, He sits in stone and hardens by a charm Into the marble of his throne high-placed. Mild benediction waves his saintly arm— So, good! but what we want's a perfect man, Complete and all alive: half travertine Half suits our need, and ill subserves our plan. Feet, knees, nerves, sinews, energies divine Were never yet too much for men who ran In such hard ways as must be this of thine, Deliverer whom we seek, whoe'er thou art, Pope, prince, or peasant! If, indeed, the first, The noblest, therefore! since the heroic heart Within thee must be great enough to burst Those trammels buckling to the baser part Thy saintly peers in Rome, who crossed and cursed With the same finger.
Come, appear, be found, If pope or peasant, come! we hear the cock, The courtier of the mountains when first crowned With golden dawn; and orient glories flock To meet the sun upon the highest ground. Take voice and work! we wait to hear thee knock At some one of our Florentine nine gates, On each of which was imaged a sublime Face of a Tuscan genius, which, for hate's And love's sake, both, our Florence in her prime Turned boldly on all comers to her states, As heroes turned their shields in antique time Emblazoned with honourable acts. And though The gates are blank now of such images, And Petrarch looks no more from Nicolo Toward dear Arezzo, 'twixt the acacia-trees, Nor Dante, from gate Gallo—still we know, Despite the razing of the blazonries, Remains the consecration of the shield: The dead heroic faces will start out On all these gates, if foes should take the field, And blend sublimely, at the earliest shout, With living heroes who will scorn to yield A hair's-breadth even, when, gazing round about, They find in what a glorious company They fight the foes of Florence. Who will grudge His one poor life, when that great man we see Has given five hundred years, the world being judge, To help the glory of his Italy? Who, born the fair side of the Alps, will budge, When Dante stays, when Ariosto stays, When Petrarch stays for ever? Ye bring swords, My Tuscans? Ay, if wanted in this haze, Bring swords: but first bring souls!—bring thoughts and words, Unrusted by a tear of yesterday's, Yet awful by its wrong,—and cut these cords, And mow this green lush falseness to the roots, And shut the mouth of hell below the swathe! And, if ye can bring songs too, let the lute's Recoverable music softly bathe Some poet's hand, that, through all bursts and bruits Of popular passion, all unripe and rathe Convictions of the popular intellect, Ye may not lack a finger up the air, Annunciative, reproving, pure, erect, To show which way your first Ideal bare The whiteness of its wings when (sorely pecked By falcons on your wrists) it unaware Arose up overhead and out of sight.