Poems by George Meredith - Volume 1
Part 3 out of 4
Shall I live bloomingly,
Said she, by day, or the bridal hour?
Thereat he clasped her, and whispered he,
Thine, rare bride, the choice shall be.
Said she, Twice blest is Courtesy!
Of gentle Sir Gawain they had no sport,
When it was morning in Arthur's court;
What think you they cried?
Now, life and eyes!
This bride is the very Saint's dream of a prize,
Fresh from the skies!
See ye not, Courtesy
Is the true Alchemy,
Turning to gold all it touches and tries?
Like the true knight, so may we
Make the basest that there be
Beautiful by Courtesy!
THE THREE MAIDENS
There were three maidens met on the highway;
The sun was down, the night was late:
And two sang loud with the birds of May,
O the nightingale is merry with its mate.
Said they to the youngest, Why walk you there so still?
The land is dark, the night is late:
O, but the heart in my side is ill,
And the nightingale will languish for its mate.
Said they to the youngest, Of lovers there is store;
The moon mounts up, the night is late:
O, I shall look on man no more,
And the nightingale is dumb without its mate.
Said they to the youngest, Uncross your arms and sing;
The moon mounts high, the night is late:
O my dear lover can hear no thing,
And the nightingale sings only to its mate.
They slew him in revenge, and his true-love was his lure;
The moon is pale, the night is late:
His grave is shallow on the moor;
O the nightingale is dying for its mate.
His blood is on his breast, and the moss-roots at his hair;
The moon is chill, the night is late:
But I will lie beside him there:
O the nightingale is dying for its mate.
OVER THE HILLS
The old hound wags his shaggy tail,
And I know what he would say:
It's over the hills we'll bound, old hound,
Over the hills, and away.
There's nought for us here save to count the clock,
And hang the head all day:
But over the hills we'll bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
Here among men we're like the deer
That yonder is our prey:
So, over the hills we'll bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
The hypocrite is master here,
But he's the cock of clay:
So, over the hills we'll bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
The women, they shall sigh and smile,
And madden whom they may:
It's over the hills we'll bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
Let silly lads in couples run
To pleasure, a wicked fay:
'Tis ours on the heather to bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
The torrent glints under the rowan red,
And shakes the bracken spray:
What joy on the heather to bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
The sun bursts broad, and the heathery bed
Is purple, and orange, and gray:
Away, and away, we'll bound, old hound,
Over the hills and away.
Pitch here the tent, while the old horse grazes:
By the old hedge-side we'll halt a stage.
It's nigh my last above the daisies:
My next leaf 'll be man's blank page.
Yes, my old girl! and it's no use crying:
Juggler, constable, king, must bow.
One that outjuggles all's been spying
Long to have me, and he has me now.
We've travelled times to this old common:
Often we've hung our pots in the gorse.
We've had a stirring life, old woman!
You, and I, and the old grey horse.
Races, and fairs, and royal occasions,
Found us coming to their call:
Now they'll miss us at our stations:
There's a Juggler outjuggles all!
Up goes the lark, as if all were jolly!
Over the duck-pond the willow shakes.
Easy to think that grieving's folly,
When the hand's firm as driven stakes!
Ay, when we're strong, and braced, and manful,
Life's a sweet fiddle: but we're a batch
Born to become the Great Juggler's han'ful:
Balls he shies up, and is safe to catch.
Here's where the lads of the village cricket:
I was a lad not wide from here:
Couldn't I whip off the bail from the wicket?
Like an old world those days appear!
Donkey, sheep, geese, and thatched ale-house -
I know them!
They are old friends of my halts, and seem,
Somehow, as if kind thanks I owe them:
Juggling don't hinder the heart's esteem.
Juggling's no sin, for we must have victual:
Nature allows us to bait for the fool.
Holding one's own makes us juggle no little;
But, to increase it, hard juggling's the rule.
You that are sneering at my profession,
Haven't you juggled a vast amount?
There's the Prime Minister, in one Session,
Juggles more games than my sins 'll count.
I've murdered insects with mock thunder:
Conscience, for that, in men don't quail.
I've made bread from the bump of wonder:
That's my business, and there's my tale.
Fashion and rank all praised the professor:
Ay! and I've had my smile from the Queen:
Bravo, Jerry! she meant: God bless her!
Ain't this a sermon on that scene?
I've studied men from my topsy-turvy
Close, and, I reckon, rather true.
Some are fine fellows: some, right scurvy:
Most, a dash between the two.
But it's a woman, old girl, that makes me
Think more kindly of the race:
And it's a woman, old girl, that shakes me
When the Great Juggler I must face.
We two were married, due and legal:
Honest we've lived since we've been one.
Lord! I could then jump like an eagle:
You danced bright as a bit o' the sun.
Birds in a May-bush we were! right merry!
All night we kiss'd, we juggled all day.
Joy was the heart of Juggling Jerry!
Now from his old girl he's juggled away.
It's past parsons to console us:
No, nor no doctor fetch for me:
I can die without my bolus;
Two of a trade, lass, never agree!
Parson and Doctor!--don't they love rarely,
Fighting the devil in other men's fields!
Stand up yourself and match him fairly:
Then see how the rascal yields!
I, lass, have lived no gipsy, flaunting
Finery while his poor helpmate grubs:
Coin I've stored, and you won't be wanting:
You shan't beg from the troughs and tubs.
Nobly you've stuck to me, though in his kitchen
Many a Marquis would hail you Cook!
Palaces you could have ruled and grown rich in,
But our old Jerry you never forsook.
Hand up the chirper! ripe ale winks in it;
Let's have comfort and be at peace.
Once a stout draught made me light as a linnet.
Cheer up! the Lord must have his lease.
May be--for none see in that black hollow -
It's just a place where we're held in pawn,
And, when the Great Juggler makes as to swallow,
It's just the sword-trick--I ain't quite gone!
Yonder came smells of the gorse, so nutty,
Gold-like and warm: it's the prime of May.
Better than mortar, brick and putty,
Is God's house on a blowing day.
Lean me more up the mound; now I feel it:
All the old heath-smells! Ain't it strange?
There's the world laughing, as if to conceal it,
But He's by us, juggling the change.
I mind it well, by the sea-beach lying,
Once--it's long gone--when two gulls we beheld,
Which, as the moon got up, were flying
Down a big wave that sparked and swelled.
Crack, went a gun: one fell: the second
Wheeled round him twice, and was off for new luck:
There in the dark her white wing beckon'd:-
Drop me a kiss--I'm the bird dead-struck!
THE CROWN OF LOVE
O might I load my arms with thee,
Like that young lover of Romance
Who loved and gained so gloriously
The fair Princess of France!
Because he dared to love so high,
He, bearing her dear weight, shall speed
To where the mountain touched on sky:
So the proud king decreed.
Unhalting he must bear her on,
Nor pause a space to gather breath,
And on the height she will be won;
And she was won in death!
Red the far summit flames with morn,
While in the plain a glistening Court
Surrounds the king who practised scorn
Through such a mask of sport.
She leans into his arms; she lets
Her lovely shape be clasped: he fares.
God speed him whole! The knights make bets:
The ladies lift soft prayers.
O have you seen the deer at chase?
O have you seen the wounded kite?
So boundingly he runs the race,
So wavering grows his flight.
- My lover! linger here, and slake
Thy thirst, or me thou wilt not win.
- See'st thou the tumbled heavens? they break!
They beckon us up and in.
- Ah, hero-love! unloose thy hold:
O drop me like a cursed thing.
- See'st thou the crowded swards of gold?
They wave to us Rose and Ring.
- O death-white mouth! O cast me down!
Thou diest? Then with thee I die.
- See'st thou the angels with their Crown?
We twain have reached the sky.
THE HEAD OF BRAN THE BLEST
When the Head of Bran
Was firm on British shoulders,
God made a man!
Cried all beholders.
Steel could not resist
The weight his arm would rattle;
He, with naked fist,
Has brain'd a knight in battle.
He marched on the foe,
And never counted numbers;
Foreign widows know
The hosts he sent to slumbers.
As a street you scan,
That's towered by the steeple,
So the Head of Bran
Rose o'er his people.
'Death's my neighbour,'
Quoth Bran the Blest;
Brings Christian rest.
From the trunk sever
The Head of Bran,
That which never
Has bent to man!
'That which never
To men has bowed
Shall live ever
To shame the shroud:
Shall live ever
To face the foe;
Sever it, sever,
And with one blow.
'Be it written,
That all I wrought
Was for Britain,
In deed and thought:
Be it written,
That while I die,
Glory to Britain!
Is my last cry.
'Glory to Britain!
Death echoes me round.
Glory to Britain!
The world shall resound.
Glory to Britain!
In ruin and fall,
Glory to Britain!
Is heard over all.'
Burn, Sun, down the sea!
Bran lies low with thee.
Burst, Morn, from the main!
Bran so shall rise again.
Blow, Wind, from the field!
Bran's Head is the Briton's shield.
Beam, Star, in the West!
Bright burns the Head of Bran the Blest.
Crimson-footed, like the stork,
From great ruts of slaughter,
Warriors of the Golden Torque
Cross the lifting water.
Princes seven, enchaining hands,
Bear the live head homeward.
Lo! it speaks, and still commands:
Gazing out far foamward.
Fiery words of lightning sense
Down the hollows thunder;
Forest hostels know not whence
Comes the speech, and wonder.
City-Castles, on the steep,
Where the faithful Seven
House at midnight, hear, in sleep,
Laughter under heaven.
Lilies, swimming on the mere,
In the castle shadow,
Under draw their heads, and Fear
Walks the misty meadow.
Tremble not! it is not Death
Pledging dark espousal:
'Tis the Head of endless breath,
Brim the horn! a health is drunk,
Now, that shall keep going:
Life is but the pebble sunk;
Deeds, the circle growing!
Fill, and pledge the Head of Bran!
While his lead they follow,
Long shall heads in Britain plan
Speech Death cannot swallow!
The old coach-road through a common of furze,
With knolls of pine, ran white;
Berries of autumn, with thistles, and burrs,
And spider-threads, droop'd in the light.
The light in a thin blue veil peered sick;
The sheep grazed close and still;
The smoke of a farm by a yellow rick
Curled lazily under a hill.
No fly shook the round of the silver net;
No insect the swift bird chased;
Only two travellers moved and met
Across that hazy waste.
One was a girl with a babe that throve,
Her ruin and her bliss;
One was a youth with a lawless love,
Who clasped it the more for this.
The girl for her babe hummed prayerful speech;
The youth for his love did pray;
Each cast a wistful look on each,
And either went their way.
THE BEGGAR'S SOLILOQUY
Now, this, to my notion, is pleasant cheer,
To lie all alone on a ragged heath,
Where your nose isn't sniffing for bones or beer,
But a peat-fire smells like a garden beneath.
The cottagers bustle about the door,
And the girl at the window ties her strings.
She's a dish for a man who's a mind to be poor;
Lord! women are such expensive things.
We don't marry beggars, says she: why, no:
It seems that to make 'em is what you do;
And as I can cook, and scour, and sew,
I needn't pay half my victuals for you.
A man for himself should be able to scratch,
But tickling's a luxury:- love, indeed!
Love burns as long as the lucifer match,
Wedlock's the candle! Now, that's my creed.
The church-bells sound water-like over the wheat;
And up the long path troop pair after pair.
The man's well-brushed, and the woman looks neat:
It's man and woman everywhere!
Unless, like me, you lie here flat,
With a donkey for friend, you must have a wife:
She pulls out your hair, but she brushes your hat.
Appearances make the best half of life.
You nice little madam! you know you're nice.
I remember hearing a parson say
You're a plateful of vanity pepper'd with vice;
You chap at the gate thinks t' other way.
On his waistcoat you read both his head and his heart:
There's a whole week's wages there figured in gold!
Yes! when you turn round you may well give a start:
It's fun to a fellow who's getting old.
Now, that's a good craft, weaving waistcoats and flowers,
And selling of ribbons, and scenting of lard:
It gives you a house to get in from the showers,
And food when your appetite jockeys you hard.
You live a respectable man; but I ask
If it's worth the trouble? You use your tools,
And spend your time, and what's your task?
Why, to make a slide for a couple of fools.
You can't match the colour o' these heath mounds,
Nor better that peat-fire's agreeable smell.
I'm clothed-like with natural sights and sounds;
To myself I'm in tune: I hope you're as well.
You jolly old cot! though you don't own coal:
It's a generous pot that's boiled with peat.
Let the Lord Mayor o' London roast oxen whole:
His smoke, at least, don't smell so sweet.
I'm not a low Radical, hating the laws,
Who'd the aristocracy rebuke.
I talk o' the Lord Mayor o' London because
I once was on intimate terms with his cook.
I served him a turn, and got pensioned on scraps,
And, Lord, Sir! didn't I envy his place,
Till Death knock'd him down with the softest of taps,
And I knew what was meant by a tallowy face!
On the contrary, I'm Conservative quite;
There's beggars in Scripture 'mongst Gentiles and Jews:
It's nonsense, trying to set things right,
For if people will give, why, who'll refuse?
That stopping old custom wakes my spleen:
The poor and the rich both in giving agree:
Your tight-fisted shopman's the Radical mean:
There's nothing in common 'twixt him and me.
He says I'm no use! but I won't reply.
You're lucky not being of use to him!
On week-days he's playing at Spider and Fly,
And on Sundays he sings about Cherubim!
Nailing shillings to counters is his chief work:
He nods now and then at the name on his door:
But judge of us two, at a bow and a smirk,
I think I'm his match: and I'm honest--that's more.
No use! well, I mayn't be. You ring a pig's snout,
And then call the animal glutton! Now, he,
Mr. Shopman, he's nought but a pipe and a spout
Who won't let the goods o' this world pass free.
This blazing blue weather all round the brown crop,
He can't enjoy! all but cash he hates.
He's only a snail that crawls under his shop;
Though he has got the ear o' the magistrates.
Now, giving and taking's a proper exchange,
Like question and answer: you're both content.
But buying and selling seems always strange;
You're hostile, and that's the thing that's meant.
It's man against man--you're almost brutes;
There's here no thanks, and there's there no pride.
If Charity's Christian, don't blame my pursuits,
I carry a touchstone by which you're tried.
- 'Take it,' says she, 'it's all I've got':
I remember a girl in London streets:
She stood by a coffee-stall, nice and hot,
My belly was like a lamb that bleats.
Says I to myself, as her shilling I seized,
You haven't a character here, my dear!
But for making a rascal like me so pleased,
I'll give you one, in a better sphere!
And that's where it is--she made me feel
I was a rascal: but people who scorn,
And tell a poor patch-breech he isn't genteel,
Why, they make him kick up--and he treads on a corn.
It isn't liking, it's curst ill-luck,
Drives half of us into the begging-trade:
If for taking to water you praise a duck,
For taking to beer why a man upbraid?
The sermon's over: they're out of the porch,
And it's time for me to move a leg;
But in general people who come from church,
And have called themselves sinners, hate chaps to beg.
I'll wager they'll all of 'em dine to-day!
I was easy half a minute ago.
If that isn't pig that's baking away,
May I perish!--we're never contented--heigho!
BY THE ROSANNA--TO F. M. STANZER THAL, TYROL
The old grey Alp has caught the cloud,
And the torrent river sings aloud;
The glacier-green Rosanna sings
An organ song of its upper springs.
Foaming under the tiers of pine,
I see it dash down the dark ravine,
And it tumbles the rocks in boisterous play,
With an earnest will to find its way.
Sharp it throws out an emerald shoulder,
And, thundering ever of the mountain,
Slaps in sport some giant boulder,
And tops it in a silver fountain.
A chain of foam from end to end,
And a solitude so deep, my friend,
You may forget that man abides
Beyond the great mute mountain-sides.
Yet to me, in this high-walled solitude
Of river and rock and forest rude,
The roaring voice through the long white chain
Is the voice of the world of bubble and brain.
Within a Temple of the Toes,
Where twirled the passionate Wili,
I saw full many a market rose,
And sighed for my village lily.
With cynical Adrian then I took flight
To that old dead city whose carol
Bursts out like a reveller's loud in the night,
As he sits astride his barrel.
We two were bound the Alps to scale,
Up the rock-reflecting river;
Old times blew thro' me like a gale,
And kept my thoughts in a quiver.
Hawking ruin, wood-slope, and vine
Reeled silver-laced under my vision,
And into me passed, with the green-eyed wine
Knocking hard at my head for admission.
I held the village lily cheap,
And the dream around her idle:
Lo, quietly as I lay to sleep,
The bells led me off to a bridal.
My bride wore the hood of a Beguine,
And mine was the foot to falter;
Three cowled monks, rat-eyed, were seen;
The Cross was of bones o'er the altar.
The Cross was of bones; the priest that read,
A spectacled necromancer:
But at the fourth word, the bride I led
Changed to an Opera dancer.
A young ballet-beauty, who perked in her place,
A darling of pink and spangles;
One fair foot level with her face,
And the hearts of men at her ankles.
She whirled, she twirled, the mock-priest grinned,
And quickly his mask unriddled;
'Twas Adrian! loud his old laughter dinned;
Then he seized a fiddle, and fiddled.
He fiddled, he glowed with the bottomless fire,
Like Sathanas in feature:
All through me he fiddled a wolfish desire
To dance with that bright creature.
And gathering courage I said to my soul,
Throttle the thing that hinders!
When the three cowled monks, from black as coal,
Waxed hot as furnace-cinders.
They caught her up, twirling: they leapt between-whiles:
The fiddler flickered with laughter:
Profanely they flew down the awful aisles,
Where I went sliding after.
Down the awful aisles, by the fretted walls,
Beneath the Gothic arches:-
King Skull in the black confessionals
Sat rub-a-dub-dubbing his marches.
Then the silent cold stone warriors frowned,
The pictured saints strode forward:
A whirlwind swept them from holy ground;
A tempest puffed them nor'ward.
They shot through the great cathedral door;
Like mallards they traversed ocean:
And gazing below, on its boiling floor,
I marked a horrid commotion.
Down a forest's long alleys they spun like tops:
It seemed that for ages and ages,
Thro' the Book of Life bereft of stops,
They waltzed continuous pages.
And ages after, scarce awake,
And my blood with the fever fretting,
I stood alone by a forest-lake,
Whose shadows the moon were netting.
Lilies, golden and white, by the curls
Of their broad flat leaves hung swaying.
A wreath of languid twining girls
Streamed upward, long locks disarraying.
Their cheeks had the satin frost-glow of the moon;
Their eyes the fire of Sirius.
They circled, and droned a monotonous tune,
Abandoned to love delirious.
Like lengths of convolvulus torn from the hedge,
And trailing the highway over,
The dreamy-eyed mistresses circled the sedge,
And called for a lover, a lover!
I sank, I rose through seas of eyes,
In odorous swathes delicious:
They fanned me with impetuous sighs,
They hit me with kisses vicious.
My ears were spelled, my neck was coiled,
And I with their fury was glowing,
When the marbly waters bubbled and boiled
At a watery noise of crowing.
They dragged me low and low to the lake:
Their kisses more stormily showered;
On the emerald brink, in the white moon's wake,
An earthly damsel cowered.
Fresh heart-sobs shook her knitted hands
Beneath a tiny suckling,
As one by one of the doleful bands
Dived like a fairy duckling.
And now my turn had come--O me!
What wisdom was mine that second!
I dropped on the adorer's knee;
To that sweet figure I beckoned.
Save me! save me! for now I know
The powers that Nature gave me,
And the value of honest love I know:-
My village lily! save me!
Come 'twixt me and the sisterhood,
While the passion-born phantoms are fleeing!
Oh, he that is true to flesh and blood
Is true to his own being!
And he that is false to flesh and blood
Is false to the star within him:
And the mad and hungry sisterhood
All under the tides shall win him!
My village lily! save me! save!
For strength is with the holy:-
Already I shuddered to feel the wave,
As I kept sinking slowly:-
I felt the cold wave and the under-tug
Of the Brides, when--starting and shrinking -
Lo, Adrian tilts the water-jug!
And Bruges with morn is blinking.
Merrily sparkles sunny prime
On gabled peak and arbour:
Merrily rattles belfry-chime
The song of Sevilla's Barber.
THE OLD CHARTIST
Whate'er I be, old England is my dam!
So there's my answer to the judges, clear.
I'm nothing of a fox, nor of a lamb;
I don't know how to bleat nor how to leer:
I'm for the nation!
That's why you see me by the wayside here,
Returning home from transportation.
It's Summer in her bath this morn, I think.
I'm fresh as dew, and chirpy as the birds:
And just for joy to see old England wink
Thro' leaves again, I could harangue the herds:
Isn't it something
To speak out like a man when you've got words,
And prove you're not a stupid dumb thing?
They shipp'd me of for it; I'm here again.
Old England is my dam, whate'er I be!
Says I, I'll tramp it home, and see the grain:
If you see well, you're king of what you see:
Eyesight is having,
If you're not given, I said, to gluttony.
Such talk to ignorance sounds as raving.
You dear old brook, that from his Grace's park
Come bounding! on you run near my old town:
My lord can't lock the water; nor the lark,
Unless he kills him, can my lord keep down.
Up, is the song-note!
I've tried it, too:- for comfort and renown,
I rather pitch'd upon the wrong note.
I'm not ashamed: Not beaten's still my boast:
Again I'll rouse the people up to strike.
But home's where different politics jar most.
Respectability the women like.
This form, or that form, -
The Government may be hungry pike,
But don't you mount a Chartist platform!
Well, well! Not beaten--spite of them, I shout;
And my estate is suffering for the Cause. -
No,--what is yon brown water-rat about,
Who washes his old poll with busy paws?
What does he mean by't?
It's like defying all our natural laws,
For him to hope that he'll get clean by't.
His seat is on a mud-bank, and his trade
Is dirt:- he's quite contemptible; and yet
The fellow's all as anxious as a maid
To show a decent dress, and dry the wet.
Now it's his whisker,
And now his nose, and ear: he seems to get
Each moment at the motion brisker!
To see him squat like little chaps at school,
I could let fly a laugh with all my might.
He peers, hangs both his fore-paws:- bless that fool,
He's bobbing at his frill now!--what a sight!
Licking the dish up,
As if he thought to pass from black to white,
Like parson into lawny bishop.
The elms and yellow reed-flags in the sun,
Look on quite grave:- the sunlight flecks his side;
And links of bindweed-flowers round him run,
And shine up doubled with him in the tide.
I'M nearly splitting,
But nature seems like seconding his pride,
And thinks that his behaviour's fitting.
That isle o' mud looks baking dry with gold.
His needle-muzzle still works out and in.
It really is a wonder to behold,
And makes me feel the bristles of my chin.
Judged by appearance,
I fancy of the two I'm nearer Sin,
And might as well commence a clearance.
And that's what my fine daughter said:- she meant:
Pray, hold your tongue, and wear a Sunday face.
Her husband, the young linendraper, spent
Much argument thereon:- I'm their disgrace.
Bother the couple!
I feel superior to a chap whose place
Commands him to be neat and supple.
But if I go and say to my old hen:
I'll mend the gentry's boots, and keep discreet,
Until they grow TOO violent,--why, then,
A warmer welcome I might chance to meet:
Warmer and better.
And if she fancies her old cock is beat,
And drops upon her knees--so let her!
She suffered for me:- women, you'll observe,
Don't suffer for a Cause, but for a man.
When I was in the dock she show'd her nerve:
I saw beneath her shawl my old tea-can
Trembling . . . she brought it
To screw me for my work: she loath'd my plan,
And therefore doubly kind I thought it.
I've never lost the taste of that same tea:
That liquor on my logic floats like oil,
When I state facts, and fellows disagree.
For human creatures all are in a coil;
All may want pardon.
I see a day when every pot will boil
Harmonious in one great Tea-garden!
We wait the setting of the Dandy's day,
Before that time!--He's furbishing his dress, -
He WILL be ready for it!--and I say,
That yon old dandy rat amid the cress, -
Thanks to hard labour! -
If cleanliness is next to godliness,
The old fat fellow's heaven's neighbour!
You teach me a fine lesson, my old boy!
I've looked on my superiors far too long,
And small has been my profit as my joy.
You've done the right while I've denounced the wrong.
Prosper me later!
Like you I will despise the sniggering throng,
And please myself and my Creator.
I'll bring the linendraper and his wife
Some day to see you; taking off my hat.
Should they ask why, I'll answer: in my life
I never found so true a democrat.
Can't rob you of your own esteem, old rat!
I'll preach you to the British nation.
Should thy love die;
O bury it not under ice-blue eyes!
And lips that deny,
With a scornful surprise,
The life it once lived in thy breast when it wore no disguise.
Should thy love die;
O bury it where the sweet wild-flowers blow!
And breezes go by,
With no whisper of woe;
And strange feet cannot guess of the anguish that slumbers below.
Should thy love die;
O wander once more to the haunt of the bee!
Where the foliaged sky
Is most sacred to see,
And thy being first felt its wild birth like a wind-wakened tree.
Should thy love die;
O dissemble it! smile! let the rose hide the thorn!
While the lark sings on high,
And no thing looks forlorn,
Bury it, bury it, bury it where it was born.
TO ALEX. SMITH, THE 'GLASGOW POET,' ON HIS SONNET TO 'FAME'
Not vainly doth the earnest voice of man
Call for the thing that is his pure desire!
Fame is the birthright of the living lyre!
To noble impulse Nature puts no ban.
Nor vainly to the Sphinx thy voice was raised!
Tho' all thy great emotions like a sea,
Against her stony immortality,
Shatter themselves unheeded and amazed.
Time moves behind her in a blind eclipse:
Yet if in her cold eyes the end of all
Be visible, as on her large closed lips
Hangs dumb the awful riddle of the earth; -
She sees, and she might speak, since that wild call,
The mighty warning of a Poet's birth.
'Heigh, boys!' cried Grandfather Bridgeman, 'it's time before dinner
He lifted the crumpled letter, and thumped a surprising 'Hurrah!'
Up jumped all the echoing young ones, but John, with the starch in
Said, 'Father, before we make noises, let's see the contents of the
The old man glared at him harshly, and twinkling made answer: 'Too
John Bridgeman, I'm always the whisky, and you are the water, my
But soon it was known thro' the house, and the house ran over for
That news, good news, great marvels, had come from the soldier boy;
Young Tom, the luckless scapegrace, offshoot of Methodist John;
His grandfather's evening tale, whom the old man hailed as his son.
And the old man's shout of pride was a shout of his victory, too;
For he called his affection a method: the neighbours' opinions he
Meantime, from the morning table removing the stout breakfast cheer,
The drink of the three generations, the milk, the tea, and the beer
(Alone in its generous reading of pints stood the Grandfather's
The women for sight of the missive came pressing to coax and to hug.
He scattered them quick, with a buss and a smack; thereupon he began
Diversions with John's little Sarah: on Sunday, the naughty old
Then messengers sped to the maltster, the auctioneer, miller, and
The seven sons of the farmer who housed in the range of his call.
Likewise the married daughters, three plentiful ladies, prime cooks,
Who bowed to him while they condemned, in meek hope to stand high in
'John's wife is a fool at a pudding,' they said, and the light carts
Went merrily, flouting the Sabbath: for puddings well made mend a
The day was a van-bird of summer: the robin still piped, but the
As a warm and dreamy palace with voices of larks ringing thro',
Looked down as if wistfully eyeing the blossoms that fell from its
A day to sweeten the juices: a day to quicken the sap.
All round the shadowy orchard sloped meadows in gold, and the dear
Shy violets breathed their hearts out: the maiden breath of the
Full time there was before dinner to bring fifteen of his blood,
To sit at the old man's table: they found that the dinner was good.
But who was she by the lilacs and pouring laburnums concealed,
When under the blossoming apple the chair of the Grandfather
She heard one little child crying, 'Dear brave Cousin Tom!' as it
Then murmured she: 'Let me spare them!' and passed round the
walnuts, and wept.
Yet not from sight had she slipped ere feminine eyes could detect
The figure of Mary Charlworth. 'It's just what we all might
Was uttered: and: 'Didn't I tell you?' Of Mary the rumour
That she is now her own mistress, and mistress of five thousand
'Twas she, they say, who cruelly sent young Tom to the war.
Miss Mary, we thank you now! If you knew what we're thanking you
But, 'Have her in: let her hear it,' called Grandfather Bridgeman,
While Mary's black-gloved fingers hung trembling with flight on the
Despite the women's remonstrance, two little ones, lighter than
Were loosed, and Mary, imprisoned, her whole face white as a tear,
Came forward with culprit footsteps. Her punishment was to
The pity in her pale visage they read in a different sense.
'You perhaps may remember a fellow, Miss Charlworth, a sort of black
The old man turned his tongue to ironical utterance deep:
'He came of a Methodist dad, so it wasn't his fault if he kicked.
He earned a sad reputation, but Methodists are mortal strict.
His name was Tom, and, dash me! but Bridgeman! I think you might
Whatever he was, bear in mind that he came of a Methodist dad.'
This prelude dismally lengthened, till Mary, starting, exclaimed,
'A letter, Sir, from your grandson?' 'Tom Bridgeman that rascal is
The old man answered, and further, the words that sent Tom to the
Repeated as words of a person to whom they all owed mighty thanks.
But Mary never blushed: with her eyes on the letter, she sate,
And twice interrupting him faltered, 'The date, may I ask, Sir, the
'Why, that's what I never look at in a letter,' the farmer replied:
'Facts first! and now I'll be parson.' The Bridgeman women descried
A quiver on Mary's eyebrows. One turned, and while shifting her
Said low to a sister: 'I'm certain she knows more than we about
She wants him now he's a hero!' The same, resuming her place,
Begged Mary to check them the moment she found it a tedious case.
Then as a mastiff swallows the snarling noises of cats,
The voice of the farmer opened. '"Three cheers, and off with your
- That's Tom. "We've beaten them, Daddy, and tough work it was, to
A regular stand-up combat: eight hours smelling powder and gore.
I entered it Serjeant-Major,"--and now he commands a salute,
And carries the flag of old England! Heigh! see him lift foes on
'--An officer! ay, Miss Charlworth, he is, or he is so to be;
You'll own war isn't such humbug: and Glory means something, you
"But don't say a word," he continues, "against the brave French any
- That stopt me: we'll now march together. I couldn't read further
That "brave French" I couldn't stomach. He can't see their cunning
Us Britons to fight their battles, while best half the winnings they
The old man sneered, and read forward. It was of that desperate
The Muscovite stole thro' the mist-wreaths that wrapped the chill
Where stood our silent outposts: old England was in them that day!
O sharp worked his ruddy wrinkles, as if to the breath of the fray
They moved! He sat bareheaded: his long hair over him slow
Swung white as the silky bog-flowers in purple heath-hollows that
And louder at Tom's first person: acute and in thunder the 'I'
Invaded the ear with a whinny of triumph, that seem'd to defy
The hosts of the world. All heated, what wonder he little could
To catch the sight of Mary's demure puritanical look?
And still as he led the onslaught, his treacherous side-shots he
At her who was fighting a battle as fierce, and who sat there
'"We stood in line, and like hedgehogs the Russians rolled under us
They frightened me there."--He's no coward; for when, Miss, they
came at the quick,
The sight, he swears, was a breakfast.--"My stomach felt tight: in
I saw you snoring at home with the dear cuddled-up little imps.
And then like the winter brickfields at midnight, hot fire
Our fellows were just leashed bloodhounds: no heart of the lot
'"And only that grumbler, Bob Harris, remarked that we stood one to
'Ye fool,' says Mick Grady, 'just tell 'em they know to compliment
And I sang out your old words: 'If the opposite side isn't God's,
Heigh! after you've counted a dozen, the pluckiest lads have the
Ping-ping flew the enemies' pepper: the Colonel roared, Forward,
Went at them. 'Twas first like a blanket: and then a long plunge
in the sea.
'"Well, now about me and the Frenchman: it happened I can't tell
And, Grandfather, hear, if you love me, and put aside prejudice
He never says "Grandfather"--Tom don't--save it's a serious thing.
"Well, there were some pits for the rifles, just dug on our French-
And backwards, and forwards, and backwards we went, and at last I
And swore I would never surrender a foot when the Russians charged
'"I know that life's worth keeping."--Ay, so it is, lad; so it is! -
"But my life belongs to a woman."--Does that mean Her Majesty, Miss?
"These Russians came lumping and grinning: they're fierce at it,
though they are blocks.
Our fellows were pretty well pumped, and looked sharp for the little
Lord, didn't we pray for their crowing! when over us, on the hill-
Behold the first line of them skipping, like kangaroos seen on the
'"That sent me into a passion, to think of them spying our flight!"
Heigh, Tom! you've Bridgeman blood, boy! And, "'Face them!' I
shouted: 'All right;
Sure, Serjeant, we'll take their shot dacent, like gentlemen,' Grady
A ball in his mouth, and the noble old Irishman dropped by my side.
Then there was just an instant to save myself, when a short wheeze
Of bloody lungs under the smoke, and a red-coat crawled up on his
'"'Twas Ensign Baynes of our parish."--Ah, ah, Miss Charlworth, the
Our Tom fought for a young lady? Come, now we've got into the fun!
"I shouldered him: he primed his pistol, and I trailed my musket,
Why, that's a fine pick-a-back for ye, to make twenty Russians look
"They came--never mind how many: we couldn't have run very well,
We fought back to back: 'face to face, our last time!' he said,
smiling, and fell.
'"Then I strove wild for his body: the beggars saw glittering
Which I vowed to send to his mother. I got some hard knocks and
But felt them no more than angel, or devil, except in the wind.
I know that I swore at a Russian for showing his teeth, and he
The harder: quick, as from heaven, a man on a horse rode between,
And fired, and swung his bright sabre: I can't write you more of
'"But half in his arms, and half at his stirrup, he bore me right
And pitched me among my old comrades: before I could tell south
He caught my hand up, and kissed it! Don't ever let any man speak
A word against Frenchmen, I near him! I can't find his name, tho' I
But French, and a General, surely he was, and, God bless him! thro'
I've learnt to love a whole nation."' The ancient man paused,
A curious look, half woeful, was seen on his face as he turned
His eyes upon each of his children, like one who but faintly
His old self in an old mirror. Then gathering sense in his fist,
He sounded it hard on his knee-cap. 'Your hand, Tom, the French
He kissed my boy's old pounder! I say he's a gentleman!' Straight
The letter he tossed to one daughter; bade her the remainder relate.
Tom properly stated his praises in facts, but the lady preferred
To deck the narration with brackets, and drop her additional word.
What nobler Christian natures these women could boast, who, 'twas
Once spat at the name of their nephew, and now made his praises
The letter at last was finished, the hearers breathed freely, and
Was given, 'Tom's health!'--Quoth the farmer: 'Eh, Miss? are you
weak in the spine?'
For Mary had sunk, and her body was shaking, as if in a fit.
Tom's letter she held, and her thumb-nail the month when the letter
Fast-dinted, while she hung sobbing: 'O, see, Sir, the letter is
O, do not be too happy!'--'If I understand you, I'm bowled!'
Said Grandfather Bridgeman, 'and down go my wickets!--not happy!
Here's Tom like to marry his General's daughter--or widow--I'll
'I wager he knows how to strut, too! It's all on the cards that the
Will ask him to Buckingham Palace, to say what he's done and he's
Victoria's fond of her soldiers: and she's got a nose for a fight.
If Tom tells a cleverish story--there is such a thing as a knight!
And don't he look roguish and handsome!--To see a girl snivelling
By George, Miss, it's clear that you're jealous'--'I love him!' she
answered his stare.
'Yes! now!' breathed the voice of a woman.--'Ah! now!' quiver'd low
'And "now"'s just a bit too late, so it's no use your piping your
The farmer added bluffly: 'Old Lawyer Charlworth was rich;
You followed his instructions in kicking Tom into the ditch.
If you're such a dutiful daughter, that doesn't prove Tom is a fool.
Forgive and forget's my motto! and here's my grog growing cool!'
'But, Sir,' Mary faintly repeated: 'for four long weeks I have
To come and cast on you my burden; such grief for you always
My heart has so bled for you!' The old man burst on her speech:
'You've chosen a likely time, Miss! a pretty occasion to preach!'
And was it not outrageous, that now, of all times, one should come
With incomprehensible pity! Far better had Mary been dumb.
But when again she stammered in this bewildering way,
The farmer no longer could bear it, and begged her to go, or to
But not to be whimpering nonsense at such a time. Pricked by a
'Twas you who sent him to glory:- you've come here to reap what you
Is that it?' he asked; and the silence the elders preserved plainly
On Mary's heaving bosom this begging-petition was read.
And that it was scarcely a bargain that she who had driven him wild
Should share now the fruits of his valour, the women expressed, as
The family pride of the Bridgemans was comforted; still, with
They looked on a monied damsel of modesty quite so exempt.
'O give me force to tell them!' cried Mary, and even as she spoke,
A shout and a hush of the children: a vision on all of them broke.
Wheeled, pale, in a chair, and shattered, the wreck of their hero
The ghost of Tom drawn slow o'er the orchard's shadowy green.
Could this be the martial darling they joyed in a moment ago?
'He knows it?' to Mary Tom murmured, and closed his weak lids at her
'Beloved!' she said, falling by him, 'I have been a coward: I
You lay in the foreign country, and some strange good might be
'Each day I have come to tell him, and failed, with my hand on the
I bore the dreadful knowledge, and crushed my heart with its weight.
The letter brought by your comrade--he has but just read it aloud!
It only reached him this morning!' Her head on his shoulder she
Then Tom with pity's tenderest lordliness patted her arm,
And eyed the old white-head fondly, with something of doubt and
O, take to your fancy a sculptor whose fresh marble offspring
Before him, shiningly perfect, the laurel-crown'd issue of years:
Is heaven offended? for lightning behold from its bosom escape,
And those are mocking fragments that made the harmonious shape!
He cannot love the ruins, till, feeling that ruins alone
Are left, he loves them threefold. So passed the old grandfather's
John's text for a sermon on Slaughter he heard, and he did not
All rigid as April snowdrifts, he stood, hard and feeble; his chest
Just showing the swell of the fire as it melted him. Smiting a rib,
'Heigh! what have we been about, Tom! Was this all a terrible fib?'
He cried, and the letter forth-trembled. Tom told what the cannon
Few present but ached to see falling those aged tears on his heart's
Up lanes of the quiet village, and where the mill-waters rush red
Thro' browning summer meadows to catch the sun's crimsoning head,
You meet an old man and a maiden who has the soft ways of a wife
With one whom they wheel, alternate; whose delicate flush of new
Is prized like the early primrose. Then shake his right hand, in
the chair -
The old man fails never to tell you: 'You've got the French
THE PROMISE IN DISTURBANCE
How low when angels fall their black descent,
Our primal thunder tells: known is the pain
Of music, that nigh throning wisdom went,
And one false note cast wailful to the insane.
Now seems the language heard of Love as rain
To make a mire where fruitfulness was meant.
The golden harp gives out a jangled strain,
Too like revolt from heaven's Omnipotent.
But listen in the thought; so may there come
Conception of a newly-added chord,
Commanding space beyond where ear has home.
In labour of the trouble at its fount,
Leads Life to an intelligible Lord
The rebel discords up the sacred mount.
By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand's light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gaping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep's heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.
It ended, and the morrow brought the task.
Her eyes were guilty gates, that let him in
By shutting all too zealous for their sin:
Each sucked a secret, and each wore a mask.
But, oh, the bitter taste her beauty had!
He sickened as at breath of poison-flowers:
A languid humour stole among the hours,
And if their smiles encountered, he went mad,
And raged deep inward, till the light was brown
Before his vision, and the world, forgot,
Looked wicked as some old dull murder-spot.
A star with lurid beams, she seemed to crown
The pit of infamy: and then again
He fainted on his vengefulness, and strove
To ape the magnanimity of love,
And smote himself, a shuddering heap of pain.
This was the woman; what now of the man?
But pass him. If he comes beneath a heel,
He shall be crushed until he cannot feel,
Or, being callous, haply till he can.
But he is nothing:- nothing? Only mark
The rich light striking out from her on him!
Ha! what a sense it is when her eyes swim
Across the man she singles, leaving dark
All else! Lord God, who mad'st the thing so fair,
See that I am drawn to her even now!
It cannot be such harm on her cool brow
To put a kiss? Yet if I meet him there!
But she is mine! Ah, no! I know too well
I claim a star whose light is overcast:
I claim a phantom-woman in the Past.
The hour has struck, though I heard not the bell!
All other joys of life he strove to warm,
And magnify, and catch them to his lip:
But they had suffered shipwreck with the ship,
And gazed upon him sallow from the storm.
Or if Delusion came, 'twas but to show
The coming minute mock the one that went.
Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent,
Stood high Philosophy, less friend than foe:
Whom self-caged Passion, from its prison-bars,
Is always watching with a wondering hate.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
Look we for any kinship with the stars.
Oh, wisdom never comes when it is gold,
And the great price we pay for it full worth:
We have it only when we are half earth.
Little avails that coinage to the old!
A message from her set his brain aflame.
A world of household matters filled her mind,
Wherein he saw hypocrisy designed:
She treated him as something that is tame,
And but at other provocation bites.
Familiar was her shoulder in the glass,
Through that dark rain: yet it may come to pass
That a changed eye finds such familiar sights
More keenly tempting than new loveliness.
The 'What has been' a moment seemed his own:
The splendours, mysteries, dearer because known,
Nor less divine: Love's inmost sacredness
Called to him, 'Come!'--In his restraining start,
Eyes nurtured to be looked at scarce could see
A wave of the great waves of Destiny
Convulsed at a checked impulse of the heart.
It chanced his lips did meet her forehead cool.
She had no blush, but slanted down her eye.
Shamed nature, then, confesses love can die:
And most she punishes the tender fool
Who will believe what honours her the most!
Dead! is it dead? She has a pulse, and flow
Of tears, the price of blood-drops, as I know,
For whom the midnight sobs around Love's ghost,
Since then I heard her, and so will sob on.
The love is here; it has but changed its aim.
O bitter barren woman! what's the name?
The name, the name, the new name thou hast won?
Behold me striking the world's coward stroke!
That will I not do, though the sting is dire.
- Beneath the surface this, while by the fire
They sat, she laughing at a quiet joke.
She issues radiant from her dressing-room,
Like one prepared to scale an upper sphere:
- By stirring up a lower, much I fear!
How deftly that oiled barber lays his bloom!
That long-shanked dapper Cupid with frisked curls
Can make known women torturingly fair;
The gold-eyed serpent dwelling in rich hair
Awakes beneath his magic whisks and twirls.
His art can take the eyes from out my head,
Until I see with eyes of other men;
While deeper knowledge crouches in its den,
And sends a spark up:- is it true we are wed?
Yea! filthiness of body is most vile,
But faithlessness of heart I do hold worse.
The former, it were not so great a curse
To read on the steel-mirror of her smile.
Yet it was plain she struggled, and that salt
Of righteous feeling made her pitiful.
Poor twisting worm, so queenly beautiful!
Where came the cleft between us? whose the fault?
My tears are on thee, that have rarely dropped
As balm for any bitter wound of mine:
My breast will open for thee at a sign!
But, no: we are two reed-pipes, coarsely stopped:
The God once filled them with his mellow breath;
And they were music till he flung them down,
Used! used! Hear now the discord-loving clown
Puff his gross spirit in them, worse than death!
I do not know myself without thee more:
In this unholy battle I grow base:
If the same soul be under the same face,
Speak, and a taste of that old time restore!
He felt the wild beast in him betweenwhiles
So masterfully rude, that he would grieve
To see the helpless delicate thing receive
His guardianship through certain dark defiles.
Had he not teeth to rend, and hunger too?
But still he spared her. Once: 'Have you no fear?'
He said: 'twas dusk; she in his grasp; none near.
She laughed: 'No, surely; am I not with you?'
And uttering that soft starry 'you,' she leaned
Her gentle body near him, looking up;
And from her eyes, as from a poison-cup,
He drank until the flittering eyelids screened.
Devilish malignant witch! and oh, young beam
Of heaven's circle-glory! Here thy shape
To squeeze like an intoxicating grape -
I might, and yet thou goest safe, supreme.
But where began the change; and what's my crime?
The wretch condemned, who has not been arraigned,
Chafes at his sentence. Shall I, unsustained,
Drag on Love's nerveless body thro' all time?
I must have slept, since now I wake. Prepare,
You lovers, to know Love a thing of moods:
Not, like hard life, of laws. In Love's deep woods,
I dreamt of loyal Life:- the offence is there!
Love's jealous woods about the sun are curled;
At least, the sun far brighter there did beam. -
My crime is, that the puppet of a dream,
I plotted to be worthy of the world.
Oh, had I with my darling helped to mince
The facts of life, you still had seen me go
With hindward feather and with forward toe,
Her much-adored delightful Fairy Prince!
Out in the yellow meadows, where the bee
Hums by us with the honey of the Spring,
And showers of sweet notes from the larks on wing
Are dropping like a noon-dew, wander we.
Or is it now? or was it then? for now,
As then, the larks from running rings pour showers:
The golden foot of May is on the flowers,
And friendly shadows dance upon her brow.
What's this, when Nature swears there is no change
To challenge eyesight? Now, as then, the grace
Of heaven seems holding earth in its embrace.
Nor eyes, nor heart, has she to feel it strange?
Look, woman, in the West. There wilt thou see
An amber cradle near the sun's decline:
Within it, featured even in death divine,
Is lying a dead infant, slain by thee.
Not solely that the Future she destroys,
And the fair life which in the distance lies
For all men, beckoning out from dim rich skies:
Nor that the passing hour's supporting joys
Have lost the keen-edged flavour, which begat
Distinction in old times, and still should breed
Sweet Memory, and Hope,--earth's modest seed,
And heaven's high-prompting: not that the world is flat
Since that soft-luring creature I embraced
Among the children of Illusion went:
Methinks with all this loss I were content,
If the mad Past, on which my foot is based,
Were firm, or might be blotted: but the whole
Of life is mixed: the mocking Past will stay:
And if I drink oblivion of a day,
So shorten I the stature of my soul.
'I play for Seasons; not Eternities!'
Says Nature, laughing on her way. 'So must
All those whose stake is nothing more than dust!'
And lo, she wins, and of her harmonies
She is full sure! Upon her dying rose
She drops a look of fondness, and goes by,
Scarce any retrospection in her eye;
For she the laws of growth most deeply knows,
Whose hands bear, here, a seed-bag--there, an urn.
Pledged she herself to aught, 'twould mark her end!
This lesson of our only visible friend
Can we not teach our foolish hearts to learn?
Yes! yes!--but, oh, our human rose is fair
Surpassingly! Lose calmly Love's great bliss,
When the renewed for ever of a kiss
Whirls life within the shower of loosened hair!
What soul would bargain for a cure that brings
Contempt the nobler agony to kill?
Rather let me bear on the bitter ill,
And strike this rusty bosom with new stings!
It seems there is another veering fit,
Since on a gold-haired lady's eyeballs pure
I looked with little prospect of a cure,
The while her mouth's red bow loosed shafts of wit.
Just heaven! can it be true that jealousy
Has decked the woman thus? and does her head
Swim somewhat for possessions forfeited?
Madam, you teach me many things that be.
I open an old book, and there I find
That 'Women still may love whom they deceive.'
Such love I prize not, madam: by your leave,
The game you play at is not to my mind.
I think she sleeps: it must be sleep, when low
Hangs that abandoned arm toward the floor;
The face turned with it. Now make fast the door.
Sleep on: it is your husband, not your foe.
The Poet's black stage-lion of wronged love
Frights not our modern dames:- well if he did!
Now will I pour new light upon that lid,
Full-sloping like the breasts beneath. 'Sweet dove,
Your sleep is pure. Nay, pardon: I disturb.
I do not? good!' Her waking infant-stare
Grows woman to the burden my hands bear:
Her own handwriting to me when no curb
Was left on Passion's tongue. She trembles through;
A woman's tremble--the whole instrument:-
I show another letter lately sent.
The words are very like: the name is new.
In our old shipwrecked days there was an hour,
When in the firelight steadily aglow,
Joined slackly, we beheld the red chasm grow
Among the clicking coals. Our library-bower
That eve was left to us: and hushed we sat
As lovers to whom Time is whispering.
From sudden-opened doors we heard them sing:
The nodding elders mixed good wine with chat.
Well knew we that Life's greatest treasure lay
With us, and of it was our talk. 'Ah, yes!
Love dies!' I said: I never thought it less.
She yearned to me that sentence to unsay.
Then when the fire domed blackening, I found
Her cheek was salt against my kiss, and swift
Up the sharp scale of sobs her breast did lift:-
Now am I haunted by that taste! that sound!
At dinner, she is hostess, I am host.
Went the feast ever cheerfuller? She keeps
The Topic over intellectual deeps
In buoyancy afloat. They see no ghost.
With sparkling surface-eyes we ply the ball:
It is in truth a most contagious game:
HIDING THE SKELETON, shall be its name.
Such play as this the devils might appal!
But here's the greater wonder; in that we,
Enamoured of an acting nought can tire,
Each other, like true hypocrites, admire;
Warm-lighted looks, Love's ephemerioe,
Shoot gaily o'er the dishes and the wine.
We waken envy of our happy lot.
Fast, sweet, and golden, shows the marriage-knot.
Dear guests, you now have seen Love's corpse-light shine.
Here Jack and Tom are paired with Moll and Meg.
Curved open to the river-reach is seen
A country merry-making on the green.
Fair space for signal shakings of the leg.
That little screwy fiddler from his booth,
Whence flows one nut-brown stream, commands the joints
Of all who caper here at various points.
I have known rustic revels in my youth:
The May-fly pleasures of a mind at ease.
An early goddess was a country lass:
A charmed Amphion-oak she tripped the grass.
What life was that I lived? The life of these?
Heaven keep them happy! Nature they seem near.
They must, I think, be wiser than I am;
They have the secret of the bull and lamb.
'Tis true that when we trace its source, 'tis beer.
No state is enviable. To the luck alone
Of some few favoured men I would put claim.
I bleed, but her who wounds I will not blame.
Have I not felt her heart as 'twere my own
Beat thro' me? could I hurt her? heaven and hell!
But I could hurt her cruelly! Can I let
My Love's old time-piece to another set,
Swear it can't stop, and must for ever swell?
Sure, that's one way Love drifts into the mart
Where goat-legged buyers throng. I see not plain:-
My meaning is, it must not be again.
Great God! the maddest gambler throws his heart.
If any state be enviable on earth,
'Tis yon born idiot's, who, as days go by,
Still rubs his hands before him, like a fly,
In a queer sort of meditative mirth.
I am not of those miserable males
Who sniff at vice and, daring not to snap,
Do therefore hope for heaven. I take the hap
Of all my deeds. The wind that fills my sails
Propels; but I am helmsman. Am I wrecked,
I know the devil has sufficient weight
To bear: I lay it not on him, or fate.
Besides, he's damned. That man I do suspect
A coward, who would burden the poor deuce
With what ensues from his own slipperiness.
I have just found a wanton-scented tress
In an old desk, dusty for lack of use.
Of days and nights it is demonstrative,
That, like some aged star, gleam luridly.
If for those times I must ask charity,
Have I not any charity to give?
We three are on the cedar-shadowed lawn;
My friend being third. He who at love once laughed
Is in the weak rib by a fatal shaft
Struck through, and tells his passion's bashful dawn
And radiant culmination, glorious crown,
When 'this' she said: went 'thus': most wondrous she.
Our eyes grow white, encountering: that we are three,
Forgetful; then together we look down.
But he demands our blessing; is convinced
That words of wedded lovers must bring good.
We question; if we dare! or if we should!
And pat him, with light laugh. We have not winced.
Next, she has fallen. Fainting points the sign
To happy things in wedlock. When she wakes,
She looks the star that thro' the cedar shakes:
Her lost moist hand clings mortally to mine.
What may the woman labour to confess?
There is about her mouth a nervous twitch.
'Tis something to be told, or hidden:- which?
I get a glimpse of hell in this mild guess.
She has desires of touch, as if to feel
That all the household things are things she knew.
She stops before the glass. What sight in view?
A face that seems the latest to reveal!
For she turns from it hastily, and tossed
Irresolute steals shadow-like to where
I stand; and wavering pale before me there,
Her tears fall still as oak-leaves after frost.
She will not speak. I will not ask. We are
League-sundered by the silent gulf between.
You burly lovers on the village green,
Yours is a lower, and a happier star!
'Tis Christmas weather, and a country house
Receives us: rooms are full: we can but get
An attic-crib. Such lovers will not fret
At that, it is half-said. The great carouse
Knocks hard upon the midnight's hollow door,
But when I knock at hers, I see the pit.
Why did I come here in that dullard fit?
I enter, and lie couched upon the floor.
Passing, I caught the coverlet's quick beat:-
Come, Shame, burn to my soul! and Pride, and Pain -
Back to Full Books