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Full text of "Poetical works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning"



Dr. W. A. Gordon's 



No 



/STATIONERY 
-AND- 




C J 




POETICAL WORKS 



ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING 



(COMPLETE.} 



FROM THE TWELFTH LONDON EDITION 




NEW YORK : 
THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO. 






COPYRIGHT, lS82 AND lS86. 

THOMAS Y. CROWELL & 






DEDICATION. 



TO MY FATHER. 

WHEN your eyes fall upon this page of dedication, and you start to 
see to whom it is inscribed, your first thought will be of the time, far 
off, when I was a child, and wrote verses, and when I dedicated them to 
you, who were my public and my critic. Of all that such a recollection 
implies of saddest and sweetest to both of us, it would become neither 
of us to speak before the world ; nor would it be possible for us to 
speak of it to one another with voices that did not falter. Enough, 
that what is in my heart when I write thus will be fully known to 
yours. 

And my desire is, that you, who are a witness how, if this art of poetry 
had been a less earnest object to me, it must have fallen from ex- 
hausted hands before this day, that you, who have shared with me 
in things bitter and sweet, softening or enhancing them, every day, 
that you, who hold with me, over all sense of loss and transiency, one 
hope by one name, may accept from me the inscription of these vol- 
umes, the exponents of a few years of an existence which has been 
sustained and comforted by you, as well as given. Somewhat more 
faint-hearted than I used to be, it is my fancy thus to seem to return 
to a visible personal dependence on you, as if indeed I were a child 
again ; to conjure your beloved image between myself and the public, 
so as to be sure of one smile ; and to satisfy my heart, while I sanctify 
my ambition, by associating with the great pursuit of my life its ten- 
derest and holiest affection. 

Your 

E. B. R 

LONDON, 50 WIMPOLE STREET, 1844. 

iii 





ADVERTISEMENT. 



THIS edition, including my earlier and later writings, I have en- 
deavored to render as little unworthy as possible of the indulgence of 
the public. Several poems I would willingly have withdrawn, if it 
were not almost impossible to extricate what has been once caught and 
involved in the machinery of the press. The alternative is a request to 
the generous reader that he may use the weakness of those earlier 
verses, which no subsequent revision has succeeded in strengthening, 
less as a reproach to the writer than as a means of marking some prog- 
ress in her other attempts. 

E. B. B. 
LONDON, 1856. 

iv 



it 








CONTENTS. 



PAGE 
AURORA LEIGH: 

First Book 1 

Second Book 19 

Third Book 40 

Fourth Book 60 

Fifth Book 80 

Sixth Book 100 

Seventh Book 121 

Eighth Book 142 

Ninth Book 163 

A DRAMA OF EXILE 179 

THE SERAPHIM 212 

PROMETHEUS BOUND. FROM THE 

GREEK OF ^ESCHTLUS .... 225 
A LAMENT FOR ADONIS. FROM THE 

GREEK OF BION 245 

A VISION OF POETS 247 

THE POET'S Vow 261 

THE ROMAUNT OF MARGRET .... 268 

ISOBEL'S CHILD 271 

THE ROMAUXT OF THE PAGE .... 277 
THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY . . 282 
A ROMANCE OF THE GANGES .... 290 
RHYME OF THE DUCHESS MAY . . . 293 
THE ROMANCE OF THE SWAN'S NEST , 302 

BERTHA IN THE LANE 303 

LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP . . . 306 
THE RUNAWAY SLAVE AT PILGRIM'S 

POINT 317 

THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN .... 321 

A CHILD ASLEEP 323 

THE FOURFOLD ASPECT 324 

NIGHT AND THE MERRY MAN. . . . 326 

EARTH AND HER PRAISERS 327 

THE VIRGIN MARY TO THE CHILD 

JESUS 330 

AN ISLAND 332 

1'iiE SOUL'S TRAVELLING 335 

To BETTINE 338 

MAN AND NATURE 339 

A SEASIDE WALK 339 

THE SEA-MEW 340 

FELICIA HEMANS 340 

L. E. L.'s LAST QUESTION 341 

CROWNED AND WEDDED 342 

CROWNED AND BURIED 344 

To FLUSH, MY DOG 347 

THE DESERTED GARDEN 349 

MY DOVES 350 

HECTOR IN THE GARDEN 351 

SLEEPING AND WATCHING 352 

SOUNDS 353 



PAGE 
SONNETS : 

The Soul's Expression 355 

The Seraph and Poet 355 

Bereavement 355 

Consolation 356 

To Mary Russell Mitford. In her 

Gardun 356 

On a Portrait of Wordsworth by 

B. R. Haydon 356 

Past and Future 356 

Irreparableness 357 

Tears 357 

Grief 357 

Substitution 357 

Comfort 358 

Perplexed Music 358 

Work 358 

Futurity 359 

The Two Sayings 359 

The Look . 359 

The Meaning of the Look .... 359 
A Thought for a Lonely Death-bed . 360 
Work and Contemplation .... 360 

Pain in Pleasure 360 

Flush or Faunus 360 

Finite and Infinite 361 

An Apprehension 361 

Discontent 361 

Patience taught by Nature .... 362 
Cheerfulness taught by Reason . . 362 

Exaggeration 362 

Adequacy 362 

To George Sand. A Desire . . . 363 
To George Sand. A Recognition . 363 

The Prisoner 363 

Insufficiency 363 

Two Sketches. 1 364 

Two Sketches. II 364 

Mountaineer and Poet 364 

The Poet 364 

Hiram Powers' Greek Slave . . .365 

Life 365 

Love 365 

Heaven and Earth 366 

The Prospect 366 

Hugh Stuart Boyd. His Blindness. 366 
Hugh Stuart Boyd. His Death . . 367 
Hugh Stuart Boyd. Legacies . . 367 

THE LOST BOWER 367 

A SONG AGAINST SINGINO 373 

WINE OF CYPRUS 374 

A RHAPSODY OF LIFE'S PROGRESS . . 376 







VI 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

A LAA' OF THE EARLY ROSE .... 379 
THE POET AND THE BIRD. A FABLE. 381 

THE CRY OF THE HUMAN 382 

A PORTRAIT 383 

CONFEBBIONB 384 

LOVED ONCE 386 

THE HOUSE OF CLOUDS 387 

A SABBATH MORNING AT SEA . . . 388 

A FLOWER IN A LETTER 389 

THE MASK 391 

CALLS ON THE HEART 391 

WISDOM UNAPPLIED 393 

MEMORY AND HOPE 394 

HUMAN LIFE'S MYSTERY 395 

A CHILD'S THOUGHT OF GOD .... 396 

THE CLAIM 396 

SONG OF THE ROSE 396 

A DEAD ROSE 397 

THE EXILE'S RETURN 397 

THE SLEEP 398 

THE MEASURE 399 

COWPEK'S GRAVE 399 

THE WEAKEST THING 401 

THE PET NAME . .401 

THE MOURNING MOTHER 402 

A VALEDICTION 403 

LESSONS FROM THE GORSE .... 404 

THE LADY'S YES 404 

A WOMAN'S SHORTCOMINGS .... 404 

A MAN'S REQUIP.EMENTS 405 

A YEAR'S SPINNING 406 

CHANGE UPON CHANGE 406 

THAT DAY 407 

A REED 407 

THE DEAD PAN 408 

A CHILD'S GRAVE AT FLORENCE . . 411 

CATAUINA TO CAMOENS 413 

LIFE AND LOVE 415 

A DENIAL 415 

PROOF AND DISPROOF 416 

QUESTION AND ANSWER 417 

INCLUSIONS 417 

INSUFFICIENCY 417 

SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE . . 418 

CASA GUIDI WINDOWS 429 

POEMS BEFORE CONGRESS: 

Napoleon III. in Italy 

The Dance .... 

A Tale of Villafranca 

A Court Lady . . 

An August Voice . 

Christmas Gifts 



Italy and the World 
A Curse for a Nation 
LAST POEMS: 

Little Mattic . . . 
A False Step ... 
Void in Law ... 



463 
467 
469 
470 
471 
473 
473 
476 

478 
479 
479 



PAGE 
LAST POEMS : 

Lord Walter's Wife 480 

Bianca among the Nightingales . . 482 

My Kate 484 

A Song for the Ragged-Schools of 

London 485 

May's Love 487 

Amy's Cruelty 487 

My Heart and I 488 

The Best Thing in the World . . . 489 
Where's Agnes ? ....... 489 

De Profundis 490 

A Musical Instrument 492 

First News from Villafranca . . . 493 
King Victor Emanuel entering Flor- 
ence, April, I860 493 

The Sword of Castruccio Castracani 495 

Summing up in Italy 495 

" Died ..." 497 

The Forced Recruit 497 

Garibaldi 498 

Only a Curl 499 

A View across the Roman Campagna 500 

The King's Gift 501 

Parting Lovers 501 

Mother and Poet 502 

Nature's Remorses 504 

The North and the South .... 506 
TRANSLATIONS : 

From Theocritus: 

The Cyclops 507 

From Apuleius : 

Psyche gazing on Cupid .... 509 
Psyche wafted by Zephyrus . . 509 

Psyche and Pan 510 

Psyche propitiating Ceres . . . 510 

Psyche and the Eagle 511 

Psyche and Cerberus 512 

Psyche and Proserpine .... 612 

Psyche and Venus 512 

Mercury carries Psyche to Olym- 
pus 512 

Marriage of Psyche and Cupid . 512 
From Nonnus : 
How Bacchus finds Ariadne sleep- 
ing 513 

How Bacchus comforts Ariadne . 514 
From Hesiod : 

Bacchus and Ariadne 515 

From Euripides : 

Aurora and Tithonus 515 

From Homer: 

Hector and Andromache .... 516 
The Daughters of Pandarus . . 518 

Another Version 518 

From Anacreon : 

Ode to the Swallow 518 

From Heine ......... 519 







AURORA LEIGH. 



A POEM IX NINE BOOKS 



DEDICATION TO JOHN KEXTON, ESQ. 

THE words " cousin " and " friend " are constantly recurring in this poem, 
the last pages of which have been finished under the hospitality of your roof, 
my own dearest cousin and friend, cousin and friend in a sense of less 
equality and greater disinterestedness than " Romney's." 

Ending, therefore, and preparing once more to quit England, I venture to 
leave in your hands this book, the most mature of my works, and the one 
into which my highest convictions upon life and art have entered; that as, 
through my various efforts in literature, and steps in life, you have believed 
in me, borne with me, and been generous to me, far beyond the common 
uses of mere relationship or sympathy of mind, so you may kindly accept in 
sight of the public this poor sign of esteem, gratitude, and affection from 

Your unforgetting 



39 DEVONSHIRE PLACE, 
Oct. 17, 1856. 



E. B. B. 



AURORA LEIGH. 



FIRST BOOK. 

OF writing many books there is no 

end ; 
And I, who have written much in 

prose and verse 
For others' uses, Avill write now for 

mine, 
"Will write my story for my better 

self, 
As when you paint your portrait for a 

friend, 
Who keeps it in a drawer, and looks 

at it 




Long after he has ceased to love you, 

just 
To hold together what he was and is. 

I, writing thus, am still what men call 

young : 

I have not so far left the coasts of life 
To travel inland, that I cannot hear 
That murmur of the outer Infinite 
Which unweaned babies smile at in 

their sleep 
When wondered at for smiling ; not 

so far, 
But still I catch my mother at her 

post 





AURORA LEIGH. 



Beside the nursery-door, with finger 

up, 
" Hush, hush, here's too much noise ! " 

while her sweet eyes 
Leap forward, taking part against her 

word 

In the child's riot. Still I sit, and feel 
My father's slow hand, when she had 

left us both, 
Stroke out my childish curls across 

his knee, 
And hear Assunta's daily jest (she 

knew 

He liked it better than a better jest) 
Inquire how many golden scudi went 
To make such ringlets. O my father's 

hand, 
Stroke heavily, heavily, the poor hair 

down, 
Draw, press the child's head closer to 

thy knee ! 
I'm still too young, too young, to sit 

alone. 

I write. My mother was a Florentine, 

"Whose rare blue eyes were shut from 
seeing me 

When scarcely I was four years old ; 
my life 

A poor spark snatched up from a fail- 
ing lamp 

Which went out therefore. She was 
weak and frail ; 

She could not bear the joy of giving 
life ; 

The mother's rapture slew her. If her 
kiss 

Had left a longer weight upon my lips, 

It might have steadied the uneasy 
breath, 

And reconciled and fraternized my 
soul 

With the new order. As it was, in- 
deed, 

I felt a mother-want about the world, 

And still went seeking, like a bleating 
lamb 

Left out at night in shutting up the 
fold, 

As restless as a nest-deserted bird 

Grown chill through something being 
away, though what 

It knows not. I, Aurora Leigh, was 
born 

To make my father sadder, and my- 
self 

Not overjoyous, truly. Women know 

The way to rear up children (to be 
just) ; 



They know a simple, merry, tender 

knack 

Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes, 
And stringing pretty words" that make 

no sense, 
And kissing full sense into empty 

words ; 
Which things are corals to cut life 

upon, 
Although such trifles : children learn 

by such, 

Love's holy earnest in a pretty play, 
And get not over-early solemnized, 
But seeing, as in a rose-bush, Love's 

Divine, 
Which burns and hurts not, not a 

single bloom, 

Become aware and imafraid of love. 
Such good do mothers. Fathers love 

as well, 
Mine did, I know, but still with 

heavier brains, 

And wills more consciouslv responsi- 
ble, 

And not as wisely, since less foolishly: 
So mothers have God's license to be 

missed. 

My father was an austere Englishman. 

Who, after a dry lifetime spent at 
home 

In college-learning, law, and parish 
talk, 

\Vas flooded with a passion unaware, 

His whole provisioned and compla- 
cent past 

Drowned out from him that moment. 
As he stood 

In Florence, where he had come to 
spend a month, 

And note the secret of Da Vinci's 
drains, 

He musing somewhat absently per- 
haps 

Some English question . . . whether 
men should pay 

The unpopular but necessary tax 

With left or right hand in the alien 
sun 

In that great square of the Santissima 

There drifted past him (scarcely 
marked enough 

To move his comfortable island scorn) 

A train of priestly banners, cross and 
psalm, 

The white-veiled, rose-crowned maid- 
ens holding up 

Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, 
aslant 





" I, a little child, would crouch 
For hours upon the floor, with knees drawn up, 
And gaze across them, half in terror, half 
In adoration at the picture." Page 3. 




AURORA LEIGH. 



3 



To the blue luminous tremor of the 

air, 
And letting drop the white wax as 

they went 
To eat the bishop's wafer at the 

church ; 
From which long trail of chanting 

priests ari'1 girls 
A face flashed like a cymbal on his 

face, 
And shook with silent clangor brain 

and heart. 
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, 

even thus. 

He. too, received his sacramental gift 
With eucharistic meanings; for he 

loved. 

And thus beloved, she died. I've 

heard it said 

That but to see him, in the first sur- 
prise 

Of widower and father, nursing me, 
Uninothered little child of foar years 

old, 
His large man's hands afraid to touch 

my curls, 
As if tlie gold would tarnish, his 

grave lips 

Contriving such a miserable smile 
As if he knew needs must, or I 

should die, 
And yet 'twas hard, would almost 

*make the stones 
Cry out for pity. There's a verse he 

set 

In Santa Croce to her memory, 
" Weep for an infant too young to 

weep much 
When death removed this mother," 

stops the mirth 
To-day on women's faces when they 

walk, 
With rosy children hanging on their 

gowns. 

Under the cloister to escape the sun 
That scorches in the piazza. After 

which 
He left our Florence, and made haste 

to hide 
Himself, his prattling child, and silent 

grief, 

Among the mountains above Pelago ; 
Because unmothered babes, he 

thought, had need 
Of mother-nature more than others 

use, 
And Pan's white goats, with udders 

warm, and full 



Of mystic contemplations, come to 

feed 
Poor milkless lips of orphans like his 

own. 
Such scholar-scraps he talked, I've 

heard from friends; 
For even prosaic men who wear grief 

long 

Will get to wear it as a hat aside 
With a flower stuck in't. Father, 

then, and child, 
We lived among the mountains many 

years, 
God's silence on the outside of the 

house, 
And we who did not speak too loud 

within, 

And old Assunta to make up the fire, 
Crossing herself whene'er a sudden 

flame 
Which lightened from the firewood 

made alive 
That picture of niy mother on the 

wall. 

The painter drew it after she was 

dead ; 
And when the face was finished, 

throat and hands, 
Her cameriera carried him, in hate 
Of the English-fashioned shroud, the 

last brocade 
She dressed in at the Pitti. " He 

should paint 
No sadder thing than that," she 

swore, " to wrong 
Her poor signora." Therefore very 

strange 
The effect was. I, a little child, 

would crouch 
For hours upon the floor, with knees 

drawn up, 
And gaze across them, half in terror, 

half 

In adoration, at the picture there, 
That swan-like supernatural white 

life 
Just sailing upward from the red stiff 

silk 
Which seemed to have no part in it, 

nor power 
To keep it from quite breaking out 

of bounds. 
For hours I sate and stared. Assun- 

ta's awe 
And my poor father's melancholy 

eyes 
Still pointed that way. That way 

went my thoughts 







AURORA LEI GJI. 



When wandering beyond sight. And 
as I grew 

In years, I mixed, confused, uncon- 
sciously, 

Whatever I last read, or heard, or 
dreamed, 

Abhorrent, admirable, beautiful, 

Pathetieal, or ghastly, or grotesque, 

With still that face . . . which did 
not therefore change, 

But kept the mystic level of all 
forms, 

Hates, fears, and admirations was 
by turns 

Ghost, fiend, and angel, fairy, witch, 
and sprite; 

A dauntless Muse who eyes a dread- 
ful Fate: 

A loving Psyche who loses sight of 
Love; 

A still Medusa with mild milky 
brows, 

All curdled and all clothed upon with 
snakes 

Whose slime falls fast as sweat will; 
or anon 

Our Lady of the Passion, stabbed 
with swords 

Where the Babe sucked; or Lamia in 
her first 

Moonlighted pallor, ere she shrunk 
and blinked, 

And shuddering wriggled down to 
the unclean; 

Or my own mother, leaving her last 
smile 

In her last kiss upon the baby-mouth 

My father pushed down on the bed 
for that; 

Or my dead mother, without smile or 
kiss, 

Buried at Florence. All which im- 
ages, 

Concentred on the picture, glassed 
themselves 

Before my meditative childhood, as 

The incoherences of change and 
death 

Are represented fully, mixed and 
merged, 

In the smooth fair mystery of perpet- 
ual life. 

And while I stared away my childish 

wits 
Upon my mother's picture, (ah, poor 

child!) 
My father, who through love had 

suddenly 



Thrown off the old conventions, 
broken loose 

From chin-bands of the soul, like 
Lazarus, 

Yet had no time to learn to talk and 
walk, 

Or grow anew familiar with the 
sun ; 

Who had reached to freedom, not to 
action, lived, 

But lived as one entranced, with 
thoughts, not aims; 

Whom love had unmade from a com- 
mon man, 

But not completed to an uncommon 
man, 

My father taught me what he had 
learnt the best 

Before he died, and left me, grief 
and love. 

And seeing we had books among tho 
hills, 

Strong words of counselling souls 
confederate 

With vocal pines and waters, out of 
books 

He taught me all the ignorance of 
men, 

And how God laughs in heaven when 
any man 

Says, "Here I'm learned; this I un- 
derstand; 

In that I am never caught at fault or 
doubt." 

He sent the schools to school, demon- 
strating 

A fool will pass for such through one 
mistake, 

While a philosopher will pass for 
such 

Through said mistakes being ven- 
tured in the gross, 

And heaped up to a system. 

I am like, 

They tell me, my dear father. Broad- 
er brows 

Howbeit, upon a slenderer under- 
growth 

Of delicate features, paler, near as 
grave; 

But then my mother's smile breaks 
up the whole, 

And makes it better sometimes than 
itself. 

So nine full years our days were hid 

with God' 
Among his mountains. I was just 

thirteen, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



Still growing like the plants from un- 
seen roots 

In tongue-tied springs, and suddenly 
awoke 

To full life and life's needs and ago- 
nies, 

With an intense, strong, struggling 
heart, beside 

A stone-dead father. Life, struck 
sharp on death, 

Makes awful lightning. His last 
word was, " Love 

Love, my child, love, love! " (then 
he had done with grief) 

"Love, my child." Ere I answered, 
he was gone, 

And none was left to love in all the 
world . 

There ended childhood. What suc- 
ceeded next 

I recollect, as. alter fevers, men 

Thread back the passage of delirium, 

Missing the turn still, baffled by the 
door; 

Smooth, endless days, notched here 
and there with knives, 

A wearv, wormy darkness, spurred 
i' the flank" 

Witli flame, that it, should eat and end 

itself 

Like some tormented scorpion. Then 

at last 
I do remember clearly how there 

came 

A stranger with authority, not right 
(I thought not), who commanded, 

caught me up 
From old Assunta's neck; how with 

a shriek 
She let me go, while I, with ears too 

full 
Of my father's silence to shriek back 

a word, 
In all a child's astonishment at 

grief, 
Stared at the wharf-edge where she 

stood and moaned. 
My poor Assunta, where she stood 

and moaned! 
The white walls, the blue hills, my 

Italy, 

Drawn backward from the shudder- 
ing steamer-deck, 
Like one in anger drawing back her 

skirts 
Which suppliants catch at. Then the 

bitter sea 
Inexorably pushed between us both, 



And, sweeping up the ship with my 

despair, 
Threw us out as a pasture to the 

stars. 

Ten nights and days we voyaged on 

the deep; 

Ten nights and days without the com- 
mon face 
Of any day or night; the moon and 

sun 
Cut off from the green reconciling 

earth, 

To starve into a blind ferocity, 
And glare unnatural; the very sky 
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the 

sea 
As if no human heart should 'scape 

alive), 

Bedraggled with the desolating salt, 
Until it seemed no more that holy 

heaven 
To which my father went. All new 

and strange; 
The universe turned stranger, for a 

child. 

Then land! then England! oh, the 

frosty cliffs 
Looked cold upon me. Could I find 

a home 
Among those mean red houses through 

the fog ? 

And when I heard my father's lan- 
guage first 
From alien lips which had no kiss for 

mine, 
I wept aloud, then laughed, then 

wept, then wept; 
And some one near me said the child 

was mad 
Through much sea-sickness. The 

train swept us on. 
Was this my father's England? the 

great isle ? 
The ground seemed cut up from the 

fellowship 
Of verdure, field from field, as man 

from man: 
The skies themselves looked low and 

positive, 
As almost you could touch them with 

a hand, 
And dared to do it, they were so far 

off 
From God's celestial crystals; all 

things blurred 
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare 

and his mates 






AURORA LEIGH. 




Absorb the light here ? Not a hill or 

stone 
With heart to strike a radiant color 

up, 
Or active outline on the indifferent 

air. 

I think I see my father's sister stand 

Upon the hall-step of her country- 
house 

To giA-e me welcome. She stood 
straight and calm, 

Her somewhat narrow forehead braid- 
ed tight 

As if for taming accidental thoughts 

From possible pulses; brown hair 
pricked with gray 

By frigid use of life (she was not old, 

Although my father's elder by a 
year); 

A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate 
lines; 

A close mild mouth, a little soured 
about 

The ends, through speaking unrequit- 
ed loves 

Or, peradventure, niggardly half- 
truths ; 

Eyes of no color once they might 
have smiled, 

But never, never, have forgot them- 
selves 

In smiling; cheeks in which was yet 
a rose 

Of perished summers, like a rose in a 
book, 

Kept more for ruth than pleasure 
if past bloom, 

Past fading also. 

She had lived, we'll say, 

A harmless life, she called a virtuous 
life, 

A quiet life, which was not life at all 

(But that, she had not lived enough 
to know), 

Between the vicar and the county 
squires, 

The lord-lieutenant looking down 
sometimes 

From the empyrean to assure their 
souls 

Against chance vulgarisms, and, in 
the abyss, 

The apothecary looked on once a year 

To prove their soundness of humility. 

The poor-club exercised her Christian 
gifts 

Of knitting stockings, stitching petti- 
coats, 



Because we are of one flesh, after all, 
And need one flannel (with a proper 

sense 
Of difference in the quality); and 

still 
The book-club, guarded from your 

modern trick 
Of shaking dangerous questions from 

the crease, 
Preserved her intellectual. She had 

lived 
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a 

cage, 
Accounting that to leap from perch to 

perch 

Was act and joy enough for any bird. 
Dear Heaven, how silly are the things 

that live 
In thickets, and eat berries! 

I, alas ! 
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was 

brought to her cage, 
And she was there to meet me. Very 

kind. 
Bring the clean water, give out the 

fresh seed. 

She stood upon the steps to welcome 

me, 
Calm, in black garb. I clung about 

her neck : 
Young babes, who catch at every 

shred of wool 
To draw the new light closer, catch 

and cling 
Less blindly. In my ears my father's 

word 
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in 

shells, 
" Love, love, my child." She, black 

tliere with my grief, 
Might feel my love: she was his sis- 
ter once. 
I clung to her. A moment she seemed 

moved, 
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me 

to cling, 
And drew me feebly through the hall 

into 
The room she sate in. There, with 

some strange spasm 
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose 

my hands 
Imperiously, and held me at arni's- 

length, 
And with two gray-steel naked-bladed 

eyes 
I Searched through my face, ay, 

stabbed it through and through, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



Through brows and cheeks and chin, 

as if to find 
A wicked murderer in my innocent 

face. 
If not here, there perhaps. Then, 

drawing breath. 

She struggled for her ordinary calm, 
And missed it rather; told me not to 

shrink, 
As if she had told me not to lie or 

swear, 
" She loved my father, and would love 

me too 
As long as I deserved it." Very 

kind. 

I understood her meaning afterward : 
She thought to find my mother in my 

face, 
And questioned it for that. For she, 

my aunt, 
Had loved my father truly, as she 

could, 
And hated with the gall of gentle 

souls 
My Tuscan mother, who had fooled 

away 
A wise man from wise courses, a good 

man 
From obvious duties, and depriving 

her, 

His sister, of the household prece- 
dence, 
Had wronged his tenants, robbed his 

native land, 
And made him mad, alike by life and 

death, 
In love and sorrow. She had pored 

for years 

What sort of woman could be suitable 
To her sort of hate, to entertain it 

with, 

And so her very curiosity 
Became hate too, and all the idealism 
She ever used in life was used for 

hate, 
Till hate, so nourished, did exceed at 

last 
The love from which it grew in 

strength and heat, 
And wrinkled her smooth conscience 

with a sense 

Of disputable virtue (say not sin) 
When Christian doctrine was enforced 

at church. 

And thus my father's sister was to me 
My mother's hater. From that day 
she did 



Her duty to me (I appreciate it 

In her own word as spoken to herself), 

Her duty in large measure, well 

pressed our, 

But measured always. She was gen- 
erous, bland, 
More courteous than was tender, gave 

me still 
The first place, as if fearful that 

God's saints 
Would look down suddenly and say, 

" Herein 
You missed a point, I think, through 

lack of love." 

Alas! a mother never is afraid 
Of speaking angrily to any child, 
Since love, she knows, is justified of 

love. 

And I I was a good child, on the 
whole, 

A meek and manageable child. Why 
not? 

I did not live to have the faults of 
life. 

There seemed more true life in my 
father's grave 

Than in all England. Since that 
threw me off 

Who fain would cleave (his latest 
will, they say, 

Consigned me to his land), I only 
thought 

Of lying quiet there, where I was 
thrown 

Like seaweed on the rocks, and suf- 
fering her 

To prick me to a pattern with her pin, 

Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from 
leaf, 

And dry out from my drowned anat- 
omy 

The last sea-salt left in me. 

So it was. 

I broke the copious curls upon my 
head 

In braids, because she liked smooth- 
ordered hair. 

I left off saying my sweet Tuscan 
words 

Which still at any stirring of the 
heart 

Came up to float across the English 
phrase 

As lilies (Dene or Che chc), because 

She liked my father's child to speak 
his tongue. 

I learnt the collects and the cate- 
chism, 





AURORA LEIGH. 



The creeds, from Athanasius back to 

Nice, 
The Articles, the Tracts against the 

times 
(By no means Buonaventure's " Prick 

of Love "), 

And various popular synopses of 
Inhuman doctrines never taught by 

John, 

Because she liked instructed piety. 
I learnt my complement of classic 

French 

(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism) 
And German also, since she liked a 

range 
Of liberal education, tongues, not 

books. 

I learnt a little algebra, a little 
Of the mathematics, brushed with 

extreme flounce 

The circle of the sciences, because 
She niisliked women who are frivo- 
lous. 

I learnt the royal genealogies 
Of Oviedo, the internal laws 
Of the Burmese Empire, by how many 

feet 
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Tene- 

riffe, 

"What navigable river joins itself 
To Lara, and what census of the year 

five 
Was taken at Klagenf urt, because she 

liked 

A general insight into useful facts. 
I learnt much music, such as would 

have been 

As quite impossible in Johnson's day 
As still it might be wished, fine 

sleights of hand 
And unimagined fingering, shuffling 

off 
The hearer's soul through hurricanes 

of notes 
To a noisy Tophet ; and I drew . . . 

costumes 
From French engravings, nercids 

neatly draped 
(With smirks of simmering godship). 

I washed in 
Landscapes from nature (rather say, 

washed out). 

I danced the polka and Cellarius, 
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and mod- 
elled flowers in wax, 
Because she liked accomplishments 

in giris. 

I read a score of books on woman- 
hood, 



To prove, if women do not think at 

all, 
They may teach thinking (to a 

maiden-aunt, 
Or else the author), books that 

boldly assert 

Their right of comprehending hus- 
band's talk 
When not too deep, and even of an, 

swering 
With pretty "may it please you," 01 

"so it is; " 

Their rapid insight and fine aptitude, 
Particular worth and general mission- 

ariness, 

As long as they keep quiet by the fire, 
And never say '' no " when the world 

says " ay," 

For that is fatal; their angelic reach 
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn, 
And fatten household sinners; their, 

in brief, 

Potential faculty in every thing 
Of abdicating power in it: she owned 
She liked a woman to be womanly, 
And English women, she thanked 

God, and sighed 
(Some people always sigh in thanking 

God), 
Were models to the universe. And 

last 
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did 

not like 
To see me wear the night with empty 

hands, 

A-doing nothing. So my shepherdess 
Was something, after all (the pastoral 

saints 
Be praised for't), leaning lovelorn, 

with pink eyes 
To match her shoes, when I mistook 

the silks, 
Her head uncrushed by that round 

weight of hat 

So strangelv similar to the tortoise- 
shell 
Which slew the tragic poet. 

By the way, 

The works of women are symbolical. 
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull 

our sight, 
Producing what ? A pair of slippers, 

sir, 
To put on when you're weary, or a 

stool 
To stumble over, and vex you . . , 

" Curse that stool ! " 
Or else, at best, a cushion, where you 

lean 





AURORA LEIGH. 



And sleep, and dream of something 
\ve are not. 

But would be for your sake. Alas, 
alas ! 

This hurts most, this, that after all 
we are paid 

The worth of our work, perhaps. 

In looking down 

Those years of education (to return) 

I wonder if Brinvilliers suffered more 

In the water-torture . . . flood suc- 
ceeding flood 

To drench the incapable throat, and 
split the veins . . . 

Than I did. Certain of your feebler 
souls 

Go out in such a process; many pine 

To a sick, inodorous light; iny own 
endured: 

I had relations in the Unseen, and 
drew 

The elemental nutriment and heat 

From nature, as earth feels the sun 
at nights, 

Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark 

I kept the life thrust on me, on the 
outside 

Of the inner life, with all its ample 
room 

For heart and lungs, for will and in- 
tellect, 

Inviolable by conventions. God, 

I thank thee for that grace of thine ! 
'At first 

I felt no life which was not patience ; 
did 

The thing she bade me, without heed 
to a thing 

Beyond it; sate in just the chair she 
placed, 

With back against the window, to ex- 
clude 

The sight of the great lime-tree on 
the lawn, 

Which seemed to have come on pur- 
pose from the woods 

To bring the house a message, ay, 
and walked 

Demurely in her carpeted low rooms, 

As if I should not, barkening my own 
steps, 

Misdoubt I was alive. I read her 
books ; 

Was civil to her cousin, Romney 
Leigh ; 

Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visit- 
ors, 

And heard them whisper, when I 
changed a cup 



(I blushed for joy at that), "The 

Italian child, 
For all her blue eyes and her quiet 

ways, 
Thrives ill in England. She is paler 

yet 
Than when we came the last time: 

she will die." 

" Will die." My cousin Romney Leigb 

blushed too, 
With sudden anger, and approaching 

me, 
Said low between his teeth, "You're 

wicked now ! 
You wish to die and leave the world 

a-dusk 
For others, with your naughty light 

blown out? " 

I looked into his face defyingly. 
He might have known, that, being 

what I was, 

'Twas natural to like to get away 
As far as dead folk can; and then, in- 
deed, 
Some people make no trouble when 

they die. 
He turned and went abruptly 

slammed the door, 
And shut his dog out. 

Romney, Romney Leigh. 
I have not named my cousin hitherto, 
And yet I used him as a sort of 

friend ; 
My elder by few years, but cold and 

shy 
And absent . . . tender, when he 

thought of it, 
Which scarcely was imperative, grave 

betimes, 

As well as early master of Leigh Hall, 
Whereof the nightmare sate upon his 

youth 

Repressing all its seasonable delights, 
And agonizing with a ghastly sense 
Of universal hideous want and wrong 
To incriminate possession. When he 

came 

From college to the country, very oft 
He crossed the hill on visits to my 

aunt, 
With gifts of blue grapes from the 

hothouses, 
A book in one hand, mere statistics 

(if 
I chanced to lift the cover), count of 

all 
The goats whose beards grow sprout 

ing down toward hell 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Against God's separative judgment- 
hour. 

And she, she almost loved him ; 
even allowed 

That sometimes lie should seem to 
sigh my way: 

It made him easier to be pitiful, 

And sighing was his gilt. So, undis- 
turbed 

At whiles, she let him shut niy music 
up, 

And push my needles down, and lead 
me out 

To see in that south angle of the 
house 

Tue figs grow black as if by a Tuscan 
rock, 

On some light pretext. She would 
turn her head 

At other moments, go to fetch a thing, 

And leave me breath enough to speak 
with him, 

For his sake: it was simple. 

Sometimes too 

He would have saved me utterly, it 
seemed, 

He stood and looked so. 

Once he stood so near 

He dropped a sudden hand upon my 
head 

Bent down on woman's work, as soft 
as rain ; 

But then I rose, and shook it off as 
fire, 

The stranger's touch that took my 
father's place, 

Yet dared seem soft. 

I used him for a friend 

Before I ever knew him for a friend. 

'Twas better, 'twas worse also, after- 
ward : 

We came so close, we saw our differ- 
ences 

Too intimately. Always Romney 
Leigh 

Was looking for the worms, I for the 
gods. 

A godlike nature his : the gods look 
down, 

Incurious of themselves ; and cer- 
tainly 

'Tis well I should remember, how, 
those days, 

I was a worm too, and he looked on 
me. 

A little by his act perhaps, yet more 
By something in me, surely not my 
will, ' \ 



I did not die; but slowly, as one in 

swoon, 
To whom life creeps back in the form 

of death, 
With a sense of separation, a blind 

pain 
Of blank obstruction, and a roar 

i' the ears 

Of visionary chariots which retreat 
As earth grows clearer . . . slowly, 

by degrees, 
I woke, rose up . . . where was I ? in 

the world ; 
For uses therefore I must count worth 

while. 

I had a little chamber in the house, 
As green as any privet-hedge a bird 
Might choose to build in, though the 

nest itself 
Could show but dead-brown sticks 

and straws. The walls 
Were green ; the carpet was pure 

green ; the straight 
Small bed was curtained greenly ; 

and the folds 
Hung green about the window, which 

let in 

The outdoor world with all its green- 
ery. 
You could not push your head out, 

and escape 

A dash of dawn-dew from the honey- 
suckle, 
But so you were baptized into the 

grace 
And privilege of seeing. . . . 

First the lime 
(I had enough there, of the lime, be 

sure : 
My morning-dream was often hummed 

away 
By the bees in it); past the lime the 

lawn, 
Which, after sweeping broadly round 

the house, 

Went trickling through the shrub- 
beries in a stream 
Of tender turf, and wore and lost 

itself 
Among the acacias, over which you 

saw 
The irregular line of elms by the deep 

lane 
Which stopped the grounds, and 

dammed the overflow 
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight 
The lane was ; sunk so deep, no foreign 

tramp, 






AURORA LEIGH. 




Nor drover of wild ponies out of 
Wales. 

Could guess if lady's hall or tenant's 
lodge 

Dispensed such odors, though his 
stick, well crooked, 

Might reach the lowest trail of blos- 
soming brier 

"Which dipped upon the wall. Be- 
hind the elms, 

And through their tops, you saw the 
folded hills 

Striped up and down with hedges 
(burly oaks 

Projecting from the line to show 
themselves), 

Through which my cousin Romney's 
chimneys smoked, 

As still as when a silent mouth in 
frost 

Breathes, showing where the wood- 
lands hid Leigh Hall; 

While, far above, a jut of table-land, 

A promontory without water, 
stretched. 

You could not catch it if the days were 
thick, 

Or took it for a cloud; but, other- 
wise, 

The vigorous sun would catch it up at 
eve, 

And use it for an anvil till he had 
filled 

The shelves of heaven with burning 
thunderbolts, 

Protesting against night and dark- 
ness ; then, 

"When all his setting trouble was re- 
solved 

To a trance of passive glory, you 
might, see 

In apparition on the golden sky. 

(Alas, my Giotto's background I) the 
sheep run 

Along the fine clear outline, small as 
mice 

That run along a witch's scarlet 
thread. 

Not a grand nature ; not my chestnut- 
woods 

Of Vallombrosa, cleaving by the 
spurs 

To the precipices; not my headlong 
leaps 

Of waters, that cry out for joy or 
fear 

In leaping through the palpitating 
pines, 



Like a white soul tossed out to eter> 
nity 

With thrills of time upon it; not, in- 
deed, 

My multitudinous mountains, sitting 
in 

The magic circle, with the mutual 
touch 

Electric, panting from their full deep 
hearts 

Beneath the influent heavens, and 
waiting for 

Communion and commission. Italy 

Is one thing, England one. 

On English ground 

You understand the letter, ere the 
fall 

How Adam lived in a garden. All 
the fields 

Are tied up fast with hedges, nose- 
gay-like; 

The hills are crumpled plains, the 
plains parterres; 

The trees round, woolly, ready to be 
clipped; 

And if you seek for any wilderness, 

You find at best a park. A nature 
tamed, 

And grown domestic like a barn-door 
fowl, 

Which does not awe you with its 
claws and beak, 

Nor tempt you to an eyry too high 
up, 

But which in cackling sets you think- 
ing of 

Your eggs to-morrow at breakfast, in 
the pause 

Of finer meditation. 

Bather say, 

A sweet familiar nature, stealing in 

As a dog might, or child, to touch 
your hand, 

Or pluck your gown, and humbly 
mind you so 

Of presence and affection , excellent 

For inner uses, from the things with- 
out. 

I could not be unthankful, I who was 
Entreated thus, and holpen. In the 

room 
I speak of, ere the house was well 

awake, 

And also after it was well asleep, 
I sate alone, and drew the blessing 

in 
Of all that nature. "With a gradual 

step, 





12 



AURORA LEIGH. 




A stir among the leaves, a breath, a 

ray, 
It catue in softly, while the angels 

made 
A place for it beside me. The moon 

came, 

And swept my chamber clean of fool- 
ish thoughts. 
The sun came, saying, " Shall I lift 

this light 
Against the lime-tree, and you will 

not look ? 
I make the birds sing: listen! but, 

for you, 
God never hears your voice, excepting 

when 
You lie upon the bed at nights, and 

weep." 

Then something moved me. Then 

I wakened up, 
More slowly than I verily write 

now ; 
But wholly, at last, I wakened, 

opened wide 
The window and my soul, and let the 

airs 
And outdoor sights sweep gradual 

gospels jn, 

Regenerating what I was. O Life ! 
How oft we throw it off, and think, 

" Enough, 
Enough of life in so much! here's a 

cause 
For rupture; herein we must break 

with Life, 
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we 

are wronged, 

Maimed, spoiled for aspiration: fare- 
well, Life! " 
And so, as froward babes, we hide 

our eyes 
And think all ended. Then Life calls 

to us 
In some transformed, apocalyptic 

voice, 

Above us, or below us, or around: 
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, 

or Love's, 
Tricking ourselves, because we are 

more ashamed 
To own our compensations than our 

griefs: 
Still Life's voice; still we make our 

peace with Life. 

And I, so young then, was not sullen. 

Soon 
I used to get up early just to sit 



And watch the morning quicken in 
the gray, 

And hear the silence open like a 
flower, 

Leaf after leaf, and stroke with list- 
less hand 

The woodbine through the window, 
till at last 

I came to do it with a sort of love, 

At foolish unaware: whereat I 
smiled, * 

A melancholy smile, to catch myself 

Smiling for joy. 

Capacity for joy 

Admits temptation. It seemed, next, 
worth while 

To dodge the sharp sword set against 
iny life, 

To slip down stairs through all the 
sleepy house, 

As mute as any dream there, and es- 
cape, 

As a soul from the body, out of doors, 

Glide through the shrubberies, drop 
into the lane, 

And wander on the hills an hour or 
two, 

Then back again, before the house 
should stir. 

Or else I sate on in my chamber 

green, 
And lived my life, and thought my 

thoughts, and prayed 
My prayers without the vicar; read 

my books, 
Without considering whether they 

were fit 
To do me good. Mark there. "We 

get no good 

By being ungenerous, even to a book, 
And calculating profits, so much 

help 
By so much reading. It is rather 

when 
We gloriously forget ourselves, and 

plunge 
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's 

profound, 
Impassioned for its beauty and salt 

of truth, 
'Tis then we get the right good from 

a book. 

I read much. What my father taught 
before 

From many a volume, love re-em- 
phasized 

Upon the selfsame pages: Theophrast 







AURORA LEIGH. 



13 



Grew tender with the memory of his 

eves, 
And ^Elian made mine wet- The 

trick of Greek 
And Latin he had taught me, as he 

would 
Have taught me wrestling, or the 

game of fives, 
If such he had known, most like a 

shipwrecked man, 
Who heaps his single platter with 

goats' cheese 

And scarlet berries; or like any man 
Who loves but one, and so gives all 

at once, 

Because he has it, rather than be- 
cause 
He counts it worthy. Thus my 

father gave; 

And thus, as did the women formerly 
By young Achilles, when they pinned 

a veil 
Across the boy's audacious front, and 

swept 
With tuneful laughs the silver-fretted 

rocks, 
He wrapt his little daughter in his 

large 
Man's doublet, careless did it lit or 

no. 

But after I had read for memory 

I read for hope. The path mv father's 

foot 
Had trod me out (which suddenly 

broke off 
What time he dropped the wallet of 

the flesh 
And passed) alone I carried on, and 

set 

My child-heart 'gainst the thorny un- 
derwood, 
To reach the grassy shelter of the 

trees. 
Ah babe i' the wood, without a 

brother-babe ! 
My own self-pity, like the redbreast 

bird, 
Flies back to cover all that past with 

leaves. 

Sublimest danger, over which none 

weeps, 
When any young wayfaring soul goes 

forth 
Alone, unconscious of the perilous 

road, 
The day-sun, dazzling in his limpid 

eyes, 



To thrust his own way, he an alien, 
through 

The world of books ! Ah, you ! 
you think it. fine, 

You clap hands " A fair day ! " 
you cheer him on, 

As if the worst could happen were to 
rest 

Too long beside a fountain. Yet be- 
hold, 

Behold ! the world of books is still 
the world, 

And worldlings in it are less merciful 

And more puissant. For the wicked 
there 

Are winged like angels; every knife 
that strikes 

Is edged from elemental fire to assail 

A spiritual life; the beautiful seems 
right 

By force of beauty, and the feeble 
wrong 

Because of weakness ; power is justi- 
fied, 

Though armed against St. Michael; 
many a crown 

Covers bald foreheads. In the book- 
world, true, 

There's no lack, neither, of God's 
saints and kings, 

That shake the ashes of the grave 
aside 

From their calm locks, and, undis- 
comfited, 

Look steadfast truths againstTime's 
changing mask. 

True, many a prophet teaches in the 
roads ; 

True, many a seer pulls down the 
flaming heavens 

Upon his own head in strong martyr- 
dom 

In order to light men a moment's 
space. 

But stay ! Who judges ? Who dis- 
tinguishes 

'Twixt Saul and Xahash justly, at 
first sight, 

And leaves King Saul precisely at the 
sin, 

To serve King David ? Who discerns 
at once 

The sound of the trumpets, when the 
trumpets blow 

For Alaric as well as Charlemagne ? 

Who judges wizards, and can tell true 
seers 

From conjurers ? The child, there ? 
Would you leave 







14 



AURORA LEIGH. 



That child to wander in a battle- 
field, 

And pusli his innocent smile against 
the guns ? 

Or even in a catacomb, his torch 

Grown ragged in the nattering air, 
and all 

The dark a-mutter round him ? not a 
child. 

I read books bad and good, some 

bad and good 
At once (good aims not always make 

good books: 

"Well-tempered spades turn up ill- 
smelling soils 
In digging vineyards even) ; books 

that prove 
God's being so definitely, that man's 

doubt 
Grows self-defined the other side the 

line, 
Made atheist by suggestion; moral 

books, 

Exasperating to license; genial books, 
Discounting from the human dignity; 
And merry books, which set you 

weeping when 
The sun shines; ay, and melancholy 

books, 
Which make you laugh that any one 

should weep 
In this disjointed life for one wrong 

more. 

The world of books is still the world, 
I write ; 

And both worlds have God's provi- 
dence, thank God, 

To keep and hearten. "With some 
struggle, indeed, 

A mong the breakers, some hard swim- 
ming through 

The deeps, I lost breath in my soul 
sometimes, 

And cried, " God save me, if there's 
any God ! " 

But, even so, God saved me; and, 
being dashed 

From error on to error, every turn 

Still brought me nearer to the central 
truth. 

I thought so. All this anguish in the 

thick 
Of men's opinions . . . press and 

counterpress, 
Now up, now down, now underfoot, 

aud now 



Emergent ... all the best of it, per- 
haps, 

But throws you back upon a noble 
trust 

And use of your own instinct, 
merely proves 

Pure reason stronger than bare infer- 
ence 

At strongest. Try it, fix against 
heaven's wall 

The scaling-ladders of school logic, 
mount 

Step by step ! sight goes faster; that 
still ray 

"Which strikes out from yon, how, you 
cannot tell, 

And why, you know not, (did yon 
eliminate, 

That such as you indeed should ana- 
lyze ?) 

Goes straight and fast as light, and 
high as God. 

The cygnet finds the water; but the 
man 

Is born in ignorance of his element, 

And feels out, blind at first, disorgan- 
ized 

Bv sin i' the blood, his spirit-insight 
dulled 

And crossed by his sensations. Pres- 
ently 

He feels it quicken in the dark some- 
times, 

WheT, mark, be reverent, be obedi- 
ent, 

For such dumb motions of imperfect 
life 

Are oracles of vital Deity, 

Attesting the Hereafter. Let who 
says 

"The soul's a clean white paper," 
rather say, 

A palimpsest, a prophet's holograph, 

Defiled, erased, and covered by a 
monk's, 

The apocalypse, by a Longus ! poring 
on 

"Which obscene text, we may discern, 
perhaps, 

Some fair, fine trace of what was 
written once, 

Some upstroke of an alpha and omega 

Expressing the old scripture. 

Books, books, books ! 

I had found the secret of a garret- 
room, 

Piled high with cases in my father's 
name, 





AURORA LEIGH. 



Piled high, packed large, where, creep- 
ing in and out 

Among the giant fossils of my past, 
Like some small nimble mouse be- 
tween the ribs 
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and 

there 
At this or that box, pulling through 

the gap 
In heats of terror, haste, victorious 

joy, 
The first book first. And how I felt 

it beat 
Under my pillow in the morning's 

dark. 
An hour before the sun would let me 

read ! 
My books ! At last, because the time 

\vas ripe, 
I chanced upon the poets. 

As the earth 
Plunges in fury, when the internal 

fires 
Have reached and pricked her heart, 

and throwing Hat 
The marts and temples, the triumphal 

pates 

And towers of observation, clears her- 
self 
To elemental freedom thus, my 

soul, 

At poetry's divine first finger-touch, 
Let go conventions, and sprang up 

surprised, 

Convicted of the great eternities 
Before two worlds. 

What's this, Aurora Leigh, 
You write so of the poets, and not 

laugh ? 
Those virtuous liars, dreamers after 

dark, 

Exaggerators of the sun and moon, 
And soothsayers in a tea-cup '.' 

I write so 
Of the only truth-tellers now left to 

God, 

The only speakers of essential truth, 
Opposed to relative, comparative, 
And temporal truths; the oulv holders 

by 
His sun-skirts, through conventional 

gray glooms; 

The only teachers who instruct man- 
kind, 
From just a shadow on a charnel- 

wall, 

To find man's veritable stature out 
Erect, sublime, the measure of a 

man; 




And that's the measure of an angel, 
says 

The apostle. Ay, and while your 
common men 

Lay telegraphs, gauge railroads, reign, 
reap, dine, 

And dust the flaunty carpets of the 
world 

For kings to walk on, or our presi- 
dent, 

The poet suddenly will catch them up 

With his voice like a thunder, 
" This is soul, 

This is life, this word is being said in 
heaven, 

Here's God down on us! what are you 
about?" 

How all those workers start amid 
their work, 

Look round, look up, and feel, a mo- 
ment's space, 

That carpet-dusting, though a pretty 
trade, 

Is not the imperative labor, after all ! 

My own best poets, am I one with 
yon, 

That thus I love you, or but one 
through love ? 

Does all this smell of thyme about my 
feet 

Conclude my visit to your holy hill 

In personal presence, or but testify 

The rustling of your vesture through 
my dreams 

With influent odors ? When my joy 
and pain, 

My thought and aspiration, like the 
stops 

Of pipe or flute, are absolutely dumb, 

Unless melodious, do you play on me, 

My pipers ? and if, sooth, you did 
not blow, 

Would no sound come ? or is the mu- 
sic mine, 

As a man's voice or breath is called 
his own, 

Inbreathed by the Life-breather ? 
There's a doubt 

For cloudy seasons! 

But the sun was high 

When first I felt my pulses set them- 
selves 

For concord; when the rhythmic tur- 
bulence 

Of blood and brain swept outward 
upon words, 

As wind upon the alders, blanching 
them 







AURORA Ll-:iGII. 



By turning up their under-natures till 

They trembled in dilation. O delight 

And triumph of the poet, who would 
say 

A man's mere " yes," a woman's com- 
mon " no," 

A little human hope of that or this, 

And says the word so that it burns 
you through 

With a special revelation, shakes the 
heart 

Of all the men and women in the 
world, 

As if one came back from the dead, 
and spoke, 

With eyes too happy, a familiar thing 

Become divine i' the utterance ! while 
for him 

The poet, speaker, he expands with 
joy; 

The palpitating angel in his flesh 

Thrills inly with consenting fellow- 
ship 

To those innumerous spirits who sun 
themselves 

Outside of time. 

O life ! O poetry, 

Which means life in life! cognizant 
of life 

Beyond this blood-beat, passionate for 
truth 

Beyond these senses! poetry, my 
life, 

My eagle, with both grappling feet 
still hot 

From Zeus's thunder, who hast rav- 
ished me 

Away from all the shepherds, sheep, 
and dogs, 

And set me in the Olympian roar and 
round 

Of luminous faces for a cujvbearer, 

To keep the mouths of all the god- 
heads moist 

For everlasting laughters, I myself 

Half drunk across the beaker with 
their eyes! 

How those gods look ! 

Enough so, Ganymede, 

We shall not bear above a round or 
two. 

We drop the golden cup at Here''s 
foot, 

And swoon back to the earth, and 
find ourselves 

Face down among the pine-cones, cold 
with dew, 

While the dogs bark, and many a 
shepherd scoffs, 



" What's now come to the youth?" 

Such ups and downs 
Have poets. 

Am I such indeed ? The name 
Is royal, and to sign it like a queen 
Is what I dare not, though some 

royal blood 
Would seem to tingle in me now and 

then, 
With sense of power and ache, with 

impostl i umes 
And manias usual to the race. How- 

beit 

I dare not: 'tis too easy to go mad 
And ape a Bourbon in a crown of 

straws: 
The thing's too common. 

Many fervent souls 
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would 

strike steel on steel, 
If steel had offered, in a restless heat 
Of doing something. Many tender 

souls 
Have strung their losses on a rhyming 

thread, 
As children, cowslips: the more pains 

they take, 
The work more withers. Young men, 

ay, and maids, 
Too often sow their wild oats in tame 

verse, 
Before they sit down under their own 

vine, 
And live for use. Alas! near all the 

birds 
Will sing at dawn ; and yet we do not 

take 
The chaffering swallow for tho holy 

lark. 

In those days, though, I never an- 
alyzed, 

Not even myself. Analysis comes 
late. 

You catch a sight of Nature earliest 

In full front sun-face, and your eye- 
lids wink 

And drop before the wonder oft : you 
miss 

The form, through seeing the light. I 
lived those days. 

And wrote because I lived unli- 
censed else ; 

My heart beat in my brain. Life's vio- 
lent flood 

Abolished bounds ; and which iny 
neighbor's field, 

Which mine, what mattered ? It is 
thus in youth. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



17 



Wr play at leap-frog over the god 
Term; 

The love within us and the love with- 
out 

Arc mixed, confounded : if we are 
loved, or love, 

"We scarce, distinguish. Thus with 
other power ; 

Being acted on and acting seem the 
same. 

In that first onrush of life's chariot- 
wheels, 

We know not if the forests move, or 
we. 

And so, like most young poets, in a 
flush 

Of individual life I poured myself 

Along the veins of others, and 
achieved 

MI re lifeless imitations of live verse, 

And made the living answer for the 
dead, 

Profaning nature. " Touch not, do 
not taste, 

Nor handle," we're too legal, who 
write young : 

We beat the phormiiix till we hurt 
our thumbs, 

As if still ignorant of counterpoint ; 

Wr call the Muse, "O Muse, be- 
nignant Muse ! " 

As if we had seen her purple-braided 
head, 

With the eyes in it, start between the 
boughs 

As often as a stag's. What make- 
believe, 

With so much earnest! what effete 
results 

From virile efforts ! what cold wire- 
drawn odes, 

From such white heats ! bucolics, 
where the cows 

Would icare the writer if they 
splashed the mud 

In lashing off the flies ; didactics, 
driven 

Against the heels of what the master 
said ; 

And counterfeiting epics, shrill with 
trumps 

A babe might blow between two 
straining cheeks 

Of bubbled rose, to make his mother 
laugh ; 

And elegiac griefs, and songs of love 

Like cast-off nosegays picked up on 
the road, 



The worse for being warm: all these 

things, writ . 

On happy mornings, with a morning 

heart, 

That leaps for love, is active for resolve, 
Weak for art only. Oft the ancient 

forms 
Will thrill, indeed, in carrying the 

young blood. 
The wine-skins, now and then a little 

warped, 
Will crack even, as the new wine 

gurgles in. 
Spare the old bottles ! Spill not the 

new wine. 

By Keats's soul, the man who never 

stepped 

In gradual progress like another man, 
But, turning grandly on his central 

self, 
Ensphered himself in twenty perfect 

years, 
And died, not young (the life of a 

long life 
Distilled to a mere drop, falling like a 

tear 
Upon the world's cold cheek to make 

it burn 
Forever), by that strong excepted 

soul 

I count it strange and hard to under- 
stand 
That nearly all young poets should 

write old ; 

That Pope was sexagenary at sixteen, 
And beardless Byron academical, 
And so with others. It may be, per- 
haps, 
Such have not settled long and deep 

enough 
In trance to attain to clairvoyance ; 

and still 
The memory mixes with the vision, 

spoils, 
And works it turbid. 

Or perhaps, again, 

In order to discover the Muse-Sphinx, 
The melancholy desert must sweep 

round, 
Behind you as before. 

For me, I wrote 
False poems, like the rest, and thought 

them true 
Because myself was true in writing 

them. 
I, peradventure, have writ true ones 

since 
With less complacence. 







18 



AURORA LEIGH. 



But [ could not hide 

My quickening inner life from those 
at watch. 

They saw a light at a window now 
and then 

They had not set there : who had set 
it there ? 

My father's sister started when she 
caught 

My soul agaze in my eyes. She could 
not say 

I had no business with a sort of soul ; 

But plainly she objected, and de- 
murred 

That souls were dangerous things to 
carry straight 

Through all the spilt saltpetre of the 
world. 

She said sometimes, " Aurora, have 
you done 

Your task this morning? have you 
read that book ? 

And are you ready for the crochet 
here?" 

As if she said, " I know there's some- 
thing wrong ; 

I know I have not ground you down 
enough 

To flatten and bake you to a whole- 
some crust, 

For household uses and proprieties, 

Before the rain has got into my barn, 

And set the grains a-sproutiug. What, 
you're green 

"With outdoor impudence ? you al- 
most grow?" 

To which I answered, " Would she 
hear my task, 

And verify my abstract of the book ? 

Or should I sit down to the crochet- 
work? 

Was such her pleasure?" Then I 
sate and teased 

The patient needle till it spilt the 
thread, 

Which oozed off from it in meander- 
ing lace 

From hour to hour. I was not there- 
fore sad ; 

My soul was singing at a work apart, 

Behind the wall of sense, as safe from 
harm 

As sings the lark when sucked up out 
of sight 

In vortices of glory and blue air. 

And so, through forced work and 

spontaneous work, 
The inner life informed the outer life, 



Reduced the irregular blood to a set- 
tled rhythm, 

Made cool the forehead with fresh- 
sprinkling dreams, 

And rounding to the spheric soul tho 
thin, 

Pined body, struck a color up the 
cheeks, 

Though somewhat faint. I clinched 
my brows across 

My blue eyes, greatening in the look- 
ing-glass, 

And said, " We'll live, Aurora ! we'l' 
be strong. 

The dogs are on us; but we will not 
die." 

Whoever lives true life will love true 

love. 
I learnt to love that England. Very 

oft, 

Before the day was born, or otherwise 
Through secret windings of the after- 
noons, 
I threw my hunters off, and plunged 

myself 
Among the deep hills, as a hunted 

stag 
Will take the waters, shivering with 

the fear 
And passion of the course. And 

when at last 
Escaped, so many a green slope built 

on slope 
Betwixt me and the enemy's house 

behind, 

I dared to rest, or wander in a rest 
Made sweeter for the step upon the 

grass, 
And view the ground's most gentle 

dimplement 
(As if God's finger touched, but did 

not press, 

In making England) ; such an up-and- 
down 
Of verdure, nothing too much up 01 

down, 
A ripple of land; such little hills the 

sky 
Can stoop to tenderly, and the wheat- 

fields climb; 
Such nooks of valleys lined with 

orchises, 
Fed full of noises by invisible 

streams ; 

And open pastures where you scarce- 
ly tell 
White daisies from white dew; at 

intervals 






AURORA LEIGH. 




The mythic oaks and elm-trees stand- 
ing out 

Self-poised upon their prodigy of 
shade, 

I thought my father's land was wor- 
thy too 

Of being my Shakspeare's. 

Very oft alone, 

Unlicensed; not unfrequently with 
leave 

To walk tho third with Romney and 
his friend 

The rising painter, Vincent Carring- 
ton, 

Whom men judge hardly as bee-bon- 
neted, 

Because he holds that, paint a body 
well, 

You paint a soul by implication, like 

The grand first Master. Pleasant 
walks; for if 

He said, " When I was last in Italy," 

It sounded as an instrument that's 
played 

Too far off for the tune, and yet it's fine 

To listen. 

Ofter we walked only two, 

If cousin Romney pleased to walk 
witli me. 

We read, or talked, or quarrelled, as 
it chanced. 

We were not lovers, nor even friend's 
well matched: 

Say, rather, scholars upon different 
tracks, 

And thinkers disagreed, he, over- 
full 

Of what is, and I, haply, overbold 

For what might be. 

But then the thrushes sang, 

And shook my pulses and the elm's 
new leaves; 

At which I turned, and held my fin- 
ger up, 

And bade him mark, that howsoe'er 
1 the world 

Went ill, as he related, certainly 

The thrushes still sang in it. At the 
word 

His brow would soften; and he bore 
with me 

In melancholy patience, not unkind, 

While, breaking into voluble ecstasy, 

I flattered all the beauteous country 
round, 

As poets use, the skies, the clouds, 
the fields, 

The happy violets hiding from the 
roads 



The primroses run down to, carrying 
gold ; 

The tangled hedgerows, where the 
cows push out 

Impatient horns and tolerant churn- 
ing mouths 

'Twixt dripping ash-boughs; hedge- 
rows all alive 

With birds and gnats, and large white 
butterflies 

Which look as if the Mayflower had 
caught life, 

And palpitated forth upon the wind; 

Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver 
mist ; 

Farms, granges, doubled up among 
the hills; 

And cattle grazing in the watered 
vales ; 

And cottage-chimneys smoking from 
the woods; 

And cottage-gardens smelling every- 
where, 

Confused with smell of orchards. 
" See! " I said, 

" And see! is not God with us on the 
earth ? 

And shall we put him down by aught 
we do ? 

Who says there's nothing for the poor 
and vile 

Save poverty and wickedness ? Be- 
hold! " 

And ankle-deep in English grass I 
leaped, 

And clapped my hands, and called 
all very fair. 

In the beginning, when God called all 

good, 
Even then, was evil near us, it is 

writ; 
But we indeed who call things good 

and fair, 

The evil is upon us while we speak: 
Deliver us from evil, let us pray. 



SECOND BOOK. 

TIMES followed one another. Came a 

morn 
I stood upon the brink of twenty 

years. 
And looked before and after, as I 

stood 
Woman and artist, either incomplete, 






.,,. 20 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Both credulous of completion. There 

I held 

The whole creation in my little cup, 
And smiled with thirsty lips before I 

drank 
" Good health to you and me, sweet 

neighbor mine, 
And all these peoples." 

I was glad that day; 
The June was in ine, with its multi- 
tudes 
Of nightingales all singing in the 

dark, 
And rosebuds reddening where the 

calyx split. 
I felt so young, so strong, so sure of 

God, 
So glad, I could not choose be very 

wise, 
And, old at twenty, was inclined to 

pull 
My childhood backward in a childish 

jest 
To see the face oft once more, and 

farewell! 
In which fantastic mood I bounded 

forth 
At early morning, would not wait so 

long 
As even to snatch my bonnet by the 

strings, 
But, brushing a green trail across the 

lawn 
With my gown in the dew, took will 

and way 

Among the acacias of the shrubber- 
ies, 

To fly my fancies in the open air, 
And keep my birthday till my aunt 

awoke 
To stop good dreams. Meanwhile I 

murmured on 
As honeyed bees keep humming to 

themselves, 
" The worthiest poets have remained 

uncrowned 

Till death has bleached their fore- 
heads to the bone ; 
And so with me it must be, unless I 

prove 

Unworthy of the grand adversity ; 
And certainly I would not fail so 

much. 

What, therefore, if I crown myself to- 
day 
In sport, not pride, to learn the feel of 

it 
Before my brows be numbed as 

Dante's own 



To all the tender pricking of such 

leaves ? 
Such leaves ! what leaves ? 

I pulled the branches down 
To choose from. 

" Not the bay! I choose no bay, 
(The fates deny us if we are overbold) 
Nor myrtle, which means chiefly love; 

and love 
Is something awful, which one dares 

not touch 
So early o' mornings. This verbena 

strains 
The point of passionate fragrance; 

and hard by 
This guelder-rose, at far too slight a 

beck 
Of the wind, will toss about her 

flower-apples. 
Ah, there's my choice, that ivy on the 

wall, 
That headlong ivy ! not a leaf will 

grow 
But thinking of a wreath. Large 

leaves, smooth leaves, 
Serrated like my vines, and half as 

green. 

I like such ivy, bold to leap a height 
'Twas strong to climb; as good to 

grow on graves 

As twist about a thyrsus ; pretty too, 
(And that's not ill) when twisted 

round a comb." 

Thus speaking to myself, half singing 

it, 
Because some thoughts are fashioned 

like a bell, 
To ring with once being touched; I 

drew a wreath 
Drenched, blinding me with dew, 

across my brow, 
And, fastening it behind so, turning, 

faced 
. . . My public! cousin Rornney 

with a mouth 
Twice graver than his eyes. 

I stood there fixed, 
My arms up, like the caryatid, sole 
Of some abolished temple, helplessly 
Persistent in a gesture which derides 
A former purpose. Yet my blush was 

flame, 
As if from flax, not stone. 

" Aurora Leigh, 
The earliest of Auroras! " 

Hand stretched out 
I clasped, as shipwrecked men "will 

clasp a hand, 





"I stood there fixed. 
My arms up. like the caryatid." Page 20. 




AURORA LEIGH 



21 



Indifferent to the sort of palm. The 

tide 
Had caught me at my pastime, writing 

down 

My foolish name too near upon the sea, 
Which drowned me with a blush as 

foolish. " You, 
My cousin! " 

The smile died out in his eyes. 
And dropped upon his lips, a cold 

dead weight, 
For just a moment, " Here's a book 

I found; 
No name writ on it poems, by the 

form : 
Some Greek upon the margin; lady's 

Greek 
Without the accents. Read it ? Not 

a word. 
I saw at once the thing had witchcraft 

iu't, 

Whereof the reading calls up danger- 
ous spirits : 
I rather bring it to the witch." 

" My book. 
You found it" . . . 

" In the hollow by the stream 
That beech leans down into, of which 

you said 

The Oread in it has a Naiad's heart, 
And pines for waters." 

"Thank you." 

" Thanks to you 

My cousin, that I have seen you not 

too much 
Witch, scholar, poet, dreamer, and 

the rest, 
To be a woman also." 

With a glance 
The smile rose in his eyes again, and 

touched 

The ivy on my forehead, light as air. 
I answered gravely, " Poets needs 

must be, 
Or men or women, more's the pity." 

" Ah, 

But men, and still less women, hap- 
pily, 
Scarce need be poets. Keep to the 

green wreath, 
Since even dreaming of the stone and 

bronze 
Brings headaches, pretty cousin, and 

defiles 
The clean white morning dresses." 

" So you judge, 

Because I love the beautiful I must 
Love pleasure chiefly, and be over- 
charged 



For ease and whiteness ! well, yon 

know the world, 
And only miss your cousin: 'tis not 

much. 
But learn this: I would rather take 

my part 
With God's dead, who afford to walk 

in white, 
Yet spread his glory, than keep quiet 

here, 
And gather up my feet from even a 

step, 

For fear to soil my gown in so much 

dust. 
I choose to walk at all risks. Here, 

if heads 
That hold a rhythmic thought must 

ache perforce, 
For my part I choose headaches, 

and to-day's my birthday." 

" Dear Aurora, choose instead 
To cure them. You have balsams." 

" I perceive. 

The headache is too noble for my sex. 
You think the heartache would sound 

decenter, 
Since that's the woman's special, 

proper ache, 

And altogether tolerable, except 
To a woman." 

Saying which, I loosed my wreath, 
And swinging it beside me as I 

walked, 
Half petulant, half playful, as we 

walked, 
I sent a sidelong look to find his 

thought, 
As falcon set on falconer's finger 

may, 
With sidelong head, and startled, 

braving eye, 
Which means, " You'll see, you'll 

see ! I'll soon take flight. 
You shall not hinder." He, as shak- 
ing out 
His hand, and answering, "Fly, 

then," did not speak, 
Except by such a gesture. Silently 
We paced, until, just coming into 

sight 
Of the house-windows, he abruptly 

caught 
At one end of the swinging wreath, 

and said, 
"Aurora!" There I stopped short, 

breath and all. 

" Aurora, let's be serious, and thro\* 
by 




.... 22 




AURORA LEIGH. 



This game of head and heart. Life 

means, be sure, 
Both heart and head, both active, 

both complete. 
And both in earnest. Men and wo- 
men make 
The world, as head and heart make 

human life. 
Work, man, work, woman, since 

there's work to do 
In this beleaguered earth for head 

and Heart; 
And thought can never do the work 

of love: 
But work for ends, I mean for uses, 

not 
For such sleek fringes (do you call 

them ends, 

Still less God's glory ?) as we sew our- 
selves 

Upon the velvet of those baldaquins 
Held 'twixt us and the sun. That 

book of yours 

I have not read a page of ; but I toss 
A rose up it falls calyx down, you 

see ! 
The chances are, that being a woman, 

young 
And pure, with such a pair of large, 

calm eyes, 
You write as well . . . and ill ... 

upon the whole, 
As other women. If as well, what 

then ? 
If even a little better . . . still, what 

then? 
We want the best in art now, or no 

art. 

The time is done for facile settings-up 
Of minnow-gods, nymphs here, and 

tritons there: 
The polytheists have gone out in 

God, 
That unity of bests. No best, no 

God! 
And so with art, we say. Give art's 

divine, 

Direct, indubitable, real as grief, 
Or, leave us to the grief, we grow our- 
selves 

Divine by overcoming with mere hope 
And most prosaic patience. You, 

you are young 
As Eve with nature's daybreak on 

her face ; 
But this same world you are come to, 

dearest coz, 
Has done with keeping birthdays, 

saves her wreaths 



To hang upon her ruins, and forgets 
To rhyme the cry with which she still 

beats back 
Those savage, hungry dogs that hunt 

her down 
To the empty grave of Christ. The 

world's hard pressed: 
The sweat of labor in the early curse 
Has (turning acrid in six thousand 

years) 
Become the sweat of torture. Who 

has time, 
An hour's time . . . think! to sit 

upon a bank, 
And hear the cymbal tinkle in white 

hands ? 
When Egypt's slain, I say, let Miriam 

sing ! 
Before where's Moses ? " 

" Ah, exactly that. 
Where's Moses? Is a Moses to be 

found ? 

You'll seek him vainly in the bul- 
rushes, 
While I in vain touch cymbals. Yet 

concede, 
Such sounding brass has done some 

actual good 

(The application in a woman's hand, 
If that were credible, being scarcelv 

spoilt), 
In colonizing beehives." 

" There it is ! 
You play beside a death-bed like a 

child, 
Yet measure to yourself a prophet's 

place 
To teach the living. None of all these 

things 

Can women understand. You gen- 
eralize, 
Oh, nothing, not even grief ! Your 

quick-breathed hearts, 
So sympathetic to the personal pang, 
Close on each separate knife-stroke, 

yielding up 

A whole life at each wound, incapable 
Of deepening, widening a large lap of 

life 
To hold the world-full woe. The 

human race 
To you means such a child, or such a 

man, 
You saw one morning waiting in the 

cold 
Beside that gate, perhaps. You 

gather up 
A few such cases, and when strong 

sometimes 






AURORA LEIGH. 




Will write of factories and of slaves, 
as if 

Your father were a negro, and your 
son 

A spinner in tlie mills. All's yours 
and you. 

All colored with your blood, or other- 
wise 

Just nothing to you. Why, I call 
you hard 

To general suffering. Here's the 
world half-blind 

With intellectual light, half-brutal- 
ized 

With civilization, having caught the 
plague 

lu silks from Tarsus, shrieking east 
aud west 

Alouj a thousand railroads, inad with 
pain 

And sin too ! . . . does one woman 
of you all 

(You who weep easily) grow pale to 

SGC 

This tiger shake his cage ? Does one 
of you 

Stand still from dancing, stop from 
strinrjinjj pearls, 

And pino and die, because of the 
fjreat cum 

Of universal anguish? Show me a tear 

Wet a3 Cordelia's in eyes bright as 
yours, 

Because tho world is mad. You can- 
not count 

That you should weep for this ac- 
count, not you! 

You weep for what you know. A red- 
haired child 

Sick in a fever, if you touch him 
once, 

Though but so little as with a finger- 
tip, 

Will set you weeping; but a million 
sick . . . 

Y T ou could as soon weep for the rule 
of three 

Or compound fractions. Therefore 
this same world 

Uncoinprehended by you, must re- 
main 

Uninfluenced by you. Women as 
you are, 

Mere women, personal and passion- 
ate, 

You give us doating mothers, and 
perfect wives, 

Sublime Madonnas, aud enduring 
saints: 



We get no Christ from you, and verily 
We shall not get a poet, in my mind." 

"With which conclusion you con- 
clude "... 

"But this: 

That you, Aurora, with the large live 
brow 

And steady eyelids, cannot conde- 
scend 

To play at art, as children play at 
swords, 

To show a pretty spirit, chiefly ad- 
mired 

Because true action is impossible. 

You never can be satisfied with praise 

Which men give women when they 
judge a book 

Not as mere work, but as mere wo- 
man's work, 

Expressing the comparative respect, 

Which means the absolute scorn. 
' Oh, excellent! 

What grace, what facile turns, what 
fluent sweeps, 

What delicate discernment . . . al- 
most thought ! 

The book does honor to the sex, we 
hold. 

Among our female authors we make 
room 

For this fair writer, and congratulate 

The country that produces in these 
times 

Such women, competent to' ... 
spell." 

" Stop there," 

I answered, burning through his 
thread of talk 

With a quick flame of emotion, 
" you have read 

My soul, if not my book, and argue 
well 

I would not condescend . . . we will 
not say 

To such a kind of praise (a worthless 
end 

Is praise of all kinds), but to such a 
use 

Of holy art and golden life. I am 
young, 

And perad venture weak you tell 
me so 

Through being a woman. And for 
all the rest, 

Take thanks for justice. I would 
rather dance 

At fairs on tight-rope, till the babies 
dropped 






24 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Their gingerbread for joy, than shift 

the types 

For tolerable verse, intolerable 
To men who act and suffer. Better 

far 
Pursue a frivolous trade by serious 

means, 
Than a sublime art frivolously." 

"You 
Choose nobler work than either, O 

moist eyes, 
And hurrying lips, and heaving heart! 

We'are young, 
Aurora, you and I. The world, 

look round, 
The world we're come to late is 

swollen hard 
With perished generations and their 

sins: 

The civilizer's spade grinds horribly 
On dead men's bones, and cannot 

turn up soil 
That's otherwise than fetid. All 

success 
Proves partial failure; all advance 

implies 
What's left behind; all triumph, 

something crushed 

At the chariot-wheels; all govern- 
ment, some wrong; 
And rich men make the poor, who 

curse the rich, 
Who agonize together, rich and 

poor, 

Under and over, in the social spasm 
And crisis of the ages. Here's an 

age 
That makes its own vocation; here 

we have stepped 
Across the bounds of time; here's 

nought to see, 

But just the rich man and just Laza- 
rus, 
And both in torments with a mediate 

gulf. 
Though not a hint of Abraham's 

bosom. Who, 
Being man, Aurora, can stand calmly 

by 
And view these things, and never 

tease his soul 
For some great cure ? No physic for 

this grief, 
In all the earth and heavens too ? " 

" You believe 
In God, for your part? ay? that 

He who makes 
Can make good things from ill things, 

best from worst, 



As men plant tulips upon dunghins 

^when 
They "wish them finest?" 

" True. A death-heat is 
The same as life-heat, to be accurate; 
And in all nature is no death at all, 
As men account of death, so long as 

God 

Stands witnessing for life perpetually, 
By being just God. That's abstract 

truth, I know, 

Philosophy, or sympathy with God; 
But I, I sympathize with man, not 

God, 

(I think I was a man for chiefly this,) 
And, when I stand beside a dying 

bed, 
'Tis death to me. Observe: it had 

not much 
Consoled the race of mastodons to 

know, 

Before they went to fossil, that anon 
Their place would quicken with the 

elephant : 

They were not elephants, but masto- 
dons; 
And I, a man, as men are now, and 

not 
As men may be hereafter, feel with 

men 
In the agonizing present.'' 

"Is it so," 
I said, " my cousin ? Is the world s<, 

bad, 
While I hear nothing of it through 

the trees ? 
The world was always evil, but so 

bad?" 

" So bad, Aurora. Dear, my soul is 

gray 

With poring over the long sum of ill: 
So much for vice, so much for discon- 
tent, 

So much for the necessities of power, 
So much for the connivances of fear, 
Coherent in statistical despairs 
With such a total of distracted life . . . 
To see it down in figures on a page, 
Plain, silent, clear, as God sees 

through the earth 
The sense of all the graves, that's 

terrible 
For one who is not God, and cannot 

right 
The wrong he looks on. May I 

choose indeed 
But vow away my years, my means, 

my aims, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



n- ' 

2o 



Among the helpers, if there's any help 
In such a social strait ? The common 

blood 
That swings along my veins is strong 

enough 
To draw me to this duty." 

Then I spoke : 
" I have not stood long on the strand 

of life, 
And these salt waters have had 

scarcely time 
To creep so high up as to wet my 

feet : 
I cannot judge these tides I shall, 

perhaps. 
A woman's always younger than a 

man 

At equal years, because she is disal- 
lowed 

Maturing by the outdoor sun and air, 
And kept in long-clothes past the age 

to walk. 
Ah, well ! I know you men judge 

otherwise. 

You think a woman ripens as a peach, 
In the cheeks, chiefly. Pass it to me 

now : 
I'm young in age, and younger still, 

I think, 
As a woman. But a child may say 

amen 
To a bishop's prayer, and feel the way 

it goes. 

And I, incapable to loose the knot 
Of social questions, can approve, ap- 
plaud 
August compassion, Christian 

thoughts that shoot 
Beyond the vulgar white of personal 

aims. 
Accept my reverence." 

There he glowed on me 
With all his face and eyes. "No 

other help?" 
Said he, " no more than so ? " 

" What help ? " I asked. 
" You'd scorn my help, as Nature's 

self, you say, 
Has scorned to put her music in my 

mouth, 
Because a woman's. Do you now 

turn round 
And ask for what a woman cannot 

give ? " 

" For what she only can, I turn and 

ask," 
He answered, catching up my hands 

in his, 



And dropping on me from his high- 
eaved brow 

The full weight of his soul. "I ask 
for love, 

And that, she can ; for life in fellow- 
ship 

Through bitter duties, that, I know 
she can ; 

For wifehood will she ? " 

" Now," I said, " may God 

Be witness 'twixt us two ! " and with 
the word, 

Meseemed I floated into a sudden 
light 

Above his stature, "am I proved 
too weak 

To stand alone, yet strong enough to 
bear 

Such leaners on my shoulder ? poor 
to think, 

Yet rich enough to sympathize with 
thought ? 

Incompetent to sing, as blackbirds 
can, 

Yet competent to love, like HIM ? " 

I paused ; 

Perhaps I darkened, as the light- 
house will 

That turns upon the sea. " It's al- 
ways so. 

Any thing does for a wife." 

" Aurora dear, 

And dearly honored," he pressed in 
at once 

With eager utterance, "you trans 
late me ill . 

I do not contradict my thought of you, 

Which is most reverent, with auothei 
thought 

Found less so. If your sex is weak 
for art, 

(And I who said so did but honor 
you 

By using truth in courtship,) it is 
strong 

For life and duty. Place your fecund 
heart 

In mine, and let us blossom for the 
world 

That wants love's color in the gray of 
time. 

My talk, meanwhile, is arid to you, 
ay, 

Since all my talk can only set you 
where 

You look down coldly on the arena- 
heaps 

Of headless bodies, shapeless, indis- 
tinct. 






26 



AURORA LEIGH. 



The judgment-angel scarce would find 
his way 

Through such a heap of generalized 
distress 

To the individual man with lips and 
eyes, 

Much less Aurora. Ah, my sweet, 
come down, 

And hand in hand we'll go where 
yours shall touch 

These victims one by one, till, one by 
one, 

The formless, nameless trunk of every 
man 

Shall seem to wear a head with hair 
you know, 

And every woman catch your moth- 
er's face 

To melt you into passion." 

" I am a girl." 

I answered slowly : "you do well to 
name 

My mother's face. Though far too 
early, alas ! 

God's hand did interpose 'twixt it 
and me, 

I know so much of love as used to 
shiue 

In that face and another ; just so 
much, 

No more, indeed, at all. I have not 
seen 

So much love since, I pray you par- 
don me, 

As answers even to make a marriage 
with 

In this cold land of England. What 
you love 

Is not a woman, Romney, but a cause : 

You want a helpmate, not a mistress, 
sir ; 

A wife to help your ends, in her no end. 

Your cause is noble, your ends ex- 
cellent ; 

But I, being most unworthy of these 
and that, 

Do otherwise conceive of love. Fare- 
well !" 

"Farewell, Aurora? you reject me 

thus?" 
He said. 

" Gir, you were married long ago. 
p You have a wife already whom you 

love, 
Your social theory. Bless you both, 

I say. 
For my part, I am scarcely meek 

enough 



To be the handmaid of a lawfu\ 

spouse. 
Do I look a Hagar, think you ? " 

" So you jest." 

"Nay, so I speak in earnest," I re- 
plied. 
" You treat of marriage too much like, 

at least, 
A chief apostle : you would bear with 

you 
A wife ... a sister . . . shall we 

speak it out ? 
A sister of charity." 

" Then must it be, 
Indeed, farewell ? And was I so far 

wrong 
In hope and in illusion, when I 

took 
The woman to be nobler than the 

man, 
Yourself the noblest woman in the 

use 
And comprehension of what love is, 

love 

That generates the likeness of itself 
Through all heroic duties ? so far 

wrong 
In saying bluntly, venturing truth on 

love, 
' Come, hiiman creature, love and 

work with me,' 
Instead of, ' Lady, thou art wondrous 

fair, 
And, where the Graces walk before, 

the Muse 
Will follow at the lightning of their 

eyes, 
And where the Muse walks, lovers 

need to creep : 
Turn round and love me, or I die of 

love?'" 

With quiet indignation I broke in, 

" You misconceive the question like a 
man, 

Who sees a woman as the comple- 
ment 

Of his sex merely. You forget too 
much 

That every creature, female as the 
male, 

Stands single in responsible act and 
thought 

As also in birth and death. Whoever 



To a loyal woman, ' Love and work 

with me,' 
Will get fair answers, if the work and 

love, 





r 



AURORA LEIGH. 



27 



Being good themselves, are good for 

her, the best. 
She was horn for. Women of a softer 

mood, 
Surprised by men when scarcely 

awake to life, 
""Till sometimes only hear the first 

word, love, 
And catch up with it any kind of 

work, 
Indifferent, so that dear love go with 

it. 
I do not blame such women, though 

for love 

They pick much oakum: earth's fa- 
natics make 
Too frequently heaven's saints. But 

me your "work 
Is not the best for, nor your love the 

best, 
Nor able to commend the kind of 

work 
For love's sake merely. Ah ! you 

force me, sir, 

To be over-bold in speaking of my- 
self: 
I, too, have my vocation, work to 

do. 
The heavens and earth have set me 

since I changed 
My father's face for theirs, and, though 

your world 

Were twice as wretched as you repre- 
sent, 
Most serious work, most necessary 

work 

As any of the economists'. Reform, 
Make trade a Christian possibility, 
And individual right no general 

wrong, 
Wipe out earth's furrows of the thine 

and mine, 
And leave one green for men to play 

at bowls, 
With innings for them all I . . . what 

then, indeed, 

If mortals are not greater by the head 
Than any of their prosperities ? what 

then, 

Unless the artist keep up open roads 
Betwixt the seen and unseen, burst- 
ing through 
The best of your conventions with his 

best, 

The speakable, imaginable best 
God bids him speak, to prove what 

lies beyond 
Both speech and imagination ? A 

starved man 



Exceeds a fat beast: we'll not barter, 

sir, 
The beautiful for barley. And, even 

so, 
I hold you will not compass your poor 

ends 

Of barley-feeding and material ease 
Without a poet's individualism 
To work your universal. It takes a 

soul 
To move a body : it takes a high-souled 

man 
To move the masses even to a cleaner 

sty: 

It takes the ideal to blow a hairs- 
breadth off 
The dust of the actual. Ah ! your 

Fouriers failed, 

Because not poets enough to under- 
stand 
That life develops from within. For 

me, 

Perhaps I am not worthy, as you say, 
Of work like this: perhaps a woman's 

soul 

Aspires, and not creates: yet we as- 
pire, 
And yet I'll try out your perhapses, 

sir, 
And if I fail . . . why, burn me up 

my straw 
Like other false works. I'll not ask 

for grace : 
Your scorn is better, cousin Rom- 

ney. I 
Who love my art would never wish 

it lower 
To suit my stature. I may love my 

art. 
You'll grant that even a woman may 

love art, 
Seeing that to waste true love on any 

thing 
Is womanly, past question." 

I retain 
The very last word which I said that 

day, 
As you the creaking of the door, years 

past, 
W T hich let upon you such disabling 

news 

You ever after have been graver. He, 
His eyes, the motions in his silent 

mouth, 
Were fiery points on which my words 

were caught, 

Transfixed forever in my memory 
For his sake, not their own. And yet 

I know 





28 




AURORA LEIGH. 



I did not love him . . . nor he me . . 

that's sure . . . 

And what I said is unrepented of, 
As truth is always. Yet . . . a prince- 
ly man 

If hard to me, heroic for himself. 
He bears down on me through the 

slanting years, 
The stronger for the distance. If he 

had loved, 
Ay, loved me, with that retributive 

face, . . . 
J might have been a common woman 

now, 
And happier, less known, and less left 

alone, 

Perhaps a better woman, after all, 
With chubby children hanging on my 

neck 
To keep me low and wise. Ah me ! 

the vines 
That bear such fruit are proud to 

stoop with it. 
The palm stands upright in a realm 

of sand. 

And I, who spoke the truth then, 

stand upright, 
Still worthy of having spoken out the 

truth, 
By being content I spoke it, though it 

set 
Him there, me here. Oh, woman's 

vile remorse, 

To hanker after a mere name, a show, 
A supposition, a potential love ! 
Does every man who names love in 

our lives 
Become a power for that? Is love's 

true thing 

So much best to us, that what, person- 
ates love 

Is next best ? A potential love for- 
sooth ! 
I'm not so vile. No, no ! He cleaves, 

I think, 
This man, this image, chiefly for the 

wrong 
And shock he gaA r e my life in finding 

me 

Precisely where the devil of my youth 
Had set me oil those mountain peaks 

of hope, 
All glittering with the dawn-dew, all 

erec*. 

And famished for the noon, exclaim- 
ing, while 
I looked for empire and much tribute, 

" Come, 



I have some worthy work for thee De- 
low. 

Come, sweep my barns, and keep my 
hospitals, 

And I will pay thee with a current 
coin 

Which men give women." 

As we spoke, the grass 

Was trod in haste beside us, and my 
aunt, 

With smile distorted by the sun, 
face, voice, 

As much at issue with the summer- 
day 

As if you brought a candle out of 
doors, 

Broke in with, " Romney, here! My 
child, entreat 

Your cousin to the house, and have 
your talk, 

If girls must talk upon their birth- 
days. Come." 

He answered for me calmly, with pale 
lips 

That seemed to motion for a smile in 
vain. 

" The talk is ended, madam, where 
we stand. 

Your brother's daughter has dismissed 
me here; 

And all my answer can be better said 

Beneath the trees than wrong by 
such a word 

Your house's hospitalities. Fare- 
well." 

With that he vanished. I could hear 

his heel 
Ring bluntly in the lane as down he 

leapt 
The short way from us. Then a 

measured speech 
Withdrew me. "What means this, 

Aurora Leigh ? 
My brother's daughter has dismissed 

ray guests? " 

The lion in me felt the keeper's 

voice 
Through all its quivering dewlaps: I 

was quelled 
Before her, meekened to the child she 

knew: 
I prayed her pardon, said "I had 

little thought 

To give dismissal to a guest of hers 
In letting go a friend of mine wh 

came 







AURORA LEIGH. 



29 



To take me into service as a wife, 
No more than that, indeed." 

" No more, no more ? 
Pray Heaven." she answered, "that 

I was not mad. 
I could not mean to tell her to her 

face 
That Romney Leigh had asked me for 

a wife, 
And I refused him ? " 

" Did he ask?" I said. 
" I think he rather stooped to take 

me up 

For certain uses which he found to do 
For something called a wife. He 

never asked." 

" What stuff 1 " she answered. " Are 

they queens, these girls ? 
They must have mantles stitched 

with twenty silks, 
Spread out upon the ground, before 

they'll step 
One footstep for the noblest lover 

bom." 

" But I am born," I said with firm- 
ness, " I, 

To walk another way than his, dear 
aunt." 

" You Avalk, you walk ! A babe at 

thirteen months 
Will walk as well as you," she cried 

in haste, 
" Without a steadying finger. Why, 

you child, 
God help you ! you are groping in the 

dark, 
For all this sunlight. You suppose, 

perhaps, 
That you, sole offspring of an opulent 

man, 
Are rich, and free to choose a way to 

walk ? 
You think, and it's a reasonable 

thought, 
That I, beside, being well to do in 

life, 
Will leave my handful in my niece's 

hand 

When death shall paralyze these fin- 
gers ? Pray, 
Pray, child, albeit I know you love 

me not, 
As if you loved me, that I may not 

die; 
For when I die and leave you, out 

you go, 



(Unless I make room for you in my 
grave,) 

Unhoused, unfed, my dear, poor broth- 
er's lamb, 

(Ah, heaven ! that pains) without a 
right to crop 

A single blade 01 grass beneath these 
trees, 

Or cast a lamb's small shadow on the 
lawn, 

Unfed, unfolded. Ah, my brother, 
here's 

The fruit you planted in your foreign 
loves ! 

Ay, there's the fruit he planted! Never 
look 

Astonished at me with your mother's 
eyes, 

For it was they who set you where 
you are, 

An undowered orphan. Child, your 
father's choice 

Of that said mother disinherited 

His daughter, his and hers. Men do 
not think 

Of sons and daughters when they fall 
in love. 

So much more than of sisters: other- 
wise 

He would have paused to ponder 
what he did, 

And shrunk before that clause in the 
entail 

Excluding offspring by a foreign wife, 

(The clause set up a hundred years 
ago 

By a Leigh who wedded a French 
dancing-girl, 

And had his heart danced over in re- 
turn;) 

But this man shrank at nothing, never 
thought 

Of you, Aurora, any more than me. 

Your mother must have been a pretty 
thing, 

For all the coarse Italian blacks and 
browns, 

To make a good man, which my broth- 
er was, 

Unchary of the duties to his house; 

But so it fell indeed. Our cousin 
Vane, 

Vane Leigh, the father of this Rom- 
ney, wrote, 

Directly on your birth, to Italy: 

' I ask your baby-daughter for my 
son, 

In whom the entail now merges by 
the law, 






30 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Betroth her to us out of love, in- 
stead 
Of colder reasons, and she shall not 

lose 
By love or law from henceforth:' so 

he wrote. 
A generous consin was my cousin 

Vane. 
Remember how he drew you to his 

knee 
The year you came here, just before 

lie died, 
And hollowed out his hands to hold 

your cheeks, 

And wished them redder : you re- 
member Vane? 
And now his sou, who represents our 

house, 
And holds the fiefs and manors in his 

place, 
To whom reverts rny pittance when I 

die, 
(Except a few books and a pair of 

shawls) 
The boy is generous like him, and 

prepared 
To carry out his kindest word and 

thought 
To you, Aurora. Yes, a fine young 

man 
Is Romney Leigh, although the sun 

of youth 
Has shone too straight upon his brain, 

1 know, 
And fevered him with dreams of doing 

good 
To good-for-nothing people. But a 

wife 

"Will put all right, and stroke his tem- 
ples cool 
"With healthy touches." . . . 

I broke in at that. 
I could not lift my heavy heart to 

breathe 
Till then ; but then I raised it, and it 

fell 
In broken words like these, "No 

need to wait: 
The dreaiu of doing good to ... me, 

at least, 

Is endsd, without waiting for a wife 
To cool the fever for him. We've 

escaped 

That danger thank Heaven forit." 

" You, "she cried, 

" Have got a fever. What, I talk and 

talk 
An hour long to you, I instruct you 

Low 



You cannot eat, or drink, or stand, or 

sit, 

Or even die, like any decent wretch 
In all this unroofed and unfurnished 

world, 
Without your cousin, and you still 

maintain 
There's room 'twixt him and you for 

tlirting fans, 
And running knots in eyebrows? 

You must have 
A pattern lover sighing on his 

knee ? 
You do not count enough a noble 

heart 
(Above book-patterns) which this very 

morn 
Unclosed itself in two dear fathers' 

names 
To embrace your orphaned life ? Fie, 

fie ! But stay, 
I write a word, and counteract this 

sin." 

She would have turned to leave me, 

but I clung. 
" Oh, sweet ray father's sister, hear 

my word 
Before you write yours. Cousin Vane 

did well, 
And cousin Komney well, and I well 

too, 
In casting back with all my strength 

arid will 
The good they meant me. O my God, 

my God ! 
God meant me good, too, when he 

hindered me 
From saying ' yes ' this morning. If 

you write 
A word, it shall be 'no.' I say no, 

no ! 

I tie up ' no ' upon his altar-horns 
Quite out of reach of perjury ! At 

least 

My soul is not a pauper : I can live 
At least my soul's life, without alms 

from men; 
And if it must be in heaven instead 

of earth, 
Let heaven look to it: I am not 

afraid." 

She seized my hands with both hers, 
strained them fast, 

And drew her probing and unscrupu- 
lous eyes 

Right through me, body and heart. 
"Yet, foolish sweet, 




AURORA LEIGH. 



31 



'fon love this man. I've watched you 

when he came, 
And when he went, and when we've 

talked of him. 

I am not old for nothing; I can tell 
The weather-signs of love: you love 

this man." 

Girls blush sometimes because they 

are alive, 
Half wishing they were dead to save 

the shame. 
The sudden blush devours them, neck 

and brow: 
They have drawn too near the fire of 

life, like gnats, 
And flare up bodily, wings and all. 

What then ? 
Who's sorry for a gnat ... or girl ? 

I blushed. 
I feel the brand upon my forehead 

no\v 
Strike hot, sear deep, as guiltless 

men may feel 
The felon's iron, say, and scorn the 

mark 

Of what they are not. Most illogical, 
Irrational nature of our womanhood, 
That blushes one way, feels another 

way, 
And prays, perhaps, another. After 

all, 

We cannot be the equal of the male, 
Who rules his blood a little. 

For although 
I blushed indeed, as if I loved the 

man, 

And her incisive smile, accrediting 
That treason of false witness in my 

blush, 
Did bow me downward like a swathe 

of grass 

Below its level that struck me, I at- 
test 
The conscious skies and all their daily 

suns, 
I think I loved him not, nor then, 

nor since, 

Nor ever. Do we love the school- 
master, 
Being busy in the woods ? much less, 

being poor, 
The overseer of the parish? Do we 

keep 
Our love to pay our debts with ? 

White and cold 
I grew next moment. As my blood 

recoiled 
From that imputed ignominy, I made 



My heart great with it. Then, at last, 
I spoke, 

Spoke veritable words, but passion- 
ate, 

Too passionate perhaps . . . ground 
up with sobs 

To shapeless endings. She let fall 
my hands 

And took her smile off in sedate dis- 
gust, 

As peradventure she had touched a 
snake, 

A dead snake, mind ! and, turning 
round, replied, 

" We'll leave Italian manners, if you 
please. 

I think you had an English father, 
child, 

And ought to find it possible to speak 

A quiet ' yes ' or ' no,' like English 
girls, 

Without convulsions. In another 
month 

We'll take another answer, no, or 
yes." 

With that, she left me in the garden- 
walk. 

I had a father ! yes, but long ago, 
How long it seemed that moment! 

Oh, how far, 
How far and safe, God, dost thou 

keep thy saints, 
When once gone from us ! We may 

call against 
The lighted windows of thy fair June 

heaven, 
Where all the souls are happy, anu 

not one, 
Not even my father, look from work 

or play 

To ask, " Who is it that cries after us 
Below there, in the dusk ? " Yet for- 
merly 
He turned his face upon me quick 

enough, 
If I said, " Father." Now I might cry 

loud: 
The little lark reached higher with 

his song 
Than I with crying, Oh, alone, 

alone, 
Not troubling any in heaven, nor any 

on earth, 
I stood there in the garden, and 

looked up 
The deaf blue sky that brings the 

roses out 
On such June mornings. 






- - 32 




AURORA LEIGH. 



You who keep account 
Of crisis and transition in this life, 
Set down the first time Nature says 

plain "no" 
To some "yes" in you, and walks 

over you 
In gorgeous sweeps of scorn. "We all 

begin 

By singing with the birds, and run- 
ning fast 
With June days, hand in hand; but 

once, for all, 
The birds must sing against us, and 

the sun 
Strike down upon us like a friend's 

sword caught 
By an enemy to slay us. while we 

read 
The dear name on the blade which 

bites at us ! 
That's bitter and convincing. After 

that, 
"We seldom doubt that something in 

the large, 
Smooth order of creation, though no 

more 
Than haply a man's footstep, has 

gone wrong. 

Some tears fell down my cheeks, and 

then I smiled, 
As those smile who have no face in 

the world 
To smile back to them. I had lost a 

friend 
In Ilomuey Leigh. The thing was 

sure, a friend 
"Who had looked at me most gently 

now and then, 
And spoken of my favorite books, 

" our books," 
"With such a voice ! "Well, voice and 

look were now 

More utterly shut out from me, I felt, 
Than even my father's. Romney 

now was turned 

To a benefactor, to a generous man, 
Who had tied himself to marry . . . 

me, instead 
Of such a woman, with low timorous 

lids 

He lifted with a sudden word one day, 
And left, perhaps, for my sake. Ah, 

self-tied 

By a contract, male Iphigenia bound 
At a fatal Aulis for the winds to 

change, 
(But loose him, they'll not change,) 

he well might seem 



A little cold and dominant in love ; 
He had a right to be dogmatical. 
This poor, good Romney. Love to 

him was made 
A simple law-clause. If I married 

him, 
I should not dare to call my soul my 

own 
Which so he had bought and paid 

for : every thought 
And every heart-beat down there in 

the bill ; 

Not one found honestly deductible 
From any use that pleased him ! He 

might cut 

My body into coins to give away 
Among his other paupers ; change 

my sons, 
While I stood dumb as Griseld, for 

black babes 

Or piteous foundlings ; might un- 
questioned set 
My right hand teaching in the ragged 

schools, 
My left hand washing in the public 

baths, 
What time my angel of the Ideal 

stretched 
Both his to me in vain. I could not 

claim 
The poor right of a mouse in a trap to> 

squeal, 
And take so much as pity from my' 

self. 

Farewell, good Romney ! if I loved 

you even, 

I could but ill afford to let you be 
So generous to me. Farewell, friend, 

since friend 
Betwixt us two, forsooth, must be a 

word 
So heavily overladen. And, since 

help 
Must come to me from those who love 

me not, 
Farewell, all helpers : I must help 

myself, 
And am alone from henceforth. Then 

I stooped 
And lifted the soiled garland front 

the earth, 

And set it on my head as bitterly 
As when the Spanish monarch 

crowned the bones 
Of his dead love. So be it. I pre 

serve 
That crown still, in the drawei 

there : 'twas the first ; 






AURORA LEIGH. 



33 



The rest are like it, those Olympian 

crowns 
We run for till we lose sight of the 

sun 
In the dust of the racing chariots. 

After that, 

Before the evening fell, I had a note, 
Which ran, "Aurora, sweet Chal- 

dsean, yon read 

My meaning backward, like your east- 
ern books, 
While I am from the west, dear. Read 

me now 
A little plainer. Did you hate me 

quite 
But yesterday ? I loved you for my 

part; 

I love you. If I spoke untenderly 
This morning, my beloved, pardon it, 
And comprehend me that I loved 

you so 

I set you on the level of my soul, 
And overwashed you with the bitter 

brine 

Of some habitual thoughts. Hence- 
forth, my flower, 

Be planted out of reach of any such, 
And lean the side you please with all 

your leaves. 
Write woman's verses and dream 

woman's dreams ; 
But let me feel your perfume in my 

home 

To make my sabbath after working- 
days. 
Bloom out your youth beside me ; be 

my wife." 

I wrote in answer : ' ' We Chaldseans 

discern 
Still further than i^e read. I know 

your heart, 

And shut it like the holy book it is, 
Reserved for mild -eyed saints to pore 

upon 
Betwixt their prayers at vespers. 

Well, you're right, 
I did not surely hate you yesterday ; 
And yet I do not love you enough 

to-day 
To wed you, cousin Romney. Take 

this word, 

And let it stop you as a generous man 
From speaking further. You may 

tease, indeed, 
And blow about my feelings, or my 

leaves ; 
And here's my aunt will help you 

with east winds, 



And break a stalk, perhaps, torment- 
ing me : 
But certain flowers grow near as deep 

as trees : 
And, cousin, you'll not move my 

root, not you, 
With all your confluent storms. Then 

let. me grow 
Within my wayside hedge, and pass 

your way. 
This flower has never as much to say 

to you 
As the antique tomb which said to 

travellers, ' Pause,' 
' Siste, viator.'" Ecding thus, I 

sighed. 

The next week passed in silence, so 

the next, 
And several after : Romney did not 

come, 
Nor my aunt chide me. I lived on 

and on, 
As if my heart were kept beneath a 

glass, 
And everybody stood, all eyes and 

ears 
To see and hear it tick. I could not 

sit, 
Nor walk, nor take a book, nor lay it 

down, 

Nor sew on steadily, nor drop a stitch 
And a sigh with it, but I felt her looks 
Still cleaving to me, like the sucking 

asp 

To Cleopatra's breast, persistently 
Through the intermittent pantings. 

Being observed 

When observation is not sympathy 
Is just being tortured. If she said a 

word, 
A " thank you," or an " if it please 

you, dear," 

She meant a commination, or at best 
An exorcism against the devildom 
Which plainly held me. So with all 

the house. 
Susannah could not stand and twist 

my hair, 

Without such glancing at the looking- 
glass 
To see my face there, that she missed 

the plait. 
And John I never sent my plate for 

soup, 
Or did not send it, but the foolish 

John 
Resolved the problem, 'twixt his nap- 

kined thumls, 





34 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Of what was signified by taking soup, 
Or choosing mackerel. Neighbors 

who dropped in 
On morning visits, feeling a joint 

wrong, 

Smiled admonition, sate uneasily, 
And talked with measured, empha- 
sized reserve, 
Of parish news, like doctors to the 

sick, 
When not called in, as if, with leave 

to speak, 
They might say something. Nay, the 

very dog 
Would watch me from his sun-patch 

on the floor, 

In alternation with the large black fly 
Not yet in reach of snapping. So I 

lived. 

A Roman died so, smeared with 
honey, teased 

By insects, stared to torture by the 
noon; 

And many patient souls 'neath Eng- 
lish roofs 

Have died like Romans. I, in look- 
ing back, 

Wish only now I had borne the 
plague of all 

With meeker spirits than were rife at 
Rome. 

For on the sixth week the dead sea 
broke up, 

Dashed suddenly through beneath 
the heel of Him 

Who stands upon the sea and earth, 
and swears 

Time shall be nevermore. The clock 
struck nine 

That morning too; no lark was out 
of tune; 

The hidden farms among the hills 
breathed straight 

Their smoke toward heaven; the lime- 
tree scarcely stirred 

Beneath the blue weight of the cloud- 
less sky, 

Though still the July air came float- 
ing through 

The woodbine at my window, in and 
out, 

With touches of the out-door coun- 
try news 

For a bending forehead. There I 
sate, and wished 

That morning-truce of God would 
last till eve, 



Or longer. " Sleep," I thought, " late 

sleepers; sleep, 
And spare me yet the burden of your 

eyes." 

Then suddenly a single ghastly shriek 

Tore upward from the bottom of the 
house. 

Like one who wakens in a grave, and 
shrieks, 

The still house seemed to shriek it- 
self alive, 

And shudder through its passage:; 
and stairs, 

With slam of doors and clash of bells. 
I sprang, 

I stood up in the middle of the room, 

And there confronted at my chamber- 
door 

A white face, shivering, ineffectual 
lips. 

" Come, come ! " they tried to utter, 

and I went. 
As if a ghost had drawn me at the 

point 
Of a fiery finger through the uneven 

dark, 
I went with reeling footsteps down 

the stair, 
Nor asked a question. 

There she sate, my aunt. 
Bolt upright in the chair beside her 

bed, 
Whose pillow had no dint. She had 

used no bed 
For that night's sleeping, yet slept 

well. My God ! 
The dumb derision of that gray, 

peaked face 
Concluded something grave against 

the sun, 
Which filled the chamber with its 

July burst, 

When Susan drew the curtains, igno- 
rant 
Of who sate open-eyed behind hen 

There 
She sate ... it sate . . . we said 

"she" yesterday . . . 
And held a letter with unbroken seal, 
As Susan gave it to her hand last 

night. 
All night she had held it. If its news 

referred 
To duchies or to dunghills, not an 

inch 
She'd budge, 'twas obvious, for such 

worthless odds; 







AURORA LEIGH. 



35 -- 



Nor, though the stars were suns, and 
overturned 

Their spheric limitations, swallowing 
up 

Like wax the azure spaces, could they 
force 

Those open eyes to wink once. What 
last sight 

Had left them blank and flat so, draw- 
ing out 

Tho faculty of vision from the roots, 

As nothing more, worth seeing, re- 
mained behind ? 

Were those the eyes that watched inn, 

worried mo ? 
That dogged me up and down the 

hours and days, 

A beaten, breathloss, miserable soul ? 
And did I pray, a half-hour back, but 

so, 
To escape the burden of those eyes 

. . . those eyes? 
" Sleep late," I said ? 

Why now, indeed, they sleep. 
God answers sharp and sudden on 

some prayers, 
And thrusts the thing we have prayed 

fcr in our face, 
A gauntlet with a gift in't. Every 

wish 
Is liko a prayer, with God. 

I had my wish , 
To read and meditate the thing I 

would, 
To fashion all iny life upon my 

. thought, 

And marry, or not marry. Hence- 
forth none 
Could disapprove rne, vex me, hamper 

me. 

Full ground-room in this desert new- 
ly made, 
For Babylon or Balbec, when the 

breath, 
Now choked with sand, returns for 

building towns. 

The heir came over on the funeral 

day, 
And we two cousins met before tho 

dead 
With two pale faces. Was it death, 

or life, 
That moved us ? When the will was 

read and done, 
The official guests and witnesses 

withdrawn, 
We rose up, in a silence almost hard, 



And looked at one another. Then I 
said, 

" Farewell, my cousin." 

But he touched, just touched 

My hatstrings tied for going (at the 
door 

The carriage stood to take me), and 
said low, 

His voice a little unsteady through 
his smile, 

" Sistc, viator." 

" Is there time," I asked, 

"In these last days of railroads, 1C 
stop short, 

Like Caesar's chariot (weighing half a 
ton,) 

On the Appian road, for morals ? " 

" There is time," 

He answered grave, "for necessary 
words, 

Inclusive, trust me, of no epitaph 

On man or act, my cousin. We have 
read 

A will which gives you all the per- 
sonal goods 

And funded moneys of your aunt." 
" I thank 

Her memory for it. With three hun- 
dred pounds. 

We buy in England, even, clear 
standing-room 

To stand and work in. Only two 
hours since 

I fancied I was poor." 

" And, cousin, still 

You're richer than you fancy. The 
will says, 

TJiree hundred pounds, and any other 
sum 

Of which the said testatrix dies pos- 
sessed. 

I say she died possessed of other 
sums." 

" Dear Romney, need we chronicle 
tho pence ? 

I'm richer than I thought : that's evi- 
dent. 

Enough so." 

" Listen, rather. You've to do 

With business and a cousin," he re- 
sumed; 

"And both, I fear, need patience. 
Here's the fact. 

The other sum (there is another 
sum, 

Unspecified in any will which dates 

After possession, yet bequeathed as 
much 






36 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And clearly as those said three hun- 
dred pounds) 

Is thirty thousand. You will have it 
paid 

When ? . . . where ? My duty trou- 
bles you with words." 

He struck the iron when the bar was 
hot: 

No wonder if my eyes sent out some 
sparks. 

"Pause there! I thank you. You 
are delicate 

In glozing gifts ; but I, who share your 
blood, 

Am rather made forgiving, like your- 
self, 

Than taking, like your pensioners. 
Farewell." 

He stopped me with a gesture of calm 
pride. 

"A Leigh," he said, "gives largesse, 
and gives love, 

But glozes never: if a Leigh could 
gloze, 

He would not do it, moreover, to a 
Leigh, 

With blood trained up along nine cen- 
turies 

To hound and hate a lie from eyes 
like yours. 

And now we'll make the rest as clear. 
Your aunt 

Po'ssessed these moneys." 

" You will make it clear, 

My cousin, as the honor of us both, 

Or one of us speaks vainly. That's 
not I. 

My aunt possessed this sum inher- 
ited 

From whom, and when ? Bring docu- 
uments, prove dates." 

"Why, now indeed you throw your 
bonnet off 

As if you had time left for a loga- 
rithm ! 

The faith's the want. Dear cousin, 
give me faith, 

And you shall walk this road with 
silken shoes, 

As clean as any lady of our house 

Supposed the proudest. Oh, I com- 
prehend 

The whole position from your point 
of sight. 

I oust you from your father's halls 
and lauds, 



And make you poor by getting rich 
that's law; 

Considering which, in common cir- 
cumstance 

You would not scruple to accept from 
me 

Some compensation, some sufficiency 

Of income that were justice ; but, 
alas! 

I love you that's mere nature ; you 
reject 

My love that's nature also; and at 
once 

You cannot, from a suitor disallowed, 

A hand thrown back, as mine is, into 
yours, 

Receive a doit, a farthing, not for 
the world! 

That's woman's etiquette, and obvi- 
ously 

Exceeds the claim of nature, law, and 
right, 

Unanswerable to all. I grant, you see, 

The case as you conceive it; leave 
you room 

To sweep your ample skirts of wo- 
manhood, , 

While, standing humbly squeezed 
against the wall, 

I own myself excluded from being 
just, 

Restrained from paying indubitable 
debts, 

Because denied from giving you my 
soul. 

That's my misfortune. I submit to it 

As if, in some more reasonable age, 

'Twould not be less inevitable. 
Enough. 

You'll trust me, cousin, as a gentle- 
man, 

To keep your honor, as you count it, 
pure, 

Your scruples (just as if I thought 
them wise) 

Safe, and inviolate from gifts of 
mine." 

I answered mild but earnest: "I be- 
lieve 

In no one's honor which another 
keeps, 

Nor man's nor woman's. As I keep, 
myself, 

My truth and my religion, I depute 

No father, though I had one this side 
death, 

Nor brother, though I had twenty, 
much less you, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



37 



Though twice my cousin, and once 

Romney Leigh, 
To keep my honor pure. You face 

to-day 
A man who wants instruction, mark 

me, not 
A. woman who wants protection. As 

to a man, 
Show manhood, speak out plainly, 

be precise 
With facts and dates. My aunt in- 

herited 
This sum, you say " 

*" I said she died possessed 
Of this, dear cousin." 

" Not by heritage. 
Thank you: we're getting to the facts 

at last. 
Perhaps she played at commerce with 

a ship 
Which came in heavy with Austra- 

lian gold ? 
Or touched a lottery with her finger- 

end, 
Which tumbled on a sudden into her 

lap 
Some old Rhine tower or principal- 

ity ? 

Perhaps she had to do with a marine 
Sub-transatlantic railroad which pre- 



pays 
ell a 



As well as presupposes ? or perhaps 
Some stale ancestral debt was after- 

paid 
By a hundred years, and took her by 

surprise ? 
You shake your head, my cousin: I 

guess ill." 

" You need not guess, Aurora, nor de- 

ride : 

The truth is not afraid of hurting you. 
You'll rind no cause in all your scru- 

ples, why 
Your aunt should cavil at a deed of 

gift 
Twixt her and me." 

" I thought so ah! a gift." 

" You naturally thought so," he re- 

sumed. 
" A A r erv natural gift." 

"A gift, a gift! 
Her individual life being stranded 

high 
Above all want, approaching opu- 

lence, 
Too haughty was she to accept a 

gift 



Without some ultimate aim. Ah, ah, 

I see! 
A gift intended plainly for her 

heirs, 
And so accepted ... if accepted . . . 

ah, 
Indeed that might be: I am snared 

perhaps 
Just so. But, cousin, shall I pardon 

you, 
If thus you have caught me with a 

cruel springe ? " 

He answered gently, " Need you 
tremble and pant 

Like a netted lioness ? Is't my fault, 
mine, 

That you're a grand wild creature of 
the woods, 

And hate the stall built for you? Any 
way, 

Though triply netted, need you glare 
at me ? 

I do not hold the cords of such a net: 

You're free from me, Aurora." 

" Now may God 

Deliver me from this strait ! This 
gift of yours 

Was tendered . . . when ? accepted 
. . . when ?" I asked. 

" A month ... a fortnight since ? 
Six weeks ago 

It was not tendered: by a word she 
dropped 

I know it was not tendered nor re- 
ceived. 

When was it ? Bring your dates." 

" What matters when ? 

A half-hour ere she died, or a half- 
year, 

Secured the gift, maintains the heri- 
tage 

Inviolable with law. As easy pluck 

The golden stars from heaven's em- 
broidered stole 

To pin them on the gray side of this 
earth. 

As make you poor again, thank 
God ! '" 

" Not poor 

Nor clean again from henceforth, you 
thank God ? 

Well, sir I ask you . . . I insist at 
need . . . 

Vouchsafe the special date, the spe- 
cial date." 

" The day before her death-day," he 
replied, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



" The gift was in her hands. We'll 
find that deed, 

And. certify that date to you." 

As one 

Who lias climbed a mountain-height, 
and carried up 

His own heart climbing, panting, in 
his throat 

With the toil of the ascent, takes 
breath at last, 

Looks back in triumph, so I stood 
and looked. 

" Dear cousin Romney, we have 
reached the top 

Of this steep question, and may rest, 
I think. 

But first, I pray you pardon that the 
shock 

And surge of natural feeling and 
event 

Has made me oblivious of acquaint- 
ing you 

That this this letter (unread, mark, 
still sealed) 

Was found infolded in the poor dead 
hand. 

That spirit of hers had gone beyond 
the address, 

Which could not find her, though you 
wrote it clear. 

1 know your writing, Romney, rec- 
ognize 

The open-hearted A, the liberal sweep 

Of the G. Now listen. Let us under- 
stand : 

You will not find that famous deed 
of gift, 

Unless you find it in the letter here, 

Which, not being mine, I give you 
back. Refuse 

To take the letter ? Well, then, you 
and I, 

As writer and as heiress, open it 

Together, by your leave. Exactly 
so: 

The words in which the noble offer- 
ing's made 

Are nobler still, my cousin; and i 
own 

The proudest and most delicate heart 
alive, 

Distracted from the measure of the 
gift 

By such a grace in giving, might ac- 
cept 

Your largesse without thinking any 
more 

Of the burthen of it than King Solo- 
mon 



Considered, when he wore his holy 

ring 
Charactered over with the ineffable 

spell, 
How many carats of fine gold made 

up 
Its money-value. So Leigh gives to 

Leigh ! 
Or rather might have given, observe, 

for that's 
The point we come to. Here's a 

proof of gift; 
But here's no proof, sir, of accep- 

tancy, 
But, rather, disproof. Death's black 

dust, being blown, 
Infiltrated through every secret fold 
Of this sealed letter by a puff of fate, 
Dried up forever the fresh-written 

ink, 
Annulled the gift, disutilized the 

grace, 
And left these fragments." 

As I spoke, I tore 
The paper up and down, and down 

and up, 
And crosswise, till it fluttered from 

my hands, 
As forest-leaves, stripped suddenly, 

and rapt 
By a whirlwind on Valdarno, drop 

again, 
Drop slow, and strew the melancholy 

ground 
Before the amazed hills . . . why so, 

indeed, 
I'm writing like a poet, somewhat 

large 

In the type of the image, and exag- 
gerate 

A small thing with a great thing, top- 
ping it; 
But then I'm thinking how his eyes 

looked, his, 
With what despondent and surprised 

reproach! 
I think the tears were in them as he 

looked; 

I think the manly mouth just trem- 
bled. Then 
He broke the silence. 

" I may ask, perhaps, 
Although no stranger . . . only Ilom- 

ney Leigh. 

Which means still less . . . than Vin- 
cent Carrington, 
Your plans in going hence, and where 

you go. 
This cannot be a secret." 






" As I spoke I tore the paper up and down 

till it fluttered from my hands." Page 38. 




AURORA LEIGH. 



39 



" All my life 

Is open to you, cousin. I go hence 
To London, to the gathering-place of 

souls, 
To live mine straight otit, vocally, in 

books; 

Harmoniously for others, if indeed 
A woman's soul, like man's, be \vide 

enough 
To carry the whole octave (that's to 

prove); 

Or, if I fail, still purely for myself. 
Pray God be with me, Romney." 

" Ah, poor child ! 
"Who fight against the mother's 'tiring 

hand, 
And choose the headsman's. May 

God change his world 
For your sake, sweet, anil make it 

mild as heaven, 
And juster than I have found you." 

But I paused. 
" And you, my cousin ? " 

" I," he said " you ask ? 
You care to ask? Well, girls have 

curious minds, 
And fain would know the end of 

every thins:. 
Of cousins, therefore, with the rest. 

For me, 
Aurora, I've my work: you know my 

work; 
And, having missed this year some 

personal hope, 

I must beware the rather that, I miss 
No reasonable duty. While you sing 
Your happy pastorals of the meads 

and trees, 
Bethink you that I go to impress and 

prove 
On stifled brains and deafened ears, 

stunned deaf, 
Crushed dull with grief, that nature 

sings itself, 
And needs no mediate poet, lute, or 

voice 
To make it vocal. While you ask of 

men 
Your audience, I may get their leave, 

perhaps, 

For hungry orphans to say audibly, 
' We're hungry, see ; ' for beaten and 

bullied wives 
To hold their unweaned babies up in 

sight, 
Whom orphanage would better ; and 

for all 
To speak and claim their portion , . . 

by no means 



Of the soil . . . but of the sweat in 

tilling it ; 

Since this is nowadays turned privi- 
lege, 
To have only God's curse on us, and 

not man's. 

Such work I have for doing, elbow- 
deep 
In social problems, as you tie your 

rhymes, 
To draw my uses to cohere with 

needs, 
And bring the uneven world back tc 

its round, 
Or, failing so much, rill up, bridge at 

least 
To smoother issues, some abysmal 

cracks 
And feuds of earth intestine heats 

have made 
To keep n:en separate, using sorry 

shifts 
Of hospitals, almshouses, infant 

schools, 
And other practical stuff of partial 

good 

You lovers of the beautiful and whole 
Despise by system " 

" I despise ? The scorn 
Is yours, my cousin. Poets become 

such 

Through scorning nothing. You de- 
cry them for 
The good of beauty sung and taught 

by them ; 
While they respect your practical 

partial good 
As being a part of beauty's self. 

Adieu ! 
When God helps all the workers for 

his world, 
The singers shall have help of him, 

not last." 

He smiled as men smile -when they 

will not speak 
Because o( something bitter in the 

thought ; 

And still I feel his melancholy eyes 
Look judgment on me. it is seven 

years since. 
I know not if 'twas pity or 'twas 

scorn 
Has made them so far-reaching: 

judge it, ve 
Who have had to do with pity more 

than love, 
And scorn than hatred. I am used, 

since then, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



To other ways from equal men. But 
so, 

Even so, we let go hands, my cousin 
and I, 

And in between us rushed the torrent- 
world 

To blanch our faces like divided 
rocks, 

And bar forever mutual sight and 
touch, 

Except through swirl of spray and all 
that roar. 



THIRD BOOK. 

" TO-DAY thou girdest up thy loins 

thyself, 
And goest where thou wouldest : 

presently 
Others shall gird thee," said the 

Lord, "to go 
Where thou wouldst not." He spoke 

to Peter thus, 
To signify the death which he should 

die 
When crucified head downward. 

If he spoke 
To Peter then, he speaks to us the 

same. 

The word suits many different mar- 
tyrdoms, 

And signifies a multiform of death, 
Although we scarcely die apostles, we, 
And have mislaid the keys of heaven 

and earth. 

For 'tis not in mere death that men 

die most; 
And, after our first girding of the 

loins 

In youth's fine linen and fair broidery 
To run up hill and meet the rising 

sun, 
We are apt to sit tired, patient as a 

fool, 
While others gird us with the violent 

bands 

Of social figments, feints, and formal- 
isms, 
Reversing our straight nature, lifting 

up 
Our base needs, keeping down our 

lofty thoughts, 
Head downward on the cross-sticks 

of the world. 



Yet he can pluck us from that shame- 

ful cross. 
God, set our feet low and our forehead 

high, 
And show us how a man was made to 

walk ! 

Leave the lamp, Susan, and go up to 

bed : 
The room does very well. I have to 

write 
Beyond the stroke of midnight. Get 

away : 
Your steps, forever buzzing in the 

room, 
Tease me like gnats. Ah, letters! 

Throw them down 
At once, as I must have them, to be 

sure, 
Whether I bid you never bring me 

such 

At such an hour, or bid you. No ex- 
cuse : 
You choose to bring them, as I choose. 

perhaps, 
To throw them in the fire. Now get 

to bed, 
And dream, if possible, I am no/ 

cross. 

Why, what a pettish, petty thing 1 
grow ! 

A mere, mere woman, a mere flaccid 
nerve, 

A kerchief left out all night in the 
rain, 

Turned soft so, overtasked and over- 
strained 

And overlived in this close London 
life. 

And yet I should be stronger. 

Never burn 

Your letters, poor Aurora ; for they 
stare 

With red seals from the table, saying 
each, 

" Here's something that you know 
not." Out, alas ! 

'Tis scarcely that the world's more 
good and wise, 

Or even straighter and more conse- 
quent, 

Since yesterday at this time; yet, 
again, 

If but one angel spoke from Ararat, 

I should be very sorry not to hear: 

So open all the letters, let me read. 

Blanche Ord, the writer in the 
" Lady's Fan," 





AURORA LEIGH. 



41 - 



Bequests ray judgment on ... that, 

afterwards. 
Kate Ward desires the model of my 

cloak, 
And signs, " Elisha to you." Pringle 

Sharpe 

Presents his work on " Social Con- 
duct," craves 
A little money for his pressing 

debts . . . 
From me, who scarce have money for 

my needs; 
Art's fiery chariot which we journey 

in 
Being apt to singe our singing-robes 

to holes, 
Although you ask me for my cloak, 

Kate Ward. 
Here's Rudgely knows it, editor and 

scribe: 
He's " forced to marry where his 

heart is not, 
Because the purse lacks where he lost 

his heart." 
Ah lost it because no one picked it 

up: 

That's really loss (and passable im- 
pudence). 

My critic Hammond natters prettily, 
And wants another volume like the 

last. 

My critic Belfair wants another book 
Entirely different, which will sell, 

(and live ?) 
A striking book, yet not a startling 

book, 

The public blames originalities, 
(You must not pump spring-water 

unawares 

Upon a gracious public full of nerves :) 
Good things, not subtle, new yet or- 
thodox. 

As easy reading as the dog-eared page 
That's fingered by said public fifty 

years, 
Since first taught spelling by its 

grandmother, 

And yet a revelation in some sort: 
That's hard, my critic Belfair. So 

what next ? 
My critic Stokes objects to abstract 

thoughts. 
" Call a man John, a woman Joan," 

says he . 

" And do not prate so of humanities : " 
"Whereat I call my critic simply 

Stokes. 
My critic Jobson recommends more 

mirth, 



Because a cheerful genius suits the 

times, 
And all true poets laugh unquencha- 

bly 
Like Shakspeare and the gods. That's 

very hard. 
The gods may laugh, and Shakspeare; 

Dante smiled 
With such a needy heart on two pale 

lips, 
We cry, " Weep, rather, Dante." 

Poems are 
Men, if true poems; and who dares 

exclaim 

At any man's door, " Here, 'tis un- 
derstood 
The thunder fell last week and killed 

a wife, 
And scared a sickly husband: what 

of that ? 
Get up, be merry, shout, and clap 

your hands, 
Because a cheerful genius suits the 

times ? 
None says so to the man ; and why, 

indeed, 
Should any to the poem ? A ninth 

seal; 

The apocalypse is drawing to a close. 
Ha this from Vincent Carrington. 

"Dear friend, 
I want good counsel. Will you lend 

me wings 

To raise me to the subject in a sketch 
I'll bring to-morrow may I? at 

eleven ? 

A poet's only born to turn to use, 
So save you ! for the world . . . and 

Carrington." 
(Writ after.) "Have you heard of 

Romney Leigh, 

Beyond what's said of him in news- 
papers, 
His phalansteries there, his speeches 

here, 
His pamphlets, pleas, and statements 

everywhere ? 
He dropped me long ago ; but no one 

drops 
A golden apple, though, indeed, one 

day 
You hinted that, but jested. Well, 

at least 
You know Lord Howe, who sees him 

. . . whom he sees, 
And you see, and I hate to see, for 

Howe 

Stands high upon the brink of theo- 
ries, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



Observes the swimmers, and cries, 
' Very lino ! ' 

But keeps dry linen equally, unlike 

That gallant breaster, Romney. 
Strange it is, 

Such sudden madness seizing a young 
man 

To make earth over again, while I'm 
content 

To make the pictures. Let me bring 
the sketch : 

A tiptoe Danae, overbold and hot, 

Both arms ailame to meet her wish- 
ing Jove 

Halfway, and burn him faster down ; 
the face 

And breasts upturned and straining, 
the loose locks 

All glowing with the anticipated gold. 

Or here's another on the self-same 
theme. 

She lies here, flat upon her prison- 
floor, 

The long hair swathed about her to 
the heel 

Like wet seaweed. You dimly see 
her through 

The glittering haze of that prodigious 
rai n , 

Half blotted out of nature by a love 

As heavy as fate. I'll bring you 
either sketch. 

I think, myself, the second indicates 

More passion." 

Surely. Self is put away, 

And calm with abdication. She is 
Jove, 

And no more Danae greater thus. 
Perhaps 

The painter symbolizes unaware 

Two states of the recipient artist- 
soul, 

One, forward, personal, wanting rev- 
erence, 

Because aspiring only. "We'll be 
calm, 

And know, that, when indeed our 
Joves come down, 

Wo all turn stiller than we haA r e ever 
been. 

Kind Vincent Carrington. I'll let 

him come. 
fi He talks of Florence, and may say a 

word 
Of something as it chanced seven 

years ago, 
A hedgehog in the path, or a lauie 

bird, 



In those green country walks, in that 
good time 

When certainly I was so misera- 
ble . . . 

I seem to have missed a blessing ever 
since. 

The music soars within the little lark, 

And the lark soars. It is not thr. 
with men. 

We do not make our places with cm- 
strains, 

Content, while they rise, to remain 
behind 

Alone on earth, instead of so in heav- 
en. 

No matter: I bear on my broken tale. 

When Romney Leigh and I had 

parted thus, 
I took a chamber up three flights of 

stairs 
Not far from being as steep as some 

larks climb, 

And there, in a certain house in Ken- 
sington, 
Three years I lived and worked. Got 

leave to work 
In this world 'tis the best you get 

at all ; 
For God, in cursing, gives us better 

gifts 
Than men in benediction. God says, 

" Sweat 
For foreheads: " men say, " Crowns." 

And so we are crowned, 
Ay, gashed by seme tormenting circle 

of steel 
Which snaps with a secret spring. 

Get work, get work ! 
Be sure 'tis better than what you work 

to get. 

Gercnc, and unafraid cf solitude, 

I worked the short days out, and 

watched the sun 

On lurid morns or monstrous after- 
noons 

(Like some Druidic idol's fiery brass, 
With fixed unflickering outline cf 

dead heat, 
From which the blood cf wrtches 

pent inside 
Seems oozing forth to incarnadine the 

air) 
Push out through fog with his dilated 

disk, 
And startle the slant roofs and elmu- 

ney-pots 




AURORA LEIGH. 




With splashes of fierce color. Or I 

saw 
Fog only the great tawny weltering 

fog 

Involve the passive city, strangle it 
Alive, and draw it off into the void, 
Spires, bridges, streets, and squares, 

as if a sponge 
Had wiped out London, or as noon 

and night 
Had clapped together, and utterly 

struck out 

The intermediate time, undoing them- 
selves 
In the act. Your city poets see such 

things 
Not despicable. Mountains of the 

south, 
When, drunk and mad with elemental 

wines 
They rend the seamless inist, and 

stand up bare, 
Make fewer singers, haply. No one 

sings, 

Descending Sinai: on Parnassus- 
mount 
You take a mule to climb, and not a 

muse, 
Except in fable and figure: forests 

chant 
Their anthems to themselves, and 

leave you dumb. 

But sit in London at the day's de- 
cline, 
And view the city perish in the 

mist 
Like Pharaoh's armaments in the 

deep Red Sea, 
The chariots, horsemen, footmen, all 

the host, 
Sucked down and choked to silence 

then, surprised 
By a sudden sense of vision and of 

tune, 
You feel as conquerors, though you 

did not fight; 
And you and Israel's other singing 

girls, 
Ay, Miriam with them, sing the song 

you choose. 

I worked with patience, which means 
almost power. 

I did some excellent things indiffer- 
ently, 

Some bad things excellently. Both 
were praised, 

The latter loudest. And by such a 
time 



That I myself had set them down as 
sins 

Scarce worth the price of sackcloth, 
week by week 

Arrived some letter through the sedu- 
lous post, 

Like these I've read, and yet dissimi- 
lar, 

With pretty maiden seals, initials 
twined 

Of lilies, or a heart marked Emily, 

(Convicting Emily of being all heart;) 

Or rarer tokens from young bache- 
lors, 

Who wrote from college with the 
same goosequill, 

Suppose, they had just been plucked 
of, and a snatch 

From Horace, " Collegisse juvat," 
set 

Upon the first page. Many a letter, 
signed 

Or unsigned, showing the writers at 
eighteen 

Had lived too long, although a muse 
should help 

Their dawn by holding candles, 
compliments 

To smile or sigli at. Such could pass 
with me 

No more than coins from Moscow cir- 
culate 

At Paris: would ten roubles buy a 
tag 

Of ribbon on the boulevard, worth a 
sou? 

I smiled that all this youth should 
love me, sighed 

That such a love could scarcely raise 
them up 

To love what was more worthy than 
myself; 

Then sighed again, again, less gener- 
ously, 

To think the very love they lavished 
so 

Proved me inferior. The strong loved 
me not, 

And he ... my cousin Romney . . . 
did not wnte. 

I felt the silent finger of his scorn 

Prick every bubble of my frivolous 
fame 

As my breath blew it, and resolve it 
back 

To the air it came from. Oh, I justi- 
fied 

The measure he had taken of my 
height : 





AURORA LEIGH. 



The thing was plain he was not 
wrong a line ; 

I played at art, made thrusts with a 
toy-sword, 

Amused the lads and maidens. 

Came a sigh 

Deep, hoarse with resolution, I 
would work 

To better ends, or play in earnest. 
" Heavens, 

I think I should be almost popu- 
lar 

If this went on!" I ripped my 
verses up, 

And found no blood upon the rapier's 
point ; 

The heart in them was just an em- 
bryo's heart, 

Which never yet had beat, that it 
should die; 

Just gasps of make-believe galvanic 
life; 

Mere tones, inorganized to any tune. 

And yet I felt it in me where it 

burnt, 
Like those hot fire-seeds of creation 

held 
In Jove's clenched palm before the 

worlds were sown; 
But I I was not Juno even ! my 

hand 

"Was shut in weak convulsion, wo- 
man's ill; 
And when I yearned to loose a finger 

lo, 
The nerve revolted. 'Tis the same 

even now: 
This hand may never haply open 

large, 
Before the spark is quenched, or the 

palm charred, 
To prove the power not else than by 

the pain. 

It burnt, it burns my whole life 
burnt with it; 

And light, not sunlight and not torch- 
light, flashed 

My steps out through the slow and 
difficult road. 

I had grown distrustful of too forward 
springs, 

The season's books in drear signifi- 
cance 

Of morals, dropping round me. Live- 
ly books ? 

The ash has livelier verdure than the 
yew; 



And yet the yew's green longer, and 
alone 

Found worthy of the holy Christmas 
time: 

We'll plant more yews if possible, 
albeit 

We plant the graveyards with them. 
Day and night 

I worked my rhythmic thought, and 
furrowed up 

Both watch and slumber with long 
lines of life 

Which did not suit their season. The 
rose fell 

From either cheek, my eyes globed 
luminous 

Through orbits of blue shadow, and 
my pulse 

Would shudder along the purple- 
veined wrist 

Like a shot bird. Youth's stern, set 
face to face 

With youth's ideal; and when peo- 
ple came 

And said, " You work too much, you 
are looking ill," 

I smiled for pity of them who pitied 
me, 

And thought I should be better soon, 
perhaps, 

For those ill looks. Observe, " I " 
means in youth 

Just /, the conscious and eternal soul 

With all its ends, and not the out- 
side life, 

The parcel-man, the doublet of the 
flesh, 

The so much liver, lung, integument, 

Which make the sum of " I " here- 
after, when 

World-talkers talk of doing well or 
ill. 

7 prosper if I gain a step, although 

A nail then pierced my foot: although 
my brain, 

Embracing any truth, froze para- 
lyzed, 

J prosper: I but change my instru- 
ment; 

I break the spade off, digging deep 
for gold, 

And catch the mattock up. 

I worked on, on. 

Through all the bristling fence of 
nights and days 

Which hedges time in from the eter- 
nities 

I struggled, never stopped to note 
the stakes 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Which hurt me in my course. The 
midnight oil 

Would stink sometimes; there came 
some vulgar needs: 

I had to live that therefore I might 
work, 

And, being but poor, I was con- 
strained, for life, 

To work with one hand for the book- 
sellers 

While working with the other for my- 
self 

And art: you swim with feet, as well 
as hands, 

Or make small way. I apprehended 
this. 

In England no one lives by verse that 
lives ; 

And, apprehending, I resolved by 
prose 

To make a space to sphere my living 
verse. 

I wrote for cyclopjedias, magazines, 

And weekly papers, holding up my 
name 

To keep it from the mud. I learnt 
the use 

Of the editorial "we" in a review, 

As courtly ladies the fine trick of 
trains. 

And swept it grandly through the 
open doors, 

As if one could not pass through 
doors at all, 

Save so encumbered. I wrote tales 
beside, 

Carved many an article on. cherry- 
stones 

To suit light readers, something in 
the lines 

Revealing, it was said, the mallet- 
hand ; 

But that I'll never vouch for. What 
you do 

For bread will taste of common grain, 
not grapes, 

Although you have a vineyard in 
Champagne, 

Much less in Nephelococcygia, 

As mine was, peradventure. 

Having bread 

For just so many days, just hreathiug- 
rooni 

For body and verse, I stood up 
straight, and worked 

My veritable work. And as the 
soul 

Which grows within a child makes 
the child grow, 



Or as the fiery sap, the touch from 
God, 

Careering through a tree, dilates the 
bark, 

And roughs with scale and knob, be- 
fore it strikes 

The summer-foliage out in a green 
flame, 

So life, in deepening with me, deep- 
ened all 

The course I took, the work I did. 
Indeed, 

The academic law convinced of sin: 

The critics cried out on the falling off, 

Regretting the first manner. But I 
felt 

My heart's life throbbing in my verse 
to show 

It lived, it also certes incomplete, 

Disordered with all Adam in the 
blood, 

But even its very tumors, warts, and 
wens 

Still organized by and implying life. 

A lady called upon me on such a day. 

She had the low voice of your Eng- 
lish dames, 

Unused, it seems, to need rise half a 
note 

To catch attention, and their quiet 
mood, 

As if they lived too high above the 
earth 

For that to put them out in any thing: 

So gentle, because verily so proud; 

So wary and afraid of hurting you, 

By no means that you are not really 
vile, 

But that they would not touch you 
with their foot 

To push you to your place; so self- 
possessed, 

Yet gracious and conciliating, it takes 

An effort in their presence to speak 
truth : 

You know the sort of woman, bril- 
liant stuff, 

And out of nature. " Lady Walde- 
mar." 

She said her name quite simply, as if 
it meant 

Not much, indeed, but something; 
took my hands, 

And smiled as if her smile could heir 
my case, 

And dropped her eyes on me, and le 
them melt. 

" Is this," she said, " the muse ? " 






AURORA LEIGH. 



" No sibyl, even," 
I answered, " since she fails to guess 

the cause 
Which taxed you with this visit, 

madam." 

"Good," 
She said. " I value what's sincere at 

once. 

Perhaps, if I had found a literal muse, 
The visit might have taxed me. As 

it is, 
You wear your blue so chiefly in your 

eyes, 

My fair Aurora, in a frank, good way, 
It comforts me entirely for your fame, 
As well as for the trouble of ascent 
To this Olympus." 

There a silver laugh 
Pan rippling through her quickened 

little breaths 
The steep stair somewhat justified. 

" But still 

Your ladyship has left me curious why 
You dared the risk of finding the said 

muse ? " 

"Ah, keep me, notwithstanding, to 

the point, 

Like any pedant ? Is the blue in eyes 
As awful as in stockings, after all, 
I wonder, that you'd have my busi- 
ness out 
Before I breathe exact the epic 

plunge 
Iii spite of gasps? "Well, naturally 

you think 

I've come here, as the lion-hunters go 
To deserts, to secure you with a trap 
For exhibition in my drawing-rooms 
On zoologic soire'es? not in the least. 
Roar softly at me: I am frivolous, 
I dare say; I have played at wild- 
beast shows 
Like other women of my class, but 

now 

I meet my lion simply as Androcles 
Met his . . . when at his mercy." 

So, she bent 
Her head as queens may mock, then, 

lifting up 
Her eyelids with a real grave queenly 

look, 
AVhich ruled, and would not spare, 

not even herself, 
" I think you have a cousin, Rom- 
ney Leigh." 

" You bring a word from him ?" my 
eyes leapt up 



To the very height of hers, "a word 
from him?" 

" I bring a word about him actually. 
But first " (she pressed me with her 

urgent eyes), 
" You do not love him, you ? " 

" You're frank at least 
In putting questions, madam," I 

replied. 
"I love my cousin cousinly no 

more." 

" I guessed as much. I'm ready to 

be frank 
In answering also, if you'll question 

me, 
Or even for something less. You 

stand outside, 
You artist women, of the common 

sex; 
You share not with us, and exceed us 

so 
Perhaps by what you're mulcted in, 

your hearts 
Being starved to make your heads: 

so run the old 
Traditions of you. I can therefore 

speak 
Without the natural shame which 

creatures feel, 
When speaking on their level, to 

their like. 
There's many a papist she, would 

rather die 

Than own to her maid she put a rib- 
bon on 
To catch the indifferent eye of such a 

man, 
Who yet would count adulteries on 

her beads 
At holy Mary's shrine, and *iever 

blush, 
Because the saints are so far off we 

lose 

All modesty before them. Thus to- 
day. 
'Tis /love Romney Leigh." 

" Forbear ! " I cried. 
" If here's no muse, still less is any 

saint, 
Nor even a friend, that Lady Walde- 

mar 
Should make confessions " . . . 

" That's unkindly said. 
If no friend, what forbids to make a 

friend 
To join to our confession, ere we have 

done? 






AURORA LEIGH. 



I love your cousin. If it seerns un- 
wise 
To say so, it's still foolisher (we're 

frank) 
To feel so. My first husband left me 

young, 
And pretty enough, so please yon, 

and rich enough 
To keep my booth in May-fair with 

the rest 

To happy issues. There are mar- 
quises 
Would serve seven years to call me 

wife, I know, 

And after seven I might consider it, 
For there's some comfort in a mar- 

quisate, 
"When all's said, yes, but after the 

seven years ; 
I now love Romney. You put up 

your lip 

So like a Leigh ! so like him ! Par- 
don me, 

I'm well aware I do not derogate 
lu loving Romney Leigh. The name 

is good, 
The means are excellent; but the 

man, the man 
Heaven help us both, I am near as 

mad as he 
In loving such an one." 

She slowly swung 
Her heavy ringlets till they touched 

her smile, 

As reasonably sorry for herself, 
And thus continued: 

" Of a truth, Miss Leigh, 
I have not without struggle come to 

this. 

I took a master in the German tongue, 
I gained a little, went to Paris twice; 
But, after all, this love ! . . . you eat 

of love, 

And do as vile a thing as if you ate 
Of garlic, which, whatever else you 

eat, 

Tastes uniformly acrid, till your peach 
Reminds you of your onion. Am I 

coarse ? 
"Well, love's coarse, nature's coarse. 

Ah, there's the rub ! 
We fair fine ladies, who park out our 

lives 
From common sheep-paths, cannot 

help the crows 
From flying over: we're as natural 

still 

As Blowsalinda. Drape us perfectly 
In Lyons velvet, we are not for that 




Lay-figures, look you: we have hearts 
within, 

Warm, live, improvident, indecent 
hearts, 

As ready for outrageous ends and 
acts 

As any distressed seamstress of them 
all 

That Romney groans and toils for. 
We catch love, 

And other fevers, in the vulgar way. 

Love will not be outwitted by oui' 
wit, 

Nor outrun by our equipages: mine 

Persisted, spite of efforts. All my 
cards 

Turned up but Romney Leigh; my 
German stopped 

At germane Wertherisin; my Paris 
rounds 

Returned me from the Champs Ely. 
sees just 

A ghost, and sighing like Dido's. 1 
came home 

Uncured, convicted rather to myself 

Of being in love ... in lov". ! That's 
coarse, you'll say, 

I'm talking garlic." 

Coldly I replied: 

" Apologize for atheism, not love ! 

For me, I do believe in love, and God. 

I know my cousin; Lady Waldemar 

I know not: yet I say as much as 
this, 

Whoever loves him, let her not ex- 
cuse, 

But cleanse herself, that, loving such 
a man, 

She may not do it with such unwor- 
thy love 

He cannot stoop and take it." 

" That is said 

Austerely, like a youthful prophetess, 

Who knits her brows across her pret- 
ty eyes 

To keep them back from following 
the gray flight 

Of doves between the temple-col- 
umns. Dear, 

Be kinder with me: let iis two be 
friends. 

I'm a mere woman, the more weak, 
perhaps, 

Through being so proud; you're bet- 
ter; as for him, 

He's best. Indeed, he builds his 
goodness up 

So high, it topples down to the other 
side. 







48 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And makes a sort of badness: there's 

the worst 
I have to say against your cousin's 

best. 
And so be mild, Aurora, with my 

worst, 
For his sake, if not mine." 

" I own myself 

Incredulous of confidence like this 
Availing him or you." 

"And I, myself, 

Of being worthy of him with any love : 
In your sense I am not so ; let it 

pass. 

And yet I save him if I marry him ; 
Let that pass too." 

""Pass, pass! we play police 
Upon my cousin's life to indicate 
What may or may not pass ? " I cried. 

" He knows 

What's worthy of him: the choice re- 
mains with him ; 
And what he chooses, act or wife, I 

think 
I shall not call unworthy, I, for one." 

' 'Tis somewhat rashly said," she an- 
swered slow. 
" Now let's talk reason, though we 

talk of love. 

Your cousin Romney Leigh's a mon- 
ster: there, 
The word's out fairly, let me prove 

the fact. 
We'll take, say, that most perfect of 

antiques 

They call the Genius of the Vatican, 
(Which seems too beauteous to endure 

itself 
In this mixed world, and fasten it for 

once 

Upon the torso of the Dancing Faun, 
(Who might limp, surely, if he did not 

dance,) 
Instead of Buonarroti's mask: what 

then ? 
We show the sort of monster Romney 

is, 

With godlike virtues and heroic aims 
Subjoined to limping possibilities 
Of mismade human nature. Grant 

the man 
Twice godlike, twice heroic, still he 

limps; 
And here's the point we come to." 

"Pardon me; 
But, Lady Waldemar, the point's the 

thing 
We never come to." 



" Caustic, insolent 
At need! I like you," (there she 

took my hands) 
" And now, my lioness, help Andro- 

cles, 
For all your roaring. Help me! for 

myself 
I would not say so, but for him. He 

limps 

So certainly, he'll fall into the pit 
A week hence, so I lose him, so he 

is lost! 
For when he's fairly married, he a 

Leigh, 
To a girl of doubtful life, undoubtful 

birth, 

Starved out in London till her coarse- 
grained hands 
Are whiter than her morals, even 

you 
May call his choice unworthy." 

" Married! lost! 
He . . . Romney! " 

" Ah, you're moved at last, she said. 
" These monsters, set out in the open 

sun, 
Of course throw monstrous shadows: 

those who think 
Awry will scarce act straightly. Who 

but he ? 
And who but you can wonder ? He 

has been mad, 
The whole world knows, since first, a 

nominal man, 
He soured the proctors, tried the 

gownsmen's wits 
With equal scorn of triangles and 

wine, 

And took no honors, yet was honora- 
ble. 

They'll tell you he lost count of Ho- 
mer's ships 
In Melbourne's poor-bills, Ashley's 

factory-bills; 
Ignored the Aspasia we all dare to 

praise, 
For other women, dear, we could not 

name 
Because we're decent. Well, he had 

some right 
On his side, probably : men always 

have, 
Who go absurdly wrong. The living 

boor 
Who brews your ale exceeds in vital 

worth 
Dead Caesar who ' stops bungholes ' ill 

the cask. 
And also, to do good is excellent, 






ir 




AURORA LEIGH. 



49 



for persons of his income, even to 

boors. 
I sympathize with all such things. 

But he 
Went mad upon them . . . madder 

and more mad 
From college times to these, as, going 

down hill, 
The faster still, the farther. You 

must know 
Your Leigh by heart: he has sown his 

black young curls 
With bleaching cares of half a million 

men 
Already. If you do not starve, or 

siii, 

You're nothing to him: pay the in- 
come-tax, 
And break your heart upon't, he'll 

scarce be touched ; 
But come upon the parish, qualified 
For the parish stocks, and Romney 

will be there 

To call you brother, sister, or perhaps 
A tenderer name still. Had I any 

chance 
With Mister Leigh, who am Lady 

Waldemar, 
And never committed felony ? " 

" You speak 
Too bitterly," I said, "for the literal 

truth." 

" The truth is bitter. Here's a man 

who looks 
Forever on the ground. You must be 

low, 

Or else a pictured ceiling overhead, 
Good painting thrown away. Forme, 

I've done 
What women may: we're somewhat 

limited, 
We modest women ; but I'ye done my 

best. 
> How men are perjured when they 

swear our eyes 
Have meaning in them! They're just 

blue or brown, 
They just can drop their lids a little. 

And yet 

Mine did more; for I read half Fou- 
rier through, 
Proud hon, Considerant, and Louis 

Blanc, 

With various others of his socialists, 
And, if I had been a fathom less in 

love, 
Had cured myself with gaping. As 

it was, 



I quoted from them prettily enough, 

Perhaps, to make them sound half 
rational 

To a saner man than he whene'er we 
talked, 

(For which I dodged occasion ;) learnt 
by heart 

His speeches in the Commons and 
elsewhere 

Upon the social question; heaped re- 
ports 

Of wicked women and penitentia- 
ries 

On all my tables (with a place for 
Sue); 

And gave my name to swell subscrip- 
tion-lists 

Toward keeping up the sun at nights 
in heaven, 

And other possible ends. All things 
I did, 

Except the impossible . . . such as 
wearing gowns 

Provided by the Ten Hours' move- 
ment: there 

I stopped we must stop somewhere. 
He, meanwhile, 

Unmoved as the Indian tortoise 'neath 
the world, 

Let all that noise go on upon his 
back. 

He would not disconcert or throw me 
out; 

'Twas well to see a woman of my 
class 

With such a dawn of conscience. For 
the heart 

Made lire wood for his sake, and flam- 
ing up 

To his face, he merely warmed his 
feet at it: 

Just deigned to let my carriage stop 
him short 

In park or street, he leaning on the 
door 

With news of the committee which 
sate last 

On pickpockets at suck." 

" You jest, you jest." 

" As martyrs jest, dear (if you read 

their lives) 
Upon the axe which kills them. 

When all's done 
By me . . . for him you'll ask him 

presently 

The color of my hair: he cannot tell, 
Or answers, ' Dark,' at random; while, 

be sure, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



He's absolute on the figure, five or 

ten, 

Of my last subscription. Is it beara- 
ble, 
And I a woman ? " 

" Is it reparable, 
Though / were a man ? " 

" I know not. That's to prove. 
But first, this shameful marriage ? " 

" Ay?" I cried, 
" Then really there's a marriage ? " 

" Yesterday 
I held him fast upon it. ' Mister 

Leigh,' 
Said I, ' shut up a thing, it makes 

more noise. 
The boiling town keeps secrets ill: 

I've known 
Yours since last week. Forgive my 

knowledge so: 
You feel I'm not the woman of the 

world 
The world thinks; you have borne 

with me before, 
And used me in your noble work, our 

work, 
And now you shall not cast me off 

because 
You're at the difficult point, the join. 

'Tis true 

Even I can scarce admit the cogency 
Of such a marriage . . . where you 

do not love, 
(Except the class) yet rnarry, and 

throw your name 

Down to the gutter, for a fire-escape 
To future generations ! 'tis sublime, 
A great example, a true genesis 
Of the opening social era. But take 

heed: 
This virtuous act must have a patent 

weight, 

Or loses half its virtue. Make it tell, 
Interpret it, and set in the light, 
And do not muffle it in a winter-cloak 
As a vulgar bit of shame, as if, at 

best, 
A Leigh had made a misalliance, and 

blushed 
A Howard should know it." Then I 

pressed him more : 
' He would not choose,' I said, ' that 

even his kin . . . 

Aurora Leigh, even . . . should con- 
ceive his act 
Less sacrifice, more fantasy.' At 

which 
He grew so pale, dear ... to the 

lips, I knew 



I had touched him. ' Do you know 

her,' he inquired, 
' My cousin Aurora ? ' ' Yes,' I said, 

and lied, 
(But truly we all know you by your 

books) 
And so I offered to come straight to 

you, 

Explain the subject, justify the cause, 
And take you with me to St. Marga- 
ret's Court 

To see this miracle, this Marian Erie, 
This drover's daughter (she's not 

pretty, he swears), 
Upon whose finger, exquisitely 

pricked 
By a hundred needles, we're to hang 

the tie 
'Twixt class and class in England, 

thus indeed 
By such a presence, yours and mine, 

to lift 
The match up from the doubtful 

place. At once 
He thanked me, sighing, murmured to 

himself, 
' She'll do it, perhaps: she's noble,' 

thanked me twice, 
And promised, as my guerdon, to put 

off 
His marriage for a month." 

I answered then, 

" I understand your drift imperfectly. 
You wish to lead me to my cousin's 

betrothed, 
To touch her hand if worthy, and hold 

her hand 

If feeble, thus to justify his match. 
So be it, then. But how this serves 

your ends, 
And how the strange confession of 

your love 
Serves this, I have to learn I ean- 

not see." 

She knit her restless forehead. 

" Then, despite 
Aurora, that most radiant morning 

name, 

You're dull as any London afternoon. 
I wanted time, and gained it; want' 

ed you, 
And gain you ! You will come and 

see the girl 
In whose most prodigal eyes the lineal 

pearl 
And pride of all your lofty race of 

Leighs 
Is destined to solution. Authorized 






AURORA LEIGH. 




By sight and knowledge, then, you'll 

speak your mind, 

And prove to Roinney, in your bril- 
liant way, 

He'll wrong the people and posterity, 
(Say such a thing is bad for me and 

you, 
And you fail utterly) by concluding 

thus 

An execrable marriage. Break it up, 
Disroot it; peradventure presently 
We'll plant a better fortune in its 

place. 

Be good to ine, Aurora, scorn me less 
For saying the thing I should not. 

Well I know 
I should not. I have kept, as others 

have, 

The iron rule of womanly reserve 
In lip and life, till now: I wept a 

week 
Before I came here." Ending, she 

was pale. 
The last words, haughtily said, were 

tremulous. 
This palfrey pranced in harness, 

arched her neck, 

And only by the foam upon the bit 
iTou saw' she champed against it. 

Then I rose. 
" I love love: truth's no cleaner thing 

than love. 

I comprehend a love so fiery hot 
It burns its natural veil of august 

shame, 
And stands sublimely in the nude, as 

chaste 

As Medicean Venus. But I know, 
A love that burns through veils will 

burn through masks, 
And shrivel up treachery. What, love 

and lie ! 
Nay. Go to the op?ra ! Your love's 

curable." 

" I love and lie ?" she said, "I lie, 

forsooth ? " 
And beat her taper foot upon the 

floor, 
And smiled against the shoe, 

" You're hard, Miss Leigh, 
Unversed in current phrases. Bowl- 
ing-greens 
Of poets are fresher than the world's 

highways. 
Forgive me that I rashly blew the 

dust 
Which dims our hedges even, in your 

eyes, 



And vexed you so much. You find, 

probably, 

No evil in this marriage, rather good 
Of innocence, to pastoralize in song. 
You'll give the bond your signature, 

perhaps, 

Beneath the lady's mark, indifferent 
That Romney chose a wife could 

write her name, 
In witnessing he loved her." 

" Loved ! " I cried. 
" Who tells you that he wants a wife 

to love ? 
He gets a horse to use, not love, I 

think: 
There's work for wives, as well, 

and after, straw, 
When men are liberal. For myself, 

you err 
Supposing power in me to break this 

match. 
I could not do it to save Romney's 

life, 
And would not to save mine." 

"You take it so," 
She said: "farewell, then. Write 

your books in peace, 
As far as may be for some secret stir 
Now obvious to me; for, most obvi- 
ously, 

In coming hither I mistook the way." 
Whereat she touched my hand, and 

bent her head, 
And floated from me like a silent 

cloud 
That leaves the sense of thunder. 

I drew breath, 
Oppressed in my deliverance. After 

all, 
This woman breaks her social system 

up 

For love, so counted, the love possi- 
ble 
To such; and lilies are still lilies, 

pulled 
By smutty hands, though spotted 

from their white ; 
And thus she is better haply, of her 

kind, 
Than Romney Leigh, who lives by 

diagrams, 

And crosses out the spontaneities 
Of all his individual, personal life 
With formal universals. As if man 
Were set upon a high stool at a desk 
To keep God's books for him in red 

and black, 
And feel by millions ! What if even 

God 






.... 52 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Were chiefly God by living out him- 
self 

To an individualism of the infinite, 

Eterne, intense, profuse, still throw- 
ing up 

The golden spray of multitudinous 
worlds 

In measure to the proclive weight and 
rush 

Of his inner nature, the spontaneous 
love 

Still proof and outflow of spontane- 
ous life ' 

Then live, Aurora. 

Two hours afterward, 

"Within St. Margaret's Court I stood 
alone, 

Close-veiled. A sick child, from an 
ague-fit, 

Whose wasted right hand gambolled 
'gainst his left 

With an old brass button in a blot of 
sun, 

Jeered weakly at me as I passeu 
across 

The uneven pavement; while a wo- 
man rouged 

Upon the angular cheek-bones, ker- 
chief torn, 

Thin dangling locks, and flat lascivi 
ous mouth, 

Cursed at a window both ways, in 
and out, 

By turns some bed-rid creature and 
myself, 

" Lie still there, mother ! liker the 
dead dog 

You'll be to-morrow. What, we pick 
our way, 

Fine madam, with those damnable 
small feet ! 

We cover up our face from doing good, 

As if it were our purse ! What 
brings you here, 

My lady ? is't to find my gentleman 

Who v'isits his tame pigeon in the 
eaves ? 

Our cholera catch you with its cramps 
and spasms, 

And tumble up your good clothes, 
veil and all, 

And turn your whiteness dead-blue! " 
I looked up: 

I think I could have walked through 
hell that day, 

And never flinched. " The dear 
Christ comfort you," 

1 said, " you must have been most 
miserable, 



To be so cruel; " and I emptied out 
My purse upon the stones: when, as 

I had cast 
The last charm in the caldron, the 

whole court 
Went boiling, bubbling up, from all 

its doors 
And windows, with a hideous wail of 

laughs, 

And roar of oaths, and blows per- 
haps ... I passed 
Too quickly for distinguishing . . . 

and pushed 

A little side-door hanging on a hinge, 
And plunged into the dark, and 

groped and climbed 
The long, steep, narrow stair 'twixt 

broken rail 

And mildewed wall that let the plas- 
ter drop 
To startle me in the blackness. Still, 

up, up ! 
So high lived Romney's bride. I 

paused at last 
Before a low door in the roof, and 

knocked: 
There came an answer like a hurried 

dove, 
' So soon ? can that be Mister Leigh ? 

so soon ? 

And us I entered an ineffable face 
Met uiine upon the threshold. " Oh, 

net you, 
Not you ! " The dropping of the 

voice implied, 
"Then, 11 not you, for me not any 

one/ ' ' 
I looked hei in the eyes, and held 

her hands, 
Aiul said "1 am his cousin, Rom- 

ney Leigh's; 
And here I come to see my cousin 

too." 
She touched me with her face and with 

her voice, 
This daughter of the people. Such 

soft flowers, 
From such rough roots ? the people 

under there 
Can sin so, curse so, look so, smell so 

. . . faugh 1 
Yet have such daughters ? 

Nowise beautiful 
Was Marian Erie. She was not white 

nor brown, 
But could look either, like a mist 

that changed 
According to being shone on more 01 

less. 






MARIAN ERLE. 





AURORA LEIGH. 



53 



The hair, too, ran its opulence of 

curls 
In doubt 'twixt dark and bright, nor 

left you clear 
To name the color. Too much hair, 

perhaps, 
(I'll name a fault here) for so small a 

head, 
"Which seemed to droop on that side 

and on this, 
As a full-blown rose uneasy with its 

weight, 
Though not a wind should trouble it. 

Again, 
The dimple in the cheek had better 

gone 
With redder, fuller rounds; and 

somewhat large 
The mouth was, though the milky 

little teetli 

Dissolved it to so infantine a smile. 
For soon it smiled at me; the eyes 

smiled too, 
But 'twas as if remembering they had 

wept, 
And knowing they should some day 

weep again. 

We talked. She told me all her 
story out, 

Which I'll retell with fuller utter- 
ance, 

As colored and confirmed in after- 
times 

By others and herself too. Marian 
Erie 

Was born upon the ledge of Malvern 
Hill, 

To eastward, in a hut built up at 
night, 

To evade the landlord's eye, of mud 
and turf; 

Still liable, if once he looked that 
way, 

To being straight levelled, scattered 
by his foot, 

Like any other anthill. Born, I say. 

God sent her to his world commis- 
sioned right, 

Her human testimonials fully signed; 

Not scant in soul, complete in linea- 
ments: 

But others had to swindle her a place 

To wail in when she had come. No 
place for her, 

By man's law ! Born an outlaw was 
this babe : 

Her first cry in our strange and stran- 
gling air, 



When cast in spasms out by the shud- 

dering womb, 
Was wrong against the social code, 

forced wrong: 
What business had the baby to cry 

there ? 

I tell her story and grow passionate. 
She, Marian, did not tell it so, but 

used 
Meek words that made no wonder of 

herself 
For being so a sad creature. " Mister 

Leigh 
Considered truly that such things 

should change. 
They will, in heaven but meantime, 

on the earth, 
There's none can like a nettle as a 

pink, 
Except himself. We're nettles, some 

of us, 
And give offence by the act of spring- 

ing up; 
And, if we leave the damp side of the 

wall, 
The hoes, of course, are on us." So 

she said. 
Her father earned his life by random 

jobs 
Despised by steadier workmen, 

keeping swine 
On commons, picking hops, or hurry- 

ing on 
The harvest at wet seasons, or, at 

need, 
Assisting the Welsh drovers, when a 

drove 
Of startled horses plunged into the 

mist 
Below the mountain-road, and sowed 

the wind 
With wandering neighings. In be- 

tween the gaps 
Of such irregular work he drank and 

slept, 
And cursed his wife because, the pence 

being out, 
She could not buy more drink. At 

which she turned, 
(The worm) and beat her baby in re- 

venge 



For her own broken heart. 

not a crime 
But takes its proper change out still m 

crime 
If once rung on the counter of this 

world: 
Let sinners look to it. 






-*- 



54 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Yet the outcast child, 
For whom the very mother's face fore- 
went 
The mother's special patience, lived 

and grew; 
Learnt early to cry low, and walk 

alone, 

With that pathetic, vacillating roll 
Of the infant body on the uncertain 

feet, 
(The earth being felt unstable ground 

so soon,) 
At which most women's arms unclose 

at once 
With irrepressive instinct. Thus at 

three 
This poor weaned kid would run off 

from the fold, 
This babe would steal off from the 

mother's chair, 
And, creeping through the golden 

walls of gorse, 
Would find some keyhole toward the 

secrecy 
Of heaven's high blue, and, nestling 

down, peer out 
Oh, not to catch the angels at their 

games, 
She had never heard of angels, but 

to gaze 
She knew not why, to see she knew 

not what, 
A-hungering outward from the barren 

earth 
For something like a joy. She liked, 

she said. 
To dazzle black her sight against the 

sky; 
For then, it seemed, some grand blind 

Love came down, 
And groped her out, and clasped her 

with a kiss. 
She learnt God that way, and was 

beat for it 
Whenever she went home, yet came 

agaiu, 

As surely as the trapped hare, get- 
ting free, 
Returns to his form. This grand 

blind Love, she said, 
This skyey father and mother both in 

one, 
Instructed her and civilized her 

more 

Than even Sunday school did after- 
ward, 
To which a lady sent her to learn 

books, 
And sit iipon a long bench in a row 



With other children. Well, she 

laughed sometimes 
To see them laugh and laugh, and 

maul their texts; 
But ofter she was sorrowful with 

noise, 
And wondered if their mothers beat 

them hard 
That ever they should laugh so. 

There was one 
She loved indeed, Rose Bell, a seven 

years' child 

So pretty and clever, who read sylla- 
bles 
When Marian was at letters : she 

would laugh 
At nothing, hold your finger up, she 

laughed, 
Then shook her curls down over eyes 

and mouth 
To hide her make-mirth from the 

schoolmaster. 
And Rose's pelting glee, as frank as 

rain 
On cherry-blossoms, brightened Mar- 

rian too, 

To see another merry whom she loved. 
She whispered once (the children side 

by side, 
With mutual arms intwined about 

their necks) 
" Your mother lets you laugh so ? " 

" Ay," said Rose, 
" She lets me. She was dug into the 

ground 
Six years since, I being but a yearling 

wean. 
Such mothers let us play, and lose our 

time, 
And never scold nor beat us. Don't 

you wish 
You had one like that ? " There 

Marian breaking off 
Looked suddenly in my face. " Poor 

Rose ! " said she: 

" I heard her laugh last night in Ox- 
ford Street. 
I'd pour out half my blood to stop 

that laugh. 

Poor Rose, poor Rose ! " said Marian. 

She resumed. 

It tried her, when she had learnt at 

Sunday school 
What God was, what he wanted from 

us all, 
And how in choosing sin we vexed 

the Christ, 
To go straight home, and hear her 

father pull 






AURORA LEIGH. 



The Name down on us from the thun- 
der-shelf, 
Then drink away his soul into the 

dark 
From seeing judgment. Father, 

mother, home, 
"Were God and heaven reversed to 

her: the more 
She knew of right, the more she 

guessed their wrong: 
Her price paid down for knowledge 

was to know 
The vileness of her kindred: through 

her heart, 

Her filial and tormented heart, hence- 
forth, 
They struck their blows at virtue. 

Oh! 'tis hard 
To learn you have a father up in 

heaven 
By a gathering certain sense of being, 

on earth, 
Still worse than orphaned: 'tis too 

heavy a grief 
The having to thank God for such a 

joy. 

And so passed Marian's life from year 
to year. 

Her parents took her with them when 
they tramped, 

Dodged lanes and heaths, frequented 
towns and fairs, 

And once went farther, and saw Man- 
chester, 

And once the sea, that blue end of 
the world, 

That fair scroll-finis of a wicked 
book, 

And twice a prison, back at inter- 
vals, 

Returning to the hills. Hills draw 
like heaven, 

And stronger sometimes, holding out 
their hands 

To pull you from the vile flats up to 
them. 

And though, perhaps, these strollers 
still strolled back, 

As sheep do, simply that they knew 
the way, 

They certainly felt bettered un- 
aware, 

Emerging from the social smut of 
towns, 

To wipe their feet clean on the moun- 
tain turf. 

In which long wanderings Marian 
lived and learned, 



Endured and learned. The people on 

the roads 
Would stop, and ask her why her 

eyes outgrew 
Her cheeks, and if she meant to lodge 

the birds 
In all that hair ; and then they lifted 

her, 

The miller in his cart a mile or twain, 
The butcher's boy on horseback. Of- 
ten, too, 
The peddler stopped, and tapped her 

on the head 
With absolute forefinger, brown and 

ringed, 
And asked, if peradventure she could 

read; 
And when she answered, "Ay," 

would toss her down 
Some stray odd volume from his 

heavy pack, 
A " Thomson's Seasons," mulcted of 

the spring, 
Or half a play of Shakspeare's, torn 

across, 

(She had to guess the bottom of a page 
By just the top, sometimes ; as diffi- 
cult 
As, sitting on the moon, to guess the 

earth !) 
Or else a sheaf of leaves (for that 

small Ruth's 
Small gleanings) torn out from the 

heart of books, 
From Churchyard Elegies and Edens 

Lost, 
From Burns, and Bunyan, Selkirk, 

and Tom Jones. 
'Twas somewhat hard to keep the 

things distinct; 
And oft the jangling influence jarred 

the child, 

Like looking at a sunset full of grace 
Through a pothouse window, while 

the drunken oaths 
Went on behind her. But she weeded 

out 
Her book-leaves, threw away the 

leaves that hurt, 
(First tore them small, that none 

should find a word) 
And made a nosegay of the sweet and 

good 
To fold within her breast, and pore 

upon 
At broken moments of the noontide 

glare, 
When leave was given her to untie 

her cloak, 




56 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And rest upon the dusty highway's 
bank 

From the road's dust : or oft, the 
journey done, 

Some city friend would lead her by 
the hand 

To hear a lecture at an institute. 

And thus she had grown, this Marian 
Erie of ours, 

To no book-learning. She was igno- 
rant 

Of authors ; not in earshot of the 
things 

Outspoken o'er the heads of common 
men 

Bymenwho are uncommon, but within 

The cadenced hum of such, and ca- 
pable 

Of catching from the fringes of the 
wing 

Some fragmentary phrases here and 
there 

Of that fine music, which, being car- 
ried in 

To her soul, had reproduced itself 
afresh 

In finer motions of the lips and lids. 

She said, in speaking of it, " If a 

flower 
Were thrown you out of heaven at 

intervals, 

You'd soon attain to a trick of look- 
ing up" 
And so with her. She counted me 

her years, 
Till / felt old ; and then she counted 

me 
Her sorrowful pleasures, till I felt 

ashamed. 
She told me she was fortunate and 

calm 
On such and such a season, sate and 

sewed, 
With no one to break up her crystal 

thoughts, 
While rhymes from lovely poems span 

around 

Their ringing circles of ecstatic tune, 
Beneath the moistened finger of the 

hour. 
Her parents called her a strange, 

sickly child, 
Not good for much, and given to sulk 

and stare, 
And smile into the hedges and the 

oiouds, 
And tremble if one shook her from 

her fit 



By any blow, or word even. Outdoor 
jobs 

Went ill with her, and household 
quiet work 

She was not born to. Had they kept 
the north, 

They might have had their penny- 
worth out of her, 

Like other parents, in the factories, 

(Your children work for you, not you 
for them, 

Or else they better had been choked 
with air 

The first breath drawn ;) but, in this 
tramping life, 

Was nothing to be done with such a 
child 

But tramp and tramp. And yet she 
knitted hose 

Not ill, and was not dull at needle- 
work ; 

And all the country people gave her 
pence 

For darning stockings past their natu- 
ral age, 

And patching petticoats from old to 
new, 

And other light work done for thrifty 
wives. 

One day, said Marian, the sun shone 

that day, 
Her mother had been badly beat, and 

felt 
The bruises sore about her wretched 

soul, 
(That must have been) : she came in 

suddenly, 
And snatching in a sort of breathless 

rage 
Her daughter's headgear comb, let 

down the hair 

Upon her like a sudden waterfall, 
Then drew her drenched and passive 

by the arm 
Outside the hut they lived in. When 

the child 
Could clear her blinded face from all 

that stream 
Of tresses . . . there a man stood, 

with beast's eyes, 
That seemed as they would swallow 

her alive, 
Complete in body and spirit, hair and 

all, 
And burning stertorous breath that 

hurt her cheek, 
He breathed so near. The mother 

held her tight, 






"A wagoner had found her in a ditch." Page 1 57. 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Saying hard between herteeth, "Why, 

wench, why, wench, 
The squire speaks to you now 1 the 

squire's too good : 
He means to 6et you up, and comfort 

us. 
Be mannerly at least." The child 

turned round 
And looked up piteous in the mother's 

face, 
(Be sure that mother's death-bed wil? 

not want 
Another devil to damn, than such a 

look) 
" O mother ! " Then, with desperate 

glance to heaven, 
"God, free me from my mother!" 

she shrieked out, 
" These mothers are too dreadful." 

And, with force 
As passionate as fear, she tore her 

hands, 
Like lilies from the rocks, from hers 

and his, 
And sprang down, bounded headlong 

down the steep, 

Away from both away, if possible, 
As far as God, away ! They yelled 

at her, 
As famished hounds at a hare. She 

heard them yell ; 
She felt her name hiss after her from 

the hills, 
Like shot from guns. On, on. And 

now she had cast 
The voices off with the uplands. On. 

Mad fear 
"Was running in her feet, and killing 

the ground ; 
The white roads curled as if she 

burnt them up; 
The green fields melted; wayside 

trees fell back 
To make room for her. Then her 

head grew vexed; 
Trees, fields, turned on her and ran 

after her; 
She heard the quick pants of the hills 

behind, 
Their keen air pricked her neck: she 

had lost her feet, 
Could run no more, yet somehow 

went as fast, 
The horizon red 'twixt steeples in the 

east 
So sucked her forward, forward, 

while her heart 
Kept swelling, swelling, till it swelled 

so big 




It seemed to fill her body, when it 

burst, 
And overflowed the world, and 

swamped the light: 
"And now I am dead and safe," 

thought Marian Erie. 
She had dropped, she had fainted. 

As the sense returned, 
The night had passed, not life's 

night. She was 'ware 
Of heavy tumbling motions, creaking 

wheels, 

The driver shouting to the lazy team 
That swung their rankling bells 

against her brain, 

While through the wagon's cover- 
ture and chinks 
The cruel yellow morning pecked at 

her, 

Alive or dead upon the straw inside; 
At which her soul ached back into 

the dark 
And prayed, " No more of that." A 

wagoner 
Had found her in a ditch beneath the 

moon, 
As white as moonshine, save for the 

oozing blood. 
At first he thought her dead; but 

when he had wiped 
The mouth, and heard it sigh, he 

raised her up, 
And laid her in his wagon in the 

straw, 
And so conveyed her to the distant 

town 
To which his business called himself, 

and left 
That heap of misery at the hospital. 

She stirred: the place seemed new 

and strange as death. 
The white strait bed, with others 

strait and white, 

Like graves dug side by side at meas- 
ured lengths, 

And quiet people walking in and out 
With wonderful low voices and soft 

steps, 

And apparitional equal care for each, 
Astonished her with order, silence, 

law; 
And when a gentle hand held out a 

cup. 

She took it, as you do at sacrament, 
Half awed, half melted, not being 

used, indeed, 
To so much love as makes the form 

of love 






.58 




AURORA LEIGH. 



And courtesy of manners. Delicate 

drinks, 
And rare white bread, to which some 

dying eyes 
"Were turned in observation. O my 

God, 
How sick we must be ere we make 

men just ! 
I think it frets the saints in heaven 

to see 
How many desolate creatures on the 

earth 

Have learnt the simple dues of fel- 
lowship 

And social comfort, in a hospital, 
As Marian did. She lay there, 

stunned, half tranced, 
And wished, at intervals of growing 

sense, 
She might be sicker yet, if sickness 

made 
The world so marvellous kind, the 

air so hushed, 
And all her wake-time quiet as a 

sleep; 
For now she understood (as such 

things were) 

How sickness ended very oft in heav- 
en 
Among the unspoken raptures yet 

more sick, 
And surelier happy. Then she 

dropped her lids, 
And, folding up her hands as flowers 

at night, 
Would lose no moment of the blessed 

time. 

She lay and seethed in fever many 

weeks. 
But youth was strong, and overcame 

the test: 

Revolted soul and flesh were recon- 
ciled, 
And fetched back to the necessary 

day 
And daylight duties. She could creep 

about 
The long bare rooms, ind stare out 

drearily 
From any narrow window on the 

street, 
Till some one who had nursed her as 

a friend 

Said coldly to her, as an enemy, 
" She had leave to go next week, 

being well enough," 
(While only her heart ached.) " Go 

next week," thought she, 



" Next week ! how would it be with 

her next week, 

Let out into that terrible street alone 
Among the pushing people ... to go 

. . . where?" 

One day, the last before the dreaded 

last, 

Among the convalescents, like herself 
Prepared to go next morning, she 

sate dumb, 
And heard half absently the women 

talk, 
How one was famished for her baby's 

cheeks, 
" The little wretch would know her ! 

a year old 
And lively, like his father; " one was 

keen 

To get to work, and fill some clamor- 
ous mouths; 
And one was tender for her dear 

good man 
Who had missed her sorely; and one, 

querulous . . . 
" Would pay backbiting neighbors 

who had dared 

To talk about her as already dead ; " 
And one was proud ..." and if her 

sweetheart Luke 
Had left her for a ruddier face than 

hers, 
(The gossip would be seen through at 

a glance) 
Sweet riddance of such sweethearts 

let him hang ! 
'Twere good to have been sick for 

such an end." 

And while they talked, and Marian 

felt the worse 
For having missed the worst of all 

their wrongs, 
A visitor was ushered through the 

wards 
And paused among the talkers. 

" When he looked 
It was as if he spoke, and when he 

spoke 
He sang perhaps," said Marian; 

"could she tell? 
She only knew " (so much she had 

chronicled, 
As seraphs might the making of the 

sun) 
" That he who came and spake was 

Roinney Leigh, 
And then and there she saw and heard 

him first." 







r 



AURORA LEIGH. 



59 



And when it was her turn to have the 

face 
Upon her, all those buzzing pallid 

lips 
Being satisfied with comfort when 

he changed 
To Marian, saying, "And you ? you're 

going, where?" 
She, moveless as a worm beneath a 

stone 
Which some one's stumbling foot has 

spurned aside, 
Writhed suddenly, astonished with 

the light, 
And breaking into sobs cried, " Where 

I go? 
None asked me till this moment. 

Can I say 
Where / go, when it has not seemed 

worth while 
To God himself, who thinks of every 

one, 
To think of me, and fix where I shall 

go?" 

" So young," he gently asked her, 

" you have lost 
Your father and your mother ? " 

" Both," she said, 
"Both lost! My father was burnt up 

with gin 

Or ever I sucked milk, and so is lost. 
My mother sold me to a man last 

month, 

And so my mother's lost, 'tis mani- 
fest. * 
And I, who fled from her for miles 

and miles, 
As if I had caught sight of the fire of 

hell 
Through some wild gap, (she was my 

mother, sir) 

It seems I shall be lost too presently: 
And so we end, all three of us." 

" Poor child ! " 
lie said, with such a pity in his 

voice, 
It soothed her more than her own 

tears, " poor child! 
: Tis simple that betrayal by mother's 

love 
Should bring despair of God's too. 

Yet be taught, 
He's better to us than many mothers 

are, 
And children cannot wander beyond 

reach 
Of the sweep of his white raiment. 

Touch and hold! 



And, if you weep still, weep where 

John was laid 
While Jesus loved him." 

" She could say the words," 
She told me, " exactly as he uttered 

them 
A year back, since in any doubt or 

dark 
They came out like the stars, and 

shone on her 
With just their comfort. Common 

words, perhaps 
The ministers in church might say 

the same; 
But he, he made the church with what 

he spoke : 
The difference was the miracle," said 

she. 

Then catching up her smile to ravish- 
ment, 

She added quickly, " I repeat his 
words, 

But not his tones: can any one re- 
peat 

The music of an organ out of church ? 

And when he said, 'Poor child!' I 
shut my eyes 

To feel how tenderly his voice broke 
through, 

As the ointment-box broke on the 
Holy feet 

To let out the rich medicative nard." 

She told me how he had raised and 
rescued her 

With reverent pity, as in touching 
grief 

He touched the wounds of Christ, 
and made her feel 

More self-respecting. Hope he called 
belief 

In God; work, worship: therefore let 
us pray. 

And thus, to snatch her soul from 
atheism, 

And keep it stainless from her moth- 
er's face, 

He sent her to a famous seamstress- 
house 

Far off in London, there to work and 
hope. 

With that they parted. She kept 

sight of heaven, 
But not of Roinney. He had good 

to do 
To others. Through the days and 

through the nights 



- - 60 




AURORA LEIGH. 



She sewed and sewed and sewed. 

She drooped sometimes, 
And wondered, while along the tawny 

light 
She struck the new thread into her 

needle's eye, 
How people without mothers on the 

hills 
Could choose the town to live in; then 

she drew 
The stitch, and mused how Romney's 

face would look, 
And if 'twere likely he'd remember 

hers 
When they two had their meeting 

after death. 



BOOK FOURTH. 

THEY met still sooner. 'Twas a year 

from thence 

That Lucy Gresham the sick seam- 
stress girl, 
"Who sewed by Marian's chair so still 

and quick, 
And leant her head upon its back to 

cough 

More freely, when, the mistress turn- 
ing round, 

The others took occasion to laugh out 
Gave up at last. Among the workers 

spoke 
A bold girl with black eyebrows and 

red lips: 
" You know the news ? "Who's dying, 

do you think ? 

Our Lucy Gresham. I expected it 
As little as Nell Hart's wedding. 

Blush not, Nell, 
Thy curls be red enough without thy 

cheeks, 
And some day there'll be found a 

man to dote 
On red curls. Lucy Gresham swooned 

last night, 
Dropped sudden in the street while 

going home; 
And now the baker says, who took 

her up 
And laid her by her grandmother in 

bed, 
He'll give her a week to die in. Pass 

the silk. 
Let's hope he gave her a loaf too, 

within reach; 



For otherwise they'll starve before 

they die, 
That funny pair of bedfellows 1 Miss 

Bell, 
I'll thank you for the scissors. The 

old crone 

Is paralytic; that's the reason why 
Our Lucy's thread went faster than 

her breath, 
Which went too quick, we all know. 

Marian Erie ! 
Why, Marian Erie, you're not the fool 

to cry ? 
Your tears spoil Lady Waldemar's 

new dress, 
You piece of pity ! ' ' 

Marian rose up straight, 
And, breaking through the talk and 

through the work, 
Went outward, in the face of their 

surprise, 
To Lucy's home, to nurse her back to 

life 
Or down to death. She knew, by 

such an act, 
All place and grace were forfeit in 

the house, 
Whose mistress would supply the 

missing hand 

With necessary not inhuman haste, 
And take no blame. But pity, too, 

had dues. 

She could not leave a solitary soul 
To founder in the dark, while she sate 

still 
And lavished stitches on a lady's 

hem, 

As if no other work were paramount. 
" Why, God," thought Marian, " has 

a missing hand 
This moment: Lucy wants a drink, 

perhaps. 
Let others miss me ! never miss me, 

God ! " 

So Marian sate by Lucy's bed, con- 
tent 

With duty, and was strong, for recom- 
pense, 

To hold the lamp of human love arm- 
high, 

To catch the death-strained eyes, and 
comfort them, 

Until the angels, on the luminous 
side 

Of death, had got theirs ready. And 
she said, 

If Lucy thanked her sometimes, called 
her kind, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



61 .... 



It touched her strangely. " Marian 
Erie, called kind! 

What Marian, beaten and sold, who 
could not die I 

'Tis verily good fortune to be kind. 

Ah, you ! " she said, " who are born 
to such a grace, 

Be sorry for the unlicensed class, the 
poor, 

Reduced to think the best good for- 
tune means 

That others simply should be kind 
to them." 

From sleep to sleep when Lucy had 

slid away 

So gently, like the light upon a hill, 
Of which none names the moment 

that it goes 
Though all see when 'tis gone, a 

man came in 
And stood beside the bed. The old 

idiot wretch 

Screamed feebly, like a baby over- 
lain, 
" Sir, sir, you won't mistake me for 

the corpse ? 
Don't look at me, sir ! never bury 

me ! 

Although I lie here, I'm alive as you, 
Except toy legs and arms, I eat and 

drink 
And understand, (that you're the 

gentleman 
Who fits the funerals up, Heaven 

speed you, sir,) 
And certainly I should be livelier 

still 
If Lucy here . . . sir, Lucy is the 

corpse . . . 
Had worked more properly to buy me 

wine; 
But Lucy, sir, was always slow at 

work, 
I sha'n't lose much by Lucy. Marian 

Erie, 
Speak up, and show the gentleman the 

corpse." 

And then a voice said, " Marian Erie." 
She rose; 

It was the hour for angels there 
stood hers ! 

She scarcely marvelled to see Romney 
Leigh. 

As light November snows to empty 
nests, 

As grass to graves, as moss to mil- 
dewed stones, 



As July suns to ruins, through the 

rents, 
As ministering spirits to mourners, 

through a loss, 
As Heaven itself to men, through 

pangs of death, 
He came uncalled wherever grief had 

come. 
" And so,'' said Marian Erie, " we 

met ...new," 
And added softly, "so, we shall not 

part." 

He was not angry that she had left 

the house 
Wherein he placed her. Well, she 

had feared it might 
Have vexed him. Also, when he 

found her set 
On keeping, though the dead was out 

of sight, 

That half-dead, half-live body left be- 
hind 
With cankerous heart and flesh, 

which took your best, 
And cursed you for the little good it 

did, 
(Could any leave the bedrid wretch 

alone, 
So joyless she was thankless even to 

God, 
Much more to you?) he did not say 

'twas well, 
Yet Marian thought he did not take it 

Since day by day he came, and every 

day 
She felt within his utterance and his 

eyes 
A closer, tenderer presence of the 

soul, 
Until a't last he said, " We shall not 

part." 

On that same day was Marian's work 

complete : 
She had smoothed the empty bed, and 

swept the floor 

Of coffin sawdust, set the chairs anew 
The dead had ended gossip in, and 

stood 

In that poor room so cold and orderly, 
The door-key in her hand, prepared 

to go 
As they had, howbeit not their way. 

He spoke. 

" Dear Marian, of one clay God made 
us all ; 






.... 62 




AURORA LEIGH. 



And though men push and poke and 

paddle in't, 

(As children play at fashioning dirt- 
pies) 
And call their fancies by the name of 

facts, 

Assuming difference, lordship, privi- 
lege, 
"When all's plain dirt, they come back 

to it at last: 
The first grave-digger proves it with 

a spade, 
And pats all even. Need we w r ait for 

this, 
You Marian, and I Romney ? " 

She, at that, 
Looked blindly in his face, as when 

one looks 
Through driving autumn-rains to find 

the sky. 
He went on speaking: 

" Marian, I being born 
What men call noble, and you issued 

from 

The noble people, though the tyran- 
nous sword 
Which pierced Christ's heart lias cleft 

the world in twain 
'Twixt class and class, opposing rich 

to poor, 
Shall ice keep parted? Not so. Let 

us lean 
And strain together rather, each to 

each, 
Compress the red lips of this gaping 

wound 
As far as two souls can, ay, lean and 

league, 
I from my superabundance, from your 

want 
You, joining in a protest 'gainst the 

wrong 
On both sides." 

All the rest he held her hand 
In speaking, which confused the sense 

of much. 
Her heart against his words beat out 

so thick, 
They might as well be written on the 

dust 
Where some poor bird, escaping from 

hawk's beak, 

Has dropped, and beats its shudder- 
ing wings, the lines 
Are rubbed so; yet 'twas something 

like to this: 
' That they two, standing at the two 

extremes 
Of social classes, had received one seal, 



Been dedicate and drawn beyond 
themselves 

To mercy and ministration, he, in- 
deed, 

Through what he knew, and she, 
through what she felt; 

He, by man's conscience, she, by wo- 
man's heart, 

Relinquishing their several 'vantage 
posts 

Of wealthy ease and honorable toil, 

To work with God at love. And since 
God willed, 

That, putting out his hand to touch 
this ark, 

He found a woman's hand there, he'd 
accept 

The sign too, hold the tender fingers 
fast, 

And say, ' My fellow-worker, be my 
wife ! ' " 

She told the tale with simple, rustic 

turns, 

Strong leaps of meaning in her sud- 
den eyes 
That took the gaps of any imperfect 

phrase 
Of the unschooled speaker: I have 

rather writ 
The thing I understood so than the 

thing 
I heard so. And I cannot render 

right 
Her quick gesticulation, wild yet 

soft, 
Self-startled from the habitual mood 

she used, 
Half sad, half languid, like dumb 

creatures (now 
A rustling bird, and now a wandering 

deer, 

Or squirrel 'gainst the oak-gloom flash- 
ing up 
His sidelong, burnished head, in just 

her way 

Of savage spontaneity,) that stir 
Abruptly the green silence of the 

woods, 
And make it stranger, holier, more 

profound; 
As Nature's general heart confessed 

itself 
Of life, and then fell backward on 

repose. 

I kissed the lips that ended. "So, 

indeed, 
He loves you, Marian ? " 





AURORA LEIGH. 



" Loves me ! " She looked up 
With a child's wonder when you ask 

him first 
"Who made the sun, a puzzled blush, 

that grew, 
Then broke off in a rapid, radiant 

smile 
Of sure solution. " Loves me ! He 

loves all, 
And me, of course. He had not 

asked me else 
To work with him forever, and be his 

wife." 

Her words reproved me. This, per- 
haps, was love, 
To have its hands too full of gifts to 

give, 

For putting out a hand to take a gift; 
To love so much, the perfect round of 

love 
Includes in strict conclusion being 

loved ; 

As Eden-dew went up, and fell again, 
Enough for watering Eden. Obvi- 
ously 
She had not thought about his love at 

all. 
The cataracts of her soul had poured 

themselves, 
And risen self-crowned in rainbow: 

would she ask 
Who crowned her ? It sufficed that 

she was crowned. 

With women of my class 'tis other- 
wise : 
We haggle for the small change of 

our gold, 
And so much love accord for so much 

love, 
Rialto-prices. Are we therefore 

wrong ? 
If marriage be a contract, look to it 

then, 
Contracting parties should be equal, 

just; 

But if, a simple fealty on one side, 
A mere religion, right to give, is 

all, 
And certain brides of Europe duly 

ask 
To mount the pile as Indian widows 

do, 
The spices of their tender youth 

heaped up, 
The jewels of their gracious virtues 

worn , 
More gems, more glory, to consume 

entire 



For a living husband: as the man's 

alive, 
Not dead, the woman's duty by so 

much 
Advanced in England beyond Hindo- 

stan. 

I sate there musing, till she touched 

my hand 
With hers, as softly as a strange white 

bird 
She feared to startle in touching. 

" You are kind. 
But are you, peradventure, vexed at 

heart 
Because your cousin takes me for a 

wife ? 
I know I am not worthy nay, in 

truth, 
I'm glad on't, since, for that, he 

chooses me. 
He likes the poor things of the world 

the best; 
I would not, therefore, if I could, be 

rich. 

It pleasures him to stoop for butter- 
cups. 

I would not be a rose upon the wall 
A queen might stop at, near the pal- 
ace-door, 
To say to a courtier, ' Pluck that rose 

for me : 
It's prettier than the rest.' O Rom- 

ney Leigh ! 

I'd rather far be trodden by his foot 
Than lie in a great queen's bosom." 

Out of breath, 
She paused. 

" Sweet Marian, do you disavow 
The roses with that face ? " 

She dropt her head 
As if the wind had caught that flower 

of her 
And bent it in the garden, then 

looked up 
With grave assurance. " Well, you 

think me bold ; 

But so we all are, when we're pray- 
ing God. 

And if I'm bold, yet, lady, credit me, 
That since I know myself for what I 

am, 
Much fitter for his handmaid than his 

wife, 
I'll prove the handmaid and the wife 

at once, 

Serve tenderly, and love obediently, 
And be a worthier mate, perhaps, 

than some 






64 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Who are wooed in silk among their 

learned books; 
While I shall set myself to read his 

eyes, 
Till such grow plainer to me than the 

French 
To wisest ladies. Do you think I'll 

miss 

A letter in the spelling of his mind ? 
No more than they do when they sit 

and write 
Their flying words with flickering 

wild-fowl tails, 
Nor ever pause to find how many 

ts, 
Should that be y or i, they know't so 

well: 
I've seen them writing, when I 

brought a dress 
And waited, floating out their soft 

white hands 
On shining paper. But they're hard 

sometimes, 
For all those hands. We've used out 

many nights, 
And worn the yellow daylight into 

shreds 
Which flapped and shivered down our 

aching eyes 
Till night appeared more tolerable, 

just 

That pretty ladies might look beau- 
tiful, 
Who said at last . . . ' You're lazy 

in that house! 
You're slow' in sending home the 

work: I count 

I've waited near an hour for't.' Par- 
don me, 
I do not blame them, madam, nor 

misprise : 
They are fair and gracious; ay, but 

not like you, 
Since none but you has Mister Leigh's 

own blood, 

Both noble and gentle, and with- 
out it ... well, 
They are fair, I said; so fair, it scarce 

seems strange 

That, flashing out in any looking- 
glass 
The wonder of their glorious brows 

and breasts, 
They're charmed so, they forget to 

look behind, 
And mark how pale we've grown, we 

pitiful 
Remainders of the world. And so 

perhaps 



If Mister Leigh had chosen a wife 

from these, 
She might, although he's better than 

her best, 
And dearly she would know it, steal 

a thought 
Which should be all his, an eye-glanc 

from his face, 

To plunge into the mirror opposite 
In search of her own beauty's pearl; 

while 1 . . . 
Ah, dearest lady, serge will outweigh 

silk 
For winter-wear, when bodies feel 

a-cold, 
And I'll be a true wife to your cousin 

Leigh." 

Before I answered, he was there him- 
self. 

I think he had been standing in the 
room, 

And listened probably to half her 
talk, 

Arrested, turned to stone, as white 
as stone. 

Will tender sayings make men look 
so white ? 

He loves her then profoundly. 

" You are here, 

Aurora? Here I meet you!" We 
clasped hands. 

" Even so, dear Romney. Lady Wal- 

demar 
Has sent me in haste to find a cousin 

of mine 
Who shall be." 

" Lady Waldemar is good." 

" Here's one, at least, who is good," 
I sighed, and touched 

Poor Marian's happy head, as dog- 
like she, 

Most passionately patient, waited on, 

A-tremble for her turn of greeting 
words; 

" I've sate a full hour with your Mar- 
ian Erie, 

And learnt the thing by heart, and 
from my heart 

Am therefore competent to give you 
thanks 

For such a cousin." 

" You accept at last 

A gift from me, Aurora, without 
scorn ? 

At last I please you?" How his 
voice was changed! 






AURORA LEIGH. 



65 



" You cannot please a woman against 
her will, 

And once you vexed me. Shall we 
speak of that ? 

We'll say, then, you were noble in 
it all, 

And I not ignorant let it pass ! 
And now 

You please me, Romney, when you 
please yourself: 

So, please you, be fanatical in love, 

And I'm well pleased. Ah, cousin ! 
at the old hall, 

Among the gallery portraits of our 
Leighs, 

We shall not find a sweeter signory 

Than this pure forehead's." 

Not a word he said. 

How arrogant men are! Even philan- 
thropists 

Who try to take a wife up in the way 

They put down a subscription-check, 
if once 

She turns, and says, "I will not tax 
you so, 

Most charitable sir " feel ill at ease, 

As though she had wronged them 
somehow. I suppose 

We women should remember what 
we are, 

And not throw back an obolus in- 
scribed 

With Caesar's image lightly. I re- 
sumed. 

" It strikes me, some of those sub- 
lime Vandykes 

Were not too proud to make good 
saints in heaven; 

And, if so, then they're not too proud 
to-day, 

To bow down (now the ruffs are off 
their necks) 

And own this good, true, noble Mar- 
ian, yours, 

And mine I'll say! For poets (bear 
the word), 

Half-poets even, are still whole demo- 
crats, 

Oh, not that we're disloyal to the 
high, 

But loyal to the low, and cognizant 

Of the' less scrutable majesties. For 
me, 

I comprehend your choice, I justify 

Your right in choosing." 

" No, no, no! " he sighed, 

With a sort of melancholy impatient 
scorn, 



As some grown man who never had 
a child 

Puts by some child who plays at be- 
ing a man, 

You aid not, do not, can not com- 
prehend 

My choice, my ends, my motives, nor 
myself: 

No matter now we'll let it pass, you 
say. 

I thank you for your generous cousin- 
ship 

Which helps this present: I accept 
for her 

Your favorable thoughts. We're fall- 
en on days, 

We two who are not poets, when to 
wed 

Requires less mutual love than com- 
mon love 

For two together to bear out at once 

Upon the loveless many. Work in 
pairs, 

In galley-couplings or in marriage- 
rings, 

The difference lies in the honor, not 
the work, 

And such we're bound to, I and she. 
But love, 

(You poets are benighted in this 
age, 

The hour's too late for catching even 
moths, 

You've gnats instead,) love ! love's 
fool-paradise 

Is out of date, like Adam's. Set a 
swan 

To swim the Trenton rather than 
true love 

To float its fabulous plumage safely 
down 

The cataracts of this loud transition- 
time, 

Whose roar forever henceforth in my 
ears 

Must keep me deaf to music." 

There, I turned 

And kissed poor Marian, out of dis- 
content. 

The man had baffled, chafed me, till 
I flung 

For refuge to the woman, as some- 
times, 

Impatient of some crowded room's 
close smell, 

You throw a window open, and lean 
out 

To breathe a long breath in the dewy 
night, 






66 




AURORA LEIGH. 



And cool your angry forehead. She, 
at least, 

Was not built up as walls are, brick 
by brick, 

Each fancy squared, each feeling 
ranged by line, 

The very heat of burning youth ap- 
plied 

To indurate form and system ! excel- 
lent bricks, 

A well-built wall, which stops you 
on the road, 

And into which you cannot see an 
inch 

Although you beat your head against 
it pshaw I 

" Adieu," I said, " for this time, cous- 
ins both, 

And cousin Romney, pardon me the 
word, 

Be happy, oh ! in some esoteric 
sense 

Of course, I mean no harm in wish- 
ing well. 

Adieu, my Marian. May she come 
to me, 

Dear Romney, and be married from 
my house ? 

It is not part of your philosophy 

To keep your bird upon the black- 
thorn ? " 

"Ay, 

He answered; "but it is. I take my 
wife 

Directly from the people; and she 
comes, 

As Austria's daughter to imperial 
France, 

Betwixt her eagles, blinking not her 
race, 

From Margaret's Court at garret- 
height, to meet 

And wed me at St. James's, nor put 
off 

Her gown of serge for that. The 
things we do, 

We do: we'll wear no mask, as if we 
blushed." 

"Dear Romney, you're the poet," I 

replied, 
But felt my smile too mournful for 

my word, 
And turned and went. Ay, masks, I 

thought, beware 
Of tragic masks we tie before the 



Uplifted on the cothurn half t yard 



Above the natural stature ! we would 

play 
Heroic parts to ourselves, and end, 

perliaps, 

As impotently as Athenian wives 
Who shrieked in fits at the Eumeni- 

des. 

His foot pursued me down the stair. 

"At least 
You'll suffer me to walk with you 

beyond 
These hideous streets, these graves, 

where men alive, 
Packed close with earthworms, burr 

unconsciously 
About the plague that slew r them : let 

me go. 
The very women pelt their souls in 

mud 

At any woman who walks here alone. 
How came you here alone ? you are 

ignorant." 

We had a strange and melancholy 
walk: 

The night came drizzling downward 
in dark rain, 

And as we walked, the color of the 
time, 

The act, the presence, my hand upon 
his arm, 

His voice in my ear, and mine to my 
own sense, 

Appeared unnatural. We talked 
modern books 

And daily papers, Spanish marriage- 
schemes 

And English climate w y as't so cold 
last year ? 

And will the wind change by to-mor- 
row morn ? 

Can Guizot stand ? is London full ? 
is trade 

Competitive ? has Dickens turned his 
hinge 

A-pinch upon the fingers of the great ? 

And are potatoes to grow mythical 

Like moly ? will the apple die out too ? 

Which way is the wind to-night ? 
south-east ? due east ? 

We talked on fast, while every com- 
mon word 

Seemed tangled with the thunder at 
one end, 

And ready to puil down upon our 
heads 

A terror out of sight. And yet tc 
pause 






AURORA LEI Off. 



67 .,,. 



Were snrelier mortal : we tore greedi- 
ily up 

All silence, all the innocent breath- 
ing-points, 

As if, like pale conspirators in haste, 

We tore up papers where our signa- 
tures 

Imperilled us to an ugly shame or 
death. 

I cannot tell you why it was. 'Tis 
plain 

"We had not loved nor hated: where- 
fore dread 

To spill gunpowder on ground safe 
from fire ? 

Perhaps we had lived too closely to 
diverge 

So absolutely: leave two clocks, they 
say. 

Wound up to different hours, upon 
one shelf, 

And slowly, through the interior 
wheels of each, 

The blind mechanic motion sets itself 

A-tbrob to feel out for the mutual 
time. 

It was not so with us, indeed : while 
he 

Struck midnight, I kept striking six 
at dawn ; 

While he marked judgment, I, re- 
demption-day: 

And such exception to a general law 

Imperious upon inert matter even, 

Might make us, each to either, inse- 
cure, 

A beckoning mystery, or a troubling 
fear. 

I mind me, when we parted at the 
door, 

How strange his good-night sounded, 
like good-night 

Beside a deathbed, where the mor- 
row's sun 

Is sure to come too late for more good 
days. 

And all that night I thought . . . 
" Good-night," said he. 

And so a month passed. Let me set 

it down 
At once, I have been wrong, I have 

been wrong. 
We are wrong always when we think 

too much 
Of what we think or are: albeit our 

thoughts 



Be verily bitter as self-sacrifice, 
We're no less selfish. If we sleep on 

rocks 
Or roses, sleeping past the hour of 

noon. 

We're lazy. This I write against my- 
self. 

I had done a duty in the visit paid 
To Marian, and was ready otherwise 
To give the witness of my presence 

and name 
Whenever she should marry. Which, 

I thought, 
Sufficed. I even had cast into the 

scale 
An overweight of justice toward the 

match. 
The Lady Waldemar had missed her 

tool, 
And broken it in the lock as being too 

straight 
For a crooked purpose; while poor 

Marian Erie 
Missed nothing in my accents or my 

acts: 
I had not been ungenerous on the 

whole, 
Nor vet untender : so enough. I 

'felt 
Tired, overworked: this marriage 

somewhat jarred; 

Or, if it did not, all the bridal noise, 
The pricking of the map of life with 

pins, 
In schemes of ..." Here we'll go," 

and " There we'll stay," 
And " Everywhere we'll prosper in 

our love," 
Was scarce my business: let them 

order it: 

Who else should care ? I threw my- 
self aside, 
As one who had done her work, and 

shuts her eyes 
To rest the better. 

I, who should have known, 
Forereckoned mischief ! Where we 

disavow 
Being keeper, to our brother, we're his 

Cain. 

I might have held that poor child to 

my heart 
A little longer 1 'twould have hurt 

me much 
To have hastened by its beats the 

marriage-day, 
And kept her safe meantime from 

tampering hands, 






68 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Or, peradventure, traps. What drew 

me back 

From telling Romney plainly the de- 
signs 

Of Lady Waldemar, as spoken out 
To me . . . me ? had I any right, ay, 

right, 

With womanly compassion and re- 
serve 

To break the fall of woman's impu- 
dence? 
To stand by calmly, knowing what I 

knew. 
And hear him call her (food ? 

Distrust that word. 
"There is none good save God," said 

Jesus Christ 

If he once, in the first creation-week, 
Called creatures good, forever after- 
ward, 
The Devil only has done it, and his 

heirs, 
The knaves who win so, and the fools 

who lose : 
The word's grown dangerous. In the 

middle age 
I think they called malignant fays 

and imps 
Good people. A good neighbor, even 

in tliis, 
Is fatal sometimes, cuts your morning 

up 
To mince-meat of the very smallest 

talk, 
Then helps to sugar her bohea at 

night 
With your reputation. I have known 

good wives, 

As chaste, or nearly so, as Potiphar's; 
And good, good mothers, who would 

use a child 
To better an intrigue ; good friends, 

beside, 
(Very good) who hung succinctly 

round your neck 
And sucked your breath, as cats are 

fabled to do 
By sleeping infants. And we all have 

known 
Good critics who have stamped out 

poet's hope, 
Good statesmen who pulled ruin on 

the state, 
Good patriots who for a theory risked 

a cause, 
Good kings who disembowelled for a 

tax, 
Good popes who brought all good to 

jeopardy, 



Good Christians who sate still in easy- 
chairs 

And damned the general world for 
standing up. 

Now may the good God pardon all 
good men ! 

How bitterly I speak ! how certainly 
The innocent white milk in us is 

turned 
By much persistent shining of the 

sun ! 
Shake up the sweetest in us long 

enough 
With men, it drops to foolish curd, 

too sour 
To feed the most untender of Christ's 

lambs. 

I should have thought, a woman of 
the world 

Like her I'm meaning, centre to her- 
self 

Who has wheeled on her own pivot 
half a life 

In isolated self-love and self-will, 

As a windmill seen at distance radi- 
ating 

Its delicate white vans against the 
sky, 

So soft and soundless, simply beauti- 
ful, 

Seen nearer, what a roar and tear 
it makes, 

How it grinds and bruises ! if she 
loves at last, 

Her love's a re-adjustment of self- 
love, 

No more, a need felt of another's 
use 

To her one advantage, as the mill 
wants grain, 

The fire wants fuel, the very wolf 
wants prey, 

And none of these is more unscrupu- 
lous 

Than such a charming woman when 
she loves. 

She'll not be thwarted by an obstacle 

So trifling as ... her soul is ... 
much less yours ! 

Is God a consideration? she loves 
you, 

Not God : she will not flinch for him 
indeed : 

She did not for the Marchioness of 
Perth, 

When wanting tickets for the fancy 
ball. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



69 



She loves you, sir, with passion, to 
fallacy, 

She loves you like her diamonds . . . 
almost. 

Well, 

A month passed so, and then the no- 
tice came, 

On sncl i a day the marriage at the 
church. 

I was not backward. 

Half Saint Giles in frieze 

"Was bidden to meet Saint James in 
cloth-of-gold. 

And, after contract at the altar, pass 

To eat a marriage-feast on Harnp- 
strad Heath. 

Of course the people came in uncom- 
pelled, 

Lame, blind, and worse; sick, sor- 
rowful, and worse; 

The humors of the peccant social 
wound 

All pressed out, poured down upon 
Piinlico, 

Exasperating tlie unaccustomed air 

With a hideous interfusion. You'd 
suppose 

A finished generation, dead of plague, 

Swept outward from their graves into 
the sun. 

The moil of death upon them. What 
a sight! 

A holiday of miserable men 

Is sadder than a burial-day of kings. 

They clogged the streets, they oozed 
into the church 

In a dark slow stream, like blood. 
To see that sight, 

The noble ladies stood up in their 
pews, 

Some pale for fear, a few as red for 
hate, 

Some simply curious, some just inso- 
lent, 

And some in wondering scorn, " What 
next ? what next? " 

These crushed their delicate rose lips 
from the smile 

That misbecame them in a holy 
place. 

With broidered hems of perfumed 
handkerchiefs: 

Those passed the salts, with confi- 
dence of eyes, 

And simultaneous shiver of moire 
silk; 

While all the aisles, alive and black 
with heads, 



Crawled slowly toward the altar from 

the street, 
As bruised snakes crawl and hiss out 

of a hole 
With shuddering involution, swaying 

slow 
From right to left, and then from left 

to right, 
In pants and pauses. What an ugly 

crest 

Of faces rose upon you everywhere 
From that crammed mass ! you did 

not usually 
See faces like them in the open 

day: 
They hide in cellars, not to make you 

mad 
As Romney Leigh is. Faces ! O my 

God,' 

We call those faces ? men's and wo- 
men's . . . ay, 
And children's; babies, hanging like 

a rag 
Forgotten on their mother's neck 

poor mouths, 
Wiped clean of mother's milk by 

mortier's blow 
Before they are taught her cursing. 

Faces ? . . . phew, 
We'll call them vices, festering to 

despairs, 

Or sorrows, petrifying to vices: not 
A finger-touch of God left whole on 

them, 
All ruined, lost, the countenance worn 

out 
As the garment, the will dissolute as 

the act, 
The passions loose and draggling in 

the dirt, 
To trip a foot up at the first free 

step ! 
Those faces ? 'twas as if you had 

stirred up hell 

To heave its lowest dreg-fiends upper- 
most 
In fiery swirls of slime, such strangled 

fronts, 
Such obdurate jaws, were thrown up 

constantly 
To twit you with your race, corrupt 

your blood, 
And grind to devilish colors all your 

dreams 
Henceforth, though haply you should 

drop asleep 

By clink of silver waters, in a muse 
On Raffael's mild Madonna of the 

Bird. 





70 




AURORA LEIGH. 



I've waked and slept through many 

nights and days 
Since then ; but still that day will 

catch my breath 
Like a nightmare. There are fatal 

days, indeed, 
In which the fibrous years have taken 

root 
So deeply, that they quiver to their 

tops 
Whene'er you stir the dust of such a 

day. 

My cousin met me with his eyes and 
hand, 

And then, with just a word, . . . that 
" Marian Erie 

Was coming with her bridesmaids 
presently," 

Made haste to place me by the altar- 
stair 

Where he and other noble gentlemen 

And high-born ladies waited for the 
bride. 

We waited. It was early: there was 
time 

For greeting and the morning's com- 
pliment; 

And gradually a ripple of women's 
talk 

Arose and fell, and tossed about a 
spray 

Of English ss, soft as a silent hush, 

And, notwithstanding, quite as au- 
dible 

As louder phrases thrown out by the 
men. 

" Yes, really, if we need to wait in 
church 

We need to talk there." " She ? 'tis 
Lady Ayr, 

In blue, not purple! that's the dow- 
ager." 

"She looks as young" "She flirts 
as young, you mean. 

Why, if you had seen her upon Thurs- 
day night, 

You'd call Miss Norris modest." 
" You again I 

I waltzed with you three hours back. 
Up at six, 

Up still at ten ; scarce time to change 
one's shoes: 

I feel as white and sulky as a ghost, 

60 pray don't speak to me, Lord 
Belcher." "No, 

I'll look at you instead, and it's 
enough 



While you have that face." "In 
church, my lord! fie, fie! " 

"Adair, you staid for the Divis- 

ion ? " " Lost 
By one." " The devil it is! I'm sorry 

for't. 
And if I had not promised Mistress 

Grove "... 
" You might have kept your word to 

Liverpool." 

"Constituents must remember, 

after all, 
We're mortal." "We remind them 

of it." " Hark, 
The bride comes! here she comes in 

a stream of milk! " 

" There ? Dear, you are asleep 

still: don't you know 
The five Miss Granvilles? always 

dressed in white 
To show they're ready to be married." 

" Lower! 
The aunt is at your elbow." " Lady 

Maud, 
Did Lady Waldemar tell you she had 

seen 
This girl of Leigh's ? " " No wait! 

'twas Mistress Brookes 
Who told me Lady Waldemar told 

her 
No, ' twasn't Mistress Brookes." 

" She's pretty ? " " Who ? 
Mistress Brookes ? Lady Walde- 
mar ? " How hot! 
Pray is't the law to-day we're not to 

breathe ? 
You're treading on my shawl I 

thank you, sir." 
" They say the bride's a mere child, 

who can't read, 
But knows the things she shouldn't, 

with wide-awake 
Great eyes. I'd go through fire to 

look at her." 

"You do, I think." "And Lady 

Waldemar 
(You see her; sitting close to Romney 

Leigh. 
How beautiful she looks, a little 

flushed!) 

Has taken up the girl, and methodized 
Leigh's folly. Should I have come 

here, you suppose, 
Except she'd ask me?" "She'd 

have served him more 
By marrying him herself." 

" Ah there she comes, 
The bride, at last! " 

"Indeed.no. Past eleven. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



71 



She puts off her patched petticoat to- 
day 

And puts on May-fair manners, so 
begins 

By setting us to wait{" "Yes, yes, 
this Leigh 

Was always odd: it's in the blood, 
I think. 

His father's uncle's cousin's second 
son 

"Was, was . . . you understand me; 
and for him, 

He's stark has turned quite lunatic 
upon 

This modern question of the poor 
the poor. 

An excellent subject when you're 
moderate. 

You've seen Prince Albert's model 
lodging-house ? 

Does honor to his Royal Highness. 
Good ! 

But would he stop his carriage in 
Cheapside 

To shake a common fellow by the fist 

Whose name was . . . Shakspeare? 
no. We draw a line; 

And if we stand not by our order, we 

In England, we fall headlong. Here's 
a sight, 

A hideous sight, a most indecent 
sight ! 

My wife would come, sir, or I had 
kept her back. 

By heaven, sir, when poor Damiens' 
trunk and limbs 

Were torn by horses, women of the 
court 

Stood by and stared, exactly as to-day 

On this dismembering of society, 

With pretty, troubled faces." 

" Now, at last. 

She comes now." 

" Where ? who sees ? you push me, 
sir, 

Beyond the point of what is manner- 
ly- 

You're standing, madam, on my sec- 
ond flounce. 

I do beseech you "... 

" No it's not the bride. 

Half-past eleven. How late ! The 
bridegroom, mark, 

Gets anxious and goes out." 

" And, as I said, 

These Leighs ! our best blood running 
in the rut ! 

It's something awful. We had par- 
doned him 



A simple misalliance got up aside 

For a pair of sky-blue eyes: the House 
of Lords 

Has winked at such things, and we've 
all been young. 

But here's an intermarriage reasoned 
out, 

A contract (carried boldly to the light 

To challenge observation, pioneer 

Good acts by a great example) 'twixt 
the extremes 

Of martyrized society, on the left 

The well-born, on the right the mer- 
est mob, 

To treat as equals ! 'tis anarchical ; 

It means more than it says; 'tis dam- 
nable. 

Why, sir, we can't have even our cof- 
fee good, 

Unless we strain it." 

" Here, Miss Leigh ! " 
" Lord Howe, 

You're Romney's friend. What's all 
this waiting for? " 

"I cannot tell. The bride has lost 

her head 
(And way, perhaps) to prove her sym- 

pathy 
With the bridegroom." 

" What, you also disapprove ! " 

" Oh, J approve of nothing in the 

world," 
He answered, " not of you, still less 

of me, 
Nor even of Romney, though he's 

worth us both. 
We're all gone wrong. The tune in 

us is lost; 
And whistling down back alleys to 

the moon 
Will never catch it." 

Let me draw Lord Howe. 
A born aristocrat, bred radical. 
And educated socialist, who still 
Goes floating, on traditions of his 

kind. 
Across the theoretic flood from 

France, 
Though, like a drenched Noah on a 

rotten deck. 
Scarce safer for his place there. He, 

at least, 

Will never land on Ararat, he knows, 
To recommence the world on the new 

plan : 
Indeed, he thinks said world had bet. 

ter end. 






AURORA LEIGH. 



Be sympathizes rather with the fish 

Outside than with the drowned 
paired beasts within, 

Who cannot couple again or multi- 
ply. 

And that's the sort of Noah he is, 
Lord Howe. 

He never could be any thing com- 
plete, 

Except a loyal, upright gentleman, 

A liberal landlord, graceful diner-out, 

And entertainer more than hospita- 
ble, 

Whom authors dine with, and forget 
the hock. 

Whatever he believes, and it is much, 

But nowise certain, now here and 
now there, 

He still has sympathies beyond his 
creed 

Diverting him from action. In the 
House 

No party counts upon him, while for 
all 

His speeches have a noticeable 
weight. 

Men like his books too (he has writ- 
ten books), 

fhich, safe to lie beside a bishop's 
chair, 

At times outreach themselves with 

jets of fire 

.t which the foremost of the progress- 
ists 

May warm audacious hands in pass- 
ing by. 

Of stature over-tall, lounging for 
ease; 

Light hair, that seems to carry a wind 
in it; 

And eyes, that, when they look on 
you, will lean 

Their whole weight, half in indolence, 
and half 

In wishing you unmitigated good, 

Until you know not if to flinch from 
him, 

Or thank him. 'Tis Lord Howe. 

" We're all gone wrong," 

Said he; "and Romney, that dear 

friend of ours, 
9 nowise right. There's one true 

thing on earth, 

'hat's love: he takes it up, and 
dresses it, 

a.nd acts a play with it, as Hamlet 
did, 

To show what cruel uncles we have 
been, 



And how we should be uneasy in our 

minds, 
While he, Prince Hamlet, weds a 

pretty maid 
(Who keeps us too long waiting we'll 

confess) 

By symbol to instruct us formally 
To fill the ditches up 'twixt class and 

class, 

And live together in phalansteries. 
What then ? he's mad, our Hamlet I 

clap his play, 
And bind him." 

" Ah, Lord Howe ! this spectacle 
Pulls stronger at us than the Dane's. 

See there ! 
The crammed aisles heave and strain 

and steam with life. 
Dear Heaven, what life ! " 

" Why, yes, a poet sees; 
Which makes him different from a 

common man. 

I, too, see somewhat, though I can- 
not sing: 

I should have been a poet, only that 
My mother took fright at the ugly 

world, 
And bore me tongue-tied. If you'll 

grant me now 

That Romney gives us a fine actor- 
piece 

To make us merry on his marriage- 
morn , 
The fable's worse than Hamlet's I'll 

concede. 
The terrible people, old and poor and 

blind, 
Their eyes eat out with plague and 

poverty 
From seeing beautiful and cheerful 

sights, 

We'll liken to a brutalized King Lear, 
Led out, by no means to clear 

scores with wrongs, 
His wrongs are so far back, he has 

forgot 
(All's past like youth); but just to 

witness here 

A simple contract, he upon his side, 
And Regan with her sister Goneril, 
And all the dappled courtiers and 

court-fools, 
On their side. Not that any of these 

would say 
They're sorry, neither. What is done 

is done, 

And violence is now turned privilege, 
As cream tupns cheese, if buried long 

enough. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



73 



What could such lovely ladies have 

to do 

With the old man there in those ill- 
odorous rags, 
Except to keep the wind-side of him ? 

Lear 
Is flat and quiet, as a decent 

grave : 
He does not curse his daughters in 

the least. 
Be these his daughters? Lear is 

thinking of 
His porridge chiefly . . . is it getting 

cold 
At Hampstead ? will the ale be 

served in pots ? 
Poor Lear, poor daughters ! Bravo, 

Romney's play." 

A murmur and a movement drew 

around ; 

A naked whisper touched us. Some- 
thing wrong ! 
What's wrong? The black crowd, 

as an overstrained 
Cord, quivered in vibration, and I 

saw . . . 
Was that his face I saw? . . . his 

. . . Romney Leigh's . . . 
Which tossed a sudden horror like a 

sponge 
Into all eyes, while himself stood 

white upon 
The topmost altar-stair, and tried to 

speak, 
And failed, and lifted higher above 

his head 
A letter ... as a man who drowns 

and gasps. 

" My brothers, bear with me ! I am 

very weak. 
I meant but only good. Perhaps I 

meant 
Too proudly, and God snatched the 

circumstance, 
And changed it therefore. There's 

no marriage none. 
She leaves me, she departs, she 

disappears, 
I lose her. Yet I never forced her 

' ay,' 
To have her 'no' so cast into my 

teeth 

In manner of an accusation, thus. 
My friends you are dismissed. Go, 

eat and drink 
According to the programme and 

farewell ! " 




He ended. There was silence in the 

church. 

We heard a baby sucking in its sleep 
At the farthest end of the aisle. Then 

spoke a man, 
" Now, look to it, coves, that all the 

beef and drink 
Be not niched from us, like the other 

fun; 

For beer's spilt easier than a wo- 
man's lost ! 
This gentry is not honest with the 

poor: 
They bring us up, to trick us." " Go 

it, Jim ! " 
A woman screamed back. " I'm a 

tender soul ; 
I never banged a child at two years 

old, 
And drew blood from him, but J 

sobbed for it 
Next moment, and I've had a plague 

of seven. 
I'm tender: I've no stomach even for 

beef, 
Until I know about the girl that's 

lost, 

That's killed mayhap. I did mis- 
doubt at first, 
The fine lord meant no good by her 

or us. 

He, maybe, got the upper hand of her 
By holding up a wedding-ring, and 

then . . . 
A choking finger on her throat last 

night, 

And just a clever tale to keep us still, 
As she is, poor lost innocent. ' Dis- 



appear 



Who ever disappears, except a ghost ? 
And who believes a story of a ghost ? 
I ask you, would a girl go off, instead 
Of staying to be married ? A fine 

tale! 

A wicked man, I say, a wicked man ! 
For my part I would rather starve on 

gin 
Than make my dinner on his beef and 

beer." 
At which a cry rose up, "We'll have 

our rights. 
We'll have the girl, the girl ! Your 

ladies there 
Are married safely and smoothly 

every day, 
And she shall not drop through into a 

trap 
Because she's poor and of the people. 

Shame ! 





74 



AURORA LEIGH. 



We'll have no tricks played off by 

gentle folks. 
We'll see her righted." 

Through the rage and roar 
I heard the broken words which Rom- 

ney flung 
Among the turbulent masses, from 

the ground 
He held still with his masterful pale 

face. 
As huntsmen throw the ration to the 

pack, 
Who, falling on it headlong dog on 

dog 
In heaps of fury, rend it, swallow it 

up 

With yelling honnd-jaws, his in- 
dignant words, 

His suppliant words, his most pa- 
thetic words, 
Whereof I caught the meaning here 

and there 
By his gesture . . . torn in morsels, 

yelled across, 
And so devoured. From end to end, 

the church 
Rocked round us like the sea in 

storm, and then 

Broke up like the earth in earth- 
quake. Men cried out, 
" Police ! " and women stood, and 

shrieked for God, 
Or dropt and swooned; or, like a herd 

of deer, 
(For whom the black woods suddenly 

grow alive, 
Unleashing their wild shadows down 

the wind 
To hunt the creatures into corners, 

back 
And forward), madly fled, or blindly 

fell, 
Trod screeching underneath the feet 

of those 
Who fled and screeched. 

The last sight left to me 
Was Roraney's terrible calm face 

above 
The tumult. The last sound was, 

" Pull him down ! 
Strike kill him!" Stretching my 

unreasoning arms, 

As men in dreams, who vainly inter- 
pose 
'Twixt gods and their undoing, with 

aery 

I struggled to precipitate myself 
Headforemost to the rescue of my 

soul 



In that white face . . . till some one 

caught me back, 
And so the world went out, I felt 

no more. 

What followed was told after by Lord 
Howe, 

Who bore me senseless from the 
strangling crowd 

In church and street, and then re- 
turned alone 

To see the tumult quelled. The men 
of law 

Had fallen as thunder on a roaring 
fire, 

And made all silent, while the peo- 
ple's smoke 

Passed eddying slowly from the emp- 
tied aisles. 

Here's Marian's letter, which a rag- 
ged child 
Brought running, just as Romney at 

the porch 
Looked out expectant of the bride. 

He sent 
The letter to me by his friend, Lord 

Howe, 
Some two hours after, folded in a 

sheet 
On which his well-known hand had 

left a word. 
Here's Marian's letter. 

" Noble friend, dear saint, 
Be patient with me. Never think me 

vile, 
Who might to-morrow morning be 

your wife 
But that I loved you more than such 

a name. 
Farewell, my Romney. Let me write 

it once, 
My Romney. 

" 'Tis so pretty a coupled word, 
I have no heart to pluck it with a 

blot. 
We say, 'My God' sometimes, upon 

our knees, 
Who is not therefore vexed: so bear 

with it ... 
And me. I know I'm foolish, weak, 

and vain ; 

Yet most of all I'm angry with myself 
For losing your last footstep on the 

stair 

That last time of your coming, yes- 
terday ! 
The very first time I lost step of 

yours, 






AURORA LETGH. 




(Its sweetness comes the next to what 

you speak,) 
But yesterday sobs took me by the 

throat 
And cut me off from music. 

" Mister Leigh, 
You'll set me down as wrong in many 

things. 
You've praised me, sir, for truth 

and now you'll learn 
I had not courage to be rightly true. 
I once began to tell you how she 

came, 
The woman . . . and you stared upon 

the floor 
In one of your fixed thoughts . . . 

which put me out 
For that day. After, some one spoke 

of me 

So wisely, and of you so tenderly, 
Persuading me to silence for your 

sake . . . 
Well, well ! it seems this moment I 

was wrong 
In keeping back from telling you the 

truth: 
There might be truth betwixt us two, 

at least, 

If nothing else. And yet 'twas dan- 
gerous. 
Suppose a real angel came from 

heaven 
To live with men and women ! he'd 

go mad, 
If no considerate hand should tie a 

blind 
Across his piercing eyes. 'Tis thus 

with you: 
You see us too much in your heavenly 

light. 

I always thought so, angel, and in- 
deed 
There's danger that you beat yourself 

to death 

Against the edges of this alien world, 
In some divine and fluttering pity. 

" Yes, 
It would be dreadful for a friend of 

yours 
To see all England thrust you out of 

doors, 
And mock you from the windows. 

You might say, 
Or think (that's worse), ' There's some 

one in the house 
I miss and love still.' Dreadful ! 

" Very kind, 
I pray you, mark, was Lady Walde- 

mar. 



She came to see me nine times, rather 

ten 
So beautiful, she hurts one like the 

day 
Let suddenly on sick eyes. 

" Most kind of all, 
Your cousin ah, most like you! 

Ere you came 
She kissed me mouth to mouth: I 

felt her soul 
Dip through her serious lips in holy 

fire. 

God help me; but it made me arro- 
gant. 
I almost told her that you would not 

lose 
By taking me to wife; though ever 

since 
I've pondered much a certain thing 

she asked . . . 
'He loves you, Marian?' ... in a 

sort of mild 
Derisive sadness ... as a mother 

asks 
Her babe, ' You'll touch that star, 

you think ? ' 

" Farewell ! 
I know I never touched it. 

" This is worst: 
Babes grow, and lose the hope of 

things above: 
A silver threepence sets them leaping 

high 
But no more stars ! mark that. 

" I've writ all night, 
Yet told you nothing. God, if I could 

die, 

And let this letter break off innocent 
Just here ! But no for your 

sake . . . 

" Here's the last: 

I never could be happy as your wife, 
I never could be harmless as youf 

friend, 

I never will look more into your face 
Till God says, ' Look ! ' I charge you 

seek me not, 
Nor vex yourself with lamentable 

thoughts 
That peradventure I have come to 

grief; 
Be sure I'm well, I'm merry, I m at 

ease, 
But such a long way, long way, long 

way off, 
I think you'll find me sooner in my 

grave, 
And that's my choice, observe. For 

what remains, 




76 




AVRORA LEIGH. 



An over-generous friend will care for 

me, 

And keep me happy . . . happier . . . 

" There's a blot ! 

This ink runs thick . . . we light 

girls lightly weep . . . 
And keep me happier . . . was the 

thing to say, 
Than as your wife I could be. Oh, 

my star, 
My saint, my soul ! for surely you're 

my soul, 
Through whom God touched me ! I 

am not so lost 
I cannot thank you for the good you 

did, 
The tears you stopped, which fell 

down bitterly, 
Like these the times you made me 

weep for joy 
At hoping I should learn to write 

your notes, 
And save the tiring of your eyes at 

night ; 
And most for that sweet thrice you 

kissed my lips, 
Saying, ' Dear Marian.' 

" 'Twould be hard to read, 
This letter, for a reader half as 

learned ; 
But you'll be sure to master it in 

spite 
Of ups and downs. My hand shakes, 

I am blind ; 
I'm poor at writing at the best and 

yet 
I tried to make my gs the way you 

showed 
Farewell ! Christ love you ! Say, 

' Poor Marian ! ' now." 

Poor Marian! wanton Marian! 

was it so, 

Or so ? For days, her touching, fool- 
ish lines 

We mused on with conjectural fan- 
tasy, 

As if some riddle of a summer-cloud 
On which one tries unlike similitudes, 
Of now a spotted hydra-skin cast off, 
And now a screen of carven i'vory 
That shuts the heavens' conventual 

secrets up 
From mortals over-bold. We sought 

the sense. 
She loved him so perhaps (such words 

mean love,) 

That, worked on by some shrewd per- 
fidious tongue, 



(And then I thought of Lady Waiae 
mar) 

She left him not to hurt him; or per- 
haps 

She loved one in her class; or did not 
love, 

But mused upon her wild bad tramp- 
ing life, 

Until the free blood fluttered at her 
heart, 

And black bread eaten by the road- 
side hedge 

Seemed sweeter than being put to 
Romney's school 

Of philanthropical self-sacrifice 

Irrevocably. Girls are girls, be- 
side, 

Thought I, and like a wedding by one 
rule. 

You seldom catch these birds except 
with chaff. 

They feel it almost an immoral thing 

To go out and be married in broad 
day, 

Unless some winning special flattery 
should 

Excuse them to themselves for't. . . . 
"No one parts 

Her hair with such a silver line as 
you, 

One moonbeam from the forehead to 
the crown! " 

Or else ..." You bite your lip in 
such a way 

It spoils me for the smiling of the 
rest; " 

And so on. Then a worthless gaud or 
two 

To keep for love, a ribbon for the 
neck, 

Or some glass pin, they have their 
weight with girls. 

And Romney sought her many days 

and weeks. 

He sifted all the refuse of the town, 
Explored the trains, inquired among 

the ships, 
And felt the country through from 

end to end ; 
No Marian! Though I hinted what 

I knew, 
A friend of his had reasons of her 

own 
For throwing back the match, he 

would not hear: 

The lady had been ailing ever since, 
The shock had harmed her. Some- 
thing in his tone 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Repressed me ; something in me 
shamed my doubt 

To a sigh repressed too. He went on 
to say, 

That, putting questions where his 
Marian lodged, 

He found she had received for vis- 
itors 

Besides himself and Lady Waldemar, 

And, that once, me a dubious wo- 
man dressed 

Beyond us both: the rings upon her 
hands 

Had dazed the children when she 
threw them pence; 

" She wore her bonnet as the queen 
might hers, 

To show the crown," they said, "a 
scarlet crown 

Of roses that had never been in bud." 

"When Romney told me that, for now 

und then 
He came to tell me how the search 

advanced, 
His voice dropped. I bent forward for 

the rest. 

The woman had been with her, it ap- 
peared, 
At first from week to week, then day 

by day 
And last, 'twas sure . . . 

I looked upon the ground 
To escape the anguish of his eyes, and 

asked, 

As low as when you speak to mourn- 
ers new 
Of those they cannot bear yet to call 

dead, 
" If Marian had as much as named to 

him 
A certain Rose, an early friend of 

hers, 
A ruined creature." 

" Never! " Starting up, 
He strode from side to side about the 

room, 
Most like some prisoned lion sprung 

awake, 
Who has felt the desert sting him 

through his dreams. 
" What was I to her, that she should 

tell me aught ? 
A friend! was / a friend? I see all 

clear. 
Such devils would pull angels out of 

heaven, 
Provided they could reach them: 'tis 

their pride, 



And that's the odds 'twixt soul and 

body plague! 
The veriest slave who drops in Cairo's 

street 
Cries, " Stand off from me! " to the 

passengers ; 
While these blotched souls are eager 

to infect, 
And blow their bad hreath in a sister's 

face, 
As if they got some ease by it." i 

I broke through. 

" Some natures catch no plagues. I've 
read of babes 

Found whole, and sleeping by the 
spotted breast 

Of one a -full day dead. I hold it 
true, 

As I'm a woman and know woman- 
hood, 

That Marian Erie, however lured from 
place, 

Deceived in way, keeps pure in aim 
and heart 

As snow that's drifted from the gar- 
den-bank 

To the open road." 

'Twas hard to hear him laugh. 

" The figure's happy. Well, a dozen 
carts 

And trampers will secure you pres- 
ently 

A fine white sno\v-drift. Leave it 
there, your snow! 

'Twill pass for soot ere sunset. Pure 
in aim ? 

She's pure in aim, I grant you, like 
myself, 

Who thought to take the world upon 
my back 

To carry it o'er a chasm of social 
ill, 

And end by letting slip, through im- 
potence, 

A single soul, a child's weight in a 
soul, 

Straight down the pit of hell! Yes, I 
and she 

Have reason to be proud of our pure 
aims." 

Then softly, as the last repenting 
drops 

Of a thunder-shower, he added, " The 
poor child, 

Poor Marian! 'twas a luckless day for 
her, 

When first she chanced on niy philan- 
thropy." 







AURORA LEIGH. 



He drew a chair beside me, and sate 

down ; 

And 1 instinctively as women use 
Before a sweet friend's grief, when 

in his ear 
They hum the tune of comfort, though 

themselves 
Most ignorant of the special words of 

such, 

And quiet so and fortify his brain. 
And give it time and strength for feel- 
ing out 
To reach the availing sense beyond 

that sound 
"Went murmuring to him what, if 

written here, 
"Would seem not much, yet fetched 

him better help 
Than peradventure if it had been 

more. 

I've known the pregnan' thinkers of 

our time, 
And stood by breathless, hanging on 

their lips, 
When some chromatic sequence of 

fine thought 

In learned modulation phrased itself 
To an unconjectured harmony of 

truth ; 
And yet I've been more moved, more 

raised, I say, 
By a simple word . . . a broken, easy 

thing 
A three-years infant might at need 

repeat, 

A look, a sigh, a touch upon the palm, 
Which meant less than " I love you," 

than by all 

The full-voiced rhetoric of those mas- 
ter-mouths. 

" Ah, dear Aurora," he began at last, 
His pale lips fumbling for a sort of 

smile, 
" Your printer's devils have not spoilt 

your heart: 
That's well. And who knows, but 

long years ago 
When you and I talked, you were 

somewhat right 
In being so peevish with me ? You, 

at least, 
Have ruined no one through your 

dreams. Instead, 
You've helped the facile youth to live 

youth's day 

With innocent distraction, still, per- 
haps 



Suggestive 01 things better than your 

rhymes. 
The little shepherd-maiden, eight 

years old, 
I've seen upon the mountains of Vau- 

elnse, 
Asleep i' the sun, her head upon her 

knees, 

The flocks all scattered, is more lau- 
dable 
Than any sheep-dog trained imper. 

fectly, 
Who bites the kids through too much 

zeal." 

" I look 
As if I had slept, then ?" 

He was touched at once 
By something in my face. Indeed, 

'twas sure 

That he and I, despite a year or two 
Of younger life on my side, and on 

his 
The heaping of the years' work on 

the days, 
The three-hour speeches from the 

member's seat, 
The hot committees in and out of 

doors, 

The pamphlets, " Arguments," " Col- 
lective Views," 
Tossed out as s.traw before sick 

houses, just 
To show one's sick, and so be trod to 

dirt, 
And no more use, through this 

world's underground 
The burrowing, groping effort, 

whence the arm 
And heart come torn, 'twas sure 

tliat he and I 

Were, after all, unequally fatigued; 
That he, in his developed manhood, 

stood 
A little sunburnt by the glare cf 

life, 
While I ... it seemed no sun had 

shone on me, 
So many seasons I had missed my 

springs. 
My cheeks had pined and perished 

from their orbs, 
And all the youth-blood in them had 

grown white 

As dew on autumn cyclamens: alone 
My eyes and forehead answered for 

my face. 

He said, " Aurora, you are changed 
are ill!" 





w 

1C 



AURORA LEIGH. 



" Not so, my cousin, only not 

asleep," 
I answered, smiling gently. " Let it 

You scarcely found the poet of Vau- 
cluse 

As drowsy as the shepherds. What 
is art 

Eut life upon the larger scale, the 
higher, 

When, graduating up in a spiral line 

Of still expanding and ascending 
gyres, 

It pushes toward the intense signifi- 
cance 

Of all tilings, hungry for the Infinite ? 

Art's life; and where we live, we suf- 
fer and toil." 

He seemed to sift me with his painful 
eyes. 

"You take it gravely, cousin: you 
refuse 

Y"our dreamland's right of common, 
and green rest. 

You break the mythic turf where 
danced the nymphs, 

Witli crooked ploughs of actual life, 
let in 

The axes to the legendary woods, 

To pay the poll-tax. You are fallen 
indeed 

On evil days, you poets, if your- 
selves 

Can praise that art of yours no other- 
wise ; 

And if you cannot , . . better take 
a trade 

And be of use: 'twere cheaper for 
your youth." 

" Of use ! " I softly echoed, " there's 

the point 

We sweep about forever in argument, 
Like swallows which the exasperate, 

dying year 
Sets spinning in black circles, round 

and round, 
Preparing for far nights o'er unknown 

seas. 
And we where tend we ? " 

" Where ? " he said, and sighed. 
"The whole creation, from the hour 

we are born, 
Perplexes us with questions. Not a 

stone 

But cries behind us, every weary step, 
'Where, where?' i leave stones to 

reply to stones. 




Enough for me and for my fleshly 

heart 
To hearken the invocations of my 

kind, 

When men catch hold npon my shud- 
dering nerves, 
And shriek, ' What help? what hope ? 

what bread i' the house ? 
What fire i' the frost ? ' There must 

be some response, 
Though mine fail utterly. This social 

Sphinx 
Who sits between the sepulchres and 

stews, 
Makes mock and mow against the 

crystal heavens, 
And bullies God, exacts a word at 

least 
From each man standing on the side 

of God, 
However paying a sphinx-price for 

it. 

We pay it also, if we hold our peace, 
In pangs and pity. Let me speak 

and die. 

Alas ! you'll say I speak and kill in- 
stead." 

I pressed in there. " The best men, 
doing their best, 

Know peradventure least of what 
they do; 

Men usef ullest i' the world are simply 
used; 

The nail that holds the wood must 
pierce it first ; 

And he alone who wields the ham- 
mer sees 

The work advanced by the earliest 
blow. Take heart." 

" Ah, if I could have taken yours ! " 

he said 
" But that's past now." Then rising, 

" I will take 

At least your kindness and encour- 
agement. 
I thank you. Dear, be happy. Sing 

your songs, 
If that's your way; but sometimes 

slumber too, 
Nor tire too much with following, out 

of breath, 
The rhymes upon your mountains of 

Delight. 
Reflect, if art be in truth the higher 

life, 

You need the lower life to stand upon 
In order to reach up unto that higher; 







80 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And none can stand a-tiptoe in the 

place 
He cannot stand in with two stable 

feet. 
Remember then ! for art's sake hold 

your life. 

"We parted so. I held him in respect. 
I comprehended what he was in heart 
And sacrificial greatness. Ay, but 

he 
Supposed me a thing too small to 

deign to know. 

He blew me, plainly, from the cruci- 
ble 

As some intruding, interrupting fly, 
Not worth the pains of his analysis 
Absorbed on nobler subjects. Hurt 

a fly ! 
He would not for the world: he's 

pitiful 
To flies even. " Sing," says he, " and 

tease me still, 
If that's your way, poor insect." 

That's your way ! 



FIFTH BOOK. 

AURORA LEIGH, be humble. Shall I 
hope 

To speak my poems in mysterious 
tune 

With man and nature ? with the lava- 
lymph 

That trickles from successive galaxies 

Still drop by drop adown the finger 
of God 

In still new worlds ? with summer- 
days in this 

That scarce dare breathe, they are so 
beautiful ? 

With spring's delicious trouble in the 
ground, 

Tormented by the quickened blood of 
roots, 

And softly pricked by golden crocus- 
sheaves 

In token of the harvest-time of flow- 
ers? 

'With winters and with autumns, and 
beyond 

"With the human heart's large sea- 
sons, when it hopes 

And fears, joys, grieves, and loves ? 
with all that strain 



Of sexual passion, which devours the 

flesh 

In a sacrament of souls ? with moth- 
er's breasts, 

Which, round the new-made crea- 
tures hanging there, 
Throb luminous and harmonious like 

pure spheres ? 

With multitudinous life, and, finally, 
With the great escapings of ecstatic 

souls, 
Who, in a rush of too long prisoned 

flame, 
Their radiant faces upward, burn 

away 
This dark of the body, issuing on a 

world 
Beyond our mortal ? Can I speak my 

verse 
So plainly in tune to these things and 

the rest, 
That men shall feel it catch them on 

the quick, 
As having the same warrant over 

them 
To hold and move them, if they will 

or no, 

Alike imperious as the primal rhythm 
Of that theurgic nature ? I must fail, 
Who fail at the beginning to hold and 

move 
One man, and he my cousin, and he 

my friend, 

And he born tender, made intelligent, 
Inclined to ponder the precipitous 

sides 
Of difficult questions, yet obtuse to 

me, 
Of me, incurious ! likes me ver^ 

well, 

And wishes me a paradise of good, 
Good looks, good means, and good 

digestion, ay, 

But otherwise evades me, puts me off 
With kindness, with a tolerant gen- 
tleness, 
Too light a book for a grave man's 

reading ! Go, 
Aurora Leigh: be humble. 

There it is, 

We women are too apt to look to one, 
Which proves a certain impotence in 

art. 

We strain our natures at doing some- 
thing great, 
Far less because it's something great 

to do 
Than haply that we, so, commend 

ourselves 







AURORA LEIGH. 



81 



As being not small, and more appre- 
ciable 

To some one friend. We must have 
mediators 

Betwixt our highest conscience and 
the judge ; 

Some sweet saint's blood must quick- 
en in our palms, 

Or all the life in heaven seems slow 
and cold; 

Good only being perceived as the end 
of good, 

And God alone pleased, that's too 
jxjor, we think, 

And not enough for us by any means. 

Ay, Roinney, I remember, told me 
once 

\Ve miss the abstract when we com- 
prehend; 

"We miss it most when we aspire, 
and fail. 

Yet, so, I will not. This vile wo- 
man's way 

Of trailing garments shall not trip 
me up: 

I'll have no traffic with the personal 
thought 

In art's pure temple. Must I work 
in vain, 

Without the approbation of a man ? 

It cannot be; it shall not. Fame it- 
self, 

That approbation of the general 
race, 

Presents a poor end, (though the ar- 
row speed 

Shot straight with vigorous finger to 
the white,) 

And the highest fame was never 
reached except 

~By what was aimed above it. Art for 
art, 

And good for God himself, the essen- 
tial Good ! 

We'll keep our aims sublime, our 
eyes erect, 

Although our woman-hands should 
shake and fail; 

And if we fail . . . But must we ? 
Shall I fail ? 

The Greeks said grandly in their 
tragic phrase, 

" Let no one be called happy till his 
death." 

To which I add, Let no one till his 
death 

Be called unhappy. Measure not the 
work 



Until the day's out and the labor 
done; 

Then bring your gauges. If the day's 
work's scant, 

Why, call it scant; affect no compro- 
mise; 

And, in that we've nobly striven at 
least, 

Deal with us nobly, women though 
we be, 

And honor us with truth, if not with 
praise. 

My ballads prospered; but the bal- 
lad's race 

Is rapid for a poet who bears weights 

Of thought and golden image. He 
can stand 

Like Atlas, in the sonnet, and sup- 
port 

His own heavers pregnant with dy- 
nastic stars; 

But then he must stand still, nor take 
a step. 

In that -descriptive poem called " The 
Hills," 

The prospects were too far and indis- 
tinct. 

'Tis true my critics said, " A fine 
view, that ! " 

The public scarcely cared to climb my 
book 

For even the finest, and the public's 
right: 

A tree's mere firewood, unless hu- 
manized ; 

Which well the Greeks knew when 
they stirred its bark 

With close-pressed bosoms of subsid- 
ing nymphs, 

And made the forest-rivers garru- 
lous 

With babble of gods. For us, we are 
called to mark 

A still more intimate humanity 

In this inferior nature, or our- 
selves 

Must fall like dead leaves trodden 
underfoot 

By veritable artists. Earth (shut 
up 

By Adam, like a fakir in a box 

Left too long buried) remained stiff 
and dry, 

A mere dumb corpse, till Christ the 
Lord came down, 

Unlocked the doors, forced open the 
blank eyes, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



And used his kingly chrism to 

straighten out 
The leathery tongue turned back into 

the throat; 
Since when, she lives, remembers, 

palpitates 
In every limb, aspires in every 

breath, 

Embraces infinite relations. Now 
We want no half-gods, Panomphsean 

Joves, 
Fauns, Naiads, Tritons, Oreads, and 

the rest, 
To take possession of a senseless 

world 
To unnatural vampire-uses. See the 

earth, 
The body of our body, the green 

earth, 

indubitably human like this flesh 
And these articulated veins through 

which 
Our heart drives blood ! There's not 

a flower of spring 
That dies ere June, but vaunts itself 

allied 

By issue and symbol, by significance 
And correspondence, to that spirit- 
world 
Outside the limits of our space and 

time, 
Whereto we are bound. Let poets 

give it voice 
With human meanings, else they 

miss the thought, 
And henceforth step down lower, 

stand confessed 

Instructed poorly for interpreters, 
Thrown out by an easy cowslip in the 

text. 

Even so my pastoral failed: it was a 
book 

Of surface-pictures, pretty, cold, and 
false 

With literal transcript, the worse 
done, I think, 

For being not ill done: let me set my 
mark 

Against such doings, and do other- 
wise. 

This strikes me. If the public whom 
we know 

Could catch me at such admissions, I 
should pass 

For being right modest. Yet how 
proud we are 

In daring to look down upon our- 
selves ! 



The critics say that epics have died 
out 

With Agamemnon and the goat, 
nursed gods: 

I'll not believe it. I could never deem, 

As Payne Knight did, (the mythic 
mountaineer 

Who travelled higher than he was 
born to live, 

And showed sometimes the goitre in 
his throat 

Discoursing of an image seen through 
fog,) 

That Homer's heroes measured 
twelve feet high. 

They were but men: his Helen's 
hair turned gray 

Like any plain Miss Smith's who 
wears a front; 

And Hector's infant whimpered at a 
plume 

As yours last Friday at a turkey- 
cock. 

All actual heroes are essential men, 

And all men possible heroes: every 
age, 

Heroic in proportions, double-faced, 

Looks backward and before, expects 
a morn 

And claims an epos. 

Ay; but every age 

Appears to souls who live in't (ask 
Carlyle) 

Most unheroic. Ours, for instance, 
ours 

The thinkers scout it, and the poets 
abound 

Who scorn to touch it with a finger- 
tip 

A pewter age, mixed metal, silver- 
washed 

An age of scum, spooned off the richer 
past, 

An age of patches for old gaberdines, 

An age of mere transition, meaning 
nought 

Except that what succeeds must 
shame it quite 

If God please. That's wrong think- 
ing, to my mind, 

And wrong thoughts make poor po- 
ems. 

Every age, 

Through being beheld too close, is ill 
discerned 

By those who have not lived past it. 
We'll suppose 

Mouiiu Athos carved, as Alexander 
schemed, 






AURORA LEI OH. 



83 



To some colosa< statue of a man. 

The peasants, gathering brushwood 
in his ear, 

Had guessed as little as the browsing 
goats 

Of form or feature of humanity 

Up there, in fact, had travelled five 
miles off 

Or ere the giant image broke on them, 

Full human profile, nose and chin 
distinct, 

Mouth muttering rhythms of silence 
up the sky, 

And fed at evening with the blood of 
sons; 

Grand torso, hand that flung per- 
petually 

The largesse of a silver river down 

To all the country pastures. "Tis 
even thus 

With times we live in, evermore 
too great 

To be apprehended near. 

But poets should 

Exert a double vision; should have 
eyes 

To see near things as comprehen- 
sively 

As if afar they took their point of 
sight, 

And distant things as intimately deep 

As if they touched them. Let us 
strive for this. 

I do distrust the poet who discerns 

No character or glory in his times, 

And trundles back his soul five hun- 
dred years, 

Past moat and drawbridge, into a 
castle-court, 

To sing oh, not of lizard or of toad 

Alive i' the ditch there, 'twere ex- 
cusable, 

But of some black chief, half knight, 
half sheep-lifter, 

Some beauteous dame, half chattel 
and half queen, 

As dead as must be, for the greater 
part, 

The poems made on their chivalric 
bones ; 

And that's 110 wonder : death inherits 
death. 

Nay, if there's room for poets in this 

world 

A little overgrown, (I think there is) 
Their sole work is to represent the age, 
Their age, not Charlemagne's, this 

live, throbbing age, 



That brawls, cheats, maddens, calcu- 
lates, aspires, 

And spends more passion, more hero- 
ic heat, 

Betwixt the mirrors of its drawing- 
rooms, 

Than Roland with his knights at 
Roncesvalles. 

To flinch from modern varnish, coat, 
or flounce, 

Cry out for togas and the picturesque, 

Is fatal, foolish too. King Arthur's 
self 

Was commonplace to Lady Guinevere ; 

And Camelot to minstrels seemed as 
flat 

As Fleet Street to our poets. 

Never flinch, 

But still, unscrupulously epic, catch 

Upon the burning lava of a song 

The full-veined, heaving, double- 
breasted age, 

That, when the next shall come, the 
men of that 

May touch the impress with reverent 
hand, and say, 

" Behold, behold, the paps we all 
have sucked ! 

This bosom seems to beat still, or at 
least 

It sets ours beating: this is living art, 

Which thus presents and thus records 
true life." 

What form is best for poems? Let 

me think 
Of forms less, and the external. 

Trust the spirit, 
As sovran nature does, to make the 

form; 
For otherwise we only imprison 

spirit 

And not embody. Inward evermore 
To outward, so in life, and so in art, 
Which still is life. 

Five acts to make a play. 
And why not fifteen ? why not ten ? 

or seven ? 
What matter for the number of the 

leaves, 
Supposing the tree lives and grows ? 

exact 

The literal unities of time and place, 
When 'tis the essence of passion to 

ignore 
Both time and place ? Absurd. Keep 

up the fire, 
And leave the generous flames to 

shape themselves. 









^f 1 "* -5 ft j \ 






84 AURORA LEIGH. 






'Tis true the stage requires obsequi- 


Makes lower appeals; submits more 






ousness 


menially; 






To this or that convention; "exit" 


Adopts the standard of the pub):** 






J (, here 


taste J I 






i And "enter" there; the points for 


To chalk its height on; wears a dog- 






clapping fixed, 


chain round 






Like Jacob's white-peeled rods before 


Its regal neck, and learns to carry 






the rams ; 


and fetch 






And all the close-curled imagery 


The fashions of the day to please the 






clipped 


day; 






In manner of their fleece at shearing- 


Fawns close on pit and boxes, who 






time. 


clap hands, 






Forget to prick the galleries to the 


Commending chiefly its docility 






heart 


And humor in stage-tricks; or else, 






Precisely at the fourth act, culminate 


indeed, 






Our five pyramidal acts with one act 


Gets hissed at, howled at, stamped at 






more, 


like a dog, 






We're lost so: Shakspeare's ghost 


Or worse, we'll say. For dogs, un- 






could scarcely plead 


justly kicked, 






Against our just damnation. Stand 


Yell, bite at need; but if your drama- 






aside ; 


tist 






We'll muse, for comfort, that last 


(Being wronged by some five hundred 






century, 


nobodies, 






On this same tragic stage on which 


Because their grosser brains most 






we have failed, 


naturally 






A wigless Hamlet would have failed 


Misjudge the fineness of his subtle 






the same. 


wit) 








Shows teeth an almond's breath, pro- 






And whosoever writes good poetry 


tests the length 






Looks just to art. He does not write 


Of a modest phrase, " My gentle 






for you 


countrymen, 






Or me, for London or for Edinburgh; 


There's something in it haply of your 






He will not suffer the best critic 


fault," 






known 


Why then, besides five hundred no- 






To step into his sunshine of free 


bodies, 






thought 


He'll have five thousand and five 






And self-absorbed conception, and 


thousand more 






exact 


Against him, the whole public, all 






An inch-long swerving of the holy 


the hoofs 






lines. 


Of King Saul's father's asses, in full 






If virtue done for popularity 


drove, 






Defiles like vice, can art, for praise or 


And obviously deserve it. He ap- 






hire, 


pealed 






Still keep its splendor, and remain 


To these, and why say more if they 






pure art ? 


condemn, 






Eschew such serfdom. What the 


Than if they praise him ? Weep, my 






poet writes, 
He writes. Mankind accepts it if it 


^Eschylus, 
But low and far, upon Sicilian shores ! 






suils, 


For since 'twas Athens (so I read the 






And that's success: if not, the poem's 


myth) 






passed 


Who gave commission to that fatal 






From hand to hand, and yet from 


weight 






hand to hand, 


The tortoise, cold and hard, to drop 






^ r Until the unborn snatch it, crying out 


on thee ^ 






In pity on their father's being so dull; 


And crush thee, better cover thy bald 






And that's success too. 


head. 






I will write no plays, 


She'll hear the softest hum of Hyblan 






Because the drama, less sublime in 


bee 






this, 


Before thy loudest protestation. 






J (t J I 






TvfV * 'rP 7 


1 




.Je~\ j 1 si.. 








J I 



AURORA LEIGH. 




Then 

The risk's still worse upon the mod- 
ern stage : 

I could not, for so little, accept suc- 
cess; 

Nor would I risk so much, in ease 
and calm, 

For rnanif ester gains: let those who 
prize 

Pursue them: I stand off. And yet 
forbid 

That any irreverent fancy or conceit 

Should litter in the drama's throne- 
room where 

The rulers of our art, in whose full 
veins 

Dynastic glories mingle, sit in 
strength 

And do their kingly work, conceive, 
command, 

And from the imagination's crucial 
heat 

Catch up their men and women all 
aflame 

For action, all alive, and forced to 
prove 

Their life by living out heart, brain, 
and nerve, 

Until mankind makes witness, "These 
be men 

As we are," and vouchsafes the greet- 
ing due 

To Imogen and Juliet, sweetest kin 

On art's side. 

'Tis that, honoring to its worth 

The drama, I would fear to keep it 
down 

To the level of the footlights. Dies 
no more 

The sacrificial goat, for Bacchus slain, 

His filmed eyes fluttered by the 
whirling white 

Of choral vestures, troubled in his 
blood, 

While tragic voices that clanged keen 
as swords, 

Leapt high together with the altar- 
flame, 

And made the blue air wink. The 
waxen mask, 

Which set the grand, still front of 
Themis' son 

Upon the puckered visage of a player; 

The buskin, which he rose upon and 
moved, 

As some tall ship, first conscious of 
the wind, 

Sweeps slowly past the piers; the 
mouthpiece, where 



The mere man's voice, with all its 

breaths and breaks, 
"Went sheathed in brass, and clashed 

on even heights 
Its phrased thunders, these things 

are no more, 
Which once were. And concluding, 

which is clear, 
The growing drama has outgrown 

such toys 

Of simulated stature, face, and speech, 
It also peradventure may outgrow 
The simulation of the painted scene, 
Boards, actors, prompters, gaslight, 

and costume, 
And take for a worthier stage the 

soul itself, 
Its shifting fancies and celestial 

lights, 

With all its grand orchestral silences 
To keep the pauses of its rhythmic 

sounds. 

Alas ! I still see something to be 

done. 
And what I do falls short of what I 

see, 
Though I waste myself on doing. 

Long green days. 
Worn bare of grass and sunshine; 

long calm nights, 
From which the silken sleeps were 

fretted out, 

Be witness for me, with no amateur's 
Irreverent haste and busy idleness 
I set myself to art ! What then ? 

what's done ? 
What's done, at last ? 

Behold, at last, a book. 
If life-blood's necessary, which it is, 
(By that blue vein a-throb on Ma- 
homet's brow, 
Each prophet-poet's book must show 

man's blood !) 
If life-blood's fertilizing, I wrung 

mine 

On every leaf of this, unless the drops 
Slid heavily on one side, and left it 

dry. 
That chances often. Many a fervid 

man 
Writes books as cold and flat as 

graveyard stones 
From which the lichen's scraped; and 

if St. Preux 
Had written his own letters, as he 

might, 
We had never wept to think of the 

little mole 






86 



AURORA LEIGH. 



'Neath Julie's drooping eyelid. Pas- 
sion is 
But something suffered, after all. 

While art 

Sets action on the top of suffering, 
The artist's part is both to be and 

do, 
Transfixing with a special central 

power 
The flat experience of the common 

man, 

And turning outward, with a sud- 
den wrench, 

Half agony, half ecstasy, the thing 
He feels the inmost, never felt the 

less 
Because he sings it. Does a torch 

less burn 
For burning next reflectors of blue 

steel, 
That he should be the colder for his 

place 

'Twixt two incessant fires, his per- 
sonal life's, 
And that intense refraction which 

burns back 
Perpetually against him from the 

round 
Of crystal conscience he was born 

into, 
If artist-born? Oh, sorrowful, great 

gift 

Conferred on poets, of a twofold life, 
\Vhen one life has been found enough 

for pain ! 
We, staggering 'neath our burden as 

mere men, 
Being called to stand up straight as 

demigods, 
Support the intolerable strain and 

stress 
Of the universal, and send clearly 

up 
With voices broken by the human 

sob, 
Our poems to find rhymes among the 

stars ! 
But soft, a "poet" is a word soon 

said, 
A book's a thing soon written. Nay, 

indeed, 

The more the poet shall be questiona- 
ble, 
The more unquestionably comes his 

book. 
And this of mine well, granting to 

myself 
Some passion in it, furrowing up the 



Mere passion will not prove a voiume 

worth 
Its gall and rags even. Bubbles 

round a keel 
Mean nought, excepting that the ves- 
sel moves. 
There's more than passion goes to 

make a man 
Or book, which is a man too. 

I am sad. 
I wonder if Pygmalion had these 

doubts, 
And, feeling the hard marble first 

relent, 
Grow supple to the straining of his 

arms, 
And tingle through its cold to his 

burning lip, 

Supposed his senses mocked, sup- 
posed the toil 
Of stretching past the known and 

seen to reach 

The archetypal beauty out of sight, 
Had made his heart beat fast enough 

for two, 
And with his own life dazed and 

blinded him ! 
Not so. Pygmalion loved ; and whoso 

loves 
Believes the impossible. 

But I am sad : 
I cannot thoroughly love a work 

of mine, 
Since none seems worthy of my 

thought and hope 
More highly mated. He has shot 

them down, 
My Phoebus Apollo, soul within my 

soul, 
Who judges by the attempted what's 

attained, 
And with the silver arrow from his 

height 
Has struck down all my works before 

my face, 
While I said nothing. Is there aught 

to say ? 
I called the artist but a greatened 

man. 
He may be childless also, like a man. 

I labored on alone. The wind and 

dust 
And sun of the world beat blistering 

in my face; 
And hope, now for me, now against 

me, dragged 
My spirits onward, as some fallen 

balloon, 





AURORA LEIGH. 



87 



Which, whether caught by blossom- 
ing tree or bare, 
Is torn alike. I sometimes touched 

my aim, 
Or seemed, and generous souls cried 

out, " Be strong, 
Take courage ; now you're on our 

level now ! 
The next step saves you." I was 

Hushed with praise ; 
But, pausing just a moment to draw 

breath, 
I could not choose but murmur to 

myself, 
" Is this all ? all that's done ? and all 

that's gained ? 

If this, then, be success, 'tis dismaller 
Than any failure." 

O my God, my God, 
O supreme Artist, who, as sole return 
For all the cosmic wonder of thy 

work, 
Demandest of us just a word ... a 

name, 
"My Father! " thou hast knowledge, 

only thou, 
How dreary 'tis for women to sit 

still 

On winter nights, by solitary fires, 
And hear the nations praising them 

far off, 
Too far ! ay, praising our quick sense 

of love, 

Our very heart of passionate woman- 
hood, 
"Which could not beat so in the verse, 

without 
Being present also in the unkissed 

lips, 
And eyes undried, because there's 

none to ask 
The reason they grew moist. 

To sit alone, 
And think for comfort, how that very 

night 

Affianced lovers, leaning face to face, 
With sweet half-listenings for each 

other's breath, 

Are reading haply from a page of ours, 
To pause with a thrill (as if their 

cheeks had touched) 
When such a stanza, level to their 

mood. 
Seems floating their own thought out 

"So I feel 
For thee," "And I, for thee : this 

poet knows 
What everlasting love is!" how 

that night 



Some father, issuing from the niisty 

roads 
Upon the luminous round of lamp 

and hearth, 
And happy children, havintr caught 

up hrst 
The youngest there, until it shrink 

and shriek 

To feel the cold chin prick its dim- 
ples through 
With winter from the hills, mav throw 

i' the lap 
Of the eldest (who has learnt to drop 

her lids 
To hide some sweetness newer than 

last year's) 
Our book, and cry ..." Ah, you, 

you care for rhymes : 
So here be rhymes to pore on under 

trees, 
When April comes to let you ! I've 

been told 

They are not idle, as so many are, 
But set hearts beating pure, as well as 

fast. 
'Tis yours, the book : I'll write yonr 

name in it, 
That so you may not lose, however 

lost 

In poet's lore and charming revery, 
The thought of how your father 

thought of you 
In riding from the town." 

To have our books 
Appraised by love, associated with 

love, 
While we sit loveless ! is it hard, you 

think ? 
At least 'tis mournful. Fame, indeed, 

'twas said, 
Means simply love. It was a man 

said that. 
And then there's love and love : the 

love of all 

(To risk in turn a woman's paradox) 
Is but a small thing to the love of 

one. 

You bid a hungry child be satisfied 
With a heritage of many cornfields: 

nay, 
He says he's hungry ; he would rather 

have 
That little barley-cake you keep from 

him 
While reckoning up his harvests. Sa 

with us ; 
(Here, Romney, too, we fail to gene* 

alize !) 
We're hungry. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Hungry ! But it's pitiful 
To wail like unweaned babes, and 

suck our thumbs, 
Because we're hungry. Who in all 

this world 
(Wherein we are haply set to pray and 

fast, 

And learn what good is by its oppo- 
site) 
Has never hungered ? Woe to him 

who has found 

The rneal enough ! If Ugolino's full, 
His teeth have crunched some foul 

unnatural thing; 
For here satiety proves penury 
More utterly irremediable. And since 
We needs must hunger, better, for 

man's love 

Than God's truth ! better, for com- 
panions sweet 
Than great convictions ! Let us bear 

our weights, 
Preferring dreary hearths to desert 

souls. 
Well, well ! they say we're envious, 

we who rhyme ; 

But I because I am a woman, per- 
haps, 

And so rhyme ill am ill at envying. 
I never envied Graham his breadth of 

style, 
Which gives you, with a random 

smutch or two, 
(Near-sighted critics analyze to 

smutch) 
Such delicate perspectives of full 

life; 

Nor Belmore, for the unity of aim 
To which he cuts his cedarn poems, 

fine, 
As sketchers do their pencils; nor 

Mark Gage> 

For that caressing color and tran- 
cing tone 
Whereby you're swept away, and 

melted in 
The sensual element, which, with a 

back wave, 
Restores you to the level of pure 

souls, 
And leaves you with Plotinus. None 

of these, 

For native gifts or popular applause, 
I've envied; but for this, that when 

by chance 
Says some one, " There goes Belmore, 

a great man ! 
He leaves clean work behind him, 

and requires 



No sweeper-up of the chips, " . . . n 

girl I know, 
Who answers nothing, save with he7 

brown eyes, 

Smiles unaware, as if a guardian saint 
Smiled in her; for this, too, that Gage 

comes home, 

And lays his last book's prodigal re- 
view 
Upon his mother's knee, where, years 

ago, 
He laid his childish spelling-book, 

and learned 
To chirp, and peck the letters from 

her mouth, 
As young birds must. "Well done," 

she murmured then : 
She will not say it now more won- 

deringly. 
And yet the last " Well done " will 

touch him more, 

As catching up to-day and yesterday 
In a perfect chord of love. And so, 

Mark Gage, 
I envy you your mother and you, 

Graham, 
Because you have a wife who loves 

you so, 
She half forgets, at moments, to be 

proud 
Of being Graham's wife, until a friend 

observes, 

" The boy here has his father's mas- 
sive brow, 
Done small in wax ... if we push 

back the curls." 

Who loves me? Dearest father, 

mother sweet, 
I speak the names out sometimes by 

myself, 
And make the silence shiver. They 

sound strange, 

As Hindostanee to an Ind-born man 
Accustomed many years to English 

speech ; 

Or lovely poet-words grown obsolete, 
Which will not leave off singing. Up 

in heaven 
I have my father, with my mother's 

face 
Beside him in a blotch of heavenly 

light; 

No more for earth's familiar, house- 
hold use, 
No more. The best verse written by 

this hand 
Can never reach them where they 

sit, to seem 






AURORA LEIGH. 




Well done to them. Death quite un- 
fellows us, 

Sets dreadful odds betwixt the live 
and dead, 

And makes us part, as those at Babel 
did 

Through sudden ignorance of a com- 
mon tongue. 

A living Cresar would not dare to 
play 

At bowls with such as my dead father 
is. 

And yet this may be less so than ap- 
pears, 

This change and separation. Spar- 
rows five 

For just two farthings, and God cares 
for each. 

If God is not too great for little 
cares, 

Is any creature, because gone to God ? 

I've seen some men, veracious, no- 
wise mad, 

Who have thought or dreamed, de- 
clared and testified, 

They heard the dead a-ticking like a 
clock 

Which strikes the hours of the eter- 
nities, 

Beside them, with their natural ears, 
and known 

That human spirits feel the human 
way, 

And hate the unreasoning awe which 
waves them off 

From possible communion. It may 
be. 

At least, earth separates as well as 

heaven. 
For instance, I have not seen Kom- 

ney Leigh 
Full eighteen months . . . add six, 

you get two years. 
They say he's very busy with good 

works, 

Has parted Leigh Hall into alms- 
houses. 
He made one day an almshouse of 

his heart, 
Which ever since is loose upon the 

latch 
For those who pull the string. I 

never did. 

It always makes me sad to go abroad, 
And now I'm sadder that I went to- 
night 



Among the lights and talkers at Lord 
Howe's. 

His wife is gracious, wit'.i her glossj 
braids, 

And even voice, and gorgeous eye* 
balls, calm 

As her other jewels. If she's some- 
what cold, 

Who wonders, when her blood has 
stood so long 

In the ducal reservoir she calls her 
line 

By no means arrogantly? She's not 
proud ; 

Not prouder than the swan is of the 
lake 

He has always swum in: 'tis her ele- 
ment, 

And so she takes it with a natural 
grace, 

Ignoring tadpoles. She just knows, 
perhaps, 

There are who travel without out- 
riders, 

Which isn't her fault. Ah, to watch 
her face, 

When good Lord Howe expounds his 
theories 

Of social justice and equality ! 

'Tis curious what a tender, tolerant 
bend 

Her neck takes; for she loves him, 
likes his talk, 

"Such clever talk that dear odd 
Algernon ! " 

She listens on, exactly as if he talked 

Some Scandinavian myth of Lemures, 

Too pretty to dispute, and too absurd. 

She's gracious to me as her husband's 

friend, 
And would be gracious were I not a 

Leigh, 
Being used to smile just so, without 

her eyes, 
On Joseph Strangways, the Leeds 

mesmerist, 
And Delia Dobbs, the lecturer from 

"the States" 
Upon the " Woman's question." 

Then, for him 
I like Him: he's my friend. And all 

the rooms 
Were full of crinkling silks that 

swept about 

The fine dust of most subtle courte- 
sies. 
What then? Why, then we 

home to be sad. 





AURORA LEIGH. 



'low lovely one I love not looked to- 
night ! 

Die's very pretty, Lady "VValdemar. 

' ler maid must use both hands to 
twist that coil 

Of tresses, then he careful lest the 
rich 

Bronze rounds should slip: she missed, 
though, a gray hair, 

A single one, I saw it ; otherwise 

The woman looked immortal. How 
they told, 

Those alabaster shoulders and bare 
breasts, 

On which the pearls, drowned out of 
sight in milk, 

Were lost, excepting for the ruby 
clasp. 

They split the amaranth velvet bod- 
dice down 

To the waist, or nearly, with the auda- 
cious press 

Of full-breathed beauty. If the heart 
within 

Were half as white ! but, if it were, 
perhaps 

The breast were closer covered, and 
the sight 

Less aspeetable by half, too. 

I heard 

The young man with the German 
student's look 

A sharp face, like a knife in a cleft, 
stick, 

Which shot up straight against the 
parting line 

So equally dividing the long hair 

Say softlv to his neighbor (thirty- 
five* 

And mediaeval), " Look that way, Sir 
Blaise. 

She's Lady Waldemar, to the left 
in red, 

Whom Romney Leigh, our ablest 
man just now, 

Is soon about to marry." 

Then replied 

Sir Claise Delorme, with quiet, priest- 
like voice, 

Too used to syllable damnations 
round 

To make a natural emphasis worth 
while, 

"Is Leigh your ablest man? the 
same, t think, 

Once jilted by a recreant pretty 
maid 

Adopted from the people? Now, in 
change, 



He seems to have plucked a flower 

from the other side 
Of the social hedge." 

" A flower, a flower ! " exclaimed 
My German student, his own eyes 

full blown 

Bent on her. He was twenty, cer- 
tainly. 

Sir Blaise resumed with gentle arro- 
gance, 
As if he had dropped his alms into a, 

hat 
And gained the right to counsel, " My 

young friend, 

I doubt your ablest man's ability 
To get the least good or help meet for 

him, 
For Pagan phalanstery or Christian 

home, 
From such a flowery creature." 

" Beautiful ! " 
My student murmured, rapt. " Marl? 

how she stirs ! 
Just waves her head, as if a ttowej 

indeed, 
Touched far off by the vain breath of 

our talk." 

At which that bilious Grimwald (ho 
who writes 

For the Renovator), who had seemed 
absorbed 

Upon the table-book of autographs, 

(I dare say mentally he crunched tho 
bones 

Of all those writers, wishing them, 
alive 

To feel his tooth in earnest), turned 
short round 

With low carnivorous laugh, "A 
flower, of course ! 

She neither sews nor spins, and takes 
no thought 

Of her garments . . . falling off." 

The student flinched; 

Sir Blaise the same; then both, draw- 
ing back their chairs 

As if they spied black-beetles on the 
floor, 

Pursued their talk, without a word 
being thrown 

To the critic. 

Good Sir Blaise's brow is high, 

And noticeably narrow : a strong 
wind, 

You fancy, might unroof him sud- 
denly, 





AURORA LEIGH. 




And blow that great top attic off his 
head 

So piled with feudal relics. You ad- 
mire 

His nose in profile, though you miss 
his chin; 

But, though you miss his chin, you 
seldom miss 

His ebon cross worn innermostly, 
(carved 

For penance by a saintly Styrian 
monk 

Whose flesh was too much with him,) 
slipping through 

Some unaware unbuttoned casualty 

Of the under waistcoat. With an ab- 
sent air 

Sir Blaise sate fingering it, and speak- 
ing low, 

While I upon the sofa heard it all. 

" My dear young friend, if we could 

bear our eyes, 

Like blessedest St. Lucy, on a plate, 
They would not trick u into choos- 
ing wives, 

As doublets, by the color. Otherwise 
Our fathers chose; and therefore, 

when they had hung 
Their household keys about a lady's 

waist, 

The sense of duty gave her dignity: 
She kept her bosom holy to her 

babes, 

And, if a moralist reproved her dress, 
"Twas, "Too much starch!" and 
not, " Too little lawn I " 

" Now, pshaw ! " returned the other 

in a heat, 
A little fretted by being called 

" Young friend," 

Or so I took it, " for St. Lucy's sake, 
If she's the saint to swear by, let us 

leave 
Our fathers, plagued enough about 

our sons ! " 
(He stroked his l>eardless chin) " yes, 

plagued, sir, plagued: 
The future generations lie on us 
As heavy as the nightmare of a seer; 
Our meat and drink grow painful 

prophecy. 
I ask you, have we leisure, if we 

liked, 
To hollow out our weary hands to 

keep 
Your intermittent rushlight of the 

past 



From draughts in lobbies ? Prejudice 
of sex 

And marriage-law . . . the socket 
drops them through 

While we two speak, however may 
protest 

Some over-delicate nostrils like your 
own, 

'Gainst odors thence arising." 

" You are young," 

Sir Blaise objected. 

" If I am," he said 

With fire, " though somewhat less so 
than I seem, 

The young run on before, and see the 
thing 

That's coining. ' Reverence for the 
young!' I cry. 

In that new church for which the 
world's near ripe, 

You'll have the younger in the eld- 
er's chair, 

Presiding with his ivory front of hope 

O'er foreheads clawed by cruel car- 
rion birds 

Of life's experience." 

" Pray your blessing, sir," 

Sir Blaise replied good-humoredly. 
" I plucked 

A silver hair this morning from my 
beard, 

Which left me your inferior. Would 
I were 

Eighteen, and worthy to admonish 
you ! 

If young men of your order run be- 
fore 

To see such sights as sexual preju- 
dice 

And marriage-law dissolved, in 
plainer words, 

A general concubinage expressed 

In a iiniversal pruriency, the thing 

Is scarce worth running fast for, and 
you'd gain 

By loitering with your elders." 

" Ah 1 " he said, 

" Who, getting to the top of Pisgah- 
hill, 

Can talk with one at bottom of the 
view, 

To make it comprehensible? Why, 
Leigh 

Himself, although our ablest man, I 
said, 

Is scarce advanced to see as far as 
this; 

Which some are. He takes up imper- 
fectly 





92 



AURORA LEIGH. 




The social question, by one handle, 

leaves 

The rest to trail. A Christian socialist 
Is Romney Leigh, you understand." 

" Not I. 
I disbelieve in Christian-Pagans, 

much 

As you in women-fishes. If we mix 
Two colors, we lose both, and make a 

third, 
Distinct from either. Mark you ! to 

mistake 

A color is the sign of a sick brain, 
And mine, I thank the saints, is clear 

and cool : 

A neutral tint is here impossible. 
The church and by the church, I 

mean, of course, 

The catholic, apostolic, mother- 
church 
Draws lines as plain and straight as 

her own wall, 

Inside of which are Christians, obvi- 
ously. 
And outside . . . dogs." 

" We thank you. Well I know 
The ancient mother-church would 

fain still bite, 
For all her toothless gums, as Leigh 

himself 
Would fain be a Christian still, for all 

his wit. 
Pass that: you two may settle it for 

me. 
You're slow in England. In a month 

I learnt 

At Gottingen enough philosophy 
To stock your English schools for 

fifty years ; 
Pass that too. Here alone, I stop 

you short, 
Supposing a true man like Leigh 

could stand 

Unequal in the stature of his life 
To the height of his opinions. Choose 

a wife 
Because of a smooth skin? Not he, 

not he ! 
He'd rail at Venus' self for creaking 

shoes, 

Unless she walked his way of right- 
eousness; 

And if he takes a Venus Meretrix 
(No imputation on the lady there) 
Be sure, that, by some sleight of 

Christian art, 
He has metamorphosed and converted 

her 
To a Blessed Virgin." 



" Soft ! " Sir Blaise drew breath 

As if it hurt him , " Soft ! 110 blasphe- 
my, 

I pray you ! " 

" The first Christians did the thing-. 

Why not the last ? " asked he of Got- 
tingen, 

With just that shade of sneering on 
the lip, 

Compensates for the lagging of the 
beard, 

" And so the case is. If that fairest 
fair 

Is talked of as the future wife of 
Leigh, 

She's talked of too, at least as cer- 
tainly, 

As Leigh's disciple. You may find 
her name 

On all his missions and commissions, 
schools, 

Asylums, hospitals: he had her 
down, 

With other ladies whom her starry 
lead 

Persuaded from their spheres, to his 
country-place 

In Shropshire, to the famed phalan- 
stery 

At Leigh Hall, christianized from 
Fourier's own, 

(In which he has planted out his sap- 
ling stocks 

Of knowledge into social nurseries) 

And there they say she has tarried 
half a week, 

And milked the cows, and churned, 
and pressed the curd, 

And said ' My sister ' to the lowest 
drab 

Of all the assembled castaways: such 
girls ! 

Ay, sided with them at the washing- 
tub 

Conceive, Sir Blaise, those naked 
perfect arms, 

Round glittering arms, plunged el- 
bow-deep in suds, 

Like wild swans hid in lilies all 
a-shake." 

Lord Howe came up. " What, talk- 
ing poetry 

So near the image of the unfavoring 
Muse? 

That's you, Miss Leigh: I've watched 
you half an hour, 

Precisely as I watched the statue 
called 







AURORA LETCH. 



93 



A Pallas in the Vatican. You mind 
The face, Sir Blaise ? intensely calm 

and sad, 

As wisdom cut it off from fellow- 
ship, 
But that spoke louder. Not a word 

from you ! 
And these two gentleman were bold, 

I marked, 

And unabashed by even your si- 
lence." 

" Ah," 
Said I, " my dear Lord Howe, you 

shall not speak 
To a printing woman who has lost her 

place 

(The sweet safe corner of the house- 
hold fire 

Behind the heads of children) com- 
pliments, 
As if she were a woman. "We who 

have clipt 
The curls before our eyes may see at 

least 
As plain as men do. Speak out, man 

to man, 
No compliments, beseech you." 

" Friend to friend, 
Let that be. "We are sad to-night, I 

saw, 
( Good-night, Sir Blaise! ah, Smith 

he has slipped away) 
I saw you across the room, aud staid, 

Miss Leigh, 

To keep a crowd of lion-hunters off, 
With faces toward your jungle. There 

were three : 

A spacious lady, five feet ten, and fat, 
Who has the devil in her (and there's 

room) 
For walking to and fro upon the 

earth, 

From Chippewa to China ; she requires 
Your autograph upon a tinted leaf 
'T\vixt Queen Pomare's and Emperor 

Soulouque's. 
Pray give it ! she has energies, though 

fat: 

For me I'd rather see a rick on fire 
Than such a woman angry. Then a 

youth 
Fresh from the backwoods, green as 

the underboughs, 
Asks modestly, Miss Leigh, to kiss 

your shoe, 
And adds he has an epic in twelve 

parts, 
Which when you've read, you'll do it 

for his boot: 



All which I saved you, and absorb 

next week 
Both manuscript and man, because 

a lord 

Is still more potent than a poetess 
With any extreme Republican. Ah, 

ah. 
You smile at last, then." 

" Thank you." 

" Leave the smile. 
I'll lose the thanks for't, ay, and 

throw you in 
My transatlantic girl, with golden 

eyes, 

That draw you to her splendid white- 
ness as 

The pistil of a water-lily draws, 
Adust with gold. Those girls across 

the sea 

Are tyrannously pretty, and I swore 
(She seemed to me an innocent frank 

girl) 
To bring her to you for a woman's 

kiss; 
Not now, but on some other day or 

week: 
We'll call it perjury ; I give her up." 

" No, bring her." 

" Now," said he, " you make it hard 
To touch such goodness with a grimy 

palm. 
I thought to tease you well, and fret 

you cross, 
And steel myself , when rightly vexed 

with you, 
For telling you a thing to tease you 

more." 

"Of Romney?" 

" No, no: nothing worse," he cried, 
" Of Romney Leigh than what is 

buzzed about, 

That he is taken in an eye-trap too, 
Like many half as wise. The thing 

I mean 
Refers to you, not him." 

"Refers to me." 

He echoed, "'Me'! You sound it 
like a stone 

Dropped down a dry well very list- 
lessly 

By one who never thinks about the 
toad 

Alive at the bottom. Presently per- 
haps 

You'll sound your ' me ' more proud- 
ly till I shrink." 





94 



AURORA LEIGH. 



" Lord Howe's the toad, then, in this 
question ? " 

" Brief, 

"We'll take it graver. Give me sofa- 
room, 

And quiet hearing. You know Eg- 
liut.cn, 

John Eglinton of Eglinton in Kent ? " 

" Is hf the toad ? He's rather like 

the snail, 
Known chiefly for the house upon his 

back: 
Divide the man and house, you kill 

the man: 
That's Eglinton of Eglinton, Lord 

Howe." 

He answered graA'e: "A reputable 
man, 

An excellent landlord of the olden 
stamp 

If somewhat slack in new philanthro- 
pies, 

AYho keeps his birthdays with a ten- 
ants' dance, 

Is hard upon them when they miss 
the church 

Or hold their children back from cate- 
chism, 

But not ungentle when the aged poor 

Pick sticks at hedgesides: nay, I've 
heard him say, 

' The old dame has a twinge because 
she stoops: 

That's punishment enough for felo- 
ny.' " 

" O tender-hearted landlord ! may I 

take 
My long lease with him, when the 

time arriA r es 
For gathering winter-fagots ! " 

"He likes art; 
Buys books and pictures ... of a 

certain kind; 
Neglects no patent duty; a good 

son "... 

" To a most obedient mother. Born 
to wear 

His father's shoes, he wears her hus- 
band's too: 

Indeed I've heard it's touching. 
Dear Lord Howe, 

You shall not praise me so against 
your heart 

"When I'm at \vorst for praise and 
fagots." 



"Be 
Less bitter with me; for ... in short," 

he said, 
" I have a letter, which he urged me 

so 
To bring you ... I could scarcely 

choose but yield; 
Insisting that a new love, passing 

through 
The hand ofau old friendship, caught 

from it 
Some reconciling odor." 

" Love, you say ? 

My lord, I cannot loA'e: I only find" 
The rhyme for love; and that's not 

love, my lord. 
Take back your letter." 

" Pause. You'll read it first ? " 

"I Avill not read it: it is stereotyped, 
The same he wrote to, anybody's 

name, 
Anne Ely the the actress, when she 

died so true 

A duchess fainted in a private box; 
Pauline the dancer, after the great 

ma 

In which her little feet winked over- 
head 
Like other fireflies, and amazed the 

pit; 

Or Baldinacci, when her F in alt 
Hail touched the silver tops of heaA^en 

itself 
"With such a pungent spirit-dart, the 

Queen 
Laid softly, each to each, her Avhite- 

gloved palms, 
And sighed for joy; or else (I thank 

your friend) 
Aurora Leigh, when some indifferent 

rhymes. 
Like those the boys sang round the 

holy ox 
On Memphis-highway, chance per- 

liaps to set 
Our Apis-public lowing. Oh, he 

wants, 

Instead of any worthy wife at home, 
A star upon his stage of Eglinton ? 
Advise him that he is not over- 
shrewd 
In being so little modest: a dropped 

star 
Makes bitter waters, says a Book I've 

read, 
And there's his unread letter." 

" My dear friend," 
Lord Howe began . . . 








^ < f ^ C 1_5| 1-^ 




1 


n \ /> 
AURORA LEIGH. 95 -\ 






In haste I tore the phrase. 


You labor for vour own bread pain- 








" You mean your friend of Eglinton, 


fully, 








or me ? " 


Or ere you pour our wine. For art's 






J 


i 


sake, pause." ! v 








" I mean you, you ! " he answered 


< ' 






with some "fire. 


I answered slow, as some wayfar- 






" A happy life means prudent com- 


ing man, 






promise; 


Who feels himself at night too far 






The tare runs through the farmer's 


from home, 






garnered sheaves, 


Makes steadfast face against the bitter 






And, though the gleaner's apron holds 


wind, 






pure wheat 


" Is art so less a thing than virtue 






We count her poorer. Tare with 


is, 






wheat, we cry, 


That artists first must cater for their 






And good with draVbacks. You, you 


ease, 






love your art, 


Or ever they make issue past them- 






And, certain of vocation, set your 


selves 






soul 


To generous use ? Alas ! and is it so, 






On utterance. Only, in this world 


That we who would be somewhat 






we have made, 


clean must sweep 






(They say God made it first, but if he 


Our ways, as well as <valk them, and 






i i 

did 


no friend 






'Twas so long since, and, since, we 


Confirm us nobly, ' Leave results 






have spoiled it so, 


to God, 






He scarce would know it, if he looked 


But you, be clean ! ' What ! ' pru- 






this way, 


dent compromise 






From hells we preach of, with the 


Makes acceptable life,' you say in- 






flames blown out,) 


stead, 






In this bad, twisted, topsy-turvy 


You, you, Lord Howe? in things 






world, 


indifferent, well. 






Where all the heaviest wrongs get 


For instance, compromise the wheaten 






uppermost, 


bread 






In this uneven, unfostering England 


For rye, the meat for lentils, silk for 






here, 


serge, 






Where ledger-strokes and sword- 


And sleep on down, if needs, for sleep 






strokes count indeed,, 


on straw; 






But soul-strokes merely tell upon the 


But there end compromise. I wiU 






flesh 


not bate 






They strike from, it is hard to stand 


One artist dream on straw or down, 






for art, 


my lord, 






Unless some golden tripod from the sea 


Nor pinch my liberal soul, though I 






Be fished up, by Apollo's divine 


be poor, 






chance, 


Nor cease to love high, though I live 






To throne such feet as yours, my 


thus low." 






prophetess, 








At Delphi. Think, the god comes 


So speaking, with less anger in my 






down as fierce 


voice 






As twenty bloodhounds, shakes you, 


Than sorrow, I rose quickly to de- 






strangles you, 


part ; 






Until the oracular shriek shall ooze in 


While he, thrown back upon the noble 






froth ! 


shame 






At best 'tis not all ease; at worst 


Of such high stumbling natures, mur- 








too hard. 


mured words, | 






'l 


f* A place to stand on is a 'vantage 


The right words after wrong ones. *| P 








gained, 


Ah, the man 








And here's your tripod. To be plain, 


Is worthy, but so given to entertain 








dear friend, 
You're poor, except in what you rich- 


Impossible plans of superhuman life, 
He sets his virtues on so raised a \ 






p 


ly give; 
TTHC-I 9 


sheif, 
** 1 ' f TvT 






"H 1 1 s "e 1 al.'P 5 ' 








96 



AURORA LEIGH. 



To keep them at the grand millennial 

height, 
He has to mount a stool to get at 

them, 
And meantime lives on quite the 

common way. 
"With everybody's morals. 

As we passed, 
Lord Howe insisting that his friendly 

arm 
Should oar me across the sparkling, 

brawling stream 
Which swept from room to room, we 

fell at once 
On Lady Waldemar. " Miss Leigh," 

she said, 
And gave me such a smile, so cold 

and bright, 

As if she tried it in a 'tiring glass 
And liked it, "all to-night I've 

strained at you 
As babes at bawbles held up out of 

reach 
By spiteful nurses, (' Never snatch,' 

they say,) 
And there you sate, most perfectly 

shut in 
By good Sir Blaise and clever Mister 

Smith, 
And then our dear Lord Howe ! At 

last indeed 
I almost snatched. I have a world to 

speak 

About your cousin's place in Shrop- 
shire where 
I've been to see his work . . . our 

work, you heard 

I went? . . . and of a letter yester- 
day, 
In which if I should read a page or 

two 
You might feel interest, though you're 

locked of course 
In literary toil. You'll like to 

hear 

Your last book lies at the phalan- 
stery, 
As judged innocuous for the elder 

girls 
And younger women who still care 

for books. 
We all must read, you see, before we 

live, 
Till slowly the ineffable light comes 

up 
And as it deepens drowns the written 

word: 
So said your cousin, while we stood 

and felt 



A sunset from his favorite beech-tree 

seat. 
He might have been a poet if he 

would ; 
But then he saw the higher thing at 

once 
And climbed to it. I think he looks 

well now, 

Has quite got over that unfortu- 
nate . . . 
Ah, ah ... I know it moved you. 

Tender-heart ! 
You took a liking to the wretched 

girl- 
Perhaps you thought the marriage 

suitable, 

Who knows ? A poet hankers for ro- 
mance, 
And so on. As for Romney Leigh, 

'tis sure 
He never loved her, never. By the 

way, 
You have not heard of her . . . ? 

Quite out of sight, 
And out of saving? Lost in every 

sense ?" 

She might have gone on talking half 

an hour 
And I stood still, and cold, and pale, 

I think, 
As a garden-statue a child pelts with 

snow 
For pretty pastime. Every now and 

then 
I pnt in "yes" or "no," I scarce 

knew why: 
The blind man walks wherever the 

dog pulls, 
And so I answered. Till Lord Howe 

broke in : 
" What penance takes the wretch who 

interrupts 
The talk of charming women? I at 

last 

Must brave it. Pardon, Lady Walde- 
mar ! 

The lady on my arm is tired, unwell, 
And loyally I've promised she shall 

say 
No harder word this evening than . . . 

good-night: 
The rest her face speaks for her." 

Then we went. 

And I breathe large at home. I drop 

my cloak, 
Unclasp my girdle, loose the band 

that ties 





" We fell at once on Lady Waldemar." Page 96. 



AURORA LEIGH. 




My hair . . . now could I but unloose 

my soul ! 
We are sepulchred alive in this close 

world, 
And want more room. 

The charming woman there 
This reckoning up and writing down 

her talk 
Affects me singularly. How she 

talked 
To pain me ! woman's spite. You 

wear steel mail ; 
A woman takes a housewife from her 

breast, 

And plucks the delicatest needle out 
As 'twere a rose, and pricks you care- 
fully 
'Neath nails, 'neath eyelids, in your 

r.ostrils, say: 
A beast would roar so tortured ; but 

a man, 
A human creature, must not, shall 

not, flinch, 
No, not for shame. 

What vexes, after all, 
Is just that such as she, with such 

as I, 
Knows how to vex. Sweet Heaven ! 

she takes me up 

As if she had fingered me, and dog- 
eared n:e, 
And spelled me by the fireside half 

a life. 
She knows my turns, my feeble 

pexnts. What then ? 
The knowledge of a thing implies the 

thing: 
Of course, she e ound that in me, she 

saw that, 
Her pencil underscored this for a 

fault, 
And I, still ignorant. Shut the book 

up close ! 
And crush that beetle :n the leaves. 

O heart ! 
At last we shall grow hard too, like 

the rest. 
And call it self-defence because we 

are soft. 

And after all, now . . . why should 

I be pained 
That Romney Leigh, my cousin, 

should espouse 
This Lady Waldemar? And, say 

she held 
Her newly blossomed gladness in my 

face, . . . 
'T was natural surely, if not generous, 



Considering how, when winter held 
her fast, 

I helped the frost with mine, and 
nained her more 

Than she pains me. Pains me I 
But wherefore pained ? 

'Tis clear my cousin Romney wants 
a wife. 

So, good ! The man's need of the 
woman, here, 

Is greater than the woman's of the 
man, 

And easier served ; for where the inan 
discerns 

A sex (ah, ah, the man can general- 
ize, 

Said he), we see but one ideally 

And really: where we yearn to lose 
ourselves, 

And melt like white pearls, in an- 
other's wine, 

He seeks to double himself by what 
he loves, 

And makes his drink more costly by 
our pearls. 

At board, at bed, at work and holi- 
day, 

It is not good for man to be alone; 

And that's his way of thinking, first 
and last, 

And thus my cousin Romney wants 
a wife. 

But then my cousin sets his dignity 

On personal virtue. If he under- 
stands 

By love, like others, self-aggrandize- 
ment, 

It is that he may verily be great 

By doing rightly and kindly. Once 
he thought, 

For charitable ends set duly forth 

In heaven's white judgment-book, to 
marry . . . ah, 

We'll call her name Aurora Leigh, 
although 

She's changed since then! and 
once, for social ends, 

Poor Marian Erie, my sister Marian 
Erie, 

My woodland sister, sweet maid Mar- 
ian, 

Whose memory moans on in nie like 
the wind 

Through ill-shut casements, making 
me more sad 

Than ever I find reasons for. Alas, 

Poor pretty plaintive face, embodied 
ghost ! 






98 



AURORA LEIGH. 



He finds it easy, then, to clap thee off 
From pulling at his sleeve and book 

and pen, 
He locks thee out at night into the 

cold, 
Away from butting with thy horny 

eyes 
Against his crystal dreams, that now 

he's strong 

To love anew ? that Lady Waldemar 
Succeeds my Marian ? 

After all, why not ? 
He loved not Marian more than once 

he loved 
Aurora. If he loves at last that 

third, 
Albeit she prove as slippery as spilt 

oil 
On marble floors, I will not augur 

him 
111 luck for that. Good love, howe'er 

ill placed, 

Is better for a man's soul in the end 
Than if he loved ill what deserves 

love well. 

A Pagan kissing for a step of Pan 
The wild-goat's hoof-print on the 

loamy down, 
Exceeds our modern thinker who 

turns back 
The strata . . . granite, limestone, 

coal, and clay, 
Concluding coldly with, "Here's 

law ! where's God ? " 

And then at worse, if Roumey loves 

her not, 

At worst, if he's incapable of love, 
(Which may be), then, indeed, for 

such a man 

Incapable of love, she's good enough; 
For she, at worst too, is a woman still, 
And loves him ... as the sort of 

woman can. 

My loose long hair began to burn and 

creep, 
Alive to the very ends, about my 

knees: 
I swept it backward, as the wind 

sweeps flame, 
With the passion of my hands. Ah, 

Romney laughed 
One day . . . (how full the memories 

come up !) 
" Your Florence fireflies live on in 

your hair," 
He said, " it gleams so." Well, I 

wrung them out, 



My fireflies; made a knot as hard as 

life 
Of those loose, soft, impracticable 

curls, 
And then sat down and thought . . . 

" She shall not think 
Her thought of me," and drew my 

desk, and wrote. 

" Dear Lady Waldemar, I could not 

speak 
With people round me, nor can sleep 

to-night, 
And not speak, after the great news 

I heard 

Of you and of my cousin. May you be 
Most happy, and the good he meant 

the world 
Replenish his own life ! Say what I 

say, 
And let my word be sweeter for your 

mouth, 
As you are you ... I only Aurora 

Leigh." 

That's quiet, guarded : though she 

hold it up 
Against the light, she'll not see 

through it mor,e 
Than lies there to be seen. So much 

for pride; 
And now for peace a little. Let me 

stop 
All writing back . . . " Sweet thanks, 

my sweetest friend, 
You've made more joyful my great 

joy itself." 
No, that's too simple: she would 

twist it thus, 
" My joy would still be as sweet as 

thyme in drawers, 
However shut up in the dark and 

dry; 
But violets aired and dewed by love 

like yours 
Outsmell all thyme : we keep that in 

our clothes, 
But drop the other down our bosoms 

till 
They smell like "... Ah ! I see her 

writing back 
Just so. She'll make a nosegay of 

her words, 
And tie it with blue ribbons at the 

end, 
To suit a poet. Pshaw ! 

And then we'll have 
The call to church ; the broken, sad, 

bad dream 







AURORA LEIGH. 



99 ... 



Dreamed out at fast ; the marriage- 
vow complete 

With the marriage-breakfast ; praying 
in white gloves, 

Drawn off in haste for drinking pagan 
toasts 

In somewhat stronger wine than any 
sipped 

By gods since Bacchus had his way 
with grapes. 

A postscript stops all that and rescues 

me. 
" You need not write. I have been 

overworked, 

And think of leaving London, Eng- 
land even, 

And hastening to get nearer to the sun, 
"Where men sleep better. So, adieu ! " 

I fold 
And seal ; and now I'm out of all 

the coil : 
I breathe now, I spring upward like a 

branch 
The ten-years' schoolboy with a 

crooked stick 
May pull down to his level in search 

of nuts, 
But cannot hold a moment. How we 

twang 
Back on the blue sky, and assert our 

height, 

"While he stares after ! Now, the won- 
der seems 
That I could wrong myself by such a 

doubt. 

We poets always have uneasy hearts, 
Because our hearts, large-rounded as 

the globe, 
Can turn but one side to the sun at 

once. 
We are used to dip our artist hands in 

gall 

And potash, trying potentialities 
Of alternated color, till at last 
We get confused, and wonder for our 

skin 
How nature tinged it first. Well, 

here's the true 
Good flesh-color : I recognize my 

hand, 
Which Romney Leigh may clasp as 

just a friend's, 
And keep his clean. 

And now, my Italy. 
Alas ! if we could ride with naked 

souls, 
And make no noise, and pay no price 

at all, 



I would have seen thee sooner, Italy ; 
For still I have heard thee crying 

through my life, 
Thou piercing silence of ecstatic 

graves, 
Men call that name. 

But even a witch to-day 
Must melt down golden pieces in the 

nard, 
Wherewith to anoint her broomstick 

ere she rides ; 

And poets evermore are scant of gold, 
And if they tind a piece behind the 

door, 

It turns by sunset to a withered leaf. 
The Devil himself scarce trusts his 

patented 
Gold-making art to any who make 

rhymes, 

But culls his Faustus from philoso- 
phers, 
And not from poets. " Leave my 

Job," said God ; 
And so the Devil leaves him without 

pence, 
And poverty proves plainly special 

grace. 
In these new, just, administrative 

times 
Men clamor for an order of merit : 

why ? 
Here's black bread on the table, and 

no wine ! 

At least I am a poet in being poor, 

Thank God ! I wonder if the manu- 
script 

Of my long poem, if 'twere sold out- 
right, 

Would fetch enough to buy me shoes 
to go 

Afoot (thrown in, the necessary 
patch 

For the other side the Alps) ? It can- 
not be. 

I fear that I must sell this residue 

Of my father's books, although the 
Elzevirs 

Have fly-leaves over-written by his 
hand 

In faded notes as thick and fine and 
brown 

As cobwebs on a tawny monument 

Of the old Greeks conferenda hcec 
cum his 

Corrupts citat leye potius, 

And so on, in the scholar's regal 
way 






100 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Of giving judgment on the parts of 
speech, 

As if he sate on all twelve thrones up- 
piled, 

Arraigning Israel. Ay, but books 
and notes 

Must go together. And this Proclus 
too, 

In these dear quaint contracted Gre- 
cian types, 

Fantastically crumpled, like his 
thoughts, 

Which would not seem too plain ; 
you go round twice 

For one step forward, then you take it 
back, 

Because you're somewhat giddy ; 
there's the rule 

For Proclus. Ah, I stained this mid- 
dle leaf 

With pressing iii't my Florence iris- 
bell, 

Long stalk and all. My father chided 
me 

For that stain of blue blood. I recol- 
lect 

The peevish turn his voice took, 
" Silly girls ! 

Who plant their flowers in our phi- 
losophy 

To make it fine, and only spoil the 
book. 

No more of it, Aurora." Yes no 
more. 

Ah, blame of love, that's sweeter than 
all praise 

Of those who love not ! 'Tis so lost 
to me, 

I cannot, in such beggared life, afford 

To lose my Proclus not for Florence 
even. 

The kissing Judas, Wolff, shall go 
instead, 

Who builds us such a royal book as 
this 

To honor a chief poet, folio-built, 

And writes above, " The house of No- 
body ! " 

Who floats in cream as rich as any 
sucked 

From Juno's breasts, the broad Ho- 
meric lines, 

And while with their spondaic pro- 
digious mouths 

They lap the lucent margins as babe- 
gods, 

Proclaims them bastards. Wolff's 
an atheist ; 



And if the Iliad fell out, as he says, 
By mere fortuitous concourse of old 

songs, 

Conclude as much, too, for the uni- 
verse. 

That Wolff, those Platos : sweep the 
upper shelves 

As clean as this, and so I am almost 
rich, 

Which means, not forced to think of 
being poor 

In sight of ends. To-morrow : no 
delay. 

I'll wait in Paris till good Carrington 

Dispose of such, and, having chaffered 
for 

My book's price with the publisher, 
direct 

All proceeds to me. Just a line to 
ask 

His help. 

And now I come, my Italy, 

My own hills ! Are you 'ware of me, 
my hills, 

How I burn toward you ? do you feel 
to-night 

The urgency and yearning of my soul, 

As sleeping mothers feel the sucking 
babe, 

And smile ? Nay, not so much as 
when in heat 

Vain lightnings catch at your invio- 
late tops 

And tremble, while ye are steadfast. 
Still ye go 

Your own determined, calm, indiffer- 
ent way 

Toward sunrise, shade by shade, and 
light by light, 

Of all the grand progression nought 
left out, 

As if God verily made you for your- 
selves, 

And would not interrupt your life 
with ours. 



SIXTH BOOK. 

THE English have a scornful insular 

way 
Of calling the French light. The 

levity 
Is in the judgment only, which yet 

stands; 







AURORA LEIGTI. 



101 



For, say a foolish thing but oft enough 
(And here's the secret of a hundred 

creeds, 
Men get opinions as boys learn to 

spell, 
By re-iteration chiefly), the same 

thing 

Shall pass at last for absolutely wise, 
And not with fools exclusively. And 

so 
We say the French are lighi, as if we 

said 
The cat mews, or the milch-cow gives 

us milk: 
Say, rather, cats are milked, and 

inilch-cows mew ; 

For what is lightness but inconse- 
quence, 
Vague fluctuation 'twixt effect and 

cause, 
Compelled by neither? Is a bullet 

light, 
That dashes from the gun-mouth, 

while the eye 
Winks and the "heart beats one, to 

flatten itself 
To a wafer on the white speck on a 

wall 
A hundred paces off 9 Even so di- 

rect, 

So sternly undivertible of aim, 
Is this French people. 

All idealists 
Too absolute and earnest, with them 

all 

The idea of a knife cuts real flesh ; 
And still, devouring the safe inter- 
val 
Which nature placed between the 

thought and act 
With those too fiery and impatient 

souls, 
They threaten conflagration to the 

world, 
And rush with most unscrupulous 

logic on 

Impossible practice. Set your orators 
To blow upon them with "loud windy 

mouths 
Through watchword phrases, jest or 

sentiment, 
Which drive our burly brutal English 

mobs, 
Like so much chaff, whichever way 

they blow, 
This light French people will not thus 

be driven. 
They turn indeed; but then they 

turn upon 



Some central pivot of their thought 
and choice, 

And veer out by the force of holding 
fast. 

That's hard to understand, for Eng- 
lishmen 

Unused to abstract questions, and un- 
trained 

To trace the involutions, valve by 
valve, 

In each orbed bulb-root of a general 
truth, 

And mark what subtly fine integu- 
ment 

Divides opposed compar tm ents. Free- 
dom's self 

Comes concrete to us, to be under- 
stood, 

Fixed in a feudal form incarnately 

To suit our ways of thought and rev- 
erence; 

The special form, with us, being still 
the thing. 

With us, I say, though I'm of Italy 

By mother's birth and grave, by 
father's grave 

And memory, let it be, a poet's 
heart 

Can swell to a pair of nationalities, 

However ill lodged in a woman's 
breast. 

And so I am strong to love this noble 
France, 

Thispoetof the nations, who dreams on 

And wails on (while the household 
goes to wreck) 

Forever, after some ideal good, 

Some equal poise of sex, some un- 
vowed love 

Inviolate, some spontaneous brother- 
hood, 

Some wealth that leaves none poor 
and finds none tired, 

Some freedom of the many that re- 
spects 

The wisdom of the few. Heroic 
dreams ! 

Sublime to dream so; natural to 
wake ; 

And sad to use such lofty scaffold- 
ings, 

Erected for the building of a church, 

To build, instead, a brothel or a pris- 
on. 

May God save France ! 

And if at last she sighs 

Her great soul up into a great man's 
face, 






102 




AURORA LEIGH. 



To flush his temples out so gloriously 

That few dare carp at Caesar for being 
bald, 

What then ? This Caesar represents, 
not reigns, 

And is no despot, though twice abso- 
lute: 

This head has all the people for a 
heart; 

This purple's lined with the democ- 
racy, 

Now let him see to it I for a rent 
within 

"Would leave irreparable rags with- 
out. 

A serious riddle: find such anywhere 

Except in France, and, when 'tis 
found in France, 

Be sure to read it rightly. -So, I 
mused 

Up and down, up and down, the ter- 
raced streets, 

The glittering boulevards, the white 
colonnades, 

Of fair fantastic Paris who wears 
trees 

Like plumes, as if man made them, 
spire and tower 

As if they had grown by nature, toss- 
ing up 

Her fountains in the sunshine of the 
squares, 

As if in beauty's game she tossed the 
dice, 

Oi blew the silver down-balls of her 
dreams 

To sow futurity with seeds of thought, 

And count the passage of her festive 
hours. 

The city swims in verdure, beautiful 

As Venice on the waters, the sea- 
swan. 

What bosky gardens dropped in close- 
walled courts, 

Like plums in ladies' laps who start 
and laugh ! 

What miles of streets that run on 
after trees, 

Still carrying all the necessary shops, 

Those open caskets with the jewels 
seen ! 

And trade is art, and art's philoso- 
phy, 

In Paris. There's a silk, for instance, 
there, 

As worth an artist's study for the 
folds, 



As that bronze opposite ! nay, the 
bronze has faults ; 

Art's here too artful, conscious as a 
maid 

Who leans to mark her shadow on 
the wall 

Until she lose a 'vantage in her step. 

Yet art walks forward, and kno^s 
where to walk: 

The artists also are idealists, 

Too absolute for nature, logical 

To austerity in the application of 

The special theory; not a soul con- 
tent 

To paint a crooked pollard and an 
ass, 

As the English will, because they find 
it so, 

And like it somehow. There the old 
Tuileries 

Is pulling its high cap down on its 
eyes, 

Confounded, conscience-stricken, and 
amazed 

By the apparition of a new fair face 

In those devouring mirrors. Through 
the grate 

Within the gardens, what a heap of 
babes, 

Swept up like leaves beneath the 
chestnut-trees 

From every street and alley of the 
town, 

By ghosts, perhaps, that blow too 
bleak this way 

A-looking for their heads ! dear pretty 
babes, 

I wish them luck to have their ball- 
play out 

Before the next change. Here the air 
is thronged 

With statues poised upon their col- 
umns fine, 

As if to stand a moment were a feat, 

Against that blue ! What squares ! 
what breathing-room 

For a nation that runs fast, ay, runs 
against 

The dentist's teeth at the corner in 
pale rows, 

Which grin at progress, in an epi- 
gram ! 

I walked the day out, listening to the 
chink 

Of the first Napoleon's bones in his 
second grave, 

By victories guarded 'neath the gold- 
en dome 







AURORA LEIGH. 



103 



That caps all Paris like a bubble. 
" Shall 

These dry bones live," thought Louis 
Philippe once, 

And lived to kno\v. Herein is argu- 
ment 

For kings and politicians, but still 
more 

For poets, who bear buckets to the 
well 

Of ampler draught. 

These crowds are very good 

For meditation (when we are very 
strong,) 

Though love of beauty makes us tim- 
orous, 

And draws iis backward from the 
coarse town-sights 

To count the daisies upon dappled 
fields. 

And hear the streams bleat on among 
the hills 

In innocent and indolent repose; 

Whilestill with silken elegiac thoughts 

We wind out from us the distracting 
world, 

And die into the chrysalis of a man, 

And leave the best that may. to come 
of us, 

In some brown moth. I would be 
bold, and bear, 

To look into the swarthiest face of 
things, 

For God's sake who has made them. 
Six (lays' work: 

The last day shutting 'twixt its dawn 
and eve 

The whole work bettered of the pre- 
vious five ! 

Since God collected and resumed in 
man 

The firmaments, the strata, and the 
lights, 

Fish, fowl, and beast, and insect, 
all their trains 

Of various life caught back upon his 
arm, 

Re-organized, and constituted MAN, 

The microcosm, the adding-up of 
works ; 

"Within whose fluttering nostrils, then, 
at last 

Consummating himself the Maker 
sighed, 

As some strong winner at the foot- 
race sighs 

Touching the goal. 

Humanity is great; 

And if I would not rather pore upon 



An ounce of common, ugly, human 
dust, 

An artisan's palm or a peasant's brow, 

Unsinooth, ignoble, save to me and 
God, 

Than track old Nilus to his silver 
roots, 

Or wait on all the changes of the 
moon 

Among the mountain-peaks of Thes- 
saly 

(Until her magic crystal round itself 

For many a witch to see in) set it 
down 

As weakness, strength by no means. 
How is this, 

That men of science, osteologists 

And surgeons, beat some poets in 
respect 

For na/ure? count nought common 
or unclean, 

Spend raptures upon perfect speci- 
mens 

Of indurated veins, distorted joints, 

Or beautiful new cases of curved 
spine, 

While we, we are shocked at nature's 
falling off, 

We dare to shrink back from her 
warts and Mains. 

We will not, when she sneezes, look 
at her, 

Not even to nay, " God bless her ! " 
That's our wrong: 

For that, she will not trust us often 
with 

Her larger sense of beauty and de- 
sire, 

But tethers us to a lily or a rose, 

And bids us diet ou the dew in- 
side, 

Left ignorant that the hungry beggar- 
boy 

(Who stares unseen against our al>- 
sent eyes, 

And wondfi-s at the gods that we 
must be, 

To pass so careless for the oranges !) 

Bears yet a breastful of a fellow- 
world 

To this world, undisparaged, unde- 
spoiled. 

And (while we scorn him for a flower 
or two, 

As being, Heaven help us, less poeti- 
cal) 

Contains himself both flowers and 
firmamenta 

And surging seas and aspectable stars. 






104 




AURORA LEIGH. 



And all that we would push him out 
of sight 

In order to see nearer. Let us pray 

God's grace to keep God's image in 
repute, 

That so the poet and philanthropist 

(Even I and Bomney) may stand side 
by side, 

Because we both stand face to face 
with men, 

Contemplating the people in the 
rough, 

Yet each so follow a vocation, his 

And mine. 

I walked on, musing with myself 

On life and art, and whether after 
all 

A larger metaphysics might not help 

Our physics, a completer poetry 

Adjust our daily life and vulgar wants 

More fully than the special outside 
plans, 

Phalansteries, material institutes, 

The civil conscriptions, and lay mon- 
asteries 

Preferred by modern thinkers, as 
they thought 

The bread of man indeed inade all 
his life, 

And washing seven times in the 
" People's Baths" 

Were sovereign for a people's lepro- 
sy. 

Still leaving out the essential proph- 
et's word 

That comes in power. On which we 
thunder down, 

We prophets, poets, Virtue's in the 
word ! 

The maker burnt the darkness up 
with his, 

To inaugurate the use of vocal life; 

And plant a poet's word even deep 
enough 

In any man's breast, looking pres- 
ently 

For offshoots, you have done more 
for the man 

Than if you dressed him in a broad- 
cloth coat, 

And warmed his Sunday pottage at 
your fire. 

Yet Romney leaves me . . . 

God ! what face is that ? 

O Romney, O Marian ! 

Walking on the quays, 

And pulling thoughts to pieces leis- 
urely, 

As if I caught at grasses in a field, 



And bit them slow between my ab- 
sent lips, 

And shred them with my hands . . . 
What face is that? 

What a face, what a look, what a 
likeness ! Full on mine 

The sudden blow of it came down, 
till all 

My blood swam, my eyes dazzled, 
then I sprang . . . 

It was as if a meditative man 

Were dreaming out a summer after. 

noon, 
And watching gnats a-prick upon a 

pond, 
When something floats up suddenly, 

out there, 
Turns over ... a dead face, known 

once alive . . . 
So old, so new ! it would be dreadful 

now 
To lose the sight, and keep the doubt 

of this: 
He plunges ha ! he has lost it in 

the splash. 

I plunged I tore the crowd up, 

either side, 
And rushed on, forward, forward, 

after her. 
Her? whom? 

A woman sauntered slow in front, 
Munching an apple ; she left off 

amazed 
As if I had snatched it: that's not 

she, at least. 
A man walked arm-linked with a 

lady veiled, 
Both heads dropped closer than the 

need of talk: 
They started ; he forgot her with his 

face, 
And she, herself, and clung to him as 

if 
My look were fatal. Such a stream 

of folk, 
And all with cares and business of 

their own ! 
I ran the whole quay down against 

their eyes 

No Marian; nowhere Marian. Al- 
most, now, 
I could call " Mariau, Marian ! " with 

the shriek 
Of desperate creatures calling for the 

dead. 

Where is she, was she ? was she any- 
where ? 







AURORA LEIGH. 



105 



I stood still, breathless, gazing, strain- 
ing out 

In every uncertain distance, till at 
last 

A gentleman abstracted as myself 

Came full against me, then resolved 
the clash 

In voluble excuses, obviously 

Some learned member of the Institute 

Upon his way there, walking, for his 
health, 

While meditating on the last "Dis- 
course; " 

Pinching the empty air 'twixt finger 
and thumb, 

From which the snuff being ousted 
by that shock 

Defiled'his snow-white waistcoat duly 
pricked 

At the button-hole with honorable 
red; 

"Madame, your pardon," there he 
swerved from me 

A metre, as confounded as he had 
heard 

That Dumas would be chosen to fill 
up 

The next chair vacant, by his "men 
in its." 

Since when was genius found respect- 
able? 

It passes in its place, indeed, which 
means 

The seventh floor back, or else the 
hospital. 

Revolving pistols are ingenious 
things ; 

But prudent men (academicians are) 

Scarce keep them in the cupboard 
next the prunes. 

And so, abandoned to a bitter mirth, 

I loitered to my inn. O world, O 
world, 

O jurists, rhymers, dreamers, what 
you please, 

We play a weary game of hide-and- 
seek ! 

We shape a figure of our fantasy, 

Call nothing something, and run after 
it 

And lose it, lose ourselves, too, in the 
search, 

Till clash against us comes a some- 
body 

Who also has lost something and is 
lost, 

Philosopher against philanthropist, 

Academician against poet, man 



Against woman, against the living 

the dead 
Then home, with a bad headache and 

worse jest. 

To change the water for my helio- 
tropes 
And yellow roses. Paris has such 

flowers, 
But England also. 'Twas a yellow 

rose, 
By that south window of the little 

house, 
My cousin Romney gathered with his 

hand 
On all my birthdays for me, save the 

last ; 
And then I shook the tree too rough, 

too rough, 
For roses to stay after. 

Now, my maps. 

I must not linger here from Italy 
Till the last nightingale is tired of 

song, 
And the last firefly dies off in the 

maize. 
My soul's in haste to leap into the 

sun, 
And scorch and seethe itself to a finer 

mood, 
Which here in this chill north is apt 

to stand 
Too stiffly in former moulds. 

That face persists. 

It floats up, it turns over in my mind 
As like to Marian as one dead is like 
The same alive. In very deed a 

face, 
And not a fancy, though it vanished 

so : 
The small fair face between the darks 

of hair 

I used to liken, when I saw her first, 
To a point of moonlit water down a 

well ; 

The low brow, the frank space be- 
tween the eyes, 
Which always had the brown pathetic 

look 
Of a dumb creature, who had been 

beaten once, 
And never since was easy with the 

world. 

Ah, ah ! now I remember perfectly 
Those eyes to-day : how overlarge 

they seemed ! 

As if some patient passionate despair 
(Like a coal dropt and forgot on tap. 

estry, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Which slowly burns a widening circle 

out) 
Had burnt them larger, larger. And 

those eyes, 

To-day, I do remember, saw me too, 
As 1 saw them, with conscious lids 

as train 

In recognition. Now, a fantasy, 
A simple shade or image of the brain, 
Is merely passive, does not retroact, 
Is seen, but sees not. 

'Twas a real face, 
Perhaps a real Marian. 

Which being so, 

I ought to write to Romney, " Mari- 
an's here : 
Be comforted for Marian." 

My pen fell ; 
My hands struck sharp together, as 

hands do 
Which hold at nothing. Can I write 

to him 
A half-truth ? can I keep my own 

soul blind 
To the other half . . . the worse ? 

What are our souls, 
If still, to run on straight a sober 

pace, 
Nor start at every pebble or dead 

leaf, 
They must wear blinkers, ignore facts, 

suppress 
Six-tenths of the road ? Confront the 

truth, my soul ! 

And, oh ! as truly as that was Mari- 
an's face, 
The arms of that same Marian clasped 

a thing 
... Not hid so well beneath the 

scanty shawl, 
I cannot name it now for what it was. 

A child. Small business has a cast- 
away 

Like Marian, with that crown of pros- 
perous wives, 

At which the gentlest she grows ar- 
rogant, 

And says, " My child." Who finds 
an emerald ring 

On a beggar's middle finger, and re- 
quires 

More testimony to convict a thief ? 

A child's too costly for so mere a 
wretch : 

She filched it somewhere ; and it 
means with her, 

Instead of honor, blessing, merely 
shame. 



I cannot write to Romney, " Here 

she is, 
Here's Marian found ! I'll set you on 

her track. 
I saw her here in Paris, . . . and her 

child. 
She put away your love two years 

ago, 

But, plainly, not to starve. You suf- 
fered then; 

And now that you've forgot her ut- 
terly, 
As any last year's annual, in whose 

place 
You've planted a thick flowering 

evergreen, 
I choose, being kind, to write and 

tell you this 
To make you wholly easy, she's not 

dead, 
But only . . . damned." 

Stop there : I go too fast ; 
I'm cruel, like the rest, in haste to 

take 

The first stir in the arras for a rat, 
And set my barking, biting thoughts 

upon't. 
A child ! what then ? Suppose a 

neighbor's sick, 
And asked her, "Marian, carry out 

my child 
In this spring air," I punish her 

for that ? 
Or say, the child should hold her 

round the neck 
For good child reasons, that he liked 

it so, 
And would not leave her, she had 

winning ways, 
I brand her, therefore, that she took 

the child ? 
Not so. 

I will not write to Romney Leigh, 
For now he's happy, and she may, 

indeed, 
Be guilty, and the knowledge of her 

fault 
Would draggle his smooth time. But 

I, whose days 
Are not so fine they cannot bear the 

rain, 
And who, moreover, having seen her 

face, 
Must see it again . . . will see it, by 

my hopes 
Of one day seeing heaven too. The 

police 
Shall track her, hound her, ferret 

their own soil: 






"Marian! I find you. Shall I let you go?" Page 107. 




AURORA LKfGTT. 



107 



"We'll dig this Paris to its catacombs 
But certainly we'll find her, have her 

out, 
AnJ save her, if she will or will not, 

child 
Or no child, if a child, then one to 

save ! 

The long weeks passed on without 

consequence. 

As easy find a footstep on the sand 
The morning after spring-tide, as the 

trace 

Of Marian's feet between the inces- 
sant surfs 
Of this live flood. She may have 

moved this way; 
But so the star-tish does, and crosses 

out 
The dent of her small shoe. The 

foiled police 
Renounced me. " Could they find a 

girl and child, 
No other signahnent but girl and 

child? 

No data shown but noticeable eyes, 
And hair in masses, low upon the brow, 
As if it were an iron crown, and 

pressed ? 
Friends heighten, and suppose they 

specify: 
Why, girls with hair and eyes are 

everywhere 
In Paris; they had turned me up in 

vain, 

No Marian Erie indeed, but certainly 
Mathildes, Justines, Victoires . . . 

or, if I sought 
The English, Betsies, Saras, by the 

score. 
They might as well go out into the 

fields 

To find a speckled bean that's some- 
how specked, 
And somewhere in the pod." They 

left me so. 
Shall / leave Marian ? have I dreamed 

a dream ? 

I thank God I have foitnd her 1 I 
must say 

"Thank God" for finding her, al- 
though 'tis true 

I find the world more sad and wicked 
for't. 

But she 

I'll write about her presently. 

My hand's a-treinble, as I had just 
caught up 



My heart to write with in the place of 

it. 
At least you'd take these letters to be 

writ 
A.t sea, in storm ! wait now . . . 

A simple chance 
Did all. I could not sleep last night, 

and, tired 
Of turning on my pillow and harder 

thoughts, 
Went out at early morning, when the 

air 
Is delicate with some last starry 

touch, 
To wander through the market-place 

of flowers 
(The prettiest haunt in Paris), and 

make sure 
At worst that there were roses in the 

world. 

So wandering, musing, with the art- 
ist's eye, 
That keeps the shade-side of the 

thing it loves, 
Half-absent, whole observing, while 

the crowd 
Of young vivacious and black-braided 

heads 

Dipped, quick as finches in a blos- 
somed tree, 
Among the nosegays, cheapening this 

and that 
In such a cheerful twitter of rapid 

speech, 
My heart leapt in me, startled by a 

voice 
That slowly, faintly, with long 

breaths that marked 
The interval between the wish and 

word, 
Inquired in stranger's French, 

" Would that be much, 
That branch of flowering mountain- 

gorse?" " So much ? 
Too much for me, then ! " turning 

the face round 

So close upon me that I felt the sigh 
It turned with. 

" Marian, Marian ! " face to face 
" Marian ! I find you. Shall I let you 

go?" 
I held her two slight wrists with both 

my hands; 
" Ah, Marian, Marian, can I let you 

go?" 

She fluttered from me like a cycla- 
men 
As white, which, taken in a sudden 

wind. 






AURORA LEIGH. 




Beats on against the palisade. " Let 
pass," 

She said at last. "I will not," I 
replied: 

" I lost my sister Marian many days, 

And sought her ever in my walks 
and prayers, 

And now I find her ... do we throw 
away 

The bread we worked and prayed for, 
crumble it 

And drop it ... to do even so by 
thee 

Whom still I've hungered after more 
than bread, 

My sister Marian ? Can I hurt thee, 
dear V 

Then why distrust me ? Never trem- 
ble so. 

Come with me rather, where we'll 
talk and live, 

And none shall vex us. I've a home 
for you 

And me, and no one else "... 

She shook her head. 

" A home for you and me and no one 
else 

111 suits one of us: I prefer to such 

A roof of grass on which a flower 
might spring, 

Less costly to me than the cheapest 
here; 

And yet I could not at this hour af- 
ford 

A like home even. That you offer 
yours, 

I thank you. You are good as heav- 
en itself 

As good as one I knew before . . . 
Farewell !" 

I loosed her hands. " In his name 
no farewell ! " 

(She stood as if I held her.) " For 
his sake, 

For his sake, Romney's ! by the 
good he meant, 

Ay, always ! by the love he pressed 
for once, 

And by the grief, reproach, abandon- 
ment, 

He took in change " . . . 

" He, Bomney ! who grieved him? 

Who had the heart for't? what re- 
proach touched him ? 

Be merciful speak quickly." 

" Therefore come," 

I answered with authority. "1 
think 



We dare to speak such things, and 

name such names, 
In the open squares of Paris." 

Not a word 

She said,but in a gentle, humbled way 
(As one who had forgot herself in 

grief) 
Turned round, and followed closely 

where I went, 

As if I led her by a narrow plank 
Across devouring waters, step by 

step; 
And so in silence we walked on a. 

mile. 

And then she stopped: her face waa 

white as wax. 
" We go much farther ? " 

" You are ill," I asked, 
"Or tired?" 

She looked the whiter for her smile. 
"There's one at home," she said, 

" has need of me 
By this time ; and I must not let him 

wait." 

" Not even," I asked, " to hear of 
Romney Leigh ? " 

"Not even," she said, "to hear of 
Mister Leigh." 

" In that case," I resumed, " I go 

witli you, 
And we can talk the same thing there 

as here. 
None waits for me : I have my day to 

spend." 

Her lips moved in a spasm without a 

sound ; 
But then she spoke. " It shall be as 

you please, 
And better so 'tis shorter seen than 

told; 
And, though you will not find me 

worth your pains, 
That, even, may be worth some pains 

to know 
For one as good as you are." 

Then she led 
The way ; and I, as by a narrow 

plank 
Across devouring waters, followed 

her, 
Stepping by her footsteps, breathing 

by her breath, 
And holding her with eyes that would 

not slip; 







AURORA LEIGH. 



109 



And so, without a word, we walked a 

mile, 
And so another mile, without a word. 

Until the peopled streets being all dis- 
missed, 
House rows and groups all scattered 

like a flock, 
The market-gardens thickened, and 

the long 

White walls beyond, like spiders' out- 
side threads, 
Stretched, feeling blindly toward the 

country-fields 
Through half-built habitations and 

half-dug 
Foundations, intervals of trenchant 

chalk 
That bit betwixt the grassy uneven 

turfs 
Where goats (vine-tendrils trailing 

from their mouths) 

Stood perched on edges of the cellar- 
age 
"VYhich should be, staring as about to 

leap 
To find their coming Bacchus. All 

the place 
Seemed less a cultivation than a 

waste. 
Men work here, only, scarce begin 

to live: 
All's sad, the country struggling with 

the town, 
Like an untamed hawk upon a strong 

man's fist, 
That beats its wings, and tries to get 

away, 
And cannot choose be satisfied so 

soon 
To hop through court-yards with its 

right foot tied, 
The vintage plains and pastoral hills 

in sight. 

We stopped beside a house too high 

and slim 
To stand there by itself, but waiting 

till 
Five others, two on this side, three on 

that, 

Should grow up from the sullen sec- 
ond floor 
They pause at now, to build it to a 

row. 
The \ipper windows partly were un- 

glazed 
Meantime, a meagre, unripe house: 

aline 



Of rigid poplars elbowed it behind ; 
And just in front, beyond the lime 

and bricks 
That wronged the grass between it 

and the road, 

A great acacia with its slender trunk, 
And overpoise of multitudinous 

leaves, 
(In which a hundred fields might spill 

their dew 
And intense verdure, yet find room 

enough) 
Stood reconciling all the place with 

green. 

I followed up the stair upon her 

step. 
She hurried upward, shot acrosa a 

face, 
A woman's, on the landing, " How 

now, now ! 

Is no one to have holidays but you ? 
You said an hour, and stay three 

hours, I think, 
And Julie waiting for your betters 

here? 
Why, if he had waked, he might have 

waked, for me." 
Just murmuring an excusing word, 

she passed 

And shut the rest out with the cham- 
ber-door, 
Myself shut in beside her. 

'Twas a room 
Scarce larger than a grave, and near 

as bare, 
Two stools, a pallet-bed. I saw the 

room: 
A mouse could find no sort of shelter 

in't, 

Much less a greater secret; curtain- 
less, 

The window fixed you with its tor- 
turing eye, 

Defying you to take a step apart, 
If, perad venture, you would hide a 

thing. 
I saw the whole room, I and Marian 

there 
Alone. 

Alone ? She threw her bonnet off, 
Then, sighing as 'twere sighing the 

last time, 
Approached the bed, and drew a 

shawl away: 
You could not peel a fruit you fear to 

bruise 
More calmly and more carefully thau 

so, 





110 



AURORA LEIGH. 




Nor would you find within, a rosier 

flushed 
Pomegranate 

There he lay upon his back, 
The yearling creature, warm and 

moist with life 
To the bottom of his dimples, to the 

ends 
Of the lovely tumbled curls about his 

face; 

For since he had been covered over- 
much 
To keep him from the light-glare, 

both his cheeks 
"Were hot and scarlet as the first live 

rose 
The shepherd's heart-blood ebbed 

away into 
The faster for his love. And love 

was here 

As instant: in the pretty baby-mouth, 
Shut close, as if for dreaming that it 

sucked ; 
The little naked feet, drawn up the 

way 
Of nestled birdlings; every thing so 

soft 
And tender, to the tiny holdfast 

hands, 

"Which, closing on a finger into sleep, 
Had kept the mould oft. 

"While we stood there dumb ; 
For oh, that it should take such inno- 
cence 
To prove just guilt, I thought, and 

stood there dumb, 
The light upon his eyelids pricked 

them wide, 
And staring out at us with all their 

blue, 

As half perplexed between the angel- 
hood 
He had been away to visit in his 

sleep, 

And our most mortal presence, grad- 
ually 

He saw his mother's face, accepting it 
In change for heaven itself with such 

a smile 
As might have well been learnt there, 

never moved, 

But smiled on in a drowse of ecstasy, 
So happy (half with her, and half with 

heaven) 
He could not have the trouble to be 

stirred, 
But smiled and lay there. Like a 

rose, I said ? 
As red and still indeed as any rose, 



That blows in all the silence of its 

leaves, 
Content, in blowing, to fulfil its life. 

She leaned above him (drinking him 
as wine) 

In that extremity of love 'twill pass 

For agony or rapture, seeing that love 

Includes the whole of nature, round- 
ing it 

To love ... no more, since more can 
never be 

Than just love. Self-forgot, cast out 
of self, 

And drowning in the transport of the 
sight, 

Her whole pale passionate face, 
mouth, forehead, eyes, 

One gaze she stood ; then, slo\vly as 
he smiled, 

She smiled too, slowly, smiling un- 
aware, 

And drawing from his countenance 
to hers 

A fainter red, as if she watched a 
flame, 

And stood in it aglow. " How beau- 
tiful ! " 

Said she. 

I answered, trying to be cold. 

(Must sin have compensations, was 
my thought, 

As if it were a holy thing like grief ? 

And is a woman to be fooled aside 

From putting vice down, with that 
woman's toy, 

A baby?) "Ay! the child is well 
enough," 

I answered. " If his mother's palms 
are clean, 

They need be glad, of course, in clasp- 
ing such ; 

But, if not, I would rather lay my 
hand, 

"Were I she, on God's brazen altar- 
bars 

Red-hot with burning sacrificial 
lambs, 

Than touch the sacred curls of such a 
child." 

She plunged her fingers in his cluster- 
ing locks 

As one who would not be afraid cf 
fire ; 

And then, with indrawn steady utter- 
ance, said, 

" My lamb, my lamb I although, 
through such as thou, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Ill - 



The most unclean got courage, and 

approached 
To God, once, now they cannot, even 

with men, 
Find grace enough for pity and gentle 

words." 

"My Marian," I made answer, grave 

and sad, 
" The priest who stole a lamb to offer 

him 
Was still a thief. And if a woman 

steals 
(Through God's own barrier-hedges of 

true love, 
"Which fence out license in securing 

love) 
A child like this, that smiles so in her 

face, 

She is no mother, but a kidnapper, 
And he's a dismal orphan, not a son, 
Whom all her kisses cannot feed so 

full 
He will not miss hereafter a pure 

home 
To live in, a pure heart to lean 

against, 
A pure good mother's name and 

memory 
To hope by when the world grows 

thick "and bad, 
And he feels out for virtue." 

" Oh ! " she smiled 
With bitter patience, "the child takes 

his chance ; 

Not much worse off in being father- 
less 
Than I was, fathered. He will say, 

belike, 
His mother was the saddest creature 

born ; 

He'll say his mother lived so contrary 
To joy, that even the kindest, seeing 

her, 
Grew sometimes almost cruel ; he'll 

not say 

She flew contrarious in the face of God 
With bat-wings of her vices. Stole 

my child ! 
My flower of earth, my only flower 

on earth, 
My sweet, my beauty ! " . . . Up she 

snatched the child, 
And, breaking on him in a storm of 

tears, 
Drew out her long sobs from their 

shivering roots, 
Until he took it for a game, and 

stretched 



His feet, and flapped his eager arms 
like wings, 

And crowed and gurgled through his 
infant laugh. 

" Mine, mine ! " she said. " I have as 
sure a right 

As any glad proud mother in the 
world, 

Who sets her darling down to cut his 
teeth 

Upon her church-ring. If she talks 
of law, 

I talk of law : I claim my mother- 
dues 

By law, the law which now is para- 
mount ; 

The common law, by which the poor 
and weak 

Are trodden under foot by vicious 
men, 

And loathed forever after by the good. 

Let pass ! I did not filch : I found 
the child." 

' ' You found him, Marian ? " 

" Ay, I found him where 
I found my curse, in the gutter with 

my shame ! 
What have you, any of you, to say to 

that, 
Who all are happy, and sit safe and 

high, 
And never spoke before to arraign 

my right 
To grief itself? What, what, . . . 

being beaten down 
By hoofs of maddened oxen into a 

ditch, 
Half-dead, whole mangled, when a 

girl at last 
Breathes, sees . . . and finds there, 

bedded in her flesh, 
Because of the extremity of the 

shock, 
Some coin of price ! . . . and when a 

good man comes 
(That's God ! the best men are not 

quite as good) 
And says, ' I dropped the coin there : 

take it, you, 
And keep it, it shall pay you for the 

loss,' 
You all put up your finger ' See the 

thief 1 
Observe what precious thing she has 

come to filch ! 
How bad those girls are I ' Oh, my 

flower, my pet, 
I dare forget I have you in my arms, 







112 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And fly off to be angry with the 

world, 
And fright you, hurt you with iny 

tempers, till 
You double up your lip ? Why, that 

indeed 
Is bad : a naughty mother ! " 

" You mistake," 

I interrupted. " If I loved you not, 
I should not, Marian, certainly be 

here." 

" Alas ! " she said, " you are so very 

good ; 
And yet I wish, indeed, you had 

never come 
To make me sob until I vex the 

child. 

It is not wholesome for these pleasure- 
plats 

To be so early watered by our brine. 
And then who knows ? he may not 

like me now 
As well, perhaps, as ere he saw me 

fret: 
One's ugly fretting. He has eyes the 

same 

As angels, but he cannot see as deep ; 
And so I've kept forever in his sight 
A sort of smile to please him, as you 

place 
A green thing from the garden in a 

cup 
To make believe it grows there. Look, 

my sweet, 
My cowslip-ball ! we've done with that 

cross face, 
And here's the face come back you 

used to like. 
Ah, ah ! he laughs: he likes ine. Ah ! 

Miss Leigh, 
You're great and pure ; but were you 

purer still, 
As if you had walked, we'll say no 

otherwhere 

Than up and down the New Jerusa- 
lem, 
And held your trailing lutestring up 

yourself 
From brushing the twelve stones, for 

fear of some 

Small speck as little as a needle- 
prick, 
White stitched on white, the child 

would keep to me, 
Would choose his poor lost Marian, 

like me best, 
And, though you stretched your arms, 

cry back and cling, 



As we do when God says it's time to 

die 
And bids us go up higher. Leave us, 

then: 
We two are happy. Does he push me 

off? 
He's satisfied with me, as I with 

him." 

"So soft to one, so hard to others! 

Nay," 
I cried, more angry that she melted 

me, 
" We make henceforth a cushion of 

our faults 

To sit and practise easy virtues on ? 
I thought a child was given to sanc- 
tify 
A woman, set her, in the sight of 

all 
The clear-eyed heavens, a chosen 

minister 

To do their business, and lead spirits up 
The difficult blue heights. A woman 

lives 
Not bettered, quickened toward the 

truth and good 
Through being a mother ? . . . Then 

she's none, although 
She damps her baby's cheeks by kiss- 
ing them, 
As we kill roses." 

" Kill ! O Christ ! " she said, 
And turned her wild, sad face from 

side to side 
With most despairing wonder in it. 

" What, 
What have you in your souls against 

me then, 
All of you? Am I wicked, do you 

think ? 
God knows me, trusts me with the 

child but you, 
You think me really wicked ? " 

" Complaisant," 
I answered softly, " to a wrong you've 

done, 
Because of certain profits, which is 

wrong 
Beyond the first wrong, Marian. 

When you left 
The pure place and the noble heart 

to take 
The hand of a seducer "... 

" Whom ? whose hand ? 
I took the hand of " . . . 

Springing up erect, 
And lifting up the child at full arm's- 

leugth, 







AURORA LKIGII. 



113 



As if to bear him like an oriHamme 
Unconquerable to armies of re- 
proach, 
"By him," she said, "my child's 

head and its curls, 
By these blue eyes no woman born 

could dare 
A perjury on, I make my mother's 

oath, 

That if I left that heart to lighten it, 
The blood of mine was still, except 

for grief ! 
No cleaner maid than I was took a 

step 
To a sadder end, no matron-mother 

now 

Looks backward to her early maiden- 
hood 
Through chaster pulses. I speak 

steadily ; 
And if I lie so ... if, being fouled in 

will 
And paltered with in soul by devil's 

lust, 
I dared to bid this angel take my 

part . . . 
"Would God sit quiet, let us think, in 

heaven, 
Nor strike me dumb with thunder ? 

Yet I speak: 

He clears me therefore. "What, ' se- 
duced ' 's your word ? 
Do wolves seduce a wandering fawn 

in France ? 
Do eagles, who have pinched a lamb 

with claws, 

Seduce it into carrion ? So with me. 
I was not ever, as you say, seduced, 
But simply m rrdered." 

There sbe paused, and sighed, 
With such a sigh as drops from agony 
To exhaustion,-, -sighing while she 

let the babe 
Slide down upon her bosom from her 

arms, 
And all her face's light fell after 

him 
Like a torch quenched in falling. 

Down she sank, 
And sate upon the bedside with the 

child. 

But I, convicted, broken utterly, 
"With woman's passion clung about 

her waist, 
And kissed her hair and eyes, "I 

have been wrong, 
Sweet Marian" . . . (weeping in a 

tender rage), 



" Sweet, holy Marian 1 And now, 

Marian, now, 
I'll use your oath, although my lips 

are hard, 
And by the child, my Marian, by the 

child, 

I swear his mother shall be inno- 
cent 
Before my conscience, as in the open 

Book 
Of Him who reads for judgment. In 

nocent, 
My sister I Let the night be ne'er sc 

dark, 
The moon is surely somewhere in the 

skv. 
So surely is your whiteness to b 

found 
Through all dark facts. But pardon, 

pardon me, 
And smile a little, Marian, for the 

child, 
If not for me, my sister." 

The poor lip 
Just motioned for the smile, and let it 

go; 
And then, with scarce a stirring of 

the mouth, 
As if a statue spoke that could not 

breathe, 
But spoke on calm between its marble 

lips, 
" I'm glad, I'm very glad, you clear 

me so. 
I should be sorry that you set me 

down 
With harlots, or with even a better 

name 
Which misbecomes his mother. For 

the rest, 

I am not on a level with your love, 
Nor ever was, you know, but now 

am worse, 
Because that world of yours has dealt 

with me 
As when the hard sea bites and chews 

a stone, 
And changes the first form of it. I've 

marked 
A shore of pebbles bitten to one 

shape 

From all the various life of madre- 
pores ; 

And so that little stone called Mar- 
ian Erie, 
Picked up and dropped by you and 

another friend, 
Was ground and tortured by the in* 

cessant sea, 







114 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And bruised from what she was, 
changed ! death's a change, 

And she, I said, was murdered: Mar- 
ian's dead. 

What can you do with people when 
they are dead, 

But, if you are pious, sing a hymn 
and go, 

Or, if you are tender, heave a sigh and 

g. 
But go by all means, and permit 

the grass 
To keep its green feud up 'twixt them 

and you ? 
Then leave me, let me rest. I'm 

dead, I say. 
And if, to save the child from death 

as well, 
The mother in me has survived the 

rest, 
Why, that's God's miracle you must 

not tax, 

I'm not less dead for that: I'm noth- 
ing more 
But just a mother. Only for the 

child 
I'm warm, and cold, and hungry, and 

afraid, 
And smell the flowers a little, and see 

the sun, 
And speak still, and am silent, just 

for him! 
I pray you therefore to mistake me 

not, 

And treat me haply as I were alive ; 
For, though you ran a pin. into my 

soul, 
I think it would not hurt nor trouble 

me. 

Here's proof, dear lady, in the mar- 
ket-place 
But now, you promised me to say a 

word 
About ... a friend, who once, long 

years ago, 
Took God's place toward me, when 

he leans and loves, 
And does not thunder . . . whom at 

last I left, 
As all of us leave God. You thought 

perhaps 
I seemed to care for hearing of that 

friend ? 
Now judge me ! We have sate here 

half an hour 
And talked together of the child and 

me, 
And I not asked as much as ' What's 

the thing 



You had to tell me of the friend . . . 

the friend ? ' 
He's sad, I think you said, he's sick 

perhaps ? 
'Tis nought to Marian if he's sad or 

sick. 
Another would have crawled beside 

your foot, 
And prayed your words out. Why, a 

beast, a dog, 
A starved cat, if he had fed it once 

with milk, 
Would show less hardness. But I'm 

dead, you see, 
And that explains it." 

Poor, poor thing, she spoke 
And shook her head, as white and 

calm as frost 
On days too cold for- raining any 

more, 
But still with such a face, so much 

alive, 
I could not choose but take it on my 

arm, 
And stroke the placid patience of its 

cheeks, 
Then told my story out, of llomney 

Leigh, 
How, having lost her, sought her, 

missed her still, 
He, broken-hearted for himself and 

her, 
Had drawn the curtains of the world 

. awhile 
As if he had done with morning. 

There I stopped; 
For when she gasped, and pressed mo 

with her eyes, 
" And now . . . how is it with him? 

tell me now," 
I felt the shame of compensated 

grief, 
And chose my words with scruple 

slowly stepped 
Upon the slippery stones set here and 

there 

Across the sliding water. ' ' Certainly, 
As evening empties morning into 

night, 
Another morning takes the evening 

up 

With healthful, providential inter- 
change ; 
And though he thought still of 

her" 

" Yes, she knew, 
She understood: she had supposed, 

indeed, 
That as one stops a hole upon a flute, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



115 . . 



At which a new note comes and 

shapes the tune, 
Excluding her would bring a worthier 

in, 
And, long ere this, that Lady Walde- 

mar 

He loved so" ... 

" Loved ! " I started " loved her so ! 
Now tell me" . . . 

" I will tell you," she replied: 
" But, since we're taking oaths, you'll 

promise first 
That he in England, he, shall never 

learn 
In what a dreadful trap his creature 

here, 
Round whose unworthy neck he had 

meant to tie 

The honorable ribbon of his name, 
Fell unaware, and came to butchery: 
Because, I know him, as he takes 

to heart 
The grief of every stranger, he's not 

like 
To banish mine as far as I should 

choose 
In wishing him most happy. Now he 

leaves 
To think of me, perverse, who went 

my way, 
Unkind, and left him; but if once he 

knew . . . 
A.h, then, the sharp nail of my cruel 

wrong 

Would fasten me forever in his sight, 
Like some poor curious bird, through 

each spread wing 
Nailed high up over a fierce hunter's 

fire, 
To spoil the dinner of all tenderer 

folk 
Come in by chance. Nay, since your 

Marian's dead, 
You shall not hang her up, but dig a 

hole, 
And bury her in silence; ring no 

bells." 

I answered gayly, though my whole 

voice wept, 
" We'll ring the joy-bells, not the 

funeral-bells, 
Because we have her back, dead or 

alive." 

She never answered that, but shook 

her head; 
Then low and calm, as one who, safe 

in heaven, 



Shall tell a story of his lower life, 
Unmoved by shame or anger, so she 

spoke. 
She told me she had loved upon her 

knees, 

As others pray, more perfectly ab- 
sorbed 
In the act and inspiration. She felt 

his 
For just his uses, not her own at 

all, 
His stool, to sit on or put up his 

foot; 

His cup, to fill with wine or vinegar : 
Whichever drink might please him at 

the chance, 
For that should please her always; 

let him write 
His name upon her ... it seemed 

natural : 
It was most precious, standing on his 

shelf, 
To wait until he chose to lift his 

hand. 
Well, well, I saw her then, and 

must have seen 
How bright her life went floating on 

her love, 
Like wicks the housewives send afloat 

on oil 
Which feeds them to a flame that 

lasts the night. 

To do good seemed so much his busi- 
ness, 

That having done it she was fain to 
think 

Must fill up his capacity for joy. 

At first she never mooted with her- 
self 

If he was happy, since he made her 
so; 

Or if he loved her, being so much be- 
loved. 

Who thinks of asking if the sun is 
light, 

Observing that it lightens ? who's so 
bold, 

To question God of his felicity ? 

Still less. And thus she took for 
granted first 

What, first of all, she should have put 
to proof, 

And sinned against him so, but only 
so. 

"What could you hope," she said. 
" of such as she? 

You take a kid you like, and turn it 
out 







116 



AURORA LEIGH. 



In some fair garden : though the crea- 
ture's fond 

And gentle, it will leap upon the 
beds, 

And break your tulips, bite your ten- 
der trees : 

The wonder would be if such inno- 
cence 

Spoiled less. A garden is no place for 
kids." 

And by degrees, when he who had 

chosen her 

Brought in his courteous and benig- 
nant friends 
To spend their goodness on her, which 

she took 

So very gladly, as a part of his, 
By slow degrees it broke on her slow 

sense, 

That she, too, in that Eden of delight 
"Was out of place, and, like the silly kid, 
Still did most mischief where she 

meant most love. 
A thought enough to make a woman 

mad, 
(No beast in this but she may well go 

mad) 
That saying " I am thine to love and 

use " 

May blow the plague in her protest- 
ing breath 
To the very man for whom she claims 

to die ; 
That, clinging round his neck, she 

pulls him down 
And drowns him ; and that, lavishing 

her soul, 
She hales perdition on him. " So, 

being mad," 
Said Marian . . . 

" Ah ! who stirred such thoughts," 

you ask ? 
" Whose fault it was that she should 

have such thoughts ? 
Hone's fault, none's fault. The light 

comes, and we see : 
But if it were not truly for our eyes, 
There would be nothing seen for all 

the light : 
And so with Marian. If she s,aw at 

last, 
The sense was in her : Lady Walde- 

mar 
Had spoken all in vain else." 

" O my heart, 
O prophet in my heart ! " I cried 

aloud. 
" Then Lady "Waldemar spoke ! " 



" Did she speak ? " 
Mused Marian softly, " or did she 

only sign ? 
Or did she put a word into her 

face 
And look, and so impress you with 

the word ? 
Or leave it in the foldings of her 

gown, 
Like rosemary smells a movement 

will shake out 
When no one's conscious? Who 

shall say, or guess ? 
One thing alone was certain, from 

the day 

The gracious lady paid a visit first, 
She, Marian, saw things different, 

felt distrust 

Of all that sheltering roof of circum- 
stance 
Her hopes were building into with 

clay nests : 
Her heart was restless, pacing up and 

down , 
And fluttering, like dumb creatures 

before storms, 
Not knowing wherefore she was ill at 

ease." 

"And still the lady came," said Mari- 
an Erie, 

" Much oftener than he knew it, Mister 
Leigh. 

She bade me never tell him she had 
come, 

She liked to love me better than he 
knew : 

So very kind was Lady "Waldemar. 

And every time she brought with her 
more light, 

And every light made sorrow clearer 
. . . Well, 

Ah, well ! we cannot give her blame 
for that : 

'Twould be the same thing if an angel 
came, 

Whose right should prove our wrong. 
And every time 

The lady came she looked more beau- 
tiful, 

And spoke more like a flute among 
green trees, 

Until at last, as one, whose heart be- 
ing sad 

On hearing lovely music, suddenly 

Dissolves in weeping, I brake out in 
tears 

Before her, asked her counsel, ' Had 
I erred 







AURORA LEIGH. 



117 



In being too happy ? would she set 
me straight ? 

For she, being wise and good, and 
born above 

The flats I had never climbed from, 
could perceive 

If such as I might grow upon the hills, 

And whether such poor herb sufficed 
to grow 

For Romney Leigh to break his fast 
upon't ; 

Or would he pine on such, or haply 
starve ? ' 

She wrapt me in her generous arms at 
once, 

And let me dream a moment how it 
feels 

To have a real mother, like some 
girls ; 

But, when I looked, her face was 
younger ... ay, 

Youth's too bright not to be a little 
hard, 

And beauty keeps itself still upper- 
most, 

That's true ! Though Lady Walde- 
inar was kind, 

She hurt me, hurt, as if the morning- 
sun 

Should smite us on the eyelids when 
we sleep, 

And wake us up with headache. Ay, 
and soon 

"Was light enough to make my heart 
ache too. 

She told me truths I asked for, 
'twas my fault, 

' That Romney could not love me, if 
he would, 

As men call loving : there are bloods 
that flow 

Together, like some rivers, and not 
mix, 

Tlirough contraries of nature. He, 
indeed, 

"Was set to wed me, to espouse my 
class, 

Act out a rash opinion ; and, once 
wed, 

So just a man and gentle could not 
choose 

But make my life as smooth as mar- 
riage-ring, 

Bespeak me mildly, keep me a cheer- 
ful house, 

"With servants, brooches, all the flow- 
ers I liked, 

And pretty dresses, silk the whole 
year round ' . . . 



At which I stopped her, ' This for 
me. And now 

For him ? ' She hesitated, truth 
grew hard ; 

She owned ' 'Twos plain a man like 
Romney Leigh 

Required a wife more level to him- 
self. 

If day by day he had to bend his 
height 

To pick up sympathies, opinions, 
thoughts, 

And interchange the common talk oi 
life, 

Which helps a man to live, as well as 
talk, 

His days were heavily taxed. Who 
buys a staff 

To fit the hand, that reaches but the 
knee? 

He'd feel it bitter to be forced to miss 

The perfect joy of married suited 
pairs, 

"Who, bursting through the separating 
hedge 

Of personal dues with that sweet eg- 
lantine 

Of equal love, keep saying, "So we 
Think, 

It strikes its, that's our fancy."' 
"When I asked 

If earnest will, devoted love, em- 
ployed 

In youth like mine, would fail to 
raise me up, 

As two strong arms will always raise 
a child 

To a fruit hung overhead, she sighed 
and sighed . . . 

' That could not be,' she feared. ' You 
take a pink, 

You dig about its roots, and water it, 

And so improve it to a garden-pink, 

But will not change it to a helio- 
trope: 

The kind remains. And then the 
harder truth, 

This Romney Leigh, so rash to leap a 
pale, 

So bold for conscience, quick for mar- 
tyrdom, 

Would suffer steadily and never 
flinch, 

But suffer surely and keenly, when 
his class 

Turned shoulder on him for a shame- 
ful match, 

And set him up as ninepin in their 
talk 





118 




AURORA LEIGH. 



To bowl him down with jestings.' 
There she paused, 

And when I used the pause in doubt- 
ing that 

We wronged him, after all, in what 
we feared 

'Suppose such things could never 
touch him more 

In his high conscience (if the things 
should be,) 

Than, when the queen sits in an up- 
per room, 

The horses in the street can spatter 
her ! ' 

A moment, hope came ; but the lady 
closed 

That door, and nicked the lock, and 
shut it out, 

Observing wisely, that ' the tender 
heart 

"Which made him over-soft to a lower 
class 

Would scarcely fail to make him sen- 
sitive 

To a higher, how they thought, and 
what they felt.' 

" Alas, alas ! " said Marian, rocking 

slow 

The pretty baby who was near asleep, 
The eyelids creeping over the blue 

balls, 
" She made it clear, too clear: I saw 

the whole. 
And yet who knows if I had seen my 

way 
Straight out of it by looking, though 

'twas clear, 
Unless the generous lady, 'ware of 

this, 

Had set her own house all a-fire for me 
To light me forwards ? Leaning on 

my face 
Her heavy agate eyes, which crushed 

my will, 
She told me tenderly, (as when men 

come 
To a bedside to tell people they must 

die) 
' She knew of knowledge, ay, of 

knowledge knew, 
That Romney Leigh had loved her 

formerly. 
And she loved him, she might say, 

now the chance 
"Was past. But that, of course, he 

never guessed, 
For something caine between them, 

something thin 



As a cobweb, catching every fly oi 

doubt 

To hold it buzzing at the window- 
pane, 
And help to dim the daylight. Ah, 

man's pride 
Or woman's, which is greatest ? 

most averse 
To brushing cobwebs ? Well, but she 

and he 
Remained fast friends: it seemed not 

more than so, 
Because he had bound his hands, and 

could not stir. 

An honorable man, if somewhat rash; 
And she not even for Romney 

would she spill 

A blot, as little even as a tear . . . 
Upon his marriage-contract, not to 

gain 
A better joy for two than came by 

that; 
For, though I stood between her 

heart and heaven, 
She loved me wholly.' " 

Did I laugh, or curse? 
I think I sat there silent, hearing 

all, 
Ay, hearing double, Marian's tale. 

at once, 
And Romney's marriage-vow, "I'll 

keep to THEE," 
Which means that woman-serpent. 

Is it time 
For church now ? 

" Lady Waldemar spoke more," 
Continued Marian; " but as when a 

i soul 
Will pass out through the sweetness 

of a song 

Beyond it, voyaging the uphill road, 
Even so mine wandered from the 

things I heard 

To those I suffered. It was afterward 
I shaped the resolution to the act. 
For many hours we talked. What 

need to talk ? 
The fate was clear and close; it 

touched my eyes; 
But still the generous lady tried to 

keep 
The case afloat, and would not let it 

g 
And argued, struggled upon Marian's 

side, 
Which was not Romney's, though she 

little knew 
What ugly monster would take up 

the end, 





AURORA LEIGH. 



119 



What griping death within the 

drowning death 
Was ready to complete my sum of 

death." 

I thought, Perhaps he's sliding now 
the ring 

Upon that woman's finger . . . 

She went on : 

" The lady, failing to prevail her way, 

Upgathered my torn wishes from 
the ground, 

And pieced them with her strong be- 
nevolence; 

And as I thought I could breathe 
freer air 

Away from England, going without 
' pause, 

"Without farewell, just breaking with 
a jerk 

The blossomed offshoot from my 
thorny life, 

She promised kindly to provide the 
means, 

With instant passage to the colonies 

And full protection, ' would commit 
me straight 

To one who had once been her wait- 
ing-maid, 

And had the customs of the world, 
intent 

On changing England for Australia 

Herself, to carry out her fortune so.' 

For which I thanked the Lady Wal- 
demar, 

As men upon their death-beds thank 
last friends 

Who lay the pillow straight: it is not 
much, 

And yet 'tis all of which they are ca- 
pable, 

This lying smoothly in a bed to die. 

And so, 'twas fixed; and so, from 
day to day, 

The woman named came in to visit 
me." 

Just then the girl stopped speaking, 

sate erect, 
And stared at me as if I had been a 

ghost, 
(Perhaps I looked as white as any 

ghost) 
With large-eyed horror. " Does God 

make," she said, 
' All sorts of creatures really, do you 

think? 

Or is it that the Devil slavers them 
So excellently, that we come to doubt 



Who's stronger, he who makes, or 

he who mars ? 
I never liked the woman's face, or 

voice, 
Or ways: it made me blush to look at 

her; 
It made me tremble if she touched my 

hand; 
And when she spoke a fondling word, 

I shrank 
As if one hated me who had power 

to hurt; 
And, every time she came, my veins 

ran cold, 
As somebody were walking on my 

grave. 

At last I spoke to Lady Waldemar: 
' Could such a one be good to trust ? ' 

I asked. 
"Whereat the lady stroked my cheek, 

and laughed 
Her silver laugh (one must be born 

to laugh 
To put such music in it), ' Foolish 

girl, 
Your scattered wits are gathering wool 

beyond 
The sheep-walk reaches ! leave the 

thing to me.' 
And therefore, half in trust, and half 

in scorn 

That I had heart still for another fear 
In such a safe despair, I left the thing. 

" The rest is short. I was obedient: 
I wrote my letter which delivered him 
From Marian to his own prosperities, 
And followed that bad guide. The 

lady? hush, 

I never blame the lady. Ladies who 
Sit high, however willing to look 

down, 

Will scarce see lower than their dain- 
ty feet; 

And Lady Waldemar saw less than I, 
With what a Devil's daughter I went 

forth 
Along the swine's road, down th 

precipice, 
In such a curl of hell-foam caught 

and choked, 
No shriek of soul in anguish could 

pierce through 
To fetch some help. They say there's 

help in heaven 
For all such cries. But if one cries 

from hell . . . 
What then? the heavens are deal 

upon that side. 







120 



AURORA LEIGH. 



" A woman . . . hear me, let me 

make it plain . . . 
A woman . . . not a monster . . . 

both her breasts 
Made right to suckle babes . . . she 

took me off 

A woman also, young and ignorant, 
And heavy with my grief, my two 

poor eyes 
Near washed away with weeping, till 

the trees, 
The blessed unaccustomed trees and 

fields 
Ran either side the train like stranger 

dogs 

Unworthy of any notice, took me off 
So dull, so blind, so only half alive, 
Not seeing by what road, nor by what 

ship, 
Nor toward what place, nor to what 

end of all. 
Men carry a corpse thus, past the 

doorway, past 

The garden-gate, the children's play- 
ground, up 
The green lane, then they leave it 

in the pit, 
To sleep and find corruption, cheek 

to cheek 
With him who stinks since Friday. 

" But suppose: 
To go down with one's soul into the 

grave, 
To go down half dead, half alive, I 

say, 
And wake up with corruption . . . 

cheek to cheek 
With him who stinks since Friday ! 

There it is, 

And that's the horror oft, Miss Leigh. 

"You feel? 

You understand? no, do not look 

at me, 
But understand. The blank, blind 

weary way 
Which led, where'er it led, away at 

least; 
The shifted ship ... to Sydney, or to 

France, 
Still bound, wherever else, to another 

land; 
The swooning sickness on the dismal 

sea, 
The foreign shore, the shameful 

house, the night, 
The feeble blood, the heavy-headed 

grief ... 
No need to bring their damnable 

drugged cup, 



And yet they brought it. Hell's so 

prodigal 
Of Devil's gifts, hunts liberally in 

packs, 
Will kill no poor small creature of 

the wilds 
But fifty red wide throats must smoke 

at it, 
As HIS at me . . . when waking up 

at last . . . 
I told you that I waked up in the 

grave. 

" Enough so 1 it is plain enough so. 

True, 
We wretches cannot tell out all our 

wrong 
Without offence to decent happy 

folk. 
I know that we must scrupulously 

hint 
With half-words, delicate reserves, 

the thing 
Which no one scrupled we should 

feel in full. 
Let pass the rest, then; only leave 

my oath 

Upon this sleeping child, man's vio- 
lence, 
Not man's seduction, made me what 

I am, 
As lost as ... I told him I should be 

lost. 
When mothers fail us, can we help 

ourselves ? 
That's fatal ! And you call it being 

lost, 
That down came next day's noon, and 

caught me there 
Half gibbering and half raving on 

the floor, 
And wondering what had happened 

up in heaven, 
That suns should dare to shine when 

God himself 
Was certainly abolished. 

" I was mad, 
How many weeks I know not, 

many weeks. 
I think they let me go when I was 

mad: 
They feared my eyes, and loosed me, 

as boys might 
A mad dog which they had tortured. 

Up and down 
I went, by road and village, over 

tracts 
Of open foreign country, large and 

strange, 






" And there I sate, one evening by the road, 
I, Marian Erie." Page 121. 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Crossed everywhere by long, thin 

poplar-lines 
Like fingers of some ghastly ske'aton 

hand 

Through sunlight and through moon- 
light evermore 
Pushed out from hell itself to pluck 

me back, 

And resolute to get me, slow and sure ; 
While every roadside Christ upon his 

cross 
Hung reddening through his gory 

wounds at me, 
And shook his nails in anger, and 

came down 

To follow a mile after, wading up 
The low vines and green whe&t, cry- 
ing, " Take the girl ! 
She's none of mine from henceforth." 

Then I knew 
(But this is somewhat dimmer than 

the rest) 

The charitable peasants gave me bread, 
And leave to sleep in straw; and 

twice they tied, 
At parting, Mary's image round my 

neck. 
How heavy it seemed ! as heavy as 

a stone; 
A woman has been strangled with 

less weight: 

I threw it in a ditch to keep it clean, 
And ease my breath a little, when 

none looked: 
I did not need such safeguards: brutal 

men 
Stopped short, Miss Leigh, in insult, 

when they had seen 
My face, I must have had an awful 

look. 
And so I lived: the weeks passed on, 

Hived. 
'Twas living my old tramp-life o'er 

again, 
But this time in a dream, and hunted 

round 
By some prodigious dream-fear at my 

back, 
Which ended yet: my brain cleared 

presently ; 
And there I sate, one evening, by the 

road, 

I, Marian Erie, myself, alone, undone, 
Facing a sunset low upon the flats 
As if it were the finish of all time, 
The great red stone upon my sepul- 
chre, 
Which angels were too weak to roll 

away. 




SEVENTH BOOK. 

" THE woman's motive ? shall we 

daub ourselves 
With finding roots for nettles? 'tis 

soft clay, 
And easily explored. She had the 

means, 
The moneys, by the lady's liberal 

grace, 
In trust for that Australian scheme 

and me, 
Which so, that she might clutch with 

both her hands, 

And chink to her naughty uses un- 
disturbed, 
She served me (after all it was not 

strange : 
'Twas only what my mother would 

have done) 
A motherly, right damnable good 

turn. 

" Well, after. There are nettles 

everywhere ; 
But smooth green grasses are more 

common still : 
The blue of heaven is larger than the 

cloud. 

A miller's wife at Clichy took me in, 
And spent her pity on me, made 

me calm, 

And merely very reasonably sad. 
She found me a servant's place in 

Paris, where 

I tried to take the cast-oft life again, 
And stood as quiet as a beaten ass, 
Who, having fallen through overloads, 

stands up 
To let them charge him with another 

pack. 

"A few months, so. My mistress, 

young and light, 
Was easy with me, less for kindness 

than 
Because she led, herself, an easy 

time 

Betwixt her lover and her looking- 
glass, 
Scarce knowing which way she was 

praised the most. 
She felt so pretty and so pleased all 

day, 
She could not take the trouble to be 

cross, 
But sometimes, as I stooped to tie her 

shoe, 





122 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Wouid tap me softly with her slender 

foot, 
Still restless with the last night's 

dancing in't, 
And say, ' Fie, pale-face ! Are you 

English girls 
All grave and silent ? mass-book still, 

and Lent ? 
And first-communion pallor on your 

cheeks, 
Worn past the time f or't ? Little fool , 

be gay ! ' 
At which she vanished, like a fairy, 

through 
A gap of silver laughter. 

" Came an hour 
When all went otherwise. She did 

not speak, 
But clinched her brows, and clipped 

me with her eyes 
As if a viper with a pair of tongs, 
Too far for any touch, yet near enough 
To view the writhing creature, then 

at last, 

1 Stand still there, in the holy Vir- 
gin's name, 
Thou Marian : thou'rt no reputable 

girl, 
Although sufficient dull for twenty 

saints! 
I think thou mock'st me and my 

house,' she said; 
'Confess thou'lt be a mother in a 

month, 
Thou mask of saintship.' 

' ' Could I answer her ? 
The light broke in so. It meant that, 

then, that? 
I had not thought of that, in all my 

thoughts, 
Through all the cold numb aching of 

my brow, 
Through all the heaving of impatient 

life 
Which threw me on death at intervals: 

through all 
The upbreak of the fountains of my 

heart 
The rains had swelled too large. It 

could mean that? 
Did God make mothers out of victims, 

then, 
And set such pure amens to hideous 

deeds ? 
Why not? He overblows an ugly 

grave 
With violets which blossom in the 

spring. 
And I could be a mother in a month ? 



I hope it was not wicked to be glad. 

I lifted up my voice and wept, and 
laughed 

To heaven, not her until it tore my 
throat. 

' Confess, confess ! ' What was there 
to confess, 

Except man's cruelty, except iny 
wrong ? 

Except this anguish, or this ecstasy? 

This shame or glory ? The light wo- 
man there 

Was small to take it in: an acorn-cup 

Would take the sea in sooner. 

" ' Good ! ' she cried: 

' Unmarried and a mother, and she 
laughs ! 

These unchaste girls are always im- 
pudent. 

Get out, intriguer ! Leave my house, 
and trot ! 

I wonder you should look me in the 
face, 

With such a filthy secret.' 

" Then I rolled 

My scanty bundle up, and went my 
way, 

Washed white with weeping, shudder- 
ing, head and foot, 

With blind, hysteric passion, stagger- 
ing forth 

Beyond those doors. 'Twas natural, of 
course, 

She should not ask me where I meant 
to sleep ; 

I might sleep well beneath the heavy 
Seine, 

Like others of my sort: the bed was 
laid 

For us. But any woman, womanly, 

Had thought of him who should be in a 
month, 

The sinless babe that should be in a 
month, 

And if by chance he might be warmer 
housed 

Than underneath such dreary dripping 
eaves." 

I broke on Marian there. "Yet she 

herself, 
A wife, I think, had scandals of her 

own, 
A lover not her husband." 

" Ay," she said ; 
"But gold and meal are measured 

otherwise: 
I learnt so much at school," said Marian 

Erie. 






AURORA LEIGH. 




" O crooked world," I cried, " ridicu- 
lous, 

If not so lamentable ! 'Tis the way 
With these light women of a thrifty 

vice, 
My Marian, always hard upon the 

rent 
In any sister's virtue ! while they 

keep 
Their own so darned and patched 

with perfidy, 
That, though a rag itself, it looks as 

well 

Across a street, in balcony or coach, 
As any perfect stuff might. For my 

part, 
I'd rather take the wind-side of the 

stews 

Than touch such women with my fin- 
ger-end ! 
They top the poor street-walker by 

their lie, 
And look the better for being so much 

worse : 

The Devil's most devilish when re- 
spectable. 
But you, dear, and your story." 

"All the rest 
Is here," she said, and signed upon 

the child. 
" I found a mistress-seamstress who 

was kind, 
And let. me sew in peace among her 

girls. 
And what was better than to draw 

the threads 
All day and half the night for him 

and him ? 
And so I lived for him, and so he 

lives; 
And so I know, by this time, God 

lives too." 

She smiled beyond the sun, and ended 
so, 

And all my soul rose up to take her 
part 

Against the world's successes, vir- 
tues, fames. 

" Coiue with me, sweetest sister," I 
returned, 

" And sit within my house and do me 

r g ( l 

From henceforth, thou and thine ! ye 

are my own 
From henceforth. I am lonely in tha 

world, 
And thoa art lonely, and the child is 

half 



An orphan. Come; and henceforth 
thou and I, 

Being still together, will not miss a 
friend, 

Nor he a father, since two mothers 
shall 

Make that up to him. I am journey- 
ing south, 

And in my Tuscan home I'll find a 
niche 

And set thee there, my saint, the 
child and thee, 

And burn the lights of love before 
thy face, 

And ever at thy sweet look cross my. 
self 

From mixing with the world's pros- 
perities; 

That so, in gravity and holy calm, 

We two may live on toward the truer 
life." 

She looked me in the face and an- 
swered not, 
Nor signed she was unworthy, nor 

gave thanks, 
But took the sleeping child, and held 

it out 

To meet my kiss, as if requiting me 
And trusting me at once. And thus, 

at once, 

I carried him and her to where I live: 
She's there now, in the little room 

asleep, 
I hear the soft child-breathing through 

the door; 
And all three of us, at to-morrow's 

break, 
Pass onward, homeward, to our Italy. 

Roumey Leigh ! I have your debts 

to pay, 

And I'll be just and pay them. 

But yourself! 

To pay your debts is scarcely difficult; 

To buy your life is nearly impossi- 
ble, 

Being sold away to Lamia. My head 
aches ; 

1 cannot see my road along this dark; 
Nor can I creep and grope, as fits the 

dark, 

For these foot-catching robes of wo- 
manhood : 

A man might walk a little . . . but 
I ! He loves 

The Lamia-woman, and I write to 
him 

What stops his marriage, and destroys 
his peace, 




124 



AURORA LEIGH. 




Or what perhaps shall simply trcuble 
him, 

Until she only need to touch his 
sleeve 

With just a. finger's tremulous white 
name, 

Saying, " Ah, Aurora Leigh ! a pretty 
tale, 

A very pretty poet ! I can guess 

The motive, " then, to catch his 
eyes in hers 

And vow she does not wonder, and 
they two 

To break in laughter, as the sea along 

A melancholy coast, and float up 
higher, 

In such a laugh, their fatal weeds of 
love ! 

Ay, fatal, ay. And who shall answer 
me 

Fate has not hurried tides, and if to- 
night 

My letter would not be a night too 
late, 

An arrow shot into a man that's dead, 

To prove a vain intention ? Would 
I show 

The new wife vile to make the hus- 
band mad ? 

No, Lamia ! shut the shutters, bar the 
door? 

From every glimmer on thy serpent- 
skin: 

I will not let thy hideous secret out 

To agonize the man I love I mean 

The friend I love ... as friends love. 
It is strange, 

To-day, while Marian told her story 
like 

To absorb most listeners, how I lis- 
tened chief 

To a voice not hers, nor yet that ene- 
my's, 

Nor God's in wrath . . . but one that 
mixed with mine 

Long years ago among the garden- 
trees, 

And said to me, to me too, " Be my 
wife, 

Aurora." It is strange with what a 
swell 

Of yearning passion, as a snow of 
ghosts 

Might beat against the impervious 
door of heaven, 

I thought, "Now, if I had been a 
woman, such 

As God made women, to save men 
by love, 



By just my love I might have saved 

this man, 
And made a nobler poem for the 

world 
Than all I have failed in." But I 

failed besides 
In this; and now he's lost through 

me alone ! 
And, by my only fault, his empty 

house 
Sucks in at this same hour a wind 

from hell 
To keep his hearth cold, make his 

casements creak 

Forever to the tune of plague and sin 
O Romney, O my Romney, O my 

friend ! 
My cousin and friend ! my helper, 

when I would ! 
My love, that might be ! mine ! 

Why, how one weeps 
When one's too weary ! Were a wit- 
ness by, 
He'd say some folly . . . that I loved 

the man, 
Who knows? . . . and make me 

laugh again for scorn. 
At strongest, women are as weak in 

flesh, 
As men, at weakest, vilest, are in 

soul: 
So hard for women to keep pace with 

men ! 
As well give up at once, sit down at 

once, 
And weep as I do. Tears, tears ! why 

we weep ? 
'Tis worth inquiry? That we've 

shamed a life, 

Or lost a love, or missed a world, per- 
haps? 
By no means. Simply that we've 

walked too far, 
Or talked too much, or felt the wind 

i' the east; 
And so we weep, as if both body and 

soul 
Broke up in water this way. 

Poor mixed rags 
Forsooth we're made of, like those 

other dolls 

That lean with pretty faces into fairs. 
It seems as if I had a man in me, 
Despising such a woman. 

Yet, indeed, 
To see a wrong or suffering moves us 

all 
To undo it, though we should undo 

ourselves ; 







AURORA LEIGH. 



125 



Ay, all the more that we undo our- 
selves : 

That's womanly, past doubt, and not 
ill-moved. 

A natural movement, therefore, on my 
part, 

To fill the chair up of my cousin's 
wife, 

And save him from a Devil's com- 
pany! 

We're all so, made so : 'tis our 
woman's trade 

To suffer torment for another's ease. 

The world's male chivalry has per- 
ished out ; 

But women are knights-errant to the 
last ; 

And if Cervantes had been Shak- 
speare too, 

He had made his Don a Donna. 

So it clears, 

And so we rain our skies blue. 

Put away 

This weakness. If, as I have just now 
said, 

A man's within me, let him act him- 
self, 

Ignoring the poor conscious trouble 
of blood 

That's called the woman merely. I 
will write 

Plain words to England, if too late, 
too late ; 

If ill accounted, then accounted ill : 

We'll trust the heavens with some- 
thing. 

" Dear Lord Howe, 

i'ou'll find a story on another leaf 

Of Marian Erie, what noble friend 
of yotirs 

She trusted once, through what flagi- 
tious means, 

To what disastrous ends : the story's 
true. 

I found her wandering on the Paris 
quays, 

A babe upon her breast, unnatural 

Unseasonable outcast on such snow, 

Unthawed to this time. I will tax in 
this 

Your friendship, friend, if that con- 
victed she 

Be not his wife yet, to denounce the 
facts 

To himself, but otherwise to let them 
pass 

On tiptoe like escaping murderers, 

And tell my cousin merely Marian 
lives, 



Is found, and finds her home with such 

a friend, 
Myself, Aurora. Which good news, 

' She's found,' 
Will help to make him merry in his 

love : 

I send it, tell him, for my marriage- 
gift, 
As good as orange-water for the 

nerves, 
Or perfumed gloA-es for headache, 

though aware 
That he, except of love, is scarcely 

sick : 
I mean the new love this time . . . 

since last year. 
Such quick forgetting on the part of 

men ! 

Is any shrewder trick upon the cards 
To enrich them ? Pray instruct me 

how 'tis done. 
First, clubs ; and, while you look at 

clubs, 'tis spades ; 
That's prodigy. The lightning strikes 

a man, 
And, when we think to find him dead 

and charred . . . 
Why, there he is on a sudden playing 

pipes 
Beneath the splintered elm-tree ! 

Crime and shame, 
And all their hoggery, trample your 

smooth world, 

Nor leave more foot-marks than Apol- 
lo's kine, 
Whose hoofs were muffled by the 

thieving god 
In tamarisk-leaves and myrtle. I'm 

so sad, 

So weary and sad to-night, I'm some- 
what sour, 
Forgive me. To be blue and shrew 

at once 

Exceeds all toleration except yours ; 
But vours, I know, is infinite. Fare- 
well ! 

To-morrow we take train for Italy. 
Speak gently of me to your gracious 

wife, 
As one, however far, shall yet be 

near 
In loving wishes to your house." 

I sign. 
And now I loose my heart upon a 

page, 
This 

" Lady Waldemar, I'm very glad 
I never liked you ; which you knew 

so well 







AURORA LEIGH. 



You spared me, in your turn, to like 

me much. 
Your liking surely had done worse for 

me 
Than has your loathing, though the 

last appears 

Sufficiently unscrupulous to hurt, 
And not afraid of judgment. Now 

there's space 

Between our faces, I stand ofT, as if 
I judged a stranger's portrait, and 

pronounced 

Indifferently the type was good or bad. 
"What matter to me that die lines are 

false ? 

I ask you. Did I ever ink my lips 
By drawing your name through them 

as a friend's? 
Or touch your hands as lovers do ? 

Thank God 
I never did ! And since you're proved 

so vile, 

Ay, vile, I say, we'll show it pres- 
ently, 
I'm not obliged to nurse my friend in 

you, 
Or wash out my own blots in counting 

yours, 
Or even excuse myself to honest 

souls 
Who seek to press my lip, or clasp my 

palm, 

' Alas, but Lady Walderaar came first! ' 
'Tis true, by this time you may near 

me so 
That you're my cousin's wife. You've 

gambled deep 

As Lucifer, and won the morning-star 
In that case ; and the noble house of 

Leigh 
Must henceforth with its good roof 

shelter you. 

I cannot speak and barn you up be- 
tween 
Those rafters, I who am born a Leigh; 

nor speak 
And pierce your breast through Rom- 

ney's, I who live 
His friend and cousin : so you're safe. 

You two 
Must grow together like the tares and 

wheat 
Till God's great fire. But make the 

best of time. 

" And hide this letter : let it speak no 

more 
Than I shall, how you tricked poor 

Marian Erie, 



And set her own love digging its own 
grave 

Within her green hope's pretty gar- 
den-ground, 

Ay, sent her forth with some one of 
your sort 

To a wicked house in France, from 
which she tied 

With curses in her eyes and ears and 
throat, 

Her whole soul choked with curses, 
mad, in short, 

And madly scouring up and down for 
weeks 

The foreign hedgeless country, lone 
and lost, 

So innocent, male fiends might slink 
within 

Remote hell-corners seeing her so de- 
filed. 

"But you, you are a woman, and 
more bold. 

To do you justice, you'd not shrink to 
face . . . 

We'll say, the unfledged life in the 
other room, 

Which, treading down God's corn, 
you trod in sight 

Of all the dogs in reach of all the 
guns, 

Ay, Marian's babe, her poor un- 
fathered child, 

Her yearling liabe ! you'd face him 
when he wakes 

And opens up his wonderful blue 
eyes ; 

You'd meet them, and not wink per- 
haps, nor fear 

God's triumph in them and supreme 
revenge 

When righting his creation's balance- 
scale 

(You pulled as low as Tophet) to the 
top 

Of most celestial innocence. Forme 

Who am not as bold, I own those in- 
fant eyes 

Have set me praying. 

" While they look at heaven, 

No need of protestation in my words 

Against the place you've made them ! 
let them look. 

They'll do your business with the 
heavens, be sure : 

I spare you common curses. 

" Ponder this; 

If haply you're the wife of Romney 
Leigh, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



(For which inheritance beyond your 

birth 
You sold that poisonous porridge 

called your soul) 
I charge you be his faithful and true 

wife ! 
Keep warm his hearth, and clean his 

board, and, when 

He speaks, be quick with your obedi- 
ence; 
Still grind your paltry wants and low 

desires 
To dust beneath his heel, though, 

even thus, 
The ground must hurt him: it was 

writ of old, 
' Ye shall not yoke together ox and 

ass.' 
The nobler and ignobler. Ay; but 

you 
Shall do your part as well as such ill 

things 
Can do aught good. Y'ou shall not 

vex him, mark, 
You shall not vex him, jar him when 

he's sad, 

Or cross him when he's eager. Un- 
derstand 

To trick him with apparent sympa- 
thies, 
Isor let him see thee in the face too 

near, 
And unlearn thy sweet seeming. Pay 

the price 
Of lies by being constrained to lie on 

still: 

'Tis easy for thy sort: a million more 
Will sca'rcely damn thee deeper. 

" Doing which 
You are very safe from Marian and 

myself: 
We'll breathe as softly as the infant 

here, 
And stir no dangerous embers. Fail 

a point, 
And show our Romney wounded, ill 

content, 
Tormented in his home, we open 

mouth, 
And such a noise will follow, the last 

trump's 
Will scarcely seem more dreadful, 

even to you; 
You'll have no pipers after: Romney 

will 
(I know him) push you forth as none 

of his, 
All other men declaring it well 

done; 




While women, even the worst, youi 

like, will draw 
Their skirts back, not to brush you in 

the street: 
And so I warn you. I'm . . . Aurora 

Leigh." 

The letter written, I felt satisfied. 
The ashes smouldering in me wera 

thrown out 
By handfuls from me: I had writ my 

heart, 
And wept my tears, and now was 

cool and calm ; 

And, going straightway to the neigh- 
boring room, 

I lifted up the curtains of the bed 
Where Marian Erie the babe upon 

her arm, 

Both faces leaned together like a pair 
Of folded innocences self-complete, 
Each smiling from the other smiled 

and slept. 
There seemed no sin, no shame, no 

wrath, no grief. 
I felt she too had spoken words that 

night, 

But softer certainly, and said to God, 
Who laughs in heaven perhaps that 

sucTi as I 
Should make ado for such as she. 

" Defiled " 
I wrote? "defiled" I thought her? 

Stoop, 
Stoop lower, Aurora ! get the angels' 

leave 
To creep in somewhere, humbly on 

your knees, 
Within this round of sequestration 

white 
In which they have wrapt earth's 

foundlings, heaven's elect. 

The next day we took train to Italy, 
And fled on southward in the roar of 

steam. 
The marriage-bells of Romney must 

be loud 
To sound so clear through all. I was 

not well, 
And truly, though the truth is like a 

jest, 
I could not choose but fancy, half the 

way, 

I stood alone i' the belfry, fifty bells, 
Of naked iron, mad with merriment. 
(As one who laughs and cannot stop 

himself) 
All clanking at me, in me, over me, 



it 







128 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Until I shrieked a shriek I could not 

hear, 
And swooned with noise, but still, 

along my swoon, 

Was 'ware the baffled changes back- 
ward rang, 
Prepared at each emerging sense to 

beat 
And crash it out with clangor. I was 

weak; 
I struggled for the posture of my 

soul 
In upright consciousness of place and 

time. 
But evermore, 'twixt waking and 

asleep, 
Slipped somehow, staggered, caught 

at Marian's eyes 
A moment, (it is very good for 

strength 
To know that some one needs you to 

be strong) 

And so recovered what I call myself, 
For that time. 

I just knew it when we swept 
Above the old roofs of Dijon. Lyons 

dropped 
A spark into the night, half trodden 

out 
Unseen. But presently the winding 

Rhone 
Washed out the moonlight large along 

his banks 
Which strained their yielding curves 

out clear and clean 
To hold it, shadow of town and 

castle blurred 
Upon the hurrying river. Such an 

air 
Blew thence upon the forehead, half 

an air 
And half a water that I leaned and 

looked, 
Then, turning back on Marian, smiled 

to mark 
That she looked cmy on her child, 

who slept, 
' His face toward the moon too. 

So we passed 
The liberal open country and the 

close, 
And shot through tunnels, like a 

ligii. 7ing-wedge 
By great Thor-hammers driven 

through the rock, 

Which, quivering through the intes- 
tine blackness, splits, 
And lets it in at once: the train swept 

in 



Athrob with effort, trembling with 

resolve, 
The fierce denouncing whistle wailing 

on, 

And dying off, smothered in the shud- 
dering dark; 
While we self-awed, drew troubled 

breath, oppressed 
As other Titans, underneath the 

pile 
And nightmare of the mountains. 

Out, at last, 
To catch the dawn afloat upon the 

land. 
Hills, slung forth broadly and 

gauntly everywhere, 
Not crainpt in their foundations, 

pushing wide 
Rich outspreads of the vineyards and 

the corn, 
(As if they entertained i' the name of 

France) 
While down their straining sides 

streamed manifest 
A soil as red as Charlemagne's 

knightly blood, 
To consecrate the verdure. Some one 

said, 
"Marseilles!" And lo, the city of 

Marseilles, 
With all her ships behind her, and 

beyond, 

The cimiter of ever-shining sea 
For right-hand use, bared blue against 

the sky ! 

That night we spent between the pur- 
ple heaven 

And purple water. I think Marian 
slept ; 

But I, as a dog a-watch for his mas- 
ter's foot, 

Who cannot sleep or eat before he 
hears, 

I sate upon the deck, and watched the 
night, 

And listened through the stars for 
Italy. 

Those marriage-bells I spoke of 
sounded far, 

As some child's go-cart in the street 
beneath 

To a dying man who will not pass 
the day, 

And knows it, holding by a hand he 
loves. 

I, too, sate quiet, satisfied with death, 

Sate silent. I could hear my own 
soul speak, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



129 



And had my friend ; for Nature comes 
sometimes, 

And savs, " I am ambassador for 
God." 

I felt the wind soft from the land of 
souls ; 

The old miraculous mountains heaved 
in sight, 

One straining past another along the 
shore, 

The way of grand dull Odyssean 
ghosts 

Athirst to drink the cool blue wine of 
seas, 

And stare on voyagers. Peak push- 
ing peak, 

They stood. I watched, beyond that 
Tyrian belt 

Of intense sea betwixt them and the 
ship, 

Down all their sides the misty olive- 
woods 

Dissolving in the weak congenial 
moon, 

And still disclosing some brown con- 
vent-tower, 

That seems as if it grew from some 
brown rock, 

Or many a little lighted village, dropt 

Like a fallen star upon so high a 
point 

You wonder what can keep it in its 
place 

From sliding headlong with the water- 
falls 

Which powder all the myrtle and 
orange groves 

With spray of silver. Thus my Italy 

"Was stealing on us. Genoa broke 
with day ; 

The Doria's long pp'e palace striking 
out, 

From green hills in advance of the 
white town, 

A marble finger dominant to ships, 

Seen glimmering tlnough the uncer- 
tain gray of dawn. 

And then I did not think, "My 
Italy ! " 

I thought, " My father ! " Oh, my fa- 
ther's house, 

"Without his presence 1 Places are too 
much, 

Or else too little, for immortal man, 

Too little, when love's May o'ergrows 
the ground ; 

Too much, when that luxuriant robe 
of green 



Is rustling to our ankles in dead 

leaves. 

'Tis only good to be or here or there, 
Because we had a dream on such a 

stone, 
Or this or that; but once being wholly 

waked, 
And come back to the stone without 

the dream, 
We trip upon't, alas ! and hurt our- 
selves ; 
Or else it falici on us, and grinds us 

flat, 
The heaviest gravestone on this bury 

ing earth. 
But, while I stood and mused, a 

quiet touch 
Fell light upon my arm, and, turning 

round, 
A pair of moistened eyes convicted 

mine. 
" "What, Marian ! is the babe astir so 

soon ? " 
" He sleeps," she answered. " I have 

crept up thrice, 
And seen you sitting, standing, still 

at watch. 
I thought it did you good till now; but 

now "... 
" But now," I said, " you leave the 

child alone." 
" And you're alone," she answered ; 

and she looked 
As if I, too, were something. Sweet 

the help 
Of one we have helped ! Thanks, 

Marian, for such help. 

I found a house at Florence on the 
hill 

Of Bellosguardo. 'Tis a tower which 
keeps 

A post of double observation o'er 

That valley of Arno (holding as a 
hand 

The outspread city) straight toward 
Fiesole 

And Mount Morello and the setting 
sun, 

The Vallombrosan mountains oppo- 
site, 

Which sunrise fills as full as crystal 
cups 

Turned red to the brim because their 
wine is red. 

No sun could die, nor yet be born, un- 
seen 

By dwellers at my villa. Morn and 
eve 






130 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Were magnified before us in the pure 
Illimitable space and pause of sky, 
Intense as angels' garments blanched 

with God, 
Less blue than radiant. From the 

outer wall 

Of the garden drops the mystic float- 
ing gray 
Of olive-trees, (with interruptions 

green 
From maize and vine) until 'tis caught 

and torn 

Upon the abrupt black line of cypress- 
es 
Which signs the way to Florence. 

Beautiful 

The city lies along the ample vale, 
Cathedral, tower and palace, piazza 

and street, 

The river trailing like a silver cord 
Through all, and curling loosely, both 

before 
And after, over the whole stretch of 

land 

Sown whitely up and down its oppo- 
site slopes 
With farms and villas. 

Many weeks had passed, 
No word was granted. Last, a letter 

came 
From Vincent Carrington, " My dear 

Miss Leigh, 

You've been as silent as a poet should, 
When any other man is sure to speak. 
If sick, if vexed, if dumb, a silver 

piece 
Will split a man's tongue, straight 

he speaks, and says, 
' Received that check. 5 But you . . . 

I send you funds 
To Paris, and you make no sign at 

all. 

Remember I'm responsible, and wait 
A sign of you, Miss Leigh. 

" Meantime your book 
Is eloquent as if you were not dumb; 
And common critics, ordinarily deaf 
To such fine meanings, and, like deaf 

men, loath 
To seem deaf, answering chance-wise, 

yes or no, 
' It must be,' or 'It must not,' (most 

pronounced 
When least convinced) pronounce for 

once aright: 
You'd think they really heard, and 

so they do ... 
Che burr of three or four who really 

hear 



And praise your book aright: fame's 

smallest trump 
Is a great ear-trumpet for the deaf as 

posts, 
No other being effective. Fear not, 

friend: 
We think here you have written a 

good book, 
And you, a woman ! It was in you 

yes, 
I felt 'twas in you; yet I doubted 

half 
If that od-force of German Reicheu- 

bach , 
Which still from female finger-tips 

burns blue, 
Could strike out as our masculine 

white-heats 
To quicken a man. Forgive me. All 

my heart 

Is quick with yours since, just a fort- 
night since, 
I read your book and lored it. 

" Will you love 
My wife too? Here's my secret I 

might keep 
A month more from you ; but I yield 

it up 
Because I know you'll write the 

sooner fort, 
Most women (of your height even) 

counting love 
Life's only -erious business. Who's 

my wift 
That shall be in a month ? you ask ? 

nor guess ? 
Remember what a pair of topaz 

eyes 
You once detected, turned against 

the wall, 

That morning in my London paint- 
ing-room; 
The face half-sketched, and slurred; 

the eyes alone ! 
But you . . . you caught them up 

with yours, and said 
' Kate Ward's eyes surely.' Now I 

own the truth: 
I had thrown them there to keep 

them safe from Jove, 
They would so naughtily find out 

their way 

To both the heads of both my Danae's, 
Where just it made me mad to look 

at them. 
Such eyes ! I could not paint or think 

of eyes 
But those, and so I flung them into 

paint, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



131 .... 



And turned them to the wall's care. 

Ay, but now 
I've let them out, my Kate's. I've 

painted her, 

(I change my style, and leave mythol- 
ogies), 
The whole sweet face: it looks upon 

my soul 

Like a face on water, to beget itself. 
A half-length portrait, in a hanging 

cloak 
Like one you wore once; 'tis a little 

frayed, 

I pressed too for the nude, harmoni- 
ous arm ; 
But she, she'd have her way, and 

have her cloak: 
She said she could be like you only 

so, 
And would not miss the fortune. 

Ah, my friend, 
You'll write and say she shall not 

miss your love 
Through meeting mine ? in faith, she 

would not change. 
She has your books by heart more 

than my words, 
And quotes you up against me till I'm 

pushed 
Where, three months since, her eyes 

were: nay, in fact, 
Nought satisfied her but to make me 

paint 
Your last book folded in her dimpled 

hands, 
Instead of my brown palette, as I 

wished, 
And, grant me, the presentment had 

been newer: 

She'd grant me nothing. I com- 
pounded for 
The naming of the wedding-day next 

month, 

And gladly too. 'Tis pretty to re- 
mark 
How women can love women of your 

sort, 
And tie their hearts with love-knots 

to your feet, 
Grow insolent about you against 

men, 
A.nd put us down by putting up the 

lip, 
As if a man there are such, let us 

own, 
Who write not ill remains a man, 

poor wretch, 
While you ! Write weaker than 

Aurora Leigh, 



And there'll be women who believe 

of you 
(Besides my Kate) that if you walked 

on sand 
You would not leave a footprint. 

" Are you put 
To wonder by my marriage, like poor 

Leigh ? 
' Kate Ward ! ' he said. ' Kate Ward ! ' 

he said anew. 
' I thought ' ... he said, and 

stopped, ' I did not think ' . . . 
And then he dropped to silence. 

" Ah, he's changed. 
I had not seen him, you're aware, for 

long, 
But went, of course. I have not 

touched on this 
Through all this letter, conscious of 

your heart, 
And writing lightlier for the heavy 

fact, 
As clocks are voluble with lead. 

" How poor, 

To say I'm sorry ! dear Leigh, dear- 
est Leigh f 
In those old days of Shropshire, 

pardon me, 
When he and you fought many a field 

of gold 
On what, you should do, or you should 

not do, 
Make bread, or verses, (it just came 

to that) 

I thought you'd one day draw a silk- 
en peace 
Through a golden ring. I thought 

so: foolishly, 
The event proved ; for you went 

more opposite 
To each other, month by month, and 

year by year, 
Until this happened. God knows 

best, we say, 
But hoarsely. When the fever took 

him first, 
Just after I had writ to you in 

France, 
They tell me Lady Waldemar mixed 

drinks, 
And counted grains, like any salaried 

nurse, 
Excepting that she wept too. Then, 

Lord Howe, 
You're right about Lord Howe, Lord 

Howe's a trump; 
And yet, with such in his hand, a 

man like Leigh 






.... 132 




AURORA LEIGH. 



May lose as he does. There's an end 

to all, 
Yes, even this letter, though this 

second sheet 
May find you doubtful. Write a 

word for Kate: 
She reads my letters always, like a 

wife, 
And if she sees her name I'll see her 

smile 
And share the luck. So, bless you, 

friend of two ! 
I will not ask you what your feeling 

is 
At Florence with my pictures. I can 

hear 

Your heart a-flutter over the snow- 
hills; 
And, just to pace the Pitti with you 

once, 
I'd give a half-hour of to-morrow's 

walk 
With Kate ... I think so. Vincent 

Carrington." 

The noon was hot: the air scorched 

like the sun, 
And was shut out. The closed per- 

siani threw 
Their long-scored shadows on my 

villa-floor, 

And interlined the golden atmos- 
phere 
Straight, still, across the pictures 

on the wall, 
The statuette on the console, (of 

young Love 
And Psyche made one marble by a 

kiss) 
The low couch where I leaned, the 

table near, 
The vase of lilies Marian pulled last 

night, 
(Each green leaf and each white leaf 

ruled in black 
As if for writing some new text of 

fate) 
And the open letter rested on my 

knee; 
But there the lines swerved, trembled, 

though I sate 
Untroubled, plainly, reading it 

again 
And three times. "Well, he's married : 

that is clear. 
No wonder that he's married, nor, 

much more, 
That Vincent's therefore " sorry." 

Why, of course 



The lady nursed him when he was 

not well, 
Mixed drinks unless nepenthe was 

the drink 
'Twas scarce worth telling. But a 

man in love 
Will see the whole sex in his mistress' 

hood, 

The prettier for its lining of fair rose, 
Although he catches back and says at 

last, 
" I'm sorry." Sorry. Lady Walde- 

mar 

At prettiest, under the said hood, pre- 
served 
From such a light as I could hold to 

her face 
To flare its ugly wrinkles out to 

shame, 
Is scarce a wife for Romney, as friends 

judge, 

Aurora Leigh, or Vincent Carrington : 
That's plain. And if he's " conscious 

of my heart "... 
It may be natural, though the phrase 

is strong; 
(One's apt to use strong phrases, being 

in love) 
And even that stuff of " fields of 

gold," " gold rings," 
And what he " thought," poor Vin- 
cent ! what he " thought," 
May never mean enough to ruffle 

me. 
Why, this room stifles. Better 

burn than choke: 
Best have air, air, although it comes 

with fire ; 
Throw open blinds and windows to 

the noon, 

And take a blister on my brow in- 
stead 
Of this dead weight ! best perfectly 

be stunned 

By those insufferable cicale, sick 
And hoarse with rapture of the sum- 
mer heat, 
That sing, like poets, till their hearts 

break, sing 
Till men say, " It's too tedious." 

Books succeed, 
And lives fail. Do I feel it so at 

last? 
Kate loves a worn-out cloak for being 

like mine, 
While I live self-despised for being 

myself, 
And yearn toward some one else, who 

yearns away 






AURORA LEIGH. 



133 



From what he is, in his turn. Strain 

a step 
Forever, yet gain no step ? Are we 

such 
We cannot, with our admirations 

even, 
Our tiptoe aspirations, touch a 

thing 

That's higher than we ? Is all a dis- 
mal flat, 
And God alone above each, as the 

sun 
O'er level lagunes, to make them 

shine and stink, 
Laying stress upon us with immediate 

flame, 
M'hile we respond with our miasmal 

fog, 
And call it mounting higher because 

we grow 
More highly fatal ? 

Tush, Aurora Leigh ! 
You wear your sackcloth looped in 

Caisar's way, 
And brag your failings as mankind's. 

Be still. 
There is wbft's higher, in this very 

world 
Than yon can live, or catch at. Stand 

aside, 
And look at others, instance little 

Kate. 
She'll make a perfect wife for Car- 

rington. 
She always has been looking round 

the earth 
For something good and green to 

alight upon 

And nestle into, with those soft- 
winged eyes, 
Subsiding now beneath his manly 

hand, 
'Twixt trembling lids of inexpressive 

joy- 
I will not scorn her, after all, too 

much, 
That so much she should love me. 

A wise man 
Can pluck a leaf, and find a lecture 

fait; 
And I too . . . God has made me, 

I've a heart 
That's capable of worship, love, and 

loss: 
We say the same of Shakspeare's. 

I'll be meek 
And learn to reverence, even this 

poor myself. 



The book, too r pass it. "A good 

book," says he, 
" And you a woman." I had laughed 

at that 
But long since. I'm a woman, it is 

true ; 
Alas, and woe to us, when we feel it 

most ! 
Then least care have we for the 

crowns and goals 
And compliments on writing onr good 

books. 

The book has some truth in it, I be- 
lieve; 

And truth outlives pain, as the soul 
does life. 

I know we talk our Phaedons to the 
end, 

Through all the dismal faces that w 
make, 

O'er-wrinkled with dishonoring agony 

From decomposing drugs. I have 
written truth, 

And I a woman, feebly, partially, 

Inaptly in presentation, Rornney'll 
add, 

Because a woman. For the truth it- 
self, 

That's neither man's nor woman's, 
but just God's; 

None else has reason to be proud of 
truth : 

Himself will see it sifted, disiu- 
thralled. 

And kept upon the height and in the 
light, 

As far as and no farther than 'tis 
truth ; 

For now he has left off calling firma- 
ments 

And strata, flowers and creatures, 
very good, 

He says it still of truth, which is his 
own. 

Truth, so far, in my book, the truth 

which draws 
Through all tilings upwards, that a 

twofold world 
Must go to a perfect cosmos. Natural 

things 
And spiritual, who separates those 

two 

In art, in morals, or the social drift, 
Tears up the bond of nature, and 

brings death, 
Paints futile pictures, writes unreal 

verse, 





134 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Leads vulgar days, deals ignorantly 
with men, 

Is wrong, in short, at all points. We 
divide 

This apple of life, and cut it through 
the pips: 

The perfect round which fitted Venus' 
hand 

Has perished as utterly as if we ate 

Both halves. Without the spiritual, 
observe, 

The natural's impossible, no form, 

No motion: without sensuous, spirit- 
ual 

Is inappreciable, no beauty or power. 

And in this twofold sphere the two- 
fold man 

(For still the artist is intensely a 
man) 

Holds firmly by the natural to reach 

The spiritual beyond it, fixes still 

The type with mortal vision to pierce 
through, 

With eyes immortal to the antetype 

Some call the ideal, better called the 
real, 

And certain to be called so presently, 

When things shall have their names. 
Look long enough 

On any peasant's face here, coarse 
and lined, 

You'll catch Antinous somewhere in 
that clay, 

As perfecWeatured as he yearns at 
Rome 

From marble pale with beauty; then 
persist, 

And, if your apprehension's compe- 
tent, 

You'll find some fairer angel at his 
back, 

As much exceeding him as he the 
boor, 

And pushing him with empyreal dis- 
dain 

Forever out of sight. Ay, Carring- 
tou 

Is glad of such a creed: an artist 
must, 

Who paints a tree, a leaf, a common 
stone 

With just his hand, and finds it sud- 
denly 

Apiece with and conterminous to his 
soul. 

Why else do these things move him, 
leaf, or stone? 

The bird's not moved, that pecks at a 
spring-shoot; 



Nor yet the horse, before a quarry 
agraze : 

But man, the twofold creature, ap- 
prehends 

The twofold manner, in and out- 
wardly, 

And nothing in the world comes sin- 
gle to him, 

A mere itself, cup, column, or can- 
dlestick, 

All patterns of what shall be in the 
Mount; 

The whole temporal show related 
royally, 

And built up to eterne significance 

Through the open arms of God. 
" There's nothing great 

Nor small," has said a poet of our 
day, 

Whose voice will ring beyond the 
curfew of eve, 

And not be thrown out by the matin's 
bell: 

And truly, I reiterate, Nothing's 
small ! 

No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee, 

But finds some coupling with the 
spinning stars; 

No pebble at your foot, but proves a 
sphere; 

No chaffinch, but implies the cheru- 
bim; 

And (glancing on my own thin, 
veined wrist) 

In such a little tremor of the blood 

The whole strong clamor of a vehe- 
ment soul 

Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's 
crammed with heaven, 

And every common bush afire with 
God; 

But only he who sees takes off his 
shoes, 

The rest sit round it and pluck black- 
berries, 

And daub their natural faces un- 
aware 

More and more from the first simili- 
tude. 

Truth, so far, in my book ! a truth 

which draws 
From all things upward. I, Aurora, 

still 
Have felt it hound me through the 

wastes of life 

As Jove did lo; and until that hand 
Shall overtake me wholly, and on my 

head 





AURORA LEIGH. 



135 



Lay down its large unfluctuating 

peace, 
The feverish gad-fly pricks me up and 

down. 
It must be. Art's the witness of 

what is 
Behind this show. If this world's 

show were all, 

Then imitation would he all in art. 
There Jove's hand gripes us ! for we 

stand here, we, 
If genuine artists, witnessing for 

God's 
Complete, consummate, undivided 

work; 
That every natural flower which 

grows on earth 
Implies a flower upon the spiritual 

side, 

Substantial, archetypal, all aglow 
"With blossoiniug causes, not so far 

a\vay, 

But we whose spirit-sense is some- 
what cleared 
May catch at something of the bloom 

and breath, 
Too vaguely apprehended, though, 

indeed, 

Still apprehended, consciously or not, 
And still transferred to picture, 

music, verse, 
For thrilling audieut and beholding 

souls 
By signs and touches which are 

known to souls. 
How known, they know not; why, 

they cannot find: 
So straight call out on genius, say, 

" A man 
Produced this," when much rather 

they should say, 
" 'Tis insight, and he saw this." 

Thus is art 

Self-magnified in magnifying a truth 
"Which, fully recognized, would 

change the world, 
And shift its morals. If a man could 

feel, 

Not one day. in the artist's ecstasy, 
35ut every day, feast, fast, or work- 
ing day, 
The spiritual significance burn 

through 

The hieroglyphic of material shows, 
Henceforward he would paint the 

globe with wings, 
And reverence fish and fowl, the bull, 

the tree, 
And even his very body as a man ; 



Which now he counts so vile, that all 
the towns 

Make offal of their daughters for its 
use 

On summer-nights, when God is sad 
in heaven 

To think what goes on in his recreant 
world 

He made quite other; while that 
moon he made 

To shine there, at the first love's cov- 
enant, 

Shines still, convictive as a marriage- 
ring 

Before adulterous eyes. 

How sure it is, 

That, if we say a true word, instantly 

We feel 'tis God's, not ours, and pass 
it on, 

Like bread at sacrament we taste and 
pass, 

Nor handle for a moment, as indeed 

We dared to set up any claim to 
such ! 

And I my poem let my readers 
talk. 

I'm closer to it, T can speak as well: 

I'll say with Romney, that the book 
is weak, 

The range uneven, the points of sight 
obscure, 

The music interrupted. 

Let us go. 

The end of woman (or of man, I 
think) 

Is not a book. Alas, the best of books 

Is but a word in art, which soon 
grows cramped, 

Stiff, dubious-statured, with the 
weight of years, 

And drops an accent or digamma 
down 

Some cranny of unfathomable time, 

Beyond the critic's reaching. Art 
itself, 

We've called the larger life, must feel 
the soul 

Live past it. For rnore's felt than is 
perceived, 

And more's perceived than can be in- 
terpreted, 

And love strikes higher with his lam- 
bent flame 

Than art can pile the fagots. 

Is it so ? 

When Jove's hand meets us with 
composing touch, 

And when at last we are hushed and 
satisfied, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



Then lo does not call it truth, but 
love ? 

Well, well ! my father was an English- 
man : 

My mother's blood in me is not so 
strong 

That I should bear this stress of Tus- 
can noon, 

And keep my wits. The town there 
seems to seethe 

In this Mednean boil-pot of the sun, 

And all the patient hills are bubbling 
round 

As if a prick would leave them flat. 
Does heaven 

Keep far off, not to set us in a blaze ? 

Not so ; let drag your fiery fringes, 
heaven, 

And burn us up to quiet Ah ! we 
know 

Too much here, not to know what's 
best for peace ; 

"We have too much light here, not to 
want more fire 

To purify and end us. We talk, talk, 

Conclude upon divine philosophies, 

And get the thanks of men for hope- 
ful books ; 

Whereat we take our own life up, and 
. . . pshaw ! 

Unless we piece it with another's 
life, 

(A yard of silk to carry out our lawn) 

As well suppose my little handker- 
chief 

Would cover Samminiato, church and 
all, 

If out I threw it past the cypresses, 

As, in this ragged, narrow life of mine, 

Contain my own conclusions. 

But at least 

We'll shut up the persiani, and sit 
down, 

And when my head's done aching, in 
the cool, 

Write just a word to Kate and Car- 
rington. 

May joy be with them ! she has chosen 
well, 

And he not ill. 

I should be glad, I think, 

Except for Romney. Had he married 
Kate, 

I surely, surely, should be very glad. 

This Florence sits upon me easily, 

With native air and tongue. My 
graves are calm, 

And do not too much hurt me. Mari- 
an's good, 



Gentle, and loving, lets me hold the 

child, 
Or drags him up the hills to find me 

flowers 
And fill these vases ere I'm quite 

awake, 
My grandiose red tulips, which grow 

wild ; 
Or Dante's purple lilies, which he 

blew 
To a larger bubble with his prophet 

breath ; 
Or one of those tall flowering reeds 

that stand 

In Arno like a sheaf of sceptres left 
By some remote dynasty of dead gods 
To suck the stream for ages, and get 

green, 

And blossom wheresoe'er a hand di- 
vine 
Had warmed the place with ichor. 

Such I find 

At early morning laid across my bed, 
And wake up pelted with a childish 

laugh 
Which even Marian's low precipitous 

" Hush ! " 

Has vainly interposed to put away ; 
While I, with shut eyes, smile and 

motion for 

The dewy kiss that's very sure to come 
From mouth and cheeks, the whole 

child's face at once 
Dissolved on mine, as if a nosegay 

burst 
Its string with the weight of roses 

overblown, 
And dropt upon me. Surely I should 

be glad. 
The little creature almost loves me 

now, 

And calls my name " Alola," strip- 
ping off 
The rs like thorns, to make it smooth 

enough 
To take between his dainty, milk-fed 

lips. 
God love him ! I should certainly be 

glad, 

Except, God help me ! that I'm sor- 
rowful 
Because of Romney. 

Romney, Romney ! Well, 
This grows absurd, too like a tuno 

that runs 
I' the head, and forces all things in 

the world 

Wind, rain, the creaking gnat or stut- 
tering fly 







AURORA LEIGH. 



13? 



To sing itself, and vex you ; yet per- 
haps 
A paltry tune you never fairly 

liked, 
Some " I'd be a butterfly," or " C'est 

I'amour." 
"We're made so, not such tyrants to 

ourselves, 
But still we are slaves to nature. 

Some of us 
Are turned, too, overmuch like some 

poor verse 
With a trick of ritournelle : the same 

thing goes, 
And comes back ever. 

Vincent Carrington 
Is " sorry," and I'm sorry ; but Ac's 

strong 
To mount from sorrow to his heaven 

of love, 
And when he says at moments, 

" Poor, poor Leigh, 
"Who'll never call his own so true a 

heart, 

So fair a face even," he must quick- 
ly lose 
The pain of pity in the blush he 

makes 
By his very pitying eyes. The snow, 

for him, 
Has fallen in May, and finds the 

whole earth warm, 
And melts at the first touch of the 

green grass. 

But Romney, he has chosen, after 
all. 

I think he had as excellent a sun 

To see by as most others ; and per- 
haps 

Has scarce seen really worse than 
some of us, 

"When all's said. Let him pass. I'm 
not too much 

A woman, not to be a man for once, 

And bury all my dead like Alaric, 

Depositing the treasures of my soul 

In this drained water-course, then 
letting flow 

The river of life again with commerce- 
ships, 

And pleasure-barges full of silks and 
songs. 

Blow, winds, and help us. 

Ah, we mock ourselves 

With talking of the winds ! perhaps 
as much 

With other resolutions. How it 
weighs, 



This hot, sick air I and how I covet 

here 

The dead's provision on the river- 
couch, 
With silver curtains drawn on tinkling 

rings ; 
Or else their rest in quiet crypts, laid 

by 
From heat and noise, from those 

cicale, say, 
And this more vexing heart-beat ! 

So it is. 

We covet for the soul the body's part, 
To die and rot. Even so, Aurora, 

ends 
Our aspiration who bespoke our 

place 
So far in the east. The occidental 

flats 
Had fed us fatter, therefore ? we have 

climbed 
Where herbage ends? we want the 

beast's part now, 
And tire of the angel's ? Men define 

a man, 
The creature who stands front-ward to 

the stars, 
The creature who looks inward to 

himself, 
The tool-wright, laughing creature. 

'Tis enough : 
We'll say, instead, the inconsequent 

creature, man, 

For that's his specialty. What crea- 
ture else 
Conceives the circle, and then walks 

the square ? 
Loves things proved bad, and leaves 

a thing proved good ? 
You think the bee makes honey half 

a year, 

To loathe the comb in winter, and de- 
sire 
The little ant's food rather? But a 

man 
Note men ! they are but women, 

after all, 
As women are but Auroras ! there 

are men 
Born tender, apt to pale at a trodden 

worm, 

Who paint for pastime, in their favor- 
ite dream, 
Spruce auto-vestments flowered with 

crocus-flames; 
There are, too, who believe in hell, 

and lie; 
There are, too, who believe in hearen, 

and fear; 






138 



AURORA LEIGH. 



There are, who waste their souls in 

working out 
Life's problem on these sands betwixt 

two tid-s, 
Concluding, "Give iis the oyster's 

part, in death." 

Alas, long-suffering and most patient 

God, 
Thou needst be surelier God to bear 

with us 
Than even to have made us ! thou 

as ] nre, aspire 
From henceforth for me ! thou who 

hast thyself 
Endured this lleshhood, knowing how 

as a soaked 
And sucking vesture it can drag us 

down, 
And choke us in the melancholy 

deep, 
Sustain me, that with thee I walk 

these waves, 
Resisting ! breathe me upward, thou 

in me 
Aspiring, who art the way, the truth, 

the life, 

That no truth henceforth seem indif- 
ferent, 
No way to truth laborious, and no 

life, 
Not even this life I live, intolerable ! 

The days went by. I took up the old 
days, 

With all their Tuscan pleasures worn 
and spoiled, 

Like some lost book we dropt in the 
long grass 

On cuch a happy summer after- 
noon, 

"When last we read it with a loving 
friend, 

And find in autumn, when the friend 
is gone, 

The grass cut short, the weather 
changed, too late, 

And stare at, as at something won- 
derful, 

For sorrow, thinking how two hands 
before 

Had held up what is left to only one, 

And how we smiled when such a 
vehement nail 

Impressed the tiny dint here which 
presents 

This verse in fire forever. Tenderly 

And mournfully 1 lived. I knew the 
birds 



And insects, which looked fathered 
by the flowers 

And emulous of their hues; I recog- 
nized 

The moths, with that great overpoise 
of wings 

Which make a mystery of them how 
at all 

They can stop flying; butterflies, that 
bear 

Upon their blue wings such red em- 
bers round, 

They seem to scorch the blue air into 
holes 

Each flight they take; and fireflies, 
that suspire 

In short soft lapses of transported 
flame 

Across the tinkling dark, while over- 
head 

The constant and inviolable stars 

Outburn those lights-of-love; melodi- 
ous owls, 

(If music had but one note and was 
sad, 

'Twould sound just so), and all the 
silent swirl 

Of bats that seem to follow in the air 

Some grand circumference of a shad- 
owy dome 

To which we are blind; and then the 
nightingales, 

Which pluck our heart across a gar- 
den-wall, 

(When walking in the town) and 
carry it 

So high into the bowery almond-' 
trees 

We tremble and are afraid, and feel 
as if 

The golden flood of moonlight un- 
aware 

Dissolved the pillars of the steady 
earth 

And made it less substantial. And I 
knew 

The harmless opal snakes, the large- 
mouthed frogs, 

(Those noisy vaunters of their shal- 
low streams) 

And lizards, the green lightnings of 
the wall, 

Which, if you sit down quiet, nor 
sigh loud, 

Will flatter you, and take you for a 
stone, 

And flash familiarly about your feet 

With such prodigious eyes in such 
small heads ! 






AURORA LEIGH. 



139 



I knew them (though they had some- 
what dwindled from 

My childish imagery), and kept in 
mind 

How last I sate among them equally, 

In fellowship and ruateship, as a 
child 

Feels equal still toward insect, beast, 
and bird, 

Before the Adam in him has foregone 

All privilege of Eden, making 
friends 

And talk with such a bird or such a 
goat, 

And buying many a two-inch-wide 
rush-cage 

To let out the caged cricket on a tree, 

Saying, " Oh, my dear grillino, were 
you cramped ? 

And are you happy with the ilex- 
leaves ? 

And do you love me who have let you 
go'? 

Say yes in singing, and I'll under- 
stand." 

But now the creatures all seemed far- 
ther off, 

No longer mine, nor like me, only 
there, 

A gulf between us. I could yearn, 
indeed, 

Like other rich men, for a drop of 
dew 

To cool this heat, a drop of the 
early dew, 

The irrecoverable child-innocence 

(Before the heart took fire and with- 
ered life) 

When childhood might pair equally 
with birds; 

But now . . . the birds were grown 
too proud for us, 

Alas ! the very sun forbids the dew. 

And I I had come back to an empty 

nest, 
Which every bird's too wise for. How 

I heard 
My father's step on that deserted 

ground, 

His voice along that silence, as he 
told 

p The names of bird and insect, tree 

and flower, 

And all the presentations of the stars 
Across Valdarno, interposing still 
"My child," "my child." When 

fathers say, " My child," 



'Tis easier to conceive the universe, 
And life's transitions down the steps 
of law. 

I rode once to the little mountain- 
house 

As fast as if to find my father there; 
But when in sight oft, within fifty 

yards, 
I dropped my horse's bridle on his 

neck, 
And paused Upon hi9 flank. The 

house's front 
Was cased with lingots of ripe Indian 

corn 

In tessellated order and device 
Of golden patterns, not a stone of 

wall 
Uncovered, not an inch of room to 

grow 

A vine-leaf. The old porch had dis- 
appeared, 
And right in the open doorway sate a 

girl 
At plaiting straws, her black hair 

strained away 
To a scarlet kerchief caught beneath 

her chin 
In Tuscan fashion, her full ebon 

eyes, 
Which looked too heavy to be lifted 

so, 

Still dropt and lifted toward the mul- 
berry-tree, 
On which the lads were busy with 

their staves 
In shout and laughter, stripping every 

bough, 
As bare as winter, of those summer 

leaves 
My father had not changed for all the 

silk 
In which the ugly silkworms hide 

themselves. 
Enough. My horse recoiled before 

my heart. 
I turned the rein abruptly. Back w* 

went 
As fast, to Florence. 

That was trial enough 
Of graves. I would not visit, if I 

could, 
My father's, or my mother's any 

more, 

To see if stone-cutter or lichen beat 
So early in the race, or throw my 

llowers, 
Which could not out-smell heaven, or 

sweeten earth. 








xH 1 5 - ' <" > 1 K^ 




T f* i r 

li> 140 AURORA LEIGH. 




They live too far above, that I should 


Before the trees grew dangerous at 






look 


eight, 






So far below to find them: let me 


(For "trust no tree by moonlight," 






J d think 


Tuscans say) J lj 






That rather they are visiting my 
grave, 


To eat their ice at Donay's tenderly, 
Each lovely lady close to a cavalier 






Called life here, (undeveloped vet to 


AVho holds her dear fan while she 






life) 


feeds her smile 






And that they drop upon me now 


On meditative spoonfuls of vanille, 






and then, 


And listens to his hot-breathed vows 






For token or for solace, some small 


of love, 






weed 


Enough to thaw her cream, and scorch 






Least odorous of the growths of par- 


his beard. 






adise, 








To spare such pungent scents as kill 


'Twas little matter. I could pass 






with joy. 


them by 








Indifferently, not fearing to be 






My old Assunta, too, was dead, 


known. 






was dead. 


No danger of being wrecked upon a 






O land of all men's past ! for me 


friend, 






alone 


And forced to take an iceberg for an 






It would not mix its tenses. I was 


isle ! 






past, 


The very English here must wait, and 






It seemed, like others, only not in 


learn 






heaven. 


To hang the cobweb of their gossip 






And many a Tuscan eve I wandered 


out 






down 


To catch a fly. I'm happy. It's sub- 




, 


The cypress alley like a restless ghost 
That tries its feeble, ineffectual 


lime, 
This perfect solitude of foreign lands ! 






breath 


To be as if you had not been till 






Upon its own charred funeral-brands 


then, 






put out 


And were then, simply that you 






Too soon, where black and stiff stood 


chose to be; 






up the trees 
Against the broad vermilion of the 


To spring up, not be brought forth 
from the ground, 






skies. 


Like grasshoppers at Athens, and 






Such skies ! all clouds abolished in 


skip thrice 






a sweep 


Before a woman makes a pounce on 






Of God's skirt, with a dazzle to ghosts 


you 






and men, 


And plants you in her hair! pos- 






As down I went, saluting on the 


sess, yourself, 






bridge 


A new world all alive with creatures 






The hem of such before 'twas caught 


new, 






away 


New sun, new moon, new flowers, 






Beyond the peaks of Lucca. Under- 


new people ah, 






neath, 


And be possessed by none of them I 






The river, just escaping from the 


no right 






weight 


In one to call your name, inquire 






Of that intolerable glory, ran 


your where, 






In acquiescent shadow murmurously; 
AVhile up beside it streamed the festa- 


Or what you think of Mister Some- 
one's book, 






folk 


Or Mister Other's marriage or de- 






With fellow-murmurs from their feet 


cease, 






"V f* and fans, 


Or how's the headache which you ) r 






And issimo and ino and sweet poise 
Of vowels in their pleasant, scandal- 


had last week, 
Or why you look so pale still, since 






ous talk ; 


it's gone. 






Returning from the grand-duke's 


Such most surprising riddance of 






dairy-farm 


one's life 






J i J I 




^H Ic-i a \ -" " FTtJ^ 







AURORA LEIGH. 



141 



Comes next one's death: 'tis disem- 
bodiment 

Without the pang. I marvel people 
choose 

To stand stock-still, like fakirs, till 
the moss 

Grows on them and they cry ont, 
self-admired, 

"How verdant and how virtuous ! " 
"Well, I'm glad, 

Or should be, if grown foreign, to my- 
self 

As surely as to others. 

Musing so, 

I walked the narrow, unrecognizing 
streets, 

"Where many a palace-front peers 
gloomily 

Through stony visors iron-barred, 
(prepared 

Alike, should foe or lover pass that 
way, 

For guest or victim) and came wan- 
dering out 

Upon the churches with mild open 
doors 

And plaintive wail of vespers, where 
a few, 

Those chiefly women, sprinkled 
round in blots 

Upon the dusky pavement, knelt and 
prayed 

Toward the altar's silver glory. Oft 
a ray 

(I liked to sit and watch) would trem- 
ble out, 

Just touch some face more lifted, 
more in need, 

(Of course a woman's) while I dreamed 
a tale 

To fit its fortunes. There was one 
who looked 

As if the earth had suddenly grown 
too large 

For such a little humpbacked thing 
as she; 

The pitiful black kerchief round her 
neck 

Sole proof she had had a mother. 
One, again, 

Looked sick for love, seemed pray- 
ing some soft saint 

To put more virtue in the new, fine 
scarf 

She spent a fortnight's meals on yes- 
terday, 

That cruel Gigi might return his eyes 

From Giuliana. There was one, so 
old, 



So old, to kneel grew easier than to 
stand; 

So solitary, she accepts at last 

Our Lady for her gossip, and frets 
on 

Against the sinful world which goes 
its rounds 

In marrying and being married, just 
the same 

As when 'twas almost good and had 
the right, 

(Her Gian alive and she herself eigh- 
teen). 

" And yet, now even, if Madonna 
willed, 

She'd win a tern in Thursday's lot- 
tery, 

And better all things. Did she dream 
for nought, 

That, boiling cabbage for the fast- 
day's soup, 

It smelt like blessed entrails ? such a 
dream 

For nought? would sweetest Mary 
cheat her so, 

And lose that certain candle, straight 
and white 

As any fair grand-duchess in her 
teens, 

Which otherwise should flare here in 
a week ? 

Benigna sis, thou beauteous Queen of 
heaven ! " 

I sate there musing, and imagining 

Such utterance from such faces, poor 
blind souls 

That writhe toward heaven along the 
Devil's trail: 

"Who knows, I thought, but he may 
stretch his hand 

And pick them up ? 'Tis written in 
the Book 

He heareth the young ravens when 
they cry, 

And yet they cry for carrion. O my 
God! 

And we who make excuses for the 
rest, 

"We do it in our measure. Then I 
knelt, 

And dropped my head upon the pave- 
ment too, 

And prayed since I was foolish in 
desire 

Like other creatures, craving offal- 
food 

That he would stop his ears to what I 
said. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



And only listen to the run and beat 
Of this poor, passionate, helpless 

blood 

And then 
I lay, and spoke not; but he heard in 

heaven. 

So many Tuscan evenings passed the 

same. 
I could not lose a sunset on the 

bridge, 
And would not miss a vigil in th6 

church, 
And liked to mingle with the oufc 

door crowd, 
So strange and gay, and ignorant of 

my face ; 
For men you know not are as good as 

trees. 

And only once, at the Santissima, 
I almost chanced upon a man I knew. 
Sir Blaise Delonne. He saw me cer* 

tainly, 
And somewhat hurried, as he crossed 

himself, 
The smoothness of the action; then 

half bowed, 
But only half, and merely to my 

shade, 
I slipped so quick behind the porphyry 

plinth, 

And left him dubious if 'twas really I, 
Or peradventure Satan's usual trick 
To keep a mounting saint uncanon- 

ized. 
But he was safe for that time, and I 

too: 

The argent angels in the altar-flare 
Absorbed his soul next moment. The 

good man ! 

In England we were scarce acquaint- 
ances, 
That here in Florence he should keep 

my thought 
Beyond the image on his eye, which 

came 

And went: and yet his thought dis- 
turbed my life; 

For after that I oftener sat at, home 
On evenings, watching how they fined 

themselves 
With gradual conscience to a perfect 

night, 
Until the moon, diminished to 

curve, 
Lay out there like a sickle for His 

hand 
Who couieth down at last to reap the 

earth. 



At such times ended seemed my 
trade of verse: 

I feared to jingle bells upon my robe 

Before the four-faced silent cheru- 
bim. 

With God so near me, could I sing of 
God? 

I did not write, nor read, nor even 
think, 

But sate absorbed amid the quicken- 
ing glooms, 

Most like some passive broken lump 
of salt 

Dropt in by chance to a bowl of cenoi 
mel, 

To spoil the drink a little, 'and lose it- 
self, 

Dissolving slowly, slowly, until lost. 



EIGHTH BOOK. 

ONE eve it happened, when I sate 

alone, 

Alone, upon the terrace of my tower, 
A book upon my knees to counterfeit 
The reading that I never read at all, 
While Marian, in the garden down 

below, 
Knelt by the fountain I could just hea 

thrill 
The drowsy silence of the exhausted 

day, 
And peeled a new fig from that purple 

heap 
In the grass beside her, turning out 

the red 
To feed her eager child, who sucked 

at it 
With vehement lips across a gap of 

air, 
As he stood opposite, face and- curls 

aflame 
With that last sun-ray, crying, " Give 



me, give 



And stamping with imperious baby- 
feet, 

(We're all born princes) something 
startled me, 

The laugh of sad and innocent souls 
that breaks 

Abruptly, as if frightened at itself. 

'Twas Marian laughed. I saw her 
glance above 

In sudden shame that I should heat 
her laugh, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



143 



And straightway dropped my eyes 

upon my book, 

And knew, the first time, 'twas Boc- 
caccio's tale, 
The Falcon's, of the lover who for 

love 
Destroyed the best that loved him. 

Some of us 
Doit still, and then we sit, and laugh 

no more. 
Laugh yon, sweet Marian, you've the 

right to laugh. 
Since God himself is for you, and a 

child. 
Forme there's somewhat less, and so 

I sigh. 

The heavens were making room to 
hold the night, 

The sevenfold heavens unfolding all 
their gates 

To let the stars out slowly (prophe- 
sied 

In close-approaching advent, not dis- 
cerned), 

"While still the cue-owls from the cy- 
presses 

Of the Poggio called and counted 
every pulse 

Of the skyey palpitation. Gradu- 
ally 

The purple and transparent shadows 
. i slow 

Had tilled up the whole valley to the 
brim. 

And flooded all the city, which you 

saw- 
As some drowned city in some en- 
chanted sea, 

Cut off from nature, drawing you who 
gaze. 

With passionate desire, to leap and 
plunge, 

And find a sea-king with a voice of 
waves, 

And treacherous soft eyes, and slip- 
pery locks 

You cannot kiss but you shall bring 
away 

Their salt upon your lips. The duomo- 
bell 

Strikes ten, as if it struck ten fathoms 
down, 

So deep, and twenty churches answer 
it 

The same, with twenty various in- 
stances. 

Some gaslights tremble along squares 
and streets ; 



The Pitti's palace-front is drawn in 

fire; 
And, past the quays, Maria Novella 

Place, 
In which the mystic obeh'sks stand 

up 

Triangular, pyramidal, ea< h based 
Upon its four-square brazen tortoises, 
To guard that fair church, Buonarro- 
ti's Bride, 
That stares out from her large blind 

dial-eyes, 
(Her quadrant and armillary dials, 

black 
With rhythms of many suns and 

moons) in vain 

Inquiry for so rich a soul as his. 
Methinks I have plunged, I see it all 

so clear . . . 
And O my heart . . . the sea-king ! 

In my ears 

The sound of waters. There he stood, 
my king ! 

I felt him, rather than beheld him. 

Up 

I rose, as if he were my king indeed, 
And then sate down, in trouble at 

myself, 
And struggling for my woman's em- 

pery. 

'Tis pitiful ; but women are so made : 
We'll die for you, perhaps, 'tis 

probable ; 
But we'll not spare you an inch of our 

full height : 
We'll have our whole just stature, 

five feet four, 

Though laid out in our coffins : piti- 
ful. 
" You, Romney ! Lady Waldemar 

is here ?" 

He answered in a voice which was not 

his. 
" I have her letter : you shall read it 

soon . 

But, first I must be heard a little, I 
Who have waited long and travelled 

far for that, 
Although you thought to have shut a 

tedious book, 
And farewell. Ah, you dog-eared 

such a page, 
And here you find me." 

Did he touch my hand, 
Or but my sleeve ? I trembled, hand 

and foot : 






144 




AURORA LEIGH. 



He must have touched me. " Will 
you sit?" Tasked, 

And motioned to a chair ; hut down 
he sate, 

A little slowly, as a man in doubt, 

Upon the couch beside me, couch and 
chair 

Being wheeled upon the terrace. 

"You are come, 

My cousin Romney ? This is wonder- 
ful. 

But all is wonder on such summer- 
nights ; 

And nothing should surprise us any 
more, 

Who see that miracle of stars. Be- 
hold." 

I signed above, where all the stars 

were out, 
As if an urgent heat had started 

there 

A secret writing from a sombre page, 
A blank last moment, crowded sud- 
denly 
With hurrying splendors. 

" Then you do not know " 
He murmured. 

" Yes, I know," I said, " I know. 
I had the news from Vincent Carring- 

ton. 
And yet I did not think you'd leave 

the work 
In England for so much even, 

though of course 

You'll make a work-day of your holi- 
day, 
And turn it to our Tuscan people's 

use, 
Who much need helping, since the 

Austrian boar 
(So bold to cross the Alp to Lorn- 

bardy, 
And dash his brute front unabashed 

against 
The steep snow-bosses of that shield 

of God 
Who soon shall rise in wrath, and 

shake it clear) 

Came hither also, raking up our grape 
And olive gardens with his tyrannous 

tusk, 
And rolling on our maize with all his 

swine." 

" You had the news from Vincent 
Carrington," 

He echoed, picking up the phrase be- 
yond, 



As if he knew the rest was merely talk 

To fill a gap and keep out a strong 
wind: 

" You had, then, Vincent's personal 
news?" 

" His own," 

I answered. " All that ruined world 
of yours 

Seems crumbling into marriage. Car- 
rington 

Has chosen wisely." 

" Do you take it so ? " 

He cried, "and is it possible at 
last" . . . 

He paused there, and then, inward 
to himself, 

" Too much at last, too late ! yet cer- 
tainly" . . . 

(And there his voice swayed as an 
Alpine plank 

That feels a passionate torrent under- 
neath) 

" The knowledge, had I known it 
first or last, 

Could scarce have changed the actual 
case for me, 

And best for her at this time." 

Nay, I thought, 

He loves Kate Ward, it seems, now, 
like a man, 

Because he has married Lady Walde- 
mar ! 

Ah, Vincent's letter said how Leigli 
was moved 

To hear that Vincent was betrothed 
to Kate. 

With what cracked pitchers go we to 
deep wells 

In this world! Then I spoke, "I 
did not think, 

My cousin, vou had ever known Kate 
Ward." 

"In fact I never knew her. 'Tis 

enough 
That Vincent did, and therefore choso 

his wife 
For other reasons than those topaz 

eyes 
We've heard of. Not to undervalue 

them, 
For all that. One takes up the world 

with eyes." 

Including Romney Leigh, I thought 

again, 

Albeit he knows them only by repute. 
How vile must all men be, since he's 

a man ! 







AURORA LKIGll. 



145 



His deep pathetic voice, as if he 

guessed 
I did not surely love him, took the 

word : 
" You never got a letter from Lord 

Howe 
A month back, dear Aurora ? " 

"None," I said. 

" I felt it was so," he replied. " Yet, 

strange ! 
Sir Blaise Delorrne has passed through 

Florence?" 

"Ay, 
By chance I saw him in Our Lady's 

Church, 
(I saw him, mark you; but he saw not 

me) 
Clean-washed in holy water from the 

count 
Of things terrestrial, letters and 

the rest: 
He had crossed us out together with 

his sins. 
Ay, strange; but only strange that 

good Lord Howe 
Preferred him to the post because of 

pauls. 
For me, I'm sworn to never trust a 

man 
At least with letters." 

" There were facts to tell, 
To smooth with eye and accent. 

Howe supposed . . . 
Well, well, no matter! there was 

dubious need: 
You heard the news from Vincent 

Carrington. 

And yet perhaps you had been star- 
tled less 
To see me, deai Aurora, if you had 

read 
That letter." 

Now he sets me down as vexed. 
I think I've draped myself in wo- 
man's pride 
To a perfect ourpose. Oh, I'm 

vexed, it se^ms ! 
My friend Lord Howe deputes his 

friend Sir Blaise 

To break, as sof ly as a sparrow's egg 
That lets a bird out tenderly, the 

news 
Of Romney's marriage to a certain 

saint, 

To smooth with eye and accent, indi- 
cate 
His possible presence. Excellently 

well 



You've played your part, my Lady 
Waldemar, 

As I've played mine. 

" Dear Romney," I began, 

" You did not use of old to be so 
like 

A Greek king coming from a taken 
Troy 

'Twas needful that precursors spread 
your path 

"With three-piled carpets to receive 
your foot, 

And dull the sound oft. For myself, 
be sure, 

Although it frankly grinds the gravel 
here, 

I still can bear it. Yet I'm sorry, too, 

To lose this famous letter, which Sir 
Blaise 

Has twisted to a lighter absently 

To fire some holy taper. Dear Lord 
Howe 

Writes letters good for all things but 
to lose: 

And many a flower of London gos- 
sipry 

Has dropt wherever such a stem 
broke off. 

Of course I feel that, lonely among 
my vines, 

Where nothing's talked of, save the 
blight again, 

And no more Chianti 1 Still the let- 
ter's use 

As preparation . . . Did I start in- 
deed ? 

Last night I started at a cockchafer, 

And shook a half-hour after. Have 
you learnt 

No more of women, 'spite of privi- 
lege, 

Than still to take account too seri- 
ously 

Of such weak flutterings ? Why, we 
like it, sir: 

We get our powers and our effects 
that way. 

The trees stand stiff and still at time 
of frost, 

If no wind tears them ; but let sum- 
mer come, 

When trees are happy, and a breath 
avails 

To set them trembling through a mil- 
lion leaves 

In luxury of emotion. Something 
less 

It takes to move a woman: let het 
start 







AURORA LEIGH. 



And shake at pleasure, nor conclude 

at yours, 
The winter's bitter, but the summer's 

green." 

He answered, " Be the summer ever 
green 

With you, Aurora ! though you sweep 
your sex 

With somewhat bitter gusts from 
where you live 

Above them, whirling downward 
from your heights 

Your very own pine-cones, in a grand 
disdain 

Of the lowland burrs with which you 
scatter them. 

So high and cold to others and your- 
self, 

A little less to Romney were unjust, 

And thus, I would not have you. 
Let it pass: 

I feel content so. You can bear, in- 
deed, 

My sudden step beside you: but for 
me, 

'Twould move me sore to hear your 
softened voice, 

Aurora's voice, if softened un- 
aware 

In pity of what I am." 

Ah, friend ! I thought, 

As husband of the Lady Waldeinar 

You're granted very sorely pitiable; 

And yet Aurora Leigh must guard 
her voice 

From softening in the pity of your 
case, 

As if from lie or license. Certainly 

We'll soak up all the slush and soil of 
life 

With softened voices, ere we come to 
you. 

At which I interrupted my own 

thought, 

And spoke out calmly. " Let us pon- 
der, friend, 
Whate'er our state, we must have 

made it first; 
And though the thing displease us, 

ay, perhaps 
Displease us warrantably, never 

doubt 
That other states, thought possible 

once, and then ' 

Rejected by the instinct of our lives, 
If then adopted, had displeased us 

more 



Than this in which the choice, the 

will, the love, 
Has stamped the honor of a patent 

act 
From henceforth. What we choose 

may not be good ; 
But that we choose it proves it good 

for us 

Potentially, fantastically, now 
Or last year, rather than a thing we 

saw, 
And saw no need for choosing. Moths 

will burn 
Their wings, which proves that 

light is good for moths, 
Who else had flown not where they 

agonize." 

" Ay, light is good," he echoed, and 

there paused; 
And then abruptly ..." Marian. 

Marian's well ?" 

I bowed my head, but found no word. 

'Twas hard 

To speak of her to Lady Waldemar's 
New husband. How much did he 

know, at last ? 
How much ? how little ? He would 

take no sign, 
But straight repeated, " Marian. Is 

she well ? " 

" She's well," I answered. 

She was there in sight 
An hour back; but the night had 

drawn her home, 
Where still I heard her in an upper 

room, 
Her low voice singing to the child in 

bed, 
Who, restless with the summer-heat 

and play, 
And slumber snatched at noon, was 

long sometimes 
In falling off, and took a score of 

songs 
And mother hushes ere she saw him 

sound. 

" She's well," I answered. 

" Here ? " he asked. 
" Yes, here." 

He stopped and sighed. " That shall 

be presently; 
But now this must be. I have words 

to say, 






' I'm thinking, Romney, how 'twas morning then 
And now, 'tis night." 1'age 147. 





AURORA LEIGH. 



147 ... 



And would be alone to say them, I 

with you, 
And no third troubling." 

" Speak, then," I returned, 
" She will not vex you." 

At which, suddenly 
He turned his face upon me with its 

smile, 
As if to crush me. " I have read 

your book, 
Aurora." 

" You have read it," I replied, 
" And I have writ it we have done 

with it. 
And now the rest ? " 

" The rest is like the first," 
He answered, " for the book is in my 

heart, 
Lives in me, wakes in me, and dreams 

in me: 
My daily bread tastes of it; and my 

wine 
Which has no smack of it, I pour it 

out, 
It seem unnatural drinking." 

Bitterly 
I took the word up: " Never waste 

your wine. 
The book lived in me ere it lived in 

you; 

I know it closer than another does, 
And how it's foolish, feeble, and 

afraid, 

And all unworthy so much compli- 
ment. 
Beseech you, keep your wine, and, 

when you drink, 
Still wish some happier fortune to a 

friend 
Than even to have written a far better 

book." 

He answered gently: " That is conse- 
quent. 
The poet looks beyond the book he 

has made, 

Or else he had not made it. If a man 
Could raake a man, he'd henceforth 

be a god 

In feeling what a little thing is man: 
It is not my case. And this special 

book, 

I did not make it, to make light of it: 
It stands above my knowledge, draws 

me up; 

Tis high to me. It may be that the 
book 



Is not so high, but I so low, instead; 
Still high to me. I mean no compli- 
ment: 
I will not say there are not, young or 

old, 
Male writers, ay, or female, let it 

pass, 
Who'll write us richer and completer 

books. 

A man may love a woman perfectly, 
And yet by no means ignorantly 

maintain 
A thousand women have not larger 

eyes: 
Enough that she alone has looked at 

him 
"With eyes that, large or small, have 

won his soul. 
And so, this book, Aurora, so, your 

book." 

" Alas ! " I answered, " is it so, in- 
deed ? " 

And then was silent. 

" Is it so, indeed," 

He echoed, " that alas is all your 
word ? " 

I said, " I'm thinking of a far-off 
June, 

When you and I, upon my birthday, 
once, 

Discoursed of life and art, with both 
untried. 

I'm thinking, Romney, how 'twas 
morning then, 

And now 'tis night." 

" And now," he said, " 'tis night." 

"I'm thinking," I resumed, "'tis 

somewhat sad, 
That if I had known, that morning in 

the dew, 
My cousin Romney would have said 

such words 
On such a night at close of many 

years, 

In speaking of a future book of mine, 
It would have pleased me better as a 

hope 
Than as an actual grace it can at 

all: 
That's sad, I'm thinking." 

" Ay," he said, " 'tis night." 

"And there," I added lightly, "are 

the stars ; 
And here we'll talk of stars, and not 

of books." 






148 



AURORA LEIGH. 



" You have the stars," he murmured, 
it is well : 

Be like them. Shine, Aurora, on my 
dark, 

Though high and cold, and only like a 
star, 

And for this short night only, you 
who keep 

The same Aurora of the bright June 
day 

That withered up the flowers before 
my face, 

And turned me from the garden ever- 
more, 

Because I was not worthy. Oh, de- 
served, 

Deserved ! that I, who verily had not 
learnt 

God's lesson half, attaining as a dunce 

To obliterate good words with frac- 
tious thumbs, 

And cheat myself of the context, 
/ should push 

Aside, with male ferocious impudence, 

The world's Aurora, who had conned 
her part 

On the other side the leaf ! ignore her 
so, 

Because she was a woman and a 
queen, 

And had no beard to bristle through 
her song, 

My teacher, who has taught me with 
a book, 

My Miriam, whose sweet mouth, when 
nearly drowned, 

I still heard singing on the shore ! 
Deserved, 

That here I should look up unto the 
stars, 

And miss the glory "... 

" Can I understand ? " 

I broke in. " You speak wildly, 
Romney Leigh, 

Or I hear wildly. In that morning- 
time 

We recollect, the roses were too red, 

The trees too green, reproach too nat- 
ural 

If one should see not what the other 
saw : 

And now it's night, remember ; we 
have shades 

In place of colors ; we are now grown 
cold 

And old, my cousin Romney. Pardon 
me, 

I'm very happy that you like my book, 

And very sorry that I quoted back 



A ten-years' birthday. 'Twas so mad 

a thing 

In any woman, I scarce marvel much 
You took it for a venturous piece of 

spite, 

Provoking such excuses as indeed 
I cannot call you slack in." 

"Understand," 
He answered sadly, " something, if 

but so. 
This night is softer than an English 

day, 
And men may well come hither when 

they're sick, 
To draw in easier breath from larger 

air. 
'Tis thus with me : I come to you, 

to you, 

My Italy of women, just to breathe 
My soul out once before you, ere I 

go, 
As humble as God makes me at the 

last, 
(I thank him) quite out of the way of 

men, 
And yours, Aurora, like a punished 

child, 
His cheeks all blurred with tears and 

naughtiness, 

To silence in a corner. I am come 
To speak, beloved "... 

" Wisely, cousin Leigh, 
And worthily of us both." 

" Yes, worthilv ; 
For this time I must speak out, and 

confess 
That I, so truculent in assumption 

once, 

So absolute in dogma, proud in aim, 
And fierce in expectation, I. who 

felt 
The whole world tugging at my skirts 

for help, 

As if no other man than I could pull, 
Nor woman, but I led her by the hand, 
Nor cloth hold, but I had it in my 

coat, 
Do know myself to-night for what I 

was 
On that June-day, Aurora. Poor 

bright day, 
Which meant the best ... a woman 

and a rose, 
And which I smote upon the cheek 

with words, 
Until it turned and rent me. Young 

you were, 
That birthday, poet ; but you talked 

the right : 







AURORA LEIGH. 



149 



While I ... I built up follies, like a 

wall, 
To intercept the sunshine and your 

face. 
Your face ! that's worse." 

" Speak wisely, cousin Leigh." 

" Yes, wisely, dear Aurora, though too 

late, 
But then, not wisely. I was heavy 

then, 
And stupid, and distracted with the 

cries 
Of tortured prisoners in the polished 

brass 

Of that Phalarian bull, society, 
Which seems to bellow bravely like 

ten bulls, 
But, if you listen, moans and cries 

instead 
Despairingly, like victims tossed and 

gored' 
And trampled by their hoofs. I heard 

the cries 
Too close : I could not hear the angels 

lift 
A fold of rustling air, nor what they 

said 
To help my pity. I beheld the 

world 
As one great famishing carnivorous 

mouth, 
A huge, deserted, callow, blind bird 

thing, 
With piteous open beak that hurt my 

heart, 
Till down upon the filthy ground I 

dropped, 
And tore the violets up to get the 

worms. 
Worms, worms, was all my cry: an 

open mouth, 
A gross want, bread to fill it to the 

lips, 
No more. That poor men narrowed 

their demands 

To such an end was virtue, I sup- 
posed, 

Adjudicating that to see it so 
Was reason. Oh, I did not push the 

case 
Up higher, and ponder how it answers 

when 
The rich take up the same cry for 

themselves, 
Professing equally, ' An open 

mouth 
A gross need, food to fill us, and no 

more.' 



Why, that's so far from virtue, only 

vice 
Can find excuse for't ! that makes 

libertines, 
And slurs our cruel streets from end 

to end 
With eighty thousand women in one 

smile, 
Who only smile at night beneath the 

gas. 
The body's satisfaction, and no 

more, 
Is used for argument against the 

soul's, 
Here too: the want, here too, implies 

the right. 
How dark I stood that morning in 

the sun, 
My best Aurora (though I saw your 

eyes) 
When first you told me . . . oh, I 

recollect 
The sound, and how you lifted your 

small hand, 
And how your white dress and your 

burnished curls 
Went greatening round you in the 

still blue air, 

As if an inspiration from within 
Had blown them all out when you 

spoke the words, 
Even these, ' You will not compass 

your poor ends 

Of barley-feeding and material ease 
Without the poet's individualism 
To work your universal. It takes a 

soul 
To move a body; it takes a high- 

souled man 
To move the masses even to a 

cleaner sty ; 

It takes the ideal to blow an inch in- 
side 
The dust of the actual; and your 

Fouriers failed, 

Because not poets enough to under- 
stand 
That life develops from within.' I 

say 
Your words: I could say other 

words of yours; 
For none of all your words will let 

me go, 
Like sweet verbena, which, being 

brushed against, 
Will hold us three hours after by the 

smell, 
In spite of long walks upon windy 

hills. 






-- ir>o 



AURORA LEIGH. 



r.ut these words dealt in sharper per- 
fume; these 

Were ever on me, stinging through 
my dreams, 

And saying themselves forever o'er 
my acts 

Like some unhappy verdict. That 
I failed 

Is certain. Sty or no sty, to con- 
trive 

The swine's propulsion toward the 
precipice 

Proved easy and plain. I subtly or- 
ganized 

And ordered, built the cards up high 
and higher, 

Till, some one breathing, all fell flat 
again : 

In setting right society's wide wrong, 

Mere life's so fatal ! So I failed in- 
deed 

Once, twice, and oftener, hearing 
through the rents 

Of obstinate purpose; still those words 
of yours, 

' You will not compass your poor ends, 
not you ' ' 

But harder than you said them ; every 
time 

Still farther from your voice, until 
they came 

To overcrow me with triumphant 
scorn, 

Which vexed me to resistance. Set 
down this 

For condemnation. I was guilty here ; 

I stood upon my deed, and fought my 
doubt, 

As men will, for I doubted, till 
at last 

My deed gave way beneath me sud- 
denly, 

And left me what I am. The curtain 
dropped, 

My part quite ended, all the foot- 
lights quenched, 

My own soul hissing at me through 
the dark, 

I ready for confession, I was wrong, 

I've sorely failed, I've slipped the 
ends of life, 

I yield: you have conquered." 

" Stay," I answered him: 

" I've something for your hearing, 
also. I 

Have failed too." 

" You ! " he said, " you're very great: 

The sadness of your greatness tits 
you well, 



As if the plume upon a hero's casque 
Should nod a shadow upon his vic- 
tor's face." 

I .took him up austerely, " You have 
read 

Mv book, but not my heart; for, recol- 
lect, 

'Tis writ in Sanscrit, which you bun- 
gle at. 

I've surely failed, I know, if failure 
means 

To look back sadly on work gladly 
done, 

To wander on my Mountains of De- 
light, 

So called, (I can remember a friend's 
words 

As well as you, sir) weary, and in 
want 

Of even a sheep-path, thinking bit- 
terly . . . 

Well, well ! no matter. I but say so 
much, 

To keep you, Romney Leigh, from 
saying more, 

And let you feel I am not so high in- 
deed, 

That I can bear to have you at rny 
foot, 

Or safe, that I can help you. That 
June day, 

Too deeply sunk in craterous sunsets 
now 

For you or me to dig it up alive; 

To pluck it out all bleeding with 
spent flame 

At the roots, before those moralizing 
stars 

We have got instead, that poor lost 
day, you said 

Some words as truthful as the thing 
of mine 

You cared to keep in memory; and I 
hold 

If I that day, and being the girl I 
was, 

Had shown a gentler spirit, less arro- 
gance, 

It hadjiot hurt me. You will scarce 
mistake 

The point here. I but only think, you 
see, 

More justly, that's more humbly of 
myself, 

Than when I tried a crown on, and 
supposed . . . 

Nay, laugh, sir, I'll laugh with you ! 
pray you laugh. 




AURORA LEIGH. 




I've had so many birthdays since that 

day, 

I've learnt to prize mirth's opportu- 
nities, 
Which come too seldom. Was it you 

who said 

I was not changed ? the same Au- 
rora? Ah, 
We could laugh there too 1 Why, 

Ulysses' dog 
Knew him, and wagged his tail and 

died; but if 
I had owned a dog, I too, before my 

Troy, 
And if you brought him here ... I 

warrant you 

He'd look into my face, bark lustily, 
Aud live on stoutly, as the creatures 

will 
Whose spirits are not troubled by 

long loves. 
A dog would never know me, I'm so 

changed, 
Miich less a friend . . . except that 

you're misled i 

By the color of the hair, the trick of 

the voice, 
Like that Aurora Leigh's." 

" Sweet trick of voice:! 
I would be a dog for this, to know it 

at last, ' 

And die upon the falls of it. O love, 

l>est Aurora ! are you then so sad ' 
You scarcely had been sadder as my 

wife?'" 

" Your wife, sir ! I must certainly be 

changed, 

If I, Aurora, can have said a thing 
So light, it catches at the knightly 

spurs 
Of a noble gentleman like Romney 

Leigh, 
And trips him from his honorable 

sense 
Of what befits "... 

" You wholly misconceive," 
He answered. 

I returned, " I'm glad of it. 
But keep from misconception, too, 

yourself: 

1 am not humbled to so low a point, 
Nor so far saddened. If I am sad at 

all, 
Ten layers of birthdays on a woman's 

head 

Are apt to fossilize her girlish mirth, 
Though ne'er so merry: I'm perforce 

more wise, 



And that, in truth, means sadder. 

For the rest, 
Look here, sir: I was right, upon the 

whole, 

That birthday morning. 'Tis impos- 
sible 
To get at men excepting through 

their souls, 
However open their carnivorous 

jaws ; 

And poets get directlier at the soul 
Than any of your economists; for 

which 
You must not overlook the poet's 

work 

When scheming for the world's neces- 
sities. 
The soul's the way. Not even Christ 

himself 
Can save man else than as he holds 

man's soul; 
And therefore did he come into our 

flesh, 
As some wise hunter, creeping on his 

knees 
With a torch, into the blackness of a 

cave, 
To face and quell the beast there, 

take the soul, 
And so possess the whole man, body 

and soul. 
I said, so far, right, yes; not farther, 

though : 
We both were wrong that June day, 

both as wrong 
As an east wind had been. I who 

talked of art, 
And you who grieved for all men's 

griefs . . . what then ? 
We surely made too small a part for 

God 

In these things. What we are im- 
ports us more 
Than what we eat; and life, you've 

granted me, 

Develops from within. But inner- 
most 
Of the inmost, most interior of the 

interne, 

God claims his own, divine humanity 
Renewing nature; or the piercingest 

verse, 
Prest in by subtlest poet still must 

keep 

As much upon the outside of. a man 
As the very bowl in which he dips 

his beard. 
And then . . . the rest; I cannot 

surely speak: 






152 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Perhaps I doubt more than you 

doubted then, 

If I the poet's veritable charge 
Have borne upon my forehead. If I 

have, 
It might feel somewhat liker to a 

crown, 
The foolish green one, even. Ah, I 

think, 
And chiefly when the sun shines, that 

I've failed. 
But what then, Romney? Though 

we fail indeed, 
You ... I ... a score of such weak 

workers . . . He 
Fails never. If he cannot work by 

us, 
He will work over us. Does he want 

a man, 
Much less a woman, think you? 

Every time 
The star winks there, so many souls 

are born, 
Who all shall work too. Let our own 

be calm: 
We should be ashamed to sit beneath 

those stars, 
Impatient that we're nothing." 

"Could we sit 
Just so forever, sweetest friend," he 

said, 
"My failure would seem better than 

success. 
And yet indeed your book has dealt 

with me 
More gently, cousin, than you ever 

will. 
Your book brought down entire the 

bright June day, 

And set me wandering in the garden- 
walks, 
And let me watch the garland in a 

place 
You blushed so ... nay, forgive me, 

do not stir; 
I only thank the book for what it 

taught, 
And what permitted. Poet doubt 

yourself, 
But never doubt that you're a poet to 

me 
From henceforth. You have written 

poems, sweet, 
Which moved me in secret, as the sap 

is moved 
In still March branches, signless as a 

stone; 
But this last book o'ercame me like 

soft rain 



Which falls at midnight, when the 

tightened bark 

Breaks out into unhesitating buds, 
And sudden protestations of the 

spring. 
In all your other books I saw but 

you. 
A man may see the moon so, in a 

pond, 
And not be nearer therefore to the 

moon, 
Nor use the sight . . . except to 

drown himself: 
And so I forced my heart back from 

the sight, 
For what had /, I thought, to do with 

her, 
Aurora . . . Romney? But in this 

last book 
You showed me something separate 

from yourself, 

Beyond you, and I bore to take it in, 
And let it draw me. You have shown 

me truths, 
O June-day friend, that help me now 

at night 
When June is over, truths not yours, 

indeed, 
But set within my reach by means of 

you, 

Presented by your voice and verse 

the way 
To take them clearest. Verily I was 

wrong; 

And verily many thinkers of this age, 
Ay, many Christian teachers, half in 

heaven, 

Are wrong in just my sense who un- 
derstood 

Our natural world too insularly, as if 
No spiritual counterpart completed it, 
Consummating its meaning, rounding 

all 
To justice and perfection, line by 

line, 
Form by form, nothing single nor 

alone, 
The great below clinched by the 

great above, 
Shade here authenticating substance 

there, 

The body proving spirit, as the effect 
The cause: we meantime being too 

grossly apt 

To hold the natural, as dogs a bone, 
(Though reason and nature beat us in 

the face) 
So obstinately that we'll break our 

teeth 







AURORA LEIGH. 



153 



Or ever we let go. For everywhere 

We're too materialistic, eating clay, 

(Like men of the west) instead of 
Adam's corn 

And Noah's wine, clay by handfuls, 
clay by lumps, 

Until we're filled up to the throat 
with clay, 

And grow the grimy color of the 
ground 

On which we are feeding. Ay, mate- 
rialist 

The age's name is. God himself, with 
some, 

Is apprehended as the bare result 

Of what his hand materially has 
made, 

Expressed in such an algebraic sign 

Called God; that is, to put it other- 
wise, 

They add up nature to a nought of 
God, 

And cross the quotient. There are 
many even, 

"Whose names are written in the 
Christian church 

To no dishonor, diet still on mud, 

And splash the altars with it. You 
might think 

The clay Christ laid upon their eye- 
lids, when, 

Still blind, he called them to the use 
of sight, 

Remained there to retard its exer- 
cise 

With clogging incrustations. Close 
to heaven, 

They see for mysteries, through the 
open doors, 

Vague puffs of smoke from pots of 
earthenware, 

And fain would enter, when their 
time shall come, 

With quite another body than St. 
Paul 

Has promised, husk and chaff, the 
whole barley-corn, 

Or where's the resurrection ? " 

" Thus it is," 

I sighed. And he resumed with 
mournful face. 

" Beginning so, and filling up with 
clay 

The wards of this great key, the natu- 
ral world, 

And fumbling vainly therefore at the 
lock 

Of the spiritual, we feel ourselves 
shut in 



With all the wild-beast roar of strag- 
gling life, 

The terrors and compunctions of our 
souls, 

As saints with lions, we who are 
not saints, 

And have no heavenly lordship in 
our stare 

To awe them backward. Ay, we are 
forced, so pent, 

To judge the whole too partially . . . 
confound 

Conclusions. Is there any common 
phrase 

Significant, with the adverb heard 
alone, 

The verb being absent, and the pro- 
noun out ? 

But we, distracted in the roar of 
life, 

Still insolently at God's adverb 
snatch, 

And bruit against him that his thought 
is void, 

His meaning hopeless, cry, that 
everywhere 

The government is slipping from his 
hand, 

Unless some other Christ (say Roin- 
ney Leigh) 

Come up and toil and moil and change 
the world, 

Because the First has proved inade- 
quate, 

However we talk bigly of his work 

And piously of his person. We blas- 
pheme 

At last, to finish our doxology, 

Despairing on the earth for which he 
died." 

" So now," I asked, " you have more 
hope of men?" 

" I hope," he answered. "I am come 

to think 
That God will have his work done, as 

you said, 
And that we need not be disturbed 

too much 
For Romney Leigh or others having 

failed 
With this or that quack nostrum, 

recipes 
For keeping summits by annulling 

depths, 

For wrestling with luxurious loun- 
ging sleeves, 
And acting heroism without a scratch. 






154 




AURORA LEIGH. 



We fail, what then? Aurora, if I 
smiled 

To see you, in your lovely morning- 
pride, 

Try on the poet's wreath which suits 
the noon, 

(Sweet cousin, walls must get the 
weather-stain 

Before they grow the ivy) certainly 

I stood uiyself there worthier of con- 
tempt, 

Self rated, in disastrous arrogance, 

As competent to sorrow for mankind 

And even their odds. A man may 
well despair, 

Who counts himself so needful to 
success. 

I failed: I throw the remedy back on 
God, 

And sit down here beside you, in 
good hope." 

" And yet take heed," I answered, 
" l^st we lean 

Too dangerously on the other side, 

And so fail twice. Be sure, no ear- 
nest work 

Of any honest creature, howbeit 
weak, 

Imperfect, ill-adapted, fails so much 

It is not gathered as a grain of sand 

To enlarge the sum of human action 
used 

For carrying out God's end. No crea- 
ture works 

So ill, observe, that therefore he's 
cashiered. 

The honest earnest man must stand 
and work, 

The woman also: otherwise she 
drops 

At once below the dignity of man, 

Accepting serfdom. Free men freely 
work. 

Whoever fears God fears to sit at 
ease." 

He cried, " True. After Adam, work 
was curse: 

The natural creature labors, sweats, 
and frets. 

But, after Christ, work turns to privi- 
lege, 

And henceforth, one with our human- 
ity, 

The Six-day Worker, working still in 
us, 

Has called us freely to work on with 
him 



In high companionship. So, hap- 
piest ! 

I count that heaven itself is only 
work 

To a surer issue. Let us work, in- 
deed, 

But no more work as Adam, nor as 
Leigh 

Erewhile, as if the only man on 
earth, 

Responsible for all the thistles blown, 

And tigers couchant, struggling in 
amaze 

Against disease and winter, snarling 
on 

Forever that the world's not para- 
dise. 

cousin, let us be content v in work, 
To do the thing we can, and not pre- 
sume 

To fret because it's little. 'Twill em- 
ploy 

Seven men they say to make a per- 
fect pin ; 

"Who makes the head, content to miss 
the point; 

"Who makes the point, agreed to leave 
the join: 

And if a man should cry, ' I want a 
pin, 

And I must make it straightway, 
head and point,' 

His wisdom is not worth the pin he 
wants. 

Seven men to a pin, and not a man 
too much. 

Seven generations, haply, to this 
world, 

To right it visibly a finger's breadth, 

And mend its rents a little. Oh, to 
storm 

And sav, ' This world here is intolera- 
ble; 

1 will not eat this corn, nor drink this 

wine, 

Nor love this woman, flinging her my 
soul 

Without a bond for't as a lover 
should, 

Nor use the generous leave of happi- 
ness 

As not too good for using generous- 
ly' 

(Since virtue kindles at the touch of 
joy, 

Like a man's cheek laid on a woman's 

hand, 
And God, who knows it, looks for 

quick returns 







AURORA LLIGII. 



155 



From joys) to stand and claim to 
have a life 

Beyond the bounds of the individual 
man, 

And raze all personal cloisters of the 
soul 

To build up public stores and maga- 
zines, 

As if God's creatures otherwise were 
lost, 

The builder surely saved by any 
means ! 

To think, I have a pattern on my 
nail, 

And I will carve the world new after 
it, 

And solve so these hard social ques- 
tions, nay, 

Impossible social questions, since 
their roots 

Stride deep in evil's own existence 
here, 

"Which God permits because the ques- 
tion's hard 

To abolish evil nor attaint free-will. 

Ay, hard to God, but not to Rornney 
Leigh ; 

For Roraney has a pattern on his nail 

(Whatever may be lacking on the 
Mount), 

And, not being overnice to sepa- 
rate 

What's element from what's conven- 
tion, hastes 

By line on line to draw you out a 
world, 

"Without your help indeed, unless you 
take 

His yoke upon yon, and will learn of 
him, 

So much he has to teach ! so good a 
world, 

The same the whole creation's groan- 
ing for ! 

No rich nor poor, no gain nor loss nor 
stint, 

Xo pottage in it able to exclude 

A brother's birthright, and no right 
of birth, 

The pottage, both secured to every 
man, 

And perfect virtue dealt out like the 
rest 

Gratuitously, with the soup at six, 

To whoso does not seek it." 

" Softly, sir," 

I interrupted. " I had a cousin once 

I held in reverence. If he strained 
too wide, 



It was not to take honor, but give 
help. 

The gesture was heroic. If his hand 

Accomplished nothing . . . (well, it 
is not proved) 

That empty hand thrown impotently 
out 

"Were sooner caught, I think, by One 
in heaven, 

Than many a hand that reaped a har- 
vest in 

And keeps the scythe's glow on it, 
Pray you, then, 

For my sake merely, use less bitter- 
ness 

In speaking of my cousin." 

"Ah," he said, 

" Aurora ! when the prophet beats 
the ass, 

The angel intercedes." He shook his 
head. 

" And yet to mean so well, and fail so 
foul, 

Expresses ne'er another beast than 
man: 

The antithesis is human. Hearken, 
dear: 

There's too much abstract willing, 
purposing, 

In this poor world. We talk by ag- 
gregates, 

And think by systems, and, being 
used to face 

Our evils in statistics, are inclined 

To cap them with unreal remedies 

Drawn out in haste on the other side 
the slate." 

" That.'s true," I answered, fain to 

throw up thought, 
And make a game oft. "Yes, we 

generalize 
Enough to please you. If we pray 

at all, 
We pray no longer for our daily 

bread, 
But next centenary's harvests. If 

we give, 

Our cup of water is not tendered till 
We lay down pipes and found a com- 
pany 
With branches. Ass or angel, 'tis 

the same: 
A woman cannot do the thing she 

ought, 
Which means whatever perfect thing 

she can, 
lu life, in art, in science, but she 

fears 





156 



AURORA LEIGH. 



To let the perfect action take her 

part, 
And rest there : she must prove what 

she can do 
Before she does it, prate of woman's 

rights, 

Of woman's mission, woman's func- 
tion, till 
The men (who are prating too on 

their side) cry, 
' A woman's function plainly is . . . 

to talk.' 
Poor souls, they are very reasonably 

vexed: 
They cannot hear each other talk." 

" And you, 
An artist, judge so ? " 

" I, an artist, yes. 

Because, precisely, I'm an artist, sir, 
And woman, if another sate in sight, 
I'd whisper, ' Soft, my sister ! not a 

word ! 
By speaking we prove only we can 

speak, 
"Which he, the man here, never 

doubted. What 
He doubts is, whether we can do the 

thing 
With decent grace we've not yet 

done at all. 
Now, do it; bring your statue, you 

have room F 
He'll see it even by the starlight 

here; 

And if 'tis ere so little like the god 
Who looks out from the marble si- 
lently 
Along the track of his own shining 

dart 
Through the dusk of ages, there's no 

need to speak: 
The universe shall henceforth speak 

for you, 
And witness, " She who did this thing 

was born 
To do it, claims her license in her 

work.' " 
And so with more works. Whoso 

cures the plague, 
Though twice a woman, shall be 

called a leech; 

Who rights a land's finances is ex- 
cused 
For touching coppers, though her 

hands be white, 
But we, we talk ! " 

" It is the age's mood," 
He said: " we boast, and do not. We 

put up 



Hostelry signs where'er we lodge a 

day, 
Some red colossal cow with mighty 

paps 
A Cyclops' fingers could not strain to 

milk, 
Then bring out presently our saucer- 

ful 
Of curds. We want more quiet in 

our works, 
More knowledge of the bounds in 

which we work, 
More knowledge that each individual 

man 
Remains an Adam to the general 

race, 
Constrained to see, like Adam, that 

he keep 

His personal state's condition hon- 
estly, 
Or vain all thoughts of his to help 

the world, 
Which still must be developed from 

its one, 

If bettered in its many. We indeed, 
Who think to lay it out new like a 

park, 
We take a work on us which is not 

man's ; 

For God alone sits far enough above 
To speculate so largely. None of us 
(Not Romuey Leigh) is mad enough 

to say, 
We'll have a grove of oaks upon that 

slope, 

And sink the need of acorns. Gov- 
ernment, 

If veritable and lawful, is not given 
By imposition of the foreign hand, 
Nor chosen from a pretty pattern-book 
Of some domestic idealogue who sits 
And coldly chooses empire, where as 

well 

He might republic. Genuine govern- 
ment 

Is but the expression of a nation, good 
Or less good, even as all society, 
Howe'er unequal, monstrous, crazed, 

and cursed. 
Is but the expression of men's single 

lives, 
The loud sum of the silent units. 

What, 
We'd change the aggregate, and yet 

retain 
Each separate rigure ? whom do we 

cheat by that ? 
Now, not even Romuey." 

" Cousin, you are sad. 







AURORA LEIGH. 



t CH 1 (* 

157 



Did all your social labor at Leigh 
HaH 

And elsewhere come to nought, 
then?" 

It teas nought," 

He answered mildly. " There is room 
indeed 

For statues still, in this large world of 
God's, 

But not for vacuums : so I am not 
sad, 

Not sadder than is good for what I 
am. 

My vain phalanstery dissolved itself ; 

My men and women of disordered 
lives, 

I brought in orderly to dine and 
sleep, 

Broke up those waxen masks I made 
them wear, 

With fierce contortions of the natural 
face, 

And cursed me for iny tyrannous con- 
straint 

In forcing crooked creatures to live 
straight, 

And set the country hounds upon my 
back 

To bite and tear me for my wicked 
deed 

Of trying to do good without the 
church, 

Or even the squires, Aurora. Do you 
mind 

Your ancient neighbors ? The great 
book-club teems 

With 'sketches,' 'summaries,' and 
' last tracts,' but twelve, 

On socialistic troublers of close bonds 

Betwixt the generous rich and grate- 
ful poor. 

The vicar preached from ' Revela- 
tion,' (till 

The doctor woke) and found me with 
' the frogs ' 

On three successive Sundays ; ay, and 
stopped 

To weep a little (for he's getting old) 

That such perdition should o'ertake a 
man 

Of such fair acres, in the parish, too! 

He printed his discourses ' by re- 
quest ; ' 

And, if your book shall sell as his did, 
then 

Your verses are less good than I sup- 
pose. 

The women of the neighborhood sub- 
scribed, 



And sent me a copy bound in scarlet 

silk, 
Tooled edges, blazoned with the arms 

of Leigh : 
I own that touched me." 

" What, the pretty ones ? 
Poor Rornney ! " 

" Otherwise the effect was small, 
I had my windows broken once or 

twice 

By liberal peasants naturally in- 
censed 

At such a vexer of Arcadian peace, 
Who would not let men call their 

wives their own 

To kick like Britons, and made obsta- 
cles 
When things went smoothly, as a 

baby drugged, 
Toward freedom and starvation, 

bringing down 
The wicked London tavern-thieves 

and drabs 
To affront the blessed hillside drabs 

and thieves 
With mended morals, quotha, fine 

new lives ! 
My windows paid for't. I was shot at, 

once, 
By an active poacher who had hit a 

hare 
From the other barrel, (tired of 

springeing game 

So long upon my acres, undisturbed, 
And restless for the country's virtue , 

yet 
He missed me) ay, and pelted very 

oft 
In riding through the village. ' There 

he goes, 
Who'd drive away our Christian gen. 

tlefolks, 

To catch us undefended in the trap 
He baits with poisonous cheese, and 

lock us up 
In that pernicious prison of Leigh 

Hall 
With all his murderers ! Give another 

name, 
And say Leigh Hell, and burn it up 

with fire.' 
And so they did, at last, Aurora." 

" Did ? " 

"You never heard it, cousin? Vin- 
cent's news 

Came stinted, then." 

" They did ? They burnt Leigh 
Hall?" 






158 




AURORA LEIGH. 



"You're sorry, dear Aurora? Yes 

indeed, 
They did it perfectly ; a thorough 

work, 
And not a failure, this time. Let us 

grant 
'Tis somewhat easier, though, to burn 

a house 
Than build a system ; yet that's easy, 

too 
In a dream. Books, pictures, ay, 

the pictures ! What, 
You think your dear Vandykes would 

give them pause? 
Our proud ancestral Leighs, with those 

peaked beards, 
Or bosoms white as foam thrown up 

on rocks 
From the old-spent wave. Such calm 

defiant looks 
They flared up with ! now nevermore 

to twit 
The bones in the family vault with 

ugly death. 
Not one was rescued, save the Lady 

Maud, 
Who threw you down, that morning 

you were born, 
The undeniable lineal mouth and 

chin, 
To wear forever for her gracious 

sake; 
For which good deed I saved her : the 

rest went : 
And you, you're sorry, cousin. Well, 

for me, 

With all my phalansterians safely out, 
(Poor hearts, they helped the burners, 

it was said, 
And certainly a few clapped hands 

and yelled) 
The ruin did not hurt me as it 

might ; 
As when, for instance, I was hurt one 

day, 
A certain letter being destroyed. In 

fact, 
To see the great house flare so ... 

oaken floors 
Our fathers made so fine with rushes 

once, 
Before our mothers furbished them 

with trains, 
Carved wainscoats, panelled walls, 

(the favorite slide 
For draining off a martyr or a 

rogue) 
The echoing galleries, half a half-mile 

long, 



And all the various stairs that took 

you up, 
And took you down, and took you 

round about 

Upon their slippery darkness, recol- 
lect, 
All helping to keep up one blazing 

jest ; 
The flames through all the casements 

pushing forth 
Like red-hot devils crinkled into 

snakes, 
All signifying, ' Look you, Romney 

Leigh, 
We save the people from your saving, 

here, 
Yet so as by fire 1 we make a pretty 

show 
Besides, and that's the best you've 

ever done.' 
To see this, almost moved myself 

to clap. 
The ' vale et plaude ' came too with 

effect, 
When in the roof fell, and the fire 

that paused, 
Stunned momently beneath the 

stroke of slates 
And tumbling rafters, rose at once 

and roared, 
And, wrapping the whole house 

(which disappeared 
In a mounting whirlwind of dilated 

flame), 
Blew upward straight its drift of fiery 

chaff 
In the face of heaven . . . which 

blenched, and ran up higher." 

" Poor Romney ! " 

" Sometimes when I dream," he said, 

" I hear the silence after, 'twas so 

still. 
For all those wild beasts, yelling, 

cursing round, 
Were suddenly silent while you 

counted five, 
So silent that you heard a young bird 

fall 
From the top-nest in the neighboring 

rookery, 
Through edging over-rashly toward 

the light. 
The old rooks had already fled too 

far 
To hear the screech they fled with, 

though you saw 
Some flying still, like scatterings of 

dead leaves 






' With one stone stair, symbolic of my life, 
Ascending, winding, leading up to nought." Page 159. 



AURORA LEIGH. 



159 



In autumn-gusts, seen dark against 

the sky, 
All flying, ousted, like the house of 

Leigh." 

" Dear Romney ! " 

" Evidently 'twould have been 
A fine sight for a poet, sweet, like 

you, 

To make the verse blaze after. I my- 
self, 
Even I, felt something in the grand 

old trees, 
Which stood that moment like brute 

Druid gods 

Amazed upon the rim of ruin, where, 
As into a blackened socket, the great 

fire 

Had dropped, still thro wing up splin- 
ters now and then 
To show them gray with all their 

centuries. 
Left there to witness that on such a 

day 
The house went out." 

"Ah!" 

"While you counted five, 
I seemed to feel a little like a Leigh ; 
But then it passed, Aurora. A child 

cried. 
And I had enough to think of what 

to do 
With all those houseless wretches in 

the dark, 
And ponder where they'd dance the 

next time, they 
Who had burnt the viol." 

" Dili you think of that ? 
Who burns his viol will not dance, I 

know, 
To cymbals, Rotnney." 

" O my s'weet, sad voice," 
He cried, " O voice that speaks and 

overcomes ! 
The sun is silent; but Aurora speaks." 

" Alas ! " I said, " I speak I know not 

what: 
I'm back in childhood, thinking as a 

child, 
A foolish fancy will it make you 

smile? 
I shall not from the window of my 

room 
Catch sight of those old chimneys 

any more." 

"No more," he answered. "If you 
pushed one day 



Through all the green hills to our 
fathers' house, 

You'd come upon a great charred cir- 
cle, where 

The patient earth was singed an acre 
round, 

With one stone stair, symbolic of my 
life, 

Ascending, winding, leading up to 
nought. 

'Tis wortli a poet's seeing. Will you 
go?" 

I made no answer. Had I any right 
To weep with this man, that I dared 

to speak 'i 
A woman stood between his soul and 

mine, 
And waved us off from touching 

evermore, 
With those unclean white hands of 

hers. Enough. 
We had burnt our viols and were 

silent. 

So, 
The silence lengthened till it pressed. 

I spoke 
To breathe, "I think you were ill 

afterward." 

"More ill," he answered, "had been 
scarcely ill. 

I hoped this feeble fumbling at life's 
knot 

Might end concisely; but I failed to 
die, 

As formerly I failed to live, and thus 

Grew willing, having tried all other 
ways. 

To try just God's. Humility's so 
good 

When pride's impossible. Mark us, 
how we make 

Our virtues, cousin, from our worn- 
out, sins, 

Which smack of them from hence- 
forth. Is it right, 

For instance, to wed here while you 
love there ? 

And yet, because a man sins once, the 
sin 

Cleaves to him in necessity to sin, 

That if he sin not so, to damn him- 
self, 

He sins so, to damn others with him- 
self: 

And thus to wed here, loving there, 
becomes 

A duty. Virtue buds a dubious leaf 






160 



AURORA LEIGH. 



Round mortal brows: your ivy's bet- 
ter, dear. 
Yet she, 'tis certain, is my very 

wife. 
The very lamb left mangled by the 

wolves 
Through my own bad shepherding: 

and could I choose 
But take her on my shoulder past this 

stretch 
Of rough, uneasy wilderness, poor 

lamb, 
Poor child, poor child ? Aurora, my 

beloved, 

I will not vex you any more to-night; 
But, having spoken what I came to 

say, 
The rest shall please you. What she 

can in me. 
Protection, tender liking, freedom, 

ease, 
She shall have surely, liberally, for 

her 
And hers, Aurora. Small amends 

they'll make 
For hideous evils which she had not 

known 
Except by me, and for this imminent 

loss, 
This forfeit presence of a gracious 

friend, 
Which also she must forfeit for my 

sake, 
Since . . . drop your hand in mine a 

moment, sweet, 
We're parting ! Ah, my snowdrop, 

what a touch, 
As if the wind had swept it off ! you 

grudge 
Your gelid sweetness on my palm but 

so, 
A moment ? angry, that I could not 

bear 
You . . . speaking, breathing, living, 

side by side 
With some one called my wife . . . 

and live myself? 

Nay, be not cruel: you must under- 
stand ! 
Your lightest footfall on a floor of 

mine 
Would shake the house, my lintel 

being uncrossed 
Gainst angels: henceforth it is night 

with me, 
And so, henceforth, I put the shutters 

up: 
Auroras must not come to spoil my 

dark." 



He smiled so feebly, with an empty 

hand 

Stretched sideway from me as in- 
deed he looked 

To any one but me to give him help; 
And while the moon came suddenly 

out full, 

The double-rose of our Italian moons, 
Sufficient plainly for the heaven and 

earth, 
(The stars, struck dumb, and washed 

away in dews 
Of golden glory, and the mountains 

steeped 

In divine languor) he, the man, ap- 
peared 
So pale and patient, like the marble 

man 
A sculptor puts his personal sadness 

in 

To join his grandeur of ideal thought 
As if his mallet struck me from my 

height 
Of passionate indignation, I who had 

risen 
Pale, doubting paused. . . . Was 

Romney mad indeed ? 
Had all this wrong of heart made sick 

the brain ? 

Then quiet, with q, sort of tremulous 

pride, 

" Go, cousin," I said coldly: " a fare- 
well 
Was sooner spoken 'twixt a pair of 

friends 
In those old days than seems to suit 

you now. 
Howbeit, since then, I've writ a book 

or two, 
I'm somewhat dull still in the manly 

art 
Of phrase and metaphrase. Why, any 

man 
Can carve a score of white Loves out 

of snow, 

As Buonarroti in my Florence there, 
And set them on the wall in some 

safe shade, 
As safe, sir, as your marriage ! very 

good; 
Though if a woman took one from the 

ledge 
To put it on the table by her 

flowers, 
And let it mind her of a certain 

friend, 
'Twould drop at once, (so better) 

would not bear 







AURORA LEIGH. 



1G1 



Her nail-mark even, where she took 
it up 

A little tenderly (so best, I say:) 

For ine, I would not touch the fragile 
thins 

And risk to spoil it half an hour before 

The sun shall shine to melt it: leave 
it there. 

I'm plain at speech, direct in pur- 
pose: when 

I speak, you'll take the meaning as it 
is, 

And not allow for puckerings in the 
silk 

By clever stitches. I'm a woman, sir, 

And use the woman's figures natu- 
rally, 

As you the male license. So, I wish 
you well. 

I'm simply sorry for the griefs you've 
had," 

And not for your sake only, but man- 
kind's. 

This race is never grateful: from the 
first, 

One fills their cup at supper with pure 
wine, 

Which back they give at cross-time 
on a sponge, 

In vinegar and gall." 

" If gratefuller," 

He murmured, " by so much less pitia- 
ble ! 

God's self would never have come 
down to die, 

Could man have thanked him for it." 
" Happily 

'Tis patent, that, whatever," I re- 
sumed, 

" You suffered from this thankless- 
iiess of men, 

You sink no more than Moses' bul- 
rush-Voat 

"When once relieved of Moses; for 
you're light. 

You're light, my cousin ! which is 
well for you, 

And manly. For myself now mark 
me, sir, 

They burnt Leigh Hall; but if, con- 
summated 

To devils, heightened beyond Luci- 
fers, 

They had burnt instead a star or two 
of those 

We saw above there just a moment 
back, 

Before the moon abolished them, 
destroyed 



And riddled them in ashes through a 

sieve 

On the head of the foundering uni- 
verse what then ? 
If you and I remained still you and I, 
It could not shift our places as mere 

friends, 
Nor render decent you should toss a 

phrase 
Beyond the point of actual feeling ! 

Nay, 
You shall not interrupt me: as you 

said, 
We're parting. Certainly, not once 

nor twice 

To-night you've mocked me some- 
what, or yourself, 
And I, at least, have not deserved it 

so 
That I should meet it unsurprised. 

But now, 
Enough. We're parting . . . parting. 

Cousin Leigh, 
I wish you well through all the acts 

of life 
And life's relations, wedlock not the 

least, 
And it shall ' please me,' in your 

words, to know 

You yield your wife protection, free- 
dom, ease. 
And very tender liking. May you 

live 
So happy with her, Komney, that 

your friends 
Shall praise her for it. Meantime 

some of us 

Are wholly dull in keeping ignorant 
Of what she has suffered by you, and 

what debt 
Of sorrow your rich love sits down to 

pay : 
But, if 'tis sweet for love to pay its 

debt, 
'Tis sweeter still for love to give its 

gift: 
And you, be liberal in the sweeter 

way ; 
You can, I think. At least as touches 

me, 
You owe her, cousin Romney, no 

amends. 
She is not used to hold my gown so 

fast 
You need entreat her now to let it 

go: 

The lady never was a friend of mine, 
Nor capable I thought you knew 

as much 






1G2 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Of losing for your sake so poor a prize 
As such a worthless friendship. Be 

content, 
Good cousin, therefore, both for her 

and you ! 
I'll never spoil your dark, nor dull 

your noon, 
Nor vex you when you're merry or at 

rest: 

You shall not need to put a shutter up 
To keep out this Aurora, though your 

north 

Can make Auroras which vex no- 
body, 
Scarce known from night, I fancied ! 

let me add, 

My larks fly higher than some win- 
dows. Well, 
You've read your Leighs. Indeed 

'twould shake a house, 
If such as I came in with outstretched 

hand 
Still warm and thrilling from the 

clasp of one . . . 
Of one we know ... to acknowledge, 

palm to palm, 
As mistress there, the Lady Walde- 

mar." 

" Now God be with us ! " . . . with a 

sudden clash 
Of voice he interrupted. " What 

name's that ? 
You spoke a name, Aurora." 

" Pardon me: 
I would that, Romney, I could name 

your wife 
Nor wound you, yet be worthy." 

" Are we mad ? " 
He echoed "wife! mine! Lady 

Waldemar ! 
I think you said my wife." He 

sprang to his feet, 
And threw his noble head back 

toward the moon, 
As one who swims against a stormy 

sea, 
Then laughed with such a helpless, 

hopeless scorn, 
I stood and trembled. 

" May God judge me so ! " 
He said at last, " I came convicted 

here, 
And humbled sorely, if not enough. 

I came, 
Because this woman from her crystal 

soul 
Had shown me something which a 

man calls light; 



Because too, formerly, I sinned by 
her, 

As then and ever since I have by 
God, 

Through arrogance of nature, 
though I loved . . . 

Whom best I need not say, since that 
is writ 

Too plainly in the book of my mis- 
deeds: 

And thus I came here to abase myself, 

And fasten, kneeling, on her regent 
brows 

A garland which I startled thence 
one day 

Of her beautiful June youth. But 
here again 

I'm baffled, fail in my abasement as 

My aggrandizement: there's no room 
left for me 

At any woman's foot who miscon- 
ceives 

My nature, purpose, possible actions. 
What ! 

Are you the Aurora who made large 
my dreams 

To frame your greatness? you con- 
ceive so small ? 

You stand so less than woman through 
being more, 

And lose your natural instinct (like a 
beast) 

Through intellectual culture? since 
indeed 

I do not think that any common she 

Would dare adopt such monstrous 
forgeries 

For the legible life-signature of such 

As I, with all my blots, with all my 
blots ! 

At last, then, peerless cousin, we are 
peers; 

At last we're even. Ah, you've left 
your height, 

And here upon my level we take 
hands, 

And here I reach you to forgive you, 
sweet, 

And that's a fall, Aurora. Long ago 

You seldom understood me; but be- 
fore 

I could not blame you. Then, you 
only seemed 

So high above, you could not see be- 
low; 

But now I breathe, but now I par- 
don ! Nay, 

We're parting. Dearest, men have 
burnt my house, 







AURORA LEIGH. 



163 



Maligned my motives; but not one, 

I swear, 
Has wronged my soul as this Aurora 

has, 
Who called the Lady Waldemar rny 

wife." 

" Not married to her ! Yet you 
said "... 

"Again? 

Nay, read the lines " (he held a letter 
out) 

" She sent you through me." 

By the moonlight there 

I tore the meaning out with passion- 
ate haste 

Much rather than I read it. Thus it 
ran. 



NINTH BOOK. 

EVEN thus. I pause to write it out 

at length, 
The letter of the Lady Waldemar. 

" I prayed your cousin Leigh to take 

you this ; 
Hs says he'll do it. After years of 

love, 
Or what is called so, when a woman 

frets 
And fools upon one string of a man's 

name, 

And fingers it forever till it breaks, 
He may perhaps do for her such a 

thing, 

And she accept it without detriment, 
Although she should not love him 

any more. 
And I, who do not love him, nor love 

you, 
Nor you, Aurora, choose you shall 

repent 

Your most ungracious letter, and con- 
fess, 
Constrained by his convictions, (he's 

convinced) 
You've wronged me foully. Are you 

made so ill, 

You woman, to impute such ill to me ? 
We both had mothers, lay in their 

bosom once. 
And, after all, I thank you, Aurora 

Leigh, 
Ft>r proving to myself that there are 

thiugs 



I would not do, not for my life, nor 
him, 

Though something I have somewhat 
overdone ; 

For instance, when I went to see the 
gods 

One morning on Olympus, with a step 

That shook the thunder from a cer- 
tain cloud, 

Committing myself vilely. Could I 
think 

The Muse I pulled my heart out from 
my breast 

To soften had herself a sort of heart, 

And loved my mortal ? He at least 
loved her, 

I heard him say so: 'twas my rec- 
ompense, 

When, watching at his bedside four- 
teen days, 

He broke out ever, like a flame at 
whiles 

Between the heats of fever, "Is it 
thou? 

Breathe closer, sweetest mouth ! ' 
And when, at last 

The fever gone, the wasted face ex- 
tinct, 

As if it irked him much to know me 
there, 

He said, * 'Twas kind, 'twas good, 
'twas womanly,' 

(And fifty praises to excuse no love), 

' But was the picture safe he had ven- 
tured for ? ' 

And then, half wandering, 'I have 
loved her well, 

Although she could not love me.' 
' Say instead,' 

I answered, ' she does love you.' 
'Twas my turn 

To rave: I would have married him 
so changed, 

Although the world had jeered me 
properly 

For taking up with Cupid at his 
worst, 

The silver quiver worn off on his hair. 

' No, no,' he murmured, ' no, she 
loves ine not; 

Aurora Leigh does better. Bring her 
book 

And read it softly, Lady Waldemar, 

Until I thank your friendship more 
for that 

Than even for harder service..' So 
I read 

Your book, Aurora, for an hour that 
day: 




1G4 



AURORA LEIGH. 



I kept its pauses, marked its empha- 
sis; 
My voice, empaled upon its hooks of 

rhyme, 
Not once would writhe, nor quiver, 

nor revolt; 

I read on calmly, calmly shut it up, 
Observing, ' There's some merit in 

the book; 
And yet the merit in't is thrown 

away, 
As chances still with women if we 

write 
Or write not: we want string to tie 

our flowers, 
So drop them as we walk, which 

serves to show 
The way we went. Good-morning, 

Mister Leigh; 
Tou'll find another reader the next 

time. 
A woman who does better than to 

love, 

I hate; she will do nothing very well: 
Male poets are preferable, straining 

less, 
And teaching more.' I triumphed 

o'er you both, 
And left him. 

" When I saw him afterward, 
I had read your shameful letter, and 

my heart. 
He came with health recovered, 

strong, though pale, 
Lord Howe and he, a courteous pair 

of friends, 
To say what men dare say to women, 

when 
Their debtors. But I stopped them 

with a word, 
And proved I had never trodden such 

a road 

To carry so much dirt upon my shoe. 
Then, putting into it something of 

disdain, 
I asked forsooth his pardon, and my 

own, 
For having done no better than to 

love, 
And that not wisely, though 'twas 

long ago, 
And had been mended radically 

since. 
I told him, as I tell you now, Miss 

Leigh, 
And proved I took some trouble, for 

his sake, 
(Because I knew he did not love the 

girl) 



To spoil my hands with working in 

the stream 
Of that poor bubbling nature, till 

she went, 
Consigned to one I trusted (my own 

maid 
Who once had lived full five months 

in my house, 
Dressed hair superbly) with a lavish 

purse 
To carry to Australia where she had 

left 
A husband, said she. If the creature 

lied, 
The mission failed, we all do fail 

and lie 
More or less, and I'm sorry, which 

is all 
Expected from ua when we fail the 

most, 
And go to church to own it. What I 

meant 
Was just the best for him, and me, 

and her . . . 
Best even for Marian ! I am sorry 

for't, 

And very sorry. Yet my creature said 
She saw her stop to speak in Oxford 

Street 
To one ... no matter ! I had sooner 

cut 
My hand off (though 'twere kissed the 

hour before, 
And promised a duke's troth-ring for 

the next) 
Than crush her silly head with so 

much wrong. 
Poor child ! I would have mended it 

with gold, 
Until it gleamed like St. Sophia's 

dome 
When all the faithful troop to morning 

prayer: 
But he, he nipped the bud of such a 

thought 
With that cold Leigh look which I 

fancied once, 
And broke in, ' Henceforth she was 

called his wife. 
His wife required no succor: he was 

bound 
To Florence to resume this broken 

bond; 
Enough so. Both were happy, he 

and Howe, 
To acquit me of the heaviest charge of 

all ' 
At which I shot my tongue against 

my fly, 






AURORA LEIGH. 




And struck him: ' Would he carry, he 

was just, 

A letter from me to Aurora Leigh, 
And ratify from his authentic mouth 
My ausvver to her accusation ? ' 

' Yes, 
If such a' letter were prepared in 

time.' 
He's just, your cousin; ay, abhor- 

ently: 
He'd wash his hands in blood to keep 

them clean. 

And so, cold, courteous, a mere gen- 
tleman, 
He bowed, we parted. 

" Parted. Face no more, 
Voice no more, love no more ! wiped 

wholly out, 
Like some ill scholar's scrawl from 

heart and slate; 

Ay. spit on, and so wiped out utterly, 
By some coarse scholar ! I have been 

too coarse, 
Too human. Have we business, in 

our rank, 
With blood i' the veins ? I will have 

henceforth none, 

Not even to keep the color at my lip. 
A rose is pink and pretty without 

blood; 
Why not a woman? When we've 

played in vain 

The game, to adore, we have re- 
sources still, 
And can play ou, at leisure, being 

adored : 
Here's Smith already swearing at my 

feet 
That I'm the typic she. Away with 

Smith ! 

Smith smacks of Leigh, and hence- 
forth I'll admit 

No socialist within three crinolines, 
To live and have his being. But for 

you, 

Though insolent your letter and ab- 
surd. 
And though I hate you frankly, 

take my Smith ! 
For when you have seen this famous 

marriage tied, 
A most unspotted Erie to a noble 

Leigh. 
(His love astray on one he should not 

love) 
Howbeit you may not want his love 

beware, 

You'll want some comfort. So I leave 
you Smith; 



Take Smith ! he talks Leigh's sub- 
jects, somewhat worse: 
Adopts a thought of Leigh's, and 

dwindles it; 
oes leagues beyond, to be no inch 

behind: 

Will mind you of him, as a shoe- 
string may 
Of a man: and women when they are 

made like you 

Grow tender to a shoe-string, foot- 
print even, 

Adore averted shoulders in a glass, 
And memories of what, present once, 

was loathed. 
And yet you loathed not Romney, 

though you played 
At ' fox-and-goose ' about him with 

your soul: 

Pass over fox, you rub out fox, ig- 
nore 

A feeling, you eradicate it the act's 
Identical. 

" I wish you joy, Miss Leigh, 
You've made a happy marriage for 

your friend, 
And all the honor, well-assorted 

love, 
Derives from you who love him, whom 

he loves ! 
You need not wish me joy to think of 

it, 
I have so much. Observe, Aurora 

Leigh, 
Your droop of eyelid is the same as 

his, 
And but for you I might have won 

his love, 
And to you I have shown my naked 

heart; 
For which three things, I hate, hate, 

hate you. Hush ! 
Suppose a fourth, I cannot choose 

but think 
That, with him, I were virtuouser 

than you 
Without him: so I hate you from 

this gulf 
And hollow of my soul which opens 

out 
To what, except for you, had been 

my heaven, 

And is, instead, a place to curse by ! 
LOVE." 

An active kind of curse. I stood 

there cursed, 
Confounded. I had seized and caught 

the sense 






1G6 




AURORA LEIGH. 



Of the letter, with its twenty sting- 
ing snakes, 

In a moment's sweep of eyesight, and 
I stood 

Dazed. "Ah! not married." 

" Yon mistake," lie said, 

"I'm married. Is not Marian Erie 
my wife ? 

As God sees things, I have a wife and 
child; 

And I, as I'm a man who honors 
God, 

Am here to claim them as my child 
and wife. 

I felt it hard to breathe, much less to 
speak. 

Nor word of mine was needed. Some 
one else 

Was there for answering. " Rom- 
ney,'' she began, 

" My great good angel, Romney." 

Then, at first, 

I knew that Marian Erie was beauti- 
ful. 

She stood there, still and pallid as a 
saint, 

Dilated, like a saint in ecstasy, 

As if the floating moonshine inter- 
posed 

Betwixt her foot and the earth, and 
raised her up 

To float upon it. " I had left my 
child, 

Who sleeps," she said, "and, having 
drawn this way, 

I heard yon speaking . . . friend ! 
Confirm me now. 

You take this Marian, such as wicked 
men 

Have made her, for your honorable 
wife?" 

The thrilling, solemn, proud, pathetic 
voice. 

He stretched his arms out toward 
that thrilling voice, 

As if to draw it on to his embrace. 

"I take her as God made her, and 
as meii 

Must fail to unmake her, for my hon- 
ored wife." 

She never raised her eyes, iior took a 

step, 
But stood there in her place, and 

spoke again. 
" You take this Marian's child, 

which is her shame 



In sight of men and women, for youi 

child, 
Of whom you will not ever feel 

ashamed ? " 

The thrilling, tender, proud, pathetic 

voice. 
He stepped on toward it, still with 

outstretched arms, 
As if to quench upon his breast that 

voice. 
" May God so father me as I do 

him, 

And so forsake me as I let him feel 
He's orphaned haply. Here I take 

the child 
To share my cup, to slumber on my 

knee, 
To play his loudest gambol at my 

foot, 
To hold my ringer in the public 

ways, 
Till none shall need inquire, ' Whose 

child is this ? ' 
The gesture saying so tenderly, ' My 

own.' " 

She stood a moment silent in her 

place ; 
Then turning toward me very slow 

and cold, 
"And you, what say you? 

will you blame me much, 
If, careful for that outcast child of 

mine, 
I catch this hand that's stretched to 

me and him, 
Nor dare to leave him friendless in 

the world 
Where men have stoned me ? Have 

I not the right 
To take so mere an aftermath from 

life, 
Else found so wholly bare ? Or is it 

wrong 
To let your cousin, for a generous 

bent, 
Put out. his ungloved ringers among 

briers 

To set a tumbling bird's nest some- 
what straight ? 
You will not tell him, though we're 

innocent, 
We are not harmless . . . and that 

both our harms 
Will stick to his good, smooth, noble 

life like burrs, 
Never to drop off, though he shakes 

the cloak ? 





AURORA LEIGH. 



167 



You've been my friend: you will not 

now be his ? 
You've known him that he's worthy 

of a friend, 

And you're his cousin, lady, after all, 
And therefore more than free to take 

his part, 
Explaining, since the nest is surely 

spoilt, 
And Marian what you know her, 

though a wife, 
The world would hardly understand 

her case 
Of being just hurt and honest; while 

for him, 

'Twould ever twit him with his bas- 
tard child 
And married harlot. Speak while 

yet there's Time. 
You would not stand and let a good 

man's dog 
Turn round and rend him, because 

his, and reared 
Of a generous breed; and will you 

let his act, 
Because it's generous ? Speak. I'm 

bound to you, 
And I'll be bound by only you in 

this." 

The thrilling, solemn voice, so pas- 
sionless, 
Sustained, yet low, without a rise or 

fall, 

As one who had authority to speak, 
And not as Marian. 

I looked up to feel 
If God stood near me, and beheld his 

heaven 

As blue as Aaron's priestly robe ap- 
peared 

To Aaron when he took it off to die. 
And then I spoke, " Accept the 

gift, I say, 

My sister Marian, and be satisfied. 
The hand that gives has still a soul 

behind 
Which will not let it quail for having 

given, 
Though foolish worldlings talk they 

know not what 
Of what they know not. Romiiey's 

strong enough 
For this: do you be strong to know 

he's strong. 
He stands on right's side: never 

flinch for him, 
As if he stood on the other. You'll 

be bound 
By me ? I am a woman of repute ; 



No fly-blow gossip ever specked my 

life; 
My name is clean and open as this 

hand. 
Whose glove there's not a man dares 

blab about, 
As if he had touched it freely. Here's 

my hand 
To clasp your hand, my Marian, 

owned as pure ! 
As pure, as I'm a woman and a 

Leigh; 
And, as I'm both, I'll witness to the 

world 
That Romney Leigh is honored in his 

choice 
Who chooses Marian for his honored 

wife." 

Her broad wild woodland eyes shot 
out a light; 

Her smile was wonderful for rapture. 
" Thanks, 

My great Aurora." Forward then 
she sprang. 

And, dropping her impassioned span- 
iel head 

With all its brown abandonment of 
curls 

On Romney's feet, we heard the kisses 
drawn 

Through sobs upon the foot, upon the 
ground 

" O Romney ! O my angel ! O un- 
changed ! 

Though since we've parted I have 
passed the grave. 

But death itself could only better thee, 

Not change thee. Thee I do not thank 
at all : 

I but thank God who made thee what 
thou art, 

So wholly godlike." 

When he tried in vain 

To raise her to his embrace, escaping 
thence 

As any leaping fawn from a hunts- 
man's grasp, 

She bounded off, and 'lighted beyond 
reach, 

Before him, with a staglike majesty 

Of soft, serene defiance, as she 
knew 

He could not touch her, so was toler- 
ant 

He had cared to try. She stood there 
with her great 

Drowned eyes, and dripping cheeks, 
and strange sweet smile 




168 




AURORA LEIGH. 



That lived through all, as if one held 

a light 
Across a waste of waters, shook 

her head 
To keep some thoughts down deeper 

in her soul, 

Then, white and tranquil like a sum- 
mer-cloud, 
Which, having rained itself to a tardy 

peace, 
Stands still in heaven as if it ruled 

the day, 
Spoke out again, " Although, my 

generous friend, 
Since last we met and parted you're 

unchanged, 
And, having promised faith to Marian 

Erie, 
Maintain it, as she were not changed 

at all ; 
And though that's worthy, though 

that's full of balm 
To any conscious spirit of a girl 
Who once has loved you as I loved 

you once, 
Yet still it will not make her ... if 

she's dead, 
And gone away where none can give 

or take 

In marriage, able to revive, return 
And wed you, will it, Romney ? 

Here's the point ; 
My friend, we'll see it plainer : you 

and I 
Must never, never, never join hands 

so. 

Nay, let me say it ; for I said it first 
To God, and placed it, rounded to an 

oath, 
Far, far above the moou there, at his 

feet, 
As surely as I wept just now at 

yours, 

We never, never, never join hands so. 
And now, be patient with me : do not 

think 

I'm speaking from a false humility. 
The truth is, I am grown so proud 

with grief, 
And He has said so often through his 

nights 
And through his mornings, ' Weep 

a little still, 
Thou foolish Marian, because women 

must, 
But do not blush at all except for 

sin,' 
That I, who felt myself unworthy 

ouce 



Of virtuous Romney and his high- 
born race, 
Have come to learn, a woman, poor 

or rich, 

Despised or honored, is a human soul, 
And what her soul is, that she is 

herself, 
Although she should be spit upon of 

men, 
As is the pavement of the churches 

here, 
Still good enough to pray in. And 

being cliaste 
And honest, and inclined to do the 

right, 
And love the truth, and live my life 

out green 
And smooth beneath his steps, I 

should not fear 

To make him thus a less uneasy time 
Than many a happier woman. Very 

proud 

You see me. Pardon, that I set a trap 
To hear a confirmation in your voice, 
Both yours and yours. It is so good 

to know 
'Twas really God who said the same 

before ; 
And thus it is in heaven, that first 

God speaks, 
And then his angels. Oh, it does me 

good, 
It wipes me clean and sweet from 

devil's dirt, 
That Romney Leigh should think me 

worthy still 

Of being his true and honorable wife ! 
Henceforth I need not say, on leaving 

earth, 

I had no glory in it. For the rest, 
The reason's ready (master, angel, 

friend, 
Be patient with me) wherefore you 

and I 
Can never, never, never join hands 

so. 

I know you'll not !>e angry like a man 
(For you are none) when I shall tell 

the truth, 
Which is, I do not love you, Romney 

Leigh, 
I do not love you. Ah, well ! catch 

my hands, 
Miss Leigh, and burn into my eyes 

with yours, 
I swear I do not love him. Did I 

once? 
'Tis said that women have been 

bruised to death, 



J I 











J 1 <_! 9 C 1_9 I ^ 


. AURORA LEIGH. 169 If 




And yet, if once they loved, that love 


And now she thinks I'll get up from 






of theirs 


my grave, 






Could never ,be drained out with all 


And wear my chin-cloth for a wed- 






their blood : 


ding-veil, 






I've heard such things and pondered. 


And glide along the churchyard like \ 






Did I indeed 


a bride, 






Love once ? or did I onlv worship ? 


While all the dead keep whispering 






Yes, 


through the withes, 






Perhaps, O friend, I set you up so 


' You would be better in your place 






high 


with us, 






Above all actual good, or hope of good, 


You pitiful corruption ! ' At the 






Or fear of evil, all that could be mine, 


thought, 






I haply set you above love itself, 


The damps break out on me like lep- 






And out of reach of these poor wo- 


rosy, 






man's arms, 


Although I'm clean. Ay, clean as 






Angelic Romney. What was in my 


Marian Erie ! 






thought ? 


As Marian Leigh, I know I were not 






To be your slave, your help, your toy, 
your tool. 


clean: 
Nor have I so much life that I should 






To be your love ... I never thought 


love, 






of that. 


Except the child. Ah God ! I could 






To give you love . . . still less. I 


not bear 






gave you love ? 


To see my darling on a good man's 






I think I did not give you any thing ; 


knees, 






I was but only yours, upon my 


And know by such a look, or such a 






knees, 


sigh, 






All yours, in soul and body, in head 


Or such a silence, that he thought 






and heart, 


sometimes. 






A creature you had taken from the 


' This child was fathered by some 






ground, 


cursed wretch ' . . . 






Still crumbling through your fingers 


For, Romney, angels are less tender- 






to your feet 


wise 






To join the dust she came from. Did 


Than God and mothers: even you 






I love, 


would think 






Or did I worship? Judge, Aurora 


What we think never. He is ours, 






Leigh ! 


the child; 






But, if indeed I loved, 'twas long 


And we would sooner vex a soul in 






ago, 


heaven 






So long ! before the sun and moon 


By coupling with it the dead body's 






were made, 


thought 






Before the hells were open, ah, be- 


It left behind it in a last month's 






fore 


grave 






I heard my child cry in the desert 


Than in my child see other than . . . 






night, 


my child. 






And knew he had no father. It may 


We only never call him fatherless 






be 


Who has God and his mother. O my 






I'm not as strong as other women 


babe, 






are, 


My pretty, pretty blossom an ill 






Who, torn and crushed, are not un- 


wind 






done from love. 
It may be I am colder than the dead, 


Once blew upon my breast ! Can any 
think 






Who, being dead, love always. But 


I'd have another, one called hap- 






. for me, 


pier, _ 






f\ n Once killed, this ghost of Marian 


A fathered child, with father's love - 






loves no more, 


and race 






No more . . . except the child . . . 


That's worn as bold and open as a 






no more at all. 


smile, 






I told your cousin, sir, that I was 


To vex my darling when he's asked 






dead ; 


his name 






J * s) 






"-LLJer-l-- 5 ' 6 H-aL_P^ 








170 



AURORA LEIGH. 



And has no answer ? What ! a hap- 
pier child 
Than mine, my best, who laughed so 

loud to-night 
He could not sleep for pastime ? Nay. 

I swear 
By life and love, that if I lived like 

some, 
And loved like . . . some, ay, loved 

you, Romney Leigh, 
As some love, (eyes that have wept 

so much see clear) 
I've room for no more children in my 

arrns. 
My kisses are all melted on one 

mouth, 
I would not push my darling to a 

stool 
To dandle babies. Here's a hand 

shall keep 

Forever clean without a marriage- 
ring, 

To tend my boy until he cease to need 
One steadying finger of it, and desert 
(Not miss) his mother's lap to sit 

with men. 
And when I miss him (not he me) I'll 

come 
And say, ' Now give me some of Rom- 

ney's work, 
To help your outcast orphans of the 

world 
And comfort grief with grief.' For 

you, meantime, 
Most noble Romuey, wed a noble 

wife, 
And open on each other your great 

souls: 
I need not farther bless you. If I 

dared 
But strain and touch her in her upper 

sphere 
And say, ' Come down to Komney 

pay my debt ! ' 
I should be joyful with the stream of 

jy 

Sent through me. But the moon is in 

my face . . . 
I dare not, though I guess the name 

he loves: 
I'm learned with my studies of old 

days, 
Remembering how he crushed his 

under lip 
When some one came and spoke, or 

did not come: 
Aurora, I could touch her with my 

hand, 
And fly because I dare uot." 



She was gone. 
He smiled so sternly that I spoke in 

haste. 
"Forgive her she sees clearly for 

herself: 
Her instinct's holy." 

" / forgive ! " he said, 
" I only marvel how she sees so sure, 
While others" . . . there he paused. 

then hoarse, abrupt, 
" Aurora, you forgive us, her and me ? 
For her, the thing she sees, poor loyal 

child, 

If once corrected by the thing I know, 
Had been unspoken, since she loves 

you well, 
Has leave to love you; while for me, 

alas ! 

If once or twice I let my heart escape 
This night . . . remember, where 

hearts slip and fall 
They break beside: we're parting, 

parting, ah, 
You do not love, that you should 

surely know 
What that word means. Forgive, be 

tolerant: 

It had not been, but that I felt myself 
So safe in impuissance and despair 
I could not hurt you, though I tossed 

my arms 
And sighed my soul out. The most 

utter wi'etch 
Will choose his postures when he 

comes to die, 

However in the presence of a queen; 
And you'll forgive me some unseemly 

spasms 
Which meant no more than dying. 

Do you think 
I had ever come here in my perfect 

mind, 
Unless I had come here in my settled 

mind 
Bound Marian's, bound to keep the 

bond, and give 
My name, my house, my hand, the 

things I could, 
To Marian ? For even I could give 

as much: 

Even I, affronting her exalted soul 
By a supposition that she wanted 

these, 
Could act the husband's coat and hat 

set up 
To creak i' the wind, and driA-e the 

world-crows off 
From pecking in her garden. Straw 

can fill 





AURORA LEI OH. 



171 



A hole to keep out vermin. Now, at 

last, 
I own heaven's angels round her life 

suffice 

To fight, the rats of our society, 
Without this Romney. I can see it 

at last; 
And here is ended iny pretension 

which 
The most pretended. Over-proud of 

course, 
Even so ! but not so stupid . . . 

blind . . . that I, 
Whom thus the great Taskmaster of 

the world 

Has set to meditate mistaken work, 
My dreary face against a dim blank 

wall 
Throughout man's natural lifetime, 

could pretend 
Or wish . . . O love, I have loved 

you ! O my soul, 
I have lost you ! * But I swear by all 

yourself, 
And all you might have been to me 

these years 
If that June morning had not failed 

my hope, 

I'm not so bestial to regret that day 
This night, this night, which still 

to you is fair; 

Nay, not sj blind, Aurora. I attest 
Those stars above us which I cannot 

see "... 

" You cannot "... 

" That if Heaven itself should stoop, 
Remix the lots, and give me another 

chance, 
I'd say, ' No other ! ' I'd record my 

blank. 
Aurora never should be wife of 

mine." 

" Not see the stars ? " 

" "fis worse still not to see 
To find your hand, although we're 

parting, dear. 

A moment let me hold it ere we part. 
And understand my last words 

these at last ! 
I would not have you thinking when 

I'm gone 
That Romney dared to hanker for 

your love 

In thought or vision, if attainable, 
(Which certainly for me it never was) 
And wished to use it for a dog to- 
day 



To help the blind man stumbling. 

God forbid ! 
And now I know he held you in his 

palm, 
And kept you open-eyed to all my 

faults, 
To save you at last from such a dreary 

end. 
Believe me, dear, that if I had known, 

like him, 
What loss was coming on me, I had 

done 
As well in this as he has. Farewell 

you 
Who are still my light, farewell! 

How late it is ! 
I know that now. You've been too 

patient, sweet. 
I will but blow my whistle toward 

the lane, 
And some one comes, the same who 

brought me here. 
Get in. Good-night." 

" A moment. Heavenly Christ ! 
A moment. Speak once, Romney. 

'Tis not true. 
I hold your hands, I look into your 

face 
Yon see me? " 

" No more than the blessed stars. 
Be blessed too, Aurora. Nay, my 

sweet, 
You tremble. Tender-hearted i Do 

you mind 
Of yore, dear, how you used to cheat 

old John, 
And let the mice out slyly from his 

traps, 

Until he marvelled at the soul in mice 
Which took the cheese, and left the 

snare ? The same 
Dear soft heart always ! 'Twas for 

this I grieved 
Howe's letter never reached you. 

Ah, you had heard 

Of illness, not the issue, not the ex- 
tent, 
My life long sick with tossings up and 

down, 
The sudden revulsion in the blazing 

house, 
The strain and struggle both of body 

and soul, 
Which left, tire running in my veins 

for blood 
Scarce lacked that thunderbolt of the 

falling beam 
Which nicked me on the forehead a 

I passed 






172 




AURORA LEIGH. 



The gallery-door with a burden. Say 

heaven's bolt, 
Not "William Erie's, not Marian's 

father's, tramp 
And poacher, whom I found for what 

he was, 
And, eager for her sake to rescue 

him, 
Forth swept from the open highway 

of the world, 

Road-dust and all, till, like a wood- 
land boar 

Most naturally unwilling to be tamed, 
He notched me with his tooth. But 

not a word 

To Marian ! And I do not think, be- 
sides, 
He turned the tilting of the beam my 

way; 
And if he laughed, as many swear, 

poor wretch, 
Nor he nor I supposed the hurt so 

deep. 
"We'll hope his next laugh may be 

merrier, 
In a better cause." 

" Blind, Romney ? " 

" Ah, my friend, 
You'll learn to say it in a cheerful 

voice. 
I, too, at first desponded. To be 

blind, 
Turned out of nature, mulcted as a 

man, 

Refused the daily largess of the sun 
To humble creatures ! When the 

fever's heat 
Dropped from me, as the flame did 

from my house, 
And left me ruined like it, stripped of 

all 
The hues and shapes of aspectable 

life, 
A mere bare blind stone in the blaze 

of day, 

A man, upon the outside of the earth, 
As dark as ten feet under, in the 

grave, 
Why, that seemed hard." 

" No hope ? " 

" A tear ! you weep, 
Divine Aurora? tears upon my 

hand ! 
I've seen you weeping for a mouse, a 

bird, 
But, weep for me, Aurora? Yes, 

there's hope. 
No hope of sight : I could be 

learned, dear, 



And tell you in what Greek and Latin 

name 
The visual nerve is withered to the 

root, 

Though the outer eyes appear indif- 
ferent, 
Unspotted in their crystals. But 

there's hope. 

The spirit, from behind this de- 
throned sense, 
Sees, waits in patience till the walls 

break up 
From which the bas-relief and fresco 

have dropt: 
There's hope. The man here, once so 

arrogant 
And restless, so ambitious, for his 

part, 

Of dealing with statistically packed 
Disorders (from a pattern on his nail), 
And packing such things quite an- 
other way, 
Is now contented. From his personal 

loss 
He has come to hope for others when 

they lose, 
And wear a gladder faith in what we 

gain . . . 

Through bitter experience, compen- 
sation sweet, 
Like that tear, sweetest. I am quiet 

now, 
As tender surely for the suffering 

world, 
But quiet, sitting at the wall to 

learn, 
Content henceforth to do the thing I 

can; 
For though as powerless, said I, as a 

stone, 
A stone can still give shelter to a 

worm, 
And it is worth while being a stone 

for that. 
There's hope, Aurora." 

" Is there hope for me ? 
For me ? and is there room beneath 

the stone 
For such a worm? And if I came 

and said . . . 
What all this weeping scarce will let 

me say, 
And yet what women cannot say at 

all 
But weeping bitterly . . . (the pride 

keeps up 
Until the heart breaks under ift) . . . 

I love, 
I love you, Romney" . . . 







AURORA LEIGH. 



173 IP 



" Silence ! " he exclaimed. 
" A woman's pity sometimes makes 

her mad. 
A man's distraction must not cheat 

his soul 
To take advantage of it. Yet 'tis 

hard 
Farewell, Aurora." 

" But I love you, sir; 
And when a woman says she loves a 

man, 
The man must hear her, though he 

love her not, 
Which . . . hush ! ... he has leave 

to answer in his turn: 
She will not surely blame him. As 

for me, 

You call it pity, think I'm generous ? 
'Twere somewhat easier, for a woman 

proud 

As I am, and I'm very vilely proud, 
To let it pass as such, and press on 

you 

Love born of pity, seeing that ex- 
cellent loves 
Are born so, often, nor the quicklier 

die, 
And this would set me higher by the 

head 
Than now I stand. No matter. Let 

the truth 
Stand high ; Aurora must be humble : 

no, 

My love's not pity merely. Obviously 
I'm not a generous woman, never 

was, 
Or else, of old, I had not looked so 

near 
To weights and measures, grudging 

you the power 
To give, as first I scorned your power 

to judge 
For me, Aurora. I would have no 

. gifts 
Forsooth, but God's ; and I would use 

them, too, 
According to my pleasure aud my 

choice, 

As he and I were equals, you below, 
Excluded from that level of inter- 
change 
Admitting benefaction. You were 

wrong 
In much ? you said so. I was wrong 

in most. 

Oh, most ! You only thought to res- 
cue men 
By half-means, half-way, seeing half 

their wants, 



While thinking nothing of your per- 
sonal gain. 

But I, who saw the human nature 
broad 

At both sides, comprehending too 
the soul's, 

And all the high necessities of art, 

Betrayed the thing I saw, and 
wronged my own life 

For which I pleaded. Passioned to 
exalt 

The artist's instinct in me at the cost 

Of putting down the woman's, I for- 
got 

No perfect artist is developed here 

From any imperfect woman. Flower 
from root, 

And spiritual from natural, grade by 
grade 

In all our life. A handful of the earth 

To make God's image ! the despised 
poor earth, 

The healthy odorous earth, I missed, 
with it 

The divine breath that blows the nos- 
trils out 

To ineffable inflatus, ay, the breath 

Which love is. Art is much ; but love 
is more. 

art, my art, thou'rt much ; but love 

is more ! 
Art symbolizes heaven ; but love is 

God, 
And makes heaven. I, Aurora, fell 

from mine. 

1 would not be a woman like the rest, 
A simple woman who believes in 

love, 

And owns the right of love because 
she loves, 

And, hearing she's beloved, is satis- 
fied 

With what contents God : I must 
analyze, 

Confront, and question, just as if a 

fly 

Refused to warm itself in any sun 
Till such was in leone : I must fret, 
Forsooth, because the month was 

only May, 
Be faithless of the kind of proffered 

love, 

And captious, lest it miss my dignity, 
And scornful, that my lover sought a 

wife 
To use ... to use ! O Romney, O 

my love ! 
I am changed since then, changed 

wholly ; for indeed 






174 



AURORA LEIGH. 



If now you'd stoop so low to take niy 

love, 
And use it roughly, without stint or 

spare, 
As men use common things with more 

behind, 

(And, in this, ever would be more be- 
hind) 

To any mean and ordinary end, 
The joy would set me, like a star in 

heaven, 
So high up, I should shine because of 

height, 

And not of virtue. Yet in one respect, 
Just one, beloved, I am in no wise 

changed : 
I love you, loved you . . . loved you 

rirst and last, 
And love you on forever. Now I 

know 
I loved you always, Romney. She 

who died 

Knew that, and said so ; Lady Waldo- 
mar 
Knows that . . . and Marian. I had 

known the same, 
Except that I was prouder than I 

knew, 

And not so honest. Ay, and as I live, 
I should have died so, crushing in my 

hand 
This rose of love, the wasp inside and 

all, 

Ignoring ever to my soul and you 
Itoth rose and pain, except for this 

great loss, 
This great despair, to stand before 

your face 
And know you do not see me where I 

stand. 
You think, perhaps, I am not changed 

from pride, 
And that I chiefly bear to say such 

words 
Because you cannot shame me with 

your eyes ? 

calm, grand eyes, extinguished in a 

storm, 

Blown out like lights o'er melancholy 
seas, 

Though shrieked for by the ship- 
wrecked ! O my Dark, 

My Cloud, to go before me every 
day, 

While I go ever toward the wilder- 
ness, 

1 would that you could see me bare to 

the soul ! 
If this be pity, 'tis so for myself, 



And not for Romney : he can stand 

alone ; 

A man like him is never overcome : 
No woman like me counts him pitia- 
ble 

While saints applaud him. He mis- 
took the world ; 
But I mistook my own heart, and that 

slip 
Was fatal. Romney, will you leave 

me here ? 
So wrong, so proud, so weak, so un- 

consoled, 
So mere a woman ! and I love you 

so, 
I love you, Romney " 

Could I see his face 
I wept so ? Did I drop against his 

breast, 
Or did his arms constrain me ? Were 

my cheeks 
Hot, overnooded, with my tears, or 

his? 
And which of our two large explosive 

hearts 
Go shook me ? That I know not. 

There were words 
That broke in utterance . . . melted 

in the fire ; 
Embrace that was convulsion . - . 

then a kiss 
As long and silent as the ecstatin 

night, 
And deep, deep, shuddering breaths, 

which meant beyond 
Whatever could be told by word or 

kiss. 

But what he said ... I have written 

day by day, 
With somewhat even writing. Did I 

think 
That such a passionate rain would 

intercept 
And dash this last page ? What he 

said, indeed, 
I fain would write it down here like 

the rest, 

To keep it in my eyes, as in my ears, 
The heart's sweet scripture, to be read 

at night 
When weary, or at morning when 

afraid, 
And lean my heaviest oath on when 

I swear, 
That when all's done, all tried, all 

counted here, 

All great arts, and all good philoso- 
phies, 






AURORA LEIGH. 



175 



This love just puts its hand out in a 

dream, 
And straight outstretches all things. 

What he said 
1 fain would write. But, if an angel 

spoke 
In thunder, should we haply know 

much more 
Than that it thundered ? If a cloud 

came down 
And wrapt us wholly, could we draw 

its shape, 

As if on the outside, and not over- 
come ? 
And so he spake. His breath against 

iny face 
Confused his words, yet made them 

more intense, 
(As when the sudden finger of the 

wind 

Will wipe a row of single city lamps 
To a pure white line of flame, more 

luminous 

Because of obliteration) more intense, 
The intimate presence carrying in 

itself 
Complete communication, as with 

souls, 

Who, having put the body off, per- 
ceive 
Through simply being. Thus 'twas 

granted me 
To know he loved me to the depth 

and height 

Of such large natures, ever compe- 
tent, 
With grand horizons by the sea or 

land, 
To love's grand sunrise. Small 

spheres hold small fires; 
But he loved largely, as a man can 

love, 
Who, baffled in his love, dares live 

his life, 
Accept the ends which God loves, for 

his own, 
And lift a constant aspect. 

From the day 

I brought to England my poor search- 
ing face, 
(An orphan even of my father's 

grave) 
He had loved me, watched me, 

watched his soul in mine, 
Which in me grew and heightened 

into love. 
For he, a boy still, had been told the 

tale 
Of how a fairy bride from Italy, 



With smells of oleanders in her hair, 
Was coming through the vines to 

touch his hand; 
Whereat the blood of boyhood on the 

palm 
Made sudden heats. And when at 

last I came, 
And lived before him, lived, and 

rarely smiled, 
He smiled, and loved me for the thing 

I was, 
As every child will love the year's 

first flower, 

(Not certainly the fairest of the year, 
But in which the complete year seems 

to blow) 

The poor sad snowdrop, growing be- 
tween drifts, 
Mysterious medium 'twixt the plant 

and frost, 
So faint with winter while so quick 

with spring, 

And doubtful if to thaw itself away 
With that snow near it. Not that 

Romney Leigh 
Had loved me coldly. If I thought 

so once, 
It was as if I had held my hand in 

fire, 

And shook for cold. But now I un- 
derstood 

Forever, that the very fire and heat 
Of troubling passion in him burned 

him clear, 
And shaped to dubious order word 

and act; 
That, just because he loved me over 

all,- 

All wealth, all lands, all social privi- 
lege, 

To which chance made him unex- 
pected heir, 
And just because on all these lesser 

gifts, 
Constrained by conscience and the 

sense of wrong, 
He had stamped with steady hand 

God's arrow-mark 
Of dedication to the human need, 
He thought it should be so, too, with 

his love. 
He, passionately loving, would bring 

down 
His love, his life, his best, (because 

the best) 
His bride of dreams, who walked so 

still and high 
Through flowery poems, as through 

meadow-grass, 






.... 176 




AURORA LEIGH. 



The dust of golden lilies on her feet, 
That she should walk beside him on 

the rocks 
In all that clang and hewing out of 

men, 
And help the work of help which was 

his life, 
And prove he kept back nothing, 

not his soul. 
And when I failed him, for I failed 

him, I, 
And when it seemed he had missed 

my love, he thought, 
" Aurora makes room for a working- 
noon," 
And so, self-girded with torn strips 

of hope, 

Took up his life as if it were for death, 
(Just capable of one heroic aim) 
And threw it in the thickest of the 

world, 
At which men laughed as if he had 

drowned a dog. 
No wonder, since Aurora failed 

him first ! 
The morning and the evening made 

his day. 

But oh the night ! O bitter-sweet ! O 

sweet ! 

O dark, O moon and stars, O ecstasy 
Of darkness ! O great mystery of 

love, 
In which absorbed, loss, anguish, 

treason's self, 

Enlarges rapture, as a pebble dropt 
In some full winecup over-brims the 

wine ! 
- While we two sate together, leaned 

that night 
So close my very garments crept and 

thrilled 
With strange electric life, and both 

my cheeks 
Grew red, then pale, with touches 

from my hair 
In which his breath was; while the 

golden moon 
Was hung before our faces as the 

badge 

Of some sublime, inherited despair, 
Since ever to be seen by only one, 
A voice said, low and rapid as a sigh, 
Yet breaking, I felt conscious, from a 

smile, 
" Thank God, who made me blind to 

make me see 1 
Shine on, Aurora, dearest light of 

souls, 



Which rul'st forevermore both day 
and night ! 

I am happy." 

I flung closer to his breast, 

As sword that after battle flings to 
sheath ; 

And, in that hurtle of united souls, 

The mystic motions which in com. 
mon moods 

Are shut beyond our sense broke in 
on us, 

And, as we sate, we felt the old earth 
spin, 

And all the starry turbulence of 
worlds 

Swing round us in their audient cir- 
cles, till 

If that same golden moon were over- 
head 

Or if beneath our feet, we did not 
know. 

And then calm, equal, smooth with 
weights of joy, 

His voice rose, as some chief musi- 
cian's song 

Amid the old Jewish temple's Selah- 
pause, 

And bade me mark how we two met 
at last 

Upon this moon-bathed promontory 
of earth, 

To give up much on each side, then 
take all. 

"Beloved," it sang, "we must be 
here to work; 

And men who work can only work 
for men, 

And, not to work in vain, must com- 
prehend 

Humanity, and so work humanly, 

And raise men's bodies still by rais- 
ing souls, 

As God did first." 

" But stand upon the earth," 

I said, " to raise them, (this is human 
too; 

There's nothing high which has not 
first been low; 

My humbleness, said One, has made 
me great !) 

As God did last." 

" And work all silently 

And simply," he returned, " as God 
does all; 

Distort our nature never for our 
work, 

Nor count our right hands stronger 
for being hoofs. 






AURORA LEIGH. 



Ill 



The man most man, with tenderest 

human hands, 
"Works be.st for men, as God in 

Nazareth." 

He paused upon the word, and then 
resumed : 

" Fewer programmes, we who have 
no prescience. 

Fewer systems, we who are held, and 
do not hold. 

Less mapping out of masses to be 
saved, 

By nations or by sexes. Fourier's 
void, 

And Comte absurd, and Cabet, 
puerile. 

Subsist no rules of life outside of 
life, 

No perfect manners, without Chris- 
tian souls: 

The Christ himself had been no Law- 
giver 

Unless he had given the life too, 
with the law." 

I echoed thoughtfully, "The man 

most man 
Works best for men, and, if most 

man indeed, 
He gots his manhood plainest from 

his soul ; 
"While obviously this stringent soul 

itself 

Obeys the old law of development, 
The Spirit ever witnessing in ours, 
And love, the soul of soul, within the 

soul, 
Evolving it sublimely. First, God's 

love." 

" And next," he smiled, " the love of 

wedded souls, 
"Which still presents that mystery's 

counterpart. 
Sweet shadow-rose upon the water of 

life, 
Of such a mystic substance, Sharon 

gave 
A name to ! human, vital, fructuous 

rose, 
Whose calyx holds the multitude of 

leaves, 

Loves filial, loves fraternal, neighbor- 
loves 
And civic, all fair petals, all good 

scents, 
All reddened, sweetened, from one 

central Heart ! " 



"Alas!" I cried, "it was not long 

ago 
You swore this very social rose smelt 

ill." 

" Alas ! " he answered, " is it a rose at 

all? 
The filial's thankless, the fraternal's 

hard, 
The rest is lost. I do but stand and 

think, 

Across the waters of a troubled life, 
This flower of heaven so vainly over- 
hangs, 
What perfect counterpart would be in 

sight 
If tanks were clearer. Let us clean 

the tubes, 
And wait for rains. O poet, O my 

love, 
Since / was too ambitious in my 

deed, 
And thought to distance all men/ in 

success, 
(Till God came on me, marked the 

place, and said, 
' Ill-doer, henceforth keep within this 

line, 
Attempting less than others;' and I 

stand 
And work among Christ's little ones, 

content,) 
Come thou, my compensation, my 

dear sight, 
My morning-star, my morning ! rise 

and shine, 
And touch my hills with radiance not 

their own. 

Shine out for two, Aurora, and fulfil 
My falling-short that must be ! work 

for two, 
As I, though thus restrained, for two 

shall love ! 
Gaze on, with iuscient vision, toward 

the sun, 
And from his visceral heat pluck 

out the roots 

Of light beyond him. Art's a ser- 
vice, mark: 

A silver key is given to thy clasp, 
And thou shalt stand unwearied, 

night and day, 
And fix it in the hard, slow-turning 

wards, 

To open, so, that intermediate door 
Betwixt the different planes of sensu- 
ous form 
And form insensuous, that inferior 

men 






178 




AURORA LEIGH. 



May learn to feel on still through 
these to those, 

And bless thy ministration. The 
world waits 

For help. Beloved, let us love so 
well, 

Our work shall still be better for our 
love, 

And still our love be sweeter for our 
work, 

And both commended, for the sake of 
each, 

By all true workers and true lovers 
born. 

Now press the clarion on thy woman's 
lip, 

(Love's holy kiss shall still keep con- 
secrate) 

And breathe thy fine keen breath 
along the brass, 

And blow all class-walls level as Jeri- 
cho's 

Past Jordan, crying from the top of 
souls, 

To souls, that here assembled on 
earth's fiats, 

They get them to some purer emi- 
nence 

Than any hitherto beheld for clouds ! 

What height we know not, but the 
way we know, 

And how, by mounting ever, we at- 
tain, 

And so climb on. It is the hour for 
souls, 

That bodies, leavened by the will and 
love, 

Be lightened to redemption. The 
world's old; 

But the old world waits the time to 
bs renewed, 



Toward which new hearts in individ- 
ual grow tli 

Must quicken, and increase to multi- 
tude 

In new dynasties of the race of men, 

Developed whence shall grow spon- 
taneously 

New churches, new economies, new 
laws 

Admitting freedom, new societies 

Excluding falsehood: HE shall make 
all new." 

My Rpmney ! Lifting up my hand 

in his, 
As wheeled by seeing spirits toward 

the east, 
He turned instinctively, where, faint 

and far, 

Along the tingling desert of the sky, 
Beyond the circle of the conscious 

hills, 
Were laid in jasper-stone as clear as 

glass 
The first foundations of that new, 

near day 
Which should be builded out of 

heaven to God. 

He stood a momentwith erected brows 
In silence, as a creature might who 

gazed, 
Stood calm, and fed his blind, majes.. 

tic eyes 
Upon the thought of perfect noon: 

and when 
I saw his soul saw, " Jasper first," 

I said, 
" And second, sapphire; third, chalce* 

dony; 

The rest in order, last^ an ame- 
thyst." 






\\7 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



SCENE. The outer side of the gate of Eden 
shut .fast with cloud, from the d<-pth of 
which rev lees ft gtrord of fire *rlf- 
moved. AUAM and EVE are Keen in the 
distance, flying along the glarS. 

LUCIFER, alone. 
REJOICE in the clefts of Gehenna, 

My exiled, my host ! 
Earth has exiles as hopeless as when a 

Heaven's empire was lost. 
Through the seams of her shaken 
foundations 

Smoke up in great joy ! 
"With the smoke of your fierce exulta- 
tions 

Deform and destroy ! 
Smoke up with your lurid revenges, 

And darken the face 
Of the white heavens, and taunt 
them with changes 

From glory and grace ! 
"We in falling, while destiny strangles, 

Pull down with us all. 
L,et them look to the rest of their 
angels ! 

"Who's safe from a fall ? 
HE saves not Where's Adam? Can 
pardon 

Requickc'ii that sod ? 
Unkinged is the King of the Garden, 

The image of God. 
Other exiles are cast out of Eden, 

More curse lias been hurled : 
Come up, O my locusts, and feed in 

The green of the world ! 
Come up ! we have conquered by 
evil; 

Good reigns not alone: 
I prevail now, and, angel or devil, 

Inherit a throne. 

[In sudden apparition a watch of innu- 
merable angels, rank a/tune rank, 
slopes up friiin around the gale, to 
the eenith. The angel GABRIEL, de- 
scend*.] 

Luc. Hail, Gabriel, the keeper of 
the gate ! 



Now that the fruit is plucked, prince 
Gabriel, 

I hold that Eden is impregnable 

Under thy keeping. 
Gab. Angel of the sin, 

Such as thou staudest, pale in the 
drear light 

Which rounds the rebel's work with 
Maker's wrath, 

Thou shalt be an Idea to all souls, 

A monumental melancholy gloom 

Seen down all ages, whence to mark 
despair, 

And measure out the distances from 
good. 

Go from us straightway ! 
Luc. Wherefore? 

Gab. Lucifer, 

Thy last step in this place trod sor- 
row up. 

Recoil before that sorrow, if not this 

sword. 

Luc. Angels are in the world : 
wherefore not I ? 

Exiles are in the world : wherefore 
not I ? 

The cursed are in the world: where- 
fore not I ? 
Gab. Depart* 

Luc. And where's th logic of "de- 
part"? 

Our lady Eve had half been satis- 
fied 

To obey her Maker, if I had not learnt 

To fix my postulate better. Dost 
thou dream 

Of guarding some monopoly in heav- 
en 

Instead of earth ? Why, I can dream 
with thee 

To the length of thy wings. 

Gab. I do not dream. 

This is not heaven, even in a dream, 
nor earth, 

As earth was once, first breathed 
among the stars, 

Articulate glory from the mouth di- 
vine, 

179 






180 



A DRAMA OF F.XILE. 



To which the myriad spheres thrilled 
audibly, 

Touched like a lute-string, and the 
sons of God 

Said AMEN, singing it. I know that 
this 

Is earth not new created, but new 
cursed 

This, Eden's gate, not opened, but 
built up 

With a final cloud of sunset. Do I 
dream ? 

Alas, not so ! this is the Eden lost 

By Lucifer the serpent; this the 
sword 

(This sword alive with justice and 
with fire) 

That smote upon the forehead Luci- 
fer 

The angel. Wherefore, angel, go, de- 
part ! 

Enough is sinned and suffered. 
Luc. By no means. 

Here's a brave earth to sin and suffer 
on: 

It holds fast still; it cracks not under 
curse ; 

It holds like mine immortal. Pres- 
ently 

We'll sow it thick enough with graves 
as green, 

Or greener certes, than its knowl- 
edge-tree. 

We'll have the cypress for the tree of 
life, 

More eminent for shadow: for the 
rest, 

We'll build it dark with towns and 
pyramids, 

And temples, if it please you: we'll 
have feasts 

And funerals also, inerryrnakes and 
wars, 

Till blood and wine shall mix, and 
run along 

Right o'er the edges. And, good 
Gabriel, 

(Ye like that word in heaven), 7 too 
have strength, 

Strength to behold Him, and not wor- 
ship Him ; 

Strength to fall from Him, and not 
cry on Him; 

Strength to be in the universe, and 
yet 

Neither God nor his servant. The 
red sign 

Burnt on my forehead, which you 
taunt me with, 



Is God's sign that it bows not unto 

God, 
The potter's, mark upon his work to 

show 
It rings well to the striker. I and 

the earth 
Can bear more curse. 

Gab. O miserable earth, 

ruined angel ! 

Luc. Well, and if it be, 

1 CHOSE this ruin: I elected it 

Of my will, not of service. What I 
do, 

I do volitient, not obedient, 

And overtojo thy crown with my de- 
spair. 

My sorrow crowns me. Get thee back 
to heaven, 

And leave me to the earth, which is 
mine own 

In virtue of her ruin, as I hers 

In virtue of my revolt ! turn thou, 
from both 

That, bright, impassive, passive angel- 
hood, 

And spare to read iis backward any 
more 

Of the spent hallelujahs ! 

Gab. Spirit of scorn, 

I might say of unreason, I might 
say 

That who despairs, acts; that who 
acts, connives 

With God's relations set in time and 
space ; 

That who elects, assumes a some- 
thing good 

Which God made possible; that who 
lives, obeys 

The law of a Life-maker . . . 
Lite. Let it pass: 

No more, thou Gabriel ! What if I 
stand up 

And strike my brow against the crys- 
talline 

Roofing the creatures shall I say, 
for that, 

My stature is too high for me to 
stand, 

Henceforward I must sit? Sit thou ! 
Gab. I kneel. 

Luc. A heavenly answer. Get the 3 
to thy heaven, 

And leave rny earth to me ! 
Gab. Through heaven and earth 

God's will moves freely, and I follow 
it, 

As color follows light. He overflows 

The firmamental walls with deity, 









x-H 1 *- 1 ' <" '1 Kv 






fp W 

^4 Z>.R;LJf.4 OF EXILE. 18] '.. 






Therefore with love. His lightnings 


Luc. Sing, my morning star ! 






go abroad; 


Last beautiful, last heavenly, that 1 






His pity may do so; his angels must 
J (, Whene'er he gives them charges. 


loved ! 
If I could drench thy golden locks [ 






Luc. Verily, 


with tears, 1 






I and my demons, who are spirits of 


What were it to this angel ? 






scorn, 


Gab. What love is. 






Might hold this charge of standing 


And now I have named God. 






with a sword 


Luc. Yet, Gabriel, 






'Twixt man and his inheritance, as 


By the lie in me which I keep myself, 






well 


Thou'rt a false swearer. Were it 






As the benignest angel of you all. 
GabJgtpu speakest in the shadow 

o'niiy change. 


otherwise, 
What dost thou here, vouchsafing 
tender thoughts 






If thou hadst gazed upon the face of 


To that earth-angel or earth-demon 






God 


(which, 






This morning for a moment, thou 


Thou and I have not solved the prob- 






hadst known 


lem yet 






That only pity fitly can chastise. 


Enough to argue), that fallen Adam 






Hate but avenges. 


there, 






Luc. As it is, I know 


That red-clay and a breath, who must, 






Something of pity. When I reeled in 


forsooth, 






heaven, 
And my sword grew too heavy for 


Live in a new apocalypse of sense, 
With oeauty and music waving in his 






my grasp, 


trees, 






Stabbing through matter which it 


And running in his rivers, to make 






could not pierce 


glad 






So much as the first shell of, toward 


His soul made perfect ? is it not for 






the throne; 


hope 






When I fell back, down, staring up 


A hope within thee deeper than thy 






as I fell, 


truth 






The lightnings holding open my 


Of finally conducting him and his 






scathed lids, 


To fill the vacant thrones of me and 






And that thought of the infinite of 


mine, 






God 


Which affront heaven with their 






Hurled after to precipitate descent. 


vacuity ? 






When countless angel faces still and 


Gab. Angel, there are no vacant 






stern 


thrones in heaven 






Pressed out upon me from the level 


To suit thy empty words. Glory and 






heavens 


life 






Ad own the abysmal spaces, and I fell. 


Fulfil their own depletions ; and, if 






Trampled down by your stillness, 


God 






and struck blind 


Sighed you far from him, his next 






By the sight within your eyes, 


breath drew in 






'twas then I knew 


A compensative splendor up the vast, 






How ye could pity, my kind angel- 


Flushing the starry arteries. 






hood ! 


Luc. With a change ! 






Gab. Alas, discrowned one, by the 


So let the vacant thrones and gardens 






truth in me 


too 






Which God keeps in me, I would 


Fill as may please you ! and be piti- 






give away 


ful, 






All save that truth and his love 


As ye translate that word, to the de- 






keeping it, 


throned 






^ r To lead thee home again into the light. 


And exiled, man or angel The fact n /- 






And hear thy voice chant with the 


stands, 






morning stars 


That I, the rebel, the cast out and 






When their rays tremble round them 


down, 






with much song 


Am here, and will not go; while there, 






Sung in more gladness ! 


along 






J i J I 












182 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



The light to which ye flash the desert 

out, 

Flies your adopted Adam, your red- 
clay 
In two kinds, both being flawed. 

Why, what is this ? 
Whose work is this? Whose hand 

was in the work ? 
Against whose hand ? In this last 

strike, inethinks, 
I am not a fallen angel I 

Gab. Dost thou know 

Atight of those exiles ? 

Luc. Ay: I know they have fled 
Silent all day along the wilderness: 
I know they wear, for burden on their 

backs, 

The thought of a shut gate of Para- 
dise, 

And faces of the marshalled cheru- 
bim 
Shining against, not for, them ; and I 

know 
They dare not look in one another's 

face, 
As if each were a cherub ! 

Gab Dost thou know 

Aught of their future ? 

Luc. Only as much as this: 

That evil will increase and multiply 
Without a benediction. 

Gab. Nothing more? 

Luc. Why, so the angels taunt ! 

What should be more ? 
Gab. God is more. 
Luc. Proving what ? 

Gab. That he is God, 

And capable of saving. Lucifer, 
I charge thee, by the solitude he kept 
Ere he created, leave the earth to 

God! 
Luc. My foot is on the earth, firm as 

my sin. 
Gab. I charge thee, by the memory 

of heaven 
Ere any sin was done, leave earth to 

God! 
Luc. My sin is on the earth, to reign 

thereon. 
Gab. I charge thee, by the choral 

song we sang, 
When, up against the white shore of 

our feet, 
The depths of the creation swelled aud 

brake, 
And the new worlds the beaded 

foam and flower 

Of all that coil roared outward into 
space 



On thunder-edges, leave the earth to 

God! 
Luc. My woe is on the earth, to 

curse thereby. 

Gab. I charge thee, by that mournful 
morning star 

Which trembles . . . 
Luc. Enough spoken. As the pine 

In norland forest drops its weight of 
snows 

By a night's growth, so, growing 
toward my ends 

I drop thy counsels. Farewell, Ga- 
briel ! 

Watch out thy service: I achieve my 
will. 

And peradventure in the after-years, 

When thoughtful men shall bend 
their spacious brows 

Upon the storm and strife seen every- 
where 

To ruffle their smooth manhood, and 
break up 

With lurid lights of intermittent 
hope 

Their human fear and wrong, they 
may discern 

The heart of a lost angel in the earth. 

CHORUS OF EDEN SPIRITS. 

(Chanting from Paradise, while ADAM and 
EVE J?y across the sword-glare.) 

Harken, oh harken ! let your souls 

behind you 
Turn, gently moved ! 
Our voices feel along the Dread to 

find you, 
O lost, beloved ! 

Through the thick-shielded and strong- 
marshalled angels 
They press and pierce: 
Our requiems follow fast on our evan- 
gels: 

Voice throbs in verse. 
We are but orphaned spirits left in 

Eden 

A time ago: 
God gave us goldeu cups, and we 

were bidden 
To feed you so. 
But now our right hand hath no cup 

remaining, 
No work to do ; 
The mystic hydromel is spilt, and 

staining 

The whole earth through, 
Most ineradicable stains, for showing 
(Not interfused !) 






A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



183 



That brighter colors were the world's 

foregoing, 
Than shall be nsed. 
Harken, oh barken 1 ye shall barken 

surely, 

For years and years, 
The noise beside you, dripping coldly, 

purely, 

Of spirits' tears. 
The yearning to a beautiful denied 

you 

Shall strain your powers; 
Ideal sweetnesses shall over-glide 

you, 

Resumed from ours. 
In all your music our pathetic minor 

Your ears shall cross, 
And all good gifts shall mind you of 

diviner, 

"NVith sense of loss. 

"We shall be near you in your poet- 
languors 

And wild extremes, 
"What time ye vex the desert with 

vain angers, 
Or mock with dreams. 
And when upon you, weary after 

roaming, 

Death's seal is put, 
By the foregone ye shall discern the 

coming, 

Through eyelids shut. 
Spirits of t/ic ti'crs. 
Hark ! the Eden trees are stirring, 
Soft and solemn in your hearing, 
Oak and linden, palm and fir, 
Tamarisk and juniper, 
Each still throbbing in vibration 
Since that crowning of creation 
When the God-breath spake abroad, 
Let us make man (ike to God! 
And the pine stood quivering 
As the awful word went by, 
Like a vibrant music-string 
Stretched from mountain-peak to sky; 
And the platan did expand 
Slow and gradual, branch and head; 
And the cedar's strong black shade 
Fluttered brokenly and grand: 
Grove and wood were swept aslant 
In emotion jubilant. 

Voice of the same, bnt softer. 
Which divine impulsion cleaves 
In dim movements to the leaves 
Dropt and lifted, dropt and lifted, 
In the sunlight greenly sifted, 
In the sunlight and the moonlight 
Greenly sifted through the trees. 
Ever wave the Edeu trees 



In the nightlight and the moonlight. 
With a ruttliug of green branches 
Shaded off to resonances, 

Never stirred by rain or breeze. 
Fare ye well, farewell I 
The sylvan sounds, no longer audible. 
Expire at Eden's door. 

Each footstep of your treading 
Treads out some murmur which ye 
heard before. 

Farewell ! the trees of Eden 
Ye shall hear nevermore. 

Ricer-spirits. 
Hark the flow of the four rivers, 

Hark the flow 1 
How the silence round you shivers, 

While our voices through it go 
Cold and clear ! 
A Softer Voice. 
Think a little, while ye hear, 

Of the banks 
Where the willows and the deer 

Crowd in intermingled ranks, 
As if all would drink at once 
Where the living water runs 1 

Of the fishes' golden edges 

Flashing in and out the sedges; 
Of the swans, on silver thrones. 

Floating down the winding 

streams 
With impassive eyes turned sho 

ward, 

And a chant of undertones, 
And the lotus leaning forward 

To help them into dreams ! 
Fare ye well, farewell ! 
The river-sounds, no longer audible, 

Expire at Eden's doov. 

Each footstep of your treading 
Treads out some murmur which ye 
heard before. 

Farewell ! the streams of Eden 

Ye shall hear nevermore. 
Bird-spirit. 
I am the nearest nightingale 

That singeth in Eden after you , 

And I am singing loud and true, 
And sweet: I do not fail. 

I sit upon a cypress-bough, 
Close to the gate, and I fling my song 
Over the gate, and through the mail 
Of the warden angels marshalled 
strong, 

Over the gate, and after you. 
And the warden-angels let it pass, 
Because the poor brown bird, alas ! 

Sings in the garden, sweet and true. 
And I build my song of high, pure 
notes, 





184 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



Note over note, height over height, 
Till I strike the arch of the Infi- 
nite; 

And I bridge abysmal agonies 
With strong, clear calms of harmo- 
nies; 

And something abides, and some- 
thing floats 

In the song which I sing after you. 
Fare ye well, farewell ! 
The creature-sounds, no longer audi- 
ble, 

Expire at Eden's door. 
Each footstep of your treading 
Treads out some cadence which ye 

heard before. 

Farewell ! the birds of Eden 
Ye shall hear nevermore. 
Flower-spirits. 
We linger, we linger, 

The last of the throng, 
Like the tones of a singer 

Who loves his own song. 
We are spirit-aromas 

Of blossom and bloom. 
We call your thoughts home, as 

Ye breathe our perfume, 
To the amaranth's splendor 

Afire on the slopes; 
To the lily-bells tender 
And gray heliotropes ; 
To the poppy-plains keeping 

Such dream-breath and blee, 
That the angels there stepping 

Grew whiter to see; 
To the nook set with moly, 

Ye jested one day in, 
Till your smile waxed too holy, 

And left your lips praying; 
To the rose in the bower-place, 

That dripped o'er you sleeping 
To the asphodel flower-place, 

Ye walked ankle-deep in. 
We pluck at your raiment, 

\Ye stroke down your hair, 
We faint in pur lament, 

And pine into air. 
Fare ye well, farewell ! 
The Eden scents, no longer sensible, 
Expire at Eden's door. 
Each footstep of your treading 
Treads out some fragrance which ye 

knew before. 

Farewell ! the flowers of Eden 
Ye shall smell nevermore. 

[There is silence. ADAM 
and EVE fly on, and 
never look back. Only 
a colossal shadow, as of 



the dark Angc\ passing 
quickly, is cast upon the 
sword-glare. 

SCENE. The extremity of the sword-glare. 

Adam. Pausing a moment on this 

outer edge, 
Where the supernal sword-glare cuts 

in light 
The dark exterior desert, hast thou 

strength, 
Beloved, to look behind us to the 

gate? 
Eve. Have I not strength to look up 

to thy face ? 
Adam. We need be strong: yon 

spectacle of cloud, 
Which seals the gate up to the final 

doom, 
Is God's seal manifest. There seem 

to lie 
A hundred thunders in it, dark and 

dead, 

The unmolten lightnings vein it mo- 
tionless; 

And, outward from its depth, the self- 
moved sword 
Swings slow its awful gnomon of red 

fire 

From side to side, in pendulous hor- 
ror slow, 
Across the stagnant ghastly glare 

thrown flat 
On the intermediate ground from that 

to this. 
The angelic hosts, the archangelic 

pomps, 
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, 

rank on rank, 

Rising sublimely to the feet of God, 
On either side, and overhead the gate, 
Show like & glittering and sustained 

smoke 
Drawn to an apex. That their faces 

shine 
Betwixt the solemn clasping of their 

wings 
Clasped high to a silver point above 

their heads, 
We only guess from hence, and not 

discern. 
Eve. Though we were near enough 

to see them shine, 
The shadow on thy face were aw- 

fuller 
To me, at least, to me, than all 

their light. 
Adam. What is this, Eve? Thou 

droppest heavily 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



185 



In a heap earthward, and thy body 

heaves 
Under the golden floodings of thine 

hair. 
Eve. O Adam, Adam ! by that name 

of Eve, 
Thine Eve, thy life, which suits me 

little now, 
Seeing that I now confess myself thy 

death 
And thine undoer, as the snake was 

mine, 
I do adjure thee put me straight 

away, 
Together with my name ! Sweet, 

punish me ! 

O love, be just ! and ere we pass be- 
yond 
The light cast outward by the fiery 

sword, 
Into the dark which earth must be to 

us, 
Bruise my head with thy foot, as the 

curse said 
My seed shall the first tempter's ! 

strike with curse, 
As God struck in the garden ! and as 

HE, 
Being satisfied with justice and with 

wrath, 
Did roll his thunder gentler at the 

close, 
Thou, peradventure, mayst at last 

recoil 
To some soft need of mercy. Strike, 

my lord ! 
/, also, after tempting, writhe on the 

ground, 
And 1 would feed on ashes from thine 

hand, 
As suits me, O my tempted ! 

Adam. My beloved, 

Mine Eve and life, I have no other 

name 
For thee, or for the sun, than what ye 

are, 
My utter life and light ! If we have 

fallen, 
It is that we have sinned, we. God 

is just; 
And, since his curse doth comprehend 

us both, 
It must be that his balance holds the 

weights 
Of first and last sin on a level. 

What ! 
Shall I, who had not virtue to stand 

straight 
Among the hills of Eden, here assume 



To mend the justice of the perfect 
God, 

By piling up a curse upon his curse, 

Against thee, thee ? 
Eve. For so, perchance, thy God 

Might take thee into grace for scorn- 
ing me, 

Thy wrath against the sinner giving 
proof 

Of inward abrogation of the sin: 

And so the blessed angels might come 
down 

And walk with thee as erst, I think 
they %vould, 

Because I was not near to make them 
sad, 

Or soil the rustling of their inno- 
cence. 

Adam. They know me. I am deep- 
est in the guilt, 

If last in the transgression. 
Eve. Thou ! 

Adam. If God, 

Who gave the right and joyaunce of 
the world 

Both unto thee and me, gave thee to 
me, 

The best gift last, the last sin was 
the worst, 

Which sinned against more comple- 
ment of gifts 

And grace of giving. God ! I render 
back 

Strong benediction and perpetual 
praise 

From mortal feeble lips (as incense- 
smoke 

Out of a little censer may fill heaven), 

That thou, in striking my benumbed 
hands, 

And forcing them to drop all other 
boons 

Of beauty and dominion and delight, 

Hast left this well-beloved Eve, this 
life 

Within life, this best gift between 
their palms, 

In gracious compensation. 
Eve. Is it thy voice, 

Or some saluting angel's, calling home 

My feet into the garden ? 
Adam. O my God ! 

I, standing here between the glory 
and dark, 

The glory of thy wrath projected forth 

From Eden's wall, the dark of our 
distress, 

Which settles a step off in that drear 
world, 






186 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



Lift up to tbee the hands from whence 

hath fallen 

Only creation's sceptre, thanking thee 
That rather thou hast cast me out 

with her 

Than left me lorn of her in Paradise, 
With angel looks and angel songs 

around 
To show the absence of her eyes and 

voice, 

And make society full desertness 
Without her use in comfort. 

Eve. AY here is loss ? 

Am I in Eden ? Can another speak 
Mine own love's tongue ? 

Adam. Because, with her, I stand 
Upright, as far as can be in this fall, 
And look away from heaven which 

doth accuse, 
And look away from earth which 

doth convict, 

Into her face, and crown my dis- 
crowned brow 
Out of her love, and put the thought 

of her 

Around me for an Eden full of birds, 
And lift her body up thus to my 

heart, 
And with my lips upon her lips 

thus, thus 
Do quicken and sublimate my mortal 

breath, 
Which cannot climb against the 

grave's steep sides, 
But overtops this grief. 

Eve. I am renewed. 

My eyes grow with the light which is 

in thine; 
The silence of my heart is full of 

sound. 

Hold me up so! Because I com- 
prehend 

This human love, I shall not be afraid 
Of any human death ; and yet, because 
I know this strength of love, I seem 

to know 
Death's strength by that same sign. 

Kiss on my lips, 
To shut the door close on my rising 

soul, 

Lest it pass outwards in astonishment, 
And leave thee lonely ! 

Adam. Yet thou liest, Eve, 

Bent heavily on thyself across mine 

arm, 
Thy face fiat to the sky. 

Eve. Ay; and the tears 

.Running, as it might seem, my life 

from me, 



They run so fast and warm. Let me 

lie so, 
And weep so, as if in a dream or 

prayer, 
Unfastening, clasp by clasp, the hard 

tight thought 
Which clipped my heart, and showed 

me evermore 
Loathed of thy justice as I loathe the 

snake,. 
And as the pure ones loathe our sin. 

To-day, 

All day, beloved, as we fled across 
This desolating radiance cast by 

swords, 
Not suns, my lips prayed soundless 

to myself, 
Striking against each .other, "O 

Lord God ! " 
('Twas so I prayed) " I ask thee by 

my sin, 

And by thy curse, and by thy blame- 
less heavens, 
Make dreadful haste to hide me from 

thy face 
And from the face of my beloved 

here 
For whom I am no helpmeet, quick 

away 

Into the new dark mystery of death ! 
I will lie still there; I will make no 

plaint; 
I will not sigh, nor sob, nor speak a 

word, 
Nor struggle to come back beneath 

the sun, 
Where, peradventure, I might sin 

anew 
Against thy mercy and his pleasure. 

Death, 
Oh, death, whate'er it be, is good 

enough 
For such as I am; while for Adam 

here, 
No voice shall say again, in heaven or 

earth, 

It is not good for him to be alone." 
Adam. And was it good for such a 

prayer to pass, 
My. unkind Eve, betwixt our mutual 

lives ? 

If I am exiled, must I be bereaved ? 
Eve. 'Twas an ill prayer: it shall 

be prayed no more. 
And God did use it like a foolishness, 
Giving no answer. Now my heart 

has grown 
Too high and strong for such a foolish 

prayer: 







P 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



187 



Love makes it strong. And since I 
was the first 

In the transgression, with a steady 
foot 

I will be first to tread from this sword- 
glare 

Into the outer darkness of the waste, 

And thus I do it. 
Adam. Thus I follow thee, 

As erewhile in the sin. What 
sounds ! what sounds ! 

I feel a music which comes straight 
from heaven, 

As tender as a watering dew. 
Eve. I think 

That angels, not those guarding Par- 
adise, 

But the love angels, who came erst to 
us, 

And, when we said " GOD," fainted 
unawares 

Back from our mortal presence unto 
God, 

(As if he drew them inward in a 
breath,) 

His name being heard of them, I 
think that they 

With sliding voices lean from heaven- 
ly towers, 

Invisible, but gracious. Hark how 
soft! 

CHORUS OF INVISIBLE ANGELS. 
Faint and tender. 

Mortal man and woman, 

Go upon your travel ! 
Heaven assist the human 

Smoothly to unravel 
All that web of pain 

Wherein ye are holden. 
Do ye know our voices 

Chanting down the Golden ? 
Do ye guess our choice is, 

Being unbeholden, 
To be barkened by you yet again ? 

This pure door of opal 

God hath shut between us, 
Us his shining people, 

You who once have seen us 
And are blinded new; 

Yet, across the doorway, 
Past the silence reaching, 

Fare\\ells evermore may, 
Blessing in the teaching, 

Glide from us to you. 
First semichortis. 
Think how erst your Eden, 



Day on day succeeding, 

With our presence glowed. 
We came as if the heavens were bowed 

To a milder music rare. 
Ye saw us in our solemn treading, 

Treading down the steps of 

cloud, 

While our wings, outspreading 
Double calms of whiteness, 
Dropped superfluous brightness 
Down from stair to stair, 
Second semichorus. 
Or oft, abrupt though tender, 

While ye gazed on space, 
We flashed our angel-splendor 

In either human face. 
With mystic lilies in our hands, 
From the atmospheric bands, 

Breaking with a sudden grace, 
We took you unaware ! 

While our feet struck glories 
Outward, smooth and fair, 

Which we stood on fioorwise, 
Platfonued in mid-air. 

First semichonts. 
Or oft, when heaven descended, 

Stood we in our wondering 

sight 

In a mute apocalypse 
With dumb vibrations on ovJr lips 
From hosannas ended, 

And grand half-vanishings 
Of the empyreal things 

Within our eyes belated, 
Till the heavenly Infinite, 

Falling off from the Created, 
Left our inward contemplation 
Opened into ministration. 
C'hortit. 

Then upon pur axle turning 
Of great joy to sympathy, 
We sang out the morning 
Broadening up the sky; 
Or we drew 
Our music through 
The noontide's hush and heat and 

shine, 

Informed with our intense Divine ! 
Interrupted vital notes 
Palpitating hither, thither, 
Burning out into the ether, 
Sensible like fiery motes; 
Or, whenever twilight drifted 
Through the cedar masses, 
The globed sun we lifted, 
Trailing purple, trailing gold, 

Out between the passes 
Of the mountains manifold, 
To aiitheins slowly sung ! 






188 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 




"While he, aweary, half in swoon 
For joy to hear our climbing tune 

Transpierce the stars' concentric 

rings, 
The burden of his glory flung 

In broken lights upon our wings. 

[The chant dies away con- 
fusedly, and LUCIFER 
appears. 

Luc. Now may all fruits be pleasant 
to thy lips, 

Beautiful Eve ! The times have some- 
what changed 

Since thou and I had talk beneath a 
tree, 

Albeit ye are not gods yet. 
Eve. Adam, hold 

My right hand strongly ! It is Luci- 
fer, 

And we have love to lose. 
Adam. I' the name of God, 

Go apart from us, O thou Lucifer ! 

And leave us to the desert thou hast 
made 

Out of thy treason. Bring no serpent- 
slime 

Athwart this path kept holy to our 
tears, 

Or we may curse thee with their bit- 
terness. 

Luc. Curse freely ! Curses thicken. 
Why, this Eve 

"Who thought me once part worthy of 
her ear, 

And somewhat wiser than the other 
beasts, 

Drawing together her large globes of 
eyes, 

The light of which is throbbing in and 
out 

Their steadfast continuity of gaze, 

Knots her fair eyebrows in so hard a 
knot, 

And down from her white heights of 
womanhood 

Looks on me so amazed, I scarce 
should fear 

To wager such an apple as she 
plucked, 

Against one riper from the tree of life, 

That she could curse too as a wo- 
man may 

Smooth in the vowels. 
Eve. So speak wickedly : 

I like it best so. Let thy words be 
wounds, 

For so I shall not fear thy power to 
hurt; 



Trench on the forms of good by open 

ill, 

For so I shall wax strong and grand 
with scorn. 

Scorning myself for ever trusting 

thee 

As far as thinking, ere a snake ate 
dust, 

He could speak wisdom. 
Luc. Our new gods, it seems, 

Deal more in thunders than in cour- 
tesies. 

And, sooth, mine own Olympus, 
which anon 

I shall build up to loud-voiced ima- 
gery 

From all the wandering visions of the 
world, 

May show worse railing than our lady 
Eve 

Pours o'er the rounding of her argent 
arm. 

But why should this be ? Adam par- 
doned Eve. 
Adam. Adam loved Eve. Jehovah 

pardon both ! 
Eve. Adam forgave Eve, because 

loving Eve. 

Luc. So, well. Yet Adam was un- 
done of Eve, 

As both were by the snake: there- 
fore forgive, 

In like wise, fellow-temptress, the 
poor snake, 

Who stung there, not so poorly ! 

[Aside. 
Eve. Hold thy wrath, 

Beloved Adam ! Let me answer him ; 

For this time he speaks truth, which 
we should hear, 

And asks for mercy, which I most 
should grant, 

In like wise, as he tells us, in like 
wise ! 

And therefore I thee pardon, Luci- 
fer, 

As freely as the streams of Eden 
flowed 

When we were happy by them. So, 
depart; 

Leave us to walk the remnant of our 
time 

Out mildly in the desert. Do not seek 

To harm us any more, or scoff at us, 

Or, ere the dust be laid upon our face, 

To find there the communion of the 
dust 

And issue of the dust. Go ! 
Adam. At once go J 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



189 .;!. 



Luc. Forgive ! and go ! Ye images 

of ciay, 
Shrunk somewhat in the mould, 

what jest is this ? 
"What words are these to use ? By 

what a thought 
Conceive ye of me ? Yesterday a 

snake ! 

To-day what? 
Adam. A strong spirit. 

Eve. A sad spirit. 

Adam. Perhaps a fallen angel. 

Who shall say ! 
Luc. Who told thee, Adam ? 
Adam. Thou ! the prodigy 

Of thy vast brows and melancholy 

eyes, 
Which comprehend the heights of 

some great fall. 
I think that thou hast one day worn a 

crown 

Under the eyes of God. 
Luc. And why of God ? 

Adam. It were no crown else. 

Verily, I think 

Thou'rt fallen far. I had not yester- 
day 

Said it so surely ; but I know to-day 
Grief by grief, sin by sin. 
Luc. A crown by a crown. 

Adam. Ay, mock me ! now I know 

more than I knew: 

Now I know that thou art fallen be- 
low hope 
Of final re-ascent. 
Luc. Because ? 

Adam. Because 

A spirit who expected to see God, 
Though at the last point of a million 

years, 
Could dare no mockery of a ruined 

man 
Such as this Adam. 

Luc. Who is high and bold, 

Be it said passing, of a good red 

clay 

Discovered on some top of Lebanon, 
Or haply of Aornus, beyond sweep 
Of the black eagle's wing. A fur- 
long lower 
Had made a meeker king for Eden. 

Soh! 

Is it not possible by sin and grief 
(To give the things your names) that 

spirits should rise, 
Instead of falling ? 

Adam. Most impossible. 

The Highest being the Holy and the 
Glad, 



Whoever rises must approach delight 
And sanctity in the act. 

Luc. Ha, my clay king) 

Thou wilt not rule by wisdom very 

long 
The after-generations. Earth, me- 

thinks, 

Will disinherit thy philosophy 
For a new doctrine suited to thine 

heirs, 
And class these present dogmas with 

the rest 
Of the old-world traditions, Eden 

fruits 
And Saurian fossils. 

Eve. Speak no more with him, 

Beloved ! it is not good to speak with 

him. 
Go from us, Lucifer, and speak no 

more ! 
We have no pardon which thou dost 

not scorn, 

Nor any bliss, thou seest, for coveting, 
Nor innocence for staining. Being 

bereft, 
We would be alone. Go ! 

Luc. Ah ! ye talk the same, 

All of you, spirits and clay, Go, 

and depart ! 
In heaven they said so, and at Eden's 

gate, 

And here re-iterant in the wilderness. 
None saith, Stay with me, for thy face 

is fair ! 
None saith, Stay with me, for thy 

voice is sweet ! 
And yet I was not fashioned out of 

clay. 

Look on me, woman ! Am I beauti- 
ful? 

Eve. Thou hast a glorious darkness. 
Luc. Nothing more ? 

Eve. I think ho more. 
Luc. False heart, thou thinkest 

more ! 
Thou canst not choose but think, as I 

praise God, 

Unwillingly but fully, that I stand 
Most absolute in beauty. As your- 
selves 
Were fashioned very good at best, so 

we 
Sprang very beauteous from the cre- 

ant "\Vord 

Which thrilled behind us, God him- 
self being moved 
When that august work of a perfect 

shape, 
His dignities of sovran angelhood, 







19Q 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



Swept out into the universe, divine 
"With thunderous movements, earnest 

looks of gods, 
And silver-solemn clash of cymhal 

wings, 
Whereof was I, in motion and in 

form, 
A part not poorest. And yet yet, 

perhaps, 
This beauty which I speak of is not 

here, 
As God's voice is not here, nor even 

my crown, 
I do not know. What is this thought 

or thing 
Which I call beauty? Is it thought 

or thing? 

Is it a thought accepted for a thing ? 
Or both ? or neither ? a pretext, a 

word '! 

Its meaning flutters in me like a flame 
Under my own breath: my percep- 
tions reel 

Forevermore around it, and fall off, 
As if it, too, were holy. 
Eve. Which it is. 

Adam. The essence of all beauty 

I call love. 

The attribute, the evidence and end, 
The consummation to the inward 

sense, 

Of beauty apprehended from without, 
I still call love. As form when 

colorless 
Is nothing to the eye, that pine-tree 

there, 
Without its black and green, being 

all a blank, 
So, without love, is beauty undis- 

cerned 

In man or angel. Angel ! rather ask 
What love is in thee, what love 

moves to thee, 
And what collateral love moves on 

with thee; 
Then shalt thow know if thou art 

beautiful. 
Luc. Love ! what is love ? I lose it. 

Beauty and love 
I darken to the image. Beauty 

love ! 

[lie fades away, while a 
low music sounds. 

Adam. Thou art pale, Eve. 

Eve. The precipice of ill 

Down this colossal nature dizzies me: 
And hark ! the starry harmony re- 
mote 



Seems measuring the heights from 

whence he fell. 

Adam. Think that we have not fall- 
en so ! By the hope 
And aspiration, by the love and faith, 
We do exceed the stature of this 

angel. 
Eve. Happier we are than he is by 

the death. 
Adam. Or, rather, by the life of the 

Lord God. 
How dim the angel grows, as if that 

blast 
Of music swept him back into the 

dark! 

[The mimic in stronger, gath- 
ering itself into uncer- 
tain articulation. 

Ere. It throbs in on us like a plain- 
tive heart, 

Pressing with slow pulsations, vibra- 
tive, 

Its gradual sweetness through the 
yielding air, 

To such expression as the stars may 
use, 

Most starry-sweet and strange. With 
every note 

That grows more loud the an^d 
grows more dim, 

Receding in proportion to approach, 

Until he stand afar, a shade. 
Adam. Now, words. 

SOXG OF THE MORKIXG STAR TO 
LUCIFER. 

lie fades utterly aicay, and vanishes as it 
proceeds. 

Mine orbed image sinks 

Back from thee, back from thee, 
As thou art fallen, methinks, 

Back from me, back from me. 
O my light-bearer, 
Could another fairer 
Lack to thee, lack to Ihee? 

Ah, ah, Heosphoros ! 
I loved thee with the fiery love of 

stars 
Who love by burning, and by loving 

move 
Too near the throned Jehovah not to 

love. 

Ah, ah, Heosphoros ! 
Their brows flash fast on me from 

gliding cars, 

Pale-passioned for my loss. 
Ah, ah, Heosphoros 1 






A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



Mine orbed heats drop cold 
Down from thee, down from 
thee, 

As fell thy grace of old 
Down from me, down from me. 

my light-bearer, 
Is another fairer 

Won to thee, won to thee? 
Ah, ah, Heosphoros, 
Great love preceded loss, 
Known to thoe, known to thee. 

Ah, ah ! 
Thou, breathing thy communicable 

grace 

Of life into my light, 
Mine astral faces, from thine angel 

fare 

Hast inly fed, 

And flooded me with radiance over- 
much 
From thy pure height. 

Ah, ah ! 
Thou, with calm, floating pinions both 

ways spread, 
Erect, irradiated, 
Didst sting my wheel of glory 
On, on before thee, 
Along the Godlight, by a quickening 
toucli ! 

Ha, ha ! 
Around, around, the firmamental 

ocean 

I swam expanding with delirious fire! 
Around, around, around, in blind de- 
sire 

To be drawn upward to the Infinite 
Ha, ha ! 

Until, the motion flinging out the 

motion 
To a keen whirl of passion and 

avidity, 

To a dim whirl of languor and delight, 
I wound in gyrant orbits smooth and 

white 

With that intense rapidity. 
Around, around, 

1 wound and interwound, 
While all the cyclic heavens about me 

spun. 

Stars, planets, suns, and moons di- 
lated broad, 

Then flashed together into a single 
sun, 

And wound, and wound in one: 

And as they wound I wound, around, 
around, 

In a great tire I almost took for God. 
Ha, ha, Heosphoros ! 




Thine angel glory sinks 
Down from me, down from 

me: 

My beauty falls, methinks, 
Down from thee, down from 

thee. 

O my light-bearer, 
O my path-preparer, 
Gone from me, gone from me ! 

Ah, ah, Heosplioros ! 
I cannot kindle underneath the brow 
Of this new angel here who is not 

thou. 
All things are altered since that time 

ago; 
And if I shine at eve, I shall not 

know. 

I am strange, I am slow. 
Ah, ah, Heosphoros ! 
Henceforward, human eves of lovers 

be 
The only sweetest sight that I shall 

see, 

With tears between the looks raised 
up to me, 

Ah, ah ! 
When, having wept all night, at break 

of day 

Above the folded hills, they shall sur- 
vey 

My light, a little trembling, in the 
gray, 

Ah, ah ! 

And, gazing on me, such shall com- 
prehend, 
Through all my piteous pomp at 

morn or even 
And melancholy leaning out of 

heaven, 
That love, their own divine, may 

change or end, 
That love may close in loss ! 
Ah, ah, Heosphoros ! 

SCENE. Farther on. A wild open country 
seenvagutly in the approaching night. 

Adam. How doth the wide and mel- 
ancholy earth 
Gather her hills around us, gray and 

ghast, 
And stare with blank significance of 

loss 

Right in our faces ! Is the wind up ? 
See. Nay. 

Adam. And yet the cedars and the 

junipers 

Rock slowly, through the mist, with- 
out a sound, 







192 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



And shapes which have no certainty 

of shape 
Drift duskly in and out between the 

pines, 

And loom along the edges of the hills, 
And lie flat, curdling in the open 

ground, 

Shadows without a body, which con- 
tract 
And lengthen as we gaze on them. 

Eve. O life, 

Which is not man's nor angel's ! 

What is this ? 

Adam. No cause for fear. The cir- 
cle of God's life 
Contains all life beside. 

Eve. I think the earth 

Is crazed with curse, and wanders 

from the sense 
Of those tirst laws affixed to form and 

space 
Or ever she knew sin. 

Adam. We will not fear: 

We were brave sinning. 

Eve. Yea, I plucked the fruit 

With eyes upturned to heaven, and 

seeing there 
Our god-thrones, as the tempter said, 

not GOD. 
My heart, which beat then, sinks. 

The sun hath sunk 
Out of sight with our Eden. 
Adam. Night is near. 

Eve. And God's curse nearest. Let 

us travel back, 
And stand within the sword-glare till 

we die. 

Believing it is better to meet death 
Than suffer desolation. 

Adam. Nay, beloved ! 

We must not pluck death from the 

Maker's hand, 
As erst we plucked the apple: we 

must wait 

Until he gives death, as he gave us life, 
Nor murmur faintly o'er the primal 

gift 
Because we spoilt its sweetness with 

our sin. 
Eve. Ah, ah ! dost thou discern 

what I behold ? 
Adam. I see all. How the spirits 

in thine eyes 

From their dilated orbits bound be- 
fore 
To meet the spectral Dread ! 

Eve. I am afraid 

Ah, ah ! the twilight bristles wild 

with shapes 



Of intermittent motion, aspect vague, 
And mystic bearings, which o'ercreep 

the earth, 
Keeping slow time with horrors in 

the blood. 
How near they reach . . . and far ! 

How gray they move, 
Treading upon the darkness without 

feet, 

And fluttering on the darkness with- 
out wings ! 
Some run like dogs, with noses to the 

ground ; 
Some keep one path, like sheep; some 

rock, like trees; 
Some glide, like a fallen leaf; and 

some flow on, 
Copious as rivers. 

Adtun. Some spring up like fire; 

And some coil . . . 

Eve. Ah, ah ! dost thou pause to say 
Like what ? coil like the serpent, 

when he fell 
From all the emerald splendor of his 

height 
And writhed, and could not climb 

against the curse, 
Not a ring's length. I am afraid 

afraid 
I think it is God's will to make me 

afraid, 
Permitting THESE to haunt us in the 

place 

Of his beloved angels, gone from us 
Because \ve are not pure. Dear pity 

of God, 
That didst permit th*e angels to go 

home, 
And live no more with us who are not 

pure, 

Save us, too, from a loathly company, 
Almost as loathly in our eyes, per- 
haps, 

As we are in the purest ! Pity us, 
Us too ! nor shut us in the dark, 

away 

From verity and from stability, 
Or what we name such through the 

precedence 
Of earth's adjusted uses ! leave us 

not 
To doubt, betwixt our senses and our 

souls, 
Which are the more distraught, and 

full of pain, 
And weak of apprehension ! 

Adam. Courage, sweet I 

The mystic shapes ebb back from us, 

and drop 






1C 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



193 



With slow concentric movement, each. 

on each, 

Expressing wider spaces, and col- 
lapsed 

In lines more definite for imagery 
Ami clearer for relation, till the 

throng 

Of shapeless spectra merge into a few 
Distinguishable phantasms vague and 

grand, 
Which sweep out and around us 

vastily, 

And hold us in a circle and a calm. 
Eve. Strange phantasms of pale 

shadow ! there are twelve. 
Thou who didst name all lives, hast 

names for these ? 
Adam. Methinks this is the zodiac 

of the earth, 
Which rounds us with a visionary 

dread, 
Responding with twelve shadowy 

signs of earth, 

In fantasque apposition and ap- 
proach, 

To those celestial, constellated twelve 
Which palpitate adown the silent 

nights 

Under the pressure of the hand of God 
Stretched wide in benediction. At 

this hour 
Not a star pricketh the flat gloom of 

heaven ; 

But, girdling close our nether wilder- 
ness, 
The zodiac-figures of the earth loom 

slow, 
Drawn out, as suitethwith the place 

and time, 
In twelve colossal shades, instead of 

stars, 
Through whicli the ecliptic line of 

mystery 
Strikes bleakly with an unrelenting 

scope, 
Foreshowing rife and death. 

Ere. By dream, or sense, 

Do we see this ? 
Adam. Our spirits have climbed 

high 

By reason of the passion of our grief, 
And from the top of sense looked 

over sense, 
To the significance and heart of 

things, 

Rather than things themselves. 
Eve. And the dim twelve . . . 

Adam. Are dim exponents of the 

creature-life, 



Ae earth contains it. Gaze on them, 

beloved ! 

By stricter apprehension of the sight, 
Suggestions of the creatures shall 

assuage 
The terror of the shadows; what is 

known 
Subduing the unknown, and taming 

it 
From all prodigious dread. That 

phantasm, there, 

Presents a lion, albeit twenty times 
As large as any lion, \vith a roar 
Set soundless in his vibratory jaws, 
And a strange horror stirring in his 

mane. 
And there a pendulous shadow seems 

to weigh, 
Good against ill, perchance; and 

there a crab 

Puts coldly out its gradual shadow- 
claws, 
Like a slow blot that spreads, till all 

the ground 
Crawled over by it seems to crawl 

itself. 

A bull stands horned here, with gib- 
bous glooms; 
And a ram likewise; and a scorpion 

writhes 
Its tail in ghastly slime, and stings the 

dark. 
This way a goat leaps with wild 

blank of beard ; 

And here fantastic fishes duskly float, 
Using the calm for waters, while their 

fins 
Throb out quick rhythms along the 

shallow air. 
While images more human 

Eve. How he stands, 

That phantasm of a man who is 

not thou ! 
Two phantasms of two men ! 

Adam. One that sustains, 

And one that strives, resuming, so, 

the ends 
Of manhood's curse of labor. 1 Dost 

thou see 

1 Adam recognizes in Aquarius the 
water-bearer, and Sagittarius the archer, 
distinct types of the man bearing and the 
man combating, the passive and active 
forms of human labor. I hope that the pre- 
ceding zodiacal signs transferred to the 
earthly shadow and representative purpose 
of Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Leo, Libra, 
Scorpio, Cnpricornus, and Pisces, are suffi- 
ciently obvious to the reader. 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



That phantasm of a woman ? 
Eve. I have seen ; 

But look off to those small humani- 
ties 1 

Which draw me tenderly across my 
fear 

Lesser and fainter than my woman- 
hood, 

Or yet thy manhood with strange 
innocence 

Set in the misty lines of head and 
hand. 

They lean together ! I would gaze on 
them 

Longer and longer, till my watching 
eyes, 

As the stars do in watching any 
thing, 

Should light them forward from their 
outline vague 

To clear configuration. 

[Two spirits, of organic and inorganic, 
nature, arise from the ground.] 

But what shapes 

Rise up between us in the open space, 
And thrust me into horror, back from 

hope ! 

Adam. Colossal shapes twin sov- 
ran images, 

With a disconsolate, blank majesty 
Set in their wondrous faces; with no 

look, 

And yet an aspect, a significance 
Of individual life and passionate 

ends, 
Which overcomes us gazing. 

O bleak sound ! 
O shadow of sound ! O phantasm of 

thin sound 1 
How it comes, wheeling, as the pale 

moth wheels, 

Wheeling and wheeling in continu- 
ous wail 
Around the cyclic zodiac, and gains 

force, 
And gathers, settling coldly like a 

moth, 

On the wan faces of these images 
We see before us, whereby modified, 
It draws a straight line of articulate 

song 

From out that spiral faintness of la- 
ment, 

And by one voice expresses many 
griefs. 

1 Her maternal instinct is excited by 
Gemini. 



First Spirit. 

I am the spirit of the harmless earth. 
God spake me softly out among the 

stars, 

As softly as a blessing of much worth; 
And then his smile did follow, un- 
awares, 
That all things fashioned so for use 

and duty 

Might shine anointed with his chrism 
of beauty 

Yet I wail ! 
I drave on with the worlds exult- 

ingly, 
Obliquely down the Godlight's 

gradual fall; 
Individual aspect and complexity 

Of gyratory orb and interval 
Lost in the fluent motion of delight 
Toward the high ends of Being be- 
yond sight 

Yet I wail ! 
Second Spirit. 

I am the spirit of the harmless beasts, 
Of flying things, and creeping 

things, and swimming; 
Of all the lives, erst set at silent 

feasts, 

That found the love-kiss on the gob- 
let brimming, 
And tasted in each drop within the 

measure 

The sweetest pleasure of their Lord's 
good pleasure 

Yet I wail ! 

What a full hum of life around his lips 
Bore witness to the fulness of crea- 
tion ! 

How all the grand words were full- 
laden ships, 

Each sailing onward from enuncia- 
tion 

To separate existence, and each bear- 
ing 

The creature's power of joying, hop- 
ing, fearing ! 

Yet I wail ! 
Eve. They wail, beloved! they speak 

of glory and God, 
And they wail wail. That burden 

of the song 

Drops from it like its fruit, and heavi- 
ly falls 

Into the lap of silence. 
Adam. Hark, again ! 

Firtt Spirit. 

I was so beautiful, so beautiful, 
My joy stood up within me bold to 
add 




Jt 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 




A word to God's, and, when his 

work was full, 
To " very good," responded " very 

glad ! " 
Filtered through roses, did the light 

enclose me, 

And bunches of the grape swam blue 
across me 

Yet I wail ! 
Second Spirit. 

I bounded with my panthers: I re- 
joiced 
In my young tumbling lions rolled 

together: 
My stag, the river at his fetlocks, 

poised, 
Then dipped his antlers through the 

golden weather 

In the same ripple which the alliga- 
tor 

Left, in his joyous troubling of the 
water 

Yet I wail ! 
First Spirit. 

O my deep waters, cataract and flood, 
"What wordless triumph did your 

voices render ! 

O mountain-summits, where the an- 
gels stood, 
And shook from head and wing 

thick dews of splendor ! 
How with a holy quiet did your 

Earthy 

Accept that Heavenly, knowing ye 
were worthy ! 

Yet I 'wail ! 
Second Spirit. 

O my wild wood-dogs, with your lis- 
tening eyes; 
My horses; my ground-eagles, for 

swift fleeing; 

My birds, with viewless wing of har- 
monies; 
My calm cold fishes of a silver 

being, 

How happy were ye, living and pos- 
sessing, 

fair half-souls capacious of full 

blessing ! 

Yet I wail ! 
First Spirit. 

1 wail, I wail ! Now hear my charge 

to-day, 
Thou man, thou woman, marked as 

the misdoers 
By God's sword at your backs ! I 

lent my clay 
To make your bodies, which had 

grown more flowers ; 



And now, in change for what I lent, 

ye give me 

The thorn to vex, the tempest-fire to 
cleave me 

And I wail 1 
Second Spirit. 
I wail, I wail ! Behold ye, that I 

fasten 
My sorrow's fang upon your souls 

dishonored ? 
Accursed transgressors I down the 

steep ye hasten, 
Your crown's weight on the world, 

to drag it downward 
Unto your ruin. Lo ! my lions scent- 
ing 

The blood of wars, roar hoarse and 
unrelenting 

And I wail ! 
First Spirit. 
I wail, I wail ! Do vou hear that I 

wail ? 
I had no part in your transgression 

none. 
My roses on the bough did bud, not 

pale ; 

My rivers did not loiter in the sun; 
/ was obedient. Wherefore in my 

centre 

Do I thrill at this curse of death and 
winter ? 

Do I wail ? 
Second Spirit. 

I wail, I wail ! I wail in the assault 
Of undeserved perdition, sorely 

wounded ! 
My nightingale sang sweet without a 

fault; 
My gentle leopards innocently 

bounded. 

We were obedient. "What is this con- 
vulses 

Our blameless life with pangs and 
fevA-pulses? 

And I wail ! 
Eve. I choose God's thunder and 

his angels' swords 
To die by, Adam, rather than such 

words. 
Let us pass out, and flee. 

Adam. "We cannot flee. 

This zodiac of the creatures' cruelty 
Curls round us, like a river cold and 

drear, 
And shuts us in, constraining us to 

hear. 

First Spirit. 

I feel your steps, O wandering sin- 
ners, strike 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



A sense of death to me, and undug 
graves 1 

The heart of earth, once calm, is trem- 
bling like 

The ragged foam along the ocean- 
waves ; 

The restless earthquakes rock against 
each other; 

The elements moan round me, 
" Mother, mother " 

And I wail ! 
Second Spirit. 

Your melancholy looks do pierce me 

through; 

Corruption swathes the paleness of 
your beauty. 

Why have ye done this thing ? "What 

did we do 

That we should fall from bliss, as ye 
from duty ? 

"Wild shriek the hawks, in waiting for 
their jesses, 

Fierce howl the wolves along the wil- 
dernesses 

And I wail ! 

Adam. To thee, the Spirit of the 
harmless earth, 

To thee, the Spirit of earth's harmless 
lives, 

Inferior creatures, but still innocent, 

Be salutation from a guilty mouth 

Yet worthy of some audience and re- 
spect 

From you who are not guilty. If we 
have sinned, 

God hath rebuked us, who is over us 

To give rebuke or death, and if ye 
wail 

Because of any suffering from our 
sin, 

Ye who are under and not over us, 

Be satisfied with God, if not witli us, 

And pass out from our presence in 
such peace 

As we have left you, to enjoy revenge 

Such as the heavens have made you. 
Verily, 

There must be strife between us 

large as sin. 

Eve. No strife, mine Adam ! Let 
us not stand high 

Upon the wrong we did to reach dis- 
dain, 

"Who rather should be humbler ever- 
more, 

Since self-made sadder. Adam, shall 
I speak, 

I who spake once to such a bitter 
end, 



Shall I speak humbly now, who once 
was proud ? 

I, schooled by sin to more humility 

Than thou hast, O mine Adam, O my 
king, 

My king, if not the world's ? 
Adam. Speak as thou wilt. 

Eve. Thus, then, my hand in 
thine 

. . . Sweet, dreadful Spirits ! 

I pray you humbly, in the name of 
God, 

Not to say of these tears, which are 
impure 

Grant me such pardoning grace as 
can go forth 

From clean volitions toward a spotted 
will, 

From the wronged to the wronger, 
this and no more ! 

I do not ask more. I am 'ware, in- 
deed, 

That absolute pardon is impossible 

From you to me, by reason of my 
sin; 

And that I cannot evermore, as once, 

With worthy acceptation of pure joy, 

Behold the trances of the holy hills 

Beneath the leaning stars, or watch 
the vales 

Dew-pallid with their morning ecsta- 
sy; 

Or hear the winds make pastoral 
peace between 

Two grassy uplands; and the river- 
wells 

Work out their bubbling mysteries 
underground; 

And all the birds sing, till, for joy of 
song, 

They lift their trembling wings as if 
to heave 

The too-much weight of music from 
their heart 

And float it up the ether. I am 'ware 

That these things I can no more ap- 
prehend 

With a pure organ into a full delight, 

The sense of beauty and of melody 

Being no more aided in me by the 
sense 

Of personal adjustment to those 
heights 

Of what I see well formed, or hear 
well tuned, 

But rather coupled darkly, and made 
ashamed 

By my percipiency of sin and fall 

In melancholy of humiliant thoughts. 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



197 



But, oh ! fair, dreadful Spirits albeit 

this, 
Your accusation must confront my 

soul, 
And your pathetic utterance and full 

gaze 

Must evermore subdue me, be con- 
tent ! 

Conquer me gently, as if pitying me, 
Not to say loving; let my tears fall 

thick 
As watering dews of Eden, unre- 

proached ; 
And, when your tongues reprove me, 

make me smooth, 
Not ruffled, smooth and still with 

your reproof, 
And, peradventure, better while more 

sad. 
For look to it, sweet Spirits, look well 

to it, 

It will not be amiss in you. who kept 
The law of your own righteousness, 

and keep 
The right of your own griefs to 

mourn themselves, 
To pity me twice fallen, from that 

and this, 
From joy of place, and also right of 

wail ; 
"I wail" being not for me, only 

" I sin." 
Look to it, O sweet Spirits ! 

For was I not, 

At that last sunset seen in Paradise, 
When all the westering clouds flashed 

out in throngs 

Of sudden angel-faces, face by face, 
All hushed and solemn, as a thought 

of God 
Held them suspended, was I not, 

that hour, 
The lady of the world, princess of 

life, 
Mistress of feast and favor ? Could 

I touch 

A rose with my white hand, but it be- 
came 

Redder at once ? Could I walk leis- 
urely 
Along our swarded garden, but the 

grass 
Tracked me with greenness ? Could 

I stand aside 

A moment underneath a cornel-tree, 
But all the leaves did tremble as 

alive 

With songs of fifty birds who were 
made glad 



Because I stood there ? Could I turn 

to look 
With these twain eyes of mine, now 

weeping fast, 
Now good for only weeping, upon 

man, 

Angel, or beast, or bird, but each re- 
joiced 
Because I looked on him? Alas, 

alas ! 
And is not this much woe, to cry 

"Alas!" 
Speaking of joy? And is not this 

more shame, 
To have made the woe myself, from 

all that joy ? 
To have stretched .my hand, and 

plucked it from the tree, 
And chosen it for fruit ? Nay, is not 

this 
Still most despair, to have halved 

that bitter fruit, 
And ruined so the sweetest friend 

I have, 

Turning the GREATEST to mine ene- 
my? 
Adam. I will not hear thee speak 

so. Hearken, Spirits ! 
Our God, who is the enemy of none, 
But only of their sin, hath set your 

hope 
And my hope in a promise on this 

head. 
Show reverence, then, and never 

bruise her more 

With unpermitted and extreme re- 
proach, 
Lest, passionate in anguish, she fling 

down 
Beneath your trampling feet God's 

gift to us 

Of sovranty by reason and freewill, 
Sinning against the province of the 

soul 
To rule the soulless. Reverence her 

estate, 
And pass out from her presence with 

no words. 
Eve. O dearest heart, have patience 

with my heart ! 

O Spirits, have patience, 'stead of rev- 
erence, 

And let me speak; for, not being in- 
nocent, 

It little doth become me to be proud, 
And I am prescient by the very 

hope 

And promise set upon me, that hence- 
forth 






198 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



Only my gentleness shall make me 

great, 
My humbleness exalt me. Awful 

Spirits, 

Be witness that I stand in your re- 
proof 
But one snn's length off from my 

happiness 

Happy, as I have said, to look around, 
Clear to look up ! and now ! I need 

not speak 

Ye see me what I am: ye scorn me so, 
Because ye see me what I have made 

myself 
From God's be st making ! Alas, 

peace foregone, 
Love wronged, and virtue forfeit, and 

tears wept 

Upon all, vainly ! Alas, me ! alas, 
Who have undone myself from all 

that best, 
Fairest, and sweetest, to this wretch- 

edest, 
Saddest, and most denied cast out, 

cast down 
What word metes absolute loss ? Let 

absolute loss 
Suffice you for revenge. For I, who 

lived 

Beneath the wings of angels yester- 
day, 
Wander to-day beneath the roofless 

world: 

7, reigning the earth's empress yes- 
terday, 
Put off from me to-day your hate 

with prayers: 
7, yesterday, who answered the Lord 

God, 
Composed and glad as singing-birds 

the sun, 
Might shriek now from our dismal 

desert, " God," 
And hear him make reply, "What is 

thy need, 

Thou whom I cursed to-day?" 
Adam. Eve ! 

Eve. I, at last, 

Who yesterday was helpmate and de- 
light 

Unto mine Adam, am to-day the grief 
And curse-meet for him. And so 

pity us, 
Ye gentle Spirits, and pardon him 

and me; 
And let some tender peace, made of 

our pain. 
Grow up betwixt us, as a tree might 

grow, 



With boughs on both sides ! in the 

shade of which, 
When presently ye shall behold u? 

dead, 

For the poor sake of our humility 
Breathe out your pardon on our 

breathless lips, 
And drop your twilight dews against 

our brows, 
And stroking with mild airs our 

harmless hands 
Left empty of all fruit, perceive your 

love 

Distilling through your pity over us, 
And suffer it, self-reconciled, to pass ! 

LUCIFER rises in the circle. 
Luc. Who talks here of a comple- 
ment of grief? 

Of expiation wrought by loss and 
fall? 

Of hate subd liable to pity ? Eve ? 

Take counsel from thy counsellor the 
snake, 

And boast no more in grief, nor hope 
from pain, 

My docile Eve ! I teach you to de- 
spond, 

Who taught you disobedience. Look 
around ! 

Earth-spirits and phantasms hear you 
talk unmoved, 

As if ye were red clay again, and 
talked. 

What are your words to them ? your 
grief to them ? 

Your deaths, indeed, to them ? Did 
the hand pause 

For their sake, in the plucking of the 
fruit, 

That they should pause for you in 
hating you ? 

Or \vill your grief or death, as did 
your sin, 

Bring change upon their final doom ? 
Behold, 

Your grief is but your siu in the re- 
bound, 

And cannot expiate for it. 
Adam. That is true. 

Luc. Ay ; that is true. The clay 
king testifies 

To the snake's counsel, hear him! 

very true. 

Earth-spirits. I wail, I wail! 
Lnc. And certes, that is true. 

Ye wail, ye all wail. Feradventure I 

Could watt among you. O thou uni- 
verse, 






A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



199 



That boldest sin and woe, more 

room for \vail ! 
Distant Starry Voice. Ah, ah, Heos- 

phoros! Heosphoros! 
Adam. Mark Lucifer ! He changes 

awfully. 
Eve. It seems as if he looked from 

grief to God, 
And could not see him. "Wretched 

Lucifer! 
Adam. How he stands yet an 

angel ! 

Earth-spirits. "We all wail! 
Luc. (after a pause). Dost Ihon re- 
member, Adam, when the curse 
Took ITS in Eden? On a mountain- 
peak , 
Half-sheathed in primal woods, and 

glittering 
In spasms of awful sunshine at that 

hour, 
A lion couched, part raised upon his 

paws, 
"With his calm, massive face turned 

full on thine, 
And his inane listening. "When the 

ended curse 

Left silence in the world, right sud- 
denly 
He sprang up rampant, and stood 

straight and stiff, 
As if the new reality of death 
Were dashed against his eyes, and 

roared so fierce, 
(Such thick carnivorous passion in 

his throat 
Tearing a passage through the wrath 

and fear) 
And roared so wild, and smote from 

all the hills 
Such fast keen echoes crumbling 

down the vales 

Precipitately, that the forest beasts, 
One after one, did mutter a response 
Of savage and of sorrowful complaint 
"Which trailed along the gorges. Then, 

at once, 
lie full back, and rolled crashing from 

the height 
Into the dusk of pines. 

Adam. It might have been. 

I hep.rd the curse alone. 
Etyth-spirits. I wail, I wail! 

Lac. That lion is the type of what 

I am. 

And as he fixed thee with his full- 
faced hate, 
And roared Adam, comprehending 

doom, 



So, gazing on the face of the Unseen, 
I cry out here between the heavens 

and earth 
My conscience of this sin, this woe, 

this wrath, 

"Which damn me to this depth. 
Earth-spirits. I wail, I wail! 

Eve. I wail O God! 
Luc. I scorn you that ye wail, 

"Who use your petty griefs for pedes- 
tals 
To stand on, beckoning pity from 

without, 

And deal in pathos of antithesis 
Of what ye were forsooth, and what 

ye are ! 
I scorn you like an angel ! Yet one 

cry 
I, too, would drive up like a column 

erect, 
Marble to marble, from my heart to 

heaven, 

A monument of anguish to transpierce 

And overtop your vapory complaints 

Expressed from feeble woes. 

Earth-spirits. I wail, I wail! 

Luc. For, O ye heavens, ye are my 

witnesses, 
That /, struck out from nature in a 

blot, 
The outcast and the mildew of things 

good, 

The leper of angels, the excepted dust 
Under the common rain of daily 

gifts, 
I the snake, I the tempter, I the 

cursed, 
To whom the highest and the lowest 

alike 
Say, Go from us : we have no need 

of thec, 
"Was made by God like others. Good 

and fair 
He did create me! ask him if not 

fair; 

Ask if I caught not fair and silverly 
His blessing for chief angels on my 

head 

Until it grew there, a crown crystal- 
lized; 

Ask if he never called me by my name, 
Lucifer, kindly said as " Gabriel " 
Lucifer, soft as "Michael! " while se- 
rene 

I, standing in the glory of the lamps, 
Answered, "My Father," innocent of 

shame 
And of the sense of thunder. Hal ye 

think, 






- - 200 




A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



White angels in your niches, I re- 
pent, 

And would tread down my own of- 
fences back 
To service at the footstool ? That's 

read wrong! 

I cry as the beast did, that I may cry 
Expansive, not appealing! Fallen so 

deep, 
Against the sides of this prodigious 

pit 
I cry, cry, dashing out the hands of 

wail 

On each side, to meet anguish every- 
where, 

And to attest it in the ecstasy 
And exaltation of a woe sustained, 
Because provoked and chosen. 

Pass along 
Your wilderness, vain mortals! Puny 

griefs 
In transitory shapes, be henceforth 

dwarfed 
To your own conscience by the dread 

extremes 
Of what I am and have been. If ye 

have fallen, 
It is but a step's fall, the whole ground 

beneath 
Strewn woolly soft with promise: if 

ye have sinned, 
Your prayers tread high as angels; if 

ye have grieved, 
Ye are too mortal to be pitiable : 
The power to die disproves the right 

to grieve. 
Go to ! Ye call this ruin ? I half 

scorn 
The ill I did you! "Were ye wronged 

by me, 
Hated and tempted and undone of 

me, 
Still, what's your hurt to mine of 

doing hurt, 

Of hating, tempting, and so ruining? 
This sword's hilt is the sharpest, and 

cuts through 
The hand that wields it. 

Go! I curse you all. 
Hate one another, feebly, as ye 

can! 
I would not certes cut you short in 

hate: 
Far be it from me! Hate on as ye 

can I 
I breathe into your faces, Spirits of 

earth, 

As wintry blast may breathe on win- 
try leaves, 



And, lifting up their brownness, rttiovr 
beneath 

The branches bare. Beseech you, 
Spirits, give 

To Eve, who beggarly entreats your 
love 

For her and Adam when they shall be 
dead, 

An answer rather fitting to the sin 

Than to the sorrow, as the heavens, 
I trow, 

For justice' sake gave theirs. 

I curse you both, 

Adam and Eve. Say grace, as after 
meat, 

After my curses. May your tears 
fall hot 

On all the hissing scorns o' the crea- 
tures here 

And yet rejoice ! Increase and mul- 
tiply, 

Ye in your generations, in all plagues, 

Corruptions, melancholies, poverties, 

And hideous forms of life and fears of 
death, 

The thought of death being alway 
eminent, 

Immovable, and dreadful in your 
life, 

And dearly and dumbly insignificant 

Of any hope beyond, as death itself, 

Whichever of you lieth dead the first, 

Shall seem to the survivor, yet re- 
joice ! 

My curse catch at you strongly, body 
and soul, 

And HE find no redemption, nor the 
wing 

Of seraph move your way and yet 
rejoice ! 

Rejoice, because ye have not set in 
you 

This hate which shall pursue you, 
this fire-hate 

Which glares without, because it 
burns within; 

Which kills from ashes, this poten- 
tial hate, 

Wherein I, angel, in antagonism 

To God and his reflex beatitudes, 

Moan ever in the central universe 

With the great woe of striving against 
Love, 

And gasp for space amid the Infinite, 

And toss for rest aruid the Desert- 
ness, 

Self-orphaned by my will, and self- 
elect 

To kingship of resistant agony 





A DRAMA OF EXILE. 




Toward the Good round me, hating 

good and love, 
And willing to hate good and to hate 

love, 

And willing to will on so evermore, 
Scorning the Past, and damning the 

To come 
Go and rejoice ! I curse you. 

[LUCIFEK vanishes. 
Earth-spirits. 

And we scorn you I There's no par- 
don 

Which can lean to you aright. 
"When your bodies take the guerdon 

Of the death-curse in our sight, 
Then the bee that humineth lowest 

shall transcend you ; 
Then ye shall not move an eyelid, 
Though the stars look down your 

eyes ; 
And the earth which ye defiled 

Shall expose you to the skies, 
" Lo ! these kings of ours, who sought 

to comprehend you." 
First Spirit. 
And the elements shall boldly 

All your dust to dust constrain. 
"Unresistedly and coldly 

I will smite you with my rain. 
From the slowest of my frosts is no 

receding. 
Second Spirit. 
And my little worm, appointed 

To assume a royal part, 
He shall reign, crowned and anoint- 
ed, 

O'er the noble human heart. 
Give him counsel against losing of 

that Eden ! 
Adam. Do ye scorn us ? Back your 

scorn 
Toward your faces gray and lorn, 

As the wind drives back the rain, 
Thus I drive with passion-strife, 
I, who stand beneath God's sun, 
Made like God, and, though un- 
done, 

Not unmade for love and life. 
Lo ! ye utter threats in vain. 
By my free will that chose sin, 
By mine agony within 
Round the passage of the fire, 

By the pinings which disclose 
That my native soul is higher 

Than'what it chose, 
We are yet too high, O Spirits, for 

your disdain. 

Eve. Nay, beloved 1 If these be 
low, 



We confront them from no height. 
We have stooped down to their 

level 

By infecting them with evil, 
And their scorn that meets our blow 

Scathes aright. 
Amen. Let it be so. 
Earth-spirits. 
We shall triumph, triumph greatly, 

When ye lie beneath the sward. 
There our lily shall grow stately, 
Though ye answer not a word, 
And her fragrance shall be scornful of 

your silence: 

While your throne ascending calm- 
ly, 

We, in heirdom of your soul, 
Flash the river, lift the palm-tree, 

The dilated ocean roll, 
By the thoughts that throbbed within 
you, round the islands. 

Alp and torrent shall inherit 

Your significance of will, 
And the grandeur of your spirit 
Shall our broad savannahs fill ; 
In our winds your exultations shall 

be springing. 

Even your parlance, which invei- 
gles, 

By our rudeness shall be won. 
Hearts poetic in our eagles 

Shall beat up against the sun, 
And strike downward in articulate 
clear singing. 

Your bold speeches our Behemoth 
With his thunderous jaw shall 

wield. 

Your high fancies shall our Mam- 
moth 

Breathe sublimely up the shield 
Of St. Michael at God's throne, who 

waits to speed him, 
Till the heavens' smooth-grooved 

thunder, 
Spinning back, shall leave them 

clear, 

And the angels, smiling wonder 
With dropt looks from sphere to 

sphere, 
Shall cry, "Ho, ye heirs of Adam ! ye 

exceed him." 
Adam. Hoot out thine eyes, sweet, 

1 from the dreary ground ! 
Beloved, we may be overcome by 

God, 

But not by these. 
Eve. By God, perhaps, in these. 






A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



Adam. I think not so. Had Go<l 

foredoomed despair, 
He had not spoken hope. He may 

destroy 
Certes, but not deceive. 

Ere. Behold this rose ! 

T plucked it in pur bower of Paradise 
This morning, as I went forth, and my 

heart 
Has beat against its petals all the 

day. 
I thought it would be always red and 

full, 
As when I plucked it. Is it ? Ye 

may see. 

I cast it down to you that ye may see, 
All of you ! Count the petals lost of 

it. 
And note the colors fainted ! Ye may 

see ! 

And I am as it is, who yesterday 
Grew in the same place. Oh ye 

Spirits of earth, 

I almost, from my miserable heart, 
Could here upbraid you for your cruel 

heart, 
Which will not let me, down the slope 

of death, 

Draw any of your pity after me, 
Or lie still in the quiet of your looks, 
As my flower, there, in mine. 

[A Idfak wind, quickened with indistinct 
human rmces, spin* around the 
earth-eodiac, filling the cinle with 
its presence, and then, wailing off 
into the east, carries the roue tncay 
with it. ~E.\vf<ilU -upon her face. 
ADAM stands erect. 



A dam. 

The last departs. 
7,Ye. So memory follows hope, 

Ami life both. Love said to me, 
" Do not die," 

And I replied, " O Love, I will not 
die. 

I exiled and I will not orphan Love.'' 

Ciit now it is no choice of mine to 
die: 

My heart throbs from me. 
Adam. Call it, straightway back ! 

Death's consummation crowns com- 
pleted life, 

Or comes too early. Hope being set 
on thee 

For others, if for others, then for 
thee, 

For thee and me. 

I The tcind revolves from the east, and 



round again to the east, perfumed 
by the Eden-rose, antl full ofruicts 
which sweep out into articulation as 
they pass. 

Let thy soul shake its leaves 
To feel the mystic wind hark ! 
Eve. I hear life. 

Infant Voices passinr/ in the. wind. 

Oh, we live ! oh, we live ! 

And this life that we receive 
Is a warm thing and a new, 
Which we softly bud into 
From the heart and from the brain, 
Something strange that overmuch is 

Of the sound and of the sight. 
Flowing round in trickling touches', 

With a sorrow and delight; 
Yet is it all in vain ? 

Rock us softly, 
Lest it be all in vain. 
Youthful Voices passiiir/. 
Oh, we live! oh, we live ! 
And this life that we achieve 
Is a loud thing and a bold, 
Which, with pulses manifold, 
Strikes the heart out, full and fain, 
Active doer, noble liver, 

Strong to struggle, sure to conquer, 
Though the vessel's prow will quiver 

At the lifting of the anchor; 
Yet do we strive in vain ? 
Infant Voices passing. 

Rock us softly, 
Lest it be all in vain. 
Poet Voice* passinrj. 
Oh, we live ! oh, we live ! 
And this life that we conceive 
Is a clear thing and a fair, 
Which we set in crystal air 
That its beauty may be plain. 
With a breathing and a flooding 

Of the heaven-life on the whole, 
While we hear the forests budding 

To the music of the soul; 
Yet is it tuned in vain ? 
Infant Voices passin.fi . 

Rock its softly, 
Lest it be all in vain. 
Philosophic Voices passim fi. 
Oh, we live ! oh, we live ! 
And this life that we perceive 
Is a great thing and a grave, 
Which for others' use we have, 
Duty-laden to remain. 
We are helpers, fellow-creatures, 

Of the right against the wrong, 
We are earnest-hearted teachers 

Of the truth which maketh strong; 
Yet do we teach in vain ? 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



203 



Infant Voices passing. 

Rock us softly, 
Lest it be all in vain. 
Jlevel Voices passim/. 
Oh, we live ! oh, we live 1 
And this life that we reprieve 
Is a low thing and a light, 
Which is jested out of sight, 
And made worthy of disdain. 
Strike with bold electric laughter 
The high tops of things divine: 
Turn thy head, my brother, after, 

Lest thy tears fall in my wine; 
For is all laughed in vain ? 
Infant Voices passing. 

Rock us softly, 
Lest it be all in vain. 
Eve. I hear -a sound of life, of life 

like ours, 
Of laughter and of wailing, of grave 

speech, 

Of little plaintive voices innocent, 
Of life in separate courses, flowing 

out 
Like our four rivers to some outward 

main. 

I hear life life! 
Adam. And so thy cheeks have 

snatched 
Scarlet to paleness, and thine eyes 

drink fast 
Of glory from full cups, and thy moist 

lips 
Seem trembling, both of them, with 

earnest doubts 
Whether to utter words, or only 

smile. 

Eve. Shall I be mother of the com- 
ing life ? 
Hear the steep generations, how they 

fall 

Adown the visionary stairs of Time 
Like supernatural thunders, far, yet 

near, 
Sowing their fiery echoes through the 

hills ! 
Am I a cloud to these, mother to 

these ? 

Earth-spirits. And bringer of the 
curse upon all these. 

[EvK sinks down again. 
Poet Voices passing, 
Oh, we live ! oh, we live ! 
And this life that we conceive 
Is a noble thing and high, 
Which we climb up loftily 
To view God without a stain, 
Till, recoiling where the shade is, 
We retread our steps again, 



And descend the gloomy Hades 
To resume man's mortal pain. 
Shall it be climbed in vain ? . 
Infant Voices passinr/. 

Rock us softly, 
Lest it be all in vain. 
Love Voices passing. 
Oh, we live ! oh, we live ! 
And this life we would retrieve 
Is a faithful thing apart 
Which we love in, heart to heart, 
Until one heart fitteth twain. 
" Wilt thou be one with me ? " 
" I will be one with thee." 
" Ha, ha! we love and live ! " 
Alas ! ye love and die. 
Shriek who shall reply ? 
For is it not loved in vain ? 
Infant Voices passing. 

Rock us softly, 
Though it be all in vain. 
Aged Voices passing. 
Oh, we live ! oh, we live 1 
And this life we would sur- 
vive 

Is a gloomy thing and brief, 
Which, consummated in grief, 
Leave th ashes for all gain. 
Is it not all in vain ? 
Infant Voices passing. 

Rock us softly, 
Though it be all in vain. 

[ Voices die away. 
Earth-spirits. And bringer of the 

curse upon all these. 
Eve. The voices of foreshown hu- 
manity 
Die off: so let me die. 

Adam. So let us die, 

When God's will soundeth the right 

hour of death. 
Earth-spirits. And bringer of the 

curse upon all these. 
Eve. O Spirits ! by the gentleness 

ye use 
In winds at night, and floating clouds 

at noon, 

In gliding waters under lily-leaves, 
In chirp of crickets, and the settling 

hush 
A bird makes in her nest with feet 

and wings, 
Fulfil your natures now ! 

Earth-spirits. Agreed, allowed ! 
We gather out our natures like a 

cloud, 

And thus fulfil their lightnings ! 
Thus, and thus ! 

Harken, oh, barken to us ! 





204 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 




First Spirit. 
As the storm-wind blows bleakly 

from the norland, 
As the snow-wind beats blindly on 

the moorland, 
As the simoom drives hot across the 

desert, 
As the thunder roars deep in the 

Unmeasured, 
As the torrent tears the ocean-world 

to atoms, 

As the whirlpool grinds it fathoms 
below fathoms, 

Thus and thus ! 
Second Spirit. 

As the yellow toad, that spits its poi- 
son chilly, 
As the tiger in the jungle crouching 

stilly, 
As the wild boar, with ragged tusks 

of anger, 

As the wolf-dog, with teeth of glitter- 
ing clangor, 
As the vultures, that scream against 

the thunder, 

As the owlets, that sit, and moan 
asunder; 

Thus and thus ! 
Eve. Adam ! God ! 
Adam. Cruel, unrelenting Spirits ! 
By the power in me of the sovran soul, 
Whose thoughts keep pace yet with 

the angel's march, 
I charge you into silence, trample 

you 
Down to obedience. I am king of 

you ! 

Earth-spirits. 
Ha, ha ! thou art king ! 
With a sin for a crown, 
And a soul undone ! 
Thou, the antagonized, 
Tortured, and agonized, 
Held in the ring 
Of the zodiac ! 
Now, king, beware ! 
We are many and strong, 
Whom thou standest among; 
And we press on the air, 
And we stifle thee back, 
And we multiply where 
Thou wouldst trample us down 
From rights of our own 
To an utter wrong. 
And from under the feet of thy 
scorn, 

O forlorn, 

We shall spring up like corn, 
And our stubble be strong. 



Adam. God, there is power in thee 1 

I make appeal 
Unto thy kingship. 
Eve. There is pity in THEE, 

sinned against, great God ! JVly 

seed, my seed, 

There is hope set on THEE, I cry to 
thee, 

Thou mystic Seed that shalt be ! 
leave us not 

In agony beyond what we can bear, 

Fallen in debasement below thunder- 
mark, 

A mark for scorning, taunted and 
perplext 

By all these creatures we ruled yes- 
terday, 

Whom thou, Lord, rulest alway ! O 
my Seed, 

Through the tempestous years that 
rain so thick 

Betwixt my ghostly vision and thy 
face, 

Let me have token ! for rny soul is 
bruised 

Before the serpent's head is. 

[A vision of CHRIST appears in the 
midst of the zodiac, tchic/i palex be- 
fore the heavenly light. The Earth- 
spirit!) grow grayer and fainter. 

CHRIST. I AM HERE ! 

Adam. This is God ! Curse us not, 

God, any more ! 
Eve. But gazing so, so, with om- 

nific eyes, 
Lift my soul upward till it touch thy 

feet ! 
Or lift it only not to seem too 

proud 
To the low height of some good 

angel's feet, 
For such to tread on when he walketh 

straight, 

And thy lips praise him ! 
CHRIST. Spirits of the earth, 

1 meet you with rebuke for the re- 

proach 

And cruel and unmitigated blame 

Ye cast upon your masters. True, 
they have sinned; 

And true their sin is reckoned into 
loss 

For you the sinless. Yet your inno- 
cence, 

Which of you praises? since God 
made your acts 

Inherent in your lives, and bound 
your hands 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



205 



'With instincts and imperious sancti- 
ties 

From self-defacement. Which of 
you disdains 

These sinners, who in falling proved 
their height 

Above you by their liberty to fall ? 

And which of you complains of loss 
by them, 

For whose delight and use ye have 
your life 

And honor in creation ? Ponder it ! 

This regent and sublime Humanity, 

Though fallen, exceeds you ! this 
shall film your sun, 

Shall hunt your lightning to its lair 
of cloud, 

Turn back your rivers, footpath all 
your seas, 

Lay flat your forests, master with a 
look 

Your lion at his fasting, and fetch 
down 

Your eagle flying. Nay, without this 
law 

Of mandom, ye would perish, beast 
by beast 

Devouring, tree by tree, with stran- 
gling roots 

And trunks set tuskwise. Ye would 
gaze on God 

With im perceptive blankness up the 
stars, 

And mutter, " Why, God, hast thou 
made us thus? " 

And, pining to a sallow idiocy, 

Stagger up blindly against the ends 
of life, 

Then stagnate into rottenness, and 
drop 

Heavily poor, dead matter piece- 
meal down 

The abysmal spaces, like a little stone 

Let fall to chaos. Therefore over you 

Receive man's sceptre ! therefore be 
content 

To minister with voluntary grace 

And melancholy pardon every rite 

And function in you to the human 
hand ! 

Be ye to man as angels are to God, 

Servants in pleasure, singers of de- 
light, 

Stiggesters to his soul of higher things 

Than any of your highest ! So at last, 

He shall look round on you with lids 
too straight 

To hold the grateful tears, and thank 
you well, 



And bless you when he prays his 

secret prayers, 
And praise you, when he sings his 

open songs, 
For the clear song-note he has learnt 

in you 

Of purifying sweetness, and extend 
Across your head his golden fantasies 
Which glorify you into soul from 

sense. 
Go, serve him for such price ! That 

not in vain, 

Nor yet ignobly, ye shall serve, I place 
My word here for an oath, mine oath 

for act 
To be hereafter. In the name of 

which 
Perfect redemption and perpetual 

grace 
I bless you through the hope and 

through the peace 
Which are mine, to the love which 

is myself. 
Eve. Speak on still, Christ ! Albeit 

thou bless me not 

In set words, I am blessed in barken- 
ing thee 
Speak, Christ ! 
CHRIST. Speak, Adam ! Bless the 

woman, man. 
It is thine office. 

Adam. Mother of the world, 

Take heart before this Presence ! Lo, 

my voice, 
Which, naming erst the creatures, did 

express 
(God breathing through my breath) 

the attributes 
And instincts of each creature in its 

name, 
Floats to the same afflatus, floats 

and heaves, 
Like a water-weed that opens to a 

wave, 

A full-leaved prophecy affecting thee, 
Out fairly and wide. Henceforward 

arise, aspire 

To all the calms and magnanimities, 
The lofty uses and the noble ends, 
The sanctified devotion and full work, 
To which thou art elect forevermore, 
First woman, wife, and mother ! 
Eve. And first in sin. 

Adam. And also the sole bearer of 

the Seed 

Whereby sin dieth. Raise the majes- 
ties 

Of thy disconsolate brows, O well- 
beloved, 







-..- 206 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



And front with level eyelids the To 

come, 
And all the dark o' the world ! Rise, 

woman, rise 

To thy peculiar and best altitudes 
Of doing good and of enduring ill, 
Of comforting for ill, and teaching 

good, 

And reconciling all that ill and good 
Unto the patience of a constant 

hope, 
Rise with thy daughters ! If sin 

came by thee, 

And by sin, death, the ransom-right- 
eousness 
The heavenly life and compensative 

rest, 
Shall come by means of thee. If woe 

by thee 
Had issue to the world, thou shalt go 

forth 
An angel of the woe thou didst 

achieve, 

Found acceptable to the world instead 
Of others of that name, of whose 

bright steps 
Thy deed stripped bare the hills. Be 

satisfied: 
Something thou hast to bear through 

womanhood, 
Peculiar suffering answering to the 

sin, 
Some pang paid down for each new 

human life, 
Some weariness in guarding such a 

life, 
Some coldness from the guarded, 

some mistrust 
From those thou hast too well served, 

from those beloved 
Too loyally some treason; feebleness 
Within thy heart, and cruelty with- 
out, 

And pressures of an alien tyranny 
With its dynastic reasons of larger 

bones 
And stronger sinews. But go to ! 

thy love 

Shall chant itself its own beatitudes 
After its own life-working. A child's 

kiss 
Set on thy sighing lips shall make 

thee glad; 
A poor man served by thee shall 

make thee rich ; 
A sick man helped by thee shall 

make thee strong; 
Thou shalt be served thyself by every 

sense 



Of service which thou renderest. 
Such a crown 

I set upon thy head, Christ wit- 
nessing 

With looks of prompting love, to 
keep thee clear 

Of all reproach against the sin for- 
gone, 

From all the generations which suc- 
ceed. 

Thy hand which plucked the apple 
I clasp close; 

Thy lips which spake wrong counsel 
I kiss close ; 

I bless thee in the name of Paradise 

And by the memory of Edenic joys 

Forfeit and lost, by that last cy- 
press-tree, 

Green at the gate, which thrilled as 
we came out; 

And by the blessed nightingale which 
threw 

Its melancholy music after us; 

And by the flowers, whose spirits full 
of smells 

Did follow softly, plucking us behind 

Back to the gradual banks, and ver- 
nal bowers, 

And fourfold river-courses. By all 
these 

I bless thee to the contraries of these; 

I bless thee to the desert and the 
thorns, 

To the elemental change and turbu- 
lence, 

And to the roar of the estranged 
beasts, 

And to the solemn dignities of grief, 

To each one of these ends, and to 
their END 

Of death and the hereafter. 
Eve. I accept 

For me and for my daughters this 
high part, 

Which lowly shall be counted. No- 
ble work 

Shall hold me in the place of garden 
rest, 

And, in the place of Eden's lost de- 
light, 

Worthy endurance of permitted pain ; 

While on my longest patience there 
shall wait 

Death's speechless angel, smiling in 
the east 

Whence cometh the cold wind. I 
bow myself 

Humbly henceforward on the ill I 
did, 











xH I 5 ! ' h" 3 !""!"^ 




\ n *) f 

El. A DRAMA OF EXILE. 207 - - 






That humbleness may keep it in the 


God, God, God ! while the rush of life 






shade. 


and death, 






Shall it be so ? Shall I smile, saying 


The roar of act and thought, of evil 






J (. so? 


and good, J5L 






i O Seed ! O King ! O God, who shall 


The avalanches of the ruining worlds ' 






be seed, 


Tolling down space, the new worlds' 






What shall I say ? As Eden's foun- 


genesis 






tains swelled 


Budding in fire, the gradual hum- 






Brightly betwixt their banks, so 


ming growth 






swells my soul 


Of the ancient atoms and first forms 






Betwixt thy love and power. 


of earth, 






And, sweetest thoughts 


The slow procession of the swathing 






Of foregone Eden, now, for the first 


seas 






time 


And firmamental waters, and the 






Since God said " Adam," walking 


noise 






through the trees, 


Of the broad, fluent strata of pure 






I dare to pluck you, as I plucked ere- 


airs, 






while 


All these flow onward in the intervals 






The lily or pink, the rose or helio- 


Of that reiterated sound of Goi> ! 






trope. 


Which WORD innumerous angels 






So pluck I you so largely with 


straightway lift 






both hands, 


Wide on celestial altitudes of song 






And throw you forward on the outer 


And choral adoration, and then drop 






eartli 


The burden softly, shutting the last 






Wherein we are cast out, to sweeten it. 


notes 






Adam. As thou, Christ, to illume it, 


In silver wings. Howbeit, in the 






boldest Heaven 


noon of time 






Broadly over our heads 


Eternity shall wax as dumb as death, 






[The CHRIST is gradually transfigured, 
during the following phrases of dia- 
logue, into humanity and suffering. 


While a new voice beneath the 
spheres shall cry, 
" God ! Why hast thou forsaken me, 








my God?" 






Eve. O Saviour Christ, 


And not a voice in heaven shall an- 






Thou standest mute in glory, like the 


swer it. 






sun ! 
Adam. We worship in thy silence, 


[ The transfiguration is com- 
plete in sadness. 






Saviour Christ. 








Eve. Thy brows grow grander with 


Adam. Thy speech is of the heaven- 






a forecast woe ; 


lies, yet, O Christ, 






Diviner, with the possible of death. 


Awfully human are thy voice and 






We worship in thy sorrow, Saviour 


face ! 






Christ. 


Eve. My nature overcomes me from 






Adam. How do thy clear still eyes 


thine eyes. 






transpierce our souls, 


CHRIST. In the set noon of time 






As gazing ttiroiif/h them, toward the 


shall one from heaven, 






Father-throne 


An angel fresh from looking upon 






In a pathetical, full Deity, 


God, 






Serenely as the stars gaze through the 


Descend before a woman, blessing 






air 


her, 






Straight on each other ! 
Ere. O pathetic Christ, 


With perfect benediction of pure love, 
For all the world in all its elements, 






Thou standest mute in glory, like the 


For all the creatures of earth, air, and 






moon ! 


sea, 






t\ n CHRIST. Eternity stands alway 
fronting God; 


For all men in the body and in the *\ r 
soul, 






A. stern colossal image, with blind 


Unto all ends of glory and sanctity. 






eyes, 


Eve. O pale pathetic Christ, I wor- 






(Lnd grand dim lips that murmur 


ship thee ! 






evermore, 


I thank thee for that woman ! / 






1 . Jt 













208 



A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



CHKIST. Then at last, 

I, wrapping round me your human- 
ity, 
Which, being sustained, shall neither 

break nor burn 
Beneath the fire of Godhead, will 

tread earth, 
And ransom you and it, and set 

strong peace 
Betwixt you and its creatures. With 

rny pangs 
I will confront your sins; and, since 

those sins 
Have sunken to all Nature's heart 

from yours, 

The tears of my clean soul shall fol- 
low them, 

And set a holy passion to work clear 
Absolute consecration. In my brow 
Of kingly whiteness shall be crowned 

anew 
Your discrowned human nature. 

Look on me ! 

As I shall be uplifted on a cross 
In darkness of eclipse and anguish 

dread, 
So shall I lift up in my pierced 

hands, 
Not into dark, but light; not unto 

death, 
But life, beyond the reach of guilt 

and grief, 
The whole creation. Henceforth in 

my name 
Take courage, O thou woman, man, 

take hope ! 
Your grave shall be as smooth as 

Eden's sward 
Beneath the steps of your prospective 

thoughts, 

And, one step past it, a new Eden- 
gate 

Shall open on a hinge of harmony, 
And let you through to mercy. Ye 

shall fall 
No more within that Eden, nor pass 

out 
Any more from it. In which hope, 

move on, 
First sinners and first mourners. 

Live and love, 

Doing both nobly, because lowlily; 
Live and work, strongly, because pa- 
tiently ! 
And, for the deed of death, trust it to 

God 

That it be well done, unrepented of, 
And not to loss. And thence with 

constant prayers 



Fasten your souls so high, that con- 

tantly 
The smile of your heroic cheer may 

float 

Above all floods of earthly agonies, 
Purification being the joy of pain ! 

[The vision of CHRIST vanishes. ADAM 
and EVE stand in an ecstasy. The 
earth-zodiac pales aicay shade by 
shade, as the stars, star by star, 
shine out in the sky; and the fol- 
lowing chant from the tico Earth- 
spirits (as they sweep back into the 
zodiac, and disappear with, it} ac- 
companies the process of change. 

Earth-spirits. 
By the mighty word thus spoken 

Both for living and for dying, 
We our homage oath, once broken, 

Fasten back again in sighing, 
And the creatures and the elements 
renew their covenanting. 

Here forgive us all our scorning; 

Here we promise milder duty; 

And the evening and the morning 

Shall re-organize in beauty 
A sabbath day of sabbath joy, for 
universal chanting. 

And if, still, this melancholy 

May be strong to overcome us ; 
If this mortal and unholy 

We still fail to cast out from us; 
If we turn upon you xinaware your 
own dark "influences; 

If ye tremble when surrounded 

By our forest pine and palm trees; 
If we cannot cure the wounded 
With our guru- trees and our balm- 
trees ; 

And if your souls all mournfully sit 
down among your senses, 

Yet, O mortals dp not fear us 1 

We are gentle in our languor; 
Much more good ye shall have near 

us 

Than any pain or anger, 
And our God's refracted blessing in 
our blessing shall be given. 

By the desert's endless vigil 

We will solemnize your passions; 
By the wheel of the black eagle 
We will teach you exaltations, 
When he sails against the wind, to 
the white spot up in heaven. 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



209 



Ye shall find us tender nurses 

To your weariness of nature, 
And our hands shall stroke the 

curse's 

/ Dreary furrows from the creature, 
Till your bodies shall lie smooth in 
death, and straight and sluin- 
berful. 

Then a couch we will provide you 
"Where no summer heats shall 

dazzle, 
Strewing on you and beside you 

Thyme ami rosemary and basil, 
And the yew-tree shall grow over- 
head to keep all safe and cool. 

Till the Holy Blood awaited 

Shall be chrism around us run- 
ning, 

"Whereby, newly consecrated, 
We shall leap up in God's sun- 
ning, 

To join the spheric company which 
purer worlds assemble ; 

"While, renewed by new evangels, 
Soul-consummated, made glori- 
ous, 

Ye shall brighten past the angels, 
Ye shall kneel to Christ victori- 
ous, 

And the rays around his feet beneath 
your sobbing lips shall trem- 

[Tlie phantasttic vision hail all paused ; 
the earth-zodiac has broken like a 
belt, and is dissolved from the des- 
ert. The Earth-spirits vanish, and 
Hie stars shine uut above. 



CHORUS OF INVISIBLE AXGELS, 

While ADAM and EVE advance into the 
desert, hand in hand. 

Hear our heavenly promise 

Through your mortal passion ! 
Love ye shall have from us, 

In a pure relation. 
As a fish or bird 

Swims or flies, if moving, 
"We unseen are heard 

To live on by loving. 
Far above the'glances 

Of your eager eyes, 
Listen ! we are loving. 
Listen, through man's ignorances, 
Listen, through God's mysteries, 



Listen, down the heart of things, 
Ye shall hear our mystic wings 
Murmurous with loving. 

Through the opal door 

Listen evermore 

How we live by loving ! 
First semichorus. 
When your bodies therefore 

Reach the grave, their goal, 
Softly will we care for 

Each enfranchised soul. 
Softly and unloathly, 

Through the door of opal, 

Toward the heavenly people, 
Floated on a minor fine 
Into the full chant divine, 

We will draw you smoothly, 
While the human in the minor 
Makes the harmony diviner. 

Listen to our loving ! 
Second semichorus. 
There, a sough of glory 

Shall breathe on you as you come, 
Rufliing round the doorway 

All the light of angeldom. 
From the empyrean centre 

Heavenly voices shall repeat, 
" Souls, redeemed and pardoned, 
enter, 

For the chrism on you is sweet." 
And every angel in the place 
Lowlily shall bow his face, 

Folded fair on softened sounds, 
Because upon your hands and feet 

He images his Master's wounds. 

Listen to our loving ! 
First semichorus. 
So, in the universe's 

Consummated undoing, 
Our seraphs of white mercies 

Shall hover round the ruin. 
Their wings shall stream upon the 

flame 
As if incorporate of the same 

In elemental fusion; 
And calm their faces shall burn out 
With a pale and mastering thought, 
And a steadfast looking of desire 
From out between the clefts of fire, 
While they cry, in the Holy's name, 

To the final Restitution. 

Listen to our loving ! 
Second semichorus. 
So, when the day of God is 

To the thick graves accompted, 
Awaking the dead bodies, 

The angel of the trumpet 
Shall split and shatter the earth. 

To the roots of the grave 






A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



"Which never before were slackened, 

And quicken the charnel birth 
"With his blast so clear and brave 
That the dead shall start, and 

stand erect, 
And every face of the bnrial-place 
Shall the awful single look reflect 
Wherewith he them awakened. 

Listen to our loving ! 
r'irst semichorus. 
But wild is the horse of Death. 
He will leap up wild at the clamor 
Above and beneath. 
And where is his Tamer 
On that last day, 
When he crieth, Ha, ha! 
To the trumpet's blare, 
And paweth the earth's Aceldama? 
When he tosseth his head, 
The drear-white steed, 
And ghastlily champeth the last 

moon-ray, 
What angel there 
Can lead him away, 
That the living may rule for the 

dead? 

Second semichonis. 
Yet a TAMER shall be found! 
One more bright than seraph 

crowned, 

And more strong than cherub bold, 
Elder, too, than angel old, 
By his gray eternities. 
He shall master and surprise 

The steed of Death. 
For he is strong, and he is fain : 
He shall quell him with a breath, 
And shall lead him where he will, 
With a whisper in the ear, 

Full of fear, 
And a hand upon the mane, 

Grand and still. 
First semichorus. 
Through the flats of Hades, where the 

souls assemble, 
He will guide the Death-steed calm 

between their ranks, 
While, like beaten dogs, they a little 

moan and tremble 
To see the darkness curdle from the 

horse's glittering flanks. 
Through the flats of Hades, where the 

dreary shade is, 
Up the steep of heaven, will the Tamer 

guide the steed, 
Up the spheric circles, circle above 

circle 

We who count the ages shall count 
the tolling tread; 



Every hoof-fall striking a blinder, 

blanker sparkle 
From the stony orbs, which shall show 

as they were dead. 
Second semichonis. 

All the way the Death-steed with toll- 
ing hoofs shall travel; 
Ashen gray the planets shall be mo- 
tionless as stones; 
Loosely shall the systems eject their 

parts coeval ; 
Stagnant in the spaces shall float the 

pallid moons: 
Suns that touch their apogees, reeling 

from their level, 
Shall run back on their axles in wild, 

low, broken tunes. 
Cftorue. 
Up against the arches of the crystal 

ceiling, 
From the horse's nostrils, shall steam 

the blurting breath; 
Up between the angels pale with si- 
lent feeling, 
Will the Tamer calmly lead the horse 

of Death. 
Semi-chorus. 
Cleaving all that silence, cleaving all 

that glory, 
Will the Tamer lead him straightway 

to the Throne; 
Look out, O Jehovah, to this I bring 

before thee, 
With a hand nail-pierced, I who am 

thy Son." 
Then the Eye Divinest, from the 

Deepest, flaming, 
On the mystic courser shall look out 

in fire : 
Blind the beast shall stagger where it 

overcame him, 
Meek as lamb at pasture, bloodless in 

desire. 
Down the beast shall shiver, slain 

amid the taming, 
And by life essential the phantasm 

Death expire. 
Chorus. 
Listen, man, through life and 

death, 
Through the dust and through the 

breath ; 

Listen down the heart of things! 
Ye shall hear our mystic wings 

Murmurous with loving. 
A Voi<-e from below. Gabriel, thou 

Gabriel ! 

A Voice from above. What wouldst 
thou with me ? 







A DRAMA OF EXILE. 



211 



First Voice. I heard thy voice sound 

in the angels' song, 
And I would give thee question. 
Second Voice. Question me ! 
First Voice. Why have I called 

thrice to iny morning star, 
And had no answer? All the stars 

are out, 

Andanswerin their places. Only in vain 
I cast my voice against the outer rays 
Of mi/ star shut in light behind the sun. 
No more reply than from a breaking 

string, 
Breaking when touched. Or is she 

not my star ? 
Where is my star, my star? Have 

ye cast down 
Her glory like my glory? Has she 

waxed 
Mortal, like Adam? Has she learnt 

to hate 
Like any angel ? 

Second Voice. She is sad for thee. 
All things grow sadder to thee, one 

by one. 
Amjcl Chorus. 
Live, work on, O Earthy ! 
By the Actual's tension 
Speed the arrow worthy 

Of a pure ascension ; 
From the low earth round you 
Reach the heights above you; 
From the stripes that wound you 

Seek the loves that love you. 
God s divinest burneth plain 
Through the crystal diaphane 
Of our loves that love you. 
First Voice. Gabriel, O Gabriel ! 
Second Voice. What wouldst thou 

with me. ? 
First Voice. Is it true, O thou Ga- 
briel, that the crown 
Of sorrow which I claimed, another 

claims? 

That HE claims THAT too ? 
Second Voice. Lost one, it is true. 
First Voice. That HE will be an ex- 
ile from his heaven 
To lead those exiles homeward ? 
' Second Voice. It is true 

First Voice. That HE will be an ex- 
ile by his will, 
As I by mine election ? 
Second Voice. It is true 

First Voice. That /shall stand sole 

exile finally, 
Made desolate for fruition ? 
Second Voice. It is true. 

First Voice. Gabriel ! 



Second Voice. I hearken. 

First Voice. Is it true besides, 

Aright true, that mine orient star 

will give 
Her name of " Bright and Morning 

Star" to HIM, 

And take the fairness of his virtue back 
To cover loss and sadness ? 
Second Voice. It is true. 

First. Voice. Uxtrue, Ustrue ! O 

Morning Star, O MINE, 
Who sittest secret in a veil of light 
Far up the starry spaces, say Untrue! 
Speak but so loud as doth a wasted 

moon 
To Tyrrhene waters. I am Lucifer. 

[A pause. Silence in the stars. 
All things grow sadder to me, one by 

one. 

Ant/cl Chorus 
Exiled human creatures, 

Let your hope grow larger, 
Larger grows the vision 

Of the new delight. 
From this chain of Nature's 

God is the Discharger, 
And the Actual's prison 

Opens fo your sight. 
Scmichorus. 
Calm the stars and golden 

In a light exceeding: 
What their rays have measured 

Let your feet fulfil ! 
These are stars beholden 
By your eyes in Eden ; 
Yet across the desert, 

See them shining still ! 
Chorus. 
Future joy and far light, 

Working such relations, 
Hear us singing gently, 

Exiltd is not lost .' 
God, above the starlight, 

God, above the patience, 
Shall at last present ye 

Guerdons worth the cost. 
Patiently enduring, 

Painfully surrounded, 
Listen how we love you, 

Hope the uttermost ! 
Waiting for that curing 

Which exalts the wounded, 
Hear us sing above you 
EXILED, BI : T NOT LOST ! 
[The stars shine on brightly while ADAM 
and ETE pursue their way into the 
far tcilderness. There is a sound 
through the. silence, an of the falling 
team of an angel. 






THE SERAPHIM. 



' I look for Angels' songs, and hear Him cry." 

GILES FLETCIIBB. 



PART THE FIRST. 

[It in the lime of the crucifixion; and 
the angels of heaven have departed 
toward* the earth, except the two 
seraphim, ADOK the Strong, and 
ZERAH the Bright One. 

The place is the outer side of the shut 
heavenly gate.] 

Ador. O SERAPH, pause no more ! 
Beside this gate of heaveii we stand 

alone. 

Zerah. Of heaven ! 
Ador. Our brother-hosts are gone 
Zerah. Are gone before* 
Ador. And the golden harps the 

angels bore, 

To help the songs of their desire, 
Still burning from their hands of 

fire, 

Lie, without touch or tone, 
Upon the glass-sea shore. 
Zerah. Silent upon the glass-sea 

shore ! 
Ador. There the Shadow from the 

throne, 

Formless with infinity, 
Hovers o'er the crystal sea 

Awfuller than light derived, 
And red with those primeval heats 

Whereby all life has lived. 
Zerah. Our visible God, our heav- 
enly seats I 
Ador. Beneath us sinks the pomp 

angelical, 
Cherub and seraph, powers and 

virtues, all, 
The roar of whose descent has 

died 

Toastill sound, as thunderinto rain. 
Immeasurable space spreads, 

magnified 
With that thick life, along the 

plane 
The worlds slid out on. What a 

fall 
212 



And eddy of wings innumerous, 

crossed 
By trailing curls that have not 

lost 
The glitter of the God-smile 

shed 

On every prostrate angel's head! 
What gleaming-lip of hands 

that rling 

Their homage in retorted rays, 
From high instinct of worship- 
ping. 

And habitude of praise ! 
Zerah. Rapidly they drop below us. 
Pointed palm, and wing, and 

hair 

Indistinguishable, show us 
Only pulses in the air 
Throbbing with a fiery beat, 
As if a new creation heard 
Some divine and plastic word, 
And, trembling at its new-found 

being, 

Awakened at our feet. 
Ador. Zerah, do not wait for seeing ! 
His voice, his, that thrills us so 
As we our harpstrings, uttered Go, 
Behold the Holy in his woe ! 
And all are gone, save thee and 
Zerah. Thee ! 

Ador. I stood the nearest to the 

throne, 

In hierarchical degree, 
What time the Voice said Go .' 
And whether I was moved alone 
By the storm-pathos of the tone 
Which swept through heaven the 

alien name of woe, 
Or whether the subtle glory broke 
Through my strong and shielding 

wings, 

Bearing to my finite essence 
Incapacious of their presence, 

Infinite imaginings, 
None knoweth save the Throned who 
spoke ; 







THE SERAPHIM. 



213 



But I, who at creation stood upright, 
Aud heard the God-breath move 
Shaping the words that lightened, 

"Be there light," 
Nor trembled but with love, 
Now fell down shudderingly, 
My face upon the pavement whence I 

had towered, 
As if in mine immortal overpowered 

By God's eternity. 
Zerah. Let me wait ! let me wait ! 
Ador. Nay, gaze not backward 

through the gate ! 
God fills our heaven with God's own 

solitude 

Till all the pavements glow. 
Ilis Godhead being no more subdued 
By itself, to glories low 

Which seraphs can sustain, 
"What if thou, in gazing so, 
Shouldst behold but only one 
Attribute, the veil undone, 
Even that to which we dare to press 
Nearest for its gentleness, 

Ay, his love 1 

How the deep ecstatic pain 
Thy being's strength would capture ! 
Without language for the rapture, 
Without music strong to come 

And set the adoration free, 
For ever, ever, wouldst thou be 
Ainid the general chorus dumb, 
God-stricken to seraphic agony. 
Or, brother, what if on thine eyes 

In vision bare should rise 
The life-fount whence his hand did 

gather 

With solitary force 
Our immortalities I 
Straightway how thine own would 

wither, 

Falter like a human breath, 
And shrink into a point like death, 
By gazing on its source ! 
My words have imaged dread. 
Meekly hast thou bent thine head, 
And dropt thy wings in languish- 

ment 

Overclouding foot and face, 
As if God's throne were eminent 
Before thee in the place. 
Yet not not so, 
O loving spirit and meek, dost thou 

fulfil 

The supreme Will. 
Not for obeisance, but obedience, 
Give motion to thy wings I Depart 

from hence I 
The Voice said, "Go! 



Zerah. Beloved, I depart. 
His will is as a spirit within my spirit, 
A portion of the being I inherit. 
His will is mine obedience. I resem- 
ble 

A flame all undefiled, though it trem- 
ble: 
I go and tremble. Love me, O beloved ! 

O thou, who stronger art, 
And standest ever near the Infinite, 

Pale with the light of Light, 
Love me, beloved ! me, more newly 

made, 

More feeble, more afraid, 
And let me hear with mine thy pin- 
ions moved, 

As close and gentle as the loving are, 
That, love being near, heaven may 

not seem so far. 

Ador. I am near thee, and I love thee. 
Were I loveless, from, thee gone, 
Love is round, beneath, above 

thee, 

God, the omnipresent one. 
Spread the wing, and lift the brow! 
Well-beloved, what fearest thou ? 
Zerah. I fear, I fear 
Ador. What fear ? 

Zerah. The fear of earth. 

Ador. Of earth, the God-created, 

and God-praised 
In the hour of birth ? 
Where every night the moon in light 
Doth lead the waters silver-faced ? 

Where every day the sun doth lay 
A rapture to the heart of all 
The leafy and reeded pastoral, 
As if the joyous shout which burst 
From angel lips to see him first 
Had left a silent echo in his ray ? 
Zerah. Of earth, the God-created 

and God-curst, 

Where man is, and the thorn ; 
Where sun and moon have borne 
No light to souls forlorn; 
Where Eden's tree of life no more 

uprears 
Its spiral leaves and fruitage, but 

instead 
The yew-tree bows its melancholy 

head, 
And all the undergrasses kills and 

sears. 

Ador. Of earth the weak, 
Made and unmade ? 
Where men that faint do strive for 

crowns that fade ? 

Where, having won the profit which 
they seek, 






214 



THE SERAPHIM. 



They lie beside the sceptre and the 

gold 
With tteshless hands that cannot 

wield or hold, 

And the stars sliine in their unwink- 
ing eyes ? 
Zerah. Of earth the bold, 

Where the blind matter wrings 
An awful potence out of impotence, 
Bowing the spiritual things 
To the things of sense; 
Where the human will replies 
With ay and no, 
Because the human pulse is quick or 

slow; 

Where Love succumbs to Change, 
With only his own memories, for re- 
venge. 

And the i'earful mystery 
Adoi: Called Death ? 

Zerah. Nay, death is fearful; but 

who saith 

" To die," is comprehensible. 
What's fearfuller, thou knoweat well, 
Though the utterance be not for thee, 
Lest it blanch thy lips from glory 
Ay ! the cursed thing that moved 
A shadow of ill, long time ago, 
Across our heaven's own shining 

floor, 
And when it vanished some who 

were 

On thrones of holy empire there, 
Did reign were seen were never 

more. 

Come nearer, O beloved ! 
Ador. I am near thee. Didst thou 

bear thee 
Ever to this earth ? 

Zerah. Before. 

When thrilling from his hand along 
Its lustrous path with spheric song 
The earth was deathless, sorrowless. 
Unfearing, then, pure feet might 

press 
The grasses brightening with their 

feet, 
For God's own voice did mix its 

sound 

In a solemn confluence oft 
With the rivers' flowing rouml, 
And the life-tree's waving soft. 
Beautiful new earth and strange ! 
Ador. Hast thou seen it since the 

change ? 
Zerah. Nay, or wherefore should I 

fear 

To look upon it now ? 
I have beheld the ruined things 



Only in depicturings 

Of angels from an earthly mission. 

Strong one, even upon thy brow, 

When, with task completed, given 

Back to us in that transition, 

I have beheld thee silent stand, 

Abstracted in the seraph band, 
Without a smile in heaven. 
Ador. Then thou wast not one of 
those 

Whom the loving Father chose 

In visionary pomp to sweep 

O'er Judaea's grassy places, 

O'er the shepherds and the sheep, 

Though thou art so tender, dim-, 
ming 

All the stars except one star 

With their brighter, kinder faces ? 

And using heaven's own tune in 
hymning, 

While deep response from earth's own 
mountains ran, 

" Peace upon earth, good-will to 

man." 

Zerah. " Glory to God." I said 
amen afar. 

And those who from that earthly mis- 
sion are. 
Within mine ears have told 

That the seven everlasting Spirits did 
hold 

With such a sweet and prodigal con- 
straint 

The meaning yet the mystery of the 
song 

What time they sang it, on their na- 
tures strong, 

That, gazing down on earth's dark 
steadfastness, 

And speaking the new peace in prom- 
ises, 

The love and pity made their voices 
faint 

Into the low and tender music, keep- 
ing 

The place in heaven of what on earth 

is weeping. 
Ador. Peace upon earth. Come 

down to it. 
Zerah. Ah me ! 

I hear thereof uncomprehendingly. 

Peace where the tempest, where the 
sighing is, 

And worship of the idol, 'stead of 

His? 

Ador. Yea, peace, where He is. 
Zerah. He ! 

Say it again. 
Ador. Where He is. 






THE SERAPHIM. 



215 



Zera/i. Can it be 

That earth retains a tree 
Whose leaves like Eden foliage can 

be swayed 
By the breathing of His voice, nor 

shrink and fade ? 
Ador. There is a tree ! it hath no 

leaf nor root; 

Upon it hangs a curse for all its fruit: 
Its shadow on His head is laid. 
For He, the crowned Son, 
Has left his crown and throne, 
Walks earth in Adam's clay, 
Eve's snake to bruise and slay 
Zerah. Walks earth in clay ? 
Ador. And, walking in the clay 

which lie created, 
He through it shall touch death. 
What do I utter ? what conceive ? did 

breath 

Of demon howl it in a blasphemy ? 
Or was it mine own voice, informed, 

dilated 
By the seven confluent Spirits Speak 

answer me 1 

Who said man's victim was his deity ? 
Zerah. Beloved, beloved, the word 

came forth from thee. 
Thine eyes are rolling a tempestuous 

light 

Above, below, around, 
As putting thunder questions without 

cloud, 

Reverberate without sound, 
To universal nature's depth and 

height. 

The tremor of an inexpressive thought 

Too self-amazed to shape itself aloud 

O'erruns the awful curving of thy lips ; 

And while thine hands are stretched 

above, 

As newly they had caught 
Some lightning from the throne, or 

showed the Lord 
Some retributive sword, 
Thy brows do alternate with wild 

eclipse 
And radiance, with contrasted wrath 

and love, 
As God had called thee to a 

seraph's part, 

With a man's quailing heart. 
Ador. O heart, O heart of man! 

O ta'en from human clay 
To be no seraph's, but Jehovah's 

own ! 

Made holy in the taking, 
And yet unseparate 
From death's perpetual ban, 



And human feelings sad and passion- 
ate; 

Still subject to the treacherous for- 
saking 

Of other hearts, and its own steadfast 
pain. 

O heart of man of God! which God 
has ta'en 

From out the dust, with its humanity 

Mournful and weak, yet innocent, 
around it, 

And bade its many pulses beating 
lie 

Beside that incommunicable stir 

Of Deity wherewith he interwound it. 

O man ! and is thy nature so defiled 

That all that holy heart's devout law- 
keeping, 

And low pathetic beat in deserts wild, 

And gushings pitiful of tender weej>- 
ing 

For traitors who consigned it to such 
woe, 

That all could cleanse thee not, with- 
out the flow 

Of blood, the life-blood His and 
streaming so ? 

O earth the thundercleft, windshaken, 
where 

The louder voice of " blood and 
blood" doth rise, 

Hast thou an altar for this sacrifice ? 
O heaven ! O vacant throne ! 

crowned hierarchies that wear your 

crown 

When his is put away I. 
Are ye unshamed that ye cannot dim 
Your alien brightness to be liker him, 
Assume a human passion, and down- 
lay 
Your sweet secureness for congenial 

fears, 

And teach your cloudless ever-burn- 
ing eyes 

The mystery of his tears ? 
Zerah. I am strong, I am strong, 
Were I never to see my heaven again, 

1 would wheel to earth like the tem- 

pest rain 
Which sweeps there with an exultant 

sound 
To lose its life as it reaches the 

ground. 

I am strong, I am strong. 
Away from mine inward v'sion swim 
The shining seats of my heavenly 

birth, 

I see but his, I see but him 
The Maker's steps on his cruel earth. 






216 




THE SERAPHIM. 



Will the bitter herbs of earth grow 

sweet 

To me, as trodden by his feet ? 
Will the vexed accurst humanity, 
As worn by him, begin to he 
A blessed, 'yea, a sacred thing, 
For love and awe and ministering? 

I am strong, I am strong. 
By our angel ken shall we survey 
His loving smile through his woful 

clay ? 

I am swift, I am strong, 
The love is bearing me along. 
Ador. One love is bearing us along. 



PART THE SECOXD. 

[Mid-air, above Judaa. ADOB and ZE- 
KAH are a little apart from the visi- 
ble angelic hosts.] 

Ador. BELOVED, dost thou see ? 
Zcrah. Thee thee. 

Thy burning eyes already are 
Grown wild and mournful as a 

star 

Whose occupation is for aye 
To look upon the place of clay 

Whereon thou lookest now. 
Thy crown is fainting on thy brow 
To'thc likeness of a cloud, 
The forehead's self a little bowed 
From its aspect high and holy, 
As it would in meekness meet 
Some seraphic melancholy: 
Thy very wings that lately flung 
An outline clear do flicker here 
And wear to each a shadow hung, 

Dropped across thy feet. 
In these strange contrasting 

glooms 

Stagnant with the scent of tombs, 
Seraph faces, O my brother, 
Show awfully to one another. 
Ador. Dost thou see ? 
Zerah, Even so: I see 

Our empyreal company, 
Alone the memory of their bright- 
ness 

Left in them, as in thee. 
The circle upon circle, tier on tier, 
Piling earth's hemisphere 
With heavenly infiniteness, 

Above us and around, 
Straining the whole horizon like a 
bow: 



Their songful lips divorced from all 

sound, 
A darkness gliding down their silvery 

glances, 

Bowing their steadfast solemn counte- 
nances 
As if they heard God speak, and could 

not glow. 
Ador. Look downward ! dost thou 

see ? 
Zerah. And wouldst thou press that; 

vision on my words ? 
Doth not earth speak enough 
Of change and of undoing, 
Without a seraph's witness ? Oceans! 

rough 

With tempest, pastoral swards 
Displaced by fiery deserts, mountains 

ruing 

The bolt fallen yesterday, 
That shake their piny heads, as who 

would say 

" We are too beautiful for our de- 
cay " 
Shall seraphs speak of these things ? 

Let alone 

Earth to her earthly moan ! 
Voice of all things. Is there no moan 

but hers ? 

Ador. Hearest thou the attestation 
Of the roused universe 
Like a desert lion shaking 
Dews of silence from its mane ? 
With an irrepressive passion 

Uprising at once, 
Rising up and forsaking 
Its solemn state in the circle of suns, 

To attest the pain 
Of him who stands (O patience 

sweet !) 
In his own handprints of creation, 

With human feet ? 
Voice of all things. Is there no 

moan but ours ? 
Zerah. Forms, Spaces, Motions 

wide, 

O meek, insensate things, 
O congregated matters ! who inherit 
Instead of vital powers, 
Impulsions God-supplied; 
Instead of influent spirit, 
A clear informing beauty; 
Instead of creature-duty 
Submission calm as rest. 
Lights, without feet or wings, 
In golden courses sliding ! 
Glooms, stagnantly subsiding, 
Whose lustrous heart away was prest 
Into the argent stars 1 







THE SERAPHTM. 



217 



Ye crystal, firmamental bars 
That hold the skyey waters free 
From tide or tempest's ecstasy ! 
Airs universal ! thunders lorn 
That wait your lightnings in cloud- 
cave 

Hewn out by the winds ! O brave 
And subtle elements ! the Holy 
Hath charged me by your voice 

with folly. 1 
Enough, the mystic arrow leaves its 

wound. 

Return ye to your silences inborn. 
Or to your inarticulated sound. 
Ador. Zerah! 
Zerah. Wilt thou rebuke ? 
God hath rebuked me, brother. I am 

weak. 
Ador. Zerah, my brother Zerah ! 

could I speak 
Of thee, 'twould be of love to thee. 

Zerah. Thy look 

Is fixed on earth, as mine upon thy 

face. 
Where shall I seek His ? 

I have thrown 

One look upon earth, but one, 
Over the blue mountain lines, 
Over the forests of palms and pines, 
Over the harvest-lands golden, 
Over the valleys that fold in 
The gardens and vines 

He is not there. 
All these are unworthy 
Those footsteps to bear, 

Before which, bowing down 
I would fain quench the stars of my 

crown 

In the dark of the earthy. 
Where shall I seek him ? 

No reply ? 
Hath language left thy lips, to place 

Its vocal in thine eye ? 
Ador, Ador ! are we come 
To a double portent, that 
Dumb matter grows articulate, 
And songful seraphs dumb ? 
Ador, Ador ! 

Ador. I constrain 

The passion of my silence. None 
Of those places gazed upon 
Are gloomy enow to fit his pain. 
Unto Him whose forming word 
Gave to nature flower and sward, 
She hath given back again 

For the myrtle, the thorn, 
For the sylvan calm, the human scorn. 
1 "His angels he charged with folly." 
JOB iv. 18. 



Still, still, reluctant seraph, gaze be- 
neath ! 
There is a city 

Zerah. Temple and tower, 

Palace and purple, would droop like a 

flower, 

(Or a cloud at our breath) 
If He neared in his state 
The outermost gate. 
Ador. Ah me, not so 

In the state of a king did the victim 

go ! 
And THOU who hangest mute of 

speech 

'Twixt heaven and earth, with fore- 
head yet 

Stained by the bloody sweat, 
God I man ! thou hast forgone thy 

throne in each. 

Zerah. Thine eyes behold him ! 
Ador. Yea, below. 

Track the gazing of mine eyes, 
Naming God within thine heart 
That its weakness may depart, 

And the vision rise ! 
Seest thou yet, beloved ? 
Zerah. I see 

Beyond the city, crosses three, 
And mortals three that hang there- 
on 

'Ghast and silent to the sun. 
Round them blacken and welter 

and'press 

Staring multitudes whose father 
Adam was, whose brows are dark 
With his Cain's corroded mark, 
Who curse with looks. Nay let 

me rather 

Turn unto the wilderness ! 
Ador. Turn not ! God dwells with 

men. 

Zerah. Above 

He dwells with angels, and they love. 
Can these love? With the living's 

pride 
They stare at those who die, who 

hang 
In their sight and die. They bear 

the streak 
Of the crosses' shadow, black not 

wide, 
To fall on their heads, as it swerves 

aside 
When the A'ictims' pang 

Makes the dry wood creak. 
Ador. The cross the cross ! 
Zerah. A woman kneels 

The mid cross under, 
With white lips asunder, 






... 218 




THE SERAPHIM. 



And motion on each. 
They throb as she feels, 
With a spasm, not a speech; 
And her lids, close as sleep, 
Are less calm, for the eyes 
Have made room there to weep 
Droj) on drop 

Ador. Weep? Weep blood, 

All women, all men ! 
He sweated it, He, 
For yonr pale womanhood 
And base manhood. Agree 
That these water-tears, then, 
Are vain, mocking like laugh- 
ter. 

Weep blood ! Shall the flood 
Of salt curses, whose foam is the 

darkness, on roll 
Forward, on from the strand of the 

storm-beaten years, 
And back from the rocks of the hor- 
rid hereafter, 
And up in a coil from the present's 

wrath-spring, 
Yea, down from the windows of 

heaven opening, 
Deep calling to deep as they meet on 

His soul 

And men weep only tears ? 
Zerah. Little drops in the lapse 1 
And yet, Ador, perhaps 
It is all that they can. 
Tears ! the lovingest man 
Has no better bestowed 
Upon man. 

Ador. Nor on God. 

Zerah. Do all-givers need gifts ? 
If the Giver said " Give," the first 

motion would slay 
Our Immortals, the echo would ruin 

away 
The same worlds which he made. 

Why, what angel uplifts 
Such a music, so clear, 
It may seem in God's ear 
Worth more than a woman's hoarse 

weeping ? And thus, 
Pity tender as tears I above thee 

would speak, 
Thou woman that weepest ! weep un- 

scorned of us ! 
I, the tearless and pure, am but loving 

and weak. 
Ador. Speak low, my brother, low, 

and not of love 

Or human or angelic ! Bather stand 
Before the throne of that Supreme 

above, 
In whose infinitude the secrecies 



Of thine own being lie hid, and lift 

thine hand 
Exultant, saying, "Lord God, I am 

wise ! " 
Than utter here, " I love." 

Zerah. And yet thine eyes 

Do utter it. They melt in tender 

light, 

The tears of heaven. 
Ador. Of heaven. Ah, me ! 

Zerah. Ador ! 
Ador. Say on ! 

Zerah, The crucified are three. 

Beloved, they are unlike. 
Ador. Unlike. 

Zerah. For one 

Is as a man who has sinned, and 

still 

Doth wear the wicked will, 
The hard, malign life-energy, 
Tossed outward, in the parting soul's 

disdain, 
On brow and lip that cannot change 

again. 

Ador. And one 

Zerah. Has also sinned. 

And yet (O marvel !) doth the Spirit- 
wind 
Blow white those waters ? Death 

upon his face 

Is rather shine than shade, 
A tender shine by looks beloved 

made: 

He seemeth dying in a quiet place, 
And less by iron wounds in hands 

and feet 

Than heart-broke by new joy too sud- 
den and sweet. 
Ador. And ONE ! 
Zerah. And ONE ! 
Ador. Why dost thou pause ? 

Zerah. God ! God ! 

Spirit of my spirit ! who inovest 
Through seraph veins in burning 

deity 
To light the quenchless pulses ! 

Ador. But hast trod 

The depths of love in thy peculiar 

nature, 
And not in any thou hast made and 

lovest 
In narrow seraph hearts ! 

Zerah. Above, Creator ! 

Within, Upholder ! 

Ador. And below, below, 

The creature's and the upholden's 

sacrifice ! 

Zerah. Why do I pause ? 
Ador. There is a ailentness 







THE SERAPHIM. 



219 



That answers thee enow, 

That, like a brazen sound 

Excluding others, doth ensheathe us 

round: 
Hear it. It is not from the visible 

skies, 

Though they are still, 
Unconscious that their own dropped 

dews express 
The light of heaven on every earthly 

hill. 
It is not from the hills, though calm 

and bare 

They, since their first creation, 
Through midnight cloud or morning's 

glittering air, 
Or the deep deluge blindness, toward 

the place 
Whence thrilled the mystic word's 

creative grace, 

And whence again shall come 
The word that uncreates, 
Have lift their brows in voiceless ex- 
pectation. 

It is not from the places that en- 
tomb 
Man's dead, though common Silence 

there dilates 

Her soul to grand proportions, wor- 
thily 

To fill life's vacant room. 
Not there not there. 
Not yet within those chambers licth 

He, 
A dead one in his living world; his 

south 
And west winds blowing over earth 

and sea, 
And not a breath on that creating 

mouth. 

But now a silence keeps 
(Not death's, nor sleep's) 
The lips whose whispered word 
Might roll the thunders round rever- 
berated. 

Silent art thou, O my Lord, 
Bowing down thy stricken head ! 
Fearest thou a groan of thine 
"Would make the pulse of thy crea- 
tion fail 
As thine own pulse? would rend 

the veil 

Of visible things, and let the flood 
Of the unseen Light, the essential 

God, 

Rush in to whelm the undivine ? 
Thy silence, to my thinking, is as 

dread. 
Zerah. O silence ! 




Ador. Doth it say to thee 

the NAME, 
Slow-learning seraph ? 
Zerah. I have learnt. 

Ador. The flame 

Perishes in thine eyes. 

Zerah. He opened his> 

And looked. I cannot bear 
Ador. Their agony ? 

Zerah. Their love. God's depth is 

in them. From his brows 
White, terrible in meekness, didst 

thou see 

The lifted eyes unclose ? 
He is God, seraph ! Look no more on 

me, 
O God I am not God. 

Ador. The loving is 

Sublimed within them by the sorrow- 
ful. 
In heaven we could sustain them. 

Zerah. Heaven is dull, 

Mine Ador, to man's earth. The 

light that burns 
In fluent, refluent motion 
Along the crystal ocean ; 
The springing of the golden harps be- 
tween 
The bowery wings, in fountains of 

sweet sound ; 
The winding, wandering music that 

returns 

Upon itself, exnltingly self-bound 
In the great spheric round 
Of everlasting praises; 
The God-thoughts in our midst that 

intervene, 
Visibly flashing from the supreme 

throne 

Full in seraphic faces 
Till each astonishes the other, grown 
More beautiful with worship and de- 
light 
My heaven I my home of heaven ! iny 

infinite 
Heaven choirs ! what are ye to this 

dust and death, 
This cloud, this cold, these tears, this 

failing breath, 
Where God's immortal love now is- 

sueth 

In this MAN'S woe ? 
Ador. His eyes are very deep, yet 

calm. 

Zerah. No more 
On me, Jehovah-man 

Ador, Calm-deep. They show 

A passion which is tranquil. They 
are seeing 





220 



THE SERAPHIM. 




No earth, no heaven, no men that 

slay and curse, 
No seraphs that adore ; 
Their gaze is on the invisible, the 

dread, 
The things we cannot view or think 

or speak, 
Because we are too happy, or too 

weak, 

The sea of ill for which the universe 
With all its piled space, can find no 

shore, 
With all its life no living foot to 

tread. 

But he, accomplished in Jehovah- 
being, 

Sustains the gaze adown, 
Conceives the vast despair, 
And feels the billowy griefs come up 

to drown, 
Nor fears, nor faints, nor fails, till all 

be finished. 
Zerah. Thus, do I find Thee thus ? 

My undiminished 

And undiminishable God! my God! 
The echoes are still tremulous along 
The heavenly mountains, of the latest 

song 

Thy manifested glory swept abroad 
In rushing past our lips: they echo 

aye 

" Creator, thou art strong I 
Creator, thou art blessed over all." 
By what new utterance shall I now 

recall, 
Unteaching the heaven-echoes? dare 

I say, 
" Creator, thou art feebler than thy 

work ! 
Creator, thou art sadder than thy 

creature ! 

A worm, and not a man, 
Yea, no worm, but a curse " ? 
I dare not so mine heavenly phrase 

reverse. 

Albeit the piercing thorn and thistle- 
fork 

(Whose seed disordered ran 
From Eve's hand trembling when the 

curse did reach her) 
Be garnered darklier in thy soul, the 

rod 
That smites thee never blossoming, 

and thou 

Grief-bearer for thy world, with un- 
kinged brow 

1 leave to men their song of Ichabod : 
I have an angel-tongue I know but 

praise. 



Ador. Hereafter shall the blood- 
bought captives raise 
The passion-song of blood. 

Zerah. And we, extend 

Our holy vacant hands towards the 

throne, 

Crying, " We have no music." 
Ador. Rather, blend 

Both musics into one. 
The sanctities and sanctified above 
Shall each to each, with lifted looks 

serene, 

Their shining faces lean, 
And mix the adoring breath, 
And breathe the full thanksgiving. 

Zerah. But the love 

The love, mine Ador ! 
Ador. Do we love not ? 

Zerah. Yea, 

But not as man shall ! not with life 

for death, 
New-throbbing through the startled 

being; not 
With strange astonished smiles, that 

ever may 
Gush passionate, like tears, and fill 

their place; 
Nor yet with speechless memories of 

what 
Earth's winters were, enverduring the 

green 

Of every heavenly palm 
Whose windless, shadeless calm 
Moves only at the breath of the Un- 
seen. 
Oh, not with this blood on us, and 

this face, 
Still, haply, pale with sorrow that it 

bore 

In our behalf, and tender evermore, 
With nature all our own, upon us 

gazing, 
Nor yet with these forgiving hands 

upraising 
Their unreproachful wounds, alone to 

bless ! 

Alas, Creator ! shall we love thee less 
Than mortals shall ? 

Ador. Amen ! so let it be. 

We love in our proportion to the 

bound 

Thine infinite our finite set around, 
And that is finitely, thou infinite, 
And worthy infinite love ! And our 

delight 
Is watching the dear love poured out 

to thee 

From ever fuller chalice. Blessed 
they, 







THE SERAPHIM. 



221 



Who love thee more than we do : 

blessed we, 
Viewing that love which shall exceed 

even this, 
And winning in the sight a double 

bliss 

For all so lost in love's supremacy. 
The bliss is better. Only on the sad 

Cold earth there are who say 
It seeuieth better to be great than 

glad. 
The bliss is better. Love him more, 

O man, 

Than sinless seraphs can ! 
Zerah. Yea, love him more ! 
Voices of Ike angelic multitude. Yea, 

more ! 

Ador. The loving word 

Is caught by those from whom we 

stand apart; 
For silence hath no deepness in her 

heart 
Where love's low name low breathed 

would not be heard 
By angels, clear as thunder. 
Auyelic Voices. Love him more. 
Ador. Sweet voices, swooning o'er 

The music which ye make ! 
Albeit to love there were not ever 

given 
A mournful sound when uttered out 

of heaven, 
That angel-sadness ye would fitly 

take. 
Of love be silent now ! We gaze 

adown 
Upon the incarnate Love who wears 

no crown. 

Zerah. No crown ! the woe instead 
Is heavy on his head, 
Pressing inward on his brain 
With a hot and clinging pain 
Till all tears are prest away, 
And clear and calm his vision may 
Peruse the black abyss. 
No rod, no sceptre, is 
Holden in his fingers pale: 
They close instead upon the nail, 

Concealing the sharp dole, 
Never stirring to put by 

The fair hair peaked with blood, 
Drooping forward from the rood 

Helplessly, heavily, 
On the cheek that waxeth colder, 
Whiter ever, and the shoulder 
Where the government was laid. 
His glory made the heavens afraid : 
Will he not unearth this cross from 
its hole ? 



His pity makes his piteous state; 
Will he be uncornpassionate 
Alone to his proper soul ? 
Yea, will he not lift up 
His lips from the bitter cup, 
His brows from the dreary weight, 
His hand from the clinching cros><, 
Crying, " My Father, give to me 
Again the joy I had with thee 
Or ere this earth was made for 

loss " ? 

No stir no sound. 
The love and woe being interwound, 

He cleaveth to the woe, 
And putteth forth heaven's strength 
below 

To bear. 
Ador. And that creates his anguish 

now, 

Which made his glory there. 
Zerah. Shall it need be so ? 

Awake, thou Earth! behold, 
Thou, uttered forth of old 
In all thy life-emotion, 
In all thy vernal noises; 
In the rollings of thine ocean, 
Leaping founts, and rivers run- 
ning, 

In thy woods' prophetic heaving 
Ere the rains a stroke have 

fiven ; 
y winds' exultant voices 
When they feel the hills anear; 
In the firmamental sunning, 
And the tempest which rejoices 
Thy full heart with an awful cheer ! 

Thou, uttered forth of old, 
And with all thy music rolled 
In a breath abroad 
By the breathing God ! 
Awake! He is here ! behold I 
Even thou 

Beseems it good 
To thy vacant vision dim, 
That the deadly ruin should 
For thy sake encompass him ? 
That the Master-word should lie 
A mere silence, while his owii 

Processive harmony, 
The faintest echo of his lightest tone, 
Is sweeping in a choral triumph by ? 
Awake ! emit a cry ! 
And say, albeit used 
From Adam's ancient years 
To falls of acrid tears, 
To frequent sighs unloosed, 
Caught back to press again 
On bosoms zoned with pain, 
To corses still and sullen 







222 



THE SERAPHIM. 



The shine and music dulling 
With closed eyes and ears 
That nothing sweet can enter, 
Commoving thee no less 
With that forced quietness 
Than the earthquake in thy cen- 
tre 

Thou hast not learnt to bear 
This new divine despair ! 
These tears that sink into thee, 
These dying eyes that view thee, 
This dropping blood from lifted 

rood, 

They darken and undo thee. 
Thou canst not presently sustain 

this corse 

Cry, cry, thou hast not force ! 
Cry, thou wouldst fainer keep 
Thy hopeless charnels deep, 
Thyself a general tomb 
Where the first and the second 

Death 

Sit gazing face to face, 
And mar each other's breath, 
While silent bones through all the 

place 
'Neath sun and moon do faintly 

glisten, 

And seem to lie and listen 
For the tramp of the coming Doom. 

Is it not meet 
That they who erst the Eden fruit 

did eat 

Should champ the ashes ? 
That they Avho wrap them in the 

thunder-cloud 
Should wear it as a shroud, 
Perishing by its flashes ? 
That they who vexed the lion should 

be rent ? 

Cry, cry, " I will sustain my pun- 
ishment, 
The sin being mine, but take away 

from me 
This visioned dread this Man 

this Deity ! " 
The Earth. I have groaned; I have 

travailed : I am weary. 
I am blind with my own grief, and 

cannot see, 

As clear-eyed angels can, his agony; 
And what I see I also can sustain, 
Because his power protects me from 

his pain. 
I have groaiied; I have travailed: I 

am dreary, 
Harkening the thick sobs of my 

children's heart: 
How can I say " Depart" 



To that Atoner making calm and free? 

Am I a God as he, 

To lay down peace and power as will- 
ingly ? 
Ador. He looked for some to pity: 

there is none. 
All pity is within him, and not for 

him. 
His earth is iron under him, and o'er 

him 

His skies are brass. 
His seraphs cry, " Alas ! " 
With hallelujah voice that cannot 

weep. 
And man, for whom the dreadful 

work is done . . . 

Scornful Voices from the Earth. If 
verily this be. the Eternal's 
son 

Ador. Thou hearest. Man is grate- 
ful. 

Zerah. Can I hear, 

Nor darken into man, and cease for- 
ever 
My seraph smile to wear ? 

Was it for such 
It pleased him to overleap 
His glory with his love, and sever 
From the God-light and the 

throne, 

And all angels bowing down, 
From whom his every look did 

touch 
New notes of joy on the unworn 

string 

Of an eternal worshipping ? 
For such he left his heaven ? 
There, though never bought by 

blood 

And tears, we gave him gratitude: 
We loved him there, though un- 

forgiven. 
Ador. The light is riven 

Above, around, 

And down in lurid fragments flung, 
That catch the mountain-peak and 

stream 

With momentary gleam, 
Then perish in the water and the 

ground. 

River and waterfall, 
Forest and wilderness, 
Mountain and city, are together 

wrung 

Into one shape, and that is shapeless- 
ness: 

The darkness stands for all. 
Zerah. The pathos hath the day un- 
done: 







THE SERAPHIM. 



228 



The death-look of his eyes 
Hath overcome the sun, 
And made it sicken in its narrow 

skies. 

Ador. Is it to death ? He dieth. 
Zerah. Through the dark 

He still, he only, is discernible. 
The naked hands and feet transfixed 

stark, 
The countenance of patient anguish 

white, 

Do make themselves a light 
More dreadful than the glooms which 

round them dwell, 
And therein do they shine. 

Ador. God ! Father-God ! 

Perpetual Radiance on the radiant 

throne ! 
Uplift the lids of inward deity, 

Flashing abroad 
Thy burning Infinite ! 
Light up this dark where there is 

nought to see 

Except the unimagined agony 
Upon the sinless forehead of the Son ! 
Zerah. God, tarry not ! Behold, 

enow 

Hath he wandered as a stranger, 
Sorrowed as a victim. Thou 
Appear for him, O Father ! 
Appear for him, Avenger ! 
Appear for him, Just One and Holy 

One, 

For he is holy and just ! 
At once the darkness and dishonor 

rather 
To the ragged jaws of hungry chaos 

rake, 

And hurl aback to ancient dust 
These mortals that make blasphe- 
mies 
With their made breath, this earth 

and skies 

That only grow a little dim, 
Seeing their curse on him. 
But him, of all forsaken, 
Of creature and of brother, 
Never wilt thou forsake ! 
Thy living and thy loving cannot 

slacken 
Their firm essential hold upon each 

other, 
And well thou dost remember how 

his part 
Was still to lie upon thy breast, and 

be 
Partaker of the light that dwelt in 

thee 
Ere sun or seraph shone; 



And how, while silence trembled 

round the throne, 
Thou countedst by the beatings of 

his heart 
The moments of thine own eternity. 

Awaken, 
O right hand with the lightnings ! 

Again gather 
His glory to thy glory ! What es- 

tranger, 

What ill supreme in evil, can be thrust 
Between the faithful Father and the 

Son? 

Appear for him, O Father ! 
Appear for him, Avenger ! 
Appear for him, Just One and Holy 

One, 

For he is holy and just ! 
Ador. Thy face upturned toward 

the throne is dark; 
Thou hast no answer, Zerah. 

Zerah. No reply, 

O unforsaking Father ? 

Ador. Hark ! 

Instead of downward voioe, a cry 

Is uttered from beneath. 
Zerah. And by a sharper sound 

than death 

Mine immortality is riven. 
The heavy darkness which doth tent 

the sky 
Floats backward as by a sudden wind; 

But I see no light behind; 
But I feel the farthest stars are all 

Stricken and shaken, 
And I know a shadow sad and broad 

Doth fall doth fall 
On our vacant thrones in heaven. 
Voice from the Cross. MY GOD, MY 

GOD, 

WHY HAST THOU ME FORSAKEN? 
The Earth. Ah me, ah me, ah me ! 

the dreadful why ! 
My sin is on thee, sinless one ! Thou 

art 
God-orphaned for my burden on thy 

head. 
Dark sin, white innocence, endurance 

dread ! 
Be still within your shrouds, my 

buried dead, 
Nor work with this quick horror 

round mine heart. 
Zerah. He hath forsaken Him. I 

perish. 

Ador. Hold 

Upon his name f we perish not. 01 

old 
His will 







-. - 224 



THE SERAPHIM. 



Zerah. I seek his will. Seek, sera- 
phim ! 
My God, my God 1 where is it ? 

Doth that curse 

Reverberate spare us, seraph or uni- 
verse ? 

He hath forsaken Him. 
Ador. He cannot fail. 
Angel Voices. "We faint, we droop; 

Our love doth tremble like fear. 
Voices of Fallen Ant/els from the 

Earth. Do we prevail ? 
Or are we lost ? Hath not the ill we 

did 

Been heretofore our good ? 
Is it not ill that One, all sinless, 

should 
Hang heavy with all curses on a 

cross ^ 
Nathless, that cry ! With huddled 

faces hid 
Within the empty graves which men 

did scoop 

To hold more damned dead, we shud- 
der through 

What shall exalt us, or undo, 
Our triumph, or our loss. 
Voice from the Cross. IT is FINISHED. 
Zerah. Hark, again ! 

Like a victor speaks the slain. 
Angel Voices. Finished be the trem- 
bling vain ! 
Ador. Upward, like a well-loved 

son, 

Looketh He, the orphaned One. 
Anyd Voices. Finished is the mystic 

pain. 
Voices of Fallen Anf/els. His deathly 

forehead at the word 
Gleameth like a seraph sword. 
An</el Voices. Finished is the demon 

reign. 
Ador. His breath, as living God, 

create th ; 

His breath, as dying man, completeth. 
Anyel Voices. Finished work his 

hands sustain. 

The Earth. In mine ancient sepul- 
chres, 

Where my kings and prophets freeze, 
Adam dead four thousand years, 
Unwakened by the universe's 
Everlasting moan, 
Aye his ghastly silence mocking 
Unwakened by his children's knock- 
ing 

At his old sepulchral stone, 
" Adam, Adam, all this curse is 
Thiue and on us yet ! " 



Unwakened by the ceaseless tears 
Wherewith they made his cerement 

wet, 

" Adam, must thy curse remain? " 
Starts with sudden life and hears, 
Through the slow dripping of the cav- 

erned eaves, 

Anyel Voices. Finished is his bane. 
Voice from the Cross. FATHEK ! MY 

SPIRIT TO THINE HANDS IS GIVEN. 

Ador. Hear the wailing winds that 

be 

By wings of unclean spirits made 1 

They in that last look surveyed 

The love they lost in losing heaven, 

And passionately flee 
With a desolate cry that cleaves 
The natural storms, though they are 

lifting 

God's strong cedar-roots like leaves, 
And the earthquake and the thun- 
der, 

Neither keeping either under, 
Roar and hurtle through the glooms, 
And a few pale stars are drifting 
Past the dark to disappear, 
What time, from the splitting tombs 
Gleamingly the dead arise, 
Viewing with their death-calmed 

eyes 

The elemental strategies, 
To witness, victory is the Lord's. 
Hear the wail o' the spirits ! hear 1 
Zerah. I hear alone the memory of 
his words. 



EPILOGUE. 



My song is done. 

My voice that long hath faltered shall 
be still. 

The mystic darkness drops from Cal- 
vary's hill 

Into the common light of this day's 
sun. 



I see no more thy cross, O holy Slain! 
I hear no more the horror and the 

coil 

Of the great world's turmoil 
Feeling thy countenance too still,' 

nor yell 







PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



22o 



Of demons sweeping past it to their 

prison. 

The skies that turned to darkness 
with thy pain 

Make now a summer's day; 
And on my changed ear that sabbath 

bell 
Records how CHKIST is BISEX. 



And I ah, what am I 

To counterfeit, with faculty earth- 
darkened, 

Seraphic brows of light, 

And serapli language never used nor 
harkened ? 

Ah me ! what word that seraphs say, 
could come 

From mouth so used to sighs, so soon 
to lie 

Sighless, because then breathless, in 
the tomb ? 



Bright ministers of God and grace, 

of grace 
Because of God ! whether ye bow 

adown 
In your own heaven, before the living 

face 
Of Him who died, and deathless wears 

the crown, 
Or whether at this hour ye haply are 



Anear, around me, hiding in the night 
Of this permitted ignorance your Ihigt, 

This feebleness to spare, 
Forgive me, that mine earthly heart 

should dare 

Shape images of unincarnate spirits, 
And lay upon their burning lips a 

thought 
Cold with the weeping which mine 

earth inherits. 
And though ye find in such hoarse 

music, wrought 

To copy yours, a cadence all the while 

Of sin and sorrow, only pitying smile! 

Ye know to pity, well. 



7, too, may haply smile another day 
At the fair recollection of this lay, 
When God may call me in your midst 

to dwell, 

To hear your most sweet music's mir- 
acle, 
And see your wondrous faces. May 

it be! 
For his remembered sake, the Slain 

on rood, 
Who rolled his earthly garment red 

in blood 
(Treading the wine-press) that the 

weak, like me, 
Before his heavenly throne should 

walk in white. 



PROMETHEUS BOUND, 



FROM THE GREEK OP ^ESCHYXUS. 



PERSONS OF THE DRAMA. 

PBOMETHEUS. HEPH.ESTUS. 
OCEANUS. lo, daughter of Ina- 

HERMES. chus. 

STRENGTH and FORCE. 
CHOUUS of Ocean Nymphs. 

SCENE. STRENGTH and FORCE, HEPHJES- 
TUS and PROMETHEUS, at the Rocks. 

Strength. We reach the utmost limit 

of the earth, 

The Scythian track, the desert with- 
out man. 




And now, Hephaestus, thou must 

needs fulfil 
The mandate of our Father, and wtih 

links 

Indissoluble of adamantine chains 
Fasten against this beetling precipice 
This guilty god. Because he filched 

away 
Thine own bright flower, the glory of 

plastic fire, 
And gifted mortals with it, such a 

sin 
It doth behoove he expiate to the gods, 






226 



PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



Learning to accept the empery of Zeus, 
And leave off his old trick of loving 

man. 
Ilephcestus. O Strength and Force, 

for you our Zeus's will 
Presents a deed for doing, no more ! 

But /, 
I lack your daring, up this storm-rent 

chasm 
To fix with violent hands a kindred 

g?d, 

Howheit necessity compels me so 
That I must dare it, and our Zeus 

commands 
With a most inevitable word. Ho, 

thou! 
High-thoughted son of Themis, who is 

sage ! 
Thee loath, I loath must rivet fast in 

chains 
Against this rocky height unclomb by 

man, 
Where never human voice nor face 

shall find 
Out thee who lov'st them; and thy 

beauty's flower, 
Scorched in the sun's clear heat, shall 

fade away. 
Night shall come up with garniture of 

stars 
To comfort thee with shadow, and the 

sun 
Disperse with retrickt beams the 

morning-frosts; 

But through all changes, sense of pres- 
ent woe 
Shall vex thee sore, because with 

none of them 
There comes a hand to free. Such 

fruit is plucked 
From love of man ! And in that thou, 

a god, 
Didst brave the wrath of gods, and 

give away 
Undue respect to mortals, for that 

crime 

Thou art adjudged to guard this joy- 
less rock, 
Erect, unslumbering, bending not the 

knee, 

And many a cry and unavailing moan 
To utter on the air. For Zeus is stern, 
And new-made kings are cruel. 

Strength. Be it so. 

Why loiter in vain pity? Why not 

hate 
A god the gods hate ? one, too, who 

betrayed 
Thy glory unto men ? 



Ilephcestus. An awful thing 

Is kinship joined to friendship. 

Strength. Grant it be: 

Is disobedience to the Father's word 
A possible thing ? Dost quail not 

more for that ? 
Ilephcestus. Thou, at least, art a 

stern one, ever bold. 
Strength. Why, if I wept, it were no 

remedy; 

And do not thou spend labor on the air 
To bootless uses. 

Hephaestus. Cursed handicraft ! 

I curse and hate thee, O my craft ! 

Strength. Why hate 

Thy craft most plainly innocent of all 
These pending ills ? 

Ilephcestus. I would some other hand 
Were here to work it 1 

Strength. All work hath its pain, 
Except to rule the gods. There is 

none free 
Except King Zeus. 

Hephaestus. I know it very well ; 
I argue not against it. 

/Strength. Why not, then, 

Make haste and lock the fetters over 

HIM, 
Lest Zeus behold thee lagging ? 

Ilephcestus. Here be chains. 

Zeus may behold these. 

Strength. Seize him; strike amain; 
Strike with the hammer on each side 

his hands; 
Rivet him to the rock. 

Ilephcestus. The work is done, 

And thoroughly done. 

Strength. Still faster grapple him; 
Wedge him in deeper; leave no inch 

to stir. 

He's terrible for finding a way out 
From the irremediable. 

Ilephcestus. Here's an arm, at least, 
Grappled past freeing. 

Strength. Now, then, buckle me 
The other securely. Let this wise one 

learn 
He's duller than our Zeus. 

Hcphcestus. Oh, none but he 

Accuse me justly. 
Strength. Now, straight through the 

chest, 
Take him and bite him with the 

clenching tooth 
Of the adamantine wedge, and rivet 

him. 
Hephaestus. Alas, Prometheus, what 

thou sufferest here 
I sorrow over. 






" Behold me, a god, what I endure from gods! " Page 227. 





PROMETHEUS SOUND. 



227 



Strength. Dost thou flinch again, 
And breathe groans for the enemies 

of Zeus ? 
Beware lest thine own pity find thee 

out. 

Hephaestus. Thou dost behold a spec- 
tacle that turns 
The sight o' the eyes to pity. 

Strength. I behold 

A sinner suffer his sin's penalty. 
But lash the thongs about his sides. 

Hephaestus. So much 

I must do. Urge no farther than I 

must. 
Strength. Ay, but I will urge ! and, 

with shout on shout, 
"Will hound thee at this quarry. Get 

thee down, 
And ring amain the iron round his 

legs. 
IIcphaKstus. That work was not long 

doing. 

Strength. Heavily now 
Let fall the strokes upon the perfo- 

rant gyves ; 
For he who rates the work has a 

heavy hand. 
Hephaestus. Thy speech is savage as 

thy shape. 

Strength. Be thou 

Gentle and tender, but revile not me 
For the firm will and the untruc- 

kling hate, 

Hephaestus. Let us go. He is net- 
ted round with chains. 
Strength. Here, now, taunt on ! and, 

having spoiled the gods 
Of honors, crown withal tby mortal 

men 
"Who live a whole day out. Why, 

how could they 
Draw off from thee one single of thy 

griefs ? 
Methinks the Dremons gave thee a 

wrong name, 
Prometheus, which means Providence, 

because 
Thou dost thyself need providence to 

see 
Thy roll and ruin from the top of 

doom. 
Prometheus (alone). O holy ^Ether, 

and swift-winged Winds, 
And River-wells, and Laughter innu- 

merous 
Of yon sea-waves I Earth, mother of 

us all, 

And all-viewing cyclic Sun, I cry on 
you, 



Behold me a god, what I endure from 

gods ! 

Behold, with throe on throe, 
How, wasted by this woe, 
I wrestle down the myriad years of 

time ! 

Behold how, fast around me, 
The new King of the happy ones 

sublime 
Has flung the chain he forged, has 

shamed and bound me ! 
"Woe, woe ! to-day's woe and the 

coming morrow's 
I cover with one groan. And where 

is found me 

A limit to these sorrows ? 
And yet what word do I say ? I 

have foreknown 
Clearly all things that should be; 

nothing done 
Comes sudden to my soul; and I 

must bear 
"What is ordained with patience, 

being aware 

Necessity doth front the universe 
With an invincible gesture. Yet 

this curse 
Which strikes me now I find it hard. 

to brave 
In silence or in speech. Because I 

gave 
Honor to mortals, I have yoked my 

soul 
To this compelling fate. Because I 

stole 

The secret fount of fire, whose bub- 
bles went 

Over the ferule's brim, and man- 
ward sent 

Art's mighty means and perfect ru- 
diment, 

That sin I expiate in this agony, 
Hung here in fetters, 'neath the 

blanching sky. 
Ah, ah me ! what a sound ! 
What a fragrance sweeps up from a 

pinion unseen 

Of a god, or a mortal, or nature be- 
tween, 
Sweeping up to this rock where the 

Earth has her bound, 
To have sight of my pangs, or some 

guerdon obtain. 
Lo, a god in the anguish, a god in the 

chain ! 

The god Zeus hateth sore, 
And his gods hate again, 
As many as tread on his glorified 
floor, 









/"i 1 'M ' f ~ " ! ' 1 ~h 






if* i 






- - 228 PROMETHEUS BOUND. 






Because I loved mortals too much 


Prometheus. Under earth, undei 






evermore. 


Hades, 






Alas me ! what a murmur and motion 


Where the home of the shade is, 






J (i I hear, 


All into the deep, deep Tartarus, J 






As of birds flying near ! 


I would he had hurled me adown. 






And the air undersings 


I would he had plunged me, fastened 






The light stroke of their wings, 
And all life that approaches I wait for 


thus 
In the knotted chain, with the savage 






in fear. 


clang, 








All into the dark, where there should 






Chorus of Sea-nymphs, 1st strophe. 


be none, 






Fear nothing ! our troop 


Neither god nor another, to laugh and 






Floats lovingly up 
With a quick-oaring stroke 


see. 
But now the winds sing through 






Of wings steered to the rock, 


and shake 






Having softened the soul of our 


The hurtling chains wherein I 






father below. 


hang, 






For the gales of swift-bearing have 


And I in my naked sorrows make 






sent me a sound, 
And the clank of the iron, the mal- 


Much mirth for my enemy. 






letted blow, 


Chorus, 2d strophe. 






Smote down the profound 


Nay ! who of the gods hath a heart so 






Of my caverns of old, 


stern 






And struck the red light in a blush 


As to use thy woe for a mock and 






from my brow, 


mirth ? 






Till I sprang up unsandalled, in haste 
to behold, 


Who would not turn more mild to learn 
Thy sorrows ? who of the heaven 






And rushed forth on my chariot of 


and earth 






wings manifold. 


Save Zeus ? But he 








Right wrathfully 






Prometheus. Alas me ! alas me ! 
Ye offspring of Tethys, who bore at 


Bears on his sceptral soul unbent, 
And rules thereby the heavenly 






her breast 


seed. 






Many children, and ekeof Oceanus, he, 


Nor will he pause till he content 






Coiling still around earth with per- 


His thirsty heart in a finished deed, 






petual unrest ! 


Or till Another shall appear, 






Behold me and see 


To win by fraud, to seize by fear, 






How transfixed with the fang 


The hard - to - be - captured govern- 






Of a fetter I hang 


ment. 






On the high-jutting rocks of this fis- 








sure, and keep 


Prometheus. Yet even of me he shall 






An uncoveted watch o'er the world 


have need, 






and the deep. 


That monarch of the blessed seed, 








Of me, of me who now am cursed 






Chorus, 1st antistrophe. 


By his fetters dire, 






I behold thee, Prometheus; yet now, 


To wring my secret out withal, 






yet now, 


And learn by whom his sceptre 






A terrible cloud whose rain is tears 


shall 






Sweeps over mine eyes that witness 


Be filched from him, as was at first 






how 


His heavenly fire. 






Thy body appears 


But he never shall enchant me 






Hung awaste on the rocks by infran- 


With his honey-lipped persua- 






gible chains; 


sion ; 






T f For new is the hand, new the rudder, 


Never, never, shall he daunt me, ] r 






that steers 


With the oath and threat of passion, 






The ship of Olympus through surge 


Into speaking as they want me, 






and wind, 


Till he loose this savage chain, 






And of old things passed, no track is 


And accept the expiation 






behind. 


Of my sorrow in his pain. 






J l J I 

" ~K A~ ~ 






^a:i ;.. : I:EF 






i__J v ^ (f > 1 r 







PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



229 



Chorus, 2d antistropJie. 
Thou art, sooth, a brave god, 

And, for all thou hast borne 
From the stroke of the rod, 

Nought relaxest from scorn. 
But thou speakest unto me 

Too free and unworn ; 
And a terror strikes through me 

And festers my soul, 

And I fear, in the roll 
Of the storm, for thy fate 

In the ship far from shore; 
Since the son of Satnrnus is hard in 

his hate, 

And unmoved in his heart ever- 
more. 

Prometheus. I know that Zeus is 

stern; 

I know he metes his justice by his will ; 
And yet his soul shall learn 
More siftness when once broken by 

this ill; 
And, curbing his unconquerable 

vaunt, 
He shall rush on in fear to meet with 

me 

Who rush to meet with him in agony, 
To issues of harmonious covenant. 
Chorus. Remove the veil from all 

things, and relate 

The story to us, of what crime ac- 
cused, 
Zeus smites thee with dishonorable 

pangs. 
Speak, if to teach us do not grieve 

thyself. 
Prometheus. The utterance of these 

things is torture to me, 
But so, too, is their silence: each way 

lies 
"Woe strong as fate. 

When gods began with wrath, 
And war rose up between their starry 

brows. 
Some choosing to cast Chronos from 

his throne 
That Zeus might king it there, an 

some in haste 
"With opposite oaths, that they woulc 

have no Zeus 
To rule the gods forever, I, who 

brought 
The counsel I thought ineetest, coulc 

not move 
The Titans, children of the Heaven 

and Earth, 

What time, disd.aining in their rugged 
souls 



My subtle machinations, they as- 
sumed 
:t was an easy thing for force to 

take 
The mastery of fate. My mother, 

then, 
Who is called not only Themis, but 

Earth too, 
Her single beauty joys in many 

names) 

Did teach me with reiterant prophecy 
What future should be, and how con- 
quering gods 
Should not prevail by strength and 

violence, 
But by guile only. When I told them 

so, 
They would not deign to contemplate 

the truth 
On all sides round; whereat I deemed 

it best 

To lead mv willing mother upwardly, 
And set iny Themis face to face with 

Zeus 

As willing to receive her. Tartarus, 
With its abysmal cloister of the Dark, 
Because I gave that counsel, covers 

up 
The antique Chronos and his siding 

hosts, 
And, by that counsel helped, the king 

of gods 

Hath recompensed me with these bit- 
ter pangs ; 
For kingship wears a cancer at the 

heart, 
Distrust in friendship. Do ye also 

ask 
What crime it is for which he tortures 

me? 
That shall be clear before you. TV ben 

at first 

He filled his father's throne, he in- 
stantly 
Made various gifts of glory to the 



gods, 
And dealt the empire out. Alone of 

men, 

Of miserable men, he took no count, 
But yearned to sweep their track off 

from the world, 
And plant a newer race there. Not a 

god 

Resisted such desire, except myself. 
I dared it ! I drew mortals back to 

light, 

From meditated ruin deep as hell ! 
For which wrong I am bent down in 

these pangs 






230 




PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



Dreadful to suffer, mournful to be- 
hold, 
And I who pitied man ain thought 

myself 
Unworthy of pity; while I render 

out 
Deep rhythms of anguish 'neath the 

harping hand 
That strikes me thus, a sight to 

shame your Zeus ! 
Chorus. Hard as thy chains, and 

cold as all these rocks, 
Is he, Prometheus, who withholds his 

heart 
From joining in thy woe. I yearned 

before 
To fly this sight; and, now I gaze on 

it, 
I sicken inwards. 

Prometheus. To my friends, indeed, 
I must be a sad sight. 

Chorus. And didst thou sin 

No more than so ? 

Prometheus. I did restrain besides 

My mortals from premeditating death. 

Chorus. How didst thou medicine 

the plague-fear of death ? 
Prometheus. I set blind Hopes to 

inhabit in their house. 
Chorus. By that gift thou didst help 

thy mortals well. 
Prometheus. I gave them also fire. 
Chorus. And have they now, 

Those creatures of a day, the red- 
eyed fire ? 
Prometheus. They have, and shall 

learn by it many arts. 
Chorus. And truly for such sins 

Zeus tortures thee, 
And will remit no anguish ? Is there 

set 

No limit before thee to thine agony ? 
Prometheus. No other only what 

seems good to HIM. 
Chorus. And how will it seem good ? 

what hope remains ? 
Seest thou not that thou hast sinned ? 

But that thou hast sinned 
It glads me not to speak of, and 

grieves thee; 
Then let it pass from both, and seek 

thyself 
Some outlet from distress. 

Prometheus. It is in truth 

An easy thing to stand aloof from 

pain, 

And lavish exhortation and advice 
On one vexed sorely by it. I have 
known 



All in prevision. By my choice, my 

choice, 
I freely sinned, I will confess my 

sin, 
And, helping mortals, found mine 

own despair. 
I did not think indeed that I should 

pine 
Beneath such pangs against such 

skyey rocks, 
Doomed to this drear hill, and no 

neighboring 
Of any life. But mourn not ye for 

griefs 
I bear to-day: hear rather, chopping 

down 
To the plain, how other woes creep 

on to me, 
And learn the consummation of my 

doom. 
Beseech you, nymphs, beseech you, 

grieve for me 
"Who now am grieving; for Grief 

walks the earth, 
And sits down at the foot of each by 

turns. 
Chorus. We hear the deep clash of 

thy words, 

Prometheus, and obey. 
And I spring with a rapid foot 

away 
From the rushing car and the holy 

air, 

The track of birds; 
And I drop to the rugged ground, 

and there 
Await the tale of thy despair. 

OCEANUS enters. 
Oceamts. I reach the bourne of my 

weary road 
Where I may see and answer 

thee, 

Prometheus, in thine agony. 
On the back of the quick-winged bird 

I glode, 

And I bridled him in 
With the will of a god. 
Behold, thy sorrow aches in me 

Constrained by the force of kin. 
Nay, though that tie were all un- 
done, 

For the life of none beneath the sun 
Would I seek a larger beuison 

Than I seek for thine. 
And thou shalt learn my words are 

truth, 

That no fair parlance of the mouth 
Grows falsely out of mine. 






PROMI;TIH;US BOUND. 



231 



Now give me a deed to prove my 

faith; 
For no faster friend is named in 

breath 

Than I, Oceanus, am thine 
Prometheus. Ha ! what has brought 

thee ? Hast thou also come 
To look upon my woe ? How hast 

thou dared 
To leave the depths called after thee ? 

the caves 

Self-hewn, and self-roofed with spon- 
taneous rock, 
To visit Earth, the mother of my 

chain ? 
Hast come, indeed, to view my doom, 

and mourn 
That I should sorrow thus ? Gaze 

on, and see 
How I, the fast friend of your Zeus, 

how I 

The erector of the empire in his hand, 
Am bent beneath that hand in this 

despair. 
Oceanus. Prometheus, I behold; 

and I would fain 
Exhort thee, though already subtle 

enough, 
To a better wisdom. Titan, know 

thyself, 

And take new softness to thy man- 
ners, since 
A new king rules the gods. If words 

like these, 
Harsh words and trenchant, thou 

wilt fling abroad, 
Zeus haply, though he sit so far and 

high, 
May hear thee do it, and so this wrath 

of his, 
Which now affects thee fiercely, shall 

appear 
A mere child's sport at vengeance. 

Wretched god, 
Rather dismiss the passion which 

thou hast, 

And seek a change from grief. Per- 
haps I seem 
To address thee with old saws and 

outworn sense ; 
Yet such a curse, Prometheus, surely 

waits 
On lips that speak too proudly: thou, 

meantime, 
Art none the meeker, nor dost yield 

a jot 

To evil circumstance, preparing still 
To swell the account of grief with 

other griefs 



Than what are borne. Beseech thee, 

use me, then, 
For counsel: do not spurn against the 

pricks, 
Seeing that who reigns, reigns by 

cruelty 
Instead of right. And now I go 

from hence, 
And will endeavor if a power of 

mine 
Can break thy fetters through. For 

thee be calm, 
And smooth thy words from passion. 

Knowest thou not 
Of perfect knowledge, thou who 

knowest too much, 
That, where the tongue wags, ruin 

never lags ? 
Prometheus. I gratulate thee who 

hast shared and dared 
All things with me, except their pen- 
alty. 
Enough so ! leave these thoughts. 

It cannot be 
That thou shouldst move HIM. HE 

may not be moved; 
And thou, beware of sorrow on this 

road. 

Oceanus. Ay ! ever wiser for an- 
other's use 
Than thine. The event, and not the 

prophecy, 
Attests it to me. Yet, where now I 

rush, 
Thy wisdom hath no power to drag 

me back, 

Because I glory, glory, to go hence, 
And win for thee deliverance from 

thy pangs, 
As a free gift from Zeus. 

Prometheus. Why there, again, 
I give thee gratulation and applause. 
Thou lackest no good will. But, as 

for deeds, 
Do nought! 'twere all done vainly, 

helping nought, 
Whatever thou wouldst do. Rather 

take rest, 
And keep thyself from evil. If I 

grieve, 

I do not therefore wish to multiply 
The griefs of others. Verily, not so! 
For still my brother's doom doth vex 

my soul, 
My brother Atlas, standing in the 

west, 
Shouldering the column of the heaven 

and earth, 
A difficult burden! I have also seen, 







232 



PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



And pitied as I saw, the earth-born 
one, 

The inhabitant of old Cilician caves, 

The great war-monster of the hundred 
heads, 

(All taken and bowed beneath the 
violent Hand) 

Typhon the fierce, who did resist the 
gods, 

And, hissing slaughter from his dread- 
ful jaws, 

Flash out ferocious glory from his eyes 

As if to storm the throne of Zeus. 
Whereat, 

The sleepless arrow of Zeus flew 
straight at him, 

The headlong bolt of thunder breath- 
ing flame, 

And struck him downward from his 
eminence 

Of exultation ; through the very soul 

It struck him, and his strength was 
withered up 

To ashes, thunder-blasted. Now he 
lies, 

A helpless trunk, supinely, at full- 
length 

Beside the strait of ocean, spurred into 

By roots of ^tna, high upon whose 
tops 

Hephjestus sits, and strikes the flash- 
ing ore. 

From thence the rivers of fire shall 
burst away 

Hereafter, and devour with savage 
jaws 

The equal plains of fruitful Sicily, 

Such passion he shall boil back in hot 
darts 

Of an insatiate fury and sough of flame, 

Fallen Typhon, howsoever struck and 
charred 

By Zeus's bolted thunder. But for 
thee, 

Thou art not so unlearned as to need 

My teaching; let thy knowledge save 
thyself. 

/ quaff the full cup of a present doom, 

And wait till Zeus hath quenched his 

will in wrath. 

Oceanus. Prometheus, art thou ig- 
norant of this, 

That words do medicine anger ? 
Prometheus. If the word 

With seasonable softness touch the 
soul, 

And, where the parts are ulcerous, 
sear them not 

By any rudeness. 



Oceanus. With a noble aim 

To dare as nobly is there harm in 

that ? 
Dost thou discern it ? Teach me. 

Prometheus. I discern 

Vain aspiration, unresultive work. 
Oceanus. Then suffer me to bear 

the brunt of this, 
Since it is profitable that one who is 

wise 

Should seem not wise at all. 
Prometheus. And such would 

seem 
My very crime. 

Oceanus. In truth thine argu- 

ment 

Sends me back home. 
Prometheus. Lest any lament 

for me 
Should cast thee down to hate. 

Oceanus. The hate of him 

Who sits a new king on the absolute 

throne ? 
Prometheus. Beware of him, lest 

thine heart grieve by him. 
Oceanus. Thy doom, Prometheus, 

be my teacher 1 
Prometheus. Go ! 

Depart 1 Beware! And keep the 

mind thou hast. 
Oceanus. Thy words drive after, as 

I rush before. 
Lo, my four-footed bird sweeps smooth 

and wide 
The flats of air with balanced pinions, 

glad 

To bend his knee at home in the ocean- 
stall. 

[OCEANUS departs. 

Chorus, 1st strophe. 
I moan thy fate, I moan for thee, 
Prometheus! From my eyes too 

tender 
Drop after drop incessantly 

The tears of my heart's pity render 
My cheeks wet from their fountains 

free; 

Because that Zeus, the stern and cold, 
Whose law is taken from his breast, 
Uplifts his sceptre manifest 
Over the gods of old. 

1st antistrophe. 
All the land is moaning 
With a murmured plaint to-day; 
All the mortal nations 
Having habitations 
In the holy Asia 







PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



233 



Are a dirge entoning 
For thine honor and thy brothers', 
Once majestic beyond others 

In the old belief, 
Now are groaning in the groaning 

Of thy deep-voiced grief. 

2d strophe 
Mourn the maids inhabitant 

Of the Colchian land, 
"Who with white, calm bosoms stand 

In the battle's roar : 
Monrn the Scythian tribes that haunt 
The verge of earth, MaBotis' shore. 

2d antistrophe. 

Yea ! Arabia's battle crown, 
And dwellers in the beetling 

town 

Mt. Caucasus sublimely nears 
An iron squadron, thundering 

down 
With the sharp-prowed spears. 

But one other before have I seen to 

remain 

By invincible pain, 
Bound and vanquished, one Titan! 

'twas Atlas, who bears 
In a curse from the gods, by that 

strength of his own 
Which he evermore wears, 
The weight of the heaven on his shoul- 
der alone, 

While he sighs up the stars; 
And the tides of the ocean wail, burst- 
ing their bars; 
Murmurs still the profound, 
And black Hades roars up through the 

chasm of the ground, 
And the fountains of pure-running 

rivers moan low 
In a pathos of woe. 
Prometheus. Beseech you, think not 

I am silent thus 
Through pride or scorn. I only gnaw 

my heart 
With meditation, seeing myself so 

wronged. 
For see their honors to these uew- 

made gods, 
What other gave but I, and dealt them 

out 
With distribution ? Ay ! but here I 

am dumb; 

For here I should repeat your knowl- 
edge to you, 

If I spake aught. List rather to the 
deeds 



I did for mortals; how, being fools, 
before, 

I made them wise and true in aim of 
soul. 

And let me tell you, not as taunt- 
ing men, 

But teaching you the intention of my 
gifts, 

How, first beholding, they beheld in 
vain, 

And, hearing, heard not, but, like 
shapes in dreams, 

Mixed all things wildly down the te- 
dious time, 

Nor knew to build a house against the 
sun 

With wicketed sides, nor any wood- 
craft knew, 

But lived, like silly ants, beneath the 
ground 

In hollow caves unsunned. There 
came to them 

No steadfast sign of winter, nor of 
spring 

Flower-perfumed, nor of summer full 
of fruit, 

But blindly and lawlessly they did all 
things, 

Until I taught them how the stars do 
rise 

And set in mystery, and devised for 
them 

Number, the inducer of philoso- 
phies, 

The synthesis of letters, and, beside, 

The artificer of all things, memory, 

That sweet muse-mother. I was first 
to yoke 

The servile beasts in couples, carry- 
ing 

An heirdom of man's burdens on their 
backs. 

I joined to chariots, steeds, that love 
the bit 

They champ at, the chief pomp of 
golden ease. 

And none but I originated ships, 

The seaman's chariots, wanderings on 
the brine 

With linen wings. And I oh, mis- 
erable 1 

Who did devise for mortals all these 
arts, 

Have no device left now to save my- 
self 

From the woe I suffer. 
Chorus. Most unseemly woe 

Thou sufferest, and dost stagger from 
the sense 







234 



PROMETHEUS ROUND. 



Bewildered ! Like a had leech falling 
sick. 

Thou art faint at soul, and canst not 
h'ml the drugs 

Required to save thyself. 
Prometheus. Harken the rest, 

And marvel further, what more arts 
and means 

I did invent, this, greatest: if a 
man 

Fell sick, there was no cure, nor escu- 
lent 

Nor chrism nor liquid, but for lack of 
drugs 

Men pined and wasted, till I showed 
them all 

Those mixtures of emollient reme- 
dies 

Whereby they might be rescued from 
disease. 

I fixed the various rules of mautic 
art, 

Discerned the vision from the com- 
mon dream, 

Instructed them in vocal auguries 

Hard to interpret, and denned as 
plain 

The wayside omens, flights of crook- 
clawed birds, 

Showed which are by their nature 
fortunate, 

And which not so, and what the food 
of each, 

And what the hates, affections, social 
needs 

Of all to one another, taught what 
sign 

Of visceral lightness, colored to a 
shade, 

May charm the genial gods, and what 
fair spots 

Commend the lung and liver. Burn- 
ing so 

The limbs incased in fat, and the long 
chine, 

I led my mortals 011 to an art ab- 
struse, 

And cleared their eyes to the image in 
the fire, 

Erst filmed in dark. Enough said 
now of this. 

For the other helps of man hid un- 
derground, 

The iron and the brass, silver and 
gold, 

Can any dare affirm he found them 
out 

Before me ? None, I know ! unless he 
choose 



To lie in his vaunt. In one word 

learn the whole, 
That all arts came to mortals from 

Prometheus. 

Chorus. Give mortals now no inex- 
pedient help, 
Neglecting thine own sorrow. I have 

hope still 
To see thee, breaking from the fetter 

here, 
Stand up as strong as Zeus. 

Prometheus. This ends not thus, 
The oracular fate ordains. I must be 

bowed 
By infinite woes and pangs to escape 

this chain. 

Necessity is stronger than mine art. 
Chorus. Who holds the helm of that 

Necessity ? 
Prometheus. The threefold Fates 

and the uuforgetting Furies. 
Chorus. Is Zeus less absolute than 

these are ? 

Prometheus. Yea, 

And therefore cannot fly what is or- 
dained. 
Chorus. "What is ordained for Zeus, 

except to be 
A king forever ? 

Prometheus. 'Tis too early yet 
For thee to learn it: ask no more. 

Choiits. Perhaps 

Thy secret may be something holy ? 
Prometheus. Turn 

To another matter: this, it is not time 
To speak abroad, but utterly to veil 
In silence. Forbythatsamesecretkept, 
I 'scape this chain's dishonor, and its 
woe. 

Chorus, 1st strophe. 
Never, oh never, 
May Zeus, the all-giver, 
Wrestle down from his throne 
In that might of his own 
To antagonize mine ! 
Nor let me delay 
As I bend on my way 
Toward the gods of the shrine 
Where the altar is full 
Of the blood of the bull, 
Near the tossing brine 
Of Ocean my father. 
May no sin be sped in the word that 

is said, 
But my vow be rather 

Consummated , 
Nor evermore fail, uor evermore 

pine. 







PROMETHEUS BOUXD. 



235 



lut antixtrophe. 
'Tis sweet to have 

Life lengthened out 
"With hopes proved brave 

By the very doubt, 
Till' the spirit infold 
Those manifest joys which were 

foretold. 
But I thrill to behold 

Thee, victim doomed, 
By the countless cares 
And the drear despairs 
Forever consumed, 
And all because thou, who art fear- 
less now 
Of Zeus above, 

Didst overflow for mankind below 
With a free-souled, reverent love. 

Ah, friend, behold and see I 
What's all the beauty of humanity ? 

Can it be fair ? 
What's all the strength? Is it 

strong ? 

And what hope can they bear, 
These dying livers, living one day 

long? 

Ah, seest thou not, my friend, 
How feeble and slow, 
And like a dream, doth go 
This poor blind manhood, drifted 

from its end ? 
And how no mortal wrauglings 

can confuse 
The harmony of Zeus ? 

Prometheus, I have learnt these 

tilings 
From the sorrow in thy face. 

Another song did fold its wings 
Upon my lips in other days, 
When round the bath and round 

the bed 

The hymeneal chant instead 
I sang for thee, and smiled, 
And thou didst lead, with gifts and 

vows, 

Hesione, my father's child, 
To be thy wedded spouse. 

lo enters, 
lo. What land is this ? what people 

is here ? 
And who is he that writhes, I see, 

In the rock-hung chain ? 
Now what is the crime that hath 

brought thee to pain ? 
Now what is the land make answer 
free 



Which I wander through in my wrong 

and fear ? 
Ah, ah, ah me ! 

The gad-fly stingeth to agony ! 
O Earth, keep off that phantasm pale 
Of earth-born Argus ! ah I I quail 

When my soul descries 
That herdsman with the myriad eyes 
Which seem, as he comes, one crafty 

eye. 
Graves hide him not, though he 

should die; 

But he doggeth me in my misery 
From the roots of death, on high, on 

high; 
And along the sands of the siding 

deep, 

All famine-worn, he follows me, 
And his waxen reed doth undersound 

The waters round, 
And giveth a measure that giveth 

sleep. 

Woe, woe, woe ! 
Where shall my weary course be 

done? 
What wouldst thou with me, Saturn's 

son ? 
And in what have I sinned, that I 

should go 
Thus yoked to grief by thine hand 

forever ? 
Ah, ah ! dost vex me so 

That I madden and shiver 
Stung through with dread ? 
Flash the fire down to burn me ! 
Heave the earth up to cover me ! 
Plunge me in the deep, with the salt 

waves over me, 
That the sea-beasts may be fed ! 

king do not spurn me 

In my prayer ! 

For this wandering everlouger, 
evermore, 

Hath overworn me, 
And I know not on what shore 

1 may rest from my despair. 

Chorus. Hearest thou what the ox- 
horned maiden saith ? 

Prometheus. How could I choose 

but barken what she saith, 
The frenzied maiden? Inachus's 

child? 
Who love-warms Zeus's heart, and 

now is lashed 
By Here's hate along the unending 

ways ? 







^THM ' . c Knrr> 




W' ' ^E 

..I 236 PROMETHEUS BOUND. IP 




Jo. Who taught thee to articulate 


Jo. Nay, but show besides 






that name, 


The limit of my wandering, and the 






My father's ? Speak to his child 
, By grief and shame defiled ! 


time 
Which yet is lacking to fulfil my 






Who art thou, victim, thou who dost 


grief. *r 






acclaim 


Prometheus. Why, not to know were 






Mine anguish in true words on the 


better than to know 






wide air, 


For such as thou. 






And callest, too, by name the curse 


Jo. Beseech thee, blind me not 






that came 


To that which I must suffer. 






From Here unaware, 


Prometheus. If I do, 






To waste and pierce me with its mad- 


The reason is not that I grudge a 






dening goad ? 


boon. 






Ah, ah, I leap 


Jo. What reason, then, prevents thy 






With the pang of the hungry; I bound 


speaking out ? 






on the road; 


Prometheus. No grudging, but a 






I am driven by my doom ; 


fear to break thine heart. 






I ain overcome 


Jo. Less care for me, I pray thee. 






By the wrath of an enemy strong and 
deep ! 


Certainty 
I count for advantage. 






Are any of those who have tasted 


Prometheus. Thou wilt have it so, 






pain, 


And therefore I must speak. Now 






Alas ! as wretched as I ? 


hear 






Now tell me plain, doth aught remain 


Chorus. Not yet. 






For my soul to endure beneath the sky? 
Is there any help to be holpen by ? 
If knowledge be in thee, let it be 


Give half the guerdon my way. Let 
us learn 
First what the curse is that befell the 






said ! 


maid, 






Cry aloud cry 


Her own voice telling her own wast- 






To the wandering, woful maid. 


ing woes: 








The sequence of that anguish shall 






Prometheus. Whatever thou wouldst 


await 






learn, I will declare; 


The teaching of thy lips. 






No riddle upon my lips, but such 
straight words 


Prometheus. It doth behoove 
That thou, maid lo, shouldst vouch- 






As friends should use to each other 


safe to these 






when they talk. 


The grace they pray, the more, be- 






Thou seest Prometheus, who gave 


cause they are called 






mortals fire. 
Jo. O common help of all men, 


Thy father's sisters: since to open out 
And mourn out grief, where it is pos- 






known of all, 


sible 






O miserable Prometheus, for what 


To draw a tear from the audience, is 






cause 


a work 






Dost thou endure thus ? 


That pays its own price well. 






Prometheus. I have done with wail 


/o. I cannot choose 






For my own griefs but lately. 
7o. Wilt thou not 


But trust you, nymphs, and tell you 
all ye ask, 






Vouchsafe the boon to me ? 


In clear words, though I sob amid 






Prometheus. Say what thou wilt, 
For I vouchsafe all. 


my speech 
In speaking of the storm-curse sent 






Jo. Speak, then, and reveal 
Who shut thee in this chasm. 


from Zeus, 
And of my beauty, from which height 






Prometheus. The will of Zeus, 


it took t 






f] f> The hand of his Hephsestus. 
/o. And what crime 


Its swoop on me, poor wretch ! left - . 
thus deformed 


i 




Dost expiate so ? 


And monstrous to your eyes. For 






Prometheus. Enough for thee I 
have told 


evermore 
Around my virgin-chamber, waiider- 






lu so much only. 


iug went 






J U J 






j*| 1 1 .> z " ^ -r-7> 1 \^ 









PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



237 



The nightly visions which entreated 

me 
With syllabled smooth sweetness, 

" Blessed maid, 
Why lengthen out thy maiden hours. 

when fate 
Permits the noblest spousal in the 

world ? 
When Zeus burns with the arrow of 

thy love, 
And fain would touch thy beauty ? 

Maiden, thou 
Despise not Zeus ! depart to Lerne's 

mead 
That's green around thy father's 

flocks add stalls, 
Until the passion of the heavenly 

Eye 
Be quenched in sight." Such dreams 

did all night long 
Constrain me, me, unhappy 1 till I 

dared 
To tell my father how they trod the 

dark 
With visionary steps. Whereat he 

sent 
His frequent heralds to the Pythian 

fane, 

And also to Dodona, and inquired 
How best, by act or speech, to please 

the gods. 
The same returning brought back 

oracles 

Of doubtful sense, indefinite response, 
Dark to interpret; but at last there 

came 

To Inachus an answer that was clear, 
Thrown straight as any bolt, atid 

spoken out, 
This: " He should drive rue from my 

home and land, 
And bid me wander to the extreme 

verge 
Of all the earth; or, if he willed it 

not, 
Should have a thunder with a fiery 

eye 
Leap straight from Zeus to burn up 

all his race 
To the last root of it." By which 

Loxian word 
Subdued, he drove me forth, and shut 

me out, 
He loath, me loath; but Zeus's violent 

bit 

Compelled him to the deed: when in- 
stantly 

My body and soul were changed and 
distraught, 



And, horned as ye see, and spurred 
along 

By the fanged insect, with a maniac 
leap 

I rushed on to Cenchrea's limpid 
stream, 

And Lerne's fountain-water. There, 
the earth-born, 

The herdsman Argus, most immitiga- 
ble 

Of wrath, did find me out, and track 
me out 

With countless eyes set staring at my 
steps; 

And though an unexpected sudden 
doom 

Drew him from life, I, curse-torment- 
ed still, 

Am driven from land to land before 
the scourge 

The gods hold o'er me. So thou hast 
heard the past; 

And, if a bitter future thou canst tell. 

Speak on. I charge thee, do not flat- 
ter me, 

Through pity, with false words; for 
in my mind 

Deceiving works more shame than 
torturing doth. 

Chorus. 

Ah, silence here ! 

Nevermore, nevermore, 

AVould I languish for 

The stranger's word 

To thril! in mine ear 
Nevermore for the wrong and the woe 
and the fear 

So hard to behold, 

So cruel to bear, 

Piercing my soul with a double-edged 
sword 

Of a sliding cold. 

Ah, Fate ! ah, me ! 

I shudder to see 
This wandering maid in her agony. 

Prometheus. Grief is too quick in 

thee, and fear too full: 
Be patient till thou hast learnt the rest. 

Chorus. Speak: teach, 
To those who are sad already, it 

seems sweet, 

By clear foreknowledge to make per- 
fect, pain. 
Prometheus. The boon ye asked me 

first was lightly won; 
For first ye asked the story of this 
maid's grief, 







- - 238 



PROMETHEUS ROUND. 



As her own lips might tell it. Now 

remains 
To list what other sorrows she so 

young 
Must Lear from Here. Inachus's 

child, 
O thou ! drop down thy soul my 

weighty words, 
And measure out the landmarks 

which are set 
To end thy wandering. Toward the 

orient nun 
First turn thy face from mine, and 

journey on 
Along the desert-flats till thou shalt 

come 
"Where Scythia's shepherd-peoples 

dwell aloft, 
Perched in wheeled wagons under 

woven roofs, 
And twang the rapid arrow past the 

bow. 
Approach them not, but, siding in 

thy course 
The rugged shore-rocks resonant to 

the sea. 
Depart that country. On the left 

hand dwell 
The iron-workers, called the Chaly- 

bes, 
Of whom beware, for certes they are 

uncouth, 
And nowise bland to strangers. 

Reaching so 
The stream Hybristes (well the 

scorner called), 
Attempt no passage, it is hard to 

pass, 

Or ere thou come to Caucasus itself, 
That highest of mountains, where the 

river leaps 
The precipice in his strength. Thou 

must toil up 
Those mountain-tops that neighbor 

with the stars, 
And tread the south way, and draw 

near, at last, 
The Amazonian host that hateth 

man, 

Inhabitants of Theiniscyra, close 
Upon Thermodon, where the sea's 

rough jaw 

Doth gnash at Sahnydessa, and pro- 
vide 

A cruel host to seamen, and to ships 
A stepdame. They, with unreluctant 

hand, 
Shall lead thee ou and on till thou 

arrive 



Just where the ocean-gates show nar- 
rowest 

On the Cimmerian isthmus. Leaving 
which , 

Behooves thee swim with fortitude of 
soul 

The strait Mseotis. Ay, and ever- 
more 

That traverse shall be famous on 
men's lips, 

That strait called Bosphorus, the 
horned one's road, 

So named because of thee, who so 
wilt pass 

From Europe's plain to Asia's conti- 
nent. 

How think ye, nymphs ? the king of 
gods appears 

Impartial in ferocious deeds? Be- 
hold ! 

The god desirous of this mortal's love 

Hath cursed her with these wander- 
ings. Ah, fair child, 

Thou hast met a bitter groom for bri- 
dal troth ! 

For all thou yet hast heard can only 
prove 

The incompleted prelude of thy doom. 
lo. Ah, ah ! 

Prometheus. Is't thy turn now to 
shriek and moan ? 

How wilt thou, when thou hast har- 

kened what remains ? 
Chorus. Besides the grief thou hast 

told, can aught remain ? 
Prometheus. A sea of foredoomed 

evil worked to storm. 
Jo. What boots niy life, then ? why 
not cast myself 

Down headlong from this miserable 
rock, 

That, dashed against the flats, I may 
redeem 

My soul from sorrow ? Better once 
to die 

Than day by day to suffer. 
Prometheus. Verily, 

It would be hard for thee to bear iny 
woe 

For whom it is appointed not to die. 

Death frees from woe; but I before 
me see 

In all my far prevision not a bound 

To all I suffer, ere that Zeus shall fall 

From being a king. 
Jo. And can it ever be 

That Zeus shall fall from empire ? 
Prometheus. Thou, methinks, 

Wouldst take some joy to see it. 







PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



239 ... 



Jo. Could I choose ? 

I who endure such pangs now, by that 

god ! 

Prometheus. Learn from me, there- 
fore, that the event shall be. 
Jo. By whom shall his imperial 

sceptred hand 
Be emptied so ? 
Prometheus. Himself shall spoil 

himself, 
Through his idiotic counsels. 

Jo. How? declare, 

Unless the word bring evil. 

Prometheus. He shall wed, 

And in the marriage-bond be joined 

to grief. 
Jo. A heavenly bride, or human ? 

Speak it out, 
If it be utterable. 
Prometheus. Why should I say 

which ? 
It ought not to be uttered, verily. 

Jo. Then 

It is his wife shall tear him from his 

throne ? 
Prometheus. It is his wife shall bear 

a son to him 
More mighty than the father. 

Jo. From this doom 

Hath he no refuge ? 

Prometheus. None: or ere that I 
Loosed from these fetters 

Jo. Yea; but who shall loose 

"While Zeus is adverse ? 

Prometheus. One who is born of thee : 
It is ordained so. 

Jo. "What is this thou sayest ? 

A son of mine shall liberate thee 

from woe ? 
Prometheus. After ten generations 

count three more, 
And find him in the third. 

Jo. The oracle 

Remains obscure. 
Prometheus. And search it not to 

learn 
Thine own griefs from it. 

Jo. Point me not to a good 

To leave me straight bereaved. 

Prometheus. I am prepared 

To grant thee one of two things. 

Jo. But which two ? 

Set them before me ; grant me power 

to choose. 
Prometheus. I grant it; choose now! 

Shall I name aloud 
What griefs remain to wound thee, 

or what hand 
Shall save me out of mine ? 



Chorus. Vouchsafe, O god, 

The one grace of the twain to her 

who prays, 
The next to me, and turn back nei 

ther prayer 

Dishonored by denial. To herself 
Recount the future wandering of her 

feet; 
Then point me to the looser of thy 

chain, 
Because I yearn to know him. 

Prometheus. Since ye will, 

Of absolute will, this knowledge, I 

will set 

No contrary against it, nor keep back 
A word of all ye ask for. lo, first 
To thee I must relate thy wandering 

course 
Far winding. As I tell it, write it 

down 
In thy soul's book of memories- 

When thou hast past 
The refluent bound that parts two 

continents, 
Track on the footsteps of the orient 

sun 
In his own fire across the roar of 

seas, 
Fly till thou hast reached the Gor- 

gonjEan Hats 
Beside Cisthene. There the Phorci- 

des, 
Three ancient maidens, live, with 

shape of swan, 
One tooth between them, and one 

common eye, 
On whom the sun doth never look at 

all 
With all his rays, nor evermore the 

moon 
When she looks through the night. 

Auear to whom 

Are the Gorgon sisters three, en- 
clothed with wings, 
With twisted snakes for ringlets, 

man-abhorred: 

There is no mortal gazes in their face, 
And gazing can breathe on. I speak 

of such 
To guard thee from their horror. Ay, 

and list 

Another tale of a dreadful sight: be- 
ware 
The Griffins, those unbarking dogs of 

Zeus, 
Those sharp-mouthed dogs! and 

the Arimaspian host 
Of one-eyed horsemen, habiting be- 
side 






240 



PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



The river of Pinto that runs bright 

with gold: 
Approach them not, beseech thee. 

Presently 
Thoult come to a distant land, a 

dusky tribe 
Of dwellers at the fountain of the 

Sun, 
"Whence flows the River .^Ethiops; 

wind along 

Its banks, and turn off at the cata- 
racts, 
Just as the Nile pours from the Byb- 

line hills 
His holy and sweet wave : his course 

shall guide 

Thine own to that triangular Nile- 
ground 
Where, lo, is ordained for thee and 

thine 
A. lengthened exile. Have I said in 

this 
Aught darkly or incompletely ? 

now repeat 
The question, make the knowledge 

fuller ! Lo, 

I have more leisure than I covet here. 
Chorus. If thou canst tell us aught 

that's left untold, 
Or loosely told, of her most dreary 

flight, 
Declare it straight; but, if thou hast 

uttered all, 
Grant us that latter grace for which 

we prayed, 
Remembering how we prayed it. 

Prometheus. She has heard 

The uttermost of her wandering. 

There it ends. 
But, that she may be certain not to 

have heard 

All vainly, I will speak what she en- 
dured 
Ere coming hither, and invoke the 

past 
To prove my prescience true. And 

so to leave 
A multitude of words, and pass at 

once 
To the subject of thy course when 

thou hadst gone 
To those Molossian plains which 

sweep around 

Dodona shouldering Heaven, where- 
by the fane 

Of Zeus Thesprotian keepeth oracle, 
And, wonder past belief, where oaks 

do wave 
Articulate adjurations (ay, the same 



Saluted thee in no perplexed phrase, 
But clear with glory, noble wife of 

Zeus 

That shouldst be, there some sweet- 
ness took thy sense !) 
Thou didst rush further onward, 

stung along 
The ocean-shore, toward Rhea's 

mighty bay, 
And, tost back from it, wast tost to u 

again 

In storm y evolution: and know well, 
In coming time that hollow of the sea 
Shall bear the name Ionian, and pre- 
sent 

A monument of lo's passage through, 
Unto all mortals. Be these words the 

signs 
Of my soul's power to look beyond 

the veil 
Of visible things. The rest to you 

and her 
I will declare in common audience, 

nymphs, 
Returning thither where my speech 

brake off. 

There is a town, Canobus, built upon 
The earth's fair margin, at the mouth 

of Nile, 
And on the mound washed up by it: 

lo, there 

Shall Zeus giA - e back to thee thy per- 
fect mind, 
And only by the pressure and the 

touch 
Of a hand not terrible; and thou to 

Zeus 
Shalt bear a dusky son who shall be 

called 
Thence Epaphus, Toyhed. That son 

shall pluck the fruit 
Of all that land wide-watered by the 

flow 
Of Nile; but after him, when counting 

out 
As far as the fifth full generation, 

then 

Full fifty maidens, a fair woman-race, 
Shall back to Argos turn reluctantly, 
To fly the proffered nuptials of their 

kin, 
Their father's brothers. These being 

passion-struck, 
Like falcons bearing hard on flying 

doves, 
Shall follow hunting at a quarry of 

love 
They should not hunt; till envious 

Heaven maintain 







PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



A cur.e betwixt that beauty and their 

desire, 

And Greece receive them, to be over- 
come 
In murtheroas woman-war by fierce 

red hands 
Kept savage by the night. For every 

wife 
Shall slay a husband, dyeing deep in 

blood 
The sword of a double edge (I wish 

indeed 

As fair a marriage-joy to all my foes !) 
One bride alone shall fail to smite to 

deatli 
The head upon her pillow, touched 

with love, 

Made impotent of purpose, and im- 
pelled 
To choose the lesser evil, shame on 

her cheeks, 
Than blood-guilt on her hands; which 

bride shall bear 

A royal race in Argos. Tedious speech 
Were needed to relate particulars 
Of these things; 'tis enough that from 

her seed 
Shall spring the strong He, famous 

with the bow, 
Whose arm shall break my fetters off. 

Beheld, 

My mother Themis, that old Titaness, 
Delivered to me snch an oracle; 
But how and when, I should be long 

to speak, 
And thou, in hearing, wouldst not 

gain at all. 

fo. Eleleu, eleleu ! 
How the spasm and the pain, 
And the fire on the brain, 

Strike, burning me through ! 
How the sting of the curse, all aflame 

as it flew, 

Pricks me onward again ! 
How my heart in its terror is spurning 

my breast, 
And my eyes like the wheels of a 

chariot roll round ! 
I am whirled from my course, to the 

east, to the west, 

In the whirlwind of frenzy all mad- 
ly in wound ; 

And my mouth is unbridled for an- 
guish and hate, 
And my words beat in vain, in wild 

storms of unrest, 
On the sea of my desolate fate. 

[lo rushes out. 



Chorus, stroplie. 
Oh, wise was he, oh, wise was he, 
Who first within his spirit knew, 
And with his tongue declared it true, 
That love comes best that comes unto 

The equal of degree ! 
And that the poor and that the low 
Should seek no love from those above, 
Whose souls are fluttered with the 

flow 

Of airs about their golden height, 
Or proud because they see arow 
Ancestral crowns of light, 

Antistrophe. 
Oh, never, never, may ye, Fates, 

Behold me with your awful eyes 

Lift mine too fondly up the skies 
Where Zeus upon the purple waits ! 

Nor let me step too near, too near, 
To any suitor bright from heaven; 

Because I see, because I fear, 
This loveless maiden vexed and laden 
By this fell curse of Here, driven 

On wanderings dread and drear. 

Epode. 
Nay, grant an equal troth instead 

Of nuptial love, to bind me by ! 
It will not hurt, I shall not dread 

To meet it in reply. 
But let not love from those above 
Revert and fix me, as I said, 

With that inevitable Eye ! 
I hav< 
I have 

path, 

I know not if my nature hath 
The power to bear, I cannot see 
Whither from Zeus's infinite 
I have the power to flee. 

Prometheus. Yet Zeus, albeit most 

absolute of will, 

Shall turn to meekness, such a mar- 
riage-rite 

He holds in preparation, which anon 
Shall thrust him headlong from his 

gerent seat 
Adown the abysmal void; and so the 

curse 
His father Chronos muttered in his 

fall, 
As he fell from his ancient throne and 

cursed, 
Shall be accomplished wholly. No 

escape 
From all that ruin shall the filial 

Zeus 



ve no sword to fight that fight, 
*ve no strength to tread that 









,dTlM '.. . c l-TTtes 






W XE 

n *\ n 






242 PROMETHEUS BOUND. 






Find granted to him from any of his 


Whenever reigning! But for me, your 






gods, 


Zeus 






Unless I teach him. I the refuge 


Is less than nothing. Let him act and 






t know, 


reign J ( 






i And I, the means. Now, therefore, 


His brief hour out according to his 






let him sit 


will: 






And brave the imminent doom, and 


He will not, therefore, rule the gods 






fix his faith 


too long. 






On his supernal noises hurtling on 
With restless hand the bolt that 


But lo! I see that courier-god of Zeus, 
That new-made menial of the new- 






breathes out fire; 


crowned king: 






For these things shall not help him, 


He, doubtless, conies to announce to 






none of them, 


us something new. 






Nor hinder his perdition when he falls 








To shame, and lower than patience: 


HERMES enters. 






such a foe 


Hermes. I speak to thee, the soph- 






He doth himself prepare against him- 


ist, the talker-down 






self, 


Of scorn by scorn, the sinner against 






A wonder of unconquerable hate, 


gods, 






An organizer of sublimer fire 


The reverencer of men, the thief of 






Than glares in lightnings, and of 


fire, 






grander sound 


I speak to thee and adjure thee: 






Than aught tlie thunder rolls, out- 


Zeus requires 






tlmndering it, 


Thy declaration of what marriage-rite 






With power to shatter in Poseidon's 


Thus moves thy vaunt, and shall here- 






fist 


after cause 






The trident-spear, which, while it 


His fall from empire. Do not wrap 






plagues the sea, 


thy speech 






Doth shake the shores around it. 


In riddles, but speak clearly. Never 






Ay, and Zeus, 


cast 






Precipitated thus, shall learn at 


Ambiguous paths, Prometheus, for 






length 


my feet, 






The difference betwixt rule and servi- 


Since Zeus, thou mayst perceive, is 






tude. 


scarcely won 






Chorus. Thou makest threats for 


To mercy by such means. 






Zeus of thy desires. 


Prometheus. A speech well- 






Prometheus. I tell you all these 


mouthed 






things shall be fulfilled 


In the utterance, and full-minded in 






Even so as I desire them. 


the sense, 






Chorus. Must we, then, 


As doth befit a servant of the gods! 






Look out for one shall come to master 


New gods, ye newly reign, and think, 






Zeus? 


forsooth, 






Prometheus. These chains weigh 


Ye dwell in towers too high for any 






lighter than his sorrows shall. 


dart 






Chorus. How art thou not afraid 


To carry a wound there ! Have I not 






to utter such words ? 


stood by 






Prometheus. What should / fear, 


While two kings fell from thence ? 






who cannot die ? 


and shall I not 






Chorus. But he 


Behold the third, the same who rules 






Can visit thee with dreader woe than 


you now, 






death's. 


Fall, shamed to sudden ruin? Do I 






Prometheus. Why, let him do it! 


seem 






, I am here, prepared 


To tremble and quail before your . 






^ [ For all things and their pangs. 


modern gods ? *) r 






Chorus. The wise are they 


Far be it from me ! For thyself, de- 






Who reverence Adrasteia. 


part; 






Prometheus. Reverence thou, 


Re-tread thy steps in haste. To all 






Adore thou, flatter thou, whomever 


thou hast asked 






reigns, 


I answer nothing. 






J l J I 






wrnH >, PITi^ 7 






^ JJ 6-1 a ' ' 1, LJ^ 








PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



243 



Hermes. Such a wind of pride 

Impelled thee of yore full sail upon 

these rocks. 
Prometheus. I would not barter 

learn thou soothly that ! 
My suffering for thy service. I main- 
tain 
It is a nobler thing to serve these 

rocks 
Than live a faithful slaA^e to father 

Zeus. 
Thus upon scorners I retort their 

scorn. 
Hermes. It seems that thou dost 

glory in thy despair. 
Prometheus. I glory? "Would my 

foes did glory so, 
And I stood by to see them! naming 

whom, 
Thou art not unremembered. 

Hermes. Dost thou charge 

Me also with the blame of thy mis- 
chance ? 
Prometheus. I tell thee I loathe the 

universal gods, 

"Who, for the good I gave them, ren- 
dered back 
The ill of their injustice. 

Hermes. Thou art mad, 

Thou art raving, Titan, at the fever- 
height. 
Prometheus. If it be madness to 

abhor my foes, 
May I be mad ! 

Jlermes. If thou wert prosperous, 
Thou \vouldst be unendurable. 
Prometheus. Alas! 

Hermes. Zeus knows not that 

word. 

Prometheus. But maturing Time 
Teaches all things. 
Hermes. Howbeit, thou hast not 

learnt 
The wisdom yet, thou needest. 

Prometheus. If I had, 

I should not talk thus with a slave 

like thee. 
Hermes. No answer thou voueh- 

safest, I believe, 
To the great Sire's requirement. 

Prometheus. Verily 

I owe him grateful service, and should 

pay it. 
Hermes. Why, thou dost mock me, 

Titan, as I stood 
A child before thy face. 

Prometheus. No child, forsooth, 
But yet more foolish than a foolish 
child, 



If thou expect that I should answer 

aught 
Thy Zeus can ask. No torture from 

his hand. 

Nor any machination in the world, 
Shall force mine utterance ere he 

loose, himself, 
These cankerous fetters from me. 

For the rest, 

Let him now hurl his blanching light- 
nings down, 
And with his white-winged snows, 

and mutterings deep 
Of subterranean thunders, mix all 

things, 
Confound them in disorder. None of 

this 
Shall bend my sturdy will, and make 

me speak 
The name of his dethroner who shall 

come. 
Hermes. Can this avail thee? Look 

to it ! 

Prometheus. Long ago 

It was looked forward to, precoun- 

selled of. 
Hermes. Vain god, take righteous 

courage! Dare for once 
To apprehend aud front thine agonies 
With a just prudence. 

Prometheus. Vainly dost thou chafe 
My soul with exhortation, as yonder 

sea 
Goes beating on the rock. Oh! think 

no more 

That I, fear-struck by Zeus to a wo- 
man's mind, 

Will supplicate him, loathed as he is. 
With feminine npliftingsof my hands, 
To break these chains. Far from me 

be the thought! 
Hermes. I have- indeed, methinks, 

said much in vain, 

For still thy heart beneath my show- 
ers of prayers 
Lies dry and hard, nay, leaps like a 

young horse 
Who bites against the new bit in his 

teeth, 
And tugs and struggles against the 

new-tried rein, 
Still fiercest in the feeblest thing of 

all, 
Which sophism is; since absolute will 

disjoined 
From perfect mind is worse than 

weak. Behold, 
Unless my words persuade thee, what 

a blast 






244 




PROMETHEUS BOUND. 



And whirlwind of inevitable woe 
Must sweep persuasion through thee ! 

For at first 
The Father will split up this jut of 

rock 
"With the great thunder and the 

bolted flame, 
And hide thy body where a hinge of 

stone 
Shall catch it like an arm; and, when 

thou hast passed 
A long black time within, thou shalt 

come out 
To front the sun while Zeus's winged 

hound, 
The strong, carnivorous eagle, shall 

wheel down 
To meet thee, self-called to a daily 

feast, 
And set his fierce beak in thee, and 

tear off 
The long rags of thy flesh, and batten 

deep 

Upon thy dusky liver. Do not look 
For any end, moreover, to this curse, 
Or ere some god appear to accept thy 

pangs 

On his own head vicarious, and de- 
scend 
With unreluctaut step the darks of 

hell 

And gloomy abysses around Tartarus. 
Then ponder this, this threat is not 

a growth 
Of vain invention; it is spoken and 

meant: 

King Zeus's mouth is impotent to lie, 
Consummating the utterance by the 

act. 
So, look to it, thou ! take heed, and 

nevermore 

Forget good counsel to indulge self- 
will. 

Chorus. Our Hermes suits his rea- 
sons to the times, 
At least I think so, since he bids thee 

drop 
Self-will for prudent counsel. Yield 

to him ! 
When the wise err, their wisdom 

makes their shame. 
Prometheus. Unto me the fore- 

knower, this mandate of power 

He cries, to reveal it. 
What's strange in my fate, if I suffer 

from hate 

At the hour that I feel it ? 
Let the locks of the lightning, all 

bristling and whitening, 



Flash, coiling me round, 
While the ether goes surging 'neath 
thunder and scourging 

Of wild winds unbound ! 
Let the blast of the firmament whirl 
from its place 

The earth rooted below, 
And the brine of the ocean, in rapid 
emotion, 

Be driven in the face 
Of the stars up in heaven, as they 

walk to and fro ! 

Let him hurl me anon into Tartarus 
on 

To the blackest degree, 
With Necessity's vortices strangling 

me down ; 
But he cannot join death to a fate 

meant for me ! 

Hermes. Why, the words that he 
speaks and the thoughts that 
he thinks 

Are maniacal ! add, 

If the Fate who hath bound him 

should loose not the links, 

He wore utterly mad. 
Then depart ye who groan with 

him, 

Leaving to moan with him; 
Go in haste 1 lest the roar of the 

thunder anearing 
Should blast you to idiocy, living and 

hearing. 

Chorus. Change thy speech for 

another, thy thought for a new, 

If to move me and teach rue indeed 

be thy care ; 
For thy words swerve so far from the 

loyal and true 
That the thunder of Zeus seems 

more easy to bear. 
How ! couldst teach me to venture 

such vileuess ? behold 1 
I choose with this victim this an- 
guish foretold ! 
I recoil from the traitor in haste and 

disdain, 

And I know that the curse of the 
treason is worse 

Than the pang of the chain. 
Hermes. Then remember, O nymphs, 

what I tell you before, 
Nor, when pierced by the arrows 

that Ate will throw you, 
Cast blame on your fate, and declare 

evermore 
That Zeus thrust you on anguish he 

did not foreshow you. 
Nay, verily, nay ! for ye perish anon 






A LAMENT FOR ADONIS 



For your deed, by your choice. By 

no blindness of doubt, 
No abruptness of doom, but by mad- 
ness alone, 

In the great net of Ate, whence 
none cometh out, 

Ye are wound and undone. 
Prometheus. Ay ! in act now, in 
word now no more, 

Earth is rocking in space. 
And the thunders crash up with a 

roar upon roar, 
And the eddying lightnings flash 

fire in my face, 

And the whirlwinds are whirling the 
dust round and round, 




245 



And the blasts of the winds univer- 
sal leap free, 

And blow each upon each with a pas- 
sion of sound, 
And ether goes mingling in storm 

with the sea. 

Such a curse on my head, in a mani- 
fest dread, 
From the hand of your Zeus has 

been hurtled along. 
Oh my mother's fair glory ! O Ether, 

enringing 
All eyes with the sweet common 

light of thy bringing ! 
Dost see how I suffer this 
wrong ? 



A LAMENT FOR ADONIS. 



FBOM THE GREEK OF BION. 



I mourn for Adonis Adonis is dead, 
Fair Adonis is dead, and the Loves 

are lamenting. 

Sleep, Cypris, no more on thy purple- 
strewed bed; 
Arise, wretch stoled in black, beat 

thy breast unrelenting. 
And shriek to the worlds, "Fair 
Adonis is dead." 



I mourn for Adonis the Loves are 

lamenting. 
He lies on the hills in his beauty 

and death ; 

The white tusk of a boar has trans- 
pierced his white thigh. 
Cytherea grows mad at his thin, 

gasping breath, 
"While the black blood drips down on 

the pale ivory, 
And his eyeballs lie quenched with 

the weight of his brows; 
The rose fades from his lips, and upon 

them just parted 

The kiss dies the goddess consents 
not to lose, 



Though the kiss of the dead cannot 

make her glad-hearted : 
He knows not who kisses him dead 
in the dews. 



I mourn for Adonis the Loves are 

lamenting. 
Deep, deep, in the thigh is Adonis's 

wound ; 

But a deeper, is Cypris's bosom pre- 
senting. 
The youth lieth dead while his dogs 

howl around, 
And the nymphs weep aloud from 

the mists of the hill, 
And the poor Aphrodite', with 

tresses unbound, 
All dishevelled, unsandalled, shrieks 

mournful and shrill 
Through the dusk of the groves. 

The thorns, tearing her feet, 
Gather up the red flower of her blood 

which is holy, 
Each footstep she takes; and the 

valleys repeat 

The sharp cry she utters, and draw it 
out slowly. 






246 




A LAMENT FOR ADONIS. 



She calls on her spouse, her Assy- 
rian, on him 
Her own youth, while the dark blood 

spreads over his body, 
The chest taking hue from the gash 

in the limb, 

And the bosom once ivory turning to 
ruddy. 

IV. 

Ah, ah, Cytherea ! the Loves are la- 
menting. 
She lost her fair spouse, and so lost 

her fair smile: 
"When he lived she was fair, by the 

whole world's consenting, 
Whose fairness is dead with him: 

woe worth the while ! 
All the mountains above, and the oak- 
lands below, 
Murmur, ah, ah, Adonis! the streams 

overflow 
Aphrodite's deep wail ; river-fountains 

in pity 

Weep soft in the hills; and the flow- 
ers as they blow 
Redden outward with sorrow, while 

all hear her go 

With the song of her sadness through 
mountain and city. 



Ah, ah, Cytherea ! Adonis is 

dead. 

Fair Adonis is dead Echo an- 
swers Adonis ! 

Who weeps not for Cypris, when bow- 
ing her head 

She stares at the wound where it 
gapes and astonies ? 

When, ah, ah ! she sa'w how the 

blood ran away 
And empurpled the thigh, and, with 

wild hands thing out, 
Said with sobs, " Stay, Adonis ! un- 
happy one, stay, 
Let me feel thee once more, let me 

ring thee about 
With the clasp of my arms, and press 

kiss into kiss ! 
Wait a little, Adonis, and kiss me 

again, 
For the last time, beloved; and but so 

much of this 
That the kiss may learn life from the 

warmth of the strain ! 

Till thy breath shall exude from thy 

soul to my mouth, 



To my heart, and, the love-charm I 

once more receiving, 
May drink thy love in it, and keep of 

a truth 
That one kiss in the place of Adonis 

the living. 
Thou fliest me, mournful one, fliest 

me far, 
My Adonis, and seekest the Acheron 

portal, 
To Hell's cruel King goest down with 

a scar, 
While I weep and live on like a 

wretched immortal. 
And follow no step ! O Persephone', 

take him. 
My husband ! thou'rt better and 

brighter than I, 
So all beauty flows down to thee : 1 

cannot make him 
Look up at my grief: there's despair 

in my cry, 
Since I wail for Adonis who died to 

me died to me 
Then, I fear thee I Art thou dead, 

my Adored ? 
Passion ends like a dream in the sleep 

that's denied to me, 
Cypris is widowed, the Loves seek 

their lord 
All the house through in vain. Charm 

of cestus has ceased 
With thy clasp } O top bold in the 

hunt past preventing, 
Ay, mad, thou so fair, to have strife 

with a beast ! ' ' 

Thus the goodess wailed on; and 
the Loves are lamenting. 

VI. 

Ah, all, Cytherea! Adonis is 

dead. 
She wept tear after tear with the blood 

which was shed, 
And both turned into flowers for the 

earth's garden-close, 
Her tear, to the wind-flower; his 

blood to the rose. 

VII. 

I mourn for Adonis Adonis is 

dead. 

Weep no more in the woods, Cythe- 
rea, thy lover ! 
So, well: make a place for his corse in 

thy bed, 

With the purples thou sleepest in, 
under and over. 






A VISION OF POETS. 



247 



He's fair, though a corse, a fair corse, 

like a sleeper. 
Lay him soft in the silks he had 

pleasure to fold 
When, beside thee at night, holy 

dreams deep and deeper 
Enclosed his young life on the couch 

made of gold. 
Love him still, poor Adonis; cast on 

him together 
The crowns and the flowers: since 

he died from the place, 
Why, let all die with him; let the 

blossoms go wither; 
Rain myrtles and olive-buds down 

on his face. 
Bain the myrrh down, let all that is 

best fall a-pining 
Since the myrrh of his life from thy 

keeping is swept. 
Pale he lay, thine Adonis, in purples 

reclining: 
The Loves raised their voices around 

him and wept. 
They have shorn their bright curls off 

to cast on Adonis: 
One treads on his bow; on his arrows, 

another; 

One breaks up a well-feathered quiv- 
er; and one is 
Bent low at a sandal, untying the 

strings ; 

And one carries the vases of gold 
from the springs, 



While one washes the wound, and be- 
hind them a brother 
Fans down on the body sweet air 
with his wings. 



Cytherea herself now the Loves are 

lamenting, 
Each torch at the door Hymenseus 

blew out; 
And, the marriage-wreath dropping 

its leaves as repenting, 
No more "Hymen, Hymen," is 

chanted about; 
But the ai ai instead "ai alas "is 

begun 
For Adonis, and then follows " ai 

Hymenseus ! " 
The Graces are weeping for Cinyris' 

son, 
Sobbing low, each to each " His fair 

eyes cannot see us ! " 
Their wail strikes more shrill than the 

sadder Dione's. 
The Fates mourn aloud for Adonis, 

Adonis, 
Deep chanting: he hears not a word 

that they say : 
He would hear, but Persephone' has 

him in keeping. 
Cease moan, Cytherea ! leave pomps 

for to-day, 

And weep new when a new year re- 
nts thee for weeping. 



A VISION OF POETS. 



O sacred Essence, lighting me this hour, 
How may I lightly stile thy great 

power? 
Echo. Power. 

Power! but of whence? under the green- 



Echo. 



wood spraye? 
Or liv'st in lleaven? saye 



In Heavens aye. 



In Heavens aye ! tell, may I it obtayne 
By alms, by fasting, prayer, by painc? 
Echo. B'y pulne. 

Show me the paine, it shall be under- 
gone : 

I to mine end will still go on. 
Echo. Go on. 

BRITANNIA'S PASTORALS. 



A POET could not sleep aright, 

For his soul kept up too much 

light 
Under his eyelids for the night. 




And thus he rose disquieted, 

With sweet rhymes ringing through 

his head, 
Aiid in the forest wandered, 





248 




A VISTON OF POETS. 



Where, sloping up the darkest glades, 
The moon had drawn long colonnades 
Upon whose floor the verdure fades 

To a faint silver, pavement fair 

The antique wood-nymphs scarce 

would dare 
To footprint o'er, had such been there, 

And rather sit by breathlessly, 
"With fear in their large eyes, to see 
The consecrated sight. But HE 

The poet, who, with spirit-kiss 
Familiar, had long claimed for his 
Whatever earthly beauty is, 

Who also in his spirit bore 

A beauty passing the earth's store, 

Walked calmly onward evermore. 

His aimless thoughts in metre went 
Like a babe's hand, without intent, 
Drawn down a seven-stringed instru- 
ment; 

.Nor jarred it with his humor as, 
With a faint stirring of the grass, 
An apparition fair did pass. 

He might have feared another time ; 
But all things fair and strange did 

chime 
With his thoughts then, as rhyme to 

rhyme. 

An angel had not startled him, 
Alighted from heaven's burning rim 
To breathe from glory in the Dim; 

Much less a lady riding slow 

Upon a palfrey white as snow, 

And smooth as a snow-cloud could go. 

Full upon his she turned her face: 
' What ho, sir poet ! dost thou pace 
Our woods at night in ghostly chase 

" Of some fair dryad of old tales, 
Who chants between the nightingales 
And over sleep by song prevails ? " 

She smiled; but he could see arise 
Her soul from far adown her eyes, 
Prepared as if for sacrifice. 

She looked a queen who seemeth gay 
From royal grace alone. " Now, nay,'" 
He answered, " slumber passed away 



" Compelled by instincts in my head 
That I should see to-night, instead 
Of a fair nymph, some fairer Dread." 

She looked up quickly to the sky 
And spake: " The moon's regality 
Will hear no praise; she is as I. 

" She is in heaven, and I on earth; 
This is my kingdom: I come forth 
To crown all poets to their worth." 

He brake in with a voice that 

mourned: 
"To their worth, lady? They are 

scorned 
By men they sing for, till inurned. 

"To their worth? Beauty in the 
mind 

Leaves the hearth cold, and love-re- 
fined 

Ambitions make the world unkind. 

" The boor who ploughs the daisy 

down, 

The chief whose mortgage of renown 
Fixed upon graves has bought a 

crown 

" Both these are happier, more ap- 
proved, 

Than poets! why should I be moved 
In saying both are more beloved 'I " 

"The south can judge not of the 

north," 

She resumed calmly: " I come forth 
To crown all poets to their worth. ; 

" Yea, verily, to anoint them all 
With blessed oils, which surely shall 
Smell sweeter as the ages fall." 

" As sweet," the poet said, and rung 
A low sad laugh, "as flowers are, 

sprung 
Out of their graves when they die 

young ; 

" As sweet as window-eglantine, 
Some bough of which, as they de- 
cline, 
The hired nurse gathers at their sign; 

" As sweet, in short, as perfumed 

shroud 

Which the gay Roman maidens sewed 
For English Keats, singing aloud." 







A VISION OF POETS. 



249 Tf 



The lady answered, " Yea, as sweet ! 
The things thou naraest being com- 
plete 
In fragrance, as I measure it. 

" Since sweet the death-clothes and 

the knell 

Of him who, having lived, dies well; 
And wholly sweet the asphodel 

" Stirred softly by that foot of his, 
AVhen he treads brave on all that is, 
Into the world of souls, from this. 

" Since sweet the tears dropped at 

the door 

Of tearless death, and even before 
Sweet, consecrated evermore. 

" What, dost thou judge it a strange 

thing 

That poets, crowned for vanquishing, 
Should bear some dust from out the 

ring? 

" Come on with me, come on with me, 
And learn in coming: let me free 
Thy spirit into verity." 

She ceased: her palfrey's paces sent 
No separate noises as she went : 
'Twas a bee's hum, a little spent. 

And, while the poet seemed to tread 
Along the drowsy noise so made, 
The forest heaved up overhead 

Its billowy foliage through the air, 
And the calm stars did far and spare 
O'erswim the masses everywhere, 

Save when the overtopping pines 
Did bar their tremulous light with 

lines 
All fixed and black. Now the moon 

shines 

A broader glory. You may see 
The trees grow rarer presently; 
The air blows up more fresh and free: 

Until they come from dark to light, 
And from the forest to the sight 
Of the large heaven-heart, bare with 
night, 

A fiery throb in every star, 
Those burning arteries that are 
The conduits of God's life afar. 



A wild brown moorland underneath, 
And four pools breaking up the heath 
With white low gleamings blank as 
death. 

Beside the first pool, near the wood, 
A dead tree in set hofror stood, 
Peeled and disjointed, stark as rood; 

Since thunder-stricken years ago, 
Fixed in the spectral strain and throe 
Wherewith it struggled from the 
blow: 

A monumental tree, alone, 

That will not bend in storms, nor 

groan, 
But break off sudden like a stone. 

Its lifeless shadow lies oblique 
Upon the pool where, javelin-like, 
The star-rays quiver while they strike. 

" Drink," said the lady, very still: 
" Be holy and cold." He did her 

will, 
And drank the starry water chill. 

The next pool they came near unto 
Was bare of trees; there, only grew 
Straight flags, and lilies just a few, 

"Which sullen on the water sate, 
And leant their faces on the flat, 
As weary of the starlight-state. 

" Drink," said the lady, grave and 

slow: 
" World's iise behooveth thee to 

know." 
He drank the bitter wave below. 

The third pool, girt with thorny 

bushes, 
And flaunting weeds and reeds and 

rushes 
That winds sang through in mournful 

gushes, 

Was whitely smeared in many a 

round 

By a slow slime: the starlight s wound 
Over the ghastly light it found. 

" Drink," said the lady, sad and 

slow: 
" World's love behooveth thee t 

know." 
He looked to her commanding so; 






.... 250 




A VISION OF POETS. 



Her brow was troubled ; but her eye 
Struck clear to his soul. For all 

reply 
He drank the water suddenly, 

Then, with a deathly sickness, passed 
Beside the fourth pool and the last, 
Where weights of shadow were down- 
cast 

From yew and alder, and rank trails 
Of nightshade clasping the trunk- 
scales, 
And flung across the intervals 

From yew to yew: who dares to stoop 
Where those dank branches over- 
droop, 
Into his heart the chill strikes up, 

He hears a silent gliding coil, 

The snakes strain hard against the 

soil, 
His foot slips in their slimy oil, 

And toads seem crawling on his hand, 
And clinging bats, but dimly scanned, 
Full in his face their wings expand. 

A paleness took the poet's cheek: 

" Must I drink here?" he seemed to 

seek 
The lady's will with utterance meek: 

" Ay, ay," she said, " it so must be: " 
(And this time she spake cheerfully) 
" Behooves thee know world's cruel- 
ty." 

He bowed his forehead till his mouth 
Curved in the wave, and drank un- 

loath 
As if from rivers of the south; 

His lips sobbed through the water 

rank, 
His heart paused in him while he 

drank, 
His brain beat heart-like, rose and 

sank, 

And he swooned backward to a dream 
Wherein he lay 'twixt gloom aiid 

gleam, 
With death and life at each extreme: 

And spiritual thunders, born of soul, 
Not cloud, did leap from mystic pole, 
And o'er him roll and counter-roll, 



Crushing their echoes reboant 

With their own wheels. Did Heaven 

so grant 

His spirit a sign of covenant ? 
i 

At last came silence. A slow kiss 
Did crown his forehead after this; 
His eyelids flew back for the bliss. 

The lady stood beside his head, 
Smiling a thought with hair dispread: 
The moonshine seemed dishevelled 

In her sleek tresses manifold, 
Like Danae's in the rain of old 
That dripped with melancholy gold: 

But SHE was holy, pale and high 
As one who saw an ecstasy 
Beyond a foretold agony. 

" Rise up ! " said she with voice where 

song 
Eddied through speech, " rise up, be 

strong; 
And learn how right avenges wrong." 

The poet rose up on his feet: 
He stood before an altar set 
For sacrament with vessels meet, 

And mystic altar-lights, which shine 
As if their flames were crystal- 
line 

Carved flames that would not shrink 
or pine. 

The altar filled the central place 

Of a great churcn, and toward its 

face 
Long aisles did shoot and interlace, 

And from it a continuous mist 
Of incense (round the edges kissed 
By a yellow light of amethyst) 

Wound upward slowly and throb- 

bingly, 

Clond within cloud, right silverly, 
Cloud above cloud, victoriously, 

Broke full against the arched roof, 
And thence refracting eddied off, 
And floated through the marble woof 

Of many a fine-wrought architrave, 
Then, poising its white masses brave, 
Swept solemnly down aisle- and 
nave, 









" Alone amid the shifting scene 
That central altar stood serene." Page 251. 





A VISION OF POETS. 



251 



Where now in dark, and now in light, 
The countless columns, glimmering 

white, 
Seemed leading out to the Infinite: 

Plunged halfway up the shaft they 

showed, 

In that pale shifting incense-cloud 
Which flowed them by, and over- 
flowed, 

Till mist and marble seemed to blend 
And the whole temple at the end, 
With its own incense to distend, 

The arches like a giant's bow 

To bend and slacken; and, below, 

The niched saints to come and go: 

Alone amid the shifting scene 
That central altar stood serene 
In its clear, steadfast taper-sheen. 

Then first the poet was aware 
Of a chief angel standing there 
Before that altar, in the glare. 

His eyes were dreadful, for you saw 
That they saw God; his lips and jaw, 
Grand-made and strong, as Sinai's law 

They could enunciate, and refrain 

From vibratory after-pain; 

And his brow's height was sovereign: 

On the vast background of his wings 

Rises his image, and he flings 

From each plumed arc pale glitterings 

And fiery flakes (as beateth more 
Or less the angel-heart) before 
And round him upon roof and floor, 

Edging with fire the shifting fumes; 
While at his side, 'twixt lights and 

glooms, 
The phantasm of an organ booms. 

Extending from which instrument 
And angel, right and left way bent, 
The poet's sight grew sentient 

Of a strange company around 

And toward the altar; pale and bound, 

With bay above the eyes profound. 

Deathful their faces were, and yet 
The power of life was in them set, 
Never forgot, nor to forget: 



Sublime significance of mouth, 

Dilated nostril full of youth, 

And forehead royal with the truth. 



These faces were not multiplied 

Beyond your count, 

Did front the altar, glorified, 



ultip 
t, sid< 



but, side by side, 



Still as a vision, yet exprest 

Full as an action, look and geste 

Of buried saint in risen rest. 

The poet knew them. Faint and dim 
His spirits seemed to sink in him; 
Then, like a dolphin, change, and 



The current: these were poets true, 
Who died for Beauty, as martyrs do 
For Truth; the ends being scarcely 
two. 

God's prophets of the Beautiful 
These poets were ; of iron rule, 
The rugged cilix, serge of wool. 

Here Homer, with the broad suspense 
Of thunderous brows, and lips intense 
Of garrulous god-innocence. 

There Shakspeare, on whose forehead 
climb 

The crowns o' the world : O eyes sub- 
lime 

With tears and laughters for all time! 

Here ^Eschylus, the women swooned 
To see so awful when he frowned 
As the gods did: he standeth crowned. 

Euripides, with close and mild 
Scholastic lips, that could be wild, 
And laugh or sob out like a child, 

Even in the classes. Sophocles, 
With that king's look which down the 

trees 
Followed the dark effigies 

Of the lost Theban. Hesiod old, 
Who, somewhat blind and deaf and 

cold, 
Cared most for gods and bulls. And 

bold 

Electric Pindar, quick as fear, 

With race-dust on his cheeks, and 

clear, 
Slant, startled eyes that seem to heat 







xH 1 c .9 p > | ^ 




1.! 252 A VISION OF POETS. 1 


r 




The chariot rounding the last goal, 


Hard-souled Alfieri: and fancy-willed 






To hurtle past it in his soul. 


Boiardo, who with laughter filled 






And Sappho, with that gloriole 


The pauses of the jostled shield. 






Of ebon hair on calmed brows 


And Berni, with a hand stretched out 


v> 




O poet-woman! none foregoes 


To sleek that storm. And, not with- 




The leap, attaining the repose. 


out 






The wreath he died in, and the doubt 




Theocritus, with glittering locks 






Dropt sideway, as betwixt the rocks 


He died by, Tasso, bard and lover, 




He watched the visionary flocks. 


Whose visions were too thin to cover 






The face of a false woman over. 




And Aristophanes, who took 






The world with mirth, and laughter- 


And soft Racine; and grave Corneille, 




struck 


The orator of rhymes, whose wail 




The hollow caves of Thought, and 


Scarce shook his purple. And Pe- 




woke 


trarch pale, 




The infinite echoes hid in each. 


From whose brain-lighted heart were 




And Virgil : shade of Mantuan beech 


thrown 




Did help the shade of bay to reach 


A thousand thoughts beneath the sun, 
Each lucid with the name of One. 




And knit around his forehead high; 






For his gods wore less majesty 


And Camoens, with that look he had, 




Than his brown bees hummed death- 


Compelling India's Genius sad 




lessly. 


From the wave through the Lusiad; 




Lucretius, nobler than his mood, 


The murmurs of the storm-cape ocean 




Who dropped his plummet down the 
broad, 


Indrawn in vibrative emotion 
Along the verse. And, while devotion 




Deep universe, and said " No God," 








In his wild eyes fantastic shone 




Finding no bottom : he denied 


Under the tonsure blown upon 




Divinely the divine, and died 


By airs celestial, Calderon. 




Chief poet on the Tiber-side 








And bold De Vega, who breathed 




By grace of God : his face is stern 


quick 




As one compelled, in spite of scorn, 
To teach a truth he would not learn. 


Verse after verse, till death's old trick 
Put pause to life and rhetoric. 




And Ossian, dimly seen or guessed; 


And Goethe, with that reaching eye 




Once counted greater than the rest, 


His soul reached out from, far and 




When mountain-winds blew out his 


high, 




. vest. 


And fell from inner entity. 




And Spenser drooped his dreaming 


And Schiller, with heroic front 




. A -. * 

head 


Worthy of Plutarch's kiss upon't, 




(With languid sleep-smile, you had 


Too large for wreath of modern wont. 




said, 






From his own verse engendered) 


And Chaucer, with his infantine 






Familiar clasp of things divine: 




On Ariosto's, till they ran 


That mark upon his lip is wine. 




. Their curls in ore : the Italian 








i\ f Shot nimbler heat of bolder man 


Here Milton's eyes strike piercing. ,. 


_ 






dim: 






From his fine lids. And Dante, 


The shapes of suns and stars did 






stern 


swim 






And sweet, whose spirit was an urn 


Like clouds from them, and granted 






For wine and milk poured out in turn. 


him 






J l J 


i* 

i 









A VISION OF POETS. 



253 If 



God for sole vision. Cowley, there, 

Y\'hose active fancy debonair 

Drew straws like amber foul to fair. 

Drayton and Browne, with smiles 

they drew 

From outward nature, still kept new 
From their own inward nature true. 

And Marlowe, Webster, Fletcher, 

Ben, 
Whose fire-hearts sowed our furrows 

when 
The world was worthy of such men. 

And Burns, with pungent passionings 
Set in his eyes: deep lyric springs 
Are of the fire-mount's issuings. 

And Shelley, in his white ideal, 

All statue-blind. And Keats, the real 

Adonis with the hymeneal 

Fresh vernal buds half sunk between 
His youthful curls, kissed straight 

and sheen 
In his Rome-grave by Venus queen. 

And poor, proud Byron, sad as grave, 
And salt as life; forlornly brave, 
And quivering with the dart he drave. 

And visionary Coleridge, who 

Did sweep his thoughts as angels do 

Their wings with cadence up the Blue. 

These poets faced (and many more) 

The lighted altar looming o'er 

The clouds of incense dim and hoar; 

And all their faces, in the lull 
Of natural things, looked wonderful 
With life and death and deathless 
rule. 

All, still as stone, and yet intense, 
As if by spirit's vehemence 
That stone were carved, and not by 
sense. 

But where the heart of each should 

beat, 

There seemed a wound instead of it, 
From whence the blood dropped to 

their feet 

Drop after drop, dropped heavily 
As century follows century 
Into the deep eternity. 



Then said the lady, and her word 
Came distant, as wide waves were 

stirred 
Between her and the ear that heard, 

" World's use is cold; world's love is 

vain; 

World's cruelty is bitter bane: 
But pain is not the fruit of pain. 

" Harken, O poet, whom I led 
From the dark wood ! dismissing 

dread, 
Now hear this angel in my stead. 

" His organ's clavier strikes along. 
These poets' hearts, sonorous, strong, 
They gave him without count of 
wrong, 

" A diapason whence to guide 

Up to God's feet, from these who 

died, 
An anthem fully glorified, 

" Whereat God's blessing, IBARAK 

n') 

Breathes back this music, folds it 

back 
About the earth in vapory rack, 

" And men walk in it, crying, 

'Lo 

The world is wider, and we know 
The very heavens look brighter 

so; 

" ' The stars move statelier round the 

edge 
Of the silver spheres, and give in 

pledge 
Their light for nobler privilege; 

" ' No little flower but joys or grieves; 
Full life is rustling in the sheaves; 
Full spirit sweeps the forest-leaves.' 

" So works this music on the earth; 
God so admits it, sends it forth 
To add another worth to worth, 

" A new creation-bloom, that rounds 
The old creation, and expounds 
His Beautiful in tuneful sounds. 

" Now harken ! " Then the poet 

gazed 

Upon the angel, glorious-faced, 
Whose hand, majestically raised, 






- - 254 




A VISION OF POETS. 



Floated across the organ-keys, 

Like a pale moon o'er murmuring seas, 

With no touch but with influences: 

Then rose and fell (with swell and 

swound 

Of shapeless noises wandering round 
A concord which at last they found) 

Those mystic keys: the tones were 

mixt, 
Dim, faint, and thrilled and throbbed 

betwixt 
The incomplete and the unfixt; 

And therein mighty minds were 

heard 

In mighty musings, inly stirred, 
And struggling outward for a word, 

Until these surges, having run 
This way and that, gave out as one 
An Aphrodite of sweet tune, 

A harmony, that, finding vent, 
Upward in grand ascension went, 
Winged to a heavenly argument, 

Up, upward like a saint who strips 
The shroud back from his eyes and 

lips, 
And rises in apocalypse; 

A harmony sublime and- plain, 
Which cleft (as flying swan, the rain, 
Throwing the drops off with a strain 

Of her white wing) those undertones 
Of perplext chords, and soared at 

once, 
And struck out from the starry 

thrones 

Their several silver octaves as 
It passed to God. The music was 
Of divine stature, strong to pass; 

And those who heard it understood 
Something of life in spirit and blood, 
Something of Nature's fair and good. 

And while it sounded, those great 

souls 

Did thrill as racers at the goals, 
And burn iii all their aureoles: 

But she the lady, as vapor-bound, 
Stood calmly in the joy of sound, 
Like Nature, with the showers around; 



And when it ceased, the blood which 

fell 

Again, alone grew audible, 
Tolling the silence as a bell. 

The sovran angel lifted high 

His hand, and spake out sovranly: 

" Tried poets, hearken and reply! 

"Give me true answers. If we 

grant 

That not to suffer is to want 
The conscience of the jubilant; 

" If ignorance of anguish is 
But ignorance, and mortals miss 
Far prospects by a level bliss; 

" If, as two colors must be viewed 
In a visible image, mortals should 
Need good and evil to see good; 

" If to speak nobly comprehends 
To feel profoundly; if the ends 
Of power and suffering, Nature 
blends; 

" If poets on the tripod must 
Writhe like the Pythian to make just 
Their oracles, and merit trust; 

" If every vatic word that sweeps 
To change the world must pale their 

lips, 
And leave their own souls in eclipse; 

" If to search deep the universe 
Must pierce the searcher with the 

curse, 
Because that bolt (in man's reverse) 

" Was shot to the heart o' the wood, 

and lies 

Wedged deepest in the best; if eyes 
That look for visions and surprise 

"From influent angels must shut 

down 

Their eyelids first to sun and moon, 
The head asleep upon a stone; 

" If ONE who did redeem you back, 
By his own loss, from final wrack, 
Did consecrate by touch and track 

" Those temporal sorrows till the 

taste 

Of brackish waters of the waste 
Is salt with tears he dropt too fast; 






A VISION OF POETS. 



" If all the crowns of earth must 

wound 
With prickings of the thorns he 

found; 
If saddest sighs swell sweetest 

sound, 

" What say ye unto this? Refuse 
This baptism in salt water ? Choose 
Calm breasts, mute lips, and labor 
loose ? 

" Or, O ye gifted givers! ye 

Who give your liberal hearts to ine 

To make the world this harmony, 

" Are ye resigned that they be spent 
To such world's help ? " 

The spirits bent 

Their awful brows, and said, " Con- 
tent." 

Content! it sounded like Amen 
Said by a choir of mourning men; 
An affirmation full of pain 

And patience; ay, of glorying 

And adoration, as a king 

Might seal an oath for governing. 

Then said the angel, and his face 
Lightened abroad until the place 
Grew larger for a moment's space, 

The long aisles flashing out in light, 
And nave and transept, columns 

white 
And arches crossed, being clear to 

sight 

As if the roof were off, and all 
Stood in the noon-sun, " Lo! I 

call 
To other hearts as liberal. 

" This pedal strikes out in the air: 
My instrument has room to bear 
Still fuller strains and perfecter. 

" Herein is room, and shall be room 
While time lasts, for new hearts to 

come 
Consummating while they consume. 

" What living man will bring a 

gift 

Of his own heart, and help to lift 
The tune ? The race is to the 

swift." 




So asked the angel. Straight, the 

while, 

A company came up the aisle 
With measured step and sorted smile; 

Cleaving the incense - clouds that 

rise, 

With winking, unaccustomed eyes, 
And lovelocks smelling sweet of spice. 

One bore his head above the rest 
As if the world were dispossest; 
And one did pillow chin on breast, 

Right languid, an as he should faint; 
One shook his curls across his paint, 
And moralized on worldly taint; 

One, slanting up his face, did wink 
The salt rheum to the eyelid's brink, 
To think, O gods ! or not to think. 

Some trod out stealthily and slow, 
As if the sun would fall in snow 
If they walked to instead of fro; 

And some, with conscious ambling 

free, 

Did shake their bells right daintily 
On hand and foot, for harmony; 

And some, composing sudden sighs 
In attitudes of pointHlevice, 
Rehearsed impromptu agonies. 

And when this company drew near 
The spirits crowned, it might appear 
Submitted to a ghastly fear; 

As a sane eye in master-passion 
Constrains a maniac to the fashion 
Of hideous maniac imitation 

In the least geste, the dropping low 
O' the lid, the wrinkling of the brow, 
Exaggerate with mock and mow: 

So mastered was that company 
By the crowned vision utterly, 
Swayed to a maniac mockery. 

One dulled his eyeballs, as they ached 
With Homer's forehead, though he 

lacked 
An inch of any; and one racked 

His lower lip with restless tooth, 
As Pindar's rushing words foranotU 
Were pent behind it; one his smooth 










^r i* p > c |_s>r--w 




i " * 


,\ 

rt 






256 ^ VISION OF POKTS. 








Pink cheeks did rumple passionate 


More yet that speaker would have 








Like JSschylus, and tried to prate 


said, 








On trolling tongue of fate and fate ; 


Poising between his smiles fair-fed 








J l 


Each separate phrase till finished ; t 








One set her eyes like Sappho's or 










Any light woman's; one forbore 


But all the foreheads of those born 






Like Dante, or any man as poor 


And dead true poets flashed with 








scorn 






In mirth, to let a smile undo 


Betwixt the bay-leaves round them 






His hard-shut lips; and one that drew 


worn ; 






Sour humors from his mother blew 










Ay, jetted such brave fire, that they, 






His sunken cheeks out to the size 


The new-come, shrank and paled 






Of most unnatural jollities, 


away 






Because Anacreon looked jest-wise ; 


Like leaden ashes when the day 






So with the rest: it was a sight 


Strikes on the hearth. A spirit-blast, 






A great world-laughter would requite, 


A presence known by power, at last 






Or great world-wrath, with equal 


Took them up mutely: they had 






right. 


passed. 






Out came a speaker from that crowd 
To speak for all, in sleek and proud 
Exordial periods, while he bowed 


And he, our pilgrim poet, saw 
Only their places in deep awe, 
What time the angel's smile did 








draw 






His knee before the angel: " Thus, 








O angel who hast called for us, 


His gazing upward. Smiling on, 






We bring thee service emulous, 


The angel in the angel shone, 








Revealing glory in benison ; 






" Fit service from sufficient soul, 








Hand-service to receive world's dole, 


Till, ripened in the light which shut 






Lip-service in world's ear to roll 


The poet in, his spirit mute 








Dropped sudden as a perfect fruit: 






" Adjusted concords soft enow 
To hear the wine-cups passing 


He fell before the angel's feet, 






through, 


Saying, " If what is true is sweet, 






And not too grave to spoil the show: 


In something I may compass it: 






" Thou, certes, when thou askest 


" For, where my worthiness is poor, 






more, 


My will stands richly at the door 






O sapient angel ! leanest o'er 


To pay shortcomings evermore. 






The window-sill of metaphor. 










" Accept me, therefore: not for price, 






" To give our hearts up ? Fie 1 that 


And not for pride, my sacrifice 






rage 


Is tendered; for my soul is nice, 






Barbaric antedates the age: 








It is not done on any stage. 


" And will beat down those dusty 








seeds 






" Because your scald or gleeman went 


Of bearded corn if she succeeds 






With seven or nine stringed instrument 


In soaring while the covey feeds. 






Upon his back, must ours be bent ? 










" I soar; I am drawn up like the lark 






" We are not pilgrims, by your leave; 


To its white cloud: so high my mark, 








1 f* No, nor yet martyrs: if we grieve, 


Albeit my wing is small and dark. 


r> 






It is to rhyme to summer eve: 












" I ask no wages, seek no fame: 








" And if we labor, it shall be 


Sew me for shroud, round face and 








As suiteth best with our degree, 


name, 








In after-dinner revery." 


God's banner of the oriflamme. 








V V t 


Is 




,J c-\ s a r-s 1 . ..K 







A VISION OF POETS. 



257 



" I only would have leave to loose 
(In tears and blood if so He choose) 
Mine inward music out to use; 

" I only would be spent in pain 
And loss perchance, but not in vain 
Upon the sweetness of that strain; 

" Only project beyond the bound 
Of mine own life,, so lost and found, 
My voice, and live 011 in its sound; 

" Only embrace and be embraced 
By fiery ends, whereby to waste, 
And Tight God's future with iny 
past." 

The angel's smile grew more divine, 
The mortal speaking; ay, its shine 
Swelled fuller, like a choir-note fine, 

Till the broad glory round his brow 
Did vibrate with the light below; 
But what he said, I do not know. 

Nor know I if the man who prayed 
Rose up accepted, unforbade, 
From the church-floor where he was 
laid; 

Nor if a listening life did run 
Through the king-poets, one by one 
Rejoicing in a worthy son: 

My soul, which might have seen, grew 

blind 

By what it looked on: I can find 
No certain count of things behind. 

I saw alone, dim white and grand 
As in a dream, the angel's hand 
Stretched forth in gesture of command 

Straight through the haze. And so, 

as erst, 

A strain more noble than the first 
Mused in the organ, and outburst: 

With giant march from floor to roof 
Rose the full notes now parted off 
In pauses massively aloof 

Like measured thunders, now rejoined 
In concords of mysterious kind 
Which fused together sense and mind, 

Now flashing sharp on sharp along, 
Exultant in a mounting throng, 
Now dying off to a low song 



Fed upon minors, wavelike sounds 
Re-eddying into silver rounds, 
Enlarging liberty with bounds: 

And every rhythm that seemed to 

close 

Survived in confluent underflows 
Symphonious with the next that rose, 

Thus the whole strain being multi- 
plied 

And greatened, with its glorified 
Wings shot abroad from side to side, 

Waved backward (as a wind might 

wave 

A Brocken mist, and with as brave 
Wild roaring) arch and architrave, 

Aisle, transept, column, marble wall, 
Then swelling outward, prodigal 
Of aspiration beyond thrall, 

Soared, and drew up with it the whole 
Of this said vision, as a soul 
Is raised by a thought. And as a 
scroll 

Of bright devices is unrolled 
Still upward with a gradual gold, 
So rose the vision manifold, 

Angel and organ, and the round 
Of spirits, solemnized and crown<xl; 
While the freed clouds of incense 
wound 

Ascending, following in their track, 
And glimmering faintly like the rack 
O' the moon in her own light cast 
back. 

And as that solemn dream withdrew, 
The lady's kiss did fall anew 
Cold on the poet's brow as dew. 

And that same kiss which bound him 

first 

Beyond the senses, now reversed 
Iss own law, and most subtly pierced 

His spirit with the sense of things 
Sensual and present. Vauishiugs 
Of glory with ^Eolian wings 

Struck him and passed: the lady's 

face 

Did melt back in the chrysopras 
Of the orient morning sky, that was 





258 



A VISION OF POETS. 




Yet clear of lark; and there and so 
She melted as a star might do, 
Still smiling as she melted slow, 

Smiling so slow, he seemed to see 
Her smile the last thing, gloriously 
Beyond her, far as memory. 

Then he looked roiind: he was alone. 
He lay before the breaking sun, 
As Jacob at the Bethel stone. 

And thought's entangled skein being 

wound, 

He knew the moorland of his swound, 
And the pale pools that smeared the 

ground; 

The far wood-pines like offing ships; 
The fourth pool's yew anear him drips, 
World's cruelty attaints his lips, 

And still he tastes it, bitter still: 
Through all that glorious possible 
He had the sight of present ill. 

Yet rising calmly up and slowly, 
With such a cheer as scorneth folly, 
A mild, delightsome melancholy, 

He journeyed homeward through the 

wood, 

And prayed along the solitude 
Betwixt the pines, " O God, my God! " 

The golden morning's open flowings 
Did sway the trees to murmurous 

bowings, 
In metric chant of blessed poems. 

And passing homeward through the 

wood, 

He prayed along the solitude, 
" THOU, Poet-God, art great and good ! 

" And though we must have, and have 

had 

Right reason to be earthly sad, 
THOU, Poet-God, art great and glad! " 

CONCLUSION. 

Life treads on life, and heart on heart: 
We press too close in church and mart 
To keep a dream or grave apart. 

And I was 'ware of walking down 
That same green f orest,.where had gone 
The poet-pilgrim. One by one 



I traced his footsteps. From the east 
A red and tender radiance pressed 
Through the near trees, until I guessed 

The sun behind shone full and round; 
While up the leanness profound 
A wind scarce old enough for sound 

Stood ready to blow on me when 

I turned that way; and now and then 

The birds sang, and brake off again 

To shake their pretty feathers dry 
Of the dew, sliding droppingly 
From the leaf-edges, and apply 

Back to their song: 'twixt dew and 

bird 

So sweet a silence ministered, 
God seemed to use it for- a word; 

Yet morning souls did leap and run 
In all things, as the least had won 
A joyous insight of the sun, 

And no one, looking round the wood, 
Could help confessing as he stood, 
This Poet-God is f/lad and f/ood. 

But hark! a distant sound that grows, 
A heaving, sinking of the boughs, 
A Tustling murmur, not of those, 

A breezy noise which is not breeze! 
And white-clad children by degrees 
Steal out in troops among the trees, 

Fair little children morning-bright, 
With faces grave, yet soft to sight, 
Expressive of restrained delight. 

Some plucked the palm-boughs within 

reach, 

And others leapt up high to catch 
The upper boughs, and shake from 

each 

A rain of dew, till, wetted so, 

The child who held the branch let go, 

And it swang backward with a flow 

Of faster drippings. Then I knew 
The children laughed; but the laugh 

Hew 
From its own chirrup as might do 

A frightened song-bird ; and a child 
Who seemed the chief said very mild, 
" Hush! keep this morning undented." 







A VISION OF POETS. 



259 -..- 



His eyes rebuked them from calm 

spheres ; 

His soul upon his bro\v appears 
In waiting for more holy years. 

I called the child to me, and said, 
'What are your palms for?" "To 

be spread," 
He answered, " on a poet dead. 

" The poet died last month, and now 
The world, which had been some- 
what slow 
In honoring his living brow, 

" Commands the palms: they must 

be strown 

On his new marble very soon, 
In a procession of the town." 

I sighed and said. " Did he foresee 
Any such honor ? " " Verily 
I cannot tell you," answered he. 

" But this I know, I fain would lay 
My own head down, another day, 
As he did with the fame away. 

" A lily a friend's hand had plucked 
Lay by his death-bed, which he looked 
As .deep down as a bee had sucked, 

" Then, turning to the lattice, gazed 
O'er hill and river, and upraised 
His eyes illumined, and amazed 

" With the world's beauty, up to God, 
Re-offering on their iris broad 
The images of things bestowed 

" By the chief Poet. ' God,' he cried, 
' Be praised for anguish which has 

tried, 
For beauty which has satisfied ; 

" ' For this world's presence half 

within 
And half without me, thought and 

scene, 
This sense of Being and Having Been. 

" ' I thank thee that my soul hath room 
For thy grand world: both guests 

may come 
Beauty, to soul ; body, to tomb. 

'"I am content to be so weak: 

Put strength into the words I speak, 

And I am strong in what I seek. 



" ' I am content to be so bare 
Before the archers, everywhere 
My wounds being stroked by hear- 
enly air. 

" ' I laid my soul before thy feet, 
That images of fair and sweet 
Should walk to other men on it. 

'"I am content to feel the step 
Of each pure image: let those keep 
To mandragore who care to sleep. 

" ' I am content to touch the brink 
Of the other goblet, and I think 
My bitter drink a wholesome drink. 

" ' Because my portion was assigned 
Wholesome and bitter, thou art kind, 
And I am blessed to my mind. 

" ' Gifted for giving, I receive 

The maythorn, and it? scent outgive: 

1 grieve not that I once did grieve. 

" ' In my large joy of sight and touch 
Beyond what others- count for such, 
I am content to suffer much. 

" ' I know is ail the mourner saith, 
Knowledge by suffering eiitereth, 
And life is perfected by death.' " 

The child spake nobly : strange to hear, 
His infantine soft accents clear, 
Charged with high meanings did ap- 
pear; 

And, fair to see, his form and face 
Winged out with whiteness and pure 

grace 
From the green darkness of the place. 

Behind his head a palm-tree grew; 
An orient beam which pierced it 

through 
Transversely on his forehead drew 

The figure of a palm-branch brown, 
Traced on its brightness up and down 
In tine fair lines, a shadow-crown : 

Guido might paint his angels so, 

A little angel taught to go 

With holy words to saints below, 

Such innocence of action, yet 

Significance of object, met 

In his whole bearing strong and sweet 






.... 260 



A VISION OF POETS. 



And all the children, the whole band, 
Did round in rosy reverence stand, 
Each with a palm-bough in his hand. 

" And so he died," I whispered. 

" Nay, 

Not so," the childish voice did say: 
" That poet turned him first to pray 

" In silence, and God heard the rest 
'Twixt the sun's footsteps down the 

west. 
Then he called one who loved him 

best, 

" Yea, he called softly through the 

room 
(His voice was weak, yet tender) 

' Come,' 
He said, ' come nearer ! Let the 

bloom 

" ' Of life grow over, undented, 

This bridge of death, which is not 

wide: 
I shall be soon at the other side. 

" ' Come, kiss me ! ' So the one in 

truth 

Who lov^cl him best, in love, not ruth, 
Bowed down, and kissed him mouth 

to mouth : 

" And in that kiss of love was won 
Life's manumission. All was done: 
The mouth that kissed last kissed 
alone. 

" But in the former, confluent kiss, 
The same was sealed, I think, by His, 
To words of truth and uprightness." 

The child's voice trembled, his lips 

shook 

Like a rose leaning o'er a brook, 
Which vibrates, though it is not 

struck. 



" And who," I asked, a little moved, 
Yet curious-eyed, " was this that 

loved 
And kissed him last, as it behoved ? " 

"I," softly said the child; and then, 
" /," said he louder, once again: 
"His son, my rank is among men: 

" And, now that men exalt his name, 
I come to gather palms with them, 
That holy love may hallow fame. 

" He did not die alone, nor should 
His memory live so, 'mid these rude 
World-praises a worse solitude. 

" Me, a voice calleth to that tomb 
Where these are strewing branch and 

bloom, 
Saying, ' Come nearer: ' and I come. 

" Glory to God ! " resumed he, 
And his eyes smiled for victory 
O'er their own tears which I could 



Fallen on the palm, down cheek and 

chin 

" That poet now has entered in 
The place of rest which is not sin. 

" And while he rests, his songs in 

troops 
Walk up and down our earthly 

slopes, 
Companioned by diviner hopes." 

" But thou," I murmured to engage 
The child's speech farther, " hast an 

age 
Too tender for this orphanage." 

" Glory to God to God ! " he saith v 
" KNOWLEDGE BY SUFFERING ENTEB 

ETH, 
AND LIFE IS PERFECTED BY DEATH." 







THE POET'S VOW. 

" Oh, be wiser thou, 

Instructed that true knowledge leads to love." 

WOBDSWOBTH. 



PART THE FIRST. 

SHOWING WHEREFORE THE VOW WAS MADE. 
I. 

EVE is a twofold mystery; 

The stillness Earth cloth keep, 
The motion wherewith human hearts 

Do each to either leap 
As if all souls between the poles 

Felt " Parting comes in sleep." 



The rowers lift their oars to view 

Each other in the sea; 
The landsmen watch the rocking 
boats 

In a pleasant company; 
While up the hill go gladlier still 

Dear friends by two and three. 



The peasant's wife hath looked with- 
out 

Her cottage-door, and smiled: 
For there the peasant drops his spade 

To clasp his youngest child, 
Which hath no speech; but its hand 

can reach 
And stroke his forehead mild. 



A poet sate that eventide 

Within his hall alone, 
As silent as its ancient lords 

In the coffined place of stone, 
When the bat hath shrunk from the 
praying monk, 

And the praying monk is gone. 



Nor wore the dead a stiller face 
Beneath the cerement's roll: 
His lips refusing out in words 



Their mystic thoughts to dole, 
His steadfast eye burnt inwardly, 
As burning out his soul. 



You would not think that brow could 

e'er 

Ungentle moods express ; 
Yet seemed it, in this troubled world, 

Too calm for gentleness, 
When the very star that shines from 

far 
Shines trembling ne'ertheless. 



It lacked, all need, the softening light 
Which other brows supply: 

We should conjoin the scathed trunks 
Of our humanity, 

That each leafless spray intwiuing may 
Look softer 'gainst the sky. 



None gazed within the poet's face; 

The poet gazed in none : 
He threw a lonely shadow straight 

Before the moon and sun, 
Affronting Nature's heaven-dwelling 
creatures 

With wrong to Nature done: 

IX. 

Because this poet daringly 

The nature at his heart, 
And that quick tune along his veins 

He could not change by art 
Had vowed his blood of brotherhood 

To a stagnant place apart. 



He did not vow in fear, or wrath. 

Or grief's fantastic whim, 
But, weights and shows of sensual 
things 

261 






262 




THE POET'S VOW. 



Too closely crossing him, 
On his soul's eyelid the 

slid, 
And made its vision dim. 



pressure 



XI. 

And darkening in the dark he strove, 
"T\vixt earth and sea and sky, 

To lose in shadow, wave, and cloud, 
His brother's haunting cry: 

The winds were welcome as they 
swept, 

God's five-day work he would accept, 
But let the rest go by. 

XII. 

He cried, " O touching, patient Earth, 

That weepest in thy glee, 
Whom God created very good, 

And very mournful, we J 
Thy voice of moan doth reach his 
throne, 

As Abel's rose from thee. 



" Poor crystal sky with stars astray 1 
Mad winds that howling go 

From east to west! perplexed seas 
That stagger from their blow ! 

O motion wild ! O wave defiled ! 
Our curse hath made you so. 



" We ! and our curse ! do / partake 

The desiccating sin ? 
Have I the apple at my lips ? 

The money-lust withiu ? 
Do / human stand with the wounding 
hand, 

To the blasting heart akin ? 



" Thou solemn pathos of all things, 

For solemn joy designed ! 
Behold, submissive to your cause, 

An holy wrath I find, 
And for your sake the bondage break 

That knits me to my kind. 



XVI. 

forswear man's 



sympa- 



" Hear me 
thies, 

His pleasant yea and no, 
His riot on the piteous earth 

Whereon his thistles grow, 
His changing love with stars above, 

His pride with graves below. 




" Hear me forswear his roof by night, 
His bread and salt by day, 

His talkings at the wood-fire hearth, 
His greetings by the way, 

His answering looks, his systemed 

books, 
All man, for aye and aye. 

XVIII. 

" That so my purged, once human 

heart, 

From all the human rent, 
May gather strength to pledge and 

drink 

Your wine of wonderment, 
While you pardon me all blessingly 
The woe mine Adam sent. 



" And I shall feel your unseen looks 
Innumerous, constant, deep, 

And soft as haunted Adam once, 
Though sadder round me creep 

As slumbering men have mystic ken 
Of watchers on their sleep. 

xx. 

" And ever, when I lift my brow 

At evening to the sun, 
No A r oice of woman or of child 

Recording ' Day is done.' 
Your silences shall a love express, 

More deep than such an one." 



PAKT THE SECOND. 



SHOWING TO WHOM THE VOW WAS DE- 
CLARED. 



THE poet's vow was inly sworn, 

The poet's vow was told. 
He shared among his crowding friends 

The silver and the gold; 
They clasping bland his gift, his hand 

In a somewhat slacker hold. 



They wended forth, the crowding 

friends, 

With farewells smooth and kind. 
They wended forth, the solaced 

friends, 






THE POET'S VOW. 



263 



And left but twain behind: 
One loved him true as brothers do, 
And one was Rosalind. 



He said, " My friends have wended 

forth 

With farewells smooth and kind; 
Mine oldest friend, my plighted bride, 

Ye need not stay behind: 
Friend, wed iny fair bride for my 

sake, 

And let my lands ancestral make 
A dower for Rosalind. 



" And when beside your wassail board 

Ye bless your social lot, 
I charge you that the giver be 

In all his gifts forgot, 
Or alone of all his words recall 

The last, Lament me not." 



She looked upon him silently 
With her large, doubting eyes, 

Like a child that never knew but love, 
Whom words of wrath surprise, 

Till the rose did break from either 

cheek, 
And the sudden tears did rise. 



She looked upon him mournfully, 
While her large eyes were grown 

Yet larger with the stead}- tears, 
Till, all his purpose known, 

She turned sloxv, as she would go 
The tears were shaken down. 



She turned slow, as she would go, 
Then quickly turned again, 

And gazing in his face to seek 
Some little touch of pain, 

"I thought," she said, but shook 

her head : 
She tried that speech in vain. 

VIII. 

" I thought but I am half a child, 

And very sage art thou 
The teachings of the heaven and earth 

Should keep us soft and low. 
They have drawn my tears in early 
years, 

Or ere I wept as now. 



" But now that in thy face I read 

Their cruel homily, 
Before their beauty I would fain 

Untouched, unsoftened be, 
If I indeed could look on even 
The senseless, loveless earth 
heaven 

As thou canst look on me ! 



and 



' And couldest thou as coldly view 

Thy childhood's far abode, 
Where little feet kept time with 

thine 

Along the dewy sod, 
And thy mother's look from holy 

book 
Rose like a thought of God ? 



1 brother, called so, e'er her 

last 

Betrothing words were said ! 
O fellow-watcher in her room, 

With hushed voice and tread ! 
Rememberest thou how, hand in 

hand, 

O friend, O lover, we did stand, 
And knew that she was dead ? 



" I will not live Sir Roland's bride, 
That dower I will not hold; 

I tread below my feet that go, 
These parchments bought and 
sold: 

The tears I weep are mine to keep, 
And worthier than thy gold." 



The poet and Sir Roland stood 
Alone, each turned to each, 

Till Roland brake the silence left 
By that soft-throbbing speech 

" Poor heart ! " he cried, " it vainly 

tried 
The distant heart to reach. 

XIV. 

" And thou, O distant, sinful heart 

That climbest up so high 
To wrap and blind thee with the 
snows 

That cause to dream and die, 
What blessing can from lips of man 

Approach thee with his sigh ? 






264 




THE POET'S VOW. 



xv. 

" Ay, what from earth create for 

man, 

And moaning in his moan ? 
Ay, what from stars revealed to 

man, 

And man-named one by one ? 
Ay, more ! what blessing can be 

given 
Where the spirits seven do show in 

heaven 
A MAN upon the throne ? 



" A man on earth 'HE wandered once, 

All meek and undefiled, 
And those who loved him said ' He 

wept ; ' 

None ever said ' He smiled : ' 
Yet there might have been a smile 

unseen, 

When he bowed his holy face, I ween, 
To bless that happy child. 

xvir. 
" And now HE pleadeth up in heaven 

For our humanities, 
Till the ruddy light on seraphs' wings 

In pale emotion dies. 
They can better bear their Godhead's 

glare 
Than the pathos of his eyes. 

XVIII. 

" I will go pray our God to-day 

To teach thee how to scan 
His work divine, for human use, 

Since earth on axle ran; 
To teach thee to discern as plain 
His grief divine, the blood-drop's 
stain 

He left there, MAX for man. 



" So, for the blood's sake shed by Him 
Whom angels God declare, 

Tears like it, moist and warm with 

love, 
Thy reverent eyes shall wear, 

To see i' the face of Adam's race 
The nature God doth share." 



" I heard," the poet said, " thy voice 

As dimly as thy breath : 
The sound was like the noise of life 

To one anear his death; 



Or of waves that fail to stir the pale 
Sear leaf they roll beneath. 

XXI. 

"And still between the sound and 

me 

White creatures like a mist 
Did iuternoat confusedly, 

Mysterious shapes unwist: 
Across my heart and across my brow 
I felt them droop like wreaths oi 

snow, 
To still the pulse they kist. 

XXII. 

" The castle and its lands are thine 

The poor's it shall be done. 
Go, man, to love! I go to live 

In Courland hall, alone: 
The bats along the ceilings cling, 
The lizards in the floors do run, 
And storms and years have worn and 

reft 

The stain by human builders left 
In working at the stone." 



PART THE THIRD. 

SHOWING HOW THE VOW WAS KEPT. 
I. 

HE dwelt alone, and sun and moon 
Were witness that he made 

Rejection of his humanness 
Until they seemed to fade : 

His face did so, for he did grow 
Of his own soul afraid. 



The self-poised God may dwell alone 

With inward glorying; 
But God's chief angel waiteth for 

A brother's voice to sing; 
And a lonely creature of sinful nature, 

It is an awful thing. 



An awful thing that feared itself; 

While many years did roll, 
A lonely man, a feeble man, 

A part beneath the whole, 
He bore by day, he bore by night, 
That pressure of God's infinite 

Upon his finite soul. 







THE POET'S VOW 



265 



The poet at his lattice sate 

And downward looked he. 
Three Christians wended by to 
prayers. 

With mute ones in their ee ; 
Each turned above a face of love, 

And called him to the far chapelle 
With voice more tuneful than its bell ; 

But still they wended three. 



There journeyed by a bridal pomp, 
A bridegroom and his dame; 

He speaketh low for happiness, 
She blush eth red for shame: 

But never a tone of benison 
From out the lattice catne. 

VJ. 

A little child with inward song, 

No louder noise to dare, 
Stood near the wall to see at play 

The lizards green and rare; 
Unblessed the while for his childish 
smile, 

Which cometh unaware. 



PART THE FOURTH. 

SHOWING HOW ROSALIND FARED BY THE 
KEEPING OP THE VOW. 



IN death-sheets lieth Rosalind, 

As white and still as they ; 
And the old nurse thatwatchedherbed 

Rose up with " Well-a-day ! " 
And oped the casement to let in 
The sun, and that sweet, doubtful din 
Whicl droppeth from the grass and 

bough 
Sans wind and bird, none knoweth 

how, 
To cheer her as she lay. 



The old nurse started when she saw 

Her sudden look of woe; 
But the quick, wan tremblings round 
her mouth 

In a meek smile did go, 
And calm she said , " When I am dead, 

Dear nurse it shall be so. 



Till then, shut out those sights and 

sounds, 

And pray God pardon me 
That I without this pain no more 

His blessed works can see; 
And lean beside me, loving nurse, 
That thou mayst hear, ere I am 

worse 
What thy last love should be." 



The loving nurse leant over her, 
As white she lay beneath, 

The old eyes searching, dim with 

life, 
The young ones dim with death, 

To read their look if sound forsook 
The trying, trembling breath. 



" When all this feeble breath is done, 

And I on bier am laid, 
My tresses smoothed for never a feast, 

My body in shroud arrayed, 
Uplift each palm in a saintly calm, 

As if that still I prayed. 



" And heap beneath mine head the 

flowers 

You stoop so low to pull, 
The little white flowers from the wood 

Which grow there in the cool, 
Which he and I, in childhood's 

games, 
Went plucking, knowing not their 

names, 
And filled thine apron full. 

VII. 

" Weep not ! I weep not. Death is 

strong ; 

The eyes of Death are dry: 
But lay this scroll upon my breast 

When hushed its heavings lie, 
And wait a while for the corpse's smile 
. Which shineth presently. 



"And when it shineth, straightway 
call 

Thy youngest children dear, 
And bid them gently carry me 

All barefaced on the bier; 
But bid them pass my kirkyard grass 

That waveth long anear. 







266 



THE POET'S VOW. 



" And up the bank where I used to 

sit, 

And dream what life would be; 
Along the brook with its sunny look 

Akin to living glee; 
O'er the windy hill, through the for- 
est still, 
Let them gently carry me. 



" And through the piney forest still, 
And down the open moorland, 

Round where the sea beats mistily 
And blindly on the foreland; 

And let them chant that hymn I know, 

Bearing me soft, bearing me slow, 
To the ancient hall of Courland. 



" And when withal they near the hall, 

In silence let them lay 
My bier before the bolted door, 

And leave it for a day: 
For I have vowed, though I am proud, 
To go there as a guest in shroud, 

And not be turned away." 



The old nurse looked within her eyes, 

Whose mutual look was gone; 
The old nurse stooped upon her 
mouth, 

Whose answering voice was done ; 
And nought she heard, till a little bird, 

Upon the casement's woodbine 

swinging, 
Broke put into a loud, sweet singing 

For joy o' the summer sun: 
" Alack ! alack ! " she watched no 
more; 

With head on knee she wailed sore, 
And the little bird sang o'er and o'er 

For joy o' the summer sun. 



PART THE FIFTH. 

SHOWING HOW THE VOW WAS BROKEN. 
I. 

THE poet oped his bolted door 

The midnight sky to view; 
A spirit-feel was in the air 
Which seemed to touch his spirit bare 



Whenever his breath he drew; 
And the stars a liquid softness had, 
As alone their holiness forbade 

Their falling with the dew, 



They shine upon the steadfast hills, 

Upon the swinging tide, 
Upon the narrow track of beach, 

And the murmuring pebbles pied: 
They shine on every lovely place, 
They shine upon the corpse's face, 

As it were fair beside. 



It lay before him, human-like, 

Yet so unlike a thing ! 
More awful in its shrouded pomp 

Than any crowned king; 
All calm and cold, as it did hold 

Some secret, glorying. 



A heavier weight than of its clay 
Clung to his heart and knee: 

As if those folded palms could strike, 
He staggered groaningly, 

And then o'erhung, without a groan, 

The meek, close mouth that smiled 

alone, 
Whose speech the scroll must be. 



THE WORDS OF ROSALIND'S 
SCROLL. 

" I left thee last a child at heart, 

A woman scarce in years: 
I come to thee a solemn corpse, 

Which neither feels nor fears. 
I have no breath to use in sighs: 
They laid the dead-weights on mine 
eyes 

To seal them safe from tears. 

" Look on me with thine own calm 

look: 

I meet it calm as thou. 
No look of thine can change this smile, 

Or break thy sinful vow. 
I tell thee that my poor scorned heart 
Is of thine earth thine earth, apart: 
It cannot vex thee now. 

" But out, alas ! these words are writ 

By a living, loving one, 
Adown whose cheeks the proofs of 
life, 






jLl 







THE POET'S VOW. 



267 



The warm quick tears, do run: 
Ah, let the unloving corpse con- 
trol 
Thy scorn back from the loving soul 

Whose place of rest is won. 

" I have prayed for thee, with hurst- 
ing sobs, 

When passion's course was free; 
I have prayed for thee, with silent 

lips, 

In the anguish none could see: 
They whispered oft, ' She sleepeth 

soft ' 
But I only prayed for thee. 

' Go to ! I pray for thee no more: 

The corpse's tongue is still; 
Its folded ringers point to heaven, 

But point there stiff and chill: 
No further wrong, no further woe, 
Hath license from the sin below 
Its tranquil heart to thrill. 

' ' I charge thee. by the living's 

prayer, 

And the dead's silentness, 
To wring from out thy soul a cry 

Which God shall hear and bless ! 
Lest Heaven's own palm droop in my 

hand, 

And pale among the saints I stand. 
A saint compauioiiless.' 



Bow lower down before the throne, 

Triumphant Rosalind ! 
He boweth on thy corpse his face, 

And weepeth as the blind: 
'T\vas a dread sight to see them so. 
For the, senseless corpse rocked to 
and fro 

AY 1th the wail of his living mind. 



But dreader sight, could such be 
seen, 

His inward mind did lie, 
Whose long-subjected huuiauuess 

Gave out its lion cry s 
And fiercely rent its tenement 

Iii a mortal agony. 



I tell yon, friends, had you heard his 

wail, 
'Twould haunt yon in court and 

mart, 
And in merry feast, until you set 

Your cup down to depart, 
That weeping wild of a reckless child 
From a proud man's broken heart. 



O broken heart, O broken vow, 
That wore so proud a feature ! 

God, grasping as a thunderbolt 
The man's rejected nature, 

Smote him therewith i' the presence 
high 

Of his so worshipped earth and sky 

That looked on all indifferently 
A wailing human creature. 



A human creature found too weak 

To bear his human pain ; 
(May Heaven's dear grace have spo- 
ken peace 

To his dying heart and brain !) 
For when they came at dawn of day 
To lift the lady's corpse away, 

Her bier was holding twain. 



They dug beneath the kirkyard grass 

For both one dwelling deep; 
To which, when years had mossed 

the stone, 
Sir Roland brought his little son 

To watch the funeral heap: 
And when the happy boy would 

rather 

Turn upward his blithe eyes to see 
The wood-doves nodding from the 

tree, 
" Nay, boy, look downward," said his 

father, 

" Upon this human dust asleep. 
And hold it in thy constant ken 
That God's own unity compresses 
(One into one) the human many, 
And that his everlastiugness is 
The bond which is not loosed by 

any; 

That thou and I this law must keep, 
If not in love, in sorrow then 
Though smiling not like other men, 
Still, like them we must weep." 






THE ROMAUNT OF MARGRET. 




' Can my affections find out nothing best, 
But still and still remove? " 

QUAKLE8. 



I PLANT a tree whose leaf 

The yew-tree leaf will suit; 
But when its shade is o'er you laid, 

Turn round, and pluck the fruit. 
Now reach my harp from off the wall 

Where shines the sun aslant: 
The sun may shine and we be cold ! 
O barken, loving hearts and hold, 

Unto my wild roinaunt. 

Margret, Margret. 



Sitteth the fair ladye 

Close to the river-side 
"Which runneth on with a merry tone 

Her merry thoughts to guide: 
It runneth through the trees, 

It runneth by the hill, 
Nathless the lady's thoughts have 

found 
A way more pleasant still. 

Margret, Margret. 



The night is in her hair, 

And giveth shade to shade; 
And the pale moonlight 011 her fore- 
head white 

Like a spirit's hand is laid; 
Her lips part with a smile 

Instead of speakings done: 
I ween she thinketh of a voice, 
Albeit uttering none. 

Margret, Margret. 



All little birds do sit 

With heads beneath tbeir wings; 
Nature doth seem in a mystic dream, 
Absorbed from her living things; 
268 



That dream by that ladye \ 

Is certes unpartook, 
For she looketh to the high cold 

stars 
With a tender human look. 

Margret, Margret. 



The lady's shadow lies 

Upon the running river; 
It lieth no less in its quietness, 

For that which resteth never: 
Most like a trusting heart 

Upon a passing faith, 
Or as upon the course of life 
The steadfast doom of death. 

Margret, Margret. 



The lady doth not move, 

The lady doth not dream; 
Yet she seeth her shade no longer 

laid 

In rest upon the stream: 
It shaketh without wind, 

It parteth from the tide, 
It standeth upright in the cleft moon- 
light, 
It sitteth at her side. 

Margret, Margret, 



Look in its face, ladye, 

And keep thee from thy swound; 
With a spirit bold thy pulses hold, 

And hear its voice's sound: 
For so will sound thy voice 

When thy face is to the wall, 
And such will be thy face, ladye, 

When the maidens work thy pall. 
Margret, Margret 







THE ROM AUNT OF MARGRET. 



269 



" Am I not like to thee ? " 

Tlie voice was calm and low, 
And between each word you might 

have heard 

The silent forests grow: 
" The like may sway the like ; " 

By which mysterious law 
Mine eyes from thine, and my lips 

from thine, 

The light and breath may draw. 
Margret, Margret. 



" My lips do need thy breath, 
My lips do need thy smile, 
And my pallid eyne, that light in 

thine 

Which met the stars erewhile: 
Yet go with light and life, 

If that thou lovest one 
In all the earth who loveth thee 
As truly as the sun. 

Margret, Margret. 



Her cheek had waxed white, 

Like cloud at fall of snow; 

Then, like to one at set of sun, 

It waxed red also : 
For love's name inaketh bold, 

As if the loved were near: 
And then she sighed the deep, long 

sigh 
"Which cometh after fear. 

Margret, Margret. 



" Now, sooth, I fear thee not 
Shall never fear thee now ! " 
(And a noble sight was the sudden 

light 

Which lit her lifted brow.) 
" Can earth be dry of streams, 
Or hearts of love ? " she said; 
" Who doubteth love can know not 

love: 
He is already dead." 

Margret, Margret. 



"I have" . . . and here her lips 
Some word in pause did keep, 
And gave the while a quiet smile, 
As if they paused in sleep, 



" I have ... a brother dear, 
A knight of knightly fame: 
I broidered him a knightly scarf 
With letters of my name. 

Margret, Margret 



" I fed his gray gosshawk, 

I kissed his fierce bloodhound, 
I sate at home when he might come, 
And caught his horn's far sound: 
I sang him hunter's songs, 

I poured him the red wine, 
He looked across the cup, and said, 
/ love thee, sister mine." 

Margret, Margret 



IT trembled on the grass 

With a low, shadowy laughter ; 
The sounding river which rolled, for- 
ever 

Stood dumb and stagnant after: 
" Brave knight thy brother is ! 

But better loveth he 
Thy chaliced wine than thy chanted 

song, 
And better both than thee, 

Margret, Margret." 



xv. 

The lady did not heed 

The river's silence, while 
Her own thoughts still ran at their 

will, 

And calm was still her smile. 
" My little sister wears 

The look our mother wore : 
I smooth her locks with a golden 

comb, 
I bless her evermore." 

Margret, Margret 



" I gave her my first bird 

When first my voice it knew; 
I made her share my posies rare, 

And told her where they grew: 
I taught her God's dear name 

With prayer and praise to tell : 
She looked from heaven into my face, 
And said, I love thee well." 

Margret, Margret 







^-r i_i r .e I-JF KV 




/ 

e\ 


.! 270 THE ROM AUNT OF MARGRET. '...I 




XVII. 


" I have more than a friend 




tj 


IT trembled on the grass, 
With a low, shadowy laughter; 
v You could see each bird as it woke 


Across the mountains dim: 
No other's voice is soft to me, 
Unless it nameth him.'' J (, 






and stared 


Margret. Margret, I 




Through the shrivelled foliage 






after. 






" Fair child thy sister is ! 


XXII. 




But better loveth she 
Thy golden comb than thy gathered 


" Though louder beats my heart, 
I know his tread again, 




flowers, 
And better both than thee, 


And his fair plume aye, unless turned 

Q \\- Q v 




Margret, Margret." 


(i n <*y j 

For the tears do blind me then: 






We brake no gold, a sign 




XVIII. 


Of stronger faith to be ; 




Thy lady did not heed 
The withering on the bough; 
Still calm her smile, albeit the while 


But I wear his last look in my soul, 
Which said, / love but thee ! " 
Margret, Margret. 




A little pale her brow: 






" I haA'e a father old, 






The lord of ancient halls; 


XXIII. 




An hundred friends are in his court, 
Yet only me he calls. 
Margret, Margret. 


IT trembled on the grass 
With a low, shadowy laughter; 
And the wind did toll, as a passing 






soul 




XIX. 


Were sped by church-bell after; 




" An hundred knights are in his 


And shadows, ''stead of light, 
Fell from the stars above, 




court, 
Yet read I by his knee; 
And when forth they go to the tour- 
ney show 


In flakes of darkness on her face 
Still bright with trusting love. 
Margret, Margret 




I rise not up to see: 






'Tis a weary book to read, 






My tryst's at set of sun ; 


XXIV. 




But loving and dear beneath the stars 
Is his blessing when I've done." 
Margret, Margret. 


" He loved but only thee ! 
That love is transient too. 
The wild hawk's bill doth dabble still 






I' the mouth that vowed thee true: 




XX. 


Will he open his dull eyes, 




IT trembled on the grass 
With a low, shadowy laughter; 
And moon and star, though bright 
and far, 


When tears fall on his brow ? 
Behold the death- worm to his heart 
Is a nearer thing than thon , 
Margret, Margret-'' 




Did shrink and darken after. 






" High lord thy father is ! 






But better loveth he 


XXV. 




His ancient halls than his hundred 
friends, 


Her face was on the ground, 




His ancient halls, than thee, 
Margret, Margret." 


None saw the agony ; 
But the men at sea did that nighft 








agree < 




t\ 


I 


They heard a drowning cry: ' r 






XXI. 


And when the morning brake, 






The lady did not heed 


Fast rolled the river's tide, 






That the far stars did fail; 


With the green trees wavingoverhead, 






Still calm her smile, albeit the while 


And a white corse laid beside. 






Nay, but she is not pale I 


Margret, Margret 




r 




& H , . ^ 




_1 1 6 J > <, \a L >^ 









ISOBEL'S CHILD. 



271 



A knight's bloodhound and he 
The funeral watch did keep; 
With a thought o' the chase, he stroked 

its face, 

As it howled to see him weep. 
A fair child kissed the dead, 
But shrank before its cold. 
And alone yet proudly in his hall 
Did stand a baron old. 

Margret, ,Margret. 



Hang up my harp again ! 

I have no voice for song. 
Not song, but wail, and mourners 

pale, 

Not bards, to love belong. 
O failing human love ! 

O light, by darkness known ! 
Oh false, the while thou treadest earth! 
Oh deaf beneath the stone ! 

Margret, Margret. 



ISOBEL'S CHILD. 



" so find we profit, 

By losing of our prayers." 

8IIAKESPEABE. 



To rest the weary nurse has gone: 
An eight-day watch had watched 

she, 
Still rocking beneath sun and moon 

The baby on her knee, 
Till Isobel its mother said, 
" The fever waneth, wend to bed. 
For now the watch comes round to 
me." 



Then wearily the nurse did throw 
Her pallet'in the darkest place 
Of that sick-room, and slept and 

dreamed : 

For, as the gusty wind did blow 
The night-lamp's Hare across her 

face, 
She saw or seemed to see, but 

dreamed, 
That the poplars tall on the opposite 

hill, 

The seven tall poplars on the hill, 
Did clasp tht setting sun until 
His rays dropped from him, pined and 

still 

As blossoms in frost, 
Till he waned and paled, so weirdly 
crossed, 



To the color of moonlight which doth 

pass 
Over the dank ridged churchyard 

grass. 

The poplars held the sun, and he 
The eyes of the nurse that they should 

not see 
Not for a moment, the babe on her 

knee, 
Though she shuddered to feel that it 

grew to be 
Too chill, and lay too heavily. 

in. 

She only dreamed ; for all the while 
'Twas Lady Isobel that kept 
The little baby: and it slept 
Fast, warm, as if its mother's smile, 
Laden with love's dewy weight, 
And red as rose of Harpocrate, 
Dropt upon its eyelids, prest 
Lashes to cheek In a sealed rest. 



And more and more smiled Isobel 
To see the baby sleep so well : 
She knew not that she smiled. 
Against the lattice, dull and wild 
Drive the heavy, droning drops, 
Drop by drop, the sound being one; 





272 




ISOBEL' S CHILD. 



As momently time's segments fall 
On the ear of Gbd, who hears through 

all 

Eternity's unbroken monotone. 
And more and more smiled Isobel 
To see the baby sleep so well : 
She knew not that she smiled. 
The wind in intermission stops 
Down in the beechen forest, 

Then cries aloud 
As one at the sorest, 

Self-stung, self-driven, 
And rises up to its very tops, 
Stiffening erect the branches bowed, 
Dilating with a tempest-soul 
The trees that with their dark hands 

break 
Through their own outline, and heavy 

roll 
Shadows as massive as clouds in 

heaven 

Across the castle lake. 
And more and more smiled Isobel 
To see the baby sleep so well. 
She knew not that she smiled; 
She knew not that the storm was wild; 
Through the uproar drear she could 

not hear 

The castle clock which struck auear : 
She heard the low, light breathing of 
her child. 



Oh ! sight for wondering look, 
While the external nature broke 
Into such abandonment, 
While the very mist, heart-rent 
By the lightning, seemed to eddy 
Against nature, with a din, 
A sense of silence and of steady 
Natural calm appeared to come 
From things without, and enter in 
The human creature's room. 



So motionless she sate, 

The babe asleep upon her knees, 
You might have dreamed their souls 

had gone 

Away to things inanimate, 
In such to live, in such to moan, 
And that their bodies had ta'en back, 

In mystic change, all silences 
That cross the sky in cloudy rack, 
Or dwel 1 beneath the reedy ground 
In waters safe from their own sound: 
Only she wore 
The deepening smile I named before, 



And that a deepening love exprest; 
And who at once can love and rest ? 



In sooth the smile that then was 

keeping 
Watch upon the baby sleeping, 

Floated with its tender light 
Downward, from the drooping eyes, 
Upward, from the lips apart, 

Over cheeks which had grown whitt, 
With an eight-day weeping : 
All smiles come in such a wise 
"\Vhere tears shall fall or have of old -< 
Like northern lights that rill the heart 
Of heaven in sign of cold. 



Motionless she sate. 
Her hair had fallen by its weight 
On each side of her smile, and lay 
Very blackly on the arm 
Where the baby nestled warm, 
Pale as baby carved in stone 
Seen by glimpses of the moon 

Up a dark cathedral aisle; 
But through the storm no moonbeam 

fell 

Upon the child of Isobel 
Perhaps you saw it by the ray 

Alone of her still smile. 



A solemn thing it is to me 

To look upon a babe that sleeps, 

Wearing in its spirit-deeps 
The undeveloped mystery 

Of our Adam's taint and woe, 
Which, when they developed be, 

Will not let it slumber so; 
Lying new in life beneath 
The shadow of the coming death, 
With that soft, low, quiet breath, 

As if it felt the sun ; 
Knowing all things by their blooms. 
Not their roots, yea, sun and sky 
Only by the warmth that conies 
Out of each; earth only by 

The pleasant hues that o'er it run; 
And human love by drops of sweet 

White nourishment still hanging 
round 

The little mouth so slumber- 
bound : 

All which broken sentiency 
And conclusion incomplete, 

Will gather and unite, and climb 
To an immortality 







IKOBKL'S CHILD. 



273 



Good or evil, each sublime, 
Through life and death to life again. 
O little lids, now folded fast, 
Must ye learn to drop at last 

Our large and burning tears ? 
O warm quick body, must thou lie, 
When the time comes round to die, 
Still from all the whirl of years, 
Bare of all the joy and pain ? 
O small frail being, wilt thou stand 
At God's right hand, 
Lifting up those sleeping eyes 
Dilated by great destinies, 
, To an endless waking ? thrones and 

seraphim, 

Through the long ranks of their solem- 
nities, 
Sunning thee with calm looks of 

Heaven's surprise, 
But thine alone, on Him ? 
Or else, self-willed, to tread the God- 
less place, 
(God keep thy will !) feel thine own 

energies 
Cold, strong, objectless, like a dead 

man's clasp, 
The sleepless, deathless life within 

thee grasp, 

While myriad faces, like one change- 
less face, 
With woe, not love's, shall glass thee 

everywhere, 

And overcome thee with thine own 
despair ? 



More soft, less solemn images 
Drifted o'er the lady's heart 

Silently as snow. 
She had seen eight days depart 
Hour by hour on bended knees, 

With pale, wrung hands and pray- 
ings low 
And broken, through which came the 

sound 

Of tears that fell against the ground, 
Making sad stops: " Dear Lord, dear 

Lord ! " 
She still had prayed (the heavenly 

word 

Broken by an earthly sigh) 
' Thou who didst not erst deny 
The mother- joy to Mary mild, 
Blessed in the blessed child 
Which harkened in meek babyhood 
Her cradle-hymn, albeit used 
To all that music interfused 
S:; breasts of angels high and good ! 



Oh, take not, Lord, my babe away ! 
Oh, take not to thy songful heaven 
The pretty baby thou hast given, 
Or ere that I have seen him play 
Around his father's knees and known 
That he knew how my love has gone 
From all the world to him. 
Think, God among the cherubim, 
How I shall shiver every day 
In thy June sunshine, knowing where 
The grave-grass keeps it from his fair 
Still cheeks, and feel at every tread 
His little body which is oead, 
And hidden in thy turfy fold, 
Doth make thy whole warm earth 

a-cold ! 

O God. I am so young, so young 
I am not used to tears at nights 
Instead of slumber not to prayer 
With sobbing lips, and hands out- 
wrung ! 

Thou knowest all my prayings were 
' I bless thee, God, for past de- 
lights 

Thank God ! ' I am not used to bear 
Hard thoughts of death; the earth 

doth cover 

No face from me of friend or lover: 
And must the first who teaches rue 
The form of shrouds and funerals be 
Mine own first-born beloved he 
Who taught me first this mother-love ? 
Dear Lord, who spreadest out above 
Thy loving, transpierced hands to 

meet 

All lifted hearts with blessing sweet, 
Pierce not my heart, my tender heart 
Thou rnadest tender ! Thou who art 
So happy in thy heaven alway, 
Take not mine only bliss away ! " 



She so had prayed; and God, who 

hears 
Through seraph-songa the sound of 

tears, 

From that beloved babe had ta'en 
The fever and the beating pain. 
And more and more smiled Isobel 
To see the baby sleep so well. 
(She knew not that she smiled, I 

wis) 

Until the pleasant gradual thought 
Which near her heart the smile in* 

wrought, 

Now soft and slow, itself did seem 
To float along a happy dream, 
Beyond it into speech like this. 







IKOBEL'S CHILD. 



" I prayed for thee, my little child. 
And God has heard my prayer ! 

And when thy babyhood is gone, 

We two together undefiled 

By men's repinings, will kneel down 
Upon his earth which will be fair 

(Not covering thee, sweet !) to us 

twain, 
And give him thankful praise." 



Dully and wildly drives the rain: 
Against the lattices drives the rain. 



" I thank him now, that I can think 
Of those same future days, 

Nor from the harmless image shrink 
Of what I there might see, 

Strange babies on their mothers' knee. 

Whose innocent soft faces might, 

From off mine eyelids strike the light, 
With looks not, meant for me ! ' ' 



Gustily blows the wind through the 

rain, 
As against the lattices drives the rain. 



" But now, O baby mine, together 
We turn this hope of ours again 
To many an hour of summer 

weather, 

When we shall sit and intertwine 
Our spirits, and instruct each other 
In the pure loves of child and 

mother ! 
Two human loves make one divine." 

xvn. 
The thunder tears through the wind 

and the rain, 
As full on the lattices drives the rain. 

XVIII. 

" My little child, what wilt thou 

choose ? 

Now let me look at thee and pon- 
der. 
What gladness from the gladnesses 

Futurity is spreading under 
Thy gladsome sight? Beneath the 

trees 
Wilt thou leau all day, and lose 



Thy spirit with the river seen 
I ntermittently between 

The winding beechen alleys, 
Half in labor, half repose, 

Like a shepherd keeping sheep, 

Thou, with only thoughts to keep 
Which never a bound will overpass, 
And which are innocent as those 

That feed among Arcadian valleys 
Upon the dewy grass ? " 



The large white owl that with age is 

blind, 

That hath sate for years in the old 
tree hollow, 

Is carried away in a gust of wind; 

His wings could bear him not as fast 

As he goeth now the lattice past; 
He is borne by the winds, the rains 
do follow, 

His white wings to the blast outflow- 
ing, 

He hooteth in going, 

And still in the lightnings coldly 

glitter 
His round unblinking eyes. 



" Or, baby, wilt thou think it fitter 

To be eloquent and wise, 
One upon whose lips the air 

Turns to solemn verities 
For men to breathe anew, and win 
A deeper-seated life within ? 
Wilt be a philosopher, 

By whose voice the earth and skies 
Shall speak to the unborn ? 
Or a poet, broadly spreading 

The golden immortalities 
Of thy soul on natures lorn 

And poor of such, them all to guard 
From their decay, beneath thy 

treading, 
Earth's flowers recovering hues of 

Eden, 
And stars drawn downward by thy 

looks, 
To shine ascendant in thy books ? " 



The tame hawk in the castle-yard, 
How it screams to the lightning, with 

its wet 

Jagged plumes overhanging the para- 
pet ! 

And at the lady's door the hound 
Scratches with a crying sound. 







JSOBEL'S CHILD. 



275 



" But, O my babe, thy lids are laid 

Close, fast upon tby cheek, 
And not a dream of power and sheen 
Can make a passage up between. 
Thy heart is of thy mother's made, 

Thy looks are very meek, 
And it will be their chosen place 
To rest on some beloved face, 

As these on thine, and let the noise 
Of the whole world go on, nor drown 

The tender silence of thy joys: 
Or. when that silence shall have grown 

Too tender for itself, the same 
\ arning for sound, to look above 
Aad utter its one meaning, LOVE, 

That He may hear His name." 

XXIII. 

No wind, no rain, no thunder ! 
Tho waters had trickled not slowly, 
The thunder was not spent, 
Nor the wind near finishing : 
"Who would have said that the storm 

was diminishing? 
^o wind, no rain, no thunder ! 
Their noises dropped asunder 
From the earth and the firmament, 
From the towers and the lattices, 
Abrupt and echoless 
As ripe fruits on the ground unshaken 

wholly 

As life in death. 
And sudden and solemn the silence 

fell. 
Startling the heart of Isobel 

As the tempest could not' 
Against the door went panting the 

breath 
Of the lady's hound whose cry was 

still, 
And she. constrained howe'er she 

would not, 

Lifted her eyes, and saw the inoou 
Looking out of heaven alone 
Upon the poplared hill, 
A calm of God, made visible 
That men might bless it at their 
will. 

XXIV. 

The moonshine on the baby's face 

Falleth clear and cold; 
The mother's looks have fallen back 

To the same place: 
Because no moon with silver rack, 
Nor broad sunrise in jasper skies, 
Has power 1o hold 
Our loving eyes, 



Which still revert, as ever must 
Wonder and Hope, to gaze on the 
dust. 

XXV. 

The moonshine on the baby's face 

Cold and clear remaineth; 
The mother's looks do shrink away, 
The mother's looks return to stay, 

As charmed by what paineth: 
Is any glamour in the case ? 

Is it dream, or is it sight ? 
Hath the change upon the wild 

Elements that signs the night, 
Passed upon the child ? 

It is not dream, but sight. 

XXVI. 

The babe has awakened from sleep, 
And unto the gaze of its mother 
Bent over it, lifted another, 
Not the baby-looks that go 
Unaimiugly to and fro. 
But an earnest gazing deep 
Such as soul gives soul at length 

When by work and wail of years 
It winueth a solemn strength, 

And mourneth as it wears. 
A strong man could not brook, 

With pulse unhurried by fears, 
To meet that baby's look 

O'erglazed by manhood's tears, 
The tears of a man full grown, 
With a power to wring our own, 
In the eyes alHuidetiled 
Of a little three-mouths' child, 
To see that babe-brow wrought 
By the witnessing of thought 

To judgment's prodigy, 
And the small soft mouth unweaued, 
By mother's kiss o'erleaned. 
(Putting the sound of loving 
Where no sound else was moving 

Except the speechless cry) 
Quickened to mind's expression, 
Shaped to articulation, 
Yea, uttering words, yea, naming woe, 

In tones that with it strangely 
went, 

Because so baby-innocent, 
As the child spake out to the mother, 



" O mother, mother, loose thy prayer, 
Christ's name hath made it strong. 
It bindeth me, it holdeth me, 
With its most loving cruelty, 






276 




ISOBEL'S CHILD 



From Moating my new soul along 

The happy heavenly air. 
It bindoth me, it holdeth me 

In all this dark, upon this dull 
Low earth by only weepers trod. 
It bindeth me, it holdeth me ! 

Mine angel looketh sorrowful 
Upon the face of God. 1 



" Mother, mother, can T dream 
Beneath your earthly trees ? 

I had a vision and a gleam; 
I heard a sound more sweet than 
these 

When rippled by the wind: 
Did you see the Dove with wings, 
Bathed in golden glistenngs 

From a sunless light behind, 
Dropping on me from the sky, 

Soft as mother's kiss, until 

I seemed to leap, and yet was still ? 
Saw you how his love-large eye 

Looked upon sue mystic calms, 
Till the power of His divine 
Vision was indrawn to mine ? 

XXIX. 

" Oh the dream within the dream ! 

I saw celestial places even. 
Oh the vistas of high palms 

Making finites of delight 

Through the heavenly infinite, 
Lifting up their green still tops 

To the heaven of heaven ! 
Oh the sweet, life-tree that drops 
Shade like light across the river 
Glorified in its forever 

Flowing from the Throne ! 
Oh the shining holinesses 
Of the thousand, thousand faces 

God-sunned by the throned ONE, 
And made intense with such a love, 
That, though I saw them turned above, 
Each loving seemed for also me ! 
And. oh the Unspeakable, the HE, 
The manifest in secrecies, 

Yet of mine own heart partaker 
With the overcoming look 
Of One who hath been once forsook, 

And blesseth the forsaker ! 
Mother, mother, let me go 
Toward the Face that looketh so ! 

Through the mystic winged Four 

1 " For I aay uuto you that in heaven 
r.hclr angels do always behold the face of my 
Father which, is m heaven." MATT, xviii. 
10. 



Whose are inward, outward eyes 
Dark with light of mysteries 

And the restless evermore 
"Holy, holy, holy.'' through 
The sevenfold lamps that burn in 
view 

Of cherubim and seraphim, 
Through the four and twenty crowned 
Stately elders white around, 

Suffer me to go to Him ! 



" Is your wisdom very wise, 

Mother, on the narrow earth, 

Very happy, very worth 
That I should stay to learn ? 
Are these air-corrupting sighs 

Fashioned by unlearned breath ? 
Do the students' lamps that burn 

All night illumine death ? 
Mother, albeit this lie so, 
Loose thy prayer, and let me go 
Where that bright chief angel stands. 
Apart from all his brother bands, 
Too glad for smiling, having bent 
In angelic wilderment 
O'er the depths of God, and brought 
Reeling thence one only thought 
To fill his own eternity. 
He the teacher is for me, 
He can teach what I would know: 
Mother, mother, let me go ! 



" Can your poet make an Eden 

No winter will undo, 
And light a starry fire, while heed, 
ing 

His hearth's is burning too ? 
Drown in music the earth's din, 
And keep his own wild soul within 

The law of his own harmony ? 
Mother, albeit this be so, 
Let me to my heaven go ! 

A little harp me waits thereby, 
A harp whose strings are golden all, 
And tuned to music spherical, 
Hanging on the green life-tree 
Where no willows ever be. 
Shall I miss that harp of mine ? 
Mother, no ! the Eye divine 
Turned upon it makes it shine; 
And, when I touch it, poems sweet, 
Like separate souls, shall fly from 

it, 

Each to the immortal fytte. 
We shall all be poets there, 
Gazing on the chiefest Fair. 







THE ROJfAUNT OF THE PAGE. 



277 



* Love ! earth's love I and can we 

love 

Fixedly where all things move ? 
Can the sinning love each other ? 
Mother, mother, 
I tremble in thy close embrace ; 
I feel thy tears adown my face: 

Thy prayers do keep me out of 

bliss, 

Oh dreary earthly love ? 
Loose thy prayer, and let me go 

To the place which loving is, 
Yet not sad ; and when is given 
Escape to thee from this below, 
Thon shalt behold me, that I wait 
For thee beside the happy gate, 
And silence shall be up in heaven 

To hear our greeting kiss." 



The 7iurse awakes in the morning 

sun. 

And starts to see beside her bed 
The lady with a grandeur spread 
Like pathos o'er her face, as one 
God-satisfied and earth-undone. 

The babe upon her arm was dead; 
And the nurse could utter forth no 

cry, 

She was awed by the calm in the 
mother's eye. 

xxxiv. 

""Wake, nurse ! " the lady said: 
" We are waking, he and I, 
I on earth, and he in sky: 



And thou must help me to o'erlay 
With garment white this little clay 
Which needs no more our lullaby. 

xxxv. 

" I changed the cruel prayer I made, 
And bowed my rneekened face, and 

prayed 
That God would do his will; and 

thus 

He did it, nurse ! He parted us; 
And his sun shows victorious 
The dead calm face, and 7 am 

calm, 
And heaven is barkening a new 

psalm. 

XXXVI. 

" This earthly noise is too anear, 
Too loud, and will not let me hear 
The little harp. My death will soon 
Make silence." 

And a sense of tune, 
A satisfied love meanwhile 
Which nothing earthly could de- 
spoil, 
Sang on within her soul. 

xxxvn. 

Oh you. 

Earth's tender and impassioned few, 
Take courage to intrust your love 
To Him so named, who guards above 

Its ends, and shall fulfil ! 
Breaking the narrow prayers that 

may 

Befit your narrow hearts away 
In his broad, loving will. 



THE ROMAUffT OF THE PAGE. 



A KNIGHT of gallant deeds. 
And a young page at his side, 

From the holy war in Palestine 
Did slow and thoughtful ride, 

As each were a palmer, and told for 

beads 
The dews of the eventide. 



" O young page," said the knight, 

" A noble page art thou! 
Thou fearest not to steep" in blood 

The curls upon thy brow; 
And once in the tent, and twice in the 
fight, 

Didst ward me a mortal blow." 






278 




THE ROM AUNT OF THE PAGE. 



" O bravo knight," said the page, 

" Or ere we hither came, 
We talked in tent, we talked in 

field, 

Of the bloody battle-game; 
But here, below this greenwood 

bough, 
I cannot speak the same. 



" Our troop is far behind, 
The woodland calm is new, 

Our steeds, with slow grass-muffled 

hoofs, 
Tread deep the shadows through; 

And in my mind some blessing kind 
Is dropping with the dew. 



"The woodland calm is pure: 

I cannot choose but have 
A thought from these o' the beechen- 
trees 

"Which in our England wave, 
And of the little finches fine 
Which sang there while in Palestine 

The warrior-hilt we drave. 



" Methinks, a moment gone, 

I heard my mother pray: 
I heard, sir knight, the prayer for me 

Wherein she passed away; 
And I know the heavens are leaning 
down 

To hear what I shall say." 



The page spake calm and high, 

As of no mean degree; 
Perhaps he felt in nature's broad 

Full Ijeart his own was free: 
And the knight looked up to his lifted 
eye, 

Then answered, smilingly, 

VIII. 

" Sir page, I pray your grace f 

Certes, I meant not so 
To cross your pastoral mood, sir 

page, 

With the crook of the battle-bow; 
But a knight may speak of a lady's 

face, 

I ween, in any mood or place, 
If the grasses die or grow. 



" And this I meant to say, 
My lady's face shall shine 

As ladies' faces use, to greet 
My page from Palestine: 

Or speak she fair, or prank she gay, 
She is no lady of mine. 



' And this I meant to fear, 

Her bower may suit thee ill; 
For, sooth, in that same field and tent 

Thy talk was somewhat still: 
And fitter thy hand for my knightly 

spear 

Than thy tongue for my lady's 
will." 



Slowly and thankfully 

The young page bowed his head; 
His large eyes seemed to muse a smile, 

Until he blushed instead; 
And no lady in her bower, pardie 

Could blush more sudden red. 

Sir knight, thy lady's bower to me 

Is suited well," he said. 



Beati, beati, mortiti! 

From the convent on the sea, 

One mile off, or scarce so nigh, 

Swells the dirge as clear and high 

As if that, over brake and lea. 

Bodily the wind did carry 

The great altar of St. Mary, 

And the fifty tapers burning o'er 

it, 
And the lady abbess dead before 

it, 
And the chanting nuns whom yes- 

ter week 

Her voice did charge and bless, 
Chanting steady, chanting meek, 
Chanting with a solemn breath, 
Because that they are thinking less 
Upon the dead than upon death. 
Beati, beati, mortiti! 
Now the vision in the sound 
Wheeleth on the wind around; 
Now it sweepeth back, away, 
The uplands will not let it stay 
To dark the western sun: 
Mortui .' away at last, 
Or ere the page's blush is past! 
And the knight heard all, and the 

page heard none. 





O H 





THE ROM AUNT OF THE PAGE. 



279 



XIII. 

" A boon, thou noble knight, 

If ever I served thee! 
Though thou art a knight, and I am a 
page, 

Now grant a boon to me ; 
And tell me, sooth, if dark or bright 
If little loved, or loved aright, 

Be the face of thy ladye." 



Gloomily looked the knight 

" As a son thou hast served me; 
And would to none I had granted 

boon, 

Except to only thee! 
For haply then I should love aright, 
For then I should know if dark or 

bright 
"Were the face of my ladye. 



" Yet it ill suits my knightly tongue 
To grudge that granted boon, 

That heavy price from heart and life 
I paid iu silence down ; 

The hand that claimed it, cleared in 
fine 

My father's fame: I swear by mine 
That price was nobly won! 



" Earl Walter was a brave old earl, 
He was my father's friend; 

And while 1 rode the lists at court, 
And little guessed the end, 

My noble father in his shroud, 

Against a slanderer lying loud, 
He rose up to defend. 



" Oh, calm below the marble gray 
My father's dust was strewn! 

Oh, meek above the marble gray 
His image prayed alone! 

The slanderer lied; the wretch was 
brave 

For, looking up the minster-nave, 

He saw my father's knightly glaive 
Was changed from steel to stone. 

XVIII. 

" Earl Walter's glaive was steel, 

With a brave old hand to wear it, 
And dashed the lie back in the mouth 
Which lied against the godly truth 
And against the knightly merit: 



The slanderer, 'neath the avenger's 

heel, 

Struck up the dagger in appeal 
From stealthy lie to brutal force, 
And out upon the traitor's corse 
Was yielded the true spirit. 



" I would mine hand had fought that 

fight, 

And justified my father ! 
I would mine heart had caught that 

wound, 

And slept beside him rather ! 
I think it were a better thing 
Thau murdered friend and marriage- 
ring 
Forced on my life together. 



" Wail shook Earl Walter's house; 

His true wife shed no tear: 
She lay upon her bed as mute 
As the earl did on his bier. 
Till ' Ride, ride fast,' she said at 

last, 

' And bring the avenged's son anear ! 
Ride fast, ride free, as a dart can 

flee; 
For white of blee with waiting for 

me 
Is the corse in the next chambere.' 



" I came, I knelt beside her bed; 

Her calm was worse than strife. 
' My husband, for thy father dear, 
Gave freely, when thou wast not here, 

His own and eke my life. 
A boon ! Of that sweet child vte 

make 
An orphan for thy father's sake, 

Make thou, for ours, a wife.' 

XXII. 

"I said, 'My steed ueigbs in the 

court, 

My bark rocks on the brine, 
And the warrior's vow I am under 

now 

To free the pilgrim's shrine; 
But fetch the ring, and fetch the 

priest, 

And call that daughter of thine, 
And rule she wide from my castle on 

Nvde 
While I ain in Palestine.' 






280 




THE ROM AUNT OF THE PAGE. 



" In the dark chambere, if the bride 

was fair, 

Ye \vis, I could not see; 
But the steed thrice neighed, and the 

priest fast prayed, 
And wedded fast were we. 
Her mother smiled upon her bed, 
As at its side we knelt to wed; 

And the bride rose from her knee, 
And kissed the smile of her mother 

dead, 
Or ever she kissed me. 



"My page, my page, what grieves 
thee so, 

That the tears run down thy face?" 
" Alas, alas ! mine own sister 

Was in thy lady's case: 
But she laid down the silks she wore, 
And followed him she wed before, 
Disguised as his true servitor, 

To the very battle-place.' '' 



And wept the page, but laughed the 
knight, 

A careless laugh laughed he: 
" Well done it were for thy sister, 

But not for my ladye ! 
My love, so please you, shall requite 
No woman, whether dark or bright, 

Unwomaued if she be.' " 



The page stopped weeping, and smiled 
cold: 

" Your wisdom may declare 
That womanhood is proved the best 
By golden brooch and glossy vest 

The mincing ladies wear; 
Yet is it proved, and was of old, 
Anear as well, I dare to hold, 

By truth, or by despair.' " 



He smiled no more, he wept no more; 

But passionate he spake: 
" Oh, womanly she prayed in tent, 

When none beside did wake ! 
Oh, womanly she paled in right, 

For one beloved's sake ! 
And her little hand, defiled with 

blood, 
Her tender tears of womanhood 

Most woman-pure did make." 



" Well done it were for thy sister, 

Thou tellest well her tale; 
But for my lady, she shall pray 

I' the kirk of ISydesdale. 
Not dread for ine, but love for me, 

Shall make my lady pale: 
No casque shall hide her woman's 

tear, 
It shall have room to trickle clear 

Behind her woman's veil." 



" But, what if she mistook thy mind, 
And followed thee to strife, 

Then kneeling did entreat thy love, 
As Paynims ask for life ? " 

4i I would forgive, and evermore 
Would love her as my servitor, 

But little as my wife. 

XXX. 

"Look up! there is a small bright 

cloud 

Alone amid the skies: 
So high, so pure, and so apart, 

A woman's honor lies." 
The page looked up; the cloud was 

sheen: 

A sadder cloud did rush. I ween, 
Betwixt it and his eyes." 

XXXI. 

Then dimly dropped his eyes away 

From welkin unto hill. 
Ha ! who rides there ? the page is 

'ware, 

Though the cr3* at his heart is still; 
And the page seeth all, and the knight 

seeth none, 
Though banner and spear do fleck the 

sun, 
And the Saracens ride at will. 



He speaketh calm, he speaketh low: 
" Ride fast, my master, ride, 

Or ere within the broadening dark 
The narrow shadows hide." 

" Yea, fast, my page, I will do so, 
And keep tliou at my side." 



" Now nay, now nay, ride on thy way 

Thy faithful page precede; 
For I must loose on saddle-bow 
My battle-casque that galls, I trow, 



J I 






THE ROM AUNT OF THE PAGE. 




281 



The shoulder of ray steed; 
And I must pray, as I did vow, 
For one in bitter need. 



* Ere night I shall be near to thee, 
Now ride, iny master, ride ! 

Ere night, as parted spirits cleave 

To mortals too beloved to leave, 
I shall be at thy side." 

The knight smiled free at the fantasy, 
And adowii the dell did ride. 

XXXV. 

Had the knight looked up to the 

page's face, 

No smile the word had won; 
Had the knight looked up to the 

page's face, 

I ween he had never gone: 
Had the knight looked back to the 

page's geste, 

I ween he had turned anon, 
For dread was the woe in the face so 

young. 
And wild was the silent geste that 

Hung 
Casque, sword, to earth, as the boy 

down sprung 
And stood alone, alone. 

XXXVI. 

He clinched his hands as if to hold 

His soul's great agony 
" Have I renounced my womanhood 

For wifehood unto thee, 
And is this the last, last look of thine 

That ever I shall see ? 

XXXVII. 

" Yet God thee save, and mayst thou 
have 

A lady to thy mind, 
More woman-proud, and half as true, 

As one thou leav'st behind ! 
And God me take with HIM to dwell, 
For HIM I cannot love too well, 

As I have loved my kind." 



SHK looketh up, in earth's despair, 
The hopeful heavens to seek ; 

That little cloud still rlpateth there, 
Whereof her loved did speak : 

How bright the little cloud appears ! 

Her eyelids fall upon the tears, 
And the tears down either cheek. 



The tramp of hoof, the flash of steel 
The Paynims round her coming ! 

The sound and sight have made her 

calm, 
False page, but truthful woman; 

She stands amid them all unmoved : 

A heart once broken by the loved 
Is strong to meet the foernan. 



" Ho, Christian page 1 art keeping 

sheep, 

From pouring wine-cups rest- 
ing?" 
" I keep my master's noble name 

For warring, not for feasting; 
And if that here Sir Hubert were, 
My master brave, my master dear, 
Ye would not stay the questing. 1 ' 



" "Where is thy master, scornful page, 
That we may slay or bind him ? " 

"Now search the lea, and search the 

wood, 
And see if ye can find him ! 

Nathless, as hath been often tried, 

Your Paynim heroes faster ride 
Before him than behind him." 

XLII. 
" Give smoother answers, lying page. 

Or perish in the lying ! " 
" I trow that if the warrior brand 
Beside my foot were in my hand, 

'Twere better at replying ! " 
They cursed her deep, they smote her 

low, 
They cleft her golden ringlets through? 

The Loving is the Dying. 

XLIII. 
She felt the cimiter gleam down, 

And met it from beneath 
With smile more bright in victory 

Than any sword from sheath, 
Which flashed across her lip serene, 
Most like the spirit-light between 

The darks of life and death. 



Ini/emisco, uif/emiscu ! 
From the convent on the sea, 
Now it sweepeth solemnly, 
A8 over wood and over lea 





282 



THE LAY OF TUE BROWN ROSARY. 



Bodily the wind did carry 
The great altar of St. Mary, 
And the fifty tapers paling o'er it, 
And the lady abbess stark before 

it, 
And the weary nuns with hearts that 

faintly 

Beat along their voices saintly 
Ingemisco, inyemisco ! 



Dirge for abbess laid in shroud 
Sweepeth o'er the shroudless dead, 
Page or lady, as we said, 
With the dews upon her head, 
All as sad if not as loud. 

Iiif/emisco, muemisco ! 
Is ever a lament begun 
By any mourner under sun, 
Which, ere it endeth, suits but one? 




THE LAY OF THE BROWX ROSARY. 



FIRST PART. 



" ONORA, Onora ! " her mother is call- 
ing; 

She sits at the lattice and hears the 
dew falling 

Drop after drop from the sycamores 
laden 

With dew as with blossom, aud calls 

home the maiden: 
"Night cometh, Onora ! " 



She looks down the garden-walk cav- 
erned with trees, 

To the limes at the end where the 
green arbor is : 

" Some sweet thought or other may 
keep where it found her. 

While, forgot or unseen in the dream- 
light around her, 
Night cometh Onora ! " 



She looks up the forest whose alleys 

shoot on 
Like the unite minster-aisles when 

the anthem is done, 
And the choristers, sitting with faces 

aslant, 
Feel the silence to consecrate more 

thau the chant 
" Onora, Onora I " 



IV. 

And forward she looketh across the 
brown heath 

"Onora, art coming?" What is it 
she seeth ? 

Nought, nought but the gray border- 
stone that is wist 

To dilate, and assume a wild shape in 

mist 
" My daughter I " Then over 



The casement she leaneth, and as she 

doth so 
She is 'ware of her little son playing 

below : 
"Now where is Onora?" He hung 

down his head 
And spake not, then answering 

blushed scarlet red, 
" At the tryst with her lover." 



But his mother was wroth: in a stern- 
ness quoth she, 

" As thou play'st at the ball art thou 
playing with me, 

When we know that her lover to bat- 
tle is gone, 

And the saints know above that she 

loveth but one, 
And will ne'er wed another ? " 







1 


^ l ' c ' I h-v 




sLLlfi-i a' " a r-jLlpl 
THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. 28.1 '... 




VII. 


XII. 






Then the boy wept aloud: 'twas a fair 


" At dawn and at eve, mother, who 






sight, yet sad, 


sitteth there 




J 


* To see the tears run down the sweet 


With the brown rosary never used for v I 






blooms he had. 


a prayer ? 




He stamped with his foot, said, " The 


Stoop low, mother, low ! If we went 




saints know I lied 


there to see, 




Because truth that is wicked is fittest 


What au ugly great hole in that east 




to hide: 


wall must be 




Must I utter it, mother ? " 


At dawn and at even ! 




VIII. 


XIII. 




In his vehement childhood he hurried 


" Who meet there, my mother, at 




within, 


dawn and at even ? 




' And knelt at her feet as in prayer 


Who meet by that wall, never looking 




against sin; 


to heaven ? 




But a child at a prayer never sobbeth 


O sweetest my sister ! what doeth 




as he 


with thee 




"Oh! she sits with the nun of the 


The ghost of a nun with a brown 




brown rosary, 
At nights in the ruin 


rosary, 
And a face turned from heaven ? 




IX. 


XIV. 




" The old convent ruin the ivy rots off, 
Where the owl hoots by day, and the 
toad is sun-proof, 
Where no singing-birds build, and the 
trees gaunt and gray 
As in stormy seacoasts appear blasted 
one way, 
But is this the w r ind's doing ? 


" St. Agnes o'erwatcheth my dreams, 
and erewhile 
I have felt through mine eyelids the 
warmth of her smile; 
But last night, as a sadness like pity 
came o'er her, 
She whispered, ' Say two prayers at 
dawn for Onora: 
The Tempted is sinning.' " 




X. 


XV. 




' ' A nun in the east wall was buried 


" Onora, Onora ! " They heard her 




alive, 


not comin <T 




Who mocked at the priest when he 
called her to shrive, 
And shrieked such a curse as the 
stone took her breath, 
The old abbess fell backwards, and 
swooned unto death, 
With an Ave half spoken. 


Not a step on the grass, not a voice 
through the gloaming; 
But her mother looked up, and she 
stood on the floor, 
Fair and still as the moonlight that 
came there before, 
And a smile just beginning. 




XI. 


XVI. 




" I tried once to pass it, myself and 


It touches her lips, but it dares not 




my hound, 


arise 




- Till, as fearing the lash, down he 


To the height of the mystical sphere 






shivered to ground : 


of her eyes; r> n 






A brave hound, my mother ! a brave 


And the large musing eyes, neither 






hound, ye wot ! 


joyous nor sorry, 






And the wolf thought the same with 


Sing on like the angels in separate 






his fangs at her throat 


. 

glory 






In the pass of the Brocken. 


Between clouds of ainbei. 




V 












284 



THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. 




For the hair droops in clouds amber- 
colored till stirred 

Into gold by tlie gesture tbat comes 
with a word ; 

While oh soft ! her speaking is so 
interwound 

Of the dim and the sweet, 'tis a twi- 
light of sound, 
And floats through the chamber. 



" Since thou shrivest my brother, fair 
mother," said she, 

" I count on thy priesthood for marry- 
ing of me; 

And I know by the hills that the battle 
is done, 

That my lover rides on, will be here 

with the sun, 
'Neath the eyes that behold thee." 



XIX. 

Her mother sate silent, too tender, I 

wis, 
Of the smile her dead father smiled 

dying to kiss: 
But the boy started up pale with tears, 

passion-wrought, 
" Oh wicked fair sister! the hills utter 

nought ; 
If he cometh, who told thee ? " 



"I know by the hills," she resumed 

calm and clear, 
" By the beauty upon them, that HE is 

anear: 
Did they ever look so since he bade 

me adieu ? 
Oh, love in the waking, sweet brother, 

is true 
As St. Agnes in sleeping ! " 



Half ashamed and half softened, the 

boy did not speak, 
And the blush met the lashes which 

fell on his cheek. 
She bowed down to kiss him: dear 

saints, did he see 
Or feel on her bosom the BROWN 

ROSAKY, 
That he shrank away weeping ? 



SECOND PART. 

A lied. ONORA sleeping. Angels, but 
not near. 

First Angel. 

Must we stand so far, and she 
So very fair ? 
Second Angel. 

As bodies be. 
First Angel. 
And she so mild ? 
SecondAngel. 

As spirits when 
They ineeken, not to God, but men. 

First Angel. 

And she so young, that I who bring 
Good dreams for saintly children,, 

might 

Mistake that small soft face to-night, 
And fetch her such a blessed thing, 
That at her waking she would weep 
For childhood lost anew in sleep. 
How hath she sinned ? 
Second Angel. 

In bartering love, 
God's love for man's. 
First Angel. 

We may reprove 
The world for this, not only her. 
Let me approach to breathe away 
This dust o' the heart with holy air. 

Second Anr/el. 
Stand off ! She sleeps, and did not 

pray. 

First Angel. 
Did none pray for her ? 
Second Angel. 

Ay, a child, 

Who never, praying, wept before: 
While in a mother undeftled 
Prayer goeth on in sleep, as true 
And pauseless as the pulses do. 

First Angel. 
Then I approach. 
Second Angel. 

It is not WILLED. 
First Angel, 

One word: is she redeemed? 
Second Angel. 

No more ! 

The place is filled. [Angels vanish. 
Evil Spirit in a nun's garb by the bed. 
Forbear that dream, forbear that 
dream ! too near to heaven it 
leaned. 
Onora in sleep. 

Nay, leave me this, but only this! 
'tis but a dream, sweet riend. 







THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. 



285 



Eril Spirit, 
It is a thoti'/ht. 

Onora in sleep. 
A sleeping thought, most innocent of 

good: 
It doth the Devil no harm, sweet 

fiend : it cannot if it would. 
t say in it no holy hymn, I do no holy 

work, 
C scarcely hear the sabbath-bell that 

chimeth from the kirk. 
Evil Spirit. 
Forbear that dream, forbear that 

dream ! 
Onora in sleep. 

Nay, let me dream at least. 
That far-off bell, it may be took for 

viol at a feast: 
I only walk among the fields beneath 

the autumn sun, 
With my dead father, hand in hand, 

as'l have often done. 
Evil Spirit. 
Forbear that dream, forbear that 

dream ! 
Onora in sleep. 

Nay, sweet fiend, let me go: 
I nevermore can walk with him, oh, 

nevermore but so ! 
For they have tied my father's feet 

beneath the kirkyard stone: 
Oh, deep and straight, oh, very 

straight, they move at nights 

alone ; 
A-nd then he calleth through my 

dreams, he calleth tenderly, 
" Come forth, my daughter, my be- 
loved, and walk the fields with 

me ! " 
Evil Spirit. 
Forbear that dream, or else disprove 

its pureness by a sign. 
Onora in sleep. 
Speak on, thou shalt be satisfied: my 

word shall answer thine. 
I heard a bird which used to sing 

when I a child was praying, 
I see the poppies in the corn I used to 

sport away in: 
"What shall I do, tread down the 

dew, and pull the blossoms 

blowing ? 
Or clap my wicked hands to fright the 

finches from the rowen ? 
Evil Spirit. 
Thou shalt do something harder still. 

Stand up where thou dost stand, 
Among the fields of Dreamland, with 

thy father hand in hand, 



And clear and slow repeat the vow, 

declare its cause and kind, 
Which not to break, in sleep or wake, 

thou bearest on thy mind. 
Onora in sleep. 
I bear a vow of sinful kind, a vow foi 

mournful cause ; 
I vowed it deep, I vowed it strong; 

the spirits laughed applause; 
The spirits trailed along the pines 

low laughter like a breeze, 
While, high atween their swinging 

tops, the stars appeared to 

freeze. 
Evil Spirit. 
More calm and free, speak out to me 

why such a vow was made. 
Onora in sleep. 
Because that God decreed my death, 

and I shrank back afraid. 
Have patience, O dead father mine ! 

I did not fear to die. 
I wish I were a young dead child, and 

had thy company ! 
I wish I lay beside thy feet, a buried 

three-year child, 
And wearing only a kiss of thine upon 

my lips that smiled ! 
The linden-tree that covers thee might 

so have shadowed twain; 
For death itself I did not fear 'tis 

love that makes the pain: 
Love feareth death. I was no child; 

I was betrothed that clay; 
I wore a troth-kiss on my lips I could 

not give away. 
How could I bear to lie content and 

still beneath a stone, 
And feel mine own betrothed go 

by alas ! no more mine 

own 
Go leading by in wedding pomp some 

lovely lady brave, 
With cheeks that blushed as red as 

rose, while mine were white in 

grave ? 
How could I bear to sit in heaven, on 

e'er so high a throne, 
And hear him say to her to her, 

that else he Ipveth none ? 
Though e'er so high I sate above, 

though e'er so low he spake, 
As clear as thunder I should hear the 

new oath he might take, 
That hers, forsooth, were heavenly 

eyes ah me, while very dim 
Some heavenly eyes (indeed of 

heaven!) would darken dowu t 

him I 






-..- 28G 




THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. 



Evil Spirit. 
Who told thee thoxi wast called to 

death ? 
Onora in sleep. 

I sate all night beside thee: 
The gray o\vl on the ruined wall shut 

both his eyes to hide thee, 
And ever he flapped his heavy wing 

all brokenly and weak, 
And the long grass waved against the 

sky, around his gasping beak. 
I sate beside thee all the night, while 

the moonlight lay forlorn 
Strewn round us like a dead world's 

shroud in ghastly fragments 

torn ; 
And through the night, and through 

the hush, and over the Happing 

wing, 
"We heard beside the heavenly gate 

the angels murmuring. 
"We heard them say, " Put day to day, 

and count the days to seven, 
And God will draw Onora up the 

golden stairs of heaven: 
And yet the evil ones have leave 

that purpose to defer ; 
For if she lias no need of HIM, He 

has no need of her." 
Evil Spirit. 

Speak out to me, speak bold and free. 
Onora in sleep. 

And then I heard thee say, 
" I count upon my rosary brown the 

hours thou hast to stay; 
Yet God permits us evil ones to put 

by that decree, 
Since, if thou hast no need of HIM, 

He has no need of thee : 
And, if thou wilt forego the sight of 

angels, verily 
Thy true love gazing on thy face 

shall guess what angels be; 
No .'bride shall pass, save thee" . . . 

Alas ! my father's hand's a- 

cold, 
The meadows seem . . . 

Evil .Spirit. 
Forbear the dream, or let the vow be 

told. 

Onora in sleep. 
I vowed upon thy rosary brown, this 

string of antique beads, 
By charnel lichens overgrown, and 

dank among the weeds, 
This rosary brown which is thine 

own, lost soul of buried nun ! 
Who, lost by vow, wouldst render 

now all souls alike uudoue, 



I vowed upon thy rosary brown, 

and, till such vow should break, 
A pledge always of living days 'twas 

hung around my neck, 
I vowed to thee on rosary (dead 

father, look not so !) 
I would not thank God in my weal, nor 

seek God in my woe. 
Evil Spirit. 

And canst thou prove . . . 
Onora in sleep. 

love, my love ! I felt him near again ! 

1 saw his steed on mountain-head, I 

heard it on the plain: 
Was this no weal for me to feel ? Is 

greater weal than this ? 
Yet when he came I wept his name 

and the angels heard but his. 
Evil Spirit. 
Well done, well done ! 

Onora in sleep. 
Ah me, the sun ! the dreamlight 'gins 

to pine, 
Ah me, how dread can look the dead ! 

Aroyut thee, father mine ! 

She starteth from slumber, she sitteth 

upright, 
And her breath comes in sobs, while 

she stares through the night. 
There is nought; the great willow, 

her lattice before. 
Large-drawn in the moon, lieth calm 

on the floor; 
But her hands tremble fast as their 

pulses, and, free 
From the death-clasp, close over 

the BUOWN KOSAUV. 



THIRD PART. 



'Tis a morn for a bridal: the merry 

bride-bell 
Rings clear through the greenwood 

that skirts the chapelle, 
And the priest at the altar awaiteth 

the bride, 
And the sacristans slyly are jesting 

aside 
At the work shall be doing; 



While down through the wood rides 

that fair company, 
The youths with the courtship, the 

maids with the glee, 






THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. 



287 - - 



Till the chapel-cross opens to sight, 

and at once 
All the maids sigh demurely, and 

think for the nonce, 
" And so endeth a wooing ! " 

ni. 
And the bride and the bridegroom 

are leading the way, 
With his hand on her rein, and a 

word yet to say : 
Her dropt eyelids suggest the soft 

answers beneath, 
And the little quick smiles come and 

go with her breath 
When she sigheth or speaketh. 



And the tender bride-mother breaks 
off unaware 

From an Ave, to think that her 
daughter is fair, 

Till in nearing the chapel, and glan- 
cing before, 

She seeth her little son stand at the 

door: 
Is it play that he seeketh ? 



Is it play when his eyes wander inno- 
cent-wild, 

And sublimed with a sadness unfitting 
a child ? 

He trembles not, weeps not: the pas- 
sion is done, 

And calmly he kneels in their midst, 

with the sun 
On his head like a glory. 



" O fair-featured maids, ye are 

many ! " he cried, 
" But in fairness and vileness who 

matcheth the bride ? 
O brave-hearted youths, ye are many ! 

but whom 
For the courage and woe can ye match 

with the groom 
As ye see them before ye ? " 



Out spake the bride's mother, "The 

vileness is thine, 
If thou shame thine own sister, a 

bride at the shrine ! " 



Out spake the bride's lover, " The 

vileness be mine, 
If he shame mine own wife at the 

hearth or the shrine, 
And the charge be unproved ! 



" Bring the charge, prove the charge, 

brother ! speak it aloud : 
Let thy father and hers hear it deep 

in his shroud ! " 
" O father, thou seest, for dead eyes 

can see, 
How she wears on her bosom a BROWX 

ROSAHY, 
O mv father beloved ! " 



Then outlaughed the bridegroom, and 

outlaughed withal 
Both maidens and youths by the old 

chapel- wall; 
" So she weareth no love-gift, kind 

brother," quoth he, 
" She may wear, an she listeth, a 

brown rosary, 
Like a pure-hearted lady " 



Then swept through the chapel the 
long bridal train; 

Though he spake to the bride, she 
replied not again. 

On, as one in a dream, pale and state- 
ly she went 

Where the altar-lights burn o'er the 

great sacrament, 
Faint with daylight, but steady. 



But her brother had passed in be- 
tween them and her, 

And calmly knelt down on the high 
altar-stair 

Of an infantine aspect so stern to the 
view 

That the priest could not smile on the 

child's eyes of blue 
As he would for another. 



He knelt like a child, marble-sculp- 
tured and white, 

That seems kneeling to pray on the 
tomb of a knight, 









^T \"~T' " c h 9 ! h 


& 

f 


Jiii. 288 THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. '.. 




With a look taken up to each iris of 


The rite-book is opened, the rite is 






stone 


begun; 






From the greatness and death where 
J 1, he kneeleth, but none 


They have knelt down together to rise 
up as one. J 






I From the face of a mother. 


Who laughed by the altar ? 






xin. 


xvur. 




" In your chapel, O priest! ye have 


The maidens looked forward, the 




wedded and shriven 


youths looked around, 




Fair wives for the hearth, and fair 


The bridegroom's eye flashed from his 




sinners for heaven ; 


prayer at the sound; 




But this fairest, my sister, ye think 


And each saw the bride, as if no bride 




now to wed, 


she were, 




Bid her kneel where she standeth, 
and shrive her instead: 


Gazing cold at the priest without ges- 
ture of prayer, 




Oh, shrive her, and wed not! " 


As he read from the psalter. 




XIV 


XIX. 




In tears, the bride's mother, " Sir 
priest, unto thee 


The priest never knew that she did so, 
but still 




Would he lie, as he lied to this fair 


He felt a power on him too strong for 




company." 


his will; 




In wrath, the bride's lover, "The lie 


And whenever the Great Name was 




shall be clear! 


there to be read, 




Speak it out, boy! the saints in their 
niches shall hear: 


His voice sank to silence; THAT could 
not be said 




Be the charge proved, or said 
not !" 


Or the air could not hold it. 




XV. 


xx: 




Then, serene in his childhood, he 


"I have sinned," quoth he: "I have 




lifted his face, 


sinned, I wot: " 




And his voice sounded holy, and fit 
for the place, 
" Look down from your niches, ye 
still saints and see 


And the tears ran adown his old 
cheeks at The thought: 
They dropped fast on the book; but 
he read on the same, 




How she wears on her bosom a BROWN 


And aye was the silence where should 




ROSARY ! 


be the NAME, 




Is it used for the praying ? 


As the choristers told it. 




XVI. 


XXI. 




The youths looked aside, to laugh 


The rite-book is closed; and, the rite 




there were a sin, 


being done, 




And the maidens' lips trembled from 


They who knelt down together arise 




smiles shut within: 


up as one: 




Quoth the priest, "Thou art wild, 


Fair riseth the bride oh, a fair 




pretty boy ! Blessed she 


bride is she! 




Who prefers at her bridal a brown 


But, for all (think the maidens) that 




rosary 


brown rosary, 




To a worldly arraying." 


No saint at her praying! 




n -> 


T 






XVII 


XXII. 






The bridegroom spake low, and led 


What aileth the bridegroom? He 






onward the bride, 


glares blank and wide, 






And before the high altar they stood 


Then, suddenly turning, he kisseth 






side by side; 


the bride: 






J l J 


~] 




TvfV - - "f4v 


1 


^L_J c t ? r s 1 P 







THE LAY OF THE BROWN ROSARY. 



289 



His lips stuns her with cold; she 
glanced upwardly mute: 

" Miiie o\vn wife," he said, and fell 

stark at her foot 
In the word he was saying. 

XXIII. 

They have lifted him up; but his head 

sinks away, 
And his face showeth bleak in the 

sunshine and gray. 
Leave him now where he lieth; for 

oh, nevermore 
Will he kneel at an altar, or stand on 

a floor! 
Let his bride gaze upon him. 

XXIV. 

Long and still was her gaze, while 

they chafed him there, 
And breathed in the mouth whose last 

life had kissed her. 
But when they stood up only they ! 

with a start 
The shriek from her soul struck her 

pale lips apart: 
She has lived, and forgone him! 



And low on his body she droppeth 
ad own. 

"Didst call me thine own wife, be- 
loved, thine own? 

Then take thine own with thee! thy 
coldness is warm 

To the world's cold without thee! 

Come, keep me from harm 
In a calm of thy teaching." 

XXVI. 

She looked in his face earnest-long, 

as in sooth 
There were hope of an answer, and 

then kissed his mouth, 
And with head on his bosom wept, 

wept bitterly, 
'''Now, O God, take pity take pity 

on me ! 
God, hear my beseeching ! " 



She was 'ware of a shadow that 
crossed where she lay; 

She was 'ware of a presence that 
withered the day: 



Wild she sprang to her feet, " I sur- 
render to thee 

The broken vow's pledge, th ac- 
cursed rosary, 
I am ready for dying ! " 



She dashed it in scorn to the marble- 
paved ground, 

Where it fell mute as snow, and a 
weird music-sound 

Crept up, like a chill, up the aisles 
long and dim, 

As the fiends tried to mock at the 

choristers' hymn 
And moaned in the trying. 



FOURTH PART. 

ONORA looketh listlessly adown the 
garden-walk: 

" I am weary, O my mother, of thy 
tender talk. 

I am weary of the trees a-wavhig to 
and fro, 

Of the steadfast skies above, the run- 
ning brooks below. 

All things are the same but I, only 
I am dreary, 

And, mother, of my dreariness behold 
me very weary. 

"Mother, brother, pull the flowers 

I planted in the spring, 
And smiled to think I should smile 

more upon their gathering: 
The bees will find out other flowers 

oh, pull them, dearest mine, 
And carry them and carry me before 

St. Agnes' shrine." 
Whereat they pulled the summer 

flowers she planted in the 

spring, 
And her and them all mournfully to 

Agnes' shrine did bring. 

She looked up to the pictured saint, 

and gently shook her head: 
" The picture is' too calm for me too 

calm for me," she said. 
"The little flowers we brought with 

us, before it we may lay, 
For those are used to look at heaven ; 

but I must turn away: 
Because no sinner under sun can dare 

or bear to gaze 
On God's or angel's holiness, except 

in Jesu's face." 







290 



A ROMANCE OF THE GANGES. 



She spoke with passion after pause: 

" And were it wisely done 
If we who cannot gaze above should 

walk the earth alone ? 
If we whose virtue is so weak should 

have a will so strong, 
And stand blind on the rocks to 

choose the right path from the 

wrong ? 
To choose perhaps a love-lit hearth, 

instead of love and heaven, 
A single rose for a rose-tree which 

beareth seven times seven? 
A rose that droppeth from the hand, 

that fadeth in the breast, 
Until, in grieving for the worst, we 

learn what is the best ! '' 

Then breaking into tears : " Dear 

God," she cried, " and must we 

see 
All blissful things depart from us or 

ere we go to THEE ? 
"We cannot guess thee in the wood, or 

hear thee in the wind ? 
Our cedars must fall round us ere we 

see the light behind ? 



Ay sooth, we feel too strong in weal 
to need thee on that road; 

But, woe being come, the soul is dumb 
that crieth not on ' God.' " 

Her mother could not speak for tears: 

she ever mused thus, 
" The bees will Jind oat other flowers ~ 

but what is left for us ? 
But her young brother stayed his 

sobs, and knelt beside her knee, 
" Thou sweetest sister in the world, 

hast never a word for me ? " 
She passed her hand across his face, 

she pressed in on his check. 
So tenderly, so tenderly, she needed 

not to speak. 

The wreath which lay on shrine that 

day, at vespers l)loomed no 

more. 
The woman fair who placed it there 

had died an hour before. 
Both perished mute for lack of root 

earth's nourishment to reach. 
O reader, breathe (the ballad saith) 

some sweetness out of each ! 



A ROMANCE OF THE GANGES. 



SEVEN maidens 'neath the midnight 

Stand near the river-sea, 
Whose water sweepeth white around 

The shadow of the tree. 
The moon and earth are face to face, 

And earth is slumbering deep; 
The wave-voice seems the voice of 
dreams 

That wander through her sleep. 

The river floweth on. 



What bring they 'neath the mid- 
night, 

Beside the river-sea ? 
They bring the human heart wherein 

No nightly caliu can be; 




That droppeth never with the wind, 

Nor drieth with the dew: 
Oh, calm it, God ! thy calm is broad 

To cover spirits too. 

The river floweth on. 



in. 

The maidens lean them over 

The waters, side by side, 
And shun each other's deepening 

eyes, 

And gaze adown the tide; 
For each within a little boat 

A little lamp hath put, 
And heaped for freight some lily's 

weight, 
Or scarlet rose half shut. 

The river floweth on 






A ROMANCE OF THE GANGES. 



291 



Of shell of cocoa carven 

Each little boat is made: 
Each carries a lamp, and carries a 

flower, 

And carries a hope unsaid; 
And when the boat hath carried the 

lamp 

Unquenched till out of sight, 
The maiden is sure that love will en- 
dure; 
But love will fail with light. 

The river floweth on. 



"Why, all the stars are ready 

To symbolize the soul, 
The stars untroubled by the wind, 

Unwearied as they roll; 
And yet the soul by instinct sad 

Reverts to symbols low, 
To that small flame whose very name 

Breathed o'er it, shakes it so. 

The river floweth on. 



Six boats are on the river, 

Seven maidens on the shore, 
While still above them steadfastly 

The stars shine evermore. 
Go, little boats, go soft and safe, 

And guard the symbol spark ! 
The boats aright go safe and bright 

Across the waters dark. 

The river floweth on. 



The maiden Luti watcheth 

Where onwardly they float: 
That look in her dilating eyes 

Might seem to drive her boat: 
Her eyes still mark the constant fire, 

And kindling unawares 
That hopeful while, she lets a smile 

Creep silent through her prayers. 

The river floweth on. 



The smile where hath it wandered ? 

She riseth from her knee, 
She holds her dark, wet locks away 

There is no light to see ! 
She cries a quick and bitter cry 

" Nuleeni, launch me thine ! 
"We must have light abroad to-night, 

For all the wreck of mine." 

The river floweth on. 



"I do remember watching 

Beside this river-bed 
When on my childish knee was leaned 

My dying father's head: 
I turned mine own to keep the tears 

From falling on his face: 
What doth it prove when Death and 
Love 

Choose out the selfsame place ? " 

The river floweth on. 



" They say the dead are joyful 

The death-change here receiving: 
Who say ah me ! who dare to say 

Where joy comes to the living ? 
Thy boat, Nuleeni ! look not sad 

Light up the waters rather ! 
I weep no faithless lover where 

I wept a loving father." 

The river floweth on. 



"My heart foretold his falsehood 

Ere my little boat grew dim; 
And though I closed mine eyes to 
dream 

That one last dream of him, 
They shall not now be wet to see 

The shining vision go: 
From earth's cold love I look above 

To the holy house of snow." l 

The river floweth on. 



xir. 

" Come thou thou never knewest 
A grief that thou shouldst fear 

one ! 

Thou wearest still the happy look 

That shines beneath a dear one: 

Thy humming-bird is in the sun, 2 

Tlij" cuckoo in the grove, 
And all the three broad worlds for 

thee 
Are full of wandering love." 

The river floweth on. 

1 The Hindoo heaven is localized on the 
summit of Mount Meru, one of the moun- 
tains of Himalaya or Himmaleh, which sig- 
nifies, I believe, in Sanscrit, the abode of 
snow, winter, or coldness. 

* Himadeva, the Indian god of love, is im- 
agined to wander through the three worlds, 
accompanied by the humming-bird, cuckoo, 
and gentle breezes. 











A 


J7 r '**$? 

! 292 A ROMANCE OF THE GANGES. 1. 




XIII. 


XVIII. 






" Why, maiden, dost thou loiter ? 


An earthly look had Luti, 






What secret wouldst thou cover ? 


Though her voice was deep as 




J 


it That peepul cannot hide thy boat, 


prayer: v 






And I can guess thy lover; 
I heard thee sob his name in sleep, 


" The rice, is gathered from the plains 
To cast upon thine hair; l 




It was a name I knew: 


But when he comes his marriage-band 




Come, little maid, be not afraid, 
But let us prove him true ! " 


Around thy neck to throw, 
Thy bride-smile raise to meet his 




The river floweth on. 


gaze, 






And whisper, There is one betrays, 




XIV. 


While Luti suffers woe." 




The little maiden cometh, 


The river floweth on. 




She cometh shy and slow; 






I ween she seeth" through her lids, 


XIX. 




They drop adown so low: 
Her tresses meet her small bare feet, 
She stands, and speaketh nought, 
Yet blusheth red as if she said 


" And when, in seasons after, 
Thy little bright-faced son 
Shall lean against thy knee, and ask 
What deeds his sire hath done, 




The name she only thought. 
The river floweth on. 


Press deeper down thy mother-smile 
His glossy curls among, 






View deep his pretty childish eyes, 




XV. 


And whisper, There is none denies, 




She knelt beside the water, 


While Luti speaks of wrony. 




She lighted vip the flame, 


The river floweth on. 




And o'er her youthful forehead's calm 






The fitful radiance came: 


XX. 




" Go, little boat, go soft and safe, 
And guard the symbol spark ! " 
Soft, safe doth float the little boat 
Across the waters dark. 


Nuleeni looked in wonder, 
Yet softly answered she: 
" By loves that last when lights are 




The river floweth on. 


past 
I vowed that vow to thee. 






But why glads it thee that a bride-day 




XVI. 


be 




Glad tears her eyes have blinded, 


By a word of woe defiled ? 




The light they cannot reach; 


That a word of wrony take the cradle- 




She turneth with that sudden smile 


song 




She learnt before her speech. 
" I do not hear his voice, the tears 


From the ear of a sinless child ? " 
"Why?" Luti said, and her laugh 




Have dimmed my light away; 


was dread, 




But the symbol light will last to- 


And her eyes dilated wild 




night', 


" That the fair new love may her 




The love will last for aye ! " 


bridegroom prove, 




The river floweth on. 


And the father shame the child ! " 






The river floweth on. 




XVII. 






Then Luti spake behind her, 
Out spake she bitterly: 
" By the symbol light that lasts to- 


XXI. 

" Thou flowest still, O river, 
Thou flowest 'neath the moon; 




night 


Thy lily hath not changed a leaf, 2 






Wilt vow a vow to me ? " 


Thy charmed lute a tune: 




Cl 


r Nuleeni gazeth up her face, 


R r 






Soft answer maketh she: 


1 The casting of rice upon the head, and 




r 

*v 


" By loves that last when lights are 
past 
I vow that vow to thee." 
The river floweth on. 


the fixing of the band or tali about the neck, 
are parts of the Hindoo marriage ceremonial. 
2 The Ganges is represented as a white 
woman, with a water-lily in her right hand, 
and in her left a lute. 




n 1 <* > ( w i __jr 






RHYME OF THE DUG HESS .If AY. 



293 



7/e mixed his voice with thine, and 

his 

Was all I heard around; 
But now, beside his chosen bride, 
I hear the river's sound." 

The river floweth on. 



" I gaze upon her beauty 

Through the tresses that inwreathe 

it: 
The light above thy wave is hers, 

My rest alone beneath it: 
Oh, give me back the dying look 

My father gave thy water ! 



Give back and let a little love 
O'erwatch his weary daughter ! 

The river floweth on. 



" Give back ! " she hath departed, 

The word is wandering with her; 
And the stricken maidens hear afar 

The step and cry together. 
Frail symbols ? None are frail enow 

For mortal joys to borrow ! 
While bright doth float Nuleeni's 
boat, 

She weepeth dark with sorrow. 

The river floweth on. 



To the belfry, one by one, went the 
ringers from the sun, 

(Toll slowly) 
And the oldest ringer said, " Ours is 

music for the dead 
When the rebecs are all done." 

ii. 

Six abeles i' the churchyard grow on 
the north side in a row, 

(Toll slowly) 
And the shadows of their tops rock 

across the little slopes 
Of the grassy graves below. 

in. 

On the south side and the west a 
small river runs in haste, 

(Toll slowly) 
And, between the river flowing and 

the fair green trees a-growiug, 
Do the dead lie at their rest. 



On the east I sate that day, up against 
a willow gray, 

(Toll slowly) 

Through the rain of willow-branches 
t i ould see the low hill-ranges, 
And the river on its way. 



v. 

There I sate beneath the tree, and the 
bell tolled solemnly, 

( Toll slowly) 

While the trees' and river's voices 
flowed between the solemn 
noises, 
Yet death seemed more loud to 



There I read this ancient rhyme while 
the bell did all the time 

(Toll slowly) 
And the solemn knell fell in with the 

tale of life and sin, 
Like a rhythmic fate sublime. 



THE RHYME. 



Broad the forests stood (I read) on th 
hills of Linteged; 

(Toll slowly) 
And three hundred years had stood 

rnute adown each hoary wood, 
Like a full heart having prayed. 






294 




RHYME OF THE DUCHESS MAY. 



And the little birds sang east, and the 
little birds sang west; 

(Toll slowly) 
And but little thought was theirs of 

the silent antique years, 
In the building of their nest. 



Down the sun dropt large and red on 
the towers of Linteged, 

(Toll slowly) 
Lance and spear upon the height, 

bristling strange in fiery light, 
"While the castle stood in shade. 



There the castle stood up black with 
the red sun at its back, 

(Toll slowly) 
Like a sullen, smouldering pyre with 

a top that flickers fire 
When the wind is on its track. 



And five hundred archers tall did be- 
siege the castle wall, 

(Toll slowly) 

And the castle seethed in blood, four- 
teen days and nights had stood 
And to-night was near its fall. 



Yet thereunto, blind to doom, three 
months since, a bride did come, 

(Toll slowly) 
One who proudly trod the floors, and 

softly whispered in the doors, 
" May good angels bless our home." 



Oh, a bride of queenly eyes, with a 
front of constancies, 

(Toll slowly) 
Oh, a bride of cordial mouth where 

the untired smile of youth 
Did light outward its own sighs ! 



'Twas a duke's fair orphan-girl, and 
her uncle's ward the earl, 

(Toll sloicly) 
Who betrothed her twelve years old, 

for the sake of dowry gold, 
To his son Lord Leigh the churl. 



But what time she had made good all 
her years of womanhood, 

(Toll slowly) 
Unto both these lords of Leigh spake 

she out right sovranly, 
" My will runneth as my blood. 



" And while this same blood makes 
red this same right hand's 
veins," she said, 

(Toll slowly) 
" 'Tis my will as lady free, not to wed 

a lord of Leigh, 
But Sir Guy of Linteged." 



The old earl he smiled smooth, then 
he sighed for wilful youth, 

(Toll slowly) 

" Good my niece, that hand withal 
looketh somewhat soft and 
small 
For so large a will in sooth." 



She, too, smiled by that same sign; 
but her smile was cold and fine. 

(Toll tlvuty) 
" Little hand clasps muckle gold, or 

it were not worth the hold 
Of thy son, good uncle mine." 

XIII. 

Then the young lord jerked his 
breath, and sware thickly in his 
teeth, 

(Toll sloiohj) 

" He would wed his own betrothed, 
an she loved him an she loathed, 
Let the life come, or the death." 



Up she rose with scornful eyes, as her 
father's child might rise. 

(Toll slowly) 

" Thy hound's blood, my Lord of 
Leigh, stains thy knightly heel," 
quoth she, 
"And he moans not where he lies; 



1 But a woman's will dies hard, in 

the hall or on the sward 

(Toll sloiuly) 











'"I r ' ^~ 1" 9 ! h- 


iL RHYME OF THE DUCHESS MAY. 29, r l l.| 




* By that grave, my lords, which 


XXII. 






made me orphaned girl and 


High and low the serfs looked out, 






dowered lady, 


red the flambeaus tossed about, 






I deny you wife and ward ! " 


(TollKlowly) J I 






1 


In the courtyard rose the cry, " Live 






XVI. 


the duchess and Sir Guy ! " 






Unto each she bowed her head, and 


But she never heard them shout. 






swept past with lofty tread. 








(Toll sloicly) 


XXIII. 






Ere the midnight-bell had ceased, in 


On the steed she dropped her cheek, 






the chapel had the priest 
Blessed her, bride of Linteged. 


kissed his mane, and kissed his 
neck, 








(Toll slowly) 






XVII. 


" I had happier died by thee than 






Fast and fain the bridal train along 
the night-storm rode amain: 


lived on a Lady Leigh," 
Were the first words she did speak. 






( Toll slowly) 








Hard the steeds of lord and serf struck 


XXIV. 






their hoofs out on the turf, 


But a three-months' joyaunce lay 






In the pauses of the rain. 


'twixt that moment and to-day, 








(Toll slowly) 






XVIII. 


When five hundred archers tall stand 






Fast and fain the kinsmen's train 
along the storm pursued amain, 


beside the castle-wall 
To recapture Duchess May. 






(ToUfhwly) 








Steed on steed-track, dashing off, 


XXV. 






thickening, doubling, hoof on 
hoof, 


And the castle standeth black, with 
the red sun at its back ; 






In the pauses of the rain. 


(Toll sloicly) 
And a fortnight's siege is done; and, 








except the duchess, none 






XIX. 

And the bridegroom led the flight on 


Can misdoubt the coming wrack. 






his red-roan steed of might, 


XXVI. 






(Toll slowly) 
And the bride lay on his arm, still, as 
if she feared no harm, 


Then the captain, young Lord Leigh, 
with his eyes so gray of blee, 






Smiling out into the night. 


(Toll slowly) 
And thin lips that scarcely sheath the 








cold white gnashing of his teeth, 






XX. 


Gnashed in smiling, absently, 






" Dost thou fear ? " he said at last. 








" Nay," she answered him in 


XXVII. 






haste, 
(Toll slowly) 
" Not such death as we could find : 
only life with one behind. 
Ride on fast as fear, ride fast ! " 


Cried aloud, " So goes the day, bride- 
groom fair of Duchess May ! " 
(Toll slowly) 
" Look thy last upon that sun I if thou 
seest to-morrow's one 








'Twill be through a foot of clay. 






XXI. 








Up the mountain wheeled the steed, 


XXVIII. 






girth to ground, and fetlocks 


" Ha, fair bride ! dost hear no sound, . 






r r spread, 


save that moaning of the n 






(Toll sloicly) 


hound ? " 






Headlong bounds, and rocking flanks, 


(Toll slowly) 






down he staggered, down the 


" Thou and I have parted troth; yet I 






banks, 
To the towers of Linteged. 


keep my vengeance-oath, 
And the other may come round. 






J l till 






MJJ 1 s~* *" L_> L T - 1^ 









296 



RHYME t)F THE DUCHESS MAY. 



" Ha ! thy will is brave to dare, and 
thy new love past compare; " 

(Toll slowly) 
" Yet thine old love's falchion brave 

is as strong a thing to have 
As the will of lady fair. 

XXX. 

" Peck on blindly, netted dove ! If a 
wife's name thee behove," 

(Toll sloicly) 

" Thou shalt wear the same to-mor- 
row, ere the grave has hid the 
sorrow 
Of thy last ill-mated love. 

XXXI. 

" O'er his fixed and silent mouth thou 
and I will call back troth; " 

(Toll sloicly) 
'' He shall altar be and priest; and he 

will not cry at least, 
' I forbid you, I am loath ! ' 



' I will wring thy fingers pale in the 
gauntlet of my mail: " 

(Toll sloioly) 
' ' Little hand and muckle gold ' close 

shall lie within my hold, 
As the sword did to prevail." 



Oh, the little birds sang east, and the 
little birds sang west, 

(Toll slowly) 
Oh, and laughed the Duchess May, 

and her soul did put away 
All his boasting, for a jest. 



In her chamber did she sit, laughing 
low to think of it, 

(Toll sloiohj) 

"Tower is strong, and will is free: 
thou canst boast, my Lord of 
Leigh ; 
But thou boastest little wit." 

XXXV. 

In her tire-glass gazed she, and she 
blushed right womanly: 

(Toll slowly) 
She blushed half from her disdain, 

half her beauty was so plain ; 
" Oath for oath, my Lord of Leigh! " 



Straight she called her maidens in, 
" Since ye gave me blame 
herein," 

(Toll slowly) 
" That a bridal such as mine should 

lack gauds to make it fine, 
Come and shrive me from that sin. 



: It is three months gone to-day since 
I gave mine hand away: " 

(Toll sloioly) 

Bring the gold, and bring the gem, 
we will keep bride-state in them, 
"While we keep the foe at bay. 

XXXVIII. 

1 On your arms I loose mine hair; 
comb it smooth, aud crown it 
fair: " 

(Toll slowly) 
' I would look in purple pall from 

this lattice down the wall, 
And throw scorn to one that's 
there I " 



Oh, the little birds sang east, and the 
little birds sang west : 

(Toll slowly) 
On the tower the castle's lord leant 

in silence on his sword, 
With an anguish in his breast. 



"With a spirit-laden weight did he lean 
down passionate : 
(Toll slowly) 
They have almost sapped the wall, 

they will enter therewithal 
With no knocking at the gate. 



Then the sword he leant upon shiv- 
ered, snapped upon the stone: 

(Toll slowly) 

" Sword," he thought with inward 
laugh, "ill thou servest for a 
staff 
When thy nobler use is done ! 



" Sword, thy nobler use is done 1 
tower is lost, and shame begun." 
(Toll slowly) 






RHYME OF THE DUCHESS MAY. 




" If we met them in the breach, hilt 

to hilt, or speech to speech, 
"We should die there, each for one. 



" If we met them at the wall, we 
should singly, vainly fall;" 

(Toll slowly) 
" But if /die here alone, then I die 

who am but one, 
And die nobly for them all. 



XLIV. 

" Five true friends lie, for my sake, in 
the moat and in the brake; " 

(Toll stoic/?/) 
" Thirteen warriors lie at rest, with a 

black wound in the breast: 
And not one of these will wake. 



" So, no more of this shall be. Heart- 
blood weighs too heavily ; " 

(Toll slowly) 
" And I could not sleep in grave, with 

the faithful and the brave 
Heaped around and over me. 

XL VI. 

" Since young Clare a mother hath, 
and young Ralph a plighted 
faith;" 

(Toll sloicly) 

" Since my pale young sister's cheeks 
blush like rose when Ronald 
speaks, 
Albeit never a word she saith, 

XLVII. 

"These shall never die for me: life- 
blood falls too heavily." 

(Toll slowly) 
" And if I die here apart, o'er my dead 

and silent heart 
They shall pass out safe and free. 



" "When the foe hath heard it said, 
' Death holds Guy of Linteged,' " 

( Toll slowly) 

"That new corse new peace shall 
bring, and a blessed, blessed 
thing 
Shall the stone be at its head. 



1 Then my friends shall pass out free, 
and shall bear my memory; " 

(Toll sloiclii) 

: Then my foes shall sleek their pride, 
soothing fair my widowed bride, 
"Whose sole sin was love of me. 



" "With their words all smooth and 
sweet, they will front her, and 
entreat," 

(Toll slowly) 
" And their purple pall will spread 

underneath her fainting head 
"While her tears drop over it. 



" She will weep her woman's tears, she 
will pravher woman's prayers; " 

(Toll slowly) 
" But her heart is young in pain, and 

her hopes will spring again 
By the suntime of her years. 



" Ah, sweet May! ah, sweetest grief! 
once I vowed thee my belief " 

(Toll slowly) 

" That thy name expressed thy sweet- 
ness, May of poets in com- 
pleteness ! 
Now my May-day seemeth brief." 



All these silent thoughts did swim o'er 
his eves grown strange and dim, 

(Toll slowly) 
Till his true men in the place wished 

they stood there face to face 
"With the foe, instead of him. 



1 One last oath, my friends that wear 
faithful hearts to do and dare! " 

(Toll slowly) 

Tower must fall, and bride be lost: 
swear me service worth the 
cost ! " 
Bold they stood around to swear. 

LV. 

: Each man clasp my hand, and swear, 
by the deed we failed in there," 
(Toll slowly) 







298 



RHYME OF THE DUCHESS MAY. 



" Not for vengeance, not for right, will 

ye strike one blow to-night! " 
Pale they stood around to swear. 



" One last boon, young Ralph and 
Clare ! faithful hearts to do and 
dare ! " 

( Toll slowly) 

" Bring that steed up from his stall, 
which she kissed before you all, 
Guide him up the turret-stair. 



! Ye shall harness him aright, and 
lead upward to this height; " 

(Toll slowly) 
' Once in love, and twice in war, hath 

he borne me strong and far: 
He shall bear me far to-night." 



Then his men looked to and fro when 
they heard him speaking so, 

(Toll slowly) 

" "Las ! the noble heart," they 
thought: " he, in sooth, is grief- 
distraught: 
Would we stood here with the foe ! " 



But a fire flashed from his eye 'twixt 
their thought and their reply, 

(Toll slowly) 

"Have ye so much time to waste? 
We who ride here must ride 
fast 
As we wish our foes to fly." 



They have fetched the steed with 
care, in the harness he did wear, 

(Toll sloioly) 
Past the court, and through the doors, 

across the rushes of the floors; 
But they goad him up the stair. 



Then, from out her bower chambere, 
did the Duchess Mav repair: 

( Toll slowly) 
"Tell me now what is your need," 

said the lady, " of this steed, 
That ye goad liiru up the stair ? " 



LXII. 

Calm she stood; unbodkined through 
fell her dark hair to her shoe; 

(Toll slowly) 
And the smile upon her face, ere she 

left the tiring-glass, 
Had not time enough to go. 

LXIII. 

" Get thee back, sweet Duchess Mayl 
hope is gone like yesterday: " 

(Toll slowly) 

" One half-hour completes the breach; 
and thy lord grows wild of 
speech 
Get thee in, sweet lady, and pray ! 

LXIV. 

" In the east tower, high'st of all, 
loud he cries for steed from 
stall:" 

(Toll sloioly) 
"He would ride as far," quoth he, 

"as for love and victory, 
Though he rides the castle-Vail." 

LXV. 

" And we fetch the steed from stall, 
up where never a hoof did 
fall" 

(Toll slowly) 

" Wifely prayer meets deathly need: 
may the sweet heavens hear 
thee plead 
If he rides the castle-wall ! " 



Low she dropt her head, and lower, 
till her hair coiled on the floor, 

(Toll slowly) 

And tear after tear you heard fall dis- 
tinct as any word 
Which you might be listening for. 



" Get thee in, thou soft ladye ! here 
is never a place for thee ! " 

( Toll slowly) 
" Braid thine hair, and clasp thy gown, 

that thy beauty in its moan 
May find grace with Leigh oi 
Leigh." 



She stood up in bitter case, with a 
pale yet steady face, 
(Toll sloioly) 









x-j ', *> ' . , f r^[7~h 



. 

n 


[ 
j 


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-I RHYME OF THE DUCHESS MAY. 299 ', 




Like a statue thunderstruck, which, 


LXXV. 








though quivering, seems to look 
Right against the thunder-place. 


Quoth she, "Meekly have I done all 
thy biddings under sun; " 






j 


* 


(Toll slowly) 


^ 






T vrv 


" But by all my womanhood, which 






And her foot trod in with pride her 
own tears i' the stone t)eside: 


is proved so, true and good, 
I will never do this one. 




(Toll slowly) 


LXX VI 




* Go to, faithful friends, go to ! judge 
no more what ladies do, 
No, nor how their lords may ride ! " 


" Now by womanhood's degree and 
by wifehood's verity," 
(ToUtlowly) 






" In this hour, if thou hast need of thy 




I.XX. 


noble red-roan steed, 




Then the good steed's rein she took, 


Thou hast also need of me. 




and his iieck did kiss and stroke : 






(Toll slowly) 


LXXVII. 




Soft he neighed to answer her, and 
then followed up the stair 


" By this golden ring ye see on this 
lifted hand pardie," 




For the love of her sweet look. 


(Tott slowly) 






" If this hour, on castle-wall can be 






room for steed from stall, 




LXXI. 


Shall be also room for me. 




Oh, and steeply, steeply wound up 






the narrow stair around, 


LXXVIII. 




( Tll slowly) 
Oh, and closely, closely speeding, 
step by step beside her treading, 
Did he follow, meek as hound. 


" So the sweet saints with me be I " 
(did she utter solemnly) 
(Toll slowly) 
" If a man, this eventide, on this cas- 






tle-wall will ride, 




LXXII. 


He shall ride the same with me." 




On the east tower, high'st of all, 






there, where never a hoof did 


LXXIX. 




(Toll ftloirly) 


Oh, he sprang up in the selle, and he 
laughed out bitter-well, 




Out they swept, a vision steady, noble 
steed and lovely lady, 


(Toll Klowly) 
" "Wouldst thou ride among the leaves, 




Calm as if in bower or stall. 


as we used on other eves, 






To hear chime a vesper-bell ? " 




1. XXIII. 


LXXX. 




Down she knelt at her lord's knee, 


She clung closer to his knee "Ay, 




and she looked up silently, 


beneath the cvpress-tree! " 




(Toll slowly) 


( Toll slowly) 




And he kissed her twice and thrice, 


"Mock me not; for otherwhere than 




for that look within her eyes 
"Which he could not bear to see. 


along the greenwood fair 
Have I ridden fast with thee. 






LXXXI. 




LXXIV. 


" Fast I rode with new-made vows 




. Quoth he, " Get thee from this strife, 


from my angry kinsman's 




p and the sweet saints biess thy 


house:" i 


r> 






life ! " 


(Toll slowly) 








(Toll slowly) 


" What ! and would you men should 








"In this hour I stand in need of my 


reck that I dared more for love's 








1 noble red-roan steed, 


sake 








But no more of iny noble wife." As a bride than as a spouse ? 


t 




Xq j _| 3 - 6 p^j i ' y 











<~i *-\ ' r , c K rr> 




JF w 

1 300 EH YMF. OF THE DUCHESS MAY. IP 




LXXXII. 


LXXXVIIT. 






" "What ! and would you it should fall, 
as a proverb, before all," 
J U (Toll slowly) 


Back he reined his steed back-thrown 
on the slippery coping-stone; 
(Toll slow!;/) J v, 






''That a bride may keep your side 
while through castle-gate you 
ride, 


Back the iron hoofs did grind on the 1 
battlement behind, 
Whence a hundred feet went down; 






Yet eschew the castle-wall ? " 










LXXXIX. 








And his heel did press and goad on 






LXXXIII. 
Ho! the breach yawns into ruin, and 
roars up against her suing, 


the quivering Hank bestrode, 
(ToUaowly) 

" Friends and brothers, save my wife! 






( Toll slowly) 


Pardon, sweet, in change for 






With the inarticulate din, and the 


life: 






dreadful falling-in 
Shrieks of doing and undoing ! 


But I ride alone to God." 








XC. 






LXXXIV. 


Straight, as if the holy name had up- 






Twice he wrung her hands in twain; 
but the small hands closed 
again. 
( Toll slowly) 
Back he reined the steed back, 


breathed her like a flame, 
(Toll slowly) 
She upsprang, she rose upright, in his 
selle she sate in sight. 
By her love she overcame. 






back! but she trailed along his 








track 


XCI. 






With a frantic clasp and strain. 


And her head was on his breast, where 








she smiled as one at rest, 








(Toll slowly) 






LXXXV. 


" Ring," she cried, " O vesper-bell, in 






Evermore the foemen pour through 


the beechwood's old chapelle, 






the crash of window and door, 


But the passing-bell rings best! " 






(Toll slowly) 








And the shouts of Leigh and Leigh, 
and the shrieks of " Kill! " and 
"Flee!" 
Strike up clear amid the roar. 


XCII. 

They have caught out at the rein which 
Sir Guy threw loose, in vain; 
(Toll sloicly) 








For the horse, in stark despair, with 








his front hoofs poised in air, 






L.XXXVI. 

Thrice he wrung her hands in twain; 


On the last verge rears amain. 






but they closed and clung again, 


XCIII. 






(Toll slowly) 
While she clung, as one, withstood, 
clasps a Christ upon the rood, 
In a spasm of deathly pain. 


Now he hangs, he rocks between, and 
his nostrils curdle in; 
(Toll slowly) 
Now he shivers head and hoof, and 








the flakes of foam fall off, 






LXXXVII. 


And his face grows fierce and thin; 






She clung wild, and she clung mute, 








with her shuddering lips half- 

t\ n shut " 


XCI V. 

And a look of human woe from his 






(Toll slowly) 
Her head fallen as half in swound, 
hair and knee swept on the 


staring eyes did go; 
(Toll slowly) 
And a sharp cry uttered he, in a fore- 






ground, 
She clung wild to stirrup and foot. 


told agony 
Of the headlong death below; 






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--LlM ," ' kT!-P> 









\ 


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RHYME OF THE DUCHESS NAY. 301 






xcv. 


VI. 






And, "Ring, ring, thou passing-bell," 
still she cried, "i' the old cha- 


Now your will is all unwilled, now 
your pulses are all stilled, 




V 


vi pelle 1 " 
* (Toll slowly) 
Then back-toppling, crashing back, a 
dead weight tiling out to wrack, 


( Toll slowly) J 
Now ye lie as meek and mild (where- 
so laid) as Maud, the child 
"Whose small grave was lately filled. 




Horse and riders overfell. 








VII. 






Beating heart and burning brow, ye 




I. 


are very patient now, 




Oh, the little birds sang east, and the 
little birds sang west, 
(Toll slowly) 


(Toll slowly) 
And the children might be bold to 
pluck the kingcups from your 




And I read this ancient Rhyme in the 
churchyard, while the chime 


mould, 
Ere a month had let them grow. 




Slowly tolled for one at rest. 








VIII. 




ii. 
The abelcs movod in the sun, and the 
river smooth did run, 
(Toll slowly) 
And the ancient Rhyme rang strange, 
with its passion and its change, 
Here, where all done lay undone. 


And you let the goldfinch sing, in the 
alder near in spring, 
(Toll slowly) 
Let her build her nest, and sit all the 
three weeks out on it, 
Murmuring not at any thing. 




in. 


IX. 




And beneath a willow-tree I a little 


In your patience ye are strong; cold 




grave did see, 


and heat ye take not wrong: 




(Toll slowly) 


(Toll sloioly) 




"Where was graved, " HERE TTNDE- 


"When the trumpet of the angel blows 




FILED, LIETH MAUD, A THREE- 


eternity's evangel, 




YEAR CHILD, 


Time will seem to you not long. 




EIGHTEEN HUNDRED, FORTY-THREE. 






IV. 


X. 




Then, O spirits, did I say, ye who rode 
so fast that dav, 
(ToUgtowly) 
Did star-wheels and angel-wings, with 
their holy winnowiugs, 
Keep beside you all the way ? 


Oh, the little birds sang east, and the 
little birds sang west, 
(Toll slowly) 
And I said in under-breath, " All our 
life is mixed with death, 
And who knoweth which is best ? " 




V. 


XI. 




Though in passion ye would dash with 
a blind and heavv crash, 


Oh, the little birds sang east, and the 
little birds sang west, 




(Toll slow!;/) 


(Toll slowly) 




Up against the thick-bossed shield of 
God's judgment in the field, 


And I smiled to think God's greatness 
flowed around our incomplete- 






Though your heart and brain were 


ness, 




m 


- rash, 


Round our restlessness, his rest. , 




V 


. . 




1 (T-l - ;> 6 | a I 









THE ROMANCE OF THE SWAN'S NEST. 



' So the dreams depart, 
So the failing phantoms flee, 
And the sharp reality 
Now must act its part." 

WESTWOOD'8 Beadtfrom a Kosary. 



LITTLE Ellie sits alone 
'Mid the beeches of a meadow, 

By a stream-side on the grass, 
And the trees are showering down 
Doubles of their leaves in shadow, 
On her shining hair and face. 



She has thrown her bonnet by, 
And her feet she has been dipping 

In the shallow water's flow; 
Now she holds them nakedly 
In her hands, all sleek and dripping, 
"While she rocketh to and fro. 



Little Ellie sits alone, 
And the smile she softly uses 

Fills the silence like a speech, 
While she thinks what shall be done, 
And the sweetest pleasure chooses 
For her future within reach. 



Little Ellie in her smile 
Chooses, " I will have a lover, 
Riding on a steed of steeds: 
He shall love me without guile, 
And to him I will discover 
The swan's nest among the reeds. 



" And the steed shall be red-roan, 
And the lover shall be noble, 

"With an eye that takes the breath. 
And the lute he plays upon 
Shall strike ladies into trouble, 
As his sword strikes ineu to death. 
302 



VI. 

" And the steed it shall be shod 
All in silver, housed in azure; 
And the the mane shall swim the 

wind; 

And the hoofs along the sod 
Shall flash onward, and keep meas- 
ure, 
Till the shepherds look behind. 



" But my lover will not prize 
All the glory that he rides in, 
When he gazes in my face. 
He will say, ' O Love, thine eyes 
Build the shrine my soul abides in. 
And I kneel here for thy grace! ' 



" Then, ay, then he shall kneel low, 
With the red-roan steed anear him, 
Which shall seem to understand, 
Till I answer, ' Kise and go ! 
For the world must love and fear 

him 
Whom I gift with heart and hand. 



" Then he will arise so pale, 
I shall feel my. own lips tremble 

With a yes I must not say: 
Nathless maiden-brave, ' Farewell,* 
I will utter, and dissemble 
' Light to-morrow with to-day ! ' 



" Then he'll ride among the hills 
To the wide world past the river, 

There to put away all wrong, 
To make straight distorted wills, 
And to empty the broad quiver 
Which the wicked bear along. 







BERTHA IN THE LANK. 



303 - ,- 



' Three times shall a young foot-page 
Swiui the stream, and climb the 

mountain, 

And kneel down beside my feet: 
1 Lo! my master sends this gage, 
Lady, for thy pity's counting. 
What wilt thou exchange for it? ' 



" And the first time I will send 
A white rosebud for a guerdon: 
And the second time, a glove; 
But the third time I may bend 
From ray pride, and answer, - 

' Pardon, 
If he comes to take my love.' 

XIII. 

" Then the young foot-page will run; 
Then my lover will ride faster, 
Till he kneeleth at my knee: 
' I am a duke's eldest son, 
Thousand serfs do call me master, 
But, O Love, I love but tkee ! ' 



" He will kiss me on the mouth 
Then, and lead me as a lover 
Through the crowds that praise 
his deeds. 



And, when soul-tied by one troth. 
Unto him I will discover 
That swan's nest among the 
reeds." 



Little Ellie, with her smile 
Not yet ended, rose up gayly, 

Tied the bonnet, donned the shoe, 
And went homeward, round a mile, 
Just to see, as she did daily, 
What more eggs were with the 
two. 



Pushing through the elm-tree copse, 
Winding up the stream, light- 
hearted, 

"Where the osier pathway leads, 
Past the boughs she stoops, and stops. 
Lo, the wild swan had deserted, 
And a rat had gnawed the reeds I 



XVII. 

Ellie went home sad and slow. 
If she found the lover ever, 

With his red-roan steed of steeds, 
Sooth I know not; but I know 
She could never show him never, 
That swan's nest among the reeds. 



BERTHA Iff THE LAffE. 



Prr the broidery-frame away, 
For my sewing is all done: 

The last, thread is used to-day, 
And I need not join it on. 

Though the clock stands at the noon, 

I am weary. I have sewn, 

Sweet, for thee, a wedding-gown. 



Sister, help me to the bed, 

And stand near me, dearest sweet. 
Do not shrink, nor be afraid, 

Blushing with a sudden heat! 




No one standeth in the street ? 
By God's love I go to meet, 
Love I thee with love complete. 



Lean thy face down ; drop it in 
These two hands, that I may 

hold 
'Twixt their palms thy cheek and 

chin, 

Stroking hack the curls of gold: 
'Tis a fair, fair face, in sooth 
Larger eyes and redder mouth 
Than miue w.ere in my first j'outh. 








/d"4^T --*. g t~*r>\ 


1 


^uj^f *- -HUJ& 

304 BERTHA IN THE LANE. '.. 




IV. 


X. 






Thou art younger by seven years 
Ah ! so bashful at my gaze, 


Dear, I heard thee in the spring, 
Thee and Robert, through the 






J U That the lashes, hung with tears, 


trees, * 






Grow too heavy to upraise ? 
I would wound thee by no touch 
Which thy shyness feels as such. 


When we all went gathering 
Boughs of May-bloom for the bees. 
Do not start so ! think instead 






Dost thou mind me, dear, so much ? 


How the sunshine overhead 








Seemed to trickle through the shade. 






V. 








Have I not been nigh a mother 


XI. 






To thy sweetness ? tell me, dear; 
Have we not loved one another 


What a day it was that day I 
Hills and vales did openly 






Tenderly, from year to year, 
Since our dying mother mild 
Said, with accents undefiled, 


Seem to heave, and throb away 
At the sight of the great sky; 
And the silence, as it stood 






" Child, be mother to this child " ? 


In the glory's golden flood, 








Audibly did bud, aud bud. 






VI. 








Mother, mother, up in heaven, 
Stand up on the jasper sea, 


XII. 

Through the winding hedgerows 






And be witness I have given 
All the gifts required of me, 
Hope that blessed me, bliss that 
crowned, 


green 
How we wandered, I and you, 
With the bowery tops shut in, 
And the gates that showed the 






Love that left me with a wound, 
Life itself that turneth round. 


view 1 
How we talked there: thrushes soft 
Sang our praises out, or oft 








Bleatings took them from the croft: 






VII. 








Mother, mother, thou art kind, 


XIII. 






Thou art standing in the room, 
In a molten glory shrined, 
That rays off into the gloom ; 
But thy smile is bright and bleak 
Like cold waves: I cannot speak, 
I sob in it, and grow weak. 


Till the pleasure, grown too strong, 
Left me muter evermore, 
And, the winding road being long, 
I walked out of sight, before, 
And so, wrapt in musings fond, 
Issued (past the wayside pond) 
On the meadow-lands beyond. 






VIII. 








Ghostly mother, keep aloof 
One hour longer from my soul; 
For I still am thinking of 
Earth's warm-beating joy and dole ! 
On my finger is a ring 
Which I still see glittering 
When the night hides every thing. 


XIV. 

I sate down beneath the beech 
Which leans over to the lane, 
And the far sound of your speech 
Did not promise any pain; 
And I blessed you full and free, 
With a smile stooped tenderly 
O'er the May-flowers on my knee. 






IX. 


XV. 






Little sister, thou art pale ! 
"] [ Ah, I have a wandering brain, 
But I lose that fever-bale, 


But the sound grew into word 1 
As the speakers drew more near 
Sweet, forgive me that I heard 






And my thoughts grow calm again. 
Lean down closer, closer still : 
I have words thine ear to fill, 


What you wished me not to hear. 
Do not weep so, do not shake; 
Oh, I heard thee, Bertha, make 






And would kiss thee at my will. 


Good true answers for my sake. 






J I* J li 
~~K A~~ 






"HviH ^ . * KHT^ 






^UJJ -l a e H> LLJ^ 









BERTHA IN THE LANE. 



305 



XVI. 

Yes, and HE too ! let him stand 
In thy thoughts untouched by 
blame. 

Could he help it, if my hand 
He had claimed with hasty claim? 

That was wrong, perhaps; but then 

Such things be and will again. 

Women cannot judge for men. 

XVII. 

Had he seen thee when he swore 
He would love but me alone ? 

Thou wast absent, sent before 
To our kin in Sidmouth town. 

When he saw thee, who art best 

Past compare, and loveliest, 

He but judged thee as the rest. 



Could we blame him with grave 
words, 

Thou and I, dear, if we might ? 
Thy ^rown eyes have looks like birds 

Flying straightway to the light: 
Mine are older. Hush! Lookout 
Up the street ! Is none without ? 
How the poplar swings about ! 

XIX. 

And that hour, beneath the beech, 
When 1 listened in a dream, 

And he said in his deep speech 
That he owed me all esteem, 

Each word swam in on my brain 

AVith a dim, dilating pain, 

Till it burst with that last strain. 



I fell flooded with a dark, 

In the silence of a swoon. 
When I rose, still cold and stark, 

There was vight; I saw the moon: 
And the stars tach in its place, 
And the May-bloouis on the grass, 
Seemed to wonder what I was. 



And I walked as if apart 

From myself, when I could stand; 
And I pitied my own heart, 

As if I held it in my hand, 
Somewhat coldly, with a sense 
Of fulfilled benevolence, 
And a " poor thing " negligence. 



And I answered coldly, too, 

When you met me at the door; 
And I only heard the dew 

Dripping from me to the floor; 
And the flowers I hade you see 
Were too withered for the bee, 
As my life henceforth for me. 



XXIII. 

Do not weep so, dear heart-warm! 

All was best as it befell. 
If I say he did me harm, 

I speak wild I am not well. 
All his words were kind and good 
He esteemed me. Only, blood 
Huns so faint in womanhood I 



Then I always was too grave, 

Liked the saddest ballad sung, 
With that look, besides, we have 

In our faces, who die young. 
I had died, dear, all the same: 
Life's long, joyous, jostling game 
Is too loud for my meek shame. 



We are so nnlike each other, 
Thou and I, that none could guess 

We were children of one mother, 
But for mutual tenderness. 

Thou art rose-lined from the cold, 

And meant verily to hold 

Life's pure pleasures manifold. 



I am pale as crocus grows 

Close beside a rose-tree's root: 
Whoso'er would reach the rose 
Treads the crocus under foot. 
/, like May-bloom on thorn-tree, 
Thou, like merry summer-bee, 
Fit that I be plucked for thee ! 



Yet who plucks me ? No one mourns, 

I have lived my season out, 
And now die of my own thorns 

Which I could not live without. 
Sweet, be merry ! How the light 
Comes and goes ! If it be night, 
Keep the candles in my sight. 







LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP 



Are there footsteps at the door ? 

Look out quickly. Yea, or nay ? 
Some one might be waiting for 

Some last word that I might say. 
Nay ? So best ! so angels would 
Stand off clear from deathly road, 
Not to cross the sight of God. 



Colder grow my hands and feet. 

When I wear the shroud I made, 
Let the folds lie straight and neat, 

And the rosemary be spread, 
That, if any friend 'should come, 
(To see thee, sweet), all the room 
May be lifted out of gloom. 



And, dear Bertha, let me keep 

On my hand this little ring, 
Which at nights, when others sleep, 

I can still see glittering. 
Let me wear it out of sight, 
In the grave, where it will light 
All the dark up, day and night. 



On that grave drop not a tear ! 

Else, though fathom-deep the place, 
Through the woollen shroud I wear 

I shall feel it on my face. 



Rather smile there, blessed one, 
Thinking of me in the sun, 
Or forget me, smiling on ! 



XXXII. 

Art thou near me ? Nearer ! so 

Kiss me close upon the eyes, 
That the earthly light may go 

Sweetly, as it used to rise 
When I watched the morning-gray 
Strike, betwixt the hills, the way 
He was sure to come that day. 



XXXIII. 

So no more vain words be said ! 

The hosannas nearer roll. 
Mother, smile now on thy dead, . 

I am death-strong in my soul. 
Mystic Dove alit on cross, 
Guide the poor bird of the snows 
Through the snow-wind above loss ' 



Jesus, Victim, comprehending 
Love's divine self-abnegation, 

Cleanse my love in its self-spending, 
And absorb the poor libation ! 

Wind my thread of life up higher, 

Up, through angels' hands of fire ! 

I aspire while I expire. 



LADY GERALDIM'S COURTSHIP. 



A ROMANCE OF THE AGE. 



A poet write* to his friend. PLACE. A 
room in Wycombe Hall. TIME. Late 
in the evening. 



DEAR my friend and fellow-student, I 
would lean my spirit o'er you ! 

Down the purple of this chamber 
tears should scarcely run at 
will. 




I am humbled who was humble. 

Friend, I bow my head befors 

you : 
You should lead me to my peasants; 

but their faces are too still. 

ii. 
There's a lady, an earl's daughter, 

she is proud and she is noble, 
And she treads the crimson carpet, 





LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 




and she breathes the perfumed 

air, 
And a kingly Wood sends glances up, 

her princely eye to trouble, 
Aud the shadow of a monarch's 

crown is softened in her hair. 



She has halls among the woodlands, 

she has castles by the breakers, 
She has farms and she has manors, 

.she can threaten and command, 
And the palpitating engines snort in 

steam across her acres, 
As they mark upon the blasted heaven 

the measure of the land. 



There are none of England's daugh- 
ters who can show a prouder 
presence; 

Upon princely suitors praying, she 
has looked in her disdain. 

She was sprung of English nobles, I 
was born of English peasants: 

"NVhat was / that I should love her, 
save for competence to pain ! 



I was only a poor poet, made for 

singing at her casement, 
As the finches or the thrushes, while 

she thought of other things. 
Oh, she walked so high above me, she 

appeared to my abasement, 
In her lovely silken murmur, like an 

angel clad in wings ! 



Many vassals bow before her as her 
carriage sweeps their door- 
ways ; 

She has blest their little children, as a 
priest or queen were she : 

Far too tender, or too cruel far, her 
smile upon the poor was, 

For I thought it was the same smile 
which she used to smile on me. 



She has voters in the commons, she 
has lovers in the palace, 

And of all the fair court-ladies, few 
have jewels half as line; 



Oft the prince has named her beauty 
'twixt the red wine and tha 
chalice: 

Oh, and what was / to love her ? my 
beloved, my Geraldine ! 



Yet I could not choose but love hen 

I was born to poet-uses, 
To love all things set above me, all of 

good and all of fair. 
Nymphs of mountain, not of valley, 

we are wont to call the Muses; 
And, in nympholeptic climbing, poets 

pass from mount to star. 



And because I was a poet, and be- 
cause the public praised me, 

With a critical deduction for the mod- 
ern writer's fault, 

I could sit at rich men's tables, 
though the courtesies that raised 
me 

Still suggested clear between us the 
pale spectrum of the salt. 



And they praised me in her presence: 

" Will your book appear this 

summer ? " 
Then, returning to each other " Yes, 

our plans are for the moors; " 
Then, with whisper dropped behind 

me "There he is! the latest 

comer. 
Oh, she only likes his verses ! what is 

over, she endures. 



" Quite low-born, self-educated! some- 
what gifted, though, by nature, 

And we make a point of asking him, 
of being very kind. 

You may speak, he does not hear you; 
and, besides, he writes no satire: 

All these serpents kept by charmers 
leave the natural sting behind." 



I grew scornfuller, grew colder, as T 
stood up there among them, 

Till, as frost intense will burn you, the 
cold scorning scorched my brow ; 

When a sudden silver speaking, grave- 
ly cadenced, over-rung them, 

And a sudden silken stirring touched 
my inner nature through. 






308 



LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 



I looked upward and beheld her: 

with a calm and regnant spirit, 
Slowly round she swept her eyelids, 

and said clear before them all, 
" Have you such superfluous honor, 

sir, that, able to confer it, 
You will come down, Mister Bertram, 

as my guest to Wycombe Hall? " 



Here she paused: she had been paler 
at the first word of her speak- 
ing, 

But, because a silence followed it, 
blushed somewhat, as for shame, 

Then, as scorning her own feeling, re- 
sumed calmly, " I am seeking 

More distinction than these gentle- 
men think worthy of my claim. 



" Ne'ertheless, you see, I seek it; not 

because I am a woman," 
(Here her smile sprang like a fountain, 

and so, overflowed her mouth), 
" But because my woods in Sussex 

have some purple shades at 

gloaming 
Which are worthy of a king in state, 

or poet in his youth. 



" I invite you, Mister Bertram, to no 

scene for worldly speeches, 
Sir, I scarce should dare, but only 

where God asked the thrushes 

first; 
And if you will sing beside them, in 

the covert of my beeches, 
I will thank you for the woodlands, 

for the human world at worst." 



Then she smiled around right childly, 

then she gazed around right 

queenly, 
And I bowed I could not answer; 

alternated light and gloom, 
While, as one who quells the lions, 

with a steady eye, serenely, 
She, witli level, fronting eyelids, 

passed out stately from the 

room. 



XVIII. 

Oh the blessed woods of Sussex ! I 

can hear them still around me, 
With their leafy tide of greenery still 

rippling up the wind. 
Oh the cursed woods of Sussex! where 

the hunter's arrow found me 
When a fair face and a tender voice 

had made me mad and blind! 



XIX. 

In that ancient hall of Wycombe 

thronged the numerous guests 

invited, 
And the lovely London ladies trod 

the floors with gliding feet; 
And their voices, low with fashion, not 

with feeling, softly freighted 
All the air about the windows with 

elastic laughters sweet. 



For at eve the open windows flung 

their light out on the terrace, 
Which the floating orbs of curtains did 

with gradual shadow sweep, 
While the swans upon the river, fed 

at morning by the heiress, 
Trembled downward through their 

snowy wings at music in their 

sleep. 



And there evermore was music, both 

of instrument and singing, 
Till the finches of the shrubberies 

grew restless in the dark; 
Bnt the cedars stood up motionless, 

each in a moonlight-ringing, 
And the deer, half in the glimmer, 

strewed the hollows of the park. 



XXII. 

And though sometimes she would 

bind me with her silver-corded 

speeches 
To commix my words and laughter 

with the converse and the jest, 
Oft I sat apart, and, gazing on the 

river through the beeches, 
Heard, as pure the swans swam down 

it, her pure voice o'erfloat the 

rest. 









^"~}*-\ ' . c KfTN 




&* ' ' ^ 

LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 309 *. 




XXIII. 


I will let no music enter, saving what 






In the morning, horn of huntsman, 
hoof of steed, and laugh of rider, 
<J U Spread out cheery from the courtyard 


the fountain sings us, 
Which the lilies round the basin may 
seem pure enough to hear. J 






till we lost them in the hills; 


i 






While herself and other ladies, and 








her suitors left beside her, 


XXIX. 






Went a-wanderiug up the gardens, 
through the laurels and abeles. 


" The live air that waves the lilies 
waves the slender jet of water, 
Like a holy thought sent feebly up 






XXIV. 


from soul of fasting saint: 






Thus, her foot upon the new-mown 
grass, bareheaded, with the 


Whereby lies a marble Silence sleep- 
ing (Lough the sculptor wrought 
her,) 






flowing 

Of the virginal white vesture gath- 
ered closely to her throat, 


So asleep she is forgetting to say 
' Hush! ' a fancy quaint. 






And the golden ringlets in her neck 








just quickened by her going, 


XXX. 






And appearing to breathe sun for air, 
and doubting if to limit . 


" Mark how heavy white her eyelids! 
not a dream between them lin- 






XXV. 


gers; 
And the left hand's index droppeth 






With a bunch of dewy maple which 
her right hand held above her. 


from the lips upon the cheek; 
While the right hand, with the sym- 






And which trembled, a green shadow, 


bol-rose held slack within the 






in betwixt her and the skies, 


fingers, 






As she turned her face in going, thus, 


Has fallen backward in the basin. 






she drew me on to love her, 
And to worship the divineness of the 


yet this Silence will not speak! 






smile hid in her eyes. 










XXXI. 






XXVI. 


" That the essential meaning growing 






For her eyes alone smile constantly; 
her lips have serious sweetness, 
And her front is calm; the dimple 
rarely ripples on the cheek ; 
But her deep blue eyes smile constant- 
ly, as if they in discreetness 


may exceed the special symbol, 
Is the thought as I conceive it: it ap- 
plies more high and low. 
Our true noblemen will often through 
right nobleness grow humble, 
And assert an inward honor by deny- 






Kept tiie secret of a happy dream she 


ing outward show." 






did not care to speak. 










xxxn. 






xxvn. 








Thus she drew me, the first morning, 
out across into the garden, 


" Nay, your Silence," said I, " truly, 
holds her symbol-rose biit 






And I walked among her noble 

friends, and could not keep be- 
1*1 


Yet she holds it, or would scarcely be 
a Silence to our ken: 






hind. 
Spake she unto all and unto me, " Be- 
hold, I am the warden 
Of the song-birds in these lindens, 
which are cages to their mind. 


And your nobles wear their ermine 
on the outside, or walk blackly 
In the presence of the social law as 
mere ignoble men. 






\ f 


n . 






xxvm. 


XXXIII. 






" But within this swarded circle into 
which the lime-walk brings us, 


" Let the poets dream sucn dreaming! 
madam, in these British islands 






Whence the beeches, rounded greenly, 


'Tis the substance that wanes ever, 






stand away in reverent fear, 


'tis the symbol that exceeds. 






<J ( J li 






N 1 e t 3 c \t I [^ 








310 




LADY GERALDfNE'8 COURTSHIP. 



Soon we shall have nought but sym- 
bol; and, for statues like this 
Silence, 

Shall accept the rose's image in an- 
other case, the weed's." 



" Not so quickly," she retorted: " I 

confess, where'er you go, you 
Find for things, names shows for 

actions, and pure gold for honor 

clear: 
But, when all is run to symbol in the 

social, I will throw you 
The world's book which 'now reads 

dryly, and sit down with Silence 

here." 

xxxv. 
Half in playfulness she spoke, I 

thought, and half in indigna- 
tion : 
Friends who listened, laughed her 

words off, while her lovers 

deemed her fair, 
A fair woman, flushed with feeling, in 

her noble-lighted station 
Near the statue's white reposing and 

both bathed in sunny air ! 



With the trees round, not so distant 
but you heard their vernal mur- 
mur, 

And beheld in light and shadow the 
leaves in and outward move, 

And the little fountain leaping toward 
the sun-heart to be warmer, 

Then recoiling in a tremble from the 
too much light above. 



'Tis a picture for remembrance. And 

thus, morning after morning, 
Did I follow as she drew me by the 

spirit to her fet. 
Why, her greyhound followed also ! 

dogs we both were dogs for 

scorning 
To be sent back when she pleased it 

and her path lay through the 

wheat. 

XXXVIII. 

And thus, morning after morning, 
spite of vows, and spite of sor- 
row, 

Did I follow at her drawing, while the 
week-days passed along, 



Just to feed the swans this noontide, 
or to see the fawns to-morrow, 

Or to teach the hillside echo some 
sweet Tuscan in a song. 

XXXIX. 

Ay; for sometimes on the hillside, 

while we sate down in the 

gowans, 
With the forest green behind us, and 

its shadow cast before, 
And the river running under, and 

across it, from the rowans, 
A brown partridge whirring near us 

till we felt the air it bore, 



There, obedient to her praying, did I 
read aloud the; poems 

Made to Tuscan llutes, or instruments 
more various of our own; 

Read the pastoral parts of Spenser, or 
the subtle intertlowings 

Found in Petrarch's sonnets here's 
the book, the leaf is folded 
down ! 

XLI. 

Or at times a modern volume, Words- 
worth's solemn-thoiighted idyl, 

Hewitt's ballad- verse, or Tennyson's 
enchanted revery, 

Or from Browning some " Pomegran- 
ate," which, if cut deep down 
the middle, 

Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, 
of a veined humanity. 



Or at times I read there hoarsely 

some new poem of my making: 
Poets ever fail in reading their own 

verses to their worth; 
For the echo in you breaks upon the 

words which you are speaking, 
And the chariot-wheels jar in the gate 

through which you drive them 

forth. 

XLIII. 
After, when we were grown tired of 

books, the silence round us 

flinging 
A slow arm of sweet compression, felt 

with beatings at the breast, 
She would break out on a sudden in 

a gush of woodland singing, 
Like child's en.'otion in a god. a 

naiad tired of rest. 











-T~l "-1 , , ' f- 5 px 


fP J ' * "W 

If LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 311 !..! 




XLIV. 


XLIX. 






Oh to see or hear her singing ! scarce 


So of men, and so, of letters books 






I know which is diviuest, 


are men of higher stature, 






a For her looks sing too she inodu- 


And the only men that speak aloud J d 






l lates her gestures on the tune, 


for future times to hear; 






And her mouth stirs with the song, 


So, of mankind in the abstract, which 






like song; and, when the notes 


grows slowly into nature. 






are finest, 


Yet will lift the cry of " progress," as 






'Tis the eyes that shoot out vocal 


it trod from sphere to sphere. 






light, and seem to swell them 








on. 


L. 








And her custom was to praise me 






XLV. 


when I said, " The age culls sim- 






Then we talked oh, how -we talked ! 


ples, 






her voice, so cadenced in the 


With a broad clown's back turned 






talking, 


broadly to the glory of the stars. 






Made another singing of the soul! 


We are gods by our own reck'ning, 






a music without bars: 


and may well shut up the tem- 






While the leafy sounds of woodlands, 


ples, 






humming round where we were 


And wield on, amid the incense- 






walking, 


steam, the thunder of our cars. 






Brought interposition worthy-sweet, 








as skies about the stars. 


LI. 








" For we throw out acclamations of 






XLVI. 


self-thanking, self-admiring, 






And she spake such good thoughts 


With, at every mile run faster, ' Oh 






natural, as if she always thought 


the wondrous, wondrous age ! ' 






them; 


Little thinking if we work our SOULS 






She had sympathies so rapid, open, 


as nobly as oiir iron, 






free as bird on branch, 


Or if angels will commend us at the 






Just as ready to fly east as west, 


goal of pilgrimage. 






whichever way besought them, 








In the birchen-wood a chirrup, or a 


LII. 






cock-crow in the grange. 


" Why, what is this patient entrance 








'into Nature's deep resources 






XLVII. 


But the child's most gradual learning 






In her utmost lightness there is truth, 


to walk upright without bane ? 






and often she speaks lightly, 


When we drive out from the cloud of 






Has a grace in being gay which even 


steam majestical white horses, 






mournful souls approve; 


Are we greater than the first men 






For the root of some grave earnest 


who led black ones by the mane? 






thought is understruck so right- 








ly 


LI1I. 






As to justify the foliage and the wav- 
ing flowers above. 


" If we trod the deeps of ocean, if we 
struck the stars in rising, 








If we wrapped the globe intensely 






XLVIII. 


with one hot electric breath, 






And she talked on we talked, rather! 
upon all things, substance, 


'Twere but power within our tether, 
No new spirit-power comprising, 
And in life we were not greater men, 






t Of the sheep that browsed the grasses, 


nor bolder men in death." 






< r* of the reapers in the corn, 


r r 






Of the little children from the schools, 


LIV. 






si 'en winding through the mead- 
ow, 


She was patient with my talking; and 
I loved her, loved her certes 






Of the poor rich world beyond them, 


As I loved all heavenly objects, with 






still kept poorer by its scorn. 


uplifted eyes and hands; 






J U J I 

K, . ^F 






^\ * * -=H \-y 

1 1 G\ S 6 ft [__r 









312 



LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 



As I loved pure inspirations, loved 
the graces, loved the virtues, 

In a Love content with writing his 
own name on desert sands. 



Or at least I thought so, purely; 
thought no idiot hope was rais- 
ing 

Any crown to crown Love's silence, 
silent Love that sate alone. 

Out, alas! the stag is like rue, he 
that tries to go on grazing 

With the great deep gun-wound in 
his neck, then reels with sud- 
den moan. 

LVI. 

It was thus I reeled. I told you that 
her hand had many suitors; 

But she smiles them down imperially, 
as Venus did the waves, 

And with such a gracious coldness, 
that they cannot press their fu- 
tures 

On the present of her courtesy, which 
yieldingly enslaves. 

LVII. 

And this morning, as I sat alone with- 
in the inner chamber 

With the great saloon beyond it, lost 
in pleasant thought serene, 

For I had been reading Camoens, 
that poem, you remember, 

Which his lady's eyes are praised in 
as the sweetest ever seen. 



And the book lay open; and my 

thought flew from it, taking 

from it 
A vibration and impulsion to an end 

beyond its own, 
As the branch of a green osier, when 

a child would overcome it, 
Springs up freely from his claspings, 

and goes swinging in the sun. 



As I mused I heard a murmur: it 

grew deep as it grew longer, 
Speakers using earnest language 

" Lady Geraldine, you would! " 
And I heard a voice that pleaded 

ever on in accents stronger, 
As a sense of reason gave it power to 

make its rhetoric good. 



Well I knew that voice: it was an 

earl's, of soul that matched his 

station, 
Soul completed into lordship, might 

and right read on his brow; 
Very finely courteous: far too proud 

to doubt his domination 
Of the common people, he atones for 

grandeur by a bow. 



High straight forehead, nose of eagle, 

cold blue eyes of less expression 
Than resistance, coldly casting off 

the looks of other men, 
As steel, arrows; uiielastic lips, which 

seem to taste possession, 
And be cautious lest the common air 

should injure or distrain. 



For the rest, accomplished, upright, 

ay, and standing by his order 
With a bearing not ungraceful; fond 

of art and letters too; 
Just a good man made a proud man, 

as the sandy rocks that border 
A wild coast, by circumstances, in a 

regnant ebb and flow. 



Thus, I knew that voice, I heard it, 
and I could not help the heark- 
ening: 

In the room I stood up blindly, and 
my burning heart within 

Seemed to seethe and fuse my senses 
till they ran on all sides dark- 
ening, 

And scorched, weighed like melted 
metal round my feet that stood 
therein. 

LXIV. 

And that voice, I heard it pleading, 
for love's sake, for wealth, posi- 
tion, 

For the sake of liberal uses, and great 
actions to be done 

And she interrupted gently, " Nay, 
my lord, the old tradition 

Of your Normans, by some worthier 
hand than mine is, should be 
won." 







LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 



313 



"Ah, that white hand!" he said 

quickly; and in his he either 

drew it 
Or attempted, for with gravity and 

instance she replied, 
" Nay, indeed, my lord, this talk is 

vain, and we had best eschew it, 
And pass on, like friends, to other 

points less easy to decide." 



What he said again, I know not: it is 

likely that his trouble 
Worked his pride up to the surface, 

for she answered in slow scorn, 
"And your lordship judges rightly. 

Whom I marry, shall be noble, 
Ay, and wealthy. I shall never blush 

to think how he was born." 



LXVII. 

There I maddened. Her words stung 
me. Life swept through me in- 
to fever, 

And my soul sprang up astonished, 
sprang full-statured in an hour. 

Know you what it is when anguish 
with apocalyptic NEVER 

To a Pythian height dilates you, and 
despair sublimes to power ? 



Lxvin. 
From my brain the soul-wings 

budded, waved a flame about 

my body, 
Whence conventions coiled to ashes. 

I felt self-drawn out, as man, 
From amalgamate false natures, and 

I saw the skies grow ruddy 
With the deepening feet of angels, 

and I knew what spirits can. 



I was mad, inspired, say either! (an- 
guish worketh inspiration) 

Was a man or beast perhaps so, for 
the tiger roars when speared ; 

And I walked on step by step along 
the level of my passion 

Oh my soul ! and passed the doorway 
to her face, and never feared. 



He had left her, peradventure, when 

my footstep proved my coming; 
But for her she half arose, then sate, 

grew scarlet, and grew pale. 
Oh, she trembled ! 'tis so always with 

a worldly man or woman 
In the presence of true spirits : what 

else can they do but quail ? 



Oh ! she fluttered like a tame bird in 

among its forest brothers 
Far too strong for it; then drooping, 

bowed her face upon her hands; 
And I spake out wildly, fiercely, 

brutal truths of her and others: 
I, she planted in the desert, swathed 

her, windlike, with my sands. 



I plucked up her social fictions, 
bloody-rooted, though leaf-ver- 
dant, 

Trod them down with words of sham- 
ing, all the purple and the 
gold, 

All the "landed stakes" and lord- 
ships, all that spirits pure and 
ardent 

Are cast out of love and honor because 
chancing not to hold. 



" For myself I do not argue," said I, 

" though I love you, madam, 
But for better souls that nearer to the 

height of yours have trod : 
And this age shows, to my thinking, 

still more infidels to Adam, 
Than, directly by profession, simple 

infidels to God. 



LXXTV. 
" Yet, O God! " I said, " O grave! " I 

said, " O mother's heart and 

bosom! 
With whom first and last are equal, 

saint and corpse and little child, 
We are fools to your deductions in 

these figments of heart closing ; 
We are traitors to your causes in 

these sympathies defiled. 






..., 314 




LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 



" Learn more reverence, madam, not 
for ran k or wealth, that needs no 
learning, 

That comes quickly, quick as sin does, 
ay, and culminates to sin, 

But for Adam's seed, MAN! Trust me, 
'tis a clay above your scorning, 

With God's image stamped upon it, 
and God's kindling breath with- 
in. 



" "What right have you, madam, gaz- 
ing in your palace mirror daily, 

Getting so by heart your beauty which 
all others must adore, 

While you draw the golden ringlets 
down your fingers, to vow gayly 

You will wed no man that's only good 
to God, and nothing more ? 



LXXVII. 

"Why, what right have you, made 

fair by that same God, the 

sweetest woman 
Of all women he has fashioned, with 

your lovely spirit-face, 
Which would seem too near to vanish, 

if its smile were not so human, 
And your voice of holy sweetness, 

turning common words to grace, 



LXXVIII. 
" What right can you have, God's 

other works to scorn, despise, 

revile them, 
In the gross, as mere men, broadly, 

not as noble men, forsooth ; 
As mere pariahs of the outer world, 

forbidden to assoil them 
In the hope of living, dying, near that 

sweetness of your mouth ? 



" Have you any answer, madam ? If 

my spirit were less earthly, 
If its instrument were gifted with a 

better silver string, 
I would kneel down where I stand, 

and say, 'Behold me! I am 

worthy 
Of thy loving, for I love thee. I am 

worthy as a king.' 



LXXX. 
' As it is, your ermined pride I swear, 

shall feel this stain upon her, 
That /, poor, weak, tost with passion, 

scorned by me and you again, 
Love you, madam, dare to love you, 

to my grief and your dishonor, 
To my endless desolation, and your 

impotent disdain." 



LXXXI. 

More mad words like these, mere 

madness ! friend, I need not 

write them fuller, 
For I hear my hot soul dropping on 

the lines in showers of tears. 
Oh, a woman! friend, a woman! why, 

a beast had scarce been duller 
Than roar bestial loud complaints 

against the shining of the 

spheres. 

LXXXII. 

But at last there came a pause. I 
stood all vibrating with thunder 

Which my soul had used. The silence 
drew her face up like a call. 

Could you guess what word she ut- 
tered? She looked up, as if in 
wonder, 

With te^rs beaded on her lashes, and 
said, " Bertram! " it was all. 



LXXXIII. 

If she had cursed me, and she might 
have, or if even, with queenly 
bearing 

Which at need is vised by women, she 

had risen up and said, 
Sir, you are my guest, and therefore 
I have given you a full hearing: 

Now, beseech you, choose a name ex- 
acting somewhat less, instead," 



LXXXIV. 

I had borne it: but that " Bertram " 
why, it lies there on the paper, 

A mere word, without her accent, and 
you cannot judge the weight 

Of the calm which crushed my pas- 
sion. I seemed drowning in a 
vapor, 

And her gentleness destroyed me, 
whom her scorn made desolate. 






LADY GT.RALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 




So, struck backward and exhausted 
by that inward flow of passion, 

"Which 'had rushed on, sparing noth- 
ing, into forms of abstract truth, 

By a logic agonizing through unseemly 
demonstration, 

A-nd by youth's own anguish turning 
grimly gray the hairs of youth, 



By the sense accursed and instant, 

that, if even I spake wisely, 
I spake basely using truth,if what I 

spake indeed was true, 
To avenge wrong on a woman her, 

who sate there weighing nicely 
A poor manhood's worth, found guilty 

of such deeds as I could do ! 



By such wrong and woe exhausted 

what I suffered and occasioned, 
As a wild horse through a city runs 

with lightning in his eyes, 
And then dashing at a church's cold 

and passive wall, impassioned, 
Strikes the death into his burning 

brain, and blindly drops and 

dies 



LXXXVIII. 
So I fell, struck down before her 

do you blame me, friend, for 

weakness ? 
'Twas my strength of passion slew 

me fell before her like a 

stone; 
Fast the dreadful world rolled from 

me on its roaring wheels of 

blackness: 
When the light came, I was lying in 

this chamber, and alone. 



LXXXIX. 

Oh, of course she charged her lackeys 

to bear out the sickly burden, 
And to cast it from her scornful sight, 

but not beyond the gate; 
She is too kind to be cruel, and too 

haughty not to pardon 
Such a man as I: 'twere something to 

be level to her hate. 



xc. 

But for me you now are conscious 
why, my friend, I write this let- 
ter, 

How my life is read all backward, and 
the charm of life undone. 

I shall leave her house at dawn, I 
would to-night, if I were bet- 
ter, 

And I charge my soul to hold my body 
strengthened for the sun. 

xci. 
When the sun has dyed the oriel, I 

depart, with no last gazes, 
No weak meanings (one word only, 

left in writing for her hands), 
Out of reach of all derision, and some 

unavailing praises, 
To make front against this anguish in 

the far and foreign lands. 



Blame me not. I would not squander 
life in grief I am abstemious. 

I but nurse my spirit's falcon that its 
wing may soar again. 

There's no room for tears of weak- 
ness in the blind eyes of a Phe- 
inius: 

Into work the poet kneads them, and 
he does not die till then. 



CONCLUSION. 



BERTRAM finished the last pages, 

while along the silence ever, 
Still In hot and heavy splashes, fell 

the tears on every leaf. 
Having ended, he leans backward in 

his chair, with lips that quiver 
From the deep unspoken, ay, and 

deep unwritten, thoughts of 

grief. 

ii. 

Soh ! How still the lady s'tandeth ! 
'Tis a dream, a dream of mer- 
cies ! 

'Twixt the purple lattice-curtains how 
she standeth still and pale ! 

'Tis a vision, sure, of mercies sent to 
soften his self curses, 

Sent to sweep a patient quiet o'er the 
tossing of his wail. 





316 



LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP. 




" Eyes," he said, " now throbbing 

through me, are ye eyes that 

did undo me ? 
Shining eyes, like antique jewels set 

in Parian statue-stone I 
Underneath that calm white forehead 

are ye ever burning torrid 
O'er the desolate sand-desert of my 

heart and life undone ? " 



"With a murmurous stir uncertain, in 

the air the purple curtain 
Swelleth in and swelleth out around 

her motionless pale brows, 
While the gliding of the river sends a 

rippling noise forever 
Through the open casement whitened 

by the moonlight's slant repose. 



Said he, " Vision of a lady, stand 

there silent, stand there steady ! 
Now I see it plainly, plainly, now I 

cannot hope or doubt 
There, the brows of mild repression; 

there, the lips of silent passion, 
Curved like an archer's bow to send 

the bitter arrows out." 



Ever, evermore the while, in a slow 

silence she kept smiling, 
And approached him slowly, slowly, 

in a gliding, measured pace, 
"With her two white liands extended, 

as if, praying one offended, 
And a look of supplication gazing 

earnest in his face. 



Said he, " "Wake me by no gesture, 
sound of breath, or stir of ves- 
ture ! 

Let the blessed apparition melt not 
yet to its divine ! 



No approaching hush, no breathing, 
or my heart must swoon to 
death in 

The too utter life thou bringest, O 
thou dream of Geraldiue ! " 



Ever, evermore the while, in a slow 

silence she kept smiling; 
But the tears ran over lightly from 

her eyes, and tenderly: 
" Dost thou, Bertram, truly love me ? 

Is no woman far above me 
Found more worthy of thy poet-heart 

than such a one as I? " 



Said he, "I would dream so ever, 
like the rlowing.of that river, 

Flowing ever in a shadow greenly 
onward to the sea ! 

So, thou vision of all sweetness, 
princely to a full complete-, 
ness, 

Would my heart and life flow on- 
ward, death ward, through this 
dream of THEE ! " 



Ever, evermore the while, in a slow 

silence she kept smiling, 
While the silver tears ran faster down 

the blushing of her cheeks ; 
Then, with both her hands infolding 

both of his, she softly told him, 
"Bertram, if I say I love thee, . . . 

'tis the vision only speaks." 



Softened, quickened to adore her, on 

his knee he fell before her; 
And she whispered low in triumph, 

" It shall be as I have sworn. 
Very rich he is in virtues, very noble, 

noble, certes; 
And I shall not blush in knowing 

that men call him lowly born." 






"And approached him slowly, slowly, in a gliding, measured 
pace." Page 316. 





THE RUNAWAY SLAVE AT PILGRIM'S 
POINT. 



I STAND on the mark beside the shore 
Of the first white pilgrim's bended 

knee, 
Where exile turned to ancestor, 

And God was thanked for liberty. 
I have run through the night, my skin 

is as dark, 

I bend my knee down on this mark: 
I look oil the sky and the sea. 



O pilgrim-souls, I speak to you ! 

I see you come proud and slow 
From the land of the spirits pale as 

de\v, 

And round me, and round me, ye go. 
O pilgrims ! I have gasped and run 
All night long from the whips of one, 
Who, in your names, works sin and 
woe. 



And thus I thought that I would come, 
And kneel here where ye knelt be- 
fore, 
And feel your souls around me hum 

In undertone to the ocean's roar, 
And lift my black face, my black hand, 
Here, in your names, to curse this 

land 
Ye blessed in freedom's, evermore. 



I am black, I am black; 

And yet God made me, they say: 
But, if ho did so, smiling back 

He must have cast his work away 
Under the feet of his white creatures, 
With a look of scorn, that the dusky 
features 

Might be trodden again to clay. 



And yet he has made dark things 

To be glad and merry as light: 
There's a little dark bird sits and 

sings ; 
There's a dark stream ripples out 

of sight; 
And the dark frogs chant in the safe 

morass ; 
And the sweetest stars are made to 

pass 
O'er the face of the darkest night. 



But ice who are dark, we are dark ! 

Ah God, we have no stars ! 
About our souls in care and cark 

Our blackness shuts like prison- 
bars: 

The poor souls crouch so far behind 
That never a comfort can they find 

By reaching through the prison-bars. 



Indeed, we live beneath the sky, 
That great smooth hand of God 

stretched out 

On all his children fatherly, 
To save them from the dread and 

doubt 
Which would be, if, from this low 

place, 

All opened straight up to his face 
Into the grand eternity. 



And still God's sunshine and his frost, 
They make us hot, they make us 

cold, 

As if we were not black and lost; 
And the beasts and birds in wood 
and fold 

317 






jji. 318 




THE RUNAWAY SLAVE AT PILGRIM'S POINT. 



Do fear, and take us for very men : 
Could the weep-poor-will or the cat 

of the glen 
Look into iny eyes, and be bold ? 



I am black, I am black ! 

But once I laughed in girlish glee, 
For one of my color stood in the track 
"Where the drivers drove, and 

looked at me ; 
And tender and full was the look he 

gave : 

Could a slave look so at another slave ? 
I look at the sky and the sea. 



And from that hour our spirits grew 
As free as if unsold, unbought: 

Oh, strong enough, since we were two, 
To conquer the world, we thought ! 

The drivers drove us day by day : 

We did not mind, we went one way, 
And no better a freedom sought. 



In the sunny ground between the 

canes, 

He said, " I love you," as he passed; 
When the shingle-roof rang sharp with 

the rains, 

I heard how he vowed it fast; 
While others shook, he smiled in the 

hut, 

As he carved me a bowl of the cocoa- 
nut, 
Through the roar of the hurricanes. 



I sang his name instead of a song, 
Over and over I sang his name ; 
Upward and downward I drew it 

along 
My various notes, the same, the 

same ! 

I sang it low, that the slave-girls near 
Might never guess from aught they 

could hear 
It was only a name a name. 

XIII. 

I look on the sky and the sea. 

We were two to love, and two to 

pray, 
Yes, two, O God, who cried to thee, 

Though nothing didst thou say I 



Coldly thou sat'st behind the sun; 
And now I cry, who am but one, 
Thou wilt not speak to-day. 



We were black, we were black ! 

We had no claim to love and bliss; 

What marvel if each went to wrack ? 

They wrung my cold hands out of 

his, 
They dragged him where ? I 

crawled to touch 
His blood's mark in the dust . . . not 

much, 

Ye pilgrim-souls, though plain as 
this ! 



Wrong, followed by a deeper wrong ! 

Mere grief's too good for such as I: 
So the white men brought the shame 
ere long 

To strangle the sob of my agony. 
They would not leave me for my dull 
Wet eyes! it was too merciful 

To let me weep pure tears, and die. 



I am Mack, I am black ! 

I wore a child upon my breast, 
An amulet that hung too slack, 

And in my unrest could not rest: 
Thus we went moaning, child and 

mother, 
One to another, one to another, 

Until all ended for the best. 



xvn. 
For hark! I will tell you low, low, 

I am black, you see; 
And the babe who lay on my bosom so 
Was far too white, too white for 

me, 
As white as the ladies who scorned to 

pray 

Beside me at church but yesterday, 
Though my tears had washed a 
place for my knee. 



My own, own child ! I could not bear 
To look in his face, it was so white: 

I covered him up with a kerchief 

there, 
I covered his lace in close and tight; 







THE RUNAWAY SLAVE AT PILGRIM'S POINT. 



319 



And he moaned and struggled, as well 
might be, 

For the white child wanted his liber- 
ty 
Ha, ha ! he wanted the master-right. 



He moaned, and beat with his head 

and feet, 

His little feet that never grew; 
He struck them out, as it was meet, 
Against my heart to break it 

through. 
I might have sung and made him 

mild; 

But I dared not sing to the white- 
faced child 
The only song I knew. 



I pulled the kerchief very close : 

He could not see the sun, I swear, 
More then, alive, than now he does 
From between the roots of the man- 
go ... where ? 
I know where. Close ! A child and 

mother 

Do wrong to look at one another, 
When one is black, and one is fair. 



Why, in that single glance I had 
Of my child's face ... I tell you 

all, 
I saw a look that made rne mad ! 

The master's look, that used to fall 
On my soul like his lash ... or 

worse ! 

And so, to save it from my curse, 
I twisted it round in my shawl. 

XXII. 

And he moaned, and trembled from 

foot to head, 

He shivered from head to foot; 
Till, after a time, he lay instead 
Too suddenly still and mute. 
I felt, beside, a stiffening cold; 
I dared to lift up just a fold, 
As in lifting a leaf of the mango- 
fruit. 

XXIII. 

But my fruit . . . ha, ha ! there had 
been 

(I laugh to think on't at this hour !) 
S"our fine white angels (who have seen 

Nearest the secret of God's power) 



And plucked my fruit to make them 

wine, 
And sucked the soul of that child of 

mine 
As the humming-bird sucks the 

soul of the flower. 



XXIV. 

Ha, ha, the trick of the angels white I 
They freed the white child's spirii 

so. 
I said not a word, but day and night 

I carried the body to and fro, 
And it lay on my heart like a stone, 

as chill. 
The sun may shine out as much as 

he will: 

I am cold, though it happened a 
month ago. 



xxv. 
From the white man's house, and the 

black man's hut, 
I carried the little body on; 
The forest's arms did round us shut. 
And silence through the trees did 

run: 

They asked no question as I went, 
They stood too high for astonishment: 
They could see God sit on his 
throne. 



My little body, kerchiefed fast, 

I bore it on through the forest, on; 
And when I felt it was tired at last, 

I scooped a hole beneath the moon : 
Through the forest-tops the angels far, 
With a white sharp finger from every 

star, 

Did point and mock at what was 
done. 

XXVII. 

Yet when it was all done aright, 
Earth 'twixt me and my baby 

strewed, 

All changed to black earth, noth- 
ing white, 

A dark child in the dark ! ensued 
Some comfort, and my heart grew 

young: 

I sate down smiling there, and sung 
The song I learnt in my maiden- 
hood. 











/tfTl^-r - --*. -- -1 "ITl^ 


\J|<H - c h-al J/ 
.,* 320 THE RUNAWAY SLAVE AT PILGRIM'S POINT. 1 


\ 

n 




XXVIII. 


And this land is the free America, 








And thus we two were reconciled, 


And this mark on my wrist (I prove 








The white child aud black mother, 


what I say) 








j U thus ; 


Ropes tied me up here to the flog- J 


U 






> For, as I sang it soft and wild, 


ging-place. J 








The same song, more melodious, 








Pose from the grave whereon I sate : 








It was the dead child singing that, 
To join the souls of both of us. 


XXXIII. 

You think I shrieked then ? Not a 








sound ! 






XXIX. 


I hung, as a gourd hangs in thfc 






\ took on the sea and the sky. 
Where the pilgrims' ships first 


sun; 
I only cursed them all around 






anchored lay 


As softly as I might have done 






The fret sun rideth gloriously, 
But the pilgrim-ghosts have slid 
away 


My very own child: from these sands 
Up to the mountains, lift your hands, 
O slaves, and end what I begun ! 






Through the earliest streaks of the 








morn: 








My face is black ; but it glares with a 


XXXIV. 






scorn 
"Which they dare not meet by day. 


Whips, curses: these must answer 
those ! 








For in this UNION you have set 






XXX. 


Two kinds of men in adverse rows, 






Ha ! in their stead their hunter 


Each loathing each, and all forget 






sons ! 


The seven wounds in Christ's body 






Ha, ha ! they are on me they hunt 


fair, 






in a ring ! 
Keep off ! I brave you all at once, 


While HE sees gaping everywhere 
Our countless wounds that pay no 






I throw off your eyes like snakes 


debt. 






that sting ! 








You have killed the black eagle at 


XXXV. 






nest, I think: 
Did you ever stand still in your tri- 


Our wounds are different. Your 

"\vllitti 10611 






umph, and shrink 
From the stroke of her wounded 
wing ? 

XXXI. 


Are, after all, not gods indeed, 
Nor able to make Christs again 
Do good with bleeding. We who 
bleed 






(Man, drop that stone you dared to 
lift !) 


(Stand off !) we help not in our loss ! 
We are too heavy for our cross, 






I wish you who stand there five 


And fall and crush you and your 






abreast, 


seed. 






Each for his own wife's joy and gift, 








A little corpse as safely at rest 


XXXVI. 






As mine in the mangoes ! Yes, but 


I fall, I swoon! I look at the sky. 






Stie 

May keep live babies on her knee, 


The clouds are breaking on my 
brain. 






And sing the song she likes the 


I am flouted along, as if I should die 






OGSt. 
XXXII. 


Of liberty's exquisite pain. 
In the name of the white child wait- 






I am not mad : I am black ! 


ing for me 






t I see you staring in my face 
1' |* I know you staring, shrinking back, 


In the death-dark, where we may kiss 
and agree, 


r* 






Ye are born of the Washington- 


White men, I leave you all curse-free 








race, 


In my broken heart's disdain. 








^y ^ , ^^ 


u 

n 














THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN. 



0, <f>fv, TI irpo<r&epKe<rde ft' 



', " MEDEA. 



Do ye hear the children weeping, O 

ruy brothers, 

Ere the sorrow comes with years? 
They are leaning their young heads 

against their mothers, 
And that cannot stop their tears. 
The young lambs are bleating in the 

meadows ; 
The young birds are chirping in the 

nest; 
The young fawns are playing with the 

shadows; 
The young flowers are blowing 

toward the west : 
But the young, young children, O my 

brothers ! 

They are weeping bitterly. 
They are weeping in the playtime of 

the others, 
In the country of the free. 



Do you question the young children 

in the sorrow, 

Why their tears are falling so ? 
The old man may weep for his to- 
morrow 

Which is lost in long ago; 
The old tree is leafless in the forest; 

The old year is ending in the frost; 
The old wound, if stricken, is the 

sorest; 

The old hope is hardest to be lost: 
But the young, young children, O iny 

brothers ! 

Do you ask them why they stand 
Weeping sore before the bosoms of 

their mothers, 
In our happy fatherland ? 



They look up with their pale and 

sunken faces; 

And their looks are sad to see, 
For the man's hoary anguish draws 

and presses 
Down the cheeks of infancy. 



" Your old earth," they say, " is very 

dreary; 
Our young feet," they say, " are 

very weak ; 
Few paces have we taken, yetare weary; 

Our grave-rest is very far to seek. 
Ask the aged why they weep, and not 

the children: 

For the outside earth is cold, 
And we young ones stand without in 

our bewildering, 
And the graves are for the old." 



" True," say the children, " it may 

happen 

That we die before our time: 
Little Alice died last year; her grave 

is shapen 

Like a snowball in the rime. 
We looked into the pit prepared to 

take her: 
Was no room for any work in the 

close clay : 
From the sleep wherein she lieth, 

none will wake her, 
Crying,'Get up,little Alice ! it is day. ' 
If you listen by that grave, in sun and 

shower, 
With your ear down, little Alice 

never cries. 
Could we see her face, be sure we 

should not know her, 
For the smile has time for growing 

in her eyes; 
And merry go her moments, lulled 

and stilled in 

The shroud by the kirk-chime. 
It is good when it happens," say the 

children, 
" That we die before our time." 



Alas, alas, the children ! They are 

seeking 

Death in life, as best to have. 
They are binding up their hearts away 

from breaking, 

With a cerement from the grave. 
321 






322 




THE CRY OF THE CHILDREN. 



Go out, children, from the mine and 

from the city ; 
Sing out, children, as the little 

thrushes do; 

Pluck your handfuls of the meadow- 
cowslips pretty; 
Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let 

them through. 
But they answer, " Are your cowslips 

of the meadows 

Like our weeds anear the mine ? 
Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal- 
shadows, 
From your pleasures fair and fine. 



" For oh ! " say the children, " we are 

weary, 

And we cannot run or leap: 
If we cared for any meadows, it were 

merely 

To drop down in them, and sleep. 
Our knees tremble sorely in the stoop- 
ing; 

We fall upon our faces, trying to go; 
And, underneath our heavy eyelids 

drooping, 
The reddest flower would look as 

pale as snow ; 

For all day we drag our burden tiring, 
Through the coal-dark, under- 
ground ; 

Or all day we drive the wheels of iron 
In the factories, round and round. 



" For all day the wheels are droning, 

turning; 

Their wind comes in our faces, 
Till our hearts turn, our heads with 

pulses burning, 

And the walls turn in their places. 
Turns the sky in the high window 

blank and reeling, 
Turns the long light that drops 

adown the wall, 
Turn the black flies that crawl along 

the ceiling, 
All are turning, all the day, and we 

with all. 

And all day the iron wheels are dron- 
ing, 

And sometimes we could pray, 
1 O ye wheels ' (breaking out in a mad 

moaning), 
4 Stop ! be silent for to-day ! ' " 



Ay, be silent ! Let them hear each 

other breathing 

For a moment, mouth to mouth ; 
Let them touch each other's hands, in 

a fresh \\ reathing 
Of their tender human youth; 
Let them feel that this cold metallic 

motion 
Is not all the life God fashions or 

reveals : 
Let them prove their living souls 

against the notion 
That they live in you, or under you, 

O wheels ! 

Still, all day, the iron wheelsgo on ward, 

Grinding life down from its mark; 

And the children's souls, which God 

is calling sunward, 
Spin on blindly in the dark. 



Now tell the poor young children, O 

my brothers, 

To look up to Him, and pray; 
So the blessed One who blesseth all 

the others 

Will bless them another day. 
They answer, " Who is God, that he 

should hear us 
While the rushing of the iron wheels 

is stirred ? 

When we sob aloud, the human crea- 
tures near us 
Pass by, hearing not, or answer not 

a word; 
And we hear not (for the wheels in 

their resounding) 
Strangers speaking at the door. 
Is it likely God, with angels singing 

round him, 
Hears our weeping any more ? 



" Two words, indeed, of praying we 
remember; 

And at midnight's hour of harm, 
' Our Father,' looking upward in the 
chamber, 

We say softly for a charm. 1 
1 A fact rendered pathetically historical 
by Mr. Home's report of his commission. 
The name of the poet of " Orion " and 
" Cosmo de" Medici " has, however, a change 
of associations, and comes in time to re- 
mind me that we have some noble poetic- 
heat of literature still, however open to the 
reproach of being somewhat gelid in our 
humanity. 1844. 






A CHILD ASLEEP. 



323 



We know no other words except ' Our 

Father; ' 
And we think, that, in some pause 

of angels' song, 
God may pluck them with the silence 

sweet to gather, 
And hold both within his right 

hand, which is strong. 
' Our Father ! ' If he heard us, he 

would surely 

(For they call him good and mild) 
Answer, smiling down the steep 

world very purely, 
' Come and rest with me, my child.' 



" But, no ! " say the children, weep- 
ing faster, 

" He is speechless as a stone; 
And they tell us, of his image is the 

master 

Who commands us to work on. 
Go to ! " say the children, " up in 

heaven, 
Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds 

are all we find. 
Do not mock us: grief has made us 

unbelieving: 
We look up for God; but tears have 

made us blind." 
Do you hear the children weeping and 

disproving, 

O my brothers, what ye preach ? 
.For God's possible is taught by his 

world's loving 
And the children doubt of each. 



And well may the children weep be- 
fore you ! 

They are weary ere they run ; 
They have never seen the' sunshine, 

nor the glory 

Which is brighter than the sun. 
They know the grief of man, without 

its wisdom; 
They sink in man's despair, without 

its calm ; 
Are slaves, without the liberty in 

Christdom; 
Are martyrs, by the pang without 

the palm: 
Are worn as if with age, yet unre- 

trievingly 

The harvest of its memories can- 
not reap; 
Are orphans of the earthly love and 

heavenly 
Let them weep ! let them weep ! 



They look up with their pale and 

sunken faces, 

And their look is dread to see. 
For they mind you of their angels in 

high places, 

With eyes turned on Deity. 
"How long," they say, "how long, 

O cruel nation, 
Will you stand, to move the world 

on a child's heart, 
Stifle down with a mailed heel its pal- 
pitation, 
And tread onward to your throne 

amid the mart ? 
Our blood splashes upward, O gold- 

heaper, 

And your purple shows your path ! 
But the child's sob in the silence 

curses deeper 

Than the strong man in his 
wrath." 



A CHILD ASLEEP. 



How he sleepeth, having drunken 
Weary childhood's mandragore ! 
From its pretty eyes have sunken 

Pleasures to make room for more; 

Sleeping near the withered nosegay 

which he pulled the day before. 



Nosegays ! leave them for the wak- 
ing; 
Throw them earthward where 

they grew : 
Dim are such beside the breaking 

Amaranths he looks unto: 
Folded eyes see brighter colors than 
the open ever do. 



Heaven-flowers rayed by shadows 

golden 

From the palms they sprang be- 
neath, 
Now, perhaps, divinely holden, 

Swing against him in a wreath: 
We may think so from the quicken- 
ing of his bloom and of his 
breath. 






324 




THE FOURFOLD ASPECT. 



Vision unto vision calleth 
"While the young child dreameth 

on: 
Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth 

With the glory thou hast won ! 
Parker wast thou in the garden yes- 
termorn by suininer-sun. 



We should see the spirits ringing 
Round thee, were the clouds 

away : 
'Tis the child-heart draws them, 

singing 

In the silent-seeming clay 
Singing ! stars that seem the mutest 
go in music all the way. 



As the moths around a taper, 

As the bees around a rose, 

As the gnats around a vapor, 

So the spirits group and close 
Bound about a holy childhood as if 
drinking its repose. 



vn. 

Shapes of brightness overlean thee, 

Flash their diadems of youth 
On the ringlets which half screen 

thee, 
While thou smilest . . . not in 

sooth 

TJiy smile, but the overfair one, dropt 
from some ethereal mouth. 



Haply it is angels' duty, 

During slumber, shade by shade 
To fine down this childish beauty 

To the thing it must be made 
Ere the world shall bring it praises, 
or the tomb shall see it fade. 



Softly, softly I make no noises ! 

Now he lieth dead and dumb ; 

Now he hears the angels' voices 

Folding silence in the room; 
Now he muses deep the meaning of 
the heaven- words as they come. 



Speak not ! he is consecrated; 

Breathe no breath across his eyes; 
Lifted up and separated 

On the hand of God lie lies 
In a sweetness beyond touching held 
in cloistral sanctities. 



Could ye bless him, father, mother 

Bless the dimple in his cheek ? 
Dare ye look at one another, 

And the benediction speak ? 
Would ye not break out in weeping, 
and confess yourselves too 
weak ? 



He is harmless, ye are sinful; 
Ye are troubled, he at ease: 
From his slumber, virtue winful 

Floweth outward with increase. 
Dare not bless him ! but be blessed by 
his peace, aud go in peace. 



THE FOURFOLD ASPECT. 



EX ye stood up in the house 

With your little childish feet, 
And, in touching life's first shows, 

First the touch of love did meet, 
Love and nearness seeming one, 

By the heartlight cast before, 
And of all beloveds, none 

Standing farther than the door ; 
Not a name being dear to thought, 

With its owner beyond call; 
Not a face, unless it brought 

Its own shadow to the wall ; 
When the worst recorded change 

Was of apple dropt from bough, 
When love's sorrow seemed more 
strange 

Than love's treason can seem 

now: 
Then, the Loving took you up 

Soft, upon their elder knees, 
Telling why the statues droop 

Underneath the churchyard trees, 







TEE FOURFOLD ASPECT. 



325- 



And how ye must lie beneath them 
Through the winters long and 

deep, 
Till the last trump overbreathe 

them, 

And ye smile out of your sleep. 
Oh, ye lifted up your head, and it 
seemed as if they said 
A tale of fairy ships 

With a swan-wing for a sail; 

Oh, ye kissed their loving lips 

For the merry, merry tale 

So carelessly ye thought upon the 

dead. 



Soon ye read in solemn stories 

Of the men of long ago, 
Of the pale bewildering glories 

Shining farther than we know; 
Of the heroes with the laurel, 

Of the poets with the bay, 
Of the two world's earnest quar- 
rel 

For that beauteous Helena; 
How Achilles at the portal 

Of the tent heard footsteps nigh, 
And his strong heart, half-immor- 
tal, 

Met the keitai with a cry; 
How Ulysses left the sunlight 

For the pale eidola race, 
Blank and passive through the dun 

light, 

Staring blindly in his face; 
How that true wife said to Pcetus, 
With calm smile and wounded 

heart, 
" Sweet, it hurts not ! " How Ad- 

metus 

Saw his blessed one depart; 
How King Arthur proved his mis- 
sion, 

And Sir Roland wound his horn, 
And at Sangreal's moony vision 
Swords did bristle ro.lnd like 

corn. 

Dh, ye lifted up your hf-ad, and it 
seemed, the while ye read, 
That this death then must be 

found 

A Valhalla for the crowned, 
The heroic who prevail: 
None be sure can enter in 
Far l>elow a palad'M 
Of a noble, noble lwt 
3o awfully ye thought upon the 
dead ! 



Ay, but soon ye woke up shrieking, 

As a child that wakes at night 
From a dream of sisters speaking 

In a garden's summer-light, 
That wakes starting up and bound- 
ing, 

In a lonely, lonely becl, 
With a wall of darkness round him, 

Stifling black about his head I 
And the full sense of your mortal 

Rushed upon you deep and loud, 
And ye heard the thunder hurtle 
From the silence of the cloud. 
Funeral-torches at your gateway 
Threw a dreadful light within. 
All things changed: you rose up 

straightway, 

And saluted Death and Sin. 
Since, your outward man has ral- 
lied, 
And vour eye and voice grown 

bold; 
Yet the Sphinx of Life stands pallid, 

With her saddest secret told. 
Happy places have grown holy: 

If ye went where once ye went, 
Only tears would fall down slowly, 

As at solemn sacrament. 
Merry books, once read for pastime, 

If ye dared to read again, 
Only memories of the last time 

\Vould swim darkly up the brain. 
Household names, which used to 

flutter 

Through your laughter unawares, 
God's divinest ye could utter 
With less trembling in your 

prayers. 

Ye have dropt adown your head, and 
it seems as if ye tread 
On your own hearts in the 

path 

Ye are called to in His wrath, 
And your prayers go up in 

wail 
"Dost Thou see, then, all 

our loss, 

O Thou agonized on cross ? 
Art thou reading all its tale ? " 
So mournfully ye thiuk upon the 
dead ! 



Pray, pray, thou who also weepest, 
And the drops will slacken so. 

Weep, weep, and the watch thou 

keepest 
With a quicker count will go. 






326 




NIGHT AND THE MERRY MAN. 



Think: the shadow on the dial 

For the nature most undone 

Marks the passing of the trial, 

Proves the presence of the sun. 
Look, look up, in starry passion, 

To the throne above the spheres: 
Learn: the spirit's gravitation 

Still must differ from the tear's. 
Hope: with all the strength thou 

usest 

In embracing thy despair. 
Love: the earthly love thou losest 

Shall return to thee more fair. 
Work: make clear the forest-tangles 

Of the wildest stranger-land. 
Trust: the blessed deathly angels 
Whisper, " Sabbath hours at 

hand ! " 
By the heart's wound when roost 

gory, 

By the longest agony, 
Smile ! Behold in sudden glory 

The TRANSFIGURED smiles on thee .' 
And ye lifted up your head, and it 
seemed as if He said, 
" My beloved, is it so ? 
Have ye tasted of my woe ? 
Of my heaven ye shall not 

fail ! " 
He stands brightly where the 

shade is, 
With the keys of Death and 

Hades, 
And there, ends the mournful 

tale 
So hopefully ye think upon the dead ! 



NIGHT AND THE MERRY 
MAN. 



NIGHT. 

'NEATH my moon, what doest thou, 
With a somewhat paler brow 
Than she giveth to the ocean ? 
He, without a pulse or motion, 
Muttering low before her stands, 
Lifting his invoking hands 
Like a seer before a sprite, 
To catch her oracles of light: 
But thy soul out-trembles now 
Many pulses on thy brow. 




Where be all thy laughters clear, 
Others laughed alone to hear ? 
Where thy quaint jests, said for 

fame ? 

Where thy dances, mixed with game? 
Where thy festive companies, 
Mooned o'er with ladies' eyes 
All more bright for thee, I trow ? ! 
'Neath my moon, what doest thou ? 



THE MERRY MAN. 

I AM digging my warm heart 
Till I find its coldest part; 
I am digging wide and low, 
Farther than a spade will go, 
Till that, when the pit is deep 
And large enough, I there may heap 
All my present pain and past 
Joy, dead things that look aghast 
By the daylight: now 'tis done. 
Throw them in, by one and one I 
I must laugh, at rising sun. 

Memories, of fancy's golden 
Treasures which my hands have 

holden 

Till the dullness made them ache; 
Of childhood's hopes, that used to 

wake 

If birds were in a singing strain, 
And, for less cause, sleep again; 
Of the moss seat in the wood 
Where I trysted solitude; 
Of the hilltop where the wind 
Used to follow me behind, 
Then in sudden rush to blind 
Both my glad eyes with my hair, 
Taken gladly in the snare; 
Of the climbing up the rocks, 
Of the playing 'neath the oaks 
Which retain beneath them now 
Only shadow of the bough; 
Of the lying on the grass 
While the clouds did overpass, 
Only they, so lightly driven, 
Seeming betwixt me and heaven; 
Of the little prayers serene, 
Murmuring of earth and sin; 
Of large-leaved philosophy 
Leaning from my childish knee; 
Of poetic book sublime, 
Soul-kissed for the first dear time, 
Greek or English, ere I knew 
Life was not a poem too: 
Throw them in, by one and one I 
I must laugh, at rising sun. 










xH 1 < ' ' 1 hv. 




EARTH AND HER PRAISERS. 32" [P 






Of the glorious ambitions 
Yet unquenched by tbeir fruitions; 


Not a grief shall here remain, 
Silken shoon to damp or stain; 






Of the reading out'the nights; 


And while she lisps, " I have not 






Of the straining at mad heights; 
Of achievements, less descried 


seen J [ 
Any place more smooth and clean," | 






By a dear few than magnified; 
Of praises from the many earned 


Here she coineth ! Ha, ha ! who 
Laughs as loud as I can do ? 






When praise from love was undis- 








cerned ; 








Of the sweet reflecting gladness 
Softened by itself to sadness: 










Throw them in, by one and one ! 








I must laugh, at rising sun. 


EARTH AND HER 






\Yhat are these ? more, more than 








these ! 


PRAISERS. 






Throw in dearer memories ! 








Of voices whereof but to speak 








Makes mine own all sunk and weak; 








Of smiles the thought of which is 








sweeping 


i. 






All my soul to floods of weeping; 
Of looks whose absence fain would 


THE Earth is old; 
Six thousand winters make her heart 






weigh 


a-cold: 






My looks to the ground for aye; 


The sceptre slanteth from her palsied 






Of clasping hands ah me, I wring 
Mine, and in a tremble fling 


hold. 
She saith, " 'las me ! God's word 






Downward, downward, all this pain- 


that I was ' good ' 






ing ! 


Is taken back to heaven, 






Partings with the sting remaining, 
Meetings with a deeper throe 


From whence, when any sound comes, 
I am riven 






Since the joy is ruined so, 


By some sharp bolt; and now no angel 






Changes with a fiery burning, 
(Shadows upon all the turning), 


would 
Descend with sweet dew-silence on 






Thoughts of ... with a storm they 


my mountains, 






came, 
TJiem I have not breath to name: 
Downward, downward, be they cast 


To glorify the lovely river fountains 
That gush along their side: 
I see, O weary change ! I see instead 






In the pit ! and now at last 


This human wrath and pride, 






My work beneath the moon is done, 


These thrones and tombs, judicial 






And I shall laugh, at rising sun. 


wrong and blood, 








And bitter words are poured upon 






But let me pause or ere I cover 


mine head 






All my treasures darkly over: 


' O Earth ! thou art a stage for tricks 






I will speak not in thine ears, 


unholy, 






Only tell my beaded tears 


A church for most remorseful melan- 






Silently, most silently. 


choly; 






When the last is calmly told, 


Thou art so spoilt we should forget 






Let that same moist rosary 


we had 






With the rest sepulchred be, 


An Eden in thee, wert thou not so 






Finished now ! The darksome mould 


sad ! ' 






Sealeth up the darksome pit. 


Sweet children, I am old ! ye, every 






I will lay no stone on it: 


one, f 






) f Grasses I will sow instead, 


Do keep me from a portion of my . , 






Fit for Queen Titania's tread; 
Flowers, encolored with the sun, 


sun: 
Give praise in change for 






And 01 at written upon none; 


brightness ! 






Thus, whenever saileth by 


That I may shake my hills in infinite- 






The Lady World of dainty eye, 


ness 






J l J I 






M-JJ <r-\ a *" I s \JL\^ 








328 



EARTH AND HER P RAISERS. 




Of breezy laughter, as in youthful 

mirth, 
To hear Earth's sons and daughters 

praising Earth." 



"Whereupon a child began, 
With spirit running up to man 
As by angel's shining ladder, 
(May he find no cloud above !) 
Seeming he had ne'er been sadder 

All his days than now, 
Sitting in the chestnut-grove, 
With that joyous overflow 
Of smiling from his mouth o'er brow 
And cheek and chin, as if the breeze, 
Leaning tricksy from the trees 
To part his golden hairs, had blown 
Into an hundred smiles that one. 



" O rare, rare Earth ! " he saith, 

" I will praise thee presently; 
Not to-day, I have 110 breath: 

I have hunted squirrels three 
Two ran down in the furzy hollow; 
Where I could not see nor follow; 
One sits at the top of the filbert-tree, 
With a yellow nut and a mock at me: 

Presently it shall be done ! 
When I see which way these two have 

run, 

When the mocking one at the filbert- 
top 
Shall leap adown, and beside me stop, 

Then, rare Earth, rare Earth, 
Will I pause, having known thy worth, 

To say all good of thee ! " 



Next a lover, with a dream 
'Neath his waking eyelids hidden, 
And a frequent sigh unbidden, 
And an idlesse all the day 
Beside a wandering stream, 
And a silence that is made 
Of a word he dares not say, 
Shakes slow his pensive head: 

" Earth, Earth ! " saith he, 
" If spirits, like thy roses, grew 
On one .stalk, and winds austere 
Could but only blow them near, 

To share each other's dew; 
If, when summer rains agree 
To beautify thy hills, I knew 
Looking off them I might see 

Some one very beauteous too, 



Then Earth," saith he, 
"I would praise . . . nay, nay not 
thee r' 

v. 

Will the pedant name her next? 
Crabbed with a crabbed text 
Sits he in his study nook, 
With his elbow on a book, 
And with stately crossed knees, 
And a wrinkle deeply thrid 
Through his lowering brow, 
Caused by making proofs enow 
That Plato in " Parmenides " 
Meant the same Spinoza did; 
Or that an hundred of the groping 
Like himself had made one Homer, 
Hcmeros being a misnomer. 
What hath he to do with praise 
Of Earth or aught ? Whene'er the 

sloping 

Sunbeams through his windows daze 
His eyes off from the learned phraso, 
Straightway he draws close the cur- 
tain. 

May abstraction keep him dumb ! 
Were his lips to ope, 'tis certain 
" Derivatura est " would come. 



Then a mourner moveth pale 
In a silence full of wail, 
Raising not his sunken head 
Because he wandered last that way 
With that one beneath the clay: 
Weeping not, because that one, 
The only one who would have said, 
" Cease to weep, beloved ! " has gone 
Whence returneth comfort none. 
The silence breaketh suddenly, 
" Earth, I praise thee ! " crieth he, 
" Thou hast a grave for also me." 



Ha, a poet ! know him by 
The ecstasy-dilated eye, 
Not uncharged with tears that ran 
Upward from his heart of man; 
By the cheek, from hour to hour, 
Kindled bright, or sunken wan 
With a sense of lonely power; 
By the brow uplifted higher 
Than others, for more low declining; 
By the lip which words of fire 
Overboiling have burned white, 
While they gave the nations light: 
Ay, in every time and place, 
Ye may know the poet's face 
By the shade or shining. 






Of the close trees o'er the brim 

Of a sunshine-haunted stream." Page 329. 





EARTH AND TIER PRAISERS. 



329 



'Neath a golden cloud he stands , 

Spreading his impassioned hands. 

" O God's Earth ! " lie saith, " the sign 

From the Father-soul to mine 

Of all beauteous mysteries, 

Of all perfect images 

Which, divine in his divine, 

In my human only are 

Very excellent and fair! 

Think not, Earth, that I would raise 

Weary forehead in thy praise, 

(Weary, that I cannot go 

Farther from thy region low,) 

If were struck no richer meanings 

From thee than thyself. The leanings 

Of the close trees o'er the hrim 

Of a sunshine-haunted stream 

Have a sound beneath their leaves, 

Not of wind, not of wind, 
Which the poet's voice achieves: 
The faint mountains, heaped behind, 
Have a falling on their tops, 

Not of dew, not of dew, 
Which the poet's fancy drops: 
Viewless things his eyes can view, 
Driftings of his dream do light 
All the skies by day and night. 
And the seas that deepest roll 
Carry murmurs of his soul. 
Earth, I praise thee! praise thou me ! 
God perfectetli his creation 
With this recipient poet-passion, 
And makes the beautiful to be. 
I praise thee, O beloved sign, 
From the God-soul unto mine ! 
Praise me, that I cast on thee 
The cunning sweet interpretation, 
The help and glory and dilation 

Of mine immortality ! " 



There was silence. None did dare 
To use again the spoken air 
Of that far-charming voice, until 
A Christian resting on the hill, 
With a thoughtful smile subdued 
(Seeming learnt in solitude) 
Which a weeper might have viewed 
Without new tears, did softly say, 
And looked up unto heaven alway 
While he praised the Earth, -t- 

" O Earth, 

I count the praises thou art worth, 
By thy waves that move aloud, 
By thy hills against the cloud, 
By thy valleys warm and green, 
By the copses' elms between, 



By their birds, which, like a sprite 
Scattered by a strong delight 
Into fragments musical, 
Stir and sing in every bush ; 
"By thy silver founts that fall, 
As if to entice the stars at night 
To thine heart: by grass and rush, 
And little weeds the children pull, 
Mistook for flowers ! 

Oh, beautiful 
Art thon, Earth, albeit worse 
Than in heaven is called good ! 
Good to us, that we may know 
Meekly from thy good to go ; 
While the holy, crying blood 
Puts its music kind and low 
'Twixt such ears as are not dull, 
And thine ancient curse ! 



Praised be the mosses soft 
In thy forest pathways oft, 
And the thorns, which make us 

think 
Of the thornless river-brink 

Where the ransomed tread; 
Praised be thy sunny gleams, 
And the storm, that worketh dreams 

Of calm unfinished; 
Praised be thine active days, - 
Ami thy night-time's solemn need, 
When in God's dear book we read 

No niyht shall be therein ; 
Praised be thy dwellings warm 
By household fagot's cheerful blaze, 
Where, to hear of pardoned sin, 
Pauseth oft the merry din, 
Save the babe's upon the arm 
Who croweth to the crackling wood: 
Yea, and, better understood, 
Praised be thy dwellings cold, 
Hid beneath the churchyard mould, 
Where the bodies of the saints, 
Separate from earthly taints, 
Lie asleep, in blessing bound, 
Waiting for the trumpet's sound 
To free them into blessing none 
Weeping more beneath the sun, 
Though dangerous words of human 

love 
Be graven very near, above. 



" Earth, we Christians praise thee 

thus, 

Even for the change that comes 
With a grief from thee to us; 
For thy cradles and thy tombs, 






330 



THE VIRGIN MARY TO THE CHILD JESUS. 



For the pleasant corn and wine 
And suminer-heat, and also for 
The frost upon the sycamore 
And hail upon the vine ! '" 



THE VIRGIN MARY TO 
THE CHILD JESUS. 



" But sec the Virgin blest 
Hath laid her halie to rest." 

W ILTON'S Hymn on the Nativity. 



SLEEP, sleep, mine Holy One ! 
My flesh, my Lord ! what name ? I 

do not know 
A name that seerueth not too high or 

low, 

Too far from me or heaven : 
My Jesus, that is best ! that word be- 
ing given 

By the majestic angel whose com- 
mand 
Was softly as a man's beseeching, 

said, 
When I and all the earth appeared to 

stand 

In the great overflow 
Of light celestial from his wings and 

head. 
Sleep, sleep, my saving One ! 



ii. 

And art thou come for saving, baby- 
browed 

And speechless Being art thou 
come for saving ? 

The palm that grows beside our door 
is bowed 

By tread ings of the low wind from 
the south, 

A restless shadow through the cham- 
ber waving: 

Upon its bough a bird sings in the 
sun; 

But thou, with that close slumber on 
thy mouth, 

Dost seem of wind and sun already 
weary. 

Art come for saving, O my weary 
One? 



Perchance this sleep, that shutteth out 

the dreary 
Earth sounds and motions, opens on 

thy soul 

High dreams on fire with God; 
High songs that make the pathways 

where they roll 
More bright than stars do theirs ; and 

visions new 

Of thine eternal Nature's old abode. 
Suffer this mother's kiss, 
Best thing that earthly is, 
To glide the music and the glory 

through, 
Nor narrow in thy dream the broad 

upliftings 

Of any seraph wing. 
Thus noiseless, thus. Sleep, sleep, 
my dreaming One ! 



The slumber of his lips rneseems to 
run 

Through my lips to mine heart, to all 
its shiftings 

Of sensual life, bringing contrarious- 
ness 

In a great calm. I feel I could lie 
down 

As Moses did, and die, 1 and then 
live must. 

I ain 'ware of you, heavenly Pres- 
ences, 

That stand with your peculiar light 
unlost, 

Each forehead with a high thought 
for a crown, 

Unsunned i' the sunshine ! I am 
'ware. Ye throw 

No shade against the wall ! How 
motionless 

Ye round me with your living statu- 
ary, 

While through your whiteness, in 
and outwardly, 

Continual thoughts of God appear to 
go, 

Like light's soul in itself. I bear, I 
bear 

To look upon the dropt lids of your 
eyes, 

Though their external shining testi- 
fies 

To that beatitude within which were 

Enough to blast an eagle at his sun: 

1 It is a Jewish tradition that Moses died 
of the kisses of God's lips. 







THE Vine, IX MARY TO THE CHILD JESUS. 



331 



I fall not on my sad clay face before 

y e > 

I look on His. I know 
My spirit which dilateth with the woe 

Of His mortality, 

May well contain your glory. 

Yea, drop your lids more low. 
Ye are but fellow-worshippers with 
me ! 

Sleep, sleep, my worshipped One ! 



We sate among the stalls at Bethle- 
hem; 
The dumb kine, from their fodder 

turning them, 
Softened their horned faces 
To almost human gazes 
Toward the newly Born: 
The simple shepherds from the star- 
lit brooks 

Brought visionary looks, 
As yet in their astonied hearing rung 

The strange sweet angel-tongue: 
The magi of the East, in sandals 

worn, 

Knelt reverent, sweeping round, 
With long pale beards, their gifts 

upon the ground, 
The incense, myrrh, and gold 
These baby hands were impotent to 

hold: 

So let all earthlies and celestials wait 
Upon thy royal state. 
Sleep, sleep, my kingly One 1 



I am not proud meek angels, ye in- 
vest 

New meeknesses to hear such utter- 
ance rest 

On mortal lips, "I am not proud " 
not proud! 

Albeit in my flesh God sent his Son, 

Albeit over him my head is bowed 

As others bow before him, still mine 
heart 

Bows lower than their knees. O cen- 
turies 

That roll in vision your futurities 
My future grave athwart, 

Whose murmurs seem to reach me 

while I keep 
Watch o'er this sleep, 

Say of me as the Heavenly said, 
"Thou art 



The blessedest of women!" bless- 

edest, 
Not holiest, not noblest, ho high 

name 
Whose height misplaced may pierce 

me like a shame 
When I sit meek in heaven ! 

For me, for me, 
God knows that I am feeble like the 

rest I 
I often wandered forth more child 

than maiden, 

Among the midnight hills of Galilee 
Whose summits looked heaven- 
laden, 

Listening to silence as it seemed to be 
God's voice, so soft yet strong, so 

fain to press 
Upon my heart as heaven did on the 

height, 
And waken up its shadows by a 

light, 

And show Its vileness by a holiness. 
Then I knelt down most silent like 

the night, 

Too self-renounced for fears, 
Raising my small face to the bound- 
less blue 
Whose stars did mix and tremble in 

my tears : 
God heard them falling after, with his 

dew. 



vli. 

So, seeing my corruption, can I see 

This Incorruptible now born of me, 

This fair new Innocence no sun did 
chance 

To shine on (for even Adam was no 
child), 

Created from my nature all defiled, 

This mystery, from out mine igno- 
rance, 

Nor feel the blindness, stain, corrup- 
tion, more 

Than others do, or J did heretofore ? 

Can hands wherein such burden pure 
has been 

Not open with the cry, " Unclean., 
unclean," 

More oft than any else beneath the 

skies ? 
Ah King, ah Christ, ah son ! 

The kine, the shepherds, the abased 

wise 

Must all less lowly wait 
Than I, upon thy state. 
Sleep, sleep, my kingly One. 





332 



AN ISLAND. 




VIII. 

Art thou a King, then ? Come, his 

universe, 

Come, crown me him a King. 
Pluck rays from all such stars as 

never fling 

Their light where fell a curse, 
And make a crowning for this kingly 

brow. 
What is my word ? Each empyreal 

star 

Sits in a sphere afar 
In shining ambuscade: 
The child-brow, crowned by none, 
Keeps its unchildlike shade. 
Sleep, sleep, my crownless One. 

IX. 

Unchildlike shade ! No other babe 
doth wear 

An aspect very sorrowful, as thou. 

No small babe-smiles my watching 
heart has seen 

To float like speech the speechless 
lips between, 

No doyelike cooing in the golden air, 

No quick, short joys of leaping baby- 
hood: 
Alas ! our earthly good 

In heaven thought evil, seems too 

good for thee. 
Yet sleep, my weary One. 



And then the drear, sharp tongue of 

prophecy, 
With the dread sense of things which 

shall be done, 
Doth smite me inly, like a sword : a 

sword ? 
That " smites the Shepherd." Then, 

I think aloud 
The words "despised," "rejected," 

every word 
Recoiling into darkness as I view 

The DARLING on my knee. 
Bright angels, move not, lest ye stir 

the cloud 

Betwixt my soul and his futurity. 
I must not die, with mother's work to 

do, 
And could not live and see. 



It is enough to bear 
This image still and fair; 
This holier in sleep 
Than a saint at prayer; 



This aspect of a child 
Who never sinned or smiled; 
This presence in an infant's face: 
This sadness most like love; 
This love than love more deep; 
This weakness like omnipotence 
It is so strong to move. 
Awful is this watching place, 
Awful what I see from hence, 
A king without regalia, 
A God without the thunder, 
A child without the heart for play; 
Ay, a Creator, rent asunder 
From his first glory, and cast away 
On his own world, for me alone 
To hold in hands created, crving, 
"SON!" 

XII. 

That tear fell not oirthee, 
Beloved, yet thou stirrest in thy 

slumber! 
THOU, stirring not for glad sounds out 

of number, 

Which through the vibratory palm- 
trees run 

From summer wind and bird, 
So quickly hast thou heard 
A tear fall silently ? 
Wak'st thou, O loving one ? 



AN ISLAND. 



Allgoeth but Goddis will." OLD POET. 



Mr dream is of an island place, 
Which distant seas keep lonely, 

A little island on whose face 
The stars are watchers only: 

Those bright, still stars ! they need 
not seem 

Brighter or stiller in my dream. 



An island full of hills and dells, 

All rumpled and uneven 
With green recesses, sudden swells, 

And odorous valleys driven 
So deep and straight, that always there 
The wind is cradled to soft air. 







AIT IZLAITD. 



333 



Hills running up to heaven for light 
Through woods that half-way ran, 

As if the wild earth mimicked right 
The wilder heart of man: 

Only it shall be greener far, 

And gladder, than hearts ever are. 



More like, perhaps, that mountain 

piece 

Of Dante's paradise, 
Disrupt to an hundred hills like these, 

In falling from the skies; 
Bringing within it all the roots 
Of heavenly trees and flowers and 
fruits: 



For, saving where the gray rocks strike 
Their javelins up the azure, 

Or where deep fissures, miser-like, 
Hoard up some fountain treasure, 

(And e'en in them, stoop down and 
hear 

Leaf sounds with water in your ear), 



The place is all a wave with trees, 
Limes, myrtles purple-ueaded, 

Acacias having drunk the lees 
Of the night-dew, faint-headed, 

And wan gray olive-woods, which 
seem 

The fittest foliage for a dream. 



Trees, trees, on all sides! They com- 
bine 

Their plumy shades to throw, 
Through whose clear fruit and blos- 
som fine 

"Whene'er the sun may go, 
The ground beneath he deeply stains, 
As passing through cathedral' panes. 



But little needs this earth of ours 
That shining from above her, 

When many pleiades of flowers 
(Not one lost) star her over; 

The rays of their unnumbered hues 

Being all refracted by the dews. 



Wide-petalled plants that boldly drink 

The Amreeta of the sky, 
Shut bells that dull with rapture sink, 

And lolling buds, half shy: 
I cannot count them, but between 
Is room for grass and mosses green, 



And brooks, that glass in different 

strengths 

All colors in disorder, 
Or, gathering up their silver lengths 

Beside their winding border, 
Sleep, haunted through the slumber 

hidden, 
By lilies white as dreams in Eden. 



Nor think each arched tree with each 

Too closely interlaces 
To admit of vistas out of reach, 

And broad moon-lighted places, 
Upon whose sward the antlered deer 
May view their double image clear. 



For all this island's creature-full 

(Kept happy not by halves), 
Mild cows, that at the vine-wreaths 

pull, 

Then low back at their calves 
With tender lowings, to approve 
The warm mouths milking them for 
love. 



Free, gamesome horses, antelopes, 

And harmless leaping leopards, 
And buffaloes upon the slopes, 

And sheep unruled by shepherds; 
Hares, lizards, hedgehogs, badgers, 

mice, 

Snakes, squirrels, frogs, and butter- 
flies. 



And birds that live there in a crowd, 
Horned owls, rapt nightingales, 

Larks bold with heaven, and peacocks 

proud, 
Self-sphered in those grand tails; 

All creatures glad and safe, I deem: 

No guns nor springes in my dream \ 






^.j 1 a_ 1 ? c ^_s | K. 




L 


px > 

(* *> fl 






.. 334 AN ISLAND. 






XV. 


XXII. 






The island's edges are a-wing 


No sod in all that island doth 






With trees that overbranch 


Yawn open for the dead; 




J 


l The sea with song-birds welcoming 


No wind hath borne a traitor's oath; J I 






The curlews to green change; 


No earth, a mourner's tread: * 




And doves from half-closed lids espy 


We cannot say by stream or shade, 




The red and purple fish go by. 


" I suffered here, was here betrayed." 




XVI. 


XXIII. 




One dove is answering in trust 
The water every minute, 
Thinking so soft a murmur must 
Have her mate's cooing in it: 
So softly doth earth's beauty round 
Infuse itself in ocean's sound. 


Our only " farewell " we shall laugh 
To shifting cloud or hour, 
And use our only epitaph 
To some bud turned a flower: 
Our only tears shall serve to prove 
Excess in pleasure or in love. 




XVII. 


XXIV. 




My sanguine soul bounds forwarder 
To meet the bounding waves; 


Our fancies shall their plumage catch 
From fairest island-birds, 




Beside them straightway I repair, 


Whose eggs let young ones out at 




To live within tlie caves: 


hatch, 




And near me two or three may dwell, 


Born singing ! then our words 




Whom dreams fantastic please as well. 


Unconsciously shall take the dyes 






Of those prodigious fantasies. 




XVIII. 






Long winding caverns, glittering far 
Into a crystal distance! 


XXV. 

Yea, soon, no consonant unsmooth 




Through clefts of which, shall many a 


Our smile-tuned lips shall reach; 




star 


Sounds sweet as Hellas spake in 




Shine clear without resistance! 


youth 




And carry down its rays the smell 


Shall glide into our speech: 




Of flowers above invisible. 


(What music, certes, can you find 






As soft as voices which are kind ?) 




XIX. 






I said that two or three might choose 
Their dwelling near mine own, 


XXVI. 

And often, by the joy without 




Those who would change man's voice 


And in us overcome, 




and use, 


We, through our musing, shall let 




For Nature's way and tone; 


float 




Man's veering heart and careless eyes, 
For Nature's steadfast sympathies. 


Such poems sitting dumb 
As Pindar might have writ if he 






Had tended sheep in Arcady; 




XX. 






Ourselves, to meet her faithfulness, 


xxvn. 




Shall play a faithful part: 


Or ^schylus the pleasant fields 




Her beautiful shall ne'er address 


He died in, longer knowing; 




The monstrous at our heart: 


Or Homer, had men's sins and shields 




Her musical shall ever touch 


Been lost in Meles flowing; 




Something within us also such. 


Or poet Plato, had the undim 






Unsetting Godlight broke on him. 






XXI. 






ri 


p Yet shall she not our mistress live, 


XXVIII. , , 






As doth the moon of ocean, 


Choose me the cave most worthy 






Though gently as the moon she give 


choice, 






Our thoughts a light and motion: 


To make a place for prayer, 






More like a harp of many lays, 
Moving its master while he plays. 


And I will choose a praying voice 
To pour our spirits there: 




r 

\ 


L ._ . ^ 




M_J -*- 3 ' ' . i'-^njy 









THE SOUL'S TRAVELLING. 



335 



How silverly the echoes run I 
Thy will be done, thy will be done. 

XXIX. 

Gently yet strangely uttered words ! 

They lift me from my dream; 
The island fadeth with its swards 

That did no more than seem: 
The streams are dry, no sun could 

find 
The fruits are fallen without wind. 

XXX. 

So oft the doing of God's will 
Our foolish wills undoeth ! 
And yet what idle dream breaks ill, 

Which morning-light subdueth ? 
And who would murmur and mis- 
doubt, 

When God's great sunrise finds him 
out? 



THE SOUL'S TRAVEL- 
LING. 



HSrj voepovs 
IleTourai rapcrovs. 



I DWELL amid the city ever. 

The great humanity which beats 

Its life along the stony streets. 

Like a strong and unsunned river 

In a self-made course, 

I sit and harken while it rolls. 

Very sad and very hoarse 

Certes is the flow of souls; 

Infinitest tendencies: 

By the finite prest and pent, 

In the finite, turbulent: 

How we tremble in surprise 

When sometimes, with an awful 

sound, 
God's great plummet strikes the 

ground ! 



The champ of the steeds on the silver 

bit 
As they whirl the rich man's carriage 

by: 



The beggar's whine as he looks at 
it 

But it goes too fast for charity; 

The trail on the street of the poor 
man's broom, 

That the lady who walks to her pal- 
ace-home, 

On her silken skirt may catch no 
dust; 

The tread of the business-men who 
must 

Count their per-cents by the paces 
they take; 

The cry of the babe unheard of its 
mother 

Though it lie on her breast, while she 
thinks of the other 

Laid yesterday where it will not 
wake; 

The flower-girl's prayer to buy roses 
and pinks, 

Held out in the smoke, like stars by 
day; 

The gin-door's oath that hollowly 
chinks 

Guilt upon grief, and wrong upon 
hate; 

The cabman's cry to get out of the 
way; 

The dustman's call down the area- 
grate; 

The young maid's jest, and the old 
wife's scold, 

The haggling talk of the boys at a 
stall, 

The fight in the street which is backed 
for gold, 

The plea of the lawyers in Westmin- 
ster Hall; 

The drop on the stones of the blind 
man's staff 

As he trades in his own grief's sacred- 
ness; 

The brothel shriek, and the Newgate 
laugh ; 

The hum upon 'Change, and the or- 
gan's grinding; 

(The grinder's face being neverthe- 
less 

Dry and vacant of even woe 

While the children's hearts are leap- 
ing so 

At the merry music's winding); 

The black-plumed funeral's creeping 
train 

Long and slow (and yet they will 
go 

As fast as life, though it hurry and 
strain !) 





336 




THE SOUL'S TRAVELLING. 



Creeping the populous houses through, 

And nodding their plumes at either 
side, 

At many a house where an infant, 
new 

To the sunshiny world, has just strug- 
gled and cried, 

At many a house where sitteth a 
bride 

Trying to-morrow's coronals 

With a scarlet blush to-day: 
Slowly creep the funerals, 

As none should hear the noise, and 
say, 

" The living, the living, must go away 

To multiply the dead." 
Hark ! an upward shout is sent: 

In grave, strong joy from tower to 

steeple 
The bells ring out, 

The trumpets sound, the people shout, 

The young queen goes to her parlia- 
ment; 

She turneth round her la.rge blue 
eyes, 

More bright with childish memories 

Than royal hope, upon the people; 

On either side she bows her head 
Lowly, with a queenly grace, 

And smile most trusting-innocent, 

As if she smiled upon her mother; 

The thousands press before each other 
To bless her to her face; 

And booms the deep majestic voice 

Through trump and drum, " May 

the queen rejoice 
In the people's liberties * " 



I dwell amid the city, 

And hear the flow of souls in act 

and speech, 
For pomp or trade, for merrymake or 

folly: 
I hear the confluence and sum of 

each, 

And that is melancholy ! 
Thy voice is a complaint, O crowned 

city, 

The blue sky covering thee like God's 
great pity. 



O blue sky ! it mindeth me 
Of places where I used to see 
Its vast unbroken circle thrown 
From the far pale-peaked hill 
Out to the last verge of ocean, 



As by God's arm it were done 
Then for the first time, with the 

emotion 

Of that first impulse on it still. 
Oh we spirits fly at will 
Faster than the winged steed 
Whereof in old book we read, 
With the sunlight foaming back 
From his flanks to a misty wrack, 
And his nostril reddening proud 
As he breasteth the steep thunder 

cloud, 

Smoother than Sabrina's chair, 
Gliding up from wave to air, 
While she smileth debonair 
Yet holy, coldly and yet brightly, 
Like her own mooned waters 

nightly, 
Through her dripping hair. 



Very fast and smooth we fly, 
Spirits, though the flesh be by: 
All looks feed not from the eye, 
Nor all hearings from the ear: 
We can hearken and espy 
Without either, we can journey 
Bold and gay as knight to tourney; 
And, though we wear no visor 

down 

To dark our countenance, the foe 
Shall never chafe us as we go. 



I a-n gone from peopled town ! 
It p^sseth its street-thunder round 
My body which yet hears no sound; 
For now another sound, another 
Vision, *ny soul's senses have 
O'er a hundred valleys deep 
Where the hills' green shadows 

sleep, 

Scarce known because the valley- 
trees 

Cioss those npliMul images, 
O'er a hundred h'.lls each other, 
Watching to the v r estern wave, 
I have travelled, T . have found 
The silent, lone, remembered 
ground. 

VII.' 

I have found a ginssy niche 
Hollowed in a seaside-hill, 
As if the ocean-grandeur, which 
Is aspectable from the place, 
Had struck the hill as with a mace, 
Sudden and cleaving. You might 
fill 







THE SOUL'S TRAVELLING. 



337 



That little nook with the little cloud 
"Which sometimes lieth by the moon 
To beautify a night, of June, 
A cavelike nook, which, opening all 
To the wide sea, is disallowed 
From its own earth's sweet pas- 
toral ; 

Cavelike, but roofless overhead, 
And made of verdant, banks instead 
Of any rocks, with flowerets spread 
Instead of spar and stalactite, 
Cowslips and daisies gold and 

white: 
Such pretty flowers on such green 

sward, 

You think the sea they look toward 
Doth serve them for another sky, 
As warm and blue as that on high. 

vin. 

And in this hollow is a seat, 
And when you shall have crept to 

it, 

Slipping down the banks too steep 
To be o'erbrowsed by the sheep. 
Do not think though at your feet 
The cliff's disrupt you shall be- 
hold 
The line where earth and ocean 

meet : 

You sit, too much above to view 
The solemn confluence of the two: 
You can hear them as they greet, 
You can hear that evermore 
Distance-softened noise more old 
Than Nereid's singing, the tide 

spent 

Joining soft issues with the shore 
In harmony of discontent; 
And when you hearken to the grave 
Lamenting of the underwave, 
You must believe in earth's com- 
munion, 
Albeit you witness not the union. 



Except that sound, the place is full 
Of silences, which, when you cull 
By any word, it thrills you so, 
That presently you let them grow 
To meditation's fullest length 
Across your soul, with a soul's 

strength : 
And, as they touch your soul, they 

borrow 

Both of its grandeur and its sorrow, 
That deathly odor which the clay 
Leaves on its deathlessness alway. 



Alway ! alway ? must this be ? 

liapid Soul from city gone. 

Dost thou carry inwardly 

What doth make the city's moan ? 

Must this deep sigh of thine own 

Haunt thee with humanity ? 

Green visioned banks that are too 

steep 

To be o'erbrowsed by the sheep, 
May all sad thoughts adown you 

creep 

Without a shepherd ? Mighty sea, 
Can we dwarf thy magnitude 
And fit it to our straitest mood ? 
O fair, fair Nature, are we thus 
Impotent and querulous 
Among thy workings glorious, 
Wealth and sanctities, that still 
Leave us vacant and denied, 
And wailing like a soft-kissed child, 
Kissed soft against his will ? 



God, God ! 

With a child's voice I cry, 
Weak, sad, confidingly 
God, God ! 

Thou kuowest, eyelids raised not 
always up 

Unto thy love (as none of ours are) 

droop 
As ours o'er many a tear; 

Thou knowest, though thy universe is 
broad, 

Two little tears suffice to cover all; 

Thou knowest, thou who art so prodi- 
gal 

Of beauty, we are oft but stricken 
deer 

Expiring in the woods, that care for 
none 

Of those delightsome flowers they die 
upon. 

XII. 

O blissful Mouth which breathed the 
mournful breath 

We name our souls, self-spoilt ! by 
that strong passion 

Which paled thee once with sighs, 
by that strong death 

Which made thee once unbreathing, 
from the wrack 

Themselves have called around them, 
call them back, 

Back to thee in continuous aspira- 
tion ! 
For here, O Lord, 







338 



TO BETTINE. 



For here they travel vainly, vainly 
pass 

From city-pavement to untrodden 
sward 

Where the lark finds her deep nest in 
the grass 

Cold with the earth's last dew. Yea, 
very vain 

The greatest speed of all these souls 
of men 

Unless they travel upward to the 
throne 

Where sittest THOU the satisfying 
ONE, 

With help for sins and holy perfect- 
ings 

For all requirements ; while the arch- 
angel, raising 

Unto thy face his full ecstatic gazing, 

Forgets the rush and rapture of his 
wings. 



TO BETTINE. 



THE CHILD-FRIEND OF GOETHE. 



'I have the second-sight, Goethe! " Letters 
of a Child. 



BETTINE, friend of Goethe, 
Hadst thou the second-sight 
Upturning worship and delight 

With such a loving duty 
To his grand face, as women will, 
The childhood 'neath thine eyelids 
still ? 



Before his shrine to doom thee, 
Using the same child's smile 
That heaven and earth, beheld ere- 

while 

For the first time, won from thee 
Ere star and flower grew dim and 

dead 
Save at his feet, and o'er his head ? 



Digging thine heart, and throw- 
ing 

Away its childhood's gold, 
That so its woman-depth might hold 

His spirit's overflowing ? 



(For surging souls no worlds can 

bound, 
Their channel in the heart have 

found.) 



O child, to change appointed, 
Thou hadst not second-sight ! 
What eyes the future view aright 

Unless by tears anointed ? 
Yea, only tears themselves can show 
The burning ones that have to flow. 



O woman, deeply loving, 
Thou hadst not second-sight ! 
The star is very high and bright, 

And none can see it moving. 
Love looks around, below, above, 
Yet all his prophecy is love. 



The bird thy childhood's playing 
Sent onward o'er the sea, 
Thy dove of hope, came back to thee 

Without a leaf: art laying 
Its wet, cold wing no sun can dry, 

Still in thy bosom secretly ? 



Our Goethe's friend, Bettine, 
I have the second-sight! 
The stone upon his grave is white, 

The funeral stone between ye; 
And in thy mirror thou hast viewed 
Some change as hardly understood. 



vin. 

Where's " childhood ? where is 

Goethe ? 

The tears are in thine eyes. 
Nay, thou shalt yet re-organize 

Thy maidenhood of beauty 
In his own glory, which is smooth 
Of wrinkles, and sublime in youth. 



The poet's arms have wound thee, 
He breathes upon thy brow, 
He lifts thee upward in the glow 

Of his great genius round thee, 
The childlike poet undefiled 
Preserving evermore THE CHILD. 









'Tn *"! ? - c *~* \ \\ 








Ji|. ^ SEASIDE WALK. 339 V 






MAN AND NATURE. 


Uttered with burning breath, "Ho! 
victory ! '' 








And sank atlown, a heap of ashes pale : 






* j 


So runs the Arab tale. J [, 






A SAD man on a summer day 








Did look upon the earth, and say, 
" Purple cloud the hilltop binding; 
Folded hills, the valleys wind in; 
Valleys, with fresh streams among 


n. 

The sky above us showed 
A universal and unmoving cloud 
On which the cliffs permitted us to 






you; 
Streams, with bosky trees along you; 
Trees, with many birds and blossoms; 
Birds, with music-trembling bosoms; 
Blossoms, dropping dews that wreathe 


see 
Only the outline of their majesty, 
As master-minds when gazed at by 
the crowd : 
And, shining with a gloom, the water 






YOU 

To your fellow-flowers beneath you; 
Flowers, that constellate on earth; 


gray 
Swang in its moon-taught way. 






Earth, that shakest to the mirth 








Of the merry Titan ocean, 


in. 






All his shining hair in motion! 


Nor moon nor stars were out ; 






Why am I thus the only one 
Who can be dark beneath the sun ? " 


They did not dare to tread so soon 
about, 






But, when the summer day was past, 


Though trembling, in the footsteps of 






He looked to heaven, and smiled at 


the sun ; 






last, 


The light was neither night's nor 






Self-answered so. 


day's, but one 






" Because, O cloud, 


Which, life-like, had a beauty in its 






Pressing with thy crumpled shroud 
Heavily on mountain-top; 


doubt; 
And silence's impassioned breathings 






Hills, that almost seem to drop, 
Stricken with a misty death, 


round 
Seemed wandering into sound. 






To the valleys underneath; 








Vallevs, sighing with the torrent; 


rv. 






Waters, streaked with branches hor- 


O solemn-beating heart 






rent; 
Branchless trees, that shake your head 


Of nature! I have knowledge that 






Wildly o'er your blossoms spread 
Where the common flowers are 


Bound unto man's by cords he cannot 
seven 






found ; 
Flowers, with foreheads to the 


And, what time they are slackened 
by him ever, 






ground ; 
Ground, that shriekest while the sea 
With his iron smiteth thee, 


So to attest his own supernal part, 
Still runneth thy vibration fast and 






I am, besides, the only one 
Who can be bright without the sun." 


strong 
The slackened cord along; 








V. 






A SEASIDE WALK. 


For though we never spoke 
Of the gray water and the shaded 
rock, 








T4oi.l7- .-oT/i onrl cfrnriA iitiformf ionslv 








.LJariV \\rt\C clIlU OLW11C lim_wuov*wuoi J 

were fused 






t * 


Into the plaintive speaking that we . 






1 |* WE walked beside the sea, 


used ^ 


t 




After a day which perished silently 


Of absent friends, and memories un- 






Of its own glory, like the princess 
weird, 


f orsook ; 
And, had we seen each other's face, 






Who, combating the Genius, scorched 
aiul seared, 


we had 
Seen haply each was sad. 






J l J 


1 




^1 Ic I s ( \ aLK' 








... 340 




THE SEA-MEW. 



THE SEA-MEW. 

AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED TO 
M. E. H. 



How joyously the young sea-mew 
Lay dreaming on the waters blue 
Whereon our little bark had thrown 
A little shade, the only one; 
But shadows ever man pursue. 



Familiar with the waves, and free 
As if their own white foam were he, 
His heart, upon the heart of ocean, 
Lay, learning all its mystic motion, 
And throbbing to the throbbing sea. 



And such a brightness in his eye, 
As if the ocean anil the sky 
Within him had lit up, and nurst 
A soul God gave him not at first, 
To comprehend their majesty. 



We were not cruel, yet did sunder 
His white wing from the blue waves 

under, 

And bound it, while his fearless eyes 
Shone up to ours in calm surprise, 
As deeming us some ocean wonder. 



We bore our ocean bird unto 
A grassy place where he might view 
The flowers that courtesy to the bees, 
The waving of the tall green trees, 
The falling of the silver dew. 



But flowers of earth were pale to him 
Who had seen the rainbow fishes 

swim ; 

And when earth's dewaround him lay. 
He thought of ocean's winged spray, 
And his eye waxed sad and dim. 



The green trees round him only made 
A prison with their darksome shade ; 
And drooped hiswing,and mournedhe 
For his own boundless glittering sea, 
Albeit he knew not they could fade. 



VIII. 




Then one her gladsome face did bring, 
Her gentle voice's murmuring, 
In ocean's stead his heart to moA'e, 
And teach him what was human love: 
He thought it a strange, mournful 
thing. 



He lay down in his grief to die 
(First looking to the sea-like sky 
That hath no waves), because, alas! 
Our human touch did on him pass, 
And, with our touch, our agony. 



FELICIA HEMANS. 



TO L. E. L., REFERRING TO HER 
MONODY ON THE POETESS. 



THOU bay-crowned living one that 
o'er the bay-crowned dead art 
bowing, 

And o'er the shadeless, moveless brow 
the vital shadow throwing, 

And o'er the signless, songless lips the 
wail and music wedding, 

And dropping o'er the tranquil eyes 
the tears not of their shed- 
ding ! 

ii. 

Take music from the silent dead, 
whose meaning is completer, 

Reserve thy tears for living brows, 
where all such tears are meeter, 

And leave the violets in the grass to 
brighten where thou treadest: 

No flowers for her ! no need of flow- 
ers, albeit ' ' bring flowers, " 
thou saidest. 



Yes, flowers to crown the " cup and 

lute," since both may come to 

breaking; 
Or flowers to greet the " bride " the 

heart's own beating works its 

aching; 








^\ i <i_t- e (_.> ( ^ 


] 


TF ' XE 

',;. L. E. L:S LAST QUESTION. 341 1 




Or flowers to soothe the "captive's" 


" Albeit softly in our ears her silver 






sight, from earth's free bosom 


song was ringing, 






gathered, 


The footfall of her parting soul is 






J \f Reminding of his earthly hope, then 
withering as it withered: 

TV 


softer than her singing." J 


i 




IV. 

But bring not near the solemn corse 








a type of human seeming; 
Lay only dust's stern verity upon the 
dust undreaming: 
And, while the calm perpetual stars 


L. E. L.'S LAST QUES- 
TION. 






shall look upon it solely, 








Her sphered soul shall look on them 
with eyes more bright and holy. 


" Do you think of me as I think of you ? " 
Written during Hie voyage to the Cape. 






V. 

Nor mourn, O living one, because her 


I. 






part in life was mourning: 
Would she have lost the poet's fire 


"Do you think of me as I think of 
von 






for anguish of the burning ? 
The minstrel harp, for the strained 


My friends, my friends ? " She said it 
from the sea 






string? the tripod, for the af- 
flated 


The English minstrel in her min- 
strels V 






Woe ? or the vision, for those tears in 
which it shone dilated ? 


While, under brighter skies than erst 
she knew, 








Her heart grew dark, and groped 






VI. 


there as the blind 






Perhaps she shuddered while the 
world's cold hand her brow was 
wreathing, 


To reach across the waves friends 
left behind 
" Do you think of me as I think of 






But never wronged that mystic breath 


you ? " 






which breathed in all her 








breathing, 


n. 






Which drew from rocky earth and 


It seemed not much to ask " as / of 






man abstractions high and 


I/Oil ? " 






moving, 


We all do ask the same: no eyelids 






Beauty, if not the beautiful, and love, 


cover 






if not the loving. 


Within the meekest eyes that ques- 








tion over: 








And little in the world the loving 






vn. 


do 






Such visionings have paled in sight: 
the Saviour she descrieth, 


But sit (among the rocks ?) and listen 
for 






And little recks who wreathed the 


The echo of their own love ever- 






brow which on his bosom lieth: 


more 






The whiteness of his innocence o'er 


" Do you think of me as I think of 






all her garments flowing, 
There learneth she the sweet " new 


you?" 






song" she will not mourn in 


in. 






knowing. 


Love-learned she had sung of love 






*\ / 


and love, "j p 






vm. 


And like a child, that, sleeping with 






Be happy, crowned and living one ! 


dropt head 






and, as thy dust decay eth, 
May thine own England say for thee 


Upon the fairy-book he lately read, 
Whatever household noises round 






what now for her it say eth, 


him move, 






J l J li 






^1 1 <r-H 3 "% = L-s 1_!_P 








-t 5 



342 




CROWNED AND WEDDED 



Hears in his dream some elfin turbu- 
lence, 

Even so, suggestive to her inward 
sense, 

All sounds of life assumed one tune 
of love. 

IV. 

And when the glory of her dream 

withdrew, 
When knightly gestes and courtly 

pageantries 

Were broken in her visionary eyes 
By tears the solemn seas * attested 

true, 
Forgetting that sweet lute beside her 

hand, 
She asked not, " Do you praise me, 

O my land ? " 
But, " Tiiink ye of me, friends, as I 

of you ? " 

v. 
Hers was the hand that played for 

many a year 
Love's silver phrase for England, 

smooth and well. 
"Would God, her heart's more inward 

oracle 
In that lone moment might confirm 

her dear ! 
For when her questioned friends in 

agony 
Made passionate response, " We 

think of thee," 
Her place was in the dust, too deep 

to hear. 

VI. 

Could she not wait to catch their an- 
swering breath ? 

Was she content, content, with ocean's 
sound, 

Which dashed its mocking infinite 
around 

One thirsty for a little love? be- 
neath 

Those stars content, where last her 
song had gone, 

They mute and cold in radiant life, 
as soon 

Their singer was to be in darksome 
death ? ! 

VII. 

Bring your vain answers; cry, "We 

think of thee ! " 
How think ye of her ? warm in long 

ago 

1 Her lyric on the polar star came home 
with her latest papers. 



Delights? or crowned with budding 
bays ? Not so. 

None smile, and none are crowned, 
where lieth she, 

With all her visions unfulfilled save 
one, 

Her childhood's, of the palm-trees 
in the sun 

And lo ! their shadow on her sepul- 
chre ! 



" Do ye think of me as I think of 
you ? " 

O friends, O kindred, O dear brother- 
hood 

Of all the world ! what are we that 
we should 

For covenants of long affection sue ? 

Why press so near each other when 
the touch 

Is barred by graves ? Not much, and 
yet too much, 

Is this, " Think of me as I think of 
you." 

IX. 

But while on mortal lips I shape 

anew 

A sigh to mortal issues, verily 
Above the unshaken stars that see us 

die 
A vocal pathos rolls; and HE who 

drew 
All life from dust, and for all tasted 

death, 
By death and life and love, appealing 

saith, 
"Do you think of me as I think of you ? " 



CROWNED AND 
WEDDED. 



WHEN last before her people's face her 

own fair face she bent, 
Within the meek projection of that 

shade she was content 
To erase the child-smile from her lips, 

which seemed as if it might 
Be still kept holy from the world to 

childhood still in sight 





CROWNED AND WEDDED. 



343 



To erase it with a solemn vow, a 

princely vow to rule, 
A priestly vow to rule by grace of 

God the pitiful, 
A very godlike vow to rule in right 

and righteousness, 
And with the law and for the land 

so God the vower bless I 



Tho minster was alight that day, but 

not with tire, I ween; 
And long-drawn glitterings swept 

adowu that mightly aisled scene ; 
The priests stood stoled in their pomp, 

the sworded chiefs in theirs, 
And so the collared knights, and so 

the civil ministers, 
And so the waiting lords and dames, 

and little pages best 
At holding trains, and legates so, from 

countries east and west; 
So alien princes, native peers, and 

high-born ladies bright, 
Along whose brows the Queen's, now 

crowned, flashed coronets to 

light; 
And so the people at the gates with 

priestly hands on high, 
Which bring the first anointing to all 

legal majesty; 

And so the DEAD, who lie in rows be- 
neath the minster floor, 
There verily an awful state maintain- 
ing evermore ; 
The statesman whose clean palm will 

kiss no bribe, whate'er it be, 
The courtier who for no fair queen 

will rise up to his knee, 
The court-dame who for no court-tire 

will leave her shroud behind, 
The laureate, who no courtlier rhyme 

than " dust to dust" can find, 
The kings and queens who having 

made that vow and worn that 

crown, 
Descended unto lower thrones, and 

darker, deep adown : 
J)ieu ct mon droit what is't to them ? 

what meaning can it have ? 
The King of kings, the right of death 

God's judgment and the 

grave. 
And when betwixt the quick and dead 

the young fair queen had 

vowed, 
The living shouted, " May she live I 

Victoria, live 1 " aloud: 



And, as the loyal shouts went up, true 
spirits prayed between, 

" The blessings happy monarchs have 
be thine, O crowned queen ! " 



But now before her people's face she 

bendeth hers anew, 
And calls them, while she vows, to be 

her witness thereunto. 
She vowed to rule, and in that oath 

her childhood put away: 
She doth maintain her womanhood, 

in vowing love to-day. 
O lovely lady ! let her vow ! such lips 

become such vows, 
And fairer goeth bridal wreath than 

crown with vernal brows. 
O lovely lady ! let her vow ! yea, let 

her vow to love I 
And though she be no less a queen, 

with purples hung above, 
The pageant of a court behind, the 

royal kin around, 
And woven gold to catch her looks 

turned maidenly to ground, 
Yet may the bride-veil hide from her 

a little of that state, 
While loving hopes for retinues about 

her sweetness wait. 
SHE vows to love who vowed to rule 

(the chosen at her side) 
Let none say, God preserve the queen 1 

but rather, Bless the bride ! 
None blow the trump, none tend the 

knee, none violate the dream 
Wherein no monarch but a wife she 

to herself may seem. 
Or if ye say, Preserve the queen ! O, 

breathe it inward low 
She is a woman, and beloved! and 'tis 

enough but so. 
Count it enough, thou noble prince 

who tak'st her by the hand, 
And claimest for thy lady-love our 

lady of the land ! 
And since, Prince Albert, men have 

called thy spirit high and rare, 
And true to truth and brave for truth 

as some at Augsburg were, 
We charge thee by thy lofty thoughts 

and by $hy poet-mind, 
Which not by glory and degree takes 

measure of mankind, 
Esteem that wedded hand less dear 

for sceptre than for ring, 
And hold her uncrowned womanhood 

to be the royal thing. 






1.. 344 




CROWNED AND BURIED. 



And now, upon our queen's last vow 

what blessings shall we pray ? 
None straitened to a shallow crown 

will suit our lips to-day: 
Behold, they must be free as love, they 

must be broad as free, 
Even to the borders of heaven's light 

and earth's humanity, 
Long live she ! send up loyal shouts, 

and true hearts pray between, 
" The blessings happy PEASANTS have, 

be thine, O crowned queen ! " 



CROWNED AND BURIED. 



NAPOLEON ! years ago, and that 

great word, 
Compact of human breath in hate and 

dread 

And exultation, skied us overhead, 
An atmosphere whose lightning was 

the sword 
Scathing the cedars of the world, 

drawn down 
In burnings by the metal of a crown. 



Napoleon ! nations, while they 
cursed that name, 

Shook at their own curse; and while 
others bore 

Its sound, as of a trumpet, on before, 

Brass-fronted legions justified its 
fame; 

And dying men on trampled battle- 
sods 

Near their last silence uttered it for 
God's. 



Napoleon ! sages, with high fore- 
heads drooped, 

Did use it for a problem; children 
small 

Leapt up to greet it, as at manhood's 
call; 

Priests blessed it from their altars 
overstooped 



By meek-eyed Christs; and widows 

with a moan 
Spake it, when questioned why they 

sate alone. 



That name consumed the silence of 
the snows 

In Alpine keeping, holy and cloud- 
hid ; 

The mimic eagles dared what Nature's 
did, 

And over-rushed her mountainous re- 
pose 

In search of eyries; and the Egyptian 
river 

Mingled the same word with its grand 
" Forever." 



That name was shouted near the py- 
ramidal 

Nilotic tombs, whose mummied habit- 
ants, 

Packed to humanity's significance, 

Motioned it back with stillness, 
shouts as idle 

As hireling artists' work of myrrh and 
spice 

Which swathed last glories round the 
Ptolemies. 



The world's face changed to hear it; 
kingly men 

Came down in chidden babes' bewil- 
derment 

From autocratic places, each content 

With sprinkled ashes for anointing; 
then 

The people laughed, or wondered for 
the nonce, 

To see one throne a composite of 
thrones. 

VII. 

Napoleon! even the torrid vasti- 
tude 

Of India felt in throbbings of the air 

That name which scattered by disas- 
trous blare 

All Europe's bound-lines, drawn 
afresh in blood. 

Napoleon ! from the Russias west to 
Spain, 

And Austria trembled till ye heard 
her chain; 







CROWNED AND BURIED. 



345 



And Germany was 'ware; and Italy, 

Oblivious of old fames, her laurel- 
locked, 

High-ghosted Caesars passing unin- 
voked, 

Did crumble her own ruins with her 
knee, 

To serve a new,er: ay ! but French- 
men cast 

A future from them nobler than her 
past: 



For verily, though France augustly 
rose 

With that raised NAME, and did as- 
sume by such 

The purple of the world, none gave so 
much 

As she in purchase to speak plain, 
in loss 

"Whose hands, toward freedom 
stretched, dropped paralyzed 

To wield a sword, or tit an under- 
sized 



King's crown to a great man's head. 
And though along 

Her Paris streets did float, on fre- 
quent streams 

Of triumph, pictured or emmarbled 
dreams 

Dreamt right by genius in a world 
gone wrong, 

No dream of all so won was fair to 
see 

As the lost vision of her liberty. 



Napoleon ! 'twas a high name lifted 
high : 

It met at last God's thunder sent to 
clear 

Our compassing and covering atmos- 
phere, 

And open a clear sight beyond the 
sky 

Of supreme empire; this of earth's 
was done 

And kings crept out again to feel the 
sun. 



The kings crept out: the peoples sate 

at home, 
And, finding the long-invocated peace 



(A pall embroidered with worn im- 
ages 

Of rights divine) too scant to cover 
doom 

Such as they suffered, cursed the corn 
that grew 

Rankly to bitter bread on Waterloo. 

XIII. 

A deep gloom centred in the deep 
repose ; 

The nations stood up mute to count 
their dead: 

And he who owned the NAME which 
vibrated 

Through silence, trusting to his no- 
blest foes 

When earth was all too gray for chiv- 
alry, 

Died of their mercies 'mid the desert 
sea. 

XIV. 

O wild St. Helen ! very still she kept 
him, 

With a green willow for all pyramid, 

Which stirred a little if the low wind 
did, 

A little more, if pilgrims overwept 
him, 

Disparting the lithe boughs to see the 
clay 

Which seemed to cover his for judg- 
ment-day. 



Nay, not so long ! France kept her 

old affection 

As deeply as the sepulchre the corse-, 
Until, dilated by such love's remorse 
To a new angel of the resurrection, 
She cried, " Behold, thou England ! I 

would have 
The dead whereof thou wottest, from 

that grave." 



And England answered in the cour- 
tesy 

Which, ancient foes turned lovers, 
may befit, 

" Take back thy dead ! and, when 
thou buriest it, 

Throw in all former strifes 'twixtthee 
and me." 

Amen, mine England ! 'tis a courte- 
ous claim : 

But ask a little room too for thy 
shame I 




.... 34G 




CROWNED AND BURIED. 



xvn. 

Because it was not well, it was not 
well, 

Nor tuneful with thy lofty-chanted 
part 

Among the Oceanides, that heart 

To bind and bare and vex with vul- 
ture fell. 

I would, my noble England, men 
might seek 

All crimson stains upon thy breast 
not cheek ! 

XVIII. 

I would that hostile fleets had scarred 
Torbay, 

Instead of the lone ship which waited 
moored 

Until thy princely purpose was as- 
sured, 

Then left a shadow, not to pass 
away 

Not for to-night's moon, nor to-mor- 
row's sun: 

Green watching hills, ye witnessed 
what was done ! 1 



But since it teas done, in sepulchral 
dust 

"NVe fain would pay back something of 
our debt 

To France, if not to honor, and for- 
get 

How through much fear we falsified 
the trust 

Of a fallen foe and exile. We return 

Orestes Electra in his urn. 



A little urn a little dust inside, 
Which once outbalanced the large 

earth, albeit 
To-dav a four-years' child might carry 

it 
Sleek-browed and smiling, " Let the 

burden 'bide ! " 

Orestes to Electra ! O fair town 
Of Paris, how the wild tears will run 

down 

XXI. 

1 And run back in the chariot-marks of 

time, 

When all the people shall come forth 
to meet 

1 Written at Torquay. 



The passive victor, death-still in the 

street 
He rode through 'mid the shouting 

and bell-chime, 
And martial music, under eagles 

which 
Dyed their rapacious beaks at Aus- 

terlitz ! 

xxn. 

Napoleon! he hath come again, 
borne home 

Upon the popular ebbing heart, a 
sea 

Which gathers its own wrecks per- 
petually, 

Majestically moaning. Give him 
room ! 

Room for the dead in Paris ! welcome 
solemn 

And grave-deep 'neath the cannon- 
moulded column ! * 

XXIII. 

There, weapon-spent and warrior- 
spent, may rest 

From roar of fields, provided Jupi- 
ter 

Dare trust Saturnus to lie down so 
near 

His bolts ! and this he may ; for, 
dispossessed 

Of any godship lies the godlike arm 

The goat Jove sucked as likely to do 
harm. 

xxrv. 

And yet . . . Napoleon ! the re- 
covered name 

Shakes the old casements of the 
world ; and we 

Look out upon the passing pageantry, 

Attesting that the Dead makes good 
his claim 

To a French grave, another king- 
dom won, 

The last, of few spans by Napole- 
on. 

XXV. 

Blood fell like dew beneath his sun- 
rise sooth ! 

But glittered dew-like in the cove- 
nanted 

Meridian light. He was a despot 
granted I 

1 It was the first Intention to bury him 
under the column. 







TO FLUSH MT DOG. 



347 



But the-auTos of his autocratic mouth 
Said yea i' the people's French: he 

magnified 
The image of the freedom he denied. 



And if they asked for rights, he made 

reply, 
"Ye have my glory!" and so, 

drawing round them 
His ample purple, glorified and bound 

them 

In an embrace that seemed identity. 
He ruled them like a tyrant true ! 

but none 
Were ruled like slaves: each felt 

Napoleon. 
> 
xxvn. 

I do not praise this man: the man 

was flawed 
For Adam much more, Christ ! 

his knee unbent, 

His hand unclean, his aspiration pent 
Within a sword-sweep pshaw ! 

but, since he had 
The genius to be loved, why, let him 

have 
The justice to be honored in his 

grave. 

xxvm. 
I think this nation's tears thus poured 

together 
Better than shouts. I think this fu- 

neral 
Grander than crownings, though a 

pope bless all. 
I think this grave stronger than 

thrones. But, whether 
The crowned Napoleon or the buried 

clay 
Be worthier, I discern not: angels 

mav. 



TO FLUSH MY DOG. 



LOVING friend, the gift of one 
Who her own true faith has run 
Through thy lower nature, 1 
1 This dog was the gift of my dear and 
admired friend, Miss Hitford, and belongs 
to the beautiful race she has rendered cele- 
brated among English and American read- 



Be my benediction said 
With my hand upon thy head, 
Gentle fellow-creature 1 



Like a lady's ringlets brown, 
Flow thy silken ears adown 

Either side demurely 
Of thy silver-suited breast, 
Shining out from all the rest 

Of thy body purely. 



Darkly brown thy body is, 
Till the sunshine striking this 

Alchemize its dulness, 
When the sleek curls manifold 
Flash all over into gold 

With a burnished fulness. 



Underneath my stroking hand, 
Startled eyes of hazel bland 

Kindling, growing larger, 
Up thou leapest with a spring, 
Full of prank and curvetting, 

Leaping like a charger. 



Leap ! thy broad tail waves a light, 
Leap ! thy slender feet are bright, 

Canopied in fringes; 
Leap ! those tasselled ears of thine 
Flicker strangely, fair and fine 

Down their golden inches. 



Yet, my pretty sportive friend, 
Little is't to such an end 

That I praise thy rareness: 
Other dogs may be thy peers 
Haply iu these drooping ears 

And this glossy fairness. 



But of thee it shall be said, 
This dog watched beside a bed 

Day and night unweary, 
Watched within a curtained room 
Where no sunbeam brake the gloom, 

Round the sick and dreary, 
crs. The Flushes have their laurels as well 
as the Caesars, the chief difference (at least 
the very head and front of it) consisting, 
perhaps, in the bald head of the latter under 
the crown. 1844. 








^-pn 4 ' c 1 si i-^ 






,.1 348 TO FLUSH MY DOC. ' P 






vrrr. 


"With my hand upon his head, 






Roses, gathered for a vase, 
In that chamber died apace, 


Is my benediction said 
Therefore and forever. 






l Beam and breeze resigning: 


J ii 






This dog only waited on, 








Knowing, that, when light is gone, 
Love remains for shining. 


XV. 

And because he loves me so, 
Better than his kind will do 








Often man or woman, 






IX. 


Give I back more love again 






Other dogs in thymy dew 
Tracked the hares, and followed 


Than dogs often take of men, 
Leaning from my human. 






through 








Sunny moor or meadow: 








This dog only crept and crept 


XVI. 






Next a languid cheek that slept, 


Blessings on thee, dog of mine, 






Sharing in the shadow. 


Pretty collars make thee fine, 
Sugared milk make fat thee ! 








Pleasures wag on in thy tail, 






X. 


Hands of gentle motion fail 






Other dogs of loyal cheer 


Nevermore to pat thee ! 






Bounded at the whistle clear, 








Up the woodside hieing: 








This dog only watched in reach 


XVII. 






Of a faintly uttered speech, 
Or a louder sighing. 


Downy pillow take thy head, 
Silken coverlet bestead, 








Sunshine help thy sleeping ! 






XI. 


No fly's buzzing wake thee up, 






And if one or two quick "tears 
Dropped upon his glossy ears, 


No man break thy purple cup 
Set for drinking deep in 1 






Or a sigh came double, 








Up he sprang in eager haste, 


XVIII. 






Fawning, fondling, breathing fast, 
In a tender trouble. 


Whiskered cats aroynted flee, 
Sturdy stoppers keep from thee 
Cologne distillations; 






xn. 


Nuts lie in thy path for stones, 






And this dog was satisfied 
If a pale, thin hand would glide 


And thy feast-day macaroons 
Turn to daily rations 1 






Down his dewlaps sloping, 








Which he pushed his nose within, 








After, platf orming his chin 


XIX. 






On the palm left open. 


Mock I thee, in wishing weal ? 








Tears are in my eyes to feel 








Thou art made so straitly: 






XIII. 


Blessings need must straiten too, 






This dog, if a friendly voice 
Call him now to blither choice 
Than such chamber-keeping, 


Little canst thou joy or do, 
Thou who lovest greatly . 






" Come out ! " praying from the door, 








Presseth backward as before, 


XX. 






1 Up against me leaping. 
1 (* 


Yet be blessed to the height * 








Of all good and all delight 






xrv. 


Pervious to thy nature ; 






Therefore to this dog will I, 
Tenderly not scornfully, 
Render praise and favor: 


Only loved beyond that line, 
With a love that answers thine, 
Loving fellow-creature 1 






J l J 






^}^\ r . - r h-hJV 









THE DESERTED GARDEN. 



349 



THE DESERTED GARDEN. 



I MIND me, in the days departed, 
How often underneath the sun 
With childish bounds I used to run 
To a garden long deserted. 

The beds and walks were vanished 

quite ; 

And whereso'er had struck the spade, 
The greenest grasses Nature laid 
To sanctify her right. 

I called the place my wilderness, 
For no one entered there but I : 
The sheep looked in the grass to espy, 
And passed it ne'ertheless. 

The trees were interwoven wild, 
And spread their boughs enough 

about 

To keep both sheep and shepherd out, 
But not a happy child. 

Adventurous joy it was for me ! 
I crept beneath the boughs, and found 
A circle smooth of mossy ground 
Beneath a poplar-tree. 

Old garden rose-trees hedged it in, 
Bedropt with roses waxen-white 
"Well satisfied with dew and light, 
And careless to be seen. 

Long years ago, it might befall, 
When all the garden-flowers were 

trim, 

The grave old gardener prided him 
On these the most of all. 

Some lady, stately overmuch, 
Here moving with a silken noise, 
Has blushed beside them at the voice 
That likened her to such. 

And these, to make a diadem, 

She often may have plucked and 

twined, 

Half-smiling as it came to mind 
That few would look at them. 

Oh, little thoiight that lady proud, 
A child would watch her fair white 

rose, 

When buried lay her whiter brows, 
And silk was changed for shroud ! 



Nor thought that gardener (full of 

scorns 
For men unlearned and simple 

phrase), 

A child would bring it all its praise 
By creeping through the thorns. 

To me upon my low moss seat, 
Though never a dream the roses sent 
Of science or love's compliment, 
I ween they smelt as sweet. 

It did not move my grief to see 
The trace of human step departed: 
Because the garden was deserted, 
The blither place for me. 

Friends, blame me not ! a narrow ken 
Has childhood 'twixt the sun and 

sward : 

We draw the moral afterward, 
We feel the gladness then. 

And gladdest hours for me did glide 
In silence at the rose-tree wall: 
A thrush made gladness musical 
Upon the other side. 

Nor he nor I did e'er incline 
To peck or pluck the blossoms white: 
How should I know but roses might 
Lead lives as glad as mine ? 

To make my hermit-home complete, 
I brought clear water from the spring 
Praised in its own low murmuring, 
And cresses glossy wet. 

And so, I thought, my likeness grew 
(Without the melancholy tale) 
To " gentle hermit of the dale," 
And Angelina too. 

For oft I read within my nook 
Such minstrel stories, till the breeze 
Made sounds poetic in the trees, 
And then I shut the book. 

If I shut this wherein I write, 
I hear no more the wind athwart 
Those trees, nor feel that childish 

heart 
Delighting in delight. 

My childhood from my life is parted, 
My footstep from the moss which 

drew 

Its fairy circle round : anew 
The garden is deserted. 









x"| 1 " "" < ; ) | ^ 




!)..! 350 MY DOVES. If 




Another thrush may there rehearse 


And glittering eyes that showed 






The madrigals which sweetest are: 


their right 






No more for me ! myself afar 


To general nature's deep delight. 






t t Do sing a sadder verse. 










And God them taught at every close i 






Ah me, ah me ! when erst I lay 


Of murmuring waves beyond 






In that child's-nest so greenly 


And green leaves round, to interpose 






wrought, 


Their choral voices fond, 






I laughed unto myself, and thought 


Interpreting that love must be 






" The time will pass away." 


The meaning of the earth and sea. 






And still I laughed, and did not fear 


Fit ministers ! Of living loves 






But that, whene'er was passed away 


Theirs hath the calmest fashion, 






The childish time, some happier play 


Their living voice the likest moves 






My womanhood would cheer. 


To lifeless intonation 








The lovely monotone of springs 






I knew the time would pass away, 


And winds and such insensate things. 






And yet, beside the rose-tree wall, 








Dear God, how seldom, if at all. 


My little doves were ta'en away 






Did I look up to pray ! 


From that glad nest of theirs, 








Across an ocean rolling gray, 






The time is past; and now that grows 
The cypress high among the trees, 


And tempest-clouded airs, 
My little doves, who lately knew 






And I behold white sepulchres, 


The sky and wave by warmth and 






As well as the white rose, 


blue. 






When graver, meeker thoughts are 


And now, within the city prison, 






given, 


In mist and dullness pent, 






And I have learnt to lift my face, 


With sudden upward look they listen 






Reminded how earth's greenest place 


For sounds of past content, 






The color draws from heaven, 


For lapse of water, swell of breeze, 








Or nut-fruit falling from the trees. 






It something saith for earthly pain, 








But more for heavenly promise free, 
That I who was, would shrink to be 


The stir without the glow of passion, 
The triumph of the mart, 






That happy child again. 


The gold and silver as they clash on 








Man's cold metallic heart, 








The roar of wheels, the cry for bread: 








These only sounds are heard instead. 








Yet still, as on my human hand 






MY DOVES. 


Their fearless heads they lean, 
And almost seem to understand 






" O Weisheit ! Du red'st wie eine Taube! " 
GOETHE. 


What human musings mean, 
(Their eyes with such a plaintive 
shine 








Are fastened upwardly to mine !) 






MY little doves have left a nest 








Upon an Indian tree, 


Soft falls their chant as on the nest 






Whose leaves fantastic take their rest 


Beneath the sunny zone; 






Or motion from the sea ; 


For love that stirred it in their breast 






For ever there the sea-winds go 
r. n With sunlit paces to and fro. 


Has not aweary grown, 
And 'neath the city's shade can keep 1 1 
The well of music clear and deep. 






The tropic flowers looked up to it, 
The tropic stars looked down; 
And there my little doves did sit, 
With feathers softly brown, 


And love that keeps the music fills 
With pastoral memories ; 
All echoings from out the hills, 






J l J I 













HECTOR IN THE GARDEN. 



351 



All droppings from the skies, 
All flowings from the wave and wind, 
Itemenibered in their chant, I find. 

So teach ye me the wisest part, 

My little doves ! to move 
Along the city-ways with heart 

Assured by holy love, 
And vocal with such songs as own 
A fountain to the world unknown. 

'Twas hard to sing by Babel's 
stream 

More hard in Babel's street; 
But if the soulless creatures deem 

Their music not unmeet 
For sunless walls, let us begin, 
Who wear immortal wings within ! 

To me, fair memories belong 
Of scenes that used to bless, 

For no regret, but present song 
And lasting thankfulness, 

And very soon to break away, 

Like types, in purer things than they. 

I will have hopes that cannot fade, 
For flowers the valley yields; 

I will have humble thoughts instead 
Of silent, dewy fields: 

My spirit and my God shall be 

My seaward hill, my boundless sea. 



HECTOR IN THE GAR- 
DEN. 



NIXE years old! The first of any 
Seem the happiest years that come ; 
Yet when /was nine, I said 
No such word ! I thought instead 

That the Greeks had used as many 
In besieging Ilium. 



Nine green years had scarcely brought 

me 

To my childhood's haunted spring: 
I had life, like flowers and bees, 
In betwixt the country trees; 

And the sun the pleasure taught me 
Which he teacheth every thing. 



If the rain fell, there was sorrow, 
Little head leant on the pane, 
Little finger drawing down it 
The long trailing drops upon it, 

And the " Rain, rain, come to-mor- 
row," 
Said for charm against the rain. 



Such a charm was right Canidian, 

Though you meet it with a jeer: 

If I said it long enough, 

Then the rain hummed dimly off, 
And the thrush with his pure Lydian 

Was left only to the ear; 



And the sun and I together 
Went a-rushing out of doors: 
We our tender spirits drew 
Over hill and dale in view, 

Glimmering hither, glimmering thith- 
er, 
In the footsteps of the showers. 



Underneath the chestnuts dripping, 
Through the grasses wet and fair, 
Straight I sought my garden-ground, 
With the laurel on the mound, 

And the pear-tree oversweeping 
A side-shadow of green air. 



In the garden lay supinely 

A huge giant wrought of spade ; 

Arms and legs were stretched at 
length 

In a passive giant strength, 
The fine meadow-turf, cut finely, 

Round them laid and interlaid. 



Call him Hector, son of Priam ! 

Such his title and degree. 

With my rake I smoothed his brow 

Both his cheeks I weeded through; 
But a rhymer such as I am, 

Scarce can sing his dignity. 



Eyes of gentianellas azure, 

Staring, winking at the skies; 

Nose of gillyflowers and box; 

Scented grasses put for locks, 
Which a little breeze at pleasure 

Set a-waving round his eyes: 











-^T 1* r ; * c MM K 




i^l J ~* ' * R UJ^ 

!..! 352 SLEEPING AM) U'ATCfllA'G. [. 


\ 

n 






X. 


Oh, my childhood's bright ro- 








Brazen helm of daffodillies, 


mances ! 








With a glitter toward the light; 
J U Purple violets for the uiouth, 


All revive, like Hector's body, 
And I see them stir again. J 


(j 






Breathing perfumes west and south ; 










And a sword of Hashing lilies, 








Holdeii ready for the fight: 


XVII. 






XI. 


And despite life's changes, chances, 
And despite the deathbell's toll, 






And a breastplate made of daisies, 
Closely fitting, leaf 011 leaf; 


They press on i:ie in full seeming: 
Help, some angel ! stay this dream- 






Periwinkles interlaced 


ing ! 






Drawn for helt about the waist; 


As the birds sang in the branches, 






"While the brown bees, humming 

praises, 


Sing God's patience through my 
soul ! 






Shot their arrows round the chief. 










XVIII. 






XII. 


That no dreamer, no neglecter 






And who knows (I sometimes won- 


Of the present's work unsped, 






dered,) 


I may wake up and be doing, 






If the disembodied soul 


Life's heroic ends pursuing, 






Of old Hector once of Troy 
Might not take a dreary joy 


Though my past is dead as Hector, 
And though Hector is twice dead 






Here to enter if it thundered, 








Rolling up the thunder-roll ? 








xra. 








Rolling this way from Troy-ruin, 
In this body rude and rife 


SLEEPING AND WATCH- 






Just to enter, and take rest 


ING 






'Neath the daisies of the breast 


J..LI \j( 






They, with tender roots, renewing 








His heroic heart to life ? 










I. 






XIV. 


SLEEP on, baby, on the floor, 






"Who could know ? I sometimes 


Tired of all the playing; 






started 


Sleep with smile the sweeter for 






At a motion or a sound ! 


That you dropped away in. 






Did his mouth speak, naming Troy 

With ail OTOTOTOTOI ? 


On your curls' full roundness stand 
Golden lights serenely; 






Did the pulse of the Strong-hearted 
Make the daisies tremble round ? 


One cheek pushed out by the hand 
Folds the dimple inly: 








Little head and little foot, 






XV. 


Heavy laid for pleasure, 






It was hard to answer, often; 
But the birds sang in the tree, 
But the little birds sang bold 
In the pear-tree green and old, 
And my terror seemed to soften 
Through the courage of their glee. 


Underneath the lids half-shut, 
Slants the shining azure. 
Open-soul in noonday sun, 
So you lie and slumber: 
Nothing evil having done, 
Nothing can encumber. 








1 " 





rt 






XVI. 


ii. 








Oh the birds, the tree, the ruddy 
And white blossoms sleek with 


I \vlio cannot sleep as well, 
Shall I si<di to view you ? 








rain I 
Oh, my garden rich with pansies ! 


Or sigh further to foretell 
All that may undo you ? 








J l J 

M^H ^, , c ^FF 


i 

1 






^^.-. 1 fa ii fc ) L- -J 







SOUNDS. 



353 



Nay, keep smiling, little child, 

Ere tl.e sorrow neareth: 
I will smile too: patience uiild 

J Measure's token weareth. 
Nay, keep sleeping before loss: 

I shall sleep though losing 
As by cradle, so by cross, 

Sure is the reposing. 



And God knows who seos ns twain, 

Child at childish leisure, 
I am near as tired of pain 

As you seem of pleasure. 
Very soon too, by his grace 

Gently wrapt around me, 
Shall I show as calm a face, 

Shall I sleep as soundly, 
Differing in this, that you 

Clasp your playthings, sleeping, 
"While niy hand shall drop the few 

Given to my keeping; 
Differing in this, that I 

Sleeping shall be colder, 
And in waking presently, 

Brighter to beholder; 
Differing in this beside 

(Sleeper, have you heard me ? 
Do you move, and open wide 

Eyes of wonder toward me ?) 
That while you I thus recall 

From your sleep, I solely, 
Me from mine an angel shall, 

"With reveille holy. 



SOUNDS. 



HARKF.N, harken ! 
The rapid river earrieth 
Many noises underneath 

The hoary ocean : 
Teaching his solemnity 
Sounds of inland life and glee 
Learnt beside the waving tree 
"When the winds in summer prank 
Toss the shades from bank to bank, 
And the quick rains, in emotion. 
Which rather gladdens earth than 
grieves, 



Count and visibly rehearse 
The pulses of the universe 
Upon the summer leaves 
Learnt among the lilies straight, 
When they bow them to the weight 
Of many bees whose hidden hum 
Seemeth from themselves to come 
Learnt among the grasses green 
"W here the rustling mice are seen 
By the gleaming, as they run, 
Of their quick eyes in the sun ; 
And lazy sheep are browsing through 
With iheir noses trailed in dew; 
And the squirrel leaps adowu, 
Holding fast the filbert brown; 
And the lark, with more of mirth 
In his song than sui