■^ -p^ 4 '■'t^'^X^iZ.-^^ SORDELLO. SOEDELLO. BY ROBERT BROWNING. LONDON: EDWARD MOXON, DOVER STREET. MDCCCXL. LONDON : BRADBURY AND fiVANS, PRINlfiRS, WHrXEFRlARS. SORDELLO. BOOK THE FIRST. Who will, may hear Sordello's story told : His story ? Who believes me shall behold The man, pursue his fortunes to the end Like me ; for as the friendless people's friend Spied from his hill-top once, despite the din And dust of multitudes, Pentapolin Named o* the Naked Arm, I single out Sordello, compassed murkily about With ravage of six long sad hundred years : Only believe me. Ye believe ? Appears Verona . . . Never, I should warn you first, Of my own choice had this, if not the worst B 2 SORDELLO. Yet not the best expedient, served to tell A story I could body forth so well By making speak, myself kept out of view, The very man as he was wont to do. And leaving you to say the rest for him : Since, though I might be proud to see the dim Abysmal Past divide its hateful surge, Letting of all men this one man emerge Because it pleased me, yet, that moment past, I should delight in watching first to last His progress as you watch it, not a whit More in the secret than yourselves who sit Fresh-chapleted to listen : but it seems Your setters-forth of unexampled themes. Makers of quite new men, producing them Had best chalk broadly on each vesture's hem The wearer s quality, or take his stand Motley on back and pointing-pole in hand Beside them ; so for once I face ye, friends. Summoned together from the world's four ends, Dropped down from Heaven or cast up from Hell, To hear the story I propose to tell. Confess now, poets know the dragnet's trick, Catching the dead if Fate denies the quick SORDELLO. 3 And shaming her ; *tis not for Fate to choose Silence or song because she can refuse Real eyes to glisten more, real hearts to ache Less oft, real brows turn smoother for our sake : I have experienced something of her spite ; But there's a realm wherein she has no right And I have many lovers : say but few Friends Fate accords me ? Here they are; now view The host I muster ! Many a lighted face Foul with no vestige of the grave's disgrace ; What else should tempt them back to taste our air Except to see how their successors fare ? My audience : and they sit, each ghostly man Striving to look as living as he can, Brother by breathing brother ; thou art set, Clear-witted critic, by . . . but I'll not fret A wondrous soul of them, nor move Death's spleen Who loves not to unlock them. Friends ! I mean The living in good earnest — ye elect Chiefly for love — suppose not I reject Judicious praise, who contrary shall peep Some fit occasion forth, for fear ye sleep. To glean your bland approvals. Then, appear, Yerona ! stay — thou, spirit, come not near B 2 4 SORDELLO. Now — nor this time desert thy cloudy place To scare me, thus employed, with that pure face ! I need not fear this audience, I make free With them, but then this is no place for thee ! The thunder-phrase of the Athenian, grown Up out of memories of Marathon, Would echo like his own sword's griding screech Braying a Persian shield, — the silver speech Of Sidney's self, the starry paladin, Turn intense as a trumpet sounding in The knights to tilt — wert thou to hear ! What hear Have I to play my puppets, bear my part Before these worthies ? Lo, the Past is hurled In twain : up thrust, out-staggering on the world. Subsiding into shape, a darkness rears Its outline, kindles at the core, appears Verona. Tis six hundred years and more Since an event. The Second Friedrich wore The purple, and the Third Honorius filled The holy chair. That autumn eve was stilled : A last remains of sunset dimly burned O'er the far forests like a torch-flame turned By the wind back upon its bearer s hand In one long flare of crimson ; as a brand SORDELLO. 5 The woods beneath lay black. A single eye From all Yerona cared for the soft sky ; But, gathering in its ancient market-place, Talked group with restless group ; and not a face But wrath made livid, for among them were Death's staunch purveyors, such as have in care To feast him. Fear had long since taken root In every breast, and now these crushed its fruit, The ripe hate, like a wine : to note the way It worked while each grew drunk ! men grave and grey Stood, with shut eyelids, rocking to and fro. Letting the silent luxury trickle slow About the hollows where a heart should be ; But the young gulped with a delirious glee Some foretaste of their first debauch in blood At the fierce news : for, be it understood, Envoys apprised Verona that her prince Count Richard of Saint Boniface, joined since A year with Azzo, Este's Lord, to thrust Taurello Salinguerra, prime in trust With Ecelin Romano, from his seat Ferrara, — over zealous in the feat And stumbling on a peril unaware. Was captive, " trammelled in his proper snare," 5 SORDELLO. They phrase it, " taken by his own intrigue :" Immediate succour, from the Lombard League Of fifteen cities that affect the Pope, For Azzo therefore and his fellow — hope Of the Guelf cause, a glory overcast ! Men's faces, late agape, are now aghast : Prone is the purple pavice ; Este makes Mirth for the Devil when he undertakes To play the Ecelin ; as if it cost Merely your pushing-by to gain a post Like his ! The patron tells ye, once for all. There be sound reasons that preferment fall On our beloved . . . Duke o' the Rood, why not ? Shouted an Estian, grudge ye such a lot ? The hill-cat boasts some cunning of her own. Some stealthy trick to better beasts unknown That quick with prey enough her hunger blunts And feeds her fat while gaunt the lion hunts. Taurello, quoth an envoy, as in wane Dwelt at Ferrara. Like an osprey fain To fly but forced the earth his couch to make Far inland till his friend the tempest wake. Waits he the Kaiser s coming ; and as yet That fast friend sleeps, and he too sleeps ; but let SORDELLO. 7 Only the billow freshen, and he snuffs The aroused hurricane ere it enroughs The sea it means to cross because of him : Sinketh the breeze ? His hope-sick eye grows dim ; Creep closer on the creature ! Every day Strengthens the Pontiff; Ecelin, they say, Dozes at Oliero, with dry lips Telling upon his perished finger-tips How many ancestors are to depose Ere he be Satan's Viceroy when the doze Deposits him in hell ; so Guelfs rebuilt Their houses ; not a drop of blood was spilt When Cino Bocchimpane chanced to meet Buccio Yirtii ; God's wafer, and the street Is narrow ! Tutti Santi, think, a-swarm With Ghibellins, and yet he took no harm. This could not last. Off Salinguerra went To Padua, Podesta, with pure intent. Said he, my presence, judged the single bar To permanent tranquillity, may jar No longer — so ! his back is fairly turned ? The pair of goodly palaces are burned, The gardens ravaged, and your Guelf is drunk A week with joy ; the next, his laughter sunk 8 SORDELLO. In sobs of blood, for he found, some strange way, Old Salinguerra back again ; I say Old Salinguerra in the town once more Uprooting, overturning, flame before Blood fetlock- high beneath him ; Azzo fled ; Who scaped the carnage followed ; then the dead Were pushed aside from Salinguerra's throne. He ruled once more Ferrara, all alone. Till Azzo, stunned awhile, revived, would pounce ; Coupled with Boniface, like lynx and ounce. On the gorged bird. The burghers ground their teeth To see troop after troop encamp beneath r the standing corn thick o'er the scanty patch It took so many patient months to snatch Out of the marsh ; while just within their walls Men fed on men. Astute Taurello calls A parley : let the Count wind up the war ! Richard, light-hearted as a plunging star, Agrees to enter for the kindest ends Ferrara, flanked with fifty chosen friends, No horse-boy more for fear your timid sort Should fly Ferrara at the bare report. Quietly through the town they rode, jog- jog ; Ten, twenty, thirty . . . curse the catalogue SORDELLO. 9 Of burnt Guelf houses ! Strange Taurello shows Not the least sign of life — whereat arose A general growl : How ? With his victors by ? I and my Veronese ? My troops and I ? Receive us, was your word ? so jogged they on, Nor laughed their host too openly : once gone Into the trap ... Six hundred years ago ! Such the time's aspect and peculiar woe (Yourselves may spell it yet in chronicles, Albeit the worm, our busy brother, drills His sprawling path through letters anciently Made fine and large to suit some abbot's eye) When the new HohenstaufFen dropped the mask, Flung John of Brienne's favor from his casque, Forswore crusading, had no mind to leave Saint Peter s proxy leisure to retrieve Losses to Otho and to Barbaross, Or make the Alps less easy to recross ; And thus confirming Pope Honorius' fear, Was excommunicate that very year. The triple-bearded Teuton come to life ! Groaned the Great League; and, arming for the strife. Wide Lombardy, on tiptoe to begin, Took up, as it was Guelf or Ghibellin, 10 SORDELLO, Its cry; what cry ? The Emperor to come ! His crowd of feudatories, all and some That leapt down with a crash of swords, spears, shields, One fighter on his fellow, to our fields. Scattered anon, took station here and there, And carried it, till now, with little care — Cannot but cry for him ; how else rebut Us longer ? Cliffs an earthquake suffered jut In the mid-sea, each domineering crest Nothing save such another throe can wrest From out (conceive) a certain chokeweed grown Since o'er the waters, twine and tangle thrown Too thick, too fast accumulating round, Too sure to over-riot and confound Ere long each brilliant islet with itself Unless a second shock save shoal and shelf, Whirling the sea-drift wide : alas, the bruised And sullen wreck ! Sunlight to be diffused For that ! Sunlight, 'neatli which, a scum at first. The million fibres of our chokeweed nurst Dispread themselves, mantling the troubled main. And, shattered by those rocks, took hold again So kindly blazed it — that same blaze to brood O'er every cluster of the multitude SORDELLO. 11 Still hazarding new clasps, ties, filaments, An emulous exchange of pulses, vents Of nature into nature ; till some growth Unfancied yet exuberantly clothe A surface solid now, continuous, one : The Pope, for us the People, who begun The People, carries on the People thus. To keep that Kaiser o£f and dwell with us ! See you ? Or say. Two Principles that live Each fitly by its Representative : Hill-cat . . . who called him so, our gracefidlest Adventurer ? the ambiguous stranger-guest Of Lombardy (sleek but that ruffling fur. Those talons to their sheath !) whose velvet purr Soothes jealous neighbours when a Saxon scout . . . Arpo or Yoland, is it ? one without A country or a name, presumes to couch Beside their noblest ; until men avouch That of all Houses in the Trivisan Conrad descries no fitter, rear or van. Than Ecelo ! They laughed as they enrolled That name at Milan on the page of gold For Godego, Ramon, Marostica, Cartiglion, Bassano, Loria, 12 SORDELLO. And every sheep-cote on the Suabian s fief ! No laughter when his son, the Lombard Chief Forsooth, as Barbarossa's path was bent To Italy along the Yale of Trent, Welcomed him at Roncaglia ! Sadness now — The hamlets nested on the Tyrol's brow. The Asolan and Euganean hills, The Rhetian and the Julian, sadness fills Them all that Ecelin vouchsafes to stay Among and care about them ; day by day Choosing this pinnacle, the other spot, A castle building to defend a cot, A cot built for a castle to defend. Nothing but castles, castles, nor an end To boasts how mountain ridge may join with ridge By sunken gallery and soaring bridge — He takes, in brief, a figure that beseems The griesliest nightmare of the Church's dreams, A Signory firm-rooted, unestranged From its old interests, and nowise changed By its new neighbourhood ; perchance the vaunt Of Otho, " my own Este shall supplant Your Este,'* come to pass. The sire led in A son as cruel ; and this Ecelin BORDELLO. 13 Had sons, in turn, and daughters sly and tall. And curling and compliant ; but for all Romano (so they style him) thrives, that neck Of his so pinched and white, that hungry cheek Prove 'tis some fiend, not him, men s flesh is meant To feed : whereas Romano's instrument. Famous Taurello Salinguerra, sole I* the world, a tree whose boughs are slipt the bole Successively, why shall not he shed blood To further a design ? Men understood Living was pleasant to him as he wore His careless surcoat, glanced some missive o'er, Propped on his truncheon in the public way. Ecelin lifts two writhen hands to pray At Oliero's convent now : so, place For Azzo, Lion of the . . . why disgrace A worthiness conspicuous near and far (Atii at Rome while free and consular, Este at Padua to repulse the Hun) By trumpeting the Church's princely son Styled Patron of Rovigo's Polesine, Ancona's March, Ferrara's . . . ask, in fine. Your chronicles, commenced when some old monk Found it intolerable to be sunk 14 SORDELLO. (Vexed to the quick by his revolting cell) Quite out of summer while alive and well : Ended when by his mat the Prior stood, Mid busy promptings of the brotherhood, Striving to coax from his decrepit brains The reason Father Porphyry took pains To blot those ten lines out which used to stand First on their charter drawn by Hildebrand. The same night wears. Yerona's rule of yore Was vested in a certain Twenty-four ; And while within his palace these debate Concerning Richard and Ferrara's fate. Glide we by clapping doors, with sudden glare Of cressets vented on the dark, nor care For aught that 's seen or heard until we shut The smother in, the lights, all noises but The carroch's booming ; safe at last ! Why strange Such a recess should lurk behind a range Of banquet-rooms ? Your finger — thus — you push A spring, and the wall opens, would you rush Upon the banqueters, select your prey, Waiting, the slaughter- weapons in the way Strewing this very bench, with sharpened ear A preconcerted signal to appear ; SORDELLO. 15 Or if you simply crouch with beating heart Bearing in some voluptuous pageant part To startle them. Nor mutes nor masquers now ; Nor any . . . does that one man sleep whose brow The dying lamp-flame sinks and rises o'er ? What woman stood beside him ? not the more Is he unfastened from the earnest eyes Because that arras fell between ! Her wise And lulling words are yet about the room, Her presence wholly poured upon the gloom Down even to her vesture's creeping stir : And so reclines he, saturate with her. Until an outcry from the square beneath Pierces the charm : he springs up, glad to breathe Above the cunning element, and shakes The stupor off" as (look you) morning breaks On the gay dress, and, near concealed by it, The lean frame like a half-burnt taper, lit Erst at some marriage-feast, then laid away Till the Armenian bridegroom's dying-day. In his wool wedding-robe ; for he — for he — " Gate- vein of this hearts' blood of Lombardy" (If I should falter now) — for he is Thine ! Sordello, thy forerunner, Florentine ! 16 SORDELLO. A herald-star I know thou didst absorb Relentless into the consummate orb That scared it from its right to roll along ^ A sempiternal path with dance and song Fulfilling its allotted period Serenest of the progeny of God Who yet resigns it not ; his darling stoops With no quenched lights, desponds with no blank troops Of disenfranchised brilliances, for, blent Utterly with thee, its shy element Like thine upburneth prosperous and clear : Still, what if I approach the august sphere Named now with only one name, disentwine That under current soft and argentine From its fierce mate in the majestic mass Leavened as the sea w^hose fire was mixt with glass In John s transcendent vision, launch once more That lustre ? Dante, pacer of the shore Where glutted Hell disgorgeth filthiest gloom, Unbitten by its whirring sulphur -spume — Or whence the grieved and obscure waters slope Into a darkness quieted by hope — Plucker of amaranths grown beneath God's eye In gracious twilights where his Chosen lie, SORDELLO. ] 7 I would do this ! if I should falter now — In Mantua- territory half is slough Half pine-tree forest ; maples, scarlet-oaks Breed o'er the river-beds ; even Mincio chokes With sand the summer through ; but 'tis morass In winter up to Mantua walls. There was (Some thirty years before this evening's coil) One spot reclaimed from the surrounding spoil, Goito ; just a castle built amid A few low mountains ; firs and larches hid Their main defiles and rings of vineyard bound The rest : some captured creature in a pound, Whose artless wonder quite precludes distress, Secure beside in its own loveliness, So peered with airy head, below, above, The castle at its toils the lapwings love To glean among at grape-time. Pass within : A maze of corridors contrived for sin. Dusk winding- stairs, dim galleries got past, You gain the inmost chambers, gain at last A maple-panelled room : that haze which seems Floating about the panel, if there gleams A sunbeam over it will turn to gold And in light-graven characters unfold c 18 SORDELLO. The Arab's wisdom everywhere ; what shade Marred them a moment, those slim pillars made, Cut like a company of palms to prop The roof, each kissing top entwined with top, Leaning together ; in the carver s mind Some knot of bacchanals, flushed cheek combined With straining forehead, shoulders purpled, hair DiiBfused between, who in a goat-skin bear A vintage ; graceful sister-palms : but quick To the main wonder now. A vault, see ; thick Black shade about the ceiling, though fine slits Across the buttress suffer light by fits Upon a marvel in the midst : nay, stoop — A dullish grey-streaked cumbrous font, a group Round it, each side of it, where'er one sees. Upholds it — shrinking Caryatides Of just-tinged marble like Eve's lilied flesh Beneath her Maker's finger when the fresh First pulse of life shot brightening the snow : The font's edge burthens every shoulder, so They muse upon the ground, eyelids half closed. Some, with meek arms behind their backs disposed. Some, crossed above their bosoms, sdme, to veil Their eyes, some, propping chin and cheek so pale, I SORDELLO. 19 Some, hanging slack an utter helpless length Dead as a buried vestal whose whole strength Goes when the grate above shuts heavily ; So dwell these noiseless girls, patient to see. Like priestesses because of sin impure Penanced for ever, who resigned endure, Having that once drunk sweetness to the dregs ; And every eve Sordello's visit begs Pardon for them : constant as eve he came To sit beside each in her turn, the same As one of them, a certain space : and awe Made a great indistinctness till he saw Sunset slant cheerful through the buttress chinks. Gold seven times globed ; surely our maiden shrinks And a smile stirs her as if one faint grain V Her load were lightened, one shade less the stain Obscured her forehead, yet one more bead slipt From off the rosary whereby the crypt Keeps count of the contritions of its charge ? Then with a step more light, a heart more large, He may depart, leave her and every one To linger out the penance in mute stone. Ah, but Sordello ? Tis the tale I mean To tell you. In this castle may be seen, c 2 20 SORDELLO. On the hill tops, or underneath the vines, Or southward by the mound of firs and pines That shuts out Mantua, still in loneliness, A slender boy in a loose page's dress, Sordello : do but look on him awhile Watching ('tis autumn) with an earnest smile The noisy flock of thievish birds at work Among the yellowing vineyards ; see him lurk ('Tis winter with its sullenest of storms) Beside that arras-length of broidered forms. On tiptoe, lifting in both hands a light Which makes yon warrior s visage flutter bright — Ecelo, dismal father of the brood, And Ecelin, close to the girl he wooed — Auria, and their Child, with all his wives From Agnes to the Tuscan that survives. Lady of the castle, Adelaide : his face — Look, now he turns away ! Yourselves shall trace (The delicate nostril swerving wide and fine, A sharp and restless lip, so well combine With that calm brow) a soul fit to receive Delight at every sense ; you can believe Sordello foremost in the regal class Nature has broadly severed from her mass SORDELLO. 21 Of men and framed for pleasure as she frames Some happy lands that have luxurious names For loose fertility ; a footfall there Suffices to upturn to the warm air Half-germinating spices, mere decay Produces richer life, and day by day New pollen on the lily-petal grows, And still more labyrinthine buds the rose. You recognise at once the finer dress Of flesh that amply lets in loveliness At eye and ear, while round the rest is furled (As though she would not trust them with her world) A veil that shows a sky not near so blue, And lets but half the sun look fervid through : How can such love like souls on each full-fraught Discovery brooding, blind at first to aught Beyond its beauty ; till exceeding love Becomes an aching weight, and to remove A curse that haunts such natures — to preclude Their finding out themselves can work no good To what they love nor make it very blest By their endeavour, they are fain invest The lifeless thing with life from their own soul Availing it to purpose, to control. 22 SORDELLO. To dwell distinct and have peculiar joy And separate interests that may employ That beauty fitly, for its proper sake ; Nor rest they here : fresh births of beauty wake Fresh homage ; every grade of love is past, With every mode of loveliness ; then cast Inferior idols off their borrowed crown Before a coming glory : up and down Runs arrowy fire, while earthly forms combine To throb the secret forth ; a touch divine— And the scaled eyeball owns the mystic rod : Visibly through his garden walketh God. So fare they — Now revert : one character Denotes them through the progress and the stir ; A need to blend with each external charm, Bury themselves, the whole heart wide and warm. In something not themselves ; they would belong To what they worship — stronger and more strong Thus prodigally fed — that gathers shape And feature, soon imprisons past escape The votary framed to love and to submit Nor ask, as passionate he kneels to it, Whence grew the idol's empery. So runs A legend ; Light had birth ere moons and suns. SORDELLO. 23 Flowing through space a river and alone, Till chaos burst and blank the spheres were strown Hither and thither, foundering and blind. When into each of them rushed Light — to find Itself no place, foiled of its radiant chance. Let such forego their just inheritance ! For there's a class that eagerly looks, too. On beauty, but, unlike the gentler crew, Proclaims each new revealment bom a twin With a distinctest consciousness within Referring still the quality, now first Revealed, to their own soul ; its instinct nursed In silence, now remembered better, shown More thoroughly, but not the less their own ; A dream come true ; the special exercise Of any special function that implies The being fair or good or wise or strong, Dormant within their nature all along — Whose fault ? So homage other souls direct Without, turns inward ; how should this deject Thee, soul? they murmur; wherefore strength be quelled Because, its trivial accidents withheld. Organs are missed that clog the world, inert, Wanting a will, to quicken and exert. 24 SORDELLO. Like thine — existence cannot satiate Cannot surprise : laugh thou at envious fate, "Who from earth's simplest combination stampt With individuality — uncrampt By living its faint elemental life, Dost soar to heaven s complexest essence, rife With grandeurs, unaffronted to the last, Equal to being all. In truth ? Thou hast Life, then — wilt challenge life for us : thy race Is vindicated so, obtains its place In thy ascent, the first of us ; whom we May follow, to the meanest, finally. With our more bounded wills ? Ah, but to find A certain mood enervate such a mind. Counsel it slumber in the solitude Thus reached nor, stooping, task for mankind's good Its nature just as life and time accord (Too narrow an arena to reward Emprize — the world's occasion worthless since Not absolutely fitted to evince Its mastery) or if yet worse befall, And a desire possess it to put all SORDELLO. 25 That nature forth, forcing our straitened sphere Contain it ; to display completely here The mastery another life should learn, Thrusting in time eternity's concern. So that Sordello . . . Fool, who spied the mark Of leprosy upon him, violet dark Already as he loiters ? Born just now — With the new century — beside the glow And efflorescence out of barbarism ; Witness a Greek or two from the abysm That stray through Florence-town with studious air, Calming the chisel of that Pisan pair . . . If Nicolo should carve a Christus yet ! While at Sienna is Guidone set. Forehead on hand ; a painful birth must be Matured ere San Eufemio's sacristy Or transept gather fruits of one great gaze At the noon-sun : look you ! An orange haze — The same blue stripe round that — and, i'the midst, Thy spectral whiteness, mother-maid, who didst Pursue the dizzy painter ! Woe then worth Any officious babble letting forth The leprosy confirmed and ruinous To spirit lodged in a contracted house ! 26 SORDELLO. Go back to the beginning rather ; blend It gently with Sordello's life ; the end Is piteous, you shall see, but much between Pleasant enough; meantime some pyx to screen The full-grown pest, some lid to shut upon The goblin ! As they found at Babylon, (Colleagues mad Lucius and sage Antonine) Sacking the city, by Apollo's shrine Its pride, in rummaging the rarities, A cabinet ; be sure, who made the prize Opened it greedily ; and out there curled Just such another plague, for half the world Was stung. Crawl in then, hag, and crouch asquat, Keeping that blotchy bosom thick in spot Until your time is ripe ! The coffer-lid Is fastened and the coffer safely hid Under the Loxian s choicest gifts of gold. Who will may hear Sordello*s story told, And how he never could remember when He dwelt not at Goito ; calmly then About this secret lodge of Adelaide's Glided his youth away : beyond the glades On the fir-forest's border, and the rim Of the low range of mountain, was for him SORDELLO. 27 No other world : but that appeared his own To wander through at pleasure and alone. The castle too seemed empty ; far and wide Might he disport unless the northern side Lay under a mysterious interdict — Slight, just enough remembered to restrict His roaming to the corridors, the vault Where those font-bearers expiate their fault. The maple-chamber, and the little nooks And nests and breezy parapet that looks Over the woods to Mantua ; there he strolled. Some foreign women-servants, very old. Tended and crept about him — all his clue To the world's business and embroiled ado Distant a dozen hill-tops at the most. And first a simple sense of life engrossed Sordello in his drowsy Paradise ; The day's adventures for the day suffice — Its constant tribute of perceptions strange With sleep and stir in healthy interchange Suffice, and leave him for the next at ease Like the great palmer- worm that strips the trees, Eats the life out of every luscious plant. And when September finds them sere or scant 28 SORDELLO. Puts forth two wondrous winglets, alters quite, And hies him after unforeseen delight ; So fed Sordello, not a shard disheathed ; As ever round each new discovery wreathed Luxuriantly the fancies infantine His admiration, bent on making fine Its novel friend at any risk, would fling In gay profusion forth : a ficklest king Confessed those minions ! Eager to dispense So much from his own stock of thought and sense As might enable each to stand alone And serve him for a fellow ; with his own Joining the qualities that just before Had graced some older favourite : so they wore A fluctuating halo, yesterday Set flicker and to-morrow filched away ; Those upland objects each of separate name, Each with an aspect never twice the same, "Waxing and waning as the new-born host Of fancies, like a single night's hoar-frost, Gave to familiar things a face grotesque ; Only, preserving through the mad burlesque A grave regard : conceive ; the orpine patch Blossoming earliest on our log-house-thatch SORDELLO. 29 The day those archers wound along the vmes — Related to the Chief that left their lines To climb with clinking step the northern stair Up to the solitary chambers where Sordello never came. Thus thrall reached thrall ; He o'er-festooning every interval As the adventurous spider, making light Of distance, shoots her threads from depth to height. From barbican to battlement ; so flung Fantasies forth and in their centre swung Our architect : the breezy morning fresh Above, and merry ; all his waving mesh Laughing with lucid dew-drops rainbow-edged. This world of ours by tacit pact is pledged To laying such a spangled fabric low Whether by gradual brush or gallant blow : But its abundant will was balked here : doubt Rose tardily in one so fenced about From most that nurtures judgment, care and pain : Judgment, that dull expedient we are fain. Less favoured, to adopt betimes and force Stead us, diverted from our natural course Of joys, contrive some yet amid the dearth. Vary and render them, it may be, worth 30 SORDELLO. Most we forego : suppose Sordello hence Selfish enough, without a moral sense However feeble ; what informed the boy Others desired a portion in his joy ? Or say a ruthful chance broke woof and warp — A heron s nest beat down by March winds sharp, A fawn breathless beneath the precipice, A bird with unsoiled breast and filmless eyes Warm in the brake—could these undo the trance Lapping Sordello ? Not a circumstance That makes for you, friend Naddo ! Eat fern- seed And peer beside us and report indeed If (your word) Genius dawned with throes and stings And the whole fiery catalogue, while springs Summers and winters quietly came and went. Putting at length that period to content By right the world should have imposed : bereft Of its good offices, Sordello, left To study his companions, managed rip Their fringe off, learn the true relationship. Core with its crust, their natures with his own ; Amid his wild- wood sights he lived alone : As if the poppy felt with him ! Though he Partook the poppy's red effrontery SORDELLO. 31 Till Autumn spoils their fleering quite with rain, And, turbanless, a coarse brown rattling crane Protrudes : that *s gone ! yet why renounce, for that, His disenchanted tributaries — flat Perhaps, but scarce so utterly forlorn Their simple presence may not well be borne Whose parley was a transport once : recall The poppy's gifts, it flaunts you, after all, A poppy : why distrust the evidence Of each soon satisfied and healthy sense ? The new-born Judgment answered : little boots Beholding other creatures' attributes And having none : or say that it sufficed. Yet, could one but possess, oneself, (enticed Judgment) some special office ! Nought beside Serves you ? Well then, be somehow justified For this ignoble wish to circumscribe And concentrate, rather than swell, the tribe Of actual pleasures : what now from without Effects it ? — proves, despite a lurking doubt. Mere sympathy sufficient, trouble spared ; — He tasted joys by proxy, clearly fared The better for them ; thus much craved his soul. Alas, from the beginning Love is whole 32 BORDELLO. And true ; if sure of nought beside, most sure Of its own truth at least ; nor may endure A crowd to see its face, that cannot know How hot the pulses throb its heart below ; While its own helplessness and utter want Of means to worthily be ministrant To what it worships, do but fan the more Its flame, exalt the idol far before Itself as it would ever have it be ; Souls like Sordello, on the contrary, Coerced and put to shame, retaining Will, Care little, take mysterious comfort still. But look forth tremblingly to ascertain If others judge their claims not urged in vain — Will say for them their stifled thoughts aloud ; So they must ever live before a crowd : Vanity, Naddo tells you. Whence contrive A crowd, now ? These brave women just alive. That archer-troop ? Forth glided — not alone Each painted warrior, every girl of stone, — Nor Adelaide bent double o'er a scroll. One maiden at her knees, that eve his soul Shook as he stumbled through the arras'd glooms On them, for, 'mid quaint robes and weird perfumes, BORDELLO. 33 Started the meagre Tuscan up (her eyes The maiden s also, bluer with surprise) — But the entire out- world : whatever scraps And snatches, song and story, dreams perhaps. Conceited the world's offices, and he Transferred to the first comer, flower or tree. Nor counted a befitting heritage Each, of its own right, singly to engage Some Man, no other ; such availed to stand Alone : strength, wisdom, grace on every hand Soon disengaged themselves ; and he discerned A sort of human life : at least, was turned A stream of life-like figures through his brain — Lord, Liegeman, Yalvassor and Suzerain, Ere he could choose, surrounded him ; a stuff To work his pleasure on ; there, sure enough. But as for gazing, what shall fix that gaze ? Are they to simply testify the ways He who convoked them sends his soul alono- o With the cloud's thunder or a dove's brood-song ? While they live each its life, boast each its own Peculiar dower of bliss, stand each alone In some one point where something dearest loved Is easiest gained — far worthier to be proved D 34 SORDELLO. Than aught he envies in the forest- wights ! No simple and self-evident delights, But mixed desires of unimagined range, Contrasts or combinations, new and strange, Irksome perhaps, yet plainly recognised By this, the sudden company — loves prized By those who are to prize his own amount Of loves. Once care because such make account, Allow a foreign recognition stamp The current value, and your crowd shall vamp You counterfeits enough ; and so their print Be on the piece, 'tis gold, attests the mint And good, pronounce they whom my new appeal Is made to : if their casual print conceal — This arbitrary good of theirs o'ergloss What I have lived without, nor felt my loss — Qualities strange, ungainly, wearisome, — What matter ? so must speech expand the dumb Part sigh, part smile with which Sordello, late No foolish woodland-sights could satiate, Betakes himself to study hungrily Just what the puppets his crude fantasy Supposes notablest, popes, kings, priests, knights. May please to promulgate for appetites ; SORDELLO. 35 Accepting all their artificial joys Not as he views them, but as he employs Each shape to estimate the other s stock Of attributes, that on a marshalled flock Of authorised enjoyments he may spend Himself, be Men, now, as he used to blend With tree and flower — nay more entirely, else 'Twere mockery : for instance, how excels My life that Chieftain s ? (who apprised the youth ' Ecelin, here, becomes this month in truth, Imperial Yicar?) Turns he in his tent Remissly ? Be it so — my head is bent Deliciously amid my girls to sleep : What if he stalks the Trentine-pass ? Yon steep I climbed an hour ago with little toil — ■ We are alike there : but can I, too, foil The Guelfs' paid stabber, carelessly afibrd St. Mark's a spectacle, the sleight o' the sword Baffling their project in a moment ? Here No rescue ! Poppy he is none, but peer To Ecelin, assuredly : his hand. Fashioned no otherwise, should wield a brand With Ecelin s success — try, now ! He soon Was satisfied, returned as to the moon D 2 36 SORDELLO. From earth ; left each abortive boy's-attempt For feats, from failure happily exempt, In fancy at his beck. One day I will Accomplish it ! Are they not older still — Not grown up men and women ? Tis beside Only a dream ; and though I must abide With dreams now, I may find a thorough vent For all myself, acquire an instrument For acting what these people act ; my soul Hunting a body out, obtain its whole Desire some day ! How else express chagrin And resignation, show the hope steal in With which he let sink from an aching wrist The rough-hewn ash bow, and a gold shaft hiss'd Into the Syrian air, struck Malek down Superbly ! Crosses to the breach ! God's Town Was gained Him back ! Why bend rough ash-bows So lives he : if not careless as before, [more ? Comforted : for one may anticipate. Rehearse the future ; be prepared when fate Shall have prepared in turn real men w^hose names Startle, real places of enormous fames, Estes abroad and Ecelins at home To worship him, Mantuas, Yeronas, Rome SORDELLO. 37 To witness it. "Who grudges time so spent ? Rather test qualities to heart's content — Summon them, thrice selected, near and far — Compress the starriest into one star So grasp the whole at once ! The pageant 's thinned Accordingly ; from rank to rank, like wind His spirit passed to winnow and divide ; Back fell the simpler phantasms ; every side The strong clave to the wise ; with either classed The beauteous ; so, till two or three amassed Mankind's beseemingnesses, and reduced Themselves eventually, graces loosed. And lavished strengths, to heighten up One Shape Whose potency no creature should escape : Can it be Friedrich of the bowmen s talk ? Surely that grape-juice, bubbling at the stalk. Is some grey scorching Saracenic wine The Kaiser quaffs with the Miramoline — Those swarthy hazel- clusters, seamed and chapped. Or filberts russet- sheathed and velvet-capped. Are dates plucked from the bough John Brienne sent To keep in mind his sluggish armament Of Canaan . . . Friedrich's, all the pomp and fierce Demeanour ! But harsh sounds and sights transpierce 38 SORDELLO. So rarely the serene cloud where he dwells Whose looks enjoin, whose lightest words are spells Upon the obdurate ; that arm indeed Has thunder for its slave ; but where's the need Of thunder if the stricken multitude Hearkens, arrested in its angriest mood, While songs go up exulting, then dispread, Dispart, disperse, lingering overhead Like an escape of angels ? Tis the tune. Nor much unlike the words the women croon Smilingly, colourless and faint designed Each as a worn-out queen s face some remind Of her extreme youth's love-tales. Eglamor Made that ! Half minstrel and half emperor, Who but ill objects vexed him ? Such he slew. The kinder sort were easy to subdue By those ambrosial glances, dulcet tones ; And these a gracious hand advanced to thrones Beneath him. Wherefore twist and torture this^ Striving to name afresh the antique bliss. Instead of saying, neither less nor more. He had discovered, as our world before, Apollo ? That shall be the name ; nor bid Me rag by rag expose how patchwork hid SORDELLO. 39' The man — what thefts of every clime and day- Contributed to purfle the array He climbs with (June's at deep) some close ravine 'Mid clatter of its million pebbles sheen, Over which singing soft the runnel slipt Elate with rains : into whose streamlet dipt He foot, yet trod, you thought, with unwet sock — Though really on the stubs of living rock Ages ago it crenneled ; vines for roof, Lindens for wall ; before him, aye aloof. Flittered in the cool some azure damsel-fly, Child of the simmering quiet, there to die : Emerging whence, Apollo still, he spied Mighty descents of forest ; multiplied Tuft on tuft, here, the frolic myrtle-trees ; There gendered the grave maple-stocks at ease ; And, proud of its observer, strait the wood Tried old surprises on him ; black it stood A sudden barrier ('twas a cloud passed o'er) So dead and dense the tiniest brute no more Must pass ; yet presently (the cloud despatched) Each clump, forsooth, was glistering detached A shrub, oak-boles shrunk into ilex-stems ! Yet could not he denounce the stratagems 40 SORDELLO. He saw thro', till, hours thence, aloft would hang White summer-lightnings ; as it sank and sprang In measure, that whole palpitating breast Of Heaven, 'twas Apollo nature prest At eve to worship. Time stole : by degrees The Pythons perished off ; his votaries Sunk to respectful distance ; songs redeem Their pains, but briefer ; their dismissals seem Emphatic ; only girls are very slow To disappear : his Delians ! Some that glow O' the instant, more with earlier loves to wrench Away, reserves to quell, disdains to quench ; Alike in one material circumstance — All soon or late adore Apollo ! Glance The bevy through, divine Apollo's choice, A Daphne ! We secure Count Richard's voice In Este's counsels, one for Este's ends As our Taurello, say his faded friends. By granting him our Palma ! The sole child. They mean, of Agnes Este who beguiled Ecelin, years before this Adelaide Wedded and turned hira wicked ; but the maid Rejects his suit, those sleepy women boast. She, scorning all beside, deserves the most I SORDELLO. 41 Sordello : so conspicuous in his world Of dreams sate Palma. How the tresses curled Into a sumptuous swell of gold and wound About her like a glory, even the ground |~breathe Was bright as with shed sunbeams; (breathe not, Not) — poised, see, one leg doubled underneath, Its small foot buried in the dimpling snow, Rests, but the other, listlessly below, O'er the couch-side swings feeling for cool air, The vein-streaks swoln a richer violet where The languid blood lies heavily ; and calm On her slight prop, each flat and outspread palm, As but suspended in the act to rise By consciousness of beauty, whence her eyes Turn with so frank a triumph, for she meets Apollo's gaze in the pine-glooms. Time fleets That's worst ! Because the pre-appointed age Approaches. Fate is tardy with the stage She all but promised. Lean he grows and pale. Though restlessly at rest. Hardly avail Fancies to soothe him. Time steals, yet alone He tarries here ! The earnest smile is gone. How long this might continue matters not : For ever, possibly ; since to the spot 42 SORDELLO. None come : for lingering Taurello quits Mantua at last, and light our lady flits Back to her place disburthened of a care. Strange — to be constant here if he is there ! Is it distrust ? Oh, never ! for they both Goad Ecelin alike — Romano's growth So daily manifest that Azzo 's dumb And Richard wavers ... let but Friedrich come ! — Find matter for the minstrelsy's report Lured from the Isle and its young Kaiser s court To sing us a Messina morning up ; Who, double rillets of a drinking cup. Sparkle along to ease the land of drouth. Northward to Provence that, and thus far south The other : what a method to apprise Neighbours of births, espousals, obsequies ! Which in their very tongue the Troubadour Records ; and his performance makes a tour. For Trouveres bear the miracle about. Explain its cunning to the vulgar rout. Until the Formidable House is famed Over the country — as Taurello aimed Who introduced, although the rest adopt, The novelty. Their games her absence stopped SORDELLO. 43 Begin afresh now Adelaide, recluse No longer, in the light of day pursues Her plans at Mantua — whence an accident That breaking on Sordello's mixed content Opened, like any flash that cures the blind, ' The veritable business of mankind. BOOK THE SECOND. The woods were long austere with snow : at last Pink leaflets budded on the beech, and fast Larches, scattered through pine-tree solitudes, Brightened, " as in the slumbrous heart o' the woods Our buried year, a witch, grew young again To placid incantations, and that stain About were from her caldron, green smoke blent With those black pines" — so Eglamor gave vent To a chance fancy : whence a just rebuke From his companion ; brother Naddo shook The solemnest of brows ; Beware, he said. Of setting up conceits in Nature's stead ! Forth wandered our Sordello. Nought so sure As that to-day's adventure will secure Palma, the forest-lady — only pass O'er yon damp mound and its exhausted grass. SORDELLO. 45 Under that brake where sundawn feeds the stalks Of withered fern with gold, into those walks Of pine, and take her ! Buoyantly he went. Again his stooping forehead was besprent With dew-drops from the skirting ferns. Then wide Opened the great morass, shot every side With flashing water through and through ; a- shine, Thick steaming, all alive. Whose shape divine Quivered i' the farthest rainbow- vapour, glanced Athwart the flying herons ? He advanced, But warily ; though Mincio leaped no more. Each foot-fall burst up in the marish-floor A diamond jet : and if you stopped to pick Rose-lichen, or molest the leeches quick, And circling blood- worms, minnow, newt or loach, A sudden pond would silently encroach This way and that. On Palma passed. The verge Of a new wood was gained. She will emerge Flushed, now, and panting ; crowds to see ; will own She loves him — Boniface to hear, to groan. To leave his suit ! One screen of pine -trees still Opposes : but — the startling spectacle — Mantua, this time ! Under the walls — a crowd Indeed — real men and women — gay and loud 46 BORDELLO. Round a pavilion. How he stood ! In truth No prophecy had come to pass : his youth In its prime now — and where was homage poured Upon Sordello ? — born to be adored, And suddenly discovered weak, scarce made To cope with any, cast into the shade By this and this. Yet something seemed to prick And tingle in his blood ; a sleight — a trick — And much would be explained. It went for naught — The best of their endowments were ill bought With his identity : nay, the conceit This present roving leads to Palma's feet Was not so vain . . . list! The word, Palma? Steal Aside, and die, Sordello ; this is real, And this — abjure ! What next ? The curtains, see. Dividing ! She is there ; and presently He will be there — the proper You, at length — In your own cherished dress of grace and strength : Most like the very Boniface . . . Not so. It was a showy man advanced ; but though A glad cry welcomed him, then every sound Sank and the crowd disposed themselves around. SORDELLO. 47 — This is not he, Sordello felt ; while " Place For the best Troubadour of Boniface," Hollaed the Jongleurs, " Eglamor whose lay Concludes his patron s Court of Love to-day." Obsequious Naddo strung his master s lute With the new lute- string, Elys, named to suit The song : He stealthily at watch, the while. Biting his lip to keep down a great smile Of pride : then up he struck. Sordello's brain Swam : for he knew a sometime deed aoain ; So could supply each foolish gap and chasm The minstrel left in his enthusiasm. Mistaking its true version — was the tale Not of Apollo ? Only, what avail Luring her down, that Elys an he pleased. If the man dares no further ? Has he ceased ? And, lo, the people's frank applause half done, Sordello w^as beside him, had begun (Spite of indignant twitchings from his friend The Trouvere) the true lay with the true end. Taking the other s names and time and place For his. On flew the song, a giddy race, After the flying story ; word made leap Out word; rhyme — rhyme; the lay could barely keep 48 SORDELLO. Pace with the action visibly rushing past : Both ended. Back fell Naddo more aghast Than your Egyptian from the harassed bull That wheels abrupt and, bellowing, fronts full His plague, who spies a scarab 'neath his tongue, And finds 'twas Apis* flank his hasty prong Insulted. But the people — but the cries. And crowding round, and proffering the prize ! (For he had gained some prize) — He seemed to shrink Into a sleepy cloud, just at whose brink One sight withheld him ; there sat Adelaide, Silent ; but at her knees the very maid Of the North Chamber, her red lips as rich, The same pure fleecy hair ; one curl of which. Golden and great, quite touched his cheek as o'er She leant, speaking some six words and no more ; He answered something, anything ; and she Unbound a scarf and laid it heavily Upon him, her neck's warmth and all; again Moved the arrested magic ; in his brain Noises grew, and a light that turned to glare. And greater glare, until the intense flare Engulfed him, shut the whole scene from his sense. And when he woke 'twas many a furlong thence, SORDELLO. 49 At home : the sun shining his ruddy wont ; The customary birds'-chirp ; but his front [^around Was crowned — was crowned ! Her scented scarf His neck ! Whose gorgeous vesture heaps the ground ? A prize ? He turned, and peeringly on him Brooded the women faces, kind and dim, Ready to talk. The Jongleurs in a troop Had brought him back, Naddo and Squarcialupe And Tagliafer ; how strange ! a childhood spent Assuming, well for him, so brave a bent ! Since Eglamor, they heard, was dead with spite. And Palma chose him for her minstrel. Light Sordello rose — to think, now ; hitherto He had perceived. Sure a discovery grew Out of it all ! Best live from first to last The transport o'er again. A week he passed Sucking the sweet out of each circumstance. From the bard's outbreak to the luscious trance Bounding his own achievement. Strange ! A man Recounted that adventure, and began Imperfectly ; his own task was to fill The frame- work up, sing well what he sang ill, Supply the necessary points, set loose As many incidents of little use E 50 SORDELLO. — More imbecile the other, not to see Their relative importance clear as he ! But for a special pleasure in the act Of singing — had he ever turned, in fact, From Elys, to sing Elys ? — from each fit Of rapture, to contrive a song of it ? True, this snatch or the other seemed to wind Into a treasure, helped himself to find A beauty in himself; for, see, he soared By means of that mere snatch to many a hoard Of fancies ; as some falling cone bears oft The eye, along the fir-tree-spire, aloft To a dove's nest. Then how divine the cause Such a performance should exact applause From men if they have fancies too ? Can Fate Decree they find a beauty separate In the poor snatch itself . . . our Elys, there, (" Her head that's sharp and perfect like a pear, So close and smooth are laid the few fine locks Coloured like honey oozed from topmost rocks Sun-blanched the livelong summer") — if they heard Just those two rhymes, assented at my word. And loved them as I love them who have run These fingers through those fine locks, let the sun SORDELLO. 61 Into the white cool skin . . . nay, thus I clutch Those locks ! — I needs must be a God to such. Or if some few, above themselves, and yet Beneath me, like their Eglamor, have set An impress on our gift ? So men believe And worship what they know not, nor receive Delight from. Have they fancies — slow, perchance, Not at their beck, which indistinctly glance Until by song each floating part be linked To each, and all grow palpable, distinct ? He pondered this. Meanwhile sounds low and drear Stole on him, and a noise of footsteps, near And nearer, and the underwood was pushed Aside, the larches grazed, the dead leaves crushed At the approach of men. The wind seemed laid ; Only, the trees shrunk slightly and a shade Came o'er the sky although 'twas midday yet : You saw each half-shut downcast violet Flutter —a Roman bride, when they dispart Her unbound tresses with the Sabine dart, Holding that famous rape in memory still, Felt creep into her curls the iron chill. And looked thus, Eglamor would say — indeed 'Tis Eglamor, no other, these precede E 2 52 SORDELLO. Home hither in the woods. Twere surely sweet Far from the scene of one's forlorn defeat To sleep ! thought Naddo, who in person led Jongleurs and Trouveres, chanting at their head, A scanty company ; for, sooth to say, Our beaten Troubadour had seen his day : Old worshippers were something shamed, old friends Nigh weary ; still the death proposed amends : Let us but get them safely through my song And home again, quoth Naddo. All along. This man (they rest the bier upon the sand) — This calm corpse with the loose flowers in its hand, Eglamor, lived Bordello's opposite : For him indeed was Naddo's notion right And Verse a temple- worship vague and vast, A ceremony that withdrew the last Opposing bolt, looped back the lingering veil Which hid the holy place— should one so frail Stand there without such effort ? or repine That much was blank, uncertain at the shrine He knelt before, till, soothed by many a rite. The Power responded, and some sound or sight Grew up, his own forever ! to be fixed In rhyme, the beautiful, forever ; mixed SORDELLO. 53 With his own life, unloosed when he should please, Having it safe at hand, ready to ease All pain, remove all trouble ; every time He loosed that fancy from its bonds of rhyme. Like Perseus when he loosed his naked love. Faltering ; so distinct and far above Himself, these fancies ! He, no genius rare, Transfiguring in fire or wave or air At will, but a poor gnome that, cloistered up. In some rock -chamber with his agate cup. His topaz rod, his seed-pearl, in these few And their arrangement finds enough to do For his best art. Then, how he loved that art ! The calling marking him a man apart From men — one not to care, take counsel for Cold hearts, comfortless faces (Eglamor Was neediest of his tribe) since verse, the gift. Was his, and men, the whole of them, must shift Without it, e'en content themselves with wealth And pomp and power, snatching a life by stealth. So Eglamor was not without his pride ! The sorriest bat which cowers through noontide While other birds are jocund, has one time When moon and stars are blinded, and the prime 54 SORDELLO. Of earth is its to claim, nor find a peer ; And Eglamor was noblest poet here, He knew, among the April woods he cast Conceits upon in plenty as he past, That Naddo might suppose him not to think Entirely on the coming triumph ; wink At the one weakness ! Twas a fervid child That song of his — no brother of the guild Had e'er conceived its like. The rest you know ; The exaltation and the overthrow ; Our poet lost his purpose, lost his rank. His life — to that it came. Yet envy sank Within him, as he heard Sordello out. And, for the first time, shouted — tried to shout Like others, not from any zeal to show Pleasure that way : the common sort did so. And what was Eglamor ? who, bending down The same, placed his beneath Sordello's crown, Printed a kiss on his successor s hand, Left one great tear on it, then joined his band — In time ; for some were watching at the door — Who knows what envy may efi'ect ? Give o'er. Nor charm his lips, nor craze him ! (here one spied An,d disengaged the withered crown) — Beside SORDELLO. 55 His crown ! How prompt and clear those verses rung To answer yours ! nay sing them ! And he sung Them calmly. Home he went ; friends used to wait His coming, anxious to congratulate. But, to a man, so quickly runs report, Could do no less than leave him, and escort •His rival. That eve, then, bred many a thought What must his future life be : was he brought So low, who was so lofty this spring morn ? At length he said. Best sleep now with my scorn. And by to-morrow I devise some plain Expedient ! So he slept, nor woke again. They found as much, those friends, when they returned Overflowing with the marvels they had learned About Sordello's paradise, his roves Among the hills and valleys, plains and groves, Wherein, no doubt, this lay was roughly cast, Polished by slow degrees, completed last To Eglamor s discomfiture and death. Such form the chanters now, and, out of breath, They lay the beaten man in his abode, Naddo reciting that same luckless ode. Doleful to hear : Sordello could explore By means of it, however, one step more 56 SORDELLO. In joy ; and, mastering the round at length, Learnt how to live in weakness as in strength, When from his covert forth he stood, addressed Eglamor, bade the tender ferns invest. Primeval pines o'ercanopy his couch. And, most of all, his fame — (shall I avouch Eglamor heard it, dead though he might look. And laughed as from his brow Sordello took The crown, and laid it on his breast, and said, It was a crown, now, fit for poet's head ?) — Continue. Nor the prayer quite fruitless fell; A plant they have yielding a three-leaved bell Which whitens at the heart ere noon, and ails Till evening ; evening gives it to her gales To clear away with such forgotten things As are an eyesore to the morn : this brings Him to their mind, and bears his very name. So much for Eglamor. My own month came ; Twas a sunrise of blossoming and May. Beneath a flowering laurel thicket lay Sordello ; each new sprinkle of white stars That smell fainter of wine than Massic jars Dug up at Baise, when the south wind shed The ripest, made him happier ; filleted SORDELLO. 57 And robed the same, only a lute beside Lay on the turf. Before him far and wide The country stretched : Goito slept behind — The castle and its covert which confined Him with his hopes and fears ; so fain of old To leave the story of his birth untold. At intervals, 'spite the fantastic glow Of his Apollo-life, a certain low And wretched whisper winding through the bliss Admonished, no such fortune could be his, All was quite false and sure to fade one day : The closelier drew he round him his array Of brilliance to expel the truth. But when A reason for his difi*erence from men Surprised him at the grave, he took no rest While aught of that old life, superbly drest Down to its meanest incident, remained A mystery — alas, they soon explained Away Apollo ! and the tale amounts To this : when at Yicenza both her Counts Banished the Yivaresi kith and kin, Those Maltraversi hung on Ecelin, Reviling as he followed ; he for spite Must fire their quarter, though that self-same night 58 SORDELLO, Among the flames young Ecelin was born Of Adelaide, there too, and barely torn From the roused populace hard on the rear By a poor archer when his chieftain s fear Was high ; into the tliick Elcorte leapt, Saved her, and died ; no creature left except His child to thank. And when the full escape Was known — how men impaled from chine to nape Unlucky Prata, all to pieces spurned Bishop Pistore's concubines, and burned Taurello's entire household, flesh and fell. Missing the sweeter prey — such courage well Might claim reward. The orphan, ever since, Sordello, had been nurtured by his prince Within a blind retreat where Adelaide (For, once this notable discovery made, The past at every point was understood) Can harbour easily when times are rude, When Este schemes for Palm a — would retrieve That pledge, when Mantua is not fit to leave Longer unguarded with a vigilant eye, Taurello bides there so ambiguously (He who can have no motive now to moil For his own fortunes since their utter spoil) SORDELLO. 59 As it were worth while yet (goes the report) To disengage himself from us. In short, Apollo vanished ; a mean youth, just named His lady's minstrel, was to be proclaimed — How shall I phrase it ? Monarch of the "World. But on the morning that array was furled For ever, and in place of one a slave To longings, wild, indeed, but longings save In dreams as wild, suppressed — one daring not Assume the mastery such dreams allot, Until a magical equipment, strength Grace, wisdom, decked him too, — he chose at length (Content with unproved wits and failing frame) In virtue of his simple "Will, to claim That mastery, no less — to do his best With means so limited, and let the rest Go by, — the seal was set : never again Sordello could in his own sight remain One of the many, one with hopes and cares And interests nowise distinct from theirs, Only peculiar in a thriveless store Of fancies, which were fancies and no more ; Never again for him and for the crowd A common law was challenged and allowed 60 SORDELLO. If calmly reasoned of, however denied By a mad impulse nothing justified Short of Apollo's presence : the divorce Is clear : why needs Sordello square his course By any known example ? Men no more Compete with him than tree and flower before ; Himself, inactive, yet is greater far Than such as act, each stooping to his star, Acquiring thence his function ; he has gained The same result with meaner mortals trained To strength or beauty, moulded to express Each the idea that rules him ; since no less He comprehends that function but can still Embrace the others, take of Might his fill With Richard as of Grace with Palma, mix Their qualities, or for a moment ^x On one, abiding free meantime, uncramped By any partial organ, never stamped Strong, so to Strength turning all energies — Wise, and restricted to becoming Wise — That is, he loves not, nor possesses One Idea that, star-like over, lures him on To its exclusive purpose. Fortunate This flesh of mine ne'er strove to emulate SORDELLO. 61 A soTil SO various — took no casual mould Of the first fancy and contracted, cold Lay clogged forever thence, averse to change As that. Whereas it left her free to range, Remains itself a blank, cast into shade, Encumbers little, if it cannot aid. So, range, my soul ! Who by self-consciousness The last drop of all beauty dost express — The grace of seeing grace, a quintessence For thee : but for the world, that can dispense Wonder on men, themselves that wonder — make A shift to love at second hand and take Those for its idols who but idolize. Themselves, — that loves the soul as strong, as wise, Whose love is Strength, is Wisdom, — such shall bow Surely in unexampled worship now, Discerning me ! — (Dear monarch, I beseech, Notice how lamentably wide a breach Is here ! discovering this, discover too What our poor world has possibly to do With it ! As pigmy natures as you please — So much the better for you ; take your ease ; Look on, and laugh ; style yourself God alone ; Strangle some day with a cross olive-stone ; 62 SORDELLO. All that is right enough : but why want us To know that you yourself know thus and thus ? Nay finish — ) — Bow to me conceiving all Man s life, who see its blisses, great and small, Afar — not tasting any : no machine To exercise my utmost will is mine, Therefore mere consciousness for me ! — Perceive What I could do, a mastery believe, Asserted and established to the throng By their selected evidence of Song Which now shall prove whate'er they are, or seek To be, I am — who take no pains to speak, Change no old standards of perfection, vex With no strange forms created to perplex. But mean perform their bidding and no more, At their own satiating-point give o'er. And each shall love in me the love that leads His soul to its perfection. Song, not Deeds, (For we get tired) was chosen. Fate would brook Mankind no other organ ; He would look For not another channel to dispense His own volition and receive their sense Of its existing, but would be content. Obstructed else, with merely verse for vent — SORDELLO. 63 Nor should, for instance, Strength an outlet seek And striving be admired, nor Grace bespeak "Wonder, displayed in gracious attitudes. Nor Wisdom, poured forth, change unseemly moods ; But he would give and take on Song's one point : Like some huge throbbing-stone that, poised a-joint, Sounds to affect on its basaltic bed Must sue in just one accent : tempests shed Thunder, and raves the landstorm : only let That key by any little noise be set — The far benighted hunter s halloo pitch On that, the hungry curlew chance to scritch Or serpent hiss it, rustling through the rift, However loud, however low — all lift The groaning monster, stricken to the heart. Lo ye, the world's concernment, for its part. And this, for his, will hardly interfere ! Its businesses in blood and blaze this year — But wile the hour away — a pastime slight Till he shall step upon the platform : right ! And now thus much is settled, cast in rough. Proved feasible, be counselled ! thought enough, Slumber, Sordello ! any day will serve : Were it a less digested plan ! 'how swerve 64 SORDELLO. To-morrow ? Meanwhile eat these sun-dried grapes And watch the soaring hawk there ! Life escapes Merrily thus. He thoroughly read o*er His truchman Naddo's missive six times more, Praying him visit Mantua and supply A famished world. The evening star was high When he reached Mantua, but his fame arrived Before him : friends applauded, foes connived, And Naddo looked an angel, and the rest Angels, and all these angels would be blest Supremely by a song — the thrice-renowned Goito manufacture. Then he found (Casting about to satisfy the crowd) That happy vehicle, so late allowed, A sore annoyance ; 'twas the song's effect He cared for, scarce the song itself : reflect ! In the past life what might be singing's use ? Just to delight his Delians, whose profuse Praise, not the toilsome process which procured That praise, enticed Apollo : dreams abjured, No over-leaping means for ends — take both For granted or take neither ! I am loth SORDELLO. 6i To say the rhymes at last were Eglamor s ; But Naddo, chuckling, bade competitors Go pine ; the Master certes meant to waste No effort, cautiously had probed the taste He'd please anon : true bard, in short, disturb His title if they could ; nor spur nor curb. Fancy nor reason, wanting in him ; whence The staple of his verses, common sense : He built on Man s broad nature — gift of gifts That power to build ! The world contented shifts With counterfeits enough, a dreary sort Of warriors, statesmen, ere it can extort Its poet-soul— that's, after all, a freak (The having eyes to see and tongue to speak) With our herd's stupid sterling happiness So plainly incompatible that — yes — Yes — should a son of his improve the breed And turn out poet he were cursed indeed. Well, there's Goito to retire upon If the worst happen ; best go stoutly on Now ! thought Sordello. Ay, and goes on yet ! You pother with your glossaries to get A notion of the Troubadour's intent — His Rondels, Tenzons, Yirlai or Sirvent — p 6^; SORDELLO. Much as you study arras how to twirl His Angelot, plaything of page and girl, Once ; but you surely reach, at last, — or, no ! Never quite reach what struck the people so. As from the welter of their time he drew Its elements successively to view", Followed all actions backward on their course And catching up, unmingled at the source. Such a Strength, such a Weakness, added then A touch or two, and turned them into Men. Virtue took form, nor Vice refused a shape ; Here Heaven opened, there was Hell agape, As Saint this simpered past in sanctity. Sinner the other flared portentous by A greedy People : then why stop, surprised At his success ? The scheme was realised Too suddenly in one respect : a crowd Praising, eyes quick to see, and lips as loud To speak, delicious homage to receive, Bianca's breath to feel upon his sleeve Who said, " But Anafest — why asks he less Than Lucio, in your verses ? how confess It seemed too much but yestereve V* The youth Who bade him earnestly " avow the truth, SORDELLO. 67 You love Bianca, surely, from your song ; I knew I was unworthy I" soft or strong, In poured such tributes ere he had arranged Etherial ways to take them, sorted, changed. Digested : courted thus at unawares, In spite of his pretensions and his cares He caught himself shamefully hankering After your obvious petty joys that spring From real life, fain relinquish pedestal And condescend with pleasures — one and all To be renounced, no doubt ; for thus to chain Himself to single joys and so refrain From tasting their quintessence, frustrates, sure. His prime design ; each joy must he abjure Even for love of it. He laughed : what sage But perishes if from his magic page He look because, at the first line, a proof *Twas heard salutes him from the cavern roof ? On ! Give thyself, excluding aught beside. To the day's task ; compel thy slave provide Its utmost at the soonest ; turn the leaf Thoroughly conned ; these lays of thine, in brief— ^' Cannot men bear, now, somewhat better? — fly A pitch beyond this unreal pageantry p 2 68 SORDELLO. Of essences ? the period sure has ceased For such : present ns with ourselves, at least, Not portions of ourselves, mere loves and hates Made flesh : wait not ! Awhile the poet waits However. The first trial was enough : He left imagining, to try the stuff That held the imaged thing and, let it writhe Never so fiercely, scarce allowed a tithe To reach the light — his Language. How he sought The cause, conceived a cure, and slow re- wrought That Language, welding words into the crude Mass from the new speech round him, till a rude Armour was hammered out, in time to be Approved beyond the Roman panoply Melted to make it, boots not. This obtained With some ado, no obstacle remained To using it ; accordingly he took An action with its actors, quite forsook Himself to live in each, returned anon With the result — a creature, and by one And one proceeded leisurely equip Its limbs in harness of his workmanship. Accomplished ! Listen Mantuans ! Fond essay ! Piece after piece that armour broke away BORDELLO. 69 Because perceptions whole, like that he sought To clothe^ reject so pure a work of thought As language : Thought may take Perception s place But hardly co -exist in any case, Being its mere presentment — of the Whole By Parts, the Simultaneous and the Sole By the Successive and the Many. Lacks The crowd perceptions ? painfully it tacks Together thoughts Sordello, needing such, Has rent perception into : it *s to clutch And reconstruct — his office to diffuse. Destroy : as difficult obtain a Muse In short, as be Apollo. For the rest. E'en if some wondrous vehicle exprest The whole dream, what impertinence in me So to express it, who myself can be The dream ! nor, on the other hand, are those, I sing to over-likely to suppose A higher than the highest I present Now, and they praise already : be content Both parties, rather ; they with the old verse. And I with the old praise — far go, fare worse ! A few adhering rivets loosed, upsprings The angel, sparkles off his mail, and rings 70 SORDELLO. Whirled from each delicatest limb it warps, As might Apollo from the sudden corpse Of Hyacinth have cast his luckless quoits. He set to celebrating the exploits Of Montfort o'er the Mountaineers. Then came The world's revenge : their pleasure now his aim Merely — what was it ? Not to play the fool So much as learn our lesson in your school, Replied the world : he found that every time He gained applause by any given rhyme His auditory recognised no jot As he intended, and, mistaking not Him for his meanest hero, ne'er was dunce Sufficient to believe him — All at once. His Will . . . conceive it caring for his Will ! — Mantuans, the main of them, admiring still How a mere singer, ugly, stunted, weak, Had Montfort at completely (so to speak) His lingers* ends ; while past the praise-tide swept To Montfort, either s share distinctly kept. The true meed for true merit — His abates Into a sort he most repudiates. And on them angrily he turns. Who were The Mantuans, after all, that he should care SORDELLO. 71 About their recognition, ay or no ? In spite of the convention months ago, (Why blink the truth) was not he forced to help This same ungrateful audience, every whelp Of Naddo's litter, make them pass for peers With the bright band of those Goito years, As erst he toiled for flower or tree ? Why there Sate Palma ! Adelaide's funereal hair Ennobled the next corner. Ay, he strewed A fairy dust upon that multitude Although he feigned to take them by themselves ; His giants dignified those puny elves. Sublimed their faint applause. In short he found Himself still footing a delusive round. Remote as ever from the self- display He meant to compass, hampered every way By what he hoped assistance. Wherefore then Continue, make believe to find in men A use he found not ? Weeks, months, years went by ; And, lo, Sordello vanished utterly. Sundered in twain; each spectral part at strife With each ; one jarred against another life ; The Poet thwarting hopelessly the Man Who, fooled no longer, free m fancy ran - 72 SORDELLO. Here, there ; let slip no opportunities Forsooth, as pitiful beside the prize To drop on him some no-time and acquit His constant faith (the Poet-half *s to wit) That waiving any compromise between No joy and all joy kept the hunger keen Beyond most methods — of incurring scoff From the Man-portion not to be put off With self-reflectings by the Poet's scheme [^dream, Though ne'er so bright ; which sauntered forth in Dress'd any how, nor waited mystic frames, Immeasurable gifts, astounding claims. But just his sorry self ; who yet might be Sorrier for aught he in reality Achieved, so pinioned that the Poet-part, Fondling, in turn of fancy. Verse ; the Art Developing his soul a thousand ways ; Potent, by its assistance, to amaze The multitude with majesties, convince Each sort of nature that same nature's prince Accosted it : language, the makeshift, grew Into a bravest of expedients, too ; Apollo, seemed it now, perverse had thrown Quiver and bow away, the lyre alone SORDELLO. 73 Sufficed : while, out of dream, his day's work went To tune a crazy tenzon or sirvent — So hampered him tlie Man- part, thrust to judge Between the bard and the bard's audience, grudge A minute's toil that missed its due reward ! But the complete Sordello, Man and Bard, John's cloud-girt angel, this foot on the land, That on the sea, with open in his hand A bitter-sweetling of a book — was gone. And if internal struggles to be one That frittered him incessantly piece-meal. Referred, ne'er so obliquely, to the real Mantuans ! intruding ever with some call To action while he pondered, once for all. Which looked the easier effort — to pursue This course, still leap o'er paltry joys, yearn through The present ill-appreciated stage Of self-revealment and compel the age Know him ; or else, forswearing bard-craft, wake From out his lethargy and nobly shake Off timid habits of denial, mix With men, enjoy like men : ere he could ^x On aught, in rushed the Mantuans ; much they cared For his perplexity ! Thus unprepared. 74 SORDELLO. The obvious if not only shelter lay In deeds the dull conventions of his day Prescribed the like of him : why not be glad 'Tis settled Palma's minstrel, good or bad, Submits to this and that established rule ? Let Yidal change or any other fool His murrey-coloured robe for philamot And crop his hair ; so skin-deep, is it not, Such vigour ? Then, a sorrow to the heart. His talk ! Whatever topics they might start Had to be groped for in his consciousness Strait, and as strait delivered them by guess : Only obliged to ask himself, " "What was," A speedy answer followed, but, alas. One of God's large ones, tardy to condense Itself into a period ; answers whence A tangle of conclusions must be stripped At any risk ere, trim to pattern clipped. They matched rare specimens the Mantua flock Regaled him with, each talker from his stock Of sorted o'er opinions, every stage. Juicy in youth or desiccate with age, Fruits like the fig-tree's, rathe-ripe, rotten-rich, Sweet-sour, all tastes to take : a practice which SORDELLO. 75 He too had not impossibly attained, Once either of those fancy-flights restrained ; For, at conjecture how the words appear To others, playing there what passes here. And occupied abroad by what he spumed At home, 'twas slipt the occasion he returned To seize : he'd strike that lyre adroitly — speech, Would but a twenty cubit plectre reach ; A clever hand, consummate instrument. Were both brought close ! each excellency went For nothing else. The question Naddo asked Had just a life-time moderately tasked To answer, Naddo's fashion ; more disgust And more ; why move his soul, since move it must At minutes' notice or as good it failed To move at all ? The end was, he retailed Some ready-made opinion, put to use This quip, that maxim, ventured reproduce Gestures and tones — at any folly caught Serving to finish with, nor too much sought If false or true 'twas spoken ; praise and blame Of what he said grew pretty well the same — Meantime awards to meantime acts : his soul, Unequal to the compassing a Whole, 'J^ SORDELLO. Saw in a tenth part less and less to strive About. And as for Men in turn . . . contrive Who could to take eternal interest In them, so hate the worst, so love the best ! Though in pursuance of his passive plan He hailed, decried the proper way. As Man So figured he ; and how as Poet ? Verse Came only not to a stand- still. The worse, That his poor piece of daily work to do Was not sink under any rivals ; who Loudly and long enough, without these qualms, Tuned, from Bocafoli's stark -naked psalms, To Plara's sonnets spoilt by toying with, " As knops that stud some almug to the pith Pricked for gum, wry thence, and crinkled worse Than pursed-up eyelids of a river-horse Sunning himself o* the slime when whirrs the breese" Ha, ha ! Of course he might compete with these But— but— Observe a pompion-twine afloat ; Pluck me one cup from off the castle-moat — Along with cup you raise leaf, stalk and root, The entire surface of the pool to boot. SORDELLO. *!1 So could I pluck a cup, put in one song A single sight, did not my hand, too strong, Twitch in the least the root-strings of the whole. How should externals satisfy my soul ? Why that's precise the error Squarcialupe (Hazarded Naddo) finds ; the man can't stoop To' sing us out, quoth he, a mere romance ; He'd fain do better than the best, enhance The subjects' rarity, work problems out Therewith : now you're a bard, a bard past doubt, And no philosopher ; why introduce Crotchets like these ? fine, surely, but no use In poetry — which still must be, to strike. Based upon common sense ; there's nothing like Appealing to our nature ! what beside Was your first poetry ? No tricks w^ere tried In that, no hollow thrills, afi^ected throes ! The man, said we, tells his own joys and woes — We'll trust him. Would you have your songs endure ? Build on the human heart ! — Why to be sure Yours is one sort of heart — but I mean theirs. Ours, every one's, the healthy heart one cares To build on ! Central peace, mother of strength. That's father of . . . nay, go yourself that length. 78 SORDELLO. Ask those calm -hearted doers what they do When they have got their cahn ! Nay, is it true Fire rankles at the heart of every glohe ? Perhaps ! But these are matters one may probe Too deeply for poetic purposes : Rather select a theory that . . . yes [^midway Laugh ! what does that prove ? . . . stations you And saves some little o'er-refining. Nay, That's rank injustice done me ! I restrict The poet ? Don t I hold the poet picked Out of a host of warriors, statesmen — did I tell you ? Yery like ! as well you hid That sense of power you have ! True bards believe Us able to achieve what they achieve — That is, just nothing — in one point abide Profounder simpletons than all beside : Oh ay ! The knowledge that you are a bard Must constitute your prime, nay sole, reward ! So prattled Naddo, busiest of the tribe Of genius-haunters — how shall I describe What grubs or nips, or rubs, or rips — your louse For love, your flea for hate, magnanimous, Malignant, Pappacoda, Tagliafer, Picking a sustenance from wear and tear SORDELLO. 79 By implements it sedulous employs To undertake, lay down, mete out, o'er-toise Sordello ? fifty creepers to elude At once ! They settled stanchly ; shame ensued : Behold the monarch of mankind succumb To the last fool who turned him round his thumb, As Naddo styled it ! Twas not worth oppose The matter of a moment, gainsay those He aimed at getting rid of; better think Their thoughts and speak their speech, secure to slink Back expeditiously to his safe place. And chew the cud — what he and what his race Were really, each of them. Yet even this Conformity was partial. He would miss Some point, brought into contact with them ere Assured in what small segment of the sphere Of his existence they attended him ; Whence blunders — falsehoods rectify — a grim List — slur it over ! How ? If dreams were tried, His will swayed sicklily from side to side Nor merely neutralized his waking act But tended e'en in fancy to distract The intermediate will, the choice of means : He lost the art of dreaming : Mantua scenes 80 SORDELLO. Supplied a baron, say, he sung before, Handsomely reckless, full to running o'er Of gallantries ; abjure the soul, content With body, therefore ! Scarcely had he bent Himself in dream thus low when matter fast Cried out, he found, for spirit to contrast And task it duly ; by advances slight. The simple stuff becoming composite. Count Lori grew Apollo — best recall His fancy ! Then would some rough peasant-Paul Like those old Ecelin confers with, glance His gay apparel o'er ; that countenance Gathered his shattered fancy into one, And, body clean abolished, soul alone Sufficed the grey Paulician : by and by To balance the ethereality Passions were needed ; foiled he sunk again. Meanwhile the world rejoiced ('tis time explain) Because a sudden sickness set it free From Adelaide. Missins the mother bee Her mountain hive Romano swarmed ; at once A rustle-forth of daughters and of sons Blackened the valley. I am sick too, old. Half crazed I think ; what good 's the Kaiser s gold SORDELLO. 81 To such an one ? God help me ! for I catch My children's greedy sparkling eyes at watch — He bears that double breastplate on, they say, So many minutes less than yesterday 1 Beside Monk Hilary is on his knees Now, sworn to kneel and pray till God shall please Exact a punishment for many things You know and some you never knew ; which brings To memory, Azzo's sister Beatrix And Richard's Giglia are my Alberic's And Ecelin s betrothed ; the Count himself Must get my Palma : Ghibellin and Guelf Mean to embrace each other. So began Romano's missive to his fighting-man Taurello on the Tuscan s death, away "With Friedrich sworn to sail from Naples' bay Next month for Syria. Never thunder-clap Out of Vesuvius' mount like this mishap Startled him. That accursed Yicenza ! I Absent, and she selects this time to die ! Ho, fellows, for Yicenza ! Half a score Of horses ridden dead he stood before Romano in his reeking spurs : too late — Boniface urged me, Este could not wait, G 82 BORDELLO. The chieftain stammered ; let me die in peace — Forget me ! Was it I e'er craved increase Of rule ? Do you and Friedrich plot your worst Against the Father : as you found me first So leave me now. Forgive me ! Palraa, sure, Is at Goito still. Retain that lure — Only be pacified ! The country rung With such a piece of news : on every tongue How Ecelin s great servant, congeed ofi*, Had done a long day's service, so might doff The green and yellow to recover breath At Mantua, whither, since Retrude's death, (The girlish slip of a Sicilian bride From Otho's House he carried to reside At Mantua till the Ferrarese should pile A structure worthy her imperial style. The gardens raise, their tenantry enshrine She never lived to see) although his line Was ancient in her archives and she took A pride in him, that city, nor forsook Her child though he forsook himself and spent A prowess on Romano surely meant For his own purposes — he ne'er resorts If wholly satisfied (to trust reports) SORDELLO. 83 With Ecelin. So forward in a trice Were shows to greet him. Take a friend's advice, Quoth Naddo to Sordello, nor be rash Because your rivals (nothing can abash Some folks) demur that we pronounced you best To sound the great man s welcome ; *tis a test Remember ; Strojavacca looks asquint, The rough fat sloven ; and there's plenty hint Your pinions have received of late a shock — Out-soar them, cobs wan of the silver flock ! Sing well ! A signal wonder song's no whit Facilitated. Fast the minutes flit ; Another day, Sordello finds, will bring The soldier, and he cannot choose but sing ; So quits, a last shift, Mantua — slow, alone : Out of that aching brain, a very stone, Song must be struck. What occupies that front ? Just how he was more awkward than his wont The night before, when Naddo, who had seen Taurello on his progress, praised the mien For dignity no crosses could afi*ect — Such was a joy, and might not he detect A satisfaction if established joys Were proved imposture ? Poetry annoys G 2 84 SORDELLO. Its utmost : wherefore fret ? Verses may come Or keep away ! And thus he wandered, dumb Till evening, when he paused, thoroughly spent, On a blind hill-top ; down the gorge he went, Yielding himself up as to an embrace ; The moon came out ; like features of a face A querulous fraternity of pines. Sad blackthorn clumps, leafless and grovelling vines Also came out, made gradually up The picture ; 'twas Goito's mountain-cup And castle. He had dropped through one defile He never dared explore, the Chief erewhile Had vanished by. Back rushed the dream, en wrapt Him wholly. 'Twas Apollo now they lapped Those mountains, not a pettish minstrel meant To wear his soul away in discontent Brooding on fortune's malice ; heart and brain Swelled ; he expanded to himself again As that thin seedling spice-tree starved and frail Pushina: between cat's head or ibis' tail Crusted into the porphyry pavement smooth — Suffered remain just as it sprung to soothe The Soldan s pining daughter, never yet AYell in the chilly green-glazed minaret — SORDELLO. 85 When rooted up the sunny day she died And flung into the common court beside Its parent tree. Come home, Sordello ! Soon Was he low muttering beneath the moon Of sorrow saved, of quiet evermore, How from his purposes maintained before Only resulted wailing and hot tears. Ah, the slim castle ! dwindled of late years. But more mysterious ; gone to ruin — trails Of vine thro' every loop-hole. Nought avails The night as, torch in hand, he must explore The maple chamber — did I say its floor Was made of intersecting cedar beams ? Worn now with gaps so large there blew cold streams Of air quite from the dungeon ; lay your ear Close and 'tis like, one after one, you hear In the blind darkness water-drops. The nests And nooks retained their long ranged vesture-chests Empty and smelling of the iris-root The Tuscan grated o'er them to recruit Her wasted wits. Palma was gone that day. Said the remaining women. Last, he lay Beside the Carian group reserved and still. The Body, the Machine for Acting Will 86 SORDELLO. Had been at the commencement proved unfit ; That for Reflecting, Demonstrating it, Mankind — no fitter : was the Will Itself In fault ? His forehead pressed the moonlit shelf Beside the youngest marble maid awhile ; Then, raising it, he thought, with a long smile, I shall be king again ! as he withdrew The envied scarf ; into the font he threw His crown. Next day, no poet ! Wherefore ? asked Taurello, when the dance of Jongleurs masked As devils ended ; don t a song come next ? The master of the pageant looked perplext Till Naddo's whisper came to his relief ; His Highness knew what poets were : in brief, Had not the tetchy race prescriptive right To peevishness, caprice ? or, call it spite. One must receive their nature in its length And breadth, expect the weakness with the strength ! So phrasing, till, his stock of phrases spent, The easy-natured soldier smiled assent. Settled his portly person, smoothed his chin. And nodded that the bull-chase might begin. SORDELLO. S7 BOOK THE THIRD. And the font took them : let our laurels lie ! Braid moonfem now with mystic trifoly Because once more Goito gets, once more, Sordello to itself ! A dream is o'er And the suspended life begins anew ; Quiet those throbbing temples, then, subdue That cheek's distortion ! Nature's strict embrace, Putting aside the past, shall soon efface Its print as well — factitious humours grown Over the true — loves, hatreds not his own — And turn him pure as some forgotten vest "Woven of painted byssus, silkiest Tufting the Tyrrhene whelk's pearl-sheeted lip. Left welter where a trireme let it slip I' the sea and vexed a Satrap ; so the stain C the world forsakes Sordello with its pain 88 SORDELLO. Its pleasure : how the tinct loosening escapes Cloud after cloud ! Mantua's familiar shapes Die, fair and foul die, fading as they flit, Men, women, and the pathos and the wit. Wise speech and foolish, deeds to smile or sigh For, good, bad, seemly or ignoble, die : The last face glances through the eglantines. The last voice murmurs 'twixt the blossomed vines This May of the Machine supplied by Thought To compass Self-perception idly sought By forcing half himself — an insane pulse Of a God's blood on clay it could convulse Never transmute — on human sights and sounds To watch the other half with ; irksome bounds It ebbs from to its source, a fountain sealed Forever. Better sure be unrevealed Than part-revealed : Sordello well or ill Is finished with : what further use of Will ? — Point in the prime idea not realized, An oversight, inordinately prized No less, and pampered with enough of each Delight to prove the whole above its reach. To need become all natures yet retain The law of one's own nature — to remain SORDELLO. 89 Oneself, yet yearn . . . aha, that chesnut, think. To yearn for this first larch-bloom crisp and pink. With those pale fragrant tears where zephyrs staunch March wounds along the fretted pine-tree branch ! Will and the means to show it, great and small Material, spiritual, abjure them all Save any so distinct as to be left Amuse, not tempt become : and, thus bereft, Say, just as I am fashioned would I be ! Nor, Moon, is it Apollo now but me Thou visitest to comfort and befriend ; Swim thou into my heart and there an end Since I possess thee ! nay thus shut mine eyes And know, quite know, by that heart's fall and rise If thou dost bury thee in clouds and when Out-standest : wherefore practise upon Men To make that plainer to myself ? Slide here Over a sweet and solitary year Wasted : or simply notice change in him — How eyes, bright with exploring once, grew dim As satiate with receiving. Some distress Occasioned, too, a sort of consciousness Under the imbecility ; nought kept That down : he slept, but was aware he slept 90 SORDELLO. And frustrate so ; as who brainsick made pact Erst with the overhanging cataract To deafen him, yet may distinguish now His own blood's measured clicking at his brow. To finish. One declining Autumn day — Few birds about the heaven chill and grey, No wind that cared trouble the tacit woods — He sauntered home complacently, their moods According, his and Nature's. Every spark Of Mantua life was trodden out ; so dark The embers that the Troubadour who sung Hundreds of songs forgot, its trick the tongue, Its craft the brain, how either brought to pass Singing so e'er ; that faculty might class With any of Apollo's now. The year Began to find its early promise sere As well. Thus beauty vanishes ! Your stone Outlasts your flesh. Nature's and his youth gone, They left the world to you and wished you joy. When stopping his benevolent employ A presage shuddered through the welkin ; harsh The earth's remonstrance followed. 'Twas the marsh Gone of a sudden. Mincio in its place Laughed a broad water in next morning's face SORDELLO. 91 And, where the mists broke up immense and white I' the steady wind, burnt like a spilth of light Out of the crashing of a myriad stars. And here was Nature, bound by the same bars Of fate with him ! No : youth once gone is gone : Deeds let escape are never to be done : Leaf-fall and grass-spring for the year, but us — Oh forfeit I unalterably thus My chance ? nor two lives wait me, this to spend Learning save that ? Nature has leisure mend Mistake, occasion, knows she, will recur — Landslip or seabreach how affects it her With her magnificent resources ? I Must perish once and perish utterly ! Not any strollings now at even- close Down the field-path, Sordello, by thorn-rows Alive with lamp-flies, swimming spots of fire And dew, outlining the black cypress' spire She waits you at, Elys, who heard you first Woo her the snow-month — ah, but ere she durst Answer 'twas April ! Linden-flower- time-long Her eyes were on the ground ; 'tis July, strong Now ; and because white dust-clouds overwhelm The woodside, here or by the village elm 92 BORDELLO. That holds the moon she meets you, somewhat pale, But letting you lift up her coarse flax veil And whisper (the damp little hand in yours) Of love — heart's love — your heart's love that endures Till death. Tush ! No mad mixing with the rout Of haggard ribalds wandering about The hot torchlit wine -scented island-house Where Friedrich holds his wickedest carouse Parading to the gay Palermitans, Soft Messinese, dusk Saracenic clans From Nuocera, those tall grave dazzling Norse, Clear-cheeked, lank-haired, toothed whiter than the Queens of the caves of jet stalactites Qmorse, He sent his barks to fetch through icy seas. The blind night seas without a saving-star. And here in snowy birdskin robes they are, Sordello, here, mollitious alcoves gilt Superb as Byzant-domes the devils built — Ah, Byzant, there again ! no chance to go Ever like august pleasant Dandolo, Worshipping hearts about him for a wall, Conducted, blind eyes, hundred years and all. Through vanquished Byzant to have noted him What pillar, marble massive, sardius slim. SORDELLO. 93 Twere fittest we transport to Venice* Square — Flattered and promised life to touch them there Soon, by his fervid sons of senators ! No more lifes, deaths, loves, hatreds, peaces, wars — Ah, fragments of a Whole ordained to be ! Points in the life I waited ! what are ye But roundels of a ladder which appeared Awhile the very platform it was reared To lift me on — that Happiness I find Proofs of my faith in, even in the blind Instinct which bade forego you all unless Ye led me past yourselves ? Ay, Happiness Awaited me ; the way life should be used Was to acquire, and deeds like you conduced To teach it by a self-revealment (deemed That very use too long). Whatever seemed Progress to that was Pleasure ; aught that stayed Me reaching it — No Pleasure. I have laid The roundels down ; I climb not ; still aloft The platform stretches ! Blisses strong and soft I dared not entertain elude me ; yet Never of what they promised could I get A glimpse till now ! The common sort, the crowd, Exist, perceive ; with Being are endowed. 94 SORDELLO. However slight, distinct from what they See, However bounded : Happiness must be To feed the first by gleanings from the last, Attain its qualities, and slow or fast Become what one beholds ; such peace-in-strife By transmutation is the Use of Life, The Alien turning Native to the soul Or body — which instructs me ; I am whole There and demand a Palma ; had the world Been from my soul to a like distance hurled 'Twere Happiness to make it one with me — Whereas I must, ere I begin to Be, Include a world, in flesh, I comprehend In spirit now ; and this done, what's to blend "With ? Nought is Alien here — my Will Owns it already ; yet can turn it still Less Native, since my Means to correspond With Will are so unworthy 'twas my bond To tread the very ones that tantalize Me now into a grave, never to rise — I die then ! Will the rest agree to die ? Next Age or no ? Shall its Sordello try Clue after clue and catch at last the clue I miss, that's underneath my finger too, SORDELLO. 95 Twice, thrice a day, perhaps, — some yearning traced Deeper, some petty consequence embraced Closer ! Why fled I Mantua then ? Complained So much my Will was fettered, yet remained Content within a tether half the range I could assign it ? — able to exchange My ignorance, I felt, for knowledge, and Idle because I could thus understand — Could e'en have penetrated to its core Our mortal mystery, and yet forbore, Preferred elaborating in the dark My casual stuff*, by any wretched spark Born of my predecessors, tho' one stroke Of mine had brought the flame forth ! Mantua's yoke. My minstrel's-trade, was to behold mankind, And my own matter — just to bring my mind Behold, just extricate, for my acquist. Each object suffered stifle in the mist Convention, hazard, blindness could impose In their relation to myself. He rose. The level wind carried above the firs Clouds, the irrevocable travellers, Onward. I 96 SORDELLO. Pushed thus into a drowsy copse, Arms twine about my neck, each eyelid drops Under a humid finger ; while there fleets Outside the screen a pageant time repeats Never again ! To be deposed — immured Clandestinely — still petted, still assured To govern were fatiguing work — the Sight Fleeting meanwhile ! 'Tis noontide — wreak ere night Somehow one's will upon it rather ! Slake This thirst somehow, the poorest impress take That serves ! A blasted bud displays you, torn, Faint rudiments of the full flower unborn ; But who divines what petal coats o*erclasp Of the bulb dormant in the Mummy's grasp Taurello sent . . . Taurello ? Palma sent Your Trouvere (Naddo interposing leant Over the lost bard's shoulder) and believe You cannot more reluctantly conceive Than I pronounce her message : we depart Together : what avail a poet's heart Verona and her gauds ? ^Ye blades of grass Sufiice him. News ? Why, where your marish was, On its mud-banks smoke rises after smoke r the valley like a spout of hell new-broke. SORDELLO. 97 Oh, the world's tidings ! little thanks, I guess, For them. The father of our Patroness Playing Taurello an astounding trick Parts between Ecelin and Alberic His wealth and goes into a convent : both Wed Guelfs : the Count and Palma plighted troth A week since at Verona : and she wants You doubtless to contrive the marriage-chants Ere Richard storms Ferrara. Your response To Palma ? Wherefore jest ? Depart at once ? A good resolve ! In truth I hardly hoped So prompt an acquiescence. Have you groped Out wisdom in the wilds here ? — Thoughts may be Over-poetical for poetry ? Pearl-white you minstrels liken Palma's neck, And yet what spoils an orient like some speck Of genuine white turning its own white grey ? You take me ? Curse the cicales ! One more day — One eve — appears Yerona ! Many a group, (You mind) instructed of the osprey's swoop On 1 nx and ounce, was gathering — Christendom Sure to receive, whatever it might be, from The evening's purpose cheer or detriment Since Friedrich only waited some event H 98 SORDELLO. Like this of Ghibellins establishing Themselves within Ferrara, ere, as King Of Lombardy, he'd glad descend there, wage Old warfare with the Pontiff, disengage His barons from the burghers, and restore The rule of Charlemagne broken of yore By Hildebrand. That eve-long each by each Sordello sate and Palma : little speech At first in that dim closet, face with face Despite the tumult in the market place Exchanging quick low laughters : now would gush Word upon word to meet a sudden flush, A look left off, a shifting lips' surmise — But for the most part their two histories Ran best thro' the locked fingers and linked arms. And so the night flew on w4th its alarms Till in burst one of Palma's retinue ; Now Lady, gasped he. Then arose the two And leaned into Verona's air dead still. A balcony lay black beneath until Out 'mid a gush of torchfire gTey-haired men Came on it and harangued the people : then Sea-like that people surging to and fro Shouted, Hale forth the Carroch — trumpets, ho, SORDELLO. 99 A flourish ! run it in the ancient grooves — Back from the bell ! Hammer ! that whom behooves May hear the League is up ! Peal ! learn who list Verona means not be the first break tryst To-morrow with the League. Enough. Now turn — Over the Eastern cypresses : discern You any beacon set a-glimmer ? Rang The air with shouts that overpowered the clang Of the incessant carroch even. Haste — The Candle's at the gate- way ! ere it waste Each soldier stands beside, armed fit to march With Tiso Sampier thro' that Eastern arch ! Ferrara's succoured, Palma ! Once again They sate together ; some strange thing in train To say, so difiicult was Palma's place In taking, with a coy fastidious grace Like the bird's flutter ere it fix and feed ; But when she felt she held her friend indeed Safe, she threw back her curls, began implant Her lessons ; telling of another want Goito's quiet nourished than his own ; Palma — to serve, as him — be served, alone h2 100 SORDELLO. Importing ; Agnes' milk so neutralised The blood of Ecelin. Nor be surprised If, while Sordello nature captive led, In dream was Palma wholly subjected To some out-soul which dawned not though she pined Delaying still (pursued she) heart and mind To live : how dared I let expand the force Within me till some out-soul whose resource It grew for should direct it ? Every law Of life, its fitnesses and every flaw, Must that determine whose corporeal shape Would be no other than the prime escape And revelation to me of a Will Orb-like o'ershrouded and inscrutable Above except the point I was to know Shone that myself, my powers, might overflow So far, so much ; as now it signified Which earthly shape it henceforth chose to guide Me by, whose lip selected to declare Its oracles, what fleshly garb would wear: — The first of intimations, whom to love ; The next, how love him. And that orb above The castle-covert and the mountain-close Slow in appearing, if beneath arose BORDELLO. 101 Cravings, aversions, and our green precinct Took pride in me at unawares distinct With this or that endowment, how represt, At once such jetting power shrunk to the rest ! Was I to have a chance touch spoil me, leave My spirit thence unfitted to receive The consummating spell ? — that spell so near Moreover : waits he not the waking year ? His almond- blossoms must be honey-ripe By this ; to welcome him fresh runnels stripe The thawed ravines ; because of him the wind Walks like a herald. I shall surely find Him now ! And chief that earnest April mom Of Richard's Love-court was it time, so worn And white her cheek, so idly her blood beat. Sitting that morn beside the Lady's feet And saying as she prompted ; till outburst One face from all the faces — not then first She knew it ; where in maple-chamber glooms, Crowned with what sanguine-heart pomegranate Advanced it ever ? Men s acknowledgment j^blooms Sanctioned her own : 'twas taken, Palma's bent, She said. 102 SORDELLO. And day by day the Tuscan dumb Sat scheming, scheming ; Ecelin would come Gaunt, scared, Cesano baffles me, he'd say : Better I fought it out my father s way ! Strangle Ferrara in its drowning flats And you and your Taurello yonder — what's Romano's business there ? An hour's concern To cure the fro ward Chief ! induced return Much heartened from those overmeaning eyes, Wound up to persevere, his enterprise Marked out anew, its exigent of wit Apportioned, she at liberty to sit And scheme against the next emergence, I — To covet what I deemed their sprite, made fly Or fold the wing — to con your horoscope For leave command those steely shafts shoot ope Or straight assuage their blinding eagerness To blank smooth snow : what semblance of success To any of my plans for making you Romano's lord ? That Chief — her children too — There Salinguerra would obstruct me sheer. And the insuperable Tuscan here Stayed me ! But one wild eve that Lady died Jn her lone chamber : only I beside : SORDELLO. 103 Taurello far at Naples, and my sire At Padua, Ecelin away in ire With Alberic : she held me thus — a clutch To make our spirits as our bodies touch — And so began flinging the past up, heaps Of uncouth treasure from their sunless sleeps Within her soul ; deeds rose along with dreams, Fragments of many miserable schemes, Secrets, more secrets, then — no, not the last — 'Mongst others, like a casual trick o' the past, How . . . ay, she told me, gathering her face — That face of hers into one arch-grimace To die with . . . Friend, 'tis gone ! but not the fear Of that fell laughing, heard as now I hear. Nor faltered voice, nor seemed herself grow weak, When i' the midst abrupt she ceased to speak — Dead, as to serve a purpose, mark, for in Rushed o' the very instant Ecelin (How summoned who divines ?) looking as if Part understood he why his mate lay stiff Already in my arms for, Girl, how must I manage Este in the matter thrust Upon me, how unravel their bad coil ? Since (he declared) 'tis on your brow — a soil 104 SORDELLO. Like hers there ! then said in a breath he lacked No counsel after all, had signed no pact With devils, nor was treason here or there, Goito or Yicenza, his affair : He 'd bury it in Adelaide's deep grave And begin life afresh, nor, either, slave For any Friedrich's or Taurello's sake ! What booted him to meddle or to make In Lombardy ? 'Twas afterward I knew The meaning of his promise to undo All she had done — why marriages were made, New friendships entered on, old followers paid In curses for their pains, people's amaze At height, when passing out by Gate St. Blaise He stopped short in Yicenza, bent his head Over a friar s neck, had vowed, he said. Long since, nigh thirty years, because his wife And child were saved there, to bestow his life On God, his gettings on the Church. Exiled Within Goito, still that dream beguiled Her days and nights ; 'twas found the orb she sought To serve, those glimpses came of Fomalhaut No other : how then serve it ? — authorise Him and Romano mingle destinies ? SORDELLO. 105 And straight Romano's angel stood beside Her who had else been Boniface's bride, For Salinguerra 'twas, the neck low bent, The voice lightened to music as he meant To learn not teach me how Romano waxed, Wherefore it waned, and why if I relaxed My grasp (think, I !) would drop a thing effete, Frayed by itself, unequal to complete The course and counting every step astray A gain so much. Romano every way Stable, a House now — why this starting back Into the very outset of its track ? This recent patching-principle allied Our House with other Houses — what beside Concerned the apparition, yon grim Knight Who followed Conrad hither in such plight His utmost wealth was reckoned in his steed ? For Ecelo, that prowler, was decreed A task in the beginning hazardous To him as ever task can be to us, But did the weather-beaten thief despair When first our crystal cincture of warm air. That binds the Trivisan as its spice-belt (Crusaders say) the tract where Jesus' dwelt, 106 SORDELLO. Furtive he pierced and Este was to face — Despaired Saponian Strength of Lombard Grace ? Said he for making surer aught made sure, Maturing what already was mature ? No ; his heart prompted Ecelo, Confront Este, inspect yourself. What's nature ? Wont. Discard three-parts your nature and adopt The rest as an advantage I Old Strength propped The earliest of Podestas among The Yincentines, no less than, while there sprung His Palace up in Padua like a threat, Their noblest spied a Grace unnoticed yet In Conrad's crew. Thus far the object gained, Romano was established ; has remained — For are you not Italian, truly peer With Este ? Azzo better soothes it ear Than Alberic ? or is this lion s-crine From over-mount (this yellow hair of mine) So weak a graft on Agnes Este's stock ? (Thus went he on with something of a mock) Wherefore recoil then from the very fate Conceded you, refuse to imitate Your model farther ? Este long since left Being mere Este : as a blade its heft. SORDELLO. 107 Este requires the Pope to further him : And you, the Kaiser : whom your father's whim Foregoes or, better, never shall forego If Palma dares pursue what Ecelo Commenced but Ecelin desists from : just As Adelaide of Susa could intrust Her donative (that 's Piedmont to the Pope, The Alpine-pass for him to shut or ope Twixt France and Italy) to the superb Matilda's perfecting, — lest aught disturb Our Adelaide's great counter-project for Giving her Trentine to the Emperor And passage here from Germany, shall you Take it, my slender plodding talent, too — Urged me Taurello w4th his half-smile. He As Patron of the scattered family Conveyed her to his Mantua, kept in bruit Azzo's alliances and Richard's suit Until, the Kaiser excommunicate. Nothing remains, Taurello said, but wait Some rash procedure : Palma was the link, As Agnes' child, between us, and they shrink From losing Palma : judge if we advance Your father s method your inheritance ! 108 SORDELLO. That day she was betrothed to Boniface At Padua by Taurello's self, took place The outrage of the Ferrarese : again, That day she sought Yerona with the train Agreed for, by Taurello's policy Convicting Richard of the fault, since she Was present to annul or to confirm, Richard, whose patience had outstayed its term. Quitted Yerona for the siege. And now "What glory may engird Sordello's brow For this ? A month since Oliero sunk All Ecelin that was into a Monk ; But how could Salinguerra so forget His liege of thirty summers as grudge yet One effort to recover him ? He sent Forthwith the tidings of the Town s event To Oliero, adding, he, despite The recent folly, recognised his right To order such proceedings ; should he wring Its uttermost advantage out, or fling This chance away ? If not him, who was Head Now of the House ? Through me that missive sped ; My father s answer will by me return. Behold ! For him, he writes, no more concern SORDELLO. 109 With strife than for his children with the plots Of Friedrich. Old engagements out he blots For aye : Taurello shall no more subserve Nor Ecelin impose. Lest this unnerve Him therefore at this juncture, slack his grip Of Richard, suffer the occasion slip, I, in his sons' default (who, mating with Este, forsake Romano as the frith Its mainsea for the firmland that makes head Against) I stand, Romano ; in their stead Assume the station they desert, and give Still, as the Kaiser s Representative, Taurello licence he demands. Midnight — Morning — by noon to-morrow, making light Of the League's issue, we, in some gay weed Like yours disguised together, may precede The arbitrators to Ferrara ; reach Him, let Taurello' s noble accents teach The rest ! then say if I have misconceived Your destiny, too readily believed The Kaiser s cause your own. And Palma 's fled. Though no affirmative disturbs the head A dying lamp-flame sinks and rises o'er Like the alighted planet Pollux wore. 110 SORDELLO. Until, morn breaking, he resolves to be Gate- vein of this heart's blood of Lombardy, Soul to their body — have their aggregate Of souls and bodies, and so conquer fate Though he should live, a centre of disgust Even, apart, core of the outward crust He vivifies, assimilates. For thus Bring I Bordello to the rapturous Exclaim at the crowd's cry, because one round Of life was quite accomplished and he found Not only that a soul, howe'er its might, Is insufficient to its own delight Both in corporeal organs and in skill By means of such to body forth its Will — And, after, insufficient to apprise Men of that Will, oblige them recognise The Hid by the Revealed — but that, the last Nor lightest of the struggles overpast, His Will, bade abdicate, which would not void The throne, might sit there , suffer be enjoyed The same a varied and divine array Incapable of homage the first way Nor fit to render incidentally Tribute connived at, taken by the by, SORDELLO. lil In joys : and if, thus warranted rescind The ignominious exile of mankind Whose proper service, ascertained intact As yet (by Him to be themselves made act. Not watch Sordello acting each of them) "Was to secure — if the true diadem Seenied imminent while our Sordello drank The wisdom of that golden Palma, thank Yerona's Lady in her Citadel Founded by Gaulish Brennus legends tell — And truly when she left him the sun reared A head like the first clamberer's that peered A-top the Capitol, his face on flame With triumph, triumphing till Manlius came. Nor slight too much my rhymes — " that spring, Dispart, disperse, lingering overhead [^dispread. Like an escape of angels ? " Hather say My transcendental platan ! mounting gay (An archimage so courts a novice-queen) With tremulous silvered trunk, whence branches sheen Laugh out, thick foliaged next, a-shiver soon With coloured buds, then glowing like the moon One mild flame, last a pause, a burst, and all Her ivory limbs are smothered by a fall, 112 SORDELLO. Bloom-flinders and fruit-sparkles and leaf-dust, Ending the weird work prosecuted just For her amusement ; he decrepit, stark, Dozes ; her uncontrolled delight may mark Apart — Yet not so, surely never so ! Only as good my soul were suffered go O'er the lagune : forth fare thee, put aside Ehtrance thy synod, as a God may glide Out of the world he fills and leave it mute A myriad ages as we men compute. Returning into it without a break I' the consciousness ! They sleep, and I awake O'er the lagune. Sordello said once, note In just such songs as Eglamor, say, wrote With heart and soul and strength, for he believed Himself achieving all to be achieved By singer — in such songs you find alone Completeness, judge the song and singer One And either s purpose answered, his in it Or its in him : while from true works (to wit Sordello's dream-performances that will Be never more than dream) escapes there still SORDELLO. 113 Some proof the singer s proper life 's beneath The life his song exhibits, this a sheath To that ; a passion and a knowledge far Transcending these, majestic as they are. Smoulder ; his lay was but an episode In the bard's life. Which evidence you owed To some slight weariness, a looking-off Or start-away, the childish skit or scoff In " Charlemagne,'* for instance, dreamed divine In every point except one restive line (Those daughters !) — what significance may lurk In that ? My life commenced before that work. Continues after it, as on I fare With no more stopping possibly, no care To jot down (says the bard) the why and how And where and when of life as I do now : But shall I cease to live for that ? Alas For you ! who sigh, when shall it come to pass We read that story, when will he compress The future years, his whole life's business, Into another lay which that one flout, Howe'er inopportune it be, lets out Engrosses him already while professed To meditate with us eternal rest ? 114 , SORDELLO. Strike sail, slip cable ! here the galley 's moored For once, the awning's stretched, the poles assured ; Noontide above ; except the wave's crisp dash. Or buzz of colibri, or tortoise' splash, The margin's silent ; out with every spoil Made in our tracking, coil by mighty coil, This serpent of a river to his head I' the midst ! Admire each treasure as we spread The turf to help us tell our history Aright : give ear then, gentles, and descry The groves of giant rushes how they grew Like demons' endlong tresses we sailed through. How mountains yawned, forests to give us vent Opened, each doleful side, yet on we went Till . . . may that beetle (shake your cap) attest The springing of a land-wind from the West ! Wherefore ? Ah yes, we frolic it to-day : To-morrow, and the pageant's moved away Down to the poorest tent-pole : we and you Part company : no other may pursue Eastward your voyage, be informed what fate Intends, if triumph or decline await The tempter of the everlasting steppe. I sung this on an empty palace -step SORDELLO. 115 At Venice : why should I break off, nor sit Longer upon my step, exhaust the fit England gave birth to ? Who's adorable Enough reclaim a no Sordello's Will Alack ! — be queen to me ? That Bassanese Busied among her smoking fruit -boats ? These Perhaps from our delicious Asolo Who twinkle, pigeons o'er the portico Not prettier, bind late lilies into sheaves To deck the bridge-side chapel, dropping leaves Soiled by their own loose gold-meal ? Ah, beneath The cool arch stoops she, brownest-cheek ! Her wreath Endures a month — a half month — if I make A queen of her, continue for her sake Bordello's story ? Nay, that Paduan girl Splashes with barer legs where a live whirl In the dead black Giudecca proves sea- weed Drifting has sucked down three, four, all indeed Save one pale-red striped, pale-blue turbaned post For gondolas. You sad disheveled ghost That pluck at me and point, are you advised I breathe ? Let stay those girls (e'en her disguised — Jewels in the locks that love no crownet like Their native field-buds and the green wheat spike, i2 116 SORDELLO. So fair ! — Who left this end of June's turmoil, Shook off, as might a lily its gold soil, Pomp, save a foolish gem or two, and free Came join the peasants o'er the kissing sea.) Look they too happy, too tricked out ? Confess You have so niggard stock of happiness To share that, do one's uttermost, dear wretch. One labours ineffectually stretch It o'er you so that mother, children, both May equitably flaunt the sumpter-cloth ! No : tear the robe yet farther : be content With seeing some few score pre-eminent Through shreds of it, acknowledged happy wights, Engrossing what should furnish all, by rights — (At home we dizen scholars, chiefs and kings. But in this magic weather hardly clings The old garb gracefully : Venice, a type Of Life, 'twixt blue and blue extends, a stripe, As Life, the somewhat, hangs'twixt nought and nought r 'Tis Venice, and 'tis Life — as good you sought To spare me the Piazza's slippery stone. Or stay me thrid her cross canals alone. As hinder Life what seems the single good Sole purpose, one thing to be understood SORDELLO. 117 Of Life) — best, be they Peasants, be they Queens, Take them, I say, made happy any means. Parade them for the common credit, vouch A luckless residue we send to crouch In corners out of sight was just as framed For happiness, its portion might have claimed And so, could we concede that portion, stalked Fastuous as any — such my project, baulked Already ; hardly venture I adjust A lappet when I find you ! To mistrust Me ! nor unreasonably. You, no doubt, Have the true knack of tiring suitors out With those thin lips on tremble, lashless eyes Inveterately tear-shot — there, be wise Mistress of mine, there, there, as if I meant You insult ! Shall your friend (not slave) be shent For speaking home ? Beside care-bit erased Broken-up beauties ever took my taste Supremely, and I love you more, far more That she I looked should foot Life's temple-floor — Years ago, leagues at distance, when and where A whisper came. Seek others, since thy care Is found, a life's provision ; if a race Should be thy mistress, and into one face 118 SORDELLO. The many faces crowd ? Ah, had I, judge, Or no, your secret ? Rough apparel — grudge All ornaments save tag or tassel worn To hint we are not thoroughly forlorn — Slouch bonnet, unloop mantle, careless go Alone (that's saddest but it must be so) Through Venice, sing now and now glance aside, Aught desultory or undignified. And, ravishingest lady, will you pass Or not each formidable group, the mass Before the Basilike (that feast gone by, God's day, the great June Corpus Domini) And wistfully foregoing proper men Come timid up to me for alms ? And then The luxury to hesitate, feign do Some unexampled grace, when whom but you Dare I bestow your own upon ? And hear , Me out before you say it is to sneer I call you ravishing, for I regret Little that she, whose early foot was set Forth as she'd plant it on a pedestal, Now i' the silent city, seems to fall Towards me — no wreath, only a lip's unrest To quiet, surcharged eyelids to be pressed SORDELLO. 119 Dry of their tears upon my bosom : strange Such sad chance should produce in thee such change, My love ! warped men, souls, bodies ! yet God spoke Of right-hand foot and eye — selects our yoke Sordello ! as your poetship may find : So sleep upon my shoulder, child, nor mind Their foolish talk ; we'll manage reinstate The matter ; ask moreover, when they prate Of evil men past hope, don t each contrive Despite the evil you abuse to live ? Keeping, each losel, thro' a maze of lies, His own conceit of truth ? to which he hies By obscure tortuous windings, if you will. But to himself not inaccessible ; He sees it, and his lies are for the crowd Who cannot see ; some fancied right allowed His vilest wrong, empowered the fellow clutch One pleasure from the multitude of such Denied him : then assert, all men appear To think all better than themselves, by here Trusting a crowd they wrong ; but really, say. All men think all men stupider than they Since save themselves no other comprehends The complicated scheme to make amends 120 SORDELLO. — Evil, the scheme by which, thro' Ignorance Good labours to exist. A slight advance Merely to find the sickness you die through And nought beside : but if one can t eschew One's portion in the common lot, at least One can avoid an ignorance increased Tenfold by dealing out hint after hint How nought is like dispensing without stint The water of life — so easy to dispense Beside, when one has probed the centre whence Commotion's born — could tell you of it all — Meantime, just meditate my madrigal O* the mugwort that conceals a dewdrop safe ! . What, dullard ? we and you in smothery chafe Babes, baldheads, stumbled thus far into Zin The Horrid, getting neither out nor in, A hungry sun above us, sands among Our throats, each dromedary lolls a tongue. Each camel churns a sick and frothy chap. And you, 'twixt tales of Potiphar s mishap And sonnets on the earliest ass that spoke. Remark you wonder any one needs choak With founts about ! Potsherd him, Gibeonites, While awkwardly enough your Moses smites SORDELLO. 121 The rock though he forego his Promised Land, Thereby, have Satan claim his carcass, and Dance, forsooth, Metaphysic Poet ... ah Mark ye the dim first oozings ? Meribah ! And quaffing at the fount my courage gained Recall — not that I prompt ye — who explained . . . Presumptuous ! interrupts one. You not I 'Tis, Brother, marvel at and magnify Mine office : office, quotha ? can we get To the beginning of the office yet ? What do we here ? simply experiment Each on the other's power and its intent When elsewhere tasked, if this of mine were trucked For thine to either s profit, — watch construct, In short, an engine : with a finished one What it can do is all, nought how 'tis done ; But this of ours yet in probation, dusk A kernel of strange wheel work thro' its husk Grows into shape by quarters and by halves ; Remark this tooth's spring, wonder what that valve's Fall bodes, presume each faculty's device. Make out each other more or less precise — The scope of the whole engine's to be proved — We die : which means to say the whole's removed, 124 SORDELLO. The Minster minded that ! in heaps the dust Lay every where : that town, the Minster s trust, Held Plara ; who, its denizen, bade hail In twice twelve sonnets, Naddo, Tempers vale. Exact the town, the minster and the street ! As all mirth triumphs, sadness means defeat : Lust triumphs and is gay, Love's triumphed o'er And sad : but Lucio's sad : I said before ^ Love's sad, not Lucio ; one who loves may be As gay his love has leave to hope, as he Downcast his lusts' desire escapes the springe : Tis of the mood itself I speak, what tinge Determines it, else colourless, or mirth. Or melancholy, as from Heaven or Earth. Ay, that's the variation's gist ! Indeed ? Thus far advanced in safety then, proceed ! And having seen too what I saw, be bold Enough encounter what I do behold (That's sure) but you must take on trust ! Attack The use and purpose of such sights ! Alack, Not so unwisely hastes the crowd dispense On Salinguerras praise in preference To the Sordellos : men of action these ! Who seeing just as little as you please SORDELLO. 125 Yet turn that little to account ; engage With, do not gaze at ; carry on a stage The work o* the world, not merely make report The work existed ere their time — In short, When at some future no-time a hrave band Sees, using what it sees, then shake my hand In heaven, my brother ! Meanwhile where's the hurt To keep the Makers- see on the alert At whose defection mortals stare aghast As though Heaven s bounteous window^s were slammed Incontinent ? whereas all you beneath [^fast Should scowl at, curse them, bruise lips, break their Who ply the pullies for neglecting you : [^teeth And therefore have I moulded, made anew A Man, delivered to be turned and tried, Be angry with or pleased at. On your side Have ye times, places, actors of your own ? Try them upon Sordello once full-grown, And then — ah then ! If Hercules first parched His foot in Egypt only to be marched A sacrifice for Jove with pomp to suit. What chance have I ? The demigod was mute Till at the altar, where time out of mind Such guests became oblations, chaplets twined 126 SORDELLO. His forehead long enough, and he began Slaying the slayers, nor escaped a man — Take not affront, my gentle audience ! whom No Hercules shall make his hecatomb Believe, nor from his brows your chaplet rend — That's your kind suffrage, yours, nay, yours, my friend Whose great verse blares unintermittent on Like any trumpeter at Marathon, He'll testify who when Plataeas grew scant Put up with ^tna for a stimulant ! And well too, I acknowledged, as it loomed Over the Midland sea that morn, presumed All day, demolished by the blazing West At eve, while towards it tilting cloudlets prest Like Persian ships for Salamis. Friend, wear A crest proud as desert while I declare Had I a flawless ruby fit to wring A tear its colour from that painted king To lose, I would, for that one smile which went To my heart, fling it in the sea content Wearing your verse in place, an amulet Sovereign against low-thoughtedness and fret ! My English Eyebright, if you are not glad That, as I stopped my task awhile, the sad SORDELLO. 127 Disheveled form wherein I put mankind To come at times and keep my pact in mind Renewed me, — hear no crickets in the hedge Nor let a glowworm spot the river s edge At home, and may the summer showers gush Without a warning from the missel thrush ! For, Eyebright, what I sing's the fate of such As find our common nature (overmuch Despised because restricted and unfit To bear the burthen they impose on it) Cling when they would discard it ; craving strength To leap from the allotted world, at length Tis left — they floundering without a term Each a God's germ, but doomed remain a germ In unexpanded infancy, assure Yourself, nor misconceive my portraiture Nor undervalue its adornments quaint ! What seems a fiend perchance may prove a saint : Ponder a story ancient pens transmit, Then say if you condemn me or acquit. John the Beloved, banished Antioch For Patmos, bade collectively his flock Farewell but set apart the closing eve To comfort some his exile most would grieve 128 SORDELLO. He kDew : a touching spectacle, that house In motion to receive him ! Xanthus' spouse You missed, made panther's meat a month since; but Xanthus himself (for 'twas his nephew shut 'Twixt boards and sawn asunder) Polycarp, Soft Charicle next year no wheel could warp To swear by Ca3sar's fortune, with the rest Were ranged ; thro' whom the grey disciple prest Busily blessing right and left, just stopt To pat one infant's curls the hangman crept Soon after, reached the portal ; on its hinge The door turns and he enters — what deep twinge Ruins the smiling mouth, those wide eyes ^x Whereon ? How like some spectral candlestick's Branch the disciple's arms ! Dead swooned he, woke Anon, heaved sigh, made shift to gasp heart-broke Get thee behind me Satan ! have I toiled To no more purpose ? is the gospel foiled Here too, and o'er my son's, my Xanthus' hearth, Pourtrayed with sooty garb and features swarth — Ah Xanthus, am I to thy roof beguiled To see the — the — the Devil domiciled? Whereto sobbed Xanthus, Father, 'tis yourself Installed, a limning which our utmost pelf SORDELLO, 129 "Went to procure against to-morrow's loss, And that's no twy-prong but a pastoral cross You're painted with ! The puckered brows unfold — And you shall hear Sordello's story told. 130 SORDELLO. BOOK THE FOURTH. Meantime Ferrara lay in rueful case ; The lady-city, for whose sole embrace Her pair of suitors struggled, felt their arms A brawny mischief to the fragile charms Each tugged for — one discovering to twist Her tresses twice or thrice about his wrist Secured a point of vantage — one, how best He'd parry that by planting in her breast His elbow-spike — both parties too intent For noticing, howe'er the battle went. Its conqueror would have a corpse to kiss. May Boniface be duly damned for this ! Howled some old Ghibellin as up he turned, From the wet heap of rubbish where they burned His house, a little scull with dazzling teeth : A boon, sweet Christ — let Salinguerra seethe BORDELLO. 131 In hell for ever, Christ, and let myself Be there to laugh at him ! moaned some young Guelf Stumbling upon a shrivelled hand nailed fast To the charred lintel of the doorway Tast His father stood w^ithin to bid him speed. The thoroughfares looked overrun with weed --Docks, quitchgrass, loathly mallows no man plants. The stranger none of its inhabitants Crept out of doors to taste fresh air again, Or ask the purpose of a sumptuous train Admitted on a morning ; every town Of the East League was come by envoy down To treat for Richard's ransom : here you saw The Yicentine, here snowy oxen draw The Paduan carroch, its vermilion cross On its white j&eld : a-tiptoe o*er the fosse Looked Legate Montelungo wistfully After the flock of steeples he might spy In Este*s time, gone (doubts he) long ago To mend the ramparts — sure the laggards know The Pope 's as good as here ! They paced the streets More soberly. At last, Taurello greets The League, announced a pursuivant, — will match Its courtesy, and labours to despatch K 2 130 SORDELLO. BOOK THE FOURTH. Meantime Ferrara lay in rueful case ; The lady- city, for whose sole embrace Her pair of suitors struggled, felt their arms A brawny mischief to the fragile charms Each tugged for — one discovering to twist Her tresses twice or thrice about his wrist Secured a point of vantage — one, how best He'd parry that by planting in her breast His elbow-spike — both parties too intent For noticing, howe'er the battle went. Its conqueror would have a corpse to kiss. May Boniface be duly damned for this ! Howled some old Ghibellin as up he turned. From the wet heap of rubbish where they burned His house, a little scull with dazzling teeth : A boon, sweet Christ — let Salinguerra seethe SORDELLO. 131 In hell for ever, Christ, and let myself Be there to laugh at him ! moaned some young Guelf Stumbling upon a shrivelled hand nailed fast To the charred lintel of the doorway Tast His father stood v^ithin to bid him speed. The thoroughfares looked overrun vv^ith weed —Docks, quitchgrass, loathly mallows no man plants. The stranger none of its inhabitants Crept out of doors to taste fresh air again. Or ask the purpose of a sumptuous train Admitted on a morning ; every town Of the East League was come by envoy down To treat for Richard's ransom : here you saw The Yicentine, here snowy oxen draw The Paduan carroch, its vermilion cross On its white field : a-tiptoe o*er the fosse Looked Legate Montelungo wistfully After the flock of steeples he might spy In Este*s time, gone (doubts he) long ago To mend the ramparts — sure the laggards know The Pope 's as good as here ! They paced the streets More soberly. At last, Taurello greets The League, announced a pursuivant, — will match Its courtesy, and labours to despatch K 2 132 SORDELLO. At earliest Tito, Friedrich*s Pretor, sent On pressing matters from his post at Trent With Mainard Count of Tyrol,— simply waits Their going to receive the delegates. Tito ! Our delegates exchanged a glance. And, keeping the main way, admired askance The lazy engines of outlandish birth Couched like a king each on its bank of earth— Arbalist, manganel, and catapult ; While stationed by, as waiting a result. Lean silent gangs of mercenaries ceased Working to watch the strangers — this, at least, Were better spared ; he scarce presumes gainsay The League's decision ! Get our friend away And profit for the future : how else teach Azzo 'tis not so safe within claw's reach Till Salinguerra's final gasp be blown ? Those mere convulsive scratches find the bone — Who bade him bloody the spent osprey's nare ? The carrochs halted in the public square. Pennons of every blazon once a-flaunt. Men prattled, freelier that the crested gaunt White ostrich with a horse- shoe in her beak Was missing ; whosoever chose might speak SORDELLO. 133 Ecdin boldly out: so, Ecelin Needed his wife to swallow half the sin And sickens by himself : the devil's whelp He styles his son dwindles away, no help From conserves, your fine triple-curded froth Of virgin's blood, your Venice viper-broth — Eh ? Jubilate ! Tush ! no little word You utter here that's not distinctly heard At Oliero : he was absent sick When we besieged Bassano — who i' the thick O' the work perceived the progress Azzo made Like Ecelin ? through his witch Adelaide Who managed it so well that night by night At their bed-foot stood up a soldier-sprite First fresh, pale by-and-by without a wound, And w4ien he came with eyes filmed as in s wound They knew the place was taken — Ominous Your Ghibellin should get what cautelous Old Redbeard sought from Azzo's sire to wrench Vainly ; St. George contrived his town a trench O' the marshes, an impermeable bar ; Young Ecelin is meant the tutelar Of Padua rather ; veins embrace upon His hand like Brenta and Bacchiglion . , . 134 SORDELLO. What now ? The founts ! God's bread, touch not a A crawling hell of carrion — every tank [plank ! Choke full ! found out just now to Cino's cost — The same who gave Taurello's side for lost, And, making no account of fortune's freaks, Refused to budge from Padua then, but sneaks Back now with Concorezzi — ^'faith ! they drag Their carroch to San Vital, plant the flag On his own Palace so adroitly razed He knew it not ; a sort of Guelf folk gazed And laughed apart ; Cino disliked their air — Must pluck up spirit, show he does not care — Seats himself on the tank's edge — will begin To hum, za za^ Cavaler Ecelin — A silence ; he gets warmer, clinks to chime. Now both feet plough the ground, deeper each time. At last, za za^ and up with a fierce kick Comes his own mother s face caught by the thick Grey hair about his spur ! Which means, they lift The covering Taurello made a shift To stretch upon the truth ; as well avoid Further disclosures ; leave them thus employed. Our dropping Autumn morning clears apace. And poor Ferrara puts a softened face SORDELLO. 135 On her misfortunes, save one spot — this tall Huge foursquare line of red brick gar den- wall Bastioned within by trees of every sort On three sides, slender, spreading, long and short, (Each grew as it contrived, the poplar ramped, The fig-tree reared itself,) but stark and cramped, Made fools of ; whence upon the very edge. Running 'twixt trunk and trunk to smooth one ledge Of shade, are shrubs inserted, warp and woof, Which smother up that variance. Scale the roof Of solid tops and o'er the slope you slide Down to a grassy space level and wide. Here and there dotted with a tree, but trees Of rarer leaf, each foreigner at ease, Set by itself ; and in the centre spreads, Born upon three uneasy leopards' heads, A laver, broad and shallow, one bright spirt Of water bubbles in : the walls begirt With trees leave off on either hand : pursue Your path along a wondrous avenue The walls abut on, heaped of gleamy stone, With aloes leering everywhere, grey-grown From many a Moorish summer ; how they wind Out of the fissures ! likelier to bind 1^6 SORDELLO. The building than those rusted cramps which drop Already in the eating sunshine. Stop Yon fleeting shapes above there ! Ah, the pride Or else despair of the whole country-side — A range of statues, swarming o'er with wasps, God, goddess, woman, man, your Greek rough-rasps In crumbling Naples marble 1 meant to look Like those Messina marbles Constance took Delight in, or Taurello's self conveyed To Mantua for his mistress, Adelaide, A certain font with caryatides Since cloistered at Goito ; only, these Are up and doing, not abashed, a troop Able to right themselves — who see you, stoop O' the instant after you their arms ! unplucked By this or that you pass, for they conduct To terrace raised on terrace, and, between. Creatures of brighter mould and braver mien Than any yet, the choicest of the Isle No doubt ; here, left a sullen breathing- while. Up-gathered on himself the Fighter stood For his last fight, and, wiping treacherous blood Out of the eyelids just held ope beneath Those shading fi-ngers in their iron sheath ,. SORDELLO. 137 Steadied his strengths amid the buz and stir Of a dusk hideous amphitheatre At the announcement of his over-match To wind the day's diversion up, despatch Their pertinacious friend : while, limbs one heap. The Slave, no breath in her round mouth, watched leap Dart after dart forth as her hero's car Clove dizzily the solid of the war — Let coil about his knees for pride in him. We reach the farthest terrace and the grim San Pietro Palace stops us. Such the state Of Salinguerra's plan to emulate Sicilian marvels that his girlish wife Retrude still might lead her ancient life In her new home — whereat enlarged so much Neighbours upon the novel princely touch He took who here imprisons Boniface. Here must the Envoys come to sue for grace ; And here, emerging from the labyrinth Below, two minstrels pause beside the plinth Of the door-pillar. One had really left Yerona for the cornfields (a poor theft 138 SORDELLO. From the morass) where Este's camp was made, The Envoys' march, the Legate's cavalcade — Looked cursorily o'er, but scarce as when, Eager for cause to stand aloof from men At every point save the fantastic tie Acknowledged in his boyish sophistry. He made account of such. A crowd ; he meant To task the whole of it ; each part's intent Concerned him therefore, and the more he pried The less became Sordello satisfied With his own figure at the moment. Sought He respite from his task ? descried he aught Novel in the anticipated sight Of all those livers upon all delight ? A phalanx as of myriad points combined Whereby he still had imaged that mankind His youth was passed in dreams of rivalling, His age — in plans to show at least the thing So dreamed, but now he hastened to impress With his own will, effect a happiness From theirs, supply a body to his soul Thence, and become eventually whole With them as he had hoped to be without — Made these the mankind he was mad about ? SORDELLO. 139 Because a few of them were notable Must all be figured worthy note ? As well Expect to find Taurello's triple line Of trees a single and prodigious pine. Real pines rose here and there, but, close among, Thrust into and mixed up with pines, a throng Of shrubs you saw, a nameless common sort O'erpast in dreams, left out of the report, Fast hurried into corners, or at best Admitted to be fancied like the rest. Reckon that morning's proper chiefs ; how few! And yet the people grew, the people grew, Grew ever, as with many there indeed, More left behind and most who should succeed. Simply in virtue of their faces, eyes. Petty enjoyments and huge miseries. Were veritably mingled with, made great Those chiefs : no overlooking Mainard's state Nor Concorezzi's station, but instead Of stopping there, each dwindled to be head Of infinite and absent Tyrolese Or Paduans ; startling too the more that these Seemed passive and disposed of, uncared for. Yet doubtless on the whole (quoth Eglamor) 140 SORDELLO. Smiling — for if a wealthy man decays And out of store of such must wear all days One tattered suit alike in sun and shade, *Tis commonly some tarnished fine brocade Fit for a feast-night's flourish and no more ; Nor otherwise poor Misery from her store Of looks is fain upgather, keep unfurled For common wear as she goes through the world The faint remainder of some worn-out smile Meant for a feast-night's service merely. While Crowd upon crowd rose on Sordello thus, — Crowds no way interfering to discuss Much less dispute life's joys with one employed In envying them, or, if they enjoyed. There lingered somewhat indefinable In every look and tone, the mirth as well As woe, that fixed at once his estimate Of the result, their good or ba^i estate, — Old memories flocked but with a new efibct : And the new body, ere he could suspect. Cohered, mankind and he were really fused. The new self seemed impatient to be used By him, but utterly another way To that anticipated : strange to say, I SORDELLO. 141 They were too much below him, more in thrall Than he, the adjunct than the principal. What booted scattered brilliances ? the mind Of any number he might hope to bind And stamp with his own thought, howe'er august, If all the rest should grovel in the dust ? No : first a mighty equilibrium sure To be established, privilege procure For them himself had long possessed 1 he felt An error, an exceeding error melt— - While he was occupied with Mantuan chants Behoved him think of men and of their wants Such as he now distinguished every side. As his own want that might be satisfied. And, after that, of wondrous qualities Of his own soul demanding exercise. And like demand it longer : nor a claim On their part, nor was virtue in the aim At serving them on his, but, past retrieve, He in their toils felt with them, nor could leave, Wonder that in the eagerness to rule, Impress his will upon them, he the fool Had never entertained the obvious thought This last of his arrangements would be fraught 142 SORDELLO. With good to them as well, and he should be Rejoiced thereat ; and if, as formerly. He sighed the merry time of life must fleet, 'Twas deeplier now, for could the crowds repeat Their poor experiences ? His hand that shook Was twice to be deplored. The Legate, look ! With eyes, like fresh-blown thrush-eggs on a thread, Faint-blue and loosely floating in his head, Large tongue, moist open mouth ; and this long while That owner of the idiotic smile Serves them ! He fortunately saw in time His fault however, and the office prime Includes the secondary — best accept Both offices ; Taurello its adept Could teach him the preparatory one. And how to do what he had fancied done Long previously, ere take the greater task. How render then these people happy ? ask The people's friends : for there must be one good, One way to it — the Cause ! he understood The meaning now of Palma ; else why are The great ado, the trouble wide and far. These Guelfs and Ghibellins, the Lombard's hope Or its despair ! 'twixt Emperor or Pope SORDELLO. 143 The confused shifting sort of Eden tale — Of hardihood recurring still to fail — That foreign interloping fiend, this free And native overbrooding Deity — Yet a dire fascination o'er the palms His presence ruined troubling thorough calms Of Paradise — or, on the other hand, The Pontiff, as your Kaisers understand, That, snake-like cursed of God to love the ground. With lulling eye breaks in the noon profound Some saving tree — who but the Kaiser drest As the dislodging angel of the pest Then ? yet that pest bedropt, flat head, full fold, With coruscating dower of dyes ; behold The secret, so to speak, and master-spring Of the whole contest ! which of them shall bring Men good — perchance the most good — ay, it may Be that ; the question is which knows the way. And hereupon Count Mainard strutted past Out of San Pietro ; never looked the last Of archers, slingers ; and our friend began To recollect strange modes of serving man — Arbalist, catapult, brake, manganel. And more : this way of theirs may, who can tell, 144 BORDELLO. Need perfecting, said he : all's better solved At once : Taurello 'twas the task devolved On late— -confront Taurello ! And at last They did confront him. Scarcely an hour past When forth Sordello came, older by years Than at his entry. Unexampled fears Oppressed him, and he staggered off, blind, mute And deaf, like some fresh-mutilated brute. Into Ferrara — not the empty tov^n That morning witnessed : he w^ent up and down Streets whence the veil was stripped shred after shred. So that in place of huddling with their dead Indoors to answer Salinguerra*s ends, Its folk made shift to crawl and sit like friends With any one. A woman gave him choice Of her two dauo^hters, the infantile voice Or dimpled knee, for half a chain his throat Was clasped with ; but an archer knew the coat — Its blue cross and eight lilies, bade beware One dogging him in concert with the pair Though thrumming on the sleeve that hid his knife. Night set in early, autumn dews fell rife, And fires were kindled while the Leaguer s mass Began at every carroch — he must pass SORDELLO. 145 Between that kneeling people : presently The carroch of Yerona caught his eye With purple trappings ; silently he bent Over its fire, when voices violent Began, Afiirm not whom the youth was like That, striking from the porch, I did not strike Again ; I too have chesnut hair ; my kin Hate Azzo and stand up for Ecelin ; Here, minstrel, drive bad thoughts away; sing; take My glove for guerdon I and for that man's sake He turned : A song of Eglamor's ! scarce named. When, Our Sordello's, rather ! all exclaimed ; Is not Sordello famousest for rhyme ? He had been happy to deny, this time ; Profess as heretofore the aching head, The failing heart ; suspect that in his stead Some true Apollo had the charge of them. Was champion to reward or to condemn So his intolerable risk might shift Or share itself ; but Naddo's precious gift Of gifts returned, be certain ! at the close — I made that, said he to a youth who rose As if to hear : 'twas Palma through the band Conducted him in silence by the hand. 146 SORDELLO. Back now for Salinguerra. Tito of Trent Gave place, remember, to the pair ; who went In turn at Montelungo's visit — one After the other are they come and gone. A drear vast presence-chamber roughly set In order for this morning's use ; you met The grim black twy-necked eagle, coarsely blacked AYith ochre on the naked walls, nor lacked There green and yellow tokens either side ; But the new symbol Tito brought had tried The Legate's patience — nay, if Palma knew What Salinguerra almost meant to do Until the sight of her restored his lip A certain half- smile three months' chieftainship Had banished ? Afterward the Legate found No change in him, nor asked what badge he wound And unwound carelessly ! Now sate the Chief Silent as when our couple left whose brief Encounter wrought so opportune effect In thoughts he summoned not, nor would reject — Though time, if ever, 'twas to pause now — fix On any sort of ending : wiles and tricks Exhausted, judge 1 his charge, the crazy town, Just managed to be hindered crashing down — SORDELLO. 147 His last sound troops ranged — care observed to post His last of the maimed soldiers innermost — So much was plain enough, but somehow struck Him not before : and now with this strange luck Of Tito's news, rewarding his address So well, what thought he of? How the success With Friedrich's rescript there would either hush Ecelin's fiercest scruple up, or flush Young Ecelin s white cheek, or, last, exempt Himself from telling what there was to tempt ? No : that this minstrel was Romano's last Servant — himself the first ! Could he contrast The whole ! that minstrel's thirty autumns spent In doing nought, his notablest event This morning's journey hither, as we told — Who yet was lean, outworn and really old, A stammering awkward youth (scarce dared he raise His eye before that magisterial gaze) — And Salinguerra with his fears and hopes Of sixty years, his Emperors and Popes, Cares and contrivances, yet you would say A youth 'twas nonchalantly looked away Through the embrasure northward o'er the sick Expostulating trees — so agile quick l2 148 . SORDELLO. And graceful turned the head on the broad chest Encased in pliant steel, his constant vest, Whence split thesun off in a spray of fire Across the room ; and, loosened of its tire Of steel, that head let see the comely brown Large massive locks discoloured as a crown Encircled them, so frayed the basnet where A sharp white line divided clean the hair ; Glossy above, glossy below, it swept Curling and fine about a brow thus kept Calm, laid coat upon coat, marble and sound : This was the mystic mark the Tuscan found. Mused of, turned over books about. Square-faced, No lion more ; two vivid eyes, enchased In hollows filled with many a shade and streak Settling from the bold nose and bearded cheek ; Nor might the half- smile reach them that deformed A lip supremely perfect else — unwarmed, Unwidened, less or more ; indifferent Whether on trees or men his thoughts were bent — Thoughts rarely, after all, in trim and train As now : a period was fulfilled again ; Such in a series made his life, compressed In each, one story serving for the rest — SORDELLO. 149 Therefore he smiled. Beyond stretched garden-grounds Where late the adversary, breaking bounds, Procured him an occasion That above. That eagle, testified he could improve Effectually ; the Kaiser s symbol lay Beside his rescript, a new badge by way Of baldric ; while another thing that marred Alike emprize, achievement and reward, Ecelin s missive was conspicuous too. What a past life those flying thoughts pursue ! As his no name in Mantua half so old ; But at Ferrara, where his sires enrolled It latterly, the Adelardi spared Few means to rival them : both factions shared Ferrara, so that, counted out, 't would yield A product very like the city's shield, Half black and white, or Ghibelin and Guelf, As after Salinguerra styled himself And Este who, till Marchesalla died — Last of the Adelardi, never tried His fortune there ; but Marchesalla's child Transmits (can Blacks and Whites be reconciled And young Taurello wed Linguetta) wealth And sway to a sole grasp : each treats by stealth 150 SORDELLO. Already : when the Guelfs, the Ravennese Arrive, assault the Pietro quarter, seize Linguetta, and are gone ! Our first dismay Abated somewhat, hurries down to lay The after indignation Boniface, No meaner spokesman : Learn the full disgrace Averted ere you blame us — wont to rate Your Salinguerra, and sole potentate That might have been, 'mongst Este's valvassors- Ay, Azzo's — who, not privy to, abhors Our step — but we were zealous. Azzo 's then To do with ! Straight a meeting of old men : The Lombard Eagle of the azure sphere With Italy to build in, builds he here ? This deemed— the other owned upon advice — A third reflected on the matter twice — In fine, young Salinguerra's staunchest friends Talked of the townsmen making him amends. Gave him a goshawk, and affirmed there was Rare sport, one morning, over the morass A mile or so. He sauntered through the plain, Was restless, fell to thinking, turned again In time for Azzo's entry with the bride ; Count Boniface rode smirking at his side ; SORDELLO. 151 There's half Ferrara with her, whispers flew, And all Ancona ! If the stripling knew ! Anon the stripling was in Sicily Where Heinrich ruled in right of Constance ; he Was gracious nor his guest incapable ; Each understood the other. So it fell, One Spring, when Azzo, thoroughly at ease, Had near forgotten what precise degrees He crept by into such a downy seat, Over the Count trudged in a special heat To bid him of God's love dislodge from each Of Salinguerra's Palaces ; a breach Might yawn else not so readily to shut, For who was just arrived at Mantua but The youngster, sword to thigh, tuft upon chin, With tokens for Celano, Ecelin, Pistore and the like ! Next news : no whit Do any of Ferrara's domes befit His wife of Heinrich's very blood : a band Of foreigners assemble, understand Garden-constructing, level and surround, Build up and bury in. A last news crowned The consternation : since his infant's birth He only waits they end his wondrous girth 152 SORDELLO. Of trees that link San Pietro with Toma To visit us. When, as its Podesta Regaled him at Yicenza, Este, there With Boniface beforehand, each aware Of plots in progress, gave alarm, expelled A party which abetted him, but yelled Too hastily. The burning and the flight. And how Taurello, occupied that night With Ecelin, lost wife and son, were told : — Not how he bore the blow, retained his hold, Got friends safe through, left enemies the worst O* the fray, and hardly seemed to care at first — But afterward you heard not constantly Of Salinguerra's House so sure to be ! Though Azzo simply gained by the event A shifting of his plagues — this one content To fall behind the other and estrange, You will not say, his nature, but so change That in Romano sought he wife and child, And for Romano's sake was reconciled To losing individual life, deep sunk, A very pollard mortised in a trunk Which Arabs out of wantonness contrive Shall dwindle that the alien stock may thrive SORDELLO. 153 Till forth that vine-palm feathers to the root And red drops moisten them its arid fruit. Once set on Adelaide, the subtle mate And wholly at his beck, to emulate The Churches valiant women deed for deed, To paragon her namesake, win the meed Of its Matilda,-^and they overbore The rest of Lombardy — not as before By an instinctive truculence, but patched The Kaiser s strategy until it matched The Pontiff's, sought old ends by novel means : Only, Romano Salinguerra screens. Heinrich was somewhat of the tardiest To comprehend, nor Philip acquiesced At once in the arrangement ; reasoned, plied His friend with offers of another bride, A statelier function — fruitlessly : 'tis plain » Taurello's somehow one to let remain Obscure ; and Otho, free to judge of both, — Ecelin the unready, harsh and loth, And this more plausible and facile wight With every point a-sparkle — chose the right. Admiring how his predecessors harped On the wrong man : thus, quoth he, wits are warped I. 154 SORDELLO. By outsides ! Carelessly, withal, his life Suffered its many turns of peace and strife In many lands — you hardly could surprise A man who shamed Sordello (recognise) In this as much beside, that, unconcerned What qualities are natural or earned. With no ideal of graces, as they came He took them, singularly well the same — Speaking a dozen languages because Your Greek eludes you, leave the least of flaws In contracts, while, through Arab lore, deter Who may the Tuscan, once Jove trined for her. From Friedrich's path ! Friedrich, whose pilgrimage The same man puts aside, whom he '11 engage To leave next year John Brienne in the lurch, And see Bassano for Saint Francis' church — Profound on Guide the Bolognian s piece That, if you lend him credit, rivals Greece — Angels, with aureoles like golden quoits Pitched home, applauding Ecelin s exploits In Painimrie. He strung the angelot ; Made rhymes thereto ; for prowess, clove he not Tiso, last siege, from crest to crupper ? why Detail you thus a varied mastery SORDELLO. 155 But that Taurello, ever on the watch For men, to read their hearts and thereby catch Their capabilities and purposes, Displayed himself so far as displayed these : While our Sordello only cared to know- About men as a means for him to show Himself, and men were much or little worth According as they kept in or drew forth That self; the other's choicest instruments Surmised him shallow. Meantime malecontents Dropped off, town after town grew wiser ; how Change the world's face ? said people ; as 'tis now It has been, will be ever : very fine Subjecting things profane to things divine In talk : this contumacy will fatigue The vigilance of Este and the League, Observe ! accordingly, their basement sapped, Azzo and Boniface were soon entrapped By Ponte Alto, and in one month's space Slept at Yerona : either left a brace Of sons — so three years after, cither's pair Lost Guglielm and Aldobrand its heir : Azzo remained and Richard — all the stay Of Este and St. Boniface, at bay 156 BORDELLO. As 'twere ; when either Ecelin grew old Or his brain altered — not the proper mould For new appliances — his old palm stock Endured no influx of strange strengths : he'd rock As in a drunkenness, or chuckle low As proud of the completeness of his woe, Then weep — real tears ! Now make some mad On Este, heedless of the lesson taught [^onslaught So painfully — now cringe, sue peace, but peace At price of all advantage ; therefore cease The fortunes of Romano ! Up at last Rose Este and Romano sank as fast. And men remarked this sort of peace and war Commenced while Salinguerra was afar : And every friend besought him, but in vain, To wait his old adherent, call again Taurello : not he — who had daughters, sons, Could plot himself, nor needed any one's Advice. 'Twas Adelaide's remaining staunch Prevented his destruction root and branch Forthwith ; Goito green above her, gay He made alliances, gave lands away To whom it pleased accept them, and withdrew For ever from the world. Taurello, who SORDELLO. 157 Was summoned to the convent, then refused A word, — however patient, thus abused, At Este's mercy through his imbecile Ally, was fain dismiss the foolish smile, And a few movements of the happier sort . Changed matters, put himself in men s report As heretofore ; he had to fight, beside. And that became him ever. So in pride . And flushing of this kind of second youth He dealt a good- will blow : Este in truth Was prone — and you remembered, somewhat late, A laughing old outrageous stifled hate He bore that Este — how it would outbreak At times spite of disguise, like an earthquake In sunny weather — as that noted day When with his hundred friends he ofibred slay Azzo before the Kaiser's face : and how On Azzo's calm refusal to allow A liegeman's challenge straight he too was calmed : His hate, no doubt, would bear to lie embalmed. Bricked up, the moody Pharaoh, to survive All intermediate crumblings, be alive At earth's catastrophe — 'twas Este's crash Not Azzo's he demanded, so no rash 158 SORDELLO. Procedure ! Este's true antagonist Eose out of Ecelin : all voices whist, Each glance was sharpened, wit predicted. He Twas leaned in the embrasure presently. Amused with his own efforts, now, to trace With his steel- sheathed forefinger Friedrich's face I' the dust : and as the trees waved sere, his smile Deepened, and words expressed its thought erewhile. Ay, fairly housed at last, my old compeer ? That we should stick together all the year I kept Yerona ! — How old Boniface, Old Azzo caught us in its market-place, He by that pillar, I this pillar, each In mid swing, more than fury of his speech. Egging our rabble on to disavow Allegiance to the Marquis — Ba^cchus, how They caught us ! Ecelin must turn their drudge ; Nor, if released, will Salinguerra grudge Paying arrears of tribute due long since — Bacchus ! My man, could promise then, nor wince. The bones-and-muscles ! sound of wind and limb, Spoke he the set excuse I framed for him ; And now he sits me, slavering and mute. Intent on chafing each starved purple foot SORDELLO. 159 Benumbed past aching with the altar slab — Will no vein throb there when some monk shall blab Spitefully to the cir^cle of bald scalps " Friedrich 's affirmed to be our side the Alps" — Eh, brother Lactance, brother Anaclet ? Sworn to abjure the world and the world's fret, God's own now ? drop the dormitory bar, Enfold the scanty grey serge scapular Twice o'er the cowl to muffle memories out — So ! but the midnight whisper turns a shout, Eyes wink, mouths open, pulses circulate In the stone walls : the past, the world you hate Is with you, ambush, open field — or see The surging flame — they fire Yicenza — glee ! Follow, let Pilio and Bernard! chafe — Bring up the Mantuans — through San Biagio — safe ! Ah, the mad people waken ? Ah, they writhe And reach you ? if they block the gate — no tithe Can pass — keep back you Bassanese ! the edge, Use the edge — shear, thrust, hew, melt down the wedge, Let out the black of those black upturned eyes ! Hell — are they sprinkling fire too ? the blood fries And hisses on your brass gloves as they tear Those upturned faces choaking with despair. 160 SORDELLO. Brave ! Slidder through the reeking gate — how now ! You six had charge of her ? And then the vow Comes, and the foam spirts, hair 's plucked, till one shriek (I hear it) and you fling — you cannot speak — Your gold-flowered basnet to a man who haled The Adelaide he dared scarce view unveiled This morn, naked across the fire : how crown The archer that exhausted lays you down Your infant, smiling at the flame, and dies ? While one, while mine . . . Bacchus ! I think there lies More than one corpse there (and he paced the room) — Another cinder somewhere — 'twas my doom Beside, my doom : if Adelaide is dead I am the same, this Azzo lives instead Of that to me, and we pull any how Este into a heap — the matter s now At the true juncture slipping us so oft ; Ay, Heinrich died and Otho, please you, dofibd His crown at such a juncture : let but hold Our Friedrich's purpose, let this chain enfold The neck of . . . who but this same Ecelin ? That must recoil when the best days begin — Recoil ? that's nought ; so the recoiler leaves His name for me to fight with, no one grieves ! SORDELLO. 161 But he must interfere, forsooth, unlock His cloister to become my stumbling-block Just as of old ! Ay, ay, there 'tis again — The land's inevitable Head — explain The reverences that subject us ! Count These Ecelins now ! not to say as fount. Originating power of thought, from twelve That drop i' the trenches they joined hands to delve Six shall surpass him, but . . . why, men must twine Somehow with something ! Ecelin 's a fine Clear name! Twere simpler, doubtless, twine with me At once : our cloistered friend's capacity Was of a sort ! I had to share myself In fifty portions, like an o'ertasked elf That's forced illume in fifty points the vast Rare vapour he 's environed by : at last My strengths, though sorely frittered, e'en converge And crown — no, Bacchus, they have yet to urge The man be crowned ! That aloe, an he durst, Would climb ! just such a bloated sprawler first I noted in Messina's castle court The day I came, and Heinrich asked in sport If I would pledge my faith to win him back His right in Lombardy ; for, once bid pack M 162 SORDELLO. Marauders, he continued, in my stead You rule, Taurello ! and upon this head Laid the silk glove of Constance — I see her Too, mantled head to foot in miniver, Eetrude following ! I am absolved From further toil : the empery devolved On me, 'twas Tito's word : and think, to lay For once my plan, pursue my plan my way. Prompt nobody, and render an account Taurello to Taurello ! nay, I mount To Friedrich — he conceives the post I kept. Who did true service, able or inept. Who's worthy guerdon, Ecelin or I : Me guerdoned, counsel follows ; would he vie With the Pope really ? Azzo, Boniface Compose a right-arm Hohenstauffen's race Must break ere govern Lombardy ; I point How easy 'twere to twist, once out of joint. The socket from the bone ; my Azzo's stare Meanwhile ! for I, this idle strap to wear. Shall — fret myself abundantly, what end To serve ? There's left me tw^enty years to spend — How better than my old way ? Had I one Who laboured overthrow my work — a son BORDELLO. 163 Hatching with Azzo superb treachery, To root my pines up and then poison me, Suppose — 'twere worth while frustrate that ! Beside Another life 's ordained me : the world's tide Rolls, and what hope of parting from the press Of waves, a single wave through weariness That's gently led aside, laid upon shore ? My life must be lived out in foam and roar, No question. Fifty years the province held Taurello ; troubles raised, and troubles quelled. He in the midst — who leaves this quaint stone place. Those trees a year or two, then, not a trace Of him ! How obtain hold, fetter men s tongues Like that Sordello with his foolish songs — To which, despite our bustle, he is linked ? — Flowers one may teaze, that never seem extinct ; Ay, that patch, surely, green as ever, where I set Her Moorish lentisk, by the stair. To overawe the aloes — and we trod Those flowers, how call you such ? into the sod ; A stately foreigner — and worlds pf pain To make it thrive, arrest rough winds — all vain ! It would decline — these would not be destroyed — And now, where is it — where can you avoid M 2 164 SORDELLO. The flowers ? I frighten children twenty years Longer ! — which way, too, Ecelin appears To thwart me, for his son s besotted youth Gives promise of the proper tiger-tooth, They prattle, at Yicenza ! Fate, fate, fate, My fine Taurello ! go you, promulgate Friedrich*s decree, and here's shall aggrandise Young Ecelin — our Prefect's badge ! a prize Too precious, certainly. How now ? Compete With my old comrade ? shufl3^e from their seat His children ? Paltry dealing ! don t I know Ecelin ? now, I think, and years ago ! What 's changed — the weakness? did not I compound For that, and undertake preserve him sound Despite it ? Say Taurello 's hankering After the boy s preferment — this play-thing To carry, Bacchus ! And he laughed. Remark Why schemes wherein cold-blooded men embark Prosper, when your enthusiastic sort Fails : for these last are ever stopping short — (Much to be done — so little they can do !) The careless tribe see nothing to pursue SORDELLO. 165 Should they desist ; meantime their scheme succeeds. Thoughts were caprices in the course of deeds Methodic with Taurello ; so he turned, Enough amused by fancies fairly earned Of Este's horror-struck submitted neck, And Boniface completely at his beck, To his own petty but immediate doubt If he could pacify the League without Conceding Richard ; just to this was brought That interval of vain discursive thought ! As, shall I say, some Ethiop, past pursuit Of all enslavers, dips a shackled foot. Burnt to the blood, into the drowsy black Enormous water current, his sole track To his own tribe again, where he is King ; And laughs because he guesses, numbering The yellower poison- wattles on the pouch Of the first lizard wrested from its coucli Under the slime (whose skin, the while, he strips To cure his nostril with, and festered lips. And eyeballs bloodshot through the desert blast) That he has reached its boundary, at last May breathe; — thinks o'er enchantments of the South Sovereign to plague his enemies, their mouth 166 SORDELLO. And nails, and hair ; but, these enchantments tried In fancy, puts them soberly aside For truth, cool projects, a return with friends, The likelihood of winning wild amends Ere long ; thinks that, takes comfort silently, And from the river's brink his wrongs and he, Hugging revenge close to their hearts, are soon Off-striding for the Mountains of the Moon. Midnight : the watcher nodded on his spear, Since clouds dispersing left a passage clear, If any meagre and discoloured moon Should venture forth ; and such was peering soon Above the harassed city — her close lanes Closer, not half so tapering her fanes. As though she shrunk into herself to keep What little life was saved more safely. Heap By heap the watch-fires mouldered, and beside The blackest spoke Sordello and replied Palma with none to listen. Tis your Cause — What makes a Ghibellin ? There should be laws — (Remember how my youth escaped ! I trust To you for manhood, Palma ; tell me just As any child) — laws secretly at work Explaining this. Assure me good may lurk SORDELLO. 167 Under the bad ; my multitude has part In your designs, their welfare is at heart With Salinguerra, to their interest Refer the deeds he dwelt on — so divest Our conference of much that scared me : why Affect that heartless tone to Tito ? I Esteemed myself, yes, in my inmost mind This morn, a recreant to that wide mankind O'erlooked till now : why boast my spirit's force, — That force denied its object ? why divorce These, then admire my spu-it's flight the same, As though it bore a burden, which could tame No pinion, from d^ead void to living space ? — That orb consigned to chaos and disgrace. Why vaunt complacently my frantic dance. Making a feat's facilities enhance The marvel ? But I front Taurello, one Of happier fate, and what I should have done He does ; the multitude aye paramount With him, its making progress may account For his abiding still : when . . . but you heard His talk with Tito — the excuse preferred For burning those five hostages — and broached By way of blind, as you and I approached, I do believe. 168 SORDELLO. She spoke : then he, My thought Plainer expressed ! All Friedrich's profit — nought Of these meantime, of conquests to achieve For them, of wretchednesses to relieve While profiting that Friedrich. Azzo, too. Supports a cause : what is it ? Guelfs pursue Their ends by means like yours, or better ? When The Guelfs were shown alike, men ranged with men, And deed with deed, blaze, blood, with blood and blaze. Morn broke : once more, Sordello, meet its gaze Proudly — the people's charge against thee fails In every point, while either party quails ! These are the busy ones — be silent thou ! Two parties take the world up, and allow No third, yet have one principle, subsist By the same method ; whoso shall enlist With either, ranks with man's inveterate foes. So there is one less quarrel to compose 'Twixt us : the Guelf 's, the Ghibellin 's to curse — I have done nothing, but both sides do worse Than nothing ; nay to me, forgotten^ reft Of insight, lapped by trees and flowers, was left The notion of a service— ha ? What lured Me here, what mighty aim was I assured SORDELLO. 169 Moved Salinguerra ? If a Cause remained Intact, distinct from these, and fate ordained, For all the past, that Cause for me ? One pressed Before them here, a watcher, to suggest The subject for a ballad : he must know The tale of the dead worthy, long ago Consul of Rome — that 's long ago for us. Minstrels and bowmen, idly squabbling thus In the world's corners — but too late, no doubt. For the brave time he sought to bring about — Not know Crescentius Nomentanus ? Then He cast about for terms to tell him, when Sordello disavowed it, how they used Whenever their Superior introduced A novice to the Brotherhood (for I Was just a brown-sleeve brother, merrily Appointed too, quoth he, till Innocent Bade me relinquish, to my small content, My wife or my brown sleeves) out some one spoke Ere nocturns of Crescentius, to revoke The edict issued after his demise That blotted memory, and effigies, All out except a floating power, a name Including, tending to produce the same 1/0 SORDELLO. Great act. Rome, dead, forgotten, lived at least Within that man, though to a vulgar priest And a vile stranger, fit to be a slave Of Rome's, Pope John, King Otho, fortune gave The rule there : but Crescentius, haply drest In white, called Roman Consul for a jest, Taking the people at their word, forth stept As upon Brutus' heel, nor ever kept Us waiting ; stept he forth and from his brain Gave Rome out on its ancient place again. Ay, bade proceed with Brutus' Rome kings styled Themselves the citizens of, and, beguiled Thereby, were fain select the lustrous gem Out of a lapfull, spoil their diadem — The Senate's cypher was so hard to scratch ! He flashes like a phanal, men too catch The flame, and Rome's accomplished ; when returned Otho and John the Consul's step had spurned, With Hugo Lord of Este, to redress The wrongs of each. Crescentius in the stress Of adverse fortune bent. They crucified Their Consul in the Forum and abide Such slaves at Rome e'er since, that I — (for I Was once a brown-sleeve brother, merrily SORDELLO. 171 Appointed) — I had option to keep wife Or keep brown sleeves, and managed in the strife Lose both. A song of Rome ! And Rome, indeed, Robed at Goito in fantastic weed. The Mother-City of those Mantuan days, Looked an established point of light whence rays Traversed the world ; and all the clustered homes Beside of men were bent on being Romes In their degree ; the question was how each Should most resemble Rome, clean out of reach Herself ; nor struggled either principle To change what it aspired possess — Rome, still For Friedrich or Honorius. Rome 's the Cause ! The Rome of the old Pandects, our new laws — The Capitol turned Castle Angelo And structures that inordinately glow Corrected by the Theatre forlorn As a black mundane shell, its world late born — Yerona, that 's beside it. These combined, We typify the scheme to put mankind Once more in full possession of their rights By his sole agency. On me it lights 172 SORDELLO. To build up Rome again — me, first and last : For such a Future was endured the Past ! And thus in the grey twilight forth he sprung To give his thought consistency among The People's self, and let their truth avail Finish the dream grown from the archer s tale. SORDELLO. 173 BOOK THE FIFTH. Is it the same Sordello in the dusk As at the dawn ? merely a perished husk Now, that arose a power like to build Up Rome again ? The proud conception chilled So soon ? Ay, watch that latest dream of thine — A Rome indebted to no Palatine, Drop arch by arch, Sordello ! Art possest Of thy wish now — rewarded for thy quest To-day among Ferrara's squalid sons — Are this and this and this the shining ones Meet for the Shining City ? Sooth to say Our favoured tenantry pursue their way After a fashion ! This companion slips On the smooth causey, t'other blinkard trips At his mooned sandal. Leave to lead the brawls Here i' the atria ? No, friend. He that sprawls 174 SORDELLO. On aught but a stibadium suffers . . . goose, Puttest our lustral vase to such an use ? Oh, huddle up the day s disasters — march Ye runagates, and drop thou, arch by arch, Eome ! Yet before they quite disband — a whim — Study a shelter, now, for him, and him. Nay, even him, to house them ! any cave Suffices — throw out earth. A loophole ? Brave ! They ask to feel the sun shine, see the grass Grow, hear the larks sing ? Dead art thou, alas, And I am dead ! But here's our son excels At hurdle- weaving any Scythian, fells Oak and devises rafters, dreams and shapes That dream into a door-post, just escapes The mystery of hinges. Lie we both Perdue another age. The goodly growth Of brick and stone ! Our building-pelt was rough, But that descendant's garb suits well enough A portico-contriver. Speed the years — What 's time to us ? and lo, a city rears Itself ! nay, enter — what's the grave to us ? So our forlorn acquaintance carry thus A head ! successively sewer, forum, cirque — Last age that aqueduct was counted work, SORDELLO. 175 And now they tire the artificer upon Blank alabaster, black obsidion, — Careful Jove's face be duly fulgurant, And mother Yenus' kiss-creased nipples pant Back into pristine pulpiness, ere fixed Above the baths. What difference betwixt This Rome and ours ? Resemblance what between The scurvy dumb- show and the pageant sheen — These Romans and our rabble ? Rest thy wit And listen : step by step, — a workman fit With each, nor too fit, — to one's task, one's time, — No leaping o'er the petty to the prime, When just the substituting osier lithe For bulrushes, and after, wood for withe To further loam and roughcast work a stage. Exacts an architect, exacts an age, — Nor tables of the Mauritanian tree For men whose maple-log 's their luxury, — And Rome's accomplished ! Better (say you) merge At once all workmen in the demiurge, All epochs in a life-time, and all tasks In one : undoubtedly the city basks I' the day — w^hile those you'd feast there want the knack Of keeping fresh-chalked gowns from speck and brack. 176 SORDELLO. Distinguish not your peacock from your swan, Or Mareotic juice from Coecuban, Nay sneer . . . enough ! 'twas happy to conceive Rome on a sudden, nor shall fate bereave Us of that credit : for the rest, her spite Is an old story — serves us very right For adding yet another to the dull List of devices — things proved beautiful Could they be done, Sordello cannot do. He sate upon the terrace, plucked and threw The powdery aloe- cusps away, saw shift Rome's walls, and drop arch after arch, and drift Mist-like afar those pillars of all stripe. Mounds of all majesty. Thou archetype. Last of my dreams and loveliest, depart ! And then a low voice wound into his heart : Sordello (lower than a Pythoness Conceding to a Lydian King's distress The cause of his long error — one mistake Of her past oracle) Sordello, wake ! Where is the vanity ? Why count you, one The first step with the last step ? What is gone Except that aery magnificence — That last step you took first ? an evidence SORDELLO. 177 You were ... no matter. Let those glances fall ! This basis, this beginning step of all, Which proves you one of us, is this gone too ? Pity to disconcert one versed as you In fate's ill-nature, but its full extent Eludes Sordello, even : the veil 's rent, Read the black writing — that collective man Outstrips the individual ! Who began The greatnesses you know ? — ay, your own art Shall serve us : put the poet's mimes apart — Close with the poet — closer — what ? a dim Too plain form separates itself from him ? Alcama's song enmeshes the lulled Isle, Woven into the echoes left erewhile Of Nina's, one soft web of song : no more Turning his name, now, flower-like o'er and o'er ! An elder poet 's in the younger's place — Take Nina's strength — but lose Alcama's grace ? Each neutralizes each then I gaze your fill ; Search further and the past presents you still New Ninas, new Alcamas, time's mid-night Concluding, — better say its evenlight Of yesterday. You, now, in this respect Of benefitting people (to reject 178 BORDELLO. The favour of your fearful ignorance A thousand phantasms eager to advance, Refer you but to those within your reach) Were you the first who got, to use plain speech, The Multitude to be materialized ? That loose eternal unrest — who devised An apparition i' the midst ? the rout Who checked, the breathless ring who formed about That sudden flower ? Get round at any risk The gold-rough pointel, silver-blazing disk 0' the lily ! Swords across it ! Reign thy reign And serve thy frolic service, Charlemagne ! — The very child of over-joy ousness. Unfeeling thence, strong therefore : Strength by stress Of Strength comes of a forehead confident. Two widened eyes expecting heart's content, A calm as out of just-quelled noise, nor swerves The ample cheek for doubt, in gracious curves Abutting on the upthrust nether lip — He wills, how should lie doubt then ? Ages slip — Was it Sordello pried into the work So far accomplished, and discovering lurk A company amid the other clans, Only distinct in priests for castellans SORDELLO. 179 And popes for suzerains (their rule confessed Its rule, their interest its interest, Living for sake of living — there an end, Wrapt in itself, no energy to spend In making adversaries or allies) ; Dived he into its capabilities And dared create out of that sect a soul Should turn the multitude, already whole, To some account ? Speak plainer ! Is't so sure God's church lives by a King's investiture ? Look to last step : a staggering — a shock — What 's sand shall be demolished, but the rock Endures — a column of black fiery dust Blots heaven — woe, woe, 'tis prematurely thrust Aside, that step ! — the air clears — nought's erased Of the true outline ? Thus much is firm based — The other was a scaffold : see you stand Buttressed upon his mattock Hildebrand Of the huge brain-mask welded ply o'er ply As in a forge ; it buries either eye White and extinct, that stupid brow ; teeth clenched, The neck 's tight-corded, too, the chin deep-trenched, As if a cloud enveloped him while fought Under it all, grim prizers, thought with thought N 2 180 SORDELLO. At dead-lock, agonizing he, until The victor thought leap radiant up, and Will,' The slave with folded arms and drooping lids They fought for, lean forth flame-like as it bids. — A root, the crippled mandrake of the earth. Thwarted and dwarfed and blasted in its birth, Be certain ; fruit of suffering's excess. Whence feeling, therefore stronger : still by stress Of Strength, work Knowledge ! Full threehundred years For men to wear away in smiles and tears Between the two that nearly seem to touch, Observe you : quit one workman and we clutch Another, letting both their trains go by — The actors-out of cither's policy, Heinrich, on this hand, Otho, Barbaross, May carry the Imperial crowns across, Aix' Iron, Milan's Silver, and Rome's Gold — As Alexander, Innocent uphold On that the Papal keys — but, link on link, Why is it neither chain betrays a chink ? How coalesce the small and great ? Alack, For one thrust forward, fifty such fall back ! The couple there alone help Gregory ? Hark — from the hermit Peter's thin sad cry SORDELLO. 181 At Claremont, yonder to the serf that says Friedrich *s no liege of his while he delays Getting the Pope's curse off him ! The Crusade — Or trick of breeding strength by other aid Than strength, is safe : hark — from the wild harangue Of Yimmercato, to the carroch's clang. Yonder ! The League — or trick of turning strength Against pernicious strength, is safe at length : Yet hark — from Mantuan Albert's making cease The fierce ones, to Saint Francis preacliing peace Yonder 1 God's Truce — or trick to supersede The use of strength at all, is safe. Indeed We trench upon the future ! Who shall found Next step, next age — trail plenteous o'er the ground Yine-like, produced by joy and sorrow, whence Unfeeling and yet feeling, strongest thence : Knowledge by stress of Knowledge is it ? No — E'en were Sordello ready to forego His work for this, 'twere overleaping work Some one must do before, howe'er it irk : No end 's in sight yet of that second road : Who means to help must still support the load Hildebrand lifted — why hast Thou, he groaned, Imposed, my God, a thing thy Paul had moaned. 182 SORDELLO. Thy Moses failed beneath, on me ? and yet That grandest of the tasks God ever set On man left much to do : a mighty wrench — The scaffold falls — but half the pillars blench Merely, start back again — perchance have been Taken for buttresses : crash every screen. Hammer the tenons better, and engage A gang about your work, for the next age Or two, of Knowledge, part by Strength and part By Knowledge ! then — Ay, then perchance may start Sordello on his race —but who'll divulge Time's secrets ? lo, a step 's awry, a bulge To be corrected by a step we thought Got over long ago — till that is wrought. No progress ! and that scaffold in its turn Becomes, its service o'er, a thing to spurn. Meanwhile, your some half-dozen years of life Longer, dispose you to forego the strife — Who takes exception ? 'Tis Ferrara, mind. Before us, and Goito 's left behind : As you then were, as half yourself, desist ! — The warrior-part of you may, an it list. Finding real faulchions diiSicult to poise. Fling them afar and taste the cream of joys SORDELLO. 183 By wielding one in fancy, — what is bard Of you, may spurn the vehicle that marred Elys so much, and in mere fancy glut His sense on her free beauties — we have but To please ourselves for law, and you could please What then appeared yourself by dreaming these Rather than doing these : now — fancy's trade Is ended, mind, nor one half may evade The other half : our friends are half of you : Out of a thousand helps, just one or two Can be accomplished presently — but flinch From these (as from the faulchion raised an inch, Elys described a couplet) and make proof Of fancy, — and, while one half lolls aloof O' the grass completing Rome to the tip-top — See if, for that, the other half will stop A tear, begin a smile : that rabble's woes, Ludicrous in their patience as they chose To sit about their town and quietly Be slaughtered, — the poor reckless soldiery. With their ignoble rhymes on Richard, how Polt-foot, sang they, was in a pitfall now, Cheering each other from the engine-mounts, — That crippled spawling idiot who recounts 184 SORDELLO. How, lopt of limbs, he lay, stupid as stone^ Till the pains crept from out him one by one^ And wriggles round the archers on his head To earn a morsel of their chesnut bread, — And Cino, always in the self-same place Weeping ; beside that other wretches' case Eyepits to ear one gangrene since he plied The engine in his coat of raw sheep's hide A double watch in the noon stm ; and see Lucchino, beauty, with the favors free, Trim hacqueton and sprucely scented hair. Campaigning it for the first time — cut there In two already, boy enough to crawl For latter orpine round the Southern wall, Toma, where Richard 's kept, because that whore Marfisa the fool never saw before Sickened for flowers this wearisomest siege : Then Tiso's wife — men liked their pretty liege. Cared for her least of whims once, Berta, wed A twelvemonth gone, and, now poor Tiso 's dead. Delivering herself of his first child On that chance heap of wet filth, reconciled To fifty gazers. (Here a wind below Made moody music augural of woe SORDELLO. 185 From the pine barrier) — "What if, now the scene Draws to a shutting, if yourself have been — You, plucking purples in Goito's moss Like edges of a trabea (not to cross Your consul-feeling) or dry aloe-shafts Here at Ferrara — He whom fortune wafts This very age her best inheritance Of opportunities ? Yet we advance . Upon the last ! Since talking is your trade, There 's Salinguerra left you to persuade. And then — No — no — which latest chance secure ! Leapt up and cried Sordello : this made sure, The Past is yet redeemable whose work Was — help the Guelfs, and I, howe'er it irk. Thus help ! He shook the foolish aloe-haulm Out of his doublet, paused, proceeded calm To the appointed presence. The large head Turned on its socket ; And your spokesman, said The large voice, is Elcorte's happy sprout ? Few such (so finishing a speech no doubt Addressed to Palma, silent at his side) Our sober councils have diversified : Elcorte's son ! — but forward as you may, Our lady's minstrel with so much to say ! 186 SORDELLO. The hesitating sunset floated back, Rosily traversed in a single track The chamber, from the lattice o'er the girth Of pines to the huge eagle blacked in earth Opposite, outlined sudden, spur to crest. That solid Salinguerra, and caressed Palma's contour ; 'twas Day looped back Night's pall; Sordello had a chance left spite of all. And much he made of the convincing speech He meant should compensate the Past and reach Through his youth's daybreak of unprofit, quite To his noon s labour, so proceed till night At leisure ! The contrivances to bind Taurello body with the Cause and mind, — "Was the consummate rhetoric just that ? Yet most Bordello's argument dropped flat Through his accustomed fault of breaking yoke. Disjoining him who felt from him who spoke : Was't not a touching incident — so prompt A rendering the world its just accompt Once proved its debtor ? Who'd suppose before This proof that he, Goito's God of yore. At duty's instance could demean himself So memorably, dwindle to a Guelf ? SORDELLO. 187 Be sure, in such delicious flattery steeped, His inmost self at the out-portion peeped Thus occupied ; then stole a glance at those Appealed to, curious if her colour rose Or his lip moved, while he discreetly urged The need of Lomhardy's becoming purged At soonest of her barons ; the poor part Abandoned thus missing the blood at heart. Spirit in brain, unseasonably off Elsewhere ! But, though his speech was worthy scoff, Good-humoured Salinguerra, famed for tact That way, who, careless of his phrase, ne'er lacked The right phrase, and harangued Honor ius dumb At his accession, looked as all fell plumb To purpose and himself took interest In every point his new instructor pressed — Left playing with the rescript's white wax seal To scrutinize Sordello head to heel : Then means he . . . yes, assent sure ? Well ? Alas, He said no more than. So it comes to pass That poesy, sooner than politics. Makes fade young hair : to think his speech could fix Taurello ! Then a flash ; he knew the truth : So fantasies shall break and fritter youth 188 SORDELLO. That he has long ago lost earnestness, Lost will to work, lost power to express Even the need of working ! Ere the grave No more occasions now, though he should crave One such in right of superhuman toil To do what was undone, repair his spoil, Alter the Past — nought brings again the chance ! Not that he was to die : he saw askance Protract the ignominious years beyond To dream in — time to hope and time despond, Remember and forget, be sad, rejoice As saved a trouble, suited to his choice, — One way or other idle life out, drop No few smooth verses by the way — for prop A thyrsus these sad people should, the same, Pick up, set store by, and, so far from blame. Plant o'er his hearse convinced his better part Survived him. Rather tear men out the heart Of the truth ! Sordello muttered, and renewed His propositions for the Multitude. But Salinguerra who, the last attack. Threw himself in his ruffling corslet back To hear the better, smilingly resumed Some task ; beneath the carroch's warning boomed; ^ SORDELLO. 189 He must decide with Tito ; courteously He turned then, even seeming to agree With his admonisher — " Assist the Pope, • Extend his domination, fill the scope Of the Church based on All, by All, for All — Change Secular to Evangelicar' — Echoing his very sentence : all seemed lost, When sudden he looked, laughingly almost, To Palma : This opinion of your friend's For instance, would it answer Palma's ends ? Best, were it not, turn Guelf, submit our Strength (Here he drew out his baldric to its length) To the Pope's Knowledge — letting Richard slip. Wide to the walls throw ope your gates, equip Azzo with . . . but no matter ! Who '11 subscribe To a trite censure of the minstrel tribe Henceforward ? or pronounce, as Heinrich used, " Spear -heads for battle, burr-heads for the joust" — When Constance, for his couplets, would promote Alcama from a parti-coloured coat To holding her lord's stirrup in the wars. Not that I see where couplet -making jars With common sense : at Mantua we had borne This chanted, easier than their most forlorn 190 SORDELLO. Of bull-fights, that's indisputable ! Brave ! Whom vanity nigh slew, contempt shall save ! All's at an end : a Troubadour suppose Mankind 's to class him with their friends or foes ? A puny uncouth ailing vassal think The world and him in some especial link ? Abrupt the visionary tether 's burst — "What's to reward or what to be amerced If a poor drudge, solicitous to dream Deservingly, gets tangled by his theme So far as to conceit his knack or gift Or whatsoe'er it be of verse might lift The globe, a lever like the hand and head Of — Men of Action, as the Jongleurs said, — The Great Men, in the people's dialect ? And not a moment did this scorn affect Sordello : scorn the poet ? They, for once, Asking " what was," obtained a full response. Bid Naddo think at Mantua, he had but To look into his promptuary, put His hand on a set thought in a set speech : And was Sordello fitted thus for each Conjuncture ? No wise ; since within his soul Perception brooded unexpressed and whole: SORDELLO. 191 A healthy spirit like a healthy frame Craves aliment in plenty and, the same, Changes, assimilates its aliment : Perceived Sordello, on a truth intent ? Next day no formularies more you saw Than figs or olives in a sated maw — Tis Knowledge whither such perceptions tend, They lose themselves in that, means to an end, The Many Old producing some One New, A Last unlike the First. If lies are true. The Caliph Haroun s man of brass receives A^meal, ay, millet grains and lettuce leaves Together in his stomach rattle loose— You find them perfect next day to produce But ne'er expect the man, on strength of that, Can roll an iron camel- collar flat Like Haroun s self ! I tell you, what was stored Parcel by parcel through his life, outpoured That eve, was, for that age, a novel thing : And round those three the People formed a ring, Suspended their own vengeance, chose await The issue of this strife to reinstate Them in the right of taking it — in fact He must be proved their lord ere they exact 192 SORDELLO. Amends for that lord's defalcation. Last, A reason why the phrases flowed so fast Was in his quite forgetting for the time Himself in his amazement that his rhyme Disguised the royalty so much : he there — They full face to him — and yet unaware Who was the King and who . . . But if I lay On thine my spirit and compel obey His lord — Taurello ? Impotent to build Another Rome, but hardly so unskilled In what such builder should have been as brook One shame beyond the charge that he forsook His function ! Set me free that shame I bend A brow before, suppose new years to spend, Allow each chance, nor fruitlessly, recur — Measure thee with the Minstrel, then, demur At any crown he claims ! That I must cede As 'tis, my right to my especial meed — Confess you fitter help the world than I Ordained its champion from eternity. Is much : but to behold you scorn the post I quit in your behalf— as aught 's to boast Unless you help the world ! And while he rung The changes on this theme, the roof up-sprung, SORDELLO. 193 The sad walls of the presence-chamber died Into the distance, or, embowering vied With far-away Goito's vine- frontier ; And crowds of faces (only keeping clear The rose-light in the midst, his vantage-ground To fight their battle from) deep clustered round Sordello, with good wishes no mere breath, Kind prayers for him no vapour, since, come death. Come life, he was fresh-sinewed every joint. Each bone new-marrowed as whom Gods anoint Though mortal to their rescue : now let sprawl The snaky volumes hither, Typhon's all For Hercules to trample — good report From Salinguerra 's only to extort ? So was I (closed he his inculcating A poet must be earth's essential king) So was I, royal so, and if I fail Tis not the royalty ye witness quail But one deposed who, caring not exert Its proper essence, trifled malapert With accidents instead — good things assigned The herald of a better thing behind — And, worthy through display of these, put forth Never the inmost all- surpassing worth 194 SORDELLO. That constitutes him King precisely since As yet no other creature may evince Its like : the power he took most pride to test. Whereby all forms of life had been professed At pleasure, forms already on the earth, Was but a means to power whose novel birth Should, in its novelty, be kingship's proof — Now, whether he came near or kept aloof, Those forms unalterable first to last Proved him her copy, not the protoplast Of Nature : what could come of being free By action to exhibit tree for tree, Bird, beast for beast and bird, or prove earth bore A veritable man or woman more ? Means to an end, such proofs ; and what the end ? Your essence, whatsoe'er it be, extend — Never contract ! Already you include The multitude ; now let the multitude Include yourself, and the result is new ; Themselves before, the multitude turn you ; This were to live and move and have (in them) Your being, and secure a diadem That 's to transmit (because no cycle yearns Beyond itself, but on itself returns) SORDELLO. 195 When the full sphere in wane, the world overlaid Long since with you, shall have in turn obeyed Some orb still prouder, some displayer, still More potent than the last, of human Will, And some new King depose the old. Of such Am I — whom pride of this elates too much ? Safe, rather say, mid troops of peers again ; I, with my words, hailed brother of the train Once deeds sufficed : for, let the world roll back. Who fails, through deeds diverse so e'er, re-track My purpose still, my task ? A teeming crust — Air, flame, earth, wave at conflict — see ! Needs must Emerge some Calm embodied these refer (Saturn — no yellow-bearded Jupiter!) The brawl to ; some existence like a pact And protest against Chaos, some first fact r the faint of Time . . . my deep of life, I know, Is unavailing e'en to poorly show (For here the Chief immeasurably yawned) Deeds in their due gradation till Song dawned — The fullest effluence of the finest mind All in degree, no way diverse in kind From those about us, minds which, more or less, Lofty or low, in moving seek impress o 2 196 SORDELLO. Themselves on somewhat ; but one mind has climbed Step after step, by just ascent sublimed : Thought is the soul of act, and stage by stage. Is soul from body still to disengage As tending to a freedom which rejects Such help and incorporeally aflfects The world, producing deeds but not by deeds. Swaying, in others, frames itself exceeds, Assigning them the simpler tasks it used As patiently perform till Song produced Acts, by thoughts only, for the mind : divest Mind of e'en Thought, and, lo, God's unexpressed Will dawns above us. But so much to win Ere that ! A lesser round of steps within The last. About me, faces ! and they flock. The earnest faces ! What shall I unlock By song ? behold me prompt, whate'er it be, To minister : how much can mortals see Of Life ? No more ? I covet the first task And marshal yon Life's elemental Masque Of Men, on evil or on good lay stress, This light, this shade make prominent, suppress All ordinary hues that softening blend Such natures with the level : apprehend BORDELLO. 197 "Which evil is, which good, if I allot Your Hell, the Purgatory, Heaven ye v^ot. To those you doubt concerning : I en womb Some wretched Friedrich with his red-hot tomb, Some dubious spirit, Lombard Agilulph With the black chastening river I engulph ; Some unapproached Matilda I enshrine With languors of the planet of decline — These fail to recognise, to arbitrate Between henceforth, to rightly estimate Thus marshalled in the Masque ! Myself, the while. As one of you, am witness, shrink or smile At my own showing ! Next age — what's to do ? The men and women stationed hitherto Will I unstation, good and bad, conduct Each nature to its farthest or obstruct At soonest in the world : Light, thwarted, breaks A limpid purity to rainbow flakes. Or Shadow, helped, freezes to gloom : behold How such, with fit assistance to unfold. Or obstacles to crush them, disengage Their forms, love, hate, hope, fear, peace make, war In presence of you all ! Myself implied C^v^ge? Superior now, as, by the platform's side, 198 SORDELLO. Bidding them do and suffer to content The world . . . no — that I wait not — circumvent A few it has contented, and to these Offer unveil the last of mysteries I boast ! Man s life shall have yet freer play : Once more I cast external things away And Natures, varied now, so decompose That . . . but enough ! Why fancy how I rose, Or rather you advanced since evermore Yourselves effect what I was fain before Effect, what I supplied yourselves suggest, What I leave bare yourselves can now invest ? How we attained to talk as brothei:s talk. In half-words, call things by half-names, no balk From discontinuing old aids — To-day Takes in account the work of Yesterday-— Has not the world a Past now, its adept Consults ere he dispense with or accept New aids ? a single touch more may enhance, A touch less turn to insignificance Those structures' symmetry the Past has strewed Your world with, once so bare : leave the mere rude Explicit details, 'tis but brother s speech We need, speech where an accent's change gives each SORDELLO. 199 The other's soul — no speech to understand By former audience — need was then expand, Expatiate — hardly were they brothers ! true — Nor I lament my less remove from you. Nor reconstruct what stands already : ends Accomplished turn to means : my art intends New structure from the ancient : as they changed The spoils of every clime at Venice, ranged The horned and snouted Lybian God, upright As in his desert, by some simple bright Clay cinerary pitcher — Thebes as Rome, Athens as Byzant rifled, till their Dome From Earth's reputed consummations razed A seal the all-transmuting Triad blazed Above. Ah, whose that fortune ? ne'ertheless E'en he must stoop contented to express No tithe of what's to say — the vehicle Never sufficient — but his work is still For faces like the faces that select A single service I am bound effect Nor murmur, bid me, still as poet, bow Taurello to the Guelf cause, disallow The Kaiser's coming — which with heart, soul, strength, I labour for, this eve, who feel at length 200 SORDELLO. My past career s outrageous vanity And would (as vain amends) die, even die Now I first estimate the boon of life, So death might bow Taurello — sure this strife Is the last strife — the People my support. My poor Sordello ! what may we extort By this, I wonder ? Palma's lighted eyes Turned to Taurello who, as past surprise. Began, You love him — what you'd say at large If I say briefly ? First your father s charge To me, his friend, peruse : I guessed indeed You were no stranger to the course decreed Us both : I leave his children to the saints : As for a certain project, he acquaints The Pope with that, and offers him the best Of your possessions to permit the rest Go peaceably — to Ecelin, a stripe Of soil the cursed Yicentines will gripe, — To Alberic, a patch the Trevisan Clutches already; extricate who can Treville, Yillarazzi, Puissolo, Cartiglione, Loria — all go, And with them go my hopes ! 'Tis lost, then ! Lost This eve, our crisis, and some pains it cost SORDELLO. 201 Procuring ; thirty years — as good Fd spent Like our admonisher ! But each his bent Pursues — no question, one might live absurd Oneself this while, by deed as he by word. Persisting to obtrude an influence where 'Tis made account of much as . . . nay, you fare With twice the fortune, youngster — I submit, Happy to parallel my waste of wit With the renowned Sordello's — you decide A course for me — Romano may abide Romano, — Bacchus ! Who*d suppose the dearth Of Ecelins and Alberics on earth ? Say there's a thing in prospect, must disgrace Betide competitors ? An obscure place Suits me — there wants youth, bustle, one to stalk And attitudinize — some fight, more talk, Most flaunting badges — 'twere not hard make clear Since Friedrich's very purposes lie here — Here — pity they are like to lie ! For me, Whose station s fixed unceremoniously Long since, small use contesting ; I am but The liegeman, you are born the lieges — shut That gentle mouth now ! — or resume your kin In your sweet self; Palma were Ecelin 202 SORDELLO. For me and welcome ! Could that neck endure This bauble for a cumbrous garniture You should ... or might one bear it for you ? Stay — I have not been so flattered many a day As by your pale friend — Bacchus ! The least help Would lick the hind's fawn to a lion's whelp — His neck is broad enough — a ready tongue Beside — too writhled — but, the main thing, young — I could . . . why look ye I And the badge was thrown Across Sordello's neck : this badge alone Makes you Romano's Head — the Lombard's Curb Turns on your neck which would, on mine, disturb My pauldron, said Taurello. A mad act, Nor dreamed about a moment since — in fact Not when his sportive arm rose for the nonce — But he had dallied overmuch, this once, With power : the thing was done, and he, aware The thing was done, proceeded to declare (So like a nature made to serve, excel In serving, only feel by service well) That he should make him all he said and more : As good a scheme as any : what's to pore At in my face ? he asked — ponder instead This piece of news : you are Romano's Head — SORDELLO. 203 One cannot slacken pace so near the goal, Suffer my Azzo to escape heart-whole This time ! For you there's Palma to espouse — For me, one crowning trouble ere I house Like my compeer. On which ensued a strange And solemn visitation — mighty change O'er every one of them — each looked on each — Up in the midst a truth grew, without speech, And when the giddiness sank and the haze Subsided, they were sitting, no amaze, Sordello with the baldric on, his sire Silent though his proportions seemed aspire Momently ; and, interpreting the thrill Nigh at its ebb, Palma you found was still Relating somewhat Adelaide confessed A year ago, while dying on her breast. Of a contrivance that Yicenza night. Her Ecelin had birth : their convoy's flight Cut off a moment, coiled inside the flame That wallowed like a dragon at his game The toppling city through— San Biagio rocks ! And wounded lies in her delicious locks Retrude, the frail mother, on her face. None of her wasted, just in one embrace 204 BORDELLO. Covering her child : when, as they lifted her, Cleaving the tumult, mighty, mightier And mightiest Taurello's cry outbroke, Leapt like a tongue of fire that cleaves the smoke. Midmost to cheer his Mantuans onward — drown His colleague's clamour, Ecelin s, up, down The disarray : failed Adelaide see then Who was the natural Chief, the Man of Men ? Outstripping time her Ecelin burst swathe. Stood up with haggard eyes beyond the scathe From wandering after his heritage Lost once and lost for aye — what could engage That deprecating glance ? A new Shape leant On a familiar Shape — gloatingly bent O'er his discomfiture ; 'mid wreaths it wore. Still one outflamed the rest — her child's before 'Twas Salinguerra's for his child : scorn, hate Rage, startled her from Ecelin — too late ! A moment's work, and rival's foot had spurned Never that brow to earth ! Ere sense returned — The act conceived, adventured, and complete. They stole away towards an obscure retreat Mother and child— Retrude's self not slain (Nor even here Taurello moved) though pain SORDELLO. 205 Was fled ; and what assured them most 'twas fled, All pain, was, if you raised the pale hushed head 'T would turn this way and that, waver awhile, And only settle into its old smile (Graceful as the disquieted water-flag Steadying itself, remarked they, in the quag On either side their path) when sufi'ered look Downward : they marched : no sign of life once shook The company's close litter of crossed spears Till, as they reached Goito, a few tears Slipt in the sunset from her long black lash, And she was gone. So far the action rash — No crime. They laid Retrude in the font Taurello's very gift, her child was wont To sit beneath — constant as eve he came To sit by its attendant girls the same As one of them. For Palm a, she would blend With this magific spirit to the end That ruled her first — but scarcely had she dared To disobey the Adelaide who scared Her into vowing never to disclose A secret to her husband which so froze His blood at half recital she contrived To hide from him Taurello's infant lived 206 SORDELLO. Lest, by revealing that, himself should mar Romano's fortunes : and, a crime so far, Palma received that action : she was told Of Salinguerra's nature, and his cold Calm acquiescence in his lot ! But free Impart the secret to Romano, slie Engaged to repossess Sordello of His heritage, and hers, and that way doflP The mask, but after years, long years I — while now Was not Romano's sign-mark on that brow ? Across Taurello's heart his arms were locked : And 'twas, when speak he did, as if he mocked The minstrel, who had not to move, he said. Not stir — should Fate defraud him of a shred Of this son s infancy ? much less of youth (Laughingly all this) which to aid, in truth, Himself, reserved on purpose, had not grown Old, not too old — 'twas better keep alone Till now, and never idly meet till now : — Then, in the same breath, told Sordello how The intimations of this eve's event Were futile — Friedrich means advance to Trent, Thence to Yerona, then to Rome — there stop — Tumble the Church down, institute a-top SORDELLO. 207 The Alps a Prefecture of Lombardy : — That's now — no prophesying what may be Anon, beneath a monarch of the clime, Native of Gesi, passing his youth's prime At Naples. Tito bids my choice decide On whom . . . Embrace him, madman ! Palma cried Who through the laugh saw sweatdrops burst apace And his lips' blanching : he did not embrace Sordello, but he laid Sordello's hand On his own eyes, mouth, forehead. Understand, This while Sordello was becoming flushed Out of his whiteness; thoughts rushed, fancies rushed ; He pressed his hand upon his head and signed Both should forbear him. Nay, the best's behind ! Taurello laughed — not quite with the same laugh : The truth is, thus you scatter, ay, like chaff The Guelfs a despicable monk recoils From — nor expect a fickle Kaiser spoils Our triumph ! — Friedrich ? Think you I intend Friedrich shall reap the fruits of blood I spend And brain I waste ? Think you the people clap Their hands at my out-hewing this wild gap 208 SORDELLO. For any Friedricli to fill up ? Tis mine— That's yours : I tell you towards some such design Have I worked blindly, yes, and idly, yes. And for another, yes— but worked no less With instinct at my heart ; I else had swerved, While now — look round ! My cunning has preserved Samminiato — that's a central place Secures us Florence, boy, in Pisa's case By land as she by sea ; with Pisa ours. And Florence, and Pistoia, one devours The land at leisure ! Gloriously dispersed — Brescia, observe, Milan, Piacenza first That flanked us (ah, you know not !) in the March ; On these we pile, as keystone of our arch, Romagna and Bologna, whose first span Covered the Trentine and the Yalsugan ; Sofia's Egna by Bolgiano's sure . . . So he proceeded. Half of all this pure Delusion, doubtless, nor the rest too true, But what was undone he felt sure to do As ring by ring he wrung ofi*, flung away The pauldron-rings to give his sword-arm play — Need of the sword now ! That would soon adjust Aught wrong at present ; to the sword intrust SORDELLO. 209 Sordello's whiteness, undersize ; 'twas plain He hardly rendered right to his own hrain — Like a brave hound men educate to pride Himself on speed or scent nor aught beside, As though he could not, gift by gift, match men ! Palma had listened patiently : but when Twas time expostulate, attempt withdraw Taurello from his child, she, without aw^e Took off his iron arms from, one by one, Sordello's shrinking shoulders, and, that done, Made him avert his visage and relieve Sordello (you might see his corslet heave [^sank : The while) who, loose, rose — tried to speak — then They left him in the chamber — all was blank. And even reeling down the castle-stair Taurello kept up, as though unaware Palma was guide to him, the old device — Something of Milan — how we muster thrice The Torriani's strength there — all along Our own Yisconti cowed them — thus the song Continued even while she bade him stoop, Thrid somehow, by some glimpse of arrow-loop. The turnings to the gallery below. Where he stopped short as Palma let him go. p 210 SORDELLO. When he had sate in silence long enough Splintering the stone bench, braving a rebuff She stopt the truncheon ; only to commence One of Sordello's poems, a pretence For speaking, some poor rhyme of Elys' hair And head that 's sharp and perfect like a pear, So smooth and close are laid the few fine locks Stained like pale honey oozed from topmost rocks Sun-blanched the livelong Summer — from his worst Performance, the Goito, as his|first : And that at end, conceiving from the brow And open mouth no silence would serve now, Went on to say the whole world loved that man And, for that matter, thought his face, tho' wan, Eclipsed the Count's — he sucking in each phrase As if an angel spoke : the foolish praise Ended, he drew her on his mailed knees, made Her face a frame- work with his hands, a shade, A crown, an aureole — there must she remain (Her little mouth compressed w4th smiling pain As in his gloves she felt her tresses twitch) To get the best look at, in fittest niche Dispose his saint ; that done, he kissed her brow — Lauded her father for his treason now. SORDELLO. 211 He told her, only how could one suspect The wit in him ? whose clansman, recollect, Was ever Salinguerra — she, the same, Romano and his lady — so might claim To know all, as she should — and thus begun Schemes with a yengeance, schemes on schemes, not one Fit to be told that foolish boy, he said. But only let Sordello Palma wed, —Then ! *Twas a dim long narrow place at best : Midway a sole grate showed the fiery West As shows its corpse the world's end some split tomb — A gloom, a rift of fire, another gloom Faced Palma — but at length Taurello set Her free ; the grating held one ragged jet Of fierce gold fire : he lifted her within The hollow underneath — how else begin Fate's second marvellous cycle, else renew The ages than with Palma plain in view ? Then paced the passage, hands clenched, head erect. Pursuing his discourse ; a grand unchecked Monotony made out from his quick talk And the recurring noises of his walk ; p2 212 SORDELLO. — Somewhat too much like the o'ercharged assent Of two resolved friends in one danger blent, Who hearten each the other against heart — Boasting there *s nought to care for, when, apart The boaster, all's to care for : he, beside Some shape not visible, in power and pride Approached, out of the dark, ginglingly near, Nearer, passed close in the broad light, his ear Crimson, eyeballs suffused, temples full- fraught. Just a snatch of the rapid speech you caught. And on he strode into the opposite dark Till presently the harsh heel's turn, a spark r the stone, and whirl of some loose embossed thong That crashed against the angle aye so long After the last, punctual to an amount Of mailed great paces you could not but count. Prepared you for the pacing back again : And by the snatches might you ascertain That, Friedrich's Prefecture surmounted, left By this alone in Italy, they cleft Asunder, crushed together, at command Of none, were free to break up Hildebrand, Rebuild, he and Sordello, Charlemagne — But garnished. Strength with Knowledge, if we deign BORDELLO. 213 Accept that compromise and stoop to give Rome law, the Caesars' Representative. — Enough that the illimitable flood Of triumphs after triumphs, understood In its faint reflux (you shall hear) sufiiced Young Ecelin for appanage, enticed Him till, these long since quiet in their graves, He found 'twas looked for that a long life's braves Should somehow be made good — so, weak and worn, Must stagger up at Milan, one grey morn Of the To-Come, to fight his latest fight. And Salinguerra's prophecy at height — He voluble with a raised arm and stifle, A blaring voice, a blazing eye, as if He had our very Italy to keep Or cast away, or gather in a heap To garrison the better — ay, his word Was, " run the cucumber into a gourd, Drive Trent upon Apulia" — at their pitch Who spied the continents and islands which Grew sickles, mulberry leaflets in the map — (Strange that three such confessions so should hap To Palma Dante spoke with in the clear Amorous silence of the Swooning-sphere. 214 SORDELLO. Cunizza, as he called her ! Never ask Of Palma more ! She sate, knowing her task Was done, the labour of it — for success Concerned not Palma, passion s votaress) Triumph at height, I say, Sordello crowned — Above the passage suddenly a sound Stops speech, stops walk : back shrinks Taurello, bids With large involuntary asking lids Palma interpret. Tis his own foot-stamp — Your hand ! His summons 1 Nay, this idle damp Befits not. Out they two reeled dizzily : " Yisconti's strong at Milan," resumed he In the old somewhat insignificant way (Was Palma wont years afterward to say) As though the spirit's flight sustained thus far Dropped at that very instant. Gone they are — Palma, Taurello ; Eglamor anon, Ecelin, Alberic ... ah, Naddo 's gone ! — Labours this moonrise what the Master meant " Is Squarcialupo speckled ? — purulent rd say, but when was Providence put out ? He carries somehow handily about His spite nor fouls himself ! " Goito's vines Stand like a cheat detected — stark rouoh lines SORDELLO. 215 The moon breaks through, a grey mean scale against The vault where, this eve's Maiden, thou remain st Like some fresh martyr, eyes fixed — who can tell ? As Heaven, now all's at end, did not so well Spite of the faith and victory, to leave Its virgin quite to death in the lone eve : While the persisting hermit- bee ... ha! wait No longer — these in compass, forward fate ! 216 SORDELLO. BOOK THE SIXTH. The thought of Eglamor 's least like a thought, And yet a false one, was, Man shrinks to nought If matched with symbols of immensity — Must quail, forsooth, before a quiet sky Or sea, too little for their quietude : And, truly, somewhat in Sordello's mood Confirmed its speciousness while evening sank Down the near terrace to the further bank. And only one spot left out of the night Glimmered upon the river opposite — A breadth of watery heaven like a bay, A sky-like space of water, ray for ray And star for star, one richness where they mixed As this and that wing of an angel, fixed, Tumultuary splendors folded in To die : nor turned he till Ferrara's din BORDELLO. 217 (Say, the monotonous speech from a man's lip Who lets some first and eager purpose slip In a new fancy's birth ; the speech keeps on Though elsewhere its informing soul be gone) Aroused him, — surely ofi'ered succour ; fate Paused with this eve ; ere she precipitate Herself . . . put ofi* strange after-thoughts awhile, That voice, those large hands, that portentous smile . . . What help to pierce the Future as the Past Lay in the plaining city ? And at last The main discovery and prime concern. All that just now imported him to learn. His truth, like yonder slow moon to complete Heaven, rose again, and naked at his feet Lighted his old life's every shift and change. Effort with counter-effort ; nor the range Of each looked wrong except wherein it checked Some other — which of these could he suspect Prying into them by the sudden blaze ? The real way seemed made up of all the ways — Mood after mood of the one mind in him ; Tokens of the existence, bright or dim, Of a transcendent all-embracing sense Demanding only outward influence, 218 BORDELLO. A soul, in Palma's phrase, above his soul, Power to uplift his power, this moon s control, Over the sea-depths, and their mass had swept Onward from the beginning and still kept Its course ; but years and years the sky above Held none, and so, untasked of any love, His sensitiveness idled, now amort. Alive now, and to sullenness or sport Given wholly up, disposed itself anew At every passing instigation, grew And dwindled at caprice, in foam-showers spilt, Wedge-like insisting, quivered now a gilt Shield in the sunshine, now a blinding race Of whitest ripples o'er the reef — found place For myriad charms ; not gathered up and, hurled Right from its heart, encompassing the world. So had Sordello been, by consequence, Without a function : others made pretence To strengths not half his own, yet had some core Within, submitted to some moon, before It still, superior still whatever its force, Were able therefore to fulfil a course Nor missed Life's crown, authentic attribute — To each who lives must be a certain fruit SORDELLO. 219 Of having lived in his degree, a stage Earlier or later in men's pilgrimage, To stop at ; and to which those spirits tend Who, still discovering beauty without end, Amass the scintillations for one star — Something unlike them, self- sustained, afar. And meanwhile nurse the dream of being blest By winning it to notice and invest Their souls with alien glory some one day Whene'er the nucleus, gathering shape alway, Round to the perfect circle — soon or late According as themselves are formed to wait ; Whether 'tis human beauty will suffice —The yellow hair and the luxurious eyes, Or human intellect seem best, or each Combine in some ideal form past reach On earth, or else some shade of these, some aim, Some love, hate even, take their place the same, That may be served — all this they do not lose. Waiting for death to live, nor idly choose What Hell shall be — a progress thus pursued Through all existence, still above the food That 's offered them, still towering beyond The widened range in virtue of their bond 220 SORDELLO. Of sovereignty : not that a Palma's Love A Salinguerra's Hate would equal prove To swaying all Sordello : wherefore doubt, Love meet for such a Strength, some Moon 's without To match his Sea ? — fear, Good so manifest, Only the Best breaks faith ? — but that the Best Somehow eludes us ever, still might be And is not : crave you gems ? where 's penury Of their material round us ? pliant earth, The plastic flame — what balks the Mage his birth — Jacynth in balls, or lodestone by the block ? Flinders enrich the strand and veins the rock — No more ! Ask creatures ? Life in tempest. Thought Clothes the keen hill-top, mid-day woods are fraught With fervors . . . ah, these forms are well enough — But we had hoped, encouraged by the stuff Profuse at Nature's pleasure, Men beyond These Men ! and thus, perchance, are over-fond In arguing, from Good the Best, from force Divided — force combined, an ocean s course From this our sea whose mere intestine pants Had seemed at times sufficient to our wants. — External Power ? If none be adequate And he have been ordained (a prouder fate) SORDELLO. 221 A law to his own sphere ? the need remove All incompleteness be that law, that love ? Nay, really such be other s laws, though veiled In mercy to each vision that had failed If unassisted by its Want, for lure. Embodied ? stronger vision could endure The simple want — no bauble for a truth ! The People were himself ; and by the ruth At their condition was he less impelled Alter the discrepancy he beheld Than if, from the sound Whole, a sickly Part Subtracted were transformed, decked out with art. Then palmed on him as alien woe — the Guelf To succour, proud that he forsook himself? No : All 's himself — ^all service, therefore, rates Alike, nor serving one part, immolates The rest : but all in time 1 That lance of yours Makes havoc soon with Malek and his Moors, That buckler 's lined with many a Giant's beard Ere long, Porphyrio, be the lance but reared, The buckler wielded handsomely as now ; But view your escort, bear in mind your vow. Count the pale tracts of sand to pass ere that. And, if you hope we struggle through this flat. 222 SORDELLO. Put lance and buckler up —next half-month lacks A sturdy exercise of mace or axe To cleave this dismal brake of prickly-pear That bristling holds Cydippe by the hair, Lames barefoot Agathon. Oh, People, urge Your claims ! — for thus he ventured to the verge Push a vain mummery which perchance distrust Of his fast-slipping resolution thrust No less : accordingly the Crowd — as yet He had inconsciously contrived forget To dwell upon the points . . . one might assuage The signal horrors sooner than engage With a dim vulgar vast unobvious grief Not to be fancied off, obtain relief In brilliant fits, cured by a happy quirk, But by dim vulgar vast unobvious work To correspond — however, forth they stood : And now content thy stronger vision, brood On thy bare want ; the grave stript turf by turf, Study the corpse-face thro' the taint-worms' scurf ! Down sank the People s Then ; uprose their Now. These sad ones render service to ! And how Piteously little must that service prove — Had surely proved in any case ! for move SORDELLO. 223 Each other obstacle away, let youth Have been aware it had surprised a Truth 'Twere service to impart — can Truth be seized, Settled forthwith, and of the captive eased Its captor look around, since this alit So happily, no gesture luring it. The earnest of a flock to follow ? Yain, Most vain ! a life 's to spend ere this he chain. To the poor crowd's complacence ; ere the crowd Pronounce it captured he descries a cloud Its kin of twice the plumage— he, in turn, If he shall live as many lives, may learn Secure — not otherwise. Then Mantua called Back to his mind how certain bards were thralled — Buds blasted, but of breaths more like perfumes Than Naddo's staring nosegay's carrion blooms Could boast — some rose that burnt heart out in sweets, A spendthrift in the Spring, no Summer greets — Some Dularete, drunk with truths and wine. Grown bestial dreaming how become divine. Yet to surmount this obstacle, commence With the commencement, merits crowning ! Hence Must Truth be casual Truth, elicited In sparks so mean, at intervals dispread 224 SORDELLO. So rarely, that 'tis like at no one time Of the world's story has not Truth, the prime Of Truth, the very Truth which loosed had hurled Its course aright, been really in the world Content the while with some mean spark by dint Of some chance-blow, the solitary hint Of buried fire, which, rip its breast, would stream Sky- ward I Sordello's miserable gleam Was looked for at the moment : he would dash This badge to earth and all it brought, abash Taurello thus, perhaps persuade him wrest The Kaiser from his purpose ; would attest His constancy in any case. Before He dashes it, however, think once more ! For, was that little truly service ? Ay — r the end, no doubt ; but meantime ? Plain you spy Its ultimate EflPect, but many flaws Of vision blur each intervening Cause ; Were the day's fraction clear as the life's sum Of service. Now as filled as the To-come With evidence of good — nor too minute A share to vie with evil ! How dispute The Guelfs were fitliest maintained in rule ? That made the life's work : not so easy school BORDELLO. 225 Your day's work — say, on natures circumstanced So variously, which yet, as each advanced Or might impede that Guelf rule, it behoved You, for the Then's sake, hate what Now you loved, Love what you hated ; nor if one man bore Brand upon temples while his fellow wore The aureole, would it task us to decide — But portioned duly out, the Future vied Never with the unparcelled Present ! Smite Or spare so much on warrant all so slight ? The Present's complete sympathies to break. Aversions bear with, for a Future's sake So feeble ? Tito ruined through one speck, The Legate saved by his sole lightish fleck ? This were work, true — but work performed at cost Of other work — aught gained here, elsewhere lost — For a new segment spoil an orb half-done — Rise with the People one step, and sink . . . one ? Would it were one step — less than the whole face Of things our novel duty bids erase ! Harms are to vanquish ; what ? the Prophet saith. The Minstrel singeth vainly then ? Old faith. Old courage, born of the surrounding harms. Were not, from highest to the lowest, charms ? Q 226 SORDELLO. Oh, flame persists but is not glare as stanch ? Where the salt marshes stagnate, crystals branch — Blood dries to crimson — Evil 's beautified In every shape ! But Beauty thrust aside You banish Evil : wherefore ? After all Is Evil our result less natural Than Good ? For overlook the Seasons* strife With tree and flower — the hideous animal life, Of which who seeks shall find a grinning taunt For his solution, must endure the vaunt Of Nature's angel, as a child that knows Himself befooled, unable to propose Auofht better than the foolins: — and but care For Men, the varied People then and there, Of wliich 'tis easy saying Good and 111 Claim him alike 1 Whence rose the claim but still From 111, the fruit of 111 — what else could knit Him theirs but Sorrow ? Any free from it Were also free from him ! A happiness Could be distinguished in this morning's press Of miseries — the fool's who passed a gibe On one, said he, so wedded to his tribe He carries green and yellow tokens in His very face that he 's a Ghibellin — SORDELLO. 227 Mucli hold on him that fool obtained f Nay mount Yet higher ; and upon Men's own account Must Evil stay : for what is Joy ? To heave Up one obstruction more, and common leave What was peculiar — by this act destroy Itself; a partial death is every joy ; The sensible escape, enfranchisement Of a sphere's essence : once the vexed — content. The cramped — at large, the growing circle — round, Airs to begin again — some novel bound To break, some new enlargement 's to entreat. The sphere though larger is not more complete. Now for Mankind's experience : who alone Might style the unobstructed world his own ? Whom palled Goito with its perfect things ? Sordello's self; whereas for Mankind springs Salvation — hindrances are interposed For them, not all Life's view at once disclosed To creatures sudden on its summit left With Heaven above and yet of wings bereft — But lower laid, as at the mountain's foot Where, range on range, the girdling forests shoot Between the prospect and the throngs who scale Earnestly ever, piercing veil by veil, Q 2 228 SORDELLO. Confirmed witli each discovery ; in their soul The Whole they seek by Parts — but, found that Whole, Could they revert ? Oh, testify ! The space Of time we judge so meagre to embrace The Parts, were more than plenty, once attained The Whole, to quite exhaust it : for nought 's gained But leave to look — -no leave to do : Beneath Soon sates the looker — look Above, then ! Death Tempts ere a tithe of Life be tasted. Live First, and die soon enough, Sordello ! Give Body and spirit the bare right they claim To pasture thee on a voluptuous shame That thou, a pageant -city's denizen. Art neither vilely lodged midst Lombard men — Canst force joy out of sorrow, seem to truck Thine attributes away for sordid muck, Yet manage from that very muck educe Gold ; then subject, nor scruple, to thy cruce The world's discardings ; think, if ingots pay Such pains, the clods that yielded them are clay To all save thee, and clay remain though quenched Thypurging-fire; who's robbed then? Would I wrenched An ample treasure forth ! — As 'tis, why crave A share that ruins me and will not save BORDELLO. , 229 Yourselves ? — imperiously command I quit The course that makes my joy nor will remit Your woe ? Would all arrive at joy ? Reverse The order (time instructs you) nor coerce Each unit till, some predetermined mode, The total be emancipate ; our road Is one, our times of travel many ; thwart No enterprising soul's precocious start Before the general march ; if slow or fast All straggle up to the same point at last, Why grudge my having gained a month ago The brakes at balm-shed, asphodels in blow, While you w^ere landlocked? Speed your Then, but Iiow This badge would suffer me improve my Now ! His time of action for, against, or with Our world (I labour to extract the pith Of this and more) grew up, that even- tide. Gigantic with its power of joy beside The world's eternity of impotence To profit though at all his joy's expense. Make nothing of that time because so brief? Rather make more — instead of joy take grief Before its novelty have time subside ; No time for the late savour — leave untried 230 SORDELLO. Virtue, the creaming honey wine, quick squeeze Vice like a biting spirit from the lees Of life — together let wrath, hatred, lust. All tyrannies in every shape be thrust Upon this Now, which time may reason out As mischiefs, far from benefits, no doubt — But long ere then Bordello will have slipt Away — you teach him at Goito's crypt There's a blank issue to that fiery thrill ! Stirring, the Few cope with the Many, still : So much of dust as, quiet, makes a mass Unable to produce three tufts of grass. Shall, troubled by the whirlwind, render void The whole calm glebe's endeavour : be employed ! And e*en though somewhat smarts the Crowd for this. Contributes each his pang to make up bliss, 'Tis but one pang — one blood-drop to the bowl Which brimful tempts the sluggish asp uncowl So quick, stains ruddily the dull red cape, And, kindling orbs dull as the unripe grape Before, avails forthwith to disentrance The mischief — soon to lead a mystic dance Among you ! Nay, who sits alone in Rome ? Have those great hands indeed hewn out a home SORDELLO. 231 For me— compelled to live ? Oh Life, life-breath, Life-blood, — ere sleep be travail, life ere death 1 This life to feed my soul, direct, oblique, But alway feeding ! Hindrances ? They pique — Helps ? such . . . but wherefore say my soul o'ertops All height — than every depth profounder drops ? Enough that I can live, and would live ! Wait For some transcendent life reserved by Fate To follow this ? Oh, never ! Fate I trust The same my soul to ; for, as who flings dust Perchance — so facile was the deed, she chequed The void with these materials to affect That soul diversely — these consigned anew To nought by death, why marvel if she threw A second and superber spectacle Before it ? What may serve for sun— what still Wander a moon above me — what else wind About me like the pleasures left behind ? And how shall some new flesh that is not flesh Cling to me ? what's new laughter — soothes the fresh Sleep like sleep ? Fate 's exhaustless for my sake In brave resource, but whether bids she slake My thirst at this first rivulet or count No draught worth lip save from the rocky fount 232 SORDELLO. Above i' the clouds, while here she's provident Of (taste) loquacious pearl the soft tree-tent Guards, with its face of reate and sedge, nor fail The silver globules and gold-sparkling grail At bottom— Oh, 'twere too absurd to slight For the hereafter the to-day's delight ! Quench thirst at this, then seek next well-spring — wear Home-lilies ere strange lotus in my hair ! Here is the Crowd, whom I with freest heart Offer to serve, contented for my part To give this life up once for aril, but grant I really serve ; if otherwise, why want Aught further of me ? Life they cannot chuse But set aside — wherefore should I refuse The gift ? I take it — I, for one, engage Never to falter through the pilgrimage — Or end it howling that the stock or stone Were enviable, truly : I, for one. Will praise the world you style mere anteroom To the true palace — but shall I assume — My foot the courtly gait, my tongue the trope. My eye the glance, before the doors fly ope One moment ? What — with guarders row on row^ Gay swarms of varletry that come and go. SORDELLO. 233 Pages to dice with, waiting-girls unlace The plackets of, pert claimants help displace, Heart-heavy suitors get a rank for ; laugh At yon sleek parasite, break his own staff 'Cross Beetle-brows the Usher's shoulder ; why — Admitted to the presence by and bye. Should thought of these recurring make me grieve Among new sights I reach, old sights I leave ? — Cool citrine-crystals, fierce pyropus-stone — Bare floor -work too ! — But did I let alone That black-eyed peasant in the vestibule Once and for ever ? — Floor- work ? No such fool ! Rather, were Heaven to forestal Earth, I'd say Must I be blessed or you ? Then my own way Bless me — a firmer arm, a fleeter foot, 111 thank you, but to no mad wings transmute These limbs of mine — our greensward is too soft ; Nor camp I on the thunder-cloud aloft — We feel the bliss distinctlier having thus Engines subservient, not mixed up with us — Better move palpably through Heaven — nor, freed Of flesh forsooth, from space to space proceed 'Mid flying synods of worlds — but in Heaven's marge Show Titan still, recumbent o'er his targe 234 SORDELLO. Solid with stars — the Centaur at his game Made tremulously out in hoary flame ! Life ! Yet the very cup whose extreme dull Dregs, even, I would quaflf, was dashed, at full, Aside so oft ; the death I fly, revealed So oft a better life this life concealed And which sage, champion, martyr, thro' each path Have hunted fearlessly — the horrid bath, The crippling- irons and the fiery chair : — 'Twas well for them ; let me become aware As they, and I relinquish Life, too ! Let Life's secret but disclose itself ! Forget Vain ordinances, I have one appeal — I feel, am what I feel, know what I feel — So much is Truth to me — What Is then ? Since One object viewed diversely may evince Beauty and ugliness — this way attract, That way repel, why gloze upon the fact ? Why must a single of the sides be right ? Who bids choose this and leave its opposite ? No abstract Right for me — in youth endued With Right still present, still to be pursued, Thro' all the interchange of circles, rife Each with its proper law and mode of life, SORDELLO. 235 Each to be dwelt at ease in : thus to sway- Regally witli the Kaiser, or obey Implicit with his Serf of fluttering heart, Or, like a sudden thought of God's, to start Up in the presence, then go forth and shout That some should pick the unstrung jewels out — Were well ! And, as in moments when the Past Gave partially enfranchisement, he cast Himself quite thro' mere secondary states Of his soul's essence, little loves and hates, Into the mid vague yearnings overlaid By these ; as who should pierce hill, plain, grove, glade. And so into the very nucleus probe That first determined there exist a Globe : And as that 's easiest half the globe dissolved. So seemed Sordello's closing-truth evolved In his flesh -half 's break up — the sudden swell Of his expanding soul showed 111 and Well, Sorrow and Joy, Beauty and Ugliness Virtue and Yice, the Larger and the Less, All qualities, in fine, recorded here. Might be but Modes of Time and this one Sphere, 236 SORDELLO. Urgent on these but not of force to bind As Time — Eternity, as Matter — Mind, If Mind, Eternity shall choose assert Their attributes within a Life : thus girt With circumstance, next change beholds them cinct Quite otherwise — with Good and 111 distinct, Joys, sorrows, tending to a like result — Contrived to render easy, difficult, This or the other course of . . . what new bond In place of flesh may stop their flight beyond Its new sphere, as that course does harm or good To its arrangements. Once this understood, As suddenly he felt himself alone, Quite out of Time and this World, all was known. What made the secret of the past despair ? (Most imminent when he seemed most aware Of greatness in the Past — nought turned him mad Like craving to expand the power he had. Not a new power to be expanded) — just This made it ; Soul on Matter being thrust, Tis Joy when so much Soul is wreaked in Time On Matter, — let the Soul attempt sublime Matter beyond its scheme and so prevent Or more or less that deed's accomplishment. BORDELLO. 237 And Sorrow follows : Sorrow to avoid — Let the Employer match the thing Employed, Fit to the finite his infinity, And thus proceed for ever, in degree Changed but in kind the same, still limited To the appointed circumstance and dead To all beyond : a sphere is but a sphere — Small, Great, are merely terms we bandy here — Since to the spirit's absoluteness all Are like : now of the present sphere we call Life, are conditions — take but this among Many ; the Body was to be so long Youthful, no longer — but, since no control Tied to that Body's purposes his Soul, It chose to understand the Body's trade More than the Body's self — had fain conveyed Its boundless, to the body's bounded lot — So, the soul permanent, the body not, — Scarce the one minute for enjoying here. The soul must needs instruct its weak compeer, Run o'er its capabilities and wring A joy thence it holds worth experiencing — Which, far from half discovered even, — lo, The minute's gone, the body's power's let go 238 SORDELLO. Apportioned to that joy*s acquirement ! Broke, Say, morning o'er the earth and all it woke — From the volcano's vapour-flag to hoist Black o'er the spread of sea, to the low moist Dale's silken barley- spikes sullied with rain, Swayed earthwards, heavily to raise again — (The Small a sphere as perfect as the Great To the soul's absoluteness) — meditate On such an Autumn-morning's cluster-chord And the whole music it was framed afford, And, the chord's might discovered, what should pluck One string, the finger, was found palsy -struck. And then what marvel if the Spirit, shown A saddest sight — the Body lost alone Thro' its officious proffered help, deprived Of this and that enjoyment Fate contrived. Virtue, Good, Beauty, each allowed slip hence, — Yain gloriously were fain, for recompense. To stem the ruin even yet, protract The Body's term, supply the power it lacked From its infinity, compel it learn These qualities were only Time's concern, That Body may, with its assistance, barred — Advance the same, vanquished — obtain reward, SORDELLO. 239 Reap joy where sorrow was intended grow, Of Wrong make Eight and turn 111 Good below — And the result is, the poor Body soon Sinks under what was meant a wondrous boon, Leaving its bright accomplice all aghast. So much was plain then, proper in the Past ; To be complete for, satisfy the whole Series of spheres — Eternity, his soul Exceeded, so was incomplete for, each One sphere — our Time. But does our knowledge reach No farther ? Is the cloud of hindrance broke But by the failing of the fleshly yoke, Its loves and hates, as now when they let soar The spirit, self-sufficient as before, Tho' but the single space that shall elapse Twixt its enthralment in new bonds perhaps ? Must Life be ever but escaped, which should Have been enjoyed ? nay, might have been and would, Once ordered rightly, and a Soul's no whit More than the Body's purpose under it ( A- breadth of watery heaven like a bay, A sky-like space of water, ray for ray And star for star, one richness where they mixed As this and that wing of an angel, fixed, 240 SORDELLO. Tumultuary splendours folded in To die) and which thus, far from first begin Exciting discontent, had surest quelled The Body if aspiring it rebelled. But how so order Life ? Still brutalize The soul, the sad world's method — muffled eyes To all that was before, shall after be This sphere — and every other quality Save some sole and immutable Great and Good And Beauteous whither fate has loosed its hood To follow ? Never may some soul see All — The Great before and after and the Small Now, yet be saved by this the simplest lore, And take the single course prescribed before, As the king-bird with ages on his plumes Travels to die in his ancestral glooms ? But where descry the Love that shall select That course ? Here is a Soul whom to affect Nature has plied with all her means — from trees And flowers — e'en to the Multitude . . . and these Decides he save or no ? One word to end ! Ah my Sordello, I this once befriend And speak for you. A Power above him still Which, utterly incomprehensible, SORDELLO. 241 Is out of rivalry, which thus he can Love, tho' unloving all conceived by Man — What need ! And of — none the minutest duct To that out-Nature, nought that would instruct And so let rivalry begin to live — But of a Power its representative Who, being for authority the same. Communication different, should claim A course the first chose and this last revealed — This Human clear, as that Divine concealed — The utter need ! What has Sordello found ? Or can his spirit go the mighty round At length, end where our souls begun ? as says Old fable, the two doves were sent two ways About the world — where in the midst they met Tho' on a shifting waste of sand, men set Jove's temple ? Quick, what has Sordello found ? For they approach — approach — that foot's rebound . . Palma ? No, Salinguerra tho' in mail ; They mount, have reached the threshold, dash the veil Aside— and you divine who sat there dead Under his foot the badge ; still, Palma said, A triumph lingering in the wide eyes Wider than some spent swimmer's if he spies R 242 BORDELLO. Help from above in his extreme despair And, head far back on shoulder thrust, turns there With short and passionate cry ; as Palma prest In one great kiss her lips upon his breast It beat. By this the hermit-bee has stopped His day's toil at Goito — the new cropped Dead vine-leaf answers, now *tis eve, he bit, Twirled so, and filed all day — the mansion s fit God counselled for ; as easy guess the word That passed betwixt them and become the third To the soft small unfrighted bee, as tax Him with one fault — so no remembrance racks Of the stone maidens and the font of stone He, creeping thro* the crevice, leaves alone — Alas, my friend — Alas Sordello ! whom Anon we laid within that cold font-tomb — And yet again alas ! And now is 't worth Our while bring back to mind, much less set forth How Salinguerra extricates himself Without Sordello ? Ghibellin and Guelf May fight their fiercest ? If Count Richard sulked In durance or the Marquis paid his mulct, Who cares, Sordello gone ? The upshot, sure, Was peace ; our chief made some frank overture SORDELLO. 243 That prospered ; compliment fell thick and fast On its disposer, and Taurello passed With foe and friend for an outstripping soul Nine days at least : then, fairly reached the goal, He, by one effort, blotted the great hope Out of his mind, no further tried to cope With Este that mad evening's style, but sent Away tlie Legate and the League, content No blame at least the brothers had incurred, — Despatched a message to the Monk he heard Patiently first to last, scarce shivered at. Then curled his limbs up on his wolfskin mat And ne'er spoke more, — informed the Ferrarese He but retained their rule so long as these Lingered in pupilage — and last, no mode Apparent else of keeping safe the road From Germany direct to Lombardy For Friedrich, none, that is, to guarantee The faith and promptitude of who should next Obtain Sofia's dowry, sore perplexed — (Sofia being youngest of the tribe Of daughters Ecelin was wont to bribe The envious magnates with — nor since he sent Enrico Egna this fair child had Trent R 2 244 SORDELLO. Once failed the Kaiser s purposes — we lost Egna last year, and who takes Egna's post — Opens the Lombard gate if Friedrich knock ?) Himself espoused the Lady of the Rock In pure necessity, and so destroyed His slender last of chances, quite made void Old prophecy, and spite of all the schemes Overt and covert, youth's deeds, age's dreams, Was sucked into Romano : and so hushed He up this evening's work, that when, 'twas brushed Somehow against by a blind chronicle Which, chronicling whatever woe befell Ferrara, scented this the obscure woe And " Salinguerra's sole son Giacomo Deceased, fatuous and doting, ere his Sire," The townsfolk rubbed their eyes, could but admire Which of Soj&a's five he meant. The chaps Of his dead hope were tardy to collapse, Obliterated not the beautiful Distinctive features at a crash — scarce dull Next year, as Azzo, Boniface withdrew Each to his stronghold ; then (securely too Ecelin at Campese slept—close by Who likes may see him in Solagna lie BORDELLO. 245 With cushioned head and gloved hand to denote The Cavalier he was) — then his heart smote Young Ecelin, conceive ! Long since adult, And, save Yicenza's business, what result In blood and blaze ? so hard 'twas intercept Sordello till Sordello's option ! Stept Its lord on Lombardy — for in the nick Of time when he at last and Alberic Closed with Taurello, came precisely news That in Yerona half the souls refuse Allegiance to the Marquis and the Count — Have cast them from a throne they bid him mount. Their Podesta, thro' his ancestral worth : Ecelin flew there, and the town henceforth Was wholly his — Taurello sinking back From temporary station to a track That suited : news received of this acquist, Friedrich did come to Lombardy — who missed Taurello ? Yet another year — they took Yicenza, left the Marquis scarce a nook For refuge, and, when hundreds two or three After conspired to call themselves " the Free," Opposing Alberic, these Bassanese, (Without Sordello !) — Ecelin at ease 246 SORDELLO. Slaughtered them so observably that oft A little Salinguerra looked with soft Blue eyes up, asked his sire the proper age To get appointed his proud uncle's page : More years passed, and that sire was dwindled down To a mere showy turbulent soldier, grown Better through age, his parts still in repute, Subtle — how else ? — but hardly so astute As his contemporaneous friends professed — Undoubtedly a brawler — for the rest. Known by each neighbour, so allowed for, let Keep his incorrigible ways, nor fret Men who had missed their boyhood's bugbear — trap The ostrich, suffer our bald osprey flap A battered pinion — was the word. In fine. One flap too much and Venice's marine Was meddled with ; no overlooking that ! We captured him in his Ferrara, fat And florid at a banquet, more by fraud Than force, to speak the truth — there 's slender laud Ascribed you for assisting eighty years To pull his death on such a man — fate shears The life-cord prompt enough whose last fine threads You fritter : so, presiding his board-head, SORDELLO. 247 A great smile your assurance all went well With Friedrich (as if he were like to tell !) In rushed (a plan contrived before) our friends, Made some pretence at fighting, just amends For the shame done his eighty years — apart The principle, none found it in his heart To be much angry with Taurello — gained Our galleys with the prize, and w^hat remained But carry him to Venice for a show ? — Set him, as 'twere, down gently-^free to go His gait, inspect our square, pretend observe The swallows soaring their eternal curve Twixt Theodore and Mark, if citizens Gathered importunately, fives and tens. To point their children the Magnifico, All but a monarch once in firm-land, go His gait among us now — it took, indeed, Fully this Ecelin to supersede That man, remarked the seniors. Singular Sordello's inability to bar Rivals the stage, that evening, mainly brought About by his strange disbelief that aught Was to be done, should fairly thrust the Twain Under Taurello's tutelage, that, brain 248 SORDELLO. And heart and hand, he forthwith in one rod Indissolubly bound to baffle God Who loves the world — should thus allow the thin Grey wizened dwarfish devil Ecelin, And massy-mascled big-boned Alberic (Mere man, alas) to put his problem quick To demonstration — prove wherever s will To do, there's plenty to be done, or ill Or good : anointed, then, to rend and rip — Kings of the gag and flesh -hook, screw and whip, They plagued the world : a touch of Hildebrand (So far from obsolete !) made Lombards band Together, cross their coats as for Christ's cause, And saving Milan win the world's applause. Ecelin perished : and I think grass grew Never so pleasant as in Yalley Hu By San Zenon where Alberic in turn Saw his exasperated captors burn Seven children with their mother, and, regaled So far, tied on to a wild horse, was trailed To death through raunce and bramble-bush : I take God's part and testify that mid the brake Wild o'er his castle on Zenone's knoll You hear its one tower left, a belfry, toll — SORDELLO. 249 Cherups the contumacious grasshopper, Rustles the lizard and the cushats chirre Above the ravage : there, at deep of day A week since, heard I the old Canon say- He saw with his own eyes a barrow burst And Alberic's huge skeleton unhearsed Five years ago, no more : he added, June's A month for carding off our first cocoons The silkworms fabricate— a double news. Nor he nor I could tell the worthier. Choose ! And Naddo gone, all's gone ; not Eglamor ! Believe I knew the face I waited for, A guest my spirit of the golden courts : Oh strange to see how, despite ill-reports, Disuse, some wear of years, that face retained Its joyous look of love ! Suns waxed and waned. And still my spirit held an upward flight. Spiral on spiral, gyres of life and light More and more gorgeous — ever that face there The last admitted ! crossed, too, with some care As perfect triumph were not sure for all. But on a few enduring damp must fall, A transient struggle, haply a painful sense Of the inferior nature's clinging — whence 250 SORDELLO. Slight starting tears easily wiped away, Fine jealousies soon stifled in the play Of irrepressible admiration — not Aspiring, all considered, to their lot Who ever, just as they prepare ascend Spiral on spiral, wish thee well, impend Thy frank delight at their exclusive track, That upturned fervid face and hair put back ! Is there no more to say ? He of the rhymes — Many a tale of this retreat betimes Was born : Sordello die at once for men ? The Chroniclers of Mantua tired their pen Relating how a Prince Yisconti saved Mantua and elsewhere notably behaved — Who thus by fortune's ordering events Passed with posterity to all intents For just the God he never could become : As Knight, Bard, Gallant, men were never dumb In praise of him : while what he should have been, Could be, and was not — the one step too mean For him to take, we suffer at this day Because of ; Ecelin had pushed away Its chance ere Dante could arrive to take That step Sordello spurned, for the world's sake : SORDELLO. 251 He did much — but Sordello's step was gone. Thus had Sordello ta'en that step alone, Apollo had been compassed — 'twas a fit He wished should go to him, not he to it — As one content to merely be supposed Singing or fighting elsewhere, while he dozed Really at home*— and who was chiefly glad To have achieved the few real deeds he had Because that way assured they were not worth Doing, so spared from doing them henceforth — A tree that covets fruitage and yet tastes Never itself, itself — had he embraced Our cause then, Men had plucked Hesperian fruit And, praising that, just thrown him in to boot All he was anxious to appear but scarce Solicitous to be : a sorry farce Such life is after all — cannot I say He lived for some one better thing ? this way — Lo, on a heathy brown and nameless hill By sparkling Asolo, in mist and chill, Morning just up, higher and higher runs A child barefoot and rosy— See ! the sun's On the square castle's inner- court's green wall — Like the chine of some fossil animal 252 SORDELLO. Half turned to earth and flowers ; and thro' the haze (Save where some slender patches of grey maize) Are to be overleaped) that boy has crost The whole hill-side of dew and powder-frost Matting the balm and mountain camomile : Up and up goes he, singing all the while Some unintelligible words to beat The lark, God's poet, swooning at his feet So worsted is he at the few fine locks Stained like pale honey oozed from topmost rocks Sunblanched the livelong summer. — All that's left Of the Goito lay ! And thus bereft, Sleep and forget, Sordello ... in effect He sleeps, the feverish poet — I suspect Not utterly companionless ; but, friends. Wake up ; the ghost's gone, and the story ends I'd fain hope, sweetly — seeing, peri or ghoul, That spirits are conjectured fair or foul. Evil or good, judicious authors think, According as they vanish in a stink Or in a perfume : friends be frank : ye snuff Civet, I warrant : really ? Like enough — Merely the savour's rareness — any nose May ravage with impunity a rose— SORDELLO. 253 Rifle a musk-pod and 'twill ache like yours : I'd tell you that same pungency ensures An after-gust — but that were overbold : Who would has heard Sordello's story told. THE END. LONDON : BRADHiniV AND EVANS, PRINTERS, WHITEFRIARS. By the same Author. PARACELSUS. Small 8vo, Price 6s. STRAFFORD. AN HISTORICAL TRAGEDY. AS ACTED AT THE THEATRE ROYAL, COVENT GARDEN. 8vo, Price As. Nearly Ready. PIPPA PASSES. KING VICTOR AND KING CHARLES. MANSOOR THE HIEROPHANT. DRAMAS BY R. B. \^M'