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Best Famous Irony Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Irony poems. This is a select list of the best famous Irony poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Irony poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of irony poems.

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by Jonathan Swift |

Verses on the Death of Doctor Swift

 As Rochefoucauld his maxims drew
From nature, I believe 'em true:
They argue no corrupted mind
In him; the fault is in mankind.

This maxim more than all the rest
Is thought too base for human breast:
"In all distresses of our friends,
We first consult our private ends;
While nature, kindly bent to ease us,
Points out some circumstance to please us."

If this perhaps your patience move,
Let reason and experience prove.
We all behold with envious eyes
Our equal raised above our size.
Who would not at a crowded show
Stand high himself, keep others low?
I love my friend as well as you:
But why should he obstruct my view?
Then let me have the higher post:
Suppose it but an inch at most.
If in battle you should find
One whom you love of all mankind,
Had some heroic action done,
A champion killed, or trophy won;
Rather than thus be overtopped,
Would you not wish his laurels cropped?
Dear honest Ned is in the gout,
Lies racked with pain, and you without:
How patiently you hear him groan!
How glad the case is not your own!

What poet would not grieve to see
His breth'ren write as well as he?
But rather than they should excel,
He wished his rivals all in hell.

Her end when Emulation misses,
She turns to Envy, stings, and hisses:
The strongest friendship yields to pride,
Unless the odds be on our side.
Vain human kind! fantastic race!
Thy various follies who can trace?
Self-love, ambition, envy, pride,
Their empire in our hearts divide.
Give others riches, power, and station,
'Tis all on me an usurpation.
I have no title to aspire;
Yet, when you sink, I seem the higher.
In Pope I cannot read a line,
But with a sigh I wish it mine;
When he can in one couplet fix
More sense than I can do in six;
It gives me such a jealous fit,
I cry "Pox take him and his wit!"
I grieve to be outdone by Gay
In my own hum'rous biting way.
Arbuthnot is no more my friend,
Who dares to irony pretend,
Which I was born to introduce,
Refined it first, and shewed its use.
St. John, as well as Pultney, knows
That I had some repute for prose;
And till they drove me out of date
Could maul a minister of state.
If they have mortified my pride,
And made me throw my pen aside;
If with such talents Heav'n has blest 'em,
Have I not reason to detest 'em?

To all my foes, dear Fortune, send
Thy gifts; but never to my friend:
I tamely can endure the first;
But this with envy makes me burst.
Thus much may serve by way of proem:
Proceed we therefore to our poem.

The time is not remote when I
Must by the course of nature die;
When, I foresee, my special friends
Will try to find their private ends:
Tho' it is hardly understood
Which way my death can do them good,
Yet thus, methinks, I hear 'em speak:
"See, how the Dean begins to break!
Poor gentleman, he droops apace!
You plainly find it in his face.
That old vertigo in his head
Will never leave him till he's dead.
Besides, his memory decays:
He recollects not what he says;
He cannot call his friends to mind;
Forgets the place where last he dined;
Plyes you with stories o'er and o'er,
He told them fifty times before.
How does he fancy we can sit
To hear his out-of-fashioned wit?
But he takes up with younger folks,
Who for his wine will bear his jokes.
Faith! he must make his stories shorter,
Or change his comrades once a quarter:
In half the time he talks them round,
There must another set be found.

"For poetry he's past his prime:
He takes an hour to find a rhyme;
His fire is out, his wit decayed,
His fancy sunk, his Muse a jade.
I'd have him throw away his pen; - 
But there's no talking to some men!"

And then their tenderness appears,
By adding largely to my years:
"He's older than he would be reckoned,
And well remembers Charles the Second.
He hardly drinks a pint of wine;
And that, I doubt, is no good sign.
His stomach too begins to fail;
Last year we thought him strong and hale,
But now he's quite another thing:
I wish he may hold out till spring."
Then hug themselves, and reason thus:
"It is not yet so bad with us!"

In such a case they talk in tropes,
And by their fears express their hopes:
Some great misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend.
With all the kindness they profess,
The merit of a lucky guess
(When daily how-d'ye's come of course,
And servants answer, Worse and worse!)
Would please 'em better than to tell
That "God be praised, the Dean is well."
Then he who prophecied the best
Approves his foresight to the rest:
"You know I always feared the worst,
And often told you so at first." - 
He'd rather choose that I should die
Than his prediction prove a lie.
Not one foretells I shall recover,
But all agree to give me over.

Yet, should some neighbour feel a pain
Just in the parts where I complain,
How many a message would he send?
What hearty prayers that I should mend?
Inquire what regimen I kept,
What gave me ease, and how I slept?
And more lament when I was dead,
Than all the sniv'llers round my bed.

My good companions, never fear,
For though you may mistake a year,
Though your prognostics run too fast,
They must be verified at last.

Behold the fatal day arrive!
"How is the Dean?" -"He's just alive."
Now the departing prayer is read:
"He hardly breathes." -"The Dean is dead."

Before the Passing-bell begun,
The news thro' half the town has run.
"O, may we all for death prepare!
What has he left? and who's his heir?" - 
"I know no more that what the news is:
'Tis all bequeathed to public uses." - 
"To public use! A perfect whim!
What had the public done for him?
Mere envy, avarice, and pride:
He gave it all -but first he died.
And had the Dean, in all the nation,
No worthy friend, no poor relation?
So ready to do strangers good,
Forgetting his own flesh and blood!"

Now Grub Street wits are all employed;
With elegies the town is cloyed:
Some paragraph in ev'ry paper,
To curse the Dean, or bless the Drapier.

The doctors, tender of their fame,
Wisely on me lay all the blame:
"We must confess his case was nice;
But he would never take advice.
Had he been ruled, for aught appears,
He might have lived these twenty years;
For when we opened him we found
That all his vital parts were sound."

From Dublin soon to London spread,
'Tis told at court "the Dean is dead."
Kind Lady Suffolk, in the spleen,
Runs laughing up to tell the queen.
The queen, so gracious, mild, and good,
Cries "Is he gone? 'tis time he should.
He's dead, you say; why, let him rot:
I'm glad the medals were forgot.
I promised him, I own; but when?
I only was a princess then;
But now, as consort of a king,
You know, 'tis quite a diff'rent thing."

Now Chartres, at Sir Robert's levee,
Tells with a sneer the tidings heavy:
"Why, is he dead without his shoes?"
Cries Bob "I'm sorry for the news:
O, were the wretch but living still,
And in his place my good friend Will!
Or had a mitre on his head,
Provided Bolinbroke were dead!"

Now Curll his shop from rubbish drains:
Three genuine tomes of Swift's remains!
And then, to make them pass the glibber,
Revised by Tibbalds, Moore, and Cibber.
He'll treat me as he does my betters,
Publish my will, my life, my letters;
Revive the libels born to die;
Which Pope must bear, as well as I.

Here shift the scene, to represent
How those I love my death lament.
Poor Pope will grieve a month; and Gay
A week; and Arbuthnot a day.
St. John himself will scarce forbear
To bite his pen, and drop a tear.
The rest will give a shrug, and cry
"I'm sorry -but we all must die."

Indifference, clad in Wisdom's guise,
All fortitude of mind supplies:
For how can stony bowels melt
In those who never pity felt?
When we are lashed, they kiss the rod,
Resigning to the will of God.

The fools, my juniors by a year,
Are tortured with suspense and fear:
Who wisely thought my age a screen
When death approached, to stand between: - 
The screen removed, their hearts are trembling;
They mourn for me without dissembling.

My female friends, whose tender hearts
Have better learned to act their parts,
Receive the news in doleful dumps:
"The Dean is dead -and what is trumps? - 
Then Lord have mercy on his soul!
- Ladies, I'll venture for the vole. - 
Six deans, they say, must bear the pall.
- I wish I knew what king to call. - 
Madam, your husband will attend
The funeral of so good a friend?
No, madam, 'tis a shocking sight,
And he's engaged tomorrow night;
My Lady Club would take it ill
If he should fail her at quadrille.
He loved the Dean -I lead a heart - 
But dearest friends, they say, must part.
His time was come; he ran his race;
We hope he's in a better place."
Why do we grieve that friends should die?
No loss more easy to supply.
One year is past: a different scene:
No further mention of the Dean;
Who now, alas, no more is missed
Than if he never did exist.
Where's now this fav'rite of Apollo?
Departed: -and his works must follow;
Must undergo the common fate;
His kind of wit is out of date.

Some country squire to Lintot goes,
Inquires for "Swift in Verse and Prose".
Says Lintot "I have heard the name;
He died a year ago." -"The same."
He searches all the shop in vain.
"Sir, you may find them in Duck Lane:
I sent them with a load of books
Last Monday to the pastry-cook's.
To fancy they could live a year!
I find you're but a stranger here.
The Dean was famous in his time,
And had a kind of knack at rhyme.
His way of writing now is past;
The town has got a better taste.
I keep no antiquated stuff;
But spick and span I have enough.
Pray do but give me leave to show 'em:
Here's Colley Cibber's birthday poem.
This ode you never yet have seen,
By Stephen Duck, upon the queen.
Then here's a letter finely penned
Against the Craftsman and his friend;
It clearly shows that all reflection
On ministers is disaffection.
Next, here's Sir Robert's vindication;
And Mr Henley's last oration.
The hawkers have not got 'em yet - 
Your honour please to buy a set?
Here's Woolston's tracts, the twelfth edition,
'Tis read by ev'ry politician:
The country members, when in town,
To all their boroughs send them down;
You never met a thing so smart!
The courtiers have them all by heart;
Those maids of honour (who can read),
Are taught to use them for their creed.
The rev'rend author's good intention
Has been rewarded with a pension.
He does an honour to his gown,
By bravely running priestcraft down:
He shows, as sure as God's in Gloucester,
That Moses was a grand imposter;
That all his miracles were cheats,
Performed as jugglers do their feats.
The church had never such a writer;
A shame he has not got a mitre!"

Suppose me dead; and then suppose
A club assembled at the Rose;
Where, from discourse of this and that,
I grow the subject of their chat.
And while they toss my name about,
With favour some, and some without,
One, quite indiff'rent in the cause,
My character impartial draws:

"The Dean, if we believe report,
Was never ill-received at court.
As for his works in verse and prose,
I own myself no judge of those;
Nor can I tell what critics thought 'em,
But this I know, all people bought 'em;
As with a moral view designed
To cure the vices of mankind:
And, if he often missed his aim,
The world must own it, to their shame:
The praise is his, and theirs the blame."

"Sir, I have heard another story:
He was a most confounded Tory,
And grew, or he is much belied,
Extremely dull before he died."

"Can we the Drapier then forget?
Is not our nation in his debt?
'Twas he that writ the Drapier's letters!"

"He should have left them for his betters;
We had a hundred abler men,
Nor need depend upon his pen.
Say what you will about his reading,
You never can defend his breeding;
Who in his satires running riot,
Could never leave the world in quiet;
Attacking, when he took the whim,
Court, city, camp -all one to him!
But why should he, except he slobber't,
Offend our patriot, great Sir Robert,
Whose counsels aid the sov'reign power
To save the nation every hour?
What scenes of evil he unravels
In satires, libels, lying travels!
Not sparing his own clergy-cloth,
But eats into it, like a moth!"

"His vein, ironically grave,
Exposed the fool and lashed the knave.
To steal a hint was never known,
But what he writ was all his own.
He never thought an honour done him
Because a duke was proud to own him;
Would rather slip aside and choose
To talk with wits in dirty shoes;
Despised the fools with stars and garters,
So often seen caressing Chartres.
He never courted men in station,
Nor persons held in admiration.
Of no man's greatness was afraid,
Because he sought for no man's aid.
Though trusted long in great affairs,
He gave himself no haughty airs.
Without regarding private ends,
Spent all his credit for his friends;
And only chose the wise and good;
No flatterers; no allies in blood;
But succoured virtue in distress,
And seldom failed of good success;
As numbers in their hearts must own,
Who, but for him, had been unknown.
With princes kept a due decorum,
But never stood in awe before 'em.
He followed David's lesson just:
In princes never put thy trust.
And would you make him truly sour,
Provoke him with a slave in power.
The Irish senate, if you named,
With what impatience he declaimed!
Fair LIBERTY was all his cry;
For her he stood prepared to die;
For her he boldly stood alone;
For her he oft exposed his own.
Two kingdoms, just as faction led,
Had set a price upon his head;
But not a traitor could be found
To sell him for six hundred pound.
Had he but spared his tongue and pen,
He might have rose like other men;
But power was never in his thought,
And wealth he valued not a groat.
Ingratitude he often found,
And pitied those who meant the wound;
But kept the tenor of his mind
To merit well of human kind;
Nor made a sacrifice of those
Who still were true, to please his foes.
He laboured many a fruitless hour
To reconcile his friends in power;
Saw mischief by a faction brewing,
While they pursued each other's ruin.
But finding vain was all his care,
He left the court in mere despair.
And oh! how short are human schemes!
Here ended all our golden dreams.
What St John's skill in state affairs,
What Ormond's valour, Oxford's cares,
To save their sinking country lent,
Was all destroyed by one event.
Too soon that precious life was ended,
On which alone our weal depended.
When up a dangerous faction starts,
With wrath and vengeance in their hearts,
By solemn League and Cov'nant bound,
To ruin, slaughter, and confound;
To turn religion to a fable,
And make the government a Babel;
Pervert the laws, disgrace the gown,
Corrupt the senate, rob the crown;
To sacrifice old England's glory,
And make her infamous in story: - 
When such a tempest shook the land,
How could unguarded Virtue stand!
With horror, grief, despair, the Dean
Beheld the dire destructive scene:
His friends in exile, or the tower,
Himself within the frown of power,
Pursued by base envenomed pens,
Far to the land of slaves and fens;
A servile race in folly nursed,
Who truckle most when treated worst.
By innocence and resolution,
He bore continual persecution;
While numbers to preferment rose,
Whose merits were, to be his foes;
When ev'n his own familiar friends,
Intent upon their private ends,
Like renegadoes now he feels,
Against him lifting up their heels.
The Dean did by his pen defeat
An infamous destructive cheat;
Taught fools their int'rest how to know,
And gave them arms to ward the blow.
Envy has owned it was his doing,
To save that hapless land from ruin;
While they who at the steerage stood,
And reaped the profit, sought his blood.
To save them from their evil fate,
In him was held a crime of state.
A wicked monster on the bench,
Whose fury blood could never quench
- As vile and profligate a villain
As modern Scroggs, or old Tresilian;
Who long all justice had discarded,
Nor feared he God, nor man regarded - 
Vowed on the Dean his rage to vent,
And make him of his zeal repent.
But Heaven his innocence defends,
The grateful people stand his friends:
Not strains of law, nor judge's frown,
Nor topics brought to please the crown,
Nor witness hired, nor jury picked,
Prevail to bring him in convict.
In exile, with a steady heart,
He spent his life's declining part;
Where folly, pride, and faction sway,
Remote from St John, Pope, and Gay.
Alas, poor Dean! his only scope
Was to be held a misanthrope.
This into gen'ral odium drew him,
Which, if he liked, much good may't do him.
His zeal was not to lash our crimes,
But discontent against the times;
For had we made him timely offers
To raise his post, or fill his coffers,
Perhaps he might have truckled down,
Like other brethren of his gown.
For party he would scarce have bled - 
I say no more, because he's dead.
What writings has he left behind?
I hear they're of a different kind:
A few in verse, but most in prose,
- Some high-flown pamphlets, I suppose - 
All scribbled in the worst of times,
To palliate his friend Oxford's crimes,
To praise Queen Anne, nay more, defend her,
As never fav'ring the Pretender;
Or libels yet concealed from sight,
Against the court to show his spite;
Perhaps his Travels, part the third,
A lie at every second word,
Offensive to a loyal ear;
But not one sermon, you may swear."

"His friendships there, to few confined,
Were always of the middling kind:
No fools of rank, a mongrel breed,
Who fain would pass for lords indeed.
Where titles give no right or power,
And peerage is a withered flower,
He would have held it a disgrace
If such a wretch had known his face.
On rural squires, that kingdom's bane,
He vented oft his wrath in vain;
[Biennial] squires to market brought,
Who sell their souls and [votes] for nought;
The [nation stripped,] go joyful back,
To [rob the] church, their tenants rack,
Go snacks with [rogues and rapparees,]
And keep the peace to pick up fees;
In every job to have a share,
A goal or barrack to repair;
And turn the tax for public roads
Commodious to their own abodes."
"Perhaps I may allow the Dean
Had too much satire in his vein,
And seemed determined not to starve it,
Because no age could more deserve it.
Yet malice never was his aim;
He lashed the vice, but spared the name;
No individual could resent
Where thousands equally were meant.
His satire points at no defect
But what all mortals may correct;
For he abhorred that senseless tribe
Who call it humour when they gibe.
He spared a hump, or crooked nose,
Whose owners set not up for beaux.
True genuine dulness moved his pity,
Unless it offered to be witty.
Those who their ignornace confessed
He ne'er offended with a jest;
But laughed to hear an idiot quote
A verse from Horace learned by rote.
Vice, if it e'er can be abashed,
Must be or ridiculed or lashed.
If you resent it, who's to blame?
He neither knew you nor your name.
Should vice expect to 'scape rebuke,
Because its owner is a duke?"
"He knew an hundred pleasant stories,
With all the turns of Whigs and Tories;
Was cheerful to his dying day,
And friends would let him have his way."
"He gave what little wealth he had
To build a house for fools and mad;
And showed by one satiric touch,
No nation wanted it so much.
That kingdom he hath left his debtor,
I wish it soon may have a better."
And since you dread no further lashes,
Methinks you may forgive his ashes.

by Czeslaw Milosz |

Ars Poetica?

 I have always aspired to a more spacious form
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
and would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to sublime agonies.

In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent:
a thing is brought forth which we didn't know we had in us,
so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light, lashing his tail.

That's why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion,
though its an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel.
It's hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,
when so often they're put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.

What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,
who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues,
and who, not satisfied with stealing his lips or hand,
work at changing his destiny for their convenience?

It's true that what is morbid is highly valued today,
and so you may think that I am only joking
or that I've devised just one more means
of praising Art with thehelp of irony.

There was a time when only wise books were read
helping us to bear our pain and misery.
This, after all, is not quite the same
as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.

And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.
People therefore preserve silent integrity
thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

What I'm saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.

by Vachel Lindsay |

The Tale of the Tiger-Tree

 A Fantasy, dedicated to the little poet Alice Oliver Henderson, ten years old. 

The Fantasy shows how tiger-hearts are the cause of war in all ages. It shows how the mammoth forces may be either friends or enemies of the struggle for peace. It shows how the dream of peace is unconquerable and eternal.


Peace-of-the-Heart, my own for long,
Whose shining hair the May-winds fan,
Making it tangled as they can,
A mystery still, star-shining yet,
Through ancient ages known to me
And now once more reborn with me: —

This is the tale of the Tiger Tree
A hundred times the height of a man,
Lord of the race since the world began.

This is my city Springfield,
My home on the breast of the plain.
The state house towers to heaven,
By an arsenal gray as the rain...
And suddenly all is mist,
And I walk in a world apart,
In the forest-age when I first knelt down
At your feet, O Peace-of-the-Heart.

This is the wonder of twilight:
Three times as high as the dome
Tiger-striped trees encircle the town,
Golden geysers of foam.
While giant white parrots sail past in their pride.
The roofs now are clouds and storms that they ride.
And there with the huntsmen of mound-builder days
Through jungle and meadow I stride.
And the Tiger Tree leaf is falling around
As it fell when the world began:
Like a monstrous tiger-skin, stretched on the ground,
Or the cloak of a medicine man.
A deep-crumpled gossamer web,
Fringed with the fangs of a snake.
The wind swirls it down from the leperous boughs.
It shimmers on clay-hill and lake,
With the gleam of great bubbles of blood,
Or coiled like a rainbow shell....
I feast on the stem of the Leaf as I march.
I am burning with Heaven and Hell.


The gray king died in his hour.
Then we crowned you, the prophetess wise:
Peace-of-the-Heart we deeply adored
For the witchcraft hid in your eyes.
Gift from the sky, overmastering all,
You sent forth your magical parrots to call
The plot-hatching prince of the tigers,
To your throne by the red-clay wall.

Thus came that genius insane:
Spitting and slinking,
Sneering and vain,
He sprawled to your grassy throne, drunk on The Leaf,
The drug that was cunning and splendor and grief.
He had fled from the mammoth by day,
He had blasted the mammoth by night,
War was his drunkenness,
War was his dreaming,
War was his love and his play.
And he hissed at your heavenly glory
While his councillors snarled in delight,
Asking in irony: "What shall we learn
From this whisperer, fragile and white?"

And had you not been an enchantress
They would not have loitered to mock
Nor spared your white parrots who walked by their paws
With bantering venturesome talk.

You made a white fire of The Leaf.
You sang while the tiger-chiefs hissed.
You chanted of "Peace to the wonderful world."
And they saw you in dazzling mist.
And their steps were no longer insane,
Kindness came down like the rain,
They dreamed that like fleet young ponies they feasted
On succulent grasses and grain.

Then came the black-mammoth chief:
Long-haired and shaggy and great,
Proud and sagacious he marshalled his court:
(You had sent him your parrots of state.)
His trunk in rebellion upcurled,
A curse at the tiger he hurled.
Huge elephants trumpeted there by his side,
And mastodon-chiefs of the world.
But higher magic began.
For the turbulent vassals of man.
You harnessed their fever, you conquered their ire,
Their hearts turned to flowers through holy desire,
For their darling and star you were crowned,
And their raging demons were bound.
You rode on the back of the yellow-streaked king,
His loose neck was wreathed with a mistletoe ring.
Primordial elephants loomed by your side,
And our clay-painted children danced by your path,
Chanting the death of the kingdoms of wrath.
You wrought until night with us all.
The fierce brutes fawned at your call,
Then slipped to their lairs, song-chained.
And thus you sang sweetly, and reigned:
"Immortal is the inner peace, free to beasts and men.
Beginning in the darkness, the mystery will conquer,
And now it comforts every heart that seeks for love again.
And now the mammoth bows the knee,
We hew down every Tiger Tree,
We send each tiger bound in love and glory to his den,
Bound in love...and wisdom...and glory, his den."


"Beware of the trumpeting swine,"
Came the howl from the northward that night.
Twice-rebel tigers warning was still
If we held not beside them it boded us ill.
From the parrots translating the cry,
And the apes in the trees came the whine:
"Beware of the trumpeting swine.
Beware of the faith of a mammoth."

"Beware of the faith of a tiger,"
Came the roar from the southward that night.
Trumpeting mammoths warning us still
If we held not beside them it boded us ill.
The frail apes wailed to us all,
The parrots reëchoed the call:
"Beware of the faith of a tiger."
From the heights of the forest the watchers could see
The tiger-cats crunching the Leaf of the Tree
Lashing themselves, and scattering foam,
Killing our huntsmen, hurrying home.
The chiefs of the mammoths our mastery spurned,
And eastward restlessly fumed and burned.
The peacocks squalled out the news of their drilling
And told how they trampled, maneuvered, and turned.
Ten thousand man-hating tigers
Whirling down from the north, like a flood!
Ten thousand mammoths oncoming
From the south as avengers of blood!
Our child-queen was mourning, her magic was dead,
The roots of the Tiger Tree reeking with red.


This is the tale of the Tiger Tree
A hundred times the height of a man,
Lord of the race since the world began.

We marched to the mammoths,
We pledged them our steel,
And scorning you, sang: —
"We are men,
We are men."
We mounted their necks,
And they stamped a wide reel.
We sang:
"We are fighting the hell-cats again,
We are mound-builder men,
We are elephant men."
We left you there, lonely,
Beauty your power,
Wisdom your watchman,
To hold the clay tower.
While the black-mammoths boomed —
"You are elephant men,
Elephant men."
The dawn-winds prophesied battles untold.
While the Tiger Trees roared of the glories of old,
Of the masterful spirits and hard.

The drunken cats came in their joy
In the sunrise, a glittering wave.
"We are tigers, are tigers," they yowled.
Go the swine to the grave."
But we tramp
Trampled them there,
Then charged with our sabres and spears.
The swish of the sabre,
The swish of the sabre,
Was a marvellous tune in our ears.

We yelled "We are men,
We are men."
As we bled to death in the sun....
Then staunched our horrible wounds
With the cry that the battle was won....
And at last,
When the black-mammoth legion
Split the night with their song: —
"Right is braver than wrong,
Right is stronger than wrong,"
The buzzards came taunting:
"Down from the north
Tiger-nations are sweeping along."

Then we ate of the ravening Leaf
As our savage fathers of old.
No longer our wounds made us weak,
No longer our pulses were cold.
Though half of my troops were afoot,
(For the great who had borne them were slain)
We dreamed we were tigers, and leaped
And foamed with that vision insane.
We cried "We are soldiers of doom,
Sabres of glory and doom."
We wreathed the king of the mammoths
In the tiger-leaves' terrible bloom.
We flattered the king of the mammoths,
Loud-rattling sabres and spears.
The swish of the sabre,
The swish of the sabre,
Was a marvellous tune in his ears.


This was the end of the battle.
The tigers poured by in a tide
Over us all with their caterwaul call,
"We are the tigers,"
They cried.
"We are the sabres,"
They cried.
But we laughed while our blades swept wide,
While the dawn-rays stabbed through the gloom.
"We are suns on fire" was our yell —
"Suns on fire."...
But man-child and mastodon fell,
Mammoth and elephant fell.
The fangs of the devil-cats closed on the world,
Plunged it to blackness and doom.

The desolate red-clay wall
Echoed the parrots' call: —
"Immortal is the inner peace, free to beasts and men.
Beginning in the darkness, the mystery will conquer,
And now it comforts every heart that seeks for love again.
And now the mammoth bows the knee,
We hew down every Tiger Tree,
We send each tiger bound in love and glory to his den,
Bound in love... and wisdom... and glory,... to his den."

A peacock screamed of his beauty
On that broken wall by the trees,
Chiding his little mate,
Spreading his fans in the breeze...
And you, with eyes of a bride,
Knelt on the wall at my side,
The deathless song in your mouth...
A million new tigers swept south...
As we laughed at the peacock, and died.

This is my vision in Springfield:
Three times as high as the dome,
Tiger-striped trees encircle the town,
Golden geysers of foam; —
Though giant white parrots sail past, giving voice,
Though I walk with Peace-of-the-Heart and rejoice.

by Philip Levine |

The Negatives

 On March 1, 1958, four deserters from the French Army of North Africa, 
August Rein, Henri Bruette, Jack Dauville, & Thomas Delain, robbed a 
government pay station at Orleansville. Because of the subsequent 
confession of Dauville the other three were captured or shot. Dauville 
was given his freedom and returned to the land of his birth, the U.S.A.

from a last camp near St. Remy

 I dig in the soft earth all 
 afternoon, spacing the holes 
 a foot or so from the wall. 
 Tonight we eat potatoes, 
 tomorrow rice and carrots. 
 The earth here is like the earth 
 nowhere, ancient with wood rot. 
 How can anything come forth, 

 I wonder; and the days are 
 all alike, if there is more 
 than one day. If there is more 
 of this I will not endure. 
 I have grown so used to being 
 watched I can no longer sleep 
 without my watcher. The thing 
 I fought against, the dark cape, 

 crimsoned with terror that 
 I so hated comforts me now. 
 Thomas is dead; insanity, 
 prison, cowardice, or slow 
 inner capitulation 
 has found us all, and all men 
 turn from us, knowing our pain 
 is not theirs or caused by them.

from a hospital in Algiers

 Dear Suzanne: this letter will 
 not reach you because I can't 
 write it; I have no pencil, 
 no paper, only the blunt 
 end of my anger. My dear, 
 if I had words how could I 
 report the imperfect failure 
 for which I began to die? 

 I might begin by saying 
 that it was for clarity, 
 though I did not find it in 
 terror: dubiously 
 entered each act, unsure 
 of who I was and what I 
 did, touching my face for fear 
 I was another inside 

 my head I played back pictures 
 of my childhood, of my wife 
 even, for it was in her 
 I found myself beaten, safe, 
 and furthest from the present. 
 It is her face I see now 
 though all I say is meant 
 for you, her face in the slow 

 agony of sexual 
 release. I cannot see you. 
 The dark wall ribbed with spittle 
 on which I play my childhood 
 brings me to this bed, mastered 
 by what I was, betrayed by 
 those I trusted. The one word 
 my mouth must open to is why.

from a hotel in Tampa, Florida

 From Orleansville we drove 
 south until we reached the hills, 
 then east until 
 the road stopped. I was nervous 
 and couldn't eat. Thomas took 
 over, told us when to think 
 and when to shit. 
 We turned north and reached Blida 
 by first dawn and the City 

 by morning, having dumped our 
 weapons beside an empty 
 road. We were free. 
 We parted, and to this hour 
 I haven't seen them, except 
 in photographs: the black hair 
 and torn features 
 of Thomas Delain captured 
 a moment before his death 

 on the pages of the world, 
 smeared in the act. I tortured 
 myself with their 
 betrayal: alone I hurled 
 them into freedom, inner 
 freedom which I can't find 
 nor ever will 
 until they are dead. In my mind 
 Delain stands against the wall 

 precise in detail, steadied 
 for the betrayal. "La France 
 C'Est Moi," he cried, 
 but the irony was lost. Since 
 I returned to the U.S. 
 nothing goes well. I stay up 
 too late, don't sleep, 
 and am losing weight. Thomas, 
 I say, is dead, but what use 

 telling myself what I won't 
 believe. The hotel quiets 
 early at night, 
 the aged brace themselves for 
 another sleep, and offshore 
 the sea quickens its pace. I 
 am suddenly 
 old, caught in a strange country 
 for which no man would die.

from a journal found on his person

 At night wakened by the freight 
 trains boring through the suburbs 
 of Lyon, I watched first light 
 corrode the darkness, disturb 
 what little wildlife was left 
 in the alleys: birds moved from 
 branch to branch, and the dogs leapt 
 at the garbage. Winter numbed 
 even the hearts of the young 
 who had only their hearts. We 
 heard the war coming; the long 
 wait was over, and we moved 
 along the crowded roads south 
 not looking for what lost loves 
 fell by the roadsides. To flee 
 at all cost, that was my youth. 

 Here in the African night 
 wakened by what I do not 
 know and shivering in the heat, 
 listen as the men fight 
 with sleep. Loosed from their weapons 
 they cry out, frightened and young, 
 who have never been children. 
 Once merely to be strong, 
 to live, was moral. Within 
 these uniforms we accept 
 the evil we were chosen 
 to deliver, and no act 
 human or benign can free 
 us from ourselves. Wait, sleep, blind 
 soldiers of a blind will, and 
 listen for that old command 
 dreaming of authority.

by Sidney Lanier |

The Jacquerie A Fragment

 Chapter I.

Once on a time, a Dawn, all red and bright
Leapt on the conquered ramparts of the Night,
And flamed, one brilliant instant, on the world,
Then back into the historic moat was hurled
And Night was King again, for many years.
-- Once on a time the Rose of Spring blushed out
But Winter angrily withdrew it back
Into his rough new-bursten husk, and shut
The stern husk-leaves, and hid it many years.
-- Once Famine tricked himself with ears of corn,
And Hate strung flowers on his spiked belt,
And glum Revenge in silver lilies pranked him,
And Lust put violets on his shameless front,
And all minced forth o' the street like holiday folk
That sally off afield on Summer morns.
-- Once certain hounds that knew of many a chase,
And bare great wounds of antler and of tusk
That they had ta'en to give a lord some sport,
-- Good hounds, that would have died to give lords sport --
Were so bewrayed and kicked by these same lords
That all the pack turned tooth o' the knights and bit
As knights had been no better things than boars,
And took revenge as bloody as a man's,
Unhoundlike, sudden, hot i' the chops, and sweet.
-- Once sat a falcon on a lady's wrist,
Seeming to doze, with wrinkled eye-lid drawn,
But dreaming hard of hoods and slaveries
And of dim hungers in his heart and wings.
Then, while the mistress gazed above for game,
Sudden he flew into her painted face
And hooked his horn-claws in her lily throat
And drove his beak into her lips and eyes
In fierce and hawkish kissing that did scar
And mar the lady's beauty evermore.
-- And once while Chivalry stood tall and lithe
And flashed his sword above the stricken eyes
Of all the simple peasant-folk of France:
While Thought was keen and hot and quick,
And did not play, as in these later days,
Like summer-lightning flickering in the west
-- As little dreadful as if glow-worms lay
In the cool and watery clouds and glimmered weak --
But gleamed and struck at once or oak or man,
And left not space for Time to wave his wing
Betwixt the instantaneous flash and stroke:
While yet the needs of life were brave and fierce
And did not hide their deeds behind their words,
And logic came not 'twixt desire and act,
And Want-and-Take was the whole Form of life:
While Love had fires a-burning in his veins,
And hidden Hate could flash into revenge:
Ere yet young Trade was 'ware of his big thews
Or dreamed that in the bolder afterdays
He would hew down and bind old Chivalry
And drag him to the highest height of fame
And plunge him thence in the sea of still Romance
To lie for aye in never-rusted mail
Gleaming through quiet ripples of soft songs
And sheens of old traditionary tales; --
On such a time, a certain May arose
From out that blue Sea that between five lands
Lies like a violet midst of five large leaves,
Arose from out this violet and flew on
And stirred the spirits of the woods of France
And smoothed the brows of moody Auvergne hills,
And wrought warm sea-tints into maidens' eyes,
And calmed the wordy air of market-towns
With faint suggestions blown from distant buds,
Until the land seemed a mere dream of land,
And, in this dream-field Life sat like a dove
And cooed across unto her dove-mate Death,
Brooding, pathetic, by a river, lone.
Oh, sharper tangs pierced through this perfumed May.
Strange aches sailed by with odors on the wind
As when we kneel in flowers that grow on graves
Of friends who died unworthy of our love.
King John of France was proving such an ache
In English prisons wide and fair and grand,
Whose long expanses of green park and chace
Did ape large liberty with such success
As smiles of irony ape smiles of love.
Down from the oaks of Hertford Castle park,
Double with warm rose-breaths of southern Spring
Came rumors, as if odors too had thorns,
Sharp rumors, how the three Estates of France,
Like old Three-headed Cerberus of Hell
Had set upon the Duke of Normandy,
Their rightful Regent, snarled in his great face,
Snapped jagged teeth in inch-breadth of his throat,
And blown such hot and savage breath upon him,
That he had tossed great sops of royalty
Unto the clamorous, three-mawed baying beast.
And was not further on his way withal,
And had but changed a snarl into a growl:
How Arnold de Cervolles had ta'en the track
That war had burned along the unhappy land,
Shouting, `since France is then too poor to pay
The soldiers that have bloody devoir done,
And since needs must, pardie! a man must eat,
Arm, gentlemen! swords slice as well as knives!'
And so had tempted stout men from the ranks,
And now was adding robbers' waste to war's,
Stealing the leavings of remorseless battle,
And making gaunter the gaunt bones of want:
How this Cervolles (called "Arch-priest" by the mass)
Through warm Provence had marched and menace made
Against Pope Innocent at Avignon,
And how the Pope nor ate nor drank nor slept,
Through godly fear concerning his red wines.
For if these knaves should sack his holy house
And all the blessed casks be knocked o' the head,
HORRENDUM! all his Holiness' drink to be
Profanely guzzled down the reeking throats
Of scoundrels, and inflame them on to seize
The massy coffers of the Church's gold,
And steal, mayhap, the carven silver shrine
And all the golden crucifixes? No! --
And so the holy father Pope made stir
And had sent forth a legate to Cervolles,
And treated with him, and made compromise,
And, last, had bidden all the Arch-priest's troop
To come and banquet with him in his house,
Where they did wassail high by night and day
And Father Pope sat at the board and carved
Midst jokes that flowed full greasily,
And priest and soldier trolled good songs for mass,
And all the prayers the Priests made were, `pray, drink,'
And all the oaths the Soldiers swore were, `drink!'
Till Mirth sat like a jaunty postillon
Upon the back of Time and urged him on
With piquant spur, past chapel and past cross:
How Charles, King of Navarre, in long duress
By mandate of King John within the walls
Of Crevacoeur and then of strong Alleres,
In faithful ward of Sir Tristan du Bois,
Was now escaped, had supped with Guy Kyrec,
Had now a pardon of the Regent Duke
By half compulsion of a Paris mob,
Had turned the people's love upon himself
By smooth harangues, and now was bold to claim
That France was not the Kingdom of King John,
But, By our Lady, his, by right and worth,
And so was plotting treason in the State,
And laughing at weak Charles of Normandy.
Nay, these had been like good news to the King,
Were any man but bold enough to tell
The King what [bitter] sayings men had made
And hawked augmenting up and down the land
Against the barons and great lords of France
That fled from English arrows at Poictiers.
POICTIERS, POICTIERS: this grain i' the eye of France
Had swelled it to a big and bloodshot ball
That looked with rage upon a world askew.
Poictiers' disgrace was now but two years old,
Yet so outrageous rank and full was grown
That France was wholly overspread with shade,
And bitter fruits lay on the untilled ground
That stank and bred so foul contagious smells
That not a nose in France but stood awry,
Nor boor that cried not FAUGH! upon the air.

Chapter II.

Franciscan friar John de Rochetaillade
With gentle gesture lifted up his hand
And poised it high above the steady eyes
Of a great crowd that thronged the market-place
In fair Clermont to hear him prophesy.
Midst of the crowd old Gris Grillon, the maimed,
-- A wretched wreck that fate had floated out
From the drear storm of battle at Poictiers.
A living man whose larger moiety
Was dead and buried on the battle-field --
A grisly trunk, without or arms or legs,
And scarred with hoof-cuts over cheek and brow,
Lay in his wicker-cradle, smiling.
Quoth he, "My son, I would behold this priest
That is not fat, and loves not wine, and fasts,
And stills the folk with waving of his hand,
And threats the knights and thunders at the Pope.
Make way for Gris, ye who are whole of limb!
Set me on yonder ledge, that I may see."
Forthwith a dozen horny hands reached out
And lifted Gris Grillon upon the ledge,
Whereon he lay and overlooked the crowd,
And from the gray-grown hedges of his brows
Shot forth a glance against the friar's eye
That struck him like an arrow.
Then the friar,
With voice as low as if a maiden hummed
Love-songs of Provence in a mild day-dream:
"And when he broke the second seal, I heard
The second beast say, Come and see.
And then
Went out another horse, and he was red.
And unto him that sat thereon was given
To take the peace of earth away, and set
Men killing one another: and they gave
To him a mighty sword."
The friar paused
And pointed round the circle of sad eyes.
"There is no face of man or woman here
But showeth print of the hard hoof of war.
Ah, yonder leaneth limbless Gris Grillon.
Friends, Gris Grillon is France.
Good France; my France,
Wilt never walk on glory's hills again?
Wilt never work among thy vines again?
Art footless and art handless evermore?
-- Thou felon, War, I do arraign thee now
Of mayhem of the four main limbs of France!
Thou old red criminal, stand forth; I charge
-- But O, I am too utter sorrowful
To urge large accusation now.
My work to-day, is still more grievous. Hear!
The stains that war hath wrought upon the land
Show but as faint white flecks, if seen o' the side
Of those blood-covered images that stalk
Through yon cold chambers of the future, as
The prophet-mood, now stealing on my soul,
Reveals them, marching, marching, marching. See!
There go the kings of France, in piteous file.
The deadly diamonds shining in their crowns
Do wound the foreheads of their Majesties
And glitter through a setting of blood-gouts
As if they smiled to think how men are slain
By the sharp facets of the gem of power,
And how the kings of men are slaves of stones.
But look! The long procession of the kings
Wavers and stops; the world is full of noise,
The ragged peoples storm the palaces,
They rave, they laugh, they thirst, they lap the stream
That trickles from the regal vestments down,
And, lapping, smack their heated chaps for more,
And ply their daggers for it, till the kings
All die and lie in a crooked sprawl of death,
Ungainly, foul, and stiff as any heap
Of villeins rotting on a battle-field.
'Tis true, that when these things have come to pass
Then never a king shall rule again in France,
For every villein shall be king in France:
And who hath lordship in him, whether born
In hedge or silken bed, shall be a lord:
And queens shall be as thick i' the land as wives,
And all the maids shall maids of honor be:
And high and low shall commune solemnly:
And stars and stones shall have free interview.
But woe is me, 'tis also piteous true
That ere this gracious time shall visit France,
Your graves, Beloved, shall be some centuries old,
And so your children's, and their children's graves
And many generations'.
Ye, O ye
Shall grieve, and ye shall grieve, and ye shall grieve.
Your Life shall bend and o'er his shuttle toil,
A weaver weaving at the loom of grief.
Your Life shall sweat 'twixt anvil and hot forge,
An armorer working at the sword of grief.
Your Life shall moil i' the ground, and plant his seed,
A farmer foisoning a huge crop of grief.
Your Life shall chaffer in the market-place,
A merchant trading in the goods of grief.
Your Life shall go to battle with his bow,
A soldier fighting in defence of grief.
By every rudder that divides the seas,
Tall Grief shall stand, the helmsman of the ship.
By every wain that jolts along the roads,
Stout Grief shall walk, the driver of the team.
Midst every herd of cattle on the hills,
Dull Grief shall lie, the herdsman of the drove.
Oh Grief shall grind your bread and play your lutes
And marry you and bury you.
-- How else?
Who's here in France, can win her people's faith
And stand in front and lead the people on?
Where is the Church?
The Church is far too fat.
Not, mark, by robust swelling of the thews,
But puffed and flabby large with gross increase
Of wine-fat, plague-fat, dropsy-fat.
O shame,
Thou Pope that cheatest God at Avignon,
Thou that shouldst be the Father of the world
And Regent of it whilst our God is gone;
Thou that shouldst blaze with conferred majesty
And smite old Lust-o'-the-Flesh so as by flame;
Thou that canst turn thy key and lock Grief up
Or turn thy key and unlock Heaven's Gate,
Thou that shouldst be the veritable hand
That Christ down-stretcheth out of heaven yet
To draw up him that fainteth to His heart,
Thou that shouldst bear thy fruit, yet virgin live,
As she that bore a man yet sinned not,
Thou that shouldst challenge the most special eyes
Of Heaven and Earth and Hell to mark thee, since
Thou shouldst be Heaven's best captain, Earth's best friend,
And Hell's best enemy -- false Pope, false Pope,
The world, thy child, is sick and like to die,
But thou art dinner-drowsy and cannot come:
And Life is sore beset and crieth `help!'
But thou brook'st not disturbance at thy wine:
And France is wild for one to lead her souls;
But thou art huge and fat and laggest back
Among the remnants of forsaken camps.
Thou'rt not God's Pope, thou art the Devil's Pope.
Thou art first Squire to that most puissant knight,
Lord Satan, who thy faithful squireship long
Hath watched and well shall guerdon.
Ye sad souls,
So faint with work ye love not, so thin-worn
With miseries ye wrought not, so outraged
By strokes of ill that pass th' ill-doers' heads
And cleave the innocent, so desperate tired
Of insult that doth day by day abuse
The humblest dignity of humblest men,
Ye cannot call toward the Church for help.
The Church already is o'erworked with care
Of its dyspeptic stomach.
Ha, the Church
Forgets about eternity.
I had
A vision of forgetfulness.
O Dream
Born of a dream, as yonder cloud is born
Of water which is born of cloud!
I thought
I saw the moonlight lying large and calm
Upon the unthrobbing bosom of the earth,
As a great diamond glittering on a shroud.
A sense of breathlessness stilled all the world.
Motion stood dreaming he was changed to Rest,
And Life asleep did fancy he was Death.
A quick small shadow spotted the white world;
Then instantly 'twas huge, and huger grew
By instants till it did o'ergloom all space.
I lifted up mine eyes -- O thou just God!
I saw a spectre with a million heads
Come frantic downward through the universe,
And all the mouths of it were uttering cries,
Wherein was a sharp agony, and yet
The cries were much like laughs: as if Pain laughed.
Its myriad lips were blue, and sometimes they
Closed fast and only moaned dim sounds that shaped
Themselves to one word, `Homeless', and the stars
Did utter back the moan, and the great hills
Did bellow it, and then the stars and hills
Bandied the grief o' the ghost 'twixt heaven and earth.
The spectre sank, and lay upon the air,
And brooded, level, close upon the earth,
With all the myriad heads just over me.
I glanced in all the eyes and marked that some
Did glitter with a flame of lunacy,
And some were soft and false as feigning love,
And some were blinking with hypocrisy,
And some were overfilmed by sense, and some
Blazed with ambition's wild, unsteady fire,
And some were burnt i' the sockets black, and some
Were dead as embers when the fire is out.
A curious zone circled the Spectre's waist,
Which seemed with strange device to symbol Time.
It was a silver-gleaming thread of day
Spiral about a jet-black band of night.
This zone seemed ever to contract and all
The frame with momentary spasms heaved
In the strangling traction which did never cease.
I cried unto the spectre, `Time hath bound
Thy body with the fibre of his hours.'
Then rose a multitude of mocking sounds,
And some mouths spat at me and cried `thou fool',
And some, `thou liest', and some, `he dreams': and then
Some hands uplifted certain bowls they bore
To lips that writhed but drank with eagerness.
And some played curious viols, shaped like hearts
And stringed with loves, to light and ribald tunes,
And other hands slit throats with knives,
And others patted all the painted cheeks
In reach, and others stole what others had
Unseen, or boldly snatched at alien rights,
And some o' the heads did vie in a foolish game
And then the sea in silence wove a veil
Of mist, and breathed it upward and about,
And waved and wound it softly round the world,
And meshed my dream i' the vague and endless folds,
And a light wind arose and blew these off,
And I awoke.
The many heads are priests
That have forgot eternity: and Time
Hath caught and bound them with a withe
Into a fagot huge, to burn in hell.
-- Now if the priesthood put such shame upon
Your cry for leadership, can better help
Come out of knighthood?
Lo! you smile, you boors?
You villeins smile at knighthood?
Now, thou France
That wert the mother of fair chivalry,
Unclose thine eyes, unclose thine eyes, here, see,
Here stand a herd of knaves that laugh to scorn
Thy gentlemen!
O contumely hard,
O bitterness of last disgrace, O sting
That stings the coward knights of lost Poictiers!
I would --" but now a murmur rose i' the crowd
Of angry voices, and the friar leapt
From where he stood to preach and pressed a path
Betwixt the mass that way the voices came.

Chapter III.

Lord Raoul was riding castleward from field.
At left hand rode his lady and at right
His fool whom he loved better; and his bird,
His fine ger-falcon best beloved of all,
Sat hooded on his wrist and gently swayed
To the undulating amble of the horse.
Guest-knights and huntsmen and a noisy train
Of loyal-stomached flatterers and their squires
Clattered in retinue, and aped his pace,
And timed their talk by his, and worked their eyes
By intimation of his glance, with great
And drilled precision.
Then said the fool:
"'Twas a brave flight, my lord, that last one! brave.
Didst note the heron once did turn about,
And show a certain anger with his wing,
And make as if he almost dared, not quite,
To strike the falcon, ere the falcon him?
A foolish damnable advised bird,
Yon heron! What? Shall herons grapple hawks?
God made the herons for the hawks to strike,
And hawk and heron made he for lords' sport."
"What then, my honey-tongued Fool, that knowest
God's purposes, what made he fools for?"
To counsel lords, my lord. Wilt hear me prove
Fools' counsel better than wise men's advice?"
"Aye, prove it. If thy logic fail, wise fool,
I'll cause two wise men whip thee soundly."
`Wise men are prudent: prudent men have care
For their own proper interest; therefore they
Advise their own advantage, not another's.
But fools are careless: careless men care not
For their own proper interest; therefore they
Advise their friend's advantage, not their own.'
Now hear the commentary, Cousin Raoul.
This fool, unselfish, counsels thee, his lord,
Go not through yonder square, where, as thou see'st
Yon herd of villeins, crick-necked all with strain
Of gazing upward, stand, and gaze, and take
With open mouth and eye and ear, the quips
And heresies of John de Rochetaillade."
Lord Raoul half turned him in his saddle round,
And looked upon his fool and vouchsafed him
What moiety of fastidious wonderment
A generous nobleness could deign to give
To such humility, with eye superb
Where languor and surprise both showed themselves,
Each deprecating t'other.
"Now, dear knave,
Be kind and tell me -- tell me quickly, too, --
Some proper reasonable ground or cause,
Nay, tell me but some shadow of some cause,
Nay, hint me but a thin ghost's dream of cause,
(So will I thee absolve from being whipped)
Why I, Lord Raoul, should turn my horse aside
From riding by yon pitiful villein gang,
Or ay, by God, from riding o'er their heads
If so my humor serve, or through their bodies,
Or miring fetlocks in their nasty brains,
Or doing aught else I will in my Clermont?
Do me this grace, mine Idiot."
"Please thy Wisdom
An thou dost ride through this same gang of boors,
'Tis my fool's-prophecy, some ill shall fall.
Lord Raoul, yon mass of various flesh is fused
And melted quite in one by white-hot words
The friar speaks. Sir, sawest thou ne'er, sometimes,
Thine armorer spit on iron when 'twas hot,
And how the iron flung the insult back,
Hissing? So this contempt now in thine eye,
If it shall fall on yonder heated surface
May bounce back upward. Well: and then? What then?
Why, if thou cause thy folk to crop some villein's ears,
So, evil falls, and a fool foretells the truth.
Or if some erring crossbow-bolt should break
Thine unarmed head, shot from behind a house,
So, evil falls, and a fool foretells the truth."
"Well," quoth Lord Raoul, with languid utterance,
"'Tis very well -- and thou'rt a foolish fool,
Nay, thou art Folly's perfect witless man,
Stupidity doth madly dote on thee,
And Idiocy doth fight her for thy love,
Yet Silliness doth love thee best of all,
And while they quarrel, snatcheth thee to her
And saith `Ah! 'tis my sweetest No-brains: mine!'
-- And 'tis my mood to-day some ill shall fall."
And there right suddenly Lord Raoul gave rein
And galloped straightway to the crowded square,
-- What time a strange light flickered in the eyes
Of the calm fool, that was not folly's gleam,
But more like wisdom's smile at plan well laid
And end well compassed. In the noise of hoofs
Secure, the fool low-muttered: "`Folly's love!'
So: `Silliness' sweetheart: no-brains:' quoth my Lord.
Why, how intolerable an ass is he
Whom Silliness' sweetheart drives so, by the ear!
Thou languid, lordly, most heart-breaking Nought!
Thou bastard zero, that hast come to power,
Nothing's right issue failing! Thou mere `pooh'
That Life hath uttered in some moment's pet,
And then forgot she uttered thee! Thou gap
In time, thou little notch in circumstance!"

Chapter IV.

Lord Raoul drew rein with all his company,
And urged his horse i' the crowd, to gain fair view
Of him that spoke, and stopped at last, and sat
Still, underneath where Gris Grillon was laid,
And heard, somewhile, with languid scornful gaze,
The friar putting blame on priest and knight.
But presently, as 'twere in weariness,
He gazed about, and then above, and so
Made mark of Gris Grillon.
"So, there, old man,
Thou hast more brows than legs!"
"I would," quoth Gris,
"That thou, upon a certain time I wot,
Hadst had less legs and bigger brows, my Lord!"
Then all the flatterers and their squires cried out
Solicitous, with various voice, "Go to,
Old Rogue," or "Shall I brain him, my good Lord?"
Or, "So, let me but chuck him from his perch,"
Or, "Slice his tongue to piece his leg withal,"
Or, "Send his eyes to look for his missing arms."
But my Lord Raoul was in the mood, to-day,
Which craves suggestions simply with a view
To flout them in the face, and so waved hand
Backward, and stayed the on-pressing sycophants
Eager to buy rich praise with bravery cheap.
"I would know why," -- he said -- "thou wishedst me
Less legs and bigger brows; and when?"
"Wouldst know?
Learn then," cried Gris Grillon and stirred himself,
In a great spasm of passion mixed with pain;
"An thou hadst had more courage and less speed,
Then, ah my God! then could not I have been
That piteous gibe of a man thou see'st I am.
Sir, having no disease, nor any taint
Nor old hereditament of sin or shame,
-- But, feeling the brave bound and energy
Of daring health that leaps along the veins --
As a hart upon his river banks at morn,
-- Sir, wild with the urgings and hot strenuous beats
Of manhood's heart in this full-sinewed breast
Which thou may'st even now discern is mine,
-- Sir, full aware, each instant in each day,
Of motions of great muscles, once were mine,
And thrill of tense thew-knots, and stinging sense
Of nerves, nice, capable and delicate:
-- Sir, visited each hour by passions great
That lack all instrument of utterance,
Passion of love -- that hath no arm to curve;
Passion of speed -- that hath no limb to stretch;
Yea, even that poor feeling of desire
Simply to turn me from this side to that,
(Which brooded on, into wild passion grows
By reason of the impotence that broods)
Balked of its end and unachievable
Without assistance of some foreign arm,
-- Sir, moved and thrilled like any perfect man,
O, trebly moved and thrilled, since poor desires
That are of small import to happy men
Who easily can compass them, to me
Become mere hopeless Heavens or actual Hells,
-- Sir, strengthened so with manhood's seasoned soul,
I lie in this damned cradle day and night,
Still, still, so still, my Lord: less than a babe
In powers but more than any man in needs;
Dreaming, with open eye, of days when men
Have fallen cloven through steel and bone and flesh
At single strokes of this -- of that big arm
Once wielded aught a mortal arm might wield,
Waking a prey to any foolish gnat
That wills to conquer my defenceless brow
And sit thereon in triumph; hounded ever
By small necessities of barest use
Which, since I cannot compass them alone,
Do snarl my helplessness into mine ear,
Howling behind me that I have no hands,
And yelping round me that I have no feet:
So that my heart is stretched by tiny ills
That are so much the larger that I knew
In bygone days how trifling small they were:
-- Dungeoned in wicker, strong as 'twere in stone;
-- Fast chained with nothing, firmer than with steel;
-- Captive in limb, yet free in eye and ear,
Sole tenant of this puny Hell in Heaven:
-- And this -- all this -- because I was a man!
For, in the battle -- ha, thou know'st, pale-face!
When that the four great English horsemen bore
So bloodily on thee, I leapt to front
To front of thee -- of thee -- and fought four blades,
Thinking to win thee time to snatch thy breath,
And, by a rearing fore-hoof stricken down,
Mine eyes, through blood, my brain, through pain,
-- Midst of a dim hot uproar fainting down --
Were 'ware of thee, far rearward, fleeing! Hound!"

Chapter V.

Then, as the passion of old Gris Grillon
A wave swift swelling, grew to highest height
And snapped a foaming consummation forth
With salty hissing, came the friar through
The mass. A stillness of white faces wrought
A transient death on all the hands and breasts
Of all the crowd, and men and women stood,
One instant, fixed, as they had died upright.
Then suddenly Lord Raoul rose up in selle
And thrust his dagger straight upon the breast
Of Gris Grillon, to pin him to the wall;
But ere steel-point met flesh, tall Jacques Grillon
Had leapt straight upward from the earth, and in
The self-same act had whirled his bow by end
With mighty whirr about his head, and struck
The dagger with so featly stroke and full
That blade flew up and hilt flew down, and left
Lord Raoul unfriended of his weapon.
The fool cried shrilly, "Shall a knight of France
Go stabbing his own cattle?" And Lord Raoul,
Calm with a changing mood, sat still and called:
"Here, huntsmen, 'tis my will ye seize the hind
That broke my dagger, bind him to this tree
And slice both ears to hair-breadth of his head,
To be his bloody token of regret
That he hath put them to so foul employ
As catching villainous breath of strolling priests
That mouth at knighthood and defile the Church."
The knife . . . . . [Rest of line lost.]
To place the edge . . . [Rest of line lost.]
Mary! the blood! it oozes sluggishly,
Scorning to come at call of blade so base.
Sathanas! He that cuts the ear has left
The blade sticking at midway, for to turn
And ask the Duke "if 'tis not done
Thus far with nice precision," and the Duke
Leans down to see, and cries, "'tis marvellous nice,
Shaved as thou wert ear-barber by profession!"
Whereat one witling cries, "'tis monstrous fit,
In sooth, a shaven-pated priest should have
A shaven-eared audience;" and another,
"Give thanks, thou Jacques, to this most gracious Duke
That rids thee of the life-long dread of loss
Of thy two ears, by cropping them at once;
And now henceforth full safely thou may'st dare
The powerfullest Lord in France to touch
An ear of thine;" and now the knave o' the knife
Seizes the handle to commence again, and saws
And . . ha! Lift up thine head, O Henry! Friend!
'Tis Marie, walking midway of the street,
As she had just stepped forth from out the gate
Of the very, very Heaven where God is,
Still glittering with the God-shine on her! Look!
And there right suddenly the fool looked up
And saw the crowd divided in two ranks.
Raoul pale-stricken as a man that waits
God's first remark when he hath died into
God's sudden presence, saw the cropping knave
A-pause with knife in hand, the wondering folk
All straining forward with round-ringed eyes,
And Gris Grillon calm smiling while he prayed
The Holy Virgin's blessing.
Down the lane
Betwixt the hedging bodies of the crowd,
[Part of line lost.] . . . . majesty
[Part of line lost.] . . a spirit pacing on the top
Of springy clouds, and bore straight on toward
The Duke. On him her eyes burned steadily
With such gray fires of heaven-hot command
As Dawn burns Night away with, and she held
Her white forefinger quivering aloft
At greatest arm's-length of her dainty arm,
In menace sweeter than a kiss could be
And terribler than sudden whispers are
That come from lips unseen, in sunlit room.
So with the spell of all the Powers of Sense
That e'er have swayed the savagery of hot blood
Raying from her whole body beautiful,
She held the eyes and wills of all the crowd.
Then from the numbed hand of him that cut,
The knife dropped down, and the quick fool stole in
And snatched and deftly severed all the withes
Unseen, and Jacques burst forth into the crowd,
And then the mass completed the long breath
They had forgot to draw, and surged upon
The centre where the maiden stood with sound
Of multitudes of blessings, and Lord Raoul
Rode homeward, silent and most pale and strange,
Deep-wrapt in moody fits of hot and cold.
(End of Chapter V.)
. . . . . . .

Song for "The Jacquerie".

May the maiden,
Out of the violet sea,
Comes and hovers
Over lovers,
Over thee, Marie, and me,
Over me and thee.

Day the stately,
Sunken lately
Into the violet sea,
Backward hovers
Over lovers,
Over thee, Marie, and me,
Over me and thee.

Night the holy,
Sailing slowly
Over the violet sea,
Stars uncovers
Over lovers,
Stars for thee, Marie, and me,
Stars for me and thee.

Song for "The Jacquerie".


The sun has kissed the violet sea,
And burned the violet to a rose.
O Sea! wouldst thou not better be
Mere violet still? Who knows? who knows?
Well hides the violet in the wood:
The dead leaf wrinkles her a hood,
And winter's ill is violet's good;
But the bold glory of the rose,
It quickly comes and quickly goes --
Red petals whirling in white snows,
Ah me!

The sun has burnt the rose-red sea:
The rose is turned to ashes gray.
O Sea, O Sea, mightst thou but be
The violet thou hast been to-day!
The sun is brave, the sun is bright,
The sun is lord of love and light;
But after him it cometh night.
Dim anguish of the lonesome dark! --
Once a girl's body, stiff and stark,
Was laid in a tomb without a mark,
Ah me!

Song for "The Jacquerie".

The hound was cuffed, the hound was kicked,
O' the ears was cropped, o' the tail was nicked,
(All.) Oo-hoo-o, howled the hound.
The hound into his kennel crept;
He rarely wept, he never slept.
His mouth he always open kept
Licking his bitter wound,
The hound,
(All.) U-lu-lo, HOWLED THE HOUND.

A star upon his kennel shone
That showed the hound a meat-bare bone.
(All.) O hungry was the hound!
The hound had but a churlish wit.
He seized the bone, he crunched, he bit.
"An thou wert Master, I had slit
Thy throat with a huge wound,"
Quo' hound.
(All.) O, angry was the hound.

The star in castle-window shone,
The Master lay abed, alone.
(All.) Oh ho, why not? quo' hound.
He leapt, he seized the throat, he tore
The Master, head from neck, to floor,
And rolled the head i' the kennel door,
And fled and salved his wound,
Good hound!
(All.) U-lu-lo, HOWLED THE HOUND.

by Charles Baudelaire |


 CARRYING bouquet, and handkerchief, and gloves, 
Proud of her height as when she lived, she moves 
With all the careless and high-stepping grace, 
And the extravagant courtesan's thin face. 

Was slimmer waist e'er in a ball-room wooed? 
Her floating robe, in royal amplitude, 
Falls in deep folds around a dry foot, shod 
With a bright flower-like shoe that gems the sod. 

The swarms that hum about her collar-bones 
As the lascivious streams caress the stones, 
Conceal from every scornful jest that flies, 
Her gloomy beauty; and her fathomless eyes 

Are made of shade and void; with flowery sprays 
Her skull is wreathed artistically, and sways, 
Feeble and weak, on her frail vertebrae. 
O charm of nothing decked in folly! they 

Who laugh and name you a Caricature, 
They see not, they whom flesh and blood allure, 
The nameless grace of every bleached, bare bone, 
That is most dear to me, tall skeleton! 

Come you to trouble with your potent sneer 
The feast of Life! or are you driven here, 
To Pleasure's Sabbath, by dead lusts that stir 
And goad your moving corpse on with a spur? 

Or do you hope, when sing the violins, 
And the pale candle-flame lights up our sins, 
To drive some mocking nightmare far apart, 
And cool the flame hell lighted in your heart? 

Fathomless well of fault and foolishness! 
Eternal alembic of antique distress! 
Still o'er the curved, white trellis of your sides 
The sateless, wandering serpent curls and glides. 

And truth to tell, I fear lest you should find, 
Among us here, no lover to your mind; 
Which of these hearts beat for the smile you gave? 
The charms of horror please none but the brave. 

Your eyes' black gulf, where awful broodings stir, 
Brings giddiness; the prudent reveller 
Sees, while a horror grips him from beneath, 
The eternal smile of thirty-two white teeth. 

For he who has not folded in his arms 
A skeleton, nor fed on graveyard charms, 
Recks not of furbelow, or paint, or scent, 
When Horror comes the way that Beauty went. 

O irresistible, with fleshless face, 
Say to these dancers in their dazzled race: 
"Proud lovers with the paint above your bones, 
Ye shall taste death, musk scented skeletons! 

Withered Antino?s, dandies with plump faces, 
Ye varnished cadavers, and grey Lovelaces, 
Ye go to lands unknown and void of breath, 
Drawn by the rumour of the Dance of Death. 

From Seine's cold quays to Ganges' burning stream, 
The mortal troupes dance onward in a dream; 
They do not see, within the opened sky, 
The Angel's sinister trumpet raised on high. 

In every clime and under every sun, 
Death laughs at ye, mad mortals, as ye run; 
And oft perfumes herself with myrrh, like ye 
And mingles with your madness, irony!"

by Billy Collins |


 Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."

by Sylvia Plath |

Virgin In A Tree

 How this tart fable instructs
And mocks! Here's the parody of that moral mousetrap
Set in the proverbs stitched on samplers
Approving chased girls who get them to a tree
And put on bark's nun-black

Habit which deflects
All amorous arrows. For to sheathe the virgin shape
In a scabbard of wood baffles pursuers,
Whether goat-thighed or god-haloed. Ever since that first Daphne
Switched her incomparable back

For a bay-tree hide, respect's
Twined to her hard limbs like ivy: the puritan lip
Cries: 'Celebrate Syrinx whose demurs
Won her the frog-colored skin, pale pith and watery
Bed of a reed. Look:

Pine-needle armor protects
Pitys from Pan's assault! And though age drop
Their leafy crowns, their fame soars,
Eclipsing Eva, Cleo and Helen of Troy:
For which of those would speak

For a fashion that constricts
White bodies in a wooden girdle, root to top
Unfaced, unformed, the nipple-flowers
Shrouded to suckle darkness? Only they
Who keep cool and holy make

A sanctum to attract
Green virgins, consecrating limb and lip
To chastity's service: like prophets, like preachers,
They descant on the serene and seraphic beauty
Of virgins for virginity's sake.'

Be certain some such pact's
Been struck to keep all glory in the grip
Of ugly spinsters and barren sirs
As you etch on the inner window of your eye
This virgin on her rack:

She, ripe and unplucked, 's
Lain splayed too long in the tortuous boughs: overripe
Now, dour-faced, her fingers
Stiff as twigs, her body woodenly
Askew, she'll ache and wake

Though doomsday bud. Neglect's
Given her lips that lemon-tasting droop:
Untongued, all beauty's bright juice sours.
Tree-twist will ape this gross anatomy
Till irony's bough break.

by Rudyard Kipling |

The Man Who Could Write

 Boanerges Blitzen, servant of the Queen,
Is a dismal failure -- is a Might-have-been.
In a luckless moment he discovered men
Rise to high position through a ready pen.

Boanerges Blitzen argued therefore -- "I,
With the selfsame weapon, can attain as high."
Only he did not possess when he made the trial,
Wicked wit of C-lv-n, irony of L--l.

[Men who spar with Government need, to back their blows,
Something more than ordinary journalistic prose.]

Never young Civilian's prospects were so bright,
Till an Indian paper found that he could write:
Never young Civilian's prospects were so dark,
When the wretched Blitzen wrote to make his mark.

Certainly he scored it, bold, and black, and firm,
In that Indian paper -- made his seniors squirm,
Quated office scandals, wrote the tactless truth --
Was there ever known a more misguided youth?

When the Rag he wrote for praised his plucky game,
Boanerges Blitzen felt that this was Fame;
When the men he wrote of shook their heads and swore,
Boanerges Blitzen only wrote the more:

Posed as Young Ithuriel, resolute and grim,
Till he found promotion didn't come to him;
Till he found that reprimands weekly were his lot,
And his many Districts curiously hot.

Till he found his furlough strangely hard to win,
Boanerges Blitzen didn't care to pin:
Then it seemed to dawn on him something wasn't right --
Boanerges Blitzen put it down to "spite";

Languished in a District desolate and dry;
Watched the Local Government yearly pass him by;
Wondered where the hitch was; called it most unfair.
 . . . . .
That was seven years ago -- and he still is there!

by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

The Princess (part 7)

 So was their sanctuary violated, 
So their fair college turned to hospital; 
At first with all confusion: by and by 
Sweet order lived again with other laws: 
A kindlier influence reigned; and everywhere 
Low voices with the ministering hand 
Hung round the sick: the maidens came, they talked, 
They sang, they read: till she not fair began 
To gather light, and she that was, became 
Her former beauty treble; and to and fro 
With books, with flowers, with Angel offices, 
Like creatures native unto gracious act, 
And in their own clear element, they moved. 

But sadness on the soul of Ida fell, 
And hatred of her weakness, blent with shame. 
Old studies failed; seldom she spoke: but oft 
Clomb to the roofs, and gazed alone for hours 
On that disastrous leaguer, swarms of men 
Darkening her female field: void was her use, 
And she as one that climbs a peak to gaze 
O'er land and main, and sees a great black cloud 
Drag inward from the deeps, a wall of night, 
Blot out the slope of sea from verge to shore, 
And suck the blinding splendour from the sand, 
And quenching lake by lake and tarn by tarn 
Expunge the world: so fared she gazing there; 
So blackened all her world in secret, blank 
And waste it seemed and vain; till down she came, 
And found fair peace once more among the sick. 

And twilight dawned; and morn by morn the lark 
Shot up and shrilled in flickering gyres, but I 
Lay silent in the muffled cage of life: 
And twilight gloomed; and broader-grown the bowers 
Drew the great night into themselves, and Heaven, 
Star after Star, arose and fell; but I, 
Deeper than those weird doubts could reach me, lay 
Quite sundered from the moving Universe, 
Nor knew what eye was on me, nor the hand 
That nursed me, more than infants in their sleep. 

But Psyche tended Florian: with her oft, 
Melissa came; for Blanche had gone, but left 
Her child among us, willing she should keep 
Court-favour: here and there the small bright head, 
A light of healing, glanced about the couch, 
Or through the parted silks the tender face 
Peeped, shining in upon the wounded man 
With blush and smile, a medicine in themselves 
To wile the length from languorous hours, and draw 
The sting from pain; nor seemed it strange that soon 
He rose up whole, and those fair charities 
Joined at her side; nor stranger seemed that hears 
So gentle, so employed, should close in love, 
Than when two dewdrops on the petals shake 
To the same sweet air, and tremble deeper down, 
And slip at once all-fragrant into one. 

Less prosperously the second suit obtained 
At first with Psyche. Not though Blanche had sworn 
That after that dark night among the fields 
She needs must wed him for her own good name; 
Not though he built upon the babe restored; 
Nor though she liked him, yielded she, but feared 
To incense the Head once more; till on a day 
When Cyril pleaded, Ida came behind 
Seen but of Psyche: on her foot she hung 
A moment, and she heard, at which her face 
A little flushed, and she past on; but each 
Assumed from thence a half-consent involved 
In stillness, plighted troth, and were at peace. 

Nor only these: Love in the sacred halls 
Held carnival at will, and flying struck 
With showers of random sweet on maid and man. 
Nor did her father cease to press my claim, 
Nor did mine own, now reconciled; nor yet 
Did those twin-brothers, risen again and whole; 
Nor Arac, satiate with his victory. 

But I lay still, and with me oft she sat: 
Then came a change; for sometimes I would catch 
Her hand in wild delirium, gripe it hard, 
And fling it like a viper off, and shriek 
'You are not Ida;' clasp it once again, 
And call her Ida, though I knew her not, 
And call her sweet, as if in irony, 
And call her hard and cold which seemed a truth: 
And still she feared that I should lose my mind, 
And often she believed that I should die: 
Till out of long frustration of her care, 
And pensive tendance in the all-weary noons, 
And watches in the dead, the dark, when clocks 
Throbbed thunder through the palace floors, or called 
On flying Time from all their silver tongues-- 
And out of memories of her kindlier days, 
And sidelong glances at my father's grief, 
And at the happy lovers heart in heart-- 
And out of hauntings of my spoken love, 
And lonely listenings to my muttered dream, 
And often feeling of the helpless hands, 
And wordless broodings on the wasted cheek-- 
From all a closer interest flourished up, 
Tenderness touch by touch, and last, to these, 
Love, like an Alpine harebell hung with tears 
By some cold morning glacier; frail at first 
And feeble, all unconscious of itself, 
But such as gathered colour day by day. 

Last I woke sane, but well-nigh close to death 
For weakness: it was evening: silent light 
Slept on the painted walls, wherein were wrought 
Two grand designs; for on one side arose 
The women up in wild revolt, and stormed 
At the Oppian Law. Titanic shapes, they crammed 
The forum, and half-crushed among the rest 
A dwarf-like Cato cowered. On the other side 
Hortensia spoke against the tax; behind, 
A train of dames: by axe and eagle sat, 
With all their foreheads drawn in Roman scowls, 
And half the wolf's-milk curdled in their veins, 
The fierce triumvirs; and before them paused 
Hortensia pleading: angry was her face. 

I saw the forms: I knew not where I was: 
They did but look like hollow shows; nor more 
Sweet Ida: palm to palm she sat: the dew 
Dwelt in her eyes, and softer all her shape 
And rounder seemed: I moved: I sighed: a touch 
Came round my wrist, and tears upon my hand: 
Then all for languor and self-pity ran 
Mine down my face, and with what life I had, 
And like a flower that cannot all unfold, 
So drenched it is with tempest, to the sun, 
Yet, as it may, turns toward him, I on her 
Fixt my faint eyes, and uttered whisperingly: 

'If you be, what I think you, some sweet dream, 
I would but ask you to fulfil yourself: 
But if you be that Ida whom I knew, 
I ask you nothing: only, if a dream, 
Sweet dream, be perfect. I shall die tonight. 
Stoop down and seem to kiss me ere I die.' 

I could no more, but lay like one in trance, 
That hears his burial talked of by his friends, 
And cannot speak, nor move, nor make one sign, 
But lies and dreads his doom. She turned; she paused; 
She stooped; and out of languor leapt a cry; 
Leapt fiery Passion from the brinks of death; 
And I believed that in the living world 
My spirit closed with Ida's at the lips; 
Till back I fell, and from mine arms she rose 
Glowing all over noble shame; and all 
Her falser self slipt from her like a robe, 
And left her woman, lovelier in her mood 
Than in her mould that other, when she came 
From barren deeps to conquer all with love; 
And down the streaming crystal dropt; and she 
Far-fleeted by the purple island-sides, 
Naked, a double light in air and wave, 
To meet her Graces, where they decked her out 
For worship without end; nor end of mine, 
Stateliest, for thee! but mute she glided forth, 
Nor glanced behind her, and I sank and slept, 
Filled through and through with Love, a happy sleep. 

Deep in the night I woke: she, near me, held 
A volume of the Poets of her land: 
There to herself, all in low tones, she read. 

'Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white; 
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk; 
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font: 
The fire-fly wakens: wake thou with me. 

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost, 
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me. 

Now lies the Earth all Danaë to the stars, 
And all thy heart lies open unto me. 

Now lies the silent meteor on, and leaves 
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me. 

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up, 
And slips into the bosom of the lake: 
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou, and slip 
Into my bosom and be lost in me.' 

I heard her turn the page; she found a small 
Sweet Idyl, and once more, as low, she read: 

'Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height: 
What pleasure lives in height (the shepherd sang) 
In height and cold, the splendour of the hills? 
But cease to move so near the Heavens, and cease 
To glide a sunbeam by the blasted Pine, 
To sit a star upon the sparkling spire; 
And come, for love is of the valley, come, 
For love is of the valley, come thou down 
And find him; by the happy threshold, he, 
Or hand in hand with Plenty in the maize, 
Or red with spirted purple of the vats, 
Or foxlike in the vine; nor cares to walk 
With Death and Morning on the silver horns, 
Nor wilt thou snare him in the white ravine, 
Nor find him dropt upon the firths of ice, 
That huddling slant in furrow-cloven falls 
To roll the torrent out of dusky doors: 
But follow; let the torrent dance thee down 
To find him in the valley; let the wild 
Lean-headed Eagles yelp alone, and leave 
The monstrous ledges there to slope, and spill 
Their thousand wreaths of dangling water-smoke, 
That like a broken purpose waste in air: 
So waste not thou; but come; for all the vales 
Await thee; azure pillars of the hearth 
Arise to thee; the children call, and I 
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound, 
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet; 
Myriads of rivulets hurrying through the lawn, 
The moan of doves in immemorial elms, 
And murmuring of innumerable bees.' 

So she low-toned; while with shut eyes I lay 
Listening; then looked. Pale was the perfect face; 
The bosom with long sighs laboured; and meek 
Seemed the full lips, and mild the luminous eyes, 
And the voice trembled and the hand. She said 
Brokenly, that she knew it, she had failed 
In sweet humility; had failed in all; 
That all her labour was but as a block 
Left in the quarry; but she still were loth, 
She still were loth to yield herself to one 
That wholly scorned to help their equal rights 
Against the sons of men, and barbarous laws. 
She prayed me not to judge their cause from her 
That wronged it, sought far less for truth than power 
In knowledge: something wild within her breast, 
A greater than all knowledge, beat her down. 
And she had nursed me there from week to week: 
Much had she learnt in little time. In part 
It was ill counsel had misled the girl 
To vex true hearts: yet was she but a girl-- 
'Ah fool, and made myself a Queen of farce! 
When comes another such? never, I think, 
Till the Sun drop, dead, from the signs.' 
Her voice 
choked, and her forehead sank upon her hands, 
And her great heart through all the faultful Past 
Went sorrowing in a pause I dared not break; 
Till notice of a change in the dark world 
Was lispt about the acacias, and a bird, 
That early woke to feed her little ones, 
Sent from a dewy breast a cry for light: 
She moved, and at her feet the volume fell. 

'Blame not thyself too much,' I said, 'nor blame 
Too much the sons of men and barbarous laws; 
These were the rough ways of the world till now. 
Henceforth thou hast a helper, me, that know 
The woman's cause is man's: they rise or sink 
Together, dwarfed or godlike, bond or free: 
For she that out of Lethe scales with man 
The shining steps of Nature, shares with man 
His nights, his days, moves with him to one goal, 
Stays all the fair young planet in her hands-- 
If she be small, slight-natured, miserable, 
How shall men grow? but work no more alone! 
Our place is much: as far as in us lies 
We two will serve them both in aiding her-- 
Will clear away the parasitic forms 
That seem to keep her up but drag her down-- 
Will leave her space to burgeon out of all 
Within her--let her make herself her own 
To give or keep, to live and learn and be 
All that not harms distinctive womanhood. 
For woman is not undevelopt man, 
But diverse: could we make her as the man, 
Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this, 
Not like to like, but like in difference. 
Yet in the long years liker must they grow; 
The man be more of woman, she of man; 
He gain in sweetness and in moral height, 
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world; 
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care, 
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind; 
Till at the last she set herself to man, 
Like perfect music unto noble words; 
And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time, 
Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers, 
Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be, 
Self-reverent each and reverencing each, 
Distinct in individualities, 
But like each other even as those who love. 
Then comes the statelier Eden back to men: 
Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm: 
Then springs the crowning race of humankind. 
May these things be!' 
Sighing she spoke 'I fear 
They will not.' 
'Dear, but let us type them now 
In our own lives, and this proud watchword rest 
Of equal; seeing either sex alone 
Is half itself, and in true marriage lies 
Nor equal, nor unequal: each fulfils 
Defect in each, and always thought in thought, 
Purpose in purpose, will in will, they grow, 
The single pure and perfect animal, 
The two-celled heart beating, with one full stroke, 
And again sighing she spoke: 'A dream 
That once was mind! what woman taught you this?' 

'Alone,' I said, 'from earlier than I know, 
Immersed in rich foreshadowings of the world, 
I loved the woman: he, that doth not, lives 
A drowning life, besotted in sweet self, 
Or pines in sad experience worse than death, 
Or keeps his winged affections clipt with crime: 
Yet was there one through whom I loved her, one 
Not learnèd, save in gracious household ways, 
Not perfect, nay, but full of tender wants, 
No Angel, but a dearer being, all dipt 
In Angel instincts, breathing Paradise, 
Interpreter between the Gods and men, 
Who looked all native to her place, and yet 
On tiptoe seemed to touch upon a sphere 
Too gross to tread, and all male minds perforce 
Swayed to her from their orbits as they moved, 
And girdled her with music. Happy he 
With such a mother! faith in womankind 
Beats with his blood, and trust in all things high 
Comes easy to him, and though he trip and fall 
He shall not blind his soul with clay.' 
'But I,' 
Said Ida, tremulously, 'so all unlike-- 
It seems you love to cheat yourself with words: 
This mother is your model. I have heard 
of your strange doubts: they well might be: I seem 
A mockery to my own self. Never, Prince; 
You cannot love me.' 
'Nay but thee' I said 
'From yearlong poring on thy pictured eyes, 
Ere seen I loved, and loved thee seen, and saw 
Thee woman through the crust of iron moods 
That masked thee from men's reverence up, and forced 
Sweet love on pranks of saucy boyhood: now, 
Given back to life, to life indeed, through thee, 
Indeed I love: the new day comes, the light 
Dearer for night, as dearer thou for faults 
Lived over: lift thine eyes; my doubts are dead, 
My haunting sense of hollow shows: the change, 
This truthful change in thee has killed it. Dear, 
Look up, and let thy nature strike on mine, 
Like yonder morning on the blind half-world; 
Approach and fear not; breathe upon my brows; 
In that fine air I tremble, all the past 
Melts mist-like into this bright hour, and this 
Is morn to more, and all the rich to-come 
Reels, as the golden Autumn woodland reels 
Athwart the smoke of burning weeds. Forgive me, 
I waste my heart in signs: let be. My bride, 
My wife, my life. O we will walk this world, 
Yoked in all exercise of noble end, 
And so through those dark gates across the wild 
That no man knows. Indeed I love thee: come, 
Yield thyself up: my hopes and thine are one: 
Accomplish thou my manhood and thyself; 
Lay thy sweet hands in mine and trust to me.'