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Best Famous Places Poems

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

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by Edward Estlin (E E) Cummings |

You Are Tired

You are tired 
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.
Come with me then 
And we'll leave it far and far away-
(Only you and I understand!)

You have played 
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of 
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break and-
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight 
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart-
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows 
And if you like 
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah come with me!
I'll blow you that wonderful bubble the moon 
That floats forever and a day;
I'll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream 
Until I find the Only Flower 
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.


by Edmund Spenser |

Epithalamion

YE learn¨¨d sisters, which have oftentimes 
Beene to me ayding, others to adorne, 
Whom ye thought worthy of your gracefull rymes, 
That even the greatest did not greatly scorne 
To heare theyr names sung in your simple layes, 5 
But joy¨¨d in theyr praise; 
And when ye list your owne mishaps to mourne, 
Which death, or love, or fortunes wreck did rayse, 
Your string could soone to sadder tenor turne, 
And teach the woods and waters to lament 10 
Your dolefull dreriment: 
Now lay those sorrowfull complaints aside; 
And, having all your heads with girlands crownd, 
Helpe me mine owne loves prayses to resound; 
Ne let the same of any be envide: 15 
So Orpheus did for his owne bride! 
So I unto my selfe alone will sing; 
The woods shall to me answer, and my Eccho ring. 

Early, before the worlds light-giving lampe 
His golden beame upon the hils doth spred, 20 
Having disperst the nights unchearefull dampe, 
Doe ye awake; and, with fresh lusty-hed, 
Go to the bowre of my belov¨¨d love, 
My truest turtle dove; 
Bid her awake; for Hymen is awake, 25 
And long since ready forth his maske to move, 
With his bright Tead that flames with many a flake, 
And many a bachelor to waite on him, 
In theyr fresh garments trim. 
Bid her awake therefore, and soone her dight, 30 
For lo! the wish¨¨d day is come at last, 
That shall, for all the paynes and sorrowes past, 
Pay to her usury of long delight: 
And, whylest she doth her dight, 
Doe ye to her of joy and solace sing, 35 
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring. 

Bring with you all the Nymphes that you can heare 
Both of the rivers and the forrests greene, 
And of the sea that neighbours to her neare: 
Al with gay girlands goodly wel beseene. 40 
And let them also with them bring in hand 
Another gay girland 
For my fayre love, of lillyes and of roses, 
Bound truelove wize, with a blew silke riband. 
And let them make great store of bridale poses, 45 
And let them eeke bring store of other flowers, 
To deck the bridale bowers. 
And let the ground whereas her foot shall tread, 
For feare the stones her tender foot should wrong, 
Be strewed with fragrant flowers all along, 50 
And diapred lyke the discolored mead. 
Which done, doe at her chamber dore awayt, 
For she will waken strayt; 
The whiles doe ye this song unto her sing, 
The woods shall to you answer, and your Eccho ring. 55 

Ye Nymphes of Mulla, which with carefull heed 
The silver scaly trouts doe tend full well, 
And greedy pikes which use therein to feed; 
(Those trouts and pikes all others doo excell;) 
And ye likewise, which keepe the rushy lake, 60 
Where none doo fishes take; 
Bynd up the locks the which hang scatterd light, 
And in his waters, which your mirror make, 
Behold your faces as the christall bright, 
That when you come whereas my love doth lie, 65 
No blemish she may spie. 
And eke, ye lightfoot mayds, which keepe the deere, 
That on the hoary mountayne used to towre; 
And the wylde wolves, which seeke them to devoure, 
With your steele darts doo chace from comming neer; 70 
Be also present heere, 
To helpe to decke her, and to help to sing, 
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring. 

Wake now, my love, awake! for it is time; 
The Rosy Morne long since left Tithones bed, 75 
All ready to her silver coche to clyme; 
And Phoebus gins to shew his glorious hed. 
Hark! how the cheerefull birds do chaunt theyr laies 
And carroll of Loves praise. 
The merry Larke hir mattins sings aloft; 80 
The Thrush replyes; the Mavis descant playes; 
The Ouzell shrills; the Ruddock warbles soft; 
So goodly all agree, with sweet consent, 
To this dayes merriment. 
Ah! my deere love, why doe ye sleepe thus long? 85 
When meeter were that ye should now awake, 
T' awayt the comming of your joyous make, 
And hearken to the birds love-learn¨¨d song, 
The deawy leaves among! 
Nor they of joy and pleasance to you sing, 90 
That all the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring. 

My love is now awake out of her dreames, 
And her fayre eyes, like stars that dimm¨¨d were 
With darksome cloud, now shew theyr goodly beams 
More bright then Hesperus his head doth rere. 95 
Come now, ye damzels, daughters of delight, 
Helpe quickly her to dight: 
But first come ye fayre houres, which were begot 
In Joves sweet paradice of Day and Night; 
Which doe the seasons of the yeare allot, 100 
And al, that ever in this world is fayre, 
Doe make and still repayre: 
And ye three handmayds of the Cyprian Queene, 
The which doe still adorne her beauties pride, 
Helpe to addorne my beautifullest bride: 105 
And, as ye her array, still throw betweene 
Some graces to be seene; 
And, as ye use to Venus, to her sing, 
The whiles the woods shal answer, and your eccho ring. 

Now is my love all ready forth to come: 110 
Let all the virgins therefore well awayt: 
And ye fresh boyes, that tend upon her groome, 
Prepare your selves; for he is comming strayt. 
Set all your things in seemely good aray, 
Fit for so joyfull day: 115 
The joyfulst day that ever sunne did see. 
Faire Sun! shew forth thy favourable ray, 
And let thy lifull heat not fervent be, 
For feare of burning her sunshyny face, 
Her beauty to disgrace. 120 
O fayrest Phoebus! father of the Muse! 
If ever I did honour thee aright, 
Or sing the thing that mote thy mind delight, 
Doe not thy servants simple boone refuse; 
But let this day, let this one day, be myne; 125 
Let all the rest be thine. 
Then I thy soverayne prayses loud wil sing, 
That all the woods shal answer, and theyr eccho ring. 

Harke! how the Minstrils gin to shrill aloud 
Their merry Musick that resounds from far, 130 
The pipe, the tabor, and the trembling Croud, 
That well agree withouten breach or jar. 
But, most of all, the Damzels doe delite 
When they their tymbrels smyte, 
And thereunto doe daunce and carrol sweet, 135 
That all the sences they doe ravish quite; 
The whyles the boyes run up and downe the street, 
Crying aloud with strong confus¨¨d noyce, 
As if it were one voyce, 
Hymen, i? Hymen, Hymen, they do shout; 140 
That even to the heavens theyr shouting shrill 
Doth reach, and all the firmament doth fill; 
To which the people standing all about, 
As in approvance, doe thereto applaud, 
And loud advaunce her laud; 145 
And evermore they Hymen, Hymen sing, 
That al the woods them answer, and theyr eccho ring. 

Loe! where she comes along with portly pace, 
Lyke Phoebe, from her chamber of the East, 
Arysing forth to run her mighty race, 150 
Clad all in white, that seemes a virgin best. 
So well it her beseemes, that ye would weene 
Some angell she had beene. 
Her long loose yellow locks lyke golden wyre, 
Sprinckled with perle, and perling flowres atweene, 155 
Doe lyke a golden mantle her attyre; 
And, being crown¨¨d with a girland greene, 
Seeme lyke some mayden Queene. 
Her modest eyes, abash¨¨d to behold 
So many gazers as on her do stare, 160 
Upon the lowly ground affix¨¨d are; 
Ne dare lift up her countenance too bold, 
But blush to heare her prayses sung so loud, 
So farre from being proud. 
Nathlesse doe ye still loud her prayses sing, 165 
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring. 

Tell me, ye merchants daughters, did ye see 
So fayre a creature in your towne before; 
So sweet, so lovely, and so mild as she, 
Adornd with beautyes grace and vertues store? 170 
Her goodly eyes lyke Saphyres shining bright, 
Her forehead yvory white, 
Her cheekes lyke apples which the sun hath rudded, 
Her lips lyke cherryes charming men to byte, 
Her brest like to a bowle of creame uncrudded, 175 
Her paps lyke lyllies budded, 
Her snowie necke lyke to a marble towre; 
And all her body like a pallace fayre, 
Ascending up, with many a stately stayre, 
To honors seat and chastities sweet bowre. 180 
Why stand ye still ye virgins in amaze, 
Upon her so to gaze, 
Whiles ye forget your former lay to sing, 
To which the woods did answer, and your eccho ring? 

But if ye saw that which no eyes can see, 185 
The inward beauty of her lively spright, 
Garnisht with heavenly guifts of high degree, 
Much more then would ye wonder at that sight, 
And stand astonisht lyke to those which red 
Medusaes mazeful hed. 190 
There dwels sweet love, and constant chastity, 
Unspotted fayth, and comely womanhood, 
Regard of honour, and mild modesty; 
There vertue raynes as Queene in royal throne, 
And giveth lawes alone, 195 
The which the base affections doe obay, 
And yeeld theyr services unto her will; 
Ne thought of thing uncomely ever may 
Thereto approch to tempt her mind to ill. 
Had ye once seene these her celestial threasures, 200 
And unreveal¨¨d pleasures, 
Then would ye wonder, and her prayses sing, 
That al the woods should answer, and your echo ring. 

Open the temple gates unto my love, 
Open them wide that she may enter in, 205 
And all the postes adorne as doth behove, 
And all the pillours deck with girlands trim, 
For to receyve this Saynt with honour dew, 
That commeth in to you. 
With trembling steps, and humble reverence, 210 
She commeth in, before th' Almighties view; 
Of her ye virgins learne obedience, 
When so ye come into those holy places, 
To humble your proud faces: 
Bring her up to th' high altar, that she may 215 
The sacred ceremonies there partake, 
The which do endlesse matrimony make; 
And let the roring Organs loudly play 
The praises of the Lord in lively notes; 
The whiles, with hollow throates, 220 
The Choristers the joyous Antheme sing, 
That al the woods may answere, and their eccho ring. 

Behold, whiles she before the altar stands, 
Hearing the holy priest that to her speakes, 
And blesseth her with his two happy hands, 225 
How the red roses flush up in her cheekes, 
And the pure snow, with goodly vermill stayne 
Like crimsin dyde in grayne: 
That even th' Angels, which continually 
About the sacred Altare doe remaine, 230 
Forget their service and about her fly, 
Ofte peeping in her face, that seems more fayre, 
The more they on it stare. 
But her sad eyes, still fastened on the ground, 
Are govern¨¨d with goodly modesty, 235 
That suffers not one looke to glaunce awry, 
Which may let in a little thought unsownd. 
Why blush ye, love, to give to me your hand, 
The pledge of all our band! 
Sing, ye sweet Angels, Alleluya sing, 240 
That all the woods may answere, and your eccho ring. 

Now al is done: bring home the bride againe; 
Bring home the triumph of our victory: 
Bring home with you the glory of her gaine; 
With joyance bring her and with jollity. 245 
Never had man more joyfull day then this, 
Whom heaven would heape with blis, 
Make feast therefore now all this live-long day; 
This day for ever to me holy is. 
Poure out the wine without restraint or stay, 250 
Poure not by cups, but by the belly full, 
Poure out to all that wull, 
And sprinkle all the postes and wals with wine, 
That they may sweat, and drunken be withall. 
Crowne ye God Bacchus with a coronall, 255 
And Hymen also crowne with wreathes of vine; 
And let the Graces daunce unto the rest, 
For they can doo it best: 
The whiles the maydens doe theyr carroll sing, 
To which the woods shall answer, and theyr eccho ring. 260 

Ring ye the bels, ye yong men of the towne, 
And leave your wonted labors for this day: 
This day is holy; doe ye write it downe, 
That ye for ever it remember may. 
This day the sunne is in his chiefest hight, 265 
With Barnaby the bright, 
From whence declining daily by degrees, 
He somewhat loseth of his heat and light, 
When once the Crab behind his back he sees. 
But for this time it ill ordain¨¨d was, 270 
To chose the longest day in all the yeare, 
And shortest night, when longest fitter weare: 
Yet never day so long, but late would passe. 
Ring ye the bels, to make it weare away, 
And bonefiers make all day; 275 
And daunce about them, and about them sing, 
That all the woods may answer, and your eccho ring. 

Ah! when will this long weary day have end, 
And lende me leave to come unto my love? 
How slowly do the houres theyr numbers spend? 280 
How slowly does sad Time his feathers move? 
Hast thee, O fayrest Planet, to thy home, 
Within the Westerne fome: 
Thy tyr¨¨d steedes long since have need of rest. 
Long though it be, at last I see it gloome, 285 
And the bright evening-star with golden creast 
Appeare out of the East. 
Fayre childe of beauty! glorious lampe of love! 
That all the host of heaven in rankes doost lead, 
And guydest lovers through the nights sad dread, 290 
How chearefully thou lookest from above, 
And seemst to laugh atweene thy twinkling light, 
As joying in the sight 
Of these glad many, which for joy doe sing, 
That all the woods them answer, and their echo ring! 295 

Now ceasse, ye damsels, your delights fore-past; 
Enough it is that all the day was youres: 
Now day is doen, and night is nighing fast, 
Now bring the Bryde into the brydall boures. 
The night is come, now soon her disaray, 300 
And in her bed her lay; 
Lay her in lillies and in violets, 
And silken courteins over her display, 
And odourd sheetes, and Arras coverlets. 
Behold how goodly my faire love does ly, 305 
In proud humility! 
Like unto Maia, when as Jove her took 
In Tempe, lying on the flowry gras, 
Twixt sleepe and wake, after she weary was, 
With bathing in the Acidalian brooke. 310 
Now it is night, ye damsels may be gon, 
And leave my love alone, 
And leave likewise your former lay to sing: 
The woods no more shall answere, nor your echo ring. 

Now welcome, night! thou night so long expected, 315 
That long daies labour doest at last defray, 
And all my cares, which cruell Love collected, 
Hast sumd in one, and cancell¨¨d for aye: 
Spread thy broad wing over my love and me, 
That no man may us see; 320 
And in thy sable mantle us enwrap, 
From feare of perrill and foule horror free. 
Let no false treason seeke us to entrap, 
Nor any dread disquiet once annoy 
The safety of our joy; 325 
But let the night be calme, and quietsome, 
Without tempestuous storms or sad afray: 
Lyke as when Jove with fayre Alcmena lay, 
When he begot the great Tirynthian groome: 
Or lyke as when he with thy selfe did lie 330 
And begot Majesty. 
And let the mayds and yong men cease to sing; 
Ne let the woods them answer nor theyr eccho ring. 

Let no lamenting cryes, nor dolefull teares, 
Be heard all night within, nor yet without: 335 
Ne let false whispers, breeding hidden feares, 
Breake gentle sleepe with misconceiv¨¨d dout. 
Let no deluding dreames, nor dreadfull sights, 
Make sudden sad affrights; 
Ne let house-fyres, nor lightnings helpelesse harmes, 340 
Ne let the Pouke, nor other evill sprights, 
Ne let mischivous witches with theyr charmes, 
Ne let hob Goblins, names whose sence we see not, 
Fray us with things that be not: 
Let not the shriech Oule nor the Storke be heard, 345 
Nor the night Raven, that still deadly yels; 
Nor damn¨¨d ghosts, cald up with mighty spels, 
Nor griesly vultures, make us once affeard: 
Ne let th' unpleasant Quyre of Frogs still croking 
Make us to wish theyr choking. 350 
Let none of these theyr drery accents sing; 
Ne let the woods them answer, nor theyr eccho ring. 

But let stil Silence trew night-watches keepe, 
That sacred Peace may in assurance rayne, 
And tymely Sleep, when it is tyme to sleepe, 355 
May poure his limbs forth on your pleasant playne; 
The whiles an hundred little wing¨¨d loves, 
Like divers-fethered doves, 
Shall fly and flutter round about your bed, 
And in the secret darke, that none reproves, 360 
Their prety stealthes shal worke, and snares shal spread 
To filch away sweet snatches of delight, 
Conceald through covert night. 
Ye sonnes of Venus, play your sports at will! 
For greedy pleasure, carelesse of your toyes, 365 
Thinks more upon her paradise of joyes, 
Then what ye do, albe it good or ill. 
All night therefore attend your merry play, 
For it will soone be day: 
Now none doth hinder you, that say or sing; 370 
Ne will the woods now answer, nor your Eccho ring. 

Who is the same, which at my window peepes? 
Or whose is that faire face that shines so bright? 
Is it not Cinthia, she that never sleepes, 
But walkes about high heaven al the night? 375 
O! fayrest goddesse, do thou not envy 
My love with me to spy: 
For thou likewise didst love, though now unthought, 
And for a fleece of wooll, which privily 
The Latmian shepherd once unto thee brought, 380 
His pleasures with thee wrought. 
Therefore to us be favorable now; 
And sith of wemens labours thou hast charge, 
And generation goodly dost enlarge, 
Encline thy will t'effect our wishfull vow, 385 
And the chast wombe informe with timely seed 
That may our comfort breed: 
Till which we cease our hopefull hap to sing; 
Ne let the woods us answere, nor our Eccho ring. 

And thou, great Juno! which with awful might 390 
The lawes of wedlock still dost patronize; 
And the religion of the faith first plight 
With sacred rites hast taught to solemnize; 
And eeke for comfort often call¨¨d art 
Of women in their smart; 395 
Eternally bind thou this lovely band, 
And all thy blessings unto us impart. 
And thou, glad Genius! in whose gentle hand 
The bridale bowre and geniall bed remaine, 
Without blemish or staine; 400 
And the sweet pleasures of theyr loves delight 
With secret ayde doest succour and supply, 
Till they bring forth the fruitfull progeny; 
Send us the timely fruit of this same night. 
And thou, fayre Hebe! and thou, Hymen free! 405 
Grant that it may so be. 
Til which we cease your further prayse to sing; 
Ne any woods shall answer, nor your Eccho ring. 

And ye high heavens, the temple of the gods, 
In which a thousand torches flaming bright 410 
Doe burne, that to us wretched earthly clods 
In dreadful darknesse lend desir¨¨d light 
And all ye powers which in the same remayne, 
More then we men can fayne! 
Poure out your blessing on us plentiously, 415 
And happy influence upon us raine, 
That we may raise a large posterity, 
Which from the earth, which they may long possesse 
With lasting happinesse, 
Up to your haughty pallaces may mount; 420 
And, for the guerdon of theyr glorious merit, 
May heavenly tabernacles there inherit, 
Of bless¨¨d Saints for to increase the count. 
So let us rest, sweet love, in hope of this, 
And cease till then our tymely joyes to sing: 425 
The woods no more us answer, nor our eccho ring! 

Song! made in lieu of many ornaments, 
With which my love should duly have been dect, 
Which cutting off through hasty accidents, 
Ye would not stay your dew time to expect, 430 
But promist both to recompens; 
Be unto her a goodly ornament, 
And for short time an endlesse moniment. 



GLOSS: tead] torch. ruddock] redbreast. croud] violin.


by Galway Kinnell |

from Flying Home

3 
As this plane dragged 
its track of used ozone half the world long 
thrusts some four hundred of us 
toward places where actual known people 
live and may wait, 
we diminish down in our seats, 
disappeared into novels of lives clearer than ours, 
and yet we do not forget for a moment 
the life down there, the doorway each will soon enter: 
where I will meet her again 
and know her again, 
dark radiance with, and then mostly without, the stars. 

Very likely she has always understood 
what I have slowly learned, 
and which only now, after being away, almost as far away 
as one can get on this globe, almost 
as far as thoughts can carry - yet still in her presence, 
still surrounded not so much by reminders of her 
as by things she had already reminded me of, 
shadows of her 
cast forward and waiting - can I try to express: 

that love is hard, 
that while many good things are easy, true love is not, 
because love is first of all a power, 
its own power, 
which continually must make its way forward, from night 
into day, from transcending union always forward into difficult day. 

And as the plane descends, it comes to me 
in the space 
where tears stream down across the stars, 
tears fallen on the actual earth 
where their shining is what we call spirit, 
that once the lover 
recognizes the other, knows for the first time 
what is most to be valued in another, 
from then on, love is very much like courage, 
perhaps it is courage, and even 
perhaps 
only courage. Squashed 
out of old selves, smearing the darkness 
of expectation across experience, all of us little 
thinkers it brings home having similar thoughts 
of landing to the imponderable world, 
the transoceanic airliner, 
resting its huge weight down, comes in almost lightly, 
to where 
with sudden, tiny, white puffs and long, black, rubberish smears 
all its tires know the home ground.


by Elizabeth Bishop |

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther losing faster:
places and names and where it was your meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last or
next-to-last of three loved housed went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lose two cities lovely ones. And vaster 
some realms I owned two rivers a continent.
I miss them but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


by Philip Larkin |

Church Going

Once i am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting seats and stone 
and little books; sprawlings of flowers cut
For Sunday brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense musty unignorable silence 
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless I take off
My cylce-clips in awkward revrence 

Move forward run my hand around the font.
From where i stand the roof looks almost new--
Cleaned or restored? someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern I peruse a few
hectoring large-scale verses and pronouce
Here endeth much more loudly than I'd meant
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book donate an Irish sixpence 
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do 
And always end much at a loss like this 
Wondering what to look for; wondering too
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show 
Their parchment plate and pyx in locked cases 
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or after dark will dubious women come
To make their children touvh a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games in riddles seemingly at random;
But superstition like belief must die 
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass weedy pavement brambles butress sky.

A shape less recognisable each week 
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last the very last to seek
This place for whta it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber randy for antique 
Or Christmas-addict counting on a whiff
Of grown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative 

Bored uninformed knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation--marriage and birth 
And death and thoughts of these--for which was built
This special shell? For though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth 
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is 
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet 
Are recognisd and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete 
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious 
And gravitating with it to this ground 
Which he once heard was proper to grow wise in 
If only that so many dead lie round.

1955


by Galway Kinnell |

The Bear

1
In late winter 
I sometimes glimpse bits of steam
coming up from
some fault in the old snow 
and bend close and see it is lung-colored 
and put down my nose
and know
the chilly, enduring odor of bear. 

2
I take a wolf's rib and whittle
it sharp at both ends
and coil it up
and freeze it in blubber and place it out
on the fairway of the bears. 

And when it has vanished
I move out on the bear tracks, 
roaming in circles 
until I come to the first, tentative, dark
splash on the earth. 

And I set out 
running, following the splashes 
of blood wandering over the world. 
At the cut, gashed resting places 
I stop and rest, 
at the crawl-marks 
where he lay out on his belly 
to overpass some stretch of bauchy ice 
I lie out 
dragging myself forward with bear-knives in my fists. 

3
On the third day I begin to starve, 
at nightfall I bend down as I knew I would 
at a turd sopped in blood, 
and hesitate, and pick it up, 
and thrust it in my mouth, and gnash it down, 
and rise 
and go on running. 

4
On the seventh day, 
living by now on bear blood alone, 
I can see his upturned carcass far out ahead, a scraggled, 
steamy hulk, 
the heavy fur riffling in the wind. 

I come up to him 
and stare at the narrow-spaced, petty eyes, 
the dismayed 
face laid back on the shoulder, the nostrils 
flared, catching 
perhaps the first taint of me as he 
died. 

I hack 
a ravine in his thigh, and eat and drink, 
and tear him down his whole length 
and open him and climb in 
and close him up after me, against the wind, 
and sleep. 

5
And dream
of lumbering flatfooted
over the tundra, 
stabbed twice from within, 
splattering a trail behind me, 
splattering it out no matter which way I lurch, 
no matter which parabola of bear-transcendence, 
which dance of solitude I attempt, 
which gravity-clutched leap, 
which trudge, which groan. 

6
Until one day I totter and fall -- 
fall on this 
stomach that has tried so hard to keep up, 
to digest the blood as it leaked in, 
to break up 
and digest the bone itself: and now the breeze 
blows over me, blows off 
the hideous belches of ill-digested bear blood 
and rotted stomach 
and the ordinary, wretched odor of bear, 

blows across 
my sore, lolled tongue a song 
or screech, until I think I must rise up 
and dance. And I lie still. 

7
I awaken I think. Marshlights 
reappear, geese 
come trailing again up the flyway. 
In her ravine under old snow the dam-bear 
lies, licking 
lumps of smeared fur 
and drizzly eyes into shapes 
with her tongue. And one 
hairy-soled trudge stuck out before me, 
the next groaned out, 
the next, 
the next, 
the rest of my days I spend 
wandering: wondering 
what, anyway, 
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that 
poetry, by which I lived? 

from Body Rags, Galway Kinnell (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1967). 


by Robert Burns |

87. The Twa Dogs

 ’TWAS 1 in that place o’ Scotland’s isle,
That bears the name o’ auld King Coil,
Upon a bonie day in June,
When wearin’ thro’ the afternoon,
Twa dogs, that were na thrang at hame,
Forgather’d ance upon a time.
 The first I’ll name, they ca’d him Caesar,
Was keepit for His Honor’s pleasure:
His hair, his size, his mouth, his lugs,
Shew’d he was nane o’ Scotland’s dogs;
But whalpit some place far abroad,
Whare sailors gang to fish for cod.
 His locked, letter’d, braw brass collar
Shew’d him the gentleman an’ scholar;
But though he was o’ high degree,
The fient a pride, nae pride had he;
But wad hae spent an hour caressin,
Ev’n wi’ al tinkler-gipsy’s messin:
At kirk or market, mill or smiddie,
Nae tawted tyke, tho’ e’er sae duddie,
But he wad stan’t, as glad to see him,
An’ stroan’t on stanes an’ hillocks wi’ him.
 The tither was a ploughman’s collie—
A rhyming, ranting, raving billie,
Wha for his friend an’ comrade had him,
And in freak had Luath ca’d him,
After some dog in Highland Sang, 2
Was made lang syne,—Lord knows how lang.
 He was a gash an’ faithfu’ tyke,
As ever lap a sheugh or dyke.
His honest, sonsie, baws’nt face
Aye gat him friends in ilka place;
His breast was white, his touzie back
Weel clad wi’ coat o’ glossy black;
His gawsie tail, wi’ upward curl,
Hung owre his hurdie’s wi’ a swirl.
 Nae doubt but they were fain o’ ither,
And unco pack an’ thick thegither;
Wi’ social nose whiles snuff’d an’ snowkit;
Whiles mice an’ moudieworts they howkit;
Whiles scour’d awa’ in lang excursion,
An’ worry’d ither in diversion;
Until wi’ daffin’ weary grown
Upon a knowe they set them down.
An’ there began a lang digression.
About the “lords o’ the creation.”


CÆSAR I’ve aften wonder’d, honest Luath,
What sort o’ life poor dogs like you have;
An’ when the gentry’s life I saw,
What way poor bodies liv’d ava.
 Our laird gets in his racked rents,
His coals, his kane, an’ a’ his stents:
He rises when he likes himsel’;
His flunkies answer at the bell;
He ca’s his coach; he ca’s his horse;
He draws a bonie silken purse,
As lang’s my tail, where, thro’ the steeks,
The yellow letter’d Geordie keeks.
 Frae morn to e’en, it’s nought but toiling
At baking, roasting, frying, boiling;
An’ tho’ the gentry first are stechin,
Yet ev’n the ha’ folk fill their pechan
Wi’ sauce, ragouts, an’ sic like trashtrie,
That’s little short o’ downright wastrie.
Our whipper-in, wee, blasted wonner,
Poor, worthless elf, it eats a dinner,
Better than ony tenant-man
His Honour has in a’ the lan’:
An’ what poor cot-folk pit their painch in,
I own it’s past my comprehension.


LUATH Trowth, C&æsar, whiles they’re fash’t eneugh:
A cottar howkin in a sheugh,
Wi’ dirty stanes biggin a dyke,
Baring a quarry, an’ sic like;
Himsel’, a wife, he thus sustains,
A smytrie o’ wee duddie weans,
An’ nought but his han’-daurk, to keep
Them right an’ tight in thack an’ rape.
 An’ when they meet wi’ sair disasters,
Like loss o’ health or want o’ masters,
Ye maist wad think, a wee touch langer,
An’ they maun starve o’ cauld an’ hunger:
But how it comes, I never kent yet,
They’re maistly wonderfu’ contented;
An’ buirdly chiels, an’ clever hizzies,
Are bred in sic a way as this is.


CÆSAR But then to see how ye’re negleckit,
How huff’d, an’ cuff’d, an’ disrespeckit!
Lord man, our gentry care as little
For delvers, ditchers, an’ sic cattle;
They gang as saucy by poor folk,
As I wad by a stinkin brock.
 I’ve notic’d, on our laird’s court-day,—
An’ mony a time my heart’s been wae,—
Poor tenant bodies, scant o’cash,
How they maun thole a factor’s snash;
He’ll stamp an’ threaten, curse an’ swear
He’ll apprehend them, poind their gear;
While they maun stan’, wi’ aspect humble,
An’ hear it a’, an’ fear an’ tremble!
 I see how folk live that hae riches;
But surely poor-folk maun be wretches!


LUATH They’re no sae wretched’s ane wad think.
Tho’ constantly on poortith’s brink,
They’re sae accustom’d wi’ the sight,
The view o’t gives them little fright.
 Then chance and fortune are sae guided,
They’re aye in less or mair provided:
An’ tho’ fatigued wi’ close employment,
A blink o’ rest’s a sweet enjoyment.
 The dearest comfort o’ their lives,
Their grushie weans an’ faithfu’ wives;
The prattling things are just their pride,
That sweetens a’ their fire-side.
 An’ whiles twalpennie worth o’ nappy
Can mak the bodies unco happy:
They lay aside their private cares,
To mind the Kirk and State affairs;
They’ll talk o’ patronage an’ priests,
Wi’ kindling fury i’ their breasts,
Or tell what new taxation’s comin,
An’ ferlie at the folk in Lon’on.
 As bleak-fac’d Hallowmass returns,
They get the jovial, rantin kirns,
When rural life, of ev’ry station,
Unite in common recreation;
Love blinks, Wit slaps, an’ social Mirth
Forgets there’s Care upo’ the earth.
 That merry day the year begins,
They bar the door on frosty win’s;
The nappy reeks wi’ mantling ream,
An’ sheds a heart-inspiring steam;
The luntin pipe, an’ sneeshin mill,
Are handed round wi’ right guid will;
The cantie auld folks crackin crouse,
The young anes rantin thro’ the house—
My heart has been sae fain to see them,
That I for joy hae barkit wi’ them.
 Still it’s owre true that ye hae said,
Sic game is now owre aften play’d;
There’s mony a creditable stock
O’ decent, honest, fawsont folk,
Are riven out baith root an’ branch,
Some rascal’s pridefu’ greed to quench,
Wha thinks to knit himsel the faster
In favour wi’ some gentle master,
Wha, aiblins, thrang a parliamentin,
For Britain’s guid his saul indentin—


CÆSAR Haith, lad, ye little ken about it:
For Britain’s guid! guid faith! I doubt it.
Say rather, gaun as Premiers lead him:
An’ saying ay or no’s they bid him:
At operas an’ plays parading,
Mortgaging, gambling, masquerading:
Or maybe, in a frolic daft,
To Hague or Calais takes a waft,
To mak a tour an’ tak a whirl,
To learn bon ton, an’ see the worl’.
 There, at Vienna, or Versailles,
He rives his father’s auld entails;
Or by Madrid he takes the rout,
To thrum guitars an’ fecht wi’ nowt;
Or down Italian vista startles,
 Wh-re-hunting amang groves o’ myrtles:
Then bowses drumlie German-water,
To mak himsel look fair an’ fatter,
An’ clear the consequential sorrows,
Love-gifts of Carnival signoras.
 For Britain’s guid! for her destruction!
Wi’ dissipation, feud, an’ faction.


LUATH Hech, man! dear sirs! is that the gate
They waste sae mony a braw estate!
Are we sae foughten an’ harass’d
For gear to gang that gate at last?
 O would they stay aback frae courts,
An’ please themsels wi’ country sports,
It wad for ev’ry ane be better,
The laird, the tenant, an’ the cotter!
For thae frank, rantin, ramblin billies,
Feint haet o’ them’s ill-hearted fellows;
Except for breakin o’ their timmer,
Or speakin lightly o’ their limmer,
Or shootin of a hare or moor-cock,
The ne’er-a-bit they’re ill to poor folk,
 But will ye tell me, Master C&æsar,
Sure great folk’s life’s a life o’ pleasure?
Nae cauld nor hunger e’er can steer them,
The very thought o’t need na fear them.


CÆSAR L—d, man, were ye but whiles whare I am,
The gentles, ye wad ne’er envy them!
 It’s true, they need na starve or sweat,
Thro’ winter’s cauld, or simmer’s heat:
They’ve nae sair wark to craze their banes,
An’ fill auld age wi’ grips an’ granes:
But human bodies are sic fools,
For a’ their colleges an’ schools,
That when nae real ills perplex them,
They mak enow themsel’s to vex them;
An’ aye the less they hae to sturt them,
In like proportion, less will hurt them.
 A country fellow at the pleugh,
His acre’s till’d, he’s right eneugh;
A country girl at her wheel,
Her dizzen’s dune, she’s unco weel;
But gentlemen, an’ ladies warst,
Wi’ ev’n-down want o’ wark are curst.
They loiter, lounging, lank an’ lazy;
Tho’ deil-haet ails them, yet uneasy;
Their days insipid, dull, an’ tasteless;
Their nights unquiet, lang, an’ restless.
 An’ev’n their sports, their balls an’ races,
Their galloping through public places,
There’s sic parade, sic pomp, an’ art,
The joy can scarcely reach the heart.
 The men cast out in party-matches,
Then sowther a’ in deep debauches.
Ae night they’re mad wi’ drink an’ whoring,
Niest day their life is past enduring.
 The ladies arm-in-arm in clusters,
As great an’ gracious a’ as sisters;
But hear their absent thoughts o’ ither,
They’re a’ run-deils an’ jads thegither.
Whiles, owre the wee bit cup an’ platie,
They sip the scandal-potion pretty;
Or lee-lang nights, wi’ crabbit leuks
Pore owre the devil’s pictur’d beuks;
Stake on a chance a farmer’s stackyard,
An’ cheat like ony unhanged blackguard.
 There’s some exceptions, man an’ woman;
But this is gentry’s life in common.
 By this, the sun was out of sight,
An’ darker gloamin brought the night;
The bum-clock humm’d wi’ lazy drone;
The kye stood rowtin i’ the loan;
When up they gat an’ shook their lugs,
Rejoic’d they werena men but dogs;
An’ each took aff his several way,
Resolv’d to meet some ither day.


 Note 1. Luath was Burns’ own dog. [back]
Note 2. Cuchullin’s dog in Ossian’s “Fingal.”—R. B. [back]


by Robert Browning |

Before

 I.

Let them fight it out, friend! things have gone too far.
God must judge the couple: leave them as they are
---Whichever one's the guiltless, to his glory,
And whichever one the guilt's with, to my story!

II.

Why, you would not bid men, sunk in such a slough,
Strike no arm out further, stick and stink as now,
Leaving right and wrong to settle the embroilment,
Heaven with snaky hell, in torture and entoilment?

III.

Who's the culprit of them? How must he conceive
God---the queen he caps to, laughing in his sleeve,
`` 'Tis but decent to profess oneself beneath her:
``Still, one must not be too much in earnest, either!''

IV.

Better sin the whole sin, sure that God observes;
Then go live his life out! Life will try his nerves,
When the sky, which noticed all, makes no disclosure,
And the earth keeps up her terrible composure.

V.

Let him pace at pleasure, past the walls of rose,
Pluck their fruits when grape-trees graze him as he goes!
For he 'gins to guess the purpose of the garden,
With the sly mute thing, beside there, for a warden.

VI.

What's the leopard-dog-thing, constant at his side,
A leer and lie in every eye of its obsequious hide?
When will come an end to all the mock obeisance,
And the price appear that pays for the misfeasance?

VII.

So much for the culprit. Who's the martyred man?
Let him bear one stroke more, for be sure he can!
He that strove thus evil's lump with good to leaven,
Let him give his blood at last and get his heaven!

VIII.

All or nothing, stake it! Trust she God or no?
Thus far and no farther? farther? be it so!
Now, enough of your chicane of prudent pauses,
Sage provisos, sub-intents and saving-clauses!

IX.

Ah, ``forgive'' you bid him? While God's champion lives,
Wrong shall be resisted: dead, why, he forgives.
But you must not end my friend ere you begin him;
Evil stands not crowned on earth, while breath is in him.

X.

Once more---Will the wronger, at this last of all,
Dare to say, ``I did wrong,'' rising in his fall?
No?---Let go then! Both the fighters to their places!
While I count three, step you back as many paces!


by Robert Browning |

Caliban upon Setebos or Natural Theology in the Island

 "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself." 
(David, Psalms 50.21) 
['Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best, 
Flat on his belly in the pit's much mire, 
With elbows wide, fists clenched to prop his chin. 
And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush, 
And feels about his spine small eft-things course, 
Run in and out each arm, and make him laugh: 
And while above his head a pompion-plant, 
Coating the cave-top as a brow its eye, 
Creeps down to touch and tickle hair and beard, 
And now a flower drops with a bee inside, 
And now a fruit to snap at, catch and crunch,-- 
He looks out o'er yon sea which sunbeams cross 
And recross till they weave a spider-web 
(Meshes of fire, some great fish breaks at times) 
And talks to his own self, howe'er he please, 
Touching that other, whom his dam called God. 
Because to talk about Him, vexes--ha, 
Could He but know! and time to vex is now, 
When talk is safer than in winter-time. 
Moreover Prosper and Miranda sleep 
In confidence he drudges at their task, 
And it is good to cheat the pair, and gibe, 
Letting the rank tongue blossom into speech.] 

Setebos, Setebos, and Setebos! 
'Thinketh, He dwelleth i' the cold o' the moon. 

'Thinketh He made it, with the sun to match, 
But not the stars; the stars came otherwise; 
Only made clouds, winds, meteors, such as that: 
Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon, 
And snaky sea which rounds and ends the same. 

'Thinketh, it came of being ill at ease: 
He hated that He cannot change His cold, 
Nor cure its ache. 'Hath spied an icy fish 
That longed to 'scape the rock-stream where she lived, 
And thaw herself within the lukewarm brine 
O' the lazy sea her stream thrusts far amid, 
A crystal spike 'twixt two warm walls of wave; 
Only, she ever sickened, found repulse 
At the other kind of water, not her life, 
(Green-dense and dim-delicious, bred o' the sun) 
Flounced back from bliss she was not born to breathe, 
And in her old bounds buried her despair, 
Hating and loving warmth alike: so He. 

'Thinketh, He made thereat the sun, this isle, 
Trees and the fowls here, beast and creeping thing. 
Yon otter, sleek-wet, black, lithe as a leech; 
Yon auk, one fire-eye in a ball of foam, 
That floats and feeds; a certain badger brown 
He hath watched hunt with that slant white-wedge eye 
By moonlight; and the pie with the long tongue 
That pricks deep into oak warts for a worm, 
And says a plain word when she finds her prize, 
But will not eat the ants; the ants themselves 
That build a wall of seeds and settled stalks 
About their hole--He made all these and more, 
Made all we see, and us, in spite: how else? 
He could not, Himself, make a second self 
To be His mate; as well have made Himself: 
He would not make what He mislikes or slights, 
An eyesore to Him, or not worth His pains: 
But did, in envy, listlessness or sport, 
Make what Himself would fain, in a manner, be-- 
Weaker in most points, stronger in a few, 
Worthy, and yet mere playthings all the while, 
Things He admires and mocks too,--that is it. 
Because, so brave, so better though they be, 
It nothing skills if He begin to plague. 
Look, now, I melt a gourd-fruit into mash, 
Add honeycomb and pods, I have perceived, 
Which bite like finches when they bill and kiss,-- 
Then, when froth rises bladdery, drink up all, 
Quick, quick, till maggots scamper through my brain; 
Last, throw me on my back i' the seeded thyme, 
And wanton, wishing I were born a bird. 
Put case, unable to be what I wish, 
I yet could make a live bird out of clay: 
Would not I take clay, pinch my Caliban 
Able to fly?--for, there, see, he hath wings, 
And great comb like the hoopoe's to admire, 
And there, a sting to do his foes offence, 
There, and I will that he begin to live, 
Fly to yon rock-top, nip me off the horns 
Of grigs high up that make the merry din, 
Saucy through their veined wings, and mind me not. 
In which feat, if his leg snapped, brittle clay, 
And he lay stupid-like,--why, I should laugh; 
And if he, spying me, should fall to weep, 
Beseech me to be good, repair his wrong, 
Bid his poor leg smart less or grow again,-- 
Well, as the chance were, this might take or else 
Not take my fancy: I might hear his cry, 
And give the mankin three sound legs for one, 
Or pluck the other off, leave him like an egg 
And lessoned he was mine and merely clay. 
Were this no pleasure, lying in the thyme, 
Drinking the mash, with brain become alive, 
Making and marring clay at will? So He. 

'Thinketh, such shows nor right nor wrong in Him, 
Nor kind, nor cruel: He is strong and Lord. 
'Am strong myself compared to yonder crabs 
That march now from the mountain to the sea; 
'Let twenty pass, and stone the twenty-first, 
Loving not, hating not, just choosing so. 
'Say, the first straggler that boasts purple spots 
Shall join the file, one pincer twisted off; 
'Say, this bruised fellow shall receive a worm, 
And two worms he whose nippers end in red; 
As it likes me each time, I do: so He. 


Well then, 'supposeth He is good i' the main, 
Placable if His mind and ways were guessed, 
But rougher than His handiwork, be sure! 
Oh, He hath made things worthier than Himself, 
And envieth that, so helped, such things do more 
Than He who made them! What consoles but this? 
That they, unless through Him, do nought at all, 
And must submit: what other use in things? 
'Hath cut a pipe of pithless elder-joint 
That, blown through, gives exact the scream o' the jay 
When from her wing you twitch the feathers blue: 
Sound this, and little birds that hate the jay 
Flock within stone's throw, glad their foe is hurt: 
Put case such pipe could prattle and boast forsooth 
"I catch the birds, I am the crafty thing, 
I make the cry my maker cannot make 
With his great round mouth; he must blow through mine!' 
Would not I smash it with my foot? So He. 


But wherefore rough, why cold and ill at ease? 
Aha, that is a question! Ask, for that, 
What knows,--the something over Setebos 
That made Him, or He, may be, found and fought, 
Worsted, drove off and did to nothing, perchance. 
There may be something quiet o'er His head, 
Out of His reach, that feels nor joy nor grief, 
Since both derive from weakness in some way. 
I joy because the quails come; would not joy 
Could I bring quails here when I have a mind: 
This Quiet, all it hath a mind to, doth. 
'Esteemeth stars the outposts of its couch, 
But never spends much thought nor care that way. 
It may look up, work up,--the worse for those 
It works on! 'Careth but for Setebos 
The many-handed as a cuttle-fish, 
Who, making Himself feared through what He does, 
Looks up, first, and perceives he cannot soar 
To what is quiet and hath happy life; 
Next looks down here, and out of very spite 
Makes this a bauble-world to ape yon real, 
These good things to match those as hips do grapes. 
'Tis solace making baubles, ay, and sport. 
Himself peeped late, eyed Prosper at his books 
Careless and lofty, lord now of the isle: 
Vexed, 'stitched a book of broad leaves, arrow-shaped, 
Wrote thereon, he knows what, prodigious words; 
Has peeled a wand and called it by a name; 
Weareth at whiles for an enchanter's robe 
The eyed skin of a supple oncelot; 
And hath an ounce sleeker than youngling mole, 
A four-legged serpent he makes cower and couch, 
Now snarl, now hold its breath and mind his eye, 
And saith she is Miranda and my wife: 
'Keeps for his Ariel a tall pouch-bill crane 
He bids go wade for fish and straight disgorge; 
Also a sea-beast, lumpish, which he snared, 
Blinded the eyes of, and brought somewhat tame, 
And split its toe-webs, and now pens the drudge 
In a hole o' the rock and calls him Caliban; 
A bitter heart that bides its time and bites. 
'Plays thus at being Prosper in a way, 
Taketh his mirth with make-believes: so He. 
His dam held that the Quiet made all things 
Which Setebos vexed only: 'holds not so. 
Who made them weak, meant weakness He might vex. 
Had He meant other, while His hand was in, 
Why not make horny eyes no thorn could prick, 
Or plate my scalp with bone against the snow, 
Or overscale my flesh 'neath joint and joint 
Like an orc's armour? Ay,--so spoil His sport! 
He is the One now: only He doth all. 


'Saith, He may like, perchance, what profits Him. 
Ay, himself loves what does him good; but why? 
'Gets good no otherwise. This blinded beast 
Loves whoso places flesh-meat on his nose, 
But, had he eyes, would want no help, but hate 
Or love, just as it liked him: He hath eyes. 
Also it pleaseth Setebos to work, 
Use all His hands, and exercise much craft, 
By no means for the love of what is worked. 
'Tasteth, himself, no finer good i' the world 
When all goes right, in this safe summer-time, 
And he wants little, hungers, aches not much, 
Than trying what to do with wit and strength. 
'Falls to make something: 'piled yon pile of turfs, 
And squared and stuck there squares of soft white chalk, 
And, with a fish-tooth, scratched a moon on each, 
And set up endwise certain spikes of tree, 
And crowned the whole with a sloth's skull a-top, 
Found dead i' the woods, too hard for one to kill. 
No use at all i' the work, for work's sole sake; 
'Shall some day knock it down again: so He. 


'Saith He is terrible: watch His feats in proof! 
One hurricane will spoil six good months' hope. 
He hath a spite against me, that I know, 
Just as He favours Prosper, who knows why? 
So it is, all the same, as well I find. 
'Wove wattles half the winter, fenced them firm 
With stone and stake to stop she-tortoises 
Crawling to lay their eggs here: well, one wave, 
Feeling the foot of Him upon its neck, 
Gaped as a snake does, lolled out its large tongue, 
And licked the whole labour flat: so much for spite. 
'Saw a ball flame down late (yonder it lies) 
Where, half an hour before, I slept i' the shade: 
Often they scatter sparkles: there is force! 
'Dug up a newt He may have envied once 
And turned to stone, shut up Inside a stone. 
Please Him and hinder this?--What Prosper does? 
Aha, if He would tell me how! Not He! 
There is the sport: discover how or die! 
All need not die, for of the things o' the isle 
Some flee afar, some dive, some run up trees; 
Those at His mercy,--why, they please Him most 
When . . . when . . . well, never try the same way twice! 
Repeat what act has pleased, He may grow wroth. 
You must not know His ways, and play Him off, 
Sure of the issue. 'Doth the like himself: 
'Spareth a squirrel that it nothing fears 
But steals the nut from underneath my thumb, 
And when I threat, bites stoutly in defence: 
'Spareth an urchin that contrariwise, 
Curls up into a ball, pretending death 
For fright at my approach: the two ways please. 
But what would move my choler more than this, 
That either creature counted on its life 
To-morrow and next day and all days to come, 
Saying, forsooth, in the inmost of its heart, 
"Because he did so yesterday with me, 
And otherwise with such another brute, 
So must he do henceforth and always."--Ay? 
Would teach the reasoning couple what "must" means! 
'Doth as he likes, or wherefore Lord? So He. 


'Conceiveth all things will continue thus, 
And we shall have to live in fear of Him 
So long as He lives, keeps His strength: no change, 
If He have done His best, make no new world 
To please Him more, so leave off watching this,-- 
If He surprise not even the Quiet's self 
Some strange day,--or, suppose, grow into it 
As grubs grow butterflies: else, here are we, 
And there is He, and nowhere help at all. 


'Believeth with the life, the pain shall stop. 
His dam held different, that after death 
He both plagued enemies and feasted friends: 
Idly! He doth His worst in this our life, 
Giving just respite lest we die through pain, 
Saving last pain for worst,--with which, an end. 
Meanwhile, the best way to escape His ire 
Is, not to seem too happy. 'Sees, himself, 
Yonder two flies, with purple films and pink, 
Bask on the pompion-bell above: kills both. 
'Sees two black painful beetles roll their ball 
On head and tail as if to save their lives: 
Moves them the stick away they strive to clear. 


Even so, 'would have Him misconceive, suppose 
This Caliban strives hard and ails no less, 
And always, above all else, envies Him; 
Wherefore he mainly dances on dark nights, 
Moans in the sun, gets under holes to laugh, 
And never speaks his mind save housed as now: 
Outside, 'groans, curses. If He caught me here, 
O'erheard this speech, and asked "What chucklest at?" 
'Would, to appease Him, cut a finger off, 
Or of my three kid yearlings burn the best, 
Or let the toothsome apples rot on tree, 
Or push my tame beast for the orc to taste: 
While myself lit a fire, and made a song 
And sung it, "What I hate, be consecrate 
To celebrate Thee and Thy state, no mate 
For Thee; what see for envy in poor me?" 
Hoping the while, since evils sometimes mend, 
Warts rub away and sores are cured with slime, 
That some strange day, will either the Quiet catch 
And conquer Setebos, or likelier He 
Decrepit may doze, doze, as good as die.


by Robert Browning |

The Flight Of The Duchess

 I.

You're my friend:
I was the man the Duke spoke to;
I helped the Duchess to cast off his yoke, too;
So here's the tale from beginning to end,
My friend!

II.

Ours is a great wild country:
If you climb to our castle's top,
I don't see where your eye can stop;
For when you've passed the cornfield country,
Where vineyards leave off, flocks are packed,
And sheep-range leads to cattle-tract,
And cattle-tract to open-chase,
And open-chase to the very base
Of the mountain where, at a funeral pace,
Round about, solemn and slow,
One by one, row after row,
Up and up the pine-trees go,
So, like black priests up, and so
Down the other side again
To another greater, wilder country,
That's one vast red drear burnt-up plain,
Branched through and through with many a vein
Whence iron's dug, and copper's dealt;
Look right, look left, look straight before,---
Beneath they mine, above they smelt,
Copper-ore and iron-ore,
And forge and furnace mould and melt,
And so on, more and ever more,
Till at the last, for a bounding belt,
Comes the salt sand hoar of the great sea-shore,
---And the whole is our Duke's country.

III.

I was born the day this present Duke was---
(And O, says the song, ere I was old!)
In the castle where the other Duke was---
(When I was happy and young, not old!)
I in the kennel, he in the bower:
We are of like age to an hour.
My father was huntsman in that day;
Who has not heard my father say
That, when a boar was brought to bay,
Three times, four times out of five,
With his huntspear he'd contrive
To get the killing-place transfixed,
And pin him true, both eyes betwixt?
And that's why the old Duke would rather
He lost a salt-pit than my father,
And loved to have him ever in call;
That's why my father stood in the hall
When the old Duke brought his infant out
To show the people, and while they passed
The wondrous bantling round about,
Was first to start at the outside blast
As the Kaiser's courier blew his horn
Just a month after the babe was born.
``And,'' quoth the Kaiser's courier, ``since
``The Duke has got an heir, our Prince
``Needs the Duke's self at his side: ''
The Duke looked down and seemed to wince,
But he thought of wars o'er the world wide,
Castles a-fire, men on their march,
The toppling tower, the crashing arch;
And up he looked, and awhile he eyed
The row of crests and shields and banners
Of all achievements after all manners,
And ``ay,'' said the Duke with a surly pride.
The more was his comfort when he died
At next year's end, in a velvet suit,
With a gilt glove on his hand, his foot
In a silken shoe for a leather boot,
Petticoated like a herald,
In a chamher next to an ante-room,
Where he breathed the breath of page and groom,
What he called stink, and they, perfume:
---They should have set him on red Berold
Mad with pride, like fire to manage!
They should have got his cheek fresh tannage
Such a day as to-day in the merry sunshine!
Had they stuck on his fist a rough-foot merlin!
(Hark, the wind's on the heath at its game!
Oh for a noble falcon-lanner
To flap each broad wing like a banner,
And turn in the wind, and dance like flame!)
Had they broached a white-beer cask from Berlin
---Or if you incline to prescribe mere wine
Put to his lips, when they saw him pine,
A cup of our own Moldavia fine,
Cotnar for instance, green as May sorrel
And ropy with sweet,---we shall not quarrel.

IV.

So, at home, the sick tall yellow Duchess
Was left with the infant in her clutches,
She being the daughter of God knows who:
And now was the time to revisit her tribe.
Abroad and afar they went, the two,
And let our people rail and gibe
At the empty hall and extinguished fire,
As loud as we liked, but ever in vain,
Till after long years we had our desire,
And back came the Duke and his mother again.

V.

And he came back the pertest little ape
That ever affronted human shape;
Full of his travel, struck at himself.
You'd say, he despised our bluff old ways?
---Not he! For in Paris they told the elf
Our rough North land was the Land of Lays,
The one good thing left in evil days;
Since the Mid-Age was the Heroic Time,
And only in wild nooks like ours
Could you taste of it yet as in its prime,
And see true castles, with proper towers,
Young-hearted women, old-minded men,
And manners now as manners were then.
So, all that the old Dukes had been, without knowing it,
This Duke would fain know he was, without being it;
'Twas not for the joy's self, but the joy of his showing it,
Nor for the pride's self, but the pride of our seeing it,
He revived all usages thoroughly worn-out,
The souls of them fumed-forth, the hearts of them torn-out:
And chief in the chase his neck he perilled
On a lathy horse, all legs and length,
With blood for bone, all speed, no strength;
---They should have set him on red Berold
With the red eye slow consuming in fire,
And the thin stiff ear like an abbey-spire!

VI.

Well, such as he was, he must marry, we heard:
And out of a convent, at the word,
Came the lady, in time of spring.
---Oh, old thoughts they cling, they cling!
That day, I know, with a dozen oaths
I clad myself in thick hunting-clothes
Fit for the chase of urochs or buffle
In winter-time when you need to muffle.
But the Duke had a mind we should cut a figure,
And so we saw the lady arrive:
My friend, I have seen a white crane bigger!
She was the smallest lady alive,
Made in a piece of nature's madness,
Too small, almost, for the life and gladness
That over-filled her, as some hive
Out of the bears' reach on the high trees
Is crowded with its safe merry bees:
In truth, she was not hard to please!
Up she looked, down she looked, round at the mead,
Straight at the castle, that's best indeed
To look at from outside the walls:
As for us, styled the ``serfs and thralls,''
She as much thanked me as if she had said it,
(With her eyes, do you understand?)
Because I patted her horse while I led it;
And Max, who rode on her other hand,
Said, no bird flew past but she inquired
What its true name was, nor ever seemed tired---
If that was an eagle she saw hover,
And the green and grey bird on the field was the plover.
When suddenly appeared the Duke:
And as down she sprung, the small foot pointed
On to my hand,---as with a rebuke,
And as if his backbone were not jointed,
The Duke stepped rather aside than forward,
And welcomed her with his grandest smile;
And, mind you, his mother all the while
Chilled in the rear, like a wind to Nor'ward;
And up, like a weary yawn, with its pullies
Went, in a shriek, the rusty portcullis;
And, like a glad sky the north-wind sullies,
The lady's face stopped its play,
As if her first hair had grown grey;
For such things must begin some one day.

VII.

In a day or two she was well again;
As who should say, ``You labour in vain!
``This is all a jest against God, who meant
``I should ever be, as I am, content
`` And glad in his sight; therefore, glad I will be.''
So, smiling as at first went she.

VIII.

She was active, stirring, all fire---
Could not rest, could not tire---
To a stone she might have given life!
(I myself loved once, in my day)
---For a shepherd's, miner's, huntsman's wife,
(I had a wife, I know what I say)
Never in all the world such an one!
And here was plenty to be done,
And she that could do it, great or small,
She was to do nothing at all.
There was already this man in his post,
This in his station, and that in his office,
And the Duke's plan admitted a wife, at most,
To meet his eye, with the other trophies,
Now outside the hall, now in it,
To sit thus, stand thus, see and be seen,
At the proper place in the proper minute,
And die away the life between.
And it was amusing enough, each infraction
Of rule---(but for after-sadness that came)
To hear the consummate self-satisfaction
With which the young Duke and the old dame
Would let her advise, and criticise,
And, being a fool, instruct the wise,
And, child-like, parcel out praise or blame:
They bore it all in complacent guise,
As though an artificer, after contriving
A wheel-work image as if it were living,
Should find with delight it could motion to strike him!
So found the Duke, and his mother like him:
The lady hardly got a rebuff---
That had not been contemptuous enough,
With his cursed smirk, as he nodded applause,
And kept off the old mother-cat's claws.

IX.

So, the little lady grew silent and thin,
Paling and ever paling,
As the way is with a hid chagrin;
And the Duke perceived that she was ailing,
And said in his heart, ``'Tis done to spite me,
``But I shall find in my power to right me!''
Don't swear, friend! The old one, many a year,
Is in hell, and the Duke's self . . . you shall hear.

X.

Well, early in autumn, at first winter-warning,
When the stag had to break with his foot, of a morning,
A drinking-hole out of the fresh tender ice
That covered the pond till the sun, in a trice,
Loosening it, let out a ripple of gold,
And another and another, and faster and faster,
Till, dimpling to blindness, the wide water rolled:
Then it so chanced that the Duke our master
Asked himself what were the pleasures in season,
And found, since the calendar bade him be hearty,
He should do the Middle Age no treason
In resolving on a hunting-party.
Always provided, old books showed the way of it!
What meant old poets by their strictures?
And when old poets had said their say of it,
How taught old painters in their pictures?
We must revert to the proper channels,
Workings in tapestry, paintings on panels,
And gather up woodcraft's authentic traditions:
Here was food for our various ambitions,
As on each case, exactly stated---
To encourage your dog, now, the properest chirrup,
Or best prayer to Saint Hubert on mounting your stirrup---
We of the house hold took thought and debated.
Blessed was he whose back ached with the jerkin
His sire was wont to do forest-work in;
Blesseder he who nobly sunk ``ohs''
And ``ahs'' while he tugged on his grand-sire's trunk-hose;
What signified hats if they had no rims on,
Each slouching before and behind like the scallop,
And able to serve at sea for a shallop,
Loaded with lacquer and looped with crimson?
So that the deer now, to make a short rhyme on't,
What with our Venerers, Prickers and Yerderers,
Might hope for real hunters at length and not murderers,
And oh the Duke's tailor, he had a hot time on't!

XI.

Now you must know that when the first dizziness
Of flap-hats and buff-coats and jack-boots subsided,
The Duke put this question, ``The Duke's part provided,
``Had not the Duchess some share in the business?''
For out of the mouth of two or three witnesses
Did he establish all fit-or-unfitnesses:
And, after much laying of heads together,
Somebody's cap got a notable feather
By the announcement with proper unction
That he had discovered the lady's function;
Since ancient authors gave this tenet,
``When horns wind a mort and the deer is at siege,
``Let the dame of the castle prick forth on her jennet,
``And, with water to wash the hands of her liege
``In a clean ewer with a fair toweling,
`` Let her preside at the disemboweling.''
Now, my friend, if you had so little religion
As to catch a hawk, some falcon-lanner,
And thrust her broad wings like a banner
Into a coop for a vulgar pigeon;
And if day by day and week by week
You cut her claws, and sealed her eyes,
And clipped her wings, and tied her beak,
Would it cause you any great surprise
If, when you decided to give her an airing,
You found she needed a little preparing?
---I say, should you be such a curmudgeon,
If she clung to the perch, as to take it in dudgeon?
Yet when the Duke to his lady signified,
Just a day before, as he judged most dignified,
In what a pleasure she was to participate,---
And, instead of leaping wide in flashes,
Her eyes just lifted their long lashes,
As if pressed by fatigue even he could not dissipate,
And duly acknowledged the Duke's forethought,
But spoke of her health, if her health were worth aught,
Of the weight by day and the watch by night,
And much wrong now that used to be right,
So, thanking him, declined the hunting,---
Was conduct ever more affronting?
With all the ceremony settled---
With the towel ready, and the sewer
Polishing up his oldest ewer,
And the jennet pitched upon, a piebald,
Black-barred, cream-coated and pink eye-balled,---
No wonder if the Duke was nettled
And when she persisted nevertheless,---
Well, I suppose here's the time to confess
That there ran half round our lady's chamber
A balcony none of the hardest to clamber;
And that Jacynth the tire-woman, ready in waiting,
Stayed in call outside, what need of relating?
And since Jacynth was like a June rose, why, a fervent
Adorer of Jacynth of course was your servant;
And if she had the habit to peep through the casement,
How could I keep at any vast distance?
And so, as I say, on the lady's persistence,
The Duke, dumb-stricken with amazement,
Stood for a while in a sultry smother,
And then, with a smile that partook of the awful,
Turned her over to his yellow mother
To learn what was held decorous and lawful;
And the mother smelt blood with a cat-like instinct,
As her cheek quick whitened thro' all its quince-tinct.
Oh, but the lady heard the whole truth at once!
What meant she?--Who was she?---Her duty and station,
The wisdom of age and the folly of youth, at once,
Its decent regard and its fitting relation---
In brief, my friend, set all the devils in hell free
And turn them out to carouse in a belfry
And treat the priests to a fifty-part canon,
And then you may guess how that tongue of hers ran on!
Well, somehow or other it ended at last
And, licking her whiskers, out she passed;
And after her,---making (he hoped) a face
Like Emperor Nero or Sultan Saladin,
Stalked the Duke's self with the austere grace
Of ancient hero or modern paladin,
From door to staircase---oh such a solemn
Unbending of the vertebral column!

XII.

However, at sunrise our company mustered;
And here was the huntsman bidding unkennel,
And there 'neath his bonnet the pricker blustered,
With feather dank as a bough of wet fennel;
For the court-yard walls were filled with fog
You might have cut as an axe chops a log---
Like so much wool for colour and bulkiness;
And out rode the Duke in a perfect sulkiness,
Since, before breakfast, a man feels but queasily,
And a sinking at the lower abdomen
Begins the day with indifferent omen.
And lo, as he looked around uneasily,
The sun ploughed the fog up and drove it asunder
This way and that from the valley under;
And, looking through the court-yard arch,
Down in the valley, what should meet him
But a troop of Gipsies on their march?
No doubt with the annual gifts to greet him.

XIII.

Now, in your land, Gipsies reach you, only
After reaching all lands beside;
North they go, South they go, trooping or lonely,
And still, as they travel far and wide,
Catch they and keep now a trace here, trace there,
That puts you in mind of a place here, a place there.
But with us, I believe they rise out of the ground,
And nowhere else, I take it, are found
With the earth-tint yet so freshly embrowned:
Born, no doubt, like insects which breed on
The very fruit they are meant to feed on.
For the earth---not a use to which they don't turn it,
The ore that grows in the mountain's womb,
Or the sand in the pits like a honeycomb,
They sift and soften it, bake it and burn it---
Whether they weld you, for instance, a snaffle
With side-bars never a brute can baffle;
Or a lock that's a puzzle of wards within wards;
Or, if your colt's fore-foot inclines to curve inwards,
Horseshoes they hammer which turn on a swivel
And won't allow the hoof to shrivel.
Then they cast bells like the shell of the winkle
That keep a stout heart in the ram with their tinkle;
But the sand---they pinch and pound it like otters;
Commend me to Gipsy glass-makers and potters!
Glasses they'll blow you, crystal-clear,
Where just a faint cloud of rose shall appear,
As if in pure water you dropped and let die
A bruised black-blooded mulberry;
And that other sort, their crowning pride,
With long white threads distinct inside,
Like the lake-flower's fibrous roots which dangle
Loose such a length and never tangle,
Where the bold sword-lily cuts the clear waters,
And the cup-lily couches with all the white daughters:
Such are the works they put their hand to,
The uses they turn and twist iron and sand to.
And these made the troop, which our Duke saw sally
Toward his castle from out of the valley,
Men and women, like new-hatched spiders,
Come out with the morning to greet our riders.
And up they wound till they reached the ditch,
Whereat all stopped save one, a witch
That I knew, as she hobbled from the group,
By her gait directly and her stoop,
I, whom Jacynth was used to importune
To let that same witch tell us our fortune.
The oldest Gipsy then above ground;
And, sure as the autumn season came round,
She paid us a visit for profit or pastime,
And every time, as she swore, for the last time.
And presently she was seen to sidle
Up to the Duke till she touched his bridle,
So that the horse of a sudden reared up
As under its nose the old witch peered up
With her worn-out eyes, or rather eye-holes
Of no use now but to gather brine,
And began a kind of level whine
Such as they used to sing to their viols
When their ditties they go grinding
Up and down with nobody minding:
And then, as of old, at the end of the humming
Her usual presents were forthcoming
---A dog-whistle blowing the fiercest of trebles,
(Just a sea-shore stone holding a dozen fine pebbles,)
Or a porcelain mouth-piece to screw on a pipe-end,---
And so she awaited her annual stipend.
But this time, the Duke would scarcely vouchsafe
A word in reply; and in vain she felt
With twitching fingers at her belt
For the purse of sleek pine-martin pelt,
Ready to ptlt what he gave in her pouch safe,---
Till, either to quicken his apprehension,
Or possibly with an after-intention,
She was come, she said, to pay her duty
To the new Duchess, the youthful beauty.
No sooner had she named his lady,
Than a shine lit up the face so shady,
And its smirk returned with a novel meaning---
For it struck him, the babe just wanted weaning;
If one gave her a taste of what life was and sorrow,
She, foolish to-day, would be wiser tomorrow;
And who so fit a teacher of trouble
As this sordid crone bent well-nigh double?
So, glancing at her wolf-skin vesture,
(If such it was, for they grow so hirsute
That their own fleece serves for natural fur-suit)
He was contrasting, 'twas plain from his gesture,
The life of the lady so flower-like and delicate
With the loathsome squalor of this helicat.
I, in brief, was the man the Duke beckoned
From out of the throng, and while I drew near
He told the crone---as I since have reckoned
By the way he bent and spoke into her ear
With circumspection and mystery---
The main of the lady's history,
Her frowardness and ingratitude:
And for all the crone's submissive attitude
I could see round her mouth the loose plaits tightening,
And her brow with assenting intelligence brightening,
As though she engaged with hearty good-will
Whatever he now might enjoin to fulfil,
And promised the lady a thorough frightening.
And so, just giving her a glimpse
Of a purse, with the air of a man who imps
The wing of the hawk that shall fetch the hernshaw,
He bade me take the Gipsy mother
And set her telling some story or other
Of hill or dale, oak-wood or fernshaw,
To wile away a weary hour
For the lady left alone in her bower,
Whose mind and body craved exertion
And yet shrank from all better diversion.

XIV.

Then clapping heel to his horse, the mere curveter,
Out rode the Duke, and after his hollo
Horses and hounds swept, huntsman and servitor,
And back I turned and bade the crone follow.
And what makes me confident what's to be told you
Had all along been of this crone's devising,
Is, that, on looking round sharply, behold you,
There was a novelty quick as surprising:
For first, she had shot up a full head in stature,
And her step kept pace with mine nor faltered,
As if age had foregone its usurpature,
And the ignoble mien was wholly altered,
And the face looked quite of another nature,
And the change reached too, whatever the change meant,
Her shaggy wolf-skin cloak's arrangement:
For where its tatters hung loose like sedges,
Gold coins were glittering on the edges,
Like the band-roll strung with tomans
Which proves the veil a Persian woman's.
And under her brow, like a snail's horns newly
Come out as after the rain he paces,
Two unmistakeable eye-points duly
Live and aware looked out of their places.
So, we went and found Jacynth at the entry
Of the lady's chamber standing sentry;
I told the command and produced my companion,
And Jacynth rejoiced to admit any one,
For since last night, by the same token,
Not a single word had the lady spoken:
They went in both to the presence together,
While I in the balcony watched the weather.

XV.

And now, what took place at the very first of all,
I cannot tell, as I never could learn it:
Jacynth constantly wished a curse to fall
On that little head of hers and burn it
If she knew how she came to drop so soundly
Asleep of a sudden and there continue
The whole time sleeping as profoundly
As one of the boars my father would pin you
'Twixt the eyes where life holds garrison,
---Jacynth forgive me the comparison!
But where I begin asy own narration
Is a little after I took my station
To breathe the fresh air from the balcony,
And, having in those days a falcon eye,
To follow the hunt thro' the open country,
From where the bushes thinlier crested
The hillocks, to a plain where's not one tree.
When, in a moment, my ear was arrested
By---was it singing, or was it saying,
Or a strange musical instrument playing
In the chamber?---and to be certain
I pushed the lattice, pulled the curtain,
And there lay Jacynth asleep,
Yet as if a watch she tried to keep,
In a rosy sleep along the floor
With her head against the door;
While in the midst, on the seat of state,
Was a queen---the Gipsy woman late,
With head and face downbent
On the lady's head and face intent:
For, coiled at her feet like a child at ease,
The lady sat between her knees
And o'er them the lady's clasped hands met,
And on those hands her chin was set,
And her upturned face met the face of the crone
Wherein the eyes had grown and grown
As if she could double and quadruple
At pleasure the play of either pupil
---Very like, by her hands' slow fanning,
As up and down like a gor-crow's flappers
They moved to measure, or bell-clappers.
I said ``Is it blessing, is it banning,
``Do they applaud you or burlesque you---
``Those hands and fingers with no flesh on?''
But, just as I thought to spring in to the rescue,
At once I was stopped by the lady's expression:
For it was life her eyes were drinking
From the crone's wide pair above unwinking,
---Life's pure fire received without shrinking,
Into the heart and breast whose heaving
Told you no single drop they were leaving,
---Life, that filling her, passed redundant
Into her very hair, back swerving
Over each shoulder, loose and abundant,
As her head thrown back showed the white throat curving;
And the very tresses shared in the pleasure,
Moving to the mystic measure,
Bounding as the bosom bounded.
I stopped short, more and more confounded,
As still her cheeks burned and eyes glistened,
As she listened and she listened:
When all at once a hand detained me,
The selfsame contagion gained me,
And I kept time to the wondrous chime,
Making out words and prose and rhyme,
Till it seemed that the music furled
Its wings like a task fulfilled, and dropped
From under the words it first had propped,
And left them midway in the world:
Word took word as hand takes hand,
I could hear at last, and understand,
And when I held the unbroken thread,
The Gipsy said:---

``And so at last we find my tribe.
``And so I set thee in the midst,
``And to one and all of them describe
``What thou saidst and what thou didst,
``Our long and terrible journey through,
``And all thou art ready to say and do
``In the trials that remain:
``I trace them the vein and the other vein
``That meet on thy brow and part again,
``Making our rapid mystic mark;
``And I bid my people prove and probe
``Each eye's profound and glorious globe
``Till they detect the kindred spark
``In those depths so dear and dark,
``Like the spots that snap and burst and flee,
``Circling over the midnight sea.
``And on that round young cheek of thine
``I make them recognize the tinge,
``As when of the costly scarlet wine
``They drip so much as will impinge
``And spread in a thinnest scale afloat
``One thick gold drop from the olive's coat
``Over a silver plate whose sheen
``Still thro' the mixture shall be seen.
``For so I prove thee, to one and all,
``Fit, when my people ope their breast,
``To see the sign, and hear the call,
``And take the vow, and stand the test
``Which adds one more child to the rest---
``When the breast is bare and the arms are wide,
``And the world is left outside.
``For there is probation to decree,
``And many and long must the trials be
``Thou shalt victoriously endure,
``If that brow is true and those eyes are sure;
``Like a jewel-finder's fierce assay
``Of the prize he dug from its mountain-tomb---
``Let once the vindicating ray
``Leap out amid the anxious gloom,
``And steel and fire have done their part
``And the prize falls on its finder's heart;
`'So, trial after trial past,
``Wilt thou fall at the very last
``Breathless, half in trance
``With the thrill of the great deliverance,
``Into our arms for evermore;
``And thou shalt know, those arms once curled
``About thee, what we knew before,
``How love is the only good in the world.
``Henceforth be loved as heart can love,
``Or brain devise, or hand approve!
``Stand up, look below,
``It is our life at thy feet we throw
``To step with into light and joy;
``Not a power of life but we employ
``To satisfy thy nature's want;
``Art thou the tree that props the plant,
``Or the climbing plant that seeks the tree---
``Canst thou help us, must we help thee?
``If any two creatures grew into one,
``They would do more than the world has done.
``Though each apart were never so weak,
``Ye vainly through the world should seek
``For the knowledge and the might
``Which in such union grew their right:
``So, to approach at least that end,
``And blend,---as much as may be, blend
``Thee with us or us with thee,---
``As climbing plant or propping tree,
``Shall some one deck thee, over and down,
``Up and about, with blossoms and leaves?
``Fix his heart's fruit for thy garland crown,
``Cling with his soul as the gourd-vine cleaves,
``Die on thy boughs and disappear
``While not a leaf of thine is sere?
``Or is the other fate in store,
``And art thou fitted to adore,
``To give thy wondrous self away,
``And take a stronger nature's sway?
``I foresee and could foretell
``Thy future portion, sure and well:
``But those passionate eyes speak true, speak true,
``Let them say what thou shalt do!
``Only be sure thy daily life,
``In its peace or in its strife,
``Never shall be unobserved:
``We pursue thy whole career,
``And hope for it, or doubt, or fear,---
``Lo, hast thou kept thy path or swerved,
``We are beside thee in all thy ways,
``With our blame, with our praise,
``Our shame to feel, our pride to show,
``Glad, angry---but indifferent, no!
``Whether it be thy lot to go,
``For the good of us all, where the haters meet
``In the crowded city's horrible street;
``Or thou step alone through the morass
``Where never sound yet was
``Save the dry quick clap of the stork's bill,
``For the air is still, and the water still,
``When the blue breast of the dipping coot
``Dives under, and all is mute.
``So, at the last shall come old age,
``Decrepit as befits that stage;
``How else wouldst thou retire apart
``With the hoarded memories of thy heart,
``And gather all to the very least
``Of the fragments of life's earlier feast,
``Let fall through eagerness to find
``The crowning dainties yet behind?
``Ponder on the entire past
``Laid together thus at last,
``When the twilight helps to fuse
``The first fresh with the faded hues,
``And the outline of the whole,
``As round eve's shades their framework roll,
``Grandly fronts for once thy soul.
``And then as, 'mid the dark, a glean
``Of yet another morning breaks,
``And like the hand which ends a dream,
``Death, with the might of his sunbeam,
``Touches the flesh and the soul awakes,
``Then------''
Ay, then indeed something would happen!
But what? For here her voice changed like a bird's;
There grew more of the music and less of the words;
Had Jacynth only been by me to clap pen
To paper and put you down every syllable
With those clever clerkly fingers,
All I've forgotten as well as what lingers
In this old brain of mine that's but ill able
To give you even this poor version
Of the speech I spoil, as it were, with stammering
---More fault of those who had the hammering
Of prosody into me and syntax,
And did it, not with hobnails but tintacks!
But to return from this excursion,---
Just, do you mark, when the song was sweetest,
The peace most deep and the charm completest,
There came, shall I say, a snap---
And the charm vanished!
And my sense returned, so strangely banished,
And, starting as from a nap,
I knew the crone was bewitching my lady,
With Jacynth asleep; and but one spring made I
Down from the casement, round to the portal,
Another minute and I had entered,---
When the door opened, and more than mortal
Stood, with a face where to my mind centred
All beauties I ever saw or shall see,
The Duchess: I stopped as if struck by palsy.
She was so different, happy and beautiful,
I felt at once that all was best,
And that I had nothing to do, for the rest,
But wait her commands, obey and be dutiful.
Not that, in fact, there was any commanding;
I saw the glory of her eye,
And the brow's height and the breast's expanding,
And I was hers to live or to die.
As for finding what she wanted,
You know God Almighty granted
Such little signs should serve wild creatures
To tell one another all their desires,
So that each knows what his friend requires,
And does its bidding without teachers.
I preceded her; the crone
Followed silent and alone;
I spoke to her, but she merely jabbered
In the old style; both her eyes had slunk
Back to their pits; her stature shrunk;
In short, the soul in its body sunk
Like a blade sent home to its scabbard.
We descended, I preceding;
Crossed the court with nobody heeding,
All the world was at the chase,
The courtyard like a desert-place,
The stable emptied of its small fry;
I saddled myself the very palfrey
I remember patting while it carried her,
The day she arrived and the Duke married her.
And, do you know, though it's easy deceiving
Oneself in such matters, I can't help believing
The lady had not forgotten it either,
And knew the poor devil so much beneath her
Would have been only too glad for her service
To dance on hot ploughshares like a Turk dervise,
But, unable to pay proper duty where owing it,
Was reduced to that pitiful method of showing it:
For though the moment I began setting
His saddle on my own nag of Berold's begetting,
(Not that I meant to be obtrusive)
She stopped me, while his rug was shifting,
By a single rapid finger's lifting,
And, with a gesture kind but conclusive,
And a little shake of the head, refused me,---
I say, although she never used me,
Yet when she was mounted, the Gipsy behind her,
And I ventured to remind her,
I suppose with a voice of less steadiness
Than usual, for my feeling exceeded me,
---Something to the effect that I was in readiness
Whenever God should please she needed me,---
Then, do you know, her face looked down on me
With a look that placed a crown on me,
And she felt in her bosom,---mark, her bosom---
And, as a flower-tree drops its blossom,
Dropped me . . . ah, had it been a purse
Of silver, my friend, or gold that's worse,
Why, you see, as soon as I found myself
So understood,---that a true heart so may gain
Such a reward,---I should have gone home again,
Kissed Jacynth, and soberly drowned myself!
It was a little plait of hair
Such as friends in a convent make
To wear, each for the other's sake,---
This, see, which at my breast I wear,
Ever did (rather to Jacynth's grudgment),
And ever shall, till the Day of Judgment.
And then,---and then,---to cut short,---this is idle,
These are feelings it is not good to foster,---
I pushed the gate wide, she shook the bridle,
And the palfrey bounded,---and so we lost her.

XVI.

When the liquor's out why clink the cannikin?
I did think to describe you the panic in
The redoubtable breast of our master the mannikin,
And what was the pitch of his mother's yellowness,
How she turned as a shark to snap the spare-rib
Clean off, sailors say, from a pearl-diving Carib,
When she heard, what she called the flight of the feloness
---But it seems such child's play,
What they said and did with the lady away!
And to dance on, when we've lost the music,
Always made me---and no doubt makes you---sick.
Nay, to my mind, the world's face looked so stern
As that sweet form disappeared through the postern,
She that kept it in constant good humour,
It ought to have stopped; there seemed nothing to do more.
But the world thought otherwise and went on,
And my head's one that its spite was spent on:
Thirty years are fled since that morning,
And with them all my head's adorning.
Nor did the old Duchess die outright,
As you expect, of suppressed spite,
The natural end of every adder
Not suffered to empty its poison-bladder:
But she and her son agreed, I take it,
That no one should touch on the story to wake it,
For the wound in the Duke's pride rankled fiery,
So, they made no search and small inquiry---
And when fresh Gipsies have paid us a visit, I've
Noticed the couple were never inquisitive,
But told them they're folks the Duke don't want here,
And bade them make haste and cross the frontier.
Brief, the Duchess was gone and the Duke was glad of it,
And the old one was in the young one's stead,
And took, in her place, the household's head,
And a blessed time the household had of it!
And were I not, as a man may say, cautious
How I trench, more than needs, on the nauseous,
I could favour you with sundry touches
Of the paint-smutches with which the Duchess
Heightened the mellowness of her cheek's yellowness
(To get on faster) until at last her
Cheek grew to be one master-plaster
Of mucus and focus from mere use of ceruse:
In short, she grew from scalp to udder
Just the object to make you shudder.

XVII.

You're my friend---
What a thing friendship is, world without end!
How it gives the heart and soul a stir-up
As if somebody broached you a glorious runlet,
And poured out, all lovelily, sparklingly, sunlit,
Our green Moldavia, the streaky syrup,
Cotnar as old as the time of the Druids---
Friendship may match with that monarch of fluids;
Each supples a dry brain, fills you its ins-and-outs,
Gives your life's hour-glass a shake when the thin sand doubts
Whether to run on or stop short, and guarantees
Age is not all made of stark sloth and arrant ease.
I have seen my little lady once more,
Jacynth, the Gipsy, Berold, and the rest of it,
For to me spoke the Duke, as I told you before;
I always wanted to make a clean breast of it:
And now it is made---why, my heart's blood, that went trickle,
Trickle, but anon, in such muddy driblets,
Is pumped up brisk now, through the main ventricle,
And genially floats me about the giblets.
I'll tell you what I intend to do:
I must see this fellow his sad life through---
He is our Duke, after all,
And I, as he says, but a serf and thrall.
My father was born here, and I inherit
His fame, a chain he bound his son with;
Could I pay in a lump I should prefer it,
But there's no mine to blow up and get done with:
So, I must stay till the end of the chapter.
For, as to our middle-age-manners-adapter,
Be it a thing to be glad on or sorry on,
Some day or other, his head in a morion
And breast in a hauberk, his heels he'll kick up,
Slain by an onslaught fierce of hiccup.
And then, when red doth the sword of our Duke rust,
And its leathern sheath lie o'ergrown with a blue crust,
Then I shall scrape together my earnings;
For, you see, in the churchyard Jacynth reposes,
And our children all went the way of the roses:
It's a long lane that knows no turnings.
One needs but little tackle to travel in;
So, just one stout cloak shall I indue:
And for a stall, what beats the javelin
With which his boars my father pinned you?
And then, for a purpose you shall hear presently,
Taking some Cotnar, a tight plump skinful,
I shall go journeying, who but I, pleasantly!
Sorrow is vain and despondency sinful.
What's a man's age? He must hurry more, that's all;
Cram in a day, what his youth took a year to hold.
When we mind labour, then only, we're too old---
What age had Methusalem when he begat Saul?
And at last, as its haven some buffeted ship sees,
(Come all the way from the north-parts with sperm oil)
I hope to get safely out of the turmoil
And arrive one day at the land of the Gipsies,
And find my lady, or hear the last news of her
From some old thief and son of Lucifer,
His forehead chapleted green with wreathy hop,
Sunburned all over like an thiop.
And when my Cotnar begins to operate
And the tongue of the rogue to run at a proper rate,
And our wine-skin, tight once, shows each flaccid dent,
I shall drop in with---as if by accident---
``You never knew, then, how it all ended,
``What fortune good or bad attended
``The little lady your Queen befriended?''
---And when that's told me, what's remaining?
This world's too hard for my explaining.
The same wise judge of matters equine
Who still preferred some slim four-year-old
To the big-boned stock of mighty Berold,
And, fur strong Cotnar, drank French weak wine,
He also umst be such a lady's scorner!
Smooth Jacob still rubs homely Esau:
Now up, now down, the world's one see-saw.
---So, I shall find out some snug corner
Under a hedge, like Orson the wood-knight,
Turn myself round and bid the world good night;
And sleep a sound sleep till the trumpet's blowing
Wakes me (unless priests cheat us laymen)
To a world where will be no furtiner throwing
Pearls befare swine that Can't value them. Amen!