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Best Famous Thank You Poems

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by Alice Walker |

I Said to Poetry

I said to Poetry: "I'm finished
with you."
Having to almost die
before some wierd light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
"No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
Im out for good times--
at the very least,
some painless convention."

Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn't sad or anything,
only restless.

Poetry said: "You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?"
I said: "I didn't hear that.
Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.m.
I'm not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you."

Poetry said: "But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked so much better
than the grand one--and how suprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with

Think of that!"

"I'll join the church!" I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
"I'll learn how to pray again!"

"Let me ask you," said Poetry.
"When you pray, what do you think
you'll see?"

Poetry had me.

"There's no paper
in this room," I said.
"And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise."

"Bullshit," said Poetry.
"Bullshit," said I. 

by Judith Viorst |


I'm learning to say thank you.
And I'm learning to say please.
And I'm learning to use Kleenex,
Not my sweater, when I sneeze.
And I'm learning not to dribble.
And I'm learning not to slurp.
And I'm learning (though it sometimes really hurts me)
Not to burp.
And I'm learning to chew softer
When I eat corn on the cob.
And I'm learning that it's much
Much easier to be a slob.

by Thomas Stearns Eliot (T S) Eliot |

The Waste Land

 The Waste Land
by T. S. Eliot

"Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse oculis meis
vidi in ampulla pendere, et cum illi pueri dicerent:
Sibylla ti theleis; respondebat illa: apothanein thelo."

 April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
 What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, 
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. 
 Frisch weht der Wind
 Der Heimat zu
 Mein Irisch Kind,
 Wo weilest du?
"You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
"They called me the hyacinth girl."
––Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing, 
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed' und leer das Meer.
 Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards. Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations. 
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring.
Thank you. If you see dear Mrs. Equitone,
Tell her I bring the horoscope myself:
One must be so careful these days.
 Unreal City, 
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying "Stetson!
"You who were with me in the ships at Mylae! 
"That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
"Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
"Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
"Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
"Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
"You! hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblable, - mon frere!"
 The Chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out 
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)
Doubled the flames of sevenbranched candelabra
Reflecting light upon the table as
The glitter of her jewels rose to meet it,
From satin cases poured in rich profusion;
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,
Unguent, powdered, or liquid - troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours; stirred by the air
That freshened from the window, these ascended 
In fattening the prolonged candle-flames,
Flung their smoke into the laquearia,
Stirring the pattern on the coffered ceiling.
Huge sea-wood fed with copper
Burned green and orange, framed by the coloured stone,
In which sad light a carved dolphin swam.
Above the antique mantel was displayed
As though a window gave upon the sylvan scene
The change of Philomel, by the barbarous king
So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale 
Filled all the desert with inviolable voice
And still she cried, and still the world pursues,
"Jug Jug" to dirty ears.
And other withered stumps of time
Were told upon the walls; staring forms
Leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed.
Footsteps shuffled on the stair.
Under the firelight, under the brush, her hair
Spread out in fiery points
Glowed into words, then would be savagely still. 
 "My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
"Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
 "What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
"I never know what you are thinking. Think."
 I think we are in rats' alley
Where the dead men lost their bones.
 "What is that noise?"
wind under the door.
"What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?"
again nothing. 
"You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember
 I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
"Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?"
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag -
It's so elegant
So intelligent 
"What shall I do now? What shall I do?"
I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
"With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
"What shall we ever do?"

The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.
When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said -
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself, 
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said. 
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can't.
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face,
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.) 
The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don't want children?
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot -
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight. 
Ta ta. Goonight. Goonight.
Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.
 The river's tent is broken: the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of city directors; 
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .
Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.
A rat crept softly through the vegetation
Dragging its slimy belly on the bank
While I was fishing in the dull canal
On a winter evening round behind the gashouse 
Musing upon the king my brother's wreck
And on the king my father's death before him.
White bodies naked on the low damp ground
And bones cast in a little low dry garret,
Rattled by the rat's foot only, year to year.
But at my back from time to time I hear
The sound of horns and motors, which shall bring
Sweeney to Mrs. Porter in the spring.
O the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter
And on her daughter 
They wash their feet in soda water
Et O ces voix d'enfants, chantant dans la coupole!
Twit twit twit
Jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd.
 Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter noon
Mr. Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant
Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants 
C.i.f. London: documents at sight,
Asked me in demotic French
To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel
Followed by a weekend at the Metropole.
 At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives,
Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives 
Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast, lights
Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays,
On the divan are piled (at night her bed)
Stockings, slippers, camisoles, and stays.
I Tiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Perceived the scene, and foretold the rest -
I too awaited the expected guest. 
He, the young man carbuncular, arrives,
A small house agent's clerk, with one bold stare,
One of the low on whom assurance sits
As a silk hat on a Bradford millionaire.
The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence; 
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.
(And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the lowest of the dead.)
Bestows one final patronising kiss,
And gropes his way, finding the stairs unlit . . .
 She turns and looks a moment in the glass,
Hardly aware of her departed lover; 
Her brain allows one half-formed thought to pass:
"Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over."
When lovely woman stoops to folly and
Paces about her room again, alone,
She smoothes her hair with automatic hand,
And puts a record on the gramophone.
 "This music crept by me upon the waters"
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City city, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street, 
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.
 The river sweats
 Oil and tar
 The barges drift
 With the turning tide
 Red sails 
 To leeward, swing on the heavy spar.
 The barges wash
 Drifting logs
 Down Greenwich reach
 Past the Isle of Dogs.
 Weialala leia
 Wallala leialala
 Elizabeth and Leicester
 Beating oars 
 The stern was formed
 A gilded shell
 Red and gold
 The brisk swell
 Rippled both shores
 Southwest wind
 Carried down stream
 The peal of bells
 White towers
 Weialala leia 
 Wallala leialala
"Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me. By Richmond I raised my knees
Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe."
"My feet are at Moorgate, and my heart
Under my feet. After the event
He wept. He promised 'a new start'.
I made no comment. What should I resent?"
"On Margate Sands. 
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
 la la
To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest 
Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.
current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.
or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward, 
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience 
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock
Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand nor lie nor sit 
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses
there were water
 And no rock
 If there were rock
 And also water
 And water 
 A spring
 A pool among the rock
 If there were the sound of water only
 Not the cicada
 And dry grass singing
 But sound of water over a rock
 Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
 Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
 But there is no water
 Who is the third who walks always beside you? 
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
- But who is that on the other side of you?
 What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth 
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London
 A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light 
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.
 In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home.
It has no windows, and the door swings, 
Dry bones can harm no one.
Only a cock stood on the rooftree
Co co rico co co rico
In a flash of lightning. Then a damp gust
Bringing rain
 Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves
Waited for rain, while the black clouds
Gathered far distant, over Himavant.
The jungle crouched, humped in silence.
Then spoke the thunder 
Datta: what have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment's surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed
Which is not to be found in our obituaries
Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
In our empty rooms 
Dayadhvam: I have heard the key
Turn in the door once and turn once only
We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison
Only at nightfall, aetherial rumours
Revive for a moment a broken Coriolanus
Damyata: The boat responded
Gaily, to the hand expert with sail and oar 
The sea was calm, your heart would have responded
Gaily, when invited, beating obedient
To controlling hands

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s'ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam ceu chelidon - O swallow swallow
Le Prince d'Aquitaine a la tour abolie 
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo's mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
shantih shantih

Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism
of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book on the Grail legend:
From Ritual to Romance (Macmillan).<1> Indeed, so deeply am I indebted,
Miss Weston's book will elucidate the difficulties of the poem much better than
my notes can do; and I recommend it (apart from the great interest of the book
itself) to any who think such elucidation of the poem worth the trouble. To
another work of anthropology I am indebted in general, one which has influenced
our generation profoundly; I mean The Golden Bough; I have used especially the
two volumes Adonis, Attis, Osiris. Anyone who is acquainted with
these works will immediately recognise in the poem certain references to
vegetation ceremonies.
<1> Macmillan Cambridge.

Line 20. Cf. Ezekiel 2:1.
23. Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:5.
31. V. Tristan und Isolde, i, verses 5-8.
42. Id. iii, verse 24.
46. I am not familiar with the exact constitution of the Tarot
of cards, from which I have obviously departed to suit my own convenience.
The Hanged Man, a member of the traditional pack, fits my purpose
in two ways: because he is associated in my mind with the Hanged God
of Frazer, and because I associate him with the hooded figure in
the passage of the disciples to Emmaus in Part V. The Phoenician Sailor
and the Merchant appear later; also the "crowds of people," and
Death by Water is executed in Part IV. The Man with Three Staves
(an authentic member of the Tarot pack) I associate, quite arbitrarily,
with the Fisher King himself.
60. Cf. Baudelaire:
 "Fourmillante cite;, cite; pleine de
 Ou le spectre en plein jour raccroche le
63. Cf. Inferno, iii. 55-7.

"si lunga tratta
 di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto
 che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta."
64. Cf. Inferno, iv. 25-7:
 "Quivi, secondo che per ascoltare,
 "non avea pianto, ma' che di sospiri,
 "che l'aura eterna facevan tremare."
68. A phenomenon which I have often noticed.
74. Cf. the Dirge in Webster's White Devil .
76. V. Baudelaire, Preface to Fleurs du Mal.
77. Cf. Antony and Cleopatra, II. ii., l. 190.
92. Laquearia. V. Aeneid, I. 726:
 dependent lychni laquearibus aureis incensi, et
noctem flammis
98. Sylvan scene. V. Milton, Paradise Lost, iv. 140.
99. V. Ovid, Metamorphoses, vi, Philomela.
100. Cf. Part III, l. 204.
115. Cf. Part III, l. 195.
118. Cf. Webster: "Is the wind in that
door still?"
126. Cf. Part I, l. 37, 48.
138. Cf. the game of chess in Middleton's Women beware
176. V. Spenser, Prothalamion.
192. Cf. The Tempest, I. ii.
196. Cf. Marvell, To His Coy Mistress.
197. Cf. Day, Parliament of Bees:
 "When of the sudden, listening, you shall
 "A noise of horns and hunting, which shall
 "Actaeon to Diana in the spring,
 "Where all shall see her naked skin . .
199. I do not know the origin of the ballad from which these lines
are taken: it was reported to me from Sydney, Australia.
202. V. Verlaine, Parsifal.
210. The currants were quoted at a price "carriage and
free to London"; and the Bill of Lading etc. were to be handed
to the buyer upon payment of the sight draft.
Notes 196 and 197 were transposed in this and the Hogarth Press edition,
but have been corrected here.
210. "Carriage and insurance free"] "cost,
insurance and freight"-Editor.
218. Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a
is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest.
Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into
the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct
from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman,
and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact,
is the substance of the poem. The whole passage from Ovid is
of great anthropological interest:
 '. . . Cum Iunone iocos et maior vestra
profecto est
 Quam, quae contingit maribus,' dixisse,
 Illa negat; placuit quae sit sententia docti
 Quaerere Tiresiae: venus huic erat utraque nota.
 Nam duo magnorum viridi coeuntia silva
 Corpora serpentum baculi violaverat ictu
 Deque viro factus, mirabile, femina septem
 Egerat autumnos; octavo rursus eosdem
 Vidit et 'est vestrae si tanta potentia plagae,'
 Dixit 'ut auctoris sortem in contraria mutet,
 Nunc quoque vos feriam!' percussis anguibus isdem
 Forma prior rediit genetivaque venit imago.
 Arbiter hic igitur sumptus de lite iocosa
 Dicta Iovis firmat; gravius Saturnia iusto
 Nec pro materia fertur doluisse suique
 Iudicis aeterna damnavit lumina nocte,
 At pater omnipotens (neque enim licet inrita
 Facta dei fecisse deo) pro lumine adempto
 Scire futura dedit poenamque levavit honore.
221. This may not appear as exact as Sappho's lines, but I had in
the "longshore" or "dory" fisherman, who returns at
253. V. Goldsmith, the song in The Vicar of Wakefield.
257. V. The Tempest, as above.
264. The interior of St. Magnus Martyr is to my mind one of
the finest among Wren's interiors. See The Proposed Demolition
of Nineteen City Churches (P. S. King & Son, Ltd.).
266. The Song of the (three) Thames-daughters begins here.
From line 292 to 306 inclusive they speak in turn.
V. Gutterdsammerung, III. i: the
279. V. Froude, Elizabeth, Vol. I, ch. iv,
letter of De Quadra
to Philip of Spain:
"In the afternoon we were in a barge, watching the games on the river.
(The queen) was alone with Lord Robert and myself on the poop,
when they began to talk nonsense, and went so far that Lord Robert
at last said, as I was on the spot there was no reason why they
should not be married if the queen pleased."
293. Cf. Purgatorio, v. 133:
 "Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
 Siena mi fe', disfecemi Maremma."
307. V. St. Augustine's Confessions: "to Carthage
then I came,
where a cauldron of unholy loves sang all about mine ears."
308. The complete text of the Buddha's Fire Sermon (which
in importance to the Sermon on the Mount) from which these words are taken,
will be found translated in the late Henry Clarke Warren's Buddhism
in Translation (Harvard Oriental Series). Mr. Warren was one
of the great pioneers of Buddhist studies in the Occident.
309. From St. Augustine's Confessions again. The
of these two representatives of eastern and western asceticism,
as the culmination of this part of the poem, is not an accident.
In the first part of Part V three themes are employed:
the journey to Emmaus, the approach to the Chapel Perilous
(see Miss Weston's book) and the present decay of eastern Europe.
357. This is Turdus aonalaschkae pallasii, the hermit-thrush
which I have heard in Quebec County. Chapman says (Handbook of
Birds of Eastern North America) "it is most at home in secluded
woodland and thickety retreats. . . . Its notes are not remarkable
for variety or volume, but in purity and sweetness of tone and
exquisite modulation they are unequalled." Its
"water-dripping song"
is justly celebrated.
360. The following lines were stimulated by the account of one
of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one
of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers,
at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion
that there was one more member than could actually be counted.
367-77. Cf. Hermann Hesse, Blick ins Chaos:
"Schon ist halb Europa, schon ist zumindest der halbe Osten Europas auf
Wege zum Chaos, fährt betrunken im heiligem Wahn am Abgrund entlang
und singt dazu, singt betrunken und hymnisch wie Dmitri Karamasoff sang.
Ueber diese Lieder lacht der Bürger beleidigt, der Heilige
und Seher hört sie mit Tränen."
402. "Datta, dayadhvam, damyata" (Give, sympathize,
control). The fable of the meaning of the Thunder is found
in the Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad, 5, 1. A translation is found
in Deussen's Sechzig Upanishads des Veda, p. 489.
408. Cf. Webster, The White Devil, v. vi:
. . they'll remarry
 Ere the worm pierce your winding-sheet, ere the spider
 Make a thin curtain for your epitaphs."
412. Cf. Inferno, xxxiii. 46:
 "ed io sentii
chiavar l'uscio di sotto
 all'orribile torre."
Also F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, p. 346:
"My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my
thoughts or my feelings. In either case my experience falls within
my own circle, a circle closed on the outside; and, with all its
elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround
it. . . . In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul,
the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul."
425. V. Weston, From Ritual to Romance; chapter on the Fisher
428. V. Purgatorio, xxvi. 148.
 "'Ara vos prec
per aquella valor
 'que vos guida
al som de l'escalina,
 'sovegna vos a
temps de ma dolor.'
s'ascose nel foco che gli affina."
429. V. Pervigilium Veneris. Cf. Philomela
in Parts II and III.

430. V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado.
432. V. Kyd's Spanish Tragedy.
434. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an
'The Peace which passeth understanding' is a feeble translation
of the content of this word.      

by Raymond Carver |

Photograph of My Father in His Twenty-Second Year

 October. Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen 
I study my father's embarrassed young man's face. 
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string 
of spiny yellow perch, in the other 
a bottle of Carlsbad Beer. 

In jeans and denim shirt, he leans 
against the front fender of a 1934 Ford. 
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity, 
Wear his old hat cocked over his ear. 
All his life my father wanted to be bold. 

But the eyes give him away, and the hands 
that limply offer the string of dead perch 
and the bottle of beer. Father, I love you, 
yet how can I say thank you, I who can't hold my liquor either, 
and don't even know the places to fish?

by Robert Browning |

Fra Lippo Lippi

 I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave! 
You need not clap your torches to my face. 
Zooks, what's to blame? you think you see a monk! 
What, 'tis past midnight, and you go the rounds, 
And here you catch me at an alley's end 
Where sportive ladies leave their doors ajar? 
The Carmine's my cloister: hunt it up, 
Do,--harry out, if you must show your zeal, 
Whatever rat, there, haps on his wrong hole, 
And nip each softling of a wee white mouse, 
Weke, weke, that's crept to keep him company! 
Aha, you know your betters! Then, you'll take 
Your hand away that's fiddling on my throat, 
And please to know me likewise. Who am I? 
Why, one, sir, who is lodging with a friend 
Three streets off--he's a certain . . . how d'ye call? 
Master--a ...Cosimo of the Medici, 
I' the house that caps the corner. Boh! you were best! 
Remember and tell me, the day you're hanged, 
How you affected such a gullet's-gripe! 
But you, sir, it concerns you that your knaves 
Pick up a manner nor discredit you: 
Zooks, are we pilchards, that they sweep the streets 
And count fair price what comes into their net? 
He's Judas to a tittle, that man is! 
Just such a face! Why, sir, you make amends. 
Lord, I'm not angry! Bid your hang-dogs go 
Drink out this quarter-florin to the health 
Of the munificent House that harbours me 
(And many more beside, lads! more beside!) 
And all's come square again. I'd like his face-- 
His, elbowing on his comrade in the door 
With the pike and lantern,--for the slave that holds 
John Baptist's head a-dangle by the hair 
With one hand ("Look you, now," as who should say) 
And his weapon in the other, yet unwiped! 
It's not your chance to have a bit of chalk, 
A wood-coal or the like? or you should see! 
Yes, I'm the painter, since you style me so. 
What, brother Lippo's doings, up and down, 
You know them and they take you? like enough! 
I saw the proper twinkle in your eye-- 
'Tell you, I liked your looks at very first. 
Let's sit and set things straight now, hip to haunch. 
Here's spring come, and the nights one makes up bands 
To roam the town and sing out carnival, 
And I've been three weeks shut within my mew, 
A-painting for the great man, saints and saints 
And saints again. I could not paint all night-- 
Ouf! I leaned out of window for fresh air. 
There came a hurry of feet and little feet, 
A sweep of lute strings, laughs, and whifts of song, -- 
Flower o' the broom, 
Take away love, and our earth is a tomb! 
Flower o' the quince, 
I let Lisa go, and what good in life since? 
Flower o' the thyme--and so on. Round they went. 
Scarce had they turned the corner when a titter 
Like the skipping of rabbits by moonlight,--three slim shapes, 
And a face that looked up . . . zooks, sir, flesh and blood, 
That's all I'm made of! Into shreds it went, 
Curtain and counterpane and coverlet, 
All the bed-furniture--a dozen knots, 
There was a ladder! Down I let myself, 
Hands and feet, scrambling somehow, and so dropped, 
And after them. I came up with the fun 
Hard by Saint Laurence, hail fellow, well met,-- 
Flower o' the rose, 
If I've been merry, what matter who knows? 
And so as I was stealing back again 
To get to bed and have a bit of sleep 
Ere I rise up to-morrow and go work 
On Jerome knocking at his poor old breast 
With his great round stone to subdue the flesh, 
You snap me of the sudden. Ah, I see! 
Though your eye twinkles still, you shake your head-- 
Mine's shaved--a monk, you say--the sting 's in that! 
If Master Cosimo announced himself, 
Mum's the word naturally; but a monk! 
Come, what am I a beast for? tell us, now! 
I was a baby when my mother died 
And father died and left me in the street. 
I starved there, God knows how, a year or two 
On fig-skins, melon-parings, rinds and shucks, 
Refuse and rubbish. One fine frosty day, 
My stomach being empty as your hat, 
The wind doubled me up and down I went. 
Old Aunt Lapaccia trussed me with one hand, 
(Its fellow was a stinger as I knew) 
And so along the wall, over the bridge, 
By the straight cut to the convent. Six words there, 
While I stood munching my first bread that month: 
"So, boy, you're minded," quoth the good fat father 
Wiping his own mouth, 'twas refection-time,-- 
"To quit this very miserable world? 
Will you renounce" . . . "the mouthful of bread?" thought I; 
By no means! Brief, they made a monk of me; 
I did renounce the world, its pride and greed, 
Palace, farm, villa, shop, and banking-house, 
Trash, such as these poor devils of Medici 
Have given their hearts to--all at eight years old. 
Well, sir, I found in time, you may be sure, 
'T#was not for nothing--the good bellyful, 
The warm serge and the rope that goes all round, 
And day-long blessed idleness beside! 
"Let's see what the urchin's fit for"--that came next. 
Not overmuch their way, I must confess. 
Such a to-do! They tried me with their books: 
Lord, they'd have taught me Latin in pure waste! 
Flower o' the clove. 
All the Latin I construe is, "amo" I love! 
But, mind you, when a boy starves in the streets 
Eight years together, as my fortune was, 
Watching folk's faces to know who will fling 
The bit of half-stripped grape-bunch he desires, 
And who will curse or kick him for his pains,-- 
Which gentleman processional and fine, 
Holding a candle to the Sacrament, 
Will wink and let him lift a plate and catch 
The droppings of the wax to sell again, 
Or holla for the Eight and have him whipped,-- 
How say I?--nay, which dog bites, which lets drop 
His bone from the heap of offal in the street,-- 
Why, soul and sense of him grow sharp alike, 
He learns the look of things, and none the less 
For admonition from the hunger-pinch. 
I had a store of such remarks, be sure, 
Which, after I found leisure, turned to use. 
I drew men's faces on my copy-books, 
Scrawled them within the antiphonary's marge, 
Joined legs and arms to the long music-notes, 
Found eyes and nose and chin for A's and B's, 
And made a string of pictures of the world 
Betwixt the ins and outs of verb and noun, 
On the wall, the bench, the door. The monks looked black. 
"Nay," quoth the Prior, "turn him out, d'ye say? 
In no wise. Lose a crow and catch a lark. 
What if at last we get our man of parts, 
We Carmelites, like those Camaldolese 
And Preaching Friars, to do our church up fine 
And put the front on it that ought to be!" 
And hereupon he bade me daub away. 
Thank you! my head being crammed, the walls a blank, 
Never was such prompt disemburdening. 
First, every sort of monk, the black and white, 
I drew them, fat and lean: then, folk at church, 
From good old gossips waiting to confess 
Their cribs of barrel-droppings, candle-ends,-- 
To the breathless fellow at the altar-foot, 
Fresh from his murder, safe and sitting there 
With the little children round him in a row 
Of admiration, half for his beard and half 
For that white anger of his victim's son 
Shaking a fist at him with one fierce arm, 
Signing himself with the other because of Christ 
(Whose sad face on the cross sees only this 
After the passion of a thousand years) 
Till some poor girl, her apron o'er her head, 
(Which the intense eyes looked through) came at eve 
On tiptoe, said a word, dropped in a loaf, 
Her pair of earrings and a bunch of flowers 
(The brute took growling), prayed, and so was gone. 
I painted all, then cried " `T#is ask and have; 
Choose, for more's ready!"--laid the ladder flat, 
And showed my covered bit of cloister-wall. 
The monks closed in a circle and praised loud 
Till checked, taught what to see and not to see, 
Being simple bodies,--"That's the very man! 
Look at the boy who stoops to pat the dog! 
That woman's like the Prior's niece who comes 
To care about his asthma: it's the life!'' 
But there my triumph's straw-fire flared and funked; 
Their betters took their turn to see and say: 
The Prior and the learned pulled a face 
And stopped all that in no time. "How? what's here? 
Quite from the mark of painting, bless us all! 
Faces, arms, legs, and bodies like the true 
As much as pea and pea! it's devil's-game! 
Your business is not to catch men with show, 
With homage to the perishable clay, 
But lift them over it, ignore it all, 
Make them forget there's such a thing as flesh. 
Your business is to paint the souls of men-- 
Man's soul, and it's a fire, smoke . . . no, it's not . . . 
It's vapour done up like a new-born babe-- 
(In that shape when you die it leaves your mouth) 
It's . . . well, what matters talking, it's the soul! 
Give us no more of body than shows soul! 
Here's Giotto, with his Saint a-praising God, 
That sets us praising--why not stop with him? 
Why put all thoughts of praise out of our head 
With wonder at lines, colours, and what not? 
Paint the soul, never mind the legs and arms! 
Rub all out, try at it a second time. 
Oh, that white smallish female with the breasts, 
She's just my niece . . . Herodias, I would say,-- 
Who went and danced and got men's heads cut off! 
Have it all out!" Now, is this sense, I ask? 
A fine way to paint soul, by painting body 
So ill, the eye can't stop there, must go further 
And can't fare worse! Thus, yellow does for white 
When what you put for yellow's simply black, 
And any sort of meaning looks intense 
When all beside itself means and looks nought. 
Why can't a painter lift each foot in turn, 
Left foot and right foot, go a double step, 
Make his flesh liker and his soul more like, 
Both in their order? Take the prettiest face, 
The Prior's niece . . . patron-saint--is it so pretty 
You can't discover if it means hope, fear, 
Sorrow or joy? won't beauty go with these? 
Suppose I've made her eyes all right and blue, 
Can't I take breath and try to add life's flash, 
And then add soul and heighten them three-fold? 
Or say there's beauty with no soul at all-- 
(I never saw it--put the case the same--) 
If you get simple beauty and nought else, 
You get about the best thing God invents: 
That's somewhat: and you'll find the soul you have missed, 
Within yourself, when you return him thanks. 
"Rub all out!" Well, well, there's my life, in short, 
And so the thing has gone on ever since. 
I'm grown a man no doubt, I've broken bounds: 
You should not take a fellow eight years old 
And make him swear to never kiss the girls. 
I'm my own master, paint now as I please-- 
Having a friend, you see, in the Corner-house! 
Lord, it's fast holding by the rings in front-- 
Those great rings serve more purposes than just 
To plant a flag in, or tie up a horse! 
And yet the old schooling sticks, the old grave eyes 
Are peeping o'er my shoulder as I work, 
The heads shake still--"It's art's decline, my son! 
You're not of the true painters, great and old; 
Brother Angelico's the man, you'll find; 
Brother Lorenzo stands his single peer: 
Fag on at flesh, you'll never make the third!" 
Flower o' the pine, 
You keep your mistr ... manners, and I'll stick to mine! 
I'm not the third, then: bless us, they must know! 
Don't you think they're the likeliest to know, 
They with their Latin? So, I swallow my rage, 
Clench my teeth, suck my lips in tight, and paint 
To please them--sometimes do and sometimes don't; 
For, doing most, there's pretty sure to come 
A turn, some warm eve finds me at my saints-- 
A laugh, a cry, the business of the world-- 
(Flower o' the peach 
Death for us all, and his own life for each!) 
And my whole soul revolves, the cup runs over, 
The world and life's too big to pass for a dream, 
And I do these wild things in sheer despite, 
And play the fooleries you catch me at, 
In pure rage! The old mill-horse, out at grass 
After hard years, throws up his stiff heels so, 
Although the miller does not preach to him 
The only good of grass is to make chaff. 
What would men have? Do they like grass or no-- 
May they or mayn't they? all I want's the thing 
Settled for ever one way. As it is, 
You tell too many lies and hurt yourself: 
You don't like what you only like too much, 
You do like what, if given you at your word, 
You find abundantly detestable. 
For me, I think I speak as I was taught; 
I always see the garden and God there 
A-making man's wife: and, my lesson learned, 
The value and significance of flesh, 
I can't unlearn ten minutes afterwards. 
You understand me: I'm a beast, I know. 
But see, now--why, I see as certainly 
As that the morning-star's about to shine, 
What will hap some day. We've a youngster here 
Comes to our convent, studies what I do, 
Slouches and stares and lets no atom drop: 
His name is Guidi--he'll not mind the monks-- 
They call him Hulking Tom, he lets them talk-- 
He picks my practice up--he'll paint apace. 
I hope so--though I never live so long, 
I know what's sure to follow. You be judge! 
You speak no Latin more than I, belike; 
However, you're my man, you've seen the world 
--The beauty and the wonder and the power, 
The shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, 
Changes, surprises,--and God made it all! 
--For what? Do you feel thankful, ay or no, 
For this fair town's face, yonder river's line, 
The mountain round it and the sky above, 
Much more the figures of man, woman, child, 
These are the frame to? What's it all about? 
To be passed over, despised? or dwelt upon, 
Wondered at? oh, this last of course!--you say. 
But why not do as well as say,--paint these 
Just as they are, careless what comes of it? 
God's works--paint any one, and count it crime 
To let a truth slip. Don't object, "His works 
Are here already; nature is complete: 
Suppose you reproduce her--(which you can't) 
There's no advantage! you must beat her, then." 
For, don't you mark? we're made so that we love 
First when we see them painted, things we have passed 
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see; 
And so they are better, painted--better to us, 
Which is the same thing. Art was given for that; 
God uses us to help each other so, 
Lending our minds out. Have you noticed, now, 
Your cullion's hanging face? A bit of chalk, 
And trust me but you should, though! How much more, 
If I drew higher things with the same truth! 
That were to take the Prior's pulpit-place, 
Interpret God to all of you! Oh, oh, 
It makes me mad to see what men shall do 
And we in our graves! This world's no blot for us, 
Nor blank; it means intensely, and means good: 
To find its meaning is my meat and drink. 
"Ay, but you don't so instigate to prayer!" 
Strikes in the Prior: "when your meaning's plain 
It does not say to folk--remember matins, 
Or, mind you fast next Friday!" Why, for this 
What need of art at all? A skull and bones, 
Two bits of stick nailed crosswise, or, what's best, 
A bell to chime the hour with, does as well. 
I painted a Saint Laurence six months since 
At Prato, splashed the fresco in fine style: 
"How looks my painting, now the scaffold's down?" 
I ask a brother: "Hugely," he returns-- 
"Already not one phiz of your three slaves 
Who turn the Deacon off his toasted side, 
But's scratched and prodded to our heart's content, 
The pious people have so eased their own 
With coming to say prayers there in a rage: 
We get on fast to see the bricks beneath. 
Expect another job this time next year, 
For pity and religion grow i' the crowd-- 
Your painting serves its purpose!" Hang the fools! 
--That is--you'll not mistake an idle word 
Spoke in a huff by a poor monk, God wot, 
Tasting the air this spicy night which turns 
The unaccustomed head like Chianti wine! 
Oh, the church knows! don't misreport me, now! 
It's natural a poor monk out of bounds 
Should have his apt word to excuse himself: 
And hearken how I plot to make amends. 
I have bethought me: I shall paint a piece 
... There's for you! Give me six months, then go, see 
Something in Sant' Ambrogio's! Bless the nuns! 
They want a cast o' my office. I shall paint 
God in the midst, Madonna and her babe, 
Ringed by a bowery, flowery angel-brood, 
Lilies and vestments and white faces, sweet 
As puff on puff of grated orris-root 
When ladies crowd to Church at midsummer. 
And then i' the front, of course a saint or two-- 
Saint John' because he saves the Florentines, 
Saint Ambrose, who puts down in black and white 
The convent's friends and gives them a long day, 
And Job, I must have him there past mistake, 
The man of Uz (and Us without the z, 
Painters who need his patience). Well, all these 
Secured at their devotion, up shall come 
Out of a corner when you least expect, 
As one by a dark stair into a great light, 
Music and talking, who but Lippo! I!-- 
Mazed, motionless, and moonstruck--I'm the man! 
Back I shrink--what is this I see and hear? 
I, caught up with my monk's-things by mistake, 
My old serge gown and rope that goes all round, 
I, in this presence, this pure company! 
Where's a hole, where's a corner for escape? 
Then steps a sweet angelic slip of a thing 
Forward, puts out a soft palm--"Not so fast!" 
--Addresses the celestial presence, "nay-- 
He made you and devised you, after all, 
Though he's none of you! Could Saint John there draw-- 
His camel-hair make up a painting brush? 
We come to brother Lippo for all that, 
Iste perfecit opus! So, all smile-- 
I shuffle sideways with my blushing face 
Under the cover of a hundred wings 
Thrown like a spread of kirtles when you're gay 
And play hot cockles, all the doors being shut, 
Till, wholly unexpected, in there pops 
The hothead husband! Thus I scuttle off 
To some safe bench behind, not letting go 
The palm of her, the little lily thing 
That spoke the good word for me in the nick, 
Like the Prior's niece . . . Saint Lucy, I would say. 
And so all's saved for me, and for the church 
A pretty picture gained. Go, six months hence! 
Your hand, sir, and good-bye: no lights, no lights! 
The street's hushed, and I know my own way back, 
Don't fear me! There's the grey beginning. Zooks!

by John Betjeman |

Back From Australia

 Cocooned in Time, at this inhuman height,
The packaged food tastes neutrally of clay,
We never seem to catch the running day
But travel on in everlasting night
With all the chic accoutrements of flight:
Lotions and essences in neat array
And yet another plastic cup and tray.
"Thank you so much. Oh no, I'm quite all right".

At home in Cornwall hurrying autumn skies
Leave Bray Hill barren, Stepper jutting bare,
And hold the moon above the sea-wet sand.
The very last of late September dies
In frosty silence and the hills declare
How vast the sky is, looked at from the land.

by Robert Browning |

Bishop Blougrams Apology

 NO more wine? then we'll push back chairs and talk. 
A final glass for me, though: cool, i' faith! 
We ought to have our Abbey back, you see. 
It's different, preaching in basilicas, 
And doing duty in some masterpiece 
Like this of brother Pugin's, bless his heart! 
I doubt if they're half baked, those chalk rosettes, 
Ciphers and stucco-twiddlings everywhere; 
It's just like breathing in a lime-kiln: eh? 
These hot long ceremonies of our church 
Cost us a little--oh, they pay the price, 
You take me--amply pay it! Now, we'll talk. 

So, you despise me, Mr. Gigadibs. 
No deprecation,--nay, I beg you, sir! 
Beside 't is our engagement: don't you know, 
I promised, if you'd watch a dinner out, 
We'd see truth dawn together?--truth that peeps 
Over the glasses' edge when dinner's done, 

And body gets its sop and holds its noise 
And leaves soul free a little. Now's the time: 
'T is break of day! You do despise me then. 
And if I say, "despise me,"--never fear! 
I know you do not in a certain sense-- 
Not in my arm-chair, for example: here, 
I well imagine you respect my place 
( Status, entourage , worldly circumstance) 
Quite to its value--very much indeed: 
--Are up to the protesting eyes of you 
In pride at being seated here for once-- 
You'll turn it to such capital account! 
When somebody, through years and years to come, 
Hints of the bishop,--names me--that's enough: 
"Blougram? I knew him"--(into it you slide) 
"Dined with him once, a Corpus Christi Day, 
"All alone, we two; he's a clever man: 
"And after dinner,--why, the wine you know,-- 
"Oh, there was wine, and good!--what with the wine . . 
"'Faith, we began upon all sorts of talk! 
"He's no bad fellow, Blougram; he had seen 
"Something of mine he relished, some review: 
"He's quite above their humbug in his heart, 
"Half-said as much, indeed--the thing's his trade. 
"I warrant, Blougram's sceptical at times: 
"How otherwise? I liked him, I confess!" 

Che che , my dear sir, as we say at Rome, 
Don't you protest now! It's fair give and take; 
You have had your turn and spoken your home-truths: 
The hand's mine now, and here you follow suit. 

Thus much conceded, still the first fact stays-- 
You do despise me; your ideal of life 
Is not the bishop's: you would not be I. 
You would like better to be Goethe, now, 
Or Buonaparte, or, bless me, lower still, 
Count D'Orsay,--so you did what you preferred, 
Spoke as you thought, and, as you cannot help, 
Believed or disbelieved, no matter what, 
So long as on that point, whate'er it was, 
You loosed your mind, were whole and sole yourself. 
--That, my ideal never can include, 
Upon that element of truth and worth 
Never be based! for say they make me Pope-- 
(They can't--suppose it for our argument!) 
Why, there I'm at my tether's end, I've reached 
My height, and not a height which pleases you: 
An unbelieving Pope won't do, you say. 
It's like those eerie stories nurses tell, 
Of how some actor on a stage played Death, 
With pasteboard crown, sham orb and tinselled dart, 
And called himself the monarch of the world; 

Then, going in the tire-room afterward, 
Because the play was done, to shift himself, 
Got touched upon the sleeve familiarly, 
The moment he had shut the closet door, 
By Death himself. Thus God might touch a Pope 
At unawares, ask what his baubles mean, 
And whose part he presumed to play just now? 
Best be yourself, imperial, plain and true! 

So, drawing comfortable breath again, 
You weigh and find, whatever more or less 
I boast of my ideal realized, 
Is nothing in the balance when opposed 
To your ideal, your grand simple life, 
Of which you will not realize one jot. 
I am much, you are nothing; you would be all, 
I would be merely much: you beat me there. 

No, friend, you do not beat me: hearken why! 
The common problem, yours, mine, every one's, 
Is--not to fancy what were fair in life 
Provided it could be,--but, finding first 
What may be, then find how to make it fair 
Up to our means: a very different thing! 
No abstract intellectual plan of life 
Quite irrespective of life's plainest laws, 

But one, a man, who is man and nothing more, 
May lead within a world which (by your leave) 
Is Rome or London, not Fool's-paradise. 
Embellish Rome, idealize away, 
Make paradise of London if you can, 
You're welcome, nay, you're wise. 

A simile! 
We mortals cross the ocean of this world 
Each in his average cabin of a life; 
The best's not big, the worst yields elbow-room. 
Now for our six months' voyage--how prepare? 
You come on shipboard with a landsman's list 
Of things he calls convenient: so they are! 
An India screen is pretty furniture, 
A piano-forte is a fine resource, 
All Balzac's novels occupy one shelf, 
The new edition fifty volumes long; 
And little Greek books, with the funny type 
They get up well at Leipsic, fill the next: 
Go on! slabbed marble, what a bath it makes! 
And Parma's pride, the Jerome, let us add! 
'T were pleasant could Correggio's fleeting glow 
Hang full in face of one where'er one roams, 
Since he more than the others brings with him 
Italy's self,--the marvellous Modenese!-- 

Yet was not on your list before, perhaps. 
--Alas, friend, here's the agent . . . is't the name? 
The captain, or whoever's master here-- 
You see him screw his face up; what's his cry 
Ere you set foot on shipboard? "Six feet square!" 
If you won't understand what six feet mean, 
Compute and purchase stores accordingly-- 
And if, in pique because he overhauls 
Your Jerome, piano, bath, you come on board 
Bare--why, you cut a figure at the first 
While sympathetic landsmen see you off; 
Not afterward, when long ere half seas over, 
You peep up from your utterly naked boards 
Into some snug and well-appointed berth, 
Like mine for instance (try the cooler jug-- 
Put back the other, but don't jog the ice!) 
And mortified you mutter "Well and good; 
"He sits enjoying his sea-furniture; 
"'T is stout and proper, and there's store of it: 
"Though I've the better notion, all agree, 
"Of fitting rooms up. Hang the carpenter, 
"Neat ship-shape fixings and contrivances-- 
"I would have brought my Jerome, frame and all!" 
And meantime you bring nothing: never mind-- 
You've proved your artist-nature: what you don't 
You might bring, so despise me, as I say. 

Now come, let's backward to the starting-place. 
See my way: we're two college friends, suppose. 
Prepare together for our voyage, then; 
Each note and check the other in his work,-- 
Here's mine, a bishop's outfit; criticize! 
What's wrong? why won't you be a bishop too? 

Why first, you don't believe, you don't and can't, 
(Not statedly, that is, and fixedly 
And absolutely and exclusively) 
In any revelation called divine. 
No dogmas nail your faith; and what remains 
But say so, like the honest man you are? 
First, therefore, overhaul theology! 
Nay, I too, not a fool, you please to think, 
Must find believing every whit as hard: 
And if I do not frankly say as much, 
The ugly consequence is clear enough. 

Now wait, my friend: well, I do not believe-- 
If you'll accept no faith that is not fixed, 
Absolute and exclusive, as you say. 
You're wrong--I mean to prove it in due time. 
Meanwhile, I know where difficulties lie 
I could not, cannot solve, nor ever shall, 
So give up hope accordingly to solve-- 

(To you, and over the wine). Our dogmas then 
With both of us, though in unlike degree, 
Missing full credence--overboard with them! 
I mean to meet you on your own premise: 
Good, there go mine in company with yours! 

And now what are we? unbelievers both, 
Calm and complete, determinately fixed 
To-day, to-morrow and for ever, pray? 
You'll guarantee me that? Not so, I think! 
In no wise! all we've gained is, that belief, 
As unbelief before, shakes us by fits, 
Confounds us like its predecessor. Where's 
The gain? how can we guard our unbelief, 
Make it bear fruit to us?--the problem here. 
Just when we are safest, there's a sunset-touch, 
A fancy from a flower-bell, some one's death, 
A chorus-ending from Euripides,-- 
And that's enough for fifty hopes and fears 
As old and new at once as nature's self, 
To rap and knock and enter in our soul, 
Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring, 
Round the ancient idol, on his base again,-- 
The grand Perhaps! We look on helplessly. 
There the old misgivings, crooked questions are-- 
This good God,--what he could do, if he would, 

Would, if he could--then must have done long since: 
If so, when, where and how? some way must be,-- 
Once feel about, and soon or late you hit 
Some sense, in which it might be, after all. 
Why not, "The Way, the Truth, the Life?" 

--That way 
Over the mountain, which who stands upon 
Is apt to doubt if it be meant for a road; 
While, if he views it from the waste itself, 
Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow, 
Not vague, mistakeable! what's a break or two 
Seen from the unbroken desert either side? 
And then (to bring in fresh philosophy) 
What if the breaks themselves should prove at last 
The most consummate of contrivances 
To train a man's eye, teach him what is faith? 
And so we stumble at truth's very test! 
All we have gained then by our unbelief 
Is a life of doubt diversified by faith, 
For one of faith diversified by doubt: 
We called the chess-board white,--we call it black. 

"Well," you rejoin, "the end's no worse, at least; 
"We've reason for both colours on the board: 
"Why not confess then, where I drop the faith 
"And you the doubt, that I'm as right as you?" 

Because, friend, in the next place, this being so, 
And both things even,--faith and unbelief 
Left to a man's choice,--we'll proceed a step, 
Returning to our image, which I like. 

A man's choice, yes--but a cabin-passenger's-- 
The man made for the special life o' the world-- 
Do you forget him? I remember though! 
Consult our ship's conditions and you find 
One and but one choice suitable to all; 
The choice, that you unluckily prefer, 
Turning things topsy-turvy--they or it 
Going to the ground. Belief or unbelief 
Bears upon life, determines its whole course, 
Begins at its beginning. See the world 
Such as it is,--you made it not, nor I; 
I mean to take it as it is,--and you, 
Not so you'll take it,--though you get nought else. 
I know the special kind of life I like, 
What suits the most my idiosyncrasy, 
Brings out the best of me and bears me fruit 
In power, peace, pleasantness and length of days. 
I find that positive belief does this 
For me, and unbelief, no whit of this. 
--For you, it does, however?--that, we'll try! 
'T is clear, I cannot lead my life, at least, 

Induce the world to let me peaceably, 
Without declaring at the outset, "Friends, 
"I absolutely and peremptorily 
"Believe!"--I say, faith is my waking life: 
One sleeps, indeed, and dreams at intervals, 
We know, but waking's the main point with us 
And my provision's for life's waking part. 
Accordingly, I use heart, head and hand 
All day, I build, scheme, study, and make friends; 
And when night overtakes me, down I lie, 
Sleep, dream a little, and get done with it, 
The sooner the better, to begin afresh. 
What's midnight doubt before the dayspring's faith? 
You, the philosopher, that disbelieve, 
That recognize the night, give dreams their weight-- 
To be consistent you should keep your bed, 
Abstain from healthy acts that prove you man, 
For fear you drowse perhaps at unawares! 
And certainly at night you'll sleep and dream, 
Live through the day and bustle as you please. 
And so you live to sleep as I to wake, 
To unbelieve as I to still believe? 
Well, and the common sense o' the world calls you 
Bed-ridden,--and its good things come to me. 
Its estimation, which is half the fight, 
That's the first-cabin comfort I secure: 

The next . . . but you perceive with half an eye! 
Come, come, it's best believing, if we may; 
You can't but own that! 

Next, concede again, 
If once we choose belief, on all accounts 
We can't be too decisive in our faith, 
Conclusive and exclusive in its terms, 
To suit the world which gives us the good things. 
In every man's career are certain points 
Whereon he dares not be indifferent; 
The world detects him clearly, if he dare, 
As baffled at the game, and losing life. 
He may care little or he may care much 
For riches, honour, pleasure, work, repose, 
Since various theories of life and life's 
Success are extant which might easily 
Comport with either estimate of these; 
And whoso chooses wealth or poverty, 
Labour or quiet, is not judged a fool 
Because his fellow would choose otherwise: 
We let him choose upon his own account 
So long as he's consistent with his choice. 
But certain points, left wholly to himself, 
When once a man has arbitrated on, 
We say he must succeed there or go hang. 

Thus, he should wed the woman he loves most 
Or needs most, whatsoe'er the love or need-- 
For he can't wed twice. Then, he must avouch, 
Or follow, at the least, sufficiently, 
The form of faith his conscience holds the best, 
Whate'er the process of conviction was: 
For nothing can compensate his mistake 
On such a point, the man himself being judge: 
He cannot wed twice, nor twice lose his soul. 

Well now, there's one great form of Christian faith 
I happened to be born in--which to teach 
Was given me as I grew up, on all hands, 
As best and readiest means of living by; 
The same on examination being proved 
The most pronounced moreover, fixed, precise 
And absolute form of faith in the whole world-- 
Accordingly, most potent of all forms 
For working on the world. Observe, my friend! 
Such as you know me, I am free to say, 
In these hard latter days which hamper one, 
Myself--by no immoderate exercise 
Of intellect and learning, but the tact 
To let external forces work for me, 
--Bid the street's stones be bread and they are bread; 

Bid Peter's creed, or rather, Hildebrand's, 
Exalt me o'er my fellows in the world 
And make my life an ease and joy and pride; 
It does so,--which for me's a great point gained, 
Who have a soul and body that exact 
A comfortable care in many ways. 
There's power in me and will to dominate 
Which I must exercise, they hurt me else: 
In many ways I need mankind's respect, 
Obedience, and the love that's born of fear: 
While at the same time, there's a taste I have, 
A toy of soul, a titillating thing, 
Refuses to digest these dainties crude. 
The naked life is gross till clothed upon: 
I must take what men offer, with a grace 
As though I would not, could I help it, take! 
An uniform I wear though over-rich-- 
Something imposed on me, no choice of mine; 
No fancy-dress worn for pure fancy's sake 
And despicable therefore! now folk kneel 
And kiss my hand--of course the Church's hand. 
Thus I am made, thus life is best for me, 
And thus that it should be I have procured; 
And thus it could not be another way, 
I venture to imagine. 

You'll reply, 
So far my choice, no doubt, is a success; 
But were I made of better elements, 
With nobler instincts, purer tastes, like you, 
I hardly would account the thing success 
Though it did all for me I say. 

But, friend, 
We speak of what is; not of what might be, 
And how't were better if't were otherwise. 
I am the man you see here plain enough: 
Grant I'm a beast, why, beasts must lead beasts' lives! 
Suppose I own at once to tail and claws; 
The tailless man exceeds me: but being tailed 
I'll lash out lion fashion, and leave apes 
To dock their stump and dress their haunches up. 
My business is not to remake myself, 
But make the absolute best of what God made. 
Or--our first simile--though you prove me doomed 
To a viler berth still, to the steerage-hole, 
The sheep-pen or the pig-stye, I should strive 
To make what use of each were possible; 
And as this cabin gets upholstery, 
That hutch should rustle with sufficient straw. 

But, friend, I don't acknowledge quite so fast 
I fail of all your manhood's lofty tastes 

Enumerated so complacently, 
On the mere ground that you forsooth can find 
In this particular life I choose to lead 
No fit provision for them. Can you not? 
Say you, my fault is I address myself 
To grosser estimators than should judge? 
And that's no way of holding up the soul, 
Which, nobler, needs men's praise perhaps, yet knows 
One wise man's verdict outweighs all the fools'-- 
Would like the two, but, forced to choose, takes that. 
I pine among my million imbeciles 
(You think) aware some dozen men of sense 
Eye me and know me, whether I believe 
In the last winking Virgin, as I vow, 
And am a fool, or disbelieve in her 
And am a knave,--approve in neither case, 
Withhold their voices though I look their way: 
Like Verdi when, at his worst opera's end 
(The thing they gave at Florence,--what's its name?) 
While the mad houseful's plaudits near out-bang 
His orchestra of salt-box, tongs and bones, 
He looks through all the roaring and the wreaths 
Where sits Rossini patient in his stall. 

Nay, friend, I meet you with an answer here-- 
That even your prime men who appraise their kind 

Are men still, catch a wheel within a wheel, 
See more in a truth than the truth's simple self, 
Confuse themselves. You see lads walk the street 
Sixty the minute; what's to note in that? 
You see one lad o'erstride a chimney-stack; 
Him you must watch--he's sure to fall, yet stands! 
Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things. 
The honest thief, the tender murderer, 
The superstitious atheist, demirep 
That loves and saves her soul in new French books-- 
We watch while these in equilibrium keep 
The giddy line midway: one step aside, 
They're classed and done with. I, then, keep the line 
Before your sages,--just the men to shrink 
From the gross weights, coarse scales and labels broad 
You offer their refinement. Fool or knave? 
Why needs a bishop be a fool or knave 
When there's a thousand diamond weights between? 
So, I enlist them. Your picked twelve, you'll find, 
Profess themselves indignant, scandalized 
At thus being held unable to explain 
How a superior man who disbelieves 
May not believe as well: that's Schelling's way! 
It's through my coming in the tail of time, 
Nicking the minute with a happy tact. 
Had I been born three hundred years ago 

They'd say, "What's strange? Blougram of course believes;" 
And, seventy years since, "disbelieves of course." 
But now, "He may believe; and yet, and yet 
"How can he?" All eyes turn with interest. 
Whereas, step off the line on either side-- 
You, for example, clever to a fault, 
The rough and ready man who write apace, 
Read somewhat seldomer, think perhaps even less-- 
You disbelieve! Who wonders and who cares? 
Lord So-and-so--his coat bedropped with wax, 
All Peter's chains about his waist, his back 
Brave with the needlework of Noodledom-- 
Believes! Again, who wonders and who cares? 
But I, the man of sense and learning too, 
The able to think yet act, the this, the that, 
I, to believe at this late time of day! 
Enough; you see, I need not fear contempt. 

--Except it's yours! Admire me as these may, 
You don't. But whom at least do you admire? 
Present your own perfection, your ideal, 
Your pattern man for a minute--oh, make haste 
Is it Napoleon you would have us grow? 
Concede the means; allow his head and hand, 
(A large concession, clever as you are) 

Good! In our common primal element 
Of unbelief (we can't believe, you know-- 
We're still at that admission, recollect!) 
Where do you find--apart from, towering o'er 
The secondary temporary aims 
Which satisfy the gross taste you despise-- 
Where do you find his star?--his crazy trust 
God knows through what or in what? it's alive 
And shines and leads him, and that's all we want. 
Have we aught in our sober night shall point 
Such ends as his were, and direct the means 
Of working out our purpose straight as his, 
Nor bring a moment's trouble on success 
With after-care to justify the same? 
--Be a Napoleon, and yet disbelieve-- 
Why, the man's mad, friend, take his light away! 
What's the vague good o' the world, for which you dare 
With comfort to yourself blow millions up? 
We neither of us see it! we do see 
The blown-up millions--spatter of their brains 
And writhing of their bowels and so forth, 
In that bewildering entanglement 
Of horrible eventualities 
Past calculation to the end of time! 
Can I mistake for some clear word of God 
(Which were my ample warrant for it all) 

His puff of hazy instinct, idle talk, 
"The State, that's I," quack-nonsense about crowns, 
And (when one beats the man to his last hold) 
A vague idea of setting things to rights, 
Policing people efficaciously, 
More to their profit, most of all to his own; 
The whole to end that dismallest of ends 
By an Austrian marriage, cant to us the Church, 
And resurrection of the old r?gime ? 
Would I, who hope to live a dozen years, 
Fight Austerlitz for reasons such and such? 
No: for, concede me but the merest chance 
Doubt may be wrong--there's judgment, life to come! 
With just that chance, I dare not. Doubt proves right? 
This present life is all?--you offer me 
Its dozen noisy years, without a chance 
That wedding an archduchess, wearing lace, 
And getting called by divers new-coined names, 
Will drive off ugly thoughts and let me dine, 
Sleep, read and chat in quiet as I like! 
Therefore I will not. 

Take another case; 
Fit up the cabin yet another way. 
What say you to the poets? shall we write 
Hamlet, Othello--make the world our own, 

Without a risk to run of either sort? 
I can't--to put the strongest reason first. 
"But try," you urge, "the trying shall suffice; 
"The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life: 
"Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate!" 
Spare my self-knowledge--there's no fooling me! 
If I prefer remaining my poor self, 
I say so not in self-dispraise but praise. 
If I'm a Shakespeare, let the well alone; 
Why should I try to be what now I am? 
If I'm no Shakespeare, as too probable,-- 
His power and consciousness and self-delight 
And all we want in common, shall I find-- 
Trying for ever? while on points of taste 
Wherewith, to speak it humbly, he and I 
Are dowered alike--I'll ask you, I or he, 
Which in our two lives realizes most? 
Much, he imagined--somewhat, I possess. 
He had the imagination; stick to that! 
Let him say, "In the face of my soul's works 
"Your world is worthless and I touch it not 
"Lest I should wrong them"--I'll withdraw my plea. 
But does he say so? look upon his life! 
Himself, who only can, gives judgment there. 
He leaves his towers and gorgeous palaces 
To build the trimmest house in Stratford town; 

Saves money, spends it, owns the worth of things, 
Giulio Romano's pictures, Dowland's lute; 
Enjoys a show, respects the puppets, too, 
And none more, had he seen its entry once, 
Than "Pandulph, of fair Milan cardinal." 
Why then should I who play that personage, 
The very Pandulph Shakespeare's fancy made, 
Be told that had the poet chanced to start 
From where I stand now (some degree like mine 
Being just the goal he ran his race to reach) 
He would have run the whole race back, forsooth, 
And left being Pandulph, to begin write plays? 
Ah, the earth's best can be but the earth's best! 
Did Shakespeare live, he could but sit at home 
And get himself in dreams the Vatican, 
Greek busts, Venetian paintings, Roman walls, 
And English books, none equal to his own, 
Which I read, bound in gold (he never did). 
--Terni's fall, Naples' bay and Gothard's top-- 
Eh, friend? I could not fancy one of these; 
But, as I pour this claret, there they are: 
I've gained them--crossed St. Gothard last July 
With ten mules to the carriage and a bed 
Slung inside; is my hap the worse for that? 
We want the same things, Shakespeare and myself, 
And what I want, I have: he, gifted more, 

Could fancy he too had them when he liked, 
But not so thoroughly that, if fate allowed, 
He would not have them also in my sense. 
We play one game; I send the ball aloft 
No less adroitly that of fifty strokes 
Scarce five go o'er the wall so wide and high 
Which sends them back to me: I wish and get 
He struck balls higher and with better skill, 
But at a poor fence level with his head, 
And hit--his Stratford house, a coat of arms, 
Successful dealings in his grain and wool,-- 
While I receive heaven's incense in my nose 
And style myself the cousin of Queen Bess. 
Ask him, if this life's all, who wins the game? 

Believe--and our whole argument breaks up. 
Enthusiasm's the best thing, I repeat; 
Only, we can't command it; fire and life 
Are all, dead matter's nothing, we agree: 
And be it a mad dream or God's very breath, 
The fact's the same,--belief's fire, once in us, 
Makes of all else mere stuff to show itself: 
We penetrate our life with such a glow 
As fire lends wood and iron--this turns steel, 
That burns to ash--all's one, fire proves its power 
For good or ill, since men call flare success. 

But paint a fire, it will not therefore burn. 
Light one in me, I'll find it food enough! 
Why, to be Luther--that's a life to lead, 
Incomparably better than my own. 
He comes, reclaims God's earth for God, he says, 
Sets up God's rule again by simple means, 
Re-opens a shut book, and all is done. 
He flared out in the flaring of mankind; 
Such Luther's luck was: how shall such be mine? 
If he succeeded, nothing's left to do: 
And if he did not altogether--well, 
Strauss is the next advance. All Strauss should be 
I might be also. But to what result? 
He looks upon no future: Luther did. 
What can I gain on the denying side? 
Ice makes no conflagration. State the facts, 
Read the text right, emancipate the world-- 
The emancipated world enjoys itself 
With scarce a thank-you: Blougram told it first 
It could not owe a farthing,--not to him 
More than Saint Paul! 't would press its pay, you think? 
Then add there's still that plaguy hundredth chance 
Strauss may be wrong. And so a risk is run-- 
For what gain? not for Luther's, who secured 
A real heaven in his heart throughout his life, 
Supposing death a little altered things. 

"Ay, but since really you lack faith," you cry, 
"You run the same risk really on all sides, 
"In cool indifference as bold unbelief. 
"As well be Strauss as swing 'twixt Paul and him. 
"It's not worth having, such imperfect faith, 
"No more available to do faith's work 
"Than unbelief like mine. Whole faith, or none!" 

Softly, my friend! I must dispute that point 
Once own the use of faith, I'll find you faith. 
We're back on Christian ground. You call for faith: 
I show you doubt, to prove that faith exists. 
The more of doubt, the stronger faith, I say, 
If faith o'ercomes doubt. How I know it does? 
By life and man's free will, God gave for that! 
To mould life as we choose it, shows our choice: 
That's our one act, the previous work's his own. 
You criticize the soul? it reared this tree-- 
This broad life and whatever fruit it bears! 
What matter though I doubt at every pore, 
Head-doubts, heart-doubts, doubts at my fingers' ends, 
Doubts in the trivial work of every day, 
Doubts at the very bases of my soul 
In the grand moments when she probes herself-- 
If finally I have a life to show, 
The thing I did, brought out in evidence 

Against the thing done to me underground 
By hell and all its brood, for aught I know? 
I say, whence sprang this? shows it faith or doubt? 
All's doubt in me; where's break of faith in this? 
It is the idea, the feeling and the love, 
God means mankind should strive for and show forth 
Whatever be the process to that end,-- 
And not historic knowledge, logic sound, 
And metaphysical acumen, sure! 
"What think ye of Christ," friend? when all's done and said, 
Like you this Christianity or not? 
It may be false, but will you wish it true? 
Has it your vote to be so if it can? 
Trust you an instinct silenced long ago 
That will break silence and enjoin you love 
What mortified philosophy is hoarse, 
And all in vain, with bidding you despise? 
If you desire faith--then you've faith enough: 
What else seeks God--nay, what else seek ourselves? 
You form a notion of me, we'll suppose, 
On hearsay; it's a favourable one: 
"But still" (you add), "there was no such good man, 
"Because of contradiction in the facts. 
"One proves, for instance, he was born in Rome, 
"This Blougram; yet throughout the tales of him 

"I see he figures as an Englishman." 
Well, the two things are reconcileable. 
But would I rather you discovered that, 
Subjoining--"Still, what matter though they be? 
"Blougram concerns me nought, born here or there." 

Pure faith indeed--you know not what you ask! 
Naked belief in God the Omnipotent, 
Omniscient, Omnipresent, sears too much 
The sense of conscious creatures to be borne. 
It were the seeing him, no flesh shall dare 
Some think, Creation's meant to show him forth: 
I say it's meant to hide him all it can, 
And that's what all the blessed evil's for. 
Its use in Time is to environ us, 
Our breath, our drop of dew, with shield enough 
Against that sight till we can bear its stress. 
Under a vertical sun, the exposed brain 
And lidless eye and disemprisoned heart 
Less certainly would wither up at once 
Than mind, confronted with the truth of him. 
But time and earth case-harden us to live; 
The feeblest sense is trusted most; the child 
Feels God a moment, ichors o'er the place, 
Plays on and grows to be a man like us. 

With me, faith means perpetual unbelief 
Kept quiet like the snake 'neath Michael's foot 
Who stands calm just because he feels it writhe. 
Or, if that's too ambitious,--here's my box-- 
I need the excitation of a pinch 
Threatening the torpor of the inside-nose 
Nigh on the imminent sneeze that never comes. 
"Leave it in peace" advise the simple folk: 
Make it aware of peace by itching-fits, 
Say I--let doubt occasion still more faith! 

You'll say, once all believed, man, woman, child, 
In that dear middle-age these noodles praise. 
How you'd exult if I could put you back 
Six hundred years, blot out cosmogony, 
Geology, ethnology, what not 
(Greek endings, each the little passing-bell 
That signifies some faith's about to die), 
And set you square with Genesis again,-- 
When such a traveller told you his last news, 
He saw the ark a-top of Ararat 
But did not climb there since 't was getting dusk 
And robber-bands infest the mountain's foot! 
How should you feel, I ask, in such an age, 
How act? As other people felt and did; 
With soul more blank than this decanter's knob, 

Believe--and yet lie, kill, rob, fornicate 
Full in belief's face, like the beast you'd be! 

No, when the fight begins within himself, 
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head, 
Satan looks up between his feet--both tug-- 
He's left, himself, i' the middle: the soul wakes 
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life! 
Never leave growing till the life to come! 
Here, we've got callous to the Virgin's winks 
That used to puzzle people wholesomely: 
Men have outgrown the shame of being fools. 
What are the laws of nature, not to bend 
If the Church bid them?--brother Newman asks. 
Up with the Immaculate Conception, then-- 
On to the rack with faith!--is my advice. 
Will not that hurry us upon our knees, 
Knocking our breasts, "It can't be--yet it shall! 
"Who am I, the worm, to argue with my Pope? 
"Low things confound the high things!" and so forth. 
That's better than acquitting God with grace 
As some folk do. He's tried--no case is proved, 
Philosophy is lenient--he may go! 

You'll say, the old system's not so obsolete 
But men believe still: ay, but who and where? 

King Bomba's lazzaroni foster yet 
The sacred flame, so Antonelli writes; 
But even of these, what ragamuffin-saint 
Believes God watches him continually, 
As he believes in fire that it will burn, 
Or rain that it will drench him? Break fire's law, 
Sin against rain, although the penalty 
Be just a singe or soaking? "No," he smiles; 
"Those laws are laws that can enforce themselves." 

The sum of all is--yes, my doubt is great, 
My faith's still greater, then my faith's enough. 
I have read much, thought much, experienced much, 
Yet would die rather than avow my fear 
The Naples' liquefaction may be false, 
When set to happen by the palace-clock 
According to the clouds or dinner-time. 
I hear you recommend, I might at least 
Eliminate, decrassify my faith 
Since I adopt it; keeping what I must 
And leaving what I can--such points as this. 
I won't--that is, I can't throw one away. 
Supposing there's no truth in what I hold 
About the need of trial to man's faith, 
Still, when you bid me purify the same, 
To such a process I discern no end. 

Clearing off one excrescence to see two, 
There's ever a next in size, now grown as big, 
That meets the knife: I cut and cut again! 
First cut the Liquefaction, what comes last 
But Fichte's clever cut at God himself? 
Experimentalize on sacred things! 
I trust nor hand nor eye nor heart nor brain 
To stop betimes: they all get drunk alike. 
The first step, I am master not to take. 

You'd find the cutting-process to your taste 
As much as leaving growths of lies unpruned, 
Nor see more danger in it,--you retort. 
Your taste's worth mine; but my taste proves more wise 
When we consider that the steadfast hold 
On the extreme end of the chain of faith 
Gives all the advantage, makes the difference 
With the rough purblind mass we seek to rule: 
We are their lords, or they are free of us, 
Just as we tighten or relax our hold. 
So, others matters equal, we'll revert 
To the first problem--which, if solved my way 
And thrown into the balance, turns the scale-- 
How we may lead a comfortable life, 
How suit our luggage to the cabin's size. 

Of course you are remarking all this time 
How narrowly and grossly I view life, 
Respect the creature-comforts, care to rule 
The masses, and regard complacently 
"The cabin," in our old phrase. Well, I do. 
I act for, talk for, live for this world now, 
As this world prizes action, life and talk: 
No prejudice to what next world may prove, 
Whose new laws and requirements, my best pledge 
To observe then, is that I observe these now, 
Shall do hereafter what I do meanwhile. 
Let us concede (gratuitously though) 
Next life relieves the soul of body, yields 
Pure spiritual enjoyment: well, my friend, 
Why lose this life i' the meantime, since its use 
May be to make the next life more intense? 

Do you know, I have often had a dream 
(Work it up in your next month's article) 
Of man's poor spirit in its progress, still 
Losing true life for ever and a day 
Through ever trying to be and ever being-- 
In the evolution of successive spheres-- 
Before its actual sphere and place of life, 
Halfway into the next, which having reached, 
It shoots with corresponding foolery 

Halfway into the next still, on and off! 
As when a traveller, bound from North to South, 
Scouts fur in Russia: what's its use in France? 
In France spurns flannel: where's its need in Spain? 
In Spain drops cloth, too cumbrous for Algiers! 
Linen goes next, and last the skin itself, 
A superfluity at Timbuctoo. 
When, through his journey, was the fool at ease? 
I'm at ease now, friend; worldly in this world, 
I take and like its way of life; I think 
My brothers, who administer the means, 
Live better for my comfort--that's good too; 
And God, if he pronounce upon such life, 
Approves my service, which is better still. 
If he keep silence,--why, for you or me 
Or that brute beast pulled-up in to-day's "Times," 
What odds is't, save to ourselves, what life we lead? 

You meet me at this issue: you declare,-- 
All special-pleading done with--truth is truth, 
And justifies itself by undreamed ways. 
You don't fear but it's better, if we doubt, 
To say so, act up to our truth perceived 
However feebly. Do then,--act away! 
'T is there I'm on the watch for you. How one acts 
Is, both of us agree, our chief concern: 

And how you'll act is what I fain would see 
If, like the candid person you appear, 
You dare to make the most of your life's scheme 
As I of mine, live up to its full law 
Since there's no higher law that counterchecks. 
Put natural religion to the test 
You've just demolished the revealed with--quick, 
Down to the root of all that checks your will, 
All prohibition to lie, kill and thieve, 
Or even to be an atheistic priest! 
Suppose a pricking to incontinence-- 
Philosophers deduce you chastity 
Or shame, from just the fact that at the first 
Whoso embraced a woman in the field, 
Threw club down and forewent his brains beside, 
So, stood a ready victim in the reach 
Of any brother savage, club in hand; 
Hence saw the use of going out of sight 
In wood or cave to prosecute his loves: 
I read this in a French book t' other day. 
Does law so analysed coerce you much? 
Oh, men spin clouds of fuzz where matters end, 
But you who reach where the first thread begins, 
You'll soon cut that!--which means you can, but won't, 
Through certain instincts, blind, unreasoned-out, 

You dare not set aside, you can't tell why, 
But there they are, and so you let them rule. 
Then, friend, you seem as much a slave as I, 
A liar, conscious coward and hypocrite, 
Without the good the slave expects to get, 
In case he has a master after all! 
You own your instincts? why, what else do I, 
Who want, am made for, and must have a God 
Ere I can be aught, do aught?--no mere name 
Want, but the true thing with what proves its truth, 
To wit, a relation from that thing to me, 
Touching from head to foot--which touch I feel, 
And with it take the rest, this life of ours! 
I live my life here; yours you dare not live. 

--Not as I state it, who (you please subjoin) 
Disfigure such a life and call it names, 
While, to your mind, remains another way 
For simple men: knowledge and power have rights, 
But ignorance and weakness have rights too. 
There needs no crucial effort to find truth 
If here or there or anywhere about: 
We ought to turn each side, try hard and see, 
And if we can't, be glad we've earned at least 
The right, by one laborious proof the more, 
To graze in peace earth's pleasant pasturage. 

Men are not angels, neither are they brutes: 
Something we may see, all we cannot see. 
What need of lying? I say, I see all, 
And swear to each detail the most minute 
In what I think a Pan's face--you, mere cloud: 
I swear I hear him speak and see him wink, 
For fear, if once I drop the emphasis, 
Mankind may doubt there's any cloud at all. 
You take the simple life--ready to see, 
Willing to see (for no cloud's worth a face)-- 
And leaving quiet what no strength can move, 
And which, who bids you move? who has the right? 
I bid you; but you are God's sheep, not mine: 
" Pastor est tui Dominus ." You find 
In this the pleasant pasture of our life 
Much you may eat without the least offence, 
Much you don't eat because your maw objects, 
Much you would eat but that your fellow-flock 
Open great eyes at you and even butt, 
And thereupon you like your mates so well 
You cannot please yourself, offending them; 
Though when they seem exorbitantly sheep, 
You weigh your pleasure with their butts and bleats 
And strike the balance. Sometimes certain fears 
Restrain you, real checks since you find them so; 
Sometimes you please yourself and nothing checks: 

And thus you graze through life with not one lie, 
And like it best. 

But do you, in truth's name? 
If so, you beat--which means you are not I-- 
Who needs must make earth mine and feed my fill 
Not simply unbutted at, unbickered with, 
But motioned to the velvet of the sward 
By those obsequious wethers' very selves. 
Look at me, sir; my age is double yours: 
At yours, I knew beforehand, so enjoyed, 
What now I should be--as, permit the word, 
I pretty well imagine your whole range 
And stretch of tether twenty years to come. 
We both have minds and bodies much alike: 
In truth's name, don't you want my bishopric, 
My daily bread, my influence and my state? 
You're young. I'm old; you must be old one day; 
Will you find then, as I do hour by hour, 
Women their lovers kneel to, who cut curls 
From your fat lap-dog's ear to grace a brooch-- 
Dukes, who petition just to kiss your ring-- 
With much beside you know or may conceive? 
Suppose we die to-night: well, here am I, 
Such were my gains, life bore this fruit to me, 
While writing all the same my articles 

On music, poetry, the fictile vase 
Found at Albano, chess, Anacreon's Greek. 
But you--the highest honour in your life, 
The thing you'll crown yourself with, all your days, 
Is--dining here and drinking this last glass 
I pour you out in sign of amity 
Before we part for ever. Of your power 
And social influence, worldly worth in short, 
Judge what's my estimation by the fact, 
I do not condescend to enjoin, beseech, 
Hint secrecy on one of all these words! 
You're shrewd and know that should you publish one 
The world would brand the lie--my enemies first, 
Who'd sneer--"the bishop's an arch-hypocrite 
"And knave perhaps, but not so frank a fool." 
Whereas I should not dare for both my ears 
Breathe one such syllable, smile one such smile, 
Before the chaplain who reflects myself-- 
My shade's so much more potent than your flesh. 
What's your reward, self-abnegating friend? 
Stood you confessed of those exceptional 
And privileged great natures that dwarf mine-- 
A zealot with a mad ideal in reach, 
A poet just about to print his ode, 
A statesman with a scheme to stop this war, 
An artist whose religion is his art-- 

I should have nothing to object: such men 
Carry the fire, all things grow warm to them, 
Their drugget's worth my purple, they beat me. 
But you,--you're just as little those as I-- 
You, Gigadibs, who, thirty years of age, 
Write statedly for Blackwood's Magazine, 
Believe you see two points in Hamlet's soul 
Unseized by the Germans yet--which view you'll print-- 
Meantime the best you have to show being still 
That lively lightsome article we took 
Almost for the true Dickens,--what's its name? 
"The Slum and Cellar, or Whitechapel life 
"Limned after dark!" it made me laugh, I know, 
And pleased a month, and brought you in ten pounds. 
--Success I recognize and compliment, 
And therefore give you, if you choose, three words 
(The card and pencil-scratch is quite enough) 
Which whether here, in Dublin or New York, 
Will get you, prompt as at my eyebrow's wink, 
Such terms as never you aspired to get 
In all our own reviews and some not ours. 
Go write your lively sketches! be the first 
"Blougram, or The Eccentric Confidence"-- 
Or better simply say, "The Outward-bound." 
Why, men as soon would throw it in my teeth 
As copy and quote the infamy chalked broad 
About me on the church-door opposite. 

You will not wait for that experience though, 
I fancy, howsoever you decide, 
To discontinue--not detesting, not 
Defaming, but at least--despising me! 

Over his wine so smiled and talked his hour 
Sylvester Blougram, styled in partibus 
Episcopus, nec non --(the deuce knows what 
It's changed to by our novel hierarchy) 
With Gigadibs the literary man, 
Who played with spoons, explored his plate's design, 
And ranged the olive-stones about its edge, 
While the great bishop rolled him out a mind 
Long crumpled, till creased consciousness lay smooth. 

For Blougram, he believed, say, half he spoke. 
The other portion, as he shaped it thus 
For argumentatory purposes, 
He felt his foe was foolish to dispute. 
Some arbitrary accidental thoughts 
That crossed his mind, amusing because new, 
He chose to represent as fixtures there, 
Invariable convictions (such they seemed 
Beside his interlocutor's loose cards 
Flung daily down, and not the same way twice) 

While certain hell deep instincts, man's weak tongue 
Is never bold to utter in their truth 
Because styled hell-deep ('t is an old mistake 
To place hell at the bottom of the earth) 
He ignored these,--not having in readiness 
Their nomenclature and philosophy: 
He said true things, but called them by wrong names. 
"On the whole," he thought, "I justify myself 
"On every point where cavillers like this 
"Oppugn my life: he tries one kind of fence, 
"I close, he's worsted, that's enough for him. 
"He's on the ground: if ground should break away 
"I take my stand on, there's a firmer yet 
"Beneath it, both of us may sink and reach. 
"His ground was over mine and broke the first: 
"So, let him sit with me this many a year!" 

He did not sit five minutes. Just a week 
Sufficed his sudden healthy vehemence. 
Something had struck him in the "Outward-bound" 
Another way than Blougram's purpose was: 
And having bought, not cabin-furniture 
But settler's-implements (enough for three) 
And started for Australia--there, I hope, 
By this time he has tested his first plough, 
And studied his last chapter of St. John.

by Charles Bukowski |

We Aint Got No Money Honey But We Got Rain

 call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the 
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and 
MEAN and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
exploding smashing into things
and the rain 
just wouldn't
and all the roofs leaked-
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the 
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a 
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in 
strange places.
the jobless men went mad 
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible 
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
until they
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under 
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against 
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out 
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would 
and it always seemed to 
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to

and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of 
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently 
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of 
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them 
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't 
there, to start that car 
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for 
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the 
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds 
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys 
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs.Sorenson
went about
teaching her
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so 
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was 
in the California
the the recess bells rang 
and we all waited for the 
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did 
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some 
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
Mrs.Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our 
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was 
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds 
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
most of the boys
and the little girls 
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and 
clean and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that 
the world might never see 

by Robert Louis Stevenson |

The Cow

 Thank you, pretty cow, that made
Pleasant milk to soak my bread, 
Every day and every night, 
Warm, and fresh, and sweet, and white. 

Do not chew the hemlock rank,
Growing on the weedy bank; 
But the yellow cowslips eat; 
They perhaps will make it sweet. 

Where the purple violet grows,
Where the bubbling water flows, 
Where the grass is fresh and fine, 
Pretty cow, go there to dine.

by Alfred Lord Tennyson |

The Princess (part 4)

 'There sinks the nebulous star we call the Sun, 
If that hypothesis of theirs be sound' 
Said Ida; 'let us down and rest;' and we 
Down from the lean and wrinkled precipices, 
By every coppice-feathered chasm and cleft, 
Dropt through the ambrosial gloom to where below 
No bigger than a glow-worm shone the tent 
Lamp-lit from the inner. Once she leaned on me, 
Descending; once or twice she lent her hand, 
And blissful palpitations in the blood, 
Stirring a sudden transport rose and fell. 

But when we planted level feet, and dipt 
Beneath the satin dome and entered in, 
There leaning deep in broidered down we sank 
Our elbows: on a tripod in the midst 
A fragrant flame rose, and before us glowed 
Fruit, blossom, viand, amber wine, and gold. 

Then she, 'Let some one sing to us: lightlier move 
The minutes fledged with music:' and a maid, 
Of those beside her, smote her harp, and sang. 

'Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, 
Tears from the depth of some divine despair 
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, 
In looking on the happy Autumn-fields, 
And thinking of the days that are no more. 

'Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail, 
That brings our friends up from the underworld, 
Sad as the last which reddens over one 
That sinks with all we love below the verge; 
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more. 

'Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns 
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds 
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes 
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; 
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more. 

'Dear as remembered kisses after death, 
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned 
On lips that are for others; deep as love, 
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; 
O Death in Life, the days that are no more.' 

She ended with such passion that the tear, 
She sang of, shook and fell, an erring pearl 
Lost in her bosom: but with some disdain 
Answered the Princess, 'If indeed there haunt 
About the mouldered lodges of the Past 
So sweet a voice and vague, fatal to men, 
Well needs it we should cram our ears with wool 
And so pace by: but thine are fancies hatched 
In silken-folded idleness; nor is it 
Wiser to weep a true occasion lost, 
But trim our sails, and let old bygones be, 
While down the streams that float us each and all 
To the issue, goes, like glittering bergs of ice, 
Throne after throne, and molten on the waste 
Becomes a cloud: for all things serve their time 
Toward that great year of equal mights and rights, 
Nor would I fight with iron laws, in the end 
Found golden: let the past be past; let be 
Their cancelled Babels: though the rough kex break 
The starred mosaic, and the beard-blown goat 
Hang on the shaft, and the wild figtree split 
Their monstrous idols, care not while we hear 
A trumpet in the distance pealing news 
Of better, and Hope, a poising eagle, burns 
Above the unrisen morrow:' then to me; 
'Know you no song of your own land,' she said, 
'Not such as moans about the retrospect, 
But deals with the other distance and the hues 
Of promise; not a death's-head at the wine.' 

Then I remembered one myself had made, 
What time I watched the swallow winging south 
From mine own land, part made long since, and part 
Now while I sang, and maidenlike as far 
As I could ape their treble, did I sing. 

'O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South, 
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves, 
And tell her, tell her, what I tell to thee. 

'O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each, 
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South, 
And dark and true and tender is the North. 

'O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light 
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill, 
And cheep and twitter twenty million loves. 

'O were I thou that she might take me in, 
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart 
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died. 

'Why lingereth she to clothe her heart with love, 
Delaying as the tender ash delays 
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green? 

'O tell her, Swallow, that thy brood is flown: 
Say to her, I do but wanton in the South, 
But in the North long since my nest is made. 

'O tell her, brief is life but love is long, 
And brief the sun of summer in the North, 
And brief the moon of beauty in the South. 

'O Swallow, flying from the golden woods, 
Fly to her, and pipe and woo her, and make her mine, 
And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.' 

I ceased, and all the ladies, each at each, 
Like the Ithacensian suitors in old time, 
Stared with great eyes, and laughed with alien lips, 
And knew not what they meant; for still my voice 
Rang false: but smiling 'Not for thee,' she said, 
O Bulbul, any rose of Gulistan 
Shall burst her veil: marsh-divers, rather, maid, 
Shall croak thee sister, or the meadow-crake 
Grate her harsh kindred in the grass: and this 
A mere love-poem! O for such, my friend, 
We hold them slight: they mind us of the time 
When we made bricks in Egypt. Knaves are men, 
That lute and flute fantastic tenderness, 
And dress the victim to the offering up, 
And paint the gates of Hell with Paradise, 
And play the slave to gain the tyranny. 
Poor soul! I had a maid of honour once; 
She wept her true eyes blind for such a one, 
A rogue of canzonets and serenades. 
I loved her. Peace be with her. She is dead. 
So they blaspheme the muse! But great is song 
Used to great ends: ourself have often tried 
Valkyrian hymns, or into rhythm have dashed 
The passion of the prophetess; for song 
Is duer unto freedom, force and growth 
Of spirit than to junketing and love. 
Love is it? Would this same mock-love, and this 
Mock-Hymen were laid up like winter bats, 
Till all men grew to rate us at our worth, 
Not vassals to be beat, nor pretty babes 
To be dandled, no, but living wills, and sphered 
Whole in ourselves and owed to none. Enough! 
But now to leaven play with profit, you, 
Know you no song, the true growth of your soil, 
That gives the manners of your country-women?' 

She spoke and turned her sumptuous head with eyes 
Of shining expectation fixt on mine. 
Then while I dragged my brains for such a song, 
Cyril, with whom the bell-mouthed glass had wrought, 
Or mastered by the sense of sport, began 
To troll a careless, careless tavern-catch 
Of Moll and Meg, and strange experiences 
Unmeet for ladies. Florian nodded at him, 
I frowning; Psyche flushed and wanned and shook; 
The lilylike Melissa drooped her brows; 
'Forbear,' the Princess cried; 'Forbear, Sir' I; 
And heated through and through with wrath and love, 
I smote him on the breast; he started up; 
There rose a shriek as of a city sacked; 
Melissa clamoured 'Flee the death;' 'To horse' 
Said Ida; 'home! to horse!' and fled, as flies 
A troop of snowy doves athwart the dusk, 
When some one batters at the dovecote-doors, 
Disorderly the women. Alone I stood 
With Florian, cursing Cyril, vext at heart, 
In the pavilion: there like parting hopes 
I heard them passing from me: hoof by hoof, 
And every hoof a knell to my desires, 
Clanged on the bridge; and then another shriek, 
'The Head, the Head, the Princess, O the Head!' 
For blind with rage she missed the plank, and rolled 
In the river. Out I sprang from glow to gloom: 
There whirled her white robe like a blossomed branch 
Rapt to the horrible fall: a glance I gave, 
No more; but woman-vested as I was 
Plunged; and the flood drew; yet I caught her; then 
Oaring one arm, and bearing in my left 
The weight of all the hopes of half the world, 
Strove to buffet to land in vain. A tree 
Was half-disrooted from his place and stooped 
To wrench his dark locks in the gurgling wave 
Mid-channel. Right on this we drove and caught, 
And grasping down the boughs I gained the shore. 

There stood her maidens glimmeringly grouped 
In the hollow bank. One reaching forward drew 
My burthen from mine arms; they cried 'she lives:' 
They bore her back into the tent: but I, 
So much a kind of shame within me wrought, 
Not yet endured to meet her opening eyes, 
Nor found my friends; but pushed alone on foot 
(For since her horse was lost I left her mine) 
Across the woods, and less from Indian craft 
Than beelike instinct hiveward, found at length 
The garden portals. Two great statues, Art 
And Science, Caryatids, lifted up 
A weight of emblem, and betwixt were valves 
Of open-work in which the hunter rued 
His rash intrusion, manlike, but his brows 
Had sprouted, and the branches thereupon 
Spread out at top, and grimly spiked the gates. 

A little space was left between the horns, 
Through which I clambered o'er at top with pain, 
Dropt on the sward, and up the linden walks, 
And, tost on thoughts that changed from hue to hue, 
Now poring on the glowworm, now the star, 
I paced the terrace, till the Bear had wheeled 
Through a great arc his seven slow suns. 
A step 
Of lightest echo, then a loftier form 
Than female, moving through the uncertain gloom, 
Disturbed me with the doubt 'if this were she,' 
But it was Florian. 'Hist O Hist,' he said, 
'They seek us: out so late is out of rules. 
Moreover "seize the strangers" is the cry. 
How came you here?' I told him: 'I' said he, 
'Last of the train, a moral leper, I, 
To whom none spake, half-sick at heart, returned. 
Arriving all confused among the rest 
With hooded brows I crept into the hall, 
And, couched behind a Judith, underneath 
The head of Holofernes peeped and saw. 
Girl after girl was called to trial: each 
Disclaimed all knowledge of us: last of all, 
Melissa: trust me, Sir, I pitied her. 
She, questioned if she knew us men, at first 
Was silent; closer prest, denied it not: 
And then, demanded if her mother knew, 
Or Psyche, she affirmed not, or denied: 
From whence the Royal mind, familiar with her, 
Easily gathered either guilt. She sent 
For Psyche, but she was not there; she called 
For Psyche's child to cast it from the doors; 
She sent for Blanche to accuse her face to face; 
And I slipt out: but whither will you now? 
And where are Psyche, Cyril? both are fled: 
What, if together? that were not so well. 
Would rather we had never come! I dread 
His wildness, and the chances of the dark.' 

'And yet,' I said, 'you wrong him more than I 
That struck him: this is proper to the clown, 
Though smocked, or furred and purpled, still the clown, 
To harm the thing that trusts him, and to shame 
That which he says he loves: for Cyril, howe'er 
He deal in frolic, as tonight--the song 
Might have been worse and sinned in grosser lips 
Beyond all pardon--as it is, I hold 
These flashes on the surface are not he. 
He has a solid base of temperament: 
But as the waterlily starts and slides 
Upon the level in little puffs of wind, 
Though anchored to the bottom, such is he.' 

Scarce had I ceased when from a tamarisk near 
Two Proctors leapt upon us, crying, 'Names:' 
He, standing still, was clutched; but I began 
To thrid the musky-circled mazes, wind 
And double in and out the boles, and race 
By all the fountains: fleet I was of foot: 
Before me showered the rose in flakes; behind 
I heard the puffed pursuer; at mine ear 
Bubbled the nightingale and heeded not, 
And secret laughter tickled all my soul. 
At last I hooked my ankle in a vine, 
That claspt the feet of a Mnemosyne, 
And falling on my face was caught and known. 

They haled us to the Princess where she sat 
High in the hall: above her drooped a lamp, 
And made the single jewel on her brow 
Burn like the mystic fire on a mast-head, 
Prophet of storm: a handmaid on each side 
Bowed toward her, combing out her long black hair 
Damp from the river; and close behind her stood 
Eight daughters of the plough, stronger than men, 
Huge women blowzed with health, and wind, and rain, 
And labour. Each was like a Druid rock; 
Or like a spire of land that stands apart 
Cleft from the main, and wailed about with mews. 

Then, as we came, the crowd dividing clove 
An advent to the throne: and therebeside, 
Half-naked as if caught at once from bed 
And tumbled on the purple footcloth, lay 
The lily-shining child; and on the left, 
Bowed on her palms and folded up from wrong, 
Her round white shoulder shaken with her sobs, 
Melissa knelt; but Lady Blanche erect 
Stood up and spake, an affluent orator. 

'It was not thus, O Princess, in old days: 
You prized my counsel, lived upon my lips: 
I led you then to all the Castalies; 
I fed you with the milk of every Muse; 
I loved you like this kneeler, and you me 
Your second mother: those were gracious times. 
Then came your new friend: you began to change-- 
I saw it and grieved--to slacken and to cool; 
Till taken with her seeming openness 
You turned your warmer currents all to her, 
To me you froze: this was my meed for all. 
Yet I bore up in part from ancient love, 
And partly that I hoped to win you back, 
And partly conscious of my own deserts, 
And partly that you were my civil head, 
And chiefly you were born for something great, 
In which I might your fellow-worker be, 
When time should serve; and thus a noble scheme 
Grew up from seed we two long since had sown; 
In us true growth, in her a Jonah's gourd, 
Up in one night and due to sudden sun: 
We took this palace; but even from the first 
You stood in your own light and darkened mine. 
What student came but that you planed her path 
To Lady Psyche, younger, not so wise, 
A foreigner, and I your countrywoman, 
I your old friend and tried, she new in all? 
But still her lists were swelled and mine were lean; 
Yet I bore up in hope she would be known: 
Then came these wolves: ~they~ knew her: ~they~ endured, 
Long-closeted with her the yestermorn, 
To tell her what they were, and she to hear: 
And me none told: not less to an eye like mine 
A lidless watcher of the public weal, 
Last night, their mask was patent, and my foot 
Was to you: but I thought again: I feared 
To meet a cold "We thank you, we shall hear of it 
From Lady Psyche:" you had gone to her, 
She told, perforce; and winning easy grace 
No doubt, for slight delay, remained among us 
In our young nursery still unknown, the stem 
Less grain than touchwood, while my honest heat 
Were all miscounted as malignant haste 
To push my rival out of place and power. 
But public use required she should be known; 
And since my oath was ta'en for public use, 
I broke the letter of it to keep the sense. 
I spoke not then at first, but watched them well, 
Saw that they kept apart, no mischief done; 
And yet this day (though you should hate me for it) 
I came to tell you; found that you had gone, 
Ridden to the hills, she likewise: now, I thought, 
That surely she will speak; if not, then I: 
Did she? These monsters blazoned what they were, 
According to the coarseness of their kind, 
For thus I hear; and known at last (my work) 
And full of cowardice and guilty shame, 
I grant in her some sense of shame, she flies; 
And I remain on whom to wreak your rage, 
I, that have lent my life to build up yours, 
I that have wasted here health, wealth, and time, 
And talent, I--you know it--I will not boast: 
Dismiss me, and I prophesy your plan, 
Divorced from my experience, will be chaff 
For every gust of chance, and men will say 
We did not know the real light, but chased 
The wisp that flickers where no foot can tread.' 

She ceased: the Princess answered coldly, 'Good: 
Your oath is broken: we dismiss you: go. 
For this lost lamb (she pointed to the child) 
Our mind is changed: we take it to ourself.' 

Thereat the Lady stretched a vulture throat, 
And shot from crooked lips a haggard smile. 
'The plan was mine. I built the nest' she said 
'To hatch the cuckoo. Rise!' and stooped to updrag 
Melissa: she, half on her mother propt, 
Half-drooping from her, turned her face, and cast 
A liquid look on Ida, full of prayer, 
Which melted Florian's fancy as she hung, 
A Niobëan daughter, one arm out, 
Appealing to the bolts of Heaven; and while 
We gazed upon her came a little stir 
About the doors, and on a sudden rushed 
Among us, out of breath as one pursued, 
A woman-post in flying raiment. Fear 
Stared in her eyes, and chalked her face, and winged 
Her transit to the throne, whereby she fell 
Delivering sealed dispatches which the Head 
Took half-amazed, and in her lion's mood 
Tore open, silent we with blind surmise 
Regarding, while she read, till over brow 
And cheek and bosom brake the wrathful bloom 
As of some fire against a stormy cloud, 
When the wild peasant rights himself, the rick 
Flames, and his anger reddens in the heavens; 
For anger most it seemed, while now her breast, 
Beaten with some great passion at her heart, 
Palpitated, her hand shook, and we heard 
In the dead hush the papers that she held 
Rustle: at once the lost lamb at her feet 
Sent out a bitter bleating for its dam; 
The plaintive cry jarred on her ire; she crushed 
The scrolls together, made a sudden turn 
As if to speak, but, utterance failing her, 
She whirled them on to me, as who should say 
'Read,' and I read--two letters--one her sire's. 

'Fair daughter, when we sent the Prince your way, 
We knew not your ungracious laws, which learnt, 
We, conscious of what temper you are built, 
Came all in haste to hinder wrong, but fell 
Into his father's hands, who has this night, 
You lying close upon his territory, 
Slipt round and in the dark invested you, 
And here he keeps me hostage for his son.' 

The second was my father's running thus: 
'You have our son: touch not a hair of his head: 
Render him up unscathed: give him your hand: 
Cleave to your contract: though indeed we hear 
You hold the woman is the better man; 
A rampant heresy, such as if it spread 
Would make all women kick against their Lords 
Through all the world, and which might well deserve 
That we this night should pluck your palace down; 
And we will do it, unless you send us back 
Our son, on the instant, whole.' 
So far I read; 
And then stood up and spoke impetuously. 

'O not to pry and peer on your reserve, 
But led by golden wishes, and a hope 
The child of regal compact, did I break 
Your precinct; not a scorner of your sex 
But venerator, zealous it should be 
All that it might be: hear me, for I bear, 
Though man, yet human, whatsoe'er your wrongs, 
From the flaxen curl to the gray lock a life 
Less mine than yours: my nurse would tell me of you; 
I babbled for you, as babies for the moon, 
Vague brightness; when a boy, you stooped to me 
From all high places, lived in all fair lights, 
Came in long breezes rapt from inmost south 
And blown to inmost north; at eve and dawn 
With Ida, Ida, Ida, rang the woods; 
The leader wildswan in among the stars 
Would clang it, and lapt in wreaths of glowworm light 
The mellow breaker murmured Ida. Now, 
Because I would have reached you, had you been 
Sphered up with Cassiopëia, or the enthroned 
Persephonè in Hades, now at length, 
Those winters of abeyance all worn out, 
A man I came to see you: but indeed, 
Not in this frequence can I lend full tongue, 
O noble Ida, to those thoughts that wait 
On you, their centre: let me say but this, 
That many a famous man and woman, town 
And landskip, have I heard of, after seen 
The dwarfs of presage: though when known, there grew 
Another kind of beauty in detail 
Made them worth knowing; but in your I found 
My boyish dream involved and dazzled down 
And mastered, while that after-beauty makes 
Such head from act to act, from hour to hour, 
Within me, that except you slay me here, 
According to your bitter statute-book, 
I cannot cease to follow you, as they say 
The seal does music; who desire you more 
Than growing boys their manhood; dying lips, 
With many thousand matters left to do, 
The breath of life; O more than poor men wealth, 
Than sick men health--yours, yours, not mine--but half 
Without you; with you, whole; and of those halves 
You worthiest; and howe'er you block and bar 
Your heart with system out from mine, I hold 
That it becomes no man to nurse despair, 
But in the teeth of clenched antagonisms 
To follow up the worthiest till he die: 
Yet that I came not all unauthorized 
Behold your father's letter.' 
On one knee 
Kneeling, I gave it, which she caught, and dashed 
Unopened at her feet: a tide of fierce 
Invective seemed to wait behind her lips, 
As waits a river level with the dam 
Ready to burst and flood the world with foam: 
And so she would have spoken, but there rose 
A hubbub in the court of half the maids 
Gathered together: from the illumined hall 
Long lanes of splendour slanted o'er a press 
Of snowy shoulders, thick as herded ewes, 
And rainbow robes, and gems and gemlike eyes, 
And gold and golden heads; they to and fro 
Fluctuated, as flowers in storm, some red, some pale, 
All open-mouthed, all gazing to the light, 
Some crying there was an army in the land, 
And some that men were in the very walls, 
And some they cared not; till a clamour grew 
As of a new-world Babel, woman-built, 
And worse-confounded: high above them stood 
The placid marble Muses, looking peace. 

Not peace she looked, the Head: but rising up 
Robed in the long night of her deep hair, so 
To the open window moved, remaining there 
Fixt like a beacon-tower above the waves 
Of tempest, when the crimson-rolling eye 
Glares ruin, and the wild birds on the light 
Dash themselves dead. She stretched her arms and called 
Across the tumult and the tumult fell. 

'What fear ye, brawlers? am not I your Head? 
On me, me, me, the storm first breaks: ~I~ dare 
All these male thunderbolts: what is it ye fear? 
Peace! there are those to avenge us and they come: 
If not,--myself were like enough, O girls, 
To unfurl the maiden banner of our rights, 
And clad in iron burst the ranks of war, 
Or, falling, promartyr of our cause, 
Die: yet I blame you not so much for fear: 
Six thousand years of fear have made you that 
From which I would redeem you: but for those 
That stir this hubbub--you and you--I know 
Your faces there in the crowd--tomorrow morn 
We hold a great convention: then shall they 
That love their voices more than duty, learn 
With whom they deal, dismissed in shame to live 
No wiser than their mothers, household stuff, 
Live chattels, mincers of each other's fame, 
Full of weak poison, turnspits for the clown, 
The drunkard's football, laughing-stocks of Time, 
Whose brains are in their hands and in their heels 
But fit to flaunt, to dress, to dance, to thrum, 
To tramp, to scream, to burnish, and to scour, 
For ever slaves at home and fools abroad.' 

She, ending, waved her hands: thereat the crowd 
Muttering, dissolved: then with a smile, that looked 
A stroke of cruel sunshine on the cliff, 
When all the glens are drowned in azure gloom 
Of thunder-shower, she floated to us and said: 

'You have done well and like a gentleman, 
And like a prince: you have our thanks for all: 
And you look well too in your woman's dress: 
Well have you done and like a gentleman. 
You saved our life: we owe you bitter thanks: 
Better have died and spilt our bones in the flood-- 
Then men had said--but now--What hinders me 
To take such bloody vengeance on you both?-- 
Yet since our father--Wasps in our good hive, 
You would-be quenchers of the light to be, 
Barbarians, grosser than your native bears-- 
O would I had his sceptre for one hour! 
You that have dared to break our bound, and gulled 
Our servants, wronged and lied and thwarted us-- 
~I~ wed with thee! ~I~ bound by precontract 
Your bride, our bondslave! not though all the gold 
That veins the world were packed to make your crown, 
And every spoken tongue should lord you. Sir, 
Your falsehood and yourself are hateful to us: 
I trample on your offers and on you: 
Begone: we will not look upon you more. 
Here, push them out at gates.' 
In wrath she spake. 
Then those eight mighty daughters of the plough 
Bent their broad faces toward us and addressed 
Their motion: twice I sought to plead my cause, 
But on my shoulder hung their heavy hands, 
The weight of destiny: so from her face 
They pushed us, down the steps, and through the court, 
And with grim laughter thrust us out at gates. 

We crossed the street and gained a petty mound 
Beyond it, whence we saw the lights and heard the voices murmuring. While I listened, came 
On a sudden the weird seizure and the doubt: 
I seemed to move among a world of ghosts; 
The Princess with her monstrous woman-guard, 
The jest and earnest working side by side, 
The cataract and the tumult and the kings 
Were shadows; and the long fantastic night 
With all its doings had and had not been, 
And all things were and were not. 
This went by 
As strangely as it came, and on my spirits 
Settled a gentle cloud of melancholy; 
Not long; I shook it off; for spite of doubts 
And sudden ghostly shadowings I was one 
To whom the touch of all mischance but came 
As night to him that sitting on a hill 
Sees the midsummer, midnight, Norway sun 
Set into sunrise; then we moved away. 

Thy voice is heard through rolling drums, 
That beat to battle where he stands; 
Thy face across his fancy comes, 
And gives the battle to his hands: 
A moment, while the trumpets blow, 
He sees his brood about thy knee; 
The next, like fire he meets the foe, 
And strikes him dead for thine and thee. 

So Lilia sang: we thought her half-possessed, 
She struck such warbling fury through the words; 
And, after, feigning pique at what she called 
The raillery, or grotesque, or false sublime-- 
Like one that wishes at a dance to change 
The music--clapt her hands and cried for war, 
Or some grand fight to kill and make an end: 
And he that next inherited the tale 
Half turning to the broken statue, said, 
'Sir Ralph has got your colours: if I prove 
Your knight, and fight your battle, what for me?' 
It chanced, her empty glove upon the tomb 
Lay by her like a model of her hand. 
She took it and she flung it. 'Fight' she said, 
'And make us all we would be, great and good.' 
He knightlike in his cap instead of casque, 
A cap of Tyrol borrowed from the hall, 
Arranged the favour, and assumed the Prince.