Robert Browning |
A MIDDLE-AGE INTERLUDE.
ROSA MUNDI; SEU, FULCITE ME FLORIBUS.
A CONCEIT OF MASTER GYSBRECHT,
CANON-REGULAR OF SAID JODOCUS-BY-THE-BAR,
AND HATH OFTEN BEEN SUNG
AT HOCK-TIDE AND FESTIVALES.
(It would seem to be a glimpse from the
burning of Jacques du Bourg-Mulay, at Paris,
1314; as distorted by the refraction from
Flemish brain to brain, during the course of
a couple of centuries.
[Molay was Grand Master of the Templars
when that order was suppressed in 1312.
PREADMONISHETH THE ABBOT DEODAET.
The Lord, we look to once for all,
Is the Lord we should look at, all at once:
He knows not to vary, saith Saint Paul,
Nor the shadow of turning, for the nonce.
See him no other than as he is!
Give both the infinitudes their due---
Infinite mercy, but, I wis,
As infinite a justice too.
As infinite a justice too.
John, Master of the Temple of God,
Falling to sin the Unknown Sin,
What he bought of Emperor Aldabrod,
He sold it to Sultan Saladin:
Till, caught by Pope Clement, a-buzzing there,
Hornet-prince of the mad wasps' hive,
And clipt of his wings in Paris square,
They bring him now to be burned alive.
[_And wanteth there grace of lute or
clavicithern, ye shall say to confirm
him who singeth---_
We bring John now to be burned alive.
In the midst is a goodly gallows built;
'Twixt fork and fork, a stake is stuck;
But first they set divers tumbrils a-tilt,
Make a trench all round with the city muck;
Inside they pile log upon log, good store;
Faggots no few, blocks great and small,
Reach a man's mid-thigh, no less, no more,---
For they mean he should roast in the sight of all.
We mean he should roast in the sight of all.
Good sappy bavins that kindle forthwith;
Billets that blaze substantial and slow;
Pine-stump split deftly, dry as pith;
Larch-heart that chars to a chalk-white glow:
Then up they hoist me John in a chafe,
Sling him fast like a hog to scorch,
Spit in his face, then leap back safe,
Sing ``Laudes'' and bid clap-to the torch.
_Laus Deo_---who bids clap-to the torch.
John of the Temple, whose fame so bragged,
Is burning alive in Paris square!
How can he curse, if his mouth is gagged?
Or wriggle his neck, with a collar there?
Or heave his chest, which a band goes round?
Or threat with his fist, since his arms are spliced?
Or kick with his feet, now his legs are bound?
---Thinks John, I will call upon Jesus Christ.
[_Here one crosseth himself_
Jesus Christ---John had bought and sold,
Jesus Christ---John had eaten and drunk;
To him, the Flesh meant silver and gold.
Now it was, ``Saviour, bountiful lamb,
``I have roasted thee Turks, though men roast me!
``See thy servant, the plight wherein I am!
``Art thou a saviour? Save thou me!''
'Tis John the mocker cries, ``Save thou me!''
Who maketh God's menace an idle word?
---Saith, it no more means what it proclaims,
Than a damsel's threat to her wanton bird?---
For she too prattles of ugly names.
---Saith, he knoweth but one thing,---what he knows?
That God is good and the rest is breath;
Why else is the same styled Sharon's rose?
Once a rose, ever a rose, he saith.
O, John shall yet find a rose, he saith!
Alack, there be roses and roses, John!
Some, honied of taste like your leman's tongue:
Some, bitter; for why? (roast gaily on!)
Their tree struck root in devil's-dung.
When Paul once reasoned of righteousness
And of temperance and of judgment to come,
Good Felix trembled, he could no less:
John, snickering, crook'd his wicked thumb.
What cometh to John of the wicked thumb?
Ha ha, John plucketh now at his rose
To rid himself of a sorrow at heart!
Lo,---petal on petal, fierce rays unclose;
Anther on anther, sharp spikes outstart;
And with blood for dew, the bosom boils;
And a gust of sulphur is all its smell;
And lo, he is horribly in the toils
Of a coal-black giant flower of hell!
What maketh heaven, That maketh hell.
So, as John called now, through the fire amain.
On the Name, he had cursed with, all his life---
To the Person, he bought and sold again---
For the Face, with his daily buffets rife---
Feature by feature It took its place:
And his voice, like a mad dog's choking bark,
At the steady whole of the Judge's face---
Forth John's soul flared into the dark.
SUBJOINETH THE ABBOT DEODAET.
God help all poor souls lost in the dark!
Conrad Aiken |
She turned her head on the pillow, and cried once more.
And drawing a shaken breath, and closing her eyes,
To shut out, if she could, this dingy room,
The wigs and costumes scattered around the floor,—
Yellows and greens in the dark,—she walked again
Those nightmare streets which she had walked so often .
Here, at a certain corner, under an arc-lamp,
Blown by a bitter wind, she stopped and looked
In through the brilliant windows of a drug-store,
And wondered if she dared to ask for poison:
But it was late, few customers were there,
The eyes of all the clerks would freeze upon her,
And she would wilt, and cry .
Here, by the river,
She listened to the water slapping the wall,
And felt ***** fascination in its blackness:
But it was cold, the little waves looked cruel,
The stars were keen, and a windy dash of spray
Struck her cheek, and withered her veins .
She dragged herself once more to home, and bed.
Paul hadn't guessed it yet—though twice, already,
She'd fainted—once, the first time, on the stage.
So she must tell him soon—or else—get out .
How could she say it? That was the hideous thing.
She'd rather die than say it! .
and all the trouble,
Months when she couldn't earn a cent, and then,
If he refused to marry her .
She saw him laughing, making a foolish joke,
His grey eyes turning quickly; and the words
Fled from her tongue .
She saw him sitting silent,
Brooding over his morning coffee, maybe,
And tried again .
she bit her lips, and trembled,
And looked away, and said .
'Say Paul, boy,—listen—
There's something I must tell you .
' There she stopped,
Wondering what he'd say .
What would he say?
'Spring it, kid! Don't look so serious!'
'But what I've got to say—IS—serious!'
Then she could see how, suddenly, he would sober,
His eyes would darken, he'd look so terrifying—
He always did—and what could she do but cry?
Perhaps, then, he would guess—perhaps he wouldn't.
And if he didn't, but asked her 'What's the matter?'—
She knew she'd never tell—just say she was sick .
And after that, when would she dare again?
And what would he do—even suppose she told him?
If it were Felix! If it were only Felix!—
She wouldn't mind so much.
But as it was,
Bitterness choked her, she had half a mind
To pay out Felix for never having liked her,
By making people think that it was he .
She'd write a letter to someone, before she died,—
Just saying 'Felix did it—and wouldn't marry.
And then she'd die .
But that was hard on Paul .
Paul would never forgive her—he'd never forgive her!
Sometimes she almost thought Paul really loved her .
She saw him look reproachfully at her coffin.
And then she closed her eyes and walked again
Those nightmare streets that she had walked so often:
Under an arc-lamp swinging in the wind
She stood, and stared in through a drug-store window,
Watching a clerk wrap up a little pill-box.
But it was late.
No customers were there,—
Pitiless eyes would freeze her secret in her!
And then—what poison would she dare to ask for?
And if they asked her why, what would she say?
Gerard Manley Hopkins |
Felix Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?
Sickness broke him.
Impatient he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him.
Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!
This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;
How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!