George (Lord) Byron |
Our life is twofold; Sleep hath its own world,
A boundary between the things misnamed
Death and existence: Sleep hath its own world,
And a wide realm of wild reality,
And dreams in their development have breath,
And tears, and tortures, and the touch of joy;
They leave a weight upon our waking thoughts,
They take a weight from off waking toils,
They do divide our being; they become
A portion of ourselves as of our time,
And look like heralds of eternity;
They pass like spirits of the past—they speak
Like sibyls of the future; they have power—
The tyranny of pleasure and of pain;
They make us what we were not—what they will,
And shake us with the vision that's gone by,
The dread of vanished shadows—Are they so?
Is not the past all shadow?—What are they?
Creations of the mind?—The mind can make
Substances, and people planets of its own
With beings brighter than have been, and give
A breath to forms which can outlive all flesh.
I would recall a vision which I dreamed
Perchance in sleep—for in itself a thought,
A slumbering thought, is capable of years,
And curdles a long life into one hour.
I saw two beings in the hues of youth
Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill,
Green and of mild declivity, the last
As 'twere the cape of a long ridge of such,
Save that there was no sea to lave its base,
But a most living landscape, and the wave
Of woods and corn-fields, and the abodes of men
Scattered at intervals, and wreathing smoke
Arising from such rustic roofs: the hill
Was crowned with a peculiar diadem
Of trees, in circular array, so fixed,
Not by the sport of nature, but of man:
These two, a maiden and a youth, were there
Gazing—the one on all that was beneath
Fair as herself—but the boy gazed on her;
And both were young, and one was beautiful:
And both were young—yet not alike in youth.
As the sweet moon on the horizon's verge,
The maid was on the eve of womanhood;
The boy had fewer summers, but his heart
Had far outgrown his years, and to his eye
There was but one beloved face on earth,
And that was shining on him; he had looked
Upon it till it could not pass away;
He had no breath, no being, but in hers:
She was his voice; he did not speak to her,
But trembled on her words; she was his sight,
For his eye followed hers, and saw with hers,
Which coloured all his objects;—he had ceased
To live within himself: she was his life,
The ocean to the river of his thoughts,
Which terminated all; upon a tone,
A touch of hers, his blood would ebb and flow,
And his cheek change tempestuously—his heart
Unknowing of its cause of agony.
But she in these fond feelings had no share:
Her sighs were not for him; to her he was
Even as a brother—but no more; 'twas much,
For brotherless she was, save in the name
Her infant friendship had bestowed on him;
Herself the solitary scion left
Of a time-honoured race.
—It was a name
Which pleased him, and yet pleased him not—and why?
Time taught him a deep answer—when she loved
Another; even now she loved another,
And on the summit of that hill she stood
Looking afar if yet her lover's steed
Kept pace with her expectancy, and flew.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
There was an ancient mansion, and before
Its walls there was a steed caparisoned:
Within an antique Oratory stood
The Boy of whom I spake;—he was alone,
And pale, and pacing to and fro: anon
He sate him down, and seized a pen, and traced
Words which I could not guess of; then he leaned
His bowed head on his hands and shook, as 'twere
With a convulsion—then rose again,
And with his teeth and quivering hands did tear
What he had written, but he shed no tears.
And he did calm himself, and fix his brow
Into a kind of quiet: as he paused,
The Lady of his love re-entered there;
She was serene and smiling then, and yet
She knew she was by him beloved; she knew—
For quickly comes such knowledge—that his heart
Was darkened with her shadow, and she saw
That he was wretched, but she saw not all.
He rose, and with a cold and gentle grasp
He took her hand; a moment o'er his face
A tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced, and then it faded, as it came;
He dropped the hand he held, and with slow steps
Retired, but not as bidding her adieu,
For they did part with mutual smiles; he passed
From out the massy gate of that old Hall,
And mounting on his steed he went his way;
And ne'er repassed that hoary threshold more.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Boy was sprung to manhood: in the wilds
Of fiery climes he made himself a home,
And his Soul drank their sunbeams; he was girt
With strange and dusky aspects; he was not
Himself like what he had been; on the sea
And on the shore he was a wanderer;
There was a mass of many images
Crowded like waves upon me, but he was
A part of all; and in the last he lay
Reposing from the noontide sultriness,
Couched among fallen columns, in the shade
Of ruined walls that had survived the names
Of those who reared them; by his sleeping side
Stood camels grazing, and some goodly steeds
Were fastened near a fountain; and a man,
Glad in a flowing garb, did watch the while,
While many of his tribe slumbered around:
And they were canopied by the blue sky,
So cloudless, clear, and purely beautiful,
That God alone was to be seen in heaven.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love was wed with One
Who did not love her better: in her home,
A thousand leagues from his,—her native home,
She dwelt, begirt with growing Infancy,
Daughters and sons of Beauty,—but behold!
Upon her face there was a tint of grief,
The settled shadow of an inward strife,
And an unquiet drooping of the eye,
As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.
What could her grief be?—she had all she loved,
And he who had so loved her was not there
To trouble with bad hopes, or evil wish,
Or ill-repressed affliction, her pure thoughts.
What could her grief be?—she had loved him not,
Nor given him cause to deem himself beloved,
Nor could he be a part of that which preyed
Upon her mind—a spectre of the past.
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was returned.
—I saw him stand
Before an altar—with a gentle bride;
Her face was fair, but was not that which made
The Starlight of his Boyhood;—as he stood
Even at the altar, o'er his brow there came
The selfsame aspect and the quivering shock
That in the antique Oratory shook
His bosom in its solitude; and then—
As in that hour—a moment o'er his face
The tablet of unutterable thoughts
Was traced—and then it faded as it came,
And he stood calm and quiet, and he spoke
The fitting vows, but heard not his own words,
And all things reeled around him; he could see
Not that which was, nor that which should have been—
But the old mansion, and the accustomed hall,
And the remembered chambers, and the place,
The day, the hour, the sunshine, and the shade,
All things pertaining to that place and hour,
And her who was his destiny, came back
And thrust themselves between him and the light;
What business had they there at such a time?
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Lady of his love;—Oh! she was changed,
As by the sickness of the soul; her mind
Had wandered from its dwelling, and her eyes,
They had not their own lustre, but the look
Which is not of the earth; she was become
The queen of a fantastic realm; her thoughts
Were combinations of disjointed things;
And forms impalpable and unperceived
Of others' sight familiar were to hers.
And this the world calls frenzy; but the wise
Have a far deeper madness, and the glance
Of melancholy is a fearful gift;
What is it but the telescope of truth?
Which strips the distance of its fantasies,
And brings life near in utter nakedness,
Making the cold reality too real!
A change came o'er the spirit of my dream.
The Wanderer was alone as heretofore,
The beings which surrounded him were gone,
Or were at war with him; he was a mark
For blight and desolation, compassed round
With Hatred and Contention; Pain was mixed
In all which was served up to him, until,
Like to the Pontic monarch of old days,
He fed on poisons, and they had no power,
But were a kind of nutriment; he lived
Through that which had been death to many men,
And made him friends of mountains; with the stars
And the quick Spirit of the Universe
He held his dialogues: and they did teach
To him the magic of their mysteries;
To him the book of Night was opened wide,
And voices from the deep abyss revealed
A marvel and a secret.
—Be it so.
My dream is past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom
Of these two creatures should be thus traced out
Almost like a reality—the one
To end in madness—both in misery.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe |
THE warder looks down at the mid hour of night,
On the tombs that lie scatter'd below:
The moon fills the place with her silvery light,
And the churchyard like day seems to glow.
When see! first one grave, then another opes wide,
And women and men stepping forth are descried,
In cerements snow-white and trailing.
In haste for the sport soon their ankles they twitch,
And whirl round in dances so gay;
The young and the old, and the poor, and the rich,
But the cerements stand in their way;
And as modesty cannot avail them aught here,
They shake themselves all, and the shrouds soon appear
Scatter'd over the tombs in confusion.
Now waggles the leg, and now wriggles the thigh,
As the troop with strange gestures advance,
And a rattle and clatter anon rises high,
As of one beating time to the dance.
The sight to the warder seems wondrously queer,
When the villainous Tempter speaks thus in his ear:
"Seize one of the shrouds that lie yonder!"
Quick as thought it was done! and for safety he fled
Behind the church-door with all speed;
The moon still continues her clear light to shed
On the dance that they fearfully lead.
But the dancers at length disappear one by one,
And their shrouds, ere they vanish, they carefully don,
And under the turf all is quiet.
But one of them stumbles and shuffles there still,
And gropes at the graves in despair;
Yet 'tis by no comrade he's treated so ill
The shroud he soon scents in the air.
So he rattles the door--for the warder 'tis well
That 'tis bless'd, and so able the foe to repel,
All cover'd with crosses in metal.
The shroud he must have, and no rest will allow,
There remains for reflection no time;
On the ornaments Gothic the wight seizes now,
And from point on to point hastes to climb.
Alas for the warder! his doom is decreed!
Like a long-legged spider, with ne'er-changing speed,
Advances the dreaded pursuer.
The warder he quakes, and the warder turns pale,
The shroud to restore fain had sought;
When the end,--now can nothing to save him avail,--
In a tooth formed of iron is caught.
With vanishing lustre the moon's race is run,
When the bell thunders loudly a powerful One,
And the skeleton fails, crush'd to atoms.
Robert Browning |
(PETER RONSARD _loquitur_.
``Heigho!'' yawned one day King Francis,
``Distance all value enhances!
``When a man's busy, why, leisure
``Strikes him as wonderful pleasure:
`` 'Faith, and at leisure once is he?
``Straightway he wants to be busy.
``Here we've got peace; and aghast I'm
``Caught thinking war the true pastime.
``Is there a reason in metre?
``Give us your speech, master Peter!''
I who, if mortal dare say so,
Ne'er am at loss with my Naso,
``Sire,'' I replied, ``joys prove cloudlets:
``Men are the merest Ixions''---
Here the King whistled aloud, ``Let's
``---Heigho---go look at our lions!''
Such are the sorrowful chances
If you talk fine to King Francis.
And so, to the courtyard proceeding,
Our company, Francis was leading,
Increased by new followers tenfold
Before be arrived at the penfold;
Lords, ladies, like clouds which bedizen
At sunset the western horizon.
And Sir De Lorge pressed 'mid the foremost
With the dame he professed to adore most.
Oh, what a face! One by fits eyed
Her, and the horrible pitside;
For the penfold surrounded a hollow
Which led where the eye scarce dared follow,
And shelved to the chamber secluded
Where Bluebeard, the great lion, brooded.
The King bailed his keeper, an Arab
As glossy and black as a scarab,*1
And bade him make sport and at once stir
Up and out of his den the old monster.
They opened a hole in the wire-work
Across it, and dropped there a firework,
And fled: one's heart's beating redoubled;
A pause, while the pit's mouth was troubled,
The blackness and silence so utter,
By the firework's slow sparkling and sputter;
Then earth in a sudden contortion
Gave out to our gaze her abortion.
Such a brute! Were I friend Clement Marot
(Whose experience of nature's but narrow,
And whose faculties move in no small mist
When he versifies David the Psalmist)
I should study that brute to describe you
_Illim Juda Leonem de Tribu_.
One's whole blood grew curdling and creepy
To see the black mane, vast and heapy,
The tail in the air stiff and straining,
The wide eyes, nor waxing nor waning,
As over the barrier which bounded
His platform, and us who surrounded
The barrier, they reached and they rested
On space that might stand him in best stead:
For who knew, he thought, what the amazement,
The eruption of clatter and blaze meant,
And if, in this minute of wonder,
No outlet, 'mid lightning and thunder,
Lay broad, and, his shackles all shivered,
The lion at last was delivered?
Ay, that was the open sky o'erhead!
And you saw by the flash on his forehead,
By the hope in those eyes wide and steady,
He was leagues in the desert already,
Driving the flocks up the mountain,
Or catlike couched hard by the fountain
To waylay the date-gathering negress:
So guarded he entrance or egress.
``How he stands!'' quoth the King: ``we may well swear,
(``No novice, we've won our spurs elsewhere
``And so can afford the confession,)
``We exercise wholesome discretion
``In keeping aloof from his threshold;
``Once hold you, those jaws want no fresh hold,
``Their first would too pleasantly purloin
``The visitor's brisket or surloin:
``But who's he would prove so fool-hardy?
``Not the best man of Marignan, pardie!''
The sentence no sooner was uttered,
Than over the rails a glove flattered,
Fell close to the lion, and rested:
The dame 'twas, who flung it and jested
With life so, De Lorge had been wooing
For months past; he sat there pursuing
His suit, weighing out with nonchalance
Fine speeches like gold from a balance.
Sound the trumpet, no true knight's a tarrier!
De Lorge made one leap at the barrier,
Walked straight to the glove,---while the lion
Neer moved, kept his far-reaching eye on
The palm-tree-edged desert-spring's sapphire,
And the musky oiled skin of the Kaffir,---
Picked it up, and as calmly retreated,
Leaped back where the lady was seated,
And full in the face of its owner
Flung the glove.
``Your heart's queen, you dethrone her?
``So should I!''---cried the King---``'twas mere vanity,
``Not love, set that task to humanity!''
Lords and ladies alike turned with loathing
From such a proved wolf in sheep's clothing.
Not so, I; for I caught an expression
In her brow's undisturbed self-possession
Amid the Court's scoffing and merriment,---
As if from no pleasing experiment
She rose, yet of pain not much heedful
So long as the process was needful,---
As if she had tried in a crucible,
To what ``speeches like gold'' were reducible,
And, finding the finest prove copper,
Felt the smoke in her face was but proper;
To know what she had _not_ to trust to,
Was worth all the ashes and dust too.
She went out 'mid hooting and laughter;
Clement Marot stayed; I followed after,
And asked, as a grace, what it all meant?
If she wished not the rash deed's recalment?
``For I''---so I spoke---``am a poet:
``Human nature,---behoves that I know it!''
She told me, ``Too long had I heard
``Of the deed proved alone by the word:
``For my love---what De Lorge would not dare!
``With my scorn---what De Lorge could compare!
``And the endless descriptions of death
``He would brave when my lip formed a breath,
``I must reckon as braved, or, of course,
``Doubt his word---and moreover, perforce,
``For such gifts as no lady could spurn,
``Must offer my love in return.
``When I looked on your lion, it brought
``All the dangers at once to my thought,
``Encountered by all sorts of men,
``Before he was lodged in his den,---
``From the poor slave whose club or bare hands
``Dug the trap, set the snare on the sands,
``With no King and no Court to applaud,
``By no shame, should he shrink, overawed,
``Yet to capture the creature made shift,
``That his rude boys might laugh at the gift,
``---To the page who last leaped o'er the fence
``Of the pit, on no greater pretence
``Than to get back the bonnet he dropped,
``Lest his pay for a week should be stopped.
``So, wiser I judged it to make
``One trial what `death for my sake'
``Really meant, while the power was yet mine,
``Than to wait until time should define
``Such a phrase not so simply as I,
``Who took it to mean just `to die.
``The blow a glove gives is but weak:
``Does the mark yet discolour my cheek?
``But when the heart suffers a blow,
``Will the pain pass so soon, do you know?''
I looked, as away she was sweeping,
And saw a youth eagerly keeping
As close as he dared to the doorway.
No doubt that a noble should more weigh
His life than befits a plebeian;
And yet, had our brute been Nemean---
(I judge by a certain calm fervour
The youth stepped with, forward to serve her)
---He'd have scarce thought you did him the worst turn
If you whispered ``Friend, what you'd get, first earn!''
And when, shortly after, she carried
Her shame from the Court, and they married,
To that marriage some happiness, maugre
The voice of the Court, I dared augur.
For De Lorge, he made women with men vie,
Those in wonder and praise, these in envy;
And in short stood so plain a head taller
That he wooed and won .
how do you call her?
The beauty, that rose in the sequel
To the King's love, who loved her a week well.
And 'twas noticed he never would honour
De Lorge (who looked daggers upon her)
With the easy commission of stretching
His legs in the service, and fetching
His wife, from her chamber, those straying
Sad gloves she was always mislaying,
While the King took the closet to chat in,---
But of course this adventure came pat in.
And never the King told the story,
How bringing a glove brought such glory,
But the wife smiled---``His nerves are grown firmer:
``Mine he brings now and utters no murmur.
_Venienti occurrite morbo!_
With which moral I drop my theorbo.
*1 A beetle.
Alan Seeger |
First, London, for its myriads; for its height,
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite;
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths
That lead the heart unto the heart's delight.
Fair loiterer on the threshold of those days
When there's no lovelier prize the world displays
Than, having beauty and your twenty years,
You have the means to conquer and the ways,
And coming where the crossroads separate
And down each vista glories and wonders wait,
Crowning each path with pinnacles so fair
You know not which to choose, and hesitate --
Oh, go to Paris.
In the midday gloom
Of some old quarter take a little room
That looks off over Paris and its towers
From Saint Gervais round to the Emperor's Tomb, --
So high that you can hear a mating dove
Croon down the chimney from the roof above,
See Notre Dame and know how sweet it is
To wake between Our Lady and our love.
And have a little balcony to bring
Fair plants to fill with verdure and blossoming,
That sparrows seek, to feed from pretty hands,
And swallows circle over in the Spring.
There of an evening you shall sit at ease
In the sweet month of flowering chestnut-trees,
There with your little darling in your arms,
Your pretty dark-eyed Manon or Louise.
And looking out over the domes and towers
That chime the fleeting quarters and the hours,
While the bright clouds banked eastward back of them
Blush in the sunset, pink as hawthorn flowers,
You cannot fail to think, as I have done,
Some of life's ends attained, so you be one
Who measures life's attainment by the hours
That Joy has rescued from oblivion.
Come out into the evening streets.
The green light lessens in the west.
The city laughs and liveliest her fervid pulse of pleasure beats.
The belfry on Saint Severin strikes eight across the smoking eaves:
Come out under the lights and leaves
to the Reine Blanche on Saint Germain.
Now crowded diners fill the floor of brasserie and restaurant.
Shrill voices cry "L'Intransigeant," and corners echo "Paris-Sport.
Where rows of tables from the street are screened with shoots of box and bay,
The ragged minstrels sing and play and gather sous from those that eat.
And old men stand with menu-cards, inviting passers-by to dine
On the bright terraces that line the Latin Quarter boulevards.
But, having drunk and eaten well, 'tis pleasant then to stroll along
And mingle with the merry throng that promenades on Saint Michel.
Here saunter types of every sort.
The shoddy jostle with the chic:
Turk and Roumanian and Greek; student and officer and sport;
Slavs with their peasant, Christ-like heads,
and courtezans like powdered moths,
And peddlers from Algiers, with cloths
bright-hued and stitched with golden threads;
And painters with big, serious eyes go rapt in dreams, fantastic shapes
In corduroys and Spanish capes and locks uncut and flowing ties;
And lovers wander two by two, oblivious among the press,
And making one of them no less, all lovers shall be dear to you:
All laughing lips you move among, all happy hearts that, knowing what
Makes life worth while, have wasted not the sweet reprieve of being young.
"Comment ca va!" "Mon vieux!" "Mon cher!"
Friends greet and banter as they pass.
'Tis sweet to see among the mass comrades and lovers everywhere,
A law that's sane, a Love that's free, and men of every birth and blood
Allied in one great brotherhood of Art and Joy and Poverty.
The open cafe-windows frame loungers at their liqueurs and beer,
And walking past them one can hear fragments of Tosca and Boheme.
And in the brilliant-lighted door of cinemas the barker calls,
And lurid posters paint the walls with scenes of Love and crime and war.
But follow past the flaming lights, borne onward with the stream of feet,
Where Bullier's further up the street is marvellous on Thursday nights.
Here all Bohemia flocks apace; you could not often find elsewhere
So many happy heads and fair assembled in one time and place.
Under the glare and noise and heat the galaxy of dancing whirls,
Smokers, with covered heads, and girls dressed in the costume of the street.
From tables packed around the wall the crowds that drink and frolic there
Spin serpentines into the air far out over the reeking hall,
That, settling where the coils unroll, tangle with pink and green and blue
The crowds that rag to "Hitchy-koo" and boston to the "Barcarole".
Here Mimi ventures, at fifteen, to make her debut in romance,
And join her sisters in the dance and see the life that they have seen.
Her hair, a tight hat just allows to brush beneath the narrow brim,
Docked, in the model's present whim, `frise' and banged above the brows.
Uncorseted, her clinging dress with every step and turn betrays,
In pretty and provoking ways her adolescent loveliness,
As guiding Gaby or Lucile she dances, emulating them
In each disturbing stratagem and each lascivious appeal.
Each turn a challenge, every pose an invitation to compete,
Along the maze of whirling feet the grave-eyed little wanton goes,
And, flaunting all the hue that lies in childish cheeks and nubile waist,
She passes, charmingly unchaste, illumining ignoble eyes.
But now the blood from every heart leaps madder through abounding veins
As first the fascinating strains of "El Irresistible" start.
Caught in the spell of pulsing sound, impatient elbows lift and yield
The scented softnesses they shield to arms that catch and close them round,
Surrender, swift to be possessed, the silken supple forms beneath
To all the bliss the measures breathe and all the madness they suggest.
Crowds congregate and make a ring.
Four deep they stand and strain to see
The tango in its ecstasy of glowing lives that clasp and cling.
Lithe limbs relaxed, exalted eyes fastened on vacancy, they seem
To float upon the perfumed stream of some voluptuous Paradise,
Or, rapt in some Arabian Night, to rock there, cradled and subdued,
In a luxurious lassitude of rhythm and sensual delight.
And only when the measures cease and terminate the flowing dance
They waken from their magic trance and join the cries that clamor "Bis!" .
Midnight adjourns the festival.
The couples climb the crowded stair,
And out into the warm night air go singing fragments of the ball.
Close-folded in desire they pass, or stop to drink and talk awhile
In the cafes along the mile from Bullier's back to Montparnasse:
The "Closerie" or "La Rotonde", where smoking, under lamplit trees,
Sit Art's enamored devotees, chatting across their `brune' and `blonde'.
Make one of them and come to know sweet Paris -- not as many do,
Seeing but the folly of the few, the froth, the tinsel, and the show --
But taking some white proffered hand that from Earth's barren every day
Can lead you by the shortest way into Love's florid fairyland.
And that divine enchanted life that lurks under Life's common guise --
That city of romance that lies within the City's toil and strife --
Shall, knocking, open to your hands, for Love is all its golden key,
And one's name murmured tenderly the only magic it demands.
And when all else is gray and void in the vast gulf of memory,
Green islands of delight shall be all blessed moments so enjoyed:
When vaulted with the city skies, on its cathedral floors you stood,
And, priest of a bright brotherhood, performed the mystic sacrifice,
At Love's high altar fit to stand, with fire and incense aureoled,
The celebrant in cloth of gold with Spring and Youth on either hand.
Have ye gazed on its grandeur
Or stood where it stands
With opal and amber
Adorning the lands,
And orcharded domes
Of the hue of all flowers?
Sweet melody roams
Through its blossoming bowers,
Sweet bells usher in from its belfries the train of the honey-sweet hour.
A city resplendent,
Fulfilled of good things,
On its ramparts are pendent
The bucklers of kings.
Broad banners unfurled
Are afloat in its air.
The lords of the world
Look for harborage there.
None finds save he comes as a bridegroom, having roses and vine in his hair.
'Tis the city of Lovers,
There many paths meet.
Blessed he above others,
With faltering feet,
Who past its proud spires
Intends not nor hears
The noise of its lyres
Grow faint in his ears!
Men reach it through portals of triumph, but leave through a postern of tears.
It was thither, ambitious,
We came for Youth's right,
When our lips yearned for kisses
As moths for the light,
When our souls cried for Love
As for life-giving rain
Wan leaves of the grove,
Withered grass of the plain,
And our flesh ached for Love-flesh beside it with bitter, intolerable pain.
Under arbor and trellis,
Full of flutes, full of flowers,
What mad fortunes befell us,
What glad orgies were ours!
In the days of our youth,
In our festal attire,
When the sweet flesh was smooth,
When the swift blood was fire,
And all Earth paid in orange and purple to pavilion the bed of Desire!
Rudyard Kipling |
This ballad appears to refer to one of the exploits of the notorious
Paul Jones, the American pirate.
It is founded on fact.
At the close of a winter day,
Their anchors down, by London town, the Three Great Captains lay;
And one was Admiral of the North from Solway Firth to Skye,
And one was Lord of the Wessex coast and all the lands thereby,
And one was Master of the Thames from Limehouse to Blackwall,
And he was Captain of the Fleet -- the bravest of them all.
Their good guns guarded their great gray sides that were thirty foot in the sheer,
When there came a certain trading-brig with news of a privateer.
Her rigging was rough with the clotted drift that drives in a Northern breeze,
Her sides were clogged with the lazy weed that spawns in the Eastern seas.
Light she rode in the rude tide-rip, to left and right she rolled,
And the skipper sat on the scuttle-butt and stared at an empty hold.
"I ha' paid Port dues for your Law," quoth he, "and where is the Law ye boast
If I sail unscathed from a heathen port to be robbed on a Christian coast?
Ye have smoked the hives of the Laccadives as we burn the lice in a bunk,
We tack not now to a Gallang prow or a plunging Pei-ho junk;
I had no fear but the seas were clear as far as a sail might fare
Till I met with a lime-washed Yankee brig that rode off Finisterre.
There were canvas blinds to his bow-gun ports to screen the weight he bore,
And the signals ran for a merchantman from Sandy Hook to the Nore.
He would not fly the Rovers' flag -- the bloody or the black,
But now he floated the Gridiron and now he flaunted the Jack.
He spoke of the Law as he crimped my crew -- he swore it was only a loan;
But when I would ask for my own again, he swore it was none of my own.
He has taken my little parrakeets that nest beneath the Line,
He has stripped my rails of the shaddock-frails and the green unripened pine;
He has taken my bale of dammer and spice I won beyond the seas,
He has taken my grinning heathen gods -- and what should he want o' these?
My foremast would not mend his boom, my deckhouse patch his boats;
He has whittled the two, this Yank Yahoo, to peddle for shoe-peg oats.
I could not fight for the failing light and a rough beam-sea beside,
But I hulled him once for a clumsy crimp and twice because he lied.
Had I had guns (as I had goods) to work my Christian harm,
I had run him up from his quarter-deck to trade with his own yard-arm;
I had nailed his ears to my capstan-head, and ripped them off with a saw,
And soused them in the bilgewater, and served them to him raw;
I had flung him blind in a rudderless boat to rot in the rocking dark,
I had towed him aft of his own craft, a bait for his brother shark;
I had lapped him round with cocoa husk, and drenched him with the oil,
And lashed him fast to his own mast to blaze above my spoil;
I had stripped his hide for my hammock-side, and tasselled his beard i' the mesh,
And spitted his crew on the live bamboo that grows through the gangrened flesh;
I had hove him down by the mangroves brown, where the mud-reef sucks and draws,
Moored by the heel to his own keel to wait for the land-crab's claws!
He is lazar within and lime without, ye can nose him far enow,
For he carries the taint of a musky ship -- the reek of the slaver's dhow!"
The skipper looked at the tiering guns and the bulwarks tall and cold,
And the Captains Three full courteously peered down at the gutted hold,
And the Captains Three called courteously from deck to scuttle-butt: --
"Good Sir, we ha' dealt with that merchantman or ever your teeth were cut.
Your words be words of a lawless race, and the Law it standeth thus:
He comes of a race that have never a Law, and he never has boarded us.
We ha' sold him canvas and rope and spar -- we know that his price is fair,
And we know that he weeps for the lack of a Law as he rides off Finisterre.
And since he is damned for a gallows-thief by you and better than you,
We hold it meet that the English fleet should know that we hold him true.
The skipper called to the tall taffrail: -- "And what is that to me?
Did ever you hear of a Yankee brig that rifled a Seventy-three?
Do I loom so large from your quarter-deck that I lift like a ship o' the Line?
He has learned to run from a shotted gun and harry such craft as mine.
There is never a Law on the Cocos Keys to hold a white man in,
But we do not steal the niggers' meal, for that is a nigger's sin.
Must he have his Law as a quid to chaw, or laid in brass on his wheel?
Does he steal with tears when he buccaneers? 'Fore Gad, then, why does he steal?"
The skipper bit on a deep-sea word, and the word it was not sweet,
For he could see the Captains Three had signalled to the Fleet.
But three and two, in white and blue, the whimpering flags began: --
"We have heard a tale of a -- foreign sail, but he is a merchantman.
The skipper peered beneath his palm and swore by the Great Horn Spoon: --
"'Fore Gad, the Chaplain of the Fleet would bless my picaroon!"
By two and three the flags blew free to lash the laughing air: --
"We have sold our spars to the merchantman -- we know that his price is fair.
The skipper winked his Western eye, and swore by a China storm: --
"They ha' rigged him a Joseph's jury-coat to keep his honour warm.
The halliards twanged against the tops, the bunting bellied broad,
The skipper spat in the empty hold and mourned for a wasted cord.
Masthead -- masthead, the signal sped by the line o' the British craft;
The skipper called to his Lascar crew, and put her about and laughed: --
"It's mainsail haul, my bully boys all -- we'll out to the seas again --
Ere they set us to paint their pirate saint, or scrub at his grapnel-chain.
It's fore-sheet free, with her head to the sea, and the swing of the unbought brine --
We'll make no sport in an English court till we come as a ship o' the Line:
Till we come as a ship o' the Line, my lads, of thirty foot in the sheer,
Lifting again from the outer main with news of a privateer;
Flying his pluck at our mizzen-truck for weft of Admiralty,
Heaving his head for our dipsey-lead in sign that we keep the sea.
Then fore-sheet home as she lifts to the foam -- we stand on the outward tack,
We are paid in the coin of the white man's trade -- the bezant is hard, ay, and black.
The frigate-bird shall carry my word to the Kling and the Orang-Laut
How a man may sail from a heathen coast to be robbed in a Christian port;
How a man may be robbed in Christian port while Three Great Captains there
Shall dip their flag to a slaver's rag -- to show that his trade is fair!"
Alfred Lord Tennyson |
Once more the gate behind me falls;
Once more before my face
I see the moulder'd Abbey-walls,
That stand within the chace.
Beyond the lodge the city lies,
Beneath its drift of smoke;
And ah! with what delighted eyes
I turn to yonder oak.
For when my passion first began,
Ere that, which in me burn'd,
The love, that makes me thrice a man,
Could hope itself return'd;
To yonder oak within the field
I spoke without restraint,
And with a larger faith appeal'd
Than Papist unto Saint.
For oft I talk'd with him apart
And told him of my choice,
Until he plagiarized a heart,
And answer'd with a voice.
Tho' what he whisper'd under Heaven
None else could understand;
I found him garrulously given,
A babbler in the land.
But since I heard him make reply
Is many a weary hour;
'Twere well to question him, and try
If yet he keeps the power.
Hail, hidden to the knees in fern,
Broad Oak of Sumner-chace,
Whose topmost branches can discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!
Say thou, whereon I carved her name,
If ever maid or spouse,
As fair as my Olivia, came
To rest beneath thy boughs.
"O Walter, I have shelter'd here
Whatever maiden grace
The good old Summers, year by year
Made ripe in Sumner-chace:
"Old Summers, when the monk was fat,
And, issuing shorn and sleek,
Would twist his girdle tight, and pat
The girls upon the cheek,
"Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence,
And number'd bead, and shrift,
Bluff Harry broke into the spence
And turn'd the cowls adrift:
"And I have seen some score of those
Fresh faces that would thrive
When his man-minded offset rose
To chase the deer at five;
"And all that from the town would stroll,
Till that wild wind made work
In which the gloomy brewer's soul
Went by me, like a stork:
"The slight she-slips of royal blood,
And others, passing praise,
Straight-laced, but all-too-full in bud
For puritanic stays:
"And I have shadow'd many a group
Of beauties, that were born
In teacup-times of hood and hoop,
Or while the patch was worn;
"And, leg and arm with love-knots gay
About me leap'd and laugh'd
The modish Cupid of the day,
And shrill'd his tinsel shaft.
"I swear (and else may insects prick
Each leaf into a gall)
This girl, for whom your heart is sick,
Is three times worth them all.
"For those and theirs, by Nature's law,
Have faded long ago;
But in these latter springs I saw
Your own Olivia blow,
"From when she gamboll'd on the greens
A baby-germ, to when
The maiden blossoms of her teens
Could number five from ten.
"I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain,
(And hear me with thine ears,)
That, tho' I circle in the grain
Five hundred rings of years---
"Yet, since I first could cast a shade,
Did never creature pass
So slightly, musically made,
So light upon the grass:
"For as to fairies, that will flit
To make the greensward fresh,
I hold them exquisitely knit,
But far too spare of flesh.
Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern,
And overlook the chace;
And from thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place.
But thou, whereon I carved her name,
That oft hast heard my vows,
Declare when last Olivia came
To sport beneath thy boughs.
"O yesterday, you know, the fair
Was holden at the town;
Her father left his good arm-chair,
And rode his hunter down.
"And with him Albert came on his.
I look'd at him with joy:
As cowslip unto oxlip is,
So seems she to the boy.
"An hour had past---and, sitting straight
Within the low-wheel'd chaise,
Her mother trundled to the gate
Behind the dappled grays.
"But as for her, she stay'd at home,
And on the roof she went,
And down the way you use to come,
She look'd with discontent.
"She left the novel half-uncut
Upon the rosewood shelf;
She left the new piano shut:
She could not please herseif
"Then ran she, gamesome as the colt,
And livelier than a lark
She sent her voice thro' all the holt
Before her, and the park.
"A light wind chased her on the wing,
And in the chase grew wild,
As close as might be would he cling
About the darling child:
"But light as any wind that blows
So fleetly did she stir,
The flower, she touch'd on, dipt and rose,
And turn'd to look at her.
"And here she came, and round me play'd,
And sang to me the whole
Of those three stanzas that you made
About my Ôgiant bole;'
"And in a fit of frolic mirth
She strove to span my waist:
Alas, I was so broad of girth,
I could not be embraced.
"I wish'd myself the fair young beech
That here beside me stands,
That round me, clasping each in each,
She might have lock'd her hands.
"Yet seem'd the pressure thrice as sweet
As woodbine's fragile hold,
Or when I feel about my feet
The berried briony fold.
O muffle round thy knees with fern,
And shadow Sumner-chace!
Long may thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!
But tell me, did she read the name
I carved with many vows
When last with throbbing heart I came
To rest beneath thy boughs?
"O yes, she wander'd round and round
These knotted knees of mine,
And found, and kiss'd the name she found,
And sweetly murmur'd thine.
"A teardrop trembled from its source,
And down my surface crept.
My sense of touch is something coarse,
But I believe she wept.
"Then flush'd her cheek with rosy light,
She glanced across the plain;
But not a creature was in sight:
She kiss'd me once again.
"Her kisses were so close and kind,
That, trust me on my word,
Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind,
But yet my sap was stirr'd:
"And even into my inmost ring
A pleasure I discern'd,
Like those blind motions of the Spring,
That show the year is turn'd.
"Thrice-happy he that may caress
The ringlet's waving balm---
The cushions of whose touch may press
The maiden's tender palm.
"I, rooted here among the groves
But languidly adjust
My vapid vegetable loves
With anthers and with dust:
"For ah! my friend, the days were brief
Whereof the poets talk,
When that, which breathes within the leaf,
Could slip its bark and walk.
"But could I, as in times foregone,
From spray, and branch, and stem,
Have suck'd and gather'd into one
The life that spreads in them,
"She had not found me so remiss;
But lightly issuing thro',
I would have paid her kiss for kiss,
With usury thereto.
O flourish high, with leafy towers,
And overlook the lea,
Pursue thy loves among the bowers
But leave thou mine to me.
O flourish, hidden deep in fern,
Old oak, I love thee well;
A thousand thanks for what I learn
And what remains to tell.
" ÔTis little more: the day was warm;
At last, tired out with play,
She sank her head upon her arm
And at my feet she lay.
"Her eyelids dropp'd their silken eaves
I breathed upon her eyes
Thro' all the summer of my leaves
A welcome mix'd with sighs.
"I took the swarming sound of life---
The music from the town---
The murmurs of the drum and fife
And lull'd them in my own.
"Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip,
To light her shaded eye;
A second flutter'd round her lip
Like a golden butterfly;
"A third would glimmer on her neck
To make the necklace shine;
Another slid, a sunny fleck,
From head to ankle fine,
"Then close and dark my arms I spread,
And shadow'd all her rest---
Dropt dews upon her golden head,
An acorn in her breast.
"But in a pet she started up,
And pluck'd it out, and drew
My little oakling from the cup,
And flung him in the dew.
"And yet it was a graceful gift---
I felt a pang within
As when I see the woodman lift
His axe to slay my kin.
"I shook him down because he was
The finest on the tree.
He lies beside thee on the grass.
O kiss him once for me.
"O kiss him twice and thrice for me,
That have no lips to kiss,
For never yet was oak on lea
Shall grow so fair as this.
Step deeper yet in herb and fern,
Look further thro' the chace,
Spread upward till thy boughs discern
The front of Sumner-place.
This fruit of thine by Love is blest,
That but a moment lay
Where fairer fruit of Love may rest
Some happy future day.
I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice,
The warmth it thence shall win
To riper life may magnetise
The baby-oak within.
But thou, while kingdoms overset,
Or lapse from hand to hand,
Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet
Thine acorn in the land.
May never saw dismember thee,
Nor wielded axe disjoint,
That art the fairest-spoken tree
From here to Lizard-point.
O rock upon thy towery-top
All throats that gurgle sweet!
All starry culmination drop
Balm-dews to bathe thy feet!
All grass of silky feather grow---
And while he sinks or swells
The full south-breeze around thee blow
The sound of minster bells.
The fat earth feed thy branchy root,
That under deeply strikes!
The northern morning o'er thee shoot,
High up, in silver spikes!
Nor ever lightning char thy grain,
But, rolling as in sleep,
Low thunders bring the mellow rain,
That makes thee broad and deep!
And hear me swear a solemn oath,
That only by thy side
Will I to Olive plight my troth,
And gain her for my bride.
And when my marriage morn may fall,
She, Dryad-like, shall wear
Alternate leaf and acorn-ball
In wreath about her hair.
And I will work in prose and rhyme,
And praise thee more in both
Than bard has honour'd beech or lime,
Or that Thessalian growth,
In which the swarthy ringdove sat,
And mystic sentence spoke;
And more than England honours that,
Thy famous brother-oak,
Wherein the younger Charles abode
Till all the paths were dim,
And far below the Roundhead rode,
And humm'd a surly hymn.
Andrew Marvell |
Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain.
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honor turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust:
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
John Keats |
Song of the Indian Maid
Why dost borrow
The natural hue of health, from vermeil lips?¡ª
To give maiden blushes
To the white rose bushes? 5
Or is it thy dewy hand the daisy tips?
Why dost borrow
The lustrous passion from a falcon-eye?¡ª
To give the glow-worm light? 10
Or, on a moonless night,
To tinge, on siren shores, the salt sea-spry?
Why dost borrow
The mellow ditties from a mourning tongue?¡ª 15
To give at evening pale
Unto the nightingale,
That thou mayst listen the cold dews among?
Why dost borrow 20
Heart's lightness from the merriment of May?¡ª
A lover would not tread
A cowslip on the head,
Though he should dance from eve till peep of day¡ª
Nor any drooping flower 25
Held sacred for thy bower,
Wherever he may sport himself and play.
I bade good morrow,
And thought to leave her far away behind; 30
But cheerly, cheerly,
She loves me dearly;
She is so constant to me, and so kind:
I would deceive her
And so leave her, 35
But ah! she is so constant and so kind.
Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side,
I sat a-weeping: in the whole world wide
There was no one to ask me why I wept,¡ª
And so I kept 40
Brimming the water-lily cups with tears
Cold as my fears.
Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side,
I sat a-weeping: what enamour'd bride,
Cheated by shadowy wooer from the clouds, 45
But hides and shrouds
Beneath dark palm-trees by a river side?
And as I sat, over the light blue hills
There came a noise of revellers: the rills
Into the wide stream came of purple hue¡ª 50
'Twas Bacchus and his crew!
The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills
From kissing cymbals made a merry din¡ª
'Twas Bacchus and his kin!
Like to a moving vintage down they came, 55
Crown'd with green leaves, and faces all on flame;
All madly dancing through the pleasant valley,
To scare thee, Melancholy!
O then, O then, thou wast a simple name!
And I forgot thee, as the berried holly 60
By shepherds is forgotten, when in June
Tall chestnuts keep away the sun and moon:¡ª
I rush'd into the folly!
Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood,
Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood, 65
With sidelong laughing;
And little rills of crimson wine imbrued
His plump white arms and shoulders, enough white
For Venus' pearly bite;
And near him rode Silenus on his ass, 70
Pelted with flowers as he on did pass
'Whence came ye, merry Damsels! whence came ye,
So many, and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your bowers desolate, 75
Your lutes, and gentler fate?'¡ª
'We follow Bacchus! Bacchus on the wing,
Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide,
We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide:¡ª 80
Come hither, lady fair, and join¨¨d be
To our wild minstrelsy!'
'Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs! whence came ye,
So many, and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your forest haunts, why left 85
Your nuts in oak-tree cleft?'¡ª
'For wine, for wine we left our kernel tree;
For wine we left our heath, and yellow brooms,
And cold mushrooms;
For wine we follow Bacchus through the earth; 90
Great god of breathless cups and chirping mirth!
Come hither, lady fair, and join¨¨d be
To our mad minstrelsy!'
Over wide streams and mountains great we went,
And, save when Bacchus kept his ivy tent, 95
Onward the tiger and the leopard pants,
With Asian elephants:
Onward these myriads¡ªwith song and dance,
With zebras striped, and sleek Arabians' prance,
Web-footed alligators, crocodiles, 100
Bearing upon their scaly backs, in files,
Plump infant laughers mimicking the coil
Of seamen, and stout galley-rowers' toil:
With toying oars and silken sails they glide,
Nor care for wind and tide.
Mounted on panthers' furs and lions' manes,
From rear to van they scour about the plains;
A three days' journey in a moment done;
And always, at the rising of the sun,
About the wilds they hunt with spear and horn, 110
On spleenful unicorn.
I saw Osirian Egypt kneel adown
Before the vine-wreath crown!
I saw parch'd Abyssinia rouse and sing
To the silver cymbals' ring! 115
I saw the whelming vintage hotly pierce
Old Tartary the fierce!
The kings of Ind their jewel-sceptres vail,
And from their treasures scatter pearl¨¨d hail;
Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans, 120
And all his priesthood moans,
Before young Bacchus' eye-wink turning pale.
Into these regions came I, following him,
Sick-hearted, weary¡ªso I took a whim
To stray away into these forests drear, 125
Alone, without a peer:
And I have told thee all thou mayest hear.
I've been a ranger
In search of pleasure throughout every clime; 130
Alas! 'tis not for me!
Bewitch'd I sure must be,
To lose in grieving all my maiden prime.
Come then, Sorrow,
Sweetest Sorrow! 135
Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast:
I thought to leave thee,
And deceive thee,
But now of all the world I love thee best.
There is not one, 140
No, no, not one
But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid;
Thou art her mother,
And her brother,
Her playmate, and her wooer in the shade.
Henry Van Dyke |
In robes of Tyrian blue the King was drest,
A jewelled collar shone upon his breast,
A giant ruby glittered in his crown -----
Lord of rich lands and many a splendid town.
In him the glories of an ancient line
Of sober kings, who ruled by right divine,
Were centred; and to him with loyal awe
The people looked for leadership and law.
Ten thousand knights, the safeguard of the land,
Lay like a single sword within his hand;
A hundred courts, with power of life and death,
Proclaimed decrees justice by his breath;
And all the sacred growths that men had known
Of order and of rule upheld his throne.
Proud was the King: yet not with such a heart
As fits a man to play a royal part.
Not his the pride that honours as a trust
The right to rule, the duty to be just:
Not his the dignity that bends to bear
The monarch's yoke, the master's load of care,
And labours like the peasant at his gate,
To serve the people and protect the State.
Another pride was his, and other joys:
To him the crown and sceptre were but toys,
With which he played at glory's idle game,
To please himself and win the wreaths of fame.
The throne his fathers held from age to age
Built for King Martin to diplay at will,
His mighty strength and universal skill.
No conscious child, that, spoiled with praising, tries
At every step to win admiring eyes, ----
No favourite mountebank, whose acting draws
From gaping crowds loud thunder of applause,
Was vainer than the King: his only thirst
Was to be hailed, in every race, the first.
When tournament was held, in knightly guise
The King would ride the lists and win the prize;
When music charmed the court, with golden lyre
The King would take the stage and lead the choir;
In hunting, his the lance to slay the boar;
In hawking, see his falcon highest soar;
In painting, he would wield the master's brush;
In high debate, -----"the King is speaking! Hush!"
Thus, with a restless heart, in every field
He sought renown, and found his subjects yield
As if he were a demi-god revealed.
But while he played the petty games of life
His kingdom fell a prey to inward strife;
Corruption through the court unheeded crept,
And on the seat of honour justice slept.
The strong trod down the weak; the helpless poor
Groaned under burdens grievous to endure.
The nation's wealth was spent in vain display,
And weakness wore the nation's heart away.
Yet think not Earth is blind to human woes ---
Man has more friends and helpers than he knows;
And when a patient people are oppressed,
The land that bore them feels it in her breast.
Spirits of field and flood, of heath and hill,
Are grieved and angry at the spreading ill;
The trees complain together in the night,
Voices of wrath are heard along the height,
And secret vows are sworn, by stream and strand,
To bring the tyrant low and liberate the land.
But little recked the pampered King of these;
He heard no voice but such as praise and please.
Flattered and fooled, victor in every sport,
One day he wandered idly with his court
Beside the river, seeking to devise
New ways to show his skill to wondering eyes.
There in the stream a patient fisher stood,
And cast his line across the rippling flood.
His silver spoil lay near him on the green:
"Such fish," the courtiers cried, "were never seen!"
"Three salmon larger than a cloth-yard shaft---
"This man must be the master of his craft!"
"An easy art!" the jealous King replied:
"Myself could learn it better, if I tried,
"And catch a hundred larger fish a week---
"Wilt thou accept the challenge, fellow? Speak!"
The fisher turned, came near, and bent his knee:
"'Tis not for kings to strive with such as me;
"Yet if the King commands it, I obey.
"But one condition of the strife I pray:
"The fisherman who brings the least to land
"Shall do whate'er the other may command.
Loud laughed the King: "A foolish fisher thou!
"For I shall win and rule thee then as now.
So to Prince John, a sober soul, sedate
And slow, King Martin left the helm of state,
While to the novel game with eager zest
He all his time and all his powers addrest.
Sure such a sight was never seen before!
For robed and crowned the monarch trod the shore;
His golden hooks were decked with feathers fine,
His jewelled reel ran out a silken line.
With kingly strokes he flogged the crystal stream,
Far-off the salmon saw his tackle gleam;
Careless of kings, they eyed with calm disdain
The gaudy lure, and Martin fished in vain.
On Friday, when the week was almost spent,
He scanned his empty creel with discontent,
Called for a net, and cast it far and wide,
And drew --- a thousand minnows from the tide!
Then came the fisher to conclude the match,
And at the monarch's feet spread out his catch ---
A hundred salmon, greater than before ---
"I win!" he cried: "the King must pay the score.
Then Martin, angry, threw his tackle down:
"Rather than lose this game I'd lose me crown!"
"Nay, thou has lost them both," the fisher said;
And as he spoke a wondrous light was shed
Around his form; he dropped his garments mean,
And in his place the River-god was seen.
"Thy vanity hast brought thee in my power,
"And thou shalt pay the forfeit at this hour:
"For thou hast shown thyself a royal fool,
"Too proud to angle, and too vain to rule.
"Eager to win in every trivial strife, ---
"Go! Thou shalt fish for minnows all thy life!"
Wrathful, the King the scornful sentence heard;
He strove to answer, but he only chirr-r-ed:
His Tyrian robe was changed to wings of blue,
His crown became a crest, --- away he flew!
And still, along the reaches of the stream,
The vain King-fisher flits, an azure gleam, ---
You see his ruby crest, you hear his jealous scream.
Siegfried Sassoon |
I’ve never ceased to curse the day I signed
A seven years’ bargain for the Golden Fleece.
’Twas a bad deal all round; and dear enough
It cost me, what with my daft management,
And the mean folk as owed and never paid me,
And backing losers; and the local bucks
Egging me on with whiskys while I bragged
The man I was when huntsman to the Squire.
I’d have been prosperous if I’d took a farm
Of fifty acres, drove my gig and haggled
At Monday markets; now I’ve squandered all
My savings; nigh three hundred pound I got
As testimonial when I’d grown too stiff
And slow to press a beaten fox.
’Twas the damned Fleece that wore my Emily out,
The wife of thirty years who served me well;
(Not like this beldam clattering in the kitchen,
That never trims a lamp nor sweeps the floor,
And brings me greasy soup in a foul crock.
Blast the old harridan! What’s fetched her now,
Leaving me in the dark, and short of fire?
And where’s my pipe? ’Tis lucky I’ve a turn
For thinking, and remembering all that’s past.
And now’s my hour, before I hobble to bed,
To set the works a-wheezing, wind the clock
That keeps the time of life with feeble tick
Behind my bleared old face that stares and wonders.
It’s queer how, in the dark, comes back to mind
Some morning of September.
We’ve been digging
In a steep sandy warren, riddled with holes,
And I’ve just pulled the terrier out and left
A sharp-nosed cub-face blinking there and snapping,
Then in a moment seen him mobbed and torn
To strips in the baying hurly of the pack.
I picture it so clear: the dusty sunshine
On bracken, and the men with spades, that wipe
Red faces: one tilts up a mug of ale.
And, having stopped to clean my gory hands,
I whistle the jostling beauties out of the wood.
I’m but a daft old fool! I often wish
The Squire were back again—ah! he was a man!
They don’t breed men like him these days; he’d come
For sure, and sit and talk and suck his briar
Till the old wife brings up a dish of tea.
Ay, those were days, when I was serving Squire!
I never knowed such sport as ’85,
The winter afore the one that snowed us silly.
Once in a way the parson will drop in
And read a bit o’ the Bible, if I’m bad,
And pray the Lord to make my spirit whole
In faith: he leaves some ’baccy on the shelf,
And wonders I don’t keep a dog to cheer me
Because he knows I’m mortal fond of dogs!
I ask you, what’s a gent like that to me
As wouldn’t know Elijah if I saw him,
Nor have the wit to keep him on the talk?
’Tis kind of parson to be troubling still
With such as me; but he’s a town-bred chap,
Full of his college notions and Christmas hymns.
Religion beats me.
I’m amazed at folk
Drinking the gospels in and never scratching
Their heads for questions.
When I was a lad
I learned a bit from mother, and never thought
To educate myself for prayers and psalms.
But now I’m old and bald and serious-minded,
With days to sit and ponder.
I’d no chance
When young and gay to get the hang of all
This Hell and Heaven: and when the clergy hoick
And holloa from their pulpits, I’m asleep,
However hard I listen; and when they pray
It seems we’re all like children sucking sweets
In school, and wondering whether master sees.
I used to dream of Hell when I was first
Promoted to a huntsman’s job, and scent
Was rotten, and all the foxes disappeared,
And hounds were short of blood; and officers
From barracks over-rode ’em all day long
On weedy, whistling nags that knocked a hole
In every fence; good sportsmen to a man
And brigadiers by now, but dreadful hard
On a young huntsman keen to show some sport.
Ay, Hell was thick with captains, and I rode
The lumbering brute that’s beat in half a mile,
And blunders into every blind old ditch.
Hell was the coldest scenting land I’ve known,
And both my whips were always lost, and hounds
Would never get their heads down; and a man
On a great yawing chestnut trying to cast ’em
While I was in a corner pounded by
The ugliest hog-backed stile you’ve clapped your eyes on.
There was an iron-spiked fence round all the coverts,
And civil-spoken keepers I couldn’t trust,
And the main earth unstopp’d.
The fox I found
Was always a three-legged ’un from a bag,
Who reeked of aniseed and wouldn’t run.
The farmers were all ploughing their old pasture
And bellowing at me when I rode their beans
To cast for beaten fox, or galloped on
With hounds to a lucky view.
I’d lost my voice
Although I shouted fit to burst my guts,
And couldn’t blow my horn.
And when I woke,
Emily snored, and barn-cocks started crowing,
And morn was at the window; and I was glad
To be alive because I heard the cry
Of hounds like church-bells chiming on a Sunday.
Ay, that’s the song I’d wish to hear in Heaven!
The cry of hounds was Heaven for me: I know
Parson would call me crazed and wrong to say it,
But where’s the use of life and being glad
If God’s not in your gladness?
I’ve no brains
For book-learned studies; but I’ve heard men say
There’s much in print that clergy have to wink at:
Though many I’ve met were jolly chaps, and rode
To hounds, and walked me puppies; and could pick
Good legs and loins and necks and shoulders, ay,
And feet—’twas necks and feet I looked at first.
Some hounds I’ve known were wise as half your saints,
And better hunters.
That old dog of the Duke’s,
Harlequin; what a dog he was to draw!
And what a note he had, and what a nose
When foxes ran down wind and scent was catchy!
And that light lemon bitch of the Squire’s, old Dorcas—
She were a marvellous hunter, were old Dorcas!
Ay, oft I’ve thought, ‘If there were hounds in Heaven,
With God as master, taking no subscription;
And all His bless?d country farmed by tenants,
And a straight-necked old fox in every gorse!’
But when I came to work it out, I found
There’d be too many huntsmen wanting places,
Though some I’ve known might get a job with Nick!
I’ve come to think of God as something like
The figure of a man the old Duke was
When I was turning hounds to Nimrod King,
Before his Grace was took so bad with gout
And had to quit the saddle.
Tall and spare,
Clean-shaved and grey, with shrewd, kind eyes, that twinkled,
And easy walk; who, when he gave good words,
Gave them whole-hearted; and would never blame
Without just cause.
Lord God might be like that,
Sitting alone in a great room of books
Some evening after hunting.
Now I’m tired
With hearkening to the tick-tack on the shelf;
And pondering makes me doubtful.
On a moonless night of cloud that feels like frost
Though stars are hidden (hold your feet up, horse!)
And thinking what a task I had to draw
A pack with all those lame ’uns, and the lot
Wanting a rest from all this open weather;
That’s what I’m doing now.
And likely, too,
The frost’ll be a long ’un, and the night
The parsons say we’ll wake to find
A country blinding-white with dazzle of snow.
The naked stars make men feel lonely, wheeling
And glinting on the puddles in the road.
And then you listen to the wind, and wonder
If folk are quite such bucks as they appear
When dressed by London tailors, looking down
Their boots at covert side, and thinking big.
This world’s a funny place to live in.
I’ll need to change my country; but I know
’Tis little enough I’ve understood my life,
And a power of sights I’ve missed, and foreign marvels.
I used to feel it, riding on spring days
In meadows pied with sun and chasing clouds,
And half forget how I was there to catch
The foxes; lose the angry, eager feeling
A huntsman ought to have, that’s out for blood,
And means his hounds to get it!
Now I know
It’s God that speaks to us when we’re bewitched,
Smelling the hay in June and smiling quiet;
Or when there’s been a spell of summer drought,
Lying awake and listening to the rain.
I’d like to be the simpleton I was
In the old days when I was whipping-in
To a little harrier-pack in Worcestershire,
And loved a dairymaid, but never knew it
Until she’d wed another.
So I’ve loved
My life; and when the good years are gone down,
Discover what I’ve lost.
I never broke
Out of my blundering self into the world,
But let it all go past me, like a man
Half asleep in a land that’s full of wars.
What a grand thing ’twould be if I could go
Back to the kennels now and take my hounds
For summer exercise; be riding out
With forty couple when the quiet skies
Are streaked with sunrise, and the silly birds
Grown hoarse with singing; cobwebs on the furze
Up on the hill, and all the country strange,
With no one stirring; and the horses fresh,
Sniffing the air I’ll never breathe again.
You’ve brought the lamp, then, Martha? I’ve no mind
For newspaper to-night, nor bread and cheese.
Give me the candle, and I’ll get to bed.