SELECTED AND EDITED
FRANKLIN T. BAKER, A.M.
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH IN TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
FOURTH EDITION. REVISED AND ENLARGED
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
LONDON; MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
COPYRIGHT 1899, BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
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Set up and electrotyped October, 1899. Reprinted January, 1901; April, 1902; May, 1903; May, 1904; January, 1905; January, June, 1906; January, July, 1907; February, 1908; September, 1909; February, 1910; March, 1911; July, 1912; July, 1913; January, July, 1915; July, 1916; January, September, 1917.
Norwood Press J.S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
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These selections from the poetry of Robert Browning have been made with especial reference to the tastes and capacities of readers of the high-school age. Every poem included has been found by experience to be within the grasp of boys and girls. Most of Browning's best poetry is within the ken of any reader of imagination and diligence. To the reader who lacks these, not only Browning, but the great world of literature, remains closed: Browning is not the only poet who requires close study. The difficulties he offers are, in his best poems, not more repellent to the thoughtful reader than the nut that protects and contains the kernel. To a boy or girl of active mind, the difficulty need rarely be more than a pleasant challenge to the exercise of a little patience and ingenuity.
Browning, when at his best in vigor, clearness, and beauty, is peculiarly a poet for young people. His freedom from sentimentality, his liveliness of conception and narration, his high optimism, and his interest in the things that make for the life of the soul, appeal to the imagination and the feelings of youth.
The present edition, attempts but little in the way of criticism. The notes cover such matters as are not readily settled by an appeal to the dictionary, and suggest, in addition, questions that are designed to help in interpretation and appreciation.
TEACHERS' COLLEGE, NEW YORK,
LIFE OF BROWNING BROWNING AS POET APPRECIATIONS CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF BROWNING'S WORKS BIBLIOGRAPHY
The Pied Piper of Hamelin Tray Incident of the French Camp "How they brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix" Herve Riel Pheidippides My Star Evelyn Hope Love among the Ruins Misconceptions Natural Magic Apparitions A Wall Confessions A Woman's Last Word A Pretty Woman Youth and Art A Tale Cavalier Tunes Home-Thoughts, from the Sea Summum Bonum A Face Songs from Pippa Passes The Lost Leader Apparent Failure Fears and Scruples Instans Tyrannus The Patriot The Boy and the Angel Memorabilia Why I am a Liberal Prospice Epilogue to "Asolando" "De Gustibus—" The Italian in England My Last Duchess The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church The Laboratory Home Thoughts, from Abroad Up at a Villa—Down in the City A Toccata of Galuppi's Abt Vogler Rabbi Ben Ezra A Grammarian's Funeral Andrea del Sarto Caliban upon Setebos "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" An Epistle Saul One Word More
LIFE OF BROWNING
Robert Browning was born in Camberwell, London, May 7, 1812. He was contemporary with Tennyson, Dickens, Thackeray, Lowell, Emerson, Hawthorne, Darwin, Spencer, Huxley, Dumas, Hugo, Mendelssohn, Wagner, and a score of other men famous in art and science.
Browning's good fortune began with his birth. His father, a clerk in the Bank of England, possessed ample means for the education of his children. He had artistic and literary tastes, a mind richly stored with philosophy, history, literature, and legend, some repute as a maker of verses, and a liberality that led him to assist his gifted son in following his bent. From his father Robert inherited his literary tastes and his vigorous health; in his father he found a critic and companion. His mother was described by Carlyle as a type of the true Scotch gentlewoman. Her "fathomless charity," her love of music, and her deep religious feeling reappear in the poet.
Free from struggles with adversity, and devoid of public or stirring incidents, the story of Browning's life is soon told. It was the life of a scholar and man of letters, devoted to the study of poetry, philosophy, history; to the contemplation of the lives of men and women; and to the exercise of his chosen vocation.
His school life was of meagre extent. He attended a private academy, read at home under a tutor, and for two years attended the University of London. When asked in his later life whether he had been to Oxford or Cambridge, he used to say, "Italy was my University," And, indeed, his many poems on Italian themes bear testimony to the profound influence of Italy upon him. In his teens, he came under the influence of Pope and Byron, and wrote verses after their styles. Then Shelley came by accident in his way, and became to the boy the model of poetic excellence.
In 1838 appeared his first published poem, Pauline. It bears the marks of his peculiar genius; it has the germs of his merits and his defects. Though not widely read, it received favorable notice from some of the critics. In 1835 appeared Paracelsus, in 1837 Strafford, in 1840 Sordello. From this time on, for the fifty remaining years of his life, his poetic activity hardly ceased, though his poetry was of uneven excellence. The middle period of his work, beginning with Bells and Pomegranates in 1842, and ending with Balaustion's Adventure (a transcript of Euripides' Alcestis) in 1871, was by far the richest in poetic value.
In 1846 he married Elizabeth Barrett, the poet. They left England for Italy, where, because of Mrs. Browning's feeble health, they continued to reside until her death in 1861. The remainder of his life was divided between England and Italy, with frequent visits to southern France. His reputation as a poet had steadily grown. He was now one of the best known men in England. His mental activity continued unabated to the end. Within the last thirty years of his life he wrote The Ring and the Book—his longest work, one of the longest and, intellectually, one of the greatest, of English poems; translated the Agamemnon of AEschylus and the Alcestis of Euripides; published many shorter poems; kept up the studies which had always been his labor and his pastime; and found leisure also to know a wide circle of men and women. William Sharp gives a pleasing picture of the last years of his life: "Everybody wished him to come and dine; and he did his utmost to gratify Everybody. He saw everything; read all the notable books; kept himself acquainted with the leading contents of the journals and magazines; conducted a large correspondence; read new French, German, and Italian books of mark; read and translated Euripides and AEschylus: knew all the gossip of the literary clubs, salons, and the studios; was a frequenter of afternoon tea-parties; and then, over and above it, he was Browning: the most profoundly subtle mind that has exercised itself in poetry since Shakespeare."
He died in Venice, on December 12, 1889, and was buried in the poet's corner of Westminster Abbey.
[Footnote 1: Sharp's Life of Browning.]
BROWNING AS POET
The three generations of readers who have lived since Browning's first publication have seen as many attitudes taken toward one of the ablest poetic spirits of the century. To the first he appeared an enigma, a writer hopelessly obscure, perhaps not even clear in his own mind, as to the message he wished to deliver; to the second he appeared a prophet and a philosopher, full of all wisdom and subtlety, too deep for common mortals to fathom with line and plummet,—concealing below green depths of ocean priceless gems of thought and feeling; to the third, a poet full of inequalities in conception and expression, who has done many good things well and has made many grave failures.
No poet in our generation has fared so ill at the hands of the critics. Already the Browning library is large. Some of the criticism is good; much of it, regarding the author as philosopher and symbolist, is totally askew. Reams have been written in interpretation of Childe Roland, an imaginative fantasy composed in one day. Abstruse ideas have been wrested from the simple story of My Last Duchess. His poetry has been the stamping-ground of theologians and the centre of prattling literary circles. In this tortuous maze of futile criticism the one thing lost sight of is the fact that a poet must be judged by the standards of art. It must be confessed, however, that Browning is himself to blame for much of the smoke of commentary that has gathered round him. He has often chosen the oblique expression where the direct would serve better; often interpolated his own musing subtleties between the reader and the life he would present; often followed his theme into intricacies beyond his own power to resolve into the simple forms of art. Thus it has come about that misguided readers became enigma hunters, and the poet their Sphinx.
The real question with Browning, as with any poet, is, What is his work and worth as an artist? What of human life has he presented, and how clear and true are his presentations? What passions, what struggles, what ideals, what activities of men has he added to the art world? What beauty and dignity, what light, has he created? How does he view life: with what of hope, or aspiration, or strength? These questions may be discussed under his sense and mastery of form, and under his views of human life.
Browning's sense of form has often been attacked and defended. The first impression upon reading him is of harshness amounting to the grotesque. Rhymes often clash and jangle like the music of savages. Such rhymes as
"Fancy the fabric... Ere mortar dab brick,"
strain dignity and beauty to the breaking-point. Archaic and bizarre words are pressed into service to help out the rhyme and metre; instead of melodic rhythm there are harsh and jolting combinations; until the reader brought up in the traditions of Shakespeare, Milton, and Tennyson, is fain to cry out, This is not poetry!
In internal form, as well, Browning often defies the established laws of literature. Distorted and elliptical sentences, long and irrelevant parentheses, curious involutions of thought, and irregular or incoherent development of the narrative or the picture, often leave the reader in despair even of the meaning. Nor can these departures from orderly beauty always be defended by the exigencies of the subjects. They do not fit the theme. They are the discords of a musician who either has not mastered his instrument or is not sensitive to all the finer effects. Some of his work stands out clear from these faults: A Toccata of Galuppi's, Love Among the Ruins, the Songs from Pippa Passes, Apparitions, Andrea del Sarto, and a score of others might be cited to show that Browning could write with a sense of form as true, and an ear as delicate, as could any poet of the century, except Tennyson.
To Browning belongs the credit of having created a new poetic form,—the dramatic monologue. In this form the larger number of his poems are cast. Among the best examples in this volume are My Last Duchess, The Bishop Orders his Tomb, The Laboratory, and Confessions. One person only is speaking, but reveals the presence, action, and thoughts of the others who are in the scene at the same time that he reveals his own character, as in a conversation in which but one voice is audible. The dramatic monologue has in a peculiar degree the advantages of compression and vividness, and is, in Browning's hands, an instrument of great power.
The charge of obscurity so often made against Browning's poetry must in part be admitted. As has been said above he is often led off by his many-sided interests into irrelevancies and subtleties that interfere with simplicity and beauty. His compressed style and his fondness for unusual words often make an unwarranted demand upon the reader's patience. Such passages are a challenge to his admirers and a repulse to the indifferent. Sometimes, indeed, the ore is not worth the smelting; often it yields enough to reward the greatest patience.
Browning, like all great poets, knew life widely and deeply through men and books. He was born in London, near the great centres of the intellectual movements of his time; he travelled much, especially in Italy and France; he read widely in the literatures and philosophies of many ages and many lands; and so grew into the cosmopolitanism of spirit that belonged to Chaucer and to Shakespeare.
In all art human life is the matter of ultimate interest. To Browning this was so in a peculiar degree. In the epistolary preface to Sordello, written thirty years after its first publication, he said: "My stress lay on the incidents in the development of a soul: little else is worth study." This interest in "the development of a soul" is the keynote of nearly all his work. To it are directly traceable many of the most obvious excellences and defects of his poetry. He came to look below the surfaces of things for the soul beneath them. He came to be "the subtlest assertor of the Soul in Song," and like his own pair of lovers on the Campagna, "unashamed of soul." His early preference of Shelley to Keats indicated this bent. His readers are conscious always of revelations of the souls of the men and women he portrays; the sweet and tender womanhood of the Duchess, the sordid and material soul of the old Bishop of St. Praxed's, the devoted and heroic soul of Napoleon's young soldier, the weary and despairing soul of Andrea del Sarto,—and a host of others stand before us cleared of the veil of habit and convention. The souls of men appear as the victors over all material and immaterial obstacles. Human affection transforms the bare room to a bower of fruits and flowers; human courage and resolution carry Childe Roland victoriously past the threats and terrors of malignant nature, and the despair from accumulated memories of failure; death itself is described in Evelyn Hope, in Prospice, in Rabbi Ben Ezra, as a phase, a transit of the soul, wherein the material aspects and the physical terrors disappear. In Browning's poetry, the one real and permanent thing is the world of ideas, the world of the spirit. He is in this one of the truest Platonists of modern times.
To many young readers this method in art comes like a revelation. Other poets also portray the souls of men; but Browning does it more obviously, more intentionally, more insistently. It is well, therefore, to have read Browning. To learn to read him aright is to enter the gateway to other good and great poetry.
Out of this predominating interest in the souls of men, and out of his intense intellectual activity and scientific curiosity, grows one of Browning's greatest defects. He is often led too far afield, into intricacies and anomalies of character beyond the range of common experience and sympathy. The criminal, the "moral idiot," belong to the alienist rather than to the poet. The abnormalities of nature have no place in the world of great art; they do not echo the common experience of mankind. Already the interest is decreasing in that part of his poetry which deals with such themes. Bishop Blougram and Mr. Sludge will not take place in the ranks of artistic creations. Nor can the poet's "special pleading" for such types, however ingenious it may be, whatever philanthropy of soul it may imply, be regarded as justification. Sometimes, indeed, the poet is led by his sympathy and his intellectual ingenuity into defences that are inconsistent with his own standards of the true and the beautiful.
The trait in Browning which appeals to the largest number of readers is his strenuous optimism. He will admit no evil or sorrow too great to be borne, too irrational to have some ultimate purpose of beneficence. "There shall never be one lost good," says Abt Vogler. The suicides in the morgue only serve to call forth his declaration:—
"My own hope is, a sun will pierce The thickest cloud earth ever stretched;
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That what began best can't end worst, Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst."
He has no fear of death; he will face it gladly, in confidence of the life beyond. His Grammarian is content to assume an order of things which will justify in the next life his ceaseless toil in this, merely to learn how to live. Rabbi Ben Ezra's old age is serene in the hope of the continuity of life and the eternal development of character; he finds life good, and the plan of things perfect. In brief, Browning accepts life as it is, and believes it good, piecing out his conception of the goodness of life by drawing without limit upon his hopes of the other world. With the exception of a few poems like Andrea del Sarto, this is the unbroken tone of his poetry. Calvinism, asceticism, pessimism in any form, he rejects. He sustains his position not by argument, but by hope and assertion. It is a matter of temperament: he is optimistic because he was born so. Different from the serene optimism of Shakespeare's later life, in The Tempest and The Winter's Tale, in that it is not, like Shakespeare's, born of long and deep suffering from the contemplation of the tragedies of human life, it bears, in that degree, less of solace and conviction.
To Browning's temperament, also, may be ascribed another prominent trait in his work. He steadily asserts the right of the individual to live out his own life, to be himself in fulfilling his desires and aspirations. The Statue and the Bust is the famous exposition of this doctrine. It is a teaching that neither the poet's optimism nor his acumen has justified in the minds of men. It is a return to the unbridled freedom of nature advocated by Whitman and Rousseau; an extreme assertion of the value of the individual man, and of unregulated democracy; an outgrowth, it may be, of the robustness and originality of Browning's nature, and interesting—not as a clew to his life, which conformed to that of organized society—but as a clew to his independence of classical and conventional forms in the exercise of his art.
Creative energy Browning has in high degree. With the poet's insight into character and motives, the poet's grasp of the essential laws of human life, the poet's vividness of imagination, he has portrayed a host of types distinct from each other, true to life, strongly marked and consistent. With fine dramatic instinct he has shown these characters in true relation to the facts of life and to each other. In this respect he has satisfied the most exigent demands of art, and has already taken rank as one of the great creative minds of the nineteenth century.
True poet he is, also, in his depth of feeling and range of sympathy. Beneath a ruggedness of intellect, like his landscape in De Gustibus, there is always sympathy and tenderness. It is, indeed, more like the serenity of Chaucer's emotions than like the tragic fervor of Shakespeare's. Mrs. Browning's estimate of him in Lady Geraldine's Courtship,—
"Or from Browning some 'Pomegranate,' which, if cut deep down the middle, Shows a heart within blood-tinctured, of a veined humanity,"
is true criticism.
His love of nature, and his sense of the joy and beauty of it, appear often in his poetry; but not with the same insistence as in Wordsworth and Burns, and seldom with the same pervasiveness, or with the same beauty, as in Tennyson. He was rather the poet of men's souls. When he does use nature, it is generally to illustrate some phase or experience of the soul, and not for the sake of its beauty. He has, however, some nature-descriptions so exquisite that English poetry would be the poorer for their loss. Witness De Gustibus, Up at a Villa, Home Thoughts from Abroad, Pippa's Songs, and Saul.
It is too early to guess at Browning's permanent place in our literature. But his vigor of intellect, his insight into the human heart, his originality in phrase and conception, his unquenchable and fearless optimism, and his grasp of the problems of his century, make him beyond question one of its greatest figures.
Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world's, Therefore, on him no speech! and brief for thee, Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale No man has walked along our roads with step So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue So varied in discourse. But warmer climes Give brighter plumage, stronger wing: the breeze Of Alpine heights thou playest with, borne on Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi, where The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.
—WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.
Tennyson has a vivid feeling of the dignity and potency of law.... Browning vividly feels the importance, the greatness and beauty of passions and enthusiasms, and his imagination is comparatively unimpressed by the presence of law and its operations.... It is not the order and regularity in the processes of the natural world which chiefly delight Browning's imagination, but the streaming forth of power, and will, and love from the whole face of the visible universe....
Tennyson considers the chief instruments of human progress to be a vast increase of knowledge and of political organization. Browning makes that progress dependent on the production of higher passions, and aspirations,—hopes, and joys, and sorrows; Tennyson finds the evidence of the truth of the doctrine of progress in the universal presence of a self-evolving law. Browning obtains his assurance of its truth from inward presages and prophecies of the soul, from anticipations, types, and symbols of a higher greatness in store for man, which even now reside within him, a creature ever unsatisfied, ever yearning upward in thought, feeling, and endeavour.
... Hence, it is not obedience, it is not submission to the law of duty, which points out to us our true path of life, but rather infinite desire and endless aspiration. Browning's ideal of manhood in this world always recognizes the fact that it is the ideal of a creature who never can be perfected on earth, a creature whom other and higher lives await in an endless hereafter....
The gleams of knowledge which we possess are of chief value because they "sting with hunger for full light." The goal of knowledge, as of love, is God himself. Its most precious part is that which is least positive—those momentary intuitions of things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard. The needs of the highest parts of our humanity cannot be supplied by ascertained truth, in which we might rest, or which we might put to use for definite ends; rather by ventures of faith, which test the courage of the soul, we ascend from surmise to assurance, and so again to higher surmise.—Condensed from EDWARD DOWDEN, Studies in Literature.
... Browning has not cared for that poetic form which bestows perennial charm, or else he was incapable of it. He fails in beauty, in concentration of interest, in economy of language, in selection of the best from the common treasure of experience. In those works where he has been most indifferent, as in the Red Cotton Night-Cap Country, he has been merely whimsical and dull; in those works where the genius he possessed is most felt, as in Saul, A Toccata of Galuppi's, Rabbi Ben Ezra, The Flight of the Duchess, The Bishop Orders his Tomb in Saint Praxed's Church, Herve Riel, Cavalier Tunes, Time's Revenges, and many more, he achieves beauty, or nobility, or fitness of phrase such as only a poet is capable of. It is in these last pieces and their like that his fame lies for the future. It was his lot to be strong as the thinker, the moralist, with "the accomplishment of verse," the scholar interested to rebuild the past of experience, the teacher with an explicit dogma in an intellectual form with examples from life, the anatomist of human passions, instincts, and impulses in all their gamut, the commentator on his own age; he was weak as the artist, often unnecessarily and by choice, in the repulsive form,—in the awkward, the obscure, the ugly. He belongs with Jonson, with Dryden, with the heirs of the masculine intellect, the men of power not unvisited by grace, but in whom mind is predominant. Upon the work of such poets time hesitates, conscious of their mental greatness, but also of their imperfect art, their heterogeneous matter; at last the good is sifted from that whence worth has departed.—From GEORGE EDWARD WOODBERRY'S Studies in Letters and Life.
When it is urged that for a poet the intellectual energies are too strong in Browning, that for poetry the play of intellectual interests and activities is too great in his work, and that Browning often and at times ruthlessly sacrifices the requirements and effects of art for the expression of thought, that "though he refreshes the heart he tires the brain," we should admit this with regard to a good deal of the work of the third period. We should allow that this is the side to which he leans generally, but still hold that, though to many his intellectual quality and energy may well seem excessive, yet in great part of his work, and that of course, his best, the passion of the poet and his kind of imagination are just as fresh and powerful as the intellectual force and subtlety are keen and abundant.—JAMES FROTHINGHAM, Studies of the Mind and Art of Robert Browning.
Now dumb is he who waked the world to speak, And voiceless hangs the world beside his bier, Our words are sobs, our cry or praise a tear: We are the smitten mortal, we the weak. We see a spirit on earth's loftiest peak Shine, and wing hence the way he makes more clear: See a great Tree of Life that never sere Dropped leaf for aught that age or storms might wreak; Such ending is not death: such living shows What wide illumination brightness sheds From one big heart,—to conquer man's old foes: The coward, and the tyrant, and the force Of all those weedy monsters raising heads When Song is muck from springs of turbid source.
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CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF BROWNING'S WORKS
1833. Pauline. 1835. Paracelsus. 1837. Strafford (A tragedy). 1840. Sordello. 1841. Bells and Pomegranates, No I., Pippa Passes. 1842. Bells and Pomegranates, No. II., King Victor and King Charles. 1842. Bells and Pomegranates, No. III., Dramatic Lyrics. Cavalier Tunes. Italy and France. Camp and Cloister. In a Gondola. Artemis Prologises. Waring. Queen Worship. Madhouse Cells. Through the Metidja. The Pied Piper of Hamelin. 1843. Bells and Pomegranates, No. IV., The Return of the Druses (A tragedy). 1843. Bells and Pomegranates, No. V., A Blot In the 'Scutcheon (A tragedy). 1844. Bells and Pomegranates, No. VI., Colombe's Birthday (A play). 1845. Bells and Pomegranates, No. VII. "How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix." Pictor Ignotos. The Italian in England. The Englishman in Italy. The Lost Leader. The Lost Mistress. Home Thoughts from Abroad. The Bishop Orders his Tomb. Garden Fancies. The Laboratory. The Confessional. The Flight of the Duchess. Earth's Immortalities. Song: "Nay, but you,—who do not love her." The Boy and the Angel. Night and Morning. Claret and Tokay. Saul. Time's Revenges. The Glove. 1846. Bells and Pomegranates, No. VIII., Luria, and A Soul's Tragedy. 1850. Christmas Eve and Easterday. 1852. Introductory Essay to Shelley's Letters. 1855. Men and Women.
Love among the Ruins. A Lover's Quarrel. Evelyn Hope. Up at a Villa—Down in the City. A Woman's Last Word. Fra Lippo Lippi. A Toccata of Galuppi's. By the Fireside. Any Wife to Any Husband. An Epistle (Karshish). Mesmerism. A Serenade at the Villa. My Star. Instans Tyrannus. A Pretty Woman. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came." Respectability. A Light Woman. The Statue and the Bust. Love in a Life. Life in a Love. How it Strikes a Contemporary. The Last Ride Together. The Patriot. Master Hugues of Saxe-Gotha. Bishop Blougram's Apology. Memorabilia.
Andrea del Sarto. Before and After. In Three Days. In a Year. Old Pictures in Florence. In a Balcony. Saul. "De Gustibus—." Women and Roses. Protus. Holy-Cross Day. The Guardian Angel. Cleon. The Twins. Popularity. The Heretic's Tragedy. Two in the Campagna. A Grammarian's Funeral. One Way of Love. Another Way of Love. "Transcendentalism." Misconceptions. One Word More. 1864. Dramatis Personae. James Lee. Gold Hair. The Worst of It. Dis Aliter Visum. Too Late. Abt Vogler. Rabbi Ben Ezra. A Death in the Desert. Caliban upon Setebos. Confessions. May and Death. Prospice. Youth and Art. A Face. A Likeness. Mr. Sludge, "The Medium." Apparent Failure. Epilogue. 1868-69. The Ring and the Book. 1871. Balaustion's Adventure. 1871. Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau. 1872. Fifine at the Fair. 1873. Red Cotton Night-Cap Country. 1875. Aristophanes' Apology. 1875. The Inn Album. 1876. Pacchiarotto, and other Poems (including Natural Magic and Herve Riel). 1877. The Agamemnon of AEschylus. 1878. La Saisiaz, and The Two Poets of Croisic. 1879-80. Dramatic Idyls. 1883. Jocoseria. 1884. Ferishtah's Fancies. 1887. Parleyings with Certain People. 1890. Asolando.
The Poetical Works of Robert Browning (The Macmillan Company, ten vols.). Browning's Complete Poetical Works, Cambridge Edition (Houghton, Mifflin & Co., one vol.). Selections from Browning (Crowell & Co., one vol.). Life of Browning, by William Sharp. Life of Browning, by Mrs. Sutherland Orr. Introduction to Browning, by Hiram Corson. Guide Book to Browning, by George Willis Cook. Browning Cyclopaedia, by Edward Berdoe. Literary Studies, by Walter Bagehot. Studies in Literature, by Edward Dowden. Makers of Literature, by George Edward Woodberry (New York, 1901). Boston Browning Society Papers. A Handbook to the Works of Robert Browning, by Mrs Sutherland Orr. Robert Browning: Personalia, by Edmund Gosse. Life of the Spirit in Modern English Poets, by Vida D. Scudder. Victorian Poetry, by Edmund Clarence Stedman. Studies of the Mind and Art of Robert Browning, by James Fotheringham. Browning Society Papers. Our Living Poets, by H. Buxton Forman. Browning's Message to his Times, by Edward Berdoe (London, 1897). Browning Studies, by Edward Berdoe (London, 1895). The Poetry of Robert Browning, by Stopford Brooke (New York, 1902). Browning, Poet and Man, by E.L. Cary (New York, 1899). (An extensive bibliography, biographical and critical, is given in the Appendix to Sharp's Life of Browning; London, Walter Scott, 1890.)
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THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
A CHILD'S STORY (Written for, and inscribed to W. M. the Younger)
Hamelin deg. town's in Brunswick, deg.1 By famous Hanover city; The river Weser, deep and wide, Washes its walls on either side; A pleasanter spot you never spied; But, when begins my ditty, Almost five hundred years ago, To see the townsfolk suffer so From vermin, was a pity.
Rats! 10 They fought the dogs and killed the cats, And bit the babies in the cradles, And ate the cheeses out of the vats, And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles, Split open the kegs of salted sprats. Made nests inside men's Sunday hats. And even spoiled the women's chats By drowning their speaking With shrieking and squeaking In fifty different sharps and flats. 20
At last the people in a body To the Town Hall came flocking: "'Tis clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy; And as for our Corporation, shocking To think we buy gowns lined with ermine For dolts that can't or won't determine What's best to rid us of our vermin! You hope, because you're old and obese, To find in the furry civic robe ease! Rouse up, sirs! give your brains a racking 30 To find the remedy we're lacking, Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!" At this the Mayor and Corporation Quaked with a mighty consternation.
An hour they sat in council; At length the Mayor broke silence: "For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell, I wish I were a mile hence! It's easy to bid one rack one's brain— I'm sure my poor head aches again, 40 I've scratched it so, and all in vain. Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!" Just as he said this, what should hap At the chamber door but a gentle tap? "Bless us," cried the Mayor, "what's that?" (With the Corporation as he sat, Looking little, though wondrous fat; Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister Than a too-long-opened oyster, Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous 50 For a plate of turtle, green and glutinous) "Only a scraping of shoes on the mat? Anything like the sound of a rat Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"
"Come in!"—the Mayor cried, looking bigger: And in did come the strangest figure! His queer long coat from heel to head Was half of yellow and half of red, And he himself was tall and thin, With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin, 60 With light loose hair, yet swarthy skin, No tuft on cheek, nor beard on chin, But lips where smiles went out and in; There was no guessing his kith and kin: And nobody could enough admire The tall man and his quaint attire. Quoth one: "It's as my great grandsire, Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone, Had walked his way from his painted tombstone!"
He advanced to the council-table: 70 And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able, By means of a secret charm, to draw All creatures living beneath the sun, That creep or swim or fly or run, After me so as you never saw! And I chiefly use my charm On creatures that do people harm, The mole and toad and newt and viper; And people call me the Pied Piper." (And here they noticed round his neck 80 A scarf of red and yellow stripe, To match with his coat of self-same cheque: And at the scarf's end hung a pipe; And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying, As if impatient to be playing Upon this pipe, as low it dangled Over his vesture so old-fangled.) "Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am, In Tartary I freed the Cham, deg. deg.89 Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats; 90 I eased in Asia the Nizam deg. deg.91 Of a monstrous brood of vampire-bats: And as for what your brain bewilders, If I can rid your town of rats Will you give me a thousand guilders?" "One? fifty thousand!"—was the exclamation Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.
Into the street the Piper stept, Smiling first a little smile, As if he knew what magic slept 100 In his quiet pipe the while: Then, like a musical adept, To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled, And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled, Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled; And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered, You heard as if an army muttered: And the muttering grew to a grumbling; And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling; And out of the houses the rats came tumbling. 110 Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats, Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats, Grave old plodders, gay young friskers, Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins, Cocking tails and pricking whiskers, Families by tens and dozens, Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives— Followed the Piper for their lives. From street to street he piped advancing, And step for step they followed dancing, 120 Until they came to the river Weser, Wherein all plunged and perished! —Save one, who, stout as Julius Caesar, Swam across and lived to carry (As he, the manuscript he cherished) To Rat-land home his commentary: Which was: "At the first shrill notes of the pipe, I heard a sound as of scraping tripe, And putting apples, wondrous ripe, Into a cider press's gripe; 130 And a moving away of pickle-tub-boards, And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards, And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks, And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks: And it seemed as if a voice (Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery Is breathed) called out, 'Oh, rats, rejoice! The world is grown to one vast drysaltery! So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon, Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!' 140 And just as a bulky sugar-puncheon, Already staved, like a great sun shone Glorious scarce an inch before me, Just as methought it said, 'Come, bore me!' —I found the Weser rolling o'er me."
You should have heard the Hamelin people Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple. "Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles, Poke out the nests and block up the holes! Consult with carpenters and builders, 150 And leave in our town, not even a trace Of the rats!"—when suddenly, up the face Of the Piper perked in the market-place, With a, "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue; So did the Corporation, too. For council dinners made rare havoc With Claret, deg. Moselle, deg. Vin-de-Grave, deg. Hock deg.; deg.158 And half the money would replenish Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish deg.. deg.160 To pay this sum to a wandering fellow With a gypsy coat of red and yellow! "Beside," quoth the Mayor, with a knowing wink, "Our business was done at the river's brink; We saw with our eyes the vermin sink, And what's dead can't come to life, I think. So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink From the duty of giving you something for drink, And a matter of money to put in your poke; But as for the guilders, what we spoke 170 Of them, as you very well know, was in joke. Beside, our losses have made us thrifty. A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!"
The Piper's face fell, and he cried, "No trifling! I can't wait! Beside, I've promised to visit by dinner-time Bagdat, and accept the prime Of the Head-Cook's pottage, all he's rich in, For having left, in the Caliph's deg. kitchen, deg.179 Of a nest of scorpions no survivor: 180 With him I proved no bargain-driver, With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver! And folks who put me in a passion May find me pipe after another fashion."
"How?" cried the Mayor, "d'ye think I brook Being worse treated than a cook? Insulted by a lazy ribald With idle pipe and vesture piebald? You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst! Blow your pipe there till you burst!" 190
Once more he stept into the street, And to his lips again Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane; And ere he blew three notes (such sweet, Soft notes as yet musician's cunning Never gave the enraptured air) There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling; Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering, 200 Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering, And, like fowls in a farm-yard, when barley is scattering, Out came the children running. All the little boys and girls. With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls, And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls, Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood As if they were changed into blocks of wood. Unable to move a step, or cry 210 To the children merrily skipping by, —Could only follow with the eye That joyous crowd at the piper's back. But how the Mayor was on the rack, And the wretched Council's bosom beat, As the Piper turned from the High Street To where the Weser rolled its waters, Right in the way of their sons and daughters! However, he turned from South to West, And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed, 220 And after him the children pressed: Great was the joy in every breast. "He never can cross that mighty top! He's forced to let the piping drop, And we shall see our children stop." When lo, as they reached the mountain-side, A wondrous portal opened wide, As if a cavern were suddenly hollowed; And the Piper advanced, and the children followed, And when all were in, to the very last, 230 The door in the mountain-side shut fast. Did I say all? No! One was lame, And could not dance the whole of the way; And in after years, if you would blame His sadness, he was used to say,— "It's dull in our town since my playmates left! I can't forget that I'm bereft Of all the pleasant sights they see, Which the Piper also promised me. For he led us, he said, to a joyous land. 240 Joining the town, and just at hand, Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew, And flowers put forth a fairer hue, And everything was strange and new: The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here, And their dogs outran our fallow deer. And honey-bees had lost their stings, And horses were born with eagles' wings; And just as I became assured, My lame foot would be speedily cured, 250 The music stopped and I stood still, And found myself outside the hill, Left alone against my will, To go now limping as before. And never hear of that country more!"
Alas, alas for Hamelin! There came into many a burgher's pate A text which says that Heaven's gate Opes to the rich at as easy a rate As the needle's eye takes a camel in! 260 The Mayor sent East, West, North, and South, To offer the Piper, by word of mouth, Wherever it was men's lot to find him, Silver and gold to his heart's content, If he'd only return the way he went, And bring the children behind him. But when they saw 'twas a lost endeavor, And Piper and dancers were gone forever, They made a decree that lawyers never Should think their records dated duly 270 If, after the day of the month and year, These words did not as well appear, "And so long after what happened here On the twenty-second of July, Thirteen hundred and seventy-six;" And the better in memory to fix The place of the children's last retreat, They called it the Pied Piper's Street— Where any one playing on pipe or tabor Was sure for the future to lose his labour. 280 Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern To shock with mirth a street so solemn; But opposite the place of the cavern They wrote the story on a column, And on the great church window painted The same, to make the world acquainted How their children were stolen away. And there it stands to this very day. And I must not omit to say That in Transylvania there's a tribe 290 Of alien people who ascribe The outlandish ways and dress On which their neighbours lay such stress, To their fathers and mothers having risen Out of some subterraneous prison Into which they were trepanned Long time ago in a mighty band Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land, But how or why, they don't understand.
So, Willy, let me and you be wipers 300 Of scores out with all men—especially pipers! And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice, If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise!
* * * * *
Sing me a hero! Quench my thirst Of soul, ye bards! Quoth Bard the first: "Sir Olaf, deg. the good knight, did don deg.3 His helm, and eke his habergeon ..." Sir Olaf and his bard——!
"That sin-scathed brow" deg. (quoth Bard the second), deg.6 "That eye wide ope as tho' Fate beckoned My hero to some steep, beneath Which precipice smiled tempting Death ..." You too without your host have reckoned! 10
"A beggar-child" (let's hear this third!) "Sat on a quay's edge: like a bird Sang to herself at careless play, And fell into the stream. 'Dismay! Help, you the standers-by!' None stirred.
"Bystanders reason, think of wives And children ere they risk their lives. Over the balustrade has bounced A mere instinctive dog, and pounced Plumb on the prize. 'How well he dives! 20
"'Up he comes with the child, see, tight In mouth, alive too, clutched from quite A depth of ten feet—twelve, I bet! Good dog! What, off again? There's yet Another child to save? All right!
"'How strange we saw no other fall! It's instinct in the animal. Good dog! But he's a long while under: If he got drowned I should not wonder— Strong current, that against the wall! 30
"'Here he comes, holds in mouth this time —What may the thing be? Well, that's prime! Now, did you ever? Reason reigns In man alone, since all Tray's pains Have fished—the child's doll from the slime!'
"And so, amid the laughter gay, Trotted my hero off,—old Tray,— Till somebody, prerogatived With reason, reasoned: 'Why he dived, His brain would show us, I should say. 40
"'John, go and catch—or, if needs be, Purchase that animal for me! By vivisection, at expense Of half-an-hour and eighteen pence, How brain secretes dog's soul, we'll see!'"
* * * * *
INCIDENT OF THE FRENCH CAMP
You know, we French stormed Ratisbon deg.: deg.1 A mile or so away On a little mound, Napoleon Stood on our storming-day; With neck out-thrust, you fancy how, Legs wide, arms locked behind, As if to balance the prone brow Oppressive with its mind.
Just as perhaps he mused "My plans That soar, to earth may fall, 10 Let once my army-leader Lannes deg. deg.11 Waver at yonder wall"— Out 'twixt the battery-smokes there flew A rider, bound on bound Full-galloping; nor bridle drew Until he reached the mound,
Then off there flung in smiling joy, And held himself erect By just his horse's mane, a boy: You hardly could suspect deg.— deg.20 (So tight he kept his lips compressed. Scarce any blood came through) You looked twice ere you saw his breast Was all but shot in two.
"Well," cried he, "Emperor, by God's grace We've got you Ratisbon! The Marshal's in the market-place, And you'll be there anon To see your flag-bird flap his vans Where I, to heart's desire, 30 Perched him!" The chief's eye flashed; his plans Soared up again like fire.
The chief's eye flashed; but presently Softened itself, as sheathes A film the mother-eagle's eye When her bruised eaglet breathes. "You're wounded!" "Nay," the soldier's pride Touched to the quick, he said: "I'm killed, Sire!" And his chief beside, Smiling, the boy fell dead. 40
* * * * *
"HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS FROM GHENT TO AIX"
I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he; I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three; "Good speed!" cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew; "Speed!" echoed the wall to us galloping through; Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest, And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place; I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight, Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right, 10 Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit, Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
'Twas moonset at starting; but while we drew near Lokeren deg., the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear: deg.14 At Boom deg., a great yellow star came out to see; deg.15 At Dueffeld deg., 'twas morning as plain as could be; deg.16 And from Mecheln deg. church-steeple we heard the half-chime, deg.17 So, Joris broke silence with, "Yet there is time!"
At Aershot deg. up leaped of a sudden the sun, deg.19 And against him the cattle stood black every one, 20 To stare through the mist at us galloping past, And I saw my stout galloper Roland, at last, With resolute shoulders, each butting away The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray:
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track; And one eye's black intelligence,—ever that glance O'er its white edge at me, his own master, askance! And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on. 30
By Hasselt, Dirck groaned; and cried Joris, "Stay spur! Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault's not in her, We'll remember at Aix"—for one heard the quick wheeze Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees, And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank, As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So, we were left galloping, Joris and I, Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky; The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh, 'Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff; 40 Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white, And "Gallop," gasped Joris, "for Aix is in sight!"
"How they'll greet us!"—and all in a moment his roan Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone; And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate, With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim, And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.
Then I cast loose my buff-coat, each holster let fall, Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all, 50 Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear, Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer; Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good, Till at length, into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
And all I remember is,—friends flocking round As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground; And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine, As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine, Which (the burgesses voted by common consent) Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent. 60
* * * * *
On the sea and at the Hogue, sixteen hundred ninety two, Did the English fight the French,—woe to France! And, the thirty-first of May, helter-skelter thro' the blue. Like a crowd of frightened porpoises a shoal of sharks pursue, Came crowding ship on ship to St. Malo on the Rance, deg. deg.5 With the English fleet in view.
'Twas the squadron that escaped, with the victor in full chase; First and foremost of the drove, in his great ship, Damfreville; Close on him fled, great and small, Twenty-two good ships in all; 10 And they signalled to the place "Help the winners of a race! Get us guidance, give us harbor, take us quick—or, quicker still, Here's the English can and will!"
Then the pilots of the place put out brisk and leapt on board; "Why, what hope or chance have ships like these to pass?" laughed they: "Rocks to starboard, rocks to port, all the passage scarred and scored, Shall the 'Formidable' here, with her twelve and eighty guns Think to make the river-mouth by the single narrow way, Trust to enter where 'tis ticklish for a craft of twenty tons, 20 And with flow at full beside? Now 'tis slackest ebb of tide. Reach the mooring? Rather say, While rock stands or water runs, Not a ship will leave the bay!"
Then was called a council straight. Brief and bitter the debate: "Here's the English at our heels; would you have them take in tow All that's left us of the fleet, linked together stern and bow, For a prize to Plymouth Sound? 30 Better run the ships aground!" (Ended Damfreville his speech). Not a minute more to wait! "Let the Captains all and each Shove ashore, then blow up, burn the vessels on the beach! France must undergo her fate.
"Give the word!" But no such word Was ever spoke or heard; For up stood, for out stepped, for in struck amid all these —A Captain? A Lieutenant? A Mate—first, second, third? 40 No such man of mark, and meet With his betters to compete! But a simple Breton sailor pressed deg. by Tourville for the fleet, deg.43 A poor coasting-pilot he, Herve Riel the Croisickese. deg. deg.44
And, "What mockery or malice have we here?" cries Herve Riel: "Are you mad, you Malouins deg.? Are you cowards, fools, or rogues? deg.46 Talk to me of rocks and shoals, me who took the soundings, tell On my fingers every bank, every shallow, every swell 'Twixt the offing here and Greve where the river disembogues? Are you bought by English gold? Is it love the lying's for? 50 Morn and eve, night and day, Have I piloted your bay, Entered free and anchored fast at the foot of Solidor. Burn the fleet and ruin France? That were worse than fifty Hogues! Sirs, they know I speak the truth! Sirs, believe me there's a way! Only let me lead the line, Have the biggest ship to steer, Get this 'Formidable' clear, Make the others follow mine, And I lead them, most and least, by a passage I know well, 60 Right to Solidor past Greve, And there lay them safe and sound; And if one ship misbehave, —Keel so much as grate the ground. Why, I've nothing but my life,—here's my head!" cries Herve Riel.
Not a minute more to wait. "Steer us in then, small and great! Take the helm, lead the line, save the squadron!" cried its chief. Captains, give the sailor place! He is Admiral, in brief. 70
Still the north-wind, by God's grace! See the noble fellow's face As the big ship, with a bound, Clears the entry like a hound, Keeps the passage as its inch of way were the wide sea's profound! See, safe thro' shoal and rock, How they follow in a flock, Not a ship that misbehaves, not a keel that grates the ground, Not a spar that comes to grief! The peril, see, is past, 80 All are harboured to the last, And just as Herve Kiel hollas "Anchor!"—sure as fate Up the English come, too late!
So, the storm subsides to calm: They see the green trees wave On the heights o'erlooking Greve. Hearts that bled are staunched with balm. "Just our rapture to enhance, Let the English rake the bay, Gnash their teeth and glare askance 90 As they cannonade away! 'Neath rampired Solidor pleasant riding on the Rance!" How hope succeeds despair on each Captain's countenance! Out burst all with one accord, "This is Paradise for Hell! Let France, let France's King Thank the man that did the thing!" What a shout, and all one word, "Herve Riel!" As he stepped in front once more, 100 Not a symptom of surprise In the frank blue Breton eyes, Just the same man as before.
Then said Damfreville, "My friend, I must speak out at the end, Tho' I find the speaking hard. Praise is deeper than the lips: You have saved the King his ships, You must name your own reward, 'Faith our sun was near eclipse! 110 Demand whate'er you will, France remains your debtor still. Ask to heart's content and have! or my name's not Damfreville."
Then a beam of fun outbroke On the bearded mouth that spoke, As the honest heart laughed through Those frank eyes of Breton blue: "Since I needs must say my say, Since on board the duty's done, And from Malo Roads to Croisic Point, what is it but a run?— 120 Since 'tis ask and have, I may— Since the others go ashore— Come! A good whole holiday! Leave to go and see my wife, whom I call the Belle Aurore!" That he asked and that he got,—nothing more.
Name and deed alike are lost: Not a pillar nor a post In his Croisic keeps alive the feat as it befell; Not a head in white and black On a single fishing smack, 130 In memory of the man but for whom had gone to wrack All that France saved from the fight whence England bore the bell. Go to Paris: rank on rank. Search, the heroes flung pell-mell On the Louvre, deg. face and flank! deg.135 You shall look long enough ere you come to Herve Riel. So, for better and for worse, Herve Riel, accept my verse! In my verse, Herve Riel, do thou once more Save the squadron, honour France, love thy wife the Belle Aurore! 140
* * * * *
[Greek: Chairete, nikomen] deg.
First I salute this soil of the blessed, river and rock! Gods of my birthplace, daemons and heroes, honour to all! Then I name thee, claim thee for our patron, co-equal in praise —Ay, with Zeus deg. the Defender, with Her deg. of the aegis and spear! deg.4 Also, ye of the bow and the buskin, deg. praised be your peer, deg.5
Now, henceforth, and forever,—O latest to whom I upraise Hand and heart and voice! For Athens, leave pasture and flock! Present to help, potent to save, Pan deg.—patron I call! deg.8 Archons deg. of Athens, topped by the tettix, deg. see, I return! deg.9 See, 'tis myself here standing alive, no spectre that speaks! 10 Crowned with the myrtle, did you command me, Athens and you, "Run, Pheidippides, run and race, reach Sparta for aid! Persia has come, deg. we are here, where is She?" Your command I obeyed, deg.13 Ran and raced: like stubble, some field which a fire runs through, Was the space between city and city: two days, two nights did I burn Over the hills, under the dales, down pits and up peaks.
Into their midst I broke: breath served but for "Persia has come! Persia bids Athens proffer slaves'-tribute, water and earth deg.; deg.18 Razed to the ground is Eretria. deg.—but Athens, shall Athens sink, deg.19 Drop into dust and die—the flower of Hellas deg. utterly die, deg.20 Die with the wide world spitting at Sparta, the stupid, the stander-by deg.? deg.21 Answer me quick,—what help, what hand do you stretch o'er destruction's brink? How,—when? No care for my limbs!—there's lightning in all and some— Fresh and fit your message to bear, once lips give it birth!"
O my Athens—Sparta love thee? did Sparta respond? Every face of her leered in a furrow of envy, mistrust, Malice,—each eye of her gave me its glitter of gratified hate! Gravely they turned to take counsel, to cast for excuses. I stood Quivering,—the limbs of me fretting as fire frets, an inch from dry wood: "Persia has come, Athens asks aid, and still they debate? 30 Thunder, thou Zeus! Athene, are Spartans a quarry beyond Swing of thy spear? Phoibos deg. and Artemis, deg. clang them 'Ye must'!" deg.32
No bolt launched from Olumpos deg.! Lo, their answer at last! deg.33 "Has Persia come,—does Athens ask aid,—may Sparta befriend? Nowise precipitate judgment—too weighty the issue at stake! Count we no time lost time which lags thro' respect to the Gods! Ponder that precept of old, 'No warfare, whatever the odds In your favour, so long as the moon, half-orbed, is unable to take Full-circle her state in the sky!' Already she rounds to it fast: Athens must wait, patient as we—who judgment suspend." 40
Athens,—except for that sparkle,—thy name, I had mouldered to ash! That sent a blaze thro' my blood; off, off and away was I back, —Not one word to waste, one look to lose on the false and the vile! Yet "O Gods of my land!" I cried, as each hillock and plain, Wood and stream, I knew, I named, rushing past them again, "Have ye kept faith, proved mindful of honours we paid you erewhile? Vain was the filleted victim, the fulsome libation! Too rash Love in its choice, paid you so largely service so slack!
"Oak and olive and bay,—I bid you cease to en-wreathe Brows made bold by your leaf! Fade at the Persian's foot, 50 You that, our patrons were pledged, should never adorn a slave! Rather I hail thee, Parnes, deg.—trust to thy wild waste tract! deg.52 Treeless, herbless, lifeless mountain! What matter if slacked My speed may hardly be, for homage to crag and to cave No deity deigns to drape with verdure?—at least I can breathe, Fear in thee no fraud from the blind, no lie from the mute!"
Such my cry as, rapid, I ran over Parnes' ridge; Gully and gap I clambered and cleared till, sudden, a bar Jutted, a stoppage of stone against me, blocking the way. Right! for I minded the hollow to traverse, the fissure across: 60 "Where I could enter, there I depart by! Night in the fosse? Athens to aid? Tho' the dive were thro' Erebos, deg. thus I obey— deg.62 Out of the day dive, into the day as bravely arise! No bridge Better!"—when—ha! what was it I came on, of wonders that are?
There, in the cool of a cleft, sat he—majestical Pan! Ivy drooped wanton, kissed his head, moss cushioned his hoof; All the great God was good in the eyes grave-kindly—the curl Carved on the bearded cheek, amused at a mortal's awe As, under the human trunk, the goat-thighs grand I saw. "Halt, Pheidippides!"—halt I did, my brain of a whirl: 70 "Hither to me! Why pale in my presence?"! he gracious began: "How is it,—Athens, only in Hellas, holds me aloof?
"Athens, she only, rears me no fane, makes me no feast! Wherefore? Than I what godship to Athens more helpful of old? Ay, and still, and forever her friend! Test Pan, trust me! Go bid Athens take heart, laugh Persia to scorn, have faith In the temples and tombs! Go, say to Athens, 'The Goat-God saith: When Persia—so much as strews not the soil—Is cast in the sea, Then praise Pan who fought in the ranks with your most and least, Goat-thigh to greaved-thigh, made one cause with the free and the bold!' 80
"Say Pan saith: 'Let this, foreshowing the place, be the pledge!'" (Gay, the liberal hand held out this herbage I bear —Fennel,—I grasped it a-tremble with dew—whatever it bode), "While, as for thee..." But enough! He was gone. If I ran hitherto— Be sure that the rest of my journey, I ran no longer, but flew. Parnes to Athens—earth no more, the air was my road; Here am I back. Praise Pan, we stand no more on the razor's edge! Pan for Athens, Pan for me! I too have a guerdon rare!
* * * * *
Then spoke Miltiades. deg. "And thee, best runner of Greece, deg.89 Whose limbs did duty indeed,—what gift is promised thyself? 90 Tell it us straightway,—Athens the mother demands of her son!" Rosily blushed the youth: he paused: but, lifting at length His eyes from the ground, it seemed as he gathered the rest of his strength Into the utterance—"Pan spoke thus: 'For what thou hast done Count on a worthy reward! Henceforth be allowed thee release From the racer's toil, no vulgar reward in praise or in pelf!'
"I am bold to believe, Pan means reward the most to my mind! Fight I shall, with our foremost, wherever this fennel may grow,— Pound—Pan helping us—Persia to dust, and, under the deep, Whelm her away forever; and then,—no Athens to save,— 100 Marry a certain maid, I know keeps faith to the brave,— Hie to my house and home: and, when my children shall creep Close to my knees,—recount how the God was awful yet kind, Promised their sire reward to the full—rewarding him—so!"
* * * * *
Unforeseeing one! Yes, he fought on the Marathon day: So, when Persia was dust, all cried "To Akropolis deg.! deg.106 Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due! 'Athens is saved, thank Pan,' go shout!" He flung down his shield, Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the Fennel-field deg. deg.109 And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through, 110 Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine thro' clay, Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died—the bliss!
So, to this day, when friend meets friend, the word of salute Is still "Rejoice!"—his word which brought rejoicing indeed. So is Pheidippides happy forever,—the noble strong man Who could race like a god, bear the face of a god, whom a god loved so well, He saw the land saved he had helped to save, and was suffered to tell Such tidings, yet never decline, but, gloriously as he began, So to end gloriously—once to shout, thereafter be mute: "Athens is saved!"—Pheidippides dies in the shout for his meed. 120
* * * * *
All that I know Of a certain star Is, it can throw (Like the angled spar deg.) deg.4 Now a dart of red, Now a dart of blue; Till my friends have said They would fain see, too, My star that dartles the red and the blue!
Then it stops like a bird; like a flower, hangs furled: 10 They must solace themselves with the Saturn deg. above it. deg.11 What matter to me if their star is a world? Mine has opened its soul to me; therefore I love it.
* * * * *
Beautiful Evelyn Hope is dead! Sit and watch by her side an hour. That is her book-shelf, this her bed; She plucked that piece of geranium-flower, Beginning to die too, in the glass; Little has yet been changed, I think: The shutters are shut, no light may pass Save two long rays thro' the hinge's chink.
Sixteen years old when she died! Perhaps she had scarcely heard my name; 10 It was not her time to love; beside, Her life had many a hope and aim, Duties enough and little cares, And now was quiet, now astir, Till God's hand beckoned unawares,— And the sweet white brow is all of her.
Is it too late then, Evelyn Hope? What, your soul was pure and true, The good stars met in your horoscope, Made you of spirit, fire and dew— 20 And just because I was thrice as old And our paths in the world diverged so wide, Each was naught to each, must I be told? We were fellow mortals, naught beside?
No, indeed! for God above Is great to grant, as mighty to make, And creates the love to reward the love: I claim you still, for my own love's sake! Delayed it may be for more lives yet, Thro' worlds I shall traverse, not a few: 30 Much is to learn, much, to forget Ere the time be come for taking you.
But the time will come, at last it will, When, Evelyn Hope, what meant (I shall say) In the lower earth in the years long still, That body and soul so pure and gay? Why your hair was amber, I shall divine, And your mouth of your own geranium's red— And what would you do with me, in fine, In the new life come in the old one's stead. 40
I have lived (I shall say) so much since then, Given up myself so many times, Gained me the gains of various men, Ransacked the ages, spoiled the climes; Yet one thing, one, in my soul's full scope, Either I missed or itself missed me: And I want and find you, Evelyn Hope! What is the issue? let us see!
I loved you, Evelyn, all the while! My heart seemed full as it could hold; 50 There was place and to spare for the frank young smile, And the red young mouth, and the hair's young gold. So hush,—I will give you this leaf to keep: See, I shut it inside the sweet cold hand! There, that is our secret: go to sleep! You will wake, and remember, and understand.
* * * * *
LOVE AMONG THE RUINS
Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles Miles and miles On the solitary pastures where our sheep Half-asleep Tinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stop As they crop— Was the site once of a city great and gay, (So they say) Of our country's very capital, its prince Ages since 10 Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far Peace or war.
Now,—the country does not even boast a tree, As you see, To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills From the hills Intersect and give a name to (else they run Into one), Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires Up like fires 20 O'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall Bounding all, Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed, Twelve abreast.
And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass Never was! Such a carpet as, this summer-time, o'erspreads And embeds Every vestige of the city, guessed alone, Stock or stone— 30 Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe Long ago; Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame Struck them tame; And that glory and that shame alike, the gold Bought and sold.
Now,—the single little turret that remains On the plains, By the caper overrooted, by the gourd Overscored, 40 While the patching houseleek's head of blossom winks Thro' the chinks— Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time Sprang sublime, And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced As they raced, And the monarch and his minions and his dames Viewed the games.
And I know—while thus the quiet-coloured eve Smiles to leave 50 To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece In such peace, And the slopes and rills in undistinguished gray Melt away— That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair Waits me there In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul For the goal, When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb Till I come, 60
But he looked upon the city, every side, Far and wide, All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades' Colonnades, All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,—and then, All the men! When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand, Either hand On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace Of my face, 70 Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech Each on each.
In one year they sent a million fighters forth South and North, And they built their gods a brazen pillar high As the sky, Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force— Gold, of course. Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns! Earth's returns 80 For whole centuries of folly, noise, and sin! Shut them in, With their triumphs and their glories and the rest! Love is best.
* * * * *
This is a spray the bird clung to, Making it blossom with pleasure, Ere the high tree-top she sprung to, Fit for her nest and her treasure. Oh, what a hope beyond measure Was the poor spray's, which the flying feet hung to,— So to be singled out, built in, and sung to!
This is a heart the Queen leant on, Thrilled in a minute erratic, Ere the true bosom she bent on, 10 Meet for love's regal dalmatic. deg. deg.11 Oh, what a fancy ecstatic Was the poor heart's, ere the wanderer went on— Love to be saved for it, proffered to, spent on!
* * * * *
All I can say is—I saw it! The room was as bare as your hand. I locked in the swarth little lady,—I swear, From the head to the foot of her—well, quite as bare! "No Nautch deg. shall cheat me," said I, "taking my stand deg.5 At this bolt which I draw!" And this bolt—I withdraw it, And there laughs the lady, not bare, but embowered With—who knows what verdure, o'erfruited, o'erflowered? Impossible! Only—I saw it!
All I can sing is—I feel it! 10 This life was as blank as that room; I let you pass in here. Precaution, indeed? Walls, ceiling, and floor,—not a chance for a weed! Wide opens the entrance: where's cold, now, where's gloom? No May to sow seed here, no June to reveal it, Behold you enshrined in these blooms of your bringing, These fruits of your bearing—nay, birds of your winging! A fairy-tale! Only—I feel it!
* * * * *
(Prologue to "The Two Poets of Croisic.")
Such a starved bank of moss Till, that May-morn, Blue ran the flash across: Violets were born!
Sky—what a scowl of cloud Till, near and far, Ray on ray split the shroud: Splendid, a star!
World—how it walled about Life with disgrace, 10 Till God's own smile came out: That was thy face!
* * * * *
O the old wall here! How I could pass Life in a long midsummer day, My feet confined to a plot of grass, My eyes from a wall not once away!
And lush and lithe do the creepers clothe Yon wall I watch, with a wealth of green: Its bald red bricks draped, nothing loath, In lappets of tangle they laugh between.
Now, what is it makes pulsate the robe? Why tremble the sprays? What life o'erbrims 10 The body,—the house no eye can probe,— Divined, as beneath a robe, the limbs?
And there again! But my heart may guess Who tripped behind; and she sang, perhaps: So the old wall throbbed, and its life's excess Died out and away in the leafy wraps.
Wall upon wall are between us: life And song should away from heart to heart! I—prison-bird, with a ruddy strife At breast, and a lip whence storm-notes start— 20
Hold on, hope hard in the subtle thing That's spirit: tho' cloistered fast, soar free; Account as wood, brick, stone, this ring Of the rueful neighbours, and—forth to thee!
* * * * *
What is he buzzing in my ears? "Now that I come to die, Do I view the world as a vale of tears?" Ah, reverend sir, not I!
What I viewed there once, what I view again Where the physic bottles stand On the table's edge,—is a suburb lane, With a wall to my bedside hand.
That lane sloped, much as the bottles do, From a house you could descry 10 O'er the garden-wall: is the curtain blue Or green to a healthy eye?
To mine, it serves for the old June weather Blue above lane and wall; And that farthest bottle labelled "Ether" Is the house o'er-topping all.
At a terrace, somewhere near the stopper, There watched for me, one June, A girl: I know, sir, it's improper, My poor mind's out of tune. 20
Only, there was a way ... you crept Close by the side, to dodge Eyes in the house, two eyes except: They styled their house "The Lodge."
What right had a lounger up their lane? But, by creeping very close, With the good wall's help,—their eyes might strain And stretch themselves to Oes,
Yet never catch her and me together, As she left the attic, there, 30 By the rim of the bottle labelled "Ether," And stole from stair to stair
And stood by the rose-wreathed gate. Alas, We loved, sir—used to meet; How sad and bad and mad it was— But then, how it was sweet!
* * * * *
A WOMAN'S LAST WORD
Let's contend no more, Love, Strive nor weep: All be as before, Love, —Only sleep!
What so wild as words are? I and thou In debate, as birds are, Hawk on bough!
See the creature stalking While we speak! 10 Hush and hide the talking, Cheek on cheek.
What so false as truth is, False to thee? Where the serpent's tooth is, Shun the tree—
Where the apple reddens, Never pry— Lest we lose our Edens, Eve and I. 20
Be a god and hold me With a charm! Be a man and fold me With thine arm!
Teach me, only teach, Love! As I ought I will speak thy speech, Love, Think thy thought—
Meet, if thou require it, Both demands, 30 Laying flesh and spirit In thy hands.
That shall be to-morrow, Not to-night: I must bury sorrow Out of sight:
—Must a little weep, Love, (Foolish me!) And so fall asleep, Love, Loved by thee. 40
* * * * *
A PRETTY WOMAN
That fawn-skin-dappled hair of hers, And the blue eye Dear and dewy, And that infantine fresh air of hers!
To think men cannot take you, Sweet, And infold you, Ay, and hold you, And so keep you what they make you, Sweet!
You like us for a glance, you know— For a word's sake 10 Or a sword's sake: All's the same, whate'er the chance, you know.
And in turn we make you ours, we say— You and youth too, Eyes and mouth too, All the face composed of flowers, we say.
All's our own, to make the most of, Sweet— Sing and say for, Watch and pray for, Keep a secret or go boast of, Sweet! 20
But for loving, why, you would not, Sweet, Tho' we prayed you, Paid you, brayed you In a mortar—for you could not, Sweet!
So, we leave the sweet face fondly there, Be its beauty Its sole duty! Let all hope of grace beyond, lie there!
And while the face lies quiet there, Who shall wonder 30 That I ponder A conclusion? I will try it there.
As,—why must one, for the love foregone Scout mere liking? Thunder-striking Earth,—the heaven, we looked above for, gone!
Why, with beauty, needs there money be, Love with liking? Crush the fly-king In his gauze, because no honey-bee? 40
May not liking be so simple-sweet, If love grew there 'Twould undo there All that breaks the cheek to dimples sweet?
Is the creature too imperfect, say? Would you mend it And so end it? Since not all addition perfects aye!
Or is it of its kind, perhaps, Just perfection— 50 Whence, rejection Of a grace not to its mind, perhaps?
Shall we burn up, tread that face at once Into tinder, And so hinder Sparks from kindling all the place at once?
Or else kiss away one's soul on her? Your love-fancies! —A sick man sees Truer, when his hot eyes roll on her! 60
Thus the craftsman thinks to grace the rose,— Plucks a mould-flower For his gold flower, Uses fine things that efface the rose.
Rosy rubies make its cup more rose. Precious metals Ape the petals,— Last, some old king locks it up, morose!
Then how grace a rose? I know a way! Leave it, rather. 70 Must you gather? Smell, kiss, wear it—at last, throw away.
* * * * *
YOUTH AND ART
It once might have been, once only: We lodged in a street together, You, a sparrow on the housetop lonely, I, a lone she-bird of his feather.
Your trade was with sticks and clay, You thumbed, thrust, patted, and polished, Then laughed "They will see some day, Smith made, and Gibson deg. demolished." deg.8
My business was song, song, song; I chirped, cheeped, trilled, and twittered, 10 "Kate Brown's on the boards ere long, And Grisi's deg. existence embittered!" deg.12
I earned no more by a warble Than you by a sketch in plaster; You wanted a piece of marble, I needed a music-master.
We studied hard in our styles, Chipped each at a crust like Hindoos, deg. deg.18 For air, looked out on the tiles, For fun, watched each other's windows. 20
You lounged, like a boy of the South, Cap and blouse—nay, a bit of beard too; Or you got it, rubbing your mouth With fingers the clay adhered to.
And I—soon managed to find Weak points in the flower-fence facing, Was forced to put up a blind And be safe in my corset-lacing.
No harm! It was not my fault If you never turned your eye's tail up 30 As I shook upon E in alt, Or ran the chromatic scale up:
For spring bade the sparrows pair. And the boys and girls gave guesses, And stalls in our street looked rare With bulrush and watercresses.
Why did not you pinch a flower In a pellet of clay and fling it? Why did not I put a power Of thanks in a look or sing it? 40
I did look, sharp as a lynx, (And yet the memory rankles) When models arrived, some minx Tripped up stairs, she and her ankles.
But I think I gave you as good! "That foreign fellow,—who can know How she pays, in a playful mood, For his tuning her that piano?"
Could you say so, and never say "Suppose we join hands and fortunes, 50 And I fetch her from over the way, Her, piano, and long tunes and short tunes?"
No, no: you would not be rash, Nor I rasher and something over; You've to settle yet Gibson's hash, And Grisi yet lives in clover.
But you meet the Prince at the Board, I'm queen myself at bals-pares, deg. deg.58 I've married a rich old lord, And you're dubbed knight and an R.A. 60
Each life unfulfilled, you see; It hangs still, patchy and scrappy: We have not sighed deep, laughed free, Starved, feasted, despaired,—been happy
And nobody calls you a dunce, And people suppose me clever; This could but have happened once, And we missed it, lost it forever.
* * * * *
(Epilogue to "The Two Poets of Croisic.")
What a pretty tale you told me Once upon a time —Said you found it somewhere (scold me!) Was it prose or was it rhyme, Greek or Latin? Greek, you said, While your shoulder propped my head.
Anyhow there's no forgetting This much if no more, That a poet (pray, no petting!) Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore, 10 Went where suchlike used to go, Singing for a prize, you know.
Well, he had to sing, nor merely Sing but play the lyre; Playing was important clearly Quite as singing: I desire, Sir, you keep the fact in mind For a purpose that's behind.
There stood he, while deep attention Held the judges round, 20 —Judges able, I should mention, To detect the slightest sound Sung or played amiss: such ears Had old judges, it appears!
None the less he sang out boldly, Played in time and tune, Till the judges, weighing coldly Each note's worth, seemed, late or soon, Sure to smile "In vain one tries Picking faults out: take the prize!" 30
When, a mischief! Were they seven Strings the lyre possessed? Oh, and afterwards eleven, Thank you! Well, sir,—who had guessed Such ill luck in store?—it happed One of those same seven strings snapped.
All was lost, then! No! a cricket (What "cicada"? Pooh!) —Some mad thing that left its thicket For mere love of music—flew 40 With its little heart on fire, Lighted on the crippled lyre.
So that when (Ah joy!) our singer For his truant string Feels with disconcerted finger, What does cricket else but fling Fiery heart forth, sound the note Wanted by the throbbing throat?
Ay and, ever to the ending, Cricket chirps at need, 50 Executes the hand's intending, Promptly, perfectly,—indeed Saves the singer from defeat With her chirrup low and sweet.
Till, at ending, all the judges Cry with one assent "Take the prize—a prize who grudges Such a voice and instrument? Why, we took your lyre for harp, So it shrilled us forth F sharp!" 60
Did the conqueror spurn the creature Once its service done? That's no such uncommon feature In the case when Music's son Finds his Lotte's deg. power too spent deg.65 For aiding soul development.
No! This other, on returning Homeward, prize in hand, Satisfied his bosom's yearning: (Sir, I hope you understand!) 70 —Said "Some record there must be Of this cricket's help to me!"
So, he made himself a statue: Marble stood, life size; On the lyre, he pointed at you, Perched his partner in the prize; Never more apart you found Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.
That's the tale: its application? Somebody I know 80 Hopes one day for reputation Thro' his poetry that's—Oh, All so learned and so wise And deserving of a prize!
If he gains one, will some ticket When his statue's built, Tell the gazer "'Twas a cricket Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt Sweet and low, when strength usurped Softness' place i' the scale, she chirped? 90
"For as victory was nighest, While I sang and played,— With my lyre at lowest, highest, Right alike,—one string that made 'Love' sound soft was snapt in twain Never to be heard again,—
"Had not a kind cricket fluttered, Perched upon the place Vacant left, and duly uttered 'Love, Love, Love,' whene'er the bass 100 Asked the treble to atone For its somewhat sombre drone."
But you don't know music! Wherefore Keep on casting pearls To a—poet? All I care for Is—to tell him that a girl's "Love" comes aptly in when gruff Grows his singing, (There, enough!)
* * * * *
I. MARCHING ALONG
Kentish Sir Byng deg. stood for his King, deg.1 Bidding the crop-headed deg. Parliament swing: deg.2 And, pressing a troop unable to stoop And see the rogues flourish and honest folk droop, Marched them along, fifty score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.
God for King Charles! deg. Pym deg. and such carles deg.7 To the Devil that prompts 'em their treasonous parles! Cavaliers, up! Lips from the cup, Hands from the pasty, nor bite take nor sup 10 Till you're—
CHORUS.—Marching along, fifty score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.
Hampden deg. to hell, and his obsequies knell. deg.14 Serve Hazelrig, deg. Fiennes, deg. and young Harry deg. as well! deg.15 England, good cheer! Rupert deg. is near! deg.16 Kentish and loyalists, keep we not here,
CHO.—Marching along, fifty score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song.
Then, God for King Charles! Pym and his snarls 20 To the Devil that pricks on such pestilent carles! Hold by the right, you double your might; So, onward to Nottingham, deg. fresh for the fight, deg.23
CHO.—March we along, fifty score strong, Great-hearted gentlemen, singing this song!
II. GIVE A ROUSE
King Charles, and who'll do him right now? King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? Give a rouse; here's, in hell's despite now, King Charles!
Who gave me the goods that went since? Who raised me the house that sank once? Who helped me to gold I spent since? Who found me in wine you drank once?
CHO.—King Charles, and who'll do him right now? King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? 10 Give a rouse; here's, in hell's despite now, King Charles!
To whom used my boy George quaff else, By the old fool's side that begot him? For whom did he cheer and laugh else, While Noll's deg. damned troopers shot him? deg.16
CHO.—King Charles, and who'll do him right now? King Charles, and who's ripe for fight now? Give a rouse: here's, in hell's despite now, King Charles! 20
III. BOOT AND SADDLE
Boot, saddle, to horse, and away! Rescue my castle before the hot day Brightens to blue from its silvery gray,
CHO.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!
Ride past the suburbs, asleep as you'd say; Many's the friend there, will listen and pray "God's luck to gallants that strike up the lay—
CHO.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"
Forty miles off, like a roebuck at bay, Flouts castle Brancepeth the Roundheads' array: 10 Who laughs, "Good fellows ere this, by my fay,
CHO.—Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"
Who? My wife Gertrude; that, honest and gay, Laughs when you talk of surrendering, "Nay! I've better counsellors; what counsel they?
CHO.— Boot, saddle, to horse, and away!"
* * * * *
HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM THE SEA
Nobly, nobly, Cape Saint Vincent to the Northwest died away; Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay; Bluish 'mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar deg. lay; deg.3
In the dimmest Northeast distance dawned Gibraltar deg. grand and gray; deg.4 "Here and here did England help me: how can I help England?"—say, Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God and pray, While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
* * * * *
All the breath and the bloom of the year in the bag of one bee: All the wonder and wealth of the mine in the heart of one gem: In the core of one pearl all the shade and the shine of the sea: Breath and bloom, shade and shine,—wonder, wealth, and—how far above them— Truth, that's brighter than gem, Trust, that's purer than pearl,— Brightest truth, purest trust in the universe,—all were for me In the kiss of one girl.
* * * * *
If one could have that little head of hers Painted upon a background of pure gold, Such as the Tuscan's early art prefers! No shade encroaching on the matchless mould Of those two lips, which should be opening soft In the pure profile; not as when she laughs, For that spoils all: but rather as if aloft Yon hyacinth, she loves so, leaned its staff's Burden of honey-colored buds to kiss And capture 'twixt the lips apart for this. Then her little neck, three fingers might surround, How it should waver on the pale gold ground Up to the fruit-shaped, perfect chin it lifts! I know, Correggio loves to mass, in rifts Of heaven, his angel faces, orb on orb Breaking its outline, burning shades absorb: But these are only massed there, I should think, Waiting to see some wonder momently Grow out, stand full, fade slow against the sky (That's the pale ground you'd see this sweet face by), All heaven, meanwhile, condensed into one eye Which fears to lose the wonder, should it wink.
* * * * *
SONGS FROM PIPPA PASSES
Day! Faster and more fast, O'er night's brim, day boils at last: Boils, pure gold, o'er the cloud-cup's brim. Where spurting and suppressed it lay, For not a froth-flake touched the rim Of yonder gap in the solid gray Of the eastern cloud, an hour away; But forth one wavelet, then another, curled, Till the whole sunrise, not to be suppressed, 10 Rose, reddened, and its seething breast Flickered in bounds, grew gold, then overflowed the world.
All service ranks the same with God: If now, as formerly He trod Paradise, His presence fills Our earth, each only as God wills Can work—God's puppets, best and worst, Are we: there is no last nor first.
The year's at the spring And day's at the morn: 20 Morning's at seven; The hillside's dew-pearled; The lark's on the wing; The snail's on the thorn: God's in His heaven— All's right with the world!
Give her but a least excuse to love me! When—where— How—can this arm establish her above me, If fortune fixed her as my lady there, 30 There already, to eternally reprove me? ("Hist!"—said Kate the queen; But "Oh," cried the maiden, binding her tresses, "'Tis only a page that carols unseen, Crumbling your hounds their messes!")
Is she wronged?—To the rescue of her honour, My heart! Is she poor?—What costs it to be styled a donor? Merely an earth to cleave, a sea to part. But that fortune should have thrust all this upon her! ("Nay, list!"—bade Kate the queen; 41 And still cried the maiden, binding her tresses, "'Tis only a page that carols unseen, Fitting your hawks their jesses!")
* * * * *
THE LOST LEADER
Just for a handful of silver he left us, Just for a riband to stick in his coat— Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us, Lost all the others she lets us devote; They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver, So much was theirs who so little allowed; How all our copper had gone for his service! Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud! We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him, Lived in his mild and magnificent eye, 10 Learned his great language, caught his clear accents, Made him our pattern to live and to die! Shakespeare deg. was of us, Milton deg. was for us, deg.13 Burns, deg. Shelley, deg. were with us,—they watch from their graves! deg.14 He alone breaks from the van and the freemen, He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!
We shall march prospering—not through his presence; Songs may inspirit us,—not from his lyre: Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence, Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire: 20 Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more, One task more declined, one more footpath untrod, One more devil's-triumph and sorrow for angels, One wrong more to man, one more insult to God! Life's night begins: let him never come back to us! There would be doubt, hesitation, and pain, Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight, Never glad confident morning again! Best fight on well, for we taught him—strike gallantly, Menace our heart ere we master his own; 30 Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us, Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!
* * * * *
"We shall soon lose a celebrated building." —Paris Newspaper.
No, for I'll save it! Seven years since I passed through Paris, stopped a day To see the baptism of your Prince, deg. deg.3 Saw, made my bow, and went my way: Walking the heat and headache off, I took the Seine-side, you surmise, Thought of the Congress, deg. Gortschakoff, deg. deg.7 Cavour's deg. appeal and Buol's deg. replies, deg.8 So sauntered till—what met my eyes?
Only the Doric little Morgue! 10 The dead-house where you show your drowned: Petrarch's Vaucluse deg. makes proud the Sorgue, deg. deg.12 Your Morgue has made the Seine renowned. One pays one's debt deg. in such a case; deg.14 I plucked up heart and entered,—stalked, Keeping a tolerable face Compared with some whose cheeks were chalked: Let them! No Briton's to be balked!
First came the silent gazers; next, A screen of glass, we're thankful for; 20 Last, the sight's self, the sermon's text, The three men who did most abhor Their life in Paris yesterday, So killed themselves: and now, enthroned Each on his copper couch, they lay Fronting me, waiting to be owned. I thought, and think, their sin's atoned.
Poor men, God made, and all for that! The reverence struck me; o'er each head Religiously was hung its hat, 30 Each coat dripped by the owner's bed, Sacred from touch: each had his berth, His bounds, his proper place of rest, Who last night tenanted on earth Some arch, where twelve such slept abreast,— Unless the plain asphalt seemed best.
How did it happen, my poor boy? You wanted to be Buonaparte And have the Tuileries deg. for toy, deg.39 And could not, so it broke your heart? 40 You, old one by his side, I judge, Were, red as blood, a socialist, A leveller! Does the Empire grudge You've gained what no Republic missed? Be quiet, and unclench your fist!
And this—why, he was red in vain, Or black,—poor fellow that is blue deg.! deg.47 What fancy was it, turned your brain? Oh, women were the prize for you! Money gets women, cards and dice 50 Get money, and ill-luck gets just The copper couch and one clear nice Cool squirt of water o'er your bust, The right thing to extinguish lust!
It's wiser being good than bad; It's safer being meek than fierce: It's fitter being sane than mad. My own hope is, a sun will pierce The thickest cloud earth ever stretched; That, after Last, returns the First, 60 Tho' a wide compass round be fetched; That what began best, can't end worst, Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst.
* * * * *
FEARS AND SCRUPLES
Here's my case. Of old I used to love him. This same unseen friend, before I knew: Dream there was none like him, none above him,— Wake to hope and trust my dream was true.
Loved I not his letters deg. full of beauty? deg.5 Not his actions famous far and wide? Absent, he would know I vowed him duty, Present, he would find me at his side.
Pleasant fancy! for I had but letters, Only knew of actions by hearsay: 10 He himself was busied with my betters; What of that? My turn must come some day.
"Some day" proving—no day! Here's the puzzle. Passed and passed my turn is. Why complain? He's so busied! If I could but muzzle People's foolish mouths that give me pain!
"Letters?" (hear them!) "You a judge of writing? Ask the experts!—How they shake the head O'er these characters, your friend's inditing— Call them forgery from A to Z deg.! deg.20
"Actions? Where's your certain proof" (they bother) "He, of all you find so great and good, He, he only, claims this, that, the other Action—claimed by men, a multitude?"
I can simply wish I might refute you, Wish my friend would,—by a word, a wink,— Bid me stop that foolish mouth,—you brute you! He keeps absent,—why, I cannot think.
Never mind! Tho' foolishness may flout me. One thing's sure enough; 'tis neither frost, 30 No, nor fire, shall freeze or burn from out me Thanks for truth—tho' falsehood, gained—tho' lost.
All my days, I'll go the softlier, sadlier, For that dream's sake! How forget the thrill Thro' and thro' me as I thought, "The gladlier Lives my friend because I love him still!"
Ah, but there's a menace some one utters! "What and if your friend at home play tricks? Peep at hide-and-seek behind the shutters? Mean your eyes should pierce thro' solid bricks? 40
'What and if he, frowning, wake you, dreamy? Lay on you the blame that bricks—conceal? Say 'At least I saw who did not see me, Does see now, and presently shall feel'?"
"Why, that makes your friend a monster!" say you; "Had his house no window? At first nod, Would you not have hailed him?" Hush, I pray you! What if this friend happen to be—God?
* * * * *
Of the million or two, more or less, I rule and possess, One man, for some cause undefined, Was least to my mind.
I struck him, he grovelled of course— For, what was his force? I pinned him to earth with my weight And persistence of hate; And he lay, would not moan, would not curse, As his lot might be worse. 10
"Were the object less mean? would he stand At the swing of my hand! For obscurity helps him, and blots The hole where he squats." So, I set my five wits on the stretch. To inveigle the wretch. All in vain! Gold and jewels I threw, Still he couched there perdue; I tempted his blood and his flesh, Hid in roses my mesh, 20 Choicest cates and the flagon's best spilth: Still he kept to his filth.
Had he kith now or kin, were access To his heart, did I press: Just a son or a mother to seize! No such booty as these. Were it simply a friend to pursue 'Mid my million or two, Who could pay me, in person or pelf, What he owes me himself! 30 No: I could not but smile thro' my chafe: For the fellow lay safe As his mates do, the midge and the nit, —Thro' minuteness, to wit.
Then a humour more great took its place At the thought of his face: The droop, the low cares of the mouth, The trouble uncouth 'Twixt the brows, all that air one is fain To put out of its pain, 40 And, "no!" I admonished myself, "Is one mocked by an elf. Is one baffled by toad or by rat? The gravamen's deg. in that! deg.44 How the lion, who crouches to suit His back to my foot, Would admire that I stand in debate! But the small turns the great If it vexes you,—that is the thing! Toad or rat vex the king? 50 Tho' I waste half my realm to unearth Toad or rat, 'tis well worth!"