Printer errors have been corrected and are listed at the end. The author's spelling has been retained.
POETICAL WORKS OF MATTHEW ARNOLD
First Complete Edition printed September 1890. Reprinted November and December 1890. July 1891.
POETICAL WORKS OF MATTHEW ARNOLD
London MacMillan And Co. and New York 1891 All rights reserved
QUIET WORK 1 TO A FRIEND 2 SHAKESPEARE 2 WRITTEN IN EMERSON'S ESSAYS 3 WRITTEN IN BUTLER'S SERMONS 4 TO THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON 4 IN HARMONY WITH NATURE 5 TO GEORGE CRUIKSHANK 6 TO A REPUBLICAN FRIEND, 1848 6 CONTINUED 7 RELIGIOUS ISOLATION 8
THE CHURCH OF BROU—
I. THE CASTLE 13 II. THE CHURCH 17 III. THE TOMB 18
A MODERN SAPPHO 20
YOUTH AND CALM 22
A MEMORY-PICTURE 23
A DREAM 25
THE NEW SIRENS 26
THE VOICE 36
YOUTH'S AGITATIONS 37
THE WORLD'S TRIUMPHS 38
HUMAN LIFE 40
TO A GIPSY CHILD BY THE SEA-SHORE 41
A QUESTION 44
IN UTRUMQUE PARATUS 45
THE WORLD AND THE QUIETIST 46
HORATIAN ECHO 47
THE SECOND BEST 49
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM 65
THE SICK KING IN BOKHARA 92
1. SENDING 101 2. JOURNEY TO THE DEAD 111 3. FUNERAL 121
TRISTRAM AND ISEULT—
1. TRISTRAM 138 2. ISEULT OF IRELAND 150 3. ISEULT OF BRITTANY 158
SAINT BRANDAN 165
THE NECKAN 167
THE FORSAKEN MERMAN 170
AUSTERITY OF POETRY 177
A PICTURE AT NEWSTEAD 177
RACHEL: I, II, III 178
WORLDLY PLACE 180
EAST LONDON 180
WEST LONDON 181
EAST AND WEST 181
THE BETTER PART 182
THE DIVINITY 183
THE GOOD SHEPHERD WITH THE KID 184
MONICA'S LAST PRAYER 184
1. MEETING 189 2. PARTING 189 3. A FAREWELL 192 4. ISOLATION. TO MARGUERITE 195 5. TO MARGUERITE—CONTINUED 197 6. ABSENCE 198 7. THE TERRACE AT BERNE 199
THE STRAYED REVELLER 201
FRAGMENT OF AN "ANTIGONE" 211
FRAGMENT OF CHORUS OF A "DEJANEIRA" 214
EARLY DEATH AND FAME 215
CALAIS SANDS 219
1. THE RIVER 221 2. TOO LATE 222 3. SEPARATION 222 4. ON THE RHINE 223 5. LONGING 224
DOVER BEACH 226
GROWING OLD 227
THE PROGRESS OF POESY 228
NEW ROME 229
THE LAST WORD 230
THE LORD'S MESSENGERS 231
A NAMELESS EPITAPH 232
BACCHANALIA; OR, THE NEW AGE 232
EPILOGUE TO LESSING'S LAOCOON 236
PERSISTENCY OF POETRY 243
A CAUTION TO POETS 243
THE YOUTH OF NATURE 243
THE YOUTH OF MAN 247
A SUMMER NIGHT 257
THE BURIED LIFE 260
LINES WRITTEN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS 263
A WISH 265
THE FUTURE 267
THE SCHOLAR-GIPSY 273
MEMORIAL VERSES 289
STANZAS IN MEMORY OF EDWARD QUILLINAN 292
STANZAS FROM CARNAC 292
A SOUTHERN NIGHT 294
HAWORTH CHURCHYARD 299
RUGBY CHAPEL 304
HEINE'S GRAVE 311
STANZAS FROM THE GRANDE CHARTREUSE 318
STANZAS IN MEMORY OF THE AUTHOR OF "OBERMANN" 325
OBERMANN ONCE MORE 332
MEROPE, A TRAGEDY 347
EMPEDOCLES ON ETNA 436
WESTMINSTER ABBEY 479
GEIST'S GRAVE 485
POOR MATTHIAS 488
KAISER DEAD 495
One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee, One lesson which in every wind is blown, One lesson of two duties kept at one Though the loud world proclaim their enmity—
Of toil unsever'd from tranquillity! Of labour, that in lasting fruit outgrows Far noisier schemes, accomplish'd in repose, Too great for haste, too high for rivalry!
Yes, while on earth a thousand discords ring, Man's fitful uproar mingling with his toil, Still do thy sleepless ministers move on,
Their glorious tasks in silence perfecting; Still working, blaming still our vain turmoil, Labourers that shall not fail, when man is gone.
TO A FRIEND
Who prop, thou ask'st, in these bad days, my mind?— He much, the old man, who, clearest-soul'd of men, Saw The Wide Prospect, and the Asian Fen, And Tmolus hill, and Smyrna bay, though blind.
Much he, whose friendship I not long since won, That halting slave, who in Nicopolis Taught Arrian, when Vespasian's brutal son Clear'd Rome of what most shamed him. But be his
My special thanks, whose even-balanced soul, From first youth tested up to extreme old age, Business could not make dull, nor passion wild;
Who saw life steadily, and saw it whole; The mellow glory of the Attic stage, Singer of sweet Colonus, and its child.
Others abide our question. Thou art free. We ask and ask—Thou smilest and art still, Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill, Who to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea, Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place, Spares but the cloudy border of his base To the foil'd searching of mortality;
And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know, Self-school'd, self-scann'd, self-honour'd, self-secure, Didst tread on earth unguess'd at.—Better so!
All pains the immortal spirit must endure, All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow, Find their sole speech in that victorious brow.
WRITTEN IN EMERSON'S ESSAYS
"O monstrous, dead, unprofitable world, That thou canst hear, and hearing, hold thy way! A voice oracular hath peal'd to-day, To-day a hero's banner is unfurl'd;
Hast thou no lip for welcome?"—So I said. Man after man, the world smiled and pass'd by; A smile of wistful incredulity As though one spake of life unto the dead—
Scornful, and strange, and sorrowful, and full Of bitter knowledge. Yet the will is free; Strong is the soul, and wise, and beautiful;
The seeds of godlike power are in us still; Gods are we, bards, saints, heroes, if we will!— Dumb judges, answer, truth or mockery?
WRITTEN IN BUTLER'S SERMONS
Affections, Instincts, Principles, and Powers, Impulse and Reason, Freedom and Control— So men, unravelling God's harmonious whole, Rend in a thousand shreds this life of ours.
Vain labour! Deep and broad, where none may see, Spring the foundations of that shadowy throne Where man's one nature, queen-like, sits alone, Centred in a majestic unity;
And rays her powers, like sister-islands seen Linking their coral arms under the sea, Or cluster'd peaks with plunging gulfs between
Spann'd by aerial arches all of gold, Whereo'er the chariot wheels of life are roll'd In cloudy circles to eternity.
TO THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON
ON HEARING HIM MISPRAISED
Because thou hast believed, the wheels of life Stand never idle, but go always round; Not by their hands, who vex the patient ground, Moved only; but by genius, in the strife
Of all its chafing torrents after thaw, Urged; and to feed whose movement, spinning sand, The feeble sons of pleasure set their hand; And, in this vision of the general law,
Hast labour'd, but with purpose; hast become Laborious, persevering, serious, firm— For this, thy track, across the fretful foam
Of vehement actions without scope or term, Call'd history, keeps a splendour; due to wit, Which saw one clue to life, and follow'd it.
IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
TO A PREACHER
"In harmony with Nature?" Restless fool, Who with such heat dost preach what were to thee, When true, the last impossibility— To be like Nature strong, like Nature cool!
Know, man hath all which Nature hath, but more, And in that more lie all his hopes of good. Nature is cruel, man is sick of blood; Nature is stubborn, man would fain adore;
Nature is fickle, man hath need of rest; Nature forgives no debt, and fears no grave; Man would be mild, and with safe conscience blest.
Man must begin, know this, where Nature ends; Nature and man can never be fast friends. Fool, if thou canst not pass her, rest her slave!
TO GEORGE CRUIKSHANK
ON SEEING, IN THE COUNTRY, HIS PICTURE OF "THE BOTTLE"
Artist, whose hand, with horror wing'd, hath torn From the rank life of towns this leaf! and flung The prodigy of full-blown crime among Valleys and men to middle fortune born,
Not innocent, indeed, yet not forlorn— Say, what shall calm us when such guests intrude Like comets on the heavenly solitude? Shall breathless glades, cheer'd by shy Dian's horn,
Cold-bubbling springs, or caves?—Not so! The soul Breasts her own griefs; and, urged too fiercely, says: "Why tremble? True, the nobleness of man
May be by man effaced; man can control To pain, to death, the bent of his own days. Know thou the worst! So much, not more, he can."
TO A REPUBLICAN FRIEND, 1848
God knows it, I am with you. If to prize Those virtues, prized and practised by too few, But prized, but loved, but eminent in you, Man's fundamental life; if to despise
The barren optimistic sophistries Of comfortable moles, whom what they do Teaches the limit of the just and true (And for such doing they require not eyes);
If sadness at the long heart-wasting show Wherein earth's great ones are disquieted; If thoughts, not idle, while before me flow
The armies of the homeless and unfed— If these are yours, if this is what you are, Then am I yours, and what you feel, I share.
Yet, when I muse on what life is, I seem Rather to patience prompted, than that proud Prospect of hope which France proclaims so loud— France, famed in all great arts, in none supreme;
Seeing this vale, this earth, whereon we dream, Is on all sides o'ershadow'd by the high Uno'erleap'd Mountains of Necessity, Sparing us narrower margin than we deem.
Nor will that day dawn at a human nod, When, bursting through the network superposed By selfish occupation—plot and plan,
Lust, avarice, envy—liberated man, All difference with his fellow-mortal closed, Shall be left standing face to face with God.
TO THE SAME FRIEND
Children (as such forgive them) have I known, Ever in their own eager pastime bent To make the incurious bystander, intent On his own swarming thoughts, an interest own—
Too fearful or too fond to play alone. Do thou, whom light in thine own inmost soul (Not less thy boast) illuminates, control Wishes unworthy of a man full-grown.
What though the holy secret, which moulds thee, Mould not the solid earth? though never winds Have whisper'd it to the complaining sea,
Nature's great law, and law of all men's minds?— To its own impulse every creature stirs; Live by thy light, and earth will live by hers!
"Not by the justice that my father spurn'd, Not for the thousands whom my father slew, Altars unfed and temples overturn'd, Cold hearts and thankless tongues, where thanks are due; Fell this dread voice from lips that cannot lie, Stern sentence of the Powers of Destiny.
"I will unfold my sentence and my crime. My crime—that, rapt in reverential awe, I sate obedient, in the fiery prime Of youth, self-govern'd, at the feet of Law; Ennobling this dull pomp, the life of kings, By contemplation of diviner things.
"My father loved injustice, and lived long; Crown'd with gray hairs he died, and full of sway. I loved the good he scorn'd, and hated wrong— The Gods declare my recompence to-day. I look'd for life more lasting, rule more high; And when six years are measured, lo, I die!
"Yet surely, O my people, did I deem Man's justice from the all-just Gods was given; A light that from some upper fount did beam, Some better archetype, whose seat was heaven; A light that, shining from the blest abodes, Did shadow somewhat of the life of Gods.
"Mere phantoms of man's self-tormenting heart, Which on the sweets that woo it dares not feed! Vain dreams, which quench our pleasures, then depart, When the duped soul, self-master'd, claims its meed; When, on the strenuous just man, Heaven bestows, Crown of his struggling life, an unjust close!
"Seems it so light a thing, then, austere Powers, To spurn man's common lure, life's pleasant things? Seems there no joy in dances crown'd with flowers, Love, free to range, and regal banquetings? Bend ye on these, indeed, an unmoved eye, Not Gods but ghosts, in frozen apathy?
"Or is it that some Force, too wise, too strong, Even for yourselves to conquer or beguile, Sweeps earth, and heaven, and men, and gods along, Like the broad volume of the insurgent Nile? And the great powers we serve, themselves may be Slaves of a tyrannous necessity?
"Or in mid-heaven, perhaps, your golden cars, Where earthly voice climbs never, wing their flight, And in wild hunt, through mazy tracts of stars, Sweep in the sounding stillness of the night? Or in deaf ease, on thrones of dazzling sheen, Drinking deep draughts of joy, ye dwell serene?
"Oh, wherefore cheat our youth, if thus it be, Of one short joy, one lust, one pleasant dream? Stringing vain words of powers we cannot see, Blind divinations of a will supreme; Lost labour! when the circumambient gloom But hides, if Gods, Gods careless of our doom?
"The rest I give to joy. Even while I speak, My sand runs short; and—as yon star-shot ray, Hemm'd by two banks of cloud, peers pale and weak, Now, as the barrier closes, dies away— Even so do past and future intertwine, Blotting this six years' space, which yet is mine.
"Six years—six little years—six drops of time! Yet suns shall rise, and many moons shall wane, And old men die, and young men pass their prime, And languid pleasure fade and flower again, And the dull Gods behold, ere these are flown, Revels more deep, joy keener than their own.
"Into the silence of the groves and woods I will go forth; though something would I say— Something—yet what, I know not; for the Gods The doom they pass revoke not, nor delay; And prayers, and gifts, and tears, are fruitless all, And the night waxes, and the shadows fall.
"Ye men of Egypt, ye have heard your king! I go, and I return not. But the will Of the great Gods is plain; and ye must bring Ill deeds, ill passions, zealous to fulfil Their pleasure, to their feet; and reap their praise, The praise of Gods, rich boon! and length of days."
—So spake he, half in anger, half in scorn; And one loud cry of grief and of amaze Broke from his sorrowing people; so he spake, And turning, left them there; and with brief pause, Girt with a throng of revellers, bent his way To the cool region of the groves he loved. There by the river-banks he wander'd on, From palm-grove on to palm-grove, happy trees, Their smooth tops shining sunward, and beneath Burying their unsunn'd stems in grass and flowers; Where in one dream the feverish time of youth Might fade in slumber, and the feet of joy Might wander all day long and never tire. Here came the king, holding high feast, at morn, Rose-crown'd; and ever, when the sun went down, A hundred lamps beam'd in the tranquil gloom, From tree to tree all through the twinkling grove, Revealing all the tumult of the feast— Flush'd guests, and golden goblets foam'd with wine; While the deep-burnish'd foliage overhead Splinter'd the silver arrows of the moon. It may be that sometimes his wondering soul From the loud joyful laughter of his lips Might shrink half startled, like a guilty man Who wrestles with his dream; as some pale shape Gliding half hidden through the dusky stems, Would thrust a hand before the lifted bowl, Whispering: A little space, and thou art mine! It may be on that joyless feast his eye Dwelt with mere outward seeming; he, within, Took measure of his soul, and knew its strength, And by that silent knowledge, day by day, Was calm'd, ennobled, comforted, sustain'd. It may be; but not less his brow was smooth, And his clear laugh fled ringing through the gloom, And his mirth quail'd not at the mild reproof Sigh'd out by winter's sad tranquillity; Nor, pall'd with its own fulness, ebb'd and died In the rich languor of long summer-days; Nor wither'd when the palm-tree plumes, that roof'd With their mild dark his grassy banquet-hall, Bent to the cold winds of the showerless spring; No, nor grew dark when autumn brought the clouds. So six long years he revell'd, night and day. And when the mirth wax'd loudest, with dull sound Sometimes from the grove's centre echoes came, To tell his wondering people of their king; In the still night, across the steaming flats, Mix'd with the murmur of the moving Nile.
THE CHURCH OF BROU
Down the Savoy valleys sounding, Echoing round this castle old, 'Mid the distant mountain-chalets Hark! what bell for church is toll'd?
In the bright October morning Savoy's Duke had left his bride. From the castle, past the drawbridge, Flow'd the hunters' merry tide.
Steeds are neighing, gallants glittering; Gay, her smiling lord to greet, From her mullion'd chamber-casement Smiles the Duchess Marguerite.
From Vienna, by the Danube, Here she came, a bride, in spring. Now the autumn crisps the forest; Hunters gather, bugles ring.
Hounds are pulling, prickers swearing, Horses fret, and boar-spears glance. Off!—They sweep the marshy forests, Westward, on the side of France.
Hark! the game's on foot; they scatter!— Down the forest-ridings lone, Furious, single horsemen gallop—— Hark! a shout—a crash—a groan!
Pale and breathless, came the hunters; On the turf dead lies the boar— God! the Duke lies stretch'd beside him, Senseless, weltering in his gore.
* * * * *
In the dull October evening, Down the leaf-strewn forest-road, To the castle, past the drawbridge, Came the hunters with their load.
In the hall, with sconces blazing, Ladies waiting round her seat, Clothed in smiles, beneath the dais Sate the Duchess Marguerite.
Hark! below the gates unbarring! Tramp of men and quick commands! "—'Tis my lord come back from hunting—" And the Duchess claps her hands.
Slow and tired, came the hunters— Stopp'd in darkness in the court. "—Ho, this way, ye laggard hunters! To the hall! What sport? What sport?"—
Slow they enter'd with their master; In the hall they laid him down. On his coat were leaves and blood-stains, On his brow an angry frown.
Dead her princely youthful husband Lay before his youthful wife, Bloody, 'neath the flaring sconces— And the sight froze all her life.
* * * * *
In Vienna, by the Danube, Kings hold revel, gallants meet. Gay of old amid the gayest Was the Duchess Marguerite.
In Vienna, by the Danube, Feast and dance her youth beguiled. Till that hour she never sorrow'd; But from then she never smiled.
'Mid the Savoy mountain valleys Far from town or haunt of man, Stands a lonely church, unfinish'd, Which the Duchess Maud began;
Old, that Duchess stern began it, In gray age, with palsied hands; But she died while it was building, And the Church unfinish'd stands—
Stands as erst the builders left it, When she sank into her grave; Mountain greensward paves the chancel, Harebells flower in the nave
"—In my castle all is sorrow," Said the Duchess Marguerite then; "Guide me, some one, to the mountain! We will build the Church again."—
Sandall'd palmers, faring homeward, Austrian knights from Syria came. "—Austrian wanderers bring, O warders! Homage to your Austrian dame."—
From the gate the warders answer'd: "—Gone, O knights, is she you knew! Dead our Duke, and gone his Duchess; Seek her at the Church of Brou!"—
Austrian knights and much-worn palmers Climb the winding mountain-way— Reach the valley, where the Fabric Rises higher day by day.
Stones are sawing, hammers ringing; On the work the bright sun shines, In the Savoy mountain-meadows, By the stream, below the pines.
On her palfrey white the Duchess Sate and watch'd her working train— Flemish carvers, Lombard gilders, German masons, smiths from Spain.
Clad in black, on her white palfrey, Her old architect beside— There they found her in the mountains, Morn and noon and eventide.
There she sate, and watch'd the builders, Till the Church was roof'd and done. Last of all, the builders rear'd her In the nave a tomb of stone.
On the tomb two forms they sculptured, Lifelike in the marble pale— One, the Duke in helm and armour; One, the Duchess in her veil.
Round the tomb the carved stone fretwork Was at Easter-tide put on. Then the Duchess closed her labours; And she died at the St. John.
Upon the glistening leaden roof Of the new Pile, the sunlight shines; The stream goes leaping by. The hills are clothed with pines sun-proof; 'Mid bright green fields, below the pines, Stands the Church on high. What Church is this, from men aloof?— 'Tis the Church of Brou.
At sunrise, from their dewy lair Crossing the stream, the kine are seen Round the wall to stray— The churchyard wall that clips the square Of open hill-sward fresh and green Where last year they lay. But all things now are order'd fair Round the Church of Brou.
On Sundays, at the matin-chime, The Alpine peasants, two and three, Climb up here to pray; Burghers and dames, at summer's prime, Ride out to church from Chambery, Dight with mantles gay. But else it is a lonely time Round the Church of Brou.
On Sundays, too, a priest doth come From the wall'd town beyond the pass, Down the mountain-way; And then you hear the organ's hum, You hear the white-robed priest say mass, And the people pray. But else the woods and fields are dumb Round the Church of Brou.
And after church, when mass is done, The people to the nave repair Round the tomb to stray; And marvel at the Forms of stone, And praise the chisell'd broideries rare— Then they drop away. The princely Pair are left alone In the Church of Brou.
So rest, for ever rest, O princely Pair! In your high church, 'mid the still mountain-air, Where horn, and hound, and vassals, never come. Only the blessed Saints are smiling dumb, From the rich painted windows of the nave, On aisle, and transept, and your marble grave; Where thou, young Prince! shall never more arise From the fringed mattress where thy Duchess lies, On autumn-mornings, when the bugle sounds, And ride across the drawbridge with thy hounds To hunt the boar in the crisp woods till eve; And thou, O Princess! shalt no more receive, Thou and thy ladies, in the hall of state, The jaded hunters with their bloody freight, Coming benighted to the castle-gate.
So sleep, for ever sleep, O marble Pair! Or if ye wake, let it be then, when fair On the carved western front a flood of light Streams from the setting sun, and colours bright Prophets, transfigured Saints, and Martyrs brave, In the vast western window of the nave; And on the pavement round the Tomb there glints A chequer-work of glowing sapphire-tints, And amethyst, and ruby—then unclose Your eyelids on the stone where ye repose, And from your broider'd pillows lift your heads, And rise upon your cold white marble beds; And, looking down on the warm rosy tints, Which chequer, at your feet, the illumined flints, Say: What is this? we are in bliss—forgiven— Behold the pavement of the courts of Heaven! Or let it be on autumn nights, when rain Doth rustlingly above your heads complain On the smooth leaden roof, and on the walls Shedding her pensive light at intervals The moon through the clere-story windows shines, And the wind washes through the mountain-pines. Then, gazing up 'mid the dim pillars high, The foliaged marble forest where ye lie, Hush, ye will say, it is eternity! This is the glimmering verge of Heaven, and these The columns of the heavenly palaces! And, in the sweeping of the wind, your ear The passage of the Angels' wings will hear, And on the lichen-crusted leads above The rustle of the eternal rain of love.
A MODERN SAPPHO
They are gone—all is still! Foolish heart, dost thou quiver? Nothing stirs on the lawn but the quick lilac-shade. Far up shines the house, and beneath flows the river— Here lean, my head, on this cold balustrade!
Ere he come—ere the boat by the shining-branch'd border Of dark elms shoot round, dropping down the proud stream, Let me pause, let me strive, in myself make some order, Ere their boat-music sound, ere their broider'd flags gleam.
Last night we stood earnestly talking together; She enter'd—that moment his eyes turn'd from me! Fasten'd on her dark hair, and her wreath of white heather— As yesterday was, so to-morrow will be.
Their love, let me know, must grow strong and yet stronger, Their passion burn more, ere it ceases to burn. They must love—while they must! but the hearts that love longer Are rare—ah! most loves but flow once, and return.
I shall suffer—but they will outlive their affection; I shall weep—but their love will be cooling; and he, As he drifts to fatigue, discontent, and dejection, Will be brought, thou poor heart, how much nearer to thee!
For cold is his eye to mere beauty, who, breaking The strong band which passion around him hath furl'd, Disenchanted by habit, and newly awaking, Looks languidly round on a gloom-buried world.
Through that gloom he will see but a shadow appearing, Perceive but a voice as I come to his side— But deeper their voice grows, and nobler their bearing, Whose youth in the fires of anguish hath died.
So, to wait!——But what notes down the wind, hark! are driving? 'Tis he! 'tis their flag, shooting round by the trees! —Let my turn, if it will come, be swift in arriving! Ah! hope cannot long lighten torments like these.
Hast thou yet dealt him, O life, thy full measure? World, have thy children yet bow'd at his knee? Hast thou with myrtle-leaf crown'd him, O pleasure? —Crown, crown him quickly, and leave him for me!
Strew on her roses, roses, And never a spray of yew! In quiet she reposes; Ah, would that I did too!
Her mirth the world required; She bathed it in smiles of glee. But her heart was tired, tired, And now they let her be.
Her life was turning, turning, In mazes of heat and sound. But for peace her soul was yearning, And now peace laps her round.
Her cabin'd, ample spirit, It flutter'd and fail'd for breath. To-night it doth inherit The vasty hall of death.
YOUTH AND CALM
'Tis death! and peace, indeed, is here, And ease from shame, and rest from fear There's nothing can dismarble now The smoothness of that limpid brow. But is a calm like this, in truth, The crowning end of life and youth, And when this boon rewards the dead, Are all debts paid, has all been said? And is the heart of youth so light, Its step so firm, its eyes so bright, Because on its hot brow there blows A wind of promise and repose From the far grave, to which it goes; Because it hath the hope to come, One day, to harbour in the tomb? Ah no, the bliss youth dreams is one For daylight, for the cheerful sun, For feeling nerves and living breath— Youth dreams a bliss on this side death. It dreams a rest, if not more deep, More grateful than this marble sleep; It hears a voice within it tell: Calm's not life's crown, though calm is well. 'Tis all perhaps which man acquires, But 'tis not what our youth desires.
Laugh, my friends, and without blame Lightly quit what lightly came; Rich to-morrow as to-day, Spend as madly as you may! I, with little land to stir, Am the exacter labourer. Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Once I said: "A face is gone If too hotly mused upon; And our best impressions are Those that do themselves repair." Many a face I so let flee, Ah! is faded utterly. Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Marguerite says: "As last year went, So the coming year'll be spent; Some day next year, I shall be, Entering heedless, kiss'd by thee." Ah, I hope!—yet, once away, What may chain us, who can say? Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Paint that lilac kerchief, bound Her soft face, her hair around; Tied under the archest chin Mockery ever ambush'd in. Let the fluttering fringes streak All her pale, sweet-rounded cheek. Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Paint that figure's pliant grace As she tow'rd me lean'd her face, Half refused and half resign'd, Murmuring: "Art thou still unkind?" Many a broken promise then Was new made—to break again. Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Paint those eyes, so blue, so kind, Eager tell-tales of her mind; Paint, with their impetuous stress Of inquiring tenderness, Those frank eyes, where deep I see An angelic gravity. Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
What, my friends, these feeble lines Show, you say, my love declines? To paint ill as I have done, Proves forgetfulness begun? Time's gay minions, pleased you see, Time, your master, governs me; Pleased, you mock the fruitless cry: "Quick, thy tablets, Memory!"
Ah, too true! Time's current strong Leaves us fixt to nothing long. Yet, if little stays with man, Ah, retain we all we can! If the clear impression dies, Ah, the dim remembrance prize! Ere the parting hour go by, Quick, thy tablets, Memory!
Was it a dream? We sail'd, I thought we sail'd, Martin and I, down a green Alpine stream, Border'd, each bank, with pines; the morning sun, On the wet umbrage of their glossy tops, On the red pinings of their forest-floor, Drew a warm scent abroad; behind the pines The mountain-skirts, with all their sylvan change Of bright-leaf'd chestnuts and moss'd walnut-trees And the frail scarlet-berried ash, began. Swiss chalets glitter'd on the dewy slopes, And from some swarded shelf, high up, there came Notes of wild pastoral music—over all Ranged, diamond-bright, the eternal wall of snow. Upon the mossy rocks at the stream's edge, Back'd by the pines, a plank-built cottage stood, Bright in the sun; the climbing gourd-plant's leaves Muffled its walls, and on the stone-strewn roof Lay the warm golden gourds; golden, within, Under the eaves, peer'd rows of Indian corn. We shot beneath the cottage with the stream. On the brown, rude-carved balcony, two forms Came forth—Olivia's, Marguerite! and thine. Clad were they both in white, flowers in their breast; Straw hats bedeck'd their heads, with ribbons blue, Which danced, and on their shoulders, fluttering, play'd. They saw us, they conferr'd; their bosoms heaved, And more than mortal impulse fill'd their eyes. Their lips moved; their white arms, waved eagerly, Flash'd once, like falling streams; we rose, we gazed. One moment, on the rapid's top, our boat Hung poised—and then the darting river of Life (Such now, methought, it was), the river of Life, Loud thundering, bore us by; swift, swift it foam'd, Black under cliffs it raced, round headlands shone. Soon the plank'd cottage by the sun-warm'd pines Faded—the moss—the rocks; us burning plains, Bristled with cities, us the sea received.
THE NEW SIRENS
In the cedarn shadow sleeping, Where cool grass and fragrant glooms Forth at noon had lured me, creeping From your darken'd palace rooms— I, who in your train at morning Stroll'd and sang with joyful mind, Heard, in slumber, sounds of warning; Heard the hoarse boughs labour in the wind.
Who are they, O pensive Graces, —For I dream'd they wore your forms— Who on shores and sea-wash'd places Scoop the shelves and fret the storms? Who, when ships are that way tending, Troop across the flushing sands, To all reefs and narrows wending, With blown tresses, and with beckoning hands?
Yet I see, the howling levels Of the deep are not your lair; And your tragic-vaunted revels Are less lonely than they were. Like those Kings with treasure steering From the jewell'd lands of dawn, Troops, with gold and gifts, appearing, Stream all day through your enchanted lawn.
And we too, from upland valleys, Where some Muse with half-curved frown Leans her ear to your mad sallies Which the charm'd winds never drown; By faint music guided, ranging The scared glens, we wander'd on, Left our awful laurels hanging, And came heap'd with myrtles to your throne.
From the dragon-warder'd fountains Where the springs of knowledge are, From the watchers on the mountains, And the bright and morning star; We are exiles, we are falling, We have lost them at your call— O ye false ones, at your calling Seeking ceiled chambers and a palace-hall!
Are the accents of your luring More melodious than of yore? Are those frail forms more enduring Than the charms Ulysses bore? That we sought you with rejoicings, Till at evening we descry At a pause of Siren voicings These vext branches and this howling sky?...
* * * * *
Oh, your pardon! The uncouthness Of that primal age is gone, And the skin of dazzling smoothness Screens not now a heart of stone. Love has flush'd those cruel faces; And those slacken'd arms forgo The delight of death-embraces, And yon whitening bone-mounds do not grow.
"Ah," you say; "the large appearance Of man's labour is but vain, And we plead as staunch adherence Due to pleasure as to pain." Pointing to earth's careworn creatures, "Come," you murmur with a sigh: "Ah! we own diviner features, Loftier bearing, and a prouder eye.
"Come," you say, "the hours were dreary; Dull did life in torpor fade; Time is lame, and we grew weary In the slumbrous cedarn shade. Round our hearts with long caresses, With low sighings, Silence stole, And her load of steaming tresses Fell, like Ossa, on the climbing soul.
"Come," you say, "the soul is fainting Till she search and learn her own, And the wisdom of man's painting Leaves her riddle half unknown. Come," you say, "the brain is seeking, While the sovran heart is dead; Yet this glean'd, when Gods were speaking, Rarer secrets than the toiling head.
"Come," you say, "opinion trembles, Judgment shifts, convictions go; Life dries up, the heart dissembles— Only, what we feel, we know. Hath your wisdom felt emotions? Will it weep our burning tears? Hath it drunk of our love-potions Crowning moments with the wealth of years?"
—I am dumb. Alas, too soon all Man's grave reasons disappear! Yet, I think, at God's tribunal Some large answer you shall hear. But, for me, my thoughts are straying Where at sunrise, through your vines, On these lawns I saw you playing, Hanging garlands on your odorous pines; When your showering locks enwound you, And your heavenly eyes shone through; When the pine-boughs yielded round you, And your brows were starr'd with dew; And immortal forms, to meet you, Down the statued alleys came, And through golden horns, to greet you, Blew such music as a God may frame.
Yes, I muse! And if the dawning Into daylight never grew, If the glistering wings of morning On the dry noon shook their dew, If the fits of joy were longer, Or the day were sooner done, Or, perhaps, if hope were stronger, No weak nursling of an earthly sun ... Pluck, pluck cypress, O pale maidens, Dusk the hall with yew!
* * * * *
For a bound was set to meetings, And the sombre day dragg'd on; And the burst of joyful greetings, And the joyful dawn, were gone. For the eye grows fill'd with gazing, And on raptures follow calms; And those warm locks men were praising, Droop'd, unbraided, on your listless arms.
Storms unsmooth'd your folded valleys, And made all your cedars frown; Leaves were whirling in the alleys Which your lovers wander'd down. —Sitting cheerless in your bowers, The hands propping the sunk head, Still they gall you, the long hours, And the hungry thought, that must be fed!
Is the pleasure that is tasted Patient of a long review? Will the fire joy hath wasted, Mused on, warm the heart anew? —Or, are those old thoughts returning, Guests the dull sense never knew, Stars, set deep, yet inly burning, Germs, your untrimm'd passion overgrew?
Once, like us, you took your station Watchers for a purer fire; But you droop'd in expectation, And you wearied in desire. When the first rose flush was steeping All the frore peak's awful crown, Shepherds say, they found you sleeping In some windless valley, farther down.
Then you wept, and slowly raising Your dozed eyelids, sought again, Half in doubt, they say, and gazing Sadly back, the seats of men;— Snatch'd a turbid inspiration From some transient earthly sun, And proclaim'd your vain ovation For those mimic raptures you had won....
* * * * *
With a sad, majestic motion, With a stately, slow surprise, From their earthward-bound devotion Lifting up your languid eyes— Would you freeze my too loud boldness, Dumbly smiling as you go, One faint frown of distant coldness Flitting fast across each marble brow?
Do I brighten at your sorrow, O sweet Pleaders?—doth my lot Find assurance in to-morrow Of one joy, which you have not? O, speak once, and shame my sadness! Let this sobbing, Phrygian strain, Mock'd and baffled by your gladness, Mar the music of your feasts in vain!
* * * * *
Scent, and song, and light, and flowers! Gust on gust, the harsh winds blow— Come, bind up those ringlet showers! Roses for that dreaming brow! Come, once more that ancient lightness, Glancing feet, and eager eyes! Let your broad lamps flash the brightness Which the sorrow-stricken day denies!
Through black depths of serried shadows, Up cold aisles of buried glade; In the midst of river-meadows Where the looming kine are laid; From your dazzled windows streaming, From your humming festal room, Deep and far, a broken gleaming Reels and shivers on the ruffled gloom.
Where I stand, the grass is glowing; Doubtless you are passing fair! But I hear the north wind blowing, And I feel the cold night-air. Can I look on your sweet faces, And your proud heads backward thrown, From this dusk of leaf-strewn places With the dumb woods and the night alone?
Yet, indeed, this flux of guesses— Mad delight, and frozen calms— Mirth to-day and vine-bound tresses, And to-morrow—folded palms; Is this all? this balanced measure? Could life run no happier way? Joyous, at the height of pleasure, Passive at the nadir of dismay?
But, indeed, this proud possession, This far-reaching, magic chain, Linking in a mad succession Fits of joy and fits of pain— Have you seen it at the closing? Have you track'd its clouded ways? Can your eyes, while fools are dozing, Drop, with mine, adown life's latter days?
When a dreary dawn is wading Through this waste of sunless greens, When the flushing hues are fading On the peerless cheek of queens; When the mean shall no more sorrow, And the proudest no more smile; As old age, youth's fatal morrow, Spreads its cold light wider all that while?
Then, when change itself is over, When the slow tide sets one way, Shall you find the radiant lover, Even by moments, of to-day? The eye wanders, faith is failing— O, loose hands, and let it be! Proudly, like a king bewailing, O, let fall one tear, and set us free!
All true speech and large avowal Which the jealous soul concedes; All man's heart which brooks bestowal, All frank faith which passion breeds— These we had, and we gave truly; Doubt not, what we had, we gave! False we were not, nor unruly; Lodgers in the forest and the cave.
Long we wander'd with you, feeding Our rapt souls on your replies, In a wistful silence reading All the meaning of your eyes. By moss-border'd statues sitting, By well-heads, in summer days. But we turn, our eyes are flitting— See, the white east, and the morning rays!
And you too, O worshipp'd Graces, Sylvan Gods of this fair shade! Is there doubt on divine faces? Are the blessed Gods dismay'd? Can men worship the wan features, The sunk eyes, the wailing tone, Of unsphered, discrowned creatures, Souls as little godlike as their own?
Come, loose hands! The winged fleetness Of immortal feet is gone; And your scents have shed their sweetness, And your flowers are overblown. And your jewell'd gauds surrender Half their glories to the day; Freely did they flash their splendour, Freely gave it—but it dies away.
In the pines the thrush is waking— Lo, yon orient hill in flames! Scores of true love knots are breaking At divorce which it proclaims. When the lamps are paled at morning, Heart quits heart and hand quits hand. Cold in that unlovely dawning, Loveless, rayless, joyless you shall stand!
Pluck no more red roses, maidens, Leave the lilies in their dew— Pluck, pluck cypress, O pale maidens, Dusk, oh, dusk the hall with yew! —Shall I seek, that I may scorn her, Her I loved at eventide? Shall I ask, what faded mourner Stands, at daybreak, weeping by my side? Pluck, pluck cypress, O pale maidens! Dusk the hall with yew!
As the kindling glances, Queen-like and clear, Which the bright moon lances From her tranquil sphere At the sleepless waters Of a lonely mere, On the wild whirling waves, mournfully, mournfully, Shiver and die.
As the tears of sorrow Mothers have shed— Prayers that to-morrow Shall in vain be sped When the flower they flow for Lies frozen and dead— Fall on the throbbing brow, fall on the burning breast, Bringing no rest.
Like bright waves that fall With a lifelike motion On the lifeless margin of the sparkling Ocean; A wild rose climbing up a mouldering wall— A gush of sunbeams through a ruin'd hall— Strains of glad music at a funeral— So sad, and with so wild a start To this deep-sober'd heart, So anxiously and painfully, So drearily and doubtfully, And oh, with such intolerable change Of thought, such contrast strange, O unforgotten voice, thy accents come, Like wanderers from the world's extremity, Unto their ancient home!
In vain, all, all in vain, They beat upon mine ear again, Those melancholy tones so sweet and still. Those lute-like tones which in the bygone year Did steal into mine ear— Blew such a thrilling summons to my will, Yet could not shake it; Made my tost heart its very life-blood spill, Yet could not break it.
When I shall be divorced, some ten years hence, From this poor present self which I am now; When youth has done its tedious vain expense Of passions that for ever ebb and flow;
Shall I not joy youth's heats are left behind, And breathe more happy in an even clime?— Ah no, for then I shall begin to find A thousand virtues in this hated time!
Then I shall wish its agitations back, And all its thwarting currents of desire; Then I shall praise the heat which then I lack, And call this hurrying fever, generous fire;
And sigh that one thing only has been lent To youth and age in common—discontent.
THE WORLD'S TRIUMPHS
So far as I conceive the world's rebuke To him address'd who would recast her new, Not from herself her fame of strength she took, But from their weakness who would work her rue.
"Behold," she cries, "so many rages lull'd, So many fiery spirits quite cool'd down; Look how so many valours, long undull'd, After short commerce with me, fear my frown!
"Thou too, when thou against my crimes wouldst cry, Let thy foreboded homage check thy tongue!"— The world speaks well; yet might her foe reply: "Are wills so weak?—then let not mine wait long!
"Hast thou so rare a poison?—let me be Keener to slay thee, lest thou poison me!"
Thou, who dost dwell alone— Thou, who dost know thine own— Thou, to whom all are known From the cradle to the grave— Save, oh! save. From the world's temptations, From tribulations, From that fierce anguish Wherein we languish, From that torpor deep Wherein we lie asleep, Heavy as death, cold as the grave, Save, oh! save.
When the soul, growing clearer, Sees God no nearer; When the soul, mounting higher, To God comes no nigher; But the arch-fiend Pride Mounts at her side, Foiling her high emprise, Sealing her eagle eyes, And, when she fain would soar, Makes idols to adore, Changing the pure emotion Of her high devotion, To a skin-deep sense Of her own eloquence; Strong to deceive, strong to enslave— Save, oh! save.
From the ingrain'd fashion Of this earthly nature That mars thy creature; From grief that is but passion, From mirth that is but feigning, From tears that bring no healing, From wild and weak complaining, Thine old strength revealing, Save, oh! save. From doubt, where all is double; Where wise men are not strong, Where comfort turns to trouble, Where just men suffer wrong; Where sorrow treads on joy, Where sweet things soonest cloy, Where faiths are built on dust, Where love is half mistrust, Hungry, and barren, and sharp as the sea— Oh! set us free. O let the false dream fly, Where our sick souls do lie Tossing continually! O where thy voice doth come Let all doubts be dumb, Let all words be mild, All strifes be reconciled, All pains beguiled! Light bring no blindness, Love no unkindness, Knowledge no ruin, Fear no undoing! From the cradle to the grave, Save, oh! save.
What mortal, when he saw, Life's voyage done, his heavenly Friend, Could ever yet dare tell him fearlessly: "I have kept uninfringed my nature's law; The inly-written chart thou gavest me, To guide me, I have steer'd by to the end"?
Ah! let us make no claim, On life's incognisable sea, To too exact a steering of our way; Let us not fret and fear to miss our aim, If some fair coast have lured us to make stay, Or some friend hail'd us to keep company.
Ay! we would each fain drive At random, and not steer by rule. Weakness! and worse, weakness bestow'd in vain Winds from our side the unsuiting consort rive, We rush by coasts where we had lief remain; Man cannot, though he would, live chance's fool.
No! as the foaming swath Of torn-up water, on the main, Falls heavily away with long-drawn roar On either side the black deep-furrow'd path Cut by an onward-labouring vessel's prore, And never touches the ship-side again;
Even so we leave behind, As, charter'd by some unknown Powers, We stem across the sea of life by night, The joys which were not for our use design'd;— The friends to whom we had no natural right, The homes that were not destined to be ours.
TO A GIPSY CHILD BY THE SEA-SHORE
DOUGLAS, ISLE OF MAN
Who taught this pleading to unpractised eyes? Who hid such import in an infant's gloom? Who lent thee, child, this meditative guise? Who mass'd, round that slight brow, these clouds of doom?
Lo! sails that gleam a moment and are gone; The swinging waters, and the cluster'd pier. Not idly Earth and Ocean labour on, Nor idly do these sea-birds hover near.
But thou, whom superfluity of joy Wafts not from thine own thoughts, nor longings vain, Nor weariness, the full-fed soul's annoy— Remaining in thy hunger and thy pain;
Thou, drugging pain by patience; half averse From thine own mother's breast, that knows not thee; With eyes which sought thine eyes thou didst converse, And that soul-searching vision fell on me.
Glooms that go deep as thine I have not known: Moods of fantastic sadness, nothing worth. Thy sorrow and thy calmness are thine own: Glooms that enhance and glorify this earth.
What mood wears like complexion to thy woe? His, who in mountain glens, at noon of day, Sits rapt, and hears the battle break below? —Ah! thine was not the shelter, but the fray.
Some exile's, mindful how the past was glad? Some angel's, in an alien planet born? —No exile's dream was ever half so sad, Nor any angel's sorrow so forlorn.
Is the calm thine of stoic souls, who weigh Life well, and find it wanting, nor deplore; But in disdainful silence turn away, Stand mute, self-centred, stern, and dream no more?
Or do I wait, to hear some gray-hair'd king Unravel all his many-colour'd lore; Whose mind hath known all arts of governing, Mused much, loved life a little, loathed it more?
Down the pale cheek long lines of shadow slope, Which years, and curious thought, and suffering give. —Thou hast foreknown the vanity of hope, Foreseen thy harvest—yet proceed'st to live.
O meek anticipant of that sure pain Whose sureness gray-hair'd scholars hardly learn! What wonder shall time breed, to swell thy strain? What heavens, what earth, what sun shalt thou discern?
Ere the long night, whose stillness brooks no star, Match that funereal aspect with her pall, I think, thou wilt have fathom'd life too far, Have known too much——or else forgotten all.
The Guide of our dark steps a triple veil Betwixt our senses and our sorrow keeps; Hath sown with cloudless passages the tale Of grief, and eased us with a thousand sleeps.
Ah! not the nectarous poppy lovers use, Not daily labour's dull, Lethaean spring, Oblivion in lost angels can infuse Of the soil'd glory, and the trailing wing.
And though thou glean, what strenuous gleaners may, In the throng'd fields where winning comes by strife; And though the just sun gild, as mortals pray, Some reaches of thy storm-vext stream of life; Though that blank sunshine blind thee; though the cloud That sever'd the world's march and thine, be gone; Though ease dulls grace, and Wisdom be too proud To halve a lodging that was all her own—
Once, ere the day decline, thou shalt discern, Oh once, ere night, in thy success, thy chain! Ere the long evening close, thou shalt return, And wear this majesty of grief again.
Joy comes and goes, hope ebbs and flows Like the wave; Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men. Love lends life a little grace, A few sad smiles; and then, Both are laid in one cold place, In the grave.
Dreams dawn and fly, friends smile and die Like spring flowers; Our vaunted life is one long funeral. Men dig graves with bitter tears For their dead hopes; and all, Mazed with doubts and sick with fears, Count the hours.
We count the hours! These dreams of ours, False and hollow, Do we go hence and find they are not dead? Joys we dimly apprehend, Faces that smiled and fled, Hopes born here, and born to end, Shall we follow?
IN UTRUMQUE PARATUS
If, in the silent mind of One all-pure, At first imagined lay The sacred world; and by procession sure From those still deeps, in form and colour drest, Seasons alternating, and night and day, The long-mused thought to north, south, east, and west, Took then its all-seen way;
O waking on a world which thus-wise springs! Whether it needs thee count Betwixt thy waking and the birth of things Ages or hours—O waking on life's stream! By lonely pureness to the all-pure fount (Only by this thou canst) the colour'd dream Of life remount!
Thin, thin the pleasant human noises grow, And faint the city gleams; Rare the lone pastoral huts—marvel not thou! The solemn peaks but to the stars are known, But to the stars, and the cold lunar beams; Alone the sun arises, and alone Spring the great streams.
But, if the wild unfather'd mass no birth In divine seats hath known; In the blank, echoing solitude if Earth, Rocking her obscure body to and fro, Ceases not from all time to heave and groan, Unfruitful oft, and at her happiest throe Forms, what she forms, alone;
O seeming sole to awake, thy sun-bathed head Piercing the solemn cloud Round thy still dreaming brother-world outspread! O man, whom Earth, thy long-vext mother, bare Not without joy—so radiant, so endow'd (Such happy issue crown'd her painful care)— Be not too proud!
Oh when most self-exalted most alone, Chief dreamer, own thy dream! Thy brother-world stirs at thy feet unknown, Who hath a monarch's hath no brother's part; Yet doth thine inmost soul with yearning teem. —Oh, what a spasm shakes the dreamer's heart! "I, too, but seem."
THE WORLD AND THE QUIETIST
"Why, when the world's great mind Hath finally inclined, Why," you say, Critias, "be debating still? Why, with these mournful rhymes Learn'd in more languid climes, Blame our activity Who, with such passionate will, Are what we mean to be?"
Critias, long since, I know (For Fate decreed it so), Long since the world hath set its heart to live; Long since, with credulous zeal It turns life's mighty wheel, Still doth for labourers send Who still their labour give, And still expects an end.
Yet, as the wheel flies round, With no ungrateful sound Do adverse voices fall on the world's ear. Deafen'd by his own stir The rugged labourer Caught not till then a sense So glowing and so near Of his omnipotence.
So, when the feast grew loud In Susa's palace proud, A white-robed slave stole to the Great King's side. He spake—the Great King heard; Felt the slow-rolling word Swell his attentive soul; Breathed deeply as it died, And drain'd his mighty bowl.
(TO AN AMBITIOUS FRIEND)
Omit, omit, my simple friend, Still to enquire how parties tend, Or what we fix with foreign powers. If France and we are really friends, And what the Russian Czar intends, Is no concern of ours.
Us not the daily quickening race Of the invading populace Shall draw to swell that shouldering herd. Mourn will we not your closing hour, Ye imbeciles in present power, Doom'd, pompous, and absurd!
And let us bear, that they debate Of all the engine-work of state, Of commerce, laws, and policy, The secrets of the world's machine, And what the rights of man may mean, With readier tongue than we.
Only, that with no finer art They cloak the troubles of the heart With pleasant smile, let us take care; Nor with a lighter hand dispose Fresh garlands of this dewy rose, To crown Eugenia's hair.
Of little threads our life is spun, And he spins ill, who misses one. But is thy fair Eugenia cold? Yet Helen had an equal grace, And Juliet's was as fair a face, And now their years are told.
The day approaches, when we must Be crumbling bones and windy dust; And scorn us as our mistress may, Her beauty will no better be Than the poor face she slights in thee, When dawns that day, that day.
THE SECOND BEST
Moderate tasks and moderate leisure, Quiet living, strict-kept measure Both in suffering and in pleasure— 'Tis for this thy nature yearns.
But so many books thou readest, But so many schemes thou breedest, But so many wishes feedest, That thy poor head almost turns.
And (the world's so madly jangled, Human things so fast entangled) Nature's wish must now be strangled For that best which she discerns.
So it must be! yet, while leading A strain'd life, while overfeeding, Like the rest, his wit with reading, No small profit that man earns,
Who through all he meets can steer him, Can reject what cannot clear him, Cling to what can truly cheer him; Who each day more surely learns
That an impulse, from the distance Of his deepest, best existence, To the words, "Hope, Light, Persistence," Strongly sets and truly burns.
Mist clogs the sunshine. Smoky dwarf houses Hem me round everywhere; A vague dejection Weighs down my soul.
Yet, while I languish, Everywhere countless Prospects unroll themselves, And countless beings Pass countless moods.
Far hence, in Asia, On the smooth convent-roofs, On the gilt terraces, Of holy Lassa, Bright shines the sun.
Grey time-worn marbles Hold the pure Muses; In their cool gallery, By yellow Tiber, They still look fair.
Strange unloved uproar[A] Shrills round their portal; Yet not on Helicon Kept they more cloudless Their noble calm.
Through sun-proof alleys In a lone, sand-hemm'd City of Africa, A blind, led beggar, Age-bow'd, asks alms.
No bolder robber Erst abode ambush'd Deep in the sandy waste; No clearer eyesight Spied prey afar.
Saharan sand-winds Sear'd his keen eyeballs; Spent is the spoil he won. For him the present Holds only pain.
Two young, fair lovers, Where the warm June-wind, Fresh from the summer fields Plays fondly round them, Stand, tranced in joy.
With sweet, join'd voices, And with eyes brimming: "Ah," they cry, "Destiny, Prolong the present! Time, stand still here!"
The prompt stern Goddess Shakes her head, frowning; Time gives his hour-glass Its due reversal; Their hour is gone.
With weak indulgence Did the just Goddess Lengthen their happiness, She lengthen'd also Distress elsewhere.
The hour, whose happy Unalloy'd moments I would eternalise, Ten thousand mourners Well pleased see end.
The bleak, stern hour, Whose severe moments I would annihilate, Is pass'd by others In warmth, light, joy.
Time, so complain'd of, Who to no one man Shows partiality, Brings round to all men Some undimm'd hours.
[Footnote A: Written during the siege of Rome by the French, 1849.]
To die be given us, or attain! Fierce work it were, to do again. So pilgrims, bound for Mecca, pray'd At burning noon; so warriors said, Scarf'd with the cross, who watch'd the miles Of dust which wreathed their struggling files Down Lydian mountains; so, when snows Round Alpine summits, eddying, rose, The Goth, bound Rome-wards; so the Hun, Crouch'd on his saddle, while the sun Went lurid down o'er flooded plains Through which the groaning Danube strains To the drear Euxine;—so pray all, Whom labours, self-ordain'd, enthrall; Because they to themselves propose On this side the all-common close A goal which, gain'd, may give repose. So pray they; and to stand again Where they stood once, to them were pain; Pain to thread back and to renew Past straits, and currents long steer'd through.
But milder natures, and more free— Whom an unblamed serenity Hath freed from passions, and the state Of struggle these necessitate; Whom schooling of the stubborn mind Hath made, or birth hath found, resign'd— These mourn not, that their goings pay Obedience to the passing day. These claim not every laughing Hour For handmaid to their striding power; Each in her turn, with torch uprear'd, To await their march; and when appear'd, Through the cold gloom, with measured race, To usher for a destined space (Her own sweet errands all forgone) The too imperious traveller on. These, Fausta, ask not this; nor thou, Time's chafing prisoner, ask it now!
We left, just ten years since, you say, That wayside inn we left to-day. Our jovial host, as forth we fare, Shouts greeting from his easy chair. High on a bank our leader stands, Reviews and ranks his motley bands, Makes clear our goal to every eye— The valley's western boundary. A gate swings to! our tide hath flow'd Already from the silent road. The valley-pastures, one by one, Are threaded, quiet in the sun; And now beyond the rude stone bridge Slopes gracious up the western ridge. Its woody border, and the last Of its dark upland farms is past— Cool farms, with open-lying stores, Under their burnish'd sycamores; All past! and through the trees we glide, Emerging on the green hill-side. There climbing hangs, a far-seen sign, Our wavering, many-colour'd line; There winds, upstreaming slowly still Over the summit of the hill. And now, in front, behold outspread Those upper regions we must tread! Mild hollows, and clear heathy swells, The cheerful silence of the fells. Some two hours' march with serious air, Through the deep noontide heats we fare; The red-grouse, springing at our sound, Skims, now and then, the shining ground; No life, save his and ours, intrudes Upon these breathless solitudes. O joy! again the farms appear. Cool shade is there, and rustic cheer; There springs the brook will guide us down, Bright comrade, to the noisy town. Lingering, we follow down; we gain The town, the highway, and the plain. And many a mile of dusty way, Parch'd and road-worn, we made that day; But, Fausta, I remember well, That as the balmy darkness fell We bathed our hands with speechless glee, That night, in the wide-glimmering sea.
Once more we tread this self-same road, Fausta, which ten years since we trod; Alone we tread it, you and I, Ghosts of that boisterous company. Here, where the brook shines, near its head, In its clear, shallow, turf-fringed bed; Here, whence the eye first sees, far down, Capp'd with faint smoke, the noisy town; Here sit we, and again unroll, Though slowly, the familiar whole. The solemn wastes of heathy hill Sleep in the July sunshine still; The self-same shadows now, as then, Play through this grassy upland glen; The loose dark stones on the green way Lie strewn, it seems, where then they lay; On this mild bank above the stream, (You crush them!) the blue gentians gleam. Still this wild brook, the rushes cool, The sailing foam, the shining pool! These are not changed; and we, you say, Are scarce more changed, in truth, than they.
The gipsies, whom we met below, They, too, have long roam'd to and fro; They ramble, leaving, where they pass, Their fragments on the cumber'd grass. And often to some kindly place Chance guides the migratory race, Where, though long wanderings intervene, They recognise a former scene. The dingy tents are pitch'd; the fires Give to the wind their wavering spires; In dark knots crouch round the wild flame Their children, as when first they came; They see their shackled beasts again Move, browsing, up the gray-wall'd lane. Signs are not wanting, which might raise The ghost in them of former days— Signs are not wanting, if they would; Suggestions to disquietude. For them, for all, time's busy touch, While it mends little, troubles much. Their joints grow stiffer—but the year Runs his old round of dubious cheer; Chilly they grow—yet winds in March, Still, sharp as ever, freeze and parch; They must live still—and yet, God knows, Crowded and keen the country grows; It seems as if, in their decay, The law grew stronger every day. So might they reason, so compare, Fausta, times past with times that are. But no!—they rubb'd through yesterday In their hereditary way, And they will rub through, if they can, To-morrow on the self-same plan, Till death arrive to supersede, For them, vicissitude and need.
The poet, to whose mighty heart Heaven doth a quicker pulse impart, Subdues that energy to scan Not his own course, but that of man. Though he move mountains, though his day Be pass'd on the proud heights of sway, Though he hath loosed a thousand chains, Though he hath borne immortal pains, Action and suffering though he know— He hath not lived, if he lives so. He sees, in some great-historied land, A ruler of the people stand, Sees his strong thought in fiery flood Roll through the heaving multitude Exults—yet for no moment's space Envies the all-regarded place. Beautiful eyes meet his—and he Bears to admire uncravingly; They pass—he, mingled with the crowd, Is in their far-off triumphs proud. From some high station he looks down, At sunset, on a populous town; Surveys each happy group, which fleets, Toil ended, through the shining streets, Each with some errand of its own— And does not say: I am alone. He sees the gentle stir of birth When morning purifies the earth; He leans upon a gate and sees The pastures, and the quiet trees. Low, woody hill, with gracious bound, Folds the still valley almost round; The cuckoo, loud on some high lawn, Is answer'd from the depth of dawn; In the hedge straggling to the stream, Pale, dew-drench'd, half-shut roses gleam; But, where the farther side slopes down, He sees the drowsy new-waked clown In his white quaint-embroider'd frock Make, whistling, tow'rd his mist-wreathed flock— Slowly, behind his heavy tread, The wet, flower'd grass heaves up its head. Lean'd on his gate, he gazes—tears Are in his eyes, and in his ears The murmur of a thousand years. Before him he sees life unroll, A placid and continuous whole— That general life, which does not cease, Whose secret is not joy, but peace; That life, whose dumb wish is not miss'd If birth proceeds, if things subsist; The life of plants, and stones, and rain, The life he craves—if not in vain Fate gave, what chance shall not control, His sad lucidity of soul.
You listen—but that wandering smile, Fausta, betrays you cold the while! Your eyes pursue the bells of foam Wash'd, eddying, from this bank, their home. Those gipsies, so your thoughts I scan, Are less, the poet more, than man. They feel not, though they move and see; Deeper the poet feels; but he Breathes, when he will, immortal air, Where Orpheus and where Homer are. In the day's life, whose iron round Hems us all in, he is not bound; He leaves his kind, o'erleaps their pen, And flees the common life of men. He escapes thence, but we abide— Not deep the poet sees, but wide.
* * * * *
The world in which we live and move Outlasts aversion, outlasts love, Outlasts each effort, interest, hope, Remorse, grief, joy;—and were the scope Of these affections wider made, Man still would see, and see dismay'd, Beyond his passion's widest range, Far regions of eternal change. Nay, and since death, which wipes out man, Finds him with many an unsolved plan, With much unknown, and much untried, Wonder not dead, and thirst not dried, Still gazing on the ever full Eternal mundane spectacle— This world in which we draw our breath, In some sense, Fausta, outlasts death. Blame thou not, therefore, him who dares Judge vain beforehand human cares; Whose natural insight can discern What through experience others learn; Who needs not love and power, to know Love transient, power an unreal show; Who treads at ease life's uncheer'd ways— Him blame not, Fausta, rather praise! Rather thyself for some aim pray Nobler than this, to fill the day; Rather that heart, which burns in thee, Ask, not to amuse, but to set free; Be passionate hopes not ill resign'd For quiet, and a fearless mind. And though fate grudge to thee and me The poet's rapt security, Yet they, believe me, who await No gifts from chance, have conquer'd fate. They, winning room to see and hear, And to men's business not too near, Through clouds of individual strife Draw homeward to the general life. Like leaves by suns not yet uncurl'd; To the wise, foolish; to the world, Weak;—yet not weak, I might reply, Not foolish, Fausta, in His eye, To whom each moment in its race, Crowd as we will its neutral space, Is but a quiet watershed Whence, equally, the seas of life and death are fed.
Enough, we live!—and if a life, With large results so little rife, Though bearable, seem hardly worth This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth; Yet, Fausta, the mute turf we tread, The solemn hills around us spread, This stream which falls incessantly, The strange-scrawl'd rocks, the lonely sky, If I might lend their life a voice, Seem to bear rather than rejoice. And even could the intemperate prayer Man iterates, while these forbear, For movement, for an ampler sphere, Pierce Fate's impenetrable ear; Not milder is the general lot Because our spirits have forgot, In action's dizzying eddy whirl'd, The something that infects the world.
SOHRAB AND RUSTUM
And the first grey of morning fill'd the east, And the fog rose out of the Oxus stream. But all the Tartar camp along the stream Was hush'd, and still the men were plunged in sleep; Sohrab alone, he slept not; all night long He had lain wakeful, tossing on his bed; But when the grey dawn stole into his tent, He rose, and clad himself, and girt his sword, And took his horseman's cloak, and left his tent, And went abroad into the cold wet fog, Through the dim camp to Peran-Wisa's tent. Through the black Tartar tents he pass'd, which stood Clustering like bee-hives on the low flat strand Of Oxus, where the summer-floods o'erflow When the sun melts the snows in high Pamere; Through the black tents he pass'd, o'er that low strand, And to a hillock came, a little back From the stream's brink—the spot where first a boat, Crossing the stream in summer, scrapes the land. The men of former times had crown'd the top With a clay fort; but that was fall'n, and now The Tartars built there Peran-Wisa's tent, A dome of laths, and o'er it felts were spread. And Sohrab came there, and went in, and stood Upon the thick piled carpets in the tent, And found the old man sleeping on his bed Of rugs and felts, and near him lay his arms. And Peran-Wisa heard him, though the step Was dull'd; for he slept light, an old man's sleep; And he rose quickly on one arm, and said:— "Who art thou? for it is not yet clear dawn. Speak! is there news, or any night alarm?" But Sohrab came to the bedside, and said:— "Thou know'st me, Peran-Wisa! it is I. The sun is not yet risen, and the foe Sleep; but I sleep not; all night long I lie Tossing and wakeful, and I come to thee. For so did King Afrasiab bid me seek Thy counsel, and to heed thee as thy son, In Samarcand, before the army march'd; And I will tell thee what my heart desires. Thou know'st if, since from Ader-baijan first I came among the Tartars and bore arms, I have still served Afrasiab well, and shown, At my boy's years, the courage of a man. This too thou know'st, that while I still bear on The conquering Tartar ensigns through the world, And beat the Persians back on every field, I seek one man, one man, and one alone— Rustum, my father; who I hoped should greet, Should one day greet, upon some well-fought field, His not unworthy, not inglorious son. So I long hoped, but him I never find. Come then, hear now, and grant me what I ask. Let the two armies rest to-day; but I Will challenge forth the bravest Persian lords To meet me, man to man; if I prevail, Rustum will surely hear it; if I fall— Old man, the dead need no one, claim no kin. Dim is the rumour of a common fight, Where host meets host, and many names are sunk; But of a single combat fame speaks clear." He spoke; and Peran-Wisa took the hand Of the young man in his, and sigh'd, and said:— "O Sohrab, an unquiet heart is thine! Canst thou not rest among the Tartar chiefs, And share the battle's common chance with us Who love thee, but must press for ever first, In single fight incurring single risk, To find a father thou hast never seen? That were far best, my son, to stay with us Unmurmuring; in our tents, while it is war, And when 'tis truce, then in Afrasiab's towns. But, if this one desire indeed rules all, To seek out Rustum—seek him not through fight! Seek him in peace, and carry to his arms, O Sohrab, carry an unwounded son! But far hence seek him, for he is not here. For now it is not as when I was young, When Rustum was in front of every fray; But now he keeps apart, and sits at home, In Seistan, with Zal, his father old. Whether that his own mighty strength at last Feels the abhorr'd approaches of old age, Or in some quarrel with the Persian King. There go!—Thou wilt not? Yet my heart forebodes Danger or death awaits thee on this field. Fain would I know thee safe and well, though lost To us; fain therefore send thee hence, in peace To seek thy father, not seek single fights In vain;—but who can keep the lion's cub From ravening, and who govern Rustum's son? Go, I will grant thee what thy heart desires." So said he, and dropp'd Sohrab's hand, and left His bed, and the warm rugs whereon he lay; And o'er his chilly limbs his woollen coat He pass'd, and tied his sandals on his feet, And threw a white cloak round him, and he took In his right hand a ruler's staff, no sword; And on his head he set his sheep-skin cap, Black, glossy, curl'd, the fleece of Kara-Kul; And raised the curtain of his tent, and call'd His herald to his side, and went abroad. The sun by this had risen, and clear'd the fog From the broad Oxus and the glittering sands. And from their tents the Tartar horsemen filed Into the open plain; so Haman bade— Haman, who next to Peran-Wisa ruled The host, and still was in his lusty prime. From their black tents, long files of horse, they stream'd; As when some grey November morn the files, In marching order spread, of long-neck'd cranes Stream over Casbin and the southern slopes Of Elburz, from the Aralian estuaries, Or some frore Caspian reed-bed, southward bound For the warm Persian sea-board—so they stream'd. The Tartars of the Oxus, the King's guard, First, with black sheep-skin caps and with long spears; Large men, large steeds; who from Bokhara come And Khiva, and ferment the milk of mares. Next, the more temperate Toorkmuns of the south, The Tukas, and the lances of Salore, And those from Attruck and the Caspian sands; Light men and on light steeds, who only drink The acrid milk of camels, and their wells. And then a swarm of wandering horse, who came From far, and a more doubtful service own'd; The Tartars of Ferghana, from the banks Of the Jaxartes, men with scanty beards And close-set skull-caps; and those wilder hordes Who roam o'er Kipchak and the northern waste, Kalmucks and unkempt Kuzzaks, tribes who stray Nearest the Pole, and wandering Kirghizzes, Who come on shaggy ponies from Pamere; These all filed out from camp into the plain. And on the other side the Persians form'd;— First a light cloud of horse, Tartars they seem'd, The Ilyats of Khorassan; and behind, The royal troops of Persia, horse and foot, Marshall'd battalions bright in burnish'd steel. But Peran-Wisa with his herald came, Threading the Tartar squadrons to the front, And with his staff kept back the foremost ranks. And when Ferood, who led the Persians, saw That Peran-Wisa kept the Tartars back, He took his spear, and to the front he came, And check'd his ranks, and fix'd them where they stood. And the old Tartar came upon the sand Betwixt the silent hosts, and spake, and said:— "Ferood, and ye, Persians and Tartars, hear! Let there be truce between the hosts to-day. But choose a champion from the Persian lords To fight our champion Sohrab, man to man." As, in the country, on a morn in June, When the dew glistens on the pearled ears, A shiver runs through the deep corn for joy— So, when they heard what Peran-Wisa said, A thrill through all the Tartar squadrons ran Of pride and hope for Sohrab, whom they loved. But as a troop of pedlars, from Cabool, Cross underneath the Indian Caucasus, That vast sky-neighbouring mountain of milk snow; Crossing so high, that, as they mount, they pass Long flocks of travelling birds dead on the snow, Choked by the air, and scarce can they themselves Slake their parch'd throats with sugar'd mulberries— In single file they move, and stop their breath, For fear they should dislodge the o'erhanging snows— So the pale Persians held their breath with fear. And to Ferood his brother chiefs came up To counsel; Gudurz and Zoarrah came, And Feraburz, who ruled the Persian host Second, and was the uncle of the King; These came and counsell'd, and then Gudurz said:— "Ferood, shame bids us take their challenge up, Yet champion have we none to match this youth. He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart. But Rustum came last night; aloof he sits And sullen, and has pitch'd his tents apart. Him will I seek, and carry to his ear The Tartar challenge, and this young man's name. Haply he will forget his wrath, and fight. Stand forth the while, and take their challenge up." So spake he; and Ferood stood forth and cried:— "Old man, be it agreed as thou hast said! Let Sohrab arm, and we will find a man." He spake: and Peran-Wisa turn'd, and strode Back through the opening squadrons to his tent. But through the anxious Persians Gudurz ran, And cross'd the camp which lay behind, and reach'd, Out on the sands beyond it, Rustum's tents. Of scarlet cloth they were, and glittering gay, Just pitch'd; the high pavilion in the midst Was Rustum's, and his men lay camp'd around. And Gudurz enter'd Rustum's tent, and found Rustum; his morning meal was done, but still The table stood before him, charged with food— A side of roasted sheep, and cakes of bread, And dark green melons; and there Rustum sate Listless, and held a falcon on his wrist, And play'd with it; but Gudurz came and stood Before him; and he look'd, and saw him stand, And with a cry sprang up and dropp'd the bird, And greeted Gudurz with both hands, and said:— "Welcome! these eyes could see no better sight. What news? but sit down first, and eat and drink." But Gudurz stood in the tent-door, and said:— "Not now! a time will come to eat and drink, But not to-day; to-day has other needs. The armies are drawn out, and stand at gaze; For from the Tartars is a challenge brought To pick a champion from the Persian lords To fight their champion—and thou know'st his name— Sohrab men call him, but his birth is hid. O Rustum, like thy might is this young man's! He has the wild stag's foot, the lion's heart; And he is young, and Iran's chiefs are old, Or else too weak; and all eyes turn to thee. Come down and help us, Rustum, or we lose!" He spoke; but Rustum answer'd with a smile:— "Go to! if Iran's chiefs are old, then I Am older; if the young are weak, the King Errs strangely; for the King, for Kai Khosroo, Himself is young, and honours younger men, And lets the aged moulder to their graves. Rustum he loves no more, but loves the young— The young may rise at Sohrab's vaunts, not I. For what care I, though all speak Sohrab's fame? For would that I myself had such a son, And not that one slight helpless girl I have— A son so famed, so brave, to send to war, And I to tarry with the snow-hair'd Zal, My father, whom the robber Afghans vex, And clip his borders short, and drive his herds, And he has none to guard his weak old age. There would I go, and hang my armour up, And with my great name fence that weak old man, And spend the goodly treasures I have got, And rest my age, and hear of Sohrab's fame, And leave to death the hosts of thankless kings, And with these slaughterous hands draw sword no more." He spoke, and smiled; and Gudurz made reply:— "What then, O Rustum, will men say to this, When Sohrab dares our bravest forth, and seeks Thee most of all, and thou, whom most he seeks, Hidest thy face? Take heed lest men should say: Like some old miser, Rustum hoards his fame, And shuns to peril it with younger men." And, greatly moved, then Rustum made reply:— "O Gudurz, wherefore dost thou say such words? Thou knowest better words than this to say. What is one more, one less, obscure or famed, Valiant or craven, young or old, to me? Are not they mortal, am not I myself? But who for men of nought would do great deeds? Come, thou shalt see how Rustum hoards his fame! But I will fight unknown, and in plain arms; Let not men say of Rustum, he was match'd In single fight with any mortal man." He spoke, and frown'd; and Gudurz turn'd, and ran Back quickly through the camp in fear and joy— Fear at his wrath, but joy that Rustum came. But Rustum strode to his tent-door, and call'd His followers in, and bade them bring his arms, And clad himself in steel; the arms he chose Were plain, and on his shield was no device, Only his helm was rich, inlaid with gold, And, from the fluted spine atop, a plume Of horsehair waved, a scarlet horsehair plume. So arm'd, he issued forth; and Ruksh, his horse, Follow'd him like a faithful hound at heel— Ruksh, whose renown was noised through all the earth, The horse, whom Rustum on a foray once Did in Bokhara by the river find A colt beneath its dam, and drove him home, And rear'd him; a bright bay, with lofty crest, Dight with a saddle-cloth of broider'd green Crusted with gold, and on the ground were work'd All beasts of chase, all beasts which hunters know. So follow'd, Rustum left his tents, and cross'd The camp, and to the Persian host appear'd. And all the Persians knew him, and with shouts Hail'd; but the Tartars knew not who he was. And dear as the wet diver to the eyes Of his pale wife who waits and weeps on shore, By sandy Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf, Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night, Having made up his tale of precious pearls, Rejoins her in their hut upon the sands— So dear to the pale Persians Rustum came. And Rustum to the Persian front advanced, And Sohrab arm'd in Haman's tent, and came. And as afield the reapers cut a swath Down through the middle of a rich man's corn, And on each side are squares of standing corn, And in the midst a stubble, short and bare— So on each side were squares of men, with spears Bristling, and in the midst, the open sand. And Rustum came upon the sand, and cast His eyes toward the Tartar tents, and saw Sohrab come forth, and eyed him as he came. As some rich woman, on a winter's morn, Eyes through her silken curtains the poor drudge Who with numb blacken'd fingers makes her fire— At cock-crow, on a starlit winter's morn, When the frost flowers the whiten'd window-panes— And wonders how she lives, and what the thoughts Of that poor drudge may be; so Rustum eyed The unknown adventurous youth, who from afar Came seeking Rustum, and defying forth All the most valiant chiefs; long he perused His spirited air, and wonder'd who he was. For very young he seem'd, tenderly rear'd; Like some young cypress, tall, and dark, and straight, Which in a queen's secluded garden throws Its slight dark shadow on the moonlit turf, By midnight, to a bubbling fountain's sound— So slender Sohrab seem'd, so softly rear'd. And a deep pity enter'd Rustum's soul As he beheld him coming; and he stood, And beckon'd to him with his hand, and said:— "O thou young man, the air of Heaven is soft, And warm, and pleasant; but the grave is cold! Heaven's air is better than the cold dead grave. Behold me! I am vast, and clad in iron, And tried; and I have stood on many a field Of blood, and I have fought with many a foe— Never was that field lost, or that foe saved. O Sohrab, wherefore wilt thou rush on death? Be govern'd! quit the Tartar host, and come To Iran, and be as my son to me, And fight beneath my banner till I die! There are no youths in Iran brave as thou." So he spake, mildly; Sohrab heard his voice, The mighty voice of Rustum, and he saw His giant figure planted on the sand, Sole, like some single tower, which a chief Hath builded on the waste in former years Against the robbers; and he saw that head, Streak'd with its first grey hairs;—hope filled his soul, And he ran forward and embraced his knees, And clasp'd his hand within his own, and said:— "O, by thy father's head! by thine own soul! Art thou not Rustum? speak! art thou not he?" But Rustum eyed askance the kneeling youth, And turn'd away, and spake to his own soul:— "Ah me, I muse what this young fox may mean! False, wily, boastful, are these Tartar boys. For if I now confess this thing he asks, And hide it not, but say: Rustum is here! He will not yield indeed, nor quit our foes, But he will find some pretext not to fight, And praise my fame, and proffer courteous gifts A belt or sword perhaps, and go his way. And on a feast-tide, in Afrasiab's hall, In Samarcand, he will arise and cry: 'I challenged once, when the two armies camp'd Beside the Oxus, all the Persian lords To cope with me in single fight; but they Shrank, only Rustum dared; then he and I Changed gifts, and went on equal terms away.' So will he speak, perhaps, while men applaud; Then were the chiefs of Iran shamed through me." And then he turn'd, and sternly spake aloud:— "Rise! wherefore dost thou vainly question thus Of Rustum? I am here, whom thou hast call'd By challenge forth; make good thy vaunt, or yield! Is it with Rustum only thou wouldst fight? Rash boy, men look on Rustum's face and flee! For well I know, that did great Rustum stand Before thy face this day, and were reveal'd, There would be then no talk of fighting more. But being what I am, I tell thee this— Do thou record it in thine inmost soul: Either thou shalt renounce thy vaunt and yield, Or else thy bones shall strew this sand, till winds Bleach them, or Oxus with his summer-floods, Oxus in summer wash them all away." He spoke; and Sohrab answer'd, on his feet:— "Art thou so fierce? Thou wilt not fright me so! I am no girl, to be made pale by words. Yet this thou hast said well, did Rustum stand Here on this field, there were no fighting then. But Rustum is far hence, and we stand here. Begin! thou art more vast, more dread than I, And thou art proved, I know, and I am young— But yet success sways with the breath of Heaven. And though thou thinkest that thou knowest sure Thy victory, yet thou canst not surely know. For we are all, like swimmers in the sea, Poised on the top of a huge wave of fate, Which hangs uncertain to which side to fall. And whether it will heave us up to land, Or whether it will roll us out to sea, Back out to sea, to the deep waves of death, We know not, and no search will make us know; Only the event will teach us in its hour." He spoke, and Rustum answer'd not, but hurl'd His spear; down from the shoulder, down it came, As on some partridge in the corn a hawk, That long has tower'd in the airy clouds, Drops like a plummet; Sohrab saw it come, And sprang aside, quick as a flash; the spear Hiss'd, and went quivering down into the sand, Which it sent flying wide;—then Sohrab threw In turn, and full struck Rustum's shield; sharp rang, The iron plates rang sharp, but turn'd the spear. And Rustum seized his club, which none but he Could wield; an unlopp'd trunk it was, and huge, Still rough—like those which men in treeless plains To build them boats fish from the flooded rivers, Hyphasis or Hydaspes, when, high up By their dark springs, the wind in winter-time Hath made in Himalayan forests wrack, And strewn the channels with torn boughs—so huge The club which Rustum lifted now, and struck One stroke; but again Sohrab sprang aside, Lithe as the glancing snake, and the club came Thundering to earth, and leapt from Rustum's hand. And Rustum follow'd his own blow, and fell To his knees, and with his fingers clutch'd the sand; And now might Sohrab have unsheathed his sword, And pierced the mighty Rustum while he lay Dizzy, and on his knees, and choked with sand; But he look'd on, and smiled, nor bared his sword, But courteously drew back, and spoke, and said:— "Thou strik'st too hard! that club of thine will float Upon the summer-floods, and not my bones. But rise, and be not wroth! not wroth am I; No, when I see thee, wrath forsakes my soul. Thou say'st, thou art not Rustum; be it so! Who art thou then, that canst so touch my soul? Boy as I am, I have seen battles too— Have waded foremost in their bloody waves,