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Title: The Poetical Works of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, Bart. M.P.

Author: Edward Bulwer Lytton

Release Date: November 12, 2010 [EBook #34298]

Language: English

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Edward Bulwer Lytton

The Poems THE POEMS OF SIR EDWARD BULWER LYTTON, BART.

The slight plank creaks—high mount the waves and high,
Hark! with the tempest's shrieks the human cry!
Upon the bridge but one man now!——

THE NEW TIMON.

LONDON ROUTLEDGE, WARNE AND ROUTLEDGE FARRINGDON STREET.

THE

POETICAL WORKS

OF

SIR EDWARD BULWER LYTTON, BART. M.P.

A NEW EDITION

LONDON:
ROUTLEDGE, WARNE, & ROUTLEDGE,
FARRINGDON STEEET;
NEW YORK: 56, WALKER STREET.
1860.

PREFATORY NOTE.

In this collection of the Author's Poems will be found some not before printed, and some entirely re-written from the more imperfect productions of earlier years. Few, if any, that have previously appeared, have escaped revision and alteration.


CONTENTS.

THE NEW TIMONPage 1
CONSTANCE; OR, THE PORTRAIT88
MILTON119
EVA140
THE FAIRY BRIDE149
THE BEACON159
THE LAY OF THE MINSTREL'S HEART163
NARRATIVE LYRICS; OR, THE PARCÆ. IN SIX LEAVES FROM THE SIBYL'S BOOK.
    I.—NAPOLEON AT ISOLA BELLA166
    II.—MAZARIN169
    III.—ANDRÉ CHÉNIER173
    IV.—MARY STUART AND HER MOURNER176
    V.—THE LAST DAYS OF ELIZABETH179
    VI.—CROMWELL'S DREAM186
 
KING ARTHUR.—BOOKS I. TO XII.193
 
CORN-FLOWERS.—BOOK I. 
    THE FIRST VIOLETS467
    THE IMAGE ON THE TIDE468
    IS IT ALL VANITY?469
    THE TRUE JOY-GIVER472
    BELIEF; THE UNKNOWN LANGUAGE473
    THE PILGRIM OF THE DESERT475
    THE KING AND THE WRAITH477
    LOVE AND DEATH478
    THE POET TO THE DEAD479
    MIND AND SOUL486
    THE GUARDIAN ANGEL488
    THE LOVE OF MATURER YEARS489
    THE EVERLASTING GRAVE-DIGGER491
    THE DISPUTE OF THE POETS492
    GANYMEDE500
    MEMNON501
    THE ANGEL AND THE CHILD502
    TO A WITHERED TREE IN JUNE502
    ON THE REPERUSAL OF LETTERS WRITTEN IN YOUTH504
    THE DESIRE OF FAME505
    THE LOYALTY OF LOVE507
    A LAMENT508
    LOST AND AVENGED508
    THE TREASURES BY THE WAYSIDE510
    ADDRESS TO THE SOUL IN DESPONDENCY512
 
CORN-FLOWERS.—BOOK. II. 
    THE SABBATH513
    THE HOLLOW OAK514
    LOVE AND FAME515
    LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT516
    LOVE'S SUDDEN GROWTH517
    THE LOVE-LETTER518
    THE LANGUAGE OF THE EYES518
    DOUBT519
    THE ASSURANCE519
    MEMORIES, THE FOOD OF LOVE520
    ABSENT, YET PRESENT521
    LOVERS' QUARRELS522
    THE LAST SEPARATION524
    THE POPE AND THE BEGGAR525
    THE BEAUTIFUL DESCENDS NOT526
    THE LONG LIFE AND THE FULL LIFE527
    THE MIND AND THE HEART528
    THE LAST CRUSADER529
    FOREBODINGS531
    ORAMA; OR, FATE AND FREEWILL532
 
EARLIER POEMS. 
    THE SOULS OF BOOKS536
    LA ROCHEFOUCAULD AND CONDORCET539
    JEALOUSY AND ART540
    THE MASTER TO THE SCHOLAR540
    THE TRUE CRITIC541
    TALENT AND GENIUS541
    EURIPIDES542
    THE BONES OF RAPHAEL543
    THE ATHENIAN AND THE SPARTAN546
    THE PHILANTHROPIST AND THE MISANTHROPE548
    THE IDEAL WORLD551
    EPIGRAPH561

[Pg 1]

THE NEW TIMON.

I.
O'er royal London, in luxuriant May,
While lamps yet twinkled, dawning crept the day.
Home from the hell the pale-eyed gamester steals;
Home from the ball flash jaded Beauty's wheels;
The lean grimalkin, who, since night began,
Hath hymn'd to love amidst the wrath of man,
Scared from his raptures by the morning star,
Flits finely by, and threads the area bar;
From fields suburban rolls the early cart;
As rests the revel, so awakes the mart.
Transfusing Mocha from the beans within,
Bright by the crossing gleams the alchemic tin,—
There halts the craftsman; there, with envious sigh,
The houseless vagrant looks, and limps foot-weary by.
Behold that street,—the Omphalos of Town!
Where the grim palace wears the prison's frown,
As mindful still, amidst a gaudier race,
Of the veil'd Genius of the mournful Place—
Of floors no majesty but Griefs had trod,
And weary limbs that only knelt to God.[A]
What tales, what morals, of the elder day—
If stones had language—could that street convey!
Why yell the human bloodhounds panting there?—
To drown the Stuart's last forgiving prayer.[B]
[Pg 2]Again the bloodhounds!—whither would they run?
To lick the feet of Stuart's ribald son.
There, through the dusk-red towers, amidst his ring
Of Vans and Mynheers, rode the Dutchman king;
And there—did England's Goneril thrill to hear
The shouts that triumph'd o'er her crownless Lear?
There, where the gaslight streams on Crockford's door,
Bluff Henry chuckled at the jests of More;
There, where you gaze upon the last H. B.,
Swift paused, and mutter'd, "Shall I have that see?"
There, where yon pile, for party's common weal,
Knits votes that serve, with hearts abhorring, Peel,
Blunt Walpole seized, and roughly bought, his man;—
Or, tired of Polly, St. John lounged to Anne.
Well, let the world change on,—still must endure
While Earth is Earth, one changeless race—the Poor!
Within that street, on yonder threshold stone,
What sits as stone-like?—Penury, claim thine own!
She sate, the homeless wanderer,—with calm eyes
Looking through tears, yet lifted to the skies;
Wistful, but patient, sorrowful, but mild,
As asking God when He would claim his child.
A face too youthful for so hush'd a grief;—
The worm that gnaw'd the core had spared the leaf;
Though worn the cheek, with hunger, or with care,
Yet still the soft fresh childlike bloom was there;
And each might touch you with an equal gloom,
The youth, the care, the hunger, and the bloom;—
As if, when round the cradle of the child
With lavish gifts the gentler fairies smiled,
One vengeful sprite, forgotten as the guest,
Had breathed a spell to disenchant the rest,
And prove how slight each favour, else divine,
If wroth the Urganda of the Golden Mine!
Now, as the houseless sate, and up the sky
Dawn to day strengthen'd, pass'd a stranger by:
He saw and halted;—she beheld him not—
All round them slept, and silence wrapt the spot.
To this new-comer Nature had denied
The gifts that graced the outcast crouch'd beside:
With orient suns his cheek was swarth and grim,
And low the form, though lightly shaped the limb;
Yet life glow'd vigorous in that deep-set eye,
With a calm force that dared you to defy;
And the strong foot was planted on the stone
Firm as a gnome's upon his mountain throne;
[Pg 3]Simple his garb, yet what the wealthy wear,
And conscious power gave lordship to his air.
Lone in the Babel thus the maid and man;
Long he gazed silent, and at last began:
"Poor homeless outcast—dost thou see me stand
Close by thy side, yet beg not? Stretch thy hand."
The voice was stern, abrupt, yet full and deep:
The outcast heard, and started as from sleep,
And meekly rose, and stretch'd the hand and sought
To murmur thanks—the murmur fail'd the thought.
He took the slight thin hand within his own:
"This hand hath nought of honest labour known;
And yet methinks thou'rt honest!—speak, my child."
And his face broke to beauty as it smiled.
But her unconscious eyes, cast down the while,
Met not the heart that open'd in the smile:
Again the murmur rose, and died in air.
"Nay, what thy mother and her home, and where?"
Lo, with those words, the rigid ice that lay
Layer upon layer within, dissolves away,
And tears come rushing from o'erchargèd eyes:—
"There is my mother—there her home—the skies!"
Oh, in that burst, what depth of lone distress!
O desolation of the motherless!
Yet through the anguish how survived the trust,
Home in the skies, though in the grave the dust!
The man was moved, and silence fell again;
Upsprung the sun—Light re-assumed the reign;—
Love ruled on high! Below, the twain that share
Men's builded empires—Mammon and Despair!
At length, with pitying eye and soothing tone,
The stranger spoke: "Thy bitterer grief mine own;
Amidst the million, lonely as thou art,
Mine the full coffers, but the beggar'd heart.
Yet Gold—earth's demon, when unshared, receives
God's breath, and grows a god, when it relieves.
Trust still our common Father, orphan one,
And He shall guide thee, if thou trust the son.
Nay, follow, child." And on with passive feet,
Ghost-like she follow'd through the death-like street.
They paused at last a stately pile before;
The drowsy porter oped the noiseless door;
The girl stood wistful still without;—the pause
The guide divined, and thus rebuked the cause:—
"Enter, no tempter let thy penury fear;
I have a sister, and her home is here."

[Pg 4]

II.
And who the wanderer that hath shelter won
Beneath the roof of Fortune's favour'd son?
Ill stars predoom'd her, and she stole to birth
Fresh from the Heaven,—Law's outcast on the earth;
The child of Love betraying and betray'd,
The blossom open'd in the Upas shade;—
So ran the rumour; if the rumour lied,
The humble mother wept, but not denied:
Ne'er had the infant's slumber known a rest
On childhood's native shield—a father's breast.
Dead or neglectful, 'twas to her the same; }
But, oh, how dear!—yea, dearer for the shame, }
All that God hallows in a mother's name! }
Here, one proud refuge from a world's disdain,
Here the lost empress half resumes her reign;—
Here the deep-fallen Eve sees Eden's skies
Smile on the desert from the cherub's eyes.
Sweet to each human heart the right to love;
But 'tis the deluge consecrates the dove;
And haply scorn yet more the child endears,
Cradled in misery, and baptized with tears.
Each then the all on earth unto the other,—
The sinless infant and the erring mother:
The one soon lost the smile which childhood wears,
Chill'd by the gloom it marvels at—but shares;
The other, by that purest love made pure,
Learn'd to redeem, by labouring to endure;
Who can divine what hidden music lies
In the frail reed, till winds awake its sighs?
Hard was their life, and lonely was their hearth;
There, kindness brought no holiday of mirth;
No kindred visited, no playmate came;—
Joy, the proud worldling, shunn'd the child of shame!
Yet in the lesson which, at stolen whiles,
'Twixt care and care, the respite-hour beguiles,
The mother's mind the polish'd trace betrays }
Of early culture and serener days; }
And gentle birth still moulds the delicate phrase. }
By converse, more than books (for books too poor),
Learn'd Lucy more than books themselves insure;
For if, in truth, the mother's heart had err'd,
Pure now the life, and holy was the word:
The fallen state no grov'ling change had wrought;
Meek if the bearing, lofty was the thought;
So much of noble in the lore instill'd,
You felt the soul had ne'er the error will'd;—
[Pg 5]That fraud alone had duped its wings astray
From their true instinct tow'rds empyreal day.
Thus life itself, if sadd'ning, still refined,
And through the heart the culture reach'd the mind.
As to the moon the tides attracted move,
So flow'd the intellect beneath the love.—
To nurse the sickness, to assuage the care,
To charm the sigh into the happier prayer;
Forestall the unutter'd wish with ready guess;
Wise in the exquisite tact of tenderness!
These Lucy's study;—and, in grateful looks,
Seraphs write lessons more divine than books.
So dawn'd her youth:—Youth, Nature's holiday!
Fair time, which dreams so gently steal away;
When Life—dark volume, with its opening leaf
Of Joy,—through fable dupes us into grief—
Tells of a golden Arcady;—and then
Read on,—comes truth;—the Iron world of men!
But from her life thy opening poet page
Was torn!—Its record had no Golden Age.
Behold her by the couch, on bended knees!
There the wan mother—there the last disease!
Dread to the poor the least suspense of health,—
Their hands their friends, their labour all their wealth:
Let the wheel rest from toil a single sun,
And all the humble clock-work is undone.
The custom lost, the drain upon the hoard,
The debt that sweeps the fragment from the board,
How mark the hunger round thee, and be brave—
Foresee thy orphan, and not fear the grave?
Lower and ever lower in the grade
Of penury fell the mother and the maid,
Till the grim close; when, as the midnight rain
Drove to the pallet through the broken pane,
The dying murmur'd: "Near,—thy hand,—more near!
I am not what scorn deem'd,—yet not severe
The doom which leaves me, in the hour of death,
The right to bless thee with my parting breath—
These, worn till now, wear thou, his daughter. Live
To see thy sire, and tell him—I forgive!"
Cold the child thrills beneath the hands that press
Her bended neck—slow slackens the caress—
Loud the roof rattles with the stormy gust;
The grief is silent, and the love is dust;
From the spent fuel God's bright spark is flown;
And there the Motherless, and Death—alone!
[Pg 6]
Then fell a happy darkness o'er the mind;—
That trance, that pause, the tempest leaves behind:
Still, with a timid step, around she crept,
And sigh'd, "She sleeps!" and smiled. Too well she slept!
Dark strangers enter'd in the squalid cell;
Rude hirelings placed the pauper in the shell;
Harsh voices question'd of the name and age;
Ev'n paupers live upon the parish page.
She answers not, or sighs, and smiles, and keeps
The same meek language:—"Hush! my mother sleeps."
They thrust some scanty pence into her palm,
And led her forth, scarce marv'ling at her calm;
And bade her work, not beg—be good, and shun
All bad companions—so their work was done,
And the wreck left to drift amidst the roar
Of the Great Ocean with the rocky shore.
And thou hast found the shelter!—from thine eyes
Melt the long shadows. Dawn is in the skies.
Low on the earth, while Night endures,—unguess'd
Hope folds the wing and slumbers on its nest;
Let but a sunbeam to the world be given—
And hark—it singeth at the gates of Heaven!
III.
Yet o'er that house there hung a solemn gloom;
The step fell timid in each gorgeous room,
Vast, sumptuous, dreary as some Eastern pile,
Where mutes keep watch—a home without a smile;
Still as if silence reign'd there, like a law,
And left to pomp no attribute but awe;
Save when the swell of sombre festival
Jarr'd into joy the melancholy hall,
So some chance wind in mournful autumn wrings
Discordant notes, although from music-strings.
Wild were the wealthy master's moods and strange,
As one whose humour found its food in change;
Now for whole days content apart to dwell
With books and thought—his world the student's cell;
And now, with guests around the glittering board,
The hermit-Timon shone the Athenian lord.
There bloom'd the bright ephemerals of the hour,
Whom the fierce ferment forces into flower,
The gorgeous nurslings of the social life,
Sprung from our hotbeds—Vanity and Strife!
Lords of the senate, wrestlers for the state,
Grey-hair'd in youth, exhausted, worn,—and great;
Pale Book-men,—charming only in their style;
And Poets, jaundiced with eternal bile;—
[Pg 7]All the poor Titans our Cocytus claims,
With tortured livers, and immortal names:—
Such made the guests, Amphitryons well may boast,
But still the student travail'd in the host;—
These were the living books he loved to read,
Keys to his lore, and comments on his creed.
From them he rose with more confirm'd disdain
Of the thorn-chaplet and the gilded chain.
Oft, from such stately revels, to the shed
Where Hunger couch'd, the same dark impulse led;
Intent, the Babel, Art has built, to trace,
Here scan the height, and there explore the base;
That structure call'd "The Civilized," as vain
As its old symbol on the Shinar plain,
Where Pride collects the bricks and slime, and then
But builds the city to divide the men;
Swift comes the antique curse,—smites one from one,
Rends the great bond, and leaves the pile undone.
Man will o'er muse—when musing on mankind:
The vast expanse defeats the searching mind,
Blent in one mass each varying height and hue:—
Wouldst thou seize Nature, Artist?—bound the view!
But He, in truth, is banish'd from the ties
That curb the ardent, and content the wise;
From the pent heart the bubbling passions sweep,
To spread in aimless circles o'er the deep.
Still in extremes—in each was still betray'd
A soul at discord with the part it play'd;
A soul in social elements misplaced,
Bruised by the grate and yearning for the waste,
And wearing custom, as a pard the chain,
Now with dull torpor, now with fierce disdain.
All who approach'd him by that spell were bound,
Which nobler natures weave themselves around:
Those stars which make their own charm'd atmosphere;
Not wholly love, but yet more love than fear,
A mystic influence, which, we know not why,
Makes some on earth seem portions of our sky.
In truth, our Morvale (such his name) could boast
Those kinglier virtues which subject us most;
The ear inclined to every voice of grief,
The hand that oped spontaneous to relief,
The heart, whose impulse stay'd not for the mind }
To freeze to doubt what charity enjoin'd, }
But sprang to man's warm instinct for mankind; }
[Pg 8]Honour, truth's life-sap, with pervading power
Nurturing the stem to crown it with the flower;
And that true daring not alone to those
Whom fault or fate has marshall'd into foes;
But the rare valour that confronts with scorn
The monster shape, of Vice and Folly born,
Which some "the World," and some "Opinion," call,
Own'd by no heart, and yet enslaving all;
The bastard charter of the social state,
Which crowns the base to ostracise the great;
The eternal quack upon the itinerant stage,
This the "good Public," that "the enlighten'd Age,"
Ready alike to worship and revile,
To build the altar, or to light the pile;
Now "Down with Stuart and the Reign of Sin,"
Now "Long live Charles the Second and Nell Gwynne;"
Now mad for patriots—hot for revolution,
Now all for hanging and the Constitution.
Honour to him, who, self-complete, if lone,
Carves to the grave one pathway all his own;
And, heeding nought that men may think or say,
Asks but his soul if doubtful of the way.
IV.
Such was the better nature Morvale show'd;
Now view the contrast which the worse bestow'd.
Large was his learning, yet so vague and mix'd
It guided less the reason than unfix'd;
The dauntless impulse and the kingly will,
Prompted to good, but leapt the checks to ill;
Quick in revenge, and passionately proud,
His brightest hour still shone forth from a cloud,
And none conjecture on the next could form—
So play'd the sunbeam on the verge of storm.
Still young—not youthful—life had pass'd through all
Age sighs, and smiles, and trembles to recall.
From childhood fatherless and lone begun
His fiery race, beneath as fierce a sun,
Where all extremes of Love and Horror are,
Soft Camdeo's lotos bark, grim Moloch's gory car;
Where basks the noonday luminously calm,
O'er eldest grot and immemorial palm;
And in the grot, the Goddess of the Dead
And the couch'd strangler, list the wanderer's tread,
And where the palm leaves stir with breeze-like sigh,
Sports the fell serpent with his deathful eye.
[Pg 9]
Midst the exuberant life of that fierce zone,
Uncurb'd, self-will'd to man had Morvale grown.
His sire (the offspring of an Indian maid
And English chief), whose orient hues betray'd
The Varna Sankara[C] of the mix'd embrace.
Carved by his sword a charter from disgrace;
Assumed the father's name, the Christian's life,
And his sins cursed him with an English wife:
A haughty dame, whose discontented charms
That merchant, Hymen, bargain'd to his arms.
In war he fell: his wife—the bondage o'er,
Loath'd the dark pledge the abhorrèd nuptials bore—
Yet young, her face more genial wedlock won,
And one bright daughter made more loath'd the son.
Widow'd anew, for London's native air,
And two tall footmen, sigh'd the jointured fair:
Wealth hers, why longer from its use exiled?—
She fled the land and the abandon'd child;
Yet oft the first-born, 'midst the swarthier race,
Gazed round and miss'd the fair unloving face.
In vain the coldness, nay, the hate had been,
Hate, by the eyes that love, is rarely seen.
Yet more he miss'd the playmate, sister, child,
With looks that ever on his own had smiled;
With rosy lips, caressing and caress'd;
Led by his hand and cradled on his breast:
But, as the cloud conceals and breaks in flame,
The gloom of youth the fire of man became.
Not his the dreams that studious life allows,
"Under the shade of melancholy boughs,"—
Dreams that to lids the Muse anoints belong,—
Rocking the passions on soft waves of song:
No poet he; adventure, wandering, strife,
War and the chase, wrung poetry from life.
One day a man, who call'd his father "friend,"
Told o'er his rupees and perceived his end.
Life's business done—a million made—what still
Remain'd on earth? Wealth's last caprice—a Will!
The man was childless—but the world was wide;
He thought on Morvale, made his will,—and died.
They sought and found the unsuspecting heir
Crouch'd in the shade that near'd the tiger's lair;
His gun beside, the jungle round him—wild,
Lawless and fierce as Hagar's wandering child:—
[Pg 10]To this fresh nature the sleek life deceased
Left the bright plunder of the ravaged East.
Much wealth brings want,—that hunger of the heart
Which comes when Nature man deserts for Art:
His northern blood, his English name, create
Strife in the soul, till then resign'd to fate;
The social world with blander falsehood graced,
Smiles on his hopes, and lures him from the waste.
Alas! the taint that sunburnt brow bespeaks,
Divides the Half-Caste from the world he seeks:
In him proud Europe sees the Paria's birth,
And haughty Juno spurns his barren hearth.
Half heathen, and half savage,—all estranged
Amidst his kind, the Ishmael roved unchanged.
Small need to track his course from year to year,
Till wearied passion paused in its career:
Youth goads us on to action; lore of men
Brings thought—thought books—books quiet; well, and then?
Alas! we move but in the Hebrews' ring;[D]
Our onward steps but back the landmarks bring,
Until some few at least escape the thrall,
And breathe the space beyond the flaming wall:
Feel the large freedom which in faith is given,
And poise the wings that shall possess the heaven.
He sought his mother. She, intent to shun,
Closed that last refuge on the homeless son,
Till death approach'd, and Conscience, that sad star,
Which heralds night, and plays but on the bar
Of the Eternal Gate,—laid bare the crime,
And woke the soul upon the brink of time.
Haply if close, too closely, we would read
That sibyl page, the motive of the deed,
Remorse for him her life abandon'd, weaves
Fear for the dearer one her death bereaves;
And penitent lines consign'd, with eager prayer,
The lorn Calantha to a brother's care.
Not till long moons had waned in distant skies,
O'er the last mandate wept the Indian's eyes;
But the lost sister lived, the flower of yore
Bloom'd from the grave,—and earth was sweet once more;
Fair Florence holds the heart he yearns to meet;
Swift, when heart yearns to heart, how swift the feet!
[Pg 11]Well, and those arms have clasp'd a sister now!
Thy tears have fallen on a sister's brow!
Alas! a sister's heart thy doom forbade;
Thy lot as lonely, and thy hearth as sad.
Is that pale shade the Peri-child in truth,
Who shone, like Morning, on the hills of Youth?
Is that cold voice the same that rang through air,
Blithe as the bird sings in rebuke of care?
Certes, to those who might more closely mark,
That dove brought nought of gladness to his ark;
No loving step, to meet him homeward, flew;
Still at his voice her pale cheek paler grew.
The greeting kiss, the tender trustful talk,—
Arm link'd in arm—the dear familiar walk;
The sweet domestic interchange of cares,
Memories and hopes—this union was not theirs.
Partly perchance the jealous laws that guard
The Eastern maids, their equal commune barr'd;
For still, in much the antique creed retain'd
Its hold, and India in the Alien reign'd:
That superstitious love which would secure
What the heart worships, for the world too pure;
And wrap with solemn mystery and divine,
From the crowd's gaze, the idol and the shrine,
In him was instinct,—generous if austere;
More priestly reverence, than dishonouring fear.
Yet wherefore shun no less, if this were all,
His lonely chamber than his crowded hall?
For days, for weeks, perchance, unseen, aloof
Far as the poles, beneath one common roof,
She drew around her the cold spells, which part
From forward sympathies the unsocial heart.
Yet, strange to say, each seem'd to each still dear;
And love in her but curb'd by stronger fear;
And love in him by some mysterious pride,
That sought the natural tenderness to hide:
Did she but name him, you beheld her raise
Moist eyes to heaven, as one who inly prays.
News of her varying health he daily sought,
And his mood alter'd with the tidings brought:
If worse than wonted, it was sad to view
That stern man's trembling lip and waning hue,—
Sad, yet the sadness with an awe was blent,—
No words e'er gave the struggling passion vent;
And still that passion seem'd not grief alone,
Some curse seem'd labouring in the stifled groan:
Some angrier chord the mix'd emotion wrench'd;
The brow was darken'd, and the hand was clench'd.
[Pg 12]
There was a mystery that defied the guess,
In so much love, and so much tenderness.
What sword, invisible to human eyes,
So sternly sever'd Nature's closest ties:
To leave each yearning unto each—apart—
All ice the commune, and all warmth the heart?
V.
But how gain'd she, whom pity strange and rare
Gave the night's refuge,—more than refuge there?
At morn the orphan hostess had received
The orphan outcast,—heard her and believed,—
And Lucy wept her thanks, and turn'd to part;
But the sad tale had touch'd a woman's heart.
Calantha's youth was lone, her nature kind,
She knew no friend—she sigh'd a friend to find;
That chasten'd speech, the grace so simply worn,
Bespoke the nurture of the gentle-born;
And so she gazed upon the weeping guest,
Check'd the intended alms, and murmur'd "Rest,
For both are orphans,—I should shelter thee,
And, weep no more—thy smile shall comfort me."
Thus Lucy rested—finding day by day
Her grateful heart the saving hand repay.
Calantha loved her as the sad alone
Love what consoles them;—in that life her own
Seem'd to revive, and even hope to flower:
Ah, over Sorrow Youth has such sweet power!
The very menials linger'd as they went,
To spy the fairy to their dwelling sent,
To list her light step on the stair, or hark
Her song;—yes, now the dove was in the ark!
Ev'n the cold Morvale, spell'd at last, was found
Within the circle drawn his guest around;
Less rare his visits to Calantha grew,
And her eye shrunk less coldly from his view
The presence of the gentle third one brought
Respite to memory, gave fresh play to thought;
And as some child to strifeful parents sent,
Laps the long discord in its own content,
This happy creature seem'd to reach that home,
To say—"Love enters where the guileless come!"
It was not mirth, for mirth she was too still;
It was not wit, wit leaves the heart more chill;
But that continuous sweetness, which with ease
Pleases all round it, from the wish to please,—
This was the charm that Lucy's smile bestow'd;
The waves' fresh ripple from deep fountains flow'd;—
[Pg 13]Below exhaustless gratitude,—above,
Woman's meek temper, childhood's ready love.
Yet oft, when night reprieved the tender care,
And lonely thought stole musing on to prayer;
As some fair lake reflects, when day is o'er,
With clearer wave from farther glades the shore,
So, her still heart remember'd sorrows glass'd;
And o'er its hush lay trembling all the past,
Again she sees a mother's gentle face;
Again she feels a mother's soft embrace;
Again a mother's sigh of pain she hears,
And starts—till lo, the spell dissolves in tears!
Tears that too well the faithful grief reveal,
Which smiles, by day made duties, would conceal.
VI.
It was a noon of summer in its glow,
And all was life, but London's life, below;
As by the open casement half reclined
Calantha's languid form;—a gentle wind
Brought to her cheek a bloom unwonted there,
And stirr'd the light wave of the golden hair.
Hers was a beauty that made sad the eye,
Lovely in fading, like a twilight sky;
The shape so finely, delicately frail,
As form'd for climes unruffled by a gale;
The lustrous eye, through which looks forth the soul,
Bright and more brightly as it nears the goal;
The fever'd counterfeit of healthful bloom,
The rose so living yet so near the tomb;
The veil the Funeral Genius lends his bride,
When, fair as Love, he steals her to his side,
And leads her on till at the nuptial porch,
He murmurs, "Know me now!" and lowers the torch.
What made more sad the outward form's decay,
A soul of genius glimmer'd through the clay;
Oft through the languor of disease would break
That life of light Parnassian dreamers seek;
And music trembled on each aspen leaf
Of the boughs drooping o'er the fount of grief.
Genius has so much youth no care can kill;
Death seems unnatural when it sighs—"Be still."
That wealth, which Nature prodigally gave,
Shall Life but garner for its heir the Grave?
What noble hearts that treasure might have bless'd!
How large the realm that mind should have possess'd!
[Pg 14]Love in the wife, and wisdom in the friend,
And earnest purpose for a generous end,
And glowing sympathy for thoughts of power
And playful fancy for the lighter hour;
All lost, all cavern'd in the sunless gloom
Of some dark memory, beetling o'er the tomb;—
Like bright-wing'd fairies, whom the hostile gnome
Has spell'd and dungeon'd in his rocky home,
The wanderer hears the solitary moan,
Nor dreams the fairy in the sullen stone.
Contrasting this worn frame and weary breast,
Fresh as a morn of April bloom'd the guest:
April has tears, and mists the morn array;
The mists foretell the sun,—the tears the May.
Lo, as from care to care the soother glides,
How the home brightens where the heart presides!
Now hovering, bird-like, o'er the flowers,—at times
Pausing to chant Calantha's favourite rhymes,
Or smooth the uneasy pillow with light hand;
Or watch the eye, forestalling the demand,
Complete in every heavenly art—above
All, save the genius of inventive love.
The window open'd on that breadth of green,
To half the pomp of elder days the scene.
Gaze to thy left—there the Plantagenet
Look'd on the lists for Norman knighthood set;[E]
Bright issued forth, where yonder archway glooms,
Banner and trump, and steed, and waves of plumes,
As with light heart rides wanton Anne to brave
Tudor's grim love, the purple and the grave.
Gaze to the right, where now—neat, white, and low,
The modest Palace looks like Brunswick Row;[F]
There, echoed once the merriest orgies known,
Since the frank Norman won grave Harold's throne;
There, bloom'd the mulberry groves, beneath whose shade
His easy loves the royal Rowley made;
Where Villiers flaunted, and where Sedley sung,
And wit's loose diamonds dropp'd from Wilmot's tongue!
All at rest now—all dust!—wave flows on wave;
But the sea dries not!—what to us the grave?
It brings no real homily, we sigh,
Pause for awhile and murmur, "All must die!"
[Pg 15]Then rush to pleasure, action, sin once more,
Swell the loud tide, and fret unto the shore.
And o'er the altered scene Calantha's eye
Roves listless—yet Time's Great the passers by!
Along the road still fleet the men whose names
Live in the talk the moment's glory claims.
There, for the hot Pancratia of Debate
Pass the keen wrestlers for that palm,—the State.
Now, "on his humble but his faithful steed,"
Sir Robert rides—he never rides at speed—
Careful his seat, and circumspect his gaze;
And still the cautious trot the cautious mind betrays.
Wise is thy heed!—how stout soe'er his back,
Thy weight has oft proved fatal to thy hack![G]
Next, with loose rein and careless canter view
Our man of men, the Prince of Waterloo;
O'er the firm brow the hat as firmly press'd,
The firm shape rigid in the button'd vest;
Within—the iron which the fire has proved,
And the close Sparta of a mind unmoved!
Not his the wealth to some large natures lent,
Divinely lavish, even where misspent,
That liberal sunshine of exuberant soul,
Thought, sense, affection, warming up the whole;
The heat and affluence of a genial power,
Rank in the weed as vivid in the flower;
Hush'd at command his veriest passions halt,
Drill'd is each virtue, disciplined each fault;
Warm if his blood—he reasons while he glows,
Admits the pleasure—ne'er the folly knows;
If Vulcan for our Mars a snare had set,
He had won the Venus, but escaped the net;
His eye ne'er wrong, if circumscribed the sight,
Widen the prospect and it ne'er is right,
Seen through the telescope of habit still,
States seem a camp, and all the world—a drill!
Yet oh, how few his faults, how pure his mind,
Beside his fellow-conquerors of mankind;
How knightly seems the iron image, shown
By Marlborough's tomb, or lost Napoleon's throne!
[Pg 16]Cold if his lips, no smile of fraud they wear,
Stern if his heart, still "Man" is graven there;
No guile—no crime his step to greatness made,
No freedom trampled, and no trust betray'd;
The eternal "I" was not his law—he rose
Without one art that honour might oppose,
And leaves a human, if a hero's, name,
To curb ambition while it lights to fame.
But who, scarce less by every gazer eyed,
Walks yonder, swinging with a stalwart stride?
With that vast bulk of chest and limb assign'd
So oft to men who subjugate their kind;
So sturdy Cromwell push'd broad-shoulder'd on;
So burly Luther breasted Babylon;
So brawny Cleon bawl'd his Agora down;
And large-limb'd Mahmoud clutch'd a Prophet's crown!
Ay, mark him well! the schemer's subtle eye,
The stage-mime's plastic lip your search defy—
He, like Lysander, never deems it sin
To eke the lion's with the fox's skin;
Vain every mesh this Proteus to enthrall,
He breaks no statute, and he creeps through all;—
First to the mass that valiant truth to tell,
"Rebellion's art is never to rebel,—
Elude all danger but defy all laws,"—
He stands himself the Safe Sublime he draws!
In him behold all contrasts which belong
To minds abased, but passions roused, by wrong;
The blood all fervour, and the brain all guile,
The patriot's bluntness, and the bondsman's wile.
One after one the lords of time advance,—
Here Stanley meets,—how Stanley scorns, the glance!
The brilliant chief, irregularly great,
Frank, haughty, rash,—the Rupert of Debate;
Nor gout, nor toil, his freshness can destroy,
And Time still leaves all Eton in the boy;—
First in the class, and keenest in the ring,
He saps like Gladstone, and he fights like Spring;
Ev'n at the feast, his pluck pervades the board,
And dauntless game-cocks symbolize their lord.
Lo where atilt at friend—if barr'd from foe—
He scours the ground, and volunteers the blow,
And, tired with conquest over Dan and Snob,
Plants a sly bruiser on the nose of Bob;
Decorous Bob, too friendly to reprove,
Suggests fresh fighting in the next remove,
[Pg 17]And prompts his chum, in hopes the vein to cool,
To the prim benches of the Upper School:
Yet who not listens, with delighted smile,
To the pure Saxon of that silver style;
In the clear style a heart as clear is seen,
Prompt to the rash—revolting from the mean.
Next cool, and all unconscious of reproach,
Comes the calm "Johnny who upset the coach."[H]
How form'd to lead, if not too proud to please,—
His fame would fire you, but his manners freeze.
Like or dislike, he does not care a jot;
He wants your vote, but your affection not;
Yet human hearts need sun, as well as oats,
So cold a climate plays the deuce with votes.—
And while his doctrines ripen day by day,
His frost-nipp'd party pines itself away;—
From the starved wretch its own loved child we steal—
And "Free Trade" chirrups on the lap of Peel![I]
But see our statesman when the steam is on,
And languid Johnny glows to glorious John!
When Hampden's thought, by Falkland's muses dress'd,
Lights the pale cheek, and swells the generous breast;
When the pent heat expands the quickening soul,—
And foremost in the race the wheels of genius roll!
VII.
What gives the Past the haunting charms that please
Sage, scholar, bard?—The shades of men like these!
Seen in our walks;—with vulgar blame or praise,
Reviled or worshipp'd as our faction sways:
Some centuries hence, and from that praise or blame,
As light from vapour, breaks the steady flame,
And the trite Present which, while acted, seems
Time's dullest prose,—fades in the land of dreams,
Gods spring from dust, and Hero-Worship wakes
Out of that Past the humble Present makes.
And yet, what matter to ourselves the Great?
What the heart touches—that controls our fate!
From the full galaxy we turn to one,
Dim to all else, but to ourselves the sun;
And still, to each, some poor, obscurest life,
Breathes all the bliss, or kindles all the strife.
Wake up the countless dead!—ask every ghost
Whose influence tortured or consoled the most:
[Pg 18]How each pale spectre of the host would turn
From the fresh laurel and the glorious urn,
To point where rots beneath a nameless stone,
Some heart in which had ebb'd and flow'd its own!
So one by one, Calantha listlessly
Beheld and heeded not the Great pass by.
But now, why sudden that electric start?
She stands—the pale lips soundless, yet apart!
She stands, with claspèd hands and strainèd eye—
A moment's silence—one convulsive cry,
And sinking to the earth, a seeming death
Smites into chill suspense the senses and the breath:
Quick by the unconscious hostess knelt the guest,
Bathed the wan brows, and loosed the stifling vest;
As loosed the vest,—like one whose sleep of fear
Is keen with dreams that warn of danger near,—
Calantha's hand repell'd the friendly care,
And faintly clasp'd some token hoarded there,
Perchance some witness of the untold grief,—
Some sainted relic of a lost belief,
Some mournful talisman, whose touch recalls
The ghost of time in Memory's desolate halls,
And, like the vessels that, of old, enshrined
The soil of lands the exile left behind,—
Holds all youth rescues from that native shore
Of hope and passion, life shall tread no more.
Calantha wakes, but not to sense restored,
The mind still trembled on the jarring chord,
And troubled reason flicker'd in the eye,
As gleams and wanes a star in some perturbèd sky.
Yet still, through all the fever of the brain,
Terror, more strong, can Frenzy's self restrain.
Few are her words, and if at times they seem
To touch the dark truths shadow'd on her dream,
She starts, with whitening lip—looks round in fear,
And murmurs, "Nay! my brother did not hear!"
Then smiles, as if the fear were laid at rest,
And clasps the token treasured at her breast,
And whispers, "Lucy, guard my sleep;—they say
That sleep is faithless, and that dreams betray!"
Yet oft the while—to watch without the door,
The brother's step glides noiseless o'er the floor,—
There meekly waits, until the welcome ray
Of Lucy's smile gives comfort to the day,
Till Lucy's whisper murmurs, "Be of cheer,"
And Pity dupes Affection's willing ear.
[Pg 19]Once, and but once, within the room he crept,
When all was silent, and they deem'd she slept,
Not softer to the infant's cradle steals
The mother's step;—she hears not, yet she feels,
As by strange instinct, the approach;—her frame
Convulsed and shuddering as he nearer came;
Till the wild cry,—the waiving hand convey
The frantic prayer, so bitter to obey;
And with stern brow, belying the wrung heart,
And voiceless lips compress'd, he turns him to depart.
VIII.
Much wondering Lucy mused,—nor yet could find
Why one so mournful shrunk from one so kind.
Awe that had chill'd the gratitude she felt
For Morvale, now in pity learn'd to melt:
This tender patience in a man so stern,
This love untiring—fear the sole return,
This rough exterior, with this gentle breast,
Awoke a sympathy that would not rest;
The wistful eye, the changing lip, the tone
Whose accents droop'd, or gladden'd, from her own,
Haunted the woman's heart, which ever heaves
Its echo back to every sound that grieves.
Light as the gossamer its tissue spins
O'er freshest dews when summer morn begins,
Will Fancy weave its airy web above
The dews of Pity, in the dawn of Love.—
At length, Calantha's reason wakes;—the strife
Calms back,—the soul re-settles to the life.
Freed from her post, flies Lucy to rejoice
The anxious heart, so wistful for her voice;
Not at his wonted watch the brother found,
She seeks his door—no answer to her sound;
She halts in vain, till, eager to begin
The joyous tale, the bright shape glides within.
For the first time beheld, she views the lone
And gloomy rooms the master calls his own;
Not there the luxury elsewhere, which enthralls
With pomp the gazer in the rich man's halls;
Strange arms of Eastern warfare, quaintly piled,
Betray'd the man's fierce memory of the child,—
And litter'd books, in mystic scrolls enshrined
The solemn Sibyl of the elder Ind.
The girl treads fearful on the dismal floors,
And with amazèd eye the gloomy lair explores;
Thus, as some Peri strays where, couch'd in cells
With gods dethroned, the brooding Afrite dwells,
[Pg 20]From room to room her fairy footsteps glide,
Till, lo! she starts to see him by her side.—
With crimson cheek, and downcast eyes, that quail
Beneath his own, she hurries the glad tale,
Then turns to part—but as she turns, still round
She looks,—and lingers on the magic ground,
And eyes each antique relic with the wild
Half-pleased, half-timorous, wonder of a child;
And as a child's the lonely inmate saw,
And smiled to see the pleasure and the awe;
And soften'd into kindness his deep tone,
And drew her hand, half-shrinking, in his own,
And said, "Nay, pause and task the showman's skill,
What moves thee most?—come, question me at will."
Listening she linger'd, and she knew not why
Time's wing so swiftly never seem'd to fly;
Never before unto her gaze reveal'd
The Eastern fire, the Eastern calm conceal'd:
Child of the sun, and native of the waste,
Cramp'd in the formal chains it had embraced,
His heart leapt back to its old haunts afar,
As leaps the lion from the captive bar;
And, as each token flash'd upon the mind,
Back the bold deeds that life had left behind,
The dark eye blazed, the rich words roll'd along,
Vivid as light, and eloquent as song;
At length, with sudden pause, he check'd the stream,
And his soul darken'd from the gorgeous dream.
"So," with sad voice he said, "my youth went by,
Fresh was the wave, if fitful was the sky;
What is my manhood?—curl'd and congeal'd,
A stagnant water in a barren field:
Gall'd with strange customs,—in the crowd alone;
And courting bloodless hearts that freeze my own.
In the far lands, where first I breathed the air,—
Smile if thou wilt,—this rugged form was fair,
For the swift foot, strong arm, bold heart give grace
To man, when danger girds man's dwelling-place,—
Thou seest the daughter of my mother, now,
Shrinks from the outcast branded on my brow;
My boyhood tamed the panther in his den,
The wild beast feels man's kindness more than men.
Like with its like, they say, will intertwine,—
I have not tamed one human heart to mine!"—
He paused abruptly. Thrice his listener sought
To shape consoling speech from soothing thought,
But thrice she fail'd, and thrice the colour came
And went, as tenderness was check'd by shame!
[Pg 21]At length her dove-like eyes to his she raised,
And all the comfort words forbade, she gazed;
Moved by her childlike pity, but too dark
In hopeless thought than pity more to mark;
"Infant," he murmur'd, "not for others flow
The tears the wise, how hard soe'er, must know;
As yet, the Eden of a guileless breast,
Opes a frank home to every angel guest;
Soft Eve, look round!—The world in which thou art
Distrusts the angel, nor unlocks the heart—
Thy time will come!"—
He spoke, and from her side
Was gone,—the heart his wisdom wrong'd replied!

PART THE SECOND.

I.
London, I take thee to a Poet's heart!
For those who seek, a Helicon thou art.
Let schoolboy Strephons bleat of flocks and fields,
Each street of thine a loftier Idyl yields;
Fed by all life, and fann'd by every wind,
There burns the quenchless Poetry—Mankind!
Yet not for me the Olympiad of the gay,
The reeking Season's dusty holiday:—
Soon as its summer pomp the mead assumes,
And Flora wanders through her world of blooms,
Vain the hot field-days of the vex'd debate,
When Sirius reigns,—let Tapeworm rule the state!
Vain Devon's cards, and Lansdowne's social feast,
Wit but fatigues, and Beauty's reign hath ceased.
His mission done, the monk regains his cell;
Nor even Douro's matchless face can spell.
Far from Man's works, escaped to God's, I fly,
And breathe the luxury of a smokeless sky.
Me, the still "London," not the restless "Town"
(The light plume fluttering o'er the helmèd crown),
Delights;—for there the grave Romance hath shed
Its hues; and air grows solemn with the Dead.
If, where the Lord of Rivers parts the throng,
And eastward glides by buried halls along,
My steps are led, I linger, and restore
To the changed wave the poet-shapes of yore;
[Pg 22]See the gilt barge, and hear the fated king
Prompt the first mavis of our Minstrel spring;[J]
Or mark, with mitred Nevile,[K] the array }
Of arms and craft alarm "the Silent way," }
The Boar of Gloucester, hungering, scents his prey! }
Or, landward, trace where thieves their festive hall
Hold by the dens of Law,[L] (worst thief of all!)
The antique Temple of the armèd Zeal
That wore the cross a mantle to the steel;
Time's dreary void the kindling dream supplies,
The walls expand, the shadowy towers arise,
And forth, as when by Richard's lion side,
For Christ and Fame, the Warrior-Phantoms ride!
Or if, less grave with thought, less rich with lore,
The later scenes, the lighter steps explore,
If through the haunts of living splendour led—
Has the quick Muse no empire but the Dead?
In each keen face, by Care or Pleasure worn,
Grief claims her sigh, or Vice invites her scorn;
And every human brow that veils a thought
Conceals the Castaly which Shakespeare sought.
II.
Amidst the crowd (what time the glowing Hours
Strew, as they glide, the summer world with flowers),
Who fly the solitude of sweets to drown
Nature's still whisper in the roar of Town;
Who tread with jaded step the weary mill—
Grind at the wheel, and call it "Pleasure" still;—
Gay without mirth, fatigued without employ,
Slaves to the joyless phantom of a joy;—
[Pg 23]Amidst this crowd was one who, absent long,
And late return'd, outshone the meaner throng;
And, truth to speak, in him were blent the rays
Which form a halo in the vulgar gaze;
Howden's fair beauty, Beaufort's princely grace,
Hertford's broad lands, and Courtney's vaunted race;
And Pembroke's learning in that polish'd page,
Writ by the Grace, 'the Manners and the Age!'
Still with sufficient youth to please the heart,
But old enough for mastery in the art;—
Renown'd for conquests in those isles which lie
In rosy seas beneath a Cnidian sky,
Where the soft Goddess yokes her willing doves,
And meets invasion with a host of Loves;
Yet not unlaurell'd in the war of wile
Which won Ulysses grave Minerva's smile,
For those deep arts the diplomat was known
Which mould the lips that whisper round a throne.
Long in the numbing hands of Law had lain
Arden's proud earldom, Arden's wide domain.
Kinsman with kinsman, race with race had vied
To snatch the prize, and in the struggle died;
Till all the rights the crowd of heirs made dim,
Death clear'd—and solved the tangled skein in him.
There was but ONE who in the bastard fame
Wealth gives its darlings, rivall'd Arden's name:
A rival rarely seen—felt everywhere,
With soul that circled bounty like the air,
Simple himself, but regal in his train,
Lavish of stores he seem'd but to disdain;
To art a Medici—to want a god,
Life's rougher paths grew level where he trod.
Much Arden (Arden had a subtle mind,
Which sought in all philosophy to find)
Loved to compare the different means by which
Enjoyment yields a harvest to the rich—
Himself already marvell'd to behold
How soon trite custom wears the gleam from gold;
Well, was his rival happier from its use
Than he (his candour whisper'd) from abuse?
He long'd to know this Morvale, and to learn:
They met—grew friends—the Sybarite and the stern.
Each had some fields in common: mostly those
From which the plant of human friendship grows.
Each had known strong vicissitudes in life;
The present ease, and the remember'd strife.
Each, though from differing causes, nursed a mind
At war with Fate, and chafed against his kind.
[Pg 24]Each with a searching eye had sought to scan
The solemn Future, soul predicts to man;
And each forgot how, cloud-like passions mar,
In the vex'd wave, the mirror of the star;—
How all the unquiet thoughts which life supplies
May swell the ocean but to veil the skies;
And dark to Man may grow the heaven that smiled
On the clear vision Nature gave the Child.
Each, too, in each, where varying most they seem,
Found that which fed half envy, half esteem.
As stood the Pilgrim of the waste before
The stream that parted from the enchanted shore,
Though on the opposing margent of the wave
Those fairy boughs but seeming fruitage gave;
Though his stern manhood in its simple power,
If cross'd the barrier, soon had scorn'd the bower;
Yet, as some monk, whom holier cloisters shade,
Views from afar the glittering cavalcade,
And sighs, as sense against his will recalls
Fame's knightly lists and Pleasure's festive halls,—
So, while the conscience chid, the charm enchain'd,
And the heart envied what the soul disdain'd.
While Arden's nature in his friend's could find
An untaught force that awed his subtler mind—
Awed, yet allured;—that Eastern calm of eye
And mien—a mantle and a majesty,
At once concealing all the strife below
It shames the pride of lofty hearts to show,
And robing Art's lone outlaw with the air
Of nameless state the lords of Nature wear;—
This kingly mien contrasting this mean form,
This calm exterior with this heart of storm,
Touch'd with vague interest, undefined and strange,
The world's quick pupil whose career was change.
Forth from the crowded streets one summer day, }
Rode the new friends; and cool and silent lay }
Through shadowy lanes the chance-directed way. }
As with slow pace and slacken'd rein they rode,
Men's wonted talk to deeper converse flow'd.
"Think'st thou," said Arden, "that the Care, whose speed
Climbs the tall bark and mounts the flying steed,
And (still to quote old Horace) hovers round
Our fretted roofs, forbears yon village ground?—
Think'st thou that Toil drives trouble from the door;
And does God's sun shine brightest on the Poor?"
[Pg 25]
"I know not," answer'd Morvale, "but I know
Each state feels envy for the state below;
Kings for their subjects—for the obscure, the great:
The smallest circle guards the happiest state.
Earth's real wealth is in the heart;—in truth,
As life looks brightest in the eyes of youth,
So simple wants—the simple state most far
From that entangled maze in which we are,
Seem unto nations what youth is to man,"—
"'When wild in woods the noble savage ran,'"
Said Arden, smiling. "Well, we disagree;
Even youth itself reflects no charms for me;
And all the shade upon my life bestow'd
Spreads from the myrtle which my boyhood sow'd."
His bright face fell,—he sigh'd. "And canst thou guess
Why all once coveted now fails to bless?—
Why all around me palls upon the eye,
And the heart saddens in the summer sky?
It is that youth expended life too soon:
A morn too glowing sets in storm at noon."
"Nay," answer'd Morvale, gently, "hast thou tried
That second youth, to which ev'n follies guide;
Which to the wanderer Sense, when tired and spent,
Proclaims the fount by which to fix the tent?
The heart but rests when sense forbears to roam;
We win back freshness when Love smiles on Home;—
Home not to thee, O happy one! denied." }
  }
"To me of all," the impatient listener cried, }
"Thy words but probe the wounds I vainly hide; }
That which I pine for, thou hast pictured now;—
The hearth, the home, the altar, and the vow;
The tranquil love, unintertwined with shame;
The child's sweet kiss;—the Father's holy name;
The link to lengthen a time-honour'd line;—
These not for me, and yet these should be mine."
"If," said the Indian, "counsel could avail,
Or pity soothe, a friend invites thy tale."
"Alas!" sigh'd Arden, "nor confession's balm
Can heal, nor wisdom whisper back to calm.
Yet hear the tale—thou wilt esteem me less—
But Grief, the Egoist, yearneth to confess.
I tell of guilt—and guilt all men must own,
Who but avow the loves their youth has known.
Preach as we will, in this wrong world of ours,
Man's fate and woman's are contending powers;
[Pg 26]Each strives to dupe the other in the game,—
Guilt to the victor—to the vanquish'd shame!"
He paused, and noting how austerely gloom'd
His friend's dark visage, blush'd, and thus resumed.
"Nay, I approve not of the code I find,
Not less the wrong to which the world is kind.
But, to be frank, how oft with praise we scan
Men's actions only when they deal with man;
Lo, gallant Lovelace, free from every art
That stains the honour or defiles the heart,—
With men;—but how, if woman the pursuit?
What lies degrade him, and what frauds pollute;
Yet still to Lovelace either sex is mild,
And new Clarissas only sigh—'How wild!'"
"Enough," said Morvale; "I perforce believe:
Strong Adam owns no equal in his Eve;
But worse the bondage in your bland disguise;
Europe destroys,—kind Asia only buys!
If dull the Harem, yet its roof protects,
And Power, when sated, still its slave respects.
With you, ev'n pity fades away with love,—
No gilded cage gives refuge to the dove;
Worse than the sin the curse it leaves behind:
Here the crush'd heart, or there the poison'd mind,—
Your streets a charnel or a market made,
For the lorn hunger, or the loathsome trade.
Pardon,—Pass on!"
"Behold, the Preface done,"
Arden resumed, "now opens Chapter One!"
III.
LORD ARDEN'S TALE.
"Rear'd in a court, a man while yet a boy,
Hermes said 'Rise,' and Venus sigh'd 'Enjoy;'
My earlier dreams, like tints in rainbows given,
Caught from the Muse, glow'd but in clasping heaven;
The bird-like instinct of a sphere afar
Pined for the air, and chafed against the bar.
But can to Guelphs Augustan tastes belong?
Or Georgium Sidus look benign on song?
My short-lived Muse the ungenial climate tried,
Breathed some faint warbles, caught a cold, and died!
Wise kinsmen whisper'd 'Hush! forewarn'd in time;
The feet that rise are not the feet of Rhyme;
Your cards are good, but all is in the lead,
Play out the heart, and you are lost indeed:
Leave verse, my boy, to unaspiring men—
The eagle's pinion never sheds a pen!'
[Pg 27]
"So fled the Muse! What left the Muse behind?
The aimless fancy and the restless mind;
The eyes, still won by whatsoe'er was bright,
But lost the star's to prize the diamond's light.
Man, like the child, accepts the bauble boon.
And clasps the coral where he ask'd the moon.
Forbid the pomp and royalty of heaven,—
To the born Poet still the earth is given;
Duped by each glare in which Corruption seems
To give the glory imaged on his dreams:
Thus, what had been the thirst for deathless fame,
Grew the fierce hunger for the Moment's name;
Ambition placed its hard desires in Power,
And saw no Jove but in the Golden Shower.
No miser I—no niggard of the store—
The end Olympus, but the means the ore:
I look'd below—there Lazarus crawl'd disdain'd;
I look'd aloft—there, who but Dives reign'd?
He who would make the steeps of power his home,
Must mask the Titan till he rules the Gnome.
If I insist on this, my soul's disease,
Excuse for fault thy practised sight foresees:
It makes the moral of my tale, in truth,
And boyhood sow'd the poison of my youth.
"Meanwhile men praised, and women smiled;—the wing,
Bow'd from the height, still bask'd beneath the spring.
Pass by the Paphian follies of that day,—
When true love comes, it is to close our May.
Well, ere my boyish holiday was o'er,
The grim god came, and mirth was mine no more:
A well-born pauper, I seem'd doom'd to live
By what great men to well-born paupers give:
I had an uncle high in power and state,
Who ruled three kingdoms' and one nephew's fate.
This uncle loved, as English thanes will all,
An autumn's respite in his rural hall;
In slaughtering game, relax'd his rigid breast;
And so,—behold me martyr'd to his guest!
IV.
"Wandering, one day, in discontented mood
By a clear brook—through grassy solitude,
Leading the dance of light waves chanting low—
A little world of sunshine seem'd to grow
Out from the landscape—as with sudden spring
From bosk and brake—leapt the stream glittering.
Lo, the meek home, its porch with roses twined,
Green sward before, a sacred tower behind;
[Pg 28]On the green sward the year's last flowers were gay,
And the last glory of the golden day
Paused on the spire, that, shining, soar'd to cleave
Those clouds, the loveliest, that precede the eve.
"Along the bank, beneath the bowering tree,
Young fairies play'd—young voices laugh'd in glee;
One voice more mellow'd in its silver sound,
Yet blithe as rang the gladdest on the ground;
One shape more ripen'd, one sweet face more fair,
Yet not less happy, the Titania there.
Soft voice, fair face, I hear, I see ye still!
Shades and dim echoes from the blissful hill
Behind me left, to cast but darkness o'er
The waste slow-lengthening to the grave before!
"So Love was born. With love invention came;
I won my entrance, but conceal'd my name.
A village priest her father, poor and wise,
In aught that clears to mortal sight the skies,
But blind and simple as a child to all
The things that pass upon the earth we crawl;
The mask'd Lothario to his eyes appear'd
A student youth, by Alma Mater rear'd
The word to preach, the hunger to endure,
And see Ambition close upon a Cure;—
A modest youth, who own'd his learning slight,
And brought his taper to the master's light.
This tale believed, the good man's harmless pride
Was pleased the bashful neophyte to guide:
Spread out his books, and, moved to pity, press'd
The backward pupil to the daily guest.
"So from a neighbouring valley, where they deem
My home, each noon I cross the happy stream,
And hail the eyes already watchful grown,
And clasp the hand that trembles in my own;
But not for guilt had I conceal'd my name,
The young warm passion nursed no thought of shame;
The spell that bound ennobled while it charm'd,
And Romeo's love Lothario's guile disarm'd;
And vain the guile had been!—impure desire
Round that chaste light but hover'd to expire:
Her angel nature found its own defence,
Ev'n in the instincts of its innocence;
As that sweet plant which opens every hue
Of its frank heart to eyes content to view,
But folds its leaves and shrinks in coy disdain
From the least touch that would the bloom profane.
[Pg 29]Link'd with the woman's Meekness, side by side,
Stood, not to lose but guard the angel, Pride;
Pride, with the shield for honour, not the heart,
Sacred from stain, not proof against the dart.
Brief,—then, such love it was my lot to win
As sways a life to every grief but—sin.
V.
"Yet in the light of day to win and wed,
To boast a bride, yet not to own a shed;
To doom the famine, yet proclaim the bliss,
And seal the ruin in the nuptial kiss;—
Love shunn'd such madness for the loved one's sake;
What course could Prudence sanction Love to take?
Lenient I knew my kinsman to a vice;
But, oh, to folly Cato less precise!
And all my future, in my kinsman bound,
Shadow'd his humours—smiled in him or frown'd;
But uncles still, however high in state, }
Are mortal men—and Youth has hope to wait, }
And Love a conqueror's confidence in Fate.— }
A secret Hymen reconciled in one
Caution and bliss—if Mary could be won?
Hard task!—I said it was my lot to win
Sway o'er a life for grief;—this was not sin.
To her I told my name, rank, doubts, and fears,
And urged the prayer too long denied with tears—
'Reject'st thou still,' I cried, 'well, then to me
The pride to offer all life holds to thee;
I go to tell my love, proclaim my choice—
Clasp want, mar fate, meet ruin, and rejoice,
So that, at least, when next we meet, thy sigh
Shall own this truth—"He better loved than I."'
"With that, her hand upon my own she laid,
Look'd in my eyes—the sacrifice was made;
Alas, she had no mother!—Nature moved
That heart to this—she trusted, for she loved!
"I had a friend of lowlier birth than mine,
The sunnier spot allured the trailing vine.
My rising fortunes had the southern air,
And fruit might bless the plant that clamber'd there.
My smooth Clanalbin!—shrewd, if smooth, was he,
His soul was prudent, though his life was free;
Scapin to serve, and Machiavel to plot,
Red-hair'd, thin-lipp'd, sly, supple,—and a Scot!
To him the double project I confide,
To cloak the rite, and yet to clasp the bride;
[Pg 30]Long he resisted—solemnly he warn'd,
And urged the perils love had seen and scorn'd.
At length subdued, he groan'd a slow consent,
And pledged a genius practised to invent.
A priest was found—a license was procured,
Due witness hired, and secrecy assured;
All this his task:—'tis o'er;—and Mary's life
Bound up in one who dares not call her wife!
"Alas—alas, why on the fatal brink
Of the abyss—doth not the instinct shrink?
The meaner tribe the coming storm foresees—
In the still calm the bird divines the breeze—
The ox that grazes shuns the poison-weed—
The unseen tiger frights afar the steed—
To man alone no kind foreboding shows
The latent horror or the ambush'd foes;
O'er each blind moment hangs the funeral pall,
Heaven shines, earth smiles—and night descends on all!
"But I!—fond reader of imagined skies,
Foretold my future in those stars—her eyes!
O heavenly Moon, circling with magic hues
And mystic beauty all thy beams suffuse,
Is not in love thine own fair secret seen?
Love smooths the rugged—love exalts the mean:
Love in each ray inspires the hush'd alarm,
Love silvers every shadow into charm.
VI.
"O lonely beech, beneath whose bowering shade
The tryst, encircling Paradise, was made,
How the heart heard afar the hurrying feet,
And swell'd to breathless words—'At last we meet!'
But Autumn fades—dark Winter comes, and then
Fate from Elysium calls me back to men;
We part!—not equal is the anguish;—she
Parts with all earth in that farewell to me;
For not the grate more bars the veilèd nun
From the fair world with which her soul has done,
Than love the heart, that vows, without recall,
To one,—fame, honour, memory, hope, and all!
But I!—behold me in the dazzling strife,
The gaud, the pomp, the joyous roar of life,—
Man, with man's heart insatiate, ever stirr'd
By the crowd's breath to conflict with the herd;
Which never long one thought alone can sway,—
The dream fades from us when we leap to-day.
[Pg 31]New scenes surround me, new ambitions seize,—
All life one fever,—who defy disease?—
Each touch contagion:—living with the rest,
The world's large pulse keeps time in every breast.
Yet still for her—for her alone, methought,
Its web of schemes the vulgar labour wrought:
To ransom fate—to soar, from serfdom, free,
Snap the strong chains of high-born penury;
And, grown as bold to earth as to the skies,
Proclaim the bliss of happy human ties:—
So, ever scheming, the soothed conscience deem'd!
Fate smiled, and speeded all for which I schemed.
My noble kinsman saw with grave applause
My sober'd moods, too wise to guess the cause.
''Tis well,' said he, one evening; 'you have caught
From me the ardour of the patriot's thought;
No more distinguish'd in the modes of vice,
Forsworn the race-course, and disdain'd the dice:
A nobler race, a mightier game await
The soul that sets its cast upon the state.
Thoughtful, poor, calm, yet eager; such, in truth,
He who is great in age should be in youth,
Lo, your commencement!'
"And my kinsman set
Before the eyes it brighten'd—the Gazette!
Oh, how triumphant, Calendar of Fame!
Halo'd in type, emerged the aspirant's name!
"'We send you second to a court, 'tis true;
Small, as befits a diplomat so new,'
Quoth my wise kinsman: 'but requiring all
Your natural gifts;—to rise not is to fall!
And harkye, stripling, you are handsome, young,
Active, ambitious, and from statesmen sprung!
Wed well—add wealth to power by me possess'd,
And sleep on roses,—I will find the rest!
But one false step,—pshaw, boy! I do not preach
Of saws and morals, his own code to each,—
By one false step, I mean one foolish thing,
And the wax melts, my Icarus, from your wing!
Let not the heart the watchful mind betray,—
Enough!—no answer!—sail the First of May!'
"Here, then, from vapour broke at last the sun!
Station, career, fame, fortune, all begun!
Now, greater need than ever to conceal
The secret spring that moved the speeding wheel;
[Pg 32]And half forgetting that I wish'd forgot,
Each thought divides the absent from my lot.
One night, escaped my kinsman's hall, which blazed
With dames who smiled, and garter'd peers who praised,
I seek my lonely home,—ascend the stair,—
Gain my dim room,—what stranger daunts me there?
A grey old man!—I froze his look before; }
The Gorgon's eye scarce fix'd its victim more,— }
The bride's sad father on the bridegroom's floor! }
In the brief pause, how terrible and fast,
As on the drowning seaman, rush'd the past!
How had he learn'd my name,—abode,—the tie
That bound?—for all spoke lightning in his eye.
Lo, on the secret in whose darkness lay
Power, future, fortune, pour'd the hateful ray!
Thus silence ceased.
"'When first my home you deign'd
To seek, what found you?—cheeks no tears had stain'd!
Untroubled hearts, and conscience clear as day:
And lips that loved, where now they fear, to pray:
'Twixt kin and kin, sweet commune undefiled—
The grateful father—the confiding child!
What now that home?—behold! its change may speak
In hair thus silver'd—in this furrow'd cheek!
My child'—(he paused, and in his voice, not eyes,
Tears seek the vent indignant pride denies)
'My child—God pardon me!—I was too proud
To call her "daughter!"—what shall call the crowd?
Man—man, she cowers beneath a Father's eye,
And shuns his blessing—with one wish to die;
And I that death-bed will resign'd endure
If—speak the word—the soul that parts is pure?'
"'Who dares deny it?' I began, but check'd
In the warm burst—cold wisdom hiss'd—'Reflect;
Thy fears had outstripp'd truth—as yet unknown,
The vows, the bond!—are these for thee to own?'
The father mark'd my pause, and changing cheek,
'Go on!—why falter if the truth thou speak?'
"Who dares deny it?"—Thou!—thy lip—thine eye—
Thy heart—thy conscience—these are what deny?
O Heaven, that I were not thy priest!'
"His look
Grew stern and dark—the natural Adam shook
The reverend form an instant;—like a charm
The pious memory stay'd the lifted arm;
[Pg 33]And shrunk to self-rebuke the threatening word,
'Man's not my weapons—I thy servant, Lord!'
Moved, I replied—'Could love suffice alone }
In this hard world,—the love to thee made known, }
A bliss to cherish, 'twere a pride to own: }
And if I pause, and if I falter—yet
I hide no shame, I strive with no regret.
Believe mine honour—wait the ripening hour;
Time hides the germ, the season brings the flower.'
Wildly he cried—'What words are these?—but one
Sentence I ask—her sire should call thee son!
Hist, let the heavens but hear us!—in her life
Another lives—if pure she is thy wife!
Now answer!'
I had answer'd, as became
The native manhood and the knightly name;
But shall I own it? the suspicious chill,
The world-wise know, froze up the arrested will.
Whose but her lips, sworn never to betray,
Had fail'd their oath, and dragg'd my name to day?
True, she had left the veil upon the shrine,
But set the snare to make confession mine.
Thus half resentment, half disdain, repell'd
The man's frank justice, and the truth withheld.
Yet, so invoked, I scorn'd at least the lie,
And met the question with this proud reply:—
'If thou dost doubt thy child, depart secure,
My love is sinless, and her soul is pure.
This by mine honour, and to Heaven, I swear!
Dost thou ask more?—then bid thy child declare;
What she proclaims as truth, myself will own;
What she withholds, alike I leave unknown;
What she demands, I am prepared to yield;
Now doubt or spurn me—but my lips are seal'd.'
I ceased, and stood with haughty mien and eye,
That seem'd all further question to defy;
He gazed, as if still spell'd in hope or fear,
And hungering for the word that fail'd the ear.
At last, and half unconscious, in the thrall
Of the cold awe, he groan'd—
'And is this all?
Courage, poor child—there may be justice yet—
Justice, Heaven, justice!'
With this doubtful threat
He turn'd, was gone!—that look of stern despair,
The uncertain footstep tottering down the stair,
The clapping door; and then that void and chill,
Which would be silence, were the conscience still;
[Pg 34]That sense of something gone, we would recall;
The soul's dim stun before it feels its fall.
VII.
"Next day, the sire my noble kinsman sought;
One ruling senates must be just, he thought.
What chanced, untold—what follow'd may declare: }
Behold me summon'd to my uncle's chair! }
See his cold eye—I saw my ruin there! }
I saw and shrunk not, for a sullen pride
Embraced alike the kinsman and the bride:
Scorn'd here, the seeming snare by cunning set;
And there, coarse thraldom, with rebellion met.
"Brief was my Lord—
'An old man tells me, sir,
You woo his child, to wed her you demur;
Who knows, perhaps (and such his shrewd surmise),
The noose is knit—you but conceal the ties!
Please to inform me, ere I go to court,
How stands the matter?—sir, my time is short.'
"'My Lord,' I answer'd, with unquailing brow,
'Not to such ears should youth its faults avow;
And grant me pardon if I boldly speak,
Youth may have secrets honour shuns to seek.
I own I love, proclaim that love as pure!
If this be sin—its sentence I endure.
All else belongs unto that solemn shrine,
In the veil'd heart, which manhood holds divine.
Men's hearths are sacred, so our laws decree;
Are hearts less sacred? mine at least is free.
Suspect, disown, forsake me, if thou wilt;
I prize the freedom where thou seest the guilt.'
My kinsman's hand half-shaded the keen eye,
Which glanced askant;—he paused in his reply.
At length, perchance, his practised wit foresaw
Threats could not shake where interest fail'd to awe;
And judged it wise to construe for the best
The all I hid, the little I confess'd;
Calmly he answer'd—
'Sir, I like this heat;
Duper or duped, a well-bred man's discreet;
Take but this hint (one can't have all in life),
You lose the uncle if you win the wife.
In this, you choose Rank, Station, Power, Career;
In that, Bills, Babies,—and the Bench, I fear.
Hush;—'the least said' (old proverb, sir, but true!)—
As yet your fault indulgently I view.
[Pg 35]Words,—notes (sad stuff!)—some promise rashly made—
Action for breach—that scandal must be stay'd.
I trust such scrapes will teach you to beware;
'Twill cost some hundreds—that be my affair.
Depart at once—to-morrow—nay, to-day:
When fairly gone, there will be less to pay!'
So spoke the Statesman, whom experience told
The weight of passion in the scales of gold.
Pleased I escape, but how reprieve enjoy?
One word from her distrusted could destroy!
Yet that distrust the whispering heart belied,
Self ceased, and anger into pity died;
I thought of Mary in her desolate hour,
And shudder'd at the blast, and trembled for the flower.
Why not go seek her?—chide the impatient snare; }
Or if faith linger'd, win it to forbear? }
Now was the time, no jealous father there! }
Swift as the thought impell'd me, I obey'd!
'Tis night; once more I greet the moonlit shade;
Once more I see the happy murmuring rill;
The white cot bower'd beneath the pastoral hill!
An April night, when, after sparkling showers,
The dewy gems betray the cradled flowers,
As if some sylphid, startled from her bed
In the rath blossom by the mortal's tread,
Had left behind her pearly coronal.—
Bright shone the stars on Earth's green banquet-hall;
You seem'd, abroad, to see, to feel, to hear
The new life flushing through the virgin year;
The visible growth—the freshness and the balm;
The pulse of Nature throbbing through the calm;
As wakeful, over every happy thing,
Watch'd through the hush the Earth's young mother—Spring!
Calm from the lattice shot a steady ray; }
Calm on the sward its silvery lustre lay; }
And reach'd, to glad the glancing waves at play. }
I stood and gazed within the quiet room;—
Gazed on her cheek;—there, spring had lost its bloom!
Alone she sate! Alone!—that worn-out word,
So idly spoken, and so coldly heard;
Yet all that poets sing, and grief hath known,
Of hope laid waste, knells in that word—Alone!
"Who contemplates, aspires, or dreams, is not
Alone: he peoples with rich thoughts the spot.
The only loneliness—how dark and blind!—
Is that where fancy cannot dupe the mind;
[Pg 36]Where the heart, sick, despondent, tired with all,
Looks joyless round, and sees the dungeon wall;
When even God is silent, and the curse
Of torpor settles on the universe;
When prayer is powerless, and one sense of dearth
Abysses all, save solitude, on earth!
So sate the bride!—the drooping form, the eye
Vacant, yet fix'd,—that air which Misery,
The heart's Medusa, hardens into stone,
Sculptured the Death which dwelleth in the lone!
Oh, the wild burst of joy,—the life that came }
Swift, brightening, bounding through the lips and frame, }
When o'er the floors I stole, and whisper'd soft her name! }
'Come—come at last! Oh, rapture!'
Who can say
Why meaner natures hold mysterious sway
Over the nobler? Why mine orb malign
Ruled as a fate a spirit so divine;
Giving or light or darkness all its own
Unto a star so near the Sapphire Throne?
"'So thou art come!'
'Hush! say whose lips reveal'd
All these soft traitors swore to guard conceal'd—
Our love—my name?'
'Not I—not I—thy wife!
No, truth to thee more dear than fame, than life:
A friend, my father's friend, the secret told;
How guess'd I know not. Oh! if Love controll'd
My heart that hour—that bitter hour—when, there
Bent that old man who——Husband, hear my prayer
Have mercy on my father!—break, oh, break
This crushing silence!—bid his daughter speak,
And say, Thou'rt not dishonour'd?'
'If thou wilt,
Tell all;—dishonour not alone in guilt!
Men's eyes dishonour in the fallen see;—
Speak, and dishonour thou inflict'st on me:
The debt, the want, the beggary, and the shame,—
The pauper branded on the noble's name!
Speak and inflict—I still can spurn—the doom;
Unveil the altar to prepare the tomb!
I, who already in my grasp behold,
Bright from Hesperian fields, the fruit of gold,
By which alone the glorious prize we gain,
Foil'd of the goal will die upon the plain.
[Pg 37]I own two brides, both dear alike, and see
In one Ambition—in the other Thee:
Destroy thy rival, and to her destroy'd
Succeeds despair to make the world a void.'
Then, with stern frankness to that shrinking ear,
I told my hopes,—in her my only fear;
Told, with a cheek no humbling blushes dyed,
How met the sire—how unavow'd the bride!
'Thus have I wrong'd—this cruel silence mine;
And now be truth, and truth is vengeance, thine!'
I ceased to speak; lo, she had ceased to weep;
Her white lips writhed, as Suffering in its sleep;
And o'er the frame a tremulous shudder went,
As every life-stream to the source was sent:
The very sense seem'd absent from the look,
And with the Heart, its temple, Reason shook!
So there was silence; such a silence broods
In winter nights, o'er frost-bound solitudes,
Darkness, and ice, and stillness all in one,—
The silence without life, the withering without sun.
But o'er that silence, as at night's full noon,
Through breathless cloud, shimmers the sudden moon;
A sad but heavenly smile a moment stirr'd,
And heralded the martyr's patient word:
'Fear not; pursue thy way to fortune, fame;
I will not soil thy glory with my shame.
Betray! avenge!—For ever, until thou
Proclaim the bond and ratify the vow,
Closed in this heart, as lamps within the tomb,
Shall waste the light, that lives amidst the gloom,—
That lives, for oh! the day shall come at length,
Though late, though slow,—(give hope, for hope is strength!)—
When, from a father's breast no more exiled,
The wife may ask forgiveness for the child?'"
VIII.
"And so you parted?" with a moisten'd eye,
Said Morvale;—"nay, man, spare me the reply;
Too much the Eve has moved me——"
"Not to feel
That for the serpent which thy looks reveal,"
Said Arden, sadly smiling; "yet in truth,
See how the grey world grafts its age on youth;
See how we learn to prize the bullion Vice,
Coin'd in all shapes, yet still but Avarice;
The stamp may vary,—you the coin may call
'Ambition,' 'Power,' 'Success,'—but Gold is all.
[Pg 38]Mine is the memoir of a selfish age:
Turn every leaf—slight difference in the page;
Through each, the same fierce struggle to secure
Earth's one great end—distinction from the Poor;
All our true wealth, like alchemists of old,
Fused in the furnace—for a grain of gold.
IX.
"Well then, we parted,—to make brief the tale,
I take my orders, and my leave, set sail;
For weeks, for months, fond letters, long nor few,
Keep hope alive with love for ever new:
If she had suffer'd, she betray'd it not;
All save one sweetness—'that we loved' forgot.
She never named her father;—once indeed
The name was writ, but blurr'd;—it was decreed
That she should fill the martyr-measure,—hide
Not the dart only, but the bleeding side,
And, wholly generous in the offering made,
Veil even sorrow, lest it should upbraid.
"At length one letter came—the last; more blest
In faith, in love, false hope, than all the rest;
But at the close some hastier lines appear,
Tremblingly writ, and stain'd with many a tear,
In which, less said than timorously implied
(The maid still blushing through the secret bride),
I heard her heart through that far distance beat:
The hour Eve's happiest daughter dreads to meet,—
The hour of Nature's agony was nigh,—
Husband and father, false one, where was I?
"Slow day on slow day, unrevealing, crept,
And still its ice the freezing silence kept:
Fear seized my soul, I could no longer brook
The voiceless darkness which the daylight took.
I feign'd excuse for absence;—left the shore:
Fair blow the winds;—behold her home once more!
"Her home! a desert! Still, though rank and wild,
On the rank grass the heedless floweret smiled;
Still by the porch you heard the ungrateful bee;
Still brawl'd the brooklet's unremembering glee;
But they—the souls of the sweet pastoral ground?
Green o'er the father rose the sullen mound!
Amidst his poor he slept; his end was known,—
Life's record rounded with the funeral stone:
[Pg 39]But she?—but Mary?—but my child?—what dews
Fall on their graves?—what herbs which heaven renews
Pall their pure clay?—Oh! were it mine at least
To weep, belovèd, where your relics rest!—
Bear with me, Morvale,—pity if you can—
These thoughts unman me—no, they prove me man!"
"Man of the cities," with a mutter'd scorn,
Groan'd the stern Nomad from the lands of Morn,—
"Man of the sleek, far-looking prudence, which
Beggars life's May, life's Autumn to enrich;
Which, the deed doing, halts not in its course,
But, the deed done, finds comfort in remorse.
Man, in whom sentiment, the bloodless shade
Of noble passion, alternates with trade,—
Hard in his error—feeble in his tears,
And huckstering love, yet prattling of the spheres!"
So mused the sombre savage, till the pale
And self-gnaw'd worldling nerved him to his tale:—
"The hireling watch'd the bed where Mary lay,
In stranger arms my first-born saw the day.
Below,—unseen his travail, all unknown
His war with Nature, sate the sire alone:
He had not thrust the one he still believed,
If silent, sinless, or in sin deceived—
He had not thrust her from a father's door;
So Shame came in, and cower'd upon the floor,
And face to face with Shame, he sate to hear
The groan above bring torture to his ear.
In that sad night, when the young mother slept,
Forth from his door the elder mourner crept;
Absent for days, none knowing whither bent,
Till back return'd abruptly as he went.
With a swift tremulous stride he climb'd the stair, }
Through the closed chamber gleam'd his silver hair, }
And Mary heard his voice soft—pitying—as in prayer! }
'Child, child, I was too hard!—But woe is wild;
Now I know all!—again I clasp my child!'
Within his arms, upon his heart again
His Mary lay, and strove for words in vain;
She strove for words, but better spoke through tears
The love the heart through silence vents and hears.
"All this I gather'd from the nurse, who saw
The scene, which dews from hireling eyes could draw;
So far;—her sob the pastor heard, and turn'd,
Waved his wan hand, nor what more chanced she learn'd.
"Next morn in death the happier father lay,
From sleep to Heaven his soul had pass'd away;
[Pg 40]He had but lived to pardon and to bless
His child;—emotion kills in its excess,
And that task done, why longer on the rack
Stretch the worn frame?—God's mercy call'd him back.
The day they buried him, while yet the strife
Of sense and memory raged for death and life
In Mary's shatter'd brain, her father's friend,
Whose hand, perchance, had sped him to his end,
Whose zeal officious had explored, reveal'd
My name, the half, worse half, of all conceal'd,
Sought her, and saw alone: When gone, a change
Came o'er the victim, terrible and strange;
All grief seem'd hush'd—a stern tranquillity
Calm'd the wan brow and fix'd the glassy eye;
She spoke not, moved not, wept not,—on her breast
Slept Earth's new stranger—not more deep its rest.
They fear'd her in that mood—with noiseless tread
Stole from the room; and, ere the morn, she fled.
Gone the young Mother with her babe!—no trace;
As the wind goes, she vanish'd from the place;
They search'd the darkness of the wood, they pried
Into the secrets of the tempting tide,
In vain,—unseen on earth as in the wave,
Where life found refuge or despair a grave."
"And is this all?" said Morvale—
"No, my thought
Guess'd at the clue; her father's friend I sought,
A stern hard man, of Calvin's iron mould,
And yet I moved him, and his tale he told.
It seem'd (by me unmark'd), amidst the rest,
My uncle's board had known this homely guest.
Our evil star had led the guest, one day,
Where through the lone glade wound our lovers' way,
To view, with Age's hard, suspecting eyes,
The high-born courtier in the student's guise.
Thus, when the father, startled to vague fears,
By his child's waning cheek and unrevealing tears,
First to his brother priest for counsel came,
He urged stern question—track'd the grief to shame,
Guess'd the undoer, and disclosed the name.
"Time went—the priest had still a steady trust
In Mary's honour; but, to mine unjust,
Divined some fraud—explored, and found a clue,
There had been marriage, if the rites were due;
Had learn'd Clanalbin's name, as one whose eye
Had seen, whose witness might attest the tie.
This news to Mary's father was convey'd
The eve her infant on her heart was laid.
[Pg 41]
"That night he left his home, he did not rest
Till found Clanalbin—'Well, and he confess'd?'
I cried impatient;—my informer's eye
Flash'd fire—'Confess'd the fraud,' was his reply.
'The fraud!'—'The impious form, the vile disguise!
Mock priest, false marriage, hell's whole woof of lies!'
'Lies!—had the sound earth open'd its abyss
Beneath my feet, my soul had shudder'd less.
Lies!—but not mine!—his own!—not mine such ill.
O wife, I fly—to right, avenge, and claim thee still!'"
"Thy hand—I wrong'd thee," Morvale falter'd, while
His strong heart heaved—"Thou didst avenge the guile?
Thou found'st thy friend—thy witness—well! and he?"—
"Had spoken truth, the truth of perfidy.
This man had loved me in his own dark way,
Loved for past kindness in our wilder day,
Loved for the future, which, obscure for him,
Link'd with my fate, with that grew bright or dim.
I told thee how he warr'd with my intent,
The strong dissuasion, and the slow consent:
The slow consent but veil'd the labour'd wile;
That I might yet be great, he grovell'd to be vile.
'Twas a false Hymen—a mock priest—and she
The pure, dishonour'd—the dishonourer free!
"This then the tale that, while it snapp'd the chord,
Still to the father's heart the child restored;
This told to her by the hard zealot's tongue,
Had the last hope from spoil'd existence wrung;
Had driven the outcast through the waste to roam,
And with the altar shatter'd ev'n the home.
No! trust ev'n then,—ev'n then, hope, was not o'er:
One morn the wanderer reach'd Clanalbin's door.
O steadfast saint! amidst the lightning's scathe,
Still to the anchor clung the lingerer Faith;
Still through the tempest of a darken'd brain,
Where misery gnaw'd and memory rack'd in vain,
The last lone angel that deserts the grief
Of noble souls, survived and smiled,—Belief!
There had she come, herself myself to know,
And bow'd the head, and waited for the blow!
What matter how the villain soothed, or sought
To mask the crime?—enough that it was wrought;
She heard in silence,—when all said, all learn'd,
Still silent linger'd; then a flush return'd
To the pale cheek,—the Woman and the Wrong
Rear'd the light form,—the voice came clear and strong.
'Tell him my father's grave is closed; the dread
Of shame sleeps with him—dying with the dead:
[Pg 42]Tell him on earth we meet no more;—in vain
Would he redress the wrong, and clear the stain,
His child is nameless; and his bride—what now
To her, too late, the mockery of the vow?
I was his wife—his equal;—to endure
Earth's slander? Yes!—because my soul was pure!
Now, were he kneeling here,—fame, fortune won,—
My pride would bar him from the fallen one.
Say this; if more he seek my fate, reply—
'Once stain the ermine, and its fate—to die!'
I need not tell thee if my fury burst
Against the wretch—the accurser—the accurst!
I need not tell thee if I sought each trace
That lured false hope to woe's lorn resting-place;
If, when all vain,—gold, toil, and art essay'd,
Still in my sunlight stalk'd the avenging shade,
Lost to my life for ever;—on the ground
Where dwell the spectres,—Conscience—ever found!"
X.
"True was the preface to thy gloomy tale;
Pity can soothe not—counsel not avail,"
Said Morvale, moodily. "What bliss foregone!
What years of rich life wasted! What a throne
In the arch-heaven abandon'd! And for what?
Darkness and gold!—the slave's most slavish lot!
Thy choice forsook the light—the day divine—
God's loving air—for bondage and the mine!
Oh! what delight to struggle side by side
With one loved soother!—up the steep to guide
Her steps—as clinging to thy hardier form,
She treads the thorn and smiles upon the storm!
And when firm will and gallant heart had won
The hill-top opening to the steadfast sun,
Look o'er the perils of the vanquish'd way,
And bless the toil through which the victory lay,
And murmur—'Which the sweeter fate, to dare
With thee the evil, or with thee to share
The good?' Nay, haunting must thine error be;
Thee Camdeo gave the blest Amrita tree,[M]
The ambrosia of the gods,—to scorn the prize,
And choose the Champac[N] for its golden dyes:
[Pg 43]Thou hast forsaken—(thou must bear the grief)—
The immortal fruitage for the withering leaf!"
"Nay," answer'd Arden, writhing, "cease to chide;
Who taunts the ordeal should the fire have tried.
If Fortune's priests had train'd thy soul, like mine, }
To worship Fortune's as the holiest shrine, }
Perchance my error, cynic, had been thine!" }
"Pardon," said Morvale; "and my taunt to shame,
Know me thus weak,—I envy while I blame;
Thou hast been loved! And had I err'd like thee;
Mine had been crime, from which thy soul is free,
Thy gentler breast the traitor could forgive——"
"Never!" cried Arden—
"Does the Traitor live?"
And as the ear that hissing whisper thrill'd,
That calm stern eye the very life-blood chill'd;
For there, the instinct Cain bequeath'd us spoke,
And from the chain the wild's fierce savage broke.
"O yes!" the fiery Alien thus renew'd;
"I know how holy life by law is view'd;
I know how all life's glory may be marr'd,
If safe the clay, which, as life's all, ye guard.
Law—Law! what is it but the word for gold?
Revenge is crime, if taken—Law if sold!
Vile tongues, vile scribes, may rot your name away,
But Law protects you,—with a fine to pay!
The child dishonour'd, the adulterous wife,
Gold requites all, save this base garment—life!
So, life alone is sacred!—so, your law
Hems the worm's carcass with a godhead's awe:
So, if some mighty wrong with black despair
Blots out your sun, and taints to plague the air;
If with a human impulse shrinks the soul
Back from the dross which compensates the whole;
If from the babbling court, the legal toil,
And the lash'd lackey's guerdon, ye recoil,
And seize your vengeance with your own right arm,
How every dastard quivers with alarm!
Mine be the heart, that can itself defend—
Hate to the foe, devotion to the friend!—
The fearless trust, and the relentless strife:
Honour unsold, and wrong avenged with life!"
He ceased, with trembling lip and haughty crest,
The native heathen labouring in the breast!
As waves some pine, with all its storm of boughs,
O'er the black gulf Norwegian winds arouse,
Shook that strong spirit, gloomy and sublime,
Bending with troubled thought above the abyss of crime!

[Pg 44]

XI.
Long was the silence, till to calm restored
The moody Indian and the startled lord.
"And yet," resumed the first, with softer mien,
And lip that smiled, half mocking, yet serene,
"Not long thy sorrow dimm'd thy life;—unless
Men's envy wrong thee, thou mightst more confess
Of loves, perchance as true and as deceived;
Of rose-wreaths wither'd in the hands that weaved.
Talk to the world of Arden's dazzling lord, }
And tales of joyous love go round the board; }
Who, though adoring less, by beauty more adored?" }
"Ill dost thou read the human heart, my friend,
If bounding man's life with the novel's end;
Where lovers married, ever after love—
To birds alone the turtle and the dove!
Where wicked men (if I be of the gang)
Repent, turn hermits, or cut throats and hang!
Our souls repent,—our lives but rarely change;
Grief halts awhile, then goads us on to range.
More woo'd than wooing, scarce I feign'd to feel—
What magic to the magnet draws the steel?
Wealth soon grew mine, the parasital fame
Conceal'd the nature while it deck'd the name;
Kinsman on kinsman died, each death brought gold;
In birth, wealth, fame, strange charms the sex behold!
The outward grace the life of courts bestows,
The tongue that learns unconsciously to gloze,
All drew to mine the fates I could but mar;
And Aphroditè was my native star!
Forgive the boast, not blessings these, but banes,
If spring sows only flowers, small fruit the autumn gains!
I mark my grave coevals gather round
Their harvest-home, with sheaves for garners bound;
And I, that planted but the garden, see
How the blooms fade! no harvest waits for me!"
"Yet didst thou never love again? as o'er
The soft stream, gliding by the enamell'd shore,
Didst thou ne'er pause, and in some lovelier vale
Moor thy light prow, and furl thy silken sail?"
"But once," said Arden; "years on years had fled,
And half it soothed to think my Mary dead.
For I had sworn (could faith, could honour less?)
My hearth at least to priestly loneliness;
To wed no other while she lived, and be,
If found at last, for late atonement free.
[Pg 45]I kept the vow, till this ambiguous doom,
Half wed, half widow'd, took a funeral gloom;
So many years had pass'd, no tidings gain'd,
The chance so slight that yet the earth retain'd,
At length, though doubtful, I believed that time
Had from the altar ta'en the ban of crime.
Impulse, occasion, what you will, at last
Seized one warm moment to abjure the past.
XII.
"Far other, she, who charm'd me thus awhile,
Thought in each glance, and mind in every smile;
Genius was hers, with all the Iris dyes
That paint on cloud the arch that spans the skies;
Wild in caprice, impassion'd, and yet coy,
Woman when mournful, a frank child in joy;
The Phidian dream, in one concentring all }
The thousand spells with which the charmers thrall, }
And pleasing most the eye which years begin to pall. }
I do not say I loved her as, in truth,
We only love when life is in its youth;
But here at least I thought to fix my doom,
And from the weary waste reclaim a home.
Enough I loved, to woo, to win, to bind
To her my fate, if Heaven had so assign'd!
The nuptial day was fix'd, the plighting kiss
Glow'd on my lips;—that moment the abyss,
Which, hid by moss-grown time, yet yawn'd as wide
Beneath my feet, divorced me from her side.
A letter came—Clanalbin's hand; what made
Treason so bold to brave the man betray'd?
I break the seal—O Heaven! my Mary yet
Lived; in want's weeds the wretch his victim met;
Track'd to her home (a beggar's squalid cell!), }
Told all the penitence that lips could tell: }
'Come back and plead thyself, and all may yet be well!' }
Had I a choice? could I delay to choose?—
Here conscience dragg'd me, there it might excuse.
"Few hurried lines, obscurely dark with all
The war within, my later vows recall,
Breathe passionate prayer—for hopeless pardon sue,
And shape soft words to soothe the stern adieu.
So, as some soul the beckoning ghost obeys,
The haunting shadow of the vanish'd days
Lures to the grave of Youth my charmèd tread,
And sighs, 'At length thou shalt appease the Dead!'
[Pg 46]
"Scarce had I reach'd the shores of England, ere
New pomps spring round me,—I am Arden's heir!
The last pretender to the princely line,
Whose flag had waved from towers in Palestine,
Borne to our dark Walhalla,—left me poor
In all which sheds a blessing on the boor.—
Yes, thou art right! how, at each sickening grasp
For the heart's food, had gold befool'd my clasp!
Gorged with a satrap's treasure, the soul's dearth
Envied the pauper crawling to his hearth."
"But Mary—she—thy wife before Heaven's eye?"
"Lost as before!" was Arden's anguish-cry;
"Not beggary, famine—not her child (for whom,
What could she hope from earth?—as stern a doom!)
Could bow the steel of that proud chastity,
Which scorn'd as alms the atonement due from me!
Out of the sense of wrong her grandeur grown,
She look'd on shame from Sorrow as a throne.
Once more more she fled;—no sign!—again the same
Vain track—vain chase!—Not here was I to blame!"
"Thou track the outcast!" mutter'd Morvale!—"No!
Too far from Luxury lies the world of Woe!"
"Henceforth," sigh'd Arden, "hope, aim, end, confined
To one—my heart, if tortured, is resign'd;
So lately seen, oh! sure she liveth yet!
Once found—oh! strong thine eloquence, Regret!
The palace and the coronal, the gauds
With which our vanity our will defrauds,—
These may not tempt her, but the simple words
'I love thee still,' will touch on surer chords,
And youth rush back with that young melody,
To the lone moonlight and the trysting-tree!"
As the tale ceased, the fields behind them lay,—
The huge town once more open'd on the way;
The whir of wheels, the galliard cavalcade;
The crowd of pleasure, and the roar of trade;
The solemn abbey soaring through the dun
And reeking air, in which sunk slow the sun;
The dusky trees, the sultry flakes of green;
The haunts where Fashion yawns away the spleen;—
Vista on vista widens to reveal
Ease on the wing, and Labour at the wheel!
The friends grew silent in that common roar,
The Real around them, the Ideal o'er;
[Pg 47]So the peculiar life of each, the unseen
Core of our being—what we are, have been—
The spirit of our memory and our soul
Sink from the sight, when merged amidst the whole;
Yet atom atom never can absorb,
Each drop moves rounded in its separate orb.

PART THE THIRD.

I.
Lord Arden's tale robb'd Morvale's couch of sleep,
The star still trembled on the troubled deep,
O'er the waste ocean gleam'd its chilling glance,
To make more dark the desolate expanse.
This contrast of a fate, but vex'd by gales
Faint with too full a balm from Rhodian Vales;[O]
This light of life all squander'd upon one
Round whom hearts moved, as planets round a sun,
Mocks the lone doom his barren years endure,
As wasted treasure but insults the poor.
Back on his soul no faithful echoes cast
Those tones which make the music of the past.
No memories hallow, and no dreams restore
Love's lute, far heard from Youth's Hesperian shore;—
The flowers that Arden trampled on the sod,
Still left the odour where the step had trod;
Those flowers, so wasted!—had for him but smiled
One bud,—its breath had perfumed all the wild!
He own'd the moral of the reveller's life,
So Christian warriors own the sin of strife,—
But, oh! how few can lift the soul above
Earth's twin-born rulers,—Fame and Woman's Love!
Just in that time, of all most drear, upon
Fate's barren hill-tops, gleam'd the coming sun;
From nature's face the veil of night withdrawn,
Earth smiled, and Heaven was open'd in the dawn!
How chanced this change?—how chances all below?
What sways the life the moment doth bestow:
An impulse, instinct, look, touch, word, or sigh—
Unlocks the Hades, or reveals the sky.

[Pg 48]

II.
'Twas eve; Calantha had resumed again
The wonted life, recaptured to its chain;
In the calm chamber, Morvale sat, and eyed
Lucy's lithe shape, that seem'd on air to glide;
Eyed with complacent, not impassion'd, gaze;
So Age looks on, where some fair Childhood plays:
Far as soars Childhood from dim Age's scope,
Beauty to him who links it not with hope!
"Sing me, sweet Lucy," said Calantha, "sing
Our favourite song—'The Maiden and the King.'
Brother, thou lov'st not music, or, at least,
But some wild war-song that recalls the East.
Who loves not music, still may pause to hark
Nature's free gladness hymning in the lark:
As sings the bird sings Lucy! all her art
A voice in which you listen to a heart."
A blush of fear, a coy reluctant "nay"
Avail her not—thus ran the simple lay:—
THE MAIDEN AND THE KING.
I.
"And far as sweep the seas below,
My sails are on the deep;
And far as yonder eagles go,
My flag on every keep.
"Why o'er the rebel world within
Extendeth not the chart?
No sail can reach—no arms can win
The kingdom of a heart!"
So sigh'd the king—the linden near;
A listener heard the sigh,
And thus the heart he did not hear,
Breathed back the soft reply:—
II.
"And far as sweep the seas below,
His sails are on the deep;
And far as yonder eagles go,
His flag on every keep;
"Love, thou art not a king alone,
Both slave and king thou art!
Who seeks to sway, must stoop to own
The kingdom of a heart!"
So sigh'd the Maid, the linden near,
Beneath the lonely sky;
Oh, lonely not!—for angels hear
The humblest human sigh!

[Pg 49]

III.
His ships are vanish'd from the main,
His banners from the keep;
The carnage triumphs on the plain;
The tempest on the deep.
"The purple and the crown are mine"—
An Outlaw sigh'd—"no more;
But still as greenly grows the vine
Around the cottage door!
"Rest for the weary pilgrim, Maid,
And water from the spring!"
Before the humble cottage pray'd
The Man that was a King.
Oh, was the threshold that he cross'd
The gate to fairy ground?
He would not for the kingdom lost,
Have changed the kingdom found!
Divine interpreter thou art, O Song!
To thee all secrets of all hearts belong!
How had the lay, as in a mirror, glass'd
The sullen present and the joyless past,
Lock'd in the cloister of that lonely soul!—
Ere the song ceased, to Lucy's side he stole,
And, with the closing cadence, mournfully
Lifted his doubtful gaze:—so eye met eye.
If thou hast loved, re-ope the magic book;
Say, do its annals date not from a look?
In which two hearts, unguess'd perchance before,
Rush'd each to each, and were as two no more;
While all thy being—by some Power, above
Its will constrain'd—sigh'd, trembling, "This is Love."
A look! and lo! they knew themselves alone!
Calantha's place was void—the witness gone;
They had not mark'd her sad step glide away,
When in sweet silence sank, less sweet, the lay;
For unto both abruptly came the hour
When springs the rose-fence round the fairy bower;
When earth shut out, all life transferr'd to one,
Each other life seems cloud before the sun;
It comes, it goes, we know if it depart
But by the warmer light and quicken'd heart.
And what then chanced? O, leave not told, but guess'd;
Is Love a god?—a temple, then, the breast!
Not to the crowd in cold detail allow
Its delicate worship, its mysterious vow!
[Pg 50]Around the first sweet homage in the shrine
Let the veil fall, and but the Pure divine!
Coy as the violet shrinking from the sun,
The blush of Virgin Youth first woo'd and won;
And scarce less holy from the vulgar ear
The tone that trembles but with noble fear:
Near to God's throne the solemn stars that move
The proud to meekness, and the pure to love!
Let days pass on; nor count how many swell
The episode of Life's hack chronicle!
Changed the abode, of late so stern and drear,
How doth the change speak—"Love hath enter'd here!"
How lightly sounds the footfall on the floor!
How jocund rings sweet laughter, hush'd no more!
Wide from two hearts made happy, wide and far,
Circles the light in which they breathe and are;
Liberal as noontide streams the ambient ray,
And fills each crevice in the world with day.
And changed is Lucy! where the downcast eye,
And the meek fear, when that dark man was by?
Lo! as young Una thrall'd the forest-king,
She leads the savage in her silken string;
Plays with the strength to her in service shown,
And mounts with infant whim the woman's throne!
Charm'd from his lonely moods and brooding mind,
And bound by one to union with his kind,
No more the wild man thirsted for the waste;
No more, 'mid joy, a joyless one, misplaced;
His very form assumed unwonted grace,
And bliss gave more than beauty to his face:
Let but delighted thought from all things cull
Sweet food and fair—hiving the Beautiful,
And lo! the form shall brighten with the soul!
The gods bloom only by joy's nectar bowl.
Nor deem it strange that Lucy fail'd to trace }
In that dark brow, the birthright of disgrace, }
And Europe's ban on Earth's primeval race. }
Were she less pure, less harmless, less the child,
Not on the savage had the soft one smiled.
Ev'n as the young Venetian loved the Moor,
Love gains the shrine when Pity opes the door;
Love like the Poet, whom it teaches, where
Round it the Homely dwells, invents the Fair;
And takes a halo from the air it gilds
To crown a Seraph for the Heaven it builds.
[Pg 51]And both were children in this world of ours,
Maiden and savage! the same mountain flowers,
Not trimm'd in gardens, not exchanged their hues,
Fresh from the natural sun and hardy dews,
For the faint fragrance and the sickly dyes
Which, Art calls forth by walling out the skies:
So children both, each seem'd to have forgot
How poor the maid's—how rich the lover's lot;
Ne'er did the ignorant Indian pause in fear,
Lest friends should pity, and lest foes should sneer.
"What will the world say?"—question safe and sage;
The parrot's world should be his gilded cage;
But fly, frank wilding, with free wings unfurl'd,
Where thy mate carols—there, behold thy world!
And stranger still that no decorous pride
Warn'd her, the beggar, from the rich man's side.
Sneer, ye world-wise, and deem her ignorance art;
She saw her wealth (and blush'd not) in her heart!—
Saw through the glare of gold his lonely breast;
He had but gold, and hers was all the rest.
Pleased in the bliss to her, alas! denied, }
Calantha hail'd her brother's plighted bride: }
"Glad thou the heart which I made sad," she sigh'd. }
Since Arden's tale, but once the friends had met,
Nor known to one the other's rapture yet;
Some fancied clue, some hope awhile restored,
Had from the Babel lured the brilliant lord.
The wonted commune Morvale fail'd to miss,—
We want no confidant in happiness.
Baffled, and sick of hope, wealth, life, and all,
One night return'd the noble to his hall;
He found some lines, stern, brief, in Morvale's hand,—
Brief with dark meaning,—stern with rude command,—
Bidding his instant presence. Arden weigh'd }
Each word; some threat was in each word convey'd; }
A chill shot through his heart—foreboding he obey'd. }
III.
What caused the mandate?—wherefore do I shrink?
The stream runs on,—why tarry at the brink?
Nay, let us halt, and in the pause between
Sorrow and joy, behold the quiet scene;—
The chamber stately in that calm repose,
Which Time's serene, sweet conqueror, Art bestows;
There, in bright shapes which claim our homage still,
Live the grand exiles from the Olympian Hill;
[Pg 52]Still the pale Queen Cithæron forests know,
Turns the proud eye, and lifts the deathful bow;
Still on the vast brow of the father-god,
Hangs the hush'd thunder of the awful nod;
Still fair, as when on Ida's mountain seen,
By Troy's young shepherd, Beauty's bashful Queen;
Still Ind's divine Iacchus laughing weaves
His crown of clustering grapes and glossy leaves;
Still thou, Arch-type of Song, ordain'd to soothe
The rest of Heroes, and with deathless youth
Crown the Celestial Brotherhood—dost hold,
Brimm'd with the drink of gods, the urn of gold!
All live again! The Art which images
Man's noblest conquest, as it slowly frees
Thought out of matter, labouring patient on,
Till springs a god-world from reluctant stone,
Charm'd Morvale more than all the pomp and glow
With which the Painter limns a world we know.
'Twas noon, and broken by the gentle gloom
Of coolest draperies, through the shadowy room,
In moted shaft aslant, the curious ray
Forced lingering in, through tiers of flowers, its way,
Glanced on the lute (just hush'd, to leave behind
Elysian dreams, the music of the mind),
Play'd round the songstress, and with warmer flush
Steep'd the young cheek, unconscious of its blush,
And fell, as if in worship, at thy base,
O sculptured Psyche[P] of the soul-lit face,
Bending to earth resign'd the mournful eye,
Since earth must prove the pathway to the sky;
Doom'd here, below, Love's footprint to explore }
Till Jove relents, the destined wandering o'er, }
And in celestial halls, Soul meets with Love once more.[Q] }
And, side by side, the lovers sat,—their words
Low mix'd with notes from Lucy's joyous birds,
Sole witnesses and fit—those airy things,
That, 'midst the bars, can still unfold the wings,
And soothe the cell with language, learn'd above;
As the caged bird—so on the earth is love!
[Pg 53]Their talk was of the future; from the height
Of Hope, they saw the landscape bathed in light,
And, where the golden dimness veil'd the gaze,
Guess'd out the spot, and mark'd the sites of happy days;
Till silence came, and the full sense and power
Of the blest Present,—the rich-laden Hour
That overshadow'd them, as some hush'd tree
With mellow fruitage bending heavily,—
What time, beneath the tender gloom reclined,
Dies on the lap of summer-noon the wind!
Roused from the lulling spell with startled blush
At such strange power in silence, to the hush
The maid restored the music, while she sought
Fresh banks for that sweet river—loving thought.
"Tell me," she said, "if not too near the gloom
Of some sad tale, the rash desire presume;
What severs so the chords that should entwine
With one warm bond our sister's heart and thine?
Why does she love yet dread thee? what the grief
That shrinks from utterance and disdains relief?
Hast thou not been too stern?—nay, pardon! nay,
Let thy words chide me,—not thy looks dismay!"
"Not unto thee, beneath whose starry eye
Each wild wave hushes, did my looks reply;
They were the answer to mine own dark thought,
Which back the grief, thy smile had banish'd, brought.
"Well—to the secrets of my soul thy love
Hath such sweet right, I lift the veil above
Home's shattered gods, and show what wounds belong
To writhing honour and revengeless wrong.—
"Rear'd in the desert, round its rugged child,
All we call life, group'd, menacing and wild;
But to man's soul there is an inner life;
There, one soft vision smiled away the strife!
A fairy shape, that seem'd afar to stand
On the lost shores of Youth—the Fairy land;
A voice that call'd me 'brother;'—years had fled
Since my rough breast had pillow'd that sweet head,
Yet still my heart throbb'd with the pressure; still
Tears, such as mothers know, my eyes would fill;
Prayers, such as fathers pray, my soul would breathe;
The oak were sere but for that jasmine-wreath!
At length, wealth came; my footsteps left the wild,—
Again we met:—to woman grown the child:
[Pg 54]How did we meet?—that heart to me was dead!
The bird, far heard amidst the waste was fled!
With earthlier fires that breast had learn'd to burn;
And what yet left? but ashes in the urn:
Woo'd and abandon'd! all of love, hope, soul
Lavish'd—now lifeless!—well, were this the whole!
But the good name—the virgin's pure renown—
Woman's white robe, and Honour's starry crown,
Lost, lost, for ever!"
O'er his visage past
His trembling hand,—then, hurriedly and fast,
As one who from the knife of torture swerves,
Then spurns the pang, as pride the weakness nerves,
Resumed—"As yet that secret was withheld,
All that I saw, was sorrow that repell'd,—
A dreary apathy, whose death-like chill
Froze back my heart and left us sever'd still.
"One night I fled that hard indifferent eye;
To crowds, the heart that Home rejects, will fly!—
Gay glides the dance, soft music fills the hall:
I fled, to find, the loneliness through all!
Thou know'st but half a brother's bond I claim,—
My mother's daughter bears her father's name;
My mother's heart had long denied her son,
And loath'd the tie that pride had taught to shun.
My sister's lips, forbid the bond to own,
Left the scorn'd life, a brother breathed, unknown.[R]
Not even yet the alien blood confest;
Who, in the swart hues of the Eastern guest
And unfamiliar name, could kindred trace
With the young Beauty of the Northern Race?—
Calm in the crowd I stood, when hark, a word
Smote on my ear, and stunn'd the soul that heard!
A sound, with withering laughter muttered o'er,
Blistering the name—O God!—a sister bore;
Nought clear, and nought defined, save scorn alone,—
Not heard the name scorn coupled with her own;
Somewhat of nuptials fix'd, of broken ties,
The foul cause hinted in the vile surmise,
[Pg 55]The gallant's fame for conquests, lightly won,
For homes dishonour'd, and for hearts undone:
Not one alone on whom my wrath could seize,
From lip to lip the dizzying slander flees;
No single ribald separate from the herd,
Through the blent hum one stinging tumult stirr'd;
One felt, unseen, infection circling there
A bodiless venom in the common air,
And as the air impalpable!—so seem
The undistinguished terrors of a dream,
Now clear, now dim, transform'd from shape to shape,
The gibbering spectres scare us and escape.
"Fearful the commune, in that dismal night,
Between the souls which could no more unite,—
The lawful anger and the shaming fears,
Man's iron question, woman's burning tears;
All that, once utter'd, rend for aye the ties
Of the close bond God fashion'd in the skies.
I learn'd at last,—for 'midst my wrath, deep trust
In what I loved, left even passion just;
And I believed the word, the lip, the eye,
That to my horrid question flash'd reply;—
I learn'd at last that but the name was stain'd,
Honour was wreck'd, but Purity remain'd.
Oh pardon, pardon!—if a doubt that sears,
A word that stains, profane such holy ears!
So, oft amidst my loneliness, my heart
Hath communed with itself, and groan'd apart,—
Recall'd that night, and in its fierce despair,
Shaped some full vengeance from the desert air,—
That I forgot what angel, new from Heaven,
Sweet spotless listener, to my side was given!
"But who the recreant lover?—this, in vain
My question sought; that truth not hard to gain;
And my brow darken'd as I breathed the threat
Fierce in her shrinking ear, 'that wrath should reach him yet!'
I left her speechless; when the morning came, }
With the fierce pang, writhed the self-tortured frame, }
The poison hid by Woe, drain'd by despairing Shame. }
"Few words, half-blurr'd by shame, the motive clear'd,
For the false wooer, not herself, she feared;
'Accept,' she wrote 'O brother, sternly just,
The life I yield,—but holy be my dust!
Hear my last words, for, them Death sanctify!
Forbear his life for whom it soothes to die.
[Pg 56]And let my thought, the memory of old time,
The soul that flees the stain, nor knew the crime,
Strike down thine arm! and see me in the tomb,
Stand, like a ghost, between Revenge and Doom!'
"I bent, in agony and awe, above
The broken idol of my boyhood's love.
Echo'd each groan and writhed with every throe,
And cried, 'Live yet! O dove, but brood below,
Hide with thy wings the vengeance and the guilt,
And give my soul thy softness if thou wilt!'
And, as I spoke, the heavy eye unclosed,
The hand press'd mine, and in the clasp reposed,
The wan lip smiled, the weak frame seem'd to win
Strange power against the torture-fire within;
The leach's skill the heart's strong impulse sped,
She lived—she lived:—And my revenge was dead!
"She lived!—and, clasp'd within my arms, I vow'd
To leave the secret in its thunder-shroud,
To shun all question, to refuse all clue,
And close each hope that honour deems its due;
But while she lived!—the weak vow halted there,
Her life the shield to that it tainted mine to spare!
"But to have walk'd into the thronging street,
But to have sought the haunt where babblers meet,
But to have pluck'd one idler by the sleeve,
And asked, 'who woo'd yon fairhair'd bride, to leave?'
And street, and haunt, and every idler's tongue,
Had given the name with which the slander rung—
To me alone,—to me of all the throng,
The unnatural silence mask'd the face of wrong.
But I had sworn! and, of myself in dread,
From the loath'd scene, from mine own wrath, I fled.
"We left the land, in this a home we find.
Home! by our hearth the cleaving curse is shrined!
Distrust in her—and shame in me; and all
The unspoken past cold present hours recal;
And unconfiding hearts, and smiles but rife
With the bland hollowness of formal life!
In vain my sacrifice, she fears me still!
Vain her reprieve;—grief barr'd from vent can kill.
And then, and then (O joy through agony!)
My oath absolves me, and my arm is free!
The lofty soul may oft forgive, I own,
The lighter wrong that smites itself alone;
[Pg 57]But vile the nature, that when wrong hath marr'd
All the rich life it was our boast to guard
But weeps the broken heart and blasted name;—
Here the mean pardon were the manhood's shame;
And I were vilest of the vile, to live
To see Calantha's grave—and to forgive:
Forgive!"
There hung such hate upon that word,
The weeping listener shudder'd as she heard,
And sobb'd—
"Hush, hush! lest Man's eternal Foe }
Hear thee, and tempt! Oh, never may'st thou know }
Beside one deed of Guilt—how blest is guiltless Woe!" }
Then, close, and closer, clinging to his side,
Frank as the child, and tender as the bride,
Words—looks—and tears themselves combine the balm,
Lull the fierce pang, and steal the soul to calm!
As holy herbs (that rocks with verdure wreathe,
And fill with sweets the summer air they breathe,)
In winter wither, only to reveal
Diviner virtues—charged with powers to heal,
So are the thoughts of Love!—if Heaven is fair,
Blooms for the earth, and perfumes for the air;—
Is the Heaven dark?—doth sorrow sear the leaf?
They fade from joy to anodynes for grief!
From theme to theme she lures his thought afar,
From the dark haunt in which its demons are;
And with the gentle instinct which divines
Interest more strong than aught which Self entwines
With its own suffering—changed the course of tears,
And led him, child-like, through her own young years.
The silent sorrows of a patient mind—
Grief's loveliest poem, a soft soul resign'd,
Charm'd and aroused——
"O tell me more!" he cried;
"Ev'n from the infant let me trace the bride.
Of thy dear life I am a miser grown,
And grudge each smile that did not gild my own;
Look back—thy Father? Canst thou not recal
His kiss, his voice? Fair orphan! tell me all."
"My Father? No!" sigh'd Lucy; "at that name
Still o'er my mother's cheek the fever came;
Thus, from the record of each earlier year,
That household tie moved less of love than fear;
Some wild mysterious awe, some undefined
Instinct of woe was with the name entwined.
[Pg 58]Lived he?—I knew not; knew not till the last
Sad hours, when Memory struggled to the Past,
And she—my dying mother—to my breast
Clasp'd these twain relics—let them speak the rest!"
With that, for words no more she could command,
She placed a scroll—a portrait—in his hand;
And overcome by memories that could brook
Not ev'n love's comfort,—veil'd her troubled look,
And glided swiftly thence. Nor he detain'd:
Spell bound, his gaze upon the portrait strain'd:
That brow—those features! that bright lip, which smiled
Forth from the likeness!—Found Lord Arden's child!
The picture spoke as if from Mary's tomb,
Death in the smile and mockery in the bloom.
The scroll, unseal'd—address'd the obscurer name
That Arden bore, ere lands and lordship came;
And at the close, to which the Indian's eyes }
Hurried, these words:— }
"In peace thy Mary dies; }
Forgive her sternness in her sacrifice! }
It had one merit—that I loved! and till
Each pulse is hush'd shall love, yet fly, thee still.
Now take thy child! and when she clings with pride
To the strong shelter of a father's side,
Tell her, a mother bought the priceless right
To bless unblushing her she gave to light;
Bought it as those who would redeem a past
Must buy—by penance, faithful to the last.
Thorns in each path, a grave the only goal,
Glides mine, atoning, to my father's soul!"
What at this swift revealment—dark and fast
As fleets the cloud-wrack, o'er the Indian past?
No more is Lucy free with her sweet dower }
Of love and youth! Another has the power }
To bar the solemn rite, to blast the marriage bower. }
"Will this proud Saxon of the princely line
Yield his heart's gem to alien hands like mine?
What though the blot denies his rank its heir: }
The more his pride will bid his love repair }
By loftiest nuptials—O supreme despair! }
Shall I divulge the secret! shall I rear,
Myself, the barrier,—and the bliss so near?"
He scorn'd himself, and raised his drooping crest:
"Mine be Man's honour—leave to God the rest!"
As thus his high resolve, a sudden cry }
Startled his heart. He turn'd: Calantha by! }
Why on the portrait glares her haggard eye? }
[Pg 59]
"Whose likeness this? Thou know'st not, brother? speak!
What mean that clouded brow—that changing cheek?
Thou know'st not!"
"Yes!"
And as the answer came,
With Death's strong terror shook the sister's frame,
A bitterer pang, an icier shudder, ran
Through his fierce nature—
"Dost thou know the man?
Ha! his own tale! O dull and blinded! how,
Flash upon flash, descends the lightning now!
Thou, his forsaken—his! And I—who—nay!
Look up Calantha; for, befal what may,
He shall——"
The promise, or the threat, was said
To ears already deafen'd as the dead!
His arm but breaks the fall: the panting breast
Yet heaves convulsive through the stifling vest.
The robe, relax'd, bids doubt—if doubt yet be—
Merge the last gleam in starless certainty!
Lo there, the fatal gift of love and woe
Miming without the image graved below—
The same each likeness by each sufferer worn,
Or differing but as noonday from the morn.
In Lucy's portrait, manhood's earliest youth
Shone from the clear eye with a light like truth.
There, play'd that fearless smile with which we meet
The sward that hides the swamp before our feet;
The bright on-looking to the Future, ere
Our sins reflect their own dark shadows there:—
Calantha's portrait spoke of one in whom,
Young yet in years; the heart had lost its bloom;
The lip of joy the lip of pride had grown;
It smiled—the smile we love to trust had flown.
In the collected eye and lofty mien
The graver power experience brings was seen;
Beautiful both; and if the manlier face
Had lost youth's candid and luxuriant grace,
A charm as fatal as the first it wore,
Pleased less—and yet enchain'd and haunted more.
And this the man to whom his heart had moved!
Whose hand he had clasp'd, whose child he loved!—he loved!
This, out of all the universe—O Fate!
This, the dark orb, round which revolved his hate;
This, the swart star malign, whose baleful ray
Ruled in his House of Life; and day by day,
[Pg 60]And hour by hour, upon the tortured past
One withering, ruthless, demon influence cast!
There writhes the victim—there, unmasking, now
The invoked Alecto frowns from Arden's brow.
O'er that fierce nature, roused so late from sleep,
Course the black thoughts, and lash to storm the deep.
Love flies dismay'd—the sweet delusions, drawn
By Hope, fade ghost-like in the lurid dawn;
As when along the parch'd Arabian gloom
Life prostrate falls before the dread Simoom,
No human mercy the strong whirlwind faced,
And its wrath reign'd sole monarch of the waste!
IV.
The Hours steal on. Like spectres, to and fro
Hurry hush'd footsteps through the house of woe.
That nameless chill, which tells of life that dies,
Broods o'er the chamber where Calantha lies.
The Hours steal on—and o'er the unquiet might
Of the great Babel—reigns, dishallow'd, Night.
Not, as o'er Nature's world, She comes, to keep
Beneath the stars her solemn tryst with Sleep,
When move the twin-born Genii side by side,
And steal from earth its demons where they glide;
Lull'd the spent Toil—seal'd Sorrow's heavy eyes,
And dreams restore the dews of Paradise;
But Night, discrown'd and sever'd from her twin,
No pause for Travail, no repose for Sin,
Vex'd by one chafed rebellion to her sway,
Flits o'er the lamp-lit streets—a phantom day!
Alone sat Morvale in the House of Gloom,
Alone—no! Death was in the darken'd room;
All hush'd save where, at distance faintly heard,
Lucy's low sob the depth of silence stirr'd;
Or where, without, the swift wheels hurrying by,
Bear those who live—as if life could not die.
Alone he sat! and in his breast began
Earth's deadliest strife—the Angel with the Man!
Not his the light war with its feeble rage
Which prudent scruples with faint passions wage,
(The small heart-conflicts which disturb the wise,
Whom reason succours when the anger tries,
Such as to this meek social ring belong,
In conscience weak, but in discretion strong;)
But that known only to man's franker state,
In love a demigod—a fiend in hate,
Him, not the reason but the instincts lead,
Prompt in the impulse, ruthless in the deed.
[Pg 61]
And if the wrong might seem too weak a cause
For the fell hate—not his were Europe's laws.—
Some think dishonour, if it halt at crime,
A stingless asp,—what injury in the slime?
As if but this poor clay—this crumbling coil
Of dust for graves—were all the foul can soil!
As if the form were not the type (nor more
Than the mere type) of what chaste souls adore!
That Woman-Royalty, a spotless name,
For sires to boast—for sons unborn to claim,
That heavenly purity of thought—as free
From shame as sin, the soul's virginity,
If these be lost—why what remains?—the form?
Has that such worth?—Go, envy then the worm!
And well to him may such belief belong,
And India's memories blacken more the wrong;
In Eastern lands, by tritest tales convey'd,
How Honour guards from sight itself the maid;
Home's solemn mystery, jealous of a breath,
Screen'd by religion, and begirt with death:—
Again he cower'd beneath the hissing tongue,
Again the gibe of scurril laughter rung,
Again the Plague-breath air itself defiled,
And Mockery grinn'd upon his mother's child!
All the heart's chaste religion overthrown,
And slander scrawl'd upon the altar-stone!
And if that memory pause, what shapes succeed?
The martyr leaning on the broken reed!
The life slow-poison'd in the thoughts that shed
Shame o'er the joyless earth;—and there, the dead!
Marvel not ye, the soft, the fair, the young,
Whose thoughts are chords to Love's sweet music strung,
Whose life the sterner genius—Hate, has spared,
If on his soul no torch but Atè's glared!
If in the foe was lost to sight the bride,
The foe's meek child!—that memory was denied!
The face, the tale, the sorrow, and the love, }
All fled—all blotted from the breast: Above }
The Deluge not one refuge for the Dove! }
There is no Lethé like one guilty dream,
It drowns all life that nears the leaden stream;
And if the guilt seem sacred to the creed,
Between the stars and earth, but stands the Deed!
So in his breast the Titan feud began:
Which shall prevail—the Angel or the Man?
[Pg 62]
The Injurer comes! the lone light breaking o'er }
The gloom, waves flickering to the open door, }
And Arden's step is on the fatal floor! }
Around he gazed, and hush'd his breath,—for Fear
Cast its own shadow on the wall,—a drear
And ominous prescience of the Death-king there
Breathed its chill horror to the heavy air;
O'er yon recess—which bars with draperied pall
The baffled gaze—the unbroken shadows fall.
The lurid embers on the hearth burn low;
The clicking time-piece sounds distinct and slow;
And the roused instinct hate's suspense foreshows
In the pale Indian's lock'd and grim repose.
So Arden enter'd, and thus spoke; the while
His restless eye belied his ready smile:
"Return'd, I find thy mandate, and attend
To hear a mystery, or to serve a friend."
"Or front a foe!"
A stifled voice replied.
O'er Arden's temples flush'd the knightly pride.
"What means that word, which jars, not daunts, the ear?
I own no foe,—if foe there be, no fear."
"Pause and take heed—then with as firm a sound
Disdain the danger—when the foe is found!
What, if thou had'st a sister, whom the grave
To thy sole charge—a sacred orphan—gave—
What, if a traitor had, with mocking vows,
Won the warm heart, and woo'd the plighted spouse,
Then left—a scoff;—what, if his evil fame,
Alone sufficed to blast the virgin name,
What—hourly gazing on a life forlorn,
Amidst a solitude wall'd round with scorn,
Shame at the core—death gnawing at the cheek—
What, from the suitor, would the brother seek?"
"Wert thou that brother," with unsteady voice,
Arden replied: "not doubtful were thy choice:
Were I that Suitor——"
"Ay?"
"I would prepare
To front the vengeance, or—the wrong repair."
"Yes"—hiss'd the Indian—"front that mimic strife,
That coward's die, which leaves to chance the life;
That mockery of all justice, framed to cheat
Right of its due—such vengeance thou wouldst meet!—
Be Europe's justice blind and insecure!
Stern Ind asks more—her son's revenge is sure!
[Pg 63]'Repair the wrong!'—Ay, in the Grave be wed!
Hark! the Ghost calls thee to the bridal bed!
Come (nay, this once thy hand!)—come!—from the shrine
I draw the veil!—Calantha, he is thine!
Man, see thy victim!—dust!—Joy—Peace and Fame, }
These murder'd first—the blow that smote the frame }
Was the most merciful!—at length it came. }
Here, by the corpse to which thy steps are led,
Beside thee, murderer, stands the brother of the Dead!"
Brave was Lord Arden—brave as ever be
Thor's northern sons—the Island Chivalry;
But in that hour strange terror froze his blood,
Those fierce eyes mark'd him shiver as he stood;
But oh! more awful than the living foe
That frown'd beside—the Dead that smiled below!
That smile which greets the shadow-peopled shore,
Which says to Sorrow—"Thou canst wound no more!"
Which says to Love that would rejoin—"Await!"
Which says to Wrong that would redeem—"Too late!"
That lingering halo of our closing skies
Cold with the sunset never more to rise!
Though his gay conscience many a heavier crime
Than this had borne, and drifted off to Time;
Though this but sport with a fond heart which Fate
Had given to master, but denied to mate,
Yet seem'd it as in that least sin arose
The shapes of all that Memory's deeps disclose;
The general phantom of a life whose waste
Had spoil'd each bloom by which its path was traced,
Sporting at will, and moulding sport to art,
With that sad holiness—the Human Heart!
Upon his lip the vain excuses died,
In vain his manhood struggled for its pride;
Up from the dead, with one convulsive throe,
He turn'd his gaze, and voiceless faced his foe:
Still, as if changed by horror into stone,
He saw those eyes glare doom upon his own;
Saw that remorseless hand glide sternly slow
To the bright steel the robe half hid below,—
Near, and more near, he felt the fiery breath
Breathe on his cheek; the air was hot with death,
And yet he sought nor flight—nor strove for prayer,
As one chance-led into a lion's lair,
Who sees his fate, nor deems submission shame,—
Unarm'd to combat, and unskill'd to tame,
What could this social world afford its child,
Against the roused Nemæan of the wild!
[Pg 64]
A lifted arm—a gleaming steel—a cry
Of savage vengeance!—swiftly—suddenly,
As through two clouds a star—on the dread time
Shone forth an angel face and check'd the startled crime!
She stood, the maiden guest, the plighted bride,
The victim's daughter, by the madman's side;
Her airy clasp upon the murtherous arm,
Her pure eyes chaining with a solemn charm:
Like some blest thought of mercy, on a soul
Brooding on blood—the holy Image stole!
And, as a maniac in his fellest hour
Lull'd by a look whose calmness is its power,
Backward the Indian quail'd—and dropp'd the blade!—
To see the foeman kneeling to the maid;
As with new awe and wilder, Arden cried,
"Out from the grave, O com'st thou, injured bride!"
Then with a bound he reach'd the Indian—
"Lo!
I tempt thy fury, and invite thy blow;
But, by man's rights o'er men,—oh, speak! whose eyes
Ope, on life's brink, my youth's lost paradise?
The same—the same—(look, look!)—the same—lip, brow,
Form, aspect,—all and each—fresh, fair as now,
Bloom'd my heart's bride!"—
Silent the Indian heard,
Nor seem'd to feel the grasp, nor heed the word!
As when some storm-beat argosy glides free
From its vain wrath,—subsides a baffled sea,—
His heaving breast calm'd back—the tempest fell,
And the smooth surface veil'd the inward hell.
Yet his eye, resting on the wondering maid,
Somewhat of woe, perchance remorse, betray'd,
And grew to doubtful trouble—as it saw
Her aspect brightening slowly from its awe,
Gazing on Arden till shone out commix'd,
Doubt, hope, and joy, in the sweet eyes thus fix'd;—
Till on her memory all the portrait smil'd,
And voice came forth, "O Father, bless thy child!"
As from the rock the bright wave leaps to day,
The mighty instinct forced its living way:
No need of further words;—all clear—all told;
A father's arms the happy child enfold:
Nature alone was audible!—and air
Stirr'd with the gush of tears, and gasps of murmur'd prayer!
Motionless stands the Indian; on his breast,
As one the death-shaft pierces, droops his crest;
[Pg 65]His hands are clasp'd—one moment the sharp thrill
Shakes his strong limbs;—then all once more is still;
And form and aspect the firm calmness take
Which clothes his kindred savage at the stake.
So—as she turn'd her looks—the woe behind
That quiet mask, the girl's quick heart divined,—
"Father!" she cried—"Not all, not all on me
Lavish thy blessings!—Him, who saved me, see!
Him who from want—from famine—from a doom,
Frowning with terrors darker than the tomb,
Preserved thy child!"
Before the Indian's feet }
She fell, and murmur'd—"Bliss is incomplete }
Unless thy heart can share—thy lips can greet!" }
Again the firm frame quiver'd;—roused again,
The bruisëd eagle struggled from the chain;
Till words found way, and with the effort grew
Man's crowning strength—Man's evil to subdue.
"Foeman—'tis past!—lo, in the strife between
Thy world and mine, the eternal victory seen!
Thou, with light arts, my realm hast overthrown,
And, see, revenge but threats to bless thine own!
My home is desolate—my hearth a grave—
The Heaven one hour that seem'd like justice gave,
The arm is raised, the sacrifice prepared—
The altar kindles, and the victim's—spared!
Free as before to smite and to destroy,
Thou com'st to slaughter to depart in joy!
"From the wayside yon drooping flower I bore;
Warm'd at my heart—its root grew to the core,
Dear as its kindred bloom seen through the bar
By some long-thrall'd, and loneliest prisoner—
Now comes the garden's Lord, transplants the flower,
And spoils the dungeon to enrich the bower?
"So be it, law—and the world's rights are thine
Lost the stern comfort, Nature's law and mine!
She calls thee 'Father,' and the long deferr'd,
Long-look'd for vengeance, withers at the word!
Take back thy child! Earth's gods to thee belong! }
To me the iron of the sense of wrong }
Heaven makes the heart which Earth oppresses—strong!" }
"Not so,—not so we part! O husband!" cried
The Girl's full soul—"Divorce not thus thy bride!
Yes, Father, yes!—in woe thy Lucy won
This generous heart; shall joy not leave us one?"
[Pg 66]
A moment Arden paused in mute surprise
(How charm'd that outcast Beauty's blinded eyes?)
Then, with the impulse of the human thought,
Prompt to atonement for the evil wrought,
"Hear her!" he said—"her words her father's heart
Echoes.—Not so—nor ever, may ye part!
Nobly, hast thou an elder right than mine
Won to this treasure;—still its care be thine;
Withhold thy pardon if thou wilt,—but take
The holiest offering wrong to man can make!"
Slowly the Indian lifts his joyless head,
Pointing with slow hand to the present dead,
And from slow lips comes heavily the breath:
"Behold, between us evermore—is Death!"
"Maiden, recal my tale;—thou clasp'st the hand
Which shuts the Exile from the promised land;
Can the dead victim's brother, undefiled,
From him who slew the sister take the child!"
With that, he bent him o'er the shuddering maid,
On her fair looks a solemn hand he laid;
Lifted eyes, tearless still—but dark with all
The cloud, that not in such soft dews can fall:
"If to the Dead an offering still must be,
All vengeance calls for be fulfill'd in me!
I make myself the victim!—Thou dread Power
Guiding to guilt the slow chastising hour,
Far from the injurer's hearth by her made pure,
Let this lone roof thy thunder-stroke allure!—
"Go hence—(nay, near me not!) behold!—the kind
Oblivion closes round her darken'd mind;
If, when she wake, it be awhile for grief,
Soon dries the rain-drop on the April leaf!"
He said, and vanish'd, with a noiseless tread,
Within the folds which curtain'd round the dead!
So, the stern Dervish of the East inters
His sullen soul with Death in sepulchres!
His new-found prize, while yet th' unconscious sense
Sleeps in the mercy of the brief suspense,
With gliding feet, the Father steals away.
Grief bends alone above the lonely clay;
But over grief and death th' Eternal Eye
Shines down,—and Hope lives ever in the sky.

[Pg 67]

PART THE FOURTH.

I.
To Joy's brisk ear there's music in the throng;
Glorious the life of cities to the strong!
What myriad charms, all differing, smile for all
The hardier Masks in the Great Carnival!
Amidst the vast disguise, some sign betrays
To each the appointed pleasure in the maze;
Ambition, pleasure, love, applause, and gold,
Allure the young, and baby[S] yet the old.
For here, the old, if nerves and stubborn will
Defy Experience, linger, youthful still,
Haunt the same rounds of idlesse, or of toil
That lure the freshest footsteps to the soil,
Still sway the Fashion or control the State,
Gay at the ball, or fierce at the debate.
It is not youth, it is the zest of life }
Surviving youth—in age itself as rife, }
That fits the Babel and enjoys the strife; }
But not for you our world's bright tumults are,
Soft natures, born beneath the Hesperus star,—
To us, the storm is but the native breath;
To you, the quickening of the gale is death;
Leave Strife to battle with its changeful clime,
And seek the peace which saves the weak, in time!
Not Man's but Nature's world be yours!—The shade
Where, all unseen, the cushat's nest is made,
Less lone to you than pomps which but bestow
The tinkling cymbal and the painted show.
The lights of revel flash from Arden's halls;
There, throng the shapes that troop where Comus calls;
But not Sabrina more apart and lone
From the loud joy, on her pure coral throne,
Than thou, sad maiden!—round the holy tide
Swell the gay notes, the airy dancers glide;
But o'er the shadowy grot the waters roll,
And shut the revel from the unconscious soul!
What rank has noblest, manhood's grace most fair,
Bend low to her now hail'd as Arden's heir?
If rumour doubts the birthright to his name,
The father's wealth redeems the mother's shame;
[Pg 68]And kindly thoughts o'er lordly pride prevail,
"The Earl's best lands are not in the entail!"
How Arden loved his child!—how spoke that love
Of those dead worlds the light herb waves above;
Layer upon layer—those strata of the past,
Those gone creations buried in the last!
Their bloom, their life, their glory past away,
Speak in this relic of a vanish'd day.
There, in that guileless face, revived anew
The visions glistening through life's morning dew,
Fair Hope, pure Honour, undefilëd Truth—
The young shape stood before him as his youth![T]
And in this love his chastisement was found—
The thorns he had planted, here enclosed him round;
He, whom to see had been to love,—in vain
Here loved; that heart no answer gave again—
It lived upon the past,—it dwelt afar,
This new-found bond from what it loved the bar.
Her conscience chid, yet, while it chid, her thought
Still the cold past, to freeze the present, brought;
How love the sire round whom such shadows throng,
The mother's death-bed and the lover's wrong?
The dazzling gifts, which had through life beguiled
All other souls, are powerless with his child.
Vain the melodious tongue, and vain the mind,
Sparkling and free as wavelets in the wind;
The roseate wreath the handmaid Graces twine
Round sternest hearts,—soft infant, breaks on thine;
Child, candid, simple, frank, to her allied,
Far more, the nature sever'd from her side,
With its fresh instincts and wild verdure, fann'd
By fragrant winds, from haunted Fable-land;
Than all the garden graces which betray
By the bough's riches the worn tree's decay.
What charms the ear of Childhood?—not the page
Of that romance which wins the sober sage;
Not the dark truths, like warning ghosts, which pass
Along the pilgrim path of Rasselas;
Not wit's wrought crystal which, so coldly clear,
Reflects, in Zadig, learning's icy sneer;
Unreasoning, wondering, stronger far the thrall
Of Aimée's cave,[U] or young Aladdin's hall;
And so the childhood of the heart will find }
Charms in the poem of a child-like mind, }
To which the vision of the world is blind! }
[Pg 69]Ev'n as the savage, 'midst the desert's gloom,
Sees, hid from us, the golden fruitage bloom,
And, where the arid silence wraps us all,
Lists the soft lapse of the glad waterfall!
So Lucy loved not Arden!—vainly yearn
His moisten'd eyes;—Can softness be so stern?
That soul how gentle! but that smile how cold!
A marble shape the parent arms enfold!
No hurrying footstep bounds his own to meet,
No joyous smiles with morning's welcome greet,
Not him that heart—so bless'd with love—can bless, }
Lost the pure Eden of a child's caress; }
He saw—he felt, and suffer'd powerless! }
Remorse seized on him;—his gay spirit quail'd;
The cloud crept on,—it gather'd, it prevail'd.
The spectre of the past—the martyr bride,
Sat at his board, and glided by his side;
Sigh'd, "With the dead, Love the Consoler dies,"
And spoke his sentence in his child's cold eyes!
And now a strange and strong desire was born, }
With the young instinct of life's credulous morn, }
In that long sceptic-breast, so world-corrupt and worn. }
From the rank soil in which grim London shrouds
Her dead,—the green halls of the ghastly crowds—
To bear his Mary's dust; the dust to lay
By the clear rill, beside her father's clay,
Amidst those scenes which saw the rapture-strife
And growth of passion—life's sweet storm of life,
Consign the silent pulse, the mouldering heart,
Deaf to the joy to meet—the woe to part;
Rounding and binding there as into one
Sad page, the tale of all beneath the sun;
And there, before that grave—beneath the beam
Of the lone stars, and by that starlit stream,
To lead the pledge of the fresh morn of love,
And while the pardoning skies seem'd soft above,
Murmur, "For her sake, her, who, reconciled,
Hears us in heaven, give me thy heart, my child!"
But first—before his conscious soul could dare
For the consoling balm to pour the prayer,
Alone the shadows of the past to brave,
Alone to commune with the accusing grave,
And shrive repentance of its haunting gloom
Before Life's true Confessional—the Tomb;—
Such made his dream!—Oh! not in vain the creed
Of old that knit atonement with the dead!
The penitent offering, the lustrating tide,
The wandering, haunted, hopeful homicide,
[Pg 70]Who sees the spot to which the furies urge,
Where halt the hell-hounds, and where drops the scourge,
And the appeased Manes pitying sigh—
"Thou hast atoned! once more enjoy the sky!"
Such made the dream he rushes to fulfil!—
Round the new mound babbled the living rill;
A name, the name that Arden's wife should bear,
Sculptured the late and vain repentance there.
O'er the same bridge which once to rapture led,
Went the same steps their pathway to the dead:
Night after night the same lone shadow gave
A tremulous darkness to the hurrying wave;
Lost,—and then, lengthening from the neighbouring yews,
Dimm'd the wan shimmer of the moonlit dews,
Then gain'd a grave;—and from the mound was thrown,
Still as the shadow of yon funeral stone!
II.
Meanwhile to Morvale!—Sorrow, like the wind
Through trees, stirs varying o'er each human mind;
Uprooting some, from some it doth but strew
Blossom and leaf, which spring restores anew;
From some, but shakes rich powers unknown in calm,
And wakes the trouble to extract the balm.
Let weaker natures suffer and despair,
Great souls snatch vigour from the stormy air;
Grief not the languor,—Grief the action brings;
And clouds the horizon but to nerve the wings.
Up from his heavy thought, one dawning day,
The Indian, silent, rose, and went his way;
Palace and pomp and wealth and ease resign'd, }
As one new-born, he plunged amidst his kind, }
Whither, with what intent, he scarce divined. }
He turn'd to see, through mists obscure and dun,
The domes and spires of the vex'd Babylon;
Before him smiled the mead and waved the corn,
And Nature's music swell'd the hymns of Morn.
A sense of freedom, of the large escape
From the pent walls our customs round us shape;
The imperfect sympathies which curse the few,
Who ne'er the chase the many join pursue;
The trite convention, with its cold control,
Which thralls the habit, yet not links the soul;
—The sense of freedom pass'd into his breast,
But found no hope it flatter'd and caress'd;
So the sad captive, when at length made free,
Shrinks from the sunlight he had pined to see;
[Pg 71]Feels on the limb the custom of the chain,
Each step a struggle and each breath a pain,
And knows—return'd unto the world too late,
No smile shall greet him at his lonely gate;
Seal'd every eye, of old that watch'd and wept;
The world he knew has vanish'd while he slept!
He wander'd on, alone, on foot,—alone,
As in the waste his earlier steps had known.
Forth went the peasant—Adam's curse begun;—
Home went the peasant in the western sun;
He heard the bleating fold, the lowing herd,
The last shrill carol of the nestling bird!
He saw the rare lights of the hamlet gleam
And fade;—the stars grow stiller on the stream;
Swart, by the woodland, cower'd the gipsy tent
Whence peer'd dark eyes that watch'd him as he went—
He paused and turn'd:—Him more the outlaws charm
Than the trim hostel and the happy farm.
Strangers, like him, from antique lands afar,
Aliens untamed where'er their wanderings are,
High Syrian sires of old;[V]—dark fragments torn
From the great creed of Isis,—now forlorn
In rags—all earth their foe, and day by day
Worn in the strife with social Jove away—
Wretched, 'tis true, yet less enslaved, their strife,
Than our false peace with all this masque of life,
Convention's lies,—the league with Custom made,
The crimes of glory, and the frauds of trade.
Rest and rude food the lawless Nomads yield;
The dews rise ghost-like from the whitening field,
And ghost-like on the wanderer glides the sleep
Through which the phantom Dreams their witching Sabbat keep!
At dawn, while yet, around the Indian, lay
The dark, fantastic groups,—resumed the way;
Before his steps the landscape spreads more free
And fresh from man;—ev'n as a broadening sea,
When, more and more the harbour left behind,
The lone sail drifts before the strengthening wind.
Behold the sun!—how stately from the East,
Bright from God's presence, comes the glorious Priest!
Deck'd as beseems the Mighty One to whom
Heaven gives the charge to hallow and illume!
How, as he comes,—through the Great Temple, Earth,
Peels the rich Jubilee of grateful mirth!
[Pg 72]The infant flowers their odour-censers swinging,
Through aislëd glades Air's Anthem-Chorus ringing;
While, like some soul lifted aloft by love,
High and alone the sky-lark halts above,
High, o'er the sparkling dews, the glittering corn,
Hymns his frank happiness and hails the morn!
He stands upon the green hill's lighted brow,
And sees the world at smiling peace below,
Hamlet and farm, and thy best type, Desire
Of the sad Heart,—the heaven-ascending spire!
He stood and mused, and thus his musing ran:—
"How strong, how feeble, is thine art, O Man!
Thou coverest Earth with wonders—at thy hand
Curbs the meek water, blooms the subject land:
Why halts thy magic here?—Why only deck'd
Earth's sterile surface, mournful Architect?
Why art thou powerless o'er the world within?
Why raise the Eden, yet retain the sin?
Why, while the earth, thou but enjoy'st an hour,
Proclaims thy splendour and attests thy power,
Why o'er the spirit does thy sorcery cease?—
Lo the sweet landscape round thee lull'd in peace!
Why wakes each heart to sorrow, care, and strife?
Why with yon temple so at war the life?
Why all so slight the variance, or in grief
Or guilt,—the sum of suffering and relief,
Between the desert's son whose wild content
Redeems no waste, enthralls no element,
And ye the Magians?—ye the giant birth
Of Lore and Science—Brahmins of the Earth?
Behold the calm steer drinking in the stream,
Behold the glad bird glancing in the beam.
Say, know ye pleasure,—ye, the Eternal Heirs
Of stars and spheres—life's calm content, like theirs?
Your stores enrich, your powers exalt, the few,
And curse the millions wealth and power subdue;
And ev'n the few!—what lord of luxury knows
The joy in strife, the sweetness in repose,
Which bless the houseless Arab?—Still behind }
Ease waits Disgust, and with the falling wind }
Droop the dull sails ordain'd to speed the mind. }
Increasing wants the sum of care increase,
The piled-up knowledge but sepulchres peace,
Ye quell the instincts, the free love, frank hate,
And bid hard Reason hold the scales of Fate—
What is your gain?—from each slain instinct springs
A hydra passion, poisoning while it stings;
[Pg 73]Free love, foul lust;—the frank hate's manly strife
A plotting mask'd dissimulating life;—
Truth flies the world—one falsehood taints the sky
Each form a phantom, and each word a lie!
"Yet what am I?—the crush'd and baffled foe,
Who dared the strife, yet would denounce the blow.
What arms had I against this world to wield?
What mail the naked savage heart to shield?
To this hoar world I brought the trusts of youth,
Warm zeal for men, and fix'd repose in truth—
Amongst the young I look'd for young desires,
Love which adores, and Honour which aspires—
Amongst the old, for souls set free from all
The earthlier chains which young desires enthrall,
Serene and gentle both to soothe and chide,
The sires to pity, yet the seers to guide—
And lo! this civilised and boasted plan,
This order'd ring and harmony of man,
One hideous, cynic, levelling orgy, where
Youth Age's ice, and Age Youth's fever share—
The unwrinkled brow, the calculating brain,
The passion balanced with the weights of gain,
And Age more hotly clutching than the boy
At the lewd bauble and the gilded toy.
"Why should I murmur?—why accuse the strong?
I own Earth's law—the conquer'd are the wrong,
Am I ambitious?—in this world I stand
Closed from the race, an Alien in the land.
Dare I to love?—O soul, O heart, forget
That dream, that frenzy!—what is left me yet?
Revenge!"—His dark eyes flash'd—yet straightway died
The passionate lightning—"No!—revenge denied!
All the wild man in the tame slave is dead,
The currents stagnate in the girded bed!
Back to my desert!—yet, O sorcerer's draught,
O smooth false world,—what soul that once has quaff'd,
Renounces not the ancient manliness?
Now, could the Desert the charm'd victim bless?
Can the caged bird, escaped from bondage, share
As erst the freedom of the hardy air?
Can the poor peasant, lured by Wealth's caprice
To marts and domes, find the old native peace
In the old hut?—on-rushing is the mind:
It ne'er looks back on what it leaves behind.
Once cut the cable and unfurl the sail,
And spreads the boundless sea, and drifts the hurrying gale!
[Pg 74]
"Come then, my Soul, thy thoughts thy desert be!
Thy dreams thy comrades!—I escape to thee!
Within, the gates unbar, the airs expand,
No bound but Heaven confines the Spirit's Land!
Such luxury yet as what of Nature lives
In Art's lone wreck, the lingering instinct gives;
Joy in the sun, and mystery in the star,
Light of the Unseen, commune with the Far;
Man's law,—his fellow, ev'n in scorn, to save,
And hope in some just World beyond the Grave!"
So went he on, and day succeeds to day,
Untired the step, though purposeless the way;
At night his pause was at the lowliest door,
The beggar'd heart makes brothers of the Poor;
They who most writhe beneath Man's social wrong,
But love the feeble when they hate the strong.
Laud not to me the optimists who call
Each knave a brother—Parasites of all—
Praise not as genial his indifferent eye,
Who lips the cant of mock philanthropy;
He who loathes ill must more than half which lies
In this ill world with generous scorn despise;
Yet of the wrong he hates, the grief he shares,
His lip rebuke, his soul compassion, wears;
The Hermit's wrath bespeaks the Preacher's hope
Who loves men most—men call the Misanthrope!
At times with honest toil reposed—at times
Where gnawing wants beset despairing crimes,
Both still betray'd the sojourn of his soul,
Here wise to cheer, there fearless to control.
His that strange power the Church's Fathers had
To awe the fierce and to console the sad;
For he, like them, had sinn'd;—like them had known
Life's wild extremes;—their trials were his own!
Were we as rich in charity of deed
As gold—what rock would bloom not with the seed?
We give our alms, and cry—"What can we more?"
One hour of time were worth a load of ore!
Give to the ignorant our own wisdom!—give
Sorrow our comfort,—lend to those who live
In crime, the counsels of our virtue,—share
With souls our souls, and Satan shall despair!
Alas, what converts one man, who would take
The cross and staff, and house with Guilt, could make!
Still, in his breast, 'midst much that well might shame
The virtues Christians in themselves proclaim,
[Pg 75]There dwelt the Ancient Heathen;—still as strong
Doubts in Heaven's justice,—curses for man's wrong.
Revenge, denied indeed, still rankled deep
In thought—and dimm'd the day, and marr'd the sleep
And there were hours when from the hell within
Faded the angel that had saved from sin;
When the fell Fury, beckoning through the gloom,
Cried "Life for life—thou hast betray'd the tomb!"
For the grim Honour of the ancient time
Deem'd vengeance duty and forgiveness crime;
And the stern soul fanatic conscience scared,
For blood not shed, and injury weakly spared;—
Woe, if in hours like these, O more than woe,
Had the roused tiger met the pardon'd foe!
Nor when his instinct of the life afar
Soar'd from the soil and task'd the unanswering star,
Came more than Hope—that reflex-beam of Faith—
That fitful moonlight on the unknown path;
And not the glory of the joyous sun,
That fills with light whate'er it shines upon;
From which the smiles of God as brightly fall
On the lone charnel as the festive hall!
Now Autumn closes on the fading year,
The chill wind moaneth through the woodlands sere;
At morn the mists lie mournful on the hill,—
The hum of summer's populace is still!
Hush'd the rife herbage, mute the choral tree,
The blithe cicala, and the murmuring bee;
The plashing reed, the furrow on the glass
Of the calm wave, as by the bank you pass
Scaring the lazy trout,—delight no more;
The god of fields is dead—Pan's lusty reign is o'er!
Solemn and earnest—yet to holier eyes
Not void of glory, arch the sober'd skies
Above the serious earth!—The changes wrought
Type our own change from passion into thought.
What though our path at every step is strewn
With leaves that shadow'd in the summer noon;
Through the clear space more vigorous comes the air,
And the star pierces where the branch is bare.
What though the birds desert the chiller light;
To brighter climes the wiser speed their flight.
So happy Souls at will expand the wing,
And, trusting Heaven, re-settle into Spring.
An old man sat beneath the yellowing beech,
Vow'd to the Cross, and wise the Word to teach.
[Pg 76]A patriarch priest, from earth's worst tempters pure,
Gold and Ambition!—sainted and obscure!
Before his knee (the Gospel in his hands,
And sunshine at his heart), a youthful listener stands!
The old man spoke of Christ—of Him who bore }
Our form, our woes;—that man might evermore }
In succouring woe-worn man, the God, made Man, adore! }
"My child," he said, "in the far-heathen days,
Hope was a dream, Belief an endless maze;
The wise perplex'd, yet still with glimpse sublime
Of ports dim-looming o'er the seas of Time
Guess'd Him unworshipp'd yet—the Power above
Or Dorian Phœbus, or Pelasgic Jove!
Guess'd the far realm, not won by Charon's oar
Not the pale joys the brave who gain abhor;
No cold Elysium where the very Blest
Envy the living and deplore the rest;[W]
Where ev'n the spirit, as the form, a ghost,
Dreams back life's conflicts on the shadowy coast,
Hears but the clashing steel, the armëd train,
And waves the airy spear, and murders hosts again!
More just the prescience of the eternal goal,
Which gleam'd 'mid Cyprian shades, on Zeno's soul,
Or shone to Plato in the lonely cave;
God in all space, and life in every grave!
Wise lore and high,—but for the few conceived;
By schools discuss'd, but not by crowds believed.
The angel-ladder touch'd the heavenly steep,
But at its foot the patriarchs did but sleep;
They did not preach to nations 'Lo your God;'
No thousands follow'd where their footsteps trod;
Not to the fisherman they said 'Arise!'
Not to the lowly they reveal'd the skies;—
Aloof and lone their shining course they ran
Like stars too high to gild the world of man:[X]
[Pg 77]Then, not for schools—but for the human kind—
The uncultured reason, the unletter'd mind;
The poor, the oppress'd, the labourer, and the slave,
God said, 'Be light!'—And light was on the Grave!
No more alone to sage and hero given,
Ope for all life the impartial Gates of Heaven!
Enough hath Wisdom dream'd, and Reason err'd,
All they would seek is found!—O'er Nature sleeps the Word!
"Thou ask'st why Christ, so lenient to the deed,
So sternly claims the faith which founds the creed;
Because, reposed in faith the soul has calm;
The hope a haven, and the wound a balm;
Because the light, dim seen in Reason's Dream,
On all alike, through faith alone, could stream.
God will'd support to Weakness, joy to Grief,
And so descended from his throne—Belief!
Nor this alone—Have faith in things above,
The unseen Beautiful of Heavenly Love;
And from that faith what virtues have their birth,
What spiritual meanings gird, like air, the Earth!
A deeper thought inspires the musing sage!
To youth what visions—what delights to age!
A loftier genius wakens in the world,
To starrier heights more vigorous wings unfurl'd.
No more the outward senses reign alone,
The soul of Nature glides into our own.
To reason less is to imagine more;
They most aspire who meekly most adore!
"Therefore the God-like Comforter's decree—
'His sins be loosen'd who hath faith in me.'
Therefore he shunn'd the cavils of the wise,
And made no schools the threshold of the skies:
Therefore he taught no Pharisee to preach
His Word—the simple let the simple teach.
Upon the infant on his knee he smiled,
And said to Wisdom, 'Be once more a child!'"
The boughs behind the old man gently stirr'd,
By one unseen those Gospel accents heard;
Before the preacher bow'd the pilgrim's head:
"Heaven to this bourne my rescued steps hath led,
Grieving, perplex'd—benighted, yet with dim
Hopes in God's justice,—be my guide to Him!
In vain made man, I mourn and err!—restore
Childhood's pure soul, and ready trust, once more!"
The old man on the stranger gazed;—unto
The stranger's side the young disciple drew,
[Pg 78]And gently clasp'd his hand;—and on the three
The western sun shone still and smilingly;
But, round—behind them—dark and lengthening lay
The massive shadow of the closing day.
"See," said the preacher, "Darkness hurries on,
But Man, toil-wearied, grieves not for the Sun;
He knows the light that leaves him shall return,
And hails the night because he trusts the morn!
Believe in God as in the Sun,—and, lo!
Along thy soul, morn's youth restored shall glow!
As rests the earth, so rest, O troubled heart,
Rest, till the burthen of the cloud depart;
Rest, till the gradual veil, from Heaven withdrawn,
Renews thy freshness as it yields the dawn!"
Behold the storm-beat wanderer in repose!
He lists the sounds at which the Heavens unclose,
Gleam, through expanding bars, the angel-wings,
And floats the music borne from seraph-strings.
Holy the oldest creed which Nature gives,
Proclaiming God where'er Creation lives;
But there the doubt will come!—the clear design
Attests the Maker and suggests the Shrine;
But in that visible harmonious plan,
What present shows the future world to man?
What lore detects, beneath our crumbling clay,
A soul exiled, and journeying back to day;
What knowledge, in the bones of charnel urns,
The etherial spark, the undying thought, discerns?
How from the universal war, the prey
Of life on life, can love explore the way?
Search the material tribes of earth, sea, air,
And the fierce Self that strives and slays is there.
What but that Self to Man doth Nature teach?
Where the charm'd link that binds the all to each?
Where the sweet Law—(doth Nature boast its birth)—
"Good will to man, and charity to earth?"
Not in the world without, but that within,
Reveal'd, not instinct—soul from sense can win!
And where the Natural halts, where cramp'd, confined,
The seen horizon bounds the baffled mind,
The Inspired begins—the onward march is given;
Bridging all space, nor ending ev'n in Heaven!
There, veil'd on earth, we mark divinely clear,
Duty and end—the There explains the Here!
We see the link that binds the future band,
Foeman with foeman gliding hand in hand;
And feel that Hate is but an hour's—the son
Of earth, to perish when the earth is done—
[Pg 79]But Love eternal; and we turn below,
To hail the brother where we loathed the foe;
There, in the soft and beautiful Belief,
Flows the true Lethé for the lips of Grief;
There, Penury, Hunger, Misery, cast their eyes,
How soon the bright Republic of the Skies!
There, Love, heart-broken, sees prepared the bower,
And hears the bridal step, and waits the nuptial hour!
There, smiles the mother we have wept! there bloom
Again the buds asleep within the tomb;
There, souls regain what hearts had lost before
In that fix'd moment call'd the—Evermore!
Refresh'd in that soft baptism, and reborn,
The Indian woke, and on the world was morn!
All things seem'd new—rose-colour'd in the skies
Shone the hoar peaks of the old memories;
No more enshrouded with unbroken gloom
Calantha's injured name and early tomb—
No more with woe (how ill-suppress'd by pride!)
Thought sounds the gulf that parts the promised bride!
Faithful no less to Death, and true to Love,
This blooms again—that shall rejoin, above!
The Stoic courage had the wound conceal'd;
The Christian hope the wound's sharp torture heal'd.
As rude the waste, but now before him shone }
The star;—he rose, and cheerful journey'd on, }
Full of the God most with us when alone! }
III.
'Tis night,—a night by fits now foul, now fair,
As speed the cloud-wracks through the gusty air:
At times the wild blast dies—and high and far,
Through chasms of cloud, looks down the solemn star—
Or the majestic moon;—so watchfires mark
Some sleeping War dim-tented in the dark;
Or so, through antique Chaos and the storm
Of Matter, whirl'd and writhing into form,
Pale angels peer'd!
Anon, from brief repose
The winds leap forth, the cloven deeps reclose;
Mass upon mass, the hurtling vapours driven,
As one huge blackness walls the earth from heaven!—
In one of these brief lulls—you see, serene,
The village church spire 'mid its mounds of green,
The scattered roof-tops of the hamlet round,
And the swoll'n rill that girds the holy ground.
[Pg 80]
A plank that rock'd above the rushing wave,
The dizzy pathway to a wanderer gave;
There, as he paused, from the lone churchyard, slow
Emerged a form the wanderer's eyes should know!
It gains the opposing margent of the stream,
Full on the face shines calm the crescent beam;
It halts upon the bridge! Now, Indian, learn
If in thy soul the heathen yet can yearn!
Swift runs the wave, the instinct and the hour,
The lonely night, when evil thoughts have power,
The foe before thee, and no things that live
To witness vengeance—Canst thou still forgive?
Scarce seen by each the face of each—when, deep
O'er the lost moon, the cloud's loud surges sweep;
Yea, as a sea devours the fated bark,
Vanish'd the heaven, and closed the abyss of dark!
You heard the roaring of the mighty blast,
The groaning trees uprooted as it pass'd
The wrath and madness of the starless rill,
Swell'd by each torrent rushing from the hill.
The slight plank creaks—high mount the waves and high,
Hark! with the tempest's shrieks the human cry!
Upon the bridge but one man now!—below,
The night of waters and the drowning foe!
The Indian heard the death-cry and the fall;
Still o'er the wild scene hung the funeral pall!
What eye can pierce the darkness of the wave? }
What hand guide rescue through the roaring grave? }
Not for such craven questions pause the brave! }
Again the moon!—again the churchyard's green,
Spire, hamlet, mead, and rill distinct are seen;
But on the bridge no form, no life! The beam
Shoots wan and broken on the tortured stream;
Vague, indistinct, what yonder moveth o'er
The troubled tide, and struggles to the shore?
Hark, where the sere bough of the tossing tree
Snaps in the grasp of some strong agony,
And the dull plunge, and stifled cry betray
Where the grim water-fiend reclasps his prey!
Still shines the moon—still halts the panting storm,
It moves again—the shadow shapes to form,
Lo! where yon bank shelves gradual, and the ray
Silvers the reed, it cleaves its vigorous way!—
Saved from the deep, but happier far to save,
The foeman wrests the foeman from the grave!
Still shines the moon—still halts the storm!—above
His sons, looks down divine the Father-Love!
[Pg 81]Upon the Indian's breast droops Arden's head,
Its marble beauty rigid as the dead.
What skill so fondly tends the soul's eclipse,
Chafes the stiff limb, and breathes in breathless lips?
Wooes back the flickering life, and when, once more,
The ebbing blood the wan cheek mantles o'er;
When stirs the pulse, when opes the glazing eye,
What voice of joy finds listeners in the sky?
"Bless thee, my God!—this mercy thine!—he lives:
Look in my heart, forgive, for it forgives!"
Then, while yet clear the heaven, he flies—he gains
The nearest roof—prompt aid his prayer obtains;
Well known the noble stranger's mien—they bear
To the rude home, and ply the zealous care;
Life with the dawn comes sure, if faint and slow,
And all night long the foeman watch'd the foe!
Day dawns on earth, still darkness wraps the mind;
Sleep pass'd, the waking is a veil more blind:
The soul, scared roughly from its mansion, glides
O'er mazy wastes through which the meteor guides.
The startled menial, who, alone of all
The hireling pomp that swarms in Arden's hall,
Attends his lord,—dismay'd lest one so high,
A rural Galen should permit to die,
Departs in haste to seek the subtler skill
Which from the College takes the right to kill;
And summon Lucy to the solemn room
To watch the father's life,—fast by the mother's tomb.
Meanwhile such facile arts as nature yields,
Draughts from the spring and simples from the fields,
Learn'd in his savage youth, the Indian plies;
The fever slakes, the cloudy darkness flies;
O'er the vex'd vision steals the lulling rest,
And Arden wakes to sense on Morvale's breast!
On Morvale's breast!—and through the noiseless door
A fearful footfall creeps, and lo! once more
Thou look'st, pale daughter, on thy father's foe!
Not with the lurid eye and menaced blow;
Not as when last, between the murtherous blade
And the proud victim, gleam'd the guardian maid—
Thy post is his!—that breast the prop supplies
That thine should yield;—as thine so watch those eyes,
Wistful and moist, that waning life above;
Recal the Heathen's hate!—behold the Christian's love!
[Pg 82]
The learned leech proclaims the danger o'er;
When life is safe, can Fate then harm no more?
The danger past for Arden, but for you
Who watch the couch, what danger threats anew?
How meet in pious duty and fond care,
In hours when through the eye the heart is bare?
How join in those soft sympathies, and yet
The earlier link, the tenderer bond forget?
How can the soul the magnet-charm withstand,
When chance brings look to look, and hand to hand!
No, Indian, no—if yet the power divine
Above the laws of our low world be thine;
If yet the Honour which thy later creed
Softens, not quells, revere the injured dead,
Fly, ere the full heart cries, "I love thee still"—
And find thy guardian in the angel—WILL!
That power was his!
Along the landscape lay
The hazy rime of winter's dawning day:
Snake-like the curving mists betray'd the rill,
The last star gleam'd upon the Eastern hill,
Still slept beneath the leafless trees the herd;
Still mute the sharp note of the sunless bird;
No sound, no life; as to some hearth, bereft
By death, of welcome, since his wanderings left,
Comes back the traveller;—so to earth, forlorn
Returns the ungreeted melancholy Morn.
Forth from the threshold stole the Indian!—far
Spread the dim land beneath the waning star.
Alas! how wide the world his heart will find
Who leaves one spot—the heart's true home, behind!
He paused—one upward look upon the gloom
Of the closed casement, the love-hallow'd room,
Where yet, perchance, while happier Suffering slept
Its mournful vigil tender Duty kept;
One prayer! What mercy taught us prayer?—as dews
On drooping herbs—as sleep tired life renews,
As dreams that lead, and lap our griefs in Heaven,
To souls through Prayer, dew, sleep, and dream, are given!
So bow'd, not broken, and with manly will,
Onwards he strode, slow up the labouring hill!
If Lucy mourn'd his absence, not before
Her sire's dim eyes the face of grief she wore;
Haply her woman heart divined the spell
Of her own power, by flight proclaim'd too well;
[Pg 83]And not in hours like these may self control
The generous empire of a noble soul:
Lo, her first thought, first duty—the soft reign
Of Woman—patience by the bed of pain!
As mute the father, yet to him made clear
The cause of flight untold to Lucy's ear;
Thus ran the lines that met, at morn, his eyes:—
"Farewell! my place a daughter now supplies!—
Thou hast pass'd the gates of Death, and bright once more
Smile round thy steps the sunlight and the shore.
Farewell; and if a soul, where hatred's gall
Melts into pardon that embalmeth all,
Can with forgiveness bless thee;—from remorse
Can pluck the stone which interrupts the course
Of thought to God;—and bid the waters rest
Calm in Heaven's smile,—poor fellow-man, be blest!
I, that can aid no more, now need an aid
Against myself; by mine own thoughts dismay'd:
I dare not face thy child—I may not dare
To commune with my heart—thy child is there!
I hear a voice that whispers hope, and start
In shame, to shun the tempter and depart.
How vile the pardon that I yield would seem,
If shaped and colour'd from the egoist's dream;
A barter'd compromise with thoughts that take
The path of conscience but for passion's sake—
If with the pardon I could say—'The Tomb
Devours the Past, so let the Moment bloom,
And see Calantha's brother reconciled,
Kneel to Calantha's lover, for his child!'
It may not be; sad sophists were our vain
Desires, if Right were not a code so plain;
In good or ill leave casusits on the shelf,
'He never errs who sacrifices self!'"
Great Natures, Arden, thy strange lot to know
And lose!—twin souls thy mistress and thy foe!
How flash'd they, high and starry, through the dull
World's reeking air—earnest and beautiful!
Erring perchance, and yet divinely blind,
Such hero errors purify our kind!
One noble fault that springs from Self's disdain
May oft more grace in Angel eyes obtain,
Than a whole life, without a seeming flaw,
Which served but Heaven, because of Earth in awe,
Which in each act has loss or profit weigh'd,
And kept with Virtue the accounts of Trade!
He too was born, lost Idler, to be great,
The sins that dwarf'd, he had a soul to hate.
[Pg 84]Ambition, Ease, Example had beguiled,
And our base world in fawning had defiled;
Yet still, contrasting all he did, he dream'd;
And through the Wordling's life the Poet gleam'd.
His eye not blind to Virtue; to his ear
Still spoke the music of the banish'd sphere;
Still in his thought the Ideal, though obscured,
Shamed the rank meteor which his sense allured.
Wreck if he was, the ruin yet betray'd
The shatter'd fane for gods departed made;
And still, through weeds neglected and o'erthrown,
The blurr'd inscription show'd the altar-stone.
So scorn'd he not, as folly or as pride,
The lofty code which made the Indian's guide;
But from that hour a subtle change came o'er
The thoughts he veil'd, the outward mien he wore;
A mournful, weary gloom, a pall'd distaste
Of all the joys so warmly once embraced.
His eye no more looks onward. but its gaze
Rests where Remorse a life misspent surveys:
What costly treasures strew that waste behind;
What whirlwinds daunt the soul that sows the wind!
By the dark shape of what he is, serene
Stands the bright ghost of what he might have been:
Here the vast loss, and there the worthless gain—
Vice scorn'd, yet woo'd, and Virtue loved in vain.
'Tis said, the Nightingale, who hears the thrill
Of some rich lute, made vocal by sweet skill,
To match the music strains its wild essay,
Feels its inferior art, and envying, pines away:
So, waked at last, and scarcely now confest,
Pined the still Poet in the Worldling's breast!
So with the Harmony of Good, compared
Its lesser self—so languish'd and despair'd.
Awhile, from land to land he idly roved,
And join'd life's movement with a heart unmoved.
No more loud cities ring with Arden's name,
Applaud his faults, and call his fashion "Fame!"
Disgust with all things robes him as he goes,
In that pale virtue, Vice, when weary, knows.
Yet his, at least, one rescue from the past;
His, one sweet comfort—Lucy's love at last!
That bed of pain o'er which she had watch'd and wept—
That grave, where Love forgot its wrongs and slept—
That touching sorrow and that still remorse
Unlock'd her heart, and gave the stream its course.
[Pg 85]From her own grief, by griefs more dark beguiled,
Rose the consoling Angel in the Child!
Yet still the calm disease, whose mute decay
No leech arrests, crept gradual round its prey.
Death came, came gently, on his daughter's breast,
Murm'ring, "Remember where this dust should rest."
They bear the last Lord of that haughty race
Where winds the wave round Mary's dwelling-place;
And side by side (oh, be it in the sky
As in the earth!)—the long-divided lie!
Doth life's last act one wrong at least repair—
His nameless child to wealth at least the heir?
So Arden's will decreed—so sign'd the hand;
So ran the text—not so Law rules the land:
"I do bequeath unto my child,"[Y]—that word
Alone on strangers has the wealth conferr'd.
O'erjoy'd Law's heirs the legal blunder read,
And Justice cancels Nature from the deed.
O moral world! deal sternly if thou wilt
With the warm weakness as the wily guilt,
But spare the harmless! Wherefore shall the child
Be from the pale which shelters Crime exiled?
Why heap such barriers round the sole redress
Which sin can give to sinless wretchedness?
Why must the veriest stranger thrust aside
Our flesh—our blood, because a name's denied?
Give all thou hast to whomsoe'er thou please,
Foe, alien, knave, as whim so Law decrees;
But if thy heart speaks, if thy conscience cries—
"I give my child"—the law thy voice belies;
Chicanery balks all effort that atones,
And Justice robs the wretch that Nature owns!
So abject, so despoil'd, so penniless,
Stood thy love-born in the world's wilderness,
O Lord of lands and towers, and princely sway!
O Dust, from whom with breath has pass'd away
[Pg 86]The humblest privilege the beggar finds
In rags that wrap his infant from the winds!
In the poor hamlet where her grandsire died,
Where sleeps her mother by the magnate's side,
The orphan found a home. Her story known,
Men's hearts allow the right men's laws disown.
Though lost the birthright, and denied the name,
Her pastor-grandsire's virtues shield from shame;
Pity seeks kind pretext to pour its balms,
And yields light toils that saves the pride from alms.
A soft respect the orphan's steps attends,
And the sharp thorn at least the rose defends.
So flows o'ershadow'd, but not darksome by,
Her life's lone stream—the banks admit the sky
Day's quiet taskwork o'er, when Ev'ning grey
Lists the last carol on the quivering spray,
When lengthening shades reflect the distant hill,
And the near spire, upon the lullëd rill;
Her sole delight with pensive step to glide
Along the path that winds the wave beside,
A moment pausing on the bridge, to mark
Perchance the moonlight vista through the dark:
Or watch the eddy where the wavelets play
Round the chafed stone that checks their happy way,
Then onward stealing, vanish from the view,
Where the star shimmers on the solemn yew,
As shade from earth and starlight from the sky
Meet—and repose on Death's calm mystery.
Moons pass'd—Behold the blossom on the spray!
Hark to the linnet!—On the world is May!
Green earth below and azure skies above;
May calling life to joy, and youth to love;
While Age, charm'd back to rosy hours awhile,
Hears the lost vow, and sees the vanish'd smile.
And does not May, lone Child, revive in thee,
Blossom and bud and mystic melody;
Does not the heart, like earth, imbibe the ray?
Does not the year's recal thy life's sweet May?
When like an altar to some happy bride,
Shone all creation by the loved one's side?
Yes, Exile, yes—that Empire is thine own,
Rove where thou wilt, awaits thee still thy throne!
Lo, where the paling cheek, the unconscious sigh,
The slower footstep, and the heavier eye,
Betray the burthen of sweet thoughts and mute,
The slight tree bows beneath the golden fruit!
[Pg 87]
'Tis eve. The orphan gains the holy ground, }
And listening halts;—the boughs that circle round }
Vex'd by no wind, yet rustle with a sound, }
As if that gentle form had scared some lone
Unwonted step more timid than its own!
All still once more; perchance some daunted bird,
That loves the night, the murmuring leaves had stirr'd?
She nears the tomb—amaze!—what hand unknown
Has placed those pious flowers upon the stone?
Why beats her heart? why hath the electric mind,
Whose act, whose hand, whose presence there, divined?
Why dreading, yearning, turn those eyes to meet
The adored, the lost?—Behold him at her feet!
His, those dark eyes that seek her own through tears,
His hand that clasps, and his the voice she hears,
Broken and faltering—"Is the trial past?
Here, by the dead, art thou made mine at last?
Far—in far lands I heard thy tale!—And thou
Orphan and lone!—no bar between us now!
No Arden now calls up the wrong'd and lost;
Lo, in this grave appeased the upbraiding ghost!
Orphan, I am thy father now!—Bereft
Of all beside,—this heart at least is left.
Forgive, forgive—Oh, canst thou yet bestow
One thought on him, to whom thou art all below?
Who could desert but to remember more?
Canst thou the Heaven, the exile lost, restore?
Canst thou——"
The orphan bow'd her angel head;
Breath blent with breath—her soul her silence said;
Eye unto eye, and heart to heart reveal'd;—
And lip on lip the eternal nuptials seal'd!
The Moon breaks forth—one silver stream of light
Glides from its fount in heaven along the night—
Flows in still splendour through the funeral gloom
Of yews,—and widens as it clasps the tomb—
Through the calm glory hosts as calm above
Look on the grave—and by the grave is Love!

FOOTNOTES

[A] Where now stands St. James's palace stood the hospital dedicated to St. James, for the reception of fourteen leprous maidens.

[B] Charles the First attended divine service in the Royal Chapel immediately before he walked through the park to his scaffold at Whitehall. In the palace of St. James's, Monk and Sir John Granville schemed for the restoration of Charles II.

[C] The Sanscrit term, denoting the mixture or confusion of classes; applied to that large portion of the Indian population excluded from the four pure castes.

[D] According to Eastern commentators, the march of the Israelites in the Desert was in a charmed circle; every morning they set out on their journey, and every night found themselves on the same spot as that from which the journey had commenced.

[E] The Tilt-yard.

[F] Since this was written, to Buckingham Palace has been prefixed a front which is not without merit—in thrusting out of sight the other three sides of the building.

[G] The reader need scarcely be reminded, that these lines were written years before the fatal accident which terminated an illustrious life. If the lines be so inadequate to the subject, the author must state freely that he had the misfortune to differ entirely from the policy pursued by Sir Robert Peel at the time they were written; while if that difference forbade panegyric, his respect for the man checked the freedom of satire. The author will find another occasion to attempt, so far as his opinions on the one hand, and his reverence on the other, will permit—to convey a juster idea of Sir Robert Peel's defects or merits, perhaps as a statesman, at least as an orator.

[H] Lord Stanley's memorable exclamation on a certain occasion which now belongs to history,—"Johnny's upset the coach!" Never was coach upset with such perfect sang-froid on the part of the driver.

[I] Written before Sir Robert's avowed abandonment of protection. Prophetic.

[J] "One of the most remarkable pictures of ancient manners which has been transmitted to us, is that in which the poet Gower describes the circumstances under which he was commanded by King Richard II.—

        'To make a book after his hest.'

The good old rhymer—— ... had taken boat, and upon the broad river he met the king in his stately barge.... The monarch called him on board his own vessel, and desired him to book 'some new thing.'—This was the origin of the Confessio Amantis."—Knight's London, vol. i. art. The Silent Highway.

[K] "What a picture Hall gives us of the populousness of the Thames, in the story which he tells us of the Archbishop of York (brother to the King-maker), after leaving the widow of Edward IV. in the sanctuary of Westminster, 'sitting below on the rushes all desolate and dismayed,' and when he opened his windows and looked on the Thames, he might see the river full of boats of the Duke of Gloucester his servants, watching that no person should go to sanctuary, nor none should pass unsearched."—Id. ibid.

[L] A favourite rendezvous a few years since (and probably even still) for the heroes of that fraternity, more dear to Mercury than to Themis, was held at Devereux Court, occupying a part of the site on which stood the residence of the Knights Templars.

[M] The Amrita is the name given by the mythologists of Thibet to the heavenly tree which yields its ambrosial fruits to the gods.

[N] The Champac, a flower of a bright gold-colour, with which the Indian women are fond of adorning their hair. Moore alludes to the custom in the "Veiled Prophet."

"The maid of India blest again to hold
In her full lap the Champac's leaves of gold," &c.

[O] The perfumes from the island of Rhodes,—to which the roses that still bloom there gave the ancient name,—are wafted for miles over the surrounding seas.

[P] The Psyche of Naples, the most intellectual and (so to speak) the most Christian of all the dreams of beauty which Grecian art has embodied in the marble.

[Q] Every one knows, through the version of Mrs. Tighe, the lovely allegory of Eros and Psyche, which Apuleius—the neglected original, to whom all later romance writers are unconsciously indebted—has bequeathed to the delight of poets and the recognition of Christians.

[R] The reader will bear in mind these lines, important to the clearness of the story; and remember that Calantha bore a different name from her half-brother—that her mother's unnatural prejudice or pride of race had forbidden her ever to mention that brother's name; and that, therefore, her relationship to Morvale, until he sought her out, was wholly unknown to all: the reader will remember, also, that during Calantha's subsequent residence in Morvale's house, she lived as woman lives in the East, and was consequently never seen by her brother's guests.

[S] "At best it babies us."—Young.

[T] "For, oh! he stood before me as my youth."—Coleridge's Wallenstein.

[U] The beautiful story of Aimée—the delight of all children—is in the collection entitled "The Temple of the Fairies."

[V] According to the exploded hypothesis of Voltaire, that the Gipsies are a Syrian tribe, the remains of the long scattered fraternity of Isis.

[W] Whoever is well acquainted with the heathen learning must often have been deeply impressed with the mournful character of the mythological Elysium. Even the few admitted to the groves of asphodel, unpurified by death, retain the passions and pine with the griefs of life; they envy the mortal whom the poet brings to their moody immortality; and, amidst the disdained repose, sigh for the struggle and the storm.

[X] Not only were the lofty and cheering notions of the soul, that were cherished by the more illustrious philosophers of Greece, confined to a few, but even the grosser and dimmer belief in a future state, which the vulgar mythology implied, was not entertained by the multitude. Plato remarked that few, even in his day, had faith in the immortality of the soul; and indeed the Hades of the ancients was not for the Many. Amongst those condemned we find few criminals, except the old Titans, and such as imitated them in the one crime—blasphemy to the fabled gods: and the dwellers of Elysium are chiefly confined to the poets and the heroes, the oligarchy of earth.

[Y] If a man wishes to leave a portion to his natural child, his lawyer will tell him to name the child as if it were a stranger to his blood. If he says, "I leave to John Tompson, of Baker-street, £10,000," John Tompson may probably get the legacy; if he says, "I leave to my son, John Tompson, of Baker-street, £10,000," and the said John Tompson is his son (a natural one), it is a hundred to one if John Tompson ever touches a penny! Up springs the Inhuman Law, with its multiform obstacles, quibbles, and objections—proof of identity—evidence of birth!—Many and many a natural child has thus been robbed and swindled out of his sole claim upon redress—his sole chance of subsistence. In most civilised countries a father is permitted to own the offspring, whom, unless he do so, he has wronged at its very birth—whom, if he do not so, he wrongs irremedially; with us the error is denied reparation, and the innocence is sentenced to outlawry. Our laws, with relation to illegitimate children, are more than unjust—they are inhuman.


[Pg 88]

CONSTANCE; OR, THE PORTRAIT.

PART THE FIRST.

I.
On Avon's stream, in day's declining hours,
The loitering Angler sees reflected towers;
Adown the hill the stately shadows glide,
And force their frown upon the gentle tide:
Another shade, as stately and as slow,
Steals down the slope and dims the peace below:
There, side by side, your noiseless shadows fall,
Time-wearied Lord, and time-defying hall!
As Song's sweet Master fled the roar of Rome,
For the Bandusian fount and Sabine home,
A soul forsook the beaten tracks of life,
Sought the lone bye-path and escaped the strife;
And paused, reviving 'mid the haunts of youth,
To conjure fancies back, or muse on truth.
One home there is, from which, howe'er we stray,
True as a star, the smile pursues our way;
The home of thoughtful childhood's mystic tears,
Of earliest Sabbath bells on sinless ears,
Of noonday dreamings under summer trees,
And prayers first murmur'd at a mother's knees.
Ah! happy he, whose later home as man
Is made where Love first spoke, and Hope began,
Where haunted floors dear footsteps back can give,
And in our Lares all our fathers live!
Graced with those gifts the vulgar mostly prize,
And if used wisely, precious to the wise,
Wealth and high lineage;—Ruthven's name was known
Less for ancestral greatness than its own:
With boyhood's dreams the grand desire began
Which, nerved by labour, lifts from rank the man
[Pg 89]Ev'n as the eye in Art's majestic halls
Not on the frame but on the portrait falls;
So to each nobler life the gaze we bound,
Nor heed what casework clasps the picture round.
But who can guess that crisis of the soul
When the old glory first forsakes the goal?
When Knowledge halts and sees but cloud before;
When sour'd Experience whispers 'hope no more;'
When every onward footstep from our side
Parts the slow friend or hesitating guide;
When envy rots the harvest in the sheaf;
When faith in virtue seems the child's belief;
And life's last music sighs itself away
On some false lip, that kiss'd but to betray?
Thus from a world that wrong'd him, self-exiled,
The man resought the birthplace of the child.
Rest comes betimes, if toil commence too soon;
The brightest sun is stillest at the noon;
Weary at mid-day, genius halts the course,
And hails the respite which renews the force.
II.
Deep in the vale from which those towers arose,
A life more shatter'd, sought more late repose;
In Seaton long had men and marts obey'd
The unerring hierarch in thy temple, Trade.
Trade, the last earth-god; whom the Olympian Power
Begot on Danaë, as the Golden Shower,
To whose young hands the weary Jove resign'd.
Some ages since, the scales that weigh mankind.
But that dire Fate, who Jove himself controll'd,
Still shakes the urn, although the lots are gold:
Reverses came, the whirlwind of a day
Swept the strong labours of a life away;
Rased out of sight whate'er is sold or bought,
And left but name and honour—men said "nought."
True, knavery whisper'd, "Only still disguise:
Credit is generous, if you blind its eyes;
The borrow'd prop arrests the house's fall,
And one rich chance may yet reconquer all."
There on his priest the earth-god lost control,
And from the wreck the merchant saved his soul
"Alone, I rose," he said; "I fall alone—
Nor one man's ruin shall accuse mine own."
And so, life passing from the gorgeous stage,
The curtain fell on Poverty and Age.

[Pg 90]

III.
Yet one fair flower survived the common dearth,
And one sweet voice gave music still to earth;
On Fortune's victim Nature pitying smiled;
"Still rich!" the father cried, and clasp'd his child.
Beautiful Constance!—As the icy air
Congeals the earth, to make more clear the star,
So the meek soul look'd lovelier from thine eyes,
Through the sharp winter of the alter'd skies.
Yet the soft child had memories unconfess'd,
And griefs that wept not on a father's breast.
In brighter days, such love as fancy knows
(That youngest love whose couch is in the rose)
Had sent the shaft, which, when withdrawn in haste,
Leaves not a scar by which the wound is traced;
But if it rest, more fatal grows the smart,
And deepening from the surface, gains the heart;
In truth, young Harcourt had the gifts that please,—
Wit without effort, beauty worn with ease;
The courtier's mien to veil the miser's soul,
And that self-love which brings such self-control.
High-born, but poor, no Corydon was he
To dream of love and cots in Arcady;
His tastes were like the Argonauts of old,
And only pastoral if the fleece was gold.
The less men feel, the better they can feign—
To act a Romeo, needs it Romeo's pain?
No, the calm master of the Histrio's art
Keeps his head coolest while he storms your heart;
Thus, our true mime no boundary overstept,
Charm'd when he smiled, and conquer'd when he wept.
Meanwhile, what pass'd the father had not guess'd,
Nor learn'd the courtship till the suit was press'd;
Then prudence woke, and judgment, grown austere, }
Join'd trade's slow caution with affection's fear, }
And whisper'd this wise counsel—"Wait a year!" }
In vain the lover pleaded to the maid;
"A year soon passes," Constance smiling said.
Just then—for Harcourt's service was the sword—
Duty ordain'd what gentle taste abhorr'd;
Cursed by a country which at times forgets
It boasts an empire where the sun ne'er sets,
Some isle, resentful of our lax control,
Rebels on purpose to distract his soul.
A month had scorch'd him on that hateful shore,
When paled those charms to which such faith he swore;
[Pg 91]News came that left to Constance not a grace,
The sire's reverses changed the daughter's face;—
"Oh heavens!—so handsome! Gone in one short hour!"
"What," quoth a friend, "The Lady?"
"No, the dower."
IV.
Yet still, fair Constance in her lone retreat
Cheer'd the dull hours with faithful self-deceit;
What though no tidings came to brighten time,
To doubt of Harcourt seem'd less grief than crime.
Easier to blame the elements unkind,
The distant clime, the ocean, and the wind,
Think them all leagued to intercept the scroll,
Than place distrust where soul confides in soul.
But ever foremost in her wish was yet
To hide remembrance lest it seem'd regret;
That in her looks this comfort still might be,
"Father, I smile—and joy yet lives for thee!"
Thus Seaton deem'd her childish fancy flown;
To the worn mind fresh hearts are realms unknown;
As we live on, the finer tints of truth
Fade from the landscape.—Age is blind to youth.

PART THE SECOND.

I.
Oft to a creek, in Shakspeare's haunted stream,
What time the noon invites of song to dream,
Where stately oak with silver poplar weaves
The hospitable shade of amorous leaves,
And, lightly swerved by winding shores askance,
The limpid river wreathes its flying dance,[A]
Young Constance came;—a bank with wild flowers drest
As for a fairy's sleep, her sylvan rest.
Behind, the woodlands, opening, left a glade,
With swards all sunshine in the midst of shade;
[Pg 92]Save where pale lilacs droop'd against the ray
Around the cot which meekly shunn'd the day:
But stern and high, above the deep repose
Of vale and wave, the towers of Ruthven rose;
Like souls unshelter'd because high they are,
The nearer heaven the more from peace afar;
Built by the mighty Architect, to form
Bulwarks for man, and battle with the storm;
To soar and suffer with defying crest,
And guard the humble, not partake their rest.
A lonely spot! at times a passing oar
Dash'd the wave quicker to the gradual shore;
But swift, as, when some footfall nears her lair,
Starts the fond cushat from her tender care,
Silence came back, with wings that seem'd to brood
In watch more loving over solitude.
II.
Thus Constance sate, by some sweet sorcerer's rhyme
Charm'd into worlds beyond the marge of Time,
When a dim shadow o'er the herbage stole,
And light boughs stirr'd above the violet knoll;
In vain the shadow stole, the light bough stirr'd,
Her sense yet spell-bound by the magic word;
Spell-bound no less, his steps the stranger stay'd—
And gazed as Cymon on the sleeping Maid.—
And, oh! that brow so angel-clear from guile,
That childlike lip unconscious of its smile,
That virgin bloom where blushes went and came
From deeps of feeling never stirr'd by shame,
Seem'd like the Una of the Poet's page
Charm'd into life by some bright Archimage.
Not till each gaudier Venus crowds adore,
And desecrate adoring—dupes no more,
Comes the true Goddess, by her blushes known—
The dove her symbol, innocence her zone!
At the first glance her birth the Urania proves.
Heaven smiles, and Nature blossoms where she moves.
III.
The virgin rose; the gazer quick withdrew;
The favouring thicket closed her form from view.
Slow went she homeward up the sunlit ground;
Unseen he followed, where the woodlands wound;
The spell that first arrested now lured on,
And in that spell a frown from earth seem'd gone.
[Pg 93]As in the languid noon of summer day
Birds fold the pinion and suspend the lay—
So hopes lie silent in the human heart
Till all at once the choirs to music start,
From the long hush rejoicing wings arise,
Sport round the blooms, or glance into the skies.
IV.
She gain'd the cot; irresolute he stood,
Where the wall ceased amidst the circling wood,
When voices rude and sudden jarr'd his ear,
And thro' the din came woman's wail of fear;
Then all grew silent as he gain'd the door
Which gaped ajar;—he cross'd the threshold floor:
Now sounds more low;—he still pass'd on and saw,
Track'd to its covert, Want at bay with Law.—
The Daughter clinging to the Father's breast;
The Father's struggle from the clasp that press'd;
The hard officials, with familiar leer
And ribald comfort barb'd with cynic sneer;
On these, the Lord of lavish thousands glanced,
Law louted lowly as that Wealth advanced.
"And what this old Man's crime?"—"My orders say,"
Quoth Law, and smiled—"a debt he cannot pay!"
Then from his child the poor proud captive broke—
Sign'd to the door—raised moistening eyes, and spoke—
"I thank thee, Heaven! that in my prosperous time
I was not harsh to others—for this crime;
Sirs, I am ready!"—Ere the word was o'er,
The parchment fell in fragments on the floor.
"The crime is rased!" cried Wealth.—"My Lord," said Law,
"I humbly thank your Lordship, and withdraw."
V.
Hat'st thou the world, O Misanthrope, austere?
Do one kind act, and all the world grows dear!
Say'st thou—"Alas, kind acts requited ill,
Made me loathe men!"—I answer, "Do them still."
On its own wings should Good itself upbuoy;
Rejoicing heaven, because it feels but joy.—
Oft from that date did Ruthven gaily come,
Where hope, revived, with Constance found a home;
Well did he soothe the griefs his host had known,
But well—too proud for pity—veil'd his own.
Silent, he watch'd the gentle daughter's soul,
Scann'd every charm, and peerless found the whole,
[Pg 94]He spoke not love; and if his looks betray'd,
The anxious Sire was wiser than the Maid.
Still, ever listening, on her lips he hung,
Hush'd when she spoke—enraptured when she sung;
And when the hues her favourite art bestow'd,
Like a new hope from the fair fancy glow'd,
As the cold canvas with the image warms,
As from the blank start forth the breathing forms,
So would he look within him, and compare
With those mute shapes the new-born phantoms there.
Upon the mind, as on the canvas rose,
The young fresh world the Ideal only knows;
The world of which both Art and Passion are
Builders;—to this so near—from this so far.
What music charm'd the verse on which she gazed!—
How doubly dear the poet that she praised!
And when he spoke, and from the affluent mind
That books had stored, and intercourse refined,
Pour'd forth the treasures,—still his choice addrest
To her mild heart what seem'd to please it best;
And yet the maiden dream'd not that he loved
Who flatter'd never, and at times reproved—
Reproved—but, oh, so tenderly! and ne'er
But for such faults as soils the purest bear;
A trust too liberal in our common race,
Dividing scarce the noble from the base,
A sight too dazzled by the outward hues—
A sense though clear, too timid to refuse;
Yielding the course that it would fain pursue,
Still to each guide that proffer'd it the clue;
And that soft shrinking into self—allied,
If half to Diffidence—yet half to Pride.
He loved her, and she loved him not; revered
His lofty nature, and in reverence fear'd.
The glorious gifts—the kingly mind she saw,
Yet seeing felt not tenderness, but awe.
And the dark beauty of his musing eye
Chill'd back the heart, from which it woo'd reply:
Harcourt—the gay—the prodigal of youth,
Still charm'd her fancy, while he chain'd her truth.
VI.
Seaton, meanwhile, the heart of Ruthven read,
With hopes which robb'd the future of its dread;
Could he but live to see his child the bride
Of one so wise, so kind, lover at once and guide!
Silent at first, at last the deeps o'er-flow'd.
One eve they sate without their calm abode,
[Pg 95]Father and Child, and mark'd the vermeil glow
Of clouds that floated where the sun set slow;
But on the opposing towers of Ruthven shone
The last sweet splendour, and when gradual gone,
Left to the space above that grand decay
The rosiest tints, and last to fade away.
The Father mused; then with impulsive start
Turn'd and drew Constance closer to his heart,
Murmuring—"Ah, there, let but thy lot be cast,
And Fate withdraws all sadness from the past.
Blest be the storm that wreck'd us, here to find
One whom my soul had singled from mankind
If mine the palace still, and his the cot,—
For that sweet prize which Fortune withers not."
Then, wrapt too fondly in his tender dream
To note his listener, he pursues the theme.
Pale as the dead, she hears his gladness speak,
Sees the rare smile illume the careworn cheek;
Dear if the lover in her sunny day,
More dear the Sire since sunshine pass'd away.
How dare to say,—"No, let thy smile depart,
And take back sorrow from a daughter's heart?"
VII.
And while they sate, along the sward below
Came Ruthven's stately form, and footstep slow;
She saw—she fled—her chamber gain'd—and there
Sobb'd out that grief which youth believes despair.
Thenceforth her solitude was desolate;
Forebodings chill'd her as a shade from Fate.
At Ruthven's step her colour changed—and dread
Hush'd her low voice: such signs his hope misled.
Hope, to its own vain dreams the idle seer,
Whisper'd—"First love comes veil'd in virgin fear!"
And now, o'er Harcourt's image, as the rust
O'er the steel mirror, crept at length distrust.
The ordeal year already pass'd away,
And still no voice came o'er the dreary sea;
No faithful joy to cry—"The ordeal's past,
And loved as ever, thou art mine at last."
VIII.
But Ruthven's absence now, if not to grief,
At least to one vague terror, gave relief:
For days, for weeks, some cause, unknown to all,
Had won the lonely Master from his hall.—
[Pg 96]Much Seaton marvell'd! half disposed to blame; }
"Gone, and no word ev'n absence to proclaim!" }
When, sudden as he went, the truant came. }
Franker his brow, and brighter was his look,
And with a warmer clasp his host's wan hand he took:
"Joy to thee, friend, thy race is not yet o'er,
Thy fortunes still thy genius shall restore:
Thy house from ruin reascends, to stand
Firm as of old, a column of the land.—
Joy, Seaton, joy!"—"O mock me not—Explain!
The bark once sunk beneath the obdurate main,
No tide throws up!"—"New galleons Fortune gives.
Fortune ne'er dies for him whose honour lives."—
"Is fortune not the usurer?—Kind while yet
The hand that borrows may repay the debt;
When all is lavish'd, she hath nought to lend!"
"But can she give not? Hast thou call'd me Friend?"
He paused, and glanced on Constance—while his breast
Heaved with the tumult which the lip represt.
Till she, but looking on her father's face,
In his joy joyous,—sprang from his embrace,
Before the Benefactor paused, and bow'd;
Falter'd a blessing, knelt, and wept aloud:
"Not there, not there, O Constance," Ruthven cried,
"Here be thy place—for ever side by side!
Thanks—and to me!—Ah no! the boon be thine,
Thy heart the generous, and the grateful mine.
Oh pardon—if my soul its suit delay'd
Till the world's dross the worldly equal made;
And left to thee to grant and me receive
Man's earliest treasures—Paradise and Eve!
Beloved one, speak! Not mine the silver tongue,
And toil leaves manhood nought that lures the young;
But in these looks is truth—these accents, love:
And in thy faith all that survive above
The graves of Time, as in Elysium meet!—
Hope flies to thee as to its last retreat."
Speechless she heard—till, as he paused, the voice
Of the fond Sire usurp'd and doom'd the choice:
"May she repay thee!" In his own he drew
Her hand and Ruthven's, smiled and join'd the two—
"Ah! could I make thee happy,"—thus she said
And ceased:—her sentence in his eyes she read—
Eyes that the rashness of delight reveal:
Love gave the kiss, and Fate received the seal.

[Pg 97]

PART THE THIRD.

I.
Between two moments in the life of man
An airy bridge divided worlds may span;
Fine as the hair which sways beneath a soul
By Azrael summon'd to the spectre goal,
It springs abrupt from that sharp point in time
Where, soft behind us in its orient clime,
Lies the lost garden-land of young Romance:
Beyond, with cloud upon the cold expanse,
Looms rugged Duty;—and betwixt them swell
Abysmal deeps, in which to fall were hell.
O thou, who tread'st along that trembling line,
The stedfast step, the onward gaze be thine!
Dread Memory most!—the light thou leav'st would blind,
Thy foot betrays thee if thou look behind!
If Constance yet escaped not from the past,
At least she strove:—the chain may break at last.
Veil'd by the smile, Grief can so safely grieve:
Love that confides, a smile can so deceive:
And Ruthven kneeling at the altar's base
Guess'd not the idol which profaned the place;
But smiles forsake when secret hours bestow
The angry self-confessional of woe;
When trembling thought and stern-eyed conscience meet,
And truth rebukes ev'n duty for deceit.
Ah! what a world were this if all were known,
And smiles on others track'd to tears alone!
Oft, had he seem'd less lofty to her eye,
Her soul had spoken and confess'd its lie:
But sometimes natures least obscured by clay
Shine through an awe that scares the meek away;
And, near as life may seem to life,—alas!
Each hath closed portals, nought but love can pass.
Thus the resolve, in absence nursed, forsook
Her lip, and died, abash'd, before his look;
His foes his virtues—honour seem'd austere,
And all most reverenced most provoked the fear.

[Pg 98]

II.
Pass by some weeks: to London Seaton went,
His genius glorying in its wonted vent;
New props are built, and new foundations laid,
And once more rose thy crowded temple—Trade!
Then back the sire and daughter bent their way,
There, where the troth was pledged, let Hymen claim the day!
With Constance came a friend of earlier years,
Partner of childhood's smiles and pangless tears;
Leaf intertwined with leaf, their youth together
Ripen'd to bloom through life's first April weather.
To Juliet Constance had no care untold,
Here grief found sympathy and wept consoled;
On woman's pitying heart could woman here
Mourn perish'd hope, or pour remorseful fear;
And breathe those prayers which woman breathes for one,
Who fading from her world is still its sun.
These made their commune, when from darkening skies,
Pale as lost joys, stars gleam'd on tearful eyes.
They guess'd not how the credulous gaze of love
Dwelt on the moon that rose their roof above,
Saw as on Latmos fall the enchanted beams—
And bless'd the Dian for Endymion's dreams.
III.
Meanwhile, to England Harcourt's steps return'd,
And Seaton's new-born state the earliest news he learn'd:
What the emotions of this injured man?
He had a friend—and thus his letter ran:
"Back to this land, where merit starves obscure,
Where wisdom says—'Be anything but poor,'
Return'd, my eyes the path to wealth explore,
And straight I hear—'Constance is rich once more!'
Thou know'st, my friend, with what a dexterous craft
I 'scaped the cup a tenderer dupe had quaff'd;
For in the chalice misery holds to life,
What drop more nauseous than a dowerless wife?
Yet she was fair, and gentle, charming—all
That man would make his partner at a ball!
And, for the partner of a life, what more?
Plate at the board, a porter at the door!
Cupid and Plutus, though they oft divide,
If bound to Hymen should walk side by side;
A boon companion halves the longest way,—
When Plutus join'd, I own that Love was gay;
But Plutus left, where Hymen did begin,
The way look'd dreary and the God gave in:
[Pg 99]Now his old comrade once more is bestow'd,
And Cupid starts refresh'd upon the road.
'But how,' thou ask'st, 'how dupe again the ear,
In which thy voice slept silent for a year?
And how explain, how'—Why impute to thee
Questions whose folly thy quick glance can see?
Who loves is ever glad to be deceived,
Who lies the most is still the most believed.
Somewhat I trust to Eloquence and Art,
And where these fail—thank Heaven she has a heart!
More it disturbs me that some rumours run,
That Constance, too, can play the faithless one;
That, where round pastoral meads blue streamlets purl,
Chloë has found a Thyrsis—in an Earl!
And oh! that Ruthven! Hate is not for me;
Who loves not, hates not,—both bad policy!
Yet could I hate, through all the earth I know
But that one man my soul would honour so.
Through ties remote—by some Scotch grand-dam's side,
We are, if scarce related, yet allied;
And had his mother been a barren dame,
Mine were those lands, and mine that lordly name:
Nay, if he die without an heir, ev'n yet—
Oh, while I write, perchance the seal is set!
Farewell! a letter speeds to her retreat,
The prayer that wafts her Harcourt to her feet;
There to explain the past—his faith defend,
And claim, et cetera—Yours, in haste, my friend!"
IV.
To Constance came a far less honest scroll,
Yet oh, each word seem'd vivid from the soul!
Fear, hope—reports that madden'd, yet could stir
No faith in one who ne'er could doubt of her:
Wild vows renew'd—complaints of no replies
To lines unwrit; the eloquence of lies!
And more than all, the assurance still too dear,
Of Love surviving that vast age—a year!
Such were the tidings to the maiden borne,
And—woe the day—upon her Bridal Morn!
V.
It was the loving twilight's rosiest hour,
The Love-star trembled on the ivied tower,
As through the frowning archway pass'd the bride,
With Juliet, whispering courage, by her side;
For Ruthven went before, that first of all
His voice might welcome to his father's hall:
[Pg 100]There, on the antique walls, the lamp from high
Show'd the stern wrecks of battle-storms gone by.
Gleam'd the blue mail, indented with the glaive,
Droop'd the dull banner, breezeless, on the stave;
Below the Gothic masks, grotesque and grim,
Carved from the stonework, like a wizard's whim,
Hung the accoutrements that lent a grace
To the old warrior-pastime of the chase.
Cross-bows by hands, long dust, once deftly borne;
The Hawker's glove, the Huntsman's soundless horn;
On the huge hearth the hospitable flame
Lit the dark portrait in its mouldering frame;
Statesmen in senates, knights in fields, renown'd,
On their new daughter ominously frown'd;
To the young Stranger, shivering to behold,
The Home she enter'd seem'd the tomb of old.
VI.
"Doth it so chill thee, Constance? Dare I own,
The charm that haunts what childhood's years have known,
How many dreams of fame beyond my sires,
Wing'd the proud thought that now no more aspires!
Here, while I paced, at the dusk twilight time,
As the deep church-bell toll'd the curfew chime;
In the dim Past my spirit seem'd to live,
To every relic some weird legend give;
And muse such hopes of glorious things to be,
As they, the Dead, mused once;—wild dreams—fulfill'd in thee!
Ah, never 'mid those early visions shone,
A face so sweet, my Constance, as thine own!
And what if all that charm'd me then, depart?
Clear, through the fading mists, smiles my soft heav'n—thy heart!
What, drooping still! Nay love, we are not all
So sad within, as this time-darken'd hall.
Come!"—and they pass'd (still Juliet by her side)
To a fair chamber, deck'd to greet the bride.
There, all of later luxury lent its smile,
To cheer, yet still beseem, the reverend pile.
What though the stately tapestry met the eyes,
Gay were its pictures, brilliant were its dyes;
There, graceful cressets from the gilded roof,
In mirrors glass'd the landscapes of the woof.
There, in the Gothic niche, the harp was placed,
There ranged the books most hallow'd by her taste;
Through the half-open casement you might view
The sweet soil prank'd with flowers of every hue;
And on the terrace, crowning the green mountain,
Gleam'd the fair statue, play'd the sparkling fountain:
[Pg 101]Within, without, all plann'd, all deck'd to greet
The Queen of all—whose dowry was deceit!
Soft breathed the air, soft shone the moon above—
All save the bride's sad heart, whispering Earth's Hymn to Love!
As Ruthven's hand sought hers, on Juliet's breast
She fell; and passionate tears, till then supprest,
Gush'd from averted eyes. To him the tears
Betray'd no secret that could rouse his fears—
For joy, as grief, the tender heart will melt—
The tears but proved how well his love was felt.
And, with the delicate thought that shunn'd to hear
Thanks for the cares, which cares themselves endear,
He whisper'd, "Linger not!" and closed the door,
And Constance sobbed—"Thank Heaven, alone with thee once more!"
VII.
Across his threshold Ruthven lightly strode,
And his glad heart from its full deeps o'erflow'd,
Pass'd is the Porch—he gains the balmy air,
Still crouch the night winds in their forest lair.
The moonlight silvers the unrustling pines,
On the hush'd lake the tremulous glory shines.
A stately shadow o'er the crystal brink,
Reflects the shy stag as its halt to drink;
And the slow cygnet, where it midway glides,
Breaks into sparkling rings the faintly heaving tides.
Wandering along his boyhood's haunts, he mused;
The hour, the heaven, the bliss his soul suffused;
It seem'd all hatred from the world had flown,
And left to Nature, Love and God alone!
Ev'n holiest passion holier render'd there,
His every thought breathed gentle as a prayer.
VIII.
Thus, as the eve grew mellowing into night,
Still from yon lattice stream'd the unwelcome light—
"Why loitering yet, and wherefore linger I?"
And at that thought ev'n Nature pall'd his eye;
He miss'd that voice, which with low music fill'd
The starry heaven of the rapt thoughts it thrill'd;
He gain'd the hall—the lofty stair he wound—
Behold, the door of his heart's fairy-ground!
The tapestry veil'd him, as its folds, half-raised,
Gave to his eye the scene on which it gazed:
Still Constance wept—and hark what sounds are those
What awful secret those wild sobs disclose!—
[Pg 102]"No, leave me not!—I cannot meet his eyes!
O Heaven! must life be ever one disguise!
What seem'd indifference when we pledged the troth,
Now grown—O wretch!—to terrors that but loathe!
Oh that the earth might swallow me!" Again
Gush forth the sobs, while Juliet soothes in vain.
"Nay, nay, be cheer'd—we must not more delay;
Cease these wild bursts till I his steps can stay;
No, for thy sake—for thine—I must begone."
She 'scaped the circling arms, and Constance wept alone.
IX.
By the opposing door, from that unseen,
Where Ruthven stood behind the arras-screen,
Pass'd Juliet. Suddenly the startled bride
Look'd up, and lo, the Wrong'd One by her side!
They gazed in silence face to face: his own,
Sad, stern, and awful, chill'd her heart to stone.
At length the low and hollow accents stirr'd
His blanching lip, that writhed with every word:
"Hear me a moment, nor recoil to hear;
A love so hated wounds no more thine ear.
I thank thee—I—!" His lips would not obey
His pride,—and all the manly heart gave way.
Low at his feet she fell: the alter'd course
Of grief ran deep'ning into vain remorse;
"Forgive me!—O forgive!"
"Forgive!" he cried,
And passion rush'd in speech, till then denied.
"Vile mockery! Bid me in the desert live
Alone with treason—and then say 'Forgive!'
Thou dost not know the ruins thou hast made,
Faith in all things thy falsehood has betray'd!
Thou, the last refuge, where my baffled youth
Dream'd its safe haven, murmuring—'Here is Truth!'
Thou in whose smile I garner'd up my breast,
Exult! thy fraud surpasses all the rest.
No! close, my heart—grow marble! Human worth
Is not; and falsehood is the name for earth!"
X.
Wildly, with long disorder'd strides, he paced
The floor to feel the world indeed a waste;
For as the earth if God were not above,
Man's hearth without the Lares—Faith and Love!
But what his woe to hers?—for him at least
Conscience was calm, though ev'ry hope had ceased.
[Pg 103]But she!—all sorrow for herself had paused,
To live in that worse anguish she had caused:
"No, Ruthven, no! Thy pardon not for me;
But oh that Heaven may shed its peace on thee
So worthless I, so worthless thy regret;
Oh that repentance could requite thee yet!
Oh that a life that henceforth ne'er shall own,
One thought, one wish, one hope, but to atone,—
Obedience, honour——"
"These may make the wife
A faultless statue:—love but breathes the life!
Poor child! Nay, weep not; bitterer far, in truth,
Than mine, the fate to which thou doom'st thy youth:
For manhood's pride the love at last may quell,
But when could Woman with Indifference dwell?
No sorrow soothed, no joy enhanced since shared.
O Heaven—the solitude thy soul has dared!
But thou hast chosen! Vain for each regret;
All that is left—to seem that we forget.
No word of mine my wrongs shall e'er recall;
Thine, wealth and pomp, and reverence—take them all!
May they console thee, Constance, for a heart
That—but enough! So let the loathed depart;
These chambers thine, my step invades them not;
Sleep, if thou canst, as in thy virgin cot.
Henceforth all love has lost its hated claim;
If wed, be cheer'd; our wedlock but a name.
Much as thou scorn'st me, know this heart above
The power of beauty, when disarm'd of love.
And so, may Heaven forgive thee!"
"Ruthven, stay!
Generous—too noble: can no distant day
Win thy forgiveness also, and restore
Thy trust, thy friendship, even though love be o'er?"
He paused a moment with a soften'd eye;—
"Alas! thou dreadest, while thou ask'st, reply:
If ever, Constance, that blest day should come,
When crowds can teach thee what the loss of Home;
If ever, when with those who court thee there,
The love that chills thee now, thou canst compare,
And feel that if thy choice thou couldst recall,
Him now unloved, thy love would choose from all
Why then, one word, one whisper!—oh, no more—"
And fearful of himself, he closed the door!

[Pg 104]

PART THE FOURTH.

I.
Ah, yes, Philosopher, thy creed is true!
'Tis our own eyes that give the rainbow's hue:
What we call Matter, in this outer earth,
Takes from our senses, those warm dupes, its birth.
How fair to sinless Adam Eden smiled;
But sin brought tears, and Eden was a wild!
Man's soul is as an everlasting dream,
Glassing life's fictions on a phantom stream:
To-day, in glory all the world is clad—
Wherefore, O Man?—because thy heart is glad.
To-morrow, and the self-same scene survey—
The same! Oh no—the pomp hath pass'd away!
Wherefore the change? Within, go, ask reply—
Thy heart hath given its winter to the sky!
Vainly the world revolves upon its pole;—
Light—Darkness—Seasons—these are in the soul!
II.
"Trite truth," thou sayest—well, if trite it be,
Why seek we ever from ourselves to flee?
Pleased to deceive our sight, and loath to know,
We bear the climate with us where we go!
To that immense Bethesda, whither still
Each worse disease seeks cures for every ill;
To that great well, in which the Heart at strife,
Merges its own amidst the common life,—
Whatever name it take, or Public Zeal,
Or Self-Ambition, still as sure to heal,—
From his sad hearth his sorrows Ruthven bore;
Long shunn'd the strife of men, now sought once more.
Flock'd to his board the Magnates of the Hour
Who clasp for Fame its spectre-likeness—Power!
The busy, babbling, talking, toiling race—
The Word-besiegers of the Fortress—Place!
Waves, each on each, in sunlight hurrying on,
A moment gilded—in a moment gone;
For Honours fool but with deluding light—
The place it glides through, not the wave, is bright![B]
[Pg 105]The means, if not his ends, with these the same,
In Ruthven, Party hail'd a Leader's name!
Night after night the listening Senate hung
On that roused mind, by Grief to Action stung!
Night after night, when Action, spent and worn,
Left yet more sad the soul it had upborne;
The sight of Home the frown of Life renew'd—
The World gave Fame and Home a Solitude!
III.
And Constance? sever'd from a husband's side,
No heart to cherish, and no hand to guide,
Still, as if ev'n the very name of wife
Drew her soul upward into loftier life,
The solemn sense of woman's holiest tie
Arm'd every thought against the memory.
'Mid shatter'd Lares stood the Marriage Queen—
As on a Roman's hearth, with marble smile serene:
New to her sight that galaxy of mind
Which moves round men who light and guide their kind,
Where all shine equal in their joint degrees
And rank's harsh outlines vanish into ease.
As Power and Genius interchange their hues
So genial life the classic charm renews;
Some Scipio's wit a Terence may refine,
Some Cæsar's pomp exalt a Maro's line—
The polish'd have their flaws, but least espied
Amongst the polish'd is the angle pride;
And, howsoever Envy grudge their state,
Their own bland laws democratize the great.
IV.
With those fair orbs which lit her common air }
That which should be her guardian planet there }
Now cold if radiant did the wife compare? }
If so, alas we lose the Chaldee's power
To shape the life if we neglect the hour.
And in the crowd was now their only meeting—
They who from crowds should so have hail'd retreating.
But in the crowd if eye encounter'd eye,
Whence came her blush, or wherefore heaved his sigh?
Ah! woe when lost the Heavenly confidence,
Man's gentle right, and woman's strong defence!—
Like the frank sunflower, Household Love to-day
Must ope its leaves;—what shades it, brings decay.
V.
The world look'd on, and construed, as it still
Interprets, all it knows not into ill.
[Pg 106]"Man's home is sacred," flattering proverbs say;
Yes, if you give the home to men's survey,
But if that sanctum be obscured or screen'd,
In every shadow doubt suggests a fiend:
So churchyards seen beneath a daylight sky
Are holy to the clown who saunters by;
But vex his vision by the glimmering light,
And straight the holiness expires in fright;
He hears a goblin in the whispering grass,
And cries "Heaven save us!"—at the Parson's ass!
"Was ever Lord so newly wed so cold?
Poor thing!—forsaken ere a year be told!
Doubtless some wanton—whom we know not, true,
But those proud sinners are so wary too!
Oh! for the good old days—one never heard
Of men so shocking under George the Third!"
So ran the gossip. With the gossip came
The brood it hatch'd—consolers to the dame.
The soft and wily wooers, who begin
Through sliding pity, the smooth ways to sin.
My lord is absent at the great debate,
Go, soothe his lady's unprotected state;
Go, gallant,—go, and wish the cruel Heaven
To thee such virtue, now so wrong'd, had given!
Yes, round her flock'd the young world's fairest ones,
The soft Rose-Garden's incense-breathing sons:
Roused from his calm, Lord Ruthven's watchful eye
Mark'd the new clouds that darken'd round his sky;
And raptured saw—though for his earth too far—
How fleets and fades each cloud before that stainless Star.
VI.
Now came the graver trial, though unseen
By him who knew not where the grief had been—
He knew not that an earlier love had steel'd
Her heart to his—that curse, at least conceal'd;
Enough of sorrow in his lonely lot—
The why, what matter—that she loved him not?
One night, when Revel was in Ruthven's hall,
He near'd the brilliant cynosure of all:
"Deign" (thus he whisper'd) "to receive with grace
Him who may hold the honours of my race:—
When the last Ruthven dies, behold his heir!"
He said, she turn'd—O Heaven!—and Harcourt there!
Harcourt the same as when her glance he charm'd,
For surer conquest by compassion arm'd—
The same, save where a softer shadow, cast
O'er his bright looks, reflected the sad Past!
[Pg 107]Now, when unguarded and in crowds alone,
The Future dark—the household gods o'erthrown;
Now, when those looks (that seem, the while they grieve,
Ne'er to reproach)—can pity best deceive;
The sole affection she of right can claim—
Now, Virtue, tremble not—the Tempter came!
VII.
He came, resolved to triumph and avenge—
Sure of a heart whose sorrow spoke no change;
Pleased at the thought to bind again the chain—
For they who love not still can love to reign;
Calm in the deeper and more fell design
To sever those whom outward fetters join—
To watch the discord Scandal rumours round,
Fret every sore, and fester every wound;
Could he but make Dissension firm and sure,
Success would render larger schemes secure;
"Let Ruthven die but childless!" ran his prayer,
And in the lover's sigh cold avarice prompts the heir.
He came and daily came, and daily schemed—
Soft, grave, and reverent, but the friend he seem'd.
These distant cousins, from their earliest days,
To different goals had trod their varying ways:
If Ruthven oft with generous hand supplied
What were call'd luxuries, did Shoreditch decide,
But what no Jury of Mayfair could doubt
Are just the things life cannot live without;
Yet gifts are sometimes as offences view'd,
And envy is the mean man's gratitude;
And, truth to own, whate'er the one bestow'd,
More from his own large, careless nature flow'd
Than through the channels tenderer sources send,
When Favour equals—since it asks a Friend.
But Ruthven loved not, in the days gone by,
The cold, quick shrewdness of that stealthy eye,
That spendthrift recklessness, which still was not
The generous folly which itself forgot.
You love the prodigal; the miser loathe,
Yet oft the clockwork is the same in both:
Ope but the works—the penury and excess
Chime from one point—the central selfishness:—
And though men said (for those, who wear with ease
The vulgar vices, seldom much displease),
"His follies injure but himself alone!"
His follies spared no welfare but his own:
Mankind he deem'd the epitome of self,
And never laid that volume on the shelf.
[Pg 108]Somewhat of this, had Ruthven mark'd before—
Now he was less acute, or Harcourt more:
The first absorb'd in sorrow or in thought;
The last in craft's smooth lessons deeper taught.
Not over anxious to be undeceived
Ruthven reform in what was rot believed;
They held the same opinions on the state,
And were congenial—in the last debate;
Harcourt had wish'd to join the patriot crew
Who botch our old laws with a patch of new;
Ruthven the wish approved; and found the seat—
And so the Cousins' union grew complete.
Well then at board behold the constant guest,
With love as yet by eyes alone exprest:
From the past vows he dared not yet invoke
The ancient Voice;—yet of the past he spoke.
Whene'er expected least, he seem'd to glide
A faithful shadow to her haunted side.
But why relate how men their victims woo!—
He left undone no art that can undo.
VIII.
And what deem'd Constance now, that, face to face,
She could the contrast of the Portraits trace?—
Could see the image of the soul in each
By thought reflected on the waves of speech—
Could listen here (as when the Master's ease
Glides with light touch along melodious keys)
To those rich sounds which, flung to every gale,
Genius awakes from Wisdom's music scale;
And there admire when lively Fashion wound
Its toy of small talk into jingling sound.
Like those French trifles, elegant enough,
Which serve at once for music and for snuff,
Some minds there are which men you ask to dine
Take out, wind up, and circle with the wine.
Two tunes they boast; this Flattery—Scandal that;
The one A sharp—the other something flat:
Such was the mind that for display and use
Cased in ricoco, Harcourt could produce—
Touch the one spring, an air that charm'd the town
Tripp'd out and jigg'd some absent virtue down;
Touch next the other, and the bauble plays
"Fly from the world" or "Once in happier days."
For Flattery, when a Woman's heart its aim,
Writes itself Sentiment—a prettier name.
And to be just to Harcourt and his art,
Few Lauzuns better play'd a Werter's part;
[Pg 109]He dress'd it well, and Nature kindly gave
His brow the paleness and his locks the wave.
Mournful his smile, unconscious seem'd his sigh;
You'd swear that Goethe had him in his eye.
Well these had duped when young Romance surveys
Life's outlines—lost amid its own soft haze.
Compared with Ruthven still doth Harcourt seem
The true Hyperion of the Delian dream.
Ah, ofttimes Love its own wild choice will blame,
Slip the blind bondage, yet doat on the same.
Was it thus wilful, Constance, still with thee,
Or did the reason set the fancy free?

PART THE FIFTH.

I.
The later summer in that second spring
When the turf glistens with the fairy ring,
When oak and elm assume a livelier green,
And starry buds on water-flowers are seen;
When parent nests the new-fledged goldfinch leaves,
And earliest song in airiest meshes weaves;
When fields wave undulous with golden corn,
And August fills his Amalthæan horn—
The later summer shone on Ruthven's towers,
And Lord and wife (with guests to cheer the hours,
Not faced alone) to that grey pile return'd;
Harcourt with these, and Seaton, who had learn'd
Eno' to call him from his world of strife,
To watch that Home which makes the Woman's life.
Not ev'n to Juliet Constance had betray'd
Those griefs the House-gods if they cause should shade,
Nor friendship now in truth the grief could share— }
A dying parent needed Juliet's care, }
In climes where Death comes soft—in Tuscan air. }
And least to Seaton would his child have shown
One hidden wound; her heart still spared his own.
But when the father trembling at her side
Saw the smooth tempter, not the watchful guide,—
Saw through the quicksands flow each sever'd life,
Here the cold Lord and there the courted wife,
Then fearful, wrathful—yet uncertain still;
For warning ofttimes makes more sure the ill,
Or fires suspicion to believe the worst,
Or bids temptation be more fondly nurst;—
[Pg 110]Nought ripens evil like too prompt a blame,
And virtue totters if you sap its shame;—
Uncertain thus came Seaton, with the rest,
His prudence watchful, and his fears supprest,
Resolved to learn what fault, if fault were there,
Had outlaw'd Constance from a husband's care,
And left the heart (the soul's frail fort) unbarr'd,
For youth to storm. "Well age," he sigh'd, "shall guard."
II.
Meantime, the cheek of Constance lost its rose,
Food brought no relish, slumber no repose:
The wasted form pined hour by hour away,
But still the proud lip struggled to be gay;
And Ruthven still the proud lip could deceive,
Till the proud man forgot the proud in smiling grieve!
III.
In that old pile there was a huge square tower,
Whence look'd the warder in its days of power;
Still, in the arch below, the eye could tell
Where on the steel-clad van the grim portcullis fell;
And from the arrow-headed casements, deep
Sunk in the walls of the abandon'd keep,
The gaze look'd kingly in its wide command
O'er all the features of the subject land;
From town and hamlet, copse and vale, arise
The hundred spires of Ruthven's baronies;
And town and hamlet, copse and vale, around,
Its arms of peace the azure Avon wound.
IV.
A lonely chamber in this rugged tower,
The lonely lady made her favourite bower—
From her more brilliant chambers crept a stair,
That, through a waste of ruin, ended there;
And there, unseen, unwitness'd, none intrude,
Nor vex the spirit from the solitude.
How, in what toil or luxury of mind,
Could she the solace or the Lethe find?
Music or books?—nay, rather, might be guess'd
The art her maiden leisure loved the best;
For there the easel and the hues were brought,
Though all unseen the fictions that they wrought.
Harcourt more bold the change in Constance made;
Sure, love lies hidden in that depth of shade!
That cheek how hueless, and that eye how dim,—
"Wherefore," he thought and smiled, "if not for him?"
[Pg 111]More now his manner and his words, disarm'd
Of their past craft, the anxious sire alarm'd.
True, there was nought in Constance to reprove,
But still what hypocrite like lawless love?
One eve, as in the oriel's arch'd recess
Pensive he ponder'd, linking guess with guess,
Words reach'd his ear—if indistinct—yet plain
Enough to pierce the heart and chill the vein.
'Tis Constance, answering in a faltering tone
Some suit; and what—was by the answer shown
"Yes!—in an hour," it said.—"Well, be it so."—
"The place?"—"Yon keep."—"Thou wilt not fail me!"—"No!"
'Tis said;—she first, then Harcourt, quits the room.
"Would," groan'd the Sire, "my child were in the tomb!"
He gasp'd for breath, the fever on his brow—
"Was it too late?—What boots all warning now?
If saved to-day—to-morrow, and the same }
Danger and hazard! had he spared the shame }
To leave the last lost Virtue but a name." }
V.
Sickening and faint, he gain'd the outer air,
Reach'd the still lake, and saw the master there;
Listless lay Ruthven, droopingly the boughs
Veil'd from the daylight melancholy brows;
Listless he lay, and with indifferent eye
Watch'd the wave darken as the cloud swept by.
The father bounded to the idler's side— }
"Awake, cold guardian of a soul!" he cried; }
"Why, sworn to cherish, fail'st thou ev'n to guide?" }
"Why?" echoed Ruthven's heart—his eye shot flame—
"Dare she complain, or he presume to blame?"
Thus ran the thought, he spoke not;—silent long
As Pride kept back the angry burst of wrong.
At length he rose, shook off the hand that prest,
And calmly said, "I listen for the rest—
Whatever charge be in thy words convey'd,
Speak;—I will answer when the charge is made!"
VI.
Like many an offspring of our Saxon clime,
Who makes one seven-day labour-week of time,
Who deems reprieve a sloth, repose a dearth,
And strikes the Sabbath of the soul from earth;
In Seaton's life the Adam-curse was strong;
He loved each wind that whirl'd the sails along;
He loved the dust that wrapt the hurrying wheel;
And, form'd to act, but rarely paused to feel.
[Pg 112]Thus men who saw him move among mankind,
Saw the hard purpose and the scheming mind,
And the skill'd steering of a sober brain,
Prudence the compass and the needle gain.
But now, each layer of custom swept away,
The Man's great nature leapt into the day:
He stretch'd his arms, and terrible and wild,
His voice went forth—"I gave thee, Man, my child;
I gave her young and innocent—a thing
Fresh from the Heaven, no stain upon its wing;
One form'd to love, and to be loved, and now
(Few moons have faded since the solemn vow)
How do I find thou hast discharged the trust?
Account!—nay, frown not—to thy God thou must,
Pale, wretched, worn, and dying: Ruthven, still
These lips should bless thee, couldst thou only kill.
But is that all?—Death is a holy name,
Tears for the dead dishonour not!—but Shame!
O blind, to bid her every hour compare
With thine his love—with thy contempt his care!
Yea, if the light'ning blast thee, I, the Sire,
Tell thee thy heart of steel attracts the fire;
Hadst thou but loved her, that meek soul I know—
Know all"—His passion falter'd in its flow;
He paused an instant, then before the feet
Of Ruthven fell. "Have mercy! Save her yet!
Take back thy gold: say, did I not endure,
And can again, the burthen of the poor?
But she—the light, pride, angel, of my life—
God speaks in me—O husband, save thy wife!"
VII.
"Save! and from whom, old Man?" Yet, as he spoke,
A gleam of horror on his senses broke;
"From whom? What! know'st thou not who made the first,
Though fading fancy, youth's warm visions nurst?
This Harcourt—this"—he stopp'd abrupt—appall'd!
Those words how gladly had his lips recall'd;
For at the words—the name—all life seem'd gone
From Ruthven's image:—as a shape of stone,
Speechless and motionless he stood! At length
The storm suspended burst in all its strength:
"And this to me—at last to me!" he cried,
"Thine be the curse, who hast love to hate allied:
Why, when my life on that one hope I cast,
Why didst thou chain my future to her past—
Why not a breath to say, 'She loved before;
Pause yet to question, if the love be o'er!'
[Pg 113]Didst thou not know how well I loved her—how
Worthy the Altar was the holy vow?
That in the wildest hour my suit had known,
Hadst thou but said, 'Her heart is not her own,'
Thou hadst left the chalice with a taste of sweet?
I—I had brought the Wanderer to her feet—
Had seen those eyes through grateful softness shine,
Nor turn'd—O God!—with loathing fear from mine;
And from the sunshine of her happy breast
Drawn one bright memory to console the rest!—
But now, thy work is done—till now, methought,
There was one plank to which the shipwreck'd caught.
Forbearance—patience might obtain at last
The distant haven—see! the dream is past—
She loves another! In that sentence—hark
The crowning thunder!—the last gleam is dark;
Time's wave on wave can but the more dissever;
The world's vast space one void for ever and for ever!"
VIII.
Humbled from all his anger, and too late
Convinced whose fault had shaped the daughter's fate,
The father heard; and in his hands he veil'd
His face abash'd, and voice to courage fail'd;
For how excuse—and how console? And so,
As when the tomb shuts up the ended woe,
Over that burst of anguish closed the drear
Abyss of silence—sound's chill sepulchre!
At length he dared the timorous looks to raise,
But gone the form on which he fear'd to gaze.
Calm at his feet the wave crept murmuring;
Calm sail'd the cygnet with its folded wing;
Gently above his head the lime-tree stirr'd,
The green leaves rustling to the restless bird;
But he who, in the beautiful of life,
Alone with him should share the heart at strife,
Had left him there to the earth's happy smile—
Ah! if the storms within earth's calmness could beguile!
IX.
With a swift step, and with disorder'd mind,
Through which one purpose still its clue could find,
Lord Ruthven sought his home. "Yes, mine no more,"
So mused his soul, "to hope or to deplore;
No more to watch the heart's Aurora break
O'er that loved face, the light to life to speak—
No more, without a weakness that degrades,
Can Fancy steal from Truth's eternal shades!
[Pg 114]Yes, we must part! But if one holier thought
Still guards that shrine my fated footstep sought,
Perchance, at least, I yet her soul may save,
And leave her this one hope—a husband's grave!"
X.
Home gain'd, he asks—they tell him—her retreat:
He winds the stairs, and midway halts to meet
His rival passing from that mystic room,
With a changed face, half sarcasm and half gloom.
Writhed Ruthven's lip—his hands he clench'd;—his breast
Heaved with man's natural wrath; the wrath the man supprest.
"Her name, at least, I will not make the gage
Of that foul strife whose cause a husband's rage."
So, with the calmness of his lion eye,
He glanced on Harcourt, and he pass'd him by.
XI.
And now he gains, and pauses at the door— }
Why beats so loud the heart so stern before? }
He nerved his pride—one effort, and 'tis o'er. }
Thus, with a quiet mien, he enters:—there
Kneels Constance yonder—can she kneel in prayer?
What object doth that meek devotion chain
In yon dark niche? Before his steps can gain
Her side, she starts, confused, dismay'd, and pale,
And o'er the object draws the curtain veil.
But there the implements of art betray
What thus the conscience dare not give to day.
A portrait? whose but his, the loved and lost,
Of a sweet past the melancholy ghost?
So Ruthven guess'd—more dark his visage grown,
And thus he spoke:—"Once more we meet alone.
Once more—be tranquil—hear me! not to upbraid,
And not to threat, thy presence I invade;
But if the pledge I gave thee I have kept,
If not the husband's rights the wife hath wept,
If thou hast shared whatever gifts be mine—
Wealth, honour, freedom, all unbought, been THINE,
Hear me—O hear me, for thy father's sake!
For the full heart that thy disgrace would break!
By all thine early innocence—by all
The woman's Eden—wither'd with her fall—
I, whom thou hast denied the right to guide,
Implore the daughter, not command the bride;
Protect—nor only from the sin and shame,
Protect from slander—thine, my Mother's—name!
For hers thou bearest now! and in her grave
[Pg 115]Her name thou honourest, if thine own thou save!
I know thou lov'st another! Dost thou start?
From him, as me—the time hath come to part;
And ere for ever I relieve thy view—
The one thou lov'st must be an exile too.
Be silent still, and fear not lest my voice
Betray thy secret—Flight shall seem his choice;
A fair excuse—a mission to some clime,
Where—weep'st thou still? For thee there's hope in time!
This heart is not of iron, and the worm
That gnaws the thought, soon ravages the form;
And then, perchance, thy years may run the course
Which flows through love undarken'd by remorse.
And now, farewell for ever!" As he spoke,
From her cold silence with a bound she broke,
And clasp'd his hand. "Oh, leave me not! or know,
Before thou goest, the heart that wrong'd thee so,
But wrongs no more."
"No more?—Oh, spurn the lie;
Harcourt but now hath left thee! Well—deny!"
"Yes, he hath left me!" "And he urged the suit
That—but thou madden'st me! false lips, be mute!"
—"He urged the suit—it is for ever o'er;
Dead with the folly youth's crude fancies bore,
One word, nay less, one gesture" (and she blush'd)
"Struck dumb the suit, the scorn'd presumption crush'd."
—"What! and yon portrait curtain'd with such care?"
"There did I point and say 'My heart is there!'"
Amazed, bewilder'd—struggling half with fear
And half delight—his steps the curtain near.
He lifts the veil: that face—It is his own!
But not the face her later gaze had known;
Not stern, nor sad, nor cold,—but in those eyes,
The wooing softness love unmix'd supplies;
The fond smile beaming the glad lips above,
Bright as when radiant with the words "I love."
An instant mute—oh, canst thou guess the rest?
The next his Constance clinging to his breast;
All from the proud reserve, at once allied
To the girl's modesty, the woman's pride,
Melting in sobs and happy tears—and words
Swept into music from long-silent chords.
Then came the dear confession, full at last.
Then stream'd life's Future on the fading Past;
And as a sudden footstep nears the door,
As a third shadow dims the threshold floor—
[Pg 116]As Seaton, entering in his black despair,
Pauses the tears, the joy, the heaven to share—
The happy Ruthven raised his princely head,
"Give her again—this day in truth we wed!"
And when the spring the earth's fresh glory weaves
In merry sunbeams and green quivering leaves,
A joy-bell ringing through a cloudless air
Knells Harcourt's hopes and welcomes Ruthven's heir.

FOOTNOTES

[A] Imitated from Horace (Lib. ii., Od. 3).

Quà pinus ingens albaque populus
Umbram hospitalem consociare amant
Ramis, et obliquo laborat
Lympha fugax trepidare rivo.—Horat. Carm., ii. 3.

[B] Schiller.


[Pg 117]

MILTON.

IN FOUR PARTS.

[Pg 118]

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE READER.

This Poem was originally composed in very early youth. It was first published in 1831, and though unfortunately coupled with a very jejune and puerile burlesque called 'The Siamese Twins' (which to my great satisfaction has been long since forgotten), it was honoured by a very complimentary notice in the Edinburgh Review, and found general favour with those who chanced to read it. In the present edition, although the conception and the general structure remain the same, many passages have been wholly re-written, and the diction throughout carefully revised, and often materially altered. I have sought, in short, from an affection for the subject (too partial it may be) to give to the ideas which visited me in the freshness of youth, whatever aid from expression they could obtain in the taste and culture of mature manhood. No doubt, however, faults of exuberance in form, as in fancy, still remain, and betray the age in which we scarcely look beyond the Spring that delights us, nor comprehend that the multitude of the blossoms can be injurious to the bearing of the tree. Nevertheless, such faults may find more indulgence among my younger readers than those of an opposite nature, incident to the style, closer and more compressed, which my present theories of verse have led me to adopt in most of the poems I have composed of late years.

It will be observed that the design of this poem is that of a picture. It is intended to portray the great Patriot Poet in the three cardinal divisions of life—Youth, Manhood, and Age. The first part is founded upon the well-known, though ill-authenticated, tradition of the Italian lady or ladies seeing Milton asleep under a tree in the gardens of his college, and leaving some tributary verses beside the sleeper. Taking full advantage of this legend, and presuming to infer from Milton's Italian verses (as his biographers have done before me) that in his tour through Italy he did not escape the influence of the master passion, I have ventured to connect, by a single thread of romantic fiction, the segments of a poem in which narrative after all is subservient to description. This idea belongs to the temerity of youth, but I trust it has been subjected to restrictions more reverent than those ordinarily imposed on poetic licence.


[Pg 119]

MILTON.

PART THE FIRST.

"Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eve by haunted stream."—L'Allegro.
I.
It was the Minstrel's merry month of June;
Silent and sultry glow'd the breezeless noon;
Along the flowers the bee went murmuring;
Life in its myriad forms was on the wing;
Play'd on the green leaves with the quiv'ring beam,
Sang from the grove, and sparkled from the stream,
When, where yon beech-tree veil'd the soft'ning ray,
On violet-banks young Milton dreaming lay.
For him the Earth below, the Heaven above,
Doubled each charm in the clear glass of youth;
And the vague spirit of unsettled love
Roved through the visions that precede the truth,
While Poesy's low voice so hymn'd through all
That ev'n the very air was musical.
II.
The sunbeam rested, where it pierced the boughs,
On locks whose gold reflected back the gleaming;
On Thought's fair temple in majestic brows
On Love's bright portal—lips that smiled in dreaming.
Dreams he of Nymph half hid in sparry cave?
Or of his own Sabrina chastely "sitting
Under the glassy cool translucent wave,"
The loose train of her amber tresses knitting?
Or that far shadow, yet but faintly view'd,
Where the Four Rivers take their parent springs,
Which shall come forth from starry solitude,
In the last days of angel-visitings,
[Pg 120]When, soaring upward from the nether storm,
The Heaven of Heavens shall earthly guest receive,
And in the long-lost Eden smile thy form,
Fairer than all thy daughters, fairest Eve?
III.
Has the dull Earth a being to compare
With those that haunt that spirit-world—the brain?
Can shapes material vie with forms of air,
Nature with Phantasy?—O question vain!
Lo, by the Dreamer, fresh from heavenly hands,
Youth's dream-inspirer—Virgin Woman stands.
She came, a stranger from the Southern skies,
And careless o'er the cloister'd garden stray'd,
Till, pausing, violets on the bank to cull,
Over the Dreamer bent the Beautiful.
Silent, with lifted hand and lips apart,
Silent she stood, and gazed away her heart.
Like purple Mænad fruits, when down the glade
Shoots the warm sunbeam,—into darksome glow
Light kiss'd the ringlets wreathing brows of snow;
And softer than the rosy hues that flush
Her native heaven, when Tuscan morns arise,
The sweet cheek brighten'd with the sweeter blush,
As virgin love from out delighted eyes
Dawn'd as Aurora dawns.—
Thus look'd the maid,
And still the sleeper dream'd beneath the shade.
Image of Soul and Love! So Psyche crept
To the still chamber where her Eros slept;
While the light gladden'd round his face serene,[A]
As light doth ever,—when Love first is seen.
Felt he the touch of her dark locks descending,
Or with his breath her breathing fused and blending,
That, like a bird we startle from the spray,
Pass'd the light Sleep with sudden wings away?
Sighing he woke, and waking he beheld;
The sigh was silenced, as the look was spell'd;
Look charming look, the love that ever lies
In human hearts, like light'ning in the air,
Flash'd in the moment from those meeting eyes,
And open'd all the Heaven!
O Youth, beware!
For either, light should but forewarn the gaze;
Woe follows love, as darkness doth the blaze!

[Pg 121]

IV.
And their eyes met—one moment and no more;
Moment in time that centred years in feeling.
As when to Thetis, on her cavern'd shore,
Knelt her young King,—he rose, and murmur'd, kneeling.
Low though the murmur, it dissolved the charm
Which had in silence chain'd the modest feet;
And maiden shame and woman's swift alarm
Crimson'd her cheek and in her pulses beat:
She turn'd, and, as a spell that leaves the place
It fill'd with phantom beauty cold and bare,
She fled;—and over disenchanted space
Rush'd back the common air!
V.
Time waned—and thoughts intense, and grave and high,
With sterner truths foreshadow'd Minstrel dreams;
Yet never vanish'd from the Minstrel's eye
That meteor blended with the morning beams.
Time waned, and ripe became the long desire,
Which, nursed in youth, with restless manhood grew
A passion—to behold that heart of Earth,
Yet trembling with the silver Mantuan lyre,
To knightly arms by Tasso tuned anew:—
So the fair Pilgrim left his father's hearth.
Into his soul he drunk the lofty lore,
Floating like air around the clime of song;
Beheld the starry sage,[B] what time he bore
For truth's dear glory the immortal wrong;
Communed majestic with majestic minds;
And all the glorious wanderer heard or saw
Or felt or learn'd or dream'd, were as the winds
That swell'd the sails of his triumphant soul;
As then, ev'n then, with ardour yet in awe,
It swept Time's ocean to its distant goal.
VI.
It was the evening—and a group were strewn
O'er such a spot as ye, I ween, might see,
When basking in the summer's breathless noon,
With upward face beneath the drowsy tree;
While golden dreams the willing soul receives,
And Elf-land glimmers through the checkering leaves.
It was the evening—still it lay, and fair,
Lapp'd in the quiet of the lulling air;
[Pg 122]Still, but how happy! like a living thing
All love itself—all love around it seeing;
And drinking from the earth, as from a spring,
The hush'd delight and essence of its being.
And round the spot (a wall of glossy shade)
The interlaced and bowering trees reposed;
And through the world of foliage had been made
Green lanes and vistas, which at length were closed
By fount, or fane, or statue white and hoar,
Startling the heart with the fond dreams of yore.
And near, half-glancing through its veil of leaves,
An antique temple stood in marble grace;
Where still, if fondly wise, the heart conceives
Faith in the lingering Genius of the Place:
Seen wandering yet perchance at earliest dawn
Or greyest eve—with Nymph or bearded Faun.
Dainty with mosses was the grass you press'd,
Through which the harmless lizard glancing crept.
And—wearied infants on Earth's gentle breast—
In every nook the little field-flowers slept.
But ever when the soft air draws its breath
(Breeze is a word too rude), with half-heard sigh,
From orange-shrubs and myrtles—wandereth
The Grove's sweet Dryad borne in fragrance by.
And aye athwart the alleys fitfully
Glanced the fond moth enamour'd of the star;
And aye, from out her watch-tower in the tree,
The music which a falling leaf might mar,
So faint—so faëry seem'd it—of the bird
Transform'd at Daulis thrillingly was heard.
And in the centre of that spot, which lay
A ring embosom'd in the wood's embrace,
A fountain, clear as ever glass'd the day,
Breathed yet a fresher luxury round the place;
But now it slept, as if its silver shower,
And the wide reach of its aspiring sound,
Were far too harsh for that transparent hour:—
Yet—like a gnome that mourneth underground—
You caught the murmur of the rill which gave
The well's smooth calm the passion of its wave;
Ev'n as man's heart that still, with secret sigh,
Stirs through each thought that would reflect the sky.
VII.
And, group'd around the fountain, forms were seen,
Shaped as for courts in loving Chivalry,
Such as Boccacio placed, 'mid alleys green,
Listening to tales in careless Fiesolé!
[Pg 123]Dress'd as for nymphs, the classic banquet there
Was spread on grassy turfs, with coolest fruit
And drinks Falernian—while the mellow air
Heaved to the light swell of the amorous lute;
And by the music lovers grew more bold,
And Beauty blush'd to secrets, murmuring told.
VIII.
But 'mid that graceful meeting, there were none
Who yielded not to him—that English guest.
Nor by sweet lips, half wooing to be won,
Were words that thrill and smiles that sigh suppress'd;
And fair with lofty brow, and locks of gold,
And manhood stately with a Dorian grace,
He seem'd like some young Spartan, when of old
The simple sons of thoughtful Hercules
On Elis stood, and look'd the lords of Greece.
Oh! little dream'd those flatterers as they gazed
On him—the radiant cynosure of all,
While on their eyes his youth's fresh glory blazed,
What that bright heart was destined to befall!
That worst of wars—the Battle of the Soil—
Which leaves but Crime unscath'd on either side!
The daily fever, and the midnight toil;
The hope defeated, and the name belied;
Wrath's fierce attack, and Slander's slower art,
The watchful viper of the evil tongue;—
The sting which pride defies, but not the heart—
The noblest heart is aye the easiest wrung:
The flowers, the fruit, the summer of rich life,
Cast on the sands and weariest paths of earth;
The march—but not the action—of the strife
Without;—and Sorrow coil'd around his hearth:
The film, the veil, the shadow, and the night,
Along those eyes which now in all survey
A tribute and a rapture;—the despite
Of Fortune wreak'd on his declining day;
The clouds slow-labouring upward round his heart;—
Oh! little dream'd they this!—nor less what light
Should through those clouds—a new-born glory—start;
And from the spot man's mystic Father trod,
Circling the round Earth with a solemn ray,
Cast its great shadow to the Throne of God!
IX.
The festive rite was o'er—the group was gone,
Yet still our wanderer linger'd there alone—
[Pg 124]For round his eye, and in his heart, there lay
The tender spells which cleave to solitude.
Who, when some gay delight hath pass'd away,
Feels not a charmèd musing in his mood,
A poesy of thought, which yearns to pour
Still worship to the Spirit of the Hour?
Ah! they who bodied into deity
The rosy Hours, I ween, did scarcely err.
Sweet hours, ye have a life, and holily
That life is worn! and when no rude sounds stir
The quiet of our hearts—we inly hear
The hymnlike music of your floating voices,
Telling us mystic tidings of the sphere
Where hand in hand your linkèd choir rejoices,
And filling us with calm and solemn thought,
Diviner far than all our earth-born lore hath taught.
With folded arms and upward brow, he leant
Against the pillar of a sleeping tree;
When, hark! the still boughs rustled, and there went
A murmur and a sigh along the air,
And a light footstep, like a melody,
Pass'd by the flowers. He turn'd;—What Nymph is there?
What Hamadryad from the green recess
Emerging into beauty like a star?—
He gazed—sweet Heaven! 'tis she whose loveliness
Had in his England's gardens first (and far
From these delicious groves) upon him beam'd,
And look'd to life the wonders he had dream'd.
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X.
They met again and oft! what time the Star
Of Hesperus hung his rosy lamp on high;
Love's earliest beacon, from our storms afar,
Lit in the loneliest watch-tower of the sky,
Perchance by souls that, ere this world was made,
Were the first lovers the first stars survey'd.
And Mystery o'er their twilight meeting threw
The charm that nought like mystery doth bestow:
Her name—her birth—her home he never knew;
And she—his love was all she sought to know.
[Pg 125]And when in anxious or in tender mood
He pray'd her to disclose at least her name,
A look from her the unwelcome prayer subdued
So sad the cloud that o'er her features came:
Her lip grew blanch'd, as with an ominous fear,
And all her heart seem'd trembling in her tear.
So worshipp'd he in silence and sweet wonder,
Pleased to confide, contented not to know;
And Hope, life's checkering moonlight, smiled asunder
Doubts, which, like clouds, rise ever from below.
And thus his love grew daily, and perchance
Was all the stronger circled by romance.
He found a name for her, if not her own,
Haply as soft, and to her heart as dear—
"Zoe"—name stolen from the tuneful Greek,
It meaneth 'life,' when common lips do speak—
And more on those that love;—sweet language known
To lovers, sacred to themselves alone;
Words, like Egyptian symbols, set apart
For the mysterious Priesthood of the Heart.
Creep slowly on, O charm'd reluctant Time—
Rarely so hallow'd, Time, creep slowly on—
Ev'n I would linger in my truant rhyme,
Nor tell too soon how soon those hours were gone.
Flowers bloom again—leaves glad once more the tree—
Poor life, there comes no second Spring to thee!

PART THE SECOND.

"Protinus insoliti subierunt corda furores,
Uror amans intus, flammaque totus eram.
Interea misero quæ jam mihi sola placebat
Ablata est oculis non reditura meis."—Milt. Eleg. vii.
I.
Who shall dispart the Poet's golden threads,
From the fine tissues of Philosophy?—
Mounts to one goal, each guess that upward leads,
Whether it soar in some impassion'd sigh
Or some still thought; alike, it doth but tend
To Light that draws it heavenward.—'Tis but one
Great law that from the violet lifts the dew
At dawn and twilight to the amorous sun,
Or calls the mist, which navies glimmer through,
From the vast hush of an unfathom'd sea.
[Pg 126]The Athenian guess'd that when our souls descend
From some lost realm (sad aliens here to be),
Dim broken memories of the state before
Form what we call our 'reason';[C]—nothing taught
But all remember'd;—gleams from elder lore,
Pallid revivals of sublimer thought,
Which, though by fits and dreamily recall'd,
Make all the light our sense receives below;
Like the vague hues down-floating—disenthrall'd
From their bright birthplace, the lost Iris-bow.
Is this Philosophy or Song? Why ask?
How judge?—The instant that we leave the ground
Of the hard Positive, who saith "I know?"
Conjecture, fancy, faith—'tis these we task,
When Reason passes but an inch the bound
In which our senses draw the captive's breath.
And never yet Philosopher severe
Strove for a glimpse beyond the Bridge of Death,
But straight he enter'd on that atmosphere
Poets illume:—Let Logic prove the Known;
Truths that we know not, if we would explore,
We must imagine! Link, then, evermore
Together—each so desolate alone,
O Poesy, O Knowledge!—
Is not Love,
Of all those memories which to parent skies
Mount struggling back—(as to their source above,
In upward showers, imprison'd founts arise;)
Oh, is not Love the strongest and the clearest?
Love, and thine eyes instinctive seek the Heaven;
Love, and a hymn from every star thou hearest;
Love, and a world beyond the sense is given;
Love, and how many a glorious sleeping power
Wakes in thy breast and lifts thyself from thee;
Love, and, till then so wedded to the Hour,
Thy thoughts go forth and ask Eternity!
Lose what thou lovest, and the life of old
Is from thine eyes, O soul, no more conceal'd;
Look beyond Death, and through thy tears behold
There, where Love goes—thine ancient home reveal'd.
II.
The lovers met in twilight and in stealth.
Like to the Roc-bird in the Orient Tale,
That builds its nest in pathless pinnacles,
[Pg 127]And there collects and there conceals the wealth,
Which paves the surface of the Diamond Vale,
Love hoards aloof the glories that it stealeth;
And gems, but found in life's enchanted dells,
On airy heights that kiss the heaven concealeth.
All nature was a treasury which their hearts
Rifled and coin'd in passion; the soft grass,
The bee's blue palace in the violet's bell;
The sighing leaves which, as the day departs,
The light breeze stirreth with a gentle swell;
The stiller boughs blent in one emerald mass,
Whence, rarely floating liquid Eve along,
Some unseen linnet sent its vesper song;
All furnish'd them with images and words,
And thoughts which spoke not, but lay hush'd like prayer;
Their love made life one melody, like birds,
And circled earth with its own rosy air.
What in that lovely climate doth the breast
Interpret not into some sound of love?
Canst thou ev'n gaze upon the hues that rest,
Like the god's smile, upon the pictured dream
Limn'd on mute canvas by the golden Claude,
Nor feel thy pulses as to music move?—
Nor feel thy soul by some sweet presence awed?
Nor know that presence by its light,—and deem
The Landscape breathing with a Voice Divine,
"Love, for the land on which ye gaze is mine?"
III.
But all round them was life—the living scene,
The real sky, and earth, and wave, and air:
The turf on which Egeria's steps had been,
The shade, stream, grotto, which had known her care.
Still o'er them floated an inspiring breath—
The fragrance and the melody of song—
The legend—glory—verse—that vanquish'd death
Still through the orange glades were borne along,
And sunk into their souls to swell the hoard
Of those rich thoughts the miser Passion stored!
IV.
But they required no fuel to the flame
Which burn'd within them, all undyingly;
No scene to steep their passion in romance,
No spell from outward nature to enhance
The nature at their bosoms: all the same
Their love had been if cast upon a rock,
And frown'd on from the Arctic's haggard sky.
[Pg 128]Nay, ev'n the vices and the cares, which move
Like waves o'er that foul ocean of dull life,
That rolls through cities in a sullen strife
With heaven, had raged on them, nor in the shock
Crumbled one atom from their base of love.
And, like still waters, poesy lay deep
Within the hush'd yet haunted soul of each;
And the fair moon, and all the stars that steep
Heaven's silence and its spirit in delight,
Had with that tide a sympathy and speech!
For them there was a glory in the night,
A whisper in the forest, and the air;
Love is the priest of Nature, and can teach
A world of mystery to the few that share,
With self-devoted faith, the wingèd Flamen's care.
V.
In each lay poesy—for Woman's heart
Nurses the stream, unsought, and oft unseen;
And if it flow not through the tide of art,
Nor woo the glittering daylight—you may ween
It slumbers, but not ceases; and, if check'd
The egress of rich words, it flows in thought,
And in its silent mirror doth reflect
Whate'er Affection to its banks has brought.
This makes her love so glowing and so tender,
Dyeing it in such deep and dreamlike hues;
Earth—Heaven—creative Genius—all that render,
In man, their wealth and homage to the muse;
Do but, in her, enrich the heart, and throng
To centre there what men disperse in song.
O treasure! which awhile the world outweighs
That blessèd human heart Youth calls its own!
Measure the space some envied Cæsar sways
With that which stretches from the heavenly throne
Into the Infinite;—and then compare
All after-conquests in the dim and dull
Bounds of the Real, with the realms that were
Youth's, when its reign was o'er the Beautiful!
He who loves nobly and is nobly loved
Is lord of the Ideal. Could it last!
It doth—it doth! lasts mournful but unmoved,
In the still Ghost-land that reflects the Past.
Age will forget its wintry yesterday,
But not one sunbeam that rejoiced its May;
Showing, perchance, that all which we resume
Of this hard life, beyond the Funeral River,
Are the fair blossoms of the age of bloom;
And hearts mourn most the things that live for ever.

[Pg 129]

VI.
Twice glided through her course the wandering Queen
Who rules the stars and deeps, since first they met.
'Tis eve once more, that earliest hour, serene
With the last light, before the sun hath set;
And Zoe waits her lover on the hill,
Waits, looking forth afar:—The parting ray
Of the reluctant Day-god linger'd still;
Aslant it glinted through the pinewood boughs,
Broadly to rest upon the ruins grey,
That at her feet in desolate glory lay.
Through chasm and chink, the myrtle's glossy green,
Votive of old to Cytheræa's brows—
Rose over wrecks, and smiled: And there, like Grief
Close-neighbouring Love, the aloe forced between
Myrtle with myrtle clasp'd—its barbèd leaf.
Where Zoe stands, the Cæsar's Palace stood,
And from that lofty terrace ye survey,
Naked within their thunder-riven tomb,
The bones of that dead Titaness call'd Rome.
Beyond, the Tiber, through the Latian Plain
With many a lesser sepulchre bestrew'd,
Mourn'd songless onward to the Tyrrhene main;
Around, in amphitheatre afar
The hills lay basking in the purple sky;
Till all grew grey, and Maro's shepherd-star
Look'd through the silence with a loving eye.
And soft from silver clouds stole forth the Moon,
Hush'd as if still she watch'd Endymion.
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VII.
They sate them on a fallen column, where
The wild acanthus clomb the shatter'd stone,
Mocking the sculptured mimicry—which there
Was graven on the pillar'd pomp o'erthrown,[D]
Flowerless, if green, the herbage type-like decks
Art that will flower not over Glory's wrecks.
"Ah, doth not Heaven seem near us when alone?
How air and moonbeam interchange delight!
How like the homeward bird my soul hath flown
Unto its rest!—O glorious is the night,
[Pg 130]Glorious with stars, and starry thoughts, and Thee!"
Her sweet voice paused; then from the swelling heart
Sigh'd—"Joy to meet, but O despair to part!"
"And wherefore part? Out of all time to me
Thou cam'st emerging from the depth of dreams,
As rose the Venus from her native sea;
And at thy coming, Light with all his beams
Illumed Creation's golden Jubilee.
What, if my life be wrench'd from youth too soon
To find in duty Manhood's troubled doom,—
Lo, where yon star clings ever through the gloom
Fast by the labouring melancholy moon,
So shine, unsever'd from thy pilgrim's side,
And gift his soul with an immortal bride."
Trembling she heard—no answer but a sigh—
Sighing, still trembled; tenderly he raised
Her downcast cheek, and sought the wish'd-for eye.
On the long lashes hung slow-gathering tears:
And that subdued, despondent thought which wears
Woe, as a Nun the fatal funeral veil,
Silent and self-consuming—cast its gloom
O'er the sad face yet sadder for its bloom.
He gazed, and felt within him, as he gazed,
His heart beneath the dire foreboding quail,
Ev'n as the gifted melancholy seer
Knows by his shudder when a grief is near.
"Thou answerest not—yet my soul trusts in thee;
Albeit—as if for child of earth too fair
Thy love vouchsafed, thy life conceal'd from me,
Nymph-like, thou comest out of starry air,—
And I, content the Beautiful to see,
Presumed till now no hardier human prayer.
But now, the spell the hour appointed breaks,
Now in these lips a power that thralls me speaks;
I seek mine England, canst thou leave thy Rome?
Start not—but let this hand still rest in thine;
Canst thou not say 'thy home shall be my home,'
Canst thou not say 'thy People shall be mine?'"
VIII.
Wildly she falter'd, starting from his breast,
"What dost thou ask—must it all end in this!
Art thou not happy, Ingrate? Rest, O, rest,
England has toil—Italia happiness!"
And as she spoke—a loftier light than pride
Flash'd from his eye, and thus the man replied,—
"Hear and approve me—In my father's land
Age-long have men, as Heathens, bow'd the knee
[Pg 131]To the dire Statue with the sceptred hand,
Which Force enthrones for Thought's idolatry.
But now I hear the signal-sound afar,
Like the first clarion waking sleep to war,
When slumbering armies gird a doomèd town.
Dread with the whirlwind, glorious with the light,
Strong with the thunderbolt, comes rushing down
Truth:—Let the mountains reel beneath her might!
Vigour and health her angry wings dispense,
And speed the storm, to clear the pestilence.
For this, at morn, when through the gladd'ning air
Larks rise to heaven—arose my freeman's prayer.
For this, has Night in solemn prophet-dreams
Limn'd Time's great morrow—now its day-star gleams!
Yea, ere I loved thee, ere a sigh had ask'd
Ev'n if the love of woman were for me,
A Shape of queenlier grief than ever task'd
The votive hearts of antique Chivalry,
Born to command the sword, inspire the song,
Unveil'd her beauty, and reveal'd her wrong.
The Cause she pleads for with the world began;
The realm torn from her is the Soul of Man—
And her great name despoil'd is—Liberty!
And now she calls me with imperial voice
Homeward o'er land and ocean to her cause;
Sworn to her service at mine own free choice,
Shall I be recreant when the sword she draws?"
IX.
She look'd upon that brow so fair and high,
Too bright for sorrow as too bold for fear;
She look'd upon the depth of that large eye
Whence (ev'n when lost to daylight) starry clear
Shone earth's sublimest soul;—then tremblingly
On his young arm her gentle hand she laid,
And in the simple movement more was said
Of the weak woman's heart, than ever yet
Of that sweet mystery man's rude speech hath told.
The touch rebuked him as he thrill'd to it;
Back to their deep the stormier passions roll'd,
And left his brow (as when the heaven above
Smiles through departing cloud) serene with love.
"Come then—companion in this path sublime;
Link life with life, and strengthen soul with soul;
If vain the hope that lights the onward time;
If back to darkness fade the phantom goal;
If Dreams, that now seem prophet-visions, be
Dreams, and no more—still let me cling to thee!
[Pg 132]Still, seeing thee, have faith in human worth,
And feel the Beautiful yet lives for earth!
Come, though from marble domes and myrtle bowers,
Come, though to lowly roofs and northern skies;
In its own fancies Love has regal towers,
And orient sunbeams in belovèd eyes.
Trust me, whatever fate my soul may gall,
Thou at thy woman-choice shalt ne'er repine;
Trust me, whatever storm on me may fall,
This man's true breast shall ward the bolt from thine.
Hark, where the bird from yon dark ilex breathes
Soul into night,—so be thy love to me!
Look, where around the bird the ilex wreathes
Still, sheltering boughs,—so be my love to thee!
O dweller in my heart, the music thine!
And the deep shelter—wilt thou scorn it? mine!"
He ceased, and drew her closer to his breast;
Soft from the ilex sang the nightingale:
Thy heart, O woman, in its happy rest
Hush'd a diviner tale!
And o'er her bent her lover; and the gold
Of his rich locks with her dark tresses blended;
And still, and calm, and tenderly, the lone
And mellowing night upon their forms descended;
And thus, amid the ghostly walls of old,
Seen through that silvery, moonlit, lucent air,
They seem'd not wholly of an earth-born mould,
But suited to the memories breathing there—
Two Genii of the mix'd and tender race,
Their charmèd homes in lonely coverts singling,
Last of their order, doom'd to haunt the place,
And bear sweet being interfused and mingling,
Draw through their life the same delicious breath,
And fade together into air in death.
Oh! what then burn'd within her, as her fond
And pure lips yearn'd to breathe the enduring vow?
All was forgot, save him before her now—
A blank, a non-existence, lay beyond—
All was forgot—all feeling, thought, but this—
For ever parted, or for ever his!
The voice just stirs her lip—what sound is there?
The cleft stone sighing to the curious air?
The night-bird rustling, or the fragment's fall,
Soft amid weeds, from Cæsar's ruin'd wall?
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *
[Pg 133]
From his embrace abrupt the maiden sprang
With low wild cry despairing:—In the shade
Of that dark tree where still the night-bird sang,
Stood a stern image statue-like, and made
A shadow in the shadow;—locks of snow
Crown'd, with the awe of age, the solemn brow;
Lofty its look with passionless command,
As some old chief's of grand inhuman Rome:
Calm from its stillness moved the beckoning hand,
And low from rigid lips it murmur'd "Come!"—
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *
*       *       *       *       *       *

PART THE THIRD.

"I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope, but still bear up, and steer
Right onward. What supports me, dost thou ask?
The conscience, friend."—MILTON'S Sonnet to Cyriack Skinner.
I.
Years have flown by;—and Strife hath raged and ceased;
Still on the ear the halted thunder rings;
And still in halls, where purple tyrants feast,
Glares the red warning to inebriate kings.
Midnight is past: the lamp with steadfast light
A silent cell, a mighty toil illumes;
And hot and lurid on the student's sight
Flares the still ray which, like himself, consumes
Its life in gilding darkness. Damp and chill
Gather the dews on aching temples wan,
Wrung from the frame which fails the unconquer'd will
In the fierce struggle between soul and man.
II.
Alas! no more to golden palaces,
To starlit founts and dryad-haunted trees,
The SWEET DELUSION wafts the dreamy soul;
But with slow step and steadfast eyes that strain
Dazzled and scathed, towards the far-flaming goal
He braved the storm, and labour'd up the plain
O doubtful labour, but O glorious pain!
On the doom'd sight the gradual darkness steals
Bates he a jot of heart and hope?—he feels
[Pg 134]But in his loss a world's eternal gain.[E]
Blame we or laud the Cause, all human life
Is grander by one grand self-sacrifice;
While earth disputes if righteous be the strife,
The martyr soars beyond it to the skies.
Yes, though when Freedom had her temple won
She rear'd a scaffold to obscure a shrine;
And, by the human sacrifice of one,
Sullied the million,—who could then define
The subtle tints where good and evil blend?—
There comes no rainbow when the floods descend!
Who, just escaped the chain and prison-bar,
Halts on the bridge to guess where glides the stream;
Who plays the casuist 'mid the roar of war;
Or in the arena builds the Academe?
Whate'er their errors, lightly those condemn
Who, had they felt not, fought not, glow'd and err'd,
Had left us what their fathers left to them—
Either the thraldom of the passive herd
Stall'd for the shambles at the master's word,
Or the dread overleap of walls that close,
And spears that bristle:—And the last they chose.
Calm from the hills their children gaze to-day,
And breathe the airs to which they forced the way.
III.
And thou, of whom I sing—what should we all,
Whate'er our state-creed, venerate in thee?
Purpose heroic; and majestical
Disdain of self;—the soul in which we see
Conviction, welding, from the furnace-zeal,
Duty, the iron mainspring of the mind;
Ardour, if fierce, yet fired for England's weal;
And man's strong heart-throb beating for mankind.
These move our homage, doubtful though we be
If ev'n thy pen acquits the headman's steel,
When thy page cites the crownless Dead—and pleads
Defence for nations in a judgeless cause:
Judgeless, for time shall ne'er decide what deeds
Damn or absolve the hosts whom Freedom leads
O'er the pale border-land of dying laws
Into the vague world of Necessity.

[Pg 135]

IV.
He lifts his look where on the lattice bar,
Through clouds fast gathering, shines a single star;
Large on the haze of his receding sight
It spreads, and spreads, and floods all space with light;
Nature's last glorious mournful smile on him
Ev'n while on earth so near the Seraphim.
Now from the blaze he veils with tremulous hand
The scorching eyes:—and now the starlight fades:
Midnight and cloud resettle on the Land,
And o'er her champion's vision rush the shades.
What rests to both?—the inner light that glows
Out from the gloom that Fate on each bestows;
There is no PRESENT to a hope sublime;
Man has eternity, and Nations time!

PART THE FOURTH.

"Thus with the year
Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me."—Paradise Lost, Book III.
"Though fall'n on evil days,
In darkness, and with danger compass'd round,
And solitude; yet not alone, while thou
Visit'st my slumbers nightly, or when morn
Purples the east."—Paradise Lost, Book VII.
I.
Its gay farewell to hospitable eaves
The swallow twitter'd in the autumn heaven;
Dumb on the crisp earth fell the yellowing leaves,
Or, in small eddies, fitfully were driven
Down the bleak waste of the remorseless air.
Out, from the widening gaps in dreary boughs,
Alone the laurel smiled,—as freshly fair
As its own chaplet on immortal brows,
When Fame, indifferent to the changeful sun,
Sees waning races wither, and lives on.—
An old man sate before that deathless tree
Which bloom'd his humble dwelling-place beside;
The last pale rose which lured the lingering bee
To the low porch it scantly blossom'd o'er,
Nipp'd by the frost-air had that morning died.
[Pg 136]The clock faint-heard beyond the gaping door,
Low as a death-watch, click'd the moments' knell;
And through the narrow opening you might see
Uncertain foot-prints on the sanded floor
(Uncertain foot-prints which of blindness tell);
The rude oak board, the morn's untasted fare;
The scatter'd volumes and the pillow'd chair,
In which, worn out with toil and travel past,
Life, the poor wanderer, finds repose at last.
II.
The old man felt the fresh air o'er him blowing
Waving thin locks from musing temples pale;
Felt the quick sun through cloud and azure going,
And the light dance of leaves upon the gale,
In that mysterious symbol-change of earth
Which looks like death, though but restoring birth.
Seasons return; for him shall not return
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn.
Whatever garb the mighty mother wore,
Nature to him was changeless evermore.—
List, not a sigh!—though fall'n on evil days,
With darkness compass'd round—those sightless eyes
Need not the sun; nightly he sees the rays,
Nightly he walks the bowers of Paradise.
High, pale, still, voiceless, motionless, alone,
Death-like in calm as monumental stone,
Lifting his looks into the farthest skies,
He sate: And as when some tempestuous day
Dies in the hush of the majestic eve,
So on his brow—where grief has pass'd away,
Reigns that dread stillness grief alone can leave.
III.
And while he sate, nor saw, nor sigh'd,—drew near
A timorous trembling step;—from the far clime
The Pilgrim Woman came: long year on year,
In brain-sick thought that takes no heed of time,
How had she pined to gaze upon that brow
Last seen in youth, when she was young:—And Now!
And now! O words that make the sepulchre
Of all our Past! Life sheds no sadder tear
Than, when recalling what the Hours inter
Of hopes, of passions, of the things that made
Our hearts once quicken with tumultuous bliss,
We feel what worlds within ourselves can fade,
Sighing "And now!"—Alas the nothingness
Even of love—had it no life but this!

[Pg 137]

IV.
Thus as she stood and gazed, and noiseless wept,
Two young slight forms across the threshold crept
And reach'd the blind grey man, and kiss'd his hand,
And then a moment o'er his lips there stray'd
The old, familiar, sweet yet stately smile.
On either side the children took their stand,
And all the three were silent for awhile:
Till one, the gentler, whisper'd some soft word,
Mingling her young locks with that silvery hair;
And the old man the child's meek voice obey'd,
Rose,—lingering yet to breathe the gladsome air—
Or catch the faint note of the neighbouring bird;
Then leaning on the two, his head he bow'd,
And from the daylight pensive pass'd away.
Sharp swept the wind, the thrush forsook the spray,
And the poor Pilgrim wept at last aloud.
V.
Hark, from within, slow and sonorous stole
Deep organ-tones; with solemn pomp of sound
Meet to bear up the disimprison'd soul
From mortal homage in material piles,
To blend with Angel Halleluiahs!—Round
The charmèd place the notes melodious roll
As with a visible flood: adown the aisles
Of Nature's first cathedrals (vistas dim,
Through leafless woodlands), far and farther float
On to the startled haunts of toiling men,
The marching music-tides: the heavenly note
Thrills through the reeking air of alleys grim;
Awes wolf-eyed Guilt close skulking in its den;
Lulls Childhood, wailing with white lips for bread,
On the starved breast of nerveless Penury;
Fever lies soothed upon its burning bed:
Indignant Worth stills its world-weary sigh;
The widow'd bride looks upward from the dead,
And deems she hears his welcome to the sky.
On, the grand music, more and more remote,
Bore the grey blind man's soul, itself a hymn,
Till lost in air amid the Seraphim.
VI.
Our life is as a circle, and our age
Back to our youth returns at last in dreams;
The intermediate restless pilgrimage
Vexing the earth with toils, the air with schemes,
Pays our hard tribute to the work-day world.
That done, as some storm-shatter'd argosy
[Pg 138]Puts to the port from whence its sail unfurl'd,
The soul regains the first familiar shore,
And greets the quiet it disdain'd before.
He who in youth from purple poetry
Flush'd the grey clouds in this cold common sky,
After his shadeless undelusive noon
Shall mark the roseate hues, which morning wore,
Herald the eve, and gird his setting sun;
And the last Hesperus shine on Helicon.
O long (yet nobly, since for man) resign'd
Nature's most sovereign, care's most soothing boon;
Again, again, with vervain fillets bind
Anointed brows—O Mage supreme of song!
Again before the enchanted crystal glass
Let the celestial phantoms glide along—
Thou, whose sweet tears yet hallow Lycidas;
Thou, who the soul of Plato didst unsphere,
By chaste Sabrina's beryl-paven cell!
If now no more thou deign'st to charm the ear
"With measures ravish'd from Apollo's shell,"
Re-wake the harp which mournful willows hide
Left by the captives of Jerusalem;
For thou hast thought of Sion, and beside
The streams of Babylon, hast wept—like them!
VII.
Aged, forsaken—to the crowd below
(As to the Priest[F] who chronicled the time),
"One Milton!The blind Teacher"—be it so.
Neglect and ruin make but more sublime
The last lone column which survives the dearth
Of a lost city,—when it lifts on high.
Above the waste and solitude of earth
Its front: and soars, the Neighbour of the Sky.
To him a Voice floats down from every star;
An Angel bends from every cloud that rolls;
Life has no mystery from our sight more far
Than the still joy in solemn Poet-souls.
As some vast river, fresh'ning lands unknown
Where never yet a human footstep trod,
Leave the grand Song to flow majestic on
And hymn delight, from all its waves, to God.
VIII.
A death-bell ceased;—beneath the vault were laid
A great man's bones;—and when the rest were gone,
Veil'd, and in sable widow-'d weeds array'd,
An aged woman knelt upon the stone.
[Pg 139]Low as she pray'd, the wailing notes were sweet
With the strange music of a foreign tongue:
Thrice to that spot came feeble, feebler feet,
Thrice on that stone were humble garlands hung.
On the fourth day some formal hand in scorn
The flowers that breathed of priestcraft cast away;
But the poor stranger came not with the morn,
And flowers forbidden deck'd no more the clay.
A heart was broken!—and a spirit fled!
Whither—let those who love and hope decide—
But in the faith that Love rejoins the dead,
The heart was broken ere the garland died.

FOOTNOTES

[A] In the story of Cupid and Psyche, told in Apuleius, it is said that the lamp itself gladdened at the aspect of the god.—"Cujus aspectu lucernæ quoque lumen hilaratum increbuit."

[B] Galileo—according to the popular legend of Milton's visit to him.

[C] Plato.

[D] The foliage of the Corinthian capital is borrowed from the acanthus.

[E] The Council of State ordered, January 1649-50, "That Mr. Milton do prepare something in answer to the book of Salmasius, and when he hath done itt, bring itt to the Council." He was present, says his biographer, at the discussion which led to the order, and though warned that the loss of sight would be the certain consequence of obeying it, did so.—He called to mind, to use his own image, the two destinies the oracle announced to Achilles:—"If he stay before Troy, he will return to his land no more, but have everlasting glory—if he withdraw, long will be his life and short his fame."

[F] Burnett.


[Pg 140]

EVA.

A TRUE STORY.

I.

THE MAIDEN'S HOME.

A cottage in a peaceful vale;
A jasmine round the door;
A hill to shelter from the gale;
A silver brook before.
Oh, sweet the jasmine's buds of snow,
In mornings soft with May;
Oh, silver-clear the waves that flow,
Reflecting heaven, away!
A sweeter bloom to Eva's youth
Rejoicing Nature gave;
And heaven was mirror'd in her truth
More clear than on the wave.
Oft to that lone sequester'd place
My boyish steps would roam,
There was a look in Eva's face
That seem'd a smile of home.
And oft I paused to hear at noon
A voice that sang for glee;
Or mark the white neck glancing down,—
The book upon the knee.—

II.

THE IDIOT BOY.

Who stands between thee and the sun?—
A cloud himself,—the Wandering One!
A vacant wonder in the eyes,—
The mind, a blank, unwritten scroll;—
The light was in the laughing skies,
And darkness in the Idiot's soul.
[Pg 141]He touch'd the book upon her knee—
He look'd into her gentle face—
"Thou dost not tremble, maid, to see
Poor Arthur by thy dwelling-place.
I know not why, but where I pass
The aged turn away;
And if my shadow vex the grass,
The children cease from play.
My only playmates are the wind,
The blossom on the bough!
"Why are thy looks so soft and kind?
Thou dost not tremble—thou!"
Though none were by, she trembled not—
Too meek to wound, too good to fear him;
And, as he linger'd on the spot,
She hid the tears that gush'd to hear him.—

III.

PRAYER OF ARTHUR'S FATHER.

"O Maiden!"—thus the sire begun—
"O Maiden, do not scorn my prayer:
I have a hapless idiot son,
To all my wealth the only heir;
And day by day, in shine or rain,
He wanders forth, to gaze again
Upon those eyes, whose looks of kindness
Still haunt him in his world of blindness;
A sunless world!—all arts to yield
Light to the mind from childhood seal'd
Have been explored in vain.
Few are his joys on earth;—above,
For every ill a cure is given—
God grant me life to cheer with love
The wanderer's guileless path to Heaven."
He paused—his heart was full—"And now,
What brings the suppliant father here?
Yes, few the joys that life bestows
On him whose life is but repose—
One night, from year to year;—
Yet not so dark, O maid, if thou
Couldst let his shadow catch thy light,
Couldst to his lip that smile allow
Which comes but at thy sight;
Couldst—(for the smile is still so rare,
And oh, so innocent the joy!)
His presence, though it pain thee, bear,
Nor fear the harmless idiot boy!"
[Pg 142]Then Eva's father, from her brow
Parted the golden locks, descending
To veil the sweet face, downwards bending:—
And, pointing to the swimming eyes,
The dew-drops glist'ning on the cheek,
"Mourner!" the happier father cries,
"These tears her answer speak!"
Oh, sweet the jasmine's buds of snow,
In mornings soft with May;
Oh, silver-clear the waves that flow
In summer skies away;—
But sweeter looks of kindness seem
O'er human trouble bow'd,
And gentle hearts reflect the beam
Less truly than the cloud.

IV.

THE YOUNG TEACHER.

Of wonders on the land and deeps
She spoke, and glories in the sky—
The Eternal life the Father keeps,
For those who learn from Him to die.
So simply did the maiden speak—
So simply and so earnestly,
You saw the light begin to break,
And Soul the Heaven to see;
You saw how slowly, day by day,
The darksome waters caught the ray
Confused and broken—come and gone—
The beams as yet uncertain are,
But still the billows murmur on,
And struggle for the star.

V.

THE STRANGER SUITOR.

There came to Eva's maiden home
A Stranger from a sunnier clime;
The lore that Hellas taught to Rome,
The wealth that Wisdom works from Time,
Which ever, in its ebb and flow,
Heaves to the seeker on the shore
The waifs of glorious wrecks below,
The argosies of yore;—
Each gem that in that dark profound
The Past,—the Student's soul can find;
Shone from his thought, and sparkled round
The Enchanted Palace of the Mind.
[Pg 143]In man's best years, his form was fair,
Broad brow with hyacinth locks of hair;
A port, though stately, not severe;
An eye that could the heart control;
A voice whose music to the ear,
Became a memory to the soul.
It seem'd as Nature's hand had done
Her most to mould her kingly son;
But oft beneath the sunlit Nile
The grim destroyer waits its prey,
And dark, below that fatal smile,
The lurking demon lay.
How trustful in the leafy June,
She roved with him the lonely vale;
How trustful by the tender moon,
She blushed to hear a tenderer tale.
O happy Earth! the dawn revives,
Day after day, each drooping flower—
Time to the heart once only gives
The joyous Morning Hour.
"To him—oh, wilt thou pledge thy youth,
For whom the world's false bloom is o'er?
My heart shall haven in thy truth,
And tempt the faithless wave no more.
In my far land, a sun more bright
Sheds rose-hues o'er a tideless sea;
But cold the wave, and dull the light,
Without the sunshine found in thee.
Say, wilt thou come, the Stranger's bride,
To that bright land and tideless sea?
There is no sun but by thy side—
My life's whole sunshine smiles in thee!"
Her hand lay trembling on his arm,
Averted glow'd the happy face;
A softer hue, a mightier charm,
Grew mellowing o'er the hour—the place;
Along the breathing woodlands moved
A PRESENCE dream-like and divine—
How sweet to love and be beloved,
To lean upon a heart that's thine!
Silence was o'er the earth and sky—
By silence Love is answer'd best—
Her answer was the downcast eye,
The rose-cheek pillow'd on his breast.
What rustles through the moonlit brake?
What sudden spectre meets their gaze?
[Pg 144]What face, the hues of life forsake,
Gleams ghost-like in the ghostly rays?
You might have heard his heart that beat,
So heaving rose its heavy swell—
No more the Idiot—at her feet,
The Dark One, roused to reason, fell.
Loosed the last link that thrall'd the thought,
The lightning broke upon the blind—
The jealous love the cure had wrought,
The Heart in waking woke the Mind.

VI.

THE MARRIAGE.

To and fro the bells are swinging,
Cheerily, clearly, to and fro;
Gaily go the young girls, bringing
Flowers the fairest June may know.
Maiden, flowers that bloom'd and perish'd
Strew'd thy path the bridal day;
May the Hope thy soul has cherish'd,
Bloom when these are pass'd away!
The Father's parting prayer is said,
The daughter's parting kiss is given;
The tears a happy bride may shed,
Like dews ascend to heaven;
And leave the earth from which they rise,
But balmier airs, and rosier dyes.

VII.

THE HERMIT.

Years fly; beneath the yew-tree shade
Thy father's holy dust is laid;
The brook glides on, the jasmine blows;
But where art thou, the wandering wife,
And what the bliss, and what the woes,
Glass'd in the mirror-sleep of life?
For whether life may laugh or weep,
Death the true waking—life the sleep.
None know! afar, unheard, unseen—
The present heeds not what has been;
This herded world together press'd,
Can miss no straggler from the rest—
Not so! Nay, all one heart may find,
Where Memory lives, a saint enshrined—
Some altar-hearth, in which our shade
The Household-god of Thought is made,
[Pg 145]And each slight relic hoarded yet
With faith more solemn than regret.
Who tenants thy forsaken cot—
Who tends thy childhood's favourite flowers—
Who wakes, from every haunted spot,
The Ghosts of buried Hours?
'Tis He whose sense was doom'd to borrow
From thee the Vision and the Sorrow—
To whom the Reason's golden ray,
In storms that rent the heart was given;
The peal that burst the clouds away
Left clear the face of heaven!
And wealth was his, and gentle birth,
A form in fair proportions cast;
But lonely still he walk'd the earth—
The Hermit of the Past.
It was not love—that dream was o'er!
No stormy grief, no wild emotion;
For oft, what once was love of yore,
The memory soothes into devotion!
He bought the cot:—The garden flowers—
The haunts his Eva's steps had trod,
Books—thought—beguiled the lonely hours,
That flow'd in peaceful waves to God.

VIII.

DESERTION.

She sits, a Statue of Despair,
In that far land, by that bright sea;
She sits, a Statue of Despair,
Whose smile an Angel seem'd to be—
An angel that could never die,
Its home the heaven of that blue eye!
The smile is gone for ever there—
She sits, the Statue of Despair!
She knows it all—the hideous tale—
The wrong, the perjury, and the shame;—
Before the bride had left her vale,
Another bore the nuptial name;
Another lives to claim the hand
Whose clasp, in thrilling, had defiled:
Another lives, O God, to brand
The Bastard's curse upon her child!
Another!—through all space she saw
The face that mock'd th' unwedded mother's!
In every voice she heard the Law,
That cried, "Thou hast usurp'd another's!"
[Pg 146]And who the horror first had told?—
From his false lips in scorn it came—
"Thy charms grow dim, my love grows cold;
My sails are spread—Farewell."
Rigid in voiceless marble there—
Come, sculptor, come—behold Despair!
The infant woke from feverish rest—
Its smiles she sees, its voice she hears—
The marble melted from the breast,
And all the Mother gush'd in tears.

IX.

THE INFANT-BURIAL

To and fro the bells are swinging,
Heavily heaving to and fro;
Sadly go the mourners, bringing
Dust to join the dust below.
Through the church-aisle, lighted dim,
Chanted knells the ghostly hymn,
Dies iræ, dies illa,
Solvet sæclum in favillâ!
Mother! flowers that bloom'd and perish'd,
Strew'd thy path the bridal day;
Now the bud thy grief has cherish'd,
With the rest has pass'd away!
Leaf that fadeth—bud that bloometh,
Mingled there, must wait the day
When the seed the grave entombeth
Bursts to glory from the clay.
Dies iræ, dies illa,
Solvet sæclum in favillâ!
Happy are the old that die,
With the sins of life repented;
Happier he whose parting sigh
Breaks a heart, from sin prevented!
Let the earth thine infant cover
From the cares the living know;
Happier than the guilty lover—
Memory is at rest below!
Memory, like a fiend, shall follow,
Night and day, the steps of Crime;
Hark! the church-bell, dull and hollow,
Shakes another sand from time!
Through the church-aisle, lighted dim,
Chanted knells the ghostly hymn;
[Pg 147]Hear it, False One, where thou fliest,
Shriek to hear it when thou diest—
Dies iræ, dies illa,
Solvet sæclum in favillâ!

X.

THE RETURN.

The cottage in the peaceful vale,
The jasmine round the door,
The hill still shelters from the gale,
The brook still glides before.
Without the porch, one summer noon,
The Hermit-dweller see!
In musing silence bending down,
The book upon his knee.
Who stands between thee and the sun?—
A cloud herself,—the Wand'ring One!—
A vacant sadness in the eyes,
The mind a razed, defeatured scroll;
The light is in the laughing skies,
And darkness, Eva, in thy soul!
The beacon shaken in the storm,
Had struggled still to gleam above
The last sad wreck of human love,
Upon the dying child to shed
One ray—extinguish'd with the dead:
O'er earth and heaven then rush'd the night!
A wandering dream, a mindless form—
A Star hurl'd headlong from its height,
Guideless its course, and quench'd its light.
Yet still the native instinct stirr'd
The darkness of the breast—
She flies, as flies the wounded bird
Unto the distant nest.
O'er hill and waste, from land to land,
Her heart the faithful instinct bore;
And there, behold the Wanderer stand
Beside her Childhood's Home once more!

XI.

LIGHT AND DARKNESS.

When earth is fair, and winds are still,
When sunset gilds the western hill,
Oft by the porch, with jasmine sweet,
Or by the brook, with noiseless feet,
Two silent forms are seen;
[Pg 148]So silent they—the place so lone—
They seem like souls when life is gone,
That haunt where life has been:
And his to watch, as in the past
Her soul had watch'd his soul.
Alas! her darkness waits the last,
The grave the only goal!
It is not what the leech can cure—
An erring chord, a jarring madness:
A calm so deep, it must endure—
So deep, thou scarce canst call it sadness;
A summer night, whose shadow falls
On silent hearths in ruin'd halls.
Yet, through the gloom, she seem'd to feel
His presence like a happier air,
Close by his side she loved to steal,
As if no ill could harm her there!
And when her looks his own would seek,
Some memory seem'd to wake the sigh,
Strive for kind words she could not speak,
And bless him in the tearful eye.
O sweet the jasmine's buds of snow,
In mornings soft with May,
And silver-clear the waves that flow
To shoreless deeps away;
But heavenward from the faithful heart
A sweeter incense stole;—
The onward waves their source desert,
But Soul returns to Soul!

[Pg 149]

THE FAIRY BRIDE.

A TALE[A]

PART I.

"And how canst thou in tourneys shine,
Or tread the glittering festal floor?
On chains of gold and cloth of pile,
The looks of high-born Beauty smile;
Nor peerless deeds, nor stainless line,
Can lift to fame the Poor!"
His Mother spoke; and Elvar sigh'd—
The sigh alone confess'd the truth;
He curb'd the thoughts that gall'd the breast—
High thoughts ill suit the russet vest;
Yet Arthur's Court, in all its pride,
Ne'er saw so fair a youth.
Far, to the forest's stillest shade,
Sir Elvar took his lonely way;
Beneath an oak, whose gentle frown
Dimm'd noon's bright eyes, he laid him down
And watch'd a Fount that through the glade,
Sang, sparkling up to day.
"As sunlight to the forest tree"—
'Twas thus his murmur'd musings ran—
"And as amidst the sunlight's glow,
The freshness of the fountain's flow—
So—(ah, they never mine may be!)—
Are Gold and Love to Man."
[Pg 150]
And while he spoke, a gentle air
Seem'd stirring through the crystal tides;
A gleam, at first both dim and bright,
Trembled to shape, in limbs of light,
Gilded to sunbeams by the hair
That glances where IT glides;[B]
Till, clear and clearer, upward borne,
The Fairy of the Fountain rose:
The halo quivering round her, grew
More steadfast as the shape shone through—
O sure, a second, softer Morn
The Elder Daylight knows!
Born from the blue of those deep eyes,
Such love its happy self betray'd
As only haunts that tender race,
With flower or fount, their dwelling-place—
The darling of the earth and skies
She rose—that Fairy Maid!
"Listen!" she said, and wave and land
Sigh'd back her murmur, murmurously—
"A love more true than minstrel sings,
A wealth that mocks the pomp of kings,
To him who wins the Fairy's hand
A Fairy's dower shall be.
"But not to those can we belong
Whose sense the charms of earth allure?
If human love hath yet been thine,
Farewell,—our laws forbid thee mine.
The Children of the Star and Song,
We may but bless the Pure!"
"Dream—lovelier far than e'er, I ween,
Entranced the glorious Merlin's eyes—
Through childhood, to this happiest hour,
All free from human Beauty's power,
My heart unresting still hath been
A prophet in its sighs.
"Though never living shape hath brought
Sweet love, that second life, to me,
Yet over earth, and through the heaven,
The thoughts that pined for love were driven:—
I see thee—and I feel I sought
Through Earth and Heaven for thee!"

[Pg 151]

PART II.

Ask not the Bard to lift the veil
That hides the Fairy's bridal bower;
If thou art young, go seek the glade,
And win thyself some fairy maid;
And rosy lips shall tell the tale
In some enchanted hour.
"Farewell!" as by the greenwood tree,
The Fairy clasp'd the Mortal's hand—
"Our laws forbid thee to delay—
Not ours the life of every day!—
And Man, alas! may rarely be
The Guest of Fairy-land.
"Back to thy Prince's halls depart,
The stateliest of his stately train:
Henceforth thy wish shall be thy mine—
Each toy that gold can purchase, thine—
A fairy's coffers are the heart
A mortal cannot drain."
"Talk not of wealth—that dream is o'er!—
These sunny looks be all my gold!"
"Nay! if in courts thy thoughts can stray
Along the fairy-forest way,
Wish but to see thy bride once more—
Thy bride thou shalt behold.
"Yet hear the law on which must rest
Thy union with thine elfin bride;
If ever by a word—a tone—
Thou mak'st our tender secret known,
The spell will vanish from thy breast—
The Fairy from thy side.
"If thou but boast to mortal ear
The meanest charm thou find'st in me,
If"—here his lips the sweet lips seal,
Low-murmuring, "Love can ne'er reveal—
It cannot breathe to mortal ear
The charms it finds in thee!"

[Pg 152]

PART III.

High joust, by Carduel's ancient town,
The Kingly Arthur holds to-day;
Around their Queen; in glittering row,
The Starry Hosts of Beauty glow.
Smile down, ye stars, on his renown
Who bears the wreath away!
O chiefs who gird the Table Round—
O war-gems of that wondrous ring!—
Where lives the man to match the might
That lifts to song your meanest knight,
Who sees, preside on Glory's ground,
His Lady and his King?
What prince as from some throne afar,
Shines onward—shining up the throng?
Broider'd with pearls, his mantle's fold
Flows o'er the mail emboss'd with gold;
As rides, from cloud to cloud, a star,
The Bright One rode along!
Twice fifty stalwart Squires, in air
The stranger's knightly pennon bore;
Twice fifty Pages, pacing slow,
Scatter his largess as they go;
Calm through the crowd he pass'd, and, there,
Rein'd in the Lists before.
Light question in those elder days
The heralds made of birth and name.
Enough to wear the spurs of gold,
To share the pastime of the bold.
"Forwards!" their wands the Heralds raise,
And in the Lists he came.
Now rouse thee, rouse thee, bold Gawaine!
Think of thy Lady's eyes above;
Now rouse thee for thy Queen's sweet sake,
Thou peerless Lancelot of the Lake!
Vain Gawaine's might, and Lancelot's vain!—
They know no Fairy's love.
[Pg 153]
Before him swells the joyous tromp,
He comes—the victor's wreath is won!
Low to his Queen Sir Elvar kneels,
The helm no more his face conceals;
And one pale form amidst the pomp,
Sobs forth—"My gallant son!"

PART IV.

Sir Elvar is the fairest knight
That ever lured a lady's glance;
Sir Elvar is the wealthiest lord
That sits at good King Arthur's board;
The bravest in the joust or fight,
The lightest in the dance.
And never love, methinks, so blest
As his, this weary world has known;
For, every night before his eyes,
The charms that ne'er can fade arise—
A star unseen by all the rest—
A Life for him alone.
And yet Sir Elvar is not blest—
He walks apart with brows of gloom—
"The meanest knight in Arthur's hall
His lady-love may tell to all;
He shows the flower that glads his breast—
His pride to boast its bloom!
"And I who clasp the fairest form
That e'er to man's embrace was given,
Must hide the gift as if in shame!
What boots a prize we dare not name?
The sun must shine if it would warm—
A cloud is all my heaven!"
Much proud Genevra[C] marvell'd, how
A knight so fair should seem so cold;
What if a love for hope too high,
Has chain'd the lip and awed the eye?
A second joust—and surely now
The secret shall be told.
[Pg 154]
For, there, alone shall ride the brave
Whose glory dwells in Beauty's fame;
Each, for his lady's honour, arms—
His lance the test of rival charms.
Joy unto him whom Beauty gave
The right to gild her name!
Sir Lancelot burns to win the prize—
First in the Lists his shield is seen;
A sunflower for device he took—
"Where'er thou shinest turns my look."
So as he paced the Lists, his eyes
Still sought the Sun—his Queen!
"And why, Sir Elvar, loiterest thou?—
Lives there no fair thy lance to claim?"
No answer Elvar made the King;
Sullen he stood without the ring.
"Forwards!" An armèd whirlwind now
On horse and horseman came!
And down goes princely Caradoc—
Down Tristan and stout Agrafrayn,—
Unscath'd, alone, amidst the field,
Great Lancelot bears his victor-shield;
The sunflower bright'ning through the shock,
And through that iron rain.
"Sound, trumpets—sound!—to South and North!
I, Lancelot of the Lake, proclaim,
That never sun and never air,
Or shone or breathed on form so fair
As hers—thrice, trumpets, sound it forth!—
Our Arthur's royal dame!"
And South and North, and West and East,
Upon the thunder-blast it flies!
Still on his steed sits Lancelot,
And even echo answers not;
Till, as the stormy challenge ceased,
A voice was heard—"He lies!"
All turn'd their mute, astonish'd gaze,
To where the daring answer came,
And lo! Sir Elvar's haughty crest!—
Fierce on the knight the gazers press'd;—
Their wands the sacred Heralds raise,—
Genevra weeps for shame.
[Pg 155]
"Sir Knight," King Arthur smiling said
(In smiles a king should wrath disguise),
"Know'st thou, in truth, a dame so fair,
Our Queen may not with her compare?
Genevra, weep, and hide thy head—
Sir Lancelot, yield the prize."
"O, grace, my liege, for surely each
The dame he serves should peerless hold,
To loyal eye and faithful breast
The loved one is the loveliest."
The King replied, "Not crafty speech—
Bold deeds—excuse the bold!
"So name thy fair, defend her right!
A list!—Ho Lancelot, guard thy shield.
Her name?"—Sir Elvar's visage fell:
"A vow forbids the name to tell."
"Now out upon the recreant Knight
Who courts yet shuns the field!
"Foul shame, were royal name disgraced
By some light leman's taunting smile!
Whoe'er—so run the tourney's laws—
Would break a lance in Beauty's cause,
Must name the Highborn and the Chaste—
The nameless are the vile."
Sir Elvar glanced, where, stern and high,
The scornful champion rein'd his steed;
Where o'er the Lists the seats were raised,
And jealous dames disdainful gazed,
He glanced, nor caught one gentle eye—
Courts grow not friends at need:
"King! I have said, and keep my vow."
"Thy vow! I pledge thee mine in turn,
Ere the third sun shall sink,—or bring
A fair outshining yonder ring,
Or find mine oath as thine is now
Inflexible and stern.
"Thy sword, unmeet to serve the right,—
Thy spurs, unfit for churls to wear,
Torn from thee;—through the crowd, which heard
Our Lady weep at vassal's word,
Shall hiss the hoot,—'Behold the knight,
Whose lips belie the fair!'
[Pg 156]
"Three days I give; nor think to fly
Thy doom; for on the rider's steed,
Though to the farthest earth he ride,—
Disgrace once mounted, clings beside;
And Mockery's barbèd shafts defy
Her victim's swiftest speed."
Far to the forest's stillest shade,
Sir Elvar took his lonely way:
Beneath the oak, whose gentle frown
Still dimm'd the noon, he laid him down,
And saw the Fount that through the glade
Sang sparkling up to day.
Alas, in vain his heart address'd,
With sighs, with prayers, his elfin bride;—
What though the vow conceal'd the name,
Did not the boast the charms proclaim?
The spell has vanish'd from his breast,
The fairy from his side.
Oh, not for vulgar homage made,
The holier beauty form'd for one;
It asks no wreath the arm can win;
Its lists—its world—the heart within;
All love, if sacred, haunts the shade—
The star shrinks from the sun!
Three days the wand'rer roved in vain;
Uprose the fatal dawn at last!
The Lists are set, the galleries raised,
And, scorn'd by all the eyes that gazed,
Alone he fronts the crowd again,
And hears the sentence pass'd.
Now, as, amidst the hooting scorn,
Rude hands the hard command fulfil,
While rings the challenge—"Sun and air
Ne'er shone, ne'er breathed, on form so fair
As Arthur's Queen,"—a single horn
Came from the forest hill.
A note so distant and so lone,
And yet so sweet,—it thrill'd along,
It hush'd the Champion on his steed,
Startled the rude hands from their deed,
Charm'd the stern Arthur on his throne,
And still'd the shouting throng.
[Pg 157]
To North, to South, to East, and West,
They turn'd their eyes; and o'er the plain,
On palfrey white, a Ladye rode;
As woven light her mantle glow'd.
Two lovely shapes, in azure dress'd,
Walk'd first, and led the rein.
The crowd gave way, as onward bore
That vision from the Land of Dreams;
Veil'd was the gentle rider's face,
But not the two her path that grace.
How dim beside the charms they wore
All human beauty seems!
So to the throne the pageant came,
And thus the Fairy to the King:
"Not unto thee for ever dear,
By minstrel's song, to knighthood's ear
Beseems the wrath that wrongs the vow,
Which hallows ev'n a name.
"Bloom there no flowers more sweet by night?
Come, Queen, before the judgment throne;
Behold Sir Elvar's nameless bride!
Now, Queen, his doom thyself decide."
She raised her veil,—and all her light
Of beauty round them shone!
The bloom, the eyes, the locks, the smile,
That never earth nor time could dim;—
Day grew more bright, and air more clear,
As Heaven itself were brought more near.—
And oh! his joy, who felt, the while,
That light but glow'd for him!
"My steed, my lance, vain Champion, now
To arms: and Heaven defend the right!"—
Here spake the Queen, "The strife is past,"
And in the Lists her glove she cast,
"And I myself will crown thy brow,
Thou love-defended Knight!"
He comes to claim the garland crown;
The changeful thousands shout his name;
And faithless beauty round him smiled,
How cold, beside the Forest's Child,
Who ask'd not love to bring renown,
And clung to love in shame!
[Pg 158]
He bears the prize to those dear feet:
"Not mine the guerdon! oh, not mine!"
Sadly the fated Fairy hears,
And smiles through unreproachful tears;
"Nay, keep the flowers, and be they sweet
When I—no more am thine!"
She lower'd the veil, she turn'd the rein,
And ere his lips replied, was gone.
As on she went her charmèd way,
No mortal dared the steps to stay:
And when she vanish'd from the plain
All space seem'd left alone!
Oh, woe! that fairy shape no more
Shall bless thy love nor rouse thy pride!
He seeks the wood, he gains the spot—
The Tree is there, the Fountain not;—
Dried up:—its mirthful play is o'er.
Ah, where the Fairy Bride?
Alas, with fairies as with men,
Who love are victims from the birth!
A fearful doom the fairy shrouds,
If once unveil'd by day to crowds.
The Fountain vanish'd from the glen,
The Fairy from the earth!

FOOTNOTES

[A] As the subject of this tale is suggested by one of the Fabliaux, the author has represented Arthur and Guenever, according to the view of their characters taken in those French romances—which he hopes he need scarcely say is very different from that taken in his maturer Poem upon the adventures and ordeal of the Dragon King.

[B] "With hair that gilds the water as it glides."—Marlowe, Edw. II.

[C] As Guenever is often called Genevra in the French romances, the latter name is here adopted for the sake of euphony.


[Pg 159]

THE BEACON.

I.
How broad and bright athwart the wave,
Its steadfast light the Beacon gave!
Far beetling from the headland shore,
The rock behind, the surge before,—
How lone and stern and tempest-sear'd,
Its brow to Heaven the turret rear'd!
Type of the glorious souls that are
The lamps our wandering barks to light,
With storm and cloud round every star,
The Fire-Guides of the Night!
II.
How dreary was that solitude!
Around it scream'd the sea-fowl's brood;
The only sound, amidst the strife
Of wind, and wave, that spoke of life,
Except when Heaven's ghost-stars were pale,
The distant cry from hurrying sail.
From year to year the weeds had grown
O'er walls slow-rotting with the damp;
And, with the weeds, decay'd, alone,
The Warder of the lamp.
III.
But twice in every week from shore
Fuel and food the boatmen bore;
And then so dreary was the scene,
So wild and grim the warder's mien,
So many a darksome legend gave
Awe to that Tadmor of the wave,
That scarce the boat the rock could gain,
Scarce heaved the pannier on the stone,
Than from the rock and from the main,
Th' unwilling life was gone.

[Pg 160]

IV.
A man he was whom man had driven
To loathe the earth and doubt the heaven;
A tyrant foe (beloved in youth)
Had call'd the law to crush the truth;
Stripp'd hearth and home, and left to shame
The broken heart—the blacken'd name.
Dark exile from his kindred, then,
He hail'd the rock, the lonely wild:
Upon the man at war with men
The frown of Nature smiled.
V.
But suns on suns had roll'd away;
The frame was bow'd, the locks were grey:
And the eternal sea and sky
Seem'd one still death to that dead eye;
And Terror, like a spectre, rose
From the dull tomb of that repose.
No sight, no sound, of human-kind;
The hours, like drops upon the stone!
What countless phantoms man may find
In that dark word—"Alone!"
VI.
Dreams of blue Heaven and Hope can dwell
With Thraldom in its narrowest cell;
The airy mind may pierce the bars,
Elude the chain, and hail the stars:
Canst thou no drearier dungeon guess
In space, when space is loneliness?
The body's freedom profits none,
The heart desires an equal scope;
All nature is a gaol to one
Who knows nor love nor hope!
VII.
One day, all summer in the sky,
A happy crew came gliding by,
With songs of mirth, and looks of glee—
A human sunbeam o'er the sea!
"O Warder of the Beacon," cried
A noble youth, the helm beside,
"This summer-day how canst thou bear
To guard thy smileless rock alone,
And through the hum of Nature hear
No heart-beat, save thine own?"

[Pg 161]

VIII.
"I cannot bear to live alone,
To hear no heart-heat, save my own;
Each moment, on this crowded earth,
The joy-bells ring some new-born birth;
Can ye not spare one form—but one,
The lowest—least beneath the sun,
To make the morning musical
With welcome from a human sound?"
"Nay," spake the youth,—"and is that all?
Thy comrade shall be found."
IX.
The boat sail'd on, and o'er the main
The awe of silence closed again;
But in the wassail hours of night,
When goblets go their rounds of light,
And in the dance, and by the side
Of her, yon moon shall mark his bride,
Before that Child of Pleasure rose,
The lonely rock—the lonelier one,
A haunting spectre—till he knows
The human wish is won!
X.
Low-murmuring round the turret's base
Wave glides on wave its gentle chase;
Lone on the rock, the warder hears
The oar's faint music—hark! it nears—
It gains the rock; the rower's hand
Aids a gray, time-worn form to land.
"Behold the comrade sent to thee!"
He said—then went. And in that place
The Twain were left; and Misery
And Guilt stood face to face!
XI.
Yes, face to face once more array'd,
Stood the Betrayer—the Betray'd!
Oh, how through all those gloomy years,
When Guilt revolves what Conscience fears,
Had that wrong'd victim breathed the vow
That if but face to face—And now,
There, face to face with him he stood,
By the great sea, on that wild steep;
Around, the voiceless Solitude,
Below, the funeral Deep!

[Pg 162]

XII.
They gazed—the Injurer's face grew pale—
Pale writhe the lips, the murmurs fail,
And thrice he strives to speak—in vain!
The sun looks blood-red on the main,
The boat glides, waning less and less—
No Law lives in the wilderness,
Except Revenge—man's first and last!
Those wrongs—that wretch—could they forgive?
All that could sweeten life was past;
Yet, oh, how sweet to live!
XIII.
He gazed before, he glanced behind;
There, o'er the steep rock seems to wind
The devious, scarce-seen path, a snake
In slime and sloth might, labouring, make.
With a wild cry he springs;—he crawls;
Crag upon crag he clears;—and falls
Breathless and mute; and o'er him stands,
Pale as himself, the chasing foe—
Mercy! what mean those claspèd hands,
Those lips that tremble so?
XIV.
"Thou hast cursed my life, my wealth despoil'd;
My hearth "is cold, my name is soil'd;
The wreck of what was Man, I stand
'Mid the lone sea and desert land!
Well, I forgive thee all; but be
A human voice and face to me!
O stay—O stay—and let me yet
One thing, that speaks man's language, know!—
The waste hath taught me to forget
That earth once held a foe!"
XV.
O Heaven! methinks, from thy soft skies,
Look'd tearful down the angel-eyes;
Back to those walls to mark them go,
Hand clasp'd in hand—the Foe and Foe!
And when the sun sunk slowly there,
Low knelt the prayerless man in prayer.
He knelt, no more the lonely one;
Within, secure, a comrade sleeps;
That sun shall not go down upon
A desert in the deeps.

[Pg 163]

XVI.
He knelt—the man who half till then
Forgot his God in loathing men,—
He knelt, and pray'd that God to spare
The Foe to grow the Brother there;
And, reconciled by Love to Heaven,
Forgiving—was he not forgiven?
"Yes, man for man thou didst create;
Man's wrongs, man's blessings can atone!
To learn how Love can spring from Hate—
Go, Hate,—and live alone."

THE LAY OF THE MINSTREL'S HEART.

It was the time when Spring on Earth
Gives Eden to the young;
On Provence shone the Vesper star;
Beneath fair Marguerite's lattice-bar
The Minstrel, Aymer, sung—
"The year may take a second birth,
But May is swift of wing;
The Heart whose sunshine lives in thee
One May from year to year shall see;
Thy love, eternal spring!"
The Ladye blush'd, the Ladye sighed,
All Heaven was in that Hour!
The Heart he pledged was leal and brave—
And what the pledge the Ladye gave?—
Her hand let fall a flower!
And when shall Aymer claim his Bride?
It is the hour to part!
He goes to guard the Saviour's grave;—
Her pledge, a flower, the Maiden gave,
And his—the Minstrel's heart!
Behold, a Cross, a Grave, a Foe!
What else—Man's Holy Land?
High deeds, that level Rank to Fame,
Have bought young Aymer's right to claim
The high-born Maiden's hand.
[Pg 164]
High deeds should ask no meed below—
Their meed is in the sky.
The poison-dart, in Victory's hour,
Has pierced the Heart where lies the flower,
And hers its latest sigh!
It is the time when Spring on Earth
Gives Eden to the young,
And harp and hymn proclaim the Bride,
Who smiles, Count Raimond, by thy side,—
The Maid whom Aymer sung!
And, darkly through the wassail mirth,
A pale procession see!—
Turn, Marguerite, from the bridegroom turn—
Thine Aymer's heart—the funeral urn—
His pledge, comes back to thee!
Lo, on the Urn how wither'd lies
Thy gift—the scentless flower!
Amid those garlands, fresh and fair,
That prank the hall and glad the air,
What does that wither'd flower?
One tear bedew'd the Ladye's eyes,
No tears beseem the day.
The dead can ne'er to life return
"A marble tomb shall grace the Urn,"
She said, and turn'd away.
The marble rose the Urn above,
The World went on the same;
The Ladye smiled. Count Raimond's bride,
And flowers, like hers, that bloom'd and died,
Each May returning came.
The faded flower, the dream of love,
The poison and the dart,
The tearful trust, the smiling wrong,
The tomb,—behold, O Child of Song,
The History of thy Heart!

[Pg 165]

Narrative Lyrics.

OR,

THE PARCÆ;

IN SIX LEAVES FROM THE SIBYL'S BOOK.


[Pg 166]

The Parcæ.—Leaf the First.

NAPOLEON AT ISOLA BELLA.

In the Isola Bella, upon the Lago Maggiore, where the richest vegetation of the tropics grows in the vicinity of the Alps, there is a lofty laurel-tree (the bay), tall as the tallest oak, on which, a few days before the battle of Marengo, Napoleon carved the word "BATTAGLIA." The bark has fallen away from the inscription, most of the letters are gone, and the few left are nearly effaced.

I.
O fairy island of a fairy sea,
Wherein Calypso might have spell'd the Greek,
Or Flora piled her fragrant treasury,
Cull'd from each shore her Zephyr's wings could seek.—
From rocks, where aloes blow.
Tier upon tier, Hesperian fruits arise;
The hanging bowers of this soft Babylon;
An India mellows in the Lombard skies,
And changelings, stolen from the Lybian sun,
Smile to yon Alps of snow.
II.
Amid this gentlest dream-land of the wave,
Arrested, stood the wondrous Corsican;
As if one glimpse the better angel gave
Of the bright garden-life vouschafed to man
Ere blood defiled the world.
He stood—that grand Sesostris of the North—
While paused the car to which were harness'd kings;
And in the airs, that lovingly sigh'd forth
The balms of Araby, his eagle-wings
Their sullen thunder furl'd.

[Pg 167]

III.
And o'er the marble hush of those large brows,
Dread with the awe of the Olympian nod,
A giant laurel spread its breathless boughs,
The prophet-tree of the dark Pythian god,
Shadowing the doom of thrones!
What, in such hour of rest and scene of joy,
Stirs in the cells of that unfathom'd brain?
Comes back one memory of the musing boy,
Lone gazing o'er the yet unmeasured main,
Whose waifs are human bones?
IV.
To those deep eyes doth one soft dream return?
Soft with the bloom of youth's unrifled spring,
When Hope first fills from founts divine the urn,
And rapt Ambition, on the angel's wing,
Floats first through golden air?
Or doth that smile recall the midnight street,
When thine own star the solemn ray denied,
And to a stage-mime,[A] for obscure retreat
From hungry Want, the destined Cæsar sigh'd?—
Still Fate, as then, asks prayer.
V.
Under that prophet tree, thou standest now;
Inscribe thy wish upon the mystic rind;
Hath the warm human heart no tender vow
Link'd with sweet household names?—no hope enshrined
Where thoughts are priests of Peace.
Or, if dire Hannibal thy model be,
Dread lest, like him, thou bear the thunder home!
Perchance ev'n now a Scipio dawns for thee,
Thou doomest Carthage while thou smitest Rome—
Write, write "Let carnage cease!"
VI.
Whispers from heaven have strife itself inform'd;—
"Peace" was our dauntless Falkland's latest sigh,
Navarre's frank Henry fed the forts he storm'd.
Wild Xerxes wept the Hosts he doom'd to die!
Ev'n War pays dues to Love!
[Pg 168]
Note how harmoniously the art of Man
Blends with the Beautiful of Nature! see
How the true Laurel of the Delian
Shelters the Grace!—Apollo's peaceful tree
Blunts ev'n the bolt of Jove.
VII.
Write on the sacred bark such votive prayer,
As the mild Power may grant in coming years,
Some word to make thy memory gentle there;—
More than renown, kind thought for men endears
A Hero to Mankind.
Slow moved the mighty hand—a tremour shook
The leaves, and hoarse winds groan'd along the wood;
The Pythian tree the damning sentence took,
And to the sun the battle-word of blood
Glared from the gashing rind.
VIII.
So thou hast writ the word, and sign'd thy doom:
Farewell, and pass upon thy gory way,
The direful skein the pausing Fates resume!
Let not the Elysian grove thy steps delay
From thy Promethean goal.
The fatal tree the abhorrent word retain'd,
Till the last Battle on its bloody strand
Flung what were nobler had no life remain'd,—
The crownless front and the disarmèd hand
And the' foil'd Titan Soul;
IX.
Now, year by year, the warrior's iron mark
Crumbles away from the majestic tree,
The indignant life-sap ebbing from the bark
Where the grim death-word to Humanity
Profaned the Lord of Day.
High o'er the pomp of blooms, as greenly still,
Aspires that tree—the Archetype of Fame,
The stem rejects all chronicle of ill;
The bark shrinks back—the tree survives the same—
The record rots away.

Baveno, Oct. 8, 1845.

[Pg 169]

The Parcæ.——Leaf the Second.

MAZARIN.

FAREWELL TO THE BEAUTIFUL, WITHOUT.

"I was walking, some days after, in the new apartments of his palace. I recognized the approach of the cardinal (Mazaria) by the sound of his slippered feet, which he dragged one after the other, as a man enfeebled by a mortal malady. I concealed myself behind the tapestry, and I heard him say, 'Il faut quitter tout cela!' ('I must leave all that!') He stopped at every step, for he was very feeble, and casting his eyes on each object that attracted him, he sighed forth, as from the bottom of his heart, 'II faut quitter tout cela! What pains have I taken to acquire these things! Can I abandon them without regret? I shall never see them more where I am about to go!'" &c.—Mémoires Inédits de Louis Henri, Comte de Brienne, Barrière's Edition, vol. ii. p. 115.

Serene the Marble Images
Gleam'd down, in lengthen'd rows;
Their life, like the Uranides,
A glory and repose.
Glow'd forth the costly canvas spoil
From many a gorgeous frame;
One race will starve the living toil,
The next will gild the name.
That stately silence silvering through,
The steadfast tapers shone
Upon the Painter's pomp of hue,
The Sculptor's solemn stone.
Saved from the deluge-storm of Time,
Within that ark, survey
Whate'er of elder Art sublime
Survives a world's decay!
[Pg 170]
There creeps a foot, there sighs a breath,
Along the quiet floor;
An old man leaves his bed of death
To count his treasures o'er.
Behold the dying mortal glide
Amidst the eternal Art;
It were a sight to stir with pride
Some pining Painter's heart!
It were a sight that might beguile
Sad Genius from the Hour,
To see the life of Genius smile
Upon the death of Power.
The ghost-like master of that hall
Is king-like in the land;
And France's proudest heads could fall
Beneath that spectre hand.
Veil'd in the Roman purple, preys
The canker-worm within;
And more than Bourbon's sceptre sways
The crook of Mazarin.
Italian, yet more dear to thee
Than sceptre, or than crook,
The Art in which thine Italy
Still charm'd thy glazing look!
So feebly, and with wistful eyes,
He crawls along the floor;
A dying man, who, ere he dies,
Would count his treasures o'er.
And, from the landscape's soft repose,
Smiled thy calm soul, Lorraine;
And, from the deeps of Raphael, rose
Celestial Love again.
In pomp, which his own pomp recalls,
The haggard owner sees
Thy cloth of gold and banquet halls,
Thou stately Veronese!
While, cold as if they scorn'd to hail
Creations not their own,
The Gods of Greece stand marble-pale
Around the Thunderer's throne.
[Pg 171]
There, Hebè brims the urn of gold;
There, Hermes treads the skies;
There, ever in the Serpent's fold,
Laocoon deathless dies.
There, startled from her mountain rest,
Young Dian turns to draw
The arrowy death that waits the breast
Her slumber fail'd to awe.
There, earth subdued by dauntless deeds,
And life's large labours done,
Stands, sad as Worth with mortal meeds,
Alcmena's mournful son.[B]
They gaze upon the fading form
With mute immortal eyes;—
Here, clay that waits the hungry worm;
There, children of the skies.
Then slowly as he totter'd by,
The old Man, unresign'd,
Sigh'd forth: "Alas! and must I die,
And leave such life behind?
"The Beautiful, from which I part,
Alone defies decay!"
Still, while he sigh'd, the eternal Art
Smiled down upon the clay.
And as he waved the feeble hand,
And crawl'd unto the porch,
He saw the Silent Genius stand
With the extinguish'd torch!
The world without, for ever yours,
Ye stern remorseless Three;
What, from that changeful world, secures
Calm Immortality?
Nay, soon or late decays, alas!
Or canvass, stone, or scroll;
From all material forms must pass
To forms afresh, the soul.
[Pg 172]
'Tis but in that which doth create,
Duration can be sought;
A worm can waste the canvass;—Fate
Ne'er swept from Time, a Thought.
Lives Phidias in his works alone?—
His Jove returns to air:
But wake one godlike shape from stone,
And Phidian thought is there!
Blot out the Iliad from the earth,
Still Homer's thought would fire
Each deed that boasts sublimer worth,
And each diviner lyre.
Like light, connecting star to star,
Doth Thought transmitted run;—
Rays that to earth the nearest are,
Have longest left the sun.

[Pg 173]

The Parcæ.—Leaf the Third.

ANDRÉ CHÉNIER.

FAREWELL TO THE BEAUTIFUL, WITHIN.

"André Chénier, the original of whatever is truest to nature and genuine passion, in the modern poetry of France, died by the guillotine, July 27, 1794. In ascending the scaffold, he cried, 'To die so young!' 'And there was something here!' he added, striking his forehead, not in the fear of death, but the despair of genius!"—See Thiers, vol. iv. p. 83.

Within the prison's dreary girth,
The dismal night, before
That morn on which the dungeon Earth
Shall wall the soul no more,
There stood serenest images
Where doomèd Genius lay,
The ever young Uranides
Around the Child of Clay.
On blacken'd walls and rugged floors
Shone cheerful, thro' the night,
The stars—like beacons from the shores
Of the still Infinite.
From Ida to the Poet's cell
The Pain-beguilers stole;
Apollo tuned his silver shell
And Hebè brimm'd the bowl.
To grace those walls he needed nought
That tint or stone bestows;
Creation kindled from his thought:
He call'd—and gods arose.
[Pg 174]
The visions Poets only know
Upon the captive smiled,
As bright within those walls of woe
As on the sunlit child;
He saw the nameless, glorious things
Which youthful dreamers see,
When Fancy first with murmurous wings
O'ershadows bards to be;
Those forms to life spiritual given
By high creative hymn;
From music born—as from their heaven
Are born the Seraphim.[C]
Forgetful of the coming day,
Upon the dungeon floor
He sate to count, poor child of clay,
The wealth of genius o'er;
To count the gems, as yet unwrought,
But found beneath the soil;
The bright discoveries claim'd by thought,
As future crowns for toil.
He sees The Work his breath should warm
To life, from out the air:
The Shape of Love his soul should form,
Then leave its birthright there!
He sees the new Immortal rise
From her melodious sea;
The last descendant of the skies
For man to bend the knee—
He sees himself within your shrine
O hero gods of Fame!
And hears the praise that makes divine
The human holy name.
True to the hearts of men shall chime
The song their lips repeat;
When heroes chant the strain, sublime;
When lovers breathe it, sweet.
[Pg 175]
Lo, from the brief delusion given,
He starts, as through the bars
Gleams wan the dawn that scares from Heaven
And Thought alike—its stars.
Hark to the busy tramp below!
The jar of iron doors!
The gaoler's heavy footfall slow
Along the funeral floors!
The murmur of the crowd that round
The human shambles throng;
That muffled sullen thunder-sound—
The Death-cart grates along!
"Alas, so soon!—and must I die,"
He groan'd forth unresign'd;
"Flit like a cloud athwart the sky,
And leave no wrack behind!
"And yet my Genius speaks to me;
The Pythian fires my brain;
And tells me what my life should be;
A Prophet—and in vain!
"O realm more wide, from clime to clime,
Than ever Cæsar sway'd;
O conquests in that world of time
My grand desire survey'd!"—
Blood-red upon his loathing eyes
Now glares the gaoler's torch:
"Come forth, the day is in the skies,
The Death-cart at the porch!"
Pass on!—to thee the Parcæ give
The fairest lot of all;—
In golden poet-dreams to live,
And ere they fade—to fall!
The shrine that longest guards a Name
Is oft an early tomb;
The Poem most secure of fame
Is—some wrong'd poet's doom!

[Pg 176]

The Parcæ.—Leaf the Fourth.

MARY STUART AND HER MOURNER.

"Mary Stuart perished at the age of forty-four years and two months. Her remains were taken from her weeping servants, and a green cloth, torn in haste from an old billiard table, was flung over her once beautiful form. Thus it remained unwatched and unattended, except by a poor little lap-dog, which could not be induced to quit the body of its mistress. This faithful little animal was found dead two days afterwards; and the circumstance made such an impression even on the hard-hearted minister of Elizabeth, that it was mentioned in the official despatches."

Mrs. Jamieson's Female Sovereigns—Mary Queen of Scots.

The axe its bloody work had done;
The corpse neglected lay;
This peopled world could spare not one
To watch beside the clay.
The fairest work from Nature's hand
That e'er on mortals shone,
A sunbeam stray'd from fairy land
To fade upon a throne;—
The Venus of the Tomb[D] whose form
Was destiny and death;
The Siren's voice that stirr'd a storm
In each melodious breath;—
Such was, what now by fate is hurl'd
To rot, unwept, away.
A star has vanish'd from the world;
And none to miss the ray!
Stern Knox, that loneliness forlorn
A harsher truth might teach
To royal pomps, than priestly scorn
To royal sins can preach!
[Pg 177]
No victims now that lip can make!
That hand how powerless now!
O God! and what a King—but take
A bauble from the brow?
The world is full of life and love;
The world methinks might spare
From millions, one to watch above
The dust of monarchs there.
And not one human eye!—yet lo
What stirs the funeral pall?
What sound—it is not human woe—
Wails moaning through the hall?
Close by the form mankind desert
One thing a vigil keeps;
More near and near to that still heart
It wistful, wondering creeps.
It gazes on those glazèd eyes,
It hearkens for a breath—
It does not know that kindness dies,
And love departs from death.
It fawns as fondly as before
Upon that icy hand.
And hears from lips, that speak no more,
The voice that can command.
To that poor fool, alone on earth,
No matter what had been
The pomp, the fall, the guilt, the worth,
The Dead was still a Queen.
With eyes that horror could not scare,
It watch'd the senseless clay:—
Crouch'd on the breast of Death, and there
Moan'd its fond life away.
And when the bolts discordant clash'd,
And human steps drew nigh,
The human pity shrunk abash'd
Before that faithful eye;
It seem'd to gaze with such rebuke
On those who could forsake;
Then turn'd to watch once more the look,
And strive the sleep to wake.
[Pg 178]
They raised the pall—they touch'd the dead,
A cry, and both were still'd,—
Alike the soul that Hate had sped,
The life that Love had kill'd.
Semiramis of England, hail!
Thy crime secures thy sway:
But when thine eyes shall scan the tale
Those hireling scribes convey;
When thou shalt read, with late remorse,
How one poor slave was found
Beside thy butcher'd rival's corse,
The headless and discrown'd;
Shall not thy soul foretell thine own
Unloved, expiring hour,
When those who kneel around the throne
Shall fly the falling tower;
When thy great heart shall silent break,
When thy sad eyes shall strain
Through vacant space, one thing to seek
One thing that loved—in vain?
Though round thy parting pangs of pride
Shall priest and noble crowd;
More worth the grief, that mourn'd beside
Thy victim's gory shroud!

[Pg 179]

The Parcæ.—Leaf the Fifth.

THE LAST DAYS OF ELIZABETH.

"Her delight is to sit in the dark, and sometimes, with shedding tears, to bewail Essex."—Contemporaneous Correspondence.

"She refused all consolation; few words she uttered, and they were all expressive of some hidden grief which she cared not to reveal. But sighs and groans were the chief vent which she gave to her despondency, and which, though they discovered her sorrows, were never able to ease or assuage them. Ten days and nights she lay upon the carpet leaning on cushions which her maids brought her," &c.—Hume.

I.
Rise from thy bloody grave,
Thou soft Medusa of the Fated Line[E]
Whose evil beauty look'd to death the brave;—
Discrownèd Queen, around whose passionate shame
Terror and Grief the palest flowers entwine,
That ever veil'd the ruins of a Name
With the sweet parasites of song divine!—
Arise, sad Ghost, arise,
And if Revenge outlive the Tomb,
Behold the Doomer brought to doom!
Lo, where thy mighty Murderess lies,
The sleepless couch—the sunless room,—
Through the darkness darkly seen
Rests the shadow of a Queen;
Ever on the lawns below
Flit the shadows to and fro,
Quick at dawn, and slow at noon,
Halving midnight with the moon:
In the palace, still and dun,
Rests that shadow on the floor;
All the changes of the sun
Move that shadow nevermore.

[Pg 180]

II.
Yet oft she turns from face to face,
A keen and wistful gaze,
As if the memory seeks to trace
The sign of some lost dwelling-place
Beloved in happier days;—
Ah, what the clue supplies
In the cold vigil of a hireling's eyes?
Ah, sad in childless age to weep alone,
Look round and find no grief reflect our own!—
O Soul, thou speedest to thy rest away,
But not upon the pinions of the dove;
When death draws nigh, how miserable they
Who have outlived all love!
As on the solemn verge of Night
Lingers a weary Moon,
Thou wanest last of every glorious light
That bathed with splendour thy majestic noon:—
The stately stars that clustering o'er the isle
Lull'd into glittering rest the subject sea;—
Gone the great Masters of Italian wile,
False to the world beside, but true to thee!—
Burleigh, the subtlest builder of thy fame,—
The serpent craft of winding Walsingham;—
They who exalted yet before thee bow'd:
And that more dazzling chivalry—the Band
That made thy Court a Faëry Land,
In which thou wert enshrined to reign alone—
The Gloriana of the Diamond Throne;—
All gone,—and left thee sad amidst the cloud.
III.
To their great sires, to whom thy youth was known,
Who from thy smile, as laurels from the sun
Drank the immortal greenness of renown,
Succeeds the cold lip-homage scantly won
From the new race whose hearts already bear
The Wise-man's offerings to th' unworthy Heir.
Watching the glass in which the sands run low,—
Hovers keen Cecil with his falcon eyes,
And musing Bacon[F] bends his marble brow.—
But deem not fondly there
To weep the fate or pour th' averting prayer
Attend those solemn spies!
[Pg 181]Lo, at the Regal Gate
The impatient couriers wait;
To speed from hour to hour the nice account
That registers the grudged unpitied sighs
Vexing the friendless void, before
The Stuart's step shall reeling mount
Tudor's steep throne, red with his Mother's gore!
IV.
O piteous mockery of all pomp thou art,
Poor Child of Clay, worn out with toil and years!
As, layer by layer, the granite of the heart
Dissolving, melteth to the weakest tears
That ever Village Maiden shed above
The grave that robb'd her quiet world of love.
Ten days and nights upon that floor
Those weary limbs have lain;
And every hour has added more
Of heaviness to pain.
As gazing into dismal air
She sees the headless phantom there,
The victim round whose image twined
The last wild love of womankind;
That lightning flash'd from stormy hearts,
Which now reveals the deeps of Heaven,
And now remorseless, earthward darts,
Rives, and expires on what its stroke hath riven!
'Twere sad to see from those stern eyes
Th' unheeded anguish feebly flow;
And hear the broken word that dies
In moanings faint and low;—
But sadder still to mark the while,
The vacant stare—the marble smile,
And think, that goal of glory won.
How slight a shade between
The idiot moping in the sun
And England's giant Queen![G]

[Pg 182]

V.
Call back the joyous Past!
Lo, England white-robed for a holyday!
While, choral to the clarion's kingly blast,
Shout peals on shout along the Virgin's way,
As through the swarming streets rolls on the long array.
Mary is dead!—Look from your fire-won homes,
Exulting Martyrs!—on the mount shall rest
Truth's ark at last! th' avenging Lutheran comes
And clasps the Book ye died for to her breast![H]
With her, the flower of all the Land,
The high-born gallants ride,
And ever nearest of the band,
With watchful eye and ready hand,
Young Dudley's form of pride![I]
Ah, ev'n in that exulting hour,
Love half allures the soul from Power,—
To that dread brow in bending down
Throbs up, beneath the manlike crown,
The woman's heart wild beating,
While steals the whisper'd worship, paid
Not to the Monarch, but the Maid,
Through tromps and stormy greeting.
VI.
Call back the gorgeous Past!
The lists are set, the trumpets sound,
Still as the stars, when to the breeze
Sway the proud crests of stately trees,
Bright eyes, from tier on tier around,
Look down, where on its famous ground
Murmurs and moves the bristling life
Of antique Chivalry!
"Forward!"[J]—the signal word is given—
Like cloud on cloud by tempest driven;
Steel lightens, and arm'd thunders close!
How plumes descend in flakes of snows;
[Pg 183]How the ground reels, as reels a sea,
Beneath the inebriate rapture-strife
Of jocund Chivalry!
Who is the Victor of the Day?
Thou of the delicate form and golden hair
And Manhood glorious in its midst of May;—
Thou who, upon thy shield of argent, bearest
The bold device, "The Loftiest is the Fairest!"
As bending low thy stainless crest,
"The Vestal thronèd by the West"
Accords the old Provençal crown
Which blends her own with thy renown;—
Arcadian Sidney—Nursling of the Muse,
Flower of divine Romance,[K] whose bloom was fed
By daintiest Helicon's most silver dews,
Alas! how soon thy lovely leaves were shed—
Thee lost, no more were Grace and Force united,
Grace but some flaunting Buckingham unmann'd,
And Force but crush'd what Freedom vainly righted—
Behind, lo Cromwell looms, and dusks the land
With the swart shadow of his giant hand.
VII.
Call back the Kingly Past!
Where, bright and broadening to the main,
Rolls on the scornful River,—
Stout hearts beat high on Tilbury's plain,—
Our Marathon for ever!
No breeze above, but on the mast
The pennon shook as with the blast.
Forth from the cloud the day-god strode;
Flash'd back from steel, the splendour glow'd,—
Leapt the loud joy from Earth to Heaven,
As through the ranks asunder riven,
The Warrior-Woman rode!
Hark, thrilling through the armèd Line
The martial accents ring,
"Though mine the Woman's form—yet mine,
"The Heart of England's King!"[L]
[Pg 184]Woe to the Island and the Maid!
The Pope has preach'd the New Crusade,[M]
His sons have caught the fiery zeal;
The Monks are merry in Castile;
Bold Parma on the Main;
And through the deep exulting sweep
The Thunder-Steeds of Spain.—
What meteor rides the sulphurous gale?
The Flames have caught the giant sail!
Fierce Drake is grappling prow to prow;
God and St. George for Victory now!
Death in the Battle and the Wind—
Carnage before and Storm behind—
Wild shrieks are heard above the hurtling roar
By Orkney's rugged strands, and Erin's ruthless shore.
Joy to the Island and the Maid!
Pope Sextus wept the Last Crusade!
His sons consumed before his zeal,—
The Monks are woeful in Castile;
Your Monument the Main,
The glaive and gale record your tale,
Ye Thunder-Steeds of Spain!
VIII.
Turn from the idle Past;
Its lonely ghost thou art!
Yea, like a ghost, whom charms to earth detain
(When, with the dawn, its kindred phantom train
Glide into peaceful graves)—to dust depart
Thy shadowy pageants; and the day unblest,
Seems some dire curse that keeps thee from thy rest.
Yet comfort, comfort to thy longing woe,
Thou wistful watcher by the dreary portal;
Now when most human, since most feeble, know,
That in the Human struggles the Immortal.
Flash'd from the steel of the descending shears,
Oft sacred light illumes the parting soul;
And our last glimpse along the woof of years,
First reads the scheme that disinvolves the whole.
Yet, then, recall the Past!
Is reverence not the child of sympathy?
To feel for Greatness we must hear it sigh:
[Pg 185]On mortal brows those halos longest last
Which blend for one the rays that verge from all.
Few reign, few triumph; millions love and grieve:
Of grief and love let some high memory leave
One mute appeal to life, upon the stone—
That tomb from Time shall votive rites receive
When History doubts what ghost once fill'd a throne.
So,—indistinct while back'd by sunlit skies—
But large and clear against the midnight pall,
Thy human outline awes our human eyes.
Place, place, ye meaner royalties below,
For Nature's holiest—Womanhood and Woe!
Let not vain youth deride the age that still
Loves as the young,—loves on unto the last;
Grandest the heart when grander than the will—
Bow we before the soul, which through the Past,
Turns no vain glance towards fading heights of Pride,
But strains its humbled tearful gaze to see,
Love and Remorse—near Immortality,
And by the yawning Grave, stand side by side.

[Pg 186]

The Parcæ.—Leaf the Sixth.

CROMWELL'S DREAM.

The conception of this Ode originated in a popular tradition of Cromwell's earlier days. It is thus strikingly related by Mr. Forster, in his very valuable Life of Cromwell:—"He laid himself down, too fatigued in hope for sleep, when suddenly the curtains of his bed were slowly withdrawn by a gigantic figure, which bore the aspect of a woman, and which, gazing at him silently for a while, told him that he should, before his death, be the greatest man in England. He remembered when he told the story, and the recollection marked the current of his thoughts, that the figure had not made mention of the word King." Alteration has been made in the scene of the vision, and the age of Cromwell.

I.
The Moor spread wild and far,
In the sharp whiteness of a wintry shroud;
Midnight yet moonless; and the winds ice-bound:
And a grey dusk—not darkness—reign'd around,
Save where the phantom of a sudden star
Peer'd o'er some haggard precipice of cloud:—
Where on the wold, the triple pathway cross'd,
A sturdy wanderer wearied, lone, and lost,
Paused and gazed round; a dwarf'd but aged yew
O'er the wan rime its gnome-like shadow threw;
The spot invited, and by sleep oppress'd,
Beneath the boughs he laid him down to rest.
A man of stalwart limbs and hardy frame,
Meet for the ruder time when force was fame,
Youthful in years—the features yet betray
Thoughts rarely mellow'd till the locks are grey:
Round the firm lips the lines of solemn wile
Might warn the wise of danger in the smile;
But the blunt aspect spoke more sternly still
That craft of craft—the Stubborn Will:
That which,—let what may betide—
Never halts nor swerves aside;
[Pg 187]From afar its victim viewing,
Slow of speed, but sure-pursuing;
Through maze, up mount, still hounding on its way,
Till grimly couch'd beside the conquer'd prey!
II.
The loftiest fate will longest lie
In unrevealing sleep;
And yet unknown the destined race,
Nor yet his Soul had walk'd with Grace;
Still, on the seas of Time
Drifted the ever-careless prime,—
But many a blast that o'er the sky
All idly seems to sweep,—
Still while it speeds, may spread the seeds
The toils of autumn reap:—
And we must blame the soil, and not the wind,
If hurrying passion leave no golden grain behind.
III.
Seize—seize—seize![N]
Bind him strong in the chain,
On his heart, on his brain,
Clasp the links of the evil Sleep!
Seize—seize—seize—
Ye fiends that dimly sweep
Up from the Stygian deep,
Where Death sits watchful by his brother's side!
Ye pale Impalpables, that are
Shadows of Truths afar,
Appearing oft to warn, but ne'er to guide,—
Hover around the calm, disdainful Fates,
Reveal the woof through which the spindle gleams:—
Open, ye Ebon gates!
Darken the moon—O Dreams!
Seize—seize—seize—
Bind him strong in the chain,
On his heart, on his brain,
Clasp the links of the evil Sleep!
Awakes or dreams he still?
His eyes are open with a glassy stare,
On the fix'd brow the large drops gather chill,
And horror, like a wind, stirs through the lifted hair.
[Pg 188]Before him stands the Thing of Dread—
A giant shadow motionless and pale!
As those dim Lemur-Vapours that exhale
From the rank grasses rotting o'er the Dead,
And startle midnight with the mocking show
Of the still, shrouded bones that sleep below—
So the wan image which the Vision bore
Was outlined from the air, no more
Than served to make the loathing sense a bond
Between the world of life, and grislier worlds beyond.
IV.
"Behold!" the Shadow said, and lo,
Where the blank heath had spread, a smiling scene;
Soft woodlands sloping from a village green,[O]
And, waving to blue Heaven, the happy cornfields glow:
A modest roof, with ivy cluster'd o'er,
And Childhood's busy mirth beside the door.
But, yonder, sunset sleeping on the sod,
Bow Labour's rustic sons in solemn prayer;
And, self-made teacher of the truths of God,
The Dreamer sees the Phantom-Cromwell there!
"Art thou content, of these the greatest Thou,"
Murmur'd the Fiend, "the Master and the Priest?"
A sullen anger knit the Dreamer's brow,
And from his scornful lips the words came slow,
"The greatest of the hamlet, Demon, No!"
Loud laugh'd the Fiend—then trembled through the sky,
Where haply angels watch'd, a warning sigh;—
And darkness swept the scene, and golden Quiet ceased.
V.
"Behold!" the Shadow said—a hell-born ray
Shoots through the Night, up-leaps the unholy Day,
Spring from the earth the Dragon's armèd seed,
The ghastly squadron wheels, and neighs the spectre-steed.
Unnatural sounded the sweet Mother-tongue,
As loud from host to host the English war-cry rung;
Kindred with kindred blent in slaughter show
The dark phantasma of the Prophet-Woe!
[Pg 189]A gay and glittering band!
Apollo's lovelocks in the crest of Mars—
Light-hearted Valour, laughing scorn to scars—
A gay and glittering band,
Unwitting of the scythe—the lilies of the land!
Pale in the midst, that stately squadron boasts
A princely form, a mournful brow;
And still, where plumes are proudest, seen,
With sparkling eye and dauntless mien,
The young Achilles[P] of the hosts.
On rolls the surging war—and now
Along the closing columns ring—
"Rupert" and "Charles"—"The Lady of the Crown,"[Q]
"Down with the Roundhead Rebels, down!"
"St. George and England's king."
A stalwart and a sturdy band,—
Whose souls of sullen zeal
Are made, by the Immortal Hand
Invulnerable steel!
A kneeling host,—a pause of prayer,
A single voice thrills through the air
"They come. Up, Ironsides!
For Truth and Peace unsparing smite!
Behold the accursed Amalekite!"
The Dreamer's heart beat high and loud,
For, calmly through the carnage-cloud,
The scourge and servant of the Lord,
This hand the Bible—that the sword—
The Phantom-Cromwell rides!
A lurid darkness swallows the array,
One moment lost—the darkness rolls away,
And, o'er the slaughter done,
Smiles, with his eyes of love, the setting Sun;
Death makes our foe our brother;
And, meekly, side by side,
Sleep scowling Hate and sternly smiling Pride,
On the kind breast of Earth, the quiet Mother!
Lo, where the victor sweeps along,
The Gideon of the gory throng,
Beneath his hoofs the harmless dead—
The aureole on his helmèd head—
Before him steel-clad Victory bending,
Around, from earth to heaven ascending
The fiery incense of triumphant song.
[Pg 190]So, as some orb, above a mighty stream
Sway'd by its law, and sparkling in its beam,—
A power apart from that tempestuous tide,
Calm and aloft, behold the Phantom-Conqueror ride!
"Art thou content—of these the greatest Thou,
Hero and Patriot?" murmur'd then the Fiend.
The unsleeping Dreamer answer'd, "Tempter, nay,
My soul stands breathless on the mountain's brow
And looks beyond!" Again swift darkness screen'd
The solemn Chieftain and the fierce array,
And armèd Glory pass'd, like happier Peace, away.
VI.
He look'd again, and saw
A chamber with funereal sables hung,
Wherein there lay a ghastly, headless thing
That once had been a king—
And by the corpse a living man, whose doom,
Had both been left to Nature's gradual law,
Were riper for the garner-house of gloom.[R]
Rudely beside the gory clay were flung
The Norman sceptre and the Saxon crown;[S]
So, after some imperial Tragedy
August alike with sorrow and renown,
We smile to see the gauds that moved our awe,
Purple and orb, in dusty lumber lie,—
Alas, what thousands, on the stage of Time,
Envied the baubles, and revered the Mine!
Placed by the trunk—with long and whitening hair
By dark-red gouts besprent, the sever'd head
Up to the Gazer's musing eyes, the while,
Look'd with its livid brow and stony smile.
On that sad scene, his gaze the Dreamer fed,
Familiar both the Living and the Dead;
Terror, and hate, and strife concluded there,
Calm in his six-feet realm the monarch lay;
And by the warning victim's mangled clay
The Phantom-Cromwell smiled,—and bending down
With shadowy fingers toy'd about the shadowy crown.
"Art thou content at last?—a Greater thou
[Pg 191]Than one to whom the loftiest bent the knee.
First in thy fierce Republic of the Free,
Avenger and Deliverer?"
"Fiend," replied
The Dreamer, "who shall palter with the tide?—
Deliverer! Pilots who the vessel save
Leave not the helm while winds are on the wave.
The Future is the Haven of the Now!"
"True," quoth the Fiend—Again the darkness spread,
And night gave back to air the Doomsman and the Dead!
VII.
"See," cried the Fiend;—he views
A lofty Senate stern with many a form
Not unfamiliar to the earlier strife;
Knit were the brows—and passion flush'd the hues,
And all were hush'd!—that, hush which is in life
As in the air, prophetic of a storm.
Uprose a shape[T] with dark bright eye;
It spoke—and at the word
The Dreamer breathed an angry sigh;
And starting—clutch'd his sword;
An instinct bade him hate and fear
That unknown shape—as if a foe were near—
For, mighty in that mien of thoughtful youth,
Spoke Fraud's most deadly foe—a soul on fire with Truth;
A soul without one stain
Save England's hallowing tears;—the sad and starry Vane.
There enter'd on that conclave high
A solitary Man!
And rustling through the conclave high
A troubled murmur ran;
A moment more—loud riot all—
With pike and morion gleam'd the startled hall:
And there, where, since the primal date
Of Freedom's glorious morn,
The eternal People solemn sate,
The People's Champion spat his ribald scorn!
Dark moral to all ages!—Blent in one
The broken fasces and the shatter'd throne;
The deed that damns immortally is done;
And Force, the Cain of Nations-reigns alone!
[Pg 192]The veil is rent—the crafty soul lies bare!
"Behold," the Demon cried, "the Future Cromwell, there!
Art thou content, on earth the Greatest thou,
Apostate and Usurper?"—From his rest
The Dreamer started with a heaving breast,
The better angels of the human heart
Not dumb to his,—The Hell-Born laugh'd aloud,
And o'er the Evil Vision rush'd the cloud!

FOOTNOTES

[A] Talma.

[B] Certainly the sculptor of the Farnese Hercules well conceived that ideal character of the demi-god, which makes Aristotle (Prob. 30) class the grand Personification of Labour amongst the Melancholy. It is the union of mournful repose with colossal power, which gives so profound a moral sentiment to that masterpiece of art.

[C]

"Aus den Saiten, wie aus ihren Himmeln,
Neugebor'ne Seraphim."—Schiller.

[D] Libitina, the Venus who presided over funerals.

[E] Mary Stuart—"the soft Medusa" is an expression strikingly applied to her in her own day.

[F] See the correspondence maintained by Francis Bacon and Robert Cecil (the sons of Elizabeth's most faithful friends) with the Scottish court, during the Queen's last illness.

[G] "It was after labouring for nearly three weeks under a morbid melancholy, which brought on a stupor not unmixed with some indications of a disordered fancy, that the Queen expired."—Aikin's translation of a Latin letter (author unknown) to Edmund Lambert.

Robert Carey, who was admitted to an interview with Elizabeth in her last illness, after describing the passionate anguish of her sighs, observes, "that in all his lifetime before, he never knew her fetch a sigh but when the Queen of Scots was beheaded." Yet this Robert Carey, the well-born mendicant of her bounty, was the first whose eager haste and joyous countenance told James that the throne of the Tudors was at last vacant.

[H] "When she (Elizabeth) was conducted through London amidst the joyful acclamations of her subjects, a boy, who personated Truth, was let down from one of the triumphal arches, and presented to her a copy of the Bible. She received the book with the most gracious deportment, placed it next her bosom," &c.—Hume.

[I] Robert Dudley, afterwards the Leicester of doubtful fame, attended Elizabeth in her passage to the Tower. The streets, as she passed along, were spread with the finest gravel; banners and pennons, hangings of silk, of velvet, of cloth of gold, were suspended from the balconies; musicians and singers were stationed amidst the populace, as she rode along in her purple robes, preceded by her heralds, &c.

[J] The customary phrase was "Laissez aller."

[K] "The Life of Sir Philip Sidney," as Campbell finely expresses it, "was Poetry put in action." With him died the Provençal and the Norman—the Ideal of the Middle Ages.

[L] "I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too."

She rode bareheaded through the ranks, a page bearing her helmet, mounted on a war-horse, clad in steel, and wielding a general's truncheon in her hand.

[M] "Sextus Quintus, the present Pope, famous for his capacity and his tyranny, had published a crusade against England, and had granted plenary indulgences to every one engaged in the present invasion."—Hume. This Pope was, nevertheless, Elizabeth's admirer as well as foe, and said, "If a son could be born from us two, he would be master of the world."

[N] Λαϐε, λαϐε, λαϐε, λαϐε, (seize, seize, seize).—Æschyl. Eumen., 125.

[O] The farm of St. Ives, where Cromwell spent three years, which he afterwards recalled with regret—though not unafflicted with dark hypochondria and sullen discontent. Here, as Mr. Forster impressively observes, "in the tenants that rented from him, in the labourers that served under him, he sought to sow the seeds of his after troop of Ironsides.... All the famous doctrines of his later and more celebrated years were tried and tested in the little farm of St. Ives.... Before going to their field-work in the morning, they (his servants) knelt down with their master in the touching equality of prayer; in the evening they shared with him again the comfort and exaltation of divine precepts."—Forster's Cromwell.

[P] Prince Rupert.

[Q] Henrietta Maria was the popular battle-cry of the Cavaliers.

[R] The reader will recall the well-known story of Cromwell opening the coffin of Charles with the hilt of a private soldier's sword, and, after gazing on the body for some time, observing calmly, that it seemed made for long life,—

"Had Nature been his executioner,
He would have outlived me!"—Cromwell, a MS. tragedy.

[S] King Alfred's crown was actually sold after the execution of Charles the First.

[T] When Cromwell came down (leaving his musketeers without the door) to dissolve the Long Parliament, Vane was in the act of urging, through the last stage, the Bill that would have saved the republic—See Forster's spirited account of this scene, Life of Vane, p. 152.


[Pg 193]

KING ARTHUR.


[Pg 194]

PREFACE.

In prefixing to this poem a brief explanation of its design, I feel myself involuntarily compelled to refer to the more popular distinctions of Epic Fable, though I do not thereby presume to arrogate to my work that title of Epic which Time alone has the prerogative to confer.

Pope has, accurately and succinctly, defined the three cardinal divisions of Epic Fable to consist in the Probable, the Allegorical, and the Marvellous. For the Probable is indispensable to the vital interest of the action, the Marvellous is the obvious domain of creative invention, and the Allegorical is the most pleasing mode of insinuating some subtler truth, or clothing some profounder moral.

I accept these divisions, because they conform to the simplest principles of rational criticism; and though their combination does not form an Epic, it serves at least to amplify the region and elevate the objects of Romance.

It has been my aim so to blend these divisions, that each may harmonize with the other, and all conduce to the end proposed from the commencement. I have admitted but little episodical incident, and none that does not grow out of what Pope terms "the platform of the story." For the marvellous agencies I have not presumed to make direct use of that Divine Machinery which the war of the Christian Principle with the form of Heathenism might have suggested to the sublime daring of Milton, had he prosecuted his original idea of founding an heroic poem upon the legendary existence of Arthur;—and, on the other hand, the Teuton Mythology, however imaginative and profound, is too unfamiliar and obscure, to permit its employment as an open and visible agency;—such reference to it as occurs, is therefore rather admitted as an appropriate colouring to the composition, than made an integral part of the materials of the canvas: and, not to ask from the ordinary reader an erudition I should have no right to expect, the reference so made is in the simplest form, and disentangled from the necessity of other information than a few brief notes will suffice to afford.

In taking my subject from chivalrous romance, I take, then, those agencies from the Marvellous which chivalrous romance naturally and familiarly affords—the Fairy, the Genius, the Enchanter: not wholly, indeed, in the precise and literal spirit with which our nursery tales receive those creations of Fancy through the medium of French Fabliaux, but in the larger significations by which, in their conceptions of the Supernatural, our fathers often implied the secrets of Nature. For the Romance from which I borrow is the Romance of the North—a Romance, like the Northern mythology, full of typical [Pg 195] meaning and latent import. The gigantic remains of symbol-worship are visible amidst the rude fables of the Scandinavians, and what little is left to us of the earlier and more indigenous literature of the Cymrians, is characterized by a mysticism profound with parable. This fondness for an interior or double meaning is the most prominent attribute in that Romance popularly called The Gothic, the feature most in common with all creations that bear the stamp of the Northern fancy: we trace it in the poems of the Anglo-Saxons; it returns to us, in our earliest poems after the Conquest; it does not originate in the Oriental genius (immemorially addicted to Allegory), but it instinctively appropriates all that Saraconic invention can suggest to the more sombre imagination of the North—it unites to the Serpent of the Edda the flying Griffin of Arabia, the Persian Genius to the Scandinavian Trold,—and wherever it accepts a marvel, it seeks to insinuate a type. This peculiarity, which distinguishes the spiritual essence of the modern from the sensual character of ancient poetry, especially the Roman, is visible wherever a tribe allied to the Goth, the Frank, or the Teuton, carries with it the deep mysteries of the Christian faith. Even in sunny Provence it transfuses a subtler and graver moral into the lays of the joyous troubadour,[A]—and weaves "The Dance of Death" by the joyous streams, and through the glowing orange-groves, of Spain. Onwards, this under-current of meaning flowed, through the various phases of civilization:—it pervaded alike the popular Satire and the dramatic Mystery;—and, preserving its thoughtful calm amidst all the stirring passions that agitated mankind in the age subsequent to the Reformation, not only suffused the luxuriant fancy of the dreamy Spenser, but communicated to the practical intellect of Shakspere that subtle and recondite wisdom which seems the more inexhaustible the more it is examined, and suggests to every new inquirer some new problem in the philosophy of Human Life. Thus, in taking from Northern Romance the Marvellous, we are most faithful to the genuine character of that Romance, when we take with the Marvellous its old companion, the Typical or Allegorical. But these form only two divisions of the three which I have assumed as the components of the unity I seek to accomplish; there remains the Probable, which contains the Actual. To subject the whole poem to allegorical constructions would be erroneous, and opposed to the vital principle of a work of this kind, which needs the support of direct and human interest. The inner and the outer meaning of Fable should flow together, each acting on the other, as the thought and the action in the life of a man. It is true that in order clearly to interpret the action, we should penetrate to the thought. But if we fail of that perception, the action, though less comprehended, still impresses its reality on our senses, and make its appeal to our interest.

I have thus sought to maintain the Probable through that chain of incident in which human agencies are employed, and through those agencies the direct action of the Poem is accomplished; while the [Pg 196] Allegorical admits into the Marvellous the introduction of that subtler form of Truth, which if less positive than the Actual, is wider in its application, and ought to be more profound in its significance.

For the rest, it may perhaps be conceded that this poem is not without originality in the conception of its plot and the general treatment of its details. I am not aware of any previous romantic poem which it resembles in its main design, or in the character of its principal incidents;—and, though I may have incurred certain mannerisms of my own day, I yet venture to trust that, in the pervading form or style, the mind employed has been sufficiently in earnest to leave its own peculiar effigy and stamp upon the work. For the incidents narrated, I may, indeed, thank the nature of my subject, if many of them could scarcely fail to be new. The celebrated poets of chivalrous fable—Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser, have given to their scenery the colourings of the West. The Great North from which Chivalry sprung—its polar seas, its natural wonders, its wild legends, its antediluvian remains—(wide fields for poetic description and heroic narrative)—have been, indeed, not wholly unexplored by poetry, but so little appropriated, that even after Tegner and Oehlenschläger, I dare to hope that I have found tracks in which no poet has preceded me, and over which yet breathes the native air of our National Romance.

For the Manners preserved through this poem, I naturally reject those which the rigid Antiquary would appropriate to the date of that Historical Arthur, of whom we know so little, and take those of the age in which the Arthur of Romance, whom we know so well, revived into fairer life at the breath of Minstrel and Fabliast. The anachronism of chivalrous manners and costume for the British chief and his Knighthood, is absolutely required by all our familiar associations. On the other hand, without affecting any precise accuracy in details, I have kept the country of the brave Prince of the Silures (or South Wales) somewhat more definitely in view, than has been done by the French Romance writers; while in portraying his Saxon foes, I have endeavoured to distinguish their separate nationality, without enforcing too violent a contrast between the rudeness of the heathen Teutons and the polished Christianity of the Cymrian Knighthood.[B]

[Pg 197]

May I be permitted to say a word as to the metre I have selected?—One advantage it has,—that while thoroughly English, and not uncultivated by the best of the elder masters, it has never been applied to a poem of equal length, and has not been made too trite and familiar, by the lavish employment of recent writers.[C] Shakspere has taught us its riches in the Venus and Adonis,—Spenser in The Astrophel,—Cowley has sounded its music amidst the various intonations of his irregular lyre. But of late years, if not wholly laid aside, it has been generally neglected for the more artificial and complicated Spenserian stanza, which may seem, at the first glance, to resemble it, but which to the ear is widely different in rhythm and construction.

The reader may perhaps remember that Dryden has spoken with emphatic praise of the "quatrain, or stanza of four in alternate rhyme." He says indeed, "that he had ever judged it more noble, and of greater dignity, both for the sound and number, than any other verse in use amongst us." That metre, in its simple integrity, is comprised in the stanza selected, ending in the vigour and terseness of the rhyming couplet, with which, for the most part, the picture should be closed or the sense clenched. And whatever the imperfection of my own treatment of this variety in poetic form, I hazard a prediction that it will be ultimately revived into more frequent use, especially in narrative, and that its peculiar melodies of rhythm and cadence, as well as the just and measured facilities it affords to expression, neither too diffuse nor too restricted, will be recognized hereafter in the hands of a more accomplished master of our language.

Here ends all that I feel called upon to say respecting a Poem which I now acknowledge as the child of my most cherished hopes, and to which I deliberately confide the task to uphold, and the chance to continue, its father's name.

To this work, conceived first in the enthusiasm of youth, I have patiently devoted the best powers of my maturer years;—if it be worthless, it is at least the worthiest contribution that my abilities enable me to offer to the literature of my country; and I am unalterably convinced, that on this foundation I rest the least perishable monument of those thoughts and those labours which have made the life of my life.

E. BULWER LYTTON.

NOTE.

Of the notes inserted in the first edition I have retained only those which appeared to me absolutely necessary in explanation of the text. Among the notes omitted, was one appended to Book I., which defended at some length, and by numerous examples, two alleged peculiarities of style or mannerism:—I content myself here with stating briefly—

[Pg 198]

1st.—That in this work (as in my later ones generally) I have adopted what appears to me to have been the practice of Gray (judging from the editions of his Poems revised by himself), in the use of the capital initial. I prefix it—

First, to every substantive that implies a personification; thus War, Fame, &c., may in one line take the small initial as mere nouns, and in another line the capital initial, to denote that they are intended as personifications. This rule is clear—all personifications may be said to represent proper names: love, with a small l, means but a passion or affection; with a large L, Love represents some mythological power that presides over the passion or affection, and is as much a proper name as Venus, Eros, Camdeo, &c.

Secondly, I prefix the capital in those rare instances in which an adjective is used as a noun; as the Unknown, the Obscure,[D] &c. The capital here but answers the use of all printed inventions, in simplifying to the reader the author's meaning. If it be printed "he passed through the obscure," the reader naturally looks for the noun that is to follow the adjective; if the capital initial be used, as "He passed through the Obscure," the eye conveys to the mind without an effort the author's intention to use the adjective as a substantive.

Thirdly, I prefix the capital initial where it serves to give an individual application to words that might otherwise convey only a general meaning; for instance—

"Or his who loves the madding Nymphs to lead
O'er the Fork'd Hill.

that is, the Forked Hill, par emphasis,—Parnassus.

The use of the capital in these instances seems to me warranted by common sense, and the best authorities in the minor niceties of our language.

With regard to the other point referred to in the omitted note, I would observe, that I have deliberately used the freest licence in the rapid change of tense from past to present, or vice versâ; as a privilege essential to all ease, spirit, force, and variety, in narrative poetry; and warranted by the uniform practice of Pope, Dryden, and Milton. I subjoin a few examples:—

"So prayed they, innocent, and to their thoughts
Firm peace recover'd soon and wonted calm;
On to their morning's rural work they haste,
Among sweet dews and flowers, where any row
Of fruit-trees over-woody reach'd too far
Their pamper'd boughs, and needed hands to check
Fruitless embraces; or they led the vine
To wed the elm."

Milton's Paradise Lost, Book v., from line 209 to 216.

Here the tense changes three times.

Again:—

"Straight knew him all the bands
Of angels under watch, and to his state
And to his message high in honour rise,
For on some message high they guess'd him bound."

Ibid., Book v., from line 288 to 291.

[Pg 199]

"Thus while he spoke, the virgin from the ground
Upstarted fresh; already closed the wound;
And unconcern'd for all she felt before,
Precipitates her flight along the shore:
The hell-hounds as ungorged with flesh and blood
Pursue their prey and seek their wonted food;
The fiend remounts his courser, mends his pace,
And all the vision vanish'd from the place."

Dryden's Theod. and Honor.

Pope—not without reason esteemed for verbal correctness and precision—far exceeds all in his lavish use of this privilege, as one or two quotations will amply suffice to show.

"She said, and to the steeds approaching near
Drew from his seat the martial charioteer;
The vigorous Power[E] the trembling car ascends,
Fierce for revenge, and Diomed attends:
The groaning axle bent beneath the load," &c.

Pope's Iliad, Book v.

"Pierced through the shoulder first Decopis fell,
Next Eunomus and Thoon sunk to Hell.
Chersidamas, beneath the navel thrust,
Falls prone to earth, and grasps the bloody dust;
Cherops, the son of Hipposus, was near;
Ulysses reach'd him with the fatal spear;
But to his aid his brother Socus flies,
Socus the brave, the generous, and the wise;
Near as he drew the warrior thus began," &c.

Ibid.

"Behind, unnumber'd multitudes attend
To flank the navy and the shores defend.
Full on the front the pressing Trojans bear,
And Hector first came towering to the war.
Phœbus himself the rushing battle led,
A veil of clouds involves his radiant head—
The Greeks expect the shock; the clamours rise
From different parts and mingle in the skies
Dire was the hiss of darts by heaven flung,
And arrows, leaping from the bowstring, sung:
These drink the life of generous warrior slain—
Those guiltless fall and thirst for blood in vain."

Pope's Odyssey.

In the last quotation, brief as it is, the tense changes six times.

I ask indulgence of the reader if I take this occasion to add a very short comment upon three objections to this poem which have been brought under my notice:—

1—that it contains too much learning; 2—that it abounds too much with classical allusions; 3—that it indulges in rare words or archaisms.

I wish I could plead guilty to the honourable charge that it contains too much learning. A distinguished critic has justly observed, that the greatest obstacle which the modern writer attempting an Epic would [Pg 200] have to encounter, would be, in his utter impossibility to attain the requisite learning. For an Epic ought to embody the whole learning of the period in which it is composed; and in the present age that is beyond the aspiration of the most erudite scholar or the profoundest philosopher. Still, any attempt at an Heroic Poem must at least comprise all the knowledge which the nature of the subject will admit, and we cannot but observe that the greatest narrative poems are those in which the greatest amount of learning is contained. Beyond all comparison the most learned poems that exist, in reference to the age in which they are composed, are the "Iliad" and "Odyssey;" next to them, the "Paradise Lost;" next to that, the "Æneid," in which the chief charm of the six latter books is in that "exquisite erudition," which Müller so discriminately admires in Virgil; and after these, in point of learning, come perhaps the "Divine Comedy," and the "Fairy Queen." So that I have only to regret my deficiency of learning, rather than to apologize for the excess of it.

With regard to the classical allusions which I have permitted myself, I might shelter my practice under the mantles of our great masters in heroic song—Milton and Spenser; but in fact such admixture of the Classic with the Gothic muse is so essentially the characteristic of the minstrelsy of the middle ages, that without a liberal use of the same combination, I could not have preserved the colouring proper to my subject. And, indeed, I think the advice which one of the most elegant of modern critics has given to the painter, is equally applicable to the poet:—

"Non te igitur lateant antiqua numismata, gemmæ,
Quodque refert specie veterum post sæcula mentem;
Splendidior quippe ex illis assurgit imago
Magnaque se rerum facies aperit meditanti."[F]

Lastly, the moderate use of archaisms has always been deemed admissible in a narrative poem of some length, and rather perhaps an ornament than a defect, where the action of the poem is laid in remote antiquity. And I may add that not only the revival of old, but the invention of new words, if sparingly resorted to, is among the least contestable of poetic licences—a licence freely recognized by Horace, elaborately maintained by Dryden, and tacitly sanctioned, age after age, by the practice of every poet by whom our language has been enriched. I have certainly not abused either of these privileges, for while I have only adopted three new words of foreign derivation, I do not think there are a dozen words in the whole poem which can be considered archaisms: and in the three or four instances in which such words are not to be found in Milton, Shakspere, or Spenser, they are taken from the Saxon element of our language, and are still popularly used in the northern parts of the island, in which that Saxon element is more tenaciously preserved.

If these matters do not seem to the reader of much importance, in reference to a poem of this design and extent, I will own to him confidentially, that I incline to his opinion. But I have met with no objections to the general composition of this work, more serious than those to which the above remarks are intended to reply. Some objections to special lines or stanzas which appeared to me prompted by a juster criticism, or which occurred to myself in reperusal, I have carefully endeavoured in this edition to remove.

FOOTNOTES

[A] Rien n'est plus commun dans la poésie provençale que l'allégorie; seulement elle est un jeu-d'esprit an lieu d'être une action.... Une autre analogie me parait plus spoutanée qu'imitée—la poésie des troubadours qu'on suppose frivole, a souvent retracée des sentiments graves et touchants," &c.—Villemain, Tableau du Moyen Age.

[B] In the more historical view of the position of Arthur, I have, however, represented it such as it really appears to have been,—not as the sovereign of all Britain, and the conquering invader of Europe (according to the groundless fable of Geoffrey of Monmouth), but as the patriot Prince of South Wales, resisting successfully the invasion of his own native soil, and accomplishing the object of his career in preserving entire the nationality of his Welsh countrymen. In thus contracting his sphere of action to the bounds of rational truth, his dignity, both moral and poetic, is obviously enhanced. Represented as the champion of all Britain against the Saxons, his life would have been but a notorious and signal failure; but as the preserver of the Cymrian Nationality—of that part of the British population which took refuge in Wales, he has a claim to the epic glory of success.

It is for this latter reason that I have gone somewhat out of the strict letter of history, in the poetical licence by which the Mercians are represented as Arthur's principal enemies (though, properly speaking, the Mercian kingdom was not then founded): the alliance between the Mercian and the Welsh, which concludes the Poem—is at least not contrary to the spirit of History—since in very early periods such amicable bonds between the Welsh and the Mercians were contracted, and the Welsh, on the whole, were on better terms with those formidable borderers than with the other branches of the Saxon family.

[C] Southey has used it in the "Lay of the Laureate" and "The Poet's Pilgrimage,"—not his best-known and most considerable poems.

[D] So Pope, "Spencer himself affects the Obsolete."

[E] In the corrupt and thoughtless mode of printing now in vogue, Power is of course printed with a small p, and the sense of the clearest of all English poets instantly becomes obscure.

"The vigorous power the trembling car ascends."

It is not till one has read the line twice over that one perceives "the power" means "the God," which, when printed "the Power," is obvious at a glance.

[F] Du Fresnoy de Arte Graphicâ.


[Pg 201]

BOOK I.

ARGUMENT.

Opening—King Arthur keeps holiday in the Vale of Carduel—Pastimes—Arthur's sentiments on life, love, and mortal change—The strange apparition—The King follows the Phantom into the forest—His return—The discomfiture of his knights—the Court disperses—Night—The restless King ascends his battlements—His soliloquy—He is attracted by the light from the Wizard's tower—Merlin described—The King's narrative—The Enchanter's invocation—Morning—The Tilt-yard—Sports, knightly and national—Merlin's address to Arthur—The Three Labours enjoined—Arthur departs from Carduel—His absence explained by Merlin to the Council—Description of Arthur's three friends, Caradoc, Gawaine, and Lancelot—The especial love between Arthur and the last—Lancelot encounters Arthur—The parting of the friends.

Our land's first legends, love and knightly deeds,1
And wondrous Merlin, and his wandering King,
The triple labour, and the glorious meeds
Sought in the world of Fable-land, I sing:
Go forth, O Song, amidst the banks of old,
And glide translucent over sands of gold.
Now is the time when, after sparkling showers,2
Her starry wreaths the virgin jasmine weaves;
Now murmurous bees return with sunny hours;
And light wings rustic quick through glinting leaves;
Music in every bough; on mead and lawn
May lifts her fragrant altars to the dawn.
Now life, with every moment, seems to start3
In air, in wave, on earth—above, below;
And o'er her new-born children, Nature's heart
Heaves with the gladness mothers only know;
On poet times the month of poets shone—
May deck'd the world, and Arthur fill'd the throne.
Hard by a stream, amidst a pleasant vale4
King Arthur held his careless holiday:—
The stream was blithe with many a silken sail,
The vale with many a proud pavilion gay;
While Cymri's dragon, from the Roman's hold,[1]
Spread with calm wing o'er Carduel's domes of gold.
[Pg 202]
Dark, to the right, thick forests mantled o'er5
A gradual mountain sloping to the plain;
Whose gloom but lent to light a charm the more,
As pleasure pleases most when neighbouring pain;
And all our human joys most sweet and holy,
Sport in the shadows cast from Melancholy.
Below that mount, along the glossy sward6
Were gentle groups, discoursing gentle things;
Or listening idly where the skilful bard
Woke the sweet tempest of melodious strings;
Or whispering love—I ween, less idle they,
For love's the honey in the flowers of May.
Some plied in lusty race the glist'ning oar;7
Some, noiseless, snared the silver-scalèd prey;
Some wreathed the dance along the level shore;
And each was happy in his chosen way.
Not by one shaft is Care, the hydra kill'd,
So Mirth, determined, had his quiver fill'd.
Bright 'mid his blooming Court, like royal Morn8
Girt with the Hours that lead the jocund Spring,
When to its smile delight and flowers are born,
And clouds are rose-hued,—shone the Cymrian King.
Above that group, o'er-arch'd from tree to tree,
Thick garlands hung their odorous canopy;
And in the midst of that delicious shade9
Up sprang a sparkling fountain, silver-voiced,
And the bee murmur'd and the breezes play'd:
In their gay youth, the youth of May rejoiced—
And they in hers—as though that leafy hall
Chimed the heart's laughter with the fountain's fall.
Propped on his easy arm, the King reclined,10
And glancing gaily round the ring, quoth he—
"'Man,' say our sages, 'hath a fickle mind,
And pleasures pall, if long enjoyed they be.'
But I, methinks, like this soft summer-day,
'Mid blooms and sweets could wear the hours away;—
"Feel, in the eyes of Love, a cloudless sun,11
Taste, in the breath of Love, eternal spring;
Could age but keep the joys that youth has won,
The human heart would fold its idle wing!
If change there be in Fate and Nature's plan,
Wherefore blame us?—it is in Time, not Man."
[Pg 203]
He spoke, and from the happy conclave there12
Echo'd the murmur, "Time is but to blame:"
Each knight glanced amorous on his chosen fair,
And to the glance blush'd each assenting dame:
But thought had dimm'd the smile in Arthur's eye,
And the light speech was rounded by a sigh.
And while they murmur'd "Time is but to blame,"13
Right in the centre of the silken ring,
Sudden stood forth (none marking whence it came),
The gloomy shade of some Phantasmal Thing;
It stood, dim-outlined in a sable shroud,
And shapeless, as in noon-day hangs a cloud.
Hush'd was each lip, and every cheek was pale;14
The stoutest heart beat tremulous and high:
"Arise," it mutter'd from the spectral veil,
"I call thee, King!" Then burst the wrathful cry,
Feet found the earth, and ready hands the sword,
And angry knighthood bristled round its lord.
But Arthur rose, and, waiving back the throng,15
Fronted the Image with a dauntless brow:
Then shrunk the Phantom, indistinct, along
The unbending herbage, noiseless, dark, and slow;
And, where the forest night at noonday made,
Glided,—as from the dial glides the shade.
Gone;—but an ice-bound horror seemed to cling16
To air; the revellers stood transfix'd to stone;
While from amidst them, palely pass'd the King,
Dragg'd by a will more royal than his own:
Onwards he went; the invisible control
Compell'd him, as a dream compels the soul.
They saw, and sought to stay him, but in vain,17
They saw, and sought to speak, but voice was dumb:
So Death some warrior from his armèd train
Plucks forth defenceless when his hour is come.
He gains the wood; their sight the shadows bar,
And darkness wraps him as the cloud a star.
Abruptly, as it came, the charm was past18
That bound the circle: as from heavy sleep
Starts the hush'd war-camp at the trumpet's blast,
Fierce into life the voiceless revellers leap;
Swift to the wood the glittering tumult springs,
And through the vale the shrill BON-LEF-HER rings.[2]
[Pg 204]
From stream, from tent, from pastime near and far,19
All press confusedly to the signal cry—
So from the Rock of Birds[3] the shout of war
Sends countless wings in clamour through the sky—
The cause a word, the track a sign affords,
And all the forest gleams with starry swords.
As on some stag the hunters single, gaze,20
Gathering together, and from far, the herd,
So round the margin of the woodland-maze
Pale beauty circles, trembling if a bird
Flutter a bough, or if, without a sound,
Some leaf fall breezeless, eddying to the ground.
An hour or more had towards the western seas21
Speeded the golden chariot of the day,
When a white plume came glancing through the trees,
The serried branches groaningly gave way,
And, with a bound, delivered from the wood,
Safe, in the sun-light, royal Arthur stood.
Who shall express the joy that aspect woke!22
Some laugh'd aloud, and clapp'd their snowy hands:
Some ran, some knelt, some turn'd aside and broke
Into glad tears:—But all unheeding stands
The King; and shivers in the glowing light;
And his breast heaves as panting from a fight.
Yet still in those pale features, seen more near,23
Speak the stern will, the soul to valour true;
It shames man not to feel man's human fear,
It shames man only if the fear subdue;
And masking trouble with a noble guile,
Soon the proud heart restores the kingly smile.
But no account could anxious love obtain,24
Nor curious wonder, of the portents seen:
"Bootless his search," he lightly said, "and vain
As haply had the uncourteous summons been.
Some mocking sport, perchance, of merry May."
He ceased; and, shuddering, turn'd his looks away.
Now back, alas! less comely than they went,25
Drop, one by one, the seekers from the chace,
With mangled plumes and mantles dreadly rent;—
Sore bleed the Loves in Elphin's blooming face:
Madoc, whose dancing scarcely brush'd the dew,
O grief! limps, crippled by a stump of yew!
[Pg 205]
In short, such pranks had brier and bramble play'd,26
And stock and stone, with vest, and face, and limb,
That had some wretch denied the place was made
For sprites, a sprite had soon been made of him!
And sure, nought less than some demoniac power
Had looks so sweet bewitch'd to lines so sour.
But shame and anger vanish'd when they saw27
Him whose warm smile a life had well repaid,
For noble hearts a noble chief can draw
Into that circle where all self doth fade;
Lost in the sea a hundred waters roll,
And subject natures merge in one great soul.
Now once again quick question, brief reply,28
"What saw, what heard the King?" Nay, gentles, what
Saw or heard ye?"—"The forest and the sky,
The rustling branches,"—"And the Phantom not?
No more," quoth Arthur, "of a thriftless chace.
For cheer so stinted brief may be the grace.
"But see, the sun descendeth down the west,29
And graver cares to Carduel now recall:
Gawaine, my steed;—Sweet ladies, gentle rest,
And dreams of happy morrows to ye all."
Now stirs the movement on the busy plain;
To horse—to boat; and homeward winds the train.
O'er hill, down stream, the pageant fades away,30
More and more faint the plash of dipping oar;
Voices, and music, and the steed's shrill neigh,
From the grey twilight dying more and more;
Till over stream and valley, wide and far,
Reign the sad silence and the solemn star.
Save where, like some true poet's lonely soul,31
Careless who hears, sings on the unheeded fountain;
Save where the thin clouds wanly, slowly roll
O'er the mute darkness of the forest mountain—
Where, haply, busied with unholy rite,
Still glides that Phantom, and dismays the night.
Sleep, the sole angel left of all below,32
O'er the lull'd city sheds the ambrosial wreaths,
Wet with the dews of Eden; Bliss and Woe
Are equals, and the lowest slave that breathes
Under the shelter of those healing wings,
Reigns, half his life, in realms too fair for Kings.
[Pg 206]
Too fair those realms for Arthur; long he lay33
An exiled suppliant at the gate of dreams,
And vex'd, and wild, and fitful as a ray
Quivering upon the surge of stormy streams;
Thought broke in glimmering trouble o'er his breast,
And found no billow where its beam could rest.[4]
He rose, and round him drew his ermined gown,34
Pass'd from his chamber, wound the turret stair,
And from his castle's steep embattled crown
Bared his hot forehead to the fresh'ning air.
How Silence, like a god's tranquillity,
Fill'd with delighted peace the conscious sky!
Broad, luminous, serene, the sovereign moon35
Shone o'er the roofs below, the lands afar—
The vale so joyous with the mirth at noon;
The pastures virgin of the lust of war;
And the still river shining as it flows,
Calm as a soul on which the heavens repose.
"And must these pass from me and mine away?"36
Murmur'd the monarch; "Must the mountain home
Of those whose fathers, in a ruder day,
With naked bosoms rush'd on shrinking Rome,
Yield this last refuge from the ruthless wave,
And what was Britain be the Saxon's slave?
"Why hymn our harps high music in our hall?37
Doom'd is the tree whose fruit was noble deeds—
Where the axe spared the thunder-bolt must fall,
And the wind scatter as it list the seeds!
Fate breathes, and kingdoms wither at the breath;
But kings are deathless, kingly if their death!"
He ceased, and look'd, with a defying eye,38
Where the dark forest clothed the mount with awe
Gazed, and then proudly turn'd;—when lo, hard by,
From a lone turret in his keep, he saw
Through the horn casement, a clear steadfast light,
Lending meek tribute to the orbs of night.
And far, and far, I ween, that little ray39
Sent its pure streamlet through the world of air:
The wanderer oft, benighted on his way,
Saw it, and paused in superstitious prayer;
For well he knew the beacon and the tower,
And the great Master of the spells of power.
[Pg 207]
There He, who yet in Fable's deathless page40
Reigns, compass'd with the ring of pleasing dread,
Which the true wizard, whether bard or sage,
Draws round him living, and commands when dead—
The solemn Merlin—from the midnight won
The hosts that bow'd to starry Solomon.
Not fear that light on Arthur's breast bestow'd,41
As with a father's smile it met his gaze;
It cheer'd, it soothed, it warm'd him while it glow'd;
Brought back the memory of young hopeful days,
When the child stood by the great prophet's knee,
And drank high thoughts to strengthen years to be.
As with a tender chiding, the calm light42
Seem'd to reproach him for secreted care,
Seem'd to ask back the old familiar right
Of lore to counsel, or of love to share;
The prompt heart answers to the voiceless call,
And the step quickens o'er the winding wall.
Before that tower precipitously sink43
The walls, down-shelving to the castle base;
A slender drawbridge, swung from brink to brink,
Alone gives fearful access to the place;
Now, from that tower, the chains the drawbridge raise,
And leave the gulf all pathless to the gaze.
But close where Arthur stands, a warder's horn,44
Fix'd to the stone, to those who dare to win
The enchanter's cell, supplies the note to warn
The mighty weaver of dread webs within.
Loud sounds the horn, the chain descending clangs,
And o'er the abyss the dizzy pathway hangs;
Mutely the door slides sullen in the stone,45
And closes back, the gloomy threshold cross'd;
There sate the wizard on a Druid throne,
Where sate Duw-Iou,[5] ere his reign was lost;
His wand uplifted in his solemn hand,
And the weird volume on its brazen stand.
O'er the broad breast the heavy brows of thought46
Hang, as if bow'd beneath the load sublime
Of spoils from Nature's fading boundaries brought,
Or the dusk treasure-house of orient Time;
And the unutterable calmness shows
The toil's great victory by the soul's repose.
[Pg 208]
Ev'n as the Tyrian views his argosies,47
Moor'd in the port (the gold of Ophir won),
And heeds no more the billow and the breeze,
And the clouds wandering o'er the wintry sun,
So calmly Wisdom eyes (its voyage o'er)
The traversed ocean from the beetling shore.
A hundred years press'd o'er that awful head,48
As o'er an Alp, their diadem of snow;
And, as an Alp, a hundred years had fled,
And left as firm the giant form below;
So in the hush of some Chaonian grove,
Sat the grey father of Pelasgic Jove.
Before that power, sublimer than his own,49
With downcast looks, the King inclined the knee;
The enchanter smiled, and, bending from his throne,
Drew to his breast his pupil tenderly;
And press'd his lips on that young forehead fair,
And with large hand smooth'd back the golden hair!
And, looking in those frank and azure eyes,50
"What," said the prophet, "doth my Arthur seek
From the grey wisdom which the young despise?
The young, perchance, are right!—Fair infant, speak!"
Thrice sigh'd the monarch, and at length began:
"Can wisdom ward the storms of fate from man?
"What spell can thrust Affliction from the gate?51
What tree is sacred from the lightning flame?"
"Son," said the seer, "the laurel!—even Fate,
Which blasts Ambition, but illumines Fame.
Say on."—The King smiled sternly, and obey'd—
Track we the steps which track'd the warning shade.
"On to the wood, and to its inmost dell52
Will-less I went," the monarch thus pursued,
"Before me still, but darkly visible,
The Phantom glided through the solitude;
At length it paused,—a sunless pool was near,
As ebon black, and yet as chrystal clear.
"'Look, King, below,' whisper'd the shadowy One:53
What seem'd a hand sign'd beckoning to the wave;
I look'd below, and never realms undone
Show'd war more awful than the mirror gave;
There rush'd the steed, there glanced on spear the spear,
And spectre-squadrons closed in fell career.
[Pg 209]
"I saw—I saw my dragon standard there,—54
Throng'd there the Briton; there the Saxon wheel'd;
I saw it vanish from that nether air—
I saw it trampled on that noiseless field;
On pour'd the Saxon hosts—we fled—we fled!
And the Pale Horse[6] rose ghastly o'er the dead.
"Lo, the wan shadow of a giant hand55
Pass'd o'er the pool—the demon war was gone;
City on city stretch'd, and land on land;
The wondrous landscape broadening, lengthening on,
Till that small compass in its clasp contain'd
All this wide isle o'er which my fathers reign'd.
"There, by the lord of streams, a palace rose;56
On bloody floors there was a throne of state;
And in the land there dwelt one race—our foes;
And on the single throne the Saxon sate!
And Cymri's crown was on his knitted brow;
And where stands Carduel, went the labourer's plough.
"And east and west, and north and south I turn'd,57
And call'd my people as a king should call;
Pale in the hollow mountains I discern'd
Rude scatter'd stragglers from the common thrall;
Kingless and armyless, by crag and cave,—
Ghosts on the margin of their country's grave.
"And even there, amidst the barren steeps,58
I heard the tramp, I saw the Saxon steel;
Aloft, red Murder like a deluge sweeps,
Nor rock can save, nor cavern can conceal;
Hill after hill, the waves devouring rise,
Till in one mist of carnage closed my eyes!
"Then spoke the hell-born shadow by my side—59
'O king, who dreamest, amid sweets and bloom,
Life, like one summer holiday, can glide,
Blind to the storm-cloud of the coming doom;
Arthur Pendragon, to the Saxon's sway
Thy kingdom and thy crown shall pass away.'
"'And who art thou, that Heaven's august decrees60
Usurp'st thus?' I cried, and lo the space
Was void!—Amidst the horror of the trees,
And by the pool, which mirror'd back the face
Of Dark in crystal darkness—there I stood,
And the sole spectre was the Solitude!
[Pg 210]
"I knew no more—strong as a mighty dream61
The trouble seized the soul, and seal'd the sense;
I knew no more, till in the blessed beam,
Life sprung to loving Nature for defence;
Vale, flower, and fountain laugh'd in jocund spring,
And pride came back,—again I was a king!
"But, ev'n the while with airy sport of tongue62
(As with light wing the skylark from its nest
Lures the invading step) I led the throng
From the dark brood of terror in my breast;
Still frown'd the vision on my haunted eye,
And blood seem'd reddening in the azure sky.
"O thou, the Almighty Lord of earth and heaven,63
Without whose will not ev'n a sparrow falls,
If to my sight the fearful truth was given,
If thy dread hand hath graven on these walls
The Chaldee's doom, and to the stranger's sway
My kingdom and my crown shall pass away,—
"Grant this—a freeman's, if a monarch's, prayer!—64
Life, while my life one man from chains can save;
While earth one refuge, or the cave one lair,
Yields to the closing struggle of the brave!—
Mine the last desperate but avenging hand;
If reft the sceptre, not resign'd the brand!"
"Close to my clasp!" the prophet cried, "Impart65
To these iced veins the glow of youth once more;
The healthful throb of one great human heart
Baffles more fiends than all a magian's lore;
Brave child——" Young arms embracing check'd the rest,
And youth and age stood mingled breast to breast.
"Ho!" cried the mighty master, while he broke66
From the embrace, and round from vault to floor
Mysterious echoes answered as he spoke;
And flames twined snake-like round the wand he bore.
And freezing winds tumultuous swept the cell,
As from the wings of hosts invisible:
"Ho! ye spiritual Ministers of all67
The airy space below the Sapphire Throne,
To the swift axle of this earthly ball—
Yea, to the deep, where evermore alone
Hell's king with memory of lost glory dwells.
And from that memory weaves his hell of hells;—
[Pg 211]
"Ho! ye who fill the crevices of air,68
And speed the whirlwind round the reeling bark—
Or dart destroying in the forkèd glare,
Or rise—the bloodless People of the Dark,
In the pale shape of Dreams—when to the bed
Of Murder glide the simulated dead,—
"Hither ye myriad hosts!—O'er tower and dome,69
Wait the high mission, and attend the word;
Whether to pierce the mountain with the gnome,
Or soar to heights where never wing'd the bird;
So that the secret and the boon ye wrest
From Time's cold grasp, or Fate's reluctant breast!"
Mute stood the King—when lo, the dragon-keep70
Shook to its rack'd foundations, as when all
Corycia's caverns and the Delphic steep
Shook to the foot-tread of invading Gaul;[7]
Or, as his path when flaming Ætna frees,
Shakes some proud city on Sicilian seas;
Reel'd heaving from his feet the dizzy floor;71
Swam dreamlike on his gaze the fading cell;
As falls the seaman, when the waves dash o'er
The plank that glideth from his grasp—he fell.
To eyes ungifted, deadly were the least
Of those last mysteries, Nature yields her priest.
Morn, the joy-bringer, from her sparkling urn72
Scatters o'er herb and flower the orient dew;
The larks to heaven, and souls to thought return—
Life, in each source, leaps rushing forth anew,
Fills every grain in Nature's boundless plan,
And wakes new fates in each desire of man.
In each desire, each thought, each fear, each hope,73
Each scheme, each wish, each fancy, and each end,
That morn calls forth, say, who can span the scope?
Who track the arrow which the soul may send?
One morning woke Olympia's youthful son,
And long'd for fame—and half the world was won.
Fair shines the sun on stately Carduel;74
The falcon, hoodwink'd, basks upon the wall;
The tilt-yard echoes with the clarion's swell,
And lusty youth comes thronging to the call;
And martial sports (the daily wont) begin,
The page must practise if the knight would win.
[Pg 212]
Some spur the palfrey at the distant ring;75
Some, with blunt lance, in mimic tourney charge;
Here skirs the pebble from the poisèd sling,
Or flies the arrow rounding to the targe;
While Age and Fame sigh smiling to behold
The young leaves budding to replace the old.
Nor yet forgot, amid the special sports76
Of polish'd Chivalry, the primal ten[8]
Athletic contests, known in elder courts
Ere knighthood rose from the great Father-men.
Beyond the tilt-yard spread the larger space,
For the strong wrestle, and the breathless race;
Here some, the huge dull weights up-heaving throw;77
Some ply the staff, and some the sword and shield;
And some that falchion with its thunder-blow
Which Heus[9] the Guardian, taught the Celt, to wield;
Heus, who first guided o'er "the Hazy Main"
Our Titan[10] sires from Defrobanni's plain.
Life thus astir, and sport upon the wing,78
Why yet doth Arthur dream day's prime away?
Still in charm'd slumber lies the quiet King;
On his own couch the merry sunbeams play,
Gleam o'er the arms hung trophied from the wall;
And Cymri's antique crown surmounting all.
Slowly he woke; life came back with a sigh79
(That herald, or that follower, to the gate
Of all our knowledge)—and his startled eye
Fell where beside his couch the prophet sate;
And with that sight rush'd back the mystic cell,
The awful summons, the arrested spell.
"Prince," said the prophet, "with this morn awake80
From pomp, from pleasure, to high toils and brave;
From yonder wall the arms of knighthood take,
But leave the crown the knightly arms may save;
O'er mount and vale, go, pilgrim, forth alone,
And win the gifts which shall defend a throne.
"Thus speak the Fates—till in the heavens the sun81
Rounds his revolving course, O King, return
To man's first, noblest birthright, TOIL:—so won
In Grecian fable, to the ambrosial urn
Of joyous Hebè, and the Olympian grove,
The labouring son Alemena bore to Jove.
[Pg 213]
"By the stout heart to peril's sight inured,82
By the wise brain which toil hath stored and skill'd,
Valour is school'd and glory is secured,
And the large ends of fame and fate fulfill'd:
But hear the gifts thy year of proof must gain,
To fail in one leaves those achieved in vain.
"The falchion, welded from a diamond gem,83
Hid in the Lake of Argent Music-Falls,
Where springs a forest from a single stem,
And moon-lit waters close o'er Cuthite halls—
First taste the herb that grows upon a grave,
Then see the bark that wafts thee down the wave.
"The silver Shield in which the infant sleep84
Of Thor was cradled,—now the jealous care
Of the fierce dwarf whose home is on the deep,
Where drifting ice-rocks clash in lifeless air;
And War's pale Sisters smile to see the shock
Stir the still curtains round the couch of Lok.
"And last of all—before the Iron Gate85
Which opes its entrance at the faintest breath,
But hath no egress; where remorseless Fate
Sits, weaving life, within the porch of Death;
Earth's childlike guide shall wait thee in the gloom,
With golden locks, and looks that light the tomb.
"Achieve the sword, the shield, the virgin guide,86
And in those gifts appease the Powers of wrath;
Be danger braved, and be delight defied,
From grief take wisdom, and from wisdom faith;—
And though dark wings hang o'er these threaten'd halls,
Though war's red surge break thundering round thy walls,
"Though, in the rear of time, these prophet eyes87
See to thy sons, thy Cymrians, many a woe;
Yet from thy loins a race of kings shall rise,
Whose throne shall shadow all the seas that flow;
Whose empire, broader than the Cæsar won,
Shall clasp a realm where never sets the sun:
"And thou, thyself, shalt live from age to age,88
A thought of beauty and a type of fame;—
Not the faint memory of some mouldering page,
But by the hearths of men a household name:
Theme to all song, and marvel to all youth—
Beloved as Fable, yet believed as Truth.
[Pg 214]
"But if thou fail—thrice woe!" Up sprang the King:89
"Let the woe fall on feeble kings who fail
Their country's need! When eagles spread the wing,
They face the sun, not tremble at the gale:
And, if ordain'd heaven's mission to perform,
They bear the thunder where they cleave the storm."
Ere yet the shadows from the castle's base90
Show'd lapsing noon—in Carduel's council-hall,
To the high princes of the Dragon race,
The mighty Prophet, whom the awe of all
As Fate's unerring oracle adored,—
Told the self exile of the parted lord;
For his throne's safety and his country's weal91
On high emprise to distant regions bound;
The cause must wisdom for success conceal;
For each sage counsel is, as fate, profound:
And none may trace the travail in the seed
Till the blade burst to glory in the deed.
Few were the orders, as wise orders are,92
For the upholding of the chiefless throne;
To strengthen peace and yet prepare for war;
Lest the fierce Saxon (Arthur's absence known)
Loose death's pale charger from the broken rein,
To its grim pastures on the bloody plain.
Leave we the startled Princes in the hall;93
Leave we the wondering babblers in the mart;
The grief, the guess, the hope, the doubt, and all
That stir a nation to its inmost heart,
When some portentous Chance, unseen till then,
Strides in the circles of unthinking men.[11]
Where the screen'd portal from the embattled town94
Opes midway on the hill, the lonely King,
Forth issuing, guides his barded charger down
The steep descent. Amidst the pomp of spring
Lapses the lucid river; jocund May
Waits in the vale to strew with flowers his way.
Of brightest steel (but not emboss'd with gold95
As when in tourneys rode the royal knight),
His arms flash sunshine back; the azure fold
Of the broad mantle, like a wave of light,
Floats tremulous, and leaves the sword-arm free.—
Fair was that darling of all Poetry!
[Pg 215]
Through the raised vizor beam'd the fearless eye,96
The limpid mirror of a stately soul;
Bright with young hope, but grave with purpose high;
Sweet to encourage, steadfast to control;
An eye from which subjected hosts might draw,
As from a double fountain, love and awe.
The careless curl, that from the helm escaped,97
Gleam'd in the sunlight, lending gold to gold.
Nor fairer face, in Parian marble shaped,
Beam'd gracious down from Delian shrines of old;
Albeit in bolder majesty look'd forth
The hardy soul of the chivalric North
O'er the light limb, and o'er the shoulders broad,98
The steel flow'd pliant as a silken vest;
Strength was so supple that like grace it show'd,
And force was only by its ease confest;
Ev'n as the storms in gentlest waters sleep,
And in the ripple flows the mighty deep.
Now wound his path beside the woods that hang99
O'er the green pleasaunce of the sunlit plain,
When a young footstep from the forest sprang,
And a light hand was on the charger's rein;
Surprised, the adventurer halts,—but pleased surveys
The friendly face that smiles upon his gaze.
Of all the flowers of knighthood in his train100
Three he loved best; young Caradoc the mild,
Whose soul was fill'd with song; and frank Gawaine,[12]
Whom mirth for ever, like a fairy child,
Lock'd from the cares of life; but neither grew
Close to his heart, like Lancelot the true.
Gawaine when gay, and Caradoc when grave,101
Pleased: but young Lancelot, or grave or gay.
As yet life's sea had roll'd not with a wave
To rend the plank from those twin hearts away;
At childhood's gate instinctive love began,
And warm'd with every sun that led to man.
The same sports lured them, the same labours strung,102
The same song thrill'd them with the same delight;
Where in the aisle their maiden arms had hung,
The same moon lit them through the watchful night;
The same day bound their knighthood to maintain
Life from reproach, and honour from a stain.
[Pg 216]
And if the friendship scarce in each the same,103
The soul has rivals where the heart has not;
So Lancelot loved his Arthur more than fame,
And Arthur more than life his Lancelot.
Lost here Art's mean distinctions! knightly troth,
Frank youth, high thoughts, crown'd Nature's kings in both.[13]
"Whither wends Arthur?" "Whence comes Lancelot?"104
"From yonder forest, sought at dawn of day."
"Why from the forest?" "Prince and brother, what,
When the bird startled flutters from the spray,
Makes the leaves quiver? What disturbs the rill
If but a zephyr floateth from the hill?
"And ask'st thou why thy brother's heart is stirr'd105
By every tremor that can vex thine own?
What in that forest hadst thou seen or heard?
What was that shadow o'er thy sunshine thrown?
Thy lips were silent,—be the secret thine;
But half the trouble it conceal'd was mine.
"Did danger meet thee in that dismal lair?106
'Twas mine to face it as thy heart had done.
'Twas mine——" "O brother," cried the King, "beware,
The fiend has snares it shames not man to shun;—
Ah, woe to eyes on whose recoiling sight
Opes the dark world beyond the veil of light!
"Listen to Fate; till once more eves in May107
Welcome Bal-huan back to yon sweet sky,[14]
The hunter's lively horn, the hound's deep bay,
May fill with joy the Vale of Melody,[15]
On spell-bound ears the Harper's tones may fall,
Love deck the bower, and Pleasure trim the hall—
"But thou, oh thou, my Lancelot shalt mourn108
The void, a life withdrawn bequeaths the soul;
No mirth shall greet thee in the buxom horn—
Nor flash in liquid sunshine from the bowl;
Sorrow shall sit where I have dwelt,—and be
A second Arthur in its truth to thee.
"Alone I go;—submit; since thus the Fates109
And the great Prophet of our race ordain;
So shall we drive invasion from our gates,
Guard life from shame, and Cymri from the chain;
No more than this my soul to thine may tell—
Forgive,—Saints shield thee!—now thy hand—farewell!"
[Pg 217]
"Farewell! Can danger be more strong than death—110
Loose the soul's link, the grave-surviving vow?
Wilt thou find fragrance ev'n in glory's wreath,
If valour weave it for thy single brow?
No!—not farewell! What claim more strong than brother
Canst thou allow?"—"My Country is my Mother!"—
At the rebuke of those mild, solemn words,111
Friendship submissive bow'd—its voice was still'd;
As when some mighty bard with sudden chords
Strikes down the passion he before had thrill'd,
Making grief awe;—so rush'd that sentence o'er
The soul it master'd;—Lancelot urged no more;
But loosing from the hand it clasp'd, his own,112
He waved farewell, and turn'd his face away;
His sorrow only by his silence shown:—
Thus, when from earth glides summer's golden day,
Music forsakes the boughs, and winds the stream;
And life, in deep'ning quiet, mourns the beam.

[Pg 218]

BOOK II.

ARGUMENT.

Introductory reflections—Arthur's absence—Caradoc's suspended epic—The deliberations of the three friends—Merlin seeks them—The trial of the enchanted forest—Merlin's soliloquy by the fountain—The return of the knights from the forest—Merlin's selection of the one permitted to join the King—The narrative returns to Arthur—The strange guide allotted to him—He crosses the sea, and arrives at the court of the Vandal—Ludovick, the Vandal King, described—His wily questions—Arthur's answers—The Vandal seeks his friend Astutio—Arthur leaves the court—Conference between Astutio and Ludovick—Astutio's profound statesmanship and subtle schemes—The Ambassador from Mercia—His address to Ludovick—The Saxons pursue Arthur—Meanwhile the Cymrian King arrives at the sea-shore—Description of the caves that intercept his progress—He turns inland—The Idol-shrine—The wolf and the priest.

Oft in the sands, in idle summer days,1
Will childlike fondness write some cherish'd name,
Lull'd on the margin, while the wavelet plays,
And tides still dreaming on:—Alas! the same
On human hearts Affection prints a trace;
The sands record it, and the tides efface.
If absence parts, Hope, ready to console,2
Whispers, "Be soothed, the absent shall return;"
If Death divides, a moment from the goal,
Love stays the step, and decks, but leaves, the urn,
Vowing remembrance;—let the year be o'er,
And see, remembrance smiles like joy, once more!
In street and mart still plies the busy craft.3
Still Beauty trims for stealthy steps the bower;
By lips as gay the Hirlas horn[1] is quaft;
To the dark bourne still flies as fast the hour,
As when in Arthur men adored the sun;
And Life's large rainbow took its hues from One!
Yet ne'er by Prince more loved a crown was worn,4
And hadst thou ventured but to hint the doubt
That loyal subjects ever ceased to mourn,
And that without him, earth was joy without,—
Thou soon hadst join'd in certain warm dominions
The hornèd friends of pestilent opinions.
[Pg 219]
Thrice bless'd, O King, that on thy royal head5
Fall the night-dews; that the broad-spreading beech
Curtains thy sleep; that in the paths of dread,
Lonely thou wanderest,—so thy steps may reach
Renown,—that bridge which spans the midnight sea,
And joins two worlds,—Time and Eternity!
All is forgot save Poetry; or whether6
Haunting Time's river from the vocal reeds,
Or link'd not less in human souls together
With ends, which make the poetry of deeds;
For either poetry alike can shine—
From Hector's valour as from Homer's line.
Yet let me wrong ye not, ye faithful three,7
Gawaine, and Caradoc, and Lancelot!
Gawaine's light lip had lost its laughing glee
And gentle Caradoc had half forgot
That famous epic which his muse had hit on,
Of Trojan Brut—from whom the name of Briton.
Therein Sir Brut, expell'd from flaming Troy,[2]8
Comes to this isle, and seeks to build a city,
Which Devils, then the Freeholders, destroy;
Till the sweet Virgin on Sir Brut takes pity,
And bids that Saint who now speaks Welsh on high,[3]
Baptize the astonish'd heathen in the Wye!
This done, the fiends, at once disfranchised, fled;9
And to the Saint the Trojan built a chapel,
Where masses daily were for Priam said:—
While thrice a week, the priests, that golden apple
By which three fiends, as goddesses disguised,
Bewitch'd Sir Paris, anathematized.
But now this epic, in its course suspended,10
Slept on the shelf—(a not uncommon fate);
Ah, who shall tell, if, ere resumed and ended,
That kind of poem be not out of date?
For of all ladies there are none who chuse
Such freaks and turns of fashion, as the Muse.
And then, sad Lancelot—but there I hold;11
Some griefs there are which grief alone can guess,
And so we leave whate'er he felt untold;
Light steps profane the heart's deep loneliness.
I, too, had once a friend, in happier years!
He fled,—he owed,—forgot;—Forgive these tears!—
[Pg 220]
Much, their sole comfort, much conversed the three12
Upon their absent Arthur; what the cause
Of his self-exile, and its ends, could be;
Much did they ponder, hesitate, and pause
In high debate if loyal love might still
Pursue his wanderings, though against his will.
But first the awe which kings command, restrain'd;13
And next the ignorance of the path and goal;
So, thus for weeks they communed and remain'd;
Till o'er the woods a mellower verdure stole;
The bell-flower clothed the river-banks; the moon
Stood in the breathless firmament of June;
When—as one twilight near the forest-mount14
They sate, and heard the vesper-bell afar
Swing from the dim Cathedral, and the fount
Hymn low its own sweet music to the star
Lone in the west—they saw a shadow pass
Where the pale beam shot silvering o'er the grass.
They turn'd, beheld their Cymri's mighty seer,15
Majestic Merlin, and with reverence rose;
"Knights," said the soothsayer, smiling, "be of cheer
If yet alone (the stars themselves his foes)
Wanders the King,—now, of his faithful three
One, Fate permits; the choice with Fate must be.
"Enter the forest—each his several way;16
Return as dies in air the vesper chime;
The fiend the forest populace obey
Hath not o'er mortals empire in the time
When holy sounds the wings of Heaven invite,
And prayer hangs charm-like on the wheels of Night.
"What seen, what heard, mark mindful, and relate!17
Here will I tarry till your steps return."
Ne'er leapt the captive from the prison grate
With livelier gladness to the smiles of morn,
Than sprang those rivals to the forest-gloom,
And its dark arms closed round them like a tomb.
Before the fount, with thought-o'ershadow'd brow,18
The prophet stood, and bent a wistful eye
Along its starlit shimmer;—"Ev'n as now,"
He murmur'd, "didst thou lift thyself on high,
O symbol of my soul, and make thy course
One upward struggle to thy mountain source—
[Pg 221]
"When first, a musing boy, I stood beside19
Thy sparkling showers, and ask'd my restless heart
What secrets Nature to the herd denied,
But might to earnest hierophant impart;
Then, in the boundless space around and o'er,
Thought whisper'd—'Rise, O seeker, and explore;
"'Can every leaf a teeming world contain,20
In the least drop can race succeed to race,
Yet one death-slumber in its dreamless reign
Clasp all the illumed magnificence of space—
Life crowd the drop—from air's vast seas effaced—
The leaf a world—the firmament a waste?'—
"And while Thought whisper'd, from thy shining spring21
The glorious answer murmur'd—'Soul of Man,
Let the fount teach thee, and its struggle bring
Truth to thy yearnings!—whither I began,
Thither I tend; my law is to aspire:
Spirit thy source, be spirit thy desire.'
"And I have made the life of spirit mine;22
And, on the margin of my mortal grave,
My soul, already in an air divine
Ev'n in its terrors,—starlit, seeks to cleave
Up to the height on which its source must be—
And falls again, in earthward showers, like thee.
"System on system climbing, sphere on sphere,23
Upward for ever, ever, evermore,
Can all eternity not bring more near?
Is it in vain that I have sought to soar?
Vain as the Has been, is the long To be?
Type of my soul, O fountain, answer me!"
And while he spoke, behold the night's soft flowers,24
Scentless to day, awoke, and bloom'd, and breathed;
Fed by the falling of the fountain's showers,
Round its green marge the grateful garland wreathed;
The fount might fail its source on high to gain—
But ask the blossom if it soared in vain!
The prophet mark'd, and, on his mighty brow,25
Thought grew resign'd, serene, though mournful still.
Now ceased the vesper, and the branches now
Stirr'd on the margin of the forest hill—
And Gawaine came into the starlit space—
Slow was his step, and sullen was his face.
[Pg 222]
"What didst thou see?"—"The green-wood and the sky."26
"What hear?"—"The light leaf dropping on the sward."
And now, with front elate and hopeful eye,
Stood, in the starlight, Caradoc the bard;
The prophet smiled on that fair face (akin
Poet and prophet), "Child of Song, begin."
"I saw a glow-worm light his fairy lamp,27
Close where a little torrent forced its way
Through broad-leaved water-sedge, and alder damp;
Above the glow-worm, from some lower spray
Of the near mountain-ash, the silver song
Of night's sweet chorister came clear and strong;
"No thrilling note of melancholy wail;28
Ne'er pour'd the thrush more musical delight
Through noon-day laurels, than that nightingale
In the lone forest to the ear of Night—
Ev'n as the light web by Arachne spun,
From bough to bough suspended in the sun,
"Ensnares the heedless insect,—so, methought29
Midway in air my soul arrested hung
In the melodious meshes; never aught
To mortal lute was so divinely sung!
Surely, O prophet, these the sound and sign,
Which make the lot, the search determines mine,"
"O self-deceit of man!" the soothsayer sigh'd,30
"The worm but lent its funeral torch the ray;
The night-bird's joy but hail'd the fatal guide,
In the bright glimmer, to its thoughtless prey.
And thou, bold-eyed one—in the forest, what
Met thy firm footstep?"—Out spoke Lancelot—
"I pierced the forest till a pool I reach'd,31
Ne'er mark'd before—a dark yet lucid wave;
High from a blasted oak the night-owl screech'd,
An otter crept from out its water-cave,
The owl grew silent when it heard my tread—
The otter mark'd my shadow, and it fled.
"This all I saw, and all I heard."—"Rejoice"32
The enchanter cried, "for thee the omens smile;
On thee propitious Fate hath fix'd the choice;
And thou the comrade in the glorious toil.
In death the poet only music heard;
But death gave way when life's firm soldier stirr'd.
[Pg 223]
"Forth ride, a dauntless champion, with the morn;33
But let the night the champion nerve with prayer;
Higher and higher from the heron borne,
Wheels thy brave falcon to the heavenliest air,
Poises his wings, far towering o'er the foe,
And hangs aloft, before he swoops below;
"Man let the falcon teach thee!—Now, from land34
To land thy guide, receive this chrystal ring;
See, in the chrystal moves a fairy hand,
Still, where it moveth, moves the wandering King—
Or east, or north, or south, or west, where'er
Points the sure hand, thy onward path be there!
"Thine hour comes soon, young Gawaine! to the port35
The light heart boundeth o'er the stormiest wave;
And thou, fair favourite[4] in the Fairy court,
To whom its King a realm in fancy gave;
Fear not from glory exiled long to be,
What toil to others, Nature brings to thee."
Thus with kind word, well chosen, unto each36
Spoke the benign enchanter; and the twain,
Less favour'd, heart and comfort from his speech
Hopeful conceived; the prophet up the plain,
Gathering weird simples, pass'd—to Carduel they;
And song escapes to Arthur's lonely way.
On towards the ocean-shore (for thus the seer37
Enjoin'd) the royal knight, deep musing, rode;
Winding green margins, till more near and near
Unto the main the exulting river flow'd.
Here too a guide, when reach'd the mightier wave,
The heedful promise of the prophet gave.
Where the sea flashes on the argent sands,38
Soars from a lonely rock a snow-white dove:
No bird more beauteous to immortal lands
Bore Psyche rescued side by side with Love.
Ev'n as some thought which, pure of earthly taint,
Springs from the chaste heart of a virgin saint.
It hovers in the heaven:—and from its wings39
Shakes the clear dewdrops of unsullying seas;
Then circling gently in slow-measured rings,
Nearer and nearer to its goal it flees,
And drooping, fearless, on that noble breast,
Murmuring low joy, it coos itself to rest.
[Pg 224]
The grateful King, with many a soothing word,40
And bland caress, the guileless trust repaid;
When, gently gliding from his hand, the bird
Went fluttering where the hollow headlands made
A boat's small harbour; Arthur from the chain
Released the raft,—it shot along the main.
Now in that boat, beneath the eyes of heaven,41
Floated the three, the steed, the bird, the man;
To favouring winds the little sail was given;
The shore fail'd gradual, dwindling to a span;
The steed bent wistful o'er the watery realm;
And the white dove perch'd tranquil at the helm.
Haply by fisherman, its owner, left,42
Within the boat were rude provisions stored;
The yellow harvest from the wild bee reft,
Bread, roots, dried fish, the luxuries of a board
Health spreads for toil; while skins and flasks of reed
Yield, these the water, those the strengthening mead.
Five days, five nights, still onward, onward o'er43
Light-swelling waves, bounded the bark its way:
At last the sun set reddening on a shore;
Walls on the cliff, and war-ships in the bay;
While from bright towers, o'erlooking sea and plain,
The Leopard-banners told the Vandal's reign.
Amid those shifting royalties, the North44
Pour'd from its teeming breast, in tumult driven,
Now to, now fro, as thunder-clouds sent forth
To darken, burst,—and bursting, clear the heaven;
Ere yet the Nomad nations found repose,
And order dawn'd as Charlemain arose;
Amidst that ferment of fierce races, won45
To yonder shores a wandering Vandal horde,
Whose chief exchanged his war-tent for a throne,
And shaped a sceptre from a conqueror's sword;
His sons, expell'd by rude intestine broil,
Sought that worst wilderness—the Stranger's soil.
A distant kinsman, Ludovick his name,46
With them was exiled, and with them return'd.
A prince of popular and patriot fame;
To roast his egg your house he would have burn'd!
A patriot soul no ties of kindred knows—
His kinsman's palace was the house he chose.
[Pg 225]
A patriot gamester playing for a Crown,47
He watch'd the hazard with indifferent air,
Rebuked well-wishers with a gentle frown,
Then dropp'd the whisper—"What I win I share."
Who plays for power should make the odds so fall,
That one man's luck should seem the gain of all.
The moment came, disorder split the realm;48
Too stern the ruler, or too feebly stern;
The supple kinsman slided to the helm,
And trimm'd the rudder with a dexterous turn;
A turn so dexterous, that it served to fling
Both overboard—the people and the king!
The captain's post repaid the pilot's task,49
He seized the ship as he had cleared the prow;
Drop we the metaphor as he the mask:
And, while his gaping Vandals wonder'd how,
Behold the patriot to the despot grown,
Filch'd from the fight, and juggled to the throne!
And bland in words was wily Ludovick!50
Much did he promise, nought did he fulfil;
The trickster Fortune loves the hands that trick,
And smiled approving on her conjuror's skill!
The promised freedom vanish'd in a tax,
And bays, turn'd briars, scourged bewilder'd backs.
Soon is the landing of the stranger knight51
Known at the court; and courteously the king
Gives to his guest the hospitable rite;
Heralds the tromp, and harpers wake the string;
Rich robes of miniver the mail replace,
And the bright banquet sparkles on the dais.
Where on the wall the cloth, goldwoven, glow'd,52
Beside his chair of state, the Vandal lord
Made room for that fair stranger, as he strode
With a king's footstep, to the kingly board.
In robes so nobly worn, the wise old man
Saw some great soul, which cunning whisper'd "scan."
A portly presence had the realm-deceiver;53
Ah eye urbane, a people-catching smile,
A brow of webs the everlasting weaver,
Where jovial frankness mask'd the serious guile;
Each word, well aim'd, he feather'd with a jest,
And, unsuspected, shot into the breast.
[Pg 226]
Gaily he welcomed Arthur to the feast,54
And press'd the goblet, which unties the tongue;
As the bowl circled so his speech increased,
And chose such flatteries as seduce the young;
Seeming in each kind question more to blend
The fondling father with the anxious friend.
If frank the prince, esteem him not the less;55
The soul of knighthood loves the truth of man;
The boons he sought 'twas needful to suppress,
Not mask the seeker; so the prince began—
"Arthur my name, from Ynys Vel[5] I come,
And the steep homes of Cymri's Christendom.
"Five days ago, in Carduel's halls a king,56
A lonely pilgrim now o'er lands and seas,
I seek such fame as gallant deeds can bring,
And hope from danger gifts denied to ease;
Lore from experience, thought from toil to gain,
And learn as man how best as king to reign."
The Vandal smiled, and praised the high design;57
Then, careless, questioned of the Cymrian land:
"Was earth propitious to the corn and vine?
Was the sun genial?—were the breezes bland?
Did gold and gem the mountain mines conceal?"—
"Our soil bears manhood, and our mountains steel,"
The Monarch answer'd; "and where these are found,58
All plains yield harvests, and all mines the gold."—
"Your hills are doubtless," quoth the Vandal, "crown'd
With castled tower, and fosse-defended hold?"—
"One hold the land—its mightiest fosse the sea;
And its strong walls the bosoms of the free."
The Vandal mused, and thought the answers shrewd,59
But little suited to the listeners by;
So turn'd the subject, nor again renew'd
Sharp questions blunted by such bold reply.
Now ceased the banquet; to a chamber, spread
With fragrant heath, his guest the Vandal led.
With his own hand unclasp'd the mantle's fold,60
And took his leave in blessings without number;
Bade every angel shelter from the cold,
And every saint watch sleepless o'er the slumber;
Then his own chamber sought, and rack'd his breast
To find some use to which to put the guest.
[Pg 227]
Three days did Arthur sojourn in that court;61
And much he marvell'd how that warlike race
Bow'd to a chief, whom never knightly sport,
The gallant tourney, nor the glowing chase
Allured; and least those glory-lighted dyes
Which make death lovely in a warrior's eyes.
Yet, 'midst his marvel, much the Cymrian sees62
For king to imitate and sage to praise;
Splendour and thrift in nicely-poised degrees,
Caution that guards, and promptness that dismays;
But Fraud will oftimes make the Fate it fears;—
Some day, found stifled by the mask it wears.
On his part, Arthur in such estimation63
Did the host hold, that he proposed to take
A father's charge of his forsaken nation.
"He loved not meddling, but for Arthur's sake,
Would leave his own, his guest's affairs to mind."
An offer Arthur thankfully declined.
Much grieved the Vandal "that he just had given64
His last unwedded daughter to a Frank,
But still he had a wifeless son, thank Heaven!
Not yet provision'd as beseem'd his rank,
And one of Arthur's sisters——" Uther's son
Smiled, and replied—"Sir king, I have but one,
"Borne by my mother to her former lord;65
Not young."—"Alack! youth cannot last like riches."
"Not fair."—"Then youth is less to be deplored."
"A witch."[6]—"All women till they're wed are witches!
Wived to my son, the witch will soon be steady!"
"Wived to your son?—she is a wife already!"
O baseless dreams of man! The king stood mute!66
That son, of all his house the favourite flower,
How had he sought to force it into fruit,
And graft the slip upon a lusty dower!
And this sole sister of a king so rich,
A wife already!—Saints consume the witch!
With brow deject, the mournful Vandal took67
Occasion prompt to leave his royal guest,
And sought a friend who served him, as a book
Read in our illness, in our health dismiss'd;
For seldom did the Vandal condescend
To that poor drudge which monarchs call a friend!
[Pg 228]
And yet Astutio was a man of worth68
Before the brain had reason'd out the heart;
But now he learned to look upon the earth
As peddling hucksters look upon the mart;
Took souls for wares, and conscience for a till;
And damn'd his fame to serve his master's will.
Much lore he had in men, and states, and things,69
And kept his memory mapp'd in prim precision,
With histories, laws, and pedigrees of kings,
And moral saws, which ran through each division,
All neatly colour'd with appropriate hue—
The histories black, the morals heavenly blue!
But state-craft, mainly, was his pride and boast;70
"The golden medium" was his guiding star,
Which means "move on until you're uppermost,
And then things can't be better than they are!"
Brief, in two rules he summ'd the ends of man—
"Keep all you have, and try for all you can!"
While these conferr'd, fair Arthur wistfully71
Look'd from the lattice of his stately room;
The rainbow spann'd the ocean of the sky,
An arch of glory in the midst of gloom;
So light from dark by lofty souls is won,
And on the rain-cloud they reflect the sun.
As such, perchance, his thought, the snow-white dove,72
Which at the threshold of the Vandal's towers
Had left his side, came circling from above,
Athwart the rainbow and the sparkling showers,
Flew through the open lattice, paused, and sprung
Where on the wall the abandon'd armour hung;
Hover'd above the lance, the mail, the crest,73
Then back to Arthur, and with querulous cries,
Peck'd at the clasp that bound the flowing vest,
Chiding his dalliance from the arm'd emprize,
So Arthur deem'd; and soon from head to heel
Blazed War's dread statue, sculptured from the steel.
Then through the doorway flew the wingèd guide,74
Skimm'd the long gallery, shunn'd the thronging hall,
And, through deserted posterns, led the stride
Of its arm'd follower to the charger's stall;
Loud neigh'd the destrier[7] at the welcome clang
And drowsy horseboys into service sprang.
[Pg 229]
Though threaten'd danger well the prince divined,75
He deem'd it churlish in ungracious haste
Thus to depart, nor thank a host so kind;
But when the step the courteous thought retraced,
With breast and wing the dove opposed his way,
And warn'd with scaring scream the rash delay.
The King reluctant yields. Now in the court76
Paws with impatient hoof the barbèd steed;
Now yawn the sombre portals of the fort;
Creaks the hoarse drawbridge;—now the walls are freed.
Through dun woods hanging o'er the ocean tide,
Glimmers the steel, and gleams the angel-guide.
An opening glade upon the headland's prow77
Sudden admits the ocean and the day.
Lo! the waves cleft before the gilded prow,
Where the tall war-ship, towering, sweeps to bay.
Why starts the King?—High over mast and sail,
The Saxon Horse rides ghastly in the gale!
Grateful to heaven, and heaven's plumed messenger,78
He raised his reverent eyes, then shook the rein:
Bounded the barb, disdainful of the spur,
Clear'd the steep cliff, and scour'd along the plain.
Still, while he sped, the swifter wings that lead
Seem to rebuke for sloth the swiftening steed.
Nor cause unmeet for grateful thought, I ween,79
Had the good King; nor vainly warn'd the bird;
Nor idly fled the steed; as shall be seen,
If, where the Vandal and his friend conferr'd,
Awhile our path retracing, we relate
What craft deems guiltless when the craft of state.
"Sire," quoth Astutio, "well I comprehend80
Your cause for grief; the seedsman breaks the ground
For the new plant; new thrones that would extend
Their roots, must loosen all the earth around;
For trees and thrones no rule than this more true,
What most disturbs the old best serves the new.
"Thus all ways wise to push your princely son81
Under the soil of Cymri's ancient stem;
And if the ground the thriving plant had won,
What prudent man will plants that thrive condemn?
Sir, in your move a master hand is seen,
Your well play'd bishop caught both tower and queen."
[Pg 230]
"And now checkmate!" the wretched sire exclaims,82
With watering eyes, and mouth that water'd too.
"Nay," quoth the sage; "a match means many games,
Replace the pieces, and begin anew.
You want this Cymrian's crown—the want is just."—
"But how to get it?"—"Sir, with ease, I trust.
"The witch is married—better that than burn83
(A well-known text—to witches not applied);
But let that pass:—great sir, to Anglia turn,
And mate your Vandal with a Saxon bride.
Her dower," cried Ludovick, "the dower's the thing."
"The lands and sceptre of the Cymrian King."
Then to that anxious sire the learned man84
Bared the large purpose latent in his speech;
O'er Britain's gloomy history glibly ran;
Anglia's new kingdoms, he described them each;
But most himself to Mercia he addresses,
For Mercia's king, great man, hath two princesses!
Long on this glowing theme enlarged the sage,85
And turn'd, return'd, and turn'd it o'er again;
Thus when a mercer would your greed engage
In some fair silk, or cloth of comely grain,
He spreads it out—upholds it to the day,
Then sighs "So cheap, too!"—and your soul gives way.
He show'd the Saxon, hungering to devour86
The last unconquer'd realm the Cymrian boasts;
He dwelt at length on Mercia's gathering power,
Swell'd, year by year, from Elbe's unfailing hosts.
Then proved how Mercia scarcely could retain
Beneath the sceptre what the sword might gain.
"For Mercia's vales from Cymri's hills are far,87
And Mercian warriors hard to keep afield;
And men fresh conquer'd stormy subjects are;
What can't be held 'tis no great loss to yield;
And still the Saxon might secure his end,
If where the foe had reign'd he left the friend.
"Nay, what so politic in Mercia's king88
As on that throne a son-in-law to place?"
While thus they saw their birds upon the wing
Ere hatched the egg,—as is the common case
With large capacious minds, the natural heirs
Of that vast property—the things not theirs!
[Pg 231]
In comes a herald—comes with startling news:89
"A Saxon chief has anchor'd in the bay,
From Mercia's king ambassador, and sues
The royal audience ere the close of day."
The wise old men upon each other stare,
"While monarchs counsel, thus the saints prepare,"
Astutio murmur'd, with a pious smile.90
"Admit the noble Saxon," quoth the King.
The two laugh out, and rub their palms, the while
The herald speeds the ambassador to bring;
And soon a chief, fair-hair'd, erect, and tall,
With train and trumpet, strides along the hall.
Upon his wrist a falcon, bell'd, he bore;91
Leash'd at his heels six bloodhounds grimly stalk'd;
A broad round shield was slung his breast before;
The floors reclang'd with armour as he walk'd;
He gained the dais; his standard-bearer spread
Broadly the banner o'er his helmèd head,
And thrice the tromp his blazon'd herald woke,92
And hail'd Earl Harold from the Mercian king.
Full on the Vandal gazed the earl, and spoke:
"Greeting from Crida, Woden's heir, I bring,
And these plain words:—'The Saxon's steel is bare,
Red harvests wait it—will the Vandal share?
"'Hengist first chased the Briton from the vale;93
Crida would hound the Briton from the hill;
Stern hands have loosed the Pale Horse on the gale;
The Horse shall halt not till the winds are still.
Be ours your foemen,—be your foemen shown,
And we in turn will smite them as our own.
"'We need allies—in you allies we call;94
Your shores oppose the Cymrian's mountain sway;
Your armèd men stand idle in your hall;
Your vessels rot within your crowded bay:
Send three full squadrons to the Mercian bands—
Send seven tall war-ships to the Cymrian lands.
"'If this you grant, as from the old renown95
Of Vandal valour, Saxon men believe,
Our arms will solve all question to your crown;
If not, the heirs you banish we receive;
But one rude maxim Saxon bluntness knows—
We serve our friends, who are not friends are foes!
[Pg 232]
"'Thus speaks King Crida.'" Not the manner much96
Of that brief speech wise Ludovick admired;
But still the matter did so nearly touch
The great state-objects recently desired,
That the sage brows dismiss'd in haste the frown,
And lips sore-smiling gulp'd resentment down.
Fair words he gave, and friendly hints of aid,97
And pray'd the envoy in his halls to rest;
And more, in truth, to please the earl had said,
But that the sojourn of the earlier guest
(For not the parting of the Cymrian known)
Forbade his heart too plainly to be shown.
But ere a long and oily speech had closed,98
Astutio, who the hall, when it begun,
Had left, to seek the prince (whom he proposed,
If yet the tidings to his ear had won
Of his foe's envoy, by some smooth pretext
To lull), came back with visage much perplext—
And whisper'd Ludovick—"The King has fled!"99
The Vandal stammer'd, stared, but versed in all
The quick resources of a wily head,
That out of evil still a good could call,
He did but pause, with more effect to wing
The stone that chance thus fitted to his sling.
"Saxon," he said, "thus far we had premised,100
And if still wavering, not our heart in fault.
Three days ago, the Cymrian king, disguised,
First drank our cup, and tasted of our salt,
And hence our zeal to aid you we represt,
Deeming your foe was still the Vandal's guest.
"Lo, while we speak, the saints the bond release;101
Arthur hath gone from us;—the host is free."
"Arthur—the Cymrian!" cried the envoy. "Peace;
In deeds, not words, men's love the Saxons see:
Gone!—whither wends he? But a word I need—
Leave to the rest my bloodhounds and my steed."
Dumb sate the Vandal, dumb with fear and shame:102
No slave to virtue, but its shade was he;
A tower of strength is in an honest name—
'Tis wise to seem what oft 'tis dull to be!
A kingly host a kingly guest betray!
The chafing Saxon brook'd not that delay—
[Pg 233]
But turn'd his sparkling eyes behind, and saw103
His knights and squires with zeal as fierce inflamed,
And out he spoke,—"The hospitable law
We will not trench, whate'er the guest hath claim'd
Let the host yield! forgive, that, hotly stirr'd,
His course I question'd; I retract the word.
"If on your hearth he stands, protect; within104
Your realm if wandering, guard him as you may;
This hearth not ours, nor this our realm;—no sin
To chase our foeman, whatsoe'er his way:
Up spear—forth sword! to selle each Saxon man—
Unleash the warhounds—stay us those who can!"
Loud rang the armèd tumult in the hall;105
Rush'd to the doors the Saxon's fiery band;
Yell'd the gaunt bloodhounds loosen'd from the thrall;
Steeds neigh'd; leapt forth the falchion to the hand;
Low on the earth the bloodhounds track'd the scent,
And where they guided there the hunters went.
Amazed the Vandal with his friend debates106
What course were best in such extremes to choose;
Nicely they weigh;—the Saxons pass the gates:
Finely refine;—the chase its prey pursues.
And while the chase pursues, to him, whose way
The dove directs, well pleased, returns the lay.
Twilight was on the earth, when paused the King107
Lone by the beach of far-resounding seas;
Rock upon rock, behind, a Titan ring,
Closed round a gorge o'erhung with breathless trees,
A horror of still umbrage; and, before,
Wave-hollow'd caves arch'd, ruinous, the shore.
Column and vault, and seaweed-dripping domes,108
Long vistas opening through the streets of dark,
Seem'd like a city's skeleton; the homes
Of giant races vanish'd since the ark
Rested on Ararat: from side to side
Moan the lock'd waves that ebb not with the tide.
Here, path forbid; where, length'ning up the land,109
The deep gorge stretches to a night of pine,
Veer the white wings; and there the slacken'd hand
Guides the tired steed; deeplier the shades decline;
Dull'd with each step into the darker gloom
Follows the ocean's hollow-sounding boom.
[Pg 234]
Sudden starts back the steed, with bristling mane110
And nostrils snorting fear; from out the shade
Loom the vast columns of a roofless fane,
Meet for some god whom savage man hath made:
A mighty pine-torch on the altar glow'd
And lit the goddess of the grim abode—
So that the lurid idol, from its throne,111
Glared on the wanderer with a stony eye;
The King breathed quick the Christian orison,
Spurr'd the scared barb, and pass'd abhorrent by—
Nor mark'd a figure on the floor reclined:
It watch'd, it rose, it crept, it dogg'd behind.
Three days, three nights, within that dismal shrine,112
Had couch'd that man, and hunger'd for his prey.
Chieftain and priest of hordes that from the Rhine
Had track'd in carnage thitherwards their way;
Fell souls that still maintain'd their rites of yore,
And hideous altars rank with human gore.
By monstrous Oracles a coming foe,113
Whose steps appal his gods, hath been foretold;
The fane must fall unless the blood shall flow;
Therefore three days, three nights he watch'd;—behold
At last the death-torch of the blazing pine
Darts on the foe the lightning of the shrine!
Stealthily on, amidst the brushwood, crept114
With practised foot and unrelaxing eye,
The steadfast Murder;—where the still leaf slept
The still leaf stirr'd not: as it glided by
The mosses gave no echo; not a breath!
Nature was hush'd as if in league with Death!
As moved the man, so, on the opposing side115
Of the deep gorge, with purpose like his own,
Did steps as noiseless to the blood-feast glide;
And as the man before his idol's throne
Had watch'd,—so watch'd, since daylight left the air,
A giant wolf within its leafy lair.
Whether the blaze allured, or hunger stung,116
There still had cower'd and crouch'd the beast of prey;
With lurid eyes unwinking, spell-bound, clung
To the near ridge that faced the torchlit way;
As the steed pass'd, it rose! On either side,
Here glides the wild beast, there the man doth glide.
[Pg 235]
But all unconscious of the double foe,117
Paused Arthur, where his resting-place the dove
Seem'd to select,—his couch a mound below;
A bowering beech his canopy above:
From his worn steed the barded mail released,
And left it, reinless, to its herbage-feast.
Then from his brow the mighty helm unbraced,118
And from his breast the hauberk's heavy load;
On the tree's trunk the trophied arms he placed,
And, ere to rest the weary limbs bestow'd,
Thrice sign'd the cross the fiends of night to scare,
And guarded helpless sleep with potent prayer.
Then on the moss-grown couch he laid him down,119
Fearless of night and hopeful for the morn:
On Slumber's lap the head without a crown
Forgot the gilded trouble it had worn;
The Warrior slept—the browsing charger stray'd—
The dove, unsleeping, watch'd amidst the shade.
And now, on either hand the dreaming King120
Death halts to strike: the crouching wild beast, here,
From the close crag prepares the rushing spring;
There, from the thicket creeping, near and near,
Steals the wild man, and listens for a sound—
Lifts the pale steel, and gathers for the bound.
But what befell? O thou, whose gentle heart121
Lists, scornful not, this undiurnal rhyme;
If, as thy steps to busier life depart,
Still in thine ear rings low the haunting chime,
When leisure suits once more forsake the throng,
Call childhood back, and redemand the song.

[Pg 236]

BOOK III.

ARGUMENT.

Arthur still sleeps—The sounds that break his rest—The war between the beast and the man—How ended—The Christian foe and the heathen—The narrative returns to the Saxons in pursuit of Arthur—Their chase is stayed by the caverns described in the preceding book, the tides having now advanced up the gorge through which Arthur passed, and blocked that pathway—The hunt is resumed at dawn—The tides have receded from the gorge—One of the hounds finds scent—The riders are on the track—Harold heads the pursuit—The beech-tree—The man by the water spring—The wood is left—The knight on the brow of the hill—Parley between the earl and the knight—The encounter—Harold's address to his men, and his foe—His foe's reply—The dove and the falcon—The unexpected succour—And conclusion of the fray—The narrative passes on to the description of the Happy Valley—in which the dwellers await the coming of a stranger—History of the Happy Valley—a colony founded by Etrurians from Fiesolè, forewarned of the destined growth of the Roman dominion—Its strange seclusion and safety from the changes of the ancient world—The law that forbade the daughters of the Lartian or ruling family to marry into other clans—Only one daughter (the queen) is left now, and the male line in the whole Lartian clan is extinct—The contrivance of the Augur for the continuance of the royal house, sanctioned by two former precedents—A stranger is to be lured into the valley—The simple dwellers therein to be deceived into believing him a god—He is to be married to the queen, and then, on the birth of a son, to vanish again amongst the gods (i.e. to be secretly made away with)—Two temples at the opposite ends of the valley give the only gates to the place—By the first, dedicated to Tina (the Etrurian Jove), the stranger is to be admitted—In the second, dedicated to Mantu (the god of the shades), he is destined to vanish—Such a stranger is now expected in the Happy Valley—He emerges, led by the Augur, from the temple of Tina—Ægle, the queen, described—Her stranger-bridegroom is led to her bower.

We raise the curtain where the unconscious king1
Beneath the beech his fearless couch had made;
Here, the fierce fangs prepared their deadly spring;
There, in the hand of Murder gleam'd the blade;
And not a sound to warn him from above;
Where, still unsleeping, watch'd the guardian dove!
Hark, a dull crash!—a howling, ravenous yell!2
Opening fell symphony of ghastly sound,
Jarring, yet blent, as if the dismal hell
Sent its strange anguish from the rent Profound:
Through all its scale the horrible discord ran,
Now mock'd the beast, now took the groan of man;
[Pg 237]
Wrath, and the grind of gnashing teeth; the growl3
Of famine routed from its red repast;
Sharp shrilling pain; and fury from some soul
That fronts despair, and wrestles to the last.
Up sprang the King—the moon's uncertain ray
Through the still leaves just wins its glimmering way.
And lo, before him, close, yet wanly faint,4
Forms that seem shadows, strife that seems the sport
Of things that oft some holy hermit saint
Lone in Egyptian plains (the dread resort
Of Nile's dethronèd demon gods) hath view'd;
The grisly tempters, born of Solitude:—
Coil'd in the strong death-grapple, through the dim5
And haggard air, before the Cymrian lay
Writhing and interlaced with fang and limb,
As if one shape, what seem'd a beast of prey
And the grand form of Man!—The bird of Heaven
Wisely no note to warn the sleep had given;
The sleep protected;—as the Savage sprang,6
Sprang the wild beast;—before the dreamer's breast
Defeated Murder found the hungry fang,
The wolf the steel:—so, starting from his rest,
The saved man woke to save! Nor time was here
For pause or caution; for the sword or spear;
Clasp'd round the wolf, swift arms of iron draw7
From their fierce hold the buried fangs;—on high
Up-borne, the baffled terrors of its jaw
Gnash vain;—one yell howls, hollow, through the sky;
And dies abruptly, stifled to a gasp,
As the grim heart pants crushing in the grasp.
Fit for a nation's bulwark, that strong breast8
To which the strong arms lock'd the powerless foe!—
Nor oped the vice till breath's last anguish ceast;
'Tis done; and dumb the dull weight drops below.
The kindred form, which now the King surveys,
Those arms, all gentle as a woman's, raise.
Leaning the pale cheek on his pitying heart,9
He wipes the blood from face, and breast, and limb,
And joyful sees (for no humaner art
Which Christian knighthood knows, unknown to him)
That the fell fangs the nobler parts forbore,
And, thanks, sweet Virgin! life returns once more.
[Pg 238]
The savage stared around: from dizzy eyes10
Toss'd the loose shaggy hair; and to his knee,—
His reeling feet—up stagger'd—Lo, where lies
The dead wild beast!—lo, in his saviour, see
The fellow-man, whom—with a feeble bound
He leapt, and snatch'd the dagger from the ground;
And, faithful to his gods, he sprang to slay;11
The weak limb fail'd him; gleam'd and dropp'd the blade;
The arm hung nerveless;—by the beast of prey
Murder, still baffled, fell:—Then, soothing, said
The gentle King—"Behold no foe in me!"
And knelt by Hate like pitying Charity.
In suffering man he could not find a foe,12
And the mild hand clasp'd that which yearn'd to kill!
"Ha," gasp'd the gazing savage, "dost thou know
That I had doom'd thee in thy sleep?—that still
My soul would doom thee, could my hand obey?—
Wake thou, stern goddess—seize thyself the prey!"
"Serv'st thou a goddess," said the wondering King,13
"Whose rites ask innocent blood?—O brother, learn
In heaven, in earth, in each created thing,
One God, whom all call 'Father' to discern!"
"Can thy God suffer thy God's foe to live?"—
"God once had foes, and said to man, 'Forgive!'"
The Christian answer'd. Dream-like the mild words14
Fell on the ear, as sense again gave way
To swooning sleep; which woke but with the birds
In the cold clearness of the dawning day.—
Strung by that sleep, the savage scowl'd around;
Why droops his head? Kind hands his wounds have bound.
Lonely he stood, and miss'd that tender foe15
The wolf's glazed eye-ball mutely met his own;
Beyond, the pine-brand sent its sullen glow,
Circling blood-red the awful altar-stone;
Blood-red, as sinks the sun, from land afar,
Ere tempests wreck the Amalfian mariner;
Or as, when Mars sits in the House of Death16
For doom'd Aleppo, on the hopeless Moor
Glares the fierce orb from skies without a breath,
While the chalk'd signal on the abhorrèd door
Tells that the Pestilence is come!—the pine
Unheeded wastes upon the hideous shrine;
[Pg 239]
The priest returns not;—from its giant throne,17
The idol calls in vain:—its realm is o'er;
The Dire Religion flies the altar-stone,
For love has breathed on what was hate before.
Lured by man's heart, by man's kind deeds subdued,
Him who had pardon'd, he who wrong'd pursued.
Meanwhile speeds on the Saxon chase, behind;—18
Baffled at first, and doubling to and fro,
At last, the war-dogs, snorting, seize the wind,
Burst on the scent, which gathers as they go;
Day wanes, night comes; the star succeeds the sun,
To light the hunt until the quarry's won.
At the first grey of dawn, they halt before19
The fretted arches of the giant caves;
For here the tides rush full upon the shore.
The failing scent is snatch'd amidst the waves,—
Waves block the entrance of the gorge unseen;
And roar, hoarse-surging, up the pent ravine.
And worn, and spent, and panting, flag the steeds,20
With mail and man bow'd down; nor meet to breast
The hell of waters, whence no pathway leads,
And which no plummet sounds;—Reluctant rest
Checks the pursuit, till sullenly and slow
Back, threatening still, the hosts of Ocean go,—
And the bright clouds that circled the fair sun21
Melt in the azure of the mellowing sky;
Then hark again the human hunt begun,
The ringing hoof, the hunter's cheering cry;
Round and around by sand, and cave, and steep,
The doubtful ban-dogs, undulating, sweep:
At length, one windeth where the wave hath left22
The unguarded portals of the gorge, and there
Far-wandering halts; and from a rocky cleft
Spreads his keen nostril to the whispering air;
Then, with trail'd ears, moves cowering o'er the ground,
The deep bay booming breaks:—the scent is found.
Hound answers hound—along the dank ravine23
Pours the fresh wave of spears and tossing plumes;
On—on; and now the idol-shrine obscene
The dying pine-brand flickeringly illumes;
The dogs go glancing through the the shafts of stone,
Trample the altar, hurtle round the throne:
[Pg 240]
Where the lone priest had watch'd, they pause awhile;24
Then forth, hard breathing, down the gorge they swoop;
Soon the swart woods that close the far defile
Gleam with the shimmer of the steel-clad troop:
Glinting through leaves—now bright'ning through the glade,
Now lost, dispersed amidst the matted shade.
Foremost rode Harold, on a matchless steed,25
Whose sire from Afric's coast a sea-king bore,
And gave the Mercian, as his noblest meed,
When (beardless yet) to Norway's Runic shore,
Against a common foe, the Saxon Thane
Led three tall ships, and loosed them on the Dane:
Foremost he rode, and on his mailèd breast26
Cranch'd the strong branches of the groaning oak.
Hark, with full peal, as suddenly supprest,
Behind, the ban-dog's choral joy-cry broke!
Led by the note, he turns him back, to reach,
Near the wood's marge, a solitary beech.
Clear space spreads round it for a rood or more;27
Where o'er the space the feathering branches bend,
The dogs, wedg'd close, with jaws that drip with gore,
Growl o'er the carcass of the wolf they rend.
Shamed at their lord's rebuke, they leave the feast—
Scent the fresh foot-track of the idol-priest;
And, track by track, deep, deeper through the maze,28
Slowly they go—the watchful earl behind.
Here the soft earth a recent hoof betrays;
And still a footstep near the hoof they find;—
So on, so on—the pathway spreads more large,
And daylight rushes on the forest marge.
The dogs bound emulous; but, snarling, shrink29
Back at the anger of the earl's quick cry;—
Near a small water spring, had paused to drink
A man half clad, who now, with kindling eye
And lifted knife, roused by the hostile sounds,
Plants his firm foot, and fronts the glaring hounds.
"Fear not, rude stranger," quoth the earl in scorn;30
"Not thee I seek; my dogs chase nobler prey.
Speak, thou hast seen (if wandering here since morn)
A lonely horseman;—whither wends his way?"
"Track'st thou his step in love or hate?"—"Why, so
As hawk his quarry, or as man his foe."
[Pg 241]
"Thou dost not serve his God," the heathen said;31
And sullen turn'd to quench his thirst again,
The fierce earl chafed, but longer not delay'd;
For what he sought the earth itself made plain
In the clear hoof-prints; to the hounds he show'd
The clue, and, cheering as they track'd, he rode.
But thrice, to guide his comrades from the maze,32
Rings through the echoing wood his lusty horn.
Now, o'er waste pastures where the wild bulls graze,
Now labouring up slow-lengthening headlands borne,
The steadfast hounds outstrip the horseman's flight,
And on the hill's dim summit fade from sight.
But scarcely fade, before, though faint and far,33
Fierce wrathful yells the foe at bay reveal.
On spurs the Saxon, till, like some pale star,
Gleams on the hill a lance—a helm of steel.
The brow is gain'd; a space of level land,
Bare to the sun—a grove at either hand;
And in the middle of the space a mound;34
And on the mound a knight upon his barb.
No need for herald there his tromp to sound!—
No need for diadem and ermine garb!
Nature herself has crown'd that lion mien;
And in the man the king of men is seen.
Upon his helmet sits a snow-white dove,35
Its plumage blending with the plumèd crest.
Below the mount, recoiling, circling, move
The ban-dogs, awed by the majestic rest
Of the great foe; and, yet with fangs that grin,
And eyes that redden, raves the madding din.
Still stands the steed; still, shining in the sun,36
Sits on the steed the rider, statue-like:
One stately hand upon his haunch, while one
Lifts the tall lance, disdainful ev'n to strike;
Calm from the roar obscene looks forth his gaze,
Calm as the moon at which the watch-dog bays.
The Saxon rein'd his war-horse on the brow37
Of the broad hill; and if his inmost heart
Ever confest to fear, fear touch'd it now;—
Not that chill pang which strife and death impart
To meaner men, but such religious awe
As from brave souls a foe admired can draw:
[Pg 242]
Behind a quick and anxious glance he threw,38
And pleased beheld spur midway up the hill
His knights and squires: again his horn he blew,
Then hush'd the hounds, and near'd the slope where still
The might of Arthur rested, as in cloud
Rests thunder; there his haughty crest he bow'd,
And lower'd his lance, and said—"Dread foe and lord,39
Pardon the Saxon Harold, nor disdain
To yield to warrior hand a kingly sword.
Behold my numbers! to resist were vain,
And flight——" Said Arthur, "Saxon, is a word
Warrior should speak not, nor a King have heard.
"And, sooth to say, when Cymri's knights shall ride40
To chase a Saxon monarch from the plain,
More knightly sport shall Cymri's king provide,
And Cymrian tromps shall ring a nobler strain.
Warrior, forsooth! when first went warrior, say,
With hound and horn—God's image for the prey?"
Gall'd to the quick, the fiery earl erect41
Rose in his stirrups, shook his iron hand,
And cried—"Alfader! but for the respect
Arm'd numbers owe to one, my Saxon brand
Should—but why words? Ho, Mercia to the field!
Lance to the rest!—yield, scornful Cymrian, yield!"
For answer, Arthur closed his bassinet.42
Then down it broke, the thunder from that cloud!
And, ev'n as thunder by the thunder met,
O'er his spurr'd steed broad-breasted Harold bow'd;
Swift through the air the rushing armour flash'd,
And tempests in the shock commingling clash'd!
The Cymrian's lance smote on the Mercian's breast,43
Through the pierced shield,—there, shivering in the hand,
The dove had stirr'd not on the Prince's crest,
And on his destrier bore him to the band,
Which, moving not, but in a steadfast ring,
With levell'd lances front the coming King.
His shiver'd lance thrown by, high o'er his head,44
Pluck'd from the selle, his battle-axe he shook—
Paused for an instant—breathed his foaming steed,
And chose his pathway with one lightning look:
On either side, behind the Saxon foes,
Cimmerian woods with welcome gloom arose;
[Pg 243]
These gain'd, to conflict numbers less avail.45
He paused, and every voice cried—"Yield, brave King!"
Scarce died the word ere through the wall of steel
Flashes the breach, and backward reels the ring,
Plumes shorn, shields cloven, man and horse o'erthrown,
As the arm'd meteor flames and rushes on.
Till then, the danger shared, upon his crest,46
Unmoved and calm, had sate the faithful dove,
Serene as, braved for some beloved breast,
All peril finds the gentle hero,—Love;
But rising now, towards the dexter side
Where darkest droop the woods, the pinions guide.
Near the green marge the Cymrian checks the rein,47
And, ev'n forgetful of the dove, wheels round,
To front the foe that follows up the plain:
So when the lion, with a single bound,
Breaks through Numidian spears,—he halts before
His den,—and roots dread feet that fly no more.
Their riven ranks reform'd, the Saxons move48
In curving crescent, close, compact, and slow
Behind the earl; who feels a hero's love
Fill his large heart for that great hero foe:
Murmuring, "May Harold, thus confronting all,
Pass from the spear-storm to The Golden Hall!"[1]
Then to his band—"If prophecy and sign49
Paling men's cheeks, and read by wizard seers,
Had not declared that Odin's threatened line,
And the large birthright of the Saxon spears,
Were cross'd by Skulda,[2] in the baleful skein
Of him who dares 'The Choosers of the Slain.'[3]
"If not forbid against his single arm50
Singly to try the even-sworded strife,
Since his new gods, or Merlin's mighty charm,
Hath made a host, the were-geld of his life—
Not ours this shame!—here one, and there a field,
But men are waxen when the Fates are steel'd.
"Seize we our captive, so the gods command—51
But ye are men, let manhood guide the blow;
Spare life, or but with life-defending hand
Strike—and Walhalla take that noble foe!
Sound trump, speed truce."—Sedately from the rest
Rode out the earl, and Cymri thus address'd:—
[Pg 244]
"Our steels have cross'd: hate shivers on the shield;52
If the speech gall'd, the lance atones the word;
Yield, for thy valour wins the right to yield;
Unstain'd the scutcheon, though resign'd the sword.
Grant us the grace, which chance (not arms) hath won
Why strike the many who would save the one?"
"Fair foe, and courteous," answered Arthur, moved53
By that chivalric speech, "too well the might
Of Mercia's famous Harold have I proved,
To deem it shame to yield as knight to knight;
But a king's sword is by a nation given;
Who guards a people holds his post from heaven.
"This freedom which thou ask'st me to resign54
Than life is dearer; were it but to show
That with my people thinks their King!—divine
Through me all Cymri!—Streams shall cease to flow,
Yon sun to shine, before to Saxon strife
One Cymrian yields his freedom save with life.
"And so the saints assoil ye of my blood;55
Return;—the rest we leave unto our cause
And the just Heavens!" All silent, Harold stood
And his heart smote him. Now, amidst that pause,
Arthur look'd up, and in the calm above
Behold a falcon wheeling round the dove!
For thus it chanced; the bird which Harold bore56
(As was the Saxon wont), whate'er his way,
Had, in the woodland, slipp'd the hood it wore,
Unmark'd; and, when the bloodhounds bark'd at bay,
Lured by the sound, had risen on the wing,
Over the conflict vaguely hovering—
Till when the dove had left, to guide, her lord,57
It caught the white plumes glancing where they went;
High in large circles to its height it soar'd,
Swoop'd;—the light pinion foil'd the fierce descent;
The falcon rose rebounding to the prey;
And closed escape—confronting still the way.
In vain the dove to Arthur seeks to flee;58
Round her and round, with every sweep more near,
The swift destroyer circles rapidly,
Fixing keen eyes that fascinate with fear,
A moment—and a shaft, than wing more fleet,
Hurls the pierced falcon at the Saxon's feet.
[Pg 245]
Down heavily it fell;—a moment stirr'd59
Its fluttering plumes, and roll'd its glazing eye;
But ev'n before the breath forsook the bird,
Ev'n while the arrow whistled through the sky,
Rush'd from the grove which screen'd the marksman's hand,
With yell and whoop, a wild barbarian band—
Half clad, with hides of beast, and shields of horn,60
And huge clubs cloven from the knotted pine;
And spears like those by Thor's great children borne,
When Cæsar bridged with marching[4] steel the Rhine,
Countless they start, as if from every tree
Had sprung the uncouth defending deity;
They pass the King, low bending as they pass;61
Bear back the startled Harold on their way;
And roaring onward, mass succeeding mass,
Snatch the hemm'd Saxons from the King's survey.
On Arthur's crest the dove refolds its wing;
On Arthur's ear a voice comes murmuring,—
"Man, have I served thy God?" and Arthur saw62
The priest beside him, leaning on his bow;
"Not till, in all, thou hast fulfill'd the law—
Thou hast saved the friend—now aid to shield the foe;"
And as a ship, cleaving the sever'd tides,
Right through the sea of spears the hero rides.
The wild troop part submissive as he goes;63
Where, like an islet in that stormy main,
Gleam'd Mercia's steel; and like a rock arose,
Breasting the breakers, the undaunted Thane;
He doff'd his helmet, look'd majestic round;
And dropp'd the murderous weapon on the ground;
And with a meek and brotherly embrace64
Twined round the Saxon's neck the peaceful arm.
Strife stood arrested—the mild kingly face,
The loving gesture, like a holy charm,
Thrill'd through the ranks: you might have heard a breath!
So did soft Silence seem to bury Death.
On the fair locks, and on the noble brow,65
Fell the full splendour of the heavenly ray;
The dove, dislodged, flew up—and rested now,
Poised in the tranquil and translucent day.
The calm wings seem'd to canopy the head;
And from each plume a parting glory spread.
[Pg 246]
So leave we that still picture on the eye;66
And turn, reluctant, where the wand of Song
Points to the walls of Time's long gallery:
And the dim Beautiful of Eld—too long
Mouldering unheeded in these later days,
Starts from the canvass, bright'ning as we gaze.
O lovely scene which smiles upon my view,67
As sure it smiled on sweet Albano's dreams;
He to whom Amor gave the roseate hue
And that harmonious colour-wand which seems
Pluck'd from the god's own wing!—Arcades and bowers,
Mellifluous waters, lapsing amidst flowers,
Or springing up, in multiform disport,68
From murmurous founts, delightedly at play;
As if the Naiad held her joyous court
To greet the goddess whom the flowers obey;
And all her nymphs took varying shapes in glee,
Bell'd like the blossom—branching like the tree.
Adown the cedarn alleys glanced the wings69
Of all the painted populace of air,
Whatever lulls the noonday while it sings
Or mocks the iris with its plumes,—is there—
Music and air so interfused and blent,
That music seems life's breathing element.
And every alley's stately vista closed70
With some fair statue, on whose gleaming base
Beauty, not earth's, benignantly reposed,
As if the gods were native to the place;
And fair indeed the mortal forms, I ween,
Whose presence brings no discord to the scene!
Oh, fair they are, if mortal forms they be!71
Mine eye the lovely error must beguile;
So bloom'd the Hours, when from the heaving sea[5]
Came Aphroditè to the rosy isle.
What time they left Olympian halls above,
To greet on earth their best beguiler—Love?
Are they the Oreads from the Delphian steep72
Waiting their goddess of the silver bow?
Or shy Napææ,[6] startled from their sleep,
Where blue Cithæron guards sweet vales below,
Watching as home, from vanquished Ind afar,
Comes their loved Evian in the panther-car?
[Pg 247]
Why stream ye thus from yonder arching bowers?73
Whom wait, whom watch ye for, O lovely band,
With spears that, thyrsus-like, glance, wreath'd with flowers,
And garland-fetters, linking hand to hand,
And locks, from which drop blossoms on your way,
Like starry buds from the loose crown of May?
Behold how Alp on Alp shuts out the scene74
From all the ruder world that lies afar;
Deep, fathom-deep, the valley which they screen;
Deep, as in chasms of cloud a happy star!
What pass admits the stranger to your land?
Whom wait, whom watch ye for, O lovely band?
Ages ago, what time the barbarous horde,75
From whose rough bosoms sprang Imperial Rome,
Drew the slow-widening circle of the sword
Till kingdoms vanish'd in a robber's home,
A wise Etrurian chief, forewarn'd ('twas said)
By his dark Cære,[7] from the danger fled:
He left the vines of fruitful Fiesolè,76
Left, with his household gods and chosen clan,
Intent beyond the Ausonian bounds to flee,
And Rome's dark shadow on the world of man.
So came the exiles to the rocky wall
Which, centuries after, frown'd on Hannibal
Here, it so chanced, that down the deep profound77
Of some huge Alp—a stray'd Etrurian fell;
The pious rites ordain'd to explore the ground,
And give the ashes to the funeral cell;
Slowly they gain'd the gulf, to scare away
A vulture ravening on the mangled clay;
Smit by a javelin from the leader's hand,78
The bird crept fluttering down a deep defile,
Through whose far end faint glimpses of a land,
Sunn'd by a softer daylight, sent a smile;
The Augur hail'd an omen in the sight,
And led the wanderers towards the glimmering light.
What seem'd a gorge was but a vista'd cave,79
Long-drawn and hollow'd through primæval stone;
Rude was the path, but as, beyond the grave
Elysium shines, the glorious landscape shone,
Broadening and brightening—till their wonder sees
Bloom through the Alps the lost Hesperides.
[Pg 248]
There, the sweet sunlight, from the heights debarr'd,80
Gather'd its pomp to lavish on the vale;
A wealth of wild sweets glitter'd on the sward,
Screen'd by the very snow-rocks from the gale;
Murmur'd clear waters, murmur'd joyous birds,
And o'er soft pastures roved the fearless herds.
His rod the Augur waves above the ground,81
And cries, "In Tina's name I bless the soil."[8]
With veilèd brows the exiles circle round;
Along the rod propitious lightnings coil;
The gods approve; rejoicing hands combine,
Swift springs a sylvan city from the pine.
What charm yet fails them in the lovely place?82
Childhood's gay laugh—and woman's tender smile.
A chosen few the venturous steps retrace;
Love lightens toil for those who rest the while;
And, ere the winter stills the sadden'd bird,
The sweeter music of glad homes is heard;
And with the objects of the dearer care,83
The parting gifts of the old soil are home;
Soon Tusca's grape hangs flushing in the air,
And the glebe ripples with the golden corn;
Gleams on grey slopes the olive's silvery tree,
In her lone Alpine child,—far Fiesolè
Revives—reblooms, but under happier stars!84
Age rolls on age,—upon the antique world
Full many a storm hath graved its thunder scars;
Tombs only speak the Etrurian's language;[9]—hurl'd
To dust the shrines of Naith;[10]—the serpents hiss
On Asia's throne in lorn Persepolis;
The seaweed rots upon the ports of Tyre:85
On Delphi's steep the Pythian's voice is dumb;
Sad Athens leans upon her broken lyre;
From the doom'd East the Bethlem Star hath come;
But Rome an empire from an empire's loss
Gains in the god Rome yielded to the Cross!
And here, as in a crypt, the miser Time,86
Hoards, from all else, embedded in the stone,
One eldest treasure—fresh as when, sublime
O'er gods and men, Jove thunder'd from his throne—
The garb, the arts, the creed, the tongue, the same
As when to Tarquin Cuma's sibyl came.
[Pg 249]
The soil's first fathers, with elaborate hands,87
Had closed the rocky portals of the place;
No egress opens to unhappier lands:
As tree on tree, so race succeeds to race,
From sleep the passions no temptations draw,
And strife bows childlike to the patriarch's law;
Lull'd was ambition; each soft lot was cast;88
Gold had no use; with war expired renown;
From priest to priest mysterious reverence past;
From king to king the mild Saturnian crown:
Like dews, the rest came harmless into birth;
Like dews exhaling—after gladd'ning earth.
Not wholly dead, indeed, the love of praise—89
When can that warmth from heaven forsake the heart?
The Hister's[11] lyre still thrill'd with Camsee's lays,
Still urn and statue caught the Arretian art,
And hands, least skill'd, found leisure still to cull
Some flowers, in offering to the Beautiful.
Hence the whole vale one garden of delight;90
Hence every home a temple for the Grace:
Who worships Nature finds in Art the rite;
And Beauty grows the Genius of the Place.
Enough this record of the happy land:
Whom watch, whom wait ye for, O lovely band?
Listen awhile!—The strength of that soft state,91
The arch's key-stones, are the priest and king;
To guard all power inviolate from debate,
To curb all impulse, or direct its wing,
In antique forms to mould from childhood all;—
This guards more strongly than the Alpine wall.
The regal chief might wed as choice inclined,92
Not so the daughters sprung from his embrace,
Law, strong as caste, their nuptial rite confined
To the pure circle of the Lartian race;
Hence with more awe the kingly house was view'd,
Hence nipp'd ambition bore no rival feud.
But now, as on some eldest oak, decay93
In the proud topmost boughs is serely shown;
While life yet shoots from every humbler spray—
So, of the royal tribe one branch alone
Remains; and all the honours of the race
Lend their last bloom to smile in Ægle's face.[12]
[Pg 250]
The great arch-priest (to whom the laws assign94
The charge of this sweet blossom from the bud),
Consults the annals archived in the shrine,
And, twice before, when fail'd the Lartian blood,
And no male heir was found, the guiding page
Records the expedient of the elder age.
Rather than yield to rival tribes the hope95
That wakes aspiring thought and tempts to strife;
And (lowering awful reverence) rashly ope
The pales that mark the set degrees of life,
The priest (to whom the secret only known)
Unlock'd the artful portals of the stone;
And watch'd and lured some wanderer, o'er the steep,96
Into the vale, return for ever o'er;
The gate, like Death's, reclosed upon the keep—
Earth left its ghost as on the Funeral shore.
And what more envied lot could earth provide
Than calm Elysium—with a living bride?
A priestly tale the simple flock deceived:97
The gods had care of their Tagetian child![13]
The nuptial garlands for a god they weaved;
A god himself upon the maid had smiled,
A god himself renew'd the race divine,
And gave new monarchs to the Lartian line.
Yet short, alas! the incense of delight98
That lull'd the new-found Ammon of the Hour;
Like love's own star, upon the verge of night,
Trembled the torch that lit the bridal bower;
Soon as a son was born—his mission o'er—
The stranger vanish'd to his gods once more.
Two temples closed the boundaries of the place,99
One (vow'd to Tina) in its walls conceal'd
The granite portals, by the former race
So deftly fashion'd,—not a chink reveal'd
Where (twice unbarr'd in all the ages flown)
The stony donjon mask'd the door of stone.
The fane of Mantu[14] form'd the opposing bound100
Of the long valley; where the surplus wave
Of the main stream a gloomy outlet found,
Split on sharp rocks beneath a night of cave,
And there, in torrents, down some lost ravine
Where Alps took root—fell heard, but never seen.
[Pg 251]
Right o'er this cave the Death-Power's temple rose;101
The cave's dark vault was curtain'd by the shrine;
Here by the priest (the sacred scrolls depose)
Was led the bridegroom when renew'd the line;
At night, that shrine his steps unprescient trod—
And morning came, and earth had lost the god!
Nine days had now the Augur to the flock102
Announced the coming of the heavenly spouse;
Nine days his steps had wander'd through the rock,
And his eye watch'd through unfamiliar boughs,
And not a foot-fall in those rugged ways!
The lone Alps wearied on his lonely gaze—
But now this day (the tenth) the signal torch103
Streams from the temple; the mysterious swell
Of long-drawn music peals from aisle to porch:—
He leaves the bright hall where the Æsars[15] dwell,
He comes, o'er flowers and fountains to preside,
He comes, the god-spouse to the mortal bride—
He comes, for whom ye watch'd, O lovely band,104
Scatter your flowers before his welcome feet!
Lo, where the temple's holy gates expand,
Haste, O ye nymphs, the bright'ning steps to meet
Why start ye back?—What though the blaze of steel
The form of Mars, the expanding gates reveal—
The face, no helmet crowns with war, displays105
Not that fierce god from whom Etruria fled;
Cull from far softer legends while ye gaze,
Not there the aspect mortal maid should dread!
Have ye no songs from kindred Castaly
Of that bright Wanderer from the Olympian[16] sky,
Who, in Arcadian dells, with silver lute106
Hush'd in delight the nymph and breathless faun?
Or are your cold Etrurian minstrels mute
Of him whom Syria worshipp'd as the Dawn
And Greece as fair Adonis? Hail, O hail!
Scatter your flowers, and welcome to the vale!
Wondering the stranger moves! That fairy land,107
Those forms of dark yet lustrous loveliness,[17]
That solemn seer who leads him by the hand;
The tongue unknown, the joy he cannot guess,
Blend in one marvel every sound and sight;
And in the strangeness doubles the delight.
[Pg 252]
Young Ægle sits within her palace bower,108
She hears the cymbals clashing from afar—
So Ormuzd's music welcomed in the hour
When the sun hasten'd to his morning-star.
Smile, Star of Morn—he cometh from above!
And twilight melts around the steps of Love.
Save the grey Augur (since the unconscious child109
Sprang to the last kiss of her dying sire)
Those eyes by man's rude presence undefiled,
Had deepen'd into woman's. As a lyre
Hung on unwitness'd boughs, amidst the shade,
And but to air her soul its music made.
Fair was her prison, wall'd with woven flowers,110
In a soft isle embraced by softest waters,
Linnet and lark the sentries to the towers,
And for the guard Etruria's infant daughters;
But stronger far than walls, the antique law,
And more than hosts, religion's shadowy awe.
Thus lone, thus reverenced, the young virgin grew111
Into the age, when on the heart's calm wave
The light winds tremble, and emotions new
Steal to the peace departing childhood gave;
When for the vague Beyond the captive pines,
And the soul misses—what it scarce divines.
Lo where she sits—(and blossoms arch the dome)112
Girt by young handmaids!—Near and nearer swelling
The cymbals sound before the steps that come
O'er rose and hyacinth to the bridal dwelling;
And clear and loud the summer air along
From virgin voices floats the choral song.
Lo where the sacred talismans diffuse113
Their fragrant charms against the Evil Powers;
Lo where young hands the consecrated dews
From cuspèd vervain sprinkle round the flowers,
And o'er the robe, with broider'd palm-leaves sown,
That decks the daughter of the peaceful throne!
Lo, on those locks of night the myrtle crown,114
Lo, where the heart beats quick beneath the veil;
Lo, where the lids, cast tremulously down,
Cloud stars which Eros as his own might hail;
Oh, lovelier than Endymion's loveliest dream,
Joy to the heart on which those eyes shall beam!
[Pg 253]
The bark comes bounding to the islet shore,115
The trellised gates fly back: the footsteps fall
Through jasmined galleries on the threshold floor;
And, in the Heart-Enchainer's golden thrall,
There, spell-bound halt;—So, first since youth began
Her eyes meet youth in the charm'd eyes of man!
And there Art's two opposed Ideals rest;116
There the twin flowers of the old world bloom forth;
The classic symbol of the gentle West,
And the bold type of the chivalric North.
What trial waits thee, Cymrian, sharper here
Than the wolf's death-fang or the Saxon's spear?
But would ye learn how he we left afar,117
Girt by the stormy people of the wild,
Came to the confines of the Hesperus Star,
And the soft gardens of the Etrurian child;
Would ye, yet lingering in the wondrous vale,
Learn what time spares if sorrow can assail;
What there, forgetful of the vanish'd dove,118
(Lost at these portals) did the king befall;
Pause till the hand has tuned the harp to love,
And notes that bring young listeners to the hall;
And he, whose sires in Cymri reign'd, shall sing
How Tusca's daughter loved the Cymrian King.

[Pg 254]

BOOK IV.

ARGUMENT.

Invocation to Love—Arthur, Ægle, and the Augur—Dialogue between the Cymrian and the Etrurian—Meanwhile Lancelot gains the sea-shore, where he meets with the Aleman priest and his sons, and hears tidings of Arthur—He tells them the tale of his own infancy—Crosses the sea—Lands on the coast of Brettannie—And is guided by the crystal ring in quest of Arthur towards the Alps—He finds the King's charger, which Arthur had left without the vaulted passage into the Happy Valley—But the rock-gate being closed, he cannot discover the King; and, winding by the foot of the Alps round the valley, gains a lake and a convent—The story now returns to Arthur and Ægle—Descriptive stanzas—A raven brings Arthur news from Merlin—The King resolves to quit the valley—He seeks and finds the Augur—Dialogue—Parting scene with Ægle—Arthur follows the Augur towards the fane of the funereal god.

Hail, thou, the ever young, albeit of Night1
And of primæval Chaos eldest born;
Thou, at whose birth broke forth the Founts of Light,
And o'er Creation flush'd the earliest Morn!
Life, in thy life, suffused the conscious whole;
And formless matter took the harmonious soul.
Hail, Love! the death-defier! age to age2
Linking, with flowers, in the still heart of man!
Dream to the bard, and marvel to the sage,
Glory and mystery since the world began.
Like the new moon, whose disk of silver sheen
But halves the circle Heaven completes unseen.
Ghostlike amidst the unfamiliar Past,3
Dim shadows flit along the streams of Time;
Vainly our learning trifles with the vast
Unknown of ages!—Like the wizard's rhyme
We call the dead, and from the Tartarus
'Tis but the dead that rise to answer us!
Voiceless and wan, we question them in vain;4
They leave unsolved earth's mighty yesterday.
But wave thy wand—they bloom, they breathe again!
The link is found!—as we love, so loved they!
Warm to our clasp our human brothers start,
All centuries blend when heart speaks out to heart.
[Pg 255]
Arch Power, of every power most dread, most sweet,5
Ope at thy touch the far celestial gates;
Yet Terror flies with Joy before thy feet,
And, with the Graces, glide unseen the Fates.
Eos and Hesperus; one, with twofold light,
Bringer of day, and herald of the night.
But, lo! again, where rise upon the gaze6
The Tuscan Virgin in the Alpine bower,
The steel-clad wanderer, in his rapt amaze,
Led through the flowerets to that living flower:
Eye meeting eye, as in that blest survey
Two hearts, unspeaking, breathe themselves away!
Calm on the twain reposed the Augur's eye,7
A marble stillness on his solemn face;
Like some cold image of Necessity
When fated hands lay garlands on its base.
And slanted sunbeams, through the blossoms stealing,
Lit circled Childhood round the Virgin kneeling.
Slow from charm'd wonder woke at last the King,8
Well the mild grace became the lordly mien,
As, gently passing through the kneeling ring,
The warrior knelt with Childhood to the queen;
And on the hand, that thrill'd in his to be,
Press'd the pure kiss of courteous chivalry;
In the bold music of his mountain tongue,9
Speaking the homage of his frank delight.
Is there one common language to the young
That, with each word more troubled and more bright,
Stirr'd the quick blush—as when the south wind heaves
Into sweet storm the hush of rosy leaves?
But now the listening Augur to the side10
Of Arthur moves; and, signing silently,
The handmaid children from the chamber glide,
And Ægle followeth slow, with drooping eye.—
Then on the King the soothsayer gazed and spoke,
And Arthur started as the accents broke;—
For those dim sounds his mother-tongue express,11
But in some dialect of remotest age;
Like that in which the far Saronides[1]
Exchanged dark riddles with the Samian sage.[2]
Ghostlike the sounds; a founder of his race
Seem'd in that voice the haunter of the place.
[Pg 256]
"Guest," said the priest, with labour'd words and slow,12
"If, as thy language, though corrupt, betrays
Thou art of those great tribes our records show
As the crown'd wanderers of untrodden ways
Whose eldest god, from pole to pole enshrined,
Gives Greece her Kronos and her Boudh to Ind;
"Who, from their Syrian parent-stem, spread forth13
Their giant roots to every farthest shore,
Sires of young nations in the stormy North,
And slumberous East; but most renown'd of yore
In purple Tyre;—if, of Phœnician race,
In truth thou art,—thrice welcome to the place!
"Know us as sons of that old friendly soil14
Whose ports, perchance, yet glitter with the prows
Of Punic ships, when resting from their toil
In Luna's[3] gulf, the seabeat crews carouse.
Unless in sooth (and here he sigh'd) the day
Cære foretold hath come to Rasena!"[4]
"Grave sir," quoth Arthur, piteously perplext,15
"Or much—forgive me, hath my hearing err'd,
Or of that People quoted in thy text,
(Perish'd long since)—but dimly have I heard:
Phœnicians! True, that name is found within
Our scrolls;—they came to Mel Ynys for tin!
"As for my race, our later bards declare16
It springs from Brut, the famous Knight of Troy;
But if Sir Hector spoke in Welsh, I ne'er
Could clearly learn—meanwhile, I hear with joy,
My native language (pardon the remark)
Much as Noah spoke it when he left the ark.
"More would my pleasure be increased to know17
That that fair lady has your own precision
In the dear music which, so long ago,
We taught—observe, not learn'd from—the Phœnician."
"Speak as your fathers spoke the maiden can,
O many-vowell'd, ear-afflicting man!"
The priest replied. "But, ere I yet disclose18
The bliss that Northia[5] singles for your lot,
Fain would I learn what change the gods impose
On the old races and their sceptres?—what
The latest news from Rasena?"—"With shame
I own, grave sir, I never heard that name!"
[Pg 257]
The Augur stood aghast!—"O, ruthless Fates!19
Who then rules Italy?"—"The Ostrogoth."
"The Os——- the what?"—"Except the Papal states;
Unless the Goth, indeed, has ravish'd both
The Cæsar's throne and the apostle's chair—
Spite of the Knight of Thrace,—Sir Belisair."[6]
"What else the warrior nations of the earth?"20
Groan'd the stunn'd Augur.—"Reverend sir, the Huns,
Franks, Vandals, Lombards,—all have warlike worth;
Nor least, I trust, old Cymri's Druid sons!"
"O, Northia, Northia! and the East?"—"In peace,
Under the Christian Emperor of Greece;
"Whose arms of late have scourged the Paynim race,21
And worsted Satan!"—"Satan, who is he?"
Greatly the knight was shock'd in that fair place,
To find such ignorance of the powers that be:
So then, from Eve and Serpent he began;
And sketch'd the history of the Foe of Man.
"Ah," said the Augur,—"here, I comprehend22
Ægypt, and Typhon, and the serpent creed![7]
So, o'er the East the gods of Greece extend,
And Isis totters?"—"Truly, and indeed,"
Sigh'd Arthur, scandalized—"I see, with pain,
You have much to learn my monks could best explain—
"Nathless for this, and all you seek to know23
Which I, no clerk, though Christian, can relate,
Occasion meet my sojourn may bestow;—
Now, wherefore, pray you, through yon granite gate
Have you, with signs of some distress endured,
And succour sought, my wandering steps allured?"
"Pardon, but first, soul-startling stranger," said24
The slow-recovering Augur—"say if fair
The region seems to which those steps were led?
And next, the maid to whom you knelt compare
With those you leave. Are hers, in sober truth,
The charms that fix the roving heart of youth?"
"Lovelier than all on earth mine eyes have seen25
Smiles the gay marvel of this gentle realm;
Of all earth's beauty that fair maid the queen;
And, might I place her glove upon my helm,
I would proclaim that truth with lance and shield,
In tilt and tourney, sole against a field!"
[Pg 258]
"Since that be so (though what such custom means26
I rather guess than fully comprehend)
Answer again;—if right my reason gleans
From dismal harvests, and discerns the end
To which the beautiful and wise have come,
Hard are the fates beyond our Alpine home:
"What makes, without, the chief pursuit of life?"27
"War," said the Cymrian, with a mournful sigh:
"The fierce provoke, the free resist, the strife,
The daring perish and the dastard fly;
Amidst a storm we snatch our troubled breath,
And life is one grim battle-field of death."
"Then here, O stranger, find at last repose!28
Here, never smites the thunder-blast of war:
Here, all unknown the very name of foes;
Here, but with yielding earth men's contests are;
Our trophies—flower and olive, corn and wine:—
Accept a sceptre, be this kingdom thine!
"Our queen, the virgin who hath charm'd thine eyes—29
Our laws her spouse, in whom the gods shall send,
Decree; the gods have sent thee;—what the skies
Allot, receive:—Here, shall thy wanderings end,
Here thy woes cease, and life's voluptuous day
Glide, like yon river through our flowers, away."
"Kind sir," said Arthur, gratefully—"such lot30
Indeed were fair beyond what dreams display;
But earth has duties which"——"Relate them not!"
Exclaim'd the Augur—"or at least delay,
Till better known the kingdom and the bride,
Then youth, and sense, and nature, shall decide."
With that, the Augur, much too wise as yet31
To hint compulsion, and secure from flight,
Arose, resolved each scruple to beset
With all which melteth duty in delight—
Here, for awhile, we leave the tempted King,
And turn to him who owns the crystal ring.
Oh, the old time's divine and fresh romance!32
When o'er the lone yet ever-haunted ways
Went frank-eyed Knighthood with the lifted lance,
And life with wonder charm'd adventurous days!
When light more rich, through prisms that dimm'd it, shone;
And Nature loom'd more large through the Unknown.
[Pg 259]
Nature, not then the slave of formal law!33
Her each free sport a miracle might be:
Enchantment clothed the forest with sweet awe;
Astolfo[8] spoke from out the bleeding tree;
The fairy wreath'd his dance in moonlit air;
On golden sands the mermaid sleek'd her hair—
Then soul learn'd more than barren sense can teach34
(Soul with the sense now evermore at strife)
Wherever fancy wander'd man could reach—
And what is now call'd poetry was life.
If the old beauty from the world is fled,
Is it that Truth or that Belief is dead?
Not following, step by step, the devious King,35
But whither best his later steps are gain'd,
Moved the sure index of the fairy ring,
And since, at least, a moon hath wax'd and waned
What time the pilgrim left the fatherland—
So towards his fresher footsteps veer'd the hand.
Lo, now where pure Sabrina[9] on her breast36
Hushes sweet Isca, and, like some fair nun
That yearns, earth-wearied, for the golden rest,
Sees with delighted calm her journey done;
And broader, brighter, as she nears her grave,
Melts in the deep;—all daylight on the wave.
Across that stream pass'd sprightly Lancelot,37
Then, towards those lovely lands which yet retain
The Cymrian freedom, rode, and rested not
Till, loud on Devon, broke the rough'ning main.
Through rocks abrupt, the strong waves force their way,
Here cleave the land—there, hew the indented bay.
The horseman paused. Rude huts lay far and wide;38
The dipping sea-gulls wheel'd with startled shriek;
Drawn on the sands lay coracles of hide,[10]
And all was desolate; when, towards the creek,
Near which he halts, he hears the plashing oar;
A boat shoots in; the seamen leap to shore.
Three were their number,—two in youthful prime,39
One of mid years;—tall, huge of limb the three;
Scarce clad, with weapons of a northward clime;
Clubs, spears, and shields—the uncouth armoury
Of man, while yet the wild beast is his foe.
Yet something still the lords of earth may show;—
[Pg 260]
The pride of eye, the majesty of mien,40
The front erect that looks upon the star:
While round each neck the twisted chains are seen
Of Teuton chiefs;—(and signs of chiefs they are
In Cymrian lands—where still the torque of gold[11]
Or decks the highborn or rewards the bold).
Stern Lancelot frown'd; for in those sturdy forms41
The Christian Knight the Saxon foemen fear'd.
"Why come ye hither?—nor compell'd by storms,
Nor proffering barter?" As he spoke they near'd
The noble knight;—and thus the elder said,
"Nought save his heart the Aleman hath led!
"Ere more I answer, say if this the shore,42
And thou the friend, of him who owns the dove?
Arthur the king,—who taught us to adore
By the man's deeds the God whose creed is love?"
Then Lancelot answer'd, with a moistening eye,
"Arthur's true knight and lealest friend am I."
With that, he leapt from selle to clasp the hand43
Of him who honour'd thus the absent one:
And now behold them seated on the sand,
Frank faces smiling in the cordial sun;
The absent, there, seem'd present: to unite,
In loving bonds, his converts and his knight.
Then told the Aleman the tale by song44
Already told—and we resume its flow
Where the mild hero charm'd the stormy throng
And twined the arm that shelter'd, round his foe:
Not meanly conquer'd but sublimely won—
Stern Harold vail'd his plume to Uther's son.
The Saxon troop resought the Vandal king,45
And Arthur sojourn'd with the savage race:
More easy such rude proselytes to bring
To Christian truth, than, in the wonderous place
Where now he rests, proud Wisdom he shall find!
For heaven dawns clearest on the simplest mind.
But when his cause of wrong the Cymrian show'd;46
The heathen foe—the carnage-crimson'd fields;
With one fierce impulse those fierce converts glow'd,
And their wild war-howl chimed with clashing shields
But Arthur wisely shunn'd that last appeal
Of falling states,—the stranger's fatal steel.
[Pg 261]
Yet to the chief (for there at least no fear)47
And his two sons, a slow consent he gave:
Show'd by the prince the stars by which to steer,
They hew'd a pine and launch'd it on the wave;
Bringing rough forms but dauntless hearts to swell
The force that guards the fates of Carduel.
The story heard, the son of royal Ban[12]48
Questions the paths to which the King was led.
"Know," answered Faul (so hight the Aleman),
"That, in our father's days, our warriors spread
O'er lands wherein eternal summer dwells,
Beyond the snow-storm's siegeless pinnacles;
"And on the borders of those lands, 'tis told,49
There lies a lake, some dead great city's grave,
Where, when the moon is at her full, behold
Pillar and palace shine up from the wave!
And o'er the lake, seen but by gifted seers,
Its phantom bark a silent phantom steers.
"It chanced, as round our fires we sate at night,50
And saga-runes to wile our watch were sung,
That with the legends of our father's might
And wandering labours, this old tale was strung,
Then the roused King much question'd:—what we knew
We told, still question from each answer grew.
"That night he slept not—with the morn was gone;51
And the dove led him where the snow-storms sleep."
Then Lancelot rose, and led his destrier on,
And gain'd the boat, and motion'd to the deep,
His purpose well the Alemen divine,
And launch once more the bark upon the brine.
And ask to aid—"Know, friends," replied the knight,52
"Each wave that rolleth smooths its frown for me;
My sire and mother, by the lawless might
Of a fierce foe expell'd and forced to flee
From the fair halls of Benoic, paused to take
Breath for new woes, beside a Fairy's lake.
"With them was I, their new-born helpless heir,53
The hunted exiles gazed afar on home,
And saw the fires that dyed like blood the air
Pall with the pomp of hell the crashing dome.
They clung, they gazed—no word by either spoken;
And in that hush the sterner heart was broken.
[Pg 262]
"The woman felt the cold hand fail her own;54
The head that lean'd fell heavy on the sod;
She knelt—she kiss'd the lips,—the breath was flown!
She call'd upon a soul that was with God:
For the first time the wife's sweet power was o'er—
She who had soothed till then could soothe no more!
"In the wife's woe, the mother was forgot.55
At last—(for I was all earth held of him
Who had been all to her, and now was not)—
She rose, and look'd with tearless eyes, but dim,
In the babe's face the father still to see;
And lo! the babe was on another's knee!—
"Another's lip had kiss'd it into sleep,56
And o'er the sleep another, watchful, smiled;—
The Fairy sate beside the lake's still deep,
And hush'd with chanted charms the orphan child!
Scared at the cry the startled mother gave,
It sprang, and, snow-like, melted in the wave.
"There, in calm halls of lucent crystalline,57
Fed by the dews that fell from golden stars,
But through the lymph I saw the sunbeams shine,
Nor dream'd a world beyond the glist'ning spars;
Buoy'd by a charm that still endows and saves,
In stream or sea, the nurseling of the waves.
"In my fifth year, to Uther's royal towers58
The fairy bore me, and her charge resign'd.
My mother took the veil of Christ—the Hours
With Arthur's life the orphan's life entwined.
O'er mine own element my course I take—
All oceans smile on Lancelot of the Lake!"
He said, and waved his hand: around the boat59
The curlews hover'd, as it shot to sea.
The wild men, lingering, watch'd the lessening float,
Till in the far expanse lost desolately,
Then slowly towards the hut they bent their way,
And the lone waves moan'd up the lifeless bay.
Pass we the voyage. Hunger-worn, to shore60
Gain'd man and steed; there food and rest they found
In humble roofs. The course, resumed once more,
Stretch'd inland o'er not unfamiliar ground:
The wanderer smiles, by tower and town, to see
Cymri's old oak rebloom in Brettanie.
[Pg 263]
Nathless, no pause, save such as needful rest61
Demands, delays him in the friendly land.
No tidings here of Arthur gain'd, his breast
Springs to the goal of the quick-moving hand,
Howbeit not barren of adventurous days,
Sweet danger found him in the devious ways.
What foes encounter'd, or what damsels freed—62
What demon spells in lonely forests braving,
Leave we to songs yet vocal to the reed
On ev'ry bank, beloved by poets, waving;
Our task unborrow'd from the muse of old,
Takes but the tale by nobler bards untold.
Now as he journeys, frequent more and more63
The traces of the steps he tracks are found;
Fame, like a light, shines broadening on before
His path, and cleaves the shadows on the ground;
High deeds and gentle, bruited near and far,
Show where that soul went flashing as a star.
At length he gains the Ausonian Alpine walls;64
Here, castle, convent, town, and hamlet fade;
Lone, through the rolling mists, the hoof-tread falls;
Lone, earth's mute giants loom amidst the shade:
Yet still, as sure of hope, he tracks the king,
Up steep, through gorge, where guides the crystal ring.
One day—along by gloomy chasms his course—65
He saw before him indistinctly pass
Through the dun fogs, what seem'd a phantom horse,
Like that which oft, amidst the dank morass,
Bestrid by goblin-meteor, starts the eye—
So fleshless flitting—wan and shadowy.
By a bare rock it paused, and feebly neigh'd.66
As the good knight, descending, seized the rein;
Dew-rusted mail the shrunken front array'd;
The rich selle rotted with the moulder-stain;
And on the selle were slung helm, axe, and mace;
And the great lance lay careless near the place.
Then first the seeker's stricken spirit fell;67
Too well that helmet, with its dragon crest,
Speaks of the mighty owner; and too well
That steed, so oft by snowy hands carest,
When bright-eyed Beauty from the balcon bent
To crown the victor-lord of tournament.
[Pg 264]
Near and afar he searched—he called in vain,68
By crag and combe, nought answering, and nought seen;
Return'd, the charger long refused the rein,
Clinging, poor slave, where last its lord had been.
At length the slow, reluctant hoofs obey'd
The soothing words; so went they through the shade:
Following the gorge that wound the Alpine wall,69
Like the huge fosse of some Cyclopean town,
(While roaring round, invisible cataracts fall);
On the black rocks twilight comes ghostly down,
And deep and deeper still the windings go,
And dark and darker as to worlds below.
Night halts the course, resumed at earliest day,70
Through day pursued, till the last sunbeams fell
On a broad mere whose margin closed the way.
Hark! o'er the waters swung the holy bell
From a grey convent on the rising ground,
Amidst the subject hamlet stretch'd around.
Here, while both man and steeds the welcome rest71
Under the sacred roof of Christ receive,
We turn once more to Ægle and her guest.
Lo! the sweet valley in the flush of eve!
Lo! side by side, where through the rose-arcade,
Steals the love star, the hero and the maid!
Silent they gaze into each other's eyes,72
Stirring the inmost soul's unquiet sleep;
So pierce soft star-beams, blending wave and skies,
Some holy fountain trembling to its deep!
Bright to each eye each human heart is bare,
And scarce a thought to start an angel there!
Love to the soul, whate'er the harsh may say,73
Is as the hallowing Naïad to the well—
The linking life between the forms of clay
And those ambrosia nurtures; from its spell
Fly earth's rank fogs, and Thought's ennobled flow
Shines with the shape that glides in light below.
Seize, O beloved, the blooms the Hour allows!74
Alas, but once can flower the Beautiful!
Hark, the wind rustles through the trembling boughs,
And the stem withers while the buds ye cull!
Brief though the prize, how few in after hours
Can say, "at least the Beautiful was ours!"
[Pg 265]
Two loves (and both divine and pure) there are;75
One by the roof-tree takes its root for ever,
Nor tempests rend, nor changeful seasons mar—
It clings the stronger for the storm's endeavour;
Beneath its shade the wayworn find their rest,
And in its boughs the calm bird builds its nest.
But one more frail (in that more prized, perchance),76
Bends its rich blossoms over lonely streams
In the untrodden ways of wild Romance,
On earth's far confines, like the Tree of Dreams,[13]
Few find the path;—O bliss! O woe to find!
What bliss the blossom!—ah! what woe the wind!
Oh, the short spring!—the eternal winter!—All77
Branch,—stem all shatter'd; fragile as the bloom!
Yet this the love that charms us to recall
Life's golden holiday before the tomb;
Yea! this the love which age again lives o'er,
And hears the heart beat loud with youth once more!
Before them, at the distance, o'er the blue78
Of the sweet waves which girt the rosy isle,
Flitted light shapes the inwoven alleys through:
Remotely mellow'd, musical the while,
Floated the hum of voices, and the sweet
Lutes chimed with timbrels to dim-glancing feet.
The calm swan rested on the breathless glass79
Of dreamy waters, and the snow-white steer
Near the opposing margin, motionless,
Stood, knee-deep, gazing wistful on its clear
And life-like shadow, shimmering deep and far,
Where on the lucid darkness fell the star.
Near them, upon its lichen-tinted base,80
Gleam'd one of those fair fancied images
Which art hath lost—no god of Idan race,
But the wing'd symbol which, by Caspian seas,
Or Susa's groves, its parable addrest
To the wild faith of Iran's Zendavest.[14]
Light as the soul, whose archetype it was81
The Genius touch'd, yet spurn'd the pedestal;
Behind, the foliage, in its purple mass,
Shut out the flush'd horizon; clasping all,
Nature's hush'd giants stood to guard and girth
The only home of peace upon the earth.
[Pg 266]
And when, at last, from Ægle's lips, the voice82
Came soft as murmur'd hymns at closing day,
The sweet sound seem'd the sweet air to rejoice—
To give the sole charm wanting,—to convey
The crowning music to the Musical;
As with the soul of love infusing all!
And to the Northman's ear that antique tongue,83
Which from the Augur's lips fell weird and cold,
Seem'd as the thread in fairy tales,[15] which strung
Enchanted pearls, won from the caves of old,
And woven round a sunbeam;—so was wrought
O'er cordial love the pure and delicate thought.
She spoke of youth's lost years, so lone before,84
And coming to the present, paused and blush'd;
As if Time's wing were spell-bound evermore,
And Life, the restless, in the hour were hush'd:
The pause, the blush, said more than words, "And thou
Art found!—thou lov'st me!—Fate is powerless now!"
That hand in his—that heart his own entwining85
With its life's tendrils,—youth his pardon be,
If in his heaven no loftier star were shining—
If round the haven boom'd unheard the sea—
If in the wreath forgot the thorny crown,
And the harsh duties of severe renown.
Blame we as well the idlesse of a dream,86
As that entranced oblivion from the reign
Of the Great Curse, which glares in every beam
Of labouring suns to the stern race of Cain;
So life from earth did Nature here withdraw,
That the strange peace seem'd but earth's common law.
Yet some excuse all stronger spirits take87
For all repose from toil (to strength the doom)
How sweet in that fair heathen soil to wake
The living palm God planted on the tomb!
And so, and long, did Passion's subtle art
Mask with the soul the impulse of the heart.
Wonderous and lovely in that last retreat88
Of the old Gods,—the simple speech to hear
Tell of the Messenger whose beauteous feet
Had gilt the mountain-tops with tidings clear
Of veilless Heaven, while Ægle, thoughtful said,
"This, love makes plain—yes, love can ne'er be dead!"
[Pg 267]
Now, as Night gently deepens round them, while89
Oft to the moon upturn their happy eyes—
Still, hand in hand, they range the lullèd isle.
Air knows no breeze, scarce sighing to their sighs;
No bird of night shrieks bode from drowsy trees,
Nought lives between them and the Pleïades;
Save where the moth strains to the moon its wing,90
Deeming the Reachless near;—the prophet race
Of the cold stars forewarn'd them not; the Ring
Of great Orion, who for the embrace
Of Morn's sweet Maid had died,[16] look'd calm above
The last unconscious hours of human love.
Each astral influence unrevealing shone91
O'er the dark web its solemn thread enwove;
Mars shot no anger from his fatal throne,
No beam spoke trouble in the House of Love;
Their closing path the treacherous smile illumed;
And the stern Star-kings kiss'd the brows they doom'd.—
'Tis morn once more; upon the shelving green92
Of the small isle, alone the Cymrian stood
With his full heart,—when, suddenly, between
Him and the sun, the azure solitude
Was broken by a dark and rapid wing,
And a dusk bird swoop'd downward to the King.
And the King's cheek grew pale, for well to him93
(As now the raven, settling, touch'd his feet),
Was known the mystic messenger:—where, grim
O'er the Black Valley,[17] demon shadows fleet
Glass'd on the lake whose horror scares away
Each harmless wing that skims the golden day.
The Prophet's dauntless childhood stray'd and found94
The weird bird muttering by the waves of dread;
Three days and nights upon the haunted ground
The raven's beak the solemn infant fed:
And ever after (so the legend ran)
The lone bird tended on the lonely man.
O'er the Man's temples fell the snows of age,95
As fresh the lustrous ebon of the Bird,—
Less awe had credulous terror of the sage
Than that familiar by the Fiend conferr'd—
So thought the crowd; nor knew what holy lore
Lives in all things whose instinct is to soar.
[Pg 268]
Hoarse croaks the bird, and, with its round bright eye,96
Fixes the gaze of the recoiling King;
Slowly the hand, that trembles, cuts the tie
Which binds the white scroll gleaming from the wing,
And these the words, "Weak Loiterer from thy toil,
The Saxon's march is on thy father's soil."
Bounded the Prince!—As when the sudden sun97
Looses the ice-chains on the halted rill,
Smites the dumb snow-mass, and the cataracts run
In molten thunder down the clanging hill,
So from his heart the fetters burst; and strong
In its rough course the great soul rush'd along.
As looks a warrior on the fort he scales,98
His glance darts round the everlasting steeps—
Not there escape!—the wildest fancy quails
Before those heights on which the whitening deeps
Of measureless heaven repose:—below their frown,
Planed as a wall, shears the smooth granite down.
Marvel, indeed, how ev'n the enchanted wing99
Had o'er such rampires won to the abode:
But not for marvel paused the kindled King,
Swift, as Pelides stung to war, he strode;
While the dark herald, with its sullen scream,
Rose, and fled, dismal as an evil dream.
Carved as for Love, a slender boat rock'd o'er100
The ripple with the murmuring marge at play,
He loosed its chain, he gain'd the adverse shore,
Startled the groups that flutter'd round his way,
Awed by the knitted brow and flashing eyes
Of him they deem'd the native of the skies.
As towards the fane, which closed on hardy life101
The granite path to Labour's world behind,
O'er trampled flowers, strode the stern Child of Strife,
He saw the melancholy priest reclined
Under the shade of hush'd Dodonian boughs,
Bending, o'er mystic scrolls, calm, mournful brows.—
Loud on that musing leisure broke the cry102
Of the imperious Northman, "Rise, unbar
Your granite gates—the eagle seeks the sky,
The captive freedom, and the warrior war!"
Slow rose the Augur, and this answer gave,
"Man, see thy world—its outlet is the grave!
[Pg 269]
"Thou hast our secret! Thou must share our fates:103
The Alps and Orcus guard ourselves—and thee!
To what new Mars shall Janus ope the gates?
Thou speak'st of war, and then demand'st the key!"
Scornful he turn'd—but thrill'd with wrath to feel
His sacred arm lock'd in a grasp of steel.
"Trifle not, host,—Fate calls me to depart;104
On my shamed soul a prophet's voice hath cried!
Nor Alps nor Orcus like a loyal heart
Ensures the secret trustful lips confide."
The Augur sneer'd—"A loyal heart, forsooth!
And what says Ægle of the stranger's truth?"
"Let Ægle answer," cried the noble lover;105
"Let Ægle judge the trust I hold from Heaven.
I faithless!—I—a King?—my labours over,
From mine own soil the surge of carnage driven,
And I will come, as kings should come, to claim
A mate for empire, and a meed for fame!"—
Long mused the Augur, and at length replied,106
His guile scarce mask'd in his malignant gaze,
"Take, as thou say'st, an answer from thy bride—
Then, if still wearied of untroubled days—
No more from Mantu[18] Pales shall control;
And one free gate shall open on thy soul!"
He said, and drew his large robe round his form,107
And wrathful swept along, as o'er the sky
A cloud sweeps dark, secret with hoarded storm;
Behind him went the guest as silently;
Afar the gazing wonderers whisper'd, while
They cross'd the girdling wave and reach'd the isle.
With violet buds, bright Ægle, in her bower,108
Knits the dark riches of her lustrous hair;
Her heart springs eager to the magic hour
When to loved eyes 'tis glorious to be fair:
Gleams of a neck, proud as the swan's, escape
The light-spun tunic rounded to the shape.
The airy veil, its silver cloud dividing,109
Falls, and floats fragrant, from the violet crown.
What happy thought is in that breast presiding
Like some serenest bird that settles down
(Its wanderings over) on calm summer eves
Into its nest, amid the secret leaves?
[Pg 270]
What happy thought in those large tranquil eyes110
Speaks of a bliss remote from human fear?
Speaks of a soul which like a star supplies
Its own circumfluent lustrous atmosphere;
Weaves beam on beam around its peace, and glows
Soft through the splendour which itself bestows?
Who ever gazed on perfect happiness,111
Nor felt it as the shadow cast from God?
It seems so still in its sublime excess,
So brings all heaven around its hush'd abode,
That in its very beauty awe has birth,
Dismay'd by too much glory for the earth.
Across the threshold now abruptly strode112
Her youth's stern guardian. "Child of Rasena,"
He said, "the lover on thy youth bestow'd
For the last time on earth thine eyes survey,
Unless thy power can chain the faithless breast,
And sated bliss deigns gracious to be blest."
"Not so!" cried Arthur, as his loyal knee113
Bent to the earth, and with the knightly truth
Of his right hand he clasp'd her own;—"to be
Thine evermore; youth mingled with thy youth,
Age with thine age; in thy grave mine; above,
Soul with thy soul—this is the Christian's love!
"Oft wouldst thou smile, believing smile, to hear114
Thy lover speak of knighthood's holy vow—
That vow holds falsehood more abhorr'd than fear,—
And canst thou doubt both love and knighthood now?"
His words rush'd on—told of the threaten'd land,
The fates confided to the sceptred hand,
Here gathering woes, and there suspended toil;115
And the stern warning from the distant seer.
"Thine be my people—thine this bleeding soil;
Queen of my realm, its groaning murmurs hear!
Then ask thyself, what manhood's choice should be;
False to my country, were I worthy thee?"
Dim through her struggling sense the light came slow,116
Struck from those words of fire. Alas, poor child!
What, in thine isle of roses, shouldst thou know
Of earth's grave duties?—of that stormy wild
Of care and carnage—the relentless strife
Of man with happiness, and soul with life?
[Pg 271]
Thou who hadst seen the sun but rise and set117
O'er one Saturnian Arcady of rest,
Snatch'd from the Age of Iron? Ever, yet,
Dwells that fine instinct in the noble breast,
Which each high truth intuitive receives,
And what the Reason grasps not, Faith believes.
So in mute woe, one hand to his resign'd,118
And one press'd firmly on her swelling heart,
Passive she heard, and in her labouring mind
Strove with the dark enigma—"part!—to part!"
Till, having solved it by the beams that broke
From that clear soul on hers, struggling she spoke:—
"Thou bidst me trust thee!—This is my reply:119
Trust is my life—to trust thee is to live!
And ev'n farewell less bitter than thy sigh
For something Ægle is too poor to give.
Thou speak'st of dread and terror, strife and woe;
And I might wonder why they tempt thee so;
"And I might ask how more can mortals please120
The heavens, than thankful to enjoy the earth?
But through its mist my soul, though faintly, sees
Where thine sweeps on beyond this mountain girth,
And, awed and dazzled, bending I confess
Life may have holier ends than happiness!
"Yes, as thou offerest joy upon the shrine121
Of some bright good, all human joys above,
So does my heart its altar seek in thine,
Content to bleed:—Thee, not myself, I love!"
Sighing, she ceased; and yet still seem'd to sigh,
As doth the wave on which the zephyrs die.
Then, as she felt his tears upon her hand,122
Sorrow woke sorrow, and her face she bow'd:
As when the silver gates of heaven expand,
And on the earth descends the melting cloud,
So sunk the spirit from sublimer air,
And all the woman rush'd on her despair.
"To lose thee—oh, to lose thee! To live on123
And see the sun—not thee! Will the sun shine,
Will the birds sing, flowers bloom, when thou art gone?
Desolate, desolate! Thy right hand in mine,
Swear, by the Past, thou wilt return!—Oh, say,
Say it again!"——voice died in sobs away!
[Pg 272]
Mute look'd the Augur, with his deathful eyes,124
On the last anguish of their lock'd embrace.
"Priest," cried the lover, "canst thou deem this prize
Lost to my future?—No, though round the place
Yon Alps took life, with all the dire array
Of demon legions, Love would force the way.
"Hear me, adored one!" On the silent ear125
The promise fell, and o'er the unconscious frame
Wound the protecting arm.—"Since neither fear
Of the great Powers thou dost blaspheming name,
Nor the soft impulse native in man's heart
Restrains thee, doom'd one—hasten to depart.
"Come, in thy treason merciful at least,126
Come, while those eyes by pitying slumbers bound,
See not thy shadow pass from earth!"——The priest
Spoke,—and now call'd the infant handmaids round;
But o'er that form with arms that vainly cling,
And words that idly comfort, bends the King.
"Nay, nay, look up! It is these arms that fold;—127
I still am here;—this hand, these tears, are mine."
Then, when they sought to loose her from his hold,
He waived them back with a fierce jealous sign;
O'er her hush'd breath his listening ear he bow'd,
And the awed children round him wept aloud.
But when the soul broke faint from its eclipse,128
And his own name came, shaping life's first sigh,
His very heart seem'd breaking in the lips
Press'd to those faithful ones;—then tremblingly,
He rose;—he moved;—he paused;—his nerveless hand
Veil'd the dread agony of man unmann'd.
Thus, from the chamber, as an infant meek129
The priest's slight arm led forth the mighty King;
In vain wide air came fresh upon his cheek,
Passive he went in his great sorrowing;
Hate, the mute guide,—the waves of death, the goal;—
So, following Hermes, glides to Styx a soul.

[Pg 273]

BOOK V.

ARGUMENT.

The Council-hall in Carduel—The twelve Knights of the Round Table described, viz., the three Knights of Council, the three Knights of Battle, the three Knights of Eloquence, and the three Lovers—Merlin warns the chiefs of the coming Saxons, and enjoins the beacon-fires to be lighted—The story returns to Arthur—The dove has not been absent, though unseen—It comes back to Arthur—The Priest leads the King through the sepulchral valley into the temple of the Death-god—Description of the entrance of the temple, with the walls on which is depicted the progress of the guilty soul through the realms below—The cave, the raft, and the stream which conducts to the cataract—Arthur enters the boat, and the dove goes before him—Ægle awakes from her swoon, and follows the King to the temple—Her dialogue with the Augur—She disappears in the stream—Meanwhile Lancelot wanders in the valleys on the other side of the Alps, and is led to the cataract by the magic ring—The apparition of the dove—He follows the bird up the skirts of the cataract—He finds Arthur and Ægle, and conveys them to the convent—The Christian hymn, and the Etrurian dirge—Arthur and Lancelot seated by the lake—The Lady of the Lake appears in her pinnace to Lancelot—The King's sight is purged from its film by the bitter herb, and he enters the magic bark.

In the high Council Hall of Carduel,1
Beside the absent Arthur's ivory throne
(What time the earlier shades of evening fell),
Wan-silvering through the hush, the cresset shone
O'er the arch-seer,—as, 'mid the magnates there,
Rose his large front, august with prophet care;
Rose his large front above the luminous guests,2
The deathless Twelve of that heroic Ring,
Which, as the belt wherein Orion rests,
Girded with subject stars the starry king;
Without, strong towers guard Rome's elaborate wall;
Within is Manhood!—strongest tower of all.
First, Muse of Cymri, name the Council three[1]3
Who, of maturer years and graver mien,
Wise in the past, conceived the things to be,
And temper'd impulse quick with thought serene;
Nor young, nor old—no dupes to rushing Hope,
Nor narrowing to tame Fear th' ignoble scope.
[Pg 274]
Of these was Cynon of the highborn race,4
A cold but dauntless—calm but earnest man;
With deep eyes shining from a thoughtful face,
And spare slight form, for ever in the van
When ripening victories crown'd laborious deeds;
Reaper of harvest—sower not of seeds;
For scarcely his the quick far-darting soul5
Which, like Apollo's shaft, strikes lifeless things
Into divine creation; but, the whole
Once rife, the skill which into concord brings
The jarring parts; shapes out the rudely wrought,
And calls the action living from the thought.
Next Aron see—not rash, yet gaily bold,6
With the frank polish of chivalric courts;
Him from the right, no fear of wrong controll'd;
And toil he deem'd the sprightliest of his sports;
O'er War's dry chart, or Wisdom's mystic page,
Alike as smiling, and alike as sage;
With the warm instincts of the knightly heart,7
That rose at once if insult touch'd the realm,
He spurn'd each state-craft, each deceiving art,
And rode to war, no vizor to his helm;
This proved his worth, this line his tomb may boast—
"Who hated Cymri, hated Aron most!"
But who with eastern hues and haughty brow,8
Stern with dark beauty sits apart from all?
Ah, couldst thou shun thy friends, Elidir!—thou
Scorning all foes, before no foe shalt fall!
On thy wrong'd grave one hand appeasing lays
The humble flower—oh, could it yield the bays!
Courts may have known than thou a readier tool,9
States may have found than thine a subtler brain,
But states shall honour many a formal fool,
And many a tawdry fawner courts may gain,
Ere King or People in their need shall see
A soul so grand as that which fled with thee!
For thou wert more than true; thou wert a Truth!10
Open as Truth, and yet as Truth profound;
Thy fault was genius—that eternal youth
Whose weeds but prove the richness of the ground—
And dull men envied thee, and false men fear'd,
And where soar'd genius, there convention sneer'd.
[Pg 275]
Ah, happy hadst thou fallen, foe to foe,11
The bright race run—the laurel o'er thy grave!
But hands perfidious strung the ambush bow,
And the friend's shaft the rankling torture gave—
The last proud wish its agony to hide,
The stricken deer to covert crept and died.
Next came the Warrior Three.[2] Of glory's charms12
(Glory, the bride of heroes) nobly vain,
Dark Mona's Owaine[3] shines with golden arms,
The Roland of the Cymrian Charlemain,
Scath'd by the storm the holy chief survives,
For Fame makes holy all its lightning rives.
Beside, with simplest garb and sober mien,13
Solid as iron, not yet wrought to steel,
In his plain manhood Cornwall's chief[4] is seen,
Who (if wild tales some glimpse of truth reveal)
Gave Northern standards to the Indian sun—
And wreaths from palms that shaded Evian won.
Lo, he whose Fame outshines the Fabulous!14
Sublime with eagle front, and that grey crown
Which Age, the arch-priest, sets on laurell'd brows;
Lo, Geraint, bending with a world's renown!
Yet those grey hairs one ribald scoffer found;—
The moon sways ocean and provokes the hound.
Next the three Chiefs of Eloquence;[5] the kings15
Whose hosts are thoughts, whose realm the human mind,
Who out of words evoke the souls of things,
And shape the lofty drama of mankind;
Wit charms the fancy, wisdom guides the sense;
To make men nobler—that is Eloquence!
As from the Mount of Gold, auriferous flows16
The Lydian wave, thy pomp of period shines,
Resplendent Drudwas—glittering as it goes
High from the mount, but labouring through the mines,
And thence the tides, enriching while they run,
Glass every fruit that ripens to the sun.
But, like the vigour of a Celtic stream,17
Eliwlod's rush of manly sense along,
Fresh with the sparkles of a healthful beam,
And quick with impulse like a poet's song.
How listening crowds that knightly voice delights—
If from those crowds are banish'd all but knights!
[Pg 276]
The third, though young, well worthy of his place,18
Was Gawaine, courteous, blithe, and debonnair,
Arch Mercury's wit, with careless Cupid's face;
Frank as the sun, but searching as the air,
Who with bland parlance prefaced doughtiest blows,
And mildly arguing—arguing brain'd his foes.
Next came the three—in mystic Triads hight19
"The Knights of Love;"[6] some type, the name conveys,
For where no lover, there methinks no knight;
All knights were lovers in King Arthur's days:
Caswallawn; Trystan of the lion rock;[7]
And, leaning on his harp, calm Caradoc!
Thus class'd, distinct in peace,—let war dismay,20
Straight in one bond the divers natures blend—
So varying tints in tranquil sunshine play,
But form one iris if the rains descend;
And, fused in light against the clouds that lower,
Forbid the deluge while they own the shower!
On the bright group the Prophet rests his gaze,21
Then the deep voice sonorous thrills aloud—
"In Carduel's vale the steers unheeded graze,
To jocund winds the yellowing corn is bow'd,
By hearths of mirth the waves of Isca flow,
And Heaven above smiles down on peace below.
"But far looks forth the warder from the tower,22
And to the halls of Cymri's antique kings
A soul that sees the future in the hour
The desolation of its burthen brings;
Hollow sounds earth beneath the clanging tread:
Yon fields shall yield no harvest but the Dead!
"And waves shall rush in crimson to the deep,23
The Meteor Horse shall pale autumnal skies—
From Rauran's lairs the joyous wolves shall leap—
From Eifle's crags the screaming eagles rise—
Yea! while I speak, these halls the havoc nears!
Red sets the sun behind the storm of spears!
"The Sons of Woden sound no tromp before24
Their march! No herald comes their war to tell!
No plea for slaughter, dress'd in clerkly lore,
Makes death seem justice! As the rain-clouds swell,
When air is stillest, in Bâl Huan's halls;
The herbage waves not till the tempest falls!
[Pg 277]
"Of old ye know them; ye the elect remains25
Of perish'd races—rock-saved; anchoring here
The ark of empire!
For your latest fanes,
For your last hearths, for all to freemen dear,
And to God sacred; take the shield and brand!
Accurst each Cymrian who survives hisland!"
"Accursed each Cymrian who survives his land!"26
Echo'd deep tones, hollow as blasts escaped
From Boreal caverns, and in every hand
The hilts of swords to sainted croziers shaped
Were grimly griped—as by that symbol sign
Hallowing the human wrath to war divine.
The Prophet mark'd the deep unclamorous vow27
Of the pent passion; and the morning light
Of young Humanity flash'd o'er the brow
Dark with that wisdom which, like Nature's night,
Communes with stars and dreams; it flash'd and waned,
And the vast front its awful hush regain'd.
"Princes, I am but as a voice; be you28
As deeds! The wind comes through the hollow oak,
And stirs the green woods that it wanders through,
Now wafts the seeds, now wings the levin-stroke,
Now kindles, now destroys:—that Wind am I,
Homeless on earth; the mystery of the sky!
"But when the wind in noiseless air hath sunk,29
Behold the sower tends and rears the seeds;
Behold the woodman shapes the fallen trunk;
The viewless voice hath waked the human deeds;
Born of the germs, flowers bloom and harvests spring;
The pine uprooted speeds the Ocean King.
"Warriors, since absent (not from wanton lust30
Of errant emprize, but by Fate ordain'd,
For all lone labouring, worthy of his trust)
He whose young lips in thirst of glory drain'd
All that of arts Mavortian elder Rome
Taught, to assail the foe, or guard the home;
"Be ye his delegates, and oft with prayer31
Bring angels round his wild and venturous way;
As one great orb gives life and light to air,
So times there are when all a people's day
Shines from a single life! This known, revere
The exile; mourn not—let his soul be here.
[Pg 278]
"Yours then, high chiefs, the conduct of the war,32
But heed this counsel (won or wrung from Fate),
Strong rolls the tide when curb'd its channels are,
Strong flows a force that but defends a state;
In Carduel's walls concentre Cymri's power,
And chain the Dragon to this charmèd tower.
"This night the moon should see the beacon brand33
Link fire to fire from Beli's Druid pile;
Rock call on rock, till blazes all the land
From Sabra's wave to Mona's parent isle!
Let Fredom write in characters of fire,
'Who climbs my throne ascends his funeral pyre!'"
The Prophet ceased; and rose with stern accord34
The warrior senate. Sudden every shield
Leapt into lightning from the clashing sword;
And choral voices consentaneous peal'd—
"Hail to our guests! the wine of war is red;
Fire fight the banquet—steel prepare the bed!"
While thus the peril threat'ning land and throne,35
Unharm'd, unheeding, dreaming goes the King,
Where from the brief Elysium, Acheron
Awaits the victim whom its priest shall bring.
And where art thou, meek guardian of the brave?
Though fails the eagle, still the dove may save!
When, lured by signs that seem'd his aid to implore,36
From his good steed the lord of knighthood sprung,
[And left it wistful by the dismal door,
Since the cragg'd roof too low descending hung
For the great war-horse in its barb'd array;
And little dream'd he of the long delay,—]
His path the dove nor favour'd nor forbade;37
Motionless, folding on sharp rocks its wing,
With its soft eyes it watch'd, resign'd and sad,
Where fates, ordain'd for sorrow, led the King;
Nor did he miss (till earth regain'd the day)
The plumèd angel vanish'd from his way.
Then oft, in truth, and oft in blissful hours,38
Miss'd was that faithful guide through stormier life.
Ah common lot! how oft, mid summer flowers,
We miss the soother of the winter strife;
How oft we mourn in Fortune's sunlit vale
Some silenced heart with which we shared the gale!
[Pg 279]
But absent not the dove, albeit unseen;39
In some still foliage it had found its nest:
At night it hover'd where his steps had been,
Pale through the moonbeams in the air of rest;
By the lull'd wave and shadowy banks it pass'd,
Lingering where love with Ægle linger'd last.
And when with chiller dawn resought the lone40
And leafy gloom in which it shunn'd the day,
Beneath those boughs you might have heard it moan,
Low-wailing to itself its plaintive lay;
Till with the sun rose all the songs that fill
Morn with delight; and then the dove was still.
But now, as towards the Temple of the Shades41
The King went heavily—a gleam of light
Shot through the gloaming of the cedarn glades,
And the dove glided to his breast: the sight
Came like a smile from Heaven upon the King,
And his heart warm'd beneath the brooding wing.
Strange was the thrill of joy, beyond belief,42
Sent from the soft touch of those plumes of down!
He was not all deserted in his grief,
The brows of Fate relax'd their iron frown;
And his soul quicken'd to that glorious power
Which fronts the future and subdues the hour;
The joy it brought, the dove refused to share;43
As it it felt the tempest in the sky,
Trembling, it nestled to its shelter there,
Nor lifted to the light its drooping eye.
Not, as its wont, to guide it came; but brave
With him the ills from which it could not save.
Now lost the lovelier features of the land,44
Dull waves replace the fount, dark pines the bowers,
Grey-streeted tombs, far stretch'd on either hand,
Rear the dumb city of the Funeral Powers.
Massive and huge, behold the dome of dread,
Where the stern Death-god frowns above the dead.
Hewn from a rock, stand the great columns square,45
With triglyphs wrought and ponderous pediment;
Such as yet greet the musing wanderer, where,
Near the old Fane to which Etruria sent
Her sovereign twelve, the thick-sown violet blooms,
In Castel d'Asso's vale of hero-tombs.[8]
[Pg 280]
Passing a bridge that spann'd the barrier wave,46
They reach'd the Thebes-like porch;—the Augur here,
First entering, leaves the King. Within the nave
Now swell the flutes (which went before the bier
What time the funeral chaunt of Pagan Rome
Knell'd some throne-shatterer to his six-feet home).
Jar back the portals—long, in measured line,47
There stand within the mute Auruspices,
In each pale hand a torch; and near the shrine
Sit on still thrones, the guardian deities;
Here Sethlans,[9] sovereign of life's fix'd domains—
There fatal Northia with the iron chains.
Between the two the Death-god broods sublime;48
On his pale brow the inexorable peace
Which speaks of power beyond the shores of time;
Calm, not benign like the sweet gods of Greece,—
Calm as the mystery which in Memphian skies
Froze life's warm current from a sphinx's eyes.
With many a grausame shape unutterable,49
Limn'd were the cavernous sepulchral walls;
Life-like they stalk'd, the Populace of Hell,
Through the pale pomp of Acherontian halls;
Distinct as when the Trojan's living breath
Vex'd the wide silence in the wastes of death.
Shown was the Progress of the guilty Soul50
From earth's warm threshold to the throne of doom;
Here the black genius to the dismal goal
Dragg'd the wan spectre from the unshelt'ring tomb;
While from the side it never more may warn
The better angel, sorrowing, fled forlorn.
Hideous with horrent looks and goading steel51
The fiend drives on the abject cowering ghost
Where (closed the eighth) sev'n yawning gates reveal
The sev'nfold anguish that awaits the Lost;
By each the gryphon flaps his ravening wings,
And dire Chimæra whets her hungry stings.
Here, ev'n that God, of all the kindliest one,52
Life of all life (in Tusca's later creed
Blent with the orient worship of the Sun,
Or His who loves the madding nymphs to lead
On the Fork'd Hill), abjures his genial smile,[10]
And, scowls transform'd, the Typhon of the Nile.
[Pg 281]
Closed the eighth gate—for there, the happy dwell!53
No glimpse of joy beyond makes horror less.
But that closed gate upon the exiled hell
Sets hell's last seal of misery—Hopelessness!
Nathless, despite the Dæmon's chasing thong,
Here, as if hoping still, the hopeless throng.
Before the northern knight each nightmare dream54
Of Theban soothsayer or Chaldean mage,
Thus kindling in the torches' breathless beam,
As if incarnate with resistless rage,
And hell's true malice, starts from wall to wall;
He signs the cross, and looks unmoved on all.
Before the inmost Penetralian doors,55
Holding a cypress-branch, the Augur stands;
The King's firm foot strides echoless the floors,
And with dull groan the temple veil expands;
Slow-moving on the brandish'd torches shine
Red o'er the wave that yawns behind the shrine;
Red o'er the wave, as, under vaulted rock,56
Dark as Cocytus, the false smoothness flows;
But where the light fades—there is heard the shock
As hurrying down the headlong torrent goes;
With mocking oars, a raft sways, moor'd beside—
What keel save Charon's ploughs that dismal tide?
Proud Arthur smiled upon the guileful host,57
As welcome danger roused him and restored.—
"Friend," quoth the King, "methinks your streams might boast
A gentler margin and a fairer ford!"
"As birth to man," replied the priest, "the cave,
O guest, to thee! as death to man the wave.
"Doth it appal thee? thou canst yet return!58
There love, there sunny life;—and yonder"—"Fame,
Cymri, and God!" said Arthur. "Paynim, learn
Death has two victors, deathless both—THE NAME,
The soul; to each a realm eternal given,
This rules the earth, and that achieves the heaven."
He said, and seized a torch with scornful hand;59
The frail raft rock'd to his descending tread;
Upon the prow he fix'd the glowing brand,
And the raft drifted down the waves of dread.
So with his fortunes went confiding forth
The knightly Cæsar of the Christian North.
[Pg 282]
Then, from its shelter on his breast, the dove60
Rose, and sail'd slow before with doubtful wing;
The dun mists rolling round the vaults above,
Below, the gulf with torch-fires crimsoning;
Wan through the glare, or white amidst the gloom,
Glanced Heaven's mute daughter with the silver plume.
Meanwhile to Ægle: from the happier trance,61
And from the stun of the first human ill
Labouring returns her soul!—As lightnings glance
O'er battle-fields, with sated slaughter still,
The fitful reason flickering comes and goes
O'er the past struggle—o'er the blank repose.
At length with one long, eager, searching look,62
She gazed around, and all the living space
With one great loss seem'd lifeless!—then she strook
Her clench'd hand on her heart; and o'er her face
Settled ineffable that icy gloom,
Which only falls when hope abandons doom.
Why breaks the smile—why waves the exulting hand?63
Why to the threshold moves that step serene?
The brow superb awes back the maiden band,
From the roused woman towers sublime the queen.
She pass'd the isle—and beam'd upon the crowd,
Bright as the May-moon when it bursts the cloud.
Brief and imperious rings her question; quick64
A hundred hands point, answering, to the fane.
As on she sweeps, behind her, fast and thick,
Gather the groups far following in her train.
Behind some bird unknown, of glorious dyes,
So swarm the meaner people of the skies.
Oh, the great force, that sleeps in woman's heart!65
She will, at least, behold that form once more;
See its last vestige from her world depart,
And mark the spot to haunt and wander o'er,
Rased in that impulse of the human breast
All the cold lessons on its leaves impress'd;—
Snapp'd in the strength of the divine desire66
All the vain swathes with which convention thralls;—
Nature breaks forth, and at her breath of fire
The elaborate snow-pile's molten temple falls;
And meaner priestcrafts fly before that Truth,
Whose name is Passion, and whose altar, Youth!
[Pg 283]
Unknown the egress, dreamless of the snare,67
Sole aim to look the last on the adored:
She gains the fane—she treads the aisle—and there
The deathlights guide her to the bridal lord;
On, through pale groups around the yawning cave,
She comes—and looks upon the livid wave.
She comes—she sees afar amidst the dark,68
That fair, serene, undaunted, godlike brow—
Sees on the lurid deep the lonely bark
Drift through the circling horror;—sees, and now
On light's far verge it hovers, wanes, and fades,
As roars the hungering cataract up the shades.
Voiceless she look'd, and voiceless look'd and smiled69
On her the priest: strange though the marvel seem,
The old man, childless, loved her more than child;
She link'd each thought—she colour'd every dream;
But Love, the varying Genius, guides, in turn,
The soft to pity, to revenge the stern.
Not his the sympathy which soothes the woe,70
But that which, wrathful, feels, and shares, the wrong.
He in the faithless view'd alone the foe;
The weak he righted when he smote the strong:
In one dread crime a twofold virtue seen,
Here saved the land, and there avenged the queen.
So through the hush his hissing murmur stole—71
"Ay, Ægle, blossom on the stem of kings,
Not to fresh altars glides the perjurer's soul,
Not to new maids the vows still thine he brings!
No rival mocks thee from the bloodless shore,
The dead, at least, are faithful evermore."
As when around the demigod of love,72
Whom men Prometheus call, relentless fell
The flashing fires of Zeus, and Heaven above
Open'd in flame, in flame expanded Hell;
While gazing dauntless on the Thunderer's frown,
Sunk from the Earth, the Earth's Light-bringer down;
So, while both worlds before its sight lay bare,73
And o'er one ruin burst the lightning shook,
Love, the Arch-Titan, in sublime despair,
Faced the rent Hades from the shatter'd rock;
And saw in Heaven, the future Heaven foreshown,
When Love shall reign where Force usurps the throne.
[Pg 284]
The Woman heard, and gathering majesty74
Beam'd on her front, and crown'd it with command;
The pale priest shrunk before her tranquil eye,
And the light touch of her untrembling hand—
"Enjoy," she said, with voice as clear as low,
"Enjoy thy hate; where love survives I go.
"Sweetly thou smilest—sweetly, gentle Death,75
Kinder than life;—that severs, thou unitest!
To realms He spoke of goes this living breath,
A living soul, wherever space is brightest—
Fair Love—I trusted, now I claim, thy troth!
Blest be thy couch, for it hath room for both!"
She said, and from each hand that would restrain76
Broke, in the strength of her sublime despair;
Swift as the meteor on the northern main
Fades from the ice-lock'd sea-kings' livid stare—
She sprang; the robe a sudden glimmer gave,
And o'er the vision swept the closing wave.
Return, wild Song, to Lancelot! Behold77
Our Lord's lone house beside the placid mere!
There pipes the careless shepherd to his fold,
Or from the crags the shy capellæ peer
Through the green rents of many a hanging brake,
Which sends its quivering shadow to the lake.
And by the pastoral margins mournfully78
Wanders from dawn to eve the earnest knight;
And ever to the ring he turns his eye,
And ever does the ring perplex the sight;
The fairy hand that knew no rest before,
Rests now as fix'd as if its task were o'er.
Towards the far head of the calm water turn'd79
The unmoving finger; yet, when gain'd the place,
No path for human foot the knight discern'd—
Abrupt and huge, the rocks enclosed the space.
His scath'd front veil'd in everlasting snows,
High above eagles Alpine Atlas rose.
No cleft! save that a giant torrent clove,80
For its fierce hurry to the lake it fed;
Check'd for a while in chasms conceal'd above,
Thence all its pomp the dazzling horror spread,
And from the beetling ridges, smooth and sheer,
Flash'd in one mass, down-roaring to the mere.
[Pg 285]
Still to that spot the fairy hand inclined,81
And daily there with wistful searching eyes
Wander'd the knight; each day no path to find.
What step can scale that ladder to the skies?
What portals yawn in those relentless walls?—
Still the hand points where still the cataract falls.
One noon, as thus he gazed in stern despair82
On rock and torrent;—from the tortured spray,
And through the mists, into cerulean air,
A dove descending rush'd its arrowy way;
Swift as a falling star, which, falling, brings
Woe on the helmet-crown of Dorian kings![11]
Straight to the wanderer's hand bore down the bird,83
With plumage crisp'd with fear, and piercing plaint;
Oft had he heedful, in his wanderings, heard
Of the great Wrong-Redresser, whom a saint
In the dove's guise directed—"Hail," he cried,
"I greet the token—I accept the guide!"
And sudden as he spoke, arose the wing,84
(Warily veering towards the dexter flank
Of the huge chasm, through which leapt thundering
From Nature's heart her savage); on the bank
Of that fell stream, in root, and jag, and stone,
It traced the ladder to the glacier's throne.
Slow sail'd the dove, and paused, and look'd behind,85
As labouring after, crag on crag, the knight
(Close on the deafening roar, and whirling wind
Lash'd from the surges), through the vaporous night
Of the grey mists, loom'd up the howling wild;
Strong in the charm the fairy gave the child.
With bleeding hands, that leave a moment's red86
On stone and stem wash'd by the mighty spray,
He gains at length the inter-alpine bed,
Whose lock'd Charybdis checks the torrent's way,
And forms a basin o'er abysmal caves,
For the grim respite of the headlong waves.
Torrents below—the torrents still above!87
Above less awful—as precipitous peak
And splinter'd ledge, and many a curve and cove
In the compress'd, indented margins, break
That crushing sense of power, in which we see
What, without Nature's God, would Nature be!
[Pg 286]
Before him stretch'd the maëlstrom of the abyss;88
And, in the central torrent, giant pines,
Uprooted from the bordering wilderness
By some gone winter's blast—in flashing lines
Shot through the whirl—then, pluck'd to the profound,
Vanish'd and rose, swift eddying round and round.
But on the marge as on the wave thou art,89
O conquering Death!—what human, hueless face
Rests pillow'd on a silenced human heart?
What arm still clasps in more than love's embrace
That form for which yon vulture flaps its wing?
Kneel, Lancelot, kneel, thine eyes behold thy King!
Alas! in vain—still in the Death-god's cave,90
Ere yet the torrent snatch'd the hurrying stream,
Beside a crag grey-shimmering from the wave,
And near the brink by which the pallid beam
Show'd one pent path along the rugged verge,
By which to leave the raft and 'scape the surge,—
Alas! in vain, that haven to the ark91
The dove had given!—just won the refuge-place,
When, thrice emerging from the sheeted dark,
White glanced a robe, and livid rose a face!
He saw, he sprang, he near'd, he grasp'd the vest!
And both the torrent grappled to its breast.
Yet in the immense and superhuman force,92
Love and despair bestow upon the bold,
The strong man battled with the Titan's course,
Grip'd rock and layer, and ledge, with snatching hold,
Bruised, bleeding, broken, onwards, downwards driven,
No wave his treasure from his grasp had riven
Saved, saved—at last before his reeling eyes93
(Into the pool, that check'd the Fury, hurl'd)
Shone, as he rose, through all the hurtling skies,
The dove's white wing; and ere the maëlstrom whirl'd
The madden'd waters to the central shock,
Show'd the gnarl'd roots of the redeeming rock.
Less sense than instinct caught the wing that shone,94
The crags that shelter'd;—the wild billows gave
The failing limbs a force no more their own,
And as he turn'd and sunk, the swerving wave
Swoop'd round, dash'd on, and to the isthmus sped,
Still breast to breast, the living and the dead!
[Pg 287]
Long vain were Lancelot's cares and knightly skill,95
Ere, through slow veins congeal'd, pulsed back the blood;
The very wounds, the valour of the will,
The peaks that broke the fury of the flood
Had help'd to save; alas, the strong to save!
For Strength to toil, till Love re-opes the grave.
Twice down the dismal path (the dove his guide)96
The fairy nursling bore his helpless load;
A chamois-hunter, in the vale descried,
Aided the convoy to the house of God.
Dark—wroth—convulsed, the earth-bound spirit lay;
Calm from the bier beside it, smiled the clay!
O Song—for Lydian elegy too stern,97
Song, cradled in the Celt's rough battle-shield;
Rather from thee should man, the soldier, learn
To hide the wounds—heroic while conceal'd;
From foes without the mean the palm may win,
What tries the noble is the war within!
Let the King's woe its muse in Silence claim,98
When sense return'd, and solitary life
Sate in the Shadow!—shade or sun the same,
Toil hath brief respite; man is made for strife,
Woman for rest!—rest, bright with dreams, is given,
Child of the heathen, in the Christian heaven!
And to the Christian prince's plighted bride,99
The simple monks the Christian's grave accord,
With lifted cross and swinging censer, glide
To passing bells—the hermits of the Lord;
And at that hour, in her own native vale,
Her own soft race their mystic loss bewail.
Methinks I see the Tuscan Genius yet,100
Lured, lingering by the clay it loved so well,
And listening to the two-fold dirge that met
In upper air;—here Nazarene anthems swell
Triumphal pæans!—there, the Alps behind,
Etrurian Næniæ,[12] load the lagging wind.
Pauses the startled genius to compare101
The notes that mourn the life, at best so brief,
With those that welcome to empyreal air
The bright escaper from a world of grief?
Marvelling what creed, beyond the happy vale,
Can teach the soul the loathèd Styx to hail!

[Pg 288]

THE ETRURIAN NÆNIÆ.
Where art thou, pale and melancholy ghost?
No funeral rites appease thy tombless clay;
Unburied, glidest thou by the dismal coast,
O exile from the day?
There, where the voice of love is heard no more,
Where the dull wave moans back the eternal wail,
Dost thou recall the summer suns of yore,
Thine own melodious vale?
Thy Lares stand on thy deserted floors,
And miss their last sweet daughter's holy face;
What hand shall wreathe with flowers the threshold doors?
What child renew the race?
Thine are the nuptials of the dreary shades,
Of all thy groves what rests?—the cypress tree!
As from the air a strain of music fades,
Dark silence buries thee!
Yet no, lost child of more than mortal sires,
Thy stranger bridegroom bears thee to his home,
Where the stars light the Æsars' nuptial fires
In Tina's azure dome;
From the fierce wave the god's celestial wing
Rapt thee aloft along the yielding air;
With amaranths fresh from heaven's eternal spring,
Bright Cupra[13] braids thy hair,
Ah, in those halls for us thou wilt not mourn,
Far are the Æsars' joys from human woe:
But not the less forsaken and forlorn
Those thou hast left below!
Never, oh never more, shall we behold thee,
The last spark dies upon the sacred hearth;
Art thou less lost, though heavenly arms enfold thee—
Art thou less lost to earth?
Slow swells the sorrowing Næniæ's chanted strain:
Time, with slow flutes, our leaden footsteps keep;
Sad earth, whate'er the happier heaven may gain,
Hath but a loss to weep.
THE CHRISTIAN FUNERAL HYMN
Sing we Halleluiah—singing
Halleluiah to the Three;
Where, vain Death, oh, where thy stinging?
Where, O Grave, thy victory?
As a sun a soul hath risen,
Rising from a stormy main;
When a captive breaks the prison,
Who but slaves would mourn the chain
[Pg 289]
Fear for age subdued by trial,
Heavy with the years of sin:
When the sunlight leaves the dial,
And the solemn shades begin;—
Not for youth!—although the bosom
With a sharper grief be wrung;
For the May wind strews the blossom,
And the angel takes the young!
Saved from sins, while yet forgiven;—
From the joys that lead astray,
From the earth at war with heaven,
Soar, O happy soul, away!
From the human love that fadeth,
In the falsehood or the tomb;
From the cloud that darkly shadeth;
From the canker in the bloom;
Thou hast pass'd to suns unsetting,
Where the rainbow spans the flood,
Where no moth the garb is fretting,
Where no worm is in the bud.
Let the arrow leave the quiver,
It was fashioned but to soar;
Let the wave pass from the river,
Into ocean evermore!
Mindful yet of mortal feeling,
In thy fresh immortal birth;
By the Virgin mother kneeling,
Plead for those beloved on earth.
Whisper them thou hast forsaken,
"Woe but borders unbelief!"
Comfort smiles in faith unshaken:
Shall thy glory be their grief?
Let one ray on them descending,
From the prophet Future stream;
Bliss is daylight never ending,
Sorrow but a passing dream.
O'er the grave in far communion,
With the choral Seraphim,
Chaunt in notes that hail reunion,
Chaunt the Christian's funeral hymn;—
Singing Halleluiah—singing
Halleluiah to the Three;
Where, vain Death, oh where thy stinging?
Where, O Grave, thy victory?

[Pg 290]

So rests the child of creeds before the Greek's,102
In our Lord's holy ground—between the walls
Of the grey convent and the verdant creeks
Of the sequester'd mere; afar the falls
Of the fierce torrent from her native vale,
Vex the calm wave, and groan upon the gale.
Survives that remnant of old races still,103
In its strange haven from the surge of Time?
There yet do Camsee's songs at sunset thrill,
At the same hour when here, the vesper chime
Hymns the sweet Mother? Ah, can granite gate,
Cataract, and Alp, exclude the steps of Fate?
World-wearied man, thou knowest not on the earth104
What regions lie beyond, yet near, thy ken!
But couldst thou find them, where would be the worth?
Life but repeats its triple tale to men.
Three truths unite the children of the sod—
All love—all suffer—and all feel a God!
By Ægle's grave the royal mourner sate,105
And from his bended eyes the veiling hand
Shut out the setting sun; thus, desolate,
He sate, with Memory in her spirit-land,
And took no heed of Lancelot's soothing words,
Vain to the oak, bolt-shatter'd, sing the birds!
Vain is their promise of returning spring!106
Spring may give leaves, can spring reclose the core?
Comfort not sorrow—sorrow's self must bring
Its own stern cure!—All wisdom's holiest lore,
The "KNOW THYSELF" descends from heaven in tears;
The cloud must break before the horizon clears.
The dove forsook not:—now its poisèd wing,107
Bathed in the sunset, rested o'er the lake;
Now brooded o'er the grave beside the King;
Now with hush'd plumes, as if it fear'd to wake
Sleep, less serene than Death's, it sought his breast,
And o'er the heart of misery claim'd its nest.
Night falls—the moon is at her full;—the mere108
Shines with the sheen pellucid; not a breeze!
And through the hush'd and argent atmosphere
Sharp rise the summits of the breathless trees.
When Lancelot saw, all indistinct and pale,
Glide o'er the liquid glass a mistlike sail.
[Pg 291]
Now, first from Arthur's dreams of fever gain'd,109
And since (for grief unlocks the secret heart)
Briefly confess'd, the triple toil ordain'd
The knightly brother knew;—so with a start
He strain'd the eyes, to which a fairy gave
Vision of fairy forms, along the wave.
Then in his own the King's cold hand he took,110
And spoke—"Arise, thy mission calls thee now!
Let the dead rest—still lives thy country!—look,
And nerve thy knighthood to redeem its vow.
This is the lake whose waves the falchion hide,
And yon the bark that becks thee to the tide!"
The mourner listless rose, and look'd abroad,111
Nor saw the sail;—though nearer, clearer gliding,
The Fairy nurseling, by the vapoury shroud
And vapoury helm, beheld a phantom guiding.
"Not this," replied the King, "the lake decreed;
Where points thy hand, but floats a broken reed!
"Where are the dangers on that placid tide?112
Where are the fiends that guard the enchanted boon
Behold, where rests the pilgrim's plumèd guide
On the cold grave—beneath the quiet moon!
So night gives rest to grief—with labouring day
Let the dove lead, and life resume, the way!"
Then answer'd Lancelot—for he was wise113
In each mysterious Druid parable:—
"Oft in the things most simple to our eyes,
The real genii of our doom may dwell—
The enchanter spoke of trials to befal;
And the lone heart has trials worse than all!
"Weird triads tell us that our nature knows114
In its own cells the demons it should brave;
And oft the calm of after glory flows
Clear round the marge of early passion's grave!"
And the dove came ere Lancelot ceased to speak,
To its lord's hand—a leaflet in its beak,
Pluck'd from the grave! Then Arthur's labouring thought115
Recall'd the prophet words—and doubt was o'er;
He knew the lake that hid the boon he sought
Both by the grave, and by the herb it bore;
He took the bitter treasure from the dove,
And tasted Knowledge at the grave of Love,
[Pg 292]
And straight the film fell from his heavy eyes;116
And moor'd beside the marge, he saw the bark,
And by the sails that swell'd in windless skies,
The phantom Lady in the robes of dark.
O'er moonlit tracks she stretch'd the shadowy hand,
And lo, beneath the waters bloom'd the land!
Forests of emerald verdure spread below,117
Through which proud columns glisten far and wide,
On to the bark the mourner's footsteps go;
The pale King stands by the pale phantom's side;
And Lancelot sprang—but sudden from his reach
Glanced the wan skiff, and left him on the beach.
Chain'd to the earth by spells, more strong than love,118
He saw the pinnace steal its noiseless way,
And on the mast there sate the steadfast dove,
With white plume shining in the steadfast ray—
Slow from the sight the airy vessel glides,
Till Heaven alone is mirror'd on the tides.

[Pg 293]

BOOK VI.

ARGUMENT.

Description of the Cymrian fire-beacons—Dialogue between Gawaine and Caradoc—The raven—Merlin announces to Gawaine that the bird selects him for the aid of the King—The knight's pious scruples—He yields reluctantly, and receives the raven as his guide—His pathetic farewell to Caradoc—He confers with Henricus on the propriety of exorcising the raven—Character of Henricus—The knight sets out on his adventures—The company he meets, and the obligation he incurs—The bride and the sword—The bride's choice and the hound's fidelity—Sir Gawaine lies down to sleep under the fairy's oak—What there befalls him—The fairy banquet—The temptation of Sir Gawaine—The rebuke of the fairies—Sir Gawaine, much displeased with the raven, resumes his journey—His adventure with the Vikings, and how he comforts himself in his captivity.

On the bare summit of the loftiest peak—1
Crowning the hills round Cymri's Iscan home,
Rose the grey temple of the Faith Antique,
Before whose priests had paused the march of Rome,
When the Dark Isle reveal'd its drear abodes,
And the last Hades of Cimmerian gods;
While dauntless Druids, by their shrines profaned,2
Stretch'd o'er the steel-clad hush, their swordless hands,[1]
And dire Religion, horror-breathing, chain'd
The frozen eagles,—till the shuddering bands