Poems of Sidney Lanier
Mary D. Lanier
UNREVISED EARLY POEMS.*Page Page 183
THE JACQUERIE—A FRAGMENT.
ONCE on a time, a Dawn, all red and bright
Leapt on the conquered ramparts of the Night,
And flamed, one brilliant instant, on the world,
Then back into the historic moat was hurled
And Night was King again, for many years.
—Once on a time the Rose of Spring blushed out
But Winter angrily withdrew it back
Into his rough new-bursten husk, and shut
The stern husk-leaves, and hid it many years.
—Once Famine tricked himself with ears of corn,
And Hate strung flowers on his spikèd belt,
And glum Revenge in silver lilies pranked him,
And Lust put violets on his shameless front,
And all minced forth o' the street like holiday folk
That sally off afield on Summer morns.
—Once certain hounds that knew of many a chase,
And bare great wounds of antler and of tusk
That they had ta'en to give a lord some sport,
—Good hounds, that would have died to give lords sport—
Were so bewrayed and kicked by these same lords
That all the pack turned tooth o' the knights and bit
As knights had been no better things than boars,
And took revenge as bloody as a man's,
Unboundlike, sudden, hot i' the chops, and sweet.
—Once sat a falcon on a lady's wrist,
Seeming to doze, with wrinkled eye-lid drawn,
But dreaming hard of hoods and slaveries
And of dim hungers in his heart and wings.Page 184
Then, while the mistress gazed above for game,
Sudden he flew into her painted face
And hooked his horn-claws in her lily throat
And drove his beak into her lips and eyes
In fierce and hawkish kissing that did scar
And mar the lady's beauty evermore.
—And once while Chivalry stood tall and lithe
And flashed his sword above the stricken eyes
Of all the simple peasant-folk of France:
While Thought was keen and hot and quick,
And did not play, as in these later days,
Like summer-lightning flickering in the west
—As little dreadful as if glow-worms lay
In the cool and watery clouds and glimmered weak—
But gleamed and struck at once or oak or man,
And left not space for Time to wave his wing
Betwixt the instantaneous flash and stroke:
While yet the needs of life were brave and fierce
And did not hide their deeds behind their words,
And logic came not 'twixt desire and act,
And Want-and-Take was the whole Form of life:
While Love had fires a-burning in his veins,
And hidden Hate could flash into revenge:
Ere yet young Trade was 'ware of his big thews
Or dreamed that in the bolder afterdays
He would hew down and bind old Chivalry
And drag him to the highest height of fame
And plunge him thence in the sea of still Romance
To lie for aye in never-rusted mail
Gleaming through quiet ripples of soft songs
And sheens of old traditionary tales;—
On such a time, a certain May arose
From out that blue Sea that between five lands
Lies like a violet midst of five large leaves,
Arose from out this violet and flew onPage 185
And stirred the spirits of the woods of France
And smoothed the brows of moody Auvergne hills,
And wrought warm sea-tints into maidens' eyes,
And calmed the wordy air of market-towns
With faint suggestions blown from distant buds,
Until the land seemed a mere dream of land,
And, in this dream-field Life sat like a dove
And cooed across unto her dove-mate Death,
Brooding, pathetic, by a river, lone.
Oh, sharper tongs pierced through this perfumed May.
Strange aches sailed by with odors on the wind
As when we kneel in flowers that grow on graves
Of friends who died unworthy of our love.
King John of France was proving such an ache
In English prisons wide and fair and grand,
Whose long expanses of green park and chace
Did ape large liberty with such success
As smiles of irony ape smiles of love.
Down from the oaks of Hertford Castle park,
Double with warm rose-breaths of southern Spring
Came rumors, as if odors too had thorns,
Sharp rumors, how the three Estates of France,
Like old Three-headed Cerberus of Hell
Had set upon the Duke of Normandy,
Their rightful Regent, snarled in his great face,
Snapped jagged teeth in inch-breadth of his throat,
And blown such hot and savage breath upon him,
That he had tossed great sops of royalty
Unto the clamorous, three-mawed baying beast.
And was not further on his way withal,
And had but changed a snarl into a growl:
How Arnold de Cervolles had ta'en the track
That war had burned along the unhappy land,
Shouting, since France is then too poor to pay
The soldiers that have bloody devoir done,Page 186
And since needs must, pardie! a man must eat,
Arm, gentlemen! swords slice as well as knives!
And so had tempted stout men from the ranks,
And now was adding robbers' waste to war's,
Stealing the leavings of remorseless battle,
And making gaunter the gaunt bones of want:
How this Cervolles (called "Arch-priest" by the mass)
Through warm Provence had marched and menace made
Against Pope Innocent at Avignon,
And how the Pope nor ate nor drank nor slept,
Through godly fear concerning his red wines.
For if these knaves should sack his holy house
And all the blessed casks be knocked o' the head,
Horrendum! all his Holiness' drink to be
Profanely guzzled down the reeking throats
Of scoundrels, and inflame them on to seize
The massy coffers of the Church's gold,
And steal, mayhap, the carven silver shrine
And all the golden crucifixes? No!—
And so the holy father Pope made stir
And had sent forth a legate to Cervolles,
And treated with him, and made compromise,
And, last, had bidden all the Arch-priest's troop
To come and banquet with him in his house,
Where they did wassail high by night and day
And Father Pope sat at the board and carved
Midst jokes that flowed full greasily,
And priest and soldier trolled good songs for mass,
And all the prayers the Priests made were, pray, drink,
And all the oaths the Soldiers swore were, drink!
Till Mirth sat like a jaunty postillon
Upon the back of Time and urged him on
With piquant spur, past chapel and past cross:
How Charles, King of Navarre, in long duress
By mandate of King John within the wallsPage 187
Of Crêvaœur and then of strong Allères,
In faithful ward of Sir Tristan du Bois,
Was now escaped, had supped with Guy Kyrec,
Had now a pardon of the Regent Duke
By half compulsion of a Paris mob,
Had turned the people's love upon himself
By smooth harangues, and now was bold to claim
That France was not the Kingdom of King John,
But, By our Lady, his, by right and worth,
And so was plotting treason in the State,
And laughing at weak Charles of Normandy.
Nay, these had been like good news to the King,
Were any man but bold enough to tell
The King what [bitter] sayings men had made
And hawked augmenting up and down the land
Against the barons and great lords of France
That fled from English arrows at Poictiers.
Poictiers, Poictiers: this grain i' the eye of France
Had swelled it to a big and bloodshot ball
That looked with rage upon a world askew.
Poictiers' disgrace was now but two years old,
Yet so outrageous rank and full was grown
That France was wholly overspread with shade,
And bitter fruits lay on the untilled ground
That stank and bred so foul contagious smells
That not a nose in France but stood awry,
Nor boor that cried not faugh! upon the air.
FRANCISCAN friar John de Rochetaillade
With gentle gesture lifted up his hand
And poised it high above the steady eyes
Of a great crowd that thronged the market-place
In fair Clermont to hear him prophesy.Page 188
Midst of the crowd old Gris Grillon, the maimed,
—A wretched wreck that fate had floated out
From the drear storm of battle at Poictiers.
A living man whose larger moiety
Was dead and buried on the battle-field—
A grisly trunk, without or arms or legs,
And scarred with hoof-cuts over cheek and brow,
Lay in his wicker-cradle, smiling.
Quoth he, "My son, I would behold this priest
That is not fat, and loves not wine, and fasts,
And stills the folk with waving of his hand,
And threats the knights and thunders at the Pope.
Make way for Gris, ye who are whole of limb!
Set me on yonder ledge, that I may see."
Forthwith a dozen horny hands reached out
And lifted Gris Grillon upon the ledge,
Whereon he lay and overlooked the crowd,
And from the gray-grown hedges of his brows
Shot forth a glance against the friar's eye
That struck him like an arrow.
Then the friar,
With voice as low as if a maiden hummed
Love-songs of Provence in a mild day-dream:
"And when he broke the second seal, I heard
The second beast say, Come and see.
Went out another horse, and he was red.
And unto him that sat thereon was given
To take the peace of earth away, and set
Men killing one another: and they gave
To him a mighty sword."
The friar paused
And pointed round the circle of sad eyes.
"There is no face of man or woman herePage 189
But showeth print of the hard hoof of war.
Ah, yonder leaneth limbless Gris Grillon.
Friends, Gris Grillon is France.
Good France; my France,
Wilt never walk on glory's hills again?
Wilt never work among thy vines again?
Art footless and art handless evermore?
—Thou felon, War, I do arraign thee now
Of mayhem of the four main limbs of France!
Thou old red criminal, stand forth; I charge
—But O, I am too utter sorrowful
To urge large accusation now.
My work to-day, is still more grievous. Hear!
The stains that war hath wrought upon the land
Show but as faint white flecks, if seen o' the side
Of those blood-covered images that stalk
Through yon cold chambers of the future, as
The prophet-mood, now stealing on my soul,
Reveals them, marching, marching, marching. See!
There go the kings of France, in piteous file.
The deadly diamonds shining in their crowns
Do wound the foreheads of their Majesties
And glitter through a setting of blood-gouts
As if they smiled to think how men are slain
By the sharp facets of the gem of power,
And how the kings of men are slaves of stones.
But look! The long procession of the kings
Wavers and stops; the world is full of noise,
The ragged peoples storm the palaces,
They rave, they laugh, they thirst, they lap the stream
That trickles from the regal vestments down,
And, lapping, smack their heated chaps for more,
And ply their daggers for it, till the kings
All die and lie in a crooked sprawl of death,Page 190
Ungainly, foul, and stiff as any heap
Of villeins rotting on a battle-field.
'T is true, that when these things have come to pass
Then never a king shall rule again in France,
For every villein shall be king in France:
And who hath lordship in him, whether born
In hedge or silken bed, shall be a lord:
And queens shall be as thick i' the land as wives,
And all the maids shall maids of honor be:
And high and low shall commune solemnly:
And stars and stones shall have free interview.
But woe is me, 'tis also piteous true
That ere this gracious time shall visit France,
Your graves, Beloved, shall be some centuries old,
And so your children's, and their children's graves
And many generations'.
Ye, O ye
Shall grieve, and ye shall grieve, and ye shall grieve.
Your Life shall bend and o'er his shuttle toil,
A weaver weaving at the loom of grief.
Your Life shall sweat 'twixt anvil and hot forge,
An armorer working at the sword of grief.
Your Life shall moil i' the ground, and plant his seed,
A farmer foisoning a huge crop of grief.
Your Life shall chaffer in the market-place,
A merchant trading in the goods of grief.
Your Life shall go to battle with his bow,
A soldier fighting in defence of grief.
By every rudder that divides the seas,
Tall Grief shall stand, the helmsman of the ship.
By every wain that jolts along the roads,
Stout Grief shall walk, the driver of the team.
Midst every herd of cattle on the hills,
Dull Grief shall lie, the herdsman of the drove.Page 191
Oh Grief shall grind your bread and play your lutes
And marry you and bury you.
Who's here in France, can win her people's faith
And stand in front and lead the people on?
Where is the Church?
The Church is far too fat.
Not, mark, by robust swelling of the thews,
But puffed and flabby large with gross increase
Of wine-fat, plague-fat, dropsy-fat.
Thou Pope that cheatest God at Avignon,
Thou that shouldst be the Father of the world
And Regent of it whilst our God is gone;
Thou that shouldst blaze with conferred majesty
And smite old Lust-o'-the-Flesh so as by flame;
Thou that canst turn thy key and lock Grief up
Or turn thy key and unlock Heaven's Gate,
Thou that shouldst be the veritable hand
That Christ down-stretcheth out of heaven yet
To draw up him that fainteth to His heart,
Thou that shouldst bear thy fruit, yet virgin live,
As she that bore a man yet sinnèd not,
Thou that shouldst challenge the most special eyes
Of Heaven and Earth and Hell to mark thee, since
Thou shouldst be Heaven's best captain, Earth's best friend,
And Hell's best enemy—false Pope, false Pope,
The world, thy child, is sick and like to die,
But thou art dinner-drowsy and cannot come:
And Life is sore beset and crieth help!
But thou brook'st not disturbance at thy wine:
And France is wild for one to lead her souls;
But thou art huge and fat and laggest back
Among the remnants of forsaken camps.
Thou 'rt not God's Pope, thou art the Devil's Pope.Page 192
Thou art first Squire to that most puissant knight,
Lord Satan, who thy faithful squireship long
Hath watched and well shall guerdon.
Ye sad souls,
So faint with work ye love not, so thin-worn
With miseries ye wrought not, so outraged
By strokes of ill that pass th' ill-doers' heads
And cleave the innocent, so desperate tired
Of insult that doth day by day abuse
The humblest dignity of humblest men,
Ye cannot call toward the Church for help.
The Church already is o'erworked with care
Of its dyspeptic stomach.
Ha, the Church
Forgets about eternity.
A vision of forgetfulness.
Born of a dream, as yonder cloud is born
Of water which is born of cloud!
I saw the moonlight lying large and calm
Upon the unthrobbing bosom of the earth,
As a great diamond glittering on a shroud.
A sense of breathlessness stilled all the world.
Motion stood dreaming he was changed to Rest,
And Life asleep did fancy he was Death.
A quick small shadow spotted the white world;
Then instantly 'twas huge, and huger grew
By instants till it did o'ergloom all space.
I lifted up mine eyes—O thou just God!
I saw a spectre with a million heads
Come frantic downward through the universe,
And all the mouths of it were uttering cries,
Wherein was a sharp agony, and yetPage 193
The cries were much like laughs: as if Pain laughed.
Its myriad lips were blue, and sometimes they
Closed fast and only moaned dim sounds that shaped
Themselves to one word, Homeless, and the stars
Did utter back the moan, and the great hills
Did bellow it, and then the stars and hills
Bandied the grief o' the ghost 'twixt heaven and earth.
The spectre sank, and lay upon the air,
And brooded, level, close upon the earth,
With all the myriad heads just over me.
I glanced in all the eyes and marked that some
Did glitter with a flame of lunacy,
And some were soft and false as feigning love,
And some were blinking with hypocrisy,
And some were overfilmed by sense, and some
Blazed with ambition's wild, unsteady fire,
And some were burnt i' the sockets black, and some
Were dead as embers when the fire is out.
A curious zone circled the Spectre's waist,
Which seemed with strange device to symbol Time.
It was a silver-gleaming thread of day
Spiral about a jet-black band of night.
This zone seemed ever to contract and all
The frame with momentary spasms heaved
In the strangling traction which did never cease.
I cried unto the spectre, Time hath bound
Thy body with the fibre of his hours.
Then rose a multitude of mocking sounds,
And some mouths spat at me and cried thou fool,
And some, thou liest, and some, he dreams: and then
Some hands uplifted certain bowls they bore
To lips that writhed but drank with eagerness.
And some played curious viols, shaped like hearts
And stringed with loves, to light and ribald tunes,
And other hands slit throats with knives,Page 194
And others patted all the painted cheeks
In reach, and others stole what others had
Unseen, or boldly snatched at alien rights,
And some o' the heads did vie in a foolish game
Of which could hold itself the highest, and
Of which one's neck was stiff the longest time.
And then the sea in silence wove a veil
Of mist, and breathed it upward and about,
And waved and wound it softly round the world,
And meshed my dream i' the vague and endless folds,
And a light wind arose and blew these off,
And I awoke.
The many heads are priests
That have forgot eternity: and Time
Hath caught and bound them with a withe
Into a fagot huge, to burn in hell.
—Now if the priesthood put such shame upon
Your cry for leadership, can better help
Come out of knighthood?
Lo! you smile, you boors?
You villeins smile at knighthood?
Now, thou France
That wert the mother of fair chivalry,
Unclose thine eyes, unclose thine eyes, here, see,
Here stand a herd of knaves that laugh to scorn
O contumely hard,
O bitterness of last disgrace, O sting
That stings the coward knights of lost Poictiers!
I would—" but now a murmur rose i' the crowd
Of angry voices, and the friar leapt
From where he stood to preach and pressed a path
Betwixt the mass that way the voices came.
LORD RAOUL was riding castleward from field.
At left hand rode his lady and at right
His fool whom he loved better; and his bird,
His fine ger-falcon best beloved of all,
Sat hooded on his wrist and gently swayed
To the undulating amble of the horse.
Guest-knights and huntsmen and a noisy train
Of loyal-stomached flatterers and their squires
Clattered in retinue, and aped his pace,
And timed their talk by his, and worked their eyes
By intimation of his glance, with great
And drilled precision.
Then said the fool:
"'Twas a brave flight, my lord, that last one! brave.
Didst note the heron once did turn about,
And show a certain anger with his wing,
And make as if he almost dared, not quite,
To strike the falcon, ere the Falcon him?
A foolish damnable advisèd bird,
Yon heron! What? Shall herons grapple hawks?
God made the herons for the hawks to strike,
And hawk and heron made he for lords' sport."
"What then, my honey-tonguèd Fool, that knowest
God's purposes, what made he fools for?"
To counsel lords, my lord. Wilt hear me prove
Fools' counsel better than wise men's advice?"
"Aye, prove it. If thy logic fail, wise fool,
I'll cause two wise men whip thee soundly."
Wise men are prudent: prudent men have care
For their own proper interest; therefore theyPage 196
Advise their own advantage, not another's.
But fools are careless: careless men care not
For their own proper interest; therefore they
Advise their friend's advantage, not their own.
Now hear the commentary, Cousin Raoul.
This fool, unselfish, counsels thee, his lord,
Go not through yonder square, where, as thou see'st
Yon herd of villeins, crick-necked all with strain
Of gazing upward, stand, and gaze, and take
With open mouth and eye and ear, the quips
And heresies of John de Rochetaillade."
Lord Raoul half turned him in his saddle round,
And looked upon his fool and vouchsafed him
What moiety of fastidious wonderment
A generous nobleness could deign to give
To such humility, with eye superb
Where languor and surprise both showed themselves,
Each deprecating t'other.
"Now, dear knave,
Be kind and tell me—tell me quickly, too,—
Some proper reasonable ground or cause,
Nay, tell me but some shadow of some cause,
Nay, hint me but a thin ghost's dream of cause,
(So will I thee absolve from being whipped)
Why I, Lord Raoul, should turn my horse aside
From riding by yon pitiful villein gang,
Or ay, by God, from riding o'er their heads
If so my humor serve, or through their bodies,
Or miring fetlocks in their nasty brains,
Or doing aught else I will in my Clermont?
Do me this grace, mine Idiot."
"Please thy Wisdom
An thou dost ride through this same gang of boors,
'Tis my fool's-prophecy, some ill shall fall.
Lord Raoul, yon mass of various flesh is fusedPage 197
And melted quite in one by white-hot words
The friar speaks. Sir, sawest thou ne'er, sometimes,
Thine armorer spit on iron when 'twas hot,
And how the iron flung the insult back,
Hissing? So this contempt now in thine eye,
If it shall fall on yonder heated surface
May bounce back upward. Well: and then? What then?
Why, if thou cause thy folk to crop some villein's ears,
So, evil falls, and a fool foretells the truth.
Or if some erring crossbow-bolt should break
Thine unarmed head, shot from behind a house,
So, evil fails, and a feel foretells the truth."
"Well," quoth Lord Raoul, with languid utterance,
"'Tis very well—and thou'rt a foolish fool,
Nay, thou art Folly's perfect witless man,
Stupidity doth madly dote on thee,
And Idiocy doth fight her for thy love,
Yet Silliness doth love thee best of all,
And while they quarrel, snatcheth thee to her
And saith Ah! 'tis my sweetest No-brains: mine!
—And 'tis my mood to-day some ill shall fall."
And there right suddenly Lord Raoul gave rein
And galloped straightway to the crowded square,
—What time a strange light flickered in the eyes
Of the calm fool, that was not folly's gleam,
But more like wisdom's smile at plan well laid
And end well compassed. In the noise of hoofs
Secure, the fool low-muttered: "Folly's love!
So: Silliness' sweetheart: no-brains: quoth my Lord.
Why, how intolerable an ass is he
Whom Silliness' sweetheart drives so, by the ear!
Thou languid, lordly, most heart-breaking Nought!
Thou bastard zero, that hast come to power,
Nothing's right issue failing! Thou mere 'pooh'
That Life hath uttered in some moment's pet,Page 198
And then forgot she uttered thee! Thou gap
In time, thou little notch in circumstance!"
LORD RAOUL drew rein with all his company,
And urged his horse i' the crowd, to gain fair view
Of him that spoke, and stopped at last, and sat
Still, underneath where Gris Grillon was laid,
And heard, somewhile, with languid scornful gaze,
The friar putting blame on priest and knight.
But presently, as 'twere in weariness,
He gazed about, and then above, and so
Made mark of Gris Grillon.
"So, there, old man,
Thou hast more brows than legs!"
"I would," quoth Gris,
"That thou, upon a certain time I wot,
Hadst had less legs and bigger brows, my Lord!"
Then all the flatterers and their squires cried out
Solicitous, with various voice, "Go to,
Old Rogue," or "Shall I brain him, my good Lord?"
Or, "So, let me but chuck him from his perch,"
Or, "Slice his tongue to piece his leg withal,"
Or, "Send his eyes to look for his missing arms."
But my Lord Raoul was in the mood, to-day,
Which craves suggestions simply with a view
To flout them in the face, and so waved hand
Backward, and stayed the on-pressing sycophants
Eager to buy rich praise with bravery cheap.
"I would know why,"—he said—" thou wishedst me
Less legs and bigger brows; and when?"
Learn then," cried Gris Grillon and stirred himself,
In a great spasm of passion mixed with pain;Page 199
"An thou hadst had more courage and less speed,
Then, ah my God! then could not I have been
That piteous gibe of a man thou see 'st I am.
Sir, having no disease, nor any taint
Nor old hereditament of sin or shame,
—But, feeling the brave bound and energy
Of daring health that leaps along the veins—
As a hart upon his river banks at morn,
—Sir, wild with the urgings and hot strenuous beats
Of manhood's heart in this full-sinewed breast
Which thou may'st even now discern is mine,
—Sir, full aware, each instant in each day,
Of motions of great muscles, once were mine,
And thrill of tense thew-knots, and stinging sense
Of nerves, nice, capable and delicate:
—Sir, visited each hour by passions great
That lack all instrument of utterance,
Passion of love—that hath no arm to curve;
Passion of speed—that hath no limb to stretch;
Yea, even that poor feeling of desire
Simply to turn me from this side to that,
(Which brooded on, into wild passion grows
By reason of the impotence that broods)
Balked of its end and unachievable
Without assistance of some foreign arm,
—Sir, moved and thrilled like any perfect man,
O, trebly moved and thrilled, since poor desires
That are of small import to happy men
Who easily can compass them, to me
Become mere hopeless Heavens or actual Hells,
—Sir, strengthened so with manhood's seasoned soul,
I lie in this damned cradle day and night,
Still, still, so still, my Lord: less than a babe
In powers but more than any man in needs;
Dreaming, with open eye, of days when menPage 200
Have fallen cloven through steel and bone and flesh
At single strokes of this—of that big arm
Once wielded aught a mortal arm might wield,
Waking a prey to any foolish gnat
That wills to conquer my defenceless brow
And sit thereon in triumph; hounded ever
By small necessities of barest use
Which, since I cannot compass them alone,
Do snarl my helplessness into mine ear,
Howling behind me that I have no hands,
And yelping round me that I have no feet:
So that my heart is stretched by tiny ills
That are so much the larger that I knew
In bygone days how trifling small they were:
—Dungeoned in wicker, strong as 'twere in stone;
—Fast chained with nothing, firmer than with steel;
—Captive in limb, yet free in eye and ear,
Sole tenant of this puny Hell in Heaven:
—And this—all this—because I was a man!
For, in the battle—ha, thou know'st, pale-face!
When that the four great English horsemen bore
So bloodily on thee, I leapt to front
To front of thee—of thee—and fought four blades,
Thinking to win thee time to snatch thy breath,
And, by a rearing fore-hoof stricken down,
Mine eyes, through blood, my brain, through pain,
—Midst of a dim hot uproar fainting down—
Were 'ware of thee, far rearward, fleeing! Hound! "
THEN, as the passion of old Gris Grillon
A wave swift swelling, grew to highest height
And snapped a foaming consummation forth
With salty hissing, came the friar throughPage 201
The mass. A stillness of white faces wrought
A transient death on all the hands and breasts
Of all the crowd, and men and women stood,
One instant, fixed, as they had died upright.
Then suddenly Lord Raoul rose up in selle
And thrust his dagger straight upon the breast
Of Gris Grillon, to pin him to the wall;
But ere steel-point met flesh, tall Jacques Grillon
Had leapt straight upward from the earth, and in
The self-same act had whirled his bow by end
With mighty whirr about his head, and struck
The dagger with so featly stroke and full
That blade flew up and hilt flew down, and left
Lord Raoul unfriended of his weapon.
The fool cried shrilly, "Shall a knight of France
Go stabbing his own cattle?" And Lord Raoul,
Calm with a changing mood, sat still and called:
"Here, huntsmen, 'tis my will ye seize the hind
That broke my dagger, bind him to this tree
And slice both ears to hair-breadth of his head,
To be his bloody token of regret
That he hath put them to so foul employ
As catching villainous breath of strolling priests
That mouth at knighthood and defile the Church."
The knife . . . . . [ gap: ]
To place the edge . . . . [ gap: ]
Mary! the blood! it oozes sluggishly,
Scorning to come at call of blade so base.
Sathanas! He that cuts the ear has left
The blade sticking at midway, for to turn
And ask the Duke "if 'tis not done
Thus far with nice precision," and the Duke
Leans down to see, and cries, "'tis marvellous nice,
Shaved as thou wert ear-barber by profession!"Page 202
Whereat one witling cries, "'tis monstrous fit,
In sooth, a shaven-pated priest should have
A shaven-earèd audience;" and another,
"Give thanks, thou Jacques, to this most gracious Duke
That rids thee of the life-long dread of loss
Of thy two ears, by cropping them at once;
And now henceforth full safely thou may 'st dare
The powerfullest Lord in France to touch
An ear of thine;" and now the knave o' the knife
Seizes the handle to commence again, and saws
And . . ha! Lift up thine head, O Henry! Friend!
'Tis Marie, walking midway of the street,
As she had just stepped forth from out the gate
Of the very, very Heaven where God is,
Still glittering with the God-shine on her! Look!
And there right suddenly the fool looked up
And saw the crowd divided in two ranks.
Raoul pale-stricken as a man that waits
God's first remark when he hath died into
God's sudden presence, saw the cropping knave
A-pause with knife in hand, the wondering folk
All straining forward with round-ringèd eyes,
And Gris Grillon calm smiling while he prayed
The Holy Virgin's blessing.
Down the lane
Betwixt the hedging bodies of the crowd,
[ gap: ] . . . . majesty
[ gap: ] . . a spirit pacing on the top
Of springy clouds, and bore straight on toward
The Duke. On him her eyes burned steadily
With such gray fires of heaven-hot command
As Dawn burns Night away with, and she held
Her white forefinger quivering aloft
At greatest arm's-length of her dainty arm,
In menace sweeter than a kiss could bePage 203
And terribler than sudden whispers are
That come from lips unseen, in sunlit room.
So with the spell of all the Powers of Sense
That e'er have swayed the savagery of hot blood
Raying from her whole body beautiful,
She held the eyes and wills of all the crowd.
Then from the numbèd hand of him that cut,
The knife dropped down, and the quick fool stole in
And snatched and deftly severed all the withes
Unseen, and Jacques burst forth into the crowd,
And then the mass completed the long breath
They had forgot to draw, and surged upon
The centre where the maiden stood with sound
Of multitudes of blessings, and Lord Raoul
Rode homeward, silent and most pale and strange,
Deep-wrapt in moody fits of hot and cold.
(End of Chapter V.)
MACON, GEORGIA, 1868.Page 204
SONG FOR "THE JACQUERIE."
MAY the maiden,
Out of the violet sea,
Comes and hovers
Over thee, Marie, and me,
Over me and thee.
Day the stately,
Into the violet sea,
Over thee, Marie, and me,
Over me and thee.
Night the holy,
Over the violet sea,
Stars for thee, Marie, and me,
Stars for me and thee.
MACON, GEORGIA, 1868.Page 205
SONG FOR "THE JACQUERIE."
THE sun has kissed the violet sea,
And burned the violet to a rose.
O Sea! wouldst thou not better be
Mere violet still? Who knows? who knows?
Well hides the violet in the wood:
The dead leaf wrinkles her a hood,
And winter's ill is violet's good;
But the bold glory of the rose,
It quickly comes and quickly goes—
Red petals whirling in white snows,
The sun has burnt the rose-red sea:
The rose is turned to ashes gray.
O Sea, O Sea, mightst thou but be
The violet thou hast been to-day!
The sun is brave, the sun is bright,
The sun is lord of love and light;
But after him it cometh night.
Dim anguish of the lonesome dark!—
Once a girl's body, stiff and stark,
Was laid in a tomb without a mark,
MACON, GEORGIA, 1868.Page 206
SONG FOR "THE JACQUERIE."
The hound into his kennel crept;
He rarely wept, he never slept.
His mouth he always open kept
Licking his bitter wound,
The hound had but a churlish wit.
He seized the bone, he crunched, he bit.
"An thou wert Master, I had slit
Thy throat with a huge wound,"
He leapt, he seized the throat, he tore
The Master, head from neck, to floor,
And rolled the head i' the kennel door,
And fled and salved his wound,
MACON, GEORGIA, 1868.Page 207
THE GOLDEN WEDDING OF STERLING AND SARAH LANIER,
SEPTEMBER 27, 1868.
BY THE ELDEST GRANDSON.
A RAINBOW span of fifty years,
Painted upon a cloud of tears,
In blue for hopes and red for fears,
Finds end in a golden hour to-day.
Ah, you to our childhood the legend told,
At the end of the rainbow lies the gold,"
And now in our thrilling hearts we hold
The gold that never will pass away.
Gold crushed from the quartz of a crystal life,
Gold hammered with blows of human strife,
Gold burnt in the love of man and wife,
Till it is pure as the very flame:
Gold that the miser will not have,
Gold that is good beyond the grave,
Gold that the patient and the brave
Amass, neglecting praise and blame.
O golden hour that caps the time
Since, heart to heart like rhyme to rhyme,
You stood and listened to the chime
Of inner bells by spirits rung,
That tinkled many a secret sweet
Concerning how two souls should meet,
And whispered of Time's flying feet
With a most piquant silver tongue.
O golden day,—a golden crown
For the kingly heads that bowed not down
To win a smile or 'scape a frown,
Except the smile and frown of Heaven!
Dear heads, still dark with raven hair;
Dear hearts, still white in spite of care;
Dear eyes, still black and bright and fair
As any eyes to mortals given!
Old parents of a restless race,
You miss full many a bonny face
That would have smiled a filial grace
Around your Golden Wedding wine.
But God is good and God is great.
His will be done, if soon or late.
Your dead stand happy in yon Gate
And call you blessed while they shine.
So, drop the tear and dry the eyes.
Your rainbow glitters in the skies.
Here's golden wine: young, old, arise:
With cups as full as our souls, we say:
"Two Hearts, that wrought with smiles through tears
This rainbow span of fifty years,
Behold how true, true love appears
True gold for your Golden Wedding day!"
MACON, GEORGIA, September, 1868.Page 209
WELL: Death is a huge omnivorous Toad
Grim squatting on a twilight road.
He catcheth all that Circumstance
Hath tossed to him.
He curseth all who upward glance
As lost to him.
Once in a whimsey mood he sat
And talked of life, in proverbs pat,
To Eve in Eden,—"Death, on Life"—
As if he knew!
And so he toadied Adam's wife
There, in the dew.
O dainty dew, O morning dew
That gleamed in the world's first dawn, did you
And the sweet grass and manful oaks
Give lair and rest
To him who toadwise sits and croaks
Who fears the hungry Toad? Not I!
He but unfetters me to fly.
The German still, when one is dead,
Cries out "Der Tod! "
But, pilgrims, Christ will walk ahead
And clear the road.
MACON, GEORGIA, July, 1867.Page 210
THROUGH seas of dreams and seas of phantasies,
Through seas of solitudes and vacancies,
And through my Self, the deepest of the seas,
I strive to thee, Nirvâna.
Oh long ago the billow-flow of sense,
Aroused by passion's windy vehemence,
Upbore me out of depths to heights intense,
But not to thee, Nirvâna.
By waves swept on, I learned to ride the waves.
I served my masters till I made them slaves.
I baffled Death by hiding in his graves,
His watery graves, Nirvâna.
And once I clomb a mountain's stony crown
And stood, and smiled no smile and frowned no frown,
Nor ate, nor drank, nor slept, nor faltered down,
Five days and nights, Nirvâna.
Sunrise and noon and sunset and strange night
And shadow of large clouds and faint starlight
And lonesome Terror stalking round the height,
I minded not, Nirvâna.
The silence ground my soul keen like a spear.
My bare thought, whetted as a sword, cut sheer
Through time and life and flesh and death, to clear
My way unto Nirvâna.
I slew gross bodies of old ethnic hates
That stirred long race-wars betwixt States and States.
I stood and scorned these foolish dead debates,
Calmly, calmly, Nirvâna.
I smote away the filmy base of Caste.
I thrust through antique blood and riches vast,
And all big claims of the pretentious Past
That hindered my Nirvâna.
Then all fair types, of form and sound and hue,
Up-floated round my sense and charmed anew.
—I waved them back into the void blue:
I love them not, Nirvâna.
And all outrageous ugliness of time,
Excess and Blasphemy and squinting Crime
Beset me, but I kept my calm sublime:
I hate them not, Nirvâna.
High on the topmost thrilling of the surge
I saw, afar, two hosts to battle urge.
The widows of the victors sang a dirge,
But I wept not, Nirvâna.
I saw two lovers sitting on a star.
He kissed her lip, she kissed his battle-scar.
They quarrelled soon, and went two ways, afar.
O Life! I laughed, Nirvâna.
And never a king but had some king above,
And never a law to right the wrongs of Love,
And ever a fangèd snake beneath a dove,
Saw I on earth, Nirvâna.
But I, with kingship over kings, am free.
I love not, hate not: right and wrong agree:
And fangs of snakes and lures of doves to me
Are vain, are vain, Nirvâna.
So by mine inner contemplation long,
By thoughts that need no speech nor oath nor song,
My spirit soars above the motley throng
Of days and nights, Nirvâna.
O Suns, O Rains, O Day and Night, O Chance,
O Time besprent with seven-hued circumstance,
I float above ye all into the trance
That draws me nigh Nirvâna.
Gods of small worlds, ye little Deities
Of humble Heavens under my large skies,
And Governor-Spirits, all, I rise, I rise,
I rise into Nirvâna.
The storms of Self below me rage and die.
On the still bosom of mine ecstasy,
A lotus on a lake of balm, I lie
Forever in Nirvâna.
MACON, GEORGIA, 1869.Page 213
THE RAVEN DAYS.
OUR hearths are gone out and our hearts are broken,
And but the ghosts of homes to us remain,
And ghastly eyes and hollow sighs give token
From friend to friend of an unspoken pain.
O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,
Bring to us in your whetted ivory beaks
Some sign out of the far land of To-morrow,
Some strip of sea-green dawn, some orange streaks.
Ye float in dusky files, forever croaking.
Ye chill our manhood with your dreary shade.
Dumb in the dark, not even God invoking,
We lie in chains, too weak to be afraid.
O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,
Will ever any warm light come again?
Will ever the lit mountains of To-morrow
Begin to gleam athwart the mournful plain?
PRATTVILLE, ALABAMA February, 1868.Page 214
HE 'S fast asleep. See how, O Wife,
Night's finger on the lip of life
Bids whist the tongue, so prattle-rife,
Of busy Baby Charley.
One arm stretched backward round his head,
Five little toes from out the bed
Just showing, like five rosebuds red,
—So slumbers Baby Charley.
Heaven-lights, I know, are beaming through
Those lucent eyelids, veined with blue,
That shut away from mortal view
Large eyes of Baby Charley.
O sweet Sleep-Angel, thronèd now
On the round glory of his brow,
Wave thy wing and waft my vow
Breathed over Baby Charley.
I vow that my heart, when death is nigh,
Shall never shiver with a sigh
For act of hand or tongue or eye
That wronged my Baby Charley!
MACON, GEORGIA, December, 1869.Page 215
A SEA-SHORE GRAVE.
BY SIDNEY AND CLIFFORD LANIER.
O WISH that's vainer than the plash
Of these wave-whimsies on the shore:
"Give us a pearl to fill the gash—
God, let our dead friend live once more!"
O wish that's stronger than the stroke
Of yelling wave and snapping levin;
"God, lift us o'er the Last Day's smoke,
All white, to Thee and her in Heaven!"
O wish that's swifter than the race
Of wave and wind in sea and sky;
Let's take the grave-cloth from her face
And fall in the grave, and kiss, and die!
Look! High above a glittering calm
Of sea and sky and kingly sun,
She shines and smiles, and waves a palm—
And now we wish—Thy will be done!
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, 1866.Page 216
SOULS AND RAIN-DROPS.
LIGHT rain-drops fall and wrinkle the sea,
Then vanish, and die utterly.
One would not know that rain-drops fell
If the round sea-wrinkles did not tell.
So souls come down and wrinkle life
And vanish in the flesh-sea strife.
One might not know that souls had place
Were 't not for the wrinkles in life's face.
A ROSE of perfect red, embossed
With silver sheens of crystal frost,
Yet warm, nor life nor fragrance lost.
High passion throbbing in a sphere
That Art hath wrought of diamond clear,
—A great heart beating in a tear.
The listening soul is full of dreams
That shape the wondrous-varying themes
As cries of men or plash of streams.
Or noise of summer rain-drops round
That patter daintily a-ground
With hints of heaven in the sound.
Or noble wind-tones chanting free
Through morning-skies across the sea
Wild hymns to some strange majesty.
O, if one trope, clear-cut and keen,
May type the art of Song's best queen,
White-hot of soul, white-chaste of mien,
NEW YORK, 1871.Page 218
NIGHT AND DAY.
THE innocent, sweet Day is dead.
Dark Night hath slain her in her bed.
O, Moors are as fierce to kill as to wed!
—Put out the light, said he.
A sweeter light than ever rayed
From star of heaven or eye of maid
Has vanished in the unknown Shade.
—She's dead, she's dead, said he.
Now, in a wild, sad after-mood
The tawny Night sits still to brood
Upon the dawn-time when he wooed.
—I would she lived, said he.
Star-memories of happier times,
Of loving deeds and lovers' rhymes,
Throng forth in silvery pantomimes.
—Come back, O Day! said he.
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, 1866.Page 219
A BIRTHDAY SONG.
FOR ever wave, for ever float and shine
Before my yearning eyes, oh! dream of mine
Wherein I dreamed that time was like a vine,
A creeping rose, that clomb a height of dread
Out of the sea of Birth, all filled with dead,
Up to the brilliant cloud of Death o'erhead.
This vine bore many blossoms, which were years.
Their petals, red with joy, or bleached by tears,
Waved to and fro i' the winds of hopes and fears.
Here all men clung, each hanging by his spray.
Anon, one dropped; his neighbor 'gan to pray;
And so they clung and dropped and prayed, alway.
But I did mark one lately-opened bloom,
Wherefrom arose a visible perfume
That wrapped me in a cloud of dainty gloom.
And rose—an odor by a spirit haunted—
And drew me upward with a speed enchanted,
Swift floating, by wild sea or sky undaunted,
Straight through the cloud of death, where men are free.
I gained a height, and stayed and bent my knee.
Then glowed my cloud, and broke and unveiled thee.
"O flower-born and flower-souled!" I said,
"Be the year-bloom that breathed thee ever red,
Nor wither, yellow, down among the dead.
"May all that cling to sprays of time, like me,
Be sweetly wafted over sky and sea
By rose-breaths shrining maidens like to thee!"
Then while we sat upon the height afar
Came twilight, like a lover late from war,
With soft winds fluting to his evening star.
And the shy stars grew bold and scattered gold,
And chanting voices ancient secrets told,
And an acclaim of angels earthward rolled.
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, October, 1866.Page 221
SOMETIMES in morning sunlights by the river
Where in the early fall long grasses wave,
Light winds from over the moorland sink and shiver
And sigh as if just blown across a grave.
And then I pause and listen to this sighing.
I look with strange eyes on the well-known stream.
I hear wild birth-cries uttered by the dying.
I know men waking who appear to dream.
Then from the water-lilies slow uprises
The still vast face of all the life I know,
Changed now, and full of wonders and surprises,
With fire in eyes that once were glazed with snow.
Fair now the brows old Pain had erewhile wrinkled,
And peace and strength about the calm mouth dwell.
Clean of the ashes that Repentance sprinkled,
The meek head poises like a flower-bell.
All the old scars of wanton wars are vanished;
And what blue bruises grappling Sense had left
And sad remains of redder stains are banished,
And the dim blotch of heart-committed theft.
O still vast vision of transfigured features
Unvisited by secret crimes or dooms,
Remain, remain amid these water-creatures,
Stand, shine among yon water-lily blooms.
For eighteen centuries ripple down the river,
And windy times the stalks of empires wave,
—Let the winds come from the moor and sigh and shiver,
Fain, fain am I, O Christ, to pass the grave.
THE Day was dying; his breath
Wavered away in a hectic gleam;
And I said, if Life's a dream, and Death
And Love and all are dreams—I'll dream.
A mist came over the bay
Like as a dream would over an eye.
The mist was white and the dream was grey
And both contained a human cry,
The burthen whereof was "Love,"
And it filled both mist and dream with pain,
And the hills below and the skies above
Were touched and uttered it back again.
The mist broke: down the rift
A kind ray shot from a holy star.
Then my dream did waver and break and lift—
Through it, O Love, shone thy face, afar.
So Boyhood sets: comes Youth,
A painful night of mists and dreams;
That broods till Love's exquisite truth,
The star of a morn-clear manhood, beams.
BOYKIN'S BLUFF, VIRGINIA, 1863.Page 223
O MARRIAGE-BELLS, your clamor tells
Two weddings in one breath.
She marries whom her love compels:
—And I wed Goodman Death!
My brain is blank, my tears are red;
Listen, O God:—" I will," he said:—
And I would that I were dead.
Come groomsman Grief and bridesmaid Pain
Come and stand with a ghastly twain.
My Bridegroom Death is come o'er the meres
To wed a bride with bloody tears.
Ring, ring, O bells, full merrily:
Life-bells to her, death-bells to me:
O Death, I am true wife to thee!
MACON, GEORGIA, 1865.Page 224
THE PALM AND THE PINE.
FROM THE GERMAN OF HEINE.
IN the far North stands a Pine-tree, lone,
Upon a wintry height;
It sleeps: around it snows have thrown
A covering of white.
It dreams forever of a Palm
That, far i' the Morning-land,
Stands silent in a most sad calm
Midst of the burning sand.
POINT LOOKOUT PRISON, 1864.Page 225
FROM THE GERMAN OF HERDER.
ALL faintly through my soul to-day,
As from a bell that far away
Is tinkled by some frolic fay,
Floateth a lovely chiming.
Thou magic bell, to many a fell
And many a winter-saddened dell
Thy tongue a tale of Spring doth tell,
Too passionate-sweet for rhyming.
Chime out, thou little song of Spring,
Float in the blue skies ravishing.
Thy song-of-life a joy doth bring
That 's sweet, albeit fleeting.
Float on the Spring-winds e'en to my home:
And when thou to a rose shalt come
That hath begun to show her bloom,
Say, I send her greeting!
POINT LOOKOUT PRISON, 1864.Page 226
BRIGHT shone the lists, blue bent the skies,
And the knights still hurried amain
To the tournament under the ladies' eyes,
Where the jousters were Heart and Brain.
Flourished the trumpets: entered Heart,
A youth in crimson and gold.
Flourished again: Brain stood apart,
Steel-armored, dark and cold.
Heart's palfrey caracoled gayly round,
Heart tra-li-ra'd merrily;
But Brain sat still, with never a sound,
So cynical-calm was he.
Heart's helmet-crest bore favors three
From his lady's white hand caught;
While Brain wore a plumeless casque; not he
Or favor gave or sought.
The herald blew; Heart shot a glance
To find his lady's eye,
But Brain gazed straight ahead his lance
To aim more faithfully.
They charged, they struck; both fell, both bled.
Brain rose again, ungloved,
Heart, dying, smiled and faintly said,
"My love to my beloved!"
CAMP FRENCH. WILMINGTON, N.C. May, 1862.
A-many sweet eyes wept and wept,
A-many bosoms heaved again;
A-many dainty dead hopes slept
With yonder Heart-knight prone o' the plain.
Yet stars will burn through any mists,
And the ladies' eyes, through rains of fate,
Still beamed upon the bloody lists
And lit the joust of Love and Hate.
O strange! or ere a trumpet blew,
Or ere a challenge-word was given,
A knight leapt down i' the lists; none knew
Whether he sprang from earth or heaven.
His cheek was soft as a lily-bud,
His grey eyes calmed his youth's alarm;
Nor helm nor hauberk nor even a hood
Had he to shield his life from harm.
No falchion from his baldric swung,
He wore a white rose in its place.
No dagger at his girdle hung,
But only an olive-branch, for grace.
And "Come, thou poor mistaken knight,"
Cried Love, unarmed, yet dauntless there,
"Come on, God pity thee!—I fight
Sans sword, sans shield; yet, Hate, beware!"
Spurred furious Hate; he foamed at mouth,
His breath was hot upon the air,
His breath scorched souls, as a dry drought
Withers green trees and burns them bare.
Straight drives he at his enemy,
His hairy hands grip lance in rest,
His lance it gleams full bitterly,
God!—gleams, true-point, on Love's bare breast!
Love's grey eyes glow with a heaven-heat,
Love lifts his hand in a saintly prayer;
Look! Hate hath fallen at his feet!
Look! Hate hath vanished in the air!
Then all the throng looked kind on all;
Eyes yearned, lips kissed, dumb souls were freed;
Two magic maids' hands lifted a pall
And the dead knight, Heart, sprang on his steed.
Then Love cried, "Break me his lance, each knight!
Ye shall fight for blood-athirst Fame no more!"
And the knights all doffed their mailèd might
And dealt out dole on dole to the poor.
Then dove-flights sanctified the plain,
And hawk and sparrow shared a nest.
And the great sea opened and swallowed Pain,
And out of this water-grave floated Rest!
MACON, GEORGIA, 1865.Page 230
THE DYING WORDS OF STONEWALL JACKSON.
THE stars of Night contain the glittering Day
And rain his glory down with sweeter grace
Upon the dark World's grand, enchanted face—
All loth to turn away.
And so the Day, about to yield his breath,
Utters the stars unto the listening Night,
To stand for burning fare-thee-wells of light
Said on the verge of death.
O hero-life that lit us like the sun!
O hero-words that glittered like the stars
And stood and shone above the gloomy wars
When the hero-life was done!
The phantoms of a battle came to dwell
I' the fitful vision of his dying eyes—
Yet even in battle-dreams, he sends supplies
To those he loved so well.
His army stands in battle-line arrayed:
His couriers fly: all's done: now God decide!
—And not till then saw he the Other Side
Or would accept the shade.
Thou Land whose sun is gone, thy stars remain!
Still shine the words that miniature his deeds.
O thrice-beloved, where'er thy great heart bleeds,
Solace hast thou for pain!
GEORGIA, September, 1865.Page 232
A WHITE face, drooping, on a bending neck:
A tube-rose that with heavy petal curves
Her stem: a foam-bell on a wave that swerves
Back from the undulating vessel's deck.
From out the whitest cloud of summer steals
The wildest lightning: from this face of thine
Thy soul, a fire-of-heaven, warm and fine,
In marvellous flashes its fair self reveals.
As when one gazes from the summer sea
On some far gossamer cloud, with straining eye,
Fearing to see it vanish in the sky,
So, floating, wandering Cloud-Soul, I watch thee.
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, 1866.Page 233
THOU God, whose high, eternal Love
Is the only blue sky of our life,
Clear all the Heaven that bends above
The life-road of this man and wife.
May these two lives be but one note
In the world's strange-sounding harmony,
Whose sacred music e'er shall float
Through every discord up to Thee.
As when from separate stars two beams
Unite to form one tender ray:
As when two sweet but shadowy dreams
Explain each other in the day:
So may these two dear hearts one light
Emit, and each interpret each.
Let an angel come and dwell to-night
In this dear double-heart, and teach!
MACON, GEORGIA, September, 1865.Page 234
IN THE FOAM.
LIFE swelleth in a whitening wave,
And dasheth thee and me apart.
I sweep out seaward:—be thou brave.
And reach the shore, Sweetheart.
Beat back the backward-thrusting sea.
Thy weak white arm his blows may thwart.
Christ buffet the wild surge for thee
Till thou 'rt ashore, Sweetheart.
Ah, now thy face grows dim apace,
And seems of yon white foam a part.
Canst hear me through the water-bass,
Cry: "To the Shore, Sweetheart?"
Now Christ thee soothe upon the Shore,
My lissome-armed sea-Britomart.
I sweep out seaward, never more
To find the Shore, Sweetheart.
PRATTVILLE, ALABAMA, December, 1867.Page 235
MY soul is sailing through the sea,
But the Past is heavy and hindereth me.
The Past hath crusted cumbrous shells
That hold the flesh of cold sea-mells
About my soul.
The huge waves wash, the high waves roll,
Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole
And hindereth me from sailing!
Old Past let go, and drop i' the sea
Till fathomless waters cover thee!
For I am living but thou art dead;
Thou drawest back, I strive ahead
The Day to find.
Thy shells unbind! Night comes behind,
I needs must hurry with the wind
And trim me best for sailing.
MACON, GEORGIA, 1867.Page 236
FAIR is the wedded reign of Night and Day.
Each rules a half of earth with different sway,
Exchanging kingdoms, East and West, alway.
Like the round pearl that Egypt drunk in wine,
The sun half sinks i' the brimming, rosy brine:
The wild Night drinks all up: how her eyes shine!
Now the swift sail of straining life is furled,
And through the stillness of my soul is whirled
The throbbing of the hearts of half the world.
I hear the cries that follow Birth and Death.
I hear huge Pestilence draw his vaporous breath:
"Beware, prepare, or else ye die," he saith.
I hear a haggard student turn and sigh:
I hear men begging Heaven to let them die:
And, drowning all, a wild-eyed woman's cry.
So Night takes toll of Wisdom as of Sin.
The student's and the drunkard's cheek is thin:
But flesh is not the prize we strive to win.
Now airy swarms of fluttering dreams descend
On souls, like birds on trees, and have no end,
O God, from vulture-dreams my soul defend!
Let fall on Her a rose-leaf rain of dreams,
All passionate-sweet, as are the loving beams
Of starlight on the glimmering woods and streams.
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, April. 1866.Page 237
JUNE DREAMS, IN JANUARY.
"So pulse, and pulse, thou rhythmic-hearted Noon
That liest, large-limbed, curved along the hills,
In languid palpitation, half a-swoon
With ardors and sun-loves and subtle thrills;
"Throb, Beautiful! while the fervent hours exhale
As kisses faint-blown from thy finger-tips
Up to the sun, that turn him passion-pale
And then as red as any virgin's lips.
"O tender Darkness, when June-day hath ceased,
—Faint Odor from the day-flower's crushing born,
—Dim, visible Sigh out of the mournful East
That cannot see her lord again till morn:
"And many leaves, broad-palmèd towards the sky
To catch the sacred raining of star-light:
And pallid petals, fain, all fain to die,
Soul-stung by too keen passion of the night:
"And short-breath'd winds, under yon gracious moon
Doing mild errands for mild violets,
Or carrying sighs from the red lips of June
What aimless way the odor-current sets:
"And stars, ringed glittering in whorls and bells.
Or bent along the sky in looped star-sprays,
Or vine-wound, with bright grapes in panicles,
Or bramble-tangled in a sweetest maze,
"Or lying like young lilies in a lake
About the great white Lotus of the moon,
Or blown and drifted, as if winds should shake
Star blossoms down from silver stems too soon,
"Or budding thick about full open stars,
Or clambering shyly up cloud-lattices,
Or trampled pale in the red path of Mars,
Or trim-set in quaint gardener's fantasies:
And long June night-sounds crooned among the leaves,
And whispered confidence of dark and green,
And murmurs in old moss about old eaves,
And tinklings floating over water-sheen!"
Then he that wrote laid down his pen and sighed;
And straightway came old Scorn and Bitterness,
Like Hunnish kings out of the barbarous land,
And camped upon the transient Italy
That he had dreamed to blossom in his soul.
"I'll date this dream, he said; so: 'Given, these,
On this, the coldest night in all the year,
From this, the meanest garret in the world,
In this, the greatest city in the land,
To you, the richest folk this side of death,
By one, the hungriest poet under heaven,
—Writ while his candle sputtered in the gust,
And while his last, last ember died of cold,
And while the mortal ice i' the air made free
Of all his bones and bit and shrunk his heart,
And while soft Luxury made show to strike
Her glovèd hands together and to smile
What time her weary feet unconsciously
Trode wheels that lifted Avarice to power,
—And while, moreover,—O thou God, thou God—Page 239
His worshipful sweet wife sat still, afar,
Within the village whence she sent him forth
Into the town to make his name and fame,
Waiting, all confident and proud and calm,
Till he should make for her his name and fame,
Waiting—O Christ, how keen this cuts!—large-eyed,
With Baby Charley till her husband make
For her and him a poet's name and fame.'
—Read me," he cried, and rose, and stamped his foot
Impatiently at Heaven, "read me this,"
(Putting th' inquiry full in the face of God)
"Why can we poets dream us beauty, so,
But cannot dream us bread? Why, now, can I
Make, aye, create this fervid throbbing June
Out of the chill, chill matter of my soul,
Yet cannot make a poorest penny-loaf
Out of this same chill matter, no, not one
For Mary though she starved upon my breast?"
And then he fell upon his couch, and sobbed,
And, late, just when his heart leaned o'er
The very edge of breaking, fain to fall,
God sent him sleep.
There came his room-fellow,
Stout Dick, the painter, saw the written dream,
Read, scratched his curly pate, smiled, winked, fell on
The poem in big-hearted comic rage,
Quick folded, thrust in envelope, addressed
To him, the critic-god, that sitteth grim
And giant-grisly on the stone causeway
That leadeth to his magazine and fame.
Him, by due mail, the little Dream of June
Encountered growling, and at unawares
Stole in upon his poem-battered soul
So that he smiled,—then shook his head upon 't
—Then growled, then smiled again, till at the last,Page 240
As one that deadly sinned against his will,
He writ upon the margin of the Dream
A wondrous, wondrous word that in a day
Did turn the fleeting song to very bread,
—Whereat Dick Painter leapt, the poet wept,
And Mary slept with happy drops a-gleam
Upon long lashes of her serene eyes
From twentieth reading of her poet's news
Quick-sent, "O sweet my Sweet, to dream is power,
And I can dream thee bread and dream thee wine,
And I will dream thee robes and gems, dear Love,
To clothe thy holy loveliness withal,
And I will dream thee here to live by me,
Thee and my little man thou hold'st at breast,
—Come, Name, come, Fame, and kiss my Sweetheart's feet!"