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Andromeda and Other Poems by Charles Kingsley

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But his--God kept it safe from harm.
He toiled, and dared, and earned command;
And those three stripes upon his arm
Were more to me than gold or land.

Sure he would win some great renown:
Our lives were strong, our hearts were high.
One night the fever struck him down.
I sat, and stared, and saw him die.

I had his children--one, two, three.
One week I had them, blithe and sound.
The next--beneath this mango-tree,
By him in barrack burying-ground.

I sit beneath the mango-shade;
I live my five years' life all o'er--
Round yonder stems his children played;
He mounted guard at yonder door.

'Tis I, not they, am gone and dead.
They live; they know; they feel; they see.
Their spirits light the golden shade
Beneath the giant mango-tree.

All things, save I, are full of life:
The minas, pluming velvet breasts;
The monkeys, in their foolish strife;
The swooping hawks, the swinging nests;

The lizards basking on the soil,
The butterflies who sun their wings;
The bees about their household toil,
They live, they love, the blissful things.

Each tender purple mango-shoot,
That folds and droops so bashful down;
It lives; it sucks some hidden root;
It rears at last a broad green crown.

It blossoms; and the children cry--
'Watch when the mango-apples fall.'
It lives: but rootless, fruitless, I--
I breathe and dream;--and that is all.

Thus am I dead: yet cannot die:
But still within my foolish brain
There hangs a pale blue evening sky;
A furzy croft; a sandy lane.

1870.

THE PRIEST'S HEART

It was Sir John, the fair young Priest,
He strode up off the strand;
But seven fisher maidens he left behind
All dancing hand in hand.

He came unto the wise wife's house:
'Now, Mother, to prove your art;
To charm May Carleton's merry blue eyes
Out of a young man's heart.'

'My son, you went for a holy man,
Whose heart was set on high;
Go sing in your psalter, and read in your books;
Man's love fleets lightly by.'

'I had liever to talk with May Carleton,
Than with all the saints in Heaven;
I had liever to sit by May Carleton
Than climb the spheres seven.

'I have watched and fasted, early and late,
I have prayed to all above;
But I find no cure save churchyard mould
For the pain which men call love.'

'Now Heaven forefend that ill grow worse:
Enough that ill be ill.
I know of a spell to draw May Carleton,
And bend her to your will.'

'If thou didst that which thou canst not do,
Wise woman though thou be,
I would run and run till I buried myself
In the surge of yonder sea.

'Scathless for me are maid and wife,
And scathless shall they bide.
Yet charm me May Carleton's eyes from the heart
That aches in my left side.'

She charmed him with the white witchcraft,
She charmed him with the black,
But he turned his fair young face to the wall,
Till she heard his heart-strings crack.

1870

'QU'EST QU'IL DIT' {330}

Espion aile de la jeune amante
De l'ombre des palmiers pourquoi ce cri?
Laisse en paix le beau garcon plaider et vaincre--
Pourquoi, pourquoi demander 'Qu'est qu'il dit?'

'Qu'est qu'il dit?' Ce que tu dis toi-meme
Chaque mois de ce printemps eternel;
Ce que disent les papillons qui s'entre-baisent,
Ce que dit tout bel jeun etre a toute belle.

Importun! Attende quelques lustres:
Quand les souvenirs 1'emmeneront ici--
Mere, grand'mere, pale, lasse, et fidele,
Demande mais doucement--'Et le vieillard,
Qu'est qu'il dit?'

Trinidad, January 10, 1870

THE LEGEND OF LA BREA {331a}

Down beside the loathly Pitch Lake,
In the stately Morichal, {331b}
Sat an ancient Spanish Indian,
Peering through the columns tall.

Watching vainly for the flashing
Of the jewelled colibris; {331c}
Listening vainly for their humming
Round the honey-blossomed trees.

'Few,' he sighed, 'they come, and fewer,
To the cocorite {331d} bowers;
Murdered, madly, through the forests
Which of yore were theirs--and ours

By there came a negro hunter,
Lithe and lusty, sleek and strong,
Rolling round his sparkling eyeballs,
As he loped and lounged along.

Rusty firelock on his shoulder;
Rusty cutlass on his thigh;
Never jollier British subject
Rollicked underneath the sky.

British law to give him safety,
British fleets to guard his shore,
And a square of British freehold--
He had all we have, and more.

Fattening through the endless summer,
Like his own provision ground,
He had reached the summum bonum
Which our latest wits have found.

So he thought; and in his hammock
Gnawed his junk of sugar-cane,
Toasted plantains at the fire-stick,
Gnawed, and dozed, and gnawed again.

Had a wife in his ajoupa {332}--
Or, at least, what did instead;
Children, too, who died so early,
He'd no need to earn their bread.

Never stole, save what he needed,
From the Crown woods round about;
Never lied, except when summoned--
Let the warden find him out.

Never drank, except at market;
Never beat his sturdy mate;
She could hit as hard as he could,
And had just as hard a pate.

Had no care for priest nor parson,
Hope of heaven nor fear of hell;
And in all his views of nature
Held with Comte and Peter Bell.

Healthy, happy, silly, kindly,
Neither care nor toil had he,
Save to work an hour at sunrise,
And then hunt the colibri.

Not a bad man; not a good man:
Scarce a man at all, one fears,
If the Man be that within us
Which is born of fire and tears.

Round the palm-stems, round the creepers,
Flashed a feathered jewel past,
Ruby-crested, topaz-throated,
Plucked the cocorite bast,

Plucked the fallen ceiba-cotton, {333}
Whirred away to build his nest,
Hung at last, with happy humming,
Round some flower he fancied best.

Up then went the rusty muzzle,
'Dat de tenth I shot to-day:'
But out sprang the Indian shouting,
Balked the negro of his prey.

'Eh, you Senor Trinidada!
What dis new ondacent plan?
Spoil a genl'man's chance ob shooting?
I as good as any man.

'Dese not your woods; dese de Queen's woods:
You seem not know whar you ar,
Gibbin' yuself dese buckra airs here,
You black Indian Papist! Dar!'

Stately, courteous, stood the Indian;
Pointed through the palm-tree shade:
'Does the gentleman of colour
Know how yon Pitch Lake was made?'

Grinned the negro, grinned and trembled--
Through his nerves a shudder ran--
Saw a snake-like eye that held him;
Saw--he'd met an Obeah man.

Saw a fetish--such a bottle--
Buried at his cottage door;
Toad and spider, dirty water,
Rusty nails, and nine charms more.

Saw in vision such a cock's head
In the path--and it was white!
Saw Brinvilliers {334} in his pottage:
Faltered, cold and damp with fright.

Fearful is the chance of poison:
Fearful, too, the great unknown:
Magic brings some positivists
Humbly on their marrow-bone.

Like the wedding-guest enchanted,
There he stood, a trembling cur;
While the Indian told his story,
Like the Ancient Mariner.

Told how--'Once that loathly Pitch Lake
Was a garden bright and fair;
How the Chaymas off the mainland
Built their palm ajoupas there.

'How they throve, and how they fattened,
Hale and happy, safe and strong;
Passed the livelong days in feasting;
Passed the nights in dance and song.

'Till they cruel grew, and wanton:
Till they killed the colibris.
Then outspake the great Good Spirit,
Who can see through all the trees,

'Said--"And what have I not sent you,
Wanton Chaymas, many a year?
Lapp, {335a} agouti, {335b} cachicame, {335c}
Quenc {335d} and guazu-pita deer.

'"Fish I sent you, sent you turtle,
Chip-chip, {335e} conch, flamingo red,
Woodland paui, {335f} horned screamer, {335g}
And blue ramier {335h} overhead.

'"Plums from balata {335i} and mombin, {335j}
Tania, {335k} manioc, {335l} water-vine; {335m}
Let you fell my slim manacques, {335n}
Tap my sweet moriche wine. {335o}

'"Sent rich plantains, {336a} food of angels;
Rich ananas, {336b} food of kings;
Grudged you none of all my treasures:
Save these lovely useless things."

'But the Chaymas' ears were deafened;
Blind their eyes, and could not see
How a blissful Indian's spirit
Lived in every colibri.

'Lived, forgetting toil and sorrow,
Ever fair and ever new;
Whirring round the dear old woodland,
Feeding on the honey-dew.

'Till one evening roared the earthquake:
Monkeys howled, and parrots screamed:
And the Guaraons at morning
Gathered here, as men who dreamed.

'Sunk were gardens, sunk ajoupas;
Hut and hammock, man and hound:
And above the Chayma village
Boiled with pitch the cursed ground.

'Full, and too full; safe, and too safe;
Negro man, take care, take care.
He that wantons with God's bounties
Of God's wrath had best beware.

'For the saucy, reckless, heartless,
Evil days are sure in store.
You may see the Negro sinking
As the Chayma sank of yore.'

Loudly laughed that stalwart hunter--
'Eh, what superstitious talk!
Nyam {337} am nyam, an' maney maney;
Birds am birds, like park am park;
An' dere's twenty thousand birdskins
Ardered jes' now fram New Yark.'

Eversley, 1870.

HYMN {338}

Accept this building, gracious Lord,
No temple though it be;
We raised it for our suffering kin,
And so, Good Lord, for Thee.

Accept our little gift, and give
To all who here may dwell,
The will and power to do their work,
Or bear their sorrows well.

From Thee all skill and science flow;
All pity, care, and love,
All calm and courage, faith and hope,
Oh! pour them from above.

And part them, Lord, to each and all,
As each and all shall need,
To rise like incense, each to Thee,
In noble thought and deed.

And hasten, Lord, that perfect day,
When pain and death shall cease;
And Thy just rule shall fill the earth
With health, and light, and peace.

When ever blue the sky shall gleam,
And ever green the sod;
And man's rude work deface no more
The Paradise of God.

Eversley, 1870.

THE DELECTABLE DAY

The boy on the famous gray pony,
Just bidding good-bye at the door,
Plucking up maiden heart for the fences
Where his brother won honour of yore.

The walk to 'the Meet' with fair children,
And women as gentle as gay,--
Ah! how do we male hogs in armour
Deserve such companions as they?

The afternoon's wander to windward,
To meet the dear boy coming back;
And to catch, down the turns of the valley,
The last weary chime of the pack.

The climb homeward by park and by moorland,
And through the fir forests again,
While the south-west wind roars in the gloaming,
Like an ocean of seething champagne.

And at night the septette of Beethoven,
And the grandmother by in her chair,
And the foot of all feet on the sofa
Beating delicate time to the air.

Ah, God! a poor soul can but thank Thee
For such a delectable day!
Though the fury, the fool, and the swindler,
To-morrow again have their way!

Eversley, 6th November 1872.

JUVENTUS MUNDI

List a tale a fairy sent us
Fresh from dear Mundi Juventus.
When Love and all the world was young,
And birds conversed as well as sung;
And men still faced this fair creation
With humour, heart, imagination.
Who come hither from Morocco
Every spring on the sirocco?
In russet she, and he in yellow,
Singing ever clear and mellow,
'Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet you, sweet you,
Did he beat you? Did he beat you?'
Phyllopneustes wise folk call them,
But don't know what did befall them,
Why they ever thought of coming
All that way to hear gnats humming,
Why they built not nests but houses,
Like the bumble-bees and mousies.
Nor how little birds got wings,
Nor what 'tis the small cock sings--
How should they know--stupid fogies?
They daren't even believe in bogies.
Once they were a girl and boy,
Each the other's life and joy.
He a Daphnis, she a Chloe,
Only they were brown, not snowy,
Till an Arab found them playing
Far beyond the Atlas straying,
Tied the helpless things together,
Drove them in the burning weather,
In his slave-gang many a league,
Till they dropped from wild fatigue.
Up he caught his whip of hide,
Lashed each soft brown back and side
Till their little brains were burst
With sharp pain, and heat, and thirst,
Over her the poor boy lay,
Tried to keep the blows away,
Till they stiffened into clay,
And the ruffian rode away:
Swooping o'er the tainted ground,
Carrion vultures gathered round,
And the gaunt hyenas ran
Tracking up the caravan.
But--ah, wonder! that was gone
Which they meant to feast upon.
And, for each, a yellow wren,
One a cock, and one a hen,
Sweetly warbling, flitted forth
O'er the desert toward the north.
But a shade of bygone sorrow,
Like a dream upon the morrow,
Round his tiny brainlet clinging,
Sets the wee cock ever singing,
'Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet you, sweet you,
Did he beat you? Did he beat you?'
Vultures croaked, and hopped, and flopped,
But their evening meal was stopped.
And the gaunt hyenas foul
Sat down on their tails to howl.
Northward towards the cool spring weather,
Those two wrens fled on together,
On to England o'er the sea,
Where all folks alike are free.
There they built a cabin, wattled
Like the huts where first they prattled,
Hatched and fed, as safe as may be,
Many a tiny feathered baby.
But in autumn south they go
Past the Straits and Atlas' snow,
Over desert, over mountain,
To the palms beside the fountain,
Where, when once they lived before, he
Told her first the old, old story.
'What do the doves say? Curuck Coo,
You love me and I love you.'

1872.

VALENTINE'S DAY

Oh! I wish I were a tiny browny bird from out the south,
Settled among the alder-holts, and twittering by the stream;
I would put my tiny tail down, and put up my tiny mouth,
And sing my tiny life away in one melodious dream.

I would sing about the blossoms, and the sunshine and the sky,
And the tiny wife I mean to have in such a cosy nest;
And if some one came and shot me dead, why then I could but die,
With my tiny life and tiny song just ended at their best.

Eversley, 1873

BALLAD: LORRAINE, LORRAINE, LORREE

1

'Are you ready for your steeple-chase, Lorraine, Lorraine, Lorree?
Barum, Barum, Barum, Barum, Barum, Barum, Baree,
You're booked to ride your capping race to-day at Coulterlee,
You're booked to ride Vindictive, for all the world to see,
To keep him straight, to keep him first, and win the run for me.
Barum, Barum,' etc.

2

She clasped her new-born baby, poor Lorraine, Lorraine, Lorree,
'I cannot ride Vindictive, as any man might see,
And I will not ride Vindictive, with this baby on my knee;
He's killed a boy, he's killed a man, and why must he kill me?'

3

'Unless you ride Vindictive, Lorraine, Lorraine, Lorree,
Unless you ride Vindictive to-day at Coulterlee,
And land him safe across the brook, and win the blank for me,
It's you may keep your baby, for you'll get no keep from me.'

4

'That husbands could be cruel,' said Lorraine, Lorraine, Lorree,
'That husbands could be cruel, I have known for seasons three;
But oh! to ride Vindictive while a baby cries for me,
And be killed across a fence at last for all the world to see!'

5

She mastered young Vindictive--Oh! the gallant lass was she,
And kept him straight and won the race as near as near could be;
But he killed her at the brook against a pollard willow-tree,
Oh! he killed her at the brook, the brute, for all the world to see,
And no one but the baby cried for poor Lorraine, Lorree.

Last poem written in illness.
Colorado, U.S.A.
June 1874.

MARTIN LIGHTFOOT'S SONG {346}

Come hearken, hearken, gentles all,
Come hearken unto me,
And I'll sing you a song of a Wood-Lyon
Came swimming out over the sea.

He ranged west, he ranged east,
And far and wide ranged he;
He took his bite out of every beast
Lives under the greenwood tree.

Then by there came a silly old wolf,
'And I'll serve you,' quoth he;
Quoth the Lyon, 'My paw is heavy enough,
So what wilt thou do for me?'

Then by there came a cunning old fox,
'And I'll serve you,' quoth he;
Quoth the Lyon, 'My wits are sharp enough
So what wilt thou do for me?'

Then by there came a white, white dove,
Flew off Our Lady's knee;
Sang 'It's I will be your true, true love,
If you'll be true to me.'

'And what will you do, you bonny white dove?
And what will you do for me?'
'Oh, it's I'll bring you to Our Lady's love,
In the ways of chivalrie.'

He followed the dove that Wood-Lyon
By mere and wood and wold,
Till he is come to a perfect knight,
Like the Paladin of old.

He ranged east, he ranged west,
And far and wide ranged he--
And ever the dove won him honour and fame
In the ways of chivalrie.

Then by there came a foul old sow,
Came rookling under the tree;
And 'It's I will be true love to you,
If you'll be true to me.'

'And what wilt thou do, thou foul old sow?
And what wilt thou do for me?'
'Oh, there hangs in my snout a jewel of gold,
And that will I give to thee.'

He took to the sow that Wood-Lyon;
To the rookling sow took he;
And the dove flew up to Our Lady's bosom;
And never again throve he.

Footnotes:

{211} This and the following poem were written at school in early boy-hood.

{216} Lines supposed to be found written in an illuminated missal.

{260} Found among Sandy Mackaye's papers, of a hairy oubit who would not
mind his mother.

{282} The Christian Socialist, started by the Council of Associates for
promotion of Co-operation.

{295} Bishop of Labuan, in Borneo.

{303} This Ode was set to Professor Sterndale Bennet's music, and sung in
the Senate House, Cambridge, on the Day of Installation.

{306} His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, Chancellor of Cambridge
University.

{319} Impromptu lines written in the album of the Crown Princess of Germany.

{325} Time of the Franco-Prussian War.

{330} The Qu'est qu'il dit is a Tropical bird.

{331a} This myth about the famous Pitch Lake of Trinidad was told almost
word for word to a M. Joseph by an aged half-caste Indian who went by the
name of Senor Trinidada. The manners and customs which the ballad described,
and the cruel and dangerous destruction of the beautiful birds of Trinidad,
are facts which may be easily verified by any one who will take the trouble
to visit the West Indies.

{331b} A magnificent wood of the Mauritia Fanpalm, on the south shore of the
Pitch Lake.

{331c} Humming-birds.

{331d} Maximiliana palms.

{332} Hut of timber and palm-leaves.

{333} From the Eriodendron, or giant silk-cotton.

{334} Spigelia anthelmia, a too-well-known poison-plant.

{335a} Coelogenys Paca.

{335b} Wild cavy.

{335c} Armadillo.

{335d} Peccary hog.

{335e} Trigonia.

{335f} Penelope.

{335g} Palamedea.

{335h} Dove.

{335i} Mimusops.

{335j} Spondias.

{335k} An esculent Arum.

{335l} Jatropha manihot, 'Cassava.'

{335m} Vitis Caribaea.

{335n} Euterpe, 'mountain cabbage' palm.

{335o} Mauritia palm.

{336a} Musa.

{336b} Pine-apple.

{337} Food.

{338} Sung by 1000 School Children at the Opening of the New Wing of the
Children's Hospital, Birmingham.

{346} Supposed to be sung at Crowland Minster to Leofric, the Wake's Mass
Priest, when news was received of Hereward's second marriage to Alftruda.

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