Part 4 out of 5
A Sunrise Song.
Young palmer sun, that to these shining sands
Pourest thy pilgrim's tale, discoursing still
Thy silver passages of sacred lands,
With news of Sepulchre and Dolorous Hill,
Canst thou be he that, yester-sunset warm,
Purple with Paynim rage and wrack desire,
Dashed ravening out of a dusty lair of Storm,
Harried the west, and set the world on fire?
Hast thou perchance repented, Saracen Sun?
Wilt warm the world with peace and dove-desire?
Or wilt thou, ere this very day be done,
Blaze Saladin still, with unforgiving fire?
On a Palmetto.
Through all that year-scarred agony of height,
Unblest of bough or bloom, to where expands
His wandy circlet with his bladed bands
Dividing every wind, or loud or light,
To termless hymns of love and old despite,
Yon tall palmetto in the twilight stands,
Bare Dante of these purgatorial sands
That glimmer marginal to the monstrous night.
Comes him a Southwind from the scented vine,
It breathes of Beatrice through all his blades,
North, East or West, Guelph-wind or Ghibelline,
'Tis shredded into music down the shades;
All sea-breaths, land-breaths, systol, diastol,
Sway, minstrels of that grief-melodious Soul.
My soul is like the oar that momently
Dies in a desperate stress beneath the wave,
Then glitters out again and sweeps the sea:
Each second I'm new-born from some new grave.
O Hunger, Hunger, I will harness thee
And make thee harrow all my spirit's glebe.
Of old the blind bard Herve sang so sweet
He made a wolf to plow his land.
To J. D. H.
(Killed at Surrey C. H., October, 1866.)
. . . . .
Dear friend, forgive a wild lament
Insanely following thy flight.
I would not cumber thine ascent
Nor drag thee back into the night;
But the great sea-winds sigh with me,
The fair-faced stars seem wrinkled, old,
And I would that I might lie with thee
There in the grave so cold, so cold!
Grave walls are thick, I cannot see thee,
And the round skies are far and steep;
A-wild to quaff some cup of Lethe,
Pain is proud and scorns to weep.
My heart breaks if it cling about thee,
And still breaks, if far from thine.
O drear, drear death, to live without thee,
O sad life -- to keep thee mine.
. . . . .
Between Dawn and Sunrise.
Were silver pink, and had a soul,
Which soul were shy, which shyness might
A visible influence be, and roll
Through heaven and earth -- 'twere thou, O light!
O rhapsody of the wraith of red,
O blush but yet in prophecy,
O sun-hint that hath overspread
Sky, marsh, my soul, and yonder sail.
Thou and I.
So one in heart and thought, I trow,
That thou might'st press the strings and I might draw the bow
And both would meet in music sweet,
Thou and I, I trow.
The Hard Times in Elfland.
A Story of Christmas Eve.
Strange that the termagant winds should scold
The Christmas Eve so bitterly!
But Wife, and Harry the four-year-old,
Big Charley, Nimblewits, and I,
Blithe as the wind was bitter, drew
More frontward of the mighty fire,
Where wise Newfoundland Fan foreknew
The heaven that Christian dogs desire --
Stretched o'er the rug, serene and grave,
Huge nose on heavy paws reclined,
With never a drowning boy to save,
And warmth of body and peace of mind.
And, as our happy circle sat,
The fire well capp'd the company:
In grave debate or careless chat,
A right good fellow, mingled he:
He seemed as one of us to sit,
And talked of things above, below,
With flames more winsome than our wit,
And coals that burned like love aglow.
While thus our rippling discourse rolled
Smooth down the channel of the night,
We spoke of Time: thereat, one told
A parable of the Seasons' flight.
"Time was a Shepherd with four sheep.
In a certain Field he long abode.
He stood by the bars, and his flock bade leap
One at a time to the Common Road.
"And first there leapt, like bird on wing,
A lissome Lamb that played in the air.
I heard the Shepherd call him `Spring':
Oh, large-eyed, fresh and snowy fair
"He skipped the flowering Highway fast,
Hurried the hedgerows green and white,
Set maids and men a-yearning, passed
The Bend, and gamboll'd out of sight.
"And next marched forth a matron Ewe
(While Time took down a bar for her),
Udder'd so large 'twas much ado
E'en then to clear the barrier.
"Full softly shone her silken fleece
What stately time she paced along:
Each heartsome hoof-stroke wrought increase
Of sunlight, substance, seedling, song,
"In flower, in fruit, in field, in bird,
Till the great globe, rich fleck'd and pied,
Like some large peach half pinkly furred,
Turned to the sun a glowing side
"And hung in the heavenly orchard, bright,
Then, while the Ewe
Slow passed the Bend, a blur of light,
The Shepherd's face in sadness grew:
"`Summer!' he said, as one would say
A sigh in syllables. So, in haste
(For shame of Summer's long delay,
Yet gazing still what way she paced),
"He summoned Autumn, slanting down
The second bar. Thereover strode
A Wether, fleeced in burning brown,
And largely loitered down the Road.
"Far as the farmers sight his shape
Majestic moving o'er the way,
All cry `To harvest,' crush the grape,
And haul the corn and house the hay,
"Till presently, no man can say,
(So brown the woods that line that end)
If yet the brown-fleeced Wether may,
Or not, have passed beyond the Bend.
"Now turn I towards the Shepherd: lo,
An aged Ram, flapp'd, gnarly-horn'd,
With bones that crackle o'er the snow,
Rheum'd, wind-gall'd, rag-fleec'd, burr'd and thorn'd.
"Time takes the third bar off for him,
He totters down the windy lane.
'Tis Winter, still: the Bend lies dim.
O Lamb, would thou wouldst leap again!"
Those seasons out, we talked of these:
And I (with inward purpose sly
To shield my purse from Christmas trees
And stockings and wild robbery
When Hal and Nimblewits invade
My cash in Santa Claus's name)
In full the hard, hard times surveyed;
Denounced all waste as crime and shame;
Hinted that "waste" might be a term
Including skates, velocipedes,
Kites, marbles, soldiers, towers infirm,
Bows, arrows, cannon, Indian reeds,
Cap-pistols, drums, mechanic toys,
And all th' infernal host of horns
Whereby to strenuous hells of noise
Are turned the blessed Christmas morns;
Thus, roused -- those horns! -- to sacred rage,
I rose, forefinger high in air,
When Harry cried (SOME war to wage),
"Papa, is hard times ev'ywhere?
"Maybe in Santa Claus's land
It isn't hard times none at all!"
Now, blessed Vision! to my hand
Most pat, a marvel strange did fall.
Scarce had my Harry ceased, when "Look!"
He cried, leapt up in wild alarm,
Ran to my Comrade, shelter took
Beneath the startled mother's arm.
And so was still: what time we saw
A foot hang down the fireplace! Then,
With painful scrambling scratched and raw,
Two hands that seemed like hands of men
Eased down two legs and a body through
The blazing fire, and forth there came
Before our wide and wondering view
A figure shrinking half with shame,
And half with weakness. "Sir," I said,
-- But with a mien of dignity
The seedy stranger raised his head:
"My friends, I'm Santa Claus," said he.
But oh, how changed! That rotund face
The new moon rivall'd, pale and thin;
Where once was cheek, now empty space;
Whate'er stood out, did now stand in.
His piteous legs scarce propped him up:
His arms mere sickles seemed to be:
But most o'erflowed our sorrow's cup
When that we saw -- or did not see --
His belly: we remembered how
It shook like a bowl of jelly fine:
An earthquake could not shake it now;
He HAD no belly -- not a sign.
"Yes, yes, old friends, you well may stare:
I HAVE seen better days," he said:
"But now, with shrinkage, loss and care,
Your Santa Claus scarce owns his head.
"We've had such hard, hard times this year
For goblins! Never knew the like.
All Elfland's mortgaged! And we fear
The gnomes are just about to strike.
"I once was rich, and round, and hale.
The whole world called me jolly brick;
But listen to a piteous tale.
Young Harry, -- Santa Claus is sick!
"'Twas thus: a smooth-tongued railroad man
Comes to my house and talks to me:
`I've got,' says he, `a little plan
That suits this nineteenth century.
"`Instead of driving, as you do,
Six reindeer slow from house to house,
Let's build a Grand Trunk Railway through
From here to earth's last terminus.
"`We'll touch at every chimney-top
(An Elevated Track, of course),
Then, as we whisk you by, you'll drop
Each package down: just think, the force
"`You'll save, the time! -- Besides, we'll make
Our millions: look you, soon we will
Compete for freights -- and then we'll take
Dame Fortune's bales of good and ill
"`(Why, she's the biggest shipper, sir,
That e'er did business in this world!):
Then Death, that ceaseless Traveller,
Shall on his rounds by us be whirled.
"`When ghosts return to walk with men,
We'll bring 'em cheap by steam, and fast:
We'll run a Branch to heaven! and then
We'll riot, man; for then, at last
"`We'll make with heaven a contract fair
To call, each hour, from town to town,
And carry the dead folks' souls up there,
And bring the unborn babies down!'
"The plan seemed fair: I gave him cash,
Nay, every penny I could raise.
My wife e'er cried, `'Tis rash, 'tis rash:'
How could I know the stock-thief's ways?
"But soon I learned full well, poor fool!
My woes began, that wretched day.
The President plied me like a tool.
In lawyer's fees, and rights of way,
"Injunctions, leases, charters, I
Was meshed as in a mighty maze.
The stock ran low, the talk ran high:
Then quickly flamed the final blaze.
"With never an inch of track -- 'tis true!
The debts were large . . . the oft-told tale.
The President rolled in splendor new
-- He bought my silver at the sale.
"Yes, sold me out: we've moved away.
I've had to give up everything.
My reindeer, even, whom I . . . pray,
Excuse me" . . . here, o'er-sorrowing,
Poor Santa Claus burst into tears,
Then calmed again: "my reindeer fleet,
I gave them up: on foot, my dears,
I now must plod through snow and sleet.
"Retrenchment rules in Elfland, now;
Yes, every luxury is cut off.
-- Which, by the way, reminds me how
I caught this dreadful hacking cough:
"I cut off the tail of my Ulster furred
To make young Kris a coat of state.
That very night the storm occurred!
Thus we became the sport of Fate.
"For I was out till after one,
Surveying chimney-tops and roofs,
And planning how it could be done
Without my reindeers' bouncing hoofs.
"`My dear,' says Mrs. Claus, that night
(A most superior woman she!)
`It never, never can be right
That you, deep-sunk in poverty,
"`This year should leave your poor old bed,
And trot about, bent down with toys,
(There's Kris a-crying now for bread!)
To give to other people's boys.
"`Since you've been out, the news arrives
The Elfs' Insurance Company's gone.
Ah, Claus, those premiums! Now, our lives
Depend on yours: thus griefs go on.
"`And even while you're thus harassed,
I do believe, if out you went,
You'd go, in spite of all that's passed,
To the children of that President!'
"Oh, Charley, Harry, Nimblewits,
These eyes, that night, ne'er slept a wink.
My path seemed honeycombed with pits.
Naught could I do but think and think.
"But, with the day, my courage rose.
Ne'er shall my boys, MY boys (I cried),
When Christmas morns their eyes unclose,
Find empty stockings gaping wide!
"Then hewed and whacked and whittled I;
The wife, the girls and Kris took fire;
They spun, sewed, cut, -- till by and by
We made, at home, my pack entire!"
(He handed me a bundle, here.)
"Now, hoist me up: there, gently: quick!
Dear boys, DON'T look for much this year:
Remember, Santa Claus is sick!"
Baltimore, December, 1877.
A Florida Ghost.
Down mildest shores of milk-white sand,
By cape and fair Floridian bay,
Twixt billowy pines -- a surf asleep on land --
And the great Gulf at play,
Past far-off palms that filmed to nought,
Or in and out the cunning keys
That laced the land like fragile patterns wrought
To edge old broideries,
The sail sighed on all day for joy,
The prow each pouting wave did leave
All smile and song, with sheen and ripple coy,
Till the dusk diver Eve
Brought up from out the brimming East
The oval moon, a perfect pearl.
In that large lustre all our haste surceased,
The sail seemed fain to furl,
The silent steersman landward turned,
And ship and shore set breast to breast.
Under a palm wherethrough a planet burned
We ate, and sank to rest.
But soon from sleep's dear death (it seemed)
I rose and strolled along the sea
Down silver distances that faintly gleamed
On to infinity.
Till suddenly I paused, for lo!
A shape (from whence I ne'er divined)
Appeared before me, pacing to and fro,
With head far down inclined.
`A wraith' (I thought) `that walks the shore
To solve some old perplexity.'
Full heavy hung the draggled gown he wore;
His hair flew all awry.
He waited not (as ghosts oft use)
To be `dearheaven'd!' and `oh'd!'
But briskly said: "Good-evenin'; what's the news?
Consumption? After boa'd?
"Or mebbe you're intendin' of
Investments? Orange-plantin'? Pine?
Hotel? or Sanitarium? What above
This yea'th CAN be your line?
"Speakin' of sanitariums, now,
Jest look 'ee here, my friend:
I know a little story, -- well, I swow,
Wait till you hear the end!
"Some year or more ago, I s'pose,
I roamed from Maine to Floridy,
And, -- see where them Palmettos grows?
I bought that little key,
"Cal'latin' for to build right off
A c'lossal sanitarium:
Big surf! Gulf breeze! Jest death upon a cough!
-- I run it high, to hum!
"Well, sir, I went to work in style:
Bought me a steamboat, loaded it
With my hotel (pyazers more'n a mile!)
Already framed and fit,
"Insured 'em, fetched 'em safe around,
Put up my buildin', moored my boat,
COM-plete! then went to bed and slept as sound
As if I'd paid a note.
"Now on that very night a squall,
Cum up from some'eres -- some bad place!
An' blowed an' tore an' reared an' pitched an' all,
-- I had to run a race
"Right out o' bed from that hotel
An' git to yonder risin' ground,
For, 'twixt the sea that riz and rain that fell,
I pooty nigh was drowned!
"An' thar I stood till mornin' cum,
Right on yon little knoll of sand,
FreQUENTly wishin' I had stayed to hum
Fur from this tarnal land.
"When mornin' cum, I took a good
Long look, and -- well, sir, sure's I'm ME --
That boat laid right whar that hotel had stood,
And HIT sailed out to sea!
"No: I'll not keep you: good-bye, friend.
Don't think about it much, -- preehaps
Your brain might git see-sawin', end for end,
Like them asylum chaps,
"For here *I* walk, forevermore,
A-tryin' to make it gee,
How one same wind could blow my ship to shore
And my hotel to sea!"
Chadd's Ford, Pennsylvania, 1877.
Uncle Jim's Baptist Revival Hymn.
By Sidney and Clifford Lanier.
[Not long ago a certain Georgia cotton-planter, driven to desperation
by awaking each morning to find that the grass had
quite outgrown the cotton overnight, and was likely to choke it,
in defiance of his lazy freedmen's hoes and ploughs,
set the whole State in a laugh by exclaiming to a group of fellow-sufferers:
"It's all stuff about Cincinnatus leaving the plough to go into politics
FOR PATRIOTISM; he was just a-runnin' from grass!"
This state of things -- when the delicate young rootlets of the cotton
are struggling against the hardier multitudes of the grass-suckers --
is universally described in plantation parlance by the phrase "in the grass";
and Uncle Jim appears to have found in it so much similarity
to the condition of his own ("Baptis'") church, overrun, as it was,
by the cares of this world, that he has embodied it in the refrain
of a revival hymn such as the colored improvisator of the South
not infrequently constructs from his daily surroundings.
He has drawn all the ideas of his stanzas from the early morning phenomena of
those critical weeks when the loud plantation-horn is blown before daylight,
in order to rouse all hands for a long day's fight against the common enemy
of cotton-planting mankind.
In addition to these exegetical commentaries, the Northern reader
probably needs to be informed that the phrase "peerten up" means substantially
`to spur up', and is an active form of the adjective "peert"
(probably a corruption of `pert'), which is so common in the South,
and which has much the signification of "smart" in New England, as e.g.,
a "peert" horse, in antithesis to a "sorry" -- i.e., poor, mean, lazy one.]
Solo. -- Sin's rooster's crowed, Ole Mahster's riz,
De sleepin'-time is pas';
Wake up dem lazy Baptissis,
Chorus. -- Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.
Ole Mahster's blowed de mornin' horn,
He's blowed a powerful blas';
O Baptis' come, come hoe de corn,
You's mightily in de grass, grass,
You's mightily in de grass.
De Meth'dis team's done hitched; O fool,
De day's a-breakin' fas';
Gear up dat lean ole Baptis' mule,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.
De workmen's few an' mons'rous slow,
De cotton's sheddin' fas';
Whoop, look, jes' look at de Baptis' row,
Hit's mightily in de grass, grass,
Hit's mightily in de grass.
De jay-bird squeal to de mockin'-bird: "Stop!
Don' gimme none o' yo' sass;
Better sing one song for de Baptis' crop,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass."
And de ole crow croak: "Don' work, no, no;"
But de fiel'-lark say, "Yaas, yaas,
An' I spec' you mighty glad, you debblish crow,
Dat de Baptissis's in de grass, grass,
Dat de Baptissis's in de grass!"
Lord, thunder us up to de plowin'-match,
Lord, peerten de hoein' fas',
Yea, Lord, hab mussy on de Baptis' patch,
Dey's mightily in de grass, grass,
Dey's mightily in de grass.
"Nine from Eight".
I was drivin' my two-mule waggin,
With a lot o' truck for sale,
Towards Macon, to git some baggin'
(Which my cotton was ready to bale),
And I come to a place on the side o' the pike
Whar a peert little winter branch jest had throw'd
The sand in a kind of a sand-bar like,
And I seed, a leetle ways up the road,
A man squattin' down, like a big bull-toad,
On the ground, a-figgerin' thar in the sand
With his finger, and motionin' with his hand,
And he looked like Ellick Garry.
And as I driv up, I heerd him bleat
To hisself, like a lamb: "Hauh? nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry?"
And Ellick's bull-cart was standin'
A cross-wise of the way,
And the little bull was a-expandin',
Hisself on a wisp of hay.
But Ellick he sat with his head bent down,
A-studyin' and musin' powerfully,
And his forrud was creased with a turrible frown,
And he was a-wurken' appearently
A 'rethmetic sum that wouldn't gee,
Fur he kep' on figgerin' away in the sand
With his finger, and motionin' with his hand,
And I seed it WAS Ellick Garry.
And agin I heard him softly bleat
To hisself, like a lamb: "Hauh? nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry!"
I woa'd my mules mighty easy
(Ellick's back was towards the road
And the wind hit was sorter breezy)
And I got down off'n my load,
And I crep' up close to Ellick's back,
And I heerd him a-talkin' softly, thus:
"Them figgers is got me under the hack.
I caint see how to git out'n the muss,
Except to jest nat'ally fail and bus'!
My crap-leen calls for nine hundred and more.
My counts o' sales is eight hundred and four,
Of cotton for Ellick Garry.
Thar's eight, ought, four, jest like on a slate:
Here's nine and two oughts -- Hauh? nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry.
"Them crap-leens, oh, them crap-leens!
I giv one to Pardman and Sharks.
Hit gobbled me up like snap-beans
In a patch full o' old fiel'-larks.
But I thought I could fool the crap-leen nice,
And I hauled my cotton to Jammel and Cones.
But shuh! 'fore I even had settled my price
They tuck affidavy without no bones
And levelled upon me fur all ther loans
To the 'mount of sum nine hundred dollars or more,
And sold me out clean for eight hundred and four,
As sure as I'm Ellick Garry!
And thar it is down all squar and straight,
But I can't make it gee, fur nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry."
Then I says "Hello, here, Garry!
However you star' and frown
Thare's somethin' fur YOU to carry,
Fur you've worked it upside down!"
Then he riz and walked to his little bull-cart,
And made like he neither had seen nor heerd
Nor knowed that I knowed of his raskilly part,
And he tried to look as if HE wa'nt feared,
And gathered his lines like he never keered,
And he driv down the road 'bout a quarter or so,
And then looked around, and I hollered "Hello,
Look here, Mister Ellick Garry!
You may git up soon and lie down late,
But you'll always find that nine from eight
Leaves nuthin' -- and none to carry."
Macon, Georgia, 1870.
"Thar's more in the Man than thar is in the Land".
I knowed a man, which he lived in Jones,
Which Jones is a county of red hills and stones,
And he lived pretty much by gittin' of loans,
And his mules was nuthin' but skin and bones,
And his hogs was flat as his corn-bread pones,
And he had 'bout a thousand acres o' land.
This man -- which his name it was also Jones --
He swore that he'd leave them old red hills and stones,
Fur he couldn't make nuthin' but yallerish cotton,
And little o' THAT, and his fences was rotten,
And what little corn he had, HIT was boughten
And dinged ef a livin' was in the land.
And the longer he swore the madder he got,
And he riz and he walked to the stable lot,
And he hollered to Tom to come thar and hitch
Fur to emigrate somewhar whar land was rich,
And to quit raisin' cock-burrs, thistles and sich,
And a wastin' ther time on the cussed land.
So him and Tom they hitched up the mules,
Pertestin' that folks was mighty big fools
That 'ud stay in Georgy ther lifetime out,
Jest scratchin' a livin' when all of 'em mought
Git places in Texas whar cotton would sprout
By the time you could plant it in the land.
And he driv by a house whar a man named Brown
Was a livin', not fur from the edge o' town,
And he bantered Brown fur to buy his place,
And said that bein' as money was skace,
And bein' as sheriffs was hard to face,
Two dollars an acre would git the land.
They closed at a dollar and fifty cents,
And Jones he bought him a waggin and tents,
And loaded his corn, and his wimmin, and truck,
And moved to Texas, which it tuck
His entire pile, with the best of luck,
To git thar and git him a little land.
But Brown moved out on the old Jones' farm,
And he rolled up his breeches and bared his arm,
And he picked all the rocks from off'n the groun',
And he rooted it up and he plowed it down,
Then he sowed his corn and his wheat in the land.
Five years glid by, and Brown, one day
(Which he'd got so fat that he wouldn't weigh),
Was a settin' down, sorter lazily,
To the bulliest dinner you ever see,
When one o' the children jumped on his knee
And says, "Yan's Jones, which you bought his land."
And thar was Jones, standin' out at the fence,
And he hadn't no waggin, nor mules, nor tents,
Fur he had left Texas afoot and cum
To Georgy to see if he couldn't git sum
Employment, and he was a lookin' as hum-
Ble as ef he had never owned any land.
But Brown he axed him in, and he sot
Him down to his vittles smokin' hot,
And when he had filled hisself and the floor
Brown looked at him sharp and riz and swore
That, "whether men's land was rich or poor
Thar was more in the MAN than thar was in the LAND."
Macon, Georgia, 1869.
Jones's Private Argyment.
That air same Jones, which lived in Jones,
He had this pint about him:
He'd swear with a hundred sighs and groans,
That farmers MUST stop gittin' loans,
And git along without 'em:
That bankers, warehousemen, and sich
Was fatt'nin' on the planter,
And Tennessy was rotten-rich
A-raisin' meat and corn, all which
Draw'd money to Atlanta:
And the only thing (says Jones) to do
Is, eat no meat that's boughten:
`But tear up every I, O, U,
And plant all corn and swear for true
To quit a-raisin' cotton!'
Thus spouted Jones (whar folks could hear,
-- At Court and other gatherin's),
And thus kep' spoutin' many a year,
Proclaimin' loudly far and near
Sich fiddlesticks and blatherin's.
But, one all-fired sweatin' day,
It happened I was hoein'
My lower corn-field, which it lay
'Longside the road that runs my way
Whar I can see what's goin'.
And a'ter twelve o'clock had come
I felt a kinder faggin',
And laid myself un'neath a plum
To let my dinner settle sum,
When 'long come Jones's waggin,
And Jones was settin' in it, SO:
A-readin' of a paper.
His mules was goin' powerful slow,
Fur he had tied the lines onto
The staple of the scraper.
The mules they stopped about a rod
From me, and went to feedin'
'Longside the road, upon the sod,
But Jones (which he had tuck a tod)
Not knowin', kept a-readin'.
And presently says he: "Hit's true;
That Clisby's head is level.
Thar's one thing farmers all must do,
To keep themselves from goin' tew
Bankruptcy and the devil!
"More corn! more corn! MUST plant less ground,
And MUSTN'T eat what's boughten!
Next year they'll do it: reasonin's sound:
(And, cotton will fetch 'bout a dollar a pound),
THARFORE, I'LL plant ALL cotton!"
Macon, Georgia, 1870.
The Power of Prayer; or, The First Steamboat up the Alabama.
By Sidney and Clifford Lanier.
You, Dinah! Come and set me whar de ribber-roads does meet.
De Lord, HE made dese black-jack roots to twis' into a seat.
Umph, dar! De Lord have mussy on dis blin' ole nigger's feet.
It 'pear to me dis mornin' I kin smell de fust o' June.
I 'clar', I b'lieve dat mockin'-bird could play de fiddle soon!
Dem yonder town-bells sounds like dey was ringin' in de moon.
Well, ef dis nigger IS been blind for fo'ty year or mo',
Dese ears, DEY sees the world, like, th'u' de cracks dat's in de do'.
For de Lord has built dis body wid de windows 'hind and 'fo'.
I know my front ones IS stopped up, and things is sort o' dim,
But den, th'u' DEM, temptation's rain won't leak in on ole Jim!
De back ones show me earth enough, aldo' dey's mons'ous slim.
And as for Hebben, -- bless de Lord, and praise His holy name --
DAT shines in all de co'ners of dis cabin jes' de same
As ef dat cabin hadn't nar' a plank upon de frame!
Who CALL me? Listen down de ribber, Dinah! Don't you hyar
Somebody holl'in' "Hoo, Jim, hoo?" My Sarah died las' y'ar;
IS dat black angel done come back to call ole Jim f'om hyar?
My stars, dat cain't be Sarah, shuh! Jes' listen, Dinah, NOW!
What KIN be comin' up dat bend, a-makin' sich a row?
Fus' bellerin' like a pawin' bull, den squealin' like a sow?
De Lord 'a' mussy sakes alive, jes' hear, -- ker-woof, ker-woof --
De Debble's comin' round dat bend, he's comin' shuh enuff,
A-splashin' up de water wid his tail and wid his hoof!
I'se pow'ful skeered; but neversomeless I ain't gwine run away:
I'm gwine to stand stiff-legged for de Lord dis blessed day.
YOU screech, and swish de water, Satan! I'se a gwine to pray.
O hebbenly Marster, what thou willest, dat mus' be jes' so,
And ef Thou hast bespoke de word, some nigger's bound to go.
Den, Lord, please take ole Jim, and lef young Dinah hyar below!
'Scuse Dinah, 'scuse her, Marster; for she's sich a little chile,
She hardly jes' begin to scramble up de homeyard stile,
But dis ole traveller's feet been tired dis many a many a mile.
I'se wufless as de rotten pole of las' year's fodder-stack.
De rheumatiz done bit my bones; you hear 'em crack and crack?
I cain'st sit down 'dout gruntin' like 'twas breakin' o' my back.
What use de wheel, when hub and spokes is warped and split, and rotten?
What use dis dried-up cotton-stalk, when Life done picked my cotton?
I'se like a word dat somebody said, and den done been forgotten.
But, Dinah! Shuh dat gal jes' like dis little hick'ry tree,
De sap's jes' risin in her; she do grow owdaciouslee --
Lord, ef you's clarin' de underbrush, don't cut her down, cut me!
I would not proud persume -- but I'll boldly make reques';
Sence Jacob had dat wrastlin'-match, I, too, gwine do my bes';
When Jacob got all underholt, de Lord he answered Yes!
And what for waste de vittles, now, and th'ow away de bread,
Jes' for to strength dese idle hands to scratch dis ole bald head?
T'ink of de 'conomy, Marster, ef dis ole Jim was dead!
Stop; -- ef I don't believe de Debble's gone on up de stream!
Jes' now he squealed down dar; -- hush; dat's a mighty weakly scream!
Yas, sir, he's gone, he's gone; -- he snort way off, like in a dream!
O glory hallelujah to de Lord dat reigns on high!
De Debble's fai'ly skeered to def, he done gone flyin' by;
I know'd he couldn' stand dat pra'r, I felt my Marster nigh!
You, Dinah; ain't you 'shamed, now, dat you didn' trust to grace?
I heerd you thrashin' th'u' de bushes when he showed his face!
You fool, you think de Debble couldn't beat YOU in a race?
I tell you, Dinah, jes' as shuh as you is standin' dar,
When folks starts prayin', answer-angels drops down th'u' de a'r.
YAS, DINAH, WHAR 'OULD YOU BE NOW, JES' 'CEPTIN' FUR DAT PRA'R?
Unrevised Early Poems.
These unrevised poems are not necessarily exponents of Mr. Lanier's
later teaching, but are offered as examples of his youthful spirit,
his earlier methods and his instructive growth. To many friends
they present in addition a wealth of dear associations.
But, putting Mr. Lanier upon trial as an artist, it is fair to remember
that probably none of these poems would have been republished by him
without material alterations, the slightest of which
no other hand can be authorized to make.
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 spiked 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,
Unhoundlike, 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.
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 on
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 tangs 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,
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 walls
Of Crevacoeur and then of strong Alleres,
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.
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 here
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,
Ungainly, foul, and stiff as any heap
Of villeins rotting on a battle-field.
'Tis 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.
Oh Grief shall grind your bread and play your lutes
And marry you and bury you.
-- How else?
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 sinned 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.
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 yet
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,
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 advised 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-tongued 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 they
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 fused
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 falls, and a fool 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,
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;
"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 men
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 through
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 . . . . . [Rest of line lost.]
To place the edge . . . [Rest of line lost.]
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!"
Whereat one witling cries, "'tis monstrous fit,
In sooth, a shaven-pated priest should have
A shaven-eared 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-ringed eyes,
And Gris Grillon calm smiling while he prayed
The Holy Virgin's blessing.
Down the lane
Betwixt the hedging bodies of the crowd,
[Part of line lost.] . . . . majesty
[Part of line lost.] . . 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 be
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 numbed 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.
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.
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.
Song for "The Jacquerie".
The hound was cuffed, the hound was kicked,
O' the ears was cropped, o' the tail was nicked,
(All.) Oo-hoo-o, howled the hound.
The hound into his kennel crept;
He rarely wept, he never slept.
His mouth he always open kept
Licking his bitter wound,
(All.) U-lu-lo, HOWLED THE HOUND.
A star upon his kennel shone
That showed the hound a meat-bare bone.
(All.) O hungry was the hound!
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,"
(All.) O, angry was the hound.
The star in castle-window shone,
The Master lay abed, alone.
(All.) Oh ho, why not? quo' hound.
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,
(All.) U-lu-lo, HOWLED THE HOUND.
Macon, Georgia, 1868.
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.
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.
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, Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
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 Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
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 Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
And all outrageous ugliness of time,
Excess and Blasphemy and squinting Crime
Beset me, but I kept my calm sublime:
I hate them not, Nirvana.
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, Nirvana.
I saw two lovers sitting on a star.