Part 15 out of 32
Leaving behind him dead
The army of Amurath,
The vanguard as it led,
The rearguard as it fled,
Mown down in the bloody swath
Of the battle's aftermath.
But he cared not for Hospodars,
Nor for Baron or Voivode,
As on through the night he rode
And gazed at the fateful stars,
That were shining overhead
But smote his steed with his staff,
And smiled to himself, and said;
"This is the time to laugh."
In the middle of the night,
In a halt of the hurrying flight,
There came a Scribe of the King
Wearing his signet ring,
And said in a voice severe:
"This is the first dark blot
On thy name, George Castriot!
Alas why art thou here,
And the army of Amurath slain,
And left on the battle plain?"
And Iskander answered and said:
"They lie on the bloody sod
By the hoofs of horses trod;
But this was the decree
Of the watchers overhead;
For the war belongeth to God,
And in battle who are we,
Who are we, that shall withstand
The wind of his lifted hand?"
Then he bade them bind with chains
This man of books and brains;
And the Scribe said: "What misdeed
Have I done, that, without need,
Thou doest to me this thing?"
And Iskander answering
Said unto him: "Not one
Misdeed to me hast thou done;
But for fear that thou shouldst run
And hide thyself from me,
Have I done this unto thee.
"Now write me a writing, O Scribe,
And a blessing be on thy tribe!
A writing sealed with thy ring,
To King Amurath's Pasha
In the city of Croia,
The city moated and walled,
That he surrender the same
In the name of my master, the King;
For what is writ in his name
Can never be recalled."
And the Scribe bowed low in dread,
And unto Iskander said:
"Allah is great and just,
But we are as ashes and dust;
How shall I do this thing,
When I know that my guilty head
Will be forfeit to the King?"
Then swift as a shooting star
The curved and shining blade
Of Iskander's scimetar
From its sheath, with jewels bright,
Shot, as he thundered: "Write!"
And the trembling Scribe obeyed,
And wrote in the fitful glare
Of the bivouac fire apart,
With the chill of the midnight air
On his forehead white and bare,
And the chill of death in his heart.
Then again Iskander cried:
"Now follow whither I ride,
For here thou must not stay.
Thou shalt be as my dearest friend,
And honors without end
Shall surround thee on every side,
And attend thee night and day."
But the sullen Scribe replied
"Our pathways here divide;
Mine leadeth not thy way."
And even as he spoke
Fell a sudden scimetar-stroke,
When no one else was near;
And the Scribe sank to the ground,
As a stone, pushed from the brink
Of a black pool, might sink
With a sob and disappear;
And no one saw the deed;
And in the stillness around
No sound was heard but the sound
Of the hoofs of Iskander's steed,
As forward he sprang with a bound.
Then onward he rode and afar,
With scarce three hundred men,
Through river and forest and fen,
O'er the mountains of Argentar;
And his heart was merry within,
When he crossed the river Drin,
And saw in the gleam of the morn
The White Castle Ak-Hissar,
The city Croia called,
The city moated and walled,
The city where he was born,--
And above it the morning star.
Then his trumpeters in the van
On their silver bugles blew,
And in crowds about him ran
Albanian and Turkoman,
That the sound together drew.
And he feasted with his friends,
And when they were warm with wine,
He said: "O friends of mine,
Behold what fortune sends,
And what the fates design!
King Amurath commands
That my father's wide domain,
This city and all its lands,
Shall be given to me again."
Then to the Castle White
He rode in regal state,
And entered in at the gate
In all his arms bedight,
And gave to the Pasha
Who ruled in Croia
The writing of the King,
Sealed with his signet ring.
And the Pasha bowed his head,
And after a silence said:
"Allah is just and great!
I yield to the will divine,
The city and lands are thine;
Who shall contend with fate?"
Anon from the castle walls
The crescent banner falls,
And the crowd beholds instead,
Like a portent in the sky,
Iskander's banner fly,
The Black Eagle with double head;
And a shout ascends on high,
For men's souls are tired of the Turks,
And their wicked ways and works,
That have made of Ak-Hissar
A city of the plague;
And the loud, exultant cry
That echoes wide and far
Is: "Long live Scanderbeg!"
It was thus Iskander came
Once more unto his own;
And the tidings, like the flame
Of a conflagration blown
By the winds of summer, ran,
Till the land was in a blaze,
And the cities far and near,
Sayeth Ben Joshua Ben Meir,
In his Book of the Words of the Days,
"Were taken as a man
Would take the tip of his ear."
"Now that is after my own heart,"
The Poet cried; "one understands
Your swarthy hero Scanderbeg,
Gauntlet on hand and boot on leg,
And skilled in every warlike art,
Riding through his Albanian lands,
And following the auspicious star
That shone for him o'er Ak-Hissar."
The Theologian added here
His word of praise not less sincere,
Although he ended with a jibe;
"The hero of romance and song
Was born," he said, "to right the wrong;
And I approve; but all the same
That bit of treason with the Scribe
Adds nothing to your hero's fame."
The Student praised the good old times
And liked the canter of the rhymes,
That had a hoofbeat in their sound;
But longed some further word to hear
Of the old chronicler Ben Meir,
And where his volume might he found.
The tall Musician walked the room
With folded arms and gleaming eyes,
As if he saw the Vikings rise,
Gigantic shadows in the gloom;
And much he talked of their emprise,
And meteors seen in Northern skies,
And Heimdal's horn, and day of doom
But the Sicilian laughed again;
"This is the time to laugh," he said,
For the whole story he well knew
Was an invention of the Jew,
Spun from the cobwebs in his brain,
And of the same bright scarlet thread
As was the Tale of Kambalu.
Only the Landlord spake no word;
'T was doubtful whether he had heard
The tale at all, so full of care
Was he of his impending fate,
That, like the sword of Damocles,
Above his head hung blank and bare,
Suspended by a single hair,
So that he could not sit at ease,
But sighed and looked disconsolate,
And shifted restless in his chair,
Revolving how he might evade
The blow of the descending blade.
The Student came to his relief
By saying in his easy way
To the Musician: "Calm your grief,
My fair Apollo of the North,
Balder the Beautiful and so forth;
Although your magic lyre or lute
With broken strings is lying mute,
Still you can tell some doleful tale
Of shipwreck in a midnight gale,
Or something of the kind to suit
The mood that we are in to-night
For what is marvellous and strange;
So give your nimble fancy range,
And we will follow in its flight."
But the Musician shook his head;
"No tale I tell to-night," he said,
"While my poor instrument lies there,
Even as a child with vacant stare
Lies in its little coffin dead."
Yet, being urged, he said at last:
"There comes to me out of the Past
A voice, whose tones are sweet and wild,
Singing a song almost divine,
And with a tear in every line;
An ancient ballad, that my nurse
Sang to me when I was a child,
In accents tender as the verse;
And sometimes wept, and sometimes smiled
While singing it, to see arise
The look of wonder in my eyes,
And feel my heart with tenor beat.
This simple ballad I retain
Clearly imprinted on my brain,
And as a tale will now repeat"
THE MUSICIAN'S TALE
THE MOTHER'S GHOST
Svend Dyring he rideth adown the glade;
I myself was young!
There he hath wooed him so winsome a maid;
Fair words gladden so many a heart.
Together were they for seven years,
And together children six were theirs.
Then came Death abroad through the land,
And blighted the beautiful lily-wand.
Svend Dyring he rideth adown the glade,
And again hath he wooed him another maid,
He hath wooed him a maid and brought home a bride,
But she was bitter and full of pride.
When she came driving into the yard,
There stood the six children weeping so hard.
There stood the small children with sorrowful heart;
From before her feet she thrust them apart.
She gave to them neither ale nor bread;
"Ye shall suffer hunger and hate," she said.
She took from them their quilts of blue,
And said: "Ye shall lie on the straw we strew."
She took from them the great waxlight;
"Now ye shall lie in the dark at night."
In the evening late they cried with cold;
The mother heard it under the mould.
The woman heard it the earth below:
"To my little children I must go."
She standeth before the Lord of all:
"And may I go to my children small?"
She prayed him so long, and would not cease,
Until he bade her depart in peace.
"At cock-crow thou shalt return again;
Longer thou shalt not there remain!"
She girded up her sorrowful bones,
And rifted the walls and the marble stones.
As through the village she flitted by,
The watch-dogs howled aloud to the sky.
When she came to the castle gate,
There stood her eldest daughter in wait.
"Why standest thou here, dear daughter mine?
How fares it with brothers and sisters thine?"
"Never art thou mother of mine,
For my mother was both fair and fine.
"My mother was white, with cheeks of red,
But thou art pale, and like to the dead."
"How should I be fair and fine?
I have been dead; pale cheeks are mine.
"How should I be white and red,
So long, so long have I been dead?"
When she came in at the chamber door,
There stood the small children weeping sore.
One she braided, another she brushed,
The third she lifted, the fourth she hushed.
The fifth she took on her lap and pressed,
As if she would suckle it at her breast.
Then to her eldest daughter said she,
"Do thou bid Svend Dyring come hither to me."
Into the chamber when he came
She spake to him in anger and shame.
"I left behind me both ale and bread;
My children hunger and are not fed.
"I left behind me quilts of blue;
My children lie on the straw ye strew.
"I left behind me the great waxlight;
My children lie in the dark at night.
"If I come again unto your hall,
As cruel a fate shall you befall!
"Now crows the cock with feathers red;
Back to the earth must all the dead.
"Now crows the cock with feathers swart;
The gates of heaven fly wide apart.
"Now crows the cock with feathers white;
I can abide no longer to-night."
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs wail,
They gave the children bread and ale.
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bay,
They feared lest the dead were on their way.
Whenever they heard the watch-dogs bark;
I myself was young!
They feared the dead out there in the dark.
Fair words gladden so many a heart.
Touched by the pathos of these rhymes,
The Theologian said: "All praise
Be to the ballads of old times
And to the bards of simple ways,
Who walked with Nature hand in hand,
Whose country was their Holy Land,
Whose singing robes were homespun brown
From looms of their own native town,
Which they were not ashamed to wear,
And not of silk or sendal gay,
Nor decked with fanciful array
Of cockle-shells from Outre-Mer."
To whom the Student answered: "Yes;
All praise and honor! I confess
That bread and ale, home-baked, home-brewed,
Are wholesome and nutritious food,
But not enough for all our needs;
Poets--the best of them--are birds
Of passage; where their instinct leads
They range abroad for thoughts and words,
And from all climes bring home the seeds
That germinate in flowers or weeds.
They are not fowls in barnyards born
To cackle o'er a grain of corn;
And, if you shut the horizon down
To the small limits of their town,
What do you but degrade your bard
Till he at last becomes as one
Who thinks the all-encircling sun
Rises and sets in his back yard?"
The Theologian said again:
"It may be so; yet I maintain
That what is native still is best,
And little care I for the rest.
'T is a long story; time would fail
To tell it, and the hour is late;
We will not waste it in debate,
But listen to our Landlord's tale."
And thus the sword of Damocles
Descending not by slow degrees,
But suddenly, on the Landlord fell,
Who blushing, and with much demur
And many vain apologies,
Plucking up heart, began to tell
The Rhyme of one Sir Christopher.
THE LANDLORD'S TALE
THE RHYME OF SIR CHRISTOPHER
It was Sir Christopher Gardiner,
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre,
From Merry England over the sea,
Who stepped upon this continent
As if his august presence lent
A glory to the colony.
You should have seen him in the street
Of the little Boston of Winthrop's time,
His rapier dangling at his feet
Doublet and hose and boots complete,
Prince Rupert hat with ostrich plume,
Gloves that exhaled a faint perfume,
Luxuriant curls and air sublime,
And superior manners now obsolete!
He had a way of saying things
That made one think of courts and kings,
And lords and ladies of high degree;
So that not having been at court
Seemed something very little short
Of treason or lese-majesty,
Such an accomplished knight was he.
His dwelling was just beyond the town,
At what he called his country-seat;
For, careless of Fortune's smile or frown,
And weary grown of the world and its ways,
He wished to pass the rest of his days
In a private life and a calm retreat.
But a double life was the life he led,
And, while professing to be in search
Of a godly course, and willing, he said,
Nay, anxious to join the Puritan church,
He made of all this but small account,
And passed his idle hours instead
With roystering Morton of Merry Mount,
That pettifogger from Furnival's Inn,
Lord of misrule and riot and sin,
Who looked on the wine when it was red.
This country-seat was little more
Than a cabin of log's; but in front of the door
A modest flower-bed thickly sown
With sweet alyssum and columbine
Made those who saw it at once divine
The touch of some other hand than his own.
And first it was whispered, and then it was known,
That he in secret was harboring there
A little lady with golden hair,
Whom he called his cousin, but whom he had wed
In the Italian manner, as men said,
And great was the scandal everywhere.
But worse than this was the vague surmise,
Though none could vouch for it or aver,
That the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre
Was only a Papist in disguise;
And the more to imbitter their bitter lives,
And the more to trouble the public mind,
Came letters from England, from two other wives,
Whom he had carelessly left behind;
Both of them letters of such a kind
As made the governor hold his breath;
The one imploring him straight to send
The husband home, that he might amend;
The other asking his instant death,
As the only way to make an end.
The wary governor deemed it right,
When all this wickedness was revealed,
To send his warrant signed and sealed,
And take the body of the knight.
Armed with this mighty instrument,
The marshal, mounting his gallant steed,
Rode forth from town at the top of his speed,
And followed by all his bailiffs bold,
As if on high achievement bent,
To storm some castle or stronghold,
Challenge the warders on the wall,
And seize in his ancestral hall
A robber-baron grim and old.
But when though all the dust and heat
He came to Sir Christopher's country-seat,
No knight he found, nor warder there,
But the little lady with golden hair,
Who was gathering in the bright sunshine
The sweet alyssum and columbine;
While gallant Sir Christopher, all so gay,
Being forewarned, through the postern gate
Of his castle wall had tripped away,
And was keeping a little holiday
In the forests, that bounded his estate.
Then as a trusty squire and true
The marshal searched the castle through,
Not crediting what the lady said;
Searched from cellar to garret in vain,
And, finding no knight, came out again
And arrested the golden damsel instead,
And bore her in triumph into the town,
While from her eyes the tears rolled down
On the sweet alyssum and columbine,
That she held in her fingers white and fine.
The governor's heart was moved to see
So fair a creature caught within
The snares of Satan and of sin,
And he read her a little homily
On the folly and wickedness of the lives
Of women, half cousins and half wives;
But, seeing that naught his words availed,
He sent her away in a ship that sailed
For Merry England over the sea,
To the other two wives in the old countree,
To search her further, since he had failed
To come at the heart of the mystery.
Meanwhile Sir Christopher wandered away
Through pathless woods for a month and a day,
Shooting pigeons, and sleeping at night
With the noble savage, who took delight
In his feathered hat and his velvet vest,
His gun and his rapier and the rest.
But as soon as the noble savage heard
That a bounty was offered for this gay bird,
He wanted to slay him out of hand,
And bring in his beautiful scalp for a show,
Like the glossy head of a kite or crow,
Until he was made to understand
They wanted the bird alive, not dead;
Then he followed him whithersoever he fled,
Through forest and field, and hunted him down,
And brought him prisoner into the town.
Alas! it was a rueful sight,
To see this melancholy knight
In such a dismal and hapless case;
His hat deformed by stain and dent,
His plumage broken, his doublet rent,
His beard and flowing locks forlorn,
Matted, dishevelled, and unshorn,
His boots with dust and mire besprent;
But dignified in his disgrace,
And wearing an unblushing face.
And thus before the magistrate
He stood to hear the doom of fate.
In vain he strove with wonted ease
To modify and extenuate
His evil deeds in church and state,
For gone was now his power to please;
And his pompous words had no more weight
Than feathers flying in the breeze.
With suavity equal to his own
The governor lent a patient ear
To the speech evasive and highflown,
In which he endeavored to make clear
That colonial laws were too severe
When applied to a gallant cavalier,
A gentleman born, and so well known,
And accustomed to move in a higher sphere.
All this the Puritan governor heard,
And deigned in answer never a word;
But in summary manner shipped away,
In a vessel that sailed from Salem bay,
This splendid and famous cavalier,
With his Rupert hat and his popery,
To Merry England over the sea,
As being unmeet to inhabit here.
Thus endeth the Rhyme of Sir Christopher,
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre,
The first who furnished this barren land
With apples of Sodom and ropes of sand.
These are the tales those merry guests
Told to each other, well or ill;
Like summer birds that lift their crests
Above the borders of their nests
And twitter, and again are still.
These are the tales, or new or old,
In idle moments idly told;
Flowers of the field with petals thin,
Lilies that neither toil nor spin,
And tufts of wayside weeds and gorse
Hung in the parlor of the inn
Beneath the sign of the Red Horse.
And still, reluctant to retire,
The friends sat talking by the fire
And watched the smouldering embers burn
To ashes, and flash up again
Into a momentary glow,
Lingering like them when forced to go,
And going when they would remain;
For on the morrow they must turn
Their faces homeward, and the pain
Of parting touched with its unrest
A tender nerve in every breast.
But sleep at last the victory won;
They must be stirring with the sun,
And drowsily good night they said,
And went still gossiping to bed,
And left the parlor wrapped in gloom.
The only live thing in the room
Was the old clock, that in its pace
Kept time with the revolving spheres
And constellations in their flight,
And struck with its uplifted mace
The dark, unconscious hours of night,
To senseless and unlistening ears.
Uprose the sun; and every guest,
Uprisen, was soon equipped and dressed
For journeying home and city-ward;
The old stage-coach was at the door,
With horses harnessed, long before
The sunshine reached the withered sward
Beneath the oaks, whose branches hoar
Murmured: "Farewell forevermore."
"Farewell!" the portly Landlord cried;
"Farewell!" the parting guests replied,
But little thought that nevermore
Their feet would pass that threshold o'er;
That nevermore together there
Would they assemble, free from care,
To hear the oaks' mysterious roar,
And breathe the wholesome country air.
Where are they now? What lands and skies
Paint pictures in their friendly eyes?
What hope deludes, what promise cheers,
What pleasant voices fill their ears?
Two are beyond the salt sea waves,
And three already in their graves.
Perchance the living still may look
Into the pages of this book,
And see the days of long ago
Floating and fleeting to and fro,
As in the well-remembered brook
They saw the inverted landscape gleam,
And their own faces like a dream
Look up upon them from below.
Beautiful lily, dwelling by still rivers,
Or solitary mere,
Or where the sluggish meadow-brook delivers
Its waters to the weir!
Thou laughest at the mill, the whir and worry
Of spindle and of loom,
And the great wheel that toils amid the hurry
And rushing of the flame.
Born in the purple, born to joy and pleasance,
Thou dost not toil nor spin,
But makest glad and radiant with thy presence
The meadow and the lin.
The wind blows, and uplifts thy drooping banner,
And round thee throng and run
The rushes, the green yeomen of thy manor,
The outlaws of the sun.
The burnished dragon-fly is thine attendant,
And tilts against the field,
And down the listed sunbeam rides resplendent
With steel-blue mail and shield.
Thou art the Iris, fair among the fairest,
Who, armed with golden rod
And winged with the celestial azure, bearest
The message of some God.
Thou art the Muse, who far from crowded cities
Hauntest the sylvan streams,
Playing on pipes of reed the artless ditties
That come to us as dreams.
O flower-de-luce, bloom on, and let the river
Linger to kiss thy feet!
O flower of song, bloom on, and make forever
The world more fair and sweet.
I lay upon the headland-height, and listened
To the incessant sobbing of the sea
In caverns under me,
And watched the waves, that tossed and fled and glistened,
Until the rolling meadows of amethyst
Melted away in mist.
Then suddenly, as one from sleep, I started;
For round about me all the sunny capes
Seemed peopled with the shapes
Of those whom I had known in days departed,
Apparelled in the loveliness which gleams
On faces seen in dreams.
A moment only, and the light and glory
Faded away, and the disconsolate shore
Stood lonely as before;
And the wild-roses of the promontory
Around me shuddered in the wind, and shed
Their petals of pale red.
There was an old belief that in the embers
Of all things their primordial form exists,
And cunning alchemists
Could re-create the rose with all its members
From its own ashes, but without the bloom,
Without the lost perfume.
Ah me! what wonder-working, occult science
Can from the ashes in our hearts once more
The rose of youth restore?
What craft of alchemy can bid defiance
To time and change, and for a single hour
Renew this phantom-flower?
"O, give me back," I cried, "the vanished splendors,
The breath of morn, and the exultant strife,
When the swift stream of life
Bounds o'er its rocky channel, and surrenders
The pond, with all its lilies, for the leap
Into the unknown deep!"
And the sea answered, with a lamentation,
Like some old prophet wailing, and it said,
"Alas! thy youth is dead!
It breathes no more, its heart has no pulsation;
In the dark places with the dead of old
It lies forever cold!"
Then said I, "From its consecrated cerements
I will not drag this sacred dust again,
Only to give me pain;
But, still remembering all the lost endearments,
Go on my way, like one who looks before,
And turns to weep no more."
Into what land of harvests, what plantations
Bright with autumnal foliage and the glow
Of sunsets burning low;
Beneath what midnight skies, whose constellations
Light up the spacious avenues between
This world and the unseen!
Amid what friendly greetings and caresses,
What households, though not alien, yet not mine,
What bowers of rest divine;
To what temptations in lone wildernesses,
What famine of the heart, what pain and loss,
The bearing of what cross!
I do not know; nor will I vainly question
Those pages of the mystic book which hold
The story still untold,
But without rash conjecture or suggestion
Turn its last leaves in reverence and good heed,
Until "The End" I read.
THE BRIDGE OF CLOUD
Burn, O evening hearth, and waken
Pleasant visions, as of old!
Though the house by winds be shaken,
Safe I keep this room of gold!
Ah, no longer wizard Fancy
Builds her castles in the air,
Luring me by necromancy
Up the never-ending stair!
But, instead, she builds me bridges
Over many a dark ravine,
Where beneath the gusty ridges
Cataracts dash and roar unseen.
And I cross them, little heeding
Blast of wind or torrent's roar,
As I follow the receding
Footsteps that have gone before.
Naught avails the imploring gesture,
Naught avails the cry of pain!
When I touch the flying vesture,
'T is the gray robe of the rain.
Baffled I return, and, leaning
O'er the parapets of cloud,
Watch the mist that intervening
Wraps the valley in its shroud.
And the sounds of life ascending
Faintly, vaguely, meet the ear,
Murmur of bells and voices blending
With the rush of waters near.
Well I know what there lies hidden,
Every tower and town and farm,
And again the land forbidden
Reassumes its vanished charm.
Well I know the secret places,
And the nests in hedge and tree;
At what doors are friendly faces,
In what hearts are thoughts of me.
Through the mist and darkness sinking,
Blown by wind and beaten by shower,
Down I fling the thought I'm thinking,
Down I toss this Alpine flower.
MAY 23, 1864
How beautiful it was, that one bright day
In the long week of rain!
Though all its splendor could not chase away
The omnipresent pain.
The lovely town was white with apple-blooms,
And the great elms o'erhead
Dark shadows wove on their aerial looms
Shot through with golden thread.
Across the meadows, by the gray old manse,
The historic river flowed:
I was as one who wanders in a trance,
Unconscious of his road.
The faces of familiar friends seemed strange;
Their voices I could hear,
And yet the words they uttered seemed to change
Their meaning to my ear.
For the one face I looked for was not there,
The one low voice was mute;
Only an unseen presence filled the air,
And baffled my pursuit.
Now I look back, and meadow, manse, and stream
Dimly my thought defines;
I only see--a dream within a dream--
The hill-top hearsed with pines.
I only hear above his place of rest
Their tender undertone,
The infinite longings of a troubled breast,
The voice so like his own.
There in seclusion and remote from men
The wizard hand lies cold,
Which at its topmost speed let fall the pen,
And left the tale half told.
Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power,
And the lost clew regain?
The unfinished window in Aladdin's tower
Unfinished must remain!
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said:
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
THE WIND OVER THE CHIMNEY
See, the fire is sinking low,
Dusky red the embers glow,
While above them still I cower,
While a moment more I linger,
Though the clock, with lifted finger,
Points beyond the midnight hour.
Sings the blackened log a tune
Learned in some forgotten June
From a school-boy at his play,
When they both were young together,
Heart of youth and summer weather
Making all their holiday.
And the night-wind rising, hark!
How above there in the dark,
In the midnight and the snow,
Ever wilder, fiercer, grander,
Like the trumpets of Iskander,
All the noisy chimneys blow!
Every quivering tongue of flame
Seems to murmur some great name,
Seems to say to me, "Aspire!"
But the night-wind answers, "Hollow
Are the visions that you follow,
Into darkness sinks your fire!"
Then the flicker of the blaze
Gleams on volumes of old days,
Written by masters of the art,
Loud through whose majestic pages
Rolls the melody of ages,
Throb the harp-strings of the heart.
And again the tongues of flame
Start exulting and exclaim:
"These are prophets, bards, and seers;
In the horoscope of nations,
Like ascendant constellations,
They control the coming years."
But the night-wind cries: "Despair!
Those who walk with feet of air
Leave no long-enduring marks;
At God's forges incandescent
Mighty hammers beat incessant,
These are but the flying sparks.
"Dust are all the hands that wrought;
Books are sepulchres of thought;
The dead laurels of the dead
Rustle for a moment only,
Like the withered leaves in lonely
Churchyards at some passing tread."
Suddenly the flame sinks down;
Sink the rumors of renown;
And alone the night-wind drear
Clamors louder, wilder, vaguer,--
"'T is the brand of Meleager
Dying on the hearth-stone here!"
And I answer,--"Though it be,
Why should that discomfort me?
No endeavor is in vain;
Its reward is in the doing,
And the rapture of pursuing
Is the prize the vanquished gain."
THE BELLS OF LYNN
HEARD AT NAHANT
O curfew of the setting sun! O Bells of Lynn!
O requiem of the dying day! O Bells of Lynn!
From the dark belfries of yon cloud-cathedral wafted,
Your sounds aerial seem to float, O Bells of Lynn!
Borne on the evening wind across the crimson twilight,
O'er land and sea they rise and fall, O Bells of Lynn!
The fisherman in his boat, far out beyond the headland,
Listens, and leisurely rows ashore, O Bells of Lynn!
Over the shining sands the wandering cattle homeward
Follow each other at your call, O Bells of Lynn!
The distant lighthouse hears, and with his flaming signal
Answers you, passing the watchword on, O Bells of Lynn!
And down the darkening coast run the tumultuous surges,
And clap their hands, and shout to you, O Bells of Lynn!
Till from the shuddering sea, with your wild incantations,
Ye summon up the spectral moon, O Bells of Lynn!
And startled at the sight like the weird woman of Endor,
Ye cry aloud, and then are still, O Bells of Lynn!
KILLED AT THE FORD.
He is dead, the beautiful youth,
The heart of honor, the tongue of truth,
He, the life and light of us all,
Whose voice was blithe as a bugle-call,
Whom all eyes followed with one consent,
The cheer of whose laugh, and whose pleasant word,
Hushed all murmurs of discontent.
Only last night, as we rode along,
Down the dark of the mountain gap,
To visit the picket-guard at the ford,
Little dreaming of any mishap,
He was humming the words of some old song:
"Two red roses he had on his cap,
And another he bore at the point of his sword."
Sudden and swift a whistling ball
Came out of a wood, and the voice was still;
Something I heard in the darkness fall,
And for a moment my blood grew chill;
I spake in a whisper, as he who speaks
In a room where some one is lying dead;
But he made no answer to what I said.
We lifted him up to his saddle again,
And through the mire and the mist and the rain
Carried him back to the silent camp,
And laid him as if asleep on his bed;
And I saw by the light of the surgeon's lamp
Two white roses upon his cheeks,
And one, just over his heart, blood-red!
And I saw in a vision how far and fleet
That fatal bullet went speeding forth,
Till it reached a town in the distant North,
Till it reached a house in a sunny street,
Till it reached a heart that ceased to beat
Without a murmur, without a cry;
And a bell was tolled, in that far-off town,
For one who had passed from cross to crown,
And the neighbors wondered that she should die.
How many lives, made beautiful and sweet
By self-devotion and by self-restraint,
Whose pleasure is to run without complaint
On unknown errands of the Paraclete,
Wanting the reverence of unshodden feet,
Fail of the nimbus which the artists paint
Around the shining forehead of the saint,
And are in their completeness incomplete!
In the old Tuscan town stands Giotto's tower,
The lily of Florence blossoming in stone,--
A vision, a delight, and a desire,--
The builder's perfect and centennial flower,
That in the night of ages bloomed alone,
But wanting still the glory of the spire.
'T is late at night, and in the realm of sleep
My little lambs are folded like the flocks;
From room to room I hear the wakeful clocks
Challenge the passing hour, like guards that keep
Their solitary watch on tower and steep;
Far off I hear the crowing of the cocks,
And through the opening door that time unlocks
Feel the fresh breathing of To-morrow creep.
To-morrow! the mysterious, unknown guest,
Who cries to me: "Remember Barmecide,
And tremble to be happy with the rest."
And I make answer: "I am satisfied;
I dare not ask; I know not what is best;
God hath already said what shall betide."
Oft have I seen at some cathedral door
A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,
Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor
Kneel to repeat his paternoster o'er;
Far off the noises of the world retreat;
The loud vociferations of the street
Become an undistinguishable roar.
So, as I enter here from day to day,
And leave my burden at this minster gate,
Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,
The tumult of the time disconsolate
To inarticulate murmurs dies away,
While the eternal ages watch and wait.
How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!
This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves
Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves
Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,
And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers!
But fiends and dragons on the gargoyled eaves
Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,
And, underneath, the traitor Judas lowers!
Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,
What exultations trampling on despair,
What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
This medieval miracle of song!
I enter, and I see thee in the gloom
Of the long aisles, O poet saturnine!
And strive to make my steps keep pace with thine.
The air is filled with some unknown perfume;
The congregation of the dead make room
For thee to pass; the votive tapers shine;
Like rooks that haunt Ravenna's groves of pine
The hovering echoes fly from tomb to tomb.
From the confessionals I hear arise
Rehearsals of forgotten tragedies,
And lamentations from the crypts below;
And then a voice celestial, that begins
With the pathetic words, "Although your sins
As scarlet be," and ends with "as the snow."
With snow-white veil and garments as of flame,
She stands before thee, who so long ago
Filled thy young heart with passion and the woe
From which thy song and all its splendors came;
And while with stern rebuke she speaks thy name,
The ice about thy heart melts as the snow
On mountain height; and in swift overflow
Comes gushing from thy lips in sobs of shame.
Thou makest full confession; and a gleam,
As of the dawn on some dark forest cast,
Seems on thy lifted forehead to increase;
Lethe and Eunoe--the remembered dream
And the forgotten sorrow--bring at last
That perfect pardon which is perfect peace.
I lift mine eyes, and all the windows blaze
With forms of saints and holy men who died,
Here martyred and hereafter glorified;
And the great Rose upon its leaves displays
Christ's Triumph, and the angelic roundelays,
With splendor upon splendor multiplied;
And Beatrice again at Dante's side
No more rebukes, but smiles her words of praise.
And then the organ sounds, and unseen choirs
Sing the old Latin hymns of peace and love,
And benedictions of the Holy Ghost;
And the melodious bells among the spires
O'er all the house-tops and through heaven above
Proclaim the elevation of the Host!
O star of morning and of liberty!
O bringer of the light, whose splendor shines
Above the darkness of the Apennines,
Forerunner of the day that is to be!
The voices of the city and the sea,
The voices of the mountains and the pines,
Repeat thy song, till the familiar lines
Are footpaths for the thought of Italy!
Thy fame is blown abroad from all the heights,
Through all the nations, and a sound is heard,
As of a mighty wind, and men devout,
Strangers of Rome, and the new proselytes,
In their own language hear thy wondrous word,
And many are amazed and many doubt.
ENVOYE A M. AGASSIZ, LA VEILLE DE NOEL 1864,
AVEC UN PANIER DE VINS DIVERS
L'Academie en respect,
A la faveur du sujet,
N'y fera point de rature;
-- Gui Barozai
Quand les astres de Noel
Brillaient, palpitaient au ciel,
Six gaillards, et chacun ivre,
Chantaient gaiment dans le givre,
Allons donc chez Agassiz!"
Ces illustres Pelerins
D'Outre-Mer adroits et fins,
Se donnant des airs de pretre,
A l'envi se vantaient d'etre
De Jean Rudolphe Agassiz!"
Oeil-de-Perdrix, grand farceur,
Sans reproche et sans pudeur,
Dans son patois de Bourgogne,
Bredouillait comme un ivrogne,
J'ai danse chez Agassiz!"
Verzenay le Champenois,
Bon Francais, point New-Yorquois,
Mais des environs d'Avize,
Fredonne a mainte reprise,
J'ai chante chez Agassiz!"
A cote marchait un vieux
Hidalgo, mais non mousseux;
Dans le temps de Charlemagne
Fut son pere Grand d'Espagne!
J'ai dine chez Agassiz!"
Derriere eux un Bordelais,
Gascon, s'il en fut jamais,
Parfume de poesie
Riait, chantait, plein de vie,
J'ai soupe chez Agassiz!"
Avec ce beau cadet roux,
Bras dessus et bras dessous,
Mine altiere et couleur terne,
Vint le Sire de Sauterne;
J'ai couche chez Agassiz!"
Mais le dernier de ces preux,
Etait un pauvre Chartreux,
Qui disait, d'un ton robuste,
"Benedictions sur le Juste!
Benissons Pere Agassiz!"
Ils arrivent trois a trois,
Montent l'escalier de bois
Clopin-clopant! quel gendarme
Peut permettre ce vacarme,
A la porte d'Agassiz!
"Ouvrer donc, mon bon Seigneur,
Ouvrez vite et n'ayez peur;
Ouvrez, ouvrez, car nous sommes
Gens de bien et gentilshommes,
De la famille Agassiz!"
Chut, ganaches! taisez-vous!
C'en est trop de vos glouglous;
Epargnez aux Philosophes
Vos abominables strophes!
Respectez mon Agassiz!
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
FLIGHT THE THIRD
O sweet illusions of Song,
That tempt me everywhere,
In the lonely fields, and the throng
Of the crowded thoroughfare!
I approach, and ye vanish away,
I grasp you, and ye are gone;
But ever by nigh an day,
The melody soundeth on.
As the weary traveller sees
In desert or prairie vast,
Blue lakes, overhung with trees,
That a pleasant shadow cast;
Fair towns with turrets high,
And shining roofs of gold,
That vanish as he draws nigh,
Like mists together rolled,--
So I wander and wander along,
And forever before me gleams
The shining city of song,
In the beautiful land of dreams.
But when I would enter the gate
Of that golden atmosphere,
It is gone, and I wander and wait
For the vision to reappear.
THE HAUNTED CHAMBER
Each heart has its haunted chamber,
Where the silent moonlight falls!
On the floor are mysterious footsteps,
There are whispers along the walls!
And mine at times is haunted
By phantoms of the Past
As motionless as shadows
By the silent moonlight cast.
A form sits by the window,
That is not seen by day,
For as soon as the dawn approaches
It vanishes away.
It sits there in the moonlight
Itself as pale and still,
And points with its airy finger
Across the window-sill.
Without before the window,
There stands a gloomy pine,
Whose boughs wave upward and downward
As wave these thoughts of mine.
And underneath its branches
Is the grave of a little child,
Who died upon life's threshold,
And never wept nor smiled.
What are ye, O pallid phantoms!
That haunt my troubled brain?
That vanish when day approaches,
And at night return again?
What are ye, O pallid phantoms!
But the statues without breath,
That stand on the bridge overarching
The silent river of death?
After so long an absence
At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
Or does it give us pain?
The tree of life has been shaken,
And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet's two or three berries
In the top of the uppermost bough.
We cordially greet each other
In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
How old and gray he is grown!
We speak of a Merry Christmas
And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
Of those that are not here.
We speak of friends and their fortunes,
And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
And the living alone seem dead.
And at last we hardly distinguish
Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
Steals over our merriest jests.
When Mazarvan the Magician,
Journeyed westward through Cathay,
Nothing heard he but the praises
Of Badoura on his way.
But the lessening rumor ended
When he came to Khaledan,
There the folk were talking only
Of Prince Camaralzaman,
So it happens with the poets:
Every province hath its own;
Camaralzaman is famous
Where Badoura is unknown.
A gentle boy, with soft and silken locks
A dreamy boy, with brown and tender eyes,
A castle-builder, with his wooden blocks,
And towers that touch imaginary skies.
A fearless rider on his father's knee,
An eager listener unto stories told
At the Round Table of the nursery,
Of heroes and adventures manifold.
There will be other towers for thee to build;
There will be other steeds for thee to ride;
There will be other legends, and all filled
With greater marvels and more glorified.
Build on, and make thy castles high and fair,
Rising and reaching upward to the skies;
Listen to voices in the upper air,
Nor lose thy simple faith in mysteries.
From the outskirts of the town
Where of old the mile-stone stood.
Now a stranger, looking down
I behold the shadowy crown
Of the dark and haunted wood.
Is it changed, or am I changed?
Ah! the oaks are fresh and green,
But the friends with whom I ranged
Through their thickets are estranged
By the years that intervene.
Bright as ever flows the sea,
Bright as ever shines the sun,
But alas! they seem to me
Not the sun that used to be,
Not the tides that used to run.
I have a vague remembrance
Of a story, that is told
In some ancient Spanish legend
Or chronicle of old.
It was when brave King Sanchez
Was before Zamora slain,
And his great besieging army
Lay encamped upon the plain.
Don Diego de Ordonez
Sallied forth in front of all,
And shouted loud his challenge
To the warders on the wall.
All the people of Zamora,
Both the born and the unborn,
As traitors did he challenge
With taunting words of scorn.
The living, in their houses,
And in their graves, the dead!
And the waters of their rivers,
And their wine, and oil, and bread!
There is a greater army,
That besets us round with strife,
A starving, numberless army,
At all the gates of life.
The poverty-stricken millions
Who challenge our wine and bread,
And impeach us all as traitors,
Both the living and the dead.
And whenever I sit at the banquet,
Where the feast and song are high,
Amid the mirth and the music
I can hear that fearful cry.
And hollow and haggard faces
Look into the lighted hall,
And wasted hands are extended
To catch the crumbs that fall.
For within there is light and plenty,
And odors fill the air;
But without there is cold and darkness,
And hunger and despair.
And there in the camp of famine,
In wind and cold and rain,
Christ, the great Lord of the army,
Lies dead upon the plain!
THE BROOK AND THE WAVE
The brooklet came from the mountain,
As sang the bard of old,
Running with feet of silver
Over the sands of gold!
Far away in the briny ocean
There rolled a turbulent wave,
Now singing along the sea-beach,
Now howling along the cave.
And the brooklet has found the billow
Though they flowed so far apart,
And has filled with its freshness and sweetness
That turbulent bitter heart!
When the summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown,
And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
And gather in the aftermath.
Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mired with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
In the silence and the gloom.
THE MASQUE OF PANDORA
THE WORKSHOP OF HEPHAESTUS
HEPHAESTUS (standing before the statue of Pandora.)
Not fashioned out of gold, like Hera's throne,
Nor forged of iron like the thunderbolts
Of Zeus omnipotent, or other works
Wrought by my hands at Lemnos or Olympus,
But moulded in soft clay, that unresisting
Yields itself to the touch, this lovely form
Before me stands, perfect in every part.
Not Aphrodite's self appeared more fair,
When first upwafted by caressing winds
She came to high Olympus, and the gods
Paid homage to her beauty. Thus her hair
Was cinctured; thus her floating drapery
Was like a cloud about her, and her face
Was radiant with the sunshine and the sea.
THE VOICE OF ZEUS.
Is thy work done, Hephaestus?
It is finished!
Not finished till I breathe the breath of life
Into her nostrils, and she moves and speaks.
Will she become immortal like ourselves?
The form that thou hast fashioned out of clay
Is of the earth and mortal; but the spirit,
The life, the exhalation of my breath,
Is of diviner essence and immortal.
The gods shall shower on her their benefactions,
She shall possess all gifts: the gift of song,
The gift of eloquence, the gift of beauty,
The fascination and the nameless charm
That shall lead all men captive.
(A wind shakes the house.)
I hear the rushing of a mighty wind
Through all the halls and chambers of my house!
Her parted lips inhale it, and her bosom
Heaves with the inspiration. As a reed
Beside a river in the rippling current
Bends to and fro, she bows or lifts her head.
She gazes round about as if amazed;
She is alive; she breathes, but yet she speaks not!
(PANDORA descends from the pedestal.)
CHORUS OF THE GRACES
In the workshop of Hephaestus
What is this I see?
Have the Gods to four increased us
Who were only three?
Beautiful in form and feature,
Lovely as the day,
Can there be so fair a creature
Formed of common clay?
O sweet, pale face! O lovely eyes of azure,
Clear as the waters of a brook that run
Limpid and laughing in the summer sun!
O golden hair that like a miser's treasure
In its abundance overflows the measure!
O graceful form, that cloudlike floatest on
With the soft, undulating gait of one
Who moveth as if motion were a pleasure!
By what name shall I call thee? Nymph or Muse,
Callirrhoe or Urania? Some sweet name
Whose every syllable is a caress
Would best befit thee; but I cannot choose,
Nor do I care to choose; for still the same,
Nameless or named, will be thy loveliness.
Dowered with all celestial gifts,
Skilled in every art
That ennobles and uplifts
And delights the heart,
Fair on earth shall be thy fame
As thy face is fair,
And Pandora be the name
Thou henceforth shalt bear.
HERMES (putting on his sandals.)
Much must he toil who serves the Immortal Gods,
And I, who am their herald, most of all.
No rest have I, nor respite. I no sooner
Unclasp the winged sandals from my feet,
Than I again must clasp them, and depart
Upon some foolish errand. But to-day
The errand is not foolish. Never yet
With greater joy did I obey the summons
That sends me earthward. I will fly so swiftly
That my caduceus in the whistling air
Shall make a sound like the Pandaean pipes,
Cheating the shepherds; for to-day I go,
Commissioned by high-thundering Zeus, to lead
A maiden to Prometheus, in his tower,
And by my cunning arguments persuade him
To marry her. What mischief lies concealed
In this design I know not; but I know
Who thinks of marrying hath already taken
One step upon the road to penitence.
Such embassies delight me. Forth I launch
On the sustaining air, nor fear to fall
Like Icarus, nor swerve aside like him
Who drove amiss Hyperion's fiery steeds.
I sink, I fly! The yielding element
Folds itself round about me like an arm,
And holds me as a mother holds her child.
TOWER OF PROMETHEUS ON MOUNT CAUCASUS
I hear the trumpet of Alectryon
Proclaim the dawn. The stars begin to fade,
And all the heavens are full of prophecies
And evil auguries. Blood-red last night
I saw great Kronos rise; the crescent moon
Sank through the mist, as if it were the scythe
His parricidal hand had flung far down
The western steeps. O ye Immortal Gods,
What evil are ye plotting and contriving?
(HERMES and PANDORA at the threshold.)
I cannot cross the threshold. An unseen
And icy hand repels me. These blank walls
Oppress me with their weight!
Powerful ye are,
But not omnipotent. Ye cannot fight
Against Necessity. The Fates control you,
As they do us, and so far we are equals!
Motionless, passionless, companionless,
He sits there muttering in his beard. His voice
Is like a river flowing underground!
Who calls me?
It is I.
Dost thou not know me?
By thy winged cap
And winged heels I know thee. Thou art Hermes,
Captain of thieves! Hast thou again been stealing
The heifers of Admetus in the sweet
Meadows of asphodel? or Hera's girdle?
Or the earth-shaking trident of Poseidon?
And thou, Prometheus; say, hast thou again
Been stealing fire from Helios' chariot-wheels
To light thy furnaces?
Why comest thou hither
So early in the dawn?
The Immortal Gods
Know naught of late or early. Zeus himself
The omnipotent hath sent me.
For what purpose?
To bring this maiden to thee.
The Gods and all their gifts. If they have sent her
It is for no good purpose.
Could she bring on thy house, who is a woman?
The Gods are not my friends, nor am I theirs.
Whatever comes from them, though in a shape
As beautiful as this, is evil only.
Who art thou?
One who, though to thee unknown,
Yet knoweth thee.
How shouldst thou know me, woman?
Who knoweth not Prometheus the humane?
Prometheus the unfortunate; to whom
Both Gods and men have shown themselves ungrateful.
When every spark was quenched on every hearth
Throughout the earth, I brought to man the fire
And all its ministrations. My reward
Hath been the rock and vulture.
But the Gods
At last relent and pardon.
They relent not;
They pardon not; they are implacable,
As a pledge
Of reconciliation they have sent to thee
This divine being, to be thy companion,
And bring into thy melancholy house
The sunshine and the fragrance of her youth.
I need them not. I have within myself
All that my heart desires; the ideal beauty
Which the creative faculty of mind
Fashions and follows in a thousand shapes
More lovely than the real. My own thoughts
Are my companions; my designs and labors
And aspirations are my only friends.
Decide not rashly. The decision made
Can never be recalled. The Gods implore not,
Plead not, solicit not; they only offer
Choice and occasion, which once being passed
Return no more. Dost thou accept the gift?
No gift of theirs, in whatsoever shape
It comes to me, with whatsoever charm
To fascinate my sense, will I receive.
Let us go hence. I will not stay.
We leave thee to thy vacant dreams, and all
The silence and the solitude of thought,
The endless bitterness of unbelief,
The loneliness of existence without love.
CHORUS OF THE FATES
How the Titan, the defiant,
The self-centred, self-reliant,
Wrapped in visions and illusions,
Robs himself of life's best gifts!
Till by all the storm-winds shaken,
By the blast of fate o'ertaken,
Hopeless, helpless, and forsaken,
In the mists of his confusions
To the reefs of doom he drifts!
Sorely tried and sorely tempted,
From no agonies exempted,
In the penance of his trial,
And the discipline of pain;
Often by illusions cheated,
Often baffled and defeated
In the tasks to be completed,
He, by toil and self-denial,
To the highest shall attain.
Tempt no more the noble schemer;
Bear unto some idle dreamer
This new toy and fascination,
This new dalliance and delight!
To the garden where reposes
Epimetheus crowned with roses,
To the door that never closes
Upon pleasure and temptation,
Bring this vision of the night!
HERMES (returning to Olympus.)
As lonely as the tower that he inhabits,
As firm and cold as are the crags about him,
Prometheus stands. The thunderbolts of Zeus
Alone can move him; but the tender heart
Of Epimetheus, burning at white heat,
Hammers and flames like all his brother's forges!
Now as an arrow from Hyperion's bow,
My errand done, I fly, I float, I soar
Into the air, returning to Olympus.
O joy of motion! O delight to cleave
The infinite realms of space, the liquid ether,
Through the warm sunshine and the cooling cloud,
Myself as light as sunbeam or as cloud!