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From Chaucer to Tennyson by Henry A. Beers

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[From _The Eve of St. Agnes_.]

Out went the taper as she hurried in;
Its little smoke in pallid moonshine died;
She closed the door, she panted, all akin
To spirits of the air and visions wide;
No uttered syllable, or, woe betide!
But to her heart her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side;
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled in her dell.

A casement high and triple-arched there was,
All garlanded with carven imageries
Of fruits and flowers and bunches of knot-grass,
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes
As are the tiger-moth's deep-damasked wings;
And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries,
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings,
A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of queens and kings.

Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast
As down she knelt for heaven's grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together pressed,
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seemed a splendid angel, newly dressed,
Save wings, for heaven: Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.



[From _Pickwick Papers_.]

After supper another jug of punch was put on the table, together with a
paper of cigars and a couple of bottles of spirits. Then there was an
awful pause; and this awful pause was occasioned by a very common
occurrence in this sort of places, but a very embarrassing one,

The fact is that the girl was washing the glasses. The establishment
boasted four; we do not record this circumstance as at all derogatory to
Mrs. Raddle, for there was never a lodging-house yet that was not short
of glasses. The landlady's glasses were little thin blown-glass
tumblers, and those which had been borrowed from the public-house were
great, dropsical, bloated articles, each supported on a huge gouty leg.
This would have been in itself sufficient to have possessed the company
with the real state of affairs; but the young woman of all work had
prevented the possibility of any misconception arising in the mind of
any gentleman upon the subject, by forcibly dragging every man's glass
away long before he had finished his beer, and audibly stating, despite
the winks and interruptions of Mr. Bob Sawyer, that it was to be
conveyed down-stairs and washed forthwith....

The sight of the tumblers restored Bob Sawyer to a degree of equanimity
which he had not possessed since his interview with his landlady. His
face brightened up, and he began to feel quite convivial.

"Now, Betsy," said Mr. Bob Sawyer, with great suavity, and dispersing,
at the same time, the tumultuous little mob of glasses that the girl had
collected in the center of the table; "Now, Betsy, the warm water; be
brisk, there's a good girl."

"You can't have no warm water," replied Betsy.

"No warm water!" exclaimed Mr. Bob Sawyer.

"No," said the girl, with a shake of the head which expressed a more
decided negative than the most copious language could have conveyed.
"Missis Raddle said you wasn't to have none."

The surprise depicted on the countenances of his guests imparted new
courage to the host.

"Bring up the warm water instantly--instantly!" said Mr. Bob Sawyer,
with desperate sternness.

"No; I can't," replied the girl. "Missis Raddle raked out the kitchen
fire afore she went to bed, and locked up the kettle."

"O, never mind, never mind. Pray don't disturb yourself about such a
trifle," said Mr. Pickwick, observing the conflict of Bob Sawyer's
passions, as depicted on his countenance, "cold water will do very

"O, admirably," said Mr. Benjamin Allen.

"My landlady is subject to slight attacks of mental derangement,"
remarked Bob Sawyer, with a ghastly smile; "I fear I must give her

"No, don't," said Ben Allen.

"I fear I must," said Bob, with heroic firmness. "I'll pay her what I
owe her and give her warning to-morrow morning."

Poor fellow! How devoutly he wished he could!...It was at the end of
the chorus to the first verse that Mr. Pickwick held up his hand in a
listening attitude, and said, as soon as silence was restored, "Hush! I
beg your pardon. I thought I heard somebody calling from up-stairs."

A profound silence immediately ensued, and Mr. Bob Sawyer was observed
to turn pale.

"I think I hear it now," said Mr. Pickwick. "Have the goodness to open
the door."

The door was no sooner opened than all doubt on the subject was removed.

"Mr. Sawyer--Mr. Sawyer," screamed a voice from the two-pair landing.

"It's my landlady," said Bob Sawyer, looking round him with great
dismay. "Yes, Mrs. Raddle."

"What do you mean by this, Mr. Sawyer?" replied the voice, with great
shrillness and rapidity of utterance. "'Aint it enough to be swindled
out of one's rent, and money lent out of pocket besides, and abused and
insulted by your friends that dares to call themselves men, without
having the house turned out of window, and noise enough made to bring
the fire-engines here at two o'clock in the morning? Turn them wretches

"You ought to be ashamed of yourselves," said the voice of Mr. Raddle,
which appeared to proceed from beneath some distant bed-clothes.

"Ashamed of themselves!" said Mrs. Raddle. "Why don't you go down and
knock 'em every one down-stairs? You would, if you was a man."

"I should if I was a dozen men, my dear," replied Mr. Raddle,
pacifically; "but they've rather the advantage of me in numbers, my

"Ugh, you coward!" replied Mrs. Raddle, with supreme contempt. "Do you
mean to turn them wretches out, or not, Mr. Sawyer?"

"They're going, Mrs. Raddle, they're going," said the miserable Bob.
"I'm afraid you'd better go," said Mr. Bob Sawyer to his friends. "I
_thought_ you were making too much noise."

"It's a very unfortunate thing," said the prim man. "Just as we were
getting so comfortable, too." The fact was that the prim man was just
beginning to have a dawning recollection of the story he had forgotten.

"It's hardly to be borne," said the prim man, looking round; "hardly to
be borne, is it?"

"Not to be endured," replied Jack Hopkins; "let's have the other verse,
Bob; come, here goes."

"No, no, Jack, don't," interposed Bob Sawyer; "it's a capital song, but
I am afraid we had better not have the other verse. They are very
violent people, the people of the house."

"Shall I step up-stairs and pitch into the landlord?" inquired Hopkins,
"or keep on ringing the bell, or go and groan on the staircase? You may
command me, Bob."

"I am very much indebted to you for your friendship and good-nature,
Hopkins," said the wretched Mr. Bob Sawyer, "but I am of opinion that
the best plan to avoid any farther dispute is for us to break up at

"Now, Mr. Sawyer," screamed the shrill voice of Mrs. Raddle, "are them
brutes going?"

"They're only looking for their hats, Mrs. Raddle," said Bob; "they are
going directly."

"Going!" said Mrs. Raddle, thrusting her night-cap over the bannisters,
just as Mr. Pickwick, followed by Mr. Tupman, emerged from the
sitting-room. "Going! What did they ever come for."

"My dear ma'am," remonstrated Mr. Pickwick, looking up.

"Get along with you, you old wretch!" replied Mrs. Raddle, hastily
withdrawing her night-cap. "Old enough to be his grandfather, you
villain! You're worse than any of 'em."

Mr. Pickwick found it in vain to protest his innocence, so hurried
down-stairs into the street, whither he was closely followed by Mr.
Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.



[From _Vanity Fair_.]

The particulars of Becky's costume were in the newspapers--feathers,
lappets, superb diamonds, and all the rest. Lady Crackenbury read the
paragraph in bitterness of spirit, and discoursed to her followers about
the airs which that woman was giving herself. Mrs. Bute Crawley and her
young ladies in the country had a copy of the _Morning Post_ from town,
and gave a vent to their honest indignation. "If you had been
sandy-haired, green-eyed, and a French rope-dancer's daughter," Mrs.
Bute said to her eldest girl (who, on the contrary, was a very swarthy,
short, and snub-nosed young lady), "you might have had superb diamonds,
forsooth, and have been presented at court by your cousin, the Lady
Jane. But you're only a gentlewoman, my poor dear child. You have only
some of the best blood in England in your veins, and good principles and
piety for your portion. I myself, the wife of a baronet's younger
brother, too, never thought of such a thing as going to court--nor would
other people if good Queen Charlotte had been alive." In this way the
worthy rectoress consoled herself; and her daughters sighed, and sat
over the _Peerage_ all night....

When the ladies of Gaunt House were at breakfast that morning Lord
Steyne (who took his chocolate in private, and seldom disturbed the
females of his household, or saw them except upon public days, or when
they crossed each other in the hall, or when from his pit-box at the
opera he surveyed them in their box in the grand tier)--his lordship, we
say, appeared among the ladies and the children, who were assembled over
the tea and toast, and a battle royal ensued apropos of Rebecca.

"My Lady Steyne," he said, "I want to see the list for your dinner on
Friday; and I want you, if you please, to write a card for Colonel and
Mrs. Crawley."

"Blanche writes them," Lady Steyne said, in a flutter. "Lady Gaunt
writes them."

"I will not write to that person," Lady Gaunt said, a tall and stately
lady, who looked up for an instant and then down again after she had
spoken. It was not good to meet Lord Steyne's eyes for those who had
offended him.

"Send the children out of the room. Go!" said he, pulling at the
bell-rope. The urchins, always frightened before him, retired; their
mother would have followed too. "Not you." he said. "You stop."

"My Lady Steyne," he said, "once more, will you have the goodness to go
to the desk and write that card for your dinner on Friday?"

"My Lord, I will not be present at it," Lady Gaunt said; "I will go

"I wish you would, and stay there. You will find the bailiffs at
Bare-acres very pleasant company; and I shall be freed from lending
money to your relations, and from your own damned tragedy airs. Who are
you, to give orders here? You have no money. You've got no brains. You
were here to have children, and you have not had any. Gaunt's tired of
you; and George's wife is the only person in the family who doesn't wish
you were dead. Gaunt would marry again if you were."

"I wish I were," her ladyship answered, with tears and rage in her eyes.

"You, forsooth, must give yourself airs of virtue; while my wife, who is
an immaculate saint, as every body knows, and never did wrong in her
life, has no objection to meet my young friend, Mrs. Crawley. My Lady
Steyne knows that appearances are sometimes against the best of women;
that lies are often told about the most innocent of them. Pray, madam,
shall I tell you some little anecdotes about my Lady Bareacres, your

"You may strike me if you like, sir, or hit any cruel blow," Lady Gaunt
said. To see his wife and daughter suffering always put his lordship
into a good humor.

"My sweet Blanche," he said, "I am a gentleman, and never lay my hand
upon a woman, save in the way of kindnesss. I only wish to correct
little faults in your character. You women are too proud, and sadly lack
humility, as Father Mole, I'm sure, would tell my Lady Steyne if he were
here. You musn't give yourselves airs: you must be meek and humble, my
blessings. For all Lady Steyne knows, this calumniated, simple,
good-humored Mrs. Crawley is quite innocent--even more innocent than
herself. Her husband's character is not good, but it is as good as
Bareacres's, who has played a little and not payed a great deal, who
cheated you out of the only legacy you ever had, and left you a pauper
on my hands. And Mrs. Crawley is not very well born; but she is not
worse than Fanny's illustrious ancestor, the first de la Jones."

"The money which I brought into the family, sir," Lady George cried

"You purchased a contingent reversion with it," the marquis said,
darkly. "If Gaunt dies, your husband may come to his honors; your little
boys may inherit them, and who knows what besides? In the meanwhile,
ladies, be as proud and virtuous as you like abroad, but don't give _me_
any airs. As for Mrs. Crawley's character, I sha'n't demean myself or
that most spotless and perfectly irreproachable lady, by even hinting
that it even requires a defense. You will be pleased to receive her with
the utmost cordiality, as you will receive all persons whom I present in
this house. This house?" He broke out with a laugh. "Who is the master
of it, and what is it? This temple of virtue belongs to me. And if I
invite all Newgate or all Bedlam here, by----they shall be welcome."

After this vigorous allocution, to one of which sort Lord Steyne treated
his "Hareem" whenever symptoms of insubordination appeared in his
household, the crestfallen women had nothing for it but to obey. Lady
Gaunt wrote the invitation which his lordship required, and she and her
mother-in-law drove in person, and with bitter and humiliated hearts, to
leave the cards on Mrs. Rawdon, the reception of which caused that
innocent woman so much pleasure.



It was a wood of beeches and limes, with here and there a light,
silver-stemmed birch--just the sort of wood most haunted by the nymphs;
you see their white sun-lit limbs gleaming athwart the boughs or peeping
from behind the smooth-sweeping outline of a tall lime; you hear their
soft liquid laughter--but if you look with a too curious sacrilegious
eye they vanish behind the silvery beeches, they make you believe that
their voice was only a running brooklet, perhaps they metamorphose
themselves into a tawny squirrel that scampers away and mocks you from
the topmost bough. Not a grove with measured grass or rolled gravel for
you to tread upon, but with narrow, hollow-shaped earthy paths, edged
with faint dashes of delicate moss--paths which look as if they were
made by the free will of the trees and underwood, moving reverently
aside to look at the tall queen of the white-footed nymphs.

There are various orders of beauty, causing men to make fools of
themselves in various styles, from the desperate to the sheepish; but
there is one order of beauty which seems made to turn the heads not only
of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of women. It is a beauty
like that of kittens, or very small downy ducks making gentle rippling
noises with their soft bills, or babies just beginning to toddle and to
engage in conscious mischief--a beauty with which you can never be
angry, but that you feel ready to crush for inability to comprehend the
state of mind into which it throws you....It is of little use for me to
tell you that Hetty's cheek was like a rose-petal, that dimples played
about her pouting lips, that her large dark eyes hid a soft roguishness
under their long lashes, and that her curly hair, though all pushed back
under her round cap while she was at work, stole back in dark delicate
rings on her forehead, and about her white shell-like ears; it is of
little use for me to say how lovely was the contour of her
pink-and-white neckerchief, tucked into her low plum-colored stuff
bodice, or how the linen butter-making apron, with its bib, seemed a
thing to be imitated in silk by duchesses, since it fell in such
charming lines, or how her brown stockings and thick-soled buckled shoes
lost all that clumsiness which they must certainly have had when empty
of her foot and ankle--of little use unless you have seen a woman who
affected you as Hetty affected her beholders, for otherwise, though you
might conjure up the image of a lovely woman, she would not in the least
resemble that distracting kitten-like maiden. I might mention all the
divine charms of a bright spring day, but if you had never in your life
utterly forgotten yourself in straining your eyes after the mounting
lark, or in wandering through the still lanes when the fresh-opened
blossoms fill them with a sacred, silent beauty like that of fretted
aisles, where would be the use of my descriptive catalogue? I could
never make you know what I meant by a bright spring day. Hetty's was a
spring-tide beauty; it was the beauty of young frisking things,
round-limbed, gambolling, circumventing you by a false air of
innocence--the innocence of a young star-browed calf, for example, that,
being inclined for a promenade out of bounds, leads you a severe
steeple-chase over hedge and ditch, and only comes to a stand in the
middle of a bog.

Family likeness has often a deep sadness in it. Nature, that great
tragic dramatist, knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us
by the subtler web of our brains; blends yearning and repulsion, and
ties us by our heart-strings to the beings that jar us at every
movement. We hear a voice with the very cadence of our own uttering the
thoughts we despise; we see eyes--ah! so like our mother's--averted from
us in cold alienation; and our last darling child startles us with the
air and gestures of the sister we parted from in bitterness long years
ago. The father to whom we owe our best heritage--the mechanical
instinct, the keen sensibility to harmony, the unconscious skill of the
modeling hand--galls us, and puts us to shame by his daily errors. The
long-lost mother, whose face we begin to see in the glass as our own
wrinkles come, once fretted our young souls with her anxious humors and
irrational persistence.

It was to Adam the time that a man can least forget in after life--the
time when he believes that the first woman he has ever loved betrays by
a slight something--a word, a tone, a glance, the quivering of a lip or
an eyelid--that she is at least beginning to love him in return....So
unless our early gladness vanishes utterly from our memory, we can never
recall the joy with which we laid our heads on our mother's bosom or
rode on our father's back in childhood; doubtless that joy is wrought up
into our nature, or as the sunlight of long-past mornings is wrought up
into the soft mellowness of the apricot; but it is gone forever from our
imagination as we can only _believe_ in the joy of childhood. But the
first glad moment in our first love is a vision which returns to us to
the last, and brings with it a thrill of feeling intense and special as
the recurrent sensation of a sweet odor breathed in a far-off hour of
happiness. It is a memory that gives a more exquisite touch to
tenderness, that feeds the madness of jealousy, and adds the last
keenness to the agony of despair.



[From _Sartor Resartus_.]

"_Ach, mein Lieber!_" said he once, at midnight, when we had returned
from the Coffee-house in rather earnest talk, "it is a true sublimity to
dwell here. These fringes of lamp-light, struggling up through smoke and
thousand-fold exhalation, some fathoms into the ancient reign of night,
what thinks Booetes of them, as he leads his Hunting-Dogs over the Zenith
in their leash of sidereal fire? That stifled hum of Midnight, when
Traffic has lain down to rest; and the chariot-wheels of Vanity, still
rolling here and there through distant streets, are bearing her to Halls
roofed-in and lighted to the due pitch for her; and only Vice and
Misery, to prowl or to moan like night-birds, are abroad: that hum, I
say, like the stertorous, unquiet slumber of sick Life, is heard in
Heaven! O, under that hideous coverlet of vapours and putrefactions and
unimaginable gases, what a Fermenting-vat lies simmering and hid! The
joyful and the sorrowful are there; men are dying there, men are being
born: men are praying,--on the other side of a brick partition men are
cursing; and around them all is the vast, void Night. The proud Grandee
still lingers in his perfumed saloons, or reposes within damask
curtains; Wretchedness cowers into truckle-beds, or shivers
hunger-stricken into its lair of straw: in obscure cellars,
_Rouge-et-Noir_ languidly emits its voice-of-destiny to haggard, hungry
Villains; while Councillors of State sit plotting, and playing their
high chess-game, whereof the pawns are Men. The Lover whispers his
mistress that the coach is ready; and she, full of hope and fear, glides
down to fly with him over the borders: the Thief, still more silently,
sets-to his picklocks and crowbars, or lurks in wait till the watchmen
first snore in their boxes. Gay mansions, with supper-rooms and
dancing-rooms, are full of light and music and high-swelling hearts;
but, in the Condemned Cells, the pulse of life beats tremulous and
faint, and blood-shot eyes look out through the darkness, which is
around and within, for the light of a stern last morning. Six men
are to be hanged on the morrow: comes no hammering from the
_Rabenstein_?--their gallows must even now be o' building. Upward of
five hundred thousand two-legged animals without feathers lie round us
in horizontal positions; their heads all in night-caps and full of the
foolishest dreams. Riot cries aloud, and staggers and swaggers in his
rank dens of shame; and the Mother, with streaming hair, kneels over her
pallid dying infant, whose cracked lips only her tears now moisten.--All
these heaped and huddled together, with nothing but a little carpentry
and masonry between them;--crammed in, like salted fish in their
barrel;--or weltering, shall I say, like an Egyptian pitcher of tamed
Vipers, each struggling to get its _head above_ the other: _such_ work
goes on under that smoke-counterpane!--But I, _mein Werther,_ sit above
it all; I am alone with the Stars."


[From the Same.]

Again, could any thing be more miraculous than an actual authentic
Ghost? The English Johnson longed, all his life to see one; but could
not, though he went to Cock Lane, and thence to the church-vaults, and
tapped on coffins. Foolish Doctor! Did he never, with the mind's eye as
well as with the body's, look around him into that full tide of human
Life he so loved; did he never so much as look into himself? The good
Doctor was a Ghost, as actual and authentic as heart could wish;
well-nigh a million of Ghosts were travelling the streets by his side.
Once more I say, sweep away the illusion of Time; compress the
threescore years into three minutes: what else was he, what else are we?
Are we not Spirits, that are shaped into a body, into an Appearance; and
that fade away again into air, and Invisibility? This is no metaphor,
it is a simple scientific _fact_: we start out of Nothingness, take
figure, and are Apparitions; round us, as round the veriest spectre, is
Eternity; and to Eternity minutes are as years and aeons. Come there not
tones of Love and Faith, as from celestial harp-strings, like the Song
of beatified souls? And again, do not we squeak and gibber (in our
discordant, screech-owlish debatings and recriminatings); and glide
bodeful and feeble and fearful; or uproar (_poltern_), and revel in our
mad Dance of the Dead,--till the scent of the morning-air summons us to
our still Home; and dreamy Night becomes awake and Day? Where now is
Alexander of Macedon: does the steel Host, that yelled in fierce
battle-shouts, at Issus and Arbela, remain behind him; or have they all
vanished utterly, even as perturbed Goblins must? Napoleon too, and his
Moscow Retreats and Austerlitz Campaigns! Was it all other than the
veriest Spectre-hunt; which has now, with its howling tumult that made
Night hideous, flitted away?--Ghosts! There are nigh a thousand million
walking the Earth openly at noontide; some half-hundred have vanished
from it, some half-hundred have arisen in it, ere thy watch ticks

Thus, like some wild-flaming, wild-thundering train of Heaven's
Artillery, does this mysterious Mankind thunder and flame, in
long-drawn, quick-succeeding grandeur, through the unknown Deep. Thus,
like a God-created, fire-breathing Spirit-host, we emerge from the
Inane; haste stormfully across the astonished Earth; then plunge again
into the Inane. Earth's mountains are levelled, and her seas filled up,
in our passage: can the Earth, which is but dead and a vision, resist
Spirits which have reality and are alive? On the hardest adamant some
foot-print of us is stamped in; the last Rear of the host will read
traces of the earliest Van. But whence?--O Heaven, whither? Sense knows
not; Faith knows not; only that it is through Mystery to Mystery, from
God and to God.

"We _are such stuff_
As Dreams are made of, and our little Life
Is rounded with a sleep!"



[From _The Princess_.]

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more....

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O death in life, the days that are no more.


[From _Morte D'Arthur_.]

And slowly answered Arthur from the barge:
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfills himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
For what are men better than sheep or goats
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.
But now farewell: I am going a long way
With these thou seest--if indeed I go--
(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)
To the island-valley of Avilion;
Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns,
And bowery hollows crowned with summer sea,
Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."
So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Looked one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.


[From _The Princess_.]

The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying.
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying:
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.

O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow for ever and for ever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.


Break, break, break
On thy cold gray stones, O sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break
At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.


[From _Maud_.]

Peace sitting under her olive, and slurring the days gone by,
When the poor are hovelled and hustled together, each sex, like swine,
When only the ledger lives, and when only not all men lie;
Peace in her vineyard--yes!--but a company forges the wine.

And the vitriol madness flushes up in the ruffian's head,
Till the filthy by-lane rings to the yell of the trampled wife,
While chalk and alum and plaster are sold to the poor for bread,
And the spirit of murder works in the very means of life.

And Sleep must lie down armed, for the villainous centre-bits
Grind on the wakeful ear in the hush of the moonless nights,
While another is cheating the sick of a few last gasps, as he sits
To pestle a poisoned poison behind his crimson lights.

When a Mammonite mother kills her babe for a burial fee,
And Timour-Mammon grins on a pile of children's bones,
Is it peace or war? better, war! loud war by land and by sea,
War with a thousand battles, and shaking a hundred thrones.


I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the fields of time,
Unfettered by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth,
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whatever befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.


Come into the garden, Maud,
For the black bat, night, has flown;
Come into the garden, Maud,
I am here at the gate alone;
And the woodbine spices are wafted abroad,
And the musk of the roses blown.

For a breeze of morning moves,
And the planet of Love is on high,
Beginning to faint in the light that she loves
On a bed of daffodil sky,
To faint in the light of the sun she loves,
To faint in his light, and to die.

All night have the roses heard
The flute, violin, bassoon;
All night has the casement jessamine stirred
To the dancers dancing in tune;
Till a silence fell with the waking bird,
And a hush with the setting moon.

I said to the lily, "There is but one
With whom she has heart to be gay.
When will the dancers leave her alone?
She is weary of dance and play."
Now half to the setting moon are gone,
And half to the rising day;
Low on the sand and loud on the stone
The last wheel echoes away.

I said to the rose, "The brief night goes
In babble and revel and wine.
O young lord-lover, what sighs are those
For one that will never be thine?
But mine, but mine," so I swore to the rose,
"For ever and ever mine."



You know, we French stormed Ratisbon:
A mile or so away
On a little mound, Napoleon
Stood on our storming-day;
With neck out-thrust, you fancy how,
Legs wide, arms locked behind,
As if to balance the prone brow
Oppressive with its mind.

Just as perhaps he mused, "My plans
That soar, to earth may fall,
Let once my army-leader Lannes
Waver at yonder wall"--
Out 'twixt the battery-smokes there flew
A rider, bound on bound
Full-galloping; nor bridle drew
Until he reached the mound.

Then off there flung in smiling joy,
And held himself erect
By just his horse's mane, a boy:
You hardly could suspect--
(So tight he kept his lips compressed,
Scarce any blood came through)
You looked twice ere you saw his breast
Was all but shot in two.

"Well," cried he, "Emperor, by God's grace
We've got you Ratisbon!
The Marshal's in the market-place,
And you'll be there anon
To see your flag-bird flap his vans
Where I, to heart's desire,
Perched him!" The chiefs eye flashed; his plans
Soared up again like fire.

The chief's eye flashed; but presently
Softened itself, as sheathes
A film the mother-eagle's eye
When her bruised eaglet breathes;
"You're wounded!" "Nay," the soldier's pride
Touched to the quick, he said:
"I'm killed, sire!" And his chief beside,
Smiling the boy fell dead.


Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat--
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others, she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
Rags--were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honored him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Shakspere was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley were with us--they watch from their graves!
He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

We shall march prospering--not through his presence;
Songs may inspirit us--not from his lyre;
Deeds will be done, while he boasts his quiescence,
Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire:
Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,
One more devil's triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life's night begins: let him never come back to us!

There would be doubt, hesitation, and pain,
Forced praise on our part--the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
Best fight on well, for we taught him--strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!


The gray sea and the long black land,
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow
And quench its speed in the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, through its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!


[From _Rabbi Ben Ezra_.]

Not on the vulgar mass
Called "work" must sentence pass,
Things done, that took the eye and had the price;
O'er which, from level stand,
The low world laid its hand,
Found straightway to its mind, could value in a trice:

But all, the world's coarse thumb
And finger failed to plumb,
So passed in making up the main account;
All instincts immature,
All purposes unsure,
That weighed not as his work, yet swelled the man's amount:

Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped;
All I could never be,
All men ignored in me,
This I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.


O, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brush-wood sheaf
Round the elm-tree hole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England--now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the white throat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dew-drops--at the bent spray's edge--
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower,
Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

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