As fair as the fabulous Asphodels,
And flow'rets, drooping as day drooped too,
Fell into pavilions white, purple, and blue,
To roof the glow-worm from the evening dew.
And from this undefiled paradise
The flowers (as an infant's awakening eyes
Smile on its mother, whose singing sweet
Can first lull, and at last must awaken it).
When heaven's blithe winds had unfolded them,
As mine-lamps enkindle a hidden gem,
Shone smiling to heaven, and every one
Shared joy in the light of the gentle sun;
For each one was interpenetrated
With the light and the odor its neighbor shed,
Like young lovers, whom youth and love make dear,
Wrapped and filled by their mutual atmosphere.
But the Sensitive Plant, which could give small fruit
Of the love which it felt from the leaf to the root,
Received more than all, it loved more than ever,
Where none wanted but it, could belong to the giver.
For the Sensitive Plant has no bright flower;
Radiance and odor are not its dower;
It loves, even like Love; its deep heart is full;
It desires what it has not the beautiful !
THE SENSITIVE PLANT.
The light winds which, from unsustaining
Shed the music of many murmurings;
The beams which dart from many a star
Of the flowers whose hues they bear afar;
The plumed insects, swift and free,
Like golden boats on a sunny sea,
Laden with light and odor, which pass
Over the gleam of the living grass;
The unseen clouds of the dew,, which lie
Like fire in the flowers till the sun rides
Then wander like spirits among the spheres,
Each cloud faint with the fragrance it
The quivering vapors of dim noon-tide,
Which, like a sea, o'er the warm earth glide,
In which every sound, and odor, and beam,
Move as reeds in a smgle stream;
Each and all like ministering angels were,
For the Sensitive Plant sweet joy to bear;
Whilst the lagging hours of the day went by,
Like windless clouds o'er a tender sky.
And when evening descended from heaven above,
And the earth was all rest, and the air was all love,
And delight, though less bright, was far more deep,
And the day's veil fell from the world of sleep;
And the beasts and the birds and the insects were drowned
In an ocean of dreams without a sound;
Whose waves never mark, though they ever impress,
The light sand which paves it consciousness.
THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
Only overhead the sweet nightingale
Ever sang more sweet as the day might fail,
And snatches of its Elysian chant
Were mixed with the dreams of the Sensitive Plant;
The Sensitive Plant was the earliest
Upgathered into the bosom of rest
A sweet child, weary of its delight,
The feeblest, and yet the favorite,
Cradled within the embrace of night.
THE SENSITIVE PLANT.
THERE was a power in that sweet place
An Eve in this Eden a ruling grace,
Which to the flowers, did they waken or dream,
Was as God is to the starry scheme.
A lady the wonder of her kind,
Whose form was upborne by a lovely mind,
Which, dilating, had moulded her mien and motion,
Like a sea-flower unfolded beneath the ocean
Tended the garden from morn to even;
And the meteors of that sublunar heaven,
Like the lamps of the air when night walks forth,
Laughed round her footsteps up from the earth !
She had no companion of mortal race,
But her tremulous breath and her flushing face
Told, whilst the morn kissed the sleep from her eyes,
That her dreams were less slumber than paradise.
As if some bright spirit for her sweet sake
Had deserted heaven while the stars, were awake;
As if yet around her he lingering were,
Though the veil of daylight concealed him from her.
THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS
Her step seemed to pity the grass it prest;
You might hear by the heaving of her breast,
That the coming and the going of the wind
Brought pleasure there, and left passion behind.
And wherever her airy footstep trod,
Her trailing hiir from the grassy sod
Erased its light vestige, with shadowy sweep,
Like a sunny storm o'er the dark green deep.
I doubt not the flowers of that garden sweet
Rejoiced in the sound of her gentle fe'et;
I doubt not they felt the spirit that came
From her glowing fingers through all their frame.
She sprinkled bright water from the stream
On those that were faint with the sunny beam;
And out of the cups of the heavy flowers
She emptied the rain of the thunder-showers.
She lifted their heads with her tender hands,
And sustained them with rods and osier bands;
If the flowers had been her own infants, she
Could never have nursed them more tenderly.
And all killing insects and gnawing worms,
And things of obscene and unlovely forms
She bore in a basket of Indian woof
Into the rough woods far aloof
In a basket of grasses and wild flowers full,
The freshest her gentle hands could pull,
For the poor banished insects, whose intent,
Although they did ill, was innocent.
THE SENSITIVE PLANT. 57
But the bee and the beam-like ephemeris,
Whose path is the lightning's, and the soft moths that kiss
The sweet lips of the flowers, and harm not, did she
Make her attendant angels be.
And many an antenatal tomb,
Where butterflies dream of the life to come,
She left clinging round the smooth and dark
Edge of the odorous cedar bark.
This fairest creature, from earliest spring,
Thus moved through the garden, ministering,
All the sweet season of the summer-tide,
And ere the first leaf looked brown she died.
58 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS. I.
THREE days the flowers of the garden fair, ^
Like stars when the moon is awakened, were;
Or the waves of the Baise, ere, luminous,
She floats up through the smoke of Vesuvius.
And on the fourth, the Sensitive Plant
Felt the sound of the funeral chant,
And the steps of the bearers, heavy and slow,
And the sobs of the mourners, deep and low;
The weary sound and the heavy breath,
And the silent motions of passing death,
And the smell, cold, oppressive, and dank,
Sent through the pores of the coffin plank
The dark grass, and the flowers among the grass,
Were bright with tears as the crowds did pass;
From their sighs the wind caught a mournful tone,
And sate in the pines, and gave groan for groan.
The garden, once fair, became cold and foul,
Like the corpse of her who had been its soul;
Which at first was lovely, as if in sleep,
Then slowly changed, till it grew a heap
To make men tremble who never weep.
THE SENSITIVE PLANT. 59
Swift summer into the autumn flowed,
And frost in the mist of the morning rode,
Though the noonday sun looked clear and bright,
Mocking the spoil of the secret night.
The rose-leaves, like flakes of crimson snow,
Paved the turf and the moss below;
The Lilies were drooping, and white and wan,
Like the head and skin of a dying man.
And the Indian plants, of scent and hue,
The sweetest that ever were fed on dew,
Leaf after leaf, day by day,
Were massed into the common clay.
And the leaves, brown, yellow, and grey, and red,
And white with the whiteness of what is dead,
Like troops of ghosts on the dry wind passed;
Their whistling noise made the birds aghast.
And the gusty winds waked the winged seeds
Out of their birthplace of ugly weeds,
Till they clung round many a sweet flower's stem,
Which rotted into earth with them.
The water-blooms under the rivulet
Fell from the stalks on which they were set;
And the eddies drove them here and there,
As the winds did those of the upper air.
Then the rain came down, and the broken stalks
Were bent and tangled across the walks;
And the leafless network of parasite bowers
Massed into ruin, and all sweet flowers.
60 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
Between the time of the wind and the snow,
All loathliest weeds began to grow,
Whose coarse leaves were splashed with many a speck,
Like the water-snake's belly and the toad's back.
The Sensitive Plant, like one forbid,
Wept, an'd the tears within each lid
Of its folded leaves which together grew,
Were changed to a blight of frozen glue.
For the leaves soon fell, and the branches soon
By the heavy axe of the blast were hewn;
The sap shrank to the root through every pore,
As blood to a heart that will beat no more.
For winter came: the wind was his whip,
One choppy finger was on his lip;
He had torn the cataracts from the hills,
And they clanked at his girdle like manacles.
His breath was a chain, which, without a sound,
The earth, and the air, and the water bound;
He came, fiercely driven in his chariot throne
By the tenfold blasts of the Arctic zone.
Then the weeds, which were forms of living death,
Fled from the frosts to the earth beneath;
Their decay and sudden flight from frost
Was but like the vanishing of a ghost !
And under the roots of the Sensitive Plant
The moles and the dormice died for want;
And the birds dropped stiff from the frozen air,
And were caught in the branches naked and bare.
THE SENSITIVE PLANT.
First there came down a thawing rain,
And its dull drops froze on the boughs again;
Then there steamed up a freezing dew,
Which to the drops of the thaw-rain grew;
And a northern whirlwind, wandering about
Like a wolf that had smelt a dead child out,
Shook the boughs thus laden and heavy and stiff,
And snapped them off with his rigid griff.
When winter had gone and spring came back,
The Sensitive Plant was a leafless wreck;
But the mandrakes, and toadstools, and docks, and darnels,
Rose, like the dead, from their buried charnels.
62 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
WHETHER the Sensitive Plant, or that
Which within its boughs like a spirit sat,
Ere its outward form had known decay,
Now felt this change, I cannot say.
Whether that lady's gentle mind,
No longer with the form combined,
Which scattered love, as stars do light,
Found sadness where it left delight,
I dare not guess; but in this life
Of error, ignorance, and strife,
Where nothing is, but all things seen,
And we the shadows of the dream.
It is a modest creed, and yet
Pleasant, if one considers it,
To own that death itself must be,
Like all the rest, a mockery.
That garden sweet, that lady fair,
And all sweet shapes and odors there,
In truth, have never passed away;
'Tis we, 'tis ours are changed not they.
For love, and beauty, and delight,
There is no death, nor change; their might
Exceeds our organs, which endure
No light, being themselves obscure.
BY THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY.
ARS PORSENA of Clusium
By the Nine Gods he swore
That the great house of Tarquin .
Should suffer wrong no more.
By the Nine Gods he swore it,
And named a trysting day,
And bade his messengers ride forth,
East and west and south and north,
To summon his array.
East and west and south and north
The messengers ride fast,
And tower and town and cottage
Have heard the trumpet's blast.
Shame on the false Etruscan
Who lingers in his home
When Porsena of Clusium
Is on the march for Rome.
The horsemen and the footmen
Are pouring in amain,
From many a stately market-place;
From many a fruitful plain;
66 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
From many a lonely hamlet,
Which, hid by beech and pine,
Like an eagle's nest, hangs on the crest
Of purple Apennine;
From lordly Volaterrse,
Where scowls the far-famed hold
Piled by the hands of giants
For godlike kings of old;
From seagirt Populonia,
Whose sentinels descry
Sardinia's snowy mountain-tops
Fringing the southern sky;
From the proud mart of Pisa),
Queen of the western waves,
Where ride Massilia's triremes
Heavy with fair-haired slaves;
From where sweet Clanis wanders
Through corn and vines and flowers;
From where Cortona lifts to heaven
Her diadem of towers.
Tall are the oaks whose acorns
Drop in dark Auser's rill;
Fat are the stags that champ the boughs
Of the Ciminian hill;
Beyond all streams Clitumnus
Is to the herdsman dear;
Best of all pools for fowler loves
The great Volsinian mere.
But now no stroke of woodman
Is heard by Auser's rill;
No hunter tracks the stag's green path
Up the Ciminian hill;
Unwatched along Clitumnus
Gazes the milk-white steer;
Unharmed the water-fowl may dip
In the Volsinian mere. '
The harvests of Arretium,
This year, old men shall reap;
This year, young boys in Umbro
Shall plunge the struggling sheep;
And in the vats of Luna,
This year, the must shall foam
Round the white feet of laughing girls,
Whose sires have marched to Rome.
There be thirty chosen prophets,
The wisest of the land,
Who alway by Lars Porsena
Both morn and evening stand:
Evening and morn the Thirty
Have turned the verses o'er,
Traced from the right on linen white
By mighty seers of yore.
And with one voice the Thirty
Have their glad answer given;
" Go forth, go forth, Lars Porsena;
Go forth, beloved of Heaven;
68 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
Go, and return in glory
To Clusium's royal dome;
And hang round Nurscia's altars
The golden shields of Rome."
And now hath every city
Sent up her tale of men 1 ,
The foot are fourscore thousand,
The horse are thousands ten.
Before the gates of Sutrium
Is met the great array.
A proud man was Lars Porsena
Upon the trysting day.
For all the Etruscan armies
Were ranged beneath his eye,
And many a banished Roman
And many a stout ally,
And with a mighty following
To join the muster came
The Tusculan Mamilius,
Prince of the Latin name.
But by the yellow Tiber
Was tumult and affright:
From all the spacious champaign
To Rome men took their flight.
A mile around the city,
The throng stopped up the ways;
A fearful sight it was to see
Through two long nights and days.
For aged folk on crutches,
And women great with child,
And mothers sobbing over babes
That clung to them and smiled,
And sick men borne in litters
High on the necks of slaves,
And troops of sun-burned husbandmen
With reaping-hooks and staves.
And droves of mules and asses
Laden with skins of wine,
And endless flocks of goats and sheep,
And endless herds of kine,
And endless trains of wagons
That cracked beneath the weight
Of corn-sacks and of household goods,
Choked every roaring gate.
Now from the rock Tarpeian,
Could the wan burghers spy
The line of blazing villages
Red in the midnight sky.
The Fathers of the City,
They sat all night and day,
For every hour some horseman came
With tidings of dismay.
To eastward and to westward
Have spread the Tuscan bands;
Nor house, nor fence, nor dovecote
70 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS. L
Verbenna down to Ostia
Hath wasted all the plain;
Astur hath stormed Janiculum,
And the stout guards are slain.
I wis, in all the Senate,
There was no heart so bold,
But sore it ached, and fast it beat,
When that ill news was told.
Forthwith up rose the Consul,
Up rose the Fathers all;
In haste they girded up their gowns,
And hied them to the wall.
They held a council standing
Before the River-gate;
Short time was there, ye well may guess,
For musing or debate.
Out spake the Consul roundly:
" The bridge must straight go down;
For, since Janiculum is lost,
Naught else can save the town.
Just then a scout came flying,
All wild with haste and fear:
" To arms ! to arms ! Sir Consul;
Lars Porsena is here."
On the low hills to westward
The Consul fixed his eye,
And saw the swarthy storm of dust
Rise fast along the sky.
And nearer fast and nearer
Doth the red whirlwind come;
And louder still, and still more loud
From underneath that rolling cloud,
Is heard the trumpet's war-note proud.
The trampling, and the hum.
And plainly and more plainly
Now through the gloom appears,
Far to the left and far to the right,
In broken gleams of dark-blue light,
The long array of helmets bright,
The long array of spears.
And plainly and more plainly,
Above that glimmering line,
Now might ye see the banners
Of twelve fair cities shine;
But the banner of proud Clusium
Was highest of them all,
The terror of the Umbrian,
The terror of the Gaul.
And plainly and more plainly
Now might the burghers know,
By port and vest, by horse and crest,
Each warlike Lucomo.
There Cilnius of Arretium
On his fleet roan was seen;
And Astur of the four-fold shield,
Girt with the brand none else may wield,
Tolumnius with the belt of gold,
And dark Verbenna from the hold
By reedy Thrasymene.
72 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
Fast by the royal standard,
O'erlooking all the war,
Lars Porsena of Clusium
Sat in his ivory car.
By the right wheel rode Mamilius,
Prince of the Latin name;
And by the left false Sextus,
That wrought the deed of shame.
But when the face of Sextus
Was seen among the foes
A yell that rent the firmament
From all the town arose.
On the house-tops was no woman
But spat towards him and hissed;
No child but screamed out curses,
And shook its little fist.
But the Consul's brow was sad,
And the Consul's speech was low,
And darkly looked he at the wall,
And darkly at the foe.
" Their van will be upon us
Before the bridge goes down;
And if they once may win the bridge,
What hope to save the town ? "
Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the gate:
" To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his Gods,
" And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame ?
" Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon strait path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now who will stand on either hand,
And keep the bridge with me ? "
Then out spake Spurius Lartius
A Ramnian proud was he:
" Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,
And keep the bridge with thee."
And out spake strong Herminius;
Of Titian blood was he:
" I will abide on thy left side,
Aftd keep the bridge with thee."
THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
" Horatius," quoth the Consul,
" As thou sayest, so let it be."
And straight against that great array
Forth went the dauntless Three.
For Romans in Rome's quarrel
Spared neither land nor gold,
Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life,
In the brave days of old.
Then none was for a party;
Then all were for the state:
Then the great man helped the poor,
And the poor man loved the great:
Then lands were fairly portioned:
Then spoils were fairly sold:
The Romans were like brothers
In the brave days of old.
Now Roman is to Roman
More hateful than a foe,
And the Tribunes beard the high,
And the Fathers grind the low.
As we wax hot in faction,
In battle we wax cold:
Wherefore men fight not as they fought
In the brave days of old.
Now while the Three were tightening
Their harness on their backs,
The Consul was the foremost man
To take in hand an axe:
And Fathers mixed with Commons
Seized hatchet, bar, and crow,
And smote upon the planks above,
And loosed the props below.
Meanwhile the Tuscan army,
Right glorious to behold,
Came flashing back the noonday light,
Rank behind rank, like surges bright
Of a broad sea of gold.
Four hundred trumpets sounded
A peal of \yarlike glee,
As that great host, with measured tread,
And spears advanced, and ensigns spread,
Rolled slowly towards the bridge's head,
Where stood the dauntless Three.
The Three stood calm and silent
And looked upon the foes,
And a great shout of laughter
From all the vanguard rose:
And forth three chiefs came spurring
Before that deep array;
To earth they sprang, their swords they drew
And lifted high their shields, and flew
To win the narrow way;
Aunus from green Tifernum,
Lord of the Hill of Vines;
And Seius, whose eight hundred slaves
Sicken in Ilva's mines;
76 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
And Picus, long to Clusium
Vassal in peace and war,
Who led to fight his Umbrian powers
From that gray crag where, girt with towers,
The fortress of Nequinum lowers
O'er the pale waves of Nar.
Stout Lartius hurled down Aunus
Into the stream beneath:
Herminius struck at Seius,
And clove him to the teeth:
At Picus brave Horatius
Darted one fiery thrust;
And the proud Umbrian's gilded arms
Clashed in the bloody dust.
Then Ocnus of Falerii
Rushed on the Roman Three;
And Lausulus of Urgo,
The rover of the sea;
And Aruns of Volsinium,
Who slew the great wild boar,
The great wild boar that had his den
Amidst the reeds of Cosa's fen,
And wasted fields, and slaughtered men,
Along Albinia's shore.
Herminius smote down Aruns:
Lartius laid Ocnus low:
Right to the heart of Lausulus
Horatius sent a blow.
" Lie there," he cried, " fell pirate !
No more, aghast and pale,
From Ostia's walls the crowd shall mark
The track of thy destroying bark.
No more Campania's hinds shall fly
To woods and caverns when they spy
Thy thrice accursed sail."
But now no sound of laughter
Was heard among the foes.
A wild and wrathful clamour
From all the vanguard rose.
Six spears' lengths from the entrance
Halted that deep array,
And for a space no man came forth
To win the narrow way.
But hark ! the cry is Astur:
And lo ! the ranks divide;
And the great Lord of Luna
Comes with his stately stride.
Upon his ample shoulders
Clangs loud the four-fold shield.
And in his hand he shakes the brand
Which none but he can wield.
He smiled on those bold Romans
A smile serene and high;
He eyed the flinching Tuscans,
And scorn was in his eye.
THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
Quoth he, " The she-wolf's litter
Stand savagely at bay:
But will ye dare to follow,
If Astur clears the way ? "
Then, whirling up his broadsword
With both hands to the height,
He rushed against Horatius,
And smote with all his might.
With shield and blade Horatius
Right deftly turned the blow.
The blow, though turned, came yet too nigh;
It missed his helm, but gashed his thigh:
The Tuscans raised a joyful cry
To see the red blood flow.
He reeled, and on Herminius
He leaned one breathing-space;
Then, like a wild cat mad with wounds,
Sprang right at Astur's face.
Through teeth, and skull, and helmet,
So fierce a thrust he sped,
The good sword stood a hand-breadth out
Behind the Tuscan's head.
And the great Lord of Luna
Fell at that deadly stroke,
As falls on Mount Alvernus
A thunder-smitten oak.
Far o'er the crashing forest
The giant arms lie spread;
And the pale augurs, muttering low,
Gaze on the blasted head.
On Astur's throat Horatius
Right firmly pressed his heel,
And thrice and four times tugged amain
Ere he wrenched out the steel.
"And see," he cried, "the welcome
Fair guests, that waits you here !
What noble Lucomo comes next,
To taste our Roman cheer ? "
But at this haughty challenge
A sullen murmur ran,
Mingled of wrath, and shame, an'd dread,
Along that glittering van.
There lacked not men of prowess,
Nor men of lordly race;
For all Etruria's noblest
Were round the fatal place.
But all Etruria's noblest
Felt their hearts sink to see
On the earth the bloody corpses,
In the path the dauntless Three;
And, from the ghastly entrance
Wher% those bold Romans stood,
All shrank, like boys who unaware,
80 THE CASKET OF POETICAL GEMS.
Ranging the woods to start a hare,
Come to the mouth of the dark lair
Where, growling low, a fierce old bear
Lies amidst bones and blood.
Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried " Forward ! "
And those before cried " Back ! "
And backward now and forward
Wavers the deep array:
And on the tossing sea of steel,
To and fro the standards reel;
And the victorious trumpet's peal
Dies fitfully away.
Yet one man for one moment
Strode out before the crowd;
Well known was he to all the Three,
As they gave him greeting loud.
" Now welcome, welcome Sextus !
Now welcome to thy home !
Why dost thou stay, and turn away ?
Here lies the road to Rome."
Thrice looked he at the city;