And, now, the fine airs that she flourish d
Seem varnish and crockery all, sir !
The bright cup which angels might handle
Turns earthy when finger d by asses
And the star that " swaps " light with a candle
Thenceforth for a pennyworth passes !
Not the thing !
LADY IN THE WHITE DRESS, I HELPED
INTO THE OMNIBUS.
I KNOW her not ! Her hand has been in mine,
And the warm pressure of her taper arm
Has thrill d upon my fingers, and the hem
Of her white dress has lain upon my feet,
Till my hush d pulse, by the caressing folds,
i;8 LADY IN THE WHITE DRESS.
Was kindled to a fever ! I, to her,
Am but the undistinguishable leaf
Blown by upon the breeze yet I have sat,
And in the blue depths of her stainless eyes,
(Close as a lover in his hour of bliss,
And steadfastly as look the twin stars down
Into unfathomable wells,) have gazed !
And I have felt from out its gate of pearl
Her warm breath on my cheek, and while she sat
Dreaming away the moments, I have tried
To count the long dark lashes in the fringe
Of her bewildering eyes ! The kerchief sweet
That enviably visits her red lip
Has slumbered, while she held it, on my knee,
And her small foot has crept between mine own
And yet, she knows me not !
Now, thanks to Heaven
For blessings chainless in the rich man s keeping
Wealth that the miser cannot hide away !
Buy, if they will, the invaluable flower
They cannot store its fragrance from the breeze !
Wear, if they will, the costliest gem of Ind
It pours its light on every passing eye !
And he who on this beauty sets his name
Who dreams, perhaps, that for his use alone
Such loveliness was first of angels born
Tell him, oh whisperer at his dreaming ear,
That I, too, in her beauty, sun my eye,
And, unrebuked, may worship her in song
Tell him that Heaven, along our darkling way,
Hath set bright lamps with loveliness alight
And all may in their guiding beams rejoice ;
But he as twere a watcher by a lamp
Guards but this bright one s shining.
TO THE LADY IN THE CHEMISETTE.
TO THE LADY IN THE CHEMISETTE WITH
I KNOW not who thou art, oh lovely one !
Thine eyes were droop d, thy lips half sorrowful,
Yet thou didst eloquently smile on me
While handing up thy sixpence through the hole
Of that o er-freighted omnibus ! Ah me !
The world is full of meetings such as this
A thrill, a voiceless challenge and reply
And sudden partings after ! We may pass,
And know not of each other s nearness now
Thou in the Knickerbocker Line, and I,
Lone, in the Waverley ! Oh, life of pain !
And even should I pass where thou dost dwell
Nay see thee in the basement taking tea
So cold is this inexorable world,
I must glide on ! I dare not feast mine eye !
I dare not make articulate my love,
Nor o er the iron rails that hem thee in
Venture to fling to thee my innocent card
Not knowing thy papa !
Hast thou papa ?
Is thy progenitor alive, fair girl ?
And what doth he for lucre ? Lo again !
A shadow o er the face of this fair dream I
For thou mayst be as beautiful as Love
Can make thee, and the ministering hands
Of milliners, incapable of more,
Be lifted at thy shapeliness and air,
And still twixt me and thee, invisibly,
May rise a wall of adamant. My breath
Upon my pale lip freezes as I name
i8o YOU KNOW IF IT WAS YOU.
Manhattan s orient verge, and eke the west
In its far down extremity. Thy sire
May be the signer of a temperance pledge,
And clad all decently may walk the earth
Nay may be number d with that blessed few
Who never ask for discount yet, alas !
If, homeward wending from his daily cares,
He go by Murphy s Line, thence eastward tending-
Or westward from the Line of Kipp & Brown,
My vision is departed ! Harshly falls
The doom upon the ear, " She s not genteel ! "
And pitiless is woman who doth keep
Of "good society" the golden key !
And gentlemen are bound, as are the stars,
To stoop not after rising !
And I shall look for thee in streets where dwell
The passengers by Broadway Lines alone !
And if my dreams be true, and thou, indeed,
Art only not more lovely than genteel
Then, lady of the snow-white chemisette,
The heart which vent rously cross d o er to thee
Upon that bridge of sixpence, may remain
And, with up-town devotedness and truth,
My love shall hover round thee !
YOU KNOW IF IT WAS YOU.
As the chill d robin, bound to Florida
Upon a morn of autumn, crosses flying
The air-track of a snipe most passing fair
Yet colder in her blood than she is fair
LOVE IN A COTTAGE. 181
And as that robin lingers on the wing,
And feels the snipe s flight in the eddying air,
And loves her for her coldness not the less
But fain would win her to that warmer sky
Where love lies waking with the fragrant stars
So I a languisher for sunnier climes,
Where fruit, leaf, blossom, on the trees for ever
Image the tropic deathlessness of love
Have met, and long d to win thee, fairest lady,
To a more genial clime than cold Broadway !
Tranquil and effortless thou glidest on,
As doth the swan upon the yielding water,
And with a cheek like alabaster cold !
But as thou didst divide the amorous air
Just opposite the Astor, and didst lift
That veil of languid lashes to look in
At Leary s tempting window lady ! then
My heart sprang in beneath that fringe" d veil,
Like an adventurous bird that would escape
To some warm chamber from the outer cold !
And there would I delightedly remain,
And close that fringed window with a kiss,
And in the warm sweet chamber of thy breast,
Be prisoner for ever !
LOVE IN A COTTAGE.
THEY may talk of love in a cottage,
And bowers of trellised vine
Of nature bewitchingly simple,
And milkmaids half divine ;
182 LOVE IN A COTTAGE.
They may talk of the pleasure of sleeping
In the shade of a spreading tree,
And a walk in the fields at morning,
By the side of a footstep free 1
But give me a sly flirtation
By the light of a chandelier
With music to play in the pauses,
And nobody very near ;
Or a seat on a silken sofa,
With a glass of pure old wine,
And mamma too blind to discover
The small white hand in mine.
Your love in a cottage is hungry,
Your vine is a nest for flies
Your milkmaid shocks the Graces,
And simplicity talks of pies !
You lie down to your shady slumber,
And wake with a bug in your ear,
And your damsel that walks in the morning
Is shod like a mountaineer.
True love is at home on a carpet,
And mightily likes his ease
And true love has an eye for a dinner,
And starves beneath shady trees.
His wing is the fan of a lady,
His foot s an invisible thin^-,
And his arrow is tipp d with a jewel,
And shot from a silver string.
THE DECLARATION. 183
TWAS late, and the gay company was gone,
And light lay soft on the deserted room
From alabaster vases, and a scent
Of orange leaves and sweet verbena came
Through the unshutter d window on the air,
And the rich pictures with their dark old tints
Hung like a twilight landscape, and all things
Seem d hush d into a slumber. Isabel,
The dark-eyed, spiritual Isabel,
Was leaning on her harp, and I had stay d
To whisper what I could not when the crowd
Hung on her look like worshippers. I knelt,
And with the fervour of a lip unused
To the cool breath of reason, told my love.
There was no answer, and I took the hand
That rested on the strings, and press d a kiss
Upon it unforbidden and again
Besought her, that this silent evidence
That I was not indifferent to her heart,
Might have the seal of one sweet syllable.
I kiss d the small white fingers as I spoke,
And she withdrew them gently, and upraised
Her forehead from its resting-place, and look d
Earnestly on me She had been asleep !
"Parrhasius, a painter of Athens, among those Olynthian captives Philip
of Macedon brought home to sell, bought one very old man ; and when
he had him at his house, put him to death with extreme torture and tor
ment, the better, by his example, to express the pains and passions of his
Prometheus, whom he was then about to paint." Burton s Anat. of Mel,
THERE stood an unsold captive in the mart,
A grey-hair d and majestical old man,
Chain d to a pillar. It was almost night,
And the last seller from his place had gone,
And not a sound was heard but of a dog
Crunching beneath the stall a refuse bone,
Or the dull echo from the pavement rung,
As the faint captive changed his weary feet.
He had stood there since morning, and had borne
From every eye in Athens the cold gaze
Of curious scorn. The Jew had taunted him
For an Olynthian slave. The buyer came
And roughly struck his palm upon his breast,
And touch d his unheal d wounds, and with a sneer
Pass d on ; and when, with weariness o erspent,
He bow d his head in a forgetful sleep,
Th inhuman soldier smote him, and, with threats
Of torture to his children, summon d back
The ebbing blood into his pallid face.
1 88 PARRHASIUS.
Twas evening, and the half -descended sun
Tipp d with a golden fire the many domes
Of Athens, and a yellow atmosphere
Lay rich and dusky in the shaded street
Through which the captive gazed. He had borne up
With a stout heart that long and weary day,
Haughtily patient of his many wrongs,
But now he was alone, and from his nerves
The needless strength departed, and he lean d
Prone on his massy chain, and let his thoughts
Throng on him as they would. Unmark d of him,
Parrhasius at the nearest pillar stood,
Gazing upon his grief. Th Athenian s cheek
Flush d as he measured with a painter s eye
The moving picture. The abandon d limbs,
Stain d with the oozing blood, were laced with veins
Swollen to purple fulness ; the grey hair,
Thin and disorder d, hung about his eyes ;
And as a thought of wilder bitterness
Rose in his memory, his lips grew white,
And the fast workings of his bloodless face
Told what a tooth of fire was at his heart.
The golden light into the painter s room
Stream d richly, and the hidden colours stole
From the dark pictures radiantly forth,
And in the soft and dewy atmosphere
Like forms and landscapes magical they lay.
The walls were hung with armour, and about
In the dim corners stood the sculptured forms
Of Cytheris, and Dian, and stern Jove,
And from the casement soberly away
Fell the grotesque long shadows, full and true,
And, like a veil of filmy mellowness,
The lint-spects floated in the twilight air.
Parrhasius stood, gazing forgetfully
Upon his canvas. There Prometheus lay,
Chain d to the cold rocks of Mount Caucasus
The vulture at his vitals, and the links
Of the lame Lemnian festering in his flesh :
And, as the painter s mind felt through the dim,
Kapt mystery, and pluck d the shadows forth
With its far-reaching fancy, and with form
And colour clad them, his fine, earnest eye,
Flash d with a passionate fire, and the quick curl
Of his thin nostril, and his quivering lip
Were like the wing d god s, breathing from his flight.
" Bring me the captive now !
My hand feels skilful, and the shadows lift
From my waked spirit airily and swift,
And I could paint the bow
Upon the bended heavens around me play
Colours of such divinity to-day.
" Ha ! bind him on his back !
Look ! as Prometheus in my picture here !
Quick or he faints ! stand with the cordial near !
Now bend him to the rack !
Press down the poison d links into his flesh ;
And tear agape that healing wound afresh !
" So let him writhe ! How long
Will he live thus ? Quick, my good pencil, now !
What a fine agony works upon his brow !
Ha ! grey-hair d, and so strong !
How fearfully he stifles that short moan !
Gods ! if I could but paint a dying groan !
" Pity thee! Soldo!
I pity the dumb victim at the altar
1 90 PARRHASIUS.
But does the robed priest for his pity falter ?
I d rack thee though I knew
A thousand lives were perishing in thine
What were ten thousand to a fame like mine ?
" Hereafter ! Ay hereafter !
A whip to keep a coward to his track !
What gave Death ever from his kingdom back
To check the sceptic s laughter ?
Come from the grave to-morrow with that story
And I may take some softer path to glory.
" No, no, old man ! we die
Even as the flowers, and we shall breathe away
Our life upon the chance wind, even as they !
Strain well thy fainting eye
For when that bloodshot quivering is o er,
The light of heaven will never reach thee more.
"Yet there s a deathless name!
A spirit that the smothering vault shall spurn,
And like a steadfast planet mount and burn
And though its crown of flame
Consumed my brain to ashes as it shone,
By all the fiery stars ! I d bind it on !
" Ay though it bid me rifle
My heart s last fount for its insatiate thirst
Though every life-strung nerve be rnadden d first
Though it should bid me stifle
The yearning in my throat for my sweet child,
And taunt its mother till my brain went wild
" All I would do it ail-
Sooner than die, like a dull worm, to rot
Thrust foully into earth to be forgot !
O heavens ! but I appal
Your heart, old man ! forgive ha ! on your lives
Let him not faint ! rack him till he revives !
" Vain vain give o er ! His eye
Glazes apace. He does not feel you now
Stand back ! I ll paint the death-dew on his brow !
Gods ! if he do not die
But for one moment one till I eclipse
Conception with the scorn of those calm lips !
" Shivering ! Hark ! he mutters
Brokenly now that was a difficult breath
Another ? Wilt thou never come, Death !
Look ! how his temple flutters !
Is his heart still 1 Aha ! lift up his head !
He shudders gasps Jove help him ! so he s dead."
How like a mounting devil in the heart
Rules the unrein d ambition ! Let it once
But play the monarch, and its haughty brow
Glows with a beauty that bewilders thought
And unthrones peace for ever. Putting on
The very pomp of Lucifer, it turns
The heart to ashes, and with not a sprin^
Left in the bosom for the spirit s lip,
We look upon our splendour and forget
The thirst of which we perish ! Yet hath life
Many a falser idol. There are hopes
Promising well ; and love-touch d dreams for some ;
And passions, many a wild one ; and fair schemes
For gold and pleasure yet will only this
Balk not the soul Ambition only, gives,
Even of bitterness, a beaker full /
I 9 2 PARRHASIUS.
Friendship is but a slow awaking dream,
Troubled at best Love is a lamp unseen,
Burning to waste, or, if its light is found,
Nursed for an idle hour, then idly broken
Gain is a grovelling care, and Folly tires,
And Quiet is a hunger never fed
And from Love s very bosom, and from Gain,
Or Folly, or a Friend, or from Eepose
From all but keen Ambition will the soul
Snatch the first moment of forgetfulness
To wander like a restless child away.
Oh, if there were not better hopes than these
Were there no palm beyond a feverish fame
If the proud wealth flung back upon the heart
Must canker in its coffers if the links
Falsehood hath broken will unite no more
If the deep-yearning love, that hath not found
Its like in the cold world, must waste in tears
If truth, and fervour, and devotedness,
Finding no worthy altar, must return
And die of their own fulness if beyond
The grave there is no heaven in whose wide air
The spirit may find room, and in the love
Of whose bright habitants the lavish heart
May spend itself what thrice-mod^ d fools are we!
THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT. 193
THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT*
" Influentia cceli morbum hunc movet, interdum omnibus aliis amotis.
Melancthon de Anima, Cap. de Humoribus.
NIGHT in Arabia, An hour ago,
Pale Dian had descended from the sky,
Flinging her cestus out upon the sea,
And at their watches, now, the solemn stars
Stood vigilant and lone ; and, dead asleep,
With not a shadow moving on its breast,
The breathing earth lay in its silver dew,
And, trembling on their myriad viewless wings,
Th imprison d odours left the flowers to dream,
And stole away upon the yielding air.
Ben Khorat s tower stands shadowy and tall
In Mecca s loneliest street ; and ever there,
When night is at the deepest, burns his lamp
As constant as the Cynosure, and forth
From his loop d window stretch the brazen tubes,
Pointing for ever at the central star
Of that dim nebula just lifting now
Over Mount Arafat. The sky to-night
Is of a clearer blackness than is wont,
And far within its depths the coloured stars f
A famous Arabian astrologer, who is said to have spent forty years
in discovering the motion of the eighth sphere. He had a scholar, a young
Bedouin Arab, who, with a singular passion for knowledge, abandoned
his wandering tribe, arid, applying himself too closely to astrology, lost
his reason and died.
t " Even to the naked eye, the stars appear of palpably different colours ;
but when viewed with a prismatic glass, they may be very accurately
classed into the red, the yellow, the brilliant white, the dull white, and
the anomalous. This is true also of planets, which shine by reflected
light, and of course the difference of colour must be supposed to arise from
194 THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT.
Sparkle like gems capricious Antares *
Flushing and paling in the southern arch ;
And azure Lyra, like a woman s eye,
Burning with soft blue lustre ; and away
Over the desert the bright polar star,
White as a flashing icicle ; and here,
Hung like a lamp, above th Arabian sea,
Mars with his dusky glow ; and fairer yet,
Mild Sirius,t tinct with dewy violet,
Set like a flower upon the breast of Eve ;
And in the zenith the sweet Pleiades,^
(Alas that even a star may pass from heaven
And not be miss d !) the linked Pleiades
Undimm d are there, though from the sister band
The fairest has gone down ; N and, South away,
Hirundo with its little company ;
And white-brow d Vesta, lamping on her path
Lonely and planet-calm, and, all through heaven,
Articulate almost, they troop to-night,
Like unrobed angels in a prophet s trance.
Ben Khorat knelt before his telescope, ||
Gazing with earnest stillness on the stars.
their different powers to absorb and reflect the rays of the sun. The
original composition of the stars, and the different dispersive powers of
their different atmospheres, may be supposed to account also for this
* This star exhibits a peculiar quality a rapid and beautiful change
in the colour of its light ; every alternate twinkling being of an intense
reddish crimson colour, and the answering one of a brilliant white.
t When seen with a prismatic glass, Sirius shows a large brush of
exceedingly beautiful rays.
The Pleiades are vertical in Arabia.
An Arabic constellation placed instead of the Piscis Australis, because
the swallow arrives in Arabia about the time of the heliacal rising of the
|| An anachronism, the author is aware. The telescope was not invented
for a century or two after the time of Ben Khorat.
THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT. 195
The grey hairs, struggling from his turban folds,
Play d with the entering wind upon his cheeks,
And on his breast his venerable beard
With supernatural whiteness loosely fell.
The black flesh swell d about his sandal-thongs,
Tight with his painful posture, and his lean
And wither d fingers to his knees were clench d
And the thin lashes of his straining eye
Lay with unwinking closeness to the lens,
Stiffen d with tense up-turning. Hour by hour,
Till the stars melted in the flush of morn,
The old astrologer knelt moveless there,
Ravish d past pain with the bewildering spheres,
And, hour by hour, with the same patient thought,
Pored his pale scholar on the characters
Of Chaldee writ, or, as his gaze grew dim
With weariness, the dark-eyed Arab laid
His head upon the window and look d forth
Upon the heavens awhile, until the dews
And the soft beauty of the silent night
Cool d his flush d eyelids, and then patiently
He turn d unto his constant task again.
The sparry glinting of the Morning Star
Shot through the leaves of a majestic palm
Fringing Mount Arafat, and, as it caught
The eye of the rapt scholar, he arose
And clasp d the volume with an eager haste,
And as the glorious planet mounted on,
Melting her way into the upper sky,
He breathlessly gazed on her :
" Star of the silver ray !
Bright as a god, but punctual as a slave
What spirit the eternal canon gave
That bends thee to thy way ?
196 THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT.
What is the soul that, on thine arrowy light,
Is walking earth and heaven in pride to-night ?
" We know when thou wilt soar
Over the mount thy change, and place, and time-
"Tis written in the Chaldee s mystic rhyme
As twere a priceless lore !
I knew as much in my Bedouin garb
Coursing the desert on my flying barb !
" How oft amid the tents
Upon Sahara s sands I ve walk d alone,
Waiting all night for thee, resplendent one !
With what magnificence,
In the last watches, to my thirsting eye,
Thy passionate beauty flush d into the sky !
" God ! how flew my soul
Out to thy glory upward on thy ray
Panting as thou ascend edst on thy way,
As if thine own control
This searchless spirit that I cannot find
Had set its radiant law upon my mind !
" More than all stars in heaven
I feel thee in my heart ! my love became
A frenzy, and consumed me with its flame.
Ay, in the desert even
My dark-eyed Abra coursing at my side
The star, not Abra, not my spirit s bride !
" My Abra is no more !
My desert-bird is in a stranger s stall
My tribe, my tent I sacrificed them all
For this heart-wasting lore !
Yet, than all these, the thought is sweeter far
Thou ivert ascendant at my birth, bright star /
THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT. 197
" The Chaldee calls me thine
And in this breast, that I must rend to be
A spirit upon wings of light like thee,
I feel that thou art mine I
God ! that these dull fetters would give way,
And let me forth to track thy silver ray ! "
. . . Ben Khorat rose,
And silently look d forth upon the east.
The dawn was stealing up into the sky
On its grey feet, the stars grew dim apace,
And faded, till the Morning Star alone,
Soft as a molten diamond s liquid fire,
Burn d in the heavens.^ The morn grew freshlier
The upper clouds were faintly touch d with gold ;
The fan-palms rustled in the early air ;
Daylight spread cool and broadly to the hills ;
And still the star was visible, and still
The young Bedouin with a straining eye
Drank its departing light into his soul.
It faded melted and the fiery rim
Of the clear sun came up, and painfully
The passionate scholar press d upon his eyes
His dusky fingers, and with limbs as weak
As a sick child s, turn d fainting to his couch,
And slept. . . .
. . It was the morning watch once more,
The clouds were drifting rapidly above,
And dim and fast the glimmering stars flew through ;
And as the fitful gush sough d mournfully,
The shutters shook, and on the sloping roof
Plash d, heavily, large, single drops of rain
And all was still again. Ben Khorat sat
By the dim lamp, and, while his scholar slept,
THE SCHOLAR OF THEBET BEN KHORAT.
Pored on the Chaldee wisdom. At his feet,
Stretch d on a pallet, lay the Arab boy,
Muttering fast in his unquiet sleep,
And working his dark lingers in his palms
Convulsively. His sallow lips were pale,
And, as they moved, his teeth show d ghastly through,
White as a charnel bone, and closely drawn
Upon his sunken eyes, as if to press
Some frightful image from the bloodshot balls
His lids a moment quiver d, and again
Relax d, half open, in a calmer sleep.
Ben Khorat gazed upon the drooping sands
Of the departing hour. The last white grain
Fell through, and with the tremulous hand of age
The old astrologer reversed the glass ;
And, as the voiceless monitor went on.
Wasting and wasting with the precious hour,
He look d upon it with a moving lip,
And, starting, turn d his gaze upon the heavens,
Cursing the clouds impatiently.
" Tis time ! "
Mutter d the dying scholar, and he dash d
The tangled hair from his black eyes away,
And, seizing on Ben Khorat s mantle-folds,
He struggled to his feet, and falling prone
Upon the window-ledge, gazed steadfastly
Into the East :
"There is a cloud between
She sits this instant on the mountain s brow,
And that dusk veil hides all her glory now
Yet floats she as serene
Into the heavens ! God ! that even so
I could o ermount my spirit-cloud, and go !