Who shall make reply?
Ha! Friend Ephraim, saint or sinner,
Tell me if you can -
Tho' we may not judge the inner,
By the outer man,
Yet by girth of broadcloth ample,
And by cheeks that shine,
Surely you set no example
In the fasting line -
Could you, like yon bird, discov'ring,
Fate as close at hand,
As the kestrel o'er him hov'ring,
Still, as he did, stand?
Trusting grandly, singing gaily,
Confident and calm,
Not one false note in your daily
Hymn or weekly psalm?
Oft your oily tones are heard in
Chapel, where you preach,
This the everlasting burden
Of the tale you teach:
"We are d - - d, our sins are deadly,
You alone are heal'd" -
'Twas not thus their gospel redly
Saints and martyrs seal'd.
You had seem'd more like a martyr,
Than you seem to us,
To the beasts that caught a Tartar
Once at Ephesus;
Rather than the stout apostle
Of the Gentiles, who,
Pagan-like, could cuff and wrestle,
They'd have chosen you.
Yet, I ween, on such occasion,
Your dissenting voice
Would have been, in mild persuasion,
Raised against their choice;
Man of peace, and man of merit,
Pompous, wise, and grave,
Ephraim! is it flesh or spirit
You strive most to save?
Vain is half this care and caution
O'er the earthly shell,
We can neither baffle nor shun
Dark plumed Azrael.
Onward! onward! still we wander,
Nearer draws the goal;
Half the riddle's read, we ponder
Vainly on the whole.
Eastward! in the pink horizon,
Fleecy hillocks shame
This dim range dull earth that lies on,
Tinged with rosy flame.
Westward! as a stricken giant
Stoops his bloody crest,
And tho' vanquished, frowns defiant,
Sinks the sun to rest.
Distant, yet approaching quickly,
From the shades that lurk,
Like a black pall gathers thickly,
Night, when none may work.
Soon our restless occupation
Shall have ceas'd to be;
Units! in God's vast creation,
Ciphers! what are we?
Onward! onward! oh! faint-hearted;
Nearer and more near
Has the goal drawn since we started,
Be of better cheer.
Preacher! all forbearance ask, for
All are worthless found,
Man must aye take man to task for
Faults while earth goes round.
On this dank soil thistles muster,
Thorns are broadcast sown;
Seek not figs where thistles cluster,
Grapes where thorns have grown.
Sun and rain and dew from heaven,
Light and shade and air,
Heat and moisture freely given,
Thorns and thistles share.
Vegetation rank and rotten
Feels the cheering ray;
Not uncared for, unforgotten,
We, too, have our day.
Unforgotten! though we cumber
Earth we work His will.
Shall we sleep through night's long slumber
Onward! onward! toiling ever,
Weary steps and slow,
Doubting oft, despairing never,
To the goal we go!
Hark! the bells on distant cattle
Waft across the range;
Through the golden-tufted wattle,
Music low and strange;
Like the marriage peal of fairies
Comes the tinkling sound,
Or like chimes of sweet St. Mary's
On far English ground.
How my courser champs the snaffle,
And with nostril spread,
Snorts and scarcely seems to ruffle
Fern leaves with his tread;
Cool and pleasant on his haunches
Blows the evening breeze,
Through the overhanging branches
Of the wattle trees:
Onward! to the Southern Ocean,
Glides the breath of Spring.
Onward! with a dreary motion,
I, too, glide and sing -
Forward! forward! still we wander -
Tinted hills that lie
In the red horizon yonder -
Is the goal so nigh?
Whisper, spring-wind, softly singing,
Whisper in my ear;
Respite and nepenthe bringing,
Can the goal be near?
Laden with the dew of vespers,
From the fragrant sky,
In my ear the wind that whispers
Seems to make reply -
"Question not, but live and labour
Till yon goal be won,
Helping every feeble neighbour,
Seeking help from none;
Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
KINDNESS in another's trouble,
COURAGE in your own."
Courage, comrades, this is certain,
All is for the best -
There are lights behind the curtain -
Gentiles, let us rest.
As the smoke-rack veers to seaward,
From "the ancient clay",
With its moral drifting leeward,
Ends the wanderer's lay.
[A Preface and a Piracy]
Of borrow'd plumes I take the sin,
My extracts will apply
To some few silly songs which in
These pages scatter'd lie.
The words are Edgar Allan Poe's,
As any man may see,
But what a POE-t wrote in prose,
Shall make blank verse for me.
These trifles are collected and republished chiefly with a
view to their redemption from the many improvements to which
they have been subjected while going at random the rounds of
the Press. I am naturally anxious that what I have written
should circulate as I wrote it, if it circulate at all. * *
* * * * In defence of my own taste, nevertheless, it is
incumbent upon me to say that I think nothing in this volume
of much value to the public, or very creditable to myself.
E. A. P.
(See Preface to Poe's Poetical Works.)
And now that my theft stands detected,
The first of my extracts may call
To some of the rhymes here collected
Your notice, the second to all.
Ah! friend, you may shake your head sadly,
Yet this much you'll say for my verse,
I've written of old something badly,
But written anew something worse.
[Translation from Horace]
When he, that shepherd false, 'neath Phrygian sails,
Carried his hostess Helen o'er the seas,
In fitful slumber Nereus hush'd the gales,
That he might sing their future destinies.
A curse to your ancestral home you take
With her, whom Greece, with many a soldier bold
Shall seek again, in concert sworn to break
Your nuptial ties and Priam's kingdom old.
Alas! what sweat from man and horse must flow,
What devastation to the Trojan realm
You carry, even now doth Pallas show
Her wrath, preparing buckler, car, and helm.
In vain, secure in Aphrodite's care,
You comb your locks, and on the girlish lyre
Select the strains most pleasant to the fair;
In vain, on couch reclining, you desire
To shun the darts that threaten, and the thrust
Of Cretan lance, the battle's wild turmoil,
And Ajax swift to follow - in the dust
Condemned, though late, your wanton curls to soil.
Ah! see you not where (fatal to your race)
Laertes' son comes with the Pylean sage;
Fearless alike, with Teucer joins the chase
Stenelaus, skill'd the fistic strife to wage,
Nor less expert the fiery steeds to quell;
And Meriones, you must know. Behold
A warrior, than his sire more fierce and fell,
To find you rages, - Diomed the bold,
Whom like the stag that, far across the vale,
The wolf being seen, no herbage can allure,
So fly you, panting sorely, dastard pale! -
Not thus you boasted to your paramour.
Achilles' anger for a space defers
The day of wrath to Troy and Trojan dame;
Inevitable glide the allotted years,
And Dardan roofs must waste in Argive flame.
A Legend of Madrid
[Translated from the Spanish]
Crush'd and throng'd are all the places
In our amphitheatre,
'Midst a sea of swarming faces
I can yet distinguish her;
Dost thou triumph, dark-brow'd Nina?
Is my secret known to thee?
On the sands of yon arena
I shall yet my vengeance see.
Now through portals fast careering
Picadors are disappearing;
Now the barriers nimbly clearing
Has the hindmost chulo flown.
Clots of dusky crimson streaking,
Brindled flanks and haunches reeking,
Wheels the wild bull, vengeance seeking,
On the matador alone.
Features by sombrero shaded,
Pale and passionless and cold;
Doublet richly laced and braided,
Trunks of velvet slash'd with gold,
Blood-red scarf, and bare Toledo, -
Mask more subtle, and disguise
Far less shallow, thou dost need, oh,
Traitor, to deceive my eyes.
Shouts of noisy acclamation,
Breathing savage expectation,
Greet him while he takes his station
Leisurely, disdaining haste;
Now he doffs his tall sombrero,
Fools! applaud your butcher hero,
Ye would idolise a Nero,
Pandering to public taste.
From the restless Guadalquivir
To my sire's estates he came,
Woo'd and won me, how I shiver!
Though my temples burn with shame.
I, a proud and high-born lady,
Daughter of an ancient race,
'Neath the vine and olive shade I
Yielded to a churl's embrace.
To a churl my vows were plighted,
Well my madness he requited,
Since, by priestly ties, united
To the muleteer's child;
And my prayers are wafted o'er him,
That the bull may crush and gore him,
Since the love that once I bore him
Has been changed to hatred wild.
Save him! aid him! oh, Madonna!
Two are slain if he is slain;
Shield his life, and guard his honour,
Let me not entreat in vain.
Sullenly the brindled savage
Tears and tosses up the sand;
Horns that rend and hoofs that ravage,
How shall man your shock withstand?
On the shaggy neck and head lie
Frothy flakes, the eyeballs redly
Flash, the horns so sharp and deadly
Lower, short, and strong, and straight;
Fast, and furious, and fearless,
Now he charges; - virgin peerless,
Lifting lids, all dry and tearless,
At thy throne I supplicate.
Cool and calm, the perjured varlet
Stands on strongly-planted heel,
In his left a strip of scarlet,
In his right a streak of steel;
Ah! the monster topples over,
Till his haunches strike the plain! -
Low-born clown and lying lover,
Thou hast conquer'd once again.
Sweet Madonna, maiden mother,
Thou hast saved him, and no other;
Now the tears I cannot smother,
Tears of joy my vision blind;
Where thou sittest I am gazing,
These glad, misty eyes upraising,
I have pray'd, and I am praising,
Bless thee! bless thee! virgin kind.
While the crowd still sways and surges,
Ere the applauding shouts have ceas'd,
See, the second bull emerges -
'Tis the famed Cordovan beast, -
By the picador ungoaded,
Scathless of the chulo's dart.
Slay him, and with guerdon loaded,
And with honours crown'd depart.
No vain brutish strife he wages,
Never uselessly he rages,
And his cunning, as he ages,
With his hatred seems to grow;
Though he stands amid the cheering,
Sluggish to the eye appearing,
Few will venture on the spearing
Of so resolute a foe.
Courage, there is little danger,
Yonder dull-eyed craven seems
Fitter far for stall and manger
Than for scarf and blade that gleams;
Shorter, and of frame less massive,
Than his comrade lying low,
Tame, and cowardly, and passive, -
He will prove a feebler foe.
I have done with doubt and anguish,
Fears like dews in sunshine languish,
Courage, husband, we shall vanquish,
Thou art calm and so am I.
For the rush he has not waited,
On he strides with step elated,
And the steel with blood unsated,
Leaps to end the butchery.
Tyro! mark the brands of battle
On those shoulders dusk and dun,
Such as he is are the cattle
Skill'd tauridors gladly shun;
Warier than the Andalusian,
Swifter far, though not so large,
Think'st thou, to his own confusion,
He, like him, will blindly charge?
Inch by inch the brute advances,
Stealthy yet vindictive glances,
Horns as straight as levell'd lances,
Crouching withers, stooping haunches; -
Closer yet, until the tightening
Strains of rapt excitement height'ning
Grows oppressive. Ha! like lightning
On his enemy he launches.
O'er the horn'd front drops the streamer,
In the nape the sharp steel hisses,
Glances, grazes, - Christ! Redeemer!
By a hair the spine he misses.
Hark! that shock like muffled thunder,
Booming from the Pyrenees!
Both are down - the man is under -
Now he struggles to his knees,
Now he sinks, his features leaden
Sharpen rigidly and deaden,
Sands beneath him soak and redden,
Skies above him spin and veer;
Through the doublet torn and riven,
Where the stunted horn was driven,
Wells the life-blood - We are even,
Daughter of the muleteer!
To fetch clear water out of the spring
The little maid Margaret ran;
From the stream to the castle's western wing
It was but a bowshot span;
On the sedgy brink where the osiers cling
Lay a dead man, pallid and wan.
The lady Mabel rose from her bed,
And walked in the castle hall,
Where the porch through the western turret led
She met with her handmaid small.
"What aileth thee, Margaret?" the lady said,
"Hast let thy pitcher fall?
"Say, what hast thou seen by the streamlet side -
A nymph or a water sprite -
That thou comest with eyes so wild and wide,
And with cheeks so ghostly white?"
"Nor nymph nor sprite," the maiden cried,
"But the corpse of a slaughtered knight."
The lady Mabel summon'd straight
To her presence Sir Hugh de Vere,
Of the guests who tarried within the gate
Of Fauconshawe most dear
Was he to that lady; betrothed in state
They had been since many a year.
"Little Margaret sayeth a dead man lies
By the western spring, Sir Hugh;
I can scarce believe that the maiden lies -
Yet scarce can believe her true."
And the knight replies, "Till we test her eyes
Let her words gain credence due."
Down the rocky path knight and lady led,
While guests and retainers bold
Followed in haste, for like wildfire spread
The news by the maiden told.
They found 'twas even as she had said -
The corpse had some while been cold.
How the spirit had pass'd in the moments last
There was little trace to reveal:
On the still calm face lay no imprint ghast,
Save the angel's solemn seal,
Yet the hands were clench'd in a death-grip fast,
And the sods stamp'd down by the heel.
Sir Hugh by the side of the dead man knelt,
Said, "Full well these features I know,
We have faced each other where blows were dealt,
And he was a stalwart foe;
I had rather have met him hilt to hilt
Than have found him lying low."
He turn'd the body up on its face,
And never a word was spoken,
While he ripp'd the doublet, and tore the lace,
And tugg'd - by the self-same token, -
And strain'd, till he wrench'd it out of its place,
The dagger-blade that was broken.
Then he turned the body over again,
And said, while he rose upright,
"May the brand of Cain, with its withering stain,
On the murderer's forehead light,
For he never was slain on the open plain,
Nor yet in the open fight."
Solemn and stern were the words he spoke,
And he look'd at his lady's men,
But his speech no answering echoes woke,
All were silent there and then,
Till a clear, cold voice the silence broke: -
Lady Mabel cried, "Amen."
His glance met hers, the twain stood hush'd,
With the dead between them there;
But the blood to her snowy temples rush'd
Till it tinged the roots of her hair,
Then paled, but a thin red streak still flush'd
In the midst of her forehead fair.
Four yeomen raised the corpse from the ground,
At a sign from Sir Hugh de Vere;
It was borne to the western turret round,
And laid on a knightly bier,
With never a sob nor a mourning sound, -
No friend to the dead was near.
Yet that night was neither revel nor dance
In the halls of Fauconshawe;
Men looked askance with a doubtful glance
At Sir Hugh, for they stood in awe
Of his prowess, but he, like one in a trance,
Regarded naught that he saw.
* * * * *
Night black and chill, wind gathering still,
With its wail in the turret tall,
And its headlong blast like a catapult cast
On the crest of the outer wall,
And its hail and rain on the crashing pane,
Till the glassy splinters fall.
A moody knight by the fitful light
Of the great hall fire below;
A corpse upstairs, and a woman at prayers,
Will they profit her, aye or no?
By'r lady fain, an' she comfort gain,
There is comfort for us also.
The guests were gone, save Sir Hugh alone,
And he watched the gleams that broke
On the pale hearth-stone, and flickered and shone
On the panels of polish'd oak;
He was 'ware of no presence except his own
Till the voice of young Margaret spoke:
"I've risen, Sir Hugh, at the mirk midnight,
I cannot sleep in my bed,
Now, unless my tale can be told aright,
I wot it were best unsaid;
It lies, the blood of yon northern knight,
On my lady's hand and head."
"Oh! the wild wind raves and rushes along,
But thy ravings seem more wild -
She never could do so foul a wrong -
Yet I blame thee not, my child,
For the fever'd dreams on thy rest that throng!"
He frown'd though his speech was mild.
"Let storm winds eddy, and scream, and hurl
Their wrath, they disturb me naught;
The daughter she of a high-born earl,
No secret of hers I've sought;
I am but the child of a peasant churl,
Yet look to the proofs I've brought;
"This dagger snapp'd so close to the hilt -
Dost remember thy token well?
Will it match with the broken blade that spilt
His life in the western dell?
Nay! read her handwriting an' thou wilt,
From her paramour's breast it fell."
The knight in silence the letter read,
Oh! the characters well he knew!
And his face might have match'd the face of the dead,
So ashen white was its hue!
Then he tore the parchment shred by shred,
And the strips in the flames he threw.
And he muttered, "Densely those shadows fall
In the copse where the alders thicken;
There she bade him come to her, once for all -
Now, I well may shudder and sicken; -
Gramercy! that hand so white and small,
How strongly it must have stricken."
* * * * *
At midnight hour, in the western tower,
Alone with the dead man there,
Lady Mabel kneels, nor heeds nor feels
The shock of the rushing air,
Though the gusts that pass through the riven glass
Have scattered her raven hair.
Across the floor, through the opening door,
Where standeth a stately knight,
The lamplight streams, and flickers, and gleams,
On his features stern and white -
'Tis Sir Hugh de Vere, and he cometh more near,
And the lady standeth upright.
"'Tis little," he said, "that I know or care
Of the guilt (if guilt there be)
That lies 'twixt thee and yon dead man there,
Nor matters it now to me;
I thought thee pure, thou art only fair,
And to-morrow I cross the sea.
"He perish'd! I ask not why or how?
I come to recall my troth;
Take back, my lady, thy broken vow,
Give back my allegiance oath;
Let the past be buried between us now
For ever - 'tis best for both.
"Yet, Mabel, I could ask, dost thou dare
Lay hand on that corpse's heart,
And call on thy Maker, and boldly swear,
That thou hadst in his death no part?
I ask not, while threescore proofs I share
With one doubt - uncondemn'd thou art."
Oh! cold and bleak upon Mabel's cheek
Came the blast of the storm-wind keen,
And her tresses black, as the glossy back
Of the raven, glanced between
Her fingers slight, like the ivory white,
As she parted their sable sheen.
Yet with steady lip, and with fearless eye,
And with cheek like the flush of dawn,
Unflinchingly she spoke in reply -
"Go hence with the break of morn,
I will neither confess, nor yet deny,
I will return thee scorn for scorn."
The knight bow'd low as he turn'd to go;
He travell'd by land and sea,
But naught of his future fate I know,
And naught of his fair ladye;
My story is told as, long ago,
My story was told to me.
The maiden sat by the river side
(The rippling water murmurs by),
And sadly into the clear blue tide
The salt tear fell from her clear blue eye.
"'Tis fixed for better, for worse," she cried,
"And to-morrow the bridegroom claims the bride.
Oh! wealth and power and rank and pride
Can surely peace and happiness buy.
I was merry, nathless, in my girlhood's hours,
'Mid the waving grass when the bright sun shone,
Shall I be as merry in Marmaduke's towers?"
(The rippling water murmurs on).
Stephen works for his daily bread
(The rippling water murmurs low).
Through the crazy thatch that covers his head
The rain-drops fall and the wind-gusts blow.
"I'll mend the old roof-tree," so he said,
"And repair the cottage when we are wed."
And my pulses throbb'd, and my cheek grew red,
When he kiss'd me - that was long ago.
Stephen and I, should we meet again,
Not as we've met in days that are gone,
Will my pulses throb with pleasure or pain?
(The rippling water murmurs on).
Old Giles, the gardener, strok'd my curls
(The rippling water murmurs past),
Quoth he, "In laces and silks and pearls
My child will see her reflection cast;
Now I trust in my heart that your lord will be
Kinder to you than he was to me,
When I lay in the gaol, and my children three,
With their sickly mother, kept bitter fast."
With Marmaduke now my will is law,
Marmaduke's will may be law anon;
Does the sheath of velvet cover the claw?
(The rippling water murmurs on).
Dame Martha patted me on the cheek
(The rippling water murmurs low),
Saying, "There are words that I fain would speak -
Perhaps they were best unspoken though;
I can't persuade you to change your mind,
And useless warnings are scarcely kind,
And I may be foolish as well as blind,
But take my blessing whether or no."
Dame Martha's wise, though her hair is white,
Her sense is good, though her sight is gone -
Can she really be gifted with second sight?
(The rippling water murmurs on).
Brian of Hawksmede came to our cot
(The rippling water murmurs by),
Scatter'd the sods of our garden plot,
Riding his roan horse recklessly;
Trinket and token and tress of hair,
He flung them down at the door-step there,
Said, "Elsie! ask your lord, if you dare,
Who gave him the blow as well as the lie."
That evening I mentioned Brian's name,
And Marmaduke's face grew white and wan,
Am I pledged to one of a spirit so tame?
(The rippling water murmurs on).
Brian is headstrong, rash, and vain
(The rippling water murmurs still),
Stephen is somewhat duller of brain,
Slower of speech, and milder of will;
Stephen must toil a living to gain,
Plough and harrow and gather the grain;
Brian has little enough to maintain
The station in life which he needs must fill;
Both are fearless and kind and frank,
But we can't win all gifts under the sun -
What have I won save riches and rank?
(The rippling water murmurs on).
Riches and rank, and what beside?
(The rippling water murmurs yet),
The mansion is stately, the manor is wide,
Their lord for a while may pamper and pet;