George B. Rose.

Sebastian, a dramatic poem online

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Angelico or Giotto paints.
Who 'neath their garments have no limbs.
And can do nothing but sing hyms, ^
Mere putty dolls that know not passion,
And simper in a saintly fashion.



A Dramatic Poem. 29

The true Renaissance they are not.

That was the gladsome strong upheaval

Of men rejoicing in the light,

Escaping from the bitter night

Of long, sad ages mediaeval,

And wakening to a happier lot.

It was a re-discovery

Of man's essential dignity

And of the beauty of this earth.

Its love and hope, its joy and mirth.

It was a wakening to the bliss

Of carnal life, of amorous kiss,

Of woman's rich voluptuous charms,

Of plastic limbs and snowy arms,

A glad return to ancient ways,

A yearning for the joyous days

When earth was young and men were glad,

Nor fear of hell had made them sad,

When men lived blithely 'neath the sun,

Loving earth's beauty and its pleasure,

Rejoicing in abundant measure.

Nor deeming joy and sin were one.

Such the Renaissance. Those you name,

Save only Raphael are in soul

Still of the Middle Age; the same

Blind piety, although control

Of skill artistic they've acquired

In some degree; they remnants are



30 Sebastian.

Of darker ages, and they jar
Upon the gay Renaissance life.
By other dreams they are inspired,
And with its spirit are at strife.
The things that Italy contains
Most worthy of our care and pains
Are works in which the human form
Stands forth before us fresh and warm,
Painted by Titian or Veronese,
Tintoret or Palma Vecchio,
Or other master hands; yes, these,
And those bright relics of the time
Of Grecian life which clearly show
How fair her art and how sublime.

Felix.

Too much the outward you esteem,

The truer life is that within;

And in those upturned faces beam.

Pure gentle souls that know not sin.

As to the soul the body yields

In dignity, so he who paints

The souls of sinners or of saints.

Yea, of the woodlands and the fields,

Is the true artist, and not he

Who reproduces faithfully

The outward form, but can not give

Our souls, which only truly live.



A Dramatic Poem. 31

Antonio.

Oh Felix, we can ne'er agree

On art. Perhaps the fauh's with me.

I love fair, rounded, plastic shapes,

The subtile soul from me escapes.

I love this world too much to yearn

For saintly dreams to which you turn.

With Epicurus the divine

I am content when bright eyes shine,

And snowy arms about me twine.

And now, Sebastian, let me say
The Lady Lalage to-night
Receives her friends, and bids me pray
Her invitation you'll not slight.
You now have mourned beyond a year,
And in the world should re-appear.

Felix.

'Twere best to go. In solitude
At first our forces are renewed;
But if too long we dwell alone
Morbid we grow and inward brood
Until the spirit's health is gone.

Sebastian.

The Lady Lalage, — I recall
That once I met her at a ball,
A lady handsome, rather tall,



32 Sebastian.

With rounded and voluptuous form
And great black eyes and raven hair,
A woman dazzling, strangely fair.
But yesternight however warm
The invitation, I'd declined;
But now quite different is my mind.
I am all weary of these books,
And fain would see how woman looks.
I gladly will attend you there.

SCENE IV.

A Street. Sebastian and Antonio leaving
Lalage^s House.

NIGHT.

Sebastian.

The Lady Lalage is strangely fair.

Antonio.

Be not entangled in the snare

Of that most wondrous raven hair.

Many have languished in their pain.

Adoring her, but all in vain.

She seemeth proof against their arts,

And coldly smiles at breaking hearts.

You'll idly seek from virtue's ways

Her to seduce — She never strays.



A Dramatic Poem. 33



Sebastian.
Much you mistake. I do not nurture
The least design against her virtue.
I would not, friend, to save my life
Seek to mislead our host's fair wife.

Antonio.
All that does very well to say.
I have known others talk that way
Who yet have ended otherwise.
There is a charm in woman's eyes
That plays sad havoc with our morals
When cheeks are pink and lips are corals.

Sebastian.

I fear your long sojourn in France
Has robbed you of your little chance
To be a saint.

Antonio.

I sometimes think
The Frenchman's views of life correct.
We have in youth a brief romance,
Then marry, settle down and sink
Into the humdrum commonplace,
Nor further joys of love expect.
Far different with the Gallic race.
Long as they live the dulcet game
Of love they play with subtle art.



24 Sebastian.

And age itself can scarcely tame
The fire that burns their amorous heart.
'Tis most immoral, you will say,
But when they all are in the play
None can complain, and surely life
Is sweetened by the tender strife.
Nor is it wise to be too strict.
The world forgives with ready ease
A sinner's sin— 'tis what's expected;
But when the virtuous are detected
At fault, men buzz like angry bees.
Rejoiced their venom to inflict.

Sebastian.
You say that many men have courted
Fair Lalage ?

Antonio.

So 'tis reported;
You know that I have absent been.
And truly 'tis no heinous sin
To love a woman fair as she.

Sebastian.
And all you say have loved in vain ?

Antonio.
She has been heedless of their pain,
So all aver the fact to be.
And yet I own it seems to me



A Dramatic Poem. 35



She should not be beyond all reach;
She seems from Lilith to descend.

Sebastian.
What would you say, my worthy friend ?

Antonio.
You know that Adam, as they teach,
Possessed an earlier wife than Eve.
We thus two female types receive,
Both needful for man's happiness.
Eve's daughter wnth her chaste caress
Consoles us in our heart's distress,
And doth our home with children bless.
The other lures to love's delights,
To lawless passion, sleepless nights,
To kisses fierce that burn the soul,
To joys that brook no law's control.
And with her passionate seduction
Allures us oft to our destruction.
But also brings a bliss intense
So keen 'tis worth the consequence.
Man needs them both, and incomplete
His life unless he both has tried.
One born to be a blushing bride.
For lawless joys the other meet.
Sometimes it happens, sad to say,
Eve's gentle daughters tread the way
Of Lilith' s children. All unfit.



36 Sebastian.

With faltering steps they follow it,
Their souls revolting 'gainst their shame,
And grieving for their sullied fame.
And sometimes Lilith's daughters take
The place of Eve's, and so become
Mothers and wives, but most succumb
To their own instincts, forced to slake
Their burning thirst for wanton joy.
Not well our Lilith's we employ.
The Greeks much better comprehend
Their value. Helen was decended
From Lilith; so the lovely Thais,
Phryne, Aspasia, charming Lais.
They were adored in that bright era
By all who worshiped at the shrine
Of Aphrodite the divine.
Beside the wife stood the hetaera.
Both honored in their separate spheres;
The one the angel of the home
Whose chaste affections did not roam,
The other tending on the fires
Of Aphrodite Panderhos,
Goddess of uncontrolled desires,
With her wild infant Himeros,
Who hovering by her side appears.
Possessed of both, man was content.
His every wish was satisfied;
But now all honor is denied



A Dramatic Poem. 37



To those of Lilith's fair descent

Unless they imitate the carriage

Of Eve's chaste daughters, and consent

To wear the heavy chain of marriage.

So, many who were born to be

Hetserae passionate and free

Bow all unsuited to the yoke

Till time and circumstance provoke

Them to rebellion. Such to me

Appears the Lady Lalage.

Sebastian.

No, No, my friend, 'tis plain you err,
And gross injustice do to her
In this opinion. That she's pure
Although much courted, you assure.
A woman in her richest prime
Wedded to one bowed down by time,
Who yet maintains her fame untarnished
Is not a mere hetaera varnished.
Your types sometimes in one combined
Present to us the perfect woman.
With fascinations superhuman.
Ardent and passionate and kind.
Fitted for love's supreme delight.
Yet pure as in the silver light
Of chastest moons; and such to me
Appears the Lady Lalage.



3^ Sebastian.

Antonio.

You are, I see, caught in the snare
Oi that luxuriant raven hair.
Do you suppose I did not see
Your doting o'er her bosom's charms,
The snowy neck, the tapered arms.
Her face that Helen's well might be?
All through the evening I observed
How humbly at her feet you served.
What burning glances you directed
On charms by finest lace protected.
Already I perceive you break
The tenth commandment for her sake.

Sebastian.

I covet not my neighbor's wife.
Although her charms I may admire
Pure admiration they inspire,
Nor waken love's tumultuous strife.

Antonio.

'Tis well; and yet I do not see

Why you should not accepted be.

You are of splendid family,

Oi comely person, courteous manners,

And once fought well 'neath Cupid's banners;

And she, in rich maturity

Is of the age when women are



A Dramatic Poem. 39



Most v/orthy to be wooed and won.
Sweeter than girlish love by far,
Sweetest of all beneath the sun,
Is that of woman in her prime.
When full development the mind
And body have alike attained.
Then she is best, then is the time
To win her love. Then she is kind
And strong and passionate and sweet;
Then is her witchery complete.
The Lady Lalage has gained
That happy age, and if you win
Her love, the joy were worth the sin.

Sebastian.
Then why not claim her for your own ?

Antonio.
Because 'twere vain; but she has shown
To you more favors than to all
Who yet have bowed beneath her thrall.
Besides, she is too much for me.
An Epicurean, I sip
The wine of love with sapient lip,
And wish no Phaedra such as she.
I but aspire to facile loves,
To women soft as cooing doves;
I wish alone love's wanton joy,
And not fierce passions that destroy.



40 Sebastian.

Barbarians when they seize on wine

Swill it as greedily as swine

Until, like brutes, all overcome

They lie stretched out inert and dumb;

While men of culture fill the glasses,

Inhale its perfume, sip it slowly,

Appreciate its flavor wholly.

And taste each rudy drop that passes.

Seeking alone exhiliration.

Nor yielding to intoxication.

So 'tis with love; the prudent man

Pursues it as a pleasing game.

Draws from it all the joy he can.

But flies its desolating flame.

The kind of love that bringeth pleasure

Is love in just sufficient measure

To wake desire, not love that burns,

And which too oft to anguish turns.

If I mistake not, Lalage

Has in her blood volcanic fire.

To tigress loves I don't aspire,

The frailer ones suffice for me

Sebastian.

I care not for your light amours.
If I must love I want the the stres^
Of real passion, and a bliss
So keen it borders on distress,



A Dramatic Poem. 41



The burning joy of frenzied kiss,
The wildly passionate embrace
Of arms that ding and interlace;
'Tis love like that my soul allures.

Antonio.

'Tis plain you do not comprehend
The art of living pleasantly.
Instead of hurrying to the end
We long should Hnger by the way,
Enjoying love's delicious play.
As men become more civilized
Less is the mere possession prized,
And mxore the pleasure of pursuit.
The man who fishes with a net
Knows nothing of the joy of angling.
More quickly he the fish may get,
Them basely in the mesh entangling;
But that is worthy of a brute.
Not so the cultured angler fishes;
A fragile reed alone he wishes;
With this he hooks the largest trout,
And plays him with infinite skill.
Letting him first dart all about,
Now here, now there, just as he will,
Forcing the hook deep in his gill.
Until his strength is wearied out;
And when at length the sport is o'er



42 Sebastian.

He pulls him gently to the shore.
The art of love is just the same,
' Tis thus the artist plays the game.

Sebastian.
I must confess I have no wish
The ladies to confound with fish.
If I should love 'twould be sincere,
And would not end with mere possession.
'Twould be inflamed by each concession,
And would increase from year to year.
'Tis therefore not worth while to waste
Such sage advice on me, I fear.

Antonio.
You have one virtue very great
In one who would o' ercome the fair.
Smoking has kept more women chaste
Than virtue has, beyond compare.
When ready to capitulate
And give the kiss whence follows all,
How oft their nostrils are offended.
The spell is broken, all is ended,
And he knows not what caused his fall.

Sebastian.

Again you do exaggerate.
True love resideth in the soul,
Nor on tobacco hangs its fate.



A Dramatic Poem. 43

Antonio.
It is the senses that control.
If not, why don't you love profess
For one that's ugly, old and wrinkled,
Whose scanty locks with gray are sprinkled.
But who all virtues doth possess ?
A man's a pig in gilded sty,
And she who understands the art
To rouse and then to satisfy
His appetite will rule his heart.
The chaste, cold wife oft wanders why
She is forsook for one less fair.
Nor comprehends she should employ
Her luscious charms for amorous joy
To bind him firmly in love's snare.
The women who have conquered men,
And ruled as tyrants o'er their hearts,
The Circes who by magic arts
Have changed them back to beasts again,
The Cleopatras for whose smiles
Kingdoms are lost without regret,
Are those who by seductive wiles
Men's appetites for pleasure whet
Until, all frenzied by desire.
They burn with a consuming fire.
And there are those whose kiss has power
To sear the soul as with a flame.
Making it blind to every aim



A A Sebastian.

Save passion from that fatal hour.
'Twas such that lured the angels down
From heaven to dwell upon the earth,
Forgetting their celestial birth
And casting off their starry crown.
Love is a hunger for the charms
Of handsome face and dimpled arms,
Of bosom round and firm and white,
Of all that tempts to love's delight.
'Tis in excitement of the senses
Most frequently that it commences.
It is a singular compound
Of friendship and of sensual passion
Blended together in such fashion
That hard it is to trace the bound.

Sebastian.
You are not half correct, my friend.
Love is a true affinity
Between two souls that strongly tend
To join together and to blend
In sweet and perfect unity.
Love is the purest, noblest feeling
That man can know. It Hft us up,
Sweetening the contents of life's cup.
The joys of paradise revealing.
Do not endeavor to degrade
The purest thing that God has made.
Nature createth nothing single,



A Dramatic Poem.

But every thing has each its mate,
Toward which its longings gravitate,
With which it yearns to meet and mingle.
Nothing is in itself complete;
All yearns to find its counterpart.
When loving heart is joined to heart,
Then 'tis we live, then life is sweet.
True bliss is only found in love;
And much I think the Christians err
Forbidding marriage ties with her
Without whose presence heaven above
Would loose its charm. For womanhood
The heart of man must ever yearn;
And God declared it was not good
Man should alone on earth sojourn,
And for his wife created Eve.
Man's love for woman is so strong
That I confess I can't conceive
A heaven where marriage don't belong.
I do not wish the Moslem heaven
With seventy black -eyed houris given.
I long for love, love sweet and pure,
'Tis that that doth my soul allure.
What you call love is but caprice.
Mere sensual joy you long to taste,
And move tow^ard that with brutal haste,
And when 'tis won, all longings cease.
True love is humble, worshiping



45



46 Sebastian,

Its object as a sacred thing.

The lover scarce dares Hft his eyes

To her, an angel from the skies.

A look, a pressure of the hand,

Fills him with transport, and he thinks

That in a smile heaven's joy he drinks.

Upon a height she seems to stand,

Where he can never hope to reach.

He worships humbly from afar

Until at length he dares beseech

Her love, as one might pray a star.

You look on woman as the spider

Looks on the fly it seeks to capture.

You'd first degrade and then deride Jier.

Nothing you know of love's true rapture.

Antonio.
Love is the war between the sexes.
'Tis woman's to resist aggression
Until at length she comes to fall.
And then to bind him 'neath her thrall.
Men's part is to attain possession,
And yet to keep his freedom all.

Sebastian.
You cynicism somewhat perplexes.
But well you know that love is not
A state of war, but one of peace.
The sweetest known to mortal lot.



A Dramatic Poem. 47

Love you confound with mere caprice
But let this cynic mocking cease.
And now that we have reached your gate,
Good night, my friend, 'tis very late.

Antonio.
Good night, Sebastian; through your sleep
Seductive dreams of her will creep.
And friend, to-morrow you'll go see
The charming Lady Lalage.

SCENE V.

Felix and Sebastian.
Felix.
My dear Sebastian, I must beg of you
No longer our departure to delay.
Great danger threatens should we longer stay.
Without solicitude I can not view
Your growing love for Lady Lalage.

Sebastian.
'Twere needless to deny I feel the charm
Of her great beauty, but for your alarm
There is no just occasion that I see.

Felix.
You love her more, Sebastian, than you own;
Else long ago to Italy we'd flown.



48 Sebastian.

Sebastian.

I must admit that her society

I find most pleasing. She is passing fair,

And with her charm and grace can none compare.

Felix.

Sebastian, I beseech you to beware.
Think who she is — she is another's wife.
Through degradation and through shame alone
Can you e'er hope to claim her as your own.
Would you polute her bright and spotless life ?

Sebastian.

Not for the world.

Felix.

Then come away with me.
In such a case the brave are those who flee.
Be not too confident. Love is a power
That creeps upon us in the unguarded hour.
At first we smile such puny chains to see,
And let him wind them round us as he will,
Nor fearing aught of such weak bonds until
It is too late, and then we strive in vain
To break his slender, adamantine chain.
You can to-day part from her, but to-morrow
May be too late, and endless shame and sorrow.
Yea, death itself, may punish your delay.



A Dramatic Poem, 49

Sebastian.

Felix, there Is no cause for this dismay.
The Lady Lalage Is far above
The thought of yielding to a guilty love;
And you should know that I shall ne'er offend
Against the rules of honor, my good friend.

Felix.

Trust not too much to honor. When the fire
Of passion burns, when love and hot desire
Seethe in the bosom, honor's voice, unheard,
Serves only to reproach us when we've erred
Beyond redemption. Love's a malady
That prays upon the soul insidiously.
It creeps upon us as a pleasing langour,
And we are lost ere danger we suspect.
The Greeks were wise who saw it in the anger
Of Gods who men on seas of passion wrecked,
To punish their offending.

Sebastian,

If 'tis sent
By wrathful gods on men as punishment.
The deities must bear the blame of sin.
So thought the Greeks, nor Helen did destoy.
But gladly brought her back from burning Troy,
And Menelaus led her proudly in
To reign again as queen In Sparta's halls.



CQ Sebastian.

Felix.
But we know better. Love legitimate
Is pure and chaste, nor comes it from the hate
Of envious gods, and when its chain enthralls.
Leading us on through flowery paths to where
Stands Hymen's alter, we may follow on
Rejoicing, by the tender impulse drawn.
But when we find another's wife too fair.
We know at once the guilt of our desire,
And sternly should repress the nascent fire.

Sebastian.
And yet for both the passion is the same.
Though one meets your approval, one your blame.
Love is a passion planted in the breast
By heaven to make man's earthly sojourn blest.
Gende and sweet the thoughts that it instills.
Binding two hearts together till each thrills
In unison of bliss. When two souls meet
Born to be mates, instinctivly they greet
Each other — love awakes by God's decree.
And yet you say that when some man has given
A woman to another, she must be
Forever his, and from her true love flee.
Thus placing man's decrees above the laws of heaven,

Felix.
'Tis not Sabastian's soul that speaketh thus,
But that wild passion that o'ermasters it.



A Dramatic Poem.

None better knows that human edicts writ
' Gainst such amours but serve to ratify
The laws which God himself ordained for us.
And dread the consequence if you defy
God's laws and man's. I do not speak of you,
For you I know impervious are to fear;
But think of her to whom you fondly sue,
Whom you would die for, rather than a tear
Should dim the melting lustre of her eye.
If she should fall, all hope of joy were gone.
She never could be happy with the sense
Of guilt upon her soul. You'd lead her on
To secret sin, but public shame would follow;
Her ruin and your own the consequence.
So do not yield to reasoning so hollow.

Sebastian.

Fehx, you're right, but, pray you, do not think

That ever I have thought of loving her

Save with a chaste affection that would shrink

From the bare thought of leading her to err.

And if I were inclined, she has not shown

The slightest sign that could encourage me

To venture aught against a purity

Spotless as snow by mountain breezes blown.

This eve, however, I will bid adieu,

And then to-morrow I'll away with you.



51



52 Sebastian.

Felix.
'Twere better if your farewell you would send
By letter as we started.

Sebastian.

No, my friend,
'Twere most discourteous. I will go and say
Farewell, and then to Italy away.

SCENE VI.

Sebastian and Lalage in gardens of Lalage' s house.
NIGHT,
Sebastian.

Thou art so beautiful, temptingly beautiful.
Kiss me once, kiss me once ere I depart,

Long have I waited, love, humble and dutiful,
Hiding the passion consuming my heart.

Deep in the breast of the mountain is burning
Fire that is hidden there far from our sight,

Seething and surging with passionate yearning.
Striving to issue forth into the light.

Long by the strength of the mountain subjected,
Writhing and twisting, it struggles in vain;

Fiercer the strength that it yet has collected,
Bursting at length like a wolf from its chain.



A Dramatic Poem. 53

So from its fetters my passion has broken,

Bearing me on to distruction and sin;
Words I should perish before they were spoken

Rush to my Hps, and will not be held in.

Lead us, oh, lead us not into temptation,
Such is the prayer that alone is worth all.

Cruel was He that at Eden's creation

Planted the Knowledge Tree causing the fall.

Ever unconsciously, sweet, thou has tempted me.
Tempted me past my endurance to bear;

God from man's weakness has never exempted me,
And thou wert ever too temptingly fair.

Thou art so beautiful, temptingly beautiful,

I can no longer my passion control,
I can no longer be humble and dutiful,

Kiss me but once though the price be my soul.

Lalage.

Sebastian, Sebastian, be silent I pray,
Oh, seek not, oh, seek not to lead me astray.
If truly thou lovest, thou wishest me pure,
Then into temptation, oh, do not allure.

Sebastian.

Ah! half thou confessest my love is returned;
The fire that so long in my bosom has burned



54 Sebastian.

Hath wakened an answering flame in thy heart,
Oh, kiss me then, kiss me then ere I depart.

Lalage.

Sebastian, Sebastian, 'twere vain to deny-
That often in secret I've stifled a sigh.
I own that I love thee, but oh, I implore,
Accept this confession, demanding no more.

Sebastian. (6Vz>/;2^ her in his arms.)

Oh, speak to the river that rolls to the sea,
To the lion that wooeth his terrible mate.
To the hurricane driving the ship to its fate,
And bid them be quiet, but speak not to me.
Thou lovest me, lovest me, then thou art mine,
And nothing shall part us as long as life lasts.
And when at the day of the judgment divine
The earth from her bosom her children outcasts,
Around thee mine arms I shall lovingly twine.
And smile at the blare of the trumpeter's blasts.

"Lklag^. {Disengaging herself.')

'Tis thou who has wished it, but dost thou conceive
The force of the passion that thou dost invoke ?
As long as life lasts unto thee I shall cleave;
I am thine, thou art mine, till the day when the stroke
Of the scythe of the reaper shall part us in twain.
In my breast evermore thou as master shalt reign;



A Dramatic Poem. 55

When thou ceasest to love me, Sebastian, I die —
From the depths of my bosom thou hearest my cry.

{She throws herself into his arms.)
Sabastian.
Oh, speak not of ceasing to love thee, my sweet;
Till the borders of time and eternity meet


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Online LibraryGeorge B. RoseSebastian, a dramatic poem → online text (page 2 of 4)