Leonard Bacon.

The scrannel pipe, a book of verse online

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VIII Century.

Afar in the scarlet Armeniac,

They say that the caliph's bolt is shot ;
And none of his armies struggled back

From the raid on the strong Cibyrraiot ;
And that great war fleet Cypriot

Hath thrown the rebels into flight ;
And that is the end of their plan and plot.

How I shall triumph in this my might !

My ships from Pontus and Egypt track

Laden with victories I had thought
Too mighty for me. Nor do I lack

The splendor their travailing oars have got.
And the sun of my strength is high and hot,

On the legions marching in from my fight,
Ranked in phalanx and chariot.

How I shall triumph in this my might !

But I am a sail that is fallen slack,
And no wind speedeth my galliot.

For all the timbers of empire crack,

And the beams of my conquest rend and rot ;

The weeds and the worms destroy and blot
With a temporal and devouring blight.

28



And victor, already full well I wot
How I shall triumph in this my might.

Legions of victory, you cannot
Cast a realm in the moulds of fight.

All my labor is all unwrought.

How I shall triumph in this my might !



29



V.

BALLADE OF NICEPHORUS I.

IX Century.

Once I captained an armament,

But that was a season of hours ago,
And now I am spent as a coin is spent,

And bartered and bargained to and fro.
Little track will be left to show

Whither my wanderings have led,
And the naked sworoUedge whispers low :

"What is the price of an emperor's head?"

Unto disaster I have lent

The whole broad empire's strength. Although
I wrought in grandeur of intent,

I profited in overthrow
And massacre, and murderous woe

Of broken brethren of the dead,
And open shame, that the whirlwinds blow :

"What is the price of an emperor's head?"

My purposes magnificent

(Seeds for the harvest I meant to sow)
Are stifled with conquest insolent,

And their dead promise can never grow.
Bitter the hope, that was so slow,

And trampled under a tempest's tread.

30



Only an emperor wots, I trow,

What is the price of an emperor's head.

Irene ! Stabrakios ! you who go
Before and after me, season-led,

Before the devil and God you know
What is the price of an emperor's head.



VI.

BALLADE OF THE WAIL OF THE WOMEN OF
BYZANT.

Any Century.

What is the sound of sorrow unseen,

Crying of women far and near,
When all the city is serene

With fortunate victory, and cheer
Of conquest on the keen frontier?

Why this fierce misery clamitant?
Wherefore, O Emperor, falls so clear

The wail of the women of Byzant?

Ever lust and the lash have been

Lords of the city without peer ;
And the gateways, where her kings come in,

Have owned their sovereigns this thousand year.
But there is no battle nor tumult here,

Fruit of Rebellion tonitrant,
That there should come on the troubled ear

The wail of the women of Byzant.

What is the harvest they would glean?

What bitter largess of their fear ?
Is it some vision that must mean

Evil to come, or else the sheer
Forecast of wars, where disappear

Armies and nations arrogant ?

32



Is it born of evil deep and dear,
The wail of the women of Byzant ?

Satan, your halls are foul and drear,

Shame and Death are the gifts you grant,

Whereby the nadir of hell shall hear
The wail of the women of Byzant.



33



VII.

BALLADE OF CAESAR'S HOUR.

Constantine XIII loquitur A. D. 1453.

Silver and gold abroad in the state,

And I am clad in crimson and pall.
This is the pleasant place of the great,

And I am the master over all.
Never topsail may hoist or haul,

Nor galley anchor save by my power
Sacrosanct and imperial.

This is the splendor of Caesar's hour.

My fathers vended the Exarchate

To princes of Alamain and Gaul,
And the lordships of Asia are desolate,

Where the Caliph holdeth festival.
He has taken the marches past recall,

He has beaten my men in a stricken stour,
Without the ramparts his leaguers brawl.

This is the splendor of Csesar's hour.

Set new guards on the Blachern gate!

Look to the harbor, admiral !
Patriarch, march in your wonted state

And pray with a higher ritual !
Stand to it, captains-general !

Gallant spirits that can not cower,

34



What though our labor be broken and small ?
This is the splendor of Caesar's hour.

Captains, they are storming the wall,

They have ta'en the gate and the strongest tower.
What is it to Caesar, if Caesar fall?

This is the splendor of Caesar's hour.



35



IX.
BALLADE OF THE CARDINAL BESSARION.

Circa 1500 A. D.

City my heart cannot forget,

Circled about with a silent sea,
How your greatness abideth yet,

And the deep strength of your mystery.
Your emperor holds no empery

Over the near or the farther themes,
Yet he rules in all my revery ;

I have dreamed in the city of dreams.

Cardinal prince, my hands are set

To plow for the Pope in Italy ;
But your beautiful empire will not let

My spirit bow to his heresy.
Out of the past your memory

Ransoms my heart, and its strength redeems
The world with a moment of majesty.

I have dreamed in the city of dreams.

Ramp and palace and parapet

Are shattered in your infirmity,
And the courtyards where your Caesars met,

Are sad with a Soldan's revelry.
He has smitten with indignity

Your dromonds and your quinqueremes.

36



He is battle and blood and iniquity.
I have dreamed in the city of dreams.

"Bessarion," saith my soul to me,
"Thou are mighty by this, meseems,

Because thou sayest with verity,

'I have dreamed in the city of dreams.' "



37



In this year fell the great and far renowned city of Constantinople
that was the place of Caesar. Whereby we are sore put to it, having
now no greatly eminent city surpassing all others in beauty and
power. And shortly we of this monastery needs must labor at
the making of manuscripts, for God alone knows when the light
of learning shall be made to shine again. Th<e Chronicle of Raymond
of M alines, A. D. 1453.



THE BUDGET.

Circa 1510 A. D.

Naught but peace from the provinces,

And the subject cities over seas.

In Yemen they have abased the Khan,

The Vali of Egypt is taken and slain,

And the rebel captain of Kurdistan

Has got the bit in his teeth again.

The Tunis corn ships are overdue,

But Brian of Malta's Christian crew

Was seen but a se'ennight since off Crete,

And God knows what has become of the fleet.

Naught of mark from the palace court

But a new decree of the Sacred Porte :

This year the turbans of Samarcand

Are forbid by law, and the Sultan's hand

And seal will be set thereto to-day.

The Sheik-ul-Islam will have his way.

Yestre'en, up on the Belvedere,

The eunuchs strangled the grand vizier,

And the Sultan's favorite bayadere.

Allah is great, but isn't it queer?

Naught from the city, nay but wait,

This morning under the golden gate

A falling roof -tile broke the pate

Of Mehamet AH, the cobbler's son ;

Poor lad, his stitching days are done.

He died at noon.

39



What? What? Dead?
Yea, by a tile from overhead.
Ha, Yusuf, they are evil days,
That slay a man in the midst of his ways ;
The women are weeping and drooping the head,
Mehamet Ali our friend is dead,
"So it is written," the prophet said.
Naught from the provinces, naught from the court,
Save battle and murder and music and sport,
But Mehamet Ali our friend is dead.



40



THE LEE SHORE.

Beside the shore I saw great armaments

Of ships, that struggled with a baffling tide

And a strong wind, that scarce would be denied.

And some, close hauled, made good their way from

thence,

And gaining mastery of the elements,
Drew off to windward. The more part, o'er tried
By the great sea, drove leeward in their pride,
And the reefs garnered their magnificence.

Disastrous navies of a losing fight,

Whose present victors shall be overthrown

Or late or soon by the incessant sea;

Though ye make head, ye still shall waste your might

And all the stake that ye had set thereon

Who throw a wager with eternity.



NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 25th, 1909.

Guarded and girded with iron sea-born power,

Her beautiful head crowned high with wonderful wings,

I saw her bloom through the years' encirclings,

Violently lovely as a tropic flower.

The flame-wrought line of parapet and tower

Burned with her greatness, and the trumpetings

And thunder of the armament of kings

Hailed the nobility of this her hour.

Her head was lightning and her feet were fire,
Yet, underneath the arches of her pride
Her clear eyes glanced a little space aside,
Marking her people's mirth, their toils surcease.
"And this," she said, "is my best loved desire,
The triple triumph of the swords of peace."



BALLADE OF QUEEN HORTENSE.
A. D. 1815.

This is the greatness of my day,

The first of summer after my spring,
And a nation's waif, and a realm's estray

Are one a queen and the other a king.
The bells of my beautiful triumph ring

Up on the tower the whole day long ;
But I rejoice in a better thing ;

France forever shall sing my song.

Out in the courtyards the fountains play,

And the winds in the bending linden swing,
And I dream of my brother Beauharnais

And the end of our adventuring.
Tidings are good my couriers bring,

And the empire's hope is splendid and strong ;
We win from the centuries bargaining.

France forever shall sing my song.

They have murdered Brune, they have butchered Ney,

The whips of Europe flicker and sting.
And the world's whole strength is fallen away

In the Eagle's last endeavoring.
Spent the spirit, broken the wing

That bore us over the nation's throng.
This is the fruit of my laboring ;

France forever shall sing my song.

43



Music ! My spirit yearns to sing
In stress or quiet, or right or wrong,

Till the end of man's remembering,
France forever shall sing my song.



44



BALLADE OF THE MARSHAL RADETZKY.

A. D. 1855.

Here in the Quadrilateral,

Under the four great walls we wait
To dance in the Kaiser's carnival,

And reap his harvest of iron and hate.
The time is come of our battle's spate,

The brows of victory knit and frown,
And I know in my labors desolate,

Though I have stood shall the world go down.

Italy's soul is a funeral.

Austria's grave is within her gate.
And I stand her captain-general,

Locked in our leaguer castellate.
A war unwinnowed cannot abate,

And all for love of the Iron Crown
I must hold my hand to the shaken state.

Though I have stood shall the world go down.

Austria, hark how the bugles call !

Austrians, shoulder the rifles straight !
Out from Milan the armies crawl,

And the dinning drums reverberate !
Charge, white Austrians ! God is great !

God and the Kaiser of renown !
Battle and terror their hands create.

Though I have stood shall the world go down.

45



Mine is a sorrow no mirth can sate,
No death abolish, no wine can drown.

This is the horror of my fate,

Though I have stood shall the world go down.



4 6



THE BALLADE OF HICKS PASHA.
A. D. 1883.

The desert is thirsty, the bushes are dry ;

Three days of drought and of bitter bread ;
The scouts are afar, but there is no cry ;

The white dust rises under the tread.
In the valley afar, where our lives sped

Easily on without let or bar,
Only one word is whispered or said :

"Sirdar Hicks Pasha is gone to the war."

On the edge of the gully, dusty and high,

Something aflash like a silver thread.
The mercenaries have turned to fly,

And men must die in the cowards' stead.
Surely a bitter thing is dread,

And none will help us anear or far.
Little honor alive or dead :

Sirdar Hicks Pasha is gone to war.

Taken and slaughtered terribly,

With blasted virtue and good lives shed,
We abide till our strength shall die,

Mown and strown by a scythe of lead
In a fool's hand. Our hearts have bled

The best of our blood, and the gash and scar
Shall throb in a land whose hope is fled.

Sirdar Hicks Pasha is gone to the war.

47



Anguish! How can we lift the head?

For shame has cut like a scimetar,
And burned our foreheads bloody and red.

Sirdar Hicks Pasha is gone to the war.



FREE BALLADE OF KING FERDINAND.
A. D. 1908.

Over the mountain pass

After nine hundred years,
Up from the river morass,

From the meadows and the meres,
In a clatter of pikes and spears,

Mid brandished rifle and brand,
Came the cry of cries to our ears :

"God save King Ferdinand!"

Laughter of lad and lass,

Women and old men's tears,
Drum roll and bellowing brass,

Roaring plaudits and cheers,
Shattering fall of fears,

Whose grip was hard on the land,
And the cry that west world hears :

"God save King Ferdinand!"

Up where the armies mass

Huzzars and carabineers !
The sand runs slow in the glass

Till the Balkan vulture sheers
Down where his battle clears,

And his harvests of victory stand,
Spoil for him and his peers.

God save King Ferdinand !

49



God! the charge and the cheers;

The rifles are hot in the hand ;
Battle and terror and tears;

God save King Ferdinand !



THE BALLAD OF THE TWO RIDERS.

The haze yet hung in the willows slender,
And the sun, behind the height of the hill,
Lit the clouds with a crimson splendor,
And field and forest were hushed and still,

When my brother and I went out a-riding,
Blithe as the linnet that woke nearby,
With wonder of all the world betiding,
Under the peace of the quiet sky.

And the road was white, and the dust thereover
Hovered and hung in the burning air,
And we heard the cry of the piping plover,
As she rose aloft in the morning glare.

And lo, by the wayside a woman gazing
Out to the west, 'neath her shading hand,
Alone in the heat of the full sun blazing,
And her look we might not understand.

But the rushing horses onward bore us,
And never a word to us she said ;
And a shudder of pity and fear came o'er us,
As we left her standing still as the dead.

Yet anew in our hearts awoke the singing,
As wonderfully onward the good steeds ran,
With a thunder of hoofs and iron ringing,
And we felt the joy of the might of man.

51



And sudden along by the wayside wending
Two men came, plodding wearily on,
And their hearts were sad with sorrow unending,
And they sought the woman who stood alone.

And the eyes of the one were red from weeping,
And the lips of the other were white for pain,
And our merry hearts gave over leaping,
And we stayed the steeds with the bridle rein :

"Grace of God and the saints be to ye,

All in the merry summer day.

Say, is there aught that a man may do ye?"

And the first of the twain made answer : "Nay."

But quiet and gently answered the other :
"Thank ye, kind sirs, from a woeful one.
We do but seek for our Lady Mother,
Who standeth up by the hill alone."

Then on we rode, and the steeds went slowly,
And our hearts grew sad for another's woe;
Yet grief of soul did not hold us wholly,
Till we came on a maiden who lone did go.

And her eyes were glorious, wrought of splendor,
And her cheek was tinged with a gallant fire ;
And she was e'en as the poplar slender,
When the starling singeth of his desire.

But her glance was weary and full of sadness,
And joy had fled as a bird from her,
And naught was left but the deadly gladness
That she might win from the days that were.

52



And we stayed the strength of the steeds beside her,
And I spake out: "May we give thee aid?"
But she answered stately and slow : "Fair Rider,
In naught may ye help a sorrowful maid.

"For I must onward and cease from sorrow,
And ye must wend aback to your home,
What time I pray for the merry morrow,
And the hope of the years that are to come."

And on she fared and the sun went with her,
And the light died out on the shadowy plain,
While the little breeze blew hither and thither
Whispering that even was come again.

When the stars came out of their day-long hiding,
And the moon was rising white and clear,
My brother and I came back from riding,
And, oh, but our hearts were sad and drear.



53



FURTHER AMPLIFICATION OF THE SENSA-
TIONS OF A CELEBRATED MEDIAEVAL
POET WHO WAS TO BE HANGED
WITH HIS COMPANIONS
FOR THIEVERY.

In me the taste of my life was keener,

In me the heart of it sweet and dear,

And the whole of my soul was lovelier, cleaner,

Than these poor devils that whimper here.

I shall lose a world that is all in nothing,
A kiss and a bite in the very wind,
A lust and a love for all things, clothing
In solemn beauty my bitter mind ;

A love for these poor lads, evil seeming,
Who on the morrow shall swing with me,
A love of waking, of sleeping, and dreaming,
A love of the earth and the sky and the sea.

My way was ever the wilder and rougher,
My river ever ran dark and deep,
And mine was ever a heart to suffer,
A heart to be troubled, a heart to weep.

But oh, my mirth was beyond all laughter,

And oh, my joy was beyond all tears,

And my love shall bloom in its strength hereafter,

Through the thunder and throb of the thronging years.

54



When the Kings are down, and the Captains are going,
When their strength is broken from flank to flank,
Let them hearken the song of my trumpets blowing;
They shall win with only my song to thank.

Courage and splendor and fire together,
Singing from me in the wind and the rain,
Dead and dank and blown like a feather
To and fro at the end of the chain.

Though the strong sea sever, the earth be sundered,
The night be broken, and day depart,
Enough for them to have known and pondered
Marvelous things in the deep of my heart.

I shaped my passion of iron and silver,
And purified in the burning fire,
Time shall not steal nor the seasons pilfer
The strength, that rose with the heart's desire.

Forth to the beautiful feet of her judgment.
Broken with greatness and death and doom,
I go from the fear, where my feet found lodgement,
To stand alone in a wider room.

Wider than earth and deeper than heaven,
Girded about as a prophet of God,
With a blessing given of God to leaven
The bread of my life that is cast abroad.

I come as a God to an holy city;
My heart is lifted as fire to rise;
And pure and perfect in passionate pity,
Deeper than God's have I seen her eyes.

55



Oh, city set on the hills by the river !
Oh, wide glad river that floweth by !
Oh, lily and olive perfect forever !
Oh, song that flames in my spirit's cry!

Sorrow and loneliness come, I care not,

Sorrow and loneliness, deadly fear.

What the brave men dread, and the cowards dare not,

Stands in my vision nor there nor here.

For I am strong in the unshook, single,
Splendid desire that is deep and divine,
And I die, and the hands of her greatness mingle
The water of death with undying wine.



TO THE DISTANT PRINCESS.

I know not what the Western merchant bore
To Egypt, when he chaffered for the East,
For broideries all wrought with bird and beast,
And golden tankards chased of massive ore,
Opium and dreamy-hearted mandragore,
And royal opals, such as had released
Kings out of bondage, or that had increased
The dower of queens in castellate Rajore.

Even as such a merchant now am I,

That seeing heaps of Indian cloth of gold,

And sandalwood whose worth may not be told,

Knows that his offer is but mockery,

And even though he labor till he die

Still shall his prize be worth an hundred-fold.



FREE BALLADE OF MYSELF AND MONSIEUR
RABELAIS.

King Henry hath his amber wine,

And Frank of Guise, as gossips tell,
Eats every day a capon fine,

And sneers at hock or hydromel.
But as for us we'd rather dwell

A little from the world away,
Although we love its cheer right well,

Myself and Monsieur Rabelais.

Of Panurge on the restless brine

He hath a jolly tale to tell,
Of how Gargantua did dine,

Or of the great Pantagruel,
And what adventure him befell,

To make one laugh a summer's day.
We get on marvelously well,

Myself and Monsieur Rabelais.

Though Churchman rant of wrath divine,

Or Saint of Sales our doom foretell,
" 'Twill all come right," as we opine,

Though Pope or Luther burn in Hell.
The mystery of the flask to spell

Brings better hope of judgment day,
Which comforts both of us full well,

Myself and Monsieur Rabelais.

58



Prince ! in strict fact, although we dwell
Three merry centuries away,

We hob and nob surpassing well,
Myself and Monsieur Rabelais.



PROEM.

My ships may go to ruin on the sea,
And I, who lived but in their wealth and pride,
Will sit me down close to the harbor-side,
Reckless of Corsairs out of Barbary,
And dream of some forgotten mystery,
Some song of silence, and the washing tide,
With its reiterant droning, shall deride
The fair ambition, that ennobled me.

And when the solemn evening darkeneth,

Far up a long, grey river will I go,

Pondering but little on my overthrow,

And in some bitter barren I will reap

My whirlwind harvest, till the dawn draws breath,

And then lie down between my sheaves and sleep.



60



DRAWN BATTLE.

As I was pondering in the dead of night,
A sorrow suddenly arose in me:
"And if I die, shall I die utterly?
And all my infinite sorrow and delight
Wither away to naught beneath a blight?
And being be no more, and nothing be
Throughout the terror of eternity ?
And all be as a ship sunk out of sight?"

Then was I sad and made a bitter moan,

That the exceeding splendor I have seen

Should perish, leaving wretched chaff to glean.

But as I mourned my harvest spoiled and strown,

Came comfort in a deep-voiced undertone:

" Why weepest thou ? Sing rather: I have been."



61



NEW HOPE.

Know, that though all thy being fade away,
And the whole strength of body and of mind
Go out like leaves before a veering wind,
Still shall thy soul and life resist and stay;
Changed, mayhap, as is lead, the stories say,
By the charmed stone the alchemist would find.
Shall the first sovran axiom cease to bind ?
"Nothing can die and nothing pass away."

Then terribly majestic thundered clear
A wild, immortal, vehement harmony,
That shook, and wakened, and ennobled me,
And swept away the passion of my fear.
And my renascent spirit knew the sheer
Splendor of resonant promise: "I shall be."



62



RISING TIDE.

Is not thy life as water of the sea

Thrown by the high tide in a shallow pool,

Blown over by the hot wind and the cool,

And for an hour increasing ceaselessly

With strong salt water, furious and free,

Till the recession of the waves that rule?

What need to ask: "Where went the water?" Fool!

Was it not back into the thunderous sea ?

Yea, for the sea is as his image made

By the strong life-god, working out his will,

And all the sounding deeps for good or ill,

Are filled with morsels of his strength that fade,

Stretch forth, recede, retreat, return, invade;

That never die and never shall be still.



63



VICTORY.

Yea by the strong- desire of heat and light,
Yea by the marvellous working of the wind,
That strength of living water goes behind
The splendor of the vapor veils of night.
E'en so our brethren vanish from our sight,
E'en so goes out the strength of creature kind,
Fused fatefully together, and combined
In one deep, manifold element of delight.

Whither or why I know not. Why with care
Search the unsearchable, or seek to know ?
When every sea-tide, in its ebb and flow,
Breathes up rich vapor of life into the air,
The mainland of the sunset, yet to bear
Harvests of flame, that only God can sow.



THE WITS OF LONDON.

The wits of London, long ago,
They sang as men who do not know
Or care what mummers come behind
Youth's pageant of the quaint and kind.
The wine went swiftly to and fro
Before the ' "Mermaid's" hearth aglow.
They took the devil's quid-pro-quo ;
They reaped the storm, who sowed the wind,
The wits of London.

They wist not that it could be so,
That this their mirth could fail, although
They were not altogether blind.
They cast the dead time out of mind,
The dead time coming stern and slow,
The wits of London.



ENVOY.

^^_ Tuujh_ I JF * ^ > > > tkt <* f*

What's the good of living, when the're things that you're



Lrvmi^'s only courage anci dying's only fear.
What's the good of knowing when you don't kfrow what
you're made of?

4- V- ' * I * i ! * '. V. ' .>- 'um<i ^ ^j

What's the good of singing when the're better sorigs to
Tiear?



The wind is cold out doors and the heart is cold

within me,

And it's bitter cold beside the ash-choked fire.
And the "azure little devils" pessimistically pin me
Like a moth to every excellent and unfulfilled desire.

Once I thought I had invention, once I thought I had

ideas,

And now I know the meaning of it all,
For my embryonic statues didn't turn to Galateas
And I'm feeling mean, and comfortless, and desolate, and


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