Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.

A new pilgrimage : and other poems online

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y A p. Bi" p. , iT>y, A





The poems contained in the present
volume belong in part to the Author's lite-
rary period of " Proteus ", in part to more
recent times ; nor will the reader find diffi-
culty in distinguishing between them. All
that needs explaining is that the series of
Sonnets giving their name to the book were
written in the winter of 1886- 1887 ; and the
Pastorals, which end it, in the past and
present years.

So much for the psychology of the volume.
With regard to its manner the author would
speak more at length.

" Sed nos qui vivimus" and the pieces
" from the Arabic " represent an attempt


made in all diffidence to deal with the diffi-
cult problem of assonance, a form of ending
which has never been seriously tried in
English metres, but which in the author's
opinion deserves better attention. Complete
success in assonance would doubtless be to
produce the illusion of rhyme, or at least to
leave the car satisfied with a half result, as
it is (but how rarely !) with the no result of
blank verse. For this we in England need
education, and the author is not sanguine
as to the judgment which will be passed
upon his skill. As a suggestion, however,
he believes his attempt will be one day
considered valuable, and he commends it
now to the notice of critics.

Another and more important point which
he raises and endeavours to meet, is with
regard to the construction of the English
sonnet. Our critics seem to have decided


that no form of sonnet is admissible in
English other than the Petrarchan, or, at
least, that some precedent must be shown in
early Italian literature for each variation
from it. Against this assumption of finaHty
on a foreign model the author ventures to
protest on the double ground that the genius
and scope of English rhyme is essentially
different from that of the Italian, — and that
for the treatment of modern subjects (the
only ones, perhaps, of permanent value in any
literature) the Italian form lacks elasticity,
and so is not the practically best. In the
matter of rhyme, its greater redundancy and
license in the Italian places the English
imitator at a clear disadvantage. The Italian
double endings, so effective in adding strength,
are more difficult with us, and, being so, can
only be used sparingly without offence to our
ears. Deprived of them the ordinaiy model


of the Italian sextett becomes poor and
monotonous, for it needs a very strong single
rhyme to be recognized at its full value after
the usual Petrarchan interval. Of course,
the author does not assert that these difficul-
ties have not been successfully met by our best
English poets. Milton, Wordsworth, Mrs.
Browning, Rossetti, are proofs to the con-
trary. Yet, when you have mentioned these
names, there are probably not a hundred
English sonnets in strict Petrarchan measure
which are not intolerably dull. This surely
should not be. How much stronger too
becomes our case when modern subjects are
approached. Tennyson, the greatest of our
living poets, and the most modem in his
treatment, gives us hardly a specimen on
contemporary subjects of his skill. Brown-
ing, William Morris, Longfellow, Lowell are
almost equally silent ; Lord Lytton and


Alfred Austin give us a few good ones,
and Matthew Arnold has left us a bare
half-dozen. Yet why ? The sonnet, with
the Italian writers of the thirteenth and four-
teenth centuries, was the vehicle of their
daily thoughts about their daily affairs, as well
as that of their profoundest utterances in re-
ligion, love and politics ; nor is there any
reason beyond the trammels of convention
why it should not be so yet with us. It
seems to the author that our critics, like the
Scribes and Pharisees of the New Testa-
ment, are placing on our shoulders a burden
heavier than we English poets can bear.
By insisting on the mint and cummin of
certain rhymes and endings, they have set at
nought the intellectual law on which the
sonnet rests, and made it of no practical

For this reason the author makes bold in


the present volume to present the reader
with two forms in which he conceives the
modern English sonnet mny be written,
violating no law of the Italians essential to
modern poetry, and yet with sufficient elbow
room to make it a vehicle suited to every
subject and every mood of feeling. The first
is a metre of fourteen lines — that of the
" New Pilgrimage," — the second a metre of
sixteen, for lighter themes, illustrated in the
" Idler's Calendar."

It will be observed that both these ex-
amples follow the same metrical idea. The
usual Petrarchan form of the octave,
ABBAABBA, is rejected in
favour of the alternative Italian form
ABABBABA, which to the author's
ear is lighter and more varied, the
reversing of the rhyme in the second
half of the octave giving it a special bril-


liancy which the other lacks. The author,
though he sometimes violates the rule in
practice, considers a caesura at the end of
the eighth line, or occasionally deferred to
the middle of the ninth, essential to a good
sonnet ; and he would include such a ceesura
as one of the most important features of his
metre. It will also be observed that he
allows the exception of a third rhyme in
the sixth and eighth lines. He is far from
saying that the octave is not more perfect
without it, but he has found by experience
that many a good sonnet cannot be written
except with this indulgence. Next to the
last, the first line of every sonnet is of the
most importance, and yet there are admirable
first lines which by no ingenuity can be
provided with three others in rhyme. The
sense, therefore, has to be sacrificed, or the
line is lost.


With regard to the sextett in the shorter
formula, and the second octave in the longer,
the author is very distinctly of opinion that a
couplet is in English the strongest and most
effective form of ending. He believes the
weakness of ninety-nine of our sonnets out
of a hundred (and that is about the propor-
tion of those annually published) comes from
the poverty of the Petrarchan sextett in
English, the formula A B C A B C, unaided
by double rhymes. Certainly, in lighter sub-
jects the couplet is of the greatest possible
use, pointing, and sometimes even suggesting,
the epigram which is the sonnet's moral.
The author, therefore, adheres to the couplet
as the English sonnet writer's most precious
inheritance from the greatest of all our
sonneteers and poets. Where Shakespeare
rejected the Italian sextett in its favour, we
modems surely may stand excused.


After all, the sonnet's " intellectual measure "
is the truly important matter. On this the
author holds briefly that the sonnet, to be a
good one, should contain one conspicuous
thought, and only one ; that the first line
should foreshadow this, as a musical overture
does an opera ; that the octave should supply
variations on the suggested theme, images,
metaphors, developments ; that the third
quartett should fill in and complete the out-
line, and finally, that the couplet should point
the moral. He gives the following as a
metrical description of his idea of a perfect
English sonnet : —


Oh, for a perfect sonnet of all time !
Wild music, heralding immortal hopes.

Strikes the bold prelude. To it from each clime,
Like tropic birds on some green island slopes,
Thoughts answering come, high metaphors, brave


In ordered measure and majestic rhyme.

And, presently, all hearts, of kings and popes,
And peoples, throb to this new theme sublime.

Anon 'tis reason speaks. A note of death

Strengthens the symphony yet fraught with pain.

And men seek meanings with abated breath,
Vexing their souls, — till lo, once more, the strain

Breaks through triumphant, and Love's master voice

Thrills the last phrase and bids all joy rejoice.

Crabbet P.'^kk, Sussex.
August 17, 1889.

W. S. B.



A New Pilgrimage i

The Idler's Calendar 43

The Old Squire 53

Sancho Sanchez 63

Across the Pampas 7^

From the Akauic : —

I. The Camel-Rider 87

II. The Desolate City 95

III. The Grief of Love toi

IV. A Love Secret 104

Pastoral Poems :—

Worth Forest i"

Sed Nos Qui Vivimus •'J44



Care killed a cat, and I have cares at home,

Which vex me nightly and disturb my bed.
The things I love have all grown wearisome ;

The things that loved me are estranged or dead.

I have a house most fair, but tenanted
With shadows only, gardens of tall trees,

Fenced in and made secure from every dread
But this one terror, my soul's lack of ease.
I have much wealth of pleasure, horse and hound

Woods broad for sport, and fields that are my
With neighbours of good cheer to greet me round ,

And servants tried by whom my will is done.
Here all things live at peace in this dear place,
All but my pride, which goes companionless.



How shall I ransom me? The world without,

Where once I lived in vain expense and noise,
Say, shall it welcome me in tliis last rout.

Back to its bosom of forgotten joys?

Sometimes I hear it whispering with strange
Asking, " Are we forever then cast out,

The things that helped thee once in thy annoys.
That thou despairest ? Nay, away with doubt !
Take courage to thy heart to heal its woes.

It still shall beat as wildly as a boy's."
This tempts me in the night-time, and I loose

My soul to dalliance with youth's broken toys.
Ay, wherefore suffer ? In this question lies
More than my soul can answer, and be wise.



I will break through my bondage. Let me be

Homeless once more, a wanderer on the earth,
Marked with my soul's sole care for company,

Like Cain, lest I do murder on my hearth.

I ask not others' goods — nor wealth nor worth,
Nor the world's kindness, which should comfort me,

But to forget the story of my birth,
And go forth naked of all name, but free.
Where the flowers blow, there let me sit and

Where the rain falls, ah ! leave my tears their
Where men laugh loud, I too will join the hymn,

And in God's congregation let me pray.
Only alone — I ask this thing — alone,
\Vhere none may know me, or have ever known.



Behold the deed is done. Here endeth all

That bound my grief to its ancestral ways.
I have passed out, as from a funeral,

From my dead home, and in the great world's

Henceforth I stand, a pilgrim of new days,
On the high road of life. Where I was thrall,

See, I am master, being passionless ;
And, having nothing now, am lord of all.
How glorious is the world ! Its infinite grace

Surprises me — and not as erst with fear, —
But as one meets a woman face to face.

Loved once and unforgotten and still dear
In certain moods and seasons, — so to me
The fair world smiles to-day, j'et leaves me free.



The physical world itself is a fair thing
For who has eyes to see or ears to hear.

To-day I fled on my new freedom's wing,
With the first swallows of the parting year.
Southwards from England. At the Folkestone

I left the burden of my sins behind,

Noting how gay the noon was, and how clear

The tide's fresh laughter rising to no wind.

A hundred souls of men there with my own
Smiled in that sunshine. 'Tis a little measure

Makes glad the heart at sea, and not alone
Do wise men kindle to its pulse of pleasure.

Here all alike, peers, pedlars, squires, and dames

Foreswore their griefs fog-born of Father Thames.



Away from sorrow ! Ves, indeed, away !

Who said that care behind the horseman sits ?
The train to Paris, as it flies to-day,

Whirls its bold rider clear of ague fits.

^^'^lo stops for sorrows — who for his lost wits —
His vanished gold — his loves of yesterday —

His vexed ambitions ? See, the landscape flits
Bright in his face, and fleeter far than they.
Away ! away ! Our mother Earth is wide —

And our poor lives and loves of what avail ?
All life is here — and here we sit astride

On her broad teck, with Hope's white wings
for sail,
In search of fortune and that glorious goal,
Paris, the golden city of our soul.


Ah, Paris, Paris ! ^\^^at an echo rings

Still in those syllables of vain delight !
What voice of what dead pleasures on what wings

Of Mojnad laughters pulsing through the night !

How bravely her streets smile on me — how
Her shops, her houses, fair sepulchral things,

Stored with the sins of men forgotten quite,
The loves of mountebanks, the lusts of kings !
^^^lat message has she to me on this day

Of my new life? Shall I, a pilgrim wan,
Sit at her board and revel at her play,

As in the days of old ? Nay, this is done.
It cannot be ; and yet I love her well
With her broad roads and pleasant paths to hell.


I will sit down awhile in dalliance

With my dead life, and dream that it is young.
My earliest memories have their home in France,

The chestnut woods of Beam and streams among,

Where first I learned to stammer the French
Fair ancient France. No railroad insolence

Had mixed her peoples then, and still men clung
Each to his ways, and viewed the world askance.
We, too, as exiles from our northern shore,

Surveyed things sparsely ; and my own child's
Remained, how long, a rebel to all lore

Save its lost English, nor was quite o'erborne
Till, as I swore I'd speak no French frog's word,
I swore in French, and so laid down my sword.


These were in truth brave days. From our high
The box-seat of our travelHng chariot, then
We children spied the world 'twas ours to search,
And mocked like birds at manners and at men.
What wonders we beheld, Havre, Rouen, Caen,
The Norman caps, the Breton crowds in church.

The loyal Loire, the valorous Vendeen,
And all the Revolution left in lurch
That very year — things old as Waterloo. —

But when we neared the mountains crowned
with snows,
And heard the torrents roar, our wonder grew

Over our wit, and a new pleasure rose
Wild in our hearts, and stopped our tongues with

The sense of death and beauty overhead.



Whence is our pleasure in things beautiful ?

We are not born with it, we do not know,
By instinct of the eye or natural rule,

That naked rocks are fairest, or flowers blow

Best in their clefts, or that the world of snow
Has other glory than of cold and ice.

From our mother's hand we viewed these things
Senseless as goats which browse a precipice.
Till we were taught to know them. With what

I con the lessons now I learned so well,
Of mountain shapes, from those dead lips of hers ;

And as she spoke, behold, a miracle
Proving her words, — for at our feet there grew,
Beauty's last prodigy, a gentian blue.



I have it still, a book with pages sewn

Cross-wise in silk, and brimming with these

Treasures we gathered there, long sere and brown.
The ghosts of childhood's first undoubting hours.
Of childhood in the mountains e'er the powers

Of wrong and pain had turned our joys to gall.
That summer stands to me a tower of towers,

To which my gladness clings in spite of all.

There was one special wonder in the hills,

A place where nets were hung from tree to tree

For flights of pigeons. This beyond all else
Touched my boy's fancy for its mystery,

And for the men who, caged aloft on poles,

Scared down the birds, as Satan scares men's



Dear royal France ! I fix the happy year

At forty-six, because that Christmas-tide
There passed through Pau the Duke of Mont-

Fresh from his nuptials with his Spanish bride ;

And because I, unwilling, shared their pride,
As youngest of the English children there.

By offering flowers to the fair glorified
Daughter of Bourbon standing on the stair —
A point in history. When we came at last

To this gay Paris I was doomed to love,
There were already rumours of the blast

That swept the Orleans songsters from their grove
In flight to London, after Polignac
And the true king, at their King Bourgeois' back.



And what strange sights have these three windows

Mid bonnes and children, in the Tuileries !
What flights of hero. Emperor and Queen,

Since first I looked down from them, one of
these !

Here, with his Mornys and his Persignys,
Louis Napoleon, the Prince President,

Rode one December past us, on the breeze
Of his new glory, bloodstained and intent.
Later, I too my love's diplomacies

Playe<l at Eugenia's court, — blest Empress !
How did men curse her with their Marseillaise,

When the foe's horse was watered in her Seine,
And the flames, lit for her last festival,
Licked out her palace and its glories all.


To-day there is no cloud upon thy face,

Paris, fair city of romance and doom !
Thy memories do not grieve thee, and no trace

Lives of tlieir tears for us who after come.

All is forgotten — thy high martyrdom,
Thy rage, thy vows, thy vauntings, thy disgrace.

With those who died for thee to beat of drum,
And those who lived to see thee kingdomless.
Indeed thou art a woman in thy mirths,

A woman in thy griefs which leave thee young,
A prudent virgin still, despite the births

Of these sad prodigies thy bards have sung.
What to thy whoredoms is a vanished throne ?
A chair where a fool sat, and he is gone !



For thus it is. You flout at kings to-day.

To-moaow in your pride you shall stoop low
To a new tyrant who shall come your way ,

And serve him meekly with mock serious brow,

^\^lile the world laughs. I shall not laugh at
Your Bourbon, Bonaparte or Boulanger

Are foils to your own part of " ingenue "
Which moves me most, the moral of your play.
You have a mission in the world, to teach

All pride its level. Poet, prince and clown,
Each in your amorous arms has scaled the breach

Of his own pleasure and the world's renown.
Till with a yawn you turn, and from your bed
Kick out your hero with his ass's head.



Gods, what a moral ! Yet in vain I jest.

The France which has been, and shall be again,
Is the most serious, and perhaps the best.

Of all the nations which have power with men.

France, only of the nations, has this plain
Thought in the world, to scorn hypocrisy ;

And by this token she shall purge the stain
Of her sins yet, though these as scarlet be.
Let her put off her folly ! 'Tis a cloak

Which hides her virtue. Let her foremost stand.
The champion of all necks which feel the yoke,

As once she stood sublime in every land.
Let her forego her Tonquins, and make good
Her boast to man of man's high brotherhood. —



For lo ! the nations, the imperial nations

Of Europe, all imagine a vain thing,
Sitting thus blindly in their generations,

Serving an idol for their God and King.

Blindly they rage together, worshipping
Their lusts of cunning, and their lusts of gcild ;

Trampling the hearts of all too weak to bring
Alms to their Baal which is bought and sold.
And lo ! there is no refuge, none but Baal

For man's best help, and the mute recreant earth
Drinks in its children's blood, and hears their wail,

And deals no vengeance on its last foul birth ;
And there is found no hand to ward or keep
The weak from wrong, and Pity is asleep.


Therefore do thou at least arise and warn,

Not folded in thy mantle, a blind seer.
But naked in thy anger, and new-born,

As in the hour when thy voice sounded clear

To the world's slaves, and tyrants quaked for fear.
Thou hadst a message then, a word of scorn,

First for thyself, thy own crimes' challenger.
And next for those who withered in thy dawn.
An hundred years have passed since that fair day,

And still the world cries loud, in its desire,
That right is wronged, and force alone has sway.

What profit are they, thy guns' tongues of fire ?
Nay, leave to England her sad creed of gold ;
Plead thou man's rights, clean-handed as of old.



Alas, that words like these should be but folly !

Behold, the Boulevard mocks, and I mock too.
Let us away and purge our melancholy

With the last laughter at the Ambigu —

Here all is real. Here glory's self is true
Through each regime to its own mission holy,

Of plying still the world with something new
To cure its ache, or nobly soviled or lowly.
One title Paris holds above the rest

Untouched by time or fortune's change or frown.
One temple of high fame, where she sits dressed

In youth eternal and mirth's myrtle crown.
And where she writes, each night, with deathless

" To all the glories— of the stage— of France."



Enough, dear Paris ! We have laughed together,

'Tis time that we should part, lest tears should
I must fare on from winter and rough weather

And the dark tempests chained within Time's

Southwards I go. Each footstep marks the tomb
Of a dead pleasure. Melun, Fontainebleau, —

How shall I name them with the ghosts that roam
In their deserted streets of long ago ?
I will not stop to weep. Before me lie

Lands larger in their purpose, and with dreams
Peopled more purely ; and to these I fly

For ever from life's idler stratagems.
France ! thy white hand I kiss in suppliant guise,
Too sad to love thee, and alas ! too wise.



To Switzerland, the land of lakes and snow,

And ancient freedom of ancestral type.
And modern innkeepers who cringe and bow.

And venal echoes, and Pans paid to pipe !

See, I am come. And here in vineyards, ripe
With sweet white grapes, I will sit down and read

Once more the loves of Rousseau, till I wipe
My eyes in tenderness for names long dead.
This is the birthplace of all sentiment.

The fount of modern tears. These hills in me
Stir what still lives of fancy reverent

For Mother Nature. Here Time's minstrelsy
Awoke, some century since, one sunny morn,
To find earth fortunate and man forlorn.


Unblest discovery of an age too real !

They needed not the beauty of the earth,
Who held heaven's hope for their supreme ideal,

And found in worlds unseen a better birth.

What to the eye of faith were the hills worth,
The voiceless forests, the unpeopled coasts.

The wildernesses void of sentient mirth ?
In death men praise thee not. Thou Lord of

Hosts !
But when faith faltered, when the hope grew dim,

And heaven was hid with phantoms of despair.
And man stood trembling on destruction's brim.

Then turned he to the earth, and found her fair ;
His home, his refuge, which no doubt could rob,
A beauty throbbing to his own heart's throb.



Voltaire and Rousseau, these were thy twin priests,

Proud mother Nature, on thy opening day.
The first with bitter gibes perplexed the feasts

Of thy high rival, and prepared the way ;

The other built thy shrine. 'Twas here, men
De Warens lived, whose pleasure was the text

Of the new gospel of the sons of clay.
The latest bom of time, by faith unvexed.
Here for a century with reverent feet

Pilgrims, oppressed with barrenness of soul,
Toiled in their tears as to a Paraclete.

On these white hills they heard earth's thunders
In sneers outpreaching the lost voice of God,
And shouted " Ichabod, ay, Ichabod ! "



And here too I, the latest fool of Time,
Sad child of doubt and passionate desires,

Touched with all pity, yet in league with crime,
Watched the red sunsets from the Alpine spires,
And lit my poet's lamp with kindred fires,

And dared to snatch my share of the sublime.
There was one with me, master of the choirs

Of eloquent thought, who listening to my rhyme,

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Online LibraryWilfrid Scawen BluntA new pilgrimage : and other poems → online text (page 1 of 5)