Imágenes de páginas

But thou, king, hadst more reasonably said:
"Let progress end at once, man make no step
Beyond the natural man, the better beast,
Using his senses, not the sense of sense."
In man there's failure, only since he left
The lower and inconscious forms of life.
We called it an advance, the rendering plain
Man's spirit might grow conscious of man's life,
And, by new lore so added to the old,
Take each step higher over the brute's head.
This grew the only life, the pleasure-house,
Watch-tower and treasure-fortress of the soul,
Which whole surrounding flats of natural life
Seemed only fit to yield subsistence to;
A tower that crowns a country. But alas,
The soul now climbs it just to perish there!
For thence we have discovered ('t is no dream
We know this, which we had not else perceived)
That there's a world of capability

For joy, spread round about us, meant for us,
Inviting us; and still the soul craves all,
And still the flesh replies, "Take no jot more
Than ere thou clombst the tower to look abroad!
Nay, so much less as that fatigue has brought
Deduction to it." We struggle, fain to enlarge
Our bounded physical recipiency,

Increase our power, supply fresh oil to life,
Repair the waste of age and sickness: no,
It skills not! life's inadequate to joy,
As the soul sees joy, tempting life to take.
They praise a fountain in my garden here
Wherein a Naiad sends the water-bow
Thin from her tube; she smiles to see it rise.
What if I told her, it is just a thread
From that great river which the hills shut up,
And mock her with my leave to take the same
The artificer has given her one small tube
Past power to widen or exchange - what boots
To know she might spout oceans if she could?
She cannot lift beyond her first thin thread :
And so a man can use but a man's joy
While he sees God's. Is it for Zeus to boast,
"See, man, how happy I live, and despair
That I be still happier
for thy use!
If this were so, we could not thank our lord,
As hearts beat on to doing: 't is not so

[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]


Malice it is not.
Still, no. If care

Is it carelessness?

[ocr errors]

- where is the sign? I ask,

And get no answer, and agree in sum,

O king, with thy profound discouragement,
Who seest the wider but to sigh the more.
Most progress is most failure: thou sayest well.

The last point now:

-thou dost except a case

Holding joy not impossible to one
With artist-gifts to such a man as I
Who leave behind me living works indeed;
For, such a poem, such a painting lives.
What? dost thou verily trip upon a word,
Confound the accurate view of what joy is
(Caught somewhat clearer by my eyes than thine)
With feeling joy? confound the knowing how
And showing how to live (my faculty)
With actually living? — Otherwise

Where is the artist's vantage o'er the king?
Because in my great epos I display

How divers men, young, strong, fair, wise, can act -
Is this as though I acted? if I paint,

Carve the young Phoebus, am I therefore young?
Methinks I'm older that I bowed myself
The many years of pain that taught me art!
Indeed, to know is something, and to prove
How all this beauty might be enjoyed, is more:
But, knowing nought, to enjoy is something too.
Yon rower, with the moulded muscles there,
Lowering the sail, is nearer it than I.

I can write love-odes: thy fair slave's an ode.
I get to sing of love, when grown too gray
For being beloved: she turns to that young man,
The muscles all a-ripple on his back.

I know the joy of kingship: well, thou art king!


"But," sayest thou ·(and I marvel, I repeat,
To find thee tripping on a mere word)
Thou writest, paintest, stays; that does not die :
Sappho survives, because we sing her songs,
And Eschylus, because we read his plays!
Why, if they live still, let them come and take
Thy slave in my despite, drink from thy cup,
Speak in my place. Thou diest while I survive?
Say rather that my fate is deadlier still,
In this, that every day my sense of joy

Grows more acute, my soul (intensified

By power and insight) more enlarged, more keen;
While every day my hairs fall more and more,
My hand shakes, and the heavy years increase
The horror quickening still from year to year,
The consummation coming past escape,
When I shall know most, and yet least enjoy
When all my works, wherein I prove my worth,
Being present still to mock me in men's mouths,
Alive still, in the phrase of such as thou,
I, I the feeling, thinking, acting man,
The man who loved his life so over-much,
Shall sleep in my urn.

It is so horrible,

I dare at times imagine to my need
Some future state revealed to us by Zeus,
Unlimited in capability

For joy, as this is in desire for joy,

To seek which, the joy-hunger forces us:
That, stung by straitness of our life, made strait
On purpose to make prized the life at large
Freed by the throbbing impulse we call death,
We burst there as the worm into the fly,
Who, while a worm still, wants his wings.
Zeus has not yet revealed it; and alas,
He must have done so, were it possible!

But no!

Live long and happy, and in that thought die, Glad for what was ! Farewell. And for the rest, I cannot tell thy messenger aright

Where to deliver what he bears of thine

To one called Paulus; we have heard his fame
Indeed, if Christus be not one with him

I know not, nor am troubled much to know.
Thou canst not think a mere barbarian Jew,
As Paulus proves to be, one circumcised,
Hath access to a secret shut from us ?
Thou wrongest our philosophy, O king,
In stooping to inquire of such an one,
As if his answer could impose at all!

He writeth, doth he? well, and he may write.

Oh, the Jew findeth scholars! certain slaves

Who touched on this same isle, preached him and Christ;

And (as I gathered from a bystander)

Their doctrine could be held by no sane man,



I KNOW a Mount, the gracious Sun perceives
First, when he visits, last, too, when he leaves
The world; and, vainly favored, it repays
The day-long glory of his steadfast gaze
By no change of its large calm front of snow.
And underneath the Mount, a Flower I know,
He cannot have perceived, that changes ever
At his approach; and, in the lost endeavor
To live his life, has parted, one by one,
With all a flower's true graces, for the grace
Of being but a foolish mimic sun,
With ray-like florets round a disk-like face.
Men nobly call by many a name the Mount
As over many a land of theirs its large

Calm front of snow like a triumphal targe
Is reared, and still with old names, fresh names vie,
Each to its proper praise and own account:
Men call the Flower, the Sunflower, sportively.


Oh, Angel of the East, one, one gold look

Across the waters to this twilight nook,

The far sad waters, Angel, to this nook!


Dear Pilgrim, art thou for the East indeed?
Go! saying ever as thou dost proceed,
That I, French Rudel, choose for my device
A sunflower outspread like a sacrifice
Before its idol. See! These inexpert
And hurried fingers could not fail to hurt
The woven picture; 't is a woman's skill
Indeed; but nothing baffled me, so, ill
Or well, the work is finished. Say, men feed
On songs I sing, and therefore bask the bees
my flower's breast as on a platform broad :
But, as the flower's concern is not for these
But solely for the sun, so men applaud
In vain this Rudel, he not looking here
But to the East- the East!

Go, say this, Pilgrim dear!


TO E. B. B.

LONDON, September, 1855.


THERE they are, my fifty men and women
Naming me the fifty poems finished !

Take them, love, the book and me together :
Where the heart lies, let the brain lie also.


Rafael made a century of sonnets,

Made and wrote them in a certain volume
Dinted with the silver-pointed pencil

Else he only used to draw Madonnas:

These, the world might view but one, the volume.
Who that one, you ask? Your heart instructs you.
Did she live and love it all her lifetime?
Did she drop, his lady of the sonnets,
Die, and let it drop beside her pillow
Where it lay in place of Rafael's glory,
Rafael's cheek so duteous and so loving-
Cheek, the world was wont to hail a painter's,
Rafael's cheek, her love had turned a poet's ?


You and I would rather read that volume,
(Taken to his beating bosom by it,)
Lean and list the bosom-beats of Rafael,
Would we not? than wonder at Madonnas
Her, San Sisto names, and Her, Foligno,
Her, that visits Florence in a vision,
Her, that's left with lilies in the Louvre -
Seen by us and all the world in circle.


You and I will never read that volume.

Guido Reni, like his own eye's apple

Guarded long the treasure-book and loved it.

Guido Reni dying, all Bologna


*Originally appended to the collection of Poems called Men and Women," the greater portion of which has now been, more correctly, distributed under the other titles of this edition.

« AnteriorContinuar »