Purgatory of Suicides: Book I.
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-1-

     "SLAVES, toil no more!   Why delve, and moil, and pine,
      To glut the tyrant-forgers of your chain?
      Slaves, toil no more!   Up, from the midnight mine,
      Summon your swarthy thousands to the plain;
      Beneath the bright sun marshalled, swell the strain
      Of liberty; and, while the lordlings view
      Your banded hosts, with stricken heart and brain,
      Shout, as one man,—'Toil we no more renew,
Until the Many cease their slavery to the Few!'

 

-2-

    "'We'll crouch, and toil, and weave, no more—to weep! '
     Exclaim your brothers from the weary loom:
     Yea, now, they swear, with one resolve, dread, deep,
     We'll toil no more—to win a pauper's doom!'
     And, while the millions swear, fell Famine's gloom
     Spreads from their haggard faces like a cloud
     Big with the fear and darkness of the tomb.
     How, 'neath its terrors, are the tyrants bowed!
 Slaves, toil no more—to starve!   Go forth and tame the
            Proud!

 

-3-

     And why not tame them all?   Of more than clay
     Do your high lords proclaim themselves?   Of blood
     Illustrious boast they? or, that reason's ray
     Beams from the brows of Rollo's robber-brood [1]
     More brightly than from yours?   Let them make good
     Their vaunt of nobleness—or now confess
     The majesty of ALL!   Raise ye the feud—
     Not, like their sires, to murder and possess;
But for unbounded power to gladden and to bless.

 

-4-

     "What say ye,—that the priests proclaim content?
      So taught their Master, who the hungry fed
      As well as taught; who wept with men, and bent,
      In gentleness and love, o'er bier and bed
      Where wretchedness was found, until it fled!
      Rebuked he not the false ones, till his zeal
      Drew down their hellish rage upon his head?
      And who, that yearns for world-spread human weal,
Doth not, ere long, the weight of priestly vengeance feel?

 

-5-

    "Away!—the howl of wolves in sheep's disguise
     Why suffer ye to fill your ears?—their pride
     Why suffer ye to stalk before your eyes?
     Behold, in pomp, the purple prelate ride,
     And, on the beggar by his chariot's side
     Frown sullenly, although in rags and shame
     His brother cries for food!   Up, swell the tide
     Of retribution, till ye end the game
Long practised by proud priests in meek Religion's name.

 

-6-

"Slaves, toil no more!   Despite their boast, ev'n kings
     Must cease to sit in pride,—without your toil:
     Spite of their potency,—the sceptred things
     Who through all time, have thirsted to embroil
     Man with his neighbour, and pollute the soil
     Of holiest mother Earth with brothers' gore,—
     Join but to fold your hands, and ye will foil
     To utter helplessness,—yea, to the core
Strike both their power and craft with death!  ' Slaves,
             toil no more!''—

 

-7-

     For that these words of fire I boldly spake
     To Labour's children in their agony
     Of want and insult; and, like men awake
     After drugged slumbers, they did wildly flee
     To do they knew not what,—until, with glee,
     A store of maddening alcohol they found,
     And with its poison fired their misery
     To fierce revenge,—swift hurling to the ground
And flames—dwellings, and lifeless things that stood
               around;—

 

-8-

     For that I boldly spake these words of fire ;
     And the starved multitude,—their minds full fraught
     With sense of injury, and wild with ire,—
     Rushed forth to deeds of recklessness, but nought
     Achieved of freedom, since, nor plan, nor thought
     Their might directed;—for this treason foul
     'Gainst evil tyrants, I was hither brought
     A captive, —'mid the vain derisive howl
Of some who thought the iron now should pierce my soul.

 

-9-

    Let them howl on!   Their note, perchance, may change
    The earthquake oft is presaged by dull rest:
    Kings may, to-morrow, feel its heavings strange!
    For my lorn dove, who droopeth in her nest,
    I mourn, in tenderness; but, to this breast
    Again to clasp my meek one I confide
    With fervid trustfulness!   Still self-possest,
    Since Truth shall one day triumph,—let betide
What may, within these bars in patience I can 'bide.

 

-10-

    I had a vision, on my prison-bed,
    Which took its tinct from the mind's waking throes.
    Of patriot blood on field and scaffold shed;
    Of martyrs' ashes; of the demon foes
    Ubiquitous, relentless, that oppose
    And track, through life, the footsteps of the brave
    Who champion Truth; of Evil that arose
    Within the universe of Good, and gave
To sovereign Man the soul to live his brother's slave;

 

    -11-

    Of knowledge which, from sire to son bequeathed,
    Hath ever on the Few with bounty smiled;
    But, on the Many, wastingly hath breathed
    A pestilence, from the scourged crowd that piled,
    Of yore, the pyramids, to the dwarfed child
    Whose fragile bloom steam and starvation blast;
    Of specious arts, whereby the bees beguiled,
    Yield to the sable drones their sweet repast,
And creep, themselves, the path to heaven by pious fast;

 

-12-

    Of infamy for him who gives himself
    A sacrifice to stem the tyrant's rage;
    And, for the tyrant's pandar,—peerage, pelf,
    And honours blazed with lies on history's page;
    Of giant Wrong who, fed, from age to age,
    With man's best blood and woman's purest tears,
    Seems with our poor humanity to wage
    Exterminating war; of hopes and fears
That mock the human worm from youth to grayest years;

 

-13-

    I, waking, thought or dreamt,—for thoughts are dreams
    At best,—until, in weariness of heart,
    I cried—Is life worth having?   Earth but teems
    With floods of evil: 'tis one sordid mart
    Where consciences for gold, without a smart,
    Are sold; and holiest names are gravest cheats:
    Men from their cradles, learn to play a part
    At plundering each other:   He who beats,
On his weak neighbour, swift, the plundering trick repeats.

 

-14-

    Is life worth having?   Or, is he most wise
    Who, with death-potion its fierce fever slakes,
    And ends, self-drugged, his mortal miseries?
    Can he be guilty who, at once, forsakes
    The agony which, sure as death, o'ertakes,
    Early or late, all who with wrong contend?
    Since Power this earth a clime of misery makes
    For him who will not to its godhead bend—
Why to the enfranchised grave with sluggish footsteps
            wend?

 

-15-

    Thus feebly pondering, with sore-troubled brain,
    The right of suffering man to consummate,
    Unsummoned, his high trust, my heart grew fain
    To slay the incubus that on it sate,
    Breeding disgust of life and jaundiced hate.
    Forthwith, I strove the mind's turmoil to quell
    By imaging that joy all-elevate
    Which through earth's universal heart shall swell
When over land and sea hath rung Oppression's knell.

 

-16-

    But sadness checked the strain.   Enfevered Sleep,
    With tardy foot, came last; and, while she bound
    My limbs in outward death, within the deep
    Recesses of the brain into life wound
    These aching thoughts; yea, into shapes that frowned
    Or smiled, by turns, with seeming passion rife,
    And descant joined on human themes, though sound
    Of human voice none uttered: 'twas the strife
Of Mind, not audible by mode of mortal life.—

 

-17-

    Methought I voyaged in the bark of Death,—
    Himself the helmsman,—on a skyless sea,
    Where none of all his passengers drew breath,
    Yet each, instinct with strange vitality,
    Glared from his ghastly eye-balls upon me,
    And then upon that pilot, who upheld
    One chill and fleshless hand so witheringly
    That, while around his boat the hoarse waves swelled,
It seemed as if their rage that solemn signal quelled.

 

-18-

    I know not how these mariners I saw:
    No light made visible the grisly crew:
    It seemed a vision of the soul, by law
    Of corporal sense unfettered, and more true.
    Than living things revealed to mortal view.
    Nor can earth's Babel-syllables unfold
    Aught that can shadow forth the mystic hue
    Of myriad creatures, or their monstrous mould,
Which thwart that dismal sea their hideous hugeness rolled.

 

-19-

    Not stature terrible of mastodon
    Or mammoth; longitude of lizards vast,
    Lords of the slime when earth, from chaos won,
    Grew big with primal life, until, aghast,
    She quaked at her strange children; not all past
    Or present, which from out the dædal earth,
    The human reptile, latest born; hath classed
    By guess, styling it 'Knowledge,' for the mirth
Of future worms, crawling, in pride to death—from birth;

 

-20-

    Not old leviathan, of bulk uncouth;
    Nor fabled kraken, with his sea-borne trail;
    Not all that sages tell, in sober sooth,
    Of the sun's progeny on Memphic vale,
    Which from redundant Nile his beams exhale;
    Not all that phrenzied poets exorcise
    From memory's grave, then weave with fancies frail;
    Can image, in their span, or shapes, or dyes,
Those ocean-dwellers huge beholding Death's emprize.

 

-21-

    The voyage, voyagers, and ocean-forms,
    Alike, were strange, and wild, and wonderful.
    But marvels grew!   When, of that sea of storms
    We reached the shore, the waves at once were lull;
    Death and his skiff evanished, and seemed null
    And void as things that never were; while they,
    Of late Death's passengers, so cold and dull,
    Took, with an air of stern resolve, their way
Into a gloomy land where startling visions lay.

 

-22-

    All that Death's ocean showed of hideousness
    By living forms in lifeless shapes found here
    Its paragon: it was a crude excess
    Of all things dern and doleful, dark and drear:
    No sun to fructify, no flowers to cheer
    Its sullen barrenness: weeds, huge and dank,
    And blossomless as stones, and ever sere,
    Base sustenance from stagnant waters drank,—
Then spread throughout the plain their poisonous
            perfume rank.

 

-23-

    Damp, dense, and deathly, yet the climate parched
    Those silent travellers, sore, with raging thirst;
    But sickening at the slimy pools, they marched
    Onward, enfevered, fainting; 'till outburst
    Their burning tongues, as doth a hound's when curst
    With madness.   Path across that dismal land
    Was none; and though no life its waters nursed,
    Yet were there fearful sights, on either hand,
That much affrayed the courage of that ghastly band.

 

-24-

    Chasms yawned, like dragon's jaws, from what
            seemed rock,
    Then closed, with sulphurous smell, and horrid jar,
    And uprose giant cliffs, to gibe and mock,
    As if with demon features,—while, afar,
    Appeared colossal meteors for wild war
    Gathering their troops terrific, which came on
    With fury, but, like some portentous star
    That fear-struck men gaze after—and—tis gone!
Vanished those vaporous hosts in that unearthly zone.

 

-25-

    Then felt the fainting footmen as if yoked
    To viewless vehicles they could not move;
    Yet, fastened by a galling chain, half-choked,
    They still to drag their unseen burden strove,
    Till the wild crags came toppling from above,
    Threatening to crush the strugglers into nought;
    When lo! some airy necromancy wove
    Around their trembling limbs, with speed of thought,
A web of gossamer with wizard safety fraught;

 

-26-

    And now, as if above the rocks upborne—
    Suspended in mid-air—with vision dazed,
    And swimming brain—past rescue, doomed, forlorn—
    For some unspeakable perdition raised,
    They seemed; but suddenly, let down, amazed
    Their forms engulphed amid the swamps beheld,—
    Where, while they clung unto the weeds, and gazed
    Upward, in hope to climb, some weird hand felled
Their grasp, and o'er their heads the poisoned waters welled

 

-27-

    Yet on dry land, as speedily they stood,—
    Where they again their venturous march prepared,
    While apparitions from the stagnant flood
    And murky air, unto the travellers bared
    Increasing horrors, as they onward fared.—
    Ye may a jest this dreaming rhyme esteem:
    But these strange terrors my rapt spirit shared;
    And, though it was the journey of a dream,
Had ye thus dreamt, no jest ye would that journey deem.

 

-28-

    A cavern's mouth, browed by a giant mound,
    Gave welcome respite to their torturous toil:
    For, entering there, the way-worn wanderers found
    The semblance of a subterraneous aisle,
    And walked admiringly, yet feared, the while,
    Sudden renewal of their suffering plight,
    Or deeper woe whelmed 'neath the rocky pile:
    But, midst their fears, sense of unearthly light
Dawned, with a thrill of ease, upon their anxious sight.

 

-29-

    Above them curved the likeness of a roof
    Of woven rock,—strange supernatural glare
    Diffusing from its tracery, that seemed woof
    Of masonry more mystical and rare
    Than devotees of proud cathedralled prayer
    Witness while worshipping the Nazarene:
    Pride lauding lowliness!   And past compare
    Of monkish mixtures were the shapes, I ween,
Of shaft and capital, that 'long that vault were seen.

 

-30-

    Not, as with fashion of that gloomy age
    When Phantasy, in convent bondage bred,
    Drew graces from distraction,—mingling rage
    Grotesque of apes with ire of angels dread,—
    Aiming all contraries to blend and wed,
    Until with hybrids she had filled the mind,
    And with wild wonderment its powers misled,
    So that, its grasp grown loose and undefined,
The shaven and shorn enchanters might its freedom
            bind;

 

-31-

    Not, as with fashion of that twilight time
    When sky-born Truth, by priestly hands arrayed
    In vulgar vestments of the motley mime,
    Played conjurer in "dim religious" shade,—
    And peasant thrall, by bell and book dismayed,
    Glanced tremblingly on corbel, niche, and pane,
    Where imp, saint, angel, knight with battle-blade,
    Griffin, bat, owlet, more befooled the swain,
Till, when the incense fumed, round swum his wildered
            brain;

 

-32-

    Not, after pattern of old monkish mode;
    Not, as by wand of mitred magic hung,
    The rocky arch that mystic aisle bestrode,—
    While clustered shaft and twisted pillar sprung
    Forth from the floor,—and floral festoons flung
    Their crystal witchery from base to quoin,—
    And ever-changing shapes in antics clung
    To shaft and capital, festoon and groin,—
Seeming all forms of life, all grace of flowers to join;

 

-33-

    But unimagined, unconceived, unknown,
    Unspeakable, by man, seemed all revealed
    To those awed travellers, as they journeyed on
    Through that vast aisle, that rather glowed a field
    Of caverned wonders, where each shape did yield
    For evermore new changes,—till the soul,
    Enervate with o'erpiled amazement reeled
    And sank, wishing an end unto her dole
Of wondering—pining, now, for prospect of her goal.

 

-34-

    Anon, we entered where the travellers took
    Their silent way, each to some several home.
    Light fled; and dim funereal gloom rewoke
    A solemn sadness through my essence.   Dome,
    Or cupola, scooped in mid rock, like tomb
    Primeval, high above me stretched its span
    Gigantic, vague,—appearing to enwomb
    A space so vast that there old Death divan
Might hold, in mausoleum metropolitan.

 

-35-

    Innumerable aisles their paths diverse
    Forth from this sombrous centre led.
    And now, I first perceived, from law which did
            coerce
    The vagrant ghosts who reached these realms of woe
    My spirit grew exempt.   Sad, gloomy, slow,
    The forms, of late my fellows, I descried
    Journeying along those aisles,—deep, lasting throe
    To inchoate, for sin of suicide,—
In clime apportioned to their gloom, or hate, or pride.

 

-36-

    No words revealed to me the end or cause
    For which those spirits hither came or went;
    Nor know I if I knew that region's laws
    By some strange influences incident
    Unto its clime; or whether, now unblent
    With earth's gross mould, deep intuition filled
    The regal mind,—and thus, plenipotent,
    She saw and knew.   Suffice it, what she willed
To know, that knowledge swift throughout her essence
            thrilled.

 

-37-

    Conscious of this her high prerogative,
    The soul for mystic travel girt her thews,
    Intent on viewing shapes she knew must live
    In land where penance rebel-thought subdues
    Of human worms who venture to refuse
    The gift of life probational, and death
    Procure by their own hand, daring accuse
    The Giver, and defying threatened wrath,—
Or worn and wearied with the toil of drawing breath.

 

-38-

    Methought I sped across the gloomy space
    From whence diverged each subterranean aisle,
    Thinking the dome vast porch unto some place
    Of emblemed sovereignty or typic pile
    Where sceptred suicides in kingly style
    Might sit, as in some high imperial hall,
    And there eternity itself beguile
    With pregnant descant on their earthly fall,
On fate, and mortal change, and being spiritual.

 

-39-

    When lo!—as if these new imaginings
    Flowed from the soul with architectural power,
    Or talisman of ancient Magian kings
    Were there the unbound mind's mysterious dower—
    Forthwith disclosed, in high investiture
    Of purple, sceptres, thrones, and diadems,
    A hall of kings assembled gleamed obscure,—
    Fair,—and then bright,—until refulgent streams
Of splendour issued from their brows begirt with
            gems.

 

-40-

    Mingled with these sat ancient forms unnamed
    Monarchal, but by badge or cognisance
    Vice-regal known, or whose sage look proclaimed
    The god-like legislator, or proud glance
    Betokened bold ambition's heritance
    On earth of sway despotic.   Deeply fraught
    With wisdom's lessoning the soul her trance
    Perceived to be,—'mid thrones with sculptures wrought
Mythic or parabolic, from earth's legends caught.

 

-41-

    By beam or rafter architectonic
    Undarkened,—with a roof of rainbows graced,
    Smiled that wide palace-hall: yet, upward, quick
    And timorous looks old shapes columnar cast,
    That stretched their sinews, as with effort vast,
    To prop the heavenly arch whose fall they feared.
    Distorted things—abortions of the Past—
    They were: Satyrs, with wild-goats' legs and beard,
And one-eyed Arimasp and Cyclops, there appeared;

 

-42-

    Scythians, with heel in front, and toes behind, [2]
    On old Imäus known; and Ethiops dark
    And headless, wearing mouth and eyes enshrined
    In their huge breasts; and countless monsters stark
    And staring, hymned divine by hierarch
    Of Ganges and old Nile, with heads, tails, arms,
    Tusks, horns, confused, of elephant, ape, shark,
    Serpent, dog, crocodile, or ox: vile swarms
Of hideous phantasies, half-sharing human forms.

 

-43-

    In triple colonnade around the immense
    Ellipsis of that hall these creatures stood,—
    Colossal images of ache intense
    And apprehensive dread; while o'er them bowed
    The arch that still in jewelled beauty glowed.
    Such horror, blent with grace, Apollo's priest
    'Mid strangling folds of Neptune's serpents showed,—
    And still doth show—enmarbled, undeceased,—
That breathing stone the Past to gem the Future
        leased. [3]

 

-44-

    Area within, enclosed, of amplitude
    More spacious stretched than wide circumference
    Of sculptured temple, by far traveller viewed
    In Hindoo cave, [4]—or where wild audience
    The Arab gives to hoar Magnificence [5]
    Defying Ruin, and in some huge tomb,
    Hewed for a monarch, nightly sleeps,—from whence,
    I' the morn, he blesses Mecca's seer,—while gloom
Eterne veils Memnon's brow beholding Thebes' sad
        doom.

 

-45-

    Throughout this column-girt enclosure rose
    Thrones,—some with fashion of a fortalice
    Or tower; some, like cathedralled shrine where vows
    Are paid to saintly heritor of bliss,
    Showed niche, and pinnacle, and quaint device
    Of carven wonder-work; while some parade
    Outvied of old renowned Acropolis
    Or Parthenon, where graceful shaft o'erlaid
With bossed entablature Man's noblest skill displayed.

 

-46-

    Significant depicturings of fraud
    Conjunct with force,—chimeras blending grim
    Fierce forms with fascinations,—shapes that awed
    Pelasgic men in ages old and dim,—
    For metope, along the frieze' broad rim,
    'Tween gem-dropp'd triglyphs, wore each classic
            throne:
    Rapine of harpy, smile of siren prim,
    Lewd lure of lamia, wile of sphinx, and frown
Of minotaur and archer-centaur there were shown.

 

-47-

    Or, where a shrine-shaped throne, o'ercanopied
    With perforated carvery, rose,—a pile
    Of frail aerial wonder,—typified
    Were Fright and Mischief mixt with Stealth and Guile:
    Hag rode her broomstaff, flankt with bugbear vile
    And goggle-eyed hobgoblin, while a host
    Led by Puck-Hairy mocked with infantile
    And puny trick the snake that wreathed and tossed
His trail around the skull and cross-bones of grim ghost.

 

-48-

    Mute, wonder-stricken, long, methought, I gazed
    And, pondering, did my vision's meaning read;
    Until the tenants of the thrones sense raised
    Within me of their presence there, flesh-freed.
    No sage interpreter I seemed to need
    From whom to learn their names; without a veil
    Unto the soul, the pride, pain, dread, or deed
    That rent them from earth's tabernacles frail,
Lay opened—by some fiat supernatural.—

 

-49-

    Silver tiara, decked with amethysts
    And sapphires, piling gorgeously above
    His brow,—pearl-studded circlets round his wrists,—
    Gold sceptre mounted by an emerald dove,—
    And dazzling gems of myriad hues enwove
    Throughout his robes wherein the peerless dye
    Of rarest murex with the ruby strove
    For richness,—showed that soft Assyrian nigh
Who closed his life of lust—a self-incendiary.

 

-50-

    On either side Sardanapalus sat,
    On thrones ornate of ivory and gold,—
    Cloud-wrapt, that gray Cathaian autocrat,
    With uneuphonic name [6] in records old
    Of Orient writ, who did his life enfold
    With deathly flames; and that foul glutton, who,
    As sages tell, his maw's capacious hold
    To satisfy, worried his spouse, although
Full-suppered,—Cambes, lord of Lydia's pampered crew.

 

-51-

    Next these, three mystic thrones: the Theban chief
    Who solved the Sphinx's riddle,—son and spouse
    Of Creon's daughter,—suicide of grief,
    Horror, and madness, joined: sad Nauplius,
    The sire of Palamedes, who his house
    Brought low by guileful Ithacus deplored;
    And that Athenian exarch, old Ægeus,
    Who, of his death, fearing his son devoured,
Left, in the Hellene island-wave a dim record.

 

-52-

    Illustrious less by sheen and garniture
    Of gold and gems, than by his kingly height
    Colossal, sat the Hebrew, who a cure
    For fallen fortunes, in his grievous plight,
    At Endor sought,—but, from the hoary sprite
    Of Israel's seer no health or help derived.
    On demi-throne, next, that disastrous wight
    Who Baasha's son of sovereignty deprived,
In Tirzah, and himself a seven days' king survived. [7]

 

-53-

    Of Ilion's foes, when stern Pelides fell,
    The boldest,—but of honour shorn, and driven
    By pride to madness,—with enduring hell
    Of hate upon his brow, from earth though riven,
    Sat Ajax Telamon.   A haloed heaven
    Of splendour dawned where crownless Codrus,
            throned
    By frowning Ajax, smiled: his soul's look leaven
    Of low self-love disdained,—and, still, profound
Regard for fatherland seemed in its essence wound.

 

-54-

    Fraternal spirits,—each with civic palm
    Invested, sceptreless, o'er deepest thought
    Brooding of things to come,—Lycurgus, calm
    And dignified and peaceful, sat, and caught
    With friendly grasp the hand unto him raught
    Of brave Charondas: these, enthroned 'mid blaze
    Of kindred light, looked as they would devote
    Their souls once more to Hades, if the days
Returned when men would die their fellow-men to
            raise.

 

-55-

    Traitor to Freedom when the Alban sires
    Had smitten kings with rout, and made their name
    A stench,—sat Appius,—he whose lewdling fires
    The spotless maid had scathed with deathful shame,
    But that a father's knife preserved her fame,—
    Giving to deathless life his Virgin child.
    On more than regal throne, with amorous flame
    Still glowing in his eyes, next the defiled
Decemvir, sat another lust-slave, self-exiled

 

-56-

    From his old riot-field,—for such he made
    The earth, that, by strange turns, is cursed with feud
    And sport of monsters.   Neighbour to this shade
    Of Antony, and chief of Rome's huge brood
    Of tyrants, sat the matricide whom mood
    Of insane merriment to minstrelsy
    Impelled, when, wearied with his game of blood,
    He loosed the fiends of havoc, that, with glee,
Lit up Rome's flames, and howled to swell his jubilee.

 

-57-

    Th' imperial patriot, Otho, that to save
    The blood of thousands shed his own, and quenched
    The rage of war,—but vainly since he gave
    Earth to a tyrant,—sat next one who drenched
    The soil less than he willed with gore, nor blenched
    At broken oaths in age,—Maximian—thrall
    Of power, though throned.   Divided sceptre clenched
    Bonosus vile, the drunkard,—of whose fall
They said his carcase was 'a jug hung by the wall!'

 

-58-

    And other revellers in bloody mirth,
    Italian, or Byzantine, arrogant
    And pride-blown, sat, as when the slavish earth
    They shared; save when on that great combatant
    Whom Pontic Orient and the rich Levant
    Owned lord,—proud Mithridates,—timid look
    They cast: for, as they glanced at him, ascaunt,
    His eye of fire told how he ill could brook
The dwarfs so near;—whereat their fear-smit spirits
            shook.

 

-59-

    Neighbouring stood Juba's gold and ivory throne,—
    The Mauritanian: next, with shorn display,
    Sat Nicocles, the Paphian—who alone
    Fled not dishonour when the conquering sway
    Of Ptolemy fair Cyprus owned: the way
    He took, his bosom's queen and daughters fair
    Took also,—and now shared the chastened ray
    That clad their chief: a group of Love they were,
Among fierce shapes of pride that haughtily sat there.

 

-60-

    Nor was the suicide of softer sex
    By these shown only.   Near the ancient seat
    Of Œdipus, the mystical reflex
    Appeared of her who hasted to complete
    The Fates' decree, when Meleager's feat
    Was known,—burning the billet she had kept
    To save the life, that thence, she loathed.
    A meet Sisterhood, numerous, by Althæa slept
Or stonily gazed: eld forms by Mythic names yclept.

 

-61-

    Radiant in widowed beauty, next to these
    Sat she who loved her wandering Teucrian guest,
    And raved to find the faithless one rude seas
    Had borne away,—till, for her grief-worn breast
    She sought by her own hand a deathful rest.
    Near Dido sat that mournful mother-queen,
    Meek Sisygambis, who fled life distrest
    By death of Philip's son, still more than teen
That she the slaughter of her discrowned son had seen.

 

-62-

    With ardent glance on her old paramour,
    The soft Triumvir, bending,—amid waste
    Of grandeur throned,—outvieing, as of yore,
    Earth's queens in pride,—earth's harlots in unchaste
    And wanton thought,—sat she from Greek dynast
    Of Nile descended, asp-stung heritress
    Of fame for lavish wealth with lavish haste
    Consumed upon her beauty's slaves: excess
Transcended only by her false heart's fickleness.

 

-63-

    Apart, in lonely loftiness of soul,
    Sat Boadicea, simple, unadorned,
    Yet seeming with stern virtue to control
    The scoffing spirit which my thought discerned
    Within a frivolous crowd that there sojourned
    In visioned queenly state.—
                                                          But now my trance
    Teemed with more wonder,— for, enrapt, I learned
    These spirits' thoughts: no vocal resonance
There was: yet soul to soul made mystic utterance.—

 

-64-

    "Thy prophecy, sage Spartan,"—proudly gibed,
    Amid his pomp, the Chaldee's glistering shade,—
    Thy prophecy—grows old: still monarch-tribed
    And rainbow-vaulted is this hall: they fade
    Not yet—these regal splendours!   Disarrayed
    We are, by turns; to periodic pain,
    On joyless wanderings sent, through bog and glade,
    O'er crag and rock, or burnt or frore, our stain
To purge: yet, in due season, thus restored, we reign!

 

-65-

    "Errest thou not here, presaging utter change
    To kingly spirits, as thou erredst in land
    Of Lacedæmon old, when system strange
    By thy fantastic brain was hotly planned,
    To train rude rabble Greeks in self-command,
    And mould their minds to virtue?   Foolish dream
    Long dissipated!   Spartan, thus divanned,
    Crowned, sceptred, and enthroned, the changeful stream
Of ceaseless being shall find our Essences supreme.

 

-66-

    "Such is my sentence,—from the pregnant past
    Arguing the future: and in vain they prate
    Of inborn greatness in all minds amassed
    Who say,—of Hades this unequal state,
    And Earth's, shall end by the decree of Fate.
    Where are the virtues by thy statutes bred?
    Our Asia's conqu'ring hosts—effeminate
    Esteemed by the rude sires thy black broth fed—
Brandish the scymitar o'er their tame children's head.

 

-67-

    "There must be conquering lords, and slaves that yield:
    There have been,—and there will be.   Thou may'st
            stroke
    Thy beard, grave scorner,—slighting truth revealed
    By eld experience!   Wherefore bear their yoke
    Earth's mortal millions?   Why, in one age shook
    From their sire's shoulders, do the sons upheave
    And wear it, in the next?   Hath a realm broke
    Its golden sceptre?   'Twas but to receive
A stranger's iron rod,—beneath its bruise to grieve.

 

-68-

    "Danaian,—Monarchs rule by Nature's law;
    And all who seek Her statutes to disturb,
    Teaching kings' solemn titles have foul flaw
    In reason, and the general mind should curb
    Their sovereign will, or sweep from earth's wide orb
    Their honoured name,—know thou, he would uproot
    All happiness from human hearts, perturb
    All peace, and fill the world with dissolute
And lawless beings tending downwards to the brute.

 

-69-

    "What mean, I ask thee, these thronged typic forms,
    These images of allegoric shape?
    Thou say'st, false-seeing prophet, that dire storms
    Will burst on Thrones and leave us no escape
    But yawn of fabled Chaos!   Ha! a jape
    It is—such as thou toldst, in olden time,
    When Greeks from Delphi thy return, agape,
    Expected.   Spartan, know, a truth sublime
These portraitures set forth, in this mysterious clime:

 

-70-

    "This sky of promise-woof, these shapes of strength,
    These sceptred pomps and blazonries, combine
    With this vast palace-hall's imperial length
    And architectural splendour, by divine
    Working of Nature, Her superb design
    To manifest—that She hath firmly set
    The frame of things—the frame of things benign!
    Kings reign by Nature's law!   I at thy threat
Of dissolution laugh!   'Tis like thyself—a cheat!

 

-71-

    "By hybrid forms, like these, the sage or bard
    Of old pictured deep thoughts: he, prescient
    Of mortal things, not dimly Mind's award
    In after-life foresaw: and thus hath lent
    Wise Nature, here, familiar emblems, meant
    To infix our spirits' reverence of Her high
    Unchangeable decrees.   Other intent
    Wombed in the Soul o' the World, if thou descry,
Lacon, these Potencies, with me, thy proof defy!—

 

-72-

    He ceased, but the Laconian answered not,
    Save with a smile; whereat, in subtle guise,
    The spirit of pale Chow the theme upcaught,
    Echoing the proud Assyrian's prophecies
    Of endless royalty.—
                                        "To mysterise
    I scorn,"—he said: "the sage of great Cathay
    By allegory taught,—the teacher wise
    Before all mortals; but, now freed from clay,
Truth's visage all unveiled Mind may to Mind display.

 

-73-

    "The sacred sage who aims with sanctions strong
    Of faith and fear, fable and prodigy,
    To fence the throne, humanely to prolong
    Peace, order, seeks: for peace and order flee
    That state disrupt by anarch Liberty—
    The wild destructive demon!   And when peace
    And order fade, fades every good: while free
    Confusion's votaries call a realm, decrease,
Therein, all polished forms and winning courtesies:

 

-74-

    "These constitute the sweets of human life,
    Rendering its gall less mortal, as renews
    Our vigour this resplendent vision rife
    With promise,—this bright pomp that, swift subdues
    All sense of pain, doubt, fear, which us pursues
    In mystic seasons when high Powers exact
    Their penalties,—high Powers unseen that use
    Their creature Man according to some pact
Beyond our scope—but held eternally infract.

 

-75-

    "To mysterise I scorn—yet own the task
    Of labouring sages guerdon doth deserve
    Of thanks from kings: they clothe with prudent mask
    The image from whose worship Man might swerve
    If nuded: they contribute to conserve
    Homage of monarchs, awe of gods, restraint
    Of wholesome reverence for law; and nerve
    The arm of Power, when it grows old and faint,
And impious men deride its ceremonies quaint.

 

-76-

    "But I disdain to mysterise: let pass
    The fables of old bards, and thy far view
    Truthful experience guiding,—scorning glass
    Of types and stale conjectures,—Spartan, due
    Observance take that novelties congrue
    But ill with social weal: while bloom and thrive,
    Through endless ages, lands whose tribes eschew
    Disloyalty,—where sons meek sires survive,
Preserving, piously, their customs primitive.

 

-77-

    "There knowledge grows; hale labour fills the realm
    With teeming plenty; life doth, vigorous, strike
    Its roots into the soil; and swarms, that whelm
    With ruin lands more changeful where dislike
    To reverend custom lifts the rebel pike
    Or traitor dagger,—drain deep bog and swamp,—
    Delve the stiff marl,—yea, on the bald cliff, like
    The eagle nestle,—strewing mould, with tramp
Industrious, on the rock; their zeal what toil can damp?

 

-78-

    "There arts that rise in the far mist of ages
    Are cherished and preserved with sacred care;
    And, if aught nobler lore of later sages
    Evolves, no sacrilegious hands uptear
    The roots of ancient wisdom,—but, by rare
    And tender husbandry, the late-found flower
    Is with the old engraffed,—and, thenceforth, bear
    Their wedded branches fruits that richer shower
Wide o'er the blest peace-nurtured land their
            bounteous dower.

 

-79-

    "Proud Greek, I ask thee, where is now the boast
    Of gay and changeful Hellas?—Where the pride
    Of wisdom, valour, song,—your wave-washed coast,
    Ye said, would wear for aye?   Doth it abide
    Where sage Minerva's owl still sits to chide
    Old Echo, when some lingering column falls
    On grey Athena's waste, at eventide?
    Or glows it from the brows of Theban thralls
And Spartan cowards—a barbarian's frown appals?

 

-80-

    "Graian, behold, from China's terraced mountains,
    Meek, peaceful myriads to the valleys wend,
    And with their brethren by the silver fountains
    Reclining, to some hoary teacher lend
    Enraptured audience,—while his lips commend
    The lessons of the ever-honoured seer
    Whose wisdom's lustre doth as far transcend
    The glimmering lights your westerlings revere,
As doth the orient sun outvie each smaller sphere.

 

-81-

    "Behold the greatness of the Flowery Nation
    Attracting wondering eyes from all the earth,
    While countless tongues rehearse loud commendation
    Of vast Cathay; how science had her birth,
    In peaceful secret, there; and glided forth
    From her pure cradle, like a godlike thing,
    Blessing unboastfully!—pouring her worth
    Of wisdom on the world; but of her spring
Primeval to the infant isles ne'er whispering.

 

-82-

    "Behold how earth's united sages crowd
    To pay their homage at the shrine maternal
    To which old Northmen wild the mute guide owed
    That led them o'er the deeps where regions vernal
    Breathed their rich balm, when light of stars supernal
    Was hid—the mystic needle—to the pole
    Leal ever, as, to Wisdom's truths eternal,
    By sage Confucius opened, ages roll
And still find China's children cleaving with one soul.

 

-83-

    "Or art, held magic once, that spreads the glory
    Of thought with speed,—by which the peasant hind,
    Familiar as the prince, talks with bard hoary
    Whose bones are wind-spread atoms, but whose mind
    Still lives, converses, fulmines, splendour-shrined
    Upon the lettered page; while pyramid
    And column, arch and dome, taunt human kind
    With ruin, where the founders' names are hid,—
And dust becomes of Death a mirror pellucid.

 

-84-

    "Or delicatest skill, by which the worm
    Yields up the riches of her soft cocoon
    Where bounteous nature teacheth her to form
    For royalty and beauty,—lustrous boon!—
    The fabric for their robes, or proud festoon
    That decks their palaces: or various art
    Pictorial, that—by tapestry, cartoon,
    Canvass, or marble, where dead forms upstart
To life—sublime instruction doth to man impart.

 

-85-

    "All the wide world inherits of the wealth
    Of wisdom, genius, skill, attribute now,
    The truly wise unto those steps of stealth
    With which the Genius of the land of Foh
    Clomb Himaleh's tall barriers of snow
    To kindle light celestial on the strand
    Of infant India ,—whence, as sages show,
    The Chaldee, Mitzraim, and thy later land,
Achaian, lit their lamps with an ungenerous hand.

 

-86-

    "The borrowed lights are quenched: the parent flame
    Glows with undimmed and steady lustre, still!
    Babel and Thebes, and Athens, have a name
    With things that were; or claim from infantile
    Far-islet harps and voices strains that chill
    With sense of desolation them that waken
    Their deathful echoes: Life and vigour fill
    Ancestral Cambalu,—whose strength unshaken
By China's thousand pristine cities is partaken.

 

-87-

    "Spartan, I challenge thee upon this theme,
    Disdaining mystery.   Obedience meek
    To the high wearer of the diadem
    Sways the vast heart of China: fathers seek
    Like reverence from their sons; and children speak
    A filial language, through the land, unknown
    To kingless libertines.   The fruit unique
    Of natural monarchy, through ages shown,—
Peace, shedding gladness, on my fatherland hath grown.

 

-88-

    "And why we thus hold thrones doth thence result,
    I judge, that great maternal Nature keeps
    Her purposes: here, witness we the adult
    Expressions of Her will: on earth
    She heaps Kindly monitions that Man's welfare reaps
    Its thrift from kings: now, after-life doth prove
    Her unity of wisdom;—and, while sweeps
    Duration on, in kingly souls enwove
Shall grow intenser consciousness of Nature's love."—

 

-89-

    Thus spake the old Cathaian shade, and ceased;
    While sceptred spirits, in refulgent rays,
    Each, from his essence, sent forth bright attest
    Of grateful joy.   Such quintessential praise
    These render; but a gathering gloom betrays
    Some scorner seated 'mid the effluence bright
    Of gladdened mind.   Surceased the mystic blaze,
    And uprose Antony, with careless spite
Uttering these thoughts of barbed truth and scornful
            slight:—

 

-90-

    "That regal souls shall regally possess
    This heritage, nor presaged ruin hurl
    These powers to nought, needs not thy wilderness
    Of proof, dim Shade!   When penal tempests curl
    Round its their waves we sink not in their whirl;
    But thus retrieve our thrones.   Why seek we more?
    Let those that prophesy the prince and churl,
    New equals, shall on this mysterious shore
Exist, shew whence derived their visionary lore.

 

-91-

    "Till then, I scorn their threats, as now I scorn,
    Cathaian fabler, what thou dost miscount
    Of undisturbed regalities age-worn.
    I tell thee, cloud-clad king, souls paramount
    Become by Fate: Nature in her great fount
    Moulds monarchs, who earth's sceptres seize, and thrust
    Old palsied cumber-thrones aside, to mount,
    Themselves, the seat of sway; ay, with robust
Hand, pile crown upon crown on their own brows august.

 

-92-

    "These are her darlings, though a coarse-fed serf
    Bring forth their clay, and ignorantly hush
    Within his mud-built shed the cradled dwarf
    At whose full voice the bright-armed throng shall rush
    To conquest, and whose hand, time-nerved, shall crush
    Old pomps like rotten reeds.   These Nature rears
    In native loftiness; old monarchs blush
    When they behold them, or wax wan with fears;
For on their ominous front, deep-graved, stern change
            appears.

 

-93-

    "Stern change—but needful: for, thou dost indulge
    Earth's partial love, Cathaian picturer,
    Denying that great Nature's laws promulge
    The healthfulness of change.   Light task it were
    To dash thy brittle images, and blurr
    Their tricksy tints to gangrened, livid hues;
    To show how Misery finds no comforter
    Throughout thy fatherland; how Want subdues
All virtue in its monster cities' dark purlieus;

 

-94-

    "To point thee to the life its millions drag,—
    Its famine-stricken millions,—eager, glad,
    To find a putrid dog for food, or rag
    To hide their nakedness: gaunt man driven mad
    By hunger and oppression, to these sad
    And dreary shades fleeing for refuge from
    His hell on earth: pale woman, loath to add
    More wretched things to Life's slow martyrdom,
Strangling, remorselessly, the fruit of her own womb!

 

-95-

    "Light task it were, gray fabler, to lift up
    The silken curtain thou hast, sleekly, cast
    O'er the huge tombs of city life where droop,
    In squalor, human shapes become repast
    For vermin ere they die: from whom, aghast,
    Thy mandarins, of boasted courtesy,
    Would turn and shriek, as if the black plague's blast
    Had blown on them.   I scorn to answer thee
At large,—threading thy labyrinthine eulogy,—

 

-96-

    "Or, I would utter all the horrid tale
    Of infant murder, starving toil, accurst
    Desire for gold, devices of the pale
    And cunning bonze, conceit of idiots nursed
    In ignorance, crime and folly that will burst
    Upon the world, and tell its own strange story,
    Ere long.   To regal spirits what rehearsed
    Thou hast—let this suffice:—for, now, the glory
Of thy dim land, like other dreams, grows transitory.

 

-97-

    "The restless pirates of the northern isles,—
    Breaking your barriers of three thousand years,—
    With their own eyes, your land of fabled smiles
    Behold, and find it but a land of tears—
    Like to their own.   While woman's form appears
    Bowed with her infant on her back, in mud
    To the waist, to till the rice-plant toiling,—cheers,
    Though savagely, this thought their frozen blood—
That equal degradation hath, but yet subdued

 

-98-

    "One of their sea-girt homes—Hibernia:—there,
    Gray dynast,—if with disembodied mind,
    Throughout these shades, thou dost deep descant
            share,—
    Like squalid want and suffering, intertwined
    With life of crowds, that labour, thou wilt find—
    And only there!   Oh, that old Rome could wake,
    Once more, her victor eagles, and unbind
    These slaves from their vile fetters,—or earth shake
With change until they could, themselves, their
            bondage break!

 

-99-

    "Thou fabling phantasm, what hath man become,
    Sunk in the stagnancies of custom old?—
    A creature who will whine to win the crumb
    His tyrant's dog refuses!   If the bold
    Democraty of buried Rome, controlled,
    Ev'n by earth's masters, but with dole of bread
    Dealt to them daily, could such slaves behold—
    Such breadless slaves—o'er earth's old region tread,
Their fleshless shades would frown among the
            doomed dead!

 

-100-

    "Justly thou art rebuked: yet, controvert
    I not thy sentence, that with regal state
    Dynamic essences shall be begirt
    Through ceaseless life: I only deprecate
    Thy errors: claiming for the child of Fate—
    The natural heir of greatness—that award
    His deeds deserve.   Monarchs, we create
    Anew, your strength!   Not fabling sage or bard,—
But we—Fate's darlings—merit grateful kings'
            regard!"—

 

-101-

    Thus ended, like an actor for applause,
    He who a haughty challenger began,—
    Winning no meed of praise where all grew foes,
    Stung by his scorn, or scorning, while, with scan
    Intense, they saw his vanity outran
    Truth's soberness.   He sank with humbled crest—
    Perceiving frowns sit on each ghostly van
    Of those throned powers.   Forthwith made manifest:
His mental throes Nero's proud spirit of unrest.—

 

-102-

    "That Thrones to thy stout valour owe huge debt,"—
    He spake, casting around a withering smile;—
    "Is true as that thou wert an anchoret.
    Hero of Actium!—Vestal of the Nile!—
    No time, on earth, your effigies shall spoil
    Of lasting laurels,—wreath so fitly blending
    With Daphne's virtue valour without soil!
    In Hades, triumphs, coy loves never ending
Shall still be yours,—the future the bright past
            transcending!

 

 -103-

    "Darling of Fate!—to swell thy self-sung laud
    Let spirits vie! let grateful kings bow down
    And homage thee,—by loud trump overawed
    Of thy great glory, which thyself hast blown!
    Vauntful buffoon,—that thou dost fill a throne
    In this mysterious clime, adds to the scourge
    Of princely spirits: mockeries, I this crown
    And sceptre must pronounce,—whate'er some urge
Of ceaseless pomp,—if shapes like thine these visions
            forge.

 

-104-

    "What wert thou but an upstart and an ape
    Of spirits truly regal who thy freak
    Of kingship suffered, till maturer shape
    Their own great plans of sovereignty could take?
    Fawning on Julius, who beneath thy sleek
    Exterior saw and mocked the thriftless flame
    For empire,—or, on young Octavius meek
    And crafty, hurling sneers,—thy petty game
Subserved the master-spirits of the Roman drame.

 

-105-

    "And when thou hadst subserved their astute end
    Thou wast laid by.   Boaster,—'tis not the fool
    Who blabs his aims, and thinks each man a friend,
    Whom Nature marks for empire; but a tool
    She shaped him; and, to spirits born for rule
    He hath his use,—to Fate's true darlings, skilled
    To hide their reach with feigned indifference cool,
    Or virtuous humbleness, and ever filled,
With wary watch of all by whose lent thews they build

 

-106-

    "Our Roman greatness by such masonry
    Of mind was raised, until the Julian boy
    Laid on the top-stone with felicity
    Of skill: for aye of power appearing coy,
    Continuing antique symbols to employ,—
    Titles and forms of the old commonwealth,—
    Hallowing the shade securely to destroy
    The substance of licentiousness: wise stealth,
By which the pulse of sovereignty gained vigorous
            health.

 

-107-

    "With 'bread and theatres' the vulgar gasp
    Was wisely fed, when Wisdom thus had won
    The earth's rich rule: to our illustrious grasp
    The reigns of empire were bequeathed,—our own
    By right of power, craft, favour: handed down
    Entire by us,—the pusillanimous brood
    Of later days reared a divided throne
    And lost the heritage whose amplitude
Comprised the general world's wealth, wisdom,
            hardihood.

 

-108-

    "Not more I mock when cloud-wrapt shadows doat,
    And fondly prate of barbarous unknown shores,
    Than I despise ye,—sceptrelings distraught
    With pride,—souls of empireless emperors,—
    That round me sit!   How rich a dower was yours!
    By how much toil of sinew and of mind
    Collected, conglobated, were Earth's stores
    Treasured in Rome,—the Eternal!—throne assigned
By Nature and the Gods, for sway of human kind!

 

-109-

    "Never shall men, again, view aught august
    And glorious as Rome—that mighty heart
    O' the world whose pulses fed with life robust
    By million health-fraught veins, mingling athwart
    Her giant trunk, did duly re-impart
    Vigour and strength to every distant limb!
    How gazeth, even now, the Afric swart,
    Fierce frozen Kelt, Teuton, or Tartar grim,
Untombing some huge vertebra or relic dim

 

-110-

    "Of Rome's vast skeleton,—a monstrous bulk
    O'er isles and continents that lies, supine.—
    Wondering what giant soul the mighty hulk
    Served, in far unknown age, for earthen shrine!
    Dwarfed, dastard heirs to Cæsar's lofty line,—
    If courage to defend what they bequeathed,—
    If soul to comprehend their grand design,—
    They could on your weak essences have breathed,—
Rome's life with glory had been perdurably wreathed!

 

-111-

    "Inferior natures,—your effeminate gripe
    Of the world's sceptre was dissolved like dew
    Upon the grass what time the sun doth wipe
    Up night's few lingering tears: so feeble grew
    Your grasp of power the Roman world scarce knew
    Ye had a throne, at last,—for ye had ceased
    To be its masters long before it threw
    Your filmy fetters off to don the vest
Of vassalage unto the smooth, tiaraed priest.

 

-112-

    "Ye despicable things, that sit and swell
    Yourselves in empty pomp—ye that betrayed
    Rome's glory to the Goth—"
                                                   "Vile spirit, quell
    The tempest of thy madness!"—spake the shade
    Of fierce Maximian:—"Whom dost thou upbraid,
    Coward, with timorousness?—monster, with vice
    And idle dissoluteness?—Of all who swayed
    Earth's sceptres, thou unworthiest shar'st this bliss,
These shadowed thrones in spiritual necropolis!

 

-113-

    "Slanderer,—remember that Maximian strove
    To prop the falling state,—nor age his hands
    Unsinewed for the sword; but round him wove
    Their fatal net domestic traitor bands.
    That one, stern Truth with foulest vices brands,
    Doth play the chidester, here,—one, who should hide
    His head in shame, uncensured reprimands
    Thrones who excel in virtue,—doth betide,
I fear, our essence still to weakness misallied.

 

-114-

    "Thrones of the West,—why sit ye tamely, thus,
    Bearing reproach from a vile miscreant
    Whose name doth blot Rome's annals?"—
                                                                            Nebulous
    With thought grew, now, the spirits arrogant
    On neighbouring thrones, seeming with wrath to pant
    And throb, as throbs the thunder cloud: their rage
    Soon burst in tumult: Nero, scornful taunt
    Renewed; and Rome's whole self-slain lineage
Seemed on each other clamorous, ireful war to wage.—

 

-115-

    As, when upon a seat of gamesome hares,
    Or brood of quarrellous birds, the soaring kite
    Stoops suddenly, victor with vanquished shares
    Silent and swift retreat,—so shrunk with fright
    To ignominious dumbness each fierce sprite
    Of haughty Rome—shrunk, like a coward thing—
    When rose, with front of intellectual might
    The regal Mithridates.   Thus, to bring
Thought to Power's rescue, strove the strong-souled
            Pontic king:

 

-116-

    "I marvel not,—illustrious Spartan ghost,—
    That thou, with keen sagacity, dost leave
    Rome's mimic gladiators to be tossed
    With rage of earth's old pride, which still doth cleave
    To these thin vehicles, and, perhaps, will grieve
    And vex our fleshless essences for aye:
    I marvel not, that, scorning to achieve
    A worthless conquest, to commutual fray
Thou leavest thy foes:—let Folly kindred Folly slay!

 

-117-

    "Let Rome's throned pigmies argue, answerless!
    A brood on whom I grudgingly bestow
    A frown, recalling Sylla's dreadlessness,
    Gorgeous Lucullus, and the godlike brow
    Of Pompey, minds, that, each, to have for foe,
    Ennobled strife more than the glittering stake
    Of Asia's sceptres, and magnific show
    Of twenty realms in arms—of whom none spake
A tongue their chief unknew, nor burned his yoke to
            break.

 

-118-

    "But, while ignoble combat of the soul
    Thou nobly scornst,—I marvel; Graian wise,
    That, here, in Hades, thou dost seek control
    O'er mightier essences, by worn-out guides
    Of mystery.   Not to antagonise
    Thy spirit I seek,—but challenge pertinent
    And weighty cause for startling prophecies
    Of dissolution.   How to thee hath lent
Unerring Nature Her divine premonishment?

 

-119-

    "Since, in this after-life, no more by dull
    Deceptive sense, from sound, sight, touch, doth earn
    The labouring soul her knowledge; and though full
    Of images our being, since all intern
    They germ, and, from our working thought yborn,
    Take spiritual embodiment; since live
    These shapes by plastic throes with which we yearn
    Essentially, and Essence can derive
No unknown truth from the mere representative

 

-120-

    "Of its own ever-active energy;
    Since all we view, or seem to view, in space
    Irradiate, thus, with emblemed royalty,
    Is reflex of ourselves, and we erase
    These splendours when, by Nature's law, to trace
    Again our steps o'er penal wilds we range,—
    Or seem to range,—and with refulgent grace
    Resume these thrones, in season due; since change
Of bliss, or woe,—by law inexplicably strange,—

 

-121-

    "Results from our own intellectual force;—
    What warrants thee predicting force shall whelm
    Our regal state with ruin, in the course
    Of spiritual duration, and disrealm
    Hades of kings, humble the trophied helm
    Of all her myriad heroes, and exalt
    The serfs of her mysterious penal realm
    To equal state, never to know default
Or, end, beneath the glory of this gem-prankt vault?

 

-122-

    "What canst thou know,—though intellection deep
    Be thine,—that we know not?   Thou sharest our pain;
    When pain returns.   If o'er thy essence sweep
    Like woes with ours, how doth to thee pertain
    Superior potency?   Lacon, explain
    Thy bold vaticinations,—or, henceforth,
    Expect from kingly spirits haught disdain
    And dumb contempt, or tempest of their mirth,
When to more dark-wombed wonders thou givest
            dreaming birth!"—

 

-123-

    So spake the soul of Mithridates, while
    Awe or approving silence held the Thrones
    Who in that mystic clime of self-exile
    Kept disembodied pomp of glistering crowns
    And lustrous sceptres.   Veiled with gloom of frowns,
    Or lit with eagerness, each visage seemed,
    Now, on the Spartan fixt.   Soft spirit-tones
    Of suasiveness, soon, from his essence streamed;
And thus, of past and future life, he calmly themed:

 

-124-

    "Spirits of Men, with reverence whom I hail
    And with fraternal love—albeit I deem
    These sculptured blazonries a vision frail,—
    Or, like their antitypes on earth, a dream,—
    For that your high Humanity supreme,
    I judge, o'er names and empty pomps;—forbear
    To count me fabling fantast,—and beteem
    Me, shunning mortal passion, to declare
My thought, by spiritual tongue auxiliar.

 

-125-

    "Contest I court not,—nor to wrathful strife
    Seek to impel ye by defiance brave:
    Brothers, I wot, that earth's poor troublous life
    Had storms enow: rude storms that hither drave
    More than a moiety of ye that rave
    Upon these thrones, contending as if wrath
    Were reason.   Sages say, on earth, the grave
    Ends passion's turmoil, and the spirit hath,
At death, 'mid shapes all passionless, its gentle path.

 

-126-

    "How little truth they knew!—how much affirmed
    From love, hope, fear!   How little know we still!
    How oft, when pleasing shapes from thought have germed
    Within us, have we strengthened them with will
    That they should live; until they seemed to fill
    Our utmost life!—Yet, were they things of nought:
    Soul-mists from essence streaming, volatile,
    In Hades,—as on earth, ethereal, float,
From perfume and putrescence, vapours picture-fraught.

 

-127-

    "Perchance thou judgest well,—sage Pontic shade,—
    Attributing this typic statue-crowd,
    And this enthroned and diademmed parade,
    To demiurgic power with which doth brood
    The soul on space, verisimilitude
    Of what it loves and wishes swift creating:—
    Yet, if these shapes with substance unendowed
    Thou deetnst,—their life, like ours, from change still
            dating,
I argue, from past change, more change our state awaiting.

 

-128-

    "I seek no vulnerable thought to pounce
    Upon—thy metaphysic argument
    To frustrate; nor will, rashly, aught pronounce
    Of this strange after-life.   'Twere insolent
    To dogmatize where being still is blent
    With mystery.   Therefore, when I say, I opine
    Thou err'st, my spirit tells with diffident
    Emotion that to other close than thine
Her slow deductions lead—pondering on this design:

 

-129-

    "Pledge of their perpetuity, or proof
    That kings derive from Nature,—in these shapes,
    Monstrous and fear-fraught, that to prop this roof
    Preposterously essay,—if any, escapes
    My dull perception.   Wondrous were collapse
    Of heaven's own bow!—more wondrous if its fall
    Could crush an insect!   Falsely thus bedrapes
    Nature's fair face, with fancies that appal,
He who mankind would for his selfish ends enthral.

 

-130-

    "The Power that forms, supports, and governs Man,
    Smiles on him evermore; benignly woke
    His infancy with love: unfolds the plan
    Of happiness in the fair-written book
    Of Man's own nature, and the forms that look
    Upon his essence from the outward world;
    Implants no instinct in his breast to mock
    His life; but hath his sentient clay impearled
With reason—sovereign gem in fragile folds enfurled.

 

-131-

    "A thing of beauty, though but frail, in joy
    Perpetual might his mortal life be passed;
    But fablers do his peace and bliss destroy
    With falsest fears: each hour is overcast
    With gloom: at death he shrinks; yea, grows aghast
    At thought of the dread future, which, to shun,
    He must propitiate mystic demons vast,
    By rites that serve to load with pious boon
The smooth and crafty priest who consecrates the throne.

 

-132-

    "Ye frown,—shadows of monarchs,—and deport
    Yourselves full fiercely: yet, with mental eye
    This vision scan,—and, that its forms consort
    With truths I have proclaimed, and typify
    Force joined with Fraud, ye, also, will descry.
    Do not your spirits bear me witness strong
    That they the real monsters are who try
    To fill man with belief that they prolong
His respite from some monstrous vengeance o'er him
            hung?

 

-133-

    "Whether I read these images aright
    Or err, for high Humanity I claim
    Precedence of all pomps.   Spirits, if true might
    Or wisdom are inherent in the name
    Monarchal,—if the sceptre doth inflame
    The soul of him who sways it with the thirst
    For virtue, if Time doth not count with shame
    Its regal dolts and cowards, nor is curst
With vice of monster kings,—I have their names
            aspersed.

 

-134-

    "Let your own argument,—your sage debate,—
    Confute me, when, in sorrowing ire, I say—
    Your race, in every clime, doth merit hate
    And vengeance from mankind—the trembling prey
    Ye ever tortured ere ye deigned to slay!
    But I renew not strife: spirits, I glow
    With nobler aim—aside to see ye lay
    These vanities, scorning the gaudy show
That emblems freedom's, virtue's, wisdom's direst foe:

 

-135-

    "For such is kingship propped by altar-craft:
    But I renew not strife: spirits, I stand
    Self-sentenced, self-condemned, since to engraft
    Mystery with Truth, in my loved fatherland,
    I sought,—judging mankind might be trepanned
    To reverence Freedom when her virgin face,
    Enmasked with sanctity, looked grave and grand:
    Unskilled to know that her own native grace,
Alone, could charm men, lastingly, to her embrace.

 

-136-

    "Ye style me Prophet!   I accept the jest
    For earnest; and, with mystic wreath thus crowned
    By your united voice, Mystery attest
    To be the tyrant Power from whose profound
    Soul-bondage man is breaking: whispering sound
    Of Truth's young breath greets Europe's grateful ear;
    And Freedom, in some hearts, a throne hath found
    On that new shore where still, alas! appear
Earth's olden stains: the helot's stripes, the helot's tear!

 

-137-

    "Afric's dark tribes, and Asia's populous swarms,
    The voice of Truth, and Freedom's holy call
    Shall know, ere long—upstarting, not to arms,
    For blood and slaughter; but to disenthral
    Their new-born spirits from funereal
    And priest-forged fears; to shake their ancient slough
    Of sottish ignorance off; no more to crawl
    In abjectness 'fore hideous gods; nor throw
Their slavish frames 'fore kings, in vile prostration low.

 

-138-

    "Spirits, to tell of wondrous sympathy
    Subsisting still,—despite our severance
    From earth,—between flesh-clothed Humanity
    And unclothed Mind, were futile occupance
    Of torture's lapse,—which now doth swift advance;
    As ye perceive, once more, unto its bourne.
    Albeit uncomprehended, consonance
    Of Mind's progression in this strange sojourn
Subsists, ye know, with minds of men on earth that
            mourn.

 

-139-

    "That essences shall glad deliverance reach,
    In penal clime of suicide, our hope,
    Unquenchable by torment, seems to teach;
    And spirits who in Hades never droop
    With Earth's old doubts, gathered in eloquent groupe,
    Deep descant hold of glorious state to come
    For men and spirits,—mystic horoscope
    Interpreting—that, on both sides the tomb,
Men's weary souls, in unison, shall reach blest doom.

 

-140-

    "And Minds presaging this deliverance blest
    For fleshless Essences, joy for Earth's teen,
    Truth for its error, from its slave-toil rest,—
    Foreshew that love fraternal shall with sheen
    Genial and mild dissolve the marble mien
    Of selfishness to soft beneficence;
    Until, as yearned the godlike Nazarene,
    It yearns o'er pain and woe; with affluence
Of healing help and soul-restoring condolence.

 

-141-

    "Nor less presage they that the trodden crowd,
    Long left to grovel in degrading mire
    Of bruted life, and sunk in desuetude
    Of reason's energy, her living fire
    Shall feel anew, and nobly thence aspire
    To feed the mind with knowledge till its thews
    Acquiring might, they reassert their higher
    Gradation spiritual.   Such hope diffuse
Far-reaching spirits,—hope that even despair subdues.

 

-142-

    "Thrones, —ye perceive your splendours 'gin to pale;
    And soon we must our penal throes renew.
    I cease my theme; and may have erred,—for frail
    Is still our wisdom: it may be, the Few
    Shall still the Many trample and subdue:
    That Truth and Liberty shall bloom—to die,
    Like glorious winged things, that, swift, pursue
    The sunbeam-atoms for a day, then hie
To death: blending, as 'twere, a breath—a smile—a sigh!

 

-143-

    "It may be that the human soul is mixt
    With nature of decadence and frail change,
    Essentially: that never stably fixt,
    But mutable, eternally to range
    From ignorance to wisdom,—then, by strange
    Return to ignorance,—may be its fate,
    Inevitably: that when their brief revenge
    Slaves take on tyrants, they emancipate
Themselves in vain, and Nature doth their strife
            frustrate:

 

-144-

    Spirits, it may be emptier than a dream
    That fair Equality shall one day hold
    Sole sceptre on the earth: that man shall deem
    His brother man too sacred to be sold
    Or slain,—to be by any power controlled,
    Save the soft force of love and wisdom: field
    It is for thought: thy dogma, monarch old,—
    'There must be conqu'ring lords and slaves that
             yield'—
The Future may attest as the stained Past hath sealed.

 

-145-

    "These splendours pale!   Spirits, with me combine
    Your sentence—that to this deep argument
    Large aidant minds who tenant this confine
    Be summoned, when our penance-term is spent,
    And o'er us this gemmed roof, once more, is bent.
    New lights on truth may issue from their rays
    Of cogitation; and some joint consent
    Accrue to spirits from the confluent blaze
Of Essences, when each his glowing thought displays:'—

 

-146-

    Lycurgus ceased: the columned monster shapes
    Wox dim to faintness; and a hue of dread
    Fell on each spirit, knowing torture's lapse
    Was ended.   Ere their sceptred glory fled,
    Methought, a dying beam of radiance shed
    From each fast-fading, visage did betoken
    Mute acquiescence in their judgment bred
    With fair proposal by the Spartan spoken—
And, as that dying beam was shed—my dream was broken.

 

__________________

 

NOTES TO BOOK THE FIRST.
 
1.—Page 12, Stanza 3.
Beams from the brows of Rollo's robber-brood.


"ROLLO'S robber-brood" was intended as a compliment to the English nobility, so many of whom claim to be descended, in common with William the Bastard, their brigand chief, from the soldiers of Rollo the Norman.  Mr. Disraeli, however, seems to be of opinion that these pretensions to chivalrous descent deserve no credit; and, surely, he is an authority on such a subject.

    "I have always understood," said Coningsby, "that our peerage was the finest in Europe."

    "From themselves," said Millbank, "and the heralds they pay to paint their carriages.  But I go to facts.  When Henry the Seventh called his first Parliament, there were only twenty-nine temporal peers to be found, and even some of them took their seats illegally, for they had been attainted.  Of those twenty-nine not five remain, and they, as the Howards for instance, are not Norman nobility.  We owe the English peerage to three sources: the spoliation of the Church; the open and flagitious sale of its honours by the elder Stuarts; and the boroughmongering of our own times."—Coningsby, vol. ii., chap. 4.

 

2.—Page 21., Stanza 42.
Scythians, with heel in front, and toes behind,


The Abarimonides, and Blemmyæ, will be recognised by readers acquainted with Pliny's portraits of human monsters.

 

3.—Page 22, Stanza 43.
That breathing stone the Past to gem the future leased.


The author, it need scarcely be said, has never seen the Laocoön: but does not the imagination, on the mere receipt of testimony, often conceive as deep a worship of that which is believed to be surpassingly beautiful or perfect as an effort of human skill, as the judgment yields, when directed by actual observation?

 

4.—Page 22, Stanza 44.

                   Of sculptured temple, by far traveller viewed
                   In Hindoo cave,


See Captain Seely's enthusiastic description of "Keylas the Proud" among the caverned temples of Elora.

 

5.—Page 22, Stanza 44.

                                                   or where wild audience
                     The Arab gives to hear Magnificence


These and the remaining lines of the stanza form almost a literal embodiment of a picture that I remember to have met with in some volume of Eastern Travels, but I cannot tell where it is to be found.

 

6.—Page 23, Stanza 50.
With uneuphonic name in records old


Chow-Sin, Emperor of China, B.C. 1122.—His suicide is related to have resembled that of Sardanapalus.

 

7.—Page 24, Stanza 32.
In Tirzah, and himself a seven days' king survived.


Zimri.—His story is narrated in the 16th chapter of the 1st book of Kings.

 



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