Capel Lofft

Ernest: The Rule Of Right - XI

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BOOK XI.
Earnestness, thou art Man's true nobleness:
I know not whence begotten, nor how born;
But thou'rt of glowing blood--doughty and dour;
God-like, if aught so be, that to Man belongs.
Worthier of worship than the Persian's fire,
For thou'rt the fire of the soul--or, if thou wilt,
Soul of the fire, kindled high up in Heaven,
That quickens clay to manhood. Yet, in the times
When every knave that would set up a god
And built a temple and called himself the priest,
And took fat gifts, when many of no worth
Were reckon'd worshipful, thou wert ne'er one.
No altar raised, nor incense burned to thee.
For truly, lofty and godly tho' thou art,
Yet the priests love thee not--as guessing well
Thou wert too true and righteous to love them:
Who dost deny to give them what they ask
Due to God only--self-surrendering Faith:
Nay--but rather its show--needs them no more--
True Faith to Fraud were irksome, importunate;
As sound cloth patched on rotten--hateful as light
To darkness--fearful as the forger is
'Mong many false to utter one true coin.
Such fellowship befriends not, but betrays.
Therefore they love not earnest searching Faith,
But its blind counterfeit: priestly belief,
A film darkening the soul, as scum the lake;
Bedulling life; stagnating ever there
Between the lively tide and Heaven's light:
Severing the two; and barring God free grace
From Man, tho' it professeth and should be
The atoning reconciler between both.
So, o'er the soul broods priestcraft, deadening
Man's wholesome will, and quickening instead
The swarm of childish fond conceits, on fear
By darkness, slim-begotten. Priestliness
For godliness--this scum our Gospellers
Would clear; and show Faith's surface, that the sky
May shed its own unsullied light on it.
But no--priestcraft is better interposed--
(So the priests say, and so many believe,
For mostly they're good, holy men, and do
Good work, tho' sometimes by ill means untrue),
To bate that lustre; to o'ercloud the clear
Sun, lest it dazzle with excess of light.
Such their kind forethought for our weak babe-eyes:
And therein worldlings, who hate earnestness,
Love priestcraft; crouching in blind cowardice,
Self-knowing, self-distrusting--would forego
All manly choice and conscience, duty and right,
So, slave-like, skulking to shirk Manhood's trust
Of Freedom, and the Will's responsible work.
Such ghostly sires, such earthly sons. Oh come
Some one who dares be true, clear the fat scum
From its surface rule, disauthorize the craft,
And free us all to godly Faith: aye, come,
Whoe'er thou art, and be that burning sign
Which they shall conquer in it, who follow it:
Some Thrasybulus, bold yet wary, a wise
Head, with warm heart and stalwart hand; self-sure
In his self-strength: so watching eagle-like
From Phyle's height, to smite down slavery.
But be thyself, earnestness, be thyself.
Thou--who dost bear Faith's stamp--Manhood's own seal,
Nay, soul--but Manhood--what is that but Will?
And Patriot Will is now but feverish heat
Fitful, self-smouldering in its own smoke.
Come then, be thou the spirit and soul of it,
A fiery spirit, a most eager soul.
Scattering doubt and fear, as darkness flees
Before the high-raised torch: Men look for thee
Now, this long time: and when, tho' late, thou com'st,
So eagerly they'll greet thee, thronging up,
As from Hell Heavenward. Only know thyself,
How strong thou art, how weak thy enemies:
The people in all lands how sworn to thee,
To end what thou beginn'st: then do but thou
Pitch thy call loud enough, they'll answer thee
With such full force, so like an ocean flood,
As all resistance must be whelmed in it,
Nor heart nor hand no more. Yes, Earnestness,
Be but thyself, and feel, and prove thyself,
Thou thorough searching fire, tho' but in one
Spark of thy pure and pristine quality,
That were enough--for the rank luxuriance
The o'erweening umbrage of that feudal old
Forest, that cumbers Earth with a few tall trees,
Stately but few; that so o'ershade the ground
With baneful growth, that myriads of more worth
Sicken beneath their shade, and only weeds,
Brambles and vapours live on loathsomely;
That rank luxuriance and those tall trees
Are doated unto tinder; rotten at heart;
And there's a strong wind blows, and stronger yet
Threatens its blast, and that first spark of thine
Where it shall catch, there shall be such a blaze
As Earth hath never seen, no, nor e'er shall,
Till it be caught itself in the fire-clutch
Of some wild comet. Then shall fruitfulness
Grow from the ashes of that old rank growth
And righteousness award the harvestage
For happiness. And can'st thou see such things
Thou daring champion, and not grasp thy sword
To conquer them? but ah! liv'st thou indeed
Or only some faint flickering shade of thee,
Mocking thy manly life? I fear thee much
That thou'rt thyself no more. Oh for one hour
Of the olden time, when patriots wielded swords,
And virtue then meant manhood: now 'tis words,
Words all, and nought but words. Curse on the breath
That doth compose them; its heat is sickening,
And spreads its faintness over the whole world.
Clouds without rain, and winds whirling but dust.
Therefore ye slaves who would fain brag yourselves
So loudly into men, be still--and ye
Tyrants, henceforth outtyranize yourselves,
And gag men's tongues: what now we utter in words,
Then were we all the likelier in deeds:
For Silence is a dark but quickening womb
Wherein great thoughts grow to life-truths, and hopes
To harvest home: forth in full shape they come
At their full hour; while speech had scattered them
In its most busy silly impertinence
Abortive ere their time. But, Earnestness,
Thine is the strong hand, not the babbler's tongue:
Therefore thou talkest not, but at the time
Strikest full sore--God speed thee and thy stroke,
That both may thrive--if not, small harm to thee.
Thou'rt strong, and in thy strength can'st outbide more
Than others can inflict.
The sun was low
While yet that conflict raged on Markstein Moor,
And many when outfought, deemed it enough
Of death and of destruction for that day:
And fain had sheathed their swords, and rested there
'Till morrow: but 'tis swiftness, ever on,
Dazzles the foe with changeful alacrity;
And catching many points, now here, now there,
Kindles abroad the outbreak, sinking else,
If not astir; must snatch success from the blaze--
Swiftsure alone is lucky--that bold truth,
They wrought out boldly, those rebellious men,
Mindful that whoso from Law's bulwark stirs
One stone, is guilty--would he cancel his guilt,
Must break right thro'--sternly--a full clear breach,
Outright, victorious--palterers are self-doomed--
Who dares the most rues least. Thoro' wins tho'.
For rebel craft can never square itself
Level to Law--must raise Rebellion o'er Law's
Level.
Ere that first field was fought, the sun
Sloped westward, and with the evening star-gleam
The Stolberg garrison 'scaped from the moor
To the strong shelter of their castle walls,
Had looked their latest on both sun and star,
And died a bloody death. 'Twas an old pile,
Fortress and mansion, answering either call
As need might be: tower and battlement,
Drawbridge and moat--such strength as had kept out
The sudden robber in marauding times:
But now, since centuries with their deep calm
Had stilled suspicion to security,
It lay like an armed warrior in repose:
Armed else in thoro' proof from head to foot
Only his gorget off. Surely he breathes
More freely so in such loose luxury;
But surely too in that unguardedness
His throat lies open to the thrust of sword,
Fooling all other trust of his defence
By that one gap. There was the deep dark moat,
Must drown all fording foes, stifled in mud,
Ere stroke of onset--only it was dry.
A traitorous drought; for there the attack made way,
Wolf-like, bursting in wildly, every side--
No other order but their disarray,
No forecast save a twinkling to draw breath,
For one fierce shout hurling defiance forth,
And then fall on--truly, a grim onslaught,
And grimly the defence encounter'd it.
For those within--that was their life's last hold--
And well they knew it. Mercy was far off--
Far as Hope from Despair: for there was due
A forfeiture to death: bound for their lives,
And they or else their foes to quit the bond--
Therefore 'twas sternly fought.
At the first brunt
While those without answered but with their shouts
And heavy strokes the death-shot from within;
Doors were burst thro' and the barr'd windows stay
Out-stormed by dint of axe. Entrance is clear.
Victory won--Oh, where is Mercy now?
Alas! what should she here, or how prevail
O'er the fell spirit of the conqueror,
When e'en the vanquished call her not to come
But die despairingly. So ever on
Slaughter hunted her game from room to room
From stair to stair: before her shrieks and groans,
Blood and corse-heaps behind. Ever she smote
And smiting never slacked while any stood
Against her sword: then on the last man's groan
Upheaved in gushing blood, came a short hush;
A stillness all the deeper and deadlier,
For the wild uproar that foreclamour'd it.
Then many went about, muttering low,
With teeth hard set, and swords strainingly clenched,
Whom next to slay: and finding no live soul,
Must hack the dead, savage and butcherly
For lack of other vengeance: for bloodthirst
Is so assuaged by lavish draughts of it
As fire by profuse oil.
Well was it then,
Women and children were all fled that hold,
None left but weapon'd men: for anger once
Kindled, is stirred by the fiend, fiercer to blaze
The more 'tis fed: 'scaping the thought of the past
By raging on; knowing nor practising
No readier means to efface a few blood-drops
But to ensanguine all--bathing its hand
In reeking slaughter thoro'ly embrued
Lest white and red should know distinction,
For one to accuse the other. Cruelty
Thou'rt ever bitter, but then bitterest
When self-called Conscience.
In that home Death swayed
And dumb awe followed, staring haggardly;
But soon was jostled away--for energy
Breathes only in the stirring atmosphere
Where it was born: and recklessness loves not
That its fierce trouble should subside in calm.
Lest so its conscience become clear, its drift
From turbulent declared transpicuous
With guilt at bottom: therefore those stern men,
Their bloody excitement o'er, some other needs
To drive them on: such other was at hand.
For in that hall sulphurous and carcase strown,
A feast was spread, viands in plenteous show.
Wine, and what else is of more potency
To fire the blood--strong comfort of faint hearts:
And bold ones too. "Ho! there!" cried Linsingen,
"There's a home-friend shall chase the phantom-mists
That spring from spilth of blood; clearing our brains
Of ugly bugbear shows, cleansing our throats
From the rank gory smack that sticks to them.
Fill up, drink out."
Sudden they did beset
Those high-piled tables; and drank, shouted, and laughed,
Bemocking in mad glamour those dead men
For drunken mates. All save some nine or ten
Who took but bread and water, scantly too,
In token of cool blood and conscience true;
Feverless, passionless: a holy calm
After a holy deed. So fared those few.
But for the multitude, soon as the blaze
Of their high-flaring spirit had burnt off,
Then earnest conference came, and hubbub wild,
And loud debated strife: some to stay there,
Others, rash onward. Long ere their rough wills
Clashing together, fell into one frame
Of seemly even fitness: long it was,
But so at last: dissonance lower'd its din,
Confusion grew to calm. Then one stood forth,
The shepherd, manly and free as his lone life,
For loneliness begets free manliness,
And to the heads of the assembly thus:
"Sirs, I bespeak your hearing, on behalf
Of these hardhanded fighters, standing here,
And by their bidding--sturdy men--strong erst
At work, and now in war, as their foes proved,
Who live not to give witness of their proof.
But stronger than we are, henceforth we must
To hold our winning hope: marry, the need
Is easy shown, but how to answer it,
There is the stress. Well, Sir, we commoners
Have undertaken to be counsellors
This once, and but thus far--only to say
What best we know, and you may best avail.
Sir, we have many sidesmen waiting us
Ashore and inland: miners brooking ill
Their hard bread taxed yet harder; smugglers, too,
Who had as lief blow out the exciseman's brains
As pay his due--no lovers of the Law,
Rather of those who live most lawlessly;
Now, Sir, needs but a breath, a beckoning hand
To stir them up: and for their reckless lives,
Tho' for that cause we now stand off from them,
Yet, Sir, methinks, if stones must needs be thrown,
It were no wise man's way to reject those
Fittest of all and readiest to the hand,
For a little dirt that may chance cleave to them;
Rather beware the rich; Law is not right
Always, nor they worst men who gainsay its wrong,
Tho' hence they bear its brand. Lord £ s. d.
Is a sneaking skulking coward. Such Christ's word,
That wealth is worldliness; But, Sirs, these men--
Linsingen, so we all think, were likeliest
To go among them. 'Tis but to light up
A blaze upon some headland, at dead night,
By scores and hundreds they'll come thronging in.
And once together, what they know of him,
They'll follow him be sure thro' fire itself
To the last upshot. We, if it seem good,
Will look, meanwhile, to Hermann for our head
With no less trust."
Silence ensued this speech
Boldly delivered, but heard doubtfully,
For Linsingen, to whom it most belonged,
Lent it no willing ear; but with knit brow
And compress'd lips, first scanned the speaker, as pride
Forbids presumption, listening scornfully,
Then looked around for other's utterance
Rather than give his own. They whisted awhile,
For answer deigned he none, by word or show;
Till after parley 'mong the leaders there,
As with much urgency they counselled him,
At last he spoke:--"My friends, were all things else
Belonging to this sudden unasked advice,
Praiseworthy as the will that prompted it,
Then well--but 'tis not always the best will
Gives the best warrant. Other duty is mine
Than to trudge round the country. For this need
If such it be, I'll meet it as behoves;
But what ye've given me of authority
As I alone must answer it abused,
So would I hold its use in my own hands,
Wholly--more said were o'ermuch--rule I must,
But not give reasons." He spoke moodily,
As one much roiled; but while his speech yet filled
His hearer's ears, Hermann rose hastily
'Gainst discord.
"Brethren, I beseech ye, as so
Named, be so found--but what is brotherhood
Aloof from unity? while we are one
So are we stronger than our muster seems,
But severed once, then are we powerless
As were these limbs of mine, torn from their trunk
By bloody violence. Why, my dear friends,
Why was it that we chose us freely a head,
But for his counsel to be ruled by it?
That he might frame and we fulfil the work,
Following him wherever, hope or none.
Then why more words? rather abide on our choice,
Encroach not upon rule. No--for if trust
Be once fly-blown with busy surmises
It turns to a maggot-heap of jealousies,
Feeding upon the substance of their cause
Till utterly consumed. Beware we lest--
But no--the thought--e'en thus I scatter it--
Then be content as I most truly am,
To follow, not to lead: else are we lost.
But for this end to raise those miners up,
I know the men, their likings, ways, and means,
And if it please our noble leader here,
The peril and the hope of the enterprise
I claim it--I, even I. Ye see me here,
And if I have permission, and life hold,
To-morrow's sun shall see me all as sure
On the coast--a dangerous coast--as ye all know.
And those our enemies here upon land
Shall rue its dangerous men as fearfully
As ever the seafarer rued its rocks.
Sir, if you think to send such mission forth,
I beg the trust of it--staking my life
For my reward."
Thus Hermann, and all there,
Stood silent, wondering at his height of soul;
Wonder past utterance--no shout, no word,
But only a still gaze. Then Linsingen,
As quickened by some sharp spur, started up
With warm heart-flush. "Brethren, I give him leave--
Since he gives me--and when he parts from us,
There parts a man, who, if he turn not back,
Our hope were lost in his blank. Go, in God's name,
Thou best and bravest! and, for I care not,
To outlive the chance, may cost thy dearer life,
Lagging behind when thou art in the van
Of peril, therefore, for my share, I choose
An undertaking all as fearful as thine.
No matter what--for why? if it end well--
If not, I say again, no matter still:
For in its failure must we all fail too,
Fortune and life: and this young hope of ours
Suddenly from the brightness it now is,
Shall darken over yet more dismally.
And we must struggle in Death's yawning jaws
Until he close them o'er us. So, if we fail,--
Fail, my dear friends! but be it so--what then?
Why, we shall ne'er live to be ware of it,
We, who are well determined to die first.
And so, my gallant Hermann, let's shake hands:
For there's a spiteful something in sword and shot,
May stiffen them to shake no more again.
But who soars high o'ertops low ambushes,
And thou'rt a towering spirit. Well, I too
Will rise my loftiest--shall ne'er feel my fall,
If Fortune strike me down. Then, if thou must
Go, and God speed thee. Give him all your prayers,
My trusty fellows--for if ye were saints,
And they were blessings every one of them,
He were well worth them all."
Hermann went forth
'Mid earnest feeling of the brotherhood:
Much fear, slight hope--they were so summed in him.
They fell upon his bosom, sore distressed
For what he must encounter. There they stayed
With meat and strong drink comforting the flesh,
The groaning spirit with prayer: and thence he sped,
Having none other comfort but heart's Faith,
Nor needing more. Straight on to the sea-shore.
No difference of brook, mountain or bog,
Valley or level: straight as the sea-fowl
From the howling North, of winter forebewarned
Ere it besiege the icegirt Orcades,
Wing thence their airy wedge. So straight he sped;
So questionless. Night had opposed herself,
One dark immensity, barring his sight;
Therefore his early wont to guide his way
Was his only load-star. So he struggled on
Forlorn, yet hopeful, thro' his thoughts within,
All else a blot: conning dark counsel, how best
To speed the cause. 'Tis fearful so to fare,
Unhomed, unmated, and of outward ken
Helpless as the unborn babe: but doom itself
Stoops to the downright will; and Hermann so
Right forward from his outset reached his end
In manhood true--to the house of Zimmermann--
A host he liked not, but must sue to him
For the cause sake.
To the high spirit of Faith
The scorner's sneer is like the serpent's tooth,
Not hateful only, but of curdling chill
To his warm glow: such scorner was that man,
And Hermann was such warm enthusiast.
Only not warm alone, but high and deep,
And streaming forward strongly: therefore scorn
Was carried down the tide it would fain thwart,
Flushed by its faithful sway. From chill and fog
To a warm homestead is a welcome shift,
If the guest be welcome too. He greeted his host,
And found all things set forth neatly and trim,
An easy plenteous household: "the world's weal
Is far too wide; fulfil it I ne'er can:
Better, so thought that patriot good man--
First try a tinier thrift in my own snug home;
And for the rest, wishes and words must serve
Till I've done here." 'Twas shrewdly meant; more shrewd
Than manly; and yet, in faith, I blame him not:
Much less commend him. Only this be sure--
Mammon is evermore his muck-worm self;
No rebel: something traitorous perhaps,
But yet no rebel: and Milton erred, for once,
That when the angel host fell off from Heaven
He shared their fall. Oh no! for how should he leave
His bags? how take them? Of late Zimmermann
Had chewed the danger he had helped prepare,
And ever as he chewed, that danger grew
Bitterer to his taste. E'en then, that night
As he sat musingly among his books
In chair of ease, and cheerful circumstance,
The oak-embers on his right, on his left hand
A full rich glass, steaming most fragrantly:
And he the while poring upon a hope
Late proffer'd him, so to pass questionless
Of old accounts, proving new loyalty.
"Is ought so hateful in such life as this
That I must leave it? aye, leave such a one
For such another as I must take for it?
Such stormy wild bloody unlikelihood.
Why, I were wiser to go naked forth
From this home-nook to the bleak howling moor,
And pray the stars to warm me: and if they should
It were no great wonder then that one
We fools do hope for." Oh! 'tis reasoned well,
World-wisely too: and when, good Zimmermann,
Thou didst profess thyself a patriot,
Doubtless thou did'st but look for a lap-dog life
By the fire-side; and they do wrong thee in most
Unrighteous rigour, who ask ought else of thee,
But just to be such a warm patriot
As now thou art.
Hermann so came on him,
Cross-mooded thus: greeted him, and sat down;
Told him the tale of all, from the shepherd's hut
E'en to this hour: flashed forth the war again
In fiery words; with brighter likelihood
Than any else could see--so bright and warm,
As Hope had only to stretch forth her hand,
And no such thing as Fear. Zimmermann heard,
And as he heard, his wont of worldliness
Was lost well nigh in feeling wonderment,
While faintly glowed his face from its shrewd smile:
And that same wonderment had been full faith,
Had his white head been browner a few years.
But the old are but the cinders of the young,
And ever they take fire, they hold it not,
But straight are cold again--so was that man.
He answered not, but looked upon the lad
As elders look on the rash thing they love
Doomed to perdition: kindly he took his hand,
And paused--a feeling pause--and spoke to him--
"Yes, truly--fair they are, tho' fruitless quite,
The flowers thou hast shown me, and time was
I might have cherished them fondly as thou:
But now, grey as I'm grown, I know too much:
Who flies so high seldom ends happily.
But thou'rt a Poet--Heaven grant thou rue it not.
And now, a moment's leave, I will say more
When I return to thee," he said, and rose,
And parted. Hermann leant o'er the bright hearth,
Watching its changeful embers; but much more
Brooding o'er those late words: till thoughtful life
Grew from their germ.
Poet! oh no, that name
Hath more of honour than I dare to claim.
For how should Poesy, that high princess,
Ally herself to my poor lowliness?
No--I never sued to her
Save as a lone worshipper:
Then why, thou foolish man, oh, tell me why,
Confound the virgin with her votary?
Poet! thou nam'st the name,
But where is he
Can claim to be
That same.
Not the faint Rhymester who but wrongs
Manhood and speech by silly songs.
But the Seer, who strikes aglow
From his high soul the world below.
For he doth gather many a ray
Of vital Truth else perishing astray,
Within his mighty centring mind to glower
And thence glow forth in lightning power--
Poet--maker--so before
Was the God we all adore.
But on earth is no such one--
A stray spark is not a sun--
Never was--but yet may be--
Only show him unto me--
I'll worship him with bended knee.
Yes--for the haughtiest might well bow down
To him, whom all the glittering stuff
That the world calls its wealth, were not enough
To purchase him his crown.
Such crown of glory, as 'twere meet
Our lowliness should lay it at his feet
And so arise
From that deep reverence, devoutly wise.
But no--Man's happiest frame
Were all too coarse to hold that holy flame.
Nay--Poet--I am none--
Hallow that name--for 'tis a holy one.
So I were that, I would be all beside
All scorn soe'er that mortifies Man's pride--
Blind and beggar'd, crippled, maimed,
Naked and yet not ashamed.
I would leave all else behind,
And go forward with my mind.
For say, doth the lone star lament
Because it hath no store
Of gold or silver ore?
Oh no, it is content
To shed its soul in light,
Tho' nations heed it not, to wake from their dull night.
For there is one
That heedeth all, whate'er is done;
And hath delight
In all things true, and high, and bright:
The truer, and the brighter, and the higher
The nearer him--the liker to the Sire.
A Poet--nay, but the
Poet that one must be.
For thousands have put forth the claim,
Hundreds have been called the name!
Souls that from their inward glow
Sparks of Poet-life would throw.
And of these some nine or ten,
Work with some slight power on men.
But that full power belonged but to the one--
The sire gave it to the son.
Made him the maker--Poet true--
To kindle Manhood thro' and thro'
Thrilled with his conspiring faith--
Now needs a new creative breath:
That faith to realize in deed--
Thou Poet-doer--thine is the great work and meed.
Would I were he--for how soon then
Were my name made a marvel among men!
Yes--I would dedicate that fire
To purify this world of mire,
Thrilling atoms from their strife
With electric glow of life--
A fire so searching, it should find
Its way thro' the whole mass of Mind:
Kindling it so
Into an universal loving glow
That man should live in his own light,
And see, and know, and rule himself aright.
The glorious sun, that swayed alone,
While yet creation was a child,
Is sovereign still upon his throne
Undimmed, undarkened, undefiled.
They watch and wheel, those mighty spheres,
Still rushing round him at his will,
Thro' boundless space, and countless years,
And he doth list their music still.
And ever, onward as they roll,
He cheers them with his quickening ray--
Yes, they, the things without a soul
Their darkness is redeemed to day.
But the spirit's realm of night,
Where's the sun should give it light?
Where the spheres should circle round,
When shall their sweet music sound?
When shall rise the mighty one
To frame this world in unison?
Law and Freedom to atone
Thro' his sway in Love alone:
While around his radiant State,
All beside shall watch and wait.
Boldly arise
And brightly shine!
So shall the prize
Be surely thine:
Thou, our young creation's sire,
Gifted with that thoro' fire.
Other lights shall then be dim,
Other wills shall wait on him,
Other voices shall be mute,
Other kings shall do him suit.
But be whate'er he will
That godly one must be a Poet still:
Poet in his soul and heart
Tho' he scorn the Rhymester's art,
Tho' his eyes did never look
On the letters of a book;
His ears hearken, nor his tongue
Utter such as bards have sung.
Nor his fingers hold a pen--
A Poet must he be, that monarch among men,
With a spirit and an eye
Beholding all things from on high,
So in unity of soul
Worldly fractions to make whole;
Framing them to Truth anew,
From his type of Godhead true.
Not slumping in the downcast drudge's tramp,
Nor watching coldly Theory's pale star-lamp,
So blind and lame were helpless, each of each;
But blending Will and Work, as Truth doth teach,
From faithful Love, his genial Poet-sun,
He doth Man's duty, and rejoiceth when 'tis done.
He hath never walked among
The turmoiling silly throng,
Galling each his neighbour's heel,
Seeing nought but what they feel:
He ne'er wallowed with the press
In the mire of worldliness:
Never shrank from danger yet,
Never feared his fellow's threat:
Be it lord or be it king,
Scornful of each selfish thing,
One scope, and one alone, he deigns to scan
The Church of Christ, the commonwealth of Man.
Oh! well were such a mind
Worthy to sway Mankind,
If only they again
Were worthy subjects of such sovereign.
Alas! 'tis there
Hope darkens to Despair!
Tho' skilled the potter, and tho' clear the flame,
Yet, if the clay be coarse, the vessel is the same.
Strange as the music of the spheres
To clownish dulness of our ears,
Is that which the soul pours along
On the Poet's tide of song.
Hearts and ears are dead alike--
What new string were best to strike?
Oh, that art again were wild,
Oh that Man were now a child,
All enravelment undone,
Then were Hope, where now is none:
No, must fuse the bulk again
Else our toil is all in vain.
Melt each stubborn custom down,
Sword and mitre, seal and crown:
Till the mingled masses run
Altogether into one.
Till the dross be cleared away
From its deadening surface sway.
And what tho' his high hope
Should sink in darkness ere she reach her scope?
What tho' the upper air
Be all too thin his essence to upbear?
Then must he fall--
But shall he fail?
And all that he hath done, is all
Of no avail?
Oh believe not what they say:
Truth will live and find her way.
Thousand times hath she been cross'd;
Often miss'd, but never lost.
Yes, in her travail she may droop awhile,
But swift shall be her joy:
And sweetly shall she smile
Upon her new-born boy--
For that same Saviour must be born again--
And Christ revisit earth, thence evermore to reign.
"Beshrew me," said the host, entering then,
And gazing full on his guest's countenance,
"If I would fit Rebellion with a head
For this mad outbreak, head and heart of it,
Thou art the man--for thou hast fire in thee
To catch men's souls: thine eye glows as 'twould set
The world aflame: and when thou hast done that,
And made a hell of what was earth before,
That will be then thy heaven: but hold--read this--
'Tis from thy father; sage and scrupulous,
E'en as the man himself. That fire of thine
Prithee, whence hast thou it! Sure not from him.
That talk is liker truth that rumours thee
A foundling, what, didst never hear it? ah well--
It is but random work done in the dark
Where like begets not like. There look it o'er--
Haply thou can'st unriddle it. He asks
Of Linsingen, whether he hold with us,
Whom he affects--his wont of life--his haunts,
And whole behaviour: would have me keep
The man in daily ken. How? is he mad?
All this to me from him, who knows much more
Than I can guess--and then he styles him too--
What is it? Captain--Ensign Linsingen--
A calling was ne'er his--What, hath your sire
Sat on these thoughts so long and restlessly
Till he hath addled them? and memory
Is blurred and blunt with many clashing cross
Meanings, where one alone were clear enough?
Is it so? or is there something in all this
Of mystery, more than they can foot to the end
Who know not what's before?"
With a quick glance
Hermann o'erran that letter, "Here I see
More written than you told me even now,
My father counsels you to leave our league:
Guessing you like--Ah no! not like himself;
But like some others--ripe to fall away--
Ripe, aye, and rotten too--well, let them fall.
What think you of the counsel?"
"Thou hast asked
Freely, and freely I will answer thee.
I think, nay more, I mean--to follow it:
Taking the hint of a much wiser head
To save my own; nor, howe'er sworn, will I dare
More than man should: to send among the herd
Such spirit, as can but madden them, to rush
Adown the steep. Mischief like that, whoe'er
Else wills, I nill it." "Well, and if thou art
A coward by compulsion of cold blood
I quit thee; but a traitor is no need.
Beware then--for thou riskest thy own life,
Betraying ours." Carelessly, as he spoke,
So he rose too, without another word,
And from that bright warm ingle strode again
Into the night, unknowing whither next.
But soon a soul like his, so keenly set,
Cuts what no skill untwists. "Where lies the coast?"
Up to the stars he looked, and as he asked,
Straightway they answered him. "What, are ye, too,
Traitors? and dare ye then aid and abet
My traitorous self, pointing my pathway out?
Aye, but ye'll rue it: henceforth the justices
Most loyal, will proclaim ye a curfew-tide
To blout your lights. Else they'll withhold your due
Warrant; must shine no more." So desperate men
Their desperation wreathe with crazy mirth,
Myrtling the sword: and so on madman lips
Bubbles the foam--betokening wild work
That gares within. He stretched his stiffen'd arms,
A lunge or two--fastened his coat to the chin,
Then on with swelling breast and spirit as high
As that most dismal night were his bridal morn,
And he bound to the church. So a lone hour,
O'er hill and waste, morass, gully and moor,
He filled with those birth thoughts, dark hinted oft
Before and uncared, now more clear to him:
Welcomer yet than clear. Until at last
Nature began to seek her due of him,
For she would wait no longer. All the world
Beside, she held in her soft hold of sleep,
And outleave he hath none.
He flung him down
On a hill, midway between the nether damp
And the cold weathery ridge--his bosom books
Pillowed his head--the Bible--and next in worth,
The stoic Emperor's thoughts, and to relight
His spirit's glow, when fainting, with their own,
Milton's Defence, and Aeschylus--"Thou kind Earth,
Thou Mother Nature, whom I've loved so long,
At least I am no rebel against thee,
Thou'lt shelter me:" he said, and nestled there,
And slept, and dreamt--no idle dream--but strange
As the other circumstance of that wild sleep.
He saw a meteor, or what so seemed,
Shoot down the sky, greater as nearer it grew.
Till it stood before him, awful to behold,
An angel fresh from Heaven. "I come to thee,
Bringing the tidings of what God ordains,
And thou must do: forbear all question,
But hearken faithfully what truly I tell.
There are full many whom thou fain would'st see,
But go not near to them--and there are some
Thou hast ne'er known, whom God, a trusty guide
Shall lead thee. Go then, visit them assured,
And what the spirit prompts thee, speak that same.
For the rest, as He wills, so it will be done.
Take thou no thought of it." The angel spake
And vanished, but his presence left in the air
And the hearer's sense such a sweet influence.
That Hermann slumber'd on, a heavenly trance,
Was never sleep so sweet; and heavenly
E'en as that trance so was the freshness too
Wherein he rose from it, buoyant and light
As the mountain air--lusty of heart and hope,
Like yonder sun now risen brightly up
To light the living--in such spirit he rose
And prayed--"I thank thy goodness, Father and God,
In whom and by whose grace I am what I am,
For all thy blessings--chiefly for this sign
Thou hast vouchsafed me." A minute more, he stood
Upon the crest of that high beetling cliff
Sublime o'er boundless ocean. Such a look
As beggared all magnificence behind
Spread for the eye by Nature. There he stood
As a vassal, suddenly and in surprise
Encountering the front of majesty,
Speechless with awe, till thus his soul o'erflowed.
"A stately queen is Nature,
But e'en her mightiest stature
In wood and wild is dwarfed by thee
Thou endless wonder, thou huge Sea!
Yes, shamed by thy old hoary
Dominion is Earth's glory.
I seemed erewhile a man of might--
But now--I'm nothing in thy sight.
And lo! thy foam is flashing,
And thy huge billows dashing:
And yet art thou, the vast, the wild,
To thy stern Father a meek child.
Thou seek'st not to be greater
Than Him--than thy Creator.
But I, a weak and helpless thing,
Will know no law and own no king.
I call thee--but thou carest
Nought of the voice thou hearest.
I may not bend thee to my will,
Yet would I rule a fiercer still.
Yes thou inhuman ocean
Fiercer than thy commotion,
And wilder and more hard to tame
Is that folk-sea, that flood of flame.
Who fares that sea must rue it
And yet I would subdue it
That lawless one, so fierce and strong,
And what I would I will ere long.
But thou--thou dost inherit
A free and mighty spirit
Untired, untainted, to the end.
Wilt burst thy bounds and be my friend?
Man's lordship was ne'er o'er thee,
Therefore I kneel before thee.
Come, as of yore, come flooding in,
We two will purge this world of sin!
Alas! thy high-sould seeming
Is but fond Fancy's dreaming;
Roll and roar on--thou'rt no ally
Old Ocean, for such things as I.
And yet, how fair thy level deep communion!
So might we frame Mankind to Christian union--
Yes--up and onward--to make Man as free
As thou hast ever been, thou glorious Sea!"
He spake, and mused awhile; then merrily
Adown the hill, toward the fisher huts,
There by the coast: when, as the level he reached,
He came to a slight path crossing his line
Eastward and west--'twas strange to him: but yet
Some power that he knew not whence it was,
O'erruled him from his purpose to go on
And turned him thither aside. He followed it,
Unwittingly, but yet undoubting too,
As in a dream: till he beheld a house
Of fanciful adornment, airy and light,
New-fangling our forefathers' Gothic old
Earnestness, mighty arch, tower, battlement
With tinsel trickery; laceman's mimicry,
Stone-shamming, mud-built frippery--that house
Gave him the hint and token what to say,
For he bethought him who its inmates were;
He cross'd the threshhold: "Edward Linsingen,"
After some courteous preface, thus he spake
To her who came to meet him from within,
Young, fair, but for her frailty's forfeiture,
Is of this household?
"Yes, Sir," a deep blush
Vouching her words, "what would'st thou toward him?"
"I would--well--I'm his friend, no truer one--
And thine no less--for thy faith's sake to him.
Now listen, for my counsel imports both--
Both him and thee: he was betrothed years back
Thou know'st it and her too--his kindred now
Would have him marry her. Yes, painful it is
And pitiful; but who would heal a wound
Must handle it first. Now would'st thou ward away
This deadly mischief from thy heart and home,
(As, doubtless, thou art earnest in that will)
I'll show thee means: how to keep all as sure
Thy hope, thy love, all thy whole life in him,
As else thou'lt lose it. We've an enterprise
Myself and other thousands of my mind,
Which if he undertake his share of it
He's barred forthwith, wholly, relentlessly,
From his kindred--meeting nor e'en message more--
From all but thee--and then--" She gazed on him
Looking her eager soul forth in her gaze,
Till tears suffused her sight: then what she felt
Sudden she broke his speech with it, her sobs
Struggling against her words. "Oh Sir, a friend--
None e'er comes now to cheer my loneliness--
Thy kindness--shown so seldom--is kinder felt.
Yet must I tell thee, I deserve it not.
For, Sir, 'tis true, I've walked in perilous ways,
Till what was peril is guilt: and yet, methinks,
If sufferance may atone for our past sins,
More than I've sinned I've suffered. Many are they
Who scorn me--my friends once; cousins--and oh,
'Tis sad to utter it, my sisters too--
Bear it I must from them, but how from him?
No--not from him. Yes, Sir, of those I know,
One only loves me--and think, Sir, what I were
Should that one leave me to their hate and scorn,
Outcast. No, I would die--better before
Than after--but thy words--there is yet hope--
For he's a loving heart--fond as my own--
And no less true--then tell me, Sir, tell all,
And doubt me not, lest I should shrink from it.
Forgive me, I've a heart, and feelings long
Unwonted--now, befriended once again--
Burst forth--for thou dost speak as one who hath
A gentle heart to feel for me, instead
Of a bitter tongue to make me feel myself.
Then tell me, for thus lingering--" What she would
Further than this, she uttered it in tears.
(After a few more hopeful hints from him)
Of purest passion: but they flowed not long:
Soon was her anguish comforted to joy,
For what he told; how that her lover e'en now
(As Zimmermann had made it manifest)
Stood in misprision, with unfriendly eyes
Watching him: wherefore boldest play was like
To be his best, and onward, safer and sage
Than to fall back. This and much tidings more
All to one end, awakening love by turns,
And fear, she heard and did embosom it,
Glad rapture; for when two desires would rush
With warm encounter, each in the other's arms,
Needs not much argument to drive them on,
Their meeting is soon made. They were agreed,
Ere their agreement could be said in words,
By their commutual will. Strangers they met,
And parted in full trust, as inmost friends.

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Capel Lofft