Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book X

Capel Lofft

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Religion, they who deem thee God's own grace
Hallowing Man to holy happiness,
Deem thee aright: thou art indeed no less.
For like the earth he lives on, so Man's life
Needs both co-active and expansive power,
To keep due course. Law, to curb Nature's lust,
Lest it break loose in wild self-will; and Love
To speed his soul thro' its wide godly range
Of grace: for Love is godliness, and thou'rt
The channel that holds, guides and speeds his spirit,
Else stagnant; but when so straightened, forthright
Streaming--yet some reckon thy heavenly worth
Alone, and wholly miss thy earthly one;
As God's word only, not His work, were thine.
But art thou then unfit for worldly wont
Since hallowed above self? Should holiness
Live coldly aloof? That is worse heresy
Than ever fed the flames: it cuts thy root,
That thou must die and be a barren stock,
Or like a taper o'er the shrouded monk
Burn but to waste. Nay, but 'tis false, as sure
As being true, it were a deadly truth,
For what are Prayer, and Fast, and godly Faith,
But several functions to one end; Man's good?
Fulfilled, not by themselves, but by the spirit
Born of them, the self-spending will for work.
For the Creator's glory is not His own
Praise, but His creatures' happiness; the strain
Of hymns and harps toward Heaven, falls sadly short;
And Creed, without Love, is not then belief.
But from communion with his Father, Man
Yearns toward his brethren in true godliness,
In earnest faith--
That Faith is the soul's sight:
And that same sight God hath vouchsafed it us
As in the body, so in the soul too,
Not to turn back upon the Giver His gift,
In still rapt gaze beholding Him, but search
And find, how the good means bestowed by Him
May reach good ends; for Faith is no dull pool
Reflecting Heaven, yet feeling not its Grace;
But most like blood, a sprightly helpful thing,
Cheerful and warm, with all enlivening Love,
Speeding a thousand ways to a thousand ends;
Ever in exercise, yet confess'd more
By duty done, than by profession shown.
He were a madman, who should redden his cheeks
And deem it blood: yet that were all as wise,
As whoso doth some solemn services
And calls it his religion. Aye, 'tis the name--
But, prithee, say, why so superfluous
To give that name, where, save the name itself,
Is nothing? Oh! but we are fooled by our ears
Against the wisdom and witness of our eyes:
And a high-sounding word fills many a gap
Where deeds should be: and such a word art thou,
Religion, as knaves utter, and fools think
To understand thee; but the truthful thing
Which that same word so oft doth counterfeit,
'Tis not as many deem, a shadowy nun,
Unknowing of the world, cloyster'd away
To lonely prayer, and pale contemplative
Sad twilight, cheerless of the genial sun;
Growing from gloom to night, a death-like life:
But rather, a quick stirring quality,
Likest to fire; which is not fire indeed,
Unless it light and warm, enliven and cheer
All things around it. Patriot zeal, 'bove all.
Shame that from this high call thy fainter sons
Shrink, self-distrustful.
'Tis a fresh soul breathed
In the old man, so thoro', as henceforth
He feels in darkest danger and distress
The presence and protection of his God,
And in that strength is strangely confident
'Gainst all the world. Would'st thou then take on thee
High enterprise, daring and dangerous,
Be thou religious. Trustfully look up
And boldly down: believing evermore
In Truth, as the helmsman doth in the Pole-star,
And steering thy life-track from thy belief;
So shalt thou turn thy brow to adamant
Against thy gainsayers. Nor doubt, nor dread,
But doing all as from the bidding of God.
"Go, do it." Our greatness is but in our great
Fatherhood, sprung from Heaven--Nature to Grace,
Man unto God, must be regenerate,
Then from his little self, the worm he was,
Shall feel a sudden strength to wield the whole world
Within him, and rise o'er the world without.
Then as the heaven is high above the earth,
So shall his glowing Faith surmount his fear,
Till the hugest fear show faint as a far cloud.
And the most stormy blast Danger can blow,
He will lay bare his head, open his breast,
To brace his nerves by its breath, "Danger, come on--
Thou threatenest sharply, but must soon flit o'er,
A bitter wind, yet welcome--for thou driv'st
The clouds, and bid'st the man bestir himself,
Girding the tighter his loins. Storm on, I'll strive
In silence stern against thee."
Such strong tower
Is the Lord's faith, and such, invoking it,
Was the spirit that possess'd young Hermann's soul,
Transnatured, not to be of earth no more.
And in that spirit did he feel more strength
Than twenty thousand men could give to him.
He started up from sleep, as the sun looked
In at his window, wakeful unto work,
Upstarted, but to wilder consciousness
From wildness of his dreams. "Is it I am here,
Or do I dream the man, Hermann by name,
And I another--nay, thou'rt he--but how?
Some few days back a mild shepherd of souls
And now a Rebel--headstrong and headlong--
Awful to speak it--and to undertake--
Must change my thoughtful self into a rash
Blaze of foolhardiness. What I essay
Is harder than e'er man, a million-fold.
But have I million'd in myself the means
Of other traitors? To the proof, can I strike
Yon mountain from its stand with my clenched fist?
Wield that old oak for a spear? or by behest
Of wizard power beswarm the moor with men,
Each bush to be a soldier? Can I this?
Aye and much more: the harder, the hopefuller.
Welcome each cross! may kill me, not my cause.
Come whate'er may, I'll meet it in God's name,
And by God's strength."
Forth from his bed he sprang
As he was wont, with a swift sudden spring,
And washed him, the whole man, from head to foot,
Quickening all his blood into a glow
By the healthy water flush--then to his host:
Whose downward step he heard awhile before
For early household work. "No, all I need
Is an oaten cake and porringer of milk.
This time unwillingly waste on meals--
Or talk--the deed's the word: now is night by,
The sun is up--that sun betokens our own
Forelighting us: our day's at hand; our fire
Yearns forth--and soon this land, late but a huge
Lazy unwieldiness shall blaze with it.
Well, we've the start of them, we're stirred betimes,
And early is half-done. Only 'twere well
We follow what's before us with like speed.
Therefore must sow surmise in the folk's ear
By friendly tongues: scatter intelligence
Not full, but sparks for tinder. Stir their souls
That they be watchful, ready to take arms,
For faith, this lightning time betides no less,
Swifter than e'er our fishermen took oars
When a shoal is shouted. E'en as the course goes,
So further it. For, raise but once our own
District, the whole land flashes to a blaze,
Such as shall draw the popular wild breath
With roaring draft to sweep it on. Then shout
Our strongest--they will answer, thunder-like,
Peal upon peal, with rolling, crashing roar
Thro' yonder mountains: but time's scant; I go."
He gave his hand, the shepherd earnestly
Grasped it, as so with his good angel handfast,
And looking a yet kinder speech than his words,
"Aye, Sir, be sure, I'll back you thro' and thro'
Far as my life will reach. As the old man spake,
The tear, quick glistening, stood on Hermann's eye,
That answer his affection wrang from him,
He gave none else; but striding forth, breathed in
Eagerly that cool highland healthfulness;
Looked on the landscape round, bright, beauteous, calm,
Till summer had suffused his soul; and like
The giant son of earth he felt new life
From Nature's kind communion: then o'er the hill;
Brushing his dewy way thro' tangled grass
And goss: thence downward, where a thin mist-curl
Hovering, marked the windings of a brook,
Itself unseen: a minute more--he stood
Upon its bank: musing his early years:
For he looked on it with congenial love;
So often in that stream his thirsty chance
Had he slaked, and plunged its pools. He paused, for it poured
Over, not gliding smoothly, as heretofore,
But breaking wide, big with the night's rain storm,
Swollen outrageously. He paused and thought:
"My pretty rivulet, whither away
So rashly? thou dost o'erflow with foam
As thou wert mad--is it in truant play,
Or of some wild ambition thou dost roam?
Surely I have a project thou wilt say;
Nay--hold thee--thou'rt best, channell'd in thy home:
There happiest if only feeling so--
For this thy birthland feeds thee from her breast,
Motherly, from her springs and hills of snow;
And in full many neighbouring homes thou'rt blest--
Why then this flooding curse? let the flocks go
Freely to drink of thee as they like best.
But thou'rt an idle overweening thing--
Must be more than thyself--and thy proud thought
Hath puffed thee up, fondly imagining,
Not to content thee, working as thou'st wrought;
And that same storm of yesterevening
Hath swollen thy pride full; yet a day's drought,
And thou wilt shrink to thy poor self again.
But, prithee, tell me, what dost hope to win
Of worthy profit from thy wasteful pain?
Why overflow with peril, hate, and sin?
Nay, keep thy course, and blend thee with God's main.
Thou know'st the evil end, wilt yet begin?
Yes, rashling, for thou'rt proud. I pity thee
For thy pride's sake. Yet haply 'tis not so:
And thou art swollen, only to hinder me
From yonder path of danger that I go:
I thank thee much, but there's a destiny
Rules me above, and I must serve below--
Yes--thou and I are fellows in like fate,
And there's a doom driveth us ceaselessly,
That we may never bide in even state.
Well, be it so, and forward fearlessly;
But thou in thy safe bed, my happier mate,
While I, through shoals and rocks, to my storm-sea."
He staid not, peering, to pick carefully
His passage o'er the stones, huge, but smooth-worn,
That some kind soul, whom Heaven requite again,
Had set them there, instead of a bridge-way,
But rushed into the roaring foaming stream,
E'en thro' its darkest depth. "As I stand now,
No time to tamper nicely with my means,
But boldly on to the end." He scrambled up,
So minded, as who plunges headlong in,
And must screw on his utmost heart and strength
To struggle thro'. His dripping clothes chilled not,
Nay, but refreshed him; quickly dried with the wind
And his warm blood: e'en ere he reached that door,
Was shut for him last eve; but haply now
May welcome him--such message overnight
Had Hess besought him.
He looked round, and all
Was summer-sweetness, fresh as the dawn-dew,
That e'en the smoke seem'd to rise cheerily
Above the glistening thatch: and from their hives
Ranged trimly, southward, the bees, to and fro,
Made merry music. There was jessamine
And mingled roses arbouring the porch;
And in the little garden many flowers
And yet more fruit: glad sight for a glad heart,
But not for his. He turned and raised his hand
Heavily, and knocked heavily on the door,
And he was answered with so heavy a clang
As all were empty and death-cold within,
That his heart sank to hear it: as he knocked,
So did that watchful granddame of the house
Steal from an upper window her shrewd glance,
Wrapt her cloak round, muffled her headgear on,
And straight was hurrying down; but that her son,
Raised by the same alarm, encountered her,
And asked her of that early visitor,
Who he might be. Then at young Hermann's name,
As in shrill peevishness she uttered it,
He stayed her hurry with mild voice and hand,
Himself to give him audience.
"Welcome, Sir,
Most welcome to our house and household too,
Last night I looked for thee--" So said the host,
And his wan guest being seated, thus again:
"You know me, my young friend, you know us all.
You know how our affection holds thee dear,
As the dearest claim of kin: the proof of this
'Tis not words only--our hearts, both alike,
Affirm the faith of it--so much for us--
Now for my daughter--She is maidenly,
Gracious and pitiful, lovely and fair:
And they who see but the outward mood of her
Rate her but so: a low unworthy rate.
I need not tell thee, conscious so thyself;
Whether of my forepattern or God's will,
I may not surely say--but there she is--
A soul so inly glowing for our cause
With heat so thoro' and withal so high
As cares for that one thing--nought else in the world,
To see it thro'--and frankly as the child,
So is the father too--vouch me this truth;
For none is so well ware of its as thou:
That I am self-devoted, man and means,
I and all mine, all that I have or hope,
My life and daughter, and everlasting soul,
To this high trial. Now then, in few words:
When I disclosed it to thee awhile since
Thou did'st shrink from it, as it seemed to me;
Or else thy words were of so faint a breath
As fits not our strong fiery fellowship;
Lest what some utter other weaklings feel,
Catching the sick contagion. From that time
The hope I had of thee, fairly to fling
Thy fortunes in among us, was no more:
Therefore when Linsingen outspoke himself
For better or for worse, to be our friend,
If Lucy on that pledge would be his wife;
I made his suit my own--waived thee away--
And all the love I bore thee--all that a sire
Can bear a son, I did surrender it
To another love, yet higher than that one,
The zeal of Christ, my country, and mankind;
And so then faith is plighted on both sides,
And she his helpmate, and he truly ours,
Aye and our leader--for I yielded him,
Nay, not to him but to our need of him,
My headship, hope and all; yielded it up
Freely, as life, when wanted, will I too.
Now if thou'rt wronged in this, why thou art wronged--
And I am the wrongdoer--hold me such--
My conscience quits me, an' if thou condemn:
Only misdeem me not, that selfishness
Or aught unmanly or unworthy swayed me
In this my sacrifice: for 'tis no less:
And what I've done, much gladder would undo,
Since thou art proven of late--having fulfilled
Thy undertaking far beyond thy word:
As lofty minds are wont. It grieves me sore
That thus thy merit should fall short of its meed;
Yet can I offer thee no guerdon more
Than thy own conscience hath assured to thee,
Nor no more needs; high-minded as thou art.
Howe'er, 'tis done, and regret looseth not
The bond, that haste, our need, and ill-luck too
Have tied threefold."
"Sir, 'tis a grievous thing,"
Hermann in faltering utterance answered him:
"To lose what we have cherished earnestly
Is sad in things of lesser dignity:
Much more in this; that once filled my whole heart,
Now waste: 'tis sad, but wrongful--not at all.
No wrongs do I bewail me, nor feel none:
And what must be, I undertake to bear
As a man should: therefore my former love
Is so foregone to me as a fond dream,
Happy, but hopeless, if forgotten e'en so.
But on that other ground, for furtherance
Of Right and Freedom, our fellowship was built:
That ground stands strongly yet, as heretofore,
And there I make my stay. Sir, it may be,
The love by me so cherished, and as I hoped,
Not wholly to your daughter unendeared,
Might well have been a cheering light to me
Along that perilous path, but light or dark,
The path stands open, and I will follow it,
With the like faith if not with the like cheer.
And Sir, that Linsingen hath this new spur
I think it well befallen. He is rich
And noble; and much I feared lest by those two
Dull drawbacks hinderance, he should become
Laggarder in our cause than forwarder.
But now 'tis well. Sir, there's one thing I'd ask:
To see your daughter: and so hear from her
What I have good assurance from your lips,
But yet would fain from hers."
"'Tis fairly asked,
Wait but her coming." He went, Hermann alone
Remained--'twas a short time, but wide enough
For thousand wishful thoughts to crowd between
Confounded wildly in one; thronging like motes,
Tho' sunless: aimless too. Then all was still
Save the unruly beating of his heart
That broke the stillness--soon another sound
That none might hear save those who listen'd it,
A quick light step, then a soft hand, yet strong,
Upon the door, and gliding thro' the room
A youthful phantom of pale loveliness,
Lovely tho' pale. Thence the more marble-like
Was her stern feature, and thin bloodless lips,
And deep set eyes. She moved as in a dream
For her old love came surging from her heart
And with its deep sorrow enveloped her
As with a cloud. She stood, and had sunk there
Ere she could speak: but Hermann hastily
Uprose, and took her hand and seated her,
In deep heart-anguish drooping speechlessly,
That so she might again gather her mind
From that distress--sadly he gazed on her,
Then broke the sad pause, "Lucy, look on me
And speak, but one word--sure we may be friends.
Such severance hath no likelihood of hate,
But pity--speak to me, and let me hear,
That this dark gulf but sets our friendship apart,
No angry distance. Nay, but weep not so--
Thy grief embitters mine. Oh! answer me--
Only a word--"
"Answer thee! yes, indeed--
But what to say? forgive me--nothing more--
Forgive me now as thou didst love me once,
Wholly--so haply shall my pain be less.
But no--that I deserve not--nor dare hope--
Only forgive me."
"Lucy, 'tis too much--
Wherefore forgive--no promise and no pledge
E'er bound us, such as broken, had been blame;
Only a dream of hope--no, what thou'st done,
I do commend it for a high-souled deed;
But if thou lovest more the other word,
Then do I tell thee I forgive it all,
Freely as we forgive our dearest friends
When seeking our best good. Nay, mark me this--
Had I such hope and earnest, I myself,
I'd done no less. Lucy, I loved thee much--
Truly thou knowest, and no less faithfully
I feel it--yet in patriot eagerness
I had spent a hundred thousand loves like thine
To win but one such man as thou hast gained
On our behalf in lordly Linsingen:
So, prithee, be content."
"Nay, what thou say'st,"
The maiden answered him with streaming tears,
"It shows thy spirit's greatness greater yet,
And my sad trial sadder than before--
Oh wert thou but my brother! how bless'd then!
How dearly--"
"Lucy, deem it even so:
I am thy brother--we're twin-born in soul,
What would we more? only be thou indeed
My own true sister in this enterprise,
So shalt thou have not only a husband's love
With stately wealth 'bove all I could for thee,
But a brother's also. Yes, and by my faith,
A sister's name is sweeter of the two,
Soother and lovelier--less of earth in it,
And more of heaven. Lucy, 'tis God's grace;
And, for I deem it so, thy forehead I kiss
For a most holy and baptismal sign
That thou art sister'd to me. Ah! 'tis good--
Never was I a brother yet before,
And now I feel the spirit in my heart
Like a winged angel--only do thou too
Hold this heart-faith and cherish it--for now
I leave--a longer stay might not beseem;
Farewell--but yet one word--haply thou knowest
There is a band of soldiers here hard by
In Salzberg--soldiers, but yet men no less:
And not mere stocks for muskets as some are.
There hath been some good seed among those men,
And it hath taken root. Now in that force
Young Edward Linsingen doth hold a charge:
Their standard-bearer--what I know of him,
I'd give this right arm he were one of us;
For he's a high-tried metal, might help well
Our hottest work: now Lucy for my sake,
And yours, and Linsingen's, and the good cause,
While yet your husband's love holds its first heat,
Do thou ennoble it, worthy himself,
From passionate to patriot--to stir up
His brother, and work thro' him on those men
To join hands with us, e'en as their hearts are.
Wilt thou do this, the train were fired, the end
Begun--our hope--their downfal. I say, wilt?
For sure the power waits upon thy will:
And never did a woman's will before
Wield a like power to this. Hast thou a soul
Too look beyond thine eyes what shall be done
In after years? Oh thou'll be glorified
So high, that she of Orleans, the French maid,
Shall be but a drab-wench, what she first was,
By thy comparison. Yield us thus much,
I do beseech thee, and so bless us all:
Or rather, yield thine own good spirit its way
'Tis a brave guide.--Then, Lucy, shall I know
What even now I trust thee, that thou'rt true:
And leavest me, not wholly unbeloved,
But for thy country's safe. Oh think of it--
And may the deed--the shot--flash from the thought--
Lest some cross chance marr all. And now I go,
Give me--no, not thy love--thy blessing hence.
Thy own true brother." He kiss'd her and away,
And she was left in a deep loneliness:
And many thoughts came o'er her cloudily,
Till at the last they fell into this frame:--
Did I behold him
And truly was it he--
All I told him
And all he answered me?
No--for in my blindness
I did him a foul wrong--
Sure such words of kindness
Could ne'er be from his tongue.
Ah! thou art parted
Wilt never turn again:
Here, lone-hearted:
Here must I remain.
Were I only
A reckless soldier lad!
But thus lonely!
Better I were mad.
Then were anguish
Lost in stormy strife,
Now I languish
A despairing life.
Oh! it doth grieve me!
Thou visitest me so,
Only to leave me
Deeper in my woe.
While thou art present,
All that we dreamt of yore,
Lovely and pleasant,
I dream it all once more.
Then that home-vision
A very tru h doth seem;
Then my ambition
Shows like a foolish dream.
Yes--its high glimmer
More distant doth appear;
Fainter and dimmer
Whenever thou art near.
There a star lone gleaming
That lights no home on earth:
Here a blaze warm beaming
From our bright household hearth.
Alas! fond hearts are riven
By anger and by scorn:
But so to be forgiven
Is harder to be borne.
Yet no--thou'rt vanished--
And my girl-weakness too
Hence be it banished--
Lo! here I rise anew.
Gone is thy loved feature--
But others I see there--
Many a grim stature
All armed around thy chair.
Or, is but a vision
So troubles my poor brain?
No more--this knife--it cuts the knot--decision,
Thus am I thine again!
She cut unmaidenly that silken thread
And rose; and as she rose, her mother came
To comfort her--but what we bear in hand
We may not always lay it on the heart.
No, 'tis the mood within that makes it balm,
Or gall and nettles. Lucy started up,
Hearing the door ahinge; lest some strange soul
In a familiar form should come to ask
Merciless questions in another tone
Than she must answer them. Who feels with us,
He is our friend, father and mother too,
In heart-affliction: and all else soe'er,
Tho' 'twere all kith and kindred met in one,
Are cold as nether clay: yet lovingly
Her mother greeted, and kindly spoke to her:
But 'tis the season brings the flower forth,
The season and conspiring elements,
And not one sun-beam only--
"Lucy, he's gone--
He and thy father parted with kind words:
And they're agreed to meet this day at the fair
In Markstein: so our friendship abides whole:
And faster than before--more than so much
Were all too dangerous. Yes, I grieve for him
Deeply as thou, if not so bitterly:
For he's a goodly youth: nor even then,
When most I doubted did I deem him less.
I'll take him to my heart, call him my son,
As long I've loved him--yes, loved him so much,
That 'twere my death, beholding both in one
Both thee and him bound in so crazy a boat
As every wave may wreck it. Ye are all hope
Ye younger hearts, and we as wholly fear:
And 'tis my fearfulness of love speaks now.
But, for this sorrow none could then foreknow,
I did, what yet I may undo. I'll send
To Linsingen--I asked him for this night--
To stay him." "No, oh no! I'll welcome him
All that I can; only somewhile alone
Leave me, oh, leave me: ere his time to come,
I shall be ready."
Thus as they discoursed,
Hermann was far away, far o'er the hills
Whither Hope lured, and Danger drove his speed
Hounding him at the heels. As the aged hind
In some wide woodland range, Windsor, or the old
Conqueror's antler'd waste, listens the storm
Shivering in his hut thro' the howling night;
Then forth at break of day glad of his fallen
Fuel for winter fire, gathering in
The wind-strown wrack, and binding to a heap
What he found thinly scatter'd wide away,
Wandering the uncouth wild; so Hermann fared:
Scouring the hills for catchwood far and near
To kindle; and for stout stuff, hearts of oak,
To hold the blaze.
They were as like to burn
As he to fire them; a strong brotherhood,
True Gospellers, so called, and so they were,
Where every man was zealous, not alone
With his own zeal, but with the fervency
Of the whole host. They had been banded long
But wisely: therefore by the lords of the land
They were deemed only what they seemed to be
Preachers austere and godly listeners:
Aiming at Heaven; and for this Earth's estate
How it were ruled, little regarding it,
Nor caring to upstir. Thus while they grew
Few watched their growth; none feared it: confidence,
Thou'rt a good striker, but the sword saves not
Without the shield.
And so this brotherhood waxed,
Spreading o'er all the region round about,
Like a fresh fame: that whate'er working-man
Belonged not to them, lived as one plague-sick,
So shunned and evil-eyed. They'd a good cause;
But goodness in this world is likely lost,
As in Missouri's mud the Clearwater.
And so with worldly wisdom's coarser means
They worked to their true ends. No likelier cry
Than of Religion to cry down a State
When rotten: Treason is a fiery sword,
And needs a fiery mood to handle it;
A most enthusiastic eager mood:
And this enthusiasm is a blaze
That feeds on its own smoke--strangely kept up,
If, tho' we starve it of all bodily food,
We diet it with vapours. Who sees clear,
He is no zealot. Light outdoes for him
Those shadowy dim shapes: but where none knows
And each man may believe whate'er he list,
There is the enthusiast the king. Then hail
Religion, nursing-mother of that fire
Shall blaze, like withered tow, our bonds.
Those men
So minded, like stern Cromwell's rugged saints,
Had ever in their mouth the praise of God,
And now war-weapons in their sinewy hands
To execute sharp vengeance: to smite kings
To the ground, and, smitten, bind them fast in chains,
Them and their lordlings too. But, ere they built
Their frame so loftily, they settled first
Their groundwork; broad and deep, tho' without show
In the folk's depth--boldly yet warily
They wrought; with friendly, godly fellowships,
Meetings for furtherance of mind and soul
Thro' teachers, bibles, tracts: covering withal
Far other drift, unsaid, yet understood.
Swift stirring, as tho' lightning were life-power
And slackness death to them. So surely it is.
Moorage nor anchorage Rebellion hath none,
Nor haven--must keep course, tide, wind, or steam,
Else stranded. 'Tis the forward throng, the glow,
The shout that draws--not rabble straw and trash
Alone, but worthier wills--the shallowest stream
Quick-glancing, with its wimmer and rash play
Catches the eye more than the deepest pool.
So briskly thro' their body coursed the blood
In many a warm vein; and lest the head
O'erstrained, sicken the heart, and youth, droop faintly
In pale chill learning 'neath the teacher's shade,
Befitting old world-worship and priestwont,
Rather than forward Will; therefore with games
(Meaning much more than gamesomeness alone)
Of force or skill, ball, cudgel, marksmanship,
They strengthened each strong limb and lusty will.
Nor lacked they emissary means, between
The main and its far members, nor discourse
To quicken zeal with words, and shrewdly sift
State things--then songs and music, such as stir
The patriot spirit; earnest newspapers
Whence fame should blow her trumpet blast abroad,
Tidings and teachings, what they breathed in it.
Shadows and seemings these--but oft their show
Works stronger than all substance, shot or steel;
For spirit alone is matter. Tribute too
They had, paid duer, tho' self-taxed, than Law
Can wring from sullen bondsmen--so their life
With thoro' will and conscious fellowship
Glowed warm--one frame, one trust, ordered thro'out,
And organized. Thus strong their sum--the State
Must heed it well, or risk their staggering shock,
And if luck help them, utter overthrow.
Such was the brotherhood, holy at first
Then rebel; but rebellion against man
Is oft loyal to God--and such the hope
And eager meaning of that thronging crowd
Highway and byway toward Markstein fair,
A throng but yet no tumult--steady and stern,
E'en as their purpose was: for the fame ran,
A gossamer fame, floating everywhere,
Whence none could tell, that something should be done
That day so signal, and so deeply stamped,
Should overlive the records of yon rocks,
Aye, and the rocks too. The soothsayer's word
Sometimes fulfils itself--the fabled power
With breath to beget body, is none but his.
Faith, if these men, here at the festal fair
Bear them so dourly, how when battle meets
Edge against edge? what then their likelihood?
Such thunder-cloud and lightning never friend
Of mine encounter it.
But, is this land
Harried by war, and the boors hurrying forth,
That so each road is full as a high-tide,
One stream speeding one way? no, not yet war--
But soon may be. 'Tis noon--fairtime and ground--
They meet as did their merry forefathers,
And sure 'tis a full muster--all around
The country is unpeopled, that yon moor
May swarm with a strange life. There are they met
In that soft combe, widening 'twixt rough crag-walls;
And there is all custom traditional,
Caravans, booths, and shows, and antic games,
But no man heeding them. Is mirth clean gone,
Laughter lost from the land? Is eagerness
Of curious presentation and strange sight
Outjostled from Man's mind? 'twere hard to say;
But all things here betoken it e'en so:
For where fair-folks should wonder at his show,
The show-man, all forlorn himself, comes forth,
Wondering what spell kept back the muttering throng
Outside his booth. Whoever then should say
That fun and frolic were dead suddenly,
And gamesomeness frowned down on the boor's brow,
There was enough to warrant what he said,
In what all eyes might see. Considerate groups,
Speakers most earnest, and staid listeners,
Brows downward bent in cloudy seriousness,
Instead of careless gay festivity,
As then beseemed them. Is it the world's end,
Or other awful looming prophecy,
They look to see fulfilled--a funeral fair--
Yes sure--with death to many.
Whate'er 'tis,
There is no need conjecture task herself:
Here comes the proof--far on the utmost edge
Of that dark moor, an uproar seethes and swells,
From scouting boys, in fearful skurry wild,
Like some mad shallow torrent foaming in
At corner of a lake--such sudden stir
'Stead of its own deep calm. Who had vantage ground
Looked thither, whence the growing danger came;
And what they saw, interpreted the sight
To those whose tip-toe strained bewilderment
Might not avail to give them their eyes' use.
"Ah! 'tis the yeomanry--yes--sure enough--
See there--and those scared urchins--and men too--
Shame on the runaways. Why against us
Those few score loons are spray against the rock:
Ah, look--they've made a stand--'tis manly done.
Face but about and keep the horsemen off--
Aye--so--they're stopp'd outright--can do no more
Than sheep at a stone-wall--but now--what next--
Why, they're at parley. Ah! 'tis but lost words--
Likely would have our rebel ringleaders
Giv'n o'er to them--to die, I warrant ye.
No, as one fares, so will we all--like work,
Like wage--no odds in fellowship."
So spake
Some high outlooker to the throng around,
But suddenly, speakers and hearers, both
Confounded, were borne off by the eager rush
Thither upstreaming, where, as seemed most like
Blows should be bandied--rabble-like along,
Coward and bold, in outward drift alike,
For how should a poor water-drop fall back
Against the ocean tide? So the foremost
Where hustled blindly by their followers
'Mong the angry horsemen, struggling helplessly
As scattered wreck 'mid rocks. Such strife is cloud-
Born, who begat it, who knows? nor matters much,
When once two flaming brands are laid across
Which catches first the other. Those armed men,
Their ranks so broken, and their horses scared;
First loudly threatening, next with flat swords,
Or with blunt stroke thrust the intruder back:
Thence anger and fierce words, stones flung, arms raised;
'Til last, as gushed the blood forth from a wound
Of yeoman sabre, swift upon the stroke
As thunder upon lightning, a gun-shot
Crashed through the striker's forehead.
"Aye, tis done--
Now is no faltering for us," cried Ernst,
Bellowing o'er the uproar--"blood for blood,
And life for life--so will their watchword be,
And so must ours. Smite them with the sword's edge
The Philistines, the bloody Amalekites,
Whom whoso spares to slay, sins against God.
The murderous gang, they come to trample us
Beneath their horses' heels, widow our wives--
Well then--our life 'gainst theirs. Yon crag henceforth--
The blood-rock shall men call it. Up, friends up,
Requite them in God's name. Spare no soul home
To tell his comrades slain; smite, I say, smite--
Upon them boldly, as ye see me do,
E'en so yourselves the like." Ere he had said,
He was already 'mong his foes amidst
Hewing to right and left with an old broadsword,
Laid up since many years: till, on this day,
The crimson flowing blood dimmed the red rust
Was erst upon it. From so grim onslaught
Fearfully they fell back, those yeomanry,
From danger glaring on them, as cur-dogs
When a tiger bursts his den: so did they flee
Not so to 'scape: they looked for stones and staves
Clownish, all weaponless of other war,
Which they who wield them against steel and shot
Are but sheep against wolves--for such they looked,
And what they saw, needed no second sight,
That one sufficed to curdle their hearts' blood.
"Woe, woe, we thought no danger, and here we are
Far from our wives and from our merry hearths
In such a whirl of hell." Those wrathful men
Were in with them, as hewers among wood,
Striking as pitiless--flashed in the air
A hundred guns from 'neath the gray frieze coats
And hissed a hundred shots--yet faintly heard
Amid the cursed uproar and fierce shouts
Drowning all else: then, who had space to flee
Turned each his horse, and with loose rein away
Where outlet was. The rest a wildered throng,
Horses and men, rearing, plunging amain,
Striking or shouting, or dashing down aground;
And there beseeching with their latest breath
Mercy, which asked of God, were their last prayer
Best spent, of Man all hopeless. Oh, that field,
Was such a one devils might look upon
And for their fellows take a lesson away
From Christian proof, of hate fiercer than Hell.
Only there lacked more fuel for that fire
To hold its pitch. Blood-thirstiness was blanked
Ere slaked with slaughter. For the latest feat,
When all resistance else was smitten down,
Christopher Ernst, as 'gainst a dying man
Stretched on the turf aback, he upheaved his sword,
Raging for blood in its hot sympathy
With the hand that held it, sudden his stroke failed.
And his brains, spatter'd by a pistol shot
Sprinkled that trooper; whom the film of death
Had not bedimmed his certainty of eye,
Ere he took aim. "And so doth wrath, o'erstrained,"
Said Hermann, gazing sadly on the corse,
"Foredo itself. And where is thy fire now,
Thou chilly lump of clay? oh, where indeed?
Grant Heaven, as sure it hath gone forth from thee,
And this thy hand is cold, we may be heirs
To what was best of it--thou had'st enough
Were we ten times the number that we are,
To blaze us like dry stubble--but needs not.
Thou'st done thy work already."
Musing thus,
More and more hotly the crowd thronged on him;
Doubting the bloody deeds they heard far off,
Till they could see it. "Hear me, my good friends,"
Said Linsingen, as riot wilder grew,
"Here we have beat them off, and hope no less
Whereso or when, hereafter meeting them:
But not by this road only danger comes,
Our foes are hasting hither, horse and foot,
Wide as from East to West: therefore behoves
Wariness, watchful afar; so every man
Homeward; to tell these tidings and to hear
Others: if aught of threatening likelihood,
Bring it back hither; waiting, until then,
What may befal, with outlook ready at once
If e'er the beacon blaze."
They listened him
Intent, as wisdom were in all his words,
Then with one cheerful shout went several ways
To do his bidding. He and the other heads
With the main band of thoro' stalwart trust
Having so rid the rabble off from them,
Tarried for trial--doubtful what next should--
Doubtful yet undismayed; and whisted each,
Till others: for that dark stern danger stopp'd
The breath of babblers--then, as all there seemed
To listen than to speak, the old Harper broke
Blindly upon their silence in this strain:--
"My friends, a marvel hath been done,
And ye stand wondering every one,
And reason good ye have therefore
For your clenched hands are grimed with gore:
And shrieks and shouts, and rage and fear
Ring yet within each wilder'd ear:
And so ye stand all silently,
But I must lift my voice on high:
Tho' I have seen strange things likewise,
E'en with these dead and darkling eyes.--
Ye know--I'm blind these many years,
Ye see me in a flood of tears--
That flood--'twas that--brought back my sight,
To see one moment of God's might.
Blind as I am, I witnessed all
The shout and onset--flight and fall.
And Ernst and others on our side,
Who dared their death, and fought, and died,
I marked their souls mount up on high
In a strange glory to the sky:
And my dear friends, ye know it well--
Ye felt some sudden spirit's swell
Driving ye thither, wild with zeal
'Gainst death and danger, fire and steel.
Ye knew not what that drift might be,
But it was all revealed to me.
The spirits of your sires were there
Careering 'bove you in the air,
And swelling every patriot breast
Like sails with sweeping winds possess'd:
Waving their country's banner true
And brandishing old arms anew.
A radiant comfort to all here,
But to the foeman a wild fear:
And with the battle's fiercer blaze
Still they grew brighter to my gaze,
Till in one light'ning flash at last
With victory's shout away they past.
My friends, as God hath given me,
E'en so the truth I tell to ye--
For I am old and like to die,
Fiend have me if it be a lie--
Nor is it drink as scoffers say;
No drop hath warmed this heart to-day.
Sure then by such a sign 'tis shown
That God himself is all our own.
E'en the blest spirits for us fight,
How should we falter? on forthright--
Yes--in that Faith go boldly on--
But till your utmost work be done,
I charge ye, by the living Lord,
Lay ye not down your conquering sword."
"Well done thou brave old man--aye--bravely done--"
Thus the hot blood of Linsingen spake forth.
"Why this thy spirit lacks but a young arm,
Then were it worth a thousand men to us
To swell our strength."
"Nay, but there's more in it,"
Thus Hermann--"be ye sure there's more than seems.
For that heart-glow how could it in that husk
Without God's grace? No--'tis Heaven speaks in him,
No less I hold it." Then said Linsingen,
"Then will we follow it. What think ye, Sirs?
There lies Count Stolberg, stark and stiff, the corse
Of this right hand; 'stead of his fiery threat
Like whirlwind dust to drive us--there he lies;
And there his castle stands! stately and strong
As he while'er the living lord of it--
What think ye? for the goodwill he hath shown
Were it not meet to give him back as good,
And storm his house--poor body he's but clay.
And whatsoe'er we do it harms him not--
For how? look there upon him--and, for his sons,
Their heritage is fallen ere its time
By many years--and we who've hastened it,
If we withhold it from them, 'twere no wrong.
What say ye, shall we to the assault?" "'Twere bold,"
Said Hermann, "a bold stroke--but better so--
For the rebel's strength is sheer audacity.
We're lost already, if we gain not all.
Then why outwait the tide? if we would hope
First we must dare. Then on, thou mighty man
Of valour, whom the lord is leagued with thee--
Lead us, we'll follow." "And, so Linsingen,
Defence is a cold word; I like it not.
And see in its cold spirit we stand now
Chilling our flush of warmth: but to attack--
That breathes a hot defiance--blows its own
Sparks to wild-fire. Oh, in the sharp onslaught
There is a will and glowing energy
That twice its numbers may not stand against.
Must overthrow them--sure as these dead heaps;
And so we will. Movement is warmth, and swift
Is strong--turns this dull stone to a cannon ball.
Then forward, forward, bold and lion-like
To meet our danger and to grapple it:
Sure we were better so than hunted out
And skulk our doom, hare-hearted--say, are ye such,
To die so slavish? No, brave, friends we'll on,
So will Opinion after us--whose breath
Must fill our banners, idle tho' it be,
Drooping without it." As he spoke, so all
Shouted their loud accord--look to thyself
Thou ancient Castle, for if manly hearts
And sinewy arms have aught of potency,
There is so much of spirit in that shout,
Bodes thee no good: look to thy strength, I say,
That it be sure; for truly, they who come
Will prove its surety with a most sharp proof.

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