Capel Lofft

Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book IX

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BOOK IX.
Rebellion, Patriotism, Loyalty,
Ye are three words, bigger than most beside,
Of portly presence, and bold seemliness:
Well stuffed and padded: truly ye deserve
Your crowd of silly gapers, for ye look
So burly 'mong your fellows; matching e'en
The great puff bag, the soul of flunkeyhood.
For me, I'll none of ye, but blow ye away
Scornfully, for the chaff ye are--yet some
I ween, will welcome ye most lovingly,
Being so great of bulk, and filling well
Their blockhead's emptiness--albeit that bulk
Is but a bladder, swollen of fond conceit,
The biggest then, when readiest to burst.
I wonder what so windy addled a brain
Could have begotten ye--yet I know not--
Looking upon ye nearer, I stand in pause--
A pause of earnest doubt.
Oh pardon me!
The fault is all my own--I see it now--
And see ye clear of it. I did ye wrong:
Forgive me, for my true confession's sake.
Yes, truly, I disgraced your dignity,
Unfairly scoffing, unfitly likening ye.
Ye are no roky bladders, nor foul fluff--
No--nor yet words alone, but a live thing.
Of shifting life; one off and the next on:
A changeful shape, a threefold unity--
Shortly, all three, ye are of larval kind:
A single substance, but with several forms;
One while a grub--lies still, stirring no jot:
And gives no inkling of life, tho' fire should burn,
Or water drown it, or pins prick it through;
But just so much as this, to shrink from the hand
That worries it, and shudder a wee bit.
Ah! then indeed, 'tis a praiseworthy grub:
Then is its grubbish nature glorified
Within a letter of a royal name;
Men cry it up and call it loyalty.
Blunderers as they are: for loyalty
Means love to Law; to right; not to the King;
He may be log or stork: that were fool's faith:
Howe'er, our grub is now the throne's foot-stool;
And kingly pride upon its patience treads;
For 'tis a neutral; has no soul of self;
A passive noodledom between two lives.
It was not always so. Once swiftly it stirred
Its twenty feet, living at large, at will,
And feeding on its foes, their fields and fruits;
Therefore earth's rulers sorely hated it;
They called it lawlessness, rebellion,
To look to its own likings, not man's law;
And cursed it for its free self-helpfulness,
But, for it wanted strength, and crawled aground,
Having no wings to fly, so 't was soon crushed:
For their foes had but to set foot on them.
Thus not unrightfully did men stamp out
Rebellion; who fails there is in deadly fault:
Must win--for that's his only warrant--else die,
Haply a noble death--must die, howe'er.
His Truth may save his Conscience, not his life:
No! 'tis success alone is currency.
So fared our rebel caterpillar; died
Or dwindled to a grub--a heartless dull
Thing, prisoned in its murky self-spun maze,
Helpless and hopeless.
There are two of them,
Being yet but one. The lawless rebel worm,
And the loyal grub: the third is yet behind.
Holding a kindred nature with these two,
But a strange name. For his life, be none so bold
To tell it, but the truest man of the world,
Lest he be deemed a liar: 'tis no life,
But a miracle; for Nature at his birth,
Frolicsome, flung her wonted framework by,
And played the fairy. Thus it was--our grub,
After long durance dull, bethought him at last,
That patience of all evil for evil's sake,
And not for any good should come of it,
Is but a loutish wisdom; wise enough
For Man, but for the grub too grovelling.
"Therefore behoves me to be hence alarge--
But how, and to what hope? aye, there's the knot.
For I remember while I was a worm,
That my free life was but a straw 'mid fires,
And hundred times I was about to die
Such hobnail death as my kin-fellows died,
And why? for, being weak, they went abroad,
A silly folk. Therefore, ere I win out
From this constraint, first will I get me wings
To fly withal. So counsell'd and so done--
He got him wings, and then wrought his way forth,
Wise as Wisdom herself from her sire's head,
Like her too, weaponed well 'gainst dangers abroad,
A wilful flashing whizzing dragon fly,
Lived as he liked: no man could master him."
"The world is mine--earth, air, water!"
He bragged
Truly, and flew his own free flight, and as
He flew, so all eyes gazed in wonderment;
Yes, he, the worm of that same kind as men
When they would crush it, call Rebellion;
And when they have coerced it to a grub,
Name it anew nought else but--Loyalty.
Now, for the same ends issuing, only in pomp
And power instead of crawling feebleness;
Wending his way, whithersoe'er he will,
Oh, then his power doth make him patriot.
Rebellion, Patriotism, Loyalty;
Ye're larval masks, hiding beneath three names,
Man's one self-nature. They who cry ye, cry
But a vain noise--should speak their silly souls
Into a cheap-jack's trumpet--blowing a full
Blast, no nice difference--'twill mean as much
And sound yet louder. Nay, but Fame's own trump
Whereby the Despot blows himself abroad,
What is it but a cheap-jack's--only yet
Viler? a penny paper trumpet, of foul
Rotten rags: but, thou Despot, why dost need
Either? thou rid'st an ass. Patience--who brays
Tho' mire-drudged, sorely galled, o'erladen, half dead,
In pride of his brass trappings--thine, not his.
So let him bray thy fame, thy glory. Yes that
Is thy true trumpeter.
Of these big names
Hermann was each, and all, and none of them.
Rebel or Patriot, as Fancy's glass
Coloured him. Loyal, but for his own sake
Not for his rulers--first, let true Law rule,
Then Loyalty is truth. Are men but sheep
For wolf and tiger? No, but Manhood's worst
Danger is not the rebel but the slave
Spirit; look Europe round, see how brute hosts
Wherever despots sway, trample and grind
The country. Then behold each free-folk. Swiss,
Belgian, Dutch, Dane, and Norse, all else that are free.
Their Freedom is their welfare: look and blush
Thou coward cur, still cringing 'neath the lash,
Rather than rise for God's right and thy own
Against thy whipster. "Ah, but he's a King--
Emperor--we're but men." Men! say ye so?
Curs, carrion, swine. Who treads ye into mire
Fouls it--well--words are waste.
Dark was that night
And wild the way that Hermann went thro' it;
But wilder yet his own bewilderment,
Darker his thoughts: cold, cheerless, comfortless,
As when the wintry swain, belated and chill,
Finding the warm bright blaze that should have been,
Dull ashes, feels self-shrunk to a pin's-head.
As he too, with his fire, if alike dead,
Were happier ended. He had steeled himself,
Had Hermann, to a pure high quality;
But yet that vaporous breath blown on his steel
Clouded it longer time than his purity
Gave promise. 'Tis not matter alone, but mind
Also, must gravitate unto the mass:
For soar however loftily it may,
Yet is a check behind to draw it back
To the low level and the centre of all.
True, he had offered himself freely up
To help his country--but that gift he gave
More heartily, for her, the Priestess' sake
Who served the altar: for her smile he hoped,
Fair hope: which else, without it, was nought left
But the outflash of the fire, and slayer, and axe,
Most terrible; but no, 'twas only a cloud
That chills but craven hearts--keeps off the sun
Without, not the in-glow.
"Dastards, weak thoughts,
Thus I forswear ye; so he shouted out
Fierce, as he felt the quickening influence,
And waved his staff on high. Ye're but the thin
Mist that I scatter; likelier to hope,
And manlier, much more: 'tis a strong ground
This granite, and yet stronger this my cause:
But thou my Faith, dost stumble and waver now,
Ere thou are fairly forth? no--but straight on
Boldly, for sooner shall these mountains quail
Than thy religious rock of righteousness
Shall slip from under thee:" thus as he spoke,
His spirit rose e'en to the height of his speech;
Aye, and above it: words are wondrous things:
Begotten of thoughts they beget other thoughts
And words--like lightning--flashing into works.
And so did Hermann don the shield of Faith
Against the brunt of doom: 'twas wisely done,
For Doubt is danger--better sleep in the hearth
Chair, than out fearfully to fight the storm,
Tho' for a kingly venture. He strode on,
As if a giant's strength were in each stride,
Upright and bold: whither to steer his way,
While yet his spirit's light was in eclipse,
He knew not, knowledge waits on will--but now
He felt his destiny drawn out forthright
So fast and strong, as he could walk on it
Unswervingly, no sidelong look or thought,
But only on.
First, to his shepherd friend:
In the like faith as who commits his hand
To his own glove; for he knew the man of old,
Truthful and simple-minded as his trade.
Thither he went: and as he went, the day
Was westering downward: while the unwieldy dull
Self-thwarting earth, that brooks not the full light
But, as Truth gains on him, so turns himself
Wilful, to darkness on the other side
Away: slowly and blindly upheaved his bulk
Darkening with its shadow all our day.
And the heather that erewhile shone in the sun
Goldenly, now put off its gaudiness,
Disrobed by darkness; changing its gay cloak
To russet and again to gloomier yet
In sad gradation--as that gloom grew on,
Hermann stopp'd short to listen and look out;
But nothing could he see, save the huge hills
In distance dimly swelling 'gainst the sky;
Or an owl with white wings deepening the night,
As slowly it sailed in large and larger wheel.
He looked again--nought else--listen'd and heard
Nothing save his own breath: then, while without
All was shut against sense, he looked within;
And there his thoughts burnt up so blazingly,
They were good cheer and light and warmth to him.
So buoyant, they upraised him above earth,
Treading, not feeling it. He gave them free
Opening to flow, and thus did they flow on.
"Lucy, once I was thy lover:
Thou wert mine, as thou didst say;
Now those sunny days are over,
Coldly now thou turn'st away.
Be it so--for so thou provest
Faithless kind in faithless vow:
Woman-like thou liv'st and lovest:
I must prove my manhood now.
Lucy now I'm but thy brother.
Manhood asks no selfish meed:
Now my spirit is none other
But the Patriot's indeed.
Fool I was--far gone in madness
Thus to sow the shifting sand:
Now I reap my seed in sadness:
A lone outcast here I stand.
Yet 'tis well--for surely never
With a soul so rent in twain
Had I reached my high endeavour.
Half a wish is wholly vain.
I am sworn to o'erthrow the tower
Of old majesty and might,
To uprear the people's power--
Is that labour all too light?
Is it but a toy of pleasure?
And must Love come flaunting in,
As on some fond maiden's leisure,
Balking all that I begin?
No--I dreamed, and in my dreaming
Saw familiar lovely things
Of heart-soothing, home-like seeming,
Bright fireside imaginings.
Now I wake--the dream's past o'er me--
Wafted wizard-like away:
And I see the truth before me,
Marshalled in war's stern array.
Boyish love thou art a stranger,
Girlish troth thou art belied.
I must marry me with Danger:
Tell me, wilt thou be my bride?"
"Nay, I know not,--Wilt thou woo me,
Thou must sue with thy good sword;
Only he who can subdue me,
Will I take him for my lord."
"Be it so--thou glorious creature!
There is lightning in thine eye;
Thou art strong and fierce of feature
Yet I front thee fearlessly.
To my sword thou shalt surrender
Thy stern beauty for a bride:
High renown and stately splendour
Shall spring to me from thy side.
Life and fortune, all I cherish,
Thus I fling them 'mong my foes--
To the rescue--or they perish--
Help me Heaven, here we close."
He spake; and as the word prompted the deed
He launched his staff forward, a strong arm's launch,
Among the heather. Even and straight it sped,
Making small stir in the air, but piercing deep
As with a point of steel in the hard ground;
Quivering there as doth a bristling beast
His teeth clenched in his game. Hermann came up
Following his aim. "Faith 'tis a goodly throw,
And shews a goodly strength. If I drive home
The intent whereon my soul is now astrain
But half so manly, then may I strike through
The heart of foemanship, ere head can warn
Or arm can ward its danger." Fair was the hint,
And glad the man that 'twas vouchsafed to him.
"Oh, Lord may my hope's speed be straight as this,
As straight, and steady, and strong. I ask no more,
And no more needs."
By this the sky and air
Were an ocean darkness of unfathomed depth.
Hardly o'er a steep hill he clamber'd up,
Blindly to peer below. There stood the hut;
The shepherd's lonely home, unseen itself,
But by the token of unsteady light
Flickering within. There on the height he staid,
Resting upon a hillock, to forecast
What he must soon propose. He sate, his head
Pillowed upon his hand, deep sunk in thought:
A short half-hour. Then up again and on;
But as he started forth there shone a light
Sudden amid the gloom--what might it be?
Fancy or lonely fear might deem it a lamp
Of prowling foes, rounding most warily
Their nightly search--but a few steps toward it,
He saw--"poor worm, thy glow is starlike bright,
And yet who heeds it? I and thou, we're mates,
For I too bear a light, and I trust well
It is both true and holy as thine is:
And I go forth to shine in the dark world:
Yet haply will the world heed me no more
Than it doth thee--nay but 'twill shiver me
To atoms, for the searching light I bring
'Mong its malignant vapours. Look up there--
Look to yon starry host shining above.
What thinkest? Shine they not brighter than thou?
Yet none regards them--a lost light--I too--
'Twere well I should take home the lesson I teach--
For hath not God himself come down on earth?
A grace much greater truly than that star
Yonder, that one, the mightiest of them all,
Should stoop from Heaven to that lowly hut
And take the rushlight's turn. Yes, they scorned Him--
They smote Him, and they slew Him and what then?
Why truly then there is much likelihood
That they should hearken me.
Well, as they will,
If they requite me evil for my good,
Then--quicker death is sooner happiness;
So be it--for till then strife, danger, and hate
Bestorm me, till the bloody atoning end.
Welcome--for death makes dearth--so patriot truth
Reaps glory. Thanks to thee, good glow-fellow,
For these good thoughts."
He said, and he was there:
There at the door; yet staid awhile, his hand
Upon the latch; for boisterous uproar
Of many tongues was hurtling from within:
It seemed guests were enow by that fireside,
Needed no stranger more. "What were they all?
To keep wassail so late, carousing o'er
His cups was not of old the shepherd's wont,
Nor likely now. What if the Philistines
Were ambushed there awaiting who should come
Within their mischief? Nay, the deadly pool
Is noiseless. Howe'er, doom is doom; 'tis I
'Gainst Danger--truly, a deep game we play,
And desperate--I stake my life 'gainst Hope
And Honour: would I win--must dare and do
Outright--nor shrink from th' upshot, happen howe'er,
Friends or foes, I confront them."
As he spoke
He did. That door creaked on its crazy hinge--
He stood within. Our fears are mostly clouds.
There were his own trust-fellows, brethren, friends,
Bound to him, whether holy or world-ties,
But all fast bound. Ere he could lift his hat
They hailed him, hopeless seen, with such a shout
Joyful, such sudden shout of eager joy,
As blew the cobwebs from the black roof-beams
A witch-like network. Good, tho' seldom, it is,
In this cold icy clime, where manners live
Alone, having outthrust the natural man,
To see the spirit glow, and the heart's blood
Gush to the forehead; e'en as then their hands
Met hastily, but parted not so soon,
From their warm grasp.
"My friends, I like ye well,
Ye and your greeting--a glad issue it bodes;
But sit ye down, and I will tell ye all,
Both hear and tell." "Nay, be thou seated first,
Said the good shepherd's wife, homely and kind,
For sure thou hast most need: and art thou clear,
Clear o' those lion claws--and our gloom turned
To glad surprise? much I misdoubted thee,
And fretted sore, and ever in and out,
To look o'er the hill side, and then to search
For crumbs of comfort in the blessed book.
For a poor silly woman that I am,
Fearing where no fear was--Ah, Sir, good Sir,
The best of us are faulterers in the Faith,
Sad falterers--shame and sin both! to set
Man's fear above God's faith: praised be His name.
But, Sir, thou'rt come. Heaven love thee evermore,
Dear as we do and bless and cherish thee,
Sure as the blessing thou hast brought us all.
But come, sit there, by the fire. We are poor folk;
Yet what we can--such store as God hath sent,
Bacon and bread, and eggs, aye, and drink too--
Thou art no hireling, thou, yet well hast earned
A better hire than any we can give.
A blessing on thy heart, it makes me glad
As I were a young girl, to see thee again,
Glad of thee safe, as late of thy fear sad.
There so, 'tis well."
Hermann sate down and ate,
Till he was comforted with meat and drink;
Then they took turn, asking and answering;
Matter enough--the day and its fresh deeds,
And what should come of them--how each had 'scaped
That rough encounter, and all other spite
Of the Evil One, by guidance of the Lord:
Surely a special grace. Then what was next
To fear, what earnest likely of their hope:
Eager each Conscience to communicate
How now for furtherance.
"Sir," said one man,
A sallow blear-eyed cobbler from the town;
"Much have I wrestled with these thoughts, few more;
And what ye've undertaken, I like it well,
In main: and for its sake I'll on as far,
As any here will dare to follow me.
But, Sir, in this your forecast there's one flaw,
Frights me to think--a gap Sir--yawning wide
As the jaws of Hell. What of the Papists, Sir?
Aye--what think ye of them? for to my mind
'Tis a clear truth, and I'm as sure of it
As tho' God's own angel had told it me,
'Tis they have brought the curse into this land,
Plagu'ing it with their damned idolatry.
And 'till we fling them from our bosom forth,
Stone them, or burn, or slay them with the sword,
That curse will cleave to us. Sir, ye well know,
Last season was a dearth within the land,
A murrain 'mong the flocks--all things at odds;
And business slack and handicraft heart-sick;
Why Sir, I sate a week, my hands thus like,
Across my bosom, for sheer lack of work,
And fire to keep them warm: no other pay,
Nor hope, nor pastime, but to chew our ills
And the black cause of them.
Why should this be
But for a token of wrath? and why such wrath
But for that idol Sin? These things were not
In our forefathers' time; or only then
When in such wise they sinned as we do now
And suffered all the same. Therefore we're curs'd
With fire, and tithes, and evil government;
With fornication and all deadly sin;
With drought for rain, and rain when drought were need,
Drowning the harvest. 'Tis clear truth, all this,
Written outright as any printed book,
That he who runs may read it. Therefore, Sir,
To outdo this deep damnation from the land,
I bid ye in God's name not only--"
"Oh, yes,"
Herman replied, "I know what ye would say
And have: and there are other godly men
Think e'en as thou, and yet haply 'twere best"--
"Aye true, it were much best to bide on it,"
Said an old clownish toper, sharp and shrill,
"Ere we do aught. Heaven is a far way off,
And who shall say which is most near to it?
Each thinks his own the gainer path--for me
I never spoke nor did them any good
Those Papists--yet my corn rotted no less
Than theirs, who, as folks say, worship the Priest
Instead of God--but there's a something, Sir,
Hampers us nearer home--the curs'd Law-suit
About our common-right: and many say,
They see not why, if that same mischief needs
Must hold, and be the mischief that it is,
They see not in that case why they should stir
To stake both limb and life. Now, Sir, mayhap,
You may see good to satisfy us all,
(For truly we are many of that mind)
That we shall have and hold the land for our own:
Common and close e'en as Hess promised us:
And who would hinder us, to make quick end,
Gar hang him up straightway--no Law-leave asked,
But the thing done; that were both wisdom and right
Where now is neither."
"This," Hermann replied,
"Is not for me to rule, but for the main
Meeting--however, trust me, whatsoe'er
Is reason, shall be law; only forbear
Some little of full right; and mark God's word.
The land shall not be sold, for it is mine:
And ye are strangers there and sojourners.
And mark this too-first must we free the land--
Else is our Freedom hopeless: but take heed--
Lest, when ye would but clear ashes and dust
For thoro' draft, ye rake the whole fire out,
Reckless, as wrath is wont--be heedful then."
"Sir, by your leave," so said a sturdy hind
Slow rising--"may I be so bold--a word
About a cow of mine that my neighbour Helst,
Down in the hollow, hath wronged me--but the Law
They say, will bear him thro'. Now, I've heard talk
That ye're about it, bettering the Law,
And that's bad need. Sir, I'm a Gospeller,--
I've followed you, since my old mother ailed,
And sent me in her room, lest prayer should fail
Out of the house. Sir, you would glad her heart,
I warrant her, poor soul, to stand our friend?
And mine no less. I'd follow ye, be sure,
Thro' fire and water."
Hermann heard and smiled,
Then turned to a fresh call. "But Sir, the Jews,"
'Twas a young man that spake, knightly of blood,
Courtly of bearing, fair to look upon,
But steeped in riot, as his drunken eye,
And luscious lips, and thick voice witnessed him.
"Papist or Puritan who cares one curse?
What boots all else if the Jews must suck our blood
Henceforth as heretofore? They've screwed me back
Hundreds for every score they doled me out.
They've swindled me, aye, plucked me bare as a board.
Me--thousands too beside me. Now why keep
Such vermin on God's earth? why let them live?
Can any tell me why--vermin--nought else--
That foully overrun, tease, plague, and drain
Us Christians--our whole body, with more zest
Plundering us from spiteful hate of us.
Yet we forbear them--why? who ever heard
Of any good a Jew ere did till he died?
Who ever saw a stroke of work by them?
Or a kind deed on any Christian. Ah, no!
Their life is but one smouchy, sneaking lie.
Let their law try them--usury is death--
So Moses--to the old Jew--and why not
These later too? there I'm true Jew myself.
Then scourge them, stone them, slay them, or if that
Seem harsh to mawkish minds--then drive them out,
And rid--"
"Aye rid thee from them," Hermann said,
"That sures thy will--for not to deal with them
Is death to them: but mind--they walk right well
In their own way, live in true brotherhood--
Let us likewise, we Christians, learn of them
That gracious lesson--then, if we can, scorn
Our teachers: but till then--"
Ere he could end,
Uprose another speaker--up he sprang,
A man broad and huge-boned, and big of limb,
But most ungainly; in his sprawling gait
Belying his frame's burly likelihood.
His face, 'twas heavy-jowled, black-brow'd, mud-hued,
As tho' life blood had never healthen'd it.
No more than featured clay--a dull damp mask,
No seeming soul: self-gather'd, there he sate
Like to a man o'erwhelmed with his own weight,
Stifled and sunk in his flesh--for all his life
Seemed run into his eyes wild fiery light--
Two wondrous bright lamps, flaring fitfully
Thro' the night fog, hither and thither whirled
By the spirit's wind within him. His coat hung
Loose on his back, as a gipsy mother's brat,
In uncouth heap: dishevelled bushy hair
Misshaping his huge head and tangling o'er
His forehead's square bold breadth.
Such was the man,
Christopher Ernst: he had besought awhile
To be a preacher in the brotherhood:
And for his gifts, they fell not short, some said
They overreached that height: and many there
Did deem his glowing speech inspired of God.
But, for he looked but to his own inlight,
Nor made his reason of the worldly rule,
Therefore, the more denied him what he asked,
Counting him mad. Madness! that name belongs
Likeliest to them, who take so crooked a stick
As the world's custom for their canon of right
And judge thereby--but the wise man were oft
Wiser, to hide his deep wisdom away
'Neath shallow worldly wit: so let him do,
Else will men deem him a fool.
"Brethren and friends,"
So spoke the stern enthusiast, glowering round
Slowly, a wild and visionary glare:
"For so I call and cherish ye, tho' some
Answer with evil my good will; we've heard
Much, a great heap of little things, more meet
For alehouse talk than for our mighty aim,
Cows, commons, and benighted Romanists.
All idle, yea, my friends, all idle alike,
And green as the sick fancy of a girl.
I nill 'em--nill 'em wholly, whisk 'em away.
And is it for such shallow silliness
We're bound, and sworn never to loose our bond,
Until the full achievement give us leave?
Is't not as easy to say all as the half?
Why, if we stake our lives, why should we not
Make peril glorious with its high prize?
Aye, why indeed? Have ye not the more strength
And the better right? are ye not millions?
And they, your gainstmen what are they? Some few
Stragglers, some fopling idlers here and there,
Of no account, or only of so much
To make your bulk of body seem more big
By their thin show.
What! do ye know your wills?
Then what ye will, 'tis ready to your hand,
Take it, make much of it, and thrive by it:
And take it all. Nor leave no corner or hole,
Whence the old spider may 'gin spread again
His cunning usurpation. Are ye men?
Aye, surely: why then fear a scold's foul words?
No, what the lawyer and priest, the thieves, 'twixt whom
Sitting in state this people is crucified,
Themselves best due; what they for their own ends
Have so perplexed that none may loose the knot;
Cut thro' such question with the edge o' sword
Making all sheer: down with them--down in the dust
There leave them: as these gin-drops, last of my cup,
That I fling there, foul spirits, down in the ash,
To hiss their life out; but are ye such dolts
To spend your eager spirit and flower of prime
Idly puzzling to make atonement there
Where God and Truth have both made severance
'Twixt Law and Reason? patch not with new cloth
The rotten coat--sow not 'mong thorns--but since
'Twas Satan doomed, for Man's original sin,
His body, soul, ownership, commonweal,
To leech-craft, priest-craft, law-craft, office-craft,
Which office means obstruction, truly named,
Now let Christ's grace free us from Satan's law.
But, my friends, hearken me--dreams I've oft dreamt,
And visions I've beholden, haply true,
But this, the latest trance vouchsafed to me
Is truth itself. An angel yesternight
Visited me, an angel of the Lord.
Nay, start not, 'twas indeed, a glory of Heaven.
I knew it surely, not by my eyesight,
But by my soul's own feeling. Thus it was:--
My wife and little ones were all a-bed,
And I left there to brood upon my thoughts,
Dim as the dying embers. Suddenly
There shone a vehement light thro' all the room,
As tho' a thousand suns were lit at once,
So bright, it outdid all beside: I looked,
But my sight failed me, and a-blind I stared--
Yet was I conscious of a presence there
Spirit-like, strange, unearthly, a soul-sight
No tongue can tell.
Past wonder there I stood
Astounded, and this truth burst forth on me,
No sound, nor breath-born utterance of words,
But the spirit's self, 'I come to thee from God,
He 'th chosen thee to be His voice to man.
Then speak thou thus to those with whom thou'rt leagued,
As God speaketh to thee. They who rule now
He suffered them long time, but hence no more,
Their cup is full--must drink its lowest dregs
There was a time for Grace, they let it go;
For Mercy, and they took no heed of it;
Now is the hour of wrath. Go, from their height
Abate them--sternly, not bloodthirstily.
For they are an abhorrence in my sight
For the evil they have done; and once o'erthrown
So leave them--lift no earthly lordship up;
For God alone is Lord; man's privilege
Is but a root of all perversity.
Outdo it, root, stem, branch: lest slackening
Ye draw their vengeance down on your own heads.
Go forth; I've said--fulfil thou thoro'ly.
I heard no more--for lo! sudden again
A horror of deep darkness fell on me.
Brethren, these words--this bidding--'tis the Lord.
That thunder's utterance fain would I seal up
Deep in my soul, but 'tis forbidden me.
They've starved us, have these men, of half our bread,
For two loaves, a scant one--they've made our Church
A den of thieves and hirelings, fouler far;
And Law, a two-edged blade, no handle or hold,
Wounding his hand, whoe'er asks help from it,
Worse than his wrong: therefore I call on ye
Go, gripe those scoundrel throats to upgorge our spoil
Tho' it come with their hearts' blood. Slaughter whoe'er
Withstands ye--make clear work--and of their bones
Rear up a pile high as the Pyramids,
For a sign and wonder."
He ended, and sate down.
The big sweat glistening on his brow like steam
On the cauldron's side when water seethes within.
He was so fervid: all tongues after him
Were hushed, as by a trumpet blast--none spake.
Their marvel was too much; at last one rose
Forth from the brooding silence, a spare man:
So spare, it seemed that thought and lore had been
His only diet: one whom his shrewd look,
Piercing and keen, smiling half scornfully,
Where others looked most gravely, and amid
Reasonings, preachings, prayers, scorn-smiling still,
Bespoke him truly what he was, ere yet
His words declared what he would seem to be.
Bespoke him one who viewed the world as a stage,
Where fools go masked; and who would pick a purse
Must mask him also for a seeming fool,
And thence, a gainful knave--the world a stage,
And all that's played upon it a rank lie,
Where silly folks go feel, wonder, and weep,
While wiser men but whisper 'mong themselves
"Well acted:" and where others reverently
Believe, more reverently would he scorn,
As a zany gaping on his conjuror,
Wearing a deferential wonderment
To mask contempt. He was a gatherer
Of taxes, and of late he had been drawn
Into sore question to clear up his count,
Hence his sharp spite.
"Sir, that we're Patriots,
All worthy men and true, thinking no thought,
But for our country's good, that is most sure,
For we have said it, who best know ourselves:
And as we only are the sterling coin,
So they, the other sidesmen, are but trash,
Sheer ruffians, cads and duffers. Well, what then?
Be it so: ourselves good gold--they slag and dross;
What then? ah, truly! if they'll yield us all
For this pure Truth that we profess, t'were well:
But if we must come out to trial of blows,
Then must the stronger o'ermatch the godlier.
My friends, if we be better men than they
Our worth may be rewarded--but not now.
Must die and rot ere trial; happy indeed
That hope, which sees so far and clear in the dark.
But here, just now, 'tis the big muster I want,
And skill and strength: for after all, they, too,
Are some--well--say ye so, I trust it too,
We've ludship against lordship: sticks and stones
'Gainst shot--a thousand bludgeons 'gainst one sword.
Well then, with but one head to a hundred hands,
Those odds, however clownish, are enough:
And so much joy to us for our good cause
And better strength. 'Tis there I hold with you:
For I belong not to the brotherhood--
I stand outside, and am too mild a man
To blend me with their brotherly bickerings.
But, Sir, we're Patriots, and all that's wise
And good and true is uttered in that word:
Else, where it otherwise, much that I've heard
Seemed a moon-stricken dream. Lands some would have
In common--aye, but, friends, a common, at best
Is sorry pasture--scrambling strife wastes all.
Far better each man's earnings for himself,
How scant soe'er--yet, we're much wronged. The priest,
Landlord, and placeman, and lawyer, grieve us sore,
And sorely that same grievance shall they rue,
If we work out our will. To the storm-god
For his first victims the black cattle; and I've
A sauce so highly seasoned, every tongue
Shall cry 'enough.' 'Tis a just judgment, Sir,
They starved us then and they shall feed us now--
And it shall be, as they've no other means,
With their own flesh--aye, Sir, we'll slay them first,
And eat them after--ah, 'twere a rich treat,
To make the parson of to-morrow's dish,
Say grace o'er the roast placeman of to-day,
And the squire too--they fed on the land's fat,
Must render it in kind; and they, the plague
Of earth, those idolist cursed Romanists,
'Tis they, as being in that skill well seen
Shall light the fire: light it, and when 'tis lit,
Flung in themselves for fuel.
This ye see
Is the strong man's riddle, out of the eater meat,
Thus solved: a good solution--but too mild.
So for the will: now for the way: and first,
I would forewarn ye, ere ye flay this bear,
To master him--for he hath claws and teeth--
And bearhood too--unlike meekly to stand
And let ye pluck them out. Therefore be warned--
And when your enemy is down in the dust
And ye with weapon'd hands stride over him,
'Twill then be time for vengeance, if that be
Your wisdom. Friends, mistake not, that I thwart
Your aims--Ah no! I'm wronged, and hope redress
By your means--go forth and thrive--only I think
Your zeal may chance to be a quality
Fiercer than wiser, burning but for light
To your foes, and to your own bewilderment.
Beware then--keep your fire for the coming fight,
For counsel needs cool heads--no mob--no many
Headed--nay, wince not--hearken but the truth.
For universal suffrage is Bedlam loose.
A foul sewer-flood, worse than the sin-flood was.
Allman is goodman, while he keeps to his work,
Hodman or carman, seaman, ploughman, aught else--
Only not statesman--no good Allman--no--
Beware that craft--it belongs not to thee,
But to thy betters--thou'st no mind for it,
Thou'rt but a body--one that keeps to itself
Its best, its blood, life, sense, warmth; keeps 'em all
Within--what it gives out we welcome not--
Nay--shut out eyes and hold our nose from it.
Such voidance means avoidance--to my sense.
Indeed good Allman, not to flatter thee,
Thou art a body, brute, not politic,
And all its utterance is but excrement.
Aye--e'en its most sweet breath of suffrage--e'en that,
For thou'st no mind. Behoves thee a head, and I--
My friends--I've framed so shrewd a plan, will sure
Carry us thro', if ye'll be ruled by me;
And trust me wholly. What then! ye will not!
Not me--some likelier head--ye must go far
To find him--well, keep cool--I'll wait awhile
Your wiser mood. Ye'll need me--I need not you."
'Mid much outcry of angry gainsayers,
Zimmermann ended. Hermann hastily
Uprising, thus began, for wishful he was
To stop that overflowing waste of words,
Where else had seemed no end.
"Brethren, much free
Outspoken Truth I've listened, and heard much
Well worth the listeners while; righteous complaint
And bold determination to redress
Whate'er is wronged. And if therein were aught
Fiercer than lukewarm statesmanship may like,
Such utterance is but excess of zeal,
And so to exceed, I hold ye worthier praise
Than blame--for man is feeling, spirit and blood
Will resent wrong: but there's a soul of strife
And selfish shrewd detraction, worthier far
Of blame than praise. Treason within our camp!
Beware, 'twere death. What ye've dared hitherto,
Next to your own free spirit and God's will
'Tis partly I have kindled ye thereto:
Blowing with forward breath upon your fire
Which self-reserve had damply stifled else,
Not to surmount its smoke: and now, once up,
Be it good or bad, I who have spirited
Must answer it. So, when I heard e'en now
My purposes upbraided, my truth blamed,
Eager I felt to answer in account
For what I counselled: specially, what late
Ye agreed me, but some now gainsay; to enlarge
This land from many shreds of ownership
To one main folkstead, as did Israel's God;
Instead of severalty, envy and strife,
New robbery worse than the old.
Nor would I blout
All lights of old experience, nor efface
Time's landmarks, mindmarks if ye will, deep stamped
With reverence, steep'd in feeling. No, the old
Castle, tho' shattered, the old abbey, old church,
Old oak, old Stemhouse of old family
Renowned, these would I cherish--for some stay
For garish life to pause and look upon.
Lest this hot reckless world be all in all.
For 'tis refreshful, from our dust of noon
With spiteful strife whirling and blinding us,
To stand awhile 'neath the still cooling shade
Of ages. Such communion with the worth,
Tho' time-worn, of time-tried, time-honoured Eld
O'erawes our fleeting upstart pride; can thence
Measure its present littleness against
The huge dark lengthening shadows of the past.
So Reverence grows, deepening and stablishing
Character, first in the man, thence in the State.
Then to this Reverence, our main safeguard
'Gainst rashness of folk-rule, must we train minds,
From child and boy to man. Nature for this
Hath helped us: hear the bard's high utterance.
'Hail, usages of pristine mould
And ye who guard them, mountains old.'
We, too, must help her. Therefore what is deep
Rooted among us in ground, time or heart,
That would I not upstir it needlessly--
Although its branching shade should overspread
The ploughman: e'en to him a score lone oaks
Far scattered, are more comfort than land's loss.
Take ye that truth to mind, and in it uphold
As landholders your time-tried landowners;
With little loss in wealth--much gain in worth--
If they uphold their own state worthily--
But that's a task for council. Much ill-will
I've weathered, for this standard's sake, so main.
Nor from much worse, at need, shall I shrink back:
These things, and many more, fully I meant,
But others in their forward patriot fire,
A mood most praiseworthy, where not o'erwild,
(And much I hope they'll show it elsewhere too)
Forespoke me--many thanks--for what one said
Another did gainsay: each answering each,
And left me to look on and listen--enow
Of words already have been here bestowed;
And this high tower, were building heavenward,
Seems like that Babel from confusion of tongues.
So, since 'twere shame to o'erload your weariness,
For all my speech I'll tell you a short tale.
Listen it, if you will:--
Awhile ago,
But when and where behoves me not to say,
There was a river sweeping proudly forth
From its highlands to the sea: so noble a stream,
As nothing less than the great ocean
Were worthy outlet for such stately life.
And, as beseemed that State, many there were,
Greater or less, rivers and brooks, and rills
Did pay it tribute: bringing in their wealth,
Pouring forth all their channels could contain
But to supply its profuse kingly pride.
And as of old tradition they were wont,
E'en so they did awhile--till some began,
Grumbling their surly ground-swell. 'What means this?
Strange fools are we--why should we lose ourselves
But for his gain--and he our sovereign,
Who flows but from our flow, lives by our life,
What doth he for it? how requite our love
And purblind loyalty? Why, not at all.
Oh no--for he's the head, and we the tail,
Born but to follow him--and so we do,
Blindly, as all too weak to hold our way
Unless behind him--so he careers round
For statelier self-show, and we poor things
Obsequious after him--but Time is a true
Teacher--that head may hence be its own tail--
We'll find a shorter way.'
So said, so done.
They did forsay their faith, shifted their aim,
Gnawed them new channels, and forth venturously
Each as a lonely pilgrim, so to fare
As he might chance to find; but what they found
Erelong, in the wild error of their way,
Much better had they miss'd. Soon is strife sown
And severance made--but severance bears no fruit.
Luck is not lonely--Freedom from the bond
Of union is but dreary helplessness.
Each left his olden way for a straighter one,
But found, for the free blessings they were wont,
Sore curses--all cross and untowardly.
Dykes cut in the alarm and dams thrown up
Against them--worse than all, what seemed forthright,
Nature had barred it. Hills, rivers, and bogs
'Twixt them and their fond fancy--the more toil
And the less hope. Till at the last, what each
Had chew'd awhile, but felt it stick in his throat,
They took to their proud stomach: rendering
Such suit and service as they gave of yore,
With lowly prayer to be ta'en back in grace
Where late they left in scorn: and so again
Filling one channel by their confluence,
And called one name, they did forget themselves
To amity and unity once more:
Making a mighty flood of their blent power,
Which else were impotent--shaping their course
In such large round as they might best take in
Whoe'er would with them; and so, not straight indeed,
But surely, speeding onward to their end
With hourly augmentation.
This, my friends,
Tho' seeming fable is a very truth:
And in their wisdom may ye see your own,
Thither to aim, where is attainable.
Thus only can we thro'; for bond is none
Of surety, without vantage on each side
To make the tie. Who would grasp all, must lose
All he would grasp--all that, and himself too;
A silly loss--silly as the dragon's tail
Would lead head, body, and all. Do nothing then
Selfishly: each self-wish must ye forego
To swell the main: nor be so frowardly
Rather to give up all to your worst foes
Than a little to your friends--first make your joint
Hawl, and be sure of it--'twill then be time
How best to sort your fish."
He ceased, and they
Backed him with one strong shout, that swayed the smoke
Aback from the huge chimney. "'Twas well said,
And should be done. Let each think by himself,
And work with all." So they resolved, and who
Could teach them better, he were wise indeed--
Wiser to rest on it--for Wisdom knows
Nothing so hateful as the unwholesome wit
Of sneering, bitter wranglers.
Their talk done,
Good cheer and laughter followed thro' the night,
And merry songs, and the brown earthen jug
Crested with foam--then was each rugged chair
Drawn round the fire in friendlier fellowship
And livelier. While thus they caroused there
Hermann, much overstrained, and quite toil'd down,
Wished them, with one glass more, their hope fulfilled,
And staggered to his rest--such sorry lair
As a straw-shed afforded--yet to him
Made happy by the holy spirit of Love
Which to Christ's faith holds the like function
As soul to body. In that same he breathed
And lived and wrought--and it shed over him
There as he slept a holy, balmy joy,
Angelic calm: 'stead of those wildering dreams
Rising from out those other bigot brains
In sullen fumes, checkered with raging flames.

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Capel Lofft