Capel Lofft

Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book VI

 Next Poem          

BOOK VI.
Nature they wrong thee much, and they wrong Truth,
Who from the name believe thee but to be
The birth of things, the God-given world-life--
Nor feel in thee, beside that teeming power,
God's grace--through goodly work betokening
His gracious will: they wrong thee who doubt this,
And wrong themselves--forsaying all thy soul
Of goodness, breathing forth from thee to them.
For Truth and Calm, and Love and Happiness,
These are thy inward spirit, as the world
Thy outward work--that work is wrought in their
Spirit, and whoso loves thee feels them all,
And is beloved by them--happy whoe'er!
Happy in what he is: and happier yet
In what he hopes, most happy in their sad
Contrast--the worldlings--who resemble him least.
For they forsake their mother--thou'rt no less--
A mother worth more than all worlds to him,
Whoe'er with child-like heart yearns towards thee.
And with the mother's language of true love
And kindly looks ever thou greetest him--
Such language as speeds home, needing no ear
To carry its sweet message to the soul,
But, e'en in silence, saying many things,
To flesh unutterable, deep soul-truths--
Yes, for thou breathest Faith's own spirit--a breath
That hallows Earth from Heaven.
Yet man lives
Of this great good unmindful--a heart self-sunk--
Soulless--of all above him careless quite:
Mire-born, and thither turning swinishly,
To wallow. For how else? How should men rise
Sundered from Nature, and from Nature's thoughts
Atoning him with God? Must so become
A thing--dry, spiritless, and dead--a stake
Torn from its root and stem--a brand--a dull
Stopgap, yearning no more for upward growth
Or genial enlargement--would we then
But free our life, somewhile, from artifice,
And live as, in old time, our forefathers,
Loving the sunshine more than chimney-smoke!
Unswaddling us, if only now and then,
And breathing freely abroad--as from its nest
The unreluctant bird, so we from our home,
By reason meant mainly a weather-fence,
But made by luxury a prison-house,
Where she doth hold us most unwholesomely
Shut in from Nature. So is the poor soul
Inured to bondage from her budding years,
Until she shrinks from the inborn instinct, felt
Expansively, in yearning loftiness,
That else might swell through the whole vault of Heaven
To the poor proportions of a chamber or two:
Growing but to the ceiling 'bove our heads
And stunted there. What art thou, mannikin?
A man? No--a man-monkey--wouldst thou try
True manhood? strip thy lendings, make thy own
Life--'tis most shameful to bemask thee so
With its silly sham; made up for thee by cooks,
Snippers, upholsterers, gamesters, jockeys, pimps,
Tricksters, newsmongers--after all, thy life
Is but one huge and heartless vacant yawn
Which they can never fill: leave them their own,
Give them not thine--break loose--else will their bonds
From silken become steel; out on them all--
Bestir thee as becomes a man--go forth
From the hot stuffy breath of thy house-stoves
And breathe free air; till thy fields, watch thy woods,
See to thy cots and farmsteads; poor or rich,
Help or befriend thy neighbour; above all,
Look up to Heaven: the rock whence thou wert hewn,
Turn to it, God and Nature: thence become
What thou wert meant, and art bewrayed from: a man--
So she first made thee and may make thee again,
Tho' strangely now unmade from her--wilt only
Unbar thy life and live with her. Needs thus
For Lordliness, lest it fall sick and die
Of rottenness--much more would it achieve
Loftier ends. Yes--for high sentiment
Springs not from trivial sights; and godliness
Should enter the young soul first through the sense,
Dilating so its self-shrunk narrowness
By glorious beholdings to become
A tabernacle fit for glorious thoughts.
Would'st thou then rise to loftiness of soul?
Go, live alone with Nature--some short hours
From worldly days--some minutes--blend with her's
Thy being--from her sun expand thy spark
Until thy swelling spirit glow with it.
While Pride, to its palace moulded, can but rise
Thro' self-conceit, by mirrors multiplied,
Up to its hodman's height--as far below
The soul that holds all Nature for its home,
As that proud palace to the Universe--
Paltry elaboration. Hast thou a heart?
When Nature smiles go fling thee in her arms
Like her own child; visit her loneliness;
As of a mother who hath given thee all,
And asketh in requital but one due,
Her children's love. Such due as doth enrich
The payer, and as surely beggars him
Who would withhold it. Go, then, drink thy fill
From the fount springing in that solitude
Which, but to barren minds, is barrenness:
Then, turning home, bring with thee a large heart,
As sure thou wilt from such soul-fellowship,
To fill that home with kindliness and joy,
And holy comfort.
Such had'st thou felt then,
(For Nature in her own aspect is best
Commended, better far than by fair words)
Amid the glories that surrounded them,
Those play-mates: theirs the thrill of early day
In early summer--fleckered was the sky
With clouds light sailing to the brisk cool breeze:
Veiling sometimes, and tempering the sun,
But scarce obscuring him: from many a blue
Island he shed his gentle radiance,
Till the air throbbed with living joy. Hill, wood,
Meadow and corn, cattle and rivulet,
And much beside that language utters not
Unskilled of colour--all by the warm light
Were blended feelingly to loveliness,
Soul of the landscape: seemed--to look on it--
Too heavenly for the painter: must fling by
Pencil and pallet--for they could but mar
What Nature meant for joy not mimicry.
The thankful heart were wiser.
As the day,
So were their spirits--bright and glad--with mirth
Quick-gleaming; and their feelings tuned to the height
Made music, true, tho' artless, to their souls.
And frolicsome blithe talk, laughter and fun,
Tho' none had bidden them, came ne'ertheless,
To sport on their high tide: surest to come
When least solicited. Dance, too, and song
Quickened their hours, glancing in merriment
Sprightly as summer-flies--instinctive joy
Suddenly felt--swift fleeting.
That old Tower
From hollow crumbling ruins, haunt of the owl,
And vocal only with his weird night-scream
Now echoed, strangely, their shrill holiday,
Unwonted: but the shadows on the slope
Were lengthening to mealtime, and their keen
Spirits had quicken'd thirst--so from the brook
They drew them water, making sport of the task,
With many a saucy splash: hurry thenceforth
Was rife, and busy clatter, cloaks outspread,
Service of awkward lackeys, inexpert,
Mirth upon strange defaults, strangely supplied,
All humours mixed in one, and glee o'er all,
Sparkling the surface: but sharp hunger makes
Short feast; soon each stiff dish, and dainty slight,
Vanished alike, as water spilt on sand,
No trace of it. Then rose the spirit of glee:
Ever most full in fulness of the flesh,
O'erflowing from their mugs. Wassail was King.
And healths and merry tales, carousing blithe,
Ere drink had tripped their tongues--
But the Harper old,
Slow heretofore and sad to look upon;
And while their mirth was fresh, like a dead ash
'Mid the green copse, strange to their fellowship
In aspect, and in spirit stranger yet:
Now that the fiery mixture of his cups
Had blended its rash spirit with his blood,
Upstarted into life--rapt in that hot
And heady tide against his course of years
Back to his spring--of youth and phantasy--
Alas! that he must never see it again,
But in the sudden momentary dream,
Flashing, as even now, across his eyes;
Lighting him up from darkness unto dawn,
Wizarding back the dead: so, 'mid their mirth,
Sudden, as tho' the spirit of song from high
Had stooped on him, and seized his soul entire;
Sweeping away with gushy rapturous rush
All careful hinderance, and swelling out
His breast to such a fulness as bards feel;
He caught his harp in hand, and without phrase
Or prelude, or one word of preface said,
Launch'd forth his spirit on its strain of song.
I love thee well, thou hoary tower,
For I have known thee long,
And gathered from thee many a flower,
And sung thee many a song.
And I have brought my children dear
On many a sunny day;
And 'mong thy giant bulwarks here,
Thou gav'st them leave to play.
I love thee for thy olden fame
From darkness gleaming down,
I love thee for thy later shame;
O'ershadowing that renown.
I love thee--for my strength is past,
And even so is thine;
And thy huge frame is wasting fast,
In fellowship with mine.
Yes--dear to me is thy decay--
For thou wert better far
To fall downright in dust away,
Than see the things that are.
See the proud stranger hold command
Our pleasant hills among;
The harp forgotten from our land,
And mute our father's tongue.
Yes, I shall love and cherish thee
E'en to the utmost end;
Old wont hath made thee unto me
For a familiar friend.
And I can draw thy echoes out,
As none beside me can:
Thou heed'st my whisper more than shout
Of any idling man.
For ever I have felt for thee
More than my fellows may:
So for thy bard thou welcom'st me,
And lovest my wild lay.
But ye--the sons of stalwart sires,
From mountain dale and hill;
Ye ashes of forgotten fires--
Say--are ye lifeless still.
Ah! there's a soul in all we see--
A spirit in this stone--
Yon swirling brook runs feelingly
But ye are dead alone.
Yet could but others feel as I,
Then surely were it done--
But ye are many standing by,
And I a forlorn-one.
Still fain to fawn upon your Lords--
But dare not to be free--
Ah, who can say such shame in words?
And must it ever be?
Then lay it low, that time-worn tower,
Nor let one record stand
Of home-born pride or home-born power,
The glory of our land.
The glory of our Father's land--
But oh! our own disgrace--
How shall the coward heart and hand
Hold such high dwelling-place?
Then never harp or harper's name
Henceforth be heard again;
Too heavy is my country's shame
For burden of my strain.
'Tis only the faint spirit that men scorn--
Boldness hath ever praise; or, if not praise,
Wonder and earnestness, gazing spellbound.
And so the old man, albeit of bearing strange,
Yet was his strangeness of so high a soul,
E'en the clown stooped to him; giving him space
And silence to fulfil his glowing speech.
Fulfilled, each one upon his neighbour looked,
Distrustful of himself--till at the last
Did admiration murmur itself forth
In utterance more soul-like than of words,
And all was still again--stillness, not such
As throws her cloak o'er inward emptiness;
But she--the brooding mother of deep thoughts--
Slow ripening--and then swift-winged, to soar
Abroad--they knew, by hearing most--but some
Pledge-bound unto the plot, of straws and sparks;
And, deeper yet, of dark conspiracy--
Dagger'd and cloaked and masked: standing await
With match in hand to fire the sullen train,
Whene'er its bell should toll. Something they knew,
And those who knew not all, fancied much more--
As ever a dim hint stirs the soul through
Stronger than full display and circumstance;
For day but darkens starlight. Fancy hath lynx
Eyes, liveliest in dusk. So their thoughts wrought:
And even so their leader meant they should:
For thus the leaven awhile must gare within
Ere it can raise the lump--and cleared too soon
Is marred for ever; a distempered drink--
Unwholesome--racks the drinker.
As Graybeard
Ended, and overwrought, sate down again,
Sobbing in spirit, and half veiled by his harp;
His hands mantling his head; sudden there shone
A glory from the Heaven, a strange sun-flush,
As tho' his blazing banner he unfurled
To stream athwart the sky. Sudden it struck--
So sudden, that surprise came over all,
Smit by that gleamy shaft: then Linsingen,
"Welcome this high forebodal here below!
The sun hath shone, and the Harper hath said truth,
And light avoucheth light. Hail thou old man,
And hail thy stirring skill--tho' 'tis not the harp
But the very heart-strings of each one of us
Thou hast so thrilled. Long may'st thou live, until
Thy patriot hope ripen to happiness,
Till this thy land be in full freedom blest,
And thou in her! And now--drink we, my friends
His life and health--and all his hopes beside--
Both his and ours: aye, and our Fatherland's--
And as I spill this laggard drop in dust,
E'en so be his blood spilt in sorrow and shame,
Who shrinks to give it freely and forwardly
To the main good. Ah, well! once more--that shout
Came cheering from the heart--and now, again
To our dance--we'll challenge night a second round,
Which of the two flag first."
So much he said:
But said not all he meant--for his mind was
To whet their eagerness with but a hint
Of his aim--a sudden light from 'neath his cloak
Half shown and not half seen--lest, certainty,
Should dull the forward will, upbuoyed on clouds,
And sinking in clear air. Question he waived,
Lest, being satisfied, it should pall so--
But left Imagination there astrain,
Its shaft upon its string. Quick at his word
That merry throng fulfilled it with a will:
And Treason, for the nonce, 'stead of its own
Dark windings, tried the mazes of the dance,
Open and gay--light-tripping careless feet
For bloody hands--but from that happy ring
Those gloomier few, the leaders first, and then
In broken bands, the whole conscious plot, strike off
Across the moor, and thence over the hills,
Whether for deeper talk, or wider sway
For sight. They overtake the ridge, and on,
Stalking against the sky-line, giant-like,
And ever on--but why such greedy haste,
Baffling the spirit, and forbidding the eye
To range at ease? forsooth, such kindly fair
Landscape, while man with Nature shall be like,
Mooded, and one heart-tie bind mother and son,
Were worth a friendlier stay--yet they sped on
Darkling, as o'er the heath the scudding clouds,
And all as careless of the things they o'ersped.
Nor wonder--for one dour black drop on the heart
Upstirred, dims Nature's mirror: inward strife
Sees nothing fair without. So forth they fared
As tho' the beauty round them were a blank;
Broaching their dark designs--nor stopping, save
When doubt or fiery zeal of gainsayers
Drew itself up, or overweening will
Would strike its sentence home--upward or down
As wayward hill or moorland baffled them;
A course so craggy and untowardly,
Perplexed by bog and briar, and yawning leaps,
As imaged to the life their purposed aim,
Had they so heeded it--omens to read
As written. Yet why should they? an' doom write down
Whate'er she will, yet Faith fulfils herself,
Making her cross her anchor.
Ere this the sun,
His height o'erreached, and westward course begun,
Shot down his fierest shafts. The still air throbbed
Visibly in the fever of his fire;
And Nature, crouching 'neath the tyrant's rage,
Lay like a lark, fearful of the hovering hawk--
No breath, no stir, no utterance.--Yet they won
Their toilsome way to where a wide pine wood
Darkened and shagged the forehead of a hill
Else bare--that wood frowned its defiance forth
Sullenly, in despite of the warm sun
That made of all the air one brilliant blaze
Save there alone. "Hark ye, my friends," said Hess,
"Ye're young--the marrow yet slickens your bones:
But mine are hard and dry; rest we then here:
The respite that I need, may soothe you too,
Who need it not. Here let us sit a-shade,
And look into the sun, a luxury
Of Nature, such as costliest artifice
Were mean beside it--or else on--to the hut--
Ye see it there--where the old fisher dwells--
He of our brotherhood--ye know him well--
And hear what news--whether our venture yet
Be noised abroad--what these folk think of it--
Who likely, for or 'gainst." "Aye--thither on,"
Cried Linsingen--"behoves him, who goes forth
On such a threatening business as ours now--
Bestir him early and late. We have a world
To win, with only zeal and fiery will
To help us win it: therefore, stay not here--
But thither, where our stay hath likelihood
To worthen it--And he--I know him well--
His wish is with us, tho' his strength of arm
Be past its working time; and what we need
Of tidings true and safe advertisement,
If the common eye look coldly on our cause,
Or if we may hope comfort hereabout,
Whate'er it be, he'll warrant--on--away--
'Tis scantly a half-mile"--
He had sprung up,
And given the example ere his word:
And--forward yet--his comrades followed him,
Drawn in his wake. A stiff descent; half bog,
Half briar; then the stream with its log-bridge:
These hinderances o'erpast, in miry plight
They reached the fisher's home: ere yet within,
A ragged boy carried his grandsire word,
"Strangers are come"--nor slacken'd the old man
To meet his guests--"Sirs, I had blushed for shame,
But that my shame in sorrow is all lost,
To give you welcome in so crazy a hut:
I who have oft cross'd hands with you ere now
Over the threshold of a worthier house,
For guests like you--but whate'er be--life's short--
I am no worse a man burden'd like this,
Nor he a better who so burdens me.
Time and God's grace will do us right at last,
Tho' our own means fail."
"And who dares say they shall,"
Thus Linsingen broke in upon his word.
"Who talks of failure when his hopes are full,
With will and strength to warrant them each one
To the uttermost? No, my good man, God's aid
Is for him only who dares aid himself
In spite of danger--hands we have, and arms,
But have we hearts withal for life to them,
Or are we but mock-men--mere apes--no soul--
Only in words? No--not so mean are we.
Such mud--so would I stamp it." The old host
Amazed, looked up, and smiled, and shook his head;
"Aye, Master, youth is warm and full of hope:
And once my head, as yours, was golden bright;
But Time turns all to grey. 'Tis not my will,
But the sharp pinch of need makes me so sad--
Oh do but show me a light--I'll follow it
Thro' fire and water. Aye, Sir, think what 'tis--
To be a sterling householder one day--
And a gaol-rogue the next--to be dragged off--
My fishing gear, and all my livelihood
First seized before my face. Sheer beggary--
Homeless and breadless: and not I alone--
But these poor children too who have done no harm,
But to be come of me, that they must starve,
And I forsake 'em--No--but fail 'em now--
And leave 'em friendless. Sure 'twere a blest job
Could I but dig their graves. Sir, you're book-learned--
And tell me, is it sinful to wish death,
In such a wreck? A sinner! throw that too
On the heap of all my wretchedness--Aye, boys,
Well may you stare; for oncome such as this
You never saw in your old grandsire yet.
Had fished yon stream for living, scores of years,
And now--gaoled up--for a poacher."
More had he
Outpoured, for anger swept him, with fire-flood,
But Linsingen snatched out his reckless flask,
And "True--we've all our hardships--more'n enough--
But we've strength too, thank God, for their redress:
And that same strength we're minded to put forth,
Each for all sakes. What--is't thou only? ah no--
I've borne it and we all, yet worse we must--
Or this hag-law must lay strong hands on her,
To muzzle and gag her. Here, old friend, drink this--
'Tis freely born, as free as the hill dew,--
No curs'd exciseman for its godfather,
But a bold ungauged spirit.--Drink it down,
And drink this too.--'Down to such laws, and those
Who ever made them.'--Old age is childishness.
Unsteadfast, ever like to shape itself
To a stronger spirit's sway." That tottering man
Straightway forgot all else, and was full fain
To do the jovial bidding of his guests,
A changeling to their humour.
Much they asked,
And heard, and still their bosoms swelled to hear:
For he told them how the heart of the whole folk
Was like the autumn heather on the hill,
Needing no more to burst into a blaze
But the first kindling spark--their tide of talk
O'er eyes and ears had deepened over them,
Unwitting of all else; when, on the door
Sudden there smote a strong and heavy hand,
That the house quaked to hear. Hermann rose up
As it belonged to him, nearest the door,
And drew it open. There the old shepherd stood,
Shaggy and wild, yet thoughtful of look--for broad
And lofty was that weather-beaten brow:
Stood as a wooden stock grown to the ground
Staring his unsaid speech.
"Sir, from this hill
I saw you, so his words at last found way,
Brokenly, 'tween the catches of his breath,
I saw you, and I knew you--for none else--
And down I hurried for such news to tell
As never known were better for us both;
But Truth must speak--for she's a spirit of light
Speaking, but kept within, a smouldering fire;
So you once taught us. Now, Sir, I'll teach you--
Your father hath another kind of faith
Than you and I; and what he helped to do,
That he would now break up, ere it be done--
The frame first thing, and then the framer's heads,
With its broken bits. For our undertaking, Sir,
I know not if ye stand our friend, or if
This plot hath reached but to your ear; tho' then--
These thy mates here--I understand it not--
But now--thus much: If ye be one of us
Then meet this mischief for the sake of all;
Or, if your safety be not bound to ours,
But only your good faith; then for Faith's sake,
Look that your father do not such a deed
As needs must shame his son. He 'th been with me,
That I should vouch him before witnesses
For the truth of what he said. But I would not--
Nay, rather would I brain him with this crook
And be hanged after. Ah, Sir, I'm o'erwarm--
But thou art of an upright spirit, and know'st
The workings well of such another one--
I mean not quite so much. Sir, the folk now
Is gathered on yon hill--and the young squire,
He and his stranger friend were bound to me,
To see me in my lonely dwelling first,
Ere they made open meeting with the main.
And then I meant them--what I've told thee now.
But seeing thee one of their fellowship,
Methought such hearing were for thy ear first--
To con it. This, Sir, is my eager haste--
And now that stuff--since my heart's light of it,
Do thou what needs thereon--Soon shall we meet.
Meantime, take home the matter to thy mind."
He spake and went his way: but Hermann, there
Stricken with wonderment, stood as spell-bound.
Passion oft furthers work, streaming the will,
But there it came in such a swirling flood
As overwhelmed the wheels it should drive on,
Clashing all steadiness. Awhile he stood,
Like to a lion bayed by many hounds,
Doubtful which first. Then did his vehemence,
Wavering at first, self-gathered into strength,
Hurl itself, suddenly, all in one stroke,
Downright upon its doom. So grew his thoughts
To issue, and flashed forth in fiery words.
"Yes--'tis e'en so--
The deed is done--'tis smitten--the foul blow.
Come then, I know thee well, thou ill-starred hour,
Come to thy own.
E'en as a reed before thy stormy power
I bow me down.
'Tis thy stern shadow that I see--
It darkens still--all hail to thee!
Hark! I hear thy rushing pinion--
I bend me to thy dark dominion--
Come and sweep me hence away
In thy full resistless sway;
I am thine--and so--I've said my say--
Once I strove, but strive no longer,
I feel me strong--but I confess thee stronger.
Yet tell me, wherefore art thou so
Tricked in hope's delusive show?
Ah no! I see thee truly, what thou art--
And lo! my breast I bare:
We meet--this once--for never shall we part--
I and despair.
And thou hast done all this, my sire, e'en thou!
And how could'st thou fall off; oh tell me how?
Were it in the face of day,
Were it after battle fray,
Were it mid beholding men;
Better had I borne it then:
There is a majesty of might
In the full-swaying vengeful sword,
But by all spirits, treacherous sleight,
But by the Tempter, is abhorred.
The rebel may be bold and true,
And he may win a glorious name:
But Faith forsworn--its doom--its due--
Is shameful death and deathless shame.
Oh! 'tis indeed a fortune most forlorn,
Where fain we would love well,
To feel our love disnatured into scorn,
Our heart, our home, turned to a traitor's hell.
But no--thou art my father still--
Duty overbeareth will--
Till the severance of our tie--
Then thou art free, and so am I.
Aye--be it so--and so be each as free
As the sear branch I shiver from this tree.
Tear it off and fling it far;
To lie wide sundered as we are,
See--it is done--
Alas! thou fool--thou'rt still thy father's son.
Where then is he--the friend--
The true one--faithful to the end?
See--here I bare my arm--bare thou thy knife,
And coldly drain
Each shrinking vein
To its last drop of crimson life.
So my sire's blood may pour its hideous blot
There on that heather, and I own it not.
Curse on ye all--ye dreams of idleness!
I know ye not--back to your nothingness.
No! I will redeem the shame
Of our foul dishonour'd name.
Now that name thro'out the land
Is charactered in felon brand;
Soon it shall be fair and bright,
Written in the sunbeam's light:
Uttered in the thunder's voice--
Hear it and quake, my foes, and ye my friends, rejoice;
For there shall live a spirit in that name:
Who breathes it forth shall breathe a lightning flame:
Strong to comfort and to save,
To cheer the faint, to steel the brave.
Alike in council and in loud
Outburst of the acclaiming crowd:
Soul of the battle shout,
Rallying here and scattering there in rout.
But what strange cloud o'erhung my brow
That I was blind till even now?
I saw it not, tho' shining there
That star-like truth, so heavenly fair.
Vain alike were love and hope
Pointing to this godly scope;
Vain was freedom's thrilling cry--
Each for all--to do or die.
Till another counsel came
Muttered in my ear by shame;
Yes, Honour, unto thee
I bow my knee:
To outdo the foul disgrace
Lowering o'er my name and race.
Thy bidding shall be done
So be the sire forgotten in the son.
Oh yes--a thousand thanks, my sire, to thee!
'Tis all thy gift--the glory that I see.
Not now a vision, but a truth indeed;
For Fate's own hand hath written what I read.
I see it all--I see the opening sky--
Oh yet one glance--one more--enough, 'tis by.
But no--that sight once seen--lives everlastingly.
All is one blazing Truth, clear'd to my eyes
Of worldly foul foredrift and priestly lies.
The giant people, the all-sovereign sun
Waked up in glory his glad course to run;
Quenching the chilly lustre of each star,
That ruled the sky while yet he was afar.
Claiming our worship, tho' they shine but so,
Their own vain-glory 'mid the night to show;
Their glory, and the general gloom of man:
But who shall clear that gloom? They neither care nor can.
Nor light nor warmth is theirs; and earth and sky
Must bide in darkness while they blaze on high:
Bide darkling still that they may shine more bright--
Then come thou sovereign sun, and reassert thy right;
Give the warm grace those lordly things deny,
And bid them fade before thy fiery eye.
Fade in avoidance like a flashy dream;
They know thy power, they tremble as they gleam.
See! darkness faints in day, the pitchy night
Bursts into brilliance at one touch of light:
And mid that light doth Truth ascend her throne,
Beckoning to man, and men asserts his own.
Wondering to see, where erst he was so blind,
A clayey mass enlightened to a mind.
And what he wills that will is now the Lord,
And what he says the deed fulfils the word:
Despots crouch shuddering down, for he hath drawn his sword.
Then doth resistance weakly faint away,
E'en as those darksome clouds dissolved in day:
Threatening the eye, and thundering to the ear;
But to the grasp a foolish empty fear.
So right is 'stablished and old wrongs redressed,
The few abated, and the many blest.
But oh! the joy, the rapture, the surprise,
One voice, one will, one world in ecstasies,
Ne'er felt by earthly heart, nor view'd by earthly eyes.
Yes, 'tis decreed,
I've seen the sight, now, forward to the deed!
As thus he spake, his glove was in his hand:
And, for his spirit so found utterance,
He flung that badge of his defiance down
So sharp, that the earth rang with the sharp stroke
As from a gauntlet of steel; "I fling thee there,
Let who will take thee up: from this time forth
This hand is bare till it hath done its work,
E'en till the crown consummate the work done."
He said, and striding in, thus to his men.
"My friends, the loud occasion summons us
As with a trumpet blast: no tarrying time
Have we here: up then, to the hills; if aught needs said,
We'll say it on the way." Their talk was then
Of earnest things debated earnestly;
But such a soaring spirit spake from his lips
As overruled them to hear nought beside,
Only itself--none answered him a word:
But each man looked first in the speaker's face,
Then in his fellows, wondering whence that soul
So girl-like, had found wings to fly withal,
And to such towering pitch.
But the high mind
Rules from its height: and so their weaker will
Bowed to the sterner sovereignty of his,
That they must do his bidding. Forth they went,
Leaving the old fisherman to follow them
As best he might, in backwardness of years.
Silently they strode on, lest a light word
Should cross their forward thought--waded the brook;
And strained each eye to see their gathered host,
Now nigh, but by a ridge hindered from sight;
When Hermann, whose hot haste, as goaded on
By spur within, his fellows had forevanced,
Suddenly turning stayed them, brow to brow,
And thus began; fierce and impetuous,
'Stead of his calm deep want. As a stream smooth
Gliding, till by some craggy startling edge
Confronted--respite none, nor to retreat,
Forthright determined, leaps its desperate doom
One flash, one plunge--a foaming cataract
Self-hurled; then onward, shooting, sweeping on,
Reckless--"My friends, we go, for what? to hear
And speak--if t at alone, 'tis some--not much--
But why not more? Say then to strike. How then?
Good faith, that latest word pleases me best:
For sure it speaks a strong and daring sense
Akin to our spirit--aye--now ye wonder me;
And reason that ye should. Ye see me changed:
E'en so--what late I was, ye knew me well;
But now--ye look upon another man.
A change that needs no mask--for it turns not
On self, nor sneaks, nor skulks, but looks to the cause,
The good cause only--and now--I tell you all--
The sum without the account. For we stand here
On the sword's point, and reason is, our talk
Should run no wider range. We are betrayed--
Nay, start not, for the danger of that word
To meet it, needs stern will--rather must strain
Our nerves and knit our brows. I say, betrayed--
And who hath done it? Nay, ask me not who,
Lest the name choke me in the utterance;
Only thus much--I will atone the deed
With all my utmost means, and blood, and life,
Being his son. But mark me this, my friends;
Doubtless his aim is level to his end,
And we in dangerous range: but to that end
Behoves a twofold treason, he 'gainst us,
And we against ourselves; if we flinch now--
Then were we all as well each man of us
To make a halter of his handkerchief
There on that tree. But we have hearts, I trow;
And there's no spell can bind us to sit still
While the headsman whets his axe. Then what more needs?
To the cannon's mouth and slay the cannoneer
With match in hand. Go, play the devil at brag,
Outbrave each danger, and o'ertop it still
With a yet louder and more daring one.
Else must we die the death, as traitors' ta'en
With sword half out of sheath, short of the deed,
But far beyond forgiveness for the thought.
Oh bare it then at once--our brave outbreak,
Thus--even thus outflash it to all eyes--
Joyous to start from its dark scabbard forth,
And feel the glow of fight. Must dare and do--
Thoro' goes thro' it.
Those same lawyerlings
Are ware of us, and they, with their shrewd wits,
If tidings lie not, would fain snap us up,
And make our treason a fool--Ah, but we'll crush
Their fingers in their own most cunning trap,
And their necks after. Up then friends--be bold!
Be bold! write that one word, deep on your hearts.
For so ye have a talisman, be sure,
Safe as the ground ye tread--aye, we know well--
Who would win this success, must snatch her first,
In the grasp of forward fiery confidence;
Be sure, she takes for her lord her ravisher--
Whoever dares it. But which way? what means?
Ah! 'tis well asked--cudgels, I say stones, flails,
Pitchforks--strong-wielded, they are strength enough:
So be our hearts our only fire-shooters,
Needs now none other--'tis but a rough fray--
When danger comes, we'll meet him, dangerously,
Armed to the teeth. But yet, the time is not--
Bludgeons will serve this bout.
My trusty friends,
What I have said, I think to say again
In face of all the people gathered there,
Our own, whole-hearted, whole-bound, brotherhood.
If then it be your mind, as awhile since
You gave your word, now to strike hands with me,
The time is on us--else if to some faint
Relishes this same dish seem over-hot,
Then make your meal aloof--leave me alone--
And I will do the work of other men,
With Him--for helper. Stand you there awhile,
And make up each his mind: strike or forbear.
For I must to the shepherds' a half-hour,
And so God speed us--all we have in hand."

Next Poem 

 Back to
Capel Lofft