Capel Lofft

Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book III

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BOOK III.
Freedom, Love, Light, and Truth, these are four things
That waste nor wane while they impart themselves;
Nay--rather wax the wider for each help
They lend to a weak neighbour.--And yet we--
We narrowlanders--kindly, enlightened, free,
(Self-bragging so, and so by onlookers
Not quite unworthily nor wrongfully
Forthholden), tho' we love mainly that fair
Holy and happy fourfold sisterhood
(Bating the many who hate it; the slave souls,
The worldly wealthy, coward grovellers,
Who love but their own swine-like grovelling selves),
Yet even we--the friendlier bulk--we love,
Not well, but too self wisely; we love Truth
And freedom, not as any flower loves light,
But--as gripers love gold: for our self-sake
And against others: I want it--give it me--
To hold in my own hand. So the babe cries
For its toy--so man for freedom. Thus tho' we love--
Nay--that's a holy word--but tho' we like
Freedom for ourselves, we hate not tyranny
O'er others--Why? for that dull foil lends life
To our free jewel--makes us feel ourselves
Manlier some and mightier than our slave
Neighbours--in freedom's fair and flowing robes
We walk forth proudly among wretches whose rags
Hide not their chains--nay--but true freedom is love
Self-spreading--come then who will, I welcome ye--
Come one, come all--come beggars, maimed, halt, blind,
Come to this earthly gospel of free grace,
And from it frame ye for that heavenly one.
Only before we free ye for the main
Folks-rule, each for self-rule, should free yourselves.
From slavery of sensual swinishness,
Lust, drunkeness, to mindful self-control.
From idleness, and grovelling begging want
To self-dependence thro' good steady work.
From taking rated help to giving it.
So private worth proves public--why should the hedge
Beggar about the state-house busy him
Ere he has built his own? in its self-men,
Whoever, few or many, high or low,
Its standards, its upholders, stands the whole state,
Else by their rottenness or weakness, falls.
Thence, whosoe'er by his own working will
Becomes self-free, we'll make him state-free too
With franchise--while the public burden he shares--
For choice of his state-rulers--but for that
How prove his fitness? needs not--livelihood
Is likelihood--no better proof needs be.
Who from his steady earnings makes and holds
His home, and helps his country, further pledge
He owes it not: may claim from it free rights--
So should the franchise mark the man from the mob
With signal stamp: e'en of the rabble, some
Might feel it, drawing them up towards it
As with magnetic virtue--from their foul
Sensual sty to cross the bar, and take
Manlier stand and rightful fellowship.
But they, whose will is but to grovel in mire
There leave them--what to them is the cause of Christ
And country? what the franchise but a free
Ticket, to swill their day, or wreak their spite
Against their hated betters; and in fiend
Glee hand them over to some faction's yoke
Or tyrant's? 'Tis an easy downward slope
From recklessness of rabble rule, to the foul
Self-sway of despots,--the state-rot, death-cold,
For it kills all folk-life.
We, then, who draw
The state-car, will, if wise, while yet in time,
Hold back against such downfall to mob-rule
Strongly and sternly as when erst we strove
Uphill--hardly, and with slow strain, forthright
For freedom. Time for wheels, and time for drag,
Which of the two, needs wisdom. Else that slope
Once taken, hard the stress, so old Truth sang,
To rise again from hell--from man's self-mire
Yet harder--for hell-pains were stings and spurs.
But ah! what hope when swinish herds give sway
To him who but once stuffs and swills them, and takes
Their grunted ayes in payment? of ought higher
What care they? kick them and cudgel if he will,
Fling all filth o'er them, hurt nor shame is theirs,
They feel it not. But like their old compeers
Circean, they bethrong their keeper's court,
Awaiting the coarse slush he throws to them,
And hustling back those who feel, know, and hate
Their wrong and foul wrongdoer, and as men
Would right it: e'en these few are fewer each day,
And fainter. The old Roman virtue is dead,
Tyrannicide: the heroic godly will
Herculean, that smote howe'er it could
The bloody, lewd, self-bloating atheist
Usurper, drunk with felony forsworn
And all his followers--that hateful brood
Bred with him from corruption's slimy swamp,
Smote him, not with law's doom, for how? like the old
Scyrian, he lopped the law--hands and feet off
Then with fiend jeer, "Now strike me;" no then, not
With his self-law garbled for his self-ends,
But with its sturdy downright stalwart club
Dashing to dust his treason, in spite of shams
And all pretences. So the heroic will
Freed the old Greek and Roman fellowships,
And so, its work fulfilled, won its reward,
By thankful Truth throned everlastingly
High up in heaven.
But, thou, flunkiest
Of folks, he called thee so, who knew thee well,
Fulfil thy calling: kicked and cuffed as thou art,
Nay, cringing dost submit thyself to be:
Bruised, gagged, tax-ground, soldier'd to slavishness.
Lie down--low in thy mire--thy cowering choice--
Ye've drawn those dregs--must drink them. Ye chose a wolf
For your shepherd's dog. Howe'er, ye suffer him:
Yield ye then to your yoke--spend, slay, at his beck:
Shout for him, pray for him, where public prayer
May hope good payment; but shout loudly, and so
Sham out, or at least, sham over, your heart's hate,
And fear, and shame, all your true feelings; of them
And him, make one huge sham with babbling breath.
Then chew your slave-cud--but Tyrannicide--
Think not, nor talk, much less try that stern thing,
It needs a high heroic pitch of soul
With Milton, Tully, Locke, and o'er them all
God's holy writ for vouchers. Shame them not
By thy half-headed and half-hearted shams--
Lift not thy hand so loftily: poor frog?
'Tis not thy braggart breath will swell thee out
To their bold bulk.
Then, in those days, were men.
But now, ah, no! their mould is broken, and we
Can but pick up and handle, and scan the bits--
Forsooth, sound ware, clear, strong, fire-clean: but ours,
Why so much weaker? There's the murdering wretch,
But where's the man? The hour is come, but the man--
Cowards! why wait him? alas, wait we must
Till he rise, our star, our sun, till the old folks' right
Shall find a new forefighter--a Hercules
Fresh soul'd and steel'd for freedom: fearless and strong
Alike to smite the giant, to clean out
The filth-heaped stalls of state-craft, and to crush
The wily self-coil'd many headed snake,
Killing the country with corruptive bloat
Of poison. Hark to the giant! he screams out
He, whose maw gloated o'er man, woman, and child,
Now that the Hero's club darkens his head,
He screams out "Murder"--and the hissing snake--
Smitten too sharp for wiles and fangs to work
Shrieks murder--and the tyrant--he, too, who heaped
These and all hellish crimes on his own head
With fire, and sword, and poisonous tropic bogs
Deadlier than Lernoean; he who stabbed
In the dark, behind her back, the commonweal
Which to uphold so foully he forswore;
Slaying her faithful sons and followers
With the very weapons that she trusted him
To ward wrong from them; he whom treachery
Where else most hateful, must yet blush thro' its worst
Blackness to feel itself out-done by him;
Now, with the avenger's shadow in night dreams
Scaring his wolfish eyes, he, too, yells out,
"Murder, forbear me, to kill me is crime--
But I--my thousand murders hallow me.
I'm dipped so deeply in that hellish Styx
To immortal holiness."
Hark the fiend's laugh,
Echoes his scream: but steel and shot, ah no!
Nor e'en the rope, 'twould shrink with shame from such
Carrion: then hold thy hand, Tyrannicide,
That name means warlike weapons--no such blood
Shall sully them--the cool deliberate law
When man returns to it--as surely he will,
After full hearing and well witnessed search,
Shall doom thee to fit fellowship with those
Thou didst suborn--to the soldiers' jakes--deep down,
To be smothered in its foulest--there be thy true
Congenial home, and self-wrought monument;
For thee and for thy memory--so thy last
Scene shall fulfil late justice; and thy death
Betoken and reward meetly thy life,
So God's dark ways were justified to men.
Thence were all thankful--all but flunkeydom,
With its pale sobs and shrieks--"What! murder a king!
Eh, Flunkey! dost so hate king-murderers?"
"Yes, surely!" "Well, thou'rt right. Here, then, hate him--
He's the king-murderer; of murderers
The King--the Emperor--but comfort thee--
We give him but one drop from his own cup,
Whence thousands, scores of thousands, by that foul
Wretch, whom Hell--ah! but to the ears polite
Of Flunkeyhood, Hell is too horrible--
Thou'rt all aghast at it, and he--but, no--
Enough of that rank stench--stir it no more--
Only a word to thee: Thou'rt in high place--
Flunkeyship is a ladder of many steps;
Thou hast thy servants--suppose then, thy steward:
Thou giv'st him thy whole household to control,
As Pharaoh to Joseph. He forecasts
His plan, forelays his train, bribes thy men, creeps
Around at midnight, clutches all he can,
Murders thy sons who stand for duty and thee;
Others, away to prison and tropic swamps,
Gags all the rest--thee too--squanders thy wealth
On wanton strife, pomp, riot, and ruffian
Followers; or wasteful works, meant but to bribe
Thy workmen.--Thou, meantime, pining in slave
Wretchedness; should the thought arise to thee,
Must I for ever live this foul sewer-life?
Can I not free me? Shoot him, stab him down!
How unmanly were thy thought, how wicked! Eh,
Flunkey? Should leave him, say'st thou, to the law--
What to his own law--his own hireling gang--
His own self-judgment--his own balloters,
Prefects and Mayors, correcting to his own
Self-sacrificing will, the waywardness
Of universal suffrage? Oh most wise
Flunkey! Yes, for such law is good enough
For thee, no better thou deserv'st--but we--
We're not all Flunkeys."
That guest listened his host:
A swirling speech of wormwood bitterness.
I've said, my aim is lofty. Nothing less
Than happiness thro' fellowship to man
In all that laws, framing his outward life,
Make for his good or ill. So high to build
Behoves me from the ground self to begin.
For, Hermann, mark me this; much have they erred
The patchers of each crazy polity,
Looking to selfishness of severalty
More than the folks' main good; taking no heed,
Ever as fresh materials come to hand
By growth of men and wealth, traffic and skill,
To frame them in after the primal plan
Lopping the rank outgrowth of greediness
Down to proportion and fair ordinance.
Reducing all to the original rule
Whate'er accrued: and so throughout their task
Keeping their eye still on the central Truth,
To truthen their whole work; but they, instead
Tampered their high trust, deeming it enough
Could they but hold what others handed them,
However blindly: reckoning the far
Following ages of their fellow-men
For nothing: crowded in a ciphers' round.
Thus heartless arrogance o'erstrode the space
Wide all enough for thousand worthier needs
With one self-usurpation--evermore
Spreading and towering, till the giant pile
Strong in o'erbearing bulk, defied the hate
That scowled on it, to stir it from its stand.
And scorned the helpless scowler. Thus mankind
Is a body plagued with boils: bloating themselves,
Starving the sinews: till the heart of health
Sickens, the blood is tainted, the life droops.
Thus the old rule bewrays us; and its lines,
Crooked and crazy, serve but to contrast
Reason's strait project, strait and true--I mean
No other--not as worldly statesmen are wont,
Dotards of old tradition, to grope on
Their aimless twisted way; sideling, aslant,
Or backward, as selfcraft finds likelihood,
But to retrace our forefathers vague maze
And start from Truth's first stand: they were bewrayed
Thence, and went wrong; we must now speed aright.
Surer to win from that foreloss--since dear
Experience is wisdom. The old wall
Is down on those who daubed its rottenness
With their raw mortar--so let it e'en lie.
Away with statecraft's saws, bury the dead,
And let the quick live their own life; heed not
The blear-eyed mumblers who would cripple us
To their own slowth; level all privilege--
And boil our canker'd constitution up
To fervency and fulness of young blood
In the fierce caldron of democracy.
But hold, all this sham thunder, thou wilt say,
Betokens nought but brazen hollowness:
See then the substance--first, we must lay well
Our ground-work: nay, 'tis there, already laid,--
The folk-stone, the yore-rock--the good land-self
That underlies all manhood and all life;
That rock, as we were hewn from it, so now
Return we to it, to our broad deep base.
Else how should revolution e'er have end,
Unless the land's strong substance stay its wheel,
And giving body to its theory,
Fix fast its airy scheme--all project else
Is but a cheapjack's whirligig, may wheel
In air, but never work in this stiff world.
So they miss'd aim, the word-wise drivellers,
Statecrafty, who erst stamped their seal on France,
Marring a likely metal. There, as here,
Would'st have the people stand up steadfastly,
Give them the landstead--given but once, no fear
Lest old prescription wrest it back from them;
Or frame another fraud, having no ground
But only the thin air to build upon.
But they, the dolts, wise but in words alone,
Set for a bolt, a feather on their string,
And shot their game away--the folk came on
To that loud call, and conquered ere they came;
But when, at last, none had a crust the more
Of bread for his belly, or a rag for his back,
Each looked at the other, and saw fruitless hope
And rage, reflected from his brother's face
Upon his own. Then that same hollow trash
Of husks and windbags taken in fair words,
They threw it back in curses; leaving all
They'd done for whoso listed to undo,
Their beacon blouted, their faith fooled, their shouts
A hiss of scorn, their framework all ungeared;
Till Freedom, helplessly fluttering, from her height
Fell down; fell through mere void, and lack of stay
Should give her wings their purchase--but this lack
Now in this land shall hinder us no more;
No! that manhood may live--unstunted, unthralled,
The old foreright must die; the Lord's accursed
Landlock--shall be henceforth a grandsire's tale,
For scorn and wonder to his staring sons.
Justice shall speak in the universal shout,
Startling the noisy din of arrogance
To a faint crouching fear: drowning all else,
Curses, complaints, and spiteful selfishness
In its stern whelming utterance of folks'-will.
And only in such outbreak have we hope,
For what is our disease? The custom and course,
Nay, ingrown curse of law: which lawmongers
Are likelier far to aggravate than heal.
No, manhood must unshackle and uplift man
To a stateholder--from the state alone--
Free on freeland--no idle ownership--
But our kind mother earth shall thence bestow
Her wealth on whoso wins it by his work,
Not on the robber of God's general gift,
Who looks but on, feeding his humours foul
Of idleness from the salt sweat of serfs.
Hard bread, no thanks. This done, the folk is freed.
For so the Giant Alazonocracy
Sundered from hold on earth--which bred him first
And ever pampers him--whereon indeed
Is strung the very navel of his life,
Shall dree though late his death-dole. Freedom and hope
Shall cheer the working swain and townsman too,
The one reaping his toil, the other assured
Of his toil's worth, disfettered and dearth free,
Buying two loaves of the sturdy husbandman
For what the greedy landlord grudged him one--
So making plenty, erst as strange to him
As angels upon earth, his housemate now,
Homely, as o'er his hearth his own goodwife,
Nor craving aught beside.--This were a stroke
Indeed, not here and there a bough trimmed off,
But the root severed. Such upbreak must be--
For without Revolution true reform
Is none--no other hope for old crazed states.
Who crosses rotten ground, tangled with briars,
Broken with stub and stone, bogged with foul ooze,
Corrupt, behoves him with high hand to smite
Those breasting brambles, with high striding foot
To o'erstep bog and plashet; hindrances
Which to get through by any lawful path,
Trial and time were hopeless.
Hear me once more.
What fear deems hardest, is oft easiest
To the determinate strong stubborn will:
And desperate to the brave is bravest hope.
For safety dwells not in the shallow sands
Of statecraft, but in mid-sea depth, where sails
The ship as free and fearless as its wind,
Tho' dotards ween it dangerous. Strike, I say,
The heart, each limb at once feels the death-stroke
And falls--would'st hurl the bull and hold him down,
Grapple him by the horns. So with strong hand
If we be wise, must we drag privilege
Down from its throne, and set up right instead:
Without all parley, will it please or no.
All this to do is but to free the ground
Godly enfranchisement. That toil, so stirred,
May rise and ply amain its thousand arms,
Thrashing to chaff and scattering to wind
Whoever dares withstand it. Then this land
From squire and parson freed, a kind of men
Akin to the black slug and cankerworm,
Shall trample that incarnate curse--ah no--
For flesh and blood it bares from off our bones--
Well then, that barebone cornlaw, Hell's own child.
Next, to crown free welfare with holiness
This Church, now standing, but as a monument
Only, of death and mouldering bones within,
Instead of Faith and Love; shall be renewed
Loftier in lowliness than erst in pride;
Abated from its height, but all the more
Outspread in compass of its heaven-like cope,
Lovingly to embrace all Christian souls,
One fold, one shepherd: and Christ's ministers,
No more masks, parsons, shams; but with free love
Offering free grace--bestowing heavenly gifts,
And taking earthly: behold this and say--
Was ever since the dawn of Paradise,
Or the thousand years of bliss the prophet saw
A sight so holy--as foreseen, e'en so
Fulfilled, may heaven vouchsafe it--such is my end.
And to that end behoves us to make sure
The means--but how and where--what call hath power
To compel those strong spirits from the deep?
Well, when I need them, I will call, and they
Shall come: but man is his own might: can work
His needs, or else forego them--Hermann, I say,
There dwells a witchcraft in the vehement will
That brings the world to its wake; sailing the sea
In a cockle-shell, and riding the thin air
On a straw's edge. The strong man makes his means
Which weaklings cannot wield when made for them.
My means, lad, are my men: for hearts there are
Of glowing temper whom I know and trust,
Will hazard all for such a hope, and hold
(Whene'er their country's welfare calls them on)
The greatest daring for the goodliest deed;
Deeming no height above their enterprise,
No pitch too shrewdly strained, if but the prize
Warrant the peril--and by godliness
They are transformed outright from sense to Faith,
Already in their hearts to hold the end
Ere the beginning: now, like herds with like:
And those I know of such a quality
May draw in others of their bias and bent,
To bide alike whate'er befal. So well--
And so my circle spreads: yet haply hope
Belies me, whispering that the brotherhood
Is heartwhole in this cause with God and me.
Say, is that hope o'erweening. Thou well know'st.
Oh! were they mine, then would such men, linked in
Shiver the foeman's sword, both edge and thrust,
Like a mail-coat: this stick against that wall--
See, there the bits lie broken--e'en so speaks
My trust: and that same trust were thoro'-steeled
If thou wert one with us--for such a one
Makes many more--thou'rt young, and should'st be bold
And thy warm heart streams swiftly from thy tongue,
Stirring dead souls to life--so thou art famed--
And I--no less I've found thee--less--nay more;
A lofty spirit towering above
This low-lived world--prone to dare overmuch
Than leave undone the least that duty is called
By its country's claim. Moreover, thou hast means
Such as thy godly function gives to thee,
To strike thy stamp upon thy followers,
Who hold thee for their very seal of faith;
Look to thy likeness for all worth--nor own
No other witness. Go then, dedicate
That function to whose bidding it is due
Without all drawback, wholly unto God.
So may the Gospel breathe its life again
From the dead book it is. Take to thyself
The cross of this great trial, holiest
(Since He, our Saviour, bent beneath his load)
That man hath undergone--be thou but one--
And many others shall make up our host
To a full power--speeding, like mighty winds,
To fill each void. Then shall this land hold up
Freedom's fair standard for all folks beside,
And our loud blast be echoed thro'out earth
With like results--Kings, at the sound, shall creep
Each from his throne, and hide his sceptre away
For fear of coming wrath; glad to lose all
Beside, and keep his life--lordliness, too,
Shamed of its silly self, helpless as the owl
Sitting abrood upon its addle-egg
In sunshine, shall then doff its borrowed shams,
Loathing to live aflaunt in tawdriness,
Like a crazed jade. "Nay, but I'll be a man
Among my fellows:" who so death-like dull
But feels that freshening spirit, who but hopes
That Christian Love may thence become the truth
Of its name now?
But Hermann, tell me not,
The hazard is beyond all reach of hope,
The means but straws; and the utmost worth of them
To make a forlorn blaze in dead of night,
Shewing the pitch of darkness--a short while--
Then once for all darkly devoured in it.
Nay--construe me not so--rather say thus--
All other means and shifts, manifold shapes
Wanting but substance only, have been tried,
And trial has still failed, till hope has pined
To a ghost--wonder, it were, if otherwise.
For the main good thus built on privilege!
Aye, yonder mountain set on its snow-peak
Would stand as surely--perish such fool-dreams
Henceforth as heretofore. But for new ends
Behoves us a new aim--and when old hopes
Have been tried thro', and witnessed worthlessly,
Then from their shadows, as they fleet away
We turn unto the substance left behind,
To give it trial--aye--substance it is--
God's land is broad, and deep, and strong. Who builds
Thereon, nor he nor yet his work belongs
To the dream-world. Ho! a new faith--and I
Its prophet.
Hermann, yes. I am the first
To bid the folk; "Bestir ye for yourselves:
Build your own welfare on your own sure ground."
Leaving fond lies, offspring of quibbling brains
To chase each other like the clouds away,
And no man heed them--helping each the whole--
Scoffing alike that old witchcraft, and this
World-wisdom, older yet and crazier.
Upholding simple sense alone for sure
Truth; leaving learned windings for strait roads.
Levelling those rotten walls of privilege
That stand in bugbear show, by sufferance,
Not their own strength--already undermined
And crumbling inwardly--a giant frame
Clay-footed; weak, as any wizard's straw
To keep the strong man out. This to fulfil
Needs only stir the leaven and raise the mass;
For what the folk wills earnestly, that God
Wills too--'tis doomed and done.
Thou hast heard all.
And are thy ears the portal of thy soul,
Or but a sink of waste? so heedfully
As thou hast listened to the word of hope
Wilt thou drive on the deed as forwardly?
Enough of talk--why more! a single breath
Kindles the aspiring spark, and that same one
Blows its dull fellow out; how shall Truth's words
Prevail with a sheer worldling; one stone dead
To glowing faith and love? Only behold
What is before thee: and sure then thy soul
Eager as the unwavering wild hawk
Will follow on the view--honour to thee
And thine; and the renowned inheritance
Of such a name as history will take
Thoughtfully to her bosom--love and free
Welfare for all mankind--once won, ne'er lost,
Blent with the air we breathe.
Oh say thou art
A man indeed, willing to dedicate
Thy soul to such a holiness of aim,
Or else avow thyself one of the beasts
That perish--born to fatten, and die, and rot,
And so thy duty done. Well--come what will--
I too have done my deal--uttered my whole
Conscience--'tis thine henceforth--nor would I take
Unto myself the glory and the grace
That should belong to thy own forward will
By urgency and ondrift more than needs
To a free spirit--no, be thou thyself
Unto thyself thy soul of enterprise;
For other counsellor thou needest none,
Being the man thou art. Go, and farewell.
Time speeds--we meet again; but thou meanwhile
Ponder my words--then tell me, once for all
What is their worth, how in thy scales they weigh."
So spoke the unbending stern Republican,
Nor waited answer: but on his last word.
Sudden as fleeting ghost, its tale once told,
Turned back; with but a clasp of his guest's hand.
No other phrase. Man, thro' each shifting mood,
Clear or else clouded, gay or sorrowful,
Doth to his fellow intimate himself:
And sternly, his host's mind hinting his own,
And self-collected, so did Hermann too
Go homeward his lone way; betraying nought
In outward show of what he felt within,
But wearing his old wont. Then, as he went,
Many unruly clashing energies
Forth issued in the darkness of his soul,
Like lions from their lair; glaring around,
Where, save their glare, no gleam of light was else
In the wild waste. Ambition, dreamy and rash,
As tho' but needed to stretch out the hand
And grasp the stars; showing its glamour afar,
Fleeting, and flashy, but yet gorgeous
As yonder cloudy ridge, where the sun sets.
But bubbles, howe'er bright, must burst: and then,
For youth and passion are most swift to change,
E'en as his spirit had mounted dizzily,
Downward it sank as deep; and on its fall
Danger upreared his giant hideousness,
Growing in stature like a thunder-cloud,
Sudden and strange; till all was darkened o'er,
E'en the last star of Hope. "Yes, true it is.
Ours is a land angels must weep o'er it,
And fiends exult: where to make other abuse
Tho' foulest, fair by contrast, the rich man
By his poor brother pamper'd to pride's fill,
Yet robs him for all thanks of half his bread,
And then, with that sour scorn, "'tis for thy good
This dearth," embitters the scant half he leaves.
Tyranny 'bove the utmost of the Turk
To dare it, yet here done by Christian men.
Alas! how shall such outrage 'scape the fire
It heaps on its own head? and yet, tho' hard,
Man must forbear; vengeance is God's--for me,
Long time I've studied to frame life afresh,
And give to manhood rightful self-command.
But with fair means and suasive gentleness,
Abhorrent from all outrage--with Truth's light
By knowledge lit, burning so heavenly bright,
That men must follow it: working its change
Most like the sun, with a mild energy,
But nothing violent--for the Lord comes
Not in the whirling wind, earthquake or fire,
But in the still small voice. So He o'ercomes
Evil with good: this ring--this seal--is my faith's
Stamp--ano cato--my own words on it,
Strong words--so I gar'd grave them--but to me
They mean--not upside down, wild anarchy;
But Cato up. The strong stern thoro' state
Pruner, with sharp relentless knife--shall clear
The excess of rank corruptive growth, reduce
Waste to the straitest rule of thrift, and leave
None but fruit-bearing branches. Such was my hope.
Or if by Revolution I could sum
In one full smooth equation a score terms
Each knotty, cross, and sorely fought; thro' which
Reform, slowly and hard struggling, yet scarce
Fulfils man's hope 'gainst selfish hindrances,
And oftener is baffled, so 'twere well.
But such a swoop as this, why 'tis more wild
Than e'er the dreams of lawless wilfulness
E'er dreamt--'tis Satan, the old Anarch, himself.
I thought to win by Love, Faith, Righteousness;
And what these fail shall robbery fulfil,
With rank rebellion? foul the sore--but no
Such rash discharge can help it; true, they're strong,
If bulk be strength, the folk he reckons on:
So is the sea-sand too--but, for it lacks
Steadfastness, and hardbound consistency,
Men may not build with it. With it, oh no,
Nor yet upon it. 'Tis too clear for words.
This outbreak for its wickedness must lose--
And even were it rightful, from its own
Weakness--no more--die, word and deed--thought too--
Unuttered."
So his gloom o'erclouded him
Awhile, but be the clouds black as they may,
The sun will shine again; and all the more
Forthgleaming in that dark and stormy sky
Did Love's warm light excel in loveliness.
It looked upon him like a soft-eyed star
Shining alone at night; and well he deemed
He could outfight a peril worse than e'er
Yawned in the surging wave, or howled in the blast,
Beneath the radiance and guiding hope
Of such a comforter. They are a pair,
Danger and Love, well matched in wrestler's strife
When earnest. Sorely then they strove in him.
"Dost deem me a stranger?
Dost spurn me aside?
What doubt'st thou of danger,
With Love for thy guide?
To cheer thro' all weather
Thy maiden and thee:
Then go forth together,
Go forth and be free."
"Look on the clouds embattled o'er thee,
Hark to the war blast of the wind.
Turn from the raging flood before thee,
To the home-peace thou leav'st behind.
Gaze on the gulf that roars below,
Till dizzy horror dim thine eyes--
For thee and thine it rages so--
Look once, and be for ever wise."
"That cloud shall pass over,
And then the clear sky
That its curtain doth cover
Shall gladden thine eye.
And the flood that thou fearest
Shall lend thee its force:
Wheresoever thou steerest
Still speeding thy course."
"But oh! the world's a giant thing--
And what art thou to dare its wrath?
An atom idly combating,
To stay its parent planets path.
Yes, when yon shadowy clouds shall grow
Into yon solid mountain mass,
And shape in stone their airy show--
Then shall thy dreams be brought to pass."
"And wilt thou for fear
Of the strife may befal,
Leave thy hope basely here,
Love, glory, and all?
My torch's bright flame
Shall I quench it in dust?
And shall thy bright name
Be but canker and rust?"
Oh no! thou'rt known and tried: it may not be
To speak of baseness in one breath with thee:
Such fire as thine, when adverse blasts do blow,
Stirred by their spirit all the more doth glow.
Why is the young blood warm, its yearnings high?
But to dare all, and do what ne'er shall die.
Go then, assert thy privilege of youth,
Tread down misgivings 'neath high-minded Truth.
For see, ambition, love, and earnest hope,
All spur thy will, and speed thee to thy scope.
What tho' that scope be distant? look and see
We love yon sunny hills tho' far they be:
We love them more than all we see around:
These dreary moorlands, and this marshy ground,
Then for thy life--its highest worth were this--
To stake the bubble against lasting bliss.
On then--forthright--nor heed what dastards say,
Such fire as thine will ever win its way.
And oh! that maiden, couldst thou live and see
A bolder rival's love preferred to thee?
Bolder than thou to dare and to endure
All perils prompted by her soul so pure.
That soul so pure as justifies the wrong
And sanctifies the right where'er it doth belong.
Yes, thou could'st bear her hate, but ah! her scorn!
So deemed of her thou wert indeed forlorn.
Such were the thoughts, shifting and shadowy,
That hope and fear, untoward counsellors,
Whispered within him. Toss'd between the two,
He went his way, fitful and heedlessly,
Deaf of his ears, blind of each idle eye:
Bemused and senseless in his depth of soul.
So doth the rush of passion overbear
From within, outward shapes. Forward he strode
Hurriedly--but with many a pause between--
The bar of some cross thought.
Ere this the sun
Had climbed the slope of heaven, and seemed there
To pause awhile in height of power: as a King
Glad to look down on lowly happiness,
And feel his warm reflexion--Hermann then,
Body and soul yearned from the heat to shade,
And coolness--both he found on a grass-knoll
Planted with five small trees and evergreen,
Both with their waving full-leaved overgrowth
And the refreshment of a hidden spring,
That gathered there its waters deep below,
And gave that verdant token of its life
Unseen but not unfelt. Thence was he wont
Erewhile, what haste soe'er might drive him on,
To dwell with calm delight upon the fair
Landscape that spread before him far away,
Far as the eye could reach: stealing its thoughts
From the tired mind, and stirring in their stead,
Soul-feelings, such as sweeten solitude.
There thro' that vale Nature in loose half wild
Loveliness, lay awaiting husbandry
To quicken her to birth, and the far hills
Within their frames her pictured wide delight
Confined, where farther had been weariness,
O'erstraining the intent eye--all alike,
Meadow and wood, and the clear sky above
Was blended in the harmony of joy,
Save where, perchance, man's spirit mixed itself
To jar the gracious whole with its own grief.
Shame on thee, manhood, froward that thou art!
Thou, the world's crowning glory, last of all
Created, for perfection of the work,
Yet oftener dost but mar it. Sad yet true--
And none more sadly ever felt the truth
Than did that lonely lad. The golden light
Served but to show his gloom yet gloomier:
For the sun makes the shadow.
He was wont
Oft as his evening duty reached that height,
And but an eyeshot between him and home,
To stay fond gazing, and send on his sight
To gather his first fruits of glad return,
And fill his heart. There was each homely thatch,
Orchard and garden, and rough fir-stemmed porch,
Whereon the climbing rose and eglantine
Like wilding flowers upon a village maid,
More sweetly showed decking rusticity,
There they stood yet, nor to their loveliness
Lacked aught but the enlivening radiance
Shed over all from the beholder's soul
Yearning towards them. Alas! where that should be
Was but a void--a dreary void. There sank
His spirit, and in that same drooping mood
He laid his weary body down at length.
Yes, ye far mountains, ye are still the same:
I loved to look on ye in days bygone:
But then there seemed a soul within your frame:
And now 'tis a cold corse I gaze upon.
Nature, a queen thou seemest, and art none.
For 'tis not thou, but fancy, queens it still:
Thou waitest as a vassal at her throne:
And she doth grace thee, and disgrace, at will.
Oh! ye fair friends, where is your faithfulness?
Yet looked ye, as your love could know no change.
But now I seek ye home in my distress:
And find ye cold and heartless as things strange.
Yes, the soul grieves when pleasure doth depart,
And when pain comes then doth it grieve again:
But most it grieves, when in the bitter heart
What once was pleasure is transformed to pain.
And thou too, Love, I chose thee for my light,
To be my hope and joy unto the end:
Then wherefore hast thou quenched thy torch so bright
And art my foe that wert profest my friend?
For thou could'st rule me in all amity;
Both of the lord and of the liegeman too--
Then why so prove thy power in tyranny?
Harrowing evermore a heart so true.
For 'tis no evil for myself I fear
From this or other perilous emprize:
But that her happiness I hold most dear;
Dear to my heart as light unto my eyes.
And I could dare all danger to the death.
Bidding to fear defiance for her love:
But that my spirit inly shuddereth,
To send among the storms that gentle dove:
Where is no olive branch nor sheltering ark:
And but a fearful hope, a lightning gleam
To guide our passage thro' the trackless dark,
Where life itself is but a wild death-dream.
Alas! in loving her that I must hate
Duty; and bear my own, or else her scorn:
Oh most perverse misprison and hard fate!
But come what may it shall be bravely borne.
Away ambition--much I cherish thee--
But may not trust thee with her happiness,
Honour and Truth, hence I'm atoned to ye,
And yield my self-love, since ye will no less.
But why, my soul, art troubled? Why droop so?
Be holy, earnest, happy. 'Tis God's will
And man's whole duty--why distrust it? No
All else may stagger. Truth is steadfast still.

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Capel Lofft