Capel Lofft

Ernest: The Rule Of Right - Book II

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BOOK II.
There is a loveliness in the young day
Unearthly: a bright spirit, simple and pure
As faith and feeling, yet deep-souled as they.
As Nature had then risen from her rest
In the refreshment of some heavenly dream,
And waking, stream'd from her o'erflowing eyes
Thro' earth and air that dreamy radiance.
Up then and out--for where's the mud-born man
Would doze his prime ingenuous life away,
His yearning tide of youth? the freshening stir
Of the early stream, knowing nor feeling not,
But when its spring is deaden'd, its clear flow
Clogged on the world's foul level to a pool,
Then to wake slumbrously, and doze his life
'Neath sullen scum: this none so dull would do--
But whoso flings away his morning pearl
Doth all as strange a thing--making a blotch
Of that most fair virgin-like radiance,
With self-forbidding darkness; lagging out
The freshness and the new-born fragrancy,
The silvery light and glistening dewiness,
The sweet contemplative calm of the dawn,
Till its young life be tainted a death-taint,
In dust, and heat, and din of the noon-day.
When man is rife, and nature, half fordone,
Blent in his troublous being, seems almost
To lose her own--but thou--be not so foul:
But spring up blithely, and look forth, and breathe,
And walk abroad in thy soul's blessedness.
Oh sad! this happiness we all might have,
But many will not.--What! think ye to see
Landscapes of green fields, waters, and deep woods
In the charnel-house, when death shall fling ye there
To lie and rot? No--Time is short, unless
With wakeful love ye lengthen it--both early
And late--for both the rising and setting sun
Outstretch man's span-like shadow. And Grace, too,
Beneath their thoughtful dew, grows toward Heaven.
Go then; in that cool air refresh your sense,
But first, open your soul, and learn God's love;
'Tis the best lore--for love bestowed by you
On Nature, she requites a thousand-fold
With grace and blessedness--look to her then,
And do her suit, as a liegeman, dutiful,
With early duty; awake, arise--nor sell
The privilege and first-born hope of the day
For a foul mess of dreams. Up and away--
To the heavenly aspiration of free air,
So your soul, bathed in Nature's purity
Shall 'scape awhile the worldly taint--the plague
That wasteth at noon-day. So shall it live
Its true self-life, as clearly circumstanced
As stars in ether: even as they did,
Hermann and Hess, forth issuing that day
From their hot beds into the wholesome air,
The garden's lively cool luxuriance,
To drink the morn; and in the Eastern sun's
Mild hope, and cheering earnest of their aim,
To pace their pleasant path--communing things
That startled e'en the ear of privacy
They were so fearful. "Hermann," thus began
The host, "I know thee good and true--a man--
No mere clay-mouldling--one who walks the world's
Trivial ways, o'er selfish narrow ruts,
Not following nor heeding then, but forth
Right to his own high ends. Thou'rt a true soul--
Of loftiness so soaring as transcends
The very sight and not the scope alone
Of the world's mole-eyed grubbers--else their dust
Would bedim e'en thy brightness, diamond-like
Forth shining: such I greet thee; as worthiest,
To partake, aye, and lead a plot, which e'en
Whispered sounds dreadful, and proclaimed is the blast
Of the war-trumpet--Hermann, thou dost love
My daughter--nay--no word of complement.
A father's feeling hath so told it me.
For ever the young soul speaks forth by signs
Truer than any tongue. Better 'twere so--
For, if thou lov'st her not, then hast thou been
Since first thy welcome wont haunted our hearth
Home-like, our ever inmost bosom-guest,
A live-long lie--becomes thee better then,
The prompture of young blood, than the snake-guile
Of colder hearts, self-coiled: beshrew thy life--
Well is she worth the price thou prizest her:
Needs no fair phrase to set thy judgment right--
That ne'er had wrong: enough--no more of this--
Nor had I touched it in so light a key
But that I deemed it good, ere thou wert launched,
To warn thee whither; to advise thee well
Thro' what a stormy night that bridal star
Faintly and far off, glimmers on thy hope--
Know then, her life and mine linked in one chain,
Stubborn as fate e'er forged--constraint too stern
For that soft dove-like darling, that sweet girl.
Aye, a curs'd chain hath dragged me down thus low--
An iron weight; hard to uphold, much more
To wield; thou beardless stripling say,--would'st bear
Thy share? Behoves thee then to be hardier
Than man--than my steel'd manhood--look thou here:
Thou hast attached in fondness of love's faith
Thy fortune to a home which, how it stands
And who its indwellers, thou knowest not;
More than some sorcerer had whirled thee away
Within a Tartar's hut--may'st ask the stars
For counsel--who we are--whence and why here.
Well, Fame hath rumoured us--outdone herself--
And made a thousand of her hundred tongues
And each a liar; houseless runaways--
Loose swindling loons--whose clever handicraft
O'er reached the dull thick walls should hold them in;
Forgers of coin, writers who wrote the names
Of others in so business-like a way
That now they must be strangers to their own--
Briefly, all felon styles and qualities
Cling to us, with strange surmise, like the cloud
That caps yon hill--my fe on's cap--say'st thou?
Nay--their own foolscap; but thy faith stood fast,
No cronish tongue could shake it--Well--the truth,
Tho' men misdeem it much, is yet itself,
And now bespeaks thy ear; listen it through.
Thou see'st me now, grey, woe-begone; tho' still
A man, wiry, upright--far other once
Years back. I muse and wonder at myself,
How such a change should be: sure I dream'd then:
Or else dream now the being I'm become,
So shrunk from the old man: as sad in late
Years as in earlier frolic and free
When sunshine filled the sky. My spendthrift life
Foamed over, and failed, wastefully for-done,
Ere half out-reckoned: were that all--would t'were!
Another flow might overflush that ebb,
Recovering the bare strand: we had been friends
Fortune and I, nor yet were wholly foes:
Nor had disorder so unstated me;
But timely thrift could set me up again
More steadfast from that fall. I could have paid
For wisdom the fool's price, and thankful so;
As knowing well, what rashness plucks in the flower
It ne'er can taste in fruit--then had I giv'n
My remnant means for a fresh harvest hope,
Bidding thrift eke what waste scanted me,
And stamped the steel, purer from minishment,
Its dross of riot being purged away,
With seal of earnest proof--Yes, I had borne
Worse ruin, and acknowledged it my due,
But for the oppressors iron in my soul,
Sharpened by law and pointed--law--aye law--
By Satan turned to his craftiest snare: should be
To righteousness a shield and guardian;
Yet was suborned against me to such wrong
As the assassin's knife were welcomer
And fairer too--so sudden sharp a stroke,
That like the clown afield, smitten to earth
With the lightning flash, and to one senseless heap
Confounded with his oxen and his plough,
I rose half-stunned, and looked strangely around:
Whether 'twere truth or glamour--how that stroke
Was stricken, why, whence, hearken me now:
My father left me a fair heritage--
I undertook to till it--'twas a farm,
Might draw the keenest citizen from change
To wed a country life--I cherished it,
(Changing my bookish lore for busy toil)
As tho' my happiness were rooted there:
For still methought, thro' losses, revelry,
Loose fellowship, like a kind loving wife,
It brightened all my hopes and soothed my cares,
Forgiving much to earnest husbandry.
But Paradise were not itself indeed
Unless a fiend should haunt it--well then--a wolf--
As we soon found him but too bitterly,
Tho' in show, lamb-like seeming--so he walked
'Mong us, our preacher, clergyman, Church-head--
Our incubus--know you the spot, my friend?
Holzheim; a wealthy country--a deep land--
That nursed our thriving stock from sire to son
Thro' far tradition. Sorer be his curse
Who drove me thence--aye, tore me body and branch
Uprooted. Now, beshrew me, but I think
That horn of plenty was no idle tale,
And there 'tis emptied out: wood, meadow, corn,
Orchard, and garden, and the tendril hop,
O'erpeering more the vine in lovely show,
Than yielding to it in poetic vaunt
And goodly worth. There many a river and brook
Runs winding as for pastime, round about:
Seems loth to quit the land. You may thread too,
And thither, for the pleasure of such walks,
Were time well spent, full many a field-side path,
Lone, and unwonted, stealing shily on,
And half o'ergrown, as doubtful of itself;
Lest haply lord or squire, jealous belike
Of nature, that she loves to sweeten toil,
And gives not all her blessing to themselves,
Should start some catch of law, and so shut out
From the poor dust-choked peasant the one way
That leads him on to her communion
And God's: forthshadowed to the soul more deeply
In Nature's wild and solemn loneliness--
Howe'er such paths were many around us--one
Too many--so our shepherd said, and so
Fulfilled his saying, for he wasted not
His love upon his neighbours; but self-spent
Deemed it safest bestowed: he pitched his stake
There in the parsonage, and set his soul
So earnestly to frame it to his will,
As 'twere his everlasting all in all,
And heaven but a fool's tale. Some straggling fields
He bought to be an ample skirt and train
To that small manse, homely content erewhile:
Pleasant they were e'en to the clownish eye,
Much more the musing mind. Southward they sloped,
Their deep green flooded with the golden sun,
And evermore in spring their glowing growth
Showed teemingly the token of his love,
With earliest blade and flower. Such a lone path
Threaded those happy fields, not speeding through
Straight forward, as for furtherance of haste,
But sauntering on, a fairy-footed wild
Shy fancy, heedless quite of aim or end;
Purposed to take its pleasure, and in vague
Careless diversion all indefinite
Fulfil its sense of the scene. Oh! I have trod
That path from child to man, times beyond count,
And followed thro' its maze the deepening year
From spring to winter--had it led to heaven
I could not love it more: and all alike,
The folks that owned our church, elders and young,
No less--the child for its own cheerful sake;
The old, for once it was their lovers' walk,
And now in darkness and decline of age
A soothing memory--but what were this,
And all the soul of gentleness beside
To the cold spirit that only loves itself
And hates whate'er may balk it in self-love?
The way was needless, wasteful, better far
Outdone, and the highway taken: loiterers
Only could like its loneness; whispering hints
Of danger to warm hearts. Courtship is safe
Only 'neath eye of elders--idle haunts
Beget an idle life. Enough--so said
Our ghostly guide, whose cat-like walk brooked not
Our hobnail noise--first fairly, by kind words
Friend-like and neighbour-like, hinting his wish:
Next darkly surmising rectorial rights,
And how the law might help him against us
If here we hindered him: but when all else
Was wasted, threats and bribes alike--he broke
All bars with overbearing outrage of sheer
Will: would doway the path: cross'd it with fence
Hindrance ne'er seen before, nor longer then
Than a few hours to blaze it all abroad
Then smite it down: 'twas a stout gang of us
Put hands to work. I stood there--who but I
At the head--stood, nay--but stirred me, and them too
Until their heat seethed over. Down it came,
And such a shouting uproar over it,
As drowned the crash of downfall. So again
Wide open as the sea the pathway stood
Greeting each comer. That was nobly done--
The nobler, that it ran a dangerous risk,
To be paid off in evil coin--my farm
Held proudly its own produce--free from tithe--
That tribute to old Satan. I saw him once
At the tithe-feast, grinning behind our host
O'er his shrewd bargain: well he may, for it gives
To him all Christian brotherhood--faith, peace,
Good-will, to make his sport of them; and leaves
The parson, flock, and field to decimate:
So the Church hardens to a cold stone-heap,
Graceless, unlovely. Soulless but for spite,
A burden of dead weight on the groaning land
That doth uphold it. 'Tis a galling ill
To many, and a crushing one to me.
For likelier scourge none did he find--I mean,
Not Satan, but that other kind black friend,
So ready to his hand,--the law, the law,
He touched the spring, and gave the engine way
Which brays, like the Indian car, to bloodless heaps
The crowd of wretches whom their craziness
Hath set across its path. 'Tis a short tale.
He challenged my exemption from his due,
Would have my proofs set forth: I who knew nought,
Nor had no title save by olden truth
From sire foregone delivered down to son;
And plain good faith and price of privilege
Paid to the height of its worth: I, poor lost soul,
Was madden'd, to seek truth from lawyers, grace
From hell: to hire, he against me, and I
'Gainst him, some scrabbling, bloated, spider-men
Bewigged, begowned; to read thro' spectacles
My right, clear to each neighbour as sunbeams,
From old crone-skins. That was no fair man's fight:
I felt befooled by their law-jargon, and fain
Would rid me of such cramping uncouth suit,
And so have done--but death and fury, it stuck
E'en to my substance like a venomous shirt,
And parted, only with my flesh withal,
Leaving me bare to the bone: my wealth ground down,
And scatter'd to the winds: my livelihood
Outcast from that fair land where I was born:
Myself beggared to rags--my home laid waste--
And if my fortune run her course to the end
Even so frowardly as thus far forth,
My sons turned thief, my daughters prostitute:
Have you then any heart for sympathy?
Prithee laugh with me, as the fiend doth now,
At such a merry upshot: such kind care
From shepherd to his sheep. Ah, yes, good Church,
I'll give thee thy full due, if I withhold
One curse of all I owe thee,--nay but no
Word curses--I am strong and they are weak.
'Tis my wrath, seething, heaves them uppermost.
Listen, a sadder strain--so when the damp
Prison had quite diseased my wonted health,
And in its stead set a strange fever up
To ride aspur, and quicken my poor blood
To a mad heat; till nature sank downright,
Hopeless to rise again: then the kind souls
Seeing the vampire had so sucked my veins,
And left me but the shell of my own self,
Pith-hollowed; when their bitterness with short
Delay must have delivered me to death,
And so been mercy indeed; this they withheld:
But sent me forth, outcast, to beg my bread,
Or starve for lack of it: see'st thou yon books?
The one lone precious remnant of that wreck--
Aye, take them down; read, learn, and cherish them.
For they are such as priests and lordlings hate,
And free souls love--my father's teachers erewhile,
Now mine--well, books are living things; and I--
I'm not quite dead--but this bare life! with no
Livelihood--such thou see'st me--a naked man
With hardly a breadcrust beside--but here
To chew the cud of wrath, and sour-sweet dear
Revenge--so rate me--then bethink thee well.
Is it a home like this, so bare and waste,
Open to each onswoop of misery
Thro' breaches of most ruinous beggary:
E'en from the roof to the foundation-stone
Conflicted with all elements of wrath,
That thou would'st trust to hold a dog of thine
For one half-hour, much less thy livelong hopes,
Thy heart's most delicate innermost ware,
Thy wife and babes and all. Ah, well, I see
The warm assurance beaming from thine eye,
And lighting what were else wholly forlorn
With a wild lustre of joy. Yes, 'tis nought else,
Love and thy youthful blood are so.--Ah, well,
But stay--one word--may bid thee yet, beware.
Thou hast heard much of ill, but not the worst--
Listen it now. Fortune hath hunted me
To this my last poor hold, my hearth, my home,
And stabbed me there: look now around, and see
How blithe the cheer she has left me. Come what will
She's still my foe; her hate with its own spite
Feeds itself--not from me: she's gnawed me bare
To these hard bones: but, Hermann, mark me this.
She haunts my home no more--so help me Heaven
I'll leave my house to the rats, and march forthright
To meet her warrior-like, on some far field
She little wots of: for mark this again.
I've wrestled with the law, and chance or craft
Hath flung me a shrewd fall: howe'er, not so,
Like the angel with the patriarch of old,
As to unstring my sinews--no; sheer strength
Laid me thus low, and by sheer strength again
I'll raise me sure as I stand here, I'll stake
My life on't: aye, stake this torn paper scrap
Against the world, for its whole wealth to win.
That fire hath scoured my rust, cleared me to steel--
'Tis in me, and shall out--what tho' no more
Fair weather'd fortune dally with my sail,
Yet may the blast of hate speed me as well,
Raising a surge so stormy, as may bear
The daring helmsman over shallow and sand,
Gathered or left, to bar free way: for so
Fraud heaping lumber and dead hindrance up
Then calls it law--what's that? a name, no more,
And scarce so much--for that good holy name
Belongs not to time-hallowed rotten wrong.
But wherefore this to thee? Thou, my young friend,
Wast never thus woe-worn; this gnawing grief
Is strange to thee, and all these stormy wild
Workings, sheer madness: yet forgive it me.
The dullest pool if stirred unto its depth
Breathes forth its vent in foam. My rage has clenched
My fist, but to a fair dispassioned palm
Thus I disclose it--read, if can'st, its lines.
My fall--'tis so far good--it frees me--I've set
My life and its belongings, my whole state,
At a straw's worth--e'en so, and that same straw
So worthless, I devote it unto fire,
That the world may blaze from it. Oh! 'tis most true--
We weaken as we widen: the will works
Strongest where narrowest: when my wealth lived
At large, it flagged in bounds it could not fill:
Now in small space, self-shrunk, like embers thrown
Aheap, my spirit gathers to a heart
Of pulse so mighty, as shall speed life-blood
Thro' the universal Man. Feel thou my hand--
Methinks I'm steel'd from flesh to adamant;
Or is it but my soul's intensity
That sets each sinew astrain. Nay--tis much more--
For the sharp trials I have undergone
Have burned each weaker element to smoke,
And left but metal--it drives me from within,
To the trial--Ah! thou shak'st thy head; and that
Dooms death--to this mad fit--for so--would'st speak,
Had'st called it--Well--howe'er by others called,
'Tis Truth and Manhood known and felt by me--
Here, where behoves in the heart--Aye, boy, 'tis that,
Wars me against the world--But I am one:
And many more were needed for this great
Onset, which eastward and to west, shall spread
Its angel wings, high-flying, wide as the world,
Atoning all mankind, scattering light,
Blessing where'er it goes. But what are words
Written on water? what is Truth to him
Who hath a soul of sand-like quality,
Inconstant to such seal? you loremen, so
I've found 'em, are weak-willed. Tell me then first
How art thou tempered? does thy spirit aspire?
Thy blood run warm? Hast thou a heart to dare?
A hand to do? and that for the deed-sake,
The only good of man, and glory of God;
Not for self-love? if thou say'st no, I say
Get thee another wife to nurse thee at home:
Thou graftest not thyself upon my stock,
Being of such a strain. For I am one
Will have no meddler come within my range--
Must wholly work my will; look to my aim,
And by it shape their own: well it behoves
Where all is war without, to hold within
The bond of fellowship, all under one.
Howe'er, lest passion blind thee, and hot blood
Hurry thee to rush on unwittingly,
Where wariness should scan the stakes, and weigh
The likely loss against the gain of them;
I'll give thy judgment footing where to stand
And take her level--If hope have room enough
To build, and means withal ready to hand,
Or else despair be wisdom; much, erewhile,
I've told thee of my meaning, but in shadow
Alone--now since I trust thee, its whole truth
I'll show thee, blood and bones, body and soul.
Thou'st wonder'd what far chance should fling me here,
Like a lone bird stormed by the hurricane,
Clean from its climate and winged fellowship
To pine on the ocean rock. The dry leaf drifts
As the wind drives it--that is daily Truth:
And if thou wert a stranger to my faith
So would I foil thy question--but disguise
To cowards--I need it not. 'Twas pride--one word--
That brought me to this haunt of poverty:
I would not hang my rags on that same staff
Whence my brave silken flaunting flag e'erwhile
Lorded it o'er the level--that were good
Cause, tho' none else--for Man's but a child still
Within opinion's sway: behoves him first
Unshackle her unreasoning fetters, then
Forth freely--thoughts too wider, deeper, I had
Hither--for while my wrongs were bitterest,
And anger, with the hot knife in his hand
Whisper'd me, up, and strike--then did I think
Of what full often I heard formerly,
That here, amid these hills, more than elsewhere
Throughout our Fatherland, Gospel Truth sways,
And the foul sham that men miscall the Church
Stands but on law, not love; feeds to fat rot
Its hirelings--takes the fleece, and the hate withal;
Leaving the flock to follow and love their own
Shepherd--here then, methought for my main works
Fulfilment, is the fellowship of hate
Doughtier for all upbreak to be done,
Than fellow-love. Here is the field for me.
Here I may sow, and reap my harvestage
When ripe, if hearts and hands be towardly,
And luck befriend me--here I stand--and hence
I start--but whither--Ah! that needs much thought.
The compass and the drift of our design,
Its hope of good, its method, and its means;
What likelihood doth beckon thee ahead
To dare the travail for the birth from it,
And what fear whispers, listen, if thou wilt.
But first, my friend, behoves us look around
From the platform we now hold to the end we aim.
How best to shape our forecast--first then--and last--
I see no comfort of the things that are,
But only a far hope of what may be,
If manhood drive on the determinate mind,
And wish ascend to will--for look but forth;
How this world's body hath o'ergrown its soul;
While dwindling all as swiftly, happiness
Hath lost its life-blood: shrunk away--to a shade--
A skeleton--hung up in the Sophist's shop
For show, for our shame too--whose but our own
Is this most bitter blame? self-made, self-marred
Is the man--in olden times, now fabulous deemed,
Because our souls are shamed beneath their truth;
Ere rapine was yet rife within the world,
Each had his own; each held and handed on
To his son's toil the homestead and the plot
From the main folks-land cantled out to him.
And when that main was parcelled--then all off--
All sons, but one, to farther, wilder lands;
And so life waxed and waxed: Nature's free boon
Man partook thankfully, wrought thence his need,
Then freely quitted it to who came next.
Nor yet had self-love, stealthily at first,
Till strengthened by self-law; then proud and high
Handed in right of its own wilful wrong,
Claimed 'gainst the need of other landless men
More than its hand could hold or righteous toil
Improve to profit--so diswarranting
Nature's own right and God's most earnest law
That man shall earn his daily bread by sweat
Of his own brow: first starving industry
Then heaping with her fruits the listless lap
Of luxury, that looks but how to waste
In whims that idly haunt her vacancy
What toil had hardly won: till riches, so
Foully o'erheaped but turn to rottenness,
Stinking in their fastidious owner's sense,
Choking each outlet of his working will,
And clogging his life-blood and wealth alike
From stream to swamp. Ah! how this Giant World
Most like a craftsman of besotted soul
Reels drunkenly from wasteful wantonness
To lack of bread and household beggary!
Swilling in one most swinish hour a year's
Home-gladness--in untoward wild excess,
Staggering: hither first, then thither away
Never to hold the mean. Yes, selfishness
Hath grown among us from a peevish child
To a giant; so strangely o'erstriding us
That his huge presence confounds East and West.
Feeding himself on a thousand lowly rights
To the one proud wrong he is: usurping all
Earth in a dismal shadow of eclipse,
And nothing said, but gainsayers o'erawed.
So doth man curse his brother with Cain's curse
To be a castaway: no rightful home
Freehold; no rest for his foot; but the son born
Strange to his mother, and forbid to draw
From her full bosom his hard-earned sustenance
And birthright: No--bedrudge thee--boy and man
Toiling; toil out the marrow from thy bones
That I may waste thy fruits in riotous
Wassail, and fling thee husks for all thy hire--
So pride ordains him, and so, day by day,
His life, a twofold hardship, toil and want,
Grows to the grave, till Death composes him
From his low fever, a lagging comforter.
But who should say such things as these should be--
If any, call him not a man, unless
Mankind that was be new-named Selfishness.
Selfishness puffed to pride by oppression's foot,
Which o'er this wind-blown world to assert its will,
Crushing the many down, raises the few
To bloated pomp and ill pre-eminence.
Ah! I have grieved at this till grief became
My very soul and true essential self.
Yes--Hermann, the whole heart is sick, and the head
As faint--but we, the body, oh had we,
Instead of Patience to outwear our wrongs,
Courage to right them--but to wish is weak
And womanly--the earnest will it is,
Ever onworking till its goal be won,
That marks the man. Then thus--all life doth grow,
Since witchcraft lost its trick, and Nature thence
Thro' the wide world went steadily her way,
From a small spot to full development.
Therefore behoves us a beginning first
To be the germ of the end. But where to find
The man and means, the time, and circumstance,
Of such a fit concurrence all in one,
To hit our 'scope? Where is the goodly stone
Of such true everlasting quality
To serve our revolutionary wheels,
For centre and for stay.--Lo, here I am--
You see me. I am he--one man--but one
Who will abide all brunt, out-face all foes,
Strive onward against doom and death itself,
Aye, and go snatch his purpose from hell fire,
Than miss it. Sure, so set, and strained to the head,
Never to fail, unless the string snap short,
And life fail first. Well,--'tis a stalwart will--
Could I but find the way. Nay--that some way
Shall wait on that same will, which oft, with swift
Outshot, straightforward, and determinate,
E'en as a spider shooting on its game,
Out of itself doth frame itself a path,
And so outdoes impossibility:
Fooling surmise, leaving security
Aghast, and blear-eyed wonderment agape,
Welding unlikely ends, and safe across
Bridging the deep sea. Trust me, who outwills
Outworks. And be this true, then truly I'm born,
I, even I, to crush this crazy old
Clay-world, and frame it to new honor and use.
To redress laws--to darken palaces
And thrones with shadow of a giant force
Striding amain to his end--shuffle the lots
Of high and low, lordling and underling,
Then deal them out anew. Lastly, set up,
The Gospel, for life's light and governance,
Upon the ruins of that charnel Church
Wherefrom the soul--save some slight spark--is fled
From among skulls and bones. But spirit will breathe,
And light will shine; and so, e'er the end come,
Truth ever gives the token of herself
And makes her flame of the foul rubbish-pile
Wherewith obstruction would have stifled her.
Must blaze itself instead. What say'st thou, boy?
And is not this a project thrills e'en fear
With faith's own glow? a purpose holier
Than prayer, a wafture of the coming good
More godly than all incense? Nay, no word--
I see full well the burden your mind bears:
And what your tongue's forbidden, your looks speak
Swifter and surer. You tell me, 'tis a deed,
Brimful of danger, such as craziness
Might dream, but to endeavour it, beyond
Madness itself: as well might the mole strive
To unsettle yonder mountain from its stand
And build another hundreds higher fold
Than I to rear a fabric such as this
With my best power--power--nay feebleness--
A feebleness arrayed 'gainst giant strength
On the other side: such forecross barrier
As dwarfs the highest that daring ever dreamed,
And whoso undertakes it, should climb heaven
For foreproof of his work--which if fulfilled
Were a miracle, and hardly then believed;
Since by it worldly wont were all belied.
For what can will 'gainst power and privilege
And that substantial wealth which backs with its weight
The edge of energy, and so drives home
Many an onset, which else were but a reed
Launched 'gainst a tower of brass? so much for the hope:
Which reason, howsoe'er she strain her eye
On the utmost verge of faint-edged likelihood
Beholds not. Yet doth wilfulness, which sees
Whate'er it wills, presume them here at hand.
Vouching for Truth her idle phantasies,
Her marsh-lights gleaming but in dark. Fond dreams
Of peace and plenty, love and levelhood,
Such as ne'er had fulfilment, nor e'er will,
Till earth shall become heaven--so would'st thou
Make hope a fool, and zeal a maniac,
The old trick of power, strong in privileged
Possession--needs but brazen forehead and lungs
To abash her gainsayers, and scare away
The searcher--answering each asker, as doth
The surly upstart huffing driver his slave,
"Obey nor reason why." Well, the gagged cock
Is easy overcrowed: but words are words
Tho' they ape God's thunder--aye, and arms are arms.
Look on them, hanging idly by that wall,
Not always destined so: no, for right well
I've learned their deadliest skill, and thoroughly
Enured me. Come a hundred bayonets
Against this hut, loopholed and stiffly barred;
They shall spend many hireling lives for one--
And feel their gain but loss--needs but once so
Proven, forthwith the people will rise up
In fiery courage from that cowardice,
Which holds the soldier slave for more than man,
And the freeman less--enough, and now to works,
Since words on either side are spent in vain.

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Capel Lofft