The best famous Epic poems by international web poets. These are the best examples of epic poems.
You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bull-
dozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You were as deep down as I've ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A new-
born flailing toward maternal heartbeat through
the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air I was that alone
again, inventing life left after you.
I don't want to remember you as that
four o'clock in the morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in a foreign currency.
The U.S. dollar dived since you happened to me.
You've grown into your skin since then; you've grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.
While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days' routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeine-
assisted mornings, laundry, stock-pots, dust-
balls in the hallway, lists instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came first.
She'll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn't know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive
you, but what made my cold hand, back in prox-
imity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,
want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek's nap, a syllable, a tear,
was never blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.
At break of day the College Portress came:
She brought us Academic silks, in hue
The lilac, with a silken hood to each,
And zoned with gold; and now when these were on,
And we as rich as moths from dusk cocoons,
She, curtseying her obeisance, let us know
The Princess Ida waited: out we paced,
I first, and following through the porch that sang
All round with laurel, issued in a court
Compact of lucid marbles, bossed with lengths
Of classic frieze, with ample awnings gay
Betwixt the pillars, and with great urns of flowers.
The Muses and the Graces, grouped in threes,
Enringed a billowing fountain in the midst;
And here and there on lattice edges lay
Or book or lute; but hastily we past,
And up a flight of stairs into the hall.
There at a board by tome and paper sat,
With two tame leopards couched beside her throne,
All beauty compassed in a female form,
The Princess; liker to the inhabitant
Of some clear planet close upon the Sun,
Than our man's earth; such eyes were in her head,
And so much grace and power, breathing down
From over her arched brows, with every turn
Lived through her to the tips of her long hands,
And to her feet. She rose her height, and said:
'We give you welcome: not without redound
Of use and glory to yourselves ye come,
The first-fruits of the stranger: aftertime,
And that full voice which circles round the grave,
Will rank you nobly, mingled up with me.
What! are the ladies of your land so tall?'
'We of the court' said Cyril. 'From the court'
She answered, 'then ye know the Prince?' and he:
'The climax of his age! as though there were
One rose in all the world, your Highness that,
He worships your ideal:' she replied:
'We scarcely thought in our own hall to hear
This barren verbiage, current among men,
Light coin, the tinsel clink of compliment.
Your flight from out your bookless wilds would seem
As arguing love of knowledge and of power;
Your language proves you still the child. Indeed,
We dream not of him: when we set our hand
To this great work, we purposed with ourself
Never to wed. You likewise will do well,
Ladies, in entering here, to cast and fling
The tricks, which make us toys of men, that so,
Some future time, if so indeed you will,
You may with those self-styled our lords ally
Your fortunes, justlier balanced, scale with scale.'
At those high words, we conscious of ourselves,
Perused the matting: then an officer
Rose up, and read the statutes, such as these:
Not for three years to correspond with home;
Not for three years to cross the liberties;
Not for three years to speak with any men;
And many more, which hastily subscribed,
We entered on the boards: and 'Now,' she cried,
'Ye are green wood, see ye warp not. Look, our hall!
Our statues!--not of those that men desire,
Sleek Odalisques, or oracles of mode,
Nor stunted squaws of West or East; but she
That taught the Sabine how to rule, and she
The foundress of the Babylonian wall,
The Carian Artemisia strong in war,
The Rhodope, that built the pyramid,
Clelia, Cornelia, with the Palmyrene
That fought Aurelian, and the Roman brows
Of Agrippina. Dwell with these, and lose
Convention, since to look on noble forms
Makes noble through the sensuous organism
That which is higher. O lift your natures up:
Embrace our aims: work out your freedom. Girls,
Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed:
Drink deep, until the habits of the slave,
The sins of emptiness, gossip and spite
And slander, die. Better not be at all
Than not be noble. Leave us: you may go:
Today the Lady Psyche will harangue
The fresh arrivals of the week before;
For they press in from all the provinces,
And fill the hive.'
She spoke, and bowing waved
Dismissal: back again we crost the court
To Lady Psyche's: as we entered in,
There sat along the forms, like morning doves
That sun their milky bosoms on the thatch,
A patient range of pupils; she herself
Erect behind a desk of satin-wood,
A quick brunette, well-moulded, falcon-eyed,
And on the hither side, or so she looked,
Of twenty summers. At her left, a child,
In shining draperies, headed like a star,
Her maiden babe, a double April old,
Aglaïa slept. We sat: the Lady glanced:
Then Florian, but not livelier than the dame
That whispered 'Asses' ears', among the sedge,
'My sister.' 'Comely, too, by all that's fair,'
Said Cyril. 'Oh hush, hush!' and she began.
'This world was once a fluid haze of light,
Till toward the centre set the starry tides,
And eddied into suns, that wheeling cast
The planets: then the monster, then the man;
Tattooed or woaded, winter-clad in skins,
Raw from the prime, and crushing down his mate;
As yet we find in barbarous isles, and here
Among the lowest.'
Thereupon she took
A bird's-eye-view of all the ungracious past;
Glanced at the legendary Amazon
As emblematic of a nobler age;
Appraised the Lycian custom, spoke of those
That lay at wine with Lar and Lucumo;
Ran down the Persian, Grecian, Roman lines
Of empire, and the woman's state in each,
How far from just; till warming with her theme
She fulmined out her scorn of laws Salique
And little-footed China, touched on Mahomet
With much contempt, and came to chivalry:
When some respect, however slight, was paid
To woman, superstition all awry:
However then commenced the dawn: a beam
Had slanted forward, falling in a land
Of promise; fruit would follow. Deep, indeed,
Their debt of thanks to her who first had dared
To leap the rotten pales of prejudice,
Disyoke their necks from custom, and assert
None lordlier than themselves but that which made
Woman and man. She had founded; they must build.
Here might they learn whatever men were taught:
Let them not fear: some said their heads were less:
Some men's were small; not they the least of men;
For often fineness compensated size:
Besides the brain was like the hand, and grew
With using; thence the man's, if more was more;
He took advantage of his strength to be
First in the field: some ages had been lost;
But woman ripened earlier, and her life
Was longer; and albeit their glorious names
Were fewer, scattered stars, yet since in truth
The highest is the measure of the man,
And not the Kaffir, Hottentot, Malay,
Nor those horn-handed breakers of the glebe,
But Homer, Plato, Verulam; even so
With woman: and in arts of government
Elizabeth and others; arts of war
The peasant Joan and others; arts of grace
Sappho and others vied with any man:
And, last not least, she who had left her place,
And bowed her state to them, that they might grow
To use and power on this Oasis, lapt
In the arms of leisure, sacred from the blight
Of ancient influence and scorn.
She rose upon a wind of prophecy
Dilating on the future; 'everywhere
Who heads in council, two beside the hearth,
Two in the tangled business of the world,
Two in the liberal offices of life,
Two plummets dropt for one to sound the abyss
Of science, and the secrets of the mind:
Musician, painter, sculptor, critic, more:
And everywhere the broad and bounteous Earth
Should bear a double growth of those rare souls,
Poets, whose thoughts enrich the blood of the world.'
She ended here, and beckoned us: the rest
Parted; and, glowing full-faced welcome, she
Began to address us, and was moving on
In gratulation, till as when a boat
Tacks, and the slackened sail flaps, all her voice
Faltering and fluttering in her throat, she cried
'My brother!' 'Well, my sister.' 'O,' she said,
'What do you here? and in this dress? and these?
Why who are these? a wolf within the fold!
A pack of wolves! the Lord be gracious to me!
A plot, a plot, a plot to ruin all!'
'No plot, no plot,' he answered. 'Wretched boy,
How saw you not the inscription on the gate,
LET NO MAN ENTER IN ON PAIN OF DEATH?'
'And if I had,' he answered, 'who could think
The softer Adams of your Academe,
O sister, Sirens though they be, were such
As chanted on the blanching bones of men?'
'But you will find it otherwise' she said.
'You jest: ill jesting with edge-tools! my vow
Binds me to speak, and O that iron will,
That axelike edge unturnable, our Head,
The Princess.' 'Well then, Psyche, take my life,
And nail me like a weasel on a grange
For warning: bury me beside the gate,
And cut this epitaph above my bones;
~Here lies a brother by a sister slain,
All for the common good of womankind.~'
'Let me die too,' said Cyril, 'having seen
And heard the Lady Psyche.'
I struck in:
'Albeit so masked, Madam, I love the truth;
Receive it; and in me behold the Prince
Your countryman, affianced years ago
To the Lady Ida: here, for here she was,
And thus (what other way was left) I came.'
'O Sir, O Prince, I have no country; none;
If any, this; but none. Whate'er I was
Disrooted, what I am is grafted here.
Affianced, Sir? love-whispers may not breathe
Within this vestal limit, and how should I,
Who am not mine, say, live: the thunderbolt
Hangs silent; but prepare: I speak; it falls.'
'Yet pause,' I said: 'for that inscription there,
I think no more of deadly lurks therein,
Than in a clapper clapping in a garth,
To scare the fowl from fruit: if more there be,
If more and acted on, what follows? war;
Your own work marred: for this your Academe,
Whichever side be Victor, in the halloo
Will topple to the trumpet down, and pass
With all fair theories only made to gild
A stormless summer.' 'Let the Princess judge
Of that' she said: 'farewell, Sir--and to you.
I shudder at the sequel, but I go.'
'Are you that Lady Psyche,' I rejoined,
'The fifth in line from that old Florian,
Yet hangs his portrait in my father's hall
(The gaunt old Baron with his beetle brow
Sun-shaded in the heat of dusty fights)
As he bestrode my Grandsire, when he fell,
And all else fled? we point to it, and we say,
The loyal warmth of Florian is not cold,
But branches current yet in kindred veins.'
'Are you that Psyche,' Florian added; 'she
With whom I sang about the morning hills,
Flung ball, flew kite, and raced the purple fly,
And snared the squirrel of the glen? are you
That Psyche, wont to bind my throbbing brow,
To smoothe my pillow, mix the foaming draught
Of fever, tell me pleasant tales, and read
My sickness down to happy dreams? are you
That brother-sister Psyche, both in one?
You were that Psyche, but what are you now?'
'You are that Psyche,' said Cyril, 'for whom
I would be that for ever which I seem,
Woman, if I might sit beside your feet,
And glean your scattered sapience.'
Then once more,
'Are you that Lady Psyche,' I began,
'That on her bridal morn before she past
From all her old companions, when the kind
Kissed her pale cheek, declared that ancient ties
Would still be dear beyond the southern hills;
That were there any of our people there
In want or peril, there was one to hear
And help them? look! for such are these and I.'
'Are you that Psyche,' Florian asked, 'to whom,
In gentler days, your arrow-wounded fawn
Came flying while you sat beside the well?
The creature laid his muzzle on your lap,
And sobbed, and you sobbed with it, and the blood
Was sprinkled on your kirtle, and you wept.
That was fawn's blood, not brother's, yet you wept.
O by the bright head of my little niece,
You were that Psyche, and what are you now?'
'You are that Psyche,' Cyril said again,
'The mother of the sweetest little maid,
That ever crowed for kisses.'
'Out upon it!'
She answered, 'peace! and why should I not play
The Spartan Mother with emotion, be
The Lucius Junius Brutus of my kind?
Him you call great: he for the common weal,
The fading politics of mortal Rome,
As I might slay this child, if good need were,
Slew both his sons: and I, shall I, on whom
The secular emancipation turns
Of half this world, be swerved from right to save
A prince, a brother? a little will I yield.
Best so, perchance, for us, and well for you.
O hard, when love and duty clash! I fear
My conscience will not count me fleckless; yet--
Hear my conditions: promise (otherwise
You perish) as you came, to slip away
Today, tomorrow, soon: it shall be said,
These women were too barbarous, would not learn;
They fled, who might have shamed us: promise, all.'
What could we else, we promised each; and she,
Like some wild creature newly-caged, commenced
A to-and-fro, so pacing till she paused
By Florian; holding out her lily arms
Took both his hands, and smiling faintly said:
'I knew you at the first: though you have grown
You scarce have altered: I am sad and glad
To see you, Florian. ~I~ give thee to death
My brother! it was duty spoke, not I.
My needful seeming harshness, pardon it.
Our mother, is she well?'
With that she kissed
His forehead, then, a moment after, clung
About him, and betwixt them blossomed up
From out a common vein of memory
Sweet household talk, and phrases of the hearth,
And far allusion, till the gracious dews
Began to glisten and to fall: and while
They stood, so rapt, we gazing, came a voice,
'I brought a message here from Lady Blanche.'
Back started she, and turning round we saw
The Lady Blanche's daughter where she stood,
Melissa, with her hand upon the lock,
A rosy blonde, and in a college gown,
That clad her like an April daffodilly
(Her mother's colour) with her lips apart,
And all her thoughts as fair within her eyes,
As bottom agates seen to wave and float
In crystal currents of clear morning seas.
So stood that same fair creature at the door.
Then Lady Psyche, 'Ah--Melissa--you!
You heard us?' and Melissa, 'O pardon me
I heard, I could not help it, did not wish:
But, dearest Lady, pray you fear me not,
Nor think I bear that heart within my breast,
To give three gallant gentlemen to death.'
'I trust you,' said the other, 'for we two
Were always friends, none closer, elm and vine:
But yet your mother's jealous temperament--
Let not your prudence, dearest, drowse, or prove
The Danaïd of a leaky vase, for fear
This whole foundation ruin, and I lose
My honour, these their lives.' 'Ah, fear me not'
Replied Melissa; 'no--I would not tell,
No, not for all Aspasia's cleverness,
No, not to answer, Madam, all those hard things
That Sheba came to ask of Solomon.'
'Be it so' the other, 'that we still may lead
The new light up, and culminate in peace,
For Solomon may come to Sheba yet.'
Said Cyril, 'Madam, he the wisest man
Feasted the woman wisest then, in halls
Of Lebanonian cedar: nor should you
(Though, Madam, ~you~ should answer, ~we~ would ask)
Less welcome find among us, if you came
Among us, debtors for our lives to you,
Myself for something more.' He said not what,
But 'Thanks,' she answered 'Go: we have been too long
Together: keep your hoods about the face;
They do so that affect abstraction here.
Speak little; mix not with the rest; and hold
Your promise: all, I trust, may yet be well.'
We turned to go, but Cyril took the child,
And held her round the knees against his waist,
And blew the swollen cheek of a trumpeter,
While Psyche watched them, smiling, and the child
Pushed her flat hand against his face and laughed;
And thus our conference closed.
And then we strolled
For half the day through stately theatres
Benched crescent-wise. In each we sat, we heard
The grave Professor. On the lecture slate
The circle rounded under female hands
With flawless demonstration: followed then
A classic lecture, rich in sentiment,
With scraps of thunderous Epic lilted out
By violet-hooded Doctors, elegies
And quoted odes, and jewels five-words-long
That on the stretched forefinger of all Time
Sparkle for ever: then we dipt in all
That treats of whatsoever is, the state,
The total chronicles of man, the mind,
The morals, something of the frame, the rock,
The star, the bird, the fish, the shell, the flower,
Electric, chemic laws, and all the rest,
And whatsoever can be taught and known;
Till like three horses that have broken fence,
And glutted all night long breast-deep in corn,
We issued gorged with knowledge, and I spoke:
'Why, Sirs, they do all this as well as we.'
'They hunt old trails' said Cyril 'very well;
But when did woman ever yet invent?'
'Ungracious!' answered Florian; 'have you learnt
No more from Psyche's lecture, you that talked
The trash that made me sick, and almost sad?'
'O trash' he said, 'but with a kernel in it.
Should I not call her wise, who made me wise?
And learnt? I learnt more from her in a flash,
Than in my brainpan were an empty hull,
And every Muse tumbled a science in.
A thousand hearts lie fallow in these halls,
And round these halls a thousand baby loves
Fly twanging headless arrows at the hearts,
Whence follows many a vacant pang; but O
With me, Sir, entered in the bigger boy,
The Head of all the golden-shafted firm,
The long-limbed lad that had a Psyche too;
He cleft me through the stomacher; and now
What think you of it, Florian? do I chase
The substance or the shadow? will it hold?
I have no sorcerer's malison on me,
No ghostly hauntings like his Highness. I
Flatter myself that always everywhere
I know the substance when I see it. Well,
Are castles shadows? Three of them? Is she
The sweet proprietress a shadow? If not,
Shall those three castles patch my tattered coat?
For dear are those three castles to my wants,
And dear is sister Psyche to my heart,
And two dear things are one of double worth,
And much I might have said, but that my zone
Unmanned me: then the Doctors! O to hear
The Doctors! O to watch the thirsty plants
Imbibing! once or twice I thought to roar,
To break my chain, to shake my mane: but thou,
Modulate me, Soul of mincing mimicry!
Make liquid treble of that bassoon, my throat;
Abase those eyes that ever loved to meet
Star-sisters answering under crescent brows;
Abate the stride, which speaks of man, and loose
A flying charm of blushes o'er this cheek,
Where they like swallows coming out of time
Will wonder why they came: but hark the bell
For dinner, let us go!'
And in we streamed
Among the columns, pacing staid and still
By twos and threes, till all from end to end
With beauties every shade of brown and fair
In colours gayer than the morning mist,
The long hall glittered like a bed of flowers.
How might a man not wander from his wits
Pierced through with eyes, but that I kept mine own
Intent on her, who rapt in glorious dreams,
The second-sight of some Astræan age,
Sat compassed with professors: they, the while,
Discussed a doubt and tost it to and fro:
A clamour thickened, mixt with inmost terms
Of art and science: Lady Blanche alone
Of faded form and haughtiest lineaments,
With all her autumn tresses falsely brown,
Shot sidelong daggers at us, a tiger-cat
In act to spring.
At last a solemn grace
Concluded, and we sought the gardens: there
One walked reciting by herself, and one
In this hand held a volume as to read,
And smoothed a petted peacock down with that:
Some to a low song oared a shallop by,
Or under arches of the marble bridge
Hung, shadowed from the heat: some hid and sought
In the orange thickets: others tost a ball
Above the fountain-jets, and back again
With laughter: others lay about the lawns,
Of the older sort, and murmured that their May
Was passing: what was learning unto them?
They wished to marry; they could rule a house;
Men hated learned women: but we three
Sat muffled like the Fates; and often came
Melissa hitting all we saw with shafts
Of gentle satire, kin to charity,
That harmed not: then day droopt; the chapel bells
Called us: we left the walks; we mixt with those
Six hundred maidens clad in purest white,
Before two streams of light from wall to wall,
While the great organ almost burst his pipes,
Groaning for power, and rolling through the court
A long melodious thunder to the sound
Of solemn psalms, and silver litanies,
The work of Ida, to call down from Heaven
A blessing on her labours for the world.
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother's breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.
Sir Walter Vivian all a summer's day
Gave his broad lawns until the set of sun
Up to the people: thither flocked at noon
His tenants, wife and child, and thither half
The neighbouring borough with their Institute
Of which he was the patron. I was there
From college, visiting the son,--the son
A Walter too,--with others of our set,
Five others: we were seven at Vivian-place.
And me that morning Walter showed the house,
Greek, set with busts: from vases in the hall
Flowers of all heavens, and lovelier than their names,
Grew side by side; and on the pavement lay
Carved stones of the Abbey-ruin in the park,
Huge Ammonites, and the first bones of Time;
And on the tables every clime and age
Jumbled together; celts and calumets,
Claymore and snowshoe, toys in lava, fans
Of sandal, amber, ancient rosaries,
Laborious orient ivory sphere in sphere,
The cursed Malayan crease, and battle-clubs
From the isles of palm: and higher on the walls,
Betwixt the monstrous horns of elk and deer,
His own forefathers' arms and armour hung.
And 'this' he said 'was Hugh's at Agincourt;
And that was old Sir Ralph's at Ascalon:
A good knight he! we keep a chronicle
With all about him'--which he brought, and I
Dived in a hoard of tales that dealt with knights,
Half-legend, half-historic, counts and kings
Who laid about them at their wills and died;
And mixt with these, a lady, one that armed
Her own fair head, and sallying through the gate,
Had beat her foes with slaughter from her walls.
'O miracle of women,' said the book,
'O noble heart who, being strait-besieged
By this wild king to force her to his wish,
Nor bent, nor broke, nor shunned a soldier's death,
But now when all was lost or seemed as lost--
Her stature more than mortal in the burst
Of sunrise, her arm lifted, eyes on fire--
Brake with a blast of trumpets from the gate,
And, falling on them like a thunderbolt,
She trampled some beneath her horses' heels,
And some were whelmed with missiles of the wall,
And some were pushed with lances from the rock,
And part were drowned within the whirling brook:
O miracle of noble womanhood!'
So sang the gallant glorious chronicle;
And, I all rapt in this, 'Come out,' he said,
'To the Abbey: there is Aunt Elizabeth
And sister Lilia with the rest.' We went
(I kept the book and had my finger in it)
Down through the park: strange was the sight to me;
For all the sloping pasture murmured, sown
With happy faces and with holiday.
There moved the multitude, a thousand heads:
The patient leaders of their Institute
Taught them with facts. One reared a font of stone
And drew, from butts of water on the slope,
The fountain of the moment, playing, now
A twisted snake, and now a rain of pearls,
Or steep-up spout whereon the gilded ball
Danced like a wisp: and somewhat lower down
A man with knobs and wires and vials fired
A cannon: Echo answered in her sleep
From hollow fields: and here were telescopes
For azure views; and there a group of girls
In circle waited, whom the electric shock
Dislinked with shrieks and laughter: round the lake
A little clock-work steamer paddling plied
And shook the lilies: perched about the knolls
A dozen angry models jetted steam:
A petty railway ran: a fire-balloon
Rose gem-like up before the dusky groves
And dropt a fairy parachute and past:
And there through twenty posts of telegraph
They flashed a saucy message to and fro
Between the mimic stations; so that sport
Went hand in hand with Science; otherwhere
Pure sport; a herd of boys with clamour bowled
And stumped the wicket; babies rolled about
Like tumbled fruit in grass; and men and maids
Arranged a country dance, and flew through light
And shadow, while the twangling violin
Struck up with Soldier-laddie, and overhead
The broad ambrosial aisles of lofty lime
Made noise with bees and breeze from end to end.
Strange was the sight and smacking of the time;
And long we gazed, but satiated at length
Came to the ruins. High-arched and ivy-claspt,
Of finest Gothic lighter than a fire,
Through one wide chasm of time and frost they gave
The park, the crowd, the house; but all within
The sward was trim as any garden lawn:
And here we lit on Aunt Elizabeth,
And Lilia with the rest, and lady friends
From neighbour seats: and there was Ralph himself,
A broken statue propt against the wall,
As gay as any. Lilia, wild with sport,
Half child half woman as she was, had wound
A scarf of orange round the stony helm,
And robed the shoulders in a rosy silk,
That made the old warrior from his ivied nook
Glow like a sunbeam: near his tomb a feast
Shone, silver-set; about it lay the guests,
And there we joined them: then the maiden Aunt
Took this fair day for text, and from it preached
An universal culture for the crowd,
And all things great; but we, unworthier, told
Of college: he had climbed across the spikes,
And he had squeezed himself betwixt the bars,
And he had breathed the Proctor's dogs; and one
Discussed his tutor, rough to common men,
But honeying at the whisper of a lord;
And one the Master, as a rogue in grain
Veneered with sanctimonious theory.
But while they talked, above their heads I saw
The feudal warrior lady-clad; which brought
My book to mind: and opening this I read
Of old Sir Ralph a page or two that rang
With tilt and tourney; then the tale of her
That drove her foes with slaughter from her walls,
And much I praised her nobleness, and 'Where,'
Asked Walter, patting Lilia's head (she lay
Beside him) 'lives there such a woman now?'
Quick answered Lilia 'There are thousands now
Such women, but convention beats them down:
It is but bringing up; no more than that:
You men have done it: how I hate you all!
Ah, were I something great! I wish I were
Some might poetess, I would shame you then,
That love to keep us children! O I wish
That I were some great princess, I would build
Far off from men a college like a man's,
And I would teach them all that men are taught;
We are twice as quick!' And here she shook aside
The hand that played the patron with her curls.
And one said smiling 'Pretty were the sight
If our old halls could change their sex, and flaunt
With prudes for proctors, dowagers for deans,
And sweet girl-graduates in their golden hair.
I think they should not wear our rusty gowns,
But move as rich as Emperor-moths, or Ralph
Who shines so in the corner; yet I fear,
If there were many Lilias in the brood,
However deep you might embower the nest,
Some boy would spy it.'
At this upon the sward
She tapt her tiny silken-sandaled foot:
'That's your light way; but I would make it death
For any male thing but to peep at us.'
Petulant she spoke, and at herself she laughed;
A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,
And sweet as English air could make her, she:
But Walter hailed a score of names upon her,
And 'petty Ogress', and 'ungrateful Puss',
And swore he longed at college, only longed,
All else was well, for she-society.
They boated and they cricketed; they talked
At wine, in clubs, of art, of politics;
They lost their weeks; they vext the souls of deans;
They rode; they betted; made a hundred friends,
And caught the blossom of the flying terms,
But missed the mignonette of Vivian-place,
The little hearth-flower Lilia. Thus he spoke,
Part banter, part affection.
'True,' she said,
'We doubt not that. O yes, you missed us much.
I'll stake my ruby ring upon it you did.'
She held it out; and as a parrot turns
Up through gilt wires a crafty loving eye,
And takes a lady's finger with all care,
And bites it for true heart and not for harm,
So he with Lilia's. Daintily she shrieked
And wrung it. 'Doubt my word again!' he said.
'Come, listen! here is proof that you were missed:
We seven stayed at Christmas up to read;
And there we took one tutor as to read:
The hard-grained Muses of the cube and square
Were out of season: never man, I think,
So mouldered in a sinecure as he:
For while our cloisters echoed frosty feet,
And our long walks were stript as bare as brooms,
We did but talk you over, pledge you all
In wassail; often, like as many girls--
Sick for the hollies and the yews of home--
As many little trifling Lilias--played
Charades and riddles as at Christmas here,
And ~what's my thought~ and ~when~ and ~where~ and ~how~,
As here at Christmas.'
She remembered that:
A pleasant game, she thought: she liked it more
Than magic music, forfeits, all the rest.
But these--what kind of tales did men tell men,
She wondered, by themselves?
Perched on the pouted blossom of her lips:
And Walter nodded at me; '~He~ began,
The rest would follow, each in turn; and so
We forged a sevenfold story. Kind? what kind?
Chimeras, crotchets, Christmas solecisms,
Seven-headed monsters only made to kill
Time by the fire in winter.'
'Kill him now,
The tyrant! kill him in the summer too,'
Said Lilia; 'Why not now?' the maiden Aunt.
'Why not a summer's as a winter's tale?
A tale for summer as befits the time,
And something it should be to suit the place,
Heroic, for a hero lies beneath,
Walter warped his mouth at this
To something so mock-solemn, that I laughed
And Lilia woke with sudden-thrilling mirth
An echo like a ghostly woodpecker,
Hid in the ruins; till the maiden Aunt
(A little sense of wrong had touched her face
With colour) turned to me with 'As you will;
Heroic if you will, or what you will,
Or be yourself you hero if you will.'
'Take Lilia, then, for heroine' clamoured he,
'And make her some great Princess, six feet high,
Grand, epic, homicidal; and be you
The Prince to win her!'
'Then follow me, the Prince,'
I answered, 'each be hero in his turn!
Seven and yet one, like shadows in a dream.--
Heroic seems our Princess as required--
But something made to suit with Time and place,
A Gothic ruin and a Grecian house,
A talk of college and of ladies' rights,
A feudal knight in silken masquerade,
And, yonder, shrieks and strange experiments
For which the good Sir Ralph had burnt them all--
This ~were~ a medley! we should have him back
Who told the "Winter's tale" to do it for us.
No matter: we will say whatever comes.
And let the ladies sing us, if they will,
From time to time, some ballad or a song
To give us breathing-space.'
So I began,
And the rest followed: and the women sang
Between the rougher voices of the men,
Like linnets in the pauses of the wind:
And here I give the story and the songs.
For every tiny town or place
God made the stars especially;
Babies look up with owlish face
And see them tangled in a tree;
You saw a moon from Sussex Downs,
A Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town's,
The largest lamp on Campden Hill.
Yea; Heaven is everywhere at home
The big blue cap that always fits,
And so it is (be calm; they come
To goal at last, my wandering wits),
So is it with the heroic thing;
This shall not end for the world's end
And though the sullen engines swing,
Be you not much afraid, my friend.
This did not end by Nelson's urn
Where an immortal England sits--
Nor where your tall young men in turn
Drank death like wine at Austerlitz.
And when the pedants bade us mark
What cold mechanic happenings
Must come; our souls said in the dark,
'Belike; but there are likelier things.'
Likelier across these flats afar
These sulky levels smooth and free
The drums shall crash a waltz of war
And Death shall dance with Liberty;
Likelier the barricades shall blare
Slaughter below and smoke above,
And death and hate and hell declare
That men have found a thing to love.
Far from your sunny uplands set
I saw the dream; the streets I trod
The lit straight streets shot out and met
The starry streets that point to God.
This legend of an epic hour
A child I dreamed, and dream it still,
Under the great grey water-tower
That strikes the stars on Campden Hill
“Whether all towns and all who live in them—
So long as they be somewhere in this world
That we in our complacency call ours—
Are more or less the same, I leave to you.
I should say less. Whether or not, meanwhile,
We’ve all two legs—and as for that, we haven’t—
There were three kinds of men where I was born:
The good, the not so good, and Tasker Norcross.
Now there are two kinds.”
“Meaning, as I divine,
Your friend is dead,” I ventured.
Who talked himself at last out of the world
He censured, and is therefore silent now,
Agreed indifferently: “My friends are dead—
Or most of them.”
“Remember one that isn’t,”
I said, protesting. “Honor him for his ears;
Treasure him also for his understanding.”
Ferguson sighed, and then talked on again:
“You have an overgrown alacrity
For saying nothing much and hearing less;
And I’ve a thankless wonder, at the start,
How much it is to you that I shall tell
What I have now to say of Tasker Norcross,
And how much to the air that is around you.
But given a patience that is not averse
To the slow tragedies of haunted men—
Horrors, in fact, if you’ve a skilful eye
To know them at their firesides, or out walking,—”
“Horrors,” I said, “are my necessity;
And I would have them, for their best effect,
Always out walking.”
Ferguson frowned at me:
“The wisest of us are not those who laugh
Before they know. Most of us never know—
Or the long toil of our mortality
Would not be done. Most of us never know—
And there you have a reason to believe
In God, if you may have no other. Norcross,
Or so I gather of his infirmity,
Was given to know more than he should have known,
And only God knows why. See for yourself
An old house full of ghosts of ancestors,
Who did their best, or worst, and having done it,
Died honorably; and each with a distinction
That hardly would have been for him that had it,
Had honor failed him wholly as a friend.
Honor that is a friend begets a friend.
Whether or not we love him, still we have him;
And we must live somehow by what we have,
Or then we die. If you say chemistry,
Then you must have your molecules in motion,
And in their right abundance. Failing either,
You have not long to dance. Failing a friend,
A genius, or a madness, or a faith
Larger than desperation, you are here
For as much longer than you like as may be.
Imagining now, by way of an example,
Myself a more or less remembered phantom—
Again, I should say less—how many times
A day should I come back to you? No answer.
Forgive me when I seem a little careless,
But we must have examples, or be lucid
Without them; and I question your adherence
To such an undramatic narrative
As this of mine, without the personal hook.”
“A time is given in Ecclesiastes
For divers works,” I told him. “Is there one
For saying nothing in return for nothing?
If not, there should be.” I could feel his eyes,
And they were like two cold inquiring points
Of a sharp metal. When I looked again,
To see them shine, the cold that I had felt
Was gone to make way for a smouldering
Of lonely fire that I, as I knew then,
Could never quench with kindness or with lies.
I should have done whatever there was to do
For Ferguson, yet I could not have mourned
In honesty for once around the clock
The loss of him, for my sake or for his,
Try as I might; nor would his ghost approve,
Had I the power and the unthinking will
To make him tread again without an aim
The road that was behind him—and without
The faith, or friend, or genius, or the madness
That he contended was imperative.
After a silence that had been too long,
“It may be quite as well we don’t,” he said;
“As well, I mean, that we don’t always say it.
You know best what I mean, and I suppose
You might have said it better. What was that?
Incorrigible? Am I incorrigible?
Well, it’s a word; and a word has its use,
Or, like a man, it will soon have a grave.
It’s a good word enough. Incorrigible,
May be, for all I know, the word for Norcross.
See for yourself that house of his again
That he called home: An old house, painted white,
Square as a box, and chillier than a tomb
To look at or to live in. There were trees—
Too many of them, if such a thing may be—
Before it and around it. Down in front
There was a road, a railroad, and a river;
Then there were hills behind it, and more trees.
The thing would fairly stare at you through trees,
Like a pale inmate out of a barred window
With a green shade half down; and I dare say
People who passed have said: ‘There’s where he lives.
We know him, but we do not seem to know
That we remember any good of him,
Or any evil that is interesting.
There you have all we know and all we care.’
They might have said it in all sorts of ways;
And then, if they perceived a cat, they might
Or might not have remembered what they said.
The cat might have a personality—
And maybe the same one the Lord left out
Of Tasker Norcross, who, for lack of it,
Saw the same sun go down year after year;
All which at last was my discovery.
And only mine, so far as evidence
Enlightens one more darkness. You have known
All round you, all your days, men who are nothing—
Nothing, I mean, so far as time tells yet
Of any other need it has of them
Than to make sextons hardy—but no less
Are to themselves incalculably something,
And therefore to be cherished. God, you see,
Being sorry for them in their fashioning,
Indemnified them with a quaint esteem
Of self, and with illusions long as life.
You know them well, and you have smiled at them;
And they, in their serenity, may have had
Their time to smile at you. Blessed are they
That see themselves for what they never were
Or were to be, and are, for their defect,
At ease with mirrors and the dim remarks
That pass their tranquil ears.”
“Come, come,” said I;
“There may be names in your compendium
That we are not yet all on fire for shouting.
Skin most of us of our mediocrity,
We should have nothing then that we could scratch.
The picture smarts. Cover it, if you please,
And do so rather gently. Now for Norcross.”
Ferguson closed his eyes in resignation,
While a dead sigh came out of him. “Good God!”
He said, and said it only half aloud,
As if he knew no longer now, nor cared,
If one were there to listen: “Have I said nothing—
Nothing at all—of Norcross? Do you mean
To patronize him till his name becomes
A toy made out of letters? If a name
Is all you need, arrange an honest column
Of all the people you have ever known
That you have never liked. You’ll have enough;
And you’ll have mine, moreover. No, not yet.
If I assume too many privileges,
I pay, and I alone, for their assumption;
By which, if I assume a darker knowledge
Of Norcross than another, let the weight
Of my injustice aggravate the load
That is not on your shoulders. When I came
To know this fellow Norcross in his house,
I found him as I found him in the street—
No more, no less; indifferent, but no better.
‘Worse’ were not quite the word: he was not bad;
He was not… well, he was not anything.
Has your invention ever entertained
The picture of a dusty worm so dry
That even the early bird would shake his head
And fly on farther for another breakfast?”
“But why forget the fortune of the worm,”
I said, “if in the dryness you deplore
Salvation centred and endured? Your Norcross
May have been one for many to have envied.”
“Salvation? Fortune? Would the worm say that?
He might; and therefore I dismiss the worm
With all dry things but one. Figures away,
Do you begin to see this man a little?
Do you begin to see him in the air,
With all the vacant horrors of his outline
For you to fill with more than it will hold?
If so, you needn’t crown yourself at once
With epic laurel if you seem to fill it.
Horrors, I say, for in the fires and forks
Of a new hell—if one were not enough—
I doubt if a new horror would have held him
With a malignant ingenuity
More to be feared than his before he died.
You smile, as if in doubt. Well, smile again.
Now come into his house, along with me:
The four square sombre things that you see first
Around you are four walls that go as high
As to the ceiling. Norcross knew them well,
And he knew others like them. Fasten to that
With all the claws of your intelligence;
And hold the man before you in his house
As if he were a white rat in a box,
And one that knew himself to be no other.
I tell you twice that he knew all about it,
That you may not forget the worst of all
Our tragedies begin with what we know.
Could Norcross only not have known, I wonder
How many would have blessed and envied him!
Could he have had the usual eye for spots
On others, and for none upon himself,
I smile to ponder on the carriages
That might as well as not have clogged the town
In honor of his end. For there was gold,
You see, though all he needed was a little,
And what he gave said nothing of who gave it.
He would have given it all if in return
There might have been a more sufficient face
To greet him when he shaved. Though you insist
It is the dower, and always, of our degree
Not to be cursed with such invidious insight,
Remember that you stand, you and your fancy,
Now in his house; and since we are together,
See for yourself and tell me what you see.
Tell me the best you see. Make a slight noise
Of recognition when you find a book
That you would not as lief read upside down
As otherwise, for example. If there you fail,
Observe the walls and lead me to the place,
Where you are led. If there you meet a picture
That holds you near it for a longer time
Than you are sorry, you may call it yours,
And hang it in the dark of your remembrance,
Where Norcross never sees. How can he see
That has no eyes to see? And as for music,
He paid with empty wonder for the pangs
Of his infrequent forced endurance of it;
And having had no pleasure, paid no more
For needless immolation, or for the sight
Of those who heard what he was never to hear.
To see them listening was itself enough
To make him suffer; and to watch worn eyes,
On other days, of strangers who forgot
Their sorrows and their failures and themselves
Before a few mysterious odds and ends
Of marble carted from the Parthenon—
And all for seeing what he was never to see,
Because it was alive and he was dead—
Here was a wonder that was more profound
Than any that was in fiddles and brass horns.
“He knew, and in his knowledge there was death.
He knew there was a region all around him
That lay outside man’s havoc and affairs,
And yet was not all hostile to their tumult,
Where poets would have served and honored him,
And saved him, had there been anything to save.
But there was nothing, and his tethered range
Was only a small desert. Kings of song
Are not for thrones in deserts. Towers of sound
And flowers of sense are but a waste of heaven
Where there is none to know them from the rocks
And sand-grass of his own monotony
That makes earth less than earth. He could see that,
And he could see no more. The captured light
That may have been or not, for all he cared,
The song that is in sculpture was not his,
But only, to his God-forgotten eyes,
One more immortal nonsense in a world
Where all was mortal, or had best be so,
And so be done with. ‘Art,’ he would have said,
‘Is not life, and must therefore be a lie;’
And with a few profundities like that
He would have controverted and dismissed
The benefit of the Greeks. He had heard of them,
As he had heard of his aspiring soul—
Never to the perceptible advantage,
In his esteem, of either. ‘Faith,’ he said,
Or would have said if he had thought of it,
‘Lives in the same house with Philosophy,
Where the two feed on scraps and are forlorn
As orphans after war. He could see stars,
On a clear night, but he had not an eye
To see beyond them. He could hear spoken words,
But had no ear for silence when alone.
He could eat food of which he knew the savor,
But had no palate for the Bread of Life,
That human desperation, to his thinking,
Made famous long ago, having no other.
Now do you see? Do you begin to see?”
I told him that I did begin to see;
And I was nearer than I should have been
To laughing at his malign inclusiveness,
When I considered that, with all our speed,
We are not laughing yet at funerals.
I see him now as I could see him then,
And I see now that it was good for me,
As it was good for him, that I was quiet;
For Time’s eye was on Ferguson, and the shaft
Of its inquiring hesitancy had touched him,
Or so I chose to fancy more than once
Before he told of Norcross. When the word
Of his release (he would have called it so)
Made half an inch of news, there were no tears
That are recorded. Women there may have been
To wish him back, though I should say, not knowing,
The few there were to mourn were not for love,
And were not lovely. Nothing of them, at least,
Was in the meagre legend that I gathered
Years after, when a chance of travel took me
So near the region of his nativity
That a few miles of leisure brought me there;
For there I found a friendly citizen
Who led me to his house among the trees
That were above a railroad and a river.
Square as a box and chillier than a tomb
It was indeed, to look at or to live in—
All which had I been told. “Ferguson died,”
The stranger said, “and then there was an auction.
I live here, but I’ve never yet been warm.
Remember him? Yes, I remember him.
I knew him—as a man may know a tree—
For twenty years. He may have held himself
A little high when he was here, but now …
Yes, I remember Ferguson. Oh, yes.”
Others, I found, remembered Ferguson,
But none of them had heard of Tasker Norcross.
Now warm with ministerial ire,
Fierce sallied forth our loyal 'Squire,
And on his striding steps attends
His desperate clan of Tory friends.
When sudden met his wrathful eye
A pole ascending through the sky,
Which numerous throngs of whiggish race
Were raising in the market-place.
Not higher school-boy's kites aspire,
Or royal mast, or country spire;
Like spears at Brobdignagian tilting,
Or Satan's walking-staff in Milton.
And on its top, the flag unfurl'd
Waved triumph o'er the gazing world,
Inscribed with inconsistent types
Of Liberty and thirteen stripes.
Beneath, the crowd without delay
The dedication-rites essay,
And gladly pay, in antient fashion,
The ceremonies of libation;
While briskly to each patriot lip
Walks eager round the inspiring flip:
Delicious draught! whose powers inherit
The quintessence of public spirit;
Which whoso tastes, perceives his mind
To nobler politics refined;
Or roused to martial controversy,
As from transforming cups of Circe;
Or warm'd with Homer's nectar'd liquor,
That fill'd the veins of gods with ichor.
At hand for new supplies in store,
The tavern opes its friendly door,
Whence to and fro the waiters run,
Like bucket-men at fires in town.
Then with three shouts that tore the sky,
'Tis consecrate to Liberty.
To guard it from th' attacks of Tories,
A grand Committee cull'd of four is;
Who foremost on the patriot spot,
Had brought the flip, and paid the shot.
By this, M'Fingal with his train
Advanced upon th' adjacent plain,
And full with loyalty possest,
Pour'd forth the zeal, that fired his breast.
"What mad-brain'd rebel gave commission,
To raise this May-pole of sedition?
Like Babel, rear'd by bawling throngs,
With like confusion too of tongues,
To point at heaven and summon down
The thunders of the British crown?
Say, will this paltry Pole secure
Your forfeit heads from Gage's power?
Attack'd by heroes brave and crafty,
Is this to stand your ark of safety;
Or driven by Scottish laird and laddie,
Think ye to rest beneath its shadow?
When bombs, like fiery serpents, fly,
And balls rush hissing through the sky,
Will this vile Pole, devote to freedom,
Save like the Jewish pole in Edom;
Or like the brazen snake of Moses,
Cure your crackt skulls and batter'd noses?
"Ye dupes to every factious rogue
And tavern-prating demagogue,
Whose tongue but rings, with sound more full,
On th' empty drumhead of his scull;
Behold you not what noisy fools
Use you, worse simpletons, for tools?
For Liberty, in your own by-sense,
Is but for crimes a patent license,
To break of law th' Egyptian yoke,
And throw the world in common stock;
Reduce all grievances and ills
To Magna Charta of your wills;
Establish cheats and frauds and nonsense,
Framed to the model of your conscience;
Cry justice down, as out of fashion,
And fix its scale of depreciation;
Defy all creditors to trouble ye,
And keep new years of Jewish jubilee;
Drive judges out, like Aaron's calves,
By jurisdiction of white staves,
And make the bar and bench and steeple
Submit t' our Sovereign Lord, The People;
By plunder rise to power and glory,
And brand all property, as Tory;
Expose all wares to lawful seizures
By mobbers or monopolizers;
Break heads and windows and the peace,
For your own interest and increase;
Dispute and pray and fight and groan
For public good, and mean your own;
Prevent the law by fierce attacks
From quitting scores upon your backs;
Lay your old dread, the gallows, low,
And seize the stocks, your ancient foe,
And turn them to convenient engines
To wreak your patriotic vengeance;
While all, your rights who understand,
Confess them in their owner's hand;
And when by clamours and confusions,
Your freedom's grown a public nuisance,
Cry "Liberty," with powerful yearning,
As he does "Fire!" whose house is burning;
Though he already has much more
Than he can find occasion for.
While every clown, that tills the plains,
Though bankrupt in estate and brains,
By this new light transform'd to traitor,
Forsakes his plough to turn dictator,
Starts an haranguing chief of Whigs,
And drags you by the ears, like pigs.
All bluster, arm'd with factious licence,
New-born at once to politicians.
Each leather-apron'd dunce, grown wise,
Presents his forward face t' advise,
And tatter'd legislators meet,
From every workshop through the street.
His goose the tailor finds new use in,
To patch and turn the Constitution;
The blacksmith comes with sledge and grate
To iron-bind the wheels of state;
The quack forbears his patients' souse,
To purge the Council and the House;
The tinker quits his moulds and doxies,
To cast assembly-men and proxies.
From dunghills deep of blackest hue,
Your dirt-bred patriots spring to view,
To wealth and power and honors rise,
Like new-wing'd maggots changed to flies,
And fluttering round in high parade,
Strut in the robe, or gay cockade.
See Arnold quits, for ways more certain,
His bankrupt-perj'ries for his fortune,
Brews rum no longer in his store,
Jockey and skipper now no more,
Forsakes his warehouses and docks,
And writs of slander for the pox;
And cleansed by patriotism from shame,
Grows General of the foremost name.
For in this ferment of the stream
The dregs have work'd up to the brim,
And by the rule of topsy-turvies,
The scum stands foaming on the surface.
You've caused your pyramid t' ascend,
And set it on the little end.
Like Hudibras, your empire's made,
Whose crupper had o'ertopp'd his head.
You've push'd and turn'd the whole world up-
Side down, and got yourselves at top,
While all the great ones of your state
Are crush'd beneath the popular weight;
Nor can you boast, this present hour,
The shadow of the form of power.
For what's your Congress or its end?
A power, t' advise and recommend;
To call forth troops, adjust your quotas--
And yet no soul is bound to notice;
To pawn your faith to th' utmost limit,
But cannot bind you to redeem it;
And when in want no more in them lies,
Than begging from your State-Assemblies;
Can utter oracles of dread,
Like friar Bacon's brazen head,
But when a faction dares dispute 'em,
Has ne'er an arm to execute 'em:
As tho' you chose supreme dictators,
And put them under conservators.
You've but pursued the self-same way
With Shakespeare's Trinc'lo in the play;
"You shall be Viceroys here, 'tis true,
"But we'll be Viceroys over you."
What wild confusion hence must ensue?
Tho' common danger yet cements you:
So some wreck'd vessel, all in shatters,
Is held up by surrounding waters,
But stranded, when the pressure ceases,
Falls by its rottenness to pieces.
And fall it must! if wars were ended,
You'll ne'er have sense enough to mend it:
But creeping on, by low intrigues,
Like vermin of a thousand legs,
'Twill find as short a life assign'd,
As all things else of reptile kind.
Your Commonwealth's a common harlot,
The property of every varlet;
Which now in taste, and full employ,
All sorts admire, as all enjoy:
But soon a batter'd strumpet grown,
You'll curse and drum her out of town.
Such is the government you chose;
For this you bade the world be foes;
For this, so mark'd for dissolution,
You scorn the British Constitution,
That constitution form'd by sages,
The wonder of all modern ages;
Which owns no failure in reality,
Except corruption and venality;
And merely proves the adage just,
That best things spoil'd corrupt to worst:
So man supreme in earthly station,
And mighty lord of this creation,
When once his corse is dead as herring,
Becomes the most offensive carrion,
And sooner breeds the plague, 'tis found,
Than all beasts rotting on the ground.
Yet with republics to dismay us,
You've call'd up Anarchy from chaos,
With all the followers of her school,
Uproar and Rage and wild Misrule:
For whom this rout of Whigs distracted,
And ravings dire of every crack'd head;
These new-cast legislative engines
Of County-meetings and Conventions;
Committees vile of correspondence,
And mobs, whose tricks have almost undone 's:
While reason fails to check your course,
And Loyalty's kick'd out of doors,
And Folly, like inviting landlord,
Hoists on your poles her royal standard;
While the king's friends, in doleful dumps,
Have worn their courage to the stumps,
And leaving George in sad disaster,
Most sinfully deny their master.
What furies raged when you, in sea,
In shape of Indians, drown'd the tea;
When your gay sparks, fatigued to watch it,
Assumed the moggison and hatchet,
With wampum'd blankets hid their laces,
And like their sweethearts, primed their faces:
While not a red-coat dared oppose,
And scarce a Tory show'd his nose;
While Hutchinson, for sure retreat,
Manoeuvred to his country seat,
And thence affrighted, in the suds,
Stole off bareheaded through the woods.
"Have you not roused your mobs to join,
And make Mandamus-men resign,
Call'd forth each dufill-drest curmudgeon,
With dirty trowsers and white bludgeon,
Forced all our Councils through the land,
To yield their necks at your command;
While paleness marks their late disgraces,
Through all their rueful length of faces?
"Have you not caused as woeful work
In our good city of New-York,
When all the rabble, well cockaded,
In triumph through the streets paraded,
And mobb'd the Tories, scared their spouses,
And ransack'd all the custom-houses;
Made such a tumult, bluster, jarring,
That mid the clash of tempests warring,
Smith's weather-cock, in veers forlorn,
Could hardly tell which way to turn?
Burn'd effigies of higher powers,
Contrived in planetary hours;
As witches with clay-images
Destroy or torture whom they please:
Till fired with rage, th' ungrateful club
Spared not your best friend, Beelzebub,
O'erlook'd his favors, and forgot
The reverence due his cloven foot,
And in the selfsame furnace frying,
Stew'd him, and North and Bute and Tryon?
Did you not, in as vile and shallow way,
Fright our poor Philadelphian, Galloway,
Your Congress, when the loyal ribald
Belied, berated and bescribbled?
What ropes and halters did you send,
Terrific emblems of his end,
Till, least he'd hang in more than effigy,
Fled in a fog the trembling refugee?
Now rising in progression fatal,
Have you not ventured to give battle?
When Treason chaced our heroes troubled,
With rusty gun, and leathern doublet;
Turn'd all stone-walls and groves and bushes,
To batteries arm'd with blunderbusses;
And with deep wounds, that fate portend,
Gaul'd many a Briton's latter end;
Drove them to Boston, as in jail,
Confined without mainprize or bail.
Were not these deeds enough betimes,
To heap the measure of your crimes:
But in this loyal town and dwelling,
You raise these ensigns of rebellion?
'Tis done! fair Mercy shuts her door;
And Vengeance now shall sleep no more.
Rise then, my friends, in terror rise,
And sweep this scandal from the skies.
You'll see their Dagon, though well jointed,
Will shrink before the Lord's anointed;
And like old Jericho's proud wall,
Before our ram's horns prostrate fall."
This said, our 'Squire, yet undismay'd,
Call'd forth the Constable to aid,
And bade him read, in nearer station,
The Riot-act and Proclamation.
He swift, advancing to the ring,
Began, "Our Sovereign Lord, the King"--
When thousand clam'rous tongues he hears,
And clubs and stones assail his ears.
To fly was vain; to fight was idle;
By foes encompass'd in the middle,
His hope, in stratagems, he found,
And fell right craftily to ground;
Then crept to seek an hiding place,
'Twas all he could, beneath a brace;
Where soon the conq'ring crew espied him,
And where he lurk'd, they caught and tied him.
At once with resolution fatal,
Both Whigs and Tories rush'd to battle.
Instead of weapons, either band
Seized on such arms as came to hand.
And as famed Ovid paints th' adventures
Of wrangling Lapithæ and Centaurs,
Who at their feast, by Bacchus led,
Threw bottles at each other's head;
And these arms failing in their scuffles,
Attack'd with andirons, tongs and shovels:
So clubs and billets, staves and stones
Met fierce, encountering every sconce,
And cover'd o'er with knobs and pains
Each void receptacle for brains;
Their clamours rend the skies around,
The hills rebellow to the sound;
And many a groan increas'd the din
From batter'd nose and broken shin.
M'Fingal, rising at the word,
Drew forth his old militia-sword;
Thrice cried "King George," as erst in distress,
Knights of romance invoked a mistress;
And brandishing the blade in air,
Struck terror through th' opposing war.
The Whigs, unsafe within the wind
Of such commotion, shrunk behind.
With whirling steel around address'd,
Fierce through their thickest throng he press'd,
(Who roll'd on either side in arch,
Like Red Sea waves in Israel's march)
And like a meteor rushing through,
Struck on their Pole a vengeful blow.
Around, the Whigs, of clubs and stones
Discharged whole vollies, in platoons,
That o'er in whistling fury fly;
But not a foe dares venture nigh.
And now perhaps with glory crown'd
Our 'Squire had fell'd the pole to ground,
Had not some Pow'r, a whig at heart,
Descended down and took their part;
(Whether 'twere Pallas, Mars or Iris,
'Tis scarce worth while to make inquiries)
Who at the nick of time alarming,
Assumed the solemn form of Chairman,
Address'd a Whig, in every scene
The stoutest wrestler on the green,
And pointed where the spade was found,
Late used to set their pole in ground,
And urged, with equal arms and might,
To dare our 'Squire to single fight.
The Whig thus arm'd, untaught to yield,
Advanced tremendous to the field:
Nor did M'Fingal shun the foe,
But stood to brave the desp'rate blow;
While all the party gazed, suspended
To see the deadly combat ended;
And Jove in equal balance weigh'd
The sword against the brandish'd spade,
He weigh'd; but lighter than a dream,
The sword flew up, and kick'd the beam.
Our 'Squire on tiptoe rising fair
Lifts high a noble stroke in air,
Which hung not, but like dreadful engines,
Descended on his foe in vengeance.
But ah! in danger, with dishonor
The sword perfidious fails its owner;
That sword, which oft had stood its ground,
By huge trainbands encircled round;
And on the bench, with blade right loyal,
Had won the day at many a trial,
Of stones and clubs had braved th' alarms,
Shrunk from these new Vulcanian arms.
The spade so temper'd from the sledge,
Nor keen nor solid harm'd its edge,
Now met it, from his arm of might,
Descending with steep force to smite;
The blade snapp'd short--and from his hand,
With rust embrown'd the glittering sand.
Swift turn'd M'Fingal at the view,
And call'd to aid th' attendant crew,
In vain; the Tories all had run,
When scarce the fight was well begun;
Their setting wigs he saw decreas'd
Far in th' horizon tow'rd the west.
Amazed he view'd the shameful sight,
And saw no refuge, but in flight:
But age unwieldy check'd his pace,
Though fear had wing'd his flying race;
For not a trifling prize at stake;
No less than great M'Fingal's back.
With legs and arms he work'd his course,
Like rider that outgoes his horse,
And labor'd hard to get away, as
Old Satan struggling on through chaos;
Till looking back, he spied in rear
The spade-arm'd chief advanced too near:
Then stopp'd and seized a stone, that lay
An ancient landmark near the way;
Nor shall we as old bards have done,
Affirm it weigh'd an hundred ton;
But such a stone, as at a shift
A modern might suffice to lift,
Since men, to credit their enigmas,
Are dwindled down to dwarfs and pigmies,
And giants exiled with their cronies
To Brobdignags and Patagonias.
But while our Hero turn'd him round,
And tugg'd to raise it from the ground,
The fatal spade discharged a blow
Tremendous on his rear below:
His bent knee fail'd, and void of strength
Stretch'd on the ground his manly length.
Like ancient oak o'erturn'd, he lay,
Or tower to tempests fall'n a prey,
Or mountain sunk with all his pines,
Or flow'r the plow to dust consigns,
And more things else--but all men know 'em,
If slightly versed in epic poem.
At once the crew, at this dread crisis,
Fall on, and bind him, ere he rises;
And with loud shouts and joyful soul,
Conduct him prisoner to the pole.
When now the mob in lucky hour
Had got their en'mies in their power,
They first proceed, by grave command,
To take the Constable in hand.
Then from the pole's sublimest top
The active crew let down the rope,
At once its other end in haste bind,
And make it fast upon his waistband;
Till like the earth, as stretch'd on tenter,
He hung self-balanced on his centre.
Then upwards, all hands hoisting sail,
They swung him, like a keg of ale,
Till to the pinnacle in height
He vaulted, like balloon or kite.
As Socrates of old at first did
To aid philosophy get hoisted,
And found his thoughts flow strangely clear,
Swung in a basket in mid air:
Our culprit thus, in purer sky,
With like advantage raised his eye,
And looking forth in prospect wide,
His Tory errors clearly spied,
And from his elevated station,
With bawling voice began addressing.
"Good Gentlemen and friends and kin,
For heaven's sake hear, if not for mine!
I here renounce the Pope, the Turks,
The King, the Devil and all their works;
And will, set me but once at ease,
Turn Whig or Christian, what you please;
And always mind your rules so justly,
Should I live long as old Methus'lah,
I'll never join in British rage,
Nor help Lord North, nor Gen'ral Gage;
Nor lift my gun in future fights,
Nor take away your Charter-rights;
Nor overcome your new-raised levies,
Destroy your towns, nor burn your navies;
Nor cut your poles down while I've breath,
Though raised more thick than hatchel-teeth:
But leave King George and all his elves
To do their conq'ring work themselves."
This said, they lower'd him down in state,
Spread at all points, like falling cat;
But took a vote first on the question,
That they'd accept this full confession,
And to their fellowship and favor,
Restore him on his good behaviour.
Not so our 'Squire submits to rule,
But stood, heroic as a mule.
"You'll find it all in vain, quoth he,
To play your rebel tricks on me.
All punishments, the world can render,
Serve only to provoke th' offender;
The will gains strength from treatment horrid,
As hides grow harder when they're curried.
No man e'er felt the halter draw,
With good opinion of the law;
Or held in method orthodox
His love of justice, in the stocks;
Or fail'd to lose by sheriff's shears
At once his loyalty and ears.
Have you made Murray look less big,
Or smoked old Williams to a Whig?
Did our mobb'd Ol'ver quit his station,
Or heed his vows of resignation?
Has Rivington, in dread of stripes,
Ceased lying since you stole his types?
And can you think my faith will alter,
By tarring, whipping or the halter?
I'll stand the worst; for recompense
I trust King George and Providence.
And when with conquest gain'd I come,
Array'd in law and terror home,
Ye'll rue this inauspicious morn,
And curse the day, when ye were born,
In Job's high style of imprecations,
With all his plagues, without his patience."
Meanwhile beside the pole, the guard
A Bench of Justice had prepared,
Where sitting round in awful sort
The grand Committee hold their Court;
While all the crew, in silent awe,
Wait from their lips the lore of law.
Few moments with deliberation
They hold the solemn consultation;
When soon in judgment all agree,
And Clerk proclaims the dread decree;
"That 'Squire M'Fingal having grown
The vilest Tory in the town,
And now in full examination
Convicted by his own confession,
Finding no tokens of repentance,
This Court proceeds to render sentence:
That first the Mob a slip-knot single
Tie round the neck of said M'Fingal,
And in due form do tar him next,
And feather, as the law directs;
Then through the town attendant ride him
In cart with Constable beside him,
And having held him up to shame,
Bring to the pole, from whence he came."
Forthwith the crowd proceed to deck
With halter'd noose M'Fingal's neck,
While he in peril of his soul
Stood tied half-hanging to the pole;
Then lifting high the ponderous jar,
Pour'd o'er his head the smoaking tar.
With less profusion once was spread
Oil on the Jewish monarch's head,
That down his beard and vestments ran,
And cover'd all his outward man.
As when (so Claudian sings) the Gods
And earth-born Giants fell at odds,
The stout Enceladus in malice
Tore mountains up to throw at Pallas;
And while he held them o'er his head,
The river, from their fountains fed,
Pour'd down his back its copious tide,
And wore its channels in his hide:
So from the high-raised urn the torrents
Spread down his side their various currents;
His flowing wig, as next the brim,
First met and drank the sable stream;
Adown his visage stern and grave
Roll'd and adhered the viscid wave;
With arms depending as he stood,
Each cuff capacious holds the flood;
From nose and chin's remotest end,
The tarry icicles descend;
Till all o'erspread, with colors gay,
He glitter'd to the western ray,
Like sleet-bound trees in wintry skies,
Or Lapland idol carved in ice.
And now the feather-bag display'd
Is waved in triumph o'er his head,
And clouds him o'er with feathers missive,
And down, upon the tar, adhesive:
Not Maia's son, with wings for ears,
Such plumage round his visage wears;
Nor Milton's six-wing'd angel gathers
Such superfluity of feathers.
Now all complete appears our 'Squire,
Like Gorgon or Chimæra dire;
Nor more could boast on Plato's plan
To rank among the race of man,
Or prove his claim to human nature,
As a two-legg'd, unfeather'd creature.
Then on the fatal cart, in state
They raised our grand Duumvirate.
And as at Rome a like committee,
Who found an owl within their city,
With solemn rites and grave processions
At every shrine perform'd lustrations;
And least infection might take place
From such grim fowl with feather'd face,
All Rome attends him through the street
In triumph to his country seat:
With like devotion all the choir
Paraded round our awful 'Squire;
In front the martial music comes
Of horns and fiddles, fifes and drums,
With jingling sound of carriage bells,
And treble creak of rusted wheels.
Behind, the croud, in lengthen'd row
With proud procession, closed the show.
And at fit periods every throat
Combined in universal shout;
And hail'd great Liberty in chorus,
Or bawl'd 'confusion to the Tories.'
Not louder storm the welkin braves
From clamors of conflicting waves;
Less dire in Lybian wilds the noise
When rav'ning lions lift their voice;
Or triumphs at town-meetings made,
On passing votes to regulate trade.
Thus having borne them round the town,
Last at the pole they set them down;
And to the tavern take their way
To end in mirth the festal day.
And now the Mob, dispersed and gone,
Left 'Squire and Constable alone.
The constable with rueful face
Lean'd sad and solemn o'er a brace;
And fast beside him, cheek by jowl,
Stuck 'Squire M'Fingal 'gainst the pole,
Glued by the tar t' his rear applied,
Like barnacle on vessel's side.
But though his body lack'd physician,
His spirit was in worse condition.
He found his fears of whips and ropes
By many a drachm outweigh'd his hopes.
As men in jail without mainprize
View every thing with other eyes,
And all goes wrong in church and state,
Seen through perspective of the grate:
So now M'Fingal's Second-sight
Beheld all things in gloomier light;
His visual nerve, well purged with tar,
Saw all the coming scenes of war.
As his prophetic soul grew stronger,
He found he could hold in no longer.
First from the pole, as fierce he shook,
His wig from pitchy durance broke,
His mouth unglued, his feathers flutter'd,
His tarr'd skirts crack'd, and thus he utter'd.
"Ah, Mr. Constable, in vain
We strive 'gainst wind and tide and rain!
Behold my doom! this feathery omen
Portends what dismal times are coming.
Now future scenes, before my eyes,
And second-sighted forms arise.
I hear a voice, that calls away,
And cries 'The Whigs will win the day.'
My beck'ning Genius gives command,
And bids me fly the fatal land;
Where changing name and constitution,
Rebellion turns to Revolution,
While Loyalty, oppress'd, in tears,
Stands trembling for its neck and ears.
"Go, summon all our brethren, greeting,
To muster at our usual meeting;
There my prophetic voice shall warn 'em
Of all things future that concern 'em,
And scenes disclose on which, my friend,
Their conduct and their lives depend.
There I--but first 'tis more of use,
From this vile pole to set me loose;
Then go with cautious steps and steady,
While I steer home and make all ready.
The Sun, who never stops to dine,
Two hours had pass'd the mid-way line,
And driving at his usual rate,
Lash'd on his downward car of state.
And now expired the short vacation,
And dinner o'er in epic fashion,
While all the crew, beneath the trees,
Eat pocket-pies, or bread and cheese,
(Nor shall we, like old Homer, care
To versify their bill of fare)
Each active party, feasted well,
Throng'd in, like sheep, at sound of bell;
With equal spirit took their places,
And meeting oped with three Oh Yesses:
When first, the daring Whigs t' oppose,
Again the great M'Fingal rose,
Stretch'd magisterial arm amain,
And thus resumed th' accusing strain.
"Ye Whigs attend, and hear affrighted
The crimes whereof ye stand indicted;
The sins and follies past all compass,
That prove you guilty, or non compos.
I leave the verdict to your senses,
And jury of your consciences;
Which though they're neither good nor true,
Must yet convict you and your crew.
"Ungrateful sons! a factious band,
That rise against your parent land!
Ye viper race, that burst in strife
The genial womb that gave you life,
Tear with sharp fangs and forked tongue
The indulgent bowels whence ye sprung;
And scorn the debt and obligation,
You justly owe the British nation,
Which, since you cannot pay, your crew
Affect to swear was never due.
"Did not the deeds of England's primate
First drive your fathers to this climate,
Whom jails and fines and every ill
Forced to their good against their will?
Ye owe to their obliging temper
The peopling your new-fangled empire,
While every British act and canon
Stood forth your causa sine qua non.
Who'd seen, except for these restraints,
Your witches, quakers, whigs and saints,
Or heard of Mather's famed Magnalia,
If Charles and Laud had chanced to fail you?
Did they not send your charters o'er,
And give you lands you own'd before,
Permit you all to spill your blood,
And drive out heathens where you could;
On these mild terms, that, conquest won,
The realm you gain'd should be their own?
And when of late attack'd by those,
Whom her connection made your foes,
Did they not then, distress'd by war,
Send generals to your help from far,
Whose aid you own'd, in terms less haughty,
And thankfully o'erpaid your quota?
Say, at what period did they grudge
To send you Governor or Judge,
With all their Missionary crew,
To teach you law and gospel too?
They brought all felons in the nation
To help you on in population;
Proposed their Bishops to surrender,
And made their Priests a legal tender,
Who only ask'd, in surplice clad,
The simple tithe of all you had:
And now, to keep all knaves in awe,
Have sent their troops t' establish law,
And with gunpowder, fire and ball,
Reform your people, one and all.
Yet when their insolence and pride
Have anger'd all the world beside;
When fear and want at once invade,
Can you refuse to lend them aid,
And rather risk your heads in fight,
Than gratefully throw in your mite?
Can they for debts make satisfaction,
Should they dispose their realm at auction,
And sell off Britain's goods and land all
To France and Spain, by inch of candle?
Shall good King George, with want oppress'd,
Insert his name in bankrupt list,
And shut up shop, like failing merchant,
That fears the bailiffs should make search in't;
With poverty shall princes strive,
And nobles lack whereon to live?
Have they not rack'd their whole inventions
To feed their brats on posts and pensions;
Made their Scotch friends with taxes groan,
And pick'd poor Ireland to the bone:
Yet have on hand, as well deserving,
Ten thousand bastards, left for starving?
And can you now, with conscience clear,
Refuse them an asylum here,
And not maintain, in manner fitting,
These genuine sons of mother Britain?
"T' evade these crimes of blackest grain
You prate of liberty in vain,
And strive to hide your vile designs
In terms abstruse, like school-divines.
"Your boasted patriotism is scarce,
And country's love is but a farce:
For after all the proofs you bring,
We Tories know there's no such thing.
Hath not Dalrymple show'd in print,
And Johnson too, there's nothing in't;
Produced you demonstration ample,
From others' and their own example,
That self is still, in either faction,
The only principle of action;
The loadstone, whose attracting tether
Keeps the politic world together:
And spite of all your double dealing,
We all are sure 'tis so, from feeling.
"Who heeds your babbling of transmitting
Freedom to brats of your begetting,
Or will proceed, as tho' there were a tie,
And obligation to posterity?
We get them, bear them, breed and nurse.
What has posterity done for us,
That we, least they their rights should lose,
Should trust our necks to gripe of noose?
"And who believes you will not run?
Ye're cowards, every mother's son;
And if you offer to deny,
We've witnesses to prove it by.
Attend th' opinion first, as referee,
Of your old general, stout Sir Jeffery;
Who swore that with five thousand foot
He'd rout you all, and in pursuit
Run thro' the land, as easily
As camel thro' a needle's eye?
Did not the mighty Colonel Grant
Against your courage pour his rant,
Affirm your universal failure
In every principle of valour,
And swear no scamperers e'er could match you,
So swift, a bullet scarce could catch you?
And will you not confess, in this
A judge most competent he is;
Well skill'd on running to decide,
As what himself has often tried?
'Twould not methinks be labor lost,
If you'd sit down and count the cost,
And ere you call your Yankies out,
First think what work you've set about.
Have you not roused, his force to try on,
That grim old beast, the British Lion:
And know you not, that at a sup
He's large enough to eat you up?
Have you survey'd his jaws beneath,
Drawn inventories of his teeth,
Or have you weigh'd, in even balance,
His strength and magnitude of talons?
His roar would change your boasts to fear,
As easily, as sour small beer;
And make your feet from dreadful fray,
By native instinct run away.
Britain, depend on't, will take on her
T' assert her dignity and honor,
And ere she'd lose your share of pelf,
Destroy your country, and herself.
For has not North declared they fight
To gain substantial rev'nue by't,
Denied he'd ever deign to treat,
Till on your knees and at his feet?
And feel you not a trifling ague
From Van's "Delenda est Carthago?
For this now Britain has projected,
Think you she has not means t' effect it?
Has she not set at work all engines
To spirit up the native Indians,
Send on your backs the tawney band,
With each an hatchet in his hand,
T' amuse themselves with scalping knives.
And butcher children and your wives;
And paid them for your scalps at sale
More than your heads would fetch by tale;
That she might boast again with vanity,
Her English national humanity?
For now in its primeval sense
This term, humanity, comprehends
All things of which, on this side hell,
The human mind is capable;
And thus 'tis well, by writers sage,
Applied to Britain and to Gage.
On this brave work to raise allies,
She sent her duplicate of Guys,
To drive at different parts at once on,
Her stout Guy Carlton and Guy Johnson;
To each of whom, to send again you,
Old Guy of Warwick were a ninny,
Though the dun cow he fell'd in war,
These killcows are his betters far.
"And has she not essay'd her notes
To rouse your slaves to cut your throats;
Sent o'er ambassadors with guineas,
To bribe your blacks in Carolinas?
And has not Gage, her missionary,
Turn'd many an Afric to a Tory;
Made the New-England Bishop's see grow,
By many a new-converted negro?
As friends to government, when he
Your slaves at Boston late set free,
Enlisted them in black parade,
Emboss'd with regimental red;
While flared the epaulette, like flambeau,
On Captain Cuff and Ensign Sambo:
And were they not accounted then
Among his very bravest men?
And when such means she stoops to take,
Think you she is not wide awake?
As the good man of old in Job
Own'd wondrous allies through the globe,
Had brought the stones along the street
To ratify a cov'nant meet,
And every beast, from lice to lions,
To join in leagues of strict alliance:
Has she not cringed, in spite of pride,
For like assistance, far and wide,
Till all this formidable league rose
Of Indians, British troops and Negroes?
And can you break these triple bands
By all your workmanship of hands?
"Sir," quoth Honorius, "we presume
You guess from past feats what's to come,
And from the mighty deeds of Gage
Foretell how fierce the war he'll wage.
You doubtless recollected here
The annals of his first great year:
While, wearying out the Tories' patience,
He spent his breath in proclamations;
While all his mighty noise and vapour
Was used in wrangling upon paper,
And boasted military fits
Closed in the straining of his wits;
While troops, in Boston commons placed,
Laid nought, but quires of paper, waste;
While strokes alternate stunn'd the nation,
Protest, Address and Proclamation,
And speech met speech, fib clash'd with fib,
And Gage still answer'd, squib for squib.
"Though this not all his time was lost on;
He fortified the town of Boston,
Built breastworks, that might lend assistance
To keep the patriots at a distance;
For howsoe'er the rogues might scoff,
He liked them best the farthest off;
Works of important use to aid
His courage, when he felt afraid,
And whence right off, in manful station,
He'd boldly pop his proclamation.
Our hearts must in our bosoms freeze,
At such heroic deeds as these."
"Vain," said the 'Squire, "you'll find to sneer
At Gage's first triumphant year;
For Providence, disposed to teaze us,
Can use what instruments it pleases.
To pay a tax, at Peter's wish,
His chief cashier was once a fish;
An ass, in Balaam's sad disaster,
Turn'd orator and saved his master;
A goose, placed sentry on his station,
Preserved old Rome from desolation;
An English bishop's cur of late
Disclosed rebellions 'gainst the state;
So frogs croak'd Pharaoh to repentance,
And lice delay'd the fatal sentence:
And heaven can ruin you at pleasure,
By Gage, as soon as by a Cæsar.
Yet did our hero in these days
Pick up some laurel wreaths of praise.
And as the statuary of Seville
Made his crackt saint an exc'llent devil;
So though our war small triumph brings,
We gain'd great fame in other things.
"Did not our troops show great discerning,
And skill your various arts in learning?
Outwent they not each native noodle
By far, in playing Yankee-doodle,
Which as 'twas your New-England tune,
'Twas marvellous they took so soon?
And ere the year was fully through,
Did not they learn to foot it too,
And such a dance, as ne'er was known,
For twenty miles on end lead down?
Did they not lay their heads together,
And gain your art to tar and feather,
When Colonel Nesbit, thro' the town,
In triumph bore the country-clown?
Oh what a glorious work to sing
The veteran troops of Britain's king,
Adventuring for th' heroic laurel
With bag of feathers and tar-barrel!
To paint the cart where culprits ride,
And Nesbitt marching at its side,
Great executioner and proud,
Like hangman high on Holborn road;
And o'er the slow-drawn rumbling car,
The waving ensigns of the war!
As when a triumph Rome decreed
For great Caligula's valiant deed,
Who had subdued the British seas,
By gath'ring cockles from their base;
In pompous car the conq'ror bore
His captive scallops from the shore,
Ovations gain'd his crabs for fetching,
And mighty feats of oyster-catching:
'Gainst Yankies thus the war begun,
They tarr'd, and triumph'd over, one;
And fought and boasted through the season,
With force as great and equal reason.
"Yet thus though skill'd in vict'ry's toils,
They boast, not unexpert, in wiles.
For gain'd they not an equal fame in
The arts of secrecy and scheming;
In stratagem show'd wondrous force,
And modernized the Trojan horse,
Play'd o'er again the tricks Ulyssean,
In their famed Salem expedition?
For as that horse, the poets tell ye,
Bore Grecian armies in its belly,
Till their full reckoning run, with joy
Shrewd Sinon midwived them in Troy:
So in one ship was Leslie bold
Cramm'd with three hundred men in hold,
Equipp'd for enterprize and sail,
Like Jonas stow'd in womb of whale.
To Marblehead in depth of night
The cautious vessel wing'd her flight.
And now the sabbath's silent day
Call'd all your Yankies off to pray;
Safe from each prying jealous neighbour,
The scheme and vessel fell in labor.
Forth from its hollow womb pour'd hast'ly
The Myrmidons of Colonel Leslie.
Not thicker o'er the blacken'd strand,
The frogs detachment, rush'd to land,
Furious by onset and surprize
To storm th' entrenchment of the mice.
Through Salem straight, without delay,
The bold battalion took its way,
March'd o'er a bridge, in open sight
Of several Yankies arm'd for fight;
Then without loss of time or men,
Veer'd round for Boston back again,
And found so well their projects thrive,
That every soul got home alive.
"Thus Gage's arms did fortune bless
With triumph, safety and success.
But mercy is without dispute
His first and darling attribute;
So great, it far outwent and conquer'd
His military skill at Concord.
There, when the war he chose to wage,
Shone the benevolence of Gage;
Sent troops to that ill-omen'd place,
On errands mere of special grace;
And all the work, he chose them for,
Was to prevent a civil war;
For which kind purpose he projected
The only certain way t' effect it,
To seize your powder, shot and arms,
And all your means of doing harms;
As prudent folks take knives away,
Lest children cut themselves at play.
And yet, when this was all his scheme,
The war you still will charge on him;
And tho' he oft has swore and said it,
Stick close to facts, and give no credit.
Think you, he wish'd you'd brave and beard him?
Why, 'twas the very thing, that scared him.
He'd rather you should all have run,
Than staid to fire a single gun.
So, for the civil war you lament,
Faith, you yourselves must take the blame in't;
For had you then, as he intended,
Given up your arms, it must have ended:
Since that's no war, each mortal knows,
Where one side only gives the blows,
And t'other bears them; on reflection
The most we call it is correction.
Nor could the contest have gone higher,
If you had ne'er return'd the fire:
But when you shot, and not before,
It then commenced a civil war.
Else Gage, to end this controversy,
Had but corrected you in mercy;
Whom mother Britain, old and wise,
Sent o'er, the colonies to chastise;
Command obedience on their peril
Of ministerial whip and ferule;
And since they ne'er must come of age,
Govern'd and tutor'd them by Gage.
Still more, that mercy was their errand,
The army's conduct makes apparent.
What though at Lexington you can say,
They kill'd a few, they did not fancy;
At Concord then with manful popping,
Discharged a round, the ball to open;
Yet when they saw your rebel rout
Determined still to brave it out,
Did they not show their love of peace,
Their wish that discord straight might cease;
Demonstrate, and by proofs uncommon,
Their orders were to injure no man?
For did not every regular run,
As soon as e'er you fired a gun;
Take the first shot you sent them, greeting,
As meant their signal for retreating;
And fearful, if they staid for sport,
You might by accident be hurt,
Convey themselves with speed away
Full twenty miles in half a day;
Race till their legs were grown so weary,
They scarce sufficed their weight to carry?
Whence Gage extols, from general hearsay,
The great activity of Lord Percy;
Whose brave example led them on,
And spirited the troops to run;
Who now may boast, at royal levees,
A Yankee-chace worth forty Chevys.
"Yet you, as vile as they were kind,
Pursued, like tygers, still behind;
Fired on them at your will, and shut
The town, as though you'd starve them out;
And with parade preposterous hedged,
Affect to hold them there besieged:
Though Gage, whom proclamations call
Your Gov'rnor and Vice-Admiral,
Whose power gubernatorial still
Extends as far as Bunker's hill,
Whose admiralty reaches, clever,
Near half a mile up Mistic river,
Whose naval force yet keeps the seas,
Can run away whene'er he'd please.
Nay, stern with rage grim Putnam boiling
Plunder'd both Hogg and Noddle Island;
Scared troops of Tories into town,
Burn'd all their hay and houses down,
And menaced Gage, unless he'd flee,
To drive him headlong to the sea;
As once, to faithless Jews a sign,
The De'el, turn'd hog-reeve, did the swine.
"But now your triumphs all are o'er;
For see from Britain's angry shore,
With deadly hosts of valor join
Her Howe, her Clinton and Burgoyne!
As comets thro' th' affrighted skies
Pour baleful ruin as they rise;
As Ætna with infernal roar
In conflagration sweeps the shore;
Or as Abijah White, when sent
Our Marshfield friends to represent,
Himself while dread array involves,
Commissions, pistols, swords, resolves,
In awful pomp descending down
Bore terror on the factious town:
Not with less glory and affright,
Parade these generals forth to fight.
No more each British colonel runs
From whizzing beetles, as air-guns;
Thinks horn-bugs bullets, or thro' fears
Muskitoes takes for musketeers;
Nor scapes, as if you'd gain'd supplies,
From Beelzebub's whole host of flies.
No bug these warlike hearts appalls;
They better know the sound of balls.
I hear the din of battle bray;
The trump of horror marks its way.
I see afar the sack of cities,
The gallows strung with Whig-committees;
Your moderators triced, like vermin,
And gate-posts graced with heads of chairmen;
Your Congress for wave-off'rings hanging,
And ladders throng'd with priests haranguing.
What pillories glad the Tories' eyes
With patriot ears for sacrifice!
What whipping-posts your chosen race
Admit successive in embrace,
While each bears off his sins, alack!
Like Bunyan's pilgrim, on his back!
Where then, when Tories scarce get clear,
Shall Whigs and Congresses appear?
What rocks and mountains will you call
To wrap you over with their fall,
And save your heads, in these sad weathers,
From fire and sword, and tar and feathers?
For lo! with British troops tar-bright,
Again our Nesbitt heaves in sight;
He comes, he comes, your lines to storm,
And rig your troops in uniform.
To meet such heroes will ye brag,
With fury arm'd, and feather-bag,
Who wield their missile pitch and tar
With engines new in British war?
"Lo! where our mighty navy brings
Destruction on her canvass wings,
While through the deep the British thunder
Shall sound th' alarm, to rob and plunder!
As Phoebus first, so Homer speaks,
When he march'd out t' attack the Greeks,
'Gainst mules sent forth his arrows fatal,
And slew th' auxiliaries, their cattle:
So where our ships shall stretch the keel,
What vanquish'd oxen shall they steal!
What heroes, rising from the deep,
Invade your marshall'd hosts of sheep;
Disperse whole troops of horse, and pressing,
Make cows surrender at discretion;
Attack your hens, like Alexanders,
And regiments rout of geese and ganders;
Or where united arms combine,
Lead captive many a herd of swine!
Then rush in dreadful fury down
To fire on every seaport town;
Display their glory and their wits,
Fright helpless children into fits;
And stoutly, from the unequal fray,
Make many a woman run away.
"And can ye doubt, whene'er we please,
Our chiefs shall boast such deeds as these?
Have we not chiefs transcending far
The old famed thunderbolts of war;
Beyond the brave knight-errant fighters,
Stiled swords of death, by novel-writers;
Nor in romancing ages e'er rose
So terrible a tier of heroes.
From Gage what sounds alarm the waves!
How loud a blunderbuss is Graves!
How Newport dreads the blustering sallies,
That thunder from our popgun, Wallace,
While noise in formidable strains,
Spouts from his thimble-full of brains!
I see you sink in awed surprise!
I see our Tory brethren rise!
And as the sect'ries Sandemanian,
Our friends, describe their hoped millennium;
Boast how the world in every region
At once shall own their true religion,
For heaven shall knock, with vengeance dread,
All unbelievers on the head;
And then their church, the meek in spirit,
The earth, as promised, shall inherit
From the dead wicked, as heirs male,
Or next remainder-men in tail:
Such ruin shall the Whigs oppress;
Such spoils our Tory friends shall bless:
While Confiscation at command
Shall stalk in terror through the land,
Shall give all whig-estates away,
And call our brethren into play.
"And can you pause, or scruple more?
These things are near you, at the door.
Behold! for though to reasoning blind,
Signs of the times you still might mind,
And view impending fate, as plain
As you'd foretell a shower of rain.
"Hath not heaven warn'd you what must ensue.
And providence declared against you?
Hung forth the dire portents of war
By fires and beacons in the air;
Alarm'd old women all around
With fearful noises under ground,
While earth, for many a hundred leagues,
Groan'd with her dismal load of Whigs?
Was there a meteor, far and wide,
But muster'd on the Tory side;
A star malign, that has not bent
Its aspects for the parliament,
Foreboding your defeat and misery,
As once they fought against old Sisera?
Was there a cloud, that spread the skies,
But bore our armies of allies,
While dreadful hosts of flame stood forth
In baleful streamers from the north?
Which plainly show'd what part they join'd:
For North's the minister, ye mind;
Whence oft your quibblers in gazettes
On Northern blasts have strain'd their wits;
And think you not, the clouds know how
To make the pun, as well you?
Did there arise an apparition,
But grinn'd forth ruin to sedition;
A death-watch, but has join'd our leagues,
And click'd destruction to the Whigs?
Heard ye not, when the wind was fair,
At night our prophets in the air,
Who, loud, like admiralty libel,
Read awful chapters from the Bible,
And war and plague and death denounced,
And told you how you'd soon be trounced?
I see, to join our conq'ring side,
Heaven, earth and hell at once allied;
See from your overthrow and end,
The Tory paradise ascend,
Like that new world, which claims its station,
Beyond the final conflagration.
I see the day, that lots your share
In utter darkness and despair;
The day of joy, when North, our lord,
His faithful fav'rites shall reward.
No Tory then shall set before him
Small wish of 'Squire and Justice Quorum;
But to his unmistaken eyes
See lordships, posts and pensions rise.
"Awake to gladness then, ye Tories!
Th' unbounded prospect lies before us.
The power, display'd in Gage's banners,
Shall cut their fertile lands to manors;
And o'er our happy conquer'd ground,
Dispense estates and titles round.
Behold! the world shall stare at new setts
Of home-made Earls in Massachusetts;
Admire, array'd in ducal tassels,
Your Ol'vers, Hutchinsons and Vassals;
See join'd in ministerial work
His Grace of Albany, and York.
What lordships from each carved estate,
On our New-York Assembly wait!
What titled Jauncys, Gales and Billops;
Lord Brush, Lord Wilkins and Lord Philips!
In wide-sleeved pomp of godly guise,
What solemn rows of Bishops rise!
Aloft a Cardinal's hat is spread
O'er punster Cooper's reverend head.
In Vardell, that poetic zealot,
I view a lawn-bedizen'd Prelate;
While mitres fall, as 'tis their duty,
On heads of Chandler and Auchmuty!
Knights, Viscounts, Barons, shall ye meet,
As thick as pebbles in the street;
E'en I perhaps (heaven speed my claim!)
Shall fix a Sir before my name.
For titles all our foreheads ache,
For what blest changes can they make!
Place Reverence, Grace and Excellence,
Where neither claim'd the least pretence;
Transform by patent's magic words
Men, likest devils, into Lords;
Whence commoners, to Peers translated,
Are justly said to be created.
Now where commissioners you saw,
Shall boards of nobles deal you law;
Long-robed comptrollers judge your rights,
And tide-waiters start up in knights.
While Whigs subdued, in slavish awe,
Our wood shall hew, our water draw,
And bless the mildness, when past hope,
That saved their necks from noose of rope.
For since our leaders have decreed,
Their blacks, who join us, shall be freed,
To hang the conquer'd whigs, we all see,
Would prove but weak, and thriftless policy,
Except their Chiefs: the vulgar knaves
Will do more good, preserved for slaves."
"'Tis well," Honorius cried; "your scheme
Has painted out a pretty dream.
We can't confute your second-sight;
We shall be slaves and you a knight.
These things must come, but I divine,
They'll come not in your day, nor mine.
"But, oh my friends, my brethren, hear;
And turn for once th' attentive ear.
Ye see how prompt to aid our woes
The tender mercies of our foes;
Ye see with what unvaried rancour
Still for our blood their minions hanker;
Nor aught can sate their mad ambition,
From us, but death, or worse, submission.
Shall these then riot in our spoil,
Reap the glad harvest of our toil,
Rise from their country's ruins proud,
And roll their chariot-wheels in blood?
See Gage, with inauspicious star,
Has oped the gates of civil war,
When streams of gore, from freemen slain,
Encrimson'd Concord's fatal plain;
Whose warning voice, with awful sound,
Still cries, like Abel's, from the ground;
And heaven, attentive to its call,
Shall doom the proud oppressor's fall.
"Rise then, ere ruin swift surprize,
To victory, to vengeance, rise.
Hark, how the distant din alarms;
The echoing trumpet breathes, to arms.
From provinces remote afar,
The sons of glory rouse to war.
'Tis Freedom calls! the raptured sound
The Apalachian hills rebound.
The Georgian coasts her voice shall hear,
And start from lethargies of fear.
From the parch'd zone, with glowing ray
Where pours the sun intenser day,
To shores where icy waters roll,
And tremble to the glimm'ring pole,
Inspired by freedom's heavenly charms,
United nations wake to arms.
The star of conquest lights their way,
And guides their vengeance on their prey.
Yes, though tyrannic force oppose,
Still shall they triumph o'er their foes;
Till heaven the happy land shall bless
With safety, liberty and peace.
"And ye, whose souls of dastard mould
Start at the bravery of the bold;
To love your country who pretend,
Yet want all spirit to defend;
Who feel your fancies so prolific,
Engend'ring visions whims terrific,
O'errun with horrors of coercion,
Fire, blood and thunder in reversion;
King's standards, pill'ries, confiscations,
And Gage's scare-crow proclamations;
Who scarce could rouse, if caught in fray,
Presence of mind to run away;
See nought but halters rise to view,
In all your dreams, and deem them true;
And while these phantoms haunt your brains,
Bow down your willing necks to chains.
Heavens! are ye sons of sires so great,
Immortal in the fields of fate,
Who braved all deaths, by land or sea,
Who bled, who conquer'd, to be free?
Hence coward souls, the worst disgrace
Of our forefathers' valiant race;
Hie homeward from the glorious field,
There turn the wheel, the distaff wield;
Act what ye are, nor dare to stain
The warrior's arms with touch profane;
There beg your more heroic wives
To guard your own, your children's, lives;
Beneath their aprons seek a screen,
Nor dare to mingle more with men."
As thus he spake, the Tories' anger
Could now restrain itself no longer;
Who tried before by many a freak, or
Insulting noise, to stop the speaker;
Swung th' un-oil'd hinge of each pew-door,
Their feet kept shuffling on the floor;
Made their disapprobation known
By many a murmur, hum and groan,
That to his speech supplied the place
Of counterpart in thorough bass.
Thus bagpipes, while the tune they breathe,
Still drone and grumble underneath;
And thus the famed Demosthenes
Harangued the rumbling of the seas,
Held forth with elocution grave,
To audience loud of wind and wave;
And had a stiller congregation,
Than Tories are, to hear th' oration.
The uproar now grew high and louder,
As nearer thund'rings of a cloud are,
And every soul with heart and voice
Supplied his quota of the noise.
Each listening ear was set on torture,
Each Tory bellowing, "Order, Order;"
And some, with tongue not low or weak,
Were clam'ring fast, for leave to speak;
The Moderator, with great vi'lence,
The cushion thump'd with, "Silence, Silence!"
The Constable to every prater
Bawl'd out, "Pray hear the moderator;"
Some call'd the vote, and some in turn
Were screaming high, "Adjourn, Adjourn."
Not Chaos heard such jars and clashes,
When all the el'ments fought for places.
The storm each moment fiercer grew;
His sword the great M'Fingal drew,
Prepared in either chance to share,
To keep the peace, or aid the war.
Nor lack'd they each poetic being,
Whom bards alone are skill'd in seeing;
Plumed Victory stood perch'd on high,
Upon the pulpit-canopy,
To join, as is her custom tried,
Like Indians, on the strongest side;
The Destinies, with shears and distaff,
Drew near their threads of life to twist off;
The Furies 'gan to feast on blows,
And broken head, and bloody nose:
When on a sudden from without
Arose a loud terrific shout;
And straight the people all at once heard
Of tongues an universal concert;
Like Æsop's times, as fable runs,
When every creature talk'd at once,
Or like the variegated gabble,
That crazed the carpenters of Babel.
Each party soon forsook the quarrel,
And let the other go on parol,
Eager to know what fearful matter
Had conjured up such general clatter;
And left the church in thin array,
As though it had been lecture-day.
Our 'Squire M'Fingal straitway beckon'd
The Constable to stand his second;
And sallied forth with aspect fierce
The crowd assembled to disperse.
The Moderator, out of view,
Beneath the desk had lain perdue;
Peep'd up his head to view the fray,
Beheld the wranglers run away,
And left alone, with solemn face
Adjourn'd them without time or place.
O epic-famed, god-haunted Central Sea,
Heave careless of the deep wrong done to thee
When from Torino's track I saw thy face first flash on me.
And multimarbled Genova the Proud,
Gleam all unconscious how, wide-lipped, up-browed,
I first beheld thee clad--not as the Beauty but the Dowd.
Out from a deep-delved way my vision lit
On housebacks pink, green, ochreous--where a slit
Shoreward 'twixt row and row revealed the classic blue through it.
And thereacross waved fishwives' high-hung smocks,
Chrome kerchiefs, scarlet hose, darned underfrocks;
Since when too oft my dreams of thee, O Queen, that frippery mocks:
Whereat I grieve, Superba! . . . Afterhours
Within Palazzo Doria's orange bowers
Went far to mend these marrings of thy soul-subliming powers.
But, Queen, such squalid undress none should see,
Those dream-endangering eyewounds no more be
Where lovers first behold thy form in pilgrimage to thee.
Not for the love of women toil we, we of the craft,
Not for the people's praise;
Only because our goddess made us her own and laughed,
Claiming us all our days,
Claiming our best endeavour -- body and heart and brain
Given with no reserve --
Niggard is she towards us, granting us little gain:
Still, we are proud to serve.
Not unto us is given choice of the tasks we try,
Gathering grain or chaff;
One of her favoured servants toils at an epic high,
One, that a child may laugh.
Yet if we serve her truly in our appointed place,
Freely she doth accord
Unto her faithful servants always this saving grace,
Work is its own reward!
My job is done; my rhymes are ranked and ready,
My word-battalions marching verse by verse;
Here stanza-companies are none too steady;
There print-platoons are weak, but might be worse.
And as in marshalled order I review them,
My type-brigades, unfearful of the fray,
My eyes that seek their faults are seeing through them
Immortal visions of an epic day.
It seems I'm in a giant bowling-alley;
The hidden heavies round me crash and thud;
A spire snaps like a pipe-stem in the valley;
The rising sun is like a ball of blood.
Along the road the "fantassins" are pouring,
And some are gay as fire, and some steel-stern. . . .
Then back again I see the red tide pouring,
Along the reeking road from Hebuterne.
And once again I seek Hill Sixty-Seven,
The Hun lines grey and peaceful in my sight;
When suddenly the rosy air is riven --
A "coal-box" blots the "boyou" on my right.
Or else to evil Carnoy I am stealing,
Past sentinels who hail with bated breath;
Where not a cigarette spark's dim revealing
May hint our mission in that zone of death.
I see across the shrapnel-seeded meadows
The jagged rubble-heap of La Boiselle;
Blood-guilty Fricourt brooding in the shadows,
And Thiepval's chateau empty as a shell.
Down Albert's riven streets the moon is leering;
The Hanging Virgin takes its bitter ray;
And all the road from Hamel I am hearing
The silver rage of bugles over Bray.
Once more within the sky's deep sapphire hollow
I sight a swimming Taube, a fairy thing;
I watch the angry shell flame flash and follow
In feather puffs that flick a tilted wing;
And then it fades, with shrapnel mirror's flashing;
The flashes bloom to blossoms lily gold;
The batteries are rancorously crashing,
And life is just as full as it can hold.
Oh spacious days of glory and of grieving!
Oh sounding hours of lustre and of loss!
Let us be glad we lived you, still believing
The God who gave the cannon gave the Cross.
Let us be sure amid these seething passions,
The lusts of blood and hate our souls abhor:
The Power that Order out of Chaos fashions
Smites fiercest in the wrath-red forge of War. . . .
Have faith! Fight on! Amid the battle-hell
Love triumphs, Freedom beacons, all is well.