Слике страница
PDF
ePub

No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet or a bat?
I asked : when something on the dismal flat

Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.

XIX
A sudden little river crossed my path

As unexpected as a serpent comes.

No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms; This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath For the fiend's glowing hoof—to see the wrath

Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

XX
So petty yet so spiteful! All along,

Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it ;

Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng :
The river which had done them all the wrong,
Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.

XXI
Which, while I forded,-good saints, how I feared

To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek,

Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard !
-It may have been a water-rat I speared,
But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.

XXII

Glad was I when I reached the other bank.

Now for a better country. Vain presage !

Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank,

Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage-

XXIII
The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.
What penned them there, with all the plain to choose?

No foot-print leading to that horrid mews,
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk

Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.

XXIV

And more than that—a furlong on—why, there !
What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,

Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel
Men's bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware,

Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.

XXV Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood, Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth

Desperate and done with ; (so a fool finds mirth, Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood Changes and off he goes !) within a rood

Bog, clay, and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.

XXVI

Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim,

Now patches where some leanness of the soil 's

Broke into moss or substances like boils; Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim

Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

XXVII
And just as far as ever from the end,

Nought in the distance but the evening, nought

To point my footstep further ! At the thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom-friend,
Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penned

That brushed my cap-perchance the guide I sought.

XXVIII

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,

'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place

All round to mountains—with such name to grace Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view. How thus they had surprised me,-solve it, you !

How to get from them was no clearer case.

XXIX
Yet half I seemed to recognise some trick

Of mischief happened to me, God knows when

In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click

As when a trap shuts-you 're inside the den.

XXX Burningly it came on me all at once,

This was the place ! those two hills on the right,

Couched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight, While, to the left, a tall scalped mountain ... Dunce, Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,

After a life spent training for the sight!

XXXI
What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?

The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf

He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

XXXII
Not see? because of night perhaps ?—why, day

Came back again for that! before it left,

The dying sunset kindled through a cleft :
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,-

“Now stab and end the creature-to the heft !"

XXXIII

· Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled

Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears

Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old

Lost, lost ! one moment knelled the woe of years.

XXXIV

There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met

To view the last of me, a living frame

For one more picture ! in a sheet of flame I saw them and I knew them all. And yet Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,

And blew“ Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."

A GRAMMARIAN'S FUNERAL.

SHORTLY AFTER THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING IN EUROPE.

LET us begin and carry up this corpse,

Singing together.
Leave we the common crofts, the vulgar thorpes,

Each in its tether
Sleeping safe in the bosom of the plain,

Cared-for till cock-crow :

Look out if yonder be not day again

Rimming the rock-row !
That 's the appropriate country; there, man's thought,

Rarer, intenser,
Self-gathered for an outbreak, as it ought,

Chafes in the censer.
Leave we the unlettered plain its herd and crop;

Seek we sepulture
On a tall mountain, citied to the top,

Crowded with culture !
All the peaks soar, but one the rest excels;

Clouds overcome it ;
No, yonder sparkle is the citadel's

Circling its summit.
Thither our path lies; wind we up the heights

Wait ye the warning ?
Our low life was the levels and the night's :

"He's for the morning.
Step to a tune, square chests, erect each head,

'Ware the beholders ! This is our master, famous, calm and dead,

Borne on our shoulders.

Sleep, crop and herd ! sleep, darkling thorpe and croft

Safe from the weather !
He, whom we convoy to his grave aloft,

Singing together,
He was a man born with thy face and throat,

Lyric Apollo !
Long he lived nameless : how should spring take note

Winter would follow ?
Till lo, the little touch, and youth was gone !

Cramped and diminished,
Moaned he, “ New measures, other feet anon!

“My dance is finished ?" No, that 's the world's way; (keep the mountain-side,

« ПретходнаНастави »