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“Oh well,” says he, “ you flitting with us tooJack, turn the horses' heads and home again.”
John. He left his wife behind; for so I heard.
James. He left her, yes. I met my lady once :
A woman like a butt, and harsh as crabs.
John. Oh yet but I remember, ten years back-
'Tis now at least ten years and then she was-
You could not light upon a sweeter thing :
A body slight and round, and like a pear
In growing, modest eyes, a hand, a foot
Lessening in perfect cadence, and a skin
As clean and white as privet when it flowers.
James. Ay, ay, the blossom fades, and they that loved
At first like dove and dove were cat and dog.
She was the daughter of a cottager,
Out of her sphere. What betwixt shame and pride,
New things and old, himself and her, she sour'd
To what she is : a nature never kind !
Like men, like manners : like breeds like, they say.
Kind nature is the best : those manners next
That fit us like a nature second-hand ;
Which are indeed the manners of the great.
John. But I had heard it was this bill that past, And fear of change at home, that drove him hence.
James. That was the last drop in the cup of gall. I once was near him, when his bailiff brought A Chartist pike. You should have seen him wince As from a venomous thing : he thought himself A mark for all, and shudder'd, lest a cry Should break his sleep by night, and his nice eyes Should see the raw mechanic's bloody thumbs Sweat on his blazond chairs; but, sir, you know That these two parties still divide the worldOf those that want, and those that have : and still The same old sore breaks out from age to age With much the same result. Now I, that am A Tory to the quick, was as a boy Destructive, when I had not what I would. I was at school—a college in the South : There lived a flayflint near ; we stole his fruit, His hens, his eggs; but there was law for us ; We paid in person. He had a sow, sir. She, With meditative grunts of much content, Lay great with pig, wallowing in sun and mud.
By night we dragg’d her to the college tower
From her warm bed, and up the corkscrew stair
With hand and rope we haled the groaning sow,
And on the leads we kept her till she pigg’d.
Large range of prospect had the mother sow,
And but for daily loss of one she loved,
As one by one we took them--but for this
As never sow was higher in this world-
Might have been happy : but what lot is pure ?
We took them all, till she was left alone
Upon her tower, the Niobe of swine,
And so return'd unfarrow'd to her sty.
John. They found you out ?
James. Not they.
John. Well-after all What know we of the secret of a man ? His nerves were wrong. What ails us, who are sound, That we should mimic this raw fool the world, Which charts us all in its coarse blacks or whites, As ruthless as a baby with a worm, As cruel as a schoolboy ere he grows To Pity—more from ignorance than will.
Of sin, my flesh, which I despise and hate,
I had not stinted practice, O my God.
For not alone this pillar-punishment,
Not this alone I bore : but while I lived
In the white convent down the valley there,
For many weeks about my loins I wore
The rope that haled the buckets from the well,
Twisted as tight as I could knot the noose ;
And spake not of it to a single soul,
Until the ulcer, eating through my skin,
Betray'd my secret penance, so that all
My brethren marvell’d greatly. More than this
I bore, whereof, O God, thou knowest all.
Three winters, that my soul might grow to thee,
I lived up there on yonder mountain side.
My right leg chain'd into the crag, I lay
Pent in a roofless close of ragged stones ;
Inswath'd sometimes in wandering mist, and twice
Black'd with thy branding thunder, and sometimes
Sucking the damps for drink, and eating not,
Except the spare chance-gift of those that came
To touch my body and be heald, and live :
And they say then that I work'd miracles,
Whereof my fame is loud amongst mankind,
Cured lameness, palsies, cancers. Thou, O God,
Knowest alone whether this was or no.
Have mercy, mercy; cover all my sin.
Then, that I might be more alone with thee,
Three years I lived upon a pillar, high
Six cubits, and three years on one of twelve ;
And twice three years I crouch'd on one that rose
Twenty by measure ; last of all, I grew
Twice ten long weary weary years to this,
That numbers forty cubits from the soil.
I think that I have borne as much as this
Or else I dream—and for so long a time,
If I may measure time by yon slow light,
And this high dial, which my sorrow crowns-
So much-even so.
And yet I know not well,
For that the evil ones come here, and say,
“ Fall down, O Simeon : thou hast suffer'd long
For ages and for ages !” then they prate
Of penances I cannot have gone thro',