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Carved with some fragment of the law,
Which, set in life's uneven wall,
Old benedictions may recall,
And lure some nunlike thoughts to take
Their dwelling here for memory's sake.
(IN THE BRANCACCI CHAPEL.)
He came to Florence long ago,
And painted here these walls, that shone
For Raphael and for Angelo,
With secrets deeper than his own,
Then shrank into the dark again,
And died, we know not how or when.
The shadows deepened, and I turned
Half sadly from the fresco grand;
“ And is this,” mused I, “all ye earned,
High-vaulted brain and cunning hand,
That ye to greater men could teach
The skill yourselves could never reach ?"
"And who were they," I mused, “ that wrought
Through pathless wilds, with labour long,
The highways of our daily thought?
Who reared those towers of earliest song
That lift us from the throng to peace
Remote in sunny silences ?'”
Out clanged the Ave Mary bells,
And to my heart this message came :
Each clamourous throat among them tells
What strong-souled martyrs died in flame
To make it possible that thou
Shouldst here with brother sinners bow.
Thoughts that great hearts once broke for, we
Breathe cheaply in the common air ;
The dust we trample heedlessly
Throbbed once in saints and heroes rare,
Who perished, opening for their race
New pathways to the commonplace.
Henceforth, when rings the health to those
Who live in story and in song,
O nameless dead, who now repose
Safe in Oblivion's chambers strong,
One cup of recognition true
Shall silently be drained to you !
My coachman, in the moonlight there
Looks through the side-light of the door, I hear him with his brethren swear,
As I could do,--but only more. Flattening his nose against the pane,
He envies me my brilliant lot, Breathes on his aching fists in vain,
And dooms me to a place more hot.
He sees me in to supper go,
A silken wonder by my side,
Bare arms, bare shoulders, and a row
Of founces, for the door too wide.
He thinks how happy is my arm
’Neath its white-gloved and jewelled load; And wishes me some dreadful harm,
Hearing the merry corks explode. Meanwhile I inly curse the bore
Of hunting still the same old coon, And envy him, outside the door,
In golden quiets of the moon. The winter wind is not so cold
As the bright smile he sees me win, Nor the host's oldest wine so old
As our poor gabble sour and thin. I envy him the ungyved prance
By which his freezing feet he warms, And drag my lady's chains and dance
The galley-slave of dreary forms. O, could he have my share of din,
And I his quiet !- past a doubt 'Twould still be one man bored within,
And just another bored without,
Hoxe white and undulant shan necks of swans;
Ani ail before her steps an indiaence ran
Warm as the whispering South that opens buds
And swells the laegard sails of Northern May.
"I am called Pleasure, come with me! ** she said,
Then laughed, and shook out sunshine from her hair,
Not only that, but, so it seeemed, shook out
A'I memory too, and all the moonlit past,
Old loves, old aspirations, and old creams,
More beautiful for being old and gone.
So we too went together; downward sloped
The path through yellow meads, or so I dreamel.
Yellow with sunshine and young green, but I
Saw naught not heard, shut up in one close jog;
I only felt the hand within my own,
Transmuting all my blood to golden fire,
Dissolving all my brain in throbbing mist.
suddenly shrank the hand; suddenly burst
A cry that split the torpor of my brain,
And as the first sharp thrust of lightning loosens
from the heaped cloud its rain, loosened my sense :
"* Save me!" it thrilled : “0, hide me! there is Death!
Death the divider, the unmerciful,
That digs his pitfalls under Love and Youth
And covers Beauty up in the cold ground ;
Hlorrible Death ! bringer of endless dark ;
Let him not see me ! hide me in thy breast !”
Thereat I strove to clasp her, but my arms
Met only what slipped crumbling down, and fell,
A handful of gray ashes, at my feet.
I would have fled, I would have followed back
That pleasant path we came, but all was changed ;
Rocky the way, abrupt, and hard to find ;
Yet I toiled on, and, toiling on, I thought,
"That way lies Youth, and Wisdom, and all Good ;
For only by unlearning Wisdom comes
And climbing backward to diviner Youth :
What the world teaches profits to the world,
What the soul teaches profits to the soul,
Which then first stands erect with Godward face,
When she lets fall her pack of withered facts,
The gloanings of the outward eye and ear,
And looks and listens with her finer sense :
Nor Truth nor Knowledge cometh from without."
After long weary days I stood again
And waited at the Parting of the Ways :
Again the figure of a woman veiled
Stood forth and beckoned, and I followed now :
Down to no bower of roses led the path.
But through the streets of towns where chattering Cold
Hewed wood for fires whose glow was owned and fenced,
Where Nakedness wove garments of warm wool
Not for itself :-or through the fields it led
Where Hunger reaped the unattainable grain
Where Idleness enforced saw idle lands,
Leagues of unpeopled soil, the common earth,
Walled round with paper against God and Man.
“I cannot look," I groaned, “at only these ;
The heart grows hardened with perpetual wont,
And palters with a feigned necessity,
Bargaining with itself to be content;
Let me behold thy face.”
The Form replied :
“Men follow Duty, never overtake ;
Duty nor lifts her veil nor looks behind.”
But as she spake a loosened lock of hair
Slipped from beneath her hood, and I, who looked
To see it gray and thin, saw amplest gold ;
Not that dull metal dug from sordid earth,
But such as the retiring sunset flood
Leaves heaped on bays and capes of island cloud,
“O Guide divine,” I prayed, although not yet
I may repair the virtue which I feel
Gone out at touch of untuned things and foul
With draughts of Beauty, yet declare how soon !”
“Faithless and faint of heart," the voice returned,
“Thou see'st no beauty save thou make it first;
Man, Woman, Nature, each is but a glass
Where the soul sees the image of herself,
Visible echoes, offsprings of herself.
But, since thou need'st assurance of how soon,
Wait till that angel comes who opens all,
The reconciler, he who lifts the veil,
The reuniter, the rest-bringer, Death."
I waited, and methought he came; but how,
Or in what shape, I doubted, for no sign,
By touch or mark, he gave me as he passed :
Only I know a lily that I held
Snapt short below the head and shrivelled up;
Then turned my Guide and looked at me unveiled,
And I beheld no face of matron stern,
But that enchantment I had followed erst,
Only more fair, more clear to eye and brain,
Heightened and chastened by a household charm :
She smiled, and "Which is fairer,” said her eyes,
“ The hag's unreal Florimel or mine?”
ALADDIN. When I was a beggarly boy,
And lived in a cellar damp, I had not a friend nor a toy,
But I had Aladdin's lamp ; When I could not sleep for cold,
I had fire enough in my brain,
And builded, with roofs of gold,
My beautiful castles in Spain !
Since then I have toiled day and night,
I have money and power good store,
But I'd give all my lamps of silver bright,
For the one that is mine no more;
Take, Fortune, whatever you choose,
You gave, and may snatch again;
I have nothing t’would pain me to lose,
For I own no more castles in Spain!
AN INVITATION. Nine years have slipt like hour-glass sand From life's still-emptying globe away, Since last, dear friend, I clasped your hand, And stood upon the impoverished land, Watching the steamer down the bay. I held the token which you gave, While slowly the smoke-pennon curled O'er the vague rim 'tween sky and wave, And shut the distance like a grave, Leaving me in the colder world. The old worn world of hurry and heat, The young, fresh world of thought and scope, While you, where beckoning billows fleet Climb far sky-beaches still and sweet, Sank wavering down the ocean-slope,