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“ We are beside thee in all thy ways,
“ With our blame, with our praise,
“ Our shame to feel, our pride to show,
“ Glad, angry—but indifferent, no !
“ Whether it be thy lot to go,
“ For the good of us all, where the haters meet
“ In the crowded city's horrible street;
“ Or thou step alone through the morass
“ Where never sound yet was
“ Save the dry quick clap of the stork's bill,
“ For the air is still, and the water still,
“ When the blue breast of the dipping coot
“ Dives under, and all is mute.
“So at the last shall come old age,
“ Decrepit as befits that stage;
“ How else wouldst thou retire apart
“ With the hoarded memories of thy heart,
“ And gather all to the very least
“ Of the fragments of life's earlier feast,
“ Let fall through eagerness to find
“ The crowning dainties yet behind ?
“ Ponder on the entire past
“ Laid together thus at last,
“ When the twilight helps to fuse
“ The first fresh with the faded hues,
“ And the outline of the whole,
“ As round eve's shades their framework roll,
“ Grandly fronts for once thy soul.
“ And then as, 'mid the dark, a gleam
“Of yet another morning breaks,
“ And like the hand which ends a dream,
* Death, with the might of his sunbeam,
“ Touches the flesh and the soul awakes, “ Then "
Ay, then indeed something would happen! But what? For here her voice changed like a bird's; There grew more of the music and less of the words; Had Jacynth only been by me to clap pen To paper and put you down every syllable With those clever clerkly fingers, All I've forgotten as well as what lingers In this old brain of mine that 's but ill able To give you even this poor version Of the speech I spoil, as it were, with stammering ! - More fault of those who had the hammering Of prosody into me and syntax, And did it, not with hobnails but tintacks ! But to return from this excursion,Just, do you mark, when the song was sweetest, The peace most deep and the charm completest, There came, shall I say, a snapAnd the charm vanished! And my sense returned, so strangely banished, And, starting as from a nap, I knew the crone was bewitching my lady, With Jacynth asleep ; and but one spring made I Down from the casement, round to the portal, Another minute and I had entered, When the door opened, and more than mortal Stood, with a face where to my mind centred All beauties I ever saw or shall see, The Duchess : I stopped as if struck by palsy. She was so different, happy and beautiful, I felt at once that all was best,
And that I had nothing to do, for the rest,
But wait her commands, obey and be dutiful.
Not that, in fact, there was any commanding ;
I saw the glory of her eye,
And the brow's height and the breast's expanding,
And I was hers to live or to die.
As for finding what she wanted,
You know God Almighty granted
Such little signs should serve wild creatures
To tell one another all their desires,
So that each knows what his friend requires,
And does its bidding without teachers.
I preceded her; the crone
Followed silent and alone;
I spoke to her, but she merely jabbered
In the old style; both her eyes had slunk
Back to their pits; her stature shrunk;
In short, the soul in its body sunk
Like a blade sent home to its scabbard.
We descended, I preceding ;
Crossed the court with nobody heeding ;
All the world was at the chase,
The court-yard like a desert-place,
The stable emptied of its small fry;
I saddled myself the very palfrey
I remember patting while it carried her,
The day she arrived and the Duke married her.
And, do you know, though it 's easy deceiving
Oneself in such matters, I can't help believing
The lady had not forgotten it either,
And knew the poor devil so much beneath her
Would have been only too glad, for her service,
To dance on hot ploughshares like a Turk dervise,
But, unable to pay proper duty where owing it,
Was reduced to that pitiful method of showing it.
For though, the moment I began setting
His saddle on my own nag of Berold's begetting,
(Not that I meant to be obtrusive)
She stopped me, while his rug was shifting,
By a single rapid finger's lifting,
And, with a gesture kind but conclusive,
And a little shake of the head, refused me,
I say, although she never used me,
Yet when she was mounted, the Gipsy behind her
And I ventured to remind her,
I suppose with a voice of less steadiness
Than usual, for my feeling exceeded me,
-Something to the effect that I was in readiness
Whenever God should please she needed me,-
Then, do you know, her face looked down on me
With a look that placed a crown on me,
And she felt in her bosom,-mark, her bosom-
And, as a flower-tree drops its blossom,
Dropped me .. ah, had it been a purse
Of silver, my friend, or gold that 's worse,
Why, you see, as soon as I found myself
So understood,—that a true heart so may gain
Such a reward,- I should have gone home again,
Kissed Jacynth, and soberly drowned myself !
It was a little plait of hair
Such as friends in a convent make
To wear, each for the other's sake, -
This, see, which at my breast I wear,
Ever did (rather to Jacynth's grudgment),
And ever shall, till the Day of Judgment.
And then,—and then,—to cut short,—this is idle,
These are feelings it is not good to foster,
I pushed the gate wide, she shook the bridle,
And the palfrey bounded,—and so we lost her.
When the liquor 's out why clink the cannikin?
I did think to describe you the panic in
The redoubtable breast of our master the mannikin,
And what was the pitch of his mother's yellowness,
How she turned as a shark to snap the spare-rib
Clean off, sailors say, from a pearl-diving Carib,
When she heard, what she called the flight of the feloness
- But it seems such child's play,
What they said and did with the lady away!
And to dance on, when we've lost the music,
Always made me—and no doubt makes you—sick.
Nay, to my mind, the world's face looked so stern
As that sweet form disappeared through the postern,
She that kept it in constant good humour,
It ought to have stopped; there seemed nothing to do
But the world thought otherwise and went on,
And my head 's one that its spite was spent on:
Thirty years are fled since that morning,
And with them all my head's adorning.
Nor did the old Duchess die outright,
As you expect, of suppressed spite,
The natural end of every adder
Not suffered to empty its poison-bladder :