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I bow'd to his lady-sister as she rode by on the moor;
But the fire of a foolish pride flash'd over her beautiful face.
O child, you wrong your beauty, believe it, in being so proud ;
Your father has wealth well-gotten, and I am nameless and poor.
I keep but a man and a maid, ever ready to slander and steal ;
I know it, and smile a hard-set smile, like a stoic, or like
A wiser epicurean, and let the world have its way :
For nature is one with rapine, a harm no preacher can heal ;
The Mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow spear'd by the shrike,
And the whole little wood where I sit is a world of plunder and prey.
We are puppets, Man in his pride, and Beauty fair in her flower ;
Do we move ourselves, or are moved by an unseen hand at a game
That pushes us off from the board, and others ever succeed ?
Ah yet, we cannot be kind to each other here for an hour ;
We whisper, and hint, and chuckle, and grin at a brother's shame ;
However we brave it out, we men are a little breed.
A monstrous eft was of old the Lord and Master of Earth,
For him did his high sun flame, and his river billowing ran,
And he felt himself in his force to be Nature's crowning race.
As nine months go to the shaping an infant ripe for his birth,
So many a million of ages have gone to the making of man :
He now is first, but is he the last ? is he not too base ?
The man of science himself is fonder of glory, and vain,
An eye well-practised in nature, a spirit bounded and poor ;
The passionate heart of the poet is whirl’d into folly and vice.
I would not marvel at either, but keep a temperate brain;
For not to desire or admire, if a man could learn it, were more
Than to walk all day like the sultan of old in a garden of spice.
VIII. For the drift of the Maker is dark, an Isis hid by the veil. Who knows the ways of the world, how God will bring them about Our planet is one, the suns are many, the world is wide. Shall I weep if a Poland fall ? shall I shriek if a Hungary fail ? Or an infant civilisation be ruled with rod or with knout ? I have not made the world, and He that made it will guide.
Be mine a philosopher's life in the quiet woodland ways,
Where if I cannot be gay let a passionless peace be my lot,
Far-off from the clamour of liars belied in the hubbub of lies ;
From the long-neck'd geese of the world that are ever hissing dispraise
Because their natures are little, and, whether he heed it or not,
Where each man walks with his head in a cloud of poisonous flies.
And most of all would I flee from the cruel madness of love,
The honey of poison-flowers and all the measureless ill.
Ah Maud, you milk white fawn, you are all unmeet for a wife.
Your mother is mute in her grave as her image in marble above ;
Your father is ever in London, you wander about at your will ;
You have but fed on the roses and lain in the lilies of life.
At the head of the village street,
Whom but Maud should I meet?
And she touch'd my hand with a smile so
She made me divine amends
For a courtesy not return'd.
Smelling of musk and of insolence,
Her brother, from whom I keep aloof,
Who wants the finer politic sense
To mask, tho' but in his own behoof,
With a glassy smile his brutal scorn-
What if he had told her yestermorn
How prettily for his own sweet sake
A face of tenderness might be feign'd,
And a moist mirage in desert eyes,
That so, when the rotten hustings shake
In another month to his brazen lies,
A wretched vote may be gain'd.
And thus a delicate spark
Of glowing and growing light
Thro' the livelong hours of the dark
Kept itself warm in the heart of my
Ready to burst in a colour'd flame;
Till at last when the morning came
In a cloud, it faded, and seems
But an ashen-gray delight.
What if with her sunny hair,
And smile as sunny as cold,
She meant to weave me a snare
Of some coquettish deceit,
Cleopatra-like as of old
To entangie me when we met,
To have her lion roll in a silken net
And fawn at a victor's feet.
For a raven ever croaks, at my side, Keep watch and ward, keep watch and
ward, Or thou wilt prove their tool. Yea, too, myself from myself I guard, For often a man's own angry pride Is cap and bells for a fool.
Ah, what shall I be at fifty
Should Nature keep me alive,
If I find the world so bitter
When I am but twenty-five?
Yet, if she were not a cheat,
If Maud were all that she seem'd,
And her smile were all that I dream'd,
Then the world were not so bitter
But a smile could make it sweet.
Perhaps the smile and tender tone
Came out of her pitying womanhood,
For am I not, am I not, here alone
So many a summer since she died,
My mother, who was so gentle and good ?
Living alone in an empty house,
Here half-hid in the gleaming wood,
Where I hear the dead at midday moan,
And the shrieking rush of the wainscot
mouse, And my own sad name in corners cried, When the shiver of dancing leaves is
thrown About its echoing chambers wide, Till a morbid hate and horror have grown Of a world in which I have hardly mixt, And a morbid eating lichen fixt On a heart half-turn'd to stone.
vi. What if tho' her eye seem'd full Of a kind intent to me, What if that dandy.despot, he, That jewell’d mass of millinery, That oil'd and curl'd Assyrian Bull
For what was it else within me wrought But, I fear, the new strong wine of love, That made my tongue so stammer and
trip When I saw the treasured splendour, her
hand, Come sliding out of her sacred glove, And the sunlight broke from her lip?
VIII. She came to the village church, And sat by a pillar alone ; An angel watching an urn Wept over her, carved in stone; And once, but once, she lifted her eyes, And suddenly, sweetly, strangely blush'd To find they were met by my own ; And suddenly, sweetly, my heart beat
stronger And thicker, until I heard no longer The snowy.banded, dilettante, Delicate-handed priest intone; And thought, is it pride, and mused and
sigh'd * No surely, now it cannot be pride.'
x. I have play'd with her when a child ; She remembers it now we meet. Ah well, well, well, I may be beguiled By some coquettish deceit. Yet, if she were not a cheat, If Maud were all that she seem'd, And her smile had all that I dream'd, Then the world were not so bitter But a smile could make it sweet.
Did I hear it half in a doze
Long since, I know not where ? Did I dream it an hour ago,
When asleep in this arm-chair ?
I was walking a mile, More than a mile from the shore, The sun look'd out with a smile Betwixt the cloud and the moor, And riding at set of day Over the dark moor land, Rapidly riding far away, She waved to me with her hand. There were two at her side, Something flash'd in the sun, Down by the hill I saw them ride, In a moment they were gone : Like a sudden spark Struck vainly in the night, Then returns the dark With no more hope of light.
Men were drinking together,
Drinking and talking of me; "Well, if it prove a girl, the boy
Will have plenty: so let it be.'
Is it an echo of something
Read with a boy's delight, Viziers nodding together
In some Arabian night?
The slavish hat from the villager's head ?
Whose old grandfather has lately died,
Gone to a blacker pit, for whom
Grimy nakedness dragging his trucks
And laying his trams in a poison'd gloom
Wrought, till he crept from a gutted
Master of half a servile shire,
And left his coal all turn'd into gold
To a grandson, first of his noble line,
Rich in the grace all women desire,
Strong in the power that all men adore,
And simper and set their voices lower,
And soften as if to a girl, and hold
Awe-stricken breaths at a work divine,
Seeing his gewgaw castle shine,
New as his title, built last year,
There amid perky larches and pine,
And over the sullen-purple moor
(Look at it) pricking a cockney ear.
This broad-brimm'd hawker of holy
things, Whose ear is cramm'd with his cotton,
and rings Even in dreams to the chink of his pence, This huckster put down war! can he tell Whether war be a cause or a consequence? Put down the passions that make earth
Hell ! Down with ambition, avarice, pride, Jealousy, down ! cut off from the mind The bitter springs of anger and fear ; Down too, down at your own fireside, With the evil tongue and the evil ear, For each is at war with mankind.
What, has he found my jewel out ?
For one of the two that rode at her side
Bound for the Hall, I am sure was he:
Bound for the Hall, and I think for a
Blithe would her brother's acceptance be.
Maud could be gracious too, no doubt
To a lord, a captain, a padded shape,
A bought commission, a waxen face,
A rabbit mouth that is ever agape-
Bought? what is it he cannot buy?
And therefore splenetic, personal, base,
A wounded thing with a rancorous cry,
At war with myself and a wretched race,
Sick, sick to the heart of life, am I.
Ah God, for a man with heart, head, hand,
Like some of the simple great ones gone
For ever and ever by,
One still strong man in a blatant land,
Whatever they call him, what care I,
Aristocrat, democrat, autocrat--one
Who can rule and dare not lie.
VI. And ah for a man to arise in me, That the man I am may cease to be!