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Harriett Jay

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{The Outcast 1891}




Pause, Moral Reader, ere you scold
A Bard that seemeth overbold,
And grasp the truth that I who sing
Am like my Hero wandering
Outlaw’d and lost! Let me commend you,
Moreover, should the theme offend you,
To realize that he whose tale
     I tell was ‘damn’d’ (right justly too),—
Forgetting this, you’ll wholly fail
     To gain the proper point of view.

For your assistance, I’ll again
     Quote from the Notebook, thus translating:

“How peaceful, after all the pain
     Of endless doubting and debating!
How restful, after stormy grief,
This quiet of the lotus-leaf!
And yet, and yet! how Memory flashes
     Her mirror in my sleepy eyes,
While darkly on my drooping lashes
     The tear-drops linger as they rise!
I mark the Land where I was born,
     The red-tiled Town beside the sea,—
The Mother who awakes at morn
     And turns to give her kiss—to me!                                                 112
I walk along the sun-brown’d sands,
I gather sea-shells in my hands,
I run and sport till death of day,
Then kneeling by my cot, I pray. .
Again I am a fisher-lad,
     I haul the net, I trim the sail,
I whistle to the winds, right glad
     To hear the gathering of the gale.
Then sailing homeward tan’d and brown
I watch the red lights of the Town
Gleam blur’d and moist thro’ mist and rain,
While down the anchor merrily goes again!
I leap on land, run up the shore,
Eager to gain my home once more,
And startle with a boy’s delight
     The widow’d Mother waiting there!
Almighty God! that night, that night!
     Ev’n now it chokes me with despair!
For lo, I see the thin white form
     Stretch’d on the bed in ghastly rest,
The lips clay cold that once were warm,
     The frail hands folded on the breast—
Mother! my mother! even now,
I bend and kiss thy marble brow,
The boy’s heart breaks, the salt tears flow,
And the great Storm of human Woe
Sweeps round the quick and dead!—Aye me,
     That first great grief, the worst of all!                                             113
That first despair and agony,
     To which all later woes seem small!

“Then first I knew Thee, God! whose breath
Is felt in pestilence of Death!
Then first I knew Thee whom men bless
And found Thee blind and pitiless!
I knew and lived—for ’twas Thy will
Only to torture, not to kill—
And so the torn heart heal’d at last,
     And I survived, but not the same—
And ere the sense of sorrow pass’d
     The life within me broke to flame
Of Youth’s first love!—and I forgot
The woe which is our mortal lot,
Because a maiden’s face was fair,
     Because a maiden’s lips were sweet,—
She bound me with her golden hair
     And threw me captive at her feet.
Then, the glad wooing! The new birth
Of man and God, of Heaven and Earth,
When softly, thro’ the shades of night
     We stole and watch’d the evening star,
While faint and distant, flashing white,
     Waves murmur’d from the harbour bar.
How good Thou wast, Almighty One,
     Blessing my troth, the maiden’s vow!
But ere another year was done                                                            114
     I curst Thee, as I curse Thee now.
For lo, Thine Angel Death past by,                                                     [l.iii]
     With flaming finger touched her breast—
Scarce woman yet, too young to die,
     She sicken’d of a vague unrest,
Till on her lips clung day by day
The blood-phlegm ever wiped away
By the thin kerchief, while she tried
     To force the smile that fought with tears—
God, hear my curse once more!—She died,—
     But still, across the raging years,
Her wan face rises, to proclaim
Her Maker’s infamy and shame!

“Pass all the rest!—My Soul knew then
The hourly martyrdom of men,
And turn’d in very impotence
To books for comfort, gathering thence
(For they had taught me how to read)
The lies and lusts of every creed.
Then, an old Scribe, who loved to pore
On pages of forbidden lore,
Gave me, for service gently done,
     The knowledge that I long’d to gain,
Good soul!—he used me like his son,
     And made me erudite and vain.
Four years of this, in Rotterdam,
     Combin’d with studies less improving,                                           115
And I became the thing I am,
     Worn with much thinking and much loving,
For in that City women were
As bountiful as they were fair.
Then, suffering from an accidental
Complaint to lovers detrimental,
I passed some time, just for variety,
     ’Mong doctors in the Hospital—
Then, tired of land and she-society,
     Cried ‘Curse the women! one and all!’
And off again I went, as sailor
Before the mast, upon a Whaler.
‘Gentleman Phil’ they had me christen’d,
     For I could curse in French and Greek,
And merrily the rascals listen’d
     When I discoursed, with tongue in cheek,
On men and women, God and Matter,
     And all things wicked and unclean!
Lord, how they loved my learnéd patter,
     My blasphemies and jokes obscene!

“Long after, came my Luck. Despairing
Of gaining much by pure sea-faring,
I join’d some honest men and brothers
     Who robbed upon the Wet Highway,
And being cleverer than the others
     I gathered gold, as rascals may—
Grown rich, I earn’d their approbation                                               116
     By deeds acurst they dared not do,
And being skill’d in navigation,
And of some little education,
     Became the Captain of the crew.
By Heaven and Hell, those days were merry!
     We knew no pity, felt no fear,—
Devils that played at hey down derry
     With all that honest men hold dear!
Nor were the smiles of Venus wanting,
     For many a fat ship was our prize,
And many a woman most enchanting
Struck her red blush-flag, and sank panting
     Under our fire of amorous eyes. . . .
Ah deeds acurst! Do I repent?
     Perhaps a little, now and then!
But what was God about, who sent
Things that were pure and innocent
     To be the spoil of beast-like men?”

Much in this not too pious vein
The crimson leaves o’ the Book contain—
Much, too, of scenes which would have staggered
Jules Verne or Mr. Rider Haggard,
So full they were of wind and water,
Clangour of swords, and general slaughter.
But presently we find him pining
     To slip his fetters and be free,
On beds of amaranth reclining                                                            117
     With eyes upon the turquoise sea.

“So, as I’ve said, or just suggested,
     I, the crass Outcast of the Lord,
Seeking salvation (as requested),
In that first Haven snugly nested,
     Was rapidly becoming bored.
The Honeymoon, I’ve always thought,
     Is a mistake! I’d tire, I swear,
If in the net of Wedlock caught,
     Of Venus’ self, the ever Fair!
No, ’tis the wooing and the winning,
Not the long end, but the beginning,
That is the joy of Love!—Mere courting
Passes all amorous disporting,
And what we crave contains a blessing
We never compass in possessing!
Some men, I grant (not damn’d like me)
Are arm’d so strong in purity,
That wedlock is an endless boon,
And life one long-drawn Honeymoon,—
And these appease their modest wishes
As peacefully as jelly-fishes,
And floating flaccid ’neath the sky
Tamely increase and multiply.
But these are fish-like things, not Lovers,
Spawn of the pools, not Ocean rovers,
Lives drifting where the currents choose,                                            118
Or sunk in matrimonial ooze.
Moreover, I who write had sown
My wild oats early, and had known
All kinds of pleasure, long before
My rotten Barque set out from shore.
And when the Master of Creation,
Or some blind Force, his adumbration,
Gave me the chance to find salvation
Somewhere on earth,—I steered despairing
     To this soft Eden in the seas,
And nothing hoping, nothing caring,
     Thought ‘Here at least I’ll rest at ease!’
Not to the Cities did I wander,
Not to the Schools where pedants ponder,
Not to the tents of Civilization,
But back, straight back, to nude Creation!—
And here I found the general Mother
     Beauteous and bounteous, warm and wild,
And from her heart, like many another,
     I drank Life’s milk, a happy child.
My blessing on her! Grand and free,
Untainted with morality,
With but one Law of life and pleasure
     To render her supremely blest,
She gives me all she hath, full measure
     Of that great Milky Way, her Breast—
Yet though I linger here, replete
As any flower with all that’s sweet,                                                     119
I often long to be once more
A foam-fleck blown from shore to shore!”

A “London” Note—“How faint to-day
Seems all that Eden far away!
Ev’n then that life, such as the pure hope
     To find at last beyond the sky,
Was far removed from life in Europe
     And all the scandal and the cry
Of life in Cities!—People there
     Were naked babies sucking corals,
Spent blissful days without a care,
Had no idea what morals were,
     And so—were innocent of morals.
Since then the Gospel has been spread there,
And divers bad complaints been shed there,
And Civilization’s boisterous busy hum
Has quite destroyed that sweet Elysium.
Soon, if the natives keep progressing,
     They’ll turn to Scandal for variety,
Receive the new god Jingo’s blessing,
Become æsthetic in their dressing,
     And have their Journals of Society!”

     Another, blasphemous and fierce.
“Oft, when I think of that fair place,
     I front the heavens and seek to pierce,
     O God, Thy cloudy hiding-place.                                                   120
For mark, ev’n there, unseen by me,
     Thy Deputies, Disease and Death,
Were crawling snake-like from the sea
     To taint pure Nature with their breath.
There, tangled in Thy mesh of woes,
Tortured and stain’d the Leper rose,
And join’d his wail to all the cries
That from the host of martyrs rise
High as Thy Throne! Tell me, Thou God,
Who, striking Chaos with Thy rod,
Creating Heaven, and Earth, and Flood,
Praised Thine own work and call’d it ‘good,’
Tell me, O God, if God Thou art,
Doth Thy Hand rend the breaking heart                                              [l.xv]
In beasts and men, doth it adjust
The Hate of Hate, the Lust of Lust,
And blotch Thy work, Humanity,
With these foul stains of Leprosy!
What art Thou, God, if this be so?
     What is the glory Thou dost claim?—
Thy tribute is eternal woe,
     Thy pride eternal Death and shame!
I toss the gauge to Thee again!
     Unfold Thyself, defend Thy plan,—
Or own Thy primal work was vain,
And let Thy tears descend like rain
     To attest Thy sin at making Man!”

“We feel too much, we know too little,                                               121
     We gaze behind us and before;
The magic wand of Faith, grown brittle,
     Breaks in our grasp; our Dream is o’er!
Wakening at last, we understand
The World’s no pretty Fairyland,
No sunny World with gods above it,
No happy World with God to love it,
But a worn World whose first sweet prayer
Is turned to darkness and despair—
A World without a God!—

                                   “O Mother,
     We cling to thee with feeble cries,
Fight for thy breast with one another,
     Or wondering watch thy sightless eyes
Upturn’d to Heaven!—O Mother Earth,
Still fair and kind as at thy birth,
Still tender yet forlorn, as when
Out of thy womb the race of men
Came crying—with the same sad cry
That haunts thee while they droop and die!
Sad as the Sphinx, and blind! for thou
     Hast look’d once on the Father’s face,
Hast felt His kiss upon thy brow,
     Hast quicken’d, too, in His embrace,
Till blind with light of Deity
That clasp’d thee and was mix’d with thee,                                         122
Thine eyes for ever ceased to see;
And night by night and day by day
Patiently thou dost grope thy way,
Clasping thy children, heavenward,
     In search of Him who comes no more—
O Mother! patient! evil-star’d!
Who now shall be Thy stay and guard,
     Now that first Dream of Love is o’er?

“Thy children babble of green fields!
     Thy youth and maidens, gladly crying,
Suck all the sweets that Nature yields,
     And lie i’ the sun, as I am lying!
They learn the raptures of the sense,
Break Love’s ripe virgin gourd and thence
Drink the fresh waters of delight . . .
What then? To-morrow Death and Night
Shall find them, or if Death denies
The boon which closes weary eyes,
Despair more dire than Death shall come
To linger o’er their martyrdom!
O Mother! martyred too!—yet blest
To feel the new-born at thy breast,
What of thy Dead? What of the prayers
Taught them of old to still their cares?
What of the promise fondly given                                                       123
Of comfort, and a Father in Heaven?
There is no God! there is no Father!
     And that which clasp’d thee, mother Earth,
Was formless, voiceless, monstrous, rather
     Than gracious and of heavenly birth—
The attributes we take from thee
     Are bright and fair, tho’ only clay,—
The living force that keeps us free,
     The joy of Life, the bliss of Day!
What we inherit from the Sire
     Is formless, passionless, and dim,
Deep dread, despair, unrest, desire
     To climb the heavens and gaze on Him!
Ah, hopeless and eternal quest!
     Ah, Life so sweet! so fugitive!
Dear Mother, endless sleep is best,
But ere we close our eyes in rest
     We loathe the Power which made us live.

“What mercy hast Thou, Father? None,
Even for Thine own Belovëd Son,
Who weeping sadly, drinking up
The poison of thy hemlock cup,
While the rude rocks and clouds were shaken,
     And even thine angels sobbed in pain,
Cried, “Eloi, why am I forsaken?”
     And dying, sought Thy Face in vain! . .                                           124
Reveal that Face!—Uplift thy veil,
     O God, and show thyself, that we
Who struggling upward faint and fail
     May know thy lineaments and Thee!
Thou canst not, for thou art not!—I
Have never found in sea or sky
One living token that thou art,
One semblance of a Father’s heart,
One look, one touch to attest thy claim
To godhead and a Father’s name!”

Bright crimson was the blood wherein
Those words were written down!

                                 “My sin
Falls like a garment to my feet,
Naked I front thy Judgment Seat,
Veil’d Maker of the World. Thy Word
Breath’d on the darkness, and it stirred
And lived—for what? That Man might rise
With hopeless heaven-searching eyes,
Clothed in Thy likeness? Thine?—the Form
     No man hath seen, no man may know,
A Phantom riding on the Storm
     While Earthquake rends the earth below;
While like a hawk that hunts its prey
     Death, creeping on from plain to plain,                                           125
Tortures the Human night and day,
Wounds what ’twere pitiful to slay,
     And scatters Pestilence and Pain.
I tell thee, one poor human thing,
     One little suffering lamb, one frail
Form of thy cruel fashioning,
     Refutes the Lie which cries ‘All Hail
Father Almighty!’

                             “Mighty? No!
Weaker than we who come and go
Erect and proud, whose deeds approve
A human brotherhood of love.
Our love and hate have aims, but thine
     Are idle bolts at random hurl’d,
Impotent, hidden, yet Divine,
     Brood o’er thy broken-hearted World!”

My last quotation (for the present),
Though far less fierce, is still unpleasant:

Pictor Ignotus! Power Unseen!
     Who limn’d this sight whereon I gaze,—
The still blue Seas, the arc serene
Of yon still Heavens of radiant sheen,
     I doff my hat and give Thee praise!
Thy skill in painting this green Earth,                                                    126
     The forms upright that seem divine,
Proclaim Thy most exceeding worth—
     No technique, Master, equals Thine!
Step forward, then, O great Unknown,
     Accept our humble admiration!—
All men of taste will gladly own
     The excellence of Thy Creation!
A beauteous bit of work like this
     Whereon I feast mine eyes this morning,
All peace, all prettiness, all bliss,
     Hushes at once all doubt, all scorning.
Tell me, Great Master, did’st Thou make
This thing for the mere Beauty’s sake,
Having no other test to measure
Thy work, but pure æsthetic pleasure?
If this be so, why do we see
Elsewhere, attributed to Thee,
So many things which, I opine,
Are really coarse and Philistine?
Another question, which concerns
     The æsthetic spirit. Many hold,
However bright and clear it burns,
     ’Tis selfish, passionless, and cold;
Indifferent to the means whereby
     It gains the artistic end in view,
It broods alone, with cruel eye
     That keeps the handcraft sure and true.                                         127
If this be so, and Thou, O great
     Master, art but a craftsman fine,
I understand and estimate
     (At last) Thy process, called “Divine”—
Cold to the prayer of human sorrow,
     Deaf to the sob of human strife,
Thou workest grandly, night and morrow,
     On Thy great Masterpiece of Life!
For Thine own pleasure is it done,
     Since Art’s delight is in the doing,
Thine own enjoyment, slowly won,
     Is the sole end Thou art pursuing—
No dull despairing criticaster
Troubles Thee or disturbs Thee, Master!
No thought of human approbation
Perturbs Thy rapture of Creation!
No sound of breaking hearts can reach Thee,
     No touch of tears Thy sense can thrill,
Tho’ millions praise Thee or beseech Thee,
     Indifferent Thou labourest still;
Picture on Picture is destroyed,
And thrown into the empty void;
World upon world is made, and then
Rejected gloomily again;
Life upon life is painted fair,
Then tost aside in Art’s despair;
And so, with blunders infinite,                                                            128
Thou toilest for Thine own delight!

“And when Thy task is done, when Art
     Crowns to the full Thy great endeavour,
Alone, Unknown, still sit apart,
     And glory in Thy work for ever!”—



There, where eternal Summer lingers,
     The Isle lay golden ’neath the blue,
Save when the Rain’s soft tremulous fingers
     Just touch’d its eyes with cool dark dew,—
Or when with sudden thunderous cry
The chariots of the clouds went by,
And trembling for a little space,
The Isle lay down with darken’d face
Under the vials of the Storm,
     Then shook the sparkling drops away
And looking upward felt the warm
     New sunlight gladdening thro’ the grey!
Like a child’s heart that beats so gladly,
     So full of joy for Life’s own sake,
Did not the sudden tears flow madly
     A moment’s space, ’twould surely break,—
So did that Land of Summer capture
Just now and then surcease from rapture!
But after storms, the bliss grew finer,
     And storms indeed were far between,—
The days divine, the nights diviner,
     With peace celestial and serene.

From dawn to dark the golden Light
Dwelt on green cape and gleaming height,
On yellow sands where the blue Sea                                                   130
Pencil’d in silvern filagree
Frail flowers and leaves of frost-white spray
That ever came and flash’d away.
Then, the deep nights! great nights of calm,
Full of ambrosial bliss and balm!
Smooth sun-stain’d waves as daylight fled
Broke on the reef to foam blood-red,
Till the white Moon arose, and lo!
The foam was powdery silver snow,
And slowly, softly, down the night,
     O’er the smooth black and glistering Sea,
The starry urns of crystal Light
     Were fill’d and emptied momently!
Then in the centre of the glimmer
     The round Moon ripen’d as she rose,
And cover’d with the milk-white shimmer
     The glassy Waters took repose;
And round the Isle a murmur deep
Of troubled surges half asleep
Broke faintlier and faintlier
     As Midnight took her shadowy throne;
In heaven, on earth, no breath, no stir,
     No sound, save that deep slumb’rous tone!
Wonder of Darkness!—’neath its wing
All living things sank slumbering,
Save those glad lovers in delight
     Clinging and gazing at the sky,
While phosphorescent thro’ the night                                                   131
     Portents of Nature glimmer’d by!
In such dark hours of stillness Love
     Reaches her apogee of bliss;
The fountains of the spirit move
     Upward, and cresting to a kiss
Sink earthward sighing—then we seem
Creatures of passion and of dream,
Ethereal shadowy things whose breath
May touch the cheeks of happy Death,
Who smile, and sigh for joy, and fall
Into deep rest celestial!

Such joy I’ve had on autumn eves
When the Moon shines on slanted sheaves,
And thro’ the distant farm-house pane
     The lighted candle flashes red,
And darker over field and lane
     The gloaming of the night is shed.
Then, pillow’d on a warm white breast,
     And gazing into happy eyes,
While the faint flush of radiance blest
     Still came and went on the dark skies,
I’ve felt the dim Earth softly spinning
     On its smooth axle, while above
The bright stars as at Time’s beginning
     Turn’d in their spheres of Light and Love;—
O joy of Youth! O adumbration
     Of Hope and ecstasy intense!                                                        132
When Life’s faint stir, Love’s first pulsation,
     Turn to a splendour dazzling sense!
One night like that were more to me,
     Now I am weary with Earth’s ways,
Than all a long Eternity
     Of strident, garish, gladsome days!
Ah, to be young! ah, once again
     To drink Youth’s wild and wondrous wine!
To quit the pathos and the pain
     For passionate hours of joy divine!
To feel the breast that comes and goes
     While fond white arms around me twine,
To feel the ripe mouth like a rose
     Prest close, with kiss on kiss, to mine!
To feel all Nature thus fulfil
     Her gladness in that touch of lips,
Which cling and cling and cling, and thrill
     One Soul to the soft finger-tips,—
All this, which I can ne’er express,
This flush of Youth and Happiness,
Methinks, is infinitely nicer
     Than being counted good or clever—
Than growing every day preciser
     And finding Love has flown for ever!
For ever? No!—Thank God, the power
Of Love can move me to this hour;
And tho’ my moonlight pranks are over,
     And those old sheaves are shed like sleet,                                      133
I’ll be a Poet and a Lover
     Until my heart doth cease to beat!

Yet there are nobler things than pleasure,
     Diviner things than Flesh can gain,—
Insight too deep for joy to measure
     Comes with supremacy of pain!—
When kneeling by the Dead and seeing
     That still white Lily with shut eyes,
We feel, stirred to the depths of Being,
     The pathos of poor human ties.
If in that awful trysting place,
     We watch, thro’ tears that blindly roll,
Pale Love and shadowy Death embrace
     And blend to one eternal Soul,
How feeble, of how little worth,
Seem all those ecstasies of Earth!
Out of corruption and decay
Spring flowers that cannot pass away—
Out of a grief transcending tears
     Springs radiance that redeems our lot,
While faintly on our listening ears
Rings the soft music of the spheres,
     ‘Forget me not! forget me not!’
Shall we forget? Shall Death not be
The gauge of our Humanity?
Shall Love and Death, one Soul, one Thought,
     Not waft us upward as on wings?                                                 134
Almighty God, our life were nought,
Were this dark Miracle ne’er wrought
     To prove us spiritual things.
Dust to the dust—there let it lie!
Soul to the Soul—which cannot die!
The dim white Dove of Death is winging
     O’er Life’s great flood in lonely flight,
That sad black leaf of olive bringing
     To prove a hidden Land of Light!
God, who created Earth and Heaven,
     Lord of the Dead thy love can save,
Thy Bow still comforts the bereaven
     While Death wings on from wave to wave!
Standing ’neath Sorrow’s sunless pall
     We hail a symbol bright and blest,
And by that sign know one and all
That when these troubled Waters fall
     Our Ark on Ararat shall rest! . . . .

So the sweet days stole on, and still
The Outcast wandered at his will
From dream to dream, from bliss to bliss,
     Glad and unconscious of his doom;
His thought, a smile—his life, a kiss—
     His breath and being, one perfume!

But even as the Snake once stole
     Unseen, unguess’d, to Eden’s Bowers,                                          135
Ennui, the Serpent of the Soul,
     Crept in deep-hid ’neath fruit and flowers!
Slowly the ecstasy intense
Fever’d the life of Soul and Sense,
And certain of delight the eyes
Grew weary of the happy Skies.
And looking up into his face,
Her only Heaven, the Maid could trace,
Ere he himself was yet aware,
The filmy clouds of nameless care!
Sometimes he’d sit wrapt deep in thought,
     His gaze upon the glassy Sea;
Sometimes from sleep his passion-fraught
     Spirit would wake him suddenly!
Sometimes, on days of summer rain,
     When gentle storms swept round the land,
He paced the shores, and seemed again
     Upon the wave-tost deck to stand!
And wistful as a hound, that lies
Watching its master’s face, and tries
To share his sorrow or delight,
The Maiden mark’d him day and night!

“This is the worst of Joy—the more
     We bask (he writes) beneath its ray,
The sooner is the magic o’er,
     The quicklier doth it fade away!
Sunshine without a cloud at all                                                            136
Of its own peace begins to pall,
And calm too tropic and intense
Soon fevers to indifference!
Whence little rain-clouds, tempests even,
     Keep Hymen’s garden green and growing,
And lovers weary of a Heaven
     Where no rain falls, no wind is blowing!
One sickens of fine weather, tires
Of ever-gratified desires,
Is bored, although at first enchanted,
By having every fancy granted.
And ah! my little Maid, unskill’d
     In any art of the coquette,
All love, all rapture, sweetly filled
With the warm wine her soul distilled,
     Incapable of fear or fret,
Ne’er knew what women more capricious
     Learn, with long culture for a guide,—
That joy is render’d more delicious
     By being now and then denied.
How could a Passion-Flower, all scent,
All bloom, and all abandonment,
Appreciate the subtle ways
     Which wiser modern women show forth?
Such dainty tricks came in with stays,
     Flounces, and pantalettes, and so forth,—
Whence we our Modern Venus see,
Not in immortal nudity,                                                                      137
But veil’d in beauteous mystery!
But Love in that bright Land abode
     Almost in mother-nakedness,
Pure Nature all her beauties showed
     Indifferent to the arts of Dress:
No Milliner had wander’d thither,
Bearing Parisian magic with her:—
The skirt’s sly folds, the robe’s disguises,
     The pruderies of silken hose,
The roguish petticoat’s surprises,
The thousand spells that Art devises
     To veil the secrets of the Rose!
That Child of Sunlight never guess’d
     How winsome and how fair may be
A modern Maiden bravely drest
     In opalescent modesty!
The scented form that shrinks away
     At the first look of tenderness,
The faltering tongue that murmurs ‘nay,’
     Belying eyes that answer ‘yes,’
The flying feet a lover chases,
     The half-withdrawn, half-lingering hand,
The breast that heaves ’neath creamy laces
Craving yet shrinking from embraces,
     Were all unknown in that sweet Land!”

And so, already, as I’ve told,
     The fabled Snake was crawling there,                                            138
Since he who trod those shores of gold
     Had brought it with him unaware!—
For worldly knowledge and its pride
     Tainted the man’s dark nature thro’,
And as they wandered side by side,
Lonely as Adam and his Bride,
     Under those skies of Eden’s blue,
He often watched her in the mood
     Of modern Bards and Heroes, saying:
‘True, she is beautiful and good,
As fine a thing of flesh and blood
     As ever loved or went a-Maying.
She recognises, too, completely
     The privilege of her master Man,
And, ever fond and smiling sweetly,
     Supplies his needs, as Woman can.
She is the instrument placed by me
To calm, perhaps to purify, me!
And I, of course, in this affair,
Fit object of her daily prayer,
Am the one person whose salvation
God takes into consideration!
I am the Hero—I am clearly
     The object of His circumspection,
And she, although I love her dearly,
     Is but a means to my perfection.’
And so, like other cultivated
Dunces by Folly sublimated,                                                                139
He took that angel’s fond and true
Homage as if it were his due!
A Hero!—he? Now God confound him,                                             [l.iv]
     And all such Heroes great or small—
The crown of pride with which Love crown’d him
     Was but a Fool’s cap after all!



Heroes? The noblest and the best
     Are those of whom we never know;
God’s Greatest are God’s Lowliest,
Who move unnoted to their rest
     Nor build their pride on human woe.
Napoleons of Sword or Song,
The proud, the radiant, and the strong,
The inheritors of Earth, are clay
To the slain Saints of every day.
The Kings of Action and of Thought,
     Pass in their pride and leave no sign,
But the slain Martyr’s flesh is wrought
     By suffering to Life divine.
In the eternal Judge’s sight
     This truth refutes the common lie:
What men call Genius hath no right
     To scorn one single human tie.

Come up, ye Poets, and be tried!
     Stand up, you shrieking, mouthing throng!
Shall you be spared and justified
     For a few scraps of selfish song?
By Heaven, the weary world could spare
     All poets since Creation’s day,
If one poor human heart’s despair,                                                     141
One poor lost Soul’s unheeded prayer,
     Must be the price it hath to pay!
Bury your Homers mountain-deep,
     Strangle your Shakespeares ere they wake,
If they their heritage must keep,
If they Parnassus-ward must creep
     O’er souls they stain and hearts they break.
For what is Verse, and what is Fame?
Great reams of paper, much acclaim!
And what are Poets at the best
     But busy tongues that often bore us;                                               [l.xii]
One noble heart, one loving breast
     Is worth the whole long-winded chorus!

But hold! true Poesy keeps ever
     Great wisdom as its pearl of price;
The sleepless Dream, the long Endeavour,
The questioning Thought that resteth never,
     Demand no living sacrifice.
Your Goethe’s pyramid was made
Of broken hearts and lives betrayed,
Wherefore men found it, when complete,
A pyramid of Self-conceit.
And take your Shelley (tho’ I hold
The fellow had a harp of gold):
He stained the Soul he had to save
The day he turn’d from Harriet’s grave.
But leave me Burns, and Byron too,—                                                142
They had their faults, and those not few,
And gave the nations much offence
By riot and concupiscence,
But Love was in the rogues! they paid
Full dearly for the pranks they played,
And never, in their wildest revel,
     Pleaded the privilege of Fame,
Or called on Genius and the Devil
     To justify their guilt and shame!

Some men, all women, worship Strength:
     Carlyle did, till experience taught him
That even the athlete pays at length
     The bills that Time and Death have brought him.
Rough Thomas loudly preached for long
That hero-worship of the Strong,
The right of muscle and of sinew
     To use the weak and crush the small.
‘Do something! show the spirit in you,
     Work, in God’s name!’ men heard him call.
‘Speech, sirs, is silvern—silence gold!’
     He cried aloud with lungs of leather;
Nay, even when wearied out and old
     He could not keep his tongue in tether.
Friedrich, Napoleon, Mirabeau,
     Danton and Goethe were his crazes!
They stood like puppets in a row,
Tall spectres of a wax-work show,                                                      143
     While lustily he shrieked their praises.
Meantime the bleeding Christ went by,
     And heard the acclaim in Cheyne Walk,
Heard from the threshold, with a sigh,
     The creed of Silence proved by Talk,
And passing slowly on, footsore,
Left on the noisy Prophet’s door
The mark of Passover, for token
A Lamb must die, a life be broken.
’Twas done, and in a little space,
     Silent at last as in a tomb,
The Prophet, tears on his worn face,
     Sat old and lonely in the gloom.
How did his Heroes help him then?
     What word had Friedrich, Mirabeau,
Napoleon, and the mighty men
He glorified with tongue and pen,
     To assuage the tempest of his woe?
Old Hurricane, I hated thee
When, shrieking down Humanity,
     High as a Dervish thou upleapt,—
But in thine hour of agony,
     I could have kissed thy wounds and wept.
The pity! ah, the pity of it!
     Well, Life is piteous at the best.
Thou wast most mighty, poor old Prophet,
     When weakest, saddest, silentest!
Tho’ all the gods were dead, and He,                                                 144
The great God, who is One in Three,
Did ought” (at least in thy opinion,                                                    [l.iii]
     Though thou did’st cry His Name so loud)
Though Belial reigned in His dominion
     And led the many-headed crowd,
Yet supernatural Shapes of Fear,
     Fiend-like or god-like, passed thee by,
And Froude, thy Nemesis, was near
     With watchful biographic eye.
Heir to thy weariness and folly,
     He warm’d thy night-cap, brought thy gruel,
Sat by thine arm-chair, melancholy,
     And fed thy fantasy with fuel.
And now across the earth he passes,
     Babbling of thee and Parson Lot,
And serves up tepid for the masses
     Thy gospel, once so piping hot;
Feeds little strong men with his praise,
     Just as you fed the strong and great,
Bewails the dark degenerate days,
The dreadful Democratic craze,
     The shipwreck of our ancient State;
Longs for another Drake (or gander),
     Of whom in Eyre he saw some traces,
Some rough, swashbuckler, bold commander,
     To govern the inferior races;
Thro’ the colonial seas careering                                                        145
     Avers philanthropies are vile,
And rests, forlornly pamphleteering,
     The Peter Patter of Carlyle.

Man is most godlike, I affirm,
     Not when he seeks to top the skies,
And peer, poor evanescent Worm,
     Into the heavenly Sphinx’s eyes,
Not when he vainly tries to patter
Of Gods and heroes, Mind and Matter,
Or cries, with folly sublimated,
“Lo, I am first of things created,”
Or flapping further leaden-bodied
Assumes a legislative godhead;—
But when, in tears, he humbly kneeling
     Prays in the silence of the night,
Knows himself blind, and dimly feeling
     With frail arms upward, craves for Light!
Then, from without or from within,
     Comes in that solemn silent hour
The miracle which turns his sin
     To hope, to insight, and to power!
Then comes the Voice from far away,
     Saying—‘My love shall be thy guerdon!
Be of good heart, poor thing of clay,
Soon shall I turn thy night to day,
     And free thy Soul from flesh, its burden!’
He listens, breaks to tears, and straightway                                         146
     Feels this rough load of bone and brawn
Grow lighter, sees a heavenly Gateway
     Swing on its hinges far withdrawn,
Revealing glimpses bright and blest
Of good old-fashion’d Realms of Rest,—
The Heaven which all his kin have sighed for,
Which bards have dream’d of, martyrs died for,
Which Christ the Master postulated,
     Which every creed hath pictured there,
Which Death itself hath adumbrated
     Out of the cloud of Life’s despair!

Dear foolish Creed! sweet Superstition!
     Fair childish Dream, now faded wholly!
By men of brains and erudition
     Despised as ignorance and folly!
Humanity, the wise inform us,
     Is intellectual, or nought,
And Heroes, wondrous and enormous,
     Have soared to thrones of godlike thought,
Attesting that Humanity
By its own seed redeemed may be,
And that the Titans of each nation
May face the Saturn of Creation.
For “God”—if there be God at all—
     Does nothing (that’s the Chelsea teaching!)
And to be weak and frail and small,
To reach up arms and feebly call
     On some veil’d Nurse, in blind beseeching,                                   147
Is just to forfeit altogether
     The privilege of Adam’s seed!—
“No, if in Nature’s stormy weather,
     You’d find a foothold and a creed,
A light, a buckler, an example,
     A sign to swear by (or to swear at),
Find out some Hero strong and ample
Who on your neck hath strength to trample,
     Crying, ‘Qui meruit palmam ferat!’
Follow that form the small birds sing to,
O’er fields of slain the vultures wing to,
     While women wail and warriors revel!
Since you can find no God to cling to,
     Worship some proud heroic Devil!” . . .

Well, to my Tale—for I’m digressing
Most damnably, and space is pressing.

At times, indeed, despite the curse
     Of Knowledge in him, my poor Hero,
Lord of his own Soul’s universe,
     Yet lone as Lapland, low as zero,
Felt childishly beatified,
     Foolishly pious, tried to gulp a
Tear of repentance down, and cried—
“Lord of the meek, forgive my pride,
     O mea culpa! mea culpa!
For even a Hero, one who deems                                                       148
     Himself the centre of Creation,
Who, proud of God’s attention, beams
     With self-approving admiration,
Is only clay! A great philosopher
     Will often whimper on the sly,
And sceptics often try to cross over
     The Bridge of Prayers that spans the Sky.
On moonlight nights, on Sabbath days,
When Earth herself lies still and prays
Rock’d in the sad Sea’s quiv’ring arms,
     And God’s Hand, laid upon her breast,
'Mid folds of trembling darkness, charms
     Her fears to momentary rest,
All creatures, proud or lowly, share
That dusky rapture of despair!
And now the Outcast who had sneer’d
     At all the schemes of Earth and Heaven,
Who fear’d no wrath or tempest, feared
     The peace, the joy, which God had given!
And gazing in that Maiden’s eyes
Full of soft love and sad surmise,
He saw a starry radiance shine
That show’d him base, and her divine!
Ah, then he could have prayed, and wept,
     Humble, and low, and spirit-sore—
But the mood past, and o’er him crept
     The cankering curse of pride once more.


Yet those were happy, happy days!                                                    149
’Twas Eden tho’ the Snake was there!
Eternal Summer shed its rays
O’er these still seas, thro’ these green ways,
     And all was primitive and fair!
Life grew so still and softly sweet
The rapturous heart scarce seem’d to beat,
And sense and spirit seem’d to swoon
To the hot hush of one long Noon!                                                    [l.ix]
Sometimes thro’ forest paths of green
They walk’d, and thro’ the leafy sheen
O’erhead, beheld the bright skies grow
Miraculously white, like snow;
Or to some grotto’s shade they came
     And saw with slimy weeds o’ergrown
Some carven god without a name
     Sit in the chillness all alone,
And on her face the little Maid
Fell for a space and softly prayed,
Then dipt her finger tips into
The cool green drops of sunless dew
That on the idol dript and fell,
     And laid them on her lover’s brow,
And seem’d to say, ‘Love, all is well—
     He gives us both his blessing now!’
Sometimes upon the peaceful Sea
     They paddled out in light canoes,
And floating softly, silently,
     O’er deep cool voids of rainbow hues,                                           150
Saw far below them, far as was
The mirror’d heaven as smooth as glass,
Thro’ soft translucent depths of dream,
     Down, down, within the clear abysm,
Bright creatures of the Ocean gleam
     And fade, like colours in the prism;—
There, rock’d on crystal waves that were
As clear and shadowless as air,
They seem’d suspended near the sun
Between two Heavens that throb’d as one!
Sometimes they climb’d the peaks, and stood
Full in the moonlight’s amber flood,
And saw the great stars bright as gold                                                 [l.xiv]
Steal breathless from the azure fold,
And like strange luminous living things
More to their silent pasturings;                                                           [l.xvii]
And down beneath them, far as gaze
Could see into the ocean-ways,
Such shapes as in a mirror shone,
And softly pasturing too, crept on!
And all around them on the heights
Eternity set beacon-lights,
And meteors, flashing suddenly,
Fell radiant from sky to sea,
While sadly as some heart bereaven
Throb’d the great luminous Heart of Heaven!

Almighty God, who out of clay                                                            151
Fashioned us creatures of a day,
Who gave us vision to perceive,
And souls to wonder and believe,
How calmly, coldly, we behold
Thy daily marvels manifold!
Thy raiment-hem of glory sweeps
Across the darkness of the Deeps,
And quickens light and life, O God,
In all it touches, stone or clod—
And we . . . things of a day, an hour,
Accept the wonder as our dower,
And wearying of the splendour, lust
For darkening pleasures of the dust.
Tho’ Thou hast girdled us around
With ecstasies of sight and sound,
Tho’ all without us and within
     Thy Thought takes form and adumbration,
Dark is the answer it doth win
     From us, the waifs of thy creation!
We cry for Miracles, and lo!
     All Nature is illumed for us!
The sun, the stars, the flowers, the snow,
     Change at thy touch miraculous—
In vain, in vain, the Mystery,
We understand not, tho’ we see,
And like sick children, turning thence,
Fret out our little sum of sense!
Yet sometimes to thy touch we quicken                                              152
     A moment, like that Man and Maiden,—
And while thy wonders round us thicken
     We pause and marvel, passion-laden,—
Then lifted in some air divine
     High o’er this world to yonder Sky,
See, where thy constellations shine,
     The Darkness of thy Face go by!
An instant only!—could the wonder
     Last but another, then indeed
Our bonds of flesh were torn asunder,
     And we were purified and freed—
But no!—the thrill celestial
Ceases and down to Earth we fall,
And coldly once again survey
Thy miracles of Night and Day!

Back to our lovers! Could I tell
     Of all they felt and dream’d and thought,
How Love for ever changed the spell
     That bound their spirits fever-fraught,
How night and day their lives were blent
In rapture and abandonment,
My song would never end!—the Hours
Flew by like maidens crown’d with flowers,
Each like the other dancing on,
Till many nights and days were gone.
How many—who can tell? Not I—
     For in these passionate relations                                                     153
We count not Time as it goes by,
     But measure it by palpitations:
At last, we waken, and look back
Along the pleasant flowery track
By which we’ve journey’d, to discover
     The flowers are flown, the leaves are dead;—
So, at least, was it with our Lover,
When his long honeymoon was over
     And the first bloom of Love had fled.
And how it would have ended, whether
     He would have stealthily departed,
Or roughly cut the tender tether
That held their sunny lives together,
     And left the maiden broken-hearted,
I know not. Fate, the wild Witch-woman
Who thwarts the plans of all things human,
Came flying to that Isle so sunny
     With imps of mischief in her train,
And changed Love’s waning moon of honey
     Into a baleful star of pain!


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 114, l. iii: For lo, Thine Angel Death pass’d by,
Page 120, l. xv: Doth Thy Hand rend the breaking heart?
Page 139, l. iv: A Hero!—he! Now God confound him,
Page 141, l. xii: But busy tongues that often bore us?
Page 144, l. iii: ‘Did naught’ (at least in thy opinion,
Page 149. l. ix: To the hot hush of one long Noon;
Page 150, l. xiv: And saw the great stars as bright as gold
Page 150, l. xvii: Move to their silent pasturings;]



The Outcast continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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