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Harriett Jay

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{The Earthquake 1885}



The First Day.







THE morrow came; and, when the sun was high,
Beneath a silken awning rosy-hued
Sat Barbara, smiling on her happy court;
The Graces near her, Midas at her side,
And all the Sciences and all the Arts,
In decent black or motley summer suits,
Gathered around her: modern Muses too,
From Sappho Syntax in her spectacles
To Jennie Homespun, Clapham’s idyllist,
Called “Wordsworth’s daughter” by the small reviews.
Nor lacked we grace of stately company
From lands beyond the thunders of the Chimes
Which turn the small beer of the Senate sour:
Dan Paumanok, the Yankee pantheist,
Hot gospeller of Nature and the flesh,
Who, holding soul but body purified,
Vaunted the perfect body fifty years,                                                  38
Then sank beneath a sunstroke paralyzed,
A wreck in all save that serener soul
Outlooking from his grave and patient eyes.
There sat he, in his chair, a craggy form,
Snow-bearded, patriarchal, wearing well
His crown of kindly sorrow. Close to him,
Miranda Jones, the lyric poetess,
Lean and æsthetic to the finger-tips,
Crouched like a pythoness with lissome limbs,
Pale eyes that swam with sybilline desire,
And vagrant locks of amber.
                                               To this last
Queen Barbara turn’d, and smiling royally cried:
“Barbara to Miranda! Take the harp,
And sound the prelude that befits our theme.”
Whereon the other, starting from a trance,
Answered, “You spoke? My soul was far away!
And watching that old Faun whose stony eyes
Have seen a hundred summers come and go,
Methought he changed, and on his naked back                                    39
Had drawn a cassock, on his head a cowl,
And so, transformed into a very monk,
Moaned answer to his comrades, turn’d to daws
There in the Priory, cawing high in the air
Their pax vobiscum!
                                       With a laugh then cried
Douglas the scoffer, puffing his cigar—
“The dream was apt, Miranda! Strip the monk
In new tunes as in old, you find beneath
The satyr’s skin; beneath the black rogue’s cowl,
The satyr’s swinish leer.’ But scornfully
Tossing her python ringlets, she replied—
“The monks were men, and in their holy hearts,
And in their weary eyes, though filled with dust,
The elemental pagan lingered still.
I read a tale once in a dusty book
Bought at a bookstall in a dusty street
At Florence—how, long centuries ago,
When all the world was gray because of Christ,
A sudden glory of the buried world                                                     40
Flashed from the tomb, as Cytherea rose
From darkness of the weary and rainy sea;
And how a monk (no satyr, but a soul
Pure as this sapphire on my finger, sir!),
Having with eyes of wonder seen the sight,
Died of its rapture. Have you heard the tale?
I put it into rhymes which Sweetsong praised
One week I was his guest at Sunbury.”

“Give us the tale!” we cried, and at a nod
From Barbara, our queen and arbitress,
Miranda shook her locks and thus began:—



Julia Cytherea:




WITH shadow black upon the convent wall
In fierce white light the musing Monk doth crawl;
         He sees the lizards pass
         Beneath him on the grass;—
Silent as they, he stirs, and that is all.

With blood that slippeth slow as hour-glass sand,
He weeds the garden with his lean long hand,
         The sun beats down on him,
         But, sunless and most dim,
His sad eyes downward look upon the land.

Yet once or twice he riseth up his height,                                             42
Gaunt as a tree he loometh in the light,
         And gazeth far away
         Where, through the trembling day,
Rome sits and gleams, insufferably bright.

His hand he presses on his breast and sighs,
Towers, churches, temples, wearily he spies;
         His black eyes blink i’ the ray,
         His bloodless cheek keeps gray;
He stoops again, and weeds, with weary eyes.

To him there leapeth one with eager bound,
Crying, “Ho, Marcus, leave thy garden ground—
         Gird up thy loins and come
         Down to the streets of Rome—
Behold the miracle which men have found!

“’Tis Venus’ self,—with lips still poppy-red,
Light on her cheeks, bright gold upon her head,
         Divine, yet cold in death,                                                           43
         Still living without breath,
As white and chill as is her marble bed;

“By some dark chemic trick of fingers old
Embalm’d within that ivory coffin cold,
         A thousand years i’ the tomb
         Her cheek hath kept its bloom,
Her eyes their glory, and her hair its gold.

“Come down and look upon her in her rest,
Her white hands crost upon her whiter breast;
         One fold of fleecy dress
         Covers her nakedness;
Her face doth smile, as though her dreams are blest.”

The pale monk Marcus scarcely heeds or hears—
He stands and through the sunlight sadly peers—
         “Thou ravest, get thee gone!”
         He murmureth anon—
Thin sounds his voice, yea, faint as falling tears.

That other crieth, “Doubt me not, but go!                                            44
Venus awakes; Rome’s buried blossoms blow;
         Not Christ in His winding-sheet
         Was half so pure and sweet—
Run to the Capitol, and thou shalt know!”

He cries, and soon around him others come,
All panting, pointing to the far-off dome,—
         Till, drawn from his cold height
         To look upon the sight,
The pale monk Marcus creepeth down to Rome.



Now mark what old traditions tell
Of how this miracle befell. . . .

Nigh fifteen centuries had shed
Their snows upon the sad Earth’s head
Since on the heights of perfect peace
Where banqueted the gods of Greece,
One starry midnight there did rise                                                       45
That pallid Shape with human eyes,
Who, clad in grave-clothes and thorn-crown’d,
Stood silently and gazed around
From face to face,—and as on each
He looked in sorrow with no speech,
Each face grew wan and chill as clay,
And faded wearily away!
Ay, one by one those forms had fled,
Till all the heavenly host were dead,
Cast down and conquer’d, overthrown
Like broken shapes of marble stone.
Pallas, with pansies in her hair,
Like to a statue wondrous fair
Stricken and fall’n;—Selene white,
Cold, sleeping in the starry light;
Great Zeus, Apollo, and sad Pan,
With all his flocks Arcadian,
Strewn down like dead leaves on the tomb
Of Him who slew them in their bloom.
All dead! the brightest and the best!                                                    46
And Cytherea with the rest!

And now He too, who cast in thrall
All shapes within that banquet-hall,
Who came to slay and overcome
The shining gods of Greece and Rome,
Had crept again to find repose
In the dark grave from which He rose;
And there for fifteen centuries
Had lain unseen with closèd eyes,
Had slept, and had not stirr’d a limb,
Though men grew mad for lack of Him.
“Awake, O Christ!” they cried in pain,
“For lo! no other gods remain;
And Thou hast promised to return
With robes that flame and eyes that burn,
’Midst thunder-flash and trumpet-peal,
Legions of angels at Thy heel,
To take Thy throne, and overwhelm
Thine enemies, and rule Thy realm!”                                                    47
In vain! Within His clay-cold prison
Silent He slept, and had not risen—
Though all the other gods were fled,
Though no god ruled the quick or dead,
Though all the eyes of Earth were wet,
He slept,—and had not risen yet.

Meantime, to keep his name in Rome,
The Eighth Pope Innocent had come
Instead of Christ, and from Christ’s seat
Thrown down his bastards to the street—
So wither’d up with sin and death,
The dark world drew laborious breath
Beneath his footstool;—and no fair
Dead god would waken to its prayer!

It happen’d at this very time,
When in the sinful Church’s slime
Grew monsters of malignant birth,
To eat man’s substance on the earth,
And sit, where gods had sat, in Rome                                                 48
(Where Christ would sit if He should come),
In this dark moment of eclipse,
When prayer was silent on the lips
And faith was dead within the thought,
The mystic miracle was wrought.
For Lombard workmen, on a day,
Digging beneath the Appian way,
Sifting the ruins of Rome dead,
Untomb’d, in wonder and in dread,
A marble coffin strangely scroll’d,
Enwrought with ivory and with gold.
Stain’d was it with great earthen stains,
Worn with the washing of the rains,
And splash’d with blots of blood-red clay,
But sealèd as a shrine it lay;
And when they raised it to the light,
After a thousand years of night,
Their eyes read its inscription thus:
Julia, the child of Claudius!

The Church authorities were brought—                                               49
Great cardinals in raiment wrought
With gold and red, and trains resplendent
Of mighty priests and monks attendant;
And while these cross themselves and strew
The coffin cold with holy dew,
They force the lid, and lo! they find—
Not dust to scatter on the wind,
Not bleaching bones, not blacken’d clay
Horrible in the light of day,
Nought o’er whose sweetness Death hath power,
Not dark corruption,—but a Flower!

Flower of the flesh, as soft and new
As when she drank the sun and dew,
Golden her hair with light from heaven,
As if she slept but yester-even;
Her lips, that softly lay apart,
Still red as any beating heart;
Her form, still fairy-like and bright,
Though marble-cold and lily-white,—                                                  50
Her hands, unwither’d, softly prest
Upon her still unstainèd breast,—
A Maiden Flower she slumber’d there,
After a thousand years still fair,
Within her white sarcophagus.

“Julia, the child of Claudius!”

Out of the coffin cold as ice
Rich fumes of cinnabar and spice
Still floated; as she lay within
Flower-sweet she scented, and her skin
Shone as anointed. One soft fold
Of precious woof around her roll’d
Half veil’d, with its transparent dress,
Her lithe and luminous loveliness;
Upon her wrists bracelets of gold
Were fastened; on one finger cold
Glimmer’d an onyx ring. So sweet,
She lay, embalm’d from head to feet,                                                 51
Kept (by some secret long forgot)
Without a stain, without a spot,
As when, a thousand years before,
In days of god and emperor,
She closed her eyes and slumber’d thus.

“Julia, the child of Claudius!”

When thus she turn’d with soft last breath
Into the chilly arms of Death,
She might have seen the happy light
Some sixteen years,—but form so bright
Ne’er trembled between childish glee
And tremulous virginity.
Only a child; yet far too fair
For any child of mortal air,
Since Passion’s fiery flame, it seem’d,
Still play’d about her locks, and stream’d
From ’neath her eyelids; and her limbs
Were amber with such light as swims                                                  52
Round Love’s own altar; and her lips,
Untouch’d by darkness or eclipse,
Were wonderful and poppy-red
With kisses of a time long dead,—
When Love indeed in naked guise
Still walk’d the world with awful eyes
And flaming hair. So fair she lay,
Burning like amber in the ray,
As burns a lamp with sweet oils fed
Within some shrine no foot may tread,
No hand of any mortal mar;
And as men gaze on some new star,
Men marvell’d while they gazed on her.

Soundly she slept, and did not stir:
And far away beyond the sea
The white Christ slept as sound as she!



They bore her to the Capitol,
And left her lying, where the whole
Of Rome might look upon her face.

And lo! her beauty fill’d the place
Like very sunlight, and her lips
Seem’d redder, and her finger-tips
Pink-tinted, and the scent that came
Out of her mouth seem’d fraught with flame
Of a live burning heart; and lo!
Her gold-hair caught a deeper glow,
Making an aureole of light
Around her forehead waxen white;
And those who gazed upon her thus,
Within her white sarcophagus,
Were awed, and felt their hearts grow faint
Like folk that look on some dead saint.
“No saint is she,” the pale priests said,
“But of an evil beauty dead                                                                54
The ghost accurst. Behold again
The pagan world that Christ hath slain,
Kept by the charm of God, to show
The fate of fairest flesh below!”
And as they murmur’d thus anew
They sprinkled her with holy dew,
And while they sprinkled her some thought
The sleeper smiled!
                             And thus through Rome,
And o’er the land, and past the foam,
The rumour of her glory flies;
And flocking underneath the skies
From dawn to sunset, great crowds press
To look upon her loveliness.
Prelates and kings and courtiers throng
With priests and nobles; old and young;
Matron and maid and girl o’ the street,
And wicked women scented sweet;
Soldier and beggar, monk and clown;
Nuns from the cloisters, peasants brown                                            55
From the far hills—
                                 Last, to the place
There cometh, deathly pale of face,
His heart scarce fluttering in his breast,
The tall monk Marcus with the rest.



He came, he gazed upon her there,
Her closèd eyes, her clinging hair,
Her marble cheek just flush’d with red;
And first he shrank away in dread
Like one who fears to break with sound
The charm which wraps some sleeper round;
Then, in the fumes of spice and myrrh
That floated round and over her,
Kindling a sense that sweeten’d Death,
He seem’d to drink her very breath,—
And creeping closer—like a snake
That croucheth low in a green brake,                                                   56
Watching a lambkin starry white
Which lieth still and slumbereth light—
He watch’d in fascination deep
The crystal mirror of her sleep;
And though they thrust him oft aside,
Crept back to mark her, vacant-eyed
Like one that dreams.
                                     Wolf-like and gaunt,
Full of some secret woe and want
Only that loveliness could still,
Lost to all other wish and will,
He paused, while others went and came;
And when his comrades named his name
He only turn’d a silent face
Upon them for a moment’s space,
And smiled, then dumbly gazed once more.

Ever across the marble floor,
With murmurs deep and whispers low,
The wondering folk did come and go—                                              57
But never voice or footfall loud,
Nor all the trouble of the crowd,
Awoke that sleeper from her rest;
And when upon her marble breast
And o’er her brow and on her lips
The sunlight’s trembling finger-tips
Were laid blood-red, she slumber’d on!

And when the wondering crowds were gone,
And silent night fell down on Rome,
And ’neath the Capitolian dome
The shadows blacken’d, still she lay
Beauteous as she had been by day;—
For round her limbs and o’er her hair
Trembled a light serenely fair,
And all the darkness of the place
Felt the soft starlight of her face;—
Upon her, from the dome o’erhead,
Great shadowy shapes of spirits dread
Gazed darkly down, and all around                                                    58
The shadows brooded with no sound;—
Without, beyond the doorway, fell
The arm’d heel of the sentinel,
Who paced in vigil to and fro
Under the mighty portico.

Then, when the Capitol was dark,
And not a living eye might mark,
When the great City slumber’d deep
Wrapt in its azure robe of sleep,
Out of some shadowy hiding-spot,—
Wherein, unseen, suspected not,
He had linger’d darkly on till then,—
Crept, like a wild beast from its den,
Marcus the Monk! Silent, alone,
With naked feet on the cold stone,
He rose and feebly felt his way
To the cold coffin where she lay;
And looking down as in a dream
He caught the dim and doubtful gleam                                                 59
Of the cold face he could not see.
Then kneeling low on bended knee
He clutch’d with fingers clammy cold
The coffin wrought about with gold,
And drank with lips as cold as ice
The scents of cinnabar and spice
That hover’d o’er the form divine
Sleeping therein as in a shrine.
Then, lo! beyond the painted pane,
The Moon rose, wan and on the wane,
And gentle amber light was shed
Upon the live form and the dead;
And Marcus rose his height and stood,
While from his head the monkish hood
Fell darkly back, and on his brow
Starlight like hoar-frost trembled now,
And in his eyes there gleam’d again
Hope like despair, rapture like pain.
Thus, with his thin hand on his heart,
His sad lips softly held apart,                                                              60
He gazed in fascination deep
Upon that passion-flower of Sleep!
More beautiful, more strangely sweet,
Than in the daylight’s golden heat,
More softly still, more dimly bright,
Clothed in the mystery of the night,
With small hands folded on her breast,
She slumbers on in balmy rest.
And now the yellow moonlight lies
Upon her lips and closèd eyes,
Gleams on her hair of braided gold,
Fades on her forehead marble-cold,
And o’er her as she lies in death
Trembles and broods like frozen breath!
Still mystical and strange to sight,
Though marble-cold and lily white,
A maiden-flower she slumbers there,
After a thousand years still fair,
Within her white sarcophagus!

     Then, haggard, wild-eyed, tremulous,                                            61
Clasping her coffin gold-enwrought,
Marcus the Monk gazed down and caught
From the still splendour of her look
Strange madness, and his sick soul shook
With dark despairs. Then made he moan:—
“Flower fair as thou no man hath known
Since Christ came down—but in thy stead,
And in the place of sweet gods dead,
The harlot and the concubine
Sit haggard, sharing bread and wine
At Christ’s own board, and mocking man
Within the very Vatican!
And Christ is dead and will not rise,
Though, spat on by the cruel skies,
A thousand mortals spirit-sore
Creep to His dark tomb and implore;—
Yea, the stark Skeleton therein,
With shrouded limbs and bandaged chin,
Lies still and hears not, crumbling down
Beside its crimson thorny crown.                                                         62
Decay is there, and deep decay
Within a million tombs of clay,
And dark decay of craft and creed
Within a million hearts that bleed;
Yet here, though all fair things have died,
Serene and fair thou dost abide,
Preserved to show to our dim sight
What shapes of wonder and of light
The gods our God has stricken low
Fashioned a thousand years ago.
O fair white lily, softly pearl’d
With dim dews of a happy world
Long lost, long miss’d—awake, awake!
And save the world for Beauty’s sake
Instead of Christ’s!” . . . .

                                 God, is he dreaming?
Is this thing sooth, or only seeming?
Why doth he tremble to his knees
In awe of some new sight he sees? . . .                                                63
The moon-rays turn to shapes of gold
Clinging around that coffin cold,—
The stars of night look in, and shine
With rapture tremulous and divine,—
The figures on the dome above
Glimmer, look down, and seem to move,—
And lo! the Sleeper’s shining hair
Grows yet more luminously fair,
And light like life’s pulsation swims
Faint blood-red through her lissome limbs.
Behold! she reddens like a rose,
Her bosom heaves, her eyes unclose,
And (as a maiden from her sleep
Stirs with a sigh serene and deep,
Half conscious of some broken dream,
Half dazzled by the morning beam)
She draws one long and balmy breath,
And turns upon her bed of death!



Her bed of death? She is not dead!
Her breath is warm, her lips are red,
Her hands are fluttering, softly prest
Against the warmth of her bright breast;
One knee is raised, and from its white
The fleecy lawn falls soft and light;
And, turning her bright head, she sees
The pale Monk moaning on his knees!
Then, as a little maid may see,
When awakening very peacefully,
Some one she loveth waiting near,
And gaze upon him with no fear,—
She looks upon his wondering face,
Smiles gently for a moment’s space,
Then reaches out her hand!
                                         “Christ God!
Master and Maker, ’neath whose rod
This man hath bent so many years,
In famine, fever, torture, tears,—                                                         65
Thou God by whom the gods of old
Are smitten low and coffin’d cold—
Strengthen Thy slave, if such he be,
Lest this thing slay him utterly!”
He takes her hand, he clasps it to him,
Rapture, like life-blood, kindles through him!
He kisseth it, he feels it warm,
He strains it to his famish’d form,
And crieth on—”Awake! arise!
Love on thy lips, light in thine eyes—
Arise! the wide world waits to be
Thy servant and to worship thee!
Awake! and let the gods that were,
Who shaped thee thus divinely fair,
And kept thee by some chemic charm
Imperishably bright and warm,
Awaken too, and take the crown
Of Him whose red Cross struck thee down.
He died, and will not wake, but thou                                                   66
Didst only rest and sleep till now!
And they who framed thee thus divine,
And seal’d thee in thy solemn shrine,
Perchance are only slumbering too!”

She stirs,—with brightening eyes of blue—
She rises from her pillow cold,
And rippleth down her locks of gold;
She shakes away the shroud of lawn
Around her soft sides lightly drawn;
She stretches out her arms snow-white,
She riseth up in the dim light,
She stands erect and smiling sweet,
With glistening limbs and rosy feet,
Upon the marble floor that gleams
Like water in the trembling beams!
Hast thou beheld in some green path
A nymph of stone, fresh from the bath,
One snowy foot within a pool                                                             67
That spreads beneath her rippling cool,
The other softly raised, the while
She draweth on with sleepy smile
Her garment,—and in act to dress
Frozen to everlastingness,
Full of some maiden thought doth look
In silent vision on the brook,
While her dark shadow under her
Stirs softly, though she doth not stir?
Even so that sleeper, when she rose
From that divinely deep repose,
Paused wondering at herself, and felt
The light flow round her limbs, and melt
On the white moonlit floor whereon
She stood erect, as still as stone.

Then unto Marcus it did seem
That all things trembled into dream!
Clinging around that maiden frame                                                      68
The moonlight kindled into flame,
And all the place grew burning gold
With beams more bright a thousandfold
Than beams of day; the coffin bright
Was heap’d with roses red and white,
And all the floor seem’d blossom-strewn
Crimson and white beneath the moon!
With heaving breasts and soft footfall,
Amid that glory mystical,
The Maiden moved, her eyes of fire
Answering his look of dumb desire,
Then lo! the very Capitol
Grew shrunken like a burning scroll,
And vanish’d;—the great City fled;—
The glory deepen’d overhead;—
Instead of stone beneath their feet
Were grass and blossoms scented sweet,
A blue sea wrinkling far away
Crept foam-fringed round a purple bay,
And through a green and flowery land,                                                69
     Under the cloudless sapphire skies,
Those twain were walking hand in hand,
     Looking into each other’s eyes!



In that green land of light and love
It seem’d enough to live and move—
To wander hand in hand and see
The dewy light on flower and tree,
The sparkling of the brooks and streams,
The hills asleep in sunny beams;
And then to glide on unafraid
Through warm deep groves of summer shade,
Where the hot sunlight’s golden blaze
Fell tangled into emerald rays. . . .
O hark! ’mid dingles green and deep
The dove’s cry, like a sound in sleep,
At intervals is faintly heard!
On her thin eggs the mother-bird
Sits brooding, while her mate is seen                                                  70
Flitting across the tree-tops green!

What shout is that, what sylvan cry?
What shapes are those that flash and fly?
Wood-nymphs and satyrs whirling round,
Naked and merry, and vine-crown’d;
Then with deep laugh and faint halloo
Far down the glade they fade from view. . . .
What faces bright are those that gaze
Out yonder from the leafy haze,
And smile, and vanish into air?

     Silent she stands, supremely fair,
Whiter than ivory, on a lawn
Flower-strewn and bright and deep-withdrawn
In the green bosom of the woods;
And while from the green solitudes
Come drowsy murmurs, sylvan cries,
He gazes gently in her eyes.
Beneath their feet a fountain’s pool                                                     71
Spreads o’er the grass and ripples cool,
And from the diamond depths below
A Naiad’s face as white as snow
Looks up, ’neath glimmering hands that braid
Her dripping locks in the green shade.

And now again the prospects gleam
Into the glory of a dream;
And lo! they stand ’mid sand and shells,
And watch the waves with sleepy swells
Rising and breaking drowsily
In a blue crescent of the sea.
Beyond them pastoral hills are seen
Mist-capt, but robed in purple sheen;                                                  [4:8]
And ’midst the clouds above them pass,
As in some old magician’s glass,
Shapes of Immortals that pursue
Their path across the dreamful blue.

     On the white sands they sit and rest,                                               72
His head is pillow’d on her breast;
He feels her heart’s warm go-and-come,
He sees the blue sea fringed with foam;
He marks the white clouds sailing slowly
Across the heavens serene and holy;
Then closes eyes—thrusts one warm hand
For coolness deep in the soft sand—
And with the other holdeth hers.
So still he sits and never stirs,
But feels his life and being blent
With all he loves, and is content.

Is it still dream? for now they pass
Along a pathway of deep grass,
And find where Venus sets her shrine
Amidst a flowery wood of pine:
And side by side they enter there,
And kneel with folded hands at prayer
A little space—and when ’tis done
Glide forth again into the sun.



What form is this in white arrayed
Far down the woodland colonnade,
Approaching slow with a black wand
Cross-shapen in her lily hand?
Is’t Cytherea?—is it she
Who rules the green earth and the sea,
Who moves abroad with fearless tread
Her hand upon a lion’s head,
Wherever men or beasts are wild,
And tames their hearts and makes them mild?

Slowly she comes,—a shape of grace,
Leading a lion,—and her face
Is white and cold and thin as death;
And as she cometh near her breath
Is very faint and feebly drawn,
And heavy on the shaven lawn
Her footstep falls, and in her eyes
Dwell deathly pain and sad surmise.
Why seem all things so sudden chill?                                                   74
Why grows the light on wood and hill
Frosty and faint? Why shrinks the sun
So coldly as she cometh on?

“Marcus!”—she cries,—and lo! he stands,
With pallid face and outstretch’d hands,
Gazing in awe—and from his lips
One wondering word in answer slips—
                       Yea, in sooth ‘tis she,
Mother of Him who died on Tree,
The Virgin from whose milky breast
He drank who set the world at rest!
Ah me! how pallid and how thin,
With clammy grave-cloth ’neath her chin,
And dust upon her golden hair,
She stands and looks upon him there!
Shuddering he moans, with low bent brow,
“Mother of God, what seekest thou?”
“What dost thou here?” the faint voice cries,                                        75
While underneath the darkening skies
All groweth dim. “Frail-hearted one,
Why hast thou ceased to serve my Son?
And who is this who now doth stand
Naked beside thee, with her hand
Thrust into thine, and hangs the head,
But shows her hot neck blushing red?
Let go her hand whoe’er she be—
And, for thy soul’s sake, follow me!”

But Marcus cried, “My Master lies,
Silent, with dust upon His eyes—
He sleeps and He will ne’er awake.
But lo! from cloud, from brook, from brake,
From every nook of earth and main,
The old gods gather once again.
Go back into thy grave once more—
Sleep with thy Son, thy reign is o’er—
Leave the green world to her and me,                                                 76
Nor mar our loves’ eternity!”

Paler the weary Mother grew,
And with her sunken eyes of blue
Gazed piteously a little space
Into his passion-fever’d face—
Then pointing with thin hand, she cried
To that fair semblance at his side—
“Follow me, thou! my grave is deep—
There by my pillow thou shalt sleep;
There shall we wait with darken’d eyes
In peace, until my Son shall rise!”

But Marcus clutch’d her with a cry,
And all things darken’d ’neath the sky,
And tall and terrible and white
The Virgin loom’d before his sight,
And with a finger cold as ice
Touch’d on the shining forehead thrice
That gentle vision; and behold!
She shiver’d as with deathly cold,
And lay a corpse of marble, prest                                                        77
In madness to his burning breast.

Then Marcus wail’d, “Lost! lost!” and lo!
The cruel heavens began to snow,
And all was dark, and a shrill gale
Of wintry wind began to wail;
But clasping her with piteous cries,
He kiss’d her on the mouth and eyes,
And kissing cried, “Awake! awake!”
Till his heart broke for sorrow’s sake;
     And heavy as a stone he fell.



     At dawn (as old traditions tell),
When the pale priests and soldiers came
To see once more that shining frame
Within her marble tomb, behold!
Still beautiful, with locks of gold,
Unfaded to the finger-tips,                                                                  78
With faint pink cheeks and rose-red lips,
Her they found softly sleeping on;
And by her, turn’d to senseless stone,
Watching her face with eyes of lead,
Knelt the monk Marcus, cold and dead.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Part VI: v. 4, l. 8: Mist-capt, but roped in purple sheen;]


He ceased, to a chorus from the Priory walls                                       79
Of daws thick-throated. Straightway Douglas cried,
“It is the caws, my soul, it is the caws!
Hark how the dusky rascals echo her!
They vaunt the merriment of cakes and ale,
And other succulent sweets they loved when monks,
Above all kneeling and praying in the dark
That make the stony heart and horny knee!”
But no one laughed, for on our souls the tale
Fell with a touch of sweet solemnity;
And we were silent, till a quiet voice,
Low like a woman’s, murmured: “Oftentimes
I have dreamed a dream like that (if dream it were),
And seen, instead of Cytherea’s eyes,
The orbs of Dian, passionately pure,
Witching the world to worship!”
                                                     He who spoke—
A man with heavily hanging under lip,
Man’s brow above a maiden’s moist blue eyes—                               80
Was Verity, the gentle priest of Art,
A vestal spirit, not too masculine
To avoid those seizures epileptiform
Which virgins have when yielding oracles.
He, by the affinity of sex which draws
The ivy to the oak-tree, long had loved
Not wisely but too well, though reverently,
The Scottish prophet, Thomas Ercildoune,
Who, thundering for the nations seventy years,
Found in the end that he had merely soured
The small beer and the milk of his own dwelling.
He, Verity, though all his soul was love,
Had from his master learned the scolding trick,
And so was somewhat shrewish out o’ doors.
Inside the temple where he ministered
His soul was solemnised to perfect speech,
And many a storm-toss’d wanderer, listening to him,
Had worshipt and been saved.
                                                 “How sweet it were,”                       81
He added, “in this godless age of Fact,
When hideous monsters of machinery
Are fashioned unto largess-giving gods,
To uprear on some green mountain-side a shrine
To Artemis, the goddess of the pure!
For if, as Heine held, the gentler gods
Whom Christ drave forth from heaven with whip of cords
Survive, but banish’d into lonely lands
Do gloomy task work for their bitter bread,
Somewhere on this sad earth the heaven-eyed Maid
Wears homespun, turns the wheel, and is a slave.
Upbuild her temple, make it beautiful
With shapes of marble wonderfully wrought,
Strew it with flowers of antique witchery,
And on the altar let the lunar beam
Sleep like the white and sacrificial Lamb;
And thither on some peaceful summer night
Perchance the weary one will come, and shed
Peace on the eyelids of her worshippers!”

     We listen’d wondering, some with pitying smiles,                            82
And others credulous of the fantasy.
I answered, “Who shall find her? We, who dwell
In cities vast and foul as Babylon,
Have seen, or seemed to see, the baser gods,
Her sisters and her brethren, busy yet
As spirits of the orgy and the dance.
Smooth Hermes, full of craft as when he filch’d
Apollo’s horses, wears a modern coat,
And helps the citizen to cheat on ’Change;
And Jupiter, though feeble and rheumatic,
Leading his moulting eagle on the chain,
Still creeps about the distant villages
And prompts the silly preacher as he throws
His Calvinistic lightnings at the boors;
And who that ever walk’d down Regent Street
At midnight, or some garish summer day
At Paris saw the Grand Prix lost and won,
Has failed to note the pink divinity,
In rags or silk and sealskin, still the same
As when she tript Adonis long ago!                                                     83
But for the other, Dian, Artemis,
Athenian or Ephesian, who shall say
The pure thing lives, where nought that lives is pure?
The sunshine knows her not, and the sweet moon,
Which used to shine upon her ivory limbs
Bright and pellucid in her dusky bath,
Now lights the pale street-walker at her trade,
And there’s an end.”
                                   Buller from Brazenose,
Another priest of Art, who holds that Art
Is lost if clothed or draped, and in whose eyes
The very fig-leaf is a priest’s device
To mar the fair and archetypal Eve,
Broke in with mincing speech and courteous sneer—
“I have heard that when that good man George the Third
Reign’d o’er his farm, this England, Artemis
Was noticed raining happy influences
Over the national pig-sty! Later still,
Arm’d with the British matron’s household broom,                             84
She drove our Byron out and bang’d the door.
Since then, thank God!—or say, since Wordsworth died
[Poor man, he came to physic a sick world
That wanted wine, and gave it curds and whey!]—
Your goddess has been seldom heard or seen.
Doubtless she drudges in some parson’s house
As far as Lapland, where the temperature
Is like her bosom, virginal and cold.
We want her not in England! Heaven forbid!
We need the sun of love to warm our blood,
Apollo’s blaze and Cytherea’s breath
To thaw our lives and prove us men indeed!”

While thus he spake, I noticed in our midst
A pale young man who had come into the world
White-hair’d, and so looked old before his time;
His eye was burning, and his delicate hand
Was thrust into his bosom, touching there
Some secret treasure. Listening he stood,
Eager to speak, yet dumb through diffidence.                                       85
To him the pythoness Miranda Jones
Exclaimed, “What secret are you hiding there,
Close to your heart, or shirt-front, Cousin Fred?
I’ll swear—a poem!” Turning with a laugh
To Barbara, she added, “Speak to him!
My cousin Frederick is a poet too,
And fain I know would win a poet’s praise
From this fair company and you, its Queen.”

Then blushing like a girl, and glancing up
To encounter Barbara’s smile of kind command,
The young man answered, “Nay, indeed ’tis naught—
The merest trifle—not a tale at all;
Yet strangely enough, it touches rhyme by rhyme
Upon the very quest of which they speak;—
I too,” he added, blushing still more deep,
“Have chased that same Diana, in a song!”

“Then prithee read it,” cried Queen Barbara,
And other voices clamour’d echoing her;
And drawing a paper from his breast, the youth                                   86
Glanced timidly around the company,
And then with eye that kindled like a coal
Blown with the breath, he eagerly began.



The Earthquake 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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