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Harriett Jay

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{The Earthquake 1885}





“O who will worship the great god Pan
     Out in the woods with me,
Now the chestnut spreadeth its seven-leaved fan
     Over the hive of the bee?
Now the cushat cries, and the fallow deer
     Creep on the woodland way,
O who will hearken, and try to hear
     The voice of the god to-day?”

One May morning as I woke
Thus the sweet Muse smiling spoke,
Resting pure and radiant-eyed
On the pillow at my side,—
Sweetest Muse that ever drew
Light from sunlight, earth, and dew,
Sweeter Muse and more divine                                                           88
Than the faded spinsters Nine!
Up I sprang and cried aloud,
“May-day morn, and not a cloud!
Out beyond the City dark
Spring awakes in Bushey Park;
There the royal chestnuts break
Into golden foam and make
Waxlike flowers like honeycomb,
Whither humming wild bees roam;
While upon the lakes, whereon
Tritons blow through trumps of stone,
The great water-lily weaves
Milk-white cups and oilčd leaves.
Phillis dear, at last ’tis May!
Take my hand and come away!”

Out of town by train we went,
Poor but merrily content,
Phillis in her new spring dress,                                                             89
Dainty bonnet lily-white,
Warm with youth and loveliness,
     Full of love and love’s delight;
I, the lonely outcast man,
Happy and Bohemian,                                                                        [3:8]
Loving all and hating none
Of my brethren ’neath the sun.
Soon, a dozen miles away,
     From the train we lightly leapt,
Saw the gardens glancing gay
     Where the royal fountains leapt,
Heard the muffled voices cry
In the deep green Maze hard by,
Heard the happy fiddler’s din
From the gardens of the inn;
Saw the ’prentice lads and lasses,
     Pale with dreary days of town,
Shuffling feet and jingling glasses;
While, like flies around molasses,                                                       90
Gipsies gathered dusky brown!
O the merry, merry May!
O the happy golden day!
Pan was there, and Faunus too,
All the romping sylvan crew,
Nature’s Mćnads flocking mad
From the City dark and sad,
Finding once again the free
Sunshine and its jollity!
Phillis smiled and leapt for joy,
I was gamesome as a boy;
Gaily twang’d the fiddle-string,
Men and maids played kiss-in-ring,
Fountains leapt against the sun,
     Roses bloom’d and children played,
All the world was full of fun,
     Lovers cuddled in the shade!
What though God was proved to be
Paradox and fantasy?
What though Christ had ceased to stir                                                91
From his lonely selpulchre?
“If the Trinity be dead,
     Pagan gods are still alive!
Fast they come to-day,” I said,
     “Thick as bees from out a hive!
Pan is here, with all his train
     Flocking out of street and lane;
Flora in a cotton gown
     Ties her garter stooping down;
Town bred Sylvan plump and fat
Weareth lilac in his hat;
Faun and satyr laughing pass,
     Hither and thither Venus roams,
Gay Bacchantes on the grass
     Laughingly adjust their combs!—
Phillis, all the world is gay
In the merry, merry May!”

“O who will worship the great god Pan
     At Hampton Court with me?”
She cried, and unto the Maze we ran 
Laughing so merrily.
“The sun is bright, and the music plays,
     And all is May,” sang she:
And I caught my love in the heart of the Maze
     With kisses three times three.

Down the chestnut colonnades
Full of freckled light and shades,
Soon we saw the dappled deer,
Pricking hairy tail and ear,
Stand like Fauns with still brown eyes
     Looking on us as we came.
Faint behind us grew the cries,
     Merry music and acclaim,
Till we found beneath a tree
All the peace of Arcady.
Lying there, where green boughs spread
     Curtains soft against the sky,
While the stock-dove far o’erhead
     Pass’d with solitary cry,
Now and then we look’d around                                                        93
Listening, till distinct and clear
Came the cuckoo’s call profound
     From some happy Dreamland near!
Happy as a heart of gold
     Shook the sunshine everywhere,
Throbbing pulses manifold
     Through the warmly panting air;
On the leaves and o’er the grass
     Living things were thronging bright,
’Neath a sky as clear as glass
     Flashing rays of life and light.
All things gladden’d ’neath the blue,
While we kiss’d and gladden’d too.
“Praised be golden Pan,” I said,
“All the duller gods are dead;
But the wood-god wakes to-day
In the merry, merry May!”

“O who will worship the great god Pan?”
     I cried as I clasped you, dear;
“Form of a faun and soul of a man,
He plays for the world to hear;
Sweetly he pipeth beneath the skies,
     For a brave old god is he!”
O I kissed my love on the lips and eyes!
     And O my love kissed me!

Slowly, softly, westward flew
Day on wings of gold and blue;
As she faded out of sight
Dark and balmy fell the night.
Silent ’neath the azure cope,
Earth, a naked Ethiope
Reach’d black arms up through the air,
     Dragging down the branches bright
Of the flowering heavens, where
     Starry fruitage glimmer’d white!
As he drew them gently near,
Dewdrops dim and crystal clear
     Rain’d upon his face and eyes!
Listening, watching, we could hear                                                       95
His deep breathing ’neath the skies;—
Suddenly, far down the glade,
Startled from some place of shade,
Like an antelope the dim
Moon upsprang, and looked at him!
Panting, trembling, in the dark,
Paused to listen and to mark,
Then with shimmer dimly fair
     On from shade to shade did spring,
Gain’d the fields of heaven, and there
     Wander’d, calmly pasturing!

“O who will worship the great god Pan
     Out in the woods with me?
Maker and lover of woman and man,
     Under the stars sings he;
And Dian the huntress with all her train
     Awakes to the wood-notes wild!”
O I kissed my love on the lips again,
     And Dian looked down and smiled.                                             [8:8]

Hand in hand without a care                                                                96
Following the Huntress fair,
Wheresoe’er we went we found
Silver footprints on the ground:
Grass and flowers kept the shine
Of the naked feet divine.
Now and then our eyes could see,
     As we softly crept along
Through the dusky greenery,
     Glimmers of the vestal throng—
Locks of gold and limbs of snow
     Fading on as we came near,
Faint soft cries and laughter low
     Ceasing as we paused to hear!
O the night more sweet than day!
O the merry, merry May!
O the rapture dark and deep
Of the woodlands hush’d to sleep!
O the old sweet human tune
Pan is piping to the moon!
“Though the systems wax and wane,                                                  97
Thou and I,” he sings, “remain—
Both by night and one by day
Witch a world the old warm way!
Foot it, foot it! Where you tread
Woods are greenly carpeted.
Foot it round me as I sing
Nymphs and satyrs in a ring!

“Gnarled and old sits the great god Pan—
     (Peep through the boughs, and see!)—
He plays on his pipes Arcadian
     Under the dark oak-tree.
But the boughs are dark round his sightless eyes—
     And Dian, where is she?
O follow, follow, and where she flies
     Follow her flight with me!”

Slowly, dreamily, we crept
     From the silent sleeping park,
Join’d the merry throng that swept                                                       98
Townward through the summer dark.
Shining round our path again,
Dian flash’d before the train,
In upon our comrades shone,
Smiled and beckon’d, bounding on!
Satyrs brown in corduroys
     Smoked their pipes and join’d in song
Gamesome girls and merry boys
     Fondled as we swept along;
Here a flush’d Bacchante prest
     Heavy head and crumpled bonnet
On her drowsy lover’s breast,
     Sprawling drowsily upon it;
Flush’d from dancing sports of Pan
Sat the little artizan,
With his wife and children three,
And the baby on his knee;
Here a little milliner,
     Smart in silk and shape-improver,
All the happy Spring astir                                                                   99
In her veins, sat by her lover;
Mounted somewhere on the train,
     Pan on the accordion played!
Rough feet shuffled to the strain,
     Happy hearts the spell obeyed;
While fair Dian, looking in,
Saw the throng and heard the din,
Touch’d the young heads and the grey
With the magic of the May!

“O who will worship the great god Pan,
     Where life runs wild and free?
Form of a faun and soul of a man,
     He playeth eternallie.
And Dian is out on the azure waste
     As bright as bright can be!”
O my arm embraced my love’s small waist,
     And my love crept close to me!

When we reached the streets of stone                                                 100
Dian there was bright before us,
Wading naked and alone
     In the pools of heaven o’er us!
Fainter came the wood-god’s sound
     As we crossed the Bridge, and there
Saw the City splendour-crown’d
     Sleeping dark in silver air;
Saw the river dark beneath
Rippling dim to Dian’s breath.
Phillis nestling to my side
     Watch’d the sad street-walker pass,
Hollow-voiced and weary-eyed,
     Painted underneath the gas.
Paler, sadder, looked the moon,
Sadder grew the old sweet tune;
Shapes of sorrow and despair
Flitted ghostwise in the air,
And among them, wan and slow,
Stalked the spectral Shape of Woe—
Piercčd hands and piercčd feet                                                           101
Passing on from street to street;
Silently behind Him crept
Pallid Magdalens who wept!                                                               [13:24]
All the world at His footfall
     Darken’d, and the music ceased—
Dark and sacrificial
     Loom’d the altars of the priest,
All the magic died away
And the music of the May.                                                                  [13:30]

“O who will worship the great god Pan
     Here in the streets with me?                                                       [14:2]
Sad and tearful and weary and wan
     Is the god who died on the Tree;
But Pan is under and Dian above,
     Though the dead god cannot see,
And the merry music of youth and love
     Returns eternallie!”

Homeward went my love and I                                                          102
To our lodging near the sky;
There beside the snow-white bed
     Dian stood with radiant eyes!
Smiled a moment ere she fled—
Then, with halo round her head,
     Hung above us in the skies!
By the casement open wide
Long we watch’d her side by side;
While from the dark streets around
Came again the sylvan sound—
Pan was softly piping there
     As he pipes in field and grove,
Conquering sorrow and despair
     With the strains of life and love!
Phillis in her bedgown white
     Kissed me, standing in the moon;
Louder, sweeter, through the night
     Rang the olden antique tune;
Gently on my knee I drew her                                                             103
Smiling as I heard her say,
All her warm life kindling through her,
     “Dearest, what a happy day!”
“’Tis a happy world,” I said;
“Pan still pipes, though Christ is dead!”


‘Pan At Hampton Court’ was also included in The New Rome (1898), with the following changes:
v. 3, l. 8: Happy and Bohemian.
The following lines are omitted:
Loving all and hating none
Of my brethren ’neath the sun.
v. 8, l. 8: And Dian looked down and smiled!
v.13, l. 24: Foolish Magdalens who wept!
v. 13, l. 30: And the music of the May!
v. 14, l. 2: Here in the streets with me! ]


BLUSHING he ceased, and folded up the scroll,                                    104
While Sappho Syntax through her spectacles
Looked grave as Pallas, and the Graces hung
Their pink-white cheeks and titter’d among their curls.
Dan Paumanok the Yankee pantheist
Was first to speak; quoth he, “I like that song!
It suits me, it tastes pleasant in the mouth;
But Christ is just as much alive as Pan,
Not less or more; and for the Magdalen,
I guess she suits me too. I beckon her
To an appointment, and she smiling comes:
The paint upon her lips is just as good
As roses, and her loose wild dress surpasses
The lily’s raiment——”
                                       He was talking on,                                     105
When Douglas interposed—“May I suggest
The moral of the ditty? It is here:
The joys of costermongers and their wenches,
Of poets and their sweethearts, vindicate
Nature’s loose morals and the primal Fall.
Eat, drink, be merry—carpe diem—since
Man is a Satyr; half a beast at best,
When wholly so, most happy! Am I right,
Madonna?” This to Lady Barbara,
Who sat with pensive cheek upon her hand,
Her bright eyes tender with some summer dream.
“Nay, Fool!” she sighed; and “Nay,” cried Verity,
With delicate nostril breathing vestal fire,
“The passionate eternal purity,
Bright Artemis, who walks the fields of night
And trims with lustrous hands the lamps of heaven,
Rebukes the eternal riot of the sense!
Woe to the land wherein the Satyr reigns,
And Pan usurps Apollo’s ivory throne!
Thank God we Englishmen at last have heard,                                    106
Amidst the pagan orgy and the shame
Of yonder City, Nature’s warning voice
Of Earthquake,—with the wine-cup raised to drink,
Have read the handwriting on the riven wall
In characters of His eternal fire!”

“Superfluous was the warning,” interposed
Wormwood, the pessimist philosopher;
“Man needs no miracle to attest the law
Which made him and preserves him miserable!
Like fabled Tantalus in the poet’s song,
In aquis quoerit aquas, and pursues
The ever-flying apple. Let him gladden
A little in the sunshine if he can—
To-morrow he must die!”
                                           “Man cannot die!”
Shrill’d the sleek pantheist, Spinoza Smith;
“For though the individual perishes,
The sum Divine, cipher of which Man is,
Abides imperishable. Thought alone                                                   107
Is God, and is the only Absolute;
And Thought remains though men and systems fade.
The music lasts, the instrument is changed:
Thought was, is, and shall be; Thought has at last
Become material in Humanity.
The consciousness of the Eternal flames
Upon the mirror of thy consciousness,
And for a moment while the splendour lasts
Thou knowest and perceivest. Die, and lo!
The light that was and is thy consciousness
Abides divine and indestructible,—
Invisible, with power to re-emerge
In forms material, other instruments,
In forms and hues which figure Thought divine;
Yea, even letters, which like hieroglyphs
Preserve the eternal attributes of Soul.
Thus man is God, and therefore cannot die.”

Quoth Paumanok dryly, “What you say is true,
But with interpretations! Man emerges                                                108
From the Divine Idea, to gain, not lose,
Identity, and once identified
I guess he cannot once again retire
Impersonal; having become as God
By knowing and perceiving, he remains
Godlike, immortal, and has vanquish’d Death!”

“We wander,” said Queen Barbara with a smile,
“Far from our starting-place. Great Rome still stands
Upon the solid ground, the mighty rock;
Philosophy with heavy and weary wing
Still seeks to rise, but flaps along the ground;
And poets’ dreams of fairyland and gods
Are fantasies too faint for flesh and blood.”

Then Cuthbert spoke, our Modern Abelard—
The Church’s outcast, foe of all the creeds,
But most at war with his own unbelief,
A priest at heart, yet scorning every form
Of priesthood, dim-eyed through excess of light,                                 109
Believing nought, believing everything,
And groping through his doubts he knew not whither.
“Rome conquer’d where she crown’d the hopes of man
With a celestial promise, but she failed
Where the old pagan triumphed—in a joy
Material, archetypal, quick not dead,
That met the happy needs of human life.
We are mortal and immortal; mortal first,
Women and men, although eternal souls;
And warring with the laws of life and love,
Rejecting flesh which symbolises God,
Blind to the law of Nature, seeing not
Thought and material are but woof and web,
Scorning the animal instinct and its pleas
For sunshine and free light, free exercise
Of life and breath, Rome turned the world she ruled
Into a lazar-den and sepulchre.
She proved Man cannot die, but failed to prove
That Man is fit to live; she comforted
The grief of Man, but caused the tears she dried;                                110
She slew the idolatries of heathendom,
But made an image of the living God,
And lapsed, as all idolaters must lapse,
To darkness and despair. Yet she endures,—
The blind old Mother, grovelling on the ground
In purple sad as sackcloth, and the world
Still sees the sceptre that is but a reed
Shake in her palsied hand. Too weary and old
To learn the lesson that the infant Man
Is prattling at her knee, she lieth prone,
And measures—her own grave!”
                                                   So saying, he turned
To one who stood and listened at his side—
Sparkle, Professor of the Institute,—
A tall lithe man, brown as a mountaineer,
Who through a glittering eyeglass, the bright pane
Fix’d in his intellectual dwelling-house,
Half study, half observatory, gazed
Serenely on the follies of the world.
“Right, right, dear Cuthbert,” answering his look,                                 111
Sparkle replied; “and yet, and yet—who knows?
I have often thought with Comte that fallen Rome
Might yet arise, if she would cast aside
Her supernatural fancies and baptize
Us wandering priests of Science, fashioning
A truly nobler order of the Wise
To rule the world and spread the solemn creed
Of Nature and the Law. She wastes her life
Mourning her Eldest Born, that beauteous soul
Who ere He perish’d, centuries ago,
Promised so wonderfully that the world
Is haunted by His memory even now!
Well, that is o’er, the golden bowl is broken,
The fair head still, within its Eastern grave;
But we who have come upon a stormier time,
The apostles of a sterner, saner creed,
Would gladly wake the Mother from her dream
And seat her on the throne of human thought.
Man craves a creed—we bring it; seeks a rule
Imperial,—she might wield it as of old;                                                112
Demands a priesthood,—we who follow Truth,
Far as the limits of the Knowable,
Would form that priesthood,—ay, and cheerfully
Elect our Pope and give him ample power,
Scarce stopping at infallibility!
’Tis sad so perfect a machinery
Should rust away dishonoured and disused
For lack of all it needs—a Hierarchy
Which might restore it for the use of men!”

Two priests of Rome, outcast, yet still of Rome,
(Since he who once hath ta’en the priestly garb
Is ever a priest), were in that company:
Both smiled, but neither answer’d; silent men,
With eyes that seem’d to suffer from the light
They shed on others, even there, amid
That throng of shallow or rebellious souls,
They both were busy sowing subtle seeds
That sprout by midnight. Well they knew, in sooth,
How oft the pathos of a creed forlorn                                                  113
Acts magnet-like on sympathetic clay
Sighing without a foothold. What had grown
In pain and persecution still (they prayed),
After long centuries of pomp and pride
Might, under persecution, rise again.
Their patient faces touch’d a piteous chord
Within me: and as wistfully they watched
The sunset fading like a blackening brand,
Both speechless, faintly flush’d with that sad light,
While Lady Barbara stirred upon her seat,
Signing dismissal to her wearied court
Whose yawns proclaim’d the dinner-hour at hand,
I craved again the singer’s privilege
And sang of Roman Rizpah’s last despair:


O Rizpah, Mother of Nations, the days of whose glory are done,
Moaning alone in the darkness, thou countest—the bones of thy Son!

The Cross is vacant above thee, and He is no longer thereon—
A wind came out of the night, and He fell like a leaf, and was gone.

But wearily through the ages, searching the sands of the years,                                114
Thou didst gather His bones together, and wash them, Madonna, with tears.

They have taken thy crown, O Rizpah, and driven thee forth with the swine,
But the bones of thy Son they have left thee; yea, kiss them and clasp—they are thine!

Thou canst not piece them together, or hang them up yonder afresh,
The skull hath no eye within it, the feet and the hands are not flesh.

Thou moanest an old incantation, thou troublest the world with thy cries—
Ah God, if the bones should hear thee, and join once again, and arise!

In the night of the seven-hill’d City, discrown’d and disrobed and undone,
Thou waitest a sign, O Madonna, and countest the bones of thy Son!



The Second Day.







Two miles of field and wood as flies the crow,
But thrice two miles of azure curves and bends
As winds the peaceful river, turning oft
With lingering feet as turns and turns again
On her own footprints some sweet dreaming maid
Who gathers ferns and flowers with listless hand,
Lay like a jewel a green promontory
Sparkling bright emerald on the breast of Tweed.
Thither next day our happy company
In barges, boats, and shallops idly rowed,
A bright flotilla, all the rainbow’s hues
Fluttering in sunshine and in azure depths
Brokenly mirror’d; Satyrs, Nymphs, and Fauns,
The Graces under pink silk parasols,
The Muses under Gainsborough hats of straw,
Venus, white-vestured and without her doves,                                     118
Chattering to Vulcan in blue spectacles,
The modern Syrens, singing as they dipt
White hands in crystal o’er the shallop’s side,
Followed each other merrily as we went.
And here the willow trailed her yellow locks
In golden shallows whence the kingfisher
Flashed like a living topaz and was gone;
And here the clustering water-lilies spread
Their oilčd leaves and alabaster cups,
Tangled amid the river’s sedgy hair;
And there from shadowy oaks that fringed the stream
The squirrel stood upright and lookt at us
With beaded eyes; and all the flowery banks
Were loud with hum of bees and song of birds;
And often on the smooth and silent pools,
Brimful of golden warmth and heavenly light,
The salmon sprang a foot into the sun,
Sparkled in panoply of silver mail,
And sank in the circle of his own bright leap!

     For on the promontory which we sought                                         119
A Hermit in the olden time had dwelt,
White-hair’d, white-bearded, cress and pulse his food,
The crystal stream his drink; and still the rock
Preserved the outline of his mossy cell;
And where his naked foot had press’d the grass
Under the shadowy boughs of oak and beech,
The blue of heaven had fallen and blossom’d up
In azure harebells multitudinous,
For ever misted with their own soft breath
Of sunless summer dew.
                                         Gaily we sailed,
And after many windings serpentine
We reached the place. Against the grassy banks
Our boats discharged their many-coloured freight,
Till all the flowery slopes and dusky glades
Were busy and bright with smiling human shapes;
And through the warm and honeysuckled ways,
Tangled with bramble, ferns, and foxglove bells,
We pushed our path until we found indeed
The mossy cell, with overhanging eaves                                               120
Encalendured with lichens like the Cross,
And down below the dewy grass, knee-deep,
And countless hyacinths with their waxen stems
And fairy bells of thin transparent blue.
Most cool and still, embower’d on every side,
With just a peep of azure overhead,
Was that sweet sanctuary, hush’d as a nest
Deserted, with no stir of summer sound;
And down the mossy rock a crystal dew
Stole coldly, while one sparkling minute drop
Fell like quicksilver on a flowering fern,
Gleam’d, and rolled luminous to the chill green ground.

Hard by the cell we found an open lawn
Sprinkled with fronds of fern and azure flowers,
And here full soon we spread our snowy cloths
And picnick’d in the sunlight. From the boughs
The gold-bill’d blackbird and the bluewing’d jay
Gazed down on such a scene as birds beheld
When Oberon’s enchanted cavaliers                                                  121
Stole forth to banquet underneath the moon;
And they whose scientific bolts and brooms
Had driven the fairies forth from field and farm,
So that the shepherdess and dairymaid
No longer fear the roguish pixy’s thumb
Punishing idleness, were merriest there,
And laughed as loud as if the work-a-day world
Were sweetly haunted yet! In lily hands
The light glass tinkled, while the beaded wine
Cream’d and ran o’er, and every learnčd lap
Was like a Dryad’s, full of ripen’d fruit;
And presently for sport our Satyrs plucked
Flowers of the wood, and pelted merrily
Some saucy-eyed Bacchantes, who upsprang
White-bosom’d, dimple-breasted, and escaped
Hotly pursued into the flowery glades—
Whence silvery peals of laughter, stifled cries,
Were wafted to us on the summer air.

     Then to her throne, a high and mossy bank                                     122
Emblazon’d with the crowsfoot’s dusky gold,
Our Barbara moved, with royally lifted hand
Enjoining silence; happily her court
Clustered about her, as she smiled and cried—
“Surround me and attend, all ye whose souls,
Though glad with summer light and warm with milk
Of Venus (which we moderns call champagne!)
Remember that Great Problem, and our oath
Each day to take it as a summer theme.
Here on this very spot, in yonder cell,
The holy Hermit dwelt and ponder’d it
Alone, so many a hundred years ago.
Alas! how few in this our feverish age
Dare play the hermit now? Our anchorites
Are noisy men, who tell their beads for show,
And print their prosings in the magazines
Beside the gigman’s diatribes at “God,”
Spelt with a little “g”!                                                                         [4:19]
A quiet voice,
That of a bright-eyed preacher from the north—                                 123
(Our Norman, ripe and mellow as Friar Tuck,
Yet tender-soul’d as sweet Maid Marian!)—
Made echo:—“Wisely spoken! Here and there
A few sad thinkers crawl on hands and knees
Into the temples of the solitude;
But these, being reverent, are awed and dumb,—
Unlike the jaunty, dapper, newly breech’d
Child of the age, who, strutting in the sun
Selling his birthright for a penman’s praise,
Denies his Heavenly Father!”
                                               “Pardon me,”
Broke in the scoffer, Douglas Sutherland,
“The age we live in has its vanities
I grant you, but it stands supreme in this,—
The use of soap and water, the crusade
Still needful against other-worldliness.
If holiness be gauged by length of nail,
Heart’s purity by epidermic crust,
I grant your anchorites were blessed men;
If not, quite otherwise; and for the rest,                                               124
The Heavenly Father they perceived and praised,
Their magnified non-natural Heavenly Father,
Was, like themselves, a dull old Anchorite,
Unclean and useless, brooding in a den
With Fever for his servant, Pestilence
To scatter forth his breathings. Nowadays
We prize a cleanlier Godhead, scorning dreams
Which at the best are childish,—in a word,
                                 Then that other’s face,
A little angry, for a burning soul
With faith at white heat cannot jest with fire,
Flash’d scornfully and almost pityingly—
“The babe must have his rattle, and the child
His catchword! Verily, Science is at best
A foolish Virgin, thinking to destroy
The Eternal Verity with a cumbrous phrase!
Anthropomorphic, say you, is the dream,—
A man’s, an infant’s, vision of himself
Flashed upon mental darkness? Be it so.                                            125
Then as a child that in the cradle lies
And feels the darkness stir, and seems to feel
The brightness of a face he cannot see,
I, who am old, accept the happy dream,
And, since you will it so, the phrase as well.
Go, range the empty heaven of fantasy
Upon Spinoza’s wingčd horse of brass
(Which, coming down to earth with thunder-shock,
Stuns him that rides and robs him of an eye),
Or lose your wits in Hegel’s cloud of words,
Or prone on hands and knees inspect the worms
With Darwin, or with Spencer blankly stare
At vacuum and the Inconceivable;
But what if, like those leaders, lonely men,
You find yourselves at last without a Friend?
Meantime I stretch a hand out in the darkness
And touch—my Father's; nay, I wake and gaze,
And lo! I see the very Face and Form
I have dream’d of; and, a child once more, I say
‘Our Father,’ and I know my prayer is heard!                                     126
God help me if my God be not indeed
The Father of my simple childish faith!”

Then Douglas shrugged his shoulders, scorning speech
With one in Superstition’s swaddling clothes;
But something in the brave benignant face,
Bright-eyed and lofty-brow’d, and in the voice
So tender with its soft deep Highland burr,
Subdued us, and we listened reverently
Ev’n where we doubted most; and when he ceased
A certain timid echo in our hearts
Murmur’d approval. Thereupon our Queen
Besought him, having faith so absolute,
To carry our fitful torch of tale-telling
A little space that day, then hand it on
To the next, and next. He shook his head and smiled,
Then answer’d, being urged—“To me at least
Your Problem is no Problem after all—
I solved it at my Heavenly Father’s knee,
Spelling His Name out of the Book Divine,                                        127
And looking up into those loving eyes
With which He shines upon the worst and best;
But since you wish it, I will tell a tale
Of that same heavenly Presence—how it came
To one who was in heart a little child,
But who, being lessen’d by the over-wise,
Beheld the gentle dream dissolve away?”                                            [5:24]

Then, without further prelude, he began
This story of the monk Serapion,
Who in the evening of his days embraced
The sweet anthropomorphic heresy.


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 4, l. 19: Spelt with a little “g”!’
v. 5, l. 24: Beheld the gentle dream dissolve away.” ]






ON the mountain heights, in a cell of stone,
         Dwelt Serapion;
There, winter and summer, he linger’d alone.

Most drear was the mountain and dismal the cell;
         Yet he loved them well—
Contented and glad in their silence to dwell.

And ever his face wore an innocent ray,
         And his spirit was gay,
And he sang, like the angels who sing far away!

The goathered, who gathered his flocks ere the night,
         In the red sunset light,
Heard the voice ring above him, from height on to height.

Ofttimes, from his cell on the cold mountain’s crown,                                    129
         He came merrily down,
And stood, with a smile, ’mid the folk in the town.

With raiment all ragged, worn shoon on his feet,
         He walk’d in the street,
Yet his eyes were so happy, his voice was so sweet!

And ever his face wore the grace and the gleam
         Of a beautiful dream,
Like the light of the sun shed asleep on a stream!

And the folk cried aloud, as they gathered to see:
         “Of all men that be,
The brightest and happiest surely is he!”

And they question’d: “O! why is thy face ever bright,
         And thy spirit so light,
Down here in the valley, up there on the height?”

He answer’d: “What makes me so happy and gay
         Wheresoever I stray?
The Lord I behold all the night, all the day!

“He walks like a Shepherd in raiment of gold                                               130
         On the mountain-tops cold;
He comes to my cell; on my knees I behold.

“He smiles like my father who died long ago;
         His eyes sweetly glow—
Those eyes are as sapphires; His beard is as snow!

“Yea, night-time and day-time he comes to my call,
         The dear Father of all,
With a face ever fair, with a solemn footfall!”

Then the folk cried again: “Of all mortals that be,
         Surely gladdest is he!” . . . .
Wise monks from afar came to hear and to see.



As they climb’d through the snows to his cell, they could hear
         His voice ringing clear,
In a hymn to the Lord who for ever seem’d near.

They enter’d and saw him. He sat like a wight                                              131
         Who beholds some strange sight—
Face fix’d, his eyes shining, most peaceful and bright!

“O brother! what makes thee so happy?” they cried.
         With a smile he replied:
“The Lord who so loves me, my Guardian and Guide!

“He comes in the night and He comes in the day
         From his Heaven far away;
I feel His soft touch on my hair, as I pray.

“He smiles with grave eyes like my father long dead,
         His hand bows my head,
From the breath of His nostrils a blessing is shed!”

Through their ranks as they listened a cold shudder ran,
         And the murmur began:
“Can God have the touch and the breath of a man?

“No soul can conceive Him, no sight may descry
         The Most Strange, the Most High,
Not the quick when they live, not the holy who die.”

But Serapion answer’d: “I hear and I see;                                                    132
         He comes hourly to me;
He speaks in mine ear, as I pray on my knee!”

They murmur’d: “Blaspheme not! He dwells far away;
         None fathom Him may;
For He is not as man, nor is fashion’d of clay.

“Can the God we conceive not have ears and have eyes?
         Who sayeth so, lies!
Cast thy heresy off, hear our words, and be wise!

“For God is not flesh, as His worshippers be—
         Nay, a Spirit is He,
Not shapen for mortals to hear or to see.

“Inconceivable, Holy, Divine evermore,
         All His works ruling o’er;
Yet by these we conceive Him, and darkly adore.”

Then Serapion answer’d: “How strange! For He seems,
         In my beautiful dreams,
To be near, with a kind face that brightens and beams!”

They murmur’d: “These fancies are false and abhorred;                                133
         Since the God who is Lord
Neither face hath nor form, though His wrath is a sword!

“Put the vision behind thee! Be sure no man’s eye
         Can conceive or descry
What is hidden from angels of God in the sky!”

But Serapion answer’d: “He comes to my prayer:
         He is kind, He is fair;
His smile is as sunlight, that sleeps on the air.

“Not as men, but more splendid and stately and tall
         Is the Father of all.
He walks on the snows with a solemn footfall!”

But they cried: “By some fiend is thy solitude stirred!
         Shall the Light and the Word,
The Spirit Almighty, be seen and be heard?

“Put the vision aside; like a dream let it flit,
         And the shadow of it;
Lest the heresy drive thee, accurst, to the Pit.”

They spake and he listened. For nights and for days                                      134
         He hark’d in amaze,
While they proved that a Phantom had gladden’d his gaze.

At last all was clear, and his forehead was bent
         In submissive assent.
They confess’d him and bless’d him, and joyfully went.



There he sat, still as stone, sadly thinking it o’er,
         At his desolate door.
Then, alone in his cell, tried to pray, as before.

He reached out his arms to the cold, empty air,
         Kneeling woefully there;
He prayed unto God; but none came to his prayer.

He walked from his cell on the cold mountain’s crown,
         Wending silently down,
Till he stood as before, ’mid the folk in the town.

With raiment all ragged, worn shoon on his feet,                                           135
         He stood in the street;
And his eyes were not happy, his voice was not sweet!

The gladness was gone that made golden his face;
         Yea, there linger’d no trace
Of the smile and the sunshine, the peace and the grace.

And the folk whisper’d low, as they gathered to see—
         “Of all men that be,
The saddest and weariest surely is he!”

He climb’d up the mountain, and sat there alone;
         And his spirit made moan—
“My God, they have slain Thee! My God, Thou art gone!

“Their breath hath destroy’d Thee, my Father!” he said—
         “Thou art lost! Thou art fled!”
And the sense of his doom was as dust on his head.



The goatherd still gather’d his flocks ere the night,
         In the red sunset-light;
But heard no voice singing, afar on the height!



Silent we cluster’d when the tale was done,                                        137
Till Verity exclaimed: “As that lone monk
Who suffered pedants to destroy his God,
So is our England now! For many years
She dwelt apart and ponder’d that pure thought
Which turned to heavenly song in Milton’s mouth,
And never questioning taught her wisest sons
To bow their heads beneath the Father’s hand;
Then in an evil hour her ear was turn’d
To specious pleadings which profaned the faith
And quickened unbelieving; from that hour
Faith faded, the heroic stature sank
Cubit by cubit, and her heroes changed
To problem-haunted pigmies, clustering mites
On the green cheese of Science. Faugh, how rank
The stale thing smells, to nostrils which have drunk
The pure air sweeten’d by the mountain snows
Where men even yet may find the living God!”

     Cried Sparkle quickly, “I will grant you, Faith                                 138
Was marvellous, when Faith was possible!
But which is best for outcast Nature’s Son,
Fatherless, illegitimately born,
And at the best remitted to the care
Of an abandon’d mother—which is best,
To play the farce of filial faith to One
Who utterly declines to show His face,
Nay, who, if He exists, denies Himself,
And leaves His offspring unprovided for,
Or boldly, calmly, facing all events,
To say, ‘In all the world where’er I search
I find no trace of Fatherhood at all,
No token of His kindness or His care,—
Only inexorable Law pursuing
Me and my brethren, and that greater one,
Nature, our mother. Blessings upon her,
Upon her poor blind eyes and beauteous face
Still sunny with insufferable love!
Blessings upon her, and sweet reverence,
Who loveth us, her children! On her breast                                         139
We wakened, ever in her circling arms
We found kind shelter; when our hearts are sore,
Our spirits weary, she can comfort us
With countless ministrations, woven smiles
Of light and flowers and sunshine; when at last
We are wearied out with our brief day of life,
She hath a bed of quiet ready, strewn
With grass and scented shadow. Bid me kneel
To her who never fail’d in acts of love,
And lo! how eagerly, how reverently,
I haste to bend the knee; but bid me kneel
To Him I know not, who since life began
Hath never stood acknowledged or revealed,
And lo! I rise erect with folded arms
In the full pride and privilege of Man,
Rejecting, scorning, or denying Him!
How hath He helped me? When my finger ached
Or my soul sicken’d of some dark disease,
Where was my Father—where was He for whom
I shriek’d through all the watches of the night                                      140
In pain and protestation? Did He come
To comfort and sustain me? When I shrank
Affrighted from the clammy hands of Death,
When in mine arms the maiden of my love
Lay dead and cold, slain by her own first kiss,
Where was the Father that ye vaunt so much?
I owe Him life? Perchance. Love too? Ah me,
A little love to mock a little life
Forlorn, and swiftly flying! He hath chosen,
To leave me in the wilderness of thought
Abandon’d and rejected; I in turn,
Finding He fails me in my hour of need,
Finding He cannot save me from the fangs
Of His own bloodhounds, Death and Force and Law,
Reject Him, and abandon that old dream
Of ever looking on a Father’s face!’”

More would his lips have utter’d in a strain
By some deemed blasphemous, but angry cries
Broke in upon the current of his speech;                                             141
And many there, remembering the fear
Which drove them thither from the City’s streets,
Drew timorously together, as if fearing
The Earthquake’s jaws might open under them.
“Enough!” cried Barbara—“you touch the harp
Of feeling with too strenuous a touch,
And jar the delicate chords too cruelly!
For me, I mourn the faith which long ago
Led men into the desert sands to pray,
And tomb’d the hermit in his narrow cell;
Then love was pain, and pain was privilege,
And he who sought the Father was content
To find Him bleeding on the wayside Cross,
Or looking sadly from the Sepulchre.
Now who will justify the holiness
Of self-renouncement, shaming with some tale,
Quaint as a missal love-illuminčd,
Our peevish problem-haunted modernness?
Come, Bishop, for you have not spoken yet,
Though clad in wisdom and in purity                                                    142
As whitely as your ancestors, the monks.”

Close to her side stood Bishop Eglantine,
The gentle priest who dwells an anchorite
Amid the busiest throngs of living men—
A man who, sitting at the laden board
Of Knowledge, looking with a longing eye
On the rare dainties that he must not touch,
Grows gaunt and lean with intellectual fasts;
So spare, the soul seems shining through his flesh
Like light through alabaster. Tall he stood,
Upgazing through the thin transparent roof
Of leaves upon some peaceful sight in heaven,
And when he smiled in answer to her words
His smile was spectre-like and virginal,
Too faint for flesh and blood. Not far away
The plumper Bishop Primrose laughing sat,
Broad as his Church and sunnier than his creed,
And held a bright-eyed child between his knees.
A Roman lily and an English rose                                                       143
Were these two prelates; one proclaiming Christ
Ghostly and sad and sacrificial,
The other, Christ the brown young Shepherd, clad
With strength as with a garment, bending down
To lift a lambkin struggling among thorns,
And bear it on his back across the hills
Into the Master’s fold.
                                     Quoth Eglantine,
With courteous bow to all the circle round,
“Ev’n as you spoke my thoughts were far away
With one who tenderly renounced the flesh
And found in pain sweet comfort long ago.
Here is the tale—scarcely indeed a tale—
’Tis given in a monkish chronicle,
And is so brief, that he who runs may hear.”



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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