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{The New Rome 1898}








ON the silent Bridge, at dead of night,
     I met the Fairy Queen,—
I knew her well by the elfin light
     In the depths of her woful e’en.                                                    [1:4]

Tho’ the robe she wore was ragged and rent
     And her form was bent and old,
Her hair in the gleam o’ the gas was sprent
     With glimmers of fairy gold.

“What makest thou here in the streets of Rome?”
     And softly answer’d she:
“Hungry and cold on the streets I come,
     Keeping my Jubilee!

“The crown I wore in the days of old
     I have pawn’d in the Mart,” she said,
“And I sell my kiss for a piece of gold
     To buy my little ones bread!

“They drove me out from my happy home                                          [5:1]
     Under the greenwood tree,
And now I serve in the streets o’ Rome
     The Lords of the Bread!” said she.

I lookt in her face and methought I dreamed—                                   120
     She looked so weary and worn!
So like a painted woman she seem’d
     Who in Fairyland was born!

“Thy sisters and brethren, where are they?”
     “They are Slaves of the Mart,” she said,
“For a crust or a blow, be it night or day,
     They serve the Lords of the Bread!

“And it’s O for the gladness that once we knew,
     For the Dance and the Dream,” said she,
“For the soft moonlight and the morning dew,
     And the glamour of Faërie!”

Weary and worn through the shadows grey
     The weariful creature fled,
And I clench’d my hands as she vanish’d away,
     And curst the Lords of the Bread!


Alterations in the 1901 edition of ‘The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan’:
v. 1, l. 4: In the depths of her woeful een.
v. 5, l. 1: ‘They drove me out of my happy home ]






“LORDS of the Bread and the Land,
     Cruel and empty of heart,
Low at your footstool we stand,
     We who are Slaves of the Mart!
Ye have conquer’d the Earth and the Sea;
     In glory of purple and gold
Your Empire rolls onward, but we
     Stand bleeding and bare as of old;
Ye have stolen the soil of our birth,
     With the flesh of our bones ye are fed,—
Who made ye the Masters of Earth?—
     Answer, ye Lords of the Bread!”



And the Lords of the Bread replied:
     “Hush, ye vain voices, be still!
With the God of the Strong for our guide
     We have triumph’d and fatten’d our fill;
And lo! in our pride we upbuild
     These Cities that look on the foam,
And the waves of the waters are stilled
     And rock ’neath the grain-ships of Rome;
And from City to City march forth
     Our legions with conquering tread:
Ye made us the Masters of Earth
     And the fulness thereof, and the Bread!”



Then answer’d the Slaves of the Mart:
     “Even so! ye are great, ye are strong!
But wherefore, O cruel of heart,
     Deny us our birthright so long!
We launch’d ye these ships on the waves,
     We plough’d both the Earth and the Deep,
And all that we ask for, your Slaves,
     Is tithe of the treasure ye keep.
Ye have stolen the soil of our birth,
     Your beasts with our harvests are fed,—
We made ye the Masters of Earth,
     And left ye the Lords of the Bread!”



The Lords of the Bread spoke again:
     “Lo, this is the Law,—so take heed,—
Who gains shall inherit his gain,
     Yea, he and his uttermost seed!
With the Sword of the Strong in our hand
     We keep what was stolen of yore,
For lo, we inherit the Land,
     And ye can inherit no more—
Behold we rejoice and make mirth,
     Though the mouth of the fool gapes unfed,
For we are the Masters of Earth,
     And the fulness thereof, and the Bread!”



Then answer’d the Slaves of the Mart:
     “O traitors, O wolves in the fold,
The blood ye have wrung from the heart
     Ye coin into drachmas of gold;
And the gold buys our sisters and wives,                                             123
     And our children are sold for the same,
While ye stand on the wreck of our lives
     Rejoicing, and trumpet your fame!
Accurst be this Land of our birth
     And woe to this Empire,” they said,
“If ye, the proud Masters of Earth,
     Deny us our birthright of Bread!”





LAST night, as in the streets of stone
I paced in silence and alone,
A pale thin youth with locks of flame
Came to me, murmuring my name.

His face was white, his eyes were wild,
He looked into my face and smiled,
He named my name, then softly said,
“I am thine other self, long dead!”

And as he spake I felt his breath
Was chilly with the dews of Death,
But suddenly he sang, and lo!
’Twas an old song I used to know.

Ah, God! the music tore apart
The clammy cerements of my heart,
And suddenly I seemed to be
Wild, young, and wonderful as he!

And when he ceased, he laugh’d and cried,
“Tho’ all have perished, I abide,”
Yet looking in his face I knew
’Twas glittering with churchyard dew!

I reach’d out hands and would have pressed                                       125
The gentle vision to my breast,
But from my touch, before I wist,
He sprang and vanished into mist!

“Come back, come back!” I cried in pain,
But ah, he would not come again!
Tearful, in silence and alone,
I paced along the streets of stone.




(On the Thames Embankment, London).



 A LITTLE gloved hand on my arm, a tall slight form beside me,
     After the supper at Rule’s, on a balmy night in June,
Whither in all the world should God or the Devil guide me
     But down to face the Sphinx, in the light of the summer moon!
Not on the desert sands, with lions roaring around her
     Seeking their timid prey in pools of the bright moonrise,
But here, by the glimmering Thames, in silence of dreams profounder,
     Crouches the Shape of Stone, wingëd, with wondrous eyes!
Puffing my cigarette, I look on her marble features,
     Dead, stone dead, and looming pale in the starry light,
While, flitting silently round, creep desolate human creatures,
     Carrion-seeking women, woful waifs of the night,—
Fading swiftly away as the slow policeman comes nearer,
     Stolid, silent, and tall, with measured ominous tread. . . .
Hush! he is gone like a ghost! the light falls brighter and clearer
     On the wingëd Shape of the Beast, on the ringleted Woman’s Head,
On the dead dumb eyes still gazing, not on the City before them,                   127
     Not on the moonlit streets, but on something far away,—
Heedless of Earth around, of the patient Heavens o’er them,
     Heedless of Life and Time, dead to the Night and the Day!



Clari, my sweet, you shiver? Nay, but the night is chilly! . . .
     Fear not the fabled Sphinx, but look in her rayless eyes,—
Tiptoe, clinging unto me, frail and white as a lily,
     You face the Sphinx at last, with a maidenly mute surmise!
Older than Night and Day, older than Death, she remaineth!
Still, tho’ New Rome is astir! Calm, tho’ the Tempest complaineth!
Ancient of days she was crouching like this ere Christ was created!
Watching the things that are fled, seeing the things that are fated;
Speechless, impotent, wise; pitiless, silent, and certain;
Seeing some Shape that is stirring yonder beyond Night’s curtain;
Conscious, perchance, of the Sea of Eternity, blindly breaking
     Over this Rock of a World, on to the space without spheres. . . .
We, too, look, but discern not!—yet ever, sleeping or waking,
     Fear the Sight she is seeing, shrink from the Silence she hears!



Charm of the mystic Moonlight! Now, as the moonrays enfold you,
     You seem some lissome Queen, upgazing with a smile!
With tiger-skin on your shoulders and fillet of dusky gold, you
     Witch the night with your mirth, on the banks of the yellow Nile!
With armëd troops behind, this gloaming of golden weather,
     You lift your jewel’d hand, and lo, the trumpets play. . . .
Ah, but the magic fades, and again, in bonnet and feather,
     You laugh, and merrily whisper, “Leave her, and come away!”



Nay, let me front the Sphinx for only another minute,
     Now when the city sleeps, and the River is mother-o’-pearl’d:
Then hey for the hansom home, two lovers nestling within it,
     The joy of Night, and to-morrow, the rush of the waking World!



Secret no mortal hath guessed, she seëth and knoweth forever!
     Light no mortal hath seen, streams on her eyeballs of stone!
Under her talon’d feet runs like a desolate river
     Life, and over her head Time like a trumpet is blown!
Silent,—and we shall be silent;—lonely,—and we shall be lonely,
     Knowing what she hath known, seeing what she can see;—
Dead,—and we shall be dead!—for our life and our love are only                 129
     A dream in the Dream she dreameth, a drop in that infinite Sea!
Even as Nineveh faded, even as Babylon perish’d,
So shall this City depart, with all it hath shelter’d and cherish’d!
Stone shall be cast upon stone,—grave upon grave shall be lying,—
There, where the Magdalen wails, jackal and wolf shall be crying;
Yet shall the River of Life wander and wander and wander,
Yet shall the Trumpet of Time sound from the Sungates up yonder,
Yet shall the fabled Sphinx brood on the mystic To-morrow,
While newer Cities arise, on the dust that is scatter’d in sorrow!



Dearest, ’tis long, so long, since out of the lonely abysses
     Crawl’d this fabled Sphinx, and moved among things of breath,
Seeing the Sight Man sees not, feeling the Light Man misses,
     Turn’d to eternal stone, and brooded in dreamful Death—
Cities have followed cities, nations have followed nations,
Thick as the sands have vanish’d the tribes and the generations,
God hath fallen on god, like statues of marble broken,
Zeus hath gone like a cloud, Jehovah hath left no token,—
And hush! who yonder is stealing, old and hoary and saintly,                         130
Holding in his thin hand a lamp that is flickering faintly?—
Ghostwise on through the night, still loving tho’ wholly despairing,
Creeps the gentlest of all, to the grave of his kindred repairing!



Well! if the last word said, so long as our ears can hearken,
     Be this last word of Love (dear hand, how it creeps in mine!)
Well, if the last God seen, ere the thrones of Eternity darken,
     Be the supremest and best, most human and most Divine?
Is it not sweet to go, if He who is also going
     Beckons and bids us follow, ev’n to the empty grave?
Better to rest beside Him, be done with seeing and knowing
     Than walk in a World bereft of the Spirits who heal and save!
Ah, but in sad procession fast at his back they follow—
Buddha, Balder, Menù, Prometheus, Phoebus Apollo:
Shades, that follow a Shade; Gods, that obey a Supremer;
Spirits of Healing and Light, lords of the poet and dreamer,
Leaving behind them only a world by despair overshaded,
Only these eyes of the Sphinx, to mock us till we too have faded!



Nay, then, by yonder blue Vault, with its million eyes gazing hither,
Open and watching the world roll blindly no mortal knows whither,
Nay, by those eyes more divine than any of stone, ever filling                         131
With drops of infinite Life, from the great heart of Nature distilling,
God and the gods shall abide, wherever our souls seek a token,
Speech of the Gods shall be heard, the silence of Death shall be broken,
And Man shall distinguish a sign, a voice in the midnight, a tremor
From every pulse of the Heavens, to answer the heart of the Dreamer!
Faces of gods and men shall throng the blue casements above him!
Heaven shall be peopled with throngs of Spirits that watch him and love him!
Out of the furthest Abyss voices shall call, while upspringing
Man shall arise to his height, reaching hands up the darkness and singing,—
Clouds of the Void shall part, with lights that throng brighter and faster,
While blind as the grave the Sphinx lies low, ’neath the feet of her Master!



Close thine eyes, old Sphinx! we heed thy stare not a feather!
     Sleep in the summer moon, near the River mother-o’-pearl’d!
And now for the hansom home, two lovers nestling together,
     The joy of Night, and to-morrow, the rush of the waking World!


I have added a page with a photo of the Sphinx on the Thames Embankment and links to other sites for further information (there is also a note about Rule’s Restaurant)]

The Sphinx





THESE voices! Hark, Buchanan! All about thee,
     In the nighttime, in the daytime, they are crying!
Within thee they are sounding, yet without thee,
     Ever growing on thy sense, and ever dying!

Sounds of weeping, sounds of jubilance and singing,
     Sobs of terror and of pain, and sighs of sorrow;
And their echoes thro’ thine inmost Soul are ringing,
     While thy Soul looks forth in wonder night and morrow.

Nay, but listen! . . . ’Tis the children’s cry of gladness!
     Nay, but look! They smile with rosy faces hither!
. . . But alas! the little shapes that sit in sadness,
     And the little broken lives that droop and wither!

Hear the strong man in the dark for pity crying,
     Hear the foul man’s word of hate as he goes by thee;
Hear the shriek of trampled women, vainly flying
     From the phantoms that appal thee and defy thee!

Ah, the Voices! and the Faces!—all the pity
     And the wonder, in this vision of the Human,
All the lightness and the darkness of the City,
     All the beauty and the shame of man and woman!

All the foul things God would seem to put his ban on,                          133
     All the fair things that would seem to have his blessing—
Without thee yet within thee, O Buchanan,
     They are thronging, with a riddle for thy guessing!

Canst thou answer? Hath the living Soul within thee
     Any token, any beauteous explanation?
Is it silent? Then eternal Night shall win thee,
     And these Souls but knell thy Soul’s annihilation!

Shall these Voices die to one Voice,—thine upbraiding
     Of the power which brings and takes thee out of being?
Shall these Faces fade to one—thine own face, fading
     Back to darkness, in the very act of seeing?

Ah, the Voices! and the Faces!—wild and wan, on
     They are rushing, to destroy or to renew thee!
Like a foam-flake shalt thou vanish, O Buchanan,
     If but one of these is lost that cry unto thee!




“Da spatium vitæ, multos da, Jupiter, annos!”
UV., Sat. x.


THIS was my Dream. Methought I stood
Amid a crying multitude
Who in this Rome awoke by night,
And saw about them, shining white
’Gainst the great heaven’s soot-black pall,
An Angel with a sword. (Ye all,
O brethren fashion’d out of clay,
Have dreamed this Dream by night and day!)

Loud (in my Dream) that host was crying
For Life eternal and undying,
And thus to still them as they cried,
The pale Protagonist replied:

“Silence, and listen for a space,
Ye waifs and strays of human race,
While I, God’s herald from above,
Whom ye name Death, and He names Love,
Holding aloft the fatal knife
Which cuts the crimson thread of life,
Rehearse, to still your acclamation,
The Master’s last Determination!”



Speak on, O scourge of Humankind,
But veil thine eyes, that strike us blind!



He who hath made you, frail or fair,
     Happy and innocent, or base,
Hath given ear unto your prayer
     And pondered o’er it, in His place.
And, firstly, He admits at once
(What may be proved to any dunce)
That when He breath’d abroad His word
To make Humanity, He erred!
For know, to even Him is given
     Power to recant and to revise,
And placing pigmies ’neath His Heaven
     To wail and curse and criticise,
Was (by the sun and planets seven!)
     A hasty business and unwise!
Yet ye, who by His dispensation
     Procreate also in your prime,
Find irresponsible creation
     Pleasant to pass away the time!
Results, however (and by these
     God judges both Himself and men),
Have proved that doing what we please
     May lead to trouble now and then!
This He perceives, and finding all
     His plans to make men worth the saving,
End only in a caterwaul
     Of sin and strife and misbehaving,
He thinks (whilst still apologising                                                        136
For that first blunder most surprising)
That if He, in some moment weak
Of pity, granted what you seek,
It might perchance be just another
Blunder, no better than the other?                                                       [5:32]



Let us live on! Eternal Life
We crave, though ’twere eternal strife;
Let us live on, O thou most High!
For oh, ’tis terrible to die!



O miserable things of clay!
Do ye deserve to live?



                                       Ah, nay!
Not our desert, but our desire,
     Is the sole claim whereon we dwell—
Lord, give us life, though in the fire
     Which burns for ever down in Hell!



Alas! ye know (for men most wise
Have opened up your close-shut eyes)
Hell is a phantasy invented
     By pious gentlemen at prayer,
Where all their foes may be tormented
     Whilst they themselves play harps elsewhere.
Should ye live on, your lives must be                                                  137
Condition’d through Eternity
By the same feelings, grave or gay,
That animate your frames to-day.
Wherefore the Lord, loath to refuse
     Your prayer, and fain to end the strife,
Bids me make question how ye use
     The opportunities of life?
If, being men, your aspiration
Is worthy endless prolongation?
Or whether (as our friend the Devil
     Argues) your plans, pursuits, and pains,
Are so absurdly low of level,
     So little worthy things with brains,
That ’twould be better, past a doubt,
To let each little lamp go out?
Speak then, all ye that look for ruth,
     What is the life ye fain would seize?
Let God Almighty learn the truth,
     And don’t speak all together, please!

     (Whereupon is heard a great clamour, after the subsiding
of which individual voices make themselves faintly heard.)



I’ve lounged about barracks, I’ve danced and I’ve flirted,
     I bolted from Simla with Kitty Magee,
And much as her fair reputation was dirtied
     By the cruel Divorce Court and nisi decree,
I stuck to the lady and married her after,
     Returned to inherit dad’s acres and pounds,
Then treated the County (that cut us) with laughter,
     Till the Prince espied Kitty, when riding to hounds!
After that all was smooth, and we entered Society,                                       138
     The clergyman called, and the County knelt down,
And now life is full of eternal variety,
     ’Tween the fun in the shire, and the season in town!



With roguish face and pretty foot,
Pink silken stocking, high-heel’d boot,
     And robes of Redfern’s best,
I sup at two, and rise at ten,
Love all the white shirt-fronted men,
     But the gay Guardsman best.
Sing tra la la and rub a dub,
I frisk at the Corinthian club
     With swells and ladies gay.
I think this pleasant life and free
Is just the life that ought to be
     For ever and a day!



For ever, for ever! I love the sweet rustle
     Of crisp new bank-notes, and the jingle of guineas—
In the street, upon ’Change, ’mid the murmur and bustle,
     I pluck all the greenhorns, and wheedle the ninnies—
Cent. per cent. is my motto! I blow the bright bubbles
     Which float for a while and then burst with no warning,
And then take my holiday, tramping the stubbles,
     But get the Financial Review every morning.
I’ve a brougham and buggy, a wife and a family,
     A dovecot at Fulham, a soiled dove within it,—
When I dream of a coffin, my skin perspires clammily,
     And I don’t want to think these enjoyments are finite!



I’ve plumb’d the great abyss of Mind
     And find no solid bottom there.
Blind Force, blind Law are all I find,
     And dark progression God knows where!
I’ve made a system most complete
     Of true philosophy, wherein
I show all creeds are obsolete
     That seek some heavenly goal to win.
And yet, Life’s pleasant!—there’s the rub
With other fogies at the club,
The Times at breakfast, and the knocks
I give to notions orthodox
In the Reviews! Tho’ old and grey,
     And somewhat troubled with the gout,
I really think I’d like to stay
     And see my theories worked out!



Even as my hand the pistol clutches,
As the cold steel my forehead touches,
I pause in act to fire, and crave
Another chance beyond the grave!
More life! more chances! here I first
Drew breath, and knew the gambler’s thirst,
Lost every stake I had to play,
And yet I know there is a way
Had I but time! For pity’s sake,
Another life! wherein to stake
My soul, in passionate despair,
And win or lose it, then and there!



Yea, let us live! Eternal life
We crave, tho’ ’twere eternal strife!
Let us live on, O thou most High,
For oh, ’tis terrible to die!



The light that never was on sea or land
     Fires and inspires me as I grip the pen,—
That Novel of the Age, which I have planned,
     Must stagger and amaze my fellow-men.
I crave for Fame! but most I want to beat
     That idiot Smith who boasts his tenth edition!
Ars longa, vita brevis. Life is sweet,
     But far too scanty for the writer’s mission—
And Smith is famous, while I pine neglected!
     Almighty God, who makest reputations,
Grant life, that Smith may hide his head dejected,
     While I am shining ’mongst thy constellations!



’Mong quiet woodland ways, remote
From Demos of the clamouring throat
     And all rude sight and sound,
I build my gentle House of Art
Wherein my soul may sit apart
     Secure and lily crown’d;
While foolish martyrs feed the fire
     And angry factions rage,
I twang the solitary lyre
     And scan the poet’s page.
The village maidens clean and trim                                             141
Weave me green chaplets while I hymn
     God’s glory and the King’s;
But o’er my grave and calm repose
The gracious Muse of Rugby throws
     The shadow of her wings.
Deep is my faith in Nature’s plan,
     Mysterious and divine,
To waken in the mind of man
     The peace which gladdens mine.
Wherefore I crave eternal life,
Remote from care, remote from strife,
     And innocent of wrong,
That, loved and honour’d in the land,
I still may cut with cunning hand
     My diamonds of song!



Thou hast set this crown of Empire on my head,
     Thou hast given me glory full and overflowing!
The hungry people tremble at my tread,
     The widowed nations fear my trumpet’s blowing.
Leash’d in my grip, I hold the bloodhound War,
     But o’er my crown the Cross of Christ is looming,
For in thy name, O God, whence all things are,
     I wield the sword, cross-shapen, life-consuming!



To talk and talk! To spout for hours
     And have it printed all verbatim,
While pressmen, wondering at my powers,
     Follow my prosings seriatim!
Abuse or praise, ’tis all the same                                               142
To make the politician’s game,
While o’er the long-ear’d listening nation
Shoots the loose rocket, Reputation!
The listening House, the long debate,
     The watching eyes, the Speaker’s nod,
Shall these depart? Forbid it, Fate!
     Make me immortal, like a God!

These voices, and a thousand more,
Like sad waves surging on the shore,
Rose, broke and fell, while others came
To fill the midnight with acclaim,
Till, wearied out, the Angel dread
Rais’d his right hand, and frowning said:
“Enough, enough,” and vanishëd.
Whereon again uprose the strife
Of those wild waves of human life,
But in a little space once more
     His form flashed out against the sky;
His hand was raised to hush the roar
     Of restless waters rolling by,
And thus he spake, with lustrous gaze
     Fixed in large scorn on those who heard,
Delivering to the World’s amaze
     The Master’s final Doom and Word!

“Will it startle you much and be very distressing,
     If I say that the Lord, who is kindly tho’ strong,
Thinks that, tho’ one or two might deserve such a blessing,
     Mankind on the whole are too mean to prolong?
He harks to your pleading, He knows your petitions,                                    143
     But sees with a sigh what you are, and must be,
And having made men of all sorts and conditions,
     He thinks he must trust them to Nature, and Me.
Ipse dicit: the life you possess must content you,
     You’d waste for all Time what you waste for a day . . .
Yet He leaves just a Doubt in your minds, to prevent you
     From letting the Devil have all his own way!


The quotation is from Juvenal’s Tenth Satire: “Grant me a great length of life, O Jupiter, give to me many years.”

Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 5, l. 32: Blunder, no better than the other! ]






“ONE more unfortunate weary of breath”
     (Sisters of Midnight, so runneth the ditty),
“Rashly importunate, gone to her death,”
     Lost in the gulf of the desolate City.
Let the flood cover her, while we walk over her,
     Lit by the lamps of the Bridges forlorn—
Sisters of Midnight, pale waifs of Humanity,
Laugh at the world, all the foulness and vanity,
     Hunting your prey from the night till the morn!

Poisonous paint on us, under the gas,
     Smiling like spectres, we gather bereaven;
Leprosy’s taint on us, ghost-like we pass,
     Watch’d by the eyes of yon pitiless Heaven!
Let the stars stare at us! God, too, may glare at us
     Out of the Void where He hideth so well . . .
Sisters of Midnight, He damn’d us in making us,
Cast us like carrion to men, then forsaking us,
     Smiles from His throne on these markets of Hell!

Laugh! Those who turn from us, too, have their price!
     There, for the proud, other harlots are dressing,
They too may learn from us man’s old device—
     Food for his lust, with some sham of a blessing!
Sons of old Adam there buy the fine madam there,
     Bid with a coronet,—yea, or a crown!                                          145
Sisters, who’d envy the glory which graces them?
They, too, are sold to the lust which embraces them,
     Ev’n in the Church, with the Christ looking down!

Pure in their scorn of us, happy and fair,
     Let them go by us, contented and smiling—
Foulness that’s born of us, they, too, must share,
     Long as they welcome what we are defiling.
They, who might turn to us, comfort us, yearn to us,
     They who still smile on the Man and his sin,
Shut their proud portals of silver and gold on us!
Sisters of Midnight, tho’ shame comes tenfold on us,
     It comes twentyfold on those women within!

Leprosy’s taint on them falls (let it fall!),
     What we have poisoned, they clasp night and morrow!
Angel or saint on them vainly shall call!
     Downward they drift to our level of sorrow!
Laugh! The trade’s flourishing, thanks to our nourishing!
     Pale droop the babes, while the mother’s heart bleeds!
Sisters of Midnight, God’s good,—He avenges us!
E’en as to dust and to foulness Man changes us,
     Back goes the sin to his innocent seed!

“One more unfortunate, weary of breath,”—
     Plunge! down she drops, leaving sorrow behind her.
“Rashly importunate, gone to her death!”
     Spare her your pity, O fool, when ye find her!
Stretch her out merrily, murmuring, “Verily,                                         146
     Luck, spite of all, falls at last to her share!”
Life has rejected her, let the gulf swallow her!
Sisters of Midnight, make ready to follow her
     Down the deep waters of Death and Despair!





These are the Lost, waifs which from wave to wave
     Drift lone, while yonder on the yellow strand
The laughing Children run from cave to cave
     And happy Lovers wander hand in hand.

The sun shines yonder on the green hillside,
     The bright spire points to Heaven through leafy trees,
The Maiden wears the glory of a Bride,
     The bright babe crows on the young Mother’s knees.

O happy Brides! O happy Mothers! born
     To inherit all the light that life can give,
Hear ye these voices out of depths forlorn?
     Know ye these Lost, who die that you may live?






SHADES of the clouds and the peaks! voices of rivers and fountains!
     Glimpses of purple crags and torrents that murmur and leap!
Sounds and sights surrounding the Shepherd who stands on the mountains
     Lonely ’mong vapours of Dawn, dim like a vision in sleep.
Dim he looms, and gigantic! Feels the chill breath of the Morning
     Creep thro’ the whitening mists, blowing them silently past,
Watches them come and depart, till out of the East with no warning
     Flashes a roseate beam, and smites them asunder at last!
When lo! tho’ clouds roll above and the sun is with shadows enfolden,
     The flocks are spilt on the hills, the torrents shoot to the fall,
The eyes of the blue meres open, the moors grow purple and golden,
     The mists melt over the heights, and the great Day gladdeneth all!

SHEPHERD OF SONG stand I here! and lo, the Night ’neath me and o’er me!
     Lone in the City I loom, and watch for the dawn of the Day!
Shades as of clouds and of peaks, rising like phantoms before me,                          149
     Darken around me to-night as they darken’d afar away.
Dawn—and the shadows are stirr’d! Light—and the clouds break asunder!
The River of Life again rolls by with a sound as of thunder!
Spires of the City gleam, houses loom large in the grey light,
     Yonder a flag is flung out, yonder a casement shines clear,
And lo! ST. PAUL’S, like a crag, rounded and dewy with daylight,
     Shines in the sun, while below it masts thick as reeds on a mere
Rise from the dark-flowing Thames!
                                                 Light of Humanity, filling
     The eyes and the ears with thy glory, this mystical dawning of Day!
Touch the dark sources of prayer that stir in my bosom, distilling
     Dews from the darkness of sense, till the darkness melteth away!
Come with the motion of clouds, with the murmur of winds come unto me,
     Open the glimpses divine, while Night like an owl taketh wing;—
Shepherd of Song, stand I here! Strengthen, inspire, and renew me
     To look on the pageant and live, to hear the world wake, and to sing!




“Prima fere vota et cunctis notissima templis
Divitiæ, crescant ut opes, ut maxima toto
Nostra sit arca foro.”
UV., Sat. x. 23, 24.


THY satire neither old nor stale is,
     Tho’ many an age hath passed away,—
Decimus Junius Juvenalis,
     Thou should’st be living here to-day!
The God men still with prayer importune
     In every Christian temple stands,—
To Plutus and his harlot Fortune
     We kneel with largess-seeking hands!                                            [1:8]

Tho’ eighteen centuries have departed
     This world of ours is just the same
As when, O Censor single-hearted,
     You lookt on Life’s Circensian game!
Here is the City, as you drew it
     In those forgotten day of old!
The mob of Remus, as you knew it
     When the slain Christ was scarcely cold!

And Fame still tells the same old story
     Of idols whom the mob adore,—
A little reign, a little glory,
     And lo, Sejanus topples o’er!
The statue made of mighty metal                                                        151
     Melts in the furnace, and alas!
Mere basin, frying-pan, and kettle
     Are fashioned from the head of brass! *

All power, all pride, are only trouble,
     Honour and glory cease to shine,
Wisdom’s a wig, and Fame a bubble,
     But Gold is evermore divine,—
Minted tenfold it never ceases
     To gladden mortal days and nights,
Surviving all the world’s caprices
     And buying all the world’s delights!

No wonder, therefore, that we pray for it,
     Ev’n as ye Romans prayed of old,—
Waving all other gods away for it,
     Selling our very souls for Gold;—
The one glad thing that never stale is,
     The one thing sure when all is told,
Is what you cursed, my Juvenalis,
     When the slain Christ was scarcely cold!


* “. . . Deinde ex facie toto urbe secunda
Fiunt urceoli, pelves, sartago, patellæ!”
UV., Sat. x.


The first quotation of lines 23-25 of Juvenal’s Tenth Satire:
1. Rev. Lewis Evans’ 1861 prose translation:
“The prayers that are generally the first put up and best known in all the temples are, that riches, that wealth may increase; that our chest may be the largest in the whole forum.”
2. William Gifford’s 1802 verse translation:

“The first great wish, that all with rapture own,
The general cry, to every temple known,
Is, gold, gold, gold!—“and let, all-gracious Powers,
The largest chest the Forum boasts be ours!”

The second quotation of lines 63-64 of Juvenal’s Tenth Satire is usually rendered: “deinde ex facie toto orbe secunda fiunt urceoli, pelves, sartago, matellæ.”
Peter Green's Penguin translation (3rd edition, 1998):

“Those features, once second in all the world,
are turned into jugs and basins, frying-pans, chamber-pots.”

Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
v. 1, l. 8: We kneel with largess-seeking hand!]





O MY little Roman lady, with the fearless Roman air,
Freezing up the strange beholder with thy calm imperial stare,
Passing onward to thy carriage from the supper-table bright,
While the other lissome ladies feast so merrily by night!

With a gleam of chilly jewels and a rustling silken train
Sweeping onward from the revel, full of delicate disdain,
Proud and virginal and chilly to thy pointed finger-tips,
Despite the splash of crimson on thy soft and scornful lips!

But, my little Roman lady, how the gentle gods transform
Thy beauty in the chamber where the lights are dim and warm,
When thy sheath of silken splendour slips from nakedness divine,
And a laughing little lady holds her rosy mouth to mine!

O my little Roman lady! still remain as thou hast been,
For the garish world a vestal, but for me the Cyprian Queen!
Proud and virginal and chilly, till the Paphian charm is said,
And the Cupids and the Graces gather laughing round thy bed!





“Lesbia, illa Lesbia, quem Catullus unam
Plus quam se atque suos amavit omnes!”


HUNDREDS of years ago
     Your Lesbia lived and died
Yonder in Rome; yet lo!
     Here she is at my side,
     Merry and wanton-eyed!

Dead, yet ever re-born!
     Lost, yet ever found!
Still with the roses of Morn
     And poppies of Midnight crown’d,—
     Laughing, with zone unbound!

Still, my Catullus, here
     Her Paphian rites are done!
Ever from year to year
     She gladdeneth in the sun,
     The wanton eternal one!

Out of the ripe warm earth,
     After the death-cold snow,
Bringing the old glad mirth
     The rose and the rose-girl blow—
     As in Rome so long ago!

More than my eyes I love her,                                                  154
     Just as you loved her there,—
The same skies shine above her,
     And the same bright golden hair
     Flows on her shoulders bare!

Light from her eyes I borrow,
     Clasp, kiss her, and adore;—
Under the earth to-morrow
     She’ll sleep as she slept before—
     Then waken and love once more.

Tho’ under the earth like thee
     I slumber still as stone,
Roses will blossom, and she,
     The rose-girl, stand full-blown,—
     Laughing, with loosen’d zone!


The quotation (slightly incorrect) is from Carmen 58 of Catullus:

“Caeli, Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa,
illa Lesbia, quam Catullus unam
plus quam se atque suos amavit omnes,
nunc in quadriviis et angiportis
glubit magnanimi Remi nepotes.”

The following translation is by Cecilia Treder and is taken from Rudy Negenborn's Catullus site:

Caelius, our Lesbia, that Lesbia,
that same Lesbia, whom Catullus loved
more than himself and more than all his own,
now loiters at the cross-roads and in the backstreets
ready to toss-off the grandsons of the brave Remus. ]



The New Rome 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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