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

The Critical Response
Harriett Jay

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{A Selection of Poems}









A dream I had in the dead of night:
     Darkness—the Jungle—a black Man sleeping—
     Head on his arm, with the moon-dew creeping
Over his face in a silvern light:
The Moon was driving, the Wind was crying;
     Two great lights gleam’d, round, horrid, and red,
     Two great eyes, steadfast beside the bed
Where the man was lying.
               Hark! hark!
         What wild things cry in the dark?
         Only the Wind as it raves,
         Only the Beasts in their caves,
         Where the Jungle waves.

The man slept on, and his face was bright,
     Tender and strange, for the man was dreaming—
     Coldly the light on his limbs was gleaming,
On his jet-black limbs and their folds of white;—
Leprous-spotted, and gaunt, and hated,
     With teeth protruding and hideous head,
     Her two eyes burning so still, so red,
The Tigress waited.
               Hark! hark!
         The wild things cry in the dark;
         The Wind whistles and raves,
         The Beasts groan in their caves,
         And the Jungle waves.

From cloud to cloud the cold Moon crept,
     The silver light kept coming and going—
     The Jungle under was bleakly blowing.
The Tigress watch’d, and the black Man slept.
The Wind was wailing, the Moon was gleaming:
     He stirr’d and shiver’d, then raised his head;—
     Like a thunderbolt the Tigress sped,
And the Man fell screaming—
               Hark! hark!
         The wild things cry in the dark;
         The wild Wind whistles and raves,
         The Beasts groan in their caves,
         And the Jungle waves.





Then methought I saw another sight:
     Darkness—a Garret—a rushlight dying—
     On the broken-down bed a Sailor lying,
Sleeping fast in the feeble light;—
The Wind is wailing, the Rain is weeping,
     She croucheth there in the chamber dim,
     She croucheth there with her eyes on him
As he lieth sleeping—
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray.
         In Tiger Bay.

Still as a child the Sailor lies;—
     She waits—she watches—is she human?
     Is she a Tigress? is she a Woman?
Look at the gleam of her deep-set eyes!
Bloated and stain’d in every feature,
     With iron jaws, throat knotted and bare,
     Eyes deep sunken, jet black hair,
Crouches the creature.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray,
         In Tiger Bay.

Hold her! scream! or the man is dead;
     A knife in her tight-clench’d hand is gleaming;
     She will kill the man as he lieth dreaming!
Her eyes are fixed, her throat swells red.
The Wind is wailing, the Rain is weeping;
     She is crawling closer—O Angels that love him!
     She holds her breath and bends above him,
While he stirreth sleeping.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray
         In Tiger Bay.

A silken purse doth the sleeper clutch,
     And the gold peeps through with a fatal glimmer!
     She creepeth near—the light grows dimmer—
Her thick throat swells and she thirsts to touch.
She looks—she pants with a feverish hunger—
     She dashes the black hair out of her eyes—
     She glares at his face . . . he smiles and sighs—
And the face looks younger.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray
         In Tiger Bay.

She gazeth on—he doth not stir—
     Her fierce eyes close, her brute lip quivers;
     She longs to strike, but she shrinks and shivers:
The light on his face appalleth her.
The Wind is wailing, the Rain is weeping:
     Something holds her—her wild eyes roll;
     His Soul shines out, and she fears his Soul,
Tho’ he lieth sleeping.
               Hark! hark!
         Who cries outside in the dark?
         Only the Wind on its way,
         Only the wild gusts astray
         In Tiger Bay.





I saw no more, but I woke,—and prayed:
     ‘God! that made the Beast and the Woman!
     God of the Tigress! God of the human!
Look to these things whom Thou hast made!
Fierce and bloody and famine-stricken,
     Knitted with iron vein and thew—
     Strong and bloody, behold the two!—
We see them and sicken.
               Mark! mark!
         These outcasts fierce of the dark;
         Where murmur the Wind and the Rain,
         Where the Jungle darkens the plain,
         And in street and lane.’

God answer’d clear, ‘My will be done!
     Woman-tigress and tigress-woman—
     I made them both, the beast and the human,
But I struck a spark in the brain of the one.
And the spark is a fire, and the fire is a spirit;
     Tho’ ye may slay it, it cannot die—
     Nay, it shall grow as the days go by,
For my Angels are near it—
               Mark! mark!
         Doth it not burn in the dark?
         Spite of the curse and the stain,
         Where the Jungle darkens the plain,
         And in street and lane.’

God said, moreover: ‘The spark shall grow—
     ’Tis blest, it gathers, its flame shall lighten,
     Bless it and nurse it—let it brighten!
’Tis scatter’d abroad, ’tis a Seed I sow.
And the Seed is a Soul, and the Soul is the Human;
     And it lighteth the face with a sign and a flame.
     Not unto beasts have I given the same,
But to man and to woman.
               Mark! mark!
         The light shall scatter the dark:
         Where murmur the Wind and the Rain,
         Where the Jungle darkens the plain,
         And in street and lane.’

. . . So faint, so dim, so sad to seeing,
     Behold it burning! Only a spark!
     So faint as yet, and so dim to mark,
In the tigress-eyes of the human being.
Fan it, feed it, in love and duty,
     Track it, watch it in every place—
     Till it burns the bestial frame and face
To its own dim beauty.
               Mark! mark!
         A spark that grows in the dark;
         A spark that burns in the brain;
         Spite of the Wind and the Rain,
         Spite of the Curse and the Stain;
         Over the Sea and the Plain,
         And in street and lane.




‘How long, O Lord, how long?’



Now poor Tom Dunstan’s cold,
     Our shop is duller;
Scarce a tale is told,
And our talk has lost its old
     Red-republican colour!
Though he was sickly and thin,
     ’Twas a sight to see his face,—
While, sick of the country’s sin,
With bang of the fist, and chin
     Thrust out, he argued the case!
He prophesied men should be free!
     And the money-bags be bled!
‘She’s coming, she’s coming!’ said he;
‘Courage, boys! wait and see!
     Freedom’s ahead!’



All day we sat in the heat,
     Like spiders spinning,
Stitching full fine and fleet,
While old Moses on his seat
     Sat greasily grinning;
And here Tom said his say,
     And prophesied Tyranny’s death;
And the tallow burned all day,
And we stitch’d and stitch’d away
     In the thick smoke of our breath.
Weary, weary were we,
     Our hearts as heavy as lead;
But ‘Patience! she’s coming!’ said he;
‘Courage, boys! wait and see!
     Freedom’s ahead!’



And at night, when we took here
     The rest allowed to us,
The Paper came, with the beer,
And Tom read, sharp and clear,
     The news out loud to us;
And then, in his witty way,
     He threw the jests about:
The cutting things he’d say
Of the wealthy and the gay!
     How he turn’d ’em inside out!
And it made our breath more free
     To hearken to what he said—
‘She’s coming! she’s coming!’ said he;
‘Courage, boys! wait and see!
     Freedom’s ahead!’



But grim Jack Hart, with a sneer,
     Would mutter, ‘Master!
If Freedom means to appear,
I think she might step here
     A little faster!’
Then, ’twas fine to see Tom flame,
     And argue, and prove, and preach,
Till Jack was silent for shame,—
Or a fit of coughing came
     O’ sudden, to spoil Tom’s speech.
Ah! Tom had the eyes to see
     When Tyranny should be sped:
‘She’s coming! she’s coming!’ said he
‘Courage, boys! wait and see!
     Freedom’s ahead!’



But Tom was little and weak,
     The hard hours shook him;
Hollower grew his cheek,
And when he began to speak
     The coughing took him.
Ere long the cheery sound
     Of his chat among us ceased,
And we made a purse, all round,
     That he might not starve, at least.
His pain was sorry to see,
     Yet there, on his poor sick-bed,
‘She’s coming, in spite of me!
Courage, and wait!’ cried he;
     ‘Freedom’s ahead!’



A little before he died,
     To see his passion!
‘Bring me a Paper!’ he cried,
And then to study it tried,
     In his old sharp fashion;
And with eyeballs glittering,
     His look on me he bent,
And said that savage thing
     Of the Lords o’ the Parliament.
Then, dying, smiling on me,
‘What matter if one be dead?
She’s coming at last!’ said he;
‘Courage boy! wait and see;
     Freedom’s ahead!’



Ay, now Tom Dunstan’s cold,
     The shop feels duller;
Scarce a tale is told,
And our talk has lost the old
     Red-republican colour.
But we see a figure gray,
     And we hear a voice of death,
And the tallow burns all day,
And we stitch and stitch away
     In the thick smoke of our breath;
Ay, while in the dark sit we,
     Tom seems to call from the dead—
‘She’s coming! she’s coming!’ says he;
‘Courage, boys! wait and see!
     Freedom’s ahead!’



How long, O Lord! how long
     Must thy Handmaid linger—
She who shall right the wrong,
Make the poor sufferer strong?
     Sweet morrow, bring her!
Hasten her over the sea,
     O Lord! ere Hope be fled!
Bring her to men and to me! . . .
O Slave, pray still on thy knee,
     ‘FREEDOM’s ahead!




(NEWGATE, 18—)

‘It’s a sight to see a bold man die!’


To-night we drink but a sorrowful cup . .
Hush! silence! and fill your glasses up.
Christ be with us! Hold out and say:
‘Here’s to the Boy that died this day!’

Wasn’t he bold as the boldest here?
Red coat or black did he ever fear?
With the bite and the drop, too, ever free?
He died like a man. . . . I was there to see!

The gallows was black, our cheeks were white
All underneath in the morning light;
The bell ceased tolling swift as thought,
And out the murdered Boy was brought.

There he stood in the daylight dim,
With a Priest on either side of him;
Each Priest look’d white as he held his book,
But the man between had a brighter look!

Over the faces below his feet
His gray eye gleam’d so keen and fleet:
He saw us looking; he smiled his last . . .
He couldn’t wave, he was pinioned fast.

This was more than one could bear,
For the lass who loved him was with us there;
She stood in the rain with her dripping shawl
Over her head, for to see it all.

But when she met the Boy’s last look,
Her lips went white, she turned and shook;
She didn’t scream, she didn’t groan,
But down she dropt as dead as stone.

He saw the stir in the crowd beneath,
And I saw him tremble and set his teeth;
But the hangman came with a knavish grace
And drew the nightcap over his face.

Then I saw the Priests, who still stood near,
Pray faster and faster to hide their fear;
They closed their eyes, I closed mine too,
And the deed was over before I knew.

The crowd that stood all round of me
Gave one dark plunge like a troubled sea;
And I knew by that the deed was done,
And I opened my eyes and saw the sun.

The gallows was black, the sun was white,
There he hung, half hid from sight;
The sport was over, the talk grew loud,
And they sold their wares to the mighty crowd.

We walked away with our hearts full sore,
And we met a hawker before a door,
With a string of papers an arm’s-length long,
A dying speech and a gallows song.

It bade all people of poor estate
Beware of O’Murtogh’s evil fate;
It told how in old Ireland’s name
He had done red murther and come to shame.

Never a word was sung or said
Of the murder’d mother, a ditch her bed,
Who died with her newborn babe that night,
While the blessed cabin was burning bright.

Nought was said of the years of pain,
The starving stomach, the madden’d brain,
The years of sorrow and want and toil,
And the murdering rent for the bit of soil.

Nought was said of the murther done
On man and woman and little one,
Of the bitter sorrow and daily smart
Till he put cold lead in the traitor’s heart.

But many a word had the speech beside:
How he repented before he died;
How, brought to sense by the sad event,
He prayed for the Queen and the Parliament!

What did we do, and mighty quick,
But tickle that hawker’s brains with a stick;
And to pieces small we tore his flam,
And left him quiet as any lamb!

Pass round your glasses! now lift them up!
Powers above, ’tis a bitter cup!
Christ be with us! Hold out and say:
‘Here’s to the Boy that died this day!’

Here’s his health!—for bold he died;
Here’s his health!—and it’s drunk in pride:
The finest sight beneath the sky
Is to see how bravely a MAN can die.





With spectacles upon his nose,
     He shuffles up and down;
Of antique fashion are his clothes,
     His napless hat is brown.
A mighty watch, of silver wrought,
     Keeps time in sun or rain
To the dull ticking of the thought
     Within his dusty brain.

To see him at the bookstall stand
     And bargain for the prize,
With the odd sixpence in his hand
     And greed in his gray eyes!
Then, conquering, grasp the book half blind,
     And take the homeward track,
For fear the man should change his mind,
     And want the bargain back!

The waves of life about him beat,
     He scarcely lifts his gaze,
He hears within the crowded street
     The wash of ancient days.
If ever his short-sighted eyes
     Look forward, he can see
Vistas of dusty Libraries
     Prolonged eternally.

But think not as he walks along
     His brain is dead and cold;
His soul is thinking in the tongue
     Which Plato spake of old;
And while some grinning cabman sees
     His quaint shape with a jeer,
He smiles,—for Aristophanes
     Is joking in his ear.

Around him stretch Athenian walks,
     And strange shapes under trees;
He pauses in a dream and talks
     Great speech, with Socrates.
Then, as the fancy fails—still mesh’d
     In thoughts that go and come—
Feels in his pouch, and is refresh’d
     At touch of some old tome.

The mighty world of humankind
     Is as a shadow dim,
He walks through life like one half blind,
     And all looks dark to him;
But put his nose to leaves antique,
     And hold before his sight
Some press’d and withered flowers of Greek,
     And all is life and light.

A blessing on his hair so gray,
     And coat of dingy brown!
May bargains bless him every day,
     As he goes up and down;
Long may the bookstall-keeper’s face,
     In dull times, smile again,
To see him round with shuffling pace
     The corner of the lane!

A good old Ragpicker is he,
     Who, following morn and eve
The quick feet of Humanity,
     Searches the dust they leave.
He pokes the dust, he sifts with care,
     He searches close and deep;
Proud to discover, here and there,
     A treasure in the heap!





What place is snugger and more pretty
Than a gay green Inn outside the City,
To sit in an arbour in a garden,
With a pot of ale and a long churchwarden!

Amid the noise and acclamation,
He sits unknown, in meditation:
’Mid church-bells ringing, jingling glasses,
Snugly enough his Sunday passes.


Beyond the suburbs of the City, where
Cheap stucco’d villas on the brick-field stare,
Where half in town, half country, you espy
The hay-cart standing at the hostelry,—
Strike from the highway down a puddly lane
Skirt round a market-garden, and you gain
A pastoral footpath, winding on for miles
By fair green fields and over country stiles;
And soon, as you proceed, the busy sound
Of the dark City at your back is drowned,
The speedwell with its blue eye looks at you,
The yellow primrose glimmers through the dew;
Out of the sprouting hedgerow at your side,
Instead of the town sparrow starveling-eyed,
The blackbird whistles and the finches sing;
Instead of smoke, you breathe the pleasant Spring;
And shading eyes dim from street dust you mark,
With soft pulsations soaring up, the LARK,
Till o’er your head, a speck against the gleam,
He sings, and the great City fades in dream!

     Five miles the path meanders; then again
You reach the road, but like a leafy lane
It wanders now; and lo! you stand before
A quaint old country Inn, with open door,
Fresh-watered troughs, and the sweet smell of hay.

     And if, perchance, it be the seventh day—
Or any feast-day, calendar’d or not—
Merry indeed will be this smiling spot;
For on the neighbouring common will be seen
Groups from the City, romping on the green;
The vans with gay pink curtains empty stand,
The horses graze unharness’d close at hand;
Bareheaded wenches play at games in rings,
Or, strolling, swing their bonnets by the strings;
’Prentices, galloping with gasp and groan,
On donkeys ride, till out of breath, or thrown;
False gipsies, with pale cheeks by juice stain’d brown,
And hulking loungers, gather from the town.
The fiddle squeaks, they dance, they sing, they play,
Waifs from the City casting care away,
And with the country smells and sights are blent
Loud town-bred oaths and urban merriment.

     Ay; and behind the Inn are gardens green,
And arbours snug, where families are seen
Tea-drinking in the shadow; some, glad souls,
On the smooth-shaven carpet play at bowls;
And half-a-dozen, rowing round and round,
Upon the shallow skating-pond are found,
And ever and anon will one of these
Upset, and stand there, wading to the knees,
Righting his crank canoe! Down neighbouring walks
Go ’prentice lovers in delightful talks;
While from the arbour-seats smile pleasantly
The older members of the company;
And plump round matrons sweat in Paisley shawls,
And on the grass the crowing baby sprawls.

     Now hither, upon such a festal day,
I from my sky-high lodging made my way,
And followed straggling feet with summer smile;
‘Jog on,’ I sung, ‘and merrily hent the stile,’
Until I reached the place of revelry;
And there, hard by the groups who sat at tea,
But in a quiet arbour, cool and deep,
Around whose boughs white honeysuckles creep,
A Face I saw familiar to my gaze,
In scenes far different and on darker days:—
An aged man, with white and reverent hair,
Brow patriarchal yet deep-lined with care,
His melancholy eye, in a half dream,
Watching the groups with philosophic gleam;
Decent his dress, of broadcloth black and clean,
Clean-starch’d his front, and dignified his mien.
His right forefinger busy in the bowl
Of a long pipe of clay, whence there did roll
A halo of gray vapour round his face,
He sat, like the wise Genius of the place;
And at his left hand on the table stood
A pewter-pot, filled up with porter good,
Which ever and anon, with dreamy gaze
And arm-sweep proud, he to his lips did raise.

     ’Twas Sunday; and in melancholy swells
Came the low music of the soft church-bells,
Scarce audible, blown o’er the meadows green,
Out of the cloud of London dimly seen—
Whence, thro’ the summer mist, at intervals,
We caught the far-off shadow of St. Paul’s.

     Silent he sat, unnoted in the crowd,
With all his greatness round him like a cloud,
Unknown, unwelcomed, unsuspected quite,
Smoking his pipe like any common wight;
Cheerful, yet distant, patronising here
The common gladness from his prouder sphere.
Cold was his eye, and ominous now and then
The look he cast upon those merry men
Around him; and, from time to time, sad-eyed,
He rolled his reverent head from side to side
With dismal shake; and, his sad heart to cheer,
Hid his great features in the pot of beer.

     When, with an easy bow and lifted hat,
I enter’d the green arbour where he sat,
And most politely him by name did greet,
He went as white as any winding-sheet!
Yea, trembled like a man whose lost eyes note
A pack of wolves upleaping at his throat!
But when, in a respectful tone and kind,
I tried to lull his fears and soothe his mind,
And vowed the fact of his identity
Was as a secret wholly safe with me—
Explaining also, seeing him demur,
That I
too was a public character—
The GREAT UNKNOWN (as I shall call him here)
Grew calm, replenish’d soon his pot of beer
At my expense, and in a little while
His tongue began to wag, his face to smile;
And in the simple self-revealing mode
Of all great natures heavy with the load
Of pride and power, he edged himself more near,
And poured his griefs and wrongs into mine ear.

     ‘Well might I be afraid, and sir to you!
They’d tear me into pieces if they knew,—
For quiet as they look, and bright, and smart,
Each chap there has a tiger in his heart!
At play they are, but wild beasts all the same—
Not to be teased although they look so tame;
And many of them, plain as eye can trace,
Have got my ’scutcheon figured on the face.
It’s all a matter of mere destiny
Whether they go all right or come to me:
Mankind is bad, sir, naturally bad!’

     And as he shook his head with omen sad,
I answered him, in his own cynic strain:

     ‘Yes, ’tis enough to make a man complain.
This world of ours so vicious is and low,
It always treats its Benefactors so.
If people had their rights, and rights were clear,
You would not sit unknown, unhonour’d, here;
But all would bow to you, and hold you great,
The first and mightiest member of the State.
Who is the inmost wheel of the machine?
Who keeps the Constitution sharp and clean?
Who finishes what statesmen only plan,
And keeps the whole game going? You’re the Man!
At one end of the State the eye may view
Her Majesty, and at the other—
And of the two, both precious, I aver,
They seem more ready to dispense with

     The Great Man watched me with a solemn look,
Then from his lips the pipe he slowly took,
And answered gruffly, in a whisper hot:

     ‘I don’t know if you’re making game or not!
But, dash my buttons though you put it strong,
It’s my opinion you’re more right than wrong!
There’s not another man this side the sea
Can settle off the State’s account like me.
The work from which all other people shrink
Comes natural to me as meat and drink,—
All neat, all clever, all perform’d so pat,
It’s quite an honour to be hung like that!
People don’t howl and bellow when they meet
The Sheriff or the Gaoler in the street;
They never seem to long in their mad fits
To tear the Home Secretary into bits;
When Judges in white hats to Epsom Down
Drive gay as Tom and Jerry, folk don’t frown;
They cheer the Queen and Royal Family,
But only let them catch a sight of me,
And like a pack of hounds they howl and storm!
And that’s their gratitude; ’cause I perform,
In genteel style and in a first-rate way,
The work they’re making for me night and day!
Why, if a mortal had his rights, d’ ye see,
I should be honour’d as I ought to be—
They’d pay me well for doing what I do,
And touch their hats whene’er I came in view.
Well, after all, they do as they are told;
They ‘re less to blame than Government, I hold.
sees my value, and it knows
I keep the whole game going as it goes,
And yet it holds me down and makes me cheap,
And calls me in at odd times like a sweep
To clean a dirty chimney. Let it smoke,
And every mortal in the State must choke!
And yet, though always ready at the call,
I get no gratitude, no thanks at all.
Instead of rank, I get a wretched fee,
Instead of thanks, a sneer or scowl may-be,
Instead of honour such as others win,
Why, I must hide away to save my skin.
When I am sent for to perform my duty,
Instead of coming in due state and beauty,
With outriders and dashing grays to draw
(Like any other mighty man of law),
Disguised, unknown, and with a guilty cheek,
The gaol I enter like an area sneak!
And when all things have been perform’d with art
(With my young man to do the menial part)
Again out of the dark, when none can see,
I creep unseen to my obscurity!’

     His vinous cheek with virtuous wrath was flushed,
And to his nose the purple current rushed,
While with a hand that shook a little now,
He mopp’d the perspiration from his brow,
Sighing; and on his features I descried
A sparkling tear of sorrow and of pride.
Meantime, around him all was mirth and May,
The sport was merry and all hearts were gay,
The green boughs sparkled back the merriment,
The garden honeysuckle scatter’d scent,
The warm girls giggled and the lovers squeezed,
The matrons drinking tea look’d on full pleased.
And far away the church-bells sad and slow
Ceased on the scented air. But still the woe
Grew on the Great Man’s face—the smiling sky,
The light, the pleasure, on his fish-like eye
Fell colourless;—at last he spoke again,
Growing more philosophic in his pain:

     ‘Two sorts of people fill this mortal sphere,
Those who are hung, and those who just get clear;
And I’m the schoolmaster (though you may laugh),
Teaching good manners to the second half.
Without my help to keep the scamps in awe,
You’d have no virtue and you’d know no law;
And now they only hang for blood alone,
Ten times more hard to rule the mob have grown.
I’ve heard of late some foolish folk have plann’d
To put an end to hanging in the land;
But, Lord! how little do the donkeys know
This world of ours, when they talk nonsense so!
It’s downright blasphemy! You might as well
Try to get rid at once of Heaven and Hell!
Mankind is bad, sir, naturally bad,
Both rich and poor, man, woman, sad, or glad!
While some to keep scot-free have got the wit
(Not that they’re really better – devil a bit!),
Others have got my mark so plain and fair
In both their eyes, I stop, and gape, and stare.
Look at that fellow stretch’d upon the green,
Strong as a bull, though only seventeen;
Bless you, I know the party every limb,
I’ve hung a few fac-similes
of him!
And cast your eye on that pale wench who sips
Gin in the corner; note her hanging lips,
The neat-shaped boots, and the neglected lace:
There’s baby-murder written on her face!—
Tho’ accidents may happen now and then,
I know my mark on women and on men,
And oft I sigh, beholding it so plain,
To think what heaps of labour still remain!’

     He sigh’d, and yet methought he smackt his lips,
As one who in anticipation sips
A feast to come. Then I, with a sly thought,
Drew forth a picture I had lately bought
In Regent Street, and begged the man of fame
To give his criticism on the same.
First from their case his spectacles he took,
Great silver-rimm’d, and with deep searching look
The picture’s lines in silence pondered he.

     ‘This is as bad a face as ever I see!
This is no common area-sneak or thief,
No stealer of a pocket-handkerchief,
No! deep’s the word, and knowing, and precise,
Afraid of nothing, but as cool as ice.
Look at his ears, how very low they lie,
Lobes far below the level of his eye,
And there’s a mouth, like any rat-trap’s tight,
And at the edges bloodless, close, and white.
Who is the party? Caught, on any charge?
There’s mischief near, if he remains at large!’

     Gasping with indignation, angry-eyed,
‘Silence! ’tis very blasphemy,’ I cried;
‘Misguided man, whose insight is a sham,
These noble features you would brand and damn,
This saintly face, so subtle, calm, and high,
Are those of one who would not wrong a fly—
A friend of man, whom all man’s sorrows stir,
’Tis MR. MILL, the great PHILOSOPHER!’

     Then for a moment he to whom I spake
Seemed staggered, but, with the same ominous shake
O’ the head, he, rallying, wore a smile half kind,
Pitying my simplicity of mind.

     ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘from my word I will not stir—
I’ve seen that look on many a murderer;
But don’t mistake—it stands to common sense
That education makes the difference!
I’ve heard the party’s name, and know that he
Is a good pleader for my trade and me;
And well he may be! for a clever man
Sees pretty well what others seldom can,—
That those mark’d qualities which make him great
In one way, might by just a turn of fate
Have raised him in
another! Ah, it’s sad—
Mankind is bad, sir, naturally bad!
It takes a genius in our busy time
To plan and carry out a bit of crime
That shakes the land and raises up one’s hair;
Most murder now is but a poor affair—
No art, no cunning, just a few blind blows
Struck by a bullet-headed rough who knows
No better. Clever men now see full plain
That crime don’t answer. Thanks to me
, again!
Ah, when I think what would become of men
Without my bit of schooling now and then,—
To teach the foolish they must mind their play,
And keep the clever under every day,—
I shiver! As it is, they’re kept by me
To decent sorts of daily villany—
Law, money-lending, factoring on the land,
Share-broking, banking with no cash in hand,
And many a sort of weapon they may use
Which never brings their neck into the noose;
For if they’re talented they can invent
Plenty of crime that gets no punishment,
Do lawful murder with no sort of fear
As coolly as I drink this pot of beer!’

     The Great Man paused and drank; his face was grim,
Half buried in the pot; and o’er its rim
His eye, like the law’s bull’s-eye, flashing bright
To deepen darkness round it, threw its light
On the gay scene before him, and it seemed
Rendered all wretched near it as it gleamed.
A shadow fell upon the merry place,
Each figure grew distorted, and each face
Spake of crime hidden and of evil thought.
Darkling I gazed, sick-hearted and distraught,
In silence. Black and decent at my side,
With reverend hair, sat melancholy-eyed
The Patriarch. To my head I held my hand,
And ponder’d, and the look of the fair land
Seemed deathlike. On the darkness of my brain
The voice, a little thicker, broke again:

     ‘Ah, things don’t thrive as they throve once,’ he said,
‘And I’m alone now my old woman’s dead.
I find the Sundays dull. First, I attend
The morning service, then this way I wend
To take my pipe and drop of beer; and then,
Home to a lonely meal in town again.
’Tis a dull world!—and grudges me my hire—
I ought to get a pension and retire.
What living man has served his country so?
But who’s to take my place I scarcely know!
Well, Heaven will punish their neglect anon:—
They’ll know my merit, when I’m dead and gone!’

     He stood upon his legs, and these, I think,
Were rather shaky, part with age, part drink,
And with a piteous smile, full of the sense
Of human vanity and impotence,
Grimly he stood, half senile and half sly,
A sight to make the very angels cry;
Then lifted up a hat with weepers on—
(Worn for some human creature dead and gone)
Placing it on his head (unconsciously
A little on one side) held out to me
His right hand, and, though grim beyond belief,
Wore unaware an air of rakish grief—
Even so we parted, and with hand-wave proud
He faded like a ghost into the crowd.

     Home to the mighty City wandering,
Breathing the freshness of the fields of Spring,
Hearing the Lark, and seeing bright winds run
Between the bending rye-grass and the sun,
I mused and mused; till with a solemn gleam
My soul closed, and I saw as in a dream,
Apocalyptic, cutting heaven across,
Two mighty shapes—a Gallows and a Cross.
And these twain, with a sea of lives that clomb
Up to their base and struck and fell in foam,
Moved, trembled, changed; and lo! the first became
A jet-black Shape that bowed its head in shame
Before the second, which in turn did change
Into a luminous Figure, sweet and strange,
Stretching out mighty arms to bless the thing
Which hushed its breath beneath Him wondering.
And lo! these visions vanished with no word
In brightness; and like one that wakes I heard
The church bells chime and the cathedrals toll,
Filling the mighty City like its Soul.

     Then, like a spectre strange and woe-begone,
Uprose again, with mourning weepers on,
His hat a little on one side, his breath
Heavy and hot, the gray-hair’d Man of Death,
Tottering, grog-pimpled, with a trembling pace
Under the Gateway of the Silent Place,
At whose sad opening the great Puppet stands
The rope of which he tugs with palsied hands.

     Christ help me! whither do my wild thoughts run?
And Christ help thee
, thou lonely agëd one!
Christ help us all, till all’s that dark grows clear—
Are those indeed the Sabbath bells I hear?



LONDON, 1864.



Why should the heart seem stiller,
     As the song grows stronger and surer?
Why should the brain grow chiller,
     And the utterance clearer and purer?
To lose what the people are gaining
     Seems often bitter as gall,
Though to sink in the proud attaining
     Were the bitterest of all.
I would to God I were lying
     Yonder ’mong mountains blue,
Chasing the morn with flying
     Feet in the morning dew!
Longing, and aching, and burning
     To conquer, to sing, and to teach,
A passionate face upturning
     To visions beyond my reach,—
But with never a feeling or yearning
     I could utter in tuneful speech!



Yea! that were a joy more stable
     Than all that my soul hath found,—
Than to see and to know, and be able
     To utter the seeing in sound;
For Art, the Angel of losses,
     Comes, with her still, gray eyes,
Coldly my forehead crosses,
     Whispers to make me wise;
And, too late, comes the revelation,
     After the feast and the play,
That she works God’s dispensation
     By cruelly taking away:
By burning the heart and steeling,
     Scorching the spirit deep,
And changing the flower of feeling,
     To a poor dried flower that may keep!
What wonder if much seems hollow,
     The passion, the wonder dies;
And I hate the angel I follow,
     And shrink from her passionless eyes,—
Who, instead of the rapture of being
     I held as the poet’s dower—
Instead of the glory of seeing,
     The impulse, the splendour, the power—
Instead of merrily blowing
     A trumpet proclaiming the day,
Gives, for her sole bestowing,
     A pipe whereon to play!
While the spirit of boyhood hath faded,
     And never again can be,
And the singing seemeth degraded,
     Since the glory hath gone from me,—
Though the glory around me and under,
     And the earth and the air and the sea,
And the manifold music and wonder,
     Are grand as they used to be!



Is there a consolation
     For the joy that comes never again?
Is there a reservation?
     Is there a refuge from pain?
Is there a gleam of gladness
     To still the grief and the stinging?
Only the sweet, strange sadness,
     That is the source of the singing.



For the sound of the city is weary,
     As the people pass to and fro,
And the friendless faces are dreary,
     As they come, and thrill through us, and go;
And the ties that bind us the nearest
Of our error and weakness are born;
And our dear ones ever love dearest
     Those parts of ourselves that we scorn;
And the weariness will not be spoken,
     And the bitterness dare not be said,
The silence of souls is unbroken,
     And we hide ourselves from our Dead!
And what, then, secures us from madness?
     Dear ones, or fortune, or fame?
Only the sweet singing sadness
     Cometh between us and shame.



And there dawneth a time to the Poet,
     When the bitterness passes away,
With none but his God to know it,
     He kneels in the dark to pray;
And the prayer is turn’d into singing,
     And the singing findeth a tongue,
And Art, with her cold hands clinging,
     Comforts the soul she has stung.
Then the Poet, holding her to him,
     Findeth his loss is his gain:
The sweet singing sadness thrills through him,
     Though nought of the glory remain;
And the awful sound of the city,
     And the terrible faces around,
Take a truer, tenderer pity,
     And pass into sweetness and sound;
The mystery deepens to thunder,
     Strange vanishings gleam from the cloud,
And the Poet, with pale lips asunder,
     Stricken, and smitten, and bow’d,
Starteth at times from his wonder,
     And sendeth his Soul up aloud!



Next: ‘Clari in the Well’

A Selection of Poems - the List








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


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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