“Her youth, her sweetness, her beauty,
Have witched me day and night;
I have sat whole days at the window
Feasting upon the sight.
“Always gentle and smiling,
Always busy and neat!
The light of the gloomy dwelling,
The sunbeam of the street!
“Long was I dumb and timid,
But I pluck’d up heart at last,
This morning a little letter
I in at the window cast.
“And there in the lane I trembled,
Full of a wild affright,
Till out of the window fluttered
This scrap of linen white.
“See, with indelible letters,
Her answer is written here:
Your gentle daughter, Selina,
Knows me, and holds me dear.
“See, on my knees unto her
I kneel, and again intreat,
My heart and my humble fortune
I place beneath her feet.”
“Selina, my daughter Selina,
Was this the little bird?
O, child, you have deceived me
Finely, upon my word!
“Is it thus you mark your linen?
Is it thus you spend the day?
Ah! love is ever contriving,
Whatever we old folks say.
“Sir, since you truly love her,
You shall wed her by-and-by,
If your character, on inquiry,
Does not your looks belie.
“Selina, you may kiss him!—
Close the house as we may,
Whether by door or by window,
Love will discover a way!”
‘The Neighbour’ was published in Good Words (November, 1871).
THE LATEST TOURNAMENT:
AN IDYLL OF THE QUEEN.
(RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED TO ALFRED TENNYSON, ESQ., POET LAUREATE.)
BERNALET, whom the Irish for a joke
Had made mock-knight of William’s Table Round,
At Westminster, within the gardens there,
Skipt, snapt his fingers, chuckled, smoked his weed;
When to him, on the prandial side of noon,
Sir Tyke, a something addle-headed knight,
Hard-grain’d, dull-eyed, no genius, somewhat pale
From thoughts of brickbats whirling round his head,
Stept forth, and grasping in his dexter hand
A Red Cap with a circlet labled “Guy,”
Said, “Wherefore dost thou chuckle so, Sir Fool?”
For William and Sir Foster riding once
Thro’ England, with great Boblo in their rear
Pricking full speed upon a bicycle,
Saw on a doorstep, wailing in the wind,
An infant, bare and red as Gloucester cheese:
And William said, “Gadzooks, what child is this?”
And when Sir Foster answered back, “Methinks
’Tis Ginx’s Baby!” the great William smiled;
But Boblo, hastening to them, cried, “Nay, nay,
No Ginx’s baby this, but bastard child
Of that false Frenchman, that most caitiff knave,
Sir Sans-Culotte, who, flying to his lair,
Hath left this offspring to the wintry wind,
For see it bears the Red Cap on its head
Whereon is written the inscription ‘Guy,’
And round its neck a circlet with the word
‘Democracy,’ and innocently it smiles
In the wild tempest, quietly, a babe
Not knowing its own mind;” and William took
The babe, and in the arms of the great Queen
Placed it an alien, and she smiled upon it,
And named it by a new name “Loyalty;”
But suddenly in spite of all her care
It perish’d; and the Fool’s-cap left behind
Vexed her with thought of its inglorious birth,
And to the people’s William with a sigh
She gave it, saying, “Take the cap of red,
The fool’s-cap take of the dead Loyalty,
And give a joust and let thy knights contend,
And let the circlet be his meed who wins.”
Thereon a cry ran thro’ the mighty land,
And all the land was vocal like the sea,
And in the empty hall of Westminster
Expectancy sat like a crouching hound
And waited; and the knights put gaily on
Armour of blue-books, ribs and helms of law,
And weapon’d with the spears of sharp debate
Waited, and the large hours rolled westward slow.
But, on the ’tother side of the great day
Preceding that, or, less ambiguously,
The morning just behind the day before,
To Carlton House there stagger’d eagerly,
With broken nose and one black jellied eye,
His teeth knocked down to his œsophagus,
His raiment rent, his face with filth besmear’d,
A churl, to whom Sir William angrily,
“My churl, for whom I’ve passed so many bills,
What ails thee? who hath spoiled heaven’s image here?”
Then, with his loose teeth rattling in his throat
Like dice within a box, spluttered the churl,
“O William, this maimed likeness thou dost see
Is Codger’s, his who many a day hath spent
Waxing his thread and stitching shoes for men,
And humming bitter songs to thy dispraise;
And I have come from an accursed Hole
Deep in the dark where damned duffers herd,
Led by Red Bradawl that most bastard knight,
Who, finding me too tedious and too fair,
Logical, subtle, sticking to my last,
And seeing that the Reading scum and scurf
Had set upon me, lick’d me nigh to death,
Mock’d, spat upon, and hounded me to Hell,
Hath driven me loathing to thy presence, saying,
‘Go, with those stripes and bruises on thy nob,
And tell the people’s William we have raised
A Table mightier than his Table Round,
Tho’ set within a pot-house, smear’d with beer,
Dirty and stinking of tobacco fume;
And whatsoever he and his have sworn,
Good, bad, wrong, right, true, false, it matters not,
We roughs have sworn precisely the reverse;
And tell him, O thou slowest of our horde,
Our Hole is full of duffers, like his House,
But ours are worthier, seeing they profess
The honest creed of duffers short of cash;
And say, ours are adventurers, like his,
But ours are truer, seeing all the world
Knoweth their need; and say, his hour is come,
The rowdies are upon him, his deep game
All up, and though he quotes my saws and songs,
Naught shall avail his cunning any more.’”
Then William said, “Dress this poor devil’s wounds!
The rowdies raise their many heads once more,
Queen Mobbe sits famined by her factory fire,
The land is full of curs, lean Communists,
Mad atheists, watery spouters, men of lust,
Twaddle and Treason of one long embrace
Have borne the squalling bastard Anarchy,
And I conjure you, O my faithful knights,
Be firm, stick close, be constant, and strike home;
And thou, Sir Foster, mightiest of my knights,
To-morrow sit enchair’d and judge the jousts,
Nor mingle with them, for it were not well
Thou shouldst contend with lesser than thyself.”
And when the morning of the Tournament,
By Whig and Red and Tory named alike
The Tournament of the Dead Loyalty,
Brake forth, ’twas windy weather, and the hens
Ruffled their feathers round them in the cold;
And forth the people streamed from street and lane,
The blind man and the cripple, old and young,
The penny-a-liner, and the wights who draw
Cuts for the papers called illustrated;
And to his lofty seat Sir Foster moved,
And saw the ladies round him gaily dight,
And thousands in the colours of the Queen.
A costermonger’s donkey from the midst
Brayed prelude, and all voices asinine
Re-echoed, with a roar from mouth to mouth;
And in a sullen growl the row began,
And one by one the armëd duffers dropt.
Sir Foster gazed with a sad-omen’d eye
And saw the laws of joust and tournament
All broken, heard the oaths and shallow lies,
The blasphemy of cowards in disguise
Against the fair fame of the stainless Queen;
And more than once a stricken warrior shrieked
Cursing the people’s William’s gentle eyes;
And once a teapot helm was cloven and showed
Fawcep—a narrow face; and all at once
He heard the donkey bray most hideously,
And saw the ass’s ears prick up like reeds,
And lo! there entered, in a court-suit worn
Of late in humble motion to the Queen,
With gems and baubles all emblazonëd,
(Given to his sire for services received
By liberal hands of perished Royalty,)
Starr’d with the badge of Royal Commissioner
Liege to the glittering grounds of Kensington,
With one word “Baronet” written on his breast
Proudly paraded in the garish light—
A pigmy shape—Sir Tyke—just come post-haste
From preaching in the shambles and the slums
To ignorant heads, blind eyes, and famish’d mouths,
Sedition, treason, crown’d with one blind thrust
Against the gentle fame of the great Queen;
And him Sir Foster knew, and longed to thrash,
But laugh’d to see the pigmy staggering
Under his breast-plate, much too big for him,
Helm’d with a pot and armed with his lance,
“Statistics,” which at the first eager touch
Was shiver’d into splinters on his breast.
And Foster laugh’d and all the people laugh’d
In concert, and the donkey brayed once more;
And not a knight of all within the lists
Could strike, but each, for laughter, held his sides,
And laugh’d and laugh’d, and all the assembly laugh’d,
And all cried, “Give the prize unto Sir Tyke!
For not a knight of all can hold his own
For laughter! Give the boy his lollipop!
Give it, Sir Foster, he hath fairly won.”
So Sir Tyke won, and him Sir Foster gave
The fool’s-cap, with the proud inscription GUY,
Saying only, “Verily, brother, thou hast won
Take it and wear, but question thine own heart
If thou forsooth hast gain’d it honestly.”
And he, Sir Tyke, made answer red with wrath:
“Thou tossest it to me too scornfully,
Yet think not I have failed to see, O knight,
Tho’ thou stand’st fair with the democracy,
The great and growing love thou bear’st the Queen;
Enough, farewell! thou knowest what thou art,
Right arm of William in the field of fame;
Be happy in thy great Queen as I in mine.”
Wherefore it came to pass that Bernalet,
Chuckling the next day down by Westminster,
Beheld Sir Tyke approaching, bearing proud
The red cap and its circlet; and Sir Tyke
Cried loudly, “Wherefore dost thou chuckle, fool?”
And Bernalet puffed out a wreath of smoke,
Saying, “Perchance to see thy chuckle-head!
Or, possibly, because I find myself,
Albeit the world hath deem’d me only fool,
The wisest knight of all the Table Round.”
And Bernalet, still smoking, chuckled on.
“I’faith,” cried Tyke, and smiling, chuckled too,
“Thou makest merry in thy heart to see
How bravely I have won the tourney prize.”
But Bernalet grew somewhat grave and scowl’d,
Saying, “I had rather sit with toads and frogs
And croak in yonder Hole at Majesty,
Than chuckle broken music like to thine,
O chuckle-head!” “What music?” cried Sir Tyke,
“What music have I broken, tell me, fool?”
And Bernalet, snapping his fingers, said,
“The Queen’s! Whose name thou, sitting with Queen Mobbe
Yonder among the slums of Newcastle,
Yea, and at Bolton, where the brickbats flew,
Blasphemedst to a low and sordid tune!”
Then cried Sir Tyke, “Would I might strangle thee;
Why do I stoop to reason with a fool?
But listen—reach thine ears—and I will sing;
And tell me if my notes be false or true.”
“Free speech—free sneer—we strike because we may;
Her voice is husht, she cannot strike again;
The tune is loud; hark how the donkeys bray—
New gibes, new lies—we care not how they stain;
New dust, new mud, to cast from day to day,
Old lies will do to dig from earth again;
Free speech—free sneer—we strike because we may.”
He ceased, and cried, “Why hast thou stopt thine ears?
1 made the song, and hold its music true.”
But Bernalet, with brow still darkening, cried,
“Friend, dost thou mark yonder white-headed boy
Making dirt pies without the garden rail?
And dost thou note his little dirty hands
Are naturally white as driven snow?
And lo! his little sister cometh near,
In pinafore most innocently clad,
Her face clean-shining from the morning scrub,
And straight at her he casteth mud and lies,
And laugheth, and the sweetling is defiled.”
Then Tyke cried “Is the mud that I and mine
Cast, dirtier than thy jests have been, O fool?”
And “Yea a thousand fold,” the fool replied.
“Boy, I have wallow’d in the popular filth
Yonder among the swine at Waterford—
Yea, I have wallow’d, but at last am washed.
Out of the dry drugs of Democracy
I drank, but pish! the taste was very mire,
’Twere well if thou wouldst wash thyself as well,
Or go in concert with thy brother swine,
Grunt wallowing that stale ditty I have heard
About the people’s William—go thy way
And babble of him, and out of every sty
Echoes most loud will come to answer thee.”
“Fool,” said Sir Tyke, “why dost thou care to name
Great William: dost thou deem him fool like thee?”
And Bernalet tossed away his weed and cried,
“Aye, by the rood a fool, the first of fools!
Believing he can make of thistles figs,
Men from mere swine, souls from splay-footed geese,
Truth-loving knights from mouldy fortune-hunters,
And liberal minds from underlings like thee.
A fool,—ay,—long live William, King of Fools!”
Then these twain parted, and Sir Tyke fared forth
Northward, and pricking thro’ a lonely town,
He saw a widow sitting on a step
And weeping, and he asked “Why wecpest thou?”
And she replied, “Because my man was slain,
Victim he fell to that wild malcontent
Who goeth up and down the land in arms
Setting the foolish people by the ears
With quips and foolish words that make them mad.”
And Tyke with features buried in his cloak
Rode musing: “Trouble grows. What an Queen Mobbe
Should learn to hate me? That were dangerous.
Should love me over much? That were a bore.
I would—I would not—nay in honest sooth
I know not if I would not or I would—
My bosom aches, and I am malcontent.”
And mid the red blaze of a hundred fires,
With hollow clang of iron in her ears,
And dismal sounds like voices in a dream,
Queen Mobbe, the faithless mistress of King Bull,
Sat, clad from head to foot in crimson red,
Musing; and when the mite Sir Tyke approached
The giant queen, with mad and hungry eyes,
Rush’d out and met him, towering in the flare
Above the pallid pigmy at her feet,
And crying, “No, not John! don’t say ’tis John!
But, nay, he never comes so jauntily.
My little one, hop-o’-my-thumb, my life,
Embrace me.” And when the pigmy sought in vain
To girdle the great waist, she only laughed
And raised him as a babe in her twain arms,
Holding him trembling to her mighty lips,
Till in a flutter at her passionate eyes,
Sir Tyke cried, trembling wildly through and through,
“O, sweetest, let me down! Thou frightenest me!
Thou hast been drinking, and thine eyes are wild!”
Then with a hollow laugh and hiccup cried
The Queen, “He druv me to it, he—even John!
I hate his blunt speech and his decent ways,
His pride, and when I drinks he thrashes me;
And he has fulsome talk of ‘rights’ and ‘law’
And ‘duty,’ and he hates all idle words.
Didst thou not meet him? O my pet, beware!
He hath a thousand ways to end thy life—
John’s ways, my love, is sudden, swift, and sure,
Beware of him, beware his booted toe.
O sweet, my heart is full of hate for John,
And that’s the reason why I dote on thee.”
Then, taking him, her lover, in her lap,
And fixing him with one lack-lustre eye,
“Hast thou been faithful?” thickly asked the Queen;
“O boy, hast thou been faithful, tell me true?”
And he half sullen, pursing out his lips,
Said, “Pray the powers may take good care of thee
When thou art old and powerless, undertrod,
And love for thee no more is profitable”——
And she much anger’d screamed, “O recreant!
Dost thou look forward to so sad a time?
O sneak, slack courtesy forsooth is thine,—
The greater man the greater courtesy—
But thou, from herding ever with the swine,
Morning and night, art swinish grown thyself.
Unsay the words: swear thou wilt love me ever.
Thy tongue is false: speak falsely: I’ll believe.”
Then Sir Tyke, kicking moodily, sucked his thumb.
“O bother! didst thou keep thy troth to John?
Swear to thee—verily, I have sworn enough;
And since I break mine oaths what use to swear?
I swore allegiance unto William once,
And seeing that, the churls of Chelsea straight
Elected me their knight; but, lo! how soon,
When I had gained mine end, I was forsworn.
Ay, once I honour’d William, kissed his feet,
And saw him raised on high with tight-drawn lips,
Weary lack-lustre eye, and peevish cheek,
A mighty man of pure and narrow mind,
High-soul’d and wholly ignorant of the world;
And all his followers lorded him as king,
And swollen with glory he did public deeds
Surpassing e’en himself, eclipsing all
In the white radiance of his pride and power;
And then the barbëd tongue of scandal rose,
And round his feet sedition like a snake
Hissed stingless;—and I turned from him to thee,
Finding more comfort in thy wild great eyes
Than in the still face of the people’s head.
Vows? vows? Bow-wows! Nothing I know of vows.
I am thy puppy, and my bark is this—
In politics we love but where we gain;
And therefore is my gain so large in thee,
Seeing that ’tis not bounded save by gain.”
Then she with flashing eyes said gruffly, “Good!
Now what if I should turn away from thee
To some one thrice as noble as thyself;
For instance, to Sir Foster—he indeed,
The knightliest of all great William’s knights—
Say that I loved him, would thou think it strange?”
But Sir Tyke smiled, and toying with her curls,
Cried wildly, “Let us liquor! Give me drink.
For being liquor’d, dearest, I will swear
Whate’er thou pleasest, and be fond for ever.”
So setting her pigmy lover on his legs,
Queen Mobbe the mighty to the cupboard went,
And spread the board with regal gin and beer,
Pipes and tobacco; and she gravely lit
Her cutty, and her lover lit a clay,
Gasping, red-eyed, because the smoke was strong;
And Mobbe cried, “This, now, I call sociable!
Cheer up, my pretty, here’s the sort of life
We’ll live together!” And they ogling smoked,
Now talking o’er the questions of the day,
Now mocking at the thought of King John Bull,
His great thick legs, his ribston-pippin face,
His quivering paunch, his quick and crusty speech,
Till Tyke, with pipe of clay held out at length,
Cough’d, gasp’d, flush’d, choked, then cleared his throat and sang.
“Ay, ay, my eye—the winds that blow men higher!
A place above, a muddy place below!
Ay, ay, my eye—a place is my desire,
And one is lost, and one is near I know;
Ay, ay, my eye—the winds that bring but ill!
One way was clean, the other way is mire,
And one is lost, and one I shrink from still.
Ay, ay, my eye! the wind I raised will blow!”
Then as she kissed him, in his hand Sir Tyke
Lifted the fool’s-cap. “Ha!” she smiling cried
A little thickly, “do mine eyes behold,
The sign of some new order which the Queen
Hath for thy sake, my pretty one, devised?”
“Not so,” he answered, “’tis the cap of red,
Wov’n of French hearts and dyed in human blood,
Won by thy poppet in the tournament,
And hither brought, a loving gift, to thee.”
She stoop’d, he stood on tiptoe, and on her head
Placed it; and as he fell upon her neck,
Kissed her, and drank her liquor-reeking breath,
Behind them rose a shadow on the wall
As of a plump top-booted yeoman’s leg,
Bent in the act to kick. “John’s way!” cried John,
And kicked the screaming pigmy down the stairs.
That night came William home, and while he walked
Through the dense darkness of the London fog,
And heard the news-boys, hollow in the mist,
Crying “Echo, Echo!” like to hideous elves,
Around his knees one clung and sobbed, and he
Question’d, “What art thou?” And a voice replied:
“O William! I am Bernalet the Fool!
And I shall never make thee smile again.”
‘The Latest Tournament: an Idyll of the Queen’ (a parody of Tennyson’s ‘The Last Tournament’) was published, anonymously, in The Saint Pauls Magazine, January, 1872 (pp. 21-29). The following extracts from Scottish newspapers attribute the poem to Buchanan.
The Oban Times (13 January, 1872 - p.2)
“The Latest Tournament”—a parody on the Laureate’s last work, published in the St Pauls Magazine of this month—is said to be by Mr Robert Buchanan.
Perthshire Advertiser (25 January, 1872 - p.2)
(From our own Correspondent.)
. . .
Those who have occasion to watch the work of the literary critics employed on the London press, and who know something of the influences that are in operation behind the scenes of which the general public are entirely ignorant, do not need to be informed that not much reliance can be placed in some of the critiques of new books that appear in the journals and magazines. It will have been noticed by the observer of recent literary phenomena that many works are either issued anonymously or with pseudonyms on their title pages. The secret of this is, that by no other means is it possible for some men to get anything like fair treatment in certain organs. “Ginx’s Baby” would never have been the success it was if the name of the author had been given; and “Lord Bantam,” which is an able book, is not likely to do so well, simply because it is known to be a production of Mr. Edward Jenkins. It is not unlikely that when he publishes another book, the lively writer will revert to the anonymous policy to which his first effort in no small degree owed its triumph. And the case of Mr Jenkins is by no means exceptional. I could name many instances in which well-known writers have adopted the expedients either of anonymity or of fictitious names for the purpose of getting from the critics something like fair play. The necessity for this is amusingly illustrated by a case which has to-day attracted my attention. It occurs in a weekly journal of Saturday last. This paper has lately been indulging in a series of violent attacks on Mr. Robert Buchanan; and in its latest impression it gives him a terrible “slating” for a poem of his which appears in the current number of Good Words. The piece is entitled “Will o’ the Wisp;” and the critic alleges that it is not merely silly, but also indecent. Then the critic goes on to say:—
We may add, as a postscript to what we have said in reference to Mr Robert Buchanan, that he would appear to be “retained upon the establishment” of Messrs Strahan & Co., after the fashion of “Paddy” Green at Evans’s. In their St. Paul’s Magazine he has a peculiar poem, “The Last of the Hangmen,” which is evidently intended to be satirical. But, if any one would wish to discriminate between [?] satire and true satire, they need only turn to the same number of the magazine, and there read (and enjoy) “The Latest Tournament: an Idyll of the Queen.” It might have been written by “Ben Gaultier;” and—though we grieve to say it—we think that Tennyson richly deserves it.
Now this is a very good joke indeed, for I believe I am justified in stating that “The Latest Tournament,” which the critic so greatly admires, declaring that it is worthy of “Ben Gaultier,” is from the same pen which indited “The Last of the Hangmen.” To be plain, it was no other than Mr Robert Buchanan who wrote both of these poems. But their author published one of them anonymously; and to that piece he is kindly referred by the abusive critic for a sample of what a satire ought to be? Had he put his name to his clever parody of the Laureate’s idyll, who can doubt that it would have been characterised by this critic in very different terms from those which he has seen fit to employ? The latter has been neatly caught in the trap set for dishonest critics, who allow personal animosity to take the place of that rigid impartiality which ought to characterise all who set up for guides of the public. I know of several other instances of the same sort of thing—some of them more notable in many respects than the above, and affecting journals of far higher repute than the one from which the present example is quoted. But the time has not yet arrived for a thorough exposure being made. When it has come, I promise your readers that they will have early information and a hearty laugh.
THIS is the sky, and thou art a star;
The white moon is nigh, and this is the sky,
The bright clouds go by, and the world lies afar;
This is the sky, and thou art a star!
How do I shine in thy love and thy bliss!
In thy lustre divine how I tremble and shine!
O my love, thou art mine! I am lost while I kiss—
How do I shine in thy love and thy bliss!
Far under our feet, the world lessens to light:
How far and how sweet doth it gleam at our feet!
Around us how fleet shoot the stars of the night,
While under our feet the world lessens to light.
Stars fixed in the blue, and stars shooting to fall,
Stars lost in the dew of the strange silent blue,
I thrill through and through as I look on them all,—
Stars fixed in the blue, and stars shooting to fall.
So still, love, so deep, heaven closes us round:
The worlds shine in sleep, so still and so deep!
Still closer I creep, to thy heart, with no sound:
So still, love, so deep, heaven closes us round.
This is the sky, and thou art a star!
All bright things go by, for this is the sky.
Do we live? must we die? Is the world then so far?
O this is the sky, and thou art a star!
‘Supreme Love’ was published in The Saint Pauls Magazine, February, 1872. The same issue contained Buchanan’s essay on Dickens, ‘The “Good Genie” of Fiction’, ‘The Ballad of Judas Iscariot’ (anonymous) and ‘Phil Blood’s Leap’ (‘by the author of “St. Abe and His Seven Wives”’). ‘John Banks’ was another pseudonym which Buchanan used occasionally, mostly in The Argosy.
(Born at Genoa, 1808; died at Pisa, March 10th, 1872.)
WITH face and hands of marble white,
In deep black draped and shod with red,
A Spirit stood o’er Rome by night,
And spoke no word but hung the head;
And he had eyes of lurid light,
And he was of an angel’s height,
And walk’d with angel’s tread
Those azure fields, while in his sight
Rome gleam’d from its black bed.
The night’s innumerable eyes
Were closing in the chilly peep
Of dawn unrisen, and the skies
Had darkened to that death-like sleep
Between two lives—the night that dies,
And the cold day that doth arise
Out of the darkened deep.
Below, the mighty City lies,
With river, dome, and steep.
With such a gaze as once of old
O’er the wild voids of Hell he threw,
The Spirit walked with footprint cold
The pathless prairie heavenly blue.
Like meadow flowers most manifold,
The stars swung cups of green and gold,
And gleam’d thro’ silvern dew;
Beneath, a throbbing church-bell toll’d,
And a cock faintly crew.
But hark! what tumult from below
Breaks, as dull thunder from a cloud—
The vapours part, dim light doth grow,
Beneath that Spirit spirits crowd,
Sad angels, dim as leaves that blow
Around the lily white as snow,
Cluster with foreheads bowed,
Upwafting on dark waves of woe,
A dead shape in its shroud!
In our white arms of prayer,
From his bed we bring him—
Up thro’ the silent air
We waft and wing him;
Over the golden dome
A space we linger. . .
Flash the dead eyes on Rome,
Point the dead finger!
Spirits of air, whom waft ye there,
With sound like waves on the sea-sand?
Martyr or warrior do ye bear,
Or monarch of the land?
And yet no crown is on his hair,
No sceptre in his hand.
We bear a great king dead,
Tho’ no man crown’d him;
Upon no golden bed
We spirits found him;
In no red raiment clad,
No proud state keeping;
Homeless, and poor, and sad,
We found him sleeping.
Sad spirits, do ye recognise
To whom ye speak this night?
We know thee, Dante, by thine eyes
Still lurid with strange light.
SPIRIT OF DANTE.
Bring near your burthen—let me see
This face so still and dark!
We bring our burthen up to thee,
We hush ourselves and mark.
SPIRIT OF DANTE.
Nearer—still nearer—the dead face uncover!
Yea, let me gaze, again and yet again.
Ah, soft ripe lips—the man hath been a lover;
Ah, woeful eyes—the man hath loved in pain!
There is no line of sin upon his features,
No appetite to blight and to undo;
And yet his cold last smile is like a creature’s
Who might have wanton’d, had he been less true.
All here is love—the royal brow doth borrow
Love from the eyes—that steal it from the lips.
The man hath loved, and love to such means sorrow,
For he was stainless to the finger tips.
Yea, he was royal, and loved in royal fashion,
Wasted with some white thought, his life went past;
Say, on what creature did he spend his passion,
And wherefore was it vestal till the last?
Look on the darkling land
That lies below thee;
We point with his dead hand,
That it may show thee—
Cast down he found her:
He loved her, set her free—
He robed and crown’d her!
All gifts that love can give,
He hourly brought her.
He died that she might live—
He tried and taught her;
He wasted his great brain
Like the fire on an altar.
Struck down, he rose again,
Too strong to falter;
He built his love a home—
Did hither bring her,
Queen of the golden dome
O’er which we linger. . .
Flash the dead eyes on Rome,
Point the dead finger!
SPIRIT OF DANTE.
O Italy! and this man was thy lover!
The last—the best—the truest thou hast slain!
Cover thy face—thy head with ashes cover:
Well might I deem that he had loved in pain!
I know thy strange insufferable beauty;
Thy passionate eyes that yearn thro’ waving hair!
I know thee, Magdalen! slow to learn thy duty,
Quick to forgive thy wrongs, but ever fair.
Thy look has struck like fire thro’ generations
Well weary of thy beauty and thy glee;
No man hath kiss’d thee, wanderer among nations,
But he hath been a wanderer like thee.
The curse of beauty hath been laid upon thee;
Thy hair too glorious and thy lips too red!
Many have sought thee, and no man hath won thee,
But on their souls thy soul hath thriven and fed.
Love, verily, thou hast taken but not given:
Thy beauty hath been cold moonlight on a sea.
Yet there thou sittest, crown’d in sight of Heaven,
Smiling thou sittest, somewhat false—but free!
She gave no crown of gold,
No rose-red favour.
She pass’d on bright and cold
To the home he gave her.
He sat by the sea afar—
But she look’d not thither;
She smiled to the evening star,
And his soul was with her.
For all the gifts he gave,
No man can number,
She hath not even a grave
Where he may slumber.
Queen of the golden dome,
O’er which we linger,
Yonder she sits at home,
And his dust we bring her. . .
Flash the dead eyes on Rome,
Point the dead finger!
SPIRIT OF DANTE.
Long, long ago, the dreadful path I wandered,
And saw the flaming and the frozen zone;
Sad centuries on the sight my soul hath ponder’d,
Walking the silence of these paths, alone.
I see the bright sky spotted like a leopard;
I see the dark earth like a burthen’d ox;
I see the shut pavilion of the Shepherd,
Without, the wailing wolves, the bleeding flocks.
The soul of man is black with sin as ever,
All lands look vile; Death hath a thousand lives;
All things are changed, but Evil changes never;
A thousand Kings are slain, but Satan thrives.
Afar away the ruby Gate is gleaming;
Hell was, Hell is—as deep as man’s despair.
Tell me, O Rome, o’er thine own beauty dreaming,
What was the vilest sin I look’d on there?
Mark well! Ingratitude. That name men give it.
It hath an awfuller name in yonder sky.
Touch thou this sin,—no scent of musk or civet
Shall sweeten thee to those who pass thee by.
Though thou be fairer than a flowering date-tree,
Though thou be clad in silks and precious stones,
Foulness shall cling to thee and penetrate thee,
And mar thee to the marrow of thy bones.
What shall the lover wear,
Black or white raiment?
What shall the woman fair
Give him for payment?
Vestal within his breast
Burnt the bright splendour;
Patient he sinks to rest,
Patient and tender.
Faithful to life and death—
(Watch, is she sleeping?)
True to the latest breath
(Hark! is she weeping?).
This was thy lover;
Raise thy cold eyes and see,
Here while we hover.
What is that glittering
In thy lap holden?
What is that shining thing,
Purple and golden?
Why on the earthly crown
With thy cold eyes cast down,
Smilest thou dreaming?
Over the golden dome
Hover and linger!—
Flash the dead eyes on Rome,
Point the dead finger!
SPIRIT OF DANTE.
O fool! thou find’st the substance in the symbol,
Fixing thine amorous eyes on thine own crown;
A bauble paltrier than a huswife’s thimble
Allures thee, and thou canst not cast it down!
Yea, Italy! thou art a very woman,
And mortal men have loved thee over-much;
Thou hast an angel’s eyes, but thou art human,
And there is treachery in thy silken touch.
Are thine eyes tearless? Hath thy soul forgotten?
Know’st thou no King but him who owns a throne?
Then, eat and die—for all thy life is rotten,
And where a heart once beat there slips a stone.
Earth hath a hundred kings who take their payment,
A hundred thrones arise in the bright sun;
Earth hath a hundred kings in glorious raiment,
How many kings like this? Perchance, not one.
O royal eyes! O royal locks all hoary,
Smooth’d from the kingly temples marbly cold!
O man! O lover! thine is greater glory—
In God’s own list of kings thy name is scroll’d.
Thy kingdom was of hungry aspirations—
Thy people starved and thou didst find them food;
Over the blacken’d gold-mines of the nations
Still didst thou walk, in raiment meek and good.
None knew thy regal state but the anointed—
Few kissed thy hand and trembled at thine eyes;
Yet from the Silence to a throne appointed
Thou cam’st, as surely as a star doth rise.
Not stainless wholly was thy rule, O brother!
These lines on thy proud mouth are touched with wrong;
Erring like all who come of the sad Mother,
Thou to thy kingdom camest, and made it strong.
Take him and lay him at God’s feet. I fear not
But God will bid him live in his due place;
Yet haply sleep were best, that he may hear not
How little she he loved doth miss his face.
For be he flesh or spirit, man or vision,
Be he cast down to Hell or raised above,
On Earth, in Hell, or in the fields Elysian,
What he loved once, this man will ever love.
And wheresoever his new feet shall wander,
New dreams of love will in his soul be planned;
His yearning eyes will earthward turn and ponder
The lineaments of one belovéd land!
A thousand Kings, each on his throne,
Sat robed and crown’d beneath the blue—
But one Republican alone
Was all the sad earth knew.
A thousand men since Time began
Have struck, and striven, and overcast;
But only one Republican
Was faithful till the last.
Legions of Kings beneath the skies
Have died like locusts on the sod;
But one Republican doth rise
King in the sight of God.
SPIRIT OF DANTE.
Bring him yet nearer, let me stoop to kiss him;
Worn are his cheeks, with having loved so much.
See! the dawn breaks, the morning will not miss him,
But he will wake, a spirit, at God’s touch.
Cold is his brow as ice, but he will waken!
I know his place, and thither must he go!
Into the company of Kings uptaken,
Who walk in peace on an eternal snow!
In our white arms of prayer
From his bed we bring him;
Up thro’ the heavenly air
We waft and wing him.
Pillow’d on bosoms bright,
Fann’d by soft pinions,
Bear him in death-gear white
To God’s dominions.
Now while day breaks beneath,
Coldly and stilly,
Set on his brow a wreath,
In his hand a lily:
Sceptred ev’n so and crown’d,
Let him be taken,
Then, at the Voice’s sound,
Smiling and looking round,
‘Mazzini’ was published in The Saint Pauls Magazine, April, 1872.
OR, LOVE AND RUMOUR.
IN a corner dark of Vanity Fair
A dingy booth you’ll see,
Old Mother Rumour sitteth there,
And leereth vacantly;
No thing on earth hath so true an air,
And so false a tongue, as she.
Lean she is, and wither’d, and old,
And her dress is very queer,
Cut in the fashion of folk long cold,
Buried this many a year;
Sew’d with scarlet and patch’d with gold,
Yet yellow and grim and sere.
But the drollest part of the old girl’s dress
Is a head-cap strange to sight,
Fashion’d so curiously you’d guess
’Twas a death’s-head grinning white:
It waggles about while the people press
From morning until night.
At the waxwork door she sits so grey,
With a greedy leer and grim;
If you go in from the light of day
And find all dark and dim,
And two candles guttering away
For her palsied hands to trim.
When the show is full with a dozen or so,
The old Hag quits her seat,
And shuffles down the ghastly row
With trembling hands and feet;
In the draughty air the rushlights blow,
As she doth her tale repeat.
Around her purblind glance is cast
On the figures pale and tall,
Her memory is failing fast
And she confuses all:
King and Headsman, Present and Past,
The mighty with the small!
For her stock of figures is ever the same,
And neither more nor less;
But she must change the dress and the name,
And it causes her distress;
[Tho’ her blunders cause her little shame
And little bashfulness.]
He who was lately old John Knox
To-morrow may be Pope Joan!
Times are busy, and grim Guy Fawkes
To Robespierre has grown!
Sink the Baptist a little in his socks,
And Luther stands full blown!
See here the last great murderer
Stands praying in the cart;
But the self-same figure I aver
Was lately Buonaparte—
Just as the public thoughts prefer,
She dresses each with art.
Queen or harlot, or both in one,
Beggars and priests and kings;
Every figure beneath the sun
Wherewith Fame’s trumpet rings.
How well on the whole the trick is done
With the same old stock of things!
Listen, my love! But yesternight
When the fun of the Fair all slept,
I saw the booth in the dark all white,
And under the canvas crept;
And there I looked on the strangest sight,
Hid from the most adept!
’Twas black, pitch black, in the booth within,
When I to peep began,
But suddenly the moon look’d in,
Thro’ a rent in the tent, all wan;
And the waxen figures both plump and thin,
Stood looming, woman and man!
The waxen figures stood white like death,
In their varied dress all dumb;
I look’d upon them, and felt my breath
Like a chill wind go and come;—
And in the midst, like a hideous wraith,
The Hag!—on the gilded drum!
On the gilded drum she sat and smiled,
And her head was a skull so gray,
Which wagg’d about like the head-dress wild
She weareth all the day;
And at her side where she mused and smiled,
A glittering scythe there lay.
A skeleton form with eyes so red,
She sat without a sound,
And she kick’d her heels, and roll’d her head,
In a reverie profound;
And the waxen shapes like the very dead,
In their quaint attire, stood round!
The moon, thro’ a rent in the canvas sheet,
Lit her from head to heel,
Her rags had fallen to her feet,
And she glitter’d bright as steel:
Schoolboys in dreams such spectres meet,
After a gluttonous meal.
With my heart in my mouth, afraid and chill,
I ceased to gape and stare,
And I breathed again ’neath the stars so still,
And the heavens so blue and fair;
And I rush’d to the top of a windy hill.
To get a breath of air.
Then in I came from the chill of night,
And into your little room,
And the vaporous breath of the moon was bright
Around you in the gloom;
And you waken’d up in your bedgown white
To see my pale face loom.
And the hideous nightmare seem’d by far
More sad than all things seem,
As your face, like a little drowsy star,
Broke to a welcome gleam—
“My dear,” you murmur’d, “how late you are,
I have had such a lovely dream!”
‘The Waxwork’ was published in The Saint Pauls Magazine, June, 1872. During the 1870s Buchanan published various poems and essays in The Saint Pauls Magazine under a variety of pseudonyms or anonymously (including ‘The Ballad of Judas Iscariot’). Although anonymous, I have a feeling The Waxwork is by Buchanan since it shares its weird tone with another poem, entitled ‘Vanity Fair’, which was originally published in Good Words, February, 1872. A revised version of ‘Vanity Fair’ was then reprinted in the 1882 collection, Ballads of Life, Love, and Humour.
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