The Poems and Prose Remains of Arthur Hugh Clough/Volume 2/Dipsychus/Part 2

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188735DipsychusArthur Hugh Clough

Scene I.

The interior Arcade of the Doge’s Palace.

     Sp. Thunder and rain! O dear, O dear!
But see, a noble shelter here,
This grand arcade where our Venetian
Has formed of Gothic and of Grecian
A combination strange, but striking,
And singularly to my liking!
Let moderns reap where ancients sowed,
I at least make it my abode.
And now let’s hear your famous Ode:
‘Through the great sinful’—how. did it go on?
For principles of Art and so on
I care perhaps about three curses,
But hold myself a judge of verses.

     Di. ‘My brain was lightened when my tongue had said,
“Christ is not risen.”’
. . . . .
     Sp. Well, now it’s anything but clear
What is the tone that’s taken here:
What is your logic? what ‘s your theology?
Is it, or is it not, neology?
That’s a great fault; you’re this and that,
And here and there, and nothing flat;
Yet writing’s golden word what is it,
But the three syllables ’explicit?’
Say, if you cannot help it, less,
But what you do put, put express.
I fear that rule won’t meet your feeling:
You think half showing, half concealing,
Is God’s own method of revealing.

     Di. To please my own poor mind! to find repose:
To physic the sick soul; to furnish vent
To diseased humours in the moral frame!

     Sp. A sort of seton, I suppose,
A moral bleeding at the nose
H’m;—and the tone too after all,
Something of the ironical?
Sarcastic, say; or were it fitter
To style it the religious bitter?

     Di. Interpret it I cannot, I but wrote it.

     Sp. Perhaps; but none that read can doubt it,
There is a strong Strauss-smell about it.
Heavens! at your years your time to fritter
Upon a critical hair-splitter!
Take larger views (and quit your Germans)
From the Analogy and sermons;
I fancied—you must doubtless know—
Butler had proved an age ago,
That in religious as profane things
’Twas useless trying to explain things;
Men’s business-wits, the only sane things,
These and compliance are the main things.
God, Revelation, and the rest of it,
Bad at the best, we make the best of it.
Like a good subject and wise man,
Believe whatever things you can.
Take your religion as ’twas found you,
And say no more of it, confound you!
And now I think the rain has ended;
And the less said, the soonest mended.

Scene II.--In a Gondola.

     Sp. Per ora. To the Grand Canal.
Afterwards e’en as fancy shall.

     Di. Afloat; we move. Delicious! Ah,
What else is like the gondola?
This level floor of liquid glass
Begins beneath us swift to pass.
It goes as though it went alone
By some impulsion of its own.
(How light it moves, how softly! Ah,
Were all things like the gondola!)
How light it moves, how softly! Ah,
Could life, as does our gondola,
Unvexed with quarrels, aims and cares,
And moral duties and affairs,
Unswaying, noiseless, swift and strong,
For ever thus—thus glide along!
(How light we move, how softly! Ah,
Were life but as the gondola!)

With no more motion than should bear
A freshness to the languid air;
With no more effort than exprest
The need and naturalness of rest,
Which we beneath a grateful shade
Should take on peaceful pillows laid!
(How light we move, how softly! Ah,
Were life but as the gondola!)

In one unbroken passage borne
To closing night from opening morn,
Uplift at whiles slow eyes to mark
Some palace front, some passing bark;
Through windows catch the varying shore,
And hear the soft turns of the oar!
(How light we move, how softly! Ah,
Were life but as the gondola!)

So live, nor need to call to mind
Our slaving brother here behind!

     Sp. Pooh! Nature meant him for no better
Than our most humble menial debtor;
Who thanks us for his day’s employment
As we our purse for our enjoyment.

     Di. To make one’s fellow-man an instrument—

     Sp. Is just the thing that makes him most content.

     Di. Our gaieties, our luxuries,
                         Our pleasures and our glee,
                 Mere insolence and wantonness,
                         Alas! they feel to me.

                 How shall I laugh and sing and dance!
                         My very heart recoils,
                 While here to give my mirth a chance
                         A hungry brother toils.

                 The joy that does not spring from joy
                         Which I in others see,
                 How can I venture to employ,
                         Or find it joy for me?

     Sp. Oh come, come, come! By Him that sent us here,
Who’s to enjoy at all, pray let us hear?
You won’t; he can’t! Oh, no more fuss!
What’s it to him, or he to us?
Sing, sing away, be glad and gay,
And don’t forget that we shall pay.

     Di. Yes, it is beautiful ever, let foolish men rail at it never.
Yes, it is beautiful truly, my brothers, I grant it you duly.
Wise are ye others that choose it, and happy ye all that can use it.
Life it is beautiful wholly, and could we eliminate only
‘This interfering, enslaving, o’ermastering demon of craving,
This wicked tempter inside us to ruin still eager to guide us,
Life were beatitude, action a possible pure satisfaction.

     Sp. (Hexameters, by all that’s odious,
Beshod with rhyme to run melodious!)

     Di. All as I go on my way I behold them consorting and coupling;
Faithful it seemeth, and fond; very fond, very possibly faithful;
All as I go on my way with a pleasure sincere and unmingled.
Life it is beautiful truly, my brothers, I grant it you duly;
But for perfection attaining is one method only, abstaining;
Let us abstain, for we should so, if only we thought that we could so.

     Sp. Bravo, bravissimo! this time though
You rather were run short for rhyme though;
Not that on that account your verse
Could be much better or much worse.

This world is very odd we see,
    We do not comprehend it;
But in one fact we all agree,
    God won’t, and we can’t mend it.
Being common sense, it can’t be sin
    To take it as I find it;
The pleasure to take pleasure in;
    The pain, try not to mind it.

     Di. O let me love my love unto myself alone,
And know my knowledge to the world unknown;
No witness to the vision call,
Beholding, unbeheld of all;
And worship thee, with thee withdrawn, apart,
Whoe’er, whate’er thou art,
Within the closest veil of mine own inmost heart.

Better it were, thou sayest, to consent,
Feast while we may, and live ere life be spent;
Close up clear eyes, and call the unstable sure,
The unlovely lovely, and the filthy pure;
In self-belyings, self-deceivings roll,
And lose in Action, Passion, Talk, the soul.

Nay, better far to mark off thus much air,
And call it heaven; place bliss and glory there;
Fix perfect homes in the unsubstantial sky,
And say, what is not, will be by-and-by;
What here exists not must exist elsewhere.
But play no tricks upon thy soul, O man;
Let fact be fact, and life the thing it can.

     Sp. To these remarks so sage and clerkly,
Worthy of Malebranche or Berkeley,
I trust it won’t be deemed a sin
If I too answer ‘with a grin.’

These juicy meats, this flashing wine,
    Maybe an unreal mere appearance;
Only — for my inside, in fine,
    They have a singular coherence.
Oh yes, my pensive youth, abstain;
    And any empty sick sensation,
Remember, anything like pain
    Is only your imagination.

Trust me, I’ve read your German sage
    To far more purpose e’er than you did;
You find it in his wisest page,
    Whom God deludes is well deluded.
     Di. Where are the great, whom thou would’st wisl to praise thee?
Where are the pure, whom thou would’st choose to love thee?
Where are the brave, to stand supreme above thee,
Whose high commands would cheer, whose chiding, raise thee?
    Seek, seeker, in thyself; submit to find
    In the stones, bread, and life in the blank mind.

(Written in London, standing in the Park,
One evening in July, just before dark.)

    Sp. As I sat at the café, I said to myself,
They may talk as they please about what they call pelf
They may sneer as they like about eating and drinking
But help it I cannot, I cannot help thinking,
    How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    How pleasant it is to have money.

I sit at my table en grand seigneur,
And when I have done, throw a crust to the poor;
Not only the pleasure, one’s self, of good living,
But also the pleasure of now and then giving.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

It was but last winter I came up to town,
But already I’m getting a little renown;
I make new acquaintance where’er I appear;
I am not too shy, and have nothing to fear.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

I drive through the streets, and I care not a d—n;
The people they stare, and they ask who I am;
And if I should chance to run over a cad,
I can pay for the damage if ever so bad.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

We stroll to our box and look down on the pit,
And if it weren’t low should be tempted to spit;
We loll and we talk until people look up,
And when it’s half over we go out to sup.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

The best of the tables and the best of the fare—
And as for the others, the devil may care;
It isn’t our fault if they dare not afford
To sup like a prince and be drunk as a lord.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

We sit at our tables and tipple champagne;
Ere one bottle goes, comes another again;
The waiters they skip and they scuttle about,
And the landlord attends us so civilly out.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

It was but last winter I came up to town,
But already I’m getting a little renown;
I get to good houses without much ado,
Am beginning to see the nobility too.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

O dear! what a pity they ever should lose it!
For they are the gentry that know how to use it;
So grand and so graceful, such manners, such dinners,
But yet, after all, it is we are the winners.
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    So pleasant it is to have money.

Thus I sat at my table en grand seigneur,
And when I had done threw a crust to the poor;
Not only the pleasure, one’s self, of good eating.
But also the pleasure of now and then treating,
    So pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho
    So pleasant it is to have money.

They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
And how one ought never to think of one’s self,
And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking—
My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking
    How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    How pleasant it is to have money.

(Written in Venice, but for all parts true,
’Twas not a crust I gave him, but a sous.)

A gondola here, and a gondola there,
’Tis the pleasantest fashion of taking the air.
To right and to left; stop, turn, and go yonder,
And let us repeat, o’er the tide as we wander,
    How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    How pleasant it is to have money.

Come, leave your Gothic, worn-out story,
San Giorgio and the Redentore;
I from no building, gay or solemn,
Can spare the shapely Grecian column.
’Tis not, these centuries four, for nought
Our European world of thought
Hath made familiar to its home
The classic mind of Greece and Rome;
In all new work that would look forth
To more than antiquarian worth,
Palladio’s pediments and bases,
Or something such, will find their places:
Maturer optics don’t delight
In childish dim religious light,
In evanescent vague effects
That shirk, not face one’s intellects;
They love not fancies just betrayed,
And artful tricks of light and shade,
But pure form nakedly displayed,
And all things absolutely made.
    The Doge’s palace though, from hence,
In spite of doctrinaire pretence,
The tide now level with the quay,
Is certainly a thing to see.
We’ll turn to the Rialto soon;
One’s told to see it by the moon.

A gondola here, and a gondola there,
’Tis the pleasantest fashion of taking the air.
To right and to left; stop, turn, and go yonder,
And let us reflect, o’er the flood as we wander,
    How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
    How pleasant it is to have money.

     Di. How light we go, how soft we skim,
And all in moonlight seems to swim!
The south side rises o’er our bark,
A wall impenetrably dark;
The north is seen profusely bright;
The water, is it shade or light?
Say, gentle moon, which conquers now
The flood, those massy hulls, or thou?
(How light we go, how softly! Ah,
Were life but as the gondola!)

How light we go, how soft we skim!
And all in moonlight seem to swim.
In moonlight is it now, or shade?
In planes of sure division made,
By angles sharp of palace walls
The clear light and the shadow falls;
O sight of glory, sight of wonder!
Seen, a pictorial portent, under,
O great Rialto, the vast round
Of thy thrice-solid arch profound!
(How light we go, how softly! Ah,
Life should be as the gondola!)

How light we go, how softly—

     Sp. Nay;
’Fore heaven, enough of that to-day
I’m deadly weary of your tune,
And half-ennuyé with the moon;
The shadows lie, the glories fall,
And are but moonshine after all.
It goes against my conscience really
To let myself feel so ideally.
Come, for the Piazzetta steer;
’Tis nine o’clock or very near.

These airy blisses, skiey joys
Of vague romantic girls and boys,
Which melt the heart and the brain soften,
When not affected, as too often
They are, remind me, I protest,
Of nothing better at the best
Than Timon’s feast to his ancient lovers,
Warm water under silver covers;
‘Lap, dogs!’ I think I hear him say;
And lap who will, so I’m away.

     Di. How light we go, how soft we skim!
And all in moonlight seem to swim;
Against bright clouds projected dark,
The white dome now, reclined I mark,
And, by o’er-brilliant lamps displayed,
The Doge’s columns and arcade;
Over still waters mildly come
The distant waters and the hum.
(How light we go, how softly! Ah,
Life should be as the gondola!)

How light we go, how soft we skim,
And all in open moonlight swim
Ah, gondolier, slow, slow, more slow
We go; but wherefore thus should go?
Ah, let not muscle all too strong
Beguile, betray thee to our wrong!
On to the landing, onward. Nay,
Sweet dream, a little longer stay!
On to the landing; here. And, ah!
Life is not as the gondola.

     Sp. Tre ore. So. The Parthenone
Is it? you haunt for your limone.
Let me induce you to join me,
In gramolate persiche.

SCENE III.—The Academy at Venice.

    Di. A modern daub it was, perchance,
I know not: but the connoisseur
From Titian’s hues, I dare be sure,
Had never turned one kindly glance,

Where Byron, somewhat drest-up, draws
His sword, impatient long, and speaks
Unto a tribe of motley Greeks
His fealty to their good cause.

Not far, assumed to mystic bliss,
Behold the ecstatic Virgin rise!
Ah, wherefore vainly, to fond eyes
That melted into tears for this?

Yet if we must live, as would seem,
These peremptory heats to claim,
Ah, not for profit, not for fame,
And not for pleasure’s giddy dream,

And not for piping empty reeds,
And not for colouring idle dust;
If live we positively must,
God’s name be blest for noble deeds.

Verses! well, they are made, so let them go;
No more if I can help. This is one way
The procreant heat and fervour of our youth
Escapes, in puff, in smoke, and shapeless words
Of mere ejaculation, nothing worth,
Unless to make maturer years content
To slave in base compliance to the world.

I have scarce spoken yet to this strange follower
Whom I picked up—ye great gods, tell me where!
And when! for I remember such long years,
And yet he seems new come. I commune with myself;
He speaks, I hear him, and resume to myself;
Whate’er I think, he adds his comments to;
Which yet not interrupts me. Scarce I know
If ever once directly I addressed him:
Let me essay it now; for I have strength.
Yet what he wants, and what he fain would have,
Oh, I know all too surely; not in vain
Although unnoticed, has he dogged my ear.
Come, we’ll be definite, explicit, plain;
I can resist, I know; and ’twill be well
For colloquy to have used this manlier mood,
Which is to last, ye chances say how long?
How shall I call him? Mephistophiles?

    Sp. I come, I come.

    Di. So quick, so eager; ha!
Like an eaves-dropping menial on my thought,
With something of an exultation too, methinks,
Out-peeping in that springy, jaunty gait.
I doubt about it. Shall I do it? Oh! oh!
Shame on me! come! Shall I, my follower,
Should I conceive (not that at all I do,
’Tis curiosity that prompts my speech)—
But should I form, a thing to be supposed,
A wish to bargain for your merchandise,
Say what were your demands? what were your terms
What should I do? what should I cease to do?
What incense on what altars must I burn?
And what abandon? what unlearn, or learn?
Religion goes, I take it.

    Sp. Oh,
You’ll go to church of course, you know;
Or at the least will take a pew
To send your wife and servants to.
Trust me, I make a point of that;
No infidelity, that’s flat.

    Di. Religion is not in a pew, say some;
Cucullus, you hold, facit monachum.

    Sp. Why, as to feelings of devotion,
I interdict all vague emotion;
But if you will, for once and all
Compound with ancient Juvenal-—
Orandum est, one perfect prayer
For savoir-vivre and savoir-faire.
    Theology-—don’t recommend you,
Unless, turned lawyer, heaven should send you
In your profession’s way a case
Of Baptism and prevenient grace;
But that's not likely. I'm inclined,
All circumstances borne in mind,
To think (to keep you in due borders)
You’d better enter holy orders.

    Di. On that, my friend, you’d better not insist.

    Sp. Well, well, 'tis but a good thing miss'd.
The item's optional, no doubt;
But how to get you bread without?
You'll marry; I shall find the lady.
Make your proposal, and be steady.

    Di. Marry, ill spirit! and at your sole choice?

    Sp. De rigueur! can’t give you a voice.
What matter? Oh, trust one who knows you,
You’ll make an admirable sposo.

    Di. Enough. But action—look to that well, mind me;
See that some not unworthy work you find me;
If man I be, then give the man expression.

    Sp. Of course you'll enter a profession;
If not the Church, why then the Law.
By Jove, we'll teach you how to draw!
Besides, the best of the concern is
I'm hand and glove with the attorneys.
With them and me to help, don’t doubt
But in due season you’ll come out;
Leave Kelly, Cockburn, in the lurch.
But yet, do think about the Church.

    Di. 'Tis well, ill spirit, I admire your wit;
As for your wisdom, I shall think of it.
And now farewell.

SCENE IV.—In St. Mark’s. Dipsyehus alone.

The Law! ’twere honester, if ’twere genteel,
To say the dung-cart. What! shall I go about,
And like the walking shoeblack roam the flags
To see whose boots are dirtiest? Oh the luck
To stoop and clean a pair!
Religion, if indeed it be in vain
To expect to find in this more modern time
That which the old world styled, in old-world phrase,
Walking with God. It seems His newer will
We should not think of Him at all, but trudge it,
And of the world He has assigned us make
What best we can.

                              Then love: I scarce can think
That these be-maddening discords of the mind
To pure melodious sequence could be changed,
And all the vext conundrums of our life
Solved to all time by this old pastoral
Of a new Adam and a second Eve
Set in a garden which no serpent seeks.

    And yet I hold heart can beat true to heart:
And to hew down the tree which bears this fruit,
To do a thing which cuts me off from hope,
To falsify the movement of Love’s mind,
To seat some alien trifler on the throne
A queen may come to claim—that were ill done.
What! to the close hand of the clutching Jew
Hand up that rich reversion! and for what?
This would be hard, did I indeed believe
’Twould ever fall. That love, the large repose
Restorative, not to mere outside needs
Skin-deep, but throughly to the total man,
Exists, I will believe, but so, so rare,
So doubtful, so exceptional, hard to guess;
When guessed, so often counterfeit; in brief,
A thing not possibly to be conceived
An item in the reckonings of the wise.

Action, that staggers me. For I had hoped,
’Midst weakness, indolence, frivolity,
Irresolution, still had hoped; and this
Seems sacrificing hope. Better to wait:
The wise men wait; it is the foolish haste,
And ere the scenes are in the slides would play,
And while the instruments are tuning, dance.

    I see Napoleon on the heights intent
To arrest that one brief unit of loose time
Which hands high Victory’s thread; his marshals fret,
His soldiers clamour low: the very guns
Seem going off of themselves; the cannon strain
Like hell-dogs in the leash. But he, he waits;
And lesser chances and inferior hopes
Meantime go pouring past. Men gnash their teeth;
The very faithful have begun to doubt;
But they molest not the calm eye that seeks
’Midst all this’ huddling silver little worth
The one thin piece that comes, pure gold; he waits.
O me, when the great deed e’en now has broke
Like a man’s hand the horizon’s level line,
So soon to fill the zenith with rich clouds;
O, in this narrow interspace, this marge,
This list and salvage of a glorious time,
To despair of the great and sell unto the mean!
O thou of little faith, what hast thou done?

Yet if the occasion coming. should find us
Undexterous, incapable? In light things
Prove thou the arms thou long’st to glorify,
Nor fear to work up from the lowest ranks
Whence come great Nature’s Captains. And high deeds
Haunt not the fringy edges of the fight,
But the pell-mell of men. Oh, what and if
E’en now by lingering here I let them slip,
Like an unpractised spyer through a glass,
Still pointing to the blank, too high. And yet,
In dead details to smother vital ends
Which would give life to them; in the deft trick
Of prentice-handling to forget great art,
To base mechanical adroitness yield
The Inspiration and the Hope a slave!
Oh, and to blast that Innocence which, though
Here it may seem a dull unopening bud,
May yet bloom freely in celestial clime!

Were it not better done, then, to keep off
And see, not share, the strife; stand out the waltz
Which fools whirl dizzy in? Is it possible?
Contamination taints the idler first;
And without base compliance, e’en that same
Which buys bold hearts free course, Earth lends not these
Their pent and miserable standing-room.
Life loves no lookers-on at his great game,
And with boy’s malice still delights to turn
The tide of sport upon the sitters-by,
And set observers scampering with their notes.
Oh, it is great to do and know not what,
Nor let it e’er be known. The dashing stream
Stays not to pick his steps among the rocks,
Or let his water-breaks be chronicled.
And though the hunter looks before he leap,
’Tis instinct rather than a shaped-out thought
That lifts him his bold way. Then, instinct, hail;
And farewell hesitation. If I stay,
I am not innocent; nor if I go—
E’en should I fall—beyond redemption lost.

    Ah, if I had a course like a full stream,
If life were as the field of chase! No, no;
The life of instinct has, it seems, gone by,
And will not be forced back. And to live now
I must sluice out myself into canals,
And lose all force in ducts. The modern Hotspur
Shrills not his trumpet of ‘To Horse, To Horse!’
But consults columns in a Railway Guide;
A demigod of figures; an Achilles
Of computation;
A verier Mercury, express come down
To do the world with swift arithmetic.
Well, one could bear with that, were the end ours,
One’s choice and the correlative of the soul;
To drudge were then sweet service. But indeed
The earth moves slowly, if it move at all,
And by the general, not the single force
Of the link’d members of the vast machine.
In all these crowded rooms of industry.
No individual soul has loftier leave
Than fiddling with a piston or a valve.
Well, one could bear that also: one would drudge
And do one’s petty part, and be content
In base manipulation, solaced still
By thinking of the leagued fraternity,
And of co-operation, and the effect
Of the great engine. If indeed it work,
And is not a mere treadmill! which it may be.
Who can confirm it is not? We ask action,
And dream of arms and conflict; and string up
All self-devotion’s muscles; and are set
To fold up papers. To what end I we know not.
Other folks do so; it is always done;
And it perhaps is right. And we are paid for it,
For nothing else we can be. He that eats
Must serve; and serve as other servants do:
And don the lacquey’s livery of the house.
Oh, could I shoot my thought up to the sky,
A column of pure shape, for all to observe!
But I must slave, a meagre coral-worm,
To build beneath the tide with excrement
What one day will be island, or be reef,
And will feed men, or wreck them. Well, well, well.
Adieu, ye twisted thinkings. I submit: it must be.

    Action is what one must get, it is clear;
And one could dream it better than one finds,
In its kind personal, in its motive not;
Not selfish as it now is, nor as now
Maiming the individual. If we had that,
It would cure all indeed. Oh, how would then
These pitiful rebellions of the flesh,
These caterwaulings of the effeminate heart,
These hurts of self-imagined dignity,
Pass like the seaweed from about the bows
Of a great vessel speeding straight to sea!
Yes, if we could have that; but I suppose
We shall not have it, and therefore I submit!

    Sp. (from within). Submit, submit!
'Tis common sense, and human wit
Can claim no higher name than it.
Submit, submit!

Devotion, and ideas, and love,
And beauty claim their place above;
But saint and sage and poet’s dreams
Divide the light in coloured streams,
Which this alone gives all combined,
The siccum lumen of the mind
Called common sense: and no high wit
Gives better counsel than does it.
Submit, submit!

To see things simply as they are
Here at our elbows, transcends far.
Trying to spy out at midday
Some 'bright particular star,' which may,
Or not, be visible at night,
But clearly is not in daylight;
No inspiration vague outweighs
The plain good common sense that says,
Submit, submit!
’Tis common sense, and human wit
Can ask no higher name than it.
Submit, submit!

SCENE V.—The Piazza at Eight.

    Di. There have been times, not many, but enough
To quiet all repinings of the heart;
There have been times, in which my tranquil soul,
No longer nebulous, sparse, errant, seemed
Upon its axis solidly to move,
Centred and fast: no mere elastic blank
For random rays to traverse unretained,
But rounding luminous its fair ellipse
Around its central sun. Ay, yet again,
As in more faint sensations I detect,
With it too, round an Inner, Mightier orb,
Maybe with that too—this I dare not say—
Around, yet more, more central, more supreme,
Whate’er, how numerous soe’er they be,
I am and feel myself, where’er I wind,
What vagrant chance soe’er I seem to obey,
Communicably theirs.

                            O happy hours!
O compensation ample for long days
Of what impatient tongues call wretchedness!
O beautiful, beneath the magic moon,
To walk the watery way of palaces!
O beautiful, o’ervaulted with gemmed blue,
This spacious court, with colour and with gold,
With cupolas, and pinnacles, and points,
And crosses multiplex, and tips and balls
(Wherewith the bright stars unreproving mix,
Nor scorn by hasty eyes to be confused);
Fantastically perfect this low pile
Of Oriental glory; these long ranges
Of classic chiselling, this gay flickering crowd,
And the calm Campanile. Beautiful!
O, beautiful! and that seemed more profound,
This morning by the pillar when I sat
Under the great arcade, at the review,
And took, and held, and ordered on my brain
The faces, and the voices, and the whole mass
O’ the motley facts of existence flowing by!
O perfect, if ’twere all! But it is not;
Hints haunt me ever of a more beyond:
I am rebuked by a sense of the incomplete,
Of a completion over soon assumed,
Of adding up too soon. What we call sin,
I could believe a painful opening out
Of paths for ampler virtue. The bare field,
Scant with lean ears of harvest, long had mocked
The vext laborious farmer; came at length
The deep plough in the lazy undersoil
Down-driving; with a cry earth’s fibres crack,
And a few months, and to! the golden leas,
And autumn’s crowded shocks and loaded wains.
Let us look back on life; was any change,
Any now blest expansion, but at first
A pang, remorse-like, shot to the inmost seats
Of moral being? To do anything,
Distinct on any one thing to decide,
To leave the habitual and the old, and quit
The easy-chair of use and wont, seems crime
To the weak soul, forgetful how at first
Sitting down seemed so too. And, oh! this woman’s heart,
Fain to be forced, incredulous of choice,
And waiting a necessity for God.
Yet I could think, indeed, the perfect call
Should force the perfect answer. If the voice
Ought to receive its echo from the soul,
Wherefore this silence? If it should rouse my being,
Why this reluctance? Have I not thought o’ermuch
Of other men, and of the ways of the world?
But what they are, or have been, matters not.
To thine own self be true, the wise man says.
Are then my fears myself? O double self!
And I untrue to both? Oh, there are hours,
When love, and faith, and dear domestic ties,
And converse with old friends, and pleasant walks,
Familiar faces, and familiar books,
Study, and art, upliftings unto prayer,
And admiration of the noblest things,
Seem all ignoble only; all is mean,
And nought as I would have it. Then at others,
My mind is in her rest; my heart at home
In all around; my soul secure in place,
And the vext needle perfect to her poles.
Aimless and hopeless in my life I seem
To thread the winding byways of the town,
Bewildered, baffled, hurried hence and thence,
All at cross-purpose even with myself,
Unknowing whence or whither. Then at once,
At a step, I crown the Campanile’s top,
And view all mapped below; islands, lagoon,
A hundred steeples and a million roofs,
The fruitful champaign, and the cloud-capt Alps,
And the broad Adriatic. Be it enough;
If I lose this, how terrible! No, no,
I am contented, and will not complain.
To the old paths, my soul! Oh, be it so!
I bear the workday burden of dull life
About these footsore flags of a weary world,
Heaven knows how long it has not been; at once,
Lo! I am in the spirit on the Lord’s day
With John in Patmos. Is it not enough,
One day in seven? and if this should go,
If this pure solace should desert my mind,
What were all else I I dare not risk this loss.
To the old paths, my soul!

    Sp. O yes.
To moon about religion; to inhume
Your ripened age in solitary walks,
For self-discussion; to debate in letters
Vext points with earnest friends; past other men
To cherish natural instincts, yet to fear them
And less than any use them; oh, no doubt,
In a corner sit and mope, and be consoled
With thinking one is clever, while the room
Rings through with animation and the dance.
Then talk of old examples; to pervert
Ancient real facts to modern unreal dreams,
And build up baseless fabrics of romance
And heroism upon historic sand;
To burn, forsooth, for action, yet despise
Its merest accidence and alphabet;
Cry out for service, and at once rebel
At the application of its plainest rules
This you call life, my friend, reality;
Doing your duty unto God and man—
I know not what. Stay at Venice, if you will;
Sit musing in its churches hour on hour
Cross-kneed upon a bench; climb up at whiles
The neighbouring tower, and kill the lingering day
With old comparisons; when night succeeds,
Evading, yet a little seeking, what
You would and would not, turn your doubtful eyes
On moon and stars to help morality;
Once in a fortnight say, by lucky chance
Of happier-tempered coffee, gain (great Heaven!)
A pious rapture: is it not enough?

    Di. 'Tis well: thou cursed spirit, go thy way!
I am in higher hands than yours. 'Tis well;
Who taught you menaces? Who told you, pray,
Because I asked you questions, and made show
Of hearing what you answered, therefore—

    Sp. Oh,
As if I didn’t know!

    Di. Come, come, my friend,
I may have wavered, but I have thought better.
We’ll say no more of it.

    Sp. Oh, I dare say:
But as you like; ’tis your own loss; once more,

    Di. (alone). Must it be then? So quick upon my thought
To follow the fulfilment and the deed?
I counted not on this; I counted ever
To hold and turn it over in my hands
Much longer, much I took it up indeed,
For speculation rather; to gain thought,
New data. Oh, and now to be goaded on
By menaces, entangled among tricks;
That I won’t suffer. Yet it is the law;
’Tis this makes action always. But for this
We ne’er should act at all; and act we must.
Why quarrel with the fashion of a fact
Which, one way, must be, one time, why not now?

    Sp. Submit, submit!
For tell me then, in earth’s great laws
Have you found any saving clause,
Exemption special granted you
From doing what the rest must do?
Of common sense who made you quit,
And told you, you’d no need of it,
Nor to submit?

To move on angels’ wings were sweet;
But who would therefore scorn his feet?
It cannot walk up to the sky;
It therefore will lie down and die.
Rich meats it don’t obtain at call;
It therefore will not eat at all.
Poor babe, and yet a babe of wit!
But common sense, not much of it,
Or ’twould submit.
Submit, submit!

As your good father did before you,
And as the mother who first bore you.
O yes! a chid of heavenly birth!
But yet it was born too on earth.
Keep your new birth for that far day
When in the grave your bones you lay,
All with your kindred and connection,
In hopes of happy resurrection.
But how meantime to live is fit,
Ask common sense; and what says it?
Submit, submit!

SCENE VI.—-On a Bridge.

    Di. 'Tis gone, the fierce inordinate desire,
The burning thirst for action-utterly;
Gone, like a ship that passes in the night
On the high seas: gone, yet will come again
Gone, yet expresses something that exists.
Is it a thing ordained, then? is it a clue
For my life’s conduct? is it a law for me
That opportunity shall breed distrust,
Not passing until that pass? Chance and resolve,
Like two loose comets wandering wide in space,
Crossing each other’s orbits time on time,
Meet never. Void indifference and doubt
Let through the present boon, which ne’er turns back
To await the after sure-arriving wish.
How shall I then explain it to myself,
That in blank thought my purpose lives?
The uncharged cannon mocking still the spark
When come, which ere come it had loudly claimed.
Am I to let it be so still? For truly
The need exists, I know; the wish but sleeps
(Sleeps, and anon will wake and cry for food);
And to put by these unreturning gifts,
Because the feeling is not with me now,
Seems folly more than merest babyhood’s.
But must I then do violence to myself,
And push on nature, force desire (that’s ill),
Because of knowledge? which is great, but works
By rules of large exception; to tell which
Nought is more fallible than mere caprice.

    What need for action yet? I am happy now,
I feel no lack—what cause is there for haste?
Am I not happy I is not that enough?

    Sp. O yes! you thought you had escaped, no doubt,
This worldly fiend that follows you about,
This compound of convention and impiety,
This mongrel of uncleanness and propriety.
What else were bad enough? but, let me say,
I too have my grandes manières in my way;
Could speak high sentiment as well as you,
And out-blank-verse you without much ado;
Have my religion also in my kind,
For dreaming unfit, because not designed.
What! you know not that I too can be serious,
Can speak big words, and use the tone imperious;
Can speak, not honiedly, of love and beauty,
But sternly of a something much like duty.
Oh, do you look surprised? were never told,
Perhaps, that all that glitters is not gold.
The Devil oft the Holy Scripture uses,
But God can act the Devil when He chooses.
Farewell! But, verbum sapienti satis—
I do not make this revelation gratis.
Farewell: beware!

    Di. Ill spirits can quote holy books I knew;
What will they not say? what not dare to do?

    Sp. Beware, beware!

    Di. What, loitering still? Still, O foul spirit, there?
Go hence, I tell thee, go! I will beware.
(Alone). It must be then. I feel it in my soul;
The iron enters, sundering flesh and bone,
And sharper than the two-edged sword of God.
I come into deep waters—help, oh help!
The floods run over me.

Therefore, farewell! a long and last farewell,
Ye pious sweet simplicities of life,
Good books, good friends, and holy moods, and all
That lent rough life sweet Sunday-seeming rests,
Making earth heaven like. Welcome, wicked world,
The hardening heart, the calculating brain
Narrowing its doors to thought, the lying lips,
The calm-dissembling eyes; the greedy flesh,
The world, the Devil—welcome, welcome, welcome!

    Sp. (from within). This stern necessity of things
On every side our being rings;
Our sallying eager actions fall
Vainly against that iron wall.
Where once her finger points the way,
The wise thinks only to obey;
Take life as she has ordered it,
And come what may of it, submit,
Submit, submit!

Who take implicitly her will,
For these her vassal chances still
Bring store of joys, successes, pleasures;
But whoso ponders, weighs, and measures,
She calls her torturers up to goad
With spur and scourges on the road;
He does at last with pain whate’er
He spurned at first. Of such, beware,
Beware, beware!

    Di. O God, O God! The great floods of the soul
Flow over me! I come into deep waters
Where no ground is!

    Sp. Don’t be the least afraid;
There’s not the slightest reason for alarm;
I only meant by a perhaps rough shake
To rouse you from a dreamy, unhealthy sleep.
Up, then—up, and be going: the large world,
The throng’d life waits us.
                                        Come, my pretty boy,
You have been making mows to the blank sky
Quite long enough for good. We’ll put you up
Into the higher form. ’Tis time you learn
The Second Reverence, for things around.
Up, then, and go amongst them; don’t be timid;
Look at them quietly a bit; by and by
Respect will come, and healthy appetite.
So let us go.
                        How now! not yet awake?
Oh, you will sleep yet, will you! Oh, you shirk,
You try and slink away! You cannot, eh?
Nay now, what folly’s this? Why will you fool yourself?
Why will you walk about thus with your eyes shut?
Treating for facts the self-made hues that flash
On tight-pressed pupils, which you know are not facts.
To use the undistorted light of the sun
Is not a crime; to look straight out upon
The big plain things that stare one in the face
Does not contaminate; to see pollutes not
What one must feel if one won’t see, what is,
And will be too, howe’er we blink, and must
One way or other make itself observed.
Free walking’s better than being led about; and
What will the blind man do, I wonder, if
Some one should cut the string of his dog? Just think!
What could you do, if I should go away?

    Oh, you have paths of your own before you, have you?
What shall it take to? literature, no doubt?
Novels, reviews? or poems! if you please!
The strong fresh gale of life will feel, no doubt,
The influx of your mouthful of soft air.
Well, make the most of that small stock of knowledge
You’ve condescended to receive from me;
That’s your best chance. Oh, you despise that! Oh,
Prate then of passions you have known in dreams,
Of huge experience gathered by the eye;
Be large of aspiration, pure in hope,
Sweet in fond longings, but in all things vague;
Breathe out your dreamy scepticism, relieved
By snatches of old songs. People will like that, doubtless.
Or will you write about philosophy
For a waste far-off maybe overlooking
The fruitful is close by, live in metaphysic,
With transcendental logic fill your stomach,
Schematize joy, effigiate meat and drink;
Or, let me see, a mighty work, a volume,
The Complemental of the inferior Kant,
The Critic of Pure Practice, based upon
The Antinomies of the Moral Sense: for, look you,
We cannot act without assuming x,
And at the same time y, its contradictory;
Ergo, to act. People will buy that, doubtless.
Or you’ll perhaps teach youth (I do not question
Some downward turn you may find, some evasion
Of the broad highway’s glaring white ascent);
Teach youth, in a small way, that is, always,
So as to have much time left you for yourself;
This you can’t sacrifice, your leisure’s precious.
Heartily you will not take to anything;
Whatever happen, don’t I see you still,
Living no life at all? Even as now
An o’ergrown baby, sucking at the dugs
Of instinct, dry long since. Come, come, you are old enough
For spoon-meat surely.
                                    Will you go on thus
Until death end you? if indeed it does.
For what it does, none knows. Yet as for you,
You’ll hardly have the courage to die outright;
You’ll somehow halve even it. Methinks I see you,
Through everlasting limbos of void time,
Twirling and twiddling ineffectively,
And indeterminately swaying for ever.
Come, come, spoon-meat at any rate.
                                                    Well, well,
I will not persecute you more, my friend.
Only do think, as I observed before,
What can you do, if I should go away?

    Di. Is the hour here, then? Is the minute come—
The irreprievable instant of stern time?
O for a few, few grains in the running glass,
Or for some power to hold them! O for a few
Of all that went so wastefully before!
It must be then, e’en now.

    Sp. (from within). It must, it must.
'Tis common sense! and human wit
Can claim no higher name than it.
Submit, submit!

Necessity! and who shall dare
Bring to her feet excuse or prayer?
Beware, beware!
We must, we must.
Howe’er we turn, and pause and tremble—
Howe’er we shrink, deceive, dissemble—
Whate’er our doubting, grief, disgust,
The hand is on us, and we must,
We must, we must.
'Tis common sense, and human wit
Can find no better name than it.
Submit, submit!

SCENE VII.-—At Torcello. Dipsychus alone.

    Di. I had a vision; was it in my sleep?
And if it were, what then? But sleep or wake,
I saw a great light open o’er my head;
And sleep or wake, uplifted to that light,
Out of that light proceeding heard a voice
Uttering high words, which, whether sleep or wake,
In me were fixed, and in me must abide.

        When the enemy is near thee,
                Call on us!
In our hands we will upbear thee,
He shall neither scathe nor scare thee,
He shall fly thee, and shall fear thee.
                Call on us!
Call when all good friends have left thee,
Of all good sights and sounds bereft thee;
Call when hope and heart are sinking,
And the brain is sick with thinking,
                Help, O help!
Call, and following close behind thee
There shall haste, and there shall find thee,
                Help, sure help.
When the panic comes upon thee,
When necessity seems on thee,
Hope and choice have all foregone thee,
Fate and force are closing o’er thee,
And but one way stands before thee—
                Call on us
O, and if thou dost not call,
Be but faithful, that is all.
Go right on, and close behind thee
There shall follow still and find thee,
                Help, sure help.

SCENE VIII.—-In the Piazza.

    Di. Not for thy service, thou imperious fiend
Not to do thy work, or the like of thine;
Not to please thee, O base and fallen spirit!
But One Most High, Most True, whom without thee
It seems I cannot.
                        O the misery
That one must truck and pactise with the world
To gain the ’vantage-ground to assail it from;
To set upon the Giant one must first,
O perfidy! have eat the Giant’s bread.
If I submit, it is but to gain time
And arms and stature: ’tis but to lie safe
Until the hour strike to arise and slay;
’Tis the old story of the adder’s brood
Feeding and nestling till the fangs be grown.
Were it not nobler done, then, to act fair,
To accept the service with the wages, do
Frankly the devil’s work for the devil’s pay?
O, but another my allegiance holds
Inalienably his. How much soe’er
I might submit, it must be to rebel.
Submit then sullenly, that’s no dishonour.
Yet I could deem it better too to starve
And die untraitored. O, who sent me, though?
Sent me, and to do something—O hard master’—
To do a treachery. But indeed ’tis done;
I have already taken of the pay
And curst the payer; take I must, curse too.
Alas! the little strength that I possess
Derives, I think, of him. So still it is,
The timid child that clung unto her skirts,
A boy, will slight his mother, and, grown a man,
His father too. There’s Scripture too for that!
Do we owe fathers nothing—mothers nought?
Is filial duty folly? Yet He says,
‘He that loves father, mother, more than me;’
Yea, and ‘the man his parents shall desert,’
The Ordinance says, ‘and cleave unto his wife.’
O man, behold thy wife, the hard naked world;
Adam, accept thy Eve.
                                        So still it is,
The tree exhausts the soil; creepers kill it,
Their insects them: the lever finds its fulcrum
On what it then o’erthrows; the homely spade
In labour’s hand unscrupulously seeks
Its first momentum on the very clod
Which next will be upturned. It seems a law.
And am not I, though I but ill recall
My happier age, a kidnapped child of heaven,
Whom these uncircumcised Philistines
Have by foul play shorn, blinded, maimed, and kept
For what more glorious than to make them sport?
Wait, then, wait, O my soul! grow, grow, ye locks!
Then perish they, and if need is, I too.

    Sp. (aside). A truly admirable proceeding!
Could there be finer special pleading
When scruples would be interceding?
There’s no occasion I should stay;
He is working out, his own queer way.
The sum I set him; and this day
Will bring it, neither less nor bigger,
Exact to my predestined figure.

SCENE IX.-—In the Public Garden.

    Di. Twenty-one past—twenty-five coming on;
One-third of life departed, nothing done.
Out of the mammon of unrighteousness
That we make friends, the Scripture is express,
My Spirit, come, we will agree;
Content, you’ll take a moiety.

    Sp. A moiety, ye gods, he, he!

    Di. Three-quarters then? O griping beast!
Leave me a decimal at least.

    Sp. Oh, one of ten! to infect the nine
And make the devil a one be mine!
Oh, one! to jib all day, God wot,
When all the rest would go full trot!
One very little one, eh? to doubt with,
Just to pause, think, and look about with?
In course! you counted on no less—
You thought it likely I’d say yes!

    Di. Be it then thus—since that it must, it seems.
Welcome, O world, henceforth; and farewell dreams
Yet know, Mephisto, know, nor you nor I
Can in this matter either sell or buy;
For the fee simple of this trifling lot
To you or me, trust me, pertaineth not.
I can but render what is of my will,
And behind it somewhat remaineth still.
O, your sole chance was in the childish mind
Whose darkness dreamed that vows like this could bind;
Thinking all lost, it made all lost, and brought
In fact the ruin which had been but thought.
Thank Heaven (or you) that’s past these many years,
And we have knowledge wiser than our fears.
So your poor bargain take, my man,
And make the best of it you can.

    Sp. With reservations! oh, how treasonable!
When I had let you off so reasonable.
However, I don’t fear; be it so!
Brutus is honourable, I know;
So mindful of the dues of others,
So thoughtful for his poor dear brothers,
So scrupulous, considerate, kind—
He wouldn’t leave the devil behind
If he assured him he had claims
For his good company to hell-flames!
No matter, no matter, the bargain’s made;
And I for my part will not be afraid.
With reservations! oh! ho, ho!
But time, my friend, has yet to show
Which of us two will closest fit
The proverb of the Biter Bit.

    Di. Tell me thy name, now it is over.

    Sp. Oh!
Why, Mephistophiles, you know—
At least you’ve lately called me so.
Belial it was some days ago.
But take your pick; I’ve got a score—
Never a royal baby more.
For a brass plate upon a door
What think you of Cosmocrator?

    Di. Τους κοσμοκρατορας του αιωνος κουτου.
And that you are indeed, I do not doubt you.

    Sp. Ephesians, ain't it? near the end
You dropt a word to spare your friend.
What follows, too, in application
Would be absurd exaggeration.

    Di. The Power of this World! hateful unto God.

    Sp. Cosmarchon’s shorter, but sounds odd:
One wouldn’t like, even if a true devil,
To be taken for a vulgar Jew devil.

    Di. Yet in all these things we-—'tis Scripture too—-
Are more than conquerors, even over you.

    Sp. Come, come, don’t maunder any longer.
Time tests the weaker and the stronger;
And we, without procrastination,
Must set, you know, to our vocation.
O goodness! won’t you find it pleasant
To own the positive and present;
To see yourself like people round,
And feel your feet upon the ground! (Exeunt.)


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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