Purgatory of Suicides: Book VII.
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-1-

    LONDON! how imageable seems the strife
    Of thy huge crowds amid this solitude!
    Instinct with hot, heart-feverous, throbbing life—
    Racers for Mammon—day by day renewed—
    Quick, motley actors in Mind's interlude—
    They flit before me; or again, I walk
    Wonder-lost less with splendours unendued
    With power of thought than human shapes that stalk
Though thy vast wilderness of ways, and, smiling, talk

 

-2-

    With their own wretchedness which hath estranged
    Them from their kind, but cannot stifle dreams
    That Beggary's rags shall, one day, be exchanged
    For Grandeur's robes, and Fortune's favouring beams
    Gild their last hours.   These, these, amid thy streams
    Of populousness, thy lavish shows of pride,
    And pomp, and equipage, were living themes
    For healthiest thought that did my folly chide
When I, along thy streets, a gazing 'venturer, hied.

 

-3-

    Oh! if the heart doth crave for loneliness,
    Deep in thy crowded desart it may find
    Its drear wish realised.   In Misery's dress—
    Their blighted visages to humankind
    A pregnant lesson, but their names enshrined,
    Perchance, in secresy—how stealthily
    Such hermits of the heart glide on behind
    The bustling men of gain, or groups of glee
That swell thy blended throngs of thrift and gaiety!

 

-4-

    Oft have I followed such a stealthy form,
    To mark his whereabout of rest or home,
    Until he plunged into some haunt where swarm,
    In dingy dens, that shadow forth the gloom
    Of hearts within, what the World calls its 'scum'—
    Victims of gilded fraud, and titled lust,
    And pensioned knavery!   Will it e'er come—
    The hour when Man shall venture to be just,
And dare to give true names unto his fellow-dust?

 

-5-

    Age after age hath gazed the eager throng,—
    As, now, I seem, again, to see it gaze,
    Heedless of moral worth, or right or wrong,
    While haughty Pomp unclosed its newest blaze
    Of tear-wrung splendour: and, perchance, to praise
    Of garish show, blame for great gold misspent
    Path followed, as it follows now: yet, raise
    The trump of pageantry,—and ears are lent
By thousands who lisp scorn for Time's old rabblement!

 

-6-

    Will they, one day, the clown and artizan,
    Strip off these swaddling-bands of gauze—these chains
    Of gossamer?   This baby-talisman—
    Will it much longer charm the child of pains
    And sweat, to leave his bread-toil?   Oh! there reigns
    Of strength in Labour's millions, a young breath
    That gaunt Starvation quells not, but sustains!
    Where, now, my memory wanders, may its wrath
Ne'er burst!—Monarch, adown thy stately palace-path!

 

-7-

    I saw thee on the day thou wast a bride,
    And shouted, 'mid my joy-tears, with the crowd:
    Thou wert a woman, and thou sattst beside
    Thy bosom's choice, while happiness o'erflowed
    Thy heart, and in thy fair young countenance glowed.
    Beholding thine, what could I less than feel
    A sympathetic joy?   Ay, though a proud
    Worship of England's stern old Commonweal
Was mine,—for thee, that day, I breathed devotion leal.

 

-8-

    And many a heart, yielding, that festive day,
    To Nature's impulses of hope and joy,
    Confiding, blessed thee!   Queen! if thou delay
    To help thy Poor—if thou, thyself, destroy
    The promise of that time, and harsh alloy
    Of blame with memory of our joy now blend—
    What marvel?   Hopes, that do the heart upbuoy,
    Turned to despair by sufferings slighted, rend
All gentle feelings in their way to some dire end.

 

-9-

    When next thou passest by Whitehall, look up,
    I pray thee, and remember who felt there
    The fatal axe!   Ay,—look!—nor be the dupe
    Of tinselled traitors who would thee ensnare
    To ease and grandeur, till—thy People's prayer
    For justice all too long delayed—they rise
    With that old heart the Stuart to despair
    Drove, first,—and, then, to vengeance!   Hunger cries
Throughout thy realm—'Queen! from the fearful Past—
            be wise!'

 

-10-

    I know that tellers of plain truths are 'Goths'
    And 'savages' in their esteem who haunt
    The halls of royalty—the pageant moths
    That flutter in thy beams—the sycophant,
    The beau, the coronetted mendicant.
    Yet, speak I not from brutal nature; nor
    Is thirst for violence fell habitant
    Of Labour's children's hearts.   Queen! they who
            store
Thy mind with such belief wrong grievously thy
            Poor!

 

-11-

    Believe one born amid their daily toils
    And sighs,—and, since, observant of the words
    And deeds of those who live on Labour's spoils:
    Thy Poor, it is—and not their haughty lords—
    In whose hearts vibrate gentle Nature's chords
    Of tenderness for thee, even while they groan
    With deepest wrongs.   'We suffer by the hordes
    'Of selfish ones,' they say, 'that hide the throne:
'If she could know our woes, we should not, vainly,
            moan!'

 

-12-

    Lady! 'tis thus the hunger-bitten ones
    Their simple, lingering trust in thee express:
    Let thy heart answer—'mid superb saloons
    And soldiered pomp—with truth and faithfulness;
    If thou deservest this trust from comfortless
    And bread-pinched millions!   Wouldst thou read
            aright
    Thy glory?   Seek to be the heritress
    Of love deserved—choosing, with noble slight
Of gauds, to make the Poor's heart-smile thy sole
            delight.

 

-13-

    Alas! in vain thus breathes a rebel thrall
    Fond wish that, now a thousand years have rolled,
    To Alfred's land it might, once more, befall
    That sun of human glories to behold—
    A monarch scorning blood-stained gauds and gold,
    To build the throne in a blest People's love!
    It may not be!   Custom, soul-numbing, cold,
    Her web hath round thee, from thy cradle wove:
Can heart of a born-thrall with pulse of Freedom move?

 

-14-

    Deadly, mind-blighting influences begird
    Thee daily, hourly: 'tis thy lot.   A gaol
    Is mine.   Thus far, our lot how like!   The herd
    Of titled, starred, and sworded things, that fail
    Not to enclose thee in their watchful pale,
    Are but thy chief and under-turnkeys.   Thou
    By birth, for life,—and I, by force,—this bale
    Of bondage prove.   Rebel, or Queen, we bow
Alike to circumstance: our mould to it we owe.

 

-15-

    Oh! who shall mete due blame to things of earth?
    When, passing from that palace, heart-felt ire
    Doth rise, viewing a shame on royal birth
    Becolumned on that spot of moral mire,—
    When burneth momentary, rash desire
    To see him and the elder-born there swing
    On an eternal gibbet,—if the fire
    O' the heart flasheth within, will it not fling
On conscience home reproof, and wholesome chastening?

 

-16-

    Hadst thou who glancest on that pillared Shame
    Been—like him—next of kin to Infamy
    In royal robes, scant-minded, without aim
    Cast on the gaudy world that sought with glee
    To tempt or gratify his lusts—in thee
    Would the poor soldier, or his orphan-child,
    Or beggared widow, in their misery,
    So oft have found a heart whose glow beguiled
Their tears with bounteous help until the mourners
            smiled?

 

-17-

    Alas! from tears this balm of tears was wrung,
    Millions on millions toiled and pined and wept
    To clothe with Murder's panoply the young—
    The thoughtless—who to swift destruction leapt,
    Or back to home with maimed bodies crept—
    Winners of 'Glory!'—while, to toil and weep
    Was still the millions' lot: if Death had swept
    Off thousands,—blood-garbed thousands more must leap
Into the breach: War,—Madness,—must their harvest reap!

 

-18-

    Dash down?   Nay, rear more shameless columns! high
    And higher still!   Ye are but niggard carles
    Who taste the fruit of 'Glory!'   To the sky
    Lift up ten thousand trophies till it whirls
    Our blood to see them, and the foreigner gnarls
    His fingers in hot shame!   Why do ye spare
    A corner 'neath yon mighty dome, for churls
    Like Howard, Reynolds, Jones, and Johnson?   Tear
The low quaternion down!   Why stand their dull forms
            there?

 

-19-

    'Tis Glory's temple!   Glory—whose great brood
    Escape the gallows by a broidered coat
    And larger knife wherewith to shed the blood
    Of brothers!   What meek traitor hither brought
    Philanthropy and Art, Genius and Thought,
    To stain the mausoleum of the great
    And grand in murder?   Cast the cowards out!
    Their effigies do only tribulate
His joy who here beholds what pomps on 'heroes'
            wait!

 

-20-

    Briton! gaze deeply on the marbled crowd—
    Forgetting the mean four!   Oh! let it swell
    Thy veins with ecstasy to view this proud
    Array of warriors—some, as if they fell
    But now, in Victory's arms, beneath the knell
    Of Fate—some, girt with blazonry of brand,
    Pike, cannon, war-ship, or brute shape that well
    Shows slaughter was their trade!   While peal those
            grand
Deep diapasons—bow, and reverence Glory's band!

 

-21-

    What matter that yon vocal instruments
    Join the loud organ's thunder?   'Tis for bread
    They chaunt of 'mercy,'—poor subservients!
    Bread, that their pampered masters, in whose stead
    They do this meaningless day-drudgery, spread
    In measure scant for each poor breath-machine:
    Shunning the task that irks both heart and head—
    To hymn the pitying thorn-crowned Nazarene
Where laurelled Murder holds high pomp with marbled
            mien

 

-22-

    Dost thou refuse to reverence Carnage vast,
    And hie thee back where glooms yon elder fane,
    Shrouding the mouldered great ones of the Past,
    With all its solemn glories of dyed pane
    And carven stone?   Ah! Briton, who wouldst fain,
    Where sleep thy country's truly glorious few,
    In that dim 'corner,' joy in awe—restrain
    Thy heart!   Fraud must to Force, its twin, be true:
Mind must be banned, like Childe: they'll welcome
            Waterloo!

 

-23-

    Perchance the Priest forebodes his end is near,
    Unless he come less lazily with aid
    To stem the torrent in whose strong career
    Thrones, altars, maybe whirled!   Shall they be stayed—
    Thought's whelming waves?   Can Priestcraft's joint crusade
    With Carnage against Mind, arrest its course?—
    Oh, 'let them grapple,' as the great one bade, [1]
    Falsehood and Truth!'—awhile Fraud linkt with Force
May boast! but Truth shall one day, 'put' them ‘to the
            worse!'

 

-24-

    Let priest with warrior, old comates in rule,
    Join hands, and tear from vault and niche and shrine,
    From pedestal in fane and vestibule,
    The Heroes of the Mind!   Let them assign
    Sole honour to the puissant Butcher line
    Throughout wide earth, beneath high heaven: the day
    Will come when the triumphing sun shall shine
    On earth renewed: not always shall his ray
Gild Murder's monuments: they surely shall decay!

 

-25-

    Oh! what wilt thou be, then, my country, 'mong
    The nations?   Shakspere's home, and Alfred's realm—
    Land where our Chaucer, Spenser, Milton, sung—
    Where infant Truth decked Wickliffe's warrior-helm—
    Where Bacon burst Man's age-worn spirit-film—
    Footstool of Newton while he spanned the sky—
    Cradle of glorious names that fill and whelm
    A Briton's heart with love, and pride, and joy,—
Wilt thou be great and glorious, then—freed from alloy

 

-26-

    Of all thy old, mistaken strife to be
    Glorious and great?   Wilt thou above the wave
    Then bear thy generous breast—Nurse of the Free,
    Alone-extinct the Tyrant and the Slave—
    And filled with Brother-Men; not beings that crave
    To see the murderer of one brother hang,
    Yet vaunt the 'glory' of each carnage-grave,
    From Agincourt to Waterloo; where sang
The trumpet over thousands in their hearts' death-
            pang?

 

-27-

Will truthful greatness crown thy hoary age,
Or desart-savagery its reign resume
Wide over thee, and to the bard or sage
Of far-off clime, new-born from mental gloom
Hereafter, even Shakspere's name become
A worn-out glory, or, like Orpheus' lyre,
Fade into fable?   On thy future doom
Thy children, England, ponder with desire;
Though vainly buried millions burned with kindred
            fire!

 

-28-

    Another day is gone!—yet must the sun
    Bring other flowers than these cold things of Spring—
    Poor, puny prisoners, that, to look upon
    Raise tears—ere Time to me shall hither bring
    The hour of Freedom.   How we still do cling
    Unto the world, as if we yet might find
    Therein substantial joy!—
                                                  Fancy took wing,
    Again in sleep; and, in the realms assigned
To suicidal souls, wandered the sleepless Mind.

 

-29-

    Methought I passed adown the sculptured aisle,
    With a new band of ghostly travellers
    Whose visages were clad with smirk and smile,
    Although they looked as if earth's sepulchers
    Had newly cast them out: mirthsome compeers
    In grave-clothes, on they tripped, with glee more grim
    Than if a troop of monks or caloyers,
    Smit with some sudden madness or wild whim,
Were seen to laugh and dance unto a funeral hymn.

 

-30-

    And when they reached the dome-like space,
            methought
    In circle the strange crew took hands, and round
    They whirled, with laughter and delirious shout,
    Until the vault 'neath which I heard no sound
    Before—gave back such mirth as did astound
    These revellers in shrouds; whereat they wailed
    And wildly wept, and, each, the deathly wound
    By his own hand inflicted, swift, unveiled,
And fiercely on himself for mad self-murderer railed!

 

-31-

    A silent sorrow, then, their essence clothed,
    And slowly from beneath the dome they passed,
    With eyes that told how utterly they loathed
    Prolonged existence, and how fain would cast
    Its bondage off, with their old guilty haste,
    In spite of self-upbraidings, if the soul
    Were brittle as earth's clay.   Upon a waste
    The wanderers now emerged, and sought some goal
Where, with life-wantons like themselves, they might
            condole.

 

-32-

    Laurels of conquerors, chaplets of vain bards,
    Bracelets of beauties, diadems of kings,
    Lay shivered on the waste with porcelain shards,
    And fractured counterfeits of jewelled rings,
    And robes in rags: of all Earth's gaudy things
    Some image there lay mangled, marred, or rent;
    And as they trod upon these symbolings
    Of their past pride, on mortal life misspent
The travellers thought, and sighed, with grievous
            languishment.

 

-33-

    A strand they reached, with waters sluggish, shallow,
    And strown with weed-grown walls where human mopes
    Reclined, while others idly 'gan to wallow
    In the dull wave: a realm of misanthropes
    It seemed, for none his neighbour told what hopes
    Or fears he had, or doubts or wishes: all
    Lugubrious silence kept, and drooped, as droops
    The brooding thing who doth his soul enthral
With hates, till he thinks all men's veins, like his, hold
            gall.

 

-34-

    Part of the dreary band with which I marched
    Clomb these dank walls, fording the shallow stream,
    And lay them vilely down; a remnant searched
    Along the beach for spot that they might deem
    More meet for resting-place: these, in my dream,
    I companied, until a bay they neared,
    From whence, discerned by an unearthly gleam
    Of lurid light, huge, half-sunk towers appeared,—
And pinnacles their points from out the waters reared.

 

-35-

    And here, methought, we halted, by a groupe
    Of ghosts that sat upon a ledge of rock
    Listlessly watching the gray ruins stoop
    Unto their fall among the waves that broke
    With leaden weight against their sides.   None spoke
    A welcome, or unto our stay gave heed,
    But gazed still drowsily on.   Within me woke
    Desire to know them; but, the soul, though freed
From clay, on this dull shore seemed outward lore to
            need.

 

-36-

    Here, spirit shared no powers intuitive:
    So gross it grew, that for old mortal sense
    The mind longed, painfully, when it would give
    Unto its neighbour mind some evidence
    That it still held its being: will, vehemence,
    Fire, energy, the soul no longer felt:
    Cold, carking consciousness of indigence
    Of thought—from waste with which it had misdealt
Its goodly gifts on earth—within the spirit dwelt.

 

-37-

    One of the listless groupe, at length, began
    To murmur sounds—for spirit was too weak,
    In this low realm, to beam forth thought, or scan
    The thoughts of others if they did not speak.
    And then another murmured, till apeak
    Each raised himself to listen; I, to learn
    Who spoke; when three, I saw by their antique
    Eagle-beaked faces, were of Rome the Eterne—
Two of gay France—two of my fatherland more stern.

 

-38-

    And by observance of a dull dispute
    That rose from murmurs to less slumberous words,
    I found out Nero's lewdly dissolute
    Comate, Sophonius, who, when Galba's guards
    Sought for his guilty life, forestalled their swords. [2]
    Here leant he, by the Tyrant's 'Arbiter
    'Of Elegancies'—whom the Muse records
    For polished verse—Ill Fame for panderer
To Rome's imperial beast of lust and massacre. [3]

 

-39-

    That proverb with them state—the epicure
    Of epicures—he who through fear of want
    Destroyed the carcase he could not manure
    Sufficiently with garbage, from the scant
    Tenth of a million, which this cormorant
    From gormandizing spared. [4]   Buffoon confest,
    Leant, by Apicius, the hair-brained Mordaunt,
    England's fine foot, all Europe's courtly guest, [5]
Who paid his debts—then blew his brains out for a jest.

 

-40-

    Lumley was there, a 'noble lord,' in life, [6]
    Who his kept mistress to distraction loved,
    Yet, having pledged his troth to take for wife
    A lady chaste his thoughtful choice approved,
    Grew crazy with dilemma, till it moved
    His hand to solve the puzzle which his mind,
    Too delicately sensitive, behoved
    To solve.   He seemed a lord of extinct kind.
Certes, lords now no puzzle in such troth-pledge find!

 

-41-

    Vatel, who cut his throat to shun the stain
    Of not being able sumptuously to store
    The supper-table for his guests; [7] with vain
    Villeneuve, Napoleon's admiral, who bore
    Disgrace so oddly that he flew to lore
    Of stern anatomy with aim to know—
    What he both learnt and practised—how the core
    Of life a pin may pierce, with one quick throe; [8]
Two spirits truly French made up the groupe I saw.

 

-42-

    Nero's two courtiers soon their contest ended;
    Apicius spoke not; and the mopes of France,
    With Lumley, on the rocks their shadows bended,
    As if o'ercome by that clime's heritance
    Of dullness, or because all esperance,
    They thought, was fled, for them, of happy change:
    But soon, Mordaunt upwaking from his trance,
    Gave utterance to his piebald musings strange:
And thus did he his motley images arrange:—

 

-43-

    "Petronius, though our mystic lot be placed
    In this dull realm where sight and sound combine
    Our sensories, for aye, to overcast
    With brooding phantasies, and saturnine
    Despairs; or, else, as with an anodyne
    Of thought, to lull us into listlessness;
    Let us, again, essay to intertwine
    Some shreds of brightness with the sombre dress
Our spirits wear in this drear land, so effortless.

 

-44-

    "Tell us some jest of old careering Rome,
    With its monstrosities of apish men,
    Who ever seemed desirous to become
    Something that was not human.   What a den
    Of horror must thy prince have made it, when
    He lit it up to see a merry blaze!
    And yet, 'twas but a change: from outward ken
    Shut up, horrors as deep, in the foul ways
O' the heart, were witnessed daily by man's inner gaze.

 

-45-

    "What Europe's modern folds of rogues and fools
    Display, thy olden city must have shown;
    Strife murderous as the sword—but waged with tools
    Of deadlier kind: tongues venomed to impugn
    All humble virtues, oiled to gloss o'ergrown
    And hideous vice, and help it to pursue
    Its course of lust and blood.   Thy prince hath won
    A name will never die: the lot of few
Who humbly toil for good, and selfish wrong eschew.

 

-46-

    "Such weaklings win but scorn; and so 'twas shrewd
    In thy magnifical incendiary
    To use a masterstroke should teach the brood
    Of puny things to come what 'twas to be
    Acute in wit; for no dexterity
    Of after-men can now the name destroy
    Of fiddling, murdering Nero—"
                                                           "Cease thy glee!"
    Returned the Roman,—"or thy tongue employ
"On themes that will thy hapless fellows less annoy.

 

-47-

    "The prince thou slanderest had a noble soul,
    Although eccentric: hireling scribes defamed
    Him, or the world would his great deeds extol,
    Not censure.   Man's advance he always aimed
    To hasten: wisdom, art, song, music claimed
    Him ever as their blandest, truest friend;
    And in the deed thou hast so lightly named,
    His purposes were princely: a quick end
He put to ugliness that did with beauty blend:

 

-48-

    "Filth-nests with palaces, that erst distilled
    Their feculent odours on the air, and spread
    Nausea and death.   Thou shouldst have seen Rome filled
    With homes of stateliness and grace, instead
    Of mere mud-huts of squalor: 'twould have bred
    In thee much admiration—" [9]
                                                    "And the roast,"—
    Resumed Mordaunt,—"was trifling: to the dead
    "Those who were burnt Decay would soon have tossed,—
And Death, doubtless, preferred the speedier holocaust.

 

-49-

    "Filth-nests! why, ay; and the mere wingless fowls—
    I'd term them such, did the old Cynic sneer,
    As in wise Plato's face, [10]—the dirty thralls
    Were of no worth.   Besides, how vain it were
    Of the birds' filthy nests fair Rome to clear,
    And yet to leave the filth-birds!   Thus, brave War
    Is the world's health's effectual pioneer,
    As well as burning: Earth, it doth not mar,
But mend—to bruise it, now and then, with Slaughter's car.”—

 

-50-

    "Spite of thy jeers,"—Villeueuve, inclined to wrath,
    Took up the strife, and said,—"War hath its use
    "As well as honours: harvest and aftermath
    Are rendered plenteous by the tide diffuse
    Of blood: the vulture's leavings do conduce,
    As well, to fertilize the barren earth,
    Which might, but for the timely stream let loose
    On it, become one general mass of dearth,
Nor yield another grain for things of human birth.

 

-51-

    "Thus doth the carnage of the field assist
    Great Providence.   Nay, more: the lord of fight
    Is Nature's mightiest, best phlebotomist:
    'Tis well that the fell falchion doth alight
    On thousands, and more slaughterous nitre blight
    Myriads of crawling things.   What would the world
    Grow, but a putrid swarm, in the vast flight
    Of years, if oft the warrior's flag unfurled
The sun saw not, nor smiled on crowds to swift death
            hurled?

 

-52-

    "And, if Earth's youth the sword did not thus sweep
    Away by thousands, in what woe and want,
    What scorn and rags, would many of them creep
    To helpless age!   But, next, the combatant
    Regard with Glory fired—"
                                                   "Nay,"—said Mordaunt,—
    "Mar not thy theme; for thou hast pictured well
    The truest commendations War can vaunt:
    Slide not to farce: thou never wilt excel
The argument; though tragic, we have heard thee tell.

 

-53-

    "Such were the shameless reasonings of the Strong
    For murdering the Weak, I heard in life:
    And yet these very reasoners pale at wrong
    Wrought by the lone assassin with the knife:
    These very men whose arguments are rife
    Of aiding mystic Providence, by huge
    Assassination!   That such hateful strife
    Of inconsistency we fled, I grudge
Not, though it be for aye in this dull zone to lodge."-­-

 

-54-

    "And I judge otherwise,"—with lazy speech
    The suicidal glutton 'gan to break
    His moody silence: "could I old Earth reach
    "Again, at will, I quickly would forsake
    This clime that fits perception so opaque
    As thine.   Why wonder at aught strange or mad
    They do or say on Earth?   Do they not make
    A thing for worship that they say doth add
To being but to slay what He with life hath clad?

 

-55-

    "And justify they not His deathful laws
    By the same logic we have heard but now?
    'All things hath framed this great uncaused Cause,'
    They say, 'to prey upon each other, through
    'His blest design to save them from the slow
    And lingering death of helpless age: and thus,'
    Say they, 'when men the universe of woe
    'And murder view, and shudder,—vision gross
Leads them to term its kindly beauty—hideous.'

 

-56-

    "If such their model of perfection be,
    How canst thou wonder, if, with kindliness
    Like His to whom in awe they bow the knee,
    Their human slaughter-shapes they drape and dress?
    Mordaunt,—I ever laughed at answerless
    Priest-riddles, and unto the joys of sense
    And appetite betook me; and possess
    Them now I would, if this new residence
Of being, and its laws, compelled not abstinence."

 

-57-

    "And as thou think'st, Apicius, so think I,"—
    Said dull Tigellinus;—"sense, and its joy.
    "But nought beside on earth, are worth a sigh:
    They rendered Life worth having, though alloy
    Was mingled with it: he who was least coy
    Of these true pleasures, was, in my esteem,
    The wisest man: ay, he who from a boy
    Led life of revel,—filling up his dream
With merriment—daring the rapids of Life's stream.

 

-58-

    "So judged I that our prince lived by the rule
    Of truest wisdom: could I once more share
    His favour and his joys, I would not pule
    At the world's contradictions, like this rare
    Sample of folly, who with haste so yare
    Fled hither from wealth's, pleasure's lavishment,
    In quest of dark remediless despair.
    Rome knew not such a lunatic: content
We were to live,—'less ill with good was overblent."—

 

-59-

    "Ye may bepraise yourselves,"—Mordaunt replied;
    "But I regard ye as twin swine—to nought
    More noble are ye kin: not things of pride
    But filthiest greed ye be; and Earth o'erfraught
    With such as ye becomes the irksome spot
    It is, and hath been.   Nature doth contain
    No greater mystery than that she with thought
    Such grovelling clay endows; the mystic chain
Of mire with mind ye link: your life else is but vain."—

 

-60-

    "Is not our life—all life—as vain as theirs?"
    Asked Lumley,—while the Romans sank supine
    And slumbrous, on the rock:—"we were the heirs
    "Of Vanity on earth; and this confine
    Of wretchedness affords no cheering sign
    That we shall e'er attain a nobler state—
    Although some fable it who still entwine
    Earth's credulous dreams with doubt, and consolate
This miserable life with emulous debate."-­

 

-61-

    "And what, if such debate high truths evolve
    We wot not of?"—earnestly asked Vatel:
    "My mind doth much misgive 'twas rash resolve,
    When ghost-kings messaged us, that did impel
    Our souls to scoff.   If we have bid farewell
    To esperance ourselves"­-
                                                   "Nurse no regret
    "So infantile,"—said Lumley:—"wisely quell
    "Its yearnings: ne'er can dreams in me beget
A ray of hope that we shall 'scape from Torture's net.

 

-62-

    "It is a universe designed for sorrow—
    Designed if it be; and if it rose by chance,
    'Tis still as vile.   I wish a vast death thorough
    All life would penetrate, until expanse
    Of space were filled with discontinuance
    Of thought, sense, motion.   Worthless are they all,
    Serving no end but pain—the heritance
    Of all things: pleasure doth but serve to pall:
'Tis but a sweet to render bitterer Life's gall.

 

-63-

    "Tell us Annihilation shall imbibe
    All life, and I thy prophecy will name
    Worthy rehearsal and regard: but gibe
    No dreams of some fantastic afterdrame
    Of blessedness for men and spirits: maim
    Their wits must be who doatingly desire
    For boon what we ought rather to disclaim
    And shun, judging from Past and Present: ire,
Not joy, I feel, when told I shall new bliss acquire."—

 

-64-

    "Would that on earth physician for the mind
    Like to thyself I had discovered,"—said
    Vatel:—"thy morbid discontent and blind
    "Distortion even of joy, benignly spread
    With grief through Nature, into woe as dread
    As evil's self—creates so deep distaste
    By its untruth, that thou in me hast bred
    More reverence for the good in life amassed,
Than if thou wert Nature's devout encomiast.

 

-65-

    "Spirits,—within me hath awoke new hope,
    New faith!   Even here we are not wholly lost:
    It is because in sluggard thought we mope
    And drivel, that we deem this mystic coast
    Our perdurable prison.   Swiftly trust
    Shall rise to break our bondage, when no more
    We palter with ourselves, but with robust
    Resolve probe our life-errors to the core:
Until, not Fate, but our own folly we abhor.

 

-66-

    "Soon shall we then discover why we made
    Shipwreck of mortal life, and why we here,
    By turns, sink in low sloth, fiercely upbraid
    Nature herself, or agonise with Fear
    And Pain; and soon deliverance will appear:
    For Mind was formed all Evil to subdue
    By its own might"—
                              "Old earth-dreams!"—with a sneer,
    Villeneuve exclaimed; "and let Earth still pursue
"Her dreams: but, do not here the sickening theme
            renew.

 

-67-

    "But who approacheth by the gloomy strand,
    With step of haste bounding o'er rock and level?
    Strange haste, in this supine, lethargic land!
    'Tis he who did on earth so deeply revel
    In his dark theme of 'Suicide no Evil,'—
    And, when the page was finished, finished life—
    Robert of Normandy, yclept the Devil.—
    Thy visage is a herald of new strife—
Wild spirit!   Speak the thoughts with which thy soul
            is rife!"

 

-68-

    Already by the group, Le Diable
    Stood, with a look that seemed to reprehend
    Those sojourners in gloom—all, save Vatel,—
    Whose eyes of new-born hope a light I kenned,
    Of mystic sympathy and joy to send
    Forth as a greeting to the Norman's eyes.
    And thus the Norman spake:-­
                                                            "Spirits, attend
    "The invitation from the Good and Wise,
That now I bring: attend, and from your sloth arise!

 

-69-

    "Brothers, although their primal call ye slighted,
    Sages and bards and princely spirits yearn
    To kindle in your essences benighted
    The fire of faith with which they inly burn.
    And, thus, by one who erst, ye know, with scorn
    Beheld life's gift, message they have renewed,—
    That ye may cease, when his soul's hope ye learn,
    And ken the faith with which he is imbued,
To think they mock ye with a feigned solicitude.

 

-70-

    "It is no dream: Hades and Earth are waking
    To consciousness of Mind's omnipotence.
    Not less unwise than guilty in forsaking
    Old Earth we were; for we with affluence
    Of might to subdue Evil's power prepense
    Were gifted: even the weakest might have won
    Some victory helpful to the prevalence
    Of Mind o'er Evil.   But, it is begun—
The lofty strife—and conquest shall be gained, full
            soon!

 

-71-

    "I tell ye that on earth all natural ill
    Begins to yield to Science: Pestilence flees
    Her climes; and men shall soon begin to fill
    The expansive measure of their days.   The seas
    Already own the power of Mind: with ease
    Men vault above the wave, fearing no rage
    Of giant storms.   On land, the very breeze
    That vital is, they hold in vassalage,
And yoke, by viewless chains, unto the thought-winged
            sledge.

 

-72-

    "Mind glows and fulmines even in the clown;
    And men from yoke conventional and old
    Shake themselves free: the crosier and the crown,
    The sword and gun, all men begin to hold
    For useless and pernicious things, and bold
    The very peasants grow to laugh aloud
    At swollen names of gew-gaw shapes in gold.
    Think ye that changes such as these uncloud
No change for Hades, and her kings and pomp-thrones
            proud?

 

-73-

    "I tell ye Change hath come: judgment condign
    Hath fallen on the essences of kings
    Who raged to hear deep sage and bard divine
    Tell, in prophetic strain, pomp-glisterings
    Should pass away, and spirit homagings
    Be paid to Mind and Goodness.   Where the bow
    Of promise skieth mystic symbolings
    Of monarch-splendour, forfeiture I saw
Of thrones, which congregated ghost-kings shook with
            awe.

 

-74-

    "Arise, arise, my brothers! we were wrong
    To quit Earth's life in craven discontent
    At Evil; and ignoble to prolong
    Our murmuring here it is.   Evil was blent
    With Good through Nature; but the Blender meant
    To ennoble human thought by healthful toil
    That should have issue in magnificent
    And universal triumph.   Brothers, foil
The lethargy that doth your might-girt spirits spoil!

 

-75-

    "Come, listen the inspiring theme of Good
    And Right, and how doth dawn their jubilee!
    Spirits, the universe one brotherhood
    Of Knowledge, Truth, and Love, full soon shall be!
    I say, arise!"—
                              "Hence, with thy ribaldry!"
    Apicius fiercely answered: "of such fare
    "I covet not the taste.   Hence, devotee
    Of dreams!   To mock our abjectness forbear!
Hence! let us slumber on to deaden our despair!"—

 

-76-

    Thus spake his swinish spirit; nor arose
    His shade from its recumbency to greet
    The earnest messenger.   In deeper doze
    Sophonius lay, as if he would maltreat
    The Norman with contempt.   The rest with meet
    Attention heard; and, with a countless host
    The descant drew around, in haste more fleet
    Than they had used for ages on that coast,
Expressed, as with one voice, their new-born hope and
            trust.—

        

-77-

    "Then, to our brother exiles let us speed!"—
    The Norman said;—"But what shall be your fate—
    Victims of sensual gust?   Is it decreed
    That Essences like yours in afterstate
    Of absolute brutality prostrate
    Shall lie for ever?   Oh! that one bright ray
    From Nature's central fire would ye create
    Anew, with souls more human!—
                                                                   And, away
Faded my dream, as light renewed the prison-day.

 


NOTES TO BOOK THE SEVENTH.
 
1.—Page 192, Stanza 23.

Oh, 'let them grapple,' as the great one bade,


"AND, though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength.  Let her and Falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"—MILTON'S Areopagitica.

 
2.—Page 196, Stanza 38.

Sought for his guilty life, forestalled their swords.


    The portrait of Sophonius Tigellinus,—who was distinguished in Nero's court alike for dissoluteness and treachery, and who, at last, betrayed even the imperial libertine himself,—is well known to all readers of Juvenal; and Tacitus has left us a medallion picture (Hist. lib. i., cap. 72) truly characteristic of his portable and expressive mintage.

 
3.—Page 196, Stanza 38.


                            Ill Fame for panderer
To Rome's imperial beast of lust and massacre.


    The circumstances of Petronius Arbiter's singular suicide are described in the 19th chapter of the 16th book of Tacitus's Annals.

 
4.—Page 196, Stanza 39.


                                       which this cormorant,
From gormandizing spared.


    "Millies sestertiûm," or £807, 290., is stated to have been the worth of the estate of Apicius; and when he had hanged himself in the diseased belief that he had not enough left for a maintenance, "centies sestertiûm," or £80,000., was found to be the remnant of his fortune.—In the stanza I have used the rhymer's license to employ round numbers.

    If these notes were intended for comment in lieu of necessary explication, I could not pass by the name Apicius without observing that the bearer of it fairly won his pre-eminence over all gormandisers ancient or modern, not merely by the vast sums spent on his appetite and by his self-martyrdom to the lunatic dread of want.—but by his composition of the treatise "de Arte Coquinaria,"—wherefrom, perhaps, even Eude himself might derive some hints for exciting dishes: though from Smollett's well-known satirical expose of the delicacies of Roman cookery, modern epicures may imagine there can be nothing very enticing in the treatise on Cookery by Apicius Cælius.

 
5, 6.—Pages 196-7, Stanzas 39 and 40.


England's fine fool, all Europe's courtly guest,
Lumley was there, a 'noble lord,' in life,


    The general reader may find notices of the suicides of Mordaunt, cousin to the great earl of Peterborough, and of Lumley, earl of Scarborough, in various publications: the article "Suicide" contained in a translation of Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary, that I read when young, first made me acquainted with their whimsical cases.

 
7.—Page 197, Stanza 41.


Vatel, who cut his throat to shun lite slain
Of not being able sumptuously to store
The supper-table for his guests;


    See Mad. de Sévigné's Letters for an account of this suicide.  The English reader will find it in Letter 52 of the translation, published in 7 duodecimo vols., London, 1801.  The account is too long to copy into a note; but should be read.

 
8.—Page 197, Stanza 41.


                                                   how the core
Of life a pin may pierce, with one quick throe;


    Seeing that one account of his death is as mysterious as another (see "Biographie Universelle," Vol. 49), it may be, after all, that O'Meara's account of it, as given by Napoleon, is as true as any other.—"The conversation then turned upon French naval officers.  'Villeneuve'—said he,—'when taken prisoner and brought to England, was so much grieved at his defeat, that he studied anatomy that he might destroy himself.  For this purpose he bought some anatomical plates of the heart, and compared them with his own body, in order to ascertain the exact situation of that organ.  On his arrival in France, I ordered that he should remain at Rennes, and not proceed to Paris.  Villeneuve, afraid of being tried by a court martial for disobedience of orders and consequently losing the fleet, for I had ordered him not to sail, or to engage the English, determined to destroy himself, and accordingly took his plates of the heart and compared them with his breast.  Exactly in the centre of the plate, he made a mark with a large pin, then fixed the pin as near as he could judge in the same spot in his own breast, shoved it in to the head, penetrated his heart, and expired.  When the room was opened, he was found dead; the pin in his breast, and the mark in the plate corresponding with the wound in his breast.  He need not have done it,'—continued he,—'as he was a brave man, though he possessed no talent."—Barry O'Meara's "Voice from St. Helena," vol. i., page 57.

 
9.—Page 199, Stanza 43.


                                           'twould have bred
In thee much admiration


    My Ghost of Petronius Arbiter does not argue half so earnestly in defence of Nero, as Mr. Walter Savage Landor.—See his "Imaginary Conversations."

 
10.—Page 199, Stanza 49.

As in wise Plato's face,—the dirty thralls


    The practical joke of Diogenes upon Plato's definition of a Man. will be remembered by almost every reader. ["Not so," say several of my friends. Here, then, is the whimsical anecdote which was in my memory: "Plato defining Man a two footed animal without wings, and this definition being approved; Diogenes took a cock, and plucking off all its feathers, turned it into Plato's school, saying, This is Plato's Man: whereupon, to the definition was added, having broad nails."—Stanley's Hist. of Philiospohy.]

 



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