They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone, just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Slew men in foreign lands …
Though I must bear the blame
Because he bore my name.
Unknown, she was my favorite shape,
She who relieved me of the worry of being a man,
And I see her and I lose her and I suffer
My pain, like a little sunlight in cold water.
And here the buzz of eager nations ran,
In murmur’d pity, or loud-roar’d applause,
As man was slaughter’d by his fellow-man.
And wherefore slaughter’d? wherefore, but because
Such were the bloody Circus’ genial laws,
And the imperial pleasure.—Wherefore not?
What matters where we fall to fill the maws
Of worms—on battle-plains or listed spot?
Both are but theatres where the chief actors rot.
I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand—his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his droop’d head sinks gradually low—
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him—he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hail’d the wretch who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not—his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away:
He reck’d not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay,
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother—he, their sire,
Butcher’d to make a Roman holiday—
All this rush’d with his blood—Shall he expire
And unavenged?—Arise! ye Goths, and glut your ire!
But here, where Murder breathed her bloody steam;
And here, where buzzing nations choked the ways,
And roar’d or murmur’d like a mountain stream
Dashing or winding as its torrent strays;
Here, where the Roman millions’ blame or praise
Was death or life, the playthings of a crowd,
My voice sounds much—and fall the stars’ faint rays
On the arena void-seats crush’d—walls bow’d—
And galleries, where my steps seem echoes strangely loud.
A ruin—yet what ruin! from its mass
Walls, palaces, half-cities, have been rear’d;
Yet oft the enormous skeleton ye pass,
And marvel where the spoil could have appear’d.
Hath it indeed been plunder’d, or but clear’d?
Alas! developed, opens the decay,
When the colossal fabric’s form is near’d:
It will not bear the brightness of the day,
Which streams too much on all years, man, have reft away.
But when the rising moon begins to climb
Its topmost arch, and gently pauses there;
When the stars twinkle through the loops of time,
And the low night-breeze waves along the air
The garland forest, which the gray walls wear,
Like laurels on the bald first Cæsar’s head;
When the light shines serene but doth not glare,
Then in this magic circle raise the dead:
Heroes have trod this spot—’tis on their dust ye tread.
“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls—the World.” From our own land
Thus spake the pilgrims o’er this mighty wall
In Saxon times, which we are wont to call
Ancient; and these three mortal things are still
On their foundations, and unalter’d all;
Rome and her Ruin past Redemption’s skill,
The World, the same wide den—of thieves, or what ye will.
A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,
Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,
Against whose life the bow of power is bent,
Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;
I come to thee for shelter and for food,
To Yussouf, called through all our tribes ‘The Good.’”
“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more
Than it is God’s; come in, and be at peace;
Freely shalt thou partake of all my store
As I of his who buildeth over these
Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,
And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”
So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,
And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold,
My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight,
Depart before the prying day grow bold.”
As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.
That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,
Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,
He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,
Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
I will repay thee; all this thou hast done
Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”
“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee
Into the desert, never to return,
My one black thought shall ride away from me;
First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,
Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;
Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!”
A hut, and a tree,
And a hill for me,
And a piece of a weedy meadow.
I’ll ask no thing,
Of God or king,
But to clear away his shadow.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
"Delicta juventutis et ignorantius ejus, quoesumus ne memineris, Domine."
I left, to earth, a little maiden fair,
With locks of gold, and eyes that shamed the light;
I prayed that God might have her in His care
Earth's love was false; her voice, a siren's song;
(Sweet mother-earth was but a lying name)
The path she showed was but the path of wrong
"Cast her not out!" I cry. God's kind words come --
"Her future is with Me, as was her past;
It shall be My good will to bring her home
How shall I know thee in the sphere which keeps
The disembodied spirits of the dead,
When all of thee that time could wither sleeps
And perishes among the dust we tread?
For I shall feel the sting of ceaseless pain
If there I meet thy gentle presence not;
Nor hear the voice I love, nor read again
In thy serenest eyes the tender thought.
Will not thy own meek heart demand me there?
That heart whose fondest throbs to me were given;
My name on earth was ever in thy prayer,
And wilt thou never utter it in heaven?
In meadows fanned by heaven’s life-breathing wind,
In the resplendence of that glorious sphere,
And larger movements of the unfettered mind,
Wilt thou forget the love that joined us here?
The love that lived through all the stormy past,
And meekly with my harsher nature bore,
And deeper grew, and tenderer to the last.
Shall it expire with life, and be no more?
A happier lot than mine, and larger light,
Await thee there; for thou hast bowed thy will
In cheerful homage to the rule of right,
And lovest all, and renderest good for ill.
For me, the sordid cares in which I dwell,
Shrink and consume my heart, as heat the scroll;
And wrath has left its scar—that fire of hell
Has left its frightful scar upon my soul.
Yet though thou wear’st the glory of the sky,
Wilt thou not keep the same belovèd name,
The same fair thoughtful brow, and gentle eye,
Lovelier in heaven’s sweet climate, yet the same?
Shalt thou not teach me, in that calmer home,
The wisdom that I learned so ill in this—
The wisdom which is love—till I become
Thy fit companion in that land of bliss?
My little Son, who look’d from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey’d,
I struck him, and dismiss’d
With hard words and unkiss’d,
—His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken’d eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein’d stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray’d
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with trancèd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou’lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
‘I will be sorry for their childishness.’
She bows her head
Her downcast glance
Asks the angel, “Why,
For this romance,
Do I qualify?”