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Adoing nothing. So my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for’t !) learning love-lorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks ;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary, or a stool
To tumble over and vex you ; (“ Curse that stool !")
Or else, at best, a cushion, where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for
This hurts most, — this, — that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education (to return),
I wonder if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins,
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light: my own endured.
I had relations in the unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From Nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark:
I kept the life thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that
grace of thine !
At first, I felt no life which was not patience; did The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing Beyond it; sate in just the chair she placed, With back against the window to exclude The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn, Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods To bring the house a message; ay, and walked Demurely in her carpeted low rooms As if I should not, hearkening my own steps, Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books; Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh; Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors, And heard them whisper when I changed a cup (I blushed for joy at that), “The Italian child,
For all her blue eyes and her quiet ways,
Thrives ill in England: she is paler yet
Than when we came the last time : she will die.”
“ Will die.” My cousin, Romney Leigh, blushed too,
With sudden anger, and, approaching me,
Said low between his teeth, “ You're wicked now
You wish to die, and leave the world a-dusk
For others, with your naughty light blown out ?”
I looked into his face defyingly.
He might have known, that, being what I was,
'Twas natural to like to get away
As far as dead folk can ; and then, indeed,
Some people make no trouble when they die.
He turned, and went abruptly, slammed the door,
And shut his dog out.
Romney, Romney Leigh: I have not named my cousin hitherto; And yet I used him as a sort of friend, My elder by few years, but cold and shy And absent; tender when he thought of it, Which scarcely was imperative; grave betimes, As well as early master of Leigh Hall, Whereof the nightmare sate upon his youth Repressing all its seasonable delights, And agonizing with a ghastly sense Of universal hideous want and wrong To incriminate possession. When he came From college to the country, very oft He crossed the hill on visits to my aunt, With gifts of blue grapes from the hothouses; A book in one hand, mere statistics (if I chanced to lift the cover), count of all The goats whose beards grow sprouting down towards hell, Against God's separative judgment-hour. And she -- she almost loved him; even allowed That sometimes he should seem to sigh my way: It made him easier to be pitiful; And sighing was his gift. So, undisturbed, At whiles she let him shut my music up, And push my needles down, and lead me out To see in that south angle of the house The figs grow black as if by a Tuscan rock, On some light pretext. She would turn her head At other moments, go to fetch a thing, And leave me breath enough to speak with him, For his sake : it was simple.
Sometimes, too, He would have saved me utterly, it seemed, He stood and looked so.
Once he stood so near,
He dropped a sudden hand upon my head
Bent down on woman's work, as soft as rain;
But then I rose and shook it off as fire,
The stranger's touch that took my father's place,
Yet dared seem soft.
I used him for a friend Before I ever knew him for a friend. 'Twas better, 'twas worse also, afterward : We came so close, we saw our differences Too intimately. Always Romney Leigh Was looking for the worms, I for the gods. A godlike nature his: the gods look down Incurious of themselves; and certainly 'Tis well I should remember how, those days, I was a worm too, and he looked on me. A little by his act perhaps, yet more By something in me, surely not my will, I did not die. But slowly, as one in swoon, To whom life creeps back in the form of death, With a sense of separation, a blind pain Of blank obstruction, and a roar i’ the ears Of visionary chariots which retreat As earth grows clearer, — slowly, by degrees, I woke, rose up. Where was I? În the world : For uses, therefore, I must count worth while. I had a little chamber in the house, As green as any privet-hedge a bird Might choose to build in, though the nest itself Could show but dead brown sticks and straws. The walls Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds Hung green about the window, which let in The out-door world with all its greenery. You could not push your head out, and escape A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle, But so you were baptized into the
grace And privilege of seeing.
First the lime
(I had enough there of the lime, be sure :
My morning dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it); past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turt, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopped the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp,
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales,
Could guess if lady's hall or tenant's lodge
Dispensed such odors, though his stick, well crooked,
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming brier
Which dipped upon the wall. Behind the elins,
And through their tops, you saw the folded hills
Striped up and down with hedges (burly oaks
Projecting from the line to show themselves),
Through which my cousin Romney's chimneys smoked
As still as when a silent mouth in frost
Breathes, showing where the woodlands hid Leigh Hall ;
While, far above, a jet of table-land,
A promontory without water, stretched.
You could not catch it if the days were thick,
Or took it for a cloud ; but, otherwise,
The vigorous sun would catch it up at eve,
And use it for an anvil until he had filled
The shelves of heaven with burning thunderbolts,
Protesting against night and darkness; then,
When all his setting trouble was resolved
To a trance of passive glory, you might see
In apparition on the golden sky
(Alas! my Giotto's background) the sheep run
Along the fine clear outline, small as mice
That run along a witch's scarlet thread.
Not a grand nature. Not my chestnut-woods
Of Vallombrosa, cleaving by the spurs
To the precipices. Not my headlong leaps
Of waters, that cry out for joy or fear
In leaping through the palpitating pines,
Like a white soul tossed out to eternity
With thrills of time upon it. Not, indeed,
My multitudinous mountains, setting in
The magic circle, with the mutual touch
Electric, panting from their full deep hearts
Beneath the influent heavens, and waiting for
Communion and commission. Italy
Is one thing; England one.
On English ground,
You understand the letter, — ere the Fall,
How Adam lived in a garden. All the fields
Are tied up fast with hedges, nosegay-like;
The hills are crumpled plains; the plains, parterres ;
The trees, round, woolly, ready to be clipped :
And, if you seek for any wilderness,
You find at best a park. A nature tamed
And grown domestic like a barn-door fowl,
Which does not awe you with its claws and beak,
Nor tempt you to an eyrie too high up,
But which in cackling sets you thinking of
Your eggs to-morrow at breakfast in the pause
Of finer meditation.
A sweet familiar nature, stealing in
As a dog might, or child, to touch your hand,
Or pluck your gown, and humbly mind you so
Of presence and affection, excellent
For inner uses, from the things without.
I could not be unthankful, — I who was
Entreated thus and holpen. In the room
I speak of, ere the house was well awake,
And also after it was well asleep,
I sat alone, and drew the blessing in
Of all that nature. With a gradual step,
A stir among the leaves, a breath, a ray,
It came in softly, while the angels made
A place for it beside me. The moon came,
And swept my chamber clean of foolish thoughts.
The sun came, saying, “ Shall I lift this light
Against the lime-tree, and you will not look ?
I make the birds sing: listen! But, for you,
God never hears your voice, excepting when
You lie upon the bed at nights, and weep.”
Then something moved me. Then I wakened up
More slowly than I verily write now;
But wholly, at last, I wakened, opened wide
The window and my soul, and let the airs
And outdoor sights sweep gradual gospels in,
Regenerating what I was. O Life!
How oft we throw it off, and think, “Enough,
Enough of Life in so much! Here's a cause
For rupture ; herein we must break with Life,
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we are wronged,
Maimed, spoiled for aspiration : farewell Life ! ”
And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes,
And think all ended. Then Life calls to us
In some transformed, apocalyptic voice
Above us, or below us, or around :
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, or Love's,
Tricking ourselves because we are more ashamed
To own our compensations than our griefs :
Still Life's voice; still we make our peace with Life.
And I, so young then, was not sullen. Soon
I used to get up early, just to sit
And watch the morning quicken in the gray,
And hear the silence open like a flower,
Leaf after leaf, and stroke with listless hand
The woodbine through the window, till at last
I came to do it with a sort of love,
At foolish unaware : whereat I smiled,-
A melancholy smile, to catch myself
Smiling for joy.