Page images

To watch the three tall spires; and there I shaped The city's ancient legend into this :

Not only we, the latest seed of Time,
New men, that in the flying of a wheel
Cry down the past, not only we, that prate
Of rights and wrongs, have loved the people well,
And loathed to see them overtaxed; but she
Did more, and underwent, and overcame,
The woman of a thousand summers back,
Godiva, wife to that grim Earl, who ruled
In Coventry for when he laid a tax
Upon his town, and all the mothers brought
Their children, clamoring, "If we pay, we starve !"
She sought her lord, and found him, where he strode
About the hall, among his dogs, alone,

His beard a foot before him, and his hair
A yard behind.
She told him of their tears,

And prayed him, "If they pay this tax, they starve."
Whereat he stared, replying half-amazed,
"You would not let your little finger ache
For such as these?"" But I would die," said she.
He laughed, and swore by Peter and by Paul:
Then filliped at the diamond in her ear;
"O ay, ay, ay, you talk!"-
""Alas!" she said,
"But prove me what it is I would not do."
And from a heart as rough as Esau's hand,
He answered, "Ride you naked through the town,
And I repeal it;" and nodding, as in scorn,
He parted, with great strides among his dogs.
So left alone, the passions of her mind,
As winds from all the compass shift and blow,
Made war upon each other for an hour,
Till pity won. She sent a herald forth,
And bade him cry, with sound of trumpet, all
The hard condition; but that she would loose
The people therefore, as they loved her well,
From then till noon no foot should pace the street,
No eye look down, she passing; but that all
Should keep within, door shut, and window barred.

[ocr errors]

Then fled she to her inmost bower, and there
Unclasped the wedded eagles of her belt,
The grim Earl's gift; but ever at a breath
She lingered, looking like a summer moon
Half-dipt in cloud: anon she shook her head,
And showered the rippled ringlets to her knee;
Unclad herself in haste; adown the stair
Stole on; and, like a creeping sunbeam, slid
From pillar unto pillar, until she reached
The gateway; there she found her palfrey trapt
In purple blazoned with armorial gold.

Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:
The deep air listened round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
The little wide-mouthed heads upon the spout
Had cunning eyes to see: the barking cur
Made her cheek flame: her palfrey's footfall shot
Light horrors through her pulses: the blind walls
Were full of chinks and holes; and overhead
Fantastic gables, crowding, stared: but she
Not less through all bore up, till, last, she saw
The white-flowered elder thicket from the field
Gleam through the Gothic archways in the wall.

Then she rode back, clothed on with chastity. And one low churl, compact of thankless earth, The fatal byword of all years to come, Boring a little auger-hole in fear, Peeped-but his eyes, before they had their will, Were shrivelled into darkness in his head, And dropt before him. So the Powers, who wait On noble deeds, cancelled a sense misused; And she, that knew not, passed: and all at once, With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless


Was clashed and hammered from a hundred towers,
One after one: but even then she gained
Her bower; whence reissuing, robed and crowned,
To meet her lord, she took the tax away,
And built herself an everlasting name.


A STILL Small voice spake unto me,
"Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be?"

Then to the still small voice I said: "Let me not cast in endless shade What is so wonderfully made."


To which the voice did urge reply:
To-day I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.

"An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.

"He dried his wings: like gauze they grew: Through crofts and pastures wet with dew A living flash of light he flew."

I said, "When first the world began,
Young Nature through five cycles ran,
And in the sixth she moulded man.

"She gave him mind, the lordliest Proportion, and, above the rest, Dominion in the head and breast."

Thereto the silent voice replied: "Self-blinded are you by your pride: Look up through night: the world is wide.

"This truth within thy mind rehearse,
That in a boundless universe
Is boundless better, boundless worse.

"Think you this mould of hopes and fears Could find no statelier than his peers In yonder hundred million spheres ?


It spake, moreover, in my



Though thou wert scattered to the wind, Yet is there plenty of the kind.”

Then did my response clearer fall:
No compound of this earthly ball
Is like another, all in all."

To which he answered scoffingly:
"Good soul! suppose I grant it thee,
Who'll weep for thy deficiency?

"Or will one beam be less intense,
When thy peculiar difference
Is cancelled in the world of sense?

[ocr errors]

I would have said, "Thou canst not know," But my full heart, that worked below, Rained through my sight its overflow.

Again the voice spake unto me: "Thou art so steeped in misery, Surely 'twere better not to be.

"Thine anguish will not let thee sleep, Nor any train of reason keep: Thou canst not think, but thou wilt weep."

I said, "The years with change advance:
If I make dark my countenance,
I shut my life from happier chance.

"Some turn this sickness yet might take, Even yet." But he: "What drug can make A withered palsy cease to shake ?"

I wept," Though I should die, I know
That all about the thorn will blow
In tufts of rosy-tinted snow;

"And men, through novel spheres of thought Still moving after truth long sought, Will learn new things when I am not.”

"Yet," said the secret voice," some time,
Sooner or later, will gray prime
Make thy grass hoar with early rime.

"Not less swift souls that yearn for light,
Rapt after heaven's starry flight,
Would sweep the tracts of day and night.

"Not less the bee would range her cells,
The furzy prickle fire the dells,
The foxglove cluster dappled bells."

I said that "all the years invent;
Each month is various to present
The world with some development.

"Were this not well, to bide mine hour, Though watching from a ruined tower How grows the day of human power?"

"The highest-mounted mind," he said, "Still sees the sacred morning spread The silent summit overhead.

"Will thirty seasons render plain Those lonely lights that still remain, Just breaking over land and main?

"Or make that morn, from his cold crown
And crystal silence creeping down,
Flood with full daylight glebe and town?

« PreviousContinue »