Page images

The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife,
The morn the marshalling in arms,-the day
Battle's magnificently-stern array !
The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which when rent
The earth is covered thick with other clay,

Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent, Rider and horse,-friend, foe,-in one red burial blent !


Their praise is hymned by loftier harps than mine ;
Yet one I would select from that proud throng,
Partly because they blend me with his line,
And partly that I did his sire some wrong,
And partly that bright names will hallow song ;
And his was of the bravest, and when showered
The death-bolts deadliest the thinned files along,

Even where the thickest of war's tempest lowered, They reached no nobler breast than thine, young, gallant

Howard ! 1


There have been tears and breaking hearts for thee,
And mine were nothing, had I such to give ;
But when I stood beneath the fresh green tree,
Which living waves where thou didst cease to live,
And saw around me the wide field revive
With fruits and fertile promise, and the Spring
Come forth her work of gladness to contrive,

With all her reckless birds upon the wing,
I turned from all she brought to those she could not



I turned to thee, to thousands, of whom each
And one as all a ghastly gap did make
In his own kind and kindred, whom to teach
Forgetfulness were mercy for their sake ;
The Archangel's trump, not Glory's, must awake
Those whom they thirst for ; though the sound of Fame

1 Young gallant Howard.] The son of the Earl of Carlisle, the poet's guardian, to whom he had referred in English Bards and Scotch Reviewers.' Howard, pronounced as a monosyllable, as Mu. ezzin in .Siege of Corinth’ is a dissyllable, and Charles a dissyllable in ‘Morgante Maggiore.'

May for a moment soothe, it cannot slake

The fever of vain longing, and the name
So honoured but assumes a stronger, bitterer claim.


They mourn, but smile at length; and, smiling,

mourn :

The tree will wither long before it fall ;
The hull drives on, though mast and sail be torn;
The roof-tree sinks, but moulders on the hall
In massy hoariness ; the ruined wall
Stands when its wind-worn battlements are gone ;
The bars survive the captive they enthral :
The day drags through, though storms keep out the

sun; And thus the heart will break, yet brokenly' live on :


Even as a broken mirror, which the glass
In every fragment multiplies; and makes
A thousand images of one that was,
The same, and still the more, the more it breaks ;
And thus the heart will do which not forsakes, 1
Living in shattered guise ; and still, and cold,
And bloodless, with its sleepless sorrow aches,

Yet withers on till all without is old,
Showing no visible sign, for such things are untold.


There is a very life in our despair,
Vitality of poison,-a quick root
Which feeds these deadly branches ; for it were
As nothing did we die ; but Life will suit
Itself to Sorrow's most detested fruit,
Like to the apples on the Dead Sea's shore,
All ashes to the taste : Did man compute

Existence by enjoyment, and count o'er
Such hours 'gainst years of life,-say, would he name

threescore ?

1 Brokenly.) Remark the use--as also forsakes (xxxiii. 5)used absolutely, equivalent to forgets not.'


The Psalmist numbered out the years of man :
They are enough ; and if thy tale' be true,
Thou, who didst grudge him even that fleeting span,
More than enough, thou fatal Waterloo !
Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
Their children's lips shall echo them, and say,
'Here, where the sword united nations drew,

Our countrymen were warring on that day!'
And this is much, and all which will not pass away.



There sunk the greatest, nor the worst of men,
Whose spirit, antithetically mixt,
One moment of the mightiest, and again
On little objects with like firmness fixt;
Extreme in all things ! hadst thou been betwixt,
Thy throne had still been thine, or never been ;
For daring made thy rise as fall : thou seek'st

Even now to reassume the imperial mien,
And shake again the world, the Thunderer of the scene!


Conqueror and captive of the earth art thou !
She trembles at thee still, and thy wild name
Was ne'er more bruited in men's minds than now
That thou art nothing, save the jest of Fame,
Who wooed thee once, thy vassal, and became
The flatterer of thy fierceness, till thou wert
A god unto thyself ; nor less the same

To the astounded kingdoms all inert,
Who deemed thee for a time whate'er thou didst assert.

1 Tale.] Number. Conf. “the tale of bricks, Exodus; and Milton's • L'Allegro :'

• And every shepherd tells his tale.' 2 Antithetically mixed.] Napoleon apt for all things, but excellent only in war; adoring chance, force, success, splendour, and noise more than true glory-De Tocqueville.

Napoleon died at St. Helena, 1821. From the management of an empire to the regulation of court etiquette, nothing was above or below Napoleon's mind. Compare Young's ‘Night Thoughts'

From different natures marvellously mixt.'

Oh, more or less than man- 1-in high or low,
Battling with nations, flying from the field;
Now making monarchs' necks thy footstool, now
More than thy meanest soldier taught to yield ;
An empire thou couldst crush, command, rebuild,
But govern not thy pettiest passion, nor,
However deeply in men's spirits skilled,

Look through thine own, nor curb the lust of war, Nor learn that tempted fate will leave the loftiest star.


Yet well thy soul hath brooked the turning tide
With that untaught innate philosophy,
Which, be it wisdom, coldness, or deep pride,
Is gall and wormwood to an enemy.
When the whole host of hatred stood hard by,
To watch and mock thee shrinking, thou hast smiled
With a sedate and all-enduring eye ;-

When Fortune fled her spoiled and favourite child,
He stood unbowed beneath the ills upon him piled.


Sager than in thy fortunes; for in them
Ambition steeled thee on too far to show
That just habitual scorn, which could contemn
Men and their thoughts ; 'twas wise to feel, not so
To wear it ever on thy lip and brow,
And spurn the instruments thou wert to use
Till they were turned unto thine overthrow ;

'Tis but a worthless world to win or lose ; So hath it proved to thee, and all such lot who choose.


If, like a tower upon a headlong rock,
Thou hadst been made to stand or fall alone,
Such scorn of man had helped to brave the shock :
But men's thoughts were the steps which paved thy

Their admiration thy best weapon shone ;
The part of Philip's son' was thine, not then

1 Philip's son.] Alexander the Great, B.C. 336–323, the contemporary of Diogenes, the founder of the Cynics, so named from (Unless aside thy purple had been thrown)

Like stern Diogenes to mock at men ;
For sceptred cynics earth were far too wide a den.


But quiet to quick bosoms is a hell,
And there hath been thy bane ; there is a fire
And motion of the soul which will not dwell
In its own narrow being, but aspire
Beyond the fitting medium of desire ;
And, but once kindled, quenchless evermore,
Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire

Of aught but rest ; a fever at the core,
Fatal to him who bears, to all who ever bore.


This makes the madmen who have made men mad
By their contagion ; Conquerors and Kings,
Founders of sects and systems, to whom add
Sophists, Bards, Statesmen, all unquiet things
Which stir too strongly the soul's secret springs,
And are themselves the fools to those they fool;
Envied, yet how unenviable! what stings

Are theirs ! One breast laid open were a school
Which would unteach mankind the lust to shine or rule :


Their breath is agitation, and their life A storm whereon they ride, to sink at last, And yet so nursed and bigoted to strife, That should their days, surviving perils past, Melt to calm twilight, they feel overcast With sorrow and supineness, and so die; Even as a flame unfed, which runs to waste With its own flickering, or a sword laid by Which eats into itself, and rusts ingloriously. their misanthropic, or dog-like, nature. The philosophy was a practical contempt of human comforts.

The sense of the lines 6–9 is this : 'It was a mistaken policy in thee, like Diogenes, to mock at men, when it was rather thy part to build on their admiration like Alexander.'

1 Medium.] The golden mean, in which Aristotle places all the virtues-To Mégov. See · Lara,' 'No tame trite medium.'


« PreviousContinue »