Page images
PDF
EPUB

He ceasing, came a message from the Head.

· That afternoon the Princess rode to take

The dip of certain strata to the North.

Would we go with her ? we should find the land
Worth seeing ; and the river made a fall
Out yonder :' then she pointed on to where
A double hill ran up his dark-blue forks
Beyond the full-leaved platans of the vale.

Agreed to, this, the day fled on thro' all Its range of duties to the appointed hour.

Then summon’d to the porch we went.

She stood

Among her maidens, higher by the head,

Her back against a pillar, her foot on one
Of those tame leopards. Kittenlike he rollid
And paw'd about her sandal. I drew near :
My heart beat thick with passion and with awe,
And from my breast the involuntary sigh
Brake, as she smote me with the light of eyes
That lent my knee desire to kneel, and shook

My pulses, till to horse we clomb, and so

Went forth in long retinue following up

The river as it narrow'd to the hills.

I rode beside her and to me she said :

• O friend, we trust that you esteem'd us not
Too harsh to your companion yestermorn ;
Unwillingly we spake.' No-not to her,'
I answer’d, but to one of whom we spake
Your Highness might have seem'd the thing you say.'

Again ?' she cried . are you ambassadresses
From him to me? we give you, being strange,
A license : speak, and let the topic die.'

I stammer'd that I knew him-could have wish'd

• Our king expects was there no precontract

There is no truer-hearted—ah, you seem

All he prefigured, and he could not see
The bird of passage flying south but long’d

To follow : surely, if your Highness keep

Your purport, you will shock him ev'n to death,

Or baser courses, children of despair.'

[ocr errors]

Poor boy ' she said 'can he not read-no books?

Quoit, tennis, ball— no games ? nor deals in that
Which men delight in, martial exercises ?
To nurse a blind ideal like a girl,

Methinks he seems no better than a girl ;

As girls were once, as we ourselves have been :

We had our dreams ; perhaps he mixt with them : We touch on our dead self, nor shun to do it,

Being other—since we learnt our meaning here,
To lift the woman's fall'n divinity

Upon an even pedestal with man.'

She paused, and added with a haughtier smile • And as to precontracts, we move, my

friend,

At no man's beck, but know ourselves and thee,

O Vashti, noble Vashti ! Summon’d out

She kept her state, and left the drunken king
To brawl at Shushan underneath the palms.'

Alas your Highness breathes full East,' I said,

· On that which leans to you.

I know the Prince,

I prize his truth : and then how vast a work

To assail this gray prëeminence of man !
You grant me license; might I use it? think,
Ere half be done perchance your life may fail ;
Then comes the feebler heiress of your plan,

And takes and ruins all ; and thus your pains

May only make that footprint upon sand
Which old-recurring waves of prejudice
Resmooth to nothing : might I dread that you,

With only Fame for spouse

and

your great deeds For issue, yet may live in vain, and miss,

Meanwhile, what every woman counts her due,
Love, children, happiness ?'

And she exclaim'd,

• Peace, you young savage of the Northern wild !

What! tho' your Prince's love were like a God's,

Have we not made ourself the sacrifice ?

You are bold indeed : we are not talk'd to thus :

Yet will we say for children, would they grew
Like field-flowers everywhere! we like them well :
But children die ; and let me tell you, girl,
Howe'er you babble, great deeds cannot die :
They with the sun and moon renew their light
For ever, blessing those that look on them.
Children—that men may pluck them from our hearts,
Kill us with pity, break us with ourselves-
0-children—there is nothing upon earth

[merged small][ocr errors]

And sees him err : nor would we work for fame ;
Thoʻshe perhaps might reap the applause of Great,

Who learns the one POU STO whence after-hands

May move the world, tho’ she herself effect

But little : wherefore up and act, nor shrink
For fear our solid aim be dissipated

Of frail successors.

Would, indeed, we had been,

In lieu of many mortal flies, a race
Of giants living, each, a thousand years,

« PreviousContinue »