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Kneeling, I gave it, which she caught, and dash'd
Unopen'd at her feet: a tide of fierce
Invective seem'd to wait behind her lips,

As waits a river level with the dam

Ready to burst and flood the world with foam :
And so she would have spoken, but there rose

A hubbub in the court of half the maids

Gather'd together; from the illumin'd hall
Long lanes of splendour slanted o’er a press

shoulders, thick as herded ewes,
And rainbow robes, and gems and gemlike eyes,

And gold and golden heads; they to and fro
Fluctuated, as flowers in storm, some red, some pale,
All open-mouth'd, all gazing to the light,
Some crying there was an army in the land,
And some that men were in the very walls,
And some they cared not ; till a clamour

grew As of a new-world Babel, woman-built,

And worse-confounded : high above them stood
The placid marble Muses, looking peace.

Not peace,

she look’d, the Head : but rising up Robed in the long night of her deep hair, so

To the open window moved, remaining there

Fixt like a beacon-tower above the waves

Of tempest, when the crimson-rolling eye
Glares ruin, and the wild birds on the light

Dash themselves dead. She stretch'd her arms and call'd

Across the tumult and the tumult fell.

• What fear

brawlers ? am not I your

Head ?

On me, me, me, the storm first breaks : I dare

All these male thunderbolts : what is it


fear ?

Peace! there are those to avenge us and they come :
If not,—myself were like enough, 0 girls,
To unfurl the maiden banner of our rights,

And clad in iron burst the ranks of war,

Or, falling, protomartyr of our cause,
Die : yet I blame ye not so much for fear ;
Six thousand years of fear have made ye

that From which I would redeem ye : but for those

That stir this hubbub-you and you—I know

Your faces there in the crowd-to-morrow morn

We hold a great convention : then shall they
That love their voices more than duty, learn

With whom they deal, dismiss'd in shame to live

No wiser than their mothers, household stuff,

Live chattels, mincers of each other's fame,

Full of weak poison, turnspits for the clown,
The drunkard's football, laughing-stocks of Time,

Whose brains are in their hands and in their heels,

But fit to flaunt, to dress, to dance, to thrum,

To tramp, to scream, to burnish, and to scour,

For ever slaves at home and fools abroad.'

She, ending, waved her hands : thereat the crowd Muttering, dissolved : then with a smile, that look'd

A stroke of cruel sunshine on the cliff

When all the glens are drown'd in azure gloom
Of thunder-shower, she floated to us and said.

• You have done well and like a gentleman,


And like a prince : you have our thanks for all :

you look well too in your woman's dress :
Well have you done and like a gentleman.
You saved our life : we owe you bitter thanks :
Better have died and spilt our bones in the flood

Then men had said but now - What hinders me

To take such bloody vengeance on you both ?

Yet since our father-Wasps in our good hive,

You would-be quenchers of the light to be,

Barbarians, grosser than your

native bears

O would I had his sceptre for one hour !
You that have dared to break our bound, and gull’d

Our servants, wrong'd and lied and thwarted us—

I wed with thee! I bound by precontract

Your bride, your bondslave ! not tho' all the gold
That veins the world were pack'd to make your crown,

And every spoken tongue should lord you. Sir,
Your falsehood and your face are loathsome to us :

I trample on your offers and on you :
Begone : we will not look upon you more.

Here, push them out at gates.'

In wrath she spake.

Then those eight mighty daughters of the plough

Bent their broad faces toward us and address'd

Their motion : twice I sought to plead my cause,

But on my shoulder hung their heavy hands,
The weight of destiny: so from her face

They push'd us, down the steps, and thro' the court,

And with grim laughter thrust us out at gates.

We cross'd the street and gain'd a petty mound Beyond it, whence we saw the lights and heard The voices murmuring ; till upon my spirits Settled a gentle cloud of melancholy,

Which I shook off, for I was ever one

To whom the shadow of all mischance but came

As night to him that sitting on a hill

Sees the midsummer, midnight, Norway sun,

Set into sunrise : then we moved away.

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