« PreviousContinue »
The curse of Adam, the old curse of all
Though I inherit in this feverish life
Of worldly toil, vain wishes, and hard strife,
And fruitless thought, in Care's eternal thrall,
Yet more sweet honey than of bitter gall
I taste, through thee, my Eva, my sweet wife.
Then what was Man's lost Paradise ! — how rife
Of bliss, since love is with him in his fall!
Such as our own pure passion still might frame,
Of this fair earth, and its delightful bowers,
If no fell sorrow, like the serpent, came
To trail its venom o'er the sweetest flowers :-
But, O! as many and such tears are ours,
As only should be shed for guilt and shame!
Love, dearest lady, such as I would speak,
Lives not within the humor of the eye; —
Not being but an outward fantasy,
That skims the surface of a tinted cheek –
Else it would wane with beauty, and grow weak,
As if the rose made summer,— and so lie
Amongst the perishable things that die,
Unlike the love which I would give and seek,
Whose health is of no hue — to feel decay
With cheeks' decay, that have a rosy prime.
Love is its own great loveliness alway,
And takes new lustre from the touch of time;
Its bough owns no December and no May,
But bears its blossom into Winter's clime.
“ THE LAST MAN.” 'Twas in the year two thousand and one A pleasant morning of May, I sat on the gallows-tree all alone, A chanting a merry lay, To think how the pest had spared my life, To sing with the larks that day ! When up the heath came a jolly knave, Like a scarecrow, all in rags : It made me crow to see his old duds All abroad in the wind, like flags :So up he came to the timbers' foot And pitched down his greasy bags. — Good Lord! how blithe the old beggar was At pulling out his scraps, The very sight of his broken orts Made a work in his wrinkled chaps : “Come down,” says he, “you Newgate-bird, And have a taste of my snaps !”– Then down the rope, like a tar from the mast I slided, and by him stood; But I wished myself on the gallows again When I smelt that beggar's food, — A foul beef-bone and a mouldy crust; — “O!” quoth he, “ the heavens are good !" Then after this grace he cast him down. Says I, “ You'll get sweeter air A pace or two off, on the windward side," For the felons' bones lay there.But he only laughed at the empty skulls. And offered them part of his fare.
"I never harmed them, and they won't harm me: Let the proud and the rich be cravens !” I did not like that strange beggar man, He looked so up at the heavens. Anon he shook out his empty old poke; “ There's the crumbs,” saith he, "for the ravens ! ”
It made me angry to see his face,
It had such a jesting look ;
But while I made up my mind to speak,
A small case-bottle he took;
Quoth he, “ Though I gather the green water-cress,
My drink is not of the brook!”
Full manners-like he tendered the dram.
0, it came of a dainty cask !
But, whenever it came to his turn to pull,
“ Your leave, good sir, I must ask;
But I always wipe the brim with my sleeve,
When a hangman sups at my flask !”
And then he laughed so loudly and long,
The churl was quite out of breath ;
I thought the very Old One was come
To mock me before my death,
And wished I had buried the dead men's bones
That were lying about the heath!
But the beggar gave me a jolly clap –
“Come, let us pledge each other,
For all the wide world is dead beside,
And we are brother and brother —
I've a yearning for thee in my heart,
As if we had come of one mother.
“I've a yearning for thee in my heart,
That almost makes me weep,
For as I passed from town to town
The folks were all stone-asleep, —
But when I saw thee sitting aloft,
It made me both laugh and leap!”
Now a curse (I thought) be on his love,
And a curse upon his mirth,-
An' it were not for that beggar man
I'd be the king of the earth, -
But I promised myself an hour should come
To make him rue his birth! —
So down we sat and boused again Till the sun was in mid-sky, When, just when the gentle west-wind came, We hearkened a dismal cry; "Up, up, on the tree,” quoth the beggar man, “ Till these horrible dogs go by !”
And, lo ! from the forest's far-off skirts
They came all yelling for gore,
A hundred hounds pursuing at once,
And a panting hart before,
Till he sunk adown at the gallows' foot,
And there his haunches they tore!
His haunches they tore, without a horn
To tell when the chase was done;
And there was not a single scarlet coat
To flaunt it in the sun!
I turned, and looked at the beggar man,
And his tears dropt one by one !
And with curses sore he chid at the hounds,
Till the last dropt out of sight;
Anon, saith he, “Let's down again,
And ramble for our delight,
For the world's all free, and we may choose
A right cosey barn for to-night!”
With that, he set up his staff on end,
And it fell with the point due west;
So we fared that way to a city great
Where the folks had died of the pest
It was fine to enter in house and hall,
Wherever it liked me best; —
For the porters all were stiff and cold,
And could not lift their heads;
And when he came where their masters lay,
The rats leapt out of the beds :-
The grandest palaces in the land
Were as free as workhouse sheds.
But the beggar man made a mumping face,
And knocked at every gate :
It made me curse to hear how he whined ;
So our fellowship turned to hate,
And I bade him walk the world by himself,
For I scorned so humble a mate !
So he turned right and I turned left,
As if we had never met;
And I chose a fair stone house for myself,
For the city was all to let;
And for three brave holidays drank my fill
Of the choicest that I could get.