I-Ie shared in that distressing diffidence and sensibility to suffering, from the rudeness of the older members of the school, which Cowper has so feelingly described in his own case. An anecdote is told of him at this period, which indicates remarkable strength of mind and energy of will in one so young.
XviL He found by spelling through its first sentences that a portion of it related to astronomy. This so excited his interest that he set diligently to work, and by dint of hard study, with the aid of the family, was able to read the portion he desired on the Bionday morning with fluency. This achievement created in him such a confidence in his own powers, that, as we have stated, he soon compassed the limited standard of the school.
And Nature presented herself to his opening imagination under peculiarly favorable circumstances. The precincts of Kensington are remarkable for the rich and varied beauty of their scenery, - the geological formation presenting the waving swells of the sandstone, interrupted and crowned by picturesque precipices of trap, with 6scattered groves and wooded hills. Fifty years ago, Connecticut had no towns larger than what would now be styled villages.
The people were not rich, neither were they poor, or wholly illiterate. Practically democratic, they prided themselves in the peculiar designation which their small State had acquired, as "the land of steady habits," and were mostly independent, content, and happy, being to a great extent free from the evils which are engendered by a highly commercial state of society. Percival compared this to the pastoral state, and was highly delighted when, in later years, being employed as a geologist in New Brunswick, he discovered the same style of life and manners in a district which had been settled by a company of Loyalist emigrants from iNew England.
At the age of fourteen Percival wrote a poem of considerable extent; this was a burlesque on the times, in which the "Embargo," among other topics, was not forgotten. Two years later he entered Yale College, but ill-health caused an interruption of his studies, so that he did not graduate until at the end of five years. Of his college course, little is known. He has related of himself that he obtained the respect of the Freshman class by writing satirical verses against some of his classmates who. XiX had commenced persecuting him. During his Sophomore year he submitted to the Society of Brothers in Unity a remarkable poem, which caused considerable comment at the time.
Of this poem, tile outline of what was afterwards published as the Prometheus, Mr. IEdward Everett said, " Not a few of these verses have all the dark sententiousness of Byron, clothed in an uncommonly easy versification. He deliberately avoided. Being no speaker, however, he received only an English oration. This stimulated his pride, and " accordingly," he said, " I took much pains to prepare myself; I practised myself in distinctness; I articulated my words. He joined my class at thle beginning of Sophomore year, having, I think, been a member of the class that preceded ours, and been absent from college part of the year, — per haps oil account of ill-health.
He was not in my division, so that I was not accustomed to hear him recite until Senior year when we both came under the instruction of Dr. Dwight , but he always had the reputation of being a good scholar in everything. He was of about the middle size, of light complexion, of an agreeable face, that did not easily change its expression, and as shy as the most modest little girl you ever saw.
He seemed to be essentially of a solitary turn. You would rarely see him walking with anybody, and when he walked at all, it was usually in soume retired place. I think hle had few acquaintances in college, though I never knew that he had any enemies; and the fact that his intercourse was so circumscribed, was doubtless to be attributed to constitutional reserve, and not to the consciousness of his own superiority. Everybody looked upon him as a good-natured, sensitive, thoughtful, odd, gifted fellow. I-Ie wrote a good deal of poetry in college, and some of it, I think, le gave me; but nobody then, I believe, dreamed of the eminence to which he was destined.
I remember once having occasion to prepare a college exercise on the subject of the Crusades; and happening to mention to Percival that I needed to increase my knowledge of the subject a good deal before writing upon it, he at once put into my hands an elaborate essay on the Crusades, which showed a familiarity with the history of that whole period that amazed me. I am not sure that I ever saw him more than once after we left college, and that was after he had acquired his celebrity, both as a genius and a hermit. One of our common friends, to whom I mentioned my intention of calling upon him, advised me not to do so, as he thought the effort to see him would be unavailing; it proved otherwise, however, and he not only received me, but was more genial and cordial than he used to be in the days of our comparative intimacy.
IHis library, which he showed me, was very large and valuable, but the place looked solitary and dismal, and as if it were never invaded by a broom. He was emphatically a man by himself, not merely in the sense of living alone, but in the sense of being an anomalous specimen of humanity. If you can succeed in reproducing him as he exists in my mind's eye, you will have done something that will at once amuse and amaze the world.
The year after his graduation was unusually. In his choice of a profession he was led in part by the example of his father, and in great part also by his love for nature and natural science. It was quite in accordance with his prevailing tastes, then, that he should do as he did; namely, choose the study of medicine, inasmuch as this study not only suggests many topics in reference to man's being and history, but leads directly into wide fields of physical and natural research.
He entered the office of Dr. This gentleman had already distinguished himself by his enterprise and ardor as a nlative botanist, having been one of the first Americans to import the works of Linnaeus and others, and haying acquired at an early period a remarkable reputation for his knowledge of such of our plants as are valuable in medicine. Percival caught the spirit of the office, being peculiarly predisposed and qualified by nature for that class of studies.
An attempt being made about this time to establish a botanical garden in connection with the Medical College, Dr. Ives offered to him the place of Curator, which he gladly accepted; but he soon resigned it, and indeed the enterprise itself failed to succeed.
Previously, however, the Professor had endeavored to help out the slender pecuniary resources of his pupil, by procuring a class of boys for him to teach. XXiii In Percival made his first decided appearance as an author, by publishing a volume, containing the first part of the " Prometheus," a poem in the Spenserian stanza, and a few minor pieces. This was well received by the public. In this same year he was admitted to the practice of medicine, upon which he made two unsuccessful trials to establish himself in that practice, the first in his native place, and the last at Charleston, S.
IIere he engagred in literature, issuing the first number of " Clio" in This publication, a neat pamphlet of about a hundred pages, was made up mostly of verse, to which a few essays in prose were added. A second part soon followed, composed entirely of verse. Meanwhile he appears to have abandoned the practice of his profession, perhaps from an uncontrollable antipathy to some of its harsher and less genial requirements. This is apparent from the following extract from a letter written by him in I have undertaken to edit a newspaper, because I could find no better means of supplying my immediate necessities I do not like my profession.
I cannot be reconciled to the practice, and if I was, I cannot obtain that practice. In February or March, , he received, through the influence of John C. But in July of the same year he resigned his office, not, as has been somewhere stated, in consequence of ill-health, but because he had been deceived in his anticipations. It had been represented to him that the duties were light, thus affording him sufficient leisure to pursue his favorite studies.
Instead of this, however, he found that his whole time was taken up with daily, and almost hourly, exercises as a lecturer and teacher. During this year he superintended an edition of his select writings, which was published in New York City in one octavo volume, and soon after reproduced in two duodecimo volumes in London. After his resignation at West Point, he was appointed a surgeon in connection with the recruiting service in Boston.
While a resident of Boston, he was a frequent contributor to " The United States Literary Gazette "; and he also edited several works for the press, among which was a republication and emendation of Vicesimus Knox's Elegant Extracts. About the year he removed to New H-Iaven, Connecticut, which place henceforward he made his permanent residence and home. In the same. XXV year he published the third part of " Clio," and also commenced, for a Boston publisher, a revised translation of Malte Brun's great work on Geography, fromt the original French, with notes.
This was not fully completed until It forms six large octavo volumes. In he was engaged in revising and correcting the manuscript, and in superintending the printing, of Noah Webster's Dictionary, the first quarto edition, in two volumes. For his exertions in aiding the publication of this great work, so honorable to the genius and perseverance of Webster, Percival deserves no little credit. The great lexicographer frequently acknowledged his- obligations to the learning of the poet, and to his extensive knowledge of ancient and modern languages. There was probably no one in our country so competent to the task as he, or who would more devotedly, and with such self-denial and disinterestedness, have given his time and talents to the work.
In reference to these labors, namely, those upon the Geography and the Dictionary, Percival wrote as follows, in a letter bearing date May 9, , to Professor Ticknor of Boston: — "The employments in which I have been last engaged have been difficult and laborious, but concealed. That with the Dictionary gave me no opportunity of exhibiting myself to advantage.
The good I did, whether positive or negative, in preventing evil, all went to another's advantage, but was lost to me" i. No one can form a conception of the most difficult part of my task, without closely comparing my edition with the English edition and the original, a labor which probably not one of my readers will undertake. But owing partly to his political sentiments, partly to the uncertainty of the compensation and of its continuance, and in great part, moreover, to his indisposition to change his residence or pursuits, so long as he could gain an adequate livelihood where he was, he did not accept this proposition.
He stated this offer and his own situation and feelings in a letter to Professor Ticknor, whose advice he solicited. In the same letter he expressed his preference for "an independent literary employment, as author or editor not of periodicals, but of new editions of books , to any such employment as this just proposed at Washington.
Xxvii the ranges of trap-rock in the State of Connecticut, and being one of the best geologists in our country, Governor Edwards appointed him, in , in conjunction with Professor Charles U. Shepard, to make a mineralogical and geological survey of the State. His Report was published in This work, of nearly five hundred pages, contains the results of a very minute survey of the rock formations of the State, and abounds in minute and carefully systematized details.
Richard S. Willis, of the Musical World, in a genial and appreciative sketch of Percival, written in or , gives, evidently as he received it from the poet himself, the following more particular account of this survey and its results:" The Connecticut Legislature composed, like most of our State Legislatures, very much of practical working-men, farmers, and others from the country wished to know the geological resources of the State.
An appropriation was made. Percival was appointed. His is not a mind for a superficial investigation of things. Unfortunately, the Legislature expected only a superficial view,at least, a very brief, practical report of the available State resources. This might have been all that was necessary; but practical men, and men devoted to the high interests of science, take a very different view of things. Percival formed his plan for this survey. It was a remarkable one. Those who have seen a Virginia fence can have a tolerably clear idea of his plan.
For in the man. But he soon found this impracticable, inasmuch as drawing direct lines over a State is not exactly a horse-back road. So he betook himself wholly to pedestrianism. I-e had, throughout, the strangest adventures. The country farmers hunted the strange-looking man off their places, as a vagabond.
Who could suspect that under that rusty, old glazed cap there was such an imposing head? But his experience very soon taught him one truth, - that it was useless at night to ask for hospitality at the large mansions of the rich. In the humble cottages of the poor he was always sure of a welcome. It was far from being ready. Another appropriation was unwillingly made. A second period expired, and still the Report was not ready. The Legislature then grew impatient, and, as too often is the case under such circumstances, ungenerous imputations were thrown out, derogatory to the character of the poet.
One could not be surprised if it stung him to the quick; or, that he recoiled at it, as though stung by an adder. Percival had accumulated enormous materials. The collected speciinmes nearly filled a room. But, finally, a condensed, and to Percival, doubtless, unsatisfactory report was made. About the same time he addressed a short poem of eight stanzas in the Danish language to the celebrated Ole Bull, who was then making a brief professional visit at New Haven. And here it may not be out of place to. But few of these, however, have appeared in print. With " The Dream of a Day," published in , Percival's larger literary activities, so far as the public were concerned, appear to have ended.
For the next ten years he lived in comparative obscurity, although never in indolence. Some time within this period, his extreme poverty, joined to his gradually increasing indebtedness, drove him to lay aside his customary reserve in respect to his pecuniary matters, and to apply to the generosity of his friends il New Haven for a loan, so that he might save his valuable library from a legal attachment and sale. This application was most liberally responded to, with no expectation on the part of most of a repayment; a sufficient sum of from one to two thousand dollars was raised, and his library was saved.
In justice alike to the memory of Percival, and to the good faith of Dr. Jencekes, his legatee, it should be stated that this loan has been entirely repaid, principal and interest. Andrews letters A and B of Freund's Latin Lexicon, and, with his usual diligence and faithfulness, verifying examples and establishing authorities. In he accepted an offer made to hinm by the. Xxxi American Mlining Company, to survey their leadmining region in Wisconsin.
Jenckes writes, " he was appointed, by Governor Barstow, State Geologist, through the influence of prominent citizens of the lead-mining region, who petitioned the Governor to that effect. I-Ie was actively engaged in the survey of the State until within a short period before his death. I-Iis first Report was published in February, His second, which he had nearly completed, will probably be issued next month.
I have heard him estimate the distance he had travelled in his buggy, which was, I think, nearly or quite six thousand miles Occasionally he met with parties of the Chippewa and Winnebago tribes. HIis intercourse with them, as he stated, was unusually interesting.
Alone in the forest with his red friends, - who were always friendly to him, — he succeeded in learning something of their language and history. It would have rejoiced his friends, could they have seen him at this time. Translated from the isolation of a lonely room to the happy influence of a home,. His affection for children, especially for those he fancied, was frequently shown by a kind attention to their wants, and a great solicitude for their welfare. His sincerity and childlike simplicity caused their attachment to be mutual.
For this art he had an exquisite taste, and he would frequently spend hours at a time in playing on the accordion or piano. Jenckes goes on to speak more at length of this illness, which appears to have been a general decline of the vital powers, brought on by exposure and hard work. He says: " I found it difficult to form a satisfactory diagnosis.
There were no indications of organic disease. General physical debility and emaciation gradually increased until the end. He often remarked to me,' Since living in the West, I have overtasked my physical strength, and I feel that I am worn out. XXXiil the part of his friends availed to remove. We occasionally saw Lim on his knees, engaged in prayer During his illness he received every care and attention from his friends here I would add, that no other man, I presume, would have been regarded by the people of this State with more respect and admiration for his scientific attainments than Dr.
We regarded him almost in the light of a sinless being.
The poetical works of James Gates Percival. With a biographical sketch.
I-is loss was deeply felt, moreover, by the mining interest of the State, by the Germans especially, to whom he had endeared himself by addressing to them numerous patriotic songs in their own language. For many years Percival had contemplated building for himself, for a permanent residence, a house after his own mind, where he could execute, in quiet, several of his long-cherished plans. This was finally, from his own earnings, with the. It contained but two rooms, the larger of which was destined for his choice library. But he was not permitted to occupy it, even for a single night.
Nor was his library, or any portion of it, ever deposited there. In ZNovember, , on revisiting New Haven, he arranged and packed his library, and stored it in the attic of the State Hospital, a large and substantial structure of solid masonry. In April, , he returned to resume his labors in Wisconsin, and there worked on with his usual resolute energy and faithfulness until overtaken by death.
In figure Percival was somewhat tall, and thin, almost to emaciation; his forehead was high, his nose prominent, his lips thin and mobile, his face oval, and his complexion pale, inclining to sallow. But his eye betokened, even to a casual observer, the presence of rare genius. It was flashing and deepglowing, like the diamond. Its color was blue-gray, its vision far-searching, yet microscopically minute. It was the eye equally of the naturalist and the poet. The deep and brooding melancholy, which so eminently characterized Percival through life, sprang undoubtedly from some sufficient cause.
Current report has ascribed it to an early disappointment in love. But we have his own authority for denying any such fact. He undoubtedly loved;. XXXV but loved some far-off ideal object alone. This sadness of disposition is, however, amply explained, when we consider his delicate and sensitive organization, its unfitness for the struggles of the world, and the consequent pain that he must have felt in view of the rooted selfishness of humanity.
His mind, nevertheless, appears to have been ever active, whether in compassing new subjects of attainment, or in discovering new analogies in the vast and varied field of knowledge already attained, thus catching sublime glimpses of that grand unity, towards which, under the guidance of a Divine hand, all noble human endeavors in religion and philosophy, science and art, are continually tending. This remark seems fully justified, if we take a survey of the subjects which occupied his attention. After leaving college, he read the Greek and Latin classics, to an extent sufficient to excite great admiration: in addition to this, he commenced an ardent pursuit of all the branches of Natural History; composing voluminous extracts, not of their general views and doctrines merely, but carefully copying the specific descriptions of all birds and beasts known at that period from Cuvier, Linneus, Wilson, and others; making much progress, also, in a work which should briefly characterize all the plants then known.
He mastered the science of chemistry, as it then existed; and became a minute and practical mineralogist and geologist, exploring fields, hills, and forests, with the athletic energy of the true naturalist. It is certain, however, that he found thenm neither difficult nor uncongenial. Geography had been his favorite study in boyhood, and was pursued in youth and early manhood, with that reference to everything necessary to a complete picture of a particular region of the earth which I-umboldt and Mlalte-Brun were the first to exemplify, and which qualified him, after a few years, to correct the errors which occurred in almost every line of the English translation of Maalte-Brun's voluminous work.
Moreover, geography for him was incomplete without a knowlege of the language and literature, in addition to a picturesque conception, of the country. H-ence one of his earliest works in prose was an exhibitiqn of the languages of the globe, condensed and arranged from Adelung and Vater. Here his poetic impulses were in sympathy with his ardent love of accurate scientific knowledgce. Hence he was one of the first in our country to revel in that latest and only scientific mode of studying languages which has received the name of linguistic science.
Bopp, Grimm, and others of the profound Germans, were imported by him, and had long been his familiar companions, before either their names or their discoveries had been heard of by most of our ablest professors of language. Xxxvii Linguistic science became to him a key to infinitely more than a dry and barren knowledge of words; it not only classified the wondrously varied tribes of men according to their mutual relations of descent and consanguinity, but it became the foundation of the philosophy which unlocked for him, as a student of mankind, the innmost recesses of the human heart.
As a scholar, he could thus appreciate the degree of culture of various nations, as shown in their literature, and as a poet could enter into a warm and intimate sympathy with them as brethren of the human family. He excelled especially in the study of the European languages. Into this study he was led by his poetic impulses; the interest with which he regarded the early efforts in literature of the less advanced peoples being derived from other causes than their intrinsic merit. In addition to the French, Italian, and Spanish of his earlier years, he delighted in constantly adding to his stores of German, ancient as well as modern, expressing in it his choicest thoughts and feelings.
Not content with gratifying his romantic tastes through the study of the Gaelic and Welsh, and his curiosity and sympathy with the stern and heroic by mastering the Norse, Danish, and Swedish, he was indefatigable in his devotion to the Slavonic tongues, with the poetry of which, more particularly, he was unwearied in making himself familiar. The more uncouth the appearance and the sound, the greater was his zest in overcoming the sense of strangeness by the.
The Russians were found to be unexpectedly interesting, from the tenderness of sentiment among their peasantry; the vigor and spirit of the Polish did not disappoint him; the Hungarian Magyars were peculiar as well as wild; and in the Servians he took extreme delight. As a linguistic student it was a matter of course that he should labor at the Sanskrit. It is known that he once made, by request, to a Society, an elaborate report on the grammar of the Basque; but it is not known that he also examined many other languages which he did not read. To conclude this enumeration, during many of his later years, music was a cherished study with him.
Its scientific theory, and the philosophy of its origin, nature, and effects, gratified his love of knowledge, as did also its manifestations among different nations, cultivated and barbarous. He diligently collected the peculiar airs of all ages and nations, and made the same use of them, as interpeters of national sentiment, that he did of popular and national poetry. He experienced in the highest degree a constitutional delight in the varieties of metre in the movements of national airs, and in simple and natural melodies in music.
It was one of his favorite plans to imitate, in English, all known metres in all accessible languages, from the Sanskrit downwards. Willis, in the article from which we have already quoted, has so delightfully portrayed the musical. XXXiX side of Percival's character, that we cannot forbear transferring the sketch entire.
Even here, he was well read, as far as possible. Everything that had been written upon the subject, in encyclopedias and otherwise, he had perused. But where is the book that treats of music intelligibly to persons who have not a practical knowledge of the subject? Therefore Percival had still something to learn about music. Percival caught the enthusiasm, and for a time his master-mind seemed to be filled with music,- musicalized.
He had a collection of old German annuals, which contained a certain number of songs with music. These songs he translated into charming English rhyme, and, turning the music over to me, it was soon arranged in parts for our club. WVe met and sang the music to Percival's translations. Delightful hours these! Percival was always with us; and though he did not sing, we knew his soul was making melody with ours. And, indeed, it does not seem unbefitting that the starting-point of our enumeration should ever be in the skies. I owe it entirely to music, that to this first floor Percival was in the habit of climbing, far away from the cellar of things, as found in the lower world, to engage in delightful converse on matters musical.
My ear soon learned to catch his soft, springy step on the stairs, as he leaped up two or three at a time in the ascent. Books were immediately thrown aside, and our sitting commenced, which sometimes lasted for hours; for his mind, if once started on the track of a subject, was entirely oblivious to the lapse of time. This was the case, whether within walls, or on the corner of a street on a cold, windy night; and the listener who could at any time tear himself away from such instructive and fascinating communication with this wonderful mind mysteriously vested in a long cloak, that fluttered in the wind , though it lasted not unfrequently for hours, must have been more self-denying than I could ever find myself.
Frequent'flunks' in morning recitations I willingly submitted to, from the greater knowledge acquired during long study hours from this wise, livingy book. He started to the window, and found it was the morning breaking in the east. HI-e had written all night, - and his poem was finished at a single heat. He could find, at that time, no intelligible musical system, and therefore he invented a singularly ingenious one of his own.
He also undertook to learn an instrument, - the accordion; this he ordinarily brought with him under his cloak. IIe had, as yet, an appreciation only of the bare melody; harmony confused his ear. The chords were therefore shut off'from the instrument, and the soft breathing of the accordion, in some plaintive air which he had himself composed, was all that was heard. But his voice, even in conversation, soft as the sighing of the west wind, in music was almost inaudible.
Not master of the art of writing music, he ordinarily brought his compositions jotted down in illegible hieroglyphics of his own, and wished to have them reduced to shape. But the melodies were in such strange, wild measures like much of his poetry , the numbers were so irregular, that it was almost impossible to do this.
Still, in many instances the attempt was successful. Still more were we astonished when he expressed his willingness, while there, to sing a song of his own. He had brought his accordion. In a retired corner of the room sat his gaunt, thin figure, bent over the instrument.
To me he had never looked half so weird-like; that noble Shakspeareian head of his, the sharply-cut, spiritual features, his eyes so full of the wild fire of genius, the thin, curling locks, all gave him the appearance of a minstrel come down from another age. Standing near him, I soon knew, by the motion of his lips, that he was singing. But no one heard him; for I myself could distinguish only the soft breathing of a melody of his, that was familiar to me. After a awhile the company, supposing that he was not quite ready to begin, commenced talking again. But his own soul had floated off upon his melody, and he had that sufficient reward which many a bard has, — the silent rapture of song.
But I believe, and hope, Percival was convinced that we shared the pleasure with him.
- Song of Bernadette.
- Tess of the DUrbervilles (Pulp! The Classics)?
- The Legends of Saint Patrick.
- The Marbella Project!
Percival was approaching society again. In short, his attainments were truly extraordinary. Even in , the North American said of him: " There is almost an encyclopmedia familiarity in him with subjects in many departments of modern science. We regard his powers and resources as inexhaustible. Goodrich, of Yale College, in the Preface to the revised edition of Webster's Dictionary, after acknowledging the various authorities to which he had been indebted, in the revision, in single departments, adds the following tribute to Percival's universal attainments, -a tribute as courteous as it was nobly earned: - " But it is obviously impossible for any one mind to embrace with accuracy all the various departments of knowledge which are now brought within the compass of a dictionary.
Hence arise most of the errors and inconsistencies which abound in. To avoid these as far as possible, especially in matters of science, the editor at first made an arrangement with Dr. James G. Percival, who had rendered important assistance to Dr. Webster, in the edition of , to take the entire charge of revising the scientific articles embraced in this work. This revision, however, owing to causes beyond the control of either party, was extended to but little more than two letters of the alphabet. I felt that a very bright light had been extinguished.
Indeed, he was a most wonderful person, not only from his uncommon poetical gifts, but from the vast variety and accuracy of his knowledge in departments as remote as they well can be from poetry, and hardly less wide asunder from each other. Edward Everett in the North American, in , writes thus, in a review of his first published work: " This little volume contains the marks of an inspiration more lofty and genuine than any similar collection of fugitive pieces from a native bard.
This Prometheus, like most of the other pieces, breathes a melancholy spirit too deep not to be real. We should sincerely regret that powers so fine as Mr. Percival evidently possesses, should want that self-consciousness which they ought to inspire, or should fail to doubt of that public favor thev so truly deserve He shares.
As you walk through the garden of his poetry, you enjoy something more than the pleasure of gazing on individual specimens, or inhaling successive: sweets, or surveying gay beds or fairly ordered parterres; for the air itself is occupied with a spirit of mingled fragrance. He once indignantly spoke of the trivial, gossiping, story-telling manner certain professors have of lecturing on scientific subjects.
All truth is sacred,' said he,' sacred as the Bible; and it should invariably be treated as sacred, and with dignified seriousness. After speaking of the folly of literary labors as a matter of ambition, if a proper income cannot be secured thereby, he continues as follows: "There is one employment, however, which I would wish to place above interest or ambition,- which I would wish to regard as holy, —Poetry. True poetry should be a holy thing, like true philosophy and true religion; the product only of our highest intellectual and moral nature ein reines verniinfiiges GefiMl.
I have expressed this figuratively in a formula, which I may give as my Credo. Philosophy, Religion, and Poetry sit enthroned as a spiritual trinity in the shrine of our highest nature. The perfect vision of all-embracing truth, the vital feeling of all-blessing good, and the living conception of all-gracing beauty, they form united the Divinity of Pure Reason.
WVith such feelings, I can no longer look to poetry as a source of emolument; I cannot consent to use it for such a purpose; I can only regard it as the vestal fire in the Adytuni: I must meet the world with weapons of more earthly temper. Nor did he ever lose this purity and almost angelic sweetness of disposition.
His feelings were gentle and tender, impressible and nervously sensitive; and he was ever faithful to his trust, and conscientiously thorough in the execution of the various tasks which were committed to him. His eccentricities, and the self-imposed isolation for which he has been censured, find abundant justification, both in his nature and the circumstances in which he was placed. His apology is best stated by himself, in a letter dated "I sometimes feel bitter towards a public that leaves authors of real merit unrewarded.
If I deserve all the North American says of me, I deserve something. But I forget that the public will not buy what does not please it, and it will not be pleased with what is not of its own order. I have said enough of my circumstances. They are low and sad enough, and they have made my spirits low. I could tell a tale of embarrassments, joined to a bad constitution, injured health, and a neglected orphanage, which would do much to excuse the wrong that is in me. In he appears to have been under the cloud still. At that time he wrote to Professor Ticknor, requesting his influence to procure him employment.
His wants were modest and few.
After stating that his entire in. Under such circumstances, I feel myself compelled to plead for employment, and with a compensation suited for me, and as is fit for a literary man who deserves encouragement. I have no wish for anything more. Only give me light and room Trolrcrov 8' a'O8pqv , and I am sure I can exert myself still with as much effort and diligence as any, and I doubt not with sufficient effect. His range of topics comprised every department in science, morals, history, art, and literature.
If opinions opposite to his own were advanced, he would listen calmly to the arguments by which they were sustained, replying in a ready and ingenious manner, but maintaining his own opinions with great firmness. Mere assertions he rarely ventured upon. His only fault in conversation, if fault it should be called, was that irrepressible communicativeness, so apt to result from long-continued and solitary study.
The material of his conversation was rich and interesting knowledge, thought, and sentiment, - not idle words. Those who had the good fortune to obtain ready. His mind could easily be led to poetry and criticism, when his remarks would be delightfully genial and suggestive; but he seldom selected these topics himself.
Indeed, his conversation generally followed the lead of others. Her looks were sad And awe-struck; his, fulfilled with secret joy, Sent forth a gleam as when a morn-touched bay Through ambush shines of woodlands. The sun, half risen, Lay half sea-couched. A white-haired man And long since blind, there sat he in his hall, Untamed by age. At times a fiery gleam Flashed from his sightless eyes; and oft the red Burned on his forehead, while with splenetic speech Stirred by ill news or memory stung, he banned Foes and false friend.
Beside him stood His mate of forty years by that strong arm From countless suitors won. Pensive her face: With parted youth the confidence of youth Had left her. Beauty, too, though with remorse, Its seat had half relinquished on a cheek Long time its boast, and on that willowy form, So yielding now, where once in strength upsoared The queenly presence. She turned an anxious eye on him she loved; And, bending, kissed at times that wrinkled hand, By years and sorrows made his wife far more Than in her nuptial bloom.
These two had lost Five sons, their hope, in war. In they flocked, Each after each, the warriors of the clan, Not without pomp heraldic and fair state Barbaric, yet beseeming. Unto each Seat was assigned for deeds or lineage old, And to the chiefs allied. Where each had place Above him waved his banner. Not for this Unhonoured were the pilgrim guests.
They sat Where, fed by pinewood and the seeded cone, The loud hearth blazed. Bathed were the wearied feet By maidens of the place and nurses grey, And dried in linen fragrant still with flowers Of years when those old nurses too were fair. And now the board was spread, and carved the meat, And jests ran round, and many a tale was told, Some rude, but none opprobrious. Banquet done, Page-led the harper entered, old, and blind: The noblest ranged his chair, and spread the mat; The loveliest raised his wine cup, one light hand Laid on his shoulder, while the golden hair Commingled with the silver.
Leal and true, The Bard who wrought that vengeance! Thus to the blind chief sang that harper blind, Hymning the vengeance; and the great hall roared With wrath of those wild listeners. Many a heel Smote the rough stone in scorn of them that died Not three days past, so seemed it! Sing that song ye made Or found long since, and yet in forest sing, If haply Power Unknown may hear and help.
O tell us what is lost? Behold, this too is hidden! Let him speak, If any knows. The wounded deer can turn And see the shaft that quivers in its flank; The bird looks back upon its broken wing; But we, the forest children, only know Our grief is infinite, and hath no name.
What woman-prophet, shrouded in dark veil, Whispered a Hope sadder than Fear?
The Thomas Kydd Series
Long since, What Father lost His children in the wood? Some God? And can a God forsake? Mothers forsake not; - can a Father hate? All is sweet and sane, All, all save man! Sweet is the summer flower, The day-long sunset of the autumnal woods; Fair is the winter frost; in spring the heart Shakes to the bleating lamb. Who sent the woe? Who formed man first? Who taught him first the ill way? One creature, only, sins; and he the highest!
Power unknown! From the veil That shrouds Thee, from the wood, the cloud, the void, O, by the anguish of all lands evoked, Look forth! Let him lay At least his forehead on Thy foot in death! Who was He Who called the worlds from nought? His name is Love! In love He made those worlds. They have not lost, The sun his splendour, nor the moon her light: That miracle survives.
Alas for thee! Thou better miracle, fair human love, That splendour shouldst have been of home and hearth, Now quenched by mortal hate! Whence come our woes But from our lusts? Then, with hands outstretched His Holy Ones that, in their penance prison From hope in Him had ceased not, to the light Flashed from His bleeding hands and branded brow Through darkness soared: they reign with Him in heaven: Their brethren we, the children of one Sire.
Long time he spake. The winds forbore their wail; The woods were hushed. That wondrous tale complete, Not sudden fell the silence; for, as when A huge wave forth from ocean toiling mounts High-arched, in solid bulk, the beach rock-strewn, Burying his hoar head under echoing cliffs, And, after pause, refluent to sea returns Not all at once is stillness, countless rills Or devious winding down the steep, or borne In crystal leap from sea-shelf to sea-well, And sparry grot replying; gradual thus With lessening cadence sank that great discourse, While round him gazed Saint Patrick, now the old Regarding, now the young, and flung on each In turn his boundless heart, and gazing longed As only Apostolic heart can long To help the helpless.
Holy King makes happy land: Our King is in our midst. He gave us gifts; Laws that are Love, the sovereignty of Truth. What, sirs, ye knew Him not! Shepherd youths, Who spread the pasture green beneath your lambs And freshened it with snow-fed stream and mist? Who but that Love unseen? Grey mariners, Who lulled the rough seas round your midnight nets, And sent the landward breeze?
Pale sufferers wan, Rejoice! His are ye; yea, and His the most! Have ye not watched the eagle that upstirs Her nest, then undersails her falling brood And stays them on her plumes, and bears them up Till, taught by proof, they learn their unguessed powers And breast the storm? Thus God stirs up His people; Thus proves by pain. Ye too, O hearths well-loved! How oft your sin-stained sanctities ye mourned!
I hear the ancient blood That leaps against your hearts! Warriors ye! Danger your birthright, and your pastime death! Behold your foes! They stand before you plain: Ill passions, base ambitions, falsehood, hate: Wage war on these! A King is in your host! The bridal bells ring out, for Low with High Is wed in endless nuptials. It is past, The sin, the exile, and the grief.
Not savage was that wild, barbaric race: Spirit was in them. On their knees they sank, With foreheads lowly bent; and when they rose Such sound went forth as when late anchored fleet Touched by dawn breeze, shakes out its canvas broad And sweeps into new waters. Man with man Clasped hands; and each in each a something saw Till then unseen. As though flesh-bound no more, Their souls had touched. And yet as when, that Pentecostal morn, Each heard the Apostle in his native tongue, So now, on each, that Truth, that Joy, that Life Shone forth with beam diverse.
Deep peace to one Those tidings seemed, a still vale after storm; To one a sacred rule, steadying the world; A third exulting saw his youthful hope Written in stars; a fourth triumphant hailed The just cause, long oppressed. That hoary head had shaped Full many a crafty scheme: - behind them all Nature held fast her own. O happy night! Back through the gloom of centuries sin-defaced With what a saintly radiance thou dost shine!
They slept not, on the loud-resounding shore In glory roaming. Many a feud that night Lay down in holy grave, or, mockery made, Was quenched in its own shame. Far shone the fires Crowning dark hills with gladness: soared the song; And heralds sped from coast to coast to tell How He the Lord of all, no Power Unknown But like a man rejoicing in his house, Ruled the glad earth.
His Name they bare Who linked in one the nations. Pallid still, In radiance now their faces shone; and sweet Their psalms amid the clangour of rough brine. Ten years in praise to God and good to men That happy precinct housed them. In their morn Grief had for them her great work perfected; Their eve was bright as childhood. When the hour Came for their blissful transit, from their lips Pealed forth ere death that great triumphant chant Sung by the Virgin Mother.
Ages passed; And, year by year, on wintry nights, that song Alone the sailors heard - a cry of joy. Death-sick three days on his throne he sate; Then died, as his father died, great in hate. In Uladh, near Magh Inis, lived a chief, Fierce man and fell.
From orphaned childhood he Through lawless youth to blood-stained middle age Had rushed as stormy morn to stormier noon, Working, except that still he spared the poor, All wrongs with iron will; a child of death. Where rises yonder smoke Beyond the pinewood, camps this Lord of Dupes: How say ye? Forth with your swords! Dark with wrath Thus spake Mac Kyle; and all his men approved, Shouting, while downward fell the snows hard-caked Loosened by shock of forest-echoed hands, Save Garban. Crafty he, and full of lies, That thing which Patrick hated. A man of counsel I, as thou of war!
The people love this stranger. Patrick slain, Their wrath will blaze against us, and demand An eric for his head. Let us by craft Unravel first his craft: then safe our choice; We slay a traitor, or great ransom take: Impostors lack not gold. Sweep the cloth Straight from my face; then, laughing, I will rise.
Thus counselled Garban; and the counsel pleased; Yet pleased not God. Remove that cloth. Amazement fell upon that bandit throng, Contemplating that corpse, and on Mac Kyle Grief for his friend, remorse, and strong belief, A threefold power: for she that at his birth, Her brief life faithful to that Law she knew, Had died, in region where desires are crowned That hour was strong in prayer. I sinned a mighty sin; for in my heart Fixed was my purpose, soon as thou hadst knelt, To slay thee with my sword. Therefore judge thou What eric I must pay to quit my sin? If God will raise the dead He knows: not I.
Then rose that chief, and rushed Down to the shore, as one that flies his foe; Nor ate, nor drank, nor spake to wife or child, But loosed a little boat, of one hide made, And sat therein, and round his ankles wound The boat chain thrice; and flung the key far forth Above the ridged sea foam. The Lord of all Gave ordinance to the wind, and, as a leaf Swift rushed that boat, oarless and rudderless, Over the on-shouldering, broad-backed, glaucous wave Slow-rising like the rising of a world, And purple wastes beyond, with funeral plume Crested, a pallid pomp.
Not unbeheld Rose it, and fell; not unregarded danced A black spot on the inrolling ridge, then hung Suspense upon the mile-long cataract That, overtoppling, changed grass-green to light, And drowned the shores in foam. Upon the sands Two white-haired Elders in the salt air knelt, Offering to God their early orisons, Coninri and Romael. Sixty years These two unto a hard and stubborn race Had preached the Word; and gaining by their toil But thirty souls, had daily prayed their God To send ere yet they died some ampler arm, And reap the ill-grown harvest of their youth.
These through breakers dragged the man, Their wished-for prize, half-frozen, and nigh to death, And bare him to their cell, and warmed and fed him, And heaped his couch with skins. Rested, he woke And sought the shore. From earth, and sea, and sky, Then passed into his spirit the Spirit of Love; And there he vowed his vow, fierce chief no more, But soldier of the cross. Gird thee like a man To clasp, and hold, the total Faith of Christ, And give us leave to die. His strenous arm Labouring with theirs, reaped harvest heavy and sound, Till wondering gazed their wearied eyes on barns Knee-deep in grain.
These two with Christ, on him, their son in Christ Their mantle fell; and strength to him was given. Long time he toiled alone; then round him flocked Helpers from far. May his prayer for sinners plead! On their shaggy garb Auroral mist, struck by the rising sun, Glittered, that diamond-panoplied they seemed, And as a heavenly vision. At that sight The youth, descending with a wildered joy, Welcomed his guests: and, ere an hour, the streets Sparkled far down like flowering meads in spring, So thronged the folk in holiday attire To see the man far-famed.
The best believed, Great hearts for whom nor earthly love sufficed Nor earthly fame. The meaner scoffed: yet all Desired the man. Delay had edged their thirst. Then Patrick, standing up among them, spake, And God was with him. In all that listening host One vast, dilating heart yearned to its God. Then burst the bond of years. No haunting doubt They knew. God dropped on them the robe of Truth Sun-like: down fell the many-coloured weed Of error; and, reclothed ere yet unclothed, They walked a new-born earth.
The blinded Past Fled, vanquished. Glorious more than strange it seemed That He who fashioned man should come to man, And raise by ruling. They, His trumpet heard, In glory spurned demons misdeemed for gods: The great chief had returned: the clan enthralled Trod down the usurping foe. Ye seek His cross! That eve, while shone The sunset on the green-touched woods, that, grazed By onward flight of unalighting spring, Caught warmth yet scarcely flamed, Aengus stood With Patrick in a westward-facing tower Which overlooked far regions town-besprent, And lit with winding waters.
Say, can I shield yon host from death, from sin, Taking them up into my breast, like God? I trow not so! The Lord, thy God, Will teach us. Bright they came! No summer sea could wear a blithsomer sheen Though every dancing crest and milky plume Ran on with rainbows braided. Minstrel songs Wafted like winds those onward hosts, or swayed Or stayed them; while among them heralds passed Lifting white wands of office. Foremost rode Aileel, the younger brother of the prince: He ruled a milk-white horse.
Fluttered, breeze-borne His mantle green, while all his golden hair Streamed back redundant from the ring of gold Circling his head uncovered. Loveliest light Of innocence and joy was on that face: Full well the young maids marked it! Brighter yet Beamed he, his brother noting. Son of this People art thou: Sire one day Thou shalt be!
Son and Sire in one are King. Shepherd for God thy flock, thou Shepherd true! In they streamed, Filling the central courtway. Her place is Heaven: Sirs!
Behold your crowns - Obedience and Endurance. With mitred head And massive book, forward Saint Patrick leaned, Stayed by the gem-wrought crosier. Thrice above that princely brow Patrick the cleansing waters poured, and traced Three times thereon the Venerable Sign, Naming the Name Triune. The Rite complete, Awestruck that concourse downward gazed. At that word The large eyes of the Apostolic man Grew larger; and within them lived that light Not fed by moon or sun, a visible flash Of that invisible lightning which from God Vibrates ethereal through the world of souls, Vivific strength of Saints.
Spear and sword Before them fall! Be their kings Great-hearted men, potent to rule and guard Their people; just to judge them; warriors strong; Sage counsellors; faithful shepherds; men of God, That so through them the everlasting King May flood their land with blessing. Be true; be pure, Not living from below, but from above, As men that over-top the world. And raise Here, on this rock, high place of idols once, A kingly church to God. The same shall stand For aye, or, wrecked, from ruin rise restored, His witness till He cometh. Dark was the earth and dank ere yet he reached That spot; and lo!
Before it long He prayed, and kneeling, marked that on a tomb That Cross was raised. She had been absent long; Her son had died; near mine his grave was made; Half blind was she through fleeting of her tears, And, erring, raised the Cross upon my tomb, Misdeeming it for his. Nightly she comes, Wailing as only Pagan mothers wail; So wailed my mother once, while pain tenfold Ran through my bodiless being. For her sake, If pity dwells on earth or highest heaven, May it this mourner comfort! Christian she, And capable of pity. Eternal Pity! That miserable phantom onward came With cry succeeding cry that sank or swelled As dipped or rose the moor.
Arrived at last, She heeded not the Saint, but on that grave Dashed herself down. Long time that woman wailed; And Patrick, long, for reverence of her woe Forbore. At last he spake low-toned as when Best listener knows not when the strain begins. He that made thy son Hath sent His Son to bear all woes of men, And vanquish every foe - the latest, Death.
On strode the night: The jagged forehead of that forest old Alone was seen: all else was gloom. Woman, there lies thy son. One piercing shriek - Another moment, and her body lay Along that grave with kisses, and wild hands As when some forest beast tears up the ground, Seeking its prey there hidden. Then once more Rang the wild wail above that lonely heath, While roared far off the vast invisible woods, And with them strove the blast, in eddies dire Whirling both branch and bough. Through hurrying clouds The scared moon rushed like ship that naked glares One moment, lightning-lighted in the storm, Anon in wild waves drowned.
An hour went by: Still wailed that woman, and the tempest roared; While in the heart of ruin Patrick prayed. He loved that woman. That knowledge thine, Thou hadst not left thy son amerced of prayer, And given him tears, not succour. All night long for thee, unknown, My hands have risen: but thou hast raised no prayer For him, thy dearest; nor from founts of God, Though brimful, hast thou drawn for lips that thirst.
But more than peace, The rapturous vision of the Face of God, Won by the Cross of Christ - for that they thirst As thou, if viewless stood thy son close by, Wouldst thirst to see his countenance. Eyes sin-sealed Not yet can see their God. Prayer speeds the time: The living help the dead; all praise to Him Who blends His children in a league of help, Making all good one good.
Eternal Love! No hireling hands - Mine own shall raise it; yea, though thirty years Should sweat beneath the task. Thus Patrick spake, and many a stately theme Rehearsed beside, higher than heaven, and yet Near as the farthest can alone be near. Beside her Patrick prayed, And mightier than his preaching was his prayer, Sheltering that crisis dread. Kneel, woman, kneel! At his word She knelt, and unto God, with help of God, Uprushed the strength of prayer, as when the cloud Uprushes past some beetling mountain wall From billowy deeps unseen.
Long time she prayed; While heaven and earth grew silent as that night When rose the Saviour. Far inward rolled The gates; and glory flashed from God; and he I love his entrance won. Woman, farewell: All night the dark upon thy face hath lain; Yet shall we know each other, met in heaven. Then blithe of foot that Mother crossed the moor; And when she reached her door a zone of white Loosening along a cloud that walled the east Revealed the coming dawn. That dawn ere long Lay, unawaking, on a face serene, On tearless lids, and quiet, open palms, On stormless couch and raiment calm that hid A breast if faded now, yet happier far Than when in prime its youthful wave first heaved Rocking a sleeping Infant.
Notwithstanding, Derball believes not, but departs. A man may fail in prayer: What then? Thank God! They heard and knelt: And Patrick knelt between them; and these three Upheaved a wondrous strength of prayer; and lo! All pale, yet shining, rose the child, and sat, Lifting small hands, and preached to those around, And straightway they believed, and were baptized. That time it was When beech leaves lose their silken gloss, and maids From whitest brows depose the hawthorn white, Red rose in turn enthroning.
Earliest gleams Glimmered on leaves that shook like wings of birds: Saint Patrick marked them well. He wrought not thus: A little hint He gives us and no more. Alone the willing see. Thus they sin less Who, if they saw, seeing would disbelieve. Hark to that note! O foolish woodland choirs! Ye sing but idle loves; and, idler far, The bards sing war - war only! Ay, and make The keys of all the tempests hang on zones Of those cloud-spirits! Such Aidan. What next? My father, do I vainly dream Oft thinking that the bards, perchance the birds, Sing something vaster than they think or know?
Some fire immortal lives within their strings: Therefore the people love them. Hard task was mine to win thee to the cowl! Few days gone by I sent the boy with poems to the kings; He loves me: hardly will he leave the songs To wear thy tonsure! Me, father, take, not him! Far less the loss to Erin and the songs! Now answer make! Three bishops, and three brehons, and three kings. Ye toiled - who helped thee best? The bards are wise For all except themselves.
Shall God not save them, He who would save the worst? Such grace were hard Unless, death past, their souls to birds might change, And in the darksomest grove of Paradise Lament, amerced, their error, yet rejoice In souls that walked obedient!
Such light is theirs: By such can no man walk. Thus, gay or grave, Conversed they, while the Brethren paced behind; Till now the morn crowded each cottage door With clustered heads. They reached ere long in woods A hamlet small. Here on the weedy thatch White fruit-bloom fell: through shadow, there, went round The swinging mill-wheel tagged with silver fringe; Here rang the mallet; there was heard remote The one note of the love-contented bird.
Though warm the sun, in shade the young spring morn Was edged with winter yet, and icy film Glazed the deep ruts. The swarthy smith worked hard, And working sang; the wheelwright toiled close by; An armourer next to these: through flaming smoke Glared the fierce hands that on the anvil fell In thunder down. Be thou no shadow wandering on the air! Rush through the battle gloom as red-combed snake Cleaves the blind waters! Mouth blood-red My daughter hath: - not healing be her kiss! In shade he stood, and phrensy-fired; And yet he marked who watched him. Has he found a mine? At times the Saint Laid on the head of age his strong right hand, Gentle as touch of soft-accosting eyes; And once before an open door he stopped, Silent.
Within, all glowing like a rose, A mother stood for pleasure of her babes That - in them still the warmth of couch late left - Around her gambolled. Woman, hear! Seest thou yon floating shape? It died a worm; It lives, the blue-winged angel of spring meads. Thy children, likewise, if they serve my King, Death past, shall find them wings.
Prophet, speak! Their father, too, must hear thee. The Saint had reached ere long That festal mount. Thousands with bannered line Scaled it light-hearted. Never favourite lamb In ribands decked shone brighter than that hour The fair flank of Knock Cae. Heath-scented airs Lightened the clambering toil. At times the Saint Stayed on their course the crowds, and towards the Truth Drew them by parable, or record old, Oftener by question sage. Not all believed: Of such was Derball. That done, to thee Fealty I pledge.
Haply, through defect of mine, It moved not. Derball said the mountain moved; Yet kept he not his pledge, but disbelieved. Meantime, high up on that thyme-scented hill By shadows swept, and lights, and rapturous winds, Lonan prepared the feast, and, with that chief, Mantan, a deacon. Tables fair were spread; And tents with branches gay. Beside those tents Stood the sweet-breathing, mournful, slow-eyed kine With hazel-shielded horns, and gave their milk Gravely to merry maidens.
Low the sun Had fallen, when, Patrick near the summit now, There burst on him a wandering troop, wild-eyed, With scant and quaint array. They hunger. Thus from the morning star to evening star Went by that day. In Erin many such Saint Patrick lived, using well pleased the chance, Or great or small, since all things come from God: And well the people loved him, being one Who sat amid their marriage feasts, and saw, Where sin was not, in all things beauty and love.
Eochaid, son of Crimther, reigned, a King Northward in Clochar. Dearer to his heart Than kingdom or than people or than life Was he, the boy long wished for. Ah, the pang! Beauty, the immortal promise, like a cheat If unwed glides into the shadow land, Childless and twice defeated. All around To her was love. The crown of earthly love Seemed but its crown of mockery. Love Divine - For that she yearned, and yet she knew it not; Knew less that love she feared. Grant to me your wings, And I for them will teach you song of mine: Listen!
It ceased; she turned. Beside her Patrick stood. His hand he raised To bless her. Awed, though glad, upon her knees The maiden sank. His eye, as if through air, Saw through that stainless soul, and, crystal-shrined Therein, its inmate, Truth. That other Truth Instant to her he preached - the Truth Divine - For whence is caution needful, save from sin? And those two Truths, each gazing upon each, Embraced like sisters, thenceforth one. For her No arduous thing was Faith, ere yet she heard In heart believing: and, as when a babe Marks some bright shape, if near or far, it knows not, And stretches forth a witless hand to clasp Phantom or form, even so with wild surmise And guesses erring first, and questions apt, She chased the flying light, and round it closed At last, and found it substance.
For each, that lot is best To which He calls us. Will not the Mother-Maid permit a maid To sit beside those nail-pierced feet, and wipe, With hair untouched by wreaths of mortal love, The dolorous blood-stains from them? Against my will, Against his own, in bridal bonds he binds me: My suit he might resist: he cannot thine! She spake; and by her Patrick paced with feet To hers accordant. Soon they reached that fort: Central within a circling rath earth-built It stood; the western tower of stone; the rest, Not high, but spreading wide, of wood compact; For thither many a forest hill had sent His wind-swept daughter brood, relinquishing Converse with cloud and beam and rain forever To echo back the revels of a Prince.
From his throne Above the semicirque of grassy seats Whereon by Brehons and by Ollambs girt Daily be judged his people, rose the king And bade the stranger welcome. Day to day And night to night succeeded. At the close, As though in trance, the warriors circling stood With hands outstretched; the Druids downward frowned, Silent; and like a strong man awed for once, Eochaid round him stared. A little while, And from him passed the amazement.
We too have Prophets. Had words been work, Myself in youth had led the loud-voiced clan! Deeds I preferred. Once with me in war A seer there camped that, bending back his head, Fit rites performed, and upward gazing, blew With rounded lips into the heaven of heavens Druidic breath. To me what gain? Within three weeks my son was trapped and snared By Aodh of Hy Brinin, king whose hosts Number my warriors fourfold. Three long years Beyond those purple mountains in the west Hostage he lies. Sudden thronged High on the neighbouring hills a jubilant troop, Their banners waving, while the midway vale With harp and horn resounded.
For His sake loose thy thrall! Righteous deeds Are easier whole than half. That night was passed In feasting and in revel, high and low Rich with a common gladness. Many a torch Flared in the hand of servitors hill-sent, That standing, each behind a guest, retained Beneath that roof clouded by banquet steam Their mountain wildness. The warriors paced Exulting. Slow they moved In mantle now of crimson, now of blue, Clasped with huge torque of silver or of gold Just where across the snowy shirt there strayed Tendril of purple thread.
Meantime the king Conversed with Patrick. Behold him! His valour and his gifts are all from me: My first-born! If sent from God, why came they not long since? Our Druids came before them, and, belike, Shall after them abide! With these new seers I count not Patrick. Things that Patrick says I ofttimes thought. His lineage too is old - Wide-browed, grey-eyed, with downward lessening face, Not like your baser breeds, with questing eyes And jaw of dog.
But for thy Heavenly Spouse, I like not Him! At least, wed Cormac first! Those tidings I have pondered. Briefly these they are: First, after death, I claim admittance frank Into thy Heavenly Kingdom: next, till death For me exemption from that Baptism Rite, Imposed on kerne and hind. This pact concluded, preach within my realm Thy Faith; and wed my daughter to thy God. With thy word I close, that word to frustrate.
God be with thee! Thou living, I return not. Fare thee well. Thus speaking, by the hand he took the maid, And led her through the concourse. A maiden train snow-garbed, Her steps attending, whitened plain and field, As when at times dark glebe, new-turned, is changed To white by flock of ocean birds alit, Or inland blown by storm, or hunger-urged To filch the late-sown grain.
Her convent home Ere long received her. Nigh to death The Saint forgat not her. He reasoned too, For confident in his reasonings was the king, Reckoning on pointed fingers every link That clenched his mail of proof. What need I more? If, Death, truth-speaker, shows that Patrick lied, Plain is my right against him! Heaven not won, Patrick bare hence my daughter through a fraud: He must restore her fourfold - daughters four, As fair and good. Dupes are ye! The years went by; And weakness came. No more his small light form To reverent eyes seemed taller than it was: No more the shepherd watched him from the hill Heading his hounds, and hoped to catch his smile, Yet feared his questions keen.
The end drew near. Some wept, some railed; restless the warriors tramped; The Druids conned their late discountenanced spells; The bard his lying harpstrings spurned, so long Healing, unhelpful now. But far away, Within that lonely convent tower from her Who prayed for ever, mightier rose the prayer. Within the palace, now by usage old To all flung open, all were sore amazed, All save the king. My seventy years are sped: My sire and grandsire died at sixty-nine.
Strike from my little milk-white horse the shoes, And loose him where the freshets make the mead Greenest in springtide. He must die ere long; And not to him did Patrick open Heaven. May He my sins, Known and unknown, forgive! Hale me forth: When I have looked once more upon that sight My blessing I will give them, and depart. Then in the fields they laid him, and he spake. Then he rose, And took the Staff of Jesus, and at eve Beside the dead king standing, on his brow Fixed a sad eye. Aloud the people wept; The kneeling warriors eyed their lord askance; The nuns intoned their hymn.
Upon the face Had passed a change, the greatest earth may know; For what the majesty of death began The majesties of worlds unseen, and life Resurgent ere its time, had perfected, All accidents of flesh and sorrowful years Cancelled and quelled. Yet horror from his eyes Looked out as though some vision once endured Must cling to them for ever. I would die. That night discourse Through hall and court circled in whispers low. But where The sword-scar and the wrinkles? Ye have seen At last the man himself. For this, may many a heart one day rejoice In hope!
Fair is it, and as meet to clasp a church As is a true heart in a virgin breast To clasp the Faith of Christ. Here, one day A pilgrim from the Britons sent shall build, And, later, what he builds shall pass to thine; But thou to Macha get thee. The Brethren paced Behind; Benignus first, his psalmist; next Secknall, his bishop; next his brehon Erc; Mochta, his priest; and Sinell of the Bells; Rodan, his shepherd; Essa, Bite, and Tassach, Workers of might in iron and in stone, God-taught to build the churches of the Faith With wisdom and with heart-delighting craft; Mac Cairthen last, the giant meek that oft On shoulders broad bare Patrick through the floods: His rest was nigh.
Of them my mates How many hast thou left in churches housed Wherein they rule and rest! There, long years Mac Cairthen sat, its bishop. As they went, Oft through the woodlands rang the battle-shout; And twice there rose above the distant hill The smoke of hamlet fired. Clan wars with clan: no injury is forgiven; Like to the joy in stag-hunts is the war: Alas!
The youngest child Officious is in service; maids prepare The bath; men brim the wine-cup. Then, forth borne, Cities they fire and rich in spoil depart, Greed mixed with rage - an industry of blood! Septs remote To them are alien worlds. They know not yet That rival clans are men. God sends abroad His plague of war that men on earth may know Brother from foe, and anguish work remorse.
Oftener far Thy sweetness hath reproved them. Once in woods Northward of Tara as we tracked our way Round us there gathered slaves who felled the pines For ship-masts. The land believed; And not through ban, or word, sharp-edged or soft, But silence and thy fast the ill custom died. Ah me! Yet theirs, theirs too, the sin. Have patience with them! For see, in spring the grave old oaks push forth Impatient sprays, wine-red: their strength matured, These sober down to verdure.
O Father, is it sinful to be glad Here amid sin and sorrow? Joy is strong, Strongest in spring-tide! Mourners I have known That, homeward wending from the new-dug grave, Against their will, where sang the happy birds Have felt the aggressive gladness stir their hearts, And smiled amid their tears. As they went, Far on their left there stretched a mighty land Of forest-girdled hills, mother of streams: Beyond it sank the day; while round the west Like giants thronged the great cloud-phantoms towered.
Advancing, din they heard, and found in woods A hamlet and a field by war unscathed, And boys on all sides running. For these they deemed Their low-roofed cots too mean. Glad-hearted rose The Christian hymn, not timid: far it rang Above the woods. Ere long, their blissful rites Fulfilled, the wanderers laid them down and slept.
I crave a boon!
Not less, thy name Higher than theirs shall rise, and wider spread, Since thus more plainly shall His glory shine Whose glory is His justice. Garban, that lied to God, he slew through prayer, And banned full many a lake, and many a plain, For trespass there committed! Let it be! A Chief of souls he is! No signs we work, Rulers earth-born: yet somewhat are we here - Depart!
By others answer we will send. Upon that plain he built a little church Ere long, a convent likewise, girt with mound Banked from the meadow loam, and deftly set With stone, and fence, and woody palisade, That neither warring clans, far heard by day, Might hurt his cloistered charge, nor wolves by night, Howling in woods; and there he served the Lord. Embossed it shone With sculptured shapes. On one side hunters rode: Low stretched their steeds: the dogs pulled down the stag Unseen, except the branching horns that rose Like hands in protest. Feasters, on the other, Raised high the cup pledging the safe return.
Spurn it he shall not, though he prize it not. Madman is this, or man of God? Within, the man of God, Sole-sitting, read his office book unmoved, And ending fixed his keen eye on the king, Not rising from his seat. Possession take This day, lest hostile demon warp my mood; And build thereon thy church. The same shall stand Strong mother-church of all thy great clan Christ! In circuit thrice they girt that hill, and sang Anthem first heard when unto God was vowed That House which David offered in his heart His son in act, and hymn of holy Church Hailing that city like a bride attired, From heaven to earth descending.
With them sang An angel choir above them borne. The birds Forbore their songs, listening that angel strain, Ethereal music and by men unheard Except the Elect. The king in reverence paced Behind, his liegemen next, a mass confused With saffron standard gay and spears upheld Flashing through thickets green.
These kept not line, For Alp was still recounting battles old, Aodh of wizards sang, and Ir of love; While bald-pate Conan, sharpening from his eye The sneering light, shot from his plastic mouth Shrill taunt and biting gibe. The younger sort Eyed the dense copse and launched full many a shaft Through it at flying beast. Meantime, the man of God Had reached the fair crown of that sacred hill, A circle girt with woodland branching low, And roofed with heaven.
Beyond its tonsure fringe, Birch trees and oaks, there pushed a thorn milk-white, And close beside it slept in shade a fawn Whiter. The startled dam had left its side, And through the dark stems fled like flying gleam. Meantime the awakened fawn Now rolled her dark eye on the silver head Close by, now turning licked the wrinkled hand, Unfearing. At last they reached a little field low down Beneath that hill: there Patrick laid the fawn.
Benignus seek, If haply God has shown him for what cause I wrought this thing. Conversing thus, Macha they reached. When Patrick now was old and nigh to death Undimmed was still his eye; his tread was strong; And there was ever laughter in his heart, And music in his laughter. Daily preached the monks And daily built their convent. Wildly sweet The season, prime of unripe spring, when March Distils from cup half gelid yet some drops Of finer relish than the hand of May Pours from her full-brimmed beaker.
Child of distant hills, A proud stream, swollen by midnight rains, down leaped From rock to rock. With hands upheld, Mochta, the priest, had thundered against sin, Wrath-roused, as when some prince too late returned Stares at his sea-side village all in flames, The slave-thronged ship escaped. The giant meek, Mac Cairthen, on bent neck Had carried beam on beam, while Criemther felled The oaks, and from the anvil Laeban dashed The sparks in showers.
These three Were daughters of three kings. He knew it not: full sweet to her his voice Chaunting in choir. One day through grief of love The maiden lay as dead: Benignus shook Dews from the font above her, and she woke With heart emancipate that outsoared the lark Lost in blue heavens. She loved the Spouse of Souls. This people, won To Christ, ere long will prove a race of Saints; To give will be its passion, not to gain: Its heart is generous; but its hand is slack In all save war: herein there lurks a snare: The priest will fatten, and the beggar feast: But the lean land will yield nor chief nor prince Hire of two horses yoked to chariot beam.
You press to the earth your converts! Have shepherds three Bowed them to Christ? Honouring the seven great Gifts, You raise in one small valley churches seven. Who serveth you fares hard! I came not to this land To crave scant service, nor with shallow plough Cleave I this glebe. The priest that soweth much For here the land is fruitful, much shall reap: Who soweth little nought but weeds shall bind And poppies of oblivion. With convents still you sow The land: in other countries sparse and small They swell to cities here. A hundred monks On one late barren mountain dig and pray: A hundred nuns gladden one woodland lawn, Or sing in one small island.
Yet, balance lost and measure, nought is well. The Angelic Life more common will become Than life of mortal men. Now hear! Each nation hath its gift, and each to all Not equal ministers. If all were eye, Where then were ear? If all were ear or hand, Where then were eye? No nation lives like her! A part! Who portions Eire? What gift hath God in eminence given to Eire?
Singly, her race is feeble; strong when knit: Nought knits them truly save a heavenly aim. Yon star is militant! Three hundred years, Well used, should make of Eire a northern Rome. Secknall then Knelt, reverent; yet his eye had in it mirth, And round the full bloom of the red rich mouth, No whit ascetic, ran a dim half smile. Brought low, I make confession. Once, in woods Wandering, we heard a sound, now loud, now low, As he that treads the sand-hills hears the sea High murmuring while he climbs the seaward slope, Low, as he drops to landward.