CHARLES sleeps, and feels no more the grinding


The perils and the doubts, that wait on POWER.
For him no more the uneasy day, the night
At war with sleep! for him are hush'd at last
Loud Hate and hollow Love. Reverse thy law,
O blind Compassion of the human heart! [not,
And let not Death, which feels not, sins not, weeps
Rob Life of all that Suffering asks from Pity.-

Lo! what a slender barrier parts in twain
The presence of the breathing and the dead,
The vanquisher and victim; the firm foot
Of lusty strength, and the unmoving mass
Of that all strength must come to. Yet once more,
Ere the grave closes on that solemn dust,
Will I survey what men have fear'd to look on.

[He draws aside the curtains-the coffin of the King lighted by tapers-Cromwell lifts the pall.] "Tis a firm frame; the sinews strongly knit, The chest deep-set and broad; save some gray hairs Saddening those locks of love, no sign of age! Had nature been his executioner,

He would have outlived me! And to this end-
This narrow empire-this unpeopled kingdom-
This six feet realm-the over lust of sway
Hath been the guide! He would have stretch'd his
O'er that unlimited world which men's souls are!
Fetter'd the earth's pure air-for Freedom is
That air to honest lips;-and here he lies,
In dust most eloquent-to after-time
A never silent oracle for Kings !-
Was this the hand that strain'd within its grasp
So haught a sceptre ?-this the shape that wore
Majesty like a garment? Spurn that clay,
It can resent not: speak of royal crimes,
And it can frown not: schemeless lies the brain
Whose thoughts were sources of such fearful deeds.
What things are we, O Lord, when at thy will
A worm like this could shake the mighty world!

A few years since, and in the port was moor'd
A bark to far Columbia's forests bound;
And I was one of those indignant hearts
Panting for exile in the thirst of freedom;
Then, that pale clay (poor clay that was a King!)
Forbade my parting, in the wanton pride
Of vain command, and with a fated sceptre
Waved back the shadow of the death to come.
Here stands that baffled and forbidden wanderer,
Loftiest amid the wrecks of ruin'd empire,
Beside the coffin of a headless King!

He thrall'd my fate-I have prepared his doom:
He made me captive-lo! his narrow cell!
[Advancing to the front of the stage.]
So hands unseen do fashion forth the earth
Of our frail schemes into our funeral urns;
So walking, dream-led in life's sleep, our steps
Move indfold to the scaffold, or the throne !-
Ay, to the THRONE! From that dark thought I strike
The light which cheers me onward to my goal.
Wild though the night, and angry though the winds,
High o'er the billows of the battling sea
My spirit, like a bark, sweeps on to fortune!


SOME devil wrote this book! the words are daggers.
Lawful to slay me! Slaughter proved a virtue!
Writ in cold blood; the logic of the butcher;
So calm, and yet so deadly! I'll no more of it!—
[Advances to the front of the stage with the book in his hand.]
"KILLING NO MURDER!" So this book is call'd;
It summons that great England whom this hand
Hath made the crown of nations, to destroy me!


At board, at bed,”"-so runs the text,

let Death

Be at his side; albeit to the clouds
Reaches his head, the axe is at his root; [well?'"
And men shall cry, Where now the lofty Crom-
Vain threats, I scorn ye! Yet 'tis ably writ;
And these few leaves will stir a storm of passion
In the deep ocean of the popular heart.
We men of deeds are idiots, to despise
The men of books-for books are still the spells
Of the earth's sorcery, and can shape an army
Out of the empty air. Words father actions,
And are the fruitful yet mysterious soil [harvest,
Whence things bud forth, grow ripe, and burst to
And when they rot away, 'tis words receive
The germs they leave us, and so reproduce
Life out of Death-the everlasting cycle!
The Past but lives in words! A thousand ages
Were blank if books had not evoked their ghosts,
And kept the pale unbodied shades to warn us
From fleshless lips. So what will Cromwell be
To times unborn, but some dim abstract thought
That would not be if books were not? Our toil-
Our glory-struggles-life, that sea of action,
Whose waves are stormy deeds-all come to this,
A thing for scholars, in a silent closet,
To case in periods, and embalm in ink :
Making the memory of earth-trampling men,
The poor dependant on a pedant's whim!
It is enough to make us laugh to scorn

Our solemn selves! But Fate whirls on the bark,
And the rough gale sweeps from the rising tide
The lazy calm of thought.

[ocr errors]

[After a pause, again opens the book.] Can I believe These lines, and doubt all faith for evermore?


My muster-roll-my guards-my palace train"— It saith, "contain the names of freemen sworn To slay the tyrant!" I appeal from man, To thee, the Lord of Hosts! Out, damned thing! [Flings away the book.] Thou hast taught me one deep lesson, and I thank Power must be guarded by the fiery sword; [thee: Death shall be at my side-sure death to all Whose treason stings existence to a curse. I've been too merciful-too soft of soulTill bad men, drunk and sated with forgiveness, Grow mad with crime. The gibbet and the axe Shall henceforth guard the sceptre and the orb; And Law put on the majesty of Terror. Why what a state is this, when men who toil Daily for England cannot sleep of nights! Three nights I have not slept! I know my cure; The blood of traitors makes my anodyne! And in the silence of a trembling world, I will lie down, and learn to sleep again.


"IN silence and at night, the conscience feels
That life should soar to nobler ends than power."
So sayest thou, sage and sober moralist!
But wert thou tried? Sublime philosophy,
Thou art the patriarch's ladder, reaching heaven,
And bright with beck'ning angels; but, alas!
We see thee, like the patriarch, but in dreams,
By the first step, dull-slumbering on the earth.
I am not happy! with the Titan's lust

I woo'd a goddess, and I clasp a cloud.
When I am dust, my name shall, like a star,
Shine through wan space, a glory; and a prophet
Whereby pale seers shall from their aëry towers
Con all the ominous signs, benign or evil,
That make the potent astrologue of kings.
But shall the future judge me by the ends
That I have wrought; or by the dubious means
Through which the stream of my renown hath run
Into the many-voiced, unfathomed Time?
Foul in its bed lie weeds and heaps of slime;
And with its waves when sparkling in the sun,
Ofttimes the secret of rivulets that swell
Its might of waters, blend the hues of blood.
Yet are my sins not those of CIRCUMSTANCE,
That all-pervading atmosphere, wherein
Our spirits, like the unsteady lizard, take
The tints that colour and the food that nurtures?
Oh! ye, whose hour-glass shifts its tranquil sands
In the unvex'd silence of a student's cell;
Ye, whose untempted hearts have never toss'd
Upon the dark and stormy tides where life
Gives battle to the elements; and man [weight
Wrestles with man for some slight plank, whose
Will bear but one, while round the desperate wretch
The hungry billows roar, and the fierce Fate,
Like some huge monster, dim-seen through the surf,
Waits him who drops; ye safe and formal men,
Who write the deeds, and with unfeverish hand
Weigh in nice scales the motives of the great,
Ye cannot know what ye have never tried!
History preserves only the fleshless bones
Of what we are; and by the mocking skull
The would-be wise pretend to guess the features!
Without the roundness and the glow of life,
How hideous is the skeleton! Without
The colourings and humanities that clothe
Our errors, the anatomists of schools
Can make our memory hideous! I have wrought
Great uses out of evil tools; and they
In the time to come may bask beneath the light
Which I have stolen from the angry gods,
And warn their sons against the glorious theft,
Forgetful of the darkness which it broke.
I have shed blood, but I have had no foes
Save those the state had; if my wrath was deadly,
"Tis that I felt my country in my veins,
And smote her sons as Brutus smote his own.
And yet I am not happy; blanch'd and sear'd
Before my time; breathing an air of hate,
And seeing daggers in the eyes of men,
And wasting powers that shake the thrones of earth
In contest with the insects: bearding kings
And braved by lackeys; murder at my bed;

And lone amid the multitudinous web,
With the dread three-that are the fates who hold
The woof and shears-the monk, the spy, the

And this is power! Alas! I am not happy.
[After a pause.]
And yet the Nile is fretted by the weeds
Its rising roots not up; but never yet
Did one least barrier by a ripple vex
My onward tide, unswept in sport away.
Am I so ruthless, then, that I do hate
Them who hate me? Tush, tush! I do not hate;
Nay, I forgive. The statesman writes the doom,
But the priest sends the blessing. I forgive them,
But I destroy; forgiveness is mine own,
Destruction is the state's! For private life,
Scripture the guide; for public, Machiavel.
Would fortune serve me if the Heaven were wroth?
For chance makes half my greatness. I was born
Beneath the aspect of a bright-eyed star,
And my triumphant adamant of soul
Is but the fix'd persuasion of success.

Ah! here! that spasm! again! How life and death
Do wrestle for me momently! And yet
The king looks pale. I shall outlive the king!
And then thou insolent Austrian, who dost gibe
At the ungainly, gaunt, and daring lover,
Sleeking thy looks to silken Buckingham,
Thou shalt-no matter! I have outlived love.
Oh beautiful, all golden, gentle youth!
Making thy palace in the careless front
And hopeful eye of man-ere yet the soul.
Hath lost the memories which (so Plato dream'd)
Breathed glory from the earlier star it dwelt in-
Oh! for one gale from thine exulting morning,
Stirring amid the roses, where of old
Love shook the dew-drops from his glancing hair!
Could I recall the past, or had not set
The prodigal treasures of the bankrupt soul
In one slight bark upon the shoreless sea;
The yoked steer, after his day of toil,
Forgets the goad, and rests: to me alike
Or day or night: ambition has no rest!
Shall I resign? who can resign himself?
For custom is ourself; as drink and food
Become our bone and flesh, the aliments [dreams,
Nurturing our nobler part, the mind-thoughts,
Passions, and aims, in the revolving cycle
Of the great alchymy, at length are made
Our mind itself; and yet the sweets of leisure,
An honour'd home, far from these base intrigues,
An eyrie on the heaven-kiss'd heights of wisdom.


ALAS! our glories float between the earth and heaven
Like clouds which seem pavilions of the sun,
And are the playthings of the casual wind;
Still, like the cloud which drops on unseen crags
The dews the wild flower feeds on, our ambition
May from its airy height drop gladness down
On unsuspected virtue; and the flower
May bless the cloud when it hath pass'd away!

[blocks in formation]

And mark the mellowing year, While steals the sweetest of all worship, paid Less to the monarch than the maid, Melodious on the ear! Call back the gorgeous past!

The lists are set, the trumpets sound, Bright eyes, sweet judges, throned around; And stately on the glittering ground

The old chivalric life!

"Forward." The signal word is given; Beneath the shock the greensward shakes; The lusty cheer, the gleaming spear,

The snow-plume's falling flakes,
The fiery joy of strife!

Thus, when, from out a changeful heaven
O'er waves in eddying tumult driven
A stormy smile is cast,
Alike the gladsome anger tak

The sunshine and the blast!

Who is the victor of the day?

Thou of the delicate form, and golden hair,
And manhood glorious in its midst of May;
Thou who upon thy shield of argent bearest
The bold device, "The loftiest is the fairest!"
As bending low thy stainless crest,
"The vestal throned by the west"
Accords the old Provençal crown

Which blends her own with thy renown;
Arcadian Sidney, nursling of the muse,
Flower of fair chivalry, whose bloom was fed

With daintiest Castaly's most silver dews, Alas! how soon thy amaranth leaves were shed; Born, what the Ausonian minstrel dream'd to be Time's knightly epic pass'd from earth with thee!

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


LONE, mid the loftier wonders of the past, [age; Thou stand'st-more household to the modern In a less stately mould thy thoughts were cast

Than thy twin masters of the Grecian stage. Thou mark'st that change in manners when the frown

Of the vast Titans vanish'd from the earth, When a more soft philosophy stole down

From the dark heavens to man's familiar hearth. With thee, came love and woman's influence o'er

Her sterner lord; and poesy till then

A sculpture, warmed to painting; what before Glass'd but the dim-seen gods, grew now to men · Clear mirrors, and the passions took their place, Where a serene if solemn awe had made The scene a temple to the elder race:

The struggles of humanity became Not those of Titan with a god, nor those

Of the great heart with that unbodied name By which our ignorance would explain our woes And justify the heavens,-the ruthless Fate; But truer to the human life, thine art

[debate, Made thought with thought and will with will And placed the god and Titan in the heart;

Thy Phaedra, and thy pale Medea were The birth of that more subtle wisdom, which

Dawn'd in the world with Socrates, to bear Its last most precious offspring in the rich

And genial soul of Shakspeare. And for this Wit blamed the living, dullness taunts the dead. And yet the Pythian did not speak amiss When in thy verse the latent truths she read,

And hailed thee wiser than thy tribe. Of thee All genius in our softer times hath been

The grateful echo, and thy soul we see Still through our tears-upon the later scene. Doth the Italian, for his frigid thought

Steal but a natural pathos,-hath the Gaul Something of passion to his phantoms taught,

Ope but thy page-and, lo, the source of all! But that which made thee wiser than the schools Was the long sadness of a much-wrong'd life; The sneer of satire, and the gibe of fools,

The broken hearth-gods, and the perjured wife. For sorrow is the messenger between

The poet and men's bosoms :-Genius can Fill with unsympathizing gods the scene, But grief alone can teach us what is man!


You have outrun your fortune; I blame you not, that you would be a beggar; Each to his taste! But I do charge you, sir, That, being beggar'd, you would coin false moneys Out of that crucible call'd DEBT. To live On means not yours; be brave in silks and laces, Gallant in steeds, splendid in banquets; all Not yours, ungiven, uninherited, unpaid for; This is to be a trickster, and to filch Men's art and labour which to them is wealth, Life, daily bread; quitting all scores with, "Friend,

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »