Author:

The Shipman’s Tale

Listen my masters! I speak naught but truth.
From dawn to dawn they drifted on and on,
Not knowing wither nor to what dark end.
Now the North froze them, now the hot South scorched.
Some called to God, and found great comfort so;
Some gnashed their teeth with curses, some laughed
An empty laughter, seeing they yet lived,
So sweet was breath between their foolish lips.
Day after day the same relentless sun,
Night after night the same unpitying stars.
At intervals fierce lightning tore the clouds,
Showing vast hollow spaces, and the sleet
Hissed, and the torrents of the sky were loosed.
From time to time a hand relaxed its grip,
And some pale wretch slid down into the dark
With stifled moan, and transient horror seized
The rest who waited, knowing what must be.
At every turn strange shapes reached up and clutched
The whirling wreck, held on awhile, and then
Slipt back into that blackness whence they came.
Ah, hapless folk, to be so tost and torn,
So racked by hunger, fever, fire, and wave,
And swept at last into the nameless void–
Frail girls, strong men, and mothers with their babes!

And was none saved?
My masters, not a soul!

O shipman, woful, woful is thy tale!
Our hearts are heavy and our eyes are dimmed.
What ship is this that suffered such ill fate?

What ship, my masters? Know ye not?–The World!

Pauline Pavlovna

SCENE: St. Petersburg. Period: the present time. A ballroom in the winter palace of the prince—. The ladies in character costumes and masks. The gentlement in official dress and unmasked, with the exception of six tall figures in scarlet kaftans, who are treated with marked distinction as they move here and there among the promenaders. Quadrille music throughout the dialogue.
Count SERGIUS PAVLOVICH PANSHINE, who has just arrived, is standing anxiously in the doorway of an antechamber with his eyes fixed upon the lady in the costume of a maid of honor in the time of Catharine II. The lady presently disengages herself from the crowd, and passes near count PANSHINE, who impulsively takes her by the hand and leads her across the threshold of the inner apartment, which is unoccupied.

HE.

Pauline!

SHE .

You knew me?

HE.

How could I have failed?
A mask may hide your features, not your soul.
There is an air about you like the air
That folds a star. A blind man knows the night,
And feels the constellations. No coarse sense
Of eye or ear had made you plain to me.
Through these I had not found you; for your eyes,
As blue as the violets of our Novgorod,
Look black behind your mask there, and your voice–
I had not known that either. My heart said,
"Pauline Pavlovna."

SHE.

Ah! your heart said that?
You trust your heart, then! ‘T is a serious risk!–
How is it you and others wear no mask?
HE.

The Emperor’s orders.

SHE.

Is the Emperor here?
I have not seen him.

HE.

He is one of the six
In scarlet kaftans and all masked alike.
Watch–you will note how every one bows down
Before these figures, thinking each by chance
May be the Tsar; yet none knows which he is.
Even his counterparts are left in doubt.
Unhappy Russia! No serf ever wore
Such chains as gall our emperor these sad days.
He dare trust no man.

SHE.

All men are so false.
HE.

Spare one, Pauline Pavlovna.

SHE.

No; all, all!
I think there is no truth left in the world,
In man or woman. Once were noble souls.–
Count Sergius, is Nastasia here to-night?

HE.

Ah! then you know! I thought to tell you first.
Not here, beneath these hundred curious eyes,
In all this glare of light; but in some place
Where I could throw me at your feet and weep.
In what shape came the story to your ear?
Decked in the teller’s colors, I’ll be sworn;
The truth, but in the livery of a lie,
And so must wrong me. Only this is true:
The Tsar, because I risked my wretched life
To shield a life as wretched as my own,
Bestows upon me, as supreme reward–
O irony–the hand of this poor girl.
Says, "Here, I have the pearl of pearls for you,
Such as was never plucked from out of the deep
By Indian diver, for a Sultan’s crown.
Your joy’s decreed, and stabs me with a smile.

SHE.

And she–she loves you?

HE.

I know not, indeed.
Likes me, Perhaps. What matters it?–her love!
The guardian, Sidor Yurievich consents,
And she consents. No love in it at all,
A mere caprice, a young girl’s spring-tide dream.
Sick of ear-rings, weary of her mare,
She’ll have a lover–something ready-made,
Or improvised between two cups of tea–
A lover by imperial ukase!
Fate said her word–I chanced to be the man!
If that grenade the crazy student threw
Had not spared me, as well as spared the Tsar,
All this would not have happened. I’d have been
A hero, but quite safe from her romance.
She takes me for a hero–think of that!
Now, by our holy Lady of Kazan,
When I have finished pitying myself,
I’ll pity her.

SHE.

Oh no; begin with her;
She needs it most.

HE.

At her door lies the blame.
Whatever falls. She, with a single word
With half a tear, had stopt it at the first,
This cruel juggling with poor human hearts.

SHE.

The Tsar commanded it–you said the Tsar

HE.

The Tsar does what she wills–God fathoms why.
Were she his mistress, now! but there’s no snow
Whiter within the bosom of a cloud,
Nor colder wither. She is very haughty,
For all her fragile air of gentleness;
With something vital in her, like those flowers
That on our desolate steppes outlast the year.
Resembles you in some things. It was that
First made us friends. I do her justice, see!
For we were friends in that smooth surface way
We Russians have imported out of France.
Alas! from what a blue and tranquil heaven
This bolt fell on me! After these two years,
My suit with Ossip Leminoff at an end,
The old wrong righted, the estates restored,
And my promotion, with the ink not dry!
Those fairies which neglected me at birth
Seemed now to lavish all good gifts on me–
Gold roubles, office, sudden dearest friends.
The whole world smiled. Then, as I stooped to taste
The sweetest cup, freak dashed it from my lip.
This very night–just think, this very night–
I planned to come and beg of you the alms
I dared not ask for in my poverty.
I thought me poor then. How stript am I now!
There’s not a ragged medicant one meets
Along the Nevski Prospeky but has leave
To tell his love, and I have not that right!
Pauline Pavlovna, why do you stand there
Stark as a statue, with no word to say?

SHE.

Because this thing has frozen up my heart.
I think that there is something killed in me,
A dream that would have mocked all other bliss.
What shall I say? What would you have me say?

HE.

If it be possible, the word of words!

SHE, very slowly.

Well, then–I love you. I may tell you so
This once, . . . . and then forever hold my peace.
We cannot stay here longer unobserved.
No–do not touch me! but stand further off,
And seem to laugh, as if we jested–eyes,
Eyes everywhere! Now turn your face away . . . .
I love you.

HE.

With such music in my ears
I would death found me. It were sweet to die
Listening! You love me–prove it.

SHE.

Prove it–how?
I prove saying it. How else?

HE.

Pauline,
I have three things to choose from; you shall choose:
This marriage, or Siberia, or France.
The first means hell; the second purgatory;
The third–with you–were nothing less than heaven!

SHE, starting.

How dared you even dream it!

HE.

I was mad.
This business has touched me in the brain.
Have parience! the calamity’s so new.

[Pause.]

There is a fourth way; but that gate is shut
To brave men who hold life a thing of God.

SHE.

Yourself spoke there; the rest was not of you.

HE.

Oh, lift me to your level! So I’m safe.
What’s to be done?

SHE.

There must be some path out.
Perhaps the Emperor–

HE.

Not a ray of hope!
His mind is set on this with that insistence
Which seems to seize on all match-making folk.
The fancy bites them, and they straight go mad.

SHE.

Your father’s friend, the Metropolitan–
A word from him . . . .

HE.

Alas, he too is bitten!
Gray-haired, gray-hearted, worldly wise, he sees
This marriage makes me the Tsar’s protégé,
And opens every door to preference.

SHE.

Think while I think. There surely is some key
Unlocks the labyrinth, could we but find it.
Nastasia!

HE.

What! beg life of her? not I.

SHE.

Beg love. She is a woman, young, perhaps
Untouched as yet of this too poisonous air.
Were she told all, would she not pity us?
For if she love you, as I think she must,
Would not some generous impulse stir in her,
Some latent, unsuspected spark illume?
How love thrills even commonest girl-clay,
Ennobling it an instant, if no more!
You said that she is proud; then touch her pride,
And turn her into marble at the touch.
But yet the gentler passion is the stronger.
Go to her, tell her, in some tenderest phrase
That will not hurt too much–ah, but ‘t will hurt!–
Just how your happiness lies in her hand
To make or mar for all time; hint, not say,
Your heart is gone from you, and you may find–

HE.

A casemate in St. Peter and St. Paul
For, say, a month; then some Siberian town.
Not this way lies escape. At my first word
That sluggish Tartar blood would turn to fire
In every vein.

SHE.

How blindly you read her,
Or any woman! Yes, I know, I grant
How small we often seem in our small world
Of trivial cares and narrow precedents–
Lacking that wide horizon stretched for men–
Capricious, spiteful, frightened at a mouse;
But when it comes to suffering mortal pangs,
The weakest of us measures pulse with you.

HE.

Yes, you, not she. If she were at your height!
But there’s no martyr wrapt in her rose flesh.
There should have been; for Nature gave you both
The self-same purple for your eyes and hair,
The self-same music to your southern lips,
Fashioned you both, as ‘t were, in the same mould,
Yet failed to put the soul in one of you!
I know her wilful–her light head quite turned
In this court atmosphere of flatteries;
A Moscow beauty, petted and soiled there,
And since spoiled here; as soft as swan’s down now,
With words like honey melting from the comb,
But being crossed, vindictive, cruel, cold.
I fancy her, between two rosy smiles,
Saying, "Poor fellow, in the Nertchinsk mines!"
That is the sum of her.

SHE.

You know her not.
Count Sergius Pavlovich, you said no mask
Could hide the soul, yet how you have mistaken
The soul these two months–and the face to-night!

[Removes her mask.]

You!–It was you!

SHE.

Count Sergius Pavlovich,
Go find Pauline Pavlovna–she is here–
And tell her the Tsar has set you free.

[She goes out hurriedly, replacing her mask.]

Corydon

A PASTORAL

SCENE: A roadside in Arcady

SHEPHERD.

Good sir, have you seen pass this way
A mischief straight from market-day?
You’d know her at a glance, I think;
Her eyes are blue, her lips are pink;
She has a way of looking back
Over her shoulder, and, alack!
Who gets that look one time, good sir,
Has naught to do but follow her.

PILGRIM.

I have not seen this maid, methinks,
Though she that passed had lips like pinks.

SHEPHERD.

Or like two strawberries made one
By some sly trick of dew and sun.

PILGRIM.

A poet!

SHEPHERD.

Nay, a simple swain
That tends his flock on yonder plain,
Naught else, I swear by book and bell.
But she that passed, you marked her well.
Was she not smooth as any be
That dwell herein in Arcady?

PILGRIM.

Her skin was as the satin bark
Of birches

SHEPHERD.

Light or dark?

PILGRIM.

Quite dark.

SHEPHERD.

Then ’twas not she.

PILGRIM.

The peach’s side
That’s next the sun is not so dyed
As was her cheek. Her hair hung down
Like summer twilight falling brown;
And when the breeze swept by, I wist
Her face was in a sombre mist.

SHEPHERD.

No, that is not the maid I seek.
Her hair lies gold against the cheek;
Her yellow tresses take the morn
Like silken tassles of the corn.
And yet–brown locks are far from bad.

PILGRIM.

Now I bethinks me, this one had
A figure like the willow-tree
Which, slight and supple, wondrously
Inclines to droop with pensive grace,
And still retains its proper place;
A foot so arched and very small
The marvel was she walked at all;
Her hand–in sooth I lack for words–
her hand, five slender snow-white birds.
Her voice–though she but said "God-speed"–
Was melody blown through a reed;
The girl Pan changed into a pipe
Had not a note so full and ripe.
And then her eye–my lad her eye!
Discreet, inviting, candid, shy,
An outward ice, an inward fire,
And lashes to the heart’s desire–
Soft fringes blacker than the sloe.

SHEPHERD.

Good sir, which way did this one go?

PILGRIM, solus.

So, he is off! The silly youth
Knoweth not love in sober sooth.
He loves, thus lads at first are blind–
No woman, only Womankind.
I needs must laugh, for, by the Mass,
No maid at all did this way pass!

The Sick Stockrider

Hold hard, Ned! Lift me down once more, and lay me in the shade.
Old man, you’ve had your work cut out to guide
Both horses, and to hold me in the saddle when I swayed,
All through the hot, slow, sleepy, silent ride.
The dawn at "Moorabinda" was a mist rack dull and dense,
The sun-rise was a sullen, sluggish lamp;
I was dozing in the gateway at Arbuthnot’s bound’ry fence,
I was dreaming on the Limestone cattle camp.
We crossed the creek at Carricksford, and sharply through the haze,
And suddenly the sun shot flaming forth;
To southward lay "Katawa", with the sand peaks all ablaze,
And the flushed fields of Glen Lomond lay to north.
Now westward winds the bridle-path that leads to Lindisfarm,
And yonder looms the double-headed Bluff;
From the far side of the first hill, when the skies are clear and calm,
You can see Sylvester’s woolshed fair enough.
Five miles we used to call it from our homestead to the place
Where the big tree spans the roadway like an arch;
‘Twas here we ran the dingo down that gave us such a chase
Eight years ago — or was it nine? — last March.
‘Twas merry in the glowing morn among the gleaming grass,
To wander as we’ve wandered many a mile,
And blow the cool tobacco cloud, and watch the white wreaths pass,
Sitting loosely in the saddle all the while.
‘Twas merry ‘mid the blackwoods, when we spied the station roofs,
To wheel the wild scrub cattle at the yard,
With a running fire of stock whips and a fiery run of hoofs;
Oh! the hardest day was never then too hard!
Aye! we had a glorious gallop after "Starlight" and his gang,
When they bolted from Sylvester’s on the flat;
How the sun-dried reed-beds crackled, how the flint-strewn ranges rang,
To the strokes of "Mountaineer" and "Acrobat".
Hard behind them in the timber, harder still across the heath,
Close beside them through the tea-tree scrub we dash’d;
And the golden-tinted fern leaves, how they rustled underneath;
And the honeysuckle osiers, how they crash’d!
We led the hunt throughout, Ned, on the chestnut and the grey,
And the troopers were three hundred yards behind,
While we emptied our six-shooters on the bushrangers at bay,
In the creek with stunted box-trees for a blind!
There you grappled with the leader, man to man, and horse to horse,
And you roll’d together when the chestnut rear’d;
He blazed away and missed you in that shallow water-course —
A narrow shave — his powder singed your beard!

In these hours when life is ebbing, how those days when life was young
Come back to us; how clearly I recall
Even the yarns Jack Hall invented, and the songs Jem Roper sung;
And where are now Jem Roper and Jack Hall?
Ay! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone;
Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,
It seems that you and I are left alone.
There was Hughes, who got in trouble through that business with the cards,
It matters little what became of him;
But a steer ripp’d up Macpherson in the Cooraminta yards,
And Sullivan was drown’d at Sink-or-swim;
And Mostyn — poor Frank Mostyn — died at last, a fearful wreck,
In the "horrors" at the Upper Wandinong,
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck;
Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long!

Ah! those days and nights we squandered at the Logans’ in the glen —
The Logans, man and wife, have long been dead.
Elsie’s tallest girl seems taller than your little Elsie then;
And Ethel is a woman grown and wed.

I’ve had my share of pastime, and I’ve done my share of toil,
And life is short — the longest life a span;
I care not now to tarry for the corn or for the oil,
Or for wine that maketh glad the heart of man.
For good undone, and gifts misspent, and resolutions vain,
‘Tis somewhat late to trouble. This I know —
I should live the same life over, if I had to live again;
And the chances are I go where most men go.

The deep blue skies wax dusky, and the tall green trees grow dim,
The sward beneath me seems to heave and fall;
And sickly, smoky shadows through the sleepy sunlight swim,
And on the very sun’s face weave their pall.
Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave,
With never stone or rail to fence my bed;
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush-flowers on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.

I don’t suppose I shall though, for I feel like sleeping sound,
That sleep, they say, is doubtful. True; but yet
At least it makes no difference to the dead man underground
What the living men remember or forget.
Enigmas that perplex us in the world’s unequal strife,
The future may ignore or may reveal;
Yet some, as weak as water, Ned, to make the best of life,
Have been to face the worst as true as steel.

A Song Of Autumn

‘WHERE shall we go for our garlands glad
At the falling of the year,
When the burnt-up banks are yellow and sad,
When the boughs are yellow and sere?
Where are the old ones that once we had,
And when are the new ones near?
What shall we do for our garlands glad
At the falling of the year?’
‘Child! can I tell where the garlands go?
Can I say where the lost leaves veer
On the brown-burnt banks, when the wild winds blow,
When they drift through the dead-wood drear?
Girl! when the garlands of next year glow,
You may gather again, my dear—
But I go where the last year’s lost leaves go
At the falling of the year.’

The King Of Denmark’s Ride

WORD was brought to the Danish king
(Hurry!)
That the love of his heart lay suffering,
And pin’d for the comfort his voice would bring;
(Oh! ride as though you were flying!)
Better he loves each golden curl
On the brow of that Scandinavian girl
Than his rich crown jewels of ruby and pearl;
And his rose of the isles is dying!

Thirty nobles saddled with speed,
(Hurry!)
Each one mounting a gallant steed
Which he kept for battle and days of need;
(Oh! ride as though you were flying!)
Spurs were struck in the foaming flank;
Worn-out chargers stagger’d and sank;
Bridles were slacken’d, and girths were burst;
But ride as they would, the king rode first,
For his rose of the isles lay dying!

His nobles are beaten, one by one;
(Hurry!)
They have fainted, and falter’d, and homeward gone;
His little fair page now follows alone,
For strength and for courage trying.
The king look’d back at that faithful child;
Wan was the face that answering smil’d;
They passed the drawbridge with clattering din,
Then he dropp’d; and only the king rode in
Where his rose of the isles lay dying!

The king blew a blast on his bugle horn;
(Silence!)
No answer came; but faint and forlorn
An echo return’d on the cold gray morn,
Like the breath of a spirit sighing.
The castle portal stood grimly wide;
None welcom’d the king from that weary ride;
For dead, in the light of the dawning day,
The pale sweet form of the welcomer lay,
Who had yearn’d for his voice while dying!

The panting steed, with a drooping crest,
Stood weary.
The king return’d from her chamber of rest,
The thick sobs choking in his breast;
And, that dumb companion eyeing,
The tears gush’d forth which he strove to check;
He bowed his head on his charger’s neck:
“O steed—that every nerve didst strain,
Dear steed, our ride hath been in vain
To the halls where my love lay dying!”

Andromeda

The smooth-worn coin and threadbare classic phrase
Of Grecian myths that did beguile my youth,
Beguile me not as in the olden days:
I think more grief and beauty dwell with truth.
Andromeda, in fetters by the sea,
Star-pale with anguish till young Perseus came,
Less moves me with her suffering than she,
The slim girl figure fettered to dark shame,
That nightly haunts the park, there, like a shade,
Trailing her wretchedness from street to street.
See where she passes — neither wife nor maid;
How all mere fiction crumbles at her feet!
Here is woe’s self, and not the mask of woe:
A legend’s shadow shall not move you so!

An Elective Course

LINES FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF A HARVARD UNDERGRADUATE

The bloom that lies on Fanny’s cheek
Is all my Latin, all my Greek;
The only sciences I know
Are frowns that gloom and smiles that glow;
Siberia and Italy
Lie in her sweet geography;
No scolarship have I but such
As teaches me to love her much.

Why should I strive to read the skies,
Who know the midnight of her eyes?
Why should I go so very far
To learn what heavenly bodies are!
Not Berenice’s starry hair
With Fanny’s tresses can compare;
Not Venus on a cloudless night,
Enslaving Science with her light,
Ever reveals so much as when
She stares and droops her lids again.

If Nature’s secrets are forbidden
To mortals, she may keep them hidden.
Æons and æons we progressed
And did not let that break our rest;
Little we cared if Mars o’erhead
Were or were not inhabited;
Without the aid of Saturn’s rings
Fair girls were wived in those fair springs;
Warm lips met ours, and conquered us
Or ere thou wert, Copernicus!

Graybeards, who wish to bridge the chasm
‘Twixt man to-day and protoplasm,
Who theorize and probe and gape,
And finally evolve an ape–
Yours is a harmless sort of cult,
If you are pleased with the result.
Some folks admit, with cynic grace,
That you have rather proved your case.
Those dogmatists are so severe!
Enough for me that Fanny’s here,
Enough that, having survived
Pre-Eveic forms, she has arrived–
An illustration the completest
Of the survival of the sweetest.

Linnæus aveunt! I only care
To know what flower she wants to wear.
I leave it to the addle-pated
To guess how pinks originated,
As if it mattered! The chief thing
Is that we have them in the Spring,
And Fanny likes them. When they come,
I straightaway send and purchase some.
The Origin of Plants–go to!
Their proper end I have in view.

O loveliest book that ever man
Looked into since the world began
Is Woman! As I turn those pages,
As fresh as in the primal ages,
As day by day I scan, perplext,
The ever subtly changing text,
I feel that I am slowly growing
To think no other work worth knowing.
And in my copy–there is none
So perfect as the one I own–
I find no thing set down as such
As teaches me to love it much.

Tourists

Visits of condolence is all we get from them.
They squat at the Holocaust Memorial,
They put on grave faces at the Wailing Wall
And they laugh behind heavy curtains
In their hotels.
They have their pictures taken
Together with our famous dead
At Rachel’s Tomb and Herzl’s Tomb
And on Ammunition Hill.
They weep over our sweet boys
And lust after our tough girls
And hang up their underwear
To dry quickly
In cool, blue bathrooms.

Memorial Day For The War Dead

Memorial day for the war dead. Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you. Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.

Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.

Memorial day. Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.

The flautist’s mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.

A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.

A great and royal animal is dying
all through the night under the jasmine
tree with a constant stare at the world.

A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."

In Mind

There’s in my mind a woman
of innocence, unadorned but

fair-featured and smelling of
apples or grass. She wears

a utopian smock or shift, her hair
is light brown and smooth, and she

is kind and very clean without
ostentation-

but she has
no imagination

And there’s a
turbulent moon-ridden girl

or old woman, or both,
dressed in opals and rags, feathers

and torn taffeta,
who knows strange songs

but she is not kind.