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96. "HOW THEY BROUGHT THE GOOD NEWS FROM
GHENT TO AIX'
I SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he ;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three ;
Good speed ! ' cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
Speed !echoed the wall to us galloping through ;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place ;
I turned in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shortened each stirrup, and set the pique right,
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chained slacker the bit,
Nor galloped less steadily Roland a whit.
'Twas moonset at starting ; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawned clear ;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see ;
At Düffeld, 'twas morning as plain as could be ;
And from Mecheln church-steeple we heard the half-chime,
So Joris broke silence with Yet there is time!'
At Aerschot, up leaped of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,
To stare through the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray.
And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back
For my voice, and the other pricked out on his track;
And one eye's black intelligence,
-ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance !
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.
By Hasselt, Dirck groaned ; and cried Joris, 'Stay spur!
Your Roos galloped bravely, the fault's not in her,
We'll remember at Aix '—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretched neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,
As down on her haunches she shuddered and sank.
So we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff ;
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And “Gallop', gasped Joris, for Aix is in sight!'
' How they'll greet us !!-and all in a moment his roan
Rolled neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone ;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets' rim.
Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,
Stood up in the stirrup, leaned, patted his ear,
Called my Roland his pet-name, my horse without peer;
Clapped my hands, laughed and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.
And all I remember is, friends flocking round
As I sat with his head 'twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I poured down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.
97. IT'S WISER BEING GOOD THAN BAD
It 's wiser being good than bad ;
It's safer being meek than fierce :
It's fitter being sane than mad.
My own hope is, a sun will pierce
The thickest cloud earth ever stretched
That, after Last, returns the First,
Though a wide compass round be fetched;
That what began best, can't end worst,
Nor what God blessed once, prove accurst.
R. BROWNING (Apparent Failure).
It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad :
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
A year ago on this very day!
The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
Had I said, 'Good folk, mere noise repels-
But give me your sun from yonder skies !
They had answered, “ And afterward, what else ?'
Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep ! Naught man could do, have I left undone :
And you see my harvest, what I reap This very day, now a year is run. There's nobody on the house-tops now
Just a palsied few at the windows set ;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles' Gate-or, better yet,
By the very scaffold's foot, I trow.
I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind ;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year's misdeeds.
Thus I entered, and thus I go !
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead. * Paid by the World, -what dost thou owe
Me ?' God might question : now instead, 'Tis God shall repay! I am safer so.
ITALY, my Italy !
Queen Mary's saying serves for me-
(When fortune's malice
Lost her, Calais)
Open my heart and
Graved inside of it, Italy.'
Such lovers old are I and she ;
So it always was, so shall ever be !
R. BROWNING (De Gustibus--).
100. THE LOST LEADER Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat-
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed :
How all our copper had gone for his service !
Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud ! We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die !
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley, were with us,—they watch from their graves ! He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves !
We shall march prospering,—not through his presence ;
Songs may inspirit us,-not from his lyre ;
Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence,
Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire :
Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more footpath untrod, One more triumph for devils and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life's night begins : let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain,
Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again !
Best fight on well, for we taught him,-strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own ;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in Heaven, the first by the throne !
101. A WOMAN'S LAST WORD LET 's contend no more, Love, Be a god and hold me Strive nor weep :
With a charm ! All be as before, Love,
Be a man and fold me -Only sleep!
With thine arm ! What so wild as words are ?
Teach me, only teach, Love ! I and thou
As I ought In debate, as birds are,
I will speak thy speech, Love, Hawk on bough!
Think thy thoughtSee the creature stalking
Meet, if thou require it, While we speak!
Both demands, Hush and hide the talking,
Laying flesh and spirit Cheek on cheek !
In thy hands. What so false as truth is,
That shall be to-morrow False to thee ?
Not to-night : Where the serpent's tooth is, I must bury sorrow Shun the tree
Out of sight : Where the apple reddens
- Must a little weep, Love.
(Foolish me !) Lest we lose our Edens,
And so fall asleep, Love, Eve and I !
Loved by thee.
102. NAY BUT YOU, WHO DO NOT LOVE HER
NAY but you, who do not lovo her,
Is she not pure gold, my mistress ?
Holds earth aught-speak truth-above her ?
Aught like this tress, see, and this tress,
And this last fairest tress of all,
So fair, see, ere I let it fall ?
Because, you spend your lives in praising ;
To praise, you search the wide world over :
So, why not witness, calmly gazing,
If earth holds aught-speak truth-above her ?
Above this tress, and this I touch
But cannot praise, I love so much!
103. HOME-THOUGHTS FROM THE SEA Nobly, nobly Cape Saint
th-West died away ; Sunset ran, one glorious blood-red, reeking into Cadiz Bay ; Bluish mid the burning water, full in face Trafalgar lay; In the dimmest North-East distance, dawned Gibraltar grand and grey;, Here and here did England help me : how can I help England?
say, Whoso turns as I, this evening, turn to God to praise and pray, While Jove's planet rises yonder, silent over Africa.
104. OH, GOOD GIGANTIC SMILE O' THE BROWN OLD
Oh, good gigantic smile o' the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i' the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth ;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.
R. BROWNING (James Lee's Wife).
105. HOME-THOUGHTS, FROM ABROAD
Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough