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Valentine Poem Collection - 21
The French Revolution (Excerpt) by William Blake
Thee the ancientest peer, Duke of Burgundy, rose from the monarch's right hand, red as wines
From his mountains; an odor of war, like a ripe vineyard, rose from his garments,
And the chamber became as a clouded sky; o'er the council he stretch'd his red limbs,
Cloth'd in flames of crimson; as a ripe vineyard stretches over sheaves of corn,
The fierce Duke hung over the council; around him crowd, weeping in his burning robe,
A bright cloud of infant souls; his words fall like purple autumn on the sheaves:
'Shall this marble built heaven become a clay cottage, this earth an oak stool and these mowers
From the Atlantic mountains mow down all this great starry harvest of six thousand years?
And shall Necker, the hind of Geneva, stretch out his crook'd sickle o'er fertile France
Till our purple and crimson is faded to russet, and the kingdoms of earth bound in sheaves,
And the ancient forests of chivalry hewn, and the joys of the combat burnt for fuel;
Till the power and dominion is rent from the pole, sword and sceptre from sun and moon,
The law and gospel from fire and air, and eternal reason and science
From the deep and the solid, and man lay his faded head down on the rock
Of eternity, where the eternal lion and eagle remain to devour?
This to prevent--urg'd by cries in day, and prophetic dreams hovering in night,
To enrich the lean earth that craves, furrow'd with plows, whose seed is departing from her--
Thy nobles have gather'd thy starry hosts round this rebellious city,
To rouze up the ancient forests of Europe, with clarions of cloud breathing war,
To hear the horse neigh to the drum and trumpet, and the trumpet and war shout reply.
Stretch the hand that beckons the eagles of heaven; they cry over Paris, and wait
Till Fayette point his finger to Versailles; the eagles of heaven must have their prey!'
He ceas'd, and burn'd silent; red clouds roll round Necker; a weeping is heard o'er the palace.
Like a dark cloud Necker paus'd, and like thunder on the just man's burial day he paus'd;
Silent sit the winds, silent the meadows, while the husbandman and woman of weakness
And bright children look after him into the grave, and water his clay with love,
Then turn towards pensive fields; so Necker paus'd, and his visage was covered with clouds.
The King lean'd on his mountains, then lifted his head and look'd on his armies, that shone
Through heaven, tinging morning with beams of blood; then turning to Burgundy, troubled:
'Burgundy, thou wast born a lion! My soul is o'ergrown with distress.
For the nobles of France, and dark mists roll round me and blot the writing of God
Written in my bosom. Necker rise! leave the kingdom, thy life is surrounded with snares.
We have call'd an Assembly, but not to destroy; we have given gifts, not to the weak;
I hear rushing of muskets, and bright'ning of swords, and visages redd'ning with war,
Frowning and looking up from brooding villages and every dark'ning city.
Ancient wonders frown over the kingdom, and cries of women and babes are heard,
And tempests of doubt roll around me, and fierce sorrows, because of the nobles of France.
Depart! answer not! for the tempest must fall, as in years that are passed away.'
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Mycerinus by Matthew Arnold
Not by the justice that my father spurn'd,
Not for the thousands whom my father slew,
Altars unfed and temples overturn'd,
Cold hearts and thankless tongues, where thanks are due;
Fell this dread voice from lips that cannot lie,
Stern sentence of the Powers of Destiny.
'I will unfold my sentence and my crime.
My crime--that, rapt in reverential awe,
I sate obedient, in the fiery prime
Of youth, self-govern'd, at the feet of Law;
Ennobling this dull pomp, the life of kings,
By contemplation of diviner things.
'My father loved injustice, and lived long;
Crown'd with grey hairs he died, and full of sway.
I loved the good he scorn'd, and hated wrong--
The Gods declare my recompense to-day.
I look'd for life more lasting, rule more high;
And when six years are measured, lo, I die!
'Yet surely, O my people, did I deem
Man's justice from the all-just Gods was given;
A light that from some upper fount did beam,
Some better archetype, whose seat was heaven;
A light that, shining from the blest abodes,
Did shadow somewhat of the life of Gods.
'Mere phantoms of man's self-tormenting heart,
Which on the sweets that woo it dares not feed!
Vain dreams, which quench our pleasures, then depart
When the duped soul, self-master'd, claims its meed;
When, on the strenuous just man, Heaven bestows,
Crown of his struggling life, an unjust close!
'Seems it so light a thing, then, austere Powers,
To spurn man's common lure, life's pleasant things?
Seems there no joy in dances crown'd with flowers,
Love, free to range, and regal banquetings?
Bend ye on these, indeed, an unmoved eye,
Not Gods but ghosts, in frozen apathy?
'Or is it that some Force, too wise, too strong,
Even for yourselves to conquer or beguile,
Sweeps earth, and heaven, and men, and Gods along,
Like the broad volume of the insurgent Nile?
And the great powers we serve, themselves may be
Slaves of a tyrannous necessity?
'Or in mid-heaven, perhaps, your golden cars,
Where earthly voice climbs never, wing their flight,
And in wild hunt, through mazy tracts of stars,
Sweep in the sounding stillness of the night?
Or in deaf ease, on thrones of dazzling sheen,
Drinking deep draughts of joy, ye dwell serene?
'Oh, wherefore cheat our youth, if thus it be,
Of one short joy, one lust, one pleasant dream?
Stringing vain words of powers we cannot see,
Blind divinations of a will supreme;
Lost labour! when the circumambient gloom
But hides, if Gods, Gods careless of our doom?
'The rest I give to joy. Even while I speak,
My sand runs short; and--as yon star-shot ray,
Hemm'd by two banks of cloud, peers pale and weak,
Now, as the barrier closes, dies away--
Even so do past and future intertwine,
Blotting this six years' space, which yet is mine.
'Six years--six little years--six drops of time!
Yet suns shall rise, and many moons shall wane,
And old men die, and young men pass their prime,
And languid pleasure fade and flower again,
And the dull Gods behold, ere these are flown,
Revels more deep, joy keener than their own.
'Into the silence of the groves and woods
I will go forth; though something would I say--
Something--yet what, I know not; for the Gods
The doom they pass revoke not, nor delay;
And prayers, and gifts, and tears, are fruitless all,
And the night waxes, and the shadows fall.
'Ye men of Egypt, ye have heard your king!
I go, and I return not. But the will
Of the great Gods is plain; and ye must bring
Ill deeds, ill passions, zealous to fulfil
Their pleasure, to their feet; and reap their praise,
The praise of Gods, rich boon! and length of days.'
--So spake he, half in anger, half in scorn;
And one loud cry of grief and of amaze
Broke from his sorrowing people; so he spake,
And turning, left them there; and with brief pause,
Girt with a throng of revellers, bent his way
To the cool region of the groves he loved.
There by the river-banks he wander'd on,
From palm-grove on to palm-grove, happy trees,
Their smooth tops shining sunward, and beneath
Burying their unsunn'd stems in grass and flowers;
Where in one dream the feverish time of youth
Might fade in slumber, and the feet of joy
Might wander all day long and never tire.
Here came the king, holding high feast, at morn,
Rose-crown'd; and ever, when the sun went down,
A hundred lamps beam'd in the tranquil gloom,
From tree to tree all through the twinkling grove,
Revealing all the tumult of the feast--
Flush'd guests, and golden goblets foam'd with wine;
While the deep-burnish'd foliage overhead
Splinter'd the silver arrows of the moon.
It may be that sometimes his wondering soul
From the loud joyful laughter of his lips
Might shrink half startled, like a guilty man
Who wrestles with his dream; as some pale shape
Gliding half hidden through the dusky stems,
Would thrust a hand before the lifted bowl,
Whispering: A little space, and thou art mine!
It may be on that joyless feast his eye
Dwelt with mere outward seeming; he, within,
Took measure of his soul, and knew its strength,
And by that silent knowledge, day by day,
Was calm'd, ennobled, comforted, sustain'd.
It may be; but not less his brow was smooth,
And his clear laugh fled ringing through the gloom,
And his mirth quail'd not at the mild reproof
Sigh'd out by winter's sad tranquillity;
Nor, pall'd with its own fulness, ebb'd and died
In the rich languor of long summer-days;
Nor wither'd when the palm-tree plumes, that roof'd
With their mild dark his grassy banquet-hall,
Bent to the cold winds of the showerless spring;
No, nor grew dark when autumn brought the clouds.
So six long years he revell'd, night and day.
And when the mirth wax'd loudest, with dull sound
Sometimes from the grove's centre echoes came,
To tell his wondering people of their king;
In the still night, across the steaming flats,
Mix'd with the murmur of the moving Nile.
= = = = = = = = = =
France, The 18th Year Of These States by Walt Whitman
A great year and place;
A harsh, discordant, natal scream out-sounding, to touch the mother's
heart closer than any yet.
I walk'd the shores of my Eastern Sea,
Heard over the waves the little voice,
Saw the divine infant, where she woke, mournfully wailing, amid the
roar of cannon, curses, shouts, crash of falling buildings;
Was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running--nor from the
single corpses, nor those in heaps, nor those borne away in the
Was not so desperate at the battues of death--was not so shock'd at
the repeated fusillades of the guns.
Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued
Could I wish humanity different?
Could I wish the people made of wood and stone?
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?
O Liberty! O mate for me!
Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in reserve, to fetch
them out in case of need;
Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy'd;
Here too could rise at last, murdering and extatic;
Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance.
Hence I sign this salute over the sea,
And I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism,
But remember the little voice that I heard wailing--and wait with
perfect trust, no matter how long;
And from to-day, sad and cogent, I maintain the bequeath'd cause, as
for all lands,
And I send these words to Paris with my love,
And I guess some chansonniers there will understand them,
For I guess there is latent music yet in France--floods of it;
O I hear already the bustle of instruments--they will soon be
drowning all that would interrupt them;
O I think the east wind brings a triumphal and free march,
It reaches hither--it swells me to joyful madness,
I will run transpose it in words, to justify it,
I will yet sing a song for you, MA FEMME.
= = = = = = = = = =
There was an Old Derry down Derry by Edward Lear
There was an Old Derry down Derry,
Who loved to see little folks merry;
So he made them a Book,
And with laughter they shook,
At the fun of that Derry down Derry!
= = = = = = = = = =
Sonnet To Liberty by Oscar Wilde
Not that I love thy children, whose dull eyes
See nothing save their own unlovely woe,
Whose minds know nothing, nothing care to know,--
But that the roar of thy Democracies,
Thy reigns of Terror, thy great Anarchies,
Mirror my wildest passions like the sea,--
And give my rage a brother----! Liberty!
For this sake only do thy dissonant cries
Delight my discreet soul, else might all kings
By bloody knout or treacherous cannonades
Rob nations of their rights inviolate
And I remain unmoved--and yet, and yet,
These Christs that die upon the barricades,
God knows it I am with them, in some things.
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