[from Collected Works, T.E.Brown]
CLOSE by the Mamertine
Her eyes swooped into mine.
O Jove supreme!
Of sovereignty ! what hate
Large, disproportionate ! What lust
August! Imperial state
Of full-orbed throbbings solved
In vast and dissolute content Love-gluts revolved
In lazy rumination, rent,
As then, by urgence of the immediate sting!
The tiger spring
Is there ; the naked strife
Of sinewy gladiators, knife Slant-urged,
Messalina hugs; Neronic crapula-pangs
I' the dizzy morning; gangs
Of captives : " Pretty men enough,
Eh, Livia ? " Puff
Of lecherous torches ; ooze
Of gutter-creeping gore ; the booze
Gnathic, Trimalchial ; hot hiss
Of leno in the lobby This,
And more. No wonder if her brow Is arched to empire even now!
If bated thunder
Sleeps in her silken lashes !
Of awful splendour light the purple mud
That clogs the spherëd depths palatial!
No wonder if a blotch of blood
Lies murd'rous in the centre of the ball !
That look was Heaven or Hell,
As you shall please to take it
Enormity of love, or lust so fell
The Devil could not slake it
And so and so
She passes I shall never know.
Ah ! now
I have you, Julia, Brutus' mate,
Such lip, such brow,
Such port, such gait
A body, where the act of every sense,
Compounds a final excellence
Ah, glorious woman! Whence
This perfect good,
If not from juice
Of finer blood,
Perfumed with use
Of ardours pure, intense
With strains of sweet control ?
If unpropitious starr'd,
You wear the fitting vesture,
You have the native gesture,
And your most wanton thought mounts guard
On chastity's fair fence.
Woman, a word with you!
Broad-shouldered (God be thanked!),
Face fair and free,
And pleasant for a man to see
I know not whom you love; but hark! be true
Partake his honest joys ;
Cling to him, grow to him, make noble boys
Pomegranate, orange, rose,
Chewed to a paste
(Her flesh) ;
A miscellaneous nose,
Mouth ript and ragg'd,
Ears nipt and jagg'd,
From bull-dog grapplings ; tongue
Beet-root, crisp, strong,
Now curled against the teeth,
Lip-cleaving now, like flower from sheath.
Now fix'd, now vibrant, blowing spray
Of spittle on the King's highway.
Pretty ? I think so ;
Crushed, I admit it, and crumpled and bruised,
And smashed out of shape,
The poor little ape,
And sorely and sadly abused
Yes, I should say so
Like a streamlet defiled at the source,
Condemned in advance
Not a ghost of a chance
Invertebrate morals, of course'.
Pretty ? yes, pretty
For the sighs and the sobs and the tears
Have got mixed with the mesh
Of her wonderful flesh,
And leavened the growth of the years.
Pretty, and more
For she sighs not, and sobs not, nor weeps ;
But the sobs and the sighs
And the tears of her eyes
Dissolve in the physical deeps.
And they soften and sweeten the whole,
And in abject submission
To any condition
She fashions the ply of her soul.
Good wife, good mother yes, I know.
But what a glow
Of elemental fires'.
What breadth, what stately flow
Of absolute desires
To household task And daily round,
It boots not ask !
Good mother, and good wife
These women seem to live suspended life.
As lakes, dark-gleaming till the night is done,
Expect the sun,
That wont to hold Jove's offspring on their knees,
Take current odds,
Accept life's lees,
And wait returning Gods.
Ah ! naughty little girl,
With teeth of pearl,
You exquisite little brute,
So young, so dissolute
Ripe orange brushed
From an o'erladen tree, chance-crushed
And bruised and battered on the street,
And yet so merry and so sweet !
Ah, child, don't scoff
Yes, yes, I see you lovely wretch, be off!
This is the Forum of Augustus see
Of all these Forums, and the size
(By Jove, those eyes ! ).
Three pillars of the peristyle that's all ;
A fragment of the wall;
Some doubtful traces of the cella
(Down the Bonella !).
Corinthian capitals observe how fine
The helices entwine
Your Bädeker a minutino
(Ha ! the Baccino !).
The Arco de' Pantani shows the ground
Has risen all around.
Of course you know we're far above the level
Of (Gone ? The Devil.').
Bädeker tells how many feet we stand
Above old Rome. He's grand!
He is so plain, is Bådeker
(Again she's there!).
I really 'pon my word, you know, this book
This Bädeker (Look ! look !)
This English Bädeker's so plain
(She's there again.').
You don't seem quite to ( What a heavenly boddice
You don't (A fierfect goddess !)
I mean, you seem a bit distrait
(O, blue ! O, green ! O blazes Fire away !).
"You seem so strange to me,
You merman from the Northern sea"
"A barnacle from Noah's ark?"
" Well yes a sort of shark ! " °~
Ah, blow then, darling, blow!
Blow in my ears, and let the warm breath flow,
And search the inmost vault
Of my sad brain. Blow, love
Blow in the cooing of the dove,
Blow out the singing of the salt ! "
A little maiden, fifteen years or under
And, as the curtain swings with heavy lurch,
Behold, she stands within St. Peter's Church
O wonder! wonder! wonder!
And yet not so her birthright rather seems it
She claims, whose breast the brooding sunshine warms
To absolute sense of colours and of forms
Her birthright 'tis she deems it.
Or nothing deems but, very sweet and grave,
Yet proud withal to be at last in Rome,
And see the shops, and see St. Peter's Dome,
She passes up the nave.
And if some angel spreads a silver wing
I know not Visibly accompanying her
Are but her mother and her grandmother
The lovely little thing !
Such soil, such children, representing clearly
The land they live in ; so that if this pet
Of subtlest variance had the alphabet,
You'd think it nature merely.
And if, where stemming crags the torrent shatter,
She stood before the sunlit waterfall,
And wrapp'd the rainbow round her like a shawl,
It were a simple matter.
Now Mary and her dead Son she has seen them:
"Yes, darling, wrought by Michael Angelo " !
And now, too short to reach to Peter's toe,
They lift her up between them ;
And, having kissed, she soft unclasps her mother,
As graduated woman from to-day;
And blushing thinks, how Seppe's sick till they
Shall marry one another.
And when to-night her Seppe comes to meet her,
And, for the one poor kiss she gave to Peter,
Exacts a vengeful twenty, if she can
For kisses, she will tell him all the plan
Of Peter's Church, and What a tiny kiss
It was," Seppino ; not like this, or this ! "
And how, hard by, the hungry Englishman
Looked just as if he'd eat her
Why does she stare at you like that ? The glow
As from the furnace seven times heated
Meshech, and Abednego.
Is it immediate sense
Of difference ?
Of complement ? And so
While we want sun and grapes,
This burning creature gapes For ice and snow!
O Englishwoman on the Pincian,
I love you not, nor ever can
Astounding woman on the Pincian !
I know your mechanism well-adjusted,
I see your mind and body have been trusted
To all the proper people
I see you straight as is a steeple ;
I see you are not old ;
I see you are a rich man's daughter ;
I see you know the use of gold,
But also know the use of soap-and-water;
And yet I love you not, nor ever can
Distinguished woman on the Pincian
You have no doubt of your preeminence,
Nor do I make pretence
To challenge it for my poor little slattern,
Whose costume dates from Saturn
My wall-flower with the long, love-draggled fringes
But then the controversy hinges
On higher forms ; and you must bear
Comparisons more noble.
Stare, yes, stare I love you not, nor ever can,
You peerless woman on the Pincian.
No, you'll not see her on the Pincian,
My Roman woman, wife of Roman man!
Elsewhere you may
And she is bright as is the day ;
And she is sweet, that honest workman's wife,
Fulfilled with bounteous life
Her body balanced like a spring
In equipoise of perfect natural grace ;
Her soul unquestioning
Of all but genial cares ; her face,
Her frock, her attitude, her pace
The confluence of absolute harmonies
And you, my Lady Margaret,
Pray what have you to set
'Gainst splendours such as these ? No,
I don't love you, and I never can,
Pretentious woman on the Pincian !
But morals beautiful serenity
Of social life, the sugar and the tea,
The flannels and the soup, the coals,
The patent recipës for saving souls,
And other things : the chill dead sneer
Conventional, the abject fear
Of form-transgressing freedom I admit
That you have these ; but love you not a whit
The more, nor ever can,
Alarming female on the Pincian !
Come Out, O woman, from this blindness !
Rome, too, has women full of loving-kindness,
Has noble women, perfect in all good
That makes the glory of great womanhood
But they are Women ! I have seen them bent
On gracious errand ; seen how goodness lent
The grave, ineffable charm
That guards from possibility of harm
A creature so divinely made,
So softly swayed
With native gesture free
The melting-point of passionate purity.
Yes soup and flannels too,
And tickets for them just like you
Tracts, books, and all the innumerable channels
Through which your bounty acts
Well not the tracts,
But certainly the flannels
Her I must love, but you I never can,
Unlovely woman on the Pincian.
Remarkable woman on the Pincian !
We owe a sort of debt
To you, as having gone with us of old
To those bleak islands, cold
And desolate and grim,
Upon the ocean's rim,
And shared their horrors with us not that then
Our poor bewildered ken
Could catch the further issues, knowing only
That we were very lonely!
Ah well, you did us service in your station;
And how the progress of our civilisation
Has made you quite so terrible
It boots not ask ; for still You gave us stalwart scions,
Suckled the young sea-lions,
And smiled infrequent, glacial smiles
Upon the sulky isles
For this and all His mercies stay at home !
Here are the passion-flowers !
Here are the sunny hours
O Pincian woman, do not come to Rome