THERE’S a mansion old ‘mid the hills of the west,
So old, that men know not by whom it was built;
But its pinnacles grey thro’ the forest hoar
Have glimmered a thousand years and more;
And many a tale of sorrow and guilt
Would blanch the cheek,
If its its stones could speak
The secrets locked in its silent breast.
Its lords have been great in the olden day;
But the pride of their strength has been broken
They moulder unknown in their native land,
And their home has long past to a stranger-hand.
A cunning lawyer, who could feed
Present want with future need,
Had drawn the youth of their latest heir
In the viewless mesh of his subtle snare.
The careless boy he led astray
With the lure of lust and the thirst of play;
With low companions bade him sit,
Who spoke debauch, and called it wit;
His passions fanned-employed his purse,
Took all he had, and gave-their curse.
Then, when he’ d run his fortune thro’,
He sought in debt a fortune new,
And, gambling high and drinking hard,
Threw down his acres, card by card.
The lawyer watched his victim bleed,
Secure in obit, bond, and deed:
At first with humble means began
The quick, obliging business-man;
But carefully picked up each stray feather
Till he was fledged for winter-weather,
Then massed his sordid gains together
And lent to him from whom, ’tis said,
He once had begged his daily bread;
Steadily opened pore by pore,
With a lulling lure and a winning word
Like the flapping wing of the vampire-bird,
And sucked-and sucked, till he bled no more:
Then changed his tone in a single hour;
He felt, and he let him feel his power,
Nor one poor drop of gold would fetch
To slake the thirst of the perishing wretch;
But when he found he had sucked him dry,
He turned his back and let him die.
Then rose the lawyer from his chair;
Ordered his barouche and pair;
Drove down and ransacked every store;
Sealed every chest; locked every door;
Counted all things o’er and o’er:
Acres, forests, manors, all-
From the family-portraits that clung to the wall,
To the old oak-chest in the servants’ hall.
But, since it ever forms his way
The frank and generous role to play,
He takes a condescending tone,
And kindly offers the widow lone
A few small rooms, for a passing day,
In the palace so lately all her own:
But takes very good care that she cannot stay;
And tells the servants, old and grey,
He’ll soothe their life’s unhoused decay:
But carefully drives them all away,
And bids behind them, evermore,
His own lean spaniels close the door.
Now Devilson reaches his heart’s desire.
And takes his place as a country squire
But since his origin all can trace,
Affects a pride in his origin base;
And since all in this land you may buy and sell,
Is determined to buy a good name as well:
He buys much, when he offers a five-pound reward
To the slave who’ll starve longest and labour
He buys more, when he bids a whole parish be fed
On an annual banquet at two pence the head;
His character’s rising by rapid degrees,
Till he pays a young saint at a chapel of ease,-
When the bargain’s completed as soon as began,
And he’s stamped a respectable, popular man.
He’s soon made Justice, and Sheriff in time;
And high, and still higher, determined to climb,
Looks around for an anchor to steady his life,
And from a poor peer buys a termagant wife.
The Lady Malice is tall and thin;
Her skin is of a dusky tan,
With black hairs dotting her pointed chin;
She’s like a long, lean, lanky man.
Her virtue’s positively fierce;
Her sharp eyes every weakness pierce,
Sure some inherent vice to find
In every phase of human kind.
The simplest wood, the meekest mien,
She speckles with her venomed spleen,
Construing to some thought obscene;
Shred by shred, and bit by bit,
With lewd delight dissecting it;
Till sin’s worst school is found to be
Near her polluting purity.
But oh! beware how you approach her!
No thorn so mangles an encroacher!
She’ll lure you on, with easy seeming,
To drop some hint of doubtful meaning,
Then turn, as hot as fire, to shew
Her virtue’s white and cold as snow;
And, dragging you forth in a storm of laughter,
Hurl the full weight of her chastity after.
Such, no line is overdone,
Is Lady Malice Devilson.
Devilson’s thickset, short, and red;
Nine-tenths of the man are his paunch and head;
His hair is tufty, dense, and dark;
His small eyes flash with a cold gray spark,
Whose fitful glimmer will oft reveal
When a flinty thought strikes on his heart of steel.
He’s sensual lips and a bold hook-nose;
And he makes himself felt wherever he goes;
He’s stern to the rich, and he’s hard to the poor;
But he’s many a little, low amour;
And their cost is small-for he culls them all
From the Workhouse-yard and the Servants’ Hall.
So Devilson lives with his titled bride;
And the saintliest pity him more than chide;-
For they feel the full force of his married bliss!
Oh! the peerage are more than avenged in this;
Since, if he once ruined an absentee race,
She tortures him endlessly, face to face.
Chance lately made me spend a day
Beneath their roof:-’twill well repay,
Thro’ those old cloistered walks to stray,
And float on Time’s still waves away
Down History’s dim romantic coast;
For the marks of many tides are there;
And all is great, and grand, and fair-
Except my hostess, and my host.
‘Twas after dinner:-Thro’ the room
The lamps diffused a golden gloom;
From the side-board gleamed the plate;
The fire glared sullen in the grate;
Dark hung the draperies’ crimson fold
Amid the oak framed pictures old;
Bronzen forms of antique Greece
Grouped the massy mantle-piece;
The crystal glimmered on the board,
And glowed the tropic’s luscious hoard;
While fruit and flower, with mimic stain,
Blushed on the fairy porcelain.
The wind howled wintry thro’ the park,
And, breaking on the far-off trees,
Swung their leafless branches stark,
Like wreck upon autumnal seas;
And, now and then, a gust of rain
Swept, pattering, o’er the window-pane,
And then its distant sugh was heard
As the storm alternate stirred
And sobbed itself to rest again
Beside the fireplace t?te-?-t?te
My host and I communing sate;
The conversation ebbed to naught-
He sank in sleep, and I in thought;
And then you would have smiled to see
His red face settling gradually
In his white stock’s ample fold,
Like a sun in night fogs cold.
He struggled oft-and took a sip-
And pushed a word across his lip:
Vain courtesy!-he gave a snore-
Sank back resigned-and all was o’er.
Then to the panels roved my eye,
In search of better company,
And asked those paintings, nobly wrought,
To tell me their creator’s thought;
Then those pictures dim and grey
Led my fancy far away.
Steel-clad knights, and bodiced dames
Leaning thro’ their stately frames,
With their cold, eternal gaze
From the depth of other days.
That stern, time-clouded race between
A shape of life and light is seen;
Cherub-lips and angel-eyes-
A paradise of smiles and sighs.
But why that tone
Of sorrow thrown
O’er features made fer joy alone?-
She was a child, and he was a child;
What was ever too young or too old for love?
But she was rich, and he was poor;
What was ever too high or too bold for love?
And their love with their growth unconsciously
Till her kinsmen saw what themselves scarce
They were parted from that hour;
He perished soon in a stranger land;
They gave her no line from his faithful hand,
And forced her to walk with the young and gay,
As slowly, slowly, she died away.
But love has faith tho’ hate has power:
That was the balm of the folding flower.
And oft, in midnight’s mystic gloom,
Her lover comes from his foreign tomb,
And prays the God of day and night
To send one beam of kind moonlight
On the pictured wall of that hallowed room:
Then breathes a sigh, so sad and deep,
The household hear it in their sleep,
And flits back lonely to his doom.
Slowly I turned from the face divine
Of that buried rose of a ruined line,
To where a canvass lured my eye
From the narrow room and the clouded sky,
Away and away, to Italy!
With its crested ripples sparkling;
And its watery furrows darkling;
And its white sail like a swallow
Darting over the hollow;
And its sun intensely bright;
And its sea intensely blue ;
And its crowds of lazy nations,
With nothing an earth to do;
And its old cyclopean ruins,-
Dust of empires dead,-
Footprints of the giants,
In which the pigmies tread;
And its white domed cities lying
With the faintest veil of haze,
Like a dream of boyhood visioned
By the light of other days.
And its olive-leaf scarce trembling,
And its sky so pure and still;
Not a frown from earth to zenith,
Save one small cloud on the hill.
The olive-leaf scarce trembling-
The cloud so small and fair;
Just enough to say-the spirit
Of a storm is watching there!
Thro’ the forest’s leafy masses
You might see how the current ran,
As a thought in whispers passes
Thro’ the myriad tribes of man;
And the cloud, like Jupiter’s eagle
Looking down on his old Rome,
Perched waiting on his mountain
Till the thunderday shall come.-
A Laurel in the foreground,
Lone and withering,
For ever stands expectant
Of its unreturning spring;
And a painter lies beneath it,
With his brush and palette near,
Catching Truth’s white inspiration,
Like light in a prism clear,
And throwing it back in Fancy’s
An army’s homeward march
Crowds up yon glorious arch,
While, towering in victorious might,
Centring all the picture’s light,
The veteran Leaders wait
The elders of the state:
For down the far-seen road
A joyous throng have flowed;
Some, on wings of hope and fear,
In search of the loved and near,
Have flown on in advance:
Their eyes despairing cast
Thro’ the thick ranks mounting fast,
Till they see the one,
And fly to rest
On his faithful breast:
Weeks in palsying terror sped,
Nights of agony, days of dread,
Racking hours that weigh like years,
Thousand thoughts, and hopes, and fears,
All summed in a single moment,
And told in a single glance.
And, thro’ that living surge,
The battle’s wrecks emerge:
Slowly their comrades bear them
To the graves the loved prepare them,
But they join the triumph they gave
To the city they died to save!
And, where that solemn line draws near,
Silent sinks the exulting cheer,
And inward drops the chidden tear:
The ground shall drink it never;
It shall lie on the heart for ever;
And all around they keep
A reverend silence deep,
For they think it sin to weep.
And as I wondered still
At the painter’s matchless skill,
That work of buried genius,
With its mingled light and shade,
And its beauty’s silent magic,
This tale of old conveyed.
At Florence in the dark ages,
When Florence alone was bright,
(She has left on her marble pages
Her testament of light
At Florence in the dark ages,
When Florence alone was free,
(She rose, in the pride of her sages,
Like the sun on a troubled sea
While yet as an ark she drifted
On the Earth’s barbarion flood,
And the wreck of the Arts uplifted
From the deluge of human blood;
Where many a feat of glory
And deed of worth were done,
From the links of her broken story
I’ve saved to the world this one:
Round Florence the tempests are clouding;
The mountains a deluge have hurled;
For the tyrants of nations are crowding
To blot that fair light from the world.
Like vultures that sweep from the passes
To come to the feast of the dead,
In black, heavy, motionless masses
Their mighty battalions are spread.
‘Tis eve: and the soldiers of Florence
To meet them are marching amain:
The foe stand like Ocean Awaiting
The streamlet that glides o’er this plain.
Then the blood of the best and the bravest
Had poured like the rain on the sod,-
But the spirit of night stood between them,
Proclaiming the truce of their God.
It touches the heart of the tyrant-
It gives him the tine to repent,-
The morn on the mountain has risen!
The hour of salvation is spent!
The multitudes break into motion,
The trumpets are stirring the flood:-
An islet surrounded by ocean,
The ranks of the citizens stood.
But the vanguard is Valour and Glory;
The phalanx is Freedom and Right;
The leaders are Honour and Duty:
Are they soldiers to fail in the fight?
Then, hail to thee ! Florence the fearless
And, hail to thee ! Florence the fair!
Ere the mist from the mountain has faded,
What a triumph of arms shall be there!
The day that in heaven is burning,
Is the brightest a hero may know-
For it lights back the soldier returning
To the home he has saved from the foe.
‘Tis the day that a recompense renders
For service past recompense great-
And proud to its gallant defenders,
Thus speak the elect of the state:
“The hearts that now greet thee, shall moulder
“The breath that now hails thee, shall fleet;
“Leaf by leaf, from thy garland, the laurel
“Shall mix with the dust at thy feet.
“But poesy, painting and sculpture
“Survive with imperishing charms-
“Then glory to glory!-a triumph
“Of art to the triumph of arms.
“Three years for the task shall be granted,
“And great be the victor’s reward;
“Praises, and riches, and honour
“To painter, and sculptor, and bard.”
Then loudly cheered the applauding throng,
And thrilled each child of art and song:
But ‘mid the crowd was one, whose soul
Had long sighed vainly for a goal;
Men counted him a dreamer;-dreams
Are but the light of clearer skies,
Too dazzling for our naked eyes;
And when we catch their flashing beams,
We turn aside, and call them dreams!
Oh! trust me!-every truth that yet
In greatness rose and sorrow set,
That time to ripening glory nurst,
Was called an idle dream at first:
And so he passed thro’ want and ill,
And lived neglected and unknown:
Courage he lacked not-neither skill-
But that fixed impulse of the will,
That guides to fame and guides alone.
And opportunity ne’er smiled
Without which, genius’ royal child
Is but a king without a throne.
And sad, in deed, his youth had been.
Had love not wound its flowers between,
And helped him life’s harsh griefs to bear,
By grafting then on a gentler care.
Shall art’s own votaries live unloving?
Docile to an impulse true,
He, who thinks the beautiful,
Shall feel it too.
And thus the poor young artist loved
And wooed a loving maid:
Her father was an artisan
Who plied a steady trade,
And bowed before no mortal man,
For he lived by what he made;
Altho’ his labour’s price began
To shrink as his strength decayed.
He Sought not riches, rank, or fame:
But too much he himself had borne
In hunger, positive pain, and scorn,
To let his daughter feel the same;
And he had said that very morn,
When timidly the suitor came-
“To the ranks of the brave in the marches go!
“And carve a fortune from the foe!
“Or let me see thee at the loom
“When the shuttle rings in the merry room!
“Do anything!-but hang no more
“Like an idle soul at my daughter’s door.
“Go! and God speed! and make thy way!
“Return in happier hour and say:
“‘I strove the strife, and I won the day.’
“And take my child! and my blessing as well,
“But now-till then, or for ever-farewell!”
He heard the words with reverence due;
He owned them wise, and felt them true:
But his arm’s too weak to grasp the blade;
Nor can he stoop to a plodding trade:
Why blame him?-we’re what God has made.
And he turned him, sick in heart and will
That fortune and he had been matched so ill.
‘Twas then he heard the state’s decree,
Like the trumpet that sounds to a victory:
He starts from the spot, an altered man
For the goal’s revealed and the race began!
Then ardours new illume his eyes,
And visions proud come thronging fast;
In dreams he sees his labour rise;
In dreams he grasps his labour’s prize;
Alas! in dreams time’s treasure flies,
And the first short year has past.
He trembles at the new-year chime,
And tries to grasp its fleeting prime:
In feverish haste
An outline’s traced,-
Each new-born fancy seems sublime:
He rushes burning in the air,
To vent the expanding ardour there:
But doubt comes on and brings despair,
And all that morning-promise fair
Has left the cancelled canvass bare
Ere evenings shadows climb.
As swift the rapid sketches rise,
As swift the glowing triumph dies,
As light and shade alternate hies
O’er skies of April-time.
And moments come, when cold dismay
Had bade for aye-the labour stay:
But the thought of his love like a golden chain,
Drew him back, ever back, to his task again.
And, as they pass, each Sabbath day,
By the spot where he waits on the churchward way,
Colder and colder the father grew:
The maiden smiled on a love so true,-
But her tears were many, her smiles were few.
And weeks roll on, and mouths flit o’er,
And still the mighty work’s to do:
While fever, eating to the core,
Shines his transparent pulses thro’,
And paints insidious, streak by streak,
With death’s romance his flushing cheek.
‘Twas on an eve of autumn pale
That first he felt his strength to fail.
The sun o’er Spain had shone its last;
The leaves around were falling fast;
The western clouds were turning grey;
And Earth and Heaven seemed to say:
“Passing away! Passing away!”
A wild conviction smote his mind:
And if unbidden sorrows blind,
One moment, eyes that still descry
In life so much that’s worth a sigh,
The weaker mood remained not long,
And left him strangely calm and strong.
The second year has flown away,
And shorter grows the wintry day:
But ever-toiling, unremitting,
At his task the painter’s sitting;
Undisturbed by hope or fear;
Steady, conscious, calm, and clear;
For angels warn him every night,
To labour while ’tis still life-light.
And is it Death, whose solemn hand,
Fettering fancy’s rebel-band,
And lifting up his spirit high,
Has touched it with sublimity?
Oh! say not so! the young are strong,
And bravely speeds the work along,
And Love’s soft thrill, and fame’s proud feeling
Possess a wondrous power of healing.
And weeks roll on,-and months flit o’er;
The work is speeding more and more;
And rivals who, with smiling eye
Had watched the lost time hurrying by,
Now croak their raven prophecy
And sneering of his progress ask:
But pain and grief their magic trying,
Hope and fame his heart inspiring,
Love its godlike power supplying,
Sit by the canvass untiring:
They deepen the shade, and they heighten the light,
They force on the work with invincible might;
They toil thro’ the day, and they think thro’ the night:
Are they workmen to fail at the task?
Then, hail to thee! Florence the great!
And, hail to thee! Florence the fair!
Ere the last sheaf of autumn is gathered,
What a triumph of Art shall be there:
The bells in Florence are ringing all;
The third year has come to its close;
The Elders have met in the judgment-hall,
And swelling the sound of their festival,
Thro’ the city the multitude flows,
Within his narrow chamber high
The student waits the fated hour:
‘Tis long since, ‘neath a freer sky,
He felt the sun, or braved the shower,
Toil kept him there-and now ’twas o’er,
He had the heart and strength no more.
From the casement might be seen,
The o’erhanging houses breach between,
A distant span of country green:
And, on that strip of earth and sky,
Unswerving hung his lightless eye;
And as the hours, slow-wandering by,
With heavy stroke returning came,
They shook thro’ his thin and tremulous frame
As autumn blasts, with boisterous call,
May shake the leaf that is near its fall.
Their iron tongues seemed all to say:
“Hie thee away! Hie thee away!
“Thou has landed thy treasure secure from the wave;
“Thyself, thou bold swimmer! thou shalt not save.”
But ere the morning’s midward hour
Had brought the sun round the eastern hill
To touch the pale, unopened flower
That drooped upon his window sill,
A gentle hand tapped on his chamber door-
And a soft voice called:-tis the voice of Lenore!
Spirit of Light! before passing the grave!
Angel of Life! art thou come to save?
She knew the hours were hard to bear,
That the heart will fail and the spirit break
When life, and more than life’s at stake-
And had won on her father to bring her there:
But he sat him down,
With a silent frown,
Half angered to deem he had been so weak.
The painter’s face with a smile is bright
As he reads his hope in the maiden’s eyes;
But her cheek turns pale as the lustre dies,
Till it hangs on his lip like the mournful light
On a wreck that may Sink ere the proud sunrise.
And his fancy was busy again within
To think how much better his work might have been,
With a light brought there, and a shade thrown here,
‘Twas well that he had not the canvass near,
For the painters, then, were Despair and Fear.
But hark! a sound on the silence steals!
‘Tis a shout-a silent in the distance peals!
It gathers-it deepens-it rolls this way!-
Lenora!-Haste to the casement say!-
“‘Tis finished!-but-who has won the day;'”
Near and more near
Is the loud acclaim:
You could almost hear
The victorious name:
“They come! by the beat
“Of their flooding feet!
“Now!-now-they are reaching the end of the street!”
The maiden’s heart is fluttering wild-
And even the father arose from his seat
And stood by his child,
But incredulous smiled:
“There’s a way to the left. They will turn to the square.”
“No! onward!-right onward!-they pause not there!
“And the senators pass
“Thro’ the multitude’s mass!
“Scarce three doors off-they come!-they come!”
The maiden has sunk from the window-side:-
‘Tis past a fear!-’tis past a doubt!
There’s a stir within-there’s a rush without-
They mount the stair-the door flies wide-
Oh! joy to the lover! and joy to the bride!
The eldest of the train advances:
In his hand the garland glances;
Gold-precious-glittering to the sight;
Pledge of hopes that are still more bright,
For love is wreathed in its leaves of light!
They call him:-is their voice unheard?
He rose not-as in duty bound;
He bowed not-as they gathered round;
They placed the garland on his head:-
He gave no thanks-he spoke no word-
But slowly sunk like a drooping flower
Beneath the weight of too full a shower:
The Painter of Florence was dead!
To the altar high they bore him;
And they bring his labour o’er him,
That in one short triumph’s breath
Gave immortality and death.
The curious crowd soon melt away;
But evening dusk and morning grey
Behold one constant votary there:
Does she come for praise? does she stay for prayer?
Alas! she joins not the choral strain,
And the rosary hangs by her side in vain.
Long years passed by, and thro’ them all
The painting hung on the old church wall.
Long years!-but few of their sum had flown
When the maiden sunk ‘neath the cold churchstone.
And when Florence had fallen and bowed the knee
To the golden pride of the Medici,
Then princes and bishops and cardinals tore
From her temples and trophies their coveted store;
And hung on the wall
Of their selfish hall,
What was meant for the eyes and the hearts of all.
Thus past the picture from hand to hand,
Till it wandered away to a cloudy land,
And I found it lost in the barren-gloom
Of a country gentleman’s dining-room.
Then me-thought that the form ‘neath the withered
From its blighted laurel appealed to me;
And that I could read in its earnest eyes
The spirit of thoughts like these arises:
The earth may take the body,
Consuming what it gave:
But God said to the spirit-
“Thou shalt not see the grave!”
Upon his canvass pages,
The painter throws his heart:
Yet England’s barbarous nobles
Have buried living art.
Far scattered in dull mansions,
With none to see and taste,
Its crystal springs lie hidden
In Mammon’s golden waste.
If Poets write for nations,
Free as shines the sun,
The Painter and the Sculptor
Have never wrought for one.
As well might Byron’s Harold,
In one dark folio kept,
In one man’s sordid chamber
Thro’ endless years have slept.
The treasures on your panels,
And down your galleries spread,
Are heartless robberies practised
On the living and the dead.
Is it for this, that on one work
My soul’s whole energy I cast?
Thought! ardour! feeling! hope! and joy!
And gave my life at last!
Go! stranger! rouse the sons of thought!
Go! tell them far and near!
And take me! take me to the world!
Or make the world come here!
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Based on Keywords: artisan, unremitting, unswerving, defenders, draperies, venomed, unopened, inherent, prism, new-year, culls