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Didst thou not hear the pother o'er thy head,
When the great Persian conqueror, Cambyses,
Marched armies o'er thy tomb with thundering tread,
O'erthrew Osiris, Orus, Apis, Isis,
And shook the pyramids with fear and wonder,
When the gigantic Memnon fell asunder?
If the tomb's secrets may not be confessed,
The nature of thy private life unfold:
A heart has throbbed beneath that leathern breast,
And tears adown that dusky cheek have rolled;
Have children climbed those knees and kissed that face?
What was thy name and station, age and race?
Statue of flesh — immortal of the dead!
Imperishable type of evanescence!
Posthumous man, who quitt'st thy narrow bed,
And standest undecayed within our presence,
Thou wilt hear nothing till the judgment morning,
When the great trump shall thrill thee with its warning.
Why should this worthless tegument endure,
If its undying guest be lost forever?
O, let us keep the soul embalmed and pure
In living virtue, that, when both must sever,
Although corruption may our frame consume,
The immortal spirit in the skies may bloom.
GEORGE CANNING. 1770-1827.
FROM "THE ANTIJACOBIN."
317. THE FRIEND OF HUMANITY AND THE Knife-Grinder. Friend of Humanity.
Needy Knife-grinder, whither are you going?
Rough is your road, your wheel is out of order;
Bleak blows the blast-
your hat has got a hole in't
So have your breeches.
Weary Knife-grinder, little think the proud ones,
Who, in their coaches, roll along the turnpike-
Road, what hard work 'tis crying all day,
Scissors to grind, O!"
Tell me, Knife-grinder, how came you to grind knives?
Did some rich man tyrannically use you?
Was it the squire or parson of the parish,
Or the attorney?
Was it the squire, for killing of his game? or
Covetous parson, for his tithes distraining?
Or roguish lawyer, made you lose your little
All in a lawsuit?
(Have you not read the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine
Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,
Ready to fall, as soon as you have told your
Story! God bless you, I have none to tell, Sir;
Only last night, a-drinking at the Chequers,
This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were
Torn in a scuffle.
Constables came up for to take me into
Custody; they took me before the justice;
Justice Oldmixon put me in the parish
I should be glad to drink your honor's health in
A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence ;
But, for my part, I never love to meddle
With politics, Sir.
Friend of Humanity.
I give thee sixpence! I will see thee hanged first-
Wretch, whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to vengeance
Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,
[Kicks the Knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exit in a transport of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.]
JOHN WILSON. 1785-1854. (Manual, p. 469.)
318. FROM "THE CITY OF THE PLAGUE."
Together will ye walk through long, long streets,
All standing silent as a midnight church.
You will hear nothing but the brown-red grass
Rustling beneath your feet; the very beating
Of your own hearts will awe you; the small voice
Of that vain bawble, idly counting time,
Will speak a solemn language in the desert.
Look up to Heaven, and there the sultry clouds,
Still threatening thunder, lower with grim delight,
As if the Spirit of the Plague dwelt there,
Darkening the city with the shadows of death.
Know ye that hideous hubbub? Hark, far off
A tumult like an echo! On it comes,
Weeping and wailing, shrieks and groaning prayer;
And, louder than all, outrageous blasphemy.
The passing storm hath left the silent streets.
But are these houses near you tenantless?
Over your heads, from a window, suddenly
A ghastly face is thrust, and yells of death
With voice not human. Who is he that flies,
As if a demon dogged him on his path?
With ragged hair, white face, and bloodshot eyes,
Raving, he rushes past you; till he falls,
As if struck by lightning, down upon the stones,
Or, in blind madness, dashed against the wall,
Sinks backward into stillness. Stand aloof,
And let the Pest's triumphant chariot
Have open way advancing to the tomb.
See how he mocks the pomp and pageantry
Of earthly kings! a miserable cart,
Heaped up with human bodies; dragged along
By pale steeds, skeleton-anatomies!
And onwards urged by a wan meagre wretch,
Doomed never to return from the foul pit,
Whither, with oaths, he drives his load of horror.
Would you look in? Gray hairs and golden tresses,
Wan shrivelled cheeks that have not smiled for years,
And many a rosy visage smiling still;
Bodies in the noisome weeds of beggary wrapped,
With age decrepit, and wasted to the bone;
And youthful frames, august and beautiful,
In spite of mortal pangs,
there lie they all,
Embraced in ghastliness! But look not long,
For haply, 'mid the faces glimmering there,
The well-known cheek of some belovéd friend
Will meet thy gaze, or some small snow-white hand,
Bright with the ring that holds her lover's hair.
Let me sit down beside you. I am faint
Talking of horrors that I looked upon
At last without a shudder.
JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART. 1794-1854.
319. ZARA'S EAR-RINGS.1
"My ear-rings! my ear-rings! they've dropped into the well,
And what to say to Muça, I cannot, cannot tell.".
'Twas thus, Granada's fountain by, spoke Albuharez' daughter, -
"The well is deep, far down they lie, beneath the cold blue water
To me did Muça give them, when he spake his sad farewell,
And what to say when he comes back, alas! I cannot tell.
"My ear-rings! my ear-rings! they were pearls in silver set,
That when my Moor was far away, I ne'er should him forget,
That I ne'er to other tongue should list, nor smile on other's tale,
But remember he my lips had kissed, pure as those ear-rings pale —
When he comes back and hears that I have dropped them in the well,
O, what will Muça think of me, I cannot, cannot tell.
"My ear-rings! my ear-rings! he'll say they should have been,
Not of pearl and silver, but of gold and glittering sheen,
Of jasper and of onyx, and of diamond shining clear,
Changing to the changing light, with radiance insincere
That changeful mind unchanging gems are not befitting well
Thus will he think, — and what to say, alas! I cannot tell.
"He'll say I am a woman, and we are all the same;
He'll say I loved when he was here to whisper of his flame
But when he went to Tunis my virgin troth had broken,
And thought no more of Muça, and cared not for his token.
My ear-rings! my ear-rings! O, luckless, luckless well!
For what to say to Muça, alas! I cannot tell.
"He'll think when I to market went, I loitered by the way;
He'll think a willing ear I lent to all the lads might say;
He'll think some other lover's hand among my tresses noosed,
From the ears where he had placed them, my rings of pearl unloosed;
He'll think when I was sporting so beside this marble well,
My pearls fell in, and what to say, alas! I cannot tell.
"I'll tell the truth to Muça, and I hope he will believe
That I have thought of him at morning, and thought of him at eve:
That musing on my lover, when down the sun was gone,
His ear-rings in my hand I held, by the fountain all alone:
And that my mind was o'er the sea, when from my hand they fell,
And that deep his love lies in my heart, as they lie in the well."
ROBERT POLLOK. 1790-1827. (Manual, p. 433.)
FROM "THE COURSE OF TIME."
320. THE GENIUS OF BYRON.
He touched his harp, and nations heard, entranced;
As some vast river of unfailing source,
Rapid, exhaustless, deep, his numbers flowed,
And oped new fountains in the human heart.
Where Fancy halted, weary in her flight,
In other men, his, fresh as morning, rose,
And soared untrodden heights, and seemed at home,
Where angels bashful looked. Others, though great,
Beneath their argument seemed struggling whiles;
He, from above descending, stooped to touch
The loftiest thought; and proudly stooped, as though
It scarce deserved his verse. With Nature's self
He seemed an old acquaintance, free to jest
At will with all her glorious majesty.
He laid his hand upon "the Ocean's mane,"
And played familiar with his hoary locks;
Stood on the Alps, stood on the Apennines,
And with the thunder talked as friend to friend;
And wove his garland of the lightning's wing,
In sportive twist, the lightning's fiery wing,
Which, as the footsteps of the dreadful God,
Marching upon the storm in vengeance, seemed;
Then turned, and with the grasshopper, who sung
His evening song beneath his feet, conversed.
Suns, moons, and stars, and clouds, his sisters were;
Rocks, mountains, meteors, seas, and winds, and storms,
His brothers, younger brothers, whom he scarce
As equals deemed. All passions of all men,
The wild and tame, the gentle and severe;
All thoughts, all maxims, sacred and profane;
All creeds, all seasons, Time, Eternity;
All that was hated, and all that was dear,
All that was hoped, all that was feared, by man,
He tossed about, as tempest-withered leaves;
Then, smiling, looked upon the wreck he made.
With terror now he froze the cowering blood,
And now dissolved the heart in tenderness;
Yet would not tremble, would not weep himself;
But back into his soul retired, alone,
Dark, sullen, proud, gazing contemptuously
On hearts and passions prostrate at his feet.