There is a city, upbuilt on the quays of the turbulent Arno,
Under Fiesole’s heights, thither are we to return?
There is a city that fringes the curve of the inflowing waters,
Under the perilous hill fringes the beautiful bay,
Parthenope, do they call thee? the Siren, Neapolis, seated
Under Vesevus’s hill, are we receding to thee?
Sicily, Greece, will invite, and the Orient; or are we to turn to
England, which may after all be for its children the best?
I. MARY TREVELLYN, at Lucerne, TO MISS ROPER, at Florence.
So you are really free, and living in quiet at Florence;
That is delightful news; you travelled slowly and safely;
Mr. Claude got you out; took rooms at Florence before you;
Wrote from Milan to say so; had left directly for Milan,
Hoping to find us soon;; if he could, he would, you are certain.
Dear Miss Roper, your letter has made me exceedingly happy.
You are quite sure, you say, he asked you about our intentions;
You had not heard as yet of Lucerne, but told him of Como:
Well, perhaps he will come; however, I will not expect it.
Though you say you are sure, if he can, he will, you are certain.
O my dear, many thanks from your ever affectionate Mary.
II. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE.
Action will furnish belief, but will that belief be the true one?
This is the point, you know. However, it doesn’t much matter.
What one wants, I suppose, is to predetermine the action,
So as to make it entail, not a chance belief, but the true one.
Out of the question, you say; if a thing isn’t wrong, we may do it.
Ah! but this wrong, you see but I do not know that it matters.
Eustace, the Ropers are gone, and no one can tell me about them.
Pisa, they say they think; and so I follow to Pisa,
Hither and thither inquiring. I weary of making inquiries.
I am ashamed, I declare, of asking people about it.
Who are your friends? You said you had friends who would certainly know them.
But it is idle, moping, and thinking, and trying to fix her
Image more and more in, to write the old perfect inscription
Over and over again upon every page of remembrance.
I have settled to stay at Florence to wait for your answer.
Who are your friends? Write quickly and tell me. I wait for your answer.
III. MARY TREVELLYN TO MISS ROPER, at Lucca Baths.
You are at Lucca baths, you tell me, to stay for the summer;
Florence was quite too hot; you can’t move further at present.
Will you not come, do you think, before the summer is over?
Mr. C. got you out with very considerable trouble;
And he was useful and kind, and seemed so happy to serve you.
Didn’t stay with you long, but talked very openly to you;
Made you almost his confessor, without appearing to know it,
What about? and you say you didn’t need his confessions.
O my dear Miss Roper, I dare not trust what you tell me!
Will he come, do you think? I am really so sorry for him
They didn’t give him my letter at Milan, I feel pretty certain.
You had told him Bellagio. We didn’t go to Bellagio;
So he would miss our track, and perhaps never come to Lugano,
Where we were written in full, To Lucerne across the St. Gothard.
But he could write to you; you would tell him where you were going.
IV. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE.
Let me, then, bear to forget her. I will not cling to her falsely;
Nothing factitious or forced shall impair the old happy relation.
I will let myself go, forget, not try to remember;
I will walk on my way, accept the chances that meet me,
Freely encounter the world, imbibe these alien airs, and
Never ask if new feelings and thoughts are of her or of others.
Is she not changing herself? the old image would only delude me,
I will be bold, too, and change, if it must be. Yet if in all things,
Yet if I do but aspire evermore to the Absolute only,
I shall be doing, I think, somehow, what she will be doing;
I shall be thine, O my child, some way, though I know not in what way,
Let me submit to forget her; I must; I already forget her.
V. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE.
Utterly vain is, alas! this attempt at the Absolute, wholly!
I, who believed not in her, because I would fain believe nothing,
Have to believe as I may, with a wilful, unmeaning acceptance.
I, who refused to enfasten the roots of my floating existence
In the rich earth, cling now to the hard, naked rock that is left me,
Ah! she was worthy, Eustace, and that, indeed, is my comfort,
Worthy a nobler heart than a fool such as I could have given her.
Yes, it relieves me to write, though I do not send, and the chance that
Takes may destroy my fragments. But as men pray, without asking
Whether One really exist to hear or do anything for them,
Simply impelled by the need of the moment to turn to a Being
In a conception of whom there is freedom from all limitation,
So in your image I turn to an ens rationis of friendship,
Even so write in your name I know not to whom nor in what wise.
There was a time, methought it was but lately departed,
When, if a thing was denied me, I felt I was bound to attempt it;
Choice alone should take, and choice alone should surrender.
There was a time, indeed, when I had not retired thus early,
Languidly thus, from pursuit of a purpose I once had adopted.
But it is over, all that! I have slunk from the perilous field in
Whose wild struggle of forces the prizes of life are contested.
It is over, all that! I am a coward, and know it.
Courage in me could be only factitious, unnatural, useless.
Comfort has come to me here in the dreary streets of the city,
Comfort how do you think? with a barrel-organ to bring it.
Moping along the streets, and cursing my day as I wandered,
All of a sudden my ear met the sound of an English psalm-tune.
Comfort me it did, till indeed I was very near crying.
Ah, there is some great truth, partial, very likely, but needful,
Lodged, I am strangely sure, in the tones of the English psalm-tune
Comfort it was at least; and I must take without question
Comfort, however it come, in the dreary streets of the city.
What with trusting myself, and seeking support from within me,
Almost I could believe I had gained a religious assurance,
Formed in my own poor soul a great moral basis to rest on.
Ah, but indeed I see, I feel it factitious entirely;
I refuse, reject, and put it utterly from me;
I will look straight out, see things, not try to evade them;
Fact shall be fact for me, and the Truth the Truth as ever,
Flexible, changeable, vague, and multiform, and doubtful.
Off, and depart to the void, thou subtle, fanatical tempter?
I shall behold thee again (is it so?) at a new visitation,
O ill genius thou! I shall, at my life’s dissolution
(When the pulses are weak, and the feeble light of the reason
Flickers, an unfed flame retiring slow from the socket),
Low on a sick-bed laid, hear one, as it were, at the doorway,
And, looking up, see thee standing by, looking emptily at me;
I shall entreat thee then, though now I dare to refuse thee,
Pale and pitiful now, but terrible then to the dying.
Well, I will see thee again, and while I can, will repel thee.
VI. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE.
Rome is fallen, I hear, the gallant Medici taken,
Noble Manara slain, and Garibaldi has lost il Moro;
Rome is fallen; and fallen, or falling, heroical Venice.
I, meanwhile, for the loss of a single small chit of a girl, sit
Moping and mourning here, for her, and myself much smaller.
Whither depart the souls of the brave that die in the battle,
Die in the lost, lost fight, for the cause that perishes with them?
Are they upborne from the field on the slumberous pinions of angels
Unto a far-off home, where the weary rest from their labour,
And the deep wounds are healed, and the bitter and burning moisture
Wiped from the generous eyes? or do they linger, unhappy,
Pining, and haunting the grave of their by-gone hope and endeavour?
All declamation, alas! though I talk, I care not for Rome nor
Italy; feebly and faintly, and but with the lips, can lament the
Wreck of the Lombard youth, and the victory of the oppressor.
Whither depart the brave? God knows; I certainly do not.
VII. MARY TREVELLYN TO MISS ROPER.
He has not come as yet; and now I must not expect it.
You have written, you say, to friends at Florence, to see him,
If he perhaps should return; but that is surely unlikely.
Has he not, written to you? he did not know your direction.
Oh, how strange never once to have told him where you were going!
Yet if he only wrote to Florence, that would have reached you.
If what you say he said was true, why has he not done so?
Is he gone back to Rome, do you think, to his Vatican marbles?
O my dear Miss Roper, forgive me! do not be angry!
You have written to Florence; your friends would certainly find him.
Might you not write to him? but yet it is so little likely!
I shall expect nothing more. Ever yours, your affectionate Mary.
VIII. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE.
I cannot stay at Florence, not even to wait for a letter.
Galleries only oppress me. Remembrance of hope I had cherished
(Almost more than as hope, when I passed through Florence the first time)
Lies like a sword in my soul. I am more a coward than ever,
Chicken-hearted, past thought. The caffes and waiters distress me.
All is unkind, and, alas! I am ready for any one’s kindness.
Oh, I knew it of old, and knew it, I thought, to perfection,
If there is any one thing in the world to preclude all kindness,
It is the need of it, it is this sad, self-defeating dependence.
Why is this, Eustace? Myself, were I stronger, I think I could tell you.
But it is odd when it comes. So plumb I the deeps of depression,
Daily in deeper, and find no support, no will, no purpose.
All my old strengths are gone. And yet I shall have to do something.
Ah, the key of our life, that passes all wards, opens all locks,
Is not I will, but I must. I must, I must, and I do it.
After all, do I know that I really cared so about her?
Do whatever I will, I cannot call up her image;
For when I close my eyes, I see, very likely, St. Peter’s,
Or the Pantheon facade, or Michel Angelo’s figures,
Or, at a wish, when I please, the Alban hills and the Forum,
But that face, those eyes, ah, no, never anything like them;
Only, try as I will, a sort of featureless outline,
And a pale blank orb, which no recollection will add to.
After all, perhaps there was something factitious about it;
I have had pain, it is true: I have wept, and so have the actors.
At the last moment I have your letter, for which I was waiting;
I have taken my place, and see no good in inquiries.
Do nothing more, good Eustace, I pray you. It only will vex me.
Take no measures. Indeed, should we meet, I could not be certain;
All might be changed, you know. Or perhaps there was nothing to be changed.
It is a curious history, this ; and yet I foresaw it;
I could have told it before. The Fates, it is clear, are against us;
For it is certain enough I met with the people you mention;
They were at Florence the day I returned there, and spoke to me even;
Stayed a week, saw me often; departed, and whither I know not.
Great is Fate, and is best. I believe in Providence partly.
What is ordained is right, and all that happens is ordered.
Ah, no, that isn’t it. But yet I retain my conclusion.
I will go where I am led, and will not dictate to the chances.
Do nothing more, I beg. If you love me, forbear interfering.
IX. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE.
Shall we come out of it all, some day, as one does from a tunnel?
Will it be all at once, without our doing or asking,
We shall behold clear day, the trees and meadows about us,
And the faces of friends, and the eyes we loved looking at us?
Who knows? Who can say? It will not do to suppose it.
X. CLAUDE TO EUSTACE, from Rome.
Rome will not suit me, Eustace; the priests and soldiers possess it;
Priests and soldiers: and, ah! which is the worst, the priest or the soldier?
Politics farewell, however! For what could I do? with inquiring,
Talking, collating the journals, go fever my brain about things o’er
Which I can have no control. No, happen whatever may happen,
Time, I suppose, will subsist; the earth will revolve on its axis;
People will travel; the stranger will wander as now in the city;
Rome will be here, and the Pope the custode of Vatican marbles.
I have no heart, however, for any marble or fresco;
I have essayed it in vain; ’tis in vain as yet to essay it:
But I may haply resume some day my studies in this kind;
Not as the Scripture says, is, I think, the fact. Ere our death-day,
Faith, I think, does pass, and Love; but Knowledge abideth.
Let us seek Knowledge; the rest may come and go as it happens.
Knowledge is hard to seek, and harder yet to adhere to.
Knowledge is painful often; and yet when we know, we are happy.
Seek it, and leave mere Faith and Love to come with the chances.
As for Hope, to-morrow I hope to be starting for Naples.
Rome will not do, I see, for many very good reasons.
Eastward, then, I suppose, with the coming of winter, to Egypt.
XI. MARY TREVELLYN TO MISS ROPER.
You have heard nothing; of course, I know you can have heard nothing.
Ah, well, more than once I have broken my purpose, and sometimes,
Only too often, have looked for the little lake-steamer to bring him.
But it is only fancy, I do not really expect it.
Oh, and you see I know so exactly how he would take it:
Finding the chances prevail against meeting again, he would banish
Forthwith every thought of the poor little possible hope, which
I myself could not help, perhaps, thinking only too much of;
He would resign himself, and go. I see it exactly.
So I also submit, although in a different manner.
Can you not really come? We go very shortly to England.
So go forth to the world, to the good report and the evil
Go, little book! thy tale, is it not evil and good?
Go, and if strangers revile, pass quietly by without answer.
Go, and if curious friends ask of thy rearing and age,
Say, ‘I am flitting about many years from brain unto brain of
Feeble and restless youths born to inglorious days:
But,’ so finish the word, ‘I was writ in a Roman chamber,
When from Janiculan heights thundered the cannon of France.’