Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BLIND, by LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE



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BLIND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: No further, child, to-night; your mother's tired
Last Line: I will not share it. It is all mine.
Subject(s): Blindness; Visually Handicapped


Two tramps: a Woman and her blind Son, a simply.

MOTHER. No further, child, to-night; your mother's tired,
And your blind feet have stumbled more than once.
Here's firing, a rare lot of withered gorse.
Son. Good: I think fire never puts such cheer
Into his flames as when he's gorse to burn.
Mother. My soul, this is a sad way we are going;
I should be underground by rights, I think;
The woman's dead in me these many years,
And it's a cold thing to carry in your heart.
I'ld as lieve my flesh were trapt under this stone
As start again to-morrow the old gate;
But it would need to be a heavier one
To keep me still and smothered down, if death
Got me before I'd found my man. Ah well,
One more day nearer.—If my hate would learn
Patience! O, be satisfied, my disease,
You shall have better food than this old heart;
And drink not all my life, you lime-hot hate;
There's a trough prepared somewhere against your thirst,
Brimming, and then lap your fill.—Here, my son,
Let me make sure again of your arms' strength:
Ay, these are proper cords; and there'll be need
To take him firmly when we find him, child.
Active he is and tall and beautiful
And a wild anger in him.—See here, boy,
My throat's his throat; take it as you will his,
No, tighter, tighter, where's your strength? Ah—
Son. O mother, did I hurt you?
Mother. Simple lad,
You weren't half cruel enough; you barely brought
The red flames into my eyes this time at all
O but it's good, the grip you have, and good
To feel it on me, try the pains of those
Who strangle; they will be his some day.
Son. Mother, don't let us have more of this game.
There's something gets into my fingers, dear,
When I begin to press and feel you breathe
Difficultly: why will you make me hurt you?
Mother. Practice for you, and practice for my hate
To trust your grip. You know not what a peril
Your hands must deal with; doubts keep stinging me
Whether you have the sinews to make quiet
That danger of a man.—And he escapes us!
We go too halt. Yet there's scant doubt he knows
We're after him; sure he is afraid
And sleeps not well of nights. Married too
Belike these twenty years,—curse her, the witch.
Son, am I mad? I wonder if I'm mad.
Son. They say so, mother. Now I've lit the fire,
What are we going to eat?
Mother. Yes, we must eat,
You to keep strength and I to keep my wits.
Something might hap to-morrow. I'll go beg
At door, and if I fail (it's darkening) steal.
Son. Ho, fire's in a friendly mood to-night.
That gypsy woman said there was a league,
Didn't she, mother, between me and fire?
Hark at him purring when I stroke his ribs;
Does he not play to bite my hand? She said
His flames, if I sat and waved my hands for him,
Would follow and lick after them, and if
I raised them as to hit him, they would flinch.
Is it true, mother?—but I'm sure it's true.
Mother, have we blind souls?
Mother. What is it to you
If you have soul or no? All you are for
Is, when the time comes, and I tell you grip him,
To get the life in his throat under your hands,
And use your thumbs.
Son. But is not soul a kind
Of hungriness? Because if so, I have some.
Mother. What good's that to you? O the child you are.
I had a soul once; it was a poor thing
To this fierce master that now drives my flesh.
Who's fed you all these years?
Son. You, mother.
Mother. Then
Love me for it, and burn up all your thought
To zeal like mine for this one deed of ours.
I fear you'll fail me.
Son. Mother, that's not kind.
I know that some one must be killed by me,
And all my lifetime we've been looking for him.
When the time comes, here are my hands. It seems
A simple thing; and in my head there's room
For much beside.
Mother. Who knows how lucky it is
That in your body grown to such a manhood
Your mind is still a child?—my poor blind child!
Son. Are you rested, mother? But it does not sound
Quite dark yet, so it's no good, I suppose,
You going to the farmyards. Are you sure,
Mother, you'll know him?
Mother. I will know him, son,
Never you fret. There's not his like in the world.
You mustn't let him speak though, for I fear
The sleeping habit of my tears.
Son. Let me alone for that. Give me his throat,
And slim the words must be to sliver past
The collar I'll have round it.
Mother (to herself). Ah no, God, not like this.
It must have been
Wicked to you, that long-dead love of mine,
That it bore so unkindly. Will you not now
Relent at last, and give my boy to hate?
It will be vile, if your delivering up
His father to these hands, so rare a man,
Be not thus changed from impiousness, nor made
Holy with a fierce righteousness of hate,
Him to divide from usage of his breath.
I know you have warned death from him, that his son,
The minting of his passion on the world,
A love he has forgotten, may be found
The mischief of his life, his own wild youth
Standing up formed against him, given hands
To pluck him out of going on in the light,
A wrong he did grown big to do him wrong.
Will you come so near justice, and yet miss?—
Can you not hate him, child? It must be you
Who do it, not merely I through you.—
Vain, this: there is no end to your father's guilt.
He it was maimed your sense and reason, to spoil
The rightness of this work. How is it right
That you should kill him when you hate him not?
Yet as it falls, so must it; for I think
My purpose will not now leave go my life;
I have it for a nature, and my law.
When you were born, it took me, and your growth
Delighted it, not me. There never was
Joy in a mother's heart at your great strength;
Those were no mother's thanks I gave to Heaven
That you were thewed so well, but a great praise
Because I knew God signed my vengeance with you.
Yet there is mother in me.—Ah, child, child,
How near my bitter suckling of you seems.
Often I lookt that you would cry to draw
The throbbing fire shut in my breasts; and yet
Always you took it as it had been milk.
But none the less I knew, sorrow and guilt
Were all I had to feed my innocent with.
The cruelest thing was, how you smiled at me
And never wept that I should give you drink
Unnatural lawless nourishment, despair.
Was it not harsh as brine to taste?—but you
Delighted in it and thrived, my poor blind babe.
You do not hear. What are you rapt upon?
Son. What, mother? O that little girl we met
At midday I was thinking of. You know
She let me put my hands upon her head:
What a wonderful loveliness that is of hair,—
Soft, smooth, delicious as the smell of gorse
In sunlight, and for slipping through your fingers
Better than water. Hair—yes, it would be
A nature, I suppose, between sunshine
And water, and yet neither.—There must be
Words equal to the loveliness of hair;
If I could find them! Golden, do they say?
I wish the words for beauty had been made
By men who knew with hands, and not with eyes.
Why isn't your hair like that little girl's,
Mother? You mind when first my feeling knew
The moon was shining on me? Well, I took
That hair into my heart as wonderingly.
But it feels strange there: it's as if it missed
A welcome that it should have found therein.
That's why I askt, have we blind folks a soul?
Mother. O Lord, Lord, this is not surely he who must
Thy vengeance do and mine?
Son. The ugly beast,
What are her hands to mine? What right had she
To take the little one's hair out of my hands?
Beggar, says she, be off; how dare you lay
Your dirty mawlers on my darling's head?—
If hair was made for any hands, for mine.
The beast, I hate her.
Mother. Ay, can you hate her
Who took away your play, poor simpleton?
The work we have to do, that would be rare
For demons, will not move you half so much.
That frightens me. And it was your father did it!
Son. Mother, how close these trees are overhead;
Yet by their speech they are grown. Are they askew?
Mother. Ay, poor old trees, right thrawn they are. They know
The north-west winds demand a posture of them
And fear the weight of wild feet on their necks
Spraining them, if they stood upright again.
They are grown used to stooping now, as I,
Pulled mainly awry by long-served fierce desire,
Have all my nature strained from rightness, fixt
Crooked and nailed there, bending under my lust.
I am old wood: there is no spring in me.
When this our murder no more burthenously
Rides on my shoulders, but, as I've bred it to,
Springs from its tired seat at him I loved
And fleshes there its greed, what will be then?
There is no blessed straightening for me.
What is there for me?
You life of mine, surely you will not stay
In this stale house, when your dear hate is gone
To sleep beside his doing, filled and content?
You'll lack the comfort of his company;
And the dim corners of the house will stir,
Rustling with unseen hauntings, that well know
You are in dark, now that his eyes are gone.
The best thing you can do then is, unlatch,
Go out of doors and wander, till you find
In some large quiet place the sleep you want.
Son, mind the fire. I'll go get some food.
[She leaves him.
Son. She's talkative to-night. I wonder what
This thing is that is in her? Some day, sure,
She'll have a harm from it, it shakes her so.
I wish we'ld come across that bad man soon
And get it over; she worsens every month.
Will she turn bitter against me, do you think,
If we're much longer meeting him? She'll craze,
I fear; and O it's cold within me,
Thinking the time may come she will not love me.
Why, it seems only a few days gone by
Since she would mother me, without cause be kind;
No wearying of my talk then! But I think
All that was years ago. And what a way
Of walking now she's taken to,—no songs,
No lagging, scarce a word; just padding on
As if we were escaping, or afraid.
All these are like the leaves, that change their voice
When a storm's near an hour before it comes.
And if she turned against me———? O but I need,
Mother, you love. We can't be looking, looking,
All day and every day and still not find him;
And when we do, I'll make my part all right.
Why, I'm forgetting fire. What, are you mum?
Here; you can talk of gorse-rubbish, I know.—
I like this hour best of all the day:
The evening cool upon my skin, the dark
And stillness, like a wing's shelter bending down.
I've often thought, if I were tall enough
And reacht my hand up, I should touch the soft
Spread feathers of the resting flight of him
Who covers us with night, so near he seems
Stooping and holding shadow over us,
Roofing the air with wings. It's plain to feel
Some large thing's near, and being good to us.
But you it is, fire, who mainly make
This time my best. I love to be alone
Except for you, and have a talk with you.
What are you? There, I'm always asking that,
And never get but laughing flames for answer.
But I believe I've found you out at last.
You, fire, are the joy of things; there's naught
Would stay in its own self, if it could find
How to be fire and joy. For you're the escape
From strictness and from nature laid on stuff
That once was freedom, still remembering it
Under its show of tameness; and there is
Nothing that is not waiting for a chance
Out of duty to slip, and give way madly
To the old desire it has in it of joy,
Standing up in a flame and telling aloud
That it is fire and no more a shape.
The wonder is, when here some leaves and furze
Have found the way to burn, the whole wide land
Leap not up in a wild glee of fire,
For all the earth's a-tiptoe to join in.
Often I have to run and skip in a wind;
And then I seem to fill the space of the world,
So large in gladness. It's the same thing as lets
Poor straw exult into a shouting blaze.
Hullo, here's a man.

A Tramp comes in, with a fiddle.

Tramp. Kind sirs, here's virtue for you. Ha, that's gorse
You're burning, ay, and ash. Sirs, I have here
The ware that is of most worth in the world,
A chance to be good; the wind was peddling it
And would not take less than my pride for it,
But 'tis to you free gift;—No, I'll not take
A penny for it: Yours, sir, yours, and welcome.
So let there be some cheer and fire to-night
For an old crazy blind bad vagabond.
Here's pity come for you to entertain.
Ah, thank you for those kind words, good brother fire;
Your fellow seems a cautious man,—yet I'm
A rung in the ladder up to Heaven.—Look here,
Tongues lie, 'tis true. But see my witnesses
That never yet spake leasing. Stand you forth,
Sirs my trowsers, and testify, true souls,
You are the breeks of Need, the very wear
Of Pity and Ruth,—no, that's wrong, Ruth's a lady.
Honour my trowsers, mister. Why, old fire
Knew them at once, and gave them, honouring, warmth.
If any one might be proud it's fire; for he
Has heard God speaking, and is sib to Hell.
A good-hearted fellow, fire, but blind; and some
Think blindness a poor lot—as it were, affliction;
It has crost my mind too. Well now, kind sirs,
Do you believe my trowsers? That my name
Is pity? (for no poor, no pity, you know.)
Why, this is strange: I took you to be men,
But by your speaking I perceive you all
Are whales and cameleopards. Pray forgive me,
Excellent necks, I reverence you neckships.
Son. Who are you?
Tramp. Save us, one has got man's speech.
You had done better, Spots, to have left alone
This English; 'twill not help your browsings. But
Who am I?—Saint Francis bad me to his wedding,
Being the bride's godfather. There, the Wind
His brother and the Rain his sister took
Such a strong liking to me, I'll be hanged
If they will leave me. O a virtuous pair
No doubt; but she keeps crying down my neck
And he's forever singing psalms, that now
They almost bore me, and—don't tell them, pray,—
I wish they were not quite such faithful friends.
But, who am I? Crazy I am and blind,
Who once had wits and seeing. But now words,
Words are all my comfort, words and brandy.
Thank God for words, the best things he has made.
Son. Blind am I, but better off than you:
I never saw.
Tramp. What, blind?
Your hand; ay, sure, that's a blind man's hand.
Son. First, old man, answer me.
[He pins him by the arms.
Tramp. Well, well,
There's no call for gripping me like that.
Son. What colour are your eyes?
Tramp. Blind, blind,
Blind as the weather.
Son. Was it you loved a girl———
Tramp. No, no, it's false. You've given ear to slander.
Son. I am glad. Not yet, not yet. Ah, I forgot,
He's a tall seeing thewed man, not like this.
Tramp. And I'm glad you've unclaw'd me, What a clutch!
Now, will I give you a tune?
Son. No.
Tramp. Thank the Lord;
I needn't scratch my cursed fiddle to-night
For supper. I suppose you've got some supper?
Lie there, my art,
And a gouty devil quash you with his hoof,
Although it's heart-strings I have stretched upon you
To squeak out bawdry, which will get me brandy,
And brandy makes the old words move again
Like a bronze-harnesst soldiery that goes
Sounding and sunlit, treading marble roads.
Son. Can you skill words?
Tramp. Not I, but by the Lord
Words can skill me. They're a better drunkenness,
And put your sorrowing toes and unhappy heels
And reproachful hams farther outside the doors
Of sense, shut deaf to their clamouring of pains,
Than any quart of brandy.
Son. What are words?
Tramp. God's love! Here's a man after my own heart;
We must be brothers, lad. What, you're not one
Who thinks the soul a kind of chemistry,
And words a slag it hides its working in?
What are words? Come, I've the speech to-night; we'll talk.
In with you to my porch, and I will teach you
Serious things. Sit in my mystery,
And be wise. So first, learn we the world;
Then, climbing to more excellent knowledge, learn
How words are things out-marvelling the world.—
The world's a flame of the unquenching fire,
An upward-rapturing unhindered flame,
Singing a golden praise that it can be,
One of the joys of God the eternal fire.
But than this soaring nature, this green flame,
Largely exulting, not knowing how to cringe,
God's joy, there are things even sacreder,
Words: they are messengers from out God's heart,
Intimate with him; through his deed they go,
This passion of him called the world, approving
All of fierce gladness in it, bidding leap
To a yet higher rapture ere it sink.
They have our souls for their glib travelling,
Our souls, part of the grain of the burning world.
And full of the very ardour out of God
Come words, lit with white fires, having past through
The fearful hearth in Heaven where, unmixt,
Unfed, the First Beauty terribly burns.
A great flame is the world, splendid and brave;
But words come carrying such a vehemence
Of Godhead, glowing so hot out of the holy kiln,
The place of fire whence the blaze of existence rose,
That dulled in brightness looks the world against them,
Even the radiant thought of man. There be
Who hold words made of thought. But as stars slide
Through air, so words, bright aliens, slide through thought,
Leaving a kindled way.
Son. Ah, this is dark.
I am not kind for them to travel through,
These glories, words. Is there smoke to the world,
As other flames have smoke? I'm that, belike.
But O the emptiness sometimes within me,
And I paining and striving after words
To ease my sorrowful dumb heart.—But you,
They'll come and go through you? Are they so fine?
Tramp. Talk they of angels? Never was there saint
Heard mercy so soft spoken, felt such wise
Pitying forgiveness in his closed communion,
As I've had fear and loathing in my heart
Soothed into calm by mild blue-wearing words.
Terrors? destructions? But for crimson wings,
Garmented wrath, steel hammered and held for war,
And faces set against ruth—no rioting town
Prophet beheld shadowed by scathe of sword
Or rained upon by coals, elate thereat,
Had such a siege of seraphs awning it
As I've had campt around me, without cause,
Beauty and terror liveried in words.
And I have known when that famed holiness,
That word seeming arrayed in cloth-of-silver,
Love, has suddenly turned so evil a thing,
Devils were fools in wickedness to it;
And holding my soul numb in its cold look
Has fascinated me to its own evil.
O boy, I've lived: my misery and blindness,
Ay, and the death that's private in me now,
Were things for you to worship, could you but know
What service 'twas I got them in, a war
As old as Hell, still fighting.
Where's this supper that you talkt about?
I'm thirsty with this rattling.
Son. To-day, now,
We met a little girl. My straying hands
Found out her head;—there went a thrill in me,
I'd opened a new way of being pleased,
Her hair. How I delighted all my feeling
With touch of that strange fineness on my skin!
But after, memory of that delight
Wanted to put on words. And I had none
For it to live in, and it ached in me.
Have you got words to cure the heart, when longing,
After there has been pleasure too much felt,
Is like a twisted stitch about it?
Tramp. Come, you're the speechless world.
Singers you have
Given you to interpret your own souls
To you, and put in tongueless mouths a song.
Here's one. Now, World, thou shalt be satisfied.
Hot from my heart, made yesterday, is this;
A friend of mine was hanged, and I got drunk,
Whence this. Open your ears. Are you ready?
[Twanging his fiddle-strings.
Heaven, lay your harps aside, and let Hell speak a bit.
Ay, we all know you were good, and are good, safe in Heaven;
We hear you giving thanks therefor, but don't you think time is
That you thankt us for being bad, and trying out your holiness?
What's good without temptation, and who could tempt but we, the bad?
How did you come there, O you good ones, if not by resisting evil?
Look at our pains barred over with gratings, and the throngs of your saviours,
Look, and be ashamed of your bliss: for your good we are here.
We netted your godly paths, and made torments for you;
We whipt you and rebuked you, for the Lord desired to see you
Practising faith and meekness, and deserving your reward.
And it is our doing, that you are free of Heaven.
Cunningly were we fashion'd, and put to a cunning use,
Made to delight in pestering you, and blindly pleasuring
To hound all those who could be good, not wise enough to know
We blest you with our cruelties, maimed so that we could not tell
You had our ignorant backs for stairs, leading you up into Heaven.
We thought that wickedness was best, not masters of our thought;
God had robbed us privately of the power and will to be good.
We had given us wolves' hearts, and the ruth of shrikes was in us,
Rats infecting cities with plague, and the swine that ate child's flesh.
And all that you unworthily might spend your pity and love.
We were the hates forgiven of you, the lecheries you withstood,
We did you the injuries and scorns you blest us for.
Bound we were in prison, and you came and loved us there,
Although you knew our hidden minds bitterly at work
To pay you back with harm, when we got out again.
We lay down with Evil, and fellowed him at meals,
And when we came for alms to you, told you that we loved
All good things, and you believed us, knowing that we lied.
You could not rest from good, for we were goads pricking you on;
The blossom of your holiness needed our crimes for dung.
Like winds we howled about you, but all our loudness served
Only to blow your smouldering charity into a golden flame.
Are not we the nobler, the more honourable we?
You had an hour's pain on earth, with certain Heaven at end;
We have pains in Hell for ever, to get you into Heaven.
Harp, ay, keep on harping; we know for why you harp,
So that we shall not be heard, the sacrificed for good.—
How's that, my lad? Hurrah for Hell!
Son. But why?
Tramp. You simply, Hell did that.
Son. It did not take me.
Tramp. O world, that's just your way. You sit a stock
When new songs are thrown at you, mumbling still
Old idiocy, and living in your past.
But when I'm dead and rotten, 'twill be then
"Yon was a poet if you like, a jockey!"
Whereas the truth is I am out of date.
Poor world, yours is the loss. O I've been paid.
We who blink not for the swung sword of Heaven,
We with the calling danger in our blood,
Gladdest of fighters under the sun, must be
Our own paymasters;—I've fought, and been worsted,
Matter for pride! For I am one whose ears
Seldom have not the din of the warring drums
That troop the brave lusts and the crafty sins.
The listed under the flags of our revolt
Look not for wages: they affront defeat
Who go against the seated force of the world
That names itself eternal good and justice,
And gets belief, since it knows how to punish.
We have no knees for it; and let them shoot
From their advantage on the walls of Heaven,
The service of the Lord, their malice aimed,
Their slingèd war of sickness for our flesh
And madness for our minds, we'll stand upright
And be ourselves, not good. Do you know me, boy?
Am I hunger and rags to you? Fool, I have been
One of the mutiny that attempts God
And to take landing on the side of Heaven,
For foothold on the slippery peril of wall
Reaching and tearing at God's sheer resentment,
Still to be thrown down by the towering glass
A litter of upturned faces, gesturing
Against the calm front of his Sabbath's wall,
The desperate height of shining builded scorn.
This I have been; there is not in the land
A surgeon but, examining me, would
Tell you I speak the truth. However, here
And now, I'm chiefly hunger. Who was he
Who first invented supper? I perceive
The greatness of that man.
[The mother has come back.
Son. Is that you, mother?
Mother. We sleep hungry to-night.
———Who's this?
Tramp (bowing). I greet you, woman of the house;
I also greet the supper, though I smell none.
Mother (low). Michael, Michael?
Tramp. Where's that?—Lad, did you hear
A girl's voice speaking?—O my wits.
Mother. Michael!
I never thought of you as growing old.
Tramp. The stuff they sell for brandy now-a-days!
Poisoned I am. Here's a kind lady asking me
What will I take for supper, and my hearing
Is made so foolish, it's as if some dream
Spoke,—one of my songs, one of my loves,
Who knows? Some memory it is.
Mother. Michael infirm! Michael broken and crippled!—
O not to meet you thus I've tired and prayed.
The years would not have gone more cruelly
Over you if they had been flames. Your brow
Is written on in sorrow. Do you mind
A lap you laid your head in once, a hand
That could unmark the trouble from your brow?
Tramp. There have been many, woman or dream or ghost
Or madness—that, I think. I knew you'ld come.
Mother. I have you again. I heed not anything
But that. I cannot tell how it had been
Were you still happy and great spirited. Now,
So poor, so hurt, so wronged with age,—and I,
Too long lacking you, have had injury.
Time is for both of us we found each other.
Will you not know me, Michael?
Tramp. Yes, your voice
I know.
Mother. Unkind! Am I so gone from you?
Tramp. If this is madness, it's a gentle one.
Come you to punish me? Are you my sins
That speak so ruthful? I repent me not,
Nor if you shift your softness into gibing,
And stop my sleep with moans. If there was harm
Done through me, let the Lord repent, not me.
I will not lighten Him of any guilt.
Mother. Poor sick distracted brain,—O how you need
Me and my love, thank God! All that I have
To give you, and take nothing,—only thus
Can I relieve the pent and suddenly-thawed
Plenty of love, loosed from a stiffened winter
To pour and well like an inward bleeding wound
Oppressing over my heart. Give me this ease
Of caring for you, finding out your comfort;
I want no other kindness from you.
Tramp. Woman,
Who are you?
Mother. Michael, you do not know me?
Tramp. O cannot you see I'm blind?
Mother. Alas! and yet
I should be glad: you need me more than ever.
But—blind! You for whose eyes the earth put on
Such wonder! You visited! O it is wrong, wrong!
Son. Is it now, mother? Is this the man?
Mother. What say you?
Michael, he is our son. You did not know
It was a son? He's well framed? Ah, I forgot.—
Boy, come and kiss your father.
Son. Cunning, cunning,
O my mother's cunning.
Tramp. We travel too fast
For me; it seems, I've run into a wife:
Let me breathe there awhile. Lo, I, the rebel,
The wanderer, the lawless, settled down
A husband, all in five minutes! It's a great change, lady;
Yet if the Flying Dutchman could not 'scape,
Why, how should I?—But for this family,—
Presenting me at once with a full-grown heir
Is mighty sudden. And it isn't decent.
I'm all for being decent now.
Is that big man my son, though? What's his trade?
Is he a large eater?—Be dutiful,
My son, honour your poor dear worthy father,
Who so unselfish was he at great pains
Begat you, and to whom you owe that now
You hunger in this miserable world.
Surely this asks a large return in love,
Such care for your well-being, and you still
Unborn? I hope you have it for me, son?
But don't salute me; we've embraced already;
Your loving is too violent for me.
Mother. Let him but kiss you. Child, will you kiss your father?
Son. Yes, I Will kiss him.—O I like this cunning.
Mother. You know me now, dear?
Tramp. If you're she I think,
I may as well admit that yon's my boy.
Strange, but I never thought of you as still Alive.
Mother. I'm filled with you, my brain and heart.
You make me foolish, dear. For deep within me
Some vague discomfort lies, a dumb warning,
Which cannot come into my thought for you
Taking so much room there. Just now, when I
Was stricken with you, and into its wont,
Long dry of it and closed, the love ran warm,
And I was all in pangs of the sudden loosening,
A sharp fear flasht in me; something there was
I must provide against: but what it was
I cannot tell for sure. It must wait, then;
It may come back.—And now, your hand's in mine!
The thing must give place in my thought to that.
—You are silent, Michael.
Tramp. Am I? Well, I suppose
It's too much happiness is gagging me,———
What did you say your name was?
Mother. Alice. Ah! [She sighs.
Tramp (springing up). No!
Not she? Not Alice? O I did not think it was you.
You've been a sorrow, Alice.—Why have you come
To spoil my dear regrets?—The others were
Despairs, not loves. I would meet any of them
Nor wince;—but you!—O Lord, am I ashamed?
No, I'ld liever not have found you.
Son (aside). More long,
Surely, than needs. There's one chance missed already.
Tramp. I have bitterly blamed you, boy; but I forgive.
Your coming frightened me away from her
A many years agone; but let that be.
In sign whereof, come here and you may kiss me.
Pardon the lack of veal; I don't keep cows.
Mother. Ah, thank you, Michael. For he is
Our love, and kissing him will be to take
That to your heart again. I will lead you to him———
O God, what's this?
Tramp. You choke me: free my throat,
Blast you!
Mother. Let him go, fool, it's not the man.
I've changed my mind, too. Hear me, you devil, loose him!
Tramp. Did you mean this, Alice?
[The struggle ends.
Mother. Is he dead, my God, dead?
Son. Why, he was weak and frail under my hands;
You mistook his danger. I've not failed you now?
And you were always saying that I would.
Will you not praise me, mother?—
(Whimpering) Why don't you speak?
Mother. (She has been sitting bowed over the deadman. Slowly she
raises her head and looks at her son, dry-eyed.)
This crime is mine.—O cramp is at my heart.—
I have the guilt. I need not so have grieved
About your eyes: it was I who was blind.
I know not how to bear you close to me,
The touch of your hands will be a fearful thing
For me henceforth.—Give me your hands in mine;
The Lord in Heaven knows nothing can be
To any human soul more horrible
Than these poor dreadful hands: therefore I kiss them,
And it may do for prayer. At Judgement Day
Tell them, my child, you did not make his death.
I will not share it. It is all mine.






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