Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, LOVE'S ARROW POISONED, by THOMAS LOVELL BEDDOES



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LOVE'S ARROW POISONED, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Come lift your head from that sad pillow, lady
Last Line: Was folded in a pannier.
Subject(s): Betrayal; Brothers; Love; Murder; Parents; Poisons & Poisoning; Punishment; Revenge; Sea; Sisters; Suicide; Half-brothers; Parenthood; Ocean


Attend. Come lift your head from that sad pillow, lady.
Let comfort kiss thee dry. Nay, weep no more:
Oh! sure thy brain has emptied all its tears,
Thy breast outsighed its passion, leaving room
For sleep to pour her sweetness into them,
And the cored sleep of sleep, tranquillity,
That opens but one window of the soul,
And, with her hand on sorrow's face, does keep her
Dark in her bed and dayless. Quiet now—
Will you take peace?
Ermin. Good-night; you must go in:
The door of life is shut upon me now;
I'm sepulchred alone. Look in the west;
Mark you the dusty, weary traveller,
That stumbles down the clouds?
Attend. I see the sun
Silently dying.
Ermin. Weep till your sight is found.—
I have been one that thought there was a sun,
A joyful heat-maker; and, like a child
By a brook's side spooning the sparkles out,
I caught at his reflection in my soul,
And found 'twas water painted with a lie,
Cold, bitter water; I have cried it out.
Sometimes you may see some one through the clouds
Stepping about the sky,—and then, in sooth,
He robs some mountain of its child, the day,
And lays it at the sea's door: but for that
I' the west, 'tis the fat, unwholesome star,
The bald fool-planet, that has men upon it,
And they nickname it 'world.'
And oh! this humpy bastard of the sun,
It was my slave, my dog, and in my lap
Laid down its load of pleasure every night,
And spun me sunshine to delight my eyes,—
Carried my cities, and did make me summer,
And flower-limbed spring, and groves with shady autumn:
But now the whelp rolls up his woody back,
And turns it on me, and so trundles down,
Leaving this bit of rock for me to live on,
And his round shadow to be cold in. Go!
Follow the rabble clinging at his heels,
Get thee a seat among his rags.—Dost know
That Momus picked a burnt-out comet up
From Vulcan's floor, and stuck a man upon it;
Then, having laught, he flung the wick away,
And let the insect feed on planet oil:—
What was't? Man and his ball.
Attend. O dearest lady!
Let not your thoughts find instruments of mirth
So on the shore where reason has been wrecked,
To lay them in your brain along with grief;
For grief and laughter, mingled in the skull,
Oft boil to madness. Did you hear my words?
Ermin. Ay, comfort was among them,—that's a play-thing
For girls, a rattle full of noisy lies
To fright away black thoughts, and let the sun
In on the breast. For madness, though I hold it
Kinder to man's enjoyment than true sense,
And I would choose it, if they lay before me,
Even as a grape beside an adder's tongue,
To squeeze into my thoughts as in a cup,
Hating the forked and the bitter truth,—
I cannot find it. If my brain were capable
Of this dear madness, should it not be now
All in a bubble with 't? What can make mad,
If not the abandonment of one, whose love
Is more true life than the veins' crimson sap?
Leonigild has cut my heart away,
And flung it from him: if I could be so,
Should I not be tempestuously mad?
Attend. Alas! his cruelty looked like a snake
Upon Medusa's temple.
Ermin. Had I been waked
By torchlight in my eyes, and by a voice
That said 'your babes are burning, stabbed your husband,—
Room on your bosom for their murderer's kisses!'
Why, that to this were tickling to a stab,
A pin-wound to an hell-jawed, laughing gash.
You saw me spurned by him who was—Oh! was!—
What was he? not a father, son or husband,—
Lend me a word.—
Attend. Indeed your love was much;
Your life but an inhabitant of his.
Ermin. Loved him! 'tis not enough; the angels might,—
They might think what I mean, but could not speak it.
I dreamt it was the day of judgment once,
And that my soul, in fear of hidden sins,
Went with his stolen body on its shoulders,
And stood for him before the judgment-seat:—
O that I now were damned as I was then!
But that same body, that same best-loved soul
Cursed, spurned me yesterday. Should I not rave,
Rave, my girl, rave?
Attend. So most women would,
So all would wonder that another did not.
Ermin. Why now, I rave not, laugh not, think not, care not;
But it is well; so far, I said, 'twas well.
Next was I not abandoned on the rock,
That I might starve? and then you know I prayed,
And when 'twas done, behold! there comes a boat,
Climbing about the waves; I thought and said,
O bless thee, ocean! hither dost thou come,
On the same errand as thy birds returning
Unto their hungry nest; thus has sweet nature
Sown kindness in thy great, and its small, bosom!
And, as I spoke, the waves came sporting on,
And laid their burthen, like a pillow, here:
Look! it's my brother dead. Should I not rave,
Rave, my girl, rave? What comet-dragon is there,
That makes the air bleed fire with galloping rage,
But should be dove-like in my simile?
Attend. Alas! such things,
Such sudden pluckings by the heart as these,
People the mad-house, and cram up the grave!
Ermin. Therefore I laugh: methinks, when I do tell it,
That I am supping up a draught of wine.
Would you know why there's death, and tears, and blood,
And wrenching hearts out by their shrieking roots,
Which are more tender than the mailed quick,
Or the wet eye-ball? I will tell you this,—
But O! be secret as rocks under sea,—
When the world draws the winter o'er his head,
Capping himself so whitely round his Alp,
Muffling his feet with ice, and beds him so;
Then underneath the coverlid and cloak
He has a poisonous strumpet in his arms,
On whom he gets confusion, war, disease,
Prodigies, earthquakes, blights: she's in his blood,
The hell-wombed witch, hagged and hideous nature!
But I'll unwind her.—Nay, I jest, my child:
Leave me; seek something—What is it we want?
O true! 'tis food: take this, and try the huts.
Attend. 'Tis needful truly: I'll procure it quick,
And turn the hour back I go upon.
A little then, good-bye. [Exit.
Ermin. Yes, I do see
The wronger, and will cut her from my heart,
Pare myself of her utterly. Thou nature,
Living or dead, thou influence or thou ruler,
I invocate the heaven to hear my charge.
Who tied my heart unto Leonigild
With gordian love-knots of its thousand strings,
Then tore them all away to bleed and wither?
Was it not nature?
Who quickened next that heart a lovely babe,
And when its little smile had learnt its mother,
When thought was rising in its heavenly eye,
Bade the grave jump and snap it? The same nature.
Here lies a brother in my dead embrace,
Loved after, as before, his human life;
For in each other's unborn arms we lay,
Bedfellows in our mother. Who poisoned him,
Alone among the horrible sea-waves,
And then—O murderess above fratricide,
To kill the sister with the brother's corpse!—
Sent him a gift to me? Again 'twas nature.
I had a husband; nature widowed me:—
A child; she kidnapped it to earth a tree:—
A brother; him she murdered with her waves:—
Me she would madden:—therefore I defy,
Curse, and abandon Nature henceforth ever.
And, though I cannot creep up to my mother,
Or flow back to my father's veins again,—
Resex or uncreate me; this much can I:
I will spunge out the sweetness of my heart,
And suck up horror; woman's thoughts I'll kill,
And leave their bodies rotting in my mind,
Hoping their worms will sting; although not man,
Yet will I out of hate engender much,—
I'll be the father of a world of ghosts,
And get the grave with a carcase. For the rest,
I will encorpse me in my brother's garments,
Pick me a heart out of a devil's side,
And so, my own creator, my own child,
Tread on the womb of nature, unbegotten.
Now then, ye waves, I step on you again,
And into my new self, my life outlived:
Come back and kneel, thou world; submit thy side,
And take me on thy neck again, new-made,
Fiend-hearted, woman-corpsed, but man-arrayed.

II.

Erminia. Is it Zenobio?
Zenobio. Aye, that's my body's name, for my dear soul
Is not so called: when you would speak of that,
Which is myself more than the thing you see,
Only say 'Ermina.'—And what readeth she,
Who called Zenobio?
Erminia. An unhappy tale
Of two who loved, with so unusual faith,
That their affection rose up into heaven
And there was deified: (for the blind child,
Whom men of this late world invoke and swear by,
Is the usurper of that first love's name
Indeed an idol, a false deity:)
—A pedant's dream!
Zenobio. We know it to be so.
For not externally this love can live,
But in the soul, as life within the body;
And what is Love alone? Are there not two?
—But, dearest, you were telling—
Erminia. Of this pair:
One from the beauty and the grace of youth,
One, innocent and youthful, perished.
The other,—what could she, O widowed thing!
With but a pale and fading memory
Left in the hollow of her heart?
Zenobio. What could she?
But let her deathly life pass into death,
Like music on the night-wind; moaning, moaning,
Until it sleeps.
Erminia. Worse, worse, much worse than that,
Or aught else of despair or common madness.
Cheerfully did she live, quietly end
A joyous age alone! This is to me
More woeful, and more murderous of hope,
Than any desperate story.
Zenobio. So it would be,
If thought on with the general sense of man.
But know this surely: in that woman's breast
Lived the two souls, that were before divided.
For otherwise, be sure she could not live;
But so, much happier than ever.

III.

Philomela. Out of the gusts of sorrow, cushion the thorns
Of pain with blossoms; and from tears distil
Sedate delight. He would not spell the stars,
But, turning inward, with his heart debate
The mystery of his actions, and to Destiny
Dictate her motions. This has misery taught me—

Enter IPPOLITO.

Welcome at last! You have been dilatory;
Was it in meditation? Have you weighed
Our last discourse? If thou had'st rather leave me,
If thou had'st rather give up my poor love,
Fear not to say so.
Ipp. Thou dost wrong my heart;
You know my soul is in thy life. Is this
Caprice? Is it the cunning of a woman
Still doubting and scarce wishing to believe
Her lover's protestations? Or the hope
That the first treachery should be mine?
Phil. This hour
Is for great deeds, our genius is awaiting
The last decision. Do not trifle then,
It is unkind. How is thy soul resolved?
Ipp. How? I have said already. 'Tis my choice
To fly with thee; thou art my only life.
Phil. Thine only life! Ippolito, look up:
Who is above us? He, whose word forbids
The meditated crime; He, who will punish
Its perpetrator.
Ipp. None of that! You cannot,
You cannot by your direst arguments,
Decrease my love,—thou mayst embitter it.
What need of talking? Love and confidence
Know not the tongue. Come let us haste away.
Phil. Must we go then? Alas! I hoped indeed
The silence and the settling of thy spirits
Might teach thee truer wishes.
Ipp. Let us go,
If Philomela really loves me.
Phil. Well, be it so! and heaven with mercy pardon
The last sad effort of a wretched girl.
But turn, oh turn again! Look on the fate
That follows our retreat; disgrace and fear,
Remorse, despair and death without God's help.
Ipp. Delay no more—there is one antidote
For every earthly ill, enduring love;
And if we sin, we sin and fall together.
Come, come!—away with fear; we must be happy.
Phil. We will then. Yes! we travel to some home
Where never tear bedewed the blooming weed,
Where never sigh stole sorrowing thro' the air,
Some magic bower of love and harmony.
Ipp. Haste we! then haste!
Phil. 'Tis but a moment's journey,
Our sure conveyance here! [Produces two goblets.
Ipp. Ha! what is this?
Phil. The bower I spoke of is in Paradise,
The love I thought of is a heavenly love.
If thou wilt share it, drink.
Ipp. Hold! is it poison?
Phil. 'Tis life! so pledge me. To our loves! Now then
My journey is begun. [Drinks the poison.
Ipp. I follow thee. [Drinks out of his cup.
Alas! what have we done! oh, Philomela,
What wickedness is this?
Phil. 'Tis the best crime
Our misery allowed us. But be hopeful yet;
Thou art no suicide; I murdered thee,
God knows it and is just. I claim the torture.
Ipp. Too cruel girl. Wilt thou upon my death-bed
Drive me away from thee? rob me of the right
Of suffering with thee? It had then been better
That we had lived.
Phil. No! then thou had'st been punished,
Thou had'st been wrecked then! Now I have saved thee;
Go into bliss and never be thy breast
Afflicted even with my memory.
Ipp. Oh! I am faint. Ah! must I leave you here?
My love, come near me. Art thou following?
Phil. Alas! 'tis all my sorrow that I cannot.
I am thy murderess and my own.
Ipp. Oh God!
Do not thou hear her. I am the sole author
Of all this misery; 'twas my fatal passion.
Visit it all on me. [Falls.
Phil. 'Tis I, 'tis I.
His eyes are closed; my love! He hears me not,
But looks as if he loved. Now I shall see him
No more. Oh! hell is made of those two words.
Speak to me; kiss me; look on me! 'Tis done.

Enter ALMARIA, MONTONI, and URSULI.

Alm. There is one triumph! Now, my father, sleep!
Thine anger is appeased. They die most bravely.
Phil. Who speaks? who's there?
Alm. O God! what's this? My child,
Thy voice is changed.
Phil. It still can bless my mother.
The blow is come at last. Forgive me then,
I know I lived too long; thou hast not loved me
Lately so well,—but love me now I die.
Alm. Then, do ye hear or see? Why stand ye there,
With your cold gazing eyes? Away! ye'll kill her;
She's mine, and thine, thou wretch. Will ye permit it?
'Tis murder, murder!
Urs. Help is all too late,
We can but weep.
Alm. You weep? What right have you?
No one shall weep but I. Child, speak to me!
Mont. They are both dead, and God has suffered it.
Phil. Not yet, but I am near it; he but sleeps,
His was a harmless draught. When he awakes
Tell him I charge him love and pray for me.
And now, my mother—
[Raises herself to embrace her mother, falls back and dies.
Alm. Save her! hold her up!
Oh mercy, mercy!
Urs. Her soul is not here.
Alm. Devil, thou liest! Thou hast destroyed my daughter.
Think of it on thy death-bed! Philomela!
Awake! awake! don't die, thy mother bids thee!
She breathes,—yes, yes, she breathes! She will grow better.
Mont. My lovely daughter, heaven receive with mercy
Thy spotless spirit.
Alm. Well, then, she is dead!
This is thy work. Thou knew'st I was a woman,
Weak, passionate and foolish, so you bent me
To your curst purpose. Devil, haunt me not!
Go now, you've seen enough. Now then, my daughter,
We will lie down, and never will I rise
From thy dear side, nor ever speak again.
Urs. Montoni, speak! Why are thy looks so fixed?
Mont. I ask not comfort, heaven, but spare my reason!

Falls into the arms of URSULI. Curtain falls.

IV.

SCENE: the abyss of Space: AMBROSIUS and CYNTHIA in the car, returning
to the earth. AMBROSIUS loquitur.

O WHAT a deep delight it is to cleave,
Out-darting thought, above all sight and sound,
And sweep the ceiling of the universe,
Thus with our locks! How it does mad the heart,
How dances it along the living veins,
Like hot and steaming wine! How my eyes ache
With gazing on this mighty vacancy!
O Universe of earth and air and ocean,
Which man calls infinite, where art thou now?
Sooner a babe should pierce the marble ear
Of death, and startle his tombed ancestor,
'Mid Hell's thick laughter, shrieks, and flamy noises,
With cradle-pulings, than the gathered voice
Of every thunder, ocean, and wild blast,
Find thee, thou atom, in this wilderness!
This boundless emptiness, this waveless sea
This desert of vacuity, alone
Is great: and thou, for whom the word was made,
Art as the wren's small goblet of a home
Unto the holy vastness of the temple!

. . . . . . .

V.
WHY, Rome was naked once, a bastard smudge
Tumbled on straw, the denfellow of whelps,
Fattened on roots, and, when a-thirst for milk,
He crept beneath and drank the swagging udder
Of Tiber's brave she-wolf; and Heaven's Judea
Was folded in a pannier.




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