Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, JACOPO RUFFINI; GENOA, 1833, by HARRIET ELEANOR HAMILTON (BAILLE) KING



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JACOPO RUFFINI; GENOA, 1833, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We are betrayed and lost; and I am bound
Last Line: God hid his face, but held him by the hand.
Alternate Author Name(s): Hamilton-king, Harriet Eleanor
Subject(s): Italy - Revolutions; Ruffini, Jacobo (1805-1833)


WE are betrayed and lost; and I am bound
In the tower of Genoa, this hour that should sound
The tocsin of our call, 'Awake! arise,
Young Italy! Thy time is come! The skies
Shine towards the dawn!' Our dream was vain, was vain;
Darkness hath settled on the land again;
The shadow of the midnight gathereth
Once more, and all is sleeping. It is death
To speak the very name of Italy
To this Italian people: therefore we
Die. That is little: we have more to save:—
To us, the young, the desolate, God gave,
Through him whom first of all He did inspire,
A charge to keep through blood, through death, through fire;
Though flesh should faint, though hearts should break and bleed,
To bear unhurt and whole the sacred seed,
Young Italy, the unborn child of God,
Through perilous ways of wilderness untrod,
Until the day of her deliverance.
So help me God, as I inviolate
Have borne it still through good and evil chance.
And yet another life, more fair, more great
In issues, and in grace of God, than mine,
O friend, who madest my life sweet with thine,
I have in hold to save or to betray,
Now in this last extremity at bay.
I hold it still, the secret yet is mine:—
How long? Each slow hour helps to undermine
The ivory tower, the fortress of the brain.
O Italy! thou canst not rise again
If now thy firstlings fail thee! And I fail.
Help me, O God, or now they will prevail!

Because the deadly drops of atropine
Are mixed into the water and the wine,
So subtly that the treacherous poison draught
Loosens the bonds of will, and being quaffed,
Works through the nerve and brain, so that the sens
To outward pressure grows the more intense,
While the higher energy, the nobler pain,
Is dulled and weakened, and the slackened strain
Of human struggle leaves us but the prey
Of passing ease, and instincts of the day.
I have to die to-day, lest I should live
To see my friend look on me, and forgive
Me for betraying him. No, let me meet
God's own face rather, at His judgment seat,
And say: 'When faith no more was left alive
In all the world, I and my friend did strive
Against the world for Thy faith's sake, O Lord,
And raised Thy banner; and for this the sword
Of kings strikes down among us, and the curse
Of priests cleaves to us in our daily ways,
And fate of exile falls on us, or worse
Fate of the prison in the flower of days:
Out of their judgment, Lord, I come to Thine—
Out of their tyranny to Thine award.
All joy, all hope of earth did we resign
Long since to follow Thee; but now more hard
Must be the sacrifice, mine for my friend,
Denial of that one last trust in Thee,
That we might both endure unto the end—
Grant it to him e'en yet, if not to me!'

Can I do nothing more for thee, my friend,
Whom I have loved so? Can I only end
By not betraying thee? Take what I give,
And hold it sacred as a token sent
Of our two spirits' deathless sacrament,
This dying for thee when I could not live.
I do not fear thy scorn, but I do tear
Thy sorrow. O, my brother, take this cheer
With thee upon the glorious way thou goest,—
The dark and lonely way for thee who showest
The lamp for those that follow;—but for thee,
What light but of the stars?—This doom for me
Is not so bitter, rather sweetness grows,
Thinking of thee, out of this early close;
And peace is with me; and without regret
My face unto the sunset skies is set.
I could not give thee more, I cannot less,
Than my whole life, even in fruitlessness.

O Giuseppe, this shall be my flower,
That I died first for thee! No other soul
Shall come before me to that unlit goal,
Or take pre-eminence of me of this hour!
And this shall be my crown through all the days
Hereafter, when men speak of thee thy due,
And speak thy name, they will speak my name too,
And say, 'Mazzini loved him;' nay, their praise
Shall yet reach higher, saying all the truth,
'Better than all the world besides, in youth,
Mazzini loved him.' That remembrance holds
My name in lustre of thy name, and folds
My spirit in a happy mist of sleep;
And not for ever lonely I lie down;
For me too in their hearts shall all men keep
For thy sake,—so shall I have love for crown.

I know not if God loveth me at all,
For He hath sent no answer to my call
When I have prayed, 'Let me but see Thy face
And suffer!' but I suffered without grace
Of such revealing; and I prayed again,
'Let me but keep pure, without sear or stain
Of conscience!' and my prayer so far availed
That not for lust of youth or life I failed.
But having won so far, there comes an hour
When a pure will avails not, and the power
Is given to them who would not only kill
The body shamefully, but bend the will
By hellish arts to baseness, and would say,
'Defiled for ever pass upon thy way,
Soul that God could not save!' Thou dost not save
Me, God, nor care to keep the heart I gave
To Thee, and which is Thine for evermore;
All doors are shut to Thee, except one door
Of death, and if through that I flee to Thee,
Thou knowest not from any fear of man,
From any furnace of his cruelty,
Where still Thy angels' holy wings might fan,
I come,—but from the clasping hands of sin,
That on the vesture of the flesh have wrought
Through poison, till the very blood is brought
To be a traitor to the heart within.

'If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out;
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off;'
And if thy life offend thee, do not doubt
That God requires that also. Loose and doff
The spotted garment from thee—whatsoe'er
Come after:—I have not quite known despair
While I have life to give for sacrifice:
Accept it, Lord; give me his life for price.
This life we every one of us receive
Out of Thy hands for trust, we may not leave
Without Thy summons, nor should any plea
Of force or danger be excuse to Thee.
To violence, to torture, and to death,
To smiling eyes and pressure of soft hands,
Man's spirit still unconquered answereth,
With faith for shield, while still his reason stands.
And if for these I should forsake my post,
Then spare me not Thy judgments uttermost.
But this new, subtle stealing of the brain,
What answer have I to it but to take
Presumptuously Thy angel's sword, and make
Mine own hand sin against myself: and when
No choice is left but this dark choice to-day,
'Thine own self or thy brother thou must slay
And sin against,' then I can only choose
Myself to perish; and though never prayer
Of mine before might pierce Thy heavens of steel,
My love and my despair be my excuse
With Thee, O God, to Whom I make appeal,
Now that myself to Thee my cause I bear.

Is it the poison working in my brain,
That I as in a vision see things plain
Before me? all the centuries afar,
With thy face, Giuseppe, for their star,
Grow radiant; and the life now bought with mine,
Hereafter for the Light of Nations shine,
For the world's wonder, for its tears and praise,
For the world's Angel in its later days.
And Italy, thy Mother, with the crown
Glorious upon her, at thy feet bows down,
And bathes them with her tears, the Queen that thou
Knewest in vision, and that knows thee now;
'O Loved too late, look on me reconciled!
I am no more thy Mother, but thy Child.'
And with the resurrection in her eyes,
The Rome of the Republic shall arise
As thou hast dreamed her, and stretch forth her hand
As to a Bridegroom, and her stature stand
Above the world for worship, and no more
Shall darkness cover her true name, Amor.
And Genoa, the place where I was born,
Shall lift her head out of a dream at morn,
And proudest of all cities wake and stir,
Because another, too, was born in her.
And all bright faces of heroic men
Beholding thy face, not the young face then,
Burn brighter in their gazing towards it, thus
Signing in silence: 'Thou art first of us.'
And queenly women, golden-haired and tall,
Bend towards thee, and the brows imperial
Of poets wait upon thee, and rejoice
To listen for the echo of thy voice. ...

But then midst all the lovely hands and eyes
Held forth to thine, and seeking thy replies,
Amongst them, Giuseppe, keep a place
Within thy heart, the holy, for my face;
My face that now for thee grows white with death,
And through the dark thy face remembereth.
They will not love thee more than I do now,
Though many follow where I went before.
When all the world has changed to thee, and thou
Art known of men, remember then that I
In my first youth was first for thee to die,
And love me, Giuseppe, evermore.

O, Giuseppe, let now thy heart rise
To its own sorrow's height! This sacrifice
Make it thy own, my brother! Rise and bring
The first fruits of thy soul, an offering
Upon the altar of thine Italy.
Do this first violence to thy heart for me,
To live without me. Thou hast many a woe
To suffer, and a longer way to go,
And harder work than mine; but through thy life,
Through all its anguish, all its storms of strife,
Through bitter travail in the slow sore birth
Of a new-linked Humanity on earth,
Through exile and through prison; and the pain
Of hope again defeated and again;
Through the steep wilderness, up whose long heat
Unsheltered, still will pass the bleeding feet
Unswerving; through the visions crowned too late
Of the unrecognised Apostolate;
Through lonely days and nights, and evil fame;
Through that dread fire awaiting thee—to see
Thy best and dearest pass to death for thee,
And with thy own hand, in the altar-flame
To lay thy lambs, O shepherd, and to be
Of thy beloved forsaken and betrayed
At the pale pass of thy extremity;—
Through all thy brethren's sins upon thee laid;
And through that darkest and most awful hour
When doubt of God springs on thee, to deflower
The soul it cannot vanquish, and thy prayer
Hangs on the verge of bottomless despair:—
Then, when thou sinkest, mayst thou know at last
An arm invisible about thee cast,
Another voice in a serener air
Unfaltering hold the pauses of thy prayer,
And on thy fainting forehead like the breath
Of rainy winds to prisoners parched to death,
The sudden rapture of an angel's kiss;
And thy faith be renewed to thee by this,
Invincible, undying; and thy heart
Will tell thee, Giuseppe, it is I;
And not in vain shall I so soon depart,
If God but grant me ministry so high—
To be thy angel in the future years,
And reach a hand to thee from other spheres.

I will wait for thee—I will fill the days
Until thy coming with the love that stays
Last of all earthly things by me, and takes
My hand through these dark waterfloods, and makes
Death lovely for thy sake—the love that showed
First the true stars of heaven to light the road,
And make it straight unto eternity,
With aim of all Progressive Life to Thee,
O Father, O Divine, Whom, darkened so
By priests and tyrannies, we could not know
Until that pure hand woke us, with the stroke
Of Thy great message, and the morning broke
Upon the mouldering slumber of the world
That had forgotten Thee, and the keen rays hurled
Terror and clamour down the ways of hell,
Where men lay lost and dreaming all was well;
And the old Word again spake trumpet-clear,
'Lo, I am with you always, even here
To the world's end;' until the creeds of Christ,
That have been like their Master sacrificed,
In simple splendour light the land of dawn,
And the day cometh!

But to me, withdrawn,
By this hour's agony, from ways of men,
It will not come on earth. Yet even then
I while thou prayest will join prayer with thee
To Him Who first to thee the vision sent,
That He may hasten the accomplishment
Of the prefigured Life of Italy.

But if—it is so early—if the gleam
Be starlight and not sunlight; if the dream
Be for another cycle; if long years
Of darkness, and of sorrow, and of tears,
Must yet pass over her before the ways
Of God be shown to her in later days;—
Then for the love's sake we must ever bear
Unto each other, I will urge my prayer
The higher, my brother, for thy bitter need,
That thou unstained mayst keep thy soul indeed,
That for no bitterness of hope betrayed,
For no impatience of the furnace made
Sevenfold the hotter for the perfect proof
Whereby thy spirit to its height is wrought,
Thou shouldst let go thy faith, or stand aloof
From witnessing to that eternal thought—
God in all Life, and all Humanity
Interpreter progressive of His Law:—
That so once more that glory that we saw
May clasp us both to immortality.

Ah, Mother of mine, so beautiful! Thy son
Should have been worthier of thee, and have done
Somewhat to make thy name a star to men,
And given thee back some perfect hour again.
O first, O last, with whom I could not part!
And shall not now, because I know thou art
Not far off from the gates of Paradise:—
I have known heaven through thee, not otherwise:
For when, a child, first of the saints I heard,
I understood of them from sense of thee,
And each one had thy face and hands, and stirred
My heart to worship through thy purity;
But none so tender.—This at least is thine,
Thy child hast thou kept all these painful years,
Nursed in the patience of a love divine,
Pure by thy kisses, faithful by thy tears.
O sweet, O sorrowful, who didst not spare
Thy loving life in ministry to such
As have but paid thee with pain overmuch;
Who lying in God's arms hast learned to bear
The slow sad hours with smiles, and set thy face
Still as an angel's to the bitter grace
Of the sharp strokes wherewith He chasteneth
His best-beloved;—Love is strong as death;
And no farewell we need to take, for thou
And I shall not be parted long:—but now,
O Giuseppe, would that thou wert near!
I am speaking to thee, and thou dost not hear!
And out of heaven God sends no help to me.
O friend, O friend! of this our agony
Will any in the days hereafter say?—
'He passed alone the untrodden awful way;
He understood not, but we understand—
GOD hid His face, but held him by the hand.





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