BETA

Lucretius.

Lucilla, welded to Lucretius, found1
Her master cold ; for when the morning flush2
Of passion and the first embrace had died3
Between them, tho’ he loved her none the less,4
Yet ofen when the woman heard his foot5
Return from pacings in the field, and ran6
To greet him with a kiss, the master took7
Small notice, or austerely, for—his mind8
Half buried in some weightier argument,9
Or fancy-borne perhaps upon the rise10
And long roll of the Hexameter—he past11
To turn and ponder those three hundred scrolls12
Left by the Teacher whom he held divine.13
She brook’d it not ; but wrathful, petulant,14
Dreaming some rival, sought and found a witch15
Who brew’d the philtre which had power, they said,16
To lead an errant passion home again.17
And this, at times, she mingled with his drink,18
And this destroy’d him ; for the wicked broth19
Confused the chemic labour of the blood,20
And tickling the brute brain within the man’s21
Made havock among those tender cells, and cheek’d22
His power to shape ; he loath’d himself ; and once23
After a tempest woke upon a morn24
That mock’d him with returning calm and cried,25
Storm in the night ! for thrice I heard the rain26
Rushing ; and once the flash of a thunderbolt—27
Methought I never saw so fierce a fork—28
Struck out the streaming mountain-side, and show’d29
A riotous confluence of watercourses30
Blanching and billowing in a hallow of it,31
Where all but yester-eve was dusty-dry.32
Storm, and what dreams, ye holy Gods, what dreams !33
For thrice I waken’d after dreams. Perchance34
We do but recollect the dreams that come35
Just ere the waking : terrible ! for it seem’d36
A void was made in Nature ; all her bonds37
Crack’d ; and I saw the flaring atom-streams38
And torrents of her myriad universe,39
Ruining along the illimitable inane,40
Fly on to clash together again, and make41
Another and another frame of things42
For ever : that was mine, my dream, I knew it—43
Of and belonging to me, as the dog44
With inward yelp and restless forefoot plies45
His function of the woodland : but the next !46
I thought that all the blood by Sylla shed47
Came driving rainlike down again on earth,48
And where it dash’d the reddening meadow, sprang49
No dragon warriors from Cadmean teeth,50
For these I thought my dream would show to me,51
But girls, Hetairai, curious in their art,52
Hired animalisms, vile as those that made53
The mulberry-faced Dictator’s orgies worse54
Than aught they fable of the quiet Gods.55
And hands they mixt, and yell’d and round me drove56
In narrowing circles till I yell’d again57
Half-surrocated, and sprang up, and saw—58
Was it the first beam of my latest day ?59
Then, then, from utter gloom stood out the breasts,60
The breasts of Helen, and hoveringly a sword61
Now over and now under, now direct,62
Pointed itself to pierce, but sank down shamed63
At all that beauty ; and as I stared, a fire,64
The fire that left a roofless Ilion,65
Shot out of them, and scorch’d me that I woke.66
Is this thy vengeance, holy Venus, thine,67
Because I would not one of thine own doves,68
Not ev’n a rose, were offer’d to thee ? thine,69
Forgetful how my rich procœmion makes70
Thy glory fly along the Italian field,71
In lays that will outlast thy Diety ?72
Diety ? nay, thy worshippers. My tongue73
Trips, or I speak profanely. Which of these74
Angers thee most, or angers thee at all ?75
Not if thou be’st of those who far aloof76
From eny, hate and pity, and spite and scorn,77
Live the great life which all our greatest fain78
Would follow, center’d in eternal calm.79
Nay, if thou can’st, O Goddess, like ourselves80
Touch, and be touch’d, then would I cry to thee81
To kiss thy Mavors, roll thy tender arms82
Round him, and keep him from the lust of blood83
That makes a steaming slaughter-house of Rome.84
Ay, I meant not thee ; I meant not her,85
Whom all he pines of Ida shook to see86
Slide from that quiet heaven of hers, and tempt87
The trojan, while his neat-herds were abroad ;88
Nor her that o’er her wounded hunter wept89
Her Diety false in human-amorous tears ;90
Nor whom her beardles apple-arbiter91
Decided fairest. Rather, O ye Gods,92
Poet-like, as the great Sicilian called93
Calliope to grace his golden verse—94
Ay, and this Kypris also—did I take95
That popular name of thine to shadow forth96
The all-generating powers and genial heat97
Of Nature, when she strikes through the thick blood98
Of cattle, and light is large and lambs are glad99
Nosing the mother’s udder, and the bird100
Makes his heart voice amid the blaze of flowers :101
Which things appear the work of mighty Gods.102
The Gods ! and if I go my work is left103
Unfinish’d—if I go. The Gods, who haunt104
The lucid interspace of world and world,105
Where never creeps a cloud, or moves a wind,106
Nor ever falls the least white star of snow,107
Nor ever lowest roll of thunder moans,108
Nor sound of human sorow mounts to mar109
Their sacred everlasting calm ! and such,110
Not all so fine, nor so divine a calm,111
Not such, nor all unlike it, man may gain112
Letting his own life go. The Gods, the Gods !113
If all be atoms, how then should the Gods114
Being atomic not be dissoluble,115
Not follow the great law ?  My master held116
That Gods there are, for all men so believe.117
I prest my footsteps into his, and meant118
Surely to lead my Memmius in a train119
Of flowery clauses onward to the proof120
That Gods there are, and deathless. Meant ?  I meant ?121
I have forgotten what I meant : my mind122
Stumbles, and all my faculties are lamed.123
Look where another of our Gods, the Sun,124
Apollo, Delius, or of older use125
All-seeing Hyperion—what you will—126
Has mounted yonder ; since he never sware,127
Except his wrath were weak’d on wretched man,128
That he would only shine among the dead129
Hereafter ; tales ! for never yet on earth130
Could dead flesh creep, or bits of roasting ox131
Moan round the spit—nor knows he what he sees ;132
King of the East altho’ he seem, and grit133
With song and flame and fragrance, slowly lifts134
His golden feet on those empurpled stairs135
That climb into the windy halls of heaven :136
And here he glances on an eye new-born,137
And gets for greeting but a wail of pain ;138
And here he stays upon a freezing orb139
That fain would gaze upon him to the last :140
And here upon a yellow eyelid fall’n141
And closed by those who mourn a friend in vain,142
Not thankful that his trouble are no more.143
And me, altho’ his fire is on my face144
Blinding, he sees not, nor at all can tell145
Whether I mean this day to end myself,146
Or lend an ear to Plato where he says,147
That men like soldiers may not quit the post148
Allotted by the Gods : but he that holds149
That Gods are careless, wherefore need he care150
Greatly for them, nor rather plunge at once,151
Being troubled, wholly out of sight, and sink152
Past earthquake—ay, and gout and stone, that break153
Body toward death, and palsy, death-in-life,154
And wretched age—and worst disease of all,155
These prodigies of myriad nakedness,156
And twisted shapes of lust, unspeakable,157
Abominable, strangers at my hearth158
Not welcome, harpies miring every dish,159
The phantom husks of something foully done,160
And fleeting thro’ the boundless universe,161
And blasting the long quiet of my breast162
With animal heat and dire insanity.163
How should the mind, except it loved them, clasp164
These idols to herself ? or do they fly165
Now thinner, and now thicker, like the flakes166
In a fall of snow, and so press in, perforce167
Of multitude, as crowds that in an hour168
Of civic tumult jam the doors, and bear169
The keepers down, and throng, their rags and they,170
The baset, far into that council-hall171
Where sit the best and stateliest of the land ?172
Can I not fling this horror off me again,173
Seeing with how great ease Nature can smile,174
Balmier and nobler from her bath of storm,175
At random ravage ? and how easily176
The mountain there has cast his cloudy slough,177
Now towering o’er him in serenest air,178
A mountain o’er a mountain, ay, and within179
All hollow as the hopes and fears of men.180
But who was he, that in the garden snared181
Picus and Faunus, rustic Gods ? a tale182
To laugh at—more to laugh at in myself—183
For look ! what is it ? there ? yon arbutus184
Totters ; a noiseless riot underneath185
Strikes through the wood, sets all the tops quivering—186
The mountain quickens into Nymph and Faun ;187
And here an Oread, and this way she runs188
Before the rest—A satyr, a satyr, see—189
Follows ; but him I proved impossible190
Twy-natured is no nature : yet he draws191
Nearer and nearer, and I scan him now192
Beastlier than any phantom of his kind193
That ever butted his rough brother-brute194
For lust or lusty blood or provender :195
I hate, abhor, spit, sicken at him ; and she196
Loathes him as well ; such a precipatate heel,197
Fledged as it were with Mercury’s ankle-wing,198
Whirls her to me : but will she fling herself,199
Shameless upon me ?  Catch her, goatfoot : nay,200
Hide, hide them, million-myrtled wilderness,201
And cavern-shadowing laurels, hide ! do I wish—202
What ?— that the bush were leafless ? or to whelm203
All of them in one massacre ?  O ye Gods,204
I know you careless, yet, behold, to you205
From childly wont and ancient use I call—206
I thought I lived securely as yourselves—207
No lewdness, narrowing envy, monkey-spite,208
No madness of ambition, avarice, none :209
No larger feast than under plane or pine210
With neighbours laid along the grass, to take211
Only such cups as left us friendly-warm,212
Affirming each his own philosophy—213
Nothing to mar the sober majesties214
Of settled, sweet, Epicurean life.215
But now it seems some unseen monster lays216
His vast and filthy hands upon my will,217
Wrenching it backward into his ; and spoils218
My bliss in being ; and it was not great ;219
For save when shutting reasons up in rhythm,220
Or Heliconian honey in living words,221
To make a truth less harsh, I often grew222
Tired of so much within our little life,223
Or of so much within our little life—224
Poor little life that toddles half an hour225
Crown’d with a flower or two, and there an end—226
And since the nobler pleasure seems to fade,227
Why should I, beastlike as I find myself,228
Not manlike end myself ?— our privilege—229
What beast has heart to do it ?  And what man,230
What Roman would be dragg’d in triumph thus ?231
Not I ; not he, who bears one name with her,232
Whose death-blow struck the dateless doom of kings,233
When brooking not the Tarquin in her veins,234
She made her blood in sight of Collatine235
And all his peers, flushing the guiltless air,236
Spout from the maiden fountain in her heart.237
And from it sprang the Commonwealth, which breaks238
As I am breaking now !239
And therefore now240
Let her, that is the womb and tomb of all,241
Great Nature, take, and forcing far apart242
Those blind beginnings that have made me man243
Dash them anew together at her will244
Through all her cycles—into man once more,245
Or beast or bird or fish, or opulent flower—246
But till this cosmic order everywhere247
Shatter’d into one earthquake in one day248
Cracks all to pieces,—and that hour perhaps249
Is not so far when momentary man250
Shall seem no more a something to himself,251
But he, his hopes and hates, his homes and fanes,252
And even his bones long laid within the grave,253
The very sides of the grave itself shall pass,254
Vanishing, atom and void, atom and void,255
Into the unseen for ever,—till that hour,256
My golden work in which I told a truth257
That stays the rolling Ixionian wheel,258
And numbs the Fury’s ringlet-snake, and plucks259
The mortal soul from out immortal hell,260
Shall stand : ay, surely : then it fails at last261
And perishes as I must ; for O Thou,262
Passionless bride, divine Tranquillity,263
Yearn’d after by the wisest of the wise,264
Who fail to find thee, bring as thou art265
Without one pleasure and without one pain,266
Howbeit I know thou surely must be mine267
Or soon or late, yet out of season, thus268
I woo thee roughly, for thou carest not269
How roughly men may woo thee so they win—270
Thus—thus : the soul flies out and dies in the air.”271
With that he drove the knife into his side :272
She heard him raging, heard him fall ; ran in,273
Beat breast, tore hair, cried out upon herself274
As having fail’d in duty to him, shriek’d275
That she but meant to win him back, fell on him,276
Clasp’d, kiss’d him, wail’d : he answer’d, “ Care not thou !277
What matters ?  All is over : Fare thee well ! ”278