I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town –
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down –
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig –
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!
Written late 1858, in Fascicle 2 – the first of three poems to have a title!
This is so sweet, so joyous – the innocence with which nature elicits joy.
Prig – a self-righteously moralistic person who behaves as if they are superior to others.
Through lane it lay – thro’ bramble –
Through clearing and thro’ wood –
Banditti often paassed us
Opon the lonely road.
The wolf came peering curious –
The Owl looked puzzled down –
The serpent’s satin figure
Glid stealthily along,
The tempests touched our garments –
The lightning’s poinards gleamed –
Fierce from the Crag above us
The hungry Vulture screamed –
The Satyrs fingers beckoned –
The Valley murmured “Come” – These were the mates – This was the road
These Children fluttered home.
Written late 1858 and copied into Fascicle 2.
This reminds me of another book I’ve been chewing on – The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Path is not easy, but it is beautiful, Light filled, and ultimately worthwhile; redemptive and sure. Life is filled with trials, but the joy is that much sweeter for them.
Banditti – plural of bandit! I never knew.
Poinards [or poniards] – daggers.
Satyrs – mythological creatures associated with Dionysius, i.e. constantly drunk and roaming the forest in search of a good time.
I read this as an encouragement. Yes, she’s acknowledging the trials that come in life, but it still ends with the children fluttering home. Fluttering. Lightly, sweetly, ease-fully. Let’s flutter.
There is a word
Which bears a sword
Can pierce an armed man –
It hurls it’s barbed syllables
And is mute again –
But where it fell
The saved will tell
On patriotic day,
Some epauletted Brother
Gave his breath away.
Wherever runs ts the breathless sun –
Wherever roams the day,
There is it’s noiseless onset –
There is it’s victory!
Behold the keenest marksman!
The most accomplished shot!
Time’s sublimest target
Is a soul “forgot”!
Written late 1858, bound into Fascicle 2.
Damn. She winds this up so well and packs that punch at the end. At first you think it could be joyful, maybe it’s not bad – the terms victory and all those exclamation marks had me starting to smile as I read it. But then, then she pulls it all out from under you. To be forgotten. Is this really the worst possible thing? Whether you agree with her or not, this begs the question: forgotten by whom? Loved ones? Future generations? God? Hmm.
I never told the buried gold
Opon the hill that lies –
I saw the sun, his plunder done –
Crouch low to guard his prize –
He stood as near
As stood you here –
A pace had been between –
Did but a snake bisect the brake
My life had forfeit been.
That was a wondrous booty.
I hope ’twas honest gained –
Those were the fairest ingots
That ever kissed the spade.
Whether to keep the secret –
Whether to reveal –
Whether while I ponder
Kidd may sudden sail –
Could a shrewd advise me
We might e’en divide –
Should a shrewd betray me –
“Atropos” decide –
Atropos – Greek: without turn. One of the three Fates – goddesses of destiny. The oldest of the three, Atropos was known to be inflexible. She chooses the mechanism of death and snips the thread of life with her “abhorred shears.”
Written autumn 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3. This one seems light and airy at first, but wow. I read it aloud last night and am writing it out today, and it has grown to be a meditation on childhood and adulthood, on the fracturing that can happen to our joy, on the trauma that can intrude on our lives and steal away our treasure. Damn, girl! I love this. I hope you do, too.
By Chivalries as tiny,
A Blossom, or a Book,
The seeds of smiles are planted –
Which blossom in the dark.
Written in the fall of 1858 and bound into Fascicle 3. I copied this one down and had it hanging it my apartment for a while – it’s a sweet bit of encouragement to be kind. An affirmation that the slightest action does make a difference, even if it doesn’t seem to in the moment. A reminder that people remember how you make them feel over what your wearing or how your hair looks.
As Annie sang in the musical I watched as a kid – “You’re never fully dressed without a smile!”