Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

Amours De Voyage.

Arthur Hugh Clough


Yet to the wondrous St. Peter’s, and yet to the solemn Rotonda,
    Mingling with heroes and gods, yet to the Vatican Walls,
Yet may we go, and recline, while a whole mighty world seems above us,
    Gathered and fixed to all time into one roofing supreme;
Yet may we, thinking on these things, exclude what is meaner around us;
    Yet, at the worst of the worst, books and a chamber remain;
Yet may we think, and forget, and possess our souls in resistance.—
    Ah, but away from the stir, shouting, and gossip of war,
Where, upon Apennine slope, with the chestnut the oak-trees immingle,
    Where, amid odorous copse bridle-paths wander and wind,
Where, under mulberry-branches, the diligent rivulet sparkles,
    Or amid cotton and maize peasants their water-works ply,
Where, over fig-tree and orange in tier upon tier still repeated,
    Garden on garden upreared, balconies step to the sky,—
Ah, that I were far away from the crowd and the streets of the city,
    Under the vine-trellis laid, my beloved, with thee!


I. MARY TREVELLYN TO MISS ROPER,—on the way to Florence.

WHY doesn’t Mr. Claude come with us? you ask,—We don’t know.
You should know better than we. He talked of the Vatican marbles;
But I can’t wholly believe that this was the actual reason,—
He was so ready before, when we asked him to come and escort us.
Certainly he is odd, my dear Miss Roper. To change so
Suddenly, just for a whim, was not quite fair to the party,—
Not quite right. I declare, I really almost am offended:
I, his great friend, as you say, have doubtless a title to be so.
Not that I greatly regret it, for dear Georgina distinctly
Wishes for nothing so much as to show her adroitness. But, oh, my
Pen will not write any more;—let us say nothing further about it.

.     .     .     .     .

Yes, my dear Miss Roper, I certainly called him repulsive;
So I think him, but cannot be sure I have used the expression
Quite as your pupil should; yet he does most truly repel me.
Was it to you I made use of the word? or who was it told you?
Yes, repulsive; observe, it is but when he talks of ideas
That he is quite unaffected, and free, and expansive, and easy;.
I could pronounce him simply a cold intellectual being.—
When does he make advances?—He thinks that women should woo him;
Yet, if a girl should do so, would be but alarmed and disgusted.
She that should love him must look for small love in return,—like the ivy
On the stone wall, must expect but a rigid and niggard support, and
E’en to get that must go searching all round with her humble embraces.



TELL me, my friend, do you think that the grain would sprout in the furrow,
Did it not truly accept as its summum and ultimum bonum
That mere common and may-be indifferent soil it is set in?
Would it have force to develop and open its young cotyledons,
Could it compare, and reflect, and examine one thing with another?
Would it endure to accomplish the round of its natural functions,
Were it endowed with a sense of the general scheme of existence?
    While from Marseilles in the steamer we voyage to Civita Vecchia,
Vexed in the squally seas we lay by Capraja and Elba,
Standing, uplifted, alone on the heaving poop of the vessel,
Looking around on the waste of the rushing incurious billows,
‘This is Nature,’ I said: ‘we are born as it were from her waters;
Over her billows that buffet and beat us, her offspring uncaredfor,
Casting one single regard of a painful victorious knowledge,
Into her billows that buffet and beat us we sink and are swallowed.’
This was the sense in my soul, as I swayed with the poop of the steamer;
And as unthinking I sat in the hall of the famed Ariadne,
Lo, it looked at me there from the face of a Triton in marble.
It is the simpler thought, and I can believe it the truer.
Let us not talk of growth; we are still in our Aqueous Ages.



FAREWELL, Politics, utterly! What can I do? I cannot
Fight, you know; and to talk I am wholly ashamed. And although I
Gnash my teeth when I look in your French or your English papers,
What is the good of that? Will swearing, I wonder, mend matters?
Cursing and scolding repel the assailants? No, it is idle;
No, whatever befalls, I will hide, will ignore or forget it.
Let the tail shift for itself; I will bury my head. And what’s the
Roman Republic to me, or I to the Roman Republic?
    Why not fight?—In the first place, I haven’t so much as a musket;
In the next, if I had, I shouldn’t know how I should use it;
In the third, just at, present I’m studying ancient marbles;
In the fourth, I consider I owe my life to my country;
In the fifth—I forget, but four good reasons are ample.
Meantime, pray let ’em fight, and be killed. I delight in devotion.
So that I ’list not, hurrah for the glorious army of martyrs!
Sanguis martyrum semen Ecclesiæ; though it would seem this
Church is indeed of the purely Invisible, Kingdom-come kind:
Militant here on earth! Triumphant, of course, then, elsewhere!
Ah, good Heaven, but I would I were out far away from the pother!



NOT, as we read in the words of the olden-time inspiration,
Are there two several trees in the place we are set to abide in;
But on the apex most high of the Tree of Life in the Garden,
Budding, unfolding, and falling, decaying and flowering ever,
Flowering is set and decaying the transient blossom of Knowledge,—
Flowering alone, and decaying, the needless unfruitful blossom.
    Or as the cypress-spires by the fair-flowing stream Hellespontine,
Which from the mythical tomb of the godlike Protesilaus
Rose sympathetic in grief to his love-lorn Laodamia,
Evermore growing, and, when in their growth to the prospect attaining,
Over the low sea-banks, of the fatal Ilian city,
Withering still at the sight which still they upgrow to encounter.
    Ah, but ye that extrude from the ocean your helpless faces,
Ye over stormy seas leading long and dreary processions,
Ye, too, brood of the wind, whose coming is whence we discern not,
Making your nest on the wave, and your bed on the crested billow,
Skimming rough waters, and crowding wet sands that the tide shall return to,
Cormorants, ducks, and gulls, fill ye my imagination!
Let us not talk of growth; we are still in our Aqueous Ages.



DEAREST MISS ROPER,—Alas! we are all at Florence quite safe, and
You, we hear, are shut up! indeed, it is sadly distressing!
We were most lucky, they say, to get off when we did from the troubles.
Now you are really besieged; they tell us it soon will be over;
Only I hope and trust without any fight in the city.
Do you see Mr. Claude?—I thought he might do something for you.
I am quite sure on occasion he really would wish to be useful.
What is he doing? I wonder;—still studying Vatican marbles?
Letters, I hope, pass through. We trust your brother is better.



JUXTAPOSITION, in fine; and what is juxtaposition?
Look you, we travel along in the railway-carriage or steamer,
And, pour passer le temps, till the tedious journey be ended,
Lay aside paper or book, to talk with the girl that is next one;
And, pour passer le temps, with the terminus all but in prospect,
Talk of eternal ties and marriages made in heaven.
    Ah, did we really accept with a perfect heart the illusion!
Ah, did we really believe that the Present indeed is the Only!
Or through all transmutation, all shock and convulsion of passion,
Feel we could carry undimmed, unextinguished, the light of our knowledge!
    But for his funeral train which the bridegroom sees in the distance,
Would he so joyfully, think you, fall in with the marriage procession?
But for that final discharge, would he dare to enlist in that service?
But for that certain release, ever sign to that perilous contract?
But for that exit secure, ever bend to that treacherous doorway?—
Ah, but the bride, meantime,—do you think she sees it as he does?
But for the steady fore-sense of a freer and larger existence,
Think you that man could consent to be circumscribed here into action?
But for assurance within of a limitless ocean divine, o’er
Whose great tranquil depths unconscious the wind-tost surface
Breaks into ripples of trouble that come and change and endure not,—
But that in this, of a truth, we have our being, and know it,
Think you we men could submit to live and move as we do here?
Ah, but the women,—God bless them! they don’t think at all about it.
    Yet we must eat and drink, as you say. And as limited beings
Scarcely can hope to attain upon earth to an Actual Abstract,
Leaving to God contemplation, to His hands knowledge confiding,
Sure that in us if it perish, in Him it abideth and dies not,
Let us in His sight accomplish our petty particular doings,—
Yes, and contented sit down to the victual that He has provided.
Allah is great, no doubt, and juxtaposition his prophet.
Ah, but the women, alas! they don’t look at it in that way.
Juxtaposition is great;—but, my friend, I fear me, the maiden
Hardly would thank or acknowledge the lover that sought to obtain her,
Not as the thing he would wish, but the thing he must even put up with,—
Hardly would tender her hand to the wooer that candidly told her
That she is but for a space, an ad-interim solace and pleasure,—
That in the end she shall yield to a perfect and absolute something,
Which I then for myself shall behold, and not another,—
Which, amid fondest endearments, meantime I forget not, forsake not.
Ah, ye feminine souls, so loving and so exacting,
Since we cannot escape, must we even submit to deceive you?
Since, so cruel is truth, sincerity shocks and revolts you,
Will you have us your slaves to lie to you, flatter and—leave you?



JUXTAPOSITION is great,—but, you tell me, affinity greater.
Ah, my friend, there are many affinities, greater and lesser,
Stronger and weaker; and each, by the favour of juxtaposition,
Potent, efficient, in force,—for a time; but none, let me tell you,
Save by the law of the land and the ruinous force of the will, ah,
None, I fear me, at last quite sure to be final and perfect.
Lo, as I pace in the street, from the peasant girl to the princess,
Homo sum, nihil human a me alienum puto,—
Vir sum, nihil fæminei
,—and e’en to the uttermost circle,
All that is Nature’s is I, and I all things that are Nature’s.
Yes, as I walk, I behold, in a luminous, large intuition,
That I can be and become anything that I meet with or look at
I am the ox in the dray, the ass with the garden stuff panniers;
I am the dog in the doorway, the kitten that plays in the window,
On sunny slab of the ruin the furtive and fugitive lizard,
Swallow above me that twitters, and fly that is buzzing about me;
Yea, and detect, as I go, by a faint, but a faithful assurance,
E’en from the stones of the street, as from rocks or trees of the forest,
Something of kindred, a common, though latent vitality, greets me;
And, to escape from our strivings, mistakings, misgrowths, and perversions,
Fain could demand to return to that perfect and primitive silence,
Fain be enfolded and fixed, as of old, in their rigid embraces.



AND as I walk on my way, I behold them consorting and coupling;
Faithful it seemeth, and fond, very fond, very probably faithful,
All as I go on my way, with a pleasure sincere and unmingled.
    Life is beautiful, Eustace, entrancing, enchanting to look at;
As are the streets of a city we pace while the carriage is changing,
As a chamber filled-in with harmonious, exquisite pictures,
Even so beautiful Earth; and could we eliminate only
This vile hungering impulse, this demon within us of craving,
Life were beatitude, living a perfect divine satisfaction.



Mild monastic faces in quiet collegiate cloisters:
So let me offer a single and celibatarian phrase, a
Tribute to those whom perhaps you do not believe I can honour.
But, from the tumult escaping, ’tis pleasant, of drumming and shouting,
Hither, oblivious awhile, to withdraw, of the fact or the falsehood,
And amid placid regards and mildly courteous greetings
Yield to the calm and composure and gentle abstraction that reign o’er
Mild monastic faces in quiet collegiate cloisters:
    Terrible word, Obligation! You should not, Eustace, you should not,
No, you should not have used it. But, oh, great Heavens, I repel it!
Oh, I cancel, reject, disavow, and repudiate wholly
Every debt in this kind, disclaim every claim, and dishonour,
Yea, my own heart’s own writing, my soul’s own signature! Ah, no!
I will be free in this; you shall not, none shall, bind me.
No, my friend, if you wish to be told, it was this above all things,
This that charmed me, ah, yes, even this, that she held me to nothing.
No, I could talk as I pleased; come close; fasten ties, as I fancied;
Bind and engage myself deep;—and lo, on the following morning
It was all e’en as before, like losings in games played for nothing.
Yes, when I came, with mean fears in my soul, with a semi-performance
At the first step breaking down in its pitiful role of evasion,
When to shuffle I came, to compromise, not meet, engagements,
Lo, with her calm eyes there she met me and knew nothing of it,—
Stood unexpecting, unconscious. She spoke not of obligations,
Knew not of debt—ah, no, I believe you, for excellent reasons.



HANG this thinking, at last! what good is it? oh, and what evil!
Oh, what mischief and pain! like a clock in a sick man’s chamber,
Ticking and ticking, and still through each covert of slumber pursuing.
    What shall I do to thee, O thou Preserver of men? Have compassion;
Be favourable, and hear! Take from me this regal knowledge;
Let me, contented and mute, with the beasts of the fields, my brothers,
Tranquilly, happily lie,—and eat grass, like Nebuchadnezzar!



TIBUR is beautiful, too, and the orchard slopes, and the Anio
Falling, falling yet, to the ancient lyrical cadence;
Tibur and Anio’s tide; and cool from Lucretilis ever,
With the Digentian stream, and with the Bandusian fountain,
Folded in Sabine recesses, the valley and villa of Horace:—
So not seeing I sang; so seeing and listening say I,
Here as I sit by the stream, as I gaze at the cell of the Sibyl,
Here with Albunea’s home and the grove of Tiburnus beside me;1
Tivoli beautiful is, and musical, O Teverone,
Dashing from mountain to plain, thy parted impetuous waters!
Tivoli’s waters and rocks; and fair unto Monte Gennaro
(Haunt even yet, I must think, as I wander and gaze, of the shadows,
Faded and pale, yet immortal, of Faunus, the Nymphs, and the Graces),
Fair in itself, and yet fairer with human completing creations,
Folded in Sabine recesses the valley and villa of Horace:—
So not seeing I sang; so now—Nor seeing, nor hearing,
Neither by waterfall lulled, nor folded in sylvan embraces,
Neither by cell of the Sibyl, nor stepping the Monte Gennaro,
Seated on Anio’s bank, nor sipping Bandusian waters,
But on Montorio’s height, looking down on the tile-clad streets, the
Cupolas, crosses, and domes, the bushes and kitchen-gardens,
Which, by the grace of the Tibur, proclaim themselves Rome of the Romans,—
But on Montorio’s height, looking forth to the vapoury mountains,
Cheating the prisoner Hope with illusions of vision and fancy,—
But on Montorio’s height, with these weary soldiers by me,
Waiting till Oudinot enter, to reinstate Pope and Tourist.



DEAR MISS ROPERS—It seems, George Vernon, before we left Rome, said
Something to Mr. Claude about what they call his attentions.
Susan, two nights ago, for the first time, heard this from Georgina.
It is so disagreeable and so annoying to think of!
If it could only be known, though we never may meet him again, that
It was all George’s doing, and we were entirely unconscious,
It would extremely relieve—Your ever affectionate Mary.

P.S. (1)
    Here is your letter arrived this moment, just as I wanted.
So you have seen him,—indeed,—and guessed,—how dreadfully clever!
What did he really say? and what was your answer exactly?
Charming!—but wait for a moment, I haven’t read through the letter.

P.S. (2)
    Ah, my dearest Miss Roper, do just as you fancy about it.
If you think it sincerer to tell him I know of it, do so.
Though I should most extremely dislike it, I know I could manage.
It is the simplest thing, but surely wholly uncalled for.
Do as you please; you know I trust implicitly to you.
Say whatever is right and needful for ending the matter.
Only don’t tell Mr. Claude, what I will tell you as a secret,
That I should like very well to show him myself I forget it.

P.S. (3)
    I am to say that the wedding is finally settled for Tuesday.
Ah, my dear Miss Roper, you surely, surely can manage
Not to let it appear that I know of that odious matter.
It would be pleasanter far for myself to treat it exactly
As if it had not occurred; and I do not think he would like it.
I must remember to add, that as soon as the wedding is over
We shall be off, I believe, in a hurry, and travel to Milan;
There to meet friends of Papa’s, I am told, at the Croce di Malta;
Then I cannot say whither, but not at present to England.



YES, on Montorio’s height for a last farewell of the city,—
So it appears; though then I was quite uncertain about it.
So, however, it was. And now to explain the proceeding.
    I was to go, as I told you, I think, with the people to Florence.
Only the day before, the foolish family Vernon
Made some uneasy remarks, as we walked to our lodging together,
As to intentions, forsooth, and so forth. I was astounded,
Horrified quite; and obtaining just then, as it happened, an offer
(No common favour) of seeing the great Ludovisi collection,
Why, I made this a pretence, and wrote that they must excuse me.
How could I go? Great Heavens! to conduct a permitted flirtation
Under those vulgar eyes, the observed of such observers!
Well, but I now, by a series of fine diplomatic inquiries,
Find from a sort of relation, a good and sensible woman,
Who is remaining at Rome with a brother too ill for removal,
That it was wholly unsanctioned, unknown,—not, I think, by Georgina
She, however, ere this,—and that is the best of the story,—
She and the Vernon, thank Heaven, are wedded and gone—honeymooning.
So—on Montorio’s height for a last farewell of the city.
Tibur I have not seen, nor the lakes that of old I had dreamt of;
Tibur I shall not see, nor Anio’s waters, nor deep en-
Folded in Sabine recesses the valley and villa of Horace;
Tibur I shall not see;—but something better I shall see.
    Twice I have tried before, and failed in getting the horses;
Twice I have tried and failed: this time it shall not be a failure.

Therefore farewell, ye hills, and ye, ye envineyarded ruins!
    Therefore farewell, ye walls, palaces, pillars, and domes!
Therefore farewell, far seen, ye peaks of the mythic Albano,
    Seen from Montorio’s height, Tibur and Æsula’s hills!
Ah, could we once, ere we go, could we stand, while, to ocean descending,
    Sinks o’er the yellow dark plain slowly the yellow broad sun,
Stand, from the forest emerging at sunset, at once in the champaign,
    Open, but studded with trees, chestnuts umbrageous and old,
E’en in those fair open fields that incurve to thy beautiful hollow,
    Nemi, imbedded in wood, Nemi, interned in the hill!—
Therefore farewell, ye plains, and ye hills, and the City Eternal!
    Therefore farewell! We depart, but to behold you again!

1.            ——domus Albuneæ resonantis,
Et præceps Anio, et Tiburni lucus, et uda
    Mobilibus pomaria rivis.    [back]

Amours De Voyage - Canto IV

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

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