Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

‘Blank Misgivings Of A Creature Moving About In Worlds Not Realised.’


Arthur Hugh Clough

HERE am I yet, another twelvemonth spent,
One-third departed of the mortal span,
Carrying on the child into the man,
Nothing into reality. Sails rent,
And rudder broken,—reason impotent—
Affections all unfixed; so forth I fare
On the mid seas unheedingly, so dare
To do and to be done by, well content.
So was it from the first, so is it yet;
Yea, the first kiss that by these lips was set
On any human lips, methinks was sin—
Sin, cowardice, and falsehood; for the will
Into a deed e’en then advanced, wherein
God, unidentified, was thought-of still.

Though to the vilest things beneath the moon
For poor Ease’ sake I give away my heart,
And for the moment’s sympathy let part
My sight and sense of truth, Thy precious boon,
My painful earnings, lost, all lost, as soon,
Almost, as gained: and though aside I start,
Belie Thee daily, hourly,—still Thou art,
Art surely as in heaven the sun at noon;
How much so e’er I sin, whate’er I do
Of evil, still the sky above is blue,
The stars look down in beauty as before
It is enough to walk as best we may,
To walk, and sighing, dream of that blest day
When ill we cannot quell shall be no more.

Well, well,—Heaven bless you all from day to day!
Forgiveness too, or e’er we part, from each,
As I do give it. so must I beseech
I owe all much, much more than I can pay;
Therefore it is I go; how could I stay
Where every look commits me to fresh debt,
And to pay little I must borrow yet I
Enough of this already, now away!
With silent woods and hills untenanted
Let me go commune; under thy sweet gloom,
O kind maternal Darkness, hide my head
The day may come I yet may re-assume
My place, and, these tired limbs recruited, seek
The task for which I now am all too weak.

Yes, I have lied, and so must walk my way,
Bearing the liar’s curse upon my head;
Letting my weak and sickly heart be fed
On food which does the present craving stay,
But may be clean-denied me e’en to-day,
And tho’ ’twere certain, yet were ought but bread;
Letting—for so they say, it seems, I said,
And I am all too weak to disobey!
Therefore for me sweet Nature’s scenes reveal not
Their charm; sweet Music greets me and I feel not;
Sweet eyes pass off me uninspired; yea, more,
The golden tide of opportunity
Flows wafting-in friendships and better,—I
Unseeing, listless, pace along the shore.

        How often sit I, poring o’er
            My strange distorted youth,
        Seeking in vain, in all my store,
            One feeling based on truth;
        Amid the maze of petty life
            A clue whereby to move,
        A spot whereon in toil and strife
            To dare to rest and love.
        So constant as my heart would be,
            So fickle as it must,
        ’Twere well for others as for me
            ’Twere dry as summer dust.
        Excitements come, and act and speech
            Flow freely forth; but no,
        Nor they, nor ought beside can reach
            The buried world below.

                        —— Like a child
In some strange garden left awhile alone,
I pace about the pathways of the world,
Plucking light hopes and joys from every stem,
With qualms of vague misgiving in my heart
That payment at the last will be required,
Payment I cannot make, or guilt incurred,
And shame to be endured.

                        —— Roused by importunate knocks
I rose, I turned the key, and let them in,
First one, anon another, and at length
In troops they came; for how could I, who once
Had let in one, nor looked him in the face,
Show scruples e’er again? So in they came,
A noisy band of revellers,—vain hopes,
Wild fancies, fitful joys; and there they sit
In my heart’s holy place, and through the night
Carouse, to leave it when the cold grey dawn
Gleams from the East, to tell me that the time
For watching and for thought bestowed is gone.

O kind protecting Darkness! as a child
Flies back to bury in its mother’s lap
His shame and his confusion, so to thee,
O Mother Night, come I! within the folds
Of thy dark robe hide thou me close; for I
So long, so heedless, with external things
Have played the liar, that whate’er I see,
E’en these white glimmering curtains, yon bright stars,
Which to the rest rain comfort down, for me
Smiling those smiles, which I may not return,
Or frowning frowns of fierce triumphant malice,
As angry claimants or expectants sure
Of that I promised and may not perform,
Look me in the face! O hide me, Mother Night!

Once more the wonted road I tread,
Once more dark heavens above me spread,
Upon the windy down I stand,
My station whence the circling land
Lies mapped and pictured wide below;—
Such as it was, such e’en again,
Long dreary bank, and breadth of plain
By hedge or tree unbroken;—lo,
A few grey woods can only show
How vain their aid, and in the sense
Of one unaltering impotence,
Relieving not, meseems enhance
The sovereign dulness of the expanse.
Yet marks where human hand hath been,
Bare house, unsheltered village, space
Of ploughed and fenceless tilth between
(Such aspect as methinks may be
In some half-settled colony),
From Nature vindicate the scene;
A wide, and yet disheartening view,
A melancholy world.

                                ’Tis true,
Most true; and yet, like those strange smiles
By fervent hope or tender thought
From distant happy regions brought,
Which upon some sick bed are seen
To glorify a pale worn face
With sudden beauty,—so at whiles
Lights have descended, hues have been,
To clothe with half-celestial grace
The bareness of the desert place.

    Since so it is, so be it still!
Could only thou, my heart, be taught
To treasure, and in act fulfil
The lesson which the sight has brought;
In thine own dull and dreary state
To work and patiently to wait:
Little thou think’st in thy despair
How soon the o’ershaded sun may shine,
And e’en the dulling clouds combine
To bless with lights and hues divine
That region desolate and bare,
Those sad and sinful thoughts of thine!

Still doth the coward heart complain;
The hour may come, and come in vain;
The branch that withered lies and dead
No suns can force to lift its head.
True!—yet how little thou canst tell
How much in thee is ill or well;
Nor for thy neighbour nor for thee,
Be sure, was life designed to be
A draught of dull complacency.
One Power too is it, who doth give
The food without us, and within
The strength that makes it nutritive:
He bids the dry bones rise and live,
And e’en in hearts depraved to sin
Some sudden, gracious influence,
May give the long-lost good again,
And wake within the dormant sense
And love of good;—for mortal men,
So but thou strive, thou soon shalt see
Defeat itself is victory.

So be it: yet, O Good and Great,
In whom in this bedarkened state
I fain am struggling to believe,
Let me not ever cease to grieve,
Nor lose the consciousness of ill
Within me;—and refusing still
To recognise in things around
What cannot truly there be found,
Let me not feel, nor be it true,
That, while each daily task I do,
I still am giving day by day
My precious things within away
(Those thou didst give to keep as thine),
And casting, do whate’er I may,
My heavenly pearls to earthly swine.

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

Back    |    Words Home    |    Arthur Hugh Clough Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback