Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich

A Long-Vacation Pastoral

Arthur Hugh Clough


Et certamen erat, Corydon cum Thyrside, magnum.

MORN, in yellow and white, came broadening out from the mountains,
Long ere music and reel were hushed in the barn of the dancers.
Duly in matutine bathed, before eight some two of the party,
Where in the morning was custom, where over a ledge of granite
Into a granite basin the amber torrent descended.
There two plunges each took Philip and Arthur together,
Duly in matutine bathed, and read, and waited for breakfast;
Breakfast commencing at nine, lingered lazily on to noon-day.
Tea and coffee were there; a jug of water for Hewson;
Tea and coffee; and four cold grouse upon the sideboard;
Gaily they talked, as they sat, some late and lazy at breakfast,
Some professing a book, some smoking outside at the window:
By an aurora soft-pouring a still sheeny tide to the zenith,
Hewson and Arthur, with Adam, had walked and got home by eleven;
Hope and the others had stayed till the round sun lighted them bedward.
They of the lovely aurora, but these of the lovelier women
Spoke—of noble ladies and rustic girls, their partners.
    Turned to them Hewson, the Chartist, the poet, the eloquent speaker.
Sick of the very names of your Lady Augustas and Floras
Am I, as ever I was of the dreary botanical titles
Of the exotic plants, their antitypes in the hot-house
Roses, violets, lilies for me! the out-of-door beauties;
Meadow and woodland sweets, forget-me-nots and hearts-ease!
    Pausing awhile, he proceeded anon, for none made answer.
Oh, if our high-born girls knew only the grace, the attraction,
Labour, and labour alone, can add to the beauty of women,
Truly the milliner’s trade would quickly, I think, be at discount,
All the waste and loss in silk and satin be saved us,
Saved for purposes truly and widely productive——
                                                                        That’s right,
Take off your coat to it, Philip, cried Lindsay, outside in the garden,
Take off your coat to it, Philip.
                                        Well, then, said Hewson, resuming;
Laugh if you please at my novel economy; listen to this, though;
As for myself, and apart from economy wholly, believe me,
Never I properly felt the relation between men and women,
Though to the dancing-master I went perforce, for a quarter,
Where, in dismal quadrille, were good-looking girls in abundance,
Though, too, school-girl cousins were mine—a bevy of beauties—
Never (of course you will laugh, but of course all the same I shall say it),
Never, believe me, I knew of the feelings between men and women,
Till in some village fields in holidays now getting stupid,
One day sauntering ‘long and listless,’ as Tennyson has it,
Long and listless strolling, ungainly in hobbadehoyhood,
Chanced it my eye fell aside on a capless, bonnetless maiden,
Bending with three-pronged fork in a garden uprooting potatoes.
Was it the air? who can say? or herself, or the charm of the labour?
But a new thing was in me; and longing delicious possessed me,
Longing to take her and lift her, and put her away from her slaving.
Was it embracing or aiding was most in my mind? hard question!
But a new thing was in me, I, too, was a youth among maidens
Was it the air? who can say? but in part ’twas the charm of the labour.
Still, though a new thing was in me, the poets revealed themselves to me,
And in my dreams by Miranda, her Ferdinand, often I wandered,
Though all the fuss about girls, the giggling and toying and coying,
Were not so strange as before, so incomprehensible purely;
Still, as before (and as now), balls, dances, and evening parties,
Shooting with bows, going shopping together, and hearing them singing,
Dangling beside them, and turning the leaves on the dreary piano,
Offering unneeded arms, performing dull farces of escort,
Seemed like a sort of unnatural up-in-the-air balloon-work
(Or what to me is as hateful, a riding about in a carriage),
Utter removal from work, mother earth, and the objects of living.
Hungry and fainting for food, you ask me to join you in snapping—
What but a pink-paper comfit, with motto romantic inside it?
Wishing to stock me a garden, I’m sent to a table of nosegays;
Better a crust of black bread than a mountain of paper confections,
Better a daisy in earth than a dahlia cut and gathered,
Better a cowslip with root than a prize carnation without it.
    That I allow, said Adam.
                                    But he, with the bit in his teeth, scarce
Breathed a brief moment, and hurried exultingly on with his rider,
Far over hillock, and runnel, and bramble, away in the champaign,
Snorting defiance and force, the white foam flecking his flanks, the
Rein hanging loose to his neck, and head projecting before him.

    Oh, if they knew and considered, unhappy ones! oh, could they see, could
But for a moment discern, how the blood of true gallantry kindles,
How the old knightly religion, the chivalry semi-quixotic
Stirs in the veins of a man at seeing some delicate woman
Serving him, toiling—for him, and the world; some tenderest girl, now
Over-weighted, expectant, of him, is it? who shall, if only
Duly her burden be lightened, not wholly removed from her, mind you,
Lightened if but by the love, the devotion man only can offer,
Grand on her pedestal rise as urn-bearing statue of Hellas;—
Oh, could they feel at such’ moments how man’s heart, as into Eden
Carried anew, seems to see, like the gardener of earth uncorrupted,
Eve from the hand of her Maker advancing, an help meet for him,
Eve from his own flesh taken, a spirit restored to his spirit,
Spirit but not spirit only, himself whatever himself is,
Unto the mystery’s end sole helpmate meet to be with him;—
Oh, if they saw it and knew it; we soon should see them abandon
Boudoir, toilette, carriage, drawing-room, and ball-room,
Satin for worsted exchange, gros-de-naples for plain linsey-woolsey,
Sandals of silk for clogs, for health lackadaisical fancies!
So, feel women, not dolls; so feel the sap of existence
Circulate up through their roots from the far-away centre of all things,
Circulate up from the depths to the bud on the twig that is topmost!
Yes, we should see them delighted, delighted ourselves in the seeing,
Bending with blue cotton gown skirted up over striped linsey-woolsey,
Milking the kine in the field, like Rachel, watering cattle,
Rachel, when at the well the predestined beheld and kissed her,
Or, with pail upon head, like Dora beloved of Alexis,
Comely, with well-poised pail over neck arching soft to the shoulders,
Comely in gracefullest act, one arm uplifted to stay it,
Home from the river or pump moving stately and calm to the laundry;
Ay, doing household work, as many sweet girls I have looked at,
Needful household work, which some one, after all, must do,
Needful, graceful therefore, as washing, cooking, and scouring,
Or, if you please, with the fork in the garden uprooting potatoes.—
    Or,—high-kilted perhaps, cried Lindsay, at last successful,
Lindsay this long time swelling with scorn and pent-up fury,
Or high-kilted perhaps, as once at Dundee I saw them,
Petticoats up to the knees, or even, it might be, above them,
Matching their lily-white legs with the clothes that they trod in the wash-tub!
    Laughter ensued at this; and seeing the Tutor embarrassed,
It was from them, I suppose, said Arthur, smiling sedately,
Lindsay learnt the tune we all have learnt from Lindsay,
For oh, he was a roguey, the Piper o’ Dundee.
    Laughter ensued again; and the Tutor, recovering slowly,
Said, Are not these perhaps as doubtful as other attractions?
    There is a truth in your view, but I think extremely distorted;
Still there is a truth, I own, I understand you entirely,
    While the Tutor was gathering his purposes, Arthur continued,
Is not all this the same that one hears at common-room breakfasts,
Or perhaps Trinity wines, about Gothic buildings and Beauty?
    And with a start from the sofa came Hobbes; with a cry from the sofa,
Where he was laid, the great Hobbes, contemplative, corpulent, witty,
Author forgotten and silent of currentest phrases and fancies,
Mute and exuberant by turns, a fountain at intervals playing,
Mute and abstracted, or strong and abundant as rain in the tropics;
Studious; careless of dress; inobservant: by smooth persuasions
Lately decoyed into kilt on example of Hope and the Piper,
Hope an Antinoüs mere, Hyperion of calves the Piper.
    Beautiful! cried he up-leaping, analogy perfect to madness!
O inexhaustible source of thought, shall I call it, or fancy!
Wonderful spring, at whose touch doors fly, what a vista disclosing!
Exquisite germ; Ah no, crude fingers shall not soil thee;
Rest, lovely pearl, in my brain, and slowly mature in the oyster.
    While at the exquisite pearl they were laughing and corpulent oyster,
Ah, could they only be taught, he resumed, by a Pugin of women,
How even churning and washing, the dairy, the scullery duties,
Wait but a touch to redeem and convert them to charms and attractions,
Scrubbing requires for true grace but frank and artistical handling,
And the removal of slops to be ornamentally treated.
    Philip who speaks like a book, (retiring and pausing he added),
Philip, here, who speaks—like a folio say’st thou, Piper?
Philip shall write us a book, a Treatise upon The Laws of
Architectural Beauty in Application to Women;

Illustrations, of course, and a Parker’s Glossary pendent,
Where shall in specimen seen be the sculliony stumpy-columnar
(Which to a reverent taste is perhaps the most moving of any),
Rising to grace of true woman in English the Early and Later,
Charming us still in fulfilling the Richer and Loftier stages,
Lost, ere we end, in the Lady-Debased and the Lady-Flamboyant
Whence why in satire and spite too merciless onward pursue her
Hither to hideous close, Modern-Florid, modem-fine-lady?
No, I will leave it to you, my Philip, my Pugin of women.
    Leave it to Arthur, said Adam, to think of, and not to play with.
You are young, you know, he said, resuming, to Philip,
You. are young, he proceeded, with something of fervour to Hewson,
You are a boy; when you grow to a man you’ll find things alter.
You will then seek only the good, will scorn the attractive,
Scorn all mere cosmetics, as now of rank and fashion,
Delicate hands, and wealth, so then of poverty also,
Poverty truly attractive, more truly, I bear you witness.
Good, wherever it’s found, you will choose, be it humble or stately,
Happy if only you find, and finding do not lose it.
Yes, we must seek what is good, it always and it only;
Not indeed absolute good, good for us, as is said in the Ethics,
That which is good for ourselves, our proper selves, our best selves.
Ah, you have much to learn, we can’t know all things at twenty.
Partly you rest on truth, old truth, the duty of Duty,
Partly on error, you long for equality.
                                                    Ay, cried the Piper,
That’s what it is, that confounded égalité, French manufacture,
He is the same as the Chartist who spoke at a meeting in Ireland,
What, and is not one man, fellow-men, as good as another?
Faith, replied Pat, and a deal better too!
                                                    So rattled the Piper
But undisturbed in his tenor, the Tutor.
                                                        Partly in error
Seeking equality, is not one woman as good as another?
I with the Irishman answer, Yes, better too; the poorer
Better full oft than richer, than loftier better the lower,
Irrespective of wealth and of poverty, pain and enjoyment,
Women all have their duties, the one as well as the other;
Are all duties alike? Do all alike fulfil them?
However noble the dream of equality, mark you, Philip,
Nowhere equality reigns in all the world of creation,
Star is not equal to star, nor blossom the same as blossom;
Herb is not equal to herb, any more than planet to planet.
There is a glory of daisies, a glory again of carnations;
Were the carnation wise, in gay parterre by greenhouse,
Should it decline to accept the nurture the gardener gives it,
Should it refuse to expand to sun and genial summer,
Simply because the field-daisy that grows in the grass-plat beside it,
Cannot, for some cause or other, develop and be a carnation?
Would not the daisy itself petition its scrupulous neighbour?
Up, grow, bloom, and forget me; be beautiful even to proudness,
E’en for the sake of myself and other poor daisies like me.
Education and manners, accomplishments and refinements,
Waltz, peradventure, and polka, the knowledge of music and drawing,
All these things are Nature’s, to Nature dear and precious,
We have all something to do, man, woman alike, I own it;
We have all something to do, and in my judgment should do it
In our station; not thinking about it, but not disregarding;
Holding it, not for enjoyment, but simply because we are in it.
    Ah! replied Philip, Alas! the noted phrase of the Prayer-book,
Doing our duty in that state of life to which God has called us,
Seems to me always to mean, when the little rich boys say it,
Standing in velvet frock by mamma’s brocaded flounces,
Eyeing her gold-fastened book and the watch and chain at her bosom,
Seems to me always to mean, Eat, drink, and never mind others.
    Nay, replied Adam, smiling, so far your economy leads me,
Velvet and gold and brocade are nowise to my fancy.
Nay, he added, believe me, I like luxurious living
Even as little as you, and grieve in my soul not seldom,
More for the rich indeed than the poor, who are not so guilty.
    So the discussion closed; and, said Arthur, Now it is my turn,
How will my argument please you? To-morrow we start on our travel.
    And took up Hope the chorus,
                                            To-morrow we start on our travel.
Lo, the weather is golden, the weather-glass, say they, rising;
Four weeks here have we read; four weeks will we read hereafter;
Three weeks hence will return and think of classes and classics.
Fare ye well, meantime, forgotten, unnamed, undreamt of,
History, Science, and Poets! lo, deep in dustiest cupboard,
Thookydid, Oloros’ son, Halimoosian, here lieth buried!
Slumber in Liddell-and-Scott, O musical chaff of old Athens,
Dishes, and fishes, bird, beast, and sesquipedalian black-guard!
Sleep, weary ghosts, be at peace and abide in your lexicon-limbo!
Sleep, as in lava for ages your Herculanean kindred,
Sleep, and for aught that I care, ‘the sleep that knows no waking,’
Æschylus, Sophocles, Homer, Herodotus, Pindar, and Plato.
Three weeks hence be it time to exhume our dreary classics.
And in the chorus joined Lindsay, the Piper, the Dialectician,
Three weeks hence we return to the shop and the wash-hand-stand-basin
(These are the Piper’s names for the bathing-place and the cottage),
Three weeks hence unbury Thicksides and hairy Aldrich.
But the Tutor enquired, the grave man, nick-named Adam,
Who are they that go, and when do they promise returning?
    And a silence ensued, and the Tutor himself continued,
Airlie remains, I presume, he continued, and Hobbes and Hewson.
    Answer was made him by Philip, the poet, the eloquent speaker:
Airlie remains, I presume, was the answer, and Hobbes, peradventure;
Tarry let Airlie May-fairly, and Hobbes, brief-kilted hero,
Tarry let Hobbes in kilt, and Airlie ‘abide in his breeches;’
Tarry let these, and read, four Pindars apiece an’ it like them!
Weary of reading am I, and weary of walks prescribed us;
Weary of Ethic and Logic, of Rhetoric yet more weary,
Eager to range over heather unfettered of gillie and marquis,
I will away with the rest, and bury my dismal classics.
    And to the Tutor rejoining, Be mindful; you go up at Easter,
This was the answer returned by Philip, the Pugin of women.
Good are the Ethics I wis; good absolute, not for me, though;
Good, too, Logic, of course; in itself, but not in fine weather.
Three weeks hence, with the rain, to Prudence, Temperance, Justice,
Virtues Moral and Mental, with Latin prose included;
Three weeks hence we return to cares of classes and classics.
I will away with the rest, and bury my dismal classics.
    But the Tutor enquired, the grave man, nick-named Adam,
Where do you mean to go, and whom do you mean to visit?
And he was answered by Hope, the Viscount, His Honour, of Ilay.
Kitcat, a Trinity coach, has a party at Drumnadrochet,
Up on the side of Loch Ness, in the beautiful valley of Urquhart;
Mainwaring says they will lodge us, and feed us, and give us a lift too
Only they talk ere long to remove to Glenmorison. Then at
Castleton, high in Braemar, strange home, with his earliest party,
Harrison, fresh from the schools, has James and Jones and Lauder.
Thirdly, a Cambridge man I know, Smith, a senior wrangler,
With a mathematical score hangs-out at Inverary.
Finally, too, from the kilt and the sofa, said Hobbes in conclusion,
Finally, Philip must hunt for that home of the probable poacher,
Hid in the braes of Lochaber, the Bothie of What-did-he-call-it.
Hopeless of you and of us, of gillies and marquises hopeless,
Weary of Ethic and Logic, of Rhetoric yet more weary,
There shall he, smit by the charm of a lovely potato-uprooter,
Study the question of sex in the Bothie of What-did-he-call-it.

The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich - III

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

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