Poems and Prose Remains, Vol II

The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich

A Long-Vacation Pastoral

Arthur Hugh Clough


Stultus ego huic nostræ similem.

SO in the cottage with Adam the pupils five together
Duly remained, and read, and looked no more for Philip,
Philip at Balloch shooting and dancing with Lady Maria.
Breakfast at eight, and now, for brief September daylight,
Luncheon at two, and dinner at seven, or even later,
Five full hours between for the loch and the glen and the mountain,—
So in the joy of their life and glory of shooting-jackets,
So they read and roamed, the pupils five with Adam.
    What if autumnal shower came frequent and chill from the westward,
What if on browner sward with yellow leaves besprinkled,
Gemming the crispy blade, the delicate gossamer gemming,
Frequent and thick lay at morning the chilly beads of hoar-frost,
Duly in matutine still, and daily, whatever the weather,
Bathed in the rain and the frost and the mist with the Glory of headers
Hope. Thither also at times, of cold and of possible gutters
Careless, unmindful, unconscious, would Hobbes, or e’er they departed,
Come, in heavy pea-coat his trouserless trunk enfolding,
Come, under coat over-brief those lusty legs displaying,
All from the shirt to the slipper the natural man revealing.
    Duly there they bathed and daily, the twain or the trio,
Where in the morning was custom, where over a ledge of granite
Into a granite basin the amber torrent descended;
Beautiful, very, to gaze in ere plunging; beautiful also,
Perfect as picture, as vision entrancing that comes to the sightless,
Through the great granite jambs the stream, the glen, and the mountain,
Beautiful, seen by snatches in intervals of dressing,
Morn after morn, unsought for, recurring; themselves too seeming
Not as spectators, accepted into it, immingled, as truly
Part of it as are the kine in the field lying there by the birches.
    So they bathed, they read, they roamed in glen and forest;
Far amid blackest pines to the waterfalls they shadow,
Far up the long, long glen to the loch, and the loch beyond it,
Deep, under huge red cliffs, a secret: and oft by the starlight,
Or the aurora perchance, racing home for the eight o’clock mutton.
So they bathed, and read, and roamed in heathery Highland;
There in the joy of their life and glory of shooting jackets
Bathed and read and roamed, and looked no more for Philip.

List to a letter that came from Philip at Balloch to Adam.
    I am here, O my friend!—idle, but learning wisdom.
Doing penance, you think; content, if so, in my penance.
    Often I find myself saying, while watching in dance or on horseback
One that is here, in her freedom, and grace, and imperial sweetness,
Often I find myself saying, old faith and doctrine abjuring,
Into the crucible casting philosophies, facts, convictions,—
Were it not well that the stem should be naked of leaf and of tendril,
Poverty-stricken, the barest, the dismallest stick of the garden;
Flowerless, leafless, unlovely, for ninety-and-nine long summers,
So in the hundredth, at last, were bloom for one day at the summit,
So but that fleeting flower were lovely as Lady Maria.
    Often I find myself saying, and know not myself as I say it,
What of the poor and the weary? their labour and pain is needed.
Perish the poor and the weary! what can they better than perish.
Perish in labour for her, who is worth the destruction of empires?
What! for a mite, for a mote, an impalpable odour of honour,
Armies shall bleed; cities burn; and the soldier red from the storming
Carry hot rancour and lust into chambers of mothers and daughters
What! would ourselves for the cause of an hour encounter the battle,
Slay and be slain; lie rotting in hospital, hulk, and prison
Die as a dog dies; die mistaken perhaps, and dishonoured.
Yea,—and shall hodmen in beer-shops complain of a glory denied them,
Which could not ever be theirs more than now it is theirs as spectators?
Which could not be, in all earth, if it were not for labour of hodmen?
    And I find myself saying, and what I am saying, discern not,
Dig in thy deep dark prison, O miner! and finding be thankful;
Though unpolished by thee, unto thee unseen in perfection.
While thou art eating black bread in the poisonous air of thy cavern,
Far away glitters the gem on the peerless neck of a Princess.
Dig, and starve, and be thankful; it is so, and thou hast been aiding.
    Often I find myself saying, in irony is it, or earnest?
Yea, what is more, be rich, O ye rich! be sublime in great houses,
Purple and delicate linen endure; be of Burgundy patient;
Suffer that service be done you, permit of the page and the valet,
Vex not your souls with annoyance of charity schools or of districts,
Cast not to swine of the stye the pearls that should gleam in your foreheads.
Live, be lovely, forget them, be beautiful even to proudness,
Even for their poor sakes whose happiness is to behold you;
Live, be uncaring, be joyous, be sumptuous; only be lovely,—
Sumptuous not for display, and joyous, not for enjoyment;
Not for enjoyment truly; for Beauty and God’s great glory!
    Yes, and I say, and it seems inspiration—of Good or of Evil!
Is it not He that hath done it, and who shall dare gainsay it?
Is it not even of Him, who hath made us?—Yea, for the lions,
Roaring after their prey, do seek their meat from God
Is it not even of Him, who one kind over another
All the works of His hand hath disposed in a wonderful order?
Who hath made man, as the beasts, to live the one on the other,
Who hath made man as Himself to know the law—and accept it!
    You will wonder at this, no doubt! I also wonder!
But we must live and learn; we can’t know all things at twenty.

List to a letter of Hobbes to Philip his friend at Balloch.
    All Cathedrals are Christian, all Christians are Cathedrals,
Such is the Catholic doctrine; ’tis ours with a slight variation;
Every women is, or ought to be, a Cathedral,
Built on the ancient plan, a Cathedral pure and perfect,
Built by that only law, that Use be suggester of Beauty,
Nothing concealed that is done, but all things done to adornment,
Meanest utilities seized as occasions to grace and embellish.—
    So had I duly commenced in the spirit and style of my Philip,
So had I formally opened the Treatise upon the Laws of
Architectural Beauty in Application to Women,

So had I writ.—But my fancies are palsied by tidings they tell me.
Tidings—ah me, can it be then? that I, the blasphemer accounted,
Here am with reverent heed at the wondrous Analogy working,
Pondering thy words and thy gestures, whilst thou, a prophet apostate,
(How are the mighty fallen!) whilst thou, a shepherd travestie,
(How are the mighty fallen!) with gun,—with pipe no longer,
Teachest the woods to re-echo thy game-killing recantations,
Teachest thy verse to exalt Amaryllis, a Countess’s daughter?
    What, thou forgettest, bewildered, my Master, that rightly considered
Beauty must ever be useful, what truly is useful is graceful?
She that is handy is handsome, good dairy-maids must be good-looking,
If but the butter be nice, the tournure of the elbow is shapely,
If the cream-cheeses be white, far whiter the hands that made them,
If—but alas, is it true? while the pupil alone in the cottage
Slowly elaborates here thy System of Feminine Graces,
Thou in the palace, its author, art dining, small-talking and dancing,
Dancing and pressing the fingers kid-gloved of a Lady Maria.
    These are the final words, that came to the Tutor from Balloch.
I am conquered, it seems! you will meet me, I hope, in Oxford,
Altered in manners and mind. I yield to the laws and arrangements,
Yield to the ancient existent decrees: who am I to resist them?
Yes, you will find me altered in mind, I think, as in manners,
Anxious too to atone for six weeks’ loss of your Logic.

    So in the cottage with Adam, the pupils five together,
Read, and bathed, and roamed, and thought not now of Philip,
All in the joy of their life, and glory of shooting jackets.

The Bothie of Tober-na-vuolich - VI

Poems and Prose Remains vol II - Contents

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