The Piazza at Venice, 9 p.m. Dipsychus and the Spirit.
Di. The scene is different, and the place, the air
Tastes of the nearer north; the people
Not perfect southern lightness; wherefore, then,
Should those, old verses come into my mind
I made last year at Naples? Oh, poor fool!
Still resting on thyself—a thing ill-worked—
A moment’s thought committed on the moment
To unripe words and rugged verse:—
‘Through the great sinful streets of Naples as I past,
With fiercer heat than flamed above my head
My heart was hot within me; till at last
My brain was lightened when my tongue had said—
Christ is not risen!’
Sp. Christ is not risen? Oh, indeed,
I didn’t know that was your creed.
Di. So it went on, too lengthy to repeat—
‘Christ is not risen.’
Sp. Dear, how odd!
He’ll, tell us next there is no God.
I thought ’twas in the Bible plain,
On the third day He rose again.
Di. ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
As of the unjust, also of the just—
Yea, of that just One, too!
Is He not risen, and shall we not rise?
Oh, we unwise!’
Sp. H’m! and the tone, then, after all,
Something of the ironical?
Sarcastic, say; or were it fitter
To style it the religious bitter?
Di. Interpret it I cannot. I but wrote it—
At Naples, truly, as the preface tells,
Last year, in the Toledo; it came on me,
And did me good at once. At Naples then,
At Venice now. Ah! and I think at Venice
Christ is not risen either.
Such things don’t fall out every day:
Having once happened, as we know,
In Palestine so long ago,
How should it now at Venice here?
Where people, true enough, appear
To appreciate more and understand
Their ices, and their Austrian band,
And dark-eyed girls.
Di. The whole great square they fill,
From the red flaunting streamers on the staffs,
And that barbaric portal of St. Mark’s,
To where, unnoticed, at the darker end,
I sit upon my step—one great gay crowd.
The Campanile to the silent stars
Goes up, above—its apex lost in air—
While these do what?
Sp. Enjoy the minute,
And the substantial blessings in it:
Ices, par exemple; evening air,
Company, and this handsome square;
And all the sweets in perfect plenty
Of the old dolce far niente.
Music! Up, up; it is’nt fit
With beggars here on steps to sit.
Up, to the caffé! take a chair,
And join the wiser idlers there.
And see that fellow singing yonder;
Singing, ye gods, and dancing too—
Tooraloo, tooraloo, tooraloo loo—
Fiddledi diddledi, diddle di di;
Figaro sù, Figaro giù—
Figaro quà, Figaro là!
How he likes doing it—Ha, ha!
Di. While these do what? Ah heaven! too true, at Venice
Christ is not risen either.
SCENE II.—The Public Garden.
Di. Assuredly, a lively scene!
And, ah, how pleasant something green!
With circling heavens one perfect rose
Each smoother patch of water glows,
Hence to where, o’er the full tide’s face,
We see the Palace and the Place,
And the white dome; beauteous, but hot.
Where in the meantime is the spot—
My favourite—where by masses blue,
And white cloud-folds, I follow true
The great Alps, rounding grandly o’er,
Hugh arc, to the Dalmatian shore?
Sp. This rather stupid place, to-day,
It’s true, is most extremely gay;
And rightly—the Assunzione
Was always a gran’ funzione.
Di. What is this persecuting voice that haunts me?
What? whence? of whom? How am I to detect?
Myself or not myself? My own bad thoughts,
Or some external agency at work,
To lead me who knows whither?
We’re certainly in luck to-day:
What crowds of boats before us plying—
Gay parties, singing, shouting, crying—
Saluting others past them flying!
What numbers at the causeway lying!
What lots of pretty girls, too, hieing
Hither and thither—coming, going,
And with what satisfaction showing
Their dark exuberance of hair,
Black eyes, rich tints, and sundry graces
Of classic pure Italian faces!
Di. Ah me, me!.
Clear stars above, thou roseate westward sky,
Take up my being into yours; assume
My sense to know you only; steep my brain
In your essential purity; or, great Alps,
That wrapping round your heads in solemn clouds
Seem sternly to sweep past our vanities,
Lead me with you—take me away, preserve me!
O moon and stars, forgive! and thou, clear heaven,
Look pureness back into me. Oh, great God!
Why, why, in wisdom and in grace’s name,
And in the name of saints and saintly thoughts,
Of mothers, and of sisters, and chaste wives,
And angel woman-faces we have seen,
And angel woman-spirits we have guessed,
And innocent sweet children, and pure love,
Why did I ever one brief moment’s space
But parley with this filthy Belial?
. . . . . . Was it the fear
Of being behind the world, which is the wicked?
SCENE III.—At the Hotel.
Sp. Come, then,
And with my aid go into good society.
Life little loves, ’tis true, this peevish piety;
E’en they with whom it thinks to be securest—
Your most religious, delicatest, purest—
Discern, and show as pious people can
Their feeling that you are not quite a man.
Still the thing has its place; and, with sagacity,
Much might be done by one of your capacity.
A virtuous attachment formed judiciously
Would come, one sees, uncommonly propitiously:
Turn you but your affections the right way,
And what mayn’t happen none of us can say
For, in despite of devils and of mothers,
Your good young men make catches, too, like others.
Di. To herd with people that one owns no care for;
Friend it with strangers that one sees but once;
To drain the heart with endless complaisance;
To warp the unfinished diction on the lip,
And twist one’s mouth to counterfeit; enforce
Reluctant looks to falsehood; base-alloy
The ingenuous golden frankness of the past;
To calculate and plot; be rough and smooth,
Forward and silent, deferential, cool,
Not by one’s humour, which is the safe truth,
But on consideration.
Sp. That is, act
On a dispassionate judgment of the fact;
Look all the data fairly in the face,
And rule your judgment simply by the case.
Di. On vile consideration. At the best,
With pallid hotbed courtesies to forestall
The green and vernal spontaneity,
And waste the priceless moments of the man
In regulating manner. Whether these things
Be right, I do not know: I only know ’tis
To lose one’s youth too early. Oh, not yet—
Not yet I make the sacrifice.
Sp. Du tout!
To give up nature’s just what would not do.
By all means keep your sweet ingenuous graces,
And use them at the proper times and places.
For work, for play, for business, talk and love,
I own as wisdom truly from above,
That scripture of the serpent and the dove;
Nor’s aught so perfect for the world’s affairs
As the old parable of wheat and tares;
What we all love is good touched up with evil—
Religion’s self must have a spice of devil.
Di. Let it be enough,
That in our needful mixture with the world,
On each new morning with the rising sun,
Our rising heart, fresh from the seas of sleep,
Scarce o’er the level lifts his purer orb
Ere lost and sullied with polluting smoke—
A noon-day coppery disk. Lo, scarce come forth,
Some vagrant miscreant meets, and with a look
Transmutes me his, and for a whole sick day
Sp. Just the one thing, I assure you,
From which good company can’t but secure you.
About the individual’s not so clear,
But who can doubt the general atmosphere?
Di. Ay truly, who at first? but in a while—
Sp. O dear, this o’er-discernment makes me smile.
You don’t pretend to tell me you can see
Without one touch of melting sympathy
Those lovely, stately flowers that fill with bloom
The brilliant season’s gay parterre-like room,
Moving serene yet swiftly through the dances;
Those graceful forms and perfect countenances,
Whose every fold and line in all their dresses
Something refined and exquisite expresses.
To see them smile and hear them talk so sweetly,
In me destroys all lower thoughts completely;
I really seem, without exaggeration,
To experience the true regeneration.
One’s own dress, too—one’s manner, what one ‘s doing
And saying, all assist to one’s renewing.
I love to see, in these their fitting places,
The bows, the forms, and all you call grimaces.
I heartily could wish we’d kept some more of them,
However much we talk about the bore of them.
Fact is, your awkward parvenus are shy at it,
Afraid to look like waiters if they try at it.
‘Tis sad to what democracy is leading—
Give me your Eighteenth Century for high breeding.
Though I can put up gladly with the present,
And quite can think our modern parties pleasant.
One shouldn’t analyse the thing too nearly:
The main effect is admirable clearly.
‘Good manners,’ said our great-aunts, ‘next to piety:’
And so, my friend, hurrah for good society!
SCENE IV.—On the Piazza.
Sp. Insulted! By the living Lord!
He laid his hand upon his sword.
‘Fort,’ did he say? a German brute,
With neither heart nor brains to shoot.
Di. What does he mean? he’s wrong, I had done nothing.
’Twas a mistake—more his, I am sure, than mine.
He is quite wrong—I feel it. Come, let us go.
Sp. Go up to him!—you must, that’s flat.
Be threatened by a beast like that!
Di. He’s violent; what can I do against him?
I neither wish to be killed nor to kill:
What’s more, I never yet have touched a sword,
Nor fired, but twice, a pistol in my life.
Sp. Oh, never mind, ’twon’t come to fighting—
Only some verbal small requiting;
Or give your card’we’ll do ’t by writing.
He’ll not stick to it. Soldiers too
Are cowards, just like me or you.
What! not a single word to throw at
This snarling dog of a d—d Croat?
Di. My heavens! why should I care? he does not hurt me.
If he is wrong, it is the worst for him.
I certainly did nothing: I shall go.
Sp. Did nothing! I should think not; no,
Nor ever will, I dare be sworn!
But, O my friend, well-bred, well-born—
You to behave so in these quarrels
Makes me half doubtful of your morals!
. . . . . . . . . . It were all one,
You had been some shopkeeper’s son,
Whose childhood ne’er was shown aught better
Than bills of creditor and debtor.
Di. By heaven, it falls from off me like the rain
From the oil-coat. I seem in spirit to see
How he and I at some great day shall meet
Before some awful judgment-seat of truth;
And I could deem that I behold him there
Come praying for the pardon I give now,
Did I not think these matters too, too small
For any record on the leaves of time.
O thou great Watcher of this noisy world,
What are they in Thy sight? or what in his
Who finds some end of action in his life?
What e’en in his whose sole permitted course
Is to pursue his peaceful byway walk,
And live his brief life purely in Thy sight,
And righteously towards his brother-men?
Sp. And whether, so you’re just and fair,
Other folks are so, you don’t care;
You who profess more love than others
For your poor sinful human brothers.
Di. For grosser evils their gross remedies
The laws afford us; let us be content;
For finer wounds the law would, if it could,
Find medicine too; it cannot, let us bear;
For sufferance is the badge of all men’s tribes.
Sp. Because we can’t do all we would,
Does it follow, to do nothing’s good?
No way to help the law’s rough sense
By equities of self-defence?
Well, for yourself it may be nice
To serve vulgarity and vice:
Must sisters, too, and wives and mothers,
Fare like their patient sons and brothers?
Di. He that loves sister, mother, more than me—
Sp. But the injustice—the gross wrong!
To whom on earth does it belong
If not to you, to whom ’twas done,
Who saw it plain as any sun,
To make the base and foul offender
Confess, and satisfaction render?
At least before the termination of it
Prove your own lofty reprobation of it.
Though gentleness, I know, was born in you,
Surely you have a little scorn in you?
Di. Heaven! to pollute one’s fingers to pick up
The fallen coin of honour from the dirt—
Pure silver though it be, let it rather lie!
To take up any offence, where ’t may be said
That temper, vanity—I know not what—
Had led me on!
To have so much as e’en half felt of one
That ever one was angered for oneself!
Beyond suspicion Caesar’s wife should be,
Beyond suspicion this bright honour shall.
Did he say scorn? I have some scorn, thank God.
Sp. Certainly. Only if it’s so,
Let us leave Italy, and go
Post haste, to attend—you’re ripe and rank for ’t—
The great peace-meeting up at Frankfort.
Joy to the Croat! Take our lives,
Sweet friends, and please respect our wives;
Joy to the Croat! Some fine day,
He’ll see the error of his way,
No doubt, and will repent and pray.
At any rate he’ll open his eyes,
If not before, at the Last Assize.
Not, if I rightly understood you,
That even then you’d punish, would you?
Nay, let the hapless soul go free—
Mere murder, crime, or robbery,
In whate’er station, age, or sex,
Your sacred spirit scarce can vex:
De minimis non curat lex.
To the Peace Congress! ring the bell!
Horses to Frankfort and to ——!
Di. I am not quite in union with myself
On this strange matter. I must needs confess
Instinct turns instinct out, and thought
Wheels round on thought. To bleed for others’ wrongs
In vindication of a cause, to draw
The sword of the Lord and Gideon—oh, that seems
The flower and top of life! But fight because
Some poor misconstruing trifler haps to say
I lie, when I do not lie,
Why should I? Call you this a cause? I can’t.
Oh, he is wrong, no doubt; he misbehaves—
But is it worth so much as speaking loud?
And things so merely personal to myself
Of all earth’s things do least affect myself.
Sp. Sweet eloquence! at next May Meeting
How it would tell in the repeating!
I recognise, and kiss the rod—
The methodistic ‘voice of God;’
I catch contrite that angel whine,
That snuffle human, yet divine.
Di. It may be I am somewhat of a poltroon;
I never fought at school; whether it be
Some native poorness in my spirit’s blood,
Or that the holy doctrine of our faith
In too exclusive fervency possessed
My heart with feelings, with ideas my brain.
Sp. Yes; you would argue that it goes
Against the Bible, I suppose;
But our revered religion—yes,
Our common faith—seems, I confess,
On these points to propose to address
The people more than you or me—
At best the vulgar bourgeoisie.
The sacred writers don’t keep count,
But still the Sermon on the Mount
Must have been spoken, by what’s stated,
To hearers by the thousands rated.
I cuff some fellow; mild and meek
He should turn round the other cheek.
For him it may be right and good;
We are not all of gentle blood
Really, or as such understood.
Di. There are two kindreds upon earth, I know—
The oppressors and the oppressed. But as for me,
If I must choose to inflict wrong, or accept,
May my last end, and life too, be with these.
Yes; whatsoe’er the reason, want of blood,
Lymphatic humours, or my childhood’s faith,
So is the thing, and be it well or ill,
I have no choice. I am a man of peace,
And the old Adam of the gentleman
Dares seldom in my bosom stir against
The mild plebeian Christian seated there.
Sp. Forgive me, if I name my doubt,
Whether you know ‘fort’ means ‘get out.’
SCENE V.—The Lido.
Sp. What now? the Lido shall it be?
That none may say we didn’t see
The ground which Byron used to ride on,
And do I don’t know what beside on.
Ho, barca! here! and this light gale
Will let us run it with a sail.
Di. I dreamt a dream: till morning light
A bell rang in my head all night,
Tinkling and tinkling first, and then
Tolling and tinkling, tolling again,
So brisk and gay, and then so slow!
O joy and terror! mirth and woe!
Ting, ting, There is no God; ting, ting,—
Dong, there is no God; dong,
There is no God; dong, dong.
Ting, ting, there is no God; ting, ting.
Come, dance and play, and merrily sing,
Staid Englishman, who toil and slave
From your first childhood to your grave,
And seldom spend and always save—
And do your duty all your life
By your young family and wife;
Come, be ’t not said you ne’er had known
What earth can furnish you alone.
The Italian, Frenchman, German even,
Have given up all thoughts of heaven:
And you still linger—oh, you fool!—
Because of what you learnt at school.
You should have gone at least to college,
And got a little ampler knowledge.
Ah well, and yet—dong, dong, dong:
Do as you like, as now you do;
If work’s a cheat, so’s pleasure too,
And nothing’s new and nothing’s true;
Dong, there is no God; dong.
O, in our nook unknown, unseen,
We’ll hold our fancy like a screen
Us and the dreadful fact between;
And it shall yet be long—ay, long—
The quiet notes of our low song
Shall keep us from that sad dong, dong.—
Hark, hark, hark! O voice of fear,
It reaches us here, even here!
Dong, there is no God; dong.
Ring ding, ring ding, tara, tara,
To battle, to battle—haste, haste—
To battle, to battle—aha, aha!
On, on, to the conqueror’s feast,
From east to west, and south and north,
Ye men of valour and of worth,
Ye mighty men of arms, come forth
And work your will, for that is just;
And in your impulse put your trust,
Beneath your feet the fools are dust.
Alas, alas! O grief and wrong,
The good are weak, the wicked strong;
And oh, my God, how long, how long!
Dong, there is no God; dong.
Ring, ting; to bow before the strong,
There is a rapture too in this;
Work for thy master, work, thou slave—
He is not merciful, but brave.
Be ’t joy to serve, who free and proud
Scorns thee and all the ignoble crowd;
Take that, ’tis all thou art allowed,
Except the snaky hope that they
May sometime serve who rule to-day.
When, by hell-demons, shan’t they pay?
O wickedness, O shame and grief,
And heavy load, and no relief!
O God, O God! and which is worst,
To be the curser or the curst,
The victim or the murderer? Dong,
Dong, there is no God; dong.
Ring ding, ring ding, tara, tara,
Away, and hush that preaching—fagh!
Ye vulgar dreamers about peace,
Who offer noblest hearts, to heal
The tenderest hurts honour can feel,
Paid magistrates and the police!
O peddling merchant-justice, go,
Exacter rules than yours we know;
Resentment’s rule, and that high law
Of whoso best the sword can draw.
Ah well, and yet—dong, dong, dong.
Go on, my friends, as now you do;
Lawyers are villains, soldiers too;
And nothing’s new, and nothing’s true.
Dong, there is no God; dong.
I had a dream, from eve to light
A bell went sounding all the night.
Gay mirth, black woe, thin joys, huge pain
I tried to stop it, but in vain.
It ran right on, and never broke;
Only when day began to stream
Through the white curtains to my bed,
And like an angel at my head
Light stood and touched me—I awoke,
And looked, and said, ‘It is a dream.’
Sp. Ah! not so bad. You’ve read, I see,
Your Béranger, and thought of me.
But really you owe some apology
For harping thus upon theology.
I’m not a judge, I own; in short,
Religion may not be my forte.
The Church of England I belong to,
And think Dissenters not far wrong too;
They’re vulgar dogs; but for his creed
I hold that no man will be d——d.
But come and listen in your turn,
And you shall hear and mark and learn.
‘There is no God,’ the wicked saith,
‘And truly it’s a blessing,
For what He might have done with us
It’s better only guessing.’
‘There is no God,’ a youngster thinks,
‘Or really, if there may be,
He surely did’nt mean a man
Always to be a baby.’
‘There is no God, or if there is,’
The tradesman thinks, ‘’twere funny
If He should take it ill in me
To make a little money.’
‘Whether there be,’ the rich man says,
‘It matters very little,
For I and mine, thank somebody,
Are not in want of victual.’
Some others, also, to themselves,
Who scarce so much as doubt it,
Think there is none, when they are well,
And do not think about it.
But country folks who live beneath
The shadow of the steeple;
The parson and the parson’s wife,
And mostly married people;
Youths green and happy in first love,
So thankful for illusion;
And men caught out in what the world
Calls guilt, in first confusion;
And almost every one when age,
Disease, or sorrows strike him,
Inclines to think there is a God,
Or something very like Him.
But eccoci! with our barchetta,
Here at the Sant’ Elisabetta.
Di. Vineyards and maize, that’s pleasant for sore eyes.
Sp. And on the island’s other side,
The place where Murray’s faithful Guide
Informs us Byron used to ride.
Di. The trellised vines! enchanting! Sandhills, ho!
The sea, at last the sea—the real broad sea—
Beautiful! and a glorious breeze upon it.
Sp. Look back; one catches at this station
Lagoon and sea in combination.
Di. On her still lake the city sits,
Where bark and boat around her flits;
Nor dreams, her soft siesta taking,
Of Adriatic billows breaking.
I do; I see and hear them. Come! to the sea!
Oh, a grand surge I we’ll bathe; quick, quick!—undress!
Quick, quick!—in, in!
We’ll take the crested billows by their backs
And shake them. Quick! in, in!
And I will taste again the old joy
I gloried in so when a boy;
Aha I come, come—great waters, roll!
Accept me, take me, body and soul!
That’s done me good. It grieves me though,
I never came here long ago.
Sp. Pleasant, perhaps; however, no offence,
Animal spirits are not common sense;
They’re good enough as an assistance,
But in themselves a poor existence.
But you, with this one bathe, no doubt,
Have solved all questions out and out.