Griselda: A Society Novel In Verse - Chapter IV

How shall I take up this vain parable
And ravel out its issue? Heaven and Hell,
The principles of good and evil thought,
Embodied in our lives, have blindly fought
Too long for empire in my soul to leave
Much for its utterance, much that it can grieve.
A soldier on the battlefield of life,
I have grown callous to the signs of strife,
And feel the wounds of others and my own
With scarce a tremor and without a groan.
I have seen many perish in their sins,
Known much of frailty and inconsequence,
And if I laughed once, now I dare not be
Other than sad at man's insanity.
Therefore, in all humility of years,
Colder and wiser for hopes drowned in tears,
And seeking no more quarries for my mirth,
Who most need pity of the sons of earth,
I dip in kindlier ink my chastened pen,
And fill of my lost tale what leaves remain.

Years passed. Griselda from my wandering sight
Had waned and vanished, like a meteor bright,
Leaving no pathway in my manhood's heaven
Save only memories vaguely unforgiven
Of something fair and sad, which for a day
Had lit its zenith and had gone its way.
Rome and the Prince, the tale that I had heard,
Griselda's beauty--all that once had stirred
My curious thought to wonder and regret,
In the vexed problem of her woman's fate,
Had yielded place to the world's work--day cares,
The wealth it covets and the toil it dares.
I was no more a boy, when idle chance
And that light favour which attends romance
Brought me once more within the transient spell
Of other days, and dreams of Lady L.

'Twas in September--(I have always found
That month in my life's record dangerous ground,
Whether it be due to some unreasoned stress
Of the mad stars which dog our happiness,
Or whether, since in truth most things are due
To natural causes, if our blindness knew,
To the strong law of Nature's first decay,
Warning betimes of time that cannot stay,
And summer perishing, and hours to come,
Lit by less hope in the year's martyrdom;
And so we needs must seize at any cost
Fleet pleasure's hem lest all our day be lost)--
'Twas in September, at a country house
In the Midland shires, where I had come, God knows,
Without a fancy but of such light sort
As manhood ventures in the realms of sport
With that dear god of slaughter England's sons
Adore with incense--smoke and roar of guns,
That this new chapter opens. Who had guessed
So rare a phoenix housed in such a nest?

For we, in truth, were no wise company,
Men strong and joyous, keen of hand and eye,
And shrewd for pleasure, but whose subtlest wit
Was still to jest at life while using it,
And jest at love, as at a fruit low hung
To all men's lips, no matter whence it sprung.
A fool's philosophy, yet dear to youth
Bred without knowledge of the nobler truth,
And seeming wisdom, till the bitter taste
Of grief has come to cure its overhaste.
Naught was there, in the scene nor in the parts
Played by the actors, worthy serious hearts,
Or worthy her whose passion trod a stage
High o'er the frailties of our prurient age,
Griselda and her unattained fair dream
Of noble deeds and griefs unknown to them.
How came she there? Our hostess was a woman
Less famed for wisdom than a heart all human
Rich in life's gifts, a wealthy generous soul,
But still too fair and still too bountiful.
The rest, mad hoydens of the world, whose worth
Lay mired with folly, earthiest of the earth.
How came she there? When I, unconscious all
Of such high presence at our festival,
Heard her name bandied in the general hum
Of hungry tongues, which told the guests had come,
And saw in converse with our host the form,
Familiar once in sunshine and in storm,
Of her who was to me the type and sign
Of all things noble, not to say Divine,
Breathing the atmosphere of that vain house,
My heart stopped beating. Half incredulous,
I looked and questioned in my neighbours' eyes,
Seeking the sense of this supreme surprise.
My thought took words, as at the table set
Men's lips were loosed, discoursing while they ate,
And each to each. Beside me, of the crew
Of gilded youths who swelled the retinue
Of our fair hostess in her daily lot
Of hunting laughter when field sports were not,
Sat one, a joyous boy, whom fashion's freak,
A mad--cap purse--string and a beardless cheek,
Had set pre--eminent in pleasure's school
To play the hero and to play the fool
For those few years which are the summer's day
Of fashion's foils ere they are cast away.
Young Jerry Manton! Happy fortune's son!
What heights of vanity your
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Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt was an English poet and writer. more…

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