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A Child's Song of the Season.




WHERE Cinderella stitches,
The daylight dimly reaches,
     And when the sun is setting,
The red rays faintly find her
With eyes that still grow blinder
     Through famine and through fretting,
While lower, lower drooping,
     She hums a weary air,
Above the bright robes stooping
     Her sisters are to wear.

Her sisters?—they are creatures
Of softer, sweeter features,
Tall, stately, and resplendent
     With jewels in their dresses,
With pomp and trains attendant,
And many a jewel pendant
     Amid their drooping tresses.
Their beauty and their gleaming,
As lonely she sits dreaming,
     Poor Cinderella guesses.

Oh she has seen them passing,
     On sobbing, rainy nights,
When the wet streets are glassing
     The glory of their lights.
And they have seemed unto her
     As creatures far above her,
Too fair, even if they knew her,
     To note her or to love her.
Yet as they pass’d so fleeting,
She watch’d them with heart beating,
And from their pride did borrow
Pure pleasure and no sorrow;
For while into her chamber,
Her little feet did clamber,
“How sweet!” she thought, all glowing,
     “Just only to have noted
My lovely sisters going,
     Fair, lustrous-eyed, white-throated!”
And with that glimpse of gladness
     No canker flower did blossom,
And sweetness and not sadness
     Fill’d Cinderella’s bosom;
For all the night before her,
     While she is dumbly sewing,
A happy spell is o’er her,
     Of great lights coming, going,
And ever, scarce repining,
     She feels it, and rejoices
To see her sisters shining,
     And hear their happy voices.



“This, and this only, would quite content me,
If once, once only, a glimpse was lent me
Of the fairy court and the fairy queen there,
And my sisters dancing in golden sheen there.

“I would not speak, I would keep from view,
Nor tell them I was their sister too;
Yea, lest my clothes and my face should shame them,
I’d crouch in a corner and never claim them.

“But oh to see them moving and flitting
In the halls where the fairy queen is sitting,
My sisters round her, bright lamps above her,—
I’d sew for a lifetime and think it over!

“Little Jesus with golden hair,
If I might wander to-morrow there,
Take just one peep at the light and laughter,
Come back and think o’er it for ever after.”

O’er Cinderella’s pallet small,
A picture was pasted on the wall—
Cheeks of red and eyes of azure,
A little Child, with a smile of pleasure.

Some might deem it a poor device,
Daub’d and sold for a copper price;
But to her it told of a golden story:
Our Lord it was, as a Child of glory.

All night long, as she slept, above her
The picture bent and seem’d to love her.
Still as she sew’d, for a moment raising
Her eyes, she saw that the Child was gazing!

“To-night the queen of the fairy land
Holds her court in the palace grand;
My beautiful sisters all are going,
One in the robe that I am sewing.

“Little Jesus with golden hair,
If I might only see them there!”
Ev’n as she prayed, with a glimmer splendid,
The picture flash’d and the Child descended!



O’er Cinderella’s bosom,
     A strange calm awe was stealing;
She felt her poor heart blossom
     With bright ecstatic feeling;
She saw and did not fear Him,
     She knew and seem’d to love Him,
She thrill’d so to be near Him,
     But blest the light above Him,—
The aureole and lustre,
     Which round His form was beaming.
In many a golden cluster,
     His happy locks were streaming;
But less she seem’d to dread Him,
Because the dress that clad Him
     Was poor and sad to seeming.
A Child He was, yet under
His child-looks woke strange wonder,
     And soft angelic dreaming.
“Come!” said He, smiling sweetly,
     And gave His hand unto her.
Dumb-stricken now completely,
     She felt the touch thrill through her!

The door flew open slowly
Before that Infant Holy,
And all the city of wonder,
     Wrapt in its dim and grey light
     Of smoke and mist and daylight,
Surged with a sound of thunder
Beneath, as the pale woman,
Unseen by all things human,
Was by a Hand Immortal
Led to the palace portal!



The sun was shining. Before the door
There huddled a crowd of ragged and poor
Children and maidens and women thronging,
With gaunt wild eyes of wonder and longing.

And Cinderella, unseen by them,
Clutch’d at the Infant’s raiment hem.
“Oh who are these poor shivering creatures,
Ragged like me, and with human features?”

“These are thy sisters, and theirs!” her Guide,
Looking up in her face, replied.
She gazed again, and their looks seem’d younger,
With her own soul’s passion, her own soul’s hunger.

She stood amid them, and felt their breath
Heavy with famine, fever, and death;
And while she linger’d, the Infant with her,
Her beautiful sisters in throngs came thither.

In flashing slippers and luminous dresses,
With white pearls powder’d among their tresses,
Gentle and common, and young and old,
They throng’d to the beautiful gates of gold.

But Cinderella’s heart grew bright.
“Oh!” she cried, “what a beautiful sight!”
She turn’d and look’d on the Infant’s features—
Shrivell’d they seem’d like a frozen creature’s.

“These are thy sisters!” said the Child.
He waved His hands with an anguish wild.
“These are thine own dear sisters truly;
Look on them well, and remember duly.”

Then Cinderella became aware,
That floating over them in the air
Were evil spirits, misshapen, horrid,
Each with God’s death-cross on his forehead.

Mammon was there with his yellow skin,
Pointing them on with a miser’s grin;
Envy and Folly, sister and brother,
Were clinging to Ignorance, their mother.

Belial, swollen with lust and pride,
Guided these spirits evil-eyed;
Wildly they hover’d in his view there,
All the devils, black, yellow, and blue there!

Cinderella hath hidden her face:
“Take me away from the dreadful place!”
And then she murmur’d, sobbing blindly,
“My poor, poor sisters! God keep them kindly!”



Then spake the Child, and on His hair
Strange light, as if a hand moved there,
Came trembling as He spake: “Indeed,
These are thy sisters and thy seed;
And blessed be the charity
Thou giv’st, and which they gave not thee.
Behold them naked to the day!
Possess’d by devils even as they
Whom I of old cast into swine.
These are our sisters, thine and mine!
And yet I say by one alone
Of those bright glittering gems they own,
And proudly wear, might now be fed
A thousand mouths that starve for bread;
And yet I tell thee all the while
They gather here with painted smile,
Forgetting thee and all God’s poor,
Who wail unheeded at the door,
Dark day by day, my Father on high
Sits unremember’d in the sky;
And yet I tell thee many here
Maintain my shrines from year to year,
And worship, one day out of seven,
My Image, and a God in heaven!”



Poor Cinderella started,
     And found she had been dozing.
Then, sad and weary-hearted,
     Her gentle eyes unclosing,
Up at the dark wall peeping,
     She saw the Picture there,
Not living, but yet keeping
     The dim light on its hair,
As of a hand of blessing,
Illuming and caressing!
She sigh’d and dropt her sewing,
     Then rising and forth-gazing,
She saw the day was going,
     O’er the red house-roofs blazing;
Then while her poor heart flutter’d,
     She watch’d the darkening gleam,
“How glad I am,” she mutter’d,
     “That it was but a Dream!”


‘Cinderella: a Child’s Song of the Season’ was published in Good Words, November, 1876.




(Zululand, January 2, 1879.)


IN the wilds of Isandúla, far away,
The little band of British soldiers lay,
     When a warning voice cried, “Fly!
     For the savage swarms are nigh!
     See, they loom in war-array
         Against the sky!
     Ere they come in all the might
     Of their legions black as night,
Form in order and take flight from Isandúla.”

Then our soldiers look in one another’s eyes, . . .
Less in terror than in wondering surmise,
     And a cold breath of despair
     Seems to chill the golden air,
     When a voice of thunder cries:
         “Men, prepare!
     Though no human help be by,
     We are here our strength to try,
Yea, to keep the camp, or die in Isandúla!”

So an English cheer arises wild and shrill,
As they form and face the onset with a will,
     For clearly now each one
     Can see the black hordes run
     Swift as wolves across the hill
         In the sun—
     They can see the host at last
     Coming terrible and vast,
Like a torrent, rolling fast on Isandúla! . . .

Soon upon them in their living thousands fell
The blacks like screaming devils out of Hell,
     Swarming down in mad desire
     As our gunners open’d fire—
     At that thunder, with shrill yell,
         They swept nigher!
     “Fire!” again the order ran,
     As the bloody strife began
With the lion-hearted van, at Isandúla.

’Tis to struggle with the avalanche’s force!
It enwraps them, it consumes them, in its course;
     Round the guns its dark floods flow,
     See, the gunners gasping low!
     It o’erwhelms them, foot and horse,
         At a blow!
     “Retreat!” the voice hath cried,
     And in order, steadfast-eyed,
They stem that sable tide at Isandúla.

Back to back, all sides surrounded, slowly led,
Their fire upon the foe, they downward tread;
     While at last the sable stream,
     Sweeping on them, teeth agleam,
     Before their crimson lead
         Pause and scream!
     And at that another cheer
     Arises wild and clear,
And the foe fall back to hear, in Isandúla!

But ’tis only for an instant they refrain,
At the challenge of that cheer they shriek again,
     They swarm on every hand
     O’er the little steadfast band,
     Till again, the crimson rain
         Makes them stand!
     Like a torrent—nay, a sea!—
     They roll onward bloodily,
But no white man turns to flee from Isandúla!

Still as stone, our soldiers face the savage crew—
“Fix your bayonets! die as English soldiers do!”
     It is done—all stand at bay—
     But their strength is cast away;
     And the black swarms shriek anew
         As they slay!
     Ah, God! the battle-throes!
     With their dead for shields, they close,—
Where the slaughter ebbs and flows, in Isandúla!

And as fast as one form falls, another springs—
They are tigers, not like human-hearted things—
     Surging onward they abound,
     With a clangour of shrill sound,
     With a clash of shields, like wings
         Waving round!
     As our brave men one by one
     Fall death-smitten in the sun,
O’er their corpses legions run, in Isandúla!

“Save the colours!” shrieks a dying voice, and lo!
Two horsemen breast the raging ranks, and go—
     (In thy sacred list, O Fame!
     Keep each dear and noble name!*)
     See, they flash upon the foe,
         Fierce as flame—
     And one undaunted form
     Lifts a British banner, warm
With the blood-rain and the storm of Isandúla!

“Save the colours!” and amidst a flood of foes,
At gallop, sword in hand, each horseman goes—
     Around the steeds they stride
     Cling devils crimson-dyed,
     But God! through butchering blows,
         How they ride!
     Their horses’ hooves are red
     With blood of dying and dead,
Trampled down beneath their tread at Isandúla!

“Save the colours!”—They are saved—and side by side
The horsemen swim a raging river’s tide—
     They are safe—they are alone—
     But one, without a groan,
     After tottering filmy-eyed,
         Drops like stone;
     And before his comrade true
     Can reach his side, he too
Falls, smitten through and through at Isandúla! . . .

Bless the Lord, who in the hollow of His hand,
Kept the remnant of that little British band!
     But give honour everywhere
     To the brave who perish’d there,
     Speak their praise throughout the land
         With a prayer—
     More than sorrow they can claim:
     They have won the crown of Fame!
They have glorified the name of Isandúla!

                                                                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.

* Lieut. Nevill Josiah Aylmer Coghill (24th Regt.), Lieut. Teignmouth Melvill (24th Regt.), both killed while escaping with the colours, Jan. 22, 1879.



‘The Battle of Isandúla’ was published in the Contemporary Review (April, 1879 - p.153-156). The Guardian (4 April, 1879 - p.6) described it as follows:

     ‘The Contemporary Review contains a poem on “Isandula” by Mr. Robert Buchanan. Its versification is spirited, but it cannot be said to be on the whole successful. In particular, there is an obvious jar in speaking of the Zulus as “devils,” “tigers,” &c. This is not the way in which brave men or the bards who worthily sing brave men’s deeds speak of opponents in fair fight.’

The poem is particularly interesting given Buchanan’s regular anti-war and anti-Empire stance - one presumes that was the reason it was not included in The Poetical Works of 1884. The battle of Isandula (or Isandlwana - best pronounced with a Welsh accent and the mellifluous tones of Richard Burton as in the prologue to the 1964 film, Zulu) took place on 22nd. January 1879 (the date is misprinted in the subtitle but corrected in the footnote) and, according to Wikipedia, it remains “the greatest British military defeat at the hands of native forces in history.”

(I’d like to thank Phil Johnson of Keele University Library for originally taking the time to find, scan and send me a copy of the poem.)




(Respectfully inscribed to PROFESSOR SANDERSON, of Cambridge.)


ONCE on a time—ah, why not say,
In rounder phrase, the other day?—
Two Dogs, a terrier and a collie,
One full of knowledge, one of folly,
Discussed, stretch’d out on college stairs,
This weary world and its affairs.

The elder was a reverend creature,
Of thoughtful bent and gentle nature.
Grown grey with following up and down
A wise Professor of the town,
And list’ning in the lecture-hall
To teachings metaphysical;
Plato his name was, and I ween
A sager Dog was never seen.
The other, of inferior merit,
Youthful in years and wild in spirit,
Own’d by a graduate of the place,
Had, like his master, gone the pace,
Contracting many a tribulation
Thro’ loose amours and dissipation;
But Puck, tho’ wild and undiscerning,
Was not without respect for learning,
And now, since deathly fear distrest him,
To Plato came, and thus addrest him.

‘Sad news, dear Plato, on my word!
At last . . . but you, perchance, have heard? . . .
’Tis voted here within the college
That men and boys, in quest of knowledge,
May hack and vivisect and kill
All fourfoot creatures when they will!
Yes, not content with operation
On creatures of inferior station,
They now refuse to draw the line
At nobler lives, like yours and mine.
Such horror fills me at the notion,
Look how I tremble with emotion!
You know I’ve never grumbled when,
To aid the purposes of men,
The meaner types which crawl or run
Have been experimented on!
A bird’s a bird! a rat’s a rat!
And I myself detest a cat;
And sparing rabbits and such trash
Is sentimental balderdash!
But when the wave of Science passes
On to the intellectual classes,
And Dogs are threaten’d with such ravage,
By heaven, ’twould make a puppy savage!’

Plato smiled sadly, blink’d his eyes,
Flick’d with his tail to scare the flies,
And answer’d:—
                           ‘Puck, if you, like me,
Were grounded in philosophy,
You’d cease to talk so much at random.
We Dogs are, non est disputandum,
Highest of all things in life’s plan,
Save one thing—videlicet, Man.
Now, Science, I believe, maintains
The convolutions of our brains
To those of men are liker far
Than even those of monkeys are.
This being fearlessly admitted,
What follows? Are you too thick-witted
Not to perceive that Man must choose
Materials fitted for his use,
And, right of torture being granted
O’er all things, choose the thing most wanted?
Now, sentiment avers that we
Approach so near humanity
As quite to justify the creed
That we, the Dogs, have Souls indeed
Like those that own us!’
                                     For a moment
He paused, to hear the other’s comment,
But Puck being silent, he proceeded:—

‘You grant, that wise research is needed?
That Man, creation’s lord, must gain
Pure knowledge, in despite of pain?
How then forbid his prying into
The bodies he is most akin to,
The physiology of Dogs,
So far transcending cats or frogs?
Have you one argument whereby
You can that privilege deny?
No? Think again! Not one! Then listen!
[Here Plato’s eyes began to glisten
With unctuous humour, and beneath
He show’d his rows of ivory teeth]
I can by logic prove that Man
Might find a more unselfish plan,
Nay, one that in a little season
Might multiply the stores of reason,
And demonstrate to all mankind
How Mind is Matter, Matter Mind. . . .

‘Sometimes you’ve eyed with wonder, maybe,
That mass of pulp, the human Baby?—
A crying thing whose eyeballs roll
Mechanical as any doll!
Oft in our nursery I have lain,
And heard the automaton complain
From hour to hour in impotence,
Without a glimmering of sense.
Compared to a Puppy newly born
Your Baby is a thing to scorn,
Yet, physiologically, he
Is a grown man’s epitome.
How blindly, with what endless bother,
He gathers one sense and another,
Till, after dreary months of woe,
He learns to notice and to know!
Now, mark the issue!—Many a day
I’ve heard my learnèd master say
The age’s saddest complication
Is this—the surplus population:
The Earth being impotent to feed
Or clothe the half of Adam’s seed,
Who, thickly swarming, in the strife
For mere subsistence, darken life.
Then comes my logical suggestion,
Which in a trice decides the question—
Let Man’s experiments take place
On infants of the human race,
Chosen before those forms of matter
Have learn’d to feel or see or chatter,
In fact, when baby men and women
Are simply—gluttonous albumen!’

Puck started up, as if to run,
‘Here, I say, Plato! don’t poke fun!
The joke’s too ghastly! Don’t you know
Each baby, tho’ a lump of dough,
Or a wax doll to squeak and whine,
Contains a seed that is divine?
I’ve heard our parson say as much;
So, if you should profanely touch
The sacred Soul, you’d blunder queerly;
As bad as butchering Dogs,—or nearly!’

‘Ah, Puck,’ replied the gentle sage,
‘You’re ignorant and behind the age!
Philosophers who vivisect
Treat such old dreams with scant respect,
Holding the human Soul to be
Non est inventus—fiddledee!
Their latest wisest definition
Shows Mind’s but Matter in secretion,
So that when bodies die the death,
Out goes the Soul—it ends with breath.
Thus, tho’ its heart goes pitter-patter,
A Babe’s but undeveloped matter,
Without the mental consciousness
Which even puppy-dogs possess,
And with no hope, save by and by
To reach self-consciousness, then die! . . .
Man, operating upon creatures
Like to himself in forms and features,
With hearts and brains and lungs precisely
Resembling his, would progress nicely,
And doubtless, some fine morning, find
How Matter works perspiring Mind,—
A problem he can ne’er unmesh
By cutting up mere canine flesh,
Since, greatly tho’ our wise ways strike them,
We are not men, but only like them.’

He ceased; the other blankly gazed
Upon him, more and more amazed
To hear so wise a Dog as he
Speak words which seem’d like blasphemy—
Then droop’d his tail, and gasp’d ‘good day,’
And trembling, went upon his way. 1

                                                                                           ROBERT BUCHANAN.
February 9, 1884.

     1 As remotely bearing on the humanitarian question involved in the topic of vivisection, may be recorded the fact that Mr. Labouchere’s notice of a bill to class Bears as domestic animals, and so save them from brutal torture, was greeted with ‘laughter’ by the House of Commons. I have been so often at issue with Mr. Labouchere that I should like on this occasion to do homage to his courage,—a courage all the more noble that it overcame the possessor’s own characteristic dread of ridicule. The senior member for Northampton is likely to be  remembered, not as a society journalist, but as a politician of the most unselfish kind.
                                                                                                                     R. B.



‘A Canine Suggestion’ was published in Belgravia (April, 1884 - p.163-167). The letter which accompanied its submission is available here.





Alone! alone in London!
     She stretches helpless hands—
In storm and strife, the Sea of Life
     Rolls round her as she stands!
She sees no friendly face go past,
     She hears no friendly tone;
A flower upon a torrent cast
     Is not more lost and lone!

Then nightly, over London,
     The starry orbs unclose,
Heaven opens clear, from sphere to sphere
     The electric splendor glows!
She stands alone amid the crowd,
     And, looking to the skies,
Beholds, beyond the breaking cloud,
     The light of loving eyes!

At last, alone in London,
     She sinks in that dark Sea!
Deep down below its ebb and flow
     Creep creatures sad as she;
Ragged and wretched, thro’ the gloom,
     The human outcasts move;
Yet even here, in darkness, bloom
     Lilies of light and love!

Alone! alone in London!
     And yet not all alone!
Weeping she stands, but gentle hands
     Are thrust into her own!
The shadows fade, the splendours grow,
     Sweet voices answer hers;
While beggar’s rags fall off, to show
     God’s radiant Messengers.



‘Alone in London’ appears on the first page of The Olympic Programme and Looker-On (7 November, 1885) - Saturday’s programme of the first week of the London production of Alone in London, the play by Robert Buchanan and Harriett Jay. The poem is unsigned but one assumes it is by Buchanan.




I first came across the following two poems in an article about the Maybrick Murder Case in The San Francisco Call of November 21st, 1897. James Maybrick died at his home in Liverpool on May 11th, 1889 and his wife, Florence (an American) was subsequently arrested for his murder, tried and sentenced to death by Justice James Fitzjames Stephen. The death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and the case continued to attract publicity on both sides of the Atlantic until Mrs. Maybrick’s eventual release in 1904. The public defence of Mrs. Maybrick, according to the article in The San Francisco Call, was championed by the London edition of the New York Herald:

“Editorial invective was not deemed sufficiently forceful for the occasion, so Robert Buchanan was called upon to contribute an appropriate auxiliary, to be limited only by the bounds of poetic license, with the following result. ... Buchanan’s wrathful satire, copied in extracts throughout Great Britain, touched the Christian sentiments of the people, while the exposures resolutely made by the Herald from day to day, in defiance of all threats of prosecution for libel and contempt, made a profound impression on the Liberal Ministry, and particularly on Home Secretary Matthews.”

The first poem also appeared in The Echo on the same day as its publication in the London edition of the New York Herald: 16th August, 1889. This differs slightly from the version reprinted in The San Francisco Call in 1897 (Justice Stephen is not mentioned by name), so I have included both versions below. This first poem was never published in book form, but the second poem from The San Francisco Call, ‘The Ballad of Resurrection’ (which was also first published in 1889) was reworked by Buchanan and included in The New Rome in 1898 under the title ‘The Jew Passes’. This later version includes references to Buchanan’s The Wandering Jew, with Christ still forced to wander the earth, this time until the abolition of capital punishment.

Further information about the case is available on wikipedia, which also has an entry on Justice Stephen, and the article from The San Francisco Call is available on this site.


The Echo (16 August, 1889 - p.2)



The following appears in the New York Herald to-day:—

Grave in his place, black cap upon his head,
     A good Judge fix’d his gaze upon the sinner—
“May God have mercy on your Soul!” he said,
     Then took the ermine off, and went to dinner.

That evening o’er the walnuts and the wine,
     While the lone culprit wept in desolation,
He, with a smile serene and superfine,
     Finger’d his chin, and weighed the situation.

“How sweet it is,” he mused, “to sit on high,
     “Spectator of Life’s foolishness and vanity,
And in the name of God whom I deny,
     To join the Masquerade of Christianity!

“‘May God have mercy on your Soul,’ Yes! These
     Are words of mockery and contradiction,
Since well I know, as every wise man knows,
     God is a figment, and the Soul—a fiction!

“I, who am God’s Judge in a Christian land,
     Whose Queen’s Defender of the Superstition,
Have ta’en the Christian’s Bible in my hand,
     And sworn to countenance the imposition!

“Judge? And a good Judge, too, my critics swear!
     I take my stand on Science and Reality;
A Puritan, as those I sprang from were,
     I hold one creed essential, that’s Morality!

“And yet, Morality (which in its youth
     Men misnamed Faith), by its most solemn pleading—
Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth—
     Seems to rebuke the Lie which I am leading?

“I think (and here he smiled and filled his glass)
     This world is ample, both for Judged and Judges!
Life on the whole most pleasantly may pass,
     If we dispense with God and other Fudges!

“Books (moral books), newspapers (moral, too),
     Science and Art, Friendship and good Society,
Make Life worth living to the fit though few,
     And hanging culprits lends that Life variety!

“To thrive, and to be moral! To succeed,
     And get the loaves and fish, is surely pleasant?
Atheist in thought and orthodox in deed,
     I smile at Future States, embrace the Present!

“That creature whom I judged?—Humph!—How I prest
     The issue home, unmoved by weak compassion?
The Law’s hot iron burning in her breast,
     She shriek’d to God—in most immodest fashion!

“I hold Adultery (which I’m afraid,
     The foolish Jew men worship treated lightly!)
To be the deadliest sin of sins. I made
     Those twelve good Jurors acquiesce—and rightly!

“And so they doom’d her, an Adulteress!
     And so I, Man’s Elect, pronounced her sentence!
O may that faith I loathe but must profess
     Chasten her thoughts, and lead her to repentance!

“‘May God have mercy?’ I, at least, I trust,
     Know better how to reckon with things human;
With or without a Soul, I hold Man must
     Be moral, more particularly Woman!

“Judge in a land whose need I hold in scorn,
     Voice of a God I pass as inexpedient;
Arm of a queen who in God’s Faith was born,
     I measure mortals with my moral gradient!

“I, who am Atheist in a Christian land,
     Judge of the Faith, forlorn and full of folly,
Taking the Code of God in this right hand,
     Pass judgment in the Name fools still deem holy.

“Let an Adultress die! They waste their breath
     Who ask my sympathy for such a sinner!”
And smiling at the merry Dance of Death,
     He shrugg’d his shoulders and enjoyed his dinner.

                                                                         ROBERT BUCHANAN.



The San Francisco Call (21 November, 1897)


(Subscribed to Justice Stephen.)


Grave in his place, black cap on his head,
     The wise Judge fixed his gaze upon the sinner.
“May God have mercy on your souls,” he said,
     Then took the ermine off and went to dinner.

That evening o’er the walnuts and the wine,
     While the lone woman wept in desolation,
He with a smile serene and superfine
     Fingered his chin and weighed the situation.

“How meet it is,” he mused, “to sit on high,
     “Spectator of life’s foolishness and vanity,
And in the name of God whom I deny,
     To join the masquerade of Christianity.

“‘May God have mercy on your soul,’ Yes:
     Are words of mockery and contradiction,
Since well I know, as every wise man knows,
     God is a figment, and the soul—a fiction:

“I, Stephen, God’s judge in a Christian land,
     Whose Queen’s defender of the superstition,
Have ta’en the Holy Bible in my hand,
     And sworn to countenance the imposition.

“Judge? And a good judge, too, my critics swear,
     I take my stand on science and reality;
A Puritan, as those I sprang from, where
     I hold one creed essential—that’s Morality.

“And yet Morality (which in its youth
     Men misnamed Faith) by its most solemn pleading—
Truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth—
     Seems to rebuke the lie which I am leading!

“I think,” and here he smiled and filled his glass,
     “This world is ample, both for judged and judges;
Life on the whole most pleasantly must pass,
     If we dispense with God and other fudges.

“Books (moral books), newspapers (moral too),
     Science and art, friendship and good society,
Make life worth living to the fit, though few,
     And hanging culprits lends that life variety.

“To thrive, and to be moral. To succeed,
     And get the loaves and fish, is surely pleasant.
Atheist in thought and orthodox in deed,
     I smile at future states, embrace the present.

“That woman whom I judged? Humph! how I prest
     The issue home, unmoved by weale compassion;
The law’s hot iron burning in her breast,
     She shrieked to God in most immodest fashion.

“I hold adultery (which I’m afraid
     The foolish Jew men worship treated lightly)
To be the deadliest sin of sins. I made
     Those twelve good jurors acquiesce, and rightly.

“And so they doom’d her, the adulteress—
     And so I, man’s elect, pronounced her sentence.
O may that faith I loathe but must profess
     Chasten her thoughts and lead her to repentance.

“‘May God have mercy?’ I at least, I trust,
     Know better how to reckon with things human,
With or without a soul, I hold man must
     Be moral, but especially woman!

“Judge in a land whose need I hold in scorn,
     Voice of a God I pass as inexpedient;
Arm of a queen who in God’s faith was born,
     I measure mortals with my moral gradient,

I, Stephen, atheist in a Christian land,
     Judge of the faith, forlorn and full of folly,
Taking the code of God in my right hand,
     Pass judgment in the name fools still deem holy.

“Let the adultress die: They waste their breath
     Who ask my sympathy for such a sinner”;
And smiling at the merry Dance of Death,
     He shrugged his shoulders and enjoyed his dinner.




(Inscribed to Mr. Justice Stephen.)


Christ awoke on his bed
     And opened his beautiful eyes,
“The time is come,” he said,
     “I will light my lamp and arise.”

Christ arose from his bed,
     Where weariful years he had lain,
The stars were shining overhead,
     Thick as the golden grain.

“Eighteen hundred years
     Have flown since I lay as dead;
I found the children of earth in tears
     But bade them be comforted.

“Surely now at last
     My cross is a blossoming tree,
Evil and sorrow are past,
     My throne is ready for me.”

He lit his lamp and arose
     ’Neath a sky without a cloud,
Bright and fair as a blowing rose
     His face shone out of its shroud.

Christ stood fair and bright
     At the porch of the tomb and smiled,
And the restless wind of the night
     Slept like a sleeping child.

Slowly along the dark
     Unseen by men crept he,
But the Earth lay silently down to mark
     In the soft, still arms of the sea.

He came to a City great,
     Silent under the sky,
And the watchman at the gate
     Beheld him not go by.

Passing the empty mart,
     Creeping from shade to shade,
He found at last in the city’s heart
     A temple that men had made.

Dark at the temple door
     The ragged and outcast lay,
And Lazarus wailed once more,
     Weary and gaunt and grey.

And an altar light burnt there,
     And a litany sounded hence—
“Rejoice! rejoice! for all Gods that were
     Are banished and vanished hence.

“And the only God we know
     Is the ghost of our despair;
Gaze in the glass, and lo!
     Our God is mirrored there.

“Strong as when time began,
     Creature of dust and breath,
God our Lord, the spirit of man,
     Crowned with the crown of death.”

And lo! from earth and sea,
     And the blue skies now o’ercast,
Voices wailed, “Woe is me;
     Death is the first and last.”

Christ went with shining feet,
     Through loathsome alley and den,
He heard around him from every street,
     The moan of the Magdalen.

“How long, O Lord, how long,”
     He heard the lone voice cry,
“Shall they who wrought the wrong,
     While we lie lost, go by?”

“Reach down thy hand,” it moaned,
     “To help the lost and me—
Rabbi, the woman still is stoned,
     The man still wanders free?”

Still and unseen crept he
     Into the prison square,
And he saw the Upas tree,
     Of man’s invention there.

High as the Cross it stood,
     Crosswise its shadow fell,
And the sap of the tree was tears and blood,
     And its roots sank deep as hell.

“Rabbi!”—again that cry
     Came from a lonely place—
And she who waited to die,
     Had a woman’s form and face.

“Reach down thy hand,” it moaned,
     “To help the lost, and me—
Rabbi, the woman still is stoned;
     The man still wanders free.

“The lie, the blight, and the ban
     That doom me, men have cast—
By man I fell, and my judge, a man,
     Threw the first stone and the last.

“Master, master,” she said,
     “Hither, come hither to me.”
He left his blessing upon her head,
     His curse on the Upas tree.

And all his soul was stirred,
     His tears like red blood ran,
While the light of the woful world
     Flamed on the city of man.

And the heavens grew black as night,
     And the voice cried, “Sleep again,”
And the cold sea’s arms clung wild and white
     Round a world that shrieked for pain.

He walked upon the sea,
     And the lamblike waves lay still,
And he came to Calvary
     And the crosses high on the hill.

Beneath his cross he stood,
     Between the thief and the thief;
And lo! the cross dript blood, dript blood,
     And never put forth a leaf.

Christ crept back to his bed,
     Where Death stood dark and dumb—
“I waked in vain,” he said,
     “My kingdom hath not come.”



‘The Good Judge’s Soliloquy’ did engender some comment in other newspapers:

The Nottingham Evening Post (17 August, 1889 - p.2)

     Mr. Robt. Buchanan’s latest bêtise “The Good Judge’s Soliloquy,” is certainly the worst of the many departures from good taste which the Maybrick incident has afforded. He represents “the good judge”—and there can be no doubt at whom the jibe is directed—as weighing the situation “o’er the walnuts and the wine,” “with a smile serene and superfine,” and musing thus—

How sweet it is . . . to sit on high,
     Spectator of life’s foolishness and vanity,
And in the name of God, whom I deny,
     To join the masquerade of Christianity.

“May God have mercy on your soul!” Yes, these
     Are words of mockery and contradiction,
Since well I know, as every wise man knows,
     God is a figment, and the soul—a fiction.

It is difficult to imagine a more gratuitous and shameful libel than this. A good many persons, some from political partisanship, and some from unreasoning sentimentalism, have impugned the impartiality of Mr. Justice Stephens during the Maybrick trial, but it has been left for Mr. Robert Buchanan to insinuate that he “made those twelve good jurors acquiesce,” sentenced the prisoner with his tongue in his cheek at the awful words, “May God have mercy on your soul,” and, finally, “smiling at the merry dance of death,” “shrugged his shoulders and enjoyed his dinner.” We do not think it will be worth the judge’s while to take any notice of this mean and outrageous attack upon his honour, but if Mr. Buchanan does not suffer in person he will assuredly lose the last shreds of any reputation he has hitherto enjoyed.



The Lancashire Evening Post (17 August, 1889 - p.2)

     The New York Herald publishes a poem by Mr. Robert Buchanan, suggested by the Maybrick case. It opens with an attack on Mr. Justice Stephen which is certainly unwarrantable. Mr. Buchanan sneers at the judge as an atheist, and makes him, in a soliloquy, mock the faith which prompted the words, “May God have mercy on your soul.” Unfortunately Mr. Buchanan is nothing if not extravagant. In the second part of the poem, Christ wakes to walk abroad on the earth, and finds a woman condemned to the gallows for adultery, who cries to him for help.

Christ crept back to his bed,
Where Death stood dark and dumb—
“I waken’d in vain,” He said;
“My kingdom hath not come.”

If the whole conception of this were imaginative, it would be a very powerful piece of writing, but its source of inspiration in a case which Mr. Buchanan judges, in his own peculiar fashion, really ruins the effect of literary skill.



Star of the East (19 August, 1889 - p.2)

     Journalistic enterprise often overdoes a thing. The Maybrick case provides an admirable example. The London evening papers have been veritable pickers-up of unconsidered trifles in this matter, every morsel of intelligence has been eagerly printed, and a fairly faithful photograph of public opinion has been presented to the world. But is it not going a little too far when a newspaper begins to analyse the constitution of a jury, and enumerates the trades and occupations of the jurymen, and other facts private and otherwise, with a view to eliciting whether there was the smallest probability of their being prejudiced against the woman condemned by their verdict. The New York Herald must be blamed for this solecism against journalistic good taste and manners, and also for publishing as it did the other day some scurrilous verses from the pen of Robert Buchanan with reference to the case of Mrs. Maybrick.

     The same journal seems to think that Mr. Matthews is in a position somewhat similar to that of Buridan’s ass. Many dilemmas, it says, surround Mr. Matthews. If Mrs. Maybrick is guilty she must be punished, if the “law is no respector of persons.” If she is not guilty, or if the question is clouded by a reasonable doubt, she ought to be pardoned. If he executes her a large number of Englishmen will execrate him. If he commutes to imprisonment for life, people will ask why; and, does he substantially abolish capital punishment? If he pardons, he will be charged with countenancing “trial by mob.” If he upheld the sentence the Radicals will call him bloodthirsty; and his own party may in some measure declare that he brings the Conservatives into unpopularity.



The Nottingham Evening Post (20 August, 1889 - p.2)

     The extraordinary step adopted in regard to the Maybrick case by the latest recruit to London daily journalism has aroused general and righteous indignation. It was the journal in question which gave publication to Mr. Robert Buchanan’s outrageous attack upon Judge Stephens last week, and yesterday it gave the names of all the jurymen, with their trades and addresses, and short biographical sketches, bristling with that sort of unsavoury gossip that the reporter would be able to pick up from the men’s neighbours or in the nearest bar. It is quite possible that one or two libel actions may repent the proprietor of the paper in question of his temerity, and serve as a warning to other journalists whose enterprise is too prone to overleap the bounds of good taste and discretion; but at any rate it is to be hoped that public opinion will be expressed very decidedly against this latest development of the New Journalism. It is bad enough that Ministers charged with the dreadful responsibility of life or death should be subjected to rancorous imputations by partisan journalists; that judges, who have nobly upheld the high and honourable traditions of the English bench, should have their impartiality impugned by thoughtless men and women who do not trouble to make themselves acquainted with all the facts of the case; but when it comes down to striking at the jurymen, there is a very real danger ahead. It has been said that the whole purpose of the Constitution is to get twelve men into a jury-box, but if the methods of the New Journalism are to succeed men will shun that box as they do a plague-house. Hitherto a wholesome and a necessary anonymity has surrounded it. Its occupants are usually men of no note, whose opinions or characteristics are unknown to either side; they arrive at their verdict without fear or favour; and when it is given they return to the obscurity from whence they came. Once you upset all this you strike at the root of the jury system. Contrast, for instance, our own experience with the States. Here with the anonymity that surrounds the jury-box, challenges are practically unknown; but in the States, where the interviewer has full play, there is not a trial of any importance where hours and even day are not wasted in getting a jury together. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the general outcry which has been evoked by this latest scandal of journalism will warn the proprietor of the paper in question that there are some limitations of enterprise which must be observed.



On 22nd August, 1889, the death sentence on Florence Maybrick was commuted to life imprisonment. On the following day The Coventry Herald published a long article (available here) which included this passage relating to Buchanan’s poems.

     “. . . Still more censurable have been the comments made on the conduct of the Judge. An extreme example of these has been seen in a copy of verses written by a poet and play-writer, who, though he has always been known as a person given to violent language and extravagant opinions, has in this case given vent to opinions and language which are a disgrace even to him. Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN has employed the keen edge of verse to assail Mr. Justice STEPHEN with intent to murder his reputation. He has represented him as a cynic and atheist gloating over the fate of the prisoner, as saying to himself that “hanging culprits” gives variety to life and as congratulating himself on having pressed the issue home “unmoved by weak compassion.” A multitude of people who have not the excuse of being poets and do not appear to be altogether lunatics have also, though in more moderate language, charged the Judge with pressing the case against the prisoner. There is no ground for any of the accusations against Judge or jury; there is every reason to believe that both acted throughout with the utmost care and conscientiousness, and there is certainly no reason to believe that either Judge or jury was not deeply affected by the solemnity of the duty entrusted to them, and moved also by the ordinary human feelings that the situation of the miserable woman naturally evoked.”



Further information about the case is available on wikipedia, which also has an entry on Justice Stephen, and the article from The San Francisco Call is available on this site.


[Florence Maybrick]


[Justice James Fitzjames Stephen]




Alfred, Lord Tennyson died on 6th October, 1892. Buchanan’s poetic tribute was published in The Daily Telegraph on 8th October. The poem was also reprinted in various newspapers at the time, but was not included in either The New Rome or the 1901 Complete Poetical Works.


The Daily Telegraph (8 October, 1892 - p.5)


’Tis o’er! He leaves the lonely road
     Whereon he fared so long;
The gentlest, brightest knight of God!
     The Galahad of Song!

The only one of all our knights
     Who wore the snow-white mail,
And turned from strife and lewd delights
     To seek the Holy Grail.

His path was not where factions cry,
     Or where the fretful moan;
Where life runs stillest, he passed by,
     In maiden thought, alone!

Calm were the ways his white steed trod,
     Calm were the heavens and air;
Where’er he rode, singing of God,
     The world grew very fair!

He drew aside from friends and foes
     To hush his soul apart;
Clear on the air his song arose
     Out of a faithful heart.

’Twas something—nay, ’twas much!—when Life
     Seemed dreariest to our gaze,
To hear, above the waves of strife,
     That gentle note of praise!

Far off it seemed! too pure, too sweet,
     For doubts as dread as ours—
Yet, when we listened, round our feet
     We felt the grass and flowers.

And if we sighed to think he sought
     A Dream of no avail,
Into our souls his music brought
     Strange glimmers of the Grail!

When all the beauteous gods were dead
     Who lit the world at morn,
When god-like singers too had fled,
     And left the race forlorn,

When all the white Immortal throng
     Had left the sunless land,
How sweet it was to hear that song
     Of God and Fairyland!

The voice is dumb! the song is o’er!
     The long, glad quest is done!
The lonely ways will know no more
     Our stainless shining one!

And we, the remnant which remain
     Of the great Table Round,
Less, yet his brethren, ne’er again
     Shall see him, laurel-crowned!

Into the glooms of God he goes,
     Our Galahad of Song,
Perchance, e’en now, those glooms disclose
     The Grail he sought so long?

Nay, for despite his life-long quest,
     He gained his soul’s desire;
The Grail was burning in his breast—
     His own pure heart of fire!

He who, like him, is stainless, learns
     That faith can never fail,
Since not without but in us burns
     God’s Heart, the Heavenly Grail!

Peace to the Knight who kept his vow,
     While others slept like sand!
But who shall sing to mortals now
     Of that lost Fairyland?

     Oct. 6, 1892.                                                                                                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.



The Dover Express (14 October, 1892 - p.2)

     HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN in a telegraphic message expressed the deep concern she felt on account of the death of the Poet Laureate, for whom she entertained sincere regard and deep admiration. The finest poetical tribute to the genius of Alfred Tennyson just made public has come from the pen of Robert Buchanan, who seemed to draw inspiration from the subject of his elegiac strain. In calling the author of the “Idylls of the King” the “Sir Galahad of Song,” he used a happy form of phrase pretty certain to be often repeated. Among foreign newspapers the Paris Temps must be credited with having contained the best and completest article on the departed poet. So far as the paper mentioned is concerned Paris had an advantage over New York.




Alfred Austin was appointed Poet Laureate on 1st January, 1896. His first published work in the post (although not sanctioned by the Government) was a poem in praise of the Jameson Raid - according to wikipedia, “a botched raid on Paul Kruger’s Transvaal Republic carried out by British colonial statesman Leander Starr Jameson and his Company mercenaries (“police” in the employ of Belt and Rhodes’ British South Africa company) and Bechuanaland policemen over the New Year weekend of 1895-96. It was intended to trigger an uprising by the primarily British expatriate workers in the Transvaal but failed to do so. ... The raid was ineffective and no uprising took place, but it was an inciting factor in the Second Boer War and the Second Matabele War.” Austin’s poem, ‘Jameson’s Ride’, appeared in The Times on 11th January, 1896. Buchanan’s response was published in The Star, but I have not found the original, only the following extract. The poem was not reprinted in The New Rome or the 1901 Complete Poetical Works.


Edinburgh Evening News (15 February, 1896 - p.4)


     Mr Robert Buchanan in the “Star,” under the heading of “A Rhyme for the Time,” gives the following, among other verses:

There was a little Dutchman, and he had a little gun,
He stood and saw his flocks and herds around him in the sun.

But to the little Dutchman came flying through the air
A little bird—“Look southward—there’s mischief brewing there!

“For there the great god Jingo has built his proud abodes,
And towering o’er them strideth the great Colossus, Rhodes!

“Beware! lest in the nighttime you find yourself undone!”
The little Dutchman nodded, and cock’d his little gun!

By nighttime rode the robbers the Dutchman’s land to raid,
While watching from afar off the great Colossus prayed.

But round the little Dutchman there rose an armed flock,
A thousand little Dutchmen, with their little guns a-cock!

They whipt the Jingo raiders, and they threw them into quod,
While the great Colossus, clinging to his bloody Jingo god,

Cried loudly, as the tempest gather’d over land and sea,
“O please, I didn’t do it! nor my Charter’d Companie!”

The little Dutchman answer’d, with a chuckle and a nod,
“I know you, Herr Colossus, and your ugly Jingo-god!

“Your Bibles and your Charters and your bullion I despise:
Your charter is a Robber’s, and your god a god of Lies!

“I’ll put my mark upon you, for the eyes of men to see!”
And he fired at the Colossus, and he nick’d him in the knee!

It hurt him very little, but it left him, after all,
Just a limping, lame Colossus, stumbling feebly to his fall!





The following poem was published under this title as the concluding piece in Archibald Stodart-Walker’s anthology, A Beggar’s Wallet, published in November, 1905 on behalf of Edinburgh’s Royal Victoria Hospital for Consumption. The book was intended to be sold at the “Great International Fair to be held in the Waverley Market, in the month of November, 1905”. Stodart-Walker reprinted the poem in the third part of his series of articles, ‘Some Celebrities I Have Known’, in Chambers’s Journal of 13th February, 1909. A Beggar’s Wallet is available at the Internet Archive.





“LORD, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!”
I murmur’d ’mid the snowstorm of my grief,
     “Dark as the sunless pall
     The folds of darkness fall,
Closing my life’s dim day, so strange, so brief!”

“Lord, I believe, and yet, O Lord, how chill
And frozen grows the faith I cling to still.
     Once it was bright and sweet,
     Swift as a young man’s feet,
Fair as a young maid’s smile, strong as a warrior’s will.”

“The dumb and wistful yearning and desire
Thro’ these dark clouds of sense to something higher,
     All the long, lonely years,
     I have sung through smiles and tears,
But now my hand drops heavily down the lyre!”

“And lo! instead of gladsome faëry gold,
A few black withered leaves are all I hold,
     Help then mine unbelief!
     Comfort Thy child’s last grief,
Stoop to Thy wandering sheep, and bear him to Thy fold!”

[By kind permsission of Miss Harriet Jay].



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