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Harriett Jay

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{The Outcast 1891}











A GRAY Sea wrinkling dark,
And out on the dim sea-line
                   A Barque
Becalm’d amid silver shine,

While gazing over the Sea
From an Isle of yellow sands,
                   Sat we,
Holding a book in our hands!

Do you remember, Dear,
The time and the place and the tale?
                   The drear
Ocean, the one sad Sail?

We sat there, spirit-stirred,
In the rainy Hebrides,
                   And heard
The wash of the windless seas,

While ever, upraising eyes,
We saw the Ocean, the gray
                   Cold Skies,
And the Sail afar away!

Still as the still hours fled,
That day of gentle gloom,
                   We read
Our tale of Death and Doom,—

Of the Outcast woe-begone                                                      4
Who, mid the Tempest’s roar,
                   Drave on
Homeless for evermore.

Dearest, his piteous tale
Made your clear eyes grow dim;
You read, and you pitied him!

“How sad, how strange,” you sigh’d,
Out ’mid the Storms to roam,
The lights of Heaven and Home!

“Dead, yet a thing with life,
Under the blight and the ban,
                   At strife
With God, forgotten by Man!”

I whisper’d “Nay, but hear
How he learn’d the Love Divine!”
                   More near
You crept, and your hand sought mine;

Under those sunless skies,
We follow’d the dark strange theme,
                   Our eyes
Alive with love and dream;

And then, when the tale was done,
And you turn’d your face to me,
                   The Sun
Shone out upon the Sea:

Rainy and dimly bright                                                               5
Out of a cloudland pale,
                   The Light
Stream’d on that lonely Sail! . . .

We thought of Poets lost
Whose souls still voyage on,
By His wind, Euroclydon;

Born to divine despairs,
Kingly yet trampled down,
                   Sad heirs
Of the Martyr’s cross and crown.

We thought of the English-born
Childe with the bleeding breast,
                   All scorn,
Pride, and sublime unrest.

Yea, and that other too,
Pallid and radiant-eyed,
                   Who drew
The Hyperion glorified!

We thought of Singers dead
Who shared the Outcast’s doom
                   And shed
Songs on the Sea, his Tomb:

Of him who wildly flies
No more on the Waters deep,
                   But lies
In gray Montmartre, asleep!

[How loud his shrill voice rang!                                                 6
Yet often his voice grew clear
                   And sang
Songs that a child might hear!]

Of him who strongly smote
The Scald’s harp laurel-crown’d,
On a stormy Surge of Sound!

Softly upon my breast
I laid your golden head,
                   And prest
My lips to your brow, and said:

“Mine was that Outcast’s doom,—
Tost mid the surge of shame,
                   All gloom
Until my Darling came!

“Scornful of Nature’s plan
I nurst my pride and grief,
                   A man
Stony in unbelief.

This little hand of snow
Touch’d the hard rock, my heart,
                   And lo!
Its stone was cleft apart,—

Then came the blessed dew,
The consecrating tears!
                   I knew
God’s Love, after all those years!

“Thus was I saved, redeem’d,                                                   7
As even His Outcasts are!”
                   Bright gleam’d
The Light on the seas afar!

We sat there, spirit-stirr’d,
In the rainy Hebrides,
                   And heard
The wash of the windless seas,

While rainy and dimly bright
Out of its cloudland pale,
                   The Light
Stream’d on that lonely Sail!





‘A WORLD without a God! Heigho! . . .
The good old God had merit, though!
Le Bon Dieu, gravely interfering
     In all Humanity’s affairs,
Bowing His kind gray head and hearing
     The orphan’s moans, the widow’s prayers,
Was worth, or so it seems to me,
Whole cataracts of Tendency;
For though He now and then grew crusty,
And damn’d some few (as all gods must), He
Was patient ’spite deep provocation
With the small things of His creation!
Jesus He loved, and tolerated
     Even Goethe’s patronising nod!
Century on century He waited
While great philosophers debated,
     Then, finding men dispense with “God,”
Took His departure from the earth,
     Where still some limbs were genuflected,
The day that Schopenhauer had birth,—
     And left the human race dejected!’

Without, while in my chambers dreary
     I mused and watch’d the flickering flame,
The snow fell thickly, night winds weary                                            
Moaned miserere! miserere!
     And shivering revellers went and came.
’Twas Christmas Eve! The bells were ringing
     In faintly joyful jubilation:
I heard the tidings they were bringing
     But groan’d apart in indignation.
My plans in life had all miscarried;
My only friends were dead, or married;
My book (that Epic you remember)
     Had gone to wrap up cheese and butter;
And lonely, in the lone December,
     As feebly as a leaf may flutter
From bough to bough while bleak winds blow,
     Till rough feet tread it in the mire,
This heart of mine had sunken low,
     Dead to the world and its desire!
‘Confound their superstitious revels!’
     I murmur’d, spirit-sick and sour,
‘I’ll dine with Care and the blue devils
     And curse the world with Schopenhauer!
There is no God, and all men know it
Except the preacher and the poet;
Women are slaves and men are flunkeys,
The best but well-developed monkeys,
And Virtue is—a huswive’s sampler,
     Self-sacrifice—an usurer’s chatter;
Once Heaven was sure and Hope was ampler,
     But now the Devil rules Mind and Matter!                                     
Le Roi est mort—destroy’d and undone,
     Or impotent and deaf and blind—
vive le Roi of Hell and London,
     Who weaves a shroud for Humankind!’

Peace upon earth! good will to men!
The bells rang out with sad vibrations.
I poked the fire, pursued again
     My misanthropic meditations.

The last new Philosophic Pill,
A panacea for every ill,
Is—‘Quit thy service in the Shrine
Prophets and seers have deemed divine,
Give up the Sphynx’s dark acrostic,
Be neither atheist nor agnostic,
But, since thy days are just a span,
Worship and praise the new God, M
He shall endure when thou art dust,
     Gain that of which thou art bereaven,
He shall absorb thy love and trust,
Thy dying struggles shall adjust
     The ladder which He climbs to heaven!
The better thou, the grander He,
This god of thee and thine, shall be!
And in the thought of His perfection,
     To which all creatures are proceeding,
Thy soul shall ’scape from its dejection                                              
     Caused by too much eclectic reading!’
Service of Man,—or Monkey? Far
Better to sit rectangular,
And like a dervish contemplate
     My very navel till it grows
The central whirligig of Fate,
The Rose of Heaven that burns and blows!
Better to dance with barefoot souls,
Like good John Calvin, on hot coals,
And, full of sin yet grace-deserving,
Face the Arch-enemy without swerving!
But worship M
AN? Go back once more
To image-worship as of yore,
And bend my head and bow my knee
To this King Ape, Humanity?
This stomach-troubled, squirming, aching,
     Mud-wallowing, creature of a day,
This criticising, this book-making,
     Fretful, dyspeptic, thing of clay!
This Multi-face whom it hath taken
     Ages to learn to wash and dress!
This horde of swine, doom’d to be bacon,
And now, by countless devils o’ertaken,
     Shrieking in impotent distress!
This mass of foulness and of folly
     Through whom the Paracletes have died!
This Yuletide carcase deck’d with holly
     In honour of its Crucified!                                                            
Now great Jehovah lies o’erthrown,
     Shall the mere Pigmy reign at last?
Pshaw, rather worship stick or stone,
And let Humanity crawl past!

‘Man as an individual, I
Hold first of creatures ’neath the sky,
But though I’m human at the best,
Man the Abstraction I detest!
Collectively, this Human Race,
Despite its brag and self-acclaim,
Its pride, its pompous talk, is base;
Ever, in every clime and place,
     Its record is of sin and shame!
Bright holocausts of martyr’d blood
     Mark its progression up the ages;
The sensual protoplasmic mud
     Bespatters even its Seers and Sages!
Nay, what are all the human crew
     But maggots from corruption bred?—
‘By heaven, we talk like gods, and do
     Like dogs!’ Nat Field has wisely said!

‘A poor half-witted Caliban,
     Wailing his nature and condition,
Still prone upon the mud, is Man,
     And ne’er can be his own Magician;
Far less, far less, his own supreme                                                     
     Master and Lord and Arbitrator!
Nay! till the stars shall cease to gleam,
The wretch shall blunder in a dream
     And say his Noster in cœlum Pater!
In Heaven (or, if you please, in Hell)
     Must reign the Lord of man and woman—
Not ’mid these shadows where we dwell,
Not on this blood-stain’d sward where fell
     The foolish gods who have loved the Human.
Nay, man can ne’er by man be shriven,
     By borrow’d rays his star must shine,
Not threefold heritage in Heaven
Could purge his spirit of its leaven,
     Or make the Upright Beast divine!’

. . . While thus I mused, I heard without
     A foot that blunder’d on the stair,
Then sounds of one who groped about
To find a door—‘Some dun, no doubt!’
     I thought, not rising from my chair.
Then some one softly knock’d. I stirred not,
But sat stone still as if I heard not. . . .
Again!—‘Come in,’ at last I cried,
Whereon the door flew open wide,
And on the threshold there was seen
A Stranger, elegant of mien,
Tall, white-shirt-fronted and dress-suited,
Faultlessly gloved and neatly booted,                                                 
Who, paletot upon his arm,
     Opera hat upon his head,
Smiled at my start of vague alarm,
     And pausing ere he enter’d, said—
‘Pardon this call so unexpected.
     I sail from England, sir, to-morrow,
And to your room have been directed
     A little kind advice to borrow.
If I have been instructed rightly
     You are a Poet, and the man
I seek for’ (here he bow’d politely),—
     ‘I’m sure you’ll help me if you can.’
So saying, he closed the door behind him,
     And threw his coat upon a chair,
While I, a little piqued to find him
     So confident and debonair,
Cried, ‘Who the Devil are you?’
The light
Fell on his features waxen white,
His raven ringlets thinly threaded
With silver as he stood bareheaded,
His black moustache, and underneath
Two pearl-white rows of smiling teeth.
‘The Devil?’ he cried. ‘Pray, did you mention
That very primitive invention,
Who surely, whatsoe’er cognomen
     You give him—Satan, Ahrimanes,
Baal, Moloch—though he awes old women,                                      
     The merest fiction of the brain is?
The Poets have invented for us
Some six or seven Fiends that bore us—
Chiefly the one your gentle Milton
Set the high buskin and the stilt on,
And taught to make speech after speech to
A God extremely given to preach, too!
Nay, Goethe even, though well acquainted
With his infernal subject, painted
A fiend impossibly malicious
And supernaturally vicious.
Sir, the real Devil, Science teaches,
Not only wears man’s hat and breeches,
But shares Humanity’s affliction.
In short, sir, Satan is a fiction,
Save in so far as we sad creatures
Assume his airs and ape his features.’

I listened in amaze, while he,
Smiling at my perplexity,
Advanced into the room and stood
     Full in the firelight’s crimson glow,—
A lithe, tall form of flesh and blood,
     Yet pallid as the bloodless snow:
A modern shape such as we meet
     Cigar in mouth and homeward strolling
After the play, in Regent Street,
Where Phryne trips with loitering feet                                                
     And lissome Lais goes patrolling.

Answering his smile I cried, ‘Who is it?
Your name? and why this midnight visit?’
Fixing on me his bright black eyes,
‘A poet, sir, should recognise,’
He answer’d, ‘one who has so long,
Been theme for satire and for song!
I’ faith, I am somewhat widely famed
As P
The F
                                           As he spake
I seemed to hear the surges break
On some steep shore, while thunder-crashes
Answer’d the Tempest’s fiery flashes!
My head swam round—I shrank in dread
     From that world-famous Form of fiction.
‘Pray calm yourself,’ he laughing said,
     ‘For we are fellows in affliction!
The cliques have damn’d
you too, I hear,
For many a melancholy year,
Because, in trying hard to double,
Against a stream of tears and trouble,
The Cape of Desolate Endeavour,
And reach Fame’s Ocean (smooth for ever!)
You used bad language, loudly swearing,
For great or small gods little caring,
You’d toss on Life’s mad Sea until                                                     20
You’d work’d your wild poetic will!
Sir, you lack’d reverence, as
I did,
Who in my impotence derided
The Artificer of storm and thunder,
     The great Self-Critic of Creation;
And now, like me, you’ve learn’d your blunder,
     You hug your doom and desolation.
Well, well, let gods and critics be,
Sit down a little space with me,
Comparing notes, our friends commending,
     Cursing our foes, this wintry night!
Come, though our strife is never ending,
     We’ve had our pleasure in the fight?
Not fearing Hell or hoping Heaven,
     We face the Elemental Flood;
Far better to be tempest-driven
     Than rot upon the harbour mud!’

‘A ghost!’
                 ‘A man!’
                                 ‘A poet’s theme,
Woven of nightmare and of dream!’

‘Nay, flesh and blood, sir—there’s my hand
To prove it!’
                     Laughing low, I took
His ring’d white hand in mine, and scanned
     His marble features like a book                                                    .
No sun-brown’d, wind-blown face, but one
Strange to the shining of the sun,
And sicklied o’er with sad moonlight
Beneath its ringlets black as night;
So young, and yet so old!—so still,
     So callous and so coldly proud;
The eyes so bright, the cheeks as chill
     As some dead sleeper’s in his shroud.
Gazing, I heard, beyond the sound
Of happy church-bells ringing round,
The murmur of the sleepless Sea
Stirring and breathing balefully,
While Argus-eyed and strangely fair
     The wintry Heaven, stooping low,
Laid softly on its stormy hair,
With sighs of blessing and of prayer,
     Thin tremulous finger-tips of snow!

Then cried I, wakening from a trance,
     That sad sea-music in my ear,
‘Whoe’er thou art, whatever chance
     Brings thee this night, be welcome here!
Spectre or mortal, man or devil,
     Draw up thy chair and toast thy toes,
And while the world prepares for revel
     Tell o’er thy rosary of woes!
I, too, as thou hast aptly said,
     Have had my share of castigation;                                                 
I, too, with fretful, feverish tread
Have paced the decks of life, and shed
     My sullen curses on creation.
Sit, kindred spirit, let’s together
     Rail at the stupid heavenly fiction;
Come summer days or wintry weather,
     We brood apart in contradiction.
We know the world—there’s nothing in it,
     Now gods and heroes have departed;
Palsied and feeble, every minute
     It grows more melancholy-hearted.
The Creeds have withered one by one,—
     Frost-bitten roses in the garden;
There’s nothing left beneath the sun
     But lives that pass and hearts that harden.
Sit down, sit down, my gallant Rover,
     And tell me, in the name of wonder,
What brought thee down the Straits of Dover,
To this sad City shadow’d over
     With fog and vapour, mist and thunder?’

Then smiling, comfortably seated
     In the warm firelight’s flickering glare,
He told his tale as I entreated,
     With tranquil after-dinner air,—
Turning his talk aside each moment
For light contemporary comment,
That showed him apt in whatsoever                                                   
     Was taking place from here to Hades—
Most diabolically clever,
     And intimate with lords and ladies;
Familiar with the latest news,
     The freshest novels of sensation,
Scandal of palaces or stews,
The last misconduct of the Muse
     With bards of naughty reputation;
Well read in Science, verst extremely
     In current philosophic knowledge;
As intimate with works unseemly
     As any Fellow of a college;
In short, an intellectual Dandy,
With every art of culture handy—
Libertine, with a touch of passion,
     Callous, but sadder than he knew—
Sceptic of course, as is the fashion,
     Yet somewhat superstitious too;—
For fiercely as his wit might strike
On God and gods and men alike,
His furtive glances as he spoke
Belied the open laugh and joke,
As if he fear’d, despite the sneer,
     Taught by a secret intuition,
The coming of some Shape of Fear,
     Or some celestial Apparition!

     He told me of his doom, and how                                                  24
Despairing he had roam’d till now
From land to land, from sea to sea,
     In his doom’d Ship upon the Ocean,
As bored as any soul could be,
     And soul-sick of the troublous motion.
His crime? The form of his offence
Against avenging Providence?
He laugh’d, and told me. ‘Unbelief!
     Too much philosophy,’ said he;
‘I laugh’d, at all the gods—in chief
     The Æon who is One in Three!
Although a sailor of the main,
     I was a man of erudition,
And having logic in my brain
Saw syllogistically plain
     The blunder of His Proposition!
For this, sir, and for minor sins,
     Not unconnected with Eve’s daughters,
He pull’d my ears and kick’d my shins,
     And drove me out upon the waters.’
‘A contradiction—if you knew
God was not, could God punish you?’
He laugh’d. ‘Precisely! Many a man
Has argued so since Time began!
But know the cause of my disgrace,
     And with my argument agree:
I swore to the Old Fellow’s face


     He was not, and He could not be!                                                  25
His thunder answer’d: but I proved
     ’Twas only phantom-drift and cloud—
The more the elements were moved
     Against me, more I laugh’d aloud!
Then some one interceded—’twas,
     As usual, one of Eve’s dear sex!
And on a day it came to pass,
     Standing upon the slippery decks,
I heard that I from time to time
     Might cease upon the waves to dance.
“Father, he knew not of his crime,
     Give the poor devil another chance!”
“One chance—a dozen!”—answered He,
Whom I had proved could never be!
So said—so done! The Eternal Force,
     Law, Love, Power, God, whate’er you please
To name it, steered my sleepless course
     To land for intervals of ease;
And there, at the divine request
     Of her who deem’d me worth retrieving,
I roam’d about and did my best
     To grasp what millions die believing.
In vain! in vain! where’er I went,
     Folly and death were all I found,
My upas-tree of discontent
     With dead sea fruit was rightly crown’d;
I found both men and women rotten,
     I saw no joys but health and money,                                               26
Love was a fable long forgotten,
     While Lust, though sweet, was poison’d honey.
I knew all creeds, all superstitions,
     All gods that men and women rever.
I tried all customs and conditions,
Adopted every priest’s petitions,
     And got the same old answer ever.
The answer? Your dyspeptic German
     Has given it—Death! Annihilation!
So back to sea, half ghost, half merman,
Scorning the terrors that deter Man,
     I hasten’d, sick of all Creation!’

I listen’d wondering. Thoughts as drear
Had haunted me for many a year,
And yet so phrased they seem’d to be
Accurst and full of blasphemy.
Into his face I look’d again
     And saw my soul’s reflection there,—
Pallor of passion and of pain,
     Shadows of cruel, black despair:
A spirit poison’d through and through,
Yet hungering for the sun and dew;
A nature warp’d and wild, yet fraught
With agonies of piteous thought;
A soul predoom’d to Death and Hate,
     Yet eager to be saved and shriven—
A life so wholly desolate
It seem’d fierce irony of Fate                                                               27
     To mock it with one glimpse of Heaven!

‘A hundred years ago,’ said he,
     ‘Began my folly or my crime;
Since then I’ve kept a Diary
     To pass away my idle time.
Just for a joke, ’tis written in
Mine own red blood, on parchment skin
(Best for the brine and wet), and here
Upon my heart for many a year
I’ve kept it. Would you care to view it?’
So saying, from his breast he drew it—
A book with many a finger-mark,
     And placed it in my hand—and while
I glanced across its pages dark,
     He prattled on with cynic smile.

‘Like a young lady, truth to tell,
I’ve kept my cordiphonia well!
My thoughts, my careless meditations,
     Are all set down in these queer pages—
My bonnes fortunes and my flirtations,
Sketches of ladies of all nations—
     Tall, short, dark, fair, and of all ages!
There’s matter there of strange variety,
     Strange retrospects of sport and scandal,
Which any journal of society
     Would roundly pay, methinks, to handle.
They are at your service, if you please                                                28
     To use them—prithee look them over—
Memoirs are now the mode, and these
     Are highly spiced, as you’ll discover!
They prove at least that such a quest—
     To find true love and self-surrender,
Is but a foolish, idle jest!
I’ve roam’d the world from east to west,
     Found many kind, and some few tender,
But never one prepared to give
Her soul that he she loved might live,
And Death’s last draught of hemlock take
For some poor damnèd devil’s sake.
I’ll grant you, Man were saved and proved
Immortal, could he thus be loved;
But no! the seed of Eve our Mother
     Is capable of much, but never
Of wholly losing for another
     All stake in happiness for ever!
They’ll love, and even accept damnation,
     So they but hold their man the surer,
But absolute obliteration
Of self for his soul’s preservation,
     Demands diviner powers and purer.
I’ve tost the gauge to God, and cried:
     “Prove such self-abnegation to me!
Find such a Soul—I’ll stoop my pride,
Admit the justice I denied,
     With which you torture and pursue me.                                           29
Assume one Angel possible,
And God is surely proved as well!
Admit one soul from Self set free,
You prove Man’s Immortality.
The problem’s fair! As I’m a sinner,
     The Old One finds it hard of proving;
I hold myself an easy winner,
     After a century of loving.”’

‘Peace upon earth! goodwill to men!’
     The bells rang out around the room,
Beyond the frosted window pane
     The still snow waver’d through the gloom:
Hung on the wall above my head
A prickly branch of holly bled
Bright drop by drop—berry and thorn
Symbolic of that Christmas morn!
‘Not one,’ methought; ‘yes—One, who gave
     His life that those might live who die!
Rabbi,’ I cried, ‘come from Thy grave,
     To give this mocking voice the lie!’

He laughed. ‘My wager, sir, concern’d
     The softer sex and not the other!
A million hearts like yours have turn’d
     For comfort to our Elder Brother.
In vain! He found, as we must find,
The baseness of all humankind,                                                           30
And broke His gentle heart in proving
Sisters and brethren not worth loving!
He, too, in that consummate minute,
     As I have done, His God denied;
He play’d for Heaven and fail’d to win it,
     Bow’d a despairing head, and died!’

E’en as he spake the bells peal’d loud
     In clearer, wilder jubilation;
He listen’d, with his dark head bow’d,
     A little space in meditation,—
His face toward the fire, his soul
Black as the sullen flickering coal.
Suddenly from the embers came
A tremulous blood-red hand of flame,
Touch’d him upon the forehead, lit
His gloomy cheek and crimson’d it
As if with fire from Hell! . . . and still
     The white snow waver’d through the gloom;
‘Peace unto men! peace and goodwill!’
     The bells, in mockery of his doom,
Rang loud and clear!
                                 ‘Enough,’ he said,
‘Our King of Doctrinaires is dead.
Once, I believe, one wintry night,
     Hundreds of years ago, He rose,
And blunder’d with His ghostly light
     Across the drift, amidst the snows,                                                 31
Forded the narrow seas and found
The Devil and Pope Joanna crown’d,
Set side by side beneath the dome
Of great St. Peter’s, there in Rome;
Then, finding He too soon had risen,
     And was not wanted or expected,
Back to his resting-place and prison
     He hasten’d sleepy and dejected,
And laid him down, and closed his eyes—
There, dead as any stone, He lies!
Poor fellow! he was disappointed,
     Like all your dreamers in the end;
What God the Father left unjointed,
Shapeless and vile, no priest anointed,
     No seer, no doctrinaire, can mend.
Enough of Him, enough of folly!
     What use o’er fruitless dreams to ponder?
Pull down your evergreen and holly,
     And hang the skull and crossbones yonder.
Sweeter than constant introspection
     The light afloat which rovers follow—
There’s not a creed will bear reflection,
There’s never a god escapes dissection,
     Not even Jesus or Apollo!
I know where man stands now!—I’ve studied
     Your last philosophies right through—
Found my poor intellect bemudded,
Grown sceptical and bitter-blooded,                                                  32
     And curst the whole pragmatic crew.
’Sdeath, what a waste of time, to pore
On all such melancholy lore—
Only to find this world as silly,
     As puzzled, as in times long gone,
When grew from Christ’s pure Hûleh-lily
     The prickly logos of St. John!’                                                       [l.viii]

He paused, then added, ‘All this season,
     During my residence among you,
I’ve search’d the poor stale scraps of reason
     The last Philosophers have flung you.
I’ve read through Comte, the Catechism,
(Half common sense, half crank and schism),
     And Harriet Martineau’s synopsis;
Puzzled through Littré’s monstr’-informous
Encyclopædia enormous,
     Until my brain grew blank as Topsy’s!
I’ve suck’d the bloodless books of Mill,
     As void of gall as any pigeon;
I’ve swallow’d Congreve’s patent pill
     To purge man’s liver of Religion;
I’ve tried my leisure to amuse
With Freddy Harrison’s reviews;
I’ve thumb’d the essays of John Morley,
So positive they made me poorly;
Turning to follow with a smile
The tea-cup tempests of Carlyle,                                                         33
I’ve been amazed at times to view
     The proselytes Tom fill’d with wonder—
Ruskin, half seraph and half shrew,
     And divers dealers in cheap thunder.
I’ve also, Heaven preserve me! read
     Daniel Deronda! which was worse
Than any doom a wretch may dread,
     Except, of course, pragmatic verse!
The Leben Jesu, Renan’s Vie,
I also studied thoroughly;
I vivisected cats with Lewes,
     I tortured gentle dogs with Ferrier,
Found out just what grimalkin’s mew is,
     And how tails wag in pug and terrier,
But came, however close I sought,
No nearer to the riddle of Thought!
With Huxley’s aid, now much in vogue,
     I made cheap Knowledge all my own,
And kissed, allured by Tyndall’s brogue,
     The scientific Blarney-stone!
I talk’d with Bastian, who affirms
     Spontaneous generation proven,
And, prone with Darwin, watch’d the worms
     Wriggling—like live eels in an oven.
Then finally, in sheer despair,
     Burn’d deep with Scepticism’s caustic,
Found Spencer staring at the air,
Crying “God knows if God is there!”                                                  34
     And in a trice, became agnostic!

‘In this most fashionable creed,
Which even he who runs may read,
I found an Open Sesame
To England’s best society.
The great Arch-Priest of Canterbury
     Kindly invited me to dine,
And with the Bishops I made merry
     Over the walnuts and the wine;
Found them agnostic to a man,
But doing all good fellows can
To make their crank old Ship, the Church,
Still staggering on with many a lurch,
Take in her sails and trim her anchor
Before the Storm swept down and sank her.
I met Matt Arnold at their table,
     Where no Dissenter hoped to be;
Voting the Trinity a fable
I dived as deep as I was able
     Into the “Stream of Tendency!”
Then floating on, in soul’s distress,
Currents that swirl to righteousness,
Was bound, half drowning, to assever
“Poof! further off from God than ever!”

‘About that time I met a girl
With raven hair and teeth of pearl,
And just one touch of rouge to veil                                                      35
The ennui of a cheek too pale.
One evening, after we had sat
In the Lyceum, wondering at
The great tragedian wrapt in gloom
Of Hamlet’s sable cloak and plume,
We, strolling down at midnight-tide
     To the Embankment, paused to see
The two stone Sphinxes, heavy-eyed,
Crouching together side by side
     And gazing at Eternity.
“Behold,” I said, “the Mystic Ones
Who know the secret of the suns,
And coldly sit in contemplation
Of the dark riddle of Creation!”
She laugh’d. “My dear, don’t heed” (she said)
“Those rayless eyes—try mine instead!
Love’s the one riddle worth the guessing,
Woman the one Sphinx worth caressing!
Don’t mind those stony ancient Misses
     Who cannot feel and cannot see—
Quit things incapable of kisses,
     And take a hansom home with me!”’

While, diabolically sneering
     At every system, foul or fair,
He prattled on, I nodded, hearing
     The echo of mine own despair—
Indeed, the mocking voice I heard                                                      36
     Seem’d more within me than without:
Yea, every thought and every word
     Chimed discord to my dread and doubt.
Fainter and fainter, as it seem’d,
     Grew the strange ghostly Form of fancy,
Till, rubbing eyes as if I dream’d,
     I cried, ‘By heaven, ’tis necromancy!
Ghost, alter ego, dull delusion
Of sense and spirit in confusion,
Begone! avaunt! back to the Ocean
Of vague primordial emotion
From which you came!’ But as I spake
     He rose, with eyes that flash’d like steel!
‘Nay, shake your sleepy soul awake,’
     He said, ‘and know that I am real!
Yet now my period of probation
     Ends for the present, and I go
Back to the watery desolation
     The cruel Ocean’s ebb and flow—
Hark, hark, they call me!’ Tall and wild,
     He panted quick as if for breath,
His pallid face no longer smiled,
     His eyes grew sunken, dim with death,
And from the distance, through the swells
Of moaning wind and Yuletide bells,
A faint sound broke upon mine ears
     Of ‘Hillo, hillo—come away!’
Then laughter as of marineres                                                              37
     Hoisting their anchor ’mid the spray;
Nay, more, I seem’d to catch the sound
     Of whistling cordage, flapping sail.
I gazed aghast—my head went round—
The house seem’d rocking ’neath the bound
     Of billows shrieking to the gale.
‘Once more, once more,’ he moaned aloud,
     ‘Adrift, unpitied, lost in gloom,
As lonely as a thunder-cloud,
     I fly to face the blasts of doom!
No peace, no rest, on earth or heaven—
     No respite yet,’ I heard him cry,
‘Spirit of Pain, to be forgiven!
     To rest a little space, and die!’

Then all my soul was strangely stirred
     To pity, and my eyes grew dim;
And quietly, without a word,
     I stretch’d my hands out, blessing him!
But louder, clearer, through the dark,
     With, ‘Hillo, hillo, come away!’
Those voices from some phantom Barque
     Rang, while he trembled to obey;
A moment more, he rose his height,
His eyes shot gleams of baleful light,
His hands were clench’d, and with a shriek
     Of mocking laughter, he return’d:
‘I come! I come!’ But lo, his cheek                                                    38
     Grew frozen, and though his dark eyes burn’d
With wicked fire, his body grew
     Bent as with centuries of care,—
Transform’d he shrank before my view,
     With snowy beard and sad grey hair!
Yea, e’en his raiment seem’d to change
To something ancient, quaint, and strange—
Rags blown with wind and torn with storm
That round a skeletonian form
Clung wild as weeds. Ah! then indeed
     I knew God’s homeless Outcast, he
Who, poison’d with the Serpent’s seed,
Can ne’er be purified or freed
     Till Death shall drink the mighty Sea!
I saw him for a moment thus,
Storm-beaten, old, and blasphemous,
All desolate and all forlorn,—
     Then, while I pitied his despair,
The bells rang in the Christmas morn,
     And he had vanish’d into air!. . .

That was in Yuletide ’77.
     Ten winters later I again
Beheld beneath the sunless heaven,
     Pallid in ecstasy of pain,
That outcast Shape: or did I only
     Dream, and behold him as I dream’d
No longer desolate and lonely                                                            39
     But beauteous and at last redeem’d?
Of that sublime transfiguration
     My later song, not this, must be—
Meantime I mark in meditation
His dreary voyage to salvation
     Across a sad and sleepless Sea.

Here follow, tuned to English tongue,
The Flights of Vanderdecken, sung
By one whose soul oft seems to share
His doom of darkness and despair.
Accept the songs, O Reader! weft
Of that strange Book the Outcast left,
     Mingled with warp of modern fashion.
Telling the story of his quest,
His weary wanderings without rest,
     I seem to plumb mine own soul’s passion!

Here, then, the Modern Spirit stands,
Holding within his ring’d white hands
The Book of Doubt, the Writ of Reason!
     While foolish women weep and wonder,
He ponders in and out of season
     And gropes from blunder on to blunder.
He needs no Devil to beguile him,
While wine and wantons lure and wile him;
He needs no God to thunder o’er him,
While Nature spreads her storms before him.                                      40
This is the Modern—this is he
Who would, yet cannot, bend the knee!
Who would, yet cannot, be once more
     A child in the soft moonlight kneeling!
All creeds he knows, all wicked lore
     That puzzles thought and palsies feeling.
How shall he yonder heavens afar win
     In poor Spinoza’s merry-go-round?
How shall he ’scape the apes of Darwin,
     Dark’ning what once was fairy ground?
How in this tearful world, tomb-paven,
Shall he find resting-place and haven?
How? By the magic which of old
     Set yonder suns and planets spinning!
By that one warmth which ne’er grows cold,
By that one living Heart of gold
     Which throbs and throbb’d at Time’s beginning!
By that which is, and still shall be,
In spite of all Philosophy!
From that we came, to that we go,
     By that alone we live and are—
Core of the Rose whose petals blow
     Beyond the farthest shining star!
Safe, despite Nature’s cataclysm,
     Sure, though the suns should cease to shine,
Love burns and flames through Thought’s abysm,
     Serene, mysterious, and divine!
One little word solves all creation,                                                       41
     Abides when Death and Time have pass’d—
Damn’d by the genius of Negation,
     Man shall be saved by Love at last!


Page 32, l.viii: ‘logos’ is given in the original Greek - because of font problems, it was simpler to translate it. The reference is to the first sentence in the Gospel of John, where it is more usually translated as ‘word’: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.]




The Outcast continued

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The Fleshly School Controversy
Buchanan and the Press
Buchanan and the Law


The Critical Response
Harriett Jay


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