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{The Drama of Kings 1871}










         O THOU of the great brow!                                                              [l.i]
         Fire hath thy City now:
Her wild scream shakes the earth and troubles Man.                                   [l.iii]
         O spirit who loved best
         This City of the West,
See where she shatter’d lies—great centre of thy plan.                               []

         Spirit of the great brow!
         Look back, and whisper now:
Dost thou despair? Was thy vast scheme a cheat?
         Doth it move sad strange mirth
         To think thou dreamedst Earth
A God to its own soul, a Light to its own feet?

         Out of the sphere of pain
         All gods have warn’d in vain,
Brahm, Buddha, Balder, and the Man Divine—
         Still blend in bloody strife,
         Throat to throat, life for life,
Struggles the Human still, struggles this God of thine.

         Say, is there hope up there,
         Or doth thy heart despair?
Out of the deep once more shall Man arise?—
         Here on the dark earth see
         Stricken Humanity,—
Is there no lamp indeed beyond his own sad eyes?

         While thy poor clay sleeps sound
         All hush’d beneath the ground,
Dost thou the quest thy soul denied pursue?
         And on some heavenly height,
         With pale front to the light,
Art dreaming still—what dream?—since thy first dream fell thro’.

         Lo, ’tis the old sad chance!
         Comte, look this day on France—
Behold her struck with swords and given to shame,
         She who on bended knee
         First to Humanity
Knelt, and with blood of Man heap’d Man’s new Altar-flame.

         She who first rose and dared;
         She who hath never spared
Blood of hers, drop by drop, from her great breast;
         She who, to free mankind,
         Left herself bound and blind;
She whose brave voice let loose the Conscience of the West.

         Lo, as she passes by                                                                       [l.i]
         To the earth’s scornful cry,
What are those shapes who walk behind so wan?—
         Martyrs and prophets born
         Out of her night and morn:
Have we forgot them yet?—these, the great friends of Man.

         We name them as they go,
         Dark, solemn-faced, and slow—
Voltaire, with sadden’d mouth but eyes still bright;
         Turgot, Malesherbes, Rousseau,
         Lafayette, Mirabeau—
These pass, and many more, heirs of large realms of Light.

         Greatest and last pass thou,
         Strong heart and mighty brow,
Thine eyes surcharged with love of all things fair;
         Facing with those grand eyes
         The light in the sweet skies,
While thy shade earthward falls, dark’ning my soul to prayer.

         And I discern again
         The perfect sphere of pain;
And there lies France, great heart of thy great plan—
         In her dark hours of gloom,
         In her worst sin and doom,
Hath she not ev’n by fire tested the soul of Man?

         Sure as the great sun rolls,
         The crown of mighty souls
Is martyrdom, and lo! she hath her crown.                                                  [l.iii]
         On thy pale brow there weigh’d                                                       [l.iv]
         Another such proud shade—
O, but we know ye both, risen or stricken down.                                        []

         Sinful, mad, fever-fraught,
         At war with her own thought,
Great-soul’d, sublime, the heir of constant pain,
         France hath the dreadful part
         To keep alive Man’s heart,
To shake the sleepy blood into the sluggard’s brain;

         Ever in act to spring,
         Ever in suffering,
To point the lesson and to bear the load,                                                    [l.iii]
         Least happy and least free
         Of all the lands that be,
Dying that all may live, first of the slaves of God.

         Hers is the martyr’s part,—
         To bear a hungry heart,
A bursting brain, brave eyes, an empty hand;
         Such is the lot in store
         For great souls evermore,
For her, for thee, great soul, for all God’s chosen band.

         Shall the cold lands stand by,
         Each with proud pitying eye,
While by her own heart’s fever she is torn?—
         Shall the dull nations draw
         Light from her woes—and law?
Yea! but her hour shall come; she too shall rest, some morn.

         To try each crude desire
         By her own soul’s fierce fire,
To wait and watch with restless brain and heart,
         To quench the fierce thirst never,
         To feel supremely ever,
To rush where cowards crawl—this is her awful part.

         Ever to cross and rack,
         Along the same red track,
Genius is led, and speaks its soul out plain;
         Blessed are those that give—
         They die that man may live,
Their crown is martyrdom, their privilege is pain.

         Spirit of the great brow!
         I need no whisper now—                                                                 [l.ii]
Last of the flock who die for man each day.
         Ah, but I should despair
         Did I not see up there
A Shepherd heavenly-eyed on the heights far away.

         No cheat was thy vast scheme,
         Tho’ in thy gentle dream
Thou saw’st no Shepherd watching the wild throng—
         Thou walking the sad road
         Of all who seek for God,
Blinded became at last, looking at Light so long.

         Yet God is multiform,
         Human of heart and warm,
Content to take what shape the Soul loves best,
         Before our footsteps still
         He changeth as we will—
Only,—with blood alone we gain Him and are blest.

         O, latest son of her
         Freedom’s pale harbinger,
I see the Shepherd whom thou could’st not find;
         But on thy great fair brow,
         As thou did’st pass but now,
Bright burnt the patient Cross of those who bless mankind.

         And on her brow, who lies                                                              [l.i]
         Bleeding beneath the skies,
The mark was set that will not let her rest—
         Sinner in all men’s sight,
         Mocker of very Light,
Yet is she chosen thus, martyr’d,—and shall be blest.

         Go by, O mighty dead!
         My soul is comforted—
The Shepherd on the summit needs no prayers—
         Best worshipper is he
         Who suffers and is free—
That Soul alone blasphemes which trembles and despairs.

                                                     ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     May, 1871.


The dedication to Auguste Comte is included as ‘Ode To The Spirit Of Auguste Comte’ in the ‘Songs of the Terrible Year’ section of Volume II of the 1874 H. S. King edition of the Poetical Works and reprinted in the 1884 Chatto & Windus edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan with the following alterations:
v. 1, l. i: SPIRIT of the great brow!
v. 1, l. iii: She shakes the sad world with her troubled scream!
v. 1, l. vi: Hark! loud she shattered cries—great Queen of thy great Dream.
Verses 2 to 7 omitted.
v. 8, l. i: But, as she passes by
Verse 11 omitted.
v. 12, l. iii: Is martyrdom, and lo! thou hast thy crown.
v. 12, l. iv: On her pale brow there weighed  
v. 12, l. vi: O, but we know you both, risen or stricken down.
v. 14, l. iii: To point a lesson and to bear the load,
Verses 15 and 16 omitted.
v. 19, l. ii: I see thee, know thee now—
v. 23, l. i: And on her brow, who flies ]





STILL blowing and growing,
With sound like torrents flowing,
The Storm of God in thunder
     Hath raged the whole night long:
Now in the grey of morning,
With never a note of warning,
O wonder! just under
     Mine eaves there sounds a song!

There springing and singing,
To the bare branches clinging,
Just as the clouds are raising,
     A Bird sings fresh and loud—
Sings tho’ the rain is falling,
Sings while the winds are calling,
Sings praising, and gazing
     Up to the breaking cloud.

O ditty of pity,
Sung just without the City,
Sung in the dark to heighten
     The waking hope of light,
Sung, lest the heart should harden,                                            xvi
By a white bird in my garden,
To lighten and brighten
     After a woeful night!

And higher, with fire
Of passionate desire,
While heaven’s eye of azure
     Is opening far away,
The white bird sings full cheerly
Of all that man loves dearly,
A measure for pleasure
     Of the bright birth of day.

Deriding the tiding,
The soul within me biding
Smiles at the song to cheer it,
     But drinks the sound like wine.
Hark! louder yet of summer
Sings out the sweet newcomer—
The spirit, to hear it,
     Trembles to tears divine.

Bright ranger! white stranger!
Singing most loud in danger,
Whom storm nor wrath can frighten,
     Who hast no note for care,
Teach me to turn thy ditty
Into brave words of pity,
To brighten and lighten
     Man’s passionate despair!

When, flying and dying, 
The Storm of God is crying,
Now when they least desire me
     Who wake and look around,
Lest from ill-dreams they harden,
O white bird in my garden,
Inspire me and fire me
     With thy prophetic sound!

                                                                                                   ROBERT BUCHANAN.
                                                   May, 1871.












RING within ring,
     Seventy times seven,
Ring within ring
Is blossoming
     The Rose of Heaven:
From the darkness under
     To the radiance o’er,
Bursting asunder
     Threefold at the core;
Threefold is glowing
     The Eternal Light,
Close round it snowing
     Are the Seraphs white,
And next more dim                                                                  4
The Cherubim;
And from rings to rings,
Circles of wings
     Seventy times seven,
Inward close
The leaves of the Rose
     Of Heaven!

The Heart of the Rose,
     Like the flame on an altar,
         Burns dim and sweet,
And the leaves of the Rose
Are folded close,
     That they tremble and falter,
         To feel it beat:
From ring to ring,
Ever widening,
     Seventy times seven,
The glory flows
From the Heart of the Rose
     Of Heaven!
And dimmer growing
From the burning Heart,
Still fainter flowing                                                                    5
     Thro’ every part,
The sweet life sighs
     To the outermost leaves
         Most frail and wan;
And there it lies,
Trembles and dies,
     For the outermost leaves
         Are the soul of Man.

Ring within ring
     Seventy times seven,
Ring within ring
Is blossoming
     The Rose of Heaven!
And for evermore
The flame at the core
Burns on, consuming
The circlet blooming,
Suffused and bright,
Next to the Light:—
Yea, as oil feedeth flame,
     The innermost part
         Of the seventy times seven
Melts;—and the same                                                              6
     Becomes one with the Heart
         Of the Rose of Heaven.

And evermore
Burning on to the core
The rings of the Rose
     Narrow inward, and turn
         More white and bright,
Yea, the rings of the Rose
     Contract and burn
         Till they reach the Light;
And ever-renewed
     From root and seed,
With the fire for food
     Whose flame they feed,
First dim and wan
As the soul of Man,
They lessen, brightening
     From fold to fold
         Seventy times seven,
Whitening and lightening
     Till they die in gold
On the Heart of the Rose of Heaven.

Burn and close,                                                                      7
O leaves of the Rose!
Spread and shine,
O Flower divine!
Ring within ring
     Seventy times seven,
Ring within ring,
Grow blossoming,
     O beautiful Rose of Heaven!


Clouds rise. LUCIFER appears upon the Stage.



Hail, ye Spectators! whose immortal eyes
Within the Theatre Divine have seen
So many moving plays and interludes
To while away the tedious perfect time!
To-night, once more upon this stage of Earth
[Behold it! fair as ever, green and bright,
Carpeted still with flowers as beautiful
As any gems that blossom in the hair
Of you great Angels, and still canopied
With the ethereal azure star-enwrought]
To-night, upon this well-worn stage of Earth,                                      8
I come Choragus to your highnesses,
Announcing now a sort of tragedy,
A Choric trilogy of tragedies
In the Greek fashion; and I have selected
The fairest cherubs and the sweetest-voiced
To play the part of Chorus. What we play
Is called for briefness Δράμα Κυριών,                                              [l.viii]
The actors mortal, Earth the scene, the Time
The Present—if I dare use an abstract term
Fashion’d by purblind world-philosophers,
To ears that measure out eternity.



Is it not then forbidden for the poet
To dramatise contemporary woes?
Have ye forgot the sin of Phrynichos?



Is that Euripides or Æschylos?
Or some poor poet blest to nothingness
Whose name has perish’d from the Attic scroll?
Excuse me, then, the Author forms his theme                                      9
In his own fashion, and I must confess
He ever aims at planning novelty.
The Author is a most distinguished person,
Perhaps there is no mightier honour’d here,
But for the present chooses to remain
Unknown, unseen. What we present to-night
Is but a fragment of a series
Beginning with the first Man and the Snake.

Orchestra, now begin the overture!
And all ye sleepy Seraphs who delight
In lolling under rosy-coloured clouds
And blowing silvern trumpets, all ye Angels
Who only turn your slothful eyes on Art
When like a naked Phryne she awakes
Celestial appetite and dainty dream,
All triflers in the blue ethereal courts,
All idle gentlemen in singing robes,
Close eyes, shut ears!—for we prepare a show
Most tragic and most solemn; we design
To treat of mighty matters movingly,
Nor shall our actors in their skill disdain                                            10
The higher pathos—ye shall look on scenes
To make the very angels moan, and draw
Tears from the eyelids of the Son of God!


Page 8, l. viii:


I believe Lucifer is announcing the title of the piece, ‘The Drama of Kings’. The first word is ‘Drama’, and the second, I think, is the genitive plural of Kyrios (Lord). However, my knowledge of Ancient Greek is non-existent, so I welcome corrections.]











Enter TIME, cloaked and hooded, leaning on a Staff.


I AM that ancient shadow men call Time,
Silent, infirm, frail-footed, snow’d upon
By many winters, faring westward still,
And ever looking backward to the east.
How far these feeble feet must wander yet
I know not. All is dark before my steps;
And oft it seems to my bewilder’d sense,
That I alone of all things do not move,
But like the pale moon plunging on thro’ mist
Make but a fancied motion for the eye,
And stationary with enchanted eyes
Seem still to pass all shapes that swift as clouds
Slide by for ever. Behind me like the sea
Seen amid tempest from a mountain top,
Innumerable years break awfully                                                        14
To foam of living faces and to moan
Of living voices; and upon that waste,
Looming afar off ghost-like in my track,
ONE still moves luminous-footed, stretching hands
To bless the angry waves whereon He walks.

To-night I come as Prologue, to prepare
Your ears for subtle matter. Do ye hear
That wind of human voices anguishing
Afar off, like the wind Euroclydon
Moaning around Mount Ida? Hark again!
“Liberty! Liberty!” the wild voice cries,
“Liberty!” now,—and ever “Liberty!”
But whom they call by that mysterious name
I say not, nor can any angel say,
Nor one thing under God. God knows and hears.
That one word and none other hath been cried
By men from the beginning. I have heard
The sound so long, I smile; but at the same
Kingdoms have fallen like o’er-ripen’d fruit,                                      15
Realms wither’d, heaven rain’d blood and earth yawn’d graves,
The seasons sicken’d changing their due course,
The stars burnt blue for many awful nights
The corpse-lights of a world that lay as dead.
And now to-night we show on this same stage
How, uttering each that one mysterious word,
Two mighty Nations gather’d up their crests
Against each other, struck and struck again,
Met, mingled, roar’d, fell, rose, fought throat to throat,
Until their hate became the wide world’s scorn;
How dimly, darkly, for the great Idea,
Each smote, and stagger’d on from blow to blow,
While one by one came Leaders veil’d to each,
Phantoms, each cloak’d and hooded and led by me,
Each saying “In the name of Liberty!”
And drew them as the white moon draws the sea;                             16
How one by one these threw their cloaks aside
And stood in a red sunset, bloody men
Who juggled with the mystic word of God;—
Yet how from sorrow came mysterious good,
Seeing Man’s wrong’d Soul hoarded its deep strength
In silence, making ready for that day
When God Himself, who knows the secret only,
May bless it with that single truth it seeks.

                                     [A confused noise.

It is begun. Germania overthrown,
Mad, stricken, lies upon her back and glares
At heaven from a bloody battle-field,
And dimly sees in the dark void above her
A dark Shape, a dim-footed Phantasy,
And deemeth ’tis the mighty truth men seek.
Hark, the drums beat! the cannons thunder deep!
Earth shakes! . . Now all is silent, and I go
To walk at dark across the battle-field,                                             17
And, stooping o’er each stricken bleeding man,
Point with a skeleton finger to the stars,
And whispering my other awful name,
Draw back my hood a moment—thus!

[Unhoods—shows the mask of a Caput Mortuum.

                                                     My name
Is also Death; and I am deathless. I
Am Time and most eternal. I am he,
God’s Usher, and my duty it is to lead
The actors one by one upon the scene,
And afterwards to guide them quietly
Through that dark postern when their parts are played.
They come and go, alas! but I abide,
And I am weary of the garish stage.













Kings, &c.







Kings, Princes, and Dukes of the Rhenish Confederation.


Members of the Tugendbund:








SCENEErfurt, in the Duchy of Saxe Coburg Gotha.

TIMEOctober, 1808, during the great Congress of Powers.









HARK how they shout, thronging the busy streets,
While the imperial butcher passes by
To course the hare on Jena’s fatal plain!



Ill-omen’d place and hour! ill-omen’d day!
Friend, I beheld them coming forth! I looked
On Cæsar’s sallow face—I saw it, I—
And found no sunlight there to dazzle me:
Only the insolent frost-bitten cheek
Bloodless and hard like iron, only eyes                                              24
Snake-like, the snake’s eyes of the Corsican.
On a white charger rolling like a wave,
He rode sunk deep into his saddle thus,
His shoulders rounded, while his bridle hand
Hung at his side as heavily as lead
Tho’ the steed champ’d against the pitiless rein;
And all the while with low soft speech he smiled
To Russia, who, on a black Barbary mare
Riding with stirrups long and easy rein,
Fixing his evil eyes in one fond stare
Of fascination on his royal comrade,
Show’d like a cheated wolf. Behind these twain,
Who riding hung together amorously,
Follow’d the lacqueys,—Prussia’s prince and chief,
Würtemberg, Saxony, Bavaria,
Westphalia leering at the burghers’ wives,
Hesse, Baden, all the princedoms and the powers,
So mingled up with equerries, knights-at-arms,                                   25
Blackcoats and redcoats, horsemen, footmen, huntsmen,
That all became a shameful garden-show
Wherein no eye could pick the several parts;
Only those two proud Emperors rode supreme,
In their proud sunshine dwarfing all the rest
That follow’d them to less than nothingness;
And yet I swear,—I saw it with mine eyes,—
Not one of those but drew his lacquey’s air
In gaily, not one face but was content
So to be shone upon by those that led,
Not one, not one, but like a very dog
Follow’d behind his masters tame and proud,
Fawning upon their footprints step by step.



My heart aches, and my tongue fails. All thy words
Are wormwood. Yet the people of the earth
Are helpless, seeing those that lead are blind.



O God, God, God! that these things should be known
In the same land, beneath the self-same sky,
That saw the giant Karl arise his height
The head of all the earth at Paderborn,
When dwarf’d beside him great Pope Leo stood,
And the great Caliph of the heathen East
Rain’d gold and gems at the imperial feet!
O God! are the ghosts laid for evermore
That walk’d about the Teuton vales at night
And awed the souls of men, and kept them free?
Is Karl forgotten? Is great Fritz’s spirit
Spell-laid within the shade of Sans Souci?
Is Germany, is every German soul,
Dumb, fetter’d, broken, miserable, dead?
Are this man’s functions supernatural,
Divine above all life, all love, all law,
That he should walk upon the waves of earth
Casting his bloody shade as on a sea,                                                27
And they should hush themselves around his feet
Lightly as ripples on a summer pond?
Earth, water, air—the clouds, the waves, the winds,—
The stars in their pale courses,—day and night
Forgetful of their natural equipoise,
Shape their mysterious functions to his will;
Kings lick his feet like dogs; he lifts his finger
And epileptic in his chair the Pope
Foams speechless at the mouth;—body and soul
Obey him as an impulse and a law;—
The eyes, the ears, the tongues, of all the world
Are blown one way like all a forest’s leaves
To see, hear, and entreat him;—by his smile
The earth is brighten’d,—and ’tis straight fine weather!
Let him but frown, all darkens and the sun
Uprises bloody as a vulture’s crest!
Like hawks obedient to the falconer                                                  28
The Kings of Europe wait, and at a sign
Soar, while he sits and smiles, in fierce pursuit
Of any wretched quarry he would slay;
But let him whistle, and with bloody beaks
They turn, and preen their plumage, and are fed.
Cry? I will cry to God with all my soul!
Can God keep calm, and look upon these things?



O Spirits dreaming,
With blue eyes beaming,
With bright locks flowing
         And folded wings,
Your lips are parted,
While happy-hearted,
To rapture glowing,
         Sweet things each sings—
And the bright song quivers
Like the wash of rivers,
Like west winds blowing,
         Like bubbling springs;—
In quiet places                                                                        29
Shine your soft faces,
While we are throwing
         Our curse at Kings.

Sweet music never,
But something ever
To curse and cry for,
         Till death appear;
No dreamy singing,
But scorn and stinging,
Deep shame to sigh for,
         Doom drear to fear;
Hunger and sorrow
Both night and morrow,
While all we try for
         Grows harsh and sere:—
O’er barren meadows
We drift like shadows,
We dream, we die for
         The Golden Year.

O year! O summer!
O promised comer—
Promised to us                                                                       30
         Since time began—
As in the beginning,
Deep craft and sinning
Swiftly pursue us
         And ban each plan;
A thousand rulers
And soul-befoolers
Have perish’d through us
         After a span;
But fresh fierce faces
Still take their places,
New Kings subdue us
         And trouble Man.

Slay them?—we slay them:—
Our souls gainsay them—
Comes Até bringing
         Her fatal boon;
But still fresh creatures,
With the old false features,
Rise up, all singing
         The moon-mad tune;—
What comfort to us                                                                 31
When these undo us;
To know their stinging
         Must cease so soon—
When with fierce laughter
New Kings come after,
As quickly springing
         As grass in June?

O Spirits dreaming,
With blue eyes beaming,
Your song, like ours,
         Is still the same—
Ye hear in glory
A familiar story,
But it sings of flowers,
         Not shame and blame—
And your lips are parted,
Ye smile sweet-hearted,
And ye join in your bowers
         With eyes aflame.
To a note as weary,
But dark and dreary,
Our souls, our powers,                                                             32
         Lie sick and tame.

O, wherefore ever
Kill Kings, and never
Find earth outlast her
         Exceeding pain?
All man o’erthroweth
Again regroweth,
O’er each disaster
         We gain, in vain.
Slain Kings each morrow
Bring seed of sorrow.
Doth grass grow faster,
         Or golden grain?
After each reaping
We see upcreeping
Another Master!
         Another chain!

Like waves of ocean
Is our wild motion,
In sad storm blended,
         With winds opprest,
Ever perceiving                                                                        33
New cause for grieving:—
From storm defended,
         O blest were rest!
Tho’ in its season
We know each treason
Must sink wave-rended
         In our great breast;
Tho’ all that win us
Are tomb’d within us,—
Would all were ended!
         Yea, rest were best.

O Spirits dreaming
With blue eyes gleaming,
With nought to sigh for
         As we sigh here,
Beyond disaster,
With one fix’d Master,
With nought to vie for,
         With fear, nor tear—
The soul speeds thither,
Our dreams go with her,
We yearn to fly, for                                                                 34
         All life seems sere.
By waters dreary,
Moon-wan and weary,
We dream, we die for
         The Golden Year!





Good morrow, friends. Have ye been feasting sight
On Cæsar’s triumph, that ye walk the earth
With eyes so fevered and with mien so wild?



Why, yes, we did our turn of gape and stare.
’Twas hot, hell-hot—and the heat turned my brain,
So that methought (laugh with me, lest ye weep!)
’Twas very Cæsar whom I look’d upon,
And I as soothsayer was stepping forth                                             35
To croak my warning threat into his ear,
When Arndt here clutched me fast and held me back,
And I awoke again to the wild day;
So open-mouthed as he went by we stared
All in the sunshine and the festal light,
Like two black ravens on a bridal path
Hopping in omen of a funeral.



O blessed omen for the weary world!



How many hours, and days, and months, and years,
Shall this go on? Deeper and deeper yet
We wallow. Is there any living hope?



Hope lasts with life. Life lasts; so hope thou on.



Life lasts? I know not. Oft it seems that all
Is dead, dead—dead and rotten—Liberty
No more a living shape supremely fair,
But a mere ghost unpleasant to the thoughts
Of foolish Kings at bedtime. Every wind
Is tainted by this pestilence from France.
No man may sitting at his private board
Discuss in quietness his own affairs,
Debt, his last illness, private history,
But straight the Skeleton of Law appears,
Pressing its bony finger on the lips.
In every corner twinkle weasels’ ears,
Long noses snuffing treason, sharp white teeth
Hungry for blood; the unclean things of scent
Swarm numerous as locusts, eating up
Our grain, our very substance; ay, and mark!
If thou and I—poor devils that we are—
Would fly from Malebolge, from this Hell,                                          37
And speed to some far land and colonise,
Straightway upon the frontier rises up
The Skeleton, waving us back again,
In this new Cæsar’s name, to beggary.
Meantime the once blest frame of Germany
Sickens: disease and famine gnaw her breasts,
Sorrow and shame destroy her. All appeal
To law is fatal, since this tyrant France
Is law, fate, death; and each man’s flesh and soul
Are fruit his myrmidons may pluck at will.
All men of noble birth must flock perforce
To spend three months of every year at court,
There to be taught to play this mad French tune
Upon the one-string’d fiddle of despair.
All the fresh streams of trade are choked and stuff’d
With antique carrion and new garbage. Nought
Goes out or in our poor Germania’s mouth
But the great thief clutches his lion’s share;                                         38
And even the poor peasants,—Hans who chops
Wood in the cold, Fritz who grows rheumatic
Leech-hunting in the marshes,—even these,
Are robb’d, poor slaves, of their mere mite of salt,—
While every pipe they smoke beside the fire
To warm their agued limbs in wretched age,
And every pinch of snuff they feebly take
To clear their purblind eyes of rheum and mist,
Is interdicted till they first have given
Due pinch and pipeful to the Emperor!



Still courage! Evil days have been ere this,
Social disease as deep, civic disease
As dreadful. It shall end. Have we not sworn
By Christ that it shall end? Sow thy fierce words                                39
Abroad, my Jahn,—they shall be wingëd seed—
Prepare, my Arndt, thy passionate sweet songs,
Sing them at night by the Babylonian river,
They shall create a new and Teuton soul.



And yet I scarce can speak for bitterness.
O Stein, while I prepare an eager cry
To move the stagnant hearts of simple men,
Voices more strong and more intense than mine,
Souls gifted and accredited from God,
Cry to the monster, “Hail,” sing in his ear
Pindaric hymn and pæan, fan his glory
Like light winds full of scent from beds of flowers.



Voices of parasites and summer bards—
For such have ever sung to conquerors.



But yestermorn the old man Wieland stood
Enlarging his weak vision for an hour
Upon the demigod, who of Greece and Rome
Talk’d like a petulant schoolboy; and this day
I beheld Goethe with a doubtful face,
Part dubious and part eager, proof of thoughts
Half running on ahead, half lingering,
Enter the quarters of the Emperor;—
But when he issued forth his features wore
Their pitiless smile of perfect self-delight,
His lips already quiver’d with a pæan,
His stately march was quicken’d eagerly,
And all his face and all his gait alive
With glory that the sun of Corsica
Had shone upon him to his heart’s content.
Which of our singers is not garrulous
In praise of Europe’s curse and Prussia’s shame?



I trust no poets. They are moonshine men,
And like the folk in Persia fall abash’d
At sunlight. There is mightier matter here,—                                       41
Short, sharp, and like himself,—a word of hope
From Marshal Vorwärts, our old fire-eater,
The old one with the bright heart of a boy,
Who jingles his sharp spurs and curses France
Morn, noon, and night in Pomerania—
(Reads) “Thieves!” “cowards!” “windbags!” “men of straw!” “geese!” “swine!”
(The strength of Blücher lies in expletives
And sword-thrusts) with such words hurl’d out like blows,
He cries, concluding with a trooper’s curse,
A round “God-damn-his-soul-to-hell-fire” oath
On the French Satan. As for your singing-men,
Your lute-players, your festal Matthissons,
They buzz in their own fashion, in the old
Blue-bottle fashion. While the blue-flies hum,
The curs yelp gladly. I have heard they eat
Dog-pie in China as a delicacy:—                                                     42
O to be cook to Cæsar for a day!
To mince John Müller and dish Zschokke up,
As dainties set before the Emperor!



The life of every man is as a wave,
And having risen its appointed height
It must descend; and I believe this day
Our eyes have look’d upon Napoleon
Crested to his full glory, and in act
Of over-fall. The power of tyranny
Can go no higher; henceforth its fierce strength
Shall be expended downwards, be assured.



I could have roar’d for joy like any bull
To see him fondling Russia. To be tamed,
Bears must be taken in their infancy;
But I beheld the old bloodthirsty look
Deep in the eyes of this one, tho’ they blink’d
So tamely. Why, his paws are scarcely clean                                      43
From Austerlitz! Have patience! this last pet
Was caught too old, and it will hug him yet!



Honour to Austria, that he holds aloof—



O there is life and soul in Austria still:
The poor old Bird hath struck and struck and struck,
Till he is shredded to a scarecrow, worn
To a thin shadow. In the undaunted one
1 honour what I hated, and yet fear!
Were I a poet (I am none, thank God)
Why I would sing a pæan in his praise.



For something fairer far and more divine
Poets shall sing and prophets cry full soon.
O friends, we shall become a people yet—                                       44
Tho’ the first bond was like a wisp of straw
Torn by this Ape asunder, tho’ no more
Under the banner left by Karl the Great
We fight against oppression, still, thank God,
We are a people yet, and I believe
Not wholly blind and helpless, tho’ we reach
Our hands out darkly, waiting on for light.
Austria is torn from her imperial seat,
Prussia lies healing of her last wide wound,
The lesser Kingdoms walk in flowery chains;
Germania, the name, the word, the race,
Still lives, and by Germania soon or late
Shall Buonaparté die. At Austerlitz
Fell Austria, here the Prussian eagle fell.
On both those memorable battlefields,
Rose like a Spirit from a murder’d man
The white truth, hovering for a moment there
An Iris on the Death-cloud. Out of the proud
Imperial Austrian ruin shall emerge
The TEUTON: not a temple such as that
Napoleon overthrew—not a mere name
Descending thro’ a line of shadowy Kings—
Not a delusion and patrician lie,                                                        45
A pasteboard Crown and an unholy Sword—
Not these, but more than these, a life, a soul,
A living man, the Teuton, lord of all
He from his fathers first inherited,—
The heart of Europe water’d by the Rhine.
For ours too long hath been a mighty house
Divided in itself against itself,
Too eager to be dragged by peevish Kings
Out of itself to wander in the world:
And we indeed are stricken at this day
Because we follow’d in an evil hour
Blind rulers who affrighted for their crowns
Led us against the house republican
Built by our brethren in the fields of France.
For, mark me, they who follow and fight for crowns
Fight for a figment merely and a sign,
And should the dwellers in a nation say
Within our chambers there shall sit no Kings,
They err who blindly for the sake of Kings
Would carry thither sword and flaming fire.
A people is a law unto itself,
The law of God will shape that lesser law,
And if there come a time when Kings are doom’d,                            46
Why let them like a feast-day pageant pass
And be forgotten, or like some old tale
Become a goodly theme for the fireside.
O if the Teuton soul we all inherit
Would rise supreme, and for the one white truth
Strike blow on blow half as persistently
As Austria hath, because she fear’d to lose
The jewels in her crown, the world were free
Of this accredited and crownëd Shape,
That walketh at his will, and when he will,
Into the porches of the great Abodes
Of nations: knocks like Death at every door,
And enters every kingly bed-chamber
As sleep doth, bringing there instead of sleep
Sleepless Despair and haunting shapes of Fear!
What, shall this Robber sit with folded arms
Upon the hearth of our fair dwelling-place,
And shall the foolish people of the house
Do courtesies and kill the fatted calf?                                                47
Nay, rather let him reckon up his days,
For he was doom’d (and so all Kings are doom’d)
Whene’er he ceased to wield the righteous sword
Upon the threshold of his threaten’d land,
And wander’d out into the open world
To plunder in the name of Liberty.



’Twas the height of the world’s night, there was neither warmth nor light,               [note]
     And the heart of Earth was heavy as a stone;
Yet the nations sick with loss saw the surge of heaven toss
     Round the meteor of the Cross; and with a moan
All the people desolate gazed thereon and question’d fate,
     And the wind went by and bit them to the bone.

Hope was fled and Faith was dead, and the black pall overhead                            48
     Hung like Death’s, for doom was heavy everywhere,—
When there rose a sudden gleam, then a thunder, then a scream,
     Then a lightning, stream on stream upon the air!                                              [l.iv]
And a dreadful ray was shed around the Cross, and it grew red,
     And the pallid people leapt to see the glare.

Fire on the heights of France! Fire on the heights of France!
     Fire flaming up to heaven, streak on streak!
How on France Kings look’t askance! how the nations join’d in dance!
     To see the glory glance from peak to peak!
How the chain’d lands curst their chance, as they bent their eyes on France!
     Earth answer’d, and her tongues began to speak.

Now hark!—who lit the spark in the miserable dark?                                           49
     O Washington, men miss thee and forget.
Where did the light arise, in answer to man’s cries?
     In the West; in those far skies it rose and set.
Who brought it in his breast from the liberated West?
     Speak his name, and kneel and bless him: Lafayette.

O Sire, that madest Fire! How with passionate desire
     Leapt the nations while it gather’d and up-streamed;
Then they fed it, to earth’s groans, with Man’s flesh and blood and bones,
     And with Altars and with Thrones; and still it screamed.
Then they cast a King thereon—but a flash, and he was gone.
     Then they brought a Queen to feed it:—how it gleam’d!

Then it came to pass, Earth’s frame seem’d dissolving in the flame,                        50
     Then it seem’d the Soul was shaken on its seat,
And the pale Kings with thin cries look’d in one another’s eyes,
     Saying, “Hither now it flies, and O how fleet!
Sound loud the battle-cry, we must trample France or die,
     Strike the Altar, cast it down beneath our feet.”

Forth they fared. The red fire flared on the heights of France, and glared
     On the faces of the free who kept it fed;
Came the Kings with blinded eyes, but with baffled prayers and cries
     They beheld it grow and rise, still bloody-red;
When lo! the Fire’s great heart, like a red rose cloven apart,
     Open’d swiftly, to deep thunder overhead.

And lo, amid the glow, while the pale Kings watched in woe,                                51
     Rose a single Shape, and stood upon the pyre.
Its eyes were deeply bright, and its face, in their sad sight,
     Was pallid in a white-heat of desire,
And the cheek was ashen hued; and with folded arms it stood
     And smiled bareheaded, fawn’d on by the Fire.

Forehead bare, the Shape stood there, in the centre of the glare,
     And cried, “Away ye Kings, or ye shall die.”
And it drove them back with flame, o’er the paths by which they came,
     And they wrung their hands in shame as they did fly.
As they fled it came behind fleeter-footed than the wind,
     And it scatter’d them, and smote them hip and thigh.

All amazed, they stood and gazed, while their crying kingdoms blazed,                  52
     With their fascinated eyes upon the Thing;—
When lo, as clouds dilate, it grew greater and more great,
     And beneath it waited Fate with triple sting;
All colossus-like and grand, it bestrode the sea and land,
     And behold,—the crownëd likeness of a KING!

Then the light upon the height that had burned in all men’s sight
     Was absorb’d into the creature where he smiled.
O his face was wild and wan—but the burning current ran
     In the red veins of the Man who was its child:—
To the sob of the world’s heart did the meteor-light depart,
     Earth darken, and the Altar fall defiled.

Then aloud the Phantom vow’d, “Look upon me, O ye proud!                             53
     Kiss my footprints! I am reaper, ye are wheat!
Ye shall tremble at my name, ye shall eat my bread in shame,
     I will make ye gather tame beneath my seat.”
And the gold that had been bright on the hair of Kings at night,
     Ere dawn was shining dust about his feet.

At this hour behold him tower, in the darkness of his power,
     Look upon him, search his features, O ye free!
Is there hope for living things in this fiery King of Kings,
     Doth the song that Freedom sings fit such as he?
Is it night or is it day, while ye bleed beneath his sway?
     It is night, deep night on earth and air and sea.

Still the height of the world’s night. There is neither warmth nor light,                      54
     And the heart of Earth is heavy as a stone;
And within the night’s dark core where the sad Cross gleam’d before
     Sits the Shape that Kings adore, upon a Throne;
And the nations desolate crawl beneath and curse their fate,
     And the wind goes by and bites them to the bone.

O Sire that mad’st the Fire, and the Shape that dread and dire
     Came from thence, the first and last born of the same,
To Thee we praying throng, for Thou alone art strong,
     To right our daily wrong and bitter shame:
From the aching breast of earth, lift the red Fire and its birth!
     Consume them—let them vanish in one flame!


Page 47: The revision of The Drama of Kings first published in the third volume of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan (Henry S. King, 1874) as ‘Political Mystics’ (and subsequently reprinted by Chatto & Windus in The Poetical Works of 1884 and 1901), begins with the following introductory verse:

Political Mystics.

Shades of the living Time,
     Phantoms men deem real,
Rise to a runic rhyme,
     Cloak’d from head to heel!
One by one ye pass
As in a magician’s glass,
One by one displace
The hood which veils the face;
And ever we recognise,
     With terrible deep-drawn breath,
Christ’s inscrutable eyes,
     And the bloodless cheeks of Death!

This is followed by a section entitled ‘TITAN AND AVATAR. A Choral Mystic’ which is in four parts:
1. Ode of Nations
2. The Avatar’s Dream
3. The Elemental Quest
4. The Elemental Doom
The Chorus section on Page 47 of The Drama of Kings provides the first part, ‘Ode of Nations’.
Alterations in the 1884 edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Page 48, l. iv: Then a lightning, stream on stream aslant the air! ]



The Drama of Kings 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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