1. SIR WALTER VIVIAN all a summer's day
  2. Gave his broad lawns until the set of sun
  3. Up to the people: thither flock'd at noon
  4. His tenants, wife and child, and thither half
  5. The neighboring borough with their Institute
  6. Of which he was the patron. I was there
  7. From college, visiting the son, --the son
  8. A Walter too, --with others of our set,
  9. Five others: we were seven at Vivian-place.

  10.  And me that morning Walter show'd the house,
  11. Greek, set with busts: from vases in the hall
  12. Flowers of all heavens, and lovelier than their names,
  13. Grew side by side; and on the pavement lay
  14. Carved stones of the Abbey-ruin in the park,
  15. Huge Ammonites, and the first bones of Time;
  16. And on the tables every clime and age
  17. Jumbled together; celts and calumets,
  18. Claymore and snowshoe, toys in lava, fans
  19. Of sandal, amber, ancient rosaries,
  20. Laborious orient ivory sphere in sphere,
  21. The cursed Malayan crease, and battle-clubs
  22. From the isles of palm: and higher on the walls,
  23. Betwixt the monstrous horns of elk and deer,
  24. His own forefathers' arms and armour hung,

  25.  And 'this' he said 'was Hugh's at Agincourt;
  26. And that was old Sir Ralph's at Ascalon:
  27. A good knight he! we keep a chronicle
  28. With all about him '--which he brought, and I
  29. Dived in a hoard of tales that dealt with knights,
  30. Half-legend, half-historic, counts and kings
  31. Who laid about them at their wills and died;
  32. And mixt with these, a lady, one that arm'd
  33. Her own fair head, and sallying thro' the gate,
  34. Had beat her foes with slaughter from her walls.

  35.  'O miracle of women,' said the book,
  36. 'O noble heart who, being strait-besieged
  37. By this wild king to force her to his wish,
  38. Nor bent, nor broke, nor shunn'd a soldier's death,
  39. But now when all was lost or seem'd as lost--
  40. Her stature more than mortal in the burst
  41. Of sunrise, her arm lifted, eyes on fire--
  42. Brake with a blast of trumpets from the gate,
  43. And, falling on them like a thunderbolt,
  44. She trampled some beneath her horses' heels,
  45. And some were whelm'd with missiles of the wall,
  46. And some were push'd with lances from the rock,
  47. And part were drown'd within the whirling brook:
  48. O miracle of noble womanhood!'

  49.  So sang the gallant glorious chronicle;
  50. And, I all rapt in this, 'Come out,' he said,
  51. 'To the Abbey: there is Aunt Elizabeth
  52. And sister Lilia with the rest.' We went
  53. (I kept the book and had my finger in it)
  54. Down thro' the park: strange was the sight to me;
  55. For all the sloping pasture murmur'd, sown
  56. With happy faces and with holiday.
  57. There moved the multitude, a thousand heads:
  58. The patient leaders of their Institute
  59. Taught them with facts. One rear'd a font of stone
  60. And drew, from butts of water on the slope,
  61. The fountain of the moment, playing now
  62. A twisted snake, and now a rain of pearls,
  63. Or steep-up spout whereon the gilded ball
  64. Danced like a wisp: and somewhat lower down
  65. A man with knobs and wires and vials fired
  66. A cannon: Echo answer'd in her sleep
  67. From hollow fields: and here were telescopes
  68. For azure views; and there a group of girls
  69. In circle waited, whom the electric shock
  70. Dislink'd with shrieks and laughter: round the lake
  71. A little clock-work steamer paddling plied
  72. And shook the lilies: perch'd about the knolls
  73. A dozen angry models jetted steam:
  74. A petty railway ran: a fire balloon
  75. Rose gem-like up before the dusky groves
  76. And dropt a fairy parachute and past:
  77. And there thro' twenty posts of telegraph
  78. They flash'd a saucy message to and fro
  79. Between the mimic stations; so that sport
  80. Went hand in hand with Science; otherwhere
  81. Pure sport: a herd of boys with clamour bowl'd
  82. And stump'd the wicket; babies roll'd about
  83. Like tumbled fruit in grass; and men and maids
  84. Arranged a country dance, and flew thro' light
  85. And shadow, while the twangling violin
  86. Struck up with Soldier-laddie, and overhead
  87. The broad ambrosial aisles of lofty lime
  88. Made noise with bees and breeze from end to end.

  89.  Strange was the sight and smacking of the time;
  90. And long we gazed, but satiated at length
  91. Came to the ruins. High-arch'd and ivy-claspt,
  92. Of finest Gothic lighter than a fire,
  93. Thro' one wide chasm of time and frost they gave
  94. The park, the crowd, the house; but all within
  95. The sward was trim as any garden lawn:
  96. And here we lit on Aunt Elizabeth,
  97. And Lilia with the rest, and lady friends
  98. From neighbour seats: and there was Ralph himself,
  99. A broken statue propt against the wall,
  100. As gay as any. Lilia, wild with sport,
  101. Half child half woman as she was, had wound
  102. A scarf of orange round the stony helm,
  103. And robed the shoulders in a rosy silk,
  104. That made the old warrior from his ivied nook
  105. Glow like a sunbeam: near his tomb a feast
  106. Shone, silver-set; about it lay the guests,
  107. And there we join'd them: then the maiden Aunt
  108. Took this fair day for text, and from it preach'd
  109. An universal culture for the crowd,
  110. And all things great; but we, unworthier, told
  111. Of college: he had climb'd across the spikes,
  112. And he had squeezed himself betwixt the bars,
  113. And he had breathed the Proctor's dogs; and one
  114. Discuss'd his tutor, rough to common men,
  115. But honeying at the whisper of a lord;
  116. And one the Master, as a rogue in grain
  117. Veneer'd with sanctimonious theory.

  118.  But while they talk'd, above their heads I saw
  119. The feudal warrior lady-clad; which brought
  120. My book to mind: and opening this I read
  121. Of old Sir Ralph a page or two that rang
  122. With tilt and tourney; then the tale of her
  123. That drove her foes with slaughter from her walls,
  124. And much I praised her nobleness, and 'Where,'
  125. Ask'd Walter, patting Lilia's head (she lay
  126. Beside him) 'lives there such a woman now?'

  127.  Quick answer'd Lilia, 'There are thousands now
  128. Such women, but convention beats them down:
  129. It is but bringing up; no more than that:
  130. You men have done it: how I hate you all!
  131. Ah, were I something great! I wish I were
  132. Some mighty poetess, I would shame you then,
  133. That love to keep us children! O I wish
  134. That I were some great princess, I would build
  135. Far off from men a college like a man's,
  136. And I would teach them all that men are taught;
  137. We are twice as quick!' And here she shook aside
  138. The hand that play'd the patron with her curls.

  139.  And one said smiling 'Pretty were the sight
  140. If our old halls could change their sex, and flaunt
  141. With prudes for proctors, dowagers for deans,
  142. And sweet girl-graduates in their golden hair.
  143. I think they should not wear our rusty gowns,
  144. But move as rich as Emperor-moths, or Ralph
  145. Who shines so in the corner; yet I fear,
  146. If there were many Lilias in the brood,
  147. However deep you might embower the nest,
  148. Some boy would spy it.'
    At this upon the sward
  149. She tapt her tiny silken-sandal'd foot:
  150. 'That's your light way; but I would make it death
  151. For any male thing but to peep at us.'

  152.  Petulant she spoke, and at herself she laugh'd;
  153. A rosebud set with little wilful thorns,
  154. And sweet as English air could make her, she:
  155. But Walter hail'd a score of names upon her,
  156. And 'petty Ogress,' and 'ungrateful Puss,'
  157. And swore he long'd at college, only long'd,
  158. All else was well, for she-society.
  159. They boated and they cricketed; they talk'd
  160. At wine, in clubs, of art, of politics;
  161. They lost their weeks; they vext the souls of deans;
  162. They rode; they betted; made a hundred friends,
  163. And caught the blossom of the flying terms,
  164. But miss'd the mignonette of Vivian-place,
  165. The little hearth-flower Lilia. Thus he spoke,
  166. Part banter, part affection.
    'True,' she said,
  167. 'We doubt not that. O yes, you miss'd us much.
  168. I'll stake my ruby ring upon it you did.'

  169.  She held it out; and as a parrot turns
  170. Up thro' gilt wires a crafty loving eye,
  171. And takes a lady's finger with all care,
  172. And bites it for true heart and not for harm,
  173. So he with Lilia's. Daintily she shriek'd
  174. And wrung it. 'Doubt my word again!' he said.
  175. 'Come, listen! here is proof that you were miss'd:
  176. We seven stay'd at Christmas up to read;
  177. And there we took one tutor as to read:
  178. The hard-grain'd Muses of the cube and square
  179. Were out of season: never man, I think,
  180. So moulder'd in a sinecure as he:
  181. For while our cloisters echo'd frosty feet,
  182. And our long walks were stript as bare as brooms,
  183. We did but talk you over, pledge you all
  184. In wassail; often, like as many girls--
  185. Sick for the hollies and the yews of home--
  186. As many little trifling Lilias-play'd
  187. Charades and riddles as at Christmas here,
  188. And what's my thought and when and where and how,
  189. And often told a tale from mouth to mouth
  190. As here at Christmas.'
    She remember'd that:
  191. A pleasant game, she thought: she liked it more
  192. Than magic music, forfeits, all the rest.
  193. But these--what kind of tales did men tell men,
  194. She wonder'd, by themselves?
    A half-disdain
  195. Perch'd on the pouted blossom of her lips:
  196. And Walter nodded at me;'He began,
  197. The rest would follow, each in turn; and so
  198. We forged a sevenfold story. Kind? what kind?
  199. Chimeras, crotchets, Christmas solecisms,
  200. Seven-headed monsters only made to kill
  201. Time by the fire in winter.'
    'Kill him now,
  202. The tyrant! kill him in the summer too,'
  203. Said Lilia; 'Why not now?' the maiden Aunt.
  204. 'Why not a summer's as a winter's tale?
  205. A tale for summer as befits the time,
  206. And something it should be to suit the place
  207. Heroic, for a hero lies beneath,
  208. Grave, solemn!'
    Walter warp'd his mouth at this
  209. To something so mock-solemn, that I laugh'd
  210. And Lilia woke with sudden-shrilling mirth
  211. An echo like a ghostly woodpecker,
  212. Hid in the ruins; till the maiden Aunt
  213. (A little sense of wrong had touch'd her face
  214. With colour) turn'd to me with 'As you will;
  215. Heroic if you will, or what you will,
  216. Or be yourself your hero if you will.'

  217.  'Take Lilia, then, for heroine,' clamour'd he,
  218. 'And make her some great Princess, six feet high,
  219. Grand, epic, homicidal; and be you
  220. The Prince to win her!'
    'Then follow me, the Prince,'
  221. I answer'd, 'each be hero in his turn!
  222. Seven and yet one, like shadows in a dream. --
  223. Heroic seems our Princess as required. --
  224. But something made to suit with Time and place,
  225. A Gothic ruin and a Grecian house,
  226. A talk of college and of ladies' rights,
  227. A feudal knight in silken masquerade,
  228. And, yonder, shrieks and strange experiments
  229. For which the good Sir Ralph had burnt them all--
  230. This were a medley! we should have him back
  231. Who told the 'Winter's tale' to do it for us.
  232. No matter: we will say whatever comes.
  233. And let the ladies sing us, if they will,
  234. From time to time, some ballad or a song
  235. To give us breathing-space.'
    So I began,
  236. And the rest follow'd: and the women sang
  237. Between the rougher voices of the men,
  238. Like linnets in the pauses of the wind:
  239. And here I give the story and the songs.

Introduction | Canto I

Last updated October 24, 1997