Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

thus :

99

A woman's soul, like man's, be wide ney Leigh again appeared, and, after enough

the death of her friend, proposed to To carry the whole octave (that's to prove), marry her, fashioning his proposal Or, if I fail, still, purely for myself.' Locating herself at Kensington,

"Dear Marian, of one clay God made us she begins her literary career, and all, achieves distinction. One day she is And though men push and poke and waited on by a certain Lady Walde- paddle in't information that her cousin Romney, Assuming difference, lordship, privilege, mar, who gives her the astounding As children play at fashioning dirt-pies), whom she had not seen for three

When all's plain dirt,—they come back to years, is on the eve of marriage

it at last; To a girl of doubtful life, undoubtful

The first grave-digger proves it with a birth.

spade, Starved out in London, till her coarse

And pats all even. Need we wait for this, grained hands

You, Marian, and I, Romuey ! Are whiter than her morals."

She, at that,

Looked blindly in his face, as when one This Lady Waldemar is personally

looks in love with Romney Leigh, and Through driving autumn-rains to find the

sky. comes to ask the aid of Aurora in

He went on speaking. breaking off the ill-assorted mar

Marian, I being born riage. Aurora, however, having con- What men call noble, and you, issued from ceived a disgust to her visitor (which The noble people, -though the tyrannous is not surprising, seeing that her con

sword versation is so flavoured with allu

Which pierced Christ's heart, has cleft the

world in twain sions to garlic, that even the Lady of "Twixt class and class, opposing rich to Shallot would have recoiled from her poor, — whispers), refuses to have any partici

Shall we keep parted ? Not so. Let us

lean pation in the matter, but resolves im

And strain together rather, each to each, mediately to see thisgirl, Marian Erle,

Compress the red lips of this gaping who resides in a garret somewhere in WOUI the purlieus of St Giles. After pass- As far as two souls can,-ay, lean and ing through the abominations of that league, quarter, and receiving the maledic- I, from my superabundance, —from your tions of thief and prostitute, the You,-joining in a protest 'gainst the poetess discovers the object of her

wrong search, and hears her story. Marian On both sides !'” Erle, the selected bride of Romney Leigh, was the daughter of a tramp to Aurora, Romney comes in, looks

While Marian is telling her story and squatter on the Malvern Hills, certainly a little surprised at finding and her education was essentially a hedge one. Her father

drank and his cousin there, but is by no means

disconcerted. beat his wife, and the wife in turn beat Aurora supposes that he must be

Naturally enough, her child. When Marian arrived at influenced by a very strong passion the age of puberty, her unnatural for the girl whom he is about to mother was about to sell her as a victim to the lusts of “ a squire,” with what sincerity we need not in

make his wife, and congratulates him, when the girl, in horror, ran away, quire, on having made choice of so fair barst a blood vessel in her flight, and gentle a creature. Romney, howvas found senseless on the road by a raggoner, and conveyed to an hos- ever, utterly

denies the soft impeachje in a neighbouring town, where ment, in so far as it implies that his Leigh was a visitor. Find- Ordinary men contracto marriages

were any way engaged. as she was friendless and home from love-he is influenced by a far se zrocured her a place in a

higher principle. He says : Some stablishment in London, e patted to attend the

"You did not, do not, cannot comprehend

My choice, my ends, my motives, nor mypie di peces consumptive com

self : sa sank under the No matter now—we'll let it pass, you say. Te Here Rom- I thank you for your generous cousinship

Which helps this present; I accept for her

“ Well, Your favourable thoughts. We're fallen A month passed so, and then the notice on days,

came; We two, who are not poets, when to wed On such a day the marriage at the church. Requires less mutual love than common I was not backward. love,

Half St Giles in frieze For two together to bear out at once Was bidden to meet St James in cloth of Upon the loveless many. Work in pairs, gold, In galley-couplings or in marriage-rings, And, after contract at the altar, pass The difference lies in the honour, not the To eat a marriage-feast on Hampstead work,

Heath. And such we're bound to, I and she. But Of course the people came in uncompelled, love,

Lame, blind, and worse-sick, sorrowful, (You poets are benighted in this age ;

and worse, The hour's too late for catching even The humours of the peccant social wound moths,

All pressed out, poured out upon Pimlico, You've gnats instead), love !-love's fool. Exasperating the unaccustomed air paradise

With hideous interfusion : you'd suppose Is out of date, like Adam's. Set a swan A finished generation, dead of plague, To swim the Trenton, rather than true Swept outward from their graves into the love

sun, To float its fabulous plumage safely down The moil of death upon them. What a The cataracts of this loud transition- sight! time,

A holiday of miserable men
Whose roar, for ever, henceforth, in my Is sadder than a burial-day of kings.

ears,
Must keep me deaf to music.”

They clogged the streets, they oozed into

the church In short, the man has not an atom In a dark slow stream, like blood. To see of love for the girl, whom he proposes that sight, to wed entirely from motives of The noble ladies stood up in their pews, general philanthropy! At this Au- Some pale for fear, a few as red for hate,

Some simply curious, some just insolent, rora is somewhat disgusted; but, And some in wondering scorn,-'What wishing to show kindness to her next? what next?' cousin-perhaps to testify her own These crushed their delicate rose-lips from

the smile indifference, which, however, is rather feigned than real-she sug- With broidered hems of perfumed hand

That misbecame them in a holy place, gests that the marriage should take kerchiefs ; place at her house. But Master Those passed the salts with confidence of Romney will not hear of such an eyes

And simultaneous shiver of moiré silk; arrangement, as it might weaken

While all the aisles, alive and black with the effect of the grand moral les

heads, son which he intends to convey to Crawled slowly toward the altar from the society :

street, “He answered, 'But it is :-1 take my

As bruised snakes crawl and hiss out of a

hole wife Directly from the people, and she

comes,

With shuddering involutions, swaying

slow As Austria's daughter to imperial France, Betwixt her eagles, blinking not her race,

From right to left, and then from left to From Margaret's Court, at garret-height,

right, to meet

In pants and pauses. What an ugly crest And wed me at St James's, nor put off

Of faces rose upon you everywhere Her gown of serge for that. The things

From that crammed mass ! you did not

usually we do, We do: we'll wear no mask, as if we

See faces like them in the open day : blushed.""

They hide in cellars, not to make you mad

As Romney Leigh is.-Faces ! O my God, The following sketch of the com- We call those, faces ? men's and women's pany assembled to witness the marriage ceremony is too racy and rich And children’s;-babies, hanging like a

rag to be omitted here. As the union Forgotten on their mother's neck,-poor was to be typical of the impending mouths, abolition of all class distinctions, Wiped clean of mother's milk by mother's

blow, Romney determined that it should be celebrated in the presence of high Before they are taught her cursing. and low, and issued cards accord- We'll call them vices festering to despairs, ingly.

Or sorrows petrifying to vices : not

-ay,

up hell

A finger-touch of God left whole on them; My friends, you are all dismissed. Go, eat All ruined, lost-the countenance worn and drink out

According to the programme,—and fare. As the garments, the will dissolute as the well !"

acts, The passions loose and draggling in the

At this St Giles' rises in insurrecdirt

tion, cursing Romney as a seducer, To trip the foot up at the first free step!— and accusing him of having made Those, faces ! 'twas as if you had stirred away with the girl. There is a superb To heave its lowest dreg-fiends uppermost row, with threats of violence and In fiery swirls of slime,-such strangled arson, until the police enter and clear fronts,

the church. Such obdurate jaws were thrown up con- Beyond an enigmatical letter of stantly,

leave-taking, which gives no explaTo twit you with your race, corrupt your nation of her avoiding the marriage

blood, And grind to devilish colours all your ceremony, we hear nothing of Marian dreams

for a long time. Romney retires to Henceforth, — though, haply, you should Leigh Hall, which he has turned into drop asleep

a“ phalanstery,” by which term, we By clink of silver waters, in a muse On Raffael's mild Madonna of the Bird."

presume, is meant an Owenite com

munity. Miss Aurora continues her So there they wait—that strangely devotion to the muses, and becomes assorted company--the denizens of more notable day by day; but a horSt Giles thronging on the inhabitants rid suspicion crosses her that Lady of St James-both parties curious to

Waldemar has found the weak side behold the marriage which is to in- of her wealthy cousin. For, at a con

versazione at the house of a certain augurate the future revolution and fusion of society. Romney Leigh Lord Howe, she learns that the fair appears to do the honours; but time and intriguing Waldemar is commonrolls on, and still the bride comes

ly considered as Romney's, pet disnot. The fashionables stare and talk ciple--nay, that she is considered as gossip; the vulgar murmur, and de- his bride intended. In the words of sire a smoke--until a rumour, to the Mrs Browning, which we give witheffect that something is amiss, per

out the metrical divisions, meates the throng.

“ You may find her name on all his mis

sions and commissions, schools, asylums, "A murmur and a movement drew hospitals. He has had her down with other around;

ladies, whom her starry lead persuaded A naked whisper touched us. Something from other spheres, to his country-place in

Shropshire, in the famed phalanstery at What's wrong? The black crowd, as an Leigh Hall, christianised from Fourier's overstrained

own, in which he has planted out his sapCord, quivered in vibrations, and I saw- ling stocks of knowledge into social bursaWas' that his face I saw ?-his-Romney ries; and there, they say, she has tarried

half a week, and milked the cows, and Which tossed a sudden horror like a sponge churned, and pressed the curd, and said Into all eyes,—while himself stood white

my sister to the lowest drab of all the assembled castaways. Such girls! Ay,

sided with them at the washing-tub." The topmost altar-stair, and tried to speak, And failed, and lifted higher above his

Lady Waldemar, in a very spiteful head A letter, - as a man who drowns and speech, confirms this impression; and

Miss Aurora, who all this time has gasps.

had a secret hankering for her cousin, My brothers, bear with me! I am very determines to square her balances weak.

with her publisher, and to depart for I meant but only good. Perhaps I meant

Italy. Tee proudly, and God snatched the cir

In Paris she encounters Marian, Andi changed it therefore. There's no

and finds her a mother. The expla

nation is, that Lady Waldemar had Shes ne. she departs, she dis- tampered with the girl ; and by re

presenting to her that her marriage Idee in Yet I nerer forced her “ ay," I wa der " 30so cast into my teeth,

with Romney would be his social The manner anoni, thus

ruin, induced her to take flight on

wrong!

Leigh's

upon

cumstance,

marriage-bone.

the day preceding that which had The doctor woke) and found me with “ the been arranged for the nuptials. The

frogs"

On three successive Sundays; ay, and place of her future destiny was Aus

stopped tralia, hut her ladyship had confided To weep a little (for he's getting old) her to the charge of an unprincipled That such perdition should o'ertake a man soubrette, who, whether or not by de- of such fair acres,-in the parish, too! sign of her mistress, took Mărian He printed his discourses by request ;"

And if your book shall sell as his did, then over to France, conveyed her to an

Your verses are less good than I suppose. infamous house, and sold her, while The women of the neighbourhood subunder the influence of drugs, to viola- scribed, tion. On awakening to a sense of her And sent me a copy bound in scarlet silk, situation and wrongs, the unfortunate Tooled edges, blazoned with the arms of girl became mad, and was allowed to I own that touched me.' make her escape, underwent various

What, the pretty ones ? adventures and vicissitudes, and fi- Poor Romney!' nally brought into the world a male

• Otherwise the effect was small. child, in whom her whole existence I had my windows broken once or twice was wrapt up, and for whom alone By liberal peasants, naturally incensed

At such a vexer of Arcadian peace, she lived, when she was recognised Who would not let men call their wives and challenged by Aurora in the

their own streets of Paris. Î'he sequel may be To kick like Britons,—and made obstacles easily imagined. Miss Leigh, con

When things went smoothly as a baby vinced of Marian's innocence, insists

drugged,

Toward freedom and starvation; bringing that she, with her child, shall accom- down pany her to Florence; and there are The wicked London tavern-thieves and some letters and cross purposes, into

drabs,

To affront the blessed hill-side drabs and which, for the mere sake of the story,

thieves it is not necessary to enter. In fine, With mended morals, quotha,-fine new Aurora, in the full belief that Lady lives !Waldemar, to whom she has sent à My windows paid for't. I was shot at, most insulting letter, is now the wife of her cousin, becomes melancholy By an active poacher who had hit a hare

From the other barrel, tired of springeing and heart-sick, and time drags wea

game rily on, until one night, watching the So long upon my acres, undisturbed, stars from her terrace, she is startled And restless for the country's virtue (yet by the sudden apparition of Romney He missed me)-ay, and pelted very oft by her side.

« There he Gentler than in his

In riding through the village. early youth, and far more humble, Who'd drive away our Christian gentle

goes Romney first pays homage to her folks, genius, and then confesses that his To catch us undefended in the trap social schemes have proved an utter

He baits with poisonous cheese, and lock failure.

us up

In that pernicious prison of Leigh Hall “'My vain phalanstery dissolved itself;

With all his murderers! Give another My men and women of disordered lives,

name, I brought in orderly to dine and sleep, And say Leigh Hell, and burn it with Broke up those waxen masks I made them

fire." wear,

And so they did, at last, Aurora.'” With fierce contortions of the natural face ;

The worst of it was, that the garAnd cursed me for my tyrannous constraint In forcing crooked creatures to live rotters, ticket-of-leave men, and streetstraight;

walkers, with whom he had filled his And set the country hounds upon my back house, thought the proceeding rare To bite and tear me for my wicked deed

fun, and joined in the incendiarism; Of trying to do good without the church Or even the squires, Aurora. Do you mind

and Will Erle, Marian's father, Your ancient neighbours ? The great tramp and poacher," whom he had book-club teems

attempted to reclaim, struck Romney With "sketches," " summaries," and “last

on the head with a burning brand as tracts" but twelve,

he was leaving the house, inflicting On socialistic troublers of close bonds Betwixt the generous rich and grateful

an injury which brought him nearly poor.

to the verge of the grave. In the The vicar preached from "Revelations” (till course of conversation Romney unde

once,

come:

ceives Aurora as to his connection And say, “Come down to Romney-pay with Lady Waldemar, but declares my debt !” that he considers himself bound, not

I should be joyful with the stream of joy

Sent through me. But the moon is in my withstanding her misfortune, to wed

faceMarian, and to adopt her child. Mari- I dare not,—though I guess the name he an, who has overheard this, comes

loves; forward, and after a passionate scene

I'm learned with my studies of old days, of great beauty, rejects the offer.

Remembering how he crush'd his under lip

When some one came and spoke, or did not Here we cannot resist a quotation. "I have not so much life that I should love Aurora, I could touch her with my hand, - Except the child. Ah God! I could And fly, because I dare not.' not bear

She was gone." To see my darling on a good man's knees, And so Marian departs. But now And know by such a look, or such a sigh, Or such a silence, that he thought some

comes an awful disclosure-Romney times,

is blind. The blow struck by the “ This child was fathered by some cursed poacher had destroyed the visual wretch”

nerves; and for that unfortunate Lord For, Romney, -angels are less tender-wise of Leigh, the glory of the sun, moon, Than God and mothers; even you would and stars, was but a remembrance.

think What we think never. He is ours, the So Aurora, who had always loved him, child ;

even though she would not allow it to And we would sooner vex a soul in heaven herself—and whom he had never By coupling with it the dead body's ceased to love amidst his perverted

thought, It left behind it in a last month's grave,

dreams of duty-gives her whole Than, in my child, see other than-my

woman's heart to the helpless; and child.

the poem closes with the interchange We only, never call him fatherless of vows and aspirations. Who has God and his mother. O my babe,

Such is the story, which no admirer My pretty, pretty blossom, an ill-wind Once blew upon my breast! can any think of Mrs Browning's genius ought in I'd have another, -one called happier, prudence to defend. In our opinion A fathered child, with father's love and it is fantastic, unnatural, exaggerat

ed; and all the worse, because it That's worn as bold and open as a smile, To vex my darling when

he's asked his professes to be a tale of our own

times. Noone who understands of how And has no answer? What! a happier child much value probability is to a tale, Than mine, my best,—who laughed so loud can read the foregoing sketch, or into-night

deed peruse the poem, without a He could not sleep for pastime? Nay, I

painful feeling that Mrs Browning By life and love, that, if I lived like some,

has been perpetrating, in essentials, And loved like—some -- ay, loved you, an extravaganza or caricature, inRomney Leigh,

stead of giving to the public a real As some love (eyes that have wept so much, lifelike picture ; for who can accept,

see clear), I've room for no more children in my arms;

as truthful representation, Romney's My kisses are all melted on one mouth;

proposal of marriage toan ignorant unI would not push my darling to a stool educated girl whom he does not love; To dandle babies. Here's a hand, shall or that scene in the church, which is keep

absolutely of Rabelaisian conception ? For ever clean without a marriage-ring, To tend my boy, until he cease to need

We must not be seduced by beauty One steadying finger of it, and desert and power of execution from entering (Not miss) his mother's lap, to sit with men. our protest against this radical error, And when I miss him (not he me) I'll which appears more glaring as we And say, “ Now give me some of Romney's which is the delineation of character.

pass from the story to the next point, work, To help our outcast orphans of the world, Aurora Leigh is not an attractive chaAnd comfort grief with grief." For you, racter. After making the most liberal meantime,

allowance for pride, and fanaticism for Most noble Romney, wed a noble wife, And open on each other your great souls, art, and inflexibleindependence, she is I need not farther bless you. If I dared

incongruous and contradictory both But strain and touch her in her upper in her sentiments and in her actions. sphere,

She is not a genuine woman; one half

race

name,

sware

come

« AnteriorContinuar »