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Desire in me to infuse my tale of love
In the old king's ears, who promised help, and oozed
All o'er with honeyed answer as we rode;
And blossom-fragrant slipt the heavy dews,
Gathered by night and peace, with each light air
On our mailed heads: but other thoughts than
Burnt in us, when we saw the embattled squares,
And squadrons of the Prince, trampling the flowers
With clamor: for among them rose a cry
As if to greet the king; they made a halt;
The horses yelled; they clashed their arms; the
Beat; merrily-blowing shrilled the martial fife ;
And in the blast and bray of the long horn
And serpent-throated bugle, undulated
The banner: anon to meet us lightly pranced
Three captains out; nor ever had I seen
Such thews of men: the midmost and the highest
Was Arac all about his motion clung
The shadow of his sister, as the beam
Of the East, that played upon them, made them glance
Like those three stars of the airy Giant's zone,
That glitter burnished by the frosty dark;
And as the fiery Sirius alters hue,
And bickers into red and emerald, shone
Their morions, washed with morning, as they came.
And I that prated peace, when first I heard War-music, felt the blind wild beast of force Whose home is in the sinews of a man Stir in me as to strike; then took the king His three broad sons; with now a wandering hand And now a pointed finger, told them all : A common light of smiles at our disguise Broke from their lips, and, ere the windy jest Had labored down within his ample lungs,
The genial giant, Arac, rolled himself
Thrice in the saddle, then burst out in words.
"Our land invaded, 'sdeath! and he himself
Your captive, yet my father wills not war:
And, 'sdeath! myself, what care I, war or no?
But then this question of your troth remains;
And there's a downright honest meaning in her;
She flies too high, she flies too high! and yet
She asked but space and fair play for her scheme;
She prest and prest it on me-I myself,
What know I of these things? but, life and soul.
I thought her half right talking of her wrongs;
I say she flies too high, 'sdeath! what of that?
I take her for the flower of womankind,
And so I often told her, right or wrong,
And, Prince, she can be sweet to those she loves,
And, right or wrong, I care not: this is all,
I stand upon her side: she made me swear it-
'Sdeath!and with solemn rites by candle-light---
Swear by St. something-I forget her name—
Her that talked down the fifty wisest men;
She was a princess too; and so I swore.
Come, this is all; she will not: waive your claim :
If not, the foughten field, what else, at once
Decides it, 'sdeath! against my father's will.”
I lagged in answer, loth to render up My precontract, and loth by brainless war To cleave the rift of difference deeper yet; Till one of those two brothers, half aside And fingering at the hair about his lip, To prick us on to combat, "Like to like! The woman's garment hid the woman's heart." A taunt that clenched his purpose like a blow! For fiery-short was Cyril's counter-scoff, And sharp I answered, touched upon the point Where idle boys are cowards to their shame, "Decide it here: why not? we are three to three.'
Then spake the third, "But three to three! no more?
No more, and in our noble sister's cause?
More, more, for honor: every captain waits
Hungry for honor, angry for his king.
More, more, some fifty on a side, that each
May breathe himself, and quick! by overthrow
Of these or those, the question settled, die.”
"Yea," answered I, "for this wild wreath of air, This flake of rainbow flying on the highest Foam of men's deeds-this honor, if ye It needs must be for honor if at all: Since, what decision? if we fail, we fail, And if we win, we fail: she would not keep Her compact." "'Sdeath! but we will send to
Said Arac; "worthy reasons why she should
Bide by this issue: let our missive through,
And you shall have her answer by the word."
"Boys!" shrieked the old king, but vainlier than a hen
To her false daughters in the pool; for none
Regarded; neither seemed there more to say:
Back rode we to my father's camp, and found
He thrice had sent a herald to the gates,
To learn if Ida yet would cede our claim,
Or by denial flush her babbling wells
With her own people's life: three times he went:
The first, he blew and blew, but none appeared.
He battered at the doors; none came: the next,
An awful voice within had warned him thence:
The third, and those eight daughters of the plough
Came sallying through the gates, and caught his
And so belabored him on rib and cheek
They made him wild: not less one glance he caught Through open doors of Ida stationed there
Unshaken, clinging to her purpose, firm
Though compassed by two armies and the noise
Of arms; and standing like a stately pine
Set in a cataract on an island-crag,
When storm is on the heights, and right and left Sucked from the dark heart of the long hills roll The torrents, dashed to the vale: and yet her will Bred will in me to overcome it or fall.
But when I told the king that I was pledged To fight in tourney for my bride, he clashed His iron palms together with a cry; Himself would tilt it out among the lads: But overborne by all his bearded lords With reasons drawn from age and state, perforce He yielded, wroth and red, with fierce demur: And many a bold knight started up in heat, And sware to combat for my claim till death.
All on this side the palace ran the field Flat to the garden-wall: and likewise here, Above the garden's glowing blossom-belts, A columned entry shone and marble stairs, And great bronze valves, embossed with Tomyris And what she did to Cyrus after fight, But now fast barred: so here upon the flat All that long morn the lists were hammered up, And all that morn the heralds to and fro, With message and defiance, went and came; Last, Ida's answer, in a royal hand, But shaken here and there, and rolling words Oration-like. I kissed it and I read.
"O brother, you have known the pangs we felt, What heats of indignation, when we heard Of those that iron-cramped their women's feet; Of lands in which at the altar the poor bride Gives her harsh groom for bridal-gift a scourge; Of living hearts that crack within the fire
Where smoulder their dead despots; and of those,——
Mothers, that, all prophetic pity, fling
Their pretty maids in the running flood, and swoops
The vulture, beak and talon, at the heart
Made for all noble motion: and I saw
That equal baseness lived in sleeker times
With smoother men: the old leaven leavened all:
Millions of throats would bawl for civil rights,
No woman named: therefore I set my face
Against all men and lived but for mine own.
Far off from men I built a fold for them:
I stored it full of rich memorial:
I fenced it round with gallant institutes,
And biting laws to scare the beasts of prey,
And prospered; till a rout of saucy boys
Brake on us at our books, and marred our peace,
Masked like our maids, blustering I know not what
Of insolence and love, some pretext held
Of baby troth, invalid, since my will
Sealed not the bond-the striplings!-for their
I tamed my leopards: shall I not tame these?
Or you? or I? for since you think me touched
In honor-what, I would not aught of false—
Is not our cause pure? and whereas I know
Your prowess, Arac, and what mother's blood
You draw from, fight; you failing, I abide .
What end soever, fail you will not. Still
Take not his life: he risked it for my own;
His mother lives: yet whatsoe'er you do,
Fight and fight well; strike, and strike home. O
Brothers, the woman's Angel guards you, you
The sole men to be mingled with our cause,
The sole men we shall prize in the after time,
Your very armor hallowed, and your statues
Reared, sung to, when, this gad-fly brushed aside,
We plant a solid foot into the Time,
And mould a generation strong to move