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Their children, clamouring, “ If we pay, we starve ;'
She sought her lord, and found him, where he strode
About the hall, among his dogs, alone,
His beard a foot before him, and his hair
A yard behind. She told him of their tears,
And pray'd him, “ If they pay this tax, they starve.”
Whereat he stared, replying, half-amazed,
“You would not let your little finger ache
For such as these? -“But I would die,” said she.
He laugh’d, and swore by Peter and by Paul :
Then fillip'd at the diamond in her ear,
“O ay, ay, ay, you talk !"_“Alas !” she said,
“But prove me what it is I would not do.”
And from a heart, as rough as Esau's hand,
He answer'd, “ Ride you
naked thro’ the town,
And I repeal it;” and nodding, as in scorn,
He parted, with great strides among his dogs.
So left alone, the passions of her mind,
As winds from all the compass shift and blow,
Made war upon each other for an hour,
Till pity won.
She sent a herald forth,
And bad him cry, with sound of trumpet, all
The hard condition ; but that she would loose
The people: therefore, as they loved her well,
From then till noon no foot should pace
No eye look down, she passing ; but that all
Should keep within, door shut, and window barr'd.
Then fled she to her inmost bower, and there
Unclasp'd the wedded eagles of her belt,
The grim Earl's gift ; but ever at a breath
She linger'd, looking like a summer moon
Half-dipt in cloud : anon she shook her head,
And shower'd the rippled ringlets to her knee ;
Unclad herself in haste ; adown the stair
Stole on ; and, like a creeping sunbeam, slid
From pillar unto pillar, until she reach'd
The gateway; there she found her palfrey trapt
In purple blazon'd with armorial gold.
Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity :
The deep air listen’d round her as she rode,
And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
The little wide-mouth'd heads upon the spout
Had cunning eyes to see : the barking cur
Made her cheek flame: her palfrey's footfall shot
Light horrors thro’ her pulses : the blind walls
Were full of chinks and holes ; and overhead
Fantastic gables, crowding, stared : but she
Not less thro' all bore up, till, last, she saw
The white-flower'd elder-thicket from the field
Gleam thro' the Gothic archways in the wall.
Then she rode back, clothed on with chastity :
And one low churl, compact of thankless earth,
The fatal byword of all years to come,
Boring a little auger-hole in fear,
Peep'd—but his eyes, before they had their will,
Were shrivell’d into darkness in his head,
And dropt before him. So the Powers, who wait
On noble deeds, cancell'd a sense misused;
And she, that knew not, pass'd: and all at once,
With twelve great shocks of sound, the shameless noon
Was clash'd and hammer'd from a hundred towers,
One after one : but even then she gain’d
Her bower; whence reissuing, robed and crown'd,
To meet her lord, she took the tax away,
And built herself an everlasting name.
A still small voice spake unto me, “ Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be ?”
Then to the still small voice I said ;
“Let me not cast in endless shade
What is so wonderfully made."
To which the voice did urge reply; “ To-day I saw the dragon-fly Come from the wells where he did lie.
“An inner impulse rent the veil Of his old husk : from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
“ He dried his wings: like gauze they grew: Thro' crofts and pastures wet with dew A living flash of light he flew."
I said, “When first the world began,
Young Nature thro' five cycles ran,
And in the sixth she moulded man.
gave him mind, the lordliest Proportion, and, above the rest, Dominion in the head and breast."
Thereto the silent voice replied ;
“ Self-blinded are you by your pride :
thro' night : the world is wide.