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What art's for a woman? - To hold on her knees
Both darlings; to feel all their arms round her throat
Cling, strangle a little; to sew by degrees,
And 'broider the long clothes and neat little coat;
To dream and to dote.
5. To teach them. . . . It stings there. I made them indeed
Speak plain the word “ country." I taught them, no doubt, That a country's a thing men should die for at need. I prated of liberty, rights, and about
The tyrant turned out.
6. And, when their eyes flashed, - oh my beautiful eyes !
I exulted; nay, let them go forth at the wheels Of the guns, and denied not. But then the surprise When one sits quite alone! then one weeps, then one kneels.
God! how the house feels !
At first, happy news came, in gay letters, moiled
With my kisses, of camp-life and glory, and how They both loved me; and soon, coming home to be spoiled, In return would fan off every fly froin my brow
With their green laurel-bough.
Then was triumph at Turin. " Ancona was free!”
And some one came out of the cheers in the street,
With a face pale as stone, to say something to me.
My Guido was dead! I fell down at his feet
While they cheered in the street.
I bore it: friends soothed me. My grief looked sublime
As the ransom of Italy. One boy remained
To be leant on and walked with, recalling the time
When the first grew immortal, while both of us strained
To the hight he had gained.
10. And letters still came, shorter, sadder, more strong,
Writ now but in one hand. “I was not to faint. One loved me for two;
would be with me ere long : And · Viva Italia' he died for, our saint,
Who forbids our complaint.”
11. My Nanni would add, “ He was safe, and aware
Of a presence that turned off the balls; was imprest It was Guido himself, who knew
what I could bear; And how 'twas impossible, quite dispossessed,
To live on for the rest."
12. On which, without pause, up the telegraph-line
Swept smoothly the next news from Gaëta, .“ Shot!” Tell his mother. "Ah, ah ! “his," " their” mother, not “mine.” No voice says " My mother” again to me. What!
You think Guido forgot ?
Are souls straight so happy, that, dizzy with heaven,
They drop earth's affection, conceive not of woe ?
I think not. Themselves were too lately forgiven
Through that love and sorrow which reconciled so
The above and below.
14. O Christ of the seven wounds, who look'dst through the dark
To the face of thy mother! consider, I pray, How we common mothers stand desolate ; mark Whose sons, not being Christs, die with eyes turned away,
And no last word to say !
15. Both boys dead! But that's out of nature. We all
Have been patriots; yet each house must always keep one : 'Twere imbecile hewing out roads to a wall. And, when Italy's made, for what end is it done
If we have not a son ?
16. Ah, ah, ah! when Gaëta's taken, what then ?
When the fair wicked queen sits no more at her sport of the fire-balls of death crashing souls out of men; When your guns of Cavalli with final retort
Have cut the game short;
17. When Venice and Rome keep their new jubilee;
When your flag takes all heaven for its white, green, and red; When you have your country from mountain to sea; When King Victor has Italy's crown on his head,
(And I have my dead,)
18. What then? Do not mock me. Ah! ring your bells low,
And burn your lights faintly. My country is there,
Above the star pricked by the last peak of snow;
My Italy's there with my brave civic pair,
To disfranchise despair.
Forgive me! Some women bear children in strength,
And bite back the cry of their pain in self-scorn ; But the birth-pangs of nations will wring us at length Into wail such as this, and we sit on forlorn
When the man-child is born.
20. Dead! one of them shot by the sea in the west,
And one of them shot in the east by the sea, Both, both my boys! If, in keeping the feast, You want a great song for your Italy free,
Let none look at me!
And I- I was a good child, on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live to have the faults of lite :
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land), I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like seaweed on the rocks, and suffering her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fiber from fiber, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she liked smooth-ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words,
Which still, at any stirring of the heart,
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies (Bene , or che chè), because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, — from Athanasius back to Nice, -
The articles, the tracts against the times,
(By no means Buonaventure's “ Prick of Love,")
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety.
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism)
Ànd German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education, - tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics, brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Teneriffe,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt, because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music, - such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished, - fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew costumes
From French engravings, Nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship; I washed in
Landscapes from Nature (rather say, washed out);
I danced the polka and Cellarius ;
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax, –
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood,
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking (to a maiden aunt,
Or else the author), — books that boldly assert
Their right of comprehending husbands' talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty “May it please you,” or “ So it is ;
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire,
And never say “No” when the world says “ Ay,”.
For that is fatal; their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners; their, in brief,
Potential faculty in every thing
Of abdicating power in it. She owned
She liked a woman to be womanly;
And English women - she thanked God and sighed
(Some people always sigh in thanking God) –
Were models to the universe. And, last,
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty bands,
Adoing nothing. So my shepherdess
Was something after all
, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for't !) learning love-lorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks ;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
'e sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary, or a stool
To tumble over and vex you; (“Curse that stool !")
Or else, at best, a cushion, where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas !
This hurts most, — this, that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education (to return),
I wonder if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins,
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light: my own endured.
I had relations in the unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From Nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark :
I kept the life thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that grace of thine !
I felt no life which was not patience; did
The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing
Beyond it; sate in just the chair she placed,
With back against the window to exclude
The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn,
Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods
To bring the house a message; ay, and walked
Demurely in her carpeted low rooms
As if I should not, hearkening my own steps,
Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books;
Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh ;
Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors,
And heard them whisper when I changed a cup
(I blushed for joy at that), “The Italian child,