Eos: An Epic of the Dawn, and Other Poems

By Nicholas Flood Davin


 

THE CRITICS.


 

Thanks, gentlemen, for your fair criticisms,
    Which, to be frank, I think were far too kind;
I also thank you for your witticisms,
    Which showed your kindness did not ‘go it blind. ’
Tho’ some remarks proved there were little schisms
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    Within your ranks, I think that here you’ll find
I’ve tried to profit by most things you taught me,
The only profit the edition brought me.

I will say this, it pleased me much to see
    The rancour that in other paths pursue
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My steps, did not contaminate the free
    And open air of literature, and you
My generous foes who did for once agree
    To see some merit, and to say so too,
In what I did, I thank you from my heart,
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Ah! if we’d all at all times play that part!

I take my inspiration from a muse,
    Whose dainty feet ne’er trod the hill Parnassus,
Yet if you saw her, you would not refuse
    To own her sway, for sweeter than molasses
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Is her soft smile serene; nor could you choose,
    Unless indeed quite crazy, or as crass as
A fool, but own that of the Nine as any
She’s as fair, or were there twice as many. [Page 7]

Therefore perhaps, my flight though with a goddess,
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    May not have soar’d so high as ’twould have run,
If my inspirer didn’t wear a bodice,
    Likewise a bustle when her toilet’s done.
But then a glance—you would not think it odd is
    That for no undraped maid that ever won
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Apollo’s smile I’d change. Inured to rustlin’
In our North-West—I like a muse in muslin,

Or silk, or crape, or calico; I ask
    But this that it be cut and stitched with skill,
Nor outlines mar in which the eye would bask,
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    Whose beauty heart and mind and soul can fill
With joy. It should not be too hard a task
    To drape sweet nature’s handiwork, and still
Preserve the entrancing grace of God’s chef d’oeuvre
As did the Greeks of old: go see the Louvre.
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Think you we’d pause before each statue there,
    O’er which the flowing marble’s drapery falls,
If this concealed the lines of beauty rare,
    The stately loveliness which soul enthralls,
Perfection’s essence, now beyond compare ?
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    Ye who obey the monthly fashion’s calls,
Here might ye learn how grace may be disgraced
By camel humps and corsets tightly laced.

But fashion’s ugliness can uglier be
    If skilless artists make the lady’s dress,
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Therefore fair reader, look to it and see
    That yours shall deftly every point express, [Page 8]
Save what the moment’s hideous fantasy
    Insists on hiding. But e’en then I guess
Good taste deformity can minimize,
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And sun-like beauty breaks thro’ all disguise.

Yet never think you need not reck the style:
    ’Tis true no milliner can dim your eye,
Or sour the sweetness of your honied smile,
    Or steal its peril from your bosom’s sigh,
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Or cover o’er a solitary wile;
    But as saltpetre makes the dwarf as high
As Anak’s sons, so fashion’s ceaseless whirls
Tend to equality among the girls.

This muse of mine in no way analytical,
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    Of mind destructive, leans to synthesis,
Therefore it is not that I would be critical,
    But as in postscript or parenthesis,
We mention something private or political,
    We’d like to note without much emphasis,
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On one or two remarks I would remark,
If but to show I wrote not in the dark.

One critic said ’twas wrong to make a pause
    In the swift goddess’s transorbic run,
Because ‘twas contrary to nature’s laws,
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    And she’d be surely caught up by the sun.
With due respect he hardly weigh’d the cause,
    Nor thought of what for Joshua he’d done.
If once to please a man a long pause made he,
He’d make a short one just to please a lady. [Page 9]
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Another pointed out that Eos could not sleep,
    Eternal wakefulness her doom decreed;
Another said ’twas wrong to make her weep;
    Another that he knew she could not read;
Then how he ask’d in politics be deep,
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    And pose as if the world she meant to lead
In wiser ways? To all this I reply:
The thing’s a dream—I dreamt I saw her cry,

That fast as dove with head beneath her wing
    I saw her sleep, though her all glorious head
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Was not conceal’d, but radiant shone, a thing
    For Millais at his best to paint. Of red
A touch to her dishevelled gold he’d bring,
    Nor spoil the beauty poor Tithonus wed.
But tho’ of carroty tones he is so fond,
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I’d rather see him paint her perfect blonde.

Then if no leisure hour the goddess claimed
    When had she time to woo? But yet we know
There’s hardly one in all the skies so famed
    For captivating fairest men below.
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The stricture about reading too lies maimed,
    For heavenly minds with intuition glow.
In days when all we mortals know our letters,
Pray can we limit our immortal betters?

Why she talk’d politics, I cannot say.
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    Perhaps in heaven they take the Daily News,
And Telegraph, and Times, and duly lay
    To heart the lessons which these sheets infuse. [Page 10]
I’m sure they take the Sun so they may
    Know all the babble of the mart and mews,
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Take Truth and Bell’s Life and thus to sport
Add all the gossip of our brilliant court.

The Pall Mall certes finds an entrance there,
    And boys with wings distribute weekly papers,
The Saturday, Spectator and the Fair,
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    The World where Edmund cuts his weekly capers,
All these and more to make the seraphs stare,
    With fashion prints from milliners and drapers,
Are taken in and conn’d by heavenly eyes,
And mortal’s deeds immortals much surprise.
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Most certainly they’ve read I cannot say ‘poor devils,’
    All the descriptions of the jubilee,
Of royal dinners and of royal revels,
    Of our fine fleet upon our silver sea,
Of cutlasses and bayonets in shrivels;
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    I hope they’ll never see what ne’er should be,
Our fine fleet batter’d like a piece of crockery,
And all our glory ‘monumental mockery.’

How brought she then no horse-race on the tapis?
    Why told she not of dinners and of balls?
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Of scandals not yet cold but sweet and sappy?
    Of paltry rivalries in royal halls?
Of princes drest in suits of warlike nappy,
    Who’d be quite lost to meet their duties’ calls?
Her views on politics might be exprest
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Because she thought I’d like the subject best. [Page 11]

The dream’s dramatic, tho’ by no strict rules
    My muse who wears a smock, evolves her story;
“Out west,” you know we’re rebels to old schools,
    And in our independence rather glory,
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For this I hope you’ll here not dub us fools,
    And as on strict condition that no more he
’ll err, at times, a culprit gets off free,
Against harsh judgment I might make a plea.

But no! if I’ve presumed too fond and far,
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    Lay on the lash and make me rue the deed;
In other walks I’ve heard and felt the jar
    Of bitter conflict, but I did not bleed
Quite unavenged, nor weakly doubt my star.
    But here, in unaccustomed fields, a reed
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I’ll bow to whatsoever comes. The blow
Will only tell me what I fully know,

That art requires not only high vocation,
    But all life’s vows and hours laid on her shrine,
Too deep I’ve drunk th’unspeakable elation
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O    f Shakespeare’s song and ‘Marlowe’s mighty line,’
And Milton’s epic, Dante (in translation),
    Old Homer, Horace, Virgil, and in fine
I’ve march’d with all the singers of the world,
Their banners to eternity unfurled
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Above me all unworthy; but I felt
    The rhythmic clangour of their sonorous songs
All beauty, greatness breathing, and I knelt
    In heart and worshipp’d, learning there all wrongs [Page 12]
To hate and war on, tho’ hot hell should pelt,
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And low corruption sound her myriad gongs,
    To call her minions ’gainst whoever stands
For right and light, in free or fetter’d lands.

Therefore I know this little song of mine
    For what it is; my highest hope that here
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I’ve struck a warning note, pointed a line
    Of action that may ward off what I fear
For England, Ireland, Empire. Those should shine
    Twin island stars of powers and peace; too near
For aught but love. Now love is for the free
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In equal fortunes and strict equity.

I also wished—too daring or too vain!
    To strike from greater anvils still a spark,
To guide some groper o’er the trailless plain,
    And show him where to wend tho’ all be dark.
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For honest hearts a faith that’s not inane
    But full of comfort, calls men to an ark,
Will safely ride the troubled waves of life,
And give them peace amid its stormy strife,

Tho’ the loud thunder bellows o’er the tide
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    Submerging all our hopes and all we love,
And wailing winds, like spirits that deride
    Joy, trust, and truth, howl round and from above,
Whence light should shower, the wild wrack spreads its wide
    Horizon-touching wings, yet comes this dove
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Hope’s branch held in its beak, whose green leaves tell
God’s forces rule and all for all is well. [Page 13]

And doing this, this far-west flower of verse,
    May stir a heart or two with beauty seen
By me but never half expressed, the curse
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    Of long immersion in the world’s din
Being on me, and my cruel fate far worse
    Than those who strive but fail the prize to win,
For they sketch o’er the course and all but touch
The goal, while I—my Pegasus a crutch!
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A foolish boy, alas! long summers since
    I cast my horoscope for highest things,
And thought by strength the world I should convince,
    And that with time I’d feel my budding wings.
I said: ‘I’ll take my cue from every prince
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    Of song; from every harp its sweetest strings;’
And fancy walked thro’ all the muse’s maze,
Thro’ all song’s avenues and haunted ways.

And then I wrote presumptuous; ‘I will climb
    And write in starry characters my name
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Where the great blaze of Byron’s song sublime
    Makes the lame bard the cynosure of fame;’
And all I asked from heaven was health and time
    Doubt’s craven fears and envy’s sneers to shame,
When up stalked Poverty and wrought me ill,
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And fiery passions fought the fiery will.

Here’s but an echo of a song that wanes,
    Thrown from far studies and forgotten years,
Like sounds of anthems in deserted fanes,
    Hymns’ phantoms in the temple which uprears [Page 14]
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Its crumbling roof and arches to the rains
    And winds, hallowed by bygone prayers and tears;
Hark to those strains! aloft and down the aisles
Reverberate! Is’t only Fancy’s wiles?

Top thee fair spirit! of whom half in jest
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    I’ve sung above, I dedicate to thee
These songs; to thee, the beautiful, the best!
    My never-absent-one where’er I be!
My calm mid scenes where howling winds infest,
    And where peace blooms the fairest flower for me,
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Far, far—yet near—I send across the sea
These songs to thee, my beautiful, to thee!

LONDON, August, 1887.
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