Letter 20

To BRYAN WALLER PROCTER

Postmarks
“Gottingen
7 Mar”
“F.P.O.
Mr 13
1826″

“Direct
An Herrn Beddoes
bey Eysel
77 Weender Strasse
Göttingen
Hannover”

TO DAY a truant from the odd old bones
And winds of flesh, which, as tamed rocks and stones
Piled cavernously make his body’s dwelling,
Have housed man’s soul: there, where time’s billows swelling
Make a deep ghostly and invisible sea
Of melted worlds, antidiluvially
Upon the sand of ever crumbling hours
God-founded, stands the castle, all it’s towers
With veiny tendrils ivied: this bright day
I leave its chambers, and with oars away
Seek some enchanted island where to play.
And what do you, that in the enchantment dwell
And should be raving ever, a wild swell
Of passionate life rolling about the world
Now sunsucked to the clouds, dashed on the curled
Leafhidden daisies; an incarnate storm
Letting the sun through on the meadows yellow;
Or anything except that earthy fellow
That wise dog’s brother, man? O shame to tell!
Make tea in Circe’s cup, boil the cool well,
The well Pierian, which no bird dare sip
But nightingales.  There let them kettles dip
Who write their simpering sonnets to it’s song
And walk on sunday’s in Parnassus park.
Take thy example from the sunny lark,
Throw off the mantle which conceals the soul,
The many-citied world, and seek thy goal
Straight as a starbeam falls.  Creep not nor climb
As they who place their topmost of sublime
On some peak of this planet pitifully,
Dart eaglewise with open wings and fly,
Until you meet the gods.  Thus council I
The men who can, but tremble to be great,
Cursed be the fool who taught to hesitate
And to regret: time lost most bitterly.
And thus I write and I dare write to thee,
Fearing that still, as you were wont to do,
You feed and fear some asinine Review.
Let Juggernaut roll on, and we, whose sires
Blooded his wheels and prayed around his fires,
Laugh at the leaden ass in the God’s skin.
Example follows precept.  I have been
Giving some negro minutes of the night
Freed from the slavery of my ruling spright
Anatomy the grim, to a new story
In whose satiric pathos we will glory.
In it Despair has married wildest Mirth
And to their wedding-banquet all the earth
Is bade to bring its enmities and loves
Triumphs and horrors: you shall see the doves
Billing with quiet joy and all the while
Their nest’s the skull of some old King of Nile:
But he who fills the cups and makes the jest
Pipes to the dancers, is the fool o’ the feast.
Who’s he?  I’ve dug him up and decked him trim
And made a mock, a fool, a slave of him
Who was the planet’s tyrant: dotard Death:
Man’s hate and dread: not with a stoical breath
To meet him like Augustus standing up,
Nor with grave saws to season the cold cup
Like the philosopher, nor yet to hail
His coming with a verse or jesting tale,
As Adrian did and More: but of his night
His moony ghostliness and silent might
To rob him, to uncypress him i’ the light
To unmask all his secrets; make him play
Momus o’er wine by torchlight; is the way
To conquer him and kill; and from the day
Spurned, hissed and hooted send him back again
An unmasked braggart to his bankrupt den.
For death is more “a jest” than life: you see
Contempt grows quick from familiarity.
I owe this wisdom to Anatomy–
Your muse is younger in her soul than mine,–
0 feed her still on woman’s smiles and wine,
And give the world a tender song once more,
For all the good can love and can adore
What’s human, fair and gentle.  Few, I know,
Can bear to sit at my board when I show
The wretchedness and folly of man’s all
And laugh myself right heartily.  Your call
Is higher and more human: I will do
Unsociably my part & still be true
To my own soul: but e’er admire you
And own that you have nature’s kindest trust
Her weak and dear to nourish,–that I must
Then fare, as you deserve it, well, and live
In the calm feelings you to others give.

There, Mr. B.C. is your small doggrell? a punishment, tolerably severe, for your delay in answering my letter; pray be as lazy again and you shall have a “double only” of German hexameters in the Klopstock style.

L.E.L. is at Gottingen too to the confusion of German Ink & paper. Look to ‘t my Parnassian. I am quite delighted at Mrs. Shelley’s overwhelming your charming friend of the New Monthly: he has troubled the manes of Sternhold, Hopkins & Robert Wisdom. Apollo forgive him and make him Laureate for it. Now you must tell me all about the last Last Man.

Have you seen Martin’s Deluge; do you like it? And do you know that it is a rascally plagiarism upon Danby? D. was to have painted a picture for the King: subject the opening of ye sixth seal in ye revelations: price 800 guineas: he had collected his ideas and scene, and very imprudently mentioned them publicly to his friends & foes–it appears; Like Campbell and Lord B: and lo! his own ideas stare at him out of Martin’s canvass in the institution–this is Last man again–and why does not he paint a last Man?

What do they at the wretched Theatres? any fool: tragedies? Don’t talk to me of Magazines; they are vermin I detest; and is Darley delivered yet. I hope he’s not a mountain. Write or expect–T.L.B.
               Now once more O ye dry
      Bones, & once more ye muscles–&c.

I have given up Schiller he’s never original. Goethe is something like, though not very: if you can by any means get Taylor’s translation of the Iphigenia, read it–Don’t believe Lord Gower’s Faust, it’s full of absurd and ignorant blunders, besides it’s evident tameness and lameness.

But what an idle generation you are: why don’t you learn German? We Germans learn English I assure you: and write it a little. I would not have doggrelized you if I had had anything to say worth a rotten apple; but I only know about Anatomy now: & Germany partakes of the existing mental stagnation of Europe–We’ll try and stirr it bye & bye.

Addressed to
“B.W. PROCTER Esqre
14 Southampton Row
Russel Square
London
England

[Gosse, 1894]