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Julian And Maddalo: A Conversation
by [?]

‘Month after month,’ he cried, ‘to bear this load 300
And as a jade urged by the whip and goad
To drag life on, which like a heavy chain
Lengthens behind with many a link of pain!–
And not to speak my grief–O, not to dare
To give a human voice to my despair,
But live, and move, and, wretched thing! smile on
As if I never went aside to groan,
And wear this mask of falsehood even to those
Who are most dear–not for my own repose–
Alas! no scorn or pain or hate could be
So heavy as that falsehood is to me–
But that I cannot bear more altered faces
Than needs must be, more changed and cold embraces,
More misery, disappointment, and mistrust
To own me for their father…Would the dust
Were covered in upon my body now!
That the life ceased to toil within my brow!
And then these thoughts would at the least be fled;
Let us not fear such pain can vex the dead.

‘What Power delights to torture us? I know 320
That to myself I do not wholly owe
What now I suffer, though in part I may.
Alas! none strewed sweet flowers upon the way
Where wandering heedlessly, I met pale Pain
My shadow, which will leave me not again–
If I have erred, there was no joy in error,
But pain and insult and unrest and terror;
I have not as some do, bought penitence
With pleasure, and a dark yet sweet offence,
For then,–if love and tenderness and truth
Had overlived hope’s momentary youth,
My creed should have redeemed me from repenting;
But loathed scorn and outrage unrelenting
Met love excited by far other seeming
Until the end was gained…as one from dreaming
Of sweetest peace, I woke, and found my state
Such as it is.–
‘O Thou, my spirit’s mate
Who, for thou art compassionate and wise,
Wouldst pity me from thy most gentle eyes
If this sad writing thou shouldst ever see–
My secret groans must be unheard by thee,
Thou wouldst weep tears bitter as blood to know
Thy lost friend’s incommunicable woe.

‘Ye few by whom my nature has been weighed
In friendship, let me not that name degrade 345
By placing on your hearts the secret load
Which crushes mine to dust. There is one road
To peace and that is truth, which follow ye!
Love sometimes leads astray to misery.
Yet think not though subdued–and I may well
Say that I am subdued–that the full Hell
Within me would infect the untainted breast
Of sacred nature with its own unrest;
As some perverted beings think to find
In scorn or hate a medicine for the mind
Which scorn or hate have wounded–O how vain!
The dagger heals not but may rend again…
Believe that I am ever still the same
In creed as in resolve, and what may tame
My heart, must leave the understanding free,
Or all would sink in this keen agony–
Nor dream that I will join the vulgar cry;
Or with my silence sanction tyranny;
Or seek a moment’s shelter from my pain
In any madness which the world calls gain,
Ambition or revenge or thoughts as stern
As those which make me what I am; or turn
To avarice or misanthropy or lust…
Heap on me soon, O grave, thy welcome dust!
Till then the dungeon may demand its prey,
And Poverty and Shame may meet and say–
Halting beside me on the public way–
“That love-devoted youth is ours–let’s sit
Beside him–he may live some six months yet.”
Or the red scaffold, as our country bends,
May ask some willing victim; or ye friends
May fall under some sorrow which this heart
Or hand may share or vanquish or avert;
I am prepared–in truth, with no proud joy–
To do or suffer aught, as when a boy
I did devote to justice and to love
My nature, worthless now!…
‘I must remove
A veil from my pent mind. ‘Tis torn aside!
O, pallid as Death’s dedicated bride,
Thou mockery which art sitting by my side,
Am I not wan like thee? at the grave’s call
I haste, invited to thy wedding-ball
To greet the ghastly paramour, for whom
Thou hast deserted me…and made the tomb
Thy bridal bed…But I beside your feet
Will lie and watch ye from my winding-sheet–
Thus…wide awake tho’ dead…yet stay, O stay!
Go not so soon–I know not what I say–
Hear but my reasons…I am mad, I fear,
My fancy is o’erwrought…thou art not here…
Pale art thou, ’tis most true…but thou art gone,
Thy work is finished…I am left alone!–

‘Nay, was it I who wooed thee to this breast
Which, like a serpent, thou envenomest
As in repayment of the warmth it lent?
Didst thou not seek me for thine own content?
Did not thy love awaken mine? I thought
That thou wert she who said, “You kiss me not
Ever, I fear you do not love me now”–
In truth I loved even to my overthrow
Her, who would fain forget these words: but they
Cling to her mind, and cannot pass away.

‘You say that I am proud–that when I speak
My lip is tortured with the wrongs which break
The spirit it expresses…Never one
Humbled himself before, as I have done!
Even the instinctive worm on which we tread
Turns, though it wound not–then with prostrate head
Sinks in the dusk and writhes like me–and dies?
No: wears a living death of agonies!
As the slow shadows of the pointed grass
Mark the eternal periods, his pangs pass,
Slow, ever-moving,–making moments be
As mine seem–each an immortality!

‘That you had never seen me–never heard
My voice, and more than all had ne’er endured
The deep pollution of my loathed embrace–
That your eyes ne’er had lied love in my face–
That, like some maniac monk, I had torn out
The nerves of manhood by their bleeding root
With mine own quivering fingers, so that ne’er
Our hearts had for a moment mingled there
To disunite in horror–these were not
With thee, like some suppressed and hideous thought
Which flits athwart our musings, but can find
No rest within a pure and gentle mind…
Thou sealedst them with many a bare broad word,
And searedst my memory o’er them,–for I heard
And can forget not…they were ministered
One after one, those curses. Mix them up
Like self-destroying poisons in one cup,
And they will make one blessing which thou ne’er
Didst imprecate for, on me,–death.

‘It were
A cruel punishment for one most cruel,
If such can love, to make that love the fuel
Of the mind’s hell; hate, scorn, remorse, despair:
But ME–whose heart a stranger’s tear might wear
As water-drops the sandy fountain-stone,
Who loved and pitied all things, and could moan
For woes which others hear not, and could see
The absent with the glance of phantasy,
And with the poor and trampled sit and weep,
Following the captive to his dungeon deep;
ME–who am as a nerve o’er which do creep
The else unfelt oppressions of this earth,
And was to thee the flame upon thy hearth,
When all beside was
cold–that thou on me
Shouldst rain these plagues of blistering agony–
Such curses are from lips once eloquent
With love’s too partial praise–let none relent
Who intend deeds too dreadful for a name
Henceforth, if an example for the same
They seek…for thou on me lookedst so, and so–
And didst speak thus…and thus…I live to show
How much men bear and die not!

‘Thou wilt tell
With the grimace of hate, how horrible
It was to meet my love when thine grew less;
Thou wilt admire how I could e’er address
Such features to love’s work…this taunt, though true,
(For indeed Nature nor in form nor hue
Bestowed on me her choicest workmanship)
Shall not be thy defence…for since thy lip
Met mine first, years long past, since thine eye kindled
With soft fire under mine, I have not dwindled
Nor changed in mind or body, or in aught
But as love changes what it loveth not
After long years and many trials.