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William Watson

(1858-1935 / England)

Angelo


Seven moons, new moons, had eastward set their horns
Averted from the sun; seven moons, old moons,
Westward their sun-averted horns had set;
Since Angelo had brought his young bride home,
Lucia, to queen it in his Tuscan halls.
And much the folk had marvelled on that day
Seeing the bride how young and fair she was,
How all unlike the groom; for she had known
Twenty and five soft summers woo the world,
He twice as many winters take 't by storm.
And in those half-an-hundred winters,-ay,
And in the summer's blaze, and blush of spring,
And pomp of grave and grandiose autumntides,-
Full many a wind had beat upon his heart,
Of grief and frustrate hope full many a wind,
And rains full many, but no rains could damp
The fuel that was stored within; which lay
Unlighted, waiting for the tinder-touch,
Until a chance spark fall'n from Lucia's eyes
Kindled the fuel, and the fire was love:
Not such as rises blown upon the wind,
Goaded to flame by gusts of phantasy,
But still, and needing no replenishment,
Unquenchable, that would not be put out.

Albeit the lady Lucia's bosom lacked
The ore had made her heart a richer mine
Than earth's auriferous heart unsunned; from her
Love went not out, in whom there was no love.
Cold from the first, her breast grew frore, and bit
Her kind lord's bosom with its stinging frost.
Because he loved the fields and forests, made
Few banquetings for highborn winebibbers,
Eschewed the city and led no sumptuous life,
She, courtly, sneered at his uncourtliness,
Deeming his manners of a bygone mode.
And for that he was gentle overmuch,
And overmuch forbearant, she despised,
Mocked, slighted, taunted him, and of her scorn
Made a sharp shaft to wound his life at will.
She filled her cup with hate and bade him drink,
And he returned it brimming o'er with love.

And so seven moons had waxed and waned since these
Were wedded. And it chanced, one morn of Spring
Lucia bespake her spouse in even more
Ungentle wise than was her wont, and he,
For the first time, reproved her;-not as one
That having from another ta'en ill words
Will e'en cry quits and barter words as ill;
But liker as a father, whom his child
With insolent lips hath wounded, chides the child
Less than he knows it had been wise to do,
Saying within himself: 'The time will come
When thou wilt think on thy dead father, how
Thou might'st have spoken gentlier unto him
One day, when yet thy father was alive:
So shall thy heart rebuke thy heart enow:'-
Ev'n thus did Angelo reprove his wife.

But though the words from his rough-bearded lips
Were like sweet water from the mouth of some
Rock-fountain hewn with elemental hands,
They fell as water cast i' the fire, to be
Consumed with hissing rage. Her wrath, let loose,
Blew to and fro, and hither and thither, like
A wind that seems to have forgotten whence
It came, and whither it was bidden blow.
She cursed the kinsfolk who had willed that she
Should wed with him; and cursed herself that gave
Ear to the utterance of their will; and cursed
The day on which their will became her deed:
Saying-and this he knew not until now-
'Fool, I should ne'er have wedded thee at all,
No, neither thee nor any like to thee,
Had not my father wellnigh forced me to 't.'
And he that hearkened, the Lord Angelo,
Spake not a word, but bowed his head, and went
Forth of his castle to the forest nigh,
And roamed all day about the forest, filled
With grief, and marvelling at her lack of love.

But that which sorelier bruised his breast than ev'n
Lucia's exceeding lack of love for him,
Was this new knowledge, that in taking her
To wife-in the very act of taking her
To wife-himself had crossed the secret will
Of her whose will in all things it had been
His soul's most perfect bliss to gratify.
Wherefore, to make atonement, in some sort,
For this one wrong he deemed that he had done
The woman-this one crossing of her will-
He knelt him down under the brooding shade
Of a huge oak, and vowed 'fore heaven a vow:
To wit, that Lucia never afterward
Should in his hearing utter forth a wish
For aught of earthly but himself would see
That wish fulfilled, if such fulfilment were
An end that mortal man could compass. Then
Uprising, he beheld the sinking sun
A vast round eye gaze in upon the wood
Through leafy lattice of its nether boughs:
Whereat he turned him castlewards, and owned
A lighter heart than he had borne that day.

Homeward his face no sooner had he set
Than through the woods came riding unto him
A stranger, of a goodly personage,
Young, and right richly habited, who stayed
His horse, and greeted Angelo, and said:
'I pray you, sir, direct me how to find
An hostel, if there be such hereabouts;
For I have ridden far, and lost my way
Among these woods, and twilight is at hand.'
Then he that heard replied to him that asked,
Saying: 'The nearest inn is farther hence
Than mine own house; make therefore mine own house
Your inn for this one night, and unto such
Poor entertainment as my house affords
You are most welcome.' So the stranger thanked
In courtly speeches the Lord Angelo,
Gladly accepting hospitalities
That were so gladly proffered; and the two
Fared on together, host and guest that were
To be, until they reached the castle, where
Angelo dwelt, and where his fathers lived
Before him, lords of land, in olden days.

And entering in, the castle's later lord
Led the young signor to the chamber where
The lady Lucia sat, who rose to give
The stranger courteous welcome. (When she chose,
Of looks and lips more gracious none than she.)
But soon as she beheld the young man's face,
A sudden pallor seized her own, and back
She started, wellnigh swooning, but regained
Her wonted self as suddenly, declared
'Twas but a momentary sickness went
Arrow-like through her, sharp, but therewithal
Brief as the breath's one ebb and flow; and which,
Passing, had left her painless as before.
And truly, from that moment she appeared
More brightly beautiful, if Angelo
Erred not, than she had looked for many a day.

So in brief while the stranger-guest sat down,
With host and hostess, to a table charged
With delicate meats, and fragrant fruits, and wine.
And when the meal was over, and themselves
Were with themselves alone-the serving-men
Having withdrawn-a cheerful converse rose
Concerning divers matters old and new.
And Angelo that evening let his tongue
Range more at freedom than he used; for though
No man was less to prating given than he,
Yet, when he liked his listener, he could make
His mouth discourse in such a wise that few
Had failed to give delighted audience.
For he had learning, and, besides the lore
Won from his books, a better wisdom owned-
A knowledge of the stuff whence books are made,
The human mind and all it feeds upon.
And, in his youth a wanderer, he had roamed
O'er many countries, not as one who sees
With eyes alone, and hearkens but with ears;
Rather as who would slake the thirst of the soul
By sucking wisdom from the breasts of the world.

Wherefore the hours flew lightly, winged with words;
Till Angelo, from telling of his own
Young days and early fortunes good and ill,
Was with remembrance smitten, as it chanced,
Of some old grief 'twas grief to think upon.
And so he changed his theme o' the sudden, donned
A shadowy mask of laboured pleasantry,
And said: 'My wife, sir, hath a pretty gift
Of singing and of luting: it may be
If you should let your tongue turn mendicant-
Not for itself but for its needy kin,
Your ears-she might be got to give an alms
For those twin brethren.' Whereupon the guest
Unto his hostess turned and smiling said:
'That were indeed a golden alms your voice
Could well afford, and never know itself
The poorer, being a mint of suchlike coin.'
And she made answer archly: 'I have oft
Heard flatterers of a woman's singing say
Her voice was silvery:-to compare 't with gold
Is sure a new conceit. But, sir, you praise
My singing, who have not yet heard me sing.'
And he: 'I take it that a woman's speech
Is to her singing what a bird's low chirp
Is to
its
singing: and if Philomel
Chirp in the hearing of the woodman, he
Knows 'tis the nightingale that chirps, and so
Expects nought meaner than its sovereign song.
Madam, 'tis thus your speaking-voice hath given
Earnest of what your singing-voice will be;
And therefore I entreat you not to dash
The expectations you have raised so high,
By your refusal.' And she answered him:
'Nay, if you think to hear a nightingale,
I doubt refusal could not dash them more
Than will compliance. But in very truth,
The boon you crave so small and worthless is,
'Twere miserly to grudge it. Where's my lute?'

So saying, she bethought her suddenly-
Or feigned to have bethought her suddenly-
How she had left the lute that afternoon
Lying upon an arbour-seat, when she
Grew tired of fingering the strings of it-
Down in the garden, where she wont to walk,
Her lute loquacious to the trees' deaf trunks.
And Angelo, right glad to render her
Such little graceful offices of love,
And gladder yet with hope to hear her sing
Who had denied his asking many a time,
Awaited not another word, but rose
And said, 'Myself will bring it,' and before
She could assent or disapprove, was gone.

Scarce had he left the chamber when behold
His wife uprose, and his young stranger-guest
Uprose, and in a trice they cast their arms
About each other, kissed each other, called
Each other
dear
and
love
, till Lucia said:
'Why cam'st thou not before, my Ugo, whom
I loved, who lovedst me, for many a day,
For many a paradisal day, ere yet
I saw that lean fool with the grizzled beard
Who's gone a-questing for his true wife's lute?'
And he made answer: 'I had come erenow,
But that my father, dying, left a load
Of cumbrous duties I had needs perform-
Dry, peevish, crabbèd business at the best,
Impertinences indispensable,
Accumulated dulness, if you will,
Such as I would not irk your ears withal:
Howbeit I came at last, and nigh a week
Have tarried in the region hereabouts,
Unknown-and yearning for one glimpse of you,
One word, one kiss from you, if even it were
One only and the last; until, to-day,
Roaming the neighbouring forest, I espied
Your husband, guessed it was your husband, feigned
I was a traveller who had lost myself
Among the woods, received from him-ah, now
You laugh, and truly 'tis a famous jest-
A courteous invitation to his house,
Deemed it were churlish to refuse, and so-
And so am here, your Ugo, with a heart
The loyal subject of your sovereign heart,
As in old days.' Therewith he sat him down,
And softly drawing her upon his knee
Made him a zone of her lascivious arms.

But thus encinctured hardly had he sat
A moment, when, returning, Angelo
Stood at the threshold of the room, and held
The door half opened, and so standing saw
The lovers, and they saw not him; for half
The chamber lay in shadow, by no lamp
Lighted, or window to admit the moon:
And there the entrance was, and Angelo.

And listening to their speech a little space,
The fugitive brief moments were to him
A pyramid of piled eternities.
For while he hearkened, Ugo said: 'My love,
Answer me this one question, which may seem
Idle, yet is not;-how much lov'st thou me?'
And she replied: 'I love thee just as much
As I do hate my husband, and no more.'
Then he: 'But prithee how much hatest thou
Thy husband?' And she answered: 'Ev'n as much
As I love thee. To hate him one whit more
Than that, were past the power of Lucia's hate.'
And Ugo: 'If thou lovest me so much,
Grant me one gift in token of thy love.'
Then she: 'What would'st thou?' And he answered her:
'Even thyself; no poorer gift will I.'
But Lucia said: 'Nay, have I not bestowed
My love, which is my soul, my richer self?
My poorer self, which is my body, how
Can I bestow, when 'tis not in mine own
Possession, being his property forsooth,
Who holds the ecclesiastic title-deed?…
Yet-but I know not… if I grant this boon,
Bethink thee, how wilt carry hence the gift?
Quick. For the time is all-too brief to waste.'
And Ugo spake with hurrying tongue: 'Right so:
To-morrow, therefore, when the sun hath set,
Quit thou the castle, all alone, and haste
To yonder tarn that lies amid the trees
Haply a furlong westward from your house-
The gloomy lakelet fringed with pines-and there
Upon the hither margin thou shalt find
Me, and two with me, mounted all, and armed,
With a fourth steed to bear thee on his back:
And thou shalt fly with me, my Lucia, till
Thou reach my castle in the mountain'd North,
Whose mistress I will make thee, and mine own.'
Then Lucia said: 'But how if Angelo
Pursue and overtake us?' Whereupon
Ugo replied: 'Pursue he may,-o'ertake
He shall not, save he saddle him the wind.
Besides-to grant the impossible-if he

Were
to o'ertake us, he could only strive
To win you back with argument; wherein
My servants, at their master's bidding, could
Debate with him on more than equal terms:
Cold steel convinces warmest disputants.
Or, if to see the bosom marital
Impierced, would make your own consorted heart
Bleed sympathetic, some more mild-' But she,
The beauteous Fury, interrupted him
With passionate-pallid lips: 'Reproach me not
Beforehand-even in jest reproach me not-
With imputation of such tenderness
For
him
and
his
life-when thou knowest how
I hate, hate, hate him,-when thou knowest how
I wish, and wish, and wish, that he were dead.'

Then Angelo bethought him of his vow;
And stepping forward stood before the twain;
And from his girdle plucked a dagger forth;
And spake no word, but pierced his own heart through.

Submitted: Saturday, April 10, 2010
Edited: Saturday, May 07, 2011

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