Christopher Pearse Cranch (1815-1892 / the USA)
Ariel And Caliban
Before PROSPERO'S cell. Moonlight.
So — Prospero is gone — and I am free —
Free, free at last. His latest charge have I
Performed with duteous care; have sent the breeze
To blow behind the ship whose rounded sails
Now bear him homeward; and I am alone.
Yet I, who pined for freedom — I, who served
This lordly mind, not of my own free choice,
Though somewhat out of gratitude, — for he
By his strong sorcery did release me once
From durance horrible, — now, since the touch
And sympathy of human souls have warmed
My cold electric blood, and I have known
How sweet it were to love and be beloved
Within the circle of the elements
Whose soulless life is death to human hearts, —
I, here alone, now grieve to be alone,
No longer linked with mortal loves and cares.
For as I flit about the ocean caves,
Or thread the mazes of the whispering pines,
Or in the flower-bells dream long sunny days,
Or run upon the crested waves, or flash
At no one's bidding, but in wild caprice,
A trailing meteor or a thunderbolt, —
Or sing along the breeze that hath no sense
Or soul of hearing, melodies I framed
For Prospero and his child, — I have no will
To work as once, when serving earned this boon
Of liberty, long sought, now tame and cheap.
For what to me are all these air-fed sprites
I marshalled, by his potent art constrained?
Their bloodless cold companionship can give
No joy to me, now half estranged from them.
There's Caliban, 't is true — a human beast —
Uncouth enough to laugh at — not so vile
Perhaps as he appears — rather misshaped
And thwarted in his growth. And yet he seems
In this fair Isle, where noble souls have lived,
Like a dull worm that trails its slime along
The full heart of a rose; and now at last
Free from the foot of Prospero, all the more
Slave to himself, crawls feeding where he lists.
Enter CALIBAN in the distance.
Lo, here he creeps, and looks as if he meant
To enter his old master's cell. But no!
I'll enter first, and there assume the voice
Of Prospero. He some sport at least shall yield.
Ah, sometimes I must be a merry sprite,
If only to beguile these lonesome hours.
[Vanishes into the cell.
So — so — the island's mine now. I may make
My dwelling where I choose. Methinks this cell
Might serve; though somewhat I suspect
Its walls are steeped in magic. And besides,
Too well my bones remember how that lord
Let fly his spirits at me. How he cramped
My limbs! The devil-fish o'ertake his ship!
He's far away — and I can curse him now,
And no more aches shall follow. As for him,
Yon drunken fellow — and his mate — good Lord,
How I was fooled to gulp his bragging lies!
The man in the moon, forsooth! And yet he bore
Brave liquor, though it set my wits agog.
Would there were more of it. Well, I'll make my bed
E'en here, where Prosper slept. King of the isle —
King Caliban! But I've no subjects yet,
Save beasts of the wood, and even over them
I lack those strong old charms of Sycorax.
[Enters the cell.
Halt there! What man art thou? Slave — Caliban!
Ah, ah! 'T is Prospero back again — Ah me!
How dar'st thou here intrude upon my rest?
Nay now — I cannot tell — I thought thee gone —
I saw thee go.
Think'st thou I cannot leap
Across the seas? Think'st thou I cannot ride
Upon the wind? Know'st thou not Prosper's might?
Do not torment me! Alas, alas, I thought
His book and stuff were buried — he at sea!
Ah, here's a coil — here's slavery again.
I'll run, before the cramp gets to my legs.
Good riddance! He'll not venture here again.
This grot is sacred to remembered forms
'T were base ingratitude could I forget.
Their names make fragrant all the place. They fill
The void of life within me more and more,
And draw me closer to all human-kind.
Much have ye taught me. Thou, O Prospero,
Whom all too grudgingly I served, dost seem
Now not a master, but a gracious friend.
And she — Miranda, peerless in her bloom
Of maidenhood — had I but human been,
What tenderer germs — but no — too late, too late
Those virtues, graces — this proud intellect
That made a sport of magic, and renounced
The sceptre of Wonderland as though it were
The bauble of a child. Too late I see
The topmost glory of the Duke, who shone
Grandest abjuring supernatural gifts —
Most godlike in forgiving his base foes.
(Pauses in deep thought.)
There is no life worth living but that life
I missed, the sympathetic interchange
Of mind with mind and heart with heart. This world
Of air and fire and water, where I dwell,
Is but a realm of phantasms — spectral flames
Like the pale streamers of the frozen North;
Is less than half of life — motion without
Life's warm reality — a trance, a dream.
Nay, even this slave — this son of Sycorax
Hath something human in him. Might I now
But find some passage to his heart, but breathe
Into his sluggish brain some finer breath,
But lift him to companionship of thought —
'T were worth the trial. At least I'll follow him
And wind about him with an airy song.
He's fond of music, for whene'er I sing
He listens open-mouthed. He's not so bad
But some ethereal trap may snare him yet.
I, a spirit of the air,
Now may wander anywhere
All about the enchanted Isle.
But no more the master's smile
Greets me as his door I pass;
I shall hear no more, alas!
Hear no more the magic word
Of the seer who was my lord —
Nevermore my flying feet
Bring him music strange and sweet,
Run for him upon the wind,
While the cloven air behind
Meets with roar and thunder-crack
In the lightning of my track —
Enter CALIBAN, listening.
This might be one of them. Full oft I hear
Their music in the air. And yet he lies,
And is a devil of Prospero's, for he hints
That Prosper's gone: and yet I heard his voice.
And yet that voice might be a mimicry.
Good Moon, assist me. Tell me, friendly Moon,
Is Prospero gone? Tell me, good Man i' the Moon,
He will not pinch me again.
Nay, doubt not, friend.
Now Setebos preserve my bones!
What voice art thou? For nothing can I see
But stars, and moonlight twinklings in the woods,
And black broad shadows of the trembling trees,
And here and there a fluttering zigzag bat.
I hover in the moonbeam overhead.
I think I've heard thee sing and talk before.
Did Prosper leave thee here to govern us,
And sing us into pitfalls with thy lies
And lying songs? And yet how sweet thou singest!
Come, show thyself — I think thou 'rt not a fiend.
I'll show myself anon. But do not fear.
Prosper is gone. A lonely spirit am I
Seeking companionship. I'd talk with thee.
Good — an' thou talkest sense, and wilt not bite
Or hunt me — nor dost bid me bring thee logs.
I have no need of fuel, nor of food
Nor dwelling, nay, not even of bodily shape.
Yet I can take a shape if so I choose.
Then prythee do. I fain would see thee, friend.
I like it not, this talking to the air.
I'll humor thee if I can be thy friend.
What shape shall I assume?
Why, any shape
But Prospero's — and I'll shake thee by the hand,
And swear thou art as merry a fellow as e'er
I have sat cracking nuts with — in my dreams —
For wide awake I ne'er encountered such.
Nay, this seems like a dream. Perchance it is —
And I asleep, and babbling in my sleep —
And Prospero still lord of all the Isle.
Nay, all is real. I tell thee he has gone.
Follow me now to yonder cave, where laps
The sleepy sea upon the pebbled shore,
Smoothing the flickering wrinkles of the moon,
Who steeps her golden column in the brine.
There will I meet thee in a human garb.
Where'er you please, so I but see your face.
You are no Jack-o'lantern, I believe.
I know thee not, but something tells me true
That I may trust thee. Sing then. I will follow.
[Exeunt, ARIEL singing.
Down the deep hollow —
Down to the moonlit waves,
Down where the ocean caves
The full tides swallow.
From the curse, from the blight,
From the thraldom of night,
From the dark to the light,
From the slave to the man
We will lift Caliban.
Farewell, Hecate! Rise, Apollo!
Follow, follow, follow!
In a cave by the sea. CALIBAN, and ARIEL as a forester, seated.
So then it seems thou 'rt one of these who served
This wizard lord — and he a duke disguised —
One of his tricksy spirits. I like not this.
Why did'st thou serve him?
He delivered me
From torture by his magic. I was bound
By gratitude as well as by his spells
To wait upon him. Oft unwillingly
I served him. But at last I loved him well;
Knew his soul's greatness, honored what he prized,
Which yet was but his minister — his art;
Felt in my airy veins a blood-warm beat,
Till through them double color seemed to run,
Like moonlight mingled with the rosy dawn.
If he was noble, why did he enslave me?
I never did him wrong, till he by force
Took from me this mine island — pent me up
In a vile prison — made me toil and drudge
All day, and when I lagged, beset me sore
With pinches and with terrors of his art.
Thou nam'st not all he did. Was he not kind?
Taught thee to speak and reason — treated thee,
At worst, as he would treat a faithful dog,
(For little more thou wast at first,) till thou
Did'st bite the hand that stroked and fed thee, yea,
And would'st have wrought dishonor on his child.
I know not. I was never taught to curb
My passions, and I lived a lonely life.
I wronged him? Yet my punishment was hard.
I might have served him, yet not been a slave.
It turned all love to hate to be his slave.
He did not treat me as he treated thee.
I was his servant too. But I perceived
There was a nearer tie 'twixt him and me,
For which I learned to love him. Let that pass.
What now behooves thee is to summon up
Thy human heart long styed in ignorance
And fear and hate; and since thou call'st thyself
Lord of this island, learn to be a lord
In nobler style, and with a human love
Of all things good. 'T were little gain for thee
To have thy freedom, if thou 'rt still enslaved
To baser powers within thee. What thou hadst
Ere Prospero came, is thine to enjoy and own.
But own thyself — the man within the beast;
For man thou art, and of the same stuff framed
As his who owned thee — and better than it seemed
Thou wert, perchance, to one whose will enslaved
All human and all elemental power
His magic could enforce, to overpay
For a few brief years the dukedom he had lost.
Learn now to prize thy freedom in a field
Where thou may'st work for good and not for harm.
Curse not, but bless. If I do chance to talk
Above thy head, I'll dwarf my thought to thine;
Or meet thee again when thou upon my words
Hast pondered…. Now, by Apollo's shaft, I think
The moon-calf is asleep! I'll vanish then.
What, is he gone! Or is it another dream?
It is my fate, I think, still to be duped
With visions and with shows. Perhaps now he
Was the man in the moon — Perhaps we'll meet again.
He may have said the truth. And yet, somehow,
I dropped asleep as when I hear the wind
Sing in the pines, or listen to the fall
Of streams in drowsy summer afternoons.
I do begin to love this spirit — albeit
He spoke in praise of Prosper. Prosper? — well —
It may be that I knew him not — who knows?
I am glad he has sailed away though. Setebos!
What — sunrise! Did I sleep so long? In faith
I know it, for I'm hungry. I will dig
Some mussels from the sand, and pick some fruits.
I'm not a cub, it seems — said he not so? —
But made for better things; no slave — a man
Fit to be talked with, and not called vile names —
Made of the same stuff with that Prospero —
Ah ha! good stuff, do you see? — the very same —
Only a little soiled. We'll see — we'll see.
(Ariel sings in the distance. )
The golden sun the clouds hath kissed
And fires the hilltops grim and old.
And down the valley melts the mist
And turns the earth to gold.
The lordly soul is lord of all.
The heart that loves its human-kind,
Where'er its warming sunbeams fall,
Leaves night and death behind.
Fine sprite, I hear you: think I love you too.
I'll follow you — though what you said to me
Is hard to understand. I'll hear you talk
Again; but first of all must eat and drink.
Made of the same stuff with that Prospero?
No beast — no slave! well — this is something new.
A pine grove By the sea. ARIEL as a forester.
Free, free at last! Yet bound by a chain whose links
Are the heart's memories. Free to roam unchecked,
Untasked. Free as these glancing dancing waves,
This summer wind. But by an inward need
Of action, and by late-born sympathies
With human life, bound not the less to serve; —
Though for the present I must waste my art
Upon this son of Sycorax. Yet I have seen
A kindlier sight flash in his brutish eyes,
And in his harsh voice heard a tenderer tone.
I think he almost loves me. But alas,
What room for human fellowship, what hope
To evolve the obstructed and distorted germ
Of manhood here, in idle solitude
Haunted by soulless elves and sprites — a land
By human hearts and human intellects
Untenanted? Around us Nature smiles
In indolent repose — too beautiful,
Too soft — a land of dull lethargic ease,
Steeped in the oblivion of the sleepy South.
(Pauses in thought. )
I know another island — where the North
Blows with a fresher wind; — where pulses bound
Electric to assured results of thought.
Its fertile plains, its rocky coasts and hills
Are peopled with a vigorous race. Its ports,
Forests of masts; its fields by labor tilled;
Its growing towns and cities from afar
Flash in the morning of a crystal sky,
And stud its winding streams like jewels strung
On silver threads: — a people brave and strong,
Yet peaceful, and advancing in all arts,
Science and culture, by wise freedom nursed.
Oft in my master's errands flying north
I have seen it far across the wrinkling waves,
Facing the sunrise like a golden cloud,
And heard the humming of its alien marts.
And thither we might sail — I and this slave
That was — not long a slave when he has known
Contact with men of a superior mould
In bonds of law and human brotherhood.
(Who has been approaching unperceived).
Good brother Ariel, you are lost in thought.
I know 't is about something wise and good.
Come — don't be glum. A penny for your thoughts.
How like you this fair island, Caliban?
Oh, well enough — not having known a better.
And yet 't is lonely here — a prison still,
Although our jailer's gone. And I would fain
See some new faces — not Italian dukes
Or jesters — I have had enough of them —
But like your own, whene'er you let yourself
Be seen, and condescend to talk with me.
What think you of a voyage from this shore
To another island? — better far than this,
I needs must think; a place where men have built
Great cities, tilled broad fields, and sail huge ships —
A home for you and me more fit than this;
For I'm becoming human very fast,
While you will need ere long some earthlier friend.
Well — on the whole I'm tired of this dull life,
And don't object to see some other lands:
But how do you propose to sail away
Without a ship?
We'll see. Trust me for that.
One task the more my magic shall achieve.
We'll build a boat. Your toil shall not be great.
Yet your old task you must resume awhile,
And bring me a few logs.
For you, good Ariel. But for Prospero —
Thank Heaven, I've carried my last load for him!
(They retire, talking together. )
Sunset. ARIEL and CALIBAN in a sailboat are leaving the island.
I have built me a magical ship;
Its sails of the air were wrought.
From the land of symbol and dream we slip
To the land of deed and thought:
To a clime where the north and south
Have mingled their noble seed;
And the glance of the eye and the word of the mouth
Are one with the honest deed.
We sail, away, away!
To a land where the brain of man
Works magic as strange as this;
And the heart of the future builds a plan
As deep as the soul's abyss.
We need not the tide nor the gale,
Nor the sun nor the moon with their beams,
For our boat has a magical rudder and sail
That were wrought in the island of dreams.
Away, away, away!
(Voices, echoing from the island. )
In the island of dreams we stay.
We echo your parting lay.
Speed on by night and day!
Speed on! away, away!
(CALIBAN sleeps. )
Sleep on! We leave the past. The night enshrouds
The enchanted isle. And wake thou when the sun
Shines on another clime — and shines in thee
With the new light which thou hast never seen.
Pardon, great Poet, should I seem to mar
One mystery of thy supernatural tale;
Or with unreverent eye to scan the star
Whose splendor makes his satellites so pale!
If in my play and privacy of thought,
Led by thy light, I lingered for a while
Amid the scenes thy master-hand had wrought,
And, hovering over thy deserted isle,
Dared to invoke thy sprites without command
To come unmarshalled by thy mystic wand —
If on the margin of thy immortal page
I scrawled a sketch unfit to grace thy stage,
'T was but the joy of dwelling there with thee
Near that enchanted sea.
'T was but the wondering question of a child,
To know what may have chanced beyond the wild
Fantastic dream, from which too soon he woke
To common daylight and life's weary yoke.
Pardon I crave once more, O mighty seer!
I bow before thee here
With reverent love and awe,
And say — 'I only sported with his thought,
While in its golden meshes gladly caught,
I dreamed and fancied. He awoke and saw!'
Comments about this poem (Ariel And Caliban by Christopher Pearse Cranch )
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