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Here he reach'd
White hands of farewell to my sire, who growl'd
An answer which, half-muffled in his beard,
Let so much out as gave us leave to go.




Then rode we with the old king across the lawns
Beneath huge trees, a thousand rings of Spring
In every bole, a song on every spray
Of birds that piped their Valentines, and woke
Desire in me to infuse my tale of love
In the old king's ears, who promised help, and oozed
All o'er with honey'd answer as we rode;
And blossom-fragrant slipt the heavy dews
Gather'd by night and peace, with each light air
On our mail'd heads : but other thoughts than Peace
Burnt in us, when we saw the embattled squares,
And squadrons of the Prince, trampling the flowers
With clamour: for among them rose a cry
As if to greet the king; they made a halt;
The horses yell’d; they clash'd their arms; the drum
Beat; merrily-blowing shrill’d the martial fife;
And in the blast and bray of the long horn
And serpent-throated bugle, undulated
The banner: anon to meet us lightly pranced
Three captains out; nor ever had I seen
Such thews of men : the midmost and the highest
Was Arac: all about his motion clung
The shadow of his sister, as the beam
Of the East, that play'd upon them, made them glance
Like those three stars of the airy Giant's zone,
That glitter burnish'd by the frosty dark;
And as the fiery Sirius alters hue,
And bickers into red and emerald, shone
Their morions, wash'd with morning, as they came.

And I that prated peace, when first I heard
War-music, felt the blind wildbeast of force,
Whose home is in the sinews of a man,
Stir in me as to strike : then took the king
His three broad sons; with now a wandering hand
And now a pointed finger, told them all :
A common light of smiles at our disguise
Broke from their lips, and, ere the windy jest
Had labour'd down within his ample lungs,
The genial giant, Arac, rolld himself
Thrice in the saddle then burst out in words

“Our land invaded, 'sdeath! and he himself
Your captive, yet my father wills not war:
And, 'sdeath! myself, what care I, war or no ?
But then this question of your troth remains :
And there's a downright honest meaning in her;
She flies too high, she flies too high ! and yet
She ask'd but space and fairplay for her scheme;
She prest and prest it on me-I myself,
What know I of these things? but, life and soul !
I thought her half-right talking of her wrongs;
I say she flies too high, 'sdeath! what of that?
I take her for the flower of womankind,
And so I often told her, right or wrong,
And, Prince, she can be sweet to those she loves,
And, right or wrong, I care not: this is all,
I stand upon her side: she made me swear it-
'Sdeath and with solemn rites by candle-light-
Swear by St. something—I forget her name
Her that talk'd down the fifty wisest men ;
She was a princess too; and so I swore.
Come, this is all ; she will not: waive


claim : If not, the foughten field, what else, at once Decides it, 'sdeath I against my father's will."

I lagg’d in answer loth to render up
My precontract, and loth by brainless war
To cleave the rift of difference deeper yet;
Till one of those two brothers, half aside
And fingering at the hair about his lip,
To prick us on to combat “Like to like!
The woman's garment hid the woman's heart.”
A taunt that clench'd his purpose like a blow !
For fiery-short was Cyril's counter-scoff

And sharp I answer'd, touch'd upon the point
Where idle boys are cowards to their shame,
“Decide it here : why not? we are three to three.”

Then spake the third “But three to three? no more? No more, and in our noble sister's cause ? More, more, for honour : every captain waits Hungry for honour, angry for his king. More, more, some fifty on a side, that each May breathe himself, and quick ! by overthrow Of these or those, the question settled die."

"Yea" answer'd I, "for this wild wreath of air,
This flake of rainbow flying on the highest
Foam of men's deeds—this honour, if ye

It needs must be for honour if at all :
Since, what decision? if we fail, we fail,
And if we win, we fail : she would not keep
Her compact." “ 'Sdeath! but we will send to her,"
Said Arac, “worthy reasons why she should
Bide by this issue : let our missive thro',
And you shall have her answer by the word.”

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“Boys !” shriek'd the old king, but vainlier than a hen To her false daughters in the pool; for none Regarded; neither seem'd there more to say : Back rode we to my father's camp, and found He thrice had sent a herald to the gates, To learn if Ida yet would cede our claim, Or by denial flush her babbling wells With her own people's life; three times he went: The first, he blew and blew, but none appear'd : He batter'd at the doors ; none came: the next, An awful voice within had warn’d him thence: The third, and those eight daughters of the plough Came sallying thro' the gates, and caught his hair, And so belabour'd him on rib and cheek They made him wild : not less one glance he caught Thro’ open doors of Ida station'd there Unshaken, clinging to her purpose, firm Tho' compass'd by two armies and the noise Of arms; and standing like a stately Pine Set in a cataract on an island-crag, When storm is on the heights, and right and left Suck'd from the dark heart of the long hills roll The torrents, dash'd to the vale : and yet her will Bred will in me to overcome it or fall.

But when I told the king that I was pledged
To fight in tourney for my bride, he clash'd
His iron palms together with a cry;
Himself would tilt it out among the lads :
But overborne by all his bearded lords
With reasons drawn from age and state, perforce
He yielded, wroth and red, with fierce demur:
And many a bold knight started up in heat,
And sware to combat for my claim till death.

All on this side the palace ran the field
Flat to the garden-wall: and likewise here,
Above the garden's glowing blossom-belts,
A column'd entry shone and marble stairs,
And great bronze valves, emboss'd with Tomyris
And what she did to Cyrus after fight,
But now fast barr'd : so here upon the flat
All that long morn the lists were hammer'd up,
And all that morn the heralds to and fro,
With message and defiance, went and came;
Last, Ida's answer, in a royal hand,
But shaken here and there, and rolling words
Oration-like. I kiss'd it and I read.

“O brother, you have known the pangs we felt,
What heats of indignation when we heard
Of those that iron-cramp'd their women's feet;
Of lands in which at the altar the


bride Gives her harsh groom for bridal-gift a scourge ; Of living hearts that crack within the fire Where smoulder their dead despots; and of those, Mothers,—that, all prophetic pity, fling Their pretty maids in the running flood, and swoops The vulture, beak and talon, at the heart Made for all noble motion : and I saw That equal baseness lived in sleeker times With smoother men : the old leaven leaven'd all : Millions of throats would bawl for civil rights, No woman named : therefore I set my face Against all men, and lived but for mine own. Far off from men I built a fold for them : I stored it full of rich memorial : I fenced it round with gallant institutes, And biting laws to scare the beasts of prey, And prosper'd; till a rout of saucy boys Brake on us at our books, and marr'd our peace, Mask'd like our maids, blustering I know not what Of insolence and love, some pretext held Of baby troth, invalid, since my will Seal'd not the bond—the striplings !—for their sport !-I tamed my leopards : shall I not tame these? Or you? or I? for since you think me touch'd In honour-what, I would not aught of false, Is not our cause pure? and whereas I know Your prowess, Arac, and what mother's blood


You draw from, fight; you failing, I abide
What end soever : fail

will not.

Take not his life: he risk'd it for my own;
His mother lives : yet whatsoe'er you do,
Fight and fight well; strike and strike home. O dear
Brothers, the woman's Angel guards you, you
The sole men to be mingled with our cause,
The sole men we shall prize in the after-time,
Your very armour hallow'd, and your statues
Rear'd, sung to, when this gad-fly brush'd aside,
We plant a solid foot into the Time,
And mould a generation strong to move
With claim on claim from right to right, till she
Whose name is yoked with children's, know herself;
And Knowledge in our own land make her free,
And, ever following those two crowned twins,
Commerce and conquest, shower the fiery grain
Of freedomn broadcast over all that orbs
Between the Northern and the Southern morn."


Then came a postscript dash'd across the rest.
- See that there be no traitors in your camp:
We seem a nest of traitors-none to trust
Since our arms fail'd—this Egypt-plague of men!
Almost our maids were better at their homes,
Than thus man-girdled here: indeed I think
Our chiefest comfort is the little child
Of one unworthy mother; which she left :
She shall not have it back: the child shall grow
To prize the authentic mother of her mind.
I took it for an hour in mine own bed
This morning: there the tender orphan hands
Felt at my heart, and seem'd to charm from thence
The wrath I nursed against the world : farewell."

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I ceased; he said: “Stubborn, but she may sit Upon a king's right hand in thunder-storms, And breed up warriors ! See now, tho' yourself Be dazzled by the wildfire Love to sloughs That swallow common sense, the spindling king, This Gama swamp'd in lazy tolerance. When the man wants weight, the woman takes it up, And topples down the scales; but this is fixt As are the roots of earth and base of all; Man for the field and woman for the hearth

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