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The Jacquerie Chapter 4 by Sidney Lanier
Lord Raoul drew rein with all his company,
And urged his horse i' the crowd, to gain fair view
Of him that spoke, and stopped at last, and sat
Still, underneath where Gris Grillon was laid,
And heard, somewhile, with languid scornful gaze,
The friar putting blame on priest and knight.
But presently, as 'twere in weariness,
He gazed about, and then above, and so
Made mark of Gris Grillon.
'So, there, old man,
Thou hast more brows than legs!'
'I would,' quoth Gris,
'That thou, upon a certain time I wot,
Hadst had less legs and bigger brows, my Lord!'
Then all the flatterers and their squires cried out
Solicitous, with various voice, 'Go to,
Old Rogue,' or 'Shall I brain him, my good Lord?'
Or, 'So, let me but chuck him from his perch,'
Or, 'Slice his tongue to piece his leg withal,'
Or, 'Send his eyes to look for his missing arms.'
But my Lord Raoul was in the mood, to-day,
Which craves suggestions simply with a view
To flout them in the face, and so waved hand
Backward, and stayed the on-pressing sycophants
Eager to buy rich praise with bravery cheap.
'I would know why,' -- he said -- 'thou wishedst me
Less legs and bigger brows; and when?'
Learn then,' cried Gris Grillon and stirred himself,
In a great spasm of passion mixed with pain;
'An thou hadst had more courage and less speed,
Then, ah my God! then could not I have been
That piteous gibe of a man thou see'st I am.
Sir, having no disease, nor any taint
Nor old hereditament of sin or shame,
-- But, feeling the brave bound and energy
Of daring health that leaps along the veins --
As a hart upon his river banks at morn,
-- Sir, wild with the urgings and hot strenuous beats
Of manhood's heart in this full-sinewed breast
Which thou may'st even now discern is mine,
-- Sir, full aware, each instant in each day,
Of motions of great muscles, once were mine,
And thrill of tense thew-knots, and stinging sense
Of nerves, nice, capable and delicate:
-- Sir, visited each hour by passions great
That lack all instrument of utterance,
Passion of love -- that hath no arm to curve;
Passion of speed -- that hath no limb to stretch;
Yea, even that poor feeling of desire
Simply to turn me from this side to that,
(Which brooded on, into wild passion grows
By reason of the impotence that broods)
Balked of its end and unachievable
Without assistance of some foreign arm,
-- Sir, moved and thrilled like any perfect man,
O, trebly moved and thrilled, since poor desires
That are of small import to happy men
Who easily can compass them, to me
Become mere hopeless Heavens or actual Hells,
-- Sir, strengthened so with manhood's seasoned soul,
I lie in this damned cradle day and night,
Still, still, so still, my Lord: less than a babe
In powers but more than any man in needs;
Dreaming, with open eye, of days when men
Have fallen cloven through steel and bone and flesh
At single strokes of this -- of that big arm
Once wielded aught a mortal arm might wield,
Waking a prey to any foolish gnat
That wills to conquer my defenceless brow
And sit thereon in triumph; hounded ever
By small necessities of barest use
Which, since I cannot compass them alone,
Do snarl my helplessness into mine ear,
Howling behind me that I have no hands,
And yelping round me that I have no feet:
So that my heart is stretched by tiny ills
That are so much the larger that I knew
In bygone days how trifling small they were:
-- Dungeoned in wicker, strong as 'twere in stone;
-- Fast chained with nothing, firmer than with steel;
-- Captive in limb, yet free in eye and ear,
Sole tenant of this puny Hell in Heaven:
-- And this -- all this -- because I was a man!
For, in the battle -- ha, thou know'st, pale-face!
When that the four great English horsemen bore
So bloodily on thee, I leapt to front
To front of thee -- of thee -- and fought four blades,
Thinking to win thee time to snatch thy breath,
And, by a rearing fore-hoof stricken down,
Mine eyes, through blood, my brain, through pain,
-- Midst of a dim hot uproar fainting down --
Were 'ware of thee, far rearward, fleeing! Hound!'