Poems— Volume 3

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Author: George Meredith

XII

Behind the Northern curtain-folds he passed.
There heard hushed France her muffled heart beat fast
Against the hollow ear-drum, where she sat
In expectation’s darkness, until cracked
The straining curtain-seams: a scaly light
Was ghost above an army under shroud.
Imperious on Imperial Fact
Incestuously the incredible begat.
His veterans and auxiliaries,
The trained, the trustful, sanguine, proud,
Princely, scarce numerable to recite, -
Titanic of all Titan tragedies! -
That Northern curtain took them, as the seas
Gulp the great ships to give back shipmen white.

Alive in marble, she conceived in soul,
With barren eyes and mouth, the mother’s loss;
The bolt from her abandoned heaven sped;
The snowy army rolling knoll on knoll
Beyond horizon, under no blest Cross:
By the vulture dotted and engarlanded.

Was it a necromancer lured
To weave his tense betraying spell?
A Titan whom our God endured
Till he of his foul hungers fell,
By all his craft and labour scourged?
A deluge Europe’s liberated wave,
Paean to sky, leapt over that vast grave.
Its shadow-points against her sacred land converged.
And him, her yoke-fellow, her black lord, her fate,
In doubt, in fevered hope, in chills of hate,
That tore her old credulity to strips,
Then pressed the auspicious relics on her lips,
His withered slave for foregone miracles urged.
And he, whom now his ominous halo’s round,
A three parts blank decrescent sickle, crowned,
Prodigious in catastrophe, could wear
The realm of Darkness with its Prince’s air;
Assume in mien the resolute pretence
To satiate an hungered confidence,
Proved criminal by the sceptic seen to cower
Beside the generous face of that frail flower.

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Chicago: George Meredith, "XII," Poems— Volume 3, ed. Sutherland, Alexander, 1853-1902 and trans. Seaton, R. C. in Poems—Volume 3 (New York: George E. Wood, ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892), Original Sources, accessed October 3, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8R1B2MG4NHTX4F.

MLA: Meredith, George. "XII." Poems— Volume 3, edited by Sutherland, Alexander, 1853-1902, and translated by Seaton, R. C., in Poems—Volume 3, New York, George E. Wood, ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892, Original Sources. 3 Oct. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8R1B2MG4NHTX4F.

Harvard: Meredith, G, 'XII' in Poems— Volume 3, ed. and trans. . cited in ""Death-bed"" edition, 1892, Poems—Volume 3, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 3 October 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=L8R1B2MG4NHTX4F.