Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
 
Daughters of Philistia
 
Walter C. Smith (b. 1824)
 
 
From “Olrig Grange”
 
 
LADY ANNE DEWHURST on a crimson couch
Lay, with a rug of sable o’er her knees,
In a bright boudoir in Belgravia;
Most perfectly array’d in shapely robe
Of sumptuous satin, lit up here and there        5
With scarlet touches, and with costly lace,
Nice-finger’d maidens knotted in Brabant;
And all around her spread magnificence
Of bronzes, Sévres vases, marquetrie,
Rare buhl, and bric-à-brac of every kind,        10
From Rome and Paris and the centuries
Of far-off beauty. All of goodly color,
Or graceful form that could delight the eye,
In orderly disorder lay around,
And flowers with perfume scented the warm air.        15
 
Stately and large and beautiful was she
Spite of her sixty summers, with an eye
Train’d to soft languors, that could also flash,
Keen as a sword and sharp—a black bright eye,
Deep sunk beneath an arch of jet. She had        20
A weary look, and yet the weariness
Seem’d not so native as the worldliness
Which blended with it. Weary and worldly, she
Had quite resign’d herself to misery
In this sad vale of tears, but fully meant        25
to nurse her sorrow in a sumptuous fashion,
And make it an expensive luxury;
For nothing she esteem’d that nothing cost.
 
Beside her, on a table round, inlaid
With precious stones by Roman art design’d,        30
Lay phials, scent, a novel and a Bible,
A pill box, and a wine glass, and a book
On the Apocalypse; for she was much
Addicted unto physic and religion,
And her physician had prescrib’d for her        35
Jellies and wines and cheerful Literature.
The Book on the Apocalypse was writ
By her chosen pastor, and she took the novel
With the dry sherry, and the pills prescrib’d.
A gorgeous, pious, comfortable life        40
Of misery she lived; and all the sins
Of all her house, and all the nation’s sins,
And all shortcomings of the Church and State,
And all the sins of all the world beside,
Bore as her special cross, confessing them        45
Vicariously day by day, and then
She comforted her heart, which needed it,
With bric-à-brac and jelly and old wine.
 
Beside the fire, her elbow on the mantel,
And forehead resting on her finger-tips,        50
Shading a face where sometimes loom’d a frown,
And sometimes flash’d a gleam of bitter scorn,
Her daughter stood; no more a graceful girl,
But in the glory of her womanhood,
Stately and haughty. One who might have been        55
A noble woman in a nobler world,
But now was only woman of her world;
With just enough of better thought to know
It was not noble, and despise it all,
And most herself for making it her all.        60
A woman, complex, intricate, involv’d;
Wrestling with self, yet still by self subdued;
Scorning herself for being what she was,
And yet unable to be that she would;
Uneasy with the sense of possible good        65
Never attain’d, nor sought, except in fits
Ending in failures; conscious, too, of power
Which found no purpose to direct its force,
And so came back upon herself, and grew
An inward fret. The caged bird sometimes dash’d        70
Against the wires, and sometimes sat and pin’d,
But mainly peck’d her sugar, and eyed her glass,
And trill’d her graver thoughts away in song.
 
Mother and daughter—yet a childless mother,
And motherless her daughter; for the world        75
Had gash’d a chasm between, impassable,
And they had nought in common, neither love,
Nor hate, nor anything except a name.
Yet both were of the world; and she not least
Whose world was the religious one, and stretch’d        80
A kind of isthmus ’tween the Devil and God,
A slimy, oozy mud, where mandrakes grew,
Ghastly, with intertwisted roots, and things
Amphibious haunted, and the leathern bat
Flicker’d about its twilight evermore.        85
 

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