Griselda: A Society Novel In Verse - Chapter I

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt 1840 (Petworth House) – 1922 (United Kingdom)



An idle story with an idle moral!
Why do I tell it, at the risk of quarrel
With nobler themes? The world, alas! is so,
And who would gather truth must bend him low,
Nor fear to soil his knees with graveyard ground,
If haply there some flower of truth be found.
For human nature is an earthy fruit,
Mired at the stem and fleshy at the root,
And thrives with folly's mixon best o'erlaid,
Nor less divinely so, when all is said.
Brave lives are lived, and worthy deeds are done
Each virtuous day, 'neath the all--pitying sun;
But these are not the most, perhaps not even
The surest road to our soul's modern Heaven.
The best of us are creatures of God's chance
(Call it His grace), which works deliverance;
The rest mere pendulums 'twixt good and ill,
Like soldiers marking time while standing still.
'Tis all their strategy, who have lost faith
In things Divine beyond Man's life and death,
Pleasure and pain. Of Heaven what know we
Save as unfit for angels' company,
Say rather Hell's? We cling to sins confessed,
And say our prayers still hoping for the best.
We fear old age and ugliness and pain,
And love our lives, nor look to live again.

I do but parable the crowd I know,
The human cattle grazing as they go,
Unheedful of the heavens. Here and there
Some prouder, may be, or less hungry steer
Lifting his face an instant to the sky,
And left behind as the bent herd goes by,
Or stung to a short madness, tossing wild
His horns aloft, and charging the gay field,
Till the fence stops him, and he vanquished too,
Turns to his browsing--lost his Waterloo.

The moral of my tale I leave to others
More bold, who point the finger at their brothers,
And surer know than I which way is best
To virtue's goal, where all of us find rest,
Whether in stern denial of things sweet,
Or yielding timely, lest life lose its feet
And fall the further. A plain tale is mine
Of naked fact, unconscious of design,
Told of the world in this last century
Of Man's (not God's) disgrace, the XIXth. We
Have made it all a little as it is
In our own images and likenesses,
And need the more forgiveness for our sin.

Therefore, my Muse, impatient to begin,
I bid thee fearless forward on thy road.
Steer thou thy honest course 'twixt bad and good:
Know this, in art that thing alone is evil
Which shuns the one plain word that shames the Devil.
Tell truth without preamble or excuse,
And all shall be forgiven thee--all, my Muse!

In London then not many years ago
There lived a lady of high fashion, who
For her friends' sake, if any still there be
Who hold her virtues green in memory,
Shall not be further named in this true tale
Than as Griselda or the Lady L.
Such, if I err not, was the second name
Her parents gave when to the font she came,
And such the initial letter bravely set
On her coach door, beneath the coronet
Which bore her and her fortunes--bore, alas!
For, as in this sad world all things must pass,
However great and nobly framed and fair:
Griselda, too, is of the things that were.

But while she lived Griselda had no need
Of the world's pity. She was proudly bred
And proudly nurtured. Plenty her full horn
Had fairly emptied out when she was born,
And dowered her with all bounties. She was fair
As only children of the noblest are,
And brave and strong and opulent of health,
Which made her take full pleasure of her wealth.
She had a pitying scorn of little souls
And little bodies, levying heavy tolls
On all the world which was less strong than she.
She used her natural strength most naturally,
And yet with due discretion, so that all
Stood equally in bondage to her thrall.
She was of that high godlike shape and size
Which has authority in all men's eyes:
Her hair was brown, her colour white and red,
Nor idly moved to blush. She held her head
Straight with her back. Her body, from the knee
Tall and clean shaped, like some well--nurtured tree,
Rose finely finished to the finger tips.
She had a noble carriage of the hips,
And that proportionate waist which only art
Dares to divine, harmonious part with part.
But of this more anon, or rather never.
All that the world could vaunt for its endeavour
Was the fair promise of her ankles set
Upon a pair of small high--instepped feet,
In whose behalf, though modestly, God wot,
As any nun, she raised her petticoat
One little inch more high than reason meet
Was for one crossing a well--besomed street.
This was the only tribute she allowed
To human folly and the envious crowd;
Nor for my
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

4:12 min read
36

Quick analysis:

Scheme AABBCCDDCEFFGFXXHHXXIIJJXX BBKXLLXXMM NNJJOOPPIIQQG GXXAAXX BMIIXXRRSSTTKU XEVVKXWWXXIIYYZZEEII1 1 2 2 UUSOCXOO3 3 L
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 4,346
Words 829
Stanzas 6
Stanza Lengths 26, 10, 13, 7, 14, 35

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt was an English poet and writer. more…

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