Home  »  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895  »  From “Amours De Voyage”

Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Arthur Hugh Clough 1819–61

From “Amours De Voyage”


JUXTAPOSITION, in fine; and what is juxtaposition?

Look you, we travel along in the railway-carriage or steamer,

And, pour passer le temps, till the tedious journey be ended,

Lay aside paper or book, to talk with the girl that is next one;

And, pour passer le temps, with the terminus all but in prospect,

Talk of eternal ties and marriages made in heaven.

Ah, did we really accept with a perfect heart the illusion!

Ah, did we really believe that the Present indeed is the Only!

Or through all transmutation, all shock and convulsion of passion,

Feel we could carry undimmed, unextinguished, the light of our knowledge!

But for his funeral train which the bridegroom sees in the distance,

Would he so joyfully, think you fall in with the marriage-procession?

But for that final discharge, would he dare to enlist in that service?

But for that certain release, ever sign to that perilous contract?

But for that exit secure, ever bend to that treacherous doorway?—

Ah, but the bride, meantime,—do you think she sees it as he does?

But for the steady fore-sense of a freer and larger existence,

Think you that man could consent to be circumscribed here into action?

But for assurance within of a limitless ocean divine, o’er

Whose great tranquil depths unconscious the wind-toss’d surface

Breaks into ripples of trouble that come and change and endure not,—

But that in this, of a truth, we have our being, and know it,

Think you we men could submit to live and move as we do here?

Ah, but the women,—God bless them!—they don’t think at all about it.

Yet we must eat and drink, as you say. And as limited beings

Scarcely can hope to attain upon earth to an Actual Abstract,

Leaving to God contemplation, to His hands knowledge confiding,

Sure that in us if it perish, in Him it abideth and dies not,

Let us in His sight accomplish our pretty particular doings,—

Yes, and contented sit down to the victual that He has provided.

Allah is great, no doubt, and Juxtaposition his prophet.

Ah, but the women, alas! they don’t look at it in that way.

Juxtaposition is great;—but, my friend, I fear me, the maiden

Hardly would thank or acknowledge the lover that sought to obtain her,

Not as the thing he would wish, but the thing he must even put up with,—

Hardly would tender her hand to the wooer that candidly told her

That she is but for a space, an ad-interim solace and pleasure,—

That in the end she shall yield to a perfect and absolute something,

Which I then for myself shall behold, and not another,—

Which, amid fondest endearments, meantime I forget not, forsake not.

Ah, ye feminine souls, so loving and so exacting,

Since we cannot escape, must we even submit to deceive you?

Since, so cruel is truth, sincerity shocks and revolts you,

Will you have us your slaves to lie to you, flatter and—leave you?