Some Thematic Links

In Claude, Clough portrays an English intellectual afraid to commit himself either to love or to politics. He worries about losing his intellectual independence before he is able to discern the factitious and the true about himself, about his love Mary, or about his historical moment.

Consequently, though he sympathizes with the Italian people, he keeps himself aloof from society, snobbishly or cynically critiquing those around him, whether it be the revolutionaries fighting a losing battle for political self-determination, the bourgeois family the Trevellyns, or even the woman he loves.

At the same time, Claude is self-critical and realizes his own weakness. While the character Claude wanders in his mental labyrinth, the poet Clough examines in this poem the clash of cultural values and the "modern" ironic consciousness.

The pathos of Claude's hesitations is made apparent when he resigns himself to losing Mary, who reflects, at the end of the poem, on the might-have-been.



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Canto 1.3.51-59: Georgina Trevellyn to Louisa
At last, dearest Louisa, I take up my pen to address you.
Here we are, you see, with the seven-and-seventy boxes,
Courier, Papa and Mamma, the children, and Mary and Susan:
Here we all are at Rome,and delighted of course with St. Peter's,
And very pleasantly lodged in the famous Piazza di Spagna.
Rome is a wonderful place, but Mary shall tell you about it;
Not very gay, however; the English are mostly at Naples;
There are the A.s, we hear, and most of the W. party.
George, however, is come; did I tell you about his mustachios?

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Canto 1.6.121-134: Claude to Eustace
I, as before when I wrote, continue to see them a little;
Not that I like them much or care a bajocco for Vernon,
But I am slow at Italian, have not many English acquaintance,
And I am asked, in short, and am not good at excuses.
Middle-class people these, bankers very likely, not wholly
Pure of the taint of the shop; will at table d'hote and restaurant
Have their shilling's worth, their penny's pennyworth even:
Neither man's aristocracy this, nor God's, God knoweth!
Yet they are fairly descended, they give you to know, well connected;
Doubtless somewhere in some neighbourhood have, and are careful to keep, some
Threadbare-genteel relations, who in their turn are enchanted
Grandly among county people to introduce at assemblies
The the unpennied cadets our cousins with excellent fortunes.
Neither man's aristocracy this, nor God's, God knoweth!

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Canto 1.7.135-38: Claude to Eustace
Ah, what a shame, indeed, to abuse these most worthy people!
Ah, what a sin to have sneered at their innocent rustic pretensions!
Is it not laudable really, this reverent worship of station?
Is it not fitting that wealth should tender this homage to culture?

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Canto 1.11.213-220: Claude to Eustace
Is it contemptible, Eustace--I'm perfectly ready to think so,--
Is it,--the horrible pleasure of pleasing inferior people?
I am ashamed my own self; and yet true it is, if disgraceful,
That for the first time in life I am living and moving with freedom.
I, who never could talk to the people I meet with my uncle,--
I, who have always failed,--I, trust me, can suit the Trevellyns;
I, believe me,--great conquest,--am liked by the country bankers.
And I am glad to be liked, and like in return very kindly.

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Canto 1.12.234-241: Claude to Eustace
But I have made the step, have quitted the ship of Ulysses;
Quitted the sea and the shore, passed into the magical island;
Yet on my lips is the moly,medicinal, offered of Hermes.
I have come into the precinct, the labyrinth closes around me,
Path into path rounding slyly; I pace slowly on, and the fancy,
Struggling awhile to sustain the long sequences, weary, bewildered,
Fain must collapse in despair; I yield, I am lost, and know nothing;
Yet in my bosom unbroken remaineth the clue; I shall use it.

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Canto 1.Epilogue
Alba, thou findest me still, and, alba, thou findest me ever,
Now from the Capitol steps, now over Titus's Arch,
Here from the large grassy spaces that spread from the Lateran portal,
Towering o'er aqueduct lines lost in perspective between,
Or from a Vatican window, or bridge, or the high Coliseum,
Clear by the garlanded line cut of the Flavian Ring.
Beautiful can I not call thee, and yet thou hast power to o'ermaster,
Power of mere beauty; in dreams, Alba, thou hauntest me still.
Is it religion? I ask me; or is it a vain superstition?
Slavery abject and gross? service, too feeble, of truth?
Is it an idol I bow to, or is it a god that I worship?
Do I sink back on the old, or do I soar from the mean?
So through the city I wander and question, unsatisfied ever,
Reverent so I accept, doubtful because I revere.


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Canto 2.1.13-22: Claude to Eustace
What do the people say, and what does the government do?--you
Ask, and I know not at all. Yet fortune will favour your hopes; and
I, who avoided it all, am fated, it seems to describe it.
I, hwo nor meddle nor make in politics,--I who sincerely
Put not my trust in leagues nor any suffrage by ballot,
Never predicted Parisian Millenniums, never behedl a
New Jerusalem coming down dressed like a bride out of heaven
Right on the Place de la Concorde,--I, nevertheless, let me say it,
Could in my soul of souls, this day, with the Gaul at the gates, shed
One true tear for thee, thou poor little Roman Republic!

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Canto 2.4.65-78: Claude to Eustace
Now supposing the French or the Neapolitan soldier
Should by some evil chance come exploring the Maison Serny
(Where the family English are all to assemble for safety),
Am I prepared to lay down my life for the British female?
Really, who knows? One has bowed and talked till, little by little,
All the natural heat has escaped of the chivalrous spirit.
Oh, one conformed, of course; but one doesn't die for good manners,
Stab or shot, or be shot, by way of a graceful attention.
No, if it should be at all, it should be on the barricades there;
Should I incarnadine ever this inky pacifical finger,
Sooner far should it be for this vapour of Italy's freedom,
Sooner far by the side of the d_____d and dirty plebeians.
Ah, for a child in the street I could strike; for the full-blown lady---
Somehow, Eustace, alas! I have not felt the vocation.

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Canto 2.4.88-96: Claude to Eustace
Is it the calling of man to surrender his knowledge and insight
For the mere venture of what may, perhaps, be the virtuous action?
Must we, walking our earth, discerning a little, and hoping
Some plain visible task shall yet for our hands be assigned us,--
Must we abandon the future for fear of omitting the present,
Quit our own fireside hopes at the alien call of a neighbour,
To the mere possible shadow of Deity offer the victim?
And is all this, my friend, but a weak and ignoble refining,
Wholly unworthy the head of the heart of Your Own Correspondent?

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Canto 2.7.205-211: Claude to Eustace
I began to bethink me of Paris Septembers,
thought I could fancy the look of the old 'Ninety-two. On that evening
Three or four, or, it may be, five, of these people were slaughtered.
Some declare they had, one of them, fired on a sentinel; others
Say they were only escaping; a Priest, it is currently stated,
Stabbed a National Guard on the very Piazza Colonna:
History, Rumour of Rumours, I leave it to thee to determine!

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Canto 2.10.252-261: Claude to Eustace
I am in love, meantime, you think; no doubt you would think so.
I am in love, you say; with those letters, of ourse, you would say so.
I am in love, you declare. I think not so; yet I grant you
It is a pleasure indeed to converse with this girl. Oh rare gift,
Rare felicity, this! she can talk in a rational way, can
Speak upon subjects that really are matters of mind and of thinking,
Yet in perfection retain her simplicity; never, one moment,
Never, however you urge it, however you tempt her, consents to
Step from ideas and fancies and loving sensations to those vain
Conscious understandings that vex the minds of man-kind.

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Canto 3.3.60-66: Claude to Eustace
Farewell, Politics! utterly! What can I do? I cannot
Fight, you know; and to talk I am wholly ashamed. And although I
Gnash my teeth when I look in your French or your English papers,
What is the good of that? Will swearing, I wonder, mend matters?
Cursing and scolding repel the assailants? No, it is idle;
No, whatever befalls, I will hide, will ignore or forget it.
Let the tail shift for itself; I will bury my head. And what's the
Roman Republic to me, or I to the Roman Republic?

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Canto 3.6.107-116: Claude to Eustace
Juxtaposition, in fine; and what is juxtaposition?
Look you, we travel along in the realway-carriage, or steamer,
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?

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Canto 3.6.137-150: Claude to Eustace
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
Harly would thank or acknowledge the lover that sough 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 is 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?

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Canto 3.10.207-213: Claude to Eustace
Hang this thinking, at last! what good is it? oh, and what evil!
Oh, hwat mischief and pain! like a clock in a sick man's chamber,
Ticking and ticking, and still through each covert of slumber pursuing.
What shall I do to thee, O thou Preserver of Men? Have compassion;
Be favourable, and hear! Take from me this regal knowledge;
Let me, contented and mute, with the beasts of the field, my brothers,
Tranquilly, happily lie,--and eat grass, like Nebuchadnezzar!

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Canto 4.Prologue
Eastward, or Norhtward, or West? I wander and ask as I wander,
Weary, yet eager and sure, Where shall I come to my love?
Whitherward hasten to seek her? Ye daughters of Italy, tell me,
Graceful and tender and dark, is she consorting with you?
Thou that out-climbest the torrent, that tendest thy goats to the summit,
Call to me, child of the Alp, has she been seen on the heights?
Italy, farewell I bid thee! for whither she leads me, I follow.
Farewell the vineyard! for I, where I but guess her, must go.
Weariness welcome, and labour, wherever it be, if at last it
Bring me in mountain or plain into the sight of my love.


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Canto 4.4.33-38: Claude to Eustace
There is a tide, at least, in the love affairs of mortals,
Which, taken at flood, leads on to the happiest fortune,--
Leads to the marriage-morn and the orange-flowers and the altar,
And the long lawful line of crowned joys to crowned joys succeeding.--
Ah, it has ebbed with me! Ye gods, and when it was flowing,
Pitiful fool that I was, to stand fiddle-faddling in that way!

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Canto 5.2.20-26: Claude to Eustace
Action will furnish belief,--but will that belief be the true one?
This is the point, you know. However, it doesn't much matter.
What one wants, I suppose is to predetermine the action,
So as to make it entail, not a chance-belief, but the true one.
Out of the question, you say; if a thing isn't wrong, we may do it.
Ah! but this wrong, you see--but I do not know that it matters.
Eustace, the Ropers are gone, and no one can tell me about them.

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Canto 5.5.63-69: Claude to Eustace
Utterly vain is, alas! this attempt at the Absolute,--wholly!
I, who believed not in her, because I would fain believe in nothing,
Have to believe as I may, with a wilful, unmeaning acceptance.
I, who refused to enfasten the roots of my floating existence
In the rich earth, cling now to the hard, naked rock that is left me.--
Ah! she was worthy, Eustace,--and that, indeed, is my comfort,--
Worthy a nobler heart than a fool such as I could have given.

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Canto 5.5.95-103: Claude to Eustace
What with trusting myself and seeking support from within me,
Almost I could believe I had gained a religious assurance,
Found in my own poor soul great moral basis to rest on.
Ah, but indeed I see, I feel it factitious entirely;
I refuse, reject, and put it utterly from me;
I will look straight out, see things, not try to evade them;
Fact shall be fact for me, and the Truth the Truth as ever,
Flexible, changeable, vague, and multiform, and doubtful,--
Off, and depart to the void, thou sublte, fanatical tempter!

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Canto 5.6.113-128: Claude to Eustace
Rome is fallen, I hear, the gallant Medici taken,
Noble Manara slain, and Garibaldi has lost il Moro;--
Rome is fallen; and fallen, or falling, heroical Venice.
I, meanwhile, for the loss of a single small chit of a girl, sit
Moping and mourning here,--for her, and myself much smaller.
Whither depart the souls of the brave that die in the battle,
Die in the lost, lost fight, for the cause that perishes with them?
Are they upborne from the field on the slumberous pinions of angels
Unto a far-off home, where the weary rest from their labour,
And the deep wounds are healed, and the bitter and burning moisture
Wiped from the generous eyes? or do they linger, unhappy,
Pining, and haunting the grave of their by-gone hope and endeavour?
All declamation, alas! though I talk, I care not for Rome, nor
Italy.

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Canto 5.8.168-72, 176-180: Claude to Eustace
Do nothing more, good Eustace, I pray you. It only will vex me.
Take no measures. Indeed, should we meet, I could not be certain;
All might be changed, you know. Or perhaps there was nothing to be changed.
It is a curious history, this; and yet I foresaw it;
I could have told it before. The Fates, it is clear, are against us;
. . . . . . .
Great is Fate, and is best, I believe in Providence partly.
What is ordained is right, and all that happened is ordered.
Ah, no, that isn't it. But yet I retain my conclusion.
I will go where I am led, and will not dictate to the chances.
Do nothing more, I beg. If you love me, forbear interfering.

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Canto 5.11.207-215: Mary Trevellyn to Miss Roper
Ah, well, more than once I have broken my purpose,and sometimes,
Only too often, have looked for the little lake-steamer to bring him.
But it is only fancy,--I do not really expect it.
Oh, and you see I know so exactly how he would take it:
Finding the chances prevail against meeting again, he would banish
Forthwith every thought of the poor little possible hope, which
I myself could not help, perhaps, thinking only too much of;
He would resign himself, and go. I see it exactly.
So I also submit, although in a different manner.

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