In his house by the Maese,
with its roof of tiles
And weathercocks flying aloft in air,
There are silver tankards of antique styles,
Plunder of convent and castle, and piles
Of carpets rich and rare.
In his tulip garden there
by the town
Overlooking the sluggish stream,
With his Moorish cap and dressing-gown
The old sea-captain, hale and brown,
Walks in a waking dream.
A smile in his gray mustachio
Whenever he thinks of the King of Spain.
And the listed tulips look like Turks,
And the silent gardener as he works
Is changed to the Dean of Jaen.
The windmills on the outermost
Verge of the landscape in the haze,
To him are towers on the Spanish coast,
With whisker’d sentinels at their post,
Though this is the river Maese.
But when the winter rains
He sits and smokes by the blazing brands,
And old sea-faring men come in,
Goat-bearded, gray, and with double chin,
And rings upon their hands.
They sit there in the shadow
Of the flickering fire of the winter night,
Figures in colour and design
Like those by Rembrandt of the Rhine,
Half darkness and half light.
And they talk of their ventures
lost or won,
And their talk is ever and ever the same,
While they drink the red wine of Tarragon,
From the cellars of some Spanish Don,
Or convent set on flame.
Restless at times, with heavy
He paces his parlour to and fro;
He is like a ship that at anchor rides,
And swings with the rising and falling tides
And tugs at her anchor-tow.
Voices mysterious far and
Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
Are calling and whispering in his ear,
“Simon Danz! Why stayest thou here?
Come forth and follow me!”
So he thinks he shall take
to the sea again,
For one more cruise with his buccaneers;
To singe the beard of the King of Spain,
And capture another Dean of Jaen
And sell him in Algiers.
One thought leads to another. It is impossible also to remain long in the great Hals’ room of the Museum without meditating a little upon the difference between these arquebusiers and the Dutch of the present day. Passing among these people, once so mighty and ambitious, so great in government and colonisation, in seamanship and painting, and seeing them now so material and self-centred, so bound within their own small limits, so careless of literature and art, so intent upon the profits of the day and the pleasures of next Sunday, one has a vision of what perhaps may be our own lot. For the Dutch are very near us in kin, and once were nigh as great as we have been. Are we, in our day of decadence, to shrivel thus? “There but for the grace of God goes England”—is that a reasonable utterance?