Poems: a Miscellany

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Miscellaneous Poems
 
by

Isa Craig

collected from newspapers and periodicals of the period.

___________
 

1.

The Woodruff.

2.

Thames.

3.

The Christmas Child.

4.

May-Day

5.

The Incarnation.

6.

One in the Crowd.

7.

Birdnotes.

8.

Blow the Breeze of Spring (Song)
(score [.pdf 164KB] - midi)

9.

The Ballad of the Brides of Quair.

10.

Crown and Cross.

11.

Song.

12.

Shadow.

13.

Never to Know

14.

"These Three"

15.

Martin And Kate

16.

Laid at Rest.

17.

At Last.

18.

Ich Dien.

19.

In Affliction.

20.

Spring Songs.

21.

Glory and Beauty.

22.

The Rainbow's Secret.

23.

At Last.

24.

The Way in the Wood.

25.

Poland, 1864.

26.

The Gold Bridge.

27.

The Ravens.

28.

In the Dark.

29.

Rest: an ode.

30.

St. Elmo.

31.

The Schoolmistress

32.

The Mill in the Valley.

33.

Petermann's Land.

34.

On Board the Argosy.

35.

Fair Play.

36.

The Vision of Sheik Hamil.

37.

Evening Light.

38.

Prayer and Praise.


――――♦――――

 

THE GOLD BRIDGE.


――――♦――――
 

 
THE WOODRUFF.


THOU art the flower of grief to me,
    ’T is in thy flavour!
Thou keepest the scent of memory, 
    A sickly savor.
In the moonlight, under the orchard tree,
Thou wert pluck’d and given to me,
    For a love favour.

In the moonlight, under the orchard tree,
    Ah, cruel flower!
Thou wert pluck’d given to me,
    While a fruitless shower
Of blossoms rain’d on the ground where grew
The woodruffe bed all wet with dew,
    In the witching hour.

Under the orchard tree that night
    Thy scent was sweetness,
And thou, with thy small star clusters bright
    Of pure completeness,
Shedding a pearly lustre bright,
Seem’d, as I gaz’d in the meek moonlight,
    A gift of meetness. 

“It keeps the scent for years,” said he,
    (And thou hast kept it);
“And when you scent it, think of me.”
(He could not mean thus bitterly.)
    Ah!   I had swept it
Into the dust where dead things rot,
Had I then believ’d his love was not
    What I have wept it.

Between the leaves of this holy book,
    O flower undying!
A worthless and wither’d weed in look,
    I keep thee lying.
The bloom of my life with thee was pluck’d,
And a close-press’d grief its sap hath suck’d,
    Its strength updrying.

Thy circles of leaves, like pointed spears, 
    My heart pierce often; 
They enter, it inly bleeds, no tears 
    The hid wounds soften;
Yet one will I ask to bury thee 
In the soft white folds of my shroud with me, 
    Ere they close my coffin.

 

――――♦――――

 
THAMES.


A GLIMPSE of the river.    It glimmers
    Through the stems of the beeches;
Through the screen of the willow it shimmers
    In long winding reaches;
Flowing so softly that scarcely
    It seems to be flowing,
But the reeds of the low little islands
    Are bent to its going;
And soft as the breath of a sleeper
    Its heaving and sighing,
In the coves where the fleets of the lilies
    At anchor are lying.
It looks as if fallen asleep
    In the lap of the meadows, and smiling
Like a child in the grass, dreaming deep
    Of the flowers and their golden beguiling.

A glimpse of the river!   It glooms
    Underneath the black arches,
Across it the broad shadow looms,
    And the eager crowd marches;
Where, washing the feet of the city,
    Strong and swift it is flowing;
On its bosom the ships of the nations
    Are coming and going;
Heavy laden, it labours and spends,
    In a great strain of duty,
The power that was gathered and nursed
    In the calm and the beauty.
Like thee, noble river, like thee,
    Let our lives in beginning and ending,
Fair in their gathering be,
    And great in the time of their spending.

 

――――♦――――


 
THE CHRISTMAS CHILD.
 

Illustrator, Thomas Morten:
From Good Words, January 1862.


THE rain is cold, the sky is pitch,
    Above the city’s lengthening piles,
Gleaming across an inky ditch,
    The glimmering lamp-lights stretch for miles.

‘Tis Christmas Eve, nor late though dark;
    Still out upon the busy street
The windows shine, and one can mark
    The passers hurrying through the sleet.

One hastens on with heavy tread;
    Had any tried his face to scan,
“ A common man,” they would have said;
    Thank God! he was “a common man.”

More lonely grew the way he took,
    And once he stopped, amid the rain,
To cast a bright ungrudging look
    On what he saw through lighted pane.

A Christmas feast! a table spread!
    A cheerful glow of lamp and fire!
A heap of children, head o’er head,
    And one in arms uplifted higher!—

Uplifted to the father’s lips!
    But just as he had kissed the boy,
They closed the curtains, and eclipse
    Fell on the sharer of his joy,

Who sighs, and on his way doth wend,—
    A shadow on his face hath come.
What waits him at his journey’s end?
    A cheerless hearth? a joyless home?

Nay, both as any warm and bright,
    And wont to light his weariest way,
Through longest road and blackest night,
    But now the brightness fades away.

No small feet cross that stainless hearth,
    Or patter on that dainty floor!
Ono pair, long laid in wintry earth,
    Will greet his coming never more.


 II.


Yet rest and hearty cheer await
    Our dripping wayfarer; for him
Tho board is spread in simple state,
    The curtained bed stands white and trim.

The housewife sits, with musing eye,
    Contemplating her labours done;
Her Christmas cheer, her own mince-pie,
    Her ample store of cake and bun.

She sighed in fullness of content,
    And then she gave another sigh,—
“What’s all the good of this,” it meant,
    “With none to eat but John and I?“

Frugal she was, nor much would take
    Or give; what moved the worthy soul?
She rose and took her largest cake,
    And forth on gentle errand stole.

Across the way a neighbour dwelt
    With many little mouths to feed;
Heart-sickening care who daily felt,
    For failing strength and growing need.

To them her Christmas gift she took,
    Leaving ajar the cottage door,
Painting each sharer’s joyful look,
    The weltering road she hastened o’er.

And through the storm swift-falling—Hark!
    Was that a sob?    One moment nigh,
A wild face peered from out the dark—
    Some woeful heart was passing by.


 III.

 
The dame had lingered for a space,
    And now upon the threshold met
Her spouse, and, with a radiant face,
    Shut out the darkness and the wet.

A little stir their entrance makes,
    But soon a genial quiet falls;
When, lo! an infant’s wail awakes
    Within the unaccustomed walls.

And both are in mid-speech struck mute,
    And quick, with startled looks, arise,
And listening stand—nor stir a foot—
    Till, hark! again those plaining cries!

Then moving to the couch, that stands
    So white and trim, they—half in awe,
And curious half—with eager hands,
    Aside the snowy curtains draw.

And there it lay, a tiny thing
    All meanly clad and weeping sore;
Such tears no elvish trick could wring,
    No less than mortal grief could pour.

Soon as the baby-form was prest
    In woman’s arms, it hushed its cries;
And turned toward the mother’s breast
    With quivering lips and drowning eyes

 They bring it to the light, nor mark
    Without—the wreck of woe and sin—
A form that crouches in the dark,
    A wild white face that peers within,

Praying the woman-soul to save
    Her babe: and to that peaceful hearth
She saw the kiss that welcome gave,
    And fled an outcast of the earth.

The cautious dame had questioned still
    The bounds of charity and right,
Although her inmost soul would thrill
    Above the babe that blessed night.

But for a whisper in her ear,
    That boundless love that hour had claim
“A Christmas gift, we’ll keep it, dear,
    It was to-night the Saviour came.”

Good Words.

 

――――♦――――

 
MAY-DAY.


IT is the morn of May!
            The flowery holiday
Of Shakspeare’s England — with its golden
                    hours
            As bright as ever passed,
            In glitt’ring waters glassed,
And threading labyrinths of leaves and flowers.

            The trees fresh-clad and cool,
            Of murmured bliss are full,
A deep content is poured on nature’s needs;
            And joy is in the flow
            Of each pulsation low,
Which sends the lakelet rippling to its reeds.

            Fair princess! woodland queen!
            The slender birch is seen,
With silken tresses to the sunshine spread;
            With gleams, like dazzling smiles,
            And gay coquettish wiles,
The light laburnum shakes her golden head.

            Like bride on bridal morn,
            There stands the snowy thorn,
White, fragrant, flowery; and the lilac there,
            From every peachy plume,
            Shakes out a rich perfume,
In waves of incense on the happy air.

            So glad a day and fair,
            Why do they not prepare
The May-pole gay, the dance upon the green!
            The wooing in the glade
            Would want no serenade,
The nightingales would greet the young May-
                    Queen.

Good Words.

 

――――♦――――

 
THE INCARNATION.


Not in cloud and not in thunder,
Filling all the world with wonder, 
    Came to earth the Lord of earth; 
But with helpless cries and tears, 
Mid a mother's pains and fears, 
    Entered by the gate of birth. 

By the way of flesh he came — 
How else could he kindred claim? 
    How else, save life's path he trod, 
Coming in the way of breath, 
Going out the way of death, 
    Be himself the way to God?

Living words by prophets spoken, 
Hearts with longing well nigh broken, 
    Expectation in the air; 
Blind desire of every nation, 
Eyes that waited for salvation, 
    Coming of the Son declare. 

Thus he came, our new beginning, 
For the death doom of our sinning, 
    Giving us God's life again: 
Then a bright new star shone o'er us, 
Then began that heavenly chorus, 
    'Peace on earth, good will to men.'

 

――――♦――――

 
ONE IN THE CROWD.

APRIL 10TH, 1864.


OVER the bridges and through the streets,
    By tens of thousands the people pour
    Till, like a sea in its surge and roar,
The crowd round column and statue meets
    Waiting through hours of the waning day,
    To look upon one who must pass this way.

He comes he comes! and the people press
    Close to his side, for no guards are there;
    A pale, worn face, and a kingly air,
And hands held forth as if fain to bless,
    They see, and the faces far and wide
    Turn, yearn toward him with love and pride.

“I have seen him!“ cried one in the crowd,
    A youth who ran on with flashing eyes
    And a look that no seeing satisfies,
To raze again, and, abashed yet proud,
    To bask in the smiles from his hero won,
    To the deeds in his soul as the ripening sun.

“I have touched him,” said one in the crowd,
    A faded woman, her face in a glow
    That lighted the traces of care and woe.
“What is he to you?”   I had thought aloud;
    But that face rebuked me: her faith was strong
    In the good that triumphs o’er woe and wrong.

He fought for another land than theirs—
    For a land they never saw—what then?
    Shall they not love him, a man among men,
In whose nobleness each of them shares?
    What things are dearest under the sky?
    Here is a man who for these would die!


Macmillan’s Magazine.

Ed.—possibly written to commemorate Garibaldi's visit tp England.

 

――――♦――――

 
BIRDNOTES.


                    Hark!
            ‘Tis the lark,
Singing where the clouds are breaking,
            “I see the sun, —
Sing, sing, sing, sing!”
            Soaring up on high,
“Sing, sing, sing, sing!”
            Dropping down the sky,
Mad with mirth of his own making,
Singing where the clouds are breaking,
            “Dark days are done!”

                    Hush!
            ‘Tis the thrush,
Singing where the green leaves glisten,
            “Dark days are done!
Joy! joy! joy! joy!”
            Fills his swelling throat,
“ Joy! joy! joy! joy!”
            Breathes in every note,
Calling all sweet birds to listen;
High and low, where green leaves glisten,
            Answers every one.


Sunday Magazine.

 

――――♦――――

 
BLOW THE BREEZE OF SPRING.
A song


Blow breeze of spring,
Blow soft and ring the snow drop bells that
        they may bring
From their beds all flowerets fair.
Ringing soft prepare

'Tis time to rise with smiling eyes.
The bridegroom sun is in the skies
'Tis time to rise, with smiling eyes
The bridegroom sun is in the skies.

Blow breeze of spring,
Blow soft and ring the snow drop bells that
        they may bring
Flowers on her bride path to fling
Flowers to her who spring

To bid her rise with smiling eyes,
Her bridegroom sun in the skies
To bid her rise, with smiling eyes
Her bridegroom sun is in the skies.

 

――――♦――――

 
THE BALLAD OF THE BRIDES OF QUAIR.


A STILLNESS crept about the house,
    At even' fall, in noontide glare:
Upon the silent hills looked forth
    The many-windowed house of Quair.

The peacock on the terrace screamed,
    Browsed on the lawn the timid hare,
The great trees grew i' the avenue,
    Calm by the sheltered house of Quair.

The pool was full: around its brim
    The alders sickened all the air;
There came no murmur from the streams,
    Though nigh flowed Leithen, Tweed, and
        Quair.

The days hold on their wonted pace,
    And men to court and camp repair,
Their part to fill, of good or ill,
    While women keep the house of Quair.

And one is clad in widow's weeds,
    And one is maiden-like and fair,
And day by day they seek the paths
    About the lonely fields of Quair.

To see the trout leap in the streams,
    The summer clouds reflected there,
The maiden loves in happy dreams
    To hang o'er silver Tweed and Quair.

Or oft in pall-black velvet clad,
    Sat stately in the oaken chair,
Like many a dame of her ancient name,
    The mother of the house of Quair.

Her daughter broidered by her side,
    With heavy-drooping golden hair,
And listened to her frequent plaint—
    “Ill fare the brides that come to Quair.”

“For more than one hath lived in pine,
    And more than one hath died of care,
And more than one hath sorely sinned,
    Left lonely in the house of Quair.

“Alas! and ere thy father died
    I had not in his heart a share,
And now—may God forfend her ill—
    Thy brother brings his bride to Quair!”

She came: they kissed her in the hall,
    They kissed her on the winding stair,
They led her to her chamber high,
    The fairest in the house of Quair.

They bade her from the window look,
    And mark the scene, how passing fair,
Among whose ways the quiet days
    Would linger o'er the wife of Quair.

"'Tis fair," she said on looking forth.
    "But what although 'twere bleak and bare—"
She looked the love she did not speak,
    And broke the ancient curse on Quair.

"Where’er he dwells, where'er he goes,
    His dangers and his toils I share."
What need he said?—she was not one
    Of the ill-fated brides of Quair!

 

――――♦――――

 
CROWN AND CROSS.


IT seemed a crown of cruel thorn,
It seemed a cross of bitter scorn,
I bent my suffering brow to wear,
I raised my feeble arms to bear.

I might have cast away the crown,
But hands I loved had crushed it down,
And pressed its stinging points of pain,
Through quivering nerve, and bursting vein.

I might have shunned the cross to bear,
But One—the Master—placed it there;
And, failing the appointed task,
No other service I might ask.

As on my weary way I passed,
Ready to faint and fall at last,
The burden under which I bent
Became the staff on which I leant;

And blossoms for the thorns had place,
Upon my head a crowning grace,
That brought me through the burning hours,
The cool and healing touch of flowers.

             *             *             *             *            * 

My crown was love, maintained through loss,
And truth upheld through scorn my cross.


Englishwomen's Journal.

 

――――♦――――

 
SONG.


TELL me maiden, maiden dear,
    Tell me what is love?
In they brown eyes shining clear,
In they tender smile sincere,
On they lips, O maiden dear,
    Can I see it move?

It is two hearts, two hearts true,
    Two hearts with one beat;
Two souls shining, sighing through
Eyes and lips of morning dew,
With one wish between the two,
    And that wish—to meet.

 

――――♦――――

 
SHADOW.


It falls before, it follows behind,
    Darkest still when the day is bright;
No light without the shadow we find,
    And never shadow without the light.

From our shadow we cannot flee away;
    It walks when we walk, it runs when we run;
But it tells which way to look for the sun;
    We may turn our backs on it any day.

Ever mingle the sight and shade
    That make this human world so dear;
Sorrow of joy is ever made,
    And what were a hope without a fear?

A morning shadow o'er youth is cast,
    Warning from pleasure's dazzling snare;
A shadow lengthening across the past,
    Fixes our fondest memories there.

 

――――♦――――

 
NEVER TO KNOW.


One within in a crimson glow,
        Silently sitting;
One without on the fallen snow,
        Wearily flitting;
        Never to know
That one looked out with yearning sighs,
While one looked in with wistful eyes,
        And went unwitting.

What came of the one without, that so
        Wearily wended?
Under the stars and under the snow
        His journey ended!
        Never to know
That the answer came to those wistful eyes,
But passed away in those yearning sighs,
        With night winds blended.

What came of the one within, that so
        Yearned forth with sighing?
More sad, to my thinking, her fate, the glow
        Drearily dying;
        Never to know
That for a moment her life was nigh,
And she knew it not and it passed her by,
        Recall denying.

These were two hearts that long ago—
        Dreaming and waking—
Each to a poet revealed its woe,
        Wasting and breaking;
        Never to know
That if each to other had done but so!
Both had rejoiced in the crimson glow,

And one had not lain 'neath the stars and snow

          Forsaken—forsaking!

 

――――♦――――

 
"THESE THREE."


No viewless angels by our side,
    With wings, but women sweet and good;
"These Three," indeed, with us abide,
    True types of womanhood.
Yea, I, in turn, have reached a hand
    To each one of the blessed three,
In one fair group, I've seen them stand—
    Faith, Hope, and Charity.

My Faith hath misty hair,—and eyes,
    You cannot fix their changing hue,
But all the world within them lies,
    And all the soul looks through.
Her voice doth make divinely sweet
    Each song of sorrow which she sings,
And saddest wisdom fills replete
    With heavenly comfortings.

My Hope is ruddy with the flush
    Of morning joy, that keeps its place,
Though day has darkened, and the rush
    Of rain is on her face.
Her clear eyes look afar, as bent
    On shining futures gathering in;
Nought seems too high for her intent,
    Too hard for her to win.

My Love hath eyes as blue and clear
    As clefts between the clouds of June,
A tender mouth whose smiles are near
    To tears that gather soon.
Her best and loveliest she takes,
    To light dark places;—wastes of life
She sows with precious seed that makes
    All richest blessings rife.

Faith, when my soul in darkness dwells,
    Shall sing her song throughout the night,
For each new effort life compels
    Hope's clasp shall nerve with might;
Love shall divide each grief of mine,
    Share every joy thus doubly given,
With each in turn life grows divine,
    With all it tastes of heaven.

 

――――♦――――

 
MARTIN AND KATE.


O Kate, my Kate, these crooked Hebrew letters
        Are wriggling through my brain!
Cramps hold my fingers in their devil's fetters
        With crushing grip of pain.

Give me your hand, Kate!   Come into the garden,
        And sit beneath our vine;
Smoothing the cramp-knots as they twist and harden
        With those soft palms of thine.

A flask of wine and my old lute bring hither;
        And in the evening calm,
Tasting God's goodness, we will sing together
        My own triumphal psalm.

Good is our God! good all his gifts transcending,
        And yet this ghastly doubt—
As with the smoke of torment never ending
        The stars are blotted out.

O Kate! my Kate! again my soul is sinking
        Into the pit of pain;
'Tis writ in mockery—see those star eyes winking—
        "God's kingdom doth remain."

Yes, it may be, because our convents quitting,
        We vowed, and did not pay,
That in the outer darkness we are sitting,
        The heaven-gates closed for aye.

Shall we return? shall they from prison driven
        Out into God's free air,
Back, because blinded by the light of Heaven,
        Return for refuge there?

God is our trust; His word of truth we cherish
        Through doubt and fear and pain;
Down, Satan, down, even though His Word should perish,
        "His kingdom doth remain."


――――♦――――

 
LAID AT REST.

WESTMINSTER ABBEY, April 18th, 1874.


Laid among Kings!   To be a King is duly
    To do great things that else are left undone!
His life was one such deed: then reigned he truly!
    Yea, for he knit the hearts of men in one.

Laid among poets! was he then a poet?
    Had he the vision and the gift divine?
Yea, one of those who see the unseen, and show it, —
    Those who behold Truth's far-off fountains shine.

Laid among heroes!   All unquestioned wearing
    The title — Won by all that wins the name.
Laid among heroes; for his ensign bearing
    The lion's tooth-marks on his wasted frame.

The lion's tooth-mark; this was but the token
    He passed through dangers of which death was
            least:
Sickness, and pain, and loneliness unbroken,
    Terrors of savage man and savage beast.

Seeking the secret of the ancient river,
    Of which the flaming desert keeps the key,
He strove men's souls from error to deliver.
    To break their every chain and set them free.

Dying he journeyed; dead, strange people carried
    Him they had loved a thousand miles, that we
Might lay him here — long hath his funeral tarried,
    Through all the seasons round, by land and sea.

Journeying he died: his very dust has travelled
    Farther than erst the foot of men had trod.
But now he rests, his secret all unravelled,
    His journey ended, and his home with God.


ISA CRAIG-KNOX

From Macmillan's Magazine, 1874.

Ed.—David Livingstone.

――――♦――――

 
AT LAST.


AT last we meet again!
    And utter no reproaches for the past—
No need to tell him all my hidden pain,
    For he knows all—at last!

Oh healing touch!—once more,
    I take in mine the hand he cannot give,—
The fixèd sweetness of that smile before,
    What bitterness can live?

Oh lips thus sealed for aye!
    I give the holy kiss ye cannot take—
Death met returning love upon the way,
And the once broken bond, renewed to-day,
    Doth thus eternal make.

――――♦――――

 
ICH DIEN.


ONE swayed a mighty sceptre,
    And wore a lofty crown,
With a heavy load they weighed him,
    Head and hand—they weighed him down;
To be true King in his kingdom,
    He must serve the meanest clown.

One was leader of a nation—
    Not in name—the man was great,
Thinking for its many millions,
    Lifting many a burden's weight
From the peasant at the ploughshare,
    From the beggar at the gate.

One was master of ten thousand,
    Who served him day by day:
Served him! he served the thousands!
    Travailing sorer far than they;
While their work he gathered for them
    From the world's ends where it lay.

Some think to serve till kingship,
    Till mastership, be won;
Higher honour only meaneth
    Greater service to be done,
Perfect self-renunciation,
    The reward and work are one.

For He before whose sceptre
    The nations rise and fall,
Who gives no least commandment
    But come to pass it shall:
Said, He who was the greatest
    Should be servant unto all.


ISA CRAIG

――――♦――――

 
IN AFFLICTION.

BY MISS ISA CRAIG.

 
    Spare the rod!
Thy wrath remove,
And visit me in love,
    My Father-God!
   
    Thou art all-wise!
Erring I've been,
And Thou hast seen
    Need to chastise.
   
    But now I say,
"Thy will be done!"
My will with Thine make one,
    Father, I pray!
   
    Yet, spare the rod!
Thy wrath remove,
And visit me in love,
    My Father-God.

――――♦――――

 
SPRING SONGS.


    SPRING is abroad!
There is life in the air,
There is life in the clod;
On the earth everywhere
There is life and to spare,
    Spring is abroad.


No trumpet is blown, no earthquake is heaving,
Yet each seed its rent cerements and dark grave is leaving—

An infinite power,
Between orchard alleys,
Beside water-courses,
On hills and through valleys,
Musters the forces
Of grass, leaf, and flower.


From the bare black earth the snowdrop peers,
And the sod is pierced by a million spears—

Tiny spears, in sheaf and rank,
Rising over field and bank—
These to form the lily's guard;
These from rifling winds to ward
The purple and gold of the crocus crown;
Those to lift to her regal seat
Over their heads the shining wheat.


The brave old tree with his branches brown,
Through which the moon and the stars look down;
Ah, not the brightest beam of noon
Could reach his heart in his leafy June!
Never a wail hath the rude wind wrung
From him, the sharpest bullets of hail
Made no dint in his close-ribbed mail,
And at each buffet he whistled and sung.

Can he feel at his feet
    The violets creep;
Or the primrose sweet,
    Stir in its sleep;
That up from his roots
To his topmost shoots

A tingling sense of joy awakes,
Swelling his heart till out he shakes
His leafy banners of green and gold;
And the wind comes smoothing each silken fold
    With sighs, like a changeling's mean dismay,
When the beggar, scorned as poor and old,
    Turns king, and wears his rich array.

    In the time of spring,
    If the sun but fling
A smile to the wint'ry sod,
    Her heart will swell,
    And in bud and bell,
She will bloom her joy abroad.

    And gentle deeds,
    Like flowers, have seeds,—
From beauty, beauty grows;
    From eye to eye
    Smiles multiply,
And joy's bright blossom blows.

    Blow, breeze of spring!
    Blow soft and ring
The snowdrop bells that they may bring
From their beds the flowerets fair!
Ringing soft—prepare! prepare!
    The time to rise,
    With smiling eyes,
The bridegroom sun is in the skies!

    Blow, breeze of spring!
    Blow soft and ring
The snowdrop bells, that they may bring
Flowers on her bride-path to fling,
Flowers to her who is my spring,
    To bid her rise,
    With smiling eyes,
Her bridal sun is in the skies !

 
ISA CRAIG.

――――♦――――

 
GLORY AND BEAUTY.


TWO wandered where the waves had been that day,
Over the shining sand; the shining sea
Rolled back before them, making them a way
To walk the ocean floor exultingly.
A pearl, a rainbow gem, becomes each one
Of the bruised shells their glistening path that paves;
While round and round them swims the sinking sun
Flashed from the swaying mirrors of the waves,
And these two souls burn with a living glow,
Not from those flooding splendours caught, but lit
At their eternal source—He utters it,
Saying, "If I loved not, I could not know
The meaning of the glory which I see;
But as I love, so would I shine for thee."

 
II.


Soft blue and grey, soft grey and misty blue
Is sea and sky from circle unto cope;
And the twin colours mingle in one hue,
Tender and dim like flowers of heliotrope.
The hills are hid, or seem but darker clouds,
A veil of shadow falling to their feet—
Each lovely line the folding darkness shrouds,
And melts the verge where cloud and billow meet.
Then after silence, the Beloved spake,
"See'st thou this soul of beauty, which I see
Lie perfect, at the touch of light to wake!
Tis thus I would be beautiful for thee;
That thou shouldst make my life uncoloured thine
And light it by thine own, and bid it shine."


ISA CRAIG.

――――♦――――

 
THE RAINBOW'S SECRET.


THE sky is dark with sullen clouds,
    The fields are sad with rain,
When breaks a light behind the hills
    And shines upon the plain,
And eyes that seldom look above
    Are lifted up on high,
With hope's old heart-beats to behold
    A rainbow in the sky.

A relic of less doubting days
    In childhood we were told,
That where the rainbow touched the earth
    There lay a key of gold;
And if one reached the radiant spot,
    To him it should be given
To find the key which would unlock
    The very gate of heaven.

Heaven touches earth on every side,
    We sayand this to see!
Where'er we stand the rainbow rests,
    And we have found the key.


ISA CRAIG.

Cassell's Magazine.

――――♦――――

 
AT LAST.


AT last we meet again!
    And utter no reproaches for the past
No need to tell him of my hidden pain,
    For he knows allat last!

Oh healing touch!once more,
    I take in mine the hand he cannot give,
The fixèd sweetness of that smile before,
    What bitterness can live?

Oh lips thus sealed for aye!
    I give the holy kiss ye cannot take
Death met returning love upon the way,
And the once broken bond, renewed to-day,
    Doth thus eternal make.

――――♦――――

 
THE WAY IN THE WOOD.


A WOOD lies on the shore,
Fill'd with murmurs, as each tree
Learn'd the music of the sea,
Which it heareth all the day,
Ever growing more and more,
Or fading far away.

And standing on that shore,
The past comes back to me,
In that music of the sea,
And that murmur of the wood,
Ever fading far away,
Yet evermore renewed.

In the weird and ancient wood,
There are fairy lights that fall,
Never by the sunshine made;
And a flicker and a shade,
Where no substance is at all;
There are thrilling touches laid
By no hand on head and shoulder;
Things that peep from leaf and blade
And blossom, when there's no beholder;
And we walk as in a story
Through the gloom and through the glory
Of the weird and ancient wood.

Through the gloom and through the glory
Of the ancient wood beheld,
Comes in glimpses, like her story,
A maiden of the times at Eld;
Like a young fawn, unafraid,
Straying through its own green glade.
Now a little rill she crosses,
Stealing through the velvet mosses,
From the hollow, where the trees
Stand in groups of twos and threes,
Wide-armed, bountiful and spread
As for blessing overhead;
While the thick grass underfoot
Shelters violets round each root,
And on tender lap receives
Soft the fall of dying leaves.

All along the maiden's way,
Glades are opening, glad and green,
Ever tempting her to stray
From the bare brown path between.
Some one surely called her name!
Was it but the wood-dove cooing?
And that beck'ning, was't the same
As the plumy ferns are doing?
In each foxglove bell the bee
Swings himself right merrily,
Every bell by turns he tries,
He is buried head and thighs!
Now on that side, now on this,
Does a bird his song repeat,
Quivering at its close with bliss
Far too full and far too sweet
For the little throat to utter?
Here a whirr, and there a flutter,
Here a coo, and there a call,
Here a dart and there a spring,
Token'd happy creatures all.
Now and then awhile she stood,
Wishful that they might come near her,
Wistful half that they should fear her,
Silence in their attitude.

Now the sunny noon is high,
And upon a bank she sits,
Shade on shade around her flits—
On the bank's embroidery—
Star and heart of leaf inwrought,
Mazy as a poet's thought—
One doth rest beside the maid
In the mystic light and shade.
Into silence sweet subdued,
In the dim heart of the wood
Many paths together meet,
And companionship is sweet.

Sounds as of a river flowing
Through the forest depths are going,
And the distant murmurs seem
Like a river in a dream,
For the path is carried far
Over precipice and scaur,
And beneath it runs the river,
Flowing onward, flowing ever,
Drawing down the little rills
From the rocks and from the hills,
To the bosom of the sea.
Here the daisies disappear,
Shadows on the pathway brown
Falling ever thicklier down,
Something like a thrill of fear
Touches trembling lip and limb,
And the violets in her eyes,
Blue beneath the open skies,
Seem to grow more large and dim,
Round and round, for rood on rood,
Trees are growing, trees are throwing
Shades of ill and shades of good,
Arms of shelter fondly flinging,
Arms of murder fiercely clinging,
Stifling in their close embraces,
Throes of terror and affright,
While some meekly in their places
Die of pining for the light.

Closely heart to heart will beat,
Closley lip with lip will meet,
Where the branch and bow embraces,
And the light and shade enlaces;
Hands of trust in his she places,
And her heaven is in his eyes,
Link'd together as they rise
To go forward but he chooses
Smoother than he would, refuses
Peril for her sake;—thus may
He be guarded still in guarding,
And be guided still in guiding,
Ill from the belovèd warding,
Blessing to himself betiding.

In mid-forest oaks and beeches,
Thick and tow'ring, hold the ground;
By the river's winding reaches
Trees of every leaf are found;
Here the ash with arms all knotted,
Into anguish'd writhings grew;
Here the sickly alder rotted;
On a mound an ancient yew;
And the willows in the water
Trail'd their tresses silver grey;
Aspen, when the low wind caught her,
Sigh'd through every trembling spray;
Lady birch so light and gay,
Something sad that wind had taught her,
For each slender limb would quiver:
While upon the moaning river,
Flags of drownèd lilies lay.

In the forest depths unknown,
Once more is the maid alone;
And she hears the moaning river,
Hears the ivy near her shiver,
Hears the rain upon the leaves,
Beating with a sound that grieves;
On the path her feet are slipping,
'Tween the river and the rock,
All the adder's-tounges are dripping,
Wet is every ruddy lock
Of her hair, and where she lays
Her small lily hand, and stays
Trembling steps, the worm is crawling,
Toads beneath her feet are sprawling,
And her very soul is faint
With the dank air's deathly taint.

She hath reaches a tree whose head
Still is green, whose heart is dead;
Her wet robe about her clings,
And she sinks upon the ground,
Heedless of the loathy things,
Where her slain knight she hath found,
Lying white among the green
Of the ferns that strive to screen,
From the staring of the light,
Those dead eyes, a ghastly sight.

By the river sat the maiden,
With the burden of her pain:
Downward flow'd the river laden
With the burden of the rain:
In that dark and swollen flood,
Who had known the little rill
At the entrance of the wood?
Who had known that maiden still?
When the dismal pall of night
Came and wrapped her grief from sight;
And there rose upon the blast,
In the dark hours wailing past,
Mingled groan and shriek and sigh—
More than mortal agony.

Ere long in that solitude
Rose the forest sanctuary,
Where the holy dead they bury,
'Tween the murmur of the river,
And the murmur of the wood,
Fill'd with pleading sound for ever;
And a slain knight's mouldering bones
Rest beneath its chancel stones.

Yellow, yellow leaves
All grown pale with sighing!—
For the sweet days dead,
For the sad days dying,
Yellow, yellow leaves,
How the parting grieves!

Yellow, yellow leaves,
Falling, falling, falling!
Death is best, when hope
There is no recalling;
Yet O, yellow leaves,
How the parting grieves!


ISA CRAIG.

Good Words, July, 1864.

――――♦――――

 
POLAND, 1864.
(From the Victoria Magazine.)


"Cross my hands on my breast—Ah, too tight!
    See, ye cut with your cords!
But these for the base hands that bind me
    Are fitter than swords—
A moment, my sister, my friend,
    Hold my babe to my lips;
Let him know that I bore him—and this—
    If I die by their whips."

"They fall!   I am blind!   I am bound!
    I am bleeding to death!"—
Ah, merciful God, in that swoon
    Keep thou back the faint breath,
Keep the soul back awhile from the body!
    The lash of its score
Hath been cheated—the torture is over—
    She suffers no more.

Were they men who stood by, and who saw this,
    And struck not a blow?
Sure they are in bondage, already
    Their souls are brought low.
Like the soft tongue of water that lappeth
    The roots of a wall,
The curse of degen'rate blood sappeth
    A State to its fall.

Ruin shall smite the oppressor;
    But they, in their place,
Shall wait for the terrible angel
    Who hideth his face—
The future—with whom the sure vengance
    Of justice is stored,
Making even the might of the wronger
    The rod of the Lord.

Ruin—the free and the noble
    Fall not by this name;
And Poland, the martyr of nations,
    Immortal shall claim
A crown and a state never ending,
    And under her skies,
For each drop of blood she is spending
    A host shall arise.


ISA CRAIG.

Copied from the Preston Guardian, 19 March, 1864.

――――♦――――

 
THE GOLD BRIDGE.

A Legend of the Ninth Century.


SAXON Edmund 'gainst the Dane
    His East Angles led ;
Lost the day, and, fight in vain,
    Took to flight instead.

He might win another day
    Crown and kingdom back;
Could do neither if he lay
    In the heathens' track.

Fled by wood and fled by wold,
    Edmund, swift of foot,
Distanced at the Bridge of "Gold"
    All the hot pursuit.

In beneath the bridge he crept,
    Hiding from his foes,
Bubbling on the brooklet kept,
    Yet would nought disclose.

On her palfrey white and tame,
    Up there came a bride;
Up the wild pursuers came
    On the other side.

And they met upon the bridge;
    But, ere it was crost,
Looked the lady o'er the ridge,
    And the king was lost.

Knew him by the golden gleam
    On his armèd heel,
And his hiding by the stream
    Hastened to reveal—

She who had been Saxon maid,
    Now was Danish wife,
And to heathen hands betrayed
    Christian Edmund's life.

Of his hiding-place made ware,
    Him they dragged to light;
Bound his hands behind him there,
    In the lady's sight.

Set him in the sunny day,
    In their midst to stand,
Marks for their fleet arrows—stay—
    They have one demand.

"Give up Christ," to him they cry,
    "And take back thy crown;
All East Anglia for a lie,
    Take or lay it down!"

"Now," said Edmund, "if I could—
    Now I would not fly—
Give up Him who died for me?
    Not while I can die."

Stood he in the sunny day
    Where the green oaks grew;
Looked he on the sunny day,
    And the woods he knew.

One toss of his thick brown hair
    One quick glance above—
Ah! his kingdom was full fair,
    And full fair his love.

And she sat there in his sight,
    Who had lost him all—
For no curse a soul to blight,
    Christian lips may call.

But his anguish woke and cried
    Loud from shore to shore:
Bridge, let true and happy bride
    Never cross thee more!"

Singing through the sunny air,
    Sped the deadly flight,
In between his shoulders fair
    One sped deadly right.

But another where he fell
    O'er his body flew,
Sped as surely and as well,
    And the traitress slew.

To this day stands Edmund's word,
    For where he was slain,
Round by distant bridge or ford
    Goes the bridal train;
Never more a happy bride
    Crossed Gold Bridge again.


ISA CRAIG.


From Good Words, 1868.

――――♦――――

 

――――♦――――


THE RAVENS.


THROUGH the dark sky, an angry sea beneath him
        Breaking in lines of foam,
Flaps his black wings the bird of evil omen,
        Heavily flying home.

Back from his carrion feast the raven cometh,
        His sinister brood to feed;
They stretch their throats, they snatch the dainty morsel,
        Half choking in their greed.

"God feeds the ravens!"   "Does God feed the ravens?
        And if he does, what then?
He fed not these, when unto death they hungered—
        They died, and they were men!

"They died! they died! and there was none to pity,
        And none to help or save;
God knows, perhaps unto the hungry ravens
        Their flesh for food he gave.

"Some perished 'mid the desolate waste of waters,
        None hearing when they raved;
And some in cities filled to overflowing
        With food they vainly craved.

"Why should he feed me and leave them to perish?
        What am I more than these?"
"No hope for them, none for thyself dare cherish,
        O spirit ill at ease!"

"God feeds the ravens!   Yea, God feeds the ravens!
        What comfort canst thou draw?
The answer fails, even when the need is sorest—
        How shall we fill the flaw?"

" 'Twixt God's great plan and our poor comprehension,
        Unbounded is the scope!
And loving hearts in days of desolation
        Are the well-springs of hope.

"Because they live in the divine endeavour
        To bless their fellow-men,
Such hearts can keep their faith in God's for-ever,
        And say, 'Not now, but then.'"


ISA C. KNOX.


From Good Words, 1868.

――――♦――――

 
IN THE DARK *
BY ISA CRAIG.


HE is down!   He is struck in the dark!
    By command of his own;
By the men who had stood, as he said,
    "Like a wall"—each live stone
Moving into the death-gap, thus builded
    As soon as o'erthrown.
And their fire flashes swift at his word,
    He who meets it unknown
                                                In the dark!

Every man who fired shot then, obeying
    The Gen'ral's command,
With hot heart is thinking, it may be,
    His blood's on my hand:
Every man to his fellow is turning,
    Such comfort to gather,
As each finds in assurance that all,
    To a man, had died rather
                                                In the dark!

And strong in their hearts the assurance
    That he would say, "Wherefore
My own men I've marched with and fought with
    And wrestled in prayer for,
Stand ye thus self-accused?   Know ye not
    That ye did but in one
The will of the Lord and your duty,
    And both must be done
                                                In the dark?"

"Take this arm!   Take this life!   They are Thine!
    Life and work, soul and sword—
If my death serve Thee best, be it so:
    Thou, not death, art the Lord."
Thus the soul of the soldier arose
    To his God like a saint,
As he lay, yielding up unto death,
    In his blood, in his faint
                                                In the dark!

"Was this cause, I have led, Thine in truth?
    With strong crying and tears,
I have pled, with my soul, my God,
    And the right still appears,
That the State must be free to serve Thee—
    Search Thou out our confusions!
That, howe'er we may err by the way,
    We may reach Thy conclusions
                                                In the dark!"

"It was no deed of ours," said his foes,
    With a strange exultation,
That none of their side had laid low
    This one man of the nation:
They claim him—not one side or other,
    But both, now he's gone—
As brethren, their hero, their brother,
    And still they fight on
                                                In the dark!


* General Jackson was shot on the 2nd of May, by his own men,
   in the dark.


From Good Words, 1863.

――――♦――――

 
REST: AN ODE.

"Give us, O, give us rest!"


        BENEATH the hill
        The lake lies still;
A single cloudlet, sailing to the west,
        Moves in the boundless blue,
        Moves in that mirror too,
With motion most like rest.

Beside the stream
The blue flowers dream;
On banks grass-muffled, mute
To tread of any foot,
The trees stand back, that so
Their murmurs may be low;
Leaning together, by one whisper stirred,
To drown the voice of that audacious bird.

        The great sea lies,
        By tender skies
Embraced, till, lowering his foamy crest,
        Up to the shore he slips,
        A murmur on his lips,
As he too prayed for rest.
        "Give us, O, give us rest!"

        In vain,
Nature, upon her child,
With her fair face hath smiled!
She cannot ease his pain:
        She has no balm
        That throbbing heart to calm,
Or drive thought's hurrying crowd from that dis-
                tracted brain:
The mournful mother rocks him on her breast,
        She cannot give him rest.

        For rest
Have all men laboured, all the centuries round:
        O quest!
By all men followed and by none yet found:
The task-like spell, by wicked wizard bound,
Grows with the labour; with the boon the need;
The distance seems to lengthen with the speed;
        The goal still to recede.

        The camel kneels,
        With mute appeals
In her mild eyes, against the crushing load;
        At the sharp-pricking goad,
        The ox, with mighty strain,
Lowers his broad front in menace vain,
His strong, fierce neck is tugging at the yoke;
        And quivering to the stroke,
Upon his mission speeds the fiery horse,
Nor spares his generous life to close the headlong
                course.

        Nature at length,
        As fain that man should rest,
Gives up her deeper secrets to his prayer;
        To his behest
Her mighty forces shall obedience yield,
        Her empire he shall share,
        Yea! he shall wield
        All her resistless strength;
Even that which heaved the mountains, and which
                moves
The starry wheels in their unerring grooves.

        With grind and groan,
        With clank and moan,
Their task the prisoned forces ply;
        The great wheels fly
As if they wove the web of fate;
And to and fro, amid the roar,
Squalid creatures pace the floor;
Slaves of those iron wheels are they,
Bound their impulse to obey,
And upon their bidding wait;
While to their service dumb,
        Not only men are given,
        But childish troops are driven,
And women come,
Till every heart with weariness is numb.

        Still nature grants
Fresh creatures of her power man's needs to serve.
        Lo! a fierce creature pants
To do his bidding and his burdens bear;
        And its keen nerve
Hath the tamed lightning in his service spent,
As laden with his message forth it went,
        Nor moved the midnight air.

        But faster beat
The hearts to whom that message comes.
        "Haste! make the task complete;
        Haste! let the rousing drums
Gather strong men to do the work of war!"
And wide and far,
As speeds the message, hands their labour ply
Faster; the forge upon the midnight sky
Sends up a steadier glare,
While instruments of death shriek bodings of despair.

        Now he shall rest!
The mighty mother takes him to her breast.
O mockery! this is not the rest he craves
This dread, this utter stillness is the grave's.

        What voice doth dare
Say "I will" to the Universal prayer?
        Above the din,
        The strife and sin,
Of toiling centuries, sounds the bidding blest!
        "Come, I will give you rest."
(Not to lay down your burdens, but to bear!
'Tis but to learn the yoke of love to wear.)
And weariest of the weary, as was meet,
Walking those centuries with bleeding feet,
Obeyed, and found that Rest unutterably sweet.


ISA CRAIG.

From Good Words, 1863.

――――♦――――

 
ST. ELMO.


THE fresh and fragrant morning was abroad;
Over the lonely land the light of God
Flung out a flood of full, rejoicing life,
As to St. Elmo passed Cellano's wife.
There is no morning where the captive dwells,
O dark St. Elmo! in thy dungeon cells,
Where now the soldier-jailer leads the way,
Down into darkness from the light of day.
The bolts are drawn there rushes forth an air
As if the pest had been imprisoned there;
She trembles; not the faltering of fear
But of a long-sought joy at length brought near,
There sits the prisoner!

                                  But hope is dead
Within him, and he hardly lifts his head,
Until the words, "husband!" met his ear,
When with a cry 'twas terrible to hear,
Such years of anguish in its accents wailed
He sprang his chain's length, yet to reach her failed,
Then with his hands, as if by shame assailed,
His face he covered.
                                  When he raised his head
They were alone; the bolts again had sped.

He was the first to speak: his cheek was dry
While she wept wildly.   "Darling, I can die,
But cannot weep," he said; "Why blind with
                      tears
Eyes that have wasted all those weary years
With longing for these looks?"

                                  And now a light
Bursts on the dungeon's long-enduring night;
A stone withdrawn lets in a flight of rays
From a high grating; now indeed they gaze
Upon each other's faces, till again
Silence is broken with a sob of pain.
"O martyred husband!   See thy wasted hands,
Almost escape the iron's cruel bands!
How art thou changed!   Thy noble head grown
                      grey;
Thy manhood wasted in this foul decay;
Am I too changed?   I should be changed too!
I've grudged myself the light not shared by you;
Never breathed freely of the bounteous air
Shut out from thy close prison; tasted not
The sweetness of aught sweet; of all things fair
Forgot the fairness in this one dark spot."

"Enough! enough, beloved!   Each word now
Must answer for a thousand.   Tell me how
Of Italy?   Our Friends?   Our Children?   Home?
And by what way of wonder thou hast come?"

She answered, "Hush!   I shall not haste to go—
The land hath peace, a prisoner's peace!   Yet glow
The patriot fires, 'neath raked-up ashes deep,
And our Volcano's treacherous silence keep,
E'er he begins to mutter in his sleep,
And not a vine-leaf trembles at his feet."

"Friends!   All thy noble friends who used to meet
At our fair villa; in its fragrant groves
To pace beneath the stars and tell their loves,
All one, all Italy's they share thy fate
Or envy it in exile.

                                  At the gate,
I left our daughters, in thy father's arms,
Such as I was when first my childish charms
Drew thy great heart toward me.   And thy son,
Thy loved Aurelio! our little one,
Cradled the year they took thee he has been
Three days in Heaven, or else I had not seen
Thy face, beloved!   On my lap he lay
One golden evening, dying with the day;
And at the hour when he was wont to say
His evening prayer, he clasped his hands to pray:
Deliverance from prison and from death
That prayer besought for thee!   But his sweet
                      breath
Failed at thy name.   He smiled, and dying so,
I kissed his darling lips and bade him go
With that petition to Christ's thronèd feet.
And well I know he reached the heavenly seat,
For until then, in vain, to see thy face,
I prayed to enter even this dreadful place."

"Deliverance," he groaned; "Ay, it shall be
When Death, the great Deliverer, sets me free:
But yet when thou art gone and darkness falls,
Since thou hast stood between me and these walls,
Still on the blank thy features I shall trace,
And their sweet light shall lighten all the place."

"To share thy prison was the price I paid
To see thee for a moment."   Then she said,
"They knew not who demanded it that they
Increased the boon by all they made me pay.
Why groan, Philippo?"

                                  "Oh! my noble wife,
What torture!   When you shared my happy life
Joy was twice joy when thine and mine made two,
And twice must pierce the pang that falls on you.
Our children call thee!"

                                  "Stay, in pity cease;
The bond is made, and there is no release.
And though each door should proffer me a way
Back to all bliss, I would not choose but stay.
And here what holy vigils we shall hold,
What treasures hidden in our hearts unfold,
No tyrant's hand can touch "

                                  A dream of bliss
Dawned, and they both were silent.   Who is that
That enters?   From each other's arms they start
To hear the mocking mandate.   They must part,
Part, prisoners both, but not together; doomed
To drag despairing years apart entombed,
Each suffering double anguish.

Let tyrants tremble!   Every mourning groan
From these dark dungeons shook a tottering throne;
The HERO with his daring hundreds came,
And at the shout of Garibaldi's name,
Fell the dark walls of many a living tomb,
And morning burst upon its midnight gloom.
'Mong those who hailed that resurrection birth,
And rose to freedom on Italian earth
From dark St. Elmo into light and life,
There passed Cellano and his noble wife.


ISA CRAIG.

From Good Words, 1863.

――――♦――――

 
THE SCHOOLMISTRESS.


SHE was little more than twenty
    When she came to our village school.
To rule in her noisy kingdom,
    With a firm and steadfast rule.
A figure slight, nor wanting
    In dignity and grace;
A mind and will unbending,
    In the colourless thin face.

She lived in the cottage school-house,
    That rose-bower by the gate;
But never a friend or lover,
    Came to her bower to wait.
Alone she lived, attended
    By her little scholar-maid,
But her lamp was often burning
    Till the summer stars would fade.

Orphaned she was, and lonely,
    Though on her birth had smiled
All that was best and brightest
    From love's fount undefiled.
Her father fell in the army—
    And a noble army they—
Who fight against Death the slayer,
    And not for those who slay.

But his own death slew another,
    And a new-born babe beside,
And they made one grave to hold them,
    A grave both deep and wide.
A home with her father's kindred
    The orphan Alice found;
Too young, they said, to miss them,
    Who slept thus underground.

Miss them! she missed them daily,
    Though she knew not what she missed;
She was only one too many,
    To be clothed and fed and kissed.
So she grew up cold and lonely,
    A little unlovely too;
As the young with much of sorrow
    Or little of love will do.

Not quite a Cinderella,
    She was clothed and fed and kissed;
Of their worldly gifts they gave her,
    'Twas the love in the gifts she missed.
The love, and one gift, one only,
    Coveted more than all,
She humbled herself to gather
    Its crumbs from their feast let fall;

She would gather its veriest fragments,
    Were they trodden in the mire,
She would rake in the veriest ashes
    For a spark of its living fire.
There came to her no fairy,
    With wonder-working wand;
But lo! as she toiled unaided,
    She had entered the fairy-land.

Recalled, she pined for freedom,
    When they claimed her all, her life,
For a round of petty duties,
    With her larger aims at strife.
And they said she was ungrateful,
    Self-willed, unloving, hard;
It was partly true, for she told them,
    Love was its own reward.

They scoffed at the poor ambition,
    That led to a village school,
Freedom! she called that freedom;
    The girl must be a fool!
But freedom to her meant knowledge,
    No lower, meaner prize;
'Twas the deeds of all the noble,
    'Twas the thoughts of all the wise!

And yet there was something lacking,
    Something unknown, untold;
In the plain daylight of duty,
    Her gains would seem fairy gold.
At times she felt sad and lonely,
    And will it be believed?
She pined for the petty duties,
    For the petty cares she grieved.

She knew not what was lacking.
    Knew not until it came;
She gave it the name of friendship,
    But that was not its name.
And the truth could not be hidden
    From her own clear-seeing eyes,
When the name her own heart whispered,
    And whispered too, "Be wise."

"I will be wise," she answered,
    With a bright defiant smile;
"Because he may one day famish,
    Is he wise who starves the while?
No future loss can equal,
    Or rob me of this my gain,
While I have the power of loving
    With heart and soul and brain.''

So she toyed, and she was happy,
    As if walking in Paradise;
Nay, as Heaven he seemed above her,
    This love of her own heart's choice.
It was not his birth or riches,
    But that he was born to bless
With the treasures of his wisdom,
    And the wealth of his tenderness.

He was lord of many acres,
    Yet his soul knew naught of pride;
For the love and help of many,
    Like his Lord, he would have died.
She loved and she was happy—
    The blossom predicts the fruit—
And all her nature blossomed,
    Like a plant that has taken root.

The friends of her orphan childhood
    She sought and was reconciled;
She could spare the strength to be tender,
    With the warmth at her heart she smiled.
And the children took to love her,
    She was gentler day by day;
One would bring her a bunch of daisies,
    Another a branch of may.

Ever her little mirror
    Bore witness to the change
For to love the face within it
    Was something new and strange.
She had looked before and seen it,
    So thin and hard and grey,
Looked, that her hair and collar
    Were smooth and in trim array.

And it seemed a revelation,
    The smile that now met her there,
Yes, it was almost lovely!
    Yes, she was almost fair!
Once she drew near the mirror,
    And the cold reflection kissed.
Did it not wake the dreamer,
    The warmth she must have missed?

No; and the gain grew greater
    And greater day by day—
Under the sacred impulse
    She learnt anew to pray.
And God and Christ were nearer,
    And the hope of life above,
For on earth no light is clearer
    Than the holy light of love.

Did he come at length to woo her,
    Out of her plain estate,
And make the simple maiden
    Equal in love, his mate?
Nay, nay, he only knew her,
    As he knew the flowers that blow,
Blessing them for their sweetness,
    Perhaps it was better so.

In the not too distant future,
    The school-house was left behind,
She had won both love and honour,
    And her place in the world of mind.
And she had his children's kisses,
    And his own most sacred tears,
When he left them to her keeping,
    With their love for all her years.


ISA CRAIG-KNOX

From Good Words, 1878.


――――♦――――

 


 

THE MILL IN THE VALLEY.

BY MRS. JOHN KNOX.


   
THE wheel went round,
    And the corn was ground,
And the seasons came and went;
    The wheel went round,
    And the corn was ground,
And the miller was well content.

    Sunshine and shade
    For ever play'd
In the valley about the mill;
    Like the changes wrought
    By the changing thought
Of the heart that is never still.

    From the heart of the hills
    The water trills,
And leaps down the rocky stairs—
    The same yet never
    The same for ever
Its stream to the sea it bears.

    Each stone left bare
    To the dewy air
Is cover'd with velvet moss;
    Flowers every chink,
    To the water's brink,
Where the branches reach across.

    Over the plank,
    From bank to bank,
Would the miller's children trip,
    To the hillside fields,
    Where the brown goat yields
Her milk, and the white kids skip.

    And the miller's son
    Would take his gun,
And out on the mountains tarry;
    The miller's daughter
    Stray by the water,
And love her love and marry.

    Thus the wheel went round,
    And the corn was ground,
And the seasons came and went;
    The wheel went round,
    And the corn was ground,
And the miller was well content.

    Yet into the light,
    And into the night,
Uplifted and ever nigh,
    The mountains stand,
    Upon either hand,
With their awful heads on high:

    With their unseen tracts,
    And their cataracts
Unheard in the lower zones;
    And the jewels that burn
    On their crowns, and turn,
When reach'd, to cold grey stones:

    Their shadows vast,
    On the valleys cast,
And the thunders pealing thence;
    And the shapes they take,
    And the dreams they wake,
And their silences intense.

    The shadows crept,
    Then the shadows slept
On the valley one eventide;
    In the house of the mill,
    While the wheel stood still,
The grey-hair'd miller died.

    The wheel goes round,
    And the corn is ground,
And the seasons come and go,—
    Winter and summer,
    And each new comer
Content that it should be so.

    For the next who came
    The mill to claim,
Away in his youth had roved;
    But never more
    Would he wander o'er
The mountains from those he loved.

    For he brought his wife,
    And the baby life
She held on her pure young breast;
    Not half so divine
    The holiest shrine,
He held, had he truth confest.

    Over vale and hill,
    To the little mill
He guided her, strong and wary;
    As St. Joseph might,
    In the days of flight
Have guided THE SON and Mary.

    He was bringing there
    A saint.   In prayer
To the hills she raised her eyes,
    And their shadows fell
    As into a well
Where the star of evening lies.

    And the wheel went round,
    And the corn was ground,
And the seasons came and went;
    The wheel went round,
    And the corn was ground,
And the miller was well content.

    At the glad sunrise,
    The holy eyes
Of that mother young and saintly
    Were upward cast,
    And her gaze fell last
On the mountains burning faintly.

    And their ways she trod,
    Going up to God
With all the love he had given.
    "Whenever I tread
    On the hills," she said,
"I seem to be nearing Heaven."

    Of the wild fir-wood
    She made a rood,
And taking her little son,
    Set it in sight,
    On the highest height
She could reach e'er day was done.

    And she took him there
    For their evening prayer,
And the shadows fell around;
    And the miller would come,
    And bring them home,
As treading on holy ground.

    But her cheek grew pale,
    And her feet would fail,
As the summer waned and went;
    Her eyes went still
    To the cross on the hill,
But alas! her strength was spent.

    The shadows crept,
    And the shadows slept,
At the close of the autumn day,
    On the house at the mill,
    Where all was still,
But the water on its way.

    From her lips, just press'd
    To all love's best,
Faded the smile of love.
    There was still a light
    On the highest height,
And a light her brow above.

    Her eyes she turn'd
    Where the glory burn'd,
Higher and higher yet!
    Then a shadow fell
    On her brow as well,
And they knew the sun had set.

    And the mill goes round,
    And the corn is ground,
And the miller is well content;
    He is not the same
    As he who came
When the grey-hair'd miller went.


From Good Words, 1866.


――――♦――――

 
PETERMANN'S LAND.

A.D. 1870.

["Dr. Petermann believes that an isolated Norse population
will be found at the Pole."]


INTERPRETER.


HUNGER hath wasted them and they are few,
    They say, because of strife among their gods—
Ghosts of the old Norse, fighting, drinking crew,
    One groans, another nods.


EXPLORER.

 
All things are ghostlike in this ghostly land—
    A land of silence and the shades of death:
In presence of a spectral race we stand,
    And speak beneath our breath.

Out of the darkness ice-built cities rise,
    And glow and sparkle in unearthly light;
Veil'd stars, in these phantasmagorean skies,
    Gleam through a rosy night.

And the long twilight passes like a dream,
    A dream of many days that dimly change,
In which the things, the most familiar, seem
    Through muffled senses strange.

White is each ghostly thing that runs or flies;
    The white bear steals; the white hare's shadow
            fleets;
The owls that flit, and stare with hollow eyes,
    Are white as winding-sheets.

The sun comes up o'er the horizon's rim,
    Shorn of his rays, and red, and round and blear'd;
And in his dotage bald and old and dim
    Apollo seems unsphered.

Still at his touch, on sudden, the dumb show
    Stirs, wakes, and lives; snows melt; the valleys
            green;
The birds begin to build; the springs to flow;
    The deer with young are seen.


CAPTAIN.


I'd rather hear the icebergs splitting crack
    (So they kept clearish of my good ship's side),
Or grinding thunder of the breaking pack,
    Than round these dead shores glide.


INTERPRETER.


They hold traditions of descent from Heaven:
    From out another Eden, long since lost.
Their heroes, by the adverse gods, were driven,
    Who broke the bridge they cross'd.


CAPTAIN.


Come let us take the poor souls with us back
    To England there's an Eden to my mind!—


EXPLORER.


Tell them beyond that southward shining track
    Their Eden they will find.


INTERPRETER.


This from of old was held by all their race—
    Whose souls in passing made the water burn—
And many have gone forth to find the place,
    But none, they say, return.


EXPLORER.


From thence are we: tell them of flower and tree,
    Of lands of summer, and of corn and vine.


INTERPRETER.


How shall I paint for eyes that cannot see—
    They have no word for wine.


EXPLORER.


Tell them with us the sun shines every day,
    And like a brother goes with us to sleep.


INTERPRETER.


The dread of darkness in their souls alway,
    They ask if watch we keep.


EXPLORER.


None die of cold or hunger in our land—
    May God forgive the lie—at least none need.


INTERPRETER.


With wistful eyes, they say they understand,
    But all in vain I plead.


EXPLORER.


Then ere we leave them in this land of night,
    Which Christian feet may never tread again;
Let us impart to them the living light
    We hold as Christian men.

Tell them the Father made the things we see,
    Though Him we see not; that the living Son
Was seen of men, and died that we might be,
    Like Him, with God at one;

And that the Spirit, guiding us alway,
    Hath sent us here—yea—this we must believe.


INTERPRETER.


I say the words as simply as I may,
    And they the words receive.

And lo! they will leave all with us to fare
    Through fire and ice, the dark and the abyss;
That they the guiding Spirit too may share—
    They will brave death for this.


EXPLORER.


God help them! if we reach our promised land
    (What of the much required where all is given?)
How shall we teach these souls to understand,
    That they must wait for Heaven?


ISA CRAIG.

From Good Words, 1865.

 

――――♦――――

 
ON BOARD THE ARGOSY.


OUR thoughts are ships that go,
Blown by a breath, and with their fit words freighted,
All up and down the world; we never know,
When we have sent them forth, if they are fated
To find a haven, or to sink below
Oblivion's waters that about them flow;
Whether they'll come again, with riches weighted,
Having made merchandize
With other thoughts—exchange that duly rated
Each gives yet gains the prize—
Or running swift aground,
Be left amid the ooze to drift and flounder;
Or unseaworthy found
In the first stress of weather leak and founder.

Our thoughts are ships; some ply
A safe and simple trade in common things,
Creeping about the coasts of certainty,
And borne upon the tide that duly brings,
Sleeping and waking, needs, necessities:
This little coasting trade let none despise,
None may dispense with it, and so it should
Teach us the virtues of good neighbourhood,
And fetch and carry daily charities.

Some venture farther forth,
To realms remote, still for no doubtful gain:
From east to west, from south to utmost north,
To make man free of earth, his fair domain;
Such commerce one great nation makes of men,
The world their city, each a citizen.

Our thoughts are ships that track
The unknown—that ocean of immensity,
Watched by eternal stars—and few there be
That from the first horizon turn not back;
Yet some have bravely gone
Hoping new heavens and a new earth to find,
Like him who in his glorious dreams divined
Half of the world lay hid, and on and on
Held with the sunsets through the pathless seas,
And saw the land at length—such dreams as these
Conquer the kingdoms of realities.

The wonder-land of dreams!
Our thoughts are ships, the only ships, that sail
On its enchanted streams.
And when day's last light dims,
And the moon's hollow boat of silver pall
To westward dancing swims;
Or steers through white cloud billows,
Or through the shadowy willows,
In a magic light of the water's birth
That is neither of heaven, nor yet of earth,
A floating phantom gleams.
And the dream-boat glides and we glide with it,
And we seem to sit as one might sit
In the hollow of the moon reclining,
As it moves o'er the hills and the rivers shining.

And in that marvel land
Changed are all things, as by enchanter's wand;
Near are the heavenly things that were afar,
The things that were not are.
Far sweeter is its sadness—
And the winds there are woven out of sighs—
Than any earthly gladness.
The love there never dies—
And it is full of laughters,
And song floats on its airs,
And it hath no despairs,
But heavens of hereafters.

Our Argonauts are still
The seër, and the singer, and the sage;
Our Mopsus and our Idmon still engage
Nature and Destiny interpreting
To utter things to come, and have the skill
To know the speech of birds;
And wonder-working words
Still wound, and heal, and make alive, and kill;
The Healer still we take
For leader, he who from his stores can bring
Fresh draughts the spirit's fever thirst to slake;
Or can that essence make
Wisdom's elixir vitæ, yet distilled
By some rare souls, with life's true knowledge filled.

And though our Argosy
Moves not to music o'er a charmëd strand
Nor golden fleece, on serpent-guarded tree,
Tempt us to visit famed or fabled land;
Nor silver-footed lady of the sea
Rises to help us in our straits, yet we
Launch forth in hope, in these despairing days
Launch bravely forth and hope new orphics yet to raise.


ISA CRAIG.

From The Argosy, 1866.

 

――――♦――――

 
FAIR PLAY.


A MAD game, my masters!
    Played under the moon;
The sun, round and red,
    Was bowled over too soon
For the match to be won
    In the short afternoon.

A mad game, my masters!
    Away the ball spins,
With rushing and shouting
    And kicking of shins;
Hard to tell, in the pell-mell,
    Who loses, who wins.

A mad game, my masters!
    But all cry "Fair play,"
"Hold hard," and "No tripping,"
    In thick of the fray,
And take the kicks kindly
    That come in their way.

A mad game, my masters!
    The crush is complete;
Each struggles to win,
    And all suffer defeat,
While the ball lies at rest
    Within reach of their feet.

A mad game, my masters!
    Played over the ice,
Which creaks with each rush,
    And may crack in a trice—
Well —life has some games
    That are never played twice.

"A mad world, my masters!"
    Let's stick, in beginning,
To the rules of the game,
    Whether losing or winning;
Fair play, and no malice,
    Will keep the ball spinning.


ISA CRAIG.

From The Argosy, 1866.

 


 

――――♦――――

 
THE VISION OF SHEIK HAMIL.


UP on the terrace Sheik Hamil lay,
    In the fort of El-Hamëd, hot in the sun;
But he heeded not the heat of the day
    Nor how much of its course had run.

The bleat of the sheep came up to his ear,
    Now a camel would cry, now a horse would snort,
And the tongues of the women he could hear,
    As they moved about in the court.

At length there softened and died away
    The grind of the mill and the fountain's gush;
No one moved in the heat of the day,
    And there fell on the fort a hush.

All the more that the master there,
    Under the shadow by Asrael cast,
Had sat apart since the hour of prayer,
    And had not broken his fast.

None to Sheik Hamil went near on the days
    When his household knew that his soul was sad;
Though they ceased not to shake the head in amaze
    When such dolorous days he had.

But cause for his grief that day there was—
    The wife of his youth had taken her leave:
If e'er he had sorrowed without a cause,
    Now he bad cause to grieve.

Fatima, wife of his youth, was dead—
    Of slaves he had many, of wives but one—
"There is but one God for the soul," he said,
    "And but one moon for the sun."

Now on the terrace he lay and gazed
    Afar, where the sky and the desert meet;
Beyond the fields where his cattle grazed,
    And the gardens stretched at his feet.

Burning and bright was the golden sand,
    Burning and blue was the sapphire sky;
And where they met on the verge of the land,
    Infinity touched infinity.

Sheik Hail went up at the hour of prayer,
    And there he had wept till the hour of noon,
And what with the weeping and fasting there,
    His senses began to swoon.

Then he thought, "On the eye and the head!
    I will go down and strengthen mine heart,
I will enter my house and there eat bread,
    And take my horse and depart.

"Joy of the desert will fill me then,
    And make mine eyes from their weeping cease;
The name of God be praised among men,
    For my soul shall thus have peace."

As he had thought, Sheik Hail did,
    Or ever the hour had run its course—
Entered his house and ate, and bid
    Them saddle his swiftest horse.

As he had thought lo! it was done,
    The horse was brought, and mounted; and sped,
In the very hour of the sun which shone,
    From the gate of El-Hamëd.

Into the desert, as he had thought,
    Straight he darted and, in the race,
Past the wind on its way he shot,
    And he turned to look in its face.

The fort had vanished! for lo! between
    The horse had measured a mighty space.
Such riding Sheik Hail had not seen,
    And still they went on apace.

Then he looked down, and not from the stall
    Had come the steed which he now bestrode
"God is God," he breathed, "over all—"
    The horse of his youth he rode:

The horse that had hasted to die for him,
    When they reached the wells, and the wells had dried;
On whose neck he had wept, when his eye grew dim,
    At the water's brink where he died.

Had he lived to taste the stream that day?
    He knew not—but stooping, he kissed his neck,
And with long light bounds he bore him away
    With a speed that knew no check.

Then the delight of the desert filled
    Sheik Hail's soul, and he drank new wine,
And his heart beat high, and his grief was stilled,
    And he breathed a life divine.

They journeyed far, and they journeyed fast—
    Hamil the Sheik, on that mighty horse,
Saw that the groves and the wells were past,
    And that still they held on their course.

At length they came to a shining wall,
    And the horse stood still and turned his head,
And spoke—"My master, may good befall;
    But I leave thee here," he said.

The wall was of ruby in mighty blocks,
    And over it, blowing through fountains fair,
Came breezes perfumed like scented locks;
    But never a gate was there.

And the horse had vanished, and lo, he stood
    Ankle deep in the drifting sand,
Alone, and famished for lack of food,
    By the wall of this watered land.

"An entrance hither thou shalt not win,
    If thou seek for a gate these thousand years,
Save by naming a name and entering in
    When a cleft in the wall appears."

He named the name that is over all,
    And falling forward in fainting pain,
He touched, with a touch, the ruby wall,
    And it cleft, at his touch, in twain.

And he entered in, and of sweets distilled
    By the trees of God—whose name be praised—
He ate, and drank till his soul was filled,
    And his heart to heaven was raised.

Then the old sadness, the old unrest,
    That ever and ever Sheik Hail drove
Into the desert, woke in his breast,
    And he hurried from grove to grove.

Seeking, yet knowing not what he sought,
    To an ivory palace at length he came,
And the doors were a thousand, of silver wrought,
    Yet not one door was the same.

"Only one will open to thee,
    And thou may'st not ask, is it this, or this?
But unto none other, by God's decree,
    Will it open, if thou shouldst miss."

Thus said the voice; and he, if he missed,
    Knew he must die of his longing sore;
"God is God," he said, as he kissed,
    And opened the silver door!

And the hand that drew him within and led
    To the ivory seats with cushions of silk,
By the silver fountain with perfume fed,
    Was Fatima's hand of milk.

And there she unveiled to him her face,
    Fair as the moon and clear as the day,
And there on his breast, the filled full of grace,
    The best, the beloved, lay.

It was she who arose and led him still
    Through other chambers of life and bliss,
Set forth with all fruits his soul to fill,
    And opening all at her kiss.

At length they came to another door,
    And, "Here I must enter alone," she said—
And her eyes looked not the same as before
    As she kissed, and veiled her head.

And she entered in, and he saw her not,
    In the dread of the darkness behind that door,
And he felt his feet cleave fast to the spot,
    And he swooned on the marble floor.

And lo! he lay on the drifting sand,
    Where a wall of sapphire rose to the sky;
And beyond the wall was a shining land,
    And he saw the beloved fly—

Fly on wings, like the wings of a dove;
    Changed to a dove, with her wings of white!
Leaving him, faint with the longing of love,
    Unable to follow her flight.

And the voice he had heard, holding far aloof,
    Said, "Feet may not follow where she has fled—"
And he woke, and a dove rose up from the roof,
    And the wife of his youth was dead.


ISA CRAIG.

From The Argosy, 1866.

 

――――♦――――

 
EVENING LIGHT.


DAY—a happy harvest day—
    Passes peaceful to its close;
Labour loiters, pauses play,
    And for both awaits repose.

Over fields of gathered sheaves
    Flocks of fleecy clouds have strayed;
Over bowers of autumn leaves
    Gloom and gleam alternate played.

Now the skies on either hand
    Part like seas, and clouds sail o'er,
To the golden pebbled strand
    Of a white celestial shore.

Now the shore is growing grey!
    All grows grey from east to west!
And half sad we turn away,
    With a dim and vague unrest.

Turn again! the sun is low,
    And a pale cloud, tinged with red,
Glows as swift as blushes glow,
    Spreads as swift as blushes spread.

Caught from cloud to cloud, the flush
    Deepens as it kindles still,—
In the west a burning blush,
    Fainter on the eastern hill.

Swiftly too the glory fades—
    Even as we gaze it dies;
Surely too the night invades,
    And the rapture sinks in sighs.

Like a vision of the just
    At his latter end it is—
Sober day of work and trust
    Evening glow as grand as this.

Life and labour both are done,
    Drawing near death's solemn night;
Yet, at setting of the sun,
    At the even-time is light!

Back o'er all his life it streams,
    All the round of life its sky;
Love is burning in its beams,
    Hope is lighting him to die.


ISA CRAIG.

From The Quiver, Vol. II., 1867.

 

――――♦――――

 
PRAYER AND PRAISE.

"THY WILL BE DONE."


    SWEET is the close of day,
    When all the fields are still;
Earth looks as if it list'ning lay
    For God to speak His will.

    In the clear round of sky
    On one side sinks the sun—
A solemn splendour, which the eye
    Scarce dares to look upon.

    While, on the other hand,
    The fair moon rises clear,
And harmonies swell wave-like grand,
    And flow from sphere to sphere.

    "God's will is done in heaven!"
    Comes from the setting sun;
And to the rising moon is given
    A voice, "His will be done!"

    Pale Venus, fiery Mars,
    Come forth as if by name;
God called out one by one His stars,
    And one by one they came.

    And in the midst I stand,
    Smitten with sudden awe—
These worlds go forth at God's command,
    His will their perfect law.

    Oh that I were as they,
    Unerring, swift to run
My course of blessing day by day!
    For so Thy will is done.

    Lord, make Thy law my will!
    As these I cannot be;
But help me freely to fulfil
    Thy purpose, loving, free!

    And in that law of love
    Make all our wills as one;
That, "as it is in Heaven above,"
    On earth "Thy will be done!"
 




MORNING GATES.


    AT the morning gates
        Praise awaits!
Morning gates that backward fold,
        Gates of gold!

    All that hath a voice
        Doth rejoice:
Gladly passing into light
        From the night.

    Birds of every wing
        Wake and sing—
Singing high, amid the glow,
        Singing low.

    Hills stand in the light,
        Still and bright;
They who close on glory gaze
        Mutely praise.

    Valleys lowly laid
        In the shade,
Murmur thanks for light renewed,
        Tear-bedewed.

    Flowers in every field
        Odours yield:
Thus their morning sacrifice
        Doth arise.

    More than flowers' breath
        Our song saith;
These living breaths of ours—
        Spirit flowers.

    More than high hills see,
        That can we—
Light of our God's face,
        His great grace.

    Praise birds cannot sing,
        Lord, we bring,
While we at Thy gates rejoice,
        Heart and voice.

    Praising God, we stand
        In a band;
In the morning of our days,
        Singing praise.


ISA CRAIG KNOX.


From The Sunday Magazine, 1869


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