man, upon the green hill-side,
With yellow flowers besprinkled o'er,
How long in silence wilt thou bide
At this low stone door?
'I stoop: within 't is dark and still;
But shadowy paths methinks there be,
And lead they far into the hill?'
'Traveller, come and see.'
' 'T is dark, 't is cold, and hung with gloom;
I care not now within to stay;
For thee and me is scarcely room,
I will hence away.'
'Not so, not so, thou youthful guest,
Thy foot shall issue forth no more:
Behold the chamber of thy rest,
And the closing door!'
'Oh! have I 'scaped the whistling ball,
And striven on smoky fields of fight,
And scaled the 'leaguered city's wall
In the dangerous night;
'And borne my life unharmèd still
Through foaming gulfs of yeasty spray,
To yield it on a grassy hill
At the noon of day?'
'Peace! Say thy prayers, and go to sleep,
Till some time, ONE my seal
And deep shall answer unto deep,
When He crieth, "AWAKE!" '
A LILY AND A LUTE.
(Song of the uncommunicated Ideal.)
I OPENED the eyes of my
A white river-lily: a lily awake, and aware—
For she set her face upward—aware how in scarlet
A long wrinkled cloud, left behind of the wandering
Lay over with fold upon fold,
With fold upon fold.
And the blushing sweet shame of the cloud made
her also ashamed,
The white river-lily, that suddenly knew she was fair;
And over the far-away mountains that no man hath
And that no foot hath trod,
Flung down out of heavenly places, there fell, as it
A rose-bloom, a token of love, that should make
Withdrawn in snow silence for ever, who keep
And look up to God.
Then I said, 'In rosy air,
Cradled on thy reaches fair,
While the blushing early ray
Whitens into perfect day,
River-lily, sweetest known,
Art thou set for me alone?
Nay, but I will bear thee far,
Where you clustering steeples are,
And the bells ring out o'erhead,
And the stated prayers are said;
And the busy farmers pace,
Trading in the market place;
And the country lasses sit
By their butter, praising it;
And the latest news is told,
While the fruit and cream are sold;
And the friendly gossips greet,
Up and down the sunny street.
For,' I said, 'I have not met,
White one, any folk as yet
Who would send no blessing up,
Looking on a face like thine;
For thou art as Joseph's cup,
And by thee might they divine.
'Nay! but thou a spirit art;
Men shall take thee in the mart
For the ghost of their best thought,
Raised at noon, and near them brought;
Or the prayer they made last night,
Set before them all in white.'
And I put out my rash hand,
For I thought to draw to land
The white lily. Was it fit
Such a blossom should expand,
Fair enough for a world's wonder,
And no mortal gather it?
No. I strove, and it went under,
And I drew, but it went down;
And the waterweeds' long tresses,
And the overlapping cresses,
Sullied its admired crown.
Then along the river strand,
Trailing, wrecked, it came to land,
Of its beauty half despoiled,
And its snowy pureness soiled:
O! I took it in my hand,—
You will never see it now,
White and golden as it grew:
No, I cannot show it you,
Nor the cheerful town endow
With the freshness of its brow.
If a royal painter, great
With the colours dedicate
To a dove's neck, a sea-bight,
And the flickerings over white
Mountain summits far away—
One content to give his mind
To the enrichment of mankind,
And the laying up of light
In men's houses—on that day,
Could have passed in kingly mood,
Would he ever have endued
Canvas with the peerless thing,
In the grace that it did bring,
And the light that o'er it flowed,
With the pureness that it showed,
And the pureness that it meant?
Could he skill to make it seen
As he saw? For this, I ween,
He were likewise impotent.
I opened the doors of my heart.
There was music within and a song,
And echoes did feed on the sweetness, repeating it
I opened the doors of my heart: and behold,
There was music that played itself out in eolian notes;
Then was heard, as a far-away bell at long intervals
That murmurs and floats,
And presently dieth, forgotten of forest and wold;
And comes in all passion again, and a tremblement
That maketh the listener full oft
To whisper, 'Ah! would I might hear it for ever
When I toil in the heat of the day,
When I walk in the cold.'
I opened the door of my heart.
There was music within, and a song.
But while I was hearkening, lo, blackness without,
thick and strong,
Came up and came over, and all that sweet fluting
I could hear it no more;
For the welkin was moaning, the waters were stirred
on the shore,
And trees in the dark all around
Were shaken. It thundered. 'Hark, hark! there is
The sullen long wave rears her head, and comes down
with a will;
The awful white tongues are let loose, and the stars
are all dead;—
There is thunder! it thunders! and ladders of light
Run up. There is thunder!' I said,
'Loud thunder! it thunders! and up in the dark
A down-pouring cloud, (there is thunder!) a down-
Hails out her fierce message, and quivers the deep in
And cowers the earth held at bay; and they mutter
And pause with an ominous tremble, till, great in
The heavens and earth come together, and meet with
And the fight is so fell as if Time had come down
with the flash,
And the story of life was all read,
And the Giver had turned the last
'Now their bar the pent water-floods
And the forest trees give out their language austere
And there flieth o'er moor and o'er
And there heaveth at intervals wide,
The long sob of nature's great passion as loth to
Until quiet drop down on the tide,
And mad Echo hath moaned herself
Lo! or ever I was 'ware,
In the silence of the air,
Through my heart's wide-open door,
Music floated forth once more,
Floated to the world's dark rim,
And looked over with a hymn;
Then came home with flutings fine,
And discoursed in tones divine
Of a certain grief of mine;
And went downward and went in,
Glimpses of my soul to win,
And discovered such a deep
That I could not choose but weep,
For it lay, a land-locked sea,
Fathomless and dim to me.
O, the song! it came and went,
Went and came.
I have not learned
Half the lore whereto it yearned,
Half the magic that it meant.
Water booming in a cave;
Or the swell of some long wave,
Setting in from unrevealed
Countries; or a foreign tongue,
Sweetly talked and deftly sung,
While the meaning is half sealed;
May be like it. You have heard
Also;—can you find a word
For the naming of such song?
No; a name would do it wrong.
You have heard it in the night,
In the dropping rain's despite,
In the midnight darkness deep,
When the children were asleep,
And the wife—no, let that be;
SHE asleep! She knows right well
What the song to you and me,
While we breathe, can never tell;
She hath heard its faultless flow,
Where the roots of music grow.
While I listened, like young birds,
Hints were fluttering; almost words—
Leaned and leaned, and nearer came;
Everything had changed its name.
Sorrow was a ship, I found,
Wrecked with them that in her are,
On an island richer far
Than the port where they were bound.
Fear was but the awful boom
Of the old great bell of doom,
Tolling, far from earthly air,
For all worlds to go to prayer.
Pain, that to us mortal clings,
But the pushing of our wings,
That we have no use for yet,
And the uprooting of our feet
From the soil where they are set,
And the land we reckon sweet.
Love in growth, the grand deceit
Whereby men the perfect greet;
Love in wane, the blessing sent
To be (howsoe'er it went)
Never more with earth content.
O, full sweet, and O, full high,
Ran that music up the sky;
But I cannot sing it you,
More than I can make you view,
With my paintings labial,
Sitting up in awful row,
White old men majestical,
Mountains, in their gowns of snow,
Ghosts of kings; as my two eyes,
Looking over speckled skies,
See them now. About their knees,
Half in haze, there stands at ease
A great army of green hills,
Some bareheaded; and, behold,
Small green mosses creep on same.
Those be mighty forests old;
And white avalanches come
Through yon rents, where now distils
Sheeny silver, pouring down
To a tune of old renown,
Cutting narrow pathways through
Gentian belts of airy blue,
To a zone where starwort blows,
And long reaches of the rose.
So, that haze all left behind,
Down the chestnut forests wind,
Past yon jagged spires, where yet
Foot of man was never set;
Past a castle yawning wide,
With a great breach in its side,
To a nest-like valley, where,
Like a sparrow's egg in hue,
Lie two lakes, and teach the true
Colour of the sea-maid's hair.
What beside? The world beside!
Drawing down and down, to greet
Cottage clusters at our feet—
Every scent of summer tide—
Flowery pastures all aglow;
(Men and women mowing go
Up and down them); also soft
Floating of the film aloft,
Fluttering of the leaves alow.
Is this told? It is not told.
Where's the danger? where's the cold
Slippery danger up the steep?
Where you shadow fallen asleep?
Chirping bird and tumbling spray,
Light, work, laughter, scent of hay,
Peace, and echo, where are they?
Ah, they sleep, sleep all untold;
Memory must their grace enfold
Silently; and that high song
Of the heart, it doth belong
To the hearers. Not a whit,
Though a chief musician heard,
Could he make a tune for it.
Though a lute full deftly strung;
And the sweetest bird e'er sung,
Could have tried it—O, the lute
For that wondrous song were mute,
And the bird would do her part,
Falter, fail, and break her heart—
Break her heart, and furl her wings,
On those inexpressive strings.
GLADYS AND HER ISLAND.
(On the Advantages of the Poetical Temperament.)
AN IMPERFECT FABLE WITH A DOUBTFUL MORAL.
O HAPPY Gladys!
I rejoice with her,
For Gladys saw the island.
It was thus:
They gave a day for pleasure in the school
Where Gladys taught; and all the other girls
Were taken out, to picnic in a wood.
But it was said, 'We think it were not well
That little Gladys should acquire a taste
For pleasure, going about, and needless change.
It would not suit her station: discontent
Might come of it; and all her duties now
She does so pleasantly, that we were best
To keep her humble.' So they said to her,
'Gladys, we shall not want you, all to-day.
Look, you are free; you need not sit at work:
No, you may take a long and pleasant walk
Over the sea-cliff, or upon the beach
Among the visitors.'
Then Gladys blushed
For joy, and thanked them. What! a holiday,
A whole one, for herself! How good, how kind!
With that, the marshalled carriages drove off;
And Gladys, sobered with her weight of joy,
Stole out beyond the groups upon the beach—
The children with their wooden spades, the band
That played for lovers, and the sunny stir
Of cheerful life and leisure—to the rocks,
For these she wanted most, and there was time
To mark them; how like ruined organs prone
They lay, or leaned their giant fluted pipes,
And let the great white-crested reckless wave
Beat out their booming melody.
Was filled with light; in clear blue caverns curled
The breakers, and they ran, and seemed to romp,
As playing at some rough and dangerous game,
While all the nearer waves rushed in to help,
And all the farther heaved their heads to peep,
And tossed the fishing boats. Then Gladys laughed,
And said, 'O, happy tide, to be so lost
In sunshine, that one dare not look at it;
And lucky cliffs, to be so brown and warm;
And yet how lucky are the shadows, too,
That lurk beneath their ledges. It is strange,
That in remembrance though I lay them up,
They are for ever, when I come to them,
Better than I had thought. O, something yet
I had forgotten. Oft I say, "At least
This picture is imprinted; thus and thus,
The sharpened serried jags run up, run out,
Layer on layer." And I look—up—up—
High, higher up again, till far aloft
They cut into their æher—brown, and
And perfect. And I, saying, "This is mine,
To keep," retire; but shortly come again,
And they confound me with a glorious change.
The low sun out of rain-clouds stares at them;
They redden, and their edges drip with—what?
I know not, but 't is red. It leaves no stain,
For the next morning they stand up like ghosts
In a sea-shroud, and fifty thousand mews
Sit there, in long white files, and chatter on,
Like silly school-girls in their silliest mood.
'There is the boulder where we always turn.
O! I have longed to pass it; now I will.
What would THEY say? for one must slip and spring;
' "Young ladies! Gladys! I am shocked.
Decorum, if you please: turn back at once.
Gladys, we blame you most; you should have looked
Before you." Then they sigh—how kind they are!—
"What will become of you, if all your life
You look a long way off?—look anywhere,
And everywhere, instead of at your feet,
And where they carry you!" Ah, well, I know
It is a pity,' Gladys said; 'but then
We cannot all be wise: happy for me,
That other people are.
And yet I wish—
For sometimes very right and serious thoughts
Come to me—I do wish that they would come
When they are wanted!—when I teach the sums
On rainy days, and when the practising
I count to, and the din goes on and on,
Still the same tune and still the same mistake,
Then I am wise enough: sometimes I feel
Quite old. I think that it will last, and say,
"Now my reflections do me credit! now
I am a woman!" and I wish they knew
How serious all my duties look to me.
And how, my heart hushed down and shaded lies,
Just like the sea when low, convenient clouds,
Come over, and drink all its sparkles up.
But does it last? Perhaps, that very day,
The front door opens: out we walk in pairs;
And I am so delighted with this world,
That suddenly has grown, being new washed,
To such a smiling, clean, and thankful world,
And with a tender face shining through tears,
Looks up into the sometime lowering sky,
That has been angry, but is reconciled,
And just forgiving her, that I—that I—
O, I forget myself: what matters how!
'And then I hear (but always kindly said)
Some words that pain me so—but just, but true:
"For if your place in this establishment
Be but subordinate, and if your birth
Be lowly, it the more behoves—well, well,
No more. We see that you are sorry." Yes!
I am always sorry THEN; but now—O, now,
Here is a bight more beautiful than all.'
'And did they scold her, then, my pretty one?
And did she want to be as wise as they,
To bear a bucklered heart and priggish mind?
Ay, you may crow; she did! but no, no, no,
The night-time will not let her, all the stars
Say nay to that—the old sea laughs at her.
Why, Gladys is a child; she has not skill
To shut herself within her own small cell,
And build the door up, and to say, "Poor me!
I am a prisoner;" then to take hewn stones,
And, having built the windows up, to say,
"O, it is dark! there is no sunshine here;
There never has been." '
Strange! how very strange!
A woman passing Gladys with a babe,
To whom she spoke these words, and only looked
Upon the babe, who crowed and pulled her curls,
And never looked at Gladys, never once.
'A simple child,' she added, and went by,
'To want to change her greater for their less;
But Gladys shall not do it, no, not she;
We love her—don't we?—far too well for that.'
Then Gladys, flushed with shame and keen surprise,
'How could she be so near, and I not know?
And have I spoken out my thought aloud?
I must have done, forgetting. It is well
She walks so fast, for I am hungry now,
And here is water cantering down the cliff,
And here a shell to catch it with, and here
The round plump buns they gave me, and the fruit.
Now she is gone behind the rock. O, rare
To be alone!' So Gladys sat her down,
Unpacked her little basket, ate and drank,
Then pushed her hands into the warm dry sand,
And thought the earth was happy, and she too
Was going round with it in happiness,
That holiday. 'What was it that she said?'
Quoth Gladys, cogitating; 'they were kind,
The words that woman spoke. She does not know!
"Her greater for their less"—it makes me laugh—
But yet,' sighed Gladys, 'though it must be good
To look and to admire, one should not wish
To steal THEIR virtues, and to put them on,
Like feathers from another wing; beside,
That calm, and that grave consciousness of worth,
When all is said, would little suit with me,
Who am not worthy. When our thoughts are born,
Though they be good and humble, one should mind
How they are reared, or some will go astray
And shame their mother. Cain and Abel both
Were only once removed from innocence.
Why did I envy them? That was not 'good;
Yet it began with my humility.'
But as she spake, lo, Gladys raised her eyes,
And right before her, on the horizon's edge,
Behold, an island! First, she looked away
Along the solid rocks and steadfast shore,
For she was all amazed, believing not,
And then she looked again, and there again
Behold, an island! And the tide had turned,
The milky sea had got a purple rim,
And from the rim that mountain island rose,
Purple, with two high peaks, the northern peak
The higher, and with fell and precipice,
It ran down steeply to the water's brink;
But all the southern line was long and soft,
Broken with tender curves, and, as she thought,
Covered with forest or with sward. But, look!
The sun was on the island; and he showed
On either peak a dazzling cap of snow.
Then Gladys held her breath; she said, 'Indeed,
Indeed it is an island: how is this,
I never saw it till this fortunate
Rare holiday?' And while she strained her eyes,
She thought that it began to fade; but not
To change as clouds do, only to withdraw
And melt into its azure; and at last,
Little by little, from her hungry heart,
That longed to draw things marvellous to itself,
And yearned towards the riches and the great
Abundance of the beauty God hath made,
It passed away. Tears started in her eyes,
And when they dropt, the mountain isle was gone;
The careless sea had quite forgotten it,
And all was even as it had been before.
And Gladys wept, but there was luxury
In her self-pity, while she softly sobbed,
'O, what a little while! I am afraid
I shall forget that purple mountain isle,
The lovely hollows atween her snow-clad peaks,
The grace of her upheaval where she lay
Well up against the open. O, my heart,
Now I remember how this holiday
Will soon be done, and now my life goes on
Not fed; and only in the noonday walk
Let to look silently at what it wants,
Without the power to wait or pause awhile,
And understand and draw within itself
The richness of the earth. A holiday!
How few I have! I spend the silent time
At work, while all THEIR pupils are gone home,
And feel myself remote. They shine apart;
They are great planets, I a little orb;
My little orbit far within their own
Turns, and approaches not. But yet, the more
I am alone when those I teach return;
For they, as planets of some other sun,
Not mine, have paths that can but meet my ring
Once in a cycle. O, how poor I am!
I have not got laid up in this blank heart
Any indulgent kisses given me
Because I had been good, or, yet more sweet,
Because my childhood was itself a good
Attractive thing for kisses, tender praise,
And comforting. An orphan-school at best
Is a cold mother in the winter time,
('T was mostly winter when new orphans came),
An unregardful mother in the spring.
'Yet once a year (I did mine wrong) we went
To gather cowslips. How we thought on it
Beforehand, pacing, pacing the dull street,
To that one tree, the only one we saw
From April,—if the cowslips were in bloom
So early; or if not, from opening May
Even to September. Then there came the feast
At Epping. If it rained that day, it rained
For a whole year to us; we could not think
Of fields and hawthorn hedges, and the leaves
Fluttering, but still it rained, and ever rained.
'Ah, well, but I am here; but I have seen
The gay gorse bushes in their flowering time;
I know the scent of bean-fields; I have heard
The satisfying murmur of the main.'
The woman! She came round the rock again
With her fair baby, and she sat her down
By Gladys, murmuring, 'Who forbad the grass
To grow by visitations of the dew?
Who said in ancient time to the desert pool,
"Thou shalt not wait for angel visitors
To trouble thy still water?" Must we bide
At home? The lore, beloved, shall fly to us
On a pair of sumptuous wings. Or may we breathe
Without? O, we shall draw to us the air
That times and mystery feed on. This shall lay
Unchidden hands upon the heart o' the world,
And feel it beating. Rivers shall run on,
Full of sweet language as a lover's mouth,
Delivering of a tune to make her youth
More beautiful than wheat when it is green.
'What else?—(O, none shall envy her!) The rain
And the wild weather will be most her own,
And talk with her o' nights; and if the winds
Have seen aught wondrous, they will tell it her
In a mouthful of strange moans—will bring from far,
Her ears being keen, the lowing and the mad
Masterful tramping of the bison herds,
Tearing down headlong with their bloodshot eyes,
In savage rifts of hair; the crack and creak
Of ice-floes in the frozen sea, the cry
Of the white bears, all in a dim blue world
Mumbling their meals by twilight; or the rock
And majesty of motion, when their heads
Primeval trees toss in a sunny storm,
And hail their nuts down on unweeded fields.
No holidays,' quoth she; 'drop, drop, O, drop,
Thou tired skylark, and go up no more;
You lime trees, cover not your head with bees,
Nor give out your good smell. She will not look;
No, Gladys cannot draw your sweetness in,
For lack of holidays.' So Gladys thought,
'A most strange woman, and she talks of me.'
With that a girl ran up; 'Mother,' she said,
'Come out of this brown bight, I pray you now,
It smells of fairies.' Gladys thereon thought,
'The mother will not speak to me, perhaps
The daughter may,' and asked her courteously,
'What do the fairies smell of?' But the girl
With peevish pout replied, 'You know, you know.'
'Not I,' said Gladys; then she answered her,
'Something like buttercups. But, mother, come,
And whisper up a porpoise from the foam,
Because I want to ride.'
Full slowly, then,
The mother rose, and ever kept her eyes
Upon her little child. 'You freakish maid,'
Said she, 'now mark me, if I call you one,
You shall not scold nor make him take you far.'
'I only want—you know I only want,'
The girl replied, 'to go and play awhile
Upon the sand by Lagos.' Then she turned
And muttered low, 'Mother, is this the girl
Who saw the island?' But the mother frowned.
'When may she go to it?' the daughter asked.
And Gladys, following them, gave all her mind
To hear the answer. 'When she wills to go;
For yonder comes to shore the ferry boat.'
Then Gladys turned to look, and even so
It was; a ferry boat, and far away
Reared in the offing, lo, the purple peaks
Of her loved island.
Then she raised her arms,
And ran toward the boat, crying out, 'O rare,
The island! fair befall the island; let
Me reach the island.' And she sprang on board,
And after her stepped in the freakish maid
And the fair mother, brooding o'er her child;
And this one took the helm, and that let go
The sail, and off they flew, and furrowed up
A flaky hill before, and left behind
A sobbing snake-like tail of creamy foam;
And dancing hither, thither, sometimes shot
Toward the island; then, when Gladys looked,
Were leaving it to leeward. And the maid
Whistled a wind to come and rock the craft,
And would be leaning down her head to mew
At cat-fish, then lift out into her lap
And dandle baby-seals, which, having kissed,
She flung to their sleek mothers, till her own
Rebuked her in good English, after cried,
'Luff, huff, we shall be swamped.' 'I will not luff,'
Sobbed the fair mischief; 'you are cross to me.'
'For shame!' the mother shrieked; 'luff, luff, my dear;
Kiss and be friends, and thou shalt have the fish
With the curly tail to ride on.' So she did,
And presently a dolphin bouncing up,
She sprang upon his slippery back—'Farewell,'
She laughed, was off, and all the sea grew calm.
Then Gladys was much happier, and was 'ware
In the smooth weather that this woman talked
Like one in sleep, and murmured certain thoughts
Which seemed to be like echoes of her own.
She nodded, 'Yes, the girl is going now
To her own island. Gladys poor? Not she!
Who thinks so? Once I met a man in white,
Who said to me, "The thing that might have been
Is called, and questioned why it hath not been;
And can it give good reason; it is set
Beside the actual, and reckoned in
To fill the empty gaps of life." Ah, so
The possible stands by us ever fresh,
Fairer than alight which any life hath owned,
And makes divine amends. Now this was set
Apart from kin, and not ordained a home;
An equal;—and not suffered to fence in
A little plot of earthly good, and say,
'T is mine;' but in bereavement of the part,
O, yet to taste the whole,—to understand
The grandeur of the story, not to feel
Satiate with good possessed, but evermore
A healthful hunger for the great idea,
The beauty and the blessedness of life.
'Lo, now, the shadow!' quoth she, breaking off.
'We are in the shadow.' Then did Gladys turn.
And, O, the mountain with the purple peaks,
Was close at hand. It cast a shadow out,
And they were in it: and she saw the snow,
And under that the rocks, and under that
The pines, and then the pasturage; and saw
Numerous dips, and undulations rare,
Running down seaward, all astir with lithe
Long canes, and lofty feathers; for the palms
And spice trees of the south, nay, every growth,
Meets in that island.
So that woman ran
The boat ashore, and Gladys set her foot
Thereon. Then all at once much laughter rose;
Invisible folk set up exultant shouts,
'It all belongs to Gladys;' and she ran
And hid herself among the nearest trees
And panted, shedding tears.
So she looked round,
And saw that she was in a banyan grove,
Full of wild peacocks,—pecking on the grass,
A flickering mass of eyes, blue, green, and gold,
Or reaching out their jewelled necks, where high
They sat in rows along the boughs. No tree
Cumbered with creepers let the sunshine through,
But it was caught in scarlet cups, and poured
From these on amber tufts of bloom, and dropped
Lower on azure stars. The air was still,
As if awaiting somewhat, or asleep,
And Gladys was the only thing that moved,
Excepting—no, they were not birds—what then?
Glorified rainbows with a living soul?
While they passed through a sunbeam they were seen,
Not otherwhere, but they were present yet
In shade. They were at work, pomegranate fruit
That lay about removing—purple grapes,
That clustered in the path, clearing aside.
Through a small spot of light would pass and go,
The glorious happy mouth and two fair eyes
Of somewhat that made rustlings where it went;
But when a beam would strike the ground sheer down,
Behold them! they had wings, and they would pass
One after other with the sheeny fans,
Bearing them slowly, that their hues were seen,
Tender as russet crimson dropt on snows,
Or where they turned flashing with gold and dashed
With purple glooms. And they had feet, but these
Did barely touch the ground. And they took heed
Not to disturb the waiting quietness;
Nor rouse up fawns, that slept beside their dams;
Nor the fair leopard, with her sleek paws laid
Across her little drowsy cubs; nor swans,
That, floating, slept upon a glassy pool;
Nor rosy cranes, all slumbering in the reeds,
With heads beneath their wings. For this, you know,
Was Eden. She was passing through the trees
That made a ring about it, and she caught
A glimpse of glades beyond. All she had seen
Was nothing to them; but words are not made
To tell that tale. No wind was let to blow,
And all the doves were bidden to hold their peace.
Why? One was working in a valley near,
And none might look that way. It was understood
That He had nearly ended that His work;
For two shapes met, and one to other spake,
Accosting him with, 'Prince, what worketh He?'
Who whispered, 'Lo! He fashioneth red clay.'
And all at once a little trembling stir
Was felt in the earth, and every creature woke,
And laid its head down, listening. It was known
Then that the work was done; the new-made king
Had risen, and set his feet upon his realm,
And it acknowledged him.
But in her path
Came some one that withstood her, and he said,
'What doest thou here?' Then she did turn and flee,
Among those coloured spirits, through the grove,
Trembling for haste; it was not well with her
Till she came forth of those thick banyan trees,
And set her feet upon the common grass,
And felt the common wind.
Yet once beyond,
She could not choose but cast a backward glance.
The lovely matted growth stood like a wall,
And means of entering were not evident—
The gap had closed. But Gladys laughed for joy;
She said, 'Remoteness and a multitude
Of years are counted nothing here. Behold,
To-day I have been in Eden. O, it blooms
In my own island.'
And she wandered on,
Thinking, until she reached a place of palms,
And all the earth was sandy where she walked—
Sandy and dry—strewed with papyrus leaves,
Old idols, rings and pottery, painted lids
Of mummies (for perhaps it was the way
That leads to dead old Egypt), and withal
Excellent sunshine cut out sharp and clear
The hot prone pillars, and the carven plinths—
Stone lotus cups, with petals dipped in sand,
And wicked gods, and sphinxes bland, who sat
And smiled upon the rain. O how still!
Hot, blank, illuminated with the clear
Stare of an unveiled sky. The dry stiff leaves
Of palm trees never rustled, and the soul
Of that dead ancientry was itself dead.
She was above her ankles in the sand,
When she beheld a rocky road, and, lo!
It bare in it the ruts of chariot wheels,
Which erst had carried to their pagan prayers
The brown old Pharaohs; for the ruts led on
To a great cliff, that either was a cliff
Or some dread shrine in ruins—partly reared
In front of that same cliff, and partly hewn
Or excavate within its heart. Great heaps
Of sand and stones on either side there lay;
And, as the girl drew on, rose out from each,
As from a ghostly kennel, gods unblest,
Dog-headed, and behind them wingèd things
Like angels; and this carven multitude
Hedged in, to right and left, the rocky road.
At last, the cliff and in the cliff a door
Yawning: and she looked in, as down the throat
Of some stupendous giant, and beheld
No floor, but wide, worn, flights of steps, that led
Into a dimness. When the eyes could bear
That change to gloom, she saw fight after flight,
Flight after flight, the worn long stair go down,
Smooth with the feet of nations dead and gone.
So she did enter; also she went down
Till it was dark, and yet again went down,
Till, gazing upward at that yawning door,
It seemed no larger, in its height remote,
Than a pin's head. But while, irresolute,
She doubted of the end, yet farther down
A slender ray of lamplight fell away
Along the stair, as from a door ajar:
To this again she felt her way, and stepped
Adown the hollow stair, and reached the light;
But fear fell on her, fear; and she forbore
Entrance, and listened. Ay! 't was even so—
A sigh; the breathing as of one who slept
And was disturbed. So she drew back awhile,
And trembled; then her doubting hand she laid
Against the door, and pushed it; but the light
Waned, faded, sank; and as she came within—
Hark, hark! A spirit was it, and asleep?
A spirit doth not breathe like clay. There hung
A cresset from the roof, and thence appeared
A flickering speck of light, and disappeared;
Then dropped along the floor its elfish flakes,
That fell on some one resting, in the gloom—
Somewhat, a spectral shadow, then a shape
That loomed. It was a heifer, ay, and white,
Breathing and languid through prolonged repose.
Was it a heifer? all the marble floor
Was milk-white also, and the cresset paled,
And straight their whiteness grew confused and
But when the cresset, taking heart, bloomed out—
The whiteness—and asleep again! but now
It was a woman, robed, and with a face
Lovely and dim. And Gladys while she gazed
Murmured, 'O terrible! I am afraid
To breathe among these intermittent lives,
That fluctuate in mystic solitude,
And change and fade. Lo! where the goddess sits
Dreaming on her dim throne; a crescent moon
She wears upon her forehead. Ah! her frown
Is mournful, and her slumber is not sweet.
What dost thou hold, Isis, to thy cold breast?
A baby god with finger on his lips,
Asleep, and dreaming of departed sway?
Thy son. Hush, hush; he knoweth all the lore
And sorcery of old Egypt; but his mouth
He shuts; the secret shall be lost with him,
He will not tell.'
The woman coming down !
'Child, what art doing here?' the woman said;
'What wilt thou of Dame Isis and her bairn?'
(Ay, ay, we see thee breathing in thy shroud—
Thy pretty shroud, all frilled and furbelowed.)
The air is dim with dust of spicèd bones.
I mark a crypt down there. Tier upon tier
Of painted coffers fills it. What if we,
Passing, should slip, and crash into their midst—
Break the frail ancientry, and smothered lie,
Tumbled among the ribs of queens and kings,
And all the gear they took to bed with them!
Horrible! let us hence.
And Gladys said,
'O, they are rough to mount, those stairs;' but she
Took her and laughed, and up the mighty flight
Shot like a meteor with her. 'There,' said she;
'The light is sweet when one has smelled of graves,
Down in unholy heathen gloom; farewell.'
She pointed to a gateway, strong and high,
Reared of hewn stones; but, look! in lieu of gate,
There was a glittering cobweb drawn across,
And on the lintel there were writ these words:
'Ho, every one that cometh, I divide
What hath been from what might be, and the line
Hangeth before thee as a spider's web;
Yet, wouldst thou enter thou must break the line,
Or else forbear the hill.'
The maiden said,
'So, cobweb, I will break thee.' And she passed
Among some oak trees on the farther side,
And waded through the bracken round their bolls,
Until she saw the open, and drew on
Toward the edge o' the wood, where it was mixed
With pines and heathery places wild and fresh.
Here she put up a creature, that ran on
Before her, crying, 'Tint, tint tint,' and turned,
Sat up, and stared at her with elfish eyes,
Jabbering of gramarye, one Michael Scott,
The wizard that wonned somewhere underground,
With other talk enough to make one fear
To walk in lonely places. After passed
A man-at-arms, William of Deloraine;
He shook his head, 'An' if I list to tell,'
Quoth he, 'I know, but how it matters not;'
Then crossed himself, and muttered of a clap
Of thunder, and a shape in amice grey,
But still it mouthed at him, and whimpered, 'Tint,
Tint, tint.' 'There shall be wild work some day
Quoth he, 'thou limb of darkness: he will come.
Thy master, push a hand up, catch thee, imp,
And so good Christians shall have peace, perdie.'
Then Gladys was so frightened, that she ran,
And got away, towards a grassy down,
Where sheep and lambs were feeding, with a boy
To tend them. 'T was the boy who wears that herb
Called heartsease in his bosom, and he sang
So sweetly to his flock, that she stole on
Nearer to listen. 'O, Content, Content,
Give me,' sang he, 'thy tender company.
I feed my flock among the myrtles; all
My lambs are twins, and they have laid them down
Along the slopes of Beulah. Come, fair love,
From the other side the river, where their harps
Thou hast been helping them to tune. O come,
And pitch thy tent by mine; let me behold
Thy mouth—that even in slumber talks of peace—
Thy well-set locks, and dove-like countenance.'
And Gladys hearkened, couched upon the grass,
Till she had rested; then did ask the boy,
For it was afternoon, and she was fain
To reach the shore, 'Which is the path, I pray,
That leads one to the water?' But he said,
'Dear lass, I only know the narrow way,
The path that leads one to the golden gate
Across the river.' So she wandered on;
And presently her feet grew cool, the grass
Standing so high, and thyme being thick and soft.
The air was full of voices, and the scent
Of mountain blossom loaded all its wafts;
For she was on the slopes of a goodly mount,
And reared in such a sort that it looked down
Into the deepest valleys, darkest glades,
And richest plains o' the island. It was set
Midway between the snows majestical
And a wide level, such as men would choose
For growing wheat; and some one said to her,
'It is the hill Parnassus.' So she walked
Yet on its lower slope, and she could hear
The calling of an unseen multitude
To some upon the mountain, 'Give us more;'
And others said, 'We are tired of this old world:
Make it look new again.' Then there were some
Who answered lovingly—(the dead yet speak
From that high mountain, as the living do);
But others sang desponding, 'We have kept
The vision for a chosen few: we love
Fit audience better than a rough huzza
From the unreasoning crowd.'
Then words came up:
'There was a time, you poets, was a time
When all the poetry was ours, and made
By some who climbed the mountain from our midst.
We loved it then, we sang it in our streets.
O, it grows obsolete! Be you as they:
Our heroes die and drop away from us;
Oblivion folds them 'neath her dusky wing,
Fair copies wasted to the hungering world.
Save them. We fall so low for lack of them,
That many of us think scorn of honest trade,
And take no pride in our own shops; who care
Only to quit a calling, will not make
The calling what it might be: who despise
Their work, fate laughs at, and doth let the work
Dull, and degrade them.'
Then did Gladys smile:
'Heroes!' quoth she; 'yet, now I think on it,
There was the jolly goldsmith, brave Sir Hugh,
Certes, a hero ready made. Methinks
I see him burnishing of golden gear,
Tankard and charger, and a-muttering low,
"London is thirsty"—(then he weighs a chain):
'T is an ill thing, my masters. I would give
The worth of this, and many such as this,
To bring it water."
Ay, and after him
There came up Guy of London, lettered son
O' the honest lighterman. I'll think on him,
Leaning upon the bridge on summer eves,
After his shop was closed: a still, grave man,
With melancholy eyes. "While these are hale,"
He saith, when he looks down and marks the crowd
Cheerily working; where the river marge
Is blocked with ships and boats; and all the wharves
Swarm, and the cranes swing in with merchandise—
"While these are hale, 't is well, 't is very well.
But, O good Lord," saith he, "when these are sick—
I fear me, Lord, this excellent workmanship
Of Thine is counted for a cumbrance then.
Ay, ay, my hearties! many a man of you,
Struck down, or maimed, or fevered, shrinks away,
And, mastered in that fight for lack of aid,
Creeps shivering to a corner, and there dies."
Well, we have heard the rest.
Ah, next I think
Upon the merchant captain, stout of heart
To dare and to endure, "Robert," saith he,
(The navigator Knox to his manful son,)
"I sit a captive from the ship detained;
This heathenry doth let thee visit her.
Remember, son, if then, alas! shouldst fail
To ransom thy poor father, they are free
As yet, the mariners; have wives at home,
As I have; ay, and liberty is sweet
To all men. For the ship, she is not ours,
Therefore, 'beseech thee, son, lay on the mate
This my command, to leave me, and set sail.
As for thyself—" "Good father," saith the son;
"I will not, father, ask your blessing now,
Because, for fair, or else for evil, fate
We two shall meet again." And so they did.
The dusky men, peeling off cinnamon,
And beating nutmeg clusters from the tree,
Ransom and bribe contemned. The good ship
The son returned to share his father's cell.
'O, there are many such. Would I had wit
Their worth to sing!' With that, she turned her feet.
'I am tired now,' said Gladys, 'of their talk
Around this hill Parnassus.' And, behold,
A piteous sight—an old, blind, greybeard king
Led by a fool with bells. Now this was loved
Of the crowd below the hill; and when he called
For his lost kingdom, and bewailed his age,
And plained on his unkind daughters, they were
To say, that if the best of gold and gear
Could have bought him back his kingdom, and made
The hard hearts which had broken his erewhile,
They would have gladly paid it from their store
Many times over. What is done is done,
No help. The ruined majesty passed on.
And look you! one who met her as she walked
Showed her a mountain nymph lovely as light.
Her name Œnone; and she mourned and
'O Mother Ida,' and she could not cease,
No, nor be comforted.
And after this,
Soon there came by, arrayed in Norman cap
And kirtle, an Arcadian villager,
Who said, 'I pray you, have you chanced to meet
One Gabriel?' and she sighed; but Gladys took
And kissed her hand: she could not answer her,
Because she guessed the end.
With that it drew
To evening; and as Gladys wandered on
In the calm weather, she beheld the wave,
And she ran down to set her feet again
On the sea margin, which was covered thick
With white shell-skeletons. The sky was red
As wine. The water played among bare ribs
Of many wrecks, that lay half-buried there
In the sand. She saw a cave, and moved thereto
To ask her way, and one so innocent
Came out to meet her, that with marvelling mute
She gazed and gazed into her sea-blue eyes,
For in them beamed the untaught ecstasy
Of childhood, that lives on though youth be come,
And love just born.
She could not choose but name her shipwrecked
All blushing. She told Gladys many things
That are not in the story—things, in sooth,
That Prospero her father knew. But now
'T was evening, and the sun dropped; purple stripes
In the sea were copied from some clouds that lay
Out in the west. And lo! the boat, and more,
The freakish thing to take fair Gladys home.
She mowed at her, but Gladys took the helm:
'Peace, peace!' she said; 'be good: you shall not
For I am your liege lady.' Then she sang
The sweetest songs she knew all the way home.
So Gladys set her feet upon the sand;
While in the sunset glory died away
The peaks of that blest island.
'Fare you well,
My country, my own kingdom,' then she said,
'Till I go visit you again, farewell.'
She looked toward their house with whom she
The carriages were coming. Hastening up,
She was in time to meet them at the door,
And lead the sleepy little ones within;
And some were cross and shivered, and her dames
Were weary and right hard to please; but she
Felt like a beggar suddenly endowed
With a warm cloak to 'fend her from the cold.
'For, come what will,' she said, 'I had to-day
There is an island.'
What is the moral? Let us think awhile,
Taking the editorial WE to help,
It sounds respectable.
The moral; yes,
We always read, when any fable ends,
'Hence we may learn.' A moral must be found.
What do you think of this: 'Hence we may learn
That dolphins swim about the coast of Wales,
And Admiralty maps should now be drawn
By teacher-girls, because their sight is keen,
And they can spy out islands.' Will that do?
No, that is far too plain—too evident.
Perhaps a general moralising vein—
(We know we have a happy knack that way.
We have observed, moreover, that young men
Are fond of good advice, and so are girls;
Especially of that meandering kind,
Which winding on so sweetly, treats of all
They ought to be and do and think and wear,
As one may say, from creeds to comforters.
Indeed, we much prefer that sort ourselves,
So soothing). Good, a moralising vein:
That is the thing; but how to manage it?
'Hence we may learn,' if we be so inclined,
That life goes best with those who take it best;
That wit can spin from work a golden robe
To queen it in; that who can paint at will
A private picture gallery, should not cry
For shillings that will let him in to look
At some by others painted. Furthermore,
Hence we may learn, you poets—(and we count
For poets all who ever felt that such
They were, and all who secretly have known
That such they could be; ay, moreover, all
Who wind the robes of ideality
About the bareness of their lives, and hang
Comforting curtains, knit of fancy's yarn,
Nightly betwixt them and the frosty world)—
Hence we may learn, you poets, that of all
We should be most content. The earth is given
To us: we reign by virtue of a sense
Which lets us hear the rhythm of that old verse,
The ring of that old tune whereto she spins.
Humanity is given to us: we reign
By virtue of a sense, which lets us in
To know its troubles ere they have been told,
And take them home and lull them into rest
With mournfullest music. Time is given to us
Time past, time future. Who, good sooth, beside
Have seen it well, have walked this empty world
When she went steaming, and from pulpy hills
Have marked the spurting of their flamy crowns?
Have not we seen the tabernacle pitched,
And peered between the linen curtains, blue,
Purple, and scarlet, at the dimness there,
And, frighted, have not dared to look again?
But, quaint antiquity! beheld, we thought,
A chest that might have held the manna pot
And Aaron's rod that budded. Ay, we leaned
Over the edge of Britain, while the fleet
Of Cæsar loomed and neared; then,
We saw fair Venice looking at herself
In the glass below her, while her Doge went forth
In all his bravery to the wedding.
However, counts for nothing to the grace
We wot of in time future:—therefore add,
And afterwards have done: 'Hence we may
That though it be a grand and comely thing
To be unhappy—(and we think it is,
Because so many grand and clever folk
Have found out reasons for unhappiness,
And talked about uncomfortable things—
Low motives, bores, and shams, and hollowness,
The hollowness o' the world, till we at last
Have scarcely dared to jump or stamp, for fear,
Being so hollow, it should break some day,
And let us in)—yet, since we are not grand,
O, not at all, and as for cleverness,
That may be or may not be—it is well
For us to be as happy as we can!
Agreed; and with a word to the nobler sex,
As thus; we pray you carry not your guns
On the full-cock; we pray you set your pride
In its proper place, and never be ashamed
Of any honest calling—let us add,
And end; for all the rest, hold up your heads
And mind your English.
SONGS WITH PRELUDES.
THE sun was streaming
in: I woke, and said,
'Where is my wife—that has been made my wife
Only this year?' The casement stood ajar:
I did but lift my head: The pear-tree dropped,
The great white pear-tree dropped with dew from
And blossom, under heavens of happy blue.
My wife had wakened first, and had gone down
Into the orchard. All the air was calm;
Audible humming filled it. At the roots
Of peony bushes lay in rose-red heaps,
Or snowy, fallen bloom. The crag-like hills
Were tossing down their silver messengers,
And two brown foreigners, called cuckoo-birds,
Gave them good answer: all things else were mute;
An idle world lay listening to their talk,
They had it to themselves.
What ails my wife?
I know not if aught ails her; though her step
Tell of a conscious quiet, lest I wake.
She moves atween the almond boughs, and bends
One thick with bloom to look on it. 'O love!
A little while then hast withdrawn thyself,
At unaware to think thy thoughts alone:
How sweet, and yet pathetic to my heart
The reason. Ah! thou art no more thine own.
Mine, mine, O love! Tears gather 'neath my lids,—
Sorrowful tears for thy lost liberty,
Because it was so sweet. Thy liberty,
That yet, O love, thou wouldst not have again.
No; all is right. But who can give, or bless,
Or take a blessing, but there comes withal
She walks beside the lily bed,
And holds apart her gown; she would not hurt
The leaf-enfolded buds, that have not looked
Yet on the daylight. O, thy locks are brown,—
Fairest of colours!—and a darker brown
The beautiful, dear, veilèd, modest eyes.
A bloom as of blush roses covers her
Forehead, and throat, and cheek. Health breathes
And graceful vigour. Fair and wondrous soul!
To think that thou art mine!
My wife came in,
And moved into the chamber. As for me,
I heard, but lay as one that nothing hears,
And feigned to be asleep.
The racing river leaped, and sang
Full blithely in the perfect weather,
All round the mountain echoes rang,
For blue and green were glad together.
This rained out light from every part,
And that with songs of joy was thrilling;
But, in the hollow of my heart,
There ached a place that wanted filling.
Before the road and river meet,
And stepping-stones are wet and glisten,
I heard a sound of laughter sweet,
And paused to like it, and to listen.
I heard the chanting waters flow,
The cushat's note, the bee's low
Then turned the hedge, and did not know—
How could I?—that my time was coming.
A girl upon the nighest stone,
Half doubtful of the deed, was standing,
So far the shallow flood had flown
Beyond the 'customed leap of landing.
She knew not any need of me,
Yet me she waited all unweeting;
We thought not I had crossed the sea,
And half the sphere to give her meeting.
I waded out, her eyes I met,
I wished the moments had been hours;
I took her in my arms, and set
Her dainty feet among the flowers.
Her fellow maids in copse and lane,
Ah! still, methinks, I hear them calling;
The wind's soft whisper in the plain,
The cushat's coo, the water's falling.
But now it is a year ago,
But now possession crowns endeavour;
I took her in my heart, to grow
And fill the hollow place for ever.
O THAT WORD REGRET!
There have been nights and morns when we have
'Let us alone, Regret! We are content
To throw thee all our past, so thou wilt sleep
For aye.' But it is patient, and it wakes;
It hath not learned to cry itself to sleep,
But plaineth on the bed that it is hard.
We did amiss when we did wish it gone
And over: sorrows humanise our race;
Tears are the showers that fertilise this world;
And memory of things precious keepeth warm
The heart that once did hold them.
They are poor
That have lost nothing; they are poorer far
Who, losing, have forgotten; they most poor
Of all, who lose and wish they MIGHT forget.
For life is one, and in its warp and woof
There runs a thread of gold that glitters fair,
And sometimes in the pattern shows most sweet
Where there are sombre colours. It is true
That we have wept. But oh! this thread of gold,
We would not have it tarnish; let us turn
Oft and look back upon the wondrous web,
And when it shineth sometimes we shall know
That memory is possession.
When I remember something which I had,
But which is gone, and I must do without,
I sometimes wonder how I can be glad,
Even in cowslip time when hedges sprout;
It makes me sigh to think on it,—but yet
My days will not be better days, should I forget.
When I remember something promised me,
But which I never had, nor can have now,
Because the promiser we no more see
In countries that accord with mortal vow;
When I remember this, I mourn,—but yet
My happier days are not the days when I forget.
I READ upon that book,
Which down the golden gulf doth let us look
On the sweet days of pastoral majesty;
I read upon that book
How, when the Shepherd Prince did
(Red Esau's twin), he desolate took
The stone for a pillow: then he fell on sleep.
And lo! there was a ladder. Lo! there hung
A ladder from the star-place, and it clung
To the earth: it tied her so to heaven; and oh!
Then were ascending and descending things
That stepped to him where he lay low;
Then up the ladder would a-drifting go
(This feathered brood of heaven), and show
Small as white flakes in winter that are blown
Together, underneath the great white throne.
When I had shut the book, I said,
'Now, as for me, my dreams upon my bed
Are not like Jacob's dream;
Yet I have got it in my life; yes, I,
And many more: it doth not as beseem,
Therefore, to sigh.
Is there not hung a ladder in our sky?
Yea; and, moreover, all the way up on high
Is thickly peopled with the prayers of men.
We have no dream! What
Like wingèd wayfarers the height they
(By Him that offers them they shall prevail)—
The prayers of men.
But where is found a prayer for me;
How should I pray?
My heart is sick, and full of strife.
I heard one whisper with departing breath,
"Suffer us not, for any pains of death,
To fall from Thee."
But O, the pains of life! the pains of life!
There is no comfort now, and nought
But yet—I will begin.'
'Preserve to me my wealth,' I do not say,
For that is wasted away;
And much of it was cankered ere it went.
'Preserve to me my health,' I cannot say,
For that, upon a day,
Went after other delights to banishment.
What can I pray? 'Give me forgetfulness?'
No, I would still possess
Past away smiles, though present fronts be stern.
'Give me again my kindred?' Nay; not so,
Not idle prayers. We know
They that have crossed the river cannot return.
I do not pray, 'Comfort me! comfort me!'
For how should comfort be?
O,—O that cooing mouth—that little white head!
No; but I pray, 'If it be not too late,
Open to me the gate,
That I may find my babe when I am dead.
'Show me the path. I had forgotten Thee
When I was happy and free,
Walking down here in the gladsome light o' the sun;
But now I come and mourn; O set my feet
In the road to Thy blest seat,
And for the rest, O God, Thy will be done.'
WHEN found the rose
delight in her fair hue?
Colour is nothing to this world; 't is I
That see it. Farther, I have found, my soul,
That trees are nothing to their fellow trees;
It is but I that love their stateliness,
And I that, comforting my heart, do sit
At noon beneath their shadow. I will step
On the ledges of this world, for it is mine;
But the other world ye wot of, shall go too;
I will carry it in my bosom. O my world,
That was not built with clay!
(This outer world we tread on) as a harp—
A gracious instrument on whose fair strings
We learn those airs we shall be set to play
When mortal hours are ended. Let the wings,
Man, of thy spirit move on it as wind,
And draw forth melody. Why shouldst thou yet
Lie grovelling? More is won than e'er was lost:
Inherit. Let thy day be to thy night
A teller of good tidings. Let thy praise
Go up as birds go up that, when they wake,
Shake off the dew and soar.
So take joy home,
And make a place in thy great heart for her,
And give time to grow, and cherish her;
Then will she come, and oft will sing to thee,
When then art working in the furrows; ay,
Or weeding in the sacred hour of dawn.
It is a comely fashion to be glad—
Joy is the grace we say to God.
There is a rest remaining. Hast thou sinned?
There is a Sacrifice. Lift up thy head,
The lovely world, and the over-world alike,
Ring with a song eterne, a happy rede,
'THY FATHER LOVES THEE.'
Hangs thick as a swarm of bees,
Or a clustering village street
Foundationless built on the seas.
The mariners ply their craft,
Each set in his castle frail;
His care is all for the draught,
And he dries the rain-beaten sail.
For rain came down in the night,
And thunder muttered full oft,
But now the azure is bright,
And hawks are wheeling aloft.
I take the land to my breast,
In her coat with daisies fine;
For me are the hills in their best,
And all that's made is mine.
Sing high! 'Though the red sun dip,
There yet is a day for me;
Nor youth I count for a ship
That long ago foundered at sea.
'Did the lost love die and depart?
Many times since we have met;
For I hold the years in my heart,
And all that was—is yet.
'I grant to the king his reign;
Let us yield him homage due;
But over the lands there are twain,
O king, I must rule as you.
'I grant to the wise his meed,
But his yoke I will not brook,
For God taught ME to read
He lent me the world for a book.'
ON A SUN-PORTRAIT OF HER HUSBAND, SENT BY A
WIFE TO THEIR FRIEND.
shall I see no more
The living thought when it would leap from them,
And play in all its sweetness 'neath their lids?
Here was a man familiar with fair heights
That poets climb. Upon his peace the tears
And troubles of our race deep inroads made,
Yet life was sweet to him; he kept his heart
At home. Who saw his wife might well have
God loves this man. He chose a wife for him—
The true one!' O sweet eyes, that seem to live,
I know so much of you, tell me the rest!
Eyes full of fatherhood and tender care
For small, young children. Is a message here
That you would fain have sent, but had not time?
If such there be, I promise, by long love
And perfect friendship, by all trust that comes
Of understanding, that I will not fail,
No, nor delay to find it.
O, my heart
Will often pain me as for some strange fault—
Some grave defect in nature—when I think
How I, delighted, 'neath those olive trees,
Moved to the music of the tideless main,
While, with sore weeping, in an island home
They laid that much-loved head beneath the sod,
And I did not know.
I stand on the bridge where last we stood
When delicate leaves were young,
The children called us from yonder wood,
While a mated blackbird sung.
Ah, yet you call—in your gladness call—
And I hear your pattering feet;
It does not matter, matter at all,
You fatherless children sweet—
It does not matter at all to you,
Young hearts that pleasure besets;
The father sleeps, but the world is new,
The child of his love forgets.
I too, it may be, before they drop,
The leaves that flicker to-day,
Ere bountiful gleams make ripe the crop,
Shall pass from my place away:
Ere yon grey cygnet puts on her white,
Or snow lies soft on the wold,
Shall shut these eyes on the lovely light,
And leave the story untold.
Shall I tell it there? Ah, let that be,
For the warm pulse beats so high;
To love to-day, and to breathe and see—
To-morrow perhaps to die—
Leave it with God. But this I have known,
That sorrow is over soon;
Some in dark nights, sore weeping alone,
Forget by full of the moon.
But if all loved, as the few can love,
This world would seldom be well;
And who need wish, if he dwells above,
For a deep, a long death knell.
There are four or five, who passing this place,
While they live will name me yet;
And when I am gone will think on my face,
And feel a kind of regret.
QUOTH the cedar to
the reeds and rushes,
'Water-grass, you know not what I do;
Know not of my storms, nor of my hushes,
And—I know not you.'
Quoth the reeds and rushes, 'Wind! O waken!
Breathe, O wind, and set our answer free,
For we have no voice, of you forsaken,
For the cedar tree.'
Quoth the earth at midnight to the ocean,
'Wilderness of water, lost to view,
Nought you are to me but sounds of motion;
I am nought to you.'
Quoth the ocean, 'Dawn! O fairest, clearest,
Touch me with thy golden fingers bland;
For I have no smile till thou appearest
For the lovely land.'
Quoth the hero dying, whelmed in glory,
'Many blame me, few have understood;
Ah, my folk, to you I leave a story—
Make its meaning good.'
Quoth the folk, 'Sing, poet! teach us, prove us;
Surely we shall learn the meaning then;
Wound us with a pain divine, O move us,
For this man of men.'
WINSTANLEY'S deed, you
With it I fill my lay,
And a nobler man ne'er walk'd the world,
Let his name be what it may.
The good ship 'Snowdrop' tarried long,
Up at the vane look'd he;
'Belike,' he said, for the wind had dropp'd,
'She lieth becalm'd at sea.'
The lovely ladies flock'd within,
And still would each one say,
'Good mercer, be the ships come up?'
But still he answered 'Nay.'
Then stepp'd two mariners down the street,
With looks of grief and fear:
'Now, if Winstanley be your name,
We bring you evil cheer!
'For the good ship "Snowdrop" struck—she struck
On the rock—the Eddystone,
And down she went with threescore men,
We two being left alone.
'Down in the deep, with freight and crew,
Past any help she lies,
And never a bale has come to shore
Of all thy merchandise.'
'For cloth o' gold and comely frieze,'
Winstanley said, and sigh'd,
'For velvet coif, or costly coat,
They fathoms deep may bide.
'O thou brave skipper, blithe and kind,
O mariners bold and true,
Sorry at heart, right sorry am I,
A-thinking of yours and you.
'Many long days Winstanley's breast
Shall feel a weight within,
For a waft of wind he shall be 'fear'd
And trading count but sin.
'To him no more it shall be joy
To pace the cheerful town,
And see the lovely ladies gay
Step on in velvet gown.'
The 'Snowdrop' sank at Lammas tide,
All under the yeasty spray;
On Christmas Eve the brig 'Content'
Was also cast away.
He little thought o' New Year's night,
So jolly as he sat then,
While drank the toast and praised the roast
The round-faced Aldermen,
While serving lads ran to and fro,
Pouring the ruby wine,
And jellies trembled on the board,
And towering pasties fine,—
While loud huzzas ran up the roof
Till the lamps did rock o'erhead,
And holly boughs from rafters hung
Dropp'd down their berries red,—
He little thought on Plymouth Hoe,
With every rising tide,
How the wave wash'd in his sailor lads,
And laid them side by side.
There stepp'd a stranger to the board:
'Now, stranger, who be ye?'
He look'd to right, he look'd to left,
And 'Rest you merry,' quoth he;
'For you did not see the brig go down,
Or ever a storm had blown;
For you did not see the white wave rear
At the rock—the Eddystone.
'She drave at the rock with sternsails set;
Crash went the masts in twain;
She stagger'd back with her mortal blow,
Then leap'd at it again.
'There rose a great cry, bitter and strong,
The misty moon look'd out!
And the water swarmed with seamen's heads,
And the wreck was strew'd about.
'I saw her mainsail lash the sea
As I clung to the rock alone;
Then she heeled over, and down she went.
And sank like any stone.
'She was a fair ship, but all's one!
For nought could bide the shock.'
'I will take horse,' Winstanley said,
'And see this deadly rock.'
'For never again shall barque o' mine
Sail over the windy sea,
Unless, by the blessing of God, for this
Be found a remedy.'
Winstanley rode to Plymouth town
All in the sleet and the snow,
And he looked around on shore and sound
As he stood on Plymouth Hoe.
Till a pillar of spray rose far away,
And shot up its stately head,
Rear'd and fell over, and rear'd again:
"T is the rock! the rock! ' he said.
Straight to the Mayor he took his way,
'Good Master Mayor,' quoth he,
'I am a mercer of London town,
And owner of vessels three,—
'But for your rock of dark renown,
I had five to track the main.'
'You are one of many,' the old Mayor said,
'That on the rock complain.
'An ill rock, mercer! your words ring right,
Well with my thoughts they chime,
For my two sons to the world to come
It sent before their time.'
'Lend me a lighter, good Master Mayor,
And a score of shipwrights free,
For I think to raise a lantern tower
On this rock o' destiny.'
The old Mayor laugh'd, but sigh'd also;
'Ah, youth,' quoth he, 'is rash;
Sooner, young man, thou'lt root it out
From the sea that doth it lash.
'Who sails too near its jagged teeth,
He shall have evil lot;
For the calmest seas that tumble there
Froth like a boiling pot,
'And the heavier seas few look on nigh,
But straight they lay him dead;
A seventy-gunship, sir!—they'll shoot
Higher than her mast-head.
'O, beacons sighted in the dark,
They are right welcome things,
And pitchpots flaming on the shore
Show fair as angel wings.
'Hast gold in hand? then light the land,
It 'longs to thee and me;
But let alone the deadly rock
In God Almighty's sea.'
Yet said he, 'Nay—I must away,
On the rock to set my feet;
My debts are paid, my will I made,
Or ever I did thee greet.
'If I must die, then let me die
By the rock and not elsewhere;
If I may live, O let me live
To mount my lighthouse stair.'
The old Mayor look'd him in the face,
And answered: 'Have thy way;
Thy heart is stout, as if round about
It was braced with an iron stay:
'Have thy will, mercer! choose thy men,
Put off from the storm-rid shore;
God with thee be, or I shall see
Thy face and theirs no more.'
Heavily plunged the breaking wave,
And foam flew up the lea,
Morning and even the drifted snow
Fell into the dark grey sea.
Winstanley chose him men and gear;
He said, 'My time I waste,'
For the seas ran seething up the shore,
And the wrack drave on in haste.
But twenty days he waited and more,
Pacing the strand alone,
Or ever he set his manly foot
On the rock—the Eddystone.
Then he and the sea began their strife,
And work'd with power and might:
Whatever the man rear'd up by day
The sea broke down by night.
He wrought at ebb with bar and beam,
He sail'd to shore at flow;
And at his side, by that same tide,
Came bar and beam also.
'Give in, give in,' the old Mayor cried,
'Or thou wilt rue the day.'
'Yonder he goes,' the townsfolk sigh'd,
'But the rock will have its way.
'For all his looks that are so stout,
And his speeches brave and fair,
He may wait on the wind, wait on the wave,
But he'll build no lighthouse there.'
In fine weather and foul weather
The rock his arts did flout,
Through the long days and the short days,
Till all that year ran out.
With fine weather and foul weather
Another year came in:
'To take his wage,' the workmen said,
'We almost count a sin.'
Now March was gone, came April in,
And a sea-fog settled down,
And forth sail'd he on a glassy sea,
He sail'd from Plymouth town.
With men and stores he put to sea,
As he was wont to do;
They show'd in the fog like ghosts full faint—
A ghostly craft and crew.
And the sea-fog lay and wax'd alway,
For a long eight days and more;
'God help our men,' quoth the women then;
'For they bide long from shore.'
They paced the Hoe in doubt and dread:
'Where may our mariners be?'
But the brooding fog lay soft as down
Over the quiet sea.
A Scottish schooner made the port,
The thirteenth day at e'en:
'As I am a man,' the captain cried,
'A strange sight I have seen:
'And a strange sound heard, my masters all,
At sea, in the fog and the rain,
Like shipwrights' hammers tapping low,
Then loud, then low again.
'And a stately house one instant show'd,
Through a rift, on the vessel's lee;
What manner of creatures may be those
That build upon the sea?'
Then sigh'd the folk, 'The Lord be praised!'
And they flock'd to the shore amain;
All over the Hoe that livelong night,
Many stood out in the rain.
It ceased, and the red sun rear'd his head,
And the rolling fog did flee;
And, lo! in the offing faint and far
Winstanley's house at sea!
In fair weather with mirth and cheer
The stately tower uprose;
In foul weather, with hunger and cold,
They were content to close;
Till up the stair Winstanley went,
To fire the wick afar;
And Plymouth in the silent night
Look'd out, and saw her star.
Winstanley set his foot ashore:
Said he, 'My work is done;
I hold it strong to last as long
As aught beneath the sun.
'But if it fail, as fail it may,
Borne down with ruin and rout,
Another than I shall rear it high,
And brace the girders stout.
'A better than I shall rear it high,
For now the way is plain,
And tho' I were dead,' Winstanley said,
'The light would shine again.
'Yet, were I fain still to remain,
Watch in my tower to keep,
And tend my light in the stormiest night
That ever did move the deep;
'And if it stood, why then 't were good,
Amid their tremulous stirs,
To count each stroke when the mad
For cheers of mariners.
'But if it fell, then this were well,
That I should with it fall;
Since, for my part, I have built my heart
In the courses of its wall.
'Ay! I were fain, long to remain,
Watch in my tower to keep,
And tend my light in the stormiest night
That ever did move the deep.'
'With that Winstanley went his way,
And left the rock renowned,
And summer and winter his pilot star
Hung bright o'er Plymouth Sound.
But it fell out, fell out at last,
That he would put to sea,
To scan once more his lighthouse tower
On the rock o' destiny.
And the winds woke, and the storm broke,
And wrecks came plunging in;
None in the town that night lay down
Or sleep or rest to win.
The great mad waves were rolling graves,
And each flung up its dead;
The seething flow was white below,
And black the sky o'erhead.
And when the dawn, the dull, grey dawn,—
Broke on the trembling town,
And men look'd south to the harbour mouth,
The lighthouse tower was down.
Down in the deep where he doth sleep,
Who made it shine afar,
And then in the night that drown'd its light,
Set, with his pilot star.
Many fair tombs in the glorious glooms
At Westminster they show;
The brave and the great lie there in state
Winstanley lieth low.
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