The Monitions of the Unseen (I)

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THE MONITIONS OF THE UNSEEN.


THERE are who give themselves to work for men,
To raise the lost, to gather orphaned babes
And teach them, pitying of their mean estate,
To feel for misery, and to look on crime
With ruth, till they forget that they themselves
Are of the race, themselves among the crowd
Under the sentence and outside the gate,
And of the family and in the doom.
Cold is the world; they feel how cold it is,
And wish that they could warm it.   Hard is life
For some.   They would that they could soften it;
And, in the doing of their work, they sigh
As if it was their choice and not their lot;
And, in the raising of their prayer to God,
They crave his kindness for the world he made,
Till they, at last, forget that he, not they,
Is the true lover of man.

____________

2.


Now, in an ancient town, that had sunk low,—
Trade having drifted from it, while there stayed
Too many, that it erst had fed, behind,—
There walked a curate once, at early day.


3.


It was the summer-time; but summer air
Came never, in its sweetness, down that dark
And crowded alley,—never reached the door
Whereat he stopped,—the sordid, shattered door.


4.


He paused, and, looking right and left, beheld
Dirt and decay, the lowering tenements
That leaned toward each other; broken panes
Bulging with rags, and grim with old neglect;
And reeking hills of formless refuse, heaped
To fade and fester in a stagnant air.
But he thought nothing of it: he had learned
To take all wretchedness for granted,—he,
Reared in a stainless home, and radiant yet
With the clear hues of healthful English youth,
Had learned to kneel by beds forlorn, and stoop
Under foul lintels.   He could touch, with hand
Unshrinking, fevered fingers; he could hear
The language of the lost, in haunt and den,—
So dismal, that the coldest passer-by
Must needs be sorry for them, and, albeit
They cursed, would dare to speak no harder words
Than these,—"God help them!"


5.


                                                          Ay! a learnθd man
The curate in all woes that plague mankind,—
Too learnθd, for he was but young.   His heart
Had yearned till it was overstrained, and now
He—plunged into a narrow slough unblest,
Had struggled with its deadly waters, till
His own head had gone under, and he took
Small joy in work he could not look to aid
Its cleansing.


6.


                               Yet, by one right tender tie,
Hope held him yet.   The fathers coarse and dull,
Vile mothers hard, and boys and girls profane,
His soul drew back from.   He had worked for them,—
Work without joy: but, in his heart of hearts,
He loved the little children; and, whene'er
He heard their prattle innocent, and heard
Their tender voices lisping sacred words
That he had taught them,—in the cleanly calm
Of decent school, by decent matron held,—
Then would he say, "I shall have pleasure yet,
In these."


7.


                     But now, when he pushed back that door
And mounted up a flight of ruined stairs,
He said not that.   He said, "Oh! once I thought
The little children would make bright for me
The crown they wear who have won many souls
For righteousness; but oh, this evil place!
Hard lines it gives them, cold and dirt abhorred,—
Hunger and nakedness, in lieu of love,
And blows instead of care.


8.


                                                "And so they die,
The little children that I love,—they die,—
They turn their wistful faces to the wall,
And slip away to God."


9.


                                               With that, his hand
He laid upon a latch and lifted it,
Looked in full quietly, and entered straight.


10.


What saw he there?   He saw a three-years child,
That lay a-dying on a wisp of straw
Swept up into a corner.   O'er its brow
The damps of death were gathering: all alone,
Uncared for, save that by its side was set
A cup, it waited.   And the eyes had ceased
To look on things at hand.   He thought they gazed
In wistful wonder, or some faint surmise
Of coming change,—as though they saw the gate
Of that fair land that seems to most of us
Very far off.


11.


                         When he beheld the look,
He said, "I knew, I knew how this would be!
Another!   Ay, and but for drunken blows
And dull forgetfulness of infant need,
This little one had lived."   And thereupon
The misery of it wrought upon him so,
That, unaware, he wept.   Oh! then it was
That, in the bending of his manly head,
It came between the child and that whereon
He gazed, and, when the curate glanced again,
Those dying eyes, drawn back to earth once more,
Looked up into his own, and smiled.


12.


                                                                      He drew
More near, and kneeled beside the small frail thing,
Because the lips were moving; and it raised
Its baby hand, and stroked away his tears,
And whispered, "Master! master!" and so died.


13.


Now, in that town there was an ancient church,
A minster of old days which these had turned
To parish uses: there the curate served.
It stood within a quiet swarded Close,
Sunny and still, and, though it was not far
From those dark courts where poor humanity
Struggled and swarmed, it seemed to wear its own
Still atmosphere about it, and to hold
That old-world calm within its precincts pure
And that grave rest which modern life foregoes.


14.


When the sad curate, rising from his knees,
Looked from the dead to heaven,—as, unaware,
Men do when they would track departed life,—
He heard the deep tone of the minster-bell
Sounding for service, and he turned away
So heavy at heart, that, when he left behind
That dismal habitation, and came out
In the clear sunshine of the minster-yard,
He never marked it.   Up the aisle he moved,
With his own gloom about him; then came forth,
And read before the folk grand words and calm,—
Words full of hope; but into his dull heart
Hope came not.   As one talketh in a dream,
And doth not mark the sense of his own words,
He read; and, as one walketh in a dream,
He after walked toward the vestment-room,
And never marked the way he went by,—no,
Nor the gray verger that before him stood,
The great church-keys depending from his hand,
Ready to follow him out and lock the door.


15.


At length, aroused to present things, but not
Content to break the sequence of his thought,
Nor ready for the working day that held
Its busy course without, he said, "Good friend,
Leave me the keys: I would remain awhile."
And, when the verger gave, he moved with him
Toward the door distraught, then shut him out,
And locked himself within the church alone.
The minster-church was like a great brown cave,
Fluted and fine with pillars, and all dim
With glorious gloom; but, as the curate turned,
Suddenly shone the sun,—and roof and walls,
Also the clustering shafts from end to end,
Were thickly sown all over, as it were,
With seedling rainbows.   And it went and came
And went, that sunny beam, and drifted up
Ethereal bloom to flush the open wings
And carven cheeks of dimpled cherubim,
And dropped upon the curate as he passed,
And covered his white raiment and his hair.


16.


Then did look down upon him from their place,
High in the upper lights, grave mitred priests,
And grand old monarchs in their flowered gowns
And capes of miniver; and therewithal
(A veiling cloud gone by) the naked sun ,
Smote with his burning splendour all the pile,
And in there rushed, through half-translucent panes,
A sombre glory as of rusted gold,
Deep ruby stains, and tender blue and green,
That made the floor a beauty and delight,
Strewed as with phantom blossoms, sweet enough
To have been wafted there the day they dropt
On the flower-beds in heaven.


17.


                                                          The curate passed
Adown the long south aisle, and did not think
Upon this beauty, nor that he himself—
Excellent in the strength of youth, and fair
With all the majesty that noble work
And stainless manners give—did add his part
To make it fairer.


18.


                                    In among the knights
That lay with hands uplifted, by the lute
And palm of many a saint,—'neath capitals
Whereon our fathers had been bold to carve
With earthly tools their ancient childlike dream
Concerning heavenly fruit and living bowers,
And glad full-throated birds that sing up there
Among the branches of the tree of life—
Through all the ordered forest of the shafts,
Shooting on high to enter into light,
That swam aloft,—he took his silent way,
And in the southern transept sat him down,
Covered his face, and thought.


19.


                                                        He said, "No pain,
No passion, and no aching, heart o mine,
Doth stir within thee.   Oh! I would there did:
Thou art so dull, so tired.   I have lost
I know not what.   I see the heavens as lead:
They tend no whither.  Ah! the world is bared
Of her enchantment now: she is but earth
And water.   And, though much hath passed away,
There may be more to go.   I may forget
The joy and fear that have been: there may live
No more for me the fervency of hope
Nor the arrest of wonder.


20.


                                                  "Once I said,
'Content will wait on work, though work appear
Unfruitful.'   Now I say, 'Where is the good?
What is the good?'   A lamp when it is lit
Must needs give light; but I am like a man
Holding his lamp in some deserted place
Where no foot passeth.   Must I trim my lamp,
And ever painfully toil to keep it bright,
When use for it is none?   I must; I will.
Though God withhold my wages, I must work,
And watch the bringing of my work to naught,—
Weed in the vineyard through the heat o' the day,
And, overtasked, behold the weedy place
Grow ranker yet in spite of me.


21.


                                                                "Oh! yet
My meditated words are trodden down
Like a little wayside grass.   Castaway shells,
Lifted and tossed aside by a plunging wave,
Have no more force against it than have I
Against the sweeping, weltering wave of life,
That, lifting and dislodging me, drives on,
And notes not mine endeavour."


22.


                                                              Afterward,
He added more words like to these; to wit,
That it was hard to see the world so sad:
He would that it were happier.  It was hard
To see the blameless overborne; and hard
To know that God, who loves the world, should yet
Let it lie down in sorrow, when a smile
From him would make it laugh and sing,—a word
From him transform it to a heaven.   He said,
Moreover, "When will this be done?   My life
Hath not yet reached the noon, and I am tired;
And oh! it may be that, uncomforted
By foolish hope of doing good and vain
Conceit of being useful, I may live,
And it may be my duty to go on
Working for years and years, for years and years."
But, while the words were uttered, in his heart
There dawned a vague alarm.   He was aware
That somewhat touched him, and he lifted up
His face.   "I am alone," the curate said,—
"I think I am alone.   What is it, then?
I am ashamed!   My raiment is not clean.
My lips,—I am afraid they are not clean.
My heart is darkened and unclean.   Ah me,
To be a man, and yet to tremble so!
Strange, strange!"


23.


                                 And there was sitting at his feet—
He could not see it plainly—at his feet
A very little child.   And, while the blood
Drave to his heart, he set his eye on it,
Gazing, and, lo! the loveliness from heaven
Took clearer form and colour.   He beheld
The strange, wise sweetness of a dimpled mouth,
The deep serene of eyes at home with bliss,
And perfect in possession.   So it spoke,
"My master!" but he answered not a word;
And it went on: "I had a name, a name.
He knew my name; but here they can forget."
The curate answered: "Nay, I know thee well.
I love thee.   Wherefore art thou come?"   It said,
"They sent me; " and he faltered, "Fold thy hand,
O most dear little one! for on it gleams
A gem that is so bright I cannot look
Thereon."   It said, "When I did leave this world,
That was a tear.   But that was long ago;
For I have lived among the happy folk,
You wot of, ages, ages."   Then said he,
"Do they forget us, while beneath the palms
They take their infinite leisure?"   And, with eyes
That seemed to muse upon him, looking up
In peace the little child made answer, "Nay;"
And murmured, in the language that he loved,
"How is it that his hair is not yet white;
For I and all the others have been long
Waiting for him to come."


24.


                                                      "And was it long?"
The curate answered, pondering.   "Time being done,
Shall life indeed expand, and give the sense,
In our to-come, of infinite extension?"
Then said the child, "In heaven we children talk
Of the great matters, and our lips are wise;
But here I can but talk with thee in words
That here I knew."   And therewithal, arisen,
It said, "I pray you take me in your arms."
Then, being afraid but willing, so he did;
And partly drew about the radiant child,
For better covering its dread purity,
The foldings of his gown.   And he beheld
Its beauty, and the tremulous woven light
That hung upon its hair; withal, the robe,
'Whiter than fuller of this world can white,'
That clothed its immortality.   And so
The trembling came again, and he was dumb,
Repenting his uncleanness: and he lift
His eyes, and all the holy place was full
Of living things: and some were faint and dim,
As if they bore an intermittent life,
Waxing and waning; and they had no form,
But drifted on like slowly trailθd clouds,
Or moving spots of darkness, with an eye
Apiece.   And some, in guise of evil birds,
Came by in troops, and stretched their naked necks,
And some were men-like, but their heads hung down;
And he said, "O my God! let me find grace
Not to behold their faces, for I know
They must be wicked and right terrible."
But while he prayed, lo! whispers; and there moved
Two shadows on the wall.   He could not see
The forms of them that cast them: he could see
Only the shadows as of two that sat
Upon the floor, where, clad in women's weeds,
They lisped together.   And he shuddered much:
There was a rustling near him, and he feared
Lest they should touch him, and he feel their touch.


25.


"It is not great," quoth one, "the work achieved.
We do, and we delight to do, our best:
But that is little; for, my dear," quoth she,
"This tower and town have been infested long
With angels."—"Ay," the other made reply,
"I had a little evil-one, of late,
That I picked up as it was crawling out
O the pit, and took and cherished in my breast.
It would divine for me, and oft would moan,
'Pray thee, no churches,' and it spake of this.


26.


"But I was harried once,—thou know'st by whom,—
And fled in here; and, when he followed me,
I crouching by this pillar, he let down
His hand,—being all too proud to send his eyes
In its wake,—and, plucking forth my tender imp,
Flung it behind him.   It went yelping forth;
And, as for me, I never saw it more.
Much is against us,—very much: the times
Are hard."   She paused: her fellow took the word,
Plaining on such as preach and them that plead.


27.


"Even such as haunt the yawning mouths of hell,"
Quoth she, "and pluck them back that run thereto."
Then, like a sudden blow, there fell on him
The utterance of his name.   "There is no soul
That I loathe more, and oftener curse.   Woe's me,
That cursing should be vain!   Ay, he will go
Gather the sucking children, that are yet
Too young for us, and watch and shelter them
Till the strong Angels—pitiless and stern,
But to them loving ever—sweep them in,
By armsful, to the unapproachable fold.


28.


"We strew his path with gold: it will not lie.
'Deal softly with him,' was the master's word.
We brought him all delights: his angel came
And stood between them and his eyes.   They spend
Much pains upon him,—keep him poor and low
And unbeloved; and thus he gives his mind
To fill the fateful, the impregnable
Child-fold, and sow on earth the seed of stars.


29.


"Oh! hard is serving against love,—the love
Of the unspeakable; for if we soil
The souls He openeth out a washing-place;
And if we grudge, and snatch away the bread,
Then will He save by poverty, and gain
By early giving up of blameless life;
And if we shed out gold, He even will save
In spite of gold,—of twice-refinθd gold."


30.


With that the curate set his daunted eyes
To look upon the shadows of the fiends.
He was made sure they could not see the child
That nestled in his arms; he also knew
They were unconscious that his mortal ears
Had new intelligence, which gave their speech
Possible entrance through his garb of clay.


31.


He was afraid, yet awful gladness reached
His soul: the testimony of the lost
Upbraided him; but while he trembled yet,
The heavenly child had lifted up its head
And left his arms, and on the marble floor
Stood beckoning.


32.


                               And, its touch withdrawn, the place
Was silent, empty; all that swarming tribe
Of evil ones concealed behind the veil,
And shut into their separate world, were closed
From his observance.   He arose, and paced
After the little child,—as half in fear
That it would leave him,—till they reached a door;
And then said he,—but much distraught he spoke,
Laying his hand across the lock,—"This door
Shuts in the stairs whereby men mount the tower.
Wouldst thou go up, and so withdraw to heaven?"
It answered, "I will mount them."   Then said he,
"And I will follow."—"So thou shalt do well,"
The radiant thing replied, and it went up,
And he, amazed, went after; for the stairs,
Otherwise dark, were lightened by the rays
Shed out of raiment woven in high heaven,
And hair whereon had smiled the light of God.


33.


With that, they, pacing on, came out at last
Into a dim, weird place,—a chamber formed
Betwixt the roofs: for you shall know that all
The vaulting of the nave, fretted and fine,
Was covered with the dust of ages, laid
Thick with those chips of stone which they had left
Who wrought it; but a high-pitched roof was reared
Above it, and the western gable pierced
With three long narrow lights.   Great tie-beams
        loomed
Across, and many daws frequented there,
The starling and the sparrow littered it
With straw, and peeped from many a shady nook;
And there was lifting up of wings, and there
Was hasty exit when the curate came.
But sitting on a beam and moving not
For him, he saw two fair gray turtle-doves
Bowing their heads, and cooing; and the child
Put forth a hand to touch his own, but straight
He, startled, drew it back, because, forsooth,
A stirring fancy smote him, and he thought
That language trembled on their innocent tongues,
And floated forth in speech that man could hear.
Then said the child, "Yet touch, my master dear."
And he let down his hand, and touched again;
And so it was.   "But if they had their way,"
One turtle cooed, "how should this world go on?"


34.


Then he looked well upon them, as he stood
Upright before them.   They were feathered doves,
And sitting close together; and their eyes
Were rounded with the rim that marks their kind.
Their tender crimson feet did pat the beam,—
No phantoms they; and soon the fellow-dove
Made answer, "Nay, they count themselves so wise,
There is no task they shall be set to do
But they will ask God why.   What mean they so?
The glory is not in the task, but in
The doing it for Him.   What should he think,
Brother, this man that must, forsooth, be set
Such noble work, and suffered to behold
Its fruit, if he knew more of us and ours?"
With that the other leaned, as if attent:
"I am not perfect, brother, in his thought."
The mystic bird replied, "Brother, he saith,
'But it is nought: the work is overhard,'
Whose fault is that?   God sets not overwork.


35.


"He saith the world is sorrowful, and he
Is therefore sorrowful.  He cannot set
The crooked straight;—but who demands of him,
O brother, that he should?  What! thinks he, then,
His work is God s advantage, and his will
More bent to aid the world than its dread Lord's?
Nay, yet there live amongst us legions fair,
Millions on millions, who could do right well
What he must fail in; and 'twas whispered me,
That chiefly for himself the task is given,—
His little daily task."   With that he paused.


36.


Then said the other, preening its fair wing,
"Men have discovered all God's islands now,
And given them names; whereof they are as proud,
And deem themselves as great, as if their hands
Had made them.   Strange is man, and strange his
        pride.
Now, as for us, it matters not to learn
What and from whence we be: How should we tell?
Our world is undiscovered in these skies,
Our names not whispered.   Yet, for us and ours,
What joy it is,—permission to come down,
Not souls, as he, to the bosom of their God,
To guide, but to their goal the wingθd fowls,
His lovely lower-fashioned lives to help
To take their forms by legions, fly, and draw
With us the sweet, obedient, flocking things
That ever hear our message reverently,
And follow us far.   How should they know their way,
Forsooth, alone?   Men say they fly alone;
Yet some have set on record, and averred,
That they, among the flocks, had duly marked
A leader."


37.


                       Then his fellow made reply:
"They might divine the Maker's heart.   Come forth,
Fair dove, to find the flocks, and guide their wings,
For Him that loveth them."


38.


                                                          With that, the child
Withdrew his hand, and all their speech was done.
He moved toward them, but they fluttered forth
And fled into the sunshine.


39.


                                                 "I would fain,"
Said he, "have heard some more.   And wilt thou go?"
He added to the child, for this had turned.
"Ay," quoth he, gently, "to the beggar's place;
For I would see the beggar in the porch."


40.


So they went down together to the door,
Which, when the curate opened, lo! without
The beggar sat; and he saluted him:
"Good morrow, master."   "Wherefore art thou here?"
The curate asked: "it is not service-time,
And none will enter now to give thee alms."
Then said the beggar, "I have hope at heart
That I shall go to my poor house no more."
"Art thou so sick that thou dost think to die?"
The curate said.   With that the beggar laughed,
And under his dim eyelids gathered tears,
And he was all a-tremble with a strange
And moving exaltation.   "Ay," quoth he,
And set his face toward high heaven: "I think
The blessing that I wait on must be near."
Then said the curate, "God be good to thee."
And, straight, the little child put forth his hand,
And touched him.   "Master, master, hush!
You should not, master, speak so carelessly
In this great presence."


41.


                                        But the touch so wrought,
That, lo! the dazzled curate staggered back,
For dread effulgence from the beggar's eyes
Smote him, and from the crippled limbs shot forth
Terrible lights, as pure long blades of fire.
"Withdraw thy touch! withdraw thy touch!" he cried,
"Or else shall I be blinded."   Then the child
Stood back from him; and he sat down apart,
Recovering of his manhood: and he heard
The beggar and the child discourse of things
Dreadful for glory, till his spirits came
Anew; and, when the beggar looked on him,
He said, "If I offend not, pray you tell
Who and what are you—I behold a face
Marred with old age, sickness, and poverty,—
A cripple with a staff, who long hath sat
Begging, and ofttimes moaning, in the porch,
For pain and for the wind's inclemency.
What are you?"   Then the beggar made reply,
"I was a delegate, a living power;
My work was bliss, for seeds were in my hand
To plant a new-made world.   O happy work!
It grew and blossomed; but my dwelling-place
Was far remote from heaven.   I have not seen;
I knew no wish to enter there.   But, lo!
There went forth rumours, running out like rays,
How some, that were of power like even to mine,
Had made request to come and find a place
Within its walls.   And these were satisfied
With promises, and sent to this far world
To take the weeds of your mortality,
And minister, and suffer grief and pain,
And die like men.   Then were they gathered in.
They saw a face, and were accounted kin
To Whom thou knowest, for he is kin to men.


42.


"Then I did wait; and oft, at work, I sang,
'To minister! oh, joy, to minister!'
And, it being known, a message came to me:
'Whether is best, thou forest-planter wise,
To minister to others, or that they
Should minister to thee?'   Then, on my face
Low lying, I made answer: 'It is best,
Most High, to minister;' and thus came back
The answer,—'Choose not for thyself the best:
Go down, and, lo! my poor shall minister,
Out of their poverty, to thee; shall learn
Compassion by thy frailty; and shall oft
Turn back, when speeding home from work, to help
Thee, weak and crippled, home.   My little ones,
Thou shalt importune for their slender mite,
And pray, and move them that they give it up
For love of Me.'"


43.


                                  The curate answered him,
"Art thou content, O great one from afar!
If I may ask, and not offend?"   He said,
"I am.   Behold! I stand not all alone,
That I should think to do a perfect work.
I may not wish to give; for I have heard
'Tis best for me that I receive.   For me.
God is the only giver, and His gift
Is one."   With that, the little child sighed out,
"O master! master!   I am out of heaven
Since noonday, and I hear them calling me.
If you be ready, great one, let us go:—
Hark! hark! they call."


44.


                                                   Then did the beggar lift
His face to heaven, and utter forth a cry
As of the pangs of death, and every tree
Moved as if shaken by a sudden wind.
He cried again, and there came forth a hand
From some invisible form, which, being laid
A little moment on the curate's eyes,
It dazzled him with light that brake from it,
So that he saw no more.


45.


                                                  "What shall I do?"
The curate murmured, when he came again
To himself and looked about him.   "This is strange!
My thoughts are all astray; and yet, methinks,
A weight is taken from my heart.   Lo! lo!
There lieth at my feet, frail, white, and dead,
The sometime beggar.   He is happy now.
There was a child; but he is gone, and he
Is also happy.   I am glad to think
I am not bound to make the wrong go right;
But only to discover, and to do
With cheerful heart, the work that God appoints."


46.


With that, he did compose, with reverent care,
The dead; continuing, "I will trust in Him,
THAT HE CAN HOLD HIS OWN; and I will take
His will, above the work He sendeth me,
To be my chiefest good."


47.


                                                Then went he forth,
"I shall die early," thinking: "I am warned,
By this fair vision, that I have not long
To live."   Yet he lived on to good old age;
Ay, he lives yet, and he is working still.

 
____________

48.


It may be there are many in like case:
They give themselves, and are in misery
Because the gift is small, and doth not make
The world by so much better as they fain
Would have it.   'Tis a fault; but, as for us,
Let us not blame them.   Maybe, 'tis a fault
More kindly looked on by The Majesty
Than our best virtues are.   Why, what are we!
What have we given, and what have we desired
To give, the world?

                       There must be something wrong.
Look to it: let us mend our ways.   Farewell.

 
――――♦――――
 

"To watch the golden haze that lay
    Adown that river by the wood."

 

A BIRTHDAY WALK.

(WRITTEN FOR A FRIEND S BIRTHDAY.)
______________


"The days of our life are threescore years and ten."
______________


A BIRTHDAY:—and now a day that rose
    With much of hope, with meaning rife—
A thoughtful day from dawn to close:
    The middle day of human life.

In sloping fields on narrow plains,
    The sheep were feeding on their knees,
As we went through the winding lanes,
    Strewed with red buds of alder-trees.

So warm the day—its influence lent
    To flagging thought a stronger wing;
So utterly was winter spent,
    So sudden was the birth of spring.

Wild crocus flowers in copse and hedge—
    In sunlight, clustering thick below,
Sighed for the firwood's shaded ledge,
    Where sparkled yet a line of snow.

And crowded snowdrops faintly hung
    Their fair heads lower for the heat,
While in still air all branches flung
    Their shadowy doubles at our feet.

And through the hedge the sunbeams crept,
    Dropped through the maple and the birch;
And lost in airy distance slept
    On the broad tower of Tamworth Church.

Then, lingering on the downward way,
    A little space we resting stood,
To watch the golden haze that lay
    Adown that river by the wood.

A distance vague, the bloom of sleep
    The constant sun had lent the scene,
A veiling charm on dingles deep
    Lay soft those pastoral hills between.

There are some days that die not out,
    Nor alter by reflection's power,
Whose converse calm, whose words devout,
    For ever rest, the spirit's dower.

And they are days when drops a veil—
    A mist upon the distance past;
And while we say to peace—"All hail!"
    We hope that always it shall last.

Times when the troubles of the heart
    Are hushed—as winds were hushed that day—
And budding hopes begin to start,
    Like those green hedgerows on our way:

When all within and all around,
    Like hues on that sweet landscape blend,
And Nature's hand has made to sound
    The heartstrings that her touch attend:

When there are rays within, like those
    That streamed through maple and through birch,
And rested in such calm repose
    On the broad tower of Tamworth Church.

 
――――♦――――

 

NOT IN VAIN I WAITED.


SHE was but a child, a child,
    And I a man grown;
Sweet she was, and fresh, and wild,
    And, I thought, my own.

What could I do?   The long grass groweth,
    The long wave floweth with a murmur on:
The why and the wherefore of it all who knoweth?
    Ere I thought to lose her she was grown—
            and gone.


This day or that day in warm spring weather,
The lamb that was tame will yearn to break its tether.
"But if the world wound thee," I said, "come back to
        me,
Down in the dell wishing,—wishing, wishing for thee."


The dews hang on the white may,
    Like a ghost it stands,
All in the dusk before day
    That folds the dim lands:

Dark fell the skies when once belated,
    Sad, and sorrow-fated, I missed the sun;
But wake, heart, and sing, for not in vain I waited.
    O clear, O solemn dawning, lo, the maid is won!

Sweet dews, dry early on the grass and clover,
Lest the bride wet her feet while she walks over;
Shine to-day, sunbeams, and make all fair to see:
Down the dell she s coming—coming, coming with
        me.

 
――――♦――――

 

A GLEANING SONG.

 
"WHITHER away, thou little careless rover?
        (Kind Roger's true)
Whither away, across yon bents and clover,
        Wet, wet with dew?"
    "Roger here, Roger there—
        Roger—O, he sighed,
    Yet let me glean among the wheat,
        Nor sit kind Roger's bride."

"What wilt thou do when all the gleaning's ended,
        What wilt thou do?
The cold will come, and fog and frost-work blended
        (Kind Roger s true)."
    "Sleet and rain, cloud and storm,
        When they cease to frown
    I'll bind me primrose bunches sweet,
        And cry them up the town."

"What if at last thy careless heart awaking
        This day thou rue?"
"I'll cry my flowers, and think for all its breaking,
        Kind Roger's true;
    Roger here, Roger there,
        O, my true love sighed,
    Sigh once, once more, I'll stay my feet
        And rest kind Roger's bride."

 
――――♦――――


 

WITH A DIAMOND.


WHILE Time a grim old lion gnawing lay,
    And mumbled with his teeth yon regal tomb,
Like some immortal tear undimmed for aye,
    This gem was dropped among the dust of doom.

Dropped, haply, by a sad, forgotten queen,
    A tear to outlast name, and fame, and tongue:
Her other tears, and ours, all tears terrene,
    For great new griefs to be hereafter sung.

Take it,—a goddess might have wept such tears,
    Or Dame Electra changed into a star,
That waxed so dim because her children's years
    In leaguered Troy were bitter through long war.

Not till the end to end grow dull or waste,—
    Ah, what a little while the light we share!
Hand after hand shall yet with this be graced,
    Signing the Will that leaves it to an heir.

 
――――♦――――

 

FANCY.


O FANCY, if thou flyest, come back anon,
    Thy fluttering wings are soft as love's first word,
    And fragrant as the feathers of that bird,
Which feeds upon the budded cinnamon.
I ask thee not to work, or sigh—play on,
    From nought that was not, was, or is, deterred;
    The flax that Old Fate spun thy flights have stirred,
And waved memorial grass of Marathon.
Play, but be gentle, not as on that day
    I saw thee running down the rims of doom
With stars thou hadst been stealing—while they lay
    Smothered in light and blue—clasped to thy breast;
Bring rather to me in the firelit room
    A netted halcyon bird to sing of rest.

 
――――♦――――

 

COMPENSATION.


ONE launched a ship, but she was wrecked at sea;
    He built a bridge, but floods have borne it down;
He meant much good, none came: strange destiny,
    His corn lies sunk, his bridge bears none to town,
    Yet good he had not meant became his crown;
For once at work, when even as nature free,
    From thought of good he was, or of renown,
God took the work for good and let good be.
So wakened with a trembling after sleep,
    Dread Mona Roa yields her fateful store;
All gleaming hot the scarlet rivers creep,
    And fanned of great-leaved palms slip to the shore,
Then stolen to unplumbed wastes of that far deep,
    Lay the foundations for one island more.

 
――――♦――――


 

LOOKING DIOWN.


MOUNTAINS of sorrow, I have heard your moans,
    And the moving of your pines; but we sit high
    On your green shoulders, nearer stoops the sky,
And pure airs visit us from all the zones.
    Sweet world beneath, too happy far to sigh,
Dost thou look thus beheld from heavenly thrones?
No; not for all the love that counts thy stones,
    While sleepy with great light the valleys lie.
Strange, rapturous peace! its sunshine doth enfold
    My heart; I have escaped to the days divine,
It seemeth as bygone ages back had rolled,
    And all the eldest past was now, was mine;
Nay, even as if Melchizedec of old
    Might here come forth to us with bread and wine.

 
――――♦――――

 

MARRIED LOVERS.


COME away, the clouds are high,
Put the flashing needles by.
Many days are not to spare,
Or to waste, my fairest fair!
All is ready.   Come to-day,
For the nightingale her lay,
When she findeth that the whole
Of her love, and all her soul,
Cannot forth of her sweet throat,
Sobs the while she draws her breath,
And the bravery of her note
In a few days altereth.
Come, ere she despond, and see
In a silent ecstasy
Chestnuts heave for hours and hours
All the glory of their flowers
To the melting blue above,
That broods over them like love.
Leave the garden walls, where blow
Apple-blossoms pink, and low
Ordered beds of tulips fine.
Seek the blossoms made divine
With a scent that is their soul.
These are soulless.   Bring the white
Of thy gown to bathe in light
Walls for narrow hearts.   The whole
Earth is found, and air and sea,
Not too wide for thee and me.
Not too wide, and yet thy face
Gives the meaning of all space;
And thine eyes, with starbeams fraught,
Hold the measure of all thought;
For of them my soul besought,
And was shown a glimpse of thine—
A veiled vestal, with divine
Solace, in sweet love's despair,
For that life is brief as fair.
Who hath most, he yearneth most,
Sure, as seldom heretofore,
Somewhere of the gracious more.
Deepest joy the least shall boast,
Asking with new-opened eyes
The remainder; that which lies
O, so fair! but not all conned—
O, so near! and yet beyond.

Come, and in the woodland sit,
Seem a wonted part of it.
Then, while moves the delicate air,
And the glories of thy hair
Little flickering sun-rays strike,
Let me see what thou art like;
For great love enthralls me so,
That, in sooth, I scarcely know.
Show me, in a house all green,
Save for long gold wedges sheen,
Where the flies, white sparks of fire,
Dart and hover and aspire,
And the leaves, air-stirred on high,
Feel such joy they needs must sigh,
And the untracked grass makes sweet
All fair flowers to touch thy feet,
And the bees about them hum.
All the world is waiting.   Come!

 
――――♦――――

 

A WINTER SONG.


CAME the dread Archer up yonder lawn—
    Night is the time for the old to die—
But woe for an arrow that smote the fawn,
    When the hind that was sick unscathed went by.

Father lay moaning, "Her fault was sore
    (Night is the time when the old must die),
Yet, ah to bless her, my child, once more,
    For heart is failing: the end is nigh."

"Daughter, my daughter, my girl," I cried
    (Night is the time for the old to die)
"Woe for the wish if till morn ye bide"—
    Dark was the welkin and wild the sky.

Heavily plunged from the roof the snow—
    (Night is the time when the old will die),
She answered, "My mother, 'tis well, I go."
    Sparkled the north star, the wrack flew high.

First at his head, and last at his feet
    (Night is the time when the old should die),
Kneeling I watched till his soul did fleet,
    None else that loved him, none else were nigh,

I wept in the night as the desolate weep
    (Night is the time for the old to die),
Cometh my daughter? the drifts are deep,
    Across the cold hollows how white they lie.

I sought her afar through the spectral trees
    (Night is the time when the old must die),
The fells were all muffled, the floods did freeze,
    And a wrathful moon hung red in the sky.

By night I found her where pent waves steal
    (Night is the time when the old should die),
But she lay stiff by the locked mill-wheel,
    And the old stars lived in their homes on high.

 
――――♦――――


 

BINDING SHEAVES.


HARK! a lover binding sheaves
    To his maiden sings,
Flutter, flutter go the leaves,
    Larks drop their wings.
Little brooks for all their mirth
    Are not blythe as he.
"Give me what the love is worth
    That I give thee.

"Speech that cannot be forborne
    Tells the story through:
I sowed my love in with the corn,
    And they both grew.
Count the world full wide of girth,
    And hived honey sweet,
But count the love of more worth
    Laid at thy feet.

"Money's worth is house and land,
    Velvet coat and vest.
Work's worth is bread in hand,
    Ay, and sweet rest.
Wilt thou learn what love is worth?
    Ah! she sits above,
Sighing, 'Weigh me not with earth,
    Love's worth is love.'"

 
――――♦――――

 

WORK.


LIKE coral insects multitudinous
    The minutes are whereof our life is made.
    They build it up as in the deep's blue shade
It grows, it comes to light, and then, and thus
For both there is an end.   The populous
    Sea-blossoms close, our minutes that have paid
    Life's debt of work are spent; the work is laid
Before their feet that shall come after us.
We may not stay to watch if it will speed,
    The bard if on some luter's string his song
    Live sweetly yet; the hero if his star
Doth shine.   Work is its own best earthly meed,
    Else have we none more than the sea-born throng
    Who wrought those marvellous isles that bloom afar.

 
――――♦――――

 

WISHING.


WHEN I reflect how little I have done,
    And add to that how little I have seen,
Then furthermore how little I have won
    Of joy, or good, how little known, or been:
    I long for other life more full, more keen,
And yearn to change with such as well have run—
    Yet reason mocks me—nay, the soul, I weep,
Granted her choice would dare to change with none;
No,—not to feel, as Blondel when his lay
    Pierced the strong tower, and Richard answered it—
No,—not to do, as Eustace on the day
    He left fair Calais to her weeping fit—
No,—not to be Columbus, waked from sleep
When his new world rose from the charmθd deep.

 
――――♦――――

 

TO ―――.


STRANGE was the doom of Heracles, whose shade
    Had dwelling in dim Hades the unblest,
    While yet his form and presence sat a guest
With the old immortals when the feast was made.
Thine like, thus differs; form and presence laid
    In this dim chamber of enforcθd rest,
    It is the unseen 'shade' which, risen, hath pressed
Above all heights where feet Olympian strayed.
My soul admires to hear thee speak; thy thought
    Falls from a high place like an August star,
Or some great eagle from his air-hung rings—
    When swooping past a snow-cold mountain scar—
Down the steep slope of a long sunbeam brought,
    He stirs the wheat with the steerage of his wings.

 
――――♦――――

 

ON THE BORDERS OF CANNOCK
CHASE.


A COTTAGER leaned whispering by her hives,
    Telling the bees some news, as they lit down,
    And entered one by one their waxen town.
Larks passioning hung o'er their brooding wives,
And all the sunny hills where heather thrives
    Lay satisfied with peace.   A stately crown
    Of trees enringed the upper headland brown,
And reedy pools, wherein the moor-hen dives,
Glittered and gleamed.
                       A resting-place for light,
They that were bred here love it; but they say,
    "We shall not have it long; in three years' time
A hundred pits will cast out fires by night,
Down yon still glen their smoke shall trail its way,
And the white ash lie thick in lieu of rime."

 
――――♦――――


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