James Macfarlan: Poetical Works  (2)
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EVANGEL.

 

THOU art gone to bliss before us,
    As the herald lark upsprings
With an angel-carol o'er us,
    And the beat of angel wings.
As the setting sun in splendour
    Leaves a glory on the sea,
So thine infant echoes tender
    Light my path of misery.

Thou art gone to bliss before us,
    Yet I dare not dream thee lost,
For the weight of love you bore us
    And thy beauty's priceless cost.
I should madden in the midnight
    Did I miss thy radient form,
Like an Iris flashing sunlight
    O'er the black wings of the storm.

Thou art gone to bliss before us;
    Yet we scarce could wish thee back,
To mar that heavenly chorus
    With a long and trembling track.
But we'll here thy blissful singing
    In the burden of the bowers,
And behold thy beauty springing
    In the love-looks of the flowers.

 

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THE RHYMER.

 

I STOOD at the rich man's door,
    'Mid a tempest of musical din,
But the vagabond name that I bore
    Could find me no footing within.
In a tremulous accent I spoke,
    And craved him a pitiful boon,
But the voice of the suppliant broke
    Like a jar on the reveller's tune.

O to be stabbed with scorn!
    To bleed at a rich man's gate—
A rose-leaf cut by a thorn,
    And strewed by the breezes of hate!
With a word that can cruelly kill,
    And the side-long sneer of an eye,
And the blood that has leapt like a rill
    Struck to ice by a freezing reply.

But a voice rose up from the stones,
    From the heartless stones at my feet,
And I heard its long-echoing tones
    Like an angel-flight over the street:
And it struck on the strings of my soul
    As it bade me be fearless and free,
And I heard its wild cadences roll,
    While it cried, "Thou are greater than he!"

I was mean as a weed on a moor,
    Of wealth I had never a plack,
With the shadow of sadness before,
    And want, like a wolf, at my back.
But storehouses bursting with gain,
    And weltering vessels had he,
Wide acres of pastoral plain,
    And isles that are hugged by the sea.

And still as I journey'd along
    The daisy looked up with a smile,
And the merry lark rose with a song
    That haunted me many a mile.
And I walked in a rapture of soul
    With the music that stirred in the tree,
For the burden that ended the whole,
    Was still, "Thou art greater than he!"

 

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ROBERT BURNS.
A CENTENARY ODE—(1859).

 

IN lonely hut and lordly hall a mighty voice is heard,
And 'neath its wild bewitching spell the honest brows
        are bared:
From Scotland's hills and twilight glens to far Colum-
        bian woods;
It stirs the city's streets of toil, and wakes its solitudes;
It speaks no triumph reaped with swords, it brings no
        conquering cry
Of buried honors battle crowned and veil'd with victory;
But hearts leap loving to its note, and kindling bosoms
        glow
To hail the Poet born to fame a hundred years ago.

O! like a glorious bird of God, he leapt up from the
        earth,
A lark in song's exalted heaven, a robin by the hearth:
O! like a peerless flower he sprang from Nature's
        nearest sod,
Yet shedding joy on every path by human footsteps trod.
How shall we tell his wondrous power, how shall we
        say or sing
What magic to a million hearts his deathless strains
        can bring!
How men on murkest battle fields have felt the potent
        charm,
Till sinking valour leapt to life, and strung the nerveless
        arm.

How hearts in dreariest loneliness have toil'd through
        barren brine—
The only glimpse of sunshine then, his pictures o'
        langsyne;
How far amid the western wilds, by one enchanting
        tune,
The wide Missouri fades away in dreams of "Bonnie
        Doon:"
More hearts and hands renew the pledge—sweet pledge
        of other years,
That sacred "auld acquaintance" bow, the light of
        parting tears.

O! blessed be the brawny arm that tore presumption
        down,
That snatched the robe from worthless pride, and gave
        to toil a crown;
That smote the rock of poverty with song's enchanting
        rod,
Till joy into a million hearts in streams of beauty flow'd;
And while that arm could stretch to heaven and wield
        the lightning's dart,
It brought the glorious sunshine down to cheer the
        humblest heart:
For free as Spring, his gladsome muse danc'd o'er the
        daisied plain,
Or rang in organ-gusts of praise through grandeur's
        mightiest fane.
Then blest for ever be the soul that link'd us man to
        man—
A brotherhood of beating hearts—God's own immortal
        plan;
While Labour, smiling at his forge, or stalking at his
        plough,
Looks up with prouder soul to find God's finger on his
        brow:
Feels man is man though russet-robed and smacking
        of the soil,
And all are brothers whether born to titles or to toil.

Then pledge his mem'ry far and near, although the
        hand be dust
That oft has swept the golden lyre which ages cannot rust;
The sun of Time ne'er sets upon the empire of his fame,
And still unwearied is the wing that bears abroad his
        name:
There may be grander bards than he, there may be
        loftier songs,
But none have touch'd with nobler nerve the poor man's
        rights and wrongs;
Then while unto the hazy past the eye of fancy turns,
Raise high the fame and bless the name of glorious
        Robert Burns!

 

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BOOK WORLD.

 

WHEN the dim presence of the awful night
        Clasps in her jewell'd arms the slumbering earth,
Alone I sit beside the lowly light
        That like a dream-fire flickers on my hearth,
With some joy-teeming volume in my hand—
A peopled planet, opulent and grand.

It may be Shakespeare, with his endless train
        Of sceptred thoughts, a glorious progeny
Borne on the whirlwind of his mighty strain,
        Through vision lands forever far and free:
His great mind beaming through those phantom crowds,
Like evening sun from out a wealth of clouds.

It may be Milton, on his seraph wing,
        Soaring to heights of grandeur yet untrod;
Now deep where horrid shapes of darkness cling,
        Now lost in splendour at the feet of God:
Girt with the terror of evenging skies,
Or wrapt in dreams of infant Paradise.

It may be Spencer, with his misty shades,
        Where forms of beauty wondrous tales rehearse,
With breezy vistas, and with cool arcades
        Opening for ever in his antique verse:
It may be Chaucer, with his drink divine,
His Tabard old, and pilgrims twenty-nine.

Perchance I linger with the mighty Three
        Of glorious Greece—that morning land of Song—
Who bared the fearful front of Tragedy,
        And soared to fame on pinions broad and strong:
Or watch beneath the Trojan ramparts proud
The dim hosts gathering like a thunder-cloud,

No rust of time can sully Quixote's mail,
        In wonted rest his lance securely lies;
Still is the faithful Sancho stout and hale,
        For ever wide his wonder-stricken eyes:
And Rosinante, bare and spectral steed,
Still throws gaunt shadows o'er their every deed.

Still can I robe me in the old delights
        Of Caliph splendid and of Genii grim,
The star-wealth of Arabia's thousand nights
        Shining till every other light grows dim
Or wander far in broad voluptuous lands
By streams of silver and through golden sands:

Still hear the storms of Cameons burst and swell,
        His seas of vengeance raging wild and wide;
Or wander by the glimmering fires of hell
        With dreaming Dante and his spirit guide:
Loiter in Petrarch's green, melodious grove,
Or hang with Tasso o'er his hopeless love.

What then to me is the gay sparkling dance,
        Wine-purpled banquet, or vain Fashion's blaze,
Thus roaming through the realms of rich Romance,
        Old Bookworld, and its wealth of royal days:
Forever with those brave and brilliant ones
That fill Time's channel like a stream of suns!

 

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THE MIDNIGHT TRAIN.

 

ACROSS the dull and brooding night
A giant flies with demon light
        And breath of wreathing smoke;
Around him whirls the reeling plain,
And with a dash of grim disdain
        He cleaves the sundered rock.

In lonely swamps the low wind stirs
The belt of black funereal firs
        That murmurs to the sky,
Till, startled by his mad career,
They seem to keep a hush of fear,
        As if a god swept by!

Through many a dark wild heart of heath,
O'er booming bridges where, beneath,
        A midnight river brawls:
By ruin-remnants of the past,
Their ivies trembling in the blast
        By singing waterfalls.

The slumb'rer on his silent bed
Turns to the light his lonely head,
        Divested of its dream:
Long leagues of gloom are hurried o'er,
Through tunnel-sheaths, with iron roar,
        And shrill night-reading scream.

Past huddling huts, past flying farms,
High furnace flames, whose crimson arms
        Are grappling with the night,
He tears along receding lands
To where the kingly city stands
        Wrapt in a robe of light.

Here, round each wide and gushing gate;
A crowd of eager faces wait,
        And every smile is known:
We thank thee, O thou Titan train,
That in the city once again
        We clasp our loved, our own!

 

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THE WIDOW'S WAKE.

 

DEEP in the midnight lane,
    Where glimmering tapers feebly pierce the gloom
Through many a winking pane,
All tearful in the rain,
    The widow lies within her naked room:

Coldly the widow lies,
    Though woe and want can touch her never more
And her beamless eyes—
Grief's well that rarely dries—
    Never again shall hold its oozy store.

Coldly the widow lies,
    God's mighty midnight creepeth overhead:
King's couch and pauper's bed,
All human tears, all cares, all agonies,
    Beneath his gaze are spread.

And these poor boards of thin and dismal deal
    That hold her mortal relics in His eyes
Are sacred as some gilded obsequies:
When purchased mourners kneel
    'Mid all the painful pomp in which some great man lies.

None may this vigil keep:
    Retired in life the widow died alone,
And in this silent sleep
None wait by her; none weep
    To find that she is gone.

Only the winds that steal
    Coldly across the damp and broken wall
    On that pale visage fall,
As though they paused her icy brow to feel,
Or, Death's great blank a moment to reveal,
    Uplift the scanty pall.

And this is she who struggled long and sore
    In the black night time of a dire distress:
    Most patient wretchedness,
Bearing a bitter cross to Death's dark door,
Receiving there—if humankind may guess—
    A crown of glory for the thorns she wore.

 

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THE RUINED CITY.

 

The shadows of a thousand springs,
    Unnumbered sunsets, sternly sleep
Above the dust of perished things
    That form the city's blasted heap.
Dull watch the crumbling columns keep
    Against the fierce relentless sky,
Hours that no dial noteth creep
    Like unremembered phantoms by:
And still this city of the dead
    Gives echo to no human tread.

A curse is writ on every stone,
    The Temple's latest pillar lies
Like some white Mammoth's bleaching bone:
    Its altars know no deities.
Five columns of a palace rise,
    And when the sun is red and low
And glaring in the molten skies,
    A shadow huge these columns throw:
That like some dark colossal hand
    In silence creeps across the sand.

The Senate slumbers, wondrous hive
    Of councils sage and subtile schemes;
But does no lingering tone survive
    To prove their presence more than dreams?
No light of revelation beams
    Around that voiceless Forum now,
Time bears upon his restless streams
    No reflex of the haughty brow
That oft has frowned a nation's fate,
    Here—where dark reptiles congregate.

Where, where is now the regal rag
    That clothed the monarch of yon tower,
On which the rank weed flaps its flag
    Across the dark this sombre hour?
Alas! for pomp, alas! for power
    When time unveils their nakedness,
And Valour's strength, and Beauty's flower
    Find nought to echo their distress:
And flattery—fine delusive breath—
    Melts in the iron grasp of Death.

Day rises with an angry glance,
    As if to blight the stagnant air,
And hurls his fierce and fiery lance.
    On that Doomed City's forehead bare:
The sunset's wild and wandering hair
    Streams backward like a comet's mane,
And from the deep and sullen glare
    The shuddering columns crouch in vain,
While through the wreck of wrathful years
    The grim hyena stalks and sneers.

 

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SHADOWS ON THE WALL.

 

BESIDE the hearth there is an hour of dreaming,
    A calm and pensive solitude of soul,
When life and death have each another seeming,
    And thoughts are with us owning no control.
These are the spirits, Memory's revealing,
    In deep solemnity they rise and fall,
Shrouding the living present, and concealing
    The world around us—Shadows on the Wall.

Hopes, like the leaves and blossoms rudely shaken
    By cruel winds of winter from the tree
Of our existence; phantoms that awaken
    Wild passing gleams of Joy's young ecstacy;
And Love, once kind and tenderly outpouring
    Her wine into our souls, we may recall,
And find them dear and ever heavenward soaring,
    Though only now as Shadows on the Wall.

Old clasping hands, old friendships and affections,
    Once bodied forms beside us on the earth,
Come back to haunt us, ghostly recollections,
    With mystic converse by the silent hearth.
Yet these are kindly spirits, and retiring
    Draw their long shadows slowly from the wall:
They come in peace and gentleness, inspiring
    Sweet Hope that brings the sunshine after all.

 

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CLASSIC GROUND.

 

I gave the reins to fancy as the day
    Withdrew its golden presence from my room,
    And, noble in their glory and their gloom,
Had glimpses of old grandeurs passed away.

And there was Greece, with all her greatness gone,
    A sounding pageant on the track of time;
    And Athens, rising from her sleep sublime,
Set on her queenly brow the Parthenon.

And Wisdom sought again his ancient height,
    And Music revelled in her wonted isles,
    And Beauty gave once more divinest smiles
To scenes rejoicing in her early light.

And then uprose proud Venice from her waves,
    Dipt in a golden sheen of sea and sky;
    And visions of old splendours glimmered by,
And regal phantoms called from grandest graves:

With thoughts of Tasso, and the gondoliers
    Who filled each moonlit vista with his lays;
    The pity and the pride of olden days,
Othello's wrong, and Belvidera's tears.

Until there came a tumult and a cry
    Of rushing peoples madden'd with their fall,
    Led like one living ocean by a name
To touch the purple robe of Victory.

When mightier still swept past the awful shade
    Of world-commanding and imperial Rome,
    Rich in triumphal arch and heaving dome,
Proud soaring pillar and long colonnade.

Till in her later ruin, sadly grand,
    She raised from desolation darkly spread
    The semblance of a hoary, crownless head
That leant upon a cold unsceptred hand.

Then, mist-like, faded Athens, Venice, Rome:
    And Fancy from her dream of power and art
    Returned to dearer spots, and found the heart
Still lingering in the quiet paths of home!

 

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FAIRY LORE.

 

Glad were the children when their glowing faces
    Gathered about us in the winter night;
And now, with gleesome hearts in verdant places,
    We see them leaping in the summer light.

For they remember yet the tales we told them
    Around the hearth of fairies long ago,
When they could only look out to behold them
    Quick dancing earthward in the feathery snow.

But now the young and fresh imagination
    Finds traces of their presence everywhere,
And people's with a new and bright creation
    The clear blue chambers of the sunny air.

For them the gate of many a fairy palace
    Opes to the ringing bugle of the bee;
And every flower-cup is a golden chalice,
    Wine-filled, in some grand elfin revelry.

Quaint little eyes from grassy nooks are peering;
    Each dewy leaf is rich in magic lore;
The foam-bells down the merry brooklet steering
    Are fairy-freighted to some happier shore.

Stern theorists, with wisdom overreaching
    The aim of wisdom in your precepts cold,
And with a painful stress of callous teaching
    That withers the young heart into the old—

What is the gain if all their flowers were perished,
    Their vision fields forever shorn and bare,
The mirror shattered that their young faith cherished,
    Showing the faith of things so very fair?

Time hath enough of ills to undeceive them,
    And cares will crowd where dreams have dwelt before,
O, therefore, while the heart is trusting leave them
    Their happy childhood and their Fairy Lore!

 

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REJOICE!

 

IN the warm, grandeur of the summer glows,
    Gleaming and cold in winter's frozen tears—
Casting a faded crimson on the snows—
                Beauty in all appears:
The thunder-music of the winter floods,
The summer calms, the hush of solitudes.

This crowning beauty breathes upon the face,
    Up through the fine pores of the scented flowers
In the still stars her looks of love we trace
                On quiet midnight hours:
Her dew-wet kisses to the morn are given,
Her lingering blushes tinge the cheek of even.

Beauty will oft her face in darkness shroud,
    Yet lovely glances struggle through the storm;
'Tis the black bosom of the rainy cloud
                Wears the bright rainbow's form:
A universal love, a good in ill,
Worketh for man, yet cheats his human skill.

Closed in the city's cold and granite heart,
    Lulled by the groaning murmur of its wheels.
The soul is lost in life,—becomes a part
                Of the fierce tide that steals
Throughout the city's long and sinuous veins,
The many-sounded streets, the lighted lanes.

Yet may the heart be far 'mong flowery fells,
    Drinking the drowsy music of the bee,
Or dreaming joyous in the summer dells,
                Wrapt in rich poesy:
The spirit ne'er is chained by time or place,
Wild as the swallow in its airy chase.

Rejoice, O man! the winds sing out "rejoice,"
    Hark! it is whispered by the dancing leaf,
A grand hope—echo like a seraph voice
                Rings through the night of grief:
O God! how barren were this gift of life
Devoid of flowers, with nought but weeds of strife.

 

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NORTHERN LIGHTS.

 

DECEMBER hung her glittering roof
    Of frosty starshine o'er the earth,
The streamers danced across the night
    Like angels in a troop of mirth.
I stood in the deserted street,
    A child that never saw a flower,
Till, looking upward, God unveiled
    The face of beauty in that hour.

Around, the city dark and dumb,
    Above, the gleaming mystery:
I stood like one who views afar
    The flashing of an awful sea.
Like the bright fingers of a god
    That sweep creation's mystic bars,
They seemed on might's weird harp to wake
    The song of all the eternal stars.

Their shading glory filled my trance,
    With eyes turned upward wonder-wide,
Till every wave of pulsing joy
    Rose towering in a swell of pride.
I blessed the night, I blessed the stars,
    I blessed the chance that bound me there,
But chief, the floods of streaming light,
    Like young Aurora's golden hair.

And still their shifting glow shall warm
    The winters of my life again;
Their phantom banners wave sublime
    Across the night's star-flowery plain.
They filled my heart with wild delight;
    And bade my yearning soul aspire
To Nature's altar crowned with song,
    And bright with beauty's golden fire.

 

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MY HOLIDAY.

 

THE town is blackening on the sky,
    Its muffled thunder rolls away,
To weary heart and languid eye
    Their beams a holier light of day.
O sorrow-lined and throbbing brow,
    Long pressed against the bars of toil,
What ecstasy awaits thee now
    On yonder sunny stainless soil!

The opening landscape stretches wide,
    An endless swell of hill and plain;
With, through the golden haze descried,
    A distant glimmer of the main.
The woodland minstrels carol clear
    From out each green sequestered nook,
And 'neath their leafy haunts I hear
    The laughing answer of the brook.

And losing here all sense of wrong,
    I feel no more the clutch of care,
And dream a world of light and song
    Where all are happy, all is fair.
But o'er me steals the envious eve
    And spreads a veil of sober grey,
When, as I take reluctant leave,
    A glory dies along the way.

The fading landscape fills with change,
    The flowers grow sadly pale and droop,
And writhing trees with shadows strange
    Across my darkening pathway stoop.
Long branches, thrust from bank and crag,
    Seem in the dim and dubious light
Bare withered arms of some grim hag
    Whose incantations thrill the night.

Again the engine thunders on—
    My car of triumph hours before—
The vision and the bliss are gone,
    Yet Memory hoards her golden store.
And there, perchance, may burst a gleam—
    In after hours of weary noise—
That may recall this passing dream
    Of happy sights and holy joys.

 

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CROSS ROADS.

 

THEY grew together in the old grey hall
    Whose antique turrets pierced a heaven of leaves,
They ran together at one father's call,
    And raised one prayer on calm religious eves.

Beauty was theirs in common, such as earth
    Can rarely reckon in her fading things.
A glory lit their tears, and in their mirth
    There seemed the music of translucent springs.

But Time that holds the helm of circumstance,
    And shapes the silent courses of the heart,
Shut up the volume of their young romance
    And cast their lives and actions far apart.

One sought the gilded world, and there became
    A being fit to startle and surprise,
Till men moved to the echoes of her name,
    And fell beneath the magic of her eyes.

For some had perished in her stern neglect,
    Fell on the sword of their own hope and died,
While she, in triumph, scornfully erect,
    Swept o'er their ashes with the skirts of pride.

And so pursuing on from year to year
    The cultivation of a cruel skill,
She reigned the despot of her hollow sphere
    And conquered hearts to break them at her at will.

But now the other, with a happier choice,
    Dwelt 'mong the breezes of her native fields,
Laughed with the brooks, and saw the flowers rejoice
    In all the blessings that the summer yields.

Like sleep, or peace in dark affliction's place,
    She smoothed the furrows on the front of care:
And with the glory of a soothing face
    Filled howling dens and caverns of despair.

Pure as the morn, went forth her fair white hand,
    Bearing a blessing on from door to door,
Till, like a new-born light, across the land
    Her heart's large love went brightening evermore.

And when at last their diverse earthly ways
    Again through time and circumstance were crost,
One, looking backward, saw sweet tranquil days,
    And one a feverish lifetime sadly lost.

 

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PARTING DAY.

 

THE sunset streams, the hamlet spire,
Gleam grandly, sheathed in evening fire,
        The river rolleth red;
The flowers are drenched in golden haze,
The churchyard brightens, and old days
        Seem smiling on the dead.

The running child whose wavy hair
Takes from the sunset's level glare
        A purer, brighter tinge,
Rolls on the grass.   The evening star
Above yon streak of cloudy bar
        Hangs on day's purple fringe.

Where latest sunshine slanting falls
Above the ivied orchard walls
        The tall tree-shadows lean
In wavy lines of shade that nod—
Like dusky streams across the road—
        With banks of light between.

From pendent boughs, like drops of gold,
The peaches hang: the mansion old,
        From out its nest of green,
Looks joyful through its golden eyes
Back on the sun-illumined skies,
        And smiles o'er all the scene.

The streams are gilt, the towering vane
Stands burnished, and the cottage pane
        Seems melting in the sun:
The last lark wavers down the sky,
The husky crow slides careless by,
        The long bright day is done.

 

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THE POET'S CHRISTMAS.

 

COLD Christmas Eve, the muffled Waits
    Are chiming in the frozen street,
Round pauper courts and princely gates
    The music lingers sweet.
In many a happy curtained brain
    Dreams of to-morrow weave their spells,
Till daylight, laughing at each pane,
    Comes with a burst of bells.

Blithe Christmas morn, such lusty cheer,
    Such kindly greeting, friendly talk
Might make the roses of the year
    Flush Winter's frozen stalk:
And stir the heart with throbs of spring,
    And fill the soul with golden dreams,
For seraphs in the holly sing
    And Joy from Yule-fire gleams.

Yet silence sits within my room,
    And coldness lies upon my hearth,
Though 'tis an hour when icy gloom
    Should feel the thaws of mirth.
They say a spirit walks abroad
    To touch the stern and Horeb heart,
Until beneath the sacred rod
    The springs of pity start.

They say the season bears a charm
    To melt the icicles of ill,
To make the snowy bosom warm,
    And blunt the wintry chill.
But men are merry with their wine,
    Their smoking meats, their smiling friends:
They have their pleasures, I have mine,
    So heaven doth make amends.

The uplifting of a mouldered pall,
    The embers of a cold desire,
The phantom shadows on the wall,
    The faces in the fire:
These, with old hopes once nursed in vain,
    Old joys, old tears, old feelings fled,
And that long, long remembered train—
    The army of the dead.

My Christmas guests.   With these I sit
    Through every shout, through every chime,
A weary bird condemned to flit
    Round darkening shores of time.
But constant cares and sorrows grow
    Familiar as a face we love,
And there are luxuries of woe
    Jove's banquet could not move.

And if at Fancy's wild command
    Some form would mould itself from shade,
Or through the gloom I felt a hand
    Upon my shoulder laid,
Scarce would I start, so long I've known
    That loneliness of life which gives
The soul a phantom-world, its own,
    Wherein it silent lives.

But let the world have joy without,
    The Poet shall have joy within,
So wreath Old Christmas' face about
    Down to his glowing chin.
No pastime spare, no pleasure shun,
    Each roof with social clouds be curled,
'Tis well for once beneath the sun
    There rolls a happy world.

 

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A MAN OF FEELING.

 

O MUCH he talked and much he wrote,
    Fine words of feeling, nicely blent
With tender touches, sweet to quote,
    And little thrills of sentiment.

O fine and sympathetic toes
    That turned aside to spare the worm,
Kind heart, that disregarded woes
    Which merely took a human form.

Except when far Tahiti's sons
    Could draw his bounty o'er the main;
And leave those hungry wretched ones
    To perish in a neighbouring lane.

O noble soul! surpassing all
    In depth of pity, breadth of sense,
How often has the crowded hall
    Re-echoed to thine eloquence.

And men bepraised the liberal hand,
    And men extoll'd the mighty views,
And spread the name throughout the land
    That figured in the morning news.

Then reverence the good man's grave,
    And let your grief be like his own,
And give him all he, ever gave
    That soft and tender thing—a stone!

 

________________________

 
TO THE MEMORY OF BURNS.

 

PROUD was the morn old Scotland saw
The highest heaven of genius spread
A halo-crown of glorious light
    Above yon humble shed.
The spirit of her ancient song
Again assumed the mountain lyre,
Till trembling o'er the witching chords
    She found it strung with fire.

As Morning lifts her vapoury veil
To show the blessed face of Day,
That spell revealed a smiling love
    Beside the humblest way.
Weird echoes floated o'er the fields,
Strange music melted o'er the hills,
Till wilder beauty tinged our flowers
    And lit our wandering rills.

O stirring spirit! by our hearths,
When mad'ning winter scares the night,
With thee we chase the gloom and walk
    A paradise of light.
And still that glorious spirit sings
By haunted heath and crumbling cairn,
And in each wailing sough that sweeps
    Across the lonely fern.

It thrills the plumed and plaided band
When buried in the mists of fight:
Writes "Glory" on war's face of fire,
    And gilds the haggard height.
All proud they climb the cliffs of death,
And dare the burning battle day,
Till Victory wreathes the heart that throbb'd
    To sound of "Scots wha hae."

O mighty minstrel! still while e'er
A daisy decks thy native sward
The Scottish heart shall proudly hold
    Its own immortal bard:
While virgin Spring, through glen and shaw,
Her thousand notes of love shall tune;
While Summers in their Eden sleep
    Lie dreaming on the Doon.

Wherever Deity hath set
His signet on our human clay;
Wherever honour, truth, and love
    Shall hold united sway:
Wherever Independance stern
The spangled minion spurns,
There—find embalmed in every breast
    The name of ROBERT BURNS!

 

________________________

 
THE LAND OF BURNS.

 

THE land of Burns! the land of Burns!
    What joyful recollections throng
The gladden'd heart when Memory turns
    To scenes that live enshrined in song—
Fair spots that we have cherished long,
    In storm and calm, in Fancy's dreams:
Ere yet we saw, we roamed among
    Those woods, and loiter'd by those streams,
And heard the music of the Doon
Swell grandly in the minstrel's tune.

The land of Burns! how dear the spell
    We feel in each enchanting word,
As lingering Fancy loves to dwell
    Where first those witching strains were heard.
How cold the being, all unstirr'd
    To rapture, as he treads the earth
That bore the proud, the patriot bard,
    And gave his magic numbers birth!
Who could behold the scenes unmoved
Where first the Poet lived and loved?

O, large the heart and proud the soul
    Of him who gave those fields to fame:
Whose being never brooked control
    Of lordly mien or titled name!
Let not unthinking malice blame
    The faults of one so great as he,
Who to Truth's sacred altar came
    With strains of love and liberty:
Who stamp'd his image on the soil,
And gave a dignity to toil.

His was no art acquired in schools,
    No courtly theme, no servile muse;
But such as did cold classic rules
    And fashion's tinsel garb refuse.
The peasant and the prince peruse
    Those lays of love, those lines of ire,
As sweet and clear as summer dews,
    As free as wind, as fierce as fire:
A wing of daring, broad and strong—
A birthright of immortal song.

The land of Burns! each varied scene
    Recalls some memory of the bard;
Old hamlets hid in summer green—
    The daisy on his native sward—
All claim the pilgrims fond regard,
    Who lingers long, and wanders slow;
And sweetly do those haunts retard
    Our footsteps as we turn to go:
O, son of Song! that land is thine—
Thy home, thy heritage, thy shrine!

 

________________________

 
GARIBALDI—THE HOPE OF ITALY.

 

A GLORIOUS nation bound and bleeding lay;
Shatter'd and broken on the wheel of wrong,
And doom'd to darkness heard the jubilant song
Of free-born peoples marching on their way:
Yet could they never share that common day
Till, strong as light, a high-soul'd hero came,
True Garibaldi, bearing loftier sway
Than e'er Rienzi with his tongue of flame.

And as a river rushes full and strong,
Blest with the sunshine till it reach the sea,
His path hath been victorious.   May it be
Still more triumphant, until proud ere long
It gain the all-embracing liberty.

Such is the people's fervent prayer, and now
They stand expectant on the stubborn hill
That barr'd the glory of their morn, and thou
Who press'd the shoulders of an iron will
To freedom's halting chariot, giv'st them still
The splendour of the hope that crowns thy brow.

God speed thy daring in such glorious cause!
Tear with heroic hands the tyrant laws
That bound thy Samson spirit! 'tis thy place
To hold through all a free unfetter'd part:
Bearing erect to heaven that "lion face,"
The noble index of a freeman's heart.

 

________________________

 
THE LITTLE GARDEN-GRAVE.

 

ALL alone, beneath the shadow
    Of the church wall old and grey,
While the April rain is dancing
    O'er the golden path of May,
Little Alice kneels at noontide
    In that lonely burial place,
With the flowers of merry spring time
    Masking Death's cold phantom face;
And through all the shining summer
    You can see the flowrets wave,
In a gleam of blessed beauty
    On that little garden-grave.

All she loved on earth are lying
    Sound and silent slumbering there;
And no garden in God's-Acre
    Boasts a daisy half so fair.
Like a flower sits gentle Alice—
    Rose, full-blown with living breath—
Or Hope's flower of promise planted
    On the sable crest of Death.
And through all the shining summer
    You can see the flowrets wave
Round their fairy sister Alice—
    On that little garden-grave.

 

________________________

 
THE LORDS OF LABOUR.

 

THEY come! they come in a glorious march!
    You can hear their steam-steeds neigh,
As they dash through Skill's triumphal arch,
    Or plunge 'mid the dancing spray.
Their bale-fires blaze in the mighty forge,
    Their life-pulse throbs in the mill,
Their lightnings shiver the gaping gorge,
    And their thunders shake the hill
Ho! these are the Titans of toil and trade,
    The heroes who wield no sabre;
But mightier conquests reapeth the blade
    That is borne by the Lords of Labour.

Brave hearts, like jewels, light the sod—
    Through the mist of commerce shine—
And souls flash out, like stars of God,
    From the midnight of the mine.
No palace is theirs, no castle great,
    No princely, pillared hall;
But they well can laugh at the roofs of state,
    'Neath the heaven which is ever all.
Ho! these are Titans of toil and trade,
    The heroes who wield no sabre;
But mightier conquests reapeth the blade
    That is borne by the Lords of Labour!

Each bares his arm for the ringing strife
    That marshals the sons of the soil;
And the sweat-drops shed in their battle of life
    Are gems in the crown of Toil,
And prouder their well-won wreaths, I trow,
    Than laurels with life-blood wet;
And nobler the arch of a bare bold brow,
    Than the clasp of a coronet.
Then hurrah for each hero, although his deed
    Be unblown by the trump or tabor;
For holier, happier far is the meed
    That crowneth the Lords of Labour!

 

________________________

 
THE BARD OF OVERTILE.

 

THE Bard of Overtile was poor,
    His home a garret high,
Yet nearer than the brawling world
    To God, and sun, and sky.
He wrapt him in his robe of dreams,
    And let the crowd roar by:
Its brazen clang and braggart shows
Ne'er pierced the veil of his repose.

His narrow strip of mignionette
    Turned every hour to May;
His linnet trill'd as though it will'd
    The giant Care to slay;
And still his patch of window caught
    The earliest laugh of Day:
Let Sorrow frown or Fortune smile,
Still sang the Bard of Overtile.

With golden touch the magic dawn
    His slumbering spirit woke;
And turning where, with glorious light,
    The purple morning broke.
He saw the burning beams descend
    To wrestle with the smoke,
Till, Jacob-like, the vapour won,
And wrung a blessing from the sun.

The dome of tempest rose sublime
    Above his lone abode;
The thunder boomed across his roof
    Like some triumphant ode
From lips of seraph—poet rolled
    Unto a listning God;
And wreaths of fiery lightning played—
Fit crown for such a poet made.

 

________________________

 
THE MASK.

 

THEY praised him for his wealth of wit,
    His jests and merry-making;
But well I knew, beneath that mirth
    A shadowed heart was breaking.

There may be pitying words for pain,
    A solitude for sadness;
But, O the tortures of the soul
    That counterfeits a gladness!

His flashes lit their midnight feast,
    But, with the waking morrow,
Death tore away the mask, and left
    A dreadful face of sorrow.

 

________________________

 
L'ENVOI.

 

AS a flower on the streamlet,
    A waif on the wind,
Go forth, little wand'rer,
    A refuge to find.

In the hall or the hovel,
    It matters not where,
If the breast of the inmate
    Shall welcome thee there.

Thy words may be lowly
    As weeds of the earth,
But the heart of the maker
    Beat high at their birth.

 

________________________

 
THE BARD.

 

IN cottage born, of parents poor and lowly,
                         The Poet sprung:
On life's dark road he wandered sad and slowly,
                         Yet fondly hung
O'er all that earth held in it pure and holy,
                         And to them sung.

His great mind brooded over man's sad story
                         Of woe and crime:
He seized Oppression by his locks grown hoary,
                         With hand sublime;
Then soothed meek Suffering with that song of glory,
                         The coming time!

He walked enraptured through the world's wide palace
                         Mankind to move,
Crushing the hydra-head of serpent malice
                         His strength to prove:
His soul, a mighty and heaven-gilded chalice,
                         O'erflowed with love.

He roused in tones of deep and solemn warning
                         The proud and high;
On tyranny and tyrants ever turning
                         With lightning eye;
And that false-robed dissembler nobly scorning
                         Hypocrisy!

His were no strains of heartless affectation,
                         No idle theme,
But the sublime and bright elucidation
                         Of prophet's dream;
And like the breath of angels adoration
                         His song did seem.

But Death came when his ardent soul was breathing
                         Its glowing fire:
Then turned he to the world, with tears bequeathing
                         His broken lyre;
And Spring behold, while her fresh garlands wreathing,
                         The Bard expire!

 


EARLIER POEMS.
________________________

 
PICTURES OF THE PAST.

 

-I-

THERE is a holy calmness in the night,
When the heart-hushed and silent city sleeps
With its huge wealth of souls: its mass of homes
Stretching in stony lengths for miles away,
Through arms of streets that spread to clasp the fields,
Their growing conquests.   Sullenly and slow
The grim old river travels to the sea,
While o'er its breast, with full majestic strides,
The bridges link the separated town.

 

-II-

Here would I sit and watch the wading moon;
To-night how like a bark she doth appear,
Serenely sailing through a sea of clouds,
Her silver prow light dipping in the waves
That break in gauzy foam upon her breast.
The dark clouds from her holy presence fly
Like evil thoughts from an untainted soul,
O silver island in an azure sea!
I fain would people thee with mine own thoughts
But they are bound like menials to the earth,
Drudging in chains for ever 'mid the mire.
I would recount the story of my life,
My early passions, and my blighted joys:
Live o'er main those glory-gilded years
Ere the pale crescent of youth's early hope
Swelled into manhood's full and brighter moon.
My memory flashes like the sun-gilt sea,
When, slowly rising from the night of years,
A scene of beauty settles on my soul.
Far from the noisy city's hum of life
I found a quiet in the dreamy hills,
Spotted with daisies in the golden June;
"Go, let the city wear its hood of smoke,
Heated, and sweltering at a thousand pores,
I feel the blessing of the mountain breeze
Washing with coolness my hot, beating brow:
One joy-spent Summer shall be mine!" I cried.

 

-III-

I sat for hours beside an aged man,
Infirm and weak, save his wild, dancing eye,
That held a bright eternal sheen of youth.
His heart was raptured with all things that fill
Nature's maternal arms: but most he loved
Her drew me closer, and his old eyes burned
With splendours, like the orb his being loved;
And pointing with a triumph to the west,
He spoke with words, warm from his glowing heart:
"Look on the sun! whose golden rim seems dipp'd
In ocean's waves: he more and more descends,
As if for ever, and his fire seems quenched.
But no! to-morrow he will rise in might,
As beautiful and glorious as when first
He smiled upon the infant face of Time.
None shares the reign of glory with the sun:
Unlike the pale-faced sentinel of night,
Who sits surrounded by a crowd of stars.
O mighty sun! and thou art still the same,
With the same grand and glowing heart of fire
Whose heat space-temper'd brought to life the flowers
That bloom'd in Eden; bathed the awful hills
Of world-old nations; shone upon the path
Of sandal'd patriarch; woke the prophet up
From his cold couch within the gloom-roofed cave.
O mighty sun! the centuries of earth
And all the gleaming summers of all years
Are strung like roses on thy golden beams!"
I looked upon his face, a shower of tears
Were raining from the grief-cloud o'er his eyes:
"I weep," he said; "when the next spring returns
The sun shall wake the violets on my grave
I've spent a wild and visionary youth,
Yet one strong passion sprung up in my heart—
A fair green tree—I water'd it with tears,
And now it is an oak with loaded boughs,
Forming a shade for my time-wearied head!

 

-IV-

"I grew up in the bosom of the hills,
A human wild flower; with the mountain winds
For infant lullabies; the mountain streams
For earliest playmates; and they sang to me
In a wild language which my spirit knew.
The goat, high-skipping on the broken crags.
Taught me to follow with unerring feet
To lonely places, where my hermit-thoughts
Could brood o'er beauty and the hopes of youth.
I joined but little in the coarser joys
That make the pastime of the mountaineer,
For my rapt spirit dreamt of grander things
And filled my heart with longings undefined."

 

-V-

"In these wild haunts much beauty had I seen:
Oft stood I in the shadow of these hills,
Lost in my awe: as if I trembling stood,
Struck by the black frown of an angry gnome.
Yet would my spirit brighten when I saw
The rocky forehead, or a rainbow form
A shining diadem of heaven's own gold.
I saw the virgin Morning blushing rise
From out the gold-fringed chambers of the east,
Her mighty forehead gleaming with the sun.
I saw the dusk brow of queenly Night
A blaze with jewels; and the glowing moon
Filling the concave with her spectral light.
These and a thousand other solemn scenes
Spoke to the soul within, and stirred my heart
To utter music as a wind-swept lyre.
O! who will blame me if I sought in song
An ease and outlet for o'erflowing joy?
And thus my rapture widen'd with my years;
And, growing to the crumbless passion, filled
My heart with hungry longings for a chance
Of brighter action.   Could my spirit mate
With the mean pleasures of a mountain hut?
I could not live 'mong herds of narrow souls—
Minds straight as loopholes, with as little light:
To fetter down my own high-purposed thoughts,
To mix my hopes—my glorious hopes—with theirs,
And let the moated splendour of my mind
Fall like a sunbeam on a dungeon floor.
When the broad sun had gilt the village spire,
And cottage windows blazed with gleaming gold,
I stood upon the mountains; saw my home,
My childhood's home, for ever left behind:
A tear-drop trembled on my glowing cheek,
But dried up in the ardour of my soul,
And with one look, by memory treasured up,
I bounded forth and breathed this flowing song."

 

-VI-

"I go, I go rejoicing, to the world of life I go,
And I see the plains of promise, spreading beautiful
        below,
And the day-dawn of my spirit brightens with the sun
        of hope,
As it wheels in silent glory up the gold-illumined slope.
O! what founts of inspiration shall come gushing on
        my soul
When Nature to my longing eyes her beauties shall
        outroll;
When the dark night's cloudy curtains by the rising
        sun are drawn,
And, like stream of golden lava, comes the ruddy flow
        of dawn.
O! could my soul have utterance, my spirit find a
        voice,
I'd cheer the old Earth on her course, and make her
        sons rejoice.
On the dim hills of the future, twinkle beacon-lights
        of fame.
Where the watcher hopes to see traced out his now
        unheeded name;
And a wild hope bounds for ever through my heart
        and through my veins,
As the swift-careering river sparkles through the
        summer plains;
And it bears me ever onward, like a flower upon the
        wave,
To cast me on some golden shore to find a home or
        grave."

 

-VII-

The old man's tale stirred up my sleeping heart,
And yet in memory's barren waste it lies,
A green and sunny spot, all white with flowers:
Ay, white with flowers, as white as those that spring
Broidering the old man's coverlid of clay.
He sleeps among the mountains: calm he sleeps,
With his loved flowers above him.   Let him sleep!

 

-VIII-

I loved a soul, and it gave joy to mine,
But in the spring time of our mutual joys
Death came full-sailed, a dark and mighty ship,
Bearing it from me to eternity,
And I left weeping on this cold Earth's beach!
What matters it though Hope for ever cries
Unto a broken heart: the sun may shine
In proudest beauty on a ruined tower
Yet wake no life up in its lonely halls.
A pale-faced boy grew up among those hills,
By the lone moorlands and the slumb'rous lakes,
Haunting the rivulets and belts of wood
With soul as quiet as the summer sky.
Sweet thoughts went with him, like attendant sprites,
Strewing his path with flowers.   Each day he grew
More fair and lovely in the light of years.
His heart was with the beautiful and true,
And Poesy to him was as a heaven
Wherein he revell'd with angelic thoughts:
The souls of those who once had trod the earth
Were to him visible, and he could hear
The far-off hymnings of the spirit-land.
Nature to him had still exhaustless stores,
Rich treasures manifold, and brightest joys.
A blue morn shining through its golden bars,
Or glorious exit of the regal sun,
Were sights to him more grand and beautiful
Than the long pageants of monarchial state.
The morning saw him out among its dews,
With upturned eyes that wandered with the lark,
And saw the golden footprints of the dawn
Gleam on the illumined hills.

 

-IX-

The poets were his dearest friends, his true companions all;
But most he cherished that old sire of song
Who still hangs sun-like in the sky of fame;
And oft in his rich raptures he would cry,
"Each line of Homer is a swelling vein
Full of the heart's blood of divinest song."
And then again, "those lines are golden cords
Of mightiest lyre, that could be proudly swept
By the great spirit-fingers of a god."
For ever like a throbbing star his heart
Shook wildly in its own blue heaven of joy;
And he had glorious dreams of future years
When he would flash a meteor o'er the world,
Bright with the lustre of a dazzling soul.
Great thoughts lay noiseless in him, and concealed,
Ev'n as the sweetest music sleeps within
A silent harp, requiring but the hand
Of circumstance to give them tuneful voice.
But his bright day of action never came:
Life's florid sunset burned upon his cheek,
And gleaming lustres trembled in his eye;
Day followed day with death upon their wings,
And he went out beneath the autumn sky
With dissolution written on his brow.
I walked with him some time before he died;
It was at night—strange youth, he loved the night,
And wore its beauty in his fading heart,
As wears the lake the silvered-pictured moon:
"See there," he said, "upon the quiet lake
The stars reflected lie like floating flowers;
How sweet to pluck them"; and a sickly smile
Sat on his features like a wintry sun.
A long sigh-broken pause, and then he spoke:
"O!   I shall pass away, and leave no trace
Upon the world that I have ever been;
More than some heedless walker on the sand
Whose footprints faint the next returning waves
Efface for ever!   O my God!   I hoped
When this poor, fragile, tender bud of mind
Had opened in my manhood to a flower,
That I would show some beauty to the world:
Then had I died as joyful as the sun
Looking behind him at the long rich track
Of golden glory shining o'er the past."

 

-X-

He lingered like the autumn's latest leaf,
A hectic trembler in the nipping wind:
He oft had wished to die among the flowers,
And ere the birds had left the summer woods
He passed off with the leaves.   We bore him out
One smiling hour, the Autumn's fairest child.
Have you not seen a fair, bright-bosom'd day
That seemed the very last of Autumn's train
Still lingering, with her golden sandall'd feet
Pressing the wither'd flowers, and holding up
A rosy hand to touch the crisped leaves?
How loath to leave them and the earth she seems,
A tearful look comes o'er her at the noon,
But brightening up, a last and glowing kiss
Lingers upon the lurid lips of Night.
On such a day we bore the trembler out,
With a rich landscape sloping to the West,
Set in the golden splendours of the sun.
"O! here," he said, "could not my weary soul
Go up to heaven upon a breeze of song;
I'd bid ye sing some low and plaintive strain,
Sad as the wail of waves upon the shore;
Or some calm hymn that cooled a martyr's fire,
Sheathing his soul in glory and in strength,
Then bore it heaven-ward from the pointed flames.
I'd bid ye sing some old, world-famous song
Smacking of flowers in thick and soft-leaved wreaths,
On golden May-days wove by laughing girls,
And hung in triumph o'er a village green;
Some sweet song whisper'd to the listening Night
When she had thrown across her mighty breast
The Milky-way, that jewell'd belt of stars
Which some wide-hearted poet breathed and then
Dashed his rich soul upon the gates of death."
He died; and few that live remember him;
But smiling Summer that he loved so well
At each return, upon his humble grave
Flings sweet remembrances of violets:
Bright blue-eyed showers with tears of diamond dew.

 

-XI-

A hermit hall lay quiet 'mong the trees,
The olden seat of some smile-featured squire,
With roof that rang to stout-lunged mirth and shouts,
Heard oft o' winter nights.   To me it stands
The cenotaph of summers buried long,
And winter mem'ries wander through its halls.
When the spent day shrank coldly into night—
Black Winter night—bedript with shivering stars
Like frozen dewdrops—we would often sit
And throw upon the black wings of those hours
Old goblin legends, darker with the dust
And often soiling of a thousand tongues
That long have used them in the lapse of years.
And sometimes would we sing a song or two:
A life of love told in a few sweet lines.
An age of bliss recorded in a verse.
And sometimes hover'd o'er the teeming page
Which holds the beauty of a mighty mind,
Ev'n as a lake the mirror'd heaven of stars.
Men whose great acts keep pace with flying Time
Had left to us their stores.   The thunder-lays
Of mighty poets shook our hearts with joy,
As 'mid the leaves and branches of a wood
Creeps the fresh breeze, and stirs them into sound.
Our thoughts were borne into the hazy Past,
Old days long dead; what time the infant Earth
Was swathed in innocence, and angels rocked
Her golden cradle to the song of peace:
One of those strains clings close to memory yet,
As the last rose clings to a ruined bower.

 

-XII-

A quiet isle lay laughing in the main
With rich scent-offerings rising to the sun,
And flower-blooms bunched in shining knots of fire.
Here in the olden days of earth there lived
A joyful race with hearts all full of bliss.
Primeval toils engaged their stainless hands,
And silken luxuries were all unknown:
Fair were their maidens as the hours of June,
But fairest she upon the shore who dwelt
In her old father's home.   On summer noons,
When dew-wet roses ope their pouting lips
To kiss the wooing breeze, she wander'd oft
Over the shell-paved margent of the main.
Sweet thoughts came to her in that lonely place,
As angels visited the homes of men
In the old days of earth.   One noon she stole
Alone to her accustomed walk, and there,
Sudden and startling as a mighty thought,
A beauteous youth all bright and sunshine-haired,
With eyes love-languaged, kindling into speech
At every heart-beat, burst upon her sight.
She would have bounded, like a startled fawn,
Quick from his presence, but the sight was new
And strange and grand as some wild lover's dream:
In her own island naught was ever seen
So dazzling, beautiful, as this strange youth;
Eyes golden-glancing, language silver-soft:
The maiden trembled, bound by those sweet spells.
Next day at noontide saw the maiden there,
To meet the stranger—Youth; a fairy skiff
Lay sleeping on the waves beside the shore:
One look behind, and now her fluttering hand
Throbbed like a new caught bird within his palm.
He bore her lightly, with love-strengthen'd arm,
From the brown shore; and, suddenly, the skiff
Clove like a thought the summer calmèd sea
On whose bright shore the maid no more was seen.
O love! eternal, never-ending love!
Thou art not a mere something that we feel,
But an existence; and we live in thee
As in another life.   The heavenly tithe
Of greatness that the angels boast o'er man
Seems given to mortals when they taste of love:
Yet love is oft to man a poison-cup
O'er which the soul may revel for an hour,
Then sink, pale, ghastly, in the death of sin.
My thoughts are with thee, friend, across the seas,
And I recall our wanderings on the moors,
Our summer sailings 'mong the anchor'd isles,
Our talk, our meetings in the noisy town.
I do remember me, it was in spring
When we within a hamlet by the hills
Passed pleasant days.   In the old churchyard there
We read together the rude lettered stones;
And looking to some distance, we espied
A stranger weeping 'neath the solemn yews.
He told us he was now alone in life,
All that he loved were there, beneath that stone.
The tear that hangs on soothing pity's lid
Shines on the night of sorrow like a star.
And we repaid him for his tale with tears,
Which were to him like gleaming drops of gold,
Treasured for ever in his memory.

 

-XIII-

O, dearest friend, thy words are in my soul,
Rich keepsakes, beauties, never growing dim.
When I was sad, how balmy were those words:—
"Be quiet, heart, bear up with present ills;
The earth without, wrapt in cold hushing snows,
May in her winter sleep have joyous dreams
Of sunlit summer, flower-embroider'd hills,
And the sweet laugh of brooklets in the shade."
How timely were such words, when Fame would flash,
A fire-fledged meteor; through my night of mind,
Filling my soul with sparks of brightest hope:—
"Man's greatness is still broadest at the base;
Like the huge pyramids that strike with awe
The straining eyeballs of the travelled seer;
Their greatness narrows even to the top,
And that high part that stands up nearest heaven
Is but a hand-breadth.   I would rather be
The boy exulting o'er his water-mills
Than him who placed upon the sultry sands
The bold-faced Sphinx to outstare passing time."
Some men their insignificance will hide
In dazzling grandeur, as that insect doth
Which glows at sleepy midnight in the grass,
Seeming a star while it is but a worm.

 

-XIV-

Thy heart and being, open as the sky,
Had sympathies awake to ev'ry form;
The May-moth wheeling on its painted wing,
The monster tossing in the Tropic seas.

 

-XV-

My heart was shaking in its summer joy,
And thou too, friend, hadst gladness in thine eyes.
We wandered on the banks of that fair stream
That journeys slowly to the mighty main;
Thine eyes grew eloquent, I watched thy lips
Break into language, and I heard thee speak.
"I never gaze upon this river but
It doth remind me of our human life.
Far 'mong the mountains, in its birthplace hid,
A leaping spring thrown up among the fern—
Thence dancing downward in its childish glee—
Fills the strait channel, lips the flow'ry bank,
And charms the meadows with its summer tune.
But now grown wide, its course is calm and slow;
Houses and towns are strung upon it thick;
Great mills, heart-groaning with their ceaseless toils,
Throw dull red shadows on its murky breast;
And now a huge, black city, which at night
Pierces the river with a thousand gleams,
And chains of bridges, all astir with life,
And mighty vessels gathered in black crowds,
Thicken upon its bosom like grim cares
That rust the keen edge of our manhood's years.
And now escaped from this dark scene of toil
It wanders in the quiet of old age,
With glimpses of green fields, and meadows rich,
Like old men's memories of early years.
And now a ship comes wading up the firth;
Another care, another passing thought
That tells the river of the ocean-grave
To which 'tis hastening.   Thus, for ever thus,
The rolling river typifies our lives."
As we walked homeward, with the setting sun
Full in our eyes, the ruins of the day
Were strewn around him in great heaps of fire.
My friend looked up.   "Behold," to me he said,
"The solemn sunset, that huge pile of clouds
Gathered in golden heaps adown the west,
And wrought by Fancy into awful shapes
Of sullen grandeur.   Now we have it like
Some range of mountains, such as this our earth
Would groan to bear; hills vast, of awful height,
Broken by earthquakes, and convulsions strange;
Such as the wheeling worlds that, travel space
Are sometimes racked with: pierced by caves of fire,
And red, still streams, and rents of glorious light.
Anon 'tis like a city conquered, spoiled
By some fierce army.   Temples overthrown,
Their domes of gold and fiery minarets
In ruin heaped, and shattered palaces
Strewn on the golden pavements of the streets.
Most georgeous wreck!   And all the while the sun,
Like the proud victor, stares with greedy eyes
On the dire havoc which himself hath caused."

 

-XVI-

Another picture, dark with heavy woe,
Comes like a black cloud o'er a sunny sky.
It is of one whose mind was rich in lore,
Till Madness, like a strong-armed rebel, rose
And clutched at Reason's crown.   I saw him oft.
When his rich soul was like a mighty wreck
Scattered in heaps upon a barren coast.
He struggled long beneath some fancied ill,
Some sin committed only in the brain,
And calm I listen'd to such words as these:
"I know that God is all, and all is God;
We live in him, as do the mote-like worlds
Within the wide-wombed purity of space,
Though they themselves be foul and hazed with sin.
O God! my Father!   I had turned to Thee
With a new soul; and firmly kept my heel
On the foul form of vanquished, prostrate Sin;
But turning round, the world my purpose smote
With a strong buffet on the throbbing brow,
And scared Repentance left me with a shriek,
Closing Heaven's gates behind her as she passed."
He sleepeth now; most quiet be his rest!

 

-XVII-

The Seasons chase each other through the year,
Each reigning in her turn.   The laughing Spring
Dances and weeps among her infant flowers,
Till her fair sister, Summer, with a crowd
Of golden days ascends the joyful throne.
Autumn, rich-laden with her sheaves and fruits,
Walks o'er the meadows with a golden foot,
While hums of plenty murmur through the corn,
And shake the golden tassels of the wheat.
Winter advancing fills the woful woods
With moans and sighings for the loss of leaves;
While, orphan-like, some pale and sickly flower
Sits lonely 'mid the ruins of the year.
Still Memory lives through all, a happy isle,
Washed by alternate waves of grief and joy,
Filled with fair shapes, and cooled by calmest winds.

 

-XVIII-

Closed is the golden volume of the Past
Which I have read by shining troops attended:
Like music rolling into silence fast,
The soul-sung strains of Memory are ended.
Like a flushed victor rides the Dawn all splendid,
Leading in triumph the new monarch, Morn;
And as the vanquished Night dies quite unfriended,
The larks proclaim, "Another day is born:"
The city wakes up with a murmur deep,
Like giant starting from his troubled sleep—
Back to their shades the brain-born phantoms creep.

 

________________________

 
THE EVE OF THE BRIDAL.

 

UPON a smooth, scythe-shaven lawn at noon
Sat stout retainers in their jerkins green,
With full-moon faces, mouths in glee agape,
Draining their master's plenitude of wine—
That rich, red wine, the heart's blood of all mirth
Joyful it was to see that merry feast
Spread out in plenty's negligence around,
Where all might share, nor fear a grudging eye
To probe them with its glance.   All felt alike—
The lace-clad lord—the vassal in his grey—
The page, light-footed as the prideful fawn,
Tripping behind his mistress as she strode
With stately steps beneath the nodding trees.
Here gallants held a pleasant war of wit,
Using their tongues as weapons in the fray,
Clashing, but killing not—an empty noise.
There sturdy peasants twined their heavy limbs
In wrestling bouts that hurried off the hours
And brought the sun to edge the western hills.
It was the good Lord Hubert's bridal day—
Lord Hubert of the many noble deeds,
Whose heart could harden into steel at sight
Of frowning foemen, but at pity's call
Would melt and thaw itself away in tears.
When eve had dusked the broad brow of the earth,
The antique turrets of the castle rose
Sharp through the trees, like knightly lances poised;
And the loud banging gates were open thrown,
And lights were gleaming in the oaken hall,
And tables bore rich loads of meats and wines,
And fruits gold-coated by rich Autumn's hand—
Juicy and plump, red-streaked by Summer suns.
Down sat the guests, great beards were dyed in wine,
Dry hearts were moistened, and all souls were filled
As full of joy as were their cups with wine.
"Now for a song," Lord Hubert shouted out;
"Bring me Sir Motley, our old jester here,
A horn of wine will stir the embers up
Of his fine fire of wit.   A song, a song.
Listen, my friends, Sir Jester deigns to sing."

 

"The skies are blue, and the fields are green,
     Merrily on the river is flowing,
 And like a fine spirit that sports unseen
     The wind through the leaves of the wood is
            blowing;
                                Blow away,
 The world to-morrow forgets to-day.

"The monarch sits on his throne of state
     (Between him and heaven is the gilded awning),
 And the courtiers crowd, men rich and great,
     To offer the monarch an hour of fawning;
                                Fawn away,
 The world to-morrow forgets to-day.

"The old man sighs for the dreamless rest
     With the silent dead in the churchyard lying;
 The lover is throned on his mistress's breast,
     Happily gazing, happily sighing;
                                Sigh away,
 The world to-morrow forgets to-day.

"I stand in the light of the joyful sun,
     And I revel awhile in the gift of being,
 My griefs are long dead every one,
     And the cares that besieged my soul are fleeing—
                                All away;
 A fig for to-morrow, I live to-day."

 

"Now, by my sooth," Lord Hubert gaily said,
"This Motley, many-coloured man of jest,
I'll warrant, would dance careless on our graves,
So little heed he gives the passing day:
Rolling the past hours into bundled wit
He throws them in the very Teeth of Time;
And when the old man angrily will turn
To strike the miscreant for his rudeness, lo!
Sir Motley strokes the grim old fellow's beard
With such a grace, the man of ages smiles
And flings him more rich hours of merriment.
But come, another song to rouse the night,
Old dosing Night, that winks her thousand eyes,"

 

Uprose a staunch old fellow from the throng,
Round-bellied as a pear, with shining cheeks
And rich red lips, with brimming laughter juiced
And ready-opened for a flow of mirth.
His mouth was but the gateway of his heart,
Whence issued a fine troop of sallies new,
Mounted on words caparison'd with wit,
Better ne'er entering lists of merriment:—

 

"Fine soul of my manhood, what memories are thine!
 Rich songs flowing freely adrift on good wine,
 Merry heels that beat lightly the green turf of June,
 In the rich, ruddy sunset or light of the moon:
 When I drain out the foam-crested beakers of ale
 That follows the song or precedeth the tale,
 Good fellows, gay fellows, your looks I recall,
 Merry hearts of the bygone, I drink to ye all.

"Fine soul of my manhood, be glorious yet,
 Into splendour blaze out like the sun ere he set,
 With a bosom as brown as the sun-burnished sheaves,
 Round cheeks with the tint of the red Autumn leaves,
 Let me dance with the light-hearted children of labour,
 On the broad farm-floor to the fife or the tabor:
 Good fellows, fine fellows, your mirth I recall,
 Though dead ye are living, I drink to ye all."

 

"Well sung my hearty, hale old evergreen,
 Long mayst thou sprout into such leaves of song,
 To keep thy fine head cool."   Lord Hubert laughed,
 And shook the gay old songster by the hand,
 And drank with him a cup of deep-hued wine.
"But is there any other who will sing
 A snatch of melody, be't grave or gay,
 Story, or legend, half as old as Time?"
 A light-haired youth, with calm, soul-searching eyes,
 That seemed but formed for scanning ladies' brows
 And cutting the strange gordian knots of love
 With keen-edged glances, broke into a strain
 As easily as buds burst into flowers:—

 

"A universal joy is Love,
 Throbbing with the stars above
 In the music-stirs that move

"Into light the golden strings
 Of the spirit, whence up springs
 Melodies on glancing wings.

"Love with wanton airs will lie
 In the sunlight of an eye,
 In the trembling of a sigh:

"Sending pleasures winged with pain,
 Passion-tides that swell the vein,
 Shining shapes that haunt the brain.

"In this woful world of ours
 Loves are strewn like summer flowers,—
 I would linger mid those bowers,

"Through the Love-built palace stray,
 Tasting riches while I may,
 Ere those flowers are swept away."

 

Thus passed the hours, borne off on wings of song,
And lark-like flew into the arms of morn,
While good Lord Hubert in his gladness said—
"Partake enjoyments, friends; be happy all;
No ceremonies here to-night shall chill
The warm blood of our mirth.    Look up, and part
With all reserve that may lie thick, like stains,
Upon the natural clothing of your hearts.
Some men on full-sailed vanity would sweep
The waves of life, and smite the very heavens
With gaudy pennons, giving all their worth
To the mean winds that blow them on in sport,
Until they're thrown, as wrecks most pitiful!
On the still shores of Death.    Both ways are wrong:
Let nice discernment hold the balance just;
And nature, though she seldom will stand back
To weigh distinctions, but will strew her flowers
As willingly upon the poor man's grave
As in the palace garden of the king,
Yet in these matters is the better judge
And dowers reward where is occasion fit:
'Tis spirits calm and steadfast that command,
And not the restless ever changing minds.
See how the moon, unshaken in the sky,
Leans with pale brow from out her chamber blue,
Ruling the fierce heart of the angry sea:
Commanding riotous and shouting waves
That leap and foam and run each other down
In savage rudeness.    But, my friends, the night
Goes winging on, and soon white-breasted Morn,
"Sweet smiling Morn, the infancy of Day,
Which sits in glee upon the downy lawn,
Stringing the pearl-like dew upon the grass,
Smiling at its variety of hue,
Will burst upon us from the night-gloom'd east:
Sit still, my friends, and crown the brow of night
With song and mirth as brilliant as her stars."

 

________________________

 
THE OLD HOUSE BY THE SHORE.

 

THERE is a scene of early youth
That mingles with my manhood's dreams,
Of flowers that strewed the path of truth,
Of sunshine upon summer streams,
Of sunsets on the sea—
Of many a joyful winter night,
Lit up by hallowed friendship's light
Of laughing eyes, and faces bright,
And lips that murmur'd free—
With many a treasured burst of mirth,
And stories by the winter hearth.

It was an old house by the shore,
Built by some one who loved the main—
Who gladly welcomed the mad roar
Of sea gales thick with heavy rain,
And smiled to see the storm
In wild wave-masses, huge and white,
Piled up against the shrieking night,
Seen for a moment by the light
That rent the tempest's form—
And whose strained eyes would watch the fray
Of warring till break of day.

This old house was my childhood's home,
My earliest dearest friends were there,
Who oft with me the sands would roam:
The rocks, the beach, and everywhere
Within a summer stroll.
And soon those scenes became a part
Of my existence: joys would start
Like fountains in my boyish heart,
And love imbued the whole:
While on the beach a shallop lay
That often danced upon the bay.

But winter, with its longsome nights
And wind that shook the windows old,
Would come; yet with such new delights
As more than paid for rain and cold.
Beside a sea-coal fire,
Went round the oft-repeated tales
Of sailors wrecked in awful gales,
Of phantom ships, and pirate sails,
And how the whales expire,
Stricken by harpoons, in the North,
Their crimson rainbows spouting forth.

And solemn was the midnight view
From that old lonely house to me,
When the far distant lighthouse threw
A long red streak upon the sea;
And ghost-like ships went by;
As mingled with our human speech
I heard the foam-winged sea-bird screech,
And dash of waves upon the beach:
Stars quiver'd in the sky,
And flying clouds seemed gored and torn,
On the moon's gleaming tempest horn.
Years gathered o'er us, crowding fast:
Some dared the dangers of the deep,
Some sought the city mazes vast,
And some within the church-yard sleep—
I walk the world alone.
No human heart beats warm for me,
No fondling children climb my knee,
No smile of age or infancy—
My summer days are flown:
All parted then, we meet no more
Within that old house by the shore.

Much have I seen, and many met
In the great city where I dwell;
Yet somehow I could ne'er forget
The dear old home I loved so well
In days of youthful glee.
And sometimes in the crowded street,
Trod by a thousand human feet,
I feel my heart and pulses beat
With some rich memory;
And ofttimes breaking on my sleep
I hear the murmur of the deep.

They say the house is desolate,
The roof fall'n in, the windows gone.
Alas!   I almost mourn its fate,
As if it were in truth mine own:
Black sea-weeds choke the door,
Upon the broken hearth, all cold,
Where happy beings met of old,
Soon shall invading waves be rolled;
Poor old house by the shore!
If yet another spring I see,
These aching eyes shall gaze on thee.

 

________________________

 
THE VISITANTS.

 

FROM the charnels dim and vast
Where the hopes of youth are cast,
Spirit memories oft will start,
Wandering, from the buried past,
Through the chambers of the heart.
Thus, when musing all alone
Of the coming and the gone,
I behold in fancy's glass
Shadowy forms before me pass.

One by one they come and go
Through those chambers sad and slow:
First I see an aged man,
Hollow-cheek'd, and pale, and wan,
On his bent and weary head
Scanty hairs like silver thread,
And from every whiten'd hair
Seems to hang a leaden care.—
Let that hoary old man pass,
I can only sigh, alas!

One by one they come and go
Through those chambers sad and slow:
Now a matron calm and staid,
With her hair in modest braid,
Passes with a joyous train
Of youthful years that rise again,
Where methinks I see an elf,
Image of my former self.
Happy then, unhappy now;
On the tablet of my brow
Time hath lines of sorrow traced,
Never more to be effaced.—
Let that modest matron pass,
I can only sigh, alas!

One by one they come and go
Through those chambers sad and slow
Now a youthful form I see
Holding out his hand to me.
He was one with whom I played
On the summer hills, and strayed
By the silver bosom'd streams,
Sharing bright and golden dreams,
Gazing with enchanted eye
Into misty destiny.
Come, old friend; I know thee yet,
Think'st thou I could e'er forget?
Let us now in joy live o'er
All the days w e spent before:
Search again the hidden nook,
Where we conn'd the poet's book.
But I look upon thy breast,
What doth now mine eyes arrest?
Ah! that purple border'd stain,
Tells me of a distant plain,
Tells me that my hopes are vain.—
Let that dear companion pass,
I can only weep, alas!

One by one they come and go
Through those chambers sad and slow:
Now a queenly maid appears,
With a crown of golden years.
Ah! I know those beaming eyes,
Blue and bright as summer skies.
Once her heart was all mine own,
Once I lived for her alone;
Love, a god to me divine,
In her bosom made his shrine,
And before that shrine I knelt,
With the worship that I felt:
Away! no more I wish to see,
Living, she is dead to me.—
Let that faithless maiden pass,
I have learned to scorn, alas!
One by one they all are gone,
I am left to mourn alone.

 

________________________

 
A MIDNIGHT REVERIE.

 

THERE are strange feelings, undefined,
        That flit like phantoms through the breast,
        For ever in a wild unrest,
Yet never leave their native mind.

They seem beyond all mortal ken,
        And like dim spirits strive in vain
        A body and a shape to gain,
That they may still be seen of men.

Thoughts are the offspring of the soul;
        And human words can ne'er reveal
        The half of what the soul may feel,
Much less the grand, consistent whole.

The placid moon could never shine
        Unless it felt another light;
        The soul of man is ever bright
With radiance from a sun divine.

The moon is darkened by a cloud,
        So may the glorious light within
        Be hidden, and the veil of sin
In darksome folds the soul enshroud.

Methinks the soul itself is pure,
Though bearing weight of earthly dust;
And spite of sin's foul gathering rust
It shall eternally endure.

Back on the past may memory look,
        Recalling clearly what hath been;
        The present is for ever seen,
The future's an unopen'd book.

No glimpse of after-life is given;
        The grave for ever seems to be
        Between time and eternity,
Like yawning gulf 'twixt hell and heaven.

Before creation's glorious morn,
        There floated through unmeasured space
        The fragments of a mighty race
Of glittering planets yet unborn.

Thus in the youthful poet's brain
        Are hid the atoms of bright thought,
        Till into one great centre brought,
We see some gorgeous epic strain.

Life is a toilsome, beaten track,
        Where man works out his busy day;
        But passes joys upon the way,
For which he fain would travel back.

There is no breathing-place on earth:
        The panting soul must ever toil
        Until upon some starry soil
It wakes into another birth.

Slow wears the darkness into day;
        The sun shall rise in glorious might,
        And with the vapours of the night
My phantom thoughts shall glide away.

 

________________________

 
THOUGHTS IN SOLITUDE.

 

'TIS not alone in churches that we feel
Th' Almighty's presence, the pervading awe,
The deep solemnity that clasps the soul:
Nature is one vast temple! human-kind
May worship in the woods full fervently;
For every leaf that quivers in the breeze
Is as a tongue to tell the listening heart
That God is there!   And in the mountain land,
Where the red sun upon the rocky height
Burns like a censer on an altar-head,
There may the spirit breathe in hymns of praise.
Here now I sit, this calm and quiet morn,

Wrapt in a haze of thought, through which I see
Nature and her works in fairest hues.
I see the sunshine like a golden chain
Binding the earth to heaven, while o'er me soars
The joyful skylark all unseen, but heard
Like the stray echo of an angel's song.
O! what could buy the rapture of this hour?
Not all the pleasures of the sensual throng
Whirling ill revelry through heated halls,
Bright with the glare; of grandeur and of gold.
Man seeks, in wine-cup deep and pleasure-lined,
A hiding place from care, but all in vain:
The tide that bathes his soul to-night with joy
To-morrow ebbs and leaves him on the strand,
Naked to pain and torturing remorse.
But here the heated heart or burning brow
Might borrow calmness from the cool green earth
Wet with the lingering dew.   This quiet scene,
So rich in loveliness, brings to the soul
A glorious train of pure and solemn thought.
Now can I understand what's meant by Heaven,
That grand mysterious and much-doubted world!
It is the ripening of the beauteous seed
That Love and Faith have sown upon the earth;
O'er which the blessed in the halls of God
Hold one great harvest-home of endless joy.
It is an awful look to peer beyond
The little fence of narrow human life
Into Eternity's unbounded space.
Yet O! how grand the thought—this soul shall last
A thousand worlds, outlive the mighty sun,
And still be lustrous when the stars are dim:
A jewel shining in the crown of God!

 

________________________

 
BELISARIUS.

 

THE day was closing over hill and plain
As two poor travellers, on a rugged path,
Went wandering on with slow and feeble steps.
One was an old man gray with grief and age,
Blind as a statue and but meanly clad,
His thin hand resting on a shaven staff:
The other was a pale and gentle boy
Who led the old man by the drooping skirt.
"Haste," said the boy, "night gathers like a frown,
And we are far from any human home;
While overhead I see a bright blue star
Which seems to travel with us, for each night
I see it still as near as it is now."
"Poor child," the old man said, "I know the star,
It is the lovely twinkling eye of eve.
I see it now—dear boy, I feel you start,
Because I talk of seeing—yes, I see
That very star, but in a distant sky:
Two youthful forms are standing in its light,
A maiden beauteous as the star itself
Leans on a bosom heaving high with love,
And listens smiling to sweet silvered words.
Again I see the star:—a battle-field
Stretches beneath it, overspread with tents
As thick as sheaves upon a harvest plain.
There stands a warrior 'mid the sleeping hosts,
Lonely and silent, gazing on the scene.
O! noble thoughts are in that warrior's breast—
Thoughts that are moulded for his country's weal—
That shape a joyful future for himself.
Again I see the star, the last time now:—
A happy group of fair-faced children sit
Around a proud and golden-hearted sire:
Ah! little think they that their sire so soon
Shall look no more upon each sunny face,
Though he and they may live for many years.
But we have travelled far, and I grow faint;
Canst thou descry a habitation near?"
"Yes," said the boy, "a hut is close at hand,
A joyful speck upon the darken'd waste;
A few more steps will bring us to the door."
The door is gained, and e'en the very sight
Of that old man insures admittance there—
So noble is the wreck of what he was.
A seat is soon prepared beside the board,
A humble meal is placed by willing hands,
And with a grateful heart's best thanks received.
Now round about in eager silent groups
Gather the peasantry to hear the tale
Of that grave sage, whose high and shining brow
Is seamed with sorrows by the hand of Fate.
"My name is Belisarius; I am one
Whose prime was passed in doing public good;
Yet I, who laboured in the gladsome day,
Am now rewarded by a night of gloom.
These orbless sockets once were filled with fire,
That glancing down an army's wall of breasts
Enkindled valour; this poor withered hand,
Now leaning feebly on a beggar's staff,
Once held the truncheon of a high command,
And showed the way ten thousand men should march.
Look on me, now; I cannot see ye look,
Though I may feel your glances in my soul:
Look on me, friends, and read a solemn tale
Of duty recompensed with misery.
O!   I could weep, if I had eyes to weep,
Not for my wrongs, but for the heart of man
That has grown hollow as an empty gourd!"
Thus Belisarius from day to day
Dragged out existence to its final close,
Leaving his name a warning to the world—
To put no faith in promises of kings.

 

________________________

 
SUMMER.

 

SUMMER! I see thy footprints on the lawn;
I feel thy rich warm breath upon my check;
I hear thee in the woods—thou art the soul
Of all this beauty, all this happiness
That fills the sense like an Elysian dream!
O! I have loved thee, Summer, when I saw
The dry white dust upon the city streets,
Or watched some plant upon my window sill
Burst into beauty like a new-born thing.
But this was all I saw of thee; the walls
Shut out the fields, the dark smoke hid the sky,
And thou wert as a beauty closely veiled;
Yet now thou stand'st bare-headed in the sun,
And I can look upon thy thousand charms.

The mighty city far behind me lies,
The city where wide-throated chimneys pour
Their black foul breath upon the blue of heaven;
While here in purity and sunshine free
Are songs of birds, the music of the streams,
And, dear as all, the smiles of summer flowers.
Along the grass-edged roads the daisies peep,
And yellow buttercups that unto bees
Are golden chalices of nectar full.
    There is a holy calmness in the scene:
Not altogether silence, but the lull
That soft, sweet music throws upon the soul;
And I can hear the carol of the lark,
Sweetened by distance, and the organ-tones
Of bees that sing of summer as they pass.
    How pleasant 'tis to spend a leisure hour
In such a scene, from toil and labour free—
To feel ourselves partakers of the feast
Which Heaven has spread upon the face of earth.
But, hark! that long-drawn, shrill and piercing scream
Breaking the stillness—'tis the mighty train!
Rushing terrific o'er the level rails
That link great towns together.   In the field
The quiet oxen raise their heads, and gaze
In brutish wonder at the passing form,
Till it is lost in the dark tunnel's gloom.

Great are your victories, O Art and Peace!
Nobler than all the conquests of grim War,
Whose trophies still are stained with blood and tears.
But see, the husbandman comes home from toil,
The cottage smoke goes slow and curling up
To join the shadows of the coming night,
And I who have been here abroad all day
Must bid the fields, the flowers, and birds farewell!

 

________________________

 
A VOICE FROM THE CITY.

 

O! I long to see the fields again, to hear the skylark
        sing,
To look upon the hedgerows and the fruit-trees blossom-
        ing:
To hear the sweet and silver sound of streamlets as
        they run,
Where they creep beneath the willows, or leap out to
        feel the sun.

O! I long to see the fields again, to spend one summer
        day
Where the richer, deeper hues of June steal o'er the
        tints of May:
Where the hills are white with daisies that shine
        through lucid green,
And the birds in air or covert send a gladness o'er the
        scene.

O! I long to see the fields again, to leave this stirring
        town,
Where the endless tide of traffic pours for ever up and
        down:
Where worldly men are striving in the hot pursuit of
        gain,
Where the weary brood o'er sorrow, and the wretched
        nurse their pain.

My memory roaming backward sees a calm and quiet
        nook,
Where a cottage stands embowered beside a clear and
        placid brook:
It was there my happy childhood passed in innocence
        and truth,
And, the stream of life grown deeper; widened into
        hopeful youth.

It was there my beating heart first heard the whisper-
        ings of love,
And my soul o'erflowed with music that seemed wafted
        from above:
It was there that mighty Nature caught the homage of
        mine eye,
From the earth all gay with summer to the winter's
        jewell'd sky.

O! I long to see the fields again, to breathe the summer
        air,
Pure and fresh among the meadows, or the forests cool
        and fair:
To feel again as once I felt, when life and hope were
        new,
And the earth in all her beauty seemed like Eden to
        my view.

 

________________________

 
A RECOLLECTION.

 

WE floated on the summer lakes,
    We wandered by the summer rills,
And where the larger river takes
    Its journey from the hills.

We saw the mountain flow'ret spring
    In modest beauty at our feet;
We heard the soaring skylark sing
    Its matin clear and sweet.

We saw and heard, but more than this—
    Than flowers beneath, or larks above—
We felt another, greater bliss,
    The bliss of growing love.

It may be that I loved thee more
    In that romantic solitude,
And feelings never known before
    Had crept into my mood.

For thou wert fairer when thy cheek
    Glowed with the fresh, pure mountain air,
Or when the wind in playful freak
    Undid the fast'nings of thy hair.

But thou art mine and I retrace—
    With feelings that no change have known—
The mountain scene, the happy place
    Where thou wert made mine own.

 

________________________

 
RIENZI.

 

FEARLESS he stands in Rome's imperial streets,
The light of freedom flashing from his eye,
His eloquence, impassioned, wild and high,
The warm applause of listening bondage meets.
The eager crowd his stately coming greets,
And look upon their full redemption nigh;
While he too dreams of fame and liberty,
And nobly still his heart enraptured beats—
Beats for the wrongs of world-commanding Rome,
Which is to him a country and a home.
'Tis ever thus; in troublous times we find
Some bright flame rising from the common fire,
Some spirit that can daringly aspire
To sway the mass by one superior mind.

 

________________________

 
STONEHENGE.

 

MYSTERIOUS group of rude unchiselled stone,
Rude as the hands that placed ye boldly near:
There is a feeling all akin to fear
Steals o'er the gazer as he travels on
Beneath the shadow of those columns lone,
Through the wide waste, so silent and so drear.
When superstition ruled our land, 'twas here
The Druids worshipped: now are overthrown
The barbarous customs of a barbarous age,
And we behold them only on the page
Of history.   These monuments sublime,
These giant fragments, still unharmed remain,
Showing to all who visit yet the plain
The simple grandeur of that twilight time.

 

________________________

 
WRITTEN IN THE CITY.

 

I STOOD at noontide 'mid the flood-like throng,
Pouring incessant through the city street;
I saw the motion of a thousand feet
Bearing the life-stream rapidly along.
Then came the thought that every human mind
Is in itself a world: each being there
Was full of pleasure, pain, or earthly care,
And these heart-tenants something strove to find.
Oh! what strange histories might each reveal
Of joys and griefs embedded in the breast;
Such too as all have felt, or all may feel,
The woes of the bereaved, the wrongs of the oppress'd:
But there is One who knows each human soul,
And watches long and wisely o'er the whole.

 

________________________

 
THE PAST.

 

A MIGHTY mausoleum is the Past!
Wherein the great and mighty are entombed;
But not to deadly silence are they doomed,
Nor into nothingness for ever cast.
Throughout the universe, sublimely vast,
Their spirits, wandering from clime to clime,
Elude the steps of stern advancing Time,
And stir the nations like a trumpet-blast!
Thus Tell is speaking to the shackled slave;
And Hampden whispers in the patriot's ear
Until his soul a tyrant's frown can brave;
Columbus points through dangers darkening near
To Hope enthroned upon a crested wave:
While Shakespere sings for ever sweet and clear!

 

________________________

 
LITTLE WHITE MAY.

 

        O! a merry bright bird
            Was our Little White May,
        In the home-heavens heard
            With her carol of day:
        So careless and fearless,
        So shining and peerless,
Still dancing about like a sunbeam astray.

        O! rarest new comer,
            Our Little White May,
        Sweet light of life's summer,
            Dear Little White May:
        With rich merry fancies Astir in thy glances,
Like the wild witching glow round some
    beautiful fay.

        But our blue sky is darken'd,
            O! Little White May,
        For the angels have herken'd
            To Little White May:
        They have stooped to her singing,
        So goldenly ringing,
And far they have borne our bright treasure away.

        O! where shall we find thee,
            Our Little White May?
        O! where do they bind thee,
            Sweet Little White May?
        Have the angels conveyed thee
        To Starland and made thee
As fair, and as pure, and as happy as they?

        O! where is thy hiding-place,
            Lost Little White May?
        O! where thy abiding-place,
            Lov'd Little White May?
        Ah! green grasses cover thee,
        Wild flowers bloom over thee,
Sunshine is warm on thy wee bed of clay!

 

________________________

 
STORM FANCIES.

 

THE wild night over my roof is flying,
The stern wind races along the floors,
From cellar to garret it raves and roars;
It shrieks in the alley, it laughs in the square,
Round shaking steeples and bridges bare
You can hear it scream, then, moodily dying,
It groans through the long black thoroughfare,
While a moment it lifts some outcast's hair,
Then courses the lane with a sorrowful sighing.

And far away on the pilgrim's path
It will cross the road with a scourge of wrath,
Then startle a village with doubt and dread:
Through the whistling stones they will hear it pass,
As it clutches and tears the churchyard grass,
Like a maniac mother above the dead,
Striving to raise some dear one's head.
Then wildly it whirls the hamlet thatch,
Uprooted weeds o'er each cottage spin,
Till the grumbling chimneys wake within
A hungry herd of darksome fears,
While the goodman starts, and dreaming, hears
The band of Death on his rustic latch!
It is heard afar where the glimmering form
Of the lighthouse sits in the boiling brine—
Like a sheeted sprite 'mid a hell of storm—
As the sea-birds sweep where the bright lights shine.
And a long and wavering lance of light
Pierces the breast of the fiendish Night,
And struggles against the stooping sky
While a naked hull is drifted by!
And wild are the wailings that rise in vain
From that cauldron sea to its roof of rain—
The strong man's hopes, and the weak man's fears,
The roses of youth, and the wrinkles of years,
And terror, and valour, and beauty's tears
Through howling chasms and glens of gloom
Together are closed in one tumbling tomb.

 

________________________

 
A NOVEMBER NIGHT PIECE.

 

HERE in this silent chamber, dimly lighted,
    I sit, half dozing, o'er my scribbled song;
Fortune and fame, my life and laurels blighted,
    Now jeered, now libelled by the passing throng:
Yet in this soul of mine, not quite benighted,
    A little moonshine helps it still along.

Friends I have had—not many.   Who they were
    It matters not—enough that they are gone:—
All fair and false, and falsest when most fair—
    To deal with such my heart has careless grown:
Better than this I hold the clutch of care,
    The aching weariness to feel alone.

My joy has been to wander on at will—
    By summer streamlets leaping in the light—
Lost in the shadow of a tow'ring hill—
    Half hid in vapour on a highland height:
To dream of goblins in a ruined mill
    Blotting the moonshine, of a silent night.

Men of the world, whose souls are different toned,
    Look strange at me, and no doubt deem me shy:
It is my nature; but my soul has groaned
    To see some barren-brained vile passer-by
Walk over me to wealth, because he owned
    A looser tongue—the magic of an eye.

Perchance 'tis well; and fortune, if she please,
    May keep me on her left: my heart unsold
To sordid Mammon ever gladly sees
    The world about me in a blaze of gold.
I know that men call this a sad disease—
    God grant it last till I am worn and old.

The night wears on, and so much of my years
    Is wasted with it.   Say, have I awoke—
Has this been all a dream of jest and tears,
    A monodrama where my heart has spoke
Strange things in vision?   Ah! life's iron sears,
    The taper sinks, and I am left in smoke!

 

________________________

 
A HYMN OF HOPE.

 

FAR beyond the mystic splendours that enrobe the set-
        ting sun,
For the goal of weary ages aching eyes are straining on:
Eye of poet, eye of prophet, turn in one imploring gaze
For the brilliant revelation that shall crown the better
        days.

Hope is weary in its waiting, love is blinded in its light,
And the faith that wars expectant falls in battle with
        the night;
Still from mountain tops dark shadows creep into the
        plains below,
And the flash we hailed as morning dies in meteoric
        glow.

Still old tyrants sit in purple bloated with the blood
        of slaves,
While in rags our noblest spirits walk bare-footed to
        their graves:
Death and vampire Desolation riot in earth's fairest
        lands,
With the giant limbs of Freedom lock'd in hell-forged
        iron bands.

But despair not, faithful brothers, though your watch is
        dark and long,
For the morn is surely coming with the triumph and
        the song:
Taking heart from prophet Nature, as she cries from
        height to height
Of the Winter slain by Summer, and of Darkness
        chased by Light.

Telling how when gloom and silence wrap the glories
        of the lawn,
Still, with music for the morrow, larks lie dreaming of
        the dawn:
And from tempests winged with terror, blessed calm
        and peace are born,
And the blackest pall of midnight wears a golden fringe
        of morn.

――――♦――――



KILMARNOCK: PRINTED BY JAMES McKIE, 2 KING STREET.

 



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