Gerald Massey: Craigcrook Castle (1)

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CRAIGCROOK CASTLE.
______________

I.


LIFE is at most a Meeting and a Parting;
A glimpse into the world of Might-have-been.
And standing rapt on some new-trodden height,
We long to build a tabernacle there.

A sudden glorious glimpse, a nestling face,
Will bid the kingly moment live for ever.
Ah, could we paint their picture in the mind,
And breathe the blessèd breath of Beauty back!

We think how on some heavenly day the Sun
Gathered his glory for a grand repose;
And with her folding stillness Eve came down,
So meek and shadowy, bringing healing dews,
While Angels walkt our garden of the soul.
How on a summer morn the dewy lanes
In sunny England kist us with the breath
Of their green mouths, and took us in cool arms.
Or, in a wondrous Moonlight long ago,
The face of early Love upturned to us
Two human stars that swam in bridal dew;
With brow of virgin white, and cheek's warm touch;
The full heart's sweetness parting young red lips;
And, caught by sweet surprise o' the tender time,
Our Deity half forgot her veiling cloud,
And pure soul all in silent beauty smiled.

So Memory maketh rich the house of life,
Where our great moments come as gorgeous guests;
At Fancy's touch the walls with pictures bloom,
And rosy recollections rise around.

Even so I linger o'er my perfect day,
Whose fruitful round of ripe and crowded life
In its sole glory summed a golden age;
Whose stirred precipitate sweetens all my days;
Whose whispering memory cometh like an air
Of heaven wafting warm immortal breath;
Then leaves me softly as the Dove of Day,
That shakes down dews of freshness as it goes.

 

______________

II.


IN that sweet season when the Year is green,
And hearts grow merry as spring-groves full of
        birds,
While life for pleasure ripples as it runs;
And young Earth putteth forth the lovely things
She hath been dreaming through long winter nights;
Taking the May-tide in a golden swim,
Her blithe heart singing for the flooding cheer;
And field and forest clothed in tender leaf,
Shower after shower, out-smile a livelier green;
With dainty colour the kindling country dawns;
Death lieth low; his hidden footprints bloom;
Upon his grave Life dances all in flowers:
And lying shell-like on our shore o' the world,
Thinking to music played by hidden hands,
We are caught up to listening ear of Heaven,
That leaneth down maternal meek to hear
Our inner murmurs of the eternal sea:
Then Craigcrook puts its budding glory on.
An emerald Eden nestling in the North:
To which the mariner worn on life's salt wave,
Might point his prow and find a conqueror's home ;
And storm-tost Love up-fold his wearied wings,
Warm on the bosom of mellifluous Rest.

A happy island in a sea of green,
Smiling it lies beneath the azure heaven,
Well pleased, and conscious that each wave and
        wind
Is tempered kindly or with blessing rich:
And all the quaint cloud-messengers that come
Voyaging the blue glory's summer sea
In barks of beauty, built o' the powdery pearl,
Soft, shining, sumptuous, blown by languid breath,
Touch tenderly, or drop with ripeness down.
Spring builds her leafy nest for birds and flowers,
And folds it round luxuriant as the Vine
Whose grapes are ripe with wine of merry cheer:
The Summer burns her richest incense there,
Swung from the censers of her thousand flowers:
Brown Autumn comes o'er seas of glorious gold:
And there old Winter keeps some greenth of heart,
When on his head the snows of age are white.

Mid glimpsing greenery at the hill-foot stands
The castle with its tiny town of towers:
A smiling Martyr to the climbing strength
Of Ivy that will crown the old bald head,
And Roses that will mask him merry and young,
Like an old Man with Children round his knees.
With cups of colour reeling Roses rise
On walls and bushes, red and yellow and white;
A dance and dazzle of Roses range all round.

The path runs down and peeps out in the lane
That loiters on by fields of wheat and bean,
Till the white-gleaming road winds city-ward.
Afar, in floods of sunshine blinding white,
The City lieth in its quiet pride,
With castled crown, looking on Towns and Shires,
And Hills from which cloud-highlands climb the
        heavens:
A happy thing in glory smiles the Firth;
Its flowing azure winding like an arm
Around the warm waist of the yielding land.

 

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III.


I ROSE betimes upon my day of days;
Through faery forests of the lady fern,
Went up the wooded height to see the Dawn,
That new, eternal Picture fresh from God,
Quicken and colour into perfect life.
Quietly, quietly slept the world beside
The sepulchre of the dark, till Light awoke.
The haunting spirit of each lonely place
Seemed passing through the still and solemn
        wood.
What breath of life the breeze of morning blew!
What dewy smell and after-sense of showers
Came kissing like rich airs from secret shores
To those who sail into the eternal dawn!
Bird after bird the sweet sharp stillness stirred,
As Earth were warbling some new tune of joy
With which her heart gusht, and its radiance fired
Her face, as she arrayed to meet the morn.
The meek and melting amethyst of dawn
Blusht o'er the blue hills in the ring o' the world;
Up purple twilights came the golden sea
Of sunlight breaking in a silent surge;
And Morning like the birth of Beauty rose,
With sunny music up the sparkling heaven,
While, at a rosy touch, the clouds that lay
In sullen purples round the hills of Fife,
Adown her pathway spread their cloaks of gold:
The silvery-green-and-violet sheen o' the sea
Changed into shifting opal tinct with gold:
And like an Alchymist with furnace-face,
The sun smiled on his perfect work, pure gold.

The breath of Dawn brought God's good-morning
        kiss
To bud and leaf and flower, and human hearts
That like pond-lilies open heaven-ward eyes.
Sweet lilies of the valley, tremulous fair,
Peep through their curtains claspt with diamond
        dew
By faery jewellers working while they slept:
The arch Laburnum droops her budding gold
From emerald fingers, with such taking grace:
The Fuschia fires her fairy chandelry,
And flowering Currant crimsons the green gloom:
The Pansies, pretty little puritans,
Come peering up with merry elvish eyes:
At Summer's call the Lily is alight:
Wall-flowers in fragrance burn themselves away
With the sweet Season on her precious pyre;
Pure passionate aromas of the Rose,
And purple perfume of the Hyacinth,
Come like a colour thro' the golden day.
A summer soul is in the Limes; they stand
Low murmuring honied things that wing forth
        Bees;
Their busy whisperings done, the Plane-trees
        hush!
But lo, a warm wind winnowing odour-rain
Goes breathing by, and there they curtsey meek,
Or toss their locks in frolic wantonness,
While a great gust of joy runs shivering thro' them;
All the leaves thrill and sparkle wild as wings.
Voluptuously ripening in the sun,
The Meadows swell their bosom plump with life,
To pasture sauntering sheep, and ruminant kine;
And Kingcups spread their tiny laps to take
The lavish largess showered down from heaven;
And, garnering the warm gold, nod and laugh.
The Birds low-crooning o'er their sweet Spring-
       tunes
Still touch them with a riper luxury:
That Blackbird with the wine of joy is mellow,
And in his song keeps laughing, he's so jolly,
To think how summer pulps the fruit for him.
His Apple-tree hath felt the ruddying breath
Of May upon her yielding leafy lips,
And broke in kisses trembling for delight;
Look how her red heart blushes warm in white!
Deep after deep the generous heart of Spring,
So golden-full of glad days, flusht in bloom,
Ripe with all sweetness.
                                               Crown us, lusty leaves!
Shake down your gathered coolness, O green
        leaves!

 

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IV.


AT Craigcrook Castle all a Summer day
We had rich talk and sweet society,
To floating filled with bright Olympian life.
Under the tender trees we sat, and watcht
All nature couchèd in a calm day-dream;
The rich World in her blooming airy nest,
Warm-burnishing her colours like a Bird
O' the Sun, to soar on silent wings of light;
And Heaven brooding down with golden eye,
Where Sunlight, seeking hidden Shadow, toucht
The green leaves all a-tremble with gold light,
And rippled grass caressed us with its smiles.
While One whose looks were mild as they had
        drawn
A Christ-like sweetness from the face of Babes,—
His brow the triumph-arch of royal soul—
A Prodigal of Freedom whose great heart,
Big as the world it floods with wealth to-day,
Must eat to-morrow of the Stranger's husks—
Prometheus on his rock of exile—told
The vision passing solemn thro' his soul.

Ah! how they drank the breath of Battle, won
Its swarthy bloom, those spirits fiery-fine!
O, gallant hearts, how stalwartly they stood;
How fought the faithful, how the deathless died!
And there in saviour sepulchres they sleep,
Crowned with the diadem o' the kingly Dead;
Green graves on earth,—high memories in heaven.
And how the night came down with treachery
        dark,
But reddened with the light of burning homes,
That lit the Hangman while he knit his noose:
Then silence, at the hush of Death, above;
Nought but a ghastly Golgotha below.

And O, but hearts flew out, like Freedom's bird,
To flap their wings upon the flag of war.
And fierce looks flasht, and prayers went up to
        God,
In fiery chariots of our fervent hearts.
And eyes were frenzed with noble tears to see
That Exile by the hounds of torture trackt;
Who, while they tore his stricken life, still drank
His cup of trembling, smiling very calm.

Fight on, thou Hero!     Heaven's glooming look
Frowns only on the wrong.    This dark shall break
In resurrection hour.     The chariot wheels
Of coming Vengeance spin too swift for sight.
The Nemesis of Nations only waits,
Until the glass of Destiny runs out,
To wake the Murderers with her whip of fire,
Caught by the hair in sudden hands of Hell!
While in a ruddy rain old Earth laughs up.
O, we shall see a sight ere England's sun
Goes down behind her hills of gathered gold!
The time of times, the year of years is nigh!
When Spring's young hopes lie dead, and her
        sweet buds
Are low in the dust, our Autumn fruitage comes.
Princes shall meet thee in thy Country's gate ;
Thy Banner yet shall crown her topmost height,
And all the world shall see it waving there.

 

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V.


IN the green quiet of a neighbouring knoll
There sat and sang a beauteous company;
Surging a soul-ache of deliciousness.
AURELIA with the royal eyes, and breast
Bounding with hurrying heart, wave-wanton, for
A ripe repose on some Elysian shore:
A glorious passion-flower of Womanhood
Come, golden-natured, to its summer throne:
Her eyes, the stars of burning dreams, so rapt
The spirit moth-like for their fire, you might
Have gone to death by sword-light for their smile,
And sullen beauty of her mouth's ripe bloom.
And MABEL, saintly sweet and fairily fine
As maiden rising from enchanted mere;
Pale as a lily crowned with moonlight calm:
A queenly creature with her quiet grace,
And dazzling white hand veined cerulean:
Upon her warm-waved hair the rippled light
Played soft, and toucht it into cloudy gold;
Her eyes of violet-grey were coloured rich
With gloom of tender thought, and mirrored large
Within them, starry futures swam and shone:
Ah! what a smile to light a life with light,
And make the waking heart to sing in sleep!
Ah! what a lamp to light some heaven of love;
The perfect pearl of her star-purity!
And stately CHARMIAN with her grander calm,
Like a Greek Goddess Statue that had raised
The veil of being in some diviner dawn,
And yearning Love did woo her into Woman,
His burning kiss budding her dainty rose;
With merry melting mouth and subtle eyes,
And warm heart smiling her white silence through,
She rose up in her crown the Queen of Smiles
With all the old majesty, unweeting of
The old worship conscious hearts in silence pay;
Our English vesture cannot mask her mould.
Above her brow the star of Genius shed
A tender radiance in her night of hair.
And She, with dancing sparkle in her eyes,
Like sun-kist waters twinkling sapphirine,
Our SEERESS with whose soul the Spirits walk:
Who told strange mysteries in Waking Sleep,
And held your hand and read your Book of life;
Whose presence weirdly took the throbbing heart
Bird-like, as it were caught in spirit-hands;
Whose visioned face would shine so glorified,
You lookt with heavenward instinct up to see
Whence came such beauty as brake thro' Raphael's
        dream.
They sang those wailing old Scotch songs that set
The heart-strings all a-tremble for their harp:
In which melodious Passion breaks its heart
For evermore, and finds no spousal words.
And crossing in the music's airy storm,
Spirit with spirit toucht in tingling kiss;
Till every nerve stretcht like a telescope
For Life to draw the moving heaven down.

 

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VI.


SOME played at bowls upon the velvet sward,
And drank old ale with ruby flame in it,
Where sunny laurels twinkled silver lights;
While others traced the footprints of old Time,
Long fossilized: some by the Sea—that glowed
In living azure and inviolate calm—
Peered in the portal of its wonder-world.
We showered playful palms down in the path,
And deckt with flowers the marriage-robe of One
Who brought his beauteous Bride in triumph
        home:
A jolly Briton, princely to the poor.
His rich heart-warming ruddiness of look
Might make an east wind reel off mellow and mild:
So sunnily his inner ripeness smiled:
And stalwart stood the sheltering wall of his life,
For climbing flower and fruit to bud and bear.
Her fragrant weight of warm and rosy life,
That dwined with tender want of folding arms,
Half-sad with sweetness like a dew-droopt flower,
Stirs in his smile and rises ruddy and calm,
With breath that maketh dim his dallying eyes:
A young Aurora of warm womanhood
Glowing imperial as the sun-toucht Rose!
Her eyes wide-wakened by Love's quickening
        kiss,—
Sweet-drunken with the wine of tears,—foreshow
How Love hath hived his honey in her heart.
And there they walk their rosy marriage time,
With gracious words that brighten listening
        brows
Like crowns of splendour, as the first pair walkt
Their morning of the world in paradise.

Our Poet, Rubens, laught at Wedded Love,
And drew a piteous picture of our friend
In harness, drawing the matrimonial car,
Heavily laden, along the ruts of life.
But in his voice there hissed a thirsty sound,
As when the dry leaves rustle for the rain.
With longing eyes he mockt the glowing grapes,
And six weeks after held out eager hands,
To take the bonds that bind for evermore:
And quietly joined the herd of pastured Slaves,
Where nuptial Love thro' sweet tears on him
        smiled.

Up spoke our Host.       A sunny life was his
Among his children, breathing blooms of health,
He, like a rennet Apple wrinkle-ripe,
Hived full of sweetness, fragrant to the taste,
Tho' Sorrow's tooth should strike the brave heart's
        core.
He had the happy soul which, like the Bee,
Rocks with delight upon a thistle-top,
Or finds voluptuous honey on wild moors.
And cheerily he chirpt of Wedded Love,
And Home our refuge from the mad-world-strife,
Where we may keep the spirit-sandals clean,
We soil so on our treadmill of a world;
And open heaven in the shut up heart:
Where Love may help us hand-in-hand across
The dark stream of Eternity, as Life
On starry stepping-stones goes up to God.
Just now the Flower of England made a crown
To garland whoredom's apotheosis;
Revelling, with unhallowed light of eyes,
Upon the Wanton's glance, and wicked grace,
All honeyed with warm witchery of Sin:
Circe enchanted with lewd sorceries
That slide into the whitest sanctuaries;
Befoul the palace-chambers precious-lined,
And canker all the virgin flower of life
I' the delicate sweetness of its budding time!
Ah! how it made him turn to his dear nest,
And proudly yearn o'er his sweet marriage guest,
Who made their little world so bright with bliss,
It drew God's Angels blessing-laden down.
And as he spoke, the dead flowers in our hearts
All pressed and precious, softly stirred with life;
Bloomed on our brows, and shed a fragrance
        round.

In silence sat our Crimean Hero, he
Who told us how they fought at Inkermann:
His heart swam up in tears at thoughts of Home.
The roar and rack of Battle over and gone;
No more surprises in the bloody trench,
Where midnight swarmed with visions horrible,
And earth was like a fiery coast of hell!
All that long aching wintriness of soul,
Warm-melted in the arms of Wedded Love,
That drew him from the bloody battle-press,
And claspt him safe in their serene of heaven,
Where Past and Future crown him as they kiss.
And with dumb eloquence his poor armstump
        moved,
As it were dreaming of a dear embrace.

 

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VII.


A SILVERED Sage like some old pictured Saint,
Smilingly took the crucial hand of Doubt,
And thrust stern fingers in his spirit-wounds;
And told us how he hunted shadows once,
And felt his spiritual pulse ten times a day,
With thoughts of Self fatal as Herod's worms.
And how the Child rose up and led the Man
Back very lowly to their Mother's knee:
Worshipping God as in the dear old days.

"'They wrought in faith,' and not 'They wrought in
        doubt,'
Is the proud epitaph inscribed above
Our glorious Dead who in their grandeur lie,
Crowned with the garland of eternity.
Because they did believe, and conquered Doubt,
They lived great lives and did their deathless
        deeds,
Who in the old time walkt their perilous way,
With the grey hairs of kingly sorrow crowned:
Who laid their heads upon the bloody block
For their last pillow:  who amid the flames
Bore witness still, and with their quivering hands
Sowed every wind with sparks of fiery thought.
Because they did believe, we kneel to read
Where men and angels mingle tears of joy.
Because he did believe, Columbus sailed
For that new world his inner eyes had seen.
He found:  so Faith its new worlds yet shall find,
While Doubt shakes its wise head and stays
       behind.
Newton believed for many a year before
The Hand in heaven shook the Apple down.
Because we have believed, our knowledge
        comes:
Belief, not Doubt, will touch the secret spring.
Belief is that soul-attitude which sees
How the pure distance of some infinite sea
Relieves the dark ground of our inland life,
And feels the fresh spray make its roses bloom.
But Doubt turns from the light, and only sees
The Shadow that it casts, and follows it;
For Doubt is ever its own Deity:
The Shadow still dilates on darkened eyes,
And lengthens as the awful night comes down.

"Life is a maze, but God i' the centre sits.
I wailed and wandered in the winding ways;
Against the thorns with bleeding bosom beat,
And vainly shouted to the passing stars,—
Those silent spirit-vanishing-points of space,—
That voyaged Ship-like on nor saw my wreck.
I shriekt out with the scorners, 'There's no God!'
Sat in the womb o' the world like Babe unborn,
And blindly said, 'There is no life to come.'
Then my Beloved came, and drew me in
A little nearer to the heart of light.
A lightning-glimpse from out the cloud of Death
Stern revelation rifted, and I fell
Prone on my face, heart-broken in the dust.
Her vase of love was broken at my feet,
And all the precious perfume filled my life.
Breathed thro' the dark a still voice low and
        sweet:
"Let Faith but climb the tree of prayer, and watch
And wait, the Lord will surely pass that way."
And down a dream of peace a spirit hand
Slid into mine, and at its dewy touch
Existence melted in the dawning heaven,
And human flowering of divine delight.
It led me to my kneeling-place among
The pilgrims of the world who sought in vain,
And closed their eyes in tears, to suddenly find
God sitting in His temple of the soul."

A soul of sweetness from each wrinkle smiled!
There was strange glory in the old Man's eyes,
Which, with Life's setting splendour, shone a-glow,
Like windows lighted in a sinking sun
That paints fair morrow.     Pleasant was the sight.
For he had reacht the shining Sunset Isles
That fade into the eternal Heavens, and Lo!
The Hesper of a happy memory smiles.

 

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VIII.


Now Sunset burns.      A sea of gold on fire
Serenely surges around purple isles:
O'er billows and flame-furrows Day goes down.
Far-watching clouds with ruby glimmer bloom;
A scattered crowd, that on its face still wears
The splendid light and life of some brave show.
Dews swarm upon the flowers like silent bees,
And quiet fire-flies glittering in the grass.
Husht woods grow solemn dark; the blue peaks
        fade;
Weird mists rise white, and gracious Twilight
        comes.
Sweet is the mystery of her loveliness;
And all things feel her dim divinity.

"Now for a rouse within the house, and there
Shake off the purple sadness of the night,"
Cried one:   "Come let us a Symposium hold,
And each one to the banquet bring their best
In song or story;  all shall play a part."
So, rapturously we hailèd lord o' the feast,
Our great Messiah in Midwifery,  He
Who wrestled with the fiend of corporal pain,
And stands above the writhing Agony,
Like Michael with the Dragon 'neath his heel:
Who is in soul—Love riding on a Lion;
In body—a Bacchus crowned with head of Jove:
The keen life looks out in his lighted face
So fulgent that the gazer's brightens too:
He grandly towers above our fume and fret,
Like the old Hills whose feet are in the surge,
And on their lifted brows the eternal calm:
For he is one of those prophetic spirits
That are the World's night-dreams of things to
        come.
And thus he broacht our garrulous Hippocrene;
And round and round the chalice went till morn.

 

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______________


THE
MOTHER'S IDOL BROKEN.

I.


TWICE the Mother had divèd down
    Into her sea of sorrow;
O my love! O my life! my own sweet
        Wife!
    God send you a merry good-morrow.
Betide her weal, or betide her woe,
    Her smile it was calm and fearless ;
And proud were her eyes as she rose with
        the prize,
    A pearl in her palms, my peerless!

O found you a little sea-syren,
    In some perilous palace left?
Or is it a little child-angel,
    Of her high-born kin bereft?
Or came she out of the Elfin-land,
    By earthly love beguiled?
Or hath the sweet Spirit of Beauty
    Taken shape as our starry Child?

Dear, do but look in her love-nest of
        sweets,
    Where she lies in a smiling calm:
Wee armful of fruitage; a sheaf of ripe
        bliss ;
    On a bosom breathing balm.
Fresh as the drop of dew cradled at
        morn,
    On the leaves of a lily in blossom;
Sweet as the fragrance newly born
    In a violet's virgin bosom.

 

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II.


GOD'S Butterfly on our love's flower alight!
    It seemeth the beautiful thing,
At the first surmise of the heaven she hath left,
    For the winterless world will wing.
So we fold her about with our love as 't were
        heaven,
    Around her weave many a wile;
And our hearts up-leap, living fountains of joy,
    In the golden dream of her smile.

 

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III.


ON my ripely rounding Rose-tree,
    Dreaming of life are three flowers:
One pusheth up her ruby-rose-cup,
    For the rain of God's quickening showers.
With a magical burst of beauty, one glows
    Dewily-dear in the sheen of love;
And one pretty Softling, our baby-bud-rose,
    Lies tenderly shut in the green of love.

 

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IV.


O FAIR befall my dainty flowers,
        Summering on their stem;
Smiling up to the crowning Rose,
        As she smileth down to them.
Smiling up to their Queen in her beauty,
        That smiles on each bonny breast-gem:
Blossoming, brimming with love for her
        Who leans ruddy with love over them!
O fair befall my dainty flowers,
        Summering on their stem.
And O the armful of rich love,
        My fragrant human Roses!
Smile on them all, sweet Heaven,
        And kiss my darling Roses.

 

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V.


THERE be three little maidens; three loving
            maidens;
        Three bonny maidens mine;
Three precious jewels are set in Life's crown,
        On prayer-lifted brows to shine.
Six starry eyes, all love-luminous,
        Look out of our heaven so tender;
Since the honey-moon, glowing and glorious,
        Arose in its ripening splendour.

There's Lilybell, duchess of wonderland,
        With her dance of life, dimples and curls;
Whose bud of a mouth into red kisses bursts
        A-smile with the wanton white pearls:
And Sweetcheek, our rosily-goldening peach
        On the sunniest side o' the wall;
But Marian's Mother's darling,
        Marian's idol of all.

 

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VI.


LIKE the merry voice-bird that sings on the
            bough,
        I sing, O my brooding Dove,
To a nest I know in the leaves below,
        Full of eyes alive with love.
Two of our little Birds wander on wings,
        One doth but flutter and fall;
Sing, Marian Mother's wee darling,
        Marian's Idol of all.

 

______________

VII.


ALL in our marriage garden
    Grew, smiling up to God,
A bonnier flower than ever
    Suckt the green warmth of the sod.
O beautiful unfathomably
    Its little life unfurled;
Life's crown of sweetness was our
        wee
    White Rose of all the world.

From out a gracious bosom,
    Our bud of beauty grew;
It fed on smiles for sunshine,
    And tears for daintier dew.
Aye nestling warm and tenderly,
    Our leaves of love were curled
So close and close about our wee
    White Rose of all the world.

Two flowers of glorious crimson
    Grew with our Rose of light;
Still kept the sweet heaven-grafted slip
    Her whiteness saintly white.
I' the wind of life they danced with glee,
    And reddened as they whirled;
White, white and wondrous grew our
        wee
    White Rose of all the world.

With mystical faint fragrance,
    Our house of life she filled—
Revealed each hour some fairy tower,
    Where wingèd Hopes might build.
We saw—though none like us might
        see—
    Such precious promise pearled
Upon the petals of our wee
    White Rose of all the world.

But evermore the halo
    Of Angel-light increased;
Like the mystery of Moonlight,
    That folds some fairy feast.
Snow-white, snow-soft, snow-silently,
    Our darling bud up-curled,
And dropt i' the Grave—God's lap—
       our wee
    White Rose of all the world.

Our Rose was but in blossom;
    Our life was but in spring;
When down the solemn midnight
    We heard the Spirits sing:
"Another bud of infancy,
    With holy dews impearled;"
And in their hands they bore our wee
    White Rose of all the world.

You scarce could think so small a
        thing
    Could leave a loss so large;
Her little light such shadow fling,
    From dawn to sunset's marge.
In other springs our life may be
    In bannered bloom unfurled;
But never, never match our wee
    White Rose of all the world.

 

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VIII.


This is a curl of our poor "Splendid's" hair!
A sunny burst of rare and ripe young gold—
A ring of sinless gold that weds two worlds!
Our one thing left with her dear life in it.
Poor Misers! o'er it secretly we sum
Our little savings hoarded up in heaven,—
Our rich love-thoughts heart-hid to doat upon,—
And glimpse our lost heaven in a flood of tears.
A magic ring, through which fond Sorrow reads
Of strange heart-histories, and conjures up
A vanisht face, with its sweet spirit-smiles,
Babe-wonderings, and little tender ways.

At birth her hair was dark as it were dipt
In the death-shadow; but it rarefied
In radiance as her head rose nigher heaven,
Till she—white Glory!—lookt from a golden
        midst.
This is her still face as she lay in death!
Spirit-like face! set in a silver cloud,
It comes to us in silent glooms of night;
The wee wan face that gradually withdrew
And darkened into the great cloud of death.
 
O ye who say, "We have a Child in heaven;"
Who have felt that desolate isolation sharp
Defined in Death's own face; who have stood
        beside
The Silent River, and stretcht out pleading hands
For some sweet Babe upon the other bank,
That went forth where no human hand might lead,
And left the shut house with no light, no sound,
No answer, when the mourners wail without!
What we have known, ye know, and only know.

She came like April, who with tender grace
Smiles in Earth's face, and sets upon her breast
The bud of all her glory yet to come,
Then bursts in tears, and takes her sorrowful
        leave.
She brought us Eden just within the space
Of the dear depths of her large, dream-like eyes,
And o'er the vista dropt the death-veil dark.
She only caught three words of human speech:
One for her Mother, one for me, and one
She crowed with, for the fields, and open heaven.
That last she sighed with a sweet farewell pathos
A minute ere she left the house of life,
To come for kisses never any more.

White Lily! how she leaned in love to us!
And how we feared a hand might reach from
        heaven
To pluck our sweetest flower, our loftiest flower
Of life, that sprang from lowliest root of love!
Some tender trouble in her eyes complained
Of Life's rude stream, as blue Forget-me-not's
Look sweet appeal when winds and waters fret.
We saw, but feared to speak of, her strange beauty,
As some husht Bird that dares not sing i' the night,
Lest lurking foe should find its secret place,
And seize it through the dark.   With twin-love's
        strength
All crowded in the softest nestling-touch,
We fenced her round—exchanging silent looks.
We went about the house with listening hearts,
And eyes that watcht for Danger's coming steps.
Our spirits felt the Shadow ere it fell.

Then the Physician left our door ajar
A moment, and the grim thief Death stole in.
Some Angel passing o'er life's troubled sea,
Had seen our jewel shine celestial pure,
And Death must win it for her bosom pearl.
We stood at Midnight in the Presence dread.
At midnight, when Men die, we strove with
        Death,
To wrench our jewel from his grasping hand.
Ere the soul loosed from its last ledge of life,
Her little face peered round with anxious eyes,
Then, seeing all the old faces, dropt content.

The mystery dilated in her look,
Which, on the darkening death-ground, faintly
        caught
The likeness of the Angel shining near.
Her passing soul flasht back a glimpse of bliss.
She was a Child no more, but strong and stern
As a mailed Knight that had been grappling
        Death.
A crown of conquest bound her baby-brow;
Her little hands could take the heirdom large;
And all her Childhood's vagrant royalty
Sat staid and calm in some eternal throne.
Love's kiss is sweet, but Death's doth make
        immortal.

The mornings came, with glory-garland on,
To deck heaven's azure tent with hangings brave;
Birds, brooks, and bees, were singing in the sun,
Earth's blithe heart breathing bloom into her face,
The flowers all crowding up like Memories
Of lovelier life in some forgotten world,
Or dreams of peace and beauty yet to come.
The soft south-breezes rockt the baby-buds
In fondling arms upon a balmy breast;
And all was gay as universal life
Swam down the stream that glads the City of God.
But we lay dark where Death had struck us down
With that stern blow which made us bleed within,
And bow while the Inevitable went by.

And there our Darling lay in coffined calm;
Dressed for the grave in raiment like the snow,
And o'er her flowed the white, eternal peace:
The breathing miracle into silence passed:
Never to stretch wee hands, with her dear smile
As soft as light-fall on unfolding flowers;
Never to wake us crying in the night:
Our little hindering thing for ever gone,
In tearful quiet now we might toil on.
All dim the living lustres motion makes!
No life-dew in the sweet cups of her eyes!
Nought there of our poor "Splendid" but her
        brow.
A young Immortal came to us disguised,
And in the joy-dance dropt her mask, and fled.

The world went lightly by and heeded not
Our death-white windows blinded to the sun;
The hearts that ached within; the measureless
        loss;
The Idol broken; our first tryst with Death.
O Life, how strange thy face behind the veil!
And stranger yet will thy strange mystery seem,
When we awake in death and tell our Dream.
'tis hard to solve the secret of the Sphinx!
We had a little gold Love garnered up,
To bravely robe our Babe: the Mother's half
Was turned to mourning-raiment for her dead:
Mine bought the first land we called ours—Her
        grave.
We were as treasure-seekers in the earth,
When lo, a death's-head on a sudden stares.
 
Clad all in spirit-beauty forth she went;
Her budding spring of life in tiny leaf;
Her gracious gold of babe-virginity
Unminted in the image of our world;
Her faint dawn whitened in the perfect day.
Our early wede away went back to God,
Bearing her life-scroll folded, without stain,
And only three words written on it—two
Our names!    Ah, may they plead for us in
        heaven!
 

 

______________

IX.


                        VERY softly hold the Rose,
                        On thy happy breast that blows!
Thus from out my heart there sprang a flower of tender
        pride.
                        All too wild my passion burned:
                        For the cooling dews it yearned:
In my hot hands droopt my gentle flower and died.

                        Be thy glory meekly worn:
                        Fairest fruit is lowliest borne:
Mine grew high as Life could climb, and arms could reach
         above.
                        O, so proudly heaved my breast;
                        All the world should see how blest;
And the seeing Heavens took my lifted love.

 

______________

X.


THERE is her nest where in beauty smiled
    Our Babe, as we leaned above;
And her pleading face asked for the tenderest
        place
    In all our world of love.
Very silent and empty now! yet we feel
    It rock; and a tiny footfall
Comes over the floor in the thrilling night-hush,
    And our hearts leap up for the call
Of our puir wee lammie dead and gone;
Our bonnie wee lammie dead and gone.

Last night, with hands to cracking claspt
    In the furnace-fire of my heart,
Sitting, I saw the dead world
    All into spirit-life start
At the mystic touch of the white Moonlight.
    My spirit arose likewise,
And wandered away to the Graveyard,
    Where, a jewel in Death's hand, lies
Our puir wee lammie dead and gone;
Our bonnie wee lammie dead and gone.

Slowly, slowly rose the dead,
    All in their robes of white!
Weirdly, weirdly rose the dead,
    All in the silent night!
Like lilies for God, from the dark grave-bed,
    They grew in a glory-rain;
And the crownèd Darling of Heaven, at the
        head
    Of all that glorified train,
Was our puir wee lammie dead and gone;
Our bonnie wee lammie dead and gone.

In my dream I stood at the death-door dark,
    Alone and tremblingly,
Till a Shining One came in a crescent bark,
    Moonlike, o'er a purple sea.
She smiled as to say she knew the way,
    And at some secret sign,
A memory of the old life stirred,
    And I knew that Angel mine!
Our puir wee lammie dead and gone;
Our bonnie wee lammie dead and gone.

 

______________

XI.


WITHIN a mile of Edinburgh Town
We laid our little darling down;
Our first seed in God's acre sown!

So sweet a place!    Death looks
        beguiled
Of half his gloom; or sure he smiled
To win our lovely, spirit child.

God giveth His Beloved sleep
So calm, within its silence deep,
As Angel-guards the watch did keep.

The City looketh solemn and sweet;
It bears a gentle brow, to greet
The mourners mourning at its feet.

The sea of human life breaks round
This shore o' the dead, with softened
        sound:
Wild-flowers climb each mossy mound

To place in resting hands their palm,
And breathe their beauty, bloom, and
        balm;
Folding the dead in fragrant calm.

A softer shadow Grief might wear;
And old Heartache come gather there
The peace that falleth after prayer.

Poor heart, that danced among the vines
All reeling-ripe with wild love-wines,
Thou walk'st with Death among the pines!

Lorn Mother, at the dark grave-door,
She kneeleth, pleading o'er and o'er,
But it is shut for evermore.

She toileth on, the mournfull'st thing,
At the vain task of emptying
The cistern whence the salt-tears spring.

Blind! blind!    She feels, but cannot read
Aright; then leans as she would feed
The dear dead lips that never heed.

The spirit of life may leap above,
But in that grave her prisoned dove
Lies, cold to th'warm embrace of love,

And dark, tho' all the world is bright;
And lonely, with a City in sight;
And desolate in the rainy night.

Ah, God! when in the glad life-cup
The face of Death swims darkly up;
The crowning flower is sure to droop.

And so we laid our darling down,
When Summer's cheek grew ripely
        brown,
And still, tho' grief hath milder grown,

Unto the Stranger's land we cleave,
Like some poor Birds that grieve and
        grieve,
Round the robbed nest, so loth to leave.

 

______________

XII.


AH, the sweet Dream, the singing Dream, that
        sang
We knew not what, so sweet the melody!
Made dim woe glimmer golden while we slept;
And when we woke the lulling Dream was gone.

We let our dear dead down the drowning Dark,
Sailing the awful sea in our world-bark:
We who had glowed like Angels in the sun,
With life so lighted by her loveliness.

God's messenger of death seems blindly stern:
And 'tis so hard to leave a little babe
Within the Grave's cold arms, alone! alone!
While Sorrow chills the nest her sweet life
        warmed.

So little to the world ! and what a world
Of difference in our little world of home!
This stillness where the sweet Bird chirpt to us;
This good-night-parting-and-morn-greeting loss.
 
And yet perchance the kind dark-Angel drew
Her in the secret shadow of his cloud,
Out of our warm and golden air, to hide
Her from some fearful Fate far-hurrying up.

 

______________

XIII.


TO-DAY, when winds of winter blow,
And Nature sits in dream of snow,
With Ugolino-look of woe:

Wife from the window came to me,
Now leaves were fallen she could see
The little grave thro' shred elm-tree.

With wintriness all life did ache
For that dead darling's sainted sake;
And lips might kiss, but hearts would
        quake.

Ho, ye who pass her narrow house,
By which the dark Leith sea-ward flows;
O clasp your pretty darlings close;

And if some tender bud of light
Is drooping, as the snowdrop white,
With looks that weird wild heartstrings
        smite;

Think of our babe will never wake,
And fold your own till fond hearts ache,
Sweet souls, for little Marian's sake.

 

______________

XIV.


"PRETTY flowers on Baby's head;
Who 'll cry flowers when Baby's dead?"
Singing hearts oft questionèd,
In the sweetest summer fled.
                                                    Marian, Marian.

Tearful words! how lightly said!
Mournfully rememberèd,
Now the sweet new year hath spread
Blossom-life on Baby's bed.
                                                     Marian, Marian.

Tender emerald, white, and red,
Flowers of her beauty bred:
Breathing all of her that's dead,
Cry, "We crown her Baby-head!"
                                                      Marian, Marian.

"Who 'll cry flowers when Baby's dead?"
Praying looks to heaven are led,
And it smiles as tho' it said,
"Early her sweet fame hither sped."
                                                       Marian, Marian.

"Saintly hands have wound her thread:
Faith, look up and firmly tread:
Poor Bereaved, be comforted;
My Flowers garland Baby's head."
                                                      Marian, Marian.

God's unguessed reply is read:
Tears that came not, tears that pled
Crying darkly, here are shed:
Soft rest you, Darling!  dead
                                                      Marian, Marian.

 

______________

XV.


Our leaves are shaken from the tree,
        And hopes laid low,
That after our Spring-nurslings, we
        May long to go.

The warm love-nest our Dovelets leave
        With helpless moan,
As they for us would sit and grieve
        In heaven—alone!

The tender Shepherd beckoningly
        Our Lambs doth hold,
That we may take our own when He
        Makes up the fold.


______________

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