Gerald Massey: Craigcrook Castle (4)

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THE BRIDEGROOM OF BEAUTY
.


WHO wears a singing-robe is richly dight,
Said Mabel; he is greater than a King.
I would I were a Poet happy-mad;
Up like a Lark i' the morning of the times,
To sing above the human harvesters;
Drop fancies, dainty-sweet, to cheer their toil,
And hurry out a ripe luxuriance
Of life in song, as though my heart would break;
And sing them sweet and precious memories,
And golden promises, and throbbing hopes;
Hymn the great Future with its mystery,
That startles us from out the dark of time
With secrets numerous as a night of stars:
Those days hung round with loftier heavens, where
            move
The larger souls with grandly solemn pace:
Or send wronged Nations to the battle-field
With eyes that weep and burn—stir as with fire
The grand wild beast of Valour, till it leapt
The red Arena fiery for the fight:
Then bind with garlands brave the Patriot's brow.
Anon I would sing songs so sweetly pure,
That they might pillow a budding Maiden's cheek,
Like spirit-hands, and catch her tender tears;
Or nestle next her heart lapt up in love:—
Songs that in far lands, under alien skies,
Should spring from English hearts like flowers of home.
I'd strive to bring down light from heaven to read
The records writ on Poverty's prison walls,
The signs of greatness limned in martyr blood,
And make worn faces glow with warmth of love
Into the lineaments of heavenly beauty.

Who wears a singing-robe is richly dight;
The Poet, he is greater than a King.
He plucks the veil from hidden loveliness:
His gusts of music stir the shadowing boughs,
To let in glory on the darkened soul.
Upon the hills of light he plants his feet
To lure the people up with harp and voice;
At humblest human hearths drops dews divine
To feed the violet virtues nestling there.
His hands adorn the poorest house of life
With rare abiding shapes of loveliness.
All things obey his soul's creative eye;
For him earth ripens fruit-like in the light;
Green April comes to him with smiling tears,
Like some sweet Maiden who transfigured stands
In dewy light of first love's rosy dawn,
And yields all secret preciousness, his Bride.
He reaps the Autumn without scythe or sickle;
And in the sweet low singing of the corn,
Hears coming Plenty hush the pining Poor.

The shows of things are but a robe o' the day,
His life down-deepens to the living heart,
And Sorrow shows him her wise mysteries.
He knoweth Life is but a longer year,
And it will blossom bright in other springs.
The soul of all things is invisible,
And nearest to that soul the Poet sings;
A sweet, shy Bird in darkling privacy.
He beckons not the Pleasures as they pass,
And lets the money-grubbing world go by.
He hath a towering life, but cannot climb
Out of the reach of sad calamity:
A many carking cares pluck at his skirts;
Wild, wandering words are hissing at his ear;
He runs the gauntlet of world-woes to reach
The inner sanctuary of better life.
But tho' the seas of sorrow flood his heart,
Some silent spring of roses blossoms there.
His spirit-wounds a precious balsam bleed.
The loveliest ministrants that visit him,
Rise veiled when his heart-fountains spring in tears.
And when this misty life hath rolled away;
The turmoil husht; all foolish voices still;
The bonds that crusht his great heart shattered down,
And all his nature shines sublimely bare;
Death whitens many a stain of strife and toil,
And careful hands shall pluck away each weed
Around the spring that wells melodious life.

 

______________

Many and many are called, but few are crowned,
Charmian replied.   I knew a Poet once;
One of the world's most marvellous might-have-beens;
A strange wild harper upon human heart-strings.
Life's morning-glory round him prophesied
That he should win his garland in the game.
But he was lost for lack of that sweet thing,
A Wife, to live his love's dear dream of beauty,
And wandered darkling in his dazzling dream.
Life's waters—troubled till that Angel comes—
Never grew calm above the jewel he sought,
Till in Death's harbour all their surges slept.

He was betrothed to Beauty ere his birth—
That silent Spirit of the universe,
Which seeks interpreters of her dumb shows,
'Mong human lovers whom she may not wed!
This Spirit arose from many things, as soars
The soul of Harmony from many sounds.
She beckoned him for her Evangelist,
Out of the byeway of his lonely life,
And straightway he arose and followed her,
And in the shadow of her loveliness,
Or in her wake of glory, walkt the world.

That shining Shape, like hers we worship, seemed
Some beauteous miracle of silent love.
Thro' smiles, and tears, he saw his visioned Bride,
With gorgeous grace, and twinkling limbs of light,
Aye dancing on in her delightsomeness.
His love-dream glided silent thro' his life,
Like rosy-handed Day 'twixt Earth and Night,
And came betwixt his mind and all its glooms;
Her sandals wet and fragrant with Heaven's dew.
She set the barren thorns in jewelled glow,
And sowed the furrows of his life with flowers.
He followed with wild looks and heart a-fire,
And that rich mist of feeling in the eyes,
Whose alchymy half-creates the thing we see.

She rose in sparkling clouds of dazzling dew,
And kept the Morning's ruddy golden gates;
Stood high in sunrise on the mountain-top;
Sate in her bower of the silvery air,
Shedding her beauty richly on the sea,
Which of her likeness took some trembly tints;
Voyaged like Venus in her car of cloud
About the sapphire heaven's lake of love,
Or danced on sunset streams to harp of gold:
Then twilight mists would robe more faint and fair
Her dim, delicious, dreamy loveliness.

The Flowers that startle at the voice of May
And open gamesome eyes, had been with her;
Their subtle smile said what they could reveal.
Among the boughs of balm rainbowed with bloom;
The coloured clouds that kindle and richly rise
From out the bosom of Earth's emerald sea;
Hedge-roses set in dewy glory green;
The lush Laburnums, all a rain of gold;
She seemed to have fled and left her robe afloat.
An Ariel, soft she murmured in the pines;
He heard, but knew no magic word or wand.
A wavy Naiad, she rippled the cool brooks
That round her dallied in delicious dreams.
The fragrant feeling of the languorous air
Was as the soft endearment of her touch,
And wound him in her tremulous caress.

Not by appointment do we meet Delight
And Joy; they heed not our expectancy;
But round some corner in the streets of life,
They, on a sudden, clasp us with a smile.
So on him rose his visitant divine,
From many a magic mirror of the mind;
With elfin evanescence came and went.

When, thronged with life, the Year in beauty burst,
Lifted her lids, and blossomed from the trees,
She smiled in all the gateways of the spring.
In burnisht bark swam down the summer-tide
That floods the vallies, breaks o'er all the hills,
In sparkling spray of flowers, and leafy life.
She bound the Autumn's brow with plumes of gold,
And roofed her forests with the radiant wealth
Of melted rainbows, showered from summer heaven.
And winter trees stretcht fingers weird to win
Her perfect pearl, and her white purity.
Where'er she went Earth lookt up with a smile.

Thro' Music's maze she glode at hide-and-seek;
Played with the Storm, then in her rainbow-shape
Laught from the purple skirts of Heaven, as laughs
Some radiant Child from Mother's hiding robe.

Adown dim forest-windings he would peer;
Surprise his Beautiful at her woodland bath,
And in a solemn hush of heart stand still
Like fixèd flame! for lo, how softly burned
Her dainty limbs shadowed with cloudy pearl!
Then swift as runs a wind-wave over grass,
He saw her garments gleam in leafy light.
Were those love-whisperings among the leaves,
Or elvish laughters twitting thro' the trees?
Sometimes the boughs let in her haunting face;
The glance would make his blood run lightning red;
But the old forest kept the secret still,
And husht it round with grave unconscious look.

In vernal nights so tender, calm, and cool,
When eerie Darkness lays its shadowy hands
On Earth, and reads her sins with myriad eyes,
Like a Confesssor o'er a kneeling Nun;
He stood in God's wide whispering gallery,
And breathed his worship: down from visible heaven
Her influence fell, and thrilled in music thro'
The silences of space, and soothed his soul,
Till life was folded up brimfull of beauty,
As the flower folds its pearl and droops to dream.

At times, from out the curtains of the dark,
Her face would meet him thro' the glowing gloom.
Sometimes she passed; her rippling raiment toucht
His brows, and sphered him with diviner air,
Like honeysuckles brusht at dewy dusk.
The fragrance of her breath made old earth young.
From mystery to mystery, like a Bride,
The dainty-waisted darling led him on,
And dropt love-tokens in his pilgrim path.
The red Rose peering thro' its lattice leaves
Like warm Love lifting half its virgin veil,
Symbolled her soft red mouth held up for kisses.
A balm of life, and mist of ripening bloom,
Gave to her tender cheeks their taking touch.
Her eyes were glowing orbs of thought that burned
Fervent as Hesper in the brow of Eve.

He walkt as in a clime of golden eves.
The vineyard of his life reeled lusty ripe;
He ached to press the wine upon her lips,
But aye she melted from his love's embrace,
To float him far away in faery lands.
The wooing wind would murmur of her fairness,
And round him breathe in many whispers sweet;
Bring dews of healing as from Hermon hill;
Creep to his burning heart with drink of life,
And cool him with her kisses. Oft he husht,
As one who pauses on a midnight heath,
To catch the footfall felt on Fancy's ear.

When he awoke in Dreamland, 'twas to find
He had been floated thro' some starry dark,
Far from earth's shore, on an enchanted sea:
And he lay pillowed 'twixt her white warm breasts,
In glowing arms of glorifying love:
A light of love-dreams on her features shone,
With ripening lustre, and enriching calm:
And she had laid her daylight mask aside;
All the sweet soul of things lay bare, as lies
The mirrored moon in silver sleeping seas.

A shimmering splendour from the By-gone broke,
As the Ship leaves a luminous wake behind;
And, looking back, his Childhood's world she ringed
With rich auroral hues of summer dawns.
When weird, dark shapes of sorrow hunted nigh
With their slow solemn eyes, and silent aim,
She dropt the gold cloud of her tresses round him.
When o'er him hung the night of adverse fate,
She flamed a light of love along his path,
And thro' the darkness of his soul there broke
A heaven of worlds all tenderness and peace.

At times he walkt with glad and confident step,
As inner wings to heroic music moved;
And men who read his lighted look might deem
His life a summer story told in flowers.
But often he would falter weeping-weak,
With claspèd hands, and very lowly heart.
Then she rose glorified in finer light,
Seen thro' the altar-smoke and mist of tears.
So his life grew to beauty silently,
And shaped his soul into an orb of song.
He sang of Her his beautiful Unknown,
Heart-wild, as some glad bird that sings of spring,
And all Earth's voices rang a rich refrain.
He would have made the world her worshipper:
The sceptic world that flung him Christ's old crown.
One day our passionate pilgrim sat him down
By the wayside of life, and thus he sang.

 


"L
IKE a tree beside the river
     Of her life that runs from me,
 Do I lean me, murmuring ever
     In my love's idolatry.
 Lo, I reach out hands of blessing;
     Lo, I stretch out hands of prayer;
 And, with passionate caressing,
     Pour my life upon the air.
 In my ears the syren river
     Sings, and smiles up in my face;
 But for ever, and for ever,
     Runs from my embrace.

"Spring by spring the branches duly
     Clothe themselves in tender flower ;
 And for her sweet sake as truly
     All their fruit and fragance shower.
 But the stream, with careless laughter
     Runs in merry beauty by,
 And it leaves me yearning after,
     Lorn to droop, and lone to die.
 In my ears the syren river
     Sings, and smiles up in my face;
 But for ever, and for ever,
     Runs from my embrace.

"I stand mazèd in the moonlight,
     O'er its happy face to dream;
 I am parchèd in the moonlight
     By that cool and brimming stream:
 I am dying by the river
     Of her life that runs from me,
 And it sparkles by me ever,
     With its cool felicity.
 In my ears the syren river
     Sings, and smiles up in my face;
 But for ever, and for ever,
     Runs from my embrace."

 

______________

"O THOU Belovèd!    O thou Beautiful!
 Throned on perfection for thy pedestal:
 O spirit as the lightning wild and bright,
 Come from thy palace of the purple light.
 Come down to mortal arms a living form,
 With heavenly height of brow, and bosom warm.
 Glow human from the mist, thou Shape of Grace;
 Thou tender wonder, fold me face to face.
 Art thou not mine, thou delicate Delight?
 Hast thou not visited me noon and night?
 Freighted with my dead Hopes I follow thee,
 Like some Norse sea-king flaming out to sea.
 Say, are the pleasant bowers far away,
 Deckt by thy dear hands for our marriage-day,
 Where we the gardens of delight shall roam
 In endless love?  When wilt thou lead me home,
 To find our bliss in heaven's honied heart;
 Live secret soul to soul, never to part?

"O awful Glory, felt, but never found;
 I have but seen thy Shadow on life's ground.
 I know thee now, Immortal! show the way
 To thine Elysium, I could die to-day.
 Break into wings this chrysalis of my life,
 That I may soar to thee my spirit-wife.
 Thy dark bower-door, the Grave, gives me no fear ;
 When I emerge beyond, thou wilt be near."

 

______________

O'er all his face the sudden splendour smiled,
Sweet as first love, and sad as wailing winds.
His soul had rent the veil 'twixt life and life.
Slowly the shining vapours orb a Star,
By fine degrees before his fixèd eyes.
The Spirit he had sought thro' all the world,
Turned full upon him face to face at last.
She laid her hand upon his throbbing harp;
She prest her lips upon his passionate life;
The harp and life stood still.   His Bride was Death.

 

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LITTLE WILLIE.


POOR little Willie,
    With his many pretty wiles;
Worlds of wisdom in his look
    And quaint, quiet smiles;
Hair of amber, touched with
    Gold of heaven so brave;
All lying darkly hid
    In a Workhouse Grave!

In the day we wandered foodless,
    Little Willie cried for bread!
In the night we wandered homeless,
    Little Willie cried for bed.
Parted at the Workhouse door,
    Not a word we said:
Ah, so tired was poor Willie,
    And so sweetly sleep the dead.

You remember little Willie;
    Such a funny fellow! he
Sprang like a lily
    From the dirt of poverty.
Poor little Willie!
    Not a friend was nigh,
When, from the cold world,
    He crouched down to die.

'Twas in the dead of winter
    We laid him in the earth;
The world brought in the New Year,
    Mocking us with mirth:
But, for lost little Willie,
    Not a tear we crave;
Cold and Hunger cannot wake him,
    In his Workhouse Grave.

We thought him beautiful,
    Felt it hard to part;
We to him were dutiful;
    Down, down, poor heart!
The storms they may beat;
    The winter winds may rave;
Little Willie feels not
    In his Workhouse Grave.

No room for little Willie;
    In the world he had no part;
On him stared the Gorgon-eye,
    Through which looks no heart.
Come to me, said Heaven;
    And, if Heaven will save,
We will grieve not, though the door
    Was a Workhouse Grave.

 

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A BALLAD OF THE OLD TIME.


SWEET Night, drop down from thy starry bower
    Thy influence dewily mild;
Softly bend over my love's tender flower,
    As a Mother bends over her child.
Hush the hills in a deep, dark dream;
    To slumber stretch valley and lea;
Fold over all thy purple and pall,
    And bring my Love to me.

You white witching Moon, with your beautiful
            smile;
    You flowers that fondle his feet;
You weird wee Women of fairyland, wile
    Not my Love with your kisses sweet.
For him my bower in the old gray tower
    Is dighted and daintilie:
All gentle Powers that walk the night-hours,
    Hasten my Love to me.

I count my love's rosary over again,
    With its feelings and fancies and fears;
Till it breaks in my brain with the tension of pain,
    And my pearls are but trembling tears!
I sorrow and sing with the thorn at my breast;
    Mine eyes watch unweariedly:
Come crown them, and calm them, and kiss them
            to rest;
    Dear my Love, hasten to me.

The ripe swelling buds that are quick with spring,
    Will peep from their silken fold;
And my broidered belt is too short to cling
    Round my waist with its girdling gold.
But my Love he will bring the gay gold ring;
    Base-born his Babe shall not be!
Leal is his love as the heaven above:
    He never will lightly me.

My Love he hath little of silver or gold;
    Of land he hath never a sod;
But my Love is a gay gallant gentleman—
    He's a king by the grace of God.
He has borne up the battle-tide broad-sword
            in hand!
    He is comely as any ladye!
O and were I a King's daughter,
    None other should marry me.

My Love shall not wait at the Castle-gate,
    My Love shall not tirl at the pin;
My Love he will climb to my bower-window;
    Sing O, but I'll let my Love in.
The dragon below lieth weary and old,
    Sleeping all under the tree;
While I feast my Love on the apples of gold—
    But soft!     He is coming to me.

 

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THE SUNBEAM AND THE ROSE.


  "PRETTY Rosebud, are thy crimson
       Curtains still undrawn?
   Odalisque of Flowers—
       Tender soul o' the fervid South!
   I am dainty of thy beauty,
       All this dewy dawn;
   I am fainting for the ruddy
       Kisses of thy mouth."

  Sang the syren Sunbeam,
      With a voice made low to win;
  Round the Rose-heart playing,
      Till it toucht the tenderest strings;
  "Pretty Rosebud, ope thy lattice,
      Let thy true love in."
  And for Heaven down-wavering warm,
      She waved her leafy wings!
LISTEN, LADIES, TO MY SONG O' THE SUNBEAM AND
            THE ROSE.

  Out she sprang, kiss-coloured,
    In her eyes the dews of bliss;
  All her beauty glowing
    With a blush of bridal light!
  Gave her balm and bloom for banquet
    To the golden kiss;
  Proudly oped each chamber
    For a princelier delight.

  Soon the Serpent of Sweetness,
    Sated, could no longer stay;
  And away he went, a-wooing
    Every flower that blows!
  'twas the reign of Roses
    When that Sunbeam passed to-day:
  Lonely in her rifled ruin
    Droopt the dying Rose.
LISTEN, LADIES, TO MY SONG O' THE SUNBEAM AND
            THE ROSE.

 

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SONG


METHOUGHT to bear her branches crowned
        With fruit, my virgin vine:
Another fills her arms: around
        Another life they twine!
                 So I lost the day,
        And all the night I wake,—
Bird-like singing sad sorrow away,
        Until my heart shall break.

While others gleaned Life's field for gold,
        With flowers I made a crown:
Till, looking up alone behold,
        The deepening night came down !
                 So I lost the day,
        And all the night I wake,—
Bird-like singing sad sorrow away,
        Until my heart shall break.

Ah me! I claspt a reed, and missed
        My sweetest Syrinx fled!
Ah me! my tendered music's kist
        From lips of dear love dead.
                 I have lost the day,
       And all the night I wake,—
Bird-like singing sad sorrow away,
       Until my heart shall break.

 

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LONG AGO.


OLD friend of mine, you were dear to my heart,
                      Long, long ago, long ago.
Little did we think of a time we should part,
                       Long, long ago, long ago.
Hand clasped in hand thro' the world we would go.
Down our old untrodden path the wild weeds grow!
Great was the love 'twixt us; sair was the smart :
                       Old friend of mine long ago.

Patient watch I kept for you many, many a day,
                       Long, long ago, long ago;
Waited and wept for you far, far away,
                       Long, long ago, long ago.
Merry came each May-tide, green leaves would start :
Never came my old friend back to my heart.
Lonely I went on my weary, weary way,
                         Old friend of mine long ago.

Oft as I muse at the shadowy nightfall
                        Over the dear Long Ago:
Borne on tears arises the dark, dark pall,
                        Fallen on my heart long ago.
Love is not dead, tho' we wander apart;
How I could clasp you, old friend, to my heart!
Barriers lie between us, but God knoweth all,
                        Old friend of mine long ago.

 

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CRAIGCROOK ROSES.


Craigcrook Roses! ruby, golden,
    Glowing gorgeous; faint with passion;
To the sweet flower-soul unfolden:
    Wreathe me in the old Greek fashion.
Queen of sweetness, crowned with splendour,
    Every rich round bud uncloses;
Yet so meek and womanly tender
    Are you royal Craigcrook Roses,
    Warm and winy Craigcrook Roses.

Leaning with some unknown yearning,
    You would make a lover sin, you
Pretty wooers, archly turning
    As you climb to make us win you.
Ripe perfection of fair fulness
    In your gracious bloom reposes;
And an emerald bower for coolness,
    Summer builds my Craigcrook Roses,
    Amorous-dreaming Craigcrook Roses.

When the year is old and hoary,
    And the day is dark with dolours;
Still you come, my guests of glory,
    In voluptuous dance of colours.
And—tho' Earth like Age is toiling
    In the snowdrifts—perfumed posies
Kiss me, crown my spirit smiling
    Down a dream of Craigcrook Roses,
    Dear, delicious Craigcrook Roses.

Fairest 'mong Light's daughters seven,
    With your dainty dreamy graces;
You might light with loving leaven
    Smiles of spring in wintriest faces.
At the solemn shut of daylight
    When the fair life-vision closes;
May my spirit float away light
    On a cloud of Craigcrook Roses,
    Cooled and crowned with Craigcrook Roses.

 

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SONG.


O LOVE will make the leal heart ache
    That never ached before;
And meek or merry eyes 't will make
    With solemn tears o'er.
In tears we parted tenderly,
    My love and I langsyne;
And evermore she vowed to be
    Mine own, aye mine, all mine!

Sing O the tree is blossoming,
    But the worm is at the root;
And many a darling flower of Spring
    Will never come to fruit.
We meet now in the streets of life;
    All gone, the old sweet charms;
At my side leans a loving Wife;
    She
passes Babe-in-arms.

 

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DIRGE.


             O HAPPY tree;
             Green and fragrant tree;
Spring with budding jewels deckt it like a Bride!
             All so fair it bloomed,
             And the summer air perfumed;
Golden autumn fruitage smiled in crowns of pride.

             O human tree;
             Waesome wailing tree;
In the winter wind how it rocks! how it grieves!
             On a little low grave-mound,
             All its bravery lies discrowned:
O'er its fallen fruit it heaps the withered leaves.

 

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"IN THE DEAD UNHAPPY MIDNIGHT."


'Tis Midnight hour, and the Dead have power
      Over the Wronger now!
He is tortured and torn by the crown of thorn
      That hath fallen from the Suicide's brow.

Wind him around in the toil of thy charms;
      Nestle him close, young Bride!
At the Midnight hour he is drawn from thy arms;
      Thro' the dark with the Dead he must ride.

The rose of her mouth is red-wet, red-warm:
      She smiles in her heaven of calm.
Tost! hurried! and sered in a pitiless storm;
      Slumber for him hath no balm.

He feels that ghostly groping along
      The Corridor of Dreams!
And a dark Desolation Lightning-lit
      Is his face by ghastly gleams!

Love's cup flushes up for his crowning kiss,
      With his lip at the burning brim!
Lo, the Dead uncurtain his bower of bliss,
      Stretching wild arms for him!

Wind him around in the toil of thy charms;
      Nestle him close, young Bride!
Yet, at Midnight hour he is drawn from thy arms;
      Thro' the dark with the Dead he must ride.

And the Dark hath a million burning Eyes,
      All of his secret tell!
And the whispering winds are damnèd fiends
      That hiss in his ears of Hell!

Warm in her bed the young Bride lies,
      Breathing her peaceful breath:
Dead Mother and Babe with their drownèd eyes
      Stare dim thro' the watery death.

'Tis Midnight hour and the Dead have power
      Over the Wronger now!
He is tortured and torn by the crown of thorn
      That hath fallen from the Suicide's brow.

  

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ONLY A DREAM.


The silvery veil of Sleep came trembling down
Like sweet snow white and warm in a silent world,
And softly covered up the face of life.
The nurse-like Spirit laid my body to rest,
And went to meet her Bridegroom in the night,
Who comes like music o'er the star-shored sea,
And clasps her at the portal with a kiss.
When lo, a hand reacht thro' the dark, and drew
Her gliding silent on, and looking up
The unfeatured gloom grew into Charmian's face.
I read her look, and we two wandered forth
In the cool glory of the glimmering night:
The Earth lay faint with love at the feet of Heaven:
Her breath of incense went up thro' the leaves
In a lown sough of bliss.    Warm winds on tip-toe
Walkt over the tall tree-tops.    Above us burned
The golden legends on Night's prophet-brow;
The Moon rose o'er the city, a glory of gold;
Around us Life rehearst Death's mystery.
And Charmian wore her luminous loveliness
As in a stole of sorrow; by day she moved
In some serene elysium; queenly-sweet,
And gracious; breathing beauty ; a heaven of dreams
In her large lotus eyes, darkly divine:
Warm wingèd Ardours plumed her parted lips.
But now her blooming Life's luxuriant flower
Seemed withered into ashen spirit-fruit,
And like a spirit flasht her white, lit face!
Portentous things which hid themselves by day,
Sweet-shadowed 'neath her sunning beauty-bloom,
Came peering thro' the dim and sorrowy night.
Her lips, red-ripe to crush their fire-strong wine,
Pouting persuasive in perpetual kiss,
Were thin with anguish, bitter with pale pain.
And from the windows whence her Beauty laught
As Age went by, a life of suffering lookt,
And perisht visions flasht their phantom light.
White waves of sea-like soul had climbed, and dasht
The red light from its heaven of her cheek.
Her bounteous breast that breathed magnificence,
And billowed with proud blood, sighed meekly now.
The flowers her Spartan spirit crowned her with
For the life-battle, dropt about her dead.
Diaphanous in the moonlight grew her life
With all its written agony visible;
Down the dark deep of her great grief I stared,
And saw the Wreck with all its dead around.
And my heart melted in its mournfulness;
She moaned, as hers were breaking in its pain;
And then her voice vibrated piteous as
A Spirit wailing in a world of tears,
But stifled half its pathos not to hurt.
"Earth sleepeth in the moonlight's mystic grace,
The breath of blessings round her; and all heaven
Is passing thro' her dream; it trembles near;
She feels the Seraph-kisses on her face;
But she will wake at morn in tears to find
The glory gone—all was a dream o' the night.
And thus my young Life slumbered, dreamed, and woke!

"It ran in shadow like the woodland brook,
Feeling its way, with yearnings for the light,
Until it surges flashing in the sun,
And takes a crown of glory on its head.
Even so I found him whom my soul had sought,
And fled into his breast with a cry of triumph,
Who lit up all things beautiful for me.
And thro' my happy tears there lookt in mine
A face as sweet as morning violets,
A face alight with love ineffable,
The star-like heart-hid wonder trembling through:
And o'er me leaned,—as Spring-heaven over earth,
Dropping her love down in a rain of flowers,—
To feed me with all flowers of delight,
And crown me as his queen of all delight.
"Light hung a garland grace about his brow;
His voice, like footprints in the yielding snow,
Sank deepest with its softest fall of words.
He gave the casket of his happiness
Rich with Love's jewel for my hands to keep.
Around his stalwart beauty twined my life,
In golden oneness, and in proud repose;
And like a God he claspt me with his strength!
And like a God he held me in his heaven;
And all the air was golden with my God.

"Alas, that Woman's life divorced from Man's,
And seeking to be one again in love,
So often flies back thro' the grim wide wound!
Alas, that Time should crown with fruit of pain,
That seed from Eden whose fair flower is love!
They tore me from my Love! they thrust him forth,
Spurned his rich love, and scorned his poverty;
Rent all the twining tendrils of my life
To shrink back bleeding in their desolate home.
My heart was shivered like the charmèd cup
That, breaking, brings the Hall in ruins round;
And every fragment mirrored the great wrong!

"And while my mind yet wandered dark and dumb,
They sold me to a Worldling wrinkled, rich
And rotten, who bought Love's sweet name for gold.
They drest me in bride-flowers who should have worn
The white and wimpled weeds of widowhood,
And led me forth, a jewelled mockery!
'Twas like a wedding with the sheeted dead,
In silent hurry, and white ghastliness.
No bosoms beat Love's cymbals music-matcht;
No blisses blusht, no bridal-kisses burned.
The ring was on my hand, few saw the chain
By which my Husband drew me to his home,
And many envied me my happiness.
That night as we sat alone I felt his eyes
Burningly brand me to the core, his Slave.

"I dwelt within a golden world of wealth,
Which flamed a glistering glory, bloomed a warmth
Without, within was cold as a fireless hearth.
The Image of Nuptial Love to which they led me
A maiden sacrifice i' the Sanctuary,
That should have raised me, smiled my tears away,
And into quickness all my coldness kist,
And fed with precious oil the lamp of love
That in my heart, as in a tomb, burned on,
Was a gaunt Skeleton whose grave-like arms
Glaspt me for ever to a loveless breast.

"He was a cruel Tyrant, just too mean
To murder, altho' pitiless as the grave;
A human ink-fish spreading clouds around
When eyes of tender ruth would come too near.
He had a thin-lipt lust of power which lookt
On torture in no rage of fiery blood,
But with infernal light of gloating eyes.
And yet I strove to love him.    O my God!
While reaching from the heights of blessedness,
To pluck the rainbow-fruit Heaven held to me,
How had I fallen into a chasm that closed
Its dark inevitable arms, and crusht
Me, bruised and blind!    I struck, and struck, and beat
With bleeding strength, in vain.    A hundred hands
Fought in the gloom with mine as water weak.
At every step there stirred some hissing snake.
I felt as one that's bound, and buried alive;
The black, dank death-mould stampt down overhead,
And cried, and cried, and cried, but no help came.

"I heard the sounds above me far away;
The feet of hurrying Life, and loitering Love;
Rich bursts of music, hum of low sweet talk;
The dance of Pleasure dancing in her heaven,
And rustling rain of a thousand dear delights.
I knew the pictured world was lighted up,
And bloomed, like bridal-chamber, soft and warm:
How sang the merry, merry birds of bliss;
How Beauty's flower-guests stood crowned and drank
The health of Heaven in its own golden wine.
But not a crumb of all the glad life-feast,
Nor drop of all the wanton wealth for me.
And if I stretcht weak arms to clasp my world,
A wormy mouth to my wild warmth was prest.
And if I turned to lift a prayer to God,
Above me burned two eyes like bottomless pits
In which a nest of devils lurk and leer.
And down my night there stoopt no smiling heaven,
With golden chances of a starry throne,
And beckoning looks to bid me come be crowned.

"Around me rose the phantoms of the dark,
The Grave's Somnambules troubled in their dream,
Who walk and wander in the sleep of Death,
And cannot rest, they were so wronged in life.
The crownless Martyrs of the marriage-ring!
Meek sufferers who walkt in living hell,
And died a life of spiritual suttee.
They came to claim their kin in misery,
And show me, as they passed in solemn train,
Their symbols of unutterable woe,—
Scarred loves that bore the rack and told no tale;
Tear-drownèd hearts and stifled agonies;
The bleeding lips struck dumb by brutal hands;
Slow murders of the curtained bridal-bed;
The silent tortures and the shrouded deaths.

"I wandered with them in the pitiless night
Who seek the jewel fallen from Life's crown;
Oft stumbling, bled upon the cruel thorns,
But rose, and struggled on.    I strained mine eyes
Upon the dark, and raised mine empty cup;
Surely with one gold drop of honey-dew,
Somewhere the heavens ran o'er t'enrich my life?

"Then came to me a thing most sweet and strange,
As tho' an Angel kist me in the night,
Or Magic Rose flusht sudden in the gloom.
A loosening charm wrought in my brain; the weight
That ached to be dasht out in utter death,
Was melting like a wintry clod in flowers.
In love's dead ashes burst a spark.    I cried,
'O sweet light-bringer, in a bloom of dawn
Rise, let me see what treasure I have found!
My little Bird shall hurry out the night,
Till all my world is toucht with rosy gold:
My little Bird of God shall sit and sing
The dear day long, the dearer for the dark!
My rich, warm jewel, crimson with sweet life,
Come shine where now I cross but empty palms,
And clasp the new love-raiment radiant round.

"'If thou rise beautiful from Sorrow's sea,
As Venice, Sorrow's child, is Beauty's Queen,
Perchance thy little smiles, my Babe, may bring
Some human softness in his face, and I
Shall kiss the hand that hurts, for thy dear sake.
And I shall walk with thee, my Child, with thee,
Beneath new heavens, on an enchanted earth.
When I enfold thee in my arms, sweet Babe,
My heart will scarcely breathe lest it should wake
The sleeping wings of its new-nestling bliss.
When thou art born, my Child, all will be well ;
For surely Love but vanisht in the dark
To come back in the morning with my Babe;
And all the sweetness liveth on when all
The bitterness is past; and eyes that yearn
Wet thro' the gloom are glorified at last.
Soft baby-fingers feeling round my heart
Shall melt its frost; and baby-lips shall draw
My tears in milk, and suck my sorrows dry.
All hell may wrestle in one human heart;
All heaven will nestle in my drop of dew.'

"It came, my dazzling dawn's re-orient hope!
My tiny babe, with its sweet mournful eyes!
And the pale innocent but fanned his hate
To frenzy; for, in many a desolate day,
And midnight, lying with my heart awake,
I had turned tearfully to look upon
A precious picture worn by Memory,
And in its beauteous image grew my Babe:
Its luminous look had gathered all the light
That lost beloved Presence left with me.

"He poured his poison in the brimming glass
My babe-joy-bearer lifted to my lips,
And dasht its golden vintage in the dust.
I ran the gauntlet of his hell for years,
And fell down on the threshold mad.    My Child!
They took my Babe from me, my pleading Babe;
And when the pretty one pined for me, and cried,
Straining his dim eyes for me till he died;
They called the Mother in to see her child
That lay there in the little shroud with all
Its beauty folded up for God in heaven:
Dead! dead! its dear eyes closed by stranger hands.

"Much misery hath not made my spirit meek:
Mine agony rends the bridal-veil: I cry,
Come see what ghastly wounds bleed hidden here!
Behold where all the Tortures of the Past
Are stored by Law, and sanctified for use.
I drag my burthen to a nation's throne,
And pray deliverance from this Tyrant's power.
Pity me, all good people, as ye sit
Within the golden circle of sweet marriage,
Loving and loved, glorying and glorified;
Whose love makes life so dear, that when ye die
And sit on heavenlier heights, your eyes will search
To find the garden where Love's fruitage grew;
The nest from whence your pretty nurslings flew;
Our old World smiling thro' its cloudy fold,
And love it for the marriage love of old."
She ceased, and from afar methought there came
Across the night an echo sad and low,
Love answering love, heart crying unto heart.

 


______________


"In the merry spring-tide when green buds start,
   Wings break from the husk of care,
 And the dead beauty blossoms again in my heart,
   As I dream of the things that were;
 The buried Past lifteth a radiant brow;
   Some phantom-bark toucheth life's shore;
 And it floateth me far from the sorrowful Now,
   Into Love's happy Nevermore.

"She rises before me, that Darling of mine,
   Whom I lost in the world so wide;
 O come to me, come to me, let thine arms twine
   About me, my life! my Bride!
Ah me! I am breaking my heart to see
   But the Image enshrined at its core;
 Yet Memory's sighs bring a balm to me,
   Out of Love's happy Nevermore.

"How I poured all my life in a beaker of bliss
   For her! how I held the cup,
 As the leaves, though the wanton winds will kiss,
   Their tremulous dews hold up!
 And my mind it walkt in a raiment white,
   Where starry thoughts reared a dome;
 And the feast was spread, and the chamber alight
   For the guest that never came home.

"Lovely she was as the lily is white,
   When the beauty of morn it wears:
 Pure she was as the perfect light
   That haloeth happy tears.
 Hearts straightway rose from the shadow and cloud,
   Where the light of her presence kist;
 Yet over the might of the proudest she rode,
   Like Music, as she list.

"Love, rosy clear, in her cheek's faint dyes,
   Its first sweet bloom just took;
 Love came trembling up in her eyes,
   As the stars in a happy brook:
 Dear eyes! they were dreams of heaven, with a dance
   Of light in their deep rich gloom;
 Whence the smiling heart lookt like the golden glance
   From the pansy's purple bloom.

"O Darling of mine! does she ever think
   Of the old-time thoughts and things?
 O Darling of mine! does she come to drink
   At these wormwood spirit-springs?
 For I sometimes dream as I bend above,
   That the kiss of her lips clings there,
 And the fading balm of her breath of love
   Is eloquent in the air.

"If we met unaware, just to ease her heart's pain,
   Would she fall on my bosom and sob?
 Or would old memories glide thro' her brain
   With never an added throb?
 Is her pillow e'er wet in the dead night-hours?
   When the heat of the day is o'er,
 Does she turn, like me, for a handful of flowers,
   Into Love's happy Nevermore?

"O there is no heart that loves on earth
   But may live to be loved again:
 Some other heart hath the same dear birth,
   And aches with the same sweet pain.
 And Love may yet come with a golden ray
   Shall lighten my life's despair:
 But Love hath no second shaft can slay
   The first love nestling there.

"In the merry spring-tide when green buds start,
   Wings break from the husk of care,
 And the dead beauty blossoms again in my heart,
   As I dream of the things that were:
 The buried Past lifteth a radiant brow,
   Some phantom-bark toucheth life's shore:
 And I am borne far from the sorrowful Now,
   Into Love's happy Nevermore."

 


______________


 

All this was but the imagery of dream;
For when the Morn in restless radiance rose,
Her breath of beauty palpitating light,
With clouds of colour smiling from the ground;
A sparkling ecstasy in the blue air;
And I with marvelling eyes had broke the seal
Of slumber, read the letter of my Dream,
Lo, Charmian was a fair and smiling Woman!
And oft the dimple gleamed upon her cheek,
To vanish like a dew-drop in a rose;
And oft her laugh with reckless richness rung,
And shook a shower of music-pearls around.
I peered into the windows of her eyes,
As one might come by light of day to look
Adown the glade where he had seen the dance
Of weird Elves in the night, but finds no trace
An aspect of the Graces! who could know
The wreathen face that writhèd in my dream?

But still, as in my Dream, I see her stand,
Too living for a picture in romance,
Telling the wild stern story of her wrongs,
Holding the great Curse up to heaven for ever,
To call God's lightning down, altho' it kill
Her with her wedded Curse.   And in my Dream
The kings and queens of prospering love go by,
And little heed this Martyr by the way;
This poor weak woman trembling 'neath her load;
This life fast fettered to a festering corse;
This love that bleeds to death at many wounds:
This passing Tragedy of Soul within
Our five acts of the Sense, that breaks its way
Thro' human hearts i' the Theatre of a world.

 



______________



THE END.

 



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