Gerald Massey: Havelock's March (2)

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THE NORSEMAN.


A SWARTHY strength with face of light,
As dark sword-iron is beaten bright;
A brave frank look, with health a-glow,
Bonny blue eyes and open brow;
His friend he welcomes heart-in-hand,
But foot to foot his foe must stand:
A Man who will face to his last breath,
The sternest facts of life and death:
        This is the daring Norseman.

The wild wave-motion, weird and strange,
Rocks in him: seaward he must range.
For life is just a mighty lust
To wear away with use, not rust.
Though bitter wintry-cold the storm,
The fire within him keeps him warm.
Kings quiver at his flag unfurled:
The sea-king's master of the world:
        Conquering comes the Norseman.

He hides at heart of his rough life,
A world of sweetness for the wife;
From his rude breast a babe may press
Soft milk of human tenderness,
Make his eyes water, his heart dance,
And sunrise in his countenance:
In merry mood his ale he quaffs
By firelight, and his jolly heart laughs;
        The blithe great-hearted Norseman.

But when the battle-trumpet rings,
His soul's a war-horse clad with wings!
He drinks delight in with the breath
Of battle and the dust of death!
The axes redden, spring the sparks,
Blood-radiant grow the grey mail-sarks:
Such blows might batter, as they fell,
Heaven's gate, or burst the booms of hell:
        So fights the fearless Norseman.

The Norseman's King must stand up tall;
A head that could be seen o'er all;
Mainmast of Battle! when the plain
Grew miry-red with bloody rain;
And grip his weapon for the fight,
Until his knuckles all grin white!
Their banner-staff he bears is best
If double handful for the rest,
        When "follow me" cries the Norseman.

Valiant and true, as Sagas tell,
The Norsemen hated lies like hell;
Hardy from cradle to the grave,
'Twas their religion to be brave;
Great silent fighting men, whose words
Were few, soon said, and out with swords!
One, saw his heart cut from his side,
Livingand smiled; and smiling, died!
        The unconquerable Norseman.

They swam the flood, they strode in flame,
Nor quailed when the Valkyrie came
To kiss the chosen for her charms,
With "Rest, my hero, in mine arms."
Their spirits through a grim wide wound,
The Norse door-way to Heaven found.
And borne upon the battle-blast,
Into the Hall of Heroes passed:
        And there was crowned the Norseman.

The Norseman wrestled with old Rome
For Freedom in our island home:
He taught us how to ride the sea,
With hempen bridle, horse of tree.
His spirit stood with Robin Hood,
By Freedom in the merry green wood,
When William ruled the English land,
With cruel heart and bloody hand;
        For freedom fights the Norseman.

Still in our race the Norse king reigns,
His best blood beats along our veins;
With his old glory we can glow,
And surely steam where he could row:
Is danger stirring?   Up from sleep
Our war-dog wakes, his watch to keep;
Stands with our banner over him,
True as of old, and stern and grim;
        Come on, you'll find the Norseman.

When swords are gleaming you shall see
The Norseman's face flash gloriously,
With look that makes the foeman reel:
His mirror from of old was steel
And still he wields, in battle's hour,
The old Thor's hammer of Norse power;
Strikes with a desperate arm of might,
And at the last tug turns the fight:
        For never yields the Norseman.

 

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OLD KING HAKE.


GOT by the Sea on a rocky coast
              Was old King Hake;
Where inner fire and outer frost
              Brave virtue make!
He was a hero in the old
              Blood-letting days;
An iron hero of Norse mould,
              And warring ways.
He lived according to the light
              That lighted him;
Then strode into the eternal night,
              Resolved and grim.
His grip was stern for free sword play,
              When men were mown;
His feet were roughshod for the day
              Of treading down.
When angry, out the blood would start
              With old King Hake;
Not sneak in dark caves of the heart,
              Where curls the snake,
And secret Murder's hiss is heard
              Ere the deed be done.
He wove no web of wile and word;
              He bore with none.
When sharp within its sheath asleep
              Lay his good sword,
He held it royal work to keep
              His kingly word.
A man of valour, bloody and wild,
              In Viking need;
And yet of firelight feeling mild
              As honey-mead.

Once in his youth, from farm to farm,
              Collecting scatt,
He gathered gifts and welcomes warm;
              And one night sat,
With hearts all happy for his throne
              Wishing no higher
Where Peasant faces merrily shone
              Across the fire.
Their Braga-bowl was handed round
              By one fair girl:
The Sea-King looked and thought, "I've found
              My hidden pearl."
Her wavy hair was golden-fair,
              With sunbeams curled;
Her eyes clear blue as heaven, and there
              Lay his new world.
He drank out of the mighty horn,
              Strong, stinging stuff;
Then wiped his manly mouth unshorn
              With hand as rough,
And kissed her; drew her to his side,
              With loving mien,
Saying, "If you will make her a Bride,
              I'll make her a Queen."
And round her waist she felt an arm,
              For in those days
A waist could feel: 'twas lithe and warm,
              And wore no stays.
"How many brave deeds have you done?"
              She asked her wooer,
Counting the arm's gold rings: they won
              One victory more.
The blood of joy looked rich and red
              Out of his face;
And to his smiling strength he wed
              Her maiden grace.
'Twas thus King Hake struck royal root
              In homely ground;
And healthier buds with goodlier fruit
              His branches crowned.

But Hake could never bind at home
              His spirit free;
It grew familiar with the foam
              Of many a sea.
A rare good blade whose way was rent
              In many a war,
And wore no gem for ornament
              But notch and scar.
In day of battle and hour of strife,
              Cried old King Hake:
"Kings live for honour, not long life."
              Then would he break
Right through their circle of shields, to reach
              Some Chief of a race
That never yielded ground, but each
              Died in his place.
There the old Norseman towered tall
              Above the rest
A head and shoulders, like King Saul;
              They saw his crest
Toss, where the war-wave reared, and rode
              O'er mounds of dead,
And where the battle-dust was trod
              A miry red.
For Odin, in the glad wide blue
              Of heaven, would laugh
With sunrise, and the ruddy dew
              Of slaughter quaff.

But, 'twas the grandest gallant show,
              To see him sit,
With his Long-serpent all aglow,
              And steering it
For the hot heart of fiercest fight,
              A grewsome shape!
The dragon-head rose, glancing bright,
              And all agape:
Over the calm blue water it came
              Writhingly on,
As half in sea and half in flame,
              It swam, and shone.
The sunlit shields link scale to scale
              From stem to stern,
Over the Steersman's head the tail
              Doth twist and burn.
With oars all moved at once, it makes
              Low hoverings;
Half walks the water, and half takes
              The air with wings.

The war-horns bid the fight begin
              With death-grip good:
King Hake goes at the foremost, in
              His Bare-Sark mood.
A twelvemonth's taxes spent in spears
              Hurled in an hour!
But in that host no spirit fears
              The hurtling shower.
And long will many a mother and wife
              Wait, weary at home,
Ere from that mortal murderous strife
              Their darlings come.

Hake did not seek to softly die,
              With Child and Wife:
He bore his head in death as high
              As in his life.
Glittering in eye, and grim in lip,
              He bade them make
Ready for sailing his War-Ship,
              That he, King Hake,
The many-wounded, grey, and old,
              His day being done,
He, the Norse warrior, brave and bold,
              Might die like one.
And chanting an old battle-song,
              Thrilling and weird,
His soul vibrating, shook his long
              Majestic beard.
The gilded battle-axe, still red,
              In his right hand;
His shield on arm, his helm on head,
              They helpt him stand,
And girded him with his good sword;
              And so attired,
With his dead warriors all abroad,
              The ship he fired,
And lay down with his heroes dead,
              On deck to die;
Still singing, drooped his grey old head,
              With face to sky.
The wind blew seawards; gloriously
              The death-pyre glowed;
On his last Viking voyage he
              Triumphing rode:
Floating afar between the Isles,
              To his last home,
Where open-armed Valhalla smiles,
              And bids him come.
There, as a sinking sunset dies
              Down in the west,
The fire went out; the rude heart lies
              At restat rest,
And sleeping in its ocean-bed,
              That burial-place
Most royal for the kingly dead
              O' the old sea-race!
So the Norse noble of renown,
              With his stern pride,
That flaming crown of death pulled down.
              And so he died.

 

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GARIBALDI.


HE is the Helper that Italy wanted
    To free her from fetters and cerements quite:
His is the great heart no dangers have daunted;
    His is the true hand to finish the fight.
Way, for a Man of the kingliest nature!
Scope, for a soul of the high Roman stature!
            His great deeds have crown'd him;
            His heroes are round him;
On, on Garibaldi, for Freedom and Right.

To brave battle-music up goes the smoke-curtain;
    A Country arises, all one should he call:
The sound of his trumpet is never uncertain;
    He fights for his Cause till it conquer or fall.
His chariot wheels do not spin without biting;
And far better pointed for Freedom's red writing—
            His Rifles and Guns—
            Than their politic pens;
Garibaldi, my Hero, best Man of them all.

When he sail'd up our river, the frank hearty Seaman,
    We saw how an English soul smiled from his face:
For Italy's saviour we knew it was the man,
    All hero, no matter what garb, or what place.
And we prayed he might have one more grip that
      was glorious!
Prophesied he should be leader victorious
            Of Italy, free
            From the Alps to the sea;
Now breathless we watch while he runs the great race.

Fierce out of torment his fighters have risen,
    Shouting from hell where they tortured them dumb;
Maimed from old battle-fields, mad from the prison,
    Suddenly, strange as Cloud-armies, they come;
With mouths that can shut like the Eagle's beak clasping;
With hands that will grip like a bower-anchor grasping;
            The flying foe feels,
            When they're close at his heels,
That Death and the Devil are bringing his doom.

Not only living! but dead men are fighting
    For him! thus with few he can fight the great host;
For each one they see an unseen foe is smiting;
    Over each head an avenging white ghost!
All the young Martyrs they murdered by moonlight;
All the dark deeds of blood done in the noonlight,
            Shall make their hearts reel
            With a shudder, and kneel
To lay down their arms and give all up for lost.

They tell the wild tales of him, gathered together,
    Turn pale at his shadow in midst of their speech;
For down he swoops on them, like hawk on the heather,
    Strikes home with sure aim, and up-soars beyond reach.
Or he sweeps all before him with whirling blade reeking;
They fly helter-skelter, for shelter run shrieking,
            As waves wild and white,
            Driven mad with affright,
Are dasht into foam as they hide up the beach.

Watching o' nights in the cold, he remembers
    The homes of his love in their ashes laid low;
And hot in his heart Vengeance rakes up the embers,
      To warm her old hands at the wrathful red glow.
He has had torn from him all that was nearest;
He has seen murdered his darlings the dearest;
            With all this and more,
            To the heart's crimson core
He kindles! and all flashes out on the Foe.

No Peace, Garibaldi, till Italy, stronger
    Shall sit with free nations, majestic, serene;
And meet them as lovers may meet when no longer
    The cold corse of one that was dead lies between.
For this, God was with you when perils were round you;
For this, the fire smote you not, floods have not drown'd you;
            Their Sword and their Shot,
            Have harmed you not,
And your Purpose croucht long for its spring unseen.

On, with our British hearts all beating true to you;
    All keeping time to the march of the brave!
I would to God we might cut our way thro' to you,
    Gallantly breasting the stormiest wave.
Would the old Lion could leap in to greet you,
Just as our free blood is leaping to meet you,
            Stand by your side
            In his terrible pride,
Mighty to shield, as You're daring to save.

Long was the night of her kneeling; but surely
    Shall Italy rise to her queenliest height.
Many a time has the battle gone sorely,
    To make the last triumph more signal and bright.
Her foes shall be swept from her path like the stubble,
For now is their day of down-treading and trouble;
            God tires of old Rome!
            Venetia cries "Come."
On, on Garibaldi, for Freedom and Right.

 

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SIR RICHARD GRENVILLE'S LAST FIGHT.


OUR second Richard Lion-Heart,
        In days of Great Queen Bess,
He did this deed of righteous rage,
        And true old nobleness;
With wrath heroic that was nurst
To bear the fiercest battle-burst;
When willing foes should wreak their worst.

Signalled the English Admiral,
        "Weigh or cut anchors."     For
A Spanish fleet bore down, in all
        The majesty of war,
Athwart our tack for many a mile;
As there we lay off Florez Isle;
With crews half sick; all tired of toil.

Eleven of our twelve ships escaped,
        Sir Richard stood alone!
Though they were three-and-fifty sail 
        A hundred men to one,
The old Sea-Rover would not run,
So long as he had man or gun;
But he could die when all was done.

"The Devil's broken loose, my lads,
        "In shape of Popish Spain;
"And we must sink him in the sea,
        "Or hound him home again;
"Now, you old Sea-dogs, show your paws!
"Have at them tooth and nail and claws!"
And then his long, bright blade he draws.

The deck was cleared, the Boatswain blew;
        The grim sea-lions stand;
The death-fires lit in every eye;
        The burning match in hand:
With mail of glorious intent
All hearts were clad; and in they went,
A force that cut through where 'twas sent.

"Push home, my hardy Pikemen,
        For we play a desperate part;
To-day, my Gunners, let them feel
        The pulse of England's heart!
They shall remember long that we
Once lived; and think how shamefully
We shook them! - one to fifty-three."

With face of one who cheerly goes
        To meet his doom that day,
Sir Richard sprang upon his foes;
        The foremost gave him way:
His round shot smashed them thro' and thro';
The great white splinters fiercely flew,
And madder grew his fighting few.

They clasp the little Ship Revenge,
        As in the arms of fire;
They run aboard her, six at once;
        Hearts beat and guns leap higher:
Through bloody gaps the Boarders swam;
But still our English stay the storm;
The bulwark in their breast is firm.

Ship after Ship, like broken waves
        That wash up on a rock,
Those mighty galleons fall back foiled,
        And shattered from the shock.
With fire she answers all their blows;
Again, again in pieces strows
The burning girdle of her foes.

Through all the night the great white storm
        Of worlds in silence rolled;
Sirius with his sapphire sparkle;
        Mars in ruddy gold:
Heaven lookt, with stillness terrible
Down on a fight most fierce and fell;
A Sea transfigured into hell.

Some know not they are wounded
        'Till 'tis slippery where they stand;
Some with their own good blood make fast,
        The pike staff to their hand;
Wild faces glow through lurid night,
With sweat of spirit shining bright:
Only the dead on deck turn white.

At daybreak the flame-picture fades,
        In blackness and in blood;
There! after fifteen hours of fight,
        The unconquered Sea-King stood,
Defying all the power of Spain:
Fifteen Armadas hurled in vain;
And fifteen hundred foemen slain.

Around that little Bark Revenge,
        The baffled Spaniards ride
At distance.     Two of their good Ships
        Were sunken at her side;
The rest lie round her in a ring,
As round the dying lion-king,
The Dogs, afraid of his death-spring.

Our pikes all broken; powder spent;
        Sails, masts to shreds were blown;
And with her dead and wounded crew
        The ship was going down!
Sir Richard's wounds were hot and deep;
Then cried he, with a proud, pale lip,
"Ho, Gunner, split and sink the ship;

"' Make ready now, my Mariners,
        "To go aloft with me;
"That nothing to the Spaniard
        "May remain of victory.
"They cannot take us, nor we yield;
"So let us leave our battle field,
"Under the shelter of God's shield."

They had not heart to dare fulfil
        The stern commander's word:
With bloody hands, and weeping eyes,
        They carried him aboard
The Spaniards' ship; and round him stand
The warriors of his wasted band.
Then said he, feeling death at hand,

"Here die I, Richard Grenville,
        With a joyful and quiet mind;
I reach a Soldier's end;     I leave
        A Soldier's fame behind;
Who for his Queen and Country fought,
For Honour and Religion wrought,'
And died as a true Soldier ought."

Earth never returned a worthier trust
        For hand of Heaven to take,
Since Arthur's sword, Excalibur,
        Was cast into the lake,
And the King's grievous wounds were dressed,
And healed, by weeping Queens, who blessed,
And bore him to a valley of rest.

Old Heroes who could grandly do,
        As they could greatly dare;
A vesture, very glorious,
        Their shining spirits wear,
Of noble deeds.     God give us grace,
That we may see such face to face,
In our great day that comes apace.

 

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SIR ROBERT'S SAILOR SON.


OUR country hath no need to raise
    The ghosts of glories gone;
Such heroes dying in our days,
    Still hand the live torch on.
Brave blood as bright a crimson gleams,
    Still burns as goodly zeal;
The old heroic radiance beams
    In men like William Peel.

With beautiful bravery clothèd on,
    And such high moral grace,
The flash of rare soul-armour shone
    Out of his noble face!
So mild in peace, so stern in war,
    He walkt our English way;
Just one of Shakespeare's Warriors for
    A weary working day.

His Sailors loved him so on deck;
    So cheery was his call,
They leapt on land, and in his wake
    Followed him, guns and all.
For, as a battle-brand red-hot,
    His Spirit grew and glowed,
When in his swift war-chariot
    The Avenger rose and rode.

Sleep, Sailor Darling, true and brave,
    With our dead Soldiers sleep!
That so the land you lived to save,
    You shall have died to keep.
You may have wished the dear Sea-blue
    To have folded round your breast;
But God had other work for you,
    And other place of rest.

We might have reacht you with our wreath
    If living; but laid low,
You grow so grand; and after death
    The dearness deepens so!
To have gone so soon, so loved to have died.
    So young to wear that crown,
We think. Yet with such thrills of pride
    As shake the last tears down.

Our old Norse Fathers speak thro' you;
    Speak with their strange sea-charm,
That sets our hearts a-beating to
    The music of the storm.
There comes a Spirit from the deep
    The salt wind waves its wings;
That rouses from our Inland sleep
    The blood of the old Sea Kings.

God rest you, gallant William Peel,
    With those whom England leaves
Scattered, while yet she plies her steel,
    But God gleans up in sheaves.
We'll talk of you on land, a-board,
    Till Boys shall feel as Men,
And forests of hands clutch at this Sword
    Death gives us back again.

 

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THE ENGLISH OF IT.


IT was a gallant stand, Tom;
Give us your hardy hand, Tom;
For love of the Old Land, Tom;
        We grasp it with good will:
Altho' you Heroes of the Fist
May think more of the golden grist
        You bring to such a mill.

'Twas brave to see you dash on, Tom,
And with your one arm lash on, Tom,
In that true English fashion, Tom,
        Which never will wear out;
The only fashion that would do
At Inkerman, and Waterloo;
        And many a bloody bout.

Thro' all that punching time, Tom,
The big heart rode sublime, Tom,
As we have seen it climb, Tom,
        On many famous fields:
The temper beaten out with blows;
That when to give in never knows;
        And so it never yields.

Valour shall have its crown, Tom!
In your plain way you've shown, Tom,
That we can hold our own, Tom,
        Against all comers still;
With not one feather of white in us!
But game, and lots of fight in us;
        A heart and a half up hill.

The Belt with which we are bound, Tom,
Is yon blue Ocean round, Tom;
If any Foe be found, Tom,
        Who thinks to take itthen
He must fight for it till all's dark;
And one shall go down, red and stark,
        Never to rise again.

We won our English Land, Tom,
And keep it hand to hand, Tom;
Like you at need can stand, Tom,
        Clench hands from shore to shore,
And clasp it.   Touch it who dares!
Our England has ten thousand Sayers,
        And each as brave a Doer.

 

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ONE OF GARIBALDI'S MEN.


A CRIPPLED Child, a weak wan Boy,
              He sat at Mother's side,—
A widowed Mother's gentle joy,
              Her only wealth and pride:—
One of those spirits, sweet and sad,
              That breathe with burdened breath,
Are grave in life, but calmly glad
              Their faces smile in death.

With a weird lustre in his look,
              Over his books he pored,
Like one that, in a secret nook,
              Sharpens a patriot sword.
The story of his country's wrongs
              Made his heart melt in tears;
The music of her olden songs
              Rang thrilling in his ears.

Oft in his face, white as a corse,
              Brave Soldier-blood up-springs,
Hot as the warrior leaps to horse,
              When Battle's trumpet rings;
With spirit afloat and blood a-flame,
              Where Freedom's banners wave,
To win a name of glorious fame,
              Or fill a Soldier's grave.

The leal heart of a loving Maid
              Ran over towards him,
Longing with kisses to be stayed
              There at the ruddy brim!
But husht the yearning in her breast,
              Nor murmur made nor moan;
She lookt as though she had found the nest,
              But, lo! the Bird was flown.

Suddenly, Freedom's thunder-horn
              The graveyard stillness broke;
It was the resurrection-morn,
              And Italy awoke!
He felt her majesty and strength
              Lift up his spirit too:
To Manhood he had leaped at length,
              And almost stately grew.

Then came, with all they had to give,
              Each kneeling worshipper:
And he, too, not worth much to live,
              But he could die for her.
The Widow gave her only Child,
              Blessed him, and bade him win;
And outwardly her proud face smiled,
              While dropping tears within.

The General lookt on this young life
              Held out in hands so small!
He could not, for the battle-strife,
              Take the poor Widow's all.
"Poor Child!" he said, "rest you at home,
              For the good Mother's sake;
We'll not forget you when we come."
              It made his old heart ache.

'Twas at the close of one great day,
              The "Red-Shirts" raised their cheer,
For Garibaldi came to say,
              "Well done!" One cried, "I'm here!
And wounded in the Battle's brunt."
               "What! hit behind, my Child?
But brave men wear their wounds in front,"
              And playfully he smiled.

Again, at the Volturno's fight,
              The boy led on his band;
Uplifted there on Capua's height,
              He saw the Promised Land,
As Pilgrims see their Mecca rise
              Over the desert's rim;—
He saw,—possessed it with his eyes!
              Enough, enough for him.

Proud of his Boys, the General rode
              Past faces all a-flame,
And praised them; and their spirits glowed
              As if from heaven he came.
Then something caught his eye; he reined
              His horse, stooped like a grand
Old weather-beaten angel, stained
              With battle-smoke, and tanned!

With look more keen than cry or call,
              One staggered from the rest:
"I'm hit once more, my General,—
              And"—pointing to his breast,—
"This time—see! 'tis in the right place."
              His smile was strangely sweet:
He lookt in Garibaldi's face,
              And fell dead at his feet!

 

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HUGH MILLER'S GRAVE.


BEFORE the grim grave closes, let me drop
My few poor flowers upon his Coffin lid!
I loved the man: his taking roughness too
I liked; it was the Sword-hilt rough with gems.
I loved him living, not with that late love
Which asks for rootage in the dead man's grave,
And must be writ in Marble to endure.
To many he seemed stern, for he could guard
His tongue with his good teeth: to some he showed
Rough as the Holly's lower range of leaves,
His prickly humour all alive with spears:
But if you climbed to the serener height,
You found a life in smooth and shining leaf,
And crowned with calm, and lying nearer heaven.

Low lies the grandest head in all Scotland.
We'll miss him when there's noble work to do!
We'll miss him coming thro' the crowded street,
Like plaided Shepherd from the Ross-shire Hills,
Stalwart and iron-grey and weather-worn;
His tall head holding up a lonely lamp
Of steadfast thought still burning in his eyes,
Like some masthead-light lonely thro' the night;
His eyes, that rather dreamed than saw, deep-set
In the brow's shadow, looking forward, fixed
On something which we saw not, solemn, strange!

He was a Hero true as ever stept
In the Forlorn Hope of a warring world:
And from opposing circumstance his palm
Drew loftier stature, and a lustier strength.
From the far dreamland height of youthful years
He flung his gage out mid the trampling strife,
And fought his way to it with spirit that cut
Like a scythed chariot, and took up his own.
Once more Childe Roland to the dark tower came,
Saw bright forms beckon on the battlements,
And stormed thro' fighting foes, true steel to steel;
Slow step by step he won his winding way,
And reached the top, and stood up Victor there;
And yet with most brave meekness it was done.
His life-tree fair of leaf, and rich in fruit!
We could not see it mouldering at the heart.
We knew not how in nights of pain he groped,
And groped with bleeding feel down the dark crypts
Of consciousness, to find the buried sense;
When the faint flame of being flickering low,
Made fearful shadows spectral on the walls;
And beckoning terrors muttered in the dark;
Old misery-mongers moaned along the wind;
The lights burned blue as Death were breathing near,
And dead hands seemed to reach and drag him down.
The powers of Evil often have a hand
With human Lots in the dim urn of Fate.

The awful Dark flung over him a pall
Of pain, hot hands of hell were on his eyes,
And Devils drew him thro' the cold night-wind;
But while they held the helpless body bound,
The spirit broke away. That rent was death!
The iron will wherewith he cleft his path
From the stone-quarries to the heights of fame,
Still strove for freedom when the leap was death.

Ay me, poor fellow! would we had but known,
And reacht him in that horror of great gloom,
And caught his hand, and prayed that he would bid
Us kindlier farewell: leave us when 'twas light!

But, never doubt God's Children find their home
By dark as well as day. The life he lived,
And not the death he died, was first in judgment.
It is the writing on the folded scroll
Death sends, and not the seal, that God will judge.
I love to think the Spirit of Cowper caught
Hold of his poor weak wandering hands in help,
As at the dark door he in blindness groped.
How it would touch that tender soul to read
The earthly memories written in his face!
Such memories as ope the gates of heaven:
And he who soothed him with last words on earth
Might whisper his first welcome in the heavens,
And lead him thro' cool valleys green where grow
The leaves of healing by the river of life,
Where tears and travel-stains are wiped away,
All troubled thoughts laid in ambrosial rest,
And there is no more pain.

                                     Then as they bowed
Before His throne who sitteth in the Heavens,
Perchance the pleading Poet prayed that he
Might sit beside him at th' eternal feast.
The fancy flower-like from his coffin grew
Even while I lookt. He lay as Death did seem
Only a dream he might have dreamed before;
All peaceful as the face of Sabbath morn:
The meekened witness of another world.
That stern white stillness had a starry touch,
As his last look had caught the first of heaven.
The battle-armour of a soldier soul
Lay battered, but still bright from many blows,
Upon the field; and such as few could wear.

The ghosts of last year leaves, that last night rose
And rustled in their spectral dance of death,
Are laid and silent in a shroud of snow!
The day is dark above the long dark host!
The sad husht heavens seem choked, but cannot weep!
Many pale faces, many tristful eyes,
With dumb looks pleading for the kindly rain
That comes not when the heart can only cry
With unshed tears, close round his wintry grave!
The lonely men whose lives are still alight
And shining when the tired toilers sleep,
To whom Night brings the larger thoughts like Stars.
I marvel if among them there is one
Who shudders when men speak of such a death
As if they named His—who has longed to pluck
Death's cool hand down upon the burning brain,
But chokes the secret in his heart as though
He crusht a hissing serpent in his hand,
Lest it scream out, and his white face be known!

Ah! come away, for sorrow is a child
That needs no nursing!   And all seems so strange.
One last look, and then home to feel and feel
What we have lost; and when from the dark earth
A spring-tide dawn of leaf-light glistens green,
And Nature with her dewfall and her rain
Gives to our grief the last calm tender touch,
And makes the Heartsease grow from out his grave,
In those sweet days when hearts are tenderest
For those who never come back with the flowers,
Upon some balmy Eve so beautiful
We should not wonder if an Angel stood
Suddenly at our side; the silent march
Of all the beauty culminating thus!
Then let us come, dear friend, and spend an hour—
While Nature kneeleth in all places lowly,
God's blessing resting on a time so holy—
At the communion table of His tomb.

 

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ROBERT BLAKE.


OUR Happy Warrior! of a race
    To whom are richly given
Great glory and peculiar grace,
    Because in league with Heaven:
Not that the mortal course they trod
    Was free from briar and thorn!
Who wears the arrow-mark of God,
    The wound must first have borne.

So like a Sailor Saint was he,
    Our Sea-King; grave and sweet
In temper after victory,
    Or cheerful in defeat.
And men would leave their quiet home
    To follow in his wake,
And fight in fire, or float in foam,
    For love of Robert Blake.

Like that drum-head of Zisca's skin,
    Thrills his heroic name;
And how the salt-sea-sparkle in
    Us, flashes at his fame!
His Picture in our hearts' best books
    Still keeps its pride of place,
From which a lofty spirit looks
    With an unfading face;

A face as of an Angel who
    Might live his Boyhood here!
And yet how deadly grand it grew,
    When Wrong drew darkening near.
All ridged, and ready trenched for war
    The fair frank brow was bent;
Then flasht, like sudden scimitar,
    The lion-lineament.

Behold him with his gallant band,
    On leaguered Lyme's red beach;
Shoulder to shoulder see them stand,
    At Taunton in the breach!
Safe through the battle-shocks he went,
    With sword-sweep stern and wide;
Strode the grim heaps as Death had lent
    Him his White Horse to ride.

"Give in! our toils you cannot break;
    The Lion is in the net!
Famine fights for us."  "No," said Blake,
    "My boots I have not ate."
He smiled across the bitter cup;
    He gripped his good Sword-heft;
"I should not dream of giving up
    While such a meal is left."

Where trumpets blow, and streamers flow,
    Behold him calm and proud,
Bear down upon the bravest foe;
    A bursting thunder-cloud.
Foremost of all the host that strove
    To crowd Death's open door,
In giant mood his way he clove;
    The Man to go before.

And tho' the Battle-lightning blazed;
    The thunders roar and roll;
He to Immortal Beauty raised
    A statue with his soul.
And never did the Greeks of old
    Mirror in marble rare
A Wrestler of so fine a mould;
    An Athlete half so fair.

Homeward the dying Sea-King turns
    From his last famous fight;
For England's dear green hills he yearns
    And strains his fading sight:
The old cliffs loom out dim and grand,
    The old War-ship glides on
With one last wave life tries to land,
    Falls seaward, and is gone.

With that last leap to touch the coast,
    He passed into his rest,
And Blake's unwearying arms were crossed
    Upon his martial breast;
And while our England waits and twines
    For him her latest wreath,
His is a crown of stars that shines
    From out the dusk of death.

For him no pleasant age of ease,
    To wear what Youth could win;
For him no Children round his knees,
    To gather his harvest in.
But with a soul serene he takes
    Whatever lot may come;
And such a life of labour makes
    A glorious going home.

Famous old Trueheart, dead and gone,
    Long shall his glory grow,
Who never turned his back upon
    A friend, nor face from foe.
He made them fear old England's name
    Wherever it was heard;
He put her proudest foes to shame,
    And God smiled on his Sword.

With lofty courage, loftier love,
    He died for England's sake;
And 'mid tour loftiest lights above,
    Shines our illustrious Blake!
And shall shine! Glory of the West,
    And Beacon for the seas;
While Britain bares its sailor breast
    To battle or to breeze.

Great Sailor on the seas of strife;
  Victor by land and wave;
Brave liver of a gallant life;
  Lord of a glorious grave
True Soldier set on earthly hill
  As Sentinel of heaven;
A King who keeps his kingdom till
  The last award be given.

 

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THE OLD FLAG.


An Emperor babbled in his dreams,—
    Ne'er sleeps the secret in his soul,—
"The Lion is old, and ready he seems
    To draw my Chariot to its goal."
With awful light the Lion's eye
    Began to flame—sublime he stands!
With looks that make the Tyrant try
    To hide his bloody hands.
Thank God, the advancing tide is met!
Thank God, the Old Flag's flying yet.

We love our native land and laws,
    And He would rather we did not!
We are Conspirators because
    We are in our little green grass plot!
But let him follow up his frown,
    Marshal his myriads for the blow;
Those who are doomed to drown must drown;
    The rest we take in tow!
In Cherbourg's sight their gallows set
Beside the Old Flag flying yet.

Our Ghost of Greatness hath not fled
    At crowning of the Gallic Cock;
A foreign Despot's heel shall tread
    No print upon our English rock.
Here Freedom by the Lion grand
    Sits safe, and Una-like doth hold
Him gently with her gentle hand;
    And long as seas enfold,
High on our topmost height firm-set,
We keep her Old Flag flying yet.

To Freedom we must aye be true;
    Our England must be Freedom's home;
For sake of our dead Darlings who
    Went heavenward crowned with martyrdom.
'Twas She who made us what we are,
    Throned on our Sea-cliffs grey and grand;
Great image of majestic care;
    Fair Bride of Fatherland!
We do but pay the filial debt
To keep her Old Flag flying yet.

This little Isle is Freedom's Bark
    That rideth in a perilous path:
Around us one wide sea of dark
    That beats and breaks in stormy wrath.
The Despots drove poor Freedom forth,
    By bloody footprints tracked her road;—
And homeless, homeless, else on earth
    She takes to her sea-abode!
She turns on us her eyes tear-wet;
Ah, keep the Old Flag flying yet.

Statesmen have drawn back meek and mute,
    Or pardon begged from bullying foes,
Whene'er a Military boot
    Was stamped upon retreating toes.
They shrink to hear Him at our gates,
    This ominous thing of gloom and gore,
Tho' Revolution for him waits
    At Danger's every door.
But little do we heed his threat!
We keep the Old Flag flying yet.

Over the praying peoples rolled
    The dark tide, and we helped them not.
Yet, on our lifted hands, behold,
    We cry, behold no bloody spot!
This famous people's heart is sound,
    It fights for all that bleed and smart;
We—banned above—meet underground,
    Meet in a touch of heart.
We cannot our old fame forget;
We keep the Old Flag flying yet.

We have a true and tender clasp
    For Freedom's friends where'er their home;
And for her foes as grim a grasp,
    No matter when or whence they come.
We like that gay light-hearted France
    That into stormy splendour breaks,
When its brave music for the dance
    Of Death the battle makes;
And foot to foot would proudly set
To keep the Old Flag flying yet.

But what is France? this cruel Power
    That builds above her martyred dead,
Whose spirits thicken hour by hour
    The air about its doomèd head?
This Death-in-Life throned on the grave,
    That in the darkness waits its prey?
Like Coral-workers 'neath the wave,
    It dies on reaching day.
The Sun of France hath not thus set,
But, keep the Old Flag flying yet.

France, who hath stood erect and first,
    Will not lie latest in the dust:
Ere long her breath of scorn will burst
    This bubble blown of bloody lust.
Quietly, quietly turns the tide,
    And when this shore lies black and bare,
There shall be no more sea to hide
    The Wrecker's secrets there.
Our lot is cast, our task is set,
To keep the Old Flag flying yet.

Save him? this Burglar of the night
    Broke into Freedom's sacred shrines!
This Lie uncrowned whene'er the light
   Of merciless next morning shines!
This terror of a land struck dumb,
    Who fed the Furies with brave blood!
We cannot save him when they come
    For his.   Not if we would.
Too slippery is the hand blood-wet!
Ah, keep the Old Flag flying yet.

The Tyrant sometimes waxeth strong
    To drag a fate more fearful down:
He veileth Justice who ere long
    Shall see Eternal Justice frown.
The Kings of Crime from near and far
    Shall come to crown him with their crown
Under the Shadow of  doom his Star
    Will redden, and go down.
And day shall dawn when it hath set,
But, keep the Old Flag flying yet.

Leaves fall, but lo! the young buds peep!
    Flowers die and still their seed shall bloom;
From death the quick young life will leap
    When Spring goes by the wintry tomb.
And tho' their graves are husht, in stern
    Heroic dream the dead men lie!
To God their still white faces turn:
    The murdered do not die.
Will God the Martyrs' seed forget?
No.    Keep the Old Flag flying yet.

This triumph of the spoken word
    Is well, my England, but give heed!
The world leans on thee as a Sword
    For Freedom in her battle-need.
Star of a thousand battles red,
    Be thou the Beacon of the Free!
Turn round thy luminous side, and shed
    God's light o'er land and sea.
Thro' floods, or flames, or bloody sweat,
Keep thou the Old Flag flying yet.

The splendid shiver of brave blood
    Is thrilling through our England now!
She who so often hath withstood
    The Tyrants, lifts her brightened brow.
God's precious charge we proudly keep
    In circling arms of victory;
With Freedom we shall live, or sleep
    With our dear dead who are free.
God forget us when we forget
To keep the Old Flag flying yet.

1858.

 

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NELSON.

AN OLD MAN-O'-WAR'S YARN.


AY, ay, good neighbours, I have seen
    Him! sure as God's my life;
One of his chosen crew I've been;
    Haven't I, old good wife?
God bless your dear eyes! didn't you vow
    To marry me any weather,
If I came back with limbs enow
    To keep my soul together.

Brave as a lion was our Nel,
    And gentle as a lamb:
"Tell you it warms my blood to tell
    The tale—grey as I am—
It makes the old life in me climb,
    It sets my soul a-swim;
I live twice over every time
    That I can talk of him.

Our best beloved of all the brave
    That ever for freedom fought;
And all his wonders of the wave
    For Fatherland were wrought!
He was the manner of man to show
    How victories may be won;
So swift, you scarcely saw the blow;
    You looked—the deed was done.

You should have seen him as he trod
    The deck, our joy, and pride!
You should have seen him, like a god
    Of storm, his war-horse ride!
You should have seen him as he stood
    Fighting for our good land,
With all the iron of soul and blood
    Turned to a sword in hand.

He sailed his Ships for work; he bore
    His sword for battle-wear;
His creed was "Best man to the fore!"
    And he was always there.
Up any peak of peril where
    There was but room for one:
The only thing he did not dare
    Was any death to shun.

The Nelson-touch his men he taught,
    And his great stride to keep;
His faithful fellows round him fought
    Ten thousand heroes deep.
With a red pride of life, and hot
    For him, their blood ran free;
They "minded not the showers of shot,
    No more than peas," said he.

Napoleon saw our sea-king thwart
    His landing on our isle;
He gnashed his teeth, he gnawed his heart,
    At Nelson of the Nile,
Who set his fleet in flames, to light
    The lion to his prey,
And lead Destruction through the night
    Upon his dreadful way.

Around the world he drove his game,
    And ran his glorious race;
Nor rested till he hunted them
    From off the ocean's face;
Like that old war-dog who, till death,
    Clung to the vessel's side
Till hands were lopped, then with his teeth
    He held on till he died.

Oh, he could do the deeds that set
    Old fighters' hearts a-fire;
The edge of every spirit whet,
    And every arm inspire.
Yet I have seen upon his face
    The tears that, as they roll,
Show what a light of saintly grace
    May clothe a sailor's soul.

And when our darling went to meet
    Trafalgar's Judgment-day,
The people knelt down in the street
    To bless him on his way.
He felt the country of his love
    Watching him from afar;
It saw him through the battle move:
    His heaven was in that star.

Magnificently glorious sight
    It was in that great dawn!
Like one vast sapphire flashing light,
    The sea, just breathing, shone.
Their ships, fresh-painted, stood up tall
    And stately: ours were grim
And weatherworn, but one and all
    In rare good fighting trim.

Our spirits were all flying light,
    And into battle sped,
Straining for it on wings of might,
    With feet of springy tread;
The battle light on every face;
    Its fire in every eye;
Our sailor blood at swiftest pace
    To catch the victory nigh.

His proudly-wasted face, wave-worn,
    Was loftily serene;
I saw the brave, bright spirit burn
    There, all too plainly seen;
As though the sword this time was drawn
    Forever from the sheath;
And when its work to-day was done,
    All would be dark in death.

His eye shone like a lamp of night
    Set in the porch of power;
The deed unborn was burning bright
    Within them at that hour!
His purpose, welded at white-heat,
    Cried like some visible Fate,
"To-day we must not merely beat:
    We must annihilate."

He smiled to see the Frenchman show
    His reckoning for retreat,
With Cadiz port on his lee-bow;
    And held him then half-beat.
They flew no colours, till we drew
    Them out to strike with there!
Old Victory, for a prize or two,
    Had flags enough to spare.

Mast-high the famous signal ran;
    Breathless we caught each word:
"England expects that every man
    Will do his duty."   Lord,
You should have seen our faces! heard
    Us cheering, row on row;
Like men before some furnace stirred
    To a fiery fearful glow!

Good Collingwood our lee-line led,
    And cut their centre through.
"See how he goes in!" Nelson said,
    As his first broadside flew,
And near four hundred foemen fall.
    Up went another cheer.
"Ah, what would Nelson give," said Coll
    "But to be with us here!"

We grimly kept our vanward path;
    Over us hummed their shot;
But, silently, we reined our wrath,
    Held on, and answered not,
Till we could grip them face to face,
    And pound them for our own,
Or hug them in a war embrace,
    Till one or both went down.

How calm he was! when first he felt
    The sharp edge of that fight.
Cabined with God alone he knelt;
    The prayer still lay in light
Upon his face, that used to shine
    In battle,—flash with life,
As though the glorious blood ran wine,
    Dancing with that wild strife.

"Fight for us, Thou Almighty One!
    Give victory once again!
And if I fall, Thy will be done.
    Amen, Amen, Amen!"
With such a voice he bade good-bye;
    The mournfullest old smile wore:
"Farewell!   God bless you, Blackwood, I
    Shall never see you more."

And four hours after, he had done
    With winds and troubled foam.
The Reaper was borne dead upon
    Our load of Harvest-home.
Not till he knew the old flag flew
    Alone on all the deep;
Then said he, "Hardy, is that you?
    Kiss me."   And fell asleep.

Well, 'twas his chosen death below
    The deck in triumph trod;
'Tis well.   A sailor's soul should go
    From his good ship to God.
He would have chosen death aboard,
    From all the crowns of rest;
And burial with the patriot sword
    Upon the victor's breast.

"Not a great sinner."   No, dear heart,
    God grant in our death-pain,
We may have played as well our part,
    And feel as free from stain.
We see the spots on such a star,
    Because it burned so bright;
But on the side next God they are
    All lost in greater light.

And so he went upon his way,
    A higher deck to walk,
Or sit in some eternal day,
    And of the old time talk
With sailors old, who, on that coast,
    Welcome the homeward bound;
Where many a gallant soul we've lost
    And Franklin will be found.

Where amidst London's roar and moil
    That cross of peace upstands,
Like martyr with his heavenward smile,
    And flame-lit, lifted hands,
There lies the dark and mouldered dust;
    But that magnanimous
And manly seaman's soul, I trust,
    Is living yet with us.


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