Gerald Massey: My Lyrical Life V.

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ONLY A DREAM.


As proper mode of quenching legal lust,
  
  A Roué takes unto Himself a Wife:
'Tis Cheaper when the bones begin to rust,
And there's no other Woman you can trust;
But, mind you, in return, Law says you must
    Provide her with the physical means of life:
And then the blindest beast may wallow and roll;
The twain are One flesh, never mind the Soul:
You may not cruelly beat her, but are free
To violate the life in sanctuary;
In virgin soil renew old seeds of Crime
To blast eternity as well as time:
        She must show black and blue, or no divorce
        Is granted by the Law of Physical Force.

 



ONLY A DREAM.


SOFT as a snow of light in a silent world
The veil of sleep dropped tremulously down
And gently 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 reached through the dark, and 
        drew
Me gliding wraith-like on, and looking up
The unfeatured gloom grew into Charmian's 
        face;
The stately Charmian with her lofty mien
Like a Greek Goddess Statue that had raised
The Veil of being in some diviner dawn,
When yearning Love did woo her into Woman,—
The warm heart glowing her white Silence 
        through—
Who rose up in her crown the Queen of Smiles
With all the old majesty unweeting of
The old worship, conscious hearts must newly 
        pay,—
Our English Vesture cannot mask her mould!
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 through the 
        leaves
In a low sough of bliss.   Above us burned
The golden legends on Night's prophet-brow;
The Moon rose o'er the city, a glory of gold;
All round us Life rehearsed Death's mystery.

And Charmian wore her June-like 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:
Love-kindling Ardours curved her parted lips.
But now her blooming Life's luxuriant flower
Seemed withered into ashen spirit-fruit,
And like a Spirit's flashed her white, lit face!
Portentous things which hid themselves by day,
Sweet-shadowed 'neath her sunning beauty-bloom,
Came peering through 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-pale with pain.

And from the windows whence young Beauty 
        laughed,
As Age went by, a life of suffering looked,
And perished visions flashed their phantom-light.
White waves of sea-like soul had climbed, and 
        dashed
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, dropped 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 sleeps, and wears the moonlight's mystic 
         grace,
 The breath of blessings round her; and all heaven
 Is passing through her dream; it trembles near;
 She feels the kiss of comfort 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 flashes silver in the sun,
 And takes a crown of radiance 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 through my happy tears there looked in mine
 A spirit sweet as morning violets,
 A face alight with love ineffable,
 The starry heart-hid wonder trembling through:
 And o'er me leaned,—as Spring-heaven over earth,
 Dropping its 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 strength my life entwined,
 In golden oneness, and in proud repose;
 And like a God he clasped 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 through the grim wide wound!
 Alas, that Time should crown with fruit of pain,
 That seed from heaven 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 life was shattered 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 dear name for gold.
 They dressed 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-matched;
 No blisses blushed, no bridal-kisses burned.
 The ring was on my hand, few saw the chain
 By which the owner 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.

"We dwelt amid a wildering 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
 A maiden sacrifice i' the Sanctuary,
 That should have raised me, smiled my tears 

         away,
 And into quickness all my coldness kissed,
 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 grasp
 Clutched me for ever to a loveless breast.

"He was a cruel Tyrant, just too mean
 To murder, although pitiless as the grave;
 A human ink-fish spreading clouds around
 When eyes of tender ruth would come too near.
 He had a thin-lipped lust of power which looked
 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,
 How had I stretched my arms too eagerly,
 And fall'n into a chasm that caught me and closed
 Its dark inevitable arms, and crushed
 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 loathly snake.
 I felt as one that's bound, and buried alive;
 The black, dank death-mould stamped down 

         overhead;
 I 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 chambers, soft and warm:
 How sang the merry, merry birds of bliss;
 How Beauty's flower-guests stood crowned and 

         drank
 The health of Heaven with its dew for wine.
 But not a crumb of all the glad life-feast,
 Nor drop of all the wanton wealth for me,
 And if I stretched weak arms to clasp my world,
 A wormy mouth to my wild warmth was pressed;
 And if I turned to lift a prayer to God,
 Above me burned two eyes like bottomless pits
 In which a brood of devils lurk and leer.
 And down my night there stooped no smiling 

         heaven,
 With golden chances of a starry throne,
 And beckoning looks that bid us 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 walked in living hell,
 And died a life of spiritual Suttee.
 They came to claim their kin in misery,
 And show me, lifting up the mourning-pall,
 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 staggered 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 though an angel kissed me in the night,
 Or Magic Rose flushed open in the gloom.
 A loosening charm wrought in my brain; the 

         weight
 That ached to be dashed out-in utter death,
 Was thawing 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 rich, warm jewel, crimson with sweet life,
 Come shine where now I cross but empty palms,
 And clasp the new love-raiment radiant round.
 My little Bird shall hurry out the night,
 Till all my world is touched with rosy gold:
 My little Bird of God shall sit and sing
 The dear day long, the dearer for the dark!

"'If you 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 press 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 vanished 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 yearned
 Wet through the gloom are glorified at last.
 Soft baby-fingers feeling round my heart
 Shall melt its frost; and baby-lips shall turn
 My tears to 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:
 It had his likeness, was his Spirit-child.
 Its luminous look had gathered all the light
 That lost beloved Presence left with me.

"My Tyrant poured his poison in the glass
 My babe-joy-bearer lifted to my lips,
 And dashed the new love-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 

         strained
 His dim eyes for me till my darling 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 despot's power.
 Pity me, all good people, as ye sit
 Within the happy 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 through 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;
 The dead beauty blossoms again in my heart
       As I dream of the Springs that were:
 The buried Past lifteth a radiant brow;
       A 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 her Image enshrined at its core;
 Yet Memory's sighs bring a balm to me,
       Out of Love's happy Nevermore.


"Lovely she was as the lily is white,
       When the pride of the morning 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 kissed;
 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 looked like the golden 

         glance
     From the pansy's purple bloom.


"How I poured all my life in a beaker of bliss
       For her! how I held the cup,
 As the leaves, though the troubling winds will kiss,
       Their tremulous dews hold up!
 And my mind it walked 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.


"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 touch of her lip 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 through 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;
 The dead beauty blossoms again in my heart,
       As I dream of the Springs that were:
 The buried Past lifteth a radiant brow,
       A 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 in her summer-sumptuous beauty!
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 luminous dark 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.
Queen of the Sister-Graces! who could know
Hers was the 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, although 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
Through human hearts i' the Theatre of a world.

Keir, 1856.

 



AN ORPHAN FAMILY'S CHRISTMAS.


I.


A BLITHE old Carle is Christmas;
    You cannot find his fellow;
Match me the hale red rose in his cheek,
    Or the heart so mild and mellow;
The glitter of glory in his eyes,
    While the Wassail-cup he quaffs,
Or the humour that twinkles out of his wrinkles
    As helplessly he laughs.

Of all High-Tides 'tis Christmas
    Most richly crowns the year;
Right through to land there ripples and runs
    Its flood of merry good cheer.
Troops of friends come sailing down,
    Making a pleasant din;
Fling open doors! set wide your hearts!
    'Tis Christmas coming in.

A glorious time is Christmas,
    We gather all at home,
And like the Christmas fairies,
    With their pranks, our darlings come;
And gentle Sylvan Spirits hid
    In holly-boughs they bring,
To grow into good Angels,
    And bless our fairy-ring!

A jolly time is Christmas,
    For Plenty's horn is poured;
Then flows the honey of the Sun,
    Our fruits all summer hoard!
Merry men tall march up the hall:
    They bear the meats and drinks;
And Wine, with all his hundred eyes,
    Your hearty welcome winks.

And O the Fire of Christmas,
    That like some Norse God old,
Mounts his log up chimney, and roars
    Defiance to the cold!
He challenges all out-of-doors:
    He wags his beard of flame;
It warms your very heart to see
    Him glory in the game.

A happy time is Christmas;
    Young hearts will slip the tether;
Lips moist and merry, all under the berry,
    Close thrillingly together.
A gracious time! the poorest Poor
    Will make some little show,
And ailing infants, seeing the fun,
    Will do their best to crow!


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II.


BUT there are nooks in Poverty's dim world,
Where the high tide of bounty never runs.
No drop of all its wealth for some who sit
And hear the river of riches brimming by.
They see the Christmas shows of wealth and 
        warmth,
At window, whilst shut out at every door!
The Plenty only flouts their poverty;
The music mocks them with its merriment;
They look into each passing face and find
No likeness of their own deep misery.

    In one of these dark nooks, at Christmas time,
An Orphan family, with little fire,
And only light enough to see the gloom,
Together sat; two Sisters and one Brother;
The youngest six years old; the eldest twelve;
An old Grandfather lying ill a-bed.
They knew that Christmas came, but not for them.
Thus had they often sat o' winter nights,
Shivering within, as darkness shuddered without,
And creeping close together for heart-warmth;
Poor unfledged nurslings with the Mother gone!
Feeling a Presence brooding over them,
In whose chill shadow they were pall'd and hooded;
So mournfully it kept the Mother's place!
Till flesh would creep as though about to leave
The spirit naked—bare to the cold breath
That whispers of the grave—all lidless eye
To that appalling sight the helpless Dead
Lie looking on, in their amazement, dumb,
And petrified to marble!   So they sat;
The Shadow in the house and on the heart;
The old Clock ticking through the lonely room,
With sounds that make the silence solemner,
And weird hands pointing to far other times;
Talking of merry Christmas coming in;
Of visionary futures, and old days,
With thoughts so far beyond their years!    The 
        life
In their young eyes gleamed preternaturally,
Betwixt the fire-shine, and the dim night-shadows,
As their old inmates of the heart stole forth
To people the old ways they walked once more.
And so, like those lorn pretty Babes i' the Wood,
That Robins buried when the talk was done,
They told each other stories; sang their Hymns;
By way of bribing the gaunt Solitude,
Not to look down upon them quite so grim!
Poor darlings, with no Father, and no Mother.


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III.


AY me, dear Sister, gentle Brother,
    How soft the thought of a Mother lies
    At heart; how sweet in sound 'twill rise;
And these poor Children had no Mother!

No Mother-arms in secret nook
    To fold the sufferer to her breast,
    With love that never breaks its rest,
And Heartsease in her very look.

No Mother-wings to brood above
    The winter nest and keep them warm;
    And shield them from the pitiless storm,
With the large shelter of her love.

No Mother's tender touch that brings
    A music from the harp of life,
    Like hovering heaven above the strife
And precious trembling of the strings.

No Mother with her lap of love
    Each night for heads that bow in prayer;
    Dear hands that stroke the smiling hair,
And heart that pleads their cause above.

No Mother whose quick, wistful eye
    Will see the shadow of Danger near,
    And face, with love that casts out fear,
The blow that darkly hurtles by.

No Mother's smile ineffable,
    To stir the Angel in the bud,
    Till, into perfect womanhood,
The Flower blushes at the full.

No Mother! when the Darling One
    Bends with a grief that breaks the flower,
    To loose the sorrow in a shower,
And lift the sweet face to the sun.

No Mother's kiss of comfort near
    The River that Death overshades;
    Or voice that, when the dim face fades,
Sounds on with words of solemn cheer.

Ay me, dear Sister, gentle Brother,
    How soft the thought of a Mother lies
    At heart; how sweet in sound 'twill rise;
And these poor Children had no Mother.


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IV.


YET, God is kind; His ways are Fatherly.
Affliction's hand, it seem'd, had, at a touch,
Awoke the Mother in the young Child-heart
Of little Martha, who had now become
A wee old woman at twelve years of age,
With many Motherly ways.    Yea, God is kind.

The tiny Snowdrop braves the wintry blast;
He tenderly protects its confidence
That lifts the venturous head, safe in His hand:
And Martha, in her loneliness of earth,
And such a dearth of human fellowship,
And such companionship with solitude,
Had found a way of looking up to Heaven:
And oft I think that God in heaven smiled;
Holding His hand about her little life,
As one that shields a candle from the wind.
She had the faith to feel Him nearest, when
The world is farthest off; and, in this faith,
Her spirit went on wings, or, hand-in-hand
With Love that digs below the deepest grave,
And Hope that builds above the highest stars.

In the old days before their sorrow came,
And vast Eternity oped twice to them,
And each time, following the lightning-flash,
They groped in darkness for a Parent gone,
She was the merriest of merry souls;
The gay heart laughing in her loving eyes;
The peeping rose-bud crimsoning her cheek;
There was as quick a spirit in her feet,
As now had passed into her toiling fingers,
That match the Mother's heart with Father's 
        hands
In their unwearied working for the rest.
In those old days the Father made a song
About his little maid, and sang it to her.


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V.


"IT is a merry Maiden,
     With spirits light as air;
 While others go heart-laden,
     And make the most of care,
 She trips along with laughter:
 Old Care may hobble after.

"A sunbeam straight from heaven
     She dances in my room;
 The gladdest thing e'er given
     To cheer a heart or home:
 My stream of life may darkle,
 She makes the brighter sparkle.

"Her smile it is the Morning
     That turns the mist to pearls;
 All thought of sadness scorning,
     She shakes her sunny curls;
 And, with her merry glancing,
 She sets all hearts a-dancing."


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VI.


BUT now the Maid was changed, for she had been
With Sorrow in its chilly sanctuary;
Her look was paler, for it had been touched
With that white stillness of the winding-sheet,
That smile forlornly sweet upon the face
When left forever widowed of the soul.
Henceforth her life went softly all its days
As if she felt the Grave-turf underfoot.
Her beauty was more spiritual; not aged
Or worn; less colour, but more light.
It was a brier-rose beauty, tremulous
With tenderest dew-drop purity of soul.

I've often seen how well their favour wears
Whose sufferings are for others, not for Self;
How long they keep a fair unfurrowed face,
Whose tears are luminous with healing love,—
The pearly cars that bring good spirits down
To water and enrich their special flowers,—
And do not come from cares that kill the heart;
These sere no bloom; they leave no snaky trail.
So Martha kept her face, and might have been
The younger sister of that lily Maid,
The lovable Elaine of Astolat.


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VII.


WE write the tale of Heroes in the blood
They shed when dying where they nobly stood;
And the red letters gloriously bloom
To light the warrior to a loftier doom.
But there are battles where no cheers arise,
And no flags wave before the fading eyes;
Heroes of whom the wide world never hears;
Their story only writ in Woman's tears.
Yet that invisible ink shall surely shine
Brightest in Heaven, and verily divine.
And when God closes our world's blotted book,
To cast it in the fire with awful look,
It was so badly written, leaf on leaf
Thus lived might touch the Father's heart with grief.
And this Child-Mother's life may yield one story
That shall be told among the first in glory.

Her busy love and thoughtful care are such,
The others do not miss the Mother much.
From dawn to dark her presence lights the place
With many a gleam of reliquary grace.
Their few poor things in seemly order stand,
Bright as with last touch of the Parent's hand.
The clothes are mended, and the house is kept
Clean as of old; bravely hath Martha stepped
In Mother's footprints; her wee feet have tried
Their best to track the Parent's larger stride.
With household work her little hands are hard,
Her arms are chilled, her knees with kneeling 
        scarred:
Dusty her hair that might have richly rolled
With warm Venetian glow of Titian's gold.
Great-hearted little woman; she toils still,
Though the Grandfather, lying old and ill,
To her twin troubles adds a heavier third,
She works on without one complaining word.


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VIII.


And once a year she has her Holiday;
One day of airy life in fairyland,
When young leaves open large their palms to 
        catch
The gold and silver of the sun and shower;
Shy Beauty pusheth back her glittering hood,
To peep with her flower face; the Silver Birk
Shakes out her hair full-length against the blue;
The Fir puts forth her timid finger-tips,
Like shrinking damsel trying a cold stream
In which she comes to bathe.
                                                   In merry green woods
She rambles where the blue wild hyacinths
Smile with their soft dream-haze in tender shade:
The lightsome dance of gladsome green above;
The whispering sweetness of the wood below;
Birds singing, as for love of her, all round:
Or, by the Brook that turns some stray sunbeam
To a crooked scimitar of wavy gold,
Then to itself laughs at the elvish work!
With her large eyes, and eager leaping looks,
She pores o'er Nature's living picture-page,
And gets some colour in her own pale life.
Then home, with kindled cheek, when Eve's one Star
Stands, waiting on the threshold of the night,
In lively expectation of all heaven.


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IX.


Home when the happy day is done,
    Home comes my little Maid;
Her pleasure—golden in the sun—
    Now dewy in the shade.
Thoughts of the day will hover and bless
Her sleep with sacred balminess.

Through shutting eve the stars will peep,
    But still there comes no night;
'Tis but the Day hath fallen asleep
    And smiles in dreams of light.
And Martha feels the heart of Love
Beat on in silent stars above.


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X.


TO-NIGHT they sit with sadder, lonelier thought
Than ever; closer comes the Wolf of Want,
And darklier falls the shadow of Orphanhood.
For now the old man keeps his bed, and seems
Death-stricken, with his face of ghastly gray;
His life all crowded in cold glittering eyes
Watching the least light movement that is made.
The Boy, a blithe and sunny godsend, gay
As singing fountain springing in their midst,
With loving spirit leaping to the light,
Is low at heart to-night, and sad and still.
While Dora, in whose purple-lighted eyes
There seems the shadow of a rain-cloud near,
With but a faint shine of the cheery soul;
She longs to fly away and be at rest,
And give her wishes wings in measured words
That win strange pathos from her sweet young voice.

"Come to the Better Land, that Angels know;
 They walk in glory, shining as they go!
 The King in all His beauty takes the least
 To sit beside Him at the eternal feast."
 Thus sings the voice that calls me night and day.

"This is a weary world,
       Come, come, come away!
 Ah, 'tis a dreary world,
      Come, come away."


"From old heart-ache, and weariness, and pain—
 Sorrows that sigh, and hopes that soar in vain—
 Come to the Loved and Lost who are now the Blest;
 They dwell in regions of Eternal rest."
 Thus sings the voice that calls me night and day.

"This is a weary world,
     Come, come, come away!
 Ah, 'tis a dreary world,
      Come, come away."


"Here all things change; the warmest hearts grow 
         cold;
 The young head droops and dims its glorious gold;
 Where Love his pillow hath made on Beauty's breast,
 The creatures of the Grave will make their nest."
 Thus sings the voice that calls me night and day.

"This is a weary world,
      Come, come, come away!
 Ah, 'tis a dreary world,
      Come, come away."


"The dear eyes where each morning rose our light,
 Soon darken with their last eternal night;
 The heart that beat for us, the hallowed brow
 That bowed to bless, are cold and silent now."
 Thus sings the voice that calls me night and day.

"This is a weary world,
     Come, come, come away!
 Ah, 'tis a dreary world,
     Come, come away."


"Nor fear the Grave, that door of Heaven on Earth;
 All changed and beautiful ye shall come forth,
 As from the cold dark cloud the winter showers
 Go underground to dress, and come forth Flowers."
 Thus sings the voice that calls me night and day.

"This is a weary world,
     Come, come, come away!
 Ah, 'tis a dreary world,
     Come, come away."


"Come to the Better Land, that angels know;
 They walk in glory, shining as they go!
 The King in all His beauty takes the least
 To sit beside Him at the eternal feast."
 Thus sings the voice that calls me night and day.

"This is a weary world,
     Come, come, come away!
 Ah, 'tis a dreary world,
     Come, come away."


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XI.


"NAY, Sister," says the cheery Martha, "though
Our lot be sad, your strain's too sorrowful!
We cannot spare you yet.    Nor must we stoop
To make our burthen heavier; hear me, love.

"A little Flower so lowly grew,
     So lonely was it left,
 That Heaven looked an eye of blue
     Down in its rocky cleft.

"What could the little Flower do
     In such a darksome place,
 But try to reach that eye of blue,
     And climb to kiss Heaven's face?

"And there's no life so lone and low
     But strength may still be given
 From narrowest lot on earth to grow
     The straighter up to Heaven."


Again she sang, and set them singing too.


"Here we are poorest of God's Poor,
       Toiling for bread from day to day,
 But laid up in Heaven a treasure is sure,
       While Money is round and rolls away.
 And though there's room for all the rest,
 I think God loves the Little Ones best.

"Little hearts make merry, and sing
       How His love to Children warms!
 Little voices ripple and ring—
       How He takes them in His arms!
 And though there's room for all the rest,
  think God loves the Little Ones best."


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XII.


THEN, silent Fabyan lifted up his look,
Bright as a Daisy when the dews have dried;
A sudden thought struck all the sun in his face.
"Martha and Dora, I know what I'll do!
 I'll write a Letter to the good Lord Jesus,
 Who helps us if we put our trust in Him."
The sisters smiled upon him through their tears.

This was the Letter little Fabyan wrote.

"Dear, beautiful Lord Jesus,
       Christmas is drawing near;
 Its many shining sights we see,
       Its merry sounds we hear:
 With presents for good Children,
       I know Thou art going now,
 From house to house with Christmas trees,
       And lights on every bough.

"I pray thee, good Lord Jesus,
       To bring one tree to us,
 All aglow with fruits of gold,
       And leaves all luminous.
 We have no Mother, and, where we live,
       No Christmas gifts are given;
 We have no Friends on earth, but Thou
       Art our good Friend in Heaven.

"My Sisters, gentle Jesus,
       They hide the worst from me;
 But I have ears that sometimes hear,
       And eyes that often see.
 Poor Martha's cloak is worn threadbare,
       Poor Dora's boots are old;
 And neither of them strong like me,
       To stand the wintry cold.

"But most of all, Lord Jesus,
       Grandfather is so ill;
 'Tis very sad to hear him moan,
       And startling when he's still.
 Ah! well I know, Lord Jesus,
       If Thou would'st only come,
 He'd look, and rise, and leave his bed,
       As Lazarus left his tomb.

"Forget us not, Lord Jesus,
     I and my sisters dear;
 We love Thee! when Thou wert a Child
     Had we been only near,
 And seen Thee lying, bonny babe,
     In manger or in stall,
 Thou should'st have had a home with us;
     We would have given Thee all."


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XIII.


The Letter signed and sealed, their prayers are said,
And Martha lights the younger Bairns to bed.
With all a Mother's heart she bends above
Their rest, her eyes filled with a Mother's love.
For soon their voices cease; life fades away
Into its quiet nest, till morrow-day:
As the lake-lilies shut their leaves of light
When down the gloom descends the hush of night,
In fear of what is passing, bow the head
Beneath the water, they shrink down in bed.
But soon the Angel Sleep doth smile all fear
Away with wooing whispers at the ear;
And they will ope at morn eyes bathed in bliss;
Their faces fresh from their good Angel's kiss.
But Martha sleeps not yet; now they are gone,
Brave little woman, she must still work on,
And watch, to-night, for Grandfather is worse,
She thinks, with no one near, save her for nurse.


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XIV.


'TIS very sad to hear a man so old,
Talk of his mother who, beneath the mould,
Has lain an age, and see his childish tears,
That have to pierce the crust of eighty years.
He turns and turns, incapable of rest,
Tossed on the billow that heaves in brain and breast;
A life that beats with all too weak a wave
To land him on the other side the Grave!
The old man mutters in his broken dream.

  "Last night I wander'd in a world of moan;
   I saw a white Soul going all alone,
       Over the white snows of eternity;
      I followed far, and followed fast to see
   The face, and lo, it was my own."


And now he muses by some weird sea-side.


"The tide is a-making its bonny Death-bed;
 The white sea-maidens rise ready to wed;
 Nearer and nearer, unveiling their charms,
 They toss for their lovers, long, shadowy arms!
       Dancing with other-world music and motion;
       Brides of dead Sailors; the Beauties of Ocean.

"Wave after wave my worn, old Bark has tossed;
 One moment saved, another it seemed lost
 For ever, still it righted from each blow;
 But the great wave is coming on me now!
 I see it towering high above the rest;
 A world of eyes in its white glittering crest;
 See how it climbs, calm in its might, and curls
 Ready to clasp me in the wildering whirls,
 And when it bursts, in darkness, for last breath,
 I shall be fighting, grappled fast with Death."


He sees an image of Martha now, with dim
Wet eyes; it moves in brightness far from him.


"I am like the hoary Mountain,
     Gray with years, and very old;
 And your life, a sprightly fountain,
     Springs, and leaves me lone and cold;
          Dancing, glancing on its way,
          Down the valleys warm and gay.

"There you go, Dear, singing, sparkling,
     I can see your dawn begin;
 While the night, around me darkling,
     With its death-dews, shuts me in—
         Hear you singing on your way
         To the full and perfect day."


The suffering passes into weariness;
The weariness fades into kind content:
Faintly the tired heart flutters into stillness,
And he has done with Age, and Want, and Illness.
Gently he passed; the little Maiden wept;
Sank down, o'erwearied, by the dead, and slept,
With such a heavenly lustre on her face,
You might have fancied Angels in the place:
Companions through the day of our delight,
That watch as wingèd Sentries all the night.


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XV.


Next day a group of serious silent men
Found a Dead Letter with strange life in it;
It was addressed to Jesus Christ in Heaven.
It called up their old hearts into their eyes,
For lofty meeting in a touch of tears.
At length it reached the Lady Marian,
And the Boy's letter had not missed its mark.


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XVI.


This is my Lady Marian:
She walks our world, a Shining one!
A Woman with an Angel-face,
Sweet gravity, and tender grace;
And where she treads this earth of ours,
Heaven blossoms into smiling flowers.
              This is the Lady Marian.

One of the spirits that walk in white!
Many dumb hearts that sit in night,
Her presence know, just as the Birds
Know Morning, murmuring cheerful words.
Where Life is darkest, she doth move
With influence as of visible Love.
              This is the Lady Marian.

Her coming all your being fills
With a balm-breath from heaven's hills:
And in her face the light is mild
As though the heart within her smiled,
And in her bosom sat to sing
The spirit of immortal Spring.
              This is the Lady Marian.

"We shall not mend the world; we try,
And lo, our work is vain!" they cry.
With her pathetic look, she hears;
You see the wounded soul bleed tears;
Against the dark she sets her face,
And calmly keeps her onward pace.
              This is the Lady Marian.

One of God's treasurers for the Poor!
She keepeth open heart and door.
That heart a holy well of wealth,
Brimming life-waters, rich with health;
That door an opening you look through,
To find God our side of Heaven's blue.
              This is the Lady Marian.


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XVII.


From out the darkness that took shape in Her,
The Lady Marian came on Christmas day,
Quick with maternal tenderness of soul,
Her starry smile so radiant through their night,
Her hands brimful of help, as was her heart
With yearnings to arise and go when first
She read the letter little Fabyan sent
In his confiding simpleness of faith,—
One of those representatives of God
Who help to make the Poor believe in Him
Because He hath some living like on Earth.
And Martha knows that their worst days are done;
In Dora's rich sad eyes a merry light
Soon dances!    Lady Marian will prove
A Mother, sent of God, to all the three.
A trembling prayer had shook the Tree of Life,
And, golden, out of heaven the fruitage falls
Into their midst they think direct from God.

 

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THE BRIDEGROOM OF BEAUTY.


"WHO wears the Singing-Robe is richly dight,"
Said Mabel—"He is greater than a King,"—
Mabel, the saintly-sweet and fairily fine
As Maiden rising from Enchanted Mere;
A queenly creature with her quiet grace,
And dazzling white hand veined cerulean:
Her eyes of violet-gray were coloured rich
With shade of tender thought, and mirrored large
Within them starry futures swam and shone:
Ah! what a smile to fill a life with light,
And make the waking heart to sing in sleep!—
"I would I were a Poet," Mabel said,
"Up like a Lark i' the morning of the times,
To carol o'er 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;
To 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 their God-liker pace:
Or send wronged Races 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 flowers, or plume 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;
Strive to bring down a 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 sunshine 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 dew 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 knows this 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 his woes to reach
The inner sanctuary of better life.
But though the seas of sorrow flood his heart,
Some silent spring of flowers 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 hushed; all foolish voices still;
The bonds that crushed 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 are called, Aurelia replied,
But few are crowned.    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-splendour 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.
Out of the by-way of his lonely life,
She beckoned him for her Evangelist,
And straightway he arose and followed her,
And in the shadow of her loveliness,
Or in her wake of glory, walked our world.
That shining Shape, in her sweet mystery, seemed
Some beauteous miracle of eternal love.
Through 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 through 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 alchemy half-creates the thing we see.

She rose at dawn in sparkling clouds of dew,
And kept the Morning's ruddy-golden gates;
Stood high in sunrise on the mountain-top;
Or in her bower of the ambient air
Sat, shedding her rich beauty 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 dainty-rare
Her dim, delicious, dreamy loveliness.

The buds that startle at the voice of May
And open merry eyes, had been with her;
Their subtle smile said what they could reveal.
She nestled glancing at him from the flower
He plucked, and only caught her passing breath;
Even as he grasped her vesture she was gone.
Among the boughs that burgeon into bloom;
The coloured clouds that kindle and richly rise
From out the bosom of Earth's emerald sea;
Hedge-roses set in dewy radiance green;
The lush Laburnums, all a rain of gold;
She seemed to have fled and left her robe afloat.
An Ariel now, she murmured in the Pines;
He heard, but had no magic word or wand.
A wavy Naiad, she rippled the cool brooks
That round her dallied, babbling in their dreams.
The fragrant feeling of the languorous air
Was as the soft endearment of her arms,
That wound him in a 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 glanced from all the gateways of the spring.
In burnished bark swam down the summer-tide
That floods the valleys, breaks o'er all the hills,
In sparkling spray of flowers, and leafy life.
She roofed the Autumn forests with the wealth
Of melted rainbows, caught from summer heaven.
And winter trees stretched fingers weird to win
The perfect pearl of her white purity.
Where'er she went Earth looked up and was glad.
Through Music's maze she glode at hide-and-seek;
Played with the Storm, then in her Iris-shape
Laughed 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 glowed
Her dainty limbs in depths of dissolved 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 through the trees?
Sometimes the boughs let in her haunting face;
But the old Forest kept the secret still,
And hushed 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 searching eyes,
Like a Confessor 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 through
The silences of space, and soothed his soul,
Till life was folded up brimful of beauty,
As the flower clasps its pearl and droops to dream.

At times, from out the curtains of the dark,
Her face would meet him through the glowing 
        gloom.
Sometimes she passed; her rippling raiment 
        touched
His sense, and sphered him with diviner air,
Like honeysuckles brushed 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 dropped love-tokens in his pilgrim path.
The red Rose peering from its cool green leaves
Like warm Love lifting half its hiding veil,
Symbolled her soft red mouth held up to him.
A virgin whiteness in a dream of bloom,
Gave to her tender cheeks their taking tint.
Her eyes were orbs of thought that on him burned
Fervent as Hesper in the brow of night.
He walked 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 faëry 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 hushed,
As one who pauses on a midnight heath,
To catch the footfall felt by Fancy's ear.

When he awoke in Dreamland, 'twas to find
He had been floated through 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,
And she had laid her daylight mask aside;
All the sweet soul of things bare to him, 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 dropped the gold cloud of her tresses round 
        him.
When o'er him hung the night of adverse fate,
She was a light along his perilous path,
And through the darkness of his soul there broke
A heaven of worlds all tenderness and peace.

At times he walked with glad and dauntless 
        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 radiant in a finer light,
Seen through 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!
And to his music she would coyly come;
He ceased—to look on her—and she was gone.
He sang of Her his beautiful Unknown,
Heart-wild, as some glad bird that tells of spring,
He would have made the world her worshipper,
And all Earth's voices ring a rich refrain.
One day our passionate pilgrim sat him down
By the wayside of life, and thus he prayed—


"O thou Belovè! O thou Beautiful!
 On our perfection throned for 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,
 Decked by thy dear hands for our Marriage-day,
 Where we the gardens of delight shall roam
 In endless love?  Now 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 nowhere found,
 I have but seen thy Shadow on life's ground.
 I know thee now, Immortal! show the way
 To thine Elysium, I would 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 a light of glory smiled,
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 through all the world,—
Had sought without but only found within,—
Turned full upon him face to face at last.
She laid her hand upon his throbbing harp;
She pressed her lips upon his passionate life;
And both stood still.    In death he had found his 
        Bride.


_______________________


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