Gerald Massey: My Lyrical Life VIII.

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PERSONAL
_________


ROBERT BURNS.

A CENTENARY SONG.


A HUNDRED years ago this morn
    He came to walk our human way;
And we would change the Crown of Thorn
        For healing leaves To-day.

A vain recall!   The dead men do
    Not turn back when the Curtain's down,
To smirk and bow their thanks to you
        For after-clap or crown!

And we can only hang our wreath
    Upon the cold white Marble's brow!
Though loud we speak, or low we breathe,
        We cannot change it now.

He loved us all!   He loved so much!
    His heart of love the world could hold;
And now the whole wide world with such
        A love would him enfold.

'Tis long and late before it wakes
    So kindly, yet a true world still;
It hath a heart so large, that takes
        A century to fill!

_______________


BUT tell the wondrous Tale to-day,
    While songs are sung, and warm words said,—
Tell how he wore the Hodden Gray,
        And won the Oaten bread.

With wintry welcome at the door
    Did Nature greet him to his lot;
Our royal Minstrel of the Poor,
        Cradled in his clay-Cot.

There, in the bonny Bairntime dawn,
    He nestled at his Mother's knee,
With such a face as might have drawn
        The Angels down to see

That rosy Innocent at prayer,
    So pure and ready for the hand
Of Her who is Guide and Guardian where
        Babes sleep in Silent Land.

And there she found her darling Child,
    The robust Muse of sun-browned health,
Who nursed him up into the wild
        Young heir of all her wealth:

And there she rocked his Infant thought,
    Asleep with visions glorious
That hallow now the Poor Man's Cot
        For evermore to us:

Disguised Angelic Playmates were
    Those still ideal dreams of Youth,
That drew it on to Greatness; there
        We find them shaped in truth!

There, young Love slyly came, to bring
    Rare balms that will bewitch the blood,
To dance while happy Spirits sing,
        With life in hey-day flood.

And there he learned the touch that speeds
    Right to the natural heart of things;
Struck rootage down to where Life feeds
        At the eternal Springs:

Before the Lords of Earth he stood
    A Man by Nature born and bred,
To show us on what simple food
        A Poet may be fed.

No gifts of gold for him, no crown
    Of Fortune ready for his brow;
But wrestling strength to earn his own;
        It shines in glory now!

_______________


HE rose up cheery as the Lark—
    Our dawn-bird of the better day.
Many weird voices of the dark
        In his music passed away!

He caught them, Witch and Warlock, ere
    They vanished; all the revelry
Of wizard wonder, we must wear
        The mask of Sleep to see!

Droll Humours came for him to paint
    Their pictures; straight his merry eye
Had taken them, so queer, so quaint,
        We laugh until we cry.

Meek glimpses of peculiar grace,
    Where Beauty lieth, in undress,
Asleep in secret hiding-place,
        Hushed in the wilderness:

Spring-dawns that open heaven-doors;
    Wild winds that break in seas of sound;
Sad Gloamings eerie on the moors;
        The murdered Martyr's mound;

Wan, awful Shadows, trailing like
    The great skirts of the hurrying Storm;
Bronzed-purple thunder-lights that strike
        The woodlands wet and warm;

And glorious Sunsets, God's good-night,
    Is smiled through to our world, and felt;
Make rich his soul by ear and sight,—
        Through all his being melt.

_______________


HE knew the Sorrows of poor folk,
    He felt for all their patient pain;
And from his clouded soul he shook
        Lark-like the music-rain.

For them his eyes would brim with balm,
    Dark eyes, and flashing as the levin—
Grew at a touch as sweet and calm
        As are the eyes in heaven.

So rich in sadness is his breast
    That tenderness, heaven-mirroring, fills,
As lies the soft blue lake at rest
        Among the rugged hills;

And quick as Mother's milk will rise,
    At thrill of her babe's touch, and strong,
It heaves his heart, and floods his eyes,
        And overflows his song.

In Life's low ways, and starless night,
    The Poor so often have to creep
Where Manhood may not walk full-height,
        And this made Robin weep.

But none dare sneer, who see the tear
    In Robin Burns's honest eye,
With all the weakness, it comes clear
        From where the Thunders lie.

Such Ardours flash from out that dew,
    And quiver in its pearl of pain;
The Spirit of Lightning thrilling through
        A drop of tempest-rain!

_______________


OF all our Birds the Robin he
    Is darling of the gentle Poor;
His nest is sacred, he goes free
        By window or by door:

His lot is lowly, and his wings
    Are only of the homely brown,
But in the dreary day he sings
        When gayer friends have flown,

And hoarded up for us he brings,
    In that brave breast of bonny red,
A gathered glory of the Springs
        And Summers long, long fled.

Even so all Birds of Song above,
    To which the poor man smiling turns,
The darling of his listening love
        Is gentle Robin Burns:

His Summer soul our Winter warms,
    He makes a glory in our gloom;
His nest is safe from all the storms,
        For ever in our Home.

Come in, dear Bird, with all the glow
    Of life and love that brims thy breast;
A warmth to melt the winter snow
        In Poortith's coldest nest.

_______________


WHEN Hesper through some shady nook
    Sparkles on Lovers face to face,
Where drooped lids shade a burning look,
        With beauty's shyer grace—

And holy is the hour for love,
    And all so silent comes the Night,
Lest even a breath of faërie move
        That poise so feather-light—

Where two hearts weigh, to blight or bless,
    Till swarming like a summer hive,
The inner world of happiness
        With music grows alive—

There as Life aches so, heart in heart,
    And hand in hand so fondly yearns,
Love shakes his wings, and soars and sings
        The song of Robin Burns.

_______________


AULD Scotland's Music waited long,
    And wandered wailing through the land,
Divinely yearning in her wrong,
        And sorrowfully grand;

And many touched responsive chords,
    But could not tell what She would say;
Till Robin wed her with his words,
        And they were One for aye.

His Ministers of Music win
    Their way where night is all so mirk,
You scarce can see the Devil in
        The darkness at his work,

Or feel the face of friends from foes;
    But these Song-Spirits softly come,
And lo! a light of heaven glows
        Within the poorest home.

On either side the hearth they glide,
    And take the empty seat of Care,
Immortal Presences that bide
        In blessed beauty there.

They set us singing at our work,
    Or, where no fitting voice is found,
Out-smiles the music that may lurk
        In thoughts too fine for sound.

They weave some pictured tints that shine
    Luminous in life's cold gray woof;
They make the vine of Patience twine
        About the barest roof.

More sweet his Songs, to him who plods
    Shut up in smoky city prison,
Than to the cagèd Lark cool sods
        Cut ere the sun be risen.

The Soldier feels them as a spring
    Of healing 'mid the Indian sand;
They gush within him, and they bring
        Him news of the Old Land!

With them the Sailor warms his heart,
    By night upon the wintry sea;
With them our Serfs ennobled start
        I' the knighthood of the Free!

Ah, how some old sweet Cradle-song
    The Exile's wandering heart still brings
Home! home again, with ties as strong
        As Love's own leading-strings.

We hug the Homestead, and more near
    The fresh and fonder tendrils twine
To make our clasp more close for fear
        Our dear ones we may tine.

_______________


THINK how those Heroes, true till death,
    In Lucknow listened through the strife,
And held what seemed their latest breath
        They had to draw in life,

To hear the old Scots' Music dear
    Ask, down the battle-pauses brief,
As Havelock's men, with fire and cheer,
        Swept in to their relief—

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot?
    Through flaming hell we come! we come!
To keep that pledge, not given for nought
        Around the hearth at home.

"We'll tak a cup o' kindness" yet,
    For Scotland dear, and Auld Lang Syne;
Ay, though that cup be redly-wet
        With blood as well as wine.

"And here's a hand, my trusty friend," 
    And then it seemed the dear Old Land
Did burst their tomb, the death-shroud rend,
        With Robin Burns's hand.

_______________


HOW dearly Robin loved the Land
    That gave such gallant Heroes birth;
Its wee blue bit of heaven, and
        Its dear green nook of earth.

Where he once looked with tender gaze,
    In all our way-side wanderings,
Shy Beauty lifts her veil of haze,
        And smiles in common things.

More precious is the purple heath,
    The bonny broom of beamless gold;
And sweeter is the mellow breath
        Of Autumn on the wold!

The Daisy opes its eye at dawn,
    And straight from Nature's heart so true,
The tear of Burns peeps sparkling! an
        Immortal drop of dew!

With eyes a thought more kindly, we
    Look on all dumb and helpless things;
In his large love they stand, as He
        Had sheltered them with wings.

Down by the singing burn we greet
    His voice of love and liberty;
High on the bleak hill-side we meet
        His Spirit blithe and free!

And on this land should Foe e'er tread,
    He will fight for it at our side,
Flame on our Banners overhead,
        In songs of victory ride.

_______________


A HUNDRED years ago To-day,
    The great and glorious Stranger came;
Men wondered as he went his way
        A wild and wandering flame.

The fiercer fire of life, confined,
    With higher wave will heave and break,
And higher should the mountain-mind
        Thrust up its starward peak:

But often is the kindling clay
    With its red lavas rent and riven,
And Earth holds up a wreck to pray
        The healing hand of Heaven.

Around his soul more sternly warred
    The powers that smite for Wrong and Right;
And thunder-scathed and battle-scarred,
        Death bore him from the fight.

But now we recognize in him,
    One of the high and shining race;
All gone the mortal mists that dim
        The fair immortal face.

The splendour of a thousand Suns
    Is shining! and the tearful rain
No more with passionate pathos runs;
        He counts his grief our gain.

The sorrow and suffering, soil and shame
    All gone! all far away have passed;
He sitteth in the heavens of fame,
        With quiet crowned at last.

The prowling Ghoul hath left his grave,
    Hushed is the praying Pharisee;
His frailties fade, his Virtues brave
        Live everlastingly.

_______________


FOR us he wrought imperishably,
    The lowly-born, the peasant's Son;
We weep exulting tears that he
        So proud a place hath won!

And such a Crown to bind thy brow,
    Thy glorious Child hath gained for thee,
Thou gray old nurse of Heroes! thou
        Proud Mother, Poverty!

Look up! and let the big tears be
    Triumphant, touched with sparks of pride;
Look up! in his great glory ye
        Are also glorified.

Or weep the tear that Pity wrings
    To think his brightness he should dim;
Then 'tis the drop of heart-ache brings
        Us nearer unto him:

'Tis here we touch his garment; here
    The poorest or the frailest earns
The right to call him kinsman dear,
        Our Brother, Robin Burns.

In fires of suffering far more fair
    We forge the precious bond of love.
Ah, Robin, if God hear our prayer
        'Tis all made well above,

And you who comforted His Poor
    In this world, have eternal home
With those He comforteth, His Poor!
        In all the world to come.

Dear Highland Mary went before
    To plead for you in saintly sooth,
Whom she remembered when you wore
        The purity of Youth.

With those high Bards who live for aye,
    Your faults and failings all forgiven—
May there be festival to-day,
        And a great joy in Heaven!

The truth afar off found at last;
    The triumph rung impetuously
Through all that Crystal Palace vast
        Of white Eternity.

_______________


DEAR Robin, could you but return
    Once more, how changed it all would be;
The heart of this wide world doth yearn
        To take you welcomingly:

Warm eyes would shine at windows; quick
    Warm hands would greet you at the door,
Where oft they let you pass heart-sick,
        So heedlessly of yore!

And they would have you wear the Crown
    Who bade you bear the crushing cross;
Their glorious gain was all unknown,
        Until they felt the loss:

The cup you carried was so filled,
    The pressing crowd, so eager round,
Dragged down your lifted arm, and spilled
        Such dear drops on the ground!

How we would comfort your distress,
    Would see you smile as once you smiled,
And hold your hands in silentness,
        Strong man and little child!

Your poor heart heaving like the waves
    Of seas that moan for evermore,
And try to creep into the caves
        Of Rest, but find no shore—

Poor heart! come rest thee from the strife;
    Come, rest thee, rest thee in the calm,
We'd cry: come bathe a weary life
        In Love's immortal balm!

_______________


WE cannot see your face, Robin!
    Your flashing lip, your fearless brow;
We cannot hear your voice, Robin!
        But you are with us now:

Although the mortal face is dark
    Behind the veil of spirit-wings,
You draw us up as Heaven the Lark
        Whose music in him sings.

With tender awe we feel you near,
    You make our lifted faces shine;
You brim our cup with kindness here,
        For sake of Auld Lang Syne.

We are one at heart as Britain's sons,
    Because you join our clasping hands,
While one electric feeling runs
        Through all the English lands.

And near or far where Britons band,
    To-day the leal and true heart turns
More fondly to the fatherland
        For love of Robin Burns.

 

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HOOD, 

WHO SANG THE "SONG OF THE SHIRT."


'Twas the old story!—ever the blind world
Knows not its Angels of Deliverance
Till they stand glorified 'twixt earth and heaven.
It stones the Martyr; then, with praying hands,
Sees the God mount his chariot of fire,
And calls sweet names, and worships what it
        spurned.
It slays the Man to deify the Christ:
And then how lovingly 'twill bind the brows
Where late its thorn-crown laughed with cruel lips—
Red, and rejoicing from the killing kiss!
To those who walk beside them, great men seem
Mere common earth; but distance makes them
        stars.
As dying limbs do lengthen out in death,
So grows the stature of their after-fame;
And then we gather up their glorious words,
And treasure up their names with loving care.
So Hood, our Poet, lived his martyr-life:
With a swift soul that travelled at such speed,
And struck such flashes from its flinty road,
That by its trail of radiance through the dark,
We almost see th' unfeatured Future's face,—
And went uncrowned to his untimely tomb.
'Tis true, the World did praise his glorious Wit—
The merry Jester with his cap and bells!
And sooth, his wit was like Ithuriel's spear:
But 'twas mere lightning from the cloud of his life,
Which held at heart most rich and blessed rain
Of tears melodious, that are worlds of love;
And Rainbows, that would bridge from earth to
        heaven;
And Light, that should have shone like Joshua's
        sun
Above our long death-grapple with the Wrong;
And thunder-voices, with their Words of fire,
To melt the Slave's chain, and the Tyrant's crown.
His wit?—a kind smile just to hearten us!—
Rich foam-wreaths on the waves of lavish life,
That flashed o'er precious pearls and golden sands.
But, there was that beneath surpassing wit!
The starry soul, that shines when all is dark!—
Endurance, that can suffer and grow strong—
Walk through the world with bleeding feet, and
        smile!—
Love's inner light, that kindle's Life's rare colours,
Bright wine of Beauty for the longing soul;
And thoughts that swathe Humanity with such
        glory
As limns the outline of the coming God.
In him were gleams of such heroic splendour
As light this cold, dark world up like a star
Arrayed in glory for the eyes of heaven:
And a great heart that beat according music
With theirs of old,—God-likest kings of men!
A conquering heart! which Circumstance, that
        frights
The Many down from Love's transfiguring height,
Aye mettled into martial attitude.
He might have clutched the palm of Victory
In the world's wrestling-ring of noble deeds;
But he went down a precious Argosy
At sea, just glimmering into sight of shore,
With its rare freightage from diviner climes.
While friends were crowding at the Harbour
        mouth
To meet and welcome the brave Sailor back,
He saw, and sank in sight of them and home!
The world may never know the wealth it lost,
When Hood went darkling to his tearful tomb,
So mighty in his undeveloped force!
With all his crowding unaccomplished hopes—
Th' unuttered wealth and glory of his soul—
And all the music ringing round his life,
And poems stirring in his dying brain.
But blessings on him for the songs he sang—
Which yearned about the world till then for birth!
How like a bonny bird of God he came,
And poured his heart in music for the Poor;
Who sit in gloom while sunshine floods the land,
And grope through darkness, for the hand of Help.
And trampled Manhood heard, and claimed its
        crown;
And trampled Womanhood sprang up ennobled!
The human soul looked radiantly through rags!
And there was melting of cold hearts, as when
The ripening sunlight fingers frozen flowers.
O! blessings on him for the songs he sang!
When all the stars of happy thought had set
In many a mind, his spirit walked the gloom
Clothed on with beauty, as the regal Moon
Walks her night-kingdom, turning clouds to light.
Our Champion! with his heart too big to beat
In bonds,—our Poet in his pride of power!
Aye, we'll remember him who fought our fight,
And chose the Martyr's robe of flame, and spurned
The gold and purple of the glistering slave.
His Mausoleum is the People's heart,
There he lies crowned and glorified,—in state,
Smiling, with singing robe wrapped richly round.
But 'tis not meet, my England, his dear dust
Should lie where splendid flatteries flaunt on tombs,
With not a line of lettered love to tell
What mighty heart lies quenched and broken there.
So let us build our Poet's monument!
With passionate hearts of love for corner-stones,
And tears that temper for immortal fame.
And it were well, my England, shouldst thou come
To weep some honest drops above his grave.
Our Hood is worthy of eternal praise
And blessings, and dear heart-amenities,
As warrior Wellington, who rode to fame
On Death's white horse, by Battle's crimson path.

1850.

 

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MAURICE AND THE BIGOTS.


THE Savage broke the glass that brought
    The heavens nearer, saith the legend!
Even so the Bigots welcome aught
    That makes our vision starrier-regioned!

All Saviour-souls have sacrificed,
    With nought but noble faith for guerdon;
And ere the world has crowned the Christ,
    The man to death has borne the burden!

They laid their Corner-stones in dark
    Deep waters, who up-built in beauty
Their ever-standing Triumph-Arc
    That crowns with glory lives of duty.

And meekly still the Martyrs go
    To keep with Pain their solemn bridal!
And still they walk the fire who bow
    Not down to worship Custom's idol.

Our heart-strings sweetest music make
    When swept by Suffering's feeling fingers;
And through soul-shadows starriest break
    The glories on God's brave light-bringers.

God bless you, Maurice, in our dearth
    Your life shall leave a trail of glory;
And gathering round the poor man's hearth
    We proudly tell your suffering's story!

Take heart! though sown in tears and blood,
    No seed that's quick with love hath perished;
Though dropped in barren by-ways—God
    Some glorious flower of life hath cherished.

Take heart; the rude dust dark To-day
    Soars a new-lighted sphere To-morrow!
And wings of splendour burst the clay
    That folds us in Death's fruitful furrow.

1850.

 

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HUGH MILLER'S GRAVE.


BEFORE the Grave-gulf 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 was stern, for he could guard
His tongue with his good teeth: to some he seemed
Sharp 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,
Crowned with its 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 through the crowded street,
Like plaided Shepherd from the Ross-shire Hills,
Stalwart and iron-gray and weather-worn;
His tall head holding up a lonely lamp
Of steadfast thought still-burning in his eyes,
Like some masthead-light lonely through the
        night;
His eyes, that rather dreamed than saw, deep-set
In the brow's shadow, looking forward, fixed,
On something we divined not, solemn, strange!
He was a Hero true as ever stepped
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 through 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 feeling down 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
To those who have been deceived by false belief.

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 through 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 hewed his path
From the stone-quarries to the heights of fame,
Still strove for freedom when the leap was
        death.
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 like 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 through 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 hearts have ceased to ache,

                                    And there is no more pain.
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 looked.   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, large, such as few could wear.
The ghosts of last year's 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 hushed 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 a-light
And shining when the manual 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 had longed to pluck
Death's cool hand down upon the burning brain,
But chokes the secret in his heart as though
He crushed 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,
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
At the communion table of His tomb—
And pluck the Heartsease growing from the grave
While Nature kneeleth in all places lowly,
And blessings rest upon a time so holy.

 

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TO A BEREAVED FRIEND.


GOD comfort you, my Friend, God comfort you!
How mighty, how immeasurable your loss
I can but dimly know; yet I have learned
That only the most precious pass so soon.
I could but stand Without, and dared not thrust
My hand betwixt the curtains of your grief.
I could not reach you sitting in the dark
Of that lone desert where the silence stuns,
And sound of sobbing would be kind relief.
But I would speak some word that with a touch
May make your cup of sorrow overbrim
In tears that suck the sting from out the soul.
I too have felt the gloom that brings heaven near;
The love whose kissings are all unreturned,
And longed to lie down with the quiet dead
And share their slow sweet rest. I too have known
This strain and crack of heart-strings, this wild
        whirl
And wallow of sense in which the soul seems
        drowned.
You are the Husband of an Angel, I
Have two sweet Babes in bliss. We are very poor
On earth, my Friend, but very rich in Heaven.
Two years ago you comforted my loss;
One year ago I sang your wedding song,
And now She is not!   She who had only looked
On life through coloured windows of her dreams.
All in the softest, sweetest breath of life,
The bud of her dear beauty seemed to have blown,
Your one-year darling who but sprang, and died,
And left the fragrance of her memory,
A blessed memory; a most blessed hope!
She had the shy grace of a Woodland flower;
In her Love veiled his look with timid wings;
And her eyes deepened with a sadness rich,
As though the mountain-tops of heaven-touched
        thought
Made mirrored shadows in their lakes of light.
Only a brief while did she wear the mask
Of flesh that kept the fond immortal face
Without a stain of earth or soil of time;
And now her Nun-like Spirit takes the Veil
In Heaven's cloistral calm.   Look up, my Friend,
And bravely bear the mantle of her pain,
Which fell from her for you to wear for her:
Look up, my Friend, and may one little glimpse
Of all her glory touch your tears with light!
Only in heaven can the dark grow starry,
Only from heaven comes the wished-for Dawn.
She liveth in the sight of Him who sees
You also; Ye are one still in God's eye,
That from His Picture of the Universe
Turns on us in whatever worlds we move.

 

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ALBERT THE GOOD.


SOME Two-and-Twenty golden years ago,
    A youthful Wooer to our England came;
To-day, he has won her, lying pale and low.
    Albert the Good we write his noble name.

The Power that sits enthroned by open graves
    Hath risen to rule the air. His death-bell tolls,
And rolls upon us in dull heavy waves,
    Sepulchral shadows over living souls.

On every burdened wind the sound is borne,
    Invisibly swift the Sparks Electric slide;
Till, under Archways of full many a morn,
    The gloom of our great loss will visibly glide.

The meanest doorway darkens at the cloud,
    The poorest poor have lost a personal friend;
Down to one level are the loftiest bowed;
    In the large clasp of nature all hearts blend.

The gush of gladness in our eyes is dimmed;
    Christmas hath lost its glow of merry heartshine;
The Wassail-cup will pass as though 'twere brimmed
    With the red, solemn, Sacramental wine,

And dark in his extinguished light we stand.
    In every face we read how much bereft!
A kindlier pressure of the clasping hand
    Tells of our loss, and clings to what is left.

For he was one of those we never know
    Till they have left us, nor how great the love
We bore them; they are all too meek to show
    Their dearness, till they stand our praise above.

How should we mirror truly when a breath
    Set all the surface in a blurring strife?
We are calmer now!—touched by the hand of Death!
    To hold the lustrous image of his life.

We met him coldly, and on looking back
    See all our dimness by his kindling glow;
The mist we breathed hath served to mark his track,
    And make a starrier halo for his brow.

At last our clouds of earth are cleared away!
    Albert the Good goes patiently to God;
Smiling back to us with his frank blue day,
    Leaving us shining footprints where he trod.

Down goes the Scaffolding, the Work is crowned;
    Much that was hidden from us may be read,
And for the first time we can look all round
    The Statue of his life now perfected.

The Flower of Chivalry upon the height,
    As featly could he bend to lowliest place;
With something in his presence of the light
    That shone in Philip Sidney's gracious face.

His natural kingliness made Crowns look wan,
    Whom Fate had set amongst the Lords of Earth
To show them how the majesty of Man
    May shine above the starriest badge of Birth.

He held forever hallowed the dear breasts
    Where nestling Love and its sweet babes had lain;
Forever sacred kept Home's secret nest
    Of purest pleasure and of proudest pain.

A calm, high life, crowned with a quiet death!
    His robe of pain around him folding, he
Was not the man to waste his dying breath;
    Who truly lives, can die with dignity.

The gentle spirit did not wish to hear
    The women moaning through the house for him,
But only sought to feel its darlings near
    Enough to bless them when 'twas getting dim!

No need of Courtly lies for comforting;
    For he can face the truth, though stern and wild:
Through spiritual rehearsal he can wring
    The victory! and his soul within him smiled.

It is not near so hard for one to bow
    And enter the dark doorway of the Tomb,
Who has learnt to meet Death kneeling with bent brow;
    Whose inward light can pierce that outer gloom.

And while in sorrow here we dimly sit,
    We lift the head, to ease an aching breast,
And, looking up, behold the Stars are lit;
    And there's another in the realms of Rest.

Rest, happy soul, in thy salvation deep;
    The top of life, and endless day for thee;
While in the valleys here we strive or sleep
    Among the shadows of Eternity.

We can but kneel, and grope, and kiss His feet
    Who takes thee to His infinite embrace;
We feel transfigured if our touch may meet
    His garment's hem; but Thou beholdst His face.

Poor Widowed Queen! we see her as she trod
    The Aisle where Music's mellow thunders rolled,
And Heaven opened, and the smile of God
    In sunbeams crowned her head with saintly gold.

And how we listened—knowing she was blest—
    To the proud murmurs of the brooding dove;
Home-pleasures round the royal Mother pressed,
    And God gave many voices to her love.

And now the cloud of this calamity
    Darkens the crown we set on her young brow:
Ah, look up to the side next Heaven, and see
    'Tis God Himself that crowns our lady now!

With all hearts aching for the folded face,
    We can but grasp His hand in prayer for her!
So lonely in her desolate, high place;
    And leave her with the Eternal Comforter.

Though two be parted in that shadow drear,
    Where one must walk alone, yet is it given
For the Beloved spirit to be near;
    The human vision with the voice in Heaven.

It is my faith they friend us in our need;
    With tender cords they draw us where they move;
And often at the noon of night they feed
    With dews of Heaven the lilies of their love.

Warm whispers will come stealing like a glow
    Of God, to kiss the spirit's sealèd eyes
Till they be opened, and True Love doth know
    Its Marriage Garden blooms in Paradise.

Here hearts may beat so close that two lives make
    Only one shadow in the sun we see,
But, in the light we see not, these shall wake
    One Angel—wedded for eternity.

This mourning shall be made majestic mirth;
    This grief shall be a glory otherwhere;
The music that we hear no more on earth
    Will help to make up Heaven when we are there.

The sap is swart and bitter in the bark,
    That sweetens sunnily in the fruit above,
And spirits yearning upward through the dark
    Shall climb and summer in the light of love.

And Thou, young Prince, whose Pilot saw thee tide
    Safe o'er the reefs beyond the Harbour-bar,
Then left thee—Beaconing o'er the waters wide,
    This Star of Morn shall rise, thine Evening Star.

May thy life flourish, ripen hour by hour,
    And heavenward draw the virtues of thy root;
Our eyes have seen the beauty of the flower,
    Do thou unfold the glory of the fruit.

We build his Monument, but men may see
    His steady lustre live in thee and thine;
And thou mayest bear, to Empires yet to be,
    The goodness and the glory of thy line.

Think of the dear face dark beneath the mould,
    And be thou to us what he would have been;
So shall the secret springs of sorrow old
    Give to thy future paths a gladder green.

This is a waiting hour of wonder for
    The world; our England looks across her waves;
Will the Dove seek her bosom, or red War,
    Whose footprints tread deep pits for gory graves?

Is it the kiss of Peace and Righteousness,
    That softly thrills the hushed, grim silence through,
Or Battle's bugle-cry that makes us press
    All sail—send up our brave old bit of blue?

We know not. But, if foot to foot we stand,
    On slippery boarding-plank, or ruddied sward,
'Twill be the sturdier stroke for our dear Land
    That holds another grave like this to guard.

And all is well that makes a People one,
    Even though the meeting-place be Albert's tomb:
We gather grapes of joy up in the sun,
    But our best wine must ripen in the gloom.

Many true hearts have mouldered down to enrich
    The roots of England's greatness underground;
Until, below, as wide and strong they stretch,
    As overhead the branches reach around.

And so our England's glory ever grows,
    And so her stature rises ever higher,
Until the faces of her farthest foes
    Darken with envy, overshadowed by her.

So climb the heavens, Old Tree, until the gold
    Stars glisten as thy fruitage—heave thy breast
And broaden till the fiercest storms shall fold
    Their wings within thy shelter and find rest.

 

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WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY.


THE Merry Bells ring in the Christmas Day,
    While in our hearts a mournful knell is knolled,
    As other tidings through the land are rolled—
Telling of a great spirit passed away.

Another heart of English Oak gone down,
    Like some three-decker striking with no word
    Of warning; sails all set; all hands aboard;
When sunniest skies were smiling with their crown.

Low lies the stately form that towered so tall,
    With life so lusty, and with look so brave;
    The head thrown back, as if to breast the wave
For many a year—the wave that whelmeth all.

For all the sobs that rise, or tears that rain,
    No more fond, fatherly words for Lad and Lass!
    No more across his manly face will pass
The light of passion, or the shadow of pain.

We never told our love!   He would have thought
    We prattled prettily, amused the while;
    And held us at a distance with his smile,
Until we hid the presents we had brought.

Now we might stroke the almost young, white hair,
    And even kiss the cold and quiet brow;
    The heart may have its way, and speak out now:
He will not mock us, lying silent there!

A nature—not at first sight meant to win—
    That prickly for protection grows without,
    To safely fence its tenderness about,
And fold the sweet virginities within:

Just as you find a nest whose outer form
    Looks grimly rugged when the boughs are bare;
    The birds have flown—you peep inside, and there
How softly it was lined! how brooding-warm!

He had our English way of making fun
    Of those shy feelings which our hearts will hold
    Like dew-drops all a-tremble, and enfold
Them with our sheltering strength from storm
        and sun.

We listened to his voice, as some true Wife,
    Upon her Husband's breast may lean her head,
    While many things in her dispraise are said
By Him; but she leans closer, life to life,

For, while the covert words sound on above,
    Their other, deeper meaning she divines;
    She hears his heart; knows its masonic signs;
And nestles in a bosom large with love.

So loud he cried, a Snake in Beauty's bower;
    A Worm that gnaws at life's most human root;
    A Wasp that revels in our rarest fruit;
So gently breathed the fragrance of the flower!

He kept his Show-Box—scant of Mirrors where
    You saw Eternity whose worlds we pass
    Darkly by daylight, but, with many a glass,
Reflecting all the Humours of the Fair!

The thousand shapes of vanity and sin;
    Toy-stalls of Satan; the mad masquerade:
    The floating Pleasures that before them played:
The foolish faces following, all agrin.

He slyly pricked the bubbles that we blew;
    He cheered us on to chase our thistle-down;
    Crowning the winner with a Fool's-cap Crown;
And Bon-Bons mottoed in quaint mockery threw.

Then in the merry midst some sad, strange words
    Would touch the spring of tears.   His eyes were
        dry,
    And, as your laughters ceased, were wondering
        why?
Laugh on! He had only struck the minor chords!

He was not one of those who are light at heart
    Because 'tis empty in its airy swing:
    He found the world too full of sorrowing,
But showed us how to smile and bear our smart.

Many of God's most precious gifts are sad
    To tears, and, though no weeper, this he knew.
    So, in our merry wine, would steep the rue,
That with a manlier strength we might grow
        glad.

And, year by year, still kindlier to the last,
    He drew us towards him; showing more and
        more,
    The heart of honey, human to the core,
That into Love's full flower ripened fast:

Thus Music sweetens to the latest breath,
    And closer draws the leaning, listening ear;
    And still it whispers, from its heaven near,
Of some more perfect sweetness beyond death.

Large-hearted, brave, sincere, compassionate!
    We could not guess one half the Angels see:
    They found you out, Old Friend, ere we did! We
But reach the nobler justice all too late.

Soft, O Beloved! be your early Rest,
    And sweet its quiet when the grassy green
    Shuts out so many and many a sorry scene:
Heaven sun the hoarded fragrance from your
        breast!

And may the Spirit that with us but gropes
    And stirs our earth, and yearns up through our
        night
    In strivings dumb, with you have found the
        Light
That giveth eyes to poor, blind human hopes.

For us—I know you would have us put away
    The tears; draw closer, man the gap, and keep
    Old kindly customs; sing the sorrow asleep,
And all make merry, this being Christmas Day.

 

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ACROSS THE WATER.


    MY Friend, I met you when the Shadow lay
Darkly betwixt you and the outer day;
Your life, frost-bitten to the core, was dumb
With Winter, as if Spring would never come.
The smile that sprang up in your eyes to give
A Stranger greeting had no heart to live
    For you, when it had cheered me on my way.

    I saw you like some War-horse who had smelt
Burnt powder, and the joy of onset felt,
Now doomed to plough the furrow, who should
        chance
To catch the music, see the Colours dance,
And hear his fellows neighing for the war,
And he, too, snuffs the fighting from afar—
    Down comes the lash, in mist the visions melt.

    I knew not how your life was crossed and crossed,
As is a letter, till the sense looks lost;
Nor what you held at heart, and still must hold,
That makes the whole wide warmest world a-cold.
But now the heavens brighten overhead,
And though the ways are miry you must tread,
    I greet you on the break-up of the Frost!

    Up and fight on, my friend, with spirit stripped
As is the hardened War-lance, grimly gripped,
That late was green and leafy in the wood,
Now bared for battle and the reek of blood.
There is a darkness we can only dash
Out of the eyes with the soul's fighting-flash—
    No help in giving up through feeling hipped!

    In such a world as this it ne'er avails
To sit and eat the heart, or gnaw the nails;
The live souls have to swim against the tide,
The deadest fish can float with it and ride.
Heroic breath must lift and clear the skies
That we have clouded with our own vain sighs;
    Heroic breath must fill your future sails.

    It is the well-borne burden that will tone
Our manhood; turn the gristle into bone.
The storms that on the hill-side bow the trees
Help bring the power to bear, and knot their
        knees,
And (I have seen them kneeling) thus prepare
Them to receive the onsets they must bear;
    So 'neath its load the might of manhood's grown.

    Nor murmur of a life by Falsehood marred,
Or Roof-tree by the fires of Ruin charred.
Why, what hath Falsehood in the world to do
But Lie to Live, and die to prove the True,
And then be buried, while the new life waves
Its greenness o'er the Carrion in such graves?
    But strike! strike on, strike often, and strike
            hard!

    Hope, work, fight on, my Friend, and you shall
            stand
One of the foremost of a noble band;
Stand visibly in the smile of Heaven, and shed
Light from within you, wheresoe'er you tread;
Stand on the higher summit to transmit
A new live heart-beat from the Infinite,
    To kindle, as it throbs throughout the land.

    The world is waking from its phantom dreams,
To make out that which is from that which
        seems;
And in the light of day shall blush to find
What Wraiths of darkness had the power to blind
Its vision; what thin walls of misty gray,
As if of granite, stopped its onward way:
    Up, and be busy as the early beams!

 

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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.
Although 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.

Through all that punching time, Tom,
The big heart rode sublime, Tom,
As we have seen it climb, Tom,
            On other 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 have shown, Tom,
That we can hold our own, Tom,
            Against all comers still;
With not one feather of white in us;
But game, with 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 it, then
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 we stand, Tom,
            Touch it whoever dares.
If left to battle single-hand,
We fight for this dear England,
            As once you fought, Tom Sayers!

 

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PRIDEAUX AT MAGDALA.


NO Cross of Valour hath the Muse to give
His faithful breast, but she may bid him live
    In hearts of grateful glow,
Who went to bear his Message with last breath,
Nor changèd countenance at sight of Death,
    When Napier bade him go.

England, our Helen, watching from the wall
To cheer us fighting, mourn us if we fall,
    O'erlooks her gallant Son!
She hath so many lofty memories
To keep her lifted gaze; a deed like this
    So many would do—have done:

He did it! Moyse, a Private in the "Buffs!"
Though only one of our neglected "roughs,"—
    All English, life and limb:
He would not bow his head except to die;
He could not let our England's likeness lie
    Dishonoured, shamed in him!

Duty, not Glory, is our proud Pass-word,
Who ask that we may prove for England's sword
    True steel at need—no more.
Yet worthy of his guerdon is Prideaux,
As if on board they had borne him, lying low
    For us who were safe on shore.

That large content with death for England's sake
In narrower hearts a nobler life shall wake,
    To breathe with ampler breath,
And some poor soul, caught in as bitter strait,
Shall think of him, and sternly face its fate—
    Go on, and out-face Death!

Blow, winds of God! and stir us to the root,
Shake down all wormy and unworthy fruit,
    There's new life in your breeze!
Traitors may talk of England going down
(In quicksands they, their coward selves, have
        sown)—
    She swims in hearts like these!

 

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CAMOENS.


"ENGLISHED by Richard Burton."   And well done,
As it was well worth doing! for this is one
Of those old Poets, who are always new,
That share eternity with all that's true,
And of their own abounding spirits do give
Substance to Earth's dead Shadows; and make
        men live
Who in action merely did but flit and pass,—
Now fixed for ever by Thought's reflecting-glass.
This is the Poet of weary Wanderers
In perilous lands; and wide-sea Voyagers,
And climbers fallen and broken on the stairs:
A man of men; a master of affairs,
Whose own life-story is, in touching ruth,
Poem more potent than all feignèd truth.
His Epic trails a glory in the wake
Of Gama, Raleigh, Frobisher, and Drake.
The poem of Discovery! sacred to
Discoverers, and their deeds of derring-do,
Is fitly rendered, in the Traveller's land,
By one o' the foremost of that fearless band.

 

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PUNCH IN A GRAVE MOOD.


Farewell.   No matter who may fall,
Our flag must wave out on the wall;
The Workers brush their tears away,
My Merry-makers still be gay!
But there's a crack in my old voice;
An ache at heart; I miss you, Boys,—
Good fellows and dear Comrades gone,
And ever going one by one!

We know how some have had to quaff
The bitter cup, and make men laugh;
Of scenes behind the Scenes we know
That would have spoiled the outer show.
And how you kept the worst behind,
And gave your best and never whined,—
Good fellows and dear Comrades gone,
And ever going one by one!

Mirth mixed with sadness everywhere!
Have you the Charivari there?
Has Elia joined you, and Molière,
Burns, Rabelais, Heine, and Voltaire?
My Merry men with the Mermaids rare,
And Shakespeare chosen for the chair?
Good fellows and dear Comrades gone,
And ever going one by one!

I think the smile of kindly mirth
That you so often made on earth
To lighten in the saddest face,
And brighten in the darkest place,
Will be reflected from below
To shine on as your Afterglow!
Good fellows and dear Comrades gone,
And ever going one by one!

 

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A REVIEWER REVIEWED.

I.


THE Nightingale and Cuckoo sang their best;
A Jackass was the judge.   Long-ear addressed
Himself to listen,—said that Philomel,
Though somewhat wildly, warbled pretty well;
But, for a good plain song—in a single word,
Like what himself might sing—why, he preferred
The Cuckoo!—Such a common-sense-like bird!


II.


I sang my Song, which I had long rehearsed,
And asked, with heaving breast and throat athirst,
For drink from some good soul, that might be you,
Not craving nectar, nor ambrosial dew,
But quite content with Critical half-and-half.
And then your lattice opened with a laugh,
And I, expectant of some natural drops,
Received, like Socrates, your shrewish slops.


III.


You are disappointed with my work?   Ah, true,
It was not meant, my Friend, to mirror you;
The only thing on earth you care to view!


IV.


Am I, too, such a miserable Elf?
    Do let me look you in the face, my brother;
    'Tis only in the Mirror of each other
That we can see the littleness of self!


V.


Below the surface my soul drew the breath
Whose bubbles only rose up for their death,
And you must sound the depths ere you can mark
The things that I have dived for in the dark.
'Tis hardly possible for pearls to swim
Like the light bubbles breaking at the brim!


VI.


Poor little Inkfish! you may strain and squirt
Your little life out in a little dirt.
'Twould take a many million such to be
Seen as a little stain even in the sea!


VII.


O boy, the Apprentice-pen is sweet to touch
As that first clasp-knife we so proudly clutch;
Ere conscience wakes we live one glorious hour,
And cut and slash with cruel sense of power.
We wield the Scissors as 'twere Fate's own Shears:
Sheer folly! as we learn in later years.


VIII.


Think of a Midge blaspheming at the beam
That makes him visible; Suns him in its gleam,
And gives him life for a moment to blaspheme!


IX.


You had no power to crown me with the bay:
You could not reach to snatch one leaf away;
But you may rob my little ones of bread,
Helping to damn the Book you have not read.
Be proud! that is no trivial thing to do!
Be safe! there is no law for Thieves like you.


X.


The time will come when such as you and your
Co-mates, that try to slam some outer door
On me and mine, will turn and see and start
To find us folded safe in England's heart!


XI.


I was surprised and chafed, but in no rage
I pin my little Chafer to the page,
My Specimen saved and mounted on the brink
Of the vast black Oblivion of Ink!


XII.


You did your little best to prick and sting,
And Briar-like about my feet you cling:
Is it that when I lift the waving wing
Toward heaven it may uplift the creeping thing
Near the warm heart of God's own brooding blue?
But heaven is only to be grown into
By upward living!
                                    True, the very dust
May climb the Sunbeam—ride the wind; yet must
Fall back to Earth again, as dust to dust:
And where you are rooted you must rot! Adieu.
I prick you out, I shake you off; I scorn
To carry you with me, even a single thorn!
    The place for Briars now, as in the past,
    Is on the dead men's graves they clutch at last.

 

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AN OLD CUSTOM STILL EXTANT.


A POET sought the golden prize
For Wife and Child, till, out of breath,
He gained it—when the Coins, in death,
Were laid upon his sightless eyes!
In winning bread for Child and Wife,
His death was ten times worth his life.

 

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A FORERUNNER.


"BEFORE his time by a Century? 
What an abortion he must be!

So, naturally misconceived,
He lived unwelcomed, died ungrieved.

After long years the world turned round
To read his work who had gone uncrowned;
Their loss they now commemorate,
And doubly mourn their own sad fate!

When present, men forgot to trace
The message for them in his face;
When passed, they turn, and, with their looks
Adore the back side of his Books.

 

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THE FORERUNNER.


"THE many care not?"    Well, if true,
To their indifference is due
One half the dearness of the Few!

My Friends that would have welcomed me
Come afterward, by Two and Three;
I can but meet them mentally.

I shall not hear the mingled shout
Of blame and praise, belief and doubt:
I vanish ere they find me out!

I saw the ambitious pass me by,
To grasp their glory that seemed nigh,
Nor felt their crave, nor swelled their Cry.

Dear Followers!  who will be Too Late
To bid me Farewell in the Gate
Of Life and Death where none may wait,

Only a little I fore-run;
I shall be with you still: We are one
In that good work you must get done.

 

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ALEXANDER RUSSEL.


WHAT! "Russel of the Scotsman" dead?
Nay, Death himself would hang the head,
And dare not tell the foolish lie;
Such living forces never die.

The Shadows that make up our night
Were growing thin for him to fight.
But still he fights, we think with pride,
Our battle from the other side!

Hard head, warm heart, and liberal hand,
Open or shut, to bless or brand;
Large-moulded, with Norse fire aglow;
This was a man, to friend or foe!

Long in our mêlée will be missed
The mace of Russel's mighty fist,
That struck, and, wasting nought in sound,
Buried its blow without rebound.

With "derring-do," and thought that strives,
Erect his Statue in your lives,
Warm-blooded, not in marble wan—
The living measure of the man!

Walhalla! Rise and welcome him
Aross the Braga-Beaker's rim;
And, that his glory may be full,
Brim high some Water-Drinker's Skull.


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