Autumn Leaves (1)
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POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1856.
 s

AUTUMN LEAVES.


A BOOK FOR THE HOME FIRESIDE.

 

WHEN the night cometh round, and our duties are done,
    And a calm stealeth over the breast,
When the bread that is needful is honestly won,
    And our worldly thoughts nestle to rest,—
How sweet at that hour is the truth-written page,
    With fancy and fiction allied!
The magic of childhood, the solace of age,
    Is a Book for the Home Fireside.

There manhood may strengthen a wavering mind
    By the sage's severest of lore;
There woman, with sweetness and pathos combined,
    Make the fountains of feeling run o'er;
There the voices of children may warble like birds
    What the poet has uttered with pride,
And the faint and despairing take heart at the words
    Of a Book for the Home Fireside.

Many minds have been trained into goodness and grace,
    And many stern hearts chastened down;
Many men have been nerved to look up with bright face,
    Whatever misfortune might frown;
Many souls have been roused to new life, and grown great,
    Though baffled, obstructed, and tried;
Have been schooled to endure, taught to "labour and wait,"
    By a Book for the Home Fireside.

And not with the presence of Home is it gone,
    For abroad in the fulness of day
Its spirit remains with us, cheering us on
    O'er the roughness of life's common way;
And nature is lovely, but lovelier yet
    Through the glass of reflection descried;
We have read of her wonders—and who would forget?—
    In a Book for the Home Fireside.

Whate'er be my fortune, in shadow or shine,—
    'Mid comfort, stern labour, or woe,
May I ne'er miss the taste of those waters divine
    From the well-springs of Genius that flow;
I should lose a sweet charm, I should lack a great joy,
    And my heart would seem withered and dried,
Did I want what has been my delight from a boy,—
    A Book for the Home Fireside.

Bless the Bards and the Prosemen, wherever their clime,
    Who bequeath us the wealth of their thought,
Their true revelations, their visions sublime,
    Their fancies so tenderly wrought!
We were poor, with the riches of kings for our dower,
    Without what their pens have supplied;
And that brain must be barren which owns not the power
    Of a Book for the Home Fireside.

Dear child! let thy leisure be linked with the page,
    But one nor too light nor austere;
May its precepts improve thee, its spirit engage,
    And its sentiments soften and cheer;
May it keep thy affections in freshness and bloom;
    Console thee, exalt thee, and guide;
Be a flower in the sunshine, a star in the gloom,
    A Book for the Home Fireside!

 

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AUTUMNAL SONNETS.

 

IT seems but yesterday, when merry Spring
    Leapt o'er the lea, while clustering round her feet
    Sprang buds and blossoms, beautiful and sweet,
And her glad voice made wood and welkin ring.
Now Autumn lords it o'er the quiet lands,
    Like Joseph, clad in many-coloured vest,
Flinging rich largess from his bounteous hands,
    And calling upon man to be his guest.
Like Joseph, he dispenses needful corn,
    And fruitage, too, of many a goodly tree,
So that we may not feel ourselves forlorn,
    Pining for sustenance at Nature's knee.
Corn, oil, and wine! there's music in the sound!
Oh, would that none might lack when such blest gifts
            abound!

Not yet is autumn desolate and cold,
    For all his woods are kindling into hues
Of gorgeous beauty, mixed and manifold,
    Which in the soul a kindred glow transfuse.
The stubble fields gleam out like tarnished gold
    In the mild lustre of the temperate day,
And where the ethereal ocean is unrolled,
    Light clouds, like barques of silver, float away;
Ruffling the colours of the forest leaves,
    The winds make music as they come and go;
Whispers the withering brake; the streamlet grieves,
    Or seems to grieve, with a melodious woe;
Whilst in soft notes, which o'er the heart prevail,
The ruddy-breasted Robin pours his tender tale.

The varying seasons ever roll, and run
    Into each other, like that arc of light,
Born of the shower and coloured by the sun—
    Which spans the heavens when April skies are bright.
First comes green-kirtled Spring, who leadeth on
    Blue-mantled Summer of maturer age,
Sultana of the year.   When she is gone,
    Gold-girdled Autumn, solemn as a sage,
Reigns for a time, and on earth's ample page
    (Illumined by his hand) writes "Plenty here!"
Then white-cowled Winter steps upon the stage,
    Like agèd monk, keen, gloomy, and austere.
But he whose soul sustains no cloud nor thrall,
Perceives power, beauty, good, and fitness in them all.

 

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THE CHILD AND THE DEW-DROPS.

(IN MEMORY OF A LOST SON).

 

"O DEAREST mother! tell me, pray,
    Why are the dew-drops gone so soon?
Could they not stay till close of day,
To sparkle on the flowery spray,
    Or on the fields till noon?"

The mother gazed upon her boy,
    Earnest with thought beyond his years,
And felt a sharp and sad annoy,
That meddled with her deepest joy,
    But she restrained her tears.

"My child, 'tis said such beauteous things,
    Too often loved with vain excess,
Are swept away by angel wings,
Before contamination clings
    To their frail loveliness.

"Behold yon rainbow, brightening yet,
    To which all mingled hues are given!
There are thy dew-drops, grandly set
In a resplendent coronet
    Upon the brow of heaven.

"No stain of earth can reach them there,
    Woven with sunbeams there they shine,
A transient vision of the air,
But yet a symbol, pure and fair,
    Of love and peace divine."

The boy gazed upward into space,
    With eager and inquiring eyes,
While o'er his fair and thoughtful face
Came a faint glory, and a grace
    Transmitted from the skies.

Ere the last odorous sigh of May,
    That child lay down beneath the sod;
Like dew, his young soul passed away,
To mingle with the brighter day
    That veils the throne of God.

Mother, thy fond, foreboding heart
    Truly foretold thy loss and pain;
But thou didst choose the patient part
Of resignation to the smart,
    And owned thy loss his gain.

 

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MERCY.

 

GOD looked, and smiled upon the wakening earth,
    In form, power, motion, wondrous and complete—
Which in the flush and beauty of new birth
    Breasted the seas of ether at His feet.
Forth with companion worlds, that throbbed and shone
With warmth and light transmitted from His throne,
On noiseless axles ever spinning round,
She took her radiant way along the vast profound.

God called to Him three ministers, who wait
    Unceasing on His wise and sovereign will,
Servants, and yet partakers of His state,
    And watchers of all human good and ill;
An angel-formed triumvirate, with air
Of lofty thought beaming from foreheads bare,
August in presence as they were in name,
And clothed in flowing robes of many-coloured flame.

Justice was one, in aspect calm and cold,
    With a severe, but not oppressive mien;
Another Truth, with brow sublimely bold,
    And onward looks, all radiant and serene;
The last was Mercy, whose consoling eyes
Caught the reflection of celestial skies,
Mercy, with beauteous and beseeching face,
And wedded hands upraised with supplicating grace.

"Let us make Man, for, lo! yon lovely sphere,
    Which in its amplitude of orbit rolls,
Shall be—ye bright Intelligences, hear!—
    Place of probation for immortal souls;
There shall Man dwell—there shall he rule and reign,
But not exempt from sinfulness and pain,
Yet destined, 'mid his troubles and his storms,
To people boundless Heaven with countless angel forms.

"Oh, make him not!" cried justice; "I foresee
    That he will trample on Thy sacred laws,
Doubt, question, violate Thy great decree,
    Feel his own being, yet deny its cause."
"Oh, make him not!" cried Truth; "for he will toil
'Gainst Thee and me, and ruthlessly despoil
Thy sanctuaries, grow corrupt and vain,
Worship himself, and scorn Thy everlasting reign."

"Create this being, good and gracious Lord!"
    Said gentle Mercy, with imploring look—
"And I will guide him by Thy precious Word,
    The wisdom of Thy yet unwritten Book;
My voice shall move him with mysterious power;
My wings shall shield him in the perilous hour;
I'll check, subdue, inspire, as best I may,
The soul thou deign'st to breathe into the form of clay."

"Even so be it!"   And Man straightway was born,
    Richly endued, and full of love and trust;
Serene, pure, happy, was his early morn,
    Till the dread Tempter bowed him to the dust;
Then shame, and sorrow, and recurrent sin,
Shook his best nature, soiled the shrine within;
But Mercy pleaded, and God sent him light
To cheer his darkling soul, and guide his steps aright.

Let's take the angel Mercy to our heart,
    And with her walk the rugged paths of life;
List to her teachings; learn the exalted art
    That conquers hatred, prejudice, and strife.
Not Truth, nor justice, must we put away,
But lean towards Mercy whensoe'er we may;
Forgive our brother, be ourselves forgiven,
And thus by gentlest deeds sue for the smiles of Heaven.

 

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A PLEA FOR WOMAN.

 

IT is well that beauteous woman
    Has the quickest sense of wrong;
That the tenderest traits of feeling
    To her faithful heart belong;
That her pure, heroic spirit,
    Made to soften and prevail,
Wins its way to truth and justice,
    When our ruder efforts fail.

Has she not from earliest ages
    Borne the heaviest load of life,
Suffered in the silent conflict,
    Struggled in the rudest strife?
Has she not with patient meekness
    Won and worn the martyr's crown?
Even by her seeming weakness
    Pulled the strongest tyrant down?

Day by day she has encountered
    In her own domestic round,
Sharpest griefs, severest tortures,
    All for language too profound;
Trembled through her woman's nature
    Lest the outward world should know,
Single in her calm endurance,
    Loving in her lofty woe.

Pestilence has not appalled her,
    Dungeons have not driven her back,
She has smiled upon the scaffold,
    And been silent on the rack.
She, a ministress of mercy,
    Has gone forth from door to door,
'Suaging sickness, soothing sorrow,
    In the chambers of the poor.

All unselfish, she has pleaded,
    With an angel's earnest grace,
'Gainst the brand-mark and the bondage
    Of old Afric's dusky race;
And not only for the alien,—
    If an alien there can be—
But for all who shrink and suffer
    On her own side of the sea:

Pleaded for her sister woman,
    Moiling through the joyless day,
Hungering, hopeless, ever trembling
    Lest she swerve from virtue's way;
Pleaded for the little children
    Growing up to dangerous youth,
For the want of wholesome knowledge,
    For the lack of genial truth.

And she has not been ungifted
    With the mind's superior powers,
But has brought us bloom and fragrance
    From the muse's magic bowers;
She has stirred our inmost natures
    With a true and graceful pen,
Even snatched a wreath of honour
    From the bolder brows of men.

Then let this dear mediator,
    This companion of our way,
Have her natural power and province
    In the great work of to-day;
Let her go upon her mission,
    If she have no wish to roam,
Nor to break the ties that bind her
    To the sacred bounds of home.

Let her have the purest knowledge,
    That hereafter she may be
Teacher of serenest virtues,
    To the children round her knee;
Foresight, faithfulness, forbearance,
    Charity, and all good things,
Which prepare the human creature
    For its future angel wings.

 

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HOME.

 

LET us honour the gods of the household alway,
    Love ever the hearth and its graces,
The spot where serenely and cheerfully play
    The smiles of familiar faces;
Where the calm, tender tones of affection are heard;
    Where the child's gladsome carol is ringing;
Where the heart's best emotions are quickened and stirred,
    By the founts that are inwardly springing.

Oh! what are the charms of the banquet-hour glee,
    And the words of frivolity spoken,
To the holier joys 'neath our quiet roof-tree,
    When the compact of love is unbroken?
Not the selfish delight, the obstreperous mirth,
    Not the glare of conventional splendour,
May compare with the spells that encircle our hearth,
    If it hold but the true and the tender.

Too long 'mid the gay revel's profitless scene
    The weak one may foolishly linger,
Where false pleasure lures him with treacherous mien,
    And holds him with magical finger;
But he who has wisdom to baffle the snare
    Clings close to his home, and how dearly!
Fond feelings, kind looks, are in store for him there,
    And gentle words uttered sincerely.

Howsoever the spirit may struggle and fret
    In the conflict of worldly commotion,
There's a solace to soothe and to strengthen us yet,
    If home have our truest devotion.
It needeth not hall, nor palatial dome,
    To afford us a refuge so holy;
To the loving and pure any spot is a home,
    Be it ever so narrow and lowly.

And home, when it is home, sounds sweet in our ears,
    For it speaks of our heart-cherished treasure;
'Tis a word which beguiles us of tenderest tears,
    Or thrills us with tranquillest pleasure;
It prompts us to set rude enjoyments at nought,
    It chastens our speech and demeanour;
It nerves us to action, awakes us to thought,
    And makes our whole being serener.

Dear home, rightly guarded and graced, is a soil
    Where the virtues are constantly growing;
'Tis a sanctified shelter, the guerdon of toil,
    A thousand calm blessings bestowing.
Home, country, humanity, heaven!   How they please,
    Things leaving all else at a distance!
Who lends a true soul, does his duty to these,
    Fulfils the best ends of existence.

 

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LOOK UP.

 

"LOOK up!" cried the seaman, with nerves like steel,
    As skyward his glance he cast,
And beheld his own son grow giddy, and reel
    On the point of the tapering mast.
Look up! and the bold boy lifted his face,
    And banished his brief alarms,
Slid down at once from his perilous place,
    And leapt in his father's arms.

Look up! we cry to the sorely oppressed,
    Who seem from all comfort shut,
You had better look up to the mountain crest,
    Than down to the precipice foot.
The one offers heights ye may hope to gain,
    Pure ether, and freedom, and room;
The other bewilders the aching brain
    With roughness, and danger, and gloom.

Look up! meek soul, by affliction bent,
    Nor dally with dull despair,
Look up, and with faith, to the firmament,
    For Heaven and mercy are there.
The frail flower droops in the stormy shower,
    And the shadows of needful night,
But it looks to the sun in the after hour,
    And takes full measure of light.

Look up! sad man, by adversity brought
    From high unto low estate,
Play not with the bane of corrosive thought,
    Nor murmur at chance and fate.
Renew thy hopes; look the world in the face,
    For it helps not those who repine;
Press on, and its cheer will amend thy pace;
    Succeed, and its homage is thine.

Look up! great crowd, who are foremost set
    In the changeful battle of life;
Some days of calm may reward ye yet
    For years of allotted strife.
Look up, and beyond, there's a guerdon there
    For the humble and pure of heart,
Fruition of joys unalloyed by care,
    Of peace that can never depart.

Look up! large spirit, by Heaven inspired,
    Thou rare and expansive soul!
Look up, with endeavour and zeal untired,
    And strive for the loftiest goal;
Advance, and encourage the kindred throng,
    Who toil up the slopes behind,
To follow, and hail with triumphant song
    The holier regions of mind!

 

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NOTHING IS LOST.

 

NOTHING is lost; the drop of dew
    That trembles on the leaf or flower
Is but exhaled, to fall anew
    In summer's thunder-shower:
Perchance to shine within the bow
    That fronts the sun at fall of day;
Perchance to sparkle in the flow
    Of fountains far away.

Nought lost, for even the tiniest seed,
    By wild birds borne or breezes blown,
Finds something suited to its need,
    Wherein 'tis sown and grown;
Perchance finds sustenance and soil
    In some remote and desert place,
Or 'mid the crowded homes of toil
    Sheds usefulness and grace.

The little drift of common dust,
    By the March winds disturbed and tossed,
Though scattered by the fitful gust,
    Is changed, but never lost;
It yet may bear some sturdy stem,
    Some proud oak battling with the blast,
Or crown with verdurous diadem
    Some ruin of the past.

The furnace quenched, the flame put out,
    Still cling to earth or soar in air,
Transformed, diffused, or blown about,
    To burn again elsewhere;
Haply to make the beacon-blaze
    That gleams athwart the briny waste,
Or light the social lamp, whose rays
    Illume the home of taste.

The touching tones of minstrel art,
    The breathings of some mournful flute
(Which we have heard with listening heart),
    Are not extinct when mute:
The language of some household song,
    The perfume of some cherished flower,
Though gone from outward sense, belong
    To memory's after hour.

So with our words, or harsh, or kind,
    Uttered, they are not all forgot,
But leave some trace upon the mind,
    Pass on, yet perish not.
As they are spoken, so they fall
    Upon the spirit spoken to,
Scorch it like drops of burning gall,
    Or soothe like honey dew.

So with our deeds, for good or ill
    They have their power, scarce understood;
Then let us use our better will
    To make them rife with good.
Like circles on a lake they go,
    Ring within ring, and never stay;
Oh, that our deeds were fashioned so
    That they might bless alway.

Then since these lesser things ne'er die,
    But work beyond our poor control,
Say, shall that suppliant for the sky,
    The greater human soul?
Ah, no! it yet will spurn the past,
    And search the future for its rest,
Joyful, if it be found at last
    'Mong the redeemed and blest!

 

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LOVE.

 

LOVE is an odour from the heavenly bowers
    Which stirs our senses tenderly, and brings
    Dreams which are shadows of diviner things,
Beyond this grosser atmosphere of ours.
An oasis of verdure and of flowers,
    Love smileth on the pilgrim's weary way;
    There sweeter airs, there fresher waters play;
There purer solace speeds the tranquil hours.
This glorious passion, unalloyed, endowers
    With moral beauty all who feel its fire;
    Maid, wife and offspring, sister, mother, sire,
Are names and symbols of its hallowed powers.
Love is immortal, from our hold may fly
Earth's other joys, but Love can never die.

 

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THE RETURN OF PEACE.

 

ONCE more to visit a distracted world,
    The spirit of sweet Peace comes trembling down,
As war's ensanguined flag is newly furled,
    And the gorged vulture from his banquet flown;
She comes to solace our lorn hearts again
    For countless losses in the fatal fray;
Oh, let us give her an enduring reign,
    Nor scare the angel visitant away!

Her deeds are bloodless, dignified, and just,
    'Gainst the mixed evils of our lower life,
And far more worthy of our hopeful trust
    Than the vain victories of mortal strife;
Against injustice, ignorance, and crime,
    She sets her hallowed powers in bright array;
Oh, let us make her sojourn here sublime,
    Nor scare the angel visitant away.

Let stalwart Labour clear his clouded brow,
    Toil on, but with strong rectitude of soul,
Seize manfully the treasures of the Now,
    And strive with honour for a loftier goal;
Let him love Freedom, whose refulgent wings
    Add richer glory to the glorious day,
And Peace, for the calm blessings that she brings,
    Nor scare the angel visitant away.

Let men who make or minister the laws,
    So use them that the humblest may rejoice,
And get the noble meed of pure applause
    From a united people's grateful voice;
Let them give lustre, majesty, and grace,
    And vital spirit, to the lands they sway,
Keep faith with Peace, and bless her dear embrace,
    Nor scare the angel visitant away.

Art, Science, Knowledge, may serenely grow,
    And human virtues quicken and expand,
Even gaunt Poverty o'ercome its woe,
    Where Peace remains the guardian of the land;
But he is wilful, pitiless, or blind,
    From right, and righteous feeling, all astray,
Foe to his God, his country, and his kind,
    Who scares the angel visitant away.

For dormant passion, prejudice, and pride,
    Start into evil at War's trumpet—call;
And hearts are seared, and souls are trouble-tried,
    And minds subjected to a slavish thrall.
While industry is baffled, Waste runs wild,
    And Liberty stands still in mute dismay!
Let us choose Peace, if wise and undefiled,
    Nor scare the angel visitant away.

Albeit men differ in their clime and creed,
    In thought and predilection, as in tongue,
Say, would the nations murmur to be freed
    From hideous War and its unfailing wrong?
Would they could bid the mighty torment cease,
    By some great law which none would disobey,
Make an inviolate covenant with Peace,
    Nor scare the angel visitant away.


July 1855.

 

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SAINT CHRISTOPHER.

A LEGEND.

 

"My limbs wax strong, my thoughts expand,"
    Said Christopher of old,
As he lay musing 'mid the hills,
    His flock within the fold,—
"I fain would serve some mighty power,
    The highest, if may be,
And change this dull and dreamy life
    For one more wide and free."

He girt his robe about his loins,
    And wandered far away,
Until he reached a battle-ground,
    That shuddered with the fray.
With stalwart strength, and dauntless heart,
    He turned the tide of fight,
And snatched a wreath of victory
    Ere waned the evening light.

Then the exulting host bowed down
    Before a gorgeous shrine,
And seemed to offer words of praise
    Unto a power divine.
"A king divine?" said Christopher,
    "Where does the monarch dwell?"
"Above, beyond us," answered they,
    "But where we cannot tell."

Again he gathered up his robe,
    And donned his sandal shoes,
Took staff in hand, and wandered forth,
    Not knowing where to choose;
Until amid the lonesome wild
    He met a hermit hoar,
Who lifted up his kindly eyes,
    And scanned him o'er and o'er.

"Where may I find the king divine?"
    Outspoke the pilgrim brave,
"I fain would serve him with my strength,
    More truly than a slave."
"His kingdom is not here, my son,
    Albeit his cross I wear:
Wouldst win admission to his throne?
    Lift up thy voice in prayer."

"I cannot pray, thou reverent man,
    I have not words enow,
But if brave deeds may aught avail,
    These will I strive to do."
"Behold yon torrent!" said the sage,
    "That roars from hill to glen;
Wait on its banks, and watch for work;
    Serve God by helping men."

The pilgrim found a leafy tent
    Beside that dangerous wave,
And daily sought, with earnest zeal,
    To succour and to save;
And when he snatched some precious life
    From that o'erwhelming stream,
His good, glad feelings found their way
    Up to the great Supreme.

One day there came a little child,
    With soft and sunny hair,
With eyes that beamed serenely mild,
    With face divinely fair;
And with a voice of winning power
    The little stranger cried—
"Come help me, valiant Christopher,
    Across this angry tide."

He took the lovely infant up
    Upon his shoulders broad,
With strange emotions in his soul,
    That pleased, yet overawed;
But fiercer grew the torrent's force,
    And heavier grew the child,
Who almost bowed the strong man down
    Beneath those waters wild.

"O river! why dost rave the more
    In absence of the storm?
And, child, what art thou that I bend
    Beneath thy tiny form?"
"Press on, good servant as thou art,
    Be faithful to thy word;
Thou bear'st the world's whole weight to-day,
    For I am Christ, thy Lord."

"The stream is past, the danger o'er,
    Blest be thy future powers!
Here plant thy staff.   Behold how soon
    It blossoms into flowers!
There let it stand and flourish long,
    A symbol and a sign
Of thy unswerving faithfulness
    Unto the King divine.

"Unsought, untaught of men, thy heart,
    Moved by a hidden power,
Did scorn the specious things of earth
    For Heaven's transcending dower.
I give thee speech, that thou may'st teach
    Hearts kindred to thy own;
Go forth, and bring repentant souls
    Unto my Father's throne."

Prone on the earth, Saint Christopher
    His trembling homage paid,
While on his head the holy child
    A lasting blessing laid.
When he looked up, the vision fair
    Had vanished from his eyes,
But an unwonted glory streamed
    Along the wondering skies.

 

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THE LOST ONE.

 

I MOURN, albeit I mourn in vain,
    To miss that being from my side
Who bound in Love's resistless chain
    My selfishness and pride;
She whom I proved in after days
    A faultless friend, a faithful wife,
Who cheered me through the roughest ways
    Along the vale of life.

I miss her greeting when I rise
    To needful toil at early morn,
And the bright welcome of her eyes
    When irksome day is worn;
I sorely miss from ear and sight
    Her comely face, her gentle tongue,
Which praised me when I went aright,
    And warned when I was wrong.

I lack her love, which filled my heart
    With kindred tenderness and joy,
And fondly kept my soul apart
    From the harsh world's annoy;
That love which raised me from the dust
    Of sordid wish and low desire,
And taught me by its own sweet trust
    How nobly to aspire.

My hopes were wilder than I deemed,
    When she espoused my humble lot,
For my connubial pleasures seemed
    As they would perish not;
But an unerring Providence,
    Whose power is ever just and great,
Called my beloved companion hence,
    And left me desolate.

The greenness from my path is gone,
    Its springs are sunken in the sand,
And wearily I travel on
    Across a desert land.
The prospect round me, once so bright
    With glorious hues, seems dim and bare,
But the far distance shows one light
    Which keeps me from despair.*

Oh, no! not wholly desolate,
    For she has left her image here,
And I will wrestle with my fate
    For sake of one so dear.
Great God, keep strong and undefiled
    The only fledgling in my nest,
My winsome boy, my only child,
    And make his father blest.

May his lost mother's spirit now
    Look down from her exalted place,
And shed on his unconscious brow
    A portion of her grace!
May Heaven inspire my widowed soul
    For highest duties, holiest things,
And when I near the shadowy goal
    Lend me immortal wings.


* This stanza was not in the original MS. of poem.—[LITHGOW.]

 

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NOT BREAD ALONE.

 

ALBEIT for lack of bread we die,
    Die in a hundred nameless ways,
'Tis not for bread alone we cry
    In these our later days.

It is not fit that man should spend
    His strength of frame, his length of years,
In toiling for that daily end,
    Mere bread, oft wet with tears.

That is not wholly good and gain
    Which seals the mind and sears the heart,
The life-long labour to sustain
    Man's perishable part.

His is the need and his the right
    Of leisure, free from harsh control,
That he may seek for mental light,
    And cultivate his soul.

Leisure to foster into bloom
    Affections struggling to expand;
And make his thought, with ampler room,
    Refine his skill of hand.

And he should look with reverent eyes
    On Nature's ever-varying page;
Not solely are the wondrous skies
    For schoolman and for sage.

Earth's flower-hues blush, heaven's
            starlights burn,
    Not only for the easy few;
To them the toiling man should turn
    For truth and pleasure too.

And he should have his proper share
    Of God's great gifts, whate'er they be.
Food, raiment, stainless light and air,
    And knowledge pure and free.

But if ye stint his brain or bread,
    And drive him in one dreary round
(Since he and his must needs be fed),
    Ye crush him to the ground.

His mind can have no soaring wing;
    His heart can feel no generous glow,
Ye make of him that wretched thing—
    A slave, and yet a foe!

 

___________________________________

 
THE HOUSEHOLD DARLING.

 

LITTLE Ella, fairest, dearest
    Unto me and unto mine,
Earthly cherub, coming nearest
    Unto me and unto mine!
Her brief absence frets and pains me,
    Her blithe presence solace brings,
Her spontaneous love restrains me
    From a hundred selfish things.

Little Ella moveth lightly,
    Like a graceful fawn at play:
Like a brooklet running brightly
    In the genial smile of May:
Like a breeze upon the meadows,
    All besprent with early flowers;
Like a bird 'mid sylvan shadows,
    In the golden summer hours.

You should see her, when with Nature
    She goes forth to think or play,
Every limb and every feature
    Drinking in the joy of day;
Stooping oft 'mid floral splendour,
    Snatching colours and perfumes,
She doth seem, so fair and tender,
    Kin to the ambrosial blooms.

Sweet thought sitteth like a garland
    On her placid brows and eyes,
Eyes which seem to see a far land
    Through the intervening skies;
And she seems to listen often
    To some voice beyond the spheres,
Whilst her earnest features soften
    Into calmness, kin to tears.

Not all mirthful is her manner,
    Though no laugh so blithe as hers;
Grave demeanour comes upon her
    When her inmost nature stirs.
When a gentle lip reproves her,
    All her gladsome graces flee,
But the word "forgiveness" moves her
    With new confidence and glee.

Should a shade of sickness near me,
    Then she takes a holier grace,
Comes to strengthen and to cheer me,
    With her angel light of face.
Up the stair I hear her coming,
    Duly at the morning hour,
Softly singing, sweetly humming,
    Like a bee about a flower.

Good books wake serenest feelings
    In her undeveloped mind,
Holy thoughts, whose high revealings
    Teach her love for human kind.
Music thrills her with a fervour
    As from songs of seraphim;
May bright spirits teach and nerve he
    To partake their perfect hymn!

We will show her things of beauty
    In the purest form and hue,
And the charms of moral duty,
    Though our virtues are but few;
We will strive, despite our weakness,
    So to train her thoughts and deeds
That true firmness, linked with meekness,
    May sustain her when she needs.

God of Heaven! in Thy good seeing
    Spare this darling child to me,
Spare me this unsullied being
    Till she brings me close to Thee!
Unseen angels! bless her, mould her
    Into goodness, clothed with grace,
That at last I may behold her
    Talking with ye, face to face!

 

___________________________________

 
THE DRUMMER'S DEATH-ROLL.

 

TO a region of song and of sunnier day,
The battle-host wended its wearisome way,
Through the terrible Splugen's tenebrious gloom,
That seemed to lead on to the portals of doom.
But the Alp-spirit struggled to break and to bar
The resolute march of those minions of war;
For the savage winds howled through the gorges of
            stone;
And the pine forest muttered a menace and moan;
And the rush of the hurricane caused them to reel;
And the frost-breezes smote them like sabres of steel;
And the torrents incessantly thundered and hissed;
And the scream of the eagle came harsh through the
            mist;
And the avalanche stirred with a deep, muffled roar,
Like the boom of the sea on a desolate shore,
Till it leapt from its throne with a flash, and a speed
That hurled to destruction both rider and steed;
And Love could not hope, by the strongest endeavour,
To weep on the spot where they slumber for ever!

    A drummer went down with the burden of snow,
But struggled, and lived, 'mid the buried below,
Survived for a brief, but how awful a space!
In the granite-bound depth of that horrible place.
He looked from the jaws of that rock-riven grave,
And called on the Mother of Jesus to save;
But Heaven seemed deaf to his piteous wail,
And men could not hear his sad voice on the gale;
And, alas! human help could not come to him there,
Nor the breezes waft home the farewell of his prayer.
But still he clung closely to hope and to life,
And waged with disaster a desperate strife,—
A conflict which midnight might solemnly close,
And leave him the peace of a lasting repose.

    A sudden thought thrilled through his wandering brain,
His drum lay beside him, he smote it amain,
And brought from its hollow a vigorous sound,
That wakened the wild mountain echoes around,
And startled the vulture that circled away,
But returned to his vigil, impatient for prey.
Roll, roll went the drum till the sunset was passed,
And scattered its tones on the hurrying blast,
While his friends, far away on their Alpine career,
Caught the dolorous sound with a sorrowful ear;
For they knew that a comrade was hopelessly lost,
Left alone to the tortures of hunger and frost,
Cut off from the reach of humanity there,
And beating his drum with the strength of despair!

    But who can imagine his quick-coming fears,
His visions, his agonies, yearnings, and tears,
When paralysed, spent, and benumbed to the bone,
He sank on his snow-bed to perish alone?
What fancy can bring back the pictures that passed
O'er the brain of the desolate lost one at last,
Ere death came to still the last pulse in his breast,
And stretch out his limbs in a petrified rest?

    Perchance his bright childhood came back to his thought,
And his youth, when his heart in love's meshes was caught,
And his village, embowered in a vine-covered vale,
With peace in its aspect, and health in its gale;
The blithe peasant maiden he learned to adore,
And his home which his shadow would darken no more,
That home where his parents and kindred were gay,
In the hope of his coming at no distant day,
That meeting which never would gladden their eyes,
Save in the blest climate of holier skies.

    Whate'er his last hope, aspiration, and prayer,
Untended, he died in his loneliness there,
In a place of sublimities, horrors, and storms,
Surrounded by Nature's most terrible forms,
Where the voices of avalanche, wild wind and wave,
Sang a varying dirge o'er his rock-riven grave.
Let us hope that his soul, in the hour of its gloom,
By its faith cast aside all the terrors of doom,
Left the desolate dust to commix with the clod,
And awakened with joy in the regions of God!

 

___________________________________

 
TO A BLIND POET.

 

JUDGE me not harshly, agèd man and blind,
    If in my rude, brief song, I fail to bring
    Aught worthy of thy worth.   I cannot sing
All I have seen of thy unworldly mind.
Thy clouded eyes; thy silvery hairs; thy kind
    And calm deep-thoughted countenance; thy smile
    Of generous confidence, which beams midwhile
With quiet mirth, and memories unconfined;
Thy child-like love of poetry refined;
    Thy thirst for Nature's melodies; thy light
    Of soul which burns behind the external night;
Thy tolerant piety; thy heart resigned,
Make thee a rare example, and our pride
Is humbled to behold thy blindness glorified.

 

___________________________________

 
GERALDINE.

 

THERE thou goest, there thou goest,
    In thy virgin robes arrayed,
Pale and drooping, for thou knowest,
    What true heart thou hast betrayed.
Hark! thy bridal bells are ringing!
    Do they waken happy tears?
Their exulting peal is flinging
    Torture, discord in my ears.
Are they tuneful unto thine,
Fair and fickle Geraldine?

Now thou standest at the altar,
    Where truth only should be heard;
Dost not inly feel, and falter
    To pronounce one fateful word?
No!   I hear thy lips of beauty
    Utter the degrading "yes,"
And the pastor, as in duty,
    Stretches forth his hands to bless.
Can such compact be divine,
Fair, false-hearted Geraldine?

Of the tender vows we plighted
    Thine were flung in empty air,
And my spirit is benighted
    In the darkness of despair!
Gold has bought thee; will it bless thee?
    Wilt thou find it ought but dross?
Will the hands that now caress thee
    Pay thee for a true heart's loss?
Time, perchance, will show the sign,
Fair and faithless Geraldine!

Go, and may all ill betide thee!
    Go, to splendid misery led,
With that mindless worm beside thee,—
    Him whom thou hast dared to wed!
May the ring that rounds thy finger
    Seem a serpent to thy gaze,
And a sense of loneness linger
    With thee all thy coming days;
Loveless, childless, may'st thou pine,
Fair, false-hearted Geraldine!

Frenzied words!   I will not blame thee,
    I whose soul thy beauty won;
Sense of duty overcame thee
    In the wrong which thou hast done.
Thou has left a grief within me,—
    Grief which time may yet repress,
But let sweet forgiveness win me
    To desire thy happiness.
Whatsoe'er of pain be mine,
Peace be with thee, Geraldine.

 

___________________________________

 
CHRISTMAS EVE.

 

CHRISTMAS Eve came to us darkly,
    Darkly to our cottage door,
Not with brave and boisterous greeting,
    As it used to come of yore;
Not with soft and silent snow-fall,
    Nor with frost-wind brisk and keen,
Yet it brought its berries blushing
    'Mid the holly, hale and green.

Many busy footsteps pattered
    Through our little thoroughfare,
Children sent on pleasant errands
    For the dainties they must share;
Young and merry-hearted maidens
    Gaily flitted to and fro,
With a quick throb in their bosoms,
    With their faces in a glow.

And the clean and cheerful windows
    Gleamed upon the sombre night,
While commingled voices, singing,
    Told of leisure and delight;
Genial voices, linked together
    In some quaint and homely rhyme,
In some old and hopeful carol,
    Fitted for the holy time.

In that little street of workers,
    Brightening up from side to side,
One poor dwelling showed no signal
    Of the merry Chrismastide;
Feebly shone a single taper
    By the hearthstone, cold and bare;
Poverty and tribulation
    Hung their mournful banners there.

A forlorn and friendless widow
    Gazed upon her only boy,
Whose young stream of life was ebbing
    Back unto a realm of joy;
And as Time, with stealthy footstep,
    Strode into another day,
Death stood by that lonely mourner,
    For the life had ebbed away.

With the first burst of her anguish
    "Hark! what news the angels bring!"
Rang from loud and joyous voices,
    Mixed with tuneful flute and string;
And she thought she heard her darling,
    High among the radiant spheres,
Singing with melodious gladness
    "Mother, mother, dry thy tears!"

And she dried them, and subdued them,
    Kept their fountains sealed within,
Lest her unavailing sorrow
    Should be written down as sin;
But the cheering faith came o'er her
    That she was not all alone,
That the Child-God of the manger
    Had the keeping of her own.

___________________________________

 
PRECIOUS TIME.

 

WHEN we have passed beyond life's middle arch,
    With what accelerated speed the years
    Seem to flit by us, sowing hopes and fears
As they pursue their never-ceasing march!
But is our wisdom equal to the speed
    That brings us nearer to the shadowy bourn,
Whence we must never, never more return?
    Alas! each wish is wiser than the deed!
"We take no note of time but from its loss,"
    Sang one who reasoned solemnly and well;
And so it is, we make that dowry dross
    Which would be treasure, did we learn to quell
Vain dreams and passions.   Wisdom's alchemy
Transmutes to priceless gold the moments as they fly!

 

___________________________________

 
A THOUGHT ON WAR.

 

'Tis strange, profanely strange, but men will stand
    Upon some spot of blighted happiness,
Where the Omnipotent's mysterious hand
    Has fallen with disaster and distress,
And they, perchance, will question His just laws,
    Wax grave, and sigh, and look demurely wise,
As ,if, poor fools! they could arraign the Cause,
    And see with Wisdom's never-failing eyes!
But let them saunter o'er a battle-plain,
    Still red and reeking from the recent strife,
Where, spurred by lust of conquest and of gain,
    Relentless heels have trod out human life,
And they will prate of greatness, glory, fame!
God! how Thy creature man insults Thy holy name!

 

___________________________________

 
JUDGE NOT TOO HASTILY.

 

OH! judge not too hastily man and his mind,
    Nor deem ye can read him at once and for aye,
There is some reservation, some secret behind
    The face that ye look upon, look as ye may.
The moon has her aspects of change in the skies,
    With her broad shield of silver, her crescent of gold,
But still there remains, turned away from our eyes,
    A part of her orb we can never behold.
Even such is our nature, yet do not despair,
    But foster kind feeling whatever befall;
Wait, watch, and examine, with kindness and care,
    And grudge not the charity due unto all.

In outward demeanour, look, action and speech,
    We alter with circumstance, meaning no ill,
Unconsciously changing our manner to each,
    Through an instinct that prompteth the heart or the will.
In the presence of some our affections rebel,
    With others our natural sympathies glow;
But the power, which, by turns, doth attract and repel,
    Is beyond what our limited wisdom can know.
Even such is our nature, but be of good cheer,
    Nor let a first feeling your reason enthral ;
Ye can be kind and truthful to those ye hold dear,
    And still render charity due unto all.

How oft we encounter, from home-life apart,
    The shy and forbidding, the frank and the bold!
But the sternest in face may be kindest at heart,
    And the liveliest inwardly shallow and cold.
Yon stranger who seemeth all goodness and grace,
    In worldly proprieties careful alway,
May be burning with passions that warp and debase,
    And building up schemes to allure and betray.
Even such is man's nature, yet be ye not sad
    That the light of his virtues seems fitful and small,
Acknowledge all good, make the best of the bad,
    And thus render charity due unto all.

A false one may hail us in vesture of light,
    And scatter with flowers the by-ways of wrong;
A true one may haunt us in robes of the night,
    And watch that we stumble not, passing along;
One frowns in his virtues; one smiles in his crimes,
    One smites, while another uplifts from the ground;
But our faith should be this—for we feel it sometimes—
    That commixed with all evil some good may be found.
Then judge not too hastily, lest ye condemn,
    And banish some angel ye cannot recall;
To the firm of pure purpose, give honour to them,
    To the frail give the charity due unto all.

___________________________________

 
THE HAPPY CHANGE.

(A TEMPERANCE RHYME.)

 

"OH! will he come?" said Alice Wray,
    "He did not once deceive,
And for the dear sake of the past
    I will again believe."
So faithful Alice trimmed the hearth,
    And made the kettle sing,
Responsive to the cricket's voice
    That made the cottage ring.

Fair Alice and her children three,
    In clean, though poor attire,
Together chatted pleasantly
    Beside the evening fire.
Hark! slowly beats the minster clock!
    Be patient yet awhile,
Another brief half-hour, Alice,
    Will make thee weep or smile.

She waited with a throbbing heart
    Until the middle chime,
When William o'er the threshold stepped,
    Hours ere his wonted time.
Sober, erect, and thoughtful, too,
    He clasped his joyful wife,
Who deemed that sombre winter eve
    The happiest of her life.

"I've vowed," he cried, "no more to touch
    The cup of deadly ill;
God! help me to retrieve the past
    With well-directed will!
And now, dear wife, let us partake
    The food which God has blessed."
And never was a frugal meal
    Enjoyed with sweeter zest.

With reverent hands he oped the Page
    He had not touched for years,
And read and wept, but found at last
    Hope, comfort, in his tears.
Then the contented pair lay down
    In peace, but newly won,
With the consoling consciousness
    Of one great duty done.

And William swerved not; from that hour
    He chose the better way,
And from the path of usefulness
    Scarce had one thought to stray;
With speech, heart, soul, he strove to wean
    The drunkard from his bane;
Nor were his labours profitless,
    Nor were his teachings vain.

Few are the minds so prompt and firm
    As this once-erring one;
Would there were more to help the frail,
    Ere every hope is gone!
Blest be the cause for which they toil,
    And may their power expand,
Till they have crushed the giant curse,
    The nightmare of the land!

 

___________________________________

 
A VOICE FROM THE FACTORY.

(WRITTEN IN APRIL 1851.)

 

I HEAR men laud the coming Exhibition,
    I read its promise in the printed page,
And thence I learn that its pacific mission
    Is to inform and dignify the age;
It comes to congregate the alien nations,
    In new, but friendly bonds, old foes to bind;
It comes to rouse to nobler emulations
    Man's skill of hand, man's energy of mind.

A thousand vessels breasting wind and ocean,
    A thousand fire-cars, snorting on their way,
Will startle London with a strange commotion,
    Beneath the genial radiance of May;
And we shall hail the peaceable invasion
    With voice of welcome, cordial grasp of hand,
And, in the grandeur of the great occasion,
    See signs of brotherhood 'tween every land.

Would I might walk beneath that dome transcendent,
    Than old Alhambra's halls more proudly fair,
Nay, than Aladdin's palace more resplendent,
    Bright as if quarried from the fields of air;
Would I might wander in its wondrous mazes,
    Filled with embodied thought in every guise,
See Art and Science in their countless phases,
    And bless the power that gave them to my eyes.

Men are about me with pale, vacant faces,
    Human in shape, in spirit dark and low;
They do not care for Genius and its graces,
    Nor understand, nor do they seek to know.
But I have read and pondered, feeling ever
    Deep reverence for the lofty, good, and true,
And, therefore, yearn to see this high endeavour
    Stand grandly realised before my view.

But what to me are these inspiring changes,
    That gorgeous show, that spectacle sublime?
My labour, leagued with poverty, estranges
    Me from this mental marvel of our time.
I cannot share the triumph and the pageant,
    I, a poor toiler at the whirling wheel,
The slave, not ruler, of a ponderous agent,
    With bounding steam-pulse, and with arms of steel.

My ears are soothed by no melodious measures,
    No work of sculptor charms my longing gaze,
No painter thrills me with exalted pleasures,
    But books and thought have cheered my darkest days.
Thank God for Sundays!   Then impartial Nature
    Folds me within the shelter of her wings,
And drinking in her every voice and feature,
    I feel more reconciled to men and things.

I shall not see our Babel's summer wonder,
    Save in the proseman's page or poet's song,
But I shall hear it in the far-off thunder
    Of other lands, applauding loud and long.
Why should I murmur?   I shall share with others
    The glorious fruits of that triumphant day;
Hail, to the time that makes all nations brothers!
    Hail, to the advent of the coming May!




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